Staring Down The Sun  - Twelve


Living on a bus for a few months of the year always had seemed like a great adventure, but this tour everyone seemed very sluggish as they packed up to leave for San Francisco.  The other buses were already on their way up to the venue and it was just the Timberlake bus left in the city due to Justin's shooting schedule.  Mere would have liked to have had more time to get ready to leave, but because her shopping had run late and Justin's schedule had gone an hour over, she was now trying to get everything else settled.

While she'd been drying the last load of laundry and trying to coordinate what should go in the belly of the bus versus what should go up top, Justin offered to take the kids for a walk down the street to get them some exercise before they piled on the bus for the night.  It not only was a good idea for them to be tired during the drive, but it got her mind off of worrying about them so that she could do the rest of her chores before they left.

When they'd returned a half hour later, she was still folding laundry.  Once packed, Justin pulled together his own bags and brought them up into the bus along with Meredith's bigger suitcase and Jack and Tegan's things, but when she walked into the back room of the bus to see if anything had been unpacked, she found that their two bags were on the bed and Tegan and Jack's bags were in their respective bunks, not unpacked yet.

She looked out the window and watched her husband standing in the front lawn with Jack in his arms while Tegan and he kicked a soccer ball around.  "Great," she said with a sigh and took a deep breath before putting her Victoria's Secret bag into the tiny closet in the room.  "Just what I need."  It was a perfect Kodak moment, and yet she found herself feeling irritable over the whole thing.  They were trying to leave and while she knew he was trying to help by keeping the kids entertained, she wished that he would put them in front of the TV in the play room and help her get ready to leave.

A few minutes later Tegan came barreling into the bus.  "Mommy!  Pizza is here!"

"Good," she said and let the clothes that were in her hands fall onto the bedspread.  "Where's your daddy?"

"Getting us the pizza."  She reached and tugged on Meredith's arm.  "He said that we should eat outside and not make a mess of the bus."

"You're daddy is a smart guy," Meredith sighed out and walked out towards the front of the bus after Tegan.

Eating a picnic on the front porch seemed like a great idea.  There weren't that many people out and about in the neighborhood as it started to get dark so they plopped down on the front steps and shoveled pizza into their mouths while James and Mike joined them.

Finally after the plastic cups and paper plates were put into the outside garbage can on the side of the house and everyone had walked through the house one last time before they left, the last bathroom stops were made, they boarded the bus.

"You guys wanna watch a movie?" Mike asked with wide eyes.  She loved the way that he didn't take his job too seriously when there wasn't any real danger around.  Out of the spotlight he was more of a playful uncle than security and that's just what they needed on the road.

"YEAH!!!!"  Teagan and Jack both screamed.

"Why don't we get you guys in pajamas and you can keep Mr. Mike company for a while?" Meredith said.

"Ok."

Meredith herded the kids back into their bunks to get their pajamas out and ten minutes or so later, as the bus was pullling onto the freeway, her children were on the couch with Mike on the far couch watching Finding Nemo.


"Bear?" Justin asked.

"Hmm?" she said.

"Bear, you can unpack later," Justin said tiredly from where he'd already propped himself up on pillows to stare at the television that was built into the left wall of the back room.

She was walking back and forth from where the suitcases were on one side of the room to the small set of built in shelves on the other, ruining his view of the television.  She knew this, but wasn't going to apologize for it.  If he was going to work himself ragged and she was going to be left to do the family work that needed to be done, she wasn't about to work around him.  It wasn't a daily thought, but she was starting to think that he needed to help out more around the bus and hotel.  He was great for spending time with them, but there were things that needed to be done that she was tired of doing herself.

Normally her walking around and working wouldn't really bother him, but after getting up at the crack of dawn to film AND having to make sure the kids were taken care of that day had taken a lot out of him and the tension that had built up had attacked his nerves first.  She could hear it in his voice, even in the way he was breathing sighs at her.

"I know," she said not looking at him as her hands moved through t-shirts and jeans and pants organizing them into his and hers piles at the end of the bed before she put them on the shelves.  "I want to do it now.  You know how the kids get.  I'll leave stuff out in here and they'll think that it's dress up time."

"Mere," he groaned when she moved to stand up and her head was right in the middle of the television screen.

She watched carefully as his eyes rolled.  "Justin Timberlake DON'T roll your eyes and groan at me like that."

"Bear," he said sitting up to tug on the waistline of her sweatpants.  "I haven't seen you all day and I just want to--"

"Get laid?"  Despite her foul mood, she let him pull her into his arms.

"No," he said with a straight face.  "I did that earlier today with he groupies at the video shoot."

Meredith elbowed him in the ribs.  "THAT is not what I need to be hearing right now Mr. T."

"I'm joking Bear," he said, "Really though I just want to sit in peace and quiet in front of the television with you."  When she turned to look at him he sighed and stuck out his bottom lip a bit.  "I missed you today."

"I missed you too," she said with a sigh letting herself relax in his arms.  She was tense and hadn't realized it, until she'd fallen against his limp body.  Somehow in the last few seconds he'd been able to let all of that go and completely turn to jello.

They sat there for a moment, ESPN droning in the background for a moment.  She'd come to learn that to Justin, ESPN was like soothing classical music.  It played in the background like elevator music.  She'd come to learn that the sounds of the crowds at basketball games, football games, and baseball games totally put her to sleep, but found that every time Dick Vital said HE COULD GO ALL THE WAY! she was jolted awake.

This time she was jolted awake by his voice.  "I hate that we're back on the road."

She wanted to tell him that what he'd said was a bullshit statement.  He loved the road, craved it most days.  It wasn't really his fault.  He'd been performing for almost seventeen years now off and on and he didn't know how else to live.

"It's just a few days," she turned in his arms so that she could look at him.

"Yeah," he groaned, "Going home to Florida isn't really what I want to be doing right now.  Not for Challenge."  He sighed.  "Do I have to go?"

"YES!"  She stared at him.  "You LOVE challenge.  You're gonna go down there and play ball with the boys, play a round of golf and make a fool of yourself in front of everyone in the obstacle course."

"Yeah," he said, "Work, work, work."

She sighed.  "At least we'll get to stay at the house for a few days."

He tightened his arms around her and leaned to kiss her.  "After that I'm stealing you away to the Keys."

"You are?"

"I called today and Becca booked us into the same hotel where JC and Farzana stayed when they met.  I got us a suite and my mom is gonna take the kids for two nights so we can have some time alone."

"Good," she said then quickly corrected herself.  "Not good because I want to be away from them, but--"

"I know what you meant," Justin said.  He took a few breaths.  They both turned to watch the sky outside the window.  It was dark outside with insane amounts of stars in the sky.  "Unpack tomorrow.  We've got about five more hours to spend stuck in this bus and I can find a million and one ways that are better ways to spend our time than unpacking."

She moved a little more so that she was facing him and put her hand against her cheek.  "You're exhausted."

"Yeah," he said with a shrug.  "So?"  He yawned.  "How was shopping today?"

She was excited that he was interested, but the more she watched him, the more she realized just how tired he was.

"Sleep BeeDee," she said with a lower tone to her voice, "Sleep tonight and we'll party tomorrow night."

"Are you sure?" he leaned his face into her palm and closed his eyes for a moment.

"You need to sleep," she said watching his eyes droop, "I'm not watching you work yourself into the flu again."

"I'm not," he said, "Just had too much to do this week.  It all settles out when we're on the road."

"Yeah," she said and moved away from him to clear off the bed.  "You settle into waking up at four in the morning and go to bed at two in the morning."

"I'm not that bad," he said with a sigh and moved a pillow further under his head.

"You're a workaholic," she said, "You know you are."  She moved the clothes into piles on the far side of the bed then moved the covers back and crawled into bed next to him.

She was about to say something else when she looked over and found that he'd fallen asleep.  Curling herself into him she covered them both up quickly before she could end up waking him up and closed her eyes.


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