As Ben stepped aboard the plane, he was stopped in his tracks.
"I want to sit with you!" Loquicia whined like only a child can.
"Quicia, you're going to sit with your brother." Brother Jacques said firmly.
"But I wanna sit with you!" Loquicia whined even louder.
"I want to sit with you, too... when you're behaving like a good girl. But when you're like this, I want to sit as far away from you as possible." Brother Jacques said frankly.
Loquicia looked up at Jacques with surprise.
"Go and sit by your brother. And if you show me that you can behave yourself, then you and I can sit down together for a while, later." Brother Jacques said gently.
There were tears welled in Loquicia's eyes as she quietly said, "Thank you, Brother Jacques."
"I still love you, Quicia. I'll talk to you later." Brother Jacques said gently.
Ben smiled, feeling a great deal of respect for Brother Jacques, since he knew that he probably wouldn't have handled the situation as well.
"Ty and Dax, would you mind sitting across the aisle from Loquicia and Jamiah?" Brother Jacques asked as he looked at the boys.
"Do we have to?" Dax asked darkly.
"No. If there's somewhere else you'd rather sit, you can tell me and I'll consider it. But if it doesn't matter to you, then I'd like you to sit by Loquicia and Jamiah and keep an eye on things for me." Brother Jacques said reasonably.
After a moment of consideration, Dax let out a sigh and said, "I guess."
"What about Oleksandr?" One of the twins asked, holding the boy in his arms.
Brother Jacques looked at the sleeping boy and Ben could tell that he didn't know what was the best thing to do for him.
"He should probably sit with me..." Brother Jacques said slowly.
"I think it would make more sense if he sat with me." Ben said frankly.
Brother Jacques looked at Ben with surprise at the statement.
"You're kind of in charge of all the kids, so you don't need to be pinned down with one of them. I could take care of him and call you if there's a problem. But, this way, if one of the other kids needs you, then you'll be free to go and take care of them." Ben said frankly.
"You wouldn't mind?" Brother Jacques asked cautiously.
"Honestly, I'll just be happy to be able to do something to help."
Brother Jacques looked around to see if anyone had any other ideas, then he finally said, "I really appreciate you being willing to help. Father Doherty usually handles big stuff like this."
"I think you're doing great." Ben said as he put his arms out to accept the sleeping boy.
"Sit down by the window, then I'll put him in the seat next to you." One of the twins said gently.
Ben saw the sense in the suggestion and went to take his seat.
The twin gently placed Oleksandr on the seat beside Ben, then waited for a moment to be sure that the boy didn't fall.
Ben held his breath when Oleksandr started to stir, but all the little boy did was pat around with his hand for a moment, until he found Ben's bicep, then he snuggled against it and fell back to sleep.
Ben looked up and found both twins watching the scene with warm smiles.
Movement from the front of the cabin caused Ben to look up.
"Please, allow me to introduce myself. I'm Lucas, and I'm here to do my best to make your trip as enjoyable as possible. The luggage has been stowed and the pilot is going through his checklist as we speak. Before we take off, I need to ask any of you with cellphones to please remove the batteries." The man in the dark navy blue suit said seriously.
Ben fought to make his voice loud enough to be heard without being so loud that it woke the sleeping boy at his side. "My phone is sealed. I can't take the battery out."
Lucas seemed to consider for a moment, then said, "For your safety and the safety of the other passengers, I can't allow you to bring an active cellphone with us. I'm sorry, but I'll have to ask you to leave your phone here."
"What are you worried about?" Ben asked curiously.
"I called my boss for clarification about this issue, to be sure of the need. And, before I tell you this, let me say that I know how paranoid it sounds." Lucas said as he looked around the cabin.
After a moment, he continued, "It is believed that the GPS tracking can be used to determine your location and track your movements, even if the phone is supposedly turned off. If two or more people that were already being tracked were to start traveling together, it would be reasonable to assume that some increased interest might be shown. We would prefer not to draw the interest of the type of people who would choose to exploit that technology." Lucas said carefully.
"I could put your phone in my vest. That would block the signal." Zane said cautiously.
"What do you mean?" Lucas asked curiously.
"Zane's vest is a signal jammer. He has a tracking device surgically implanted inside him." Ben said frankly.
Lucas cautiously asked, "Do I want to know why?"
"Let's just say that our grandfather is very possessive and doesn't want anyone else playing with his toys." Ben said coldly.
Brother Jacques looked at Zane with wide eyes of concern.
Ben noticed and smiled slightly before saying, "If you can give me a minute, I could just put it in my car."
"Let me." One of the twins said as he held out his hand, then he quietly added, "Oleksandr needs his sleep."
Ben awkwardly shifted and pulled the phone out of his back pocket, then handed it over.
As the twin walked away, Ben thought to ask, "Do you need..."
He looked at the other twin and asked, "He doesn't need my keys, does he?"
"What fun would that be?" The twin responded with a grin.
Ben chuckled, then suddenly remembered something.
"Zane, check your batteries." Ben called out.
"Yes. Thank you, Ben." Zane responded quickly.
After watching Zane for a moment, Ben turned his attention to the sleeping child at his side.
The little boy was holding onto his arm, not tightly, but comfortably. And it seemed to Ben that the child just wanted to know that someone was there to protect him.
* * * * *
At the front of the cabin, Lucas slowly said, "Once we're in the air, you'll be able to release your seat belts and move around the cabin. At that time, our flight attendant, Jeremy, will have some snacks and drinks for you."
"Where are we going?" Brother Jacques asked cautiously, then watched as a twin walked past him and took the seat next to his brother, across the aisle from Ben.
"Our immediate destination is Kansas City, Missouri. When we land, you'll be taken to a hotel where you'll be able to get some rest and relax before we continue on to our final destination. Last I heard, those arrangements were still being made, so I'll give you more details in the morning at the hotel, before we leave for the airport." Lucas said seriously.
"You know we ain't got much money, right?" Brother Jacques asked apprehensively.
"All of you are our guests. You won't have to pay for anything. And if there's anything that any of you need, please let me know." Lucas said as he looked Brother Jacques in the eyes.
There was a low buzzing sound and Lucas looked toward the cockpit.
"Give me just a moment. I think that may be the pilot signaling that we're ready for takeoff." Lucas said as he walked to the front of the plane.
"Is everyone okay?" Brother Jacques asked as he looked around.
"I'm thirsty." Jamiah said tiredly.
"Just as soon as we're in the air, we'll get you a drink. It shouldn't be long." Brother Jacques assured.
Ben leaned a little to see what Lucas was doing and realized that he was closing the door of the aircraft.
"If everyone will please fasten your seat belts, we'll be ready for takeoff in just a moment." Lucas said as he looked around the cabin.
Ben was able to get hold of his seat belt with his one free hand, but hadn't quite worked out how to fasten it while one of his arms was being held captive.
"Can I help you with that?" A handsome young man in his mid twenties asked pleasantly.
The uniform that the young man was wearing identified him as being the flight attendant.
"Yes. If you wouldn't mind." Ben said shyly.
"That's what I'm here for. By the way, I'm Jeremy. If you need anything during the flight, just ask and I'll do my best to get it for you." The flight attendant said as he quickly and efficiently buckled Ben's lap belt.
"Thanks. I know that one of the kids is thirsty, but so far, I think I'm okay." Ben said honestly.
Jeremy took a moment to gently fasten Oleksandr's seat belt around him, then said, "As soon as we've leveled off after takeoff, I'll see to the drinks."
"Thanks." Ben said gratefully, then watched as Jeremy turned to check on the twins, across the aisle.
He overheard one of the twins say, "You're cute."
"So are you, both of you." Jeremy said pleasantly.
"Do you have some big bad boyfriend waiting for you when you get off work tonight?" One of the twins asked with undisguised interest.
"No. I thought I might have found someone, but it ended up not working out." Jeremy said regretfully.
"Well, if you're not doing anything after work, maybe we could hang out..." One of the twins said in a leading tone.
"Sorry guys. Even if I didn't have to get up early for work in the morning, I think I may need a little time. Even a small heartbreak needs time to heal." Jeremy said regretfully, then moved on to the row of seats behind them.
Ben looked across the aisle at the twins, who were wearing matching expressions of disappointment.
Although his first thought had been to assume that the twins were just being flirtatious, he started to realize that there was something more to their behavior.
"What's up, guys?" Ben asked quietly.
They both turned to look at Ben with question.
Ben cocked his head toward where the flight attendant had gone, then asked, "What was that all about?"
After a moment, one of the twins hesitantly said, "It looks like Jake is interested in your cousin. So, there's a good chance that they're going to be spending the night together."
The other twin continued the thought, "We usually sleep with Jake. And with everything going on, I guess we just don't want to be alone."
Ben almost pointed out that since there were two of them, they wouldn't actually be alone if they were together. But the concern in their eyes told him that what they were feeling was very real and troubling to them.
"Well, I'm not into guys, so don't expect anything to happen. But if you're just lonely, I wouldn't mind some company, tonight." Ben said frankly.
The twins shared a look, then one of them said, "Thanks. That sounds really nice."
Just then, the sound of the plane's engines filled their ears. A moment later, there was a sensation of movement.
Ben automatically brought his free hand to Oleksandr's head and gently held him as the plane picked up speed and eventually lifted into the air.
It seemed that the takeoff hadn't disturbed the boy at all, so as soon as they were in level flight, Ben carefully withdrew his hand.
"That was awesome!" One of the kids called out from behind him.
Although he couldn't be sure, he guessed from the sound of the voice that it was probably Ty.
Ben looked around to see that everything was okay, and he noticed that Brother Jacques and Zane had ended up sitting together. He couldn't see much from his vantage point, but surmised that they were engaged in a rather serious conversation.
* * * * *
"Would you care for a snack?" Jeremy asked as he walked up with a tray of sandwiches.
Ben hadn't been able to finish his dinner at the mission and was actually quite hungry.
"Yes... but I'm not sure how." Ben said as he looked down at the boy who was still holding on to his arm.
"If you can manage to unlatch your tray table, I think I can handle the rest." Jeremy suggested helpfully.
Ben was easily able to release the tray table with his free hand. Jeremy then placed a napkin and one of each of the three varieties of finger sandwiches on the napkin for him.
"Thanks." Ben said gratefully.
"Could I get you something to drink?" Jeremy asked gently.
"If you have something without caffeine, that would be great. I don't think I want to take the chance of being wide awake later." Ben said frankly.
"Do you think the boy might be ready for a drink?" Jeremy asked softly.
Ben considered for a moment, then said, "Even though I hate to wake him up, it would probably be best for him."
"I'll bring you two glasses." Jeremy said quietly, then turned to ask the twins what they would like.
* * * * *
"Do you want to wake up for just a minute?" Ben asked as he gently shook the little boy's shoulder.
It took a moment, but Oleksandr finally opened his big blue eyes.
"Hey, sleepyhead. I thought you might be ready for something to eat or a drink." Ben said gently.
Oleksandr blinked a few times, then quietly asked, "Where am I?"
"Brother Jacques wanted to take you someplace safe. So right now we're on a plane, going to Kansas City." Ben said carefully, hoping that the boy wasn't going to freak out on him.
There was a long moment of silence, then the boy quietly asked, "I don't have to go back to those people? To that man?"
Ben could see the hope in the boy's eyes, and gently whispered, "No. You don't have to go back there ever again."
"Who are you?" Oleksandr asked cautiously.
"My name is Ben. But Brother Jacques is right over there and the twins are just across the aisle. You know that they wouldn't let anything bad happen to you if they can help it." Ben said gently.
As Oleksandr was considering Ben's words, Jeremy arrived with a tray of drinks.
"Are you thirsty?" Ben asked as he accepted one of the plastic cups.
Oleksandr considered for a moment, then tentatively took one of his hands away from Ben's bicep just enough to take the cup of soda.
Ben accepted the other cup of soda from Jeremy, then smiled at him with appreciation.
Oleksandr drank down the soda in one continuous drink.
"Slow down. There's plenty." Ben whispered.
"I was really thirsty." Oleksandr explained.
"Would you like something to eat? We've got some little tiny sandwiches here if you're hungry." Ben asked quietly as he sat his cup of soda on the tray table.
Oleksandr reached for one of the sandwiches, but still had the empty cup in his hand and hadn't released Ben's arm with the other.
"Let me help you." Ben said as he took the empty glass from Oleksandr's hand and replaced it with one of the sandwiches.
The boy wolfed down the sandwich like he hadn't eaten in days, and from what little Ben knew about the boy, it was actually quite possible that he hadn't.
Ben looked around quickly and was happy to find Jeremy looking back in his general direction.
He motioned to the flight attendant, beckoning him to come.
"Is there any way we could have a few more of these?" Ben asked as he looked down to the tray table where now there was only a napkin and an empty cup.
Jeremy smiled, then quietly said, "Of course. I'll be right back."
Ben looked down to find Oleksandr, washing down the sandwiches with the second glass of soda.
"Better?" Ben asked gently.
Oleksandr considered for a moment, then slowly nodded.
"Jeremy is going to bring us more if you're still hungry." Ben said with a smile.
Without hesitation, Oleksandr nodded again.
Ben chuckled as he noticed that Oleksandr still hadn't released his bicep.
* * * * *
"Loquicia's asleep." Jamiah said as he walked up the aisle to Brother Jacques.
"That's good. I thought with as whiny as she was being that she might need to get some rest." Brother Jacques said simply.
"You're not mad at her, are you?" Jamiah asked cautiously.
Brother Jacques chuckled and pulled the boy into a one armed hug before saying, "No. I'm not mad at anyone. But, you might want to let your sister know that whining and throwing a fit won't work with me. I'm responsible for all of you now, so when I make a decision, I need for you to listen to me. If you disagree with me, you can just tell me and there's a chance that I'll reconsider."
Jamiah thought about the words for a moment, then slowly nodded.
"You know that I love you, right?" Brother Jacques asked quietly.
Jamiah seemed uncertain, but finally nodded again.
Ben smiled at the sight of the 13 or 14 year old boy being held and comforted.
Just then, the flight attendant, Jeremy, returned with another tray of finger sandwiches and two more glasses of soda.
"You still hungry?" Ben gently asked the boy at his side.
Oleksandr looked up at him with his bright blue eyes and nodded vigorously.
"If you'll sit back, I'll lay this out for you." Jeremy suggested gently.
"Yeah. Thanks." Ben said gratefully.
Jeremy quickly placed the two drinks and several small sandwiches on a fresh napkin on the tray table.
Oleksandr immediately grabbed one of the sandwiches and stuffed it into his mouth.
"Slow down. If you eat too fast, you'll make yourself sick." Ben said gently.
Oleksandr stopped all movement, then looked up at Ben cautiously.
Ben noticed and quietly said, "I'm not mad at you. I'm just saying that if you keep eating that fast, you might give yourself a tummy ache."
Oleksandr watched Ben for a moment longer before he started slowly chewing his food.
"You guys let me know if you need anything else, alright?" Jeremy asked gently.
"I think we're good for now. Thanks." Ben said gratefully.
"We'll be landing before very long, so I'll be back in a few minutes to pick up anything that's left." Jeremy said pleasantly before withdrawing.
* * * * *
"How is he?"
Ben startled at the sound and looked up into the concerned eyes of the fifteen year old boy, Dax.
"Okay. I think. Once he had something to eat and drink, he fell right back to sleep." Ben said as he glanced at the little boy, holding onto his bicep like it was his teddy bear.
"Yeah, well, sometimes it works that way at first, but then you remember." Dax said distantly.
Ben looked at the boy curiously, feeling that Dax was on the verge of divulging something very personal.
After a long thoughtful moment, Dax finally continued, "Don't give up on him, okay? If he screams or cries or says that he hates you, don't give up. It's not you that he's mad at."
Ben slowly nodded.
"But, if he's having trouble and he needs to talk to someone who understands... you know, I'm here." Dax said uncomfortably.
Ben got the sense that Dax didn't want to discuss 'why' he understood and that it was only his concern for Oleksandr that let him reveal as much as he had.
"Thanks, Dax. I may take you up on that." Ben said quietly, then gently added, "I've never been through anything like what he has. I've never even known anyone who went through it. I'll be willing to hold and comfort him for as long as he needs me, but I don't think that I'll ever really 'understand'."
A single tear escape Dax's eye before the boy quickly turned and dashed down the aisle.
Ben didn't know if he had said something wrong or if Dax had just reached his emotional limit. But he had the feeling that if Oleksandr started having problems dealing with what had been done to him, that Dax could be instrumental in helping him through it. And, in the process, the experience might end up being of benefit to Dax, as well.
* * * * *
"Attention, everyone." Lucas said from the front of the cabin.
Ben turned his attention forward as he felt Oleksandr stirring at his side.
"The pilot has just informed me that in a few minutes we'll begin our approach into Kansas City. If you'll please find your seats and fasten your seat belts, Jeremy will be making a quick round of the cabin to help any of you who may need it." Lucas said seriously.
There was a little rustling as people put their seats upright, but no one replied to Lucas otherwise.
After a moment for everyone to settle, Lucas continued, "I realize that all of this is rather sudden, and that most, if not all, of you weren't planning to take a trip on such short notice. That being the case, please feel free to ask for anything that you might need to make you or the other members of your party comfortable."
"There was something I was kind of wondering about." Brother Jacques said hesitantly.
Lucas turned his attention to Brother Jacques and asked, "What might that be?"
"Well, when we got on the plane, it was at an abandoned airfield, so there weren't any metal detectors or anything, but... well, is that something we're going to have to worry about?"
"No. This plane, and the one we will be using tomorrow are privately owned and operated. You will be taken to and from the planes and won't have to go through the regular airport security." Lucas said seriously, then cautiously asked, "May I ask why?"
"Zane's vest. It'd probably trip the metal detector real good, and then the rent-a-cop wannabes at security would make him take it off, and probably wreck his jammer at the same time. Then he'd be screwed." Brother Jacques said frankly.
Lucas nodded his understanding, then said, "Please trust me, I'll personally see to it that you don't have to worry about security."
* * * * *
Oleksandr was awake, and clutching tightly to Ben's arm through the entire landing procedure. Although Ben didn't think that the boy was necessarily scared, he got the sense that Oleksandr needed the feeling of 'connection' for a variety of reasons.
When the plane had finally come to a complete stop, Ben quietly asked, "Would you like to walk on your own or would you like for me to carry you?"
"It hurts when I walk." Oleksandr whispered.
"Then I'll carry you for as long as you need me to." Ben said gently.
Oleksandr tried to climb out of his seat and into Ben's lap, but Ben stopped him.
"I'll need to stand up before I can pick you up." Ben said carefully.
Oleksandr's mind seemed to be racing, not knowing whether to accept it or panic.
"You can hold my hand until I'm standing, if that makes it easier." Ben gently offered.
That compromise seemed to be enough for Oleksandr, and he reluctantly let loose of his hold on Ben's bicep and slid his hand down until he was holding Ben's hand.
It took a little effort for Ben to get up and around Oleksandr while holding onto his hand, but he was finally able to make it to the aisle.
"Come on up. I'm ready." Ben said with a smile at the boy.
Oleksandr didn't need to be told twice.
A lamprey eel couldn't have found a more secure grip.
"You, too?" A voice asked from behind Ben.
He turned to find Brother Jacques tenderly holding Loquicia, who was fast asleep, and one of the twins was carrying Ty.
"Yeah. Except my little buddy did all his sleeping already. He just doesn't feel like walking." Ben said honestly.
Brother Jacques' expression dimmed a little as he said, "I imagine that he wouldn't."
"It's fine. I don't mind carrying him." Ben said casually.
Brother Jacques seemed to be lost in thought for a moment, then said to one of the twins, "I think one of you should help Oleksandr get cleaned up before he goes to bed."
"I don't mind helping him." Ben said with surprise at the suggestion.
"I know." Brother Jacques said quietly, then added, "But he probably has some... damage, down there. It may be more than you can deal with."
Although Ben didn't want to admit it, he knew that Brother Jacques might very well be right.
As he was about to agree, he noticed Dax watching their conversation with thinly disguised interest.
"Would it be okay if Dax helped me?" Ben asked cautiously, then hurried to explain, "He's closer to Oleksandr's age, and then if there's a problem, one of us can stay with Oleksandr while the other calls you or the twins."
"If you're sure..." Brother Jacques said uncertainly, then looked at Dax with question.
"Yeah. I'll help." Dax said reluctantly, obviously not wanting to, but at the same time feeling that he should.
"It looks like Lucas is waiting for us." Zane said quietly.
"And Ty is getting heavy." One of the twins said uncomfortably.
"Let's go." Ben said decisively as he started to walk forward.
* * * * *
"No way!" One of the twins gasped when he saw the two limousines waiting for them.
Lucas chuckled at the reaction, then said, "Trust me, this is all for you guys."
"You don't get somethin for nothin. What are you going to want from us?" Brother Jacques asked as he slowed his steps.
Lucas was surprised by the question and the suspicious look on his face.
"If it was just me, it'd be different. But I got these kids to look out for." Brother Jacques explained.
"I don't know what you're asking." Lucas said cautiously.
"All I want to know is, when we get where we're going, what's going to happen to the kids?" Brother Jacques asked seriously.
Lucas thought for a moment, then slowly said, "Our ultimate goal is to make them as safe and secure as they can possibly be. They weren't safe in Chicago, or you would still be there. Although they're safe here, we can't guarantee that it will stay that way. So we want to take you to the safest place that we can find, with the least chances of the children being targeted or in some way hurt."
"Why?" Brother Jacques asked cautiously, and seemed to be teetering on the edge of accepting Lucas' assurances.
"Short answer, you asked for help, so we tried to give it to you. If we could help everyone, we would, but of course that's not possible. So, for now, we're helping those who ask, to the best of our ability."
After a moment of thought, Brother Jacques said, "Alright. Let's get in the cars, it's getting cold out here."
* * * * *
Ben looked at the two limousines.
Brother Jacques carried Loquicia toward the first limousine with Jamiah tagging along beside him.
Zane and one of the twins followed along next.
Ben didn't know how many people could fit in a stretch limo, but thought that it would make sense for him to get into the second one.
He carried Oleksandr and noticed that Dax was at his side.
The second twin followed him, carrying Ty.
As Ben was getting into the car, he noticed Lucas approaching.
"Would you mind if I ride along? I'd like to ask you about something." Lucas asked quietly.
"Sure, no problem." Ben said simply as he awkwardly climbed into the limousine, being careful not to jostle Oleksandr too much.
* * * * *
Once everyone was seated, Lucas quietly said, "Please forgive me for asking, but I've noticed that the boy seems to be in pain. Is there anything I can do?"
Ben looked at the twin uncertainly, not knowing how much he should reveal.
"Yeah. He got hurt, but it's no worse than what's happened to other homeless kids. We'll get him through it." The twin said frankly.
Ben was a bit shocked that the twin spoke of a little boy being beaten and raped so casually, but unfortunately, it probably wasn't all that uncommon among the homeless in the streets of Chicago.
"Does he need a doctor?" Lucas asked cautiously.
Ben decided that, for whatever reason, he trusted Lucas, at least enough to clue him in on what was really going on. "Listen. If you're asking if he might benefit from some medical attention, then the answer is 'yes'. Me and Dax and maybe whichever twin this is will take care of that as best we can. But if you're asking if Oleksandr needs to see a doctor, then the answer is 'no', because a doctor would be required, by law, to report what he found and then, no matter how that went, it's likely that none of us would be leaving Kansas City anytime soon."
"If there's anything I can do to help, any medical supplies..." Lucas trailed off quietly.
"If anything comes up, we'll be sure to let you know." Ben said as he sadly smiled at the boy who was clutching his arm.
Lucas watched the scene as his mind drifted to those near and dear to him.
Suddenly, they were pulling up in front of the hotel. Lucas was surprised that he had been unaware of the passage of time as they rode.
* * * * *
After a brief stop at the front desk, Lucas led their little group to the nearest elevator.
"If you'll come this way, we'll get all of you into your rooms." Lucas said as he stepped off the elevator and walked to the right.
"What about our stuff?" One of the twins asked cautiously.
"The bellboy will be up with all your things in just a moment. I suppose it would be best if we waited on him to get here." Lucas said consideringly.
"Hey, Lucas!" A voice called from down the hall.
Everyone turned and looked at the skinny, older teenager as he approached.
"Bug, come over here. I'd like for you to meet the group from Chicago." Lucas said happily.
"Bug?" Ben asked incredulously.
"Everyone, this is one of the members of the Orlando group, his name is Bug." Lucas said, ignoring Ben's comment completely.
It took a moment for Bug to catch up to them, but he finally said, "Isn't this place great? We couldn't believe it when we got here."
"Yeah. It's a little hard to believe." Brother Jacques said frankly.
"I'm surprised to see you. I expected all of you to be asleep by now." Lucas said honestly.
"When I went to give the boys their pajamas, they invited me to stay and eat pizza and watch a movie with them." Bug said with a slight smile.
"Oh? What movie did you watch?" Lucas asked curiously.
"I don't know what it was called. It had all kinds of CGI explosions and stuff, and this guy was running around, mostly trying to get this skinny girl's attention, but she treated him like shit. Finally, after he saves her boney ass about a hundred or so times, she finally gives in and gives him a kiss, right at the end of the movie... it kind of made me ashamed to be a guy." Bug said frankly.
"Are the boys asleep?" Lucas asked curiously.
"Yeah. They were both asleep by the second explosion." Bug chuckled, then added, "I don't know why I kept watching it. I guess I was hoping that it would get better. But it never really did."
The sound of the elevator opening caused everyone to turn and look.
"Good. Now that we have the luggage, I suppose we can begin." Lucas said with a smile, then indicated for Hank to pull the luggage cart over to the first door.
Bug smiled at Hank and fell into step at his side.
"Who wants to be first?" Lucas asked as he looked around.
"How about I take this room and we put Loquicia and Jamiah in the next room, so I can put her down?" Brother Jacques asked hopefully.
"We can do that." Lucas said happily, then walked to the second door and opened it for Jacques.
"Jamiah, would you get you and your sister's bags?" Brother Jacques asked as he walked past Lucas to put Loquicia in her bed.
"Can Ty have the next room? I'm gonna drop him if I don't put him down soon." One of the twins said in an exhausted voice.
Lucas chuckled as he hurried to the next room to unlock the door.
As soon as the door was open, the twin rushed past Lucas and ran to the bed.
"I'll leave him a note to let him know that I'm in the next room, in case he wakes up and gets scared." Dax said as he walked past Lucas.
"Good idea, Dax." The twin said admiringly as he waited for Dax to finish his note on the hotel stationary.
"So that means that you're next?" Lucas asked as he held out a keycard.
"Yeah." Dax said quietly as he accepted the card from Lucas.
* * * * *
"Zane, I'd really like to continue the conversation from the plane. Would you like to share a room with me?" Brother Jacques asked hesitantly.
After a moment to get over the surprise, Zane slightly smiled and nodded his agreement.
Ben noticed a crestfallen look fall over first one twin's face, then the other.
Oleksandr shifted in his arms and he suddenly realized that he might have a problem.
As he tried to think of what he could do, he noticed Bug, helping the bellboy retrieve Dax's luggage.
"Bug?" Ben asked cautiously, trying to draw his attention without alerting everyone in the hallway.
"Yeah?" Bug asked as he walked to Ben's side.
Before Ben could say anything, Bug looked at Oleksandr and said, "Hey, guy. What're you doing up so late?"
Oleksandr giggled at the attention and squirmed in Ben's arms.
"I'm Ben. I know it's strange to ask this, but is there any way you could think about doing me a huge favor?" Ben asked slowly, not knowing why he was asking anything of a complete stranger.
"What's up?" Bug asked curiously.
"Do you see the twins over there..." Ben started to ask but was interrupted.
"Are you kidding, they'd be kind of hard to miss." Bug said as he turned and gave them a long look.
"Listen. From what I gather, the twins are used to spending the night with Brother Jacques. It's the only way that they feel safe. But it looks like Brother Jacques is interested in my cousin, Zane. So, now the twins are kind of left on their own." Ben said quietly.
"Yeah?" Bug asked as he picked up on Ben's concern.
"I volunteered to let them stay with me, but that was before I started taking care of Oleksandr. There's no way that Oleksandr is going to want to be left alone tonight." Ben said, even more slowly.
"So you want me to spend the night with two identical, gorgeous guys. Is that what you're asking?" Bug asked with a smile.
"Of course, it's only if the twins want to. But I thought, maybe, you could let them know that it would be okay if they spent the night in your room." Ben finished hesitantly.
"Introduce me to them." Bug said simply.
"You'll do it?" Ben asked with surprise.
"Hey. I'm willing to give it a shot... maybe two." Bug finished with a grin.
"This isn't about getting laid. I'm just saying that the guys really don't want to be alone. Will you treat them right?" Ben asked cautiously.
"Yeah. Don't worry. I'm not really an asshole, I just act like one sometimes." Bug said quietly.
Ben smiled at the answer, then guided Bug over to the twins and said, "Bug, these guys are Ken and Kev, but don't ask me to tell you which is which."
"Don't worry about it. We're pretty much interchangeable." One of the twins said with a smile.
"Ben told me that you guys really don't want to be alone tonight." Bug said frankly.
Both twins looked at Ben with expressions of hurt and betrayal.
"Sorry." Ben said quietly, wanting to slink away under their combined glares.
"Listen, guys. I have my own room. Right over there. If you guys want to stay with me, it's fine. And if not, that's fine, too." Bug said simply.
The twins shared a look of uncertainty.
"Look at me. There's no way I could force one of you to do anything you didn't want to, much less two of you. So you don't have to worry about me doing anything you don't want. We can talk or sleep or whatever you want." Bug said frankly.
The twins seemed to be conflicted, but on the verge of agreeing.
"To tell you the truth, I don't feel like being alone tonight anymore than you two do. I think being alone would give me too much time to think about someone." Bug finished quietly.
"You have a boyfriend?" One of the twins asked cautiously.
"No. We never hooked up. But I wanted to, really bad. It couldn't have worked, but I really liked him." Bug said sadly.
"Even a small heartbreak needs time to heal." One of the twins said frankly.
Bug looked at him with surprise, then firmly said, "Fuck time! I'm right here, right now, and I don't want to be alone."
First one twin, then the other began to smile. Finally, one of them said, "You won't have to be."
"Goodnight, Ben." One of the twins said as he walked to Bug's right side.
"Thanks." The other said as he walked to Bug's left.
"I'm glad I could help." Ben said with amusement bubbling up within him.
"Do you guys need to get your luggage?" Bug asked curiously.
"Yeah." Both twins answered in unison.
"Do you guys want separate rooms, or will you be sharing one?" Lucas asked as he walked up to the twins at the luggage trolley.
"We're staying with Bug." One of the twins said happily.
Lucas turned and looked at Bug with surprise.
Bug shrugged, but couldn't restrain his smile.
"You guys have fun." Lucas chuckled.
"If you insist." One of the twins said as he picked up his backpack.
"You are the host." The other twin said with a smile.
"We wouldn't want to be rude." Bug said sweetly.
Lucas couldn't restrain a laugh and nodded at them.
Once the twins had each retrieved a backpack, Bug smiled as he led them to his room.
Out of the corner of his eye, he caught an expression of something like surprise or disappointment on Hank's face.
* * * * *
"Do you know what we need to do?" Ben asked Dax cautiously.
After a moment of consideration, Dax quietly asked, "Oleksandr, do you remember me?"
The boy held a little bit tighter to Ben, then quietly said, "I remember that you were at the mission, back when I was there, before."
"That's right. My name is Dax."
Oleksandr cautiously nodded.
"I heard what you told the twins at the mission. I know you were hurt." Dax said gently, watching carefully for Oleksandr's reaction.
When the boy only slightly nodded, Dax continued, "You need to get a bath, and Ben and I need to see how bad you're hurt."
Oleksandr clutched Ben a little more tightly and buried his face in Ben's shoulder.
"We won't do anything unless you say it's okay, and we promise not to hurt you. But it's important for us to see how bad you're hurt, so we'll know how to make you get better faster." Dax said gently.
Ben tightened his grip on the boy in his arms and whispered, "If you want, you can hold onto me the whole time. I won't let you go."
Oleksandr pulled away enough to look into Ben's eyes hopefully.
Ben slightly smiled, and said, "Okay. It looks like we have a deal."
* * * * *
"You can put your backpacks over there with mine, if you want." Bug said as he led the way into his room.
Both twins deposited their backpacks by Bugs in the living room area of the suite.
"Do you guys want to shower or eat or... what?" Bug asked uncertainly.
"Right now, what I want to do most is sleep." One of the twins said frankly.
"We can shower in the morning. It's been a really long day." The other twin agreed.
"I think I'm running on adrenaline right now. When my head hits the pillow, I'll probably be out like a light." Bug admitted.
The twins nodded in perfect unison.
"Do you guys sleep, um... naked?" Bug asked cautiously, not knowing which answer he was hoping for.
"Sometimes. But usually it's underwear and maybe a t shirt." One of the twins said simply.
"Oh. Me too." Bug said shyly.
"You don't mind if we go right to bed, do you? I mean, you're not, like, disappointed, are you?" One of the twins asked quietly.
"No. I don't have my heart set on anything, I'm just... I don't usually do stuff like this." Bug mumbled.
"We're only used to sleeping with Jake." The other twin said gently, trying to put Bug at ease.
Without warning, Bug toed off his shoes, then started taking off his pants.
It took a moment, but soon the twins were following his lead.
In less than a minute, the three of them were standing in a rough triangle, wearing only their socks, t shirts and underwear.
"Do you need to do anything before you go to bed?" One of the twins asked.
Bug thought for a moment, then reached back to pull the hair tie and release his ponytail.
One of the twins turned to face away as the other twin walked up behind him and took off the hair tie that was keeping his braid in place.
Bug automatically walked behind the second twin and did the same.
Although Bug hadn't noticed before, the braid actually had six hair ties, spaced evenly down the length of the braid.
He found the sensation of unbraiding the hair and setting it free kind of relaxing and surprisingly intimate.
When he was finished unbraiding the hair before him, the twin turned around and Bug's breath caught in his throat.
The twins were as cute as they could be when their hair was braided, but now, with it let down, their hair flowed in long gentle waves. They were both stunning to behold.
From the look in the twins' eyes, they appeared to be thinking the same thing about him.
"Let's get to bed." One of the twins whispered.
"Yeah." Bug agreed as he forced himself to take a step.
Suddenly, he realized something that puzzled him.
The twins were gorgeous. He found that from the little time that they had spent together, that he really liked them, but for some reason, he wasn't the slightest bit aroused.
He followed along and was guided to take the center position in the bed, with a twin on each side.
"I hope you don't mind a little spooning." One of the twins said quietly.
"I suppose there's no better time to find out." Bug said as he turned onto his side.
* * * * *
Ben was so thankful for Dax that he didn't have enough words to express it adequately.
From his point of view, all he did was hold on to Oleksandr and try to keep him calm while Dax slowly undressed the boy.
"Are you okay, Buddy?" Ben asked gently.
"You're not going to..." Oleksandr choked on the word.
"No. All I'm going to do is stay right here and hold you. And all Dax is going to do is wash you and make sure that you're not hurt too bad." Ben said as he fought to hold back his tears.
"Ben?" Dax said cautiously.
The sound sent a chill up Ben's spine, but he forced himself to look at Dax to find out what was wrong.
"The stuff on his back and legs, that'll heal up just fine, but back here... there's some tearing and it's bruised pretty bad." Dax said queasily.
"Let me go for a second, Oleksandr, I need to look." Ben said gently.
Oleksandr held tighter and shook his head.
Ben thought for a moment, then quietly asked, "Is there anything we can do to help him?"
"I don't know. I'm sure the doctors would give him some shots and pills and stuff for pain and to keep it from getting infected. But we don't have any of that stuff." Dax said helplessly.
"Wait. If you'll go in the other room and get the brown leather pouch out of my suitcase, I've got my bathroom stuff. I have some antibiotic ointment and some Tylenol in there. That should work, shouldn't it?" Ben asked hopefully.
"I don't see why it wouldn't. Hang on. I'll get it." Dax said quickly, then dashed out of the room.
"We're going to make you all better, Oleksandr." Ben said as he held the boy firmly.
* * * * *
"I've never slept with anyone before." Bug whispered.
"Are you saying that you're a virgin?" The twin in front of him asked.
"No. I fucked a few times, I've just never 'slept' with anyone before." Bug said honestly.
"Well, I hope it doesn't bother you." The twin behind him said gently.
"It's nice so far." Bug said with a smile.
"Thanks for doing this, Bug. With so much going on, I just don't know if we could have handled being alone right now." The twin behind him admitted shyly.
"I've never really been alone. I've always had someone, my Oma or my brother. But I think one of the things that I'm most afraid of is that someday they'll be gone, then... I don't know what I'll do. They've been my whole life." Bug said distantly.
"Ken grew up with our dad. I grew up with our mom, the bitch. When dad died, Ken came to live with me in Chicago, but the bitch packed her shit and skipped town before she even got to meet him." Kev said quietly.
"Kev accepted me, even though I didn't know anything about how to survive in a place like Chicago. When some pimps and drug dealers got into a big fight, Jake came and got us and... well, we barely got out of there alive. But we survived and that's when we found the mission." Ken finished in a contented voice.
"Father Doherty took us in. He helped Jake get into a good rehab. He gave us a place to live where we didn't have to worry about selling drugs or being whored out. He must have saved our lives a hundred different ways." Kev said in wonder.
"Me and the father even taught Kev how to read and helped him so that before long, we were able to get the same grades in school and eventually graduate together." Ken said warmly.
"It sounds like you guys have been through a lot." Bug said thoughtfully.
"It's nothing compared to what Jake's been through. His dad killed his mom, then got sent to prison. Jake started running drugs and whoring, because there was no other way for him to survive. Later, he started using drugs, and we're talking the hardcore stuff." Kev said frankly.
"But while he was in rehab, he found out about his HIV. I don't think he ever cared about himself, if it killed him, but he wouldn't ever want to pass it on to someone else. He never whored himself again after that." Ken said quietly.
"But right after he got out, he was wanting to use so bad it was almost killing him. Me and Ken were really worried about him, so we stayed with him one night, just to try to keep him from using. That's when he told us that being alone is kind of a trigger for him. Since that night, he's never been alone." Kev finished seriously.
Bug couldn't think of anything to say. His mind didn't even seem to be able to accept all of what Jake and the twins had been through.
* * * * *
The application of the antiseptic salve was a little bit traumatic for Oleksandr (and Dax, too, for that matter). But the boy got through it with Ben's help. And finally, clean and dressed in one of Ben's t shirts, Oleksandr was ready for bed.
"Do you think he can have a whole one of these or should I cut it in half?" Ben asked cautiously as he looked at the Tylenol bottle.
"I'd say a whole one. But those things really mess with my stomach. You might want to give it to him with some food." Dax said cautiously.
"Well, since 'someone' ate every single sandwich the flight attendant brought to us, I'm about starved. So I think we should call room service and order up a good meal for three." Ben said as he tenderly held Oleksandr close to his side.
"I should probably go back to my room." Dax said uncertainly.
"You can if you want, but aren't you hungry, too?" Ben asked curiously.
"I am." Dax reluctantly admitted.
"Well, before it gets any later, I'm calling room service. If you want anything, just tell me." Ben said as he picked up the small menu from beside the phone, then dialed the room service number.
After establishing which room it was for, Ben said, "I'd like two deluxe bacon cheeseburgers."
"Me too." Oleksandr said hopefully.
"Make it three." Ben said into the phone, then looked at Dax with question.
After a moment of hesitation, Dax slowly nodded.
"Make it five." Ben said into the phone, then smiled at Dax's look of surprise.
"Do you want fries with that?" Ben asked as he turned his attention to Oleksandr.
The boy nodded vigorously.
"Three orders of fries." Ben said seriously, then smiled and added, "And three orders of onion rings."
Oleksandr's smile was luminous and Dax was even starting to grin.
"I think three large cokes and three large milkshakes should just about do it." Ben finished with a smile, then put the mouthpiece of the phone against his shoulder as he quietly asked, "Do you want dessert?"
"I don't think there's any way we're going to be able to eat all of what you just ordered." Dax said frankly.
Ben nodded soberly, then said into the phone, "Three slices of apple pie."
Dax's mouth fell open in shock.
"Great! Thanks!" Ben said happily, then hung up the phone.
"There's no way on earth that we're going to be able to eat all that food." Dax said seriously.
"No. But from the looks of it, I'm betting that neither one of you two has known what a full belly feels like for quite a while. And, honestly, I can't remember the last time I was this hungry. So, tonight, I'm pigging out. And y'all are invited." Ben said with a grin.
Dax considered for a moment, then broke into a smile.
"I'm betting that this place probably has a few movie channels on the TV. Would you like to do the honors?" Ben asked as he rested back onto the couch, carrying Oleksandr with him.
"What do you want to watch?" Dax asked cautiously.
"I don't know, see if you can find that movie Bug was talking about with all the CGI explosions and the boney assed girl." Ben said as he cuddled Oleksandr to his side.
"But he said it wasn't very good." Dax said cautiously.
"Hey, with explosions and a boney assed girl, how bad can it be?" Ben chuckled.
"I'm afraid we're going to find out. This is probably it, the next pay-per-view starts in ten minutes. Are you sure you want to watch it?" Dax asked uncertainly.
"You've got ten minutes to find something better." Ben said with a smile.
* * * * *
"Are you asleep?" Bug whispered.
"Not yet." Ken said softly.
"There's something, it's none of my business, and you can tell me so if you want, but I was kind of wondering... you two are so sexy and hot. Did you ever... I mean, living on the streets, there must have been people who wanted you." Bug stammered.
"Are you asking if we ever did it for money?" Ken asked gently.
"Yeah. And if you did, that's okay. I'm just having trouble seeing how as drop-dead gorgeous as you two are, you could 'not' do it." Bug said honestly.
"Well, the simple answer is, 'no' we haven't. For a long time, Kev had a big problem with the idea. He saw several people in his life go from being perfectly normal one day and transform into sweating, shaking drug addicted wrecks the next. He always told me that it was the whoring that started them down that path." Ken said softly.
"But I know people must have wanted you..." Bug said insistently.
"Sure they did. But it was mostly Jake that kept them off of us. When he got out of the rehab and really committed himself to staying clean, we made him a deal. We'd protect him in the night, if he'd protect us in the day." Ken said distantly.
"So, between Jake and Father Doherty, you two were able to keep away from whoring and drugs, plus you were able to finish high school?" Bug asked curiously.
"Yeah. Even though I might not have felt like it at the time, looking back, I was really lucky." Ken said contentedly.
"By the way, how old are you guys?" Bug asked cautiously.
"Eighteen. We'll be nineteen next month." Ken said frankly, then asked, "What about you?"
"I'm seventeen until next summer." Bug said reluctantly.
"Don't worry, there's no rush. I'll tell you a little secret. Eighteen's kind of a letdown. When the day finally comes, it turns out that it's really no big deal." Ken said softly, then whispered, "Go to sleep."
"Yeah. Goodnight, Ken." Bug whispered in return, then brushed some hair out of the way before kissing Ken on the ear.
* * * * *
"Oh my God! These hamburgers are AWESOME!" Ben said between bites.
"French fries!" Oleksandr crowed as he dipped three more in a puddle of catsup before stuffing the entire dripping mess into his mouth.
"Seriously, guys. Have you ever had onion rings this good before in your LIFE? These are to DIE FOR!" Dax exclaimed in flamboyant glee.
"I know what it is. You're probably used to the factory made ones that most places have, what you have in front of you right now is homemade handmade onion rings. My friend Danny's mom makes them, and... calling those other things onion rings is just wrong. They're crap. Real is the best." Ben said seriously.
"I don't care! They're WONDERFUL!" Dax said happily.
"French fries!" Oleksandr called out before stuffing his face with yet another dripping handful of fries.
"Hey, look! Boney-ass is gonna get crushed!" Ben said as he pointed at the TV.
"Don't worry. Gym-bunny's got his unlimited ammo gun, so she's got nothing to worry about." Dax said as he turned a little of his attention toward the screen.
"How's that going to help against a car?" Ben asked, then his eyes went wide as his question was answered.
"Seriously?! He blew up that car with a fucking gun?" Dax asked in astonishment
"And what was that car carrying? C-4 cubes in vats of gasoline? " Ben asked as he watched the phenomenal CGI explosion.
"Oh look. The explosion was so bad that Gym-bunny got a smudge on his face." Dax said with a girlish giggle.
"I bet that Boney-ass doesn't even wipe it off for him." Ben said frankly.
All three of them watched and waited until 'Boney-ass' declared what a strong and self-reliant woman she was and walked away.
"Bitch!" Dax said to the screen, then glanced at Ben and said, "Sorry."
"Don't be. You called it right." Ben said before taking another bite of his hamburger.
Dax looked at Ben curiously for a moment, then quietly said, "Thanks."
"For what?" Ben asked around a mouthful of food.
"I don't know. For letting me be me. There's not many people I can be myself around." Dax said shyly.
Ben thought about it for a moment, then said, "I like you like this, being open and free. But I kind of like the gloomy sarcastic you, too. So just be whoever you want to be and I'm fine with it."
"If I could find a guy like you..." Dax began to say, but was interrupted.
"Look! Boney-ass is about to get herself in trouble again!" Ben said as he pointed at the screen.
"Don't go in there you stupid bitch!" Dax called at her.
After a few seconds, Dax shook his head in exasperation and said, "I told her not to go in there."
"Don't worry, I have faith! Gym-bunny will come to her rescue!" Ben said dramatically.
A long moment of silence was broken by Oleksandr calling out, "French fries!"
TO BE CONTINUED...
Wow! I really like Dax. I know he has had a lot of hurt in his life, and I am glad he is opening up to Ben. When we first met him, I was afraid he would never be able to heal from all the hurt he has been through. Now, I kinda think he might just have found a path he can follow and maybe, just maybe, Ben will be there to help him... And Oleksandr.
Oleksandr is quite a loving little guy, especially once he trusts the person who is taking care of him. I thought it was very interesting that he so instantly latched onto Ben. I would have expected him to at least protest being handed over to a total stranger, but he seemed to know that Ben would be good to him.
Then top that off with the way he responded to Bug's greeting. He actually smiled at him.
It's quite a jump, though, for Ben, going from seemingly being the handsome heartthrob of a rich, pretty self centered trophy girl, to taking on the huge responsibility of caring for two young guys, that he has obviously started to consider HIS kids.
I also find it very interesting that Bug and the twins are sharing their stories with one another. I am beginning to think this is going to be more than a simple one night thing.
I feel sorry for Hank. I kinda think he might just have a crush on Bug.
Like all MultiMapper stories, this one has become much more than we thought it would be when it started.
I am certainly ready for the next chapter.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher