Meredith pushed open the back door of the bus and came out into the small hallway of bunks. She took a deep breath and made sure that the door wasn't all the way closed behind her before she stepped through the mostly dark hallway towards the front of the bus. If the kids woke up they'd be able to see the light from the front living room and crawl up on the couch with James to watch some more TV if they couldn't get back to sleep. They'd gotten into that routine at a really young age, as soon as they both could crawl out of their bunks on their own.
"They ok?" James asked looking up from a magazine he was reading.
"Yeah," she said not really looking at him. Her brain was reeling from al that had gone on. She needed a break. "I'm gonna go in and say good luck to Justin and I'll come back and sit with them for a while before I go back out there to talk to him again."
"Got it," James said with a half smile. He touched her hand as she walked by him to leave. "You ok?"
"Yeah," she said with a nod towards him. "I'm not sure that Justin is. I have a feeling that tonight is going to be a long night."
"Well hopefully you all can get some rest. One more show until you get more vacation. Justin was telling me on the way up here that you all are taking a trip down to the keys?"
She nodded. "I think Justin really needs it. LA was a good break for us, but he didn't really get to enjoy most of that. Johnny packed in a lot of promo work that week."
"Yeah," James said, "I was staying at my brother's and all my nieces kept me updated as to what Justin was doing every moment of the day so I didn't miss out while I was on vacation."
Meredith smiled, "You should have told me they were in town. I would have--"
James smiled. "Justin sent over tickets. We went to one of the shows and saw one of the sound checks."
Meredith scratched her head. Things were getting out of hand if she didn't even notice that James was walking around with his nieces. "Next time remind me and I'll get them passes to hang out with everyone."
His face scrunched up. "I didn't want to intrude."
"James," she said with a scolding voice, "You're babysitting my kids while I go see my husband. There is no way that you could intrude on our lives with anything that you do or will do."
James nodded. "You better get in there and check on him. He'll throw a fit if you aren't in there."
Meredith returned his nod and pushed her way out of the bus. She could see fans still on the edge of the parking lot and waved to a few that seemed to recognize her. They wanted her to come over and sign autographs and take pictures, but she knew she didn't have time. She had to get in and find out what had snapped her husband to the point of hitting their son. True, it was only on his bottom and he wasn't really hurt, but she had never seen Justin get so upset over something that clearly wasn't that big of a deal.
She found his dressing room door closed and not a sound coming out of it. She knocked lightly and pushed her way in hoping that she wasn't going to find him in a horrible mood. She'd need at least three hours to calm him down if he was, which definitely wasn't enough time tonight. She had maybe an hour to talk him down while the opening acts played.
"BeeDee?" She used his nickname hoping that he would know that it was her and wouldn't tense up again if he was trying to relax.
When she got fully inside the room she found Justin sitting on one couch and Mike on the other staring at each other as if they were having a staring contest. Neither of them blinked as the door clicked shut behind her.
"BeeDee?" she said again moving towards him.
He finally blinked and looked up at her. He'd been frustrated and tired that day, but now he looked exhausted and a bit sick as if his actions earlier on stage were sitting well with him. His eyes seemed to sag at the side and his mouth seemed to be turned down into a frown even though it looked as if he wasn't really paying attention to weather he was smiling or not.
His face was somber until he realized that it was her standing in front of him. Or at least that's what she hoped would be the reason to have him smile suddenly. Almost as quickly though as his smile formed, it faded.
"He's fine Justin," she said without prompting.
Mike pushed himself up from his seat. "I'll leave you guys alone for a minute. I'll be outside if you need anything."
"Thanks Mike," Meredith said and looked at Justin.
"Yeah, thanks Mike," he said with a flat tone.
The sound of the door clicking shut should have been a starting gun to alert them when to start speaking about what had gone on that day, instead it was the starting gun to silence. She took deep breaths and watched him. These days there wasn't much time to just sit and look at each other. She saw him most nights when he was on stage--she'd find a seat beside the stage or out with the video boards to watch him. Tonight though was the first time in about five days where he'd been sitting completely still long enough for them to actually see each other.
He didn't speak to her other than with his eyes and a brush of his hand calling her towards him. She knew that he didn't know what to say to her. It was in his nature to not say anything instead of saying the wrong thing. They'd both gone through it before. Back when they'd first started dating, when they'd both been caught up in the idea that he'd thought she'd run away from him and when she'd run because she'd thought he'd been cheating. It had been a long time ago, years now, but their reactions to certain situations were the same.
When she started towards him slowly, he moved to sit back on the couch and patted the seat next to him so that she would sit down with him.
It was just right. With a shoulder curled under his arm that he was hold out for her and rested against his chest as he pulled her close and hugged her. "I'm--"
"I know what you're feeling honey." Her hand lay flat against his chest, right over his sternum, moving her fingers a little on the bony structure there before she ventured further down to the slight roundness of is stomach. He had always been an extremely thin man, but in his older age had formed a slight padding of fat around his middle, nothing that the naked eye would catch, but Meredith knew him well enough to know that this hadn't been there when they'd first started dating.
"Don't touch my fat," he laughed as he expanded his stomach and contracted it, as if the moment would persuade her not to touch him there.
"Sorry," she turned and smiled at him and found him smiling back at her for a moment, before the sadness that she'd seen before curled around his eyes and mouth. "Don't worry about it. Jack's been crabby all day and you did what you thought you needed to do to make him listen to you."
His body tensed and she could feel his breathing under her hand get more and more strained. She looked down towards where her hand was on his chest and when she turned back towards his face she could see the emotion on his face.
Fear. She knew her husband enough to know his emotions and he was scared.
"What?" she asked, moving her hand to his cheek. His skin was warm and clammy and it worried her. He hadn't warmed up yet so he shouldn't have been hot at all. She'd expected him to be cold since he'd been sitting there in his first shirt of the night without a sweatshirt on.
"BeeDee." She felt his forehead.
"I'll put my sweatshirt on in a minute," he said, "I'm not getting sick, but I'm stressing out over the show and about Jack and--"
"I didn't think," he said. She watched his eyes dart around the room. He clearly didn't know what to say or do and also didn't know where to look. Now that she was sitting so close he couldn't muster up enough courage to look her in the eyes now. She wished that he would remember that she'd promised that she'd love him through good times and bad. This wasn't even one of those times. They'd hit a bump, a snag, but nothing that couldn't be fixed with a few hugs and kisses to their son.
"I didn't think at all." He sat up and pushed her hands away from him when she reached for him. She finally put her hand on his back when he leaned forward to lean his arms against his knees. The muscles there were tense so she tried to massage them, but he clearly wasn't in the mood. She hoped that he would relax a bit before Rickie came into help him stretch out before he went on. "I didn't think. I didn't feel, hell, I didn't even comprehend what was going on."
"What do you mean?"
His whole body stiffened. She didn't like him being this tense. "I mean that I completely lost control. I don't know what happened to me. I didn't at all intend to be smacking him and then all of sudden there he was--me squeezing his arm and my son...son..." He closed eyes eyes. "I made him scream Meredith." Tears slid down his face. "I can't believe I made him scream like that."
"BeeDee," she said softly when she felt him starting to panic a little more than he should have. "Honey. You didn't do it out of hate or--"
"Anger," Justin said. She could feel it now pulsing over him. She wasn't normally into mysticism or anything like that, but if she had to say what color his aura was, he definitely was not a good color. "I got completely angry with him. He's a little boy and doesn't--"
"You're going to kill yourself with this honey." She wished that he could see it so cut and dry like she could. "You spanked him, he cried, and now he's out watching a movie with his sister and he probably won't even remember it tomorrow. Little kids don't remember half the the things that happen to them when they're his age."
"I feel like some child abuser--"
"Justin Timberlake, don't even go there," Meredith said, "You had a bad reaction to a certain situation and everyone knows that isn't you."
"There were so many people out there though Meredith. Soooo many."
"People understand," she said, "People have kids of their own and I bet half of them are respecting you at the moment--"
"RESPECTING ME?" he said angrily.
"Respecting you for being a normal person--a normal parent, who would rather discipline their kid then have them running around like little brats," she said.
"Are you sure?" he asked.
"I'm not a hundred percent sure." She wished that she could say that she was a hundred percent sure, but nothing was one hundred percent sure anymore. "I'm pretty sure this is one moment he really won't remember later on in life and no one else will."
A knock at the door startled both of them and a moment later Rickie was sticking his head through the door. "You ready to stretch?" he asked.
"Yeah," Justin said pushing himself up from the couch he went towards where the restroom was in the room. "I'll be right back."
Rickie stared at Meredith for a long time. "He ok?"
"Long story." She sighed and pushed herself up. "He's a little stressed out and I have a feeling he's going to be a hell to work with tonight."
"Noted," Rickie said with a smile. "What about you? How are you holding up?"
"Pretty good," she said, "Tell him I'll be back in time to pray. I'm gonna go run out and check to see if the kids are asleep."
Rickie nodded. "Hurry back."
"I will." She walked over towards the bathroom door and heard the water running. She figured Justin was washing his face and when she pushed the door open she found him doing exactly that. "I'm gonna go run out to check on the kids one last time. I'll be back in time to pray."
Justin nodded and wiped his face. "Kiss Jack for me."
She smiled and watched a half smile finally form on his face.