Staring Down The Sun  - Fifteen


When he came off stage he was on a high from the show.  It was a normal reaction to a show night and tonight it seemed to be worse.  He was totally high, walking more on his tip toes than flat footed.  If sound check had been horrible, the show had turned out well.  His mind had been a little slow in getting into the routine and he'd almost missed a few of his cues, but after the third song he found himself flying through the show without a second thought about things.

"Where's Mere?" he asked as he was pulling off his stage clothes to drop into the hamper next to the door.  He didn't remember making the walk down into the dressing room, but now that he was there he went into auto pilot, stripping out of his clothes and trying to figure out if he'd left anything in the dressing room.  They'd be spending another night in Seattle and even though he'd be back there the next night, he didn't like to leave things in there after hours.

Mike grabbed up his jacket and shoved his hands into his pockets.  He nodded his head towards the parking lot.  "Out there with the kids.  I have a feeling that they're all asleep, but they're--"

Justin grabbed up his sweatshirt and pulled it on, threw the hood up and pulled on the strings to pull it closer to his cheeks.  He slid out of his pants, threw them across the room, then pulled on the dark track pants.  "Ok."

"J?" Mike said softly.

Justin whipped his head towards Mike.  "What?"

His eyes searched Justin's face for a long time before he spoke.  "You know he's ok, right?"

Justin nodded, not needing an explanation of who "he" was at the moment.  "I want to get out of here, k?"

"No stopping?"

"No," Justin said, "Not at the hotel either.

"You're the boss," Mike said with a slight mocking tone to his voice.

When they got to the bus it was quiet.  As he passed through the bunk section of the bus he could see both the kids in their bunks with their nightlights on.  He smiled at Tegan and then only glanced over Jack.  He felt his chest tighten as he shut himself into the back room.

"Hi honey," Meredith said sleepily from where she was propped up reading a book.  She was covered from the waist down with the comforter and had on one of his sweatshirts covering her on the top.  She watched him for a moment then frowned.  "What's wrong?"

"Tired," he said kicking off his shoes as he dropped his backpack next to Meredith's.  He groaned as he bent down to get the laces on his left shoe open.  He kicked off the second shoe before moving to walk across the mattress on his knees towards his wife.  "Kids been asleep long?"

"Since the second song," Meredith said, moving her book out of the way before she held out her arms to him.  He collapsed against her tiredly, moving only to kiss her before they rolled to get more comfortable on the bed.  She lay in his arms quietly as he pulled her close.  "Are you sure you're just tired?"

Justin groaned again and moved onto his back.  He pushed his hood off his head and stared up at the ceiling.  "I'm tired Bear.  I'm frustrated.  I'm just--UGH."  He pushed himself up into a sitting position.  "I'm scared to death right now Bear."

"Scared of what?"

"Scared that my little boy is gonna hate me," he said.  His voice caught in his throat and he felt his eyes tear up instantly.  He took a deep breath and wiped his arm across his face trying to get his expression to physically change so that he wouldn't break out in tears.

"Oh Justin stop it," Meredith said tapping his back, "He's not gonna hate you."

Justin turned his face towards her, kept a stone expression and spoke with a slightly raised voice.  "How do you know?"

Meredith looked towards the door.  "Do you want me to wake him up right now and ask him?"

"No."  Justin fell back into bed.  "I just--I just don't know what to do."

Meredith sighed.  "You're gonna get off the bus with me tonight and take our kids to bed like we do every night and in the morning you're going to get everything you need done and you're going to perform and we're going to get on a plane and go to Florida and have fun."

"What do--"

"Justin Timberlake, you've got to snap out of this.  Jack isn't going to hate you.  He won't remember this a week from now and you're going to be just fine if you let it go.  It wasn't that big of a deal.  Well it was, but you're making it even bigger by acting this way.  You need to calm down."

Justin nodded and was about to try to relax again when the bus stopped.  There was a knock on the door and Mike stuck his head in the room.  "You all ready to go inside?"

"Yeah," Meredith said.  She pushed herself up and off the bed.  "Come on.  Let's grab the kids and get to sleep.  You have an interview before lunch and I know you're gonna be tired."

Justin nodded and moved himself off the bed.  He grabbed up the bag near the end of the bed and grabbed up her bag too, so when he moved out towards the bunks, there wasn't any way for him to be carrying either of the kids.

Meredith made a small humph noise at him when he walked by the bunks then asked Mike to grab up Tegan.  He did as he was asked and the three of them walked straight into the hotel, through the lobby and into an elevator without stopping.

In the suite, Justin kept the bags in his arms until both the kids were tucked into their bed in the second bedroom.  When Mike was gone he finally put the bags down before he disappeared into the bathroom to take a shower, leaving Meredith with the kids.

He didn't take long in the shower.  He cleaned off really quickly then stepped out of the shower to find Meredith standing there waiting for him with a towel.

"Thanks," he said taking the towel from her.  He leaned and kissed her quickly before drying off, ignoring the fact that she was standing there watching him with a stressed look on her face.  "What?" he asked.

"Nothing," she said and turned around and walked out of the bathroom.

"Meredith," he groaned as he followed her into the bedroom.

He wrapped the towel around his waist and stood and watched her crawling into bed.  He thought that she was going to sit there and talk with him, but instead she pulled back the covers, climbed in under them and turned to her side, away from him and curled into them as if she was going to go to sleep immediately.

"I'm sorry," he said as he walked across to his bag to pull out boxers to wear to sleep.  "I can't help being hyperactive about this.  I totally lost control today and I think that scared me more than anything.  I totally snapped.  I can't do that.  I can't be that person and I don't even know why it happened."

Meredith turned towards him, this time with tears in her eyes.  "I'm scared too," she said, "I'm scared that you're so scared by this that you aren't going to--"  She took a deep breath.  "You wouldn't even look at him tonight when you came through the bus and then you carried your backpack in and let Mike carry Jack in the hotel.  I don't want that."

"I can't help it," he said, "I just need some time.  I just need some sleep.  I need a rest.  I just need for us to not talk about this for five minutes."

"Fine then," she said and rolled over again away from him.

Justin turned out the light in the room and closed the door most of the way before checking to see that the lights in the tv room were still on for the kids then moved across the room and crawled into bed with Meredith.

He lay on his back for a moment before he turned on his side and pulled her against him.  He sighed when she curled around him and kissed the top of her head when she tucked her head onto his shoulder.

"I love you," he said into the darkness of the room.

"I love you too," she mumbled back to him.


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