Always One More 2


"Are we leaving soon?" he asked.

Her eyes left the list that was laid out across the loaf of French bread she'd picked up a few minutes before to find him walking along beside her.  Normally she would go back to what she was doing, but of course, Chris somehow was capturing her attention again today.  He was walking down the linoleum tiles in the Publix, standing on his toes in black skater shoes lifting his jeans with his hands to keep the hems off the floor, placing his feet in the middle of each white and gray tile.  This would have been fine behavior for a child, but Chris had just turned thirty one and this wasn't the way a normal thirty one year old should act.

"What are you doing?" she asked with a laugh as she turned the cart a little out of the way of hitting him when he started to lean a little to far towards her and the cart.  She didn't want to encourage him, but at the same time she found it comical that he would even think of walking that way the in the first place.

"I can't stand on the cracks," he said moving his hand from the thigh of his jeans to his forehead as if to wipe sweat off his forehead.  He smiled up at her then started to nibble on his lip as he tried to concentrate.  His hand moved to the thigh of his jeans again and he pulled the hem up again revealing this time the orange socks that he was wearing.  Somehow it went with Chris even though his t-shirt was green and his baseball hat was blue and his shoes were black.

"Are you serious?" she asked turning towards her side of the isle as they neared the cereal.

"Yeah."  The sound of his sneaker catching on the floor filled the air then she heard him laugh as he stumbled a bit.

She didn't hear him fall so she kept her eyes on the boxes of food on the shelf in front of her.  Her eyes scanned the boxes.  She tried to think of all the cereal they had in the house and wanted to get something a little more healthy.  Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms weren't that bad for a weekend snack, but for weekdays she felt like she needed something a little less sugary--like Cheerios.

"Damn.  I lost."

"You better call your mom," she said looking up and down the shelves  for something that was slightly healthy but that didn't taste like cardboard.

The sound of his sneakers on the floor stopped.  "What?"

"You stepped on a crack and broke your mom's back," she said matter of factly then paused for a moment.  "Put the Coco Puffs back."  She turned towards the cart just as he was throwing in the box of sugary cereal.

"What?" he asked giving her a shocked look, grabbing up the box quickly.

"Put them back."

He licked his lips and bought the box to his chest, holding it protectively.  "Why?"

She clicked her tongue at him and smiled.  He was acting like a three year old and as much as she shouldn't think it was cute, watching him pout over sugar cereal really was something amazing to watch.  "Because you have an interview this afternoon and you're not going to be bouncing off the walls for it."

"An interview?" he groaned.  "For what?"

"Access Hollywood.  You knew about this a week ago.  They're going to ask you about the new line and Mere and Justin's baby and you're going to--"  She stopped and sighed.  "I sound like your publicist.  You're going to explain about CFTC since the foundation is going to donate money to rebuild the Youth Center in Orlando for the lower income kids."

"There are lower income kids in Orlando?" he asked.

"Yes."  She put her hands on her hips and stared at him.  "You--"  She paused and looked at her watch then looked back up at him thinking about what time it was in the morning and wondering if his medication was wearing off or something.  "--you got briefed on this last week."

"I'm kidding honey," he walked over and kissed her lips quickly then pulled her close to hug her, dropping the box of cereal into the basket as he went.

"You think you're so sneaky Kirkpatrick," she said.

"What?" he asked innocently.

She moved her head a bit to look into the cart.  "I saw you drop the box in the cart."

"Well, it's because I know that there are kids in Orlando that don't have what we have and I remember that the Youth Center is being rebuilt."  He nodded.  "I'm going to be going over to the center to play with the kids and show everyone how the center needs new basketball courts and new volleyball courts."

"Wow."  It was hard not to be excited that he was remembering his schedule.  A few months ago it had been a pain to keep him on schedule, but now it seemed as things had clicked and he was on track now.  "I'm impressed."

"See," he said and kissed her again before going back to his game.  "I'm not a total screw up."

Her heart sank with his words.  She didn't mean for him to feel that way.  She knew that it was still in the back of her mind--the waiting for him to screw up--but she'd hoped that she'd hidden those thoughts well.  Clearly she hadn't.  "Chris."

"It's ok," he said not looking up.  "I know that's totally something that is on everyone's mind.  I'm used to it."

She stopped pushing the cart and watched him playing his little game.  He had a serious look on his face but she couldn't tell if it was just him thinking or if he was frowning.  "Chris?"

"It's cool Doc,  really."

"Are you sure?"

He nodded then looked up the isle.  "Yeah."  He pointed down the isle.  "I'm going to get some peanut butter.  I'll be back."

Dani watched him walk away.  He walked normally this time, head hanging a bit low, with his hands in his pockets.  If he'd been a dog his tail would have been between in legs in embarrassment.  She hated to think that he was feeling that way.  She hadn't meant to make it sound like she was parenting.  The company was doing well, he was doing well, yet somehow the tension between them hadn't fully disappeared.  She would have broken down crying in frustration if she hadn't been interrupted so quickly after Chris had escaped the tension between them.

"What's up with the big guy?"

She turned to find Justin standing there.  He looked half asleep under his baseball hat and baggy clothes.  The fatigue of the last few days seemed to be settling in nicely though.  He had a happy smile on his face despite it all.

"With Chris?" she asked as she hugged him hello.  "Nothing."  She pulled back from the hug, "What are you doing here?"

"Shopping," he said holding up a basket.  "You'd think that after Tegan being born that she'd stop eating funny.  Mere wanted yogurt and bananas and a chocolate cake and she kicked me out of bed this morning to go get it."

"How's she doing?"

"Good," he said, "We're both kind of still in shock about the whole thing.  I mean there's three of us in the house now instead of two...well actually there are like ten million of us in the house because Mom and Dad and Paul and Lisa and the boys are still here, but it's still crazy that there are two of them to take care of instead of one."

Dani smiled then paused for a deep breath before asking, "But it's good though, right?"

"Definitely."  He nodded his head.  "She's already growing and it's only been a few days."

"They do that hon," she said.

"I could go on and on about her, but I'm sure that changing diapers and spit up stories aren't something that you want to hear about."  He sighed happily.  "So what's up with Chris?"

"Nothing," she explained and turned back to the cart.  "Just a little misunderstanding we had--"  Her eyes darted to the cereal box and she changed up the story a bit.   "He wanted sugar cereal and I told him he shouldn't get it and well, you know Chris."  She looked up to see if he was coming back.  He wasn't.  "He went to go get Peanut Butter if you want to go and catch him."

"Naw," he said, "I'll stick with you for a bit.  I actually have a favor to ask of you."

"Favor?"

"Nothing big really," he said, "My family is going to be leaving at the end of the week and if Mere is feeling better I want to take her out for the day--do the spa thing over at The Greenhouse Spa--that place on Universal."

"Ohm.  That place is great," she said, "Johnny got Erika a day package for her birthday and she couldn't stop talking about it for days."

"Yeah," he said, "They're going to hook us up with this couples package thing that they normally do for Valentine's day."

"So what do you need from me?" she asked.

"Baby-sit?"

Dani burst out laughing.  "Oh my god."

"What?" he asked.  "If you can't do it that's fine.  I'll ask Kelly or one of the other guys."

"No honey," she said, "I'll definitely do it.  I'm sorry.  Just the sound of those words coming out of your mouth caught me funny.  You realize how crazy that sounds coming from you--right?"

"Yeah," he said with a smile, "It's crazy."

"What day do you need a sitter?" Dani asked.

"Tuesday?" he said, "Everyone is going back to Tennessee on Sunday and I figure that Mere will sleep most of Monday away so I think I'll take her out for a few hours on Tuesday."

"You know that she's going to protest the whole way, right?"

"Yeah," he said with a laugh.  "I figure though that she'll feel better though because you're there.  You've got tons of babysitting experience."

"I do?" she asked.

"With Chris," he said with a laugh.

"Thanks."

Both of them whipped around to find Chris standing there with a jar of peanut butter in his hands.

Dani sighed and looked at Justin with a frown before turning to Chris.  "You ready to go?"

"Yeah," he said putting the peanut butter into the cart.

"Hey Chris," Justin said.

Chris ignored him and walked down the isle.

"Is he ok?" Justin asked.

Dani leaned and hugged Justin.  "He's moody today.  Just leave it alone and I'm sure he'll be fine the next time you see him."

"Ok."  Justin said with a shrug.


The tension held until they got back to the house, until Chris finally couldn't take it anymore.  He held his tongue as they took everything out of the car and when Dani started to put things away he took over, pointing to a seat at the breakfast bar as he unloaded everything and put it all away.

"Are you ok?" she finally asked.

"Hmm," he said bitterly.  "You just now guessed that?"

"No," she said softly, "I noticed that you were quiet in the car, but--"

"I can't believe that you're sitting there acting so innocent," he snapped.

"Acting innocent?  What are you talking about?"

"You and Justin talking shit about me."  He closed his eyes and took a deep breath then turned to rearrange the drinks in the fridge.  "I know that I'm not the easiest guy to get along with me, but having my friend and my girlfriend talking shit really isn't--"  He turned around to find Dani with a hand propping up her head.  "--well it isn't what I really wanted to start my day with."

"We weren't talking shit," she said.

"Well that's not what it sounded like," he spat out picking up a can of tomato soup from the counter.  He rolled it in his hands and tried to keep himself in check.  He wasn't about to look like a victim in this situating.  She just needed to know that what she'd said wasn't what should be coming out of her mouth.

"We weren't Chris," she said.

"I don't believe you," he said harshly.

He watched her turn her head up and look him straight in the eyes.  "You're being paranoid."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence."

"Chris.  what the hell is the problem?" she asked, "Justin and I were talking about Tegan and saying how he wanted me and you to baby-sit--"

"Yeah," he said, "I heard what you said about you having to baby sit.  You know what?  If I'm too much of a burden or if you want to leave--"  He gripped the can of soup and then put it down on the counter.  "--there is the door."  He gritted out the words and turned his back to her and left the kitchen.


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