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"Patriarch Short?" A uniformed officer asked expectantly as the group stepped off the shuttle.
"Right here." Cory said as he made his way to the front of the group.
"Welcome to Provo Patriarch Short. I'm officer Flatley and I've been assigned to provide whatever assistance you might need during your visit to our city." The officer said seriously.
"Thank you officer Flatley. We will need transport to the police station so we may interview Ms. Harris." Cory said cautiously, not quite accustomed to being treated as a visiting dignitary.
"There is a van right over here that should be able to accommodate your entire party. I had hoped to get you something more comfortable, but this was the best I could do on such short notice." The officer said as he led the way.
Cory looked at the van and said, "It is acceptable."
* * * * *
"How are you doing Vince?" Lawrence asked as he approached JJ and Adam's table.
"Fine. But I'm starting to feel really tired." Vincent said in a small voice.
"Why don't you come into the house and lay down for a while? The doctor said that if you're tired you should rest." Lawrence said with concern.
"Okay." Vincent said weakly as he slowly stood.
"Do you want us to go with you to keep you company?" Gabe asked quietly.
"No thanks. You've all been really nice, but I just need to rest for a while." Vincent said as he walked to Lawrence's side.
"Come on." Lawrence said as he carefully put his hand on Vincent's shoulder.
"Could you not touch me please?" Vincent asked in a soft voice.
"Whatever you want Vince." Lawrence said as he withdrew his hand.
"I don't hate you or nothin. But I know you're qu... gay and I just don't want you to touch me." Vincent said in an even quieter voice.
"It's okay Vince. As long as you'll let me know if I do something that makes you uncomfortable, I won't be mad." Lawrence said assuringly.
"Okay. That's good." Vincent said without emotion.
"Daddy, I'm going to take Vincent inside for a while. He's feeling tired and the doctor said he can't be left alone." Lawrence said as they walked to Joe and Mona's table.
"Since Mona is off with her sons I'm not doing anything right now. I can stay with Vincent if you'd like." Joe said frankly.
"What do you say Vince?" Lawrence asked carefully.
"Yeah. I like your dad. Maybe we can talk about some Starfleet stuff while I'm resting." Vincent said, sounding slightly more energetic.
Joe smiled and stood.
"Thanks Daddy." Lawrence said gently.
"Why don't you spend some time with Deacon while we're gone?" Joe suggested with a wink.
"Yeah, I will. Thanks." Lawrence said shyly, then gave his father a kiss on the cheek.
"Come on Champ. Let's get you inside where you can get some rest." Joe said to Vincent as he gestured toward the house.
Vincent hesitantly stepped to Joe's side and put an arm around his waist.
Joe smiled and let his hand drop and come to rest on Vincent's shoulder.
As Lawrence watched his father and brother walk toward the house he absently said, "Good for you Daddy."
* * * * *
"Hey Josh, do you mind if I use your computer for a few minutes?" Billy asked as he approached Chip and JC's table with Allen, Brady and Mona following him.
"Sure. You should have all the access you'll need with the guest account. The login and password are both 'guest'." JC said as he looked at the group.
"Thanks, this won't take long. I just have one thing to do that can't wait until I get home... if it isn't already too late." Billy said in thought.
"What would that be?" Chip asked curiously.
"That's a strictly 'Need to Know' matter Commander." Mona said before Billy could answer.
"And I don't need to know?" Chip asked hesitantly.
"Not until Friday afternoon." Mona said with a smile.
Chip and JC watched as Mona and her sons walked toward the house.
"Mona's making the arrangements?" JC asked in a cautious voice.
"We'll have a great time no matter where we go because we'll be together." Chip said with a smile to his husband.
"Have you ever *been* to a tractor pull?" JC asked frankly.
Chip looked at JC curiously, then toward the house with concern.
* * * * *
"Hello, I'm Craig Horton, the Chief of Police. Please feel free to ask for anything you might need to make your stay in Provo more comfortable." The distinguished man said with genuine courtesy.
"Thank you sir. I would appreciate it if you would allow us to see Ms. Harris as soon as possible." Cory said, trying to maintain his professional demeanor.
"Of course. We're just getting the room set up so you can all be comfortable... we weren't expecting so many of you. Maybe we could get the official business out of the way while the room is being prepared?" Chief Horton said respectfully.
"Of course." Cory said impassively.
"If your party could just sign in and provide identification for our records. By the time we're finished we should be ready to go into the visitation room." The Police Chief said professionally.
"It is acceptable." Cory said as he walked to the main desk.
"May I see your identification?" The young officer behind the desk asked politely.
Cory handed his Vulcan ID to the officer and waited patiently as the officer wrote information from the ID into a notebook.
"Thank you Patriarch Short. If you'll step to the end of the desk, Officer Rivers will need to search you for weapons before you can enter the visitation area." The young officer said as he returned Cory's ID.
Cory nodded peacefully as he walked to stand before the slightly older officer at the end of the desk.
"I'm sorry we have to do this, but I'd hate for our prisoner to find a way to injure you or take you hostage." Officer Rivers said seriously as he moved the metal detector wand over Cory's body.
The tone of the metal detector went up slightly when it passed over Cory's chest.
"A necklace?" Officer Rivers asked professionally.
"A key." Cory said as he pulled the key on a chain out of his shirt.
"I'm sorry Patriarch Short, but that key could conceivably be used as a weapon. If you'll leave it here with me, I promise to return it as soon as you're finished with your interview." The officer said with concern in his voice.
Cory thought for a second. The lock that the key fit into was back in Iowa. The key was now a symbol of the love and belief of his family.
"I'm Patriarch Short's personal security. Can you make an exception in your policy if I give you my personal assurance that Ms. Harris will not be allowed within three feet of Patriarch Short at any time during the interview?" Matt asked forcefully.
The Police Chief looked at Matt consideringly for a moment before Cory said, "No. Officer Rivers' reasoning is logical. Besides, the most effective security is the kind that's in place 'before' you need it."
"I can see why you're the Patriarch. If more people were smart enough to adopt that philosophy it would make our jobs a lot easier." Chief Horton said seriously.
Cory handed his key to Officer Rivers and said, "The only claim I can make to being 'smart' is that I try to be smart enough to listen to the people around me when they give me good advice."
The police chief laughed and said, "Is that all? Hell, if we could get the people of Provo to do that, they wouldn't need a police department."
Cory stepped away from the desk to allow Sean to be scanned and said, "The trick is to figure out which advice is good."
"Very true." The Chief said with a smile.
* * * * *
"Hey Champ, how are you feeling?" Joe asked as he led Vincent to the couch in the living room.
"Just tired, and my eyes are going a little bit funny again." Vincent said as he sat down.
"Wait here for a second, I've met two doctors since I got here, I'll get one of them to have a look at you just to make sure that you're going to be okay." Joe said with concern.
"Okay." Vincent said weakly as he rested back into the couch.
Joe hurried out of the room, filled with concern for his 'step-son'.
* * * * *
"Did you fall off your skateboard one too many times?" Mona asked in exasperation.
"Vegas is a perfect place for a couple to spend the weekend." Billy quickly defended.
"Maybe for you or me, but I doubt that Chip and JC would think so. What I'm looking for is something more... wholesome. Let me at that thing... where do you type in what you want?" Mona asked as she nudged Billy from the chair in front of the computer.
"Right there." Billy said with a chuckle as he pointed at the text field of the search engine.
"Okay, I just tell it what I'm looking for, right?" Mona asked curiously.
"Sure. Let's see what you get." Billy said with a smile.
Billy, Allen and Brady all fought to hold in their chuckles as Mona used the hunt-and-peck method of typing to put in her search criteria.
"Now what?" Mona asked as she looked at Billy seriously.
"Hit the enter key." Billy said with a tender smile at her.
Mona looked over the keyboard for a second, then finally found it and hit 'Enter'.
"Well look at that... Do you think they would like a trip to the Adirondacks for the weekend?" Mona asked curiously.
Allen fought the urge to laugh as Brady said, "They might. Go ahead and pull up the site."
Mona clicked on the link and a beautiful picture of a snowy mountain filled the screen.
"Isn't that something." Mona said in amazement.
"I can see how snuggling with someone you love while looking at that view would make for a perfect weekend." Brady said with a smile.
"It's close, but not 'exactly' what I was looking for." Mona said consideringly.
"Click that left arrow and you can look at the other choices." Billy said as he pointed at the screen.
Mona awkwardly moved the mouse and finally was able to position the cursor over the back arrow.
As the screen changed back, Mona started reading over the choices before her.
"What about the Poconos?" Allen asked as he looked at the list.
"Maybe, but let's try this one first." Mona said and clicked a link.
There was a long moment of silence as all four read the page until it was broken by Allen asking, "Country music?"
"What's wrong with country music?" Mona asked sternly.
"Nothing, nothing at all. I was just thinking that Josh and Chip's tastes might be a little more modern..." Allen said quickly.
"Especially since Josh is a member of *NSync." Brady added.
"Maybe they'd enjoy a different style of music for a change. Besides, look at this, there are all kinds of shows, not just country music." Mona said as she pointed at the screen.
"Chinese acrobats..." Billy said in a non-committal voice.
"Cirque... I'd like to see that." Brady said as he pointed.
"Scroll down." Allen said in thought.
"How do I do that?" Mona asked as she looked at the keyboard.
"You can press that 'page down' key." Billy said as he pointed at the keyboard.
Mona pushed the key and looked at the screen.
"Isn't that something." Mona said in wonder.
All three men fought to hold back their chuckles at her reaction.
"I see comedians, magicians and even a few acts that I'd only expect to see on the strip in Vegas." Billy said as he looked over the available shows.
"Scroll down." Allen said again.
Mona pressed the 'page down' key, then giggled to herself as she watched the screen scroll down.
"That one." Brady said and pointed at the screen.
"Oh my God! They have GOT to go to that show." Allen said with a chuckle.
"I don't know, do you think Josh will see the humor in someone impersonating *NSync on stage?" Billy asked with concern.
"Read the description. These impersonators are doing all these bands as a tribute to the artists. I think Chip and Josh will get a kick out of seeing *NSync perform on the same stage as Elvis and the Beach Boys and Tina Turner. Look, you can order the tickets for the show online." Allen said with enthusiasm.
"So are we decided that this is where they'll be going for the weekend?" Mona asked as she sat back in the chair.
"It looks like beautiful scenery, good shows and a lot less 'glitz' than Vegas. I think they'll have a wonderful time." Billy said seriously.
"And it's someplace that they'd probably never think of going in a million years." Allen said with a chuckle.
"From a security standpoint it's probably going to be a lot easier to manage than a Vegas casino." Brady said in thought.
"Okay, it's settled. Now you three need to swear that you won't tell anyone where we're sending them." Mona said seriously.
"We're not going to tell them Mona." Allen said in an exaggerated voice.
"I didn't think you'd tell Chip and JC, I'm more concerned that they'll send in spies to try and find out." Mona said seriously.
"Spies?" Allen asked incredulously.
"Do you think Kevin would try to find out what we're planning if Chip asked him to?" Mona asked as she turned in her chair to look at Allen seriously.
"In a heartbeat." Allen admitted.
"This stays with the four of us until those two get on the plane Friday afternoon." Mona said firmly.
"Agreed." Allen said seriously.
Mona stood up and motioned to the chair as she said, "Okay Billy, it's time to work your trip planning magic."
"I'm on it." Billy said as he dropped into the chair.
"First thing, book a first class flight for two to Branson, Missouri."
* * * * *
"You've got to see this one." The young officer said with a smile as he held out Kevin's ID to officer Flatley.
"I'm sorry Patriarch Short, we usually try to keep a more professional..." Chief Horton said, then was handed the ID.
All the boys watched as the Chief of Police looked at the ID and tried to hold in his laughter.
"A... very interesting... picture." The Chief said as he handed the ID to Kevin.
"Right when they took the picture, the elastic in my underwear broke." Kevin said timidly.
Chief Horton, officer Flatley and the young officer behind the desk broke into laughter at the statement.
"Next." The young officer fought to say.
Kenny handed over his ID and waited.
The young officer quickly copied down the information and held out the ID to officer Flatley without a word.
The Chief reluctantly accepted the ID from officer Flatley, then broke into fresh laughter at the sight of the picture.
By the time Jake's ID had been returned to him, everyone in the room had been drawn into the infectious laughter.
"Are we ready to go in?" Cory asked with a smile at the officers.
"Almost. Mr. Barnes, I'm willing to recognize your security credentials and allow you to carry your weapon into the visitation room. But you need to know that if you fire your weapon, the building will automatically be locked down and your group may be unable to leave for some time." Chief Horton said seriously.
"I understand. Thank you for respecting my position." Matt said sincerely.
"Then follow me. The visitation room should be ready."
* * * * *
"Vincent, this is Doctor Austin Michaels." Joe said as he led another man into the room.
"You can call me Doc Austin if you like."
"Hi. I'm Vincent."
"Teri told me that you've got a concussion. If you'll hold still for a second, I'm going to scan you to get your vital signs." Doc Austin said carefully.
"Is that a Federation medical tricorder?" Vincent asked with interest.
"No. But it's close. This is a Vulcan medical scanner. It's basically the same thing." Doc Austin said as he scanned Vincent carefully.
"What does it say?" Vincent asked cautiously.
"It says that you need to rest. I'm going to get you an ice pack for the bump on your head. If we can bring the swelling down just a tad, your vision should clear right up. Are you in any pain?" Doc Austin asked gently.
"A little. Not too bad." Vincent said in thought.
"Then I'll get you a mild pain reliever. There's no reason you should have to hurt." Doc Austin said with a gentle smile.
"Thank you. Do you have any kids?" Vincent asked curiously.
"Yes, I have four sons. I saw you sitting with my oldest son Gabe at dinner." Doc Austin said with a smile.
"You're Gabe's dad?" Vincent asked in wonder.
"Yes. I'll be right back with the ice pack and medicine." Doc Austin said gently as he hurried away.
There was a long silence that was finally broken by Joe quietly asking, "Would it be okay if I sit with you?"
Vincent looked up at Joe and nodded hesitantly.
Joe looked at Vincent consideringly, then said, "How about I sit at that end of the couch, then you can lay down?"
Vincent nodded and watched as Joe took a seat at the far end of the couch.
"Here's something for the pain and an ice pack." Doc Austin said as he hurried into the room.
"Thanks." Vincent said quietly as he accepted a pill and a small glass of water.
After taking the pill, he handed the glass back to Doc Austin.
"Go ahead and lay down." Doc Austin said quietly.
Vincent hesitantly laid down and rested his head on Joe's thigh.
"Do you want to hold this for him?" Doc Austin asked as he handed Joe the ice pack.
"Where do I need to put it?" Joe asked carefully.
"Right there." Doc Austin said and pointed to a spot on the back of Vincent's head.
"Thank you Doctor. Are you sure Vincent is going to be okay?" Joe asked with concern.
"Yes. I think he was just up a bit longer than he needed to be. As soon as we get that swelling to go down a little he should be feeling much better." Doc Austin said seriously.
"Thank you. I'm sorry I had to take you away from your wife and kids." Joe said as he held the ice pack gently against the back of Vincent's head.
"Carrie is used to it by now, but I should be getting back to her. I'll leave you two alone so Vincent can get his rest." Doc Austin said with a smile at the sight of Joe treating Vincent so gently.
"Thank you again Doctor." Joe said quietly.
"My pleasure." Doc Austin said happily as he walked out of the room.
* * * * *
"If you will all take your seats, someone will bring Ms. Harris in a moment." Officer Flatley said professionally.
"Thank you officer Flatley. You've been very helpful." Cory said as he took his seat.
"We're honored to have Vulcan representatives visit our city. We just want to be sure that if you ever have a reason to mention us in the future, you'll have nice things to say." Officer Flatley said frankly.
"I don't think you have anything to worry about. I can't think of anyplace I've ever visited that I've felt more welcomed." Cory said honestly.
"Good, that's what we were trying for." Officer Flatley said with a smile.
Conversation stopped as the door opened and Gloria Harris stepped in wearing an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs.
"Please have a seat Ms. Harris." The large female officer said as she led Kenny and Kevin's mother into the room.
"Or I suppose you'll make me." Gloria Harris said defiantly as she threw herself into the chair just inside the door.
"If you gentlemen wouldn't mind, I'd like to stay here in case 'Sunshine' decides to try and pull anything." The female officer said courteously.
"Thank you officer..." Cory said slowly, prompting for her name.
"Strickland. And you're welcome." The officer said professionally as she took a step back from Ms. Harris and watched her carefully.
"Hi Momma." Kevin said and gave a little wave.
"Oh God! *That's* why they brought me out here? I thought it was my lawyer." Ms. Harris said in a grumble.
"Fine, and you?" Kenny said dryly.
Gloria looked at the two boys, then said, "I knew it. I got the runt of the litter."
Jake glanced at Xain questioningly and nodded before saying, "Calling her a bitch is redundant if she already talks about her kids like they're dogs."
"Jake? Wow, the 'street meat' really cleans up nice. Did you finally suck the golden dick or something?" Ms. Harris asked as she looked him up and down with surprise.
"Something like that... jealous?" Jake asked with a smile.
"Of a drugged-up street whore like you?" Gloria asked with a derisive laugh.
"I did what I had to do." Jake said with a shrug, then continued, "At least I'm better off than a bitter old hag who can't give it away. Besides, we're just here so Kevin and Kenny can let you know that they're okay."
"Great! Like I was worried about *that*." Gloria said with a roll of her eyes.
Cory looked at Kyle with question.
Kyle shook his head and whispered, "Wait for it."
"Momma, I've got a new Poppa and live in a big house with lots of food now." Kevin said proudly.
"A group home?" Gloria asked in a disinterested tone.
"No. A real home. All four of us have been adopted." Kevin said with excitement.
"And we have a swimming pool and a housekeeper." Kenny said with a happy smile.
"And we have a father who really loves us." Jake said as he put an arm around Xain.
"And a grandmother." Xain said impassively.
"So what? You're still a sickly pathetic little retard. They're just acting like they love you because they feel sorry for you." Ms. Harris said with a sneer.
Officer Strickland clenched her jaw and looked like she would enjoy five minutes alone with Gloria Harris.
"Wait for it." Kyle whispered even slower.
Kevin giggled and said, "My new Poppa and my brothers and my uncles love me and are helping me get bigger and stronger and smarter."
"What makes you think you'll ever be able to be one bit better than you are right now?" Ms. Harris said in a superior voice.
"Because I'm just like my Dad." Kevin said in triumph.
"Now." Kyle said with a grin.
Inside Gloria Harris' mind a vision appeared. It was like a flower blooming, each petal held an image of love and happiness. Several scenes flashed by, Kevin happily reading a book, Allen putting an 'extra special' milkshake on the table before Kevin, Brady and Kenny asking for Kevin to draw the shelf they were going to build, a collage of hugs, kisses and gentle words, at the center of the flower was a memory of her ex-husband Carl telling Kenny about all the wonderful things they were going to do when Kevin came to live with them.
Gloria Harris raised her cuffed hands to her head and gave a growl of anger.
"I think it's time for Ms. Harris to return to her cell." Officer Strickland said firmly.
Gloria started pulling at her cuffs in frustration as she continued to growl and threw in the occasional curse for good measure.
"Yes, thank you officer Strickland, you've been very helpful." Cory said professionally.
The officer looked at Cory with momentary surprise at the courtesy, then smiled at him briefly before helping the growling and struggling Gloria Harris to her feet.
"Walk or I'll carry you outta here like a six-pack." Officer Strickland said in an icy voice that made everyone in the room flinch.
Ms. Harris regained her control and looked back at the boys with a glare.
"Bye bye Momma." Kevin said with a happy little wave.
Gloria Harris gave one more growl and was 'encouraged' to leave the room.
* * * * *
"What's it really like to live on a starship?" Vincent asked as he snuggled in to get more comfortable.
"It's like it's own little world. Sometimes we're traveling for a month or two at a time to get from one system to another. During those long trips we're all just working as a team to make sure the ship is running perfectly... it's so peaceful." Joe drifted off in a happy voice.
"Do you have lots of friends on your ship?" Vincent asked curiously.
"Yes. And quite a few friends that used to be on my ship. That's one of the things you have to get used to in Starfleet. People come and go. You have to be able to accept that someone you enjoy spending time with may be reassigned and go on to another posting." Joe said quietly.
"Isn't that hard to do?" Vincent asked in a sleepy voice.
"It was at first. But eventually you learn to enjoy the time that you have with people here and now because there's no guarantee that you'll still be on the same ship in one month or one year." Joe said distantly.
"I never thought about that. I think that if I had friends, I wouldn't want to let them go." Vincent said slowly.
"Don't you have any friends Vincent?" Joe asked with concern.
Vincent tensed and quickly said, "I mean that if I was on a starship and I had friends..."
"Do you have any friends Vincent?" Joe asked more quietly.
"No." Vincent whispered.
"Well now you do. You've got a friend and he happens to be a Lieutenant in Starfleet. What do you think of that?" Joe said with a smile.
Vincent smiled and said, "That's the kind of friend I always wanted."
"Vincent, you know that I'm going to have to leave soon don't you?" Joe asked quietly.
"I thought you would." Vincent said with a sigh.
"Well, if you wanted to, you could write to me and let me know how things are going with you back here on Earth and I could write back to you." Joe said gently.
"Really? That'd be cool. Then you could tell me about all the cool places that you're going and all the aliens that you meet." Vincent said happily.
Joe smiled and said, "Life on a starship isn't usually that exciting. It just sounds like it because the only news worth reporting are the exciting things that occasionally happen. You never hear about the boring six month mission that goes exactly as planned."
"Still... it sounds so much better than being stuck here. On a starship no one yells at you for no reason or hits you." Vincent mumbled.
"No. At least not on my ship. I've been serving with Captain Byrne for... almost seven years now, and I've never heard him raise his voice. He expects... no he requires everyone to treat each other with respect. Anyone who comes on our ship with an attitude problem either learns to keep it to himself or leave." Joe said distantly.
"That sounds nice." Vincent said with a dreamy smile.
"It is for me. I used to have problems dealing with people. I never hit anyone or anything like that, but I guess I wasn't the nicest person to be around when I was angry. Being on the Yorktown keeps me from being that way. No one provokes me, and even if they did, I know that type of behavior isn't tolerated." Joe said in thought.
"You seem really nice to me. I can't imagine you angry." Vincent said seriously.
"I hope you never see me like that. I'm really not proud of myself when I get that way." Joe said quietly.
"I'm not proud of myself sometimes too. It's like my mouth keeps going even when I know I should be quiet." Vincent said distantly.
"Yeah. I know that feeling. I swear, if I didn't know better, I'd swear you were my own son." Joe said with a chuckle.
"I wish I was." Vincent said in a small voice.
Joe brought his other hand over and started stroking Vincent's hair gently as he asked, "Why is that?"
"Cause my daddy don't love me no more." Vincent said as tears filled his eyes.
Joe closed his eyes in pain at the statement and whispered, "I'm sure he does. Sometimes grown-ups just have trouble showing their feelings."
"He won't let me hug him and the only time he talks to me is to yell at me and now he hurt me like he used to hurt Lawrence and Cory says that if I keep living with him he'll probably hurt me worse and maybe even kill me." Vincent said, then broke into full crying.
"Are they doing anything to keep your father from hurting you anymore." Joe asked quietly.
"Yeah. Aunt Teri said they're gonna arrest him and put him in jail, then she's gonna try and find out why he hurts me and Lawrence." Vincent said as he tried to get his tears under control.
"Good. I wouldn't want to see you get hurt again." Joe said in a whisper.
"But my momma's with the police right now and they're gonna arrest my daddy... I... I don't know what I'm going to do..." Vincent said in a lost, hopeless voice.
"I tell you what. My ship isn't going to be leaving until Sunday night. If you like, I can stay here with you until everything is settled. I'll make sure that you'll end up someplace safe before I go." Joe said as he continued to smooth Vincent's hair.
"I always thought step-dads and step-moms were supposed to be mean and evil but you're really nice." Vincent said seriously.
"I think the brothers Grimm just had some unresolved family issues." Joe said gently.
Vincent got a look of confusion, but it soon faded as Joe continued to stroke his hair.
* * * * *
"Here's your necklace, just like I promised." Officer Rivers said with a smile as he presented Cory with his key.
"Thank you for taking good care of it." Cory said with a friendly smile.
A beep changed his expression in an instant.
"Patriarch Short." Cory said seriously as he opened the communicator.
"Cory, I've got officer Chase on the phone and I think you should talk to him." Tommy said in a completely serious voice.
"What's going on?" Cory asked, completely in business mode.
"It's best if he tells you. You got Jake and Kevin there to translate." Tommy said with a smile in his voice.
"Is the Chicago accent too much for you to handle?" Cory asked with a smile.
"Just about, you wanna talk to him?" Tommy asked, back to his serious tone.
"Yeah. Patch him through." Cory said and glanced around the room to see everyone paying him their full attention.
"Patriarch Short?" a muffled voice came over the communicator.
"Officer Chase, how can I help you today?" Cory asked cautiously.
"From what I heard, you Vulcan guys help kids who are in trouble. Right?" Officer Chase asked cautiously.
"If we can." Cory replied slowly.
"I been a cop for twelve years and I never seen a kid in more trouble than the one I seen today. I got no one else to call to try and help him and I don't know how much longer he's gonna last." Officer Chase said and a note of desperation crept into his voice.
Cory looked at Sean with question.
"I think I can make it from Provo to Chicago in twenty minutes if I give it all she's got." Sean said in thought.
"We can have you to the airport in less than ten minutes with lights and sirens." Chief Horton said firmly as he walked to Cory's side.
"Officer Chase. We'll be touching down at O'Hare in thirty minutes. Unless you need us there sooner?" Cory asked seriously.
"Thirty minutes? I'll be doing good to get to O'Hare in thirty minutes... but I'll be there." Officer Chase finished firmly and hung up.
"Okay guys, we're on our way to Chicago." Cory said as he looked around the group.
"Have three squad cars take them. It'll be faster than the van." Chief Horton said seriously to the officers behind the desk.
"They'll be out front by the time you get there." Officer Rivers said and ran into the radio dispatch room.
"It's been a pleasure to meet you Patriarch Short. Hopefully we'll be able to meet again when we can have time to trade stories." Chief Horton said as he walked with Cory and his group to the front doors.
"Thank you Chief Horton, I think I'd like that. Provo should be very proud of their police department." Cory said quickly, then noticed three police cruisers pull up on the curb.
"Go on. There's a kid in Chicago that needs you." Chief Horton said seriously.
Cory gave the Chief a nod, then climbed into a waiting cruiser.
* * * * *
"How is he?" Lawrence asked in a whisper as he and Deacon entered the living room.
"Asleep. I think he just needs some rest after a very hard day." Joe said softly.
"Thanks for taking care of him Daddy." Lawrence said gently as he approached.
Vincent cracked his eyes open a slit and looked around, then closed them again and listened.
"I'm not doing it for you Lawrence, or even for Peggy. I see a lot of myself in Vincent. I feel like I really understand what he's going through and I'd like to help him through it however I can." Joe said in a considering voice.
"I'm glad he's got someone to take care of him. Now that I'm really getting to know him, I feel like I'd do just about anything to help him... but I can't change who I am and he can't accept me because I'm gay." Lawrence said sadly.
Deacon went to Lawrence's side and gently put an arm around him.
"I don't know if he ever will be able to accept you. But if you can love him anyway, that's as much as you can do." Joe said as he continued to stroke Vincent's hair.
"I already do." Lawrence said quietly.
"I'm going to let him sleep for a while longer. Why don't you two go out and enjoy the party?" Joe asked with a gentle smile.
"Okay. They just brought out a bunch of desserts. Would you like us to bring you anything?" Lawrence asked with a smile at the tender way his father was stroking Vincent's hair.
"When Vincent wakes up we'll go out and see what they've got." Joe said gently.
"Okay, I'll see you out there in a while. I love you daddy." Lawrence said happily.
"I love you too son." Joe said peacefully.
* * * * *
"How you doing Kev?" Jake asked with concern as the shuttle lifted into the air.
"That was the coolest thing I ever done. I think the police car went up on two wheels when we went around that last curve." Kevin said with excitement.
Jake chuckled and said, "I was asking about the thing with your mom."
"Oh that. I'm fine. I got to tell her that I'm happy and I got to see her get all mad about it. That's all I wanted." Kevin said seriously.
Jake looked at Kevin with concern, then over to Dan.
"Kevin, is there anything you'd like to talk about?" Dan asked immediately.
"No. I know you're worried about me, but I'm really okay. Do you think officer Chase will drive with lights and sirens too?" Kevin asked with renewed excitement.
"He might." Dan said with a slight smile.
* * * * *
"Here they come." JC said as he watched Mona, Billy, Allen and Brady walking out of the house.
"Did you find what you needed?" Chip asked pleasantly.
"Oh yeah. It's amazing what you can find on the Internet." Billy said with a smile.
"So can you give us a hint about where we're going?" JC asked hopefully.
"No. He can't." Mona said firmly.
"You heard Mom. I can't say a word." Billy said with a glance at Mona.
"We have a right to know what you're planning for us." Chip said firmly.
Mona looked around and made a casual gesture.
Chip followed Mona's gaze and saw his Aunt Jackie and Karen approaching.
"You were saying?" Mona asked as the women approached.
"Never mind." Chip said weakly.
"Are the plans all made?" Jackie asked curiously.
"Oh yes. It was so easy I couldn't believe it. I really need to get one of those computer thingies at my house. Allen's been trying to talk me into getting one for years but I never could see the need for it." Mona said frankly.
"Just wait until you get email. Once you have that set up there's no reason your kids can't write to you every single day." Karen said with a smile.
"And the grand-kids too. I've gotten some of the most delightful letters from Justy, Jamie and Jacob. Kids see and hear a lot more than their parents know." Jackie said, then smiled at Chip and JC.
Chip noticed Spock approaching the table, then stop. He looked at the gathering around the table and raised an eyebrow, then promptly started walking in another direction.
"Did you need us to do anything else for you Mona?" Allen asked with a smile.
"Oh no. Thank you, all three of you, for helping me. Jackie, Karen my boys made all the arrangements already. Everything is completely taken care of." Mona beamed with pride.
Allen, Billy and Brady all smiled at Mona's praise then wandered away to check out the dessert table.
"Oh Mona, you're so lucky to have sons who will *listen to you*." Jackie said and spared a glance at Chip.
"And *not talk back*." Karen said as she looked at JC.
"Come with me and I'll tell you how Allen asked Billy out on their first date." Mona said with excitement as she drew the other mothers away.
Once the mothers were well away from the table, Chip cautiously asked, "How long do you think they'll keep this up?"
"Until they've gotten every single thing they wanted." JC said frankly.
* * * * *
"Officer Chase?" Cory asked as he stepped off the shuttle.
"Patriarch Short?" Officer Chase asked cautiously.
"Yes. We're ready to go when you are." Cory said as the group started climbing out of the shuttle.
"Wait, there's no way all of you can fit in my cruiser." Officer Chase said as he looked at the group of people gathering around Cory.
"I see..." Cory said in thought.
"I'm doing this on my own. I'm not 'officially' here right now." Officer Chase said seriously.
"Jake, Kevin, Matt, you're with me. I want the rest of you to stand by for transport in case we need you." Cory said decisively.
"Are you sure about Kevin?" Sean asked quietly.
"This is his home. I think he and Jake will be best able to help me. I'll call if I need you, I promise." Cory said seriously.
"Take care of yourself Cor, I love you." Sean said quietly.
Cory gave Sean a quick kiss, then turned to Officer Chase and said, "Ready when you are."
Officer Chase blinked in surprise, then said, "Yeah, the car is right over here."
* * * * *
Teri pulled out her ringing phone and turned it on before saying, "Director Short."
"You got my kid and I mean to get him back." A mans voice said in a low growl.
"Excuse me? Who is this?" Teri asked curiously.
"How many kids have you stolen today? First you get my wife's faggot son and now you got mine. Worst fuckin mistake of my life marryin that bitch... Only gives birth to fags..." The man slurred in a deep voice.
Teri quickly hit the mute key on her phone then called out to the gathering, "Security Red, and I need someone to trace this call."
JJ opened his communicator and quickly said, "Terra Main, I need a trace on Director Short's cell phone, priority one."
Chip immediately stood and opened his communicator and said, "I have a security red condition at Southcrest, repeat security red." Before he had finished saying the words, Brady was by Chip's side with his phaser drawn and looking around the gathering cautiously.
Gabe ran to Teri's side with his phaser drawn and waited to see if she could give him any more information.
"Where's Peggy? Let me talk to Peggy." Teri said into the phone quickly.
"That bitch is done talkin... Her cop friend too..." Mr. Winters said in a growl.
"Tell me what you want. Maybe we can work this out." Teri said carefully, then hit the mute and said to Gabe, " Check on Vincent. It's his father."
Before Teri could get the phone back to her ear, a gunshot sounded over the phone and it went dead.