When they piled out of the car at the resort that afternoon Mike and Todd met up with them.  Both were wearing bright blue Hawaiian shirts, as would the other security crew, knowing their uniform for the day made everything so much easier to handle when in a crowd.  Normally there wouldn't be two of them walking around with the family members, but with the final game being played on the artificial beach next to a lagoon at the resort, it was a tight squeeze to get down to where the net was set up.

"Hi Mr. Mike!  Hi Mr. Todd!" Tegan jumped out of the truck on her own as Meredith unhooked Jack from his car seat.  They'd stopped by the house to change into beach wear so now Tegan wore board shorts, a tank top with her swimsuit underneath and running shoes.

"Hello there Miss T," Todd said leaning down to give her a hug.  "I heard you were singing with your mommy and your daddy this morning."

"Uh huh," she said.

When Jack finally got out of his chair and down to stand with everyone he immediately attached himself to Mike's leg, hugging him before reaching to be picked up.  Meredith was a little scared that he'd run out into the parking lot, but luckily he was more enthused with Mike and Todd than with running around, for the moment.  "Where my daddy?"

"He's playing in the sand," Mike said tickling Jack.

Jack turned away from the tickling and laughed.  "No."

Meredith turned to grab out her backpack and Tegan's and Jack's and listened to her kids and her parents and in-laws greet each other.  It was going to be a long afternoon, even without her officially participating in the game or festivities.  In the last few years she'd appeared less and less at this event.  She loved the whole thing, but it was easier if she was with the kids than playing around with the adults.

"Yep," Mike said, "His team didn't get to play in the game this afternoon, but we're gonna watch your Uncle Joey and your Uncle Chris play and maybe you and your sister can build a sand castle."

Jack's eyes lit up as Meredith moved next to him to help him get his backpack on.  "San cassol?" Jack asked as he moved his arms into his backpack, still sitting in Mike's arms.

"Yep," Mike said then turned to Meredith.  "You need any help?"

"Naw," she said, "Why don't you hand over Jack to Momma Lynn and then Tegan can go with my mom and we'll push our way out there."

Todd and Mike led the way through the hotel lobby and out towards the lake on the back of the property where the beach volleyball would be played.

When they got out to the beach area there were two sides of stands set up that were already filled with a few hundred people.  Meredith felt overtly aware of her surroundings.  She found familiar faces in the crowd of celebrities that had lined the two sides of the court then found Kelly, Colleen, Farzana, and the rest of the family members sitting at one end on blankets and low beach chairs.


She turned around when she heard her name being called, thinking that it might be one of their family members, but it turned out to be a group of girls at the bottom of the bleachers.  She waved back then turned again to walk to their seats.  It was strange that she would get yelled at like that.  Usually when they walked into a place Justin was the one who got all the screams, but this time it was her.

"Hi!" Tegan waved from Paul's arms towards the crowd of family members and everyone waved back.

It wasn't until Meredith had found a seat and some space for the kids that she looked up to find Justin standing on the far side of the court with JC and Lance who wouldn't be playing that afternoon either.  He was deep in conversation, sunglasses covering his eyes but not his serious expression.  She could tell that he was talking business even from thirty feet away.  She figured it must be something serious,  more serious than she'd seen from him in a few weeks so she didn't try to attract any attention to them.

Jack sat down on the beach towel next to her and pulled off his shoes then stood up and pointed towards Justin.  "Dere's my daddy!"

"I know honey," Meredith said glancing over to make sure that Tegan was still with Lynn and Paul.  Even though they were away from most of the fans, she still was worried about the kids disappearing into the crowd.

It was a few moments later that scared her and excited her at the same time.  She was watching some of the stars passing a ball around when she heard Tegan's name being called and a moment later Paul lifted Tegan up and they waved towards the crowd.  It was strange to see that her daughter had fans already.  It was just a reminder just how power television could be.


When Justin finally came over to sit with them he leaned to kiss her then sat down in a seat next to her.  His eyes stayed on the game, but he moved a hand over to lay in her lap, almost as an after thought.

"You ok?" she asked.

He nodded and pushed his sunglasses back up on his nose, but kept his eyes on the game.

"Justin," Meredith said clamping an arm down on his arm a little harder than she normally would.  "What has gotten into you?"

"Owe," he said and twisted his arm away.  He leaned towards her.  "I'm sorry.  I've got a lot of stuff on my brain."

Meredith looked at him closely then reached and pulled his sunglasses down off his face.  "Like what?"

Justin sighed and rolled his neck before looking back at the game.  "Can we talk about it later?"

She was really getting tied of this moody phase that Justin was going through.  "Are you mad at me?"

"No," he said snapping a little too much.  "I'm not mad.  I've just got other things on my mind right now.  I'm sorry."

"Dere's my daddy!" Jack said and jumped into Justin's lap, ending any chance at them finishing their conversation.

Almost as soon as Jack was in his lap he lifted him up and put him in Meredith's lap.  "I'm gonna go run and talk to Johnny.  I'll be back."

Meredith wanted to yell at him for leaving just as Jack came to sit with him, but she wasn't going to start something in front of the rest of the family members and the fans.

Jack immediately started to whine as Justin disappeared.  She wanted to cry with him.  Whatever was going on, whatever her husband wasn't telling her really was making their lives unbearable.  She figured that it was either that Justin had told Johnny about the whole slapping incident or he hadn't and the stress of him not telling Johnny that was giving him attitude.

"Sweetie, why don't you go play with Trey and Colton.  They're making a sand castle," she pointed towards the two Fatone boys who were sitting at the end of the row.  "We'll play with Daddy later at the house.


"No buts," she told Jack.

Jack finally got the idea that he should go and play and he ran over and started to help the boys with their sand castle.

"Hey," Kelly said sitting down next to her.  "You ok?"

"Yeah," Meredith sighed.  "It's just been a long day and Justin is being moody for no reason and well the whole weekend is just too long.  Don't get me wrong.  I love doing all of this for the charities, but I wish that Justin and I could just be in the Keys."

"Rough stuff?" she asked.

Meredith shrugged.  "I'm not sure.  Justin was talking to JC and Lance earlier looking really serious and I think that he's got some new project in the works.  I know that he normally tells me about them and we deal with the issues that come up with the kids and everything, but this time he seems to be keeping things to himself.  I thought that after this morning, when he was spending time with Tegan singing that things would mellow out for him, but it doesn't seem like he's mellowing out at all."

"Sounds like Joey," Kelly said.

"I thought he was slowing down," she said.

"He was," she said, "He's actually thinking of going back to school and getting his degree so that he can teach theater and music classes at Dr. Phillips High."


"Yeah," Kelly said, "I wish he'd just take a year off and not work at all.  We've got enough money in the bank from the last few years of projects that he could easily do it, but he doesn't seem to be interested in staying home."

Meredith sighed.  "It seems like we're never going to have the perfect lives that most people get to have."

"Don't start sounding depressed now," Kelly said, "This will work out.  They always do."

"You seem so sure of that," Meredith said.

"I have to keep reminding myself," Kelly said, "It'll work out though.  It will."

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