Dani was standing in the upstairs bathroom
finishing putting on her eyeshadow when she saw a figure in the doorway. She'd
put on a skirt and had borrowed a sweater from Meredith when everything that she
put on seemed to scream business. She'd brought the two extremes, half casual
and half business, knowing that she'd already have something to wear for the
wedding and for the events leading up to it. her dark business skirt worked
well with a few outfits, but her shirts weren't right for a date.
Justin let out a low whistle as he moved to lean against the open bathroom door. "Girl do I need to tell you about the curfew? Maybe I should follow you on your date and make sure that he's a gentleman."
Her eyes moved to his reflection in the mirror and did a once over. She tried not to picture him standing there where he had been the night before. She didn't want to think about him and Meredith trying to get on each other. She didn't need thoughts like that in her mind as she went to go meet Chris. "Justin, it's about seven o'clock and if I remember right you were wearing that stuff last night when you woke up this morning. Are you ever going to get out of sweatpants?"
"No." He rocked back on his heels and smirked at her. "I still have this week to chill out and maybe a little part of next week before Mere has to go up to New York and I have to fly to LA. Despite popular belief, time spent at home is me in my jammies."
"You said jammies." Dani laughed at his language. She knew that fans would be really interested in his choice of words.
Justin made a face in the mirror. "Girl, I'm serious, you need put that make up away. You're gonna knock the guy out before you even get in the car."
"Thank you Justin," she said softening to his compliment. She knew that Justin might have been the tough guy of the group, but when it came down to it, he really was a sweet guy.
Justin looked at her some more. "Maybe I should call Mike or Todd to go with you on this date."
"Justin need I remind you that you're a popstar and not my father?" she said as she did the last minute touch ups to her mascara. She held the wand in one hand and started to move it over her lashes, making a face. "Besides, why aren't you looking at your woman or something. I know HER sweatpants might not be that fashionable, but--" She paused to move the wand to the other hand to do her other eye.
"What are you doing?" he asked. He moved behind her and practically put his chin on her shoulder to look at what she was doing in the mirror. "Torturing yourself?"
"It's mascara idiot boy. I know you know what this is. They use it on you all the time for videos."
"Shhh." He overexaggerated his facial expressions, as if she'd just mentioned some horrible secret. "Don't tell anyone about that."
Laughter filled the air. "Are you kids telling secrets again?"
"Yes," Dani said just as Justin contradicted her.
Dani looked at herself again, pursed her lips then grabbed out her lipstick from her make up case, pushing Justin back out into the hallway as she went. "Why are you home here with Meredith?" Dani put her lipstick on then smiled. "Justin should be taking you out to eat or dancing with her or something." She shoved her hand into her make up case again. "Girl, your man is really lagging on his obidence school."
"It's not my fault he failed." She leaned and kissed him. "I think I have to put him in again."
"That's it," Justin said, "No love for you."
"Hey!" Meredith put her hand on her hip and looked at Dani with evil eyes. "You made Justin mad at me."
"You were the one who said it."
Meredith narrowed her eyes and for a moment Dani thought she was serious when she spoke. "Well, that's my shirt girl. I can take it back any time you know."
"You wanna try it?" Dani joked. She grabbed out her perfume. "I'll spray you with Happy."
"Oh God!" Meredith shreiked and ducked behind Justin, "Not Clinique."
"Oh yeah." Dani rolled her eyes and with a sarcastice tone to her voice explained why she stopped and put the cap back on the tiny perfume bottle. "You're a popstar. You only wear Armani now."
"Armani?" he asked and turned to Meredith. "Do you really wear that? Which man got you that? I'm sure it wasn't me."
"It was my birthday present from JC," Meredith said, "Unlike you he actually got me something for my birthday."
"I got you something," he said leaning to press his lips to her ear. He kissed her and almost growled the next message to her. "If I remember I got you me with a bow around my--" His eyes lifted to Dani's for a moment then he looked back at Meredith. He coughed. "--Your neck."
"Eweee," Dani said holding up her hands to wave them in front of her as if trying to push away the words that he'd just shared with them. "Please don't gross me out. I'm about to go eat dinner and I prefer not to puke on my date. Even if it is Chris."
Justin laughed. "Well at least you're in a better mood."
Dani leaned against the counter and thought about it for a moment. It was the first time in days that she'd felt like herself again. She hadn't been herself in the last few days, whether it be the stress of Chris or the stress of the wedding.
This time her sigh was a sigh of contentment. "Yeah I am."
"That's good to see."
"It's good to be," she said.
When the doorbell rang Dani's stomach dropped out and her face fell. She didn't understand how something so simple could mess with her so badly, but the sound of that bell, set off an alarm with her. She hadn't felt that nervous since their first date. It was funny to know so much about a person and share so many experience and yet have to start over with them, if this was the start of something new for them. "He's here."
When the doorbell rang again Justin pointed, seeming to know that Meredith needed to give her a pep talk. "Do you want me to get the door?"
"Go!" Meredith said, "I'll help Dani."
Justin disappeared and Dani took a deep breath. "Why is this soo freaking intense?"
"Cuz you love him," Meredith said softly.
"Justin is going to freak him out if you don't get down there. I'll go too and make sure that he doesn't sit there and drill you guys." Meredith rolled her eyes. "He can be like a dad sometimes."
"Thank you," Dani said, "For everything."
When Justin answered the door Chris felt as if he was in the twilight zone. His friend was dressed in sweats, but the serious look on his face was worse than the one that Dani's own father had given him the first time they'd met. It was one of those, don't touch my daughter looks on his face. On the one hand it was nice to see their friends staying so close to them even though they'd broken up, but on the other hand he wished that he didn't have to sit there and go through with the hassle of Justin's overprotective nature.
"Come on in," Justin waved him in, "Dani is upstairs being all girly with Meredith. Hopefully they didn't fall into--"
"Shut it Justin!" Dani called down from upstairs.
The hair stood on end when he heard her voice. There was a different tone to it, a different feeling to it. He couldn't put a finger on it, but she sounded better. There was less stress there. It was definitely something that he could have used at that moment.
When Chris realized he was starting to zone out thinking about Dani he pulled himself from that neverland place and tried to talk to Justin a little. "Did you have a good time at the wedding?"
"Yeah." Justin leaned against the railing that lead up to the second floor and stared at him as if they hadn't been friends for the last five years and as if Chris was taking out his dauther or something. "I know that you missed the last part, but basically Mere, Jace, Farzana and I closed down the place."
"Yeah," Chris shuffled his feet a little. This was all too strange. As horrible as it sounded he wished that he could have had to come to his house to get him instead of picking her up. Maybe it wouldn't have been the traditional way to do things, but after their history, traditional was actually untraditional. It didn't matter though. He should have avoided Justin's house completely. He didn't think that they'd make it so uncomfortable to be there. "I hope what I did didn't ruin the party. I know Dani got pissed off at me, but I didn't mean to cause a scene."
"It was nothing," Justin said, "Everyone saw what happened, saw that it was an accident and things went on. Kelly of course cried--but it wasn't because of anything you did. She's pregnant and Joey said that she cries at the drop of a hat these days."
"I still can't believe he's married. I thought I'd be the first one to go. Ya know?" Chris said looking up at the ceiling. His hand began to throb and he pulled his fingers into a fist then let his hand go limp again. "I thought that was the plan, but I guess I lost the map somewhere."
"Are you lost again old man?" Meredith said coming down the stairs with Dani behind her.
When they both looked over Meredith slid her arms around Justin and began to pull him towards the kitchen leaving Chris and Dani to meet at the bottom of the steps. Chris took a breath when he saw her. He'd taken her out a million times and had seen her in a million outfits that were more fancy, but that night she was amazing. He could smell her perfume as she came to stand next to him.
"You look great," he said in a soft voice.
There was tension there, but this time it was more nervousness than anger that fueled it. Chris could see she didn't know quite how to act and truthfully he didn't either. He knew he wanted things to be perfect, but he wasn't sure how to make that happen. If it had been the old days he would have leaned to kiss her cheek, but this wasn't the past and he didn't have that right. Instead of trying to reach out to her, he put his hand in his pocket. "You ready?"
"Yeah," she said with a shrug and looked towards where Justin and Meredith had disappeared. "I'll be home before curfew Mom and Dad!"
"Bye Honey!" Meredith and Justin called from the kitchen then broke into laughter. There was something other said, but she couldn't hear it. He imagined that it was a line from Father of the Bride, that one about fastening someone's condom instead of their seatbelts.
Dani turned back to him and stood there staring for a moment.
"What?" he asked nervously praying to God that it wasn't something stupid like a booger. He'd been thinking lately about Michele's comments about hair in his ears and had checked for ear hair too, laughing the whole time as he looked at himself in the mirror earlier that day.
"You shaved?" she said reaching to touch his smooth chin. Her finger shocked him, not only literally, but metaphorically. Her finger may have touched him for only a moment, but he felt it all the way down to his toes.
"Yeah," he said running his hand over his chin and face careful to not knock his glasses off. It had been a pain in the butt to do, but he wanted to make an effort to look nice for her. He'd trimmed it up for the wedding then decided to just shave it off for the date. "It was starting to bug me the other day so I thought I'd grow it out again later. I've got another week or so to relax, but when I get back on the road again I won't have time to shave it."
"It looks good," she said then shrugged. The movement of her shoulders broke the intense connection between them. He hadn't realized it, but they'd been staring into each other's eyes for those moments. It could have been days or months that they'd been standing there, he wouldn't have knowns. It was moments later that he finally saw her nerves coming out. "Not that it looked bad the other way...it just is different."
"Dani, it's ok," he said trying to sound understanding. He didn't want her to be uncomfortable, because he knew he felt that way. "I'm not offended or anything. I know it was getting out of hand."
The yell from the other room made both of them jump and they laughed a little at the similar reaction.
"Are you guys gonna leave so Justin and I can make mad passionate love on the floor or--"
"Jesus Meredith!" Justin yelled.
"We're leaving," Chris said, "Bye Mom and Dad. I'll have her home before curfew!"
Laughter filled the air and he finally opened the front door and ushered her outside.
"So where are we going for dinner?" she asked.
Chris smiled at her as they reached the car. He opened up her door for her and held it open as she slid into the seat. He'd driven the PT Cruiser. Ot was the closest thing to a family, responsible car, that he had. If he'd been taking her out to the clubs he would have taken the SUV and if they were going out to the beach he would have taken her on the motorcycle, but tonight was important and he wanted her to be comfortable.
"It's a surprise."
"Really? Sounds interesting."
"Don't worry. Nothing is going to blow up, there will be no balloons or anything--"
"That's not what I meant," she said.
A few moments of tension filled the space between them. He closed her into the car and walked around to the other side of the car then got in the car. He turned on the ignition and took a breath before starting out. He hid his sore hand on his knee as he drove with the right hand, making sure not to bring up the events of two nights before up in conversation. She didn't know his reaction to what had happened after she'd left and he didn't want her to. If she asked later about it he'd tell her a story, but for now he didn't want to talk about it.
"So you won't give me any clue about where we're going?"
"Nope," he said as he left the housing area and got onto the freeway heading downtown. "Just be assured that you'll like it."
"Ok," she said, "I trust you."
The car was silent for a moment until Chris turned on the radio to the jazz station that JC always listened to. Harry Connick Jr was playing a song and Chris let it fill the car as he paid attention to his driving, the small pills that were hidden in his pocket, and the woman next to him.
It seems we stood and talked like this before
We looked at each other in the same way then
But I can't remember where or when
His eyes slid across the car for a moment and he noticed how stiff she was sitting in her chair. He reached out and flipped the air conditioning from hi to medium low. "You aren't cold are you?" he asked.
"No," she said and moved a little in her seat and put her purse on the floor of the car. When she sat back up she moved her hair off her shoulder and put her arm on the armrest between them. He could feel the electricity between them. "I was just thinking about how long it's been since the two of us actually went out on a date together. We always would go with the guys--"
"I'm sorry about that." He sighed. He wanted to tell her that she didn't need to rub it in that he was an ass to her in the past, but thought better of it. He would deinfitely not have a happy girl with him on his date if he insulted her like that. "I know that the guys and I kind of drag you guys around like--"
"Chris. It's ok," she said, "I know it's not your fault. It's just nice to be here with you and not have some promotional thing to run off to."
"Actually," he said with a laugh, "I've got a signing at eight--"
"You do?" Her eyes went wide.
Chris didn't let her shocked look go by him. He quickly tried to save the moment. "I was kidding."
The clothes you're wearing are the clothes you wore
The smile you are smiling you were smiling then
But I can't remember where or when
Some things that happen for the first time
Seem to be happening again
And so it seems that we have met before
And laughed before and loved before
But who knows where or when
When they arrived at the hotel Chris got nervous. He could see her looking up at the floors of the hotel towering over them with confusion on her face. "This is a hotel Chris," she said, "Not a restaurant."
He wanted to laugh at her for being so dumb and telling him where they were. If he'd been in a pissy mood he would have gotten on her about assuming that he was dumb enough to go to the wrong place, but that night he didn't want anything bad to happen so he was going to have to leave that speech to later.
"It's a surprise," he said, "I told you that."
The valet opened the door for her and he got out giving the keys to the valet and taking her arm. He moved so that he was on the wrong side of her, making sure that she didn't notice his hurt hand. The heat of Orlando had been traded for a bit of wind and coolness. It probably was only a few degrees cooler, just enough to be considered cooler, but after a long day of heat, everyone would feel the chill in the air. He noticed her shiver so he put his arm around her and brought her close to him. "If you're cold I can get you a jacket or something. I think I have one in the trunk."
"No." He had expected her to move away from him, but she didn't. She moved her purse to other other hand and slid her arm around him as they walked up the steps to the front door together. "I should be fine in a second. I think this is really strange that we're in Orlando where you live and going to a hotel, but whatever...I trust you."
"You'll love what I've got planned," he said trying not to look too devilish when he smiled. It hadn't taken much help to set up his evening, but he had gone all out to make sure that it was perfect. "Or at least I hope you will."
When they headed away from the restaurant and towards the elevators she started to lag a little in her steps. "What are we doing going up--"
"Do you want to be in the middle of dinner and have to stop for me to sign autographs?" he asked.
"No," she nodded.
"Then trust me," he said, "I know what I'm doing."
He stopped walking and put a finger to her lips. "Don't worry about it. Just relax and enjoy tonight."
"Ok," she said seeming to see the serious look in his eyes.
Moments later they were on their way up to the penthouse suite. Dani reached to hold onto his hand, but he moved to her other side and made her hold onto his other hand. His finger were sore and he knew that if she held onto him that he'd make a face like he was in pain, even if it didn't hurt that bad.
"Ok," she said, "That was strange."
Chris lifted his hand and showed her the red knuckles that she hadn't seen before. "I hurt my hand the other day."
"What'd you do?"
He thought about it for a moment, trying to think of a good reason to tell her what happened. She would probably believe that he'd slammed it accidentally in a car door or that he'd fallen while skateboarding or something like that, but if he'd done those things she probably would have heard about it from Justin or Meredith, knowing the way that those two tended to tell everyone everything that happened in the group.
Chris shrugged. "I punched a wall."
"You did what?"
Chris looked away until he felt her hand on his chin pulling him back to talk to him. He looked down at her lips, trying to avoid her eyes. "I got pissed off and punched a wall."
Her jaw dropped a little. "Did you get an x-ray?"
"Chris." Her tone went all motherly.
He looked away and rolled his eyes.
"I'm fine Doc," he stuttered the rest out after using her nickname. "I've broken this--this wrist twice now. I know when it's broken--I know it isn't broken."
Ususally when they were standing still he's be twitching or fidgiting, but tonight he stood there and held onto her hand and hummed a little to the elevator music. He had been taking the pills now for almost two months and was finding it easier to deal with them. He'd gotten a few episodes of having a rapid heartbeat at the begining, but once his medication had kicked in and started to work he was much much calmer than he had ever been before.
Silence filled the elevator. "You ok?" he finally asked.
"Yeah," she said.
"You seem quiet," he said and squeezed her hand. He half turned and pulled her close to him.
"It's nothing," she said, "I was just--" She turned and looked at him and let out a small chuckle.
"You just asked me how I was," she said shyly, "I can't remember the last time you did that."
"Maybe that was my trouble then." He shrugged. "Maybe I wasn't asking enough."