They'd been working for almost two hours on the songHolding On when Justin finally decided to have a reaction to her singing. He'd been holding his tongue since she'd started hoping that once she got used to being behind the mic that things would change, but they hadn't. He normally tried to be someone who was fairly calm in situations like that, but it was getting to him that no one seemed to notice the change in her voice. He couldn't quite put a finger on it, but something was wrong.
Stairways leading down to nowhere
Roads that never end
Why keep going 'round in circles
To break my heart again
"No. No. No."
Meredith's voice faded away with the last line of the stanza as Justin stood up quickly. In his explosion, his knees pushed the chair back so far that it slammed into the coffee table behind them, tipped a little, then settled. He turned his head to look it for only a moment then twisted back to stare at her.
"What's wrong now?" her voice asked over the speaker looking first at him then at JC then back to him for reassurance. There was annoyance in her tone as she put a hand on her hip and dragged the headphones off her ears.
"I thought it was fine," JC said looking up at him from his seat. He shrugged and leaned over to talk to Meredith using the mic, "Hold on a second Meredith."
"Fine isn't good enough." Justin tried to keep his tone even, but it was a losing battle. At the moment this wasn't how he saw this project ending up. He'd thought that she'd be great and he'd be great and the whole album would run smoothly, but reality was hitting him in the face. This was going to take some work on both their parts to get this done.
JC leaned back in his chair, stretched his arms above his head, leaning back in his chair to yawn. "Chill out."
"No." Justin put a hand out towards Meredith behind the glass. "She's sounding like shit right now. You can hear it." He looked down at JC and narrowed his eyes. "I know you hear it."
"She sounds fine," JC repeated sitting forward a little to look at the legal pad of notes he'd been making while they were recording.
"Exactly," he said moving his hand along his arm squeezing at his bicep trying not to explode in front of the two of them, "She shouldn't sound FINE."
"Hello?" Meredith's voice came out of the speakers in the room with a huff. "Justin if you're going to critique me then at least let me hear it. This whole Children of a Lesser God thing isn't working for me." She faked a few things of sign language at him.
"Hold on a second," JC said into the mic to her then turned to Justin, "What specifically are you having issues with?"
Justin flopped down into his chair and folded his arms across his chest. "She just doesn't sound right. She doesn't sound like herself. Her voice is shaky and look at her." They both turned and looked at Meredith who was staring back at them with a confused look on her face. "She looks like she's afraid of that microphone. She never used to be like this."
"No Justin," JC said, "She always used to be like this. The only difference is that now she's your ex and instead of encouraging her like you used to, you're sitting over there throwing spears at her with the look in your eyes. Everyone would get a little scared of seeing that."
"I am not," Justin said angrily.
JC shook his head and picked up his coffee cop. When he shook it and found that it was empty he leaned and threw it in the trash.
By the time JC had righted himself Justin was already up out of his chair and standing next to Meredith in the studio. "Take off your shoes," Justin instructed.
"What?" she asked.
"Take your shoes off," he repeated.
She stared at him for a moment then did as she was told, reaching out to hold onto the music stand in front of her for support as she kicked her way out of her shoes.
Her only reaction to his request was in the action of folding her arms over her chest, widening her stance and staring at him.
Justin reached out and was about to grab her arm to try and shake it loose when a booming voice stopped him. "JUSTIN RANDALL TIMBERLAKE YOU BEST NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!"
Meredith too seemed shocked by this interruption and turned to stare at the window. Gritty had returned and was now standing on the other side of the glass staring back at the two of them.
Justin turned to Meredith holding his hands up in surrender mode, "Tell him to back off. I'm not going to assault you or anything."
Meredith leaned and spoke into the mic, "It's ok Gritty. I'm fine."
"You sure?" he asked.
She nodded then turned back to Justin, "Now where were we?"
Justin's eyes stayed on Gritty in the window as he took her hand out, held her by the wrist and pulled on her arm making it wiggle a little His first mistake was touching her. He could feel her pulse in her wrist and the scent of her perfume was making it hard for him to concentrate, but he finally got himself under control and spoke. "Calm down and relax a little. If I didn't know you better I'd think you were grinding your teeth over there. It's just you and the mic...remember that."
Meredith took a breath and wiggled her arms a little breaking contact with his hand. "Fine. I'll relax."
"Good." He couldn't find any words to speak to her with. He just kept staring at her for a moment until he heard something over the speakers.
"Thank you so much for that drama," JC said, "I'd actually like to get home to my girlfriend so if you two can break up the traffic jam we'll get on with the show here."
Justin nodded and turned and walked out of the room. A few moments later he was face to face with Gritty. He wanted to tell the guy to take a flying leap but it wouldn't be adviseable to do so. Not only would the guy verbally assault him for the thought, but he outweighed him by a good hundred pounds, if not more, and even Justin was smart enough to figure out that the fight wouldn't be a fair one.
"Make sure you lock the door," Gritty said.
The sun had started to go down long before they'd left the studio that evening and now that they were headed to the gym it was starting to get dark. Normally they would have worked out together in the morning, but with her needing to be in the studio, workouts had to wait until later in the day.
"You never will get used to keyless entry will you?" she asked and grabbed the keys out of his hands and pressed the button to set the alarm.
"Give me those back girl. It's dangerous to let you have those," he said and pulled the keys from her grasp.
"That's not fair," she said with a pout grabbing at his hands again.
"Yet another good reason for you to work out," he said, "So you can get the keys from me...it's not going to happen, but well at least it'll give you motivation."
"I have other motivations," she said and readjusted the bag on her shoulder giving him a dirty look then she sighed. Just as she moved the bag her cellphone inside it began to ring.
"I think you broke it," Gritty joked, "Set off the alarm or something."
"It's my phone idiot boy," she said flipping back the flap of her bag to dig for the phone. She wasn't expecting anyone to call her since everyone knew that she was on a mini press vacation at the moment.
When she looked at the caller ID she knew exactly who it was. The number was a local number which meant only one thing.
"My phone," she said, "What's up?"
Gritty held out a hand and she took it and followed him across the parking lot. This time he wasn't guarding her, but leading her knowing that if she was talking on the phone she wasn't paying attention to much out and wouldn't be watching where she was going.
"Meredith honey, you really need to work on those answering skills," the voice said.
"Lynn," she said, "I knew it was you or I--"
"Relax honey, I was just teasing you," she said, "I just called to ask you how your day went and to see what you were up to."
"Today went ok," she said.
"Ok?" Lynn repeated back, "Am I going to have to talk to my son about his manners?"
"No," she said, "Really, it wasn't that bad. I mean I had to control myself from ripping his vocal cords out today a few times, but JC was there to save him."
"Are you sure you're ok with this?" Lynn asked.
They'd made it to the door of the gym and Gritty opened it up and let her walk through while she was still on the phone.
"Yeah," Meredith said with a sigh, "I'm gonna have to face him later so it's good that the first time I saw him today no one was around...you know...that whole big moment got lost in the idea that we needed to get our work done."
"That's good honey," she said and Meredith could picture her almost letting out a huge breath they'd all been holding due to the reunion that happened that morning. "Where are you?"
"You went to work out?" Lynn asked, "Honey, you don't need to be working out that much."
"It's for Gritty really. I do about a half a work out then go and read a book while he finishes his things. I hate the feeling of him giving up his life for me so if he wants to work out I feel like I should give him that much," she explained.
"So where did you go?" Lynn asked.
Meredith signed in after resting her phone between her shoulder and ear then followed Gritty across the gym looking around at the people. She figured that no one here would recognize her and that gave her a sense of peace. "Gold's Gym," she said.
"Justin," Meredith groaned when she saw his lanky form uncurl itself from the bench press and then she looked up and noticed Tiny, his bodyguard had been the one spotting him on the apparatus.
Justin had on windpants and a wifebeater and it took her a minute to remember that she hated him. He'd always phsyically thrown her for a curve. She still hated the fact that she'd had to break up with someone who was so phsyically appealing to the eye.
"Well it's definitely a small world," Gritty said from next toher.
"Yes, it is," she said trying not to cry. She wished that she could get away from him for at least a few hours of the day.
"Honey," Lynn said, "I know that this is going to be hard for you, but just stay calm, ok?"
"I'm fine Lynn," Meredith said and walked behind Gritty still holding onto his hand. She was glad that he was there for her. If he hadn't been there she would have run out of the place when she'd first saw him.
"Conversation began around her as the three men talked. She noticed that Justin didn't look at her, and kind of had his back turned to her as she finished her phone call.
"Honey, can I talk to Justin for a minute?" she asked.
"Yeah," Meredith said. She reached and tapped his shoulder once then held the phone out to him.
He turned and looked at her, then the phone, then back again, "What?"
"Your mother is on the phone and wanted to talk to you," she said.
He took the phone and Meredith let go of Gritty's hand and turned to him, "I'm gonna go and use the arm thingy over there."
Letting out a laugh at her lack of technical gym vocabulary, Gritty looked around for a minute then nodded, "If anyone harasses you just holler."
"You know I will," she said then leaned over and gave Tiny a hug, "I'll catch up with you later big boy."
He nodded seeming to know that she needed an escape and Meredith looked once more at Justin who'd begun to talk to his mother then went over to the other side of the huge room to the machine that would work her arms.
She set herself up to work her tricep muscles after pulling out her walkman and sticking it on to a good work out song on the local pop-rock station and began to concentrate on her workout.
The mirrored wall that she was facing let her look around the whole room, but she found that her eyes only were on one man, and she hated that fact. It had always been that way between them though. It hadn't taken them that long to get over the idea that they would stare at each other.
He was trying his best to keep all of his focus on the television screen in front of him. He kept forcing his eyes on the screen and sometimes even holding up a hand on the side of his face to block what was to his left.
And then she would giggle at her favorite show Will & Grace, or she would shift positions, or reach in front to grab a handful of popcorn perched on the small coffee table in front of them. She wasn't doing anything special, and he still couldn't keep his mind off her.
A commercial came on and she sighed, wiping her eyes. "Damn, I love that show. You want some more drink?"
"Oh, no..I'm fine." Justin looked up at her, briefly. And in that one little look, that was supposed to be just a glance, he found himself staring at her.
"What? Do I have popcorn all over me or something?" She looked down at her and brushed off her shirt and wiped her mouth.
"No, no...that's not it."
Her brown eyes shot up and she stared into his blue ones. He felt hot under her stare. He could hear all the blood pump through his ears when he reached out towards her hand and pulled her so that she was standing right in front of his relaxed position.
"What's wrong, BeeDee?"
Justin didn't even flinch at the nickname she had given him earlier that night because of the yellow 'Bull Dog' sweatshirt he had on. She now insisted on calling him BD. Every other time, he had looked down at his yellow top and chuckled. But this time...he just stared at her. His hand was pulling on her own and before she knew it, he had her leaning over him, he was staring into her eyes still, her mouth close to his.
"Meredith, have you ever..." He stopped, feeling her shaky breath against his face, watching her eyes dilate. She didn't move, and she could have so easily. She could have stood back up and gave him a weird look and walked away. But she wasn't moving at all.
He sighed when she licked her lips and whispered, "What?"
"Have you ever wondered what it would be like if we..."
She finished for him, seemingly breathless, "Kissed?"
"Yeah..." She paused and gulped. "All the time."
"Please, Justin. Please kiss me."
He obliged with her wish and with a slight upward movement of his chin he captured his lips tenderly with his.
From that moment on there was no turning back. Her knees bent and rested on the edge of the sofa they had moments before been innocently watching a sitcom on. They could both hear the shows theme music come back and as the show came back from commercial, but neither of them cared. His hands found her back and pulled her closer to him. It made her knees push harder and bend more into the cushions and soon she was straddling his lap, his lips moving slowly against hers. His tongue gently traced her bottom lip and it was all the notion she needed to entangle her fingers in his short curls and hold his mouth on hers. Her weight rested softly on his lap and she tilted her head to the side when his lips pulled from hers and trailed down her chin, and neck.
"I've wanted this for so long." He whispered, nipping each piece of flesh on her neck with his lips. Her head tilted back to let him move across her voice box and to the other side. "I've always wondered what it would be like to-" He didn't finish because she had pulled his head up with her hands still delved into his hair and kissed him hungrily, forcing her tongue to mingle with his. She pulled away breathless.
"Shut up BeeDee."
With a quick smirk he held onto her sides and moved them, so that she was lying back on the couch and he was settled on top of her. It was his turn to play with her hair, his hand ran through her long brown locks, holding her lips to his own, and claiming them over and over again.
Meredith was severely testing her boundaries. It had been a while since she had been with a guy, a guy she cared for as much as she did Justin. But she didn't give a damn about her boundaries right then. Every kiss, every caress, and even the slightest touch from him made her want more and more and more of him.
By now her hands were running underneath the yellow sweatshirt she loved and she was tugging on the end of it, pulling it up. She got as far as his arms and she had to moan into his mouth to tell him she couldn't do this on her own.
He ripped his lips from hers and then did the same with the sweatshirt, quickly pulling it off him and tossing it somewhere in the room.
Her eyes rolled back in her head at the feeling of his lips, smooth and soft against her neck. Her right hand held his lips to her neck, with her fingers, twirling his curls around her fingers. Her other hand ran up his bare arm to the material of his wifebeater and then down his back. She could feel his own hands and fingers making patterns on her sides and her stomach, under her T-shirt. "Justin..."
"Yes, Merebear?" He mumbled into her throat, tickling her there barely with his tongue.
"Take this off." She whispered, pulling on his wifebeater. His movements stopped and she was almost afraid she had asked too much. But slowly, he pushed himself off her slightly, and grabbed the bottom hem of his tight, white tank top and pulled it of his body, and over his head. It dangled in his hand for a few moments and then dropped to the floor.
Beauty was all she could say to describe him. He was the definition of beauty. She sighed, like she had been running a marathon and finally got the chance to stop when she saw him naked from the waist up. Her small timid hands gently traced over his broad, rounded shoulders that were painted with freckles and then down. Her palms flattened against the vast area of his chest and her fingertips moved over his stomach and danced on his abdominal muscles.
"Meredith..." He sighed, knowing she didn't realize what she was making him feel; how she was making him want more of her with each moment. She looked up at him, his eyes closed, tongue licking his lips as her hands explored his torso. She ran her hands back up his chest and over his neck, holding his face in her hands.
"MEREDITH! We're back!"
Both of their eyes popped open wide and they stared at each other when they hear her mom's voice echo through the basement playroom. Finally Meredith cleared her throat, staring at Justin and called, "Oh...ok, Mom."
"Is Justin here? His car is in the driveway."
Justin's eyes widen and Meredith hands dropped from his face. "Uh, yeah. He's here, mom."
"Oh, Hey Justin."
Justin cringed; hoping to God her mom would not walk down the steps and see him shirtless, lying on top of her daughter. "Hey Mrs. Willis."
"Don't stay up too late ok, Meredith?"
She bit her lip, closed her eyes and prayed. "All right mom. G'night."
"Night you two."
When they heard the door click shut they both sighed. "Damn, that was close." Justin breathed, hanging his head.
"BeeDee..." His head raised to see her looking away. She was so frightened of what had just happened. Not the fact that her mother almost caught them doing very friendly things. But she was terrified how all her feelings she had been hiding and suppressing for Justin were now crashing into her, wave after wave.
"What is it Merebear?" He seemed not to even have a worry in his mind, when he slouched against her, and rested his cheek on her shoulder, holding her as he covered her with his body clad in just jeans. "What now?"
"What do you mean?"
She paused, knowing he was hearing the doubt in her voice. "What happens now, between us? What are we?"
He giggled like a child and kissed her neck and whispered in her ear. "I think you know."
She just smiled and rested her hand against his bare back, snuggling deeper into the couch when his breath began to tickle her neck.
A few minutes after she started Justin appeared in the mirror in front of her. She pulled her headphones off as he held out the phone to her, hitting his hand into her arm as he thrust the phone at her. "The next time you have an issue with me don't call my mother on me," he growled with an evil look on his face.
"I didn't call her," she said, "She called me and SHE ASKED to talk to you...so fuck you if you think I'm not strong enough to tell you what I think of you."
The guy next to them looked at them both for a moment then went back to his work out.
"And FUCK YOU if you think you're going to embarrass me like this," she said. She hated the fact that he could still show no emotion on his face. He was a master at it and she should have been used to it by now, after everything that happened, but she wasn't. She wanted some kind of reaction out of him.
When they'd broken up his face had been flat and she was still trying to get over that fact. He hadn't had a reaction at all to what had happened or the fact that he'd been caught cheating.
The reaction she got from him wasn't one that she expected. He just smiled at her, turned on his heel and walked away.
When he was out of hearing range she swore under her breath and slammed her fist onto the edge of the machine she was using then swore again.
"Sweetie you're gonna break something if you do that," the guy next to her said.
"Excuse me?" she said in reaction to his comment.
The guy leaned over and took her hand in his, "If you're gonna hit something hit it with your palm not your wrist or you'll break something."
Meredith pulled her hand back then looked over and saw Justin watching and moved over closer to the guy when she saw him not moving away from looking at her.
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