Staring Down The Sun  - Sixteen

"Jack, what is wrong with you today?" Meredith asked as she tried to help her son dress for the day's activities.  They were running a little bit late due to the fact that they'd gotten no sleep on the flight from Seattle down to Orlando and she'd insisted on them sleeping in for a few hours at the house before they joined up with the rest of the group for the opening picnic over at the Wyndham Palace Resort & Spa.  It was the site of most of the weekend's activities and also where the rest of the participants would be staying through the weekend.

"UGH," Jack said pushing at the shirt she was trying to pull over his head.  He'd been standing still for her, not running around wildly like he usually was doing, but now as she was trying to wrangle his arms and head through his t-shirt holes, he suddenly was throwing a fit.  "Blue."

"Blue what baby?" she asked holding her hands still so that she could see if he would explain the sudden impulse to swerve one way when she was going the other way.

"Blue."  Jack pouted at her.  "Daddy bees blue, not black."

Meredith stared at him wishing that there was some babble-to-English dictionary she could look that one up in.  "Daddy bees blue?"

Jack pushed the black t-shirt that was just over his head and around his neck back off of him then quickly turned and ran towards his closet, standing on his tiptoes and reaching towards a few of the shirts that were hanging on the upper bar.  "Daddy bees blue."

"Sweetie, what does that mean?" she asked.

"Daddy is on the blue team," Tegan said from the doorway, appearing, already dressed in a North Carolina Tar Heals t-shirt and matching basketball shorts.  She wore perfectly white running shoes and was pushing her hair back over her shoulder.  "Duh Mommy."

"Tegan, watch that tone."

"Sorry Momma," Tegan said.

Meredith looked at Jack again.  "Daddy's on the blue team?"

"DADDY BEES BLUE."  Jack looked at her angrily as if she should know these things.

"Ok ok," Meredith said with a laugh.  "Which jersey do you want to wear?"

Jack started to jump up to grab onto the shirts that were hanging above him.  "Jow-dan."

"Ok," Meredith pushed herself up from where she'd been kneeling down to help him and went to the closet to help him pick out a jersey.  With Justin being a known sports fan, the companies had instantly sent him every sport jersey known to man for Jack as well.  Jack played in many of them, but his Washington Wizards Jordan jersey had been his favorite for the longest time.  Jack had seen Harry Potter a few times and somehow thought that being in a Wizard's jersey made him jump higher.

Jack practically ripped it out of her hands when she held it out for him to see.  "This one!"

She looked at him with one of those harsh motherly looks that she never thought in her lifetime that she'd make and pointed towards where his socks and t-shirt were sitting on the bed.  "Go put on your white t-shirt and then you can put on your jersey."

Jack ran over and pulled his shirt on over his head, putting it on backwards before he pulled it around to be on the correct way.

"Ready?" Meredith asked looking down at him.

He threw his hands up over his head and Meredith dropped the jersey over his head.  It was still a little big on him, but not as it had been a few weeks before.  "Kiddo," she said tickling him a little.  "You're getting too big!"

"I a big boy!"  He stood on his tiptoes for a moment then seemed to remember something and ran over to the closet to pull out a baseball hat.  He looked at it for a few moments then turned it around backwards and pulled it on.

When the doorbell rang Jack went nuts and ran towards the front door.  "I get it!"

When Meredith collected up Jack's toys and a few books and got Tegan a snack and some books and toys she made it to the front door to find Jack standing talking to Lonnie.

"Hey there you!"  Meredith went and hugged him.  He'd been assigned to JC for the last year and a half and with the conflicting schedules she hadn't seen him in a while.

"How are you?" he asked.

"Great," she said with a nod, "You driving us over?"

"Yeah," he said.  "I had Mike drop me off so I could take you and the kid-mobile."

"Well how very nice of you," Meredith said formally then looked down at Jack.  "Honey, go with your sister to get a drink for the ride, ok?"

"Juice?" Jack asked looking up at her with wide eyes.

Meredith nodded.  She was glad that her kids hadn't yet gotten addicted to fast food.  There were days when they ate fast food, since traveling so much kept them on the run, but everyone around them tried to keep at least some type of real food around.  "There are Sunny Delight Orange Juice things in the bottom shelf of the fridge."

"Ok."  Jack ran off into the kitchen with Tegan following him and Lonnie looked at her with a close eye.

"You ok?"

"Yeah," she said, "I don't know if Mike filled you in, but Justin smacked Jack last week."  She instantly put up her hands when she saw Lonnie's jaw tighten.  "He smacked him on the butt because Jack was acting like a brat, but it's totally freaked Justin out.  He hasn't laid a hand on him in a few days now and he seems to run the other way when he's left anywhere near him."

"Okay?"  Lonnie seemed to understand that there was going to be some certain task asked of him even before she opened up her mouth.

"So sometime in the next few days I'm going to try to get him to hang out with Jack,"  She smiled nervously.  "So if he asks you to watch Jack while we're home, please tell him you're busy or something?"

Lonnie nodded.  "Sure."

Meredith rubbed her forehead as they heard the kids coming back to the front of the house.  "I hate to go behind his back like this, but I don't know how else to handle this."

"No worries," he said, "You'll be doing some good if he's really that freaked out."

She nodded.  "I've got their backpacks and mine.  Want to help me wrangle up the little ones and take them over?"

Lonnie nodded.

It only took ten minutes to pack up the car, the kids, and the car seats and be on their way.  Meredith kept the window down as they drove out to the Wyndham Resort and took deep breaths of air.

"You can stick your head out like a puppy if you want," Lonnie laughed.

"I just missed being here," Meredith said and rolled up the window and flipped on the air conditioning.


As the SUV pulled up to the resort Meredith took in the crowd of mingling fans outside the front door.  Lonnie took it all in stride.  "I've got reserved parking over across the lot, so we can walk in together."

Meredith nodded then looked at Jack in his car seat and Tegan in her booster seat.  "You two, today you need to be good.  No going anywhere unless you're with one of Mike or Lonnie's friends or with your Daddy or his friends.  Got it?"

"Yes Momma," they spit out the response as if they were seasoned veterans of events like this.

"I mean it," Meredith said then thought for a moment about the day..  She'd been mulling over in her head all day about what to do with the Justin and Jack situation that had been going on for a few days now.  She decided in that moment that they were going to play a little hide and seek game that day and stir up Justin a little bit.  She figured if she could scare the crap out of him then maybe she'd be able to shock him into taking some responsibility for his son.

"Leave them alone," Lonnie joked as he pulled the car into the parking spot.  He turned off the engine and turned sideways in his seat.  "You guys gonna be good?"

"Yes Mr. Lonnie."

"Good then," Lonnie nodded at Meredith.

"You're too easy on them," Meredith said, "I don't know how you ever kept the guys under control when they were all on the road together.  I have trouble keeping tabs on the two of them."

"It's not that hard," Lonnie said and pushed his door open.  "Who wants a piggy back ride?"

"MEEE!  Both the kids screamed from their seats, Tegan already pulling off her seatbelt while Jack pulled at the car seat straps.

"One at a time kiddos," Lonnie said as he slammed his door shut and came around to open up the door and grab Tegan.  "First Tegan."

Jack instantly started to pout.  "You can ride with mommy," Meredith said and he perked up a little, but she could tell that he was still upset by not being able to ride on Lonnie's back into the hotel.

Walking into the lobby of the hotel was surreal.  It was filled with all shapes and sizes of NSYNC fans and it seemed as if the moment they stepped in the door, all eyes were on them.  Most of the fans that Meredith caught eye contact with turned away.  It was in no way to shun her, but more the slight embarrassment that fans seemed to go through when they got caught staring too much, also many of them were very shy.


"What babe?" she asked moving so that Jack was more securely on her back.

"Dere's my Daddy."  She saw his arm fly over her shoulder and point towards the ball room doorway where Justin was standing with Mike looking at a piece of paper which Meredith assumed would be his schedule for the next few days.  "Down."

"Jack," Meredith caught his leg and kept him from slipping down her back until she could catch her balance.  Thank god for her good sense to wear sneakers that afternoon.

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