By MultiMapper
Copyright ©2002-2009 MultiMapper and CSU Productions.
All Rights Reserved.

For full disclaimer and Copyright information visit Copyright/Disclaimer Page. Continuation of viewing this document is deemed acceptance of all terms on the preceding link. While these stories are provided for free, I would appreciate it if those who were able would consider contributing to this artist via my Patreon.

Chapter 50


Vincent sat up suddenly and looked around.

"I couldn't resist," Brakkii chuckled, "That was my payback for making me Queen."

Vincent wanted to be upset at Brakkii for waking him up so abruptly, but found that he couldn't help but smile.

"We're going to need to make sure you have a very short visit tonight. You need to get some good, restful sleep or it's going to start making you sick," Brakkii said seriously.

"I noticed that I was feeling more tired than usual, today," Vincent said as he got up from the beautifully elegant bed.

"Journeys to this realm are often tiring for travelers. It's much like being in your waking world," Brakkii said thoughtfully, then looked Vincent in the eyes and continued, "But it's even more so in your case."

"Since time moves the same for me in both universes," Vincent said in an uncertain voice.

"That's right. Most other travelers get a few hours of good, restful sleep after visiting here," Brakkii said casually.

Vincent nodded, then hesitantly asked, "So how is Thomas?"

"Walk with me," Brakkii said, as he walked to the door of the bedroom.

"Brakkii? I can handle it. Please, just tell me. How is he?" Vincent asked as he walked to Brakkii's side.

Rather than answer the question, Brakkii simply opened the door and stepped through.

* * * * *

Vincent blinked his eyes, then looked around in surprise.

When he had stepped through the doorway, he was suddenly standing in a grassy meadow, a few feet from a babbling brook.

After a moment to adjust to the new surroundings, Vincent turned to Brakkii and quietly said, "Brakkii, please just tell me what happened to Thomas. I know you said that there wasn't much you could do for him."

Brakkii gestured downward and Vincent followed the movement.

Vincent was amazed to see Thomas, fast asleep by the stream, with a contented smile on his face.

A smile was Vincent's first reaction, but it soon gave way to concern as he turned to Brakkii and asked, "Is this an illusion?"

"No." Brakkii answered immediately. "In some sense of the word, Thomas is the most 'real' thing in the entire realm."

"So he's healed? I mean, for real?" Vincent asked cautiously.

Brakkii nodded with a joyful smile as he watched Thomas sleep.

Vincent followed Brakkii's gaze and felt himself also begin to smile.

"There's something I don't understand." Vincent said in prelude.

"There are many things I don't understand." Brakkii said honestly.

Vincent smiled at the response, then continued, "You're a master of dreams and illusions, so why don't you make yourself, you know, just not be the queen?"

"Because the rules that govern this place weren't made by me... They were made by you." Brakkii said honestly.

"You mentioned something about that before, but I don't understand how I did that." Vincent said frankly.

"Before your influence, this dream realm was fluid, reforming itself to adapt to each dreamer's needs and expectations. One night you went to sleep, and your dreaming mind found this dream realm, then you brought me here." Brakkii said carefully.

Vincent nodded that he understood what Brakkii was saying so far.

"Look around you, Vincent. This world is beautiful. It's filled with danger and excitement," Brakkii said seriously. "It deserves to survive."

Vincent thought about the words for a moment, then ventured to say, "So you mean, I created the realm?"

"No. But you made it what it is today." Brakkii said carefully. "Because you dreamed it, the realm has become a place where the broken can be healed, where the lost can find hope and where the innocent are protected and cherished."

"Wow!" Vincent said with surprise.

Brakkii chuckled at the response.

"When I realized what a special place this really is, I decided that I would use my abilities to maintain the realm after you left. I can operate and make changes within the boundaries that you set up, but there are some things about the realm that I cannot change." Brakkii said seriously.

"Like you being Queen," Vincent said with a nod.

Brakkii chuckled again and said, "Exactly. If I were to try to make alterations to the fabric of what the Realm is, I would change it's essence and it would no longer be the dream world that you created. Therefore, I will continue to be Queen, if it means that this world can continue to exist for others to enjoy."

"Okay. I think I understand." Vincent said gently as he looked at Thomas sleeping, again.

"You might also think of it this way. If I had chosen to change the realm, chances are that Thomas wouldn't be here right now." Brakkii said quietly, "He would not have had a chance to survive."

"What do you mean?" Vincent asked curiously, turning to face Brakkii again.

"Haven't you noticed that you seem to have a tendency to meet other versions of yourself while you're here?" Brakkii asked simply.

"Yeah." Vincent said thoughtfully, "I guess I do."

"This realm exists outside your universe and is attuned to your dreaming mind, so other sleeping versions of yourself are drawn to this place when they're feeling troubled." Brakkii said frankly.

"Oh. Okay. I didn't even think about it." Vincent said with surprise.

Brakkii smiled and said, "It's simply part of the mechanism that allows your sleeping mind to draw on the experiences of the alternate versions of yourself. Among your people, it is one of the sources of innovation and inspiration."

"Because we're able to see what's happened to ourselves in alternate universes, where things happened differently," Vincent said distantly.

"Exactly. And in the case of people like Danas and Venad, they can draw on that inspiration consciously, since they enjoy a dual existence." Brakkii said frankly.

"Dual existence?" Vincent asked curiously.

"You are, what the people here call, a traveler. When you sleep, your dream self becomes active and appears here. Danas and Venad's dream selves are always here, their minds are functioning in both places simultaneously," Brakkii said seriously.

"You mean that Danas is a real person, somewhere?" Vincent asked with surprise.

"Oh yes. I don't think your people have met the Paku, but Danas and his entire species have the capacity to maintain a dream consciousness." Brakkii said, then looked at Vincent consideringly for a moment before continuing, "Imagine that you were able to carry your favorite video game with you and play it whenever you wanted to. It's something like that."

"It sounds fun... and distracting." Vincent said in thought.

"They don't often get distracted by it. It's just a fact of life for them." Brakkii said with a shrug, "Their waking selves are aware of the things that happen here, but their dream selves remain completely unaware of their waking lives."

Vincent nodded that he understood, as he stared at Thomas, sleeping peacefully. Finally, he asked, "Since he's healed, is he going to go back to his home, now?"

Brakkii shook his head as he said, "Sadly, Thomas doesn't have a home to return to."

"What happened?" Vincent asked with concern.

"There was a huge battle, and several universes were... pruned away from your universe. A few of the stronger universes stabilized and became independent." Brakkii said seriously, then in a quieter voice he said, "Thomas' universe... failed."

"So his universe is gone?" Vincent asked cautiously.

"Nearly. There is an anti-time burst erasing the existence as we speak. In a day... maybe less... it will be gone." Brakkii said frankly.

"What's going to happen to Thomas?" Vincent asked with concern.

"He'll stay here." Brakkii said simply.

Vincent thought about what Brakkii was saying, not liking the sound of it at all.

"What's wrong? He's happy here," Brakkii asked quietly, honestly puzzled by Vincent's troubled expression.

"What was the point of saving him then? If he isn't going to grow or learn or improve or contribute to the lives of other people, then it's the same as if he was dead." Vincent said darkly.

"He'll never age a day while he's here. He'll be able to have wonderful, heroic adventures." Brakkii said in an imploring voice.

"His life will be a dream." Vincent said in a whisper.

"Exactly." Brakkii said with a smile.

"Humans weren't meant to live that way," Vincent said, as he looked into Brakkii's eyes. "We need to have challenges and struggles and sometimes even be hurt, so we can get stronger and wiser."

"But after all the suffering that he's had to face, he deserves to have a wonderful life." Brakkii said in an urging tone.

"No. He would have been better off dying, if this is how he's going to live. This place is a great place to visit, and it's perfect for someone like you who lives in illusions and dreams. But Thomas needs to exist in the real world so he can have the chance to become something better than what he is right now." Vincent said firmly.

"Brakkii?" Thomas asked as he peeked open one eye.

"Good morning, Thomas, did you have a good sleep?" Brakkii asked gently.

"Yeah." Thomas said happily, then added, "The best ever."

"I'm glad." Brakkii said with a tender smile. "Look who's here to visit you."

"Vincent?" Thomas asked with delight.

"Hi Thomas. How are you doing?" Vincent asked with a smile at his alternate self.

Thomas jumped up and pulled Vincent into a tight hug.

"Thank you, Vincent. Thank you for saving me," Thomas said with unrestrained joy.

"I'm glad you're alright," Vincent said with a chuckle as he returned the hug.

Thomas finally released Vincent and quickly asked, "Are you on your ship sailing among the stars right now?"

Vincent chuckled at Thomas' boundless energy, and gently said, "No, I'm on Earth right now. We arrived this morning."

"I went to a place called the Valley of Cuddles and Snuggles! It was the best place I've ever been in my whole life!" Thomas said with excitement.

"I've heard of it, but I haven't had the chance to visit there, yet." Vincent said gently.

"We could go now!" Thomas said happily.

"I'm afraid that Vincent won't be able to go. He has to go get some good, restful sleep tonight." Brakkii said frankly.

Thomas looked at Vincent with question.

"It's nothing to worry about, Thomas, but Brakkii is right. If I'm awake in my world all day and awake in this world all night, I'm going to get really tired and that will end up making me sick." Vincent said frankly.

"I guess I understand." Thomas said quietly, then quickly asked, "Are you going to come back to visit me tomorrow night?"

"I don't know." Vincent answered honestly, then turned to Brakkii and asked, "Am I?"

"Yes. You'll be able to return here whenever you want to, for as long as I am here," Brakkii said with a smile.

"How long is that going to be?" Vincent asked cautiously.

"Vincent, I've been existing without a purpose for countless millennia. Now, in this place, I can help the damaged be healed and the worried find peace." Brakkii said seriously, then added in a gentler voice, "I'm home."

Vincent smiled at the statement, remembering how sad and alone Brakkii had been when they first met.

"Have a good sleep, Vincent," Thomas said gently, then quickly added, "Brakkii said that today we're going to Bald Knob mountain to return the Scepter of Eros to the golden dragon."

Vincent looked at Brakkii with question.

"Some adventurers 'found' it in the dragon's hoard, yesterday. The golden dragon gets a little bit testy when her treasure is taken. It's best to keep her happy." Brakkii said shyly.

"I'm glad that you're not picking on her, just because she's a dragon." Vincent said with a smile.

"Oh no. She's nice... Usually." Brakkii said hesitantly, then continued in a conspiratorial whisper, "She'll never admit it, but I think she enjoys the attention."

Vincent chuckled and said, "Enjoy your adventure. I'll see you tomorrow night."

"Bye Vincent. Sweet dreams." Thomas said with a joyous smile.

"And sweet realities." Brakkii added gently.

"You too." Vincent said, then felt himself relax as the world seemed to fade out around him.

* * * * *

Vincent slowly came awake, feeling completely relaxed.

He opened his eyes to see the predawn light just beginning to peek into the room.

After a moment to just lie there and enjoy the serenity, Vincent realized what had awakened him.

With lazy slowness, he sat up and saw Lehman sleeping peacefully at his right side.

As he turned to try to scoot to the left to get out of the bed without waking him, he froze at what he saw.

Vincent had to fight to hold in his joy at the sight of Thomas, fast asleep at his right.

Although he would like to have stayed and watch Thomas sleep, just to enjoy the moment, Vincent's bladder was telling him that he had some rather pressing business to attend to.

So Vincent slowly and quietly got out from under the covers, then crawled to the foot of the bed, being very careful not to disturb either of his bed partners.

* * * * *

Once Vincent had taken care of business, he paused to decide what he would like to do next.

Normally, he would go to have a workout just after waking, but one look at the bed made him consider otherwise.

Vincent went to his bundle of clothes and retrieved his medicine bag, then carefully climbed into the bed to take his place between Thomas and Lehman.

* * * * *

There wasn't any sound or movement, but something caused Vincent to open his eyes and glance at Thomas beside him, looking at him alertly.

"Good morning, Thomas," Vincent whispered in a smile.

"Good morning," Thomas whispered in return. "I'm sorry if I interrupted you while you were practicing your religion."

Vincent looked down at the medicine bag that he was holding in his hands, then back at Thomas and said, "Don't worry about it, I was just meditating. How are you feeling?"

After a moment to consider, Thomas said, "Good, I think."

"Good. I'm glad to see that you're here." Vincent whispered with a genuine smile.

"Thanks... um, where's the bathroom?" Thomas asked shyly.

"Right over there." Vincent said as he pointed.

Thomas got out from under the covers and scurried away.

Vincent watched with amusement and thought to himself, 'Benny was right, I do have a cute butt.'

* * * * *

Thomas rushed across the room and got back under the covers to snuggle in next to Vincent.

"The last time I talked to you, you said you were on Earth, is that where we are now?" Thomas asked curiously.

"Yeah. In Orlando." Vincent said gently.

Thomas looked around at the room, then said, "Your house is a lot nicer than mine was."

"This isn't my home. I'm just staying here for a few days while I'm visiting." Vincent said quietly.

"Where is your home then?" Thomas asked curiously.

Vincent remembered his conversation the day before and said, "I guess, for now, my home is a place called Camp Little Eagle."

At Thomas' look of confusion, Vincent said, "I'm sure you'll get to see it later."

Thomas slowly nodded as he looked around.

Vincent could almost 'hear' Thomas' thoughts as expressions of worry and doubt flitted across his face.

"Everything is going to be fine," Vincent assured him.

Thomas looked at Vincent with question and seemed to be silently asking for more assurance.

"I can't really tell you what's going to happen next, because, honestly, I don't know." Vincent said in prelude. "But what I do know is that everything is going to be fine. I have too many friends that will help us, for things to turn out any other way."

Thomas sat silently and pondered the words for a moment before quietly saying, "I guess the first thing that we'll need to do is get me signed up with the CD."

"CD? What's that?" Vincent asked curiously.

"Civil Defense... So I can get rations." Thomas explained slowly. "I don't want anyone to have to do without stuff because of me."

"Um, okay. I don't really know anything about any Civil Defense, but we don't have any kind of rationing here." Vincent said slowly.

Thomas blinked with surprise at the statement, then asked, "Does that mean that you have enough land to have your own garden and livestock?"

"No." Vincent said cautiously, just beginning to realize how different Thomas' world must be. "We go to the store and buy food when we need it."

"Oh," Thomas said thoughtfully, "I remember Grandpa Alvin talking about when they used to be able to do that."

"That's just the way it is here. I'm sure you'll get used to it." Vincent said quietly, not wanting Thomas to feel that it was that big of a difference.

Thomas slowly nodded, obviously trying to assimilate the new information.

Vincent considered what might lie ahead for Thomas, and decided that there was something that he needed to deal with to make Thomas' life easier down the line.

"What would you think if you knew two guys who were in love?" Vincent asked carefully.

Thomas blinked with confusion as he tried to decipher the unusual question.

"I guess I'd be happy for them." Thomas said slowly.

From Thomas' reluctant and confused tone, Vincent decided to clarify, "Two guys, in love... with each other."

"Oh!" Thomas said with comprehension. "Dad talked to me about that."

Vincent didn't feel particularly assured by Thomas' words and waited anxiously for him to continue.

Thomas noticed that Vincent was waiting for more of an answer and said, "What would I think? I don't know for sure. I mean, Dad said that it can get complicated and really confusing and that people sometimes make mistakes because they get lust and love confused. But I guess, if I knew that the guys you're talking about are really in love, then I'd be happy for them."

Vincent let out a gust of breath in relief, happy to know that Thomas wasn't going to have to deal with 'that'.

"Why do you ask?" Thomas asked quietly.

"Oh, some of the guys that you'll probably be meeting today are gay and I just wanted to make sure that you wouldn't have any problem with them." Vincent said with a smile.

"Gay? You mean, like happy?" Thomas asked slowly.

"No, well, not exactly." Vincent said with a grin. "That just means guys who like other guys."

Thomas considered for a moment, then smiled as he said, "I like that. Gay. It sounds really friendly. Did you come up with that?"

Vincent chuckled as he said, "No. Someone else thought of it."

Thomas nodded, then asked, "Why did you think I'd have a problem with, um... gay people?"

"Some people think that it's wrong. They hate gays and call them names and even beat them up and stuff." Vincent said frankly.

"Why?" Thomas asked with confusion.

Vincent thought for a moment, and finally answered, "That's just what they believe. I guess maybe it's what they were taught."

"What kind of an ignorant butthole would believe something like that?"

"Some people do." Vincent said quietly, "I just wanted to be sure that you didn't feel that way, because if you did, people might not like you."

"Yeah, well, anyone that is stupid enough to believe something like that deserves to have people not like him." Thomas said frankly.

"Yeah, well..."

"You love who you love, and it's no one else's business. I mean, what kind of a moron can't figure that out?" Thomas asked bluntly.

"Never mind." Vincent muttered. "It doesn't matter."

Thomas finally picked up on Vincent's discomfort and looked at him curiously before cautiously asking, "Is there something you need to tell me about you?"

Vincent blinked with surprise, then quickly said, "No, it's nothing like that. I just wanted to be sure that it wouldn't be a problem if you met some gay guys later today."

Thomas looked at Vincent suspiciously for a moment, then reluctantly nodded.

"I'm not..." Vincent began to say when he was interrupted.

"Whatever you say, Vincent." Thomas said assuringly. "I believe you."

Vincent hung his head, knowing that no matter what he said next, Thomas would believe whatever he wanted to believe.

"Well, as nice as it is to lie here in bed, we should probably get up and get the day started," Vincent said, desperately wanting to change the subject.

"Yeah. I want to help you with the chores," Thomas said seriously, "I'm good in the garden and I know how to take care of most kinds of animals."

Vincent blinked with surprise, then said, "We don't have anything like that here. I don't think there are any kind of chores that need to be done."

"No chores?" Thomas asked with surprise, "Even after the bombs dropped and we were stuck inside our bomb shelter, we still had chores to do."

"We'll ask if there's anything to do when we go downstairs." Vincent said quietly.

Thomas nodded his agreement to the statement.

"I guess we'd better wake Lehman, so we can get started." Vincent said as he turned, then noticed that the bed beside him was empty.

Vincent looked around, then broke into a smile as he realized what was going on.

"I know you didn't get out of bed, Lehman. You can stop hiding, now," Vincent said with a grin.

"I just wanted to give you a few minutes alone to talk." Lehman's voice said, seemingly from nowhere.

"Who's that?" Thomas asked with surprise, as he scooted over in the bed to look around Vincent.

"This is Lehman." Vincent said with a grin, then added, "Lehman, this is our newest brother, Thomas."

As Thomas watched with wonder, the rumpled sheets and blanket beside Vincent began to reform and finally resolved into a human form, his form.

"What?" Thomas asked in a gasp.

"Lehman's just showing off." Vincent said with an amused smile, then continued more seriously, "Lehman can change himself to look like anyone he wants to. But except for that, he's just exactly like us."

Thomas stared at Lehman, not knowing what to think.

"Well, I'm also telepathic." Lehman said frankly.

"Yeah, that too." Vincent said dismissively.

Thomas blinked, then slowly asked, "Tele... what?"

"Telepathic. That just means that he can read your mind. But he'll only do it if you tell him that it's okay with you." Vincent finished with assurance.

"He's a mind reader? I've heard of magicians doing stuff like that, but I thought it was all just some kind of a trick." Thomas said slowly.

Vincent nodded and said, "Yeah, there used to be people who did that, but now there are people who can do it for real."

"Can you do it?" Thomas asked curiously.

"No," Vincent said simply, "I've learned how to talk to someone who is telepathic, but I can't do it myself."

Thomas blinked, obviously overwhelmed by the new information.

"We can talk about it later. It isn't anything you need to worry about now." Lehman said as he got out of the bed and went to the bathroom.

"Why can Lehman do the telewhatsis thing and you can't?" Thomas asked curiously.

Vincent chuckled and said, "Because Lehman isn't Human, and he's not from Earth."

"He isn't?" Thomas asked with surprise.

"No. But he's a really good person, so it doesn't matter where he's from." Vincent said with a shrug.

"I guess not. I just always thought that someone from another world would be little and green." Thomas said frankly.

Vincent chuckled and said, "Well, I guess some of the races that the Federation has encountered are little, and some of them are green. But I can't think of any that are little AND green."

"You mean that there are more aliens, different from Lehman?" Thomas asked in wonder.

"Yeah. Lots." Vincent said with a grin, then smiled as Lehman walked back to the bed.

"What do you guys want to do first, breakfast or baths?" Lehman asked as he climbed back into the bed.

"Breakfast," Vincent and Thomas said immediately.

"I should have known," Lehman said with a chuckle.

Thomas looked around, then hesitantly said, "I don't have any clothes."

"Oh. Yeah." Vincent said, as he considered what they should do.

"Thomas could wear my casual clothes. They're clean. And I can wear my Soleen-Avalla robe." Lehman said simply.

"Yeah. That'd probably work... except for shoes." Vincent said slowly.

"As long as I can change my form, I don't need shoes... or clothes, for that matter." Lehman said seriously.

"Oh, yeah. I guess you don't." Vincent said with a smile.

"So, do we have a plan?" Lehman asked, as he looked at the two versions of Vincent before him.

"Dress. Eat. Bathe." Vincent said with a nod.

Thomas nodded his agreement to the plan.

* * * * *

"Wow. This place is really nice," Thomas said as they walked out of the bedroom.

"Yeah. I didn't get to see much of it last night. It really is beautiful." Lehman said as he also looked around.

"So you're new here too?" Thomas asked with surprise.

"Yeah. I arrived on Earth yesterday morning. I guess this place is as new to me as it is to you," Lehman said with a smile.

"Oh, well it's good to know that I'm not the only one who's getting used to it." Thomas said as he followed Vincent down the stairs.

* * * * *

Deacon turned at the sound and stared, as he saw three identical boys walking down the stairs into the living room.

"You're like an amoeba, aren't you? Every now and then, do you just divide and create another of yourself?" Deacon asked in wonder.

"It looks that way, doesn't it?" Lehman asked with a chuckle.

"Deacon, this is Thomas." Vincent said with a warm smile.

"Hi." Deacon said cautiously, not quite sure which boy was which.

"Hi." Thomas said, then slowly added, "You're probably the prettiest guy I've ever seen."

"Oh, um. Thanks, I think." Deacon said hesitantly, then looked at Lehman and asked, "Where did he come from?"

"You'd have to ask Vincent." Lehman said frankly.

"I thought I was asking Vincent. You guys should really wear name tags or something." Deacon said in an overwhelmed tone.

"I'm Vincent, and I wear the Clan Short crest." Vincent said as he pointed at the crest on his Soleen-Avalla robe.

"Yeah, and Thomas is wearing the regular clothes." Lehman said, glad that Vincent had thought of an easy way to distinguish them.

"Okay. Thanks." Deacon said slowly, then faced Vincent and asked, "So, is he another Chameloid or what?"

Vincent chuckled and said, "No. He's the me from an alternate universe."

"Oh? Like those guys were talking about at dinner last night?" Deacon asked with surprise.

"Yeah, like that, except that the guys were talking about someone named Vinny. This is Thomas." Vincent said seriously.

After a moment of thought, Deacon asked, "The universe isn't going to explode or anything if you two touch each other, will it?"

Vincent poked Thomas' shoulder with his finger, then said, "Nope. It don't look like it."

At Deacon's look of surprise at the action, Vincent explained, "The worst that would happen is that it might mess up our quantum resonance frequencies a bit, and since mine is already messed up, I know it's not a big huge deal, unless there's about to be a time split or something like that."

"Huh?" Deacon asked in confusion.

Vincent giggled at the reaction, then said, "It doesn't matter. We'll just need to talk to one of the Mikyvis or maybe that John Smith kid when we're at the Short compound next time. I bet they'll be able to fix it in, like, two seconds."

"Oh, okay," Deacon said slowly, accepting that Vincent knew what he was talking about.

"It's on the table Deke." Lawrence said, as he walked into the living room from the kitchen.

"Lor!" Thomas squeaked with surprise, then ran to Lawrence to pull him into a big hug.

"What's wrong, Vince?" Lawrence asked with concern, then noticed Vincent and Lehman watching him.

Slowly, Lawrence looked from Vincent to Lehman, then down to the third incarnation of his brother, who was now crying tears of joy into his chest.

"Lawrence, meet Thomas," Vincent said quietly.

"Nice to meet you." Lawrence said hesitantly, knowing that his words weren't being heard by the crying boy in his arms.

"Thomas." Vincent called, trying to gain his attention, without success.

There was no reaction as Thomas hugged Lawrence for all he was worth.

"Thomas!" Vincent said, more loudly, still trying to gain his attention.

Finally, Thomas pulled away from Lawrence's chest enough to look at Vincent curiously.

"I'd like for you to meet our brother, Lawrence." Vincent said gently.

The expression on Thomas' face was nothing short of complete joy as he said, "Now I know I'm going to love it here. I got my big brother back."

"What happened to YOUR Lawrence?" Vincent asked with concern.

"Lor and a bunch of other high school kids went overseas to work as support for the troops. You know, doing cooking and cleaning and stuff." Thomas said, not relaxing his hold on Lawrence for an instant.

Vincent shared a look of concern with Lehman, not knowing if it might upset Thomas, to ask him to continue.

"We figured that when the bombs started falling that he... well, we didn't know for sure..." Thomas trailed off, then renewed his hug on Lawrence, full force.

Even though Lawrence didn't know what was going on, he knew enough.

"Hold on, Thomas." Lawrence said as he took hold of Thomas' arms to free himself from the hug.

Thomas looked up at Lawrence with wide eyes, obviously feeling rejected by the action.

As soon as Lawrence had coaxed Thomas to let go, he went down on one knee, then pulled him into a full warm hug.

"That's better," Lawrence said gently.

"I love you, Lor." Thomas said as he returned the hug.

The room went silent as everyone watched the two boys hugging.

A growling sound from Vincent's stomach broke the silence and Lehman started to chuckle.

"We'd better feed that thing, before it attacks." Lehman said with a grin.

"I just made breakfast for me and Deke. If you'll hold on a minute I can make something for you guys too." Lawrence said with a smile.

"You don't need to do that. We can get our own," Vincent said casually.

"Come on, Thomas. Let's go into the kitchen so we can eat." Lawrence said gently as he released Thomas and stood.

"I missed you so much." Thomas whispered past his tears of joy as he put an arm around Lawrence to walk with him.

Lawrence leaned down to kiss Thomas on the cheek, then urged him to continue walking.

"I really need some coffee." Vincent said as he started toward the kitchen.

* * * * *

Thomas' eyes were as wide as saucers as he looked around the kitchen.

"You must be really rich!" Thomas said as he looked at Deacon with wonder.

"Not me. But I think Billy does alright." Deacon said as he sat down at the table. "We never really talked about how much money he has."

"Will I be living here with you?" Thomas asked hopefully.

Deacon and Lawrence shared a look of surprise at Thomas' question.

"Later today, we're going to introduce you to someone named Cory, after he's talked to you, we'll figure out where you'll be living." Vincent said gently, then asked, "Where's the coffee?"

"About two inches from your hand, in that cannister labeled COFFEE." Deacon said with a huge grin.

"How do you expect anyone to be able to find things, when you hide them like that?" Vincent asked in a stern voice, winking at Deacon as he started making his coffee.

"That's just the way that Billy does things. It takes a while, but you'll get used to it." Lawrence said, with a smile at his brother.

"What would you like for breakfast, Thomas?" Vincent asked as he was putting the coffee grounds into the coffee maker.

"I don't know what you have." Thomas said, as he finally released Lawrence so he could sit and eat.

Lawrence looked at Thomas and patted the seat next to him, the other side from Deacon.

"Mamacita stocked us up with bacon and eggs. And there's a few kinds of cereal in there." Deacon said with a casual gesture toward the cupboard.

Vincent opened the cabinet and asked, "Do you like Froot Loops or Honey Smacks?"

"I don't know what those things are... do you have any oatmeal?" Thomas asked slowly.

"Let me look." Vincent said, as he shifted some things aside.

"We have bread for toast." Lawrence said, as he held up a piece of toast as evidence.

"Yeah. Toast would be good." Thomas said with a loving smile at Lawrence.

"We have oatmeal!" Vincent said with triumph, as he took down the box, then asked, "What about you Lehman?"

"Whatever you're having will be fine." Lehman said simply, then asked, "Can I help you?"

"Yeah. You can make the toast, if you want to." Vincent said as he read the instructions on the side of the oatmeal pouch.

"You'll have to show me what to do," Lehman said as he walked to Vincent's side.

"Take the bread, there." Vincent said as he pointed, "and put four slices into the toaster, there. Then push down the lever to start it."

"Simple enough." Lehman said, as he moved into action.

"Can I help?" Thomas asked as he finally moved from Lawrence's side.

"Yeah, sure. You can get drinks for us, if you'd like." Vincent said as he started making the instant oatmeal.

"What would you like to drink?" Thomas asked curiously.

"I'm having coffee. You're welcome to have some, if you want it." Vincent said as he placed the bowl of oatmeal and water into the microwave and started it.

"I've never had coffee, but I've heard of it." Thomas said as he looked at the coffee maker. "My parents said that we shouldn't waste our rations on such a frivolous thing."

"You can try some when it's ready, to see if you like it." Vincent said with an unconcerned shrug, then asked, "Would you like some eggs? I'm going to have some."

"One, if you have enough." Thomas said slowly.

"It looks like we have plenty." Vincent said as he took the carton of eggs out of the refrigerator.

"Yeah. Eat all you want." Deacon said from the table. "We hardly ever eat over here."

"Where do you eat?" Vincent asked casually as he started cooking the eggs.

"Across the street at Allen's house," Deacon said honestly.

The microwave beeped, causing Thomas to look at it with surprise.

"The toast is done. What do I do next?" Lehman asked cautiously.

"Butter it... if you can find the butter." Vincent said as he looked around.

"It's over here on the table," Deacon said as he pointed to the butter dish.

"No butter for me," Thomas said as he looked in the refrigerator at what drinks they had to choose from.

"Just put the toast on the table and everyone can butter their own then." Vincent said as he tended to the eggs.

"Do you have a baby, here?" Thomas asked curiously.

"No. Why would you think that?" Deacon asked with surprise.

"You have milk in here... a big jug of milk." Thomas said slowly.

"That's for you to drink if you want some." Deacon said frankly.

"Drink? Milk?" Thomas asked with surprise.

"People don't drink milk on your world?" Vincent asked curiously.

"Only babies, we usually have milk for cooking, but I never thought about anyone but a baby ever drinking it." Thomas said honestly.

Vincent shrugged and said, "I don't like it, but if you want some, you can have it."

"I think I'll just have water." Thomas said as he took the water pitcher out of the refrigerator.

"What would you like to drink, Lehman?" Vincent asked as he worked to get the eggs out of the skillet.

"I don't know what the choices are." Lehman said as he walked to the refrigerator.

"Milk, orange juice, water... and I guess coffee." Deacon said from the table.

"I like orange juice." Lehman said with a smile.

"I can get that for you." Thomas said quickly.

"Oh. Thank you, Thomas." Lehman said with a smile, realizing that it was important to Thomas to do his part to contribute to the meal.

"Lehman, would you get the oatmeal out of the microwave, please, and put it on the table?" Vincent asked as he concentrated on the cooking eggs.

"Sure." Lehman said, then walked to the microwave.

Thomas looked with wonder at the bowl of oatmeal, that was fully cooked.

"How did it do that?" He asked with wonder.

"I don't know how it works. It just does." Vincent said with a smile as he took two more eggs out of the skillet.

Thomas slowly nodded, then went back to pouring Lehman's juice.

"What else can I do?" Lehman asked as he walked back from the table.

"Take these eggs. I'm just finishing mine." Vincent said seriously.

Lehman took the two plates of eggs to the table as Thomas placed their juice glasses.

"Go ahead and start. I'll be there in just a minute." Vincent said seriously.

"Come on, Thomas. Let's eat." Lehman prompted.

"Shouldn't we wait for Vincent?" Thomas asked hesitantly.

Lehman shrugged and set down his fork.

"On my way," Vincent said as he turned off the stove and sat the skillet aside.

"Do you need any butter or anything for your oatmeal, Thomas?" Lawrence asked quietly.

"No, why would you waste butter on oatmeal?" Thomas asked with confusion.

"To make it taste better." Deacon said before Lawrence could answer.

Thomas looked at his oatmeal, but didn't seem to be inclined to add anything to it.

Vincent sat his plate on the table, then hurried to the coffee maker to get himself a cup of coffee.

"Would you like to try some coffee, Thomas?" Vincent asked as he poured his cup.

"It smells good," Thomas said slowly. "Could I try a taste of yours to see if I like it?"

"Sure." Vincent said with a smile as he sat down at the table, then scooted his coffee cup toward Thomas.

After a hesitant sip, Thomas considered the flavor.

"What do you think?" Vincent asked curiously.

"I think it smells better than it tastes." Thomas said honestly.

"Yeah. That's what I used to think too. But I kinda got used to it." Vincent said as he accepted his coffee cup back from Thomas.

* * * * *

"Vince, there's something I've been needing to talk to you about, but I've been wanting to wait until you were back on Earth." Lawrence said hesitantly.

"Yeah? What's that?" Vincent asked, between bites of food.

"Well, since you're here... we need to go to the house and get the things that we want to keep," Lawrence said reluctantly, watching carefully for Vincent's reaction.

"Oh... I didn't think of that." Vincent said as he set down his fork.

Lawrence nodded and continued, "Mark has been taking care of the lawn and I think Teri or Helen or someone went in and took care of the food and stuff that would go bad... but everything else has just been left, waiting for us to decide what we're going to do with it."

Vincent slowly nodded as he thought.

"And we need to decide what we're going to do with the house." Lawrence added, more quietly.

Vincent stared at his plate for a long moment as he considered.

"We don't have to do it right now, but, well... I just didn't want to make any decisions without you." Lawrence said in nearly a whisper.

"What's wrong?" Thomas asked with confusion at the sudden change in mood.

"Vincent and Lawrence's parents died, and now they have to decide what to do with the house and the things that are in it." Deacon said frankly.

"They're dead?" Thomas asked in surprise.

"Yeah, but can we not talk about that right now? I think we have other things that we need to do." Vincent asked hopefully.

Thomas slowly nodded, understanding that it was a sensitive subject with Vincent.

"Deke, if you'll go check in with Billy, I'll clean up the dishes." Lawrence said as he stood.

"Are you sure? You cooked." Deacon asked with concern.

"We'll all help him." Vincent said seriously.

Deacon smiled at Vincent, then hurried out of the room.

"Just tell us what you need us to do," Vincent said as he stood and started gathering plates.

"If you guys can just carry everything over to the sink, I think I'll be able to do the rest." Lawrence said simply.

"You don't need to do it all yourself. We can wash and dry the dishes and you can put them away." Thomas said frankly.

"We have a dishwasher. We just have to load it." Lawrence said as he gestured to the dishwasher by the sink.

"Oh... I've heard of those, but I've never seen one." Thomas said cautiously.

"Hey Vince, I tell you what. I'll scrape off the plates, then you can show Thomas how to load the dishwasher so he can help out next time. How about that?" Lawrence asked gently.

"Sure thing." Vincent said happily, then opened the dishwasher and waited for Lawrence to pass him the plates.

* * * * *

"Are you guys all finished?" Deacon asked as he rushed into the kitchen.

"Yeah. What's up?" Lawrence asked with concern.

"A lot. And we don't have much time," Deacon said seriously.

"Just spit it out, Deke. What's going on?" Lawrence asked with frustration.

"We all need to get cleaned up. We're going to a wedding."

To Be Continued...

Editor's notes:
That was a really nice chapter. we got to see Brakkii again, which was really nice, and it was also nice to know that he is finally in a place where he can do some real good and that he is happy.

I am so glad that Thomas is well and that he has come to live in Vincent's universe. I suspect that he will have a lot to learn. Of course, it is really nice that he now has his brother back, sort of.

Now we are all up to speed, so to speak, with it being time for a certain wedding. It won't be long before Frontier is caught up with the lead story of the moment. I am all ready for the next chapter, as always.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher