MORE WAYS THAN ONE


ONE


"Hey Lance?"

"Hmm?" he said as he entered Chris's living room from the front door.  He'd just got back from his last meeting about going to Toronto.

"Have you talked to Nicole lately?"

"Not since I moved-"  JC and Leah had been home for three days now and it had been five days since he'd seen his wife.  He'd called her during the day and had left messages and then called in the early evening to see if she was around, but she seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth as far as he could tell.  He'd driven by the house on the way home that night just to make sure that she was home and she was.  The lights were on in the house and she thought he'd seen her sitting in the front living room.  "-not since I started staying here."

Chris was stirring a pot of pasta.  He held up a piece of pasta and tasted it before speaking, "Maybe you should go over there and see her."

Lance scratched his head then his cheek, then his chin before he slid out of his jacket and hung it over the back of the barstool at the breakfast bar.  "I don't think she wants to talk to me."

"Are you sure?" Chris said.

"Where's Dani?" Lance asked praying to himself and every God that he could think of that they wouldn't have this conversation right then.  He had tried not to think about it, but he'd spent the last five days trying to ignore the way she was ignoring him.

"You can't just stay over here--"

His defenses were up and when Chris started to speak to him the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end.  "If you want me out Chris just say it."

"No," he said and came around the breakfast bar.  "Dani and I love that you're here.  I mean you're family, but...I don't know...I just want you to be ok with your wife."  He paused for a moment.  "I still can't believe that you're married."

Lance sighed.  "Well that's debatable."

"Are you sure that it's that bad?"

"I left my wife alone across town because I felt like if I stayed we would have fought until we divorced each other."

"Divorce?"  Dani came in the room with a backpack on her shoulder.  "What are you guys talking about?"

"How was the gym?" Lance asked looking at her workout gear.

"Don't change the subject," Chris said.

"You aren't going to divorce Nicole are you?" Dani asked dropping her bag onto the floor.  "Lance, you can't do that.  She's carrying your child."

Lance slapped his hand onto the breakfast bar.  "God Dammit. I know Dani."

"HEY!"  Chris moved in between him and Dani and puffed up his chest.  Lance was a good two inches taller than him, but he was protecting Dani.

"You know what?" Lance said.  He took a deep breath.  "Dani.  I'm sorry for that.  Really I am.  I think I should leave now."

"Lance?" Dani said.

"No,"  he glared at her for a moment.  "I'm just going to mess up you and Chris so I might as well just move into a hotel."

"Hotel?"

"Yeah," he said and felt tears in his eyes.  "I can't stay here and I can't--"  He sighed.  His heart felt like it was going to explode.  "I can't stay here and I can't go home so I'll go to a hotel for the two nights before I go to Toronto."

"Are you sure?" Chris asked.

"Yeah."  He nodded at them then moved out of the kitchen to collect his things from the downstairs guest bedroom and bathroom.  It didn't take long.  He'd kept his things packed in case he ended up going home quickly.

As he walked towards the front door Dani stopped him.

"Lance?"

"What?" he asked.

"Go home," she said sadly.  "You  love your wife and she loves you and you need to be together."

"Easier said than done," he said.

"Please try to understand it Lance.  She's scared that she's gonna be stuck in Orlando with the baby and that you're going to leave her there."

"I want her to come with me.  I want to be with her."

Dani cocked her head to the side.  "She's sacrificed so much for you already.  I don't know that she wants to give in every time you tell her to jump."

"I don't tell her to jump," he said.

How could anyone say that?  He'd given her everything she'd ever want and more and now someone was saying basically that he was a controlling asshole.

"It's Toronto," he argued.

"Well it's not like these Toronto meetings just came out of thin air.  Do you realize how many times I've had that happen to me?  I've planned a great weekend for Chris and me and then he'll call from Virginia or Los Angeles or Seattle or--it got to be so many that I don't remember them all--He'd tell me that he was caught in some meeting and had to fly up to see someone and won't be home until Monday.  You need to consult her.  You're supposed to be partners."

"I can't be partners with a woman who doesn't support me."

"She supports you and loves you more than you know.  You just have to see her side of things and know that sometimes you can only give so much before you have to be selfish."

Lance only sighed at that.  There wasn't much he could say to a statement like that.

"I'll try Dani," he said, "Really, but I can't promise it's going to fix things."

"Just don't do something you can't undo," she said.

"I won't."

He walked out of the house not knowing where he was going.  He could call one of the other guys and crash with them, or explain his way out of booking himself a hotel room,  but it seemed as if the car had a mind of its own and he found himself driving home.

*****

Lance couldn't help but to watch them out the window as they drove away from the house. He had an uneasy feeling in his stomach, but couldn't explain why. He knew that nothing would happen that night with Lonnie being with them, but he had a feeling that her evening out with Joey was going to corrupt the sweet attitude that she had about the group. She hadn't treated them any different than any other person and he wanted it to stay that way. He got enough special attention in his life and he needed someone to kick his butt and deflate his ego every once in a while.

"You like that girl…don't you?" Lance turned to find his mother standing in the doorway.

Lance sat down on the couch in the front living room with a heavy thud and sighed. He knew that his mother was just trying to stay in touch with him, but he really wasn't sure if he wanted to discuss Nicole with her. "She works for me mom…I think she's a pretty great girl, but she's just my employee."

"James Lance Bass, give me a break…I know I'm not around you every day or anything…but you really have forgotten that I am your mother and I know things about you that you don't even know…" She smiled confidently and Lance wanted to laugh. He had forgotten how she could practically read his mind.

Lance shut his eyes, took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I'm not looking for a relationship…after trying to keep in touch with Dani for so many months I'm tired of phone calls and keeping things going from a million miles away."

"Honey…I know it's hard for you…" He watched her eyes water up a bit. "With you being on the road and all…that's one of my biggest fears for you now that you're getting older…I want you to find someone to love and for them to love you…"

Lance leaned back and gave his mom a smile. She was worried about him, yet again. They'd never really talked about the future of his love life or social life, but he knew that it was on her mind since most of his friends back home had either already settled down with someone or were getting to the point of getting married. He was in his early twenties and he figured that because his mother and father had begun dating at that age that his mother expected him to be settling down too.

"Don't worry about that…love will find me somehow…" He had tried to keep thoughts like that out of his mind, but deep down it was a worry for him too. He'd had to sacrifice a lot in his life and true love seemed to be one of those things. He'd tried his best to be with Dani, someone that he'd really loved in his life, but he'd found it too hard to have a real relationship over the phone.

His mother looked at the edge of tears and he wondered for a moment if there was something else on her mind. She wasn't normally that overemotional with him, but she'd been that way for a few months now. "If I'm going to be with someone I want to be the best boyfriend or whatever that I can be…At the moment I'm going to be single. I can't be there for someone so it's sort of stupid to waste my time trying."

*****

He sighed as the thoughts filled his head.  He would have pulled over and let himself think about it, but he found himself already sitting in the driveway.


The knock at the door startled her and she almost dropped the glass in her hand.  She was making some chicken noodle soup and drinking some water when the sound echoed into the house.

A moment later she heard the door open.  "Cole!"

She held her breath at the sound of his voice.

"Nicole?"

He sounded tired.  She didn't have to see him or hear much more than that.  It showed in his voice and she knew that whatever conversation that was going to happen that night was going to be hard to deal with.

"MRS. BASS!"  His voice went to one of worry.  "Lucy?"

"I'm in the kitchen," she said.

*****

"Mrs. Bass, your plane is ready to board now."

Nicole looked up from the magazine she'd been looking at and saw one of the airline representatives standing next to where she'd sat down. She looked around and found Lance standing a little ways away from her talking on the phone. Lonnie and Mike were sitting across the room playing cards. They were going to escort them to Hawaii before flying off for a week's vacation then they'd be meeting up with them again at the airport on their return to Florida.

"Mrs. Bass, your husband--"

Nicole smiled and finally spoke. "I'm sorry." She shook her head a little and let out a laugh. "I just got married today and for a moment I was looking for my husband's mother."

The woman smiled at her and laughed a little. "Going on your honeymoon?"

"Yes," she said.

"I don't want to impose, but could I get your husband to autograph something for my daughter? She's a huge fan of the group."

Lance had gotten off the phone and was pulling his suitcase back over to her. He had a frown on his face, but seemed to smile when he noticed who was with Nicole.

"Honey, will you sign an autograph for--"

"I'm Laura," she said with a smile, "My daughter is Chelsea."

"Sure," Lance said taking a breath.

"What's wrong?" she asked as the woman pulled out a piece of paper and watched Lance sign the paper.

"In a second," he said. He smiled at the woman and handed over the autograph. "Tell your daughter hello for me."

"Thanks," the woman tucked the paper into her pocket and said, "I believe that your flight is being boarded at the moment. "If you want I think you can make it on before the other passengers."

"Thank you," Lance said.

Lonnie and Mike appeared and the foursome made their way onto the plane.

Once seated, with Mike and Lonnie in back of them, the couple cuddled together. "Honey what's wrong?" she asked, "Who was on the phone?"

"I have to cut our honeymoon short," he said with a sigh.

"What?" she asked, "Why?"

"Meredith got signed with Mercury this morning and I have to go back to sign some papers so the deal can be completed."

"What?" she said in a shocked voice.

"I know. I'm sorry."

"No, Lance that's great!" she said, "Your company is finally a success. FreeLance is on the map."

"You aren't mad?" he asked.

"Well I'll be upset when we have to leave Hawaii early, but if its something like this how can I be upset."

"Really?"

"Lance!" Lonnie said from in front of them. They looked up startled by the intrusion. "Shut up and kiss your wife ok?"

"Ok," Lance said with wide eyes and leaned and kissed Nicole.

"Thank God we only have to fly out there with you then leave. You guys are too much together," Mike said.

An hour later they were still cuddled together. They had a whole night of traveling left ahead of them, but they seemed to already have gotten into the vacation state of mind.

"What are you thinking about Lucy?" Lance asked using her pet name.

"Who would have thought that a little classified ad would get me all this?" she said, "The last year or so has been crazy. I never would have expected to end up like this."

"Yeah well the ride's not over yet," he said softly.

"I know," she said, "Believe me, I know."

*****

She sighed and leaned against the counter.

"Nicole?"

"I'm in the kitchen," she called out weakly.  She hadn't been able to keep much down since she'd  found out that she was pregnant and had hoped that some soup would stay down since she'd finally gotten a few crackers to stay in her stomach.

"Hey," he said from the doorway.

"Hi," she said and forced a smile towards him before she turned back to the soup.  She knew he'd see the stressed look on her face and she didn't want him to worry.

"You ok?" he asked.

"Yeah," she said stirring the soup more.

"Are you sure?" he asked.  She could hear his feet coming towards her and felt him behind her.  "You're dressed like you're going to Alaska."

"I've been cold the last few hours," she said knowing full well that she'd started to feel a little fat in her pants and the sweats were the only thing that let her feel like she was a normal size.  "I think I caught a chill last night because I accidentally left a window open."

"Are you sure?"

His hands hovered over her shoulders for a moment.  She caught sight of them above her shoulders for a few seconds before he finally touched her.

"Yeah," she said and moved away from his touch.  She moved to get a bowl and pretended that eating was her reason for moving away from him.  "What are you up to?"

"I came over to--"  He watched her.  She could see him in the shiny side of the toaster.  "I came over to see how you were and to get some more clothes if--"

"More clothes?" she croaked out.

"Yeah," he said, "I except that you're not ready to talk to me so I don't--"  He leaned against the counter.  "Are you ok honey?  I mean really?  I just want to know--"

"I'm fine."

"Nicole?"

"What?"

"Turn around," he said.

"What?" she asked turning around.

"Can--"  He paused.

She saw the tears in his eyes.

His brain screamed for him to ask her if he could come home, but his body betrayed him.  "Do you mind if I pack?  I won't bother you."

She turned away from him and nodded.  "Do you want something to eat?"

"No," he said, "I won't trouble you."

She shook her head.  "It's no trouble."

"I'm fine," he said, "really.  I'll just run up and grab some stuff and get out of your hair."

He wanted to give her a chance to stop him, to tell him not to pack and not to leave, but when she stayed quiet he moved out of the kitchen.  Just as he was in the hallway he heard her soft voice "You aren't in my hair."


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