Staring Down The Sun  - Eighteen

Dinner that night was steaks and burgers and chicken.  On the way back to the house Justin ran into the Publix around the corner from their Orlando neighborhood and picked up enough food for about fifty people.  Normally the crowd wasn't so big, but having everyone in town for the weekend doubled the normal size of one of their get together.

When they arrived at the house Meredith instantly went into cooking mode, making up some fruit salad and collecting up potato chip bags and salsa and dip plates for everyone before she ran to take a quick shower and get the kids into some play clothes instead of what they'd been wearing earlier in the day.

Returning to the kitchen she found Justin's Mom and Paul piecing on chips and dip while she watched Justin and Jack lighting up the huge barbeque on the back of the house.

"Is Justin ok?" Lynn immediately asked as she gave Meredith a hug.

Meredith nodded.  "It's been a really long week and Justin's been a little moody, but I think he's ok."  She watched Justin holding onto the little lighter for the barbeque and letting Jack hold onto it too as he held onto him and leaned him close enough to the gas stove to light the flame.

"He seems a bit jumpy," Lynn remarked.

"Just a little," Meredith said, "But I think he's fine now."

"That's good to hear.  So how are you?"

"Good," she said and took a seat at the bar.  As soon as her bottom touched the bar stool she moved to start to get up again.  "Can I get you a drink?"

"We'll get it sweetie.  You look like you need to sit down for a minute.  Are the kids running you around?"

"No," Meredith said, "Like I said, it's been a long week."

Lynn came around and hugged her.  "Well relax for the next few days and then go on your vacation and spend time with your husband a little and I'm sure things will be ok."

Meredith smiled.  "I want to thank you in advance for watching the kids."

"No troubles honey," Lynn said, "I've wanted to be a grandma since you and Justin got married so spending time with the little guys isn't that bad."

"Speaking of the little guys."  Meredith looked around.  "Where did Tegan disappear to?"

Lynn looked around.  "She said she was going to get something out of Justin's office.  Maybe she never came back."

Meredith pushed back from the breakfast bar suddenly feeling antsy.  She hadn't seen everyone in a while and the nervous energy that had built up was starting to get to her.  "Let me go grab her real quick.  If anyone comes to the gate go ahead and let them in.  There should be enough room for everyone to park and stuff."

She found Tegan standing on a chair next to Justin's stereo in his office with the system's headphones on.  From the look of things, she'd had to move the furniture and do a bit of searching to get where she was.  She had her eyes closed and was bopping her head along to whatever music she'd decided to play.  A moment later she heard her daughter sing and it brought tears to her eyes.

When I laid eyes on you

I lose my step
I lose my ground
I lose myself
When you're around
I'm holding on
For my life
To keep from drowning
In your eyes,yeah

When she opened her eyes and found Meredith staring at her she immediately stopped singing and pushed the headphones off her head.  "Hi Momma," she said instantly.

"Hi baby," Meredith replied and walked over to help her put the headphones away.  "Having fun?"

"Yeah," Tegan said, "I like Uncle Chris's song."

Meredith nodded.  She loved the song too."  "It's a good one."

Tegan pushed the buttons to turn off the stereo.  "What song does Aunt Farzana want me to sing tomorrow?"

"A new one that she wrote," Meredith said, "Do you think you'd want to go into the studio and tape yourself singing?"

Tegan nodded, "But I don't want to be a professional.  Ok?"

"You don't want to be a professional?"

"No," Tegan said, "It's too hard."

Meredith's heart jumped into her throat.  She'd never heard her children complain about their lifestyle, but she had a feeling that she was going to learn a whole bunch about what her kids really thought about their lifestyle.  "Hard?"

"Yeah," Tegan said, "Daddy must be really smart, cuz I think I would forget the words on the song if I had to sing up on a stage.  I almost forgot the song when Daddy and I were on TV, but Mr. Jay didn't make me sing that long."

Meredith sighed a sigh of relief.  "Really?"

"Yeah," Tegan said.

"But you want to sing on movie songs?" Meredith asked, "Like Mommy does?"

"Yeah," Tegan said, "I think so.  I remember when I went to work with Daddy and that stuff seemed fun."  Tegan moved closer to her and cupped her hands over her mouth to loudly whisper.  "That way if you mess up you get to do it again and no one says you're bad."

"Really?" Meredith said, "Are you afraid of being bad?"

"Kind of," Tegan whispered.

"Honey,"  Meredith cupped her daughter's chin gently with her hand.  "Whatever you sing will be beautiful."

"Ya think?"

Meredith leaned and kissed her daughter's forehead.  "Well all those people on TV thought you sang really well so I don't see that anyone else would think you were bad."

"Really?" Tegan asked.

"Yeah," Meredith said then heard the doorbell.

"Why don't we go hang out with everyone?  We can worry about the singing stuff tomorrow."

Tegan nodded and got down from her chair and ran out into the kitchen.


An hour later there were over fifty people roaming around in the yard.  Colleen, Farzana, Meredith and Kelly had pulled themselves up chairs in the corner and were drinking and talking like old times.  The kids were running around in the yard with their uncles and other extended family giving them a break from being mothers and wives for a moment.

"So Tegan is really gonna sing tomorrow?" Colleen asked.

"Yeah," Meredith nodded, "She seems a little scared of it, but I hope she'll see that it's not torture and she like it."

"Are you saying that I'm a slave driver or something?" Farzana joked.

"No," Kelly said half drunkenly, "But you sure do have JC on a short leash."

Farzana blushed, "Well yeah."

They all seemed to laugh.  "How are things going for you two?" Meredith asked sipping her drink and reaching for another chip on the table.

"Good," Farzana said with a nod.  She stared off into the distance before turning back to them.  "We've been busy lately, but I think this winter we're gonna take a month or so off and go down to the keys and relax a bit, maybe start thinking about all that seriously then."

"Speaking of the keys," Colleen said, turning the conversation back to Meredith, "I hear that Justy and you are going down there this weekend."

"Yeah," Meredith blushed, "We're having a parents only weekend."

Colleen smiled.  "Sounds like fun."

"Definitely," she said.

"What about you Colleen?" Farzana asked, "Kelly and Meredith have produced their required two point five children, so where are you in the kid plan?"

Colleen's eyes dropped, "We're not going to start a family just yet."

"Why not?" Farzana said, "I thought Lance was all gung ho for a family."

"He is," she said, "We are."  She took a deep breath, "Lance is working on a deal that is going to take him out of the country for a few months."  She gave everyone a worried look.

"Where?" Meredith finally asked.

"Russia?" Colleen said.

"Russia?"  Everyone sat up and stared at her.  "Russia?"

"Yeah," she said, "He got accepted into a program to be a Cosmonaut and go to space."

"SPACE?"  Meredith immediately started to laugh, "Are you kidding me?"

"No," Colleen said, "I know it's crazy and I'm not too fond of the idea, but it's something that he really wants to do.  It's gonna take a lot of training and he's going to have to be in Russia for a while so we're moving over there in a few weeks and staying for six months before his mission goes up."

"He's seriously going to do this?" Kelly finally piped up.  "Doesn't it kind of worry you?"

Colleen ducked her head and stared at her hands in her lap.  "Can we not talk about it?  I'm already not feeling well about this and when everyone finds out what's going on I know the shit is going to hit the fan.  Johnny and WEG are behind him, but I already can tell from your reaction that people are going to think that he's lost his mind."

"I'm sorry," Meredith said, "It's just that the last thing I would ever guess that would come out of your mouth would be that Lance was going to space.  I mean I always knew he was a space cadet, but not a REAL ONE."  Meredith chuckled a little bit then reached over and took Colleen's hand.  "We'll miss you when you go over there.  You know that, right?"

Colleen nodded and rubbed her eye, "You guys all have to email me and stuff.  I'm going to be in Russia for like six months and I know that even though we can afford it, I'm not going to be making many phone calls."

"Of course," they all agreed.

"So what about the Fatones?" Colleen asked perking up a little bit.  "How are the kiddies and daddy doing?"

"Good," Kelly said, "The kids are all in school now which leaves me time to hang out.  I'm working a few days a week doing the books at this little hair place over near Disney and having fun being a mom while Joey runs around and works on his projects."

Meredith nodded.  "Sounds good."

"I wish Dani could be here," Farzana said with a sad tone.

Everyone seemed to turn their attention to Chris.  "I'm worried about him.  He's been nomadic for the last few months.  I don't like that."

They nodded in agreement.  It was definitely a strange situation to be in, all four of them there without her.

Falling by NSYNC

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