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"Did we take too long?" Lehman asked, as he and Jordy walked onto the bridge of the ship.
"No, it's fine. Captain Rasch was just telling me about what they're doing to get the ship ready for the trip back." Vincent said happily.
"What did you find out about whatever big Dylan was planning?" Lehman asked curiously.
"We have plenty of time. And you guys are both invited to be there." Vincent said seriously.
"What are we going to be doing?" Jordy asked from Lehman's side.
"Dylan didn't really tell me anything about that. I think it's going to be kind of a meeting for the whole camp and then Dylan is going to want me to say something." Vincent said uncomfortably.
"Better you than me." Jordy said frankly.
Vincent gave a little shrug, then said, "Sometimes you have to do stuff like this. You don't have to like it, you just have to do it and get it over with."?
"Trach Manja Vincent is correct." Captain Rasch said seriously, "We do what we must for the greater good."
"I'm still glad that you're the one who's going to be doing it." Jordy said with a smirk.
The sound of Jordy's communicator going off caused everyone to look at him.
"Jordy. Go." Jordy said as soon as his communicator was open.
"Do you remember those new Clan member files that I gave you yesterday?" Seth asked immediately.
"Yeah. I got them all finished." Jordy said seriously.
"That's great, but where are they? I need them." Seth said anxiously.
Jordy thought for a moment, then shook his head and said, "I think I forgot to put them on the network. Give me five minutes and I'll have them to you."?
"Five minutes." Seth said firmly, then added, "Out."?
"Seth doesn't always talk to you like that, does he?" Lehman asked with concern.
"No. Seth is really nice. I just volunteered to do this work to help him and forgot to give it to him. So now he needs it and doesn't have it." Jordy said quickly. "I need to get back down to the Short Compound."
"Manu, would you transport us down to the Short Compound?" Vincent asked into the air.
"Yes, Vincent. On your command." Manu responded immediately.
* * * * *
"This will just take me a minute or two. If you want, you can wait in there for me." Jordy said quickly.
"We'll see you in a minute." Lehman said gently.
"Yeah. Don't keep Seth waiting." Vincent said with a grin.
Vincent and Lehman froze just inside the doorway when they saw a huge animal with a small, frail looking boy.
It took a moment for them to realize that the boy was Joel.
Joel glanced up at them and seemed to be frozen with indecision about what he should do.
The decision was made for him when the large animal nosed Joel toward them.
"Hi," Joel said shyly to them once he got close enough.
Vincent was once again surprised by Joel's Vulcan features. Joel had looked entirely human before, and Vincent had that label firmly attached to him. Now, seeing him like this, Vincent wasn't sure how Joel would be most comfortable. He decided that it would be best for him to err on the side of caution and greet Joel formally.
He gave Joel the Vulcan salute, saying, "Greetings, Joel Short. I am Vincent Winters, son of Clan Short of Vulcan."
Joel raised an eyebrow. "You're the son of the whole Clan?" he asked, then looked at Lehman. "Your brother too?"
Vincent smiled and nodded.
Joel grinned and returned the salute. Then he stopped all motion and sniffed slowly. "Something smells... different."
Joel's gaze shifted to Lehman, then he cocked his head to one side and said, "You're not human. You... you don't smell Klingon or Vulcan, and I don't know many Star Trek races that look *that* human... you're Chameloid, aren't you?"
"This is Lehman, and you're right; he's a Chameloid," Vincent giggled slightly before leaning in closer to Lehman, "Vulcans have a really good sense of smell. He just smells your natural pheromones and stuff."
"Oh," Lehman said without inflection, then he looked back at Joel and smiled slightly, "I was sure I bathed well today," he said, trying for some levity.
Joel's eyes widened slightly. "I'm sorry... that came out wrong... I'm sorry..." he murmured and started to back away slightly.
Lehman reached out a hand slowly to him, his palm up. "You don't have to be sorry, Joel. I understand; we've been told you came from a very different place."
Joel reached out and hesitantly took Lehman's offered hand. He stopped looking so nervous and smiled. He then offered his other hand to Vincent, who took it calmly.
Joel giggled slightly as he relaxed, but that was changed when he felt a slight click in his heart. The click of something connecting.
"What was that?" Vincent asked quickly as he removed his hand from Joel's. "What just happened?"
Joel looked at him in wonder. "I... I just... that was a link, I think..."
"Linked?" Vincent repeated, "Like a Bond-Link?"
"Kinda," Joel nodded.
Vincent looked at Joel seriously. "I'm already married to T'Lani; can you remove it? Now?"
Joel backed away slightly, his lips trembling. "It's not a marriage link, Vincent; honest. I don't know how I did it and I don't know how to get rid of it... Xain and Telez called it the Bonding of the Children..."?
He started crying softly then, "I didn't m...mean it, Vincent... It's just that I... I must trust you or something... I'm... I do it to feel safe when my big brothers ain't here... please don't hurt me..." he finished in a near whisper.
Vincent's eyes went wide at Joel's extreme reaction, and he hurried to say, "I won't hurt you, Joel,"
Vincent gently opened his arms to offer a hug as he whispered, "I was just afraid you'd done a type of marriage link or something. I've never felt the Telan t'Kanlar before."
Joel moved forward and melted into Vincent's hug, wrapping his thin arms around the nine year old tightly. "You know of it?"
"Yeah," Vincent murmured as he gave and enjoyed the hug. "T'Lani mentioned it, and I was taught about all the Links in my Vulcan lessons. I've just never felt it before. I'm sorry I scared you."
"S'okay," Joel mumbled as he laid his head on Vincent's shoulder and closed his eyes trustingly. "I'm always scared anyways; that's not your fault."
Lehman reached over and rubbed Joel's back, which caused the two way hug to become a three way one. Lehman started giggling.?
"Another Vincent - can the Universe survive two hugging boys like you in the same place?"
"I like hugs too!" Levi giggled as he appeared and made it a four way hug.
Lehman rolled his eyes, but then they all looked up in shock as a Voice came suddenly to their minds:
"//Powers of Destiny, Fate and Love: be thou one//"
"What was that?" Lehman asked nervously.
Vincent answered, "The Guardian of Forever; I'll explain it later, Lehman."
"Okay," Lehman agreed slowly.
Joel looked at Levi, "What did Forever mean?"
"Don't really know what He means there," Levi said cautiously.
Vincent, however, could guess.?
He remembered that The Doctor had told him that he would be going on a mission with Levi and one other: and he now believed that Joel was the 'other' that the Doctor had been referring too.
Joel stopped all movement, then looked around curiously.
"What's wrong, Joel?" Vincent asked quietly.
Joel looked at Vincent with question, then broke into a shy smile as he said, "I just noticed that I'm missing Kev."
"Well, you'd better go find him then." Vincent said warmly.
Joel nodded, then without a backward glance, rushed out of the room.
"That was a close call." Lehman said as he looked at Vincent with concern.
"I think with as fragile as he seems, that there will probably be a few more of those before he really gets settled in." Vincent said with a worried glance at the door.
"Do you think there's anything we can do to help him?" Lehman asked quietly.
"I think we've already done it." Vincent said as he turned to face Lehman again, "He knows that we're his friends. I think that's as much as we can do at the moment."
Lehman considered the words, then slowly nodded his agreement.
"So what do you want to do until Jordy gets back?" Vincent asked as he finally got around to noticing the room they were in.
"Well, if it's later enough, how about you tell me one of those long stories of yours." Lehman asked with an impish grin.
"Sure. I know just the one." Vincent said as he led Lehman to walk with him to the couch. "Do you remember that John Smith kid that we met yesterday..."
* * * * *
"Did I miss anything?" Jordy asked as he rushed into the room.
"Vincent was just telling me a story." Lehman said playfully.
"Oh. Am I interrupting?" Jordy asked with concern.
"No. I was finished. There wasn't much to tell." Vincent said warmly.
"Oh. Okay, if you're sure." Jordy said uncertainly.
"Yeah. It's fine. But there's something I'd like to do right now if you guys don't mind me leaving you alone for a few minutes." Vincent said seriously.
"Is it something we can help with?" Lehman asked cautiously.
"Not unless you know where David is right now." Vincent said frankly.
"I think I just saw him in the game room." Jordy said quickly.
"Um, where is that? I still don't know how to find my way around here." Vincent said hesitantly.
"Two doors that way." Jordy said as he pointed.
"This might take me a while. You guys have fun and I'll see you over at Camp Little Eagle." Vincent said with a grin.
"You really don't have to leave us alone." Lehman said as he looked at Vincent with concern.
"I know, but I've been wanting to do this since we got here. Now's a good time to do it. You guys have fun." Vincent said, then waved as he left, not giving them a chance to raise any more objections.
* * * * *
"You said before that you could go to the dream realm and see Brakkii whenever you want." Thomas said quietly.
"Yeah. It's a Mikyvis thing." Dylan said as he rested his head against Thomas' chest, enjoying their hug.
"I think, if it wouldn't be a lot of trouble for you, that I'd like to go there now and talk to Brakkii." Thomas said seriously.
"Is something wrong?" Dylan asked with concern as he pulled slightly away from Thomas.
"No." Thomas said with a smile, "It's just that Brakkii's been really nice to me. He's been a really good friend."
Dylan nodded that he understood.?
"When something good happens to me, I want to share it with my friends." Thomas added quietly.
Dylan looked at Thomas curiously, waiting for more.
"I'm talking about you!" Thomas said with a roll of his eyes. "I want to tell Brakkii about you and me becoming boyfriends. I know it'll make him happy. And if I tell him right now, I don't know, maybe he'll feel like he's sort of a part of it. You know? Like I included him."
Dylan smiled at Thomas, then stretched up slightly to give him a quick kiss.
"I just get the feeling that even though Brakkii is the queen of the realm, he really doesn't feel connected to anyone. I want to be sure that he keeps on being included in my life. He's kind of my best friend." Thomas finished distantly.
"Your best friend?" Dylan asked hesitantly.
"You're my boyfriend." Thomas said seriously. "That's a whole different thing."
Dylan smiled at the words, then on impulse, snagged another quick kiss.
Thomas giggled at the reaction, then leaned down to give Dylan a much longer kiss that conveyed at least some small measure of what he was feeling.
"Wow." Dylan whispered, when the kiss finally ended.
"Yeah." Thomas said with a happy smile.
"Are you ready to go see Brakkii, now?" Dylan finally asked.
"Yeah. Whenever you are."?
* * * * *
"David, can I talk to you for a minute?" Vincent asked hopefully.
"Sure, Vincent. But first, come over here and give me a hug." David said with a grin.
Vincent happily went to David and received a big hug from him.
"I'm proud of you, Vincent." David said gently from the hug.
"Thanks, David." Vincent said into David's chest. "I don't know if this makes any sense, but back when I was on Earth before, and you said that thing about the Clan adopting me... I understand in my head what you meant, but in my heart, I feel like it was *you* who adopted me."?
"I'm feeling the same thing, Vincent." David said as he hugged Vincent more firmly.
"That's kind of why I feel like maybe I can ask you to do me a big favor." Vincent said quietly, then pulled out of the hug enough to look David in the eyes.
"You can ask me anything, Vincent." David said with a warm smile.
"Well, I know this person who has been watching you on TV and really likes you a lot. I was kind of hoping that maybe you could come with me and talk to him. I know he'd really like to meet you." Vincent said hopefully.
"That's no problem. It's nice to meet people who enjoy my work." David said casually.
"Good." Vincent said with relief, then asked, "Would you have time right now?"?
David thought for a moment, then said, "I guess it depends on how long it's going to take. Aaron's expecting me to be here later."?
"It won't take very long and we can come back whenever you want." Vincent said quickly.
"Oh, okay then. I guess I can go and meet your friend whenever you're ready." David said with a smile.
Vincent nodded, then raised his wrist so he could talk into his bracelet and said, "Manu, would you transport me and David aboard?"
"Yes Vincent. On your command." Manu responded immediately.
"Wait. Where are we going?" David asked suddenly.
"To a ship that's in orbit." Vincent said simply.
"Oh. Okay. I didn't realize that we were going to be leaving the compound." David said, then reached into his pocket.
"What's that?" Vincent asked curiously when he saw the strange badge that David was attaching to his shirt.
"It's one of the new comm badges. If I'm leaving the Short compound, I want to be sure I have it with me. Considering everything that's happened the past few days, I think it's a good habit to get into." David said seriously.
"Oh. Okay. Then are you ready?" Vincent asked curiously.
"Yes. Ready when you are." David said with a smile.
Vincent raised his wrist again and said, "Transport."
* * * * *
"You guys sure are looking serious." Adam said as he approached Lehman and Jordy.
"I'm just a serious kinda guy." Jordy said with forced humor.
Adam wasn't buying it for a minute and immediately said, "What's up, bro?"
Jordy seemed to be at a loss for words, so Lehman decided to help him out.
"I'm just visiting here. Sometime in the next few days, I'm going to have to go back to the colony where I'm going to be living." Lehman said regretfully.
Adam looked from Lehman to Jordy and understood the problem without further explanation.
"Yeah, that's tough." Adam said quietly.
Jordy nodded his agreement as he looked sadly at Lehman.
After a long moment of thought, Adam asked, "Would you guys mind very much if I meddled in your business and tried to work something out?"?
"I don't know what you can do. Lehman has to go, I have to stay." Jordy said with pain at saying the words.
"I don't know either, but I don't think it will hurt anything if I talk to a few people and see what might be possible." Adam said frankly.
"If you can think of something, that would be great." Jordy said with the slightest glimmer of hope coming into his expression.
"Try not to worry about it, guys. Things like this have a way of working out." Adam said with an encouraging grin.
"I'll try," Jordy said quietly.
Lehman nodded his agreement as he moved close to Jordy's side and pulled him into a comforting hug.
Adam watched the pair for a moment, then turned to leave with a determined look in his eyes.
* * * * *
"Hello, Captain Rasch. I'd like to introduce you to David, he's one of my fathers." Vincent said in a somewhat formal tone.
David's eyes went wide as he looked up at the nearly seven foot tall reptile towering over him.
"I recognize you, David. It's a pleasure to meet you in person." Captain Rasch said in his heavily accented translator voice.
"It's nice to meet you, too." David said courteously, his acting training effectively covering his complete shock.
"Treep is a really big fan of David's, so I thought I'd bring David to meet him." Vincent explained happily.
"Ship, would you ask Treep to join me on the bridge?" Captain Rasch asked into the air.
"Right away, Captain." Manu responded immediately.
"I've never seen a ship like this before." David said as he looked around curiously.
"Not many Humans have." Captain Rasch said in a delighted voice.
"With all the glowing crystals... It's sort of like stained glass. It's really beautiful." David said in a voice of wonder.
Vincent looked around the bridge, and saw it as if for the first time. Every time he had been on the bridge before, he had looked at it professionally and only seen its functionality. But with David's observation in mind, he could see the aesthetic beauty.
"The engine core reformation is underway and going as planned." Treep said as he walked onto the bridge.
"That is good, but not why I summoned you." Captain Rasch said professionally, then gestured beside him and continued, "You have a visitor."
Treep glanced at Vincent, then froze as his gaze fixed on David.
"David, this is Treep. He's the first officer of this ship." Vincent said formally, conveying in his tone that Treep was someone worthy of respect.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Treep. Vincent told me that you enjoy my work." David said with a gentle smile.
"Yes. I've been watching your show. It's my favorite." Treep clucked with excitement.
"We're in production, right now, but I only have a few shots in this episode, I've already finished for the week. But I think the others are probably still on the set if you'd like to meet them." David said casually.
Treep's impossibly large eyes went even wider at the suggestion.
Captain Rasch walked to one of the secondary consoles at the side of the room and looked at something for a moment before saying, "It appears that you've performed all your duties for the day and the work is progressing normally. You may have the remainder of the evening off duty, if you would like."?
Treep blinked with surprise, then quickly chirped, "Yes. Thank you, captain."?
"Could we be transported to the Short Compound? I'll check in with the studio to make sure the rest of the cast are still on the set and we can transport from there." David asked pleasantly.
"The transportal is ready to activate on your command, David." Manu said with a tinge of delight under his words.
"Thank you, Vincent." Treep clucked in a disbelieving voice.
"Enjoy yourself, Treep." Vincent said with a huge grin.
"Transport." David said with a smile at his companion.
Vincent watched as the fountain of multi-colored sparkles erupted and swept David and Treep away.
"I've never seen Treep so happy. Thank you, Trach Manja Vincent." Captain Rasch said softly.
"You guys have done so much for me, it's just nice that there's something I can do in return." Vincent said shyly.
"This is a day that Treep will remember for the rest of his life." Captain Rasch said distantly. "I doubt that Treep ever imagined something like this could happen, even in his most fanciful daydreams."
"Yeah. Well, a lot of stuff like that has happened to me in the last few months. It's just nice to be able to share it." Vincent said warmly, then thought to ask, "Is there anyone on Earth that you'd like to meet?"
"I've already met them." Captain Rasch said seriously. "I have been following the lives of Sean and Cory Short since the existence of Clan Short became known to the universe. It is my hope that I will have the opportunity to sit and speak with them before we have to return."?
"I'll make sure you get the chance. But since they got married today, I'm sure they're probably busy with, um... other stuff right now." Vincent finished shyly.
Captain Rasch gave one of his full, bellowing, laughs from deep in his chest before saying, "Yes. I'm sure you're right about that."
"Is there anything I can do until they have time to talk with you?" Vincent asked curiously.
"Perhaps. The elders have provided me with the complete text of the Federation's Safe Haven Act. If it is possible, I would like to speak with someone knowledgeable on the subject, to ask a few questions." Captain Rasch said seriously.
Vincent thought for a moment, then said, "I'm not exactly sure who would be best to talk to about it, but I know that if I ask around the Clan, it shouldn't take long for me to find someone."
"That would be good. Although my primary mission is to convey the Trach Manjai to Earth, I am also a representative of the Soleen-Avalla empire. There are certain diplomatic tasks that I would like to perform as time permits."
"Diplomatic?" Vincent said slowly, something teasing at the back of his memory, suddenly he smiled and said, "I think I know just who you need to talk to."
* * * * *
"Thomas! It's wonderful to see you. How's my prince doing today?" Brakkii asked as he pulled Thomas into a tight embrace.
"I'm doing great." Thomas said as he returned the hug, then reluctantly added, "But it looks like I'm not going to be able to be your prince."
"Why not?" Brakkii asked with surprise.
"This is Dylan. Him and me, we kind of..." Thomas trailed off, not knowing how to explain it.
Brakkii kissed Thomas on the top of the head before releasing him from the hug. "This is wonderful! And a Mikyvis? He's quite a catch!"?
Dylan smiled at Brakkii's words.
"So you're not mad that I won't be living here and I won't be your prince?" Thomas asked shyly.
"Mad? How could I be mad when one of my favorite people in the universe is in love? Besides, you will ALWAYS be my prince. Nothing will ever change that." Brakkii said firmly.
"Thanks, Brakkii." Thomas said shyly.
Dylan put an arm around Thomas and quietly said, "As soon as we figured out that we wanted to be boyfriends, the first thing that Thomas wanted to do was come here and tell you."
"Thank you." Brakkii said quietly, obviously taken off guard by the sentiment.
"And you know that no matter where I live, or what else happens. You'll always be my queen." Thomas said as he tried to restrain his grin.
"I am seriously going to have to get Vincent for that." Brakkii said with a chuckle.
"Maybe you could make him your princess?" Dylan offered with a mischievous grin.
Brakkii laughed at the suggestion, then seemed to think about it for a moment.
"As much fun as that might be, I take adoption very seriously. Although I admire Vincent, it's Thomas that I've accepted in my heart. He's my one and only prince." Brakkii said seriously.
"Thanks, Brakkii." Thomas said as he held on to Dylan more tightly.
"Now why don't you two tell me about how all of this happened. As I understand the flow of time, it's been less than a day in the waking world." Brakkii said seriously.
"Can we go to the Valley of Cuddles and Snuggles and talk about it there?" Thomas asked hopefully.
"Of course." Brakkii said tenderly, then waved his arm, causing the world around them to wash away.
* * * * *
"Clan Short Headquarters." Seth said seriously.
"Are you working ALL the time?" Vincent asked playfully.
Seth chuckled, then said, "Sometimes it feels like it, but I'll be finished in just a few minutes. What can I do for you, Vincent?"
"I was wondering if Jake is available to talk. It's Clan stuff." Vincent asked seriously.
"Hang on, let me check." Seth said quickly, then the Clan Short Crest filled the screen.
"I was just mentioning that I would like to speak to someone before we leave Earth. It's not necessary to do it now." Captain Rasch said slowly.
"I know, but if he's busy right now, then I can let him know that you'd like to talk to him later. That way you're more likely to get a chance before we leave." Vincent said reasonably.
"I can see how the Trach Manjai have a reputation for accomplishing great things. They don't wait for things to happen." Captain Rasch said fondly.
"We sometimes wait for things." Vincent said casually, then added, "We just don't put things off."
"A very good philosophy." Captain Rasch said with appreciation.
The screen came on to show Seth. "Jake says that he's about to have dinner, but you're invited to join him. Most of the family are out right now, so you'd have plenty of time to talk while you eat."?
"Well, it's not me who was wanting to talk to him, it was Captain Rasch. Do you think that'll be okay?" Vincent asked cautiously.
"One sec." Seth said quickly, then the Clan Short Crest filled the screen again.
"I wouldn't want to impose myself on this person's hospitality." Captain Rasch said with concern.
"Jake is in the Clan's Diplomatic Corps... I'm not sure, but I think maybe he's the head of it. So you wouldn't be imposing, you'd be helping him do his job." Vincent said reasonably.
"Jake says that Captain Rasch is welcomed too. Dinner will be ready in just a few minutes." Seth said seriously, then his attention seemed to be drawn away by something. "Hang on."
As the crest filled the screen again, Vincent thought to ask, "Is it going to cause any problems with your repairs if you leave the ship for a little bit?"
"No. Treep has assigned everyone their tasks and Ship will notify me if anything develops that is worthy of my notice." Captain Rash said in a contented voice that told Vincent more loudly than words that it really was no problem.
The screen came back on and Seth was smiling.
"Okay. Jake is expecting us to arrive as soon as we can get there." Seth said happily.
"Us?" Vincent asked with a smile.
"Yeah. He invited me, too." Seth said with a grin. "In fact, he kind of insisted that I needed to get away from the compound for a while."
"He's probably right." Vincent said frankly. "We'll see you at Jake's house in a few minutes."?
"See you then." Seth said happily before signing off.
"Are we ready to go?" Vincent asked as he turned to look at Captain Rasch.
Captain Rasch gave a single nod, then looked upward and said, "Teleport."?
* * * * *
Vincent appeared in a fountain of sparkles in the parking lot of Camp Little Eagle.
"Thanks, Manu." Vincent said to the bracelet on his wrist, then started walking toward the center of the camp.
As he walked, he thought about the dinner he had just attended.?
Just after the food had been served, Captain Rasch and Jake started talking about Clan Short and the Safe Haven Act.
Vincent and Seth had listened in for a moment, then were drawn into conversation with Allen, Reuben and Ricardo.
As Vincent thought back on the conversation, he couldn't really recall anything specific that they had talked about. The conversation was simply old-fashioned, casual chatting.
It was nice.
Vincent felt that he had needed some time away from Starfleet business, Clan business and Trach Manja business. It was nice to just have some time to be... normal.
* * * * *
"You're early." Lehman said as he and Jordy approached on the path.
"Then so are you." Vincent said simply.
"Well, yeah." Lehman said with a giggle.
"How are things?" Vincent asked curiously.
"Great." Lehman said with a smile at Jordy.
"Better than great." Jordy countered.
"I'm glad." Vincent said sincerely.
"Hey, guys! Hold up." Thomas called as he ran toward them.
Vincent looked around, then asked, "Where's Dylan?"
"He had to go do some Mikyvissing or something. He dropped me off and said he'd join me when he was finished." Thomas said happily.
"So, how are things with you two?" Vincent asked curiously.
"Well, he's my boyfriend, if that's what you're asking." Thomas said frankly.
Vincent smiled, then said, "Yeah. That's what I'm asking."
"And?" Thomas said slowly, obviously waiting for something more.
Vincent puzzled over that for a moment, then hesitantly ventured, "Good for you?"
Thomas chuckled at Vincent's expression, then said, "After your talk with me this morning about, um... what did you call it? Oh yeah, 'gays'. I didn't know if you'd be happy or not."
"I'm happy." Vincent said seriously. "Dylan seems like a great guy. And all I have to do is see him looking at you and I can tell how much he loves you."?
"Good. I'm glad you're okay. What you think of me is important to me." Thomas admitted shyly.
"I think you're great. And I'm happy that you're happy. Please don't ever doubt it." Vincent said as he looked deeply into Thomas' eyes.
"Okay." Thomas said simply, then broke into a toothy grin.
"It looks like the meeting is about to start." Jordy said as he pointed at the gathering in the center of the camp.
"Do you need to go to the front or something?" Lehman asked Vincent seriously.
"No one said anything. I guess they'll just yell for me when they need me to do something. Let's look around and see if I can find anyone I know so I can introduce you." Vincent finished with a smile.
"I could do it. I know everyone here." Jordy said casually.
"Yeah. But we don't have time for that." Vincent said with a chuckle. Then quickly said, "Look! There's Tan!"
"Wow. What's he doing here?" Lehman asked as he followed Vincent around the edge of the gathering.
"I don't know, let's ask him." Vincent said happily.
"Who's Tan?" Thomas asked Jordy curiously.
"Dunno." Jordy responded.
"I thought you were supposed to know all these people." Thomas said suspiciously.
"I thought I did." Jordy said with a chuckle at his expression.
* * * * *
"Hey Tan! How are you?" Vincent asked as he approached.
"Vincent!" Tan responded with a grand smile.
"I didn't expect to see you here." Vincent said as he automatically gave Tan a firm hug.
"Jamie and Jacob called and invited us to this thing." Tan said as he returned the hug.
"It's nice to see you again." Lehman said shyly.
"It's nice to see you too, Lehman. At least, as long as you're not looking like my father." Tan finished with a giggle.
"I won't. I promise." Lehman said as he was pulled into a hug.
"Thomas and Jordy, I'd like for you to meet a friend of ours. This is D'Artagnan Roberts, we call him Tan." Vincent said happily.
"I can understand why." Jordy said frankly.
"Well, actually I'm D'Artagnan Radovanovich now." Tan said shyly.
"You've already had your name changed?" Vincent asked with surprise.
"We're working on it. But I talked with Drake... erm, Dad about it this morning and we decided that I'm going to start using my new name right away." Tan said as he seemed to be trying to restrain his joy.
"Good for you." Lehman said sincerely.
"Guys, those are my brothers..." Tan said quickly, then gestured to the collection of boys behind him who were talking amongst themselves. "...Shayd, Shadoe and MichaelAngelo."?
Vincent, Lehman and Thomas looked at the group of brothers, and all their gazes simultaneously fell on the youngest of them.
"Is that..." Lehman began to ask.
"I understand." Vincent gasped.
"What the hell?" Thomas asked in confusion.
"Is something wrong?" Tan asked curiously as the three identical boys stared at MichaelAngelo in awe.
"Come on, snap out of it, guys." Jordy said, then snapped his fingers, trying to break the spell they were under.
"Um... sorry." Vincent said as he finally came back to himself.
"What's wrong?" Tan asked curiously.
"Nothing. Nothing at all." Vincent said absently, then added, "But we need to talk to MichaelAngelo before you guys leave."?
"Why? What's going on?" Tan asked with concern.
"Nothing bad. I promise." Vincent said seriously.
"But it's important. We REALLY need to talk to MichaelAngelo." Lehman said as he looked deeply into Tan's eyes.
"Um. Yeah. I'll make sure that you guys get a chance to talk before we leave." Tan said uncertainly.
"What the hell just happened?" Thomas asked under his breath.
"It's kind of hard to explain..." Vincent began to say, then guided Lehman and Thomas to step away from the others.
"Don't tell me that it's a long story or that you'll tell me later, because I'm not letting you get away with it this time. When I looked at that kid, I felt something inside me. It was like he was my best friend or something and I'd do anything to protect him... I would DIE to protect him. I know that you know what's going on. So tell me. NOW." Thomas said with his arms crossed firmly across his chest.
Vincent looked around to confirm that no one else was listening, then quietly said, "That kid, MichaelAngelo, somehow, someday, he's going to have a chance to change the world. You and me and Lehman have the ability to spot people like him and help them."?
"Vincent and I are Trach Manjai, that's what these necklaces are all about." Lehman said quietly.
"There's more to it, but we don't have a lot of time. That's the important part." Vincent said seriously.
"So, does this mean that I'm a Trach Manjai too?" Thomas asked hesitantly.
"No." Vincent said immediately.
Lehman looked at him curiously, noticing that he didn't even have to think about it.
"There are only five Trach Manjai. I think that you have the same ability that we do, but because we have these necklaces, we also have a responsibility that you don't." Vincent said as he looked Thomas in the eyes.
"I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing." Thomas said slowly.
"Actually, I don't know either." Vincent said seriously, then continued, "But what I do know is that if something ever happens to me, that you'll probably be asked to take over for me."?
"So I'm like a... spare?" Thomas asked slowly, not liking the sound of it at all.
"No. I don't think so." Lehman said carefully. "I've actually had a lot of time to think about stuff like that since I've been trapped in Vincent's form. I have a theory about why we're here, if you're interested."
"Yeah!" Thomas said immediately. "If you can explain it, I think it would help me a lot."
"I think Vincent made a wish, and I was the answer. He wished he could stay on the Yorktown and he wished that he could also live at the new colony. It ended up that I got stuck in Vincent's shape, absorbed his memories and took his place at the colony." Lehman said slowly. "Later, I think he made another wish."
"He wished he could stay on Earth." Thomas said thoughtfully.
"No, I didn't. I was scared to come back to Earth." Vincent said in his defense.
"Maybe your conscious mind was afraid, but I think there was another part of you that was thinking that if you returned to Earth, you might not want to leave." Lehman said frankly.
"Well... maybe." Vincent finally relented.
"So, I think we're here because we're living the lives Vincent wishes he could live." Lehman said simply.
Thomas thought for a moment, then said, "Well, I like the way things turned out, so I'm not going to complain."
"Me either." Lehman agreed. "But we'd better find a way to stop him from doing this before the universe is overtaken by Vincent clones."?
"I'll talk to T'Lani about it when we get back to the Yorktown. If it's a subconscious thing that's causing it, she should be able to help me track it down." Vincent said with certainty.
"Vincent?" Devon called as he approached the gathering.
"Which one?" Thomas asked with a grin.
Devon looked at the three nearly identical boys and puzzled over the question.
"It's me you want." Vincent said with a giggle. "Are we ready to start?"
"Yeah. Dylan needs you over at the tent." Devon said seriously.
"I'll see you guys later." Vincent said as he rushed away at Devon's side.
"Are you brothers done with your chat?" Jordy asked as he approached Lehman's side.
"Yeah. Sorry about that." Lehman said shyly.
"Believe me, I understand how it is when you need a minute to talk privately." Jordy said with a smile.
"Thanks." Lehman said as he snuggled against Jordy's side.
Thomas looked at the scene before him, then forced himself to look away.
"You miss me?" A voice said from his side.
Thomas smiled at Dylan as he said, "Yeah. I really did."
"Good. Because I missed you, too." Dylan said as he hugged Thomas tightly.
"Are you done Mikyvissing for the day?" Thomas asked curiously.
"For the moment, at least. Everything is fixed right now. But it never seems to stay that way." Dylan groused. "Stupid universe."
Thomas chuckled, then leaned down to give Dylan a kiss.
* * * * *
"Please! If I may have everyone's attention, it's time for us to begin." Chief Tecumseh said as he raised his hands.
Within seconds the crowd of nearly a hundred people quieted.
"Dylan has asked that I gather all of you this evening. But when he has finished, please remain for a bit longer. I will also have something to say to you." Chief Tecumseh said to the group, then motioned for Dylan to take his place, standing just outside the tent that was the heart of Camp Little Eagle.
"I think most of you know me. But for those who are new or visiting, my name is Dylan Chang," Dylan said, as he looked over the crowd.
"I know some people see this mask on my face and feel sorry for me. Some of them even say it. It just makes me want to scream that I'm not a victim! I'm not hurt! I'm not hiding behind this mask, I'm wearing it as a badge of honor, letting the world know that I'm a survivor." Dylan said seriously.
"Right after I arrived here, I met a kid. He kind of had an attitude. He didn't feel sorry for me, he wanted to see under the mask." Dylan said, then broke into a reluctant smile. "I didn't know back then that he was going to become so important."
"I suppose the rest of the universe looks at him and sees the hero of the Kimber colony. But those of us here at the camp see something more. We see the survivor. He's one of US. He's our brother."
"In case you haven't guessed who I'm talking about by now, let me introduce him. This is our brother, Crewman Vincent Thomas Winters, Son of Clan Short." Dylan said, then motioned for Vincent to take his place.
Vincent walked, on shaking legs, to stand before the large tent.
"Well, I think Dylan already said the most important thing. That's that I'm just like all of you. I'm just a guy. Your brother." Vincent said frankly. "Dylan told me that he's been sharing my letters with all of you, so you could know that one of you is out there making a difference."
"Since I've been back to Earth, I've found out that a lot of you are making a difference, too. I mean, the Clan's Support and Recovery division? That's HUGE! And it's not a dream. It's not someday. You did it. When the Clan needed you, you were there."
"I guess that's what I really have to say. Everyone here, we're all brothers and sisters." Vincent said to the group, then turned his attention to one side and said, "And I'm not just talking about the people who live here. Do you hear me, Tan, Shayd, Shadoe and MichaelAngelo?"
"We hear you!" Tan answered with a chuckle.
"Good. Because I think it's important to remember, bad things happen. It's sad, but it's part of life. You, me, all of us here have learned that, the hard way. But what we've also learned is that to really survive, you have to do something that seems impossible. You have to trust and love and take the chance of being hurt again."
After a moment, Vincent continued, "That's what makes us special. Not that our bodies survived and continue to breathe, but that our souls survived and continue to care."
Vincent motioned to Dylan to take over, then hurried off the stage as applause sprang up from all attending.
"Thanks, Vincent. I know you really don't like public speaking, so thanks for coming out of your shell and talking to us." Dylan said with a teasing grin.
"No problem." Vincent called out as he made his way back to Lehman and Thomas.
"Well, that was my main reason for calling this meeting of the Camp. Vincent's on Earth, so I wanted you to get a chance to meet the guy we've been talking about." Dylan said happily, then added, "I think Chief Tecumseh has something to say before we're finished."
"Yes. Thank you, Dylan." Chief Tecumseh said as he stood before the gathering.
"I just wanted to tell all of you how proud I am of each and every one of you, today. In times of crisis, people tend to show their true colors. During the past week, you've all far exceeded any expectation I may have had of you. There isn't much that I can do, but tell you how sincerely grateful I am for each and every one of you," Chief Tecumseh said as he looked over the sea of faces with admiration.
"As a way to mark the occasion in some small way, cake and ice cream is being served in the cafeteria. Please, do enjoy your evening and some much deserved relaxation." Chief Tecumseh said warmly.
After a moment, to be sure that Chief Tecumseh was done, Dylan waved at Obie, who was standing just outside the arts and crafts classroom.
When he was sure he had Obie's attention, he called out, "Hit it!"
Music suddenly started to play on the public address speakers.
Between one moment and the next, their gathering had turned into a party.
* * * * *
When the music started, Vincent looked around to find Thomas and Lehman both watching him.
He gave a single nod, then started walking to Tan and his brothers.
"Great speech!" Tan said happily.
"Yeah, but I just about freaked, when you said our names." Shayd said with a chuckle.
"I just wanted to be sure that you were listening." Vincent said with a smile, then asked, "Could I borrow MichaelAngelo for a minute?"
"Um, sure." Shayd said with surprise.
"You want to talk to me?" MichaelAngelo asked timidly.
"Yeah. If that's okay with you." Vincent said quietly.
"Sure." MichaelAngelo said quickly.
Vincent guided MichaelAngelo away from his brothers, then glanced over his shoulder to see that Lehman and Thomas were following.
"MichaelAngelo, these are my brothers, Lehman and Thomas." Vincent said carefully.
"Hi," MichaelAngelo said to the other boys, then added, "Wow. Identical triplets."
"Yeah." Vincent said with a smile. "I guess the first thing I wanted to ask is if you listened to what I said?"
MichaelAngelo nodded, then said, "It was kind of hard not to when you called me by name."
"Good. Because I wanted to be sure that you heard it. I was talking to you." Vincent said seriously.
"But you're like, a hero. I'm nothing." MichaelAngelo said in a small voice.
"You weren't listening." Vincent said with a shake of his head.
"I was, but you were talking about kids who've been abused and stuff like that. Nothing bad's ever happened to me." MichaelAngelo said seriously.
"Then why do you think you're nothing?" Thomas asked, simply.
"Because..." MichaelAngelo started to say, then after a moment, gave up and shrugged.
"Am I nobody?" Vincent asked seriously.
"No. You're a hero and a crewman and... everybody knows who you are. You're really somebody." MichaelAngelo said quickly.
"Well, I could introduce you to everyone here. It would only take about a second and they'd all know who you are. Then would you feel like somebody?" Vincent asked curiously.
"No. Please don't do that." MichaelAngelo said in panic.
"Then, what would it take for you to see yourself as 'somebody'?" Vincent asked simply.
"Why do you care?" MichaelAngelo asked defensively.
"Why does anyone care about anyone?" Vincent asked seriously. "I just do. Okay?"
MichaelAngelo looked into Vincent's eyes, then after a moment, he reluctantly nodded.
"Good. So what's it going to take?" Vincent asked simply.
"My thing was that I didn't have anyone who cared for me. Vincent got me a family." Lehman said helpfully.
"My boyfriend, Dylan, went to another dimension and got my pet turtle. That's what did it for me." Thomas said seriously.
"He did?" Vincent asked with surprise.
"Long story. I'll tell you later." Thomas said with a big, toothy grin at finally being able to say the words to Vincent.
"I can't wait." Vincent said with a smile, then turned his attention back to MichaelAngelo.
"So, what would it take? What could we do to prove to you that you really are someone special?" Lehman asked curiously.
"I don't know. I just want to be happy." MichaelAngelo said with frustration. "I can't remember when I was happy, so I can't figure out how to feel that way again."?
"Right. Give me a second." Vincent said decisively, then walked away.
"What's he going to do?" MichaelAngelo asked curiously.
"I don't know, but when Vincent puts his mind to something, he usually ends up getting what he wants." Lehman said as he watched Vincent talking with Tan.
"Do you guys do stuff like this all the time?" Thomas asked curiously.
"Pretty much." Lehman said with a smile.
"I guess I'm glad that I'm not a Trach Manja then." Thomas said frankly.
MichaelAngelo looked at them curiously for a moment, then turned suddenly when Vincent approached.
"I can't wait to see what you came up with." Lehman said frankly.
"I just talked to Tan to see if there's any way we can get MichaelAngelo some time with his therapist." Vincent said simply.
"Therapist?" MichaelAngelo asked cautiously.
"Yeah. That thing about not being happy and not being able to remember when you were happy. That's like a big waving red flag that says 'DEPRESSION'. It's nothing to worry about, it happens to a lot of people." Vincent said frankly.
"It's not a big deal?" MichaelAngelo asked slowly.
"Well, not if you go and get it taken care of, now. I bet that within a month or so, you'll be having trouble remembering what you were feeling so down about all the time." Vincent finished with a smile.
"Do you know someone who has it?" MichaelAngelo asked cautiously.
"Yeah. Lehman, do you remember Vince?" Vincent asked casually.
"Vince had really good reasons to be depressed. But the thing with him is, that he got so used to feeling bad that he couldn't remember how to feel good anymore. So he went to this psychologist and took some medicine for a little bit that broke the cycle. The last time I saw him, he was completely off the medication and... well, he had some other stuff on his mind right then. But he seemed to be thinking clearly and I'll bet that he's completely fine, now."?
"You really care." MichaelAngelo said with surprise.
"Well, DUH!" Vincent said with a roll of his eyes.
"I think that's Vincent's way of saying 'Yes, he really does care about you'." Lehman said as he fought to contain his smile.
"Yeah, MichaelAngelo. We care." Vincent finally said.
"You guys can call me Mike." MichaelAngelo said shyly.
"Sure thing, Mike." Vincent said happily.
"Vincent and I are going to be leaving Earth soon, but we'll always be as close as the nearest terminal if you ever want to talk to us." Lehman said seriously.
"Yeah. And I'm going to live here on Earth, so we can visit and stuff all the time." Thomas said happily.
"Do you live here, I mean, in Florida? Because I live on the West Coast." MichaelAngelo asked cautiously.
"You don't have to worry about that. Thomas' boyfriend is a Mikyvis. He can warp time and space." Vincent said frankly.
"What does that mean?" MichaelAngelo asked curiously.
"It means that I can be there as soon as you call me." Thomas said with a smile.
"Or sooner." Vincent said with a grin.
"I think I'd like that." MichaelAngelo said slowly, then gave a small, timid smile.
"Look at that, all it took was a sleepover. No meds required." Vincent said cheerfully.
"Huh?" Michaelangelo asked in confusion.
"You just smiled. So I think before we start paying someone to go poking around in your head, maybe you should have a sleepover at your house and see if that doesn't help to solve some of your problems." Vincent said happily.
"How? I don't understand." MichaelAngelo said slowly.
"Just try it. If it doesn't work, you can go see the psychologist just like we were talking about. Just as long as you start feeling better." Vincent said seriously.
"Okay. Let me talk to my mom and make sure she doesn't have any other plans." MichaelAngelo said softly.
"Sounds good. You can reach any of us at any time by contacting Clan Short." Vincent said with a smile.
"Do you think we missed out on the cake and ice cream?" MichaelAngelo asked as he looked around.
"Don't worry about it. I've got it covered." Lehman said happily, then looked toward the cafeteria with a look of concentration.
MichaelAngelo looked at him curiously, then jumped when two boys appeared in front of them, both carrying trays filled with cake and ice cream.
"This is my boyfriend, Jordy." Lehman said with a grin.
"And this is my boyfriend, Dylan." Thomas said proudly.
"Wow." MichaelAngelo said in wonder.
"You said it." Thomas said, then leaned down to give Dylan a kiss.
Editor's Notes:? I am so happy to see a new chapter in this wonderful story.? For one thing, it is nice to know that Thomas has at least some of the gifts of the Trach Monja, even if he doesn't have the responsibilities.? Knowing that he is a lot like Vincent, I am certain that he will not allow something to happen that could hurt someone, without at least trying to stop it.
It is nice to see that Little Dylan and Thomas have become Boyfriends.
I am going to bet that Jordy and Lehman will be able to be together, one way or another.
Of course, that is only my opinion, and not necessarily what will happen.? We will just have to wait for the next chapter, to see what happens.? I hope it won't be too long.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher