"Chris!" Justin stepped back after opening the door then took a breath and stepped forward to hug his friend. He'd been in the kitchen trying to wrangle Tegan into eating something other than his sugary Captain Crunch, since Meredith had been complaining about her eating the same junk that he did when he thought he'd heard the doorbell ring. At first it freaked him out since the alarm on the gate out front hadn't gone off, but when he looked through the peephole and saw his friend standing on the doorstep, he flung it open with a smile.
"What the hell are you doing here?" he asked with a light tone. He found himself instantly thinking he sounded like his father. That was definitely something Randy would do, and probably something Paul would do too. The reminder of the men in his life made him instantly try to remember when he'd last spoken to each of them. He made a mental note to call his father and step-father later.
"I got into town yesterday and did all my laundry and shit and caught you on Leno figured you'd still be here for another day so I thought I'd stop by," Chris said as he stepped back from the hug. He sounded a bit manic as he spoke, as if he couldn't speak fast enough to get out what he wanted to say.
"Well come on in. We're all still here." He rubbed his forehead thinking, "We're here until the end of the week." He looked back towards the house, "Jack's still asleep--" They hadn't seen each other in weeks, maybe months now and it was strange that he'd show up on the doorstep. It wasn't that he wasn't welcome, it was quite the opposite. They'd all missed him the last few months on tour and probably had only seen him about five times in the year before the tour started.
Being away from everyone wasn't really that strange for Chris. For the first few months after the second break up with Dani, Chris had kept to himself. He'd gone back to Clarion to stay with his family there and basically had become a hermit for a few months before slowly returning to the celebrity fund raising tour that seemed to pull up all the stars of the day up from their hermit states to raise money playing golf and doing other silly party tours around the country. "--and so is Mere, but Tegan and I were going to get some breakfast real quick if you want some."
"TNT is here?" he asked, eyes lighting up instantly.
"Yes," Justin laughed at the nickname that Chris had given her on her last birthday. He'd joked that she'd had so many candles on her birthday cake that she might blow something up and when everyone realized that TNT were almost her initials, the name stuck. "She's five Chris. It's not like she's Paris Hilton and is out partying all night."
"I know," Chris said, "I just thought she might be at a play date or something like that--do kids still do that?"
"Yes," Justin said moving to close the door as Chris came into the house. "She doesn't have many friends out here in LA. We've been gone too long this time to let her make friends, which sucks."
"Uncle Chris!" Tegan appeared with her hands on her hips, powdered sugar rimming her lips trying to act like an adult, scolding her uncle like a school teacher would a student. It would have worked if the smell of doughnuts wasn't in the air. She turned and looked at her father with a stern look. "You said a bad word."
"I know I did, I'm sorry," he said.
She lifted her arms into the air to be picked up.
"What's on your--oh lordy girl you're getting too big to be picked up--" Chris asked picking her up. "What's on your face sweetie?"
"Nothing," she said and looked at her father.
"Yeah right," Justin sighed, "Nothing." He moved over to push the box of doughnuts back under the lip of the breakfast bar counter and looked at Chris. He looked good these days. There was a while there when everyone was a little worried about him, but it looked as if he'd slimmed down a bit and there was an air about him this morning that spoke of some big plans on the horizon. He was up to something. Justin knew it instantly.
"I saw you on TV singing last night TNT," Chris said with a smile, "I liked your song."
She smiled and leaned to kiss her uncle's cheek. "It's Daddy's favorite."
"That it is," Justin said watching the coffee pot. He was struggling this morning without coffee and wondered when they'd get back on the road so he could order food and have it delivered instead of having to make it himself. He never did it the right way. When he looked up Tegan and Chris were looking at each other, Chris trying to motion to her with his tongue on his own mouth where Tegan should put her tongue on her mouth to get the sugar off. "Wipe off her mouth dude, or Mere is gonna break a vein when she sees her like that." He turned his attention to Tegan, "You were supposed to be getting something good to eat."
Chris grabbed up a dish rag on the counter and wet it expertly with one hand before lifting it to Tegan's face. He wiped her mouth carefully making faces the whole way. "You're a mess girl."
Justin always wondered why Chris hadn't settled down. He was almost thirty-seven now and should have long ago had kids. He should have been married and retired instead of this slightly nomadic person that he had seemed to have become over the last few years.
"I hope those were good because I have a feeling Mommy isn't going to like you having bad stuff for breakfast," Justin said pulling out a mug for coffee.
"Doughnuts are good Daddy," she said.
"Doughnuts are good," Meredith's gravely voice as she came into the kitchen. Her hair was pulled up into a messy ponytail and looked as if she'd literally rolled out of bed. She leaned and kissed Tegan and hugged Chris. "What are you doing here big guy?"
"Can't a brother just come to visit?" he asked.
"Fine," she said, "Fine."
Justin watched her closely. She wasn't awake yet, still had that sleepy squint going on and she looked adorable. When she'd gotten out of bed she'd slid into sweatpants and one of his t-shirt and even drowning in his clothes--much like he was drowning in his basketball shorts and t-shirt--she looked as if she could be on a runway or a red carpet dressed as is.
"Hi honey," she said coming over to hug him. She leaned against him for longer than normal then reached for his mug. "Coffee for me?"
"It'll be up in a second," he said with a contented sigh and hugged her closer.
"Oh stop with the love fest," Chris said putting Tegan down. "You guys got a minute? I gotta talk to you."
Meredith sighed. "I knew there was an ulterior motive to this visit."
"You make me sound like a criminal."
"If this is another scheme to buy goats and move to Switzerland--" Meredith started to laugh thinking about her last birthday when Chris had gotten her a gag gift--something to do with goats and Switzerland--before he handed over her real present of a gift certificate to her favorite day spa in Orlando.
"I was drunk that night and I wasn't seriously trying to get you to move to Switzerland and buy goats," he said.
"Ok. Ok. What's up pops?" she asked.
She watched him closely. Knowing Chris, there was some big plan in this. He had that light in his eyes--the kind of light that you weren't sure whether to call crazy or genius. Funny though that when she looked at him though she liked the slightly insane look in his eyes. It had been a while since he'd been this motivated, this excited--This CHRIS.
Chris closed his eyes for a long moment then let out his breath and opened his eyes and looked calm as he spoke. "So have you thought about putting Tegan into show business?"
Meredith looked at Chris then turned to see that Justin was giving him the same strange look that she'd given him when his words had hit the two of them.
"No," Justin said.
"It's not crazy," Chris said seeing the looks on their faces. "It's not." He turned towards her to make sure that he addressed both of them. "I talked to Johnny last night on the phone and he thinks it'd be a great idea for her to be in show business."
"You called Johnny?" Justin said. He stepped away from the counter and nervous energy took over. He pushed at the doughnut box then took the rag on the counter and wiped it for a moment then sighed. "You stepped over the line Chris."
"What?" Chris looked at both of them with a truly shocked look. She felt bad for him. If had been presented to them in any other way Justin would be so offended.
"You've stepped over the line," Justin said pointing at him. He took a deep breath then looked at Tegan who had been let down and was standing at the counter now trying to reach for the doughnuts. He picked her up, grabbed the box of doughnuts and walked out of the kitchen into the living room.
"What'd I say?" Chris asked looking at where Justin had disappeared.
"Chris--" Meredith sighed. She wasn't sure what had gotten Justin's fur in a ruffle, but it was clear that whatever it had been had hit him hard. She hadn't seen him angry like this--and that was anger he was showing--in a long time.
She hated when Justin shut himself off like this. It didn't happen that often, but when it did happen, it happened suddenly, without warning and from the silence in the living room it was going to be a long haul this time. She knew how to handle most of his little fits, but this one was catching her off guard a little. They'd never really come to a decision about the kids and what they'd do if this situation ever came up and it seemed as if THAT had been a mistake. She didn't know what Justin thought on the subject so it was going to be hard to try to pull him out of his shell to talk.
"Wait here," she said holding up a hand and slid into the living room, finding Justin sitting with Tegan on the couch both of them with doughnuts in their hands.
"I don't want to talk about it," he said immediately moving his legs up onto the coffee table.
"BeeDee," she said and moved to sit down on the coffee table in front of him so that he had to put his legs down. She looked at his expression and sighed, "Tegan honey, why don't you go show Uncle Chris Jack's room. You can see if he's awake and see if he wants a doughnut for breakfast."
"Yes Ma'am," she said and took the box with her.
Justin rolled his eyes when she sat there and watched him, not looking as if she was going to move. It was funny, or if she hadn't been so confused about his behavior she would have been laughing at the way he was acting. He seriously was looking like their son now. He wasn't pouting on purpose, but she could tell that he was grinding his teeth back and forth in his mouth, causing a strange expression to cross his face.
"Now," she said, "What the hell was that in the kitchen?"
"I said I don't want to talk about it," he said and started to crack his knuckles.
She reached out a hand and pushed his hands away from cracking his knuckles. He'd been complaining a bit lately about his hands hurting when he had gotten the chance to play basketball and she was convinced that it was because he cracked his knuckles too much. "Well if you're gonna throw a fit like Jack I'm not sure that--"
"I didn't throw a fit like Jack," he said crossing his arms across his chest.
She reached and put a hand on his knee, patting his skin then rubbing her hand up his leg hoping that it would distract him a bit from his anger and set him back in line. "Justin."
"I don't want her to do it," he said, "Ok? I just don't think that it's a good idea."
"But you were so excited about her being on the show with you last night."
"Yeah," he said, "That stuff is fine. Being there with her is a good thing. I can see what happens and what she's doing, but if she--"
"BeeDee," she sighed.
"No Meredith," he said sternly, "I'm not going to talk about this right now."
"No," he said and pushed up off the couch.
"Justin Randall Timberlake don't walk away from me," she said, "We're talking."
"No we're not," he said and kept walking.
Meredith stomped her foot once. "Justin."
"Stop bugging," Justin said whipping around. There was fire in his eyes as he spoke. "I was lucky Mere, and you-you-you were too." His hand went to his forehead and he rubbed a spot over his eyebrow. "We had my mom there to keep track of us and then-and then-and then we had Gritty and Mike and Johnny to take care of us, but at this point in my career--"
"Your career?" she asked angrily. This always happened when Justin got on the road and had all the hype around him. If they had been back home she thought he wouldn't be this hyperactive about what was going on and he'd be able to think more about THEM than HIM when it come to stuff like this. "What about what Tegan wants?"
"It doesn't have to do with what people want or don't want." He took a deep breath. "I don't think either of us could take off enough time to be with her."
Meredith stopped in her tracks and looked at her husband. He turned his head a bit to the side, softening. "I can't let her get caught up in it like--like--"
"Like you did?" she asked. "Like you are?"
He nodded and she watched his eyes glisten over. "I'm caught up in this Mere--" His voice caught in his throat and he glared at her for a long time. "I'm not going to talk about this." He finally turned and headed towards the back yard, grabbing up a basketball.