Wasted Love 9
[ Two days later... ]
"So are you guys gonna help me?" he asked his brothers as they played in the water. He hadn't been to The Florida Keys in almost a year, but he was glad that he'd planned the trip, even if it was a quick one. It had taken more than a little coaxing to get them all down there for the week, but he was glad that everyone had agreed to the plan to stay at a hotel on the beach and take some time off for a while. He was relaxed for the first time since the tour ended.
The ride down had been a little stressful which had made him worry about the following four days, but things seemed to have leveled out a bit since they'd arrived and checked into the bungalow. He'd had to practically drag Meredith with him, practically carrying her out of her apartment, but the boys had helped so far in keeping the peace.
When she'd seen them sitting in the car waiting for them she'd almost broken down in tears. She had always been attached to them and made them get out of the car so she could hug both of them. The look on her face when she had Steven in her arms was priceless. She looked happy for the first time since they'd met up again. He felt himself smiling. He liked Meredith better when the boys were around. They seemed to remind them all about how things had been and how they should be.
Steven nodded wildly and slid out of his arms and held onto his hand while he floated in the water. He'd just learned how to swim and wasn't strong enough do float on his own, but could play a little with something or someone to hold onto. "Whatda we gotta do?" he asked with his heavy southern accent coming through.
He really didn't know what to tell his brothers. When he'd gotten up two mornings before and had called his step-mother to send them down to Orlando he'd just known that he needed to be with them, partly at Johnny's request, but also because he knew that with them around tensions would ease between him and Meredith. They'd always had that affect on them.
"Yeah," Jonathan said as he moved out in the water to float a little. He looked at his brother with different eyes now. Jonathan still seemed to worship Justin, but at the same time Justin knew that his brother now was realizing that he was just a regular person like anyone else. "What do you want us to do? She seemed pretty angry in the car. What'd you do?"
Meredith hadn't been angry in the car, but sitting up front next to him while Gritty and Tiny followed in a car behind them probably hadn't been the way she thought she'd spend her day. She'd made it clear with her silence and body language that even the boys couldn't patch things up between them. It wasn't going to stop him though. He needed this all settled either way.
"You should say sorry," Steven piped up, "Sorry always works when you do something bad to someone."
"You just gotta be nice to Meredith," Justin said ignoring the idea that he needed to place blame on anyone, "She and I are on vacation so don't bug her too much ok?"
"That's easy," Jonathan said matter of factly as if he expected more of a plan out of his older brother.
"Is Britney gonna visit?" Steven asked with a cough as his mouth dipped under the waterline a little.
Justin pulled his hand up and made sure that his brother wasn't drinking in the seawater. "I'm sorry buddy...she's out in Los Angeles."
"Why are you sorry?" Jonathan mumbled, "I like it when she's gone."
"What?" Justin asked.
Jonathan ducked his head in the water then came back up. "I like being here with you and Meredith and Tiny and Gritty. They at least play with us. Britney only plays with Jamie-Lynn. I don't even think that she likes us."
"She likes you," Justin said glancing up at the house. He'd thought he'd seen Meredith come out onto the porch earlier, but didn't see her now. He had been waiting for her all morning to get out of bed and now that they'd begun to talk about Britney he was wishing for a diversion. "Britney likes everyone."
"No she doesn't," Jonathan said, "She doesn't like a lot of people. She only likes you and--"
Defensiveness wasn't an emotion that Justin usually showed in front of his brothers, but this news hurt him. He had always thought that they liked her. It wasn't normally a worry for him, but lately he'd been having deeper feelings for Britney and news of his brothers' distaste for her really worried him. "Why all of a sudden do you hate her?"
Jonathan looked at him. Justin wished that he hadn't gotten his brothers sunglasses. He needed to see his brother's eyes and he couldn't. "It's not all of a sudden."
"It's not?" He couldn't believe his ears. He never would have imagined that a woman he was dating would come between him and his family. He'd always made sure that he spent equal time with everyone in his life, but he was seeing that maybe that equality wasn't what it was cracked up to be.
"She never lets us play with you when she's around," Steven said crawling back up into his arms. The water that came off of Steven after his swimming adventure felt good to Justin's slightly sun burned skin.
Justin took a deep breath and tried to understand what would make his brothers so unhappy around Britney. He couldn't remember a time when they'd ever acted like they didn't like her. Before she'd gone out to Los Angeles, she'd even flown back to Tennessee with him to attend to one of Jonathan's school plays.
White beaches, ice blue water, and a temporary peacefulness seemed to ease the tension that had followed them into the shoreline bungalow. Waking up in The Keys wasn't how Meredith thought she'd start her day off, but after arriving a little late the night before and sleeping soundly amongst the snores of her three escorts it was the perfect way to wake up.
One thing that Justin did have a knack for was finding the perfect get-a-ways. She figured it was due to his lack of free time. If he had the chance to get a few days off he had always seemed to want them to be the best. Sometimes it was staying home and playing golf or visiting his relatives back in Tennessee, but this time it was neutral territory for them all to be together.
She stood on the porch for a minute watching the boys in the water. Justin stood waste deep in the water with his youngest brother Steven holding onto his front and the middle boy of the family Jonathan holding onto his back. Dressed in fairly similar Hawaiian-print swim trunks they looked completely at home in the water, yet at the same time she knew that this wasn't something that they normally would do. It seemed, from the closeness of their proximity to each other.
Outside the house the boys were usually within feet of each other due to the normally close quarters the NSYNC kept in public, but this time they seemed to be clinging to each other as if they all seemed to realize that they needed to savor the moments together. She couldn't see his face behind his dark sunglasses, but his posture showed his worry, whatever worry it seemed to be. They seemed to be having a fairly serious conversation.
The whole scene would have seemed normal if she hadn't seen Tiny and Gritty sitting in the sand watching them. The bodyguards looked like any other tourists, but she knew better. They kept looking around, keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary.
As the boys played in the water Meredith went back into the house. She noticed that Justin had set up his computer and stereo system in the dinging room, which mean that they'd be working sometime during their stay. Instead of trying to dismantle the thing or destroy the only thing that was keeping her from completely relaxing she went into the kitchen, grabbed up an orange, cut it into slices and took it and a napkin out onto the porch to eat. She sat down at the small patio table in the shade and put her feet up on the railing that surrounded the porch while she ate.
She was half staring off into space when Steven ran up to her and jumped into her lap. "Hi Meredith!"
She smiled at the young boy and noticed that he was already getting burnt. "How are you Mr. Steven?" she asked then pressed a finger against his shoulder and saw that it turned white for a moment, "Did you put on sun block this morning?"
Steven nodded his head that he did, "Can I have some orange?"
"Steven let her eat," Justin said coming up onto the porch with both his brother and the bodyguards in tow.
"It's ok," Meredith said, "He can share."
Steven took a piece and started to pick out the pulp part of the orange not touching the peel or the other membrane on the orange.
"What do you say?" Justin said looking at his brother. He stood, wrapped in a towel watching them and Meredith again felt as if she should keep her eyes away from him. He was too dangerous half naked. It made her think of old times and she didn't need to start down that road again.
"You can stop drooling now."
The voice next to her startled her making her almost drop her drink in her hand. She looked over to find Chris's smiling face watching her. He was standing only feet away which scared her, not because she was scared of him at all, but that he'd gotten right up to her and she hadn't even noticed him there until he'd spoken.
Her eyes stayed on him, but in the back of her mind she wanted to turn back to the view she'd been staring at for the last ten minutes. "I wasn't drooling," she said.
"Yeah right," Chris said, "And the Pope isn't Catholic."
A hand went out and smacked at his shoulder, "Don't be mean to me."
Chris put his hands up in a surrendering motion. "It's not my fault that you too are sex-crazed and can't get enough of each other."
"I'm not sex-crazed," she pouted.
"Sure you aren't," Chris said rolling his eyes.
"I'm not," she repeated letting her eyes again wander over to where Justin was standing by the side of the pool in just his swim trunks. It wasn't at all the first time that she'd seen him dressed in that manner, but it was the first time since they'd made love and somehow he seemed to look different.
Now she knew every contour of his body, head to foot and somehow she was embarrassed of that fact. She thought, now that Chris had mentioned it, that other people might be noticing the way she was looking at him, which could only be dangerous for her.
"Thank you," Steven said seeming to look at Justin for approval, which he got with a nod then leaned and kissed her cheek, "Are you gonna come with us to go shopping?"
Meredith looked up at Justin as Jonathan and the others passed him and went into the house.
"Well am I invited Mr. Timberlake?" she asked Steven then looked over at Justin.
"Of course," he said.
"YAY!" Steven yelled.
She nodded and went back to eating, "When are we leaving?"
"A half hour or so?"
"Ok," she said, "I'll go get my stuff in a minute...make sure that Steven puts on more sun block."
Justin looked as if he wanted to say something to her, but didn't. He nodded and went into the house while she finished up breakfast.
[Later that night...]
Justin leaned back in the chair and ran his hands over his short hair a few times. His hands came to rest behind his neck, elbows curling around his chin so that they were pointing at the board. His fingers massaged the strained ligaments and muscles of his neck as he took deep breaths. "Like this one Meredith?" he asked staring at the buttons in front of him as the latest version that they'd mixed came out of the speakers of the stereo he'd hooked up to the laptop.
The vacation had been meant to be a true vacation, but playing around with a song or two wasn't something that he'd consider work really, especially after being on the beach and shopping all day long. Standing in front of the microphone and mixing stuff for Meredith was work. This was just listening.
When she didn't answer he took a breath thinking that she might have slipped out to go to the bathroom or kitchen or something. He knew that she wasn't as into this as he was. She liked the singing part of it all. Rolling her eyes and sighing always seemed to be her reaction to the rest of the business part of the music business she was in.
He checked the time on the clock and let out a lung full of air when he realized the time, "Shit, three am? This clock has gotta be wrong."
After righting himself in the chair he slid his feet back into his shoes then stood up for a moment to shut off the music then went to flip off the light in the dining room. Instantly he noticed her in the reflection of the window that faced out the side of the house. With the lights on in the room he hadn't been able to see her reflection, but now she was there, clear as day.
Meredith had never left the living room. The overhead lights shown on her, even though she'd turned off the lamps at each end of the couch. His eyes roamed over her sleeping form in the reflection on the window for a moment then he turned to face her sleeping body on the big couch.
Gritty had left for bed when the boys had gone to bed. That had been hours ago. This knowledge gave Justin a sense of freedom he hadn't felt in a few months now. Somehow Gritty had always gotten in the way between the two of them. He'd become a protective older brother that Justin felt almost hurt her more than he helped her.
Rubbing his eyes he walked across the space that separated the two rooms and took a seat on the big chair adjacent to the couch. He leaned back again and put his feet up on the coffee table then folded his arms and tucked his chin down to his chest to watch her. She was curled on her side using her sweatshirt as a pillow and the jacket he'd put on to go out to dinner that night as a blanket. If he really was in an asshole mood he would have gotten upset about using his things, but at the moment, looking at her peacefully laying there, he was almost scared to make a sound. He didn't want to wake her up. She was looking half-normal again. No rolling her eyes at him when he gave her instructions. No folding her arms across her chest to stare at him. She was at peace and somehow he wished that he could be too.
When her eyes floated open for a moment she looked at him from where her cheek was buried into the sweatshirt pillow. Still half asleep she breathed out, "Don't stare BeeDee, come to bed silly."
She turned over on the couch and instantly went back to sleep as if some time warp had happened and they were both still living the lives they'd had six months ago. He wasn't even sure that she knew that she'd spoken to him at all because he knew that she wouldn't have called him that if she had.
"Look at the poor kid!" Chris practically screamed over the sound of everyone talking.
Justin's head whipped up from the cards he was playing with the other guys and looked across to the couch where he found Meredith curled up sleeping.
When Chris began to move across the small space of the bus Justin pushed out from where he was sitting at the table and moved into Chris's path towards Meredith. "Jesus Chris, don't freaking wake her up! She was on a plane all last night and you know that she doesn't sleep on planes."
"I wasn't going to do anything," Chris said innocently.
"Sure you weren't," Justin said rolling eyes looking at the older man's eyes.
"I wasn't. I swear," he repeated.
"Whatever," Justin said.
"BeeDee?" Meredith mumbled in her sleep using a completely childish voice, "I seepy."
Justin turned around and kneeled next to where she was lying and smiled at her sleepy state. "I know Bear. Why don't you get up and go to bed?"
Meredith nodded, her eyes closed, face pointed in his direction.
"Come on bear," Justin said quietly to her trying not to make too much of a scene. She was lying there curled up so nicely and he would have just let her alone, but the guy were being pretty rowdy and the ride wasn't going to be over any time soon.
Finally when Justin realized that she wasn't going to move he reached under her knees and under her head and lifted her into his arms. "Somebody get the door," he said to the crowd.
It took a minute and a game of Ro-Sham-Bo to get someone to get off their butt to do it, but soon Lance was standing at the door holding it open so that Justin could carrying her to the back of the bus.
He took her to his bunk. Even though she could have slept in the empty one he decided to put her in his knowing that later, if she still wasn't awake he'd crawl in next to her and hold her for a while until he drifted off.
When she was settled under the covers, curled into his pillow he stepped back for a moment to look at her.
"Don't stare BeeDee, come to bed silly."
Justin blinked and watched her eyes open a tad. She still wasn't fully awake, but she was asking him to stay with her so he decided instead of returning to the game he'd been playing that he'd take the nap he'd been needing for almost the whole week.
Justin didn't know what heaven was like, but being in her arms was the best sleep he'd gotten in his life.
Taking his chances Justin moved across the space between them, pulled the oversized pillows from the back of the couch, throwing them over onto the big chair before he took his cell phone and put it on the table. Moments later when he carefully slid into a laying position behind her, moving his arms around so that he could hold her to him for a few moments. He prayed that she wouldn't wake up, prayed that she wouldn't realize what she'd called him, but most of all prayed that someday he could have the feeling back that he was having at that moment with her in his arms.
"BeeDee," she mumbled and turned towards him, pressing her body against his. She curled her arm up and over his hip and curled the other between her, snuggling close to him in her sleep, "I'm cold."
Thinking quickly, Justin pulled the jacket around her and held onto her tightly. He'd been in jeans and a sweatshirt that night after being out in the sun all day and hadn't noticed the cool air of the room until he realized how cool she felt against him. It would suit her right to get a cold though considering her recent change in wardrobe. She'd normally dress for comfort and warmth, but lately she'd been dressing trendy and in his opinion, trendy never seemed to fit the weather. "I know Bear, it'll be better in a second." He thought about pressing a kiss to where her forehead was near his mouth, but didn't.
"Mmmmmkay," she mumbled and pressed her cheek against his chest and went back to sleep.
Justin waited a moment before fully relaxing in his position on the couch. With Meredith pressed up against him it was hard to let go of all his nerves, but it seemed after a few minutes that his body's fatigue got the best of him and he slid into a deep sleep.