"Mere?"

She looked up from where she'd settled at the breakfast bar to hold her head as Justin disappeared to the backyard to relieve his sudden urge to play basketball.  She hadn't meant to sit there for so long looking so depressed, but she truly wasn't sure what she was feeling at the moment.  With Justin acting the way he was it was hard to tell how to feel.  She was loyal to both her daughter and her husband and didn't know who's side she should be on.

"Yeah?" she wiped her hands across her face then back through her hair before smiling at Chris.  She knew instantly that she must look like hell, Chris wasn't good at hiding his expressions when it came to things like that.

He was very hesitant as he spoke as if he knew what he was going to say might offend her even if it had nothing to do with what he'd mentioned before.  "You ok?"

"Yeah."  Her sigh was louder than it should have been, but she didn't care.  She needed a nap probably.  With Jack being sick and her now getting stress from Justin, she figured that a cold would probably hit her because her resistance was down.  When Chris kept staring at her she nodded her head and looked behind Chris finding that Tegan and Jack were now standing behind him.

"Justin Randall," Meredith said to her son when she saw him.  "What are you wearing honey?"

"Fishin'," he said from underneath Justin's old fishing hat, the one with the fish and Shelby Bait Co. on the front of it.  He wore his play fishing vest, underwear and had topped off the outfit with big yellow rain boots and was carrying his plastic fishing pole.  She had forgotten that it was even at the house.

"You're going fishing?" she asked scanning down her son's half naked body.  She couldn't help but smile and wondered for a moment if there was a camera around.  This was one of those moments that a kid would look back on and be totally embarrassed by, but at the moment she knew that everyone would think he was adorable.  "Honey you don't have clothes on."

"Fishin'," he repeated.

Meredith couldn't help but laugh.  She looked at Chris and he didn't seem at all upset about the way that Jack looked.  Actually, she thought, he probably would have worn the same thing if he could have.  "Somehow I have a feeling that you helped with this little outfit."

The smirk on Chris's face told the whole story.  It might not have been his idea, but it definitely wasn't in his thoughts to make her son put on some clothes.  "I just thought he needed to get up and when I asked him what he was gonna do today he said he was going to go fishing--"  Chris shrugged.  "He's a strange one, but whatever.  So he got his stuff and I told him that I'd sit out by the pool so he could cast a few times."

"Come here Jack," she said reaching her hands out to him.

He waddled over to her in his boots and she took his pole from him and set it on the counter, "Let's see if we can get some breakfast in you and if you feel good after breakfast we'll let Uncle Chris take you fishing."

He nodded and hugged her.

"Momma?" Tegan asked.

Meredith looked down at her daughter, balancing Jack on her hip while she pulled up her pants with the other hand.  "What sweetie?"

She was tapping her toes a bit as if she was waiting to be noticed.  "Can I go play with Daddy?"

"Sure," she said and looked over her shoulder to see Justin still shooting baskets.  His back was to the house and he was clearly tense.  His shot wasn't going in like it usually did.  She could see his frustration when the ball went off the backboard and bounced into the bushes to the side of the half court.  "Just don't go by the pool unless Daddy goes with you."

She nodded and escaped outside.  It took her a few times to get the screen of the sliding door open and shut again, but when she did get outside, Meredith could hear her feet on the concrete patio before they disappeared off into the grass.

Meredith walked around the kitchen with Jack on her hip, reaching and moving with only her freehand to get Jack his breakfast.  SHe couldn't believe that she'd gotten so good at this.  Her mother had told her that by the second kid everything was a lot easier, but she still couldn't understand how if she tried to work out and carry thirty or forty pounds around that she'd get tired quickly, but if she carried Jack around on her hip she could basically do a full work out of activities, even if most of it was just walking around and carrying her purse too.

"Do you want anything Chris?" she asked as she reached in to get some apple juice for Jack.  "Coffee or anything?"

"No thanks," he said.  Keeping his eyes out into the yard to watch Justin, Chris moved to sit at the breakfast bar.  "Is he okay?"

"He's being moody," she said, "He'll be ok in a bit.  His mouth is running faster than his thoughts right now and he's overreacting a bit."

"I know the feeling," he said.  "You want me to hold Jack for a minute?"

"Nope," she said patting Jack's bottom.  She made a face at him and he giggled, "I got him.  Let me get him settled then we can talk some more.  I want to hear what you've been up to for the last few months.  I feel like we haven't seen you in forever."

"You guys are the ones that are busy."  He sighed.  "I've been in Orlando for most of the last year while you and the Partridge family were on the road."

"The Partridge family we're not.  For the moment there is only one full time performer in the family."

Chris leaned against the counter with a worried expression.  "You're still working on stuff aren't you?  You haven't given up that have you?"

"No," she said, "But I'm only doing a few projects here and there.  Actually when we get back to Orlando I'm going to into the studio to do a song for a new romantic comedy that is coming out."

"You guys are like the singing Van Trap family," he said.

Meredith could see that Chris wasn't going to give up with his teasing so she might as well play along rather than fight it.  It was true.  They'd been on the road a lot since Tegan and Jack were born.  Justin had been gone a lot longer than they had, but when Jack had gotten down the whole idea of potty training they'd been more inclined to take him on the road.  There were still a few times, like when Jack was sick that he still wore his pull ups if he ended up sleeping too heavy, but for the most part both the kids were seasoned travelers.  Being in the position they were in, with the money that their family had, made it a lot easier.  If they were the normal every day family, travelling from coast to coast and overseas would have been a nightmare.  "Yeah well, the family that plays together, stays together," she said.

"I really want to talk to you about the Tegan stuff," Chris said with a hesistant voice, "I know that it came as a shock and I'm sorry for throwing it at you, but I was talking to Johnny and he said that he could probably put together an acceptable marketing plan and songs to fit--"

"I know you're just excited about this and that you want to get your feet back into the industry Chris, but for the moment just give it some time," she said, "Justin is in a pissy mood about this right now, but I'll talk to him a bit about it and see what I can do, ok?"

"Ok."

She thought for a moment, as she put Jack into his booster chair, "Justin is filming his new video this weekend.  I'm already supposed to be in it so I'll try and push the issue and see if she wants to be in that.  If she does then we'll talk about it some more, but if she doesn't then consider it a dead issue for a while, ok?"

"What song is he doing?" Chris asked.

"Worthy Of," she said, "It's supposed to be a real throw back.  We're doing it black and white, real laid back--If it works out the way that we want it to then it should end up being like Gone."  The whole time she was talking she was pulling out cereal and milk and preparing a bowl of it for Jack.

He nodded.  "You're so motherly."

"Don't say that."

"I didn't say that you've turned into your mother," he said, "BUT that tone is totally motherly."

She sighed.  "I'm not sure if I should thank you for that or not."

"Its definitely a compliment," he said then wiped at his eyes.  "My little Mere has grown up."

"Two kids later I  would hope that I was a grown up."  She moved to put a bowl of cereal in front of Jack for him to eat.

"Your husband has two kids and look at him.  He's still a five year old."

"Well," she said, "Justin is unique.  We've always known that."

Justin knew that he should go into the house and make up with her.  It was uncalled for him to act like such an ass over all of this, but the shock of Chris's thoughts about Tegan getting into the business scared him and hurt him.  Having his friend go behind his back really was the big issue for him.  If he was going to talk to Johnny about this then he would do it in his own time, but to have one of his friends putting pressure on him about it really wasn't the way he thought the whole thing should be handled.

"Daddy?"

He spun around and stopped bouncing the ball.  He'd worked up a sweat in the last few minutes of playing and found himself panting as he turned around and found Tegan standing there watching him.

"What's up honey?" he asked.

"Are you gonna be mad at Uncle Chris for a long time?" she asked.

"I'm not mad at Chris," he said lying straight to her face.

Tegan nodded and came closer to him now that he wasn't running around on the court.  "Yes you are."

"No I'm not," he said then started to laugh when he realized that he was about to fight with a five year old over being right or wrong about something.

"Yes you are," she said, "Mommy always makes me be nice to Jack even if he's being a meanie so you should be nice to Uncle Chris too."

"I'll be nice to him," Justin said and sat down.  "I just--I just--I just disagree with some things that Chris has to say."

"Cuz I sang on TV?"

Justin sighed and looked at his daughters face and knew instantly that he needed to reassure her that things were as terrible as they seemed.

"Honey," he said, "Come here."  He sat down and rolled the ball towards the grass and held onto her as she climbed into his lap.  "Tegan I'm not mad at your Uncle and it's not something that has to do with you really."

"But you got mad when he said that he talked to Uncle Johnny on the phone."

"Yeah," he said, "I guess."  He thought for a minute and finally figured out that this conversation wasn't going to solve anything.  He tried to approach it from a different direction.

Tegan was pulling on her toes and half humming for a moment as if she was thinking of what to say next.  She was a good kid and it hurt him to see her so confused.  She was an old soul.  He'd known that from the start, but to see her being this observant and this aware of the sitautions around her really scared him.  She was growing up too fast.

"Tegan?"

She turned a little in his arms.  "Yeah Daddy?"

He looked up at the house and could see Meredith and Chris talking so he knew he had a little time before Meredith would eventually come looking for them.  "Did you like singing on Jay's show?"

"I like Mr. Jay."  She nodded.  "That was fun."

He knew she was avoiding the question.  She would do this when she was in trouble.  She'd answer with just enough information to get a person totally off the subject and forget about what they were talking about in the first place.  "But, did you like singing though?" he asked.

She nodded, but didn't look too excited about it.

"Are you sure?" he asked.

She nodded again, and again didn't seem to be excited about it.

"Tegan you don't look like you like it."

"I do," she said, "But you got mad at Uncle Chris cuz he said he wanted to have me sing again so--"

"Honey," he said, "I was just asking if you like it.  Because if you do like it then maybe we can do some other songs.  But only if you want to do it."

"I want to Daddy," she finally said, "I want to sing like you and Mommy do on all the tapes we have."

"Like me and Mommy?" he asked.

He knew that Tegan had seen the tapes of him and Meredith performing.  There had been enough stories on MTV and VH1 about their fairytale romance over the last few years that it wasn't at all strange to see footage of them from back then on tv.

"Yeah," she said and nodded again then started to sing.

Like the stars need the sky
and the river needs it's rain
like an eagle needs it's wings
and the fire needs it's flames

"Where'd you hear that song?" he asked amazed that she knew the words so well.  They hadn't sung that song in forever and he was shocked that she could pick up the words so well and had the tune memorized.

"It's your song with Mommy," she said with a happy tone, proud of herself for singing for him, "The one that made you fall in love.  That's what mommy says."

"Really?"  Justin looked towards the house and took a deep breath.  He knew he was in trouble.  It was inevitable that his daughter was going to sing.  She was look much like her mother--too much like him--to not be a singer and it was going to be a battle to keep her out of the spot light before she was ready.

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