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"Father. This is not the vehicle Mamacita was driving." Xain said firmly.
"What?" Allen asked as tears streamed down his cheeks.
"Although this car is of the same model and color, the license number is different. This is not the vehicle Mamacita was driving." Xain said seriously.
Allen looked at the license plate and realized that Xain was right.
"Thank you Xain." Allen said as he tried to compose himself.
Jake pulled Xain into a hug of relief and gratitude.
"If any of you pray, I think you should give thanks for that not being Juana's car." Allen said with a long sigh of relief as he watched the paramedics working to free the driver from the overturned car.
"Yeah Dad, I'm already on it." Jake said with a relieved smile.
"Well, thanks for thinking of me Jake, but it wasn't me." Mikey's voice came from the back of the van.
"Mikey!" Kevin said happily as he struggled to get out of the seat he was sharing with Kenny.
"Shhh, you don't want to wake Ricardo. He needs his sleep. Give me a minute." Mikey said quietly as he stroked Ricardo's head in his lap.
Kevin reluctantly settled back into his seat as Kenny asked, "Is whoever is in the car going to be okay?"
"Yeah, he'll be fine. He just needs to learn not to talk on his cell phone while he's driving." Mikey said with a distant look.
Xain looked at Mikey in disbelief, then to Jake.
"Well then, thank you for watching over the boys Mikey." Allen said as he glanced at Mikey in the rear-view mirror.
Jake shared his memories of Mikey with Xain along with an undercurrent of his gratitude for Mikey's help.
"I don't just watch over *them*." Mikey said with a mischievous grin back at Allen.
"I thought you were the Patron Saint of Gay and Abandoned youth?" Allen said carefully as he tried to keep at least some attention on his driving.
"I am. That includes you... unless you switched teams when I wasn't looking." Mikey said in a teasing voice.
"No chance of that... but, I'm not a kid." Allen said carefully.
"Sure you are, at least in all the ways that count." Mikey said honestly.
"Oh... so what I was saying to Billy about still feeling like a kid inside... I'm not just imagining that?" Allen asked in thought.
"No. At some point while growing up, most people lose the spark of youth and innocence. That's when they really become adults. Something inside feels the loss of that spark and seeks to regain it. Starting a family and having kids is a way of doing that." Mikey said in thought as he absently continued to stroke Ricardo's hair.
Allen sat in thought at the statement, not knowing if still being a kid inside was a good or a bad thing.
"Your spark started to flicker when Carl died and Kenny left for Chicago. But just in the nick of time, you woke up in that hospital to find Kenny and Kevin beside you. It's a wonderful gift that most people your age can't even conceive. You aren't trying to regain your youth by spending time with your sons, you're sharing your youth with them." Mikey said peacefully.
"Thanks Mikey. I didn't realize that I was so blessed." Allen said with a smile.
"No prob Allen. You're on the right track. Just be true to yourself and enjoy your boys and everything will be fine." Mikey said happily.
"Excuse me. Jake claims that you are an angel... I believed such creatures to be mythological." Xain said as he watched Mikey carefully.
Mikey got a big smile and leaned forward to Xain to whisper, "So did I."
Xain quirked an eyebrow at the unexpected response.
Mikey giggled, then said, "Logically I can't be here... But I am. If you'll promise not to spread what I'm about to tell you outside the family, I could explain the basics."
"Yes, please." Xain said hopefully.
"Everything in the universe follows a certain set of rules." Mikey said in thought.
Xain nodded expectantly as Jake put an arm around him.
"Our Father set those rules in place so his children could be free to enjoy a logical, predictable existence." Mikey said carefully.
Xain listened, devoting his complete attention.
"Our Father created those rules but is in no way bound by them. Since the universe is filled with beings of free will, there is sometimes a need for events to be guided in a certain direction. That's why there are Angels and Saints." Mikey said with a peaceful smile.
"Is it intentional that you do not provide scientific evidence of your existence?" Xain asked carefully.
"Yes, for the most part. Those who are hopelessly bound by their belief in logic and science can choose to ignore us and explain away our works. Those who are believers in religion are free to accept the limited evidence as proof of our existence. Both points of view are valid and necessary. I'm not going to explain everything to you, I just want you to know that logic and science are important but don't encompass everything... you can choose to see beyond logic." Mikey finished with a serious look into Xain's eyes.
"I believe I understand." Xain said in thought.
"I believe you do too.? It isn't necessary to dwell on these questions, just knowing as a fact that some things exist outside the realm of what is scientifically definable and explainable can help you reconcile some of what you are likely to hear and see. Besides that, I think it would be cool if you'd pray to me now and then to let me know how things are going." Mikey finished with a smile.
"Don't you already know?" Jake asked curiously.
"Yeah, for the most part. But I don't know from your point of view. Anyway, I like hearing from you guys." Mikey finished with a warm smile.
Jake nodded as Xain was still lost in thought.
"Here, take Ricardo. I have some twins to cuddle." Mikey said as he gently handed Ricardo to Xain.
"Come on guys. Thanks for being patient." Mikey said as he sat back in the middle of the back seat.
Kenny and Kevin scrambled back and took seats on either side of Mikey.
"Guys, I'm really proud of you, especially how you've taken care of Deacon." Mikey said as he hugged a twin with each arm.
"Thanks Mikey. Anyway, Deacon's kewl." Kenny said seriously as he enjoyed the hug.
"Yeah. He is. Kevin, do you remember how you would feel when your mom would leave for a few days at a time?" Mikey asked quietly.
Kevin nodded seriously.
"That's what Deacon's been feeling all day, every day, most of his life. Keep that in mind. He doesn't know how to ask for attention, he really doesn't know how to accept it, and sometimes he's a little afraid of it." Mikey said seriously.
"But he needs it worse than either of us." Kevin said in thought.
"That's right. Until he's settled into his new life, he could easily melt down if he starts feeling abandoned or in the way." Mikey said carefully.
"That's no problem. We like Deacon. We'll just invite him to join us when we do stuff." Kenny said simply.
"Good. Deacon is very special. If we can get him past this rough part of his life..." Mikey drifted off with a dreamy look, then shook his head to dispel the image in his mind.
"What?" Kenny asked curiously.
"Good things." Mikey said with a secretive smile.
"We're here." Allen said as they pulled into the driveway.
"Would you mind if I held Edovina for a minute before I have to go?" Mikey asked hopefully.
Jake gave Mikey a momentary look of surprise, then said, "Um, sure."
Jake carefully got Edovina out of her car seat while Allen, Kenny and Kevin were climbing out of the SUV.
Mikey accepted Edovina from Jake and said, "Hello Edovina. I just wanted to welcome you to the family."
Edovina looked at Mikey with wide, alert eyes.
Mikey kissed her gently on the forehead, then handed her back to Jake.
"Who's that?" Ricardo asked sleepily from Xain's lap.
"That is Mikey, our guardian Angel." Xain said seriously as Mikey climbed out of the car.
Ricardo looked at Xain curiously, then looked at Mikey with a grand smile.
"Come here Ricardo. I have to fix something." Mikey said as he held out his arms to Ricardo.
"What's wrong?" Allen asked with concern as he walked to Mikey's side.
Mikey took Ricardo into his arms and said, "Nothing serious. Ricardo just got a little too much information in his language dump. Part of the joy of childhood is discovery. I'm putting a few blocks in place until he is older."
"Thanks. I thought his language was a little advanced for his age." Allen said carefully.
"It goes beyond that. Ricardo received all the language skills of Xain and Jake... all of them." Mikey said seriously, then waited for that to sink in.
"Oh, sorry." Jake said with a blush.
"I've just put a few blocks in place that will dissolve naturally when he's old enough to deal with those concepts. He still has his native Spanish, plus Jake's English and Xain's Ceremonial and Standard Vulcan." Mikey said as he cuddled Ricardo tightly.
"Thanks Mikey, I guess we didn't think of that." Allen said shyly.
"Solak and Xain had no way of knowing that a Human child would have difficulty with certain concepts. It wouldn't have been an issue with a Vulcan child." Mikey said, then kissed Ricardo on the cheek.
"I've got to go now. There's a girl in Venice who's about to come out to her parents and may need a little help." Mikey said with a distant look.
"Will you come back to visit us sometimes?" Kevin asked as he hugged Mikey from the side.
"Of course. Probably when you least expect it." Mikey said as he released Ricardo from his hug.
"Thanks for watching out for us Mikey." Kenny said as he hugged Mikey from the other side.
"It's my pleasure guys." Mikey said happily.
Xain and Jake stepped forward and Mikey turned his attention to them.
"When you guys go to Vulcan for the Pon Far ceremony, I'll be there watching over you. I've already put in for the time off." Mikey said seriously.
"Thank you Mikey." Jake said as he gently hugged Mikey with one arm and held Edovina with the other.
"Yes. The knowledge of your presence will be comforting." Xain said seriously.
"Come here." Mikey said and pulled Xain into a hug.
Mikey leaned down so that only Xain could hear and whispered, "You are exactly who and what you were intended to be."
Xain hugged Mikey tightly and whispered, "Thank you Mikey."
Xain released Mikey and took a step back to stand beside Jake.
"Come on Allen, you too." Mikey said with a smile.
Allen gladly stepped forward and was pulled into a joyful hug.
"Carl was well on the way to an... unpleasant afterlife. His time with you and Kenny was enough to change his fate. He's at peace and very proud of you." Mikey said gently.
Allen hugged even tighter and said, "I just had a feeling that he made it."
"He did, and he has a message for you." Mikey said with a gentle smile.
"What's that?" Allen asked as he pulled out of the hug to look Mikey in the eyes.
"He says that Billy is a total stud. Go for it." Mikey said with a timid smile.
Allen laughed and said, "Well, Carl always was one for getting right to the point."
"I've got to go now. I'm proud of you guys, keep it up." Mikey said happily.
Jake blushed at the statement.
Mikey noticed and rolled his eyes as he dissolved in a shower of golden sparkles and laughter.
* * * * *
"Mamacita!" Jake said happily as he hurried into the kitchen.
Juana looked at Jake curiously as he pulled her into a hug.
Kenny and Kevin went immediately to Reuben and hugged him tightly.
"What is wrong?" Juana asked with confusion and concern from Jake's one armed hug.
"We saw an accident on the way home and for a minute... we thought it was you." Allen said quietly.
"We were scared that you were hurt." Kevin said honestly as he held Reuben tightly.
"Yeah. It scared us really bad." Kenny said as he hugged Reuben from the other side.
"It is satisfying to see that you are well." Xain said seriously as he looked into Juana's eyes.
"Thank you Xain." Juana whispered through the beginnings of tears in her eyes.
"Have you started on dinner?" Allen asked curiously.
"No, I was putting away the dishes from lunch." Juana said carefully.
"Good, then I'd like to take us all out to dinner tonight." Allen said gently.
Juana nodded as Jake finally released her from the hug.
The sound of the phone ringing surprised everyone in the room.
"I guess they got it turned on." Allen said casually as he walked to the phone by the kitchen door.
After a moment of listening, Allen looked at the clock and said, "That's fine. In fact, that works out perfectly. We're going out to dinner tonight, you can come with us."
"Don't worry about that, we're not going anyplace formal. I promise that it will be someplace you can feel comfortable." Allen said seriously.
"Good, I'll pick you up at 5:45." Allen said quickly, then hung up the phone.
Everyone looked at Allen in question.
"Mona will be joining us for dinner." Allen said with a smile.
Juana looked at Allen curiously.
"My mother." Allen said in clarification.
"Why do you call she who is your mother by her name?" Xain asked curiously.
"Wait until you meet her. If you still don't understand after that, I'll explain it to you." Allen said seriously.
Xain nodded cautiously, then accepted Edovina from Jake.
"Juana, if you'll take the boys to the restaurant, I'll pick Mona up at the bus station and meet you there." Allen said seriously.
"Yes. Of course." Juana said carefully.
"We still have a few hours until all that happens. I have to make a phone call right now, so why don't you guys discuss what you'd like to do this weekend?" Allen asked carefully.
* * * * *
After calling to get cable and Internet service hooked up, Allen found the group in the living room.
"What did you guys come up with?" Allen asked as he took a seat.
"Nothing for sure. We've all been kind of thinking out loud." Jake said carefully.
"What have you been thinking?" Allen asked curiously.
"Well, Reuben was interested in Disney. Kevin was talking about Sea world. Kenny was wanting to see if the Dolphins are playing. Xain suggested a trip to the Smithsonian. And I was thinking about Graceland." Jake said seriously.
"All very good ideas. It's going to be tough to pick one." Allen said in thought.
"No it isn't. We already figured it out." Kevin said with a big smile.
"Really? What did we decide?" Allen asked curiously.
"Since we're kind of celebrating Deacon's birthday all day today. Why don't we let him decide what he wants to do this weekend?" Kevin said happily.
"Is that okay with everyone?" Allen asked as he looked around.
"Dad, we'll all have fun no matter where we go... we'd have fun if we stayed here. Besides, from what Kenny told us, you'll want to take us all those places anyway." Jake said happily.
"Well, you're right about that. But this isn't the best time of year for some of those activities. I think we'll probably hold Disney and Sea world until late in the Spring or Summer. I guess we'll wait for Deacon and Billy to get home to decide." Allen said peacefully.
"Can we watch a movie right now... I mean, like a family?" Kenny asked hopefully.
"Sure, if you can find one that everyone will want to watch." Allen said with surprise.
"I think Ricardo would like Willy Wonka." Kenny said immediately.
"That's fine with me." Allen said hesitantly.
"I've never seen it." Kevin said quietly.
"Me neither." Jake said with a smile.
Xain shook his head to say he hadn't either.
"I saw it once a long time ago, but it was before I knew English." Reuben said seriously.
"Well, I think you'll all enjoy it." Allen said as Kenny got the DVD and loaded it into the player.
* * * * *
"Why would the authorities allow Mr. Wonka to make slaves of the Cherellian miners?" Xain asked carefully.
"They're Oompa Loompas, not Cherellian miners. And they aren't slaves, they're factory workers."? Kenny said seriously.
"Their size and coloring would suggest that they evolved in a high gravity environment with extreme solar radiation. Cherellians are the only species I am aware of that were able to survive a Class G environment and if Mr. Wonka bought their mining contract, he would in essence, be their master." Xain said reasonably.
Kenny couldn't think of any way to respond.
"The bodily secretions of Cherellians would make them unsuitable for Human food preparation." Xain said in thought.
"It's just a movie Xain." Allen said quietly, wondering if this was such a good idea.
* * * * *
"Why didn't the Cherellian miners help the little fat kid?" Kevin asked with tears in his eyes.
"By the lyrics of their song, they believe that his eating disorder makes him unworthy of survival." Xain said as he watched the movie carefully.
Jake smiled fondly at Xain, then pulled him into a casual hug.
"He isn't dead. Just watch." Allen said in frustration.
"Oh... Okay." Kevin said quietly as he discretely moved into Allen's lap to be held.
* * * * *
"The boat ride was funny when I couldn't understand what they were saying." Reuben said as he moved closer to his mother.
"The method of transportation is inefficient and I fail to see the purpose of such a tunnel in a factory that manufactures chocolate products." Xain said seriously.
"I used to see things like that." Jake said absently as he took gentle hold of Xain's hand.
Allen just snuggled Kevin and tried to focus on the movie.
* * * * *
"They are going to squeeze the juice out of the fat blue girl?" Kevin asked in astonishment.
"It's just a movie Kevin." Allen said as he felt Kevin's hold on him get even tighter.
"It was irresponsible of the Cherellian miners and Mr. Wonka to allow the child access to such a dangerous item." Xain said firmly.
"It's just a movie Xain." Allen said in a tired voice.
"He shouldn't have invited kids into his place if he couldn't protect them." Jake said seriously.
"It's just a movie Jake." Allen said, even more quietly.
* * * * *
"What's he going to do to Charlie?" Kevin asked as tears filled his eyes.
"Shhh, he's going to be fine. I promise." Allen said as he held Kevin tightly.
"Yeah. Finely chopped." Jake said as he saw the spinning fan blades.
"Thinly sliced." Xain corrected seriously.
* * * * *
"I find her ability to openly declare her desires to be a logical approach." Xain said in a considering voice.
"Yeah, nobody knows what you want unless you ask for it." Jake said as he snuggled into Xain's side.
"He's going to hurt her, I don't want to see it." Kevin said as he buried his face into Allen's chest.
Allen glanced over to see Reuben also hiding his face in Juana's chest as Ricardo slept against her side.
"That's Varuca, you're not supposed to like her. You're supposed to see that she's a spoiled brat." Kenny said seriously.
"Her behavior is reasonable. It is the behavior of he who is her father that is unreasonable. As the parent, it is his responsibility to set boundaries." Xain said in thought.
"Yeah. She's just asking. It's his job to say 'no' sometimes." Jake agreed as he shifted down in the couch to rest his head on Xain's shoulder.
* * * * *
"That is the most inefficient... could they have not walked into the next room?" Xain asked in disbelief.
"Yeah, and that foamy soda pop stuff just looks nasty. Why would you even build a car like that." Jake said as he craned his neck to look into Xain's eyes.
"I thought it was going to kill Charlie because he drank that flying soda stuff." Kevin said quietly.
* * * * *
"He needs to adjust the matter gain and increase the containment field to correct the size discrepancy in his transporter." Xain said as he watched carefully.
Allen smiled and said, "I didn't consider that you would know how to repair Willy Wonka's television."
"Only in theory. I have no practical experience with transporter technology." Xain said, then his eyes went wide as he saw Mike Teevee transport himself.
"He did that on purpose... that kid needs to spend some time with Dan." Jake said seriously.
"I believe he is acting in such a manner to gain the attention of she who is his mother." Xain said in a speculative voice.
"I think one of the Cherellian miners is going to eat him." Kevin said as he held close to Allen.
"He'll be fine. It's just a movie." Allen said in a concerned whisper.
* * * * *
"So the child, Charlie is the new slave holder of the Cherellian miners and now has responsibility for the unsafe and unsanitary chocolate factory?" Xain asked slowly.
"I guess you could say that." Allen said with resignation.
"I think Wonka is setting him up. He knows that he's just a few days away from someone finding out what he's doing in the factory and so he's giving it to Charlie so he won't get in trouble." Jake said in thought.
"That would be a logical conclusion." Xain said speculatively as he absently stroked Jake's hair with a feather light touch.
"And Charlie will go to jail and Wonka can start another factory with all the money he made from this one. Just like when you move a meth lab." Kevin said in realization.
"Hence his lack of concern about damaging the structure when they left in his transparent escape pod." Xain said with a nod.
"Uncle Allen? Do we have time to watch another movie?" Reuben asked hopefully.
Allen looked at Reuben's hopeful expression and quietly said, "It depends on the movie."
"Wizard of Oz?" Reuben asked hopefully.
Allen looked at the clock, then said with a smile of relief, "No Reuben, we don't."
* * * * *
"Hey guys, what's going on?" Allen asked with a cheerful smile.
"Well, Deke and I were talking and decided that we'd like to take you all out for dinner tonight." Billy said hopefully.
"We do sort of have plans, but we were hoping you could join us." Allen said hesitantly as he led them into the living room.
"What kind of plans?" Billy asked cautiously.
"Mona, my mother, is coming to visit and I'm going to take her out to dinner. I was hoping you and Deacon could come along." Allen asked a bit shyly.
Billy looked at Allen cautiously before saying, "Yeah, we could do that. But only if you let me pay. You've been feeding us both since yesterday."
Allen looked as if he were going to refuse, but saw the determined look in Billy's eyes and finally nodded.
"Can we ask Deacon about this weekend?" Kenny asked hopefully.
"Go ahead." Allen said with a smile as he took a seat in his favorite chair.
"Dad says we can go do something this weekend, all of us, you included. And we thought that since we're having your birthday today, you could decide what we're going to do." Kenny said with a grand smile.
Deacon got a look of fear and looked at Billy.
"We all agreed that you get to pick, so no one's going to be mad or nothing like that." Kenny said quickly.
"Um, like where?" Deacon asked cautiously.
"Guys. Why don't? you take Deacon upstairs and discuss it in your room. I'd like a minute to talk with Billy and Juana." Allen said seriously.
"Sure Dad." Jake said and picked Edovina up from her stroller.
Xain automatically grabbed the diaper bag from the back of the stroller and followed Jake out of the room.
When the last of the boys were gone, Billy and Juana both looked at Allen with question.
"I already told Juana about the wreck we saw on the way home." Allen began in deep thought.
"I heard about it on the radio when I was driving us to the store." Billy said seriously.
"Well, it was a BMW, just like the one Juana was driving." Allen said slowly.
"And you thought it was Juana." Billy said, completing Allen's thought.
Allen nodded, then said, "I don't know if you've thought about this. But something like that could happen to any one of us. I'm going to talk to my lawyer and get a will drawn up that states in no uncertain terms what I want done with the boys if anything should happen to me." Allen said carefully.
"Shit, I never even thought about that." Billy said with a distant look.
"I haven't either." Juana said quietly.
"Now I just need your advice on how to do it... I mean, I'd hate to have to split them up, but four boys..." Allen said in a distant voice.
"I'll do it." Billy said firmly.
"Are you sure?" Allen asked cautiously.
"Yeah. I've got enough money that I could take off work for a few years and live pretty well if I wanted to. Your boys are as much brothers as me and Deke, we can't split them up. Besides, if something happens to you, I'll have Juana to help me take care of them." Billy said with a smile.
"Yes. And it would be my pleasure." Juana said seriously.
"I guess I'd better do the same for Deke. What do you say Allen? If something happened to me, could you take on another one?" Billy asked seriously.
"Absolutely." Allen said without a moments hesitation.
"And my boys?" Juana asked slowly.
"Of course Juana. If you want, I'll set up a time when you can talk with my lawyer." Allen said in a serious tone.
"Yes. Thank you. If something were to happen to me otherwise, the boys would go to my sister, Maria... she has five children, she cannot care for more." Juana said in a low voice.
"This is all just in case. I just want to be sure that the boys will end up somewhere that they'll be loved and cared for." Allen said firmly.
"Same here." Billy said, matching Allen's tone.
"Yes." Juana said, sounding sure of herself.
"Good. I'll call my lawyer tomorrow and set it up. Billy, do you have a lawyer?" Allen thought to ask.
"I have a contract lawyer. But I've never needed one for something like this." Billy said carefully.
"I'll put you in touch. I guess we'd better think about getting the crew ready to go." Allen said as he looked at his watch.
"Where were you thinking of going?" Billy asked curiously.
Allen smiled as he thought of the perfect place.
* * * * *
"Mona!" Allen called in delight as he saw her walking from the bus platform.
"Oh Allen, it's good to be here." Mona said with relief.
"Did you have a bad trip?" Allen asked as he picked up her suitcase.
"I've just spent three hours beside a man who believed he was 'The Holy Spirit'." Mona said frankly.
Allen chuckled, then said, "You did it to yourself Mona. How long till you get your license back anyway?"
"Two more months... Florida Highway Patrol officers have no sense of humor." She said with a shake of her head.
"Neither do the judges apparently." Allen said as he led her to the car.
Before Mona could respond to his comment, she saw where he was leading her and stopped.
Allen turned to look at her and said, "What?"
"Don't 'what' me Allen. I thought I raised you better than this." Mona said sternly.
Allen rolled his eyes and opened the trunk to put her suitcase in.
"Who would have thought that a son of mine would be driving a BMW." Mona said in a tone of long suffering.
"This was Carl's car. Juana took my car on to the restaurant." Allen said as he stood by the drivers side door.
"You're not too yuppie and proper to be seen with your old mother are you?" Mona asked in a teasing voice.
"Either get in or run along side." Allen said with a smile as he got into the car.
Mona chuckled and got in.
* * * * *
"So have you warned the boys about me?" Mona asked cautiously.
"No." Allen said with a smile.
Mona chuckled and said, "Good. I learn a lot about a person by their first reaction."
"I can't even guess what their reactions will be, but they're all good boys. I know they'll love you." Allen said warmly.
Mona looked at Allen carefully and said, "I've never seen you look so contented."
Allen smiled and said, "I'm happy."
"It shows. God Allen, you've had me worried." Mona said seriously.
"I know. But I just followed my heart... I learned from the best." Allen said with a glance at Mona.
Mona chuckled and said, "As far as examples go, I'm far from the best."
"You're wrong. You showed me how to be myself, no matter what anyone else thinks... even you." Allen said frankly.
Mona considered the words, then got a distant look as she said, "When you were just a toddler I pictured what you'd be like as an adult..."
"Are you disappointed?" Allen asked cautiously.
Mona gave a hearty laugh, then said, "Not hardly. In my daydream I had you married... to a woman. Working as an auto mechanic and coming over every Sunday to have dinner with your dear old mom."
"I know I didn't make the choices that you wanted me to, but looking back, I wouldn't change a thing." Allen said seriously.
"I can't think of many people who can say that." Mona said with a tender smile.
"You can." Allen said frankly.
"Yeah. I guess I can." Mona said with a distant look.
"We're here." Allen said as he pulled into the Pizza Hut parking lot.
Mona saw where they were and started laughing.
"I told you it was someplace you could feel comfortable."
* * * * *
"There's Pop." Kenny said with excitement.
"Okay guys. We're going to get to meet our new grandma, so everyone be nice." Jake said seriously.
"She gonna be my gamma too?" Ricardo asked hopefully.
Jake looked at Ricardo and said, "I bet she will."
Allen walked into the dining room, preceding a woman. Everyone at the table strained to see past him.
"Everyone, I'd like for you to meet my mother, Mona Bridson (a/n pronounced Brideson)." Allen said proudly.
Kenny looked with wide eyes at the woman who stood two inches taller than Allen and outweighed him by at least thirty pounds, all muscle.
Jake smiled with delight as he saw Mona. He noticed that she wore no makeup, her long auburn hair was pulled back in a simple pony tail and her clothes were casual and comfortable. He automatically felt as if he could relate to her.
Xain gave a cursory examination of she who was Allen's mother. She was slightly taller than the average Human female. Her casual nature and unpretentious appearance cause Xain to briefly think of his own mother. Unbidden, an emotion welled up within him and he immediately established his link with Jake to identify it and determine the appropriate way to deal with it.
Kevin looked at Mona with wonder. His grandmother, his real, very own, grandmother was standing before him.
Reuben looked at Mona and smiled. She was a pretty woman. She was 'real pretty' like his momma, not 'fake pretty' like movie stars.
Ricardo looked at Mona and knew nothing but the hope that she would be his grandmother.
"Mona, this is Juana Vasquez. She looks after the house and the boys when I'm at work." Allen said gently.
"A pleasure to meet you Mrs. Vasquez." Mona said as she held out a hand to shake.
Juana gently shook the hand and said, "Please call me Juana."
Mona gave a warm smile and said, "Okay Juana, and you call me Mona."
Allen smiled and said, "Over here we have my neighbor and good friend Billy Pierce. Billy, this is Mona."
"I think I've seen you in your underwear." Mona said as she looked at Billy carefully.
"What?" Billy said with a gasp.
"Either it was you or you have a twin running around doing underwear ads." Mona said seriously.
"Oh... that was me." Billy said with a scarlet blush.
Mona looked him up and down and finally said with a smile, "I love your work."
Allen chuckled and said, "Beside Billy is his brother Deacon."
Mona looked at Deacon carefully and said, "I bet you'll be doing some modeling soon. You're just about as good looking as your brother."
Deacon immediately hid his face as he blushed even more than Billy.
"Okay, and now for my boys. Beside Deacon, we have my son Kenny." Allen said with pride.
"Oh, Allen's told me about you. You're the one who like's models and sports, right?" Mona asked gently.
"Yes Ma'am." Kenny said cautiously.
"You can call me grandma if you want... or Mona if you're like Allen." She finished with a smirk directed at Allen.
"Beside Kenny is his twin brother Kevin." Allen said, not phased by her comment.
"Oh, the artist. You're going to have to draw something for me while I visit." Mona said gently to the pale, thin boy.
"I'll draw something really nice for you grandma." Kevin said happily.
Mona smiled at finally being called Grandma.
"Beside Kevin is my nephew, Juana's son Reuben." Allen said with a big smile.
"Nephew? Well, that means that you must be my grandson too." Mona said with delight.
"Really?" Reuben asked with joy.
"That's right." Mona said with a warm smile.
"Next to Reuben is my second oldest son, Xain." Allen said with anticipation.
"It's a pleasure to meet you Xain. Who are you holding?" Mona asked as she walked around the table to see the baby in Xain's lap.
"This is Edovina, my daughter." Xain said with a note of pride in his voice.
"Your great-granddaughter." Allen added.
"Great Granddaughter?" Mona asked in wonder as she caressed Edovina's cheek with one finger.
Edovina looked up and saw Mona and gave a gurgle of delight.
"She's gorgeous." Mona said in amazement.
"Beside Xain and Edovina is Jake, my oldest son and Edovina's other father." Allen said with a great smile.
Mona looked up in time to see the tender look of loved he directed at Edovina.
"It's a pleasure to meet you Jake." Mona said quietly.
Jake looked up and met her gaze.
"Allen tells me you like music. Later I'll tell you about some of the times I partied with Crüe." Mona said with a smile.
"You partied with Mötley Crüe?" Jake asked in wonder.
"Yeah. A few times... I'll tell you later." Mona said with a glorious smile.
"The young man in the booster chair is my other nephew, Ricardo." Allen said with a warm smile.
"Oh sweetie. You are just too adorable for words." Mona said as she automatically hugged him.
"You my gamma?" Ricardo asked hopefully.
"That's right. I'm your grandma." Mona said as she lifted him from his seat to hold him in a gentle hug.
"And we're back to Juana, come over and sit down. You guys already ordered didn't you?" Allen asked as he took his seat.
Mona took her seat, still holding Ricardo in her arms.
"Yeah. I still think four pizzas is a little too much. But like Allen said, they are growing boys." Billy said with a smile.
A waiter walked to the table and quietly asked, "Can I get you something to drink?"
"Dear God, please tell me you have beer." Mona said hopefully.
The waiter chuckled and said, "Yes Ma'am, I can bring you the drink menu if you like."
"Do you have Bud on tap?" Mona asked quickly.
"Yes we do." The waiter said with a genuine smile.
"Set me up and keep 'em coming till the pizza's gone." Mona said seriously.
"And for you sir?" The waiter asked Allen, trying to restrain his laughter.
"Since I'm driving, I'll just have iced tea." Allen said with a smile.
"I'll be right back." The waiter said and hurried away.