The seemingly endless weeks of time off for the guys was not wasted in the least. Chris had Maddie out at his house to entertain and amuse, JC and Dayna kept themselves occupied in Florida by taking day trips around Florida and lounging around in their pajamas as often as they could. Justin traveled between Florida and California visiting friends and family while Joey stayed in New York the entire time enjoying the anonymity of the Big Apple. Lance chose an entirely different route and submerged himself in his production work deep in the heart of Texas where he was heavily involved with the production of a movie being filmed on location.

"On a scale of one to ten, how much would you love to go to Key West?" JC asked as he carefully cut the stems off of the strawberries in the green plastic basket by the sink. "Ten being you would love to go and one being you'd rather eat dirt."

"Eleven." Dayna smiled and snatched one before he cut it.

"Okay, and on a scale of one to ten, how happy would you be if I said we were going there for a week?"

"Twelve." She filled her glass with water from the fridge and slid into the little breakfast nook in the corner of his kitchen. The bright little nook was easily her favorite part of his house. It faced east out over the backyard and in the morning the sun shone through the gauzy curtains. He'd managed to keep a night jasmine plant alive beside the window and if there was a wind that little corner of his house smelled heavenly.

"So… how pissed off would you be if I said we were going there so I could tape a couple episodes of 'Say What Karaoke' for MTV?" He cringed, waiting for the explosion.

Dayna frowned and looked at him, "You mean you're working?"


"On your vacation?"

"Uh huh." He nodded and slowly turned around to see if she was upset.

"You already signed up?"

"I volunteered a couple months ago when they asked and I got a call yesterday confirming my travel plans. I forgot."

"Well I get to go right?"

"Of course." He chose another strawberry and cut the stem off.

"And we'll be there for how long?"

"Monday to Saturday so that's what? Six days?"

"And how many of those days will be spent taping?" She stretched her arms over her head and lightly pulled on the curtains.

"It takes about two hours to tape it and I committed to three days."

"So for three days we're on our own?"

"Yeah." He nodded and turned around as he continued to cut. "You're gonna pull those down on your head if you keep doing that."

"In Key West?" Dayna ignored his comment, but removed her hands from the curtains.


"Do I have to do your hair?"


"Dude. Count me in."

"Really? You're not upset?"

"Heck no, it'll be fun. I can watch the tapings and stuff. I've never seen them tape a show so that'll be cool, then we can hang out on the days when you're not doing that."

"Wow, I was expecting you to flip out."

"I don't flip out very easily." Dayna shrugged.

JC scoffed and shook his head, "Yeah if you say so."

"Wait, what have I flipped out about?"

"You always flip out over little things. I don’t know. Like you were ready to quit the tour before just because Lance had a girlfriend or whatever, and you got all pissy when Chris wouldn't let you hook him up and stuff."

"I didn't flip out. You've never seen me flip out completely." She swirled the crushed ice in her glass then took a sip.

"I'm getting the idea that it's not a pretty sight."

"I can promise you that it isn't." Dayna laughed. "So right on, Key West. When do we leave?"

"In three days. We're flying into Miami then we're driving from there."

"Driving to the Keys?"



"In a car?" He gave her a look, was there another way to drive he didn't know about?

"Over water?"

"Well, yeah, I mean… they're a good four hours or so out there." JC nodded and turned the water on to rinse the strawberries he'd just cut.

"Okay back up here for a second. We're going to drive across water… in a car?"

"On bridges and stuff, yeah. Haven't you ever driven to the Keys?"

"I've never been to the Keys and I wasn't aware they had bridges that are that long." She shook her head as she frowned. "Four hours on a bridge? I'd be sick. What if you ran out of gas?"

"It's not all bridges, there are lots of little islands out there where you can stop and get gas and food and even stay if you want." He smiled, "But Key West is about four hours out."

"That's crazy."

"It's a fun drive. There are lots of little places to stop and stuff like that. It'll probably take us a lot longer though since you've never been. You're probably going to want to stop at all the shops and crab houses and all that."

"Sounds like fun."

"It is." JC carried the basket of clean strawberries over to the breakfast nook and set them on the table beside the tiny bowl of sugar. He reached over Dayna's head and opened the window behind her, then the other two windows in the nook. The scent of jasmine wafted through the open windows as Dayna smiled and reached for a strawberry.

"You know what though? Chris was always talking about wanting to go to the Keys, we should call him and see if he wants to come that way he and I can hang out while you're working."

"Yeah but this is for an MTV thing, I don't think he'd be down for that on his vacation."

"It’s Key West, I’d be willing to bet he’d jump at the chance."

"It’s work." JC shook his head and rolled his strawberry in the sugar. "We’re all meeting up in two weeks anyway, I doubt he’ll even be home."

"Five bucks says he’s home."

"Ten bucks says even if he is, he won’t go." JC raised his eyebrow at her.

"Deal." She shook his hand and reached for the phone. She dialed his number that was embedded in her memory, and waited as it rang. "Have you even talked to him since Memphis?"

"Yeah, like the week after we got off, he said he wasn't going to be home for a few days but I haven't heard from him since. I think he was going to visit some friends or something." JC sighed and stood up to go to the refrigerator.

"Hello?" A female voice answered the phone and for a moment Dayna thought she had misdialed.

"Uh, hi. Is uh… do I have the right number? I’m looking for Chris?" She asked softly.

"Oh yeah." The girl responded. "He’s outside right now though, did you want me to go get him?"

"Please." Dayna nodded.

"Okay, may I ask who’s calling?"

"This is uh… Dayna."

"Oh hi Dayna, what’s up?"

"Not much." Dayna frowned at JC and pointed to the phone. She mouthed the words; "It’s a girl." To him and shrugged.

"That’s cool, are you excited about the tour staring up again? You’re going right?"

"Yeah, yeah I’ll be meeting up with them in a couple weeks." Dayna nodded as JC laughed and returned to the table with a small carton of yogurt.

"Cool." Dayna heard Chris’ backdoor open and the girl call for him, "Chris? It’s Dayna."

"Tell her I’m sunbathing in the nude and I’ll call her later." Chris laughed.

"I’m not telling her that, come on. Leave the dogs alone for two minutes to take a call." She laughed as Chris ran over. "He’s not naked." She explained to Dayna with a smile.

"Thanks." He kissed her quickly and took the phone. "I’m naked Day, what do you want."

"You’re naked huh? Be careful you don’t get burned."

"Yeah, ouch." Chris laughed.

"So who’s that?"


"Little miss answering your phone."

"Who do you think?" Chris laughed.

"I don’t – " Dayna stopped as she reached out and grabbed JC’s arm just as he put the spoon in his mouth. "Shut up, that’s Maddie?"

"Of course." Chris smiled and went into the house, "Hey dork, how about shutting the screen huh? We’ve got bugs the size of Fords out there." He said to Maddie as he shut the screen behind him. She gave him the finger as she smiled and sat on the chaise lounge. "Who did you think it was?"

"I don’t know." Dayna blushed. "So wow, she’s living with you?"

"Yeah… no… well, not really."


"She’s here for the time we’re off."

"She left her work and school and everything?" Dayna slapped at JC who finally wised up and scooted away.

"She graduated a while ago and now she’s out here on vacation with me."

"Wow… I uh… I didn’t know it was that serious." She had to stop herself from bouncing up and down with joy.

"It’s me, how serious can it be?" Chris said softly as he flopped on his couch.

"Well she’s staying there, that’s gotta say something." Dayna shrugged. "Pretty soon you’ll be taking vacations together."


"Speaking of vacations… what are you guys doing next week?" She tried to be sly and obscure, but that was never a skill that she was good at.

"Next week we’ve got nothing but tanning planned." Chris laughed as he watched Maddie swatting at an invisible bug. "And maybe a shower or two. Why? What’s up?"

"Well Jace and I are going to the Key West and we wanted to know if you guys wanted to join us." She said softly as JC laughed and shook his head from the other side of the nook. He dropped a couple strawberries into his yogurt and stirred them in.

"MTV is in the Keys this summer." Chris shook his head.

"I know, JC’s doing a few episodes of ‘Say What Karaoke’ so I thought maybe you’d like to come."

"Ha, yeah right. This is our time off, you think I’m gonna go hang out where MTV is? Forget it." Chris laughed and shook his head again. "You’re nuts."

"You wouldn’t have to be on."

"What kind of vacation is that being on an island with a half a billion MTV staff and fans? What’s Jace thinking?"


"Absolutely not."

"Come on, you owe me." Dayna tried as a last ditch resort.

"How do I owe you?"

"I do believe a certain someone is sitting out there by your pool, a certain someone I might have been involved with hooking you up with."

"You know, I was thinking about that." Chris said thoughtfully. "You didn’t really hook us up at all. You hooked me up with Emily, and when that didn’t work you went to get all girly at the salon and I was bored so I went to bug you and Maddie invited me out. So really, you didn’t find her for me."

"I did so!" Dayna’s jaw hit the floor. "Oh I totally hooked you up. Don’t even go there Chris. If it wasn’t for me you’d be on girl 93 this year."

"You say that like I’m a Joey or something."

Dayna sighed, and decided it was a useless argument. "So you’re not going to come with us to the Key West?"


"You suck."

"Yeah well… I guess you would know." Chris laughed and stood up to go to the window, "I told you not to wear that flowery lotion." He shouted to Maddie who was busy swatting bugs away from her face. "I’ve gotta go, she’s getting eaten alive out there."

"Last chance."

"I’m not going." Chris laughed. "I’ll talk to you later Day. Or I’ll see you in two weeks, whatever." He hung up before she could argue again and laughed. "You didn't want to go spend a week in Key West with a bunch of fans and MTV, did you?" Chris asked as he walked to the screen door.



"Do we have to?"

"No, JC is going out there to do that and Dayna is of course going with him, so she was calling to see if we wanted to go too."


"But I told her no because we're too busy sunbathing naked."

"Chris…" Maddie laughed and slapped at a bug on her thigh. "Ugh, this is miserable. Why didn't you tell me before I came out that I'd be eaten alive?"

"I didn't know that you were so sweet you'd attract bugs from all over. I swear some of these are Cuban mosquitoes." Chris laughed and held the door open for her. "Come on inside, they'll leave you alone."

"It's really hard to tan inside though."

"Well if you'd stop wearing that flowery lotion stuff maybe they'd go away."

"If I don't wear the lotion I'll be as red as a tomato." She frowned, but came into the house anyway. "You should buy a tanning bed."

"Sacrilege!" Chris covered his ears. "You can get kicked out of Florida for saying that, hush."

"What do Floridians do during the winter when you can't tan?"

"You ride out your summer tan." Chris rolled his eyes.

"You're strange sweetie." Maddie laughed and kissed the corner of his mouth. That had become her phrase for the summer, it accurately described all of Chris' antics and it showed her growing affection for him.


"Fork it over." JC laughed when Dayna hung up the phone.

"That's not fair, I didn't know he had Maddie visiting him."

"How is that not fair? I didn't know either." JC laughed and licked his spoon to get the last remnants of yogurt off. "You owe me ten bucks."

"I'll pay you later." Dayna grumbled as she dropped her feet in his lap and took another strawberry. "So okay, Chris brought his girlfriend out to visit at his house for like… a month. That doesn't strike you as odd?"

"Right now, when it comes to Chris, nothing is odd."


"Well, for one thing, he has a girlfriend. That's not like him."

"He dated me."

"Yeah but that was different, that was a 'while we're on the road' type of dating."

"So you're saying that’s not real?" She raised her eyebrow to remind him that's what they had been over the last few weeks of the tour.

"No, it's real, it's just different. She's not in the industry. It's just… it's like dating a real person instead of someone you work with. Nevermind, it's just not normal for Chris. Okay then he brought her out to see him, so this just fits."

"You make no sense whatsoever." Dayna shook her head and reached for a napkin in the little holder near the center of the table. She opened it all the way then tore it in half, "What does that mean though? You've known Chris longer than me."

"I don't know what this means, it's undiscovered territory." JC shrugged. "That's why nothing seems odd, because it's all odd. What would be odd right now is if he reverted to the old Chris and kicked her out and began dating, as you called them, skanks."

"You're confusing me." She sighed and removed her feet from his lap to lean on the table as she tore the napkin into even quarters. "Chris is afraid of any kind of commitment. He doesn't believe in bringing a girl home, I mean… I've seen his house once and that was when we were here for a show and we had to pick him up."

"He doesn't have people over." JC shrugged. "I think I've only been there like three or four times."

"Okay so then he has this chick he's known for a month or two out there staying for the duration of your break?"

JC was silent for a minute as he stared her down, "Day? Do I have to say it?"

"Say what?"

"You spend entirely too much time worrying about Chris' love life." He rolled his eyes and rolled his head from side to side as he repeated the same phrase he'd been saying for months.

"JC… you don't find it odd that he has a girl over?"

"Dayna, it's not odd. It's a normal step in relationships. Besides, like I've already said a dozen times, nothing about Chris is normal. He's happy, she's happy, they're happy together… isn't that what you wanted for him?"

"I wanted him to find a girl he could be serious about."


"You think this is serious?"

"Dayna!" JC groaned, "Yes, I think he's serious. He's invited her to his house for like a month or two. He's as serious as he gets. Mission accomplished. You've found him the infamous 'one'. Can you leave it alone now?"

"But - "

"No buts. You've done your good deed for your life, can you please just leave it alone?" JC raised his eyebrows in question as he placed his hands on her shoulders. "Pretty please? With sugar on top?"

Dayna sighed and frowned slightly, "JC I just want him to be happy."

"He is happy." JC insisted. "If I was anyone else and you were this stressed over your ex boyfriend being happy, you know I'd be out that door faster than anything."

"I'm worried about Chris as a friend, not as an ex."

"You know what I mean."

"Fine." She sighed. "Fine, I'll stop with the Chris stuff."

"Good." JC nodded.

"I won't even bring it up again."

"Thank you."

"I won't even think about him."

"That's not what I meant." JC rolled his eyes, he never knew she could be so difficult. "I'm just saying that you need to not stress about his love life. He's happy with Maddie, so you can stop feeling like you need to fix that."

"I'll stop." Dayna nodded.

"Thank you." JC smiled as he leaned in to kiss her. "That's a good thing, now I don't have to break up with you."

"If you did though, I'd help you find someone else." Dayna laughed lightly as their lips brushed each other.

"No you wouldn't."

"Yes I would."

"I wouldn't let you." JC kissed her again then stepped away, "I've got more sense than that."


"We can argue about that later though, we need to pack." He grabbed her hand and pulled her down the hall. "A week in the sun with me is just what you need to get your mind off of that other guy." JC laughed.

Dayna paused to think of a week on the beach with JC there to help heat it up, "Other guy? There's another guy? Who? Where?" She giggled as she followed him.

"That's what I thought." JC smirked and shook his head. He knew that a week in the Keys was exactly what they needed before they headed out on the road. They'd gotten so much closer over the last couple months, he knew that would continue through their week vacation and the tour. As if he needed any reassurance. Dayna had not only found 'the one' for Chris… but for JC as well.


"Aruba, Jamaica ooooh I wanna take ya… Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama…" JC sang as they exited their car in the bright parking lot beside their beachfront hotel.

"Sing it baby." Dayna laughed and placed a wide brimmed hat over her head.

"All you need is dark sunglasses, then you'd look like a starlet."

"And all you need is black socks and green shorts, then you'd look like my grandpa." She laughed at his golf hat and wife beater.

"Awww, listen to you. I was trying to be nice and you gotta go being mean. I shoulda left you at home."

"I'll see you later." She pretended to sit back in the car.

"Come on Day." JC laughed and pulled her out of the passenger seat. "Let's get checked in and settled before I have to sacrifice myself to the MTV Gods."

"Hey you volunteered to come here."

"I know." He nodded. "It'll be fun, seriously. Have you ever done MTV with us?"

"Nope." She shook her head. "Nothing more than making you look pretty."

"Enhancing my natural beauty?"

"Something like that." Dayna laughed and pulled her big bag from the backseat.

"It's a lot of fun. The VJ's and stuff are the coolest people for the most part." JC smiled and reached into the trunk for their bigger luggage. "Come on Ms. Movie Star." He joked.

"If I was a movie star I wouldn't be hanging around with riff raff like you." She smiled, then stood on tiptoe to kiss him. "Actually, yeah I would. I wouldn't be able to resist your hair or your voice."

"Really?" JC raised his eyebrow; "I'll have to remember that."

"Yep." Dayna smiled then linked her arm through his as they headed for the main entrance of the hotel. They were met with by a bellhop who loaded their luggage onto a cart, while they got checked in and given directions to where MTV would be taping the show.

They walked hand in hand through the grand doors leading to the wood planked walkway lining the sand on their way to the hotel bungalows on the private beach a fifty yards up. "We get to stay here for a week?" Dayna's jaw dropped slightly as JC opened the door to their bungalow.

"Yep." JC laughed. "MTV doesn't mess around."

"Is there any way you can sign on for another week?" She laughed as she dropped her bag on the bed and walked to the other side of the room where the double french doors opened onto a private deck with a few short steps down to the sand. "This is private?"

"Completely." JC nodded. "We've stayed here before, only the people with these rooms here have access to the beach."


"So you'll probably see the other guest hosts around here too." JC opened the bamboo doors of the closet and set their luggage inside.

"I am seriously never leaving again." Dayna leaned on the railing. "See? Chris should have come and brought Madeline, she would have had a great time."

"Ha." JC rolled his eyes and joined Dayna on the deck. "She's still new to all of this. She would have been uncomfortable around the other people here and she would have hated tagging along to the tapings where the fans are out in abundance. Its still work you know."

"Yeah but this little beach here would make it all worth it."

"Think about when you first worked with celebrities, remember how whacked it felt to sit at a table with like, Janet Jackson or whatever. Or to have a conversation with like, Sting?"

"I've never met either of them."

"You know what I mean."

"Yeah I know. That was weird at first."

"So see? Now imagine that your brand new boyfriend is one of those people. Nah, she wouldn't have had any fun here."

"Yeah she would." Dayna whispered.

The phone rang in the room behind them and JC sighed as he turned to go back inside. "Hello?" Dayna listened to his half of the conversation, "Yeah, we're here and everything. Okay. Yeah… tonight? Sure, you bet. No, I got the directions or wh - Oh, okay. Yeah, there's two of us. I brought my girlfriend with me. Uh huh. Is that okay? Rad, hey thanks Michelle. Okay, we'll see you tonight. It's no problem, bye." He hung up then walked to the doorway. "See that right there is why she'd be miserable."

"Where are we going?"

"Guest host clam bake type thing at the beach house tonight. It's going to be taped and aired at the end of the summer as kind of the last party type thing." JC sighed. "You brought a bikini, right?"

"If you think I'm wearing one on TV you've got another thing coming."

"Did you bring a one piece?"

"JC, I'm not wearing a bathing suit on TV." She shook her head and turned to put her hands on her hips. "Think of something else."

"Everyone will be in bathing suits." JC protested.

"Yeah, everyone meaning Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez… people like that who can pull it off."

"Christina's not here."

"You're not helping."


"No. I'll wear my shorts and a tank top. End of discussion." She held up her hands and walked into the room.

"Now imagine you've just started dating a guy and he pulled that on you? How happy would you be to be here?"

"Are you saying you made that up and I don't really have to go?"

"No, you do." He smiled. "But how would she feel?"

"You've made your point." Dayna smiled and sighed. "But I'm still not wearing a bathing suit."

"That's fine. Shorts and a tank top will be fine, that's what I'm wearing."

"Beautiful. What time?"

JC glanced at his watch, "The van will be here to pick us up around five thirty."

"Okay." She nodded and tossed her sunglasses toward the bed. "Let's not waste the time we have though, the sun's out which means we should be frolicking in the sun."

"I don't frolic." JC laughed.

"Oh yes you do." Dayna bounced on her toes to kiss him quickly, and their week long vacation began.


Dayna and JC spent the week in Key West with a lot more free time than they expected. The resort where they were staying was secure and relatively fan free. They were able to enjoy their time there without having to worry about being constantly watched. With a little more than two weeks before the tour started again, Dayna knew that the guys would be swamped with practicing and promoting their tour.

She made herself scarce and let JC have all the private time he needed when he was home. He was surprisingly clingy and she wasn't too sure what to do about that, "Are you okay?" She asked as he rested his tired head on her shoulder.

"Yeah." He mumbled as he clasped his hands behind her back and let them fall to rest on the waist of her jeans.

"You seem kind of… I don't know."


"More than that." She shook her head as he sighed against her neck.

"Physically, emotionally and mentally drained is more like it." He forced a smile as his eyes drifted closed. "I just want to crawl into bed and curl up with you and disappear until tomorrow."

"Aren't you hungry?"

"Eh, kinda." He said, though he didn't move a muscle.

"Okay, let's go eat something, then we can go lay in bed."

"I love you Day." JC smiled and lifted his head from her shoulder to kiss her.

"I love you too Jace." She said as a blush creeped up into her cheeks.

"Can I quit the group?" He asked with a grin.

"You have one more day before you get a couple off." She patted his shoulder and gently pushed him away.

"Three more days until we have to do this every night…" He whined.

"Oh stop, its not every night." She smiled. "You're just tired now because you've practically spent all day every day doing the same routines over and over. Once you get into the groove of things out there you'll be fine."

"I know." He sighed.

"So stop being a baby. Let's go eat some dinner then go to bed."

"I'm not being a baby, I just never get to see you."

"Oh, don't start that." Dayna shook her head and led the way into the kitchen where she pulled out a loaf of bread and went about making a sandwich. "I see you every day and the times when you've stayed over night that was your call. You volunteered to go to New York, you volunteered to do the LA circuit."

"Someone had to go."

"I'm not saying they didn't, I'm saying you chose to go so you don't get to throw a pity party for yourself." She smiled. JC walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her middle; "You're being extra clingy lately, what's that about?"

"I'll stop." He stood up with a sigh and dropped his hands to his sides.

"I didn't mean for you to stop or to not do it I was just asking why. Are you okay?"

"I'm fine." He leaned against the opposite counter.

Dayna set down her knife and picked up two halves of the sandwich. She handed one to JC then sat in the breakfast nook to eat her half, "You need to snap outta this funk."

"I'm not in a funk."

"Yeah you are."

"No I'm not."

"Yes you are, JC."

"No I'm not, Dayna." He imitated her like a two year old.

"Yes you are, yes you are, yes you are."

"No I'm not." He pouted.

"Yes you are infinity." She smiled and raised her eyebrow at him. "You need to have some fun."

"I need to sleep for nineteen hours."

"Eat that then we'll go lay in bed and watch a stupid movie."

"Oh. Yay." JC rolled his eyes.

"You need a dumb movie, I want to see you smile a real smile before you go to sleep." Dayna shook her head. JC smiled with his mouth full of sandwich, then went back to chewing. "A real smile, don't be a smart ass."

"It's better than being a dumb - " He began with his mouth full.

"Don't start." Dayna laughed and took a bite of her half. They finished their sandwich in silence, then Dayna grabbed two apples and a box of crackers as they headed to JC's room. She slid "The Ref" in the VCR and hit 'play' as she set the food on the blanket.

"I'll give you five million dollars if you'll rub my neck till I fall to sleep." JC mumbled as his eyes wavered between open and closed.

"Really? I think I can do that." She smiled as he pulled his shirt over his head and dropped it on the floor. The muscles in his shoulder twitched as he reached for the button on his jeans to shed them as well. Dayna watched with concern as his tired muscles protested every little movement.

"I will love you forever." JC kicked his pants off and stumbled toward the bed where he crawled up and laid straight across it in his boxer briefs.

"And if I don’t?" Dayna raised her eyebrow as she sat beside his head and sighed.

JC closed his eyes and smiled a genuine smile, "Then I'll be sad."

Dayna laughed under her breath and leaned down to kiss him; "There's my smile."

"Can I go to bed now?"

"If you must." Dayna ran her fingers through his hair and marveled at its length. She scratched his head while she played with his hair, then worked her hands down to his neck and shoulders. His muscles were tight with tension as she ran her hands solidly over his shoulder blades.

The movie played in the background, but JC was asleep before the opening credits ended. Dayna continued to massage his neck and scalp as she watched the movie, wondering if they'd get any more moments like this while they were on the road. She sighed deeply; knowing they probably wouldn't… then turned her attention back to the TV, as JC lay motionless in her lap.


"Let me paint your toes." Maddie smiled as she ran her finger over the top of Chris' foot. He'd been home for a few hours and they were just settling into the deep couch to channel surf and just sit together. She reached into the little basket under the end table and chose a bottle of nail polish.

"No." Chris’ forehead creased into a frown but his lips were smiling.

"Let me paint your toes." She insisted as she pulled his feet onto her lap. She used one hand to hold them there as she shook the polish in her free hand.

"No." Chris tried to pull his feet away as she scowled.


"Madeline." He mimicked her.

"Let me paint your toes."


"Give me one good reason why I can’t."

"Because I… because… no." Chris shook his head as she pouted. "Oh stop that, what’s so important about my toes that you’ve gotta paint them?"

"Just let me."

"Give me one good reason why you should." He smiled as he curled his toes under the cushion of the couch.

"Because if I know your toes are painted purple with rainbow sparkles then it’s like I’m connected. I don’t know. I mean, it would be something that only I knew."

"How about if I wear my green boxers?"

"Every day?"

"When we’re on TV."

"Why can’t I just paint your toes then whenever I think of you onstage with purple toes, I’ll smile." She pulled his foot out from under the cushion and placed them in her lap. "It would make me sublimely happy if I could paint your toes."

"Maddie…" He whined.

"It won’t hurt. I promise." She smiled and shook the nail polish again.

"No glitter though, I mean it."

"No glitter." She shook her head and unscrewed the cap.

"Do I get to paint yours next?" He asked as she got rid of the excess polish on the brush.

"Mine are already painted."

"So how is this fair then?" Chris asked as he lay back on the couch. He took the remote off the table and rested it on his stomach as he clicked the 'channel up' button.

"You should smile when you think of me anyways, with or without the painted toes."

Chris rolled his eyes, but kept them on the TV, "What color are your toes?"

Maddie brought her foot up and rested it on the couch beside his head, "Purple. We’ll match."

"That’s almost too sick to think about."

"Yeah but you’ll smile a lot more won’t you?" She laughed as she slowly painted the toes of his left foot.

"You think I'll smile more knowing our toes are painted the same color? Well honey that just goes to show how little you know about me." He laughed as she continued to paint.

"Aww, admit it. You like the idea."

"I'll never admit it."

"But you do." Maddie smiled up at him through her bangs as he just smiled and shrugged. "I thought so."

"So when you go home tomorrow, what are you going to do?" Chris asked a minute later when she switched to his other foot. He wiggled the toes on his left foot and held it out so he could see her handy work.

"I'm going to unpack… maybe… then make some dinner and maybe take a nap or something."

"You're not going to check your voicemail?"

"I don't have any friends who didn't know I was gone." She shrugged.

"You should check your messages though."

"I will, just maybe not as soon as I get home."

Chris sighed and flipped the channels again, "Fine."

"Why? Is there something on there I should hear?" She stopped painting to look at him.

"Maybe." He smirked.

"Oooo, what did you do? You couldn't have called to annoy me because I was here and you were doing it in person." She laughed.

"I'm not saying I did anything." Chris shook his head and focused on the TV.

"You're a buttmunch." She smiled and sighed as she set his right foot on the back of the couch and pulled his left foot onto her lap again.

"You already did that one, genius."

"I know, you need a second coat though."

"Madeline…" Chris whined.

"You're the biggest cry baby ever in the world." Maddie frowned. "Just be quiet and let me do this. I have to go upstairs and pack after this and I'm dreading it… so let me be happy while I'm procrastinating."

"You don't have to pack."

"Oh really? Did you pack all my stuff for me while I was in the bathroom earlier?"

"You could stay here."

"You're leaving two days after me." She shook her head. "I'd have to pack anyway."

"You could come with me."

"On tour? Chris…." Maddie sighed, "You know I can't do that."


"You know I don't want to do that."

"I know." Chris said softly as he muted the TV. "A man can hope though, right?"

"Honey, just because I don't want to go on the road with you doesn't mean I'm not totally infatuated with you." She smiled and held both of his feet in her lap to add the clear topcoat. "That whole aspect of the celebrity lifestyle is nothing I can comprehend, and nothing I'd be interested in… but I know that's part of who you are."

"So what happens then?"

"When you go on the road?" She carefully coated his toenails then blew on them gently. "We'll talk as often as we can and I'll wish you were here. And all the while you'll be out there pretending like you're having a great time while deep inside you're miserable because you just want to be laying on my couch eating popcorn and watching 'The Mirror Has Two Faces' or something like that."

"Oh you think so?"

"Of course." She smiled.

"That's pretty accurate." He shrugged and wiggled his toes at her nose as she blew on them again. He swung his feet over the side of the couch and turned around so that he was lying with his head on her lap. "I'm going to miss this."

"I'll miss you too, but it's not forever."


"Just a couple months."

"Fourteen weeks."

"See? Fourteen weeks ago was right about the time when we were in LA."

"That was only fourteen weeks ago?"

"It seems like yesterday, what do you mean 'only'?" She laughed and ran her fingers through his hair as she looked down into his deep brown puppy dog eyes.

"It feels like I've known you longer than that though. Weird." He smiled and puckered his lips, waiting for her to respond with a kiss. She waited for a minute and just stared at him with his eyes closed. "Don't leave me hanging." He said while trying to keep his lips puckered.

"You're strange sweetie." She leaned down and kissed him, his innocently puckered lips giving way to the true passion behind them.


Chris and Maddie had breakfast on his back steps the next morning before heading off to the airport. "Are you working today?"

"Yeah, we're rehearsing again at the arena. This is the last day so we're going to do a couple run throughs. Basically they're going to try to kill us two days before the tour starts just to see if we can survive."


"Yeah, and those of us that do survive, we get to vote someone off."

"Really?" Maddie laughed and took her backpack from Chris as they walked through the airport.

"Yeah. Wade's first on my list man. He's nuts. He thinks we're wind up toys that can flail about like Gumby, but we're not."

"You guys look good out there though."

"The secret is that we're all quadruple jointed. It just looks like we're moving fast when all we're really doing is whapping our arms and legs around."

Maddie laughed at the mental image and shook her head; "You guys really do look good though."

"Thanks." Chris checked the monitors to find which gate she'd be leaving from. They headed off to the left to find gate 9 in silence. "Can you call me when you get home?"

"Sure." She nodded as they slowed their pace, wanting to take as much time as they could.

"And check your messages."

"Which do you want me to do first?" Maddie laughed as she dropped her bag over her shoulder. She waited patiently for him to answer but he seemed lost in thought, "Chris?"

"Um, I guess it doesn't matter." He shrugged. "But do both."

"I will." She nodded and looked toward her gate as the other passengers began to board. "Have fun at practice."

"Oh yeah, I can't even begin to tell you how much fun that will be." Chris rolled his eyes and grabbed her by her belt loops to pull her closer, "You're going to come out though, right?"

"After I get a job and find out how that's going to work, yeah." She nodded.

"Right on." Chris brought his lips to hers and kissed her softly, wishing she could stay. "Okay, go get on your plane. I'll see you later."

"I'll talk to you tonight." She smiled with her lips against his and kissed him again.


"Bye." She ran her eyes over his face to embed it in her memory then turned quickly before she completely changed her mind about everything.

Chris watched until she was down the long walkway headed toward her plane, then he turned to leave. He didn't want to wait around and see it off into the air, he knew she'd be fine and he needed to get home to get his dogs ready to go to his sisters house. She was going to watch them while he was on the road, so he had some things to get together to last her a couple months.


Maddie arrived in Los Angeles five minutes ahead of schedule and took a cab to her little condo twenty minutes away. It took two trips to get her luggage in the front door, but once she was inside she shut and locked the door and flipped the lights on, it felt great to be home.

She smiled and crossed her living room to where her answering machine sat on the little table near the couch. The light's flashed showing that she had three new messages, not too bad for being gone as long as she was. She hit 'play' and listened to the sales pitch of a guy trying to get her to buy a lawn maintenance plan. She rolled her eyes; her 'lawn' consisted of three flowering bushes that lined her front walk and a hanging plant by her back door. She let it play through then hit 'erase'.

The second message was from Chris, and she smiled as his voice broke through the silence of her home, "Hi Maddie, this is Chris." Chris' voice was soft over the answering machine tape as he whispered, "You're laying about two feet away from me sleeping and I wanted you to hear this - " There was a shuffling noise then the sounds of deep breathing, "Hear that? That's you sleeping. You're the quietest sleeper I've met and I just wanted to tell you that." There was a pause then a sigh from Chris, "I'm really happy you're here, this has been an awesome week and I know you're not sure if you're going to stay the whole time but I really hope you do because I could listen to you sleep forever. I hope you don't listen to your messages while you're here or I'll feel like a total retard." There was another rustling in the bed then Chris whispered, "You're rolling over now, I think I'm making too much noise. See ya." The message clicked off and Maddie reached to replay it.

Before she could press the button it beeped and Chris' voice came on again. "Mads! This is Chris… of course. Am I the only person on here? Or do you have like a gazillion sales people on here too? Its today and you just left about twenty minutes ago, I just got home from the airport dropping you off, so yeah." He laughed lightly and shushed the dogs in the background, "I had a great time with you out here, I wish we had more time though. You know, because like two months wasn't long enough." He laughed, "I'm rambling now. I hope you'll be able to come out and see us on the road, this new tour is going to be absolutely nuts, ten times bigger and better than the last one. Anyway, I uh… I wussed out and I didn't say this while you were here and I don't know why or whatever, but I've been kicking my own ass since you left, so I'm just gonna say it here and hope that it has kind of the same effect as if I was standing there. I uh… I love you. And I'm not just saying this or trying to freak you out of anything. Because if you weren't freaked out by me the last couple weeks I think you're unfreakable." He laughed again then cleared his throat. "Anyway, I uh… I just wanted to make sure you got home safe and everything so call me when you get this and I'll talk to you soon."

Maddie replayed both messages a couple times, but there was no mistaking it… she was, without a doubt, head over heels crazy in love with that man.




Copyright � 2001, Amy Lynn