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Billy glanced at the caller ID on his phone before saying, "I've got a phone call. I'll be over in men's wear if you need me."
"We'll be fine here for a while." Mona said with a smile at Lawrence who was working his way methodically through the junior miss department.
Billy smiled and pressed the 'send' button to accept the incoming call as he walked away.
"Hi dad." Billy said without inflection.
"Your mother is irate. What's happened to Deacon?" Mr. Pierce asked forcefully.
"Fine. And you?" Billy said with full sarcasm, then continued, "Deke ran away from home and came to live with me."
"I don't have time for this..." Mr. Pierce trailed off in an absent voice of frustration.
"I know. That's why he ran away." Billy said flatly.
"What is that supposed to mean?" Mr. Pierce asked angrily.
In a more forceful voice, Billy responded, "You don't have time for this... for Deacon, or me for that matter."
"I suppose we'll have to get him home. Can you get him back here or will I have to hire someone to bring him back?" Mr. Pierce asked forcefully.
"Neither. I'm Deacon's legal guardian now. You don't have to do anything at all." Billy said firmly.
"What the hell are you talking about?" Mr. Pierce asked in nearly a scream.
Billy took a deep breath to calm himself, then quietly said, "Deke ran away from home. He came here and said he wanted to live with me. We talked to a few people and I was made his legal guardian. End of story."
"He's a twelve year old boy, what does he know about what he wants? I suppose you'll be wanting us to pay for his room and board while he stays there." Mr. Pierce said angrily.
"He's thirteen dad. You seem to be able to remember the time and date of every social event and client meeting for the next six months, but you forgot your own son's birthday." Billy said as his anger grew.
"Twelve, thirteen, what's the difference?" Mr. Pierce asked in a snarl.
"There's a big difference to Deke. He's officially a teenager now. When was the last time you saw him dad? A week ago? Two? What kind of a piss poor father are you? You ignore him and bark at him when he tries to get your attention. You act like he's the least important thing in your life and anything you have to do for him is a major inconvenience. Well it's over. I love Deacon and I'm going to make sure that the rest of his childhood is filled with all the love and attention he needs and I'll be the father you never were for him." Billy said in an increasing voice.
"Well you'll have to do it without any help from me or your mother. You won't see one red cent from us. As soon as you have to start paying for his clothes and food and medical bills you'll be ready to send him back." Mr. Pierce said firmly.
Billy's eyes went wide with surprise before he asked in a disbelieving voice, "You've never read my letters have you?"
"What?" Mr. Pierce asked with irritation.
"I wrote to you and told you what was happening in my life... you never even cared enough to open them, did you?" Billy said in amazement.
"I'm sure your mother looked at them." Mr. Pierce said in a frustrated voice.
Billy shook his head to dispel the shock and said, "Whatever. Just forget you ever had kids. That shouldn't be too hard, just do what you've been doing. Deacon is better off without you in his life. I don't want or need your money. Just don't expect to hear from me or Deke again. We're done with you."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Mr. Pierce asked angrily.
"It means that we're done. You should be happy. Now you don't have the burden of feeding and clothing Deke. And you won't have to pay for the Christmas gifts that your office staff pick out for him. Just think of all the money you'll save. Having a few thousand extra dollars in the bank is SO much better than being able to watch your son grow up and become a man. The interest you'll draw on that money will be more than enough to compensate you for never knowing if he marries or has children." Billy finished with full sarcasm.
"I thought you said you were done?" Mr. Pierce asked shortly.
"Yeah. We're done." Billy said with a tone of finality and hit the 'end' button to disconnect the call.
The sound of clapping caught Billy's attention and he turned to see a dozen people standing around watching him, including Lawrence and Mona.
"Um, thanks." Billy said shyly.
* * * * *
"So what did you need to talk to me about?" Allen asked as he pulled all three boys into a loose hug.
"We were hoping you could come up with something Kevin and I could do together." Kenny said honestly.
"What kind of thing did you have in mind?" Allen asked curiously.
"I don't know. Brother stuff." Kevin said seriously.
"Well, I don't know if you'd be interested, but maybe you two could work on Kenny's Enterprise model together." Allen suggested carefully.
Kenny looked at Kevin with wide eyes and said, "That'd be great! Thanks Pop, that's perfect!"
"What do you think Kevin? Would you like to help Kenny put his model together?" Allen asked quietly.
"Yeah. If he'll show me what to do." Kevin said hesitantly.
"That's going to be the best part. I can show you the right way to cut apart the pieces and how to put on the decals..." Kenny said happily, then noticed a 'left out' expression on Deacon's face.
"And Deacon could work on his new models with us when he's not busy with Laura." Kenny finished with a smile at Deacon.
"Yeah, that sounds like fun." Deacon said in thought, then broke into a smile.
"Well, I'm glad we've got that figured out. I'd like to talk to Deacon alone for a few minutes. Why don't you guys go on up and get your baths. When you're done, Deacon can come upstairs." Allen said gently.
"Thanks for thinking of the model Pop." Kenny said as he squeezed Allen tightly.
"I'm glad you like the idea, Cute Stuff." Allen said gently.
"I love you Poppa." Kevin said as he hugged Allen from the other side.
"I love you too Little One." Allen said tenderly.
"We'll see you in a little bit Deacon." Kenny said quickly as he hurried out of the family room into the hallway. Kevin followed close behind.
"What did you want to talk to me about?" Deacon asked hesitantly.
Allen walked to the couch and took a seat, then patted the cushion beside him.
Deacon took the offered seat and waited.
"You've been here just over a day now and I wanted to see how you're doing." Allen said gently.
"I'm okay." Deacon said cautiously.
Allen draped an arm around Deacon's shoulders and quietly said, "You've been through a lot of ups and downs in the past twenty-four hours."
Deacon hesitantly leaned into Allen's side and relaxed.
"If you need to talk, I'm right here." Allen said in nearly a whisper.
"I don't need to talk right now. But this is nice. Thank you." Deacon said softly.
Allen hugged Deacon gently with one arm and said, "I'm here whenever you need me Deacon. You're just as much one of my boys as any of them."
"Thanks Allen. Billy's a great brother, but it's easier doing stuff like this with you." Deacon said in a soft voice.
Allen smiled and said, "That's how relationships are Deacon. Watch the people around you and you'll see that everyone has their own way of dealing with the people around them. Sometimes they'll behave very differently depending on who they're talking to."
"Yeah, I guess so." Deacon said as he snuggled into Allen's side.
"You do know that we're all glad that you're here, right?" Allen asked in a low voice.
"Yeah, even if you didn't have a party to prove it, I would have figured it out by now." Deacon said with a smile.
"Good. Please remember that in the next few days." Allen said in thought.
"Why?" Deacon asked curiously.
"I'm concerned that Laura may need a lot of attention to get settled in. I just don't want you to feel that she's more important or that we like her better or anything like that." Allen said seriously.
Deacon considered the statement and snuggled closer into Allen's side as he said, "She needs all of us right now. If I start feeling jealous, all I have to do is remember what she looked like in that alley all bloody and crying."
"Well, if it ever starts bothering you, just come to me and tell me that you need to talk with me. We'll sit down like this and talk it out." Allen said gently.
"I will. I may even come by when I'm not feeling bad, just to get a 'time out' from everything else that's going on." Deacon said in a relaxed voice.
"I'd like that. I need a 'time out' every now and then too." Allen said with a smile.
* * * * *
"How's the shopping going?" Billy asked as he walked to Mona and Lawrence.
"I can't decide what to get." Lawrence said with frustration.
"Show me what you're choices are and I'll give you my opinion." Billy said simply.
Lawrence led the way to a cart parked between two display racks.
"This one would go perfectly with my eyes." Lawrence said as he held up a spaghetti strapped powder blue dress.
"But I think this one is just gorgeous." He said and held up a cream colored sun dress with peach blossoms.
Billy nodded in thought.
"This one is the *perfect* size and is just cute." Lawrence said as he held up a dress with a delicate pattern that reminded Billy of autumn.
"And then there's this one..." Lawrence said as he held up a royal blue satin dress that just cried out elegance.
"I see your problem." Billy said with a nod.
"Which one should I get?" Lawrence asked as he looked at all the dresses again.
"All of them." Billy said simply.
"What?" Lawrence asked in disbelief.
"You're going to need more than one change of clothes. Get all of them, plus a few dresses for around the house. When you're done, we'll go pick out some 'boy clothes'." Billy finished with a smile.
"Really? You're going to get me all this?" Lawrence asked in wonder.
"Sure. That's why we're here. Mona? Will you help him get everything he needs? I'm going to the boys department to start looking around. What size pants do you wear?" Billy asked casually.
"Um. Oh, 24x28." Lawrence sputtered, still unable to comprehend what was happening.
"Don't forget to get shoes." Billy said as he walked toward the boy's department.
Lawrence looked at Mona with tears in his eyes.
"Come on sweetie. Let's not keep the man waiting." Mona said with a joyous smile.
* * * * *
"Sopek and I are going to be leaving now." Stan said from the double doors.
"You're not too mad at me are you?" Allen asked cautiously.
Stan smiled and said, "I was for about two minutes, but when Sopek and I got to talking, I decided that it was worth it. Thanks for cutting through all the bullshit and making us face it."
"My two favorite coworkers becoming a couple is all the thanks I'll need." Allen said as he squeezed Deacon to his side.
"We're not an official couple yet, but after we finish talking tonight... maybe. It's looking favorable." Stan said with a peaceful smile.
"Just let me know if there's anything I can do to help." Allen said with a grin.
"After what you did tonight I think I'd be afraid to ask." Stan said with a chuckle as Sopek walked to Stan's side.
"Thank you for your hospitality and... encouragement." Sopek said carefully.
Allen stood and coaxed Deacon to stand with him.
"It was my pleasure. You two have a good talk tonight." Allen said as he walked with one arm around Deacon's shoulders.
The group walked through the living room to the front door.
"It was nice to meet you both." Deacon said in a quiet voice.
"It was nice to meet you too Deacon. Thank you for sharing your birthday cake with us." Stan said with a warm smile.
"Yes, I too would like to thank you and wish you a Happy Birthday." Sopek said politely.
Deacon smiled in contentment and snuggled close to Allen's side.
"I'll see you at work on Monday." Allen said as Stan and Sopek walked away from the house toward Stan's car.
"Yeah, we've been saving up a whole pile of work for you for when you get back." Stan said with a mischievous smile.
"Gee, thanks." Allen said with a chuckle.
"Bye." Allen called out as Stan and Sopek drove away.
* * * * *
Mona quietly watched the checkout clerk looking at the dresses, then at Lawrence.
"Do you have a problem with something?" Mona asked the checkout clerk forcefully.
"No ma'am." The young man said nervously as he took the hangers out of the clothing and stacked them to ring them up.
Mona watched the man carefully, doing everything in her power to shield Lawrence from any hateful or intolerant remarks on this happy evening.
"Are these for you?" The clerk asked Lawrence shyly as he folded the sun dress.
"Yeah." Lawrence said cautiously.
"Then you might look at that display just over there. They have a selection of sandals that match this dress perfectly." The clerk said hesitantly.
Lawrence looked in the direction the clerk pointed and saw the display.
"They're perfect, thank you." Lawrence said happily as he hurried to pick out a pair in his size.
"Yes, thank you." Mona said softly.
"No problem. I can see that you're very protective of him. I wish my family was as supportive of me. He's a very lucky boy." The clerk said as he looked at Lawrence wistfully.
"His name is Lawrence, mine is Billy and this is Mona." Billy said as he also watched Lawrence happily inspecting the sandals.
"I'm Dale. It's nice to meet you." The clerk said gently.
"Well Dale, since you've been so helpful, I think we'll go to the men's department and do the rest of our shopping then bring everything over here... you do work on commission don't you?" Billy asked with a smile.
"Yes sir." Dale said with surprise.
"Billy, remember?" Billy said in a teasing voice.
"Sure Billy. Would you like me to put these things aside for you until you're done in the boys department?" Dale asked hopefully.
"Thanks, that would be a big help." Billy said with a smile.
* * * * *
As Allen walked back into the house, he noticed Jake and Xain descending the stairs.
"Hey guys, what have you two been up to?" Allen asked casually as he walked with his arm around Deacon.
"Um, we were, um..." Jake fumbled.
"We were sharing intimacy." Xain said frankly.
Allen smiled peacefully and said, "That's great guys. I'm glad that you're taking time for each other. That's important."
Jake smiled at Allen and asked, "Have I mentioned how completely cool you are?"
Allen looked at the ceiling with an expression of deep consideration before saying, "You might have, but I don't mind hearing it again."
"Deacon, we are preparing to begin an extensive search program if you would care to join us." Xain said carefully.
"Yeah, it sounds like it might be fun." Jake said with a smile.
"No thanks guys. I think I'd like to hang out with Allen for a while." Deacon said hesitantly, not wanting to offend them.
"That's cool. We'll be in the family room if you change your mind." Jake said casually and walked with Xain to the family room.
"Do you want to go to the living room to continue our talk?" Allen asked with a smile.
"Yeah." Deacon said peacefully and followed.
* * * * *
As Billy, Lawrence and Mona were walking toward the front of the store, a display counter caught Billy's eye.
"Lawrence, what do you think of that?" Billy asked and pointed to a small gold and diamond pin.
"It looks just like Deacon's necklace." Lawrence said with a smile.
"How do you think that would look with the blue satin dress?" Billy asked with a grin.
"Wonderful.... you wouldn't." Lawrence finished with a gasp.
"Well, don't expect diamonds every time I take you shopping, but yeah. I would." Billy said with a smile.
"May I help you?" The sales lady asked professionally.
"I'd like to see that." Billy said, pointing to the pin.
The sales clerk looked at Billy critically before saying, "I'm afraid management won't allow us to open the cases at this time of night."
"Then how do you sell anything?" Mona asked with irritation in her voice.
The sales clerk looked at Mona appraisingly, but remained silent.
"Lawrence, would you go get Dale?" Billy asked hopefully.
Lawrence hurried off to find Dale as Billy and Mona watched him go.
"And would you call your manager?" Billy asked the clerk with a smile.
"The manager isn't available to speak with you at this time." The clerk said in a haughty voice.
"Did you need something Billy?" Dale asked as he hurried to Billy's side, followed closely by Lawrence.
Billy made a show of looking at the sales clerk's badge before saying, "Stella informed us that management won't allow her to show us the merchandise that we're interested in. And that management isn't available for us to speak to about it."
Dale looked at Stella curiously, then at Billy and said, "I've never worked this department, so I don't know about their policies, but if you'll give me a minute, I think I can get a manager to speak with you."
"Would you please?" Billy asked hopefully.
Dale nodded and hurried away.
"Big mistake." Mona said with a predatory smile at the sales clerk.
Lawrence giggled and nodded.
"May I help you?" A middle aged man asked as he approached with Dale following close behind.
"Yes sir. I just wanted to see a piece of jewelry. I was told that it was policy not to remove items from the case at this time of night and that the manager was unavailable to help me." Billy said seriously.
"I'm afraid that it is our policy to keep the cases locked after a certain hour, but I am certainly available to help you. Which one would you like to see?" The manager asked politely.
"The angel pin." Billy said and pointed.
"Stella, would you get it out so we can have a look?" The manager asked professionally.
Stella nodded and unlocked the case. Then she carefully lifted it out and laid it on a black velvet board on the countertop.
"Come here Lawrence and have a look, this is for you." Billy said with a smile.
Lawrence hesitantly walked up to the counter and stared at the angel pin.
"Do you like it?" Billy asked quietly.
"It's so beautiful..." Lawrence said in awe.
"We'll take it." Billy said to the manager.
Stella smiled and took the pin to wrap it up.
"Excuse me, is there any possible way you could tell me how much commission Stella is making off of this sale?" Billy asked the manager curiously.
"Why do you want to know that?" The manager asked suspiciously.
"Because Dale was courteous and friendly. Without his help, we probably wouldn't be talking since Stella refused to call you. If it isn't against your policy for an employee to accept a gratuity from an appreciative customer, I'd like to give Dale the same commission that Stella will be receiving." Billy said seriously.
The manager looked at Dale and gave a slight smile of pride before saying, "I'll let you know when Stella's done with your ticket."
"Thank you for all your help." Billy said with a gentle smile.
"Your total comes to $2,619.95." Stella said professionally.
Billy handed Stella his credit card then turned to Lawrence and said, "I usually don't like jewelry, but I think this is going to look great on you."
"I can't believe you'd spend that kind of money on me." Lawrence said in wonder.
"Can you believe I'd spend that kind of money on Deke?" Billy asked seriously.
"Yeah, but he's your brother." Lawrence said in a lost voice.
"And yours." Billy said frankly.
Lawrence looked at Billy with question.
"Deke and I are a package deal. You've accepted him as your brother. If he's your brother, so am I. Welcome to the family." Billy finished with a smile.
"Thanks Billy." Lawrence said in a whisper as he hugged Billy tightly.
* * * * *
"Where do you want to look first?" Jake asked seriously.
"I believe a search of the genealogical archives should prove most productive." Xain said as he accessed the World Wide Web.
"Why don't we search the genealogy newsgroups first? It should only take a few minutes and if anyone was looking for your mom, there could be a message there." Jake said in thought.
"I believed that you had no experience with computers." Xain said as he accessed the newsgroup application.
"I don't, not with programming and stuff like you do. But I've spent some time in the library searching for different stuff." Jake said as he watched Xain's search.
Within seconds, the screen was flooded with possible matches to Xain's search criteria.
"That one there." Jake said quickly and pointed to a message on the screen.
Xain efficiently opened the message to read it.
>Date: Wed Jun 27, 2004 10:04 am
>Subject: Mariah Elaine Werner
>When I was five, my grandfather took his family to Vulcan so he could study
>alternative medical techniques.
>Something happened and he left suddenly without my Aunt Mariah. My
>grandfather refused to talk about it and I've been trying to get in touch with
>her for the past five years.
>If you have any information about my aunt, Mariah Elaine Werner, please
"Was your mother's middle name Elaine?" Jake asked hesitantly.
"It was." Xain said quietly.
"What do you want to do?" Jake asked cautiously.
After a moment of thought, Xain said, "I believe it would be best if you would respond to his message."
"Why me?" Jake asked carefully.
"Kennon... my cousin... may harbor the same prejudices as our grandfather. Until that is known, I believe it best to limit the amount of information that we share." Xain said in thought.
"Yeah. Okay." Jake said with distraction.
"Do you have an email account? I would prefer not to use the Clan Short address at this point in our correspondence." Xain said seriously.
"Um, yeah. Just let me sign in." Jake said and leaned forward to use the keyboard.
After a minute of signing in and pasting the email address from the newsgroup, Jake finally asked, "What do you think I should say?"
"Simply tell the relevant facts as you know them. Omit the fact that I am on Earth until we know of my cousin's predilections toward non-humans." Xain said carefully.
Jake nodded and began to write.
I never met your Aunt, but I've heard of her.
She married a Vulcan man named Solak. I guess that's
why your grandfather was pissed. Mariah and Solak
had a son named Xain.
A few years later, Mariah got sick and eventually died.
I'm sorry it wasn't better news. If you have any other
questions, please just ask.
"How's that?" Jake asked hesitantly.
"It is sufficient." Xain said quietly.
Jake hit the send button on his email program and put an arm around Xain to hold him silently.
* * * * *
"How did it go?" Allen asked as Mona, Lawrence and Billy walked into the living room.
"Billy bought me so much stuff I can't believe it." Lawrence said with excitement.
"Do you want to show it to me?" Deacon asked as he jumped up from Allen's side.
"Yeah... but just wait here. I want to try stuff on and show you." Lawrence said with a shy smile.
"Okay. That sounds great." Deacon said as he sat down beside Allen again.
"I'll help you sweetie." Mona said and followed Lawrence out of the room.
"What have you guys been up to?" Billy asked as he took a seat on the second couch.
"Just talking." Allen said as he put an arm casually around Deacon.
Billy smiled and said, "Next time the ladies need to go shopping, I think Juana should take them. I can't believe how long they can look at shoes."
Allen smiled and said, "I actually thought you'd be gone longer. I learned a long time ago that if you're going to a shoe store with Mona, you'd better pack a lunch."
"I guess it just seemed like a long time. For the amount of stuff we bought, it didn't really take that long." Billy said with a smile.
"Did you spend a lot?" Deacon asked curiously.
"Except for one thing, I spent about the same on Laura as I spent on your stuff this afternoon." Billy said casually.
"What was the one thing?" Deacon asked with interest.
"You'll know when you see it." Billy said with a smile.
* * * * *
"Guys, come downstairs and look." Deacon said from Kenny and Kevin's doorway.
"What's up Deacon?" Kenny asked as he pulled on his t-shirt.
"Laura's home and she's going to show off all the stuff they got at the store." Deacon said happily.
"We'll be right down." Kenny said with a smile at Deacon's excitement.
* * * * *
"Guys, do you have a minute to come into the living room?" Deacon asked hopefully as he ran into the family room from the hallway.
Jake looked at Deacon with a gentle smile and said, "Sure. We'll be right there."
Deacon ran across the room and out the double doors into the living room.
Jake smiled at Xain and slowly stood. As they walked toward the double doors, Jake automatically put an arm around Xain to hold him in a loose hug.
* * * * *
Laura walked into the living room and was surprised to find everyone there, waiting for her.
"It looks great! That color looks really good on you." Allen said as he admired the pale blue dress.
"The garment in combination with your coloring and features is aesthetically pleasing." Xain said in a speculative voice.
Laura looked at Xain curiously, then Jake.
"That means you look good." Jake said with a smile.
"Come on, let's show them the next one." Mona 'stage whispered' from the door.
Laura hurried to Mona to change into the next dress.
* * * * *
Laura braced herself before walking into the living room.
She had left her hair down and loose with the other dresses, but Mona had convinced her to wear a small hair band to sweep her hair back with this one.
The effect was elegant and Laura couldn't believe how beautiful she felt.
She ran her fingers gently over the satin fabric to be sure there weren't any wrinkles, then felt to see that the pin wasn't turning at an odd angle.
With one last deep breath for courage, Laura walked into the living room.
* * * * *
"You look beautiful." Billy said in a proud voice.
"Wow. You're really really pretty." Kevin said as he looked at Laura with a grand smile.
Laura looked at everyone and saw their looks of appreciation. Finally her gaze rested on Deacon.
Hesitantly Deacon stood from the couch and walked to her.
"Would it be okay if I kissed you?" Deacon asked in a whisper.
Laura gave a shy smile, then nodded.
Deacon pulled her into a loose, gentle hug and gave her a feather-light kiss.
Laura felt as if electricity had jolted through her body as the tender, gentle kiss ghosted across her lips.
"You're really beautiful." Deacon whispered as he waited for Laura to open her eyes.
"You're not so bad yourself." Laura said with a shy smile, then remembered that the rest of the family were sitting, watching them.
Laura looked at the floor as a blush started rising up her cheeks.
"Come on Laura, it's time for us to show off what Lawrence got." Mona said from the doorway.
Before Laura could leave, Deacon stopped her and looked carefully at the pin.
"It's just like my necklace." Deacon said in wonder.
"Yeah, that's why we got it." Laura said shyly as she looked him in the eyes.
The sound of Mona clearing her throat in the living room doorway broke the spell and Laura reluctantly left the room.
* * * * *
Lawrence walked into the living room wearing a long navy blue jacket and black slacks with a pastel yellow button-down shirt opened at the collar. The angel pin was on his lapel bringing the whole look together.
There was a long moment of silence as everyone marveled at the gender transition.
"It's like you can wear anything and look wonderful." Allen said in amazement.
"Yeah. You look great." Kenny said with wide eyes of wonder.
"Billy picked it out for me." Lawrence said shyly.
"You're just as beautiful as a guy as you are a girl." Deacon said with a loving twinkle in his eyes.
"Thank you." Lawrence whispered as his eyes began to shine with the beginnings of tears.
"Have you ever thought about modeling?" Billy asked suddenly.
Lawrence looked at Billy with surprise, then said, "No. I always thought I was funny looking."
Billy gently smiled and said, "You're absolutely beautiful. As soon as we've got all your legal stuff worked out, the two of us can sit down and talk about doing a photo shoot."
"Are you serious?" Lawrence asked with wide, disbelieving eyes.
"Totally serious. Now show us what else you've got." Billy finished with a smile.
Lawrence nodded and ran to change into his next outfit.
* * * * *
"That was really great Lawrence." Allen said with a smile as Mona took a seat beside Billy on the couch.
"Yeah. You got some really cool stuff." Kenny said happily.
"Yeah, I did." Lawrence said with a shy smile.
Deacon got the feeling that Lawrence might like a break from the spotlight and asked, "Jake, did you guys get your search stuff done?"
Jake glanced at Xain, then said, "I think we found what we were looking for. But we'll probably be going through some genealogy sites to try and find a family tree."
"Genealogy?" Lawrence asked hopefully.
"Yeah. Xain found out that he might have relatives on Earth, so we're trying to find them." Jake said honestly.
"Do you think you could do that for me?" Lawrence asked in a rush, sounding almost desperate.
"Sure, I guess so." Jake said with confusion at Lawrence's attitude.
"Come into the family room and we will initiate your search." Xain said in a neutral tone.
"Yeah. Thanks." Lawrence said quickly and hurried to the family room door.
When he got there, he looked back at Deacon, silently asking if he would join them.
Deacon smiled and walked to Lawrence's side.
* * * * *
"What search criteria will I be using?" Xain asked as he took his seat before the terminal.
"Um, I don't know." Lawrence said hesitantly.
"Why don't you tell us what you're trying to find out and we'll see what we can do." Jake suggested carefully.
"Okay. Well, I'm adopted. I guess when my mom married the guy I always thought was my dad, he adopted me and they changed my name. About three years ago he told me that adopting me was the biggest mistake he ever made... it really hurt my feelings at the time. I guess he knew that because I think he said it at least once a day since. Anyway, now I agree with him, he made a mistake. I wish he'd never have adopted me. At least I'd have a clue of where to start looking for my real father." Lawrence said distantly.
"Do you know your birth name?" Xain asked quietly.
"No. Mom never told me anything. She wouldn't talk about it at all." Lawrence said quietly.
Deacon hugged Lawrence gently and said, "Maybe we can find out something for you."
"With insufficient search criteria there is little I can do." Xain said in thought.
"What about that Clan thing you guys are a part of. Couldn't Sean and Cory help?" Deacon asked desperately as he held Lawrence close.
Xain looked at Deacon with surprise and said, "It is possible that Sean or Cory or others of our Clan Brothers would have the necessary skills and experience to find the requested information."
"Then let's call them." Jake said with a smile.
Xain's only response was to initiate the transmission.
"Clan Short." a small voice answered as a shock of bright red hair and a pair of gray eyes looked at them from the view screen.
"Hi Timmy. Would you tell one of your parents that Jake and Xain are calling?" Jake asked with a smile.
"Uh huh." Timmy said and his head ducked out of the view of the terminal.
Less than a minute later Sean appeared on the terminal and a second later Timmy was on his lap.
"What's up guys?" Sean asked in a friendly voice.
"Well, our friend Lawrence has a problem, and I thought you might be able to help him." Jake said honestly.
"Yeah, that's what we're all about. What can I do?" Sean asked pleasantly.
"Do you want me to tell him?" Deacon asked Lawrence carefully.
Lawrence smiled at Deacon and said, "No, I can do it. But thanks."
Deacon gave a happy smile and waited for Lawrence to continue.
"I don't know much. I guess I was adopted and had my name changed when I was still a baby. I don't know anything about my father." Lawrence said in a pained voice.
"Well, I can't make any promises, but if you'll give us some basic information, we'll see what we can find." Sean said in thought.
"What do you want to know?" Lawrence asked cautiously.
"Your full name." Sean said as he pressed some buttons to record the response.
"Lawrence Michael Winters."
* * * * *
"I think it's just about time for Kenny and Kevin to get to bed." Allen said as he looked at his sons.
"Can Grandma and Billy come up to say goodnight to us too?" Kevin asked hopefully.
Allen looked at Mona and Billy with question.
"You bet." Mona said as she stood.
"I'd love to." Billy said quietly with a loving look directed at Allen.
Kevin and Kenny raced ahead of the adults to go to their room.
"They're nothing like you were." Mona said as she walked at a casual pace toward the stairs.
"What do you mean?" Allen asked curiously as he followed.
"Getting you into bed was like trying to bathe a cat." Mona said with a smile.
"I bet I could get him into bed without a fight." Billy said with a wink at Allen.
"I bet you could at that." Mona said with a chuckle.
"Okay. That's enough of that. You two are not allowed to compare notes about me." Allen said firmly.
"After we get the boys tucked in, remind me to tell you where his tickle spot is." Mona said with a wide grin.
Billy laughed and said, "I'll do that Mona."
Allen shook his head in defeat as the three adults entered the boys' room.
* * * * *
"When do you think we'll know something?" Lawrence asked apprehensively.
"There is no way to predict if or when the information you seek will be available." Xain said honestly.
"The guys understand how important something like this is. They won't make you wait." Jake said seriously.
"Yeah, I guess." Lawrence said distantly as he held Deacon tightly.
"It'll be okay. I promise." Deacon whispered.
Lawrence looked at Deacon with a gentle smile and said, "That's what you said when you found me in the alley."
Deacon looked at Lawrence with confusion, then remembered saying those words to the trembling girl with the bloody lip.
"Did I lie?" Deacon asked carefully.
Lawrence smiled and said, "Not a bit."
"And I'm not lying now. Cory and Sean and their mom were able to fix it so I could stay with Billy. I'm sure they're going to be able to find your dad." Deacon said gently.
"Even if they don't. Thanks for trying." Lawrence said softly.
"Anything for my sister." Deacon said with a teasing smile.
"Brother at the moment." Lawrence said as he pulled away and made a sweeping gesture to indicate his jeans and t-shirt.
"Whatever you are, I'm just glad you're here." Deacon said happily.
Lawrence thought about the statement and quietly said, "So am I."
* * * * *
"Are you guys about ready to go?" Billy asked from the door of the family room.
"Yeah, I guess so." Deacon said reluctantly.
"Don't worry Deke, we'll be spending most of the day with these guys tomorrow." Billy said as he put a casual arm around his brother.
"Yeah. It's just been such a great day, I don't want it to end." Deacon said sadly.
"We will endeavor to make tomorrow another 'great day'." Xain said simply.
"Yeah, and every one after that." Jake said happily.
Deacon smiled at his friends and nodded.
"Do you require assistance transporting your gifts to your home?" Xain asked in a neutral tone.
"Yeah. And Lawrence has a bunch of stuff too." Deacon said with a smile at Lawrence.
"Then let's do it." Jake said and led the way out of the family room.
* * * * *
Allen and Mona were sitting in the family room, each thinking about the events of the day.
"How do you like my home?" Allen asked with a smile.
"Fishing for compliments?" Mona asked in a teasing tone.
"Fishing for approval from my mother." Allen said gently in return.
"You've got it. Your house is beautiful. Your friends are great and you have the most wonderful, incredible children I could imagine." Mona said peacefully.
"I think so too." Allen said with a grin.
"You've done it Allen. You have everything I ever dreamed of for you." Mona said as she looked at Allen with tears forming in her eyes.
"Almost everything. Billy and I are taking it slow... I'm afraid with everything going so well, something's going to happen to screw it up." Allen said with concern.
"Some people think that every moment of pleasure in life is purchased with a moment of pain." Mona said in thought.
"Yeah." Allen said distantly.
"They're wrong. There isn't some huge disaster waiting around the corner for you just because you're happy. Enjoy this time in your life Allen. These are the precious moments that you get to look back on and cherish later in your life." Mona said in a dreamy voice.
"Thanks Mona... He really is nice, isn't he?" Allen asked as he closed his eyes.
"Let's see, he's loyal, handsome, rich and has a gentle, loving nature. Nice is kind of an understatement." Mona said with a chuckle.
"I love him." Allen said as he opened his eyes to look at Mona.
"It shows Baby. And he loves you just as much." Mona said seriously.
"I hope we can make it work. With all the boys... I guess our own needs get put to the side." Allen said with a sad tone in his voice.
"That's one of the realities of having kids." Mona said frankly.
Allen nodded in acknowledgement.
[But you're my kid and I'll see to it that things work out.] Mona thought to herself.