One Door Closes

By MultiMapper
Copyright ©2002-2009 MultiMapper and CSU Productions.
All Rights Reserved.

For full disclaimer and Copyright information visit Copyright/Disclaimer Page. Continuation of viewing this document is deemed acceptance of all terms on the preceding link. While these stories are provided for free, I would appreciate it if those who were able would consider contributing to this artist via my Patreon.

CHAPTER 32

"Are you going to need any help showing the guys what to do?" Chip asked as he started to pick up equipment.

"I'm not a professional rider by any means, but I'm comfortable enough with riding that I can show the guys the basics." Allen said casually as he looked around.

"Okay, if you're sure. You should be able to find everything you need here in the tack room. There are some leads on that post if you want to walk them around for a while before letting the guys have full control." Chip said with a smile.

"Good idea. Small steps." Allen said with an affectionate glance at Deacon and Kenny.

Brady quietly followed behind Chip, picking up the things he would need to saddle a horse and handing them to Ricardo who was riding on his hip.

"Zephyr and Spirit are gentle enough for the boys and Chloe will take good care of you." Chip said as he handed some equipment to Kevin.

"They look like fine horses. I'm sure we'll be fine." Allen said with assurance.

"Come along 'Little One'. I'm going to show you how to saddle a horse." Chip said with a smile as he led the way out of the tack shed.

Allen noticed Kenny's distant expression and asked, "Are you doing alright Ken? You seem a little down."

Kenny looked at Allen and gave a hesitant nod as he said, "I was just thinking about Dad."

Allen immediately got an expression of concern as he tried to think of the right thing to say.

"Don't worry Pop. I'm not sad or anything like that. I was just thinking about how much Dad would have liked it here at Uncle Chip's house." Kenny said in a peaceful tone.

"I'm sure you're right, he would have loved it here. And I think Carl would have liked Chip too. Chip is the kind of honest, no nonsense person that your Dad liked to deal with." Allen said in thought.

"Yeah. Can we start riding now?" Kenny asked, wanting to change the subject.

"Sure, come on. I'll hand both of you what you'll be needing to saddle the horses." Allen said as he started walking around the tack room.

* * * * *

"Mamacita, would you like to care for Edovina while Uncle Spock takes us to gather child care supplies?" Xain asked as he walked into the kitchen.

"I would like that very much. However I am in the middle of preparing vegetables." Juana said as she continued to peel carrots.

"I'd like to hold her for a while. I mean, if you wouldn't mind." Laura asked hesitantly.

Jake stepped forward and said, "That would be great Laura. Vina hasn't had a chance to get to know you."

Laura smiled as Jake took Edovina from Xain's arms and settled her into Laura's.

"Can I get the house key from you Mamacita? We're going to pick up Kevin's milkshakes and enough stuff for Edovina for the rest of the night." Jake said as he walked to Juana.

"In my purse, in the chair beside Laura. My hands are wet." Juana said in frustration.

Jake walked to Juana's purse and easily found the keys.

"Did you need anything from the house while we're there?" Jake asked casually.

"Would you go to the apartment and get an extra change of clothes for Ricardo? I believe he will need them before the day is over. He is a boy playing outside, after all." Juana said tenderly.

"Sure thing. We'll be back soon. Don't eat without us." Jake said with a smile.

"You'd better hurry then. Once school lets out, all bets are off." Teri said seriously.

"Got it." Jake said with a chuckle and left the room.

* * * * *

"Thanks for helping me, Commander, I thought I remembered how to saddle a horse... I guess it's been longer than I thought." Brady said shyly.

"No problem. And while we're here, it's Chip, remember?" Chip asked seriously.

"Yes sir." Brady said formally, then broke into a smile.

Chip rolled his eyes, then walked back to his own horse.

"Once I'm on the horse, stand right here and I'll help you up." Chip said quietly to Kevin.

Kevin nodded in acknowledgement.

In one swift move, Chip mounted his stallion. Kevin took his position beside the horse, and a moment later was hoisted to sit in front of Chip.

"Did you see how Chip and Kevin did that?" Brady asked Ricardo gently.

Ricardo nodded slowly.

"Let's do the same thing. I'll get on the horse, then I'll lift you up." Brady said with a gentle smile.

Ricardo nodded with excitement.

Brady mounted his mare, not nearly as swiftly or gracefully as Chip... but he got up there.

After a moment to be sure of his balance, Brady reached down and took Ricardo's hand.

"Alley oop!" Brady said as he lifted Ricardo to sit in front of him.

"Do you want to come with us or go off on your own?" Chip asked as he got Kevin settled into place.

"Go ahead. I think we'll just walk for a few minutes until we're both used to balancing on the back of a living thing." Brady said as he gently hugged Ricardo.

"The boys will be out of school in about an hour and a half. Have fun." Chip said as he nudged his horse into a trot.

"You too." Brady said as he watched Chip and Kevin trot off.

* * * * *

"Pop?" Kenny asked in a voice of deep thought.

"What's wrong Ken?" Allen asked with concern as he led the boys around the field in front of the stable.

"Nothing's really wrong. I was just thinking about something and thought maybe you could help me sort it out." Kenny said carefully.

"Sure. Is it something private?" Allen asked carefully.

Kenny looked at Deacon and said, "No. Nothing like that. I was just thinking about Camp Little Eagle."

"What about it?" Allen asked seriously.

"Well, it's really nice there. It's not just a big building like my old school. I mean, my old school was kind of like being in a big box all day long. All the rooms were the same color and the lights made that funny buzz. The air was... different, not fresh like it is here. Camp Little Eagle is like going to camp. Each classroom has it's own little house and you get to go outside every time you go to a different class." Kenny said in thought.

"I guess I didn't think about it, but I can see how that would brighten your day." Allen commented.

"Yeah, well. I was thinking... I wanted to go to my old school so I could be with TJ and Charlie and Tiffany, but... I think that was because I didn't want to go someplace new where I didn't know anyone. But I know a lot of the people who'll be going to Camp Little Eagle. I mean, all my brothers will be there." Kenny said seriously.

"Okay, I can see that." Allen said as he turned his attention back to where he was leading the horses.

"But if I go to Camp Little Eagle, it's like I'm kind of saying I don't want to be friends with TJ and Charlie and Tiffany anymore. And it's not really like that." Kenny said in an imploring voice.

"I understand what you're saying." Allen said with a nod.

"But I think I'll like Camp Little Eagle a lot better and I really want to go there." Kenny said in turmoil.

"Well, there's something you should know that might make your decision a little easier." Allen said uneasily.

"What's that?" Kenny asked anxiously.

"When we moved to the new house, we moved out of your old school district. I've been trying to decide how to go about getting you enrolled, but it's going to be tough. I'd about half decided to use our old address on the paperwork since I still own the house." Allen said hesitantly.

"So there's a chance I couldn't go to my old school anyway?" Kenny said in surprise.

"That's right. From the few dealings I've had with your school in the past few years, I doubt that they'd be willing to bend their rules for us. They fought me tooth and nail when I wanted to keep you out of school for a few days after Carl died." Allen finished quietly.

"You don't have to lie for me Pop. I really want to go to Camp Little Eagle. But can we invite TJ and Charlie and Tiffany over sometimes?" Kenny asked hopefully.

"Sure Cute Stuff. In fact, if you wanted to, we could take them along with us for some of the sightseeing we do this weekend. I bet if you asked TJ's mom, she'd let him stay overnight one night." Allen said with a smile.

"Thanks Pop. That'd be great. I just don't want to lose my old friends because I made some new friends." Kenny said happily.

"That's good thinking. How are you doing Deacon? You're being awfully quiet." Allen asked as he shifted his gaze.

"I was just thinking about where I'm going to go to school." Deacon said seriously.

"Well, you've seen Camp Little Eagle. What would you think about going there?" Allen asked seriously.

"It's a nice place. I'm just... well, I'm not sure." Deacon said slowly.

"When Sean and Cory get back from school you can talk to them about it. I'm sure they'll be able to answer all your questions. I bet they'd love it if you'd go to school with them." Allen said with encouragement.

After a long moment of silence, Deacon quietly asked, "But what about Laura?"

"What about her?" Allen asked, matching Deacon's quiet tone.

"I mean, I don't know if they'll want her there because she's... different." Deacon said slowly.

"Don't worry about that Deacon. I don't know everything about the Camp, but I know my brothers in the Clan. They don't look at how someone is different, they just look at how we're all the same. But if it will make you feel better, I'll make you a promise." Kenny said seriously.

"What's that?" Deacon asked slowly.

"If they won't take Laura at Camp Little Eagle then I won't go either. I'm sure they'll take her, but if they won't for some reason, we'll go somewhere else." Kenny said firmly.

Deacon broke into a smile and said, "Yeah. Me too. If the three of us stick together, we'll make sure Laura gets into someplace nice."

"I bet if I talked to Jake and Xain and Kevin, they'd go along with it too. I know Jake would, he really likes Laura." Kenny said with a smile.

Deacon gave Kenny a questioning look of concern.

"Not like that. I mean that Jake likes Laura like a friend. Jake would never make a move on Laura. I've seen how he looks at Xain, it's the same dopey look that Pop used to give Dad." Kenny finished with a mischievous smile at Allen.

"Just you wait Cute Stuff. One of these days very soon you'll find someone to look at like that, then I'll get to tease you about it." Allen said in a teasing voice.

"You'll be too busy looking at Billy to notice." Kenny said with a laugh.

Deacon chuckled at Allen's surprised expression.

"Are you guys okay with that?" Allen asked cautiously.

"Yeah Pop. I know you loved Dad and miss him as much as I do. That don't mean you can't love Billy too." Kenny said gently.

"I already told Billy that it's okay with me." Deacon said honestly.

"Thanks guys. When I get you off those horses, I owe you both a big hug." Allen said with a smile.

* * * * *

"You seem kind of quiet Joe. Is everything okay?" Billy asked with concern.

"Yeah, I'm just trying to adjust to everything. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do now." Joe said distantly.

"What do you want to do?" Billy asked simply.

"Right this minute I just want to hold my son and tell him that I love him." Joe said with a helpless smile at Billy.

"Why don't you?" Billy asked seriously.

Joe looked at Billy with question.

"Laura is in the kitchen. I can't think of one good reason you can't just go in there right now and tell her that you love her." Billy said frankly.

"You're right. Do you want to come with me?" Joe asked as he stood.

"I wouldn't miss it." Billy said with a smile.

* * * * *

"You look really good with her." Christine said as she watched Laura holding Edovina.

"Yeah. She's so beautiful." Laura said in contentment.

"My granddaughter seems to like you as well." Juana said with a smile at Edovina's expression of wonder.

"Do you think that you'll have one of your own someday?" Mona asked Laura gently.

"I don't' know. I guess I never really thought about it. I kind of figured that being... um, like I am, that I'd never have the chance." Laura said hesitantly.

"Well, just because you wear a dress doesn't mean you can't father a child. You might even find a nice girl and get married someday and have a whole squad of them." Mona said with a peaceful, distant expression.

Laura looked at Mona with absolute confusion.

Mona noticed Laura's questioning look and said, "I admit that it's a challenge to find women who are okay with the cross-dressing thing, but there are a few out there. Hell, if I found the right guy and he was into that, it wouldn't bother me a bit... Hopefully we'd be close to the same dress size."

"You think I'm straight?" Laura asked hesitantly.

"No. I mean, I never assumed anything either way." Mona said seriously.

"I'm a guy that wears dresses. Doesn't that mean I'm gay?" Laura asked slowly.

"No sweetie. Wanting to have sex with men means you're gay. Wearing a dress means you like to feel pretty. Just because I wear tennis shoes doesn't mean I play tennis. One doesn't have anything to do with the other." Mona said with certainty.

"But... What about all those drag queens?" Laura sputtered.

"Drag queens are men who dress as women to put on a show. Most of the ones I know live their lives as men and just dress up for fun on the weekends. And yes, most of them are gay. You, my dear, are a different breed. You like to dress as a woman to feel pretty and comfortable. You don't do it to show off for everyone else, you do it for yourself." Mona said softly.

"I always thought that because I wear dresses that I'm automatically gay." Laura said in a daze.

"Well, it's possible that you are gay. That's something you'll have to figure out for yourself... But there's no reason you have to figure it out today." Mona said with a serious look into Laura's eyes.

Laura gave a gentle smile and a nod.

"Now, what I want to know is if anyone has any idea how we can get Billy and Allen together?" Mona finished with a mischievous smile.

"They've got it bad don't they?" Teri asked with a chuckle.

"Yeah. They're so cute together." Laura said fondly.

"I believe Allen and Billy need some time alone." Juana said seriously.

"That can be quite a trick with kids." Teri said absently as she walked to the table and cut a piece of the coffee cake.

"I think that's what's holding them back." Mona said with a nod.

"I can attend to the children if we can find a place for the men to be alone." Juana said in thought.

"What about Billy's place? Deacon and I could go over to Allen's and hang out while Allen and Billy have their date." Laura said cautiously.

"That could work. I just don't know how we'll get them there. Does anyone have any ideas? I'm not good at being sneaky." Mona said carefully.

"I do not know these men, but it sounds like you all love them. If they are interested in each other and you tell them that you would like to provide them time together, they might agree." Hazel said as she worked on chunking pieces of fruit.

"Hmmm. Honesty... You know, it's just crazy enough that it might work." Christine said in thought.

Edovina wiggled in Laura's arms and got her attention.

A flash of inspiration came over her and she said, "What about Xain and Jake? Can't we give them some time together too?"

Teri and Mona exchanged a look that appeared to be telepathic communication for a moment.

"I wouldn't mind having the other boys over at my house for a night. We have plenty of room." Teri said speculatively.

Juana got a distant look and said, "I could prepare a romantic dinner for the two of them, then go to my apartment."

"Oh, that sounds wonderful. Do you think Deacon and I could help somehow?" Laura asked hopefully.

"If you and Deacon will take care of things at Billy's house, we'll enlist Kenny and Kevin's help at Allen's." Helen said in thought.

"What did you have in mind?" Teri asked in a conspiratorial voice.

"A romantic dinner sounds like the perfect beginning. If Juana takes care of Xain and Jake's dinner, I could take care of Billy and Allen's. Then Laura and the boys could take care of the finishing touches to make the evening perfect. Things like... flowers, candles... maybe some romantic music." Helen said with a dreamy expression.

"I'm scared of what some of the boys might think is 'romantic'." Christine said with a chuckle.

"Good point. We'll need to supervise them. I'd hate for Billy and Allen to sit down to the perfect dinner to the soundtrack from 'Mortal Kombat'." Teri said with a smile.

"That sounds like something Justy would do." Hazel said with a laugh.

"Or Cory." Teri said with a nod and a chuckle.

"Then when everything is in place, we could all come back to Teri's house for the rest of the evening and let nature take it's course." Helen said with a delighted smile.

"When are we going to do all this?" Mona asked hesitantly.

"Well, tonight we're all at this gathering. Do you think anyone has any plans for tomorrow?" Teri said carefully.

"Billy and Deacon haven't mentioned anything about plans. If it would help, I could ask." Laura offered cautiously.

"That's a good idea. I'm pretty sure I can get Allen to tell me if he has anything planned." Mona said in thought.

"It sounds like we've got the beginnings of a plan. So what do you think we should make them for dinner?' Teri asked with a calculating twinkle in her eyes.

Juana dried her hands as Hazel moved a saucepan off the burner of the stove.

Within seconds all the women were gathered around the table, making plans.

* * * * *

"Well it looks like all the guests are entertaining themselves right now. Is there anything you'd like to do Reuben?" JC asked as they watched Billy and Joe walk into the house.

"Could I look at your house? I only got to see a couple rooms so far and it's really big and nice." Reuben said hopefully.

"That sounds like a great idea. Let's go in the kitchen and see if anyone else would like a guided tour of Southcrest." JC said with a smile as he took Reuben's hand.

"Do you have any kids?" Reuben asked as he walked with JC.

"Yeah, a bunch. You'll get to meet them when school lets out." JC said as they walked into the house.

"I don't have a Dad anymore, he left us. I wish I had a Dad like you." Reuben said quietly.

JC stopped and picked Reuben up.

"I tell you what Reuben. I may not be your Dad, but I am *A* dad. So if you ever need someone to do dad things with or if you have a question that only a dad can answer, all you have to do is call me. Allen has my number and you can call me anytime." JC said seriously.

"Uncle Allen and Uncle Brady do lots of dad stuff and they always make sure that Ricardo and I are included. It's just... I just like you." Reuben said as he hugged JC tightly.

"I like you too Reuben. Now let's find out if anyone is interested in taking a tour." JC said, then gave Reuben a gentle kiss on the cheek.

Reuben nodded in agreement, then laid his head on JC's shoulder and continued to hug him.

* * * * *

"Thank you for driving us Uncle Spock." Jake said seriously.

"It was logical for me to do so." Spock said without inflection.

"Yeah. I guess so. It's just nice because, I don't know, you're a lot like Xain so it makes it kind of special." Jake said with difficulty.

"Are you referring to our mixed parentage?" Xain asked curiously.

"No. I mean, maybe a little. But it's more like, I feel like Uncle Spock understands us better than just about anyone... well, except Dad." Jake said in thought.

Xain arched an eyebrow in inquiry.

"When we talk with someone like Billy, I get this feeling like they're trying to understand things about us, but just don't entirely get it. It was kind of the same with Sopek and your father. When we talk with Uncle Spock, it just seems like he gets it. Like we're on the same wavelength or something." Jake said seriously.

"I believe I understand and concur with your observation." Xain said carefully.

"That being the case, perhaps you could tell me of the circumstances by which you became T'hy'la." Spock said with interest.

Jake looked at Xain with a smile, encouraging him to tell the story.

"As I mentioned earlier, I sought to ease Jake's distress by lending of my control. During the process of the mind-meld, our bond formed." Xain said carefully.

"Interesting." Spock said as he exited the freeway.

"Dad was... displeased that I had chosen to perform a mind-meld without his knowledge or consent." Xain said slowly.

"He was just worried that we might be hurt if it was done wrong." Jake quickly interjected.

"A reasonable concern." Spock acknowledged.

"When Dad learned of our bonding his only concern was that the bond might not be appropriately formed. Otherwise he has been encouraging and supportive of our relationship." Xain said carefully.

"I can anticipate many unfortunate reactions to such a development. It is good to know that Clan Short's choice of guardian was adequate." Spock said in a measured tone.

Spock maneuvered the car into the driveway and came to a stop.

"If you will gather the supplies for Edovina, I will get Kevin's nutritional supplements." Xain said as he got out of the car.

"Will you help me, Uncle Spock? I need to get a lot of stuff." Jake asked hopefully as he walked to unlock the front door for Xain.

Spock followed without comment.

* * * * *

Joe walked into the kitchen and got a curious look as the huddle of women hushed and turned to look at him.

Amongst the women, Joe saw Laura smiling and holding a baby in her arms.

"Hi Dad. Is everything okay?" Laura asked hesitantly.

Joe walked to her and said, "Everything is fine. I just wanted to come in here and tell you how much I love you."

Laura awkwardly got up from her chair and stood before her father as the group of women stood back to give them some space.

"Billy promised that you wouldn't get tired of hearing it." Joe said with a smile as he gently hugged Laura, being careful not to squish Edovina.

Tears welled up in Laura's eyes as she whispered, "He's right. I love you too daddy."

All the ladies looked on with wistful smiles at the touching scene.

"I'll go back outside now, that's all I wanted to do." Joe said quietly as he released her from the hug.

"Thanks daddy. I really needed to hear it again." Laura said as she wiped the tears from her eyes with her free hand.

Joe leaned in and gave Laura a gentle kiss on the cheek, then tickled Edovina under the chin for a few seconds before turning to leave.

JC was lost in his own thoughts after witnessing the touching scene then snapped out of his trance and said, "Reuben suggested that it might be a good idea if I show you around Southcrest. If anyone is interested in taking the grand tour, come with me."

Billy looked at Joe and gave a shrug.

Joe nodded in return and the pair moved to follow JC.

Laura looked at her father, then at the baby in her arms, trying to decide what to do.

"I need to spend some quality time with my great-granddaughter. Go on and spend some time with that sweet man you call daddy." Mona said with a smile.

"Thanks grandma." Laura said quickly and transferred Edovina into Mona's waiting arms.

* * * * *

Chip slowed the horse's pace and quietly asked, "Do you know why people get married?"

"So their kids won't be bastards." Kevin said honestly.

Chip chuckled at the statement and said, "That's one of the benefits, but it's not the main reason. Why do you think people get married?"

Kevin thought seriously about the question and finally said, "Maybe it's so they can live together and no one will say nothing bad about them."

Chip thought about the response and said, "It doesn't have anything to do with what anyone else says or about kids. Marriage is about two people loving each other."

Kevin shook his head and said, "I used to think that, but I don't think it works like that."

"Why not?" Chip asked with surprise.

"Because I've met a lot of married people and they wasn't in love." Kevin said seriously.

"Tell me about them." Chip asked with interest as he held Kevin a little more tightly.

"Well, my momma was married to my dad, but she hated him. She told me he was dead because she hated him so much." Kevin said honestly.

"I'm sure your momma was just hurting." Chip said in thought.

"Mamacita is married to her husband, but he left when Ricardo wasn't even born yet. Reuben says that sometimes late at night he hears his momma crying about it. So marriage can't be about love. You couldn't hurt someone you love like that." Kevin said seriously.

"Well sometimes people make some selfish choices..." Chip tried to explain.

"Most of the guys who would whore with Jake and Lupe was married. I don't think being married has anything to do with love. All I know is that if your parents are married when you're born and you get your daddy's name, then you're not a bastard. That's the only good thing I've seen that comes from being married." Kevin said with certainty.

Chip held Kevin tightly to his chest and said, "I'm sorry you've seen all those things. You need to understand about love and marriage."

"I understand about love." Kevin said simply.

"Tell me about love." Chip said as he loosened his hug.

"Love is nice. Love is what Xain and Jake have. Deacon loves Laura and I think Poppa loves Billy." Kevin said with a smile.

"What do you think would happen if your Poppa and Billy got married?" Chip asked cautiously.

"Billy would probably move in with us... I guess Deacon and Laura would move in with us too." Kevin said in thought.

"Would your Poppa and Billy still be in love?" Chip asked in a leading tone.

"Yeah. For a while." Kevin said slowly in deep concentration.

"What do you mean 'for a while'?" Chip asked cautiously.

"Love is nice, but it goes away." Kevin said in a quieter voice.

"Why do you think that?" Chip asked seriously.

"Because it does. People fall in love, but then they fall back out or go away or die or something." Kevin said simply.

"Kevin, love can really last forever." Chip said softly.

Kevin shook his head and said, "I never saw no one stay in love. It's great and feels really good and happy... but then it goes away."

"Parents love their kids, that love doesn't go away." Chip said, hoping that it would help to make his point.

"My Momma left me and Kenny alone. My Dad left Kenny when he died. Reuben and Ricardo's dad left. Jake's dad and mom left. Xain's mom left." Kevin said seriously.

"But Juana didn't leave. Neither did Allen." Chip said cautiously.

"Not yet." Kevin said in a whisper.

Chip tightened his hug and said, "You expect them to leave you someday don't you."

"Yeah. But I just have to get all the love I can now while they're still here so I can have it when they're gone." Kevin said honestly.

"Oh my Little One, I wish there was something I could do to prove to you that love can last forever." Chip said in a pained voice.

"Please don't feel bad Uncle Chip. That's just the way it is. We have to love each other today because it might be gone tomorrow. That's why I can't wait. I really really love you." Kevin said sincerely.

Chip leaned down to place a small kiss on the top of Kevin's head, then coaxed his horse into a faster pace as he thought about the things Kevin had revealed.

* * * * *

"Um, Ken? You never told me what happened to your Dad. I mean, I figured out that he died from what I've overheard but... um, I mean, I'm just kind of curious." Deacon said uncomfortably.

Kenny looked at Allen, then back to Deacon as he said, "I really don't feel like talking about it right now. If you'll ask me later I'll tell you."

Deacon nodded.

Allen noticed the dark mood that had descended on their little group and said, "It looks like you guys are comfortable enough with the horses that we can go riding now. Are you ready?"

"Yeah. Thanks Pop." Kenny said with a gentle smile.

Allen disconnected the leads and draped them over the fence before mounting his own horse and saying, "Come on, we're going to go nice and slow for a few minutes while you figure out how to let your horses know what you expect them to do. Just watch me and do what I do."

Allen shook his reigns and nudged his mare gently to get her to start walking. A moment later both boys were following.

* * * * *

"Uncle Spock, would you mind if I asked you a question?" Jake asked hesitantly as he gathered extra diapers and clothes for Edovina.

"Proceed." Spock said without inflection.

"Um, I don't really know what I'm asking but, I just wanted to know if... I want to know how to make Xain happy. I mean, I know because of our bond that he's okay now but... I don't know about Vulcan stuff and I don't want him to feel like he has to live like a Human because he's with me... Does that make any sense?" Jake asked with difficulty.

"Although your query was disjointed, I believe I understand the underlying sentiment. You seem to be working under the assumption that given the choice, Xain would embrace Vulcan culture and is conforming to Human culture to accommodate you. The reality may be otherwise. I advise that you speak honestly with your mate about this matter." Spock said seriously.

"Yeah, I guess so. I just feel funny talking about Vulcan stuff with him sometimes. It's like, that's something that's his personal stuff. If I try to share it with him, I feel like I'm messing with something that belongs just to him. But if I don't share it with him it's like I'm... I don't know, maybe acting like I'm not interested or ashamed or something." Jake said as he searched for words.

"I understand. I will again advise you to be honest with your mate. Once your concerns have been discussed, I believe the logical resolution to the matter will be for each of you to clearly define your expectations in regard to your cultural identity and participation. It is possible that you will choose to incorporate the most desirable components of both cultures into your lives." Spock said reasonably.

Jake smiled and said, "Thanks Uncle Spock. I was really confused about all that stuff before, that helped a lot."

"Such are the duties of an Uncle." Spock said without inflection.

Jake grinned at the response and completed his tasks by grabbing an extra set of clothes for Ricardo, then on impulse he picked up some extra short pants for both boys.

* * * * *

As they rode, Kevin absently began to play with Chip's ring.

"Do you know what kind of ring that is?" Chip asked casually.

"Gold?" Kevin replied as he looked more closely at the ring on Chip's finger.

"It's a wedding ring, do you know what that means?" Chip asked in a leading tone.

"I guess." Kevin said in a small voice.

"It means that I'm married to your Uncle Josh." Chip said in a clear voice.

"What do you do with the ring when you get divorced?" Kevin asked curiously.

"We're not going to get divorced." Chip said firmly.

"But if it's like you say and people get married because they're in love, then when they're not in love anymore they get divorced." Kevin said in thought.

"It works that way with some people, but not the ones who are really in love." Chip said as he held Kevin tighter, feeling sympathy for the boy who had such a distorted view of the world.

"But you *might* get divorced." Kevin said as he tilted his head back to look up at Chip.

"No Kevin. I love Josh completely and we won't ever get divorced." Chip said firmly.

Kevin held tightly to the arms that were wrapped around his waist and silently thought about what had been said.

* * * * *

After looking at the weight room, Laura pulled her father aside and quietly asked, "Would you like it better if I changed now?"

Joe looked at Laura and honestly said, "Now that I've had some time to adjust to this I don't mind either way. You do what makes you most comfortable."

Laura quickly pulled her father close and kissed his cheek before saying, "Thanks Daddy, I'll be right back. I really planned on being a boy today, I just wanted to be honest with you before you decided for sure to be my Dad."

"I'll always be your Dad. Nothing will ever change that. I promise." Joe said softly as he looked into her eyes.

"Thank you, I love you." Laura said in a tearful voice before dashing away.

* * * * *

Chip noticed Brady and Ricardo on horseback, wandering at a leisurely pace and guided his horse to move along side them.

"How are you two doing Brady?" Chip asked as he slowed his horse to match Brady's pace.

"We're fine, Sir." Brady said automatically.

"You just can't make yourself call me Chip, can you?" Chip asked with a twinkle of humor in his eyes.

"No, Sir. I guess I can't," Brady said shyly.

"Well you can call me Commander or Sir if that's what makes you most comfortable. Just as long as you know that I don't require it." Chip said with a genuine smile.

"Thank you Sir. I appreciate that." Brady said shyly.

"Hi Uncle Brady." Kevin said with a beaming smile.

"Hello Kevin. Are you enjoying your ride?" Brady asked quietly.

"Uh huh. It's fun." Kevin said as he snuggled back into Chip's chest.

"We're having fun too." Ricardo said happily from Brady's embrace.

Chip looked fondly at the young boy beaming with happiness and said, "You two have fun, we're going for a run now."

Brady smiled and nodded as Chip nudged his horse into a full gallop and raced away with squeals of delight coming from Kevin.

* * * * *

"Hi Lawrence, I thought we'd lost you." JC said as the group started walking up the stairs.

"I just wanted to change into my 'boy clothes' before the guys got out of school." Lawrence said timidly.

"I don't think any of the boys would have minded if you stayed dressed the other way." JC said in a soft voice of assurance.

Lawrence smiled at the statement and said, "I don't know if they would or not, but it's not really about them. I try to keep my school life separate from my home life. From now on I think I want my 'girl thing' to be just for at home with my family."

"Whatever makes you most comfortable Lawrence. Just as long as you know that we don't expect you to be one way or the other." JC said assuringly.

"Thank you JC... I always had a feeling that you'd be nice, but you're really great." Lawrence said with a shy smile.

"Thank you. Now come on and I'll show you the upstairs." JC said with a hint of a blush at the sincere compliment.

* * * * *

After putting the baby supplies into the car, Jake said, "Xain is in the family room getting a message from Father. Let's go get some swimming trunks for Kenny and Kevin."

Spock nodded, then asked, "You refer to he who is Xain's father as 'Father'?"

"Yeah, he said it was okay since I'm Xain's T'hy'la." Jake said casually as they walked toward the stairs.

"In the event that you are unaware of the significance, his invitation for you to call him Father is a declaration of acceptance." Spock said seriously.

"I thought it was something like that. Xain sent me something like pride and happiness through our bond when Father said it." Jake said as they reached Kenny and Kevin's room.

Spock stopped inside the door of the room and considered for a moment while Jake got swimming trunks for Kenny and Kevin.

Jake walked to Spock and raised an eyebrow in question.

Spock noticed the inquisitive look and asked, "Are you aware of the difficulties that Humans tend to have in the company of Vulcans?"

"Dad said something about misunderstandings because Humans like to say stupid things that don't make sense." Jake said as he led Spock into his room to get swimming trunks for Xain and himself.

"There is that. Also, I have noticed that Humans sometimes feel frustration at the feeling of being unable to express themselves fully." Spock said in thought.

"Oh yeah. I kinda felt like that a few times, but Father straightened it out for me." Jake said absently as he joined Spock back at the door with the swimming trunks in hand.

Spock raised an eyebrow as a prompt for further explanation.

"He said that I'm a Human, so I'm supposed to act like a Human. To expect me to do otherwise would be illogical." Jake said as he started down the stairs.

"An enlightened view, and quite logical." Spock said in a considering voice.

"Yeah. It took a lot of pressure off me. If it wasn't for him saying that, I'd probably try to act like a Vulcan all the time to try and make Xain comfortable. Now I just act a little 'Vulcany' now and then, it's kind of my way of saying 'pay attention, I'm serious'. " Jake said as he led the way into the family room.

"Father asked me to express to you his hope that you are well." Xain said as Jake and Spock approached.

"When you talk to him again, tell him that I am well and hope that he is too." Jake said as he stood by Xain's side.

"Would you like to check your email before we return to Southcrest?" Xain asked casually.

Jake smiled, knowing that Xain's question held more emotion than he was showing.

"Sure, let's see if Kennon sent you an answer." Jake said with a smile.

Xain stood and Jake took his place before the terminal.

* * * * *

"How are you doing son?" Joe asked in a whisper as the group headed down the stairs.

"I'm good. I don't think I've ever been this happy." Lawrence whispered in reply.

"I think the tour is about over, do you want to go back to the kitchen or come outside with me and Billy?" Joe asked quietly.

Lawrence smiled and said, "If you wouldn't mind, I'd like to come with you."

Joe turned to Billy, and in a louder voice asked, "Do you mind if my son joins us outside?"

Billy smiled at Lawrence and said, "Of course I don't mind. Come on little brother, let's hang out by the pool like rich folks."

Lawrence moved between Billy and Joe and pulled them both into a quick hug as they continued to walk.

* * * * *

>From: kwerner2003@..
>Date: Tue Sep 28, 2004 09:04 am
>Subject: Re: Mariah Elaine Werner
>
>Thank you for answering my question Jake. Thanks to you
>providing me with the name Solak I was able to retrieve
>the official records of what happened to my Aunt.
>
>While I was looking for more information about my Aunt
>and the man she married, I came across a recent entry
>that stated Jake Thompson was recognized as a son of
>Solak. I don't know enough about Vulcan customs to know
>how or why that is, but it probably means that you live
>on Vulcan.
>
>I hate to ask for a favor from you, but since you've
>helped me once, I'm going to ask anyway. If it's
>possible, would you please give my cousin Xain a
>message from me?
>
>Please just tell him that his cousin Kennon is on Earth.
>Let him know that I'm not like our grandfather and that
>if he is ever on Earth or wants to contact me, that I'd
>really like to get to know him. If not, that's okay.
>Grandfather hurt a lot of people, so I understand.
>
>Kennon Werner
>

"What do you say T'hy'la? Do you want to talk to him?" Jake asked quietly.

Xain seemed to be lost in thought for a moment before turning away from the terminal.

"Uncle Spock, I am experiencing a state of apprehension at the possibility of establishing contact with this person who is, in all probability, my cousin. I am unsure of the source of the apprehension and believe the emotion might effect my ability to make a sound decision in this matter. However, until

the matter is resolved, I do not foresee an end to the apprehension. Could you please advise me on the appropriate way to expedite this matter?" Xain asked reasonably.

"What are the choices you face?" Spock asked seriously.

"I must choose whether to accept contact with Kennon and face the possibility of being rejected as my mother was, or reject contact and lose the possibility of contact with my Human family." Xain said in thought.

Spock looked at Xain in thought for a moment, then said, "The Vulcan method of dealing with this matter would involve introspection, meditation and a detailed analysis of the emotional reaction. The next logical step would be to gather all the facts about your decision and forecast all the possible outcomes, then choose that which is most desirable. It is not possible to calculate the amount of time needed to bring this matter to resolution with any accuracy. The entire process should take 1.6 to 3.2 days... statistically speaking."

Jake looked at Spock with wide eyes at the statement.

After a pause to allow Xain to ponder that possibility, Spock continued, "The Human method for resolving this issue will take 0.1 to 0.3 seconds and would only require that you accept the decision as final once it has been made."

"I believe I would like to attempt to resolve this matter by the Human method. What must I do?" Xain asked seriously as Jake looked on in disbelief.

"Flip a coin."

* * * * *

"How did you like that, Little One?" Chip asked as he slowed the horse to a slow trot.

"It was fun. I love it here, Uncle Chip." Kevin said through his giggles of delight.

"Are you happy living with Allen and your brothers?" Chip asked with concern.

"Yeah. Poppa is really nice and he loves all of us a lot." Kevin said as he finally began to settle.

Chip nodded as he turned his horse back toward the stable.

"But if I was your boyfriend, Poppa would still love me and so would all my brothers." Kevin said in a considering voice.

"Kevin, there's no way someone your age should ever have a boyfriend my age." Chip said firmly.

"Jake had boyfriends older than you when he wasn't much older than me." Kevin said seriously.

"I think you know that those weren't his boyfriends. They didn't love him." Chip said gently.

Kevin thought about the words as they rode at a gentle pace.

"So does that mean it's wrong for us to do boyfriend stuff unless you pay me?" Kevin finally asked in confusion.

"No Little One. That's not what I meant at all." Chip said as he hugged Kevin gently with one arm.

"I love you Uncle Chip. If it's like you say and love is forever, then I'll always love you." Kevin said with certainty.

"Let's head back to the house now. I think it's just about time for us to have that talk I've been putting off." Chip said in thought.

Kevin didn't respond as he held tightly to Chip's arm wrapped around him.

To Be Continued...