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"Crewman Winters, reporting as ordered sir." Vincent said as he stood at attention, just inside the conference room door.
He was feeling some apprehension about why the captain might have summoned him, since they had just spoken minutes before.
"At ease, Crewman. Please come in and have a seat." Captain Byrne said seriously.
As Vincent walked to the conference table, he noticed Commander M'Butu, Cyril Byrne, and another man whom he recognized as one of the colony's leaders.
"Crewman Winters, have you been introduced to Mr. Johanson?" Captain Byrne asked casually.
"No sir." Vincent answered in his 'mature' voice.
"Crewman Vincent Winters, this is Torbjørn Johanson. He is the head of the colony's governing counsel." Captain Byrne said formally.
"It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Crewman Winters." Mr. Johanson said with a sincere smile.
"It's nice to meet you too." Vincent said as he looked Mr. Johanson in the eyes, then glanced at the captain with question.
"Crewman Winters, since you have been named 'first citizen' of the colony, Mr. Johanson thought that it would be appropriate for you to be the first to move into your new house." Captain Byrne said carefully.
"It is simply our way of honoring you." Mr. Johanson hurried to explain. "I think that it would also be of significance to the colonists to know that the colonization has officially begun and that you, their hero, are leading the way for them."
"Hero?" Vincent squeaked.
Cyril chuckled at Vincent's expression and said, "Given the hardship and loss of the recent months, the people need something to believe in. I'm sure as time goes on, and they get to know you, that it will be less of an issue. But for now, your reputation among the colonists is a bit larger than life."
"So, Crewman Winters, when the final surveys are concluded, will you be willing to go to the surface and take possession of your home?" Mr. Johanson asked simply.
Vincent was about to accept when a thought came to him.
"If it's okay with you, I'd like to ask T'Lani about it before I answer." Vincent said carefully.
Mr. Johanson looked at Vincent with question, then at Cyril for explanation.
"His wife." Cyril said softly to Mr. Johanson, then turned to his father and asked, "Can Ensign T'Lani join us for this discussion?"
"That's okay. You don't need to call her." Vincent hurried to say before Captain Byrne could answer. "I have a telepathic bond with her and I'm asking her now."
"Let her know that this isn't a requirement; simply an offer." Captain Byrne said seriously.
Vincent nodded that he had heard and that he would pass on the message.
Everyone at the table watched as Vincent seemed to be lost in concentration.
"Yes," Vincent said, as his distant gaze faded.
"You'll accept a house at the colony?" Commander M'Butu asked, to be sure of what Vincent was agreeing to.
"Yes. When the surveys are finished and everything else is ready, T'Lani and I will go down and move into our home." Vincent said seriously.
"Very good." Captain Byrne said with a sincere nod of approval.
"Captain. Sensors are detecting an energy weapon being discharged on the planet's surface." Lieutenant Clark said in an anxious voice over the comm.
"Are we under attack?" Captain Byrne asked, as he stood.
After a long silent moment, Lieutenant Clark responded uncertainly, "I don't think so. The energy weapon seems to be an unusually low yield and isn't directed at us."
"What is the target?" Captain Byrne asked quickly.
"There is no target that I can identify." Lieutenant Clark said in a bewildered voice.
"Then what is the purpose of discharging the weapon?" Captain Byrne asked in a rhetorical tone.
"Why don't we ask Mycien?" Vincent asked reluctantly, feeling that he might be speaking out of turn.
"That would seem to be the most direct route to finding an answer." Commander M'Butu said in a considering voice.
"Commander, would you like to establish contact, since you have had previous dealings with the AI?" Captain Byrne asked assertively.
"Yes sir." Commander M'Butu said as he stepped to the comm controls, then quickly said, "Lieutenant Patterson, would you establish vocal communication with the colony AI?"
"Right away, sir." Debbie said efficiently.
Vincent felt distinctly out of place, but at the same time, he wanted to know what was happening.
"I have establish contact. I'm putting it through." Debbie said quickly.
"Mycien, we've detected an energy weapon being discharged on the surface. Is that something that you are doing?" Commander M'Butu asked as he was obviously trying to keep a neutral, non-accusatory tone.
"The energy discharge you detected is part of the weather modification system. The ambient temperature of the cloud mass approaching the colony is being raised to adjust the anticipated rainfall to the desired level." Mycien said efficiently.
Commander M'Butu and Captain Byrne exchanged a look of surprise at the answer.
Before the Commander could respond, Mr. Johanson asked, "Are you saying that you have a system in place to control the weather?"
"Not control, as such, but there are safeguards in place to modify the naturally occurring weather patterns to provide the optimum benefit for the colony." Mycien said professionally.
"So does that mean that, if a dangerous storm were approaching, you could cause it to dissipate before reaching the colony?" Mr. Johanson asked carefully.
"Yes, in certain circumstances. In other circumstances, the approaching storm might be adjusted to stabilize it until it passed beyond the colony." Mycien answered simply.
After a long, silent moment, Commander M'Butu said, "Thank you Mycien. Your explanation was very helpful."
"Please feel free to call upon me if you have any other concerns regarding the colony." Mycien said in a friendly tone, then disconnected the transmission.
"After what the colonists went through at Kimber, knowing that we have the technology in place to manipulate approaching weather should provide some much needed comfort." Cyril said speculatively.
"Yes. I should think so." Captain Byrne said thoughtfully.
Cyril glanced at Vincent and gave him a ghost of a smile before saying, "Crewman Winters, if you'll come with me to my office, I could show you where your home will be located."
Vincent looked at the Captain with question.
"Yes. That does sound like a good idea." Captain Byrne said in a considering voice, then looked at Vincent and said, "You are dismissed."
"Thank you, sir." Vincent said, then glanced at Cyril to indicate that he was ready to go.
* * * * *
"Recreation deck." Cyril said to the ceiling of the lift when they were both aboard.
Cyril glanced down and noticed a curious, speculative look in Vincent's eyes.
"You had a question?" Cyril asked casually.
"Yeah. I just... I kinda thought that you were the leader of the colony." Vincent said timidly.
Cyril smiled, then said, "I am one of the leaders. My primary duty is to represent the colony when dealing with Starfleet and the Federation. Torbjorn is our leader and basically coordinates with the rest of us to be sure that we're all working in the same direction, toward the same goals."
"Oh. That makes sense." Vincent said thoughtfully. "I guess your dad being a Starfleet captain must have helped you a lot."
"Yes, in a sense." Cyril said gently. "Due to the variety of people I became acquainted with as a consequence of my father's work, I was well placed to accept the position with the colony when it came available."
As the lift doors opened, Cyril noticed a disturbed look in Vincent's eyes.
"How are you doing, Vincent?" Cyril asked with concern as he stopped just outside the lift.
"I'm fine." Vincent answered automatically.
"You seem to be unusually quiet, like something is bothering you." Cyril said with evident concern.
Vincent looked up at him for a moment, then quietly said, "It's like a lot of things are ending and beginning right now. Nothing is really wrong, but... I don't know... everything's changing."
Cyril nodded as he thought about what he knew of Vincent's situation.
"Vincent, occasionally it will seem that everything in your life is in upheaval. I believe that it happens to everyone at one time or another. It is important, at times like this, to embrace those things in your life that are stable and most important to you. They will act as your foundation." Cyril said slowly then made a casual gesture to indicate for them to start walking again.
"What kind of things?" Vincent asked curiously.
"You would have to be the one to answer that. For me, it is my family. I know that no matter what happens in the rest of my life, they will be there to support me through the difficult times." Cyril said seriously.
Vincent nodded, then absently said, "I haven't talked to Cory in a while. I should probably check in with him. That would probably make me feel better."
Cyril paused outside the door of his office and said, "From what I know of your Clan, I can imagine that they will be an excellent source of support. I should also think that spending some time with your wife might be of benefit."
"Yeah. But she's been pulling extra long shifts lately to get ready for setting up the medical stuff at the colony. Between her duties and mine, it's hard for us to find the time to even be in the same room." Vincent said frankly.
"Perhaps now that we have arrived at the colony, things will begin to settle for the two of you." Cyril said, then gestured toward the door, indicating for Vincent to precede him into his office.
* * * * *
"How are the preparations coming along?" Cyril asked as he walked up behind JonJon at the terminal.
"The first stage settlement plan is complete. JonJon is reviewing the town center occupation plan to be certain that all the providers of goods and services have adequate facilities to serve their needs." Jenn said happily.
"You've made significant progress." Cyril said in an impressed voice.
"Roger's generational distribution pattern simplified the entire process of settling the colonists. That left us extra time to do this." JonJon said absently as he worked.
"We've just come down to see if you've made the housing arrangements for our first citizen." Cyril said with a glance at Vincent.
"Yes. Let me show you." JonJon said quickly as he brought up a map on the terminal screen.
Vincent stepped closer so he could look over JonJon's shoulder.
"Do you see that one, right there?" JonJon asked as he pointed at the map. "That will be the Winters estate."
"Estate?" Vincent asked with surprise.
JonJon chuckled at Vincent's expression, then explained, "That's what we're calling it. To keep from having 3/4 of the colony standing vacant, Roger decided to assign each family one of the six-sided parcels of land. Most of them contain three buildings."
"You can think of the extra houses as guest cottages, if you like." Roger said frankly.
"Or a place for your kids to live someday." JonJon said with an impish grin.
"Okay." Vincent said with some excitement, even though what he was seeing wasn't much more than a dot on the terminal screen.
"This one next to yours is mine and that one is Benny's." JonJon said shyly.
"So our three houses are facing each other?" Vincent asked with a smile.
"Yeah. I talked to Benny about it and he thought that the three of us should sort of stick together." JonJon said quietly.
"I think it's going to be great having you guys as neighbors." Vincent said with a joyous smile.
"I think so too." JonJon said gently, then went back to work on the settlement plan.
"But I thought you and Lehman were going to be living with Cyril and Roger." Vincent said suddenly.
"Oh, we are. At least, at first. But Roger said that it probably wouldn't be too long before Lehman and I are going to want to be on our own, so we each got our own estate. Dad's and Lehman's are right here by mine." JonJon said with excitement as he pointed to more little dots on the map.
"I can't wait to see it. What do I need to do next?" Vincent asked as he looked at Cyril with question.
"Wait for the final survey to be completed." Cyril said simply.
"Yes." Roger said with a nod. "As soon as we've received approval to begin the colonization, you'll be the first to transport to the surface."
"You and your wife." Cyril amended quietly.
"That's right." Roger said with a smile at Cyril, then continued, "After that, we will begin the full colonization effort."
"So how long is the colonization going to take?" Vincent asked curiously.
"The way we're planning to do this, that may be impossible to predict." Roger said frankly.
Cyril nodded his agreement and said, "We've decided to let the people go at their own pace and in their own time. It may end up being a bit slower than a strict timetable, but it should be quite a bit more comfortable for the colonists. By referencing the colonization plan, all a person need do is identify themselves to the transporter operator and they will be transported directly to their new homes."
"It isn't a perfect plan. I'm sure there will be times when some will have to await their turn to transport, but there aren't so many of us that it should cause undue hardship to anyone." Roger said frankly.
"Hi dads!" Lehman said as he walked into the office with Fizgig in his arms and Benny at his side.
"How are you doing Son?" Roger asked as he immediately gave Lehman a hug.
"We're good. Fizgig was just missing JonJon so we thought we'd bring him down to visit." Lehman said happily.
"Thank you." JonJon said as he accepted Fizgig from Lehman.
"I can work on the business distribution plan if you would like to give Fizgig some attention." Jenn said quietly.
"Thank you Jenn." JonJon said as he stood from his chair before the terminal.
Jenn took his place and began working.
"How long now?" Lehman asked with excitement.
"Any time. We're just waiting on the call from your grandfather." Cyril said with a loving smile at Lehman.
"Do you think I'll be able to sleep in our new house tonight?" Lehman asked hopefully.
"I can't really say. There may be quite a lot for Cyril and I to do." Roger said and noticed the crestfallen expression in Lehman's eyes.
"I bet Crewman Channing would be willing to go down with them if you can't get away." Vincent said quickly, remembering the discussion at breakfast.
"Crewman Channing, you say?" Roger asked curiously, then looked at Cyril with question.
"From the amount of time the two of you... excuse me Fizgig, the three of you have spent with Crewman Channing, I have no doubt that he would enjoy accompanying you to the surface." Cyril said with a tender look at Lehman, then continued, "Once we've received clearance from father, I'll make some inquiries."
"I'd better get back to deflector control before Daddy Joe gets too worried about me." Vincent said then reluctantly added, "And I still have a report to write about our trip down to the colony."
"Hopefully we'll be calling you soon." Cyril said with a smile.
Vincent nodded, then left the room.
* * * * *
"What's going on?" Darin asked immediately as Vincent walked into Deflector Control.
"Oh, it wasn't anything bad after all. They just asked me if I wanted to be the first one to move into a house when we're allowed to move into the colony."
"So you're going to have a house here?" Darin asked with mild surprise.
"Yeah. I didn't really think about it before, but I think it'll be good for me and T'Lani to have a real home, I mean, like down on a planet." Vincent said honestly.
"Yeah. That does sound nice." Darin said with a distant smile.
"Well, they have lots of houses down there. Do you think you and Rad might like to do something like that?" Vincent asked curiously.
Darin blinked with surprise at the question, then quickly said, "No. It's too soon... waaaaaay too soon for us to be thinking about owning a permanent home together."
Vincent nodded that he understood what Darin was saying.
"So when are you and T'Lani going to move into your new home?" Darin asked, obviously trying to change the subject.
"When the survey team finishes. But I have some stuff to do before then; I need to get started." Vincent said as he walked to one of the auxiliary stations.
"Is it anything I can help with? I really don't have anything to do until Rad finishes his shift." Darin said frankly.
Vincent thought for a moment, then said, "I just have a report to write. I've kinda gotta do that myself, but you can keep me company if you want."
"That sounds good."
* * * * *
The report writing was a lot easier than Vincent expected. Apparently, all the practice he had received recently was paying off.
"You done?" Darin asked as Vincent transmitted his report.
"Yeah." Vincent said as he turned in his chair. "It was a pretty simple one, today."
"Do you think that maybe you should pack or something so you can move into your new house when it's time?" Darin asked seriously.
After a moment to consider, Vincent shook his head and said, "I'm going to need all my stuff here when we leave. I don't really have anything that I'm going to want to leave behind."
"You should probably take *something* with you." Darin said slowly, "I mean, the new house won't feel like it's really yours if you don't have anything of yours in it."
Vincent considered for a moment, then finally nodded his agreement.
"Hey, why don't we go up to the ship's store and I'll get you a house warming gift?" Darin said with a quick, cheerful smile.
"You don't have to do that. But I have an idea." Vincent said seriously.
"What's that?" Darin asked with interest.
"Well, there is one thing that's kind of special to me that I'd like to take down with me, a picture. Maybe you could help me pick out a frame for it?" Vincent asked hopefully.
"Sure, little brother. Go get it. We probably don't have a lot of time." Darin said happily.
Vincent signed off the auxiliary terminal then hurried into the supply room.
"I think that, in time, this will prove to be a very good thing for him." Thaelan said from the main.
Darin looked at him with question.
"To have the knowledge that he has a home to return to should provide him a foundation that he has been lacking." Thaelan said introspectively.
After a moment to consider the words, Darin nodded and said, "So when we're out on a long-haul mission, he'll have something to work toward; a goal."
"Yes." Thaelan said with a slight nod. "It is something that I have been lacking in my own life and have recently felt the absence of it."
"Yeah. Me too." Darin said casually, then added, "But I know it's going to happen for me when I'm ready for it. It's not time yet."
Thaelan considered the words, then slightly nodded, conveying that he shared the sentiment.
"Okay, I've got it." Vincent said happily as he returned, holding a small book.
Darin looked at him curiously.
"I put the picture in here to keep it flat and so it wouldn't get banged up." Vincent explained as he waited by the door expectantly.
"Let's go then." Darin said with a smile, then turned to Thaelan and said, "I've still got my communicator if you need me for anything."
"I will call, should the need arise." Thaelan said with a gentle smile toward the pair at the door.
* * * * *
"Crewman Winters, please report to transporter room one." Debbie's voice said over the intercom.
Vincent shared a look with Darin, then accepted his Starfleet ID back from the clerk in the ship's store.
"You timed that just right." Darin said with a smile as he waited by the doorway.
"I wish you were coming with me." Vincent said nervously as he walked to Darin's side.
"They need one of us to be on call. But don't worry, little brother, I know you'll be fine." Darin said as he walked with Vincent toward the turbolift at a casual pace.
"Yeah. And hopefully T'Lani will be going down with me. It'll be nice to spend some time with her." Vincent said thoughtfully.
"Hmm. Since you and your wife are going to be visiting your new home for the first time, I think it's probably a good thing that I'm staying behind." Darin said with a grin.
Vincent looked up at him curiously, then got a sense of what he was saying.
"I'm nine years old. I don't think we'll be doing anything that I'd be ashamed for you to see." Vincent said frankly.
"Transporter room one." Darin said upward as they entered the lift, then looked down to say, "Maybe not, but I still think that this is going to be... like a milestone, a first in your lives together that you'll be able to look back on many years from now. It should be just for the two of you."
As the door to the lift opened, Darin stepped out, but Vincent seemed to be too lost in thought to notice that they had arrived.
"Vincent?" Darin prompted, jogging Vincent out of his contemplation.
After a moment, Vincent looked up with question.
"We're here." Darin said, gesturing to the hallway beside him.
"Oh. Yeah." Vincent said absently as he walked off the lift, but stopped again just outside.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Darin asked quietly, just beginning to realize the depth of Vincent's distraction.
"It's just... T'Lani's my wife..." Vincent said with difficulty.
"I knew that." Darin said slowly, encouraging Vincent to continue.
"Well, a husband is supposed to, you know, *do stuff* for his wife." Vincent said as he looked up at Darin with desperation.
"If you're interested, I happen to have some advice about that." Darin said quietly.
"Interested? I've been worried about it since we got married!" Vincent said indignantly.
"Then you should have asked sooner." Darin said with a grin.
"They're waiting on me. Tell me what you figured out." Vincent said in an impatient tone.
Darin put a hand on Vincent's shoulder and looked him in the eyes before saying, "Forget about your ages. Forget about what you're *supposed* to do. When you and your wife are together, the two of you make the rules and whatever you do or don't do is no one else's business. Be honest. Tell her what you're thinking and feeling then listen to whatever she has to say about it and you two can decide what you want to do from there."
"But what if..." Vincent began to say.
Darin shook his head before Vincent could ask the question and said, "Talk to your wife."
Vincent began to chew on his lower lip, as he sometimes did when he was nervous, and Darin noticed.
"You don't need to worry about anything, little brother. Just love your wife. Talk to her. Listen to her. Honor her by trusting what she says and I know that everything will end up being perfect."
"Really?" Vincent asked uncertainly.
"Definitely." Darin said, then gestured down the hallway that would take them to transporter room one.
* * * * *
All eyes in the transporter room turned toward him as he entered with Darin at his side.
"Sorry. I was, um... shopping when you called." Vincent said quietly as he held up his picture frame as evidence, then walked to stand beside T'Lani.
"Crewman Winters." Mr. Johanson said in a formal tone and Vincent noticed that someone at the side of the room was pointing a handheld video camera at them. "In recognition of your heroic act that saved the lives of so many people, we have named you as our first citizen. It is only right that our first citizen be the first of us to move into his new home."
"The moment that you arrive on the surface will be logged as the official time that we took possession of the colony. So without further adieu, I welcome you and your wife to the colony which shall hereafter be named 'New Hope'."
"Thank you." Vincent said quietly. He felt like he was in a dream, just watching the goings on around him. After a moment, he realized that he felt T'Lani guiding him toward the transporter chamber and followed willingly.
Vincent glanced down to see that he was in his proper place on the transporter pad, then looked at the transporter operator to indicate that he was ready.
A movement drew his attention from the doorway and he saw Darin and Joe standing side by side, watching him with matching looks of love and pride.
The sparkles of the transporter obscured his vision as he gave them a grateful smile.
* * * * *
Vincent and T'Lani found themselves standing before a large house.
"Welcome home." Vincent said quietly.
T'Lani gave a cursory inspection of her surroundings, and her gaze fixed on the building in front of them.
"Come on, I'll show you around." Vincent said as he took gentle hold of her hand and stepped forward.
T'Lani followed along silently, absorbing all the details of their foreign surroundings.
"Commander M'Butu and I figured out that the Soleen-Avalla make their homes with about half the rooms on the outside. So this is kind of like the entry hall, except that it's outside." Vincent babbled, then guided T'Lani to walk to the right.
"This is the kitchen, which I guess is pretty good because it's like being able to have a cookout all the time." Vincent said as he indicated the small, but efficient work area.
"Husband." T'Lani said quietly, but the words drew his attention more effectively than a scream.
Vincent turned and looked at her expectantly as he whispered, "Wife."
"I understand the significance of this to the colonists, but is this what you want?" T'Lani asked as she looked him in the eyes.
Vincent smiled as he said, "I want for us to have a home together that is ours. I don't really care if it's here or on Vulcan or on Earth."
T'Lani nodded either her comprehension or acceptance of the words.
"Let's go inside, there's something I want to talk to you about." Vincent said decisively as he guided her to walk with him back to the entryway.
* * * * *
"Crewman Channing, reporting as ordered." Channing said nervously as he came to attention just inside the captain's office.
"At ease, Crewman." Captain Byrne said professionally.
Crewman Channing immediately fell into a textbook 'at ease' stance.
"I have something of a personal request to make of you. Please understand that you are free to decline if you wish." Captain Byrne said in prelude.
"Yes sir." Channing said respectfully.
"My grandsons, Lehman and JonJon, wish to go down to the new colony where they will eventually be living, but Cyril and Roger both have duties that require their full attention. It has been suggested that you might be willing to accompany them to the surface." Captain Byrne said carefully, appearing not to be used to asking for personal favors from anyone.
"Yes sir. I would like that." Channing said honestly.
"Good." Captain Byrne said, then quickly keyed something on his terminal. "I have just arranged for you to be off duty for the next two days. That should allow the boys time to explore their new home."
Channing nodded his agreement to the statement.
"Thank you for doing this." Captain Byrne said sincerely as he met Channing's gaze.
"I love those boys." Channing said frankly, then added. "And Fizgig too."
Captain Byrne smiled as he said, "Yes, I've learned that we mustn't ever forget Fizgig."
Crewman Channing nodded.
"I hope that you and my grandsons have a good time on the planet." Captain Byrne said sincerely.
"I think we will." Channing said with a smile, then added, "Thank you, sir."
Captain Byrne nodded as he watched Channing leave his office.
* * * * *
Vincent set his book and picture frame on a narrow table just inside the door, then guided T'Lani to walk with him to a long, well-cushioned sofa.
T'Lani's expectant gaze directed at him prompted him to begin.
"I know that when we've talked about, um... you know, sex and stuff, that we've always talked about it like it's going to happen *someday*." Vincent said with difficulty.
T'Lani nodded that she understood what he was saying.
"Well, I think that maybe it's time for us to decide when *someday* is." Vincent said weakly, wishing that Vulcans weren't quite so good at suppressing their emotions.
But just a moment later, T'Lani surprised him by saying, "I have considered that as well."
"So what do you think?" Vincent asked nervously.
"My research on the subject of Human male sexual development suggests that there are typically stages of discovery that occur as one matures." T'Lani said without any emotion showing through.
"Which means?" Vincent asked cautiously.
"I believe your willingness to broach the subject indicates that you have achieved the developmental state where we can begin the exploration of the first of those stages." T'Lani said clinically.
"Stages?" Vincent inquired curiously, forgetting his nervousness for a moment.
In an almost Human manner of speech, T'Lani quietly said, "As with most things in our lives, our sexuality is something that we grow into a little at a time. It is my intention to explore each phase with you as you come to it."
"Um, okay." Vincent said quietly, with his nervousness back full force.
"Would you like to show me the rest of our home now?" T'Lani asked gently, allowing Vincent a reprieve from the path they were on.
After an uncertain moment, Vincent shyly said, "Just the bedroom."
Although T'Lani had the ability to suppress her emotions, she allowed herself the indulgence of a smile at her husband as she took his hand and allowed him to draw her up from the couch.
* * * * *
"This won't take long. Neither one of us has much stuff." Lehman said as he led JonJon and Channing into Deflector Control.
"Are you guys getting ready to go down to the colony?" Darin asked from the second auxiliary station.
"Yeah. Grandpa arranged it so Channing could go down with us." Lehman said happily, then added, "JonJon wanted to stay and help, but they said that I needed him more than they did."
"Do you?" Darin asked, already knowing the answer.
"Yep." Lehman said as he hugged JonJon's side. "I always need my big brother."
"Do you guys mind if I come with you?" Benny asked from the supply room doorway.
"That'd be great!" Lehman said with unrestrained glee.
JonJon smiled at his adoptive brother's enthusiasm, then noticed Benny looking at him expectantly.
It took a moment for him to understand what Benny's expression might mean, but he realized that Benny was uncertain if JonJon wanted him to go with them.
"I'd like it if you'd join us." JonJon said shyly.
Benny smiled a grand smile, then hurried back into the supply room.
Before the rest of the group could follow, Darin asked, "Did you guys get to see the video of Vincent and T'Lani before they went down?"
"Yeah. He looked like a deer caught in the headlights." JonJon said with a chuckle.
"What's a deer?" Lehman asked curiously.
"I'll explain it later. Let's go get our stuff." JonJon said as he pulled Lehman into a quick hug and encouraged him to go into the supply room.
"Those two make me wish that I'd grown up with a brother." Darin said with a gentle smile at the doorway.
"I know what you mean." Channing said wistfully, then continued, "But being able to share in their lives is almost as good. And besides, not all brothers get along as well as they do."
Darin nodded, then motioned for Channing to join him at the auxiliary console.
"What do you think of this as a house warming gift for Vincent?" Darin asked as he indicated the screen.
"A Vulcan tapestry?" Channing asked uncertainly.
"I thought it was something that would make T'Lani feel more at home and Vincent feel like it was 'their' home." Darin said cautiously.
After a moment, Channing slowly nodded and said, "Yeah. I think you're right. And from what I know of them, I doubt that either one would think of getting anything 'decorative'."
Darin nodded and said, "At least until they're settled in."
"How long is it going to take to get it?" Channing asked curiously.
"Probably a month or so." Darin said with a shrug.
At Channing's look of surprise, Darin continued, "It doesn't really matter. Since I can't get it here before we leave the colony, a week is the same as a month because they won't be here to see it when it arrives anyway."
"I guess so." Channing said slowly.
"But it'll be nice for them to have a gift waiting on them when they do get back home." Darin said warmly.
"Do you think anyone would mind if we take some of the sleeping bags?" Lehman asked from the supply room doorway.
"Are you planning to sleep down there tonight?" Darin asked with a smile.
"Yeah." Lehman said with a big grin.
"I'm sure no one will mind." Darin said gently, then shared a smile with Channing.
"If they're taking the sleeping bags, they're probably going to need help to carry it all." Channing said as he started walking toward the doorway.
"Let me finalize this order, then I'll help you." Darin said quickly.
* * * * *
"Wow! It's pretty here." Lehman said with amazement.
"This is where we'll be living." JonJon said with a loving smile at his brother, then placed Fizgig down on the grass so he could run free.
"What about Benny? Where's he going to live?" Lehman asked suddenly.
"One block from here, over there." JonJon said as he pointed.
"I thought he was going to live next door to us." Lehman said in a slightly less energetic voice, sounding a little disappointed.
"Well, he is, in a way." JonJon said seriously. "This house that we're standing in front of belongs to our dads. We've pretty much decided that we'll be living with them, at least for a while. But that house across the street, in fact, that entire block belongs to you." JonJon said to Lehman with a smile.
"The whole block?" Lehman asked with surprise.
"Yep. And all three houses." JonJon said with a grin, then motioned to the third block that shared the three-way intersection and said, "That's mine."
"Wow!" Lehman said with wonder.
"If you look up this street, you can see Benny's." JonJon said as he indicated the proper street.
"What about Vincent?" Lehman asked quickly.
"If we walked to Benny's house, we could see Vincent's house from there. Or we could walk across my block to get there." JonJon said with a smile, enjoying Lehman's excitement.
"So, you and Benny and Vincent each have a block of property facing each other?" Lehman confirmed.
"Yes. We've been calling them estates. Your estate shares one intersection with Benny and me and another one with me and the dads." JonJon said quietly.
"So who has that one behind us?" Lehman asked as he pointed at the property at the other end of their street.
"No one yet. We had more property than colonists, so we left a few available for new people when they arrive." JonJon said, then looked down at the carry-all container and sleeping bag that had transported down with them. "Do you want to go in and put our stuff away before we go exploring?"
"Yeah!" Lehman said happily.
Benny and Channing were both smiling at his reaction and were obviously going to go along with the plan.
* * * * *
"So let me get this straight." Lehman said in prelude. "Me, the Chameloid kid whose parents couldn't even afford to buy enough food so we could eat every day, now owns THREE houses?"
"Yeah." JonJon said with a chuckle as the group walked down the street with Fizgig following behind, taking the opportunity to explore when it occurred to him.
"What am I going to do with three houses?" Lehman asked suddenly.
"Whatever you want." Channing answered immediately.
"It can be a place for your friends to stay when they visit you, or for your kids to live someday." JonJon said frankly.
"My kids..." Lehman said with an overwhelmed shake of his head.
"How about you not worry about it now, and just enjoy it?" Benny asked seriously.
"Okay!" Lehman said immediately as he turned again to look at 'his' estate.
"So that's my house?" Benny asked as they approached the next intersection.
"If you want it to be." JonJon said uncertainly.
"What's my other choice?" Benny asked curiously.
"Well, this is your estate. The one over there is your parents'. Each one has three houses, so you have six places where you can put your stuff." JonJon said quietly.
Benny looked at his estate, then his parent's before asking, "So I guess this means that I get to pick my neighbors?"
"Yeah. This house faces one of Lehman's, the next one faces one of Vincent's and the third one faces another vacant block." JonJon said thoughtfully.
Benny seemed not to even have to think about it before saying, "I think I'll take this one, across from Lehman's."
"Mine is going to be that one, right there." JonJon said as he pointed to the house across the street that they had just passed.
"Nice." Benny said happily.
"So if it's decided, are we ready to put your stuff away?" Channing asked hopefully.
The sleeping bag he was carrying wasn't heavy at all, but it was awkward and uncomfortably warm.
"Yeah." Benny said as he started walking with purpose.
* * * * *
"Maybe he didn't choose this house." Benny said hesitantly.
"Maybe. But this is the one that he would have been transported to. So it makes sense to check here first." JonJon said seriously.
"Knock louder. Maybe he just didn't hear you." Lehman suggested quickly.
"Guys, let's try back later. He's spending time with his wife, we don't want to interrupt anything." Channing said with concern.
"Come on Channing, he's my age. What are we going to interrupt?" Lehman asked with a roll of his eyes.
The accordion style door opening prevented Channing from giving a response.
"Yeah?" Vincent asked as he stood just inside the doorway.
Vincent was bare chested, wearing his crewman's jumpsuit uniform only up as far as his waist. He stood with his hands on his hips, either as a declaration of his agitation or possibly to keep his jumpsuit from falling around his ankles. His face was flushed and his expression screamed out his impatience.
"Sorry to interrupt your..." Channing trailed off, not knowing what his next word would have been anyway. "We just wanted to let you know that the guys were allowed to transport down and have moved in."
"Okay." Vincent said hesitantly.
"You see that house there." Benny said as he pointed directly across the street.
"That's one of mine, if you'll follow this street, the next one on this block is where we'll be when you're finished..." Benny trailed off, also at a loss for words.
"When you're finished." Channing said simply.
"Right." Vincent said shortly, then added, "We'll probably see you guys in an hour or so."
"An hour?" Channing said with surprise, then shook his head and said, "Fine. See you then."
Vincent nodded, then closed the door.
"Come on guys. I think we have plenty of time for all of you to get unpacked before Vincent and T'Lani will be joining us." Channing said carefully.
"Looks like it." Benny said with another look at the door before he turned to walk away.
"If Vincent's doing... um, that. Does that mean I should be doing that too?" Lehman asked uncertainly as they walked.
"No Lehman. Please trust me when I tell you that Vincent seems to be the exception to quite a few rules. He's probably the last person you should be comparing yourself to." Channing said honestly.
"Yeah. Just think about it." Benny said as he draped an arm around Lehman's shoulders. "He's saved hundreds of lives, gotten married, and become a close personal friend of the religious leader of an entire planetary system... all in the past month. No one I've ever met could live up to his achievements."
Lehman put an arm around Benny's waist to return the hug, then said, "Yeah. I guess you're right."
"And besides that." Channing said as they walked, "When it comes to love, it happens when it's supposed to. Some people, like Vincent, find it early. Some people have to wait."
"Like with you and Chance?" Benny asked with a teasing smile as he opened the door to his new home.
"We're just friends, Benny." Channing said seriously as he walked inside. "Best friends, but that's all we'll ever be."
"Why?" Benny asked curiously.
"Because I'm straight." Channing said simply.
"Really? I mean, you sound so sure." Benny said as he led the way into the living room and gestured for everyone to have a seat.
"I am." Channing said as he met Benny's curious gaze. "I love Chance. But I'm not sexually attracted to him, or any man. It's just that simple."
"Oh." Benny said as he looked away.
"Some people think that who you're attracted to is a choice, but if that were true... I think I'd probably be gay." Channing said with a pained expression.
"For Chance?" JonJon asked curiously at the unusual comment.
Channing nodded, then said in a resigned tone, "But I'm not gay, and it wouldn't be fair to either of us for me to pretend to be something that I'm not."
"You love him that much?" JonJon asked quietly.
Channing nodded again and seemed to be lost in thought.
"JonJon is bisexual." Lehman said into the ensuing silence.
"He is?" Channing asked with surprise.
"I am?" JonJon asked in exactly the same tone.
"Uh huh. When you were restarted, the program asked us what sexual orientation you should have, so we picked that. That way you could love whoever you wanted to." Lehman said frankly.
"Oh." JonJon said as he cast a surreptitious glance in Benny's direction.
"That was alright, wasn't it?" Lehman asked with confusion at JonJon's reaction.
"Yes. I just... I didn't know." JonJon said quietly.
"I kinda wish I had something like that." Benny said absently.
"What do you mean?" Channing asked curiously.
Benny looked up, just realizing that he had spoken that thought aloud, then shook his head and said, "Nothing."
"Are you unsure of your orientation?" JonJon asked with concern.
After a moment, Benny reluctantly said, "I guess so. At least, now I am."
"Does that mean that you thought you knew before and now you don't?" Lehman asked curiously.
Benny looked at Lehman with surprise at the question.
"My people don't have to worry about this stuff, but now that I'm almost like a Human, I figure that sooner or later I'm gonna need to figure this stuff out for me. I'd kinda like to know what to expect." Lehman said frankly.
"You don't hold anything back, do you? You're just like Vincent." Benny said with a shake of his head and a chuckle.
"Thanks." Lehman said happily, then asked, "So are you gay or straight or what?"
Benny fought to keep from looking at anyone as he muttered, "I'm not sure."
"Lehman, this is a very personal thing that most people don't feel comfortable talking about." Channing said gently.
"Well, it doesn't bother me." Lehman said frankly.
"Just like Vincent." JonJon said teasingly to Benny at his side.
"As you get older, it probably will bother you. Especially if you aren't sure about what you're feeling." Channing said quietly.
"Okay." Lehman said without concern, then asked, "But when you figure it out, and you find someone that you like and you wanna... you know, do stuff with. How do you let them know?"
Channing chuckled, then said, "If I knew, I promise that I'd tell you."
Lehman looked at Channing with surprise.
"I'm probably the last person you should ask about it. But when I finally do meet a woman that I'm interested in like that, I'm hoping that I'll figure it out." Channing said honestly.
"It seems like there should be an easier way, you know, so you don't waste a lot of time." Lehman said thoughtfully.
"Yeah. It does seem that way." Channing said regretfully, then looked around the group and said, "Speaking of wasting time..."
"Yeah. We've got unpacking to do." JonJon said as he stood.
"One whole box each... it'll take FOREVER!" Lehman said dramatically, then broke into a giggle at JonJon's incredulous stare.
"Channing, could you stay and help me?" Benny asked suddenly.
"Sure." Channing said with surprise, then asked, "You guys don't need me do you?"
"No, but if we do, it's just one block away." Lehman said frankly.
Channing nodded, then looked at Benny expectantly.
* * * * *
As soon as Lehman and JonJon were gone, Channing asked, "What do we need to do first?"
"I love JonJon." Benny said bluntly.
"Okay..." Channing said slowly, then added, "I don't know how much help I can be with that."
"I've been feeling it since I almost lost him, when he got rebooted." Benny said with frustration.
"Tell me about it." Channing said, then gestured to the carry-all container by the living room door.
Benny took a moment to look through the container, then picked it up and gestured with his head for Channing to follow.
* * * * *
Benny started putting his clothes into the honeycomb shelving by his bed, finally he said, "It's starting to be a problem."
"How's that?" Channing asked with concern as he leaned on the door facing.
"When I'm around him, all I want to do is touch him. When I'm not around him, all I do is think about him. Instead of sleeping, I've been sitting up, watching him in the sleeping bag next to me, just watching him and imagining what it would be like..."
"Does he know how you feel?" Channing asked quietly.
Benny shook his head.
"Why not?" Channing asked simply.
"Because, what if he said 'no'? I'd lose him... I couldn't do that." Benny said desperately.
"And if you say nothing, you might lose him anyway." Channing said simply.
Benny looked at Channing with surprise.
"If you haven't got the courage to tell him how you feel, then someone else, who may not even love him as much as you do, may come along and say the words that you should have said." Channing said frankly.
Benny slowly nodded that he had heard.
"It might even be Lehman." Channing added quietly.
Benny looked up suddenly at the words.
"He loves JonJon completely. And considering that he and Vincent are so much alike... well, it wouldn't surprise me if his libido awakened suddenly." Channing said with a shrug.
"Do you think he loves JonJon like that?" Benny asked anxiously.
"No. I don't." Channing said reassuringly, then added, "But what would happen if Lehman started feeling sexual urges and turned to the closest person in his life? I mean, if he talked to JonJon about it and JonJon felt like no one else was interested in him? What do you think the chances are that he might just go for it?"
"Do you really think that's going to happen?" Benny asked quietly.
"I don't know, but it doesn't seem to be very hard to imagine it working out that way." Channing said honestly.
Benny nodded, either to show that he agreed or at least comprehended what Channing was saying.
"It looks like you could use some time to think. Captain Byrne is trusting me to keep an eye on Lehman and JonJon, so I'd better get over there. We'll probably be back over here before you know it." Channing said quietly.
Benny nodded that he had heard, then quietly said, "Thanks."
* * * * *
"Hey JonJon, what are you doing out here?" Channing asked as he approached Cyril and Roger's house.
"I needed a few minutes away. Lehman is... happy. Really happy." JonJon said reluctantly.
Channing chuckled as he nodded his understanding.
"How are you doing? You seem kind of down." Channing said honestly.
"I think I have a problem." JonJon said quietly as he petted the dog in his arms.
"Oh? What kind of problem is that?" Channing asked curiously.
"I'm not sure, but I think Benny likes me." JonJon said carefully.
"I think so too. But why is that a problem?" Channing asked slowly.
"Because, so does Jenn."
Editor's Notes: Well, it sure is nice to see another chapter of this extremely interesting alternate Frontier.
I guess my only question concerning JonJon is how does he feel about Jenn and how does he feel about Benny? There are so many possibilities, available to everyone. I guess only time will tell what will happen. I just hope that somehow things will work out so everyone is happy.
Thank you MM for another fascinating look into the lives of all these people.
As I am sure you know, a lot of things are different here in this version, after the box was opened, a fork took place. It will be interesting to see just what part of Vincent and the others will shine through and bring about things either the same or differently than what happens in the main line story. Will this Vincent get to meet Ship, Treep etc. ? I'm not even sure if Multimapper knows the answer to that yet. I know that I can hardly wait. I do know a few things that are supposed to happen, as to whether they will or not is not certain. The people in the stories seem to have a way of taking the stories in completely different directions than were ever planned.
We will just have to wait and see what happens.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher