Fireworks


SEVEN:

 


While Chris, Dani, Angela, Joey, and Justin enjoyed their day off by escaping the confines of the hotel, Lance and JC had pulled together the rest of the lyrics to the song that JC had showed them while they'd eaten lunch. After a quick meal together they'd been escorted to the ballroom after JC had asked the person at the front desk if they could use the piano. Mike and Wes had been sitting next to the door guarding the place as the four of them played in the room.

"You know what we need?" JC said with an exited tone that had worn on Nicole's nerves in the last three hours.

"To get out of here," Boo said softly.

No reaction came from JC, but Nicole couldn't help but to groan at her attitude. Boo had been upset from the time JC had pulled out the lyrics he had written during lunch up until she'd fallen asleep in the corner of the room about an hour before relieveing them from her bitchiness for a while. She'd woken up though when the music had stopped and Lance had left the room for a moment.

"What'd you got in mind C?" Lance asked coming back over to where the piano had been pushed into the empty ballroom. He'd gone out to tell the man at the front counter that they'd be done soon.

"We need a girl to try this song out on," JC said.

Nicole opened her mouth to say something, but shut it again knowing that it wasn't her place to step in and volunteer for a job that she wasn't qualified for. She'd felt uncomfortable enough just sitting in the room with the guys as they worked out the song on the piano. She could have escaped back up to the room, but knew that she wanted to at least be in the room with Lance even if he was busy. She had months and months to be away from him and needed to take advantage of the time that she had with him.

"I can call Meredith and have her sing it over the phone," Lance said pulling out his phone.

"Don't look at me JC," Boo said, "You know I don't sing."

Nicole turned to see how JC was looking at her with a pleading sort of look.

Finally, just before Lance hit the "send" button on his phone, Nicole took a deep breath and spoke. After listening to JC and Lance figure out the rest of the lyrics and begin the melody she jumped at the chance to sing it. She'd been itching to help with the music too, but wasn't sure if what JC and Lance had in mind was what she would have done with the song. It was now or never for her. She'd been feeling bad all morning about not telling Lance the truth about her and after their conversation while he was in the shower she knew it was time to tell the truth or at least let him hear it for himself. "I'll sing it."

"You told me that you don't sing," Lance said turning off his phone.

Nicole took another deep breath and prayed that she wouldn't have to explain everything in front of JC and Boo. If she was going to tell him the whole story she needed for them to be somewhere more private because she knew if she did start to tell her story, tears would soon follow. "I just said that I didn't sing in the shower."

Her comment got strange looks from both JC and Boo, but Nicole ignored them and moved to sit on the piano bench next to JC.

"Play it again Sam," Nicole said with a laugh.

JC laughed at her quote and began to play the melody that they'd been going over. They hadn't written the music to paper, but JC seemed to have memorized what they wanted the song to sound like. His fingers sailed over the keys without him having to look at them. He seemed to be one with the piano and it showed in how relaxed he seemed to be compared to how nervous Nicole was as the notes played.

Nicole listened to the notes for a moment then counted down slowly before opening her mouth to sing at the correct part after receiving a nod from JC.

 

"I'd like to watch you sleep at night,
to hear you breathe by my side
and although sleep leaves me behind,
there's nowhere I'd rather be

and now our bed is oh so cold,
my hands feel empty, no one to hold
I can sleep what side I want,
its not the same with you gone
Oh if you came home,
I'll let you know that…"

***All You Want--written by D. Armstrong, P. Herman, R. Armstrong sung by Dido***

 

Nicole had been watching JC play, but turned to see Lance's expression and found him staring at her with his mouth slightly open and his eyes wide. Nicole stopped singing. "What?" she asked looking at Lance with an innocent look as if she didn't know that it was her singing voice that had shocked him into silence. She looked over at JC who had stopped playing when she'd stopped singing. "Was I off key?"

"No," Lance said visibly shocked by her singing. "It was fine."

"Then what is it?" JC asked Lance.

Lance leaned against the piano with a hurt look on his face, as if she'd done something or said something wrong. He was chewing on his lip and picking at his finger trying to avoid answering the question. "Nothing," he said with a sad tone.

"Maybe I shouldn't sing," Nicole could see the way that the excitement had flown from his eyes and knew that she might be able to cure whatever wound she caused if they got away from JC and Boo so that they could talk. She knew it was because of the singing. She knew that if she were him, it would have upset her to find out something like that in such a way.

JC stared at the both of them for a moment then looked at Boo who was still looking bored. "Fine, we should head out of here anyway," he said softly.

Nicole watched Boo jump for joy, throwing her arms around JC while squeeling, as they packed up the pieces of paper they'd been using and JC pulled the cover over the keys of the piano.

As Lance headed towards the door Nicole slid an arm through his arm and hugged herself to his shoulder as they walked. "What was that all about back there?"

"Nothing." His voice was low and sad still.

She stopped in her tracks. "Lance?" she asked. He stopped and turned around and looked at her. "What'd I do to piss you off?"

Lance sighed and jammed his hands into his pockets as Boo and JC left the room. "You didn't tell me that you could sing like that."

"And?"

"It's nothing," he said rubbing his face. He sighed heavily. "Let's just get out of here and go relax."

In the hallway on the tenth floor Mike stopped Lance. "There's a new tabloid report out that Johnny wants you to take a look at."

"Crap…more fucking drama," Lance hissed out under his breath.

Nicole kept walking down to the room figuring that Lance had business to deal with. She didn't want to interupt him so she figured she'd go and keep herself busy until he joined her again. She was cleaning up a few of her things when he came into the room, let out a huge sigh and looked at her with a frown.

"Are you going to act this way the rest of my visit?" Nicole asked getting frustrated with the silent treatment.

"No," he said flopping down on the nearest of the two beds in the room. He flipped on the television with the remote and settled in as if he was going to be watching for a while.

Nicole went and stood in between him and the television with her hands on her hips. At the moment she wanted him to ask what was wrong and for her to tell him the whole story. She needed to tell him, but didn't know how to begin the story of her life.

"Will you move?" he asked leaning around her.

"No," she said, "Not until we get this settled. I refuse to spend the rest of my vacation with you in silence."

Lance laughed a little. "Why are you getting so hyper over all of this?" he asked.

"Ugh!" she stomped her foot and turned around and flipped off the television.

"What?" Lance looked up at her with a confused look.

Nicole found herself with teary eyes watching him stare up at her. "I need to tell you something important."

"What is it?" he asked. His expression softened and he held out a hand to her.

Brushing his hand away she began to pace going from where he sat closer to the door over to the window and back again.

"There's a reason that I don't sing anymore," she said. She returned to the window as tears started to fall from her eyes. "When I was a kid…"

A knock at the door sounded and Lance got up to get it. "Hold on a second, let me see who it is."

Johnny was at the door wearing a frown. Nicole watched him hand the piece of paper to Lance, who looked at it, looked at Nicole, then came back into the room without a word to Johnny shutting the door behind him.

"Former Broadway Star Sings New Tune," Lance read and handed the piece of paper to Nicole and continued to read over her shoulder. "NSYNC star Lance Bass has been linked to former Broadway singing sensation Nicole Day. The two were sited two months ago when NSYNC packed up for their summer concert season and the relationship was confirmed this week when the two had dinner in a Midwestern Hotel on one of the NSYNC tour stops."

The title that Lance read belonged to a tabloid article. It was accompanied not only a picture of the two of them at dinner the night before, but somehow had a picture of them in the parking lot when Lance left for tour as well as a picture of Nicole from her Broadway debut of Annie.

"Oh no," she said letting out a breath. She sank into a sitting position on the bed and covered her face. "Anything but this…"

"Former Broadway singing sensation?" Lance said with a strange tone to his voice that she'd never heard before.

"That’s what I was trying to tell you," she said looking up with teary eyes. "I don't sing anymore because…" She looked down for a moment at the rest of the article, scanning it to see if the rest of her story had been printed. Sure enough, the rest of the story was there in print, from her first brush with fame to the court case that dragged on for weeks when she became an amancipated minor. Every detail of the trial seemed to be staring her in the face bringing back the harsh memories of being on the stand and telling her parents to leave her alone.

The article even included a recent interview with her father, who seemed all too happy to spill the beans about her life. A quote they included even mentioned how her father thought that Nicole was Gold Digging and was only with Lance to get back into the music business.

"Lance, I…" She handed him the article and with a choked voice said, "Read it…what they've printed is fairly true, except the part that my father said."

Lance looked at the paper and read it and after a moment looked up at her. "You divorced your parents?"

"That’s why I was so nervous about your mother and father coming to visit," she said, "I've only had bad experiences--" Her shoulders slumped and she cried, as if the dam that was keeping in last nine years of pent up anger and sadness broke in one moment.

Lance dropped the sheet of paper to the floor and pulled her into a hug, but she shrugged off his arms. "Don't," she said and went over to her bag. "I should go home--I mean back to Orlando--you don't need this kind of drama."

"Cole?"

Nicole looked over at him and with a frown saw the concerned look on his face. "If I stay I'm just going to drag you into another battle with my parents. You don't need to be a part of that."


 

Lance stood and stared at her. She was visibly shaken by the article and was now moving towards her bags, as if to pack. Lance's mind reeled with the thoughts of losing her. He knew that if he let her leave the hotel that she'd be gone forever. "Cole, look at me."

She didn't turn to face him, but she did stop folding the shirt that she had in her hands.

"Nicole," he said with a sigh. When she didn't turn to face him his tone changed to a more forceful one, "Damn it, look at me."

She turned and he watched her cry for a moment before he went to her and pulled her into his arms. She was rigid in his arms, trying not to cry. He finally pulled the shirt in her hands away and hugged her tightly. "Cole, I don't know the real story or the whole story, but what I do know is that if you go home I have a feeling that you're going to be out of my life forever and I can't have that. I won't have that."

Nicole softened and leaned against him to cry. She curled her arms around him and held onto him as the storm of her emotions took over. He had to admit that just standing there with her made him want to cry. He wasn't sure exactly what had caused the sudden outburst, but he was glad that he could be there to help her through it.

"Cole, let's sit down," he whispered. She nodded taking huge shaky breaths as they settled onto the bed. Lance cuddled her in his arms and pushed her hair out of the way when she took it out of her ponytail.

Lance sat with her that way for almost an hour before she finally had cried herself to sleep. When he felt her stop shaking and heard her begin to breathe more deeply he slid his cell phone out of his pocket and with a free hand he dialed his mother.

"Hey dad," Lance whispered when his father answered. "Is mom there?"

"What’s up son?" his father asked.

"I just need to talk to mom," Lance said. He and his father were close, but trying to get advice about what to do with Nicole seemed like it would come easier from his mother.

His father turned away and called out to his mom and a moment later his mom got onto the phone. "Hello James."

"Hey mom," he whispered.

"Why are you whispering honey? Is JC sleeping?"

"No," Lance said. "I need to talk to you…you got a second?"

"Sure," his mother said, "What’s wrong?"

"There was a tabloid published today about Nicole and me…" He went on to explain the whole situation all the way up to the part when she burst into tears.

"Oh honey," his mother sighed at the end of the explanation.

"I know. It's crazy. I'm used to this kind of stuff, being around the whole Justin and Britney conspiracy all the time, but Nicole doesn't know how to handle this kind of stuff. She leaves in two days and I'm not sure she can handle the aftermath of that article by herself, but if I keep her here with me it might just make things worse," Lance said, "What do I do?"

"I don't want to pry into your personal life honey, but really how do you feel about Nicole?" His mother asked. "I think you need to figure that out first."

"I don't know mom." Lance looked down at Nicole's sleeping face pressed against his face and melted. "I like her a lot, but I'm not sure if I can put another person through all the crap that someone has to go through to be with me."

"You love her then honey, because if you didn't you wouldn't think twice about that stuff," his mother said.

Lance stared at Nicole again lost in his thoughts. He couldn't imagine what he would do if she went home and he never saw her again. He'd hate his house and his life in Orlando if he knew that she was there, but not with him.

"Honey, I think you have your answer," his mother continued, "If you want I can always come down and stay with Nicole for a while until this blows over."

"You're the best," Lance said into the phone then leaned and kissed the top of Nicole's head. "I don't think you need to come down, but if Nicole gets hassled over this maybe you could come for a week or so, just to keep her company."

"You ok now?" she asked.

"Yeah," he said.

"Good, now keep in touch ok," his mother said, "And don't just call us when you have troubles."

"I won't," Lance said, "I love you."

"We love you too," His father said. "Be safe. We'll see you at the New York shows, ok?"

"Ok," Lance said, "Talk to you later."

Lance hung up the cell phone, placed it on the table next to the bed and hugged Nicole and settled into take a little nap figuring that Nicole might be out for a while considering how hard she'd cried earlier.


EIGHT:


 With her face pressed to the mattress, Nicole awoke to an empty bed, an empty room and a pounding headache. After trying three times, beat back by the pain of her sore head, Nicole finally got the strength to lift her head and noticed a note taped to the television screen.

Pushing herself out of bed, she walked across the room and grabbed the note off of the television screen. Written in big black marker was a message from Lance.



Nicole smiled at the note and placed it on top of the television then went to take a shower, hoping that a little hot water could help the pounding of her head subside enough so that she might be able to function for the rest of the day. She had no clue what she and Lance would end up doing, but she knew she didn't want to be sick.

In the bathroom Nicole stripped down and got into the shower. Trying not to think about the events of the day before she turned the spray on high and let the warm water wash over her head letting the sensation of the water and the heat sink in. She wondered where Lance had disappeared to. She'd thought that the group had the day off and wondered if something might be wrong since they were having an unscheduled meeting.

"Hey Cole?" Lance's voice boomed in the tiny room making her drop the bottle of shampoo she had in her hands. A moment later she heard his voice again, "Cole you ok?"

"Yeah, you just startled me."

"You want to get lunch with everyone?" he called, "We’re planning to go out somewhere."

Nicole wondered if he had really needed to come into the bathroom to ask her that or if he was checking to see if she was crying, like he had when he'd left Orlando.

"Yeah, I'll be out in a minute."

Nicole finished her shower then remembered that she hadn't brought her clothes into the bathroom. Tucking the towel around her she exited the bathroom finding Lance sitting on the bed with Justin talking. The two were dressed in jeans and T-shirts. Lance had on black that day, which made the blond highlights in his hair stick out. Justin on the other hand wore a baby blue T-shirt underneath a University of Carolina Tar heels Basketball jersey. They seemed relaxed in their chairs although the looks on their faces seemed serious, as if she'd walked in on an important conversation.

"Oh no, my virgin eyes," Justin called out placing a hand across his face. He laughed hard while Lance turned and gave her a smile after looking her up and down from head to foot.

Controlling her embarrassment with a laugh, Nicole held the towel to her and hurried over to her bag. She pulled out a pair of jeans, a fresh shirt and underwear and bra and hurried back into the bathroom. After getting into her clothes on she brushed through her hair quickly, leaving it down for a change, and returned to the room.

"Not again!" Justin called out.

"I'm dressed now Curly." She pulled out a pair of socks, grabbed her running shoes and sat down next to Lance to put them on.

Lance reached out a hand to her back and rubbed it for a moment. "You sleep ok?"

"Yeah," she said with a half smile.

"So where are we going to lunch Lanceten?" Justin asked.

"It's nothing special," Lance explained, "It's some fifties style restaurant that one of the radio DJ said was good. Mike called over there and we have a table for all of us."

Nicole finished tying her shoes and flashed a smile to Justin. "I'm ready if you guys are."

"Let's hit the road," Justin said pushing himself out of the chair he led the way out the door where they met up with everyone.

Joey, Angela, and Justin led the way to the elevator, walking like The Monkies, stepping in front of each other while singing: "Here we come, walking down the street..." JC and Boo walked along slowly behind them with Chris and Dani.

Nicole started down the hallway, but Lance pulled her back. "You feeling better?" he asked in a hushed tone.

"Yeah," she said, "I'm sorry for acting so psycho yesterday."

"Cole, it's ok," he said, "I know that all of this is crazy, but I want you to know that I'm not upset at all about this. I'm gonna do whatever I can to make it better."

Nicole nodded trying to keep back her tears. She couldn't believe that he was being so sweet to her. She'd brought with her to their relationship, a whole array of drama that he didn't need in his life and instead of pushing her away, he was telling her to stay, which she didn't quite understand.

"You two guys coming??" Chris yelled down to them.

"Yeah!" Nicole yelled back giggling at her outburst. She slid her hand into Lance's and they joined the others.

In the elevator Nicole stood next to Dani who leaned over and whispered, "We all saw the article, just so you know."

"I can't believe that they printed all that," Nicole said pausing a moment to stare at her shoes.

"Don't worry about it, we all think you're cool," Dani said with a smile.

"That means a lot to me," Nicole said finding a tear in her eye. Again she was shocked at how everyone was being so nice to her.

 


 

The group and security had had a meeting that morning going over the details that surrounded the latest tabloid scandal. Mike had told the guys that reporters would be in the lobby when they went to go out to lunch and that the guys should be cautious of their actions because they didn't want to spread anything more into the news.

The elevator stopped at the lobby level with a slight jolt sending Chris into a fit of laughter. Lance ignored his friend's immature sense of comedy and concentrated on Nicole. He leaned and kissed her cheek, squeezed her hand. "I'll meet you in the car." He made eye contact with her for a moment and found some solace in seeing that she relaxed after he spoke to her.

Lance let go of her hand and as expected found himself caught up in a whirlwind of activity as Security surrounded the guys and pushed through the reporters to get the guys to the front of the hotel. Nicole waited with the other girls while the guys were hurried along towards the door. A group of reporters surround them instantly snapping pictures of Lance. He held his head up and tired to stay calm and not put his hand over his face. He didn't mind the flashes and the picture taking after all these years, but wished he could be a few feet back holding onto Nicole's hand.

When Lance got to the van he seated himself in the middle seat and watched out the tinted windows as the reporters seemed to crowd around Nicole.

Reporters took pictures and shoved tape recorders in her face brutally attacking her with quesitons.

"Miss Day do you have any comments to make on your affair with Lance?"
"Do you plan to get married?"
"Have you and Lance slept together?"

Feeling a little threatened by the prying quesitons Lance grabbed the seat in front of him and pulled himself up so that he was standing. At the moment he wanted to jump out of the van and deck the person who'd asked the question about sex.

Nicole was surrounded by the aggressive reporters and looked a little panicked as they jostled into position around her to get the story. Lance gripped the back of the seat hard and jumped over Joey to get a better postion. If one more reporter bumped into her he was going out there.

"Hold up!" House said putting an arm across the seat as if he knew what Lance might do. "Mike's getting her, so just sit down."

Lance stared at House with worry and anger in his eyes. "Come on man, they're killing her out there!"

"Sit down!" House boomed at him.

Lance was about to fight his way out of the van when Mike finally reached Nicole. She'd been stopped by the reporters, but with Mike's help soon pushed through the crowd to him. A moment later she was settled in next to him in the seat and he found himself putting an arm around her just to make sure that she was ok.

"I'm ok," she said with a shaky voice. She leaned against him and he kissed her forehead.

"You sure?" he asked. He looked in her eyes and watched her blink a few times before he let her sit back and relax. She nodded finally and athough her face looked a little pale, he felt the tension in her shoulders subside as the van moved out from where it had been waiting.

"She's fine," Dani said giving Nicole a smile. She reached out and held onto Nicole's hand. "You did good out there."

"Thanks," she said breathlessly.

"You did ok," Boo said without much joy or sincerity to her voice.

"You did better than I could have," Angela said.

He hadn't meant to leave her that morning, but when Justin had come knocking on the door that morning with the others in tow he slid out from next to her in bed and had left her there alone. She was asleep and hadn't moved so he ddidn't want to wake her up.

"Praise the Lord for stupid tabloid stories!" Justin called out in the back of the van when they were away from the frenzy in front of the building.

After initially jumping at the sound of the sudden outburst, Lance turned around and gave Justin a death stare which immeditely made Justin shut up. He couldn't believe that Justin would do such a thing, after seeing the state that Nicole had been in that morning when they'd left for their meeting.

"Sorry guys, but it does feel good to have those guys in your face and not mine for a change." Justin's tone wasn't at all mean, he was simply stating his feeling on the situaiton, which Lance really didn't blame him for.

Nicole turned around and Lance thought for a moment that she'd be mad, but she laughed. "Yeah right…like our one story compares to you and Britney getting engaged, married, living in some home together in the middle of nowhere…but hey…they did have those B-day pictures of you. Need I go on?"

"No," Justin tucked his chin down to his chest.

"Why doesn't everyone shut up about the tabloids!" JC yelled from next to Boo. She turned and gave him a mad look since he'd yelled it next to her head and he leaned and kissed her forehead before looking back out the window.

"Good idea, let's just get through the next few days and we'll be home free," Lance said hugging Nicole to him.

"Sounds good to me Ricky," she said softly.

"You sure you're ok?" Mike asked from next to them.

"I'll be better when everyone stops asking me if I'm ok."

 


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