Always One More 3

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His heart was beating through his chest.  He put his hand to his chest when it started to hurt and for a moment he thought he might be having a heart attack, but as he ascended the stairs, still in the moment of fury that had consumed him in the kitchen, it began to slow a bit and hurt less.  The hurt that stayed was the hurt to his feelings.  Why did everyone so underestimate what he was capable of?  Why, even after all this time was he the one that was still defending himself?

He could feel his pulse in his neck and hear it in his ears as his feet carried him along.

Thump-Thump.

Thump-Thump.

Thump-Thump.

He hadn't a clue where he was going until he ended up at the side of the bed in the master bedroom, pacing back and forth and swearing under his breath.

Thump-Thump.

Thump-Thump.

Thump-Thump.

When he found himself facing the bathroom and their closet, part of him wanted to go into the closet and grab all her clothes and throw them out into the lawn.  He'd seen people do that in the movies a million times and always wondered what would bring someone to that kind of anger that they would do something like that.  It had to be something like this.  It would have been a great dramatic ending to a dramatic fight, but it wasn't at all practical to do that and would probably send her even more over the line of thinking that he was off his rocker.

That was what his trouble was now.  Off his rocker.  It was a polite way for him to describe the way that everyone was treating him these days.  He could deal with most people thinking that he was a bit crazy, quirky or unique, but he couldn't stand that Dani felt that way about him.  She was supposed to be on his side, not against him.  Since she'd found out about his medication she'd assumed that he was crazy.  It wasn't that he was crazy at all.  He was probably the most sane person he knew at the moment.

Justin was out of his mind over the baby, Joey was up in New York running around after his family while working on Broadway, JC was with Farzana working on a new artist's album while working on solo material of his own, Lance was running around after Colleen, and he was the one that went to sleep at night and woke up in the morning in the same place.  He was the calm one for the moment.  He was the rock in the group, choosing to stay at home in Orlando instead of throwing himself around the country.  Of course there were a few trips that he'd been on, mostly charity gigs that he felt obligated to attend, but for the most part he was slowing down instead of speeding up something on the solo end of the business.

Deciding finally that he needed to rest instead of pace, he set an alarm on the clock on his side of the bed, pulled his shirt off then lay down on his back.  He set his glasses on the table next to the bed and chose to stare at the blurry ceiling without blinking.  That was until his eyes started to burn and he had to close them.  It was fairly early in the day, but he found himself not able to keep his eyes open.

The house was quiet for the next hour.  The only noise that came from the huge house was the sound of the dogs playing and the air conditioning turning on and off as the temperature of the afternoon got cooler as a rain storm blew in from the west.

*****

Finally waking up from his nap, Chris looked at the clock and swore.  "DANI!" he yelled.  He was late.  Somehow his alarm had been turned off.

He sat up and grabbed his glasses and shoved them on his face as he got out of bed.  "DANIELLE!"

"What?" she asked coming into the bedroom.  Her hair had been pulled up and she had a candy bar in her hand.  She was chewing a bite watching him with a calm look on her face.

He picked up the clock and looked at it, shaking it a bit to see if it had just turned itself off.  "Did you turn off my alarm?"

"Yes."  She leaned against the doorway.

"Why?" he asked moving across the room towards the closet to get changed, "I'm late."

"It got canceled," she said with a shrug, "And I figured you'd want to sleep if you didn't have to go anywhere."

Why did he feel like she was tricking him and trying to get him into trouble?  "Canceled?  You sure?"

She sighed.  "Heidi from the foundation called and said that they've postponed it because of the weather.  There's a storm going on out there and--"

Chris grunted.  "Next time let me at least take the call."

He walked passed her out of the bedroom towards his office.  He knew it was rude to do, but at this point in his day he wasn't thinking about being accommodating.  She'd pissed him off and he was determined to let her know he wasn't going to forget that for a while.  Of course by tonight he'd make it up to her, but in the mean time he was perfectly content about being in the house, but not having contact with her.

"Chris?"

"Hmm?" he asked moving to the den where the X-box was set up.  If he was going to be stuck inside he might as well do something with his time.

"I'm sorry about before.  I know that you thought we were talking about you--"

"You were."

"You only heard part of the conversation and it was mostly sarcastic--"

"It doesn't matter," he said.

She rolled her eyes.  "What?"

"It doesn't matter Dani.  I thought we were a team, but it seems like I'm--"

"Were a team?" she asked, "We are a team."

"THEN ACT LIKE IT!"  He sighed.  "It's one thing if Justin and the other guys gang up on me and make jokes, but you're supposed to be on my side.  You're not supposed to agree with them.  If it were me I'd stand up for you.  So why the hell aren't you standing up for me?"

"Standing up for you?"  She sighed.  "Are you kidding me?  I've spent the last six years off and on standing up for you!  I'm the one that explains to fans that you're a fun guy and will do anything for a laugh.  I was the one who was telling people when they'd ask that yes, you really were thirty something years old and no you weren't in need of being locked up for being too crazy."

"That word gets thrown around a lot," he said.

"Which word?"

"Crazy."

"Chris you're being paranoid.  No one thinks you're crazy."  She sighed.  "Wild is one thing because you do some pretty outrageous things, but crazy in the way you're thinking of it, isn't what people really mean."

"Well it means it to me so--"  He sighed and flopped down onto the couch and flipped on the television.  "Just leave it alone.  I'm pissed right now and I just want to play a game and--"

"Fine," she said and turned around.  "I'm going over to Mere and Justin's for a minute to tell Justin that I'll baby-sit on Monday."

"You can call them," Chris said.

"No," she said, "I think I should go over there and leave you to YOURSELF for a while."

Dani lifted her hand to knock on the door but stopped herself for a moment and let a few shivers wreck her body.  She'd driven through the rain to the TImberlake house and had stood in the driveway for a long time before finally coming up to the door.  She was fairly soaked now and although it should have made her want to go in the house faster, standing out there being soaked made her want to turn around and go home.

Her hand finally gave three knocks.  She held her breath until someone answered the door.  She knew she probably looked a bit odd to be standing on their doorstep in the rain, but at the moment there wasn't anywhere else to go.  Of course she could go and see JC and Farzana, but she needed some deep down girl talk that she knew she'd only get from Meredith.

They hadn't been very close before her break up with Chris, but after she and Chris had gotten back together, they'd become fairly good friends.  This also had to do with the fact that they were the ones that were still in Orlando while everyone else was traveling around the country working on projects.

"Well hello there Miss Danielle," Lynn Harless said with a smile as she opened the door.  Her eyes took in her wet form and gave her a strange look then she invited her into the front entry way.  "You're soaked honey."

"I hate to intrude, but can you fit one more into the house?"

Lynn laughed a bit.  "There's always room for one more."  She turned to walk down the hall.  "Let me get you a towel for your hair."  She reached into a cupboard just outside the downstairs bathroom and pulled out a towel.  "I think Tegan is going to get fussy when we all leave and not understand that her family really only are Mere and Justin.  There have been people in and out of here for the last two weeks.  I think Mere is starting to think that this house is a hotel."

"I won't stay long," Dani said taking the towel and moving it over her hair, "I just needed to talk to he--to Mere--real quick."

Lynn's eyes moved up to the ceiling for a moment and she cocked her head to listen for a little bit.  Dani could hear a television on somewhere in the house, but didn't think that Mere would be sitting in front of what sounded to be an ESPN broadcast.  "I think she's upstairs taking a nap at the moment but if it's important I can have Justin wake her up--"

"No," Dani said, "Don't do that."

"Well come on in and hang out a little bit.  Maybe she'll wake up while you're waiting and you can talk to her."  Lynn looked at her with a long look.  "Chris giving you troubles again?" she asked.

Dani's eyes shot to hers and she held her breath.  "Is it that evident?"

"No," Lynn said as they got to the living room.  "Justin mentioned how he was in a strange mood earlier at the store.  He's worried that he might have said something to offend him."

"Not at all," Dani said then paused, "Well at least if he did he shouldn't worry about it.  Chris is having an off day today.  I think the weather is screwing with his head.  I know it's doing that for me."

"Yeah," Lynn said, "We're hoping that this storm blows over so that we all can get out of Mere and Justin's hair this weekend."

"Speaking of Justin," she said looking around.  She didn't expect everyone to be sitting around hanging out together, but she hadn't seen anyone else in the house and wondered if there were as many guests at the house as Justin had eluded to earlier, "Where is everyone?"

"In the rec room watching a movie or sports or whatever they decided on."  She moved to the kitchen, "Would you like a drink or soemthing?"

Dani shook her head.  "No thanks."

"Mere's mom and dad went to go out to lunch and give everyone a little room and Paul and Justin are watching tv."

Finding a seat at the breakfast bar Dani watched Lynn move around the kitchen for a moment, cleaning up the surfaces with a towel even though they looked to be clean.  "How's Tegan?"

"Great," Lynn said then turned to pat the baby monitor that was hooked to her jeans.  "She's been sleeping off and on today.  She should be up in a little bit if you want to see her."

Dani felt all the tension leave her body as she heard about the possibility of seeing her honorary niece.  It was this way with Joey's kids to.  The mention of seeing them these days totally put her in a different state of mind.  She wasn't sure what had brought this all on, but her biological clock definitely was starting to tick a little bit harder and louder.  It was a good thing.  At her age, she was thinking that she needed to settle down and get to thinking about a family.  "Could I?"

"Definitely," Lynn said, "Let me go check on Mere and see if she's still asleep.  She didn't get much rest last night and Justin grounded her to her room so she'd sleep."

Dani nodded and followed her to the second floor where they entered the baby's room next door to Meredith's and Justin's room.  "I still can't believe they turned this into the nursery.  When I was getting back with Chris, I stayed here."  She stared at the wall for a moment.  "I like this green color and the decorations look great."  They'd picked out a baby animal theme from Pottery Barn Kids and she and Meredith had put everything together while Justin had been away on a golf trip with his father about two months before the baby was born.

"It's the one that is closest to their room so it makes both of them feel better to have her in here."  They approached the crib in the corner and Lynn looked down into the bassinet.  "Well it looks like Mere is up to her old tricks.  She turned the baby monitor off and took the baby in her room.  At night she's been sleeping in their room, but Justin put her to bed in the big crib this afternoon away from Mere so that she'd sleep.  She doesn't seem to like the idea of him telling her what to do."

"She never really did," Dani said.

Lynn started out of the room.  "Let's go check out the master bedroom and see if we can pull Tegan away from her."

The lights were low in the master bedroom, but what Dani could make out was Meredith sitting up in bed with Tegan resting against her bent knees.  The look on her face was amazing.  It was the first time in a long time that Mere had seemed perfectly blissful.

Lynn came in the room first and announced their presence.  "Hi there."

"I Momma Lynn," Meredith said with a sweet baby talk voice.  "Tegan was just wondering where her grandma had disappeared to."

"I went to get the door.  You and Tegan have a visitor."

Meredith's free hand went to her face then to her hair.   "I look like a mess.  I need a shower or something."

"It's just me," Dani said coming into the room slowly.

Meredith's face instantly brightened.  "Hi!"

Dani waved.  "Hi."

Meredith's face instantly darkened.  "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," Dani said, "I just thought you might want some company--but then I realized you had more than a few people over, but I came over anyway."

"No," Meredith said, "Come on in.  The more the merrier.  It's good to see a few new faces.  I haven't been out of the house basically for two weeks."

Dani went around and sat on the bed and faced the same way that Meredith was so that she could see Tegan.  The baby looked to be dozing, but that didn't seem to stop Meredith from being around her.  "You should have called me sooner."

"I probably should have," Meredith said, "But it looks like maybe you should have come by sooner."

"Why's that?" Dani asked.

"You look like you need to talk."

Lynn took that as a sign to leave an excused herself from the room.

"So what did Chris do now?" Meredith asked as soon as Justin's mother was gone.

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Last updated: 07/10/04.