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"A wedding? Who's getting married?" Vincent asked quickly.
"I think you'd enjoy it more if it was a surprise." Deacon said with a secretive smile.
Vincent and Lehman shared an exasperated look, but didn't inquire any further.
"So if you guys can let me know how long it will take you to get ready, I'll call Billy back and he'll find us a ride to the Short compound." Deacon said seriously.
"Um, Thomas doesn't really have anything to wear except what he's wearing." Vincent said in thought.
"I bet that if we went to the ship, we could get some Soleen-Avalla robes for Thomas. They look kind of formal, don't they?" Lehman asked cautiously.
"Yeah. Good idea." Vincent said with a smile, then turned his attention to Deacon and asked, "If you and Lawrence want to, you could get your clothes together and come with us to the ship to get cleaned up, then we could all transport to the Short Compound from there. No one would have to come and get us."
Deacon looked at Lawrence with question and received an uncertain shrug as an answer.
"Then we're just waiting on you." Vincent said with an impish grin at Deacon.
"We'll be back in a minute." Deacon said decisively, then glanced at Lawrence to see if he had any objection.
* * * * *
"I'll be right back. Don't leave without me." Lehman said timidly a moment before following Deacon and Lawrence out of the kitchen.
"We'll be in the living room." Vincent said, then motioned for Thomas to walk with him.
"Can you tell me what's going on?" Thomas asked shyly, as he followed Vincent out of the kitchen.
"Well, since we all need to have a bath, we can go up to the ship that Lehman and I arrived on and bathe together. It'll be a lot faster than us each taking turns in the bathroom." Vincent said casually, then gestured for Thomas to sit with him on the couch.
"Faster? How is it going to be faster if we're going to your ship? I mean, it's in space, isn't it?" Thomas asked with confusion.
"Oh yeah. That's kind of tough to explain." Vincent said slowly. "Here in this world, we have the technology to transport from one place to another; it just takes a second."?
After a moment of thought, Thomas hesitantly asked, "You can convert matter to energy?"
"Yeah." Vincent said with surprise, "That's it. I didn't think you'd understand."
"I understand the theory." Thomas said slowly, "According to the science that I've studied, it seemed that it could work."
"Yeah, well, you probably know as much about it as I do, then." Vincent said with a grin, "I understand the theory behind it, but I don't really know much about how it works... it just does."
Thomas slowly nodded, then timidly whispered, "Vincent, there's something I need to tell you... and you may not like it."
"What's that?" Vincent asked with concern.
"Before I left the Realm, Brakkii told me something..." Thomas trailed off.
"What was that?" Vincent prompted.
"He said that if I didn't want to stay here, that he would bring me back to the Realm and I could stay there." Thomas said quietly.
Vincent stared at Thomas in shock at the words. He had thought that when Thomas had arrived, that Brakkii had seen reason and agreed that the real world was the best place for Thomas to be.
After a moment, Thomas continued, "He said that I could be like his son. I'd be the Prince of the Realm."?
"You're not thinking of doing it, are you?" Vincent asked cautiously.
After a glance into Vincent's eyes, Thomas timidly nodded.
"Please, Thomas, give this world a chance. All you have to do is try, and I know it can be great for you." Vincent said imploringly.
"Vincent, you can't understand what I'm going through. I thought I could do this but... do you know what it feels like to lose everything?" Thomas asked bitterly.
"Yeah. As a matter of fact, I do." Vincent said quietly.
"Oh, right. You said that your parents died... but it's not the same. I almost died. You can't imagine what it was like to feel my body dying and feel so helpless."
"Actually, I do know what that feels like." Vincent said sympathetically.
"No, you can't know. I almost died from the radiation. Going through something like that changes you. There's no way to understand unless you've been through it."?
"Thomas. I *do* know what that feels like." Vincent said sincerely.
At Thomas' look of surprise, Vincent continued, "It's kind of a long story, but what matters is, I got a pretty good dose of radiation, probably a lethal dose."
Thomas' eyes went wide at the statement. From the earnest tone of Vincent's voice, Thomas knew that he was being completely honest.
"And just like you, I got saved at the last minute. So I do know what it feels like. I was right there, looking at what was supposed to be the last minutes of my life, and I had to face who I was and all the things I had done." Vincent said distantly.
Thomas' look became curious at Vincent's quiet revelation.
"My life before that was... wasted. All I ever thought about was me. I was completely selfish and I was mean to a lot of people." Vincent said in a whisper.
"You seem all nice and... well, so much better than me. I can't imagine you ever being mean to anyone." Thomas said honestly.
Vincent shook his head and said, "Thomas, you're starting off a lot better than I did. I was a horrible brat and had to learn a whole new way to live and be. You're already a great person, now all you have to do is realize that you've got a chance to have a wonderful life. You can be anything you want to be, you can do anything you want to do. "
"I can?" Thomas asked cautiously.
"Yeah." Vincent said with an assuring smile. "You survived. If you choose to stay here, you can have something better than a dream. You can have what you always dreamed of, but for real. The only catch is, you have to know what you want and you have to be strong enough to work for it."?
"But... You're leaving on your starship.... and I'll be left here, alone..." Thomas said in a small voice.
Vincent chuckled and said, "The only way you'll be alone is if you choose to be."?
Thomas looked at Vincent curiously at the strange statement.
"In a little while, you're going to meet the Clan. Just about all of them have faced things worse than most people's worst nightmares, just like we have. Now they work together to help out kids who need it. All you have to do is get to know them and let them know what you want to do and they'll help you." Vincent said gently.
"But what if I want to go back and be the Prince of the Realm?" Thomas asked hesitantly.
"If that's what you really want, then I'll visit you every single night and let you know how things are going in the real world." Vincent said quietly.
Thomas nodded that he heard.
"You don't need to decide this right now. But remember that here in this real life, waking world, you can make a difference. One person can change an entire planet, and one planet can change the entire universe."
"Do you really believe that?" Thomas asked cautiously.
Vincent chuckled, then answered, "I know it for a fact."
At Thomas' questioning look, Vincent shook his head with amusement and said, "Long story."
"You seem to have a lot of those." Thomas said while trying to restrain a grin.
"You have no idea." Vincent said with a chuckle, then looked toward the hallway and said, "Lehman's been in there an awful long time. I wonder if he fell in."?
"He walked down the hall a minute or two ago and saw us talking, then went back." Thomas said frankly.
"It's okay, Lehman! We're done!" Vincent called down the hallway beside the stairs.
Lehman peeked around the corner and said, "It looked like you two were having a serious talk, and I didn't want to interrupt."
"You wouldn't have been interrupting, but thanks." Vincent said as he stood and gave Lehman a quick hug.
"I wonder what's taking Deacon and Lawrence so long." Lehman said as he looked around.
"Yeah. I wonder." Vincent said with a roll of his eyes.
Lehman giggled and said, "Oh. I guess it doesn't take a genius to figure out what they're doing."?
Thomas looked from Lehman to Vincent with confusion.
"They're probably upstairs kissing and stuff. They forget about the rest of the world when they're doing that." Vincent said with a chuckle.
"Really?" Thomas asked with wide eyes as he looked up the stairs.
"You'll get used to it." Vincent said with a shrug, then sat down.
Lehman took the seat next to him on the couch.
A moment later a noise could be heard which preceded Lawrence and Deacon hurrying down the stairs, each carrying a bundle of clothes.?
As they reached the bottom of the stairs, they were greeted by three identical boys looking at them knowingly.
"I think we're busted." Deacon whispered with a chuckle.
* * * * *
"Is everyone ready to go?" Vincent asked as he looked around the room.
Seeing everyone's nods of agreement, Vincent raised his wrist and said, "Manu, can you transport the five of us aboard?"
"Yes, Vincent. Whenever you are ready." Manu said gently.
Vincent looked at Thomas and quietly said, "This may feel a little bit funny, but it's nothing to be afraid of."
Thomas nodded that he understood.
* * * * *
As soon as the sparkles had cleared from his vision, Thomas looked around in wonder at their instantaneous relocation.
"This is my room on the ship." Vincent said, as he gestured, then continued, "If no one needs to do anything else, I can take you to the bathing pool now."
"Were you going to get me some clothes?" Thomas asked cautiously, feeling funny about asking.
"Oh yeah. Thanks for reminding me." Vincent said, then retrieved a set of clothes from the honeycomb in the wall beside the bed.
"Here you go." Vincent said as he handed the Soleen-Avalla robes to Thomas.
"Vincent, we are in the process of modifying a set of robes for Thomas that should be more appropriate for a formal occasion. They should be completed before you finish your bathing." A voice said from above them.
"Thank you, Manu." Vincent said upward, then turned to Thomas and said, "You can leave those here."
"Who was that?" Thomas asked as he sat the bundle of clothes on the bed.
"That's Manu; he's the intelligence that controls all the functions of this ship." Vincent said casually as he gestured toward the door.
Deacon and Lawrence were nearest the door and preceded the group into the hall.
* * * * *
"It's this way." Lehman said as he moved in front of the group in the hallway.
"In a way, the entire ship is Manu's body. He's all around us. If you have any questions or need anything while you're here, you can just ask him and he'll answer you." Vincent said to Thomas at his side, then looked up and said, "Manu, I'd like for you to meet my newest brother, Thomas."?
"Hello, Thomas, it's a pleasure to meet you." Manu said gently.
"Yeah. It's nice to meet you too." Thomas said uncertainly into the air, then hesitantly asked, "What are you?"
"To put it in terms that you would understand, I am a computer." Manu said seriously.
"Wow." Thomas said as he considered the answer. "Does that mean that you're, like, an artificial intelligence?"
"Thomas, I'd really rather not call Manu 'artificial'. Whether or not he's organic doesn't really matter." Vincent said carefully, not wanting to sound like he was being overly critical.
"Thank you, Vincent, but I am not offended by being referred to as an artificial intelligence. It is the proper classification of what I am." Manu said with a note of tenderness at Vincent's concern for him.
"Well, it bothers me." Vincent said frankly. "Calling you 'artificial' makes you sound less real or less important than the rest of us."
"Um, Vince." Lawrence said hesitantly as he stopped in his tracks.
Vincent looked at Lawrence, then followed his gaze to a Soleen woman ahead of them in the hallway.
"Oh, I guess I should have prepared you guys for that." Vincent said with a smile. "The ship we're on isn't a Federation ship. It belongs to the Soleen-Avalla. That woman is Soleen."?
"The bathing pool is right through here." Lehman said as he stopped by a doorway, waiting for the rest of the group to catch up.
"That's a woman? How can you tell?" Thomas asked curiously.
"The women are smaller than the men and have smooth necks." Vincent said casually, then motioned for the rest of the group to walk ahead of him into the bathing room.
* * * * *
As Vincent walked into the bathing room, he noticed that the rest of the group were standing just inside the door.
"That's a Soleen man." Lehman said in response to the stares of the group.
"He's huge!" Deacon said with a tremble of fear in his voice.
"Yeah." Vincent said as he walked ahead of the group, then added, "Just wait until you meet Captain Rasch."
As each person got over their shock, they followed Vincent and Lehman to the benches.
"Is there anything we need to know?" Lawrence asked hesitantly as he looked around the room.
"Get naked. Bathe. Get dressed." Vincent said as he sat down to remove his shoes. "That's about it."?
Lawrence glanced at Deacon uncertainly and received an assuring smile.
"Are you okay, Lawrence?" Thomas asked with concern at his apprehensive expression.
"It's just... me and Vince haven't ever done anything like this before... I mean, together." Lawrence stammered.
"Are you worried that he'll do something to you?" Thomas asked uncertainly.
"No." Lawrence said immediately, then in a slower voice, continued, "I just know how Vincent feels about gay people... and about me. It just seems, I don't know, wrong somehow."?
Vincent had heard the conversation and knew that Lawrence was completely justified in his feelings.
"Lawrence, this was my idea. I won't lie to you and say that I don't still have any of those old feelings, but now I know that they were wrong and I'm a lot better than I used to be. It's really okay." Vincent said honestly.
After a moment to consider, Lawrence hesitantly began to undress.
"Oh wow..." Deacon said as his eyes went wide.
Vincent followed Deacon's gaze to Lehman, who was just finishing undressing.
He gave a chuckle as he walked to the edge of the water.
Thomas also noticed Lehman, then gave an unconcerned shrug as he walked to join Vincent in the bathing pool.
"You're not freaked out by Lehman's monster?" Vincent asked curiously.
"Nah. It's like Dad's." Thomas said simply as he lowered himself into the water.
"It is?" Vincent asked with surprise, then looked over at Lehman who was just getting into the pool.
"Yeah." Thomas confirmed, then got a big smile as he watched Deacon approach the water.
Vincent noticed Thomas' expression, which could only be classified as a leer.
As Lawrence was getting into the water, he noticed a movement behind him and said, "Hey Vince, someone's taking your clothes."
"I thought that you would like for your clothes to be fresh and clean for the ceremony." Manu said from above them.
"Thank you, Manu." Vincent said into the air with appreciation.
"Yes. Thank you. That was nice." Lehman said as he started to bathe himself.
Vincent glanced at Lawrence as he started to lower himself into the water.
Vincent smiled at the sight and gave his brother a nod.
"What?" Lawrence asked defensively as he froze in place.
"That was just my way of saying that I think you look good. I don't think I ever told you that before." Vincent said honestly.
"Oh, um, no. I don't think you ever did. Thanks, Vince." Lawrence said uncertainly as he continued to get fully into the bathing pool, then awkwardly added, "And, um, you look good too."
Thomas chuckled at the exchange.
"What's so funny?" Vincent asked Thomas curiously.
"You two." Thomas said with a grin, "You both act so shy and stuff. Me and my brother never acted like that. We were always best friends and told each other everything."
"I think we grew up different from you." Vincent said with a shrug.
"Yeah. Even though Lawrence looks *exactly* like my brother, they're really completely different." Thomas said seriously.
Lawrence caught a note of something in Thomas voice that concerned him.
"I know I'm not your brother, but maybe I'll be close enough to make being here without him easier." Lawrence said gently.
"My brother was gone for a long time before... things went really bad." Thomas said quietly, then looked into Lawrence's eyes as he said, "So I'm okay. I kind of got used to missing him."?
"Well, I'm right here if there's any way I can help." Lawrence said seriously.
After a moment to consider, Thomas smiled and said, "Maybe you aren't *completely* different from my brother."
Lawrence smiled at the comment, then was surprised when Thomas moved in to give him a hug.
Lehman looked at Vincent with question, not sure if what Thomas was doing was acceptable in Vincent's society.
A smile from Vincent was all the assurance that he needed that everything was fine.
* * * * *
"Is something wrong?" Deacon asked as he looked behind him.
"No. Nothing." Thomas answered quickly as he looked away.
"Then what..." Deacon began to ask when Vincent interrupted.
"He was checking out your butt."
Thomas flashed a scorching look at Vincent which promised swift and terrible revenge.
"Well, you were." Vincent said in his defense.
"It's okay." Deacon said, then waited for Thomas to meet his gaze.
It took a moment, but Thomas finally forced himself to look Deacon in the eyes.
"It's a little bit weird for me because I always thought that I looked kind of plain. But since I moved in with Billy, everyone's been saying that I look good." Deacon said quietly. "I don't mind if you look at me. It kind of makes me feel good, like maybe they're right."
Thomas slowly nodded that he had heard.
"Of course, Lawrence is a little possessive of me..." Deacon said with a smile at Lawrence.
"I'm not crazy about the idea of other people checking you out." Lawrence said frankly to Deacon, drawing Thomas' attention. "But I guess Thomas can have special permission."?
Thomas looked at Lawrence uncertainly.
"Look. Don't touch." Lawrence said seriously.
"Good. Are we all done bathing?" Vincent asked as he looked around.
"Yeah." Lehman said immediately, feeling that they might have just averted a crisis.
"Let's get ready to go to this wedding." Vincent said as he led the way out of the pool.
* * * * *
"Hey, look at this!" Thomas said as he held up the robe that had been laid out in place of the clothes he had been wearing.
"It's just like ours." Lehman said with a smile.
"Except that Thomas has the Earth as a crest." Vincent said as he looked at the shimmering white robe.
"Well, mine doesn't have that crystal hexagon thing on the chest, but the rest is the same." Thomas said before putting the robe on.
"The crystalline hexagon design is reserved for the Trach Manjai. In time, you may have a title of equal significance and I will be honored to place that crest on your robe." Manu said gently.
"Trach Manjai? What's that?" Thomas asked curiously.
"That one's a long story and a half. How about we go to the wedding and you ask me about it later?" Vincent asked hopefully.
"Sure." Thomas said without concern as he looked at Vincent and Lehman to be sure that he was fastening his robe closed the appropriate way.
* * * * *
As soon as the fountain of sparkles had cleared from their vision, a serious voice sounded in all their minds, //You're almost late.//
"Who's that?" Thomas asked as he looked around the immense room.
"I don't know. There are a lot of telepaths in the Clan, it could have been any of them." Vincent answered honestly.
"Don't worry about it. I've got them." A boy said as he approached the group.
"Galli... I mean, John. I was hoping I'd see you." Vincent said happily.
"I wouldn't miss this for anything." the mysterious little ginger haired boy said with a grin.
"This is my newest brother Thomas. I was hoping that when you have time, maybe you could help us with his quantum resonance frequency." Vincent said quickly.
The Doctor looked around the massive hall for an instant, then produced a tool from his pocket as he turned his full attention to Thomas.
"Time is something I have no shortage of." John said with an impish grin as he pointed the device at Thomas and seemed to be trying to position it in just the right way.
"What are you going to do to me?" Thomas asked cautiously.
"I've already done it." John said, then explained, "I just realigned you slightly so you belong to this universe."
"Huh?" Thomas asked with confusion.
"Vincent can explain it later." John said with a smile at Thomas, then turned the device toward Vincent and said, "You've nearly got your frequency tied in a knot. It takes quite a bit of interdimensional travel to bunch a frequency up as bad as this."
"Yeah. Sorry." Vincent said shyly, then quietly asked, "Can you fix it?"
"Sorted!" John said with accomplishment as he put the tool away.
"Thanks." Vincent said with a smile of relief.
"And the next time you visit the Realm, time will move the same for you as everyone else." John said happily.
"Good. That way I'll be able to visit without getting all tired out." Vincent said with cheer.
"I think they're about to start. Lawrence and Deacon, do you see Xain and Jake over there? They're saving seats for the two of you." John said as he pointed toward the front of the room.
"What about Vince?" Lawrence asked with concern.
"Dylan was very insistent that Vincent and Lehman be seated with the Camp. And I made sure that they also held a seat for Thomas." John said seriously.
"We'll see you guys in a while." Lawrence said hesitantly, then walked with Deacon to join the other Clan members.
"Dylan's right over there. I'll be around if you need me." John said as his attention seemed to be drawn to the back of the room.
"Thanks for all your help." Vincent said sincerely.
John nodded quickly, then hurried away.
"Come on guys." Vincent said and motioned for Lehman and Thomas to follow.
* * * * *
"What kind of a place is this?" Thomas whispered as they walked across the massive hall.
"I don't know. I don't think it was here the last time I was on Earth." Vincent said honestly.
"It's beautiful... what is that?" Thomas asked as he pointed toward one of the balconies.
Vincent looked to where Thomas was pointing and smiled.
"That's an Andorian. They're one of the races of the Federation." Vincent said, then gestured for Lehman and Thomas to go up the aisle to where the Camp Little Eagle members were seated.
"Are they nice?" Thomas asked cautiously.
"Oh yeah. One of the guys that I work with on my ship is Andorian and he's really great." Vincent said cheerfully.
"Vincent?" Dylan asked when he noticed the trio approaching.
"That's me." Vincent said as he raised his hand.
"Wow. There's three of you now." Dylan said with surprise.
"Oh yeah. Dylan, you already know Lehman, this is our newest brother, Thomas." Vincent said formally.
"It's nice to meet you Thomas, I'm Dylan. I think they're going to start any minute so you should take your seats." Dylan said as he gestured for the trio to walk ahead of him into the row.
"Thanks, Dylan." Vincent said with appreciation as he passed.
Organ music that had been playing in the background seemed to swell from all around them and the crowd hushed as all in attendance moved to find their seats.
* * * * *
"How are you doing, Thomas?" Vincent asked quietly, concerned by the overwhelmed expression that Thomas was wearing.
"All these people are beautiful." Thomas said as he looked around, then turned to Vincent and asked, "What are you doing with them?"
"I guess they keep me around for contrast." Vincent said with a grin at his doppleganger, obviously not offended in the least.
"But everything here is so big and beautiful... how can I know that this isn't a dream?" Thomas asked as he looked around.
"Do you want me to pinch you?" Vincent asked, not really having any more practical method for verifying reality close at hand.
"Do you want me to punch you in the nose?" Thomas asked back, sounding neither playful nor malicious.
"Not really." Vincent responded quietly.
Thomas nodded, then his attention was drawn to the large monitor that was displaying a boy, his own age, playing an incredibly huge pipe organ.
* * * * *
"Who? What?" Thomas sputtered as he saw two cat-like people dressed in white tuxedos leading the procession into the great hall.
"G-Cats." Vincent whispered.
"What does that mean?" Thomas asked as he stared.
"That's about all I know. We can ask around later if you want to know more." Vincent said quickly as he watched the wedding party walking slowly into the room.
"Is that who's getting married?" Thomas asked as Sean and Cory walked into the room, dressed in white.
"Oh wow. Um, yeah. I think it is." Vincent said with amazement.
"That doesn't bother you, does it, Thomas?" Lehman asked cautiously, knowing the issues that Vincent had with same sex relationships.
Thomas seemed to be a little surprised by the question, then answered, "Why should it bother me? My dad told me that sometimes two guys fall in love... if people are in love, they should be married. Right?"
"Right." Lehman said with a smile, appreciating Thomas' simplistic answer. After going through so much soul searching with Vincent, it was refreshing.
Thomas noticed Vincent's contemplative silence and quietly asked, "What's wrong?"?
Lehman leaned in to hear the answer, also curious to know why Vincent was so stunned.
"Just pay attention, guys. I can't explain except to say that I have a feeling that a thousand years from now, they'll probably still be talking about what we're going to see today." Vincent said seriously.
The three identical boys went silent as the wedding party slowly and reverently walked past their row of chairs down the aisle.
* * * * *
When the wedding party was nearly to the front of the room, Lehman touched Vincent's arm to gain his attention.
Vincent glanced at Lehman curiously and found him pointing toward one of the many balconies.
Captain Rasch and Treep were standing near the front, surrounded by a variety of dignitaries from other worlds.
"Good." Vincent whispered, then turned his attention back toward the front of the hall.
* * * * *
A minister started talking and the group all listened intently. After a moment, he introduced Tyne.
"Who is he?" Thomas whispered into Vincent's ear.
"Tyne." Vincent answered simply.
Thomas rolled his eyes, then asked, "What is he?"
Vincent shrugged and said, "You know about as much as I do. Just pay attention."
* * * * *
When Tyne was done speaking, the pastor took over again and called for a moment of silence to remember all those who had fallen.
Thomas seemed to be surprised by the call, but reverently bowed his head when asked to do so.
When the silence ended, Thomas quietly asked, "I don't understand what they're talking about. What happened? Who died?"
"I really don't know any details, but if you listen, maybe things will start to make sense." Vincent whispered gently.
Thomas thought for a moment, then said, "Some things never really make sense. But the important stuff, I already understand. People died to defend this way of life... this world isn't really that much different from mine."
Vincent draped an arm around Thomas' shoulders and gave him a gentle hug as he whispered, "I think maybe it's about to be."
* * * * *
After a call to prayer, the exchanging of vows began. Lehman leaned close to Vincent's ear and whispered, "We're here. We care."
Vincent looked at Lehman curiously, then smiled as he realized what Lehman meant.
Although he didn't know exactly how to control the power of the Trach Manjai, he knew that Lehman was right. All that was necessary was for them to be present and to care.
So even though he didn't know exactly what might happen as a result of it, Vincent made a point of considering just how much Cory and Sean had done to change his life, the absolute support that they had given him since the first moment they had met. And his desire that the random factors surrounding their lives might align in a way to provide them the most wonderful and fulfilling life together.
* * * * *
After the vows, music started playing and a singer stepped forward.
"Hey. I know him!" Thomas whispered as he pointed, "That's Nick Carter."
"I don't think I ever talked to him, but we could try to meet him after the ceremony if you wanted." Vincent said quietly.
"Yeah!" Thomas said quickly, then turned his full attention forward as Nick sang.
* * * * *
"Socius? What's that?" Thomas asked when Tyne had finished speaking again.
"Dunno." Vincent said frankly.
"You don't have a lot of answers, do you?" Thomas asked rhetorically.
"Fraid not." Vincent said, then was overwhelmed by a telepathic wave of love that was being transmitted through all the assembled guests from Sean and Cory who were kissing.
"Oh... Wow." Thomas finally said in a trembling voice.
"Yeah." Vincent said, himself in awe of the strength of the emotions.
"What was... never mind. You don't know... or it's a long story." Thomas finished with a roll of his eyes.
Vincent exchanged an amused look with Lehman, but decided to just leave it be. Thomas didn't seem to be bothered and might be more inclined to figure things out for himself this way.
* * * * *
The lights went down except for the light on one floor to ceiling banner. It had the Clan Short crest. There was a little boy just below the crest holding a microphone and Vincent recognized who it was.
"That's Kevin Thompson, Lehman and I had dinner at his house last night." Vincent whispered to Thomas.
Before Thomas could respond, Kevin began singing and drew his complete attention.
When a second banner on the stage was illuminated, both Vincent and Lehman were surprised to see that it was Joel. They had both been worried about him since they had seen the condition he had arrived in and were frankly shocked that he was in good enough shape to stand in front of the huge gathering.
"I think that's Joel, but he looks different." Lehman finally whispered to Thomas.
"He's Vulcan." Vincent said in wonder at the transformation.
When Joel started singing, the three boys were once again enthralled by the incredible clarity and emotion of the song.
* * * * *
"What is..." Thomas trailed off in wonder as he saw two winged boys in togas walk down the aisle with a procession of royal guard. The winged boys took positions on either side of Sean and Cory.
"They're Lo'Garn. The one by Cory is named Xandor. He's a friend of ours." Vincent whispered.
Thomas stared in amazement at the boys who seemed as mythical and unreal as anyone he had met in the dream realm.
Before he could get over his shock, Thomas turned to see who was entering the hall next.
"The Queen." Thomas gasped.
Vincent turned and saw that Thomas was right. He was every bit as surprised and in awe as Thomas.
All three boys sat in amazement as they watched the Queen name Cory and Sean as members of her family and declare that they are princes.
"Wow." Thomas gasped.
"I told you it'd be a day to remember." Vincent said absently, as he watched the events unfold.
Thomas opened his mouth, about ready to respond to Vincent's words when two boys appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.
Before Thomas could ask, Vincent quietly said, "Angels."
Thomas blinked, then looked at Vincent and asked, "Angels?"
"Yeah. I don't know their names, but I've met one angel... the guy who's talking. You just can't see his wings right now." Vincent said seriously.
Thomas regarded Vincent incredulously for a moment, then turned his attention back toward the front of the room.
The angels, along with the wedding party, started down the aisle. People all through the enormous hall began standing and funneling outside so they could take part in congratulating the newly married couple.
* * * * *
"I'm sorry." A small voice said to Vincent, drawing his attention away from the front door.
Vincent saw the sad boy in front of him and it took a moment for him to realize who it was.
"Do you still want to kill me?" Vincent asked cautiously.
The boy shook his head and said, "I saw some stuff and... I got confused and scared and angry. I'm really sorry."
"It's okay, Teddy. I know how it is to be confused and say stuff that I'm sorry for later. Will you give me a hug?" Vincent asked gently.
Teddy gave a tentative smile, then stepped forward to give Vincent a firm hug.
"How are you guys doing?" Dylan asked as he approached with Jason K in his arms.
Noticing that Vincent was occupied with Teddy, Lehman answered, "Good. That was really something."
"Yeah. I didn't have any idea that it was going to be as big and fancy as this." Dylan said honestly, then considered before adding, "I probably should have known."
Lehman chuckled, then noticed that Thomas seemed to have a 'lost' expression.
"I don't know what we're supposed to do now. I'm not familiar with Human ceremonies." Lehman said honestly.
"I don't know either, but it looks like everyone is going outside. We should probably do that." Dylan said frankly.
* * * * *
As they slowly made their way toward the back of the hall, Vincent noticed someone watching them shyly.
Before he fully saw the face, the violet-blond hair told him who it was.
"Hey guys, there's someone I want for you to meet." Vincent said as he broke away from the group.
Lehman, Thomas, Dylan and Jason K followed Vincent away from the flow of people walking toward the door.
"Dylan, I'd like for you to meet Lehman and Thomas. And you probably already know Jason K and, um, Dylan." Vincent stammered.
"I've seen him across the room, but we haven't met face to face before." Dylan Richardson said with a grin at Dylan Chang.
"Well, then it's good that you're getting to meet now. I met Dylan, this Dylan, yesterday afternoon." Vincent said, indicating Dylan Richardson.
"I like your eyes." Thomas said to Dylan Richardson distantly as he marveled at his bright violet eyes.
"Thanks. I like your butt." Dylan said to Thomas, frankly.
"You what?" Thomas asked with surprise.
Dylan got a confused look for a moment, then hurried to explain, "I'm sorry, I was just born yesterday. Sometimes I forget that it's not always okay to say what I'm thinking."
"You were just born yesterday?" Lehman asked slowly, wanting to confirm what he had just heard.
"You like my butt?" Thomas asked with a grin.
"Yes." Dylan said seriously to Lehman, then turned to Thomas and gently said, "And, yes."
There was a long moment of silence before Dylan Chang finally said, "Vincent, when you've got a minute, I'd like to ask you about something."
Vincent glanced at Thomas to find him looking at Dylan Richardson with a goofy smile.
"I think I have time now." Vincent said cautiously.
"I'll keep an eye on him. We'll catch up to you outside." Lehman said with assurance.
Vincent considered for a moment, then nodded.
* * * * *
Before Vincent had even made his way to the door, Lehman heard something that brought a smile to his face.
"Lehman?" Jordy asked slowly,
Lehman turned to find that Jordy was looking at Thomas and Dylan with confusion.
"I'm over here, Jordy; that's Thomas. Our newest brother." Lehman said gently.
"Oh. Well, the guy he's ogling is Dylan, possibly my newest brother. I've slept since then, so a few more could have been added while I wasn't looking."
Lehman chuckled with delight as he said, "I woke up with a new brother this morning, so I know exactly how that feels. Now I see where Vincent gets it."
* * * * *
"I don't want to interrupt if you want to spend time with your brother." Dylan said shyly.
"That's okay. I think we're all just going with the flow right now." Thomas said honestly, then noticed that Lehman had started talking to a boy that he hadn't met. "Besides, it looks like Lehman isn't in any hurry."
"Yeah. I've heard that him and Jordy kind of fell in love at first sight." Dylan said happily, then turned his expectant gaze on Thomas.
"What?" Thomas asked hesitantly, feeling that Dylan was waiting on him to say something in particular.
"Do you believe in love at first sight?" Dylan asked with a mischievous grin.
"Sure." Thomas said with a shrug. "You hear about it all the time, so I guess it happens."?
Dylan chuckled at the oblivious response.
Thomas noticed, but couldn't understand what it was that Dylan was obviously seeing in the conversation that he wasn't.
"You said you like my eyes." Dylan said in a leading tone.
"Yeah." Thomas said hesitantly, then slowly added, "And you said that you like my butt."
Dylan giggled and nodded.
Thomas went silent as he tried to figure out what he was obviously missing.
Dylan's eyes became distant as he watched Thomas' thought processes trying to figure it out. He resisted the urge to look at the thoughts themselves, but rather watched an overview as the different thoughts moved and whirled, trying to fit together.
Finally, Thomas' eyes went wide as he gasped, "You... love me?"
Dylan broke into delighted laughter at the disbelief in Thomas' voice.
"Yeah. It took you long enough to figure that out." Dylan said as his laughter became a chuckle.
"But, you're what? Seven years old?" Thomas said desperately, "You can't."
"I'm one day old. I already told you that." Dylan said frankly.
Thomas clinched his eyes shut and shook his head, trying to make sense of what he was hearing.
"I'm different from you. I'm a Mikyvis." Dylan said gently.
"I've heard that word before, but I don't really know what it means." Thomas said as he slowly opened his eyes again.
"There's a long complicated explanation that I'll tell you sometime. But I think for now I can describe it best by saying that I'm a person like you, but then, I'm something more too." Dylan said carefully.
"So, I'm human and you're, like, human-plus?" Thomas asked cautiously.
"Yeah." Dylan said with a giggle. "Human-plus, that's me."
"And you were really born yesterday?" Thomas asked slowly.
"Uh huh." Dylan said happily, seeing that Thomas was beginning to accept it.
"And you love me?" Thomas asked in a whisper.
"Why?" Thomas asked in a barely audible voice.
"Because I'm a Mikyvis, I guess." Dylan said introspectively, then at Thomas inquiring gaze, he continued, "Three and seven."
Thomas blinked at the strange response, then cautiously said, "Ten?"
"That's why." Dylan said with accomplishment.
"You lost me." Thomas said honestly.
"Because I'm a Mikyvis, I see things a little different. When I look at you and me, I see the same thing that you see when you look at three and seven." Dylan said happily.
"Ten?" Thomas said in a bewildered voice.
"I see what we can become." Dylan said frankly.
"You can see the future?" Thomas asked, beginning to grasp what Dylan was saying.
"No. At least, not at the moment." Dylan said seriously, then added more gently, "But even if I could, I wouldn't want to. What fun would that be?"
"Okay. I get that." Thomas said with a nod, then quietly asked, "But what is it that you *do* see?"
"Our potential." Dylan said with a loving smile.
"What we can become." Thomas said distantly as he tried to make sense of it all.
Dylan nodded happily.
* * * * *
"It looks like it's going to take a minute before we can get outside. What did you want to know?" Vincent asked Dylan as they paused by the doorway.
"I don't know what plans you already have, but I was kind of hoping that we could have our own little 'welcoming ceremony' for you at the camp tonight." Dylan said frankly.
"The only plan we really have is to go shopping. I figured we'd do that after lunch. We really don't have anything planned for after that. We've just been taking things as they come." Vincent said honestly.
Dylan nodded and seemed to be lost in thought for a moment before he finally said, "After seeing this, our ceremony may seem like it's kind of insignificant, but it's going to mean a lot to the Camp guys."
"I'll make sure that I don't promise to be anywhere else." Vincent said sincerely.
"Thanks Vincent. If you promise, then I'll consider it done." Dylan said with an honest smile.
"Will it be okay if I bring Lehman and Thomas with me? They're both new on Earth and I'm kind of watching out for them." Vincent said thoughtfully.
"That's fine. In fact, I'll be sure to include them in our plans." Dylan said distantly as he seemed to be organizing a large number of things in his mind.
"Good. Hey, there's a break! Let's go for it." Vincent said as he spotted a gap in the procession of people going through the door.
"Lead the way." Dylan said as he started to move.
* * * * *
"I'm glad I got to see you today. How are you?" Jordy asked timidly.
"I'm a little surprised about our new brother... but besides that, I'm good. Just kind of going along with things as they happen." Lehman said honestly.
"So you don't have any plans for today?" Jordy asked hopefully.
"I think Vincent said something about us going and buying some clothes later. We kind of needed to before, and now that Thomas is here, we really need to." Lehman said, looking apologetic.
"Did he say where you're going?" Jordy asked quietly.
"No." Lehman said thoughtfully, "I don't think he's thought that far ahead yet."
"Maybe I could go shopping with you then. I'll just need to check in with Seth and make sure he doesn't have anything lined up for me to do today." Jordy said hopefully.
"That sounds great, and I don't think Vincent would mind." Lehman said speculatively.
"Wait for me here and I'll be right back." Jordy said cheerfully.
After Lehman's nod, Jordy hurried away.
Lehman turned his attention to Dylan and Thomas, who were only a few feet away and absently wondered what two people who only just met could be talking about so seriously.
* * * * *
"But you're so little..." Thomas said in a considering voice.
"How big do you want me to be?" Dylan asked seriously.
"What do you mean?" Thomas asked cautiously.
"I look this size and age because I want to. If I want to look older, I can." Dylan said honestly.
"Really?" Thomas asked with surprise.
"Yeah. Wanna see?" Dylan asked cheerfully, glad to see that Thomas was coming around.
"Sure." Thomas said cautiously.
Without the slightest bit of effort, Dylan started growing taller and it appeared that he was aging right before Thomas' eyes.
"How's this?" Dylan asked when he achieved the appearance of a ten year old.
"Wow!" Thomas said as his eyes went wide.
"Do you like me better like this?" Dylan asked hesitantly, resisting the urge to look into Thomas' mind to see for himself.
Something about the wording of the innocently asked question made Thomas stop and carefully consider his words before he answered, "No. I mean, I think you look great, but I don't 'like you better' like this. You don't have to change yourself for me to like you."
Dylan smiled at the thoughtful response as he reverted to his usual seven year old appearance.
"So what you were saying about love at first sight... Do you really think you love me?" Thomas asked cautiously.
Dylan broke into a full grin at the question, happy to see that Thomas was facing and dealing with everything head on.
"Six and eight." Dylan said mischeviously.
Thomas nodded that he understood.
"How about you? How do you feel?" Dylan asked hopefully.
"The square root of a hundred ninety six." Thomas said thoughtfully.
"So you feel the same as me, but you take the more difficult path to get there?" Dylan asked with a grin.
"Pretty much." Thomas said shyly as he looked into Dylan's brilliant violet eyes.?
Dylan considered for a moment, then hesitantly asked, "Does that mean you love me too?"
"I know for sure that I like you." Thomas said seriously, then quietly added, "I hope that's close enough."
Dylan smiled lovingly at Thomas and gave a single nod.
A momentary look of regret came into Thomas' expression as he hesitantly said, "I don't know how much you know about me. But, I've got to make some decisions... and, well, I might be going away."?
"To the dream realm?" Dylan asked curiously.
"You know about that?" Thomas asked with surprise.
"Levi mentioned that he saw you there... and that you might be here... and that I'd probably like to get to know you." Dylan admitted shyly.
"So that's why you were waiting for us when we were getting ready to leave?" Thomas asked curiously.
"Yeah. When I saw you... well, I already explained about that." Dylan said as he glanced at Lehman watching them.
"So when Levi met me, he saw what you see when you look at us?" Thomas asked speculatively.
"Maybe. You'd have to ask him." Dylan said frankly. "He's my big brother and he loves me. So when he said that I'd probably like you, I believed him. I haven't had much of a chance to make friends yet."?
"What with being born yesterday and all." Thomas said knowingly.
"Yeah." Dylan giggled, glad to see that Thomas was accepting and understanding quite a few new ideas.
"But what I was trying to say before is, well, I might go back to the dream realm." Thomas said hesitantly, watching for Dylan's reaction.
"Here, there, it's all the same to me." Dylan said without concern.
"You'd go to the dream realm to visit me?" Thomas asked with surprise.
"Visit? It's more likely that I'd move there to be with you." Dylan said frankly.
At Thomas' look of surprise, Dylan continued, "This may seem all of a sudden to you, but I see time a little bit differently than you do. I don't want us to waste a nanosecond of it."
"Dylan. I like you and everything. But my life is all crazy and confused right now. I feel like I should be getting things settled first." Thomas said with regret.
"I can help you sort it out. I already said that I'll be there with you, no matter where you choose to live." Dylan said simply.
"You did?" Thomas asked cautiously.
"Not in so many words, but yes." Dylan said as he waited for Thomas' next objection... so he could shoot it down.
"But I hardly know you..." Thomas said helplessly.
"I hardly know you too." Dylan said simply.
"How can we be friends if I don't even know your last name?" Thomas asked plaintively.
"My last name is Richardson, and I know that yours is Winters. So, does that mean we can be friends now?" Dylan asked with his mischievous grin back in place.
Thomas was stunned, then began to chuckle as he realized that he had set himself up for the question. "Yeah, okay. Friends."
"Boyfriends?" Dylan asked immediately, the hopeful expression flaring in his eyes.
"Boyfriends?" Thomas sputtered with shock.
Dylan nodded quickly, the anticipation radiating out from him.
Thomas was stunned by the question and after a moment of consideration he slowly said, "I heard this thing in a movie once... Good things take time..."
Dylan's hopeful expression wilted slightly, but he nodded that he understood what Thomas was saying.
"...But great things happen all at once." Thomas continued with a grin.
"So that means you're saying 'yes'? You'll be my boyfriend?" Dylan asked hopefully.
"I'm saying that I'll give it a try." Thomas said cautiously, hoping that it was enough.
"I guess there's something I should tell you. It's a Mikyvis thing that I don't think you know about." Dylan said hesitantly.
Thomas squinted his eyes slightly as he said, "It's got to be something really bad if you waited until after I said 'yes' before you'd tell me."?
Dylan chuckled, then responded, "Not that bad. I just wanted to be sure that you knew that Mikyvis are telepathic."
"Tele... oh yeah. Vincent told me about that. So you're a mind reader?" Thomas asked cautiously.
"Let's call it, a mind reader-plus." Dylan said with a grin.
Thomas thought for a moment, then asked, "Are you reading my mind now?"
"No. In fact, I haven't read it at all." Dylan said frankly.
After a moment, Thomas smiled and said, "Because, what fun would that be?"
"You understand!" Dylan said with delight.
Thomas felt pleased with himself, then thought to ask, "If you haven't been reading my mind, then why did you tell me?"
"Because if I didn't tell you, then later on you found out that I was telepathic, you might wonder if I'd been reading your mind all along." Dylan said honestly.
Thomas nodded that he accepted the explanation, then thought to say, "I have something to tell you too."
"It's got to be something really bad if you waited until after I said 'yes' before you told me." Dylan said with a mischievous grin.
Thomas smiled at having his own words turned back on him, then said, "Before today, I wouldn't have even thought about this, but if we're going to be boyfriends... well, have you met Deacon?"
"Not really, but I know who you're talking about." Dylan said slowly.
"I like the way he looks." Thomas said helplessly. "You said that you love me... and... well, I just wouldn't want to accidentally hurt your feelings."
"Yeah..." Dylan said hesitantly.
"So if you catch me looking. I just... I may not be able to help it." Thomas said in an apologetic tone.
"Just looking, right?" Dylan asked cautiously.
"Oh yeah. Lawrence already told me that I can look, but not touch." Thomas said seriously.
"Can I look at him too?" Dylan asked as he looked into Thomas' eyes.
"Sure. I guess so... In fact, if you wanted, we can go find him and look at him together." Thomas said with a grin.
"That would be kind of creepy and weird..." Dylan said thoughtfully. "Let's do it!"
"Give me a second to tell Lehman where we're going." Thomas said before hurrying away.
Dylan watched with a gentle smile.?
When Levi had told him about Thomas, he had thought that his brother was just trying to find him a friend. But from the moment that he saw Thomas standing with Lehman and Vincent, he knew that Thomas would become an important part of his life.
Editor's Notes: Well it looks as if there have been a lot of things happening in this chapter.? Thomas has had a lot of new things thrown his way.? I am sure that he is still a bit confused.
One thing is for sure; he has a fall back position. Brakkii has assured him that if things get too rough for him, with Vincent, in the real world, that he is welcome to come back to the realm. Of course, Vincent hopes that he won't choose to do that, but it might take a little time for Thomas to get all his thoughts in some sort of order and make whatever decision he is going to make.
There is someone who really cares about Thomas, and luckily for Thomas, he is willing to go wherever Thomas goes. We didn't see who that was till very near the end of the chapter though.
It was very interesting to see the wedding from the perspective of the boys of CLE and Frontier. I suspect there is going to need to be some sort of meeting put together to explain a few things for the boys who haven't a clue as to what is happening.
I think that Thomas is going to need even more info than most of the other boys. Even Vincent is in the dark on a lot of issues.
Now that Thomas has met Dylan Richardson, I think it is possible that he will decide to stay on Earth and not go back to the Realm. I think one of his biggest fears was that he would be left all alone on Earth where he didn't know anyone. I am also pretty sure that Dylan has fallen in love with Thomas, and that no matter what he will be with Thomas.
I wonder when either Vincent or Lehman will have time to explain to Thomas about being a Trach Manja, and of course I suspect it will take some explaining from Dylan before Thomas understands exactly what a Mikyvis is.?I am not certain if I have covered everything yet, but if I missed something, then I am sorry, but hey, I'm just the editor here, besides, I have to leave something for you to think about. I wonder if anyone will buy that paltry excuse.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher