Universe Alpah 7:
The Opposite Heaven

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All Rights Reserved

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Chapter 42

Vincent awoke into darkness and silence.

That was unusual for him. He had gotten into the habit of waking to the sound of his alarm.

Unable to stave off the curiosity any longer, he reached to the head of his bed to press the button that would illuminate his alarm clock.

When he saw the time, he smiled. He still had twenty minutes before he was supposed to get out of bed.

He didn't know if it were the pain medication or the fact that he went to bed earlier than usual that made the difference, but he felt that he had gotten a good night of sleep and was well rested.

Slowly, he climbed down from his bunk and his joints started to complain.

It wasn't nearly as bad as it had been the previous day, and he felt so good otherwise that he decided to just accept the pain and not devote any emotional energy to it.

As he was walking toward the door to the lavatory, he also realized that he was pitching a pretty good tent in the sleep pants that he had borrowed from Darin.

When the lavatory door opened, he was surprised to see Rad standing before him, also dressed only in sleep pants.

"Good morning, Vincent. I guess I don't have to ask if you're happy to see me." Rad said with a mischievous grin.

Vincent felt a burning blush rise up his face as he dashed into the bathroom stall.

"Are you okay, Vincent? I didn't mean anything." Rad said with concern.

"Go away." Vincent muttered.

"I'm not going anywhere. Tell me what's wrong." Rad said carefully.

"I don't want to talk about it." Vincent said as he fought to keep his tears of humiliation at bay.

"Too bad. I'm not going to leave until you come out here and tell me what happened." Rad said firmly.

Vincent was silent as he drew on the lessons from T'Lani to regain his emotional control.

After a long moment of silence, Rad quietly said, "I'm still here."

"Give me a minute." Vincent said slowly as he felt his heart rate start to slow to a more normal rhythm.

"I'm sorry if I embarrassed you, Vincent. I was just making a joke." Rad explained gently.

"I know." Vincent said quietly, then slowly forced himself to walk out of the bathroom stall.

"What happened?" Rad asked with concern.

"I don't know. What you said just hit me wrong. My emotions just went out of control for a minute." Vincent said carefully.

"Oh, I get it." Rad said with an understanding nod.

"Get what?" Vincent asked curiously.

"When I was your age, stuff like that happened to me too. I don't know if they're mood swings, by the classic definition, but I can't think of a better way to describe them." Rad said seriously.

"When Dr. Perry talked about mood swings, I thought she was talking about me getting really mad." Vincent said cautiously.

"I think if it were just being mad, they'd probably call them 'hormonal rages' or something like that. I really don't know how it all works, I just know that at this stage of life, something that wouldn't bother you any other time can all of a sudden seem like a very big deal to you." Rad explained gently.

"So, not only am I hungry all the time and having aching joints, but now I have to worry about being..." Vincent stopped, at a loss for a way to describe it.

"...a moody little bitch?" Rad offered with a barely restrained smile.

Vincent was surprised by the description, but couldn't help but laugh.

"I think this is something that's going to happen to you from time to time. But at least it's not all the time." Rad said sympathetically.

"I guess I'm going to need to talk to Tony about this. Maybe he'll have some ideas about ways for me to handle it better." Vincent said thoughtfully, then glanced downward to verify that his tent had mostly subsided.

"Yeah, well, I don't know if you've noticed it yet, but I think you've also been hit with another treat from the puberty parade." Rad said frankly.

At Vincent's curious look, Rad pointed toward the mirror.

Before Vincent had fully approached, he could see the big red welt on his cheek.

"Eww!" Vincent exclaimed as he moved closer to the mirror and began to reach a hand to his cheek to investigate.

"Don't mess with it, Vincent. I think the best thing you can do right now is to go to sickbay and see what kind of treatment they have for acne. If you mess with it, you may just end up making it that much harder for them to help you." Rad said seriously.

"But it's gross! I don't want to go out of the cabin with this thing hanging off my face. It looks like a nipple!" Vincent whined.

"At least it'll draw attention away from your boner." Rad said with a grin.

Vincent flashed Rad a withering look in the mirror before turning his attention back to his own reflection.

"Listen. I've got to finish getting ready for work. A few of us have to meet with Chief Morgan before our shift starts." Rad said as he moved back to the sink where he had been shaving.

"I'm on the bridge today." Vincent said as he finally tore his attention away from the mirror.

"Have a good day up there." Rad said with a grin in Vincent's direction.

"Considering the way the day's starting out, I wouldn't bet on it." Vincent said frankly.

"Go to the sickbay. I bet that they'll get you all fixed up before you have to go on duty." Rad said confidently.

"Will you be able to have breakfast with us this morning?" Vincent asked curiously.

"I think so. It depends on what Chief Morgan has planned." Rad said frankly.

"Okay. Then I'll let you know how things turned out next time I see you." Vincent said seriously before walking into the shower area.

* * * * *

"Good morning, Vincent. How does this day find you?" Vlad asked with good cheer.

Rather than answer verbally, Vincent simply pointed to his cheek.

"That looks rather uncomfortable. Please lie down on the biobed and I will have you taken care of in no time." Vlad said cheerfully.

As Vincent was climbing up, he casually said, "It looks like you've been able to get some of the Environmental Control people out of here."

"Yes. They have responded well to treatment, and they are now in the convalescent ward. By the time we arrive at earth, it is hoped that they will be ambulatory." Vlad said conversationally as he programmed the biobed.

"That means that they should be able to walk, right?" Vincent asked cautiously.

"Yes." Vlad said with a smile at him, then turned his full attention to the biobed's display.

"What does it say?" Vincent asked cautiously.

"As one would expect at this stage of your development, all of your systems are in a bit of chaos. The eruption on your face is simply a physical manifestation of what is going on inside of you." Vlad said thoughtfully.

"Can you do anything to make it go away?" Vincent asked with concern.

"Oh, yes. Acne is not an uncommon occurrence among starship personnel of all ages. I just wanted to confirm the cause of your condition before I started treating the symptoms." Vlad said seriously.

"Oh, I didn't know that other people had problems with pimples." Vincent said as a wave of shyness overtook him.

"Yes." Vlad said simply, then looked Vincent in the eyes and told him, "Please keep in mind that you need to stay hydrated. Also be aware of the amount of grease and oils that you are consuming. Too much will cause you to have increasing problems with your skin."

"Okay. I can do that." Vincent said slowly.

"And, if you can work it into your schedule, you might consider taking more frequent sonic showers."

"But I shower at least once a day, sometimes more." Vincent said cautiously.

"Then you should consider taking two to three showers a day, at least for the time being. The sonic cleansing process is excellent for clearing blocked pores, thereby preventing breakouts." Vlad said as he picked up a small handheld unit and brought it to the side of Vincent's face.

"Okay." Vincent said in quiet resignation.

"Please hold still for just a moment." Vlad said quietly as he moved the unit into place.

Vincent felt a little sting on his cheek and had to fight not to bring his hand up to soothe it.

"That was a deep one. It is good that you came to me. These type of eruptions are the ones most likely to leave deep scars if they aren't dealt with properly." Vlad said as he picked up another unit, which Vincent recognized as a portable sonic cleanser.

"So, if I have another one like that, should I come back here?" Vincent asked as he remained still.

As Vlad slowly moved the sonic cleansing wand over Vincent's cheek, he said, "If you adjust your diet and take more frequent sonic showers, it is likely that you won't have a recurrence of the event. But if your body chemistry abruptly changes and produces breakouts, be sure to come to sickbay immediately so that we can mitigate them correctly."

"Yeah. I'll do that. Thanks, Vlad." Vincent said gratefully.

"You are quite lucky. Most teenagers that I am aware of don't have the luxury of being able to visit a doctor every time they get a blemish. Some make it all the way into adulthood before they learn to properly care for their skin." Vlad said as he put the portable sonic cleanser away.

"Is that everything? Am I done here?" Vincent asked as he sat up on the bed.

"Just one last thing." Vlad said as he picked up a hypospray and held it out for Vincent to see.

"Right." Vincent said in resignation as he exposed his neck for the injection.

* * * * *

By the time Vincent arrived in the gym for his workout, the blemish on his cheek was nothing more than a slight discoloration.

After dressing and beginning his stretches, Vincent realized that he had a little extra time before he should expect Thaelan to arrive. Thanks to waking early, he was still a bit ahead of schedule.

On impulse, he started going through some of the gymnastics floor routines that he used to do in gym class.

Some of the moves, like the tumbling, were more about flash and show than anything else. He didn't focus too much on those. But Vincent found that the power moves, especially the ones that required upper body strength, were coming more easily to him than ever before. He took great delight in going through, what had once been, a difficult series of exercises.

As he proceeded through another routine, he did notice that his balance was a bit off. And he could actually feel 'the pendulum effect' in some of his movements since his limbs were longer and heavier. However, since he wasn't doing the routines for a grade or a competition, he simply slowed his pace slightly until he could adapt to the difference.

As Vincent went into a handstand and held it, Thaelan's voice quietly said, "It is good that you have chosen to do this. I can think of no better way for you to reconfirm your balance and control in light of your changing physique."

"Yeah. It feels a whole lot different than it used to." Vincent said with some effort as he began to slowly move into a mid-air split, taking time and care to make the movement steady and controlled.

"If you would like, you could continue on with this exercise in lieu of our regular training. I believe that it will provide you much benefit." Thaelan said consideringly as he watched.

"Yeah. That sounds good. I didn't realize how out of practice I was." Vincent said as he continued, with precise control.

"You seem to be doing quite well..." Thaelan was saying when something caught his attention.

"Is anyone going to try to attack me while I'm doing this?" Vincent asked as he finally reached his full extension.

"Um, no. I haven't arranged for anything, but I make no guarantees beyond that." Thaelan said absently.

"Close enough." Vincent said as he slowly began to pull his legs upward again.

"Pardon me for saying so, but perhaps you should requisition some new workout attire. You are at risk of being immodest." Thaelan said carefully.

Vincent finally brought his feet together. He then did a simple walk-over and moved easily to his feet. When he looked down at himself, he started to blush and tugged his gym shorts down a little in back to hide the straps of his jockstrap.

"Yeah. I see what you mean. I need to get some new sleep pants, too. All of a sudden, everything's getting too small for me." Vincent said shyly as he shifted his gym shorts to afford the most coverage.

"I think that it might be best to do so sooner rather than later." Thaelan said frankly.

"That bad, huh?" Vincent asked as he stopped all movement.

"The change in your body has been so gradual that I have not noticed before. But now that I have noticed, I realize that it is improper for you to continue to appear in public dressed thusly." Thaelan said reluctantly.

"Sometimes, growing up sucks." Vincent said frankly.

"As with many things in life, there are good and bad points. Regardless of how you feel about them, you must make accommodations." Thaelan said as he started to walk with Vincent back to the changing room.

"I guess while I'm at it, I should see if I can get some new underwear and socks and all that. Just about everything I've got feels like it's trying to cut off my circulation." Vincent said resignedly.

"You might also consider a visit to the hair stylist, while you're updating your wardrobe." Thaelan said carefully.

"My hair's not that long." Vincent said defensively.

"No. It is not. But months of unrestrained growth has caused it to become somewhat... full. I believe a hair stylist might be able to shape it into something a bit more professional looking." Thaelan said frankly.

"Yeah. Well, it looks like I've got plenty of time. That is, if there's a hair stylist open at 06:00 on the recreation deck." Vincent said as he led the way into the locker room.

"I have noticed that the hours leading up to each shift are typically the busiest in the hair salon." Thaelan said simply.

Vincent thought for a moment, then said, "Makes sense."

* * * * *

"Acting Ensign Winters, you're looking quite a bit different this morning." Joe said with a gleam of pride dancing in his eyes.

"Yeah, thanks." Vincent said timidly as he placed his tray on the table.

"So, is there some big event coming up that we should know about?" Darin asked with a smile.

"No. Thaelan just noticed that I was growing out of my workout clothes. While I was dealing with that, we decided to go ahead and get my hair shaped up." Vincent said frankly, then took a large bite of his food.

"Good morning, Thaelan." Joe said as Thaelan approached, carrying his tray of food.

"How's the..." Rad quietly asked Vincent as he discreetly tapped his cheek.

Vincent swallowed, then said, "You were right. I went into sickbay and they were able to take care of it without a problem."

"What was that?" Joe asked with concern at the sound of 'sickbay'.

"He woke up with a zit." Rad said frankly, then added dramatically, "Ah, the joys of puberty."

"I went through that." Darin said with an understanding smile at Vincent, then added, "It doesn't last too long."

"It did for me." Joe said frankly.

Vincent looked at him curiously as he chewed.

"I had a constant battle with acne throughout my teenage years." Joe said honestly.

"I never really did. I guess it depends on the person." Rad said thoughtfully.

"Can we talk about something else?" Vincent asked hopefully before taking another large bite.

Joe smiled at the question, then looked around the group before saying, "From everything I saw before I went off duty last night, it looks like we'll be leaving the Coffelt station as soon as the Alpha Shift goes on duty.

"Are you nervous?" Rad asked Darin gently.

"No. Docking was the nerve wracking part, disembarking isn't too bad." Darin said honestly.

"I don't know if I've said it before, but I think you're amazing." Rad said with an admiring smile which conveyed just what he was feeling.

Vincent saw the expression and understood just what it meant. It hadn't been but a few months that he would have been disgusted by such a sight.

It was then that he realized that he had eaten all of his food.

Vincent glanced at the clock and seeing that he still had plenty of time, hurried away from the table without a word so that he could get a second helping of breakfast.

* * * * *

"Acting Ensign Winters, you're looking quite well this morning." Commander M'Butu said when he noticed Vincent walking onto the bridge.

"Thank you, Sir." Vincent said respectfully, then thought to ask, "Is it true that we're going to be stopping at Vulcan?"

"Yes. We'll be stopping long enough to exchange personnel and take on some cargo." Commander M'Butu said simply.

"Well, you see, I'm supposed to be taking a test on my next day off. I've been trying to do it for about a week. But to take my test, I'm going to need an officer to be there for the entire day to proctor and it's going to be a real pain for everyone. So I was thinking, that if we'll be stopped at Vulcan long enough, I'd like to take my test at the Vulcan Academy of Science, if there's any way we can do that." Vincent said seriously.

"Let me look into it, Ensign Winters. Before we arrive at Vulcan, I will get back with you and let you know what's possible." Commander M'Butu said thoughtfully.

"I appreciate that. And I'll understand if you can't arrange it. But if you can't, could you maybe help me find someone to administer the test that can be available on my next day off? It's turned out to be a lot harder to find someone than I thought it would be." Vincent admitted reluctantly.

"Yes. I know. This comes up from time to time. It will be easiest if I handle that for you." Commander M'Butu said warmly.

"Thank you, Sir." Vincent said respectfully.

"And I suppose that I should tell you before you sign in, that we've decided to change your schedule a bit." Commander M'Butu said frankly.

Vincent was able to restrain the groan that welled up within him.

"Starting tomorrow, you're going to be scheduled to work full shifts on the various stations. If I remember correctly, you'll be working communications tomorrow." Commander M'Butu said frankly.

"Yes, Sir." Vincent said smartly.

"Although working on filling in at the various stations has provided you a taste of each, we believe that you should also get the experience of working full standard shifts." Commander M'Butu said seriously, then turned at a movement and saw Captain Byrne step onto the bridge.

Vincent glanced away for a moment, following the Commander's gaze.

"Dismissed, Ensign." Commander M'Butu said professionally.

"Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir." Vincent said immediately, then walked to his auxiliary station to sign in.

* * * * *

The departure from Coffelt was uneventful. The routine of duty helped the days to pass without much notice.

As the Yorktown approached Vulcan, Vincent's anxiety increased.

Vincent had received word from Commander M'Butu that arrangements had been made for him to take his test while they were stopped in orbit.

Other arrangements had also been made.

Thaelan had mentioned during one of their training sessions that he would be disembarking when they arrived at Vulcan to take a transport to Andor.

Most of the nonessential Vulcan crew members had also made arrangements to leave the ship.

T'Lani hadn't expressed any interest in doing so until she did some investigation and found that she would be able to continue her medical training to receive her healer's certification.

So, although Vincent regretted that T'Lani wouldn't be continuing on to Earth with him, he understood that if all went to plan, that by the time the Yorktown returned from Earth, T'Lani might be a fully accredited doctor.

T'Lani made Vincent aware through their bond when they had arrived at Vulcan.

Vincent had been sleeping when they arrived, but it wasn't very long before he would have been getting up to work out, so he automatically went through his morning routine so that he could spend some time with his wife before she had to leave the ship.

"Did they tell you when you can start your classes?" Vincent asked gently.

"The classroom portion will begin in four days. But I will have much to review before that time." T'Lani said quietly.

"I'm scheduled to be off duty today, so I can take my test. I could go down to the planet with you, if you want. I don't have to be at the Vulcan Academy of Science until 09:00." Vincent offered with a smile at his wife.

"Yes. I would like that." T'Lani said as she took one of Vincent's hands and held his palm against her cheek.

"I didn't plan on going down to the planet this early. Should I change into my formal uniform?" Vincent asked cautiously.

"No, Husband. There is no need." T'Lani said softly, then led him away.

* * * * *

"Where are we?" Vincent asked as he looked curiously at the desert landscape.

"My parents' house. It is here." T'Lani said as she led him to what appeared to be a building carved out of the native stone.

"Isn't it kind of rude for us to be stopping in without calling first?" Vincent asked reluctantly.

"I sent notification when the Yorktown achieved orbit." T'Lani said as she entered her passcode on the pad by the door.

Vincent used every bit of emotional control that he could muster and schooled his expression carefully as he stepped through the doorway to meet 'the in-laws'.

* * * * *

"Father, may I present my husband, Petty Officer Second Class, Vincent Winters, son of Clan Short of the family of Sarek of house of Surak of Vulcan." T'Lani said very precisely.

"Greetings."

"Husband, this is my father, Sufaal, of the house of Sukaan." T'Lani said seriously.

"T'nar pak sorat y'rani." Vincent said calmly. In the course of the past few months, he had become much more comfortable with Vulcan pronunciation.

"T'nar jaral." Sufaal said automatically, giving the customary reply.

"'She who is your mother' prepares the morning meal. Will you partake?" Sufaal asked his daughter impassively.

"We will." T'Lani said simply.

Vincent wasn't sure if their family normally spoke English, or if they were doing so simply due to his presence, but they seemed to be perfectly comfortable with it.

"Is he here?" A young teenage boy asked as he entered the room.

"Husband, may I present my younger brother, Xon." T'Lani said as she indicated the boy.

"I know you!" Vincent said in realization, then quickly fought to get himself back under emotional control.

"We attend the same conversational Klingon class at the Vulcan Academy of Science." Xon explained to his father and sister.

"Crewman Winters, 'she who is my daughter' sent us a link to a Federation video transmission regarding recognition given you for various acts of heroism." Sufaal said succinctly.

Vincent inclined his head in acknowledgement, but didn't respond otherwise.

"Crewman Winters spoke to us about his time at the Kimber IV colony during our Conversational Klingon class, as well." Xon interjected.

"You are the family of 'she who is my wife'. You may call me Vincent, if you wish." Vincent said to Sufaal, then turned to Xon and continued, "And, should you choose to do so, you may also call me 'brother'."

"That would be acceptable." Xon said formally, but Vincent could easily imagine a smile within the boy, struggling to make it's way to the surface.

"I am given to understand that you will be departing when the Yorktown leaves orbit." Sufaal said seriously.

"That is correct." Vincent said simply.

"Will you be taking your officer's exam when you arrive at Earth?" Xon asked curiously.

Vincent looked at him cautiously.

"You made mention during class." Xon explained.

Vincent nodded once, then said, "Once I have returned to Earth and I know that I will have the free time to do so, I will contact the Starfleet Academy and make a request to be allowed to take the officer's  exam."

"'He who is my husband' also has a test today, at the Vulcan Academy of Science." T'Lani said informatively.

"What is the scheduled time for your test? I have class today, so perhaps I could accompany you." Xon asked curiously.

"My exam is scheduled to begin at 09:00. But I'll probably want to go a little early so I can be sure that I can find the testing center.

"I assume that you mean Federation Standard Time." Xon said seriously.

"Yes, thank you. I'm not used to saying that." Vincent said timidly at his oversight.

"My class is scheduled to begin shortly before your exam. If you would like, I can accompany you to the academy grounds and conduct you to the testing center." Xon said reasonably.

"Yeah. Thanks. That'd be great. I wasn't planning to stop here this morning. I thought I'd just be transporting directly to the testing center." Vincent said casually, then realized that he needed to behave in a more controlled fashion.

"The morning meal preparation will be complete in three point two four minutes." A woman said as she walked into the room.

"Husband, this is 'she who is my mother', V'Anarra, of the house of Sukaan." T'Lani said reverently.

"T'nar pak sorat y'rani." Vincent said formally.

"T'nar jaral." V'Anarra replied in kind.

"Mother, this is my husband, Petty Officer Vincent Winters, Son of Clan Short, of the house of Surak." T'Lani said very precisely.

"You looked much younger in the pictures T'Lani sent." V'Anarra said cautiously.

"Yes. I've grown a lot in the past few months." Vincent admitted.

"How old are you?" Xon asked curiously.

"Nine." Vincent answered simply.

"In Federation Standard Years?" Xon asked to confirm.

Vincent nodded once to acknowledge.

"I am thirteen." Xon said as he looked at Vincent carefully.

It took a moment for Vincent to understand what Xon was doing.

They were almost exactly the same height. Xon gave the appearance of being slightly older, simply by virtue of his more mature facial features. But anyone judging them by sight would probably guess their age difference to be less than a year.

"Vincent, come and share our morning repast." Sufaal said as he gestured toward a doorway.

After a quick smile at T'Lani, Vincent walked with the family into the next room.

* * * * *

"I understand that Human taste preferences are different from those of Vulcans. Please indicate if the offered selections are not palatable." Sufaal said as he sat at the table.

"I've tried a lot of Vulcan foods on my ship, so I've gotten used to most things. But I'll let you know." Vincent said frankly.

V'Anarra began placing plates of food before the people surrounding the table.

"'She who is my daughter' informs me that you are classified as a Vulcan citizen." Sufaal said casually.

"Yes. I automatically became a Vulcan citizen when I was adopted by Clan Short. And it's because of that, that I was allowed to enter the Starfleet Mentoring Program." Vincent said seriously.

"Given your achievements, perhaps they will consider opening the mentoring program to more human children." Sufaal speculated.

"I don't know about that. Cory was really pis... I'm sorry. I mean, my patriarch was displeased when he found out that I was hurt at Kimber IV. Even though things ended up working out alright for me, I don't know if they're ready to go through stuff like that over and over." Vincent said honestly.

"Since seeing you in class, I have investigated the actions of Clan Short. I find their actions to be admirable." Xon said frankly.

"Yeah. I'm pretty proud of them." Vincent said with a smile.

"I do not understand why the house of Sukaan does not pursue such a worthy undertaking." Xon said frankly.

"Probably because of what you just said." Vincent said simply.

Xon thought over his words, then looked at Vincent with one eyebrow raised in question.

Vincent smiled at the expression, then said, "You're wondering why 'someone else' doesn't do something. Well, that's a surefire way for nothing to get done. If 'you' decide to do something, then the House of Sukaan will be doing something. Until then, it's probably not going to happen."

"Interesting logic." Sufaal said slowly.

"Yeah. I get that a lot." Vincent said with a grin.

"What would you propose that I do?" Xon asked cautiously.

Vincent thought for a moment and wished desperately that Vulcans had coffee. Finally, a thought came to him.

"Okay. If I was going to be staying on Vulcan, there's one thing that I'd probably be doing myself. But since I'm not, I'll tell you about it." Vincent said seriously.

Xon waited with interest.

"Back at New Hope, where T'Lani and I have a house, we also have some friends. One of our friends is a guy named Benny. He's just a little bit older than you. Anyway, when Kimber IV started having all those storms and things, his family were all hurt really bad. His parents are in hospitals on Earth, but his sister is in a hospital, here on Vulcan. If you really want to help someone, then try doing things to help Benny's sister. She's here, without any family or anyone that she knows."

"And what would you want me to do for her?" Xon asked carefully.

"Just find out what she needs and see that she gets it. She might need music, videos, books... flowers, maybe? I don't know. I've never even met her, so I don't know what she likes."

"How does this compare to the actions of Clan Short?" Xon asked cautiously.

"It's helping people who need it. If you can do that much, just that little bit, then you're every bit as good as Clan Short. Of course, if people notice what you're doing and decide to start helping you... well, that's when it starts being a big thing." Vincent said frankly.

"I believe I understand how you came to be known as 'The Hero of Kimber'." Xon said slowly.

"Yeah. About that. All that hero stuff just ends up getting in the way. I'm a guy who's trying to do his best and do what's right. I'd be doing exactly the same thing if nobody ever heard of me." Vincent said honestly.

"Did you really stop a plot to assassinate the religious leader of a planetary system?" Xon asked curiously.

"Yeah. But it was really this guy named Lehman who did the most to save the Holy One. I just helped him out where I could." Vincent said cautiously.

"And is it also true that you're the only member of Starfleet ever to have been welcomed aboard a Gorn vessel?" Xon asked seriously.

"Yeah. That's true, too. But it sounds like a lot bigger deal than it really is. The Gorn invited me to go on their ship. I went. I opened a box. It was empty. Then I went back to my ship." Vincent said simply.

"Then what about the pirates?" Xon asked challengingly.

"Yeah. That's also true, and it's also not as big a deal as they made it out to be. I was in command when we received a fake distress call. It looked a little bit too much like a trap to me, so I called Coffelt Security and asked them to check it out." Vincent said honestly.

Xon nodded as he absorbed Vincent's words.

"How many lives have you saved?" T'Lani asked seriously.

"There's no way to know how many people would have died at Kimber. I've heard numbers from two hundred all the way past five." Vincent answered.

"Then, disregard the Kimber incident. How many lives have you saved otherwise." T'Lani asked reasonably.

"Channing, Tracey... five I guess." Vincent said cautiously.

"And add to that, however many lives were saved due to your detection of the faulty control circuits, and however many more were saved due to a band of pirates that is no longer in circulation." T'Lani added seriously.

"Okay. You made your point." Vincent grudgingly admitted.

Xon looked from his sister to his brother-in-law in wonder as his mind raced over all he had just learned and coupled it with all he had studied since seeing Vincent in the virtual classroom.

* * * * *

"How are we doing for time?" Vincent asked as he and Xon walked out of T'Lani's family home.

"We will arrive at the transport station well ahead of schedule." Xon said carefully.

"Thanks for showing me where to go. I don't know where anything is here." Vincent said frankly.

"What is it like to be human?" Xon asked curiously.

"It's like falling." Vincent said with a smile.

After a moment to consider, Xon carefully said, "I do not understand your answer."

"I don't understand your question." Vincent said back with a grin.

Xon thought about it for a moment, then carefully said, "Yet, I feel that your answer holds more truth than I can logically deduce."

"Probably." Vincent said with a shrug.

* * * * *

"I am interested in helping the girl that you mentioned, while we were eating." Xon said carefully.

"Her name's Callie Summers. I don't know much more than that about her. But I bet you can find her if you try. If not, then give me a call and I'll call her brother and find out whatever you need to know." Vincent said honestly.

"So, you will not mind if I contact you?" Xon asked cautiously.

"Well, it depends on how you're contacting me. If you send me emails, you can contact me as much as you want. If you're calling me on subspace, then it'd better be an emergency." Vincent said frankly.

Xon nodded, then quietly asked, "What is it like to be married?"

"It's like flying." Vincent said with a grin.

Xon had a momentary look of question, but finally nodded his acceptance of the answer.

* * * * *

After getting off the public transport, Vincent glanced to Xon at his side and quietly said, "If you ever need anything, remember that you can always call on Clan Short. The Clan representative on Vulcan is named Rory Teeter and he's a really good friend of mine. Just tell him that you're my brother and he'll do anything in his power to help you."

"I would feel that I am disrespecting my father and his house if I were to ask for assistance from another house." Xon said introspectively.

"When someone needs help, you get them help. If you can get that help from your own house, that's great. But if not, then get in touch with Rory." Vincent said frankly.

"The testing center is through that archway. Announce yourself at the desk and you will be instructed where and when your test will commence." Xon said as he gestured to their left.

"Thank you, Xon. In case I don't get to see you again before my ship leaves, I just wanted to say that it was a pleasure to meet you." Vincent said earnestly as they stopped.

"Likewise. If we do not have the opportunity to speak again today, then I will see you in our classroom." Xon said calmly.

"Yeah. I'll see you there." Vincent said happily.

* * * * *

The cacophony of Vulcan testing was overwhelming for Vincent at first, but he soon settled into the experience. By the end of the last test, he was actually enjoying it. If nothing else, the time seemed to fly by.

"Crewman Winters to Yorktown Deflector Control." Vincent said into his communicator.

"Deflector Control, go ahead." Connie answered.

"I just finished my testing. Can you find out when I need to be back on the ship?" Vincent asked hopefully.

"Just a second. I'll pull up the most recent revision of the timetable." Connie said quickly.

Vincent waited as he looked around at a the Vulcan students racing around, efficiently moving from one class to the next.

"We're scheduled to disembark in two hours." Connie said seriously.

"Good. Then I'm going back to T'Lani's house to say goodbye to everyone before I leave. I have my communicator, so call me if you need me to come back before that." Vincent said professionally.

"You got it. How did the testing go?" Connie asked curiously.

"Hopefully, in my next standard course of study, I'll learn the words to describe what it was like." Vincent said playfully.

"Go on. You're burning leave time." Connie said with a chuckle.

"Winters, out." Vincent said with a smile.

"Yorktown, out."

* * * * *

Thanks to his bond with T'Lani, Vincent didn't have to request entry when he arrived at the house of Sufaal.

"Husband, may I assume that all went well?" T'Lani asked gently as she placed her hand on his cheek.

"Yeah. I think so." Vincent said as he placed his hand over hers.

"Time is short. Come." T'Lani said as she led him inside.

"Yeah."

* * * * *

"All hands, prepare to break orbit in fifteen minutes." Vincent heard as he stepped off the transporter pad.

"Did you enjoy seeing Vulcan?" Rad asked with a smile.

"I mostly got to see the testing center, but yeah. It was fun." Vincent said cheerily.

"Make sure you check your duty schedule as soon as you get on station. With most of the Vulcan crew off the ship, some of the shifts have changed." Rad warned.

"Got it. Will do." Vincent said seriously.

* * * * *

Since Vincent was scheduled to be off and wasn't expected back on duty until the following morning, he went to Deflector Control to see how everyone was doing and checked his schedule at the auxiliary station while he was there.

"Checking your schedule?" Connie asked from the main.

"Yeah. I just wanted to make sure that nothing has changed." Vincent said casually.

"Still doing full shifts?" Joe asked curiously as he looked up from his work at the second auxiliary station.

"Yeah, I think Commander M'Butu wants for me to get used to working full shifts at each station, just like anyone else on the bridge." Vincent said thoughtfully.

"I suppose that now that you've shown that you're able to run the stations that it's the next reasonable step." Joe said thoughtfully.

"Yeah. And right now, it probably helps to cover the shifts since we're missing the people who got off at Vulcan." Vincent said frankly.

"That's possible. I think everyone understands that we might be running a little bit short on crew between Vulcan and Earth, so no one complains if they draw an extra shift or two." Joe said honestly.

"How are things going down here?" Vincent asked as he looked around.

"Everything's been fine since we got the new parts from Coffelt. We're having to be a little bit more cautious than usual, just like anytime you install new parts into an old system, but so far everything's working fine." Joe said happily.

"Good. I was getting worried for a little bit." Vincent said honestly.

"I think we all were. But we're on the last leg of our journey. All we have to do is get back to Earth." Joe said frankly.

"Speaking of which." Connie said over his shoulder.

"Is it time?" Joe asked as he signed off his station.

"Just about. I just received the 'standby' signal." Connie said seriously.

Vincent walked to Joe's side and quietly asked, "Do you mind if I watch? Now that I have a better idea of what all the controls are, I'd like to see the process for departure."

"That's fine. If there's something you don't understand, just ask and I'll explain it." Joe said with a proud smile.

* * * * *

In the past, being scheduled to give breaks and lunches had been somewhat overwhelming, but also stimulating, flipping rapidly from one station's speciality to another. The experience of working regular duty shifts was surprisingly different. Vincent needed to concentrate much harder and for a longer period of time, the pace was much slower, and then there were the reports. For every shift and every station, there were a variety of different reports that had to be completed.

Even so, the closer the Yorktown came to Earth, the more the level of excitement in the background raised. Moods seemed to lighten and expectations were raised.

For many, the arrival at Earth signaled a long and much deserved shore leave. For others, it was the end to a long and unexpected journey that originally was only supposed to last for just over a week.

Vincent couldn't help but think back on the days before he left earth and the expectations that he had had.

"All hands, please be aware that the Yorktown has been scheduled for an extended refit upon arrival at Earth. Those planning to request leave should do so at this time. All others, be sure to consult your personnel files for interim assignments." Captain Byrne announced.

Vincent thought about the announcement and about his plans for when he reached Earth.

* * * * *

When he was finally relieved for his break, he went to Deflector Control and quietly asked Joe, "Do you have a few minutes?"

"Sure, Champ. What do you need?" Joe asked curiously.

"It's about the announcement that the captain made a little bit ago. I'm not sure what I should do right now so that I can take my officer's exam when we get to Earth." Vincent said honestly.

"It seems to me that one thing is contingent on another. I assume that since you're not attending the academy, that you'll have to file a request to take the next available officer's exam, so until that request is approved, you can't really make any firm plans. Likewise, until we know if you passed the exam, we won't be able to make any firm plans regarding what you should do next." Joe said frankly.

"So what should I do?" Vincent asked anxiously.

"There's not much you can do except put in the request for testing. Until your testing date is scheduled, you really can't schedule anything else." Joe said seriously.

"So, should I take leave time until I know for sure?" Vincent asked cautiously.

"I think so. I haven't looked at your personnel file recently, but I'd be willing to bet that you have quite a bit of leave time built up. You might as well use it."

Vincent nodded in thought.

"You might also want to let Commander M'Butu know what you're planning on doing. That way if something comes up, he'll know if you're available to be called." Joe said thoughtfully.

"Yeah. Thanks, Daddy Joe. I really didn't know what I was supposed to do." Vincent said with relief.

Joe smiled warmly, then quietly said, "It's been awhile since you called me 'Daddy Joe' or asked for any 'kid time'."

Vincent chuckled then quietly said, "Yeah. I guess so."

"Just remember that I'll always be here when you need me." Joe said seriously.

"I knew that." Vincent said with a cheeky grin, then quietly added, "And I do need you."

"I can't believe how much you've grown." Joe chuckled as he hugged Vincent around the shoulders.

"Yeah. Like a weed." Vincent said as he restrained a grin, then glanced around and quickly said, "My break's almost over. I've got to get back."

"Have a good day." Joe said with a smile as he watched Vincent hurry away.

* * * * *

Docking at TerraMain was an interesting experience for Vincent. Although he really didn't have anything to do with the actual docking maneuver, just being present to witness such a thing was awe inspiring.

Once all the stations were secured, people began gathering their things and leaving the ship. Vincent was feeling more than a little bit lost, not knowing what he should do next, but the answer came to him in the form of a beep on his communicator.

"Crewman Winters." Vincent answered cautiously.

"I know you've already docked. How much longer are you going to take?" A young voice asked impatiently.

"Cory? Sorry. I didn't know you were waiting for me." Vincent said quickly.

"No duh! Where else would I be? Now get your skinny butt off that ship and get down here so I can give you all the hugs that I've been saving up for the last three months." Cory said firmly.

"Um, yeah. I've just got to grab my carry-on and I'll be ready to go." Vincent said quickly.

"If you're not down here in five minutes, I'm beaming aboard to get you." Cory said seriously.

"I don't know if I'll even be able to make it onto TerraMain in five minutes, much less to the personnel transporters... and that's if I can even find them." Vincent explained helplessly.

"Just get going and I'll see you in a few minutes." Cory said with a chuckle.

"Winters, out." Vincent said, then closed his communicator.

* * * * *

As Vincent stepped through the airlock on deck H, he remembered to be careful, in case there was a difference in gravity between the ship and the TerraMain station.

"Vincent?" A voice called cautiously.

A smile came across Vincent's face as he spotted Cory and Sean waiting for him.

"I thought you were going to be waiting for me at the Short Compound." Vincent said as he hurried to them.

"Oh my God! You're as tall as I am!" Cory exclaimed in astonishment.

Vincent stopped before Cory, just shy of hugging him and realized that he was right.

Whereas, before, he had looked up to Cory and Sean. Now he was nearly their equal in height.

Before he could say anything about the unexpected development, he was pulled into a firm hug, first by Cory, and then by Sean.

"I can't believe how much you've changed." Sean said in wonder as they separated.

"Yeah. I've had a couple growth spurts since the last time I saw you." Vincent admitted shyly.

"Well, whatever you've been doing, you need to keep it up, because you look great." Cory said warmly.

"Thanks, Dad." Vincent said with an impish grin.

Cory chuckled, then threw an arm around Vincent's shoulders to guide him to walk with them.

* * * * *

"I tell you what, why don't you get changed out of that uniform so we can get the party started?" Sean asked as soon as the transporter beam cleared and they were back in the Short Compound.

"Actually, I don't have any civilian clothes. I outgrew them all." Vincent admitted shyly.

Cory and Sean shared a look, and Vincent wasn't sure if there were some sort of telepathic communication going on between them.

"Aaron?" Sean finally asked.

Cory shook his head and responded, "Clint."

"Um, what are we talking about?" Vincent asked cautiously.

"You are in serious need of a mall trip. We're just deciding who's going to take you." Cory explained calmly.

"You really don't need to do that. I'm fine in my uniform." Vincent said quickly.

Cory stared at Vincent for a moment and seemed to be peering directly into his soul.

Vincent fought not to squirm under the scrutiny.

"Who do we need to get him to snap out of it?" Sean asked Cory seriously.

"Snap who out of what?" Vincent asked in confusion.

"Duty." Cory said frankly, then looked Vincent in the eyes as he continued, "You're not being 'Vincent' right now, you're being 'Petty Officer Winters'. We need to find a way to snap you out of it or you're not going to have any fun at your party."

"I really don't need a party..." Vincent began to say.

"That's 'Petty Officer Winters' talking." Sean snapped.

Vincent could understand what they were saying on some level, but he didn't know what he should do to try and change it.

"Get Clint, Ian and... the new guy. What's his name?" Cory asked cautiously.

"Ferny." Sean said unenthusiastically.

"Fernando." Cory corrected as he nodded, then added, "He probably needs a mall trip as badly as Vincent."

"He needs something." Sean muttered.

"Ferny's a little defensive, so try to understand if he's kind of rude until he gets to know you." Cory said to Vincent, then turned to Sean and continued, "He needs to realize that he's safe here and that he's not going to be thrown out if he slips up."

"Yeah. He needs to realize a few other things, too." Sean said frankly.

Vincent looked back and forth between the two with confusion.

"It seems that Fernando finds me attractive, and he wasn't very subtle about it." Cory explained carefully.

"He was undressing you with his eyes. He was practically drooling." Sean seethed.

Cory seemed to be about to contradict Sean, but then a thoughtful expression came over his face. Finally he said, "Yeah. I guess so."

Sean smiled in triumph at the admission.

"But that doesn't change the fact that he needs a place where he'll be safe and loved and accepted." Cory added.

"Yeah." Sean agreed, then quickly added, "But if he makes a move on you, I'm shipping him off to Australia. Sky can deal with him."

Cory gave a sigh of resignation, then said, "We'll discuss it if and when we need to."

Vincent waited, not feeling that he had anything to contribute to their conversation.

"I'll call Clint and arrange for a vehicle and driver." Sean finally said.

Cory nodded, then motioned for Vincent to walk with him.

"How are things going here? I haven't heard much lately." Vincent said honestly.

"Wars and rumors of wars." Cory muttered absently.

Vincent stopped and looked at him curiously.

"It seems like no matter how much we do, there's just that much more needing to be done." Cory said frankly.

"That sounds like one of those facts of life that none of us like, but we all have to put up with." Vincent said honestly.

"Yeah." Cory said with resignation then added more cheerfully, "But overall, things are pretty good. Even though we're still doing rescues and interventions, there aren't as many and they're not as severe as when we started. The residents at Camp Little Eagle are really becoming one big family. I was worried when we started the camp that it might end up being just like the CPS dumping ground 'group homes'. There were so many things that could have gone wrong, but everyone pulled together and they seem to be inspiring the best qualities in each other."

"How are you and Sean doing?" Vincent asked with concern.

"Oh, we're great. Don't worry about that thing with Fernando. If anything, it just shows me how much Sean really loves me." Cory said with a smile.

After a long silence between them, Vincent finally said, "Thank you."

"For what?" Cory asked curiously.

"I don't know, exactly. I was such a mess when my parents died that I don't remember all of what happened to make things turn out the way they did. But one thing that I know for sure is that none of it would have happened at all without you." Vincent said honestly.

"Actually, I wasn't here when all of that happened. As I recall, it was David, more than anyone else, who arranged things for you." Cory said honestly.

"Yeah. And I'll always remember how hard he worked to help me. But he wouldn't have been able to do much of anything if it weren't for everything you did to make the Clan what it is." Vincent said seriously.

"Vincent, the guys are bringing the Hummer around to the front of the house. You'd better hurry." Sean said as he walked back into the room.

"Okay." Vincent said with a smile, then walked to Cory and pulled him into a firm hug.

Cory closed his eyes as he hugged Vincent in return.

Sean was next and was surprised by the amount of strength and emotion in Vincent's hug.

As they parted, Sean looked Vincent in the eyes and quietly said, "Welcome home."

* * * * *

"You're Rory's dad, aren't you?" Vincent asked as he approached the Hummer.

When he got closer, Vincent was shocked to realize that he was slightly taller than the man.

"That's right. My name is Marcus." He said, then gestured for Vincent to climb aboard.

Vincent climbed in on the passenger side, but couldn't help but imagine what it must be like for someone as small as Marcus to drive such a monstrous vehicle. It appeared that the seat had been adjusted as far forward as it could go, and Marcus still had to stretch a little bit to reach the pedals.

"I don't know if you remember me, but I'm Clint." An older boy said in a welcoming tone of voice. Vincent turned from his place in the front passenger seat to look into the back.

"I'm Ian." The younger boy beside Clint chimed in cheerfully.

Vincent smiled at him, then his gaze moved to the dark haired boy beside them.

The wide eyed look on the boy's face didn't reveal any emotion, but he certainly didn't show any indication that he was going to introduce himself.

"You must be Fernando." Vincent finally said.

The boy dumbly nodded.

"Sean said that you two need to buy some new clothes. What are we looking at?" Clint asked curiously.

Vincent waited for a moment to see if Fernando were going to answer, but finally said, "I outgrew all my civilian clothes since I left Earth. So, all I've got is my uniforms, right now."

"So we're talking about getting you everything, head to toe?" Clint confirmed.

"Yeah. I guess so. I mean, I'm really okay with just wearing my uniforms, but Sean and Cory seemed to think that I need to be reminded how to be a civilian or something." Vincent said frankly.

"We'll see what we can do." Clint nodded, then turned to Fernando and asked, "What about you?"

"You're straight, aren't you?" Fernando asked cautiously.

"Yeah. Why?" Clint asked with surprise.

"You, too?" Fernando asked as he looked at Vincent.

"Yeah." Vincent said cautiously.

"Ninety percent of the Clan is gay, and they send me shopping with two straight guys! I swear, Sean hates me!" Fernando grumbled.

"I'm gay." Ian interjected.

Fernando glanced at Ian, then rolled his eyes.

Vincent felt his temper rising. He didn't know Ian that well... at all, actually. But there was no way that he was going to allow someone to mistreat the boy.

Before Vincent could speak, Clint firmly said, "Ian and I are here to help you. We're doing you a favor and we're going to buy you things. But if you're going to be an ungrateful little prick about it, we can just ask Marcus to take us right back to the Short Compound and drop you off."

"That won't be necessary." Marcus said simply.

Everyone turned their attention to him.

"If you two will go with Vincent, I believe that Fernando and I will be fine shopping on our own." Marcus said frankly.

"You're straight too, aren't you?" Fernando asked cautiously.

"Yes. That's right. But more importantly, I have a son who I love very much, and who also happens to be gay. I've never really had the opportunity to take him shopping, so I think that I would very much like to do this." Marcus said sincerely.

"Why couldn't you take your son shopping?" Fernando asked cautiously.

"If you're interested, I can explain that while we're shopping." Marcus said simply.

"Yeah. Okay." Fernando said uncertainly.

Vincent smiled at Marcus with the beginning of admiration. He didn't know much about Rory's father, but from what he'd just seen, he knew enough.

* * * * *

"What size?" Clint asked as they approached a rack of cargo pants.

"I don't have a clue. I've grown about six or eight sizes in the past three months." Vincent said frankly.

"Just pick one that looks close and try it on." Clint said seriously.

"When you've found your size, you should probably get some a size or two too big so that you'll have something to wear when you grow some more." Ian said timidly.

"That's a really good idea." Clint said with surprise at the suggestion.

Ian beamed at the praise.

"Instead of you guys watching me, do you want to go pick out some shirts for me to try? At the rate we're going, this is going to take all day." Vincent asked hopefully.

"What kind of shirts do you like?" Ian asked cautiously.

"I don't really like bright loud colors. Besides that, I really don't care. I only have to see it when I first put it on, after that, it's everyone else's problem." Vincent said honestly.

"Whatever you say." Clint chuckled, then motioned for Ian to walk with him.

Vincent grabbed a few pairs of pants, different sizes of the same style, and took them to the changing room.

* * * * *

After trying on a few pairs, he was not only able to determine his waist size, but also his inseam, so they'd be the right length.

He changed back into his uniform and, as he was stepping out, he nearly hit someone who was walking past with the changing room door.

"Sorry." Vincent said quickly.

The woman didn't respond. She looked at him, then at his uniform before walking away.

Vincent returned to the rack where he had found the pants and returned those that were too small.

He took Ian's suggestion and selected pairs in three different sizes. As he was about to carry his selections to the checkout, he decided to pick up a few more of each. He had no need or desire to have different types and styles of pants. So he thought that, if he were to buy several of the same kind, then he could find a shirt that would go well with the pants and buy a whole bunch of those, too.

As practical as Vincent's idea seemed to him, Clint and Ian had other ideas. They seemed to be of the opinion that Vincent needed to have a variety of clothing choices, otherwise what he would end up wearing would, in essence, be his 'civilian uniform'.

Vincent was permitted to buy one pair in each size of the pants he had chosen. Since there were other colors of the same style available, he was allowed to buy one of each of those.

It wasn't until the pants shopping had been exhausted that they made their way to the shirts. Ever since the 'civilian uniform' incident, they had not left him to shop on his own.

From there, they went on to formal wear, which Vincent was certain that he didn't need. Clint and Ian outvoted him which, Vincent suspected, was why both of them were chosen to go with him.

Vincent felt his temper rise significantly in the shoe department. He insisted that he only needed one pair of shoes. Clint and Ian were of the opinion that different occasions demanded different and distinctive footwear.

There were a few times when Clint hurried away to deposit their purchases in the Hummer. But while Clint was gone, Ian made sure to keep a close eye on him.

When it came to swimwear, Vincent had to put his foot down and declare that he would not be wearing a speedo. When they started to argue with him, he simply told them that he had grown a lot in the past few months, and that included inside his swimsuit.

Finally, Clint and Ian backed off and Vincent ended up with several pairs of knee length board shorts.

* * * * *

To Vincent, nothing in the entire history of the entire history had ever taken as long as shopping for clothes. He was bored beyond his ability to express it and only wished for it to be over.

"Are you ready to go?" Clint finally asked as he carried several bags away from the register.

"Really?" Vincent asked with a relieved smile.

"Yeah. We've got to hurry to get to the Skyview Plaza before the afternoon rush." Clint said as he led the way.

Vincent stopped in his tracks as he felt tears of disappointment fill his eyes.

* * * * *

"What are we doing here?" Vincent asked as Marcus drove them through the gate into Camp Little Eagle.

"This is where the party is. In fact, it's probably already started." Clint said frankly.

"We're going to a party?" Fernando asked curiously.

"Yeah. Cory promised Vincent a party when he got back to Earth." Clint explained.

"Are you going, too?" Fernando asked Marcus hopefully.

Vincent was absolutely amazed at the miraculous change in Fernando since he had spent time shopping with Marcus. The angry defensive boy seemed to be transformed into an affectionate, if somewhat needy, child.

"Yes. I'll be there for as long as you need me to be." Marcus said warmly.

"What are we going to do about all my stuff?" Vincent asked curiously.

"Where are you going to be staying, while you're on Earth?" Clint asked curiously.

Vincent stopped and thought for a moment.

He was surprised to realize that he hadn't made any arrangements at all.

Billy and Deacon would probably let him stay at their house, since he was Lawrence's brother, but he didn't want to put them on the spot by asking at the last minute.

He knew that Joe had mentioned that he was going to be going out with Grandma Mona. So he certainly didn't need for Vincent to intrude.

The last time Vincent had talked to them, Darin and Rad were almost giddy with excitement about their plans to visit Rad's father's cabin in Northern California.

"You can stay here." Clint said quietly when he realized that 'The Hero of Kimber', the returning hero that they were all so proud of, didn't have a place on Earth to stay.

Vincent looked at Clint uncertainly.

"You're a 'son of Clan Short', right?" Clint asked to verify.

"Yeah." Vincent said cautiously.

"Well, so is everyone else here at the camp. This way you'll have a roof, a bed, three square meals, and all the company that you could ever want." Clint said frankly.

"Are you in charge of recruiting or something?" Vincent asked curiously.

"I've decided that when I'm finished with school, that I want to work at Camp Little Eagle. Because of that, Cory and Sean have been teaching me stuff and letting me help out a lot more." Clint said frankly.

"Are we going to the party or not?" Ian asked hopefully.

"Yeah. We're going now." Clint chuckled as he opened his car door.

* * * * *

Although Vincent had been aware of the impending party for months, he was still surprised by the level of optimism and good cheer.

He laughed and talked and yes... he even danced.

In short, he remembered how to be a civilian.

And the Adventure Continues...

Editor's Notes:

Once again, I find myself with a few tears in my eyes. I was actually wondering how Vincent would react to a trip back to Earth, after all that time on the Yorktown.

Vincent has indeed made a lot of progress in his interactions with others, and he has become a very caring person, but he is still having some trouble with new and unusual situations. I feel sorry for him, in respect to his apprehensions to being the Hero Of Kimber, not to mention all the other things that, individually, probably wouldn't have gained him so much notoriety, but combined with his age and the total of his achievements, he is finding it hard to cope with all the praise, and it is starting to get to him, I'm afraid.

Fernando is an interesting person, and it seems that Marcus had quite a good influence on him. I have always liked Marcus, and it is nice to see him doing something worthwhile. I hope we hear more about Fernando and maybe Marcus in a future chapter.

It still amazes me that whenever we meet someone in one of MM's stories, we become instantly involved in wanting to know more about them. Let's just say there is no such thing as a RED SHIRT in a MultiMapper story.

I can hardly wait for more.


Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher