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As they walked through the camp, listening to Chief Tecumseh's narrative, Lehman noticed that Vincent seemed to be distracted.
"What's wrong?" Lehman whispered with concern.
"Nothing." Vincent said automatically, then smiled unconvincingly for Lehman's benefit.
Lehman gave Vincent an incredulous look, then said, "If you can't tell me, then can I look for myself?"
Vincent saw Lehman reaching out to him, about to touch his arm, and flinched away.
Lehman's expression went from mild concern to full worry at Vincent's reaction.
Vincent noticed, and a look of resolve slowly filled his expression.
"The last time I was here was right before my parent's funeral." Vincent trailed off in an uncertain voice.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Vincent." Lehman said quietly.
"Nah, it's okay. Really." Vincent said thoughtfully. "I'm not sad or anything, I think maybe that seeing now what I saw then is reminding me of what I was feeling back then."
"I understand. Just let me know if you feel like talking about it." Lehman said quietly.
"Yeah. Promise." Vincent said with a grin, which confirmed more than words that his mood was just a momentary thing.
Lehman glanced at Chief Tecumseh and found that he had stopped and was waiting on them, to finish.
"Sorry, Chief Tecumseh." Lehman said quietly.
"Quite alright. I should have considered that being here again might bring up unpleasant memories for Vincent." Chief Tecumseh said seriously.
"I'm fine. Can we just not talk about it?" Vincent asked hopefully.
"As you like." Chief Tecumseh said gently, then started walking again.
* * * * *
"Why are these cabins away from all the others?" Lehman asked, as the path they were on led them to another clearing.
"These are the girls' cabins." Chief Tecumseh said simply, as if that explained it all.
"There are girls at Camp Little Eagle?" Vincent asked with surprise, then continued, "I've never seen any."
"That would stand to reason." Chief Tecumseh said quietly as he stopped to look at the boys.
"At this point in time, the girls need to be kept separate from the boys." Chief Tecumseh said quietly.
"Why?" Lehman asked curiously.
"We only have a few girls here and all of them are quite fragile at this point. Doctor Richardson believes, and I concur, that the girls might feel overwhelmed and 'outnumbered' if we tried to integrate them with the boys right away." Chief Tecumseh said with a note of regret in his voice.
"So they're kind of being kept locked up and hidden away?" Vincent asked cautiously.
"No. Not at all." Chief Tecumseh said, with obvious surprise at Vincent's assessment.
"The girls are free to leave their cabins and join in with the boys whenever they would like. But we are also allowing them to choose to stay to themselves and giving them the opportunity to heal from whatever events brought them to us." Chief Tecumseh said gravely, then gestured for the boys to continue walking.
"Yeah. I guess I can understand that." Vincent said as he took one last glance back at the pair of cabins in the clearing.
* * * * *
"Lunch will be served in thirty minutes. We would be honored if you would join us." Chief Tecumseh said as they approached the administration building.
"Yeah, it would be great if you guys would sit at our table." Obie said with enthusiasm.
Vincent saw that Dylan and Jason K agreed and really wanted him and Lehman to join them.
"I'd like to, but we should probably be getting back to the Short Compound and find out some more about what's going on. We came back to Earth to help, so we'd better get started." Vincent said reluctantly, then glanced at Lehman with question.
Lehman shrugged, obviously feeling that he didn't know enough of what was going on to have an opinion.
"Would you like a little piece of advice?" Chief Tecumseh asked as he looked at the nearly identical boys.
Both boys nodded and devoted their full attention to Chief Tecumseh.
"When the storm rages, it is our instinct to seek that which is stable to take refuge." Chief Tecumseh said sagely.
Vincent slowly nodded as Lehman looked on with confusion.
"Do not allow yourself to be drawn into the tumult, rather, become the sanctuary for those who have need of a respite from the recent events, so they may heal within themselves." Chief Tecumseh said seriously.
"Yeah." Vincent said, then noticed Lehman's uncomprehending stare directed at him.
"There are lots of people here helping each other, and that's great. But I think what Chief Tecumseh is saying is that since we're outside of whatever happened, we can listen to people and help them in a different way because we're not all tired and worried and emotional about stuff." Vincent said carefully.
"Yes. Your unique, 'outside' point of view may be of help to some who feel that their own worries and concerns are trivial compared to those of people who suffered great losses." Chief Tecumseh said gravely.
"Huh?" Lehman asked, feeling that he was missing out on the point of the entire conversation.
"It would be like if I had whined to JonJon about not being able to see when he had just lost his whole family. My problem was a really little problem compared to his. Maybe there are people here who feel something like that. They need to talk to someone who wasn't here and didn't get hurt or lose anyone." Vincent said quietly.
Lehman slowly nodded his understanding.
"I'm really glad that you're in our cabin, Vincent." Dylan said with a smile.
At Vincent's questioning look, Dylan continued, "You understand the 'Support and Recovery' thing and how to give people the help they need."
"Not really." Vincent said shyly, then continued, "I just know how to listen to Chief Tecumseh when he gives me advice."
"Yeah. Ya know, I should probably start doing that too." Dylan said with a timid smile directed at Chief Tecumseh.
"Should you have need of my advice, I will always be available." Chief Tecumseh said gently to Dylan, then turned to the group and continued, "If you will excuse me, I have some duties that require my attention. May the Great Spirit watch over you and guide you."
"You too." Vincent said with a smile, then watched as Chief Tecumseh walked away.
"So are we going or staying?" Lehman asked Vincent curiously.
"Going, I think." Vincent said thoughtfully, then turned to Dylan and said, "I don't know what all we're going to be doing, so I don't know when we'll be coming back. But we *will* be back."
"Good. Just remember that if you run into anyone that needs help, you've got all of us over here just waiting to be called." Dylan said frankly.
"I'll remember. It's good to know that we don't have to face this alone." Vincent said with a glance at Lehman.
"You'll never be alone Vincent. Wherever you go, the whole Camp is with you." Obie said frankly.
Vincent smiled at the boy who was close to his own age and realized that Dylan, Obie and even Jason K were brave, strong people whom he could depend on.
They were better than friends, they were brothers.
"We'll see you guys later." Vincent said more quietly, then looked to see if Lehman was ready to go.
Lehman raised his arm and said, "Ship, would you teleport us to the Short Compound?"
"Yes Trach Manja Lehman. Let me know when you are ready." Ship responded immediately.
* * * * *
When the teleportal stream finally cleared, Vincent and Lehman found themselves in the rec room of the Short Compound in the very spot that they had teleported from earlier.
A few of the boys around the room looked at them curiously, but didn't seem concerned by their sudden appearance.
"What do we do now?" Lehman asked cautiously, feeling distinctly uncomfortable surrounded by strangers.
"I don't know." Vincent said slowly as he looked around the room, then he quickly said, "Come over here, there's someone I want you to meet."
Lehman followed Vincent to a large couch at one side of the room.
There was a slender boy sitting and stroking the short blond hair of a much larger boy who was asleep.
"Konnichiwa, Koji-san. Ogenki desu ka?" Vincent asked in a whisper, so as not to wake the sleeping boy.
Koji smiled and said, "Hi Vincent. It's okay, the Clan taught me how to speak English."
"That's good. I guess I don't need to tell you that they taught me Japanese too." Vincent said with a giggle.
Koji smiled peacefully, then whispered, "This is Chok. He's having trouble getting used to being in a different time zone."
"This is my brother Lehman." Vincent said quietly.
"Hi." Lehman said, as he looked at Chok sleeping soundly with his head in Koji's lap.
"I've been hearing about some of the stuff you've been doing while you're out in space. How do you like being in Starfleet?" Koji asked quietly.
"It's great. I can't think of anything else that I'd rather be doing." Vincent said honestly.
Koji gave a sad smile, then looked down at Chok.
"What's wrong?" Lehman asked automatically.
Koji looked up and stopped to consider for a moment before saying, "It's nothing."
"Come on. You can tell us." Vincent said as he carefully took a seat on the couch beside Koji, on the other side from Chok.
Lehman took one step to rest against the arm of the couch as he waited expectantly.
Koji looked at the two nearly identical boys for a moment before quietly saying, "Chok and I were brought here when everything went crazy. I guess the Clan guys thought that someone might try to hurt us because we're their friends. You know, use us as hostages or something..."
Vincent nodded that he understood what Koji was saying.
"Well, since we've been here, Chok and I have sort of become friends since we're kind of in the same situation." Koji said carefully.
"What situation is that?" Lehman asked curiously, really wanting to help the troubled boy if he could.
"We're both friends of the Clan, but we're not exactly part of it. So we've kind of been hanging out together since there isn't really anything else for us to do." Koji said quietly.
Lehman nodded that he understood.
"Well, now that it looks like everything is over, Chok is probably going to have to go back to Germany where his family lives..." Koji said sadly as he looked down at the sleeping boy again.
"...And you like him." Lehman added with understanding.
Koji nodded regretfully.
Vincent watched as Koji continued to stroke the stout boy's hair with feather light touches.
"Isn't there something we can do?" Lehman asked Vincent with concern.
"Yeah. Let me think." Vincent said seriously.
"No. Everyone else has such big problems right now, they don't need to be worrying about this." Koji said quickly.
Vincent considered Koji's words, but before he could answer, Lehman said, "That's why we're here."
Koji and Vincent both looked at Lehman curiously.
"We'll talk to some people and try to work something out." Lehman said with assurance to Koji, then looked at Vincent with question.
"Right." Vincent said with a smile at Lehman, then looked at Koji and continued, "Just give us some time and we'll see what we can do."
"You really don't have to..." Koji said quickly, then looked down to be sure that his words hadn't caused Chok to wake up.
"I don't think it'll hurt anything to try. If it doesn't work out, then you're no worse off than if we'd done nothing." Vincent said reasonably.
Lehman nodded his agreement.
"Okay. Thanks." Koji said quietly as he watched Chok sleeping peacefully in his lap.
"I know just who I want to talk to." Vincent said quickly as he started toward the door.
"It looks like Vincent's got an idea, so I know it's going to be fine." Lehman said, then hurried to follow Vincent.
* * * * *
"Are you going to ask Cory or Sean?" Lehman asked as they walked into the hallway.
"No. I think we need to go over their heads for this one." Vincent said with an impish grin.
Lehman puzzled over the statement as they walked down the hall.
* * * * *
"Do you know where we're going?" Lehman asked cautiously as they seemed to be walking aimlessly from room to room.
"Not exactly, but I figured that if we looked around long enough... wait... that looks like the kitchen. Let's check in there." Vincent said as he hurried into the room ahead of them.
Lehman gave a slight exasperated shake of his head, then followed along.
"Aunt Teri? Do you have a minute to talk to me?" Vincent asked as he entered the kitchen.
Teri looked up at the sound and smiled with recognition, then her look turned to one of curiosity at the sight of Lehman following a step behind.
"This is Lehman. He's my brother." Vincent said shyly.
"Oh. It's nice to meet you Lehman... although, I don't recall Vincent having a twin brother the last time we met." Teri said as she turned her gaze toward Vincent.
"Long story." Vincent said simply.
Lehman nodded his agreement to the statement.
"I'm getting kind of used to that." Teri said with a chuckle, then continued, "You were asking if I have time to talk. Is there something I can do for you?"
"Well, not for me, exactly. It's more for Koji and Chok. They like each other and Koji is afraid that when everything calms down here that they'll both go home and might never see each other again." Vincent said simply.
"Because Chok lives in Germany..." Teri said thoughtfully.
Lehman nodded and watched Teri hopefully.
"I've been meaning to sit down and have a talk with Chok's father since they arrived... I suppose this is as good a time as any. If we can work something out between us, I'm pretty sure Kem will be willing to go along with whatever we come up with." Teri said decisively.
"Kem?" Lehman asked cautiously.
"That's Koji's father. He's a really good man." Teri said with a smile.
"Thanks for helping them Aunt Teri." Vincent said shyly.
"I'm glad to do it. Just check back with me later and I'll let you know what I've come up with." Teri said, then her gaze shifted upward.
Vincent was surprised when a pair of arms engulfed him from behind.
"I'm glad to see that you're alright." A woman's voice said gently.
Vincent craned his neck to see who was hugging him and smiled when he recognized her.
"I didn't know you'd be here." Vincent said quietly, then turned slightly and said, "Lehman, I'd like for you to meet Grandma Mona."
"Grandma Mona? Is she the one that Daddy Joe is going to marry?" Lehman asked suddenly, then after a moment to look at her, he continued, "She's even prettier than you said."
Vincent felt the arms go slack around him as Mona looked at Lehman with shock.
"Lehman, I don't think you were supposed to tell her about that." Vincent said in a mock whisper.
"Oops. Sorry." Lehman said shyly.
Mona chuckled and said, "You don't need to be sorry. What you said was wonderful, thank you."
Lehman shyly nodded.
"Come over here and sit down with me. I think we need to talk." Mona said as she guided Vincent to walk with her to the kitchen table.
"I really don't think we're supposed to talk about that stuff." Vincent said hesitantly.
Mona sat down and automatically pulled Vincent to sit on her knee, then said, "And what do you think Joe will do to you if you tell me?"
Vincent thought for a moment, then finally said, "Nothing?"
"And what do you think I will do if you don't tell?" Mona asked, then gestured for Lehman to come to her.
Lehman took a step closer and looked at Vincent sitting on Mona's lap, then said, "It's okay, I'll stand."
"Nonsense." Mona said dismissively, then pulled Lehman to her, to sit on her other knee.
"I have plenty of lap to go around." Mona said with a chuckle as she hugged a boy with each arm.
Lehman snuggled into the hug, then glanced at Vincent and noticed that he was doing the same.
"Now what is this you were saying about Joe marrying me?" Mona asked quietly.
"I wasn't there when he said it, I just kind of accidentally picked up that memory from Vincent's mind." Lehman said as he continued to snuggle.
Mona shifted her gaze from Lehman to Vincent and waited expectantly.
"Daddy Joe just told everyone, all the Deflector Control people, that he really likes you, and that if he can keep from screwing things up, he wants to marry you." Vincent said quietly, feeling like he was revealing something that was going to get him in trouble.
"Well, I'll tell you a little secret." Mona said, as she looked from one boy to the other, "I feel the same way about him."
"Really?" Vincent asked with a grin.
"Yes. Really." Mona said with an answering smile, then asked, "What would you think about that?"
"That would be great!" Vincent said joyfully.
Lehman nodded his agreement, then added, "I love Daddy Joe, he's been really nice to me. I think you two getting married would make him happy... He deserves to be happy."
"Thank you for saying so." Mona said, then leaned down to give Lehman a quick kiss on the top of his head.
"Now why don't you tell me a little bit about yourself Lehman. When Vincent left, I don't recall him having a twin." Mona said seriously.
* * * * *
"Gramma Mona!" Ricardo called as he ran into the kitchen.
"Incoming." Mona said with a chuckle as she shifted Vincent off her knee to clear the path for Ricardo.
Vincent was nearly caught by a stray elbow as Ricardo launched himself at Mona with all his force.
"Wow." Lehman said as he also moved out of the way.
"He's been taking pouncing lessons from Jamie and Jacob." A voice said from the doorway.
Vincent smiled and said, "Lehman, that's Ricardo and this is his brother, Reuben."
"Hi." Reuben said from the doorway, as he petted the large dog at his side.
"Hi. It's nice to meet you." Lehman said, a bit timidly.
"Gramma Mona, do you know where my momma is?" Reuben asked shyly.
"Yes. Actually I do." Mona said as she tried to get Ricardo to release his strangle-hold of a hug and settle down in her lap.
"Your mom needed to buy a few baby supplies, so she went with Helen to the store. They should be back any minute." Mona said as she finally got Ricardo to settle into a good snuggle.
"Did you need something? Maybe it's something I can help with." Mona asked, then gently kissed the top of Ricardo's head.
"No. I just wanted her to know that we're home, so she wouldn't worry about us." Reuben said seriously.
Vincent looked at the younger boy with concern.
Reuben bore little resemblance to the happy child Vincent had met just a month before. Although he couldn't pin down exactly what was different, the expression in Reuben's eyes was somehow 'haunted'.
"Come on Lehman." Vincent said, then walked to Reuben and pulled him into a firm hug.
Lehman was only a little surprised by the move, and was more than happy to go along.
"You looked like you needed some hugs." Vincent whispered to the younger boy.
"Yeah." Reuben said as he began to hug Vincent and Lehman in return.
"Is something wrong?" A woman's voice asked from just behind the trio.
All three looked up and saw Reuben's mother pushing a baby stroller into the room.
"He just looked like he needed a hug." Vincent said simply.
Mamacita looked down at her son, then knelt down and opened her arms to him.
Reuben turned and saw that Mona was still holding Ricardo on her lap.
"Don't worry about Ricardo. He's fine with Grandma Mona, go get your hugs." Vincent whispered, then gently nudged Reuben toward his mother.
An instant later, Reuben was hugging his mother like he hadn't seen her in years.
Mamacita hugged her son firmly, then looked at Vincent with question and concern.
"Sometimes a guy just needs a hug." Vincent said simply.
Mamacita considered the words for a moment, then nodded her acceptance as she devoted her full attention to her son.
Vincent noticed movement in the doorway behind Mamacita and saw Helen standing with two grocery bags in her arms.
"Could you use some help with the groceries?" Vincent asked hopefully, wanting to leave Reuben and Ricardo to their cuddles and snuggles.
"Yes. As a matter of fact, I *could* use a hand." Helen said as she placed the grocery sacks on the counter just inside the door.
"Wanna help?" Vincent asked Lehman at his side.
"Sure. Just tell me what to do." Lehman said simply.
"Follow her." Vincent said, then hurried to follow Helen out of the room.
* * * * *
"What now?" Lehman asked when the last of the groceries were finally in the kitchen.
"There's someone I need to talk to. You could come with me if you want." Vincent said seriously.
"An old friend?" Lehman asked casually.
"No. Hopefully a new one." Vincent said with a grin.
"Who is it?" Lehman asked curiously.
"Seth. You know, the guy we talked to from the ship before we came down. I told him that I'd meet him in person when we got here, but then we kind of got side-tracked. Let's go find him now." Vincent said, watching for Lehman's reaction.
"Sure. It looks like there's lots and lots of people for me to meet, so I guess we'd better get started." Lehman said with a grin.
* * * * *
Vincent peeked around the corner of the next doorway, then turned back to say, "I think we found the right place."
Lehman smiled and happily followed Vincent into the room where Seth was hard at work.
"Sorry to interrupt your work, I just wanted to stop in and say 'hi' before I forgot." Vincent said timidly from the doorway.
"No problem. It's been a quiet morning so far. Come on in." Seth said, while typing something in on the terminal in front of him.
"Um, okay. If you're sure." Vincent said hesitantly.
"Yeah." Seth said casually, then pressed a key on his terminal and called, "Matt, are you there?"
"Present and accounted for. What can I do for you Seth?" Matt asked in a semi-casual voice.
"I've lost the satellite surveillance feed from the Thompson and Pierce households." Seth said seriously.
"Switch over to the internal network feed. The Starfleet feed was just a temporary measure. We have the feed integrated into our internal security system now. I sent you an email detailing all of this." Matt said, and sounded like he was trying to hold back a chuckle.
Seth looked at another window, then said, "You sent the message two minutes ago... But whatever, I've linked to the new feed and it looks good. Thanks"
"I thought it would meet with your approval. It was set up according to your specs." Matt said, and a smile could be heard in his voice.
"We'll catch you later." Vincent said as he motioned for Lehman to precede him out of the room.
"No. You don't have to go. Really." Seth said quickly.
Vincent stopped and smiled at Seth, appreciating that someone wanted him around.
"We're not mad or anything, but you're busy and we might distract you from something important. We'll just catch you later when you're done." Vincent said gently.
"Oh. Yeah. I guess so." Seth said as someone bumped into Lehman from behind.
"Oh! Sorry. I wasn't looking where I was going." The boy said quickly.
"No problem. I'm fine." Lehman said as he looked at the boy's long flowing white hair.
The boy stared at them for a moment, then said, "I'm Jordy. I don't think we've met."
"Hi Jordy, I'm Vincent and this is my brother Lehman." Vincent said casually.
Jordy blinked, then hesitantly asked, "Are you Lawrence's brother?"
Vincent chuckled and said, "Yeah. That's me."
"And I'm kind of adopted." Lehman added shyly.
"Aren't we all?" Jordy asked, with a teasing smile directed at Lehman that immediately put him at ease.
"What did you find out about the inventory?" Seth asked, once again completely absorbed in his work.
Jordy blinked, then seemed to remember why he had been rushing into the room.
"Oh yeah, it's fine. Someone just got confused and hit 'eaches' instead of 'cases' when they filled it out last time. We've got plenty of everything." Jordy said seriously.
"Good. That's what I thought. Thanks, Jordy." Seth said as he pulled up the clothing inventory on one of his screens.
"Have you guys had the grand tour of the place yet?" Jordy asked casually.
"Um, no. We've just been wandering around, peeking in doors until we found who we were looking for." Vincent said shyly.
Jordy chuckled and said, "There's no telling what kind of thing you'll end up seeing if you keep doing that. Why don't I take you around to check out the place?"
"Yeah. That'd be nice." Lehman said with a shy smile at Jordy.
"But we wouldn't want to take you away from your work." Vincent said with concern.
"Nah. I was just helping Seth out by double checking an inventory that looked like it was off. It's a slow day, so I've got plenty of time." Jordy said with a casual smile that was directed more at Lehman than Vincent.
"Well, if you're sure, we'd love to take a tour of the place." Vincent said happily.
"If you don't need to be carrying those things around, you could leave them here. Seth won't let anyone mess with them." Jordy said as he indicated the small bundles of clothing both boys were carrying.
"Yeah. Next time we need to remember to bring suitcases." Vincent said as he placed his Starfleet uniform on the table that Jordy had indicated.
"That's all your clothes?" Jordy asked with concern.
"That's all that we brought with us." Lehman said, before Vincent could answer.
"Then, if you'll remind me, we'll stop by and get you some clothes out of the Clan's clothing supply room when we've finished our tour." Jordy said, then indicated for the boys to follow him out of the room.
"It was nice to get to meet you in person, Seth. We'll talk to you some more later." Vincent said over his shoulder.
"Yeah. I'd like that." Seth said sincerely as he watched the boys leave.
* * * * *
"You were on the Yorktown when Cory called all the Clan members in, weren't you?" Jordy asked casually as they walked away from CIC.
"That's right. We just got here a few hours ago." Vincent said, then noticed that Jordy had directed the question toward Lehman.
"What have you been doing since you arrived?" Jordy asked with interest.
Vincent gave Lehman an inquiring look, prompting him to answer the question.
"Well, first we met with Cory, then we went over to Camp Little Eagle to see if we could help Rory sort something out... then Chief Tecumseh took us on a tour of the Camp... um, then we talked with some guys named Chok and Koji for a few minutes..." Lehman trailed off, then looked at Vincent helplessly.
"Then Lehman blabbed to Grandma Mona that our Daddy Joe wants to marry her." Vincent said with a teasing smile.
"Oh yeah. That too." Lehman said shyly.
"Well, it sounds like you two have had a full day already. How would you like to take a break for a while and have some fun? Then we could do the tour after lunch." Jordy asked with a smile that was completely directed at Lehman.
"Um, sure." Lehman said uncertainly, then looked at Vincent and continued, "If there's nothing else that we need to be doing right now."
"As far as I know, everything's done. Xandor has his memories back, Aunt Teri is taking care of Chok and Koji's problem, and Lawrence is busy waiting for something to happen." Vincent said thoughtfully.
Lehman considered the words, then nodded his agreement.
"Great! Then come outside with me. I think you're going to love this." Jordy said with a grand smile as he led the way.
* * * * *
"What is it?" Lehman asked, as he looked at the strange collection of nonsensical items scattered around one area of the yard.
"It's a miniature golf course!" Vincent said with a grand smile.
"Do you play?" Jordy asked, momentarily diverting his attention away from Lehman.
"Nope. Never." Vincent said with a smile, then continued, "But I always wanted to."
"Fantastic. It looks like there are a couple guys getting ready to play. Maybe we can join them. It's more fun with more people." Jordy said happily.
"You'll have to show me what to do. I don't have any idea what all of this is." Lehman said shyly.
"Then why don't I sit this game out and I'll show you how everything works." Jordy asked hopefully.
Vincent was about to say that it wasn't that difficult to understand when he noticed the look that passed between Lehman and Jordy.
"Yeah." Lehman said distantly. "Thanks."
"Do you guys mind if we join you?" Jordy called out as he rushed ahead to talk to the two boys who were about ready to tee off.
"He's really nice." Lehman whispered to Vincent at his side.
"He likes you." Vincent whispered in return.
Lehman looked at Vincent with disbelief at the declaration.
Before Lehman could think of anything to say to that, Jordy rushed back to them and said, "Connor and Leo said it would be okay if we played with them."
"We said it would be great." Connor said loudly with a grin as he watched Vincent's group approach.
"Oh, well, as long as you guys don't mind if we're not very good. Neither one of us has ever played before." Vincent said shyly.
Leo made a show of considering for a moment, then said, "I think the 'expert' players have the course between 4:00 and 6:00. So we should be fine."
Vincent grinned at the statement, then accepted a club from Connor as he handed them out.
"Thanks." Lehman whispered as Jordy handed a club to him.
"This is your ball." Jordy said as he crouched down to place the ball on the indentation that served as a tee.
"Hit it with that club and try to get it in that hole over there." Jordy said as he stood and pointed.
"Why?" Lehman asked curiously.
Jordy was puzzled by the question for a moment, then finally shrugged and said, "Because it's fun."
Lehman gave Jordy an incredulous look, then looked at the club in his hand, trying to figure out what he was supposed to do with it.
"Let me show you the best way to hold it." Jordy said softly as he moved behind Lehman and put his arms around him.
Vincent felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see Connor and Leo looking at him with amusement.
"Uncle Jordy's seemed sad since we came here. I think he was lonely." Leo whispered.
"Yeah." Connor added with a grin. "Looks like he might have found someone."
Vincent turned his attention back to Jordy and Lehman, then smiled at the sight of Jordy with his chin on Lehman's shoulder as he explained how to hold the golf club.
Although Vincent tried to feel happy at the sight of Jordy talking gently to Lehman, he couldn't get past the thought that he and Lehman would be returning to the Yorktown soon.
"Now just try to get the ball over there, in that hole." Jordy said as he stepped away from Lehman to allow him to attempt the shot.
Lehman looked at his target, then back at the ball.
"Hold on. I can't do it right this way." Lehman said.
Leo and Connor's eyes went wide as Lehman started to change. His skin became dark blue and his hair lengthened and changed to a brownish red.
"How did he do that?..." Leo gasped with astonishment.
Rather than answer, Vincent watched with concern, wondering what Jordy's reaction was going to be.
"Wow. That's kewl." Jordy said with a grin at Lehman's transformation.
Vincent released the breath that he hadn't realized he had been holding, then turned to Connor and Leo to say, "Lehman's from a planet that's very far away. His people can change like that."?
Leo and Connor looked like they each had a million questions, but when Lehman hit the golf ball, all the boys devoted their full attention to following where it went.
As they watched, the golf ball made it's way over a hump, then bumped off the rail at the far end of the green before coming to rest a few inches from the hole.
"Oh man! That was a great shot!" Jordy said with a grand smile.
"But I didn't get the ball into the hole." Lehman said with disappointment.
"Well, the point is to get the ball into the hole... eventually. It would be kinda boring if you could do it on the first shot every time." Jordy said, then motioned to the trio standing aside to take their turns.
"Do you want to go next?" Leo asked Vincent at his side.
"No. I think I'd rather watch you two make your shots first. That'll give me a better idea of what I'm supposed to do." Vincent said thoughtfully.
"You two really do take playing seriously." Jordy said with a teasing smile.
"Vincent is used to always trying to do his best at whatever he does." Lehman said, then glanced at Vincent to be sure that he wasn't offended.
"Well, doing your best is important sometimes. But just remember that we're out here to have fun. Screwing up and doing your worst might end up being even more fun than doing your best." Jordy said with a grin.
Lehman considered the words, and returned Jordy's grin as he realized what he was saying.
The 'click' of Connor hitting the ball drew everyone's attention.
They all watched as the ball cleared the hump, hit the rail, went past the hole and came to rest about three feet away.
When he noticed everyone looking at him, he said, "There's no way I can compete with beginner's luck."
Chuckles spread through the group at the statement as Leo moved in to set his ball on the 'tee'.
"I'm glad you didn't freak out when I changed." Lehman said quietly to Jordy at his side.
"I think that if you hang around with the Clan long enough, eventually nothing will freak you out." Jordy said with a gentle smile.
"So it doesn't bother you that I'm not Human?" Lehman asked cautiously.
"No way!" Jordy said immediately, then continued, "My best friend in the world isn't Human, at least, not anymore. Something like that doesn't bother me a bit."
Lehman examined Jordy's serious expression, then smiled.
"Crap!" Leo exclaimed as his golf ball nearly made it to the top of the hump, then rolled back to come to rest nearly where it had started.
"Just go ahead and try again." Connor said patiently.
"But it's Vincent's turn now." Leo said hesitantly.
"Your turn is over once you're over the hump." Connor said frankly.
"I don't remember that being in the rules." Leo said uncertainly.
"Those are my rules, little brother. Once everyone clears the hump, we'll start with Lehman again." Connor said simply.
Leo glanced at Vincent to see if he was going to object, then lined up his shot and hit the golf ball again.
This time the ball cleared the hump and came to rest about a foot and a half away from the hole, right between Connor's and Lehman's.
"Lehman, do you think you could show me how to hit the ball the way you did?" Vincent asked as he stepped up to the tee.
"No. It wouldn't work for you unless you can shape-shift." Lehman said frankly.
"Oh. Okay." Vincent said slowly, then took great care to plan out his shot.
"Why did you need to shape-shift before you hit the ball?" Jordy asked Lehman curiously.
"Because I'm most used to my own body. If I'm in Vincent's shape, I'm not quite as coordinated because he's a little bit taller than I am." Lehman said simply.
"Yeah, well I'm taller than I was a month ago, so just think how it is for me." Vincent said over his shoulder, then took his shot.
If it hadn't been for Lehman's shot earlier, Vincent's might have been seen as spectacular. But since Lehman's ball ended up closer to the hole, Vincent's shot was just 'pretty good'.
"Neither of you have played before?" Connor asked in confirmation.
"Nope. I always wanted to, but never did." Vincent said with a grin.
"I never even heard of golf before we came out here. My people don't have anything like this." Lehman said frankly.
"Who are your people?" Jordy asked curiously.
"Chameloids." Lehman answered simply and waited for further questions.
"I never heard of them, do all your people do that thing... um, shape-shift?" Jordy asked with interest.
"Yeah. Well, mostly. There's this tribe of people on our second planet, the Raksh'tu, who only have the blending ability, but just about everyone else can shape-shift." Lehman said seriously.
"Blending? What's that?" Jordy asked curiously.
"It just means that you can alter your coloring to blend into the background. If I was naked right now, I could lay down on the grass and blend in so you couldn't see me." Lehman said as he looked Jordy in the eyes.
"I bet you'd be great at hide and seek." Leo said with a grin from beside the pair.
"It's your turn." Connor said from the other side of the first hole course.
"Oh, um. Yeah. I'll be right there." Lehman said in a flustered voice, then glanced at Jordy timidly.
"After doing so well on your first shot, do you think you still need my help?" Jordy asked cautiously.
"Yeah. I like your help a lot." Lehman said with a shy smile.
* * * * *
"Connor?" Lehman asked quietly after they had both taken their shots at the second hole.
"Yeah?" Connor asked, as he turned his attention to Lehman.
"Would you mind, I mean, would it make you feel funny or anything if I tried to look like you for a minute?" Lehman asked shyly.
"Why?" Connor asked, sounding a little bit defensive.
"Because I've never tried to change myself to match your combination of coloring. But I wouldn't want to do it without asking you first because you might think I was making fun of you or something." Lehman said cautiously.
"So you want to try looking like me because I look weird?" Connor asked in a louder voice that drew Leo's attention.
"No. Not at all. I think you look really nice. I love the way your eyes look both gray and red. It's almost hypnotic." Lehman said honestly.
Connor thought for a moment, then cautiously said, "Okay. Just as long as you don't make fun of me."
"I won't. I promise." Lehman said, then slowly began to change himself to look like Connor.
"What's up Lehman?" Vincent asked as he walked to Lehman's side.
"I just wanted to try looking like Connor. His coloring is so... beautiful." Lehman said, obviously fighting to find the words.
Vincent looked at Connor critically for a moment, then said, "Yeah. I can see it."
"What?" Connor asked, unable to believe it after feeling funny looking all his life.
"You look good." Vincent said simply, then continued, "It's my turn to shoot... or hit... or whatever you call it in golf. It's my go."
"Oh. Yeah." Connor mumbled absently.
"Connor, by Human standards, your appearance might not be 'usual', but by any standards, you *are* beautiful." Lehman said, looking back at Connor with his own face.
"Thanks." Connor whispered as he felt an arm come around him.
"I always thought you looked good." Leo said quietly.
"Yeah. But you're my little brother." Connor said simply, then after a brief moment of consideration, he added, "And you're weird."
Leo chuckled at the statement as he was pulled into a playful hug by his older brother.
"I'm glad you did that. I don't know Connor that well yet, but I can imagine that he must have had a few people along the way tease him for being an albino. I know I get some weird looks just because I have platinum blond hair." Jordy whispered into Lehman's ear.
"I was just being honest." Lehman said frankly, then pointed at Vincent's ball careening off three separate bumpers to come to rest inches from the hole.
"Good shot Vincent!" Jordy said in an impressed voice.
* * * * *
As the group arrived at the third hole, Lehman let out a terrified scream.
Before anyone could react, Lehman began to grow bigger as his hands became claws.
"Lehman! What's wrong?" Vincent asked, not having any idea what was causing Lehman to behave this way.
In the place where Lehman had been standing a moment before was a snarling beast wearing Avalla robes.
"Kill it! Kill it!" Lehman screamed in a terrified animalistic growl.
"Kill what? Tell me what's wrong." Vincent said as he cautiously approached.
"That! Right there! Kill it before it gets me!" Lehman said in a whimper as he pointed one of his claws at the border surrounding the third hole.
Vincent recognized Lehman's appearance as the beast he had become in the dream realm when he was cornered by the villagers.
"This spider?" Jordy asked as he pointed at a little spider on the low rail.
"Don't let it bite you! Hurry! Kill it!" Lehman said in absolute terror and seemed to have every muscle tensed, ready to run at the slightest provocation.
"How 'bout this?" Jordy asked, then squatted down and flicked the spider out into the yard.
Everyone stopped and looked at Lehman with question, not knowing if that would be enough to appease him.
After a moment, Lehman quietly growled, "Thank you Jordy."
"No problem." Jordy replied gently as he stared at Lehman with concern.
"I guess this means that Chameloids are afraid of spiders, huh?" Vincent asked hesitantly.
"No. Not really." Lehman said as he slowly began to transform into the mirror image of Vincent.
"Then what was that all about?" Vincent asked cautiously.
"I don't know... give me a minute to sort it out." Lehman said as he pulled up his pants a little and adjusted his Avalla robes to accommodate his smaller size.
Jordy cautiously walked to Lehman's side and looked at him with concern.
"Rory." Lehman whispered as he looked up with realization.
"What about him?" Jordy asked cautiously.
"I did an imprint of him earlier and I must have picked up his fear of spiders without knowing it." Lehman said thoughtfully.
"Can you get rid of it? Or are you stuck with it from now on?" Jordy asked as he put a hand on Lehman's shoulder, showing his concern.
Lehman smiled at Jordy and said, "It's already gone. I got rid of it as soon as I knew it was there."
"Good. Because it might be a little bit weird if you could go off like that at any minute." Jordy said cautiously.
Lehman smiled and said, "It's all taken care of now. Let's just keep playing."
"Are you guys alright?" Vincent cautiously asked the pair of brothers who were staring wide-eyed at Lehman.
"That was the kewlest thing I ever saw." Leo said in a breathless whisper.
"Yeah. That was really awesome." Connor said as a grin broke out on his face.
Vincent chuckled, then said, "Okay Lehman. I think it's your turn."
* * * * *
"Are you in need of assistance?" Xain asked as he walked to join the group at the second half of the third hole.
"We're fine. What's up?" Vincent asked as he looked at Xain curiously.
"Many of the telepaths and empaths detected that Lehman had a moment of distress. It was suggested that I might be of assistance." Xain said as he looked around the group.
"Oh. Lehman just accidentally picked up something when he did a telepathic imprint of Rory today. It's all better now." Vincent said seriously.
Xain looked at Lehman with question, silently asking if Vincent's summary was accurate.
"Yeah. Sometimes when I do an imprint, I get things without knowing it." Lehman said shyly, then continued, "It's all taken care of."
"Should you need any assistance in emotional discovery or control, I would be willing to aid you." Xain said simply, then turned and said, "Vincent, he who is your brother requested that I relay a message to you."
Vincent gave a Vulcanesque raise of one eyebrow to prompt Xain to continue.
"Later this afternoon we will be departing so that we may enjoy the evening meal together at my home. Lawrence wanted to be sure that you were aware that you and Lehman are invited to join us." Xain said calmly.
Vincent looked at Lehman with question, not wanting to automatically accept on his behalf.
Lehman gave a shrug, obviously not caring either way.
"I have also been instructed to notify you that, if you refuse to attend, you will be added to Jake's feces distribution roster." Xain said in a somewhat distracted voice, like he was listening to something else as he spoke.
At Vincent and Lehman's identical uncomprehending looks, Jordy whispered, "If you say you won't go, you'll be on Jake's shit list."?
Vincent chuckled and said, "We'll go then. We wouldn't want that."
Lehman nodded his agreement with a smile.
"Then expect the Boxmobile to depart at approximately 5pm." Xain said simply.
"Boxmobile?" Vincent asked with a grin.
It took a moment for Xain to interpret the meaning of Vincent's one word question, but he finally responded, "Due to the increased size of our family, Dad exchanged his smaller vehicle for one more able to accommodate the number of people we need to transport at any given time. At the time of the purchase, Jake observed that the vehicle was a box with wheels. Given the 'Spartan' design and lack of any aesthetic attributes, I concur with his assessment."
"Got it. We'll be ready to go at 5:00." Vincent said as he tried to reign in his chuckles.
"We will be expecting you." Xain said simply, then turned to leave.
"Do you want to play with us?" Leo asked quickly, before Xain could get away.
Xain stopped and seemed to consider for a moment before saying, "I have not yet had the opportunity to experience this activity. I would not wish to hinder your enjoyment with my lack of knowledge."
"Me and Lehman never played before either. We're not really keeping score or anything. It's just for fun." Vincent said quickly.
Xain looked around the group and seemed to be considering it.
"A lack of knowledge can be an obstacle. Gaining experience can only be of benefit." Vincent said in a very precise Vulcan tone of voice.
"Logical." Xain said simply, then continued, "It is possible that my presence may be required at Clan Short headquarters to attend to other developing matters. If it would be acceptable, I will join you on the provision that you not think me rude if I must leave with little or no advance notice."?
Before anyone else could answer, Jordy quickly said, "If Seth needed some help, I could get called away too. Actually, any of us could. No one will have a problem with it."?
The rest of the boys in the group nodded their agreement with Jordy's words.
"Then I would be honored to be included in your recreational activity." Xain said calmly.
"Great. Hang on just a minute and I'll get both of us a ball. Lehman's doing well enough that he doesn't need me to show him what to do." Jordy said as he hurried away.
"If I may, I would like to verify my understanding of this activity." Xain said as he looked around the course. "The objective is to relocate the ball from a beginning point at one end of the course to an indentation in the surface at the opposing end, using a club specifically styled for the task, doing so in the least number of 'strokes'."
"Yup. That's it." Vincent said with a grin.
"I'm glad you're going to play with us Uncle Xain." Leo said, as he scooted himself under Xain's arm and gave him a firm hug.
Xain looked down at the younger boy, then an almost imperceptible smile ghosted across his expression as he said, "Thank you Leo. It is good to be wanted."
* * * * *
"What's with this?" Vincent asked as they approached the seventh hole.
"Oh, I heard about this!" Leo said happily as he raced ahead to look at the elegantly styled pool of water.
"I think this is the rest area that some of the guys were talking about. When you get to the seventh hole, you can stop and relax in the pool." Connor said as he watched his brother with amusement.
"Oh, it's a bathing pool." Lehman said with a grin, then glanced at Vincent and asked, "Do you want to?"
"Sure." Vincent said happily, "Sounds like fun."
Lehman looked at Jordy with question.
"Try and stop me." Jordy said with a low chuckle in his voice.
"Come on Uncle Xain, let's get in the water." Leo said as he started pulling at his clothes.
"What about you Connor? Are you in?" Vincent asked curiously.
After a moment of indecision, Connor said, "Yeah. I guess."
"What's wrong?" Vincent asked with concern.
"Nothing." Connor mumbled, "It's stupid."
"If it's something that's bothering you, then it's not stupid." Vincent said honestly.
Connor seemed to be frozen, lost in his thoughts.
"If you want to talk about it, I'm right here." Vincent said, more quietly. "I bet that whatever it is, I've probably felt the same thing... or worse."?
"I just feel ugly. I don't want people to stare at me." Connor said in nearly a whisper.
Vincent smiled, then draped an arm around Connor's shoulder as he quietly said, "You never have to worry about anyone staring at you when you're sharing a bath with Lehman."
At Connor's curious look, Vincent continued, "Just trust me on this."?
Editor's Notes:? As always, with any story from MultiMapper, We have not only learned new and interesting things about the people in the story, but we have also had a very enjoyable visit with people in our ever growing family.? I loved the way that MultiMapper has treated Connor and his appearance.? Being an Albino myself, I have certainly had my share of teasing directed at me, and the way everyone acted was wonderful.? I was moved to tears for a moment, which, I must point out is not exactly unusual for me, but I find it happening a lot when I read a story by MultiMapper. Thank you very much, MM for another wonderful chapter.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher