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"Robin, Kayla, this is Jake." Clint said shyly as they approached.
"It's nice to meet you. Ian has mentioned you." Robin said with a genuine smile.
Jake looked at Robin with question.
"He just said that you have a Vulcan boyfriend. I'm not sure why, but Ian is fascinated with Vulcans." Robin said warmly.
"Xain is more than a Vulcan. He's a really good person." Jake said, a bit defensively.
"Hopefully Ian will see that for himself. If he can learn the lesson that generalizations about people don't define who they are, he should be able to adopt a more realistic view toward Vulcans." Robin said in thought.
Jake smiled and said, "Yeah, I think you're right."
"Um, Jake and Crystal and I were talking about something and we thought we'd talk to you about it..." Clint trailed off, seeming to run out of steam.
"They need to have some private time as a couple." Jake said with a smile at Clint's embarrassed look.
"So do we." Kayla said frankly.
Jake looked at Kayla with question.
"Robin and I were talking about it today and realized that... basically, we miss each other." Kayla said with a helpless expression.
"Oh, I didn't think of that..." Crystal said, feeling like they were being a burden to their new parents.
"So it looks like you're all having the same problem. What can we do to fix it?" Jake asked as he carefully watched the expressions of the people around him.
"I don't know. I just feel like we need some time to be alone, just the two of us." Clint said helplessly as he looked at Robin and Kayla.
"I don't know if it will work, but why don't we just set aside an hour or so each night for us to just, be together. Everyone will know that the time is for all the couples to be alone. That way no one will have to worry about being interrupted." Robin said in thought.
"What about Ian?" Kayla asked with concern.
Jake got a distant look for an instant, then said, "Ian wants to spend that time talking with Toby. He feels like they don't get to spend enough time together."
"They're together all day at school and most afternoons when they get home." Robin said incredulously.
"But it's never just the two of them. Someone else is always around. They need some time when they can talk privately, just like any other couple." Jake said as he broke out of his distant gaze.
"I didn't think of that. Well, it sounds like we've got a plan." Kayla said with a smile.
"Yeah. Thanks Jake. Here I thought we were going to have to get into a big detailed explanation about *why* we needed time together." Clint said with relief.
"I think this is going to be great. How about this? Tomorrow after dinner, all of us can spend an hour or so doing something as a family, then after that, we'll break off into couples and finish the evening that way?" Robin asked with a smile.
"That sounds soooo perfect." Crystal said with delight.
"Then it's a date!" Kayla said cheerfully.
"Xain and Ian are on their way back outside, I'll talk to you guys later." Jake said as he turned to leave.
"Thanks for all your help Jake." Clint said with honest gratitude in his expression.
"Anytime." Jake said with a peaceful smile as he walked toward the back door of the house to wait for Xain.
* * * * *
"Hey guys, how are things going?" Teri asked as she entered the room.
"Okay I guess, Mom, this is Vincent, Lawrence's brother. Vincent, this is my mom, Teri Short, the Director of Federation Youth Services." Cory said quietly.
"Um, what does that mean?" Vincent asked slowly.
"It's just a big title that means I help kids who need it." Teri said casually as she walked past the boys and took a seat in the chair beside Vincent's bed.
"So what are you going to do?" Vincent asked cautiously.
"First, I'm going to ask you what you want to do." Teri said simply.
"I just want to go home and be happy." Vincent said in a small, defeated voice.
"I wish I could do that for you Vincent, but I think you know that's not possible." Teri said quietly.
"What's going to happen to my dad?" Vincent asked in a fearful tone.
"As soon as the police detective is done here, I'm pretty sure your father is going to be arrested for what he's done to you and your brother." Teri said frankly.
Tears began to well up in Vincent's eyes.
"Vincent? I need you to listen to me now." Teri said and gently took his hand.
Vincent hesitantly looked into her eyes.
"I promise that I'll do whatever I can to help you and your family. To do that, the first thing I have to do is make sure that you're safe. Once I know that you aren't going to be hurt anymore, I'll do whatever I can to try and find out why your father is behaving the way he is." Teri said softly.
"Does that mean you won't make him go to jail?" Vincent asked hopefully.
"He probably will go to jail. There's not really anything I can do to prevent that. But I think that if I talk to a few friends, I might be able to have some medical and psychological tests run on your father to find out why he hurt you. Once we know that, then maybe there is a way we can help him." Teri said softly.
"Cory said something about me maybe going to a camp... is that what you want me to do?" Vincent asked in a worried voice.
"That's a possibility. I tell you what, if you want, I think I could arrange it so you could come home with me for a few days. Then we could talk about all your options and see what happens with your parents and the police. How do you feel about that?" Teri asked gently.
"Would I be able to talk to my mom and let her know where I am and that I'm okay?" Vincent asked slowly.
"Yes. That shouldn't be a problem. Let me make a quick call to get this arranged, then I'll see if your mother is allowed to come in and visit with you for a while." Teri said pleasantly.
"Okay." Vincent said softly.
"Mom, before you do that, Sammy and Sebastian are ready to make a report." Cory said quickly.
Teri smiled at her son, then looked at the twin boys and said, "Why don't you take a peek in my mind and just tell me what I haven't already figured out for myself."
Sammy and Sebastian looked at each other with question for an instant, then carefully looked into Teri's mind.
"I think you have everything that's important." Sebastian finally said carefully.
"Good. Now excuse me for a minute while I make a call." Teri said and quickly left the room.
"If you'll let me take a quick look at you, I'll see how you're doing." Dr. Jenkins said as he moved to Vincent's bedside.
Cory and the rest of the group stepped away from the bed to allow Dr. Jenkins free movement.
"Excuse me?" The Japanese gentleman asked quietly from behind Cory.
"Yes?" Deacon responded as he turned to face the man.
"I am Akemi Ishii. I would like to thank you for being nice to my son. He arrived here three weeks ago from Japan and it has been difficult for him. For him to have someone close to his age to talk to has made him very happy." The man said sincerely.
"Your welcome. If you wouldn't mind, I could give Koji my phone number so we can talk whenever he wants." Deacon said uncertainly.
"He is asleep now, but if you'll give it to me, I'll see that he gets it." Mr. Ishii said with a look of love directed at his son.
"We can give him all our numbers if that's okay. That way he can have lots of people to talk to." Cory said quietly.
"He speaks very little English. He said that you spoke Japanese." Mr. Ishii said to Deacon carefully.
"Yes. In fact, all us kids except Vincent in the bed over there can speak Japanese." Deacon said proudly.
"That will make him very happy. He's been extremely lonely here and I didn't know what to do to help him." Mr. Ishii said regretfully.
"Is he going to be okay?" Deacon asked, looking at Koji with concern.
"Yes. He has had a bad reaction to American fast food. His body cannot yet tolerate the amount of fat, sugar and salt that we are accustomed to. He has been living with the family of my late wife in Japan all his life and has only ever had traditional Japanese food. Now that his grandparents are too elderly to care for him, he has come to live with me..." Mr. Ishii said in a distant voice.
"Ishii-san, it sounds like your son isn't the only one having difficulty with adjusting to him being here. Maybe there's something we can do to help you both." Cory said seriously.
"I don't know what you could do to help." Mr. Ishii said in a lost voice.
"We'll figure it out..." Cory began to say when he was interrupted.
"Toire wa doko desu ka?" Koji asked in a gasp.
Mr. Ishii quickly went to Koji's bedside and helped him to the bathroom.
"Good. That's what I was hoping for." Dr. Jenkins said as he watched from beside Vincent's bed.
Cory looked at Dr. Jenkins with question.
"Let's just say that Koji's medical problem just, um... worked itself out." Dr. Jenkins said with a smile.
"How is Vince?" Lawrence asked as he turned his full attention to the Dr. and his brother.
"Well, his marbles aren't all back in the bag yet. But the only treatment for what ails him now is rest." Dr. Jenkins said gently.
"What? Does that mean I can leave?" Vincent asked hopefully.
"Yes, as long as you aren't left alone. You may still have bouts of nausea and lightheadedness but they should get less and less severe as the day goes on... Also, no driving or operating heavy machinery for the next seventy-two hours." Dr. Jenkins said firmly, then broke into a smile.
Vincent looked at the doctor with confusion.
"Why is he allowed to tease the guy with the head injury when I'm not?" Lawrence asked in a playful voice.
"Because he's had years of medical training and knows when it's okay to play." Cory said with a smile.
Teri walked into the room and walked to Dr. Jenkins' side.
"Is everything settled?" Dr. Jenkins asked curiously.
"Just about. When will Vincent be able to leave?" Teri asked curiously.
"Whenever he has someplace to go." Dr. Jenkins said in a friendly tone.
"Then I guess I need to go talk with Mrs. Winters for a minute..." Teri began to say when the door opened again.
"Mom. Is everything okay?" Vincent asked with concern.
"I was going to ask you the same thing. How are you feeling baby?" Mrs. Winters asked as she walked to her son's side.
"My head hurts. I felt like I was going to throw up a few times, but I'm okay now." Vincent said seriously.
"Since you're past the worst of your symptoms, I can give you something for the headache now. I'll get it for you in just a minute." Dr. Jenkins said as he made some notes on Vincent's chart.
"Honey, I'm going to have to go with Detective Blair for a while and I don't know when I'll be back." Mrs. Winters said in nearly a whisper.
"Mrs. Winters..." Teri began to say.
"Peggy." Mrs. Winters said with a sad look at Teri.
"Peggy. If you would allow it, I'd like to take Vincent home with me tonight. That way you'll know that he's somewhere safe and you won't have to worry about it if you have to be away for a while." Teri said seriously.
"You mean you aren't going to take Vincent away from me?" Mrs. Winters asked in wonder.
"Not unless I have to. Until your husband is taken into custody, I don't think Vincent would be safe at your home. After that... well, let's just see how things work out. I'll give you my phone number so you can call Vincent and see how he's doing whenever you want." Teri said in a gentle voice.
"The child... both children need to be taken into state custody immediately." Ms. Rind said forcefully.
"Why? You seemed to believe Vincent was fine where he was when I left you." Teri asked with interest.
"In the interview, Mrs. Winters revealed that one of the children has undergone long term abuse. With her admission on record, I have no choice but to recommend immediate placement of both children into a state approved child care facility." Ms. Rind said with strength.
"Do you believe that Mrs. Winters is responsible for the crimes committed against her children?" Teri asked, not allowing Ms. Rind's hostility to influence her tone.
Teri glanced at Sammy and Sebastian to receive shakes of their heads as an answer.
"I would have to interview both children and conduct a full investigation before making that determination. While that is being done, the children should be in a state facility or state approved foster care." Ms. Rind said firmly.
"Ms. Rind. Peggy is as much a victim of the abusive situation as the children. Since she's chosen to stand up for herself and the children by cooperating, I don't see any reason for Vincent to be taken away from her..." Teri said, maintaining her pleasant, professional demeanor.
"She's not my concern. With the confirmation of abuse on record, the proper procedure is to take the children immediately into state custody. If you try to stop me, I'll have you arrested." Ms. Rind said forcefully.
Teri's pleasant expression dropped and she looked at Ms. Rind with icy determination in her eyes.
"Ms. Rind, you are a bureaucrat of the worst kind. You process these children into the system like you're an assembly line worker without getting to know them or feeling any type of concern for their individual needs. This child has a name. This is Vincent Winters. He's a person who has just been through a traumatic experience. The last thing he needs is to be ripped away from his mother by some soulless agent of the state. Do you have any idea of what will happen to him in your foster care system? Do you know how long and how much effort it will take for Mrs. Winters to get custody of him again when you're finished with him? Do you even care that he would be separated from everyone in his life that he turns to for safety and comfort?" Teri asked in a low icy voice.
"The matter of Lawrence's custody is settled and you have no authority to relocate him. And if you cared anything about Vincent at all, you would see that what I'm offering him is a chance to keep all the best and most important things in his life. Detective Blair and Mrs. Winters can be free to do what they need to do about Vincent's father and not have to worry about Vincent's safety or emotional well-being..."
"Detective, make sure she doesn't leave. I'm going to get a court order to force her to turn the children over to my custody." Ms. Rind said forcefully as she pulled out a cell phone.
Teri rolled her eyes, then looked at the detective with question.
"She can't tell me what to do. If you decide to leave, I won't stop you." Detective Blair said frankly.
Teri smiled and said, "Thanks OC. It's tempting, but I wouldn't want to run out in the middle of a fight."
"Somehow I didn't think you would." Detective Blair said with a smile.
"What!?" Ms. Rind screamed into the phone.
"You can't be serious!" She said as Dr. Jenkins walked to her side.
"Would you please be quiet, this is a hospital." Dr. Jenkins said as he tried to gain her attention.
Ms. Rind ignored the doctor completely and turned to face Teri with a look of fury on her face.
"Jamie said 'no', didn't he?" Teri asked with an impish grin.
"This isn't over! I'm going to contact my supervisors and find a way to get those children into our custody where they belong!" Ms. Rind said vehemently.
"Please Ms. Rind. You need to either quiet down or leave." Dr. Jenkins said more insistently.
"This is official CPS business! You've examined the child and made your report so you can leave. I'm not done yet!" Ms. Rind screamed.
Dr. Jenkins went to the phone beside Vincent's bed and dialed a number quickly.
"Security? This is Dr. Jenkins. Would you please send someone up to escort a hysterical woman out of room 210?"
Ms. Rind turned her furious gaze on the doctor.
Dr. Jenkins then dialed another number and waited.
"You can't do that! I'm here on official business!" Ms. Rind ranted.
"Mr. Cummings? This is Dr. Jenkins. I'm having Ms. Rind from Child Protective Services escorted from the building for loud and disruptive behavior." Dr. Jenkins said seriously.
"That's right, 210" Dr. Jenkins said professionally.
"You have no authority over me! I represent Child Protective Services!" Ms. Rind screamed.
"Yes sir, I did. I asked her to speak more quietly twice and to leave once. " He said with a glance at Ms. Rind.
"Yes. Thank you Mr. Cummings. I'll tell her." Dr. Jenkins said with a smile, then hung up the phone.
Two uniformed security officers walked into the room and looked at the doctor expectantly.
"Ms. Rind. I just spoke to the hospital administrator. He's received several complaints about the noise coming from this room. Since I asked you to be quiet and you refused, you are being asked to leave the premises... and not return. You are banned from entering this hospital until further notice. Mr. Cummings is contacting your regional supervisor to make sure that other representatives of your organization won't behave as badly. Gentlemen, would you please escort Ms. Rind off the property?" Dr. Jenkins finished with an expectant look at the two officers.
The officers walked to Ms. Rind and stood on either side of her.
"Get away from me." Ms. Rind said and pushed one of the security officers out of her way as she stomped toward the door.
The security officer was caught off guard and lost his balance. He landed on his butt in the middle of the floor as everyone looked on in shocked silence.
"Excuse me Ms. Rind. But I am placing you under arrest." Detective Blair said seriously.
"What the fuck are you talking about?" Ms. Rind said as she spun on her heel to glare at the detective.
"Ms. Rind. I'm placing you under arrest for assault on the person of this security officer, for criminal trespass since you refused to leave the premises when asked by a representative of the hospital, and for public indecency in the presence of minor children." Detective Blair said firmly.
"Mrs. Winters, if you'll wait here, I'll be back in a few minutes. Ms. Rind, either come with me now or I'll add resisting arrest to the charges." Detective Blair said firmly.
Ms. Rind saw his determined look and nodded that she would comply.
As Detective Blair walked her to the door, he said in a firm voice, "You have the right to remain silent..."
"When was she indecent?" Gabe asked with confusion.
"When she said the F word." Sammy said seriously.
"You can get arrested for that?" Gabe said with surprise.
"Yes. If you're an adult and you're saying it in front of a room full of children." Dr. Jenkins said frankly.
"Wow. I've always been told it was wrong, but I never thought you could get arrested for saying it." Gabe said in amazement.
"Is the crazy woman gone?" A voice called from the barely opened bathroom door.
"Yes Ishii-san. It's safe to come out now." Cory said with a smile.
"Director Short, this is Mr. Ishii and his son Koji." Deacon said formally.
"It's a pleasure to meet you both." Teri said gently.
"Koji, if you'll lay down on your bed. I'll have a look at you to see how you're doing." Dr. Jenkins said in a friendly voice.
Koji looked at the doctor with complete confusion.
Mr. Ishii quickly told Koji what the doctor had said and helped Koji into his bed.
"So, now that all the excitement is over, I just need to know that we're all agreed on what's going to happen." Teri said frankly as she looked from Mrs. Winters to Vincent.
"I'm going to go to the police station to make a formal statement. Detective Blair said that until my husband is arrested, I should find someplace safe to stay that he doesn't know about..." Mrs. Winters said in thought.
"Do you know of someplace?" Teri asked with concern.
"Yes. I do." Mrs. Winters said quietly.
"Good. If it doesn't work out, just give me a call." Teri said and handed Mrs. Winters a business card.
"Thank you, I will." Mrs. Winters said as she looked at the card carefully.
"That's my number if you want to call to talk to Vincent." Teri said seriously.
"Thank you Director Short. I really thought you were going to take Vincent away from me..." Mrs. Winters finished in a trembling voice.
"If you had decided not to cooperate with the police, I would have taken Vincent into custody to protect him. But I can see that you have your priorities straight, so I'll be willing to work with you." Teri said honestly.
Mrs. Winters nodded but looked apprehensive.
"I promise that Vincent will be fine. Director Short is one of the people who helped me." Lawrence said with strength.
"Lawrence..." Mrs. Winters said with tear-filled eyes.
Lawrence looked at his mother, then quickly around the room.
"Come on. I think we need to talk." Lawrence said firmly.
Mrs. Winters hesitantly followed Lawrence out into the hall.
* * * * *
"Did we miss much?" JC asked as he and Billy joined the group by the pool.
"Not much, your beloved is just greeting the new arrivals out in the driveway." Allen said as he smiled at JC.
JC watched as Chip led a group of people away from the cars.
"I'm glad everyone came. It's been quite a while since we've been able to get everyone together." JC said with a peaceful smile.
"I just hope no one is going to expect me to remember everyone's name." Allen said as he looked at the approaching group.
JC laughed and said, "I'm sure they'll be having the same concern. Just relax, this is a party."
Allen smiled and waited expectantly.
* * * * *
Mrs. Winters looked at Lawrence with tears in her eyes and said, "I should have done this two years ago. I should have called the police the first time your father hit you."
Lawrence looked at his mother with cold regard for a moment, then said, "But you didn't."
Mrs. Winters looked at her oldest son with pain in her eyes.
"I have a wonderful, happy life now. I hope that when this is all over with, you and Vince will have a wonderful and happy life too." Lawrence said in thought.
"I love you." Mrs. Winters said to her son as tears ran down her cheeks.
"But not enough to fight for me or protect me."
"I couldn't... your father..."
"Not my father, your husband. My father is a Lieutenant in Starfleet. My father loved me enough to leave me with you and your husband because he thought it would give me the best possible future. He loves me so much that I know without a doubt that he would fight to defend me."
"I'm sorry." Mrs. Winters said in a whisper.
"If you really are sorry, you can make it up to me by taking good care of my brother. Give him all the love you never gave me, protect him like you never protected me. If you'll do that, I'll consider us even." Lawrence said in a hollow voice.
"Please Lawrence, I'm your mother." Mrs. Winters begged.
"You have a son who loves you and wants to be with you. Protect him, defend him, and be the mother that he needs you to be. Your husband threw me out while you watched. You had a choice to make and you chose to do nothing. I stopped being your son that day. I'll make sure Vince is okay. I'm his big brother, so I'm going to do my best to help him have a better life than I did." Lawrence said firmly.
"Do you two need a few minutes?" Detective Blair asked cautiously as he approached.
"No. We're finished." Lawrence said with a tone of finality and walked into Vincent's room.
Mrs. Winters hung her head as her tears continued to fall.
"Do you want to go say goodbye to Vincent before we leave for the station?" Detective Blair asked quietly.
"Yes, thank you." Mrs. Winters said as she wiped her eyes.
* * * * *
Brady and Mona took their places back at the table as the new mass of people approached them.
JC watched the group approach and noticed something odd.
The people seemed to be moving in formation, as if they were protecting someone at the center of the group.
"Angel, would you make introductions while I get started cooking?" Chip asked with an impish grin.
JC rolled his eyes and said, "I suppose, but you'll owe me one."
"Later..." Chip said with a delighted smile and a wink.
JC stood and said, "Allen and Brady Thompson, Mona Bridson, Billy Pierce and Joe Bowers I'd like for you to meet Dr. Austin Michaels and his wife Carrie, Cecil and Angela Evans..."
As the group parted, JC trailed off as his eyes went wide.
"Mom?" JC asked in shock.
"Surprise!" Karen Chasez said with a grand smile.
JC ran to her and enveloped her in a firm hug.
Chip watched Karen and JC from the Bar-B-Que grill, feeling a rush of contentment wash over him.
"How? I thought you had some big trip planned and couldn't come?" JC asked with the beginnings of tears in his eyes.
"This was my big trip. Chip wanted it to be a surprise." Karen said as she held her son tightly.
JC chuckled and glanced at Chip to find him watching with an expression of love and accomplishment.
"Even after all this time, he can still surprise me." JC said with absolute joy.
"I think that means he's a keeper." Karen whispered into JC's ear.
JC chuckled and renewed his hug with his mother as he said, "I think you're right."
* * * * *
"Okay, that didn't sound good." Sean said as he watched Lawrence and Mrs. Winters leave the room.
"Koji, I think you're going to be fine. Just cut back on the high fat foods for a little while until your body has time to adjust." Dr. Jenkins said seriously.
Mr. Ishii relayed the message to his son and Koji nodded to the doctor shyly in agreement.
"Mom, Koji just came to live here three weeks ago and I think Mr. Ishii could probably use some help dealing with things." Cory said hopefully.
Teri looked at Mr. Ishii and said, "You'll have to excuse my son. He has the best intentions, but he isn't always tactful."
Mr. Ishii looked at Cory with a fond smile and said, "As much as I hate to admit it, your son is right. I have been living as a bachelor for the past ten years and know nothing of how to be a father."
"Mr. Ishii..." Teri began.
"Please call me Kem." He said quickly.
"Thank you Kem, and please call me Teri. I know a child psychologist that could probably help Koji adjust to being in a new country." Teri said as she wrote Dan's number on the back of her business card.
"Perhaps that would be best. Koji has been withdrawn and very alone since he arrived. I hope his limited English won't be a problem." Kem said with concern.
"We'll let Dan and Koji work that out. I know about thirty boys who speak fluent Japanese, so I don't think it will be too big a problem." Teri said with a smile as she handed the business card to Kem.
"Thirty?" Kem asked in surprise.
"It's a long story. That's my card. I think it would be good if we could arrange a time when Koji could come over and visit with the boys. Dan's number is on the back, tell him I sent you and I'm sure he'll be able to work you in." Teri said with a smile.
"Thank you very much Teri." Kem said as he reverently put the business card in a case he kept in his chest pocket.
* * * * *
"Hey Dad, did we miss anything?" Jake asked as he and Xain walked to the table where Allen and Brady were sitting comfortably.
"Just a whole bunch of people. How are you guys doing?" Allen asked as he motioned for Xain to hand Edovina to him.
Xain carefully transferred the baby into Allen's waiting arms.
"We're fine. I'm just starting to get hungry." Jake said honestly.
"Well, Chip is over there working on cooking the meat, so it shouldn't be too long now." Allen said with a glance at Chip.
"So what are you guys going to do now?" Brady asked casually.
"Well, since Dad has Vina, I think it would be nice if Xain and I just walked around and looked at this place for a while. It's really beautiful here." Jake said in thought.
"Yeah, in fact, I was thinking about asking Josh and Chip if I could do a photo shoot here. The architecture, landscaping and decorating are all just beautiful." Billy said as he looked around.
"My nephew is very proud of his home. Rightly so, I might add. I don't think Chip or Josh would have any problem with you taking some pictures." Jackie finished speculatively.
"I'll ask them later when they're free." Billy said with a smile as he noticed JC talking a mile a minute with his mother.
* * * * *
"Oh good, you're still here. I brought some pain medication for Vincent." Dr. Jenkins said as he hurried into the room.
"Thank you, my head is really hurting." Vincent said in a small voice.
"Mr. Cummings caught me in the hall and had to get the whole story about Ms. Rind. Here Vincent, this should make you feel better. But it might make you a little sleepy." Dr. Jenkins said as he handed Vincent a small cup with some pills in it.
"No driving. No heavy machinery." Vincent said with a pained smile.
"Right, for seventy-two hours." Dr. Jenkins said as he poured Vincent a glass of water.
"Do we need to get any prescriptions for Vincent?" Teri asked the doctor seriously.
"No, if he has any problems with pain, just give him some non-aspirin pain reliever." Dr. Jenkins said in a friendly voice.
"Thank you doctor. You've been very helpful." Teri said with gratitude.
"No, thank *you*. Ms. Rind has been a royal pain in the backside of nearly every doctor in this hospital. I'm just honored to have been present when she met her match." Dr. Jenkins said with a smile.
"So you're going to have a new story to tell around the water cooler this week." Teri said with a chuckle.
"Yes. Unless I decide to throw a party to commemorate the occasion... where could I find the sheet music to 'Ding Dong the Witch is Dead'?" Dr. Jenkins asked in mock consideration.
Teri laughed and said, "We'll leave you to plan your party, unless there is anything else we need to know for Vincent?"
Dr. Jenkins looked at Vincent, then noticed that Kem and Koji were also listening.
"No. Vincent and Koji both need to rest, and neither should go to school the rest of the week. If either has significant pain or any symptoms that are causing you concern, feel free to call me." Dr. Jenkins said gently.
"Thank you. We're going to a cook-out this afternoon. Will Vincent be able to eat with everyone else, or should he stay in bed?" Teri asked seriously.
"It depends on how he feels. If he wants to sit at the table, that's fine. I doubt that Vincent will feel like eating very much, but with boys, you can never tell. I had a patient recovering from pneumonia who put away two racks of ribs. He swore that they made him feel better than any medicine that I gave him." Dr. Jenkins said with an amused smile, then turned to Kem and Koji and said, "The same goes for Koji, if he's hungry, he should eat, if he's tired he should sleep."
"Thank you Doctor." Kem said sincerely.
"Your very welcome. Now both my patients are free to leave. Let me know if you have any problems." Dr. Jenkins said with a smile as he walked toward the door and passed Lawrence who was entering.
* * * * *
"How are you doing?" Allen asked with concern as he saw Dan and Kevin approaching.
"I'm fine." Kevin said with a happy smile.
"I'm glad." Allen said, then glanced at Dan with question.
"Why don't you go find one of your brothers?" Dan asked Kevin in a leading tone.
"Kenny is down at the stable, Jake and Xain are just walking around." Allen said quickly.
"I'll see if I can catch Kenny. I'd like to ride some more." Kevin said happily and took off running toward the stable.
Allen watched Kevin run off, then looked at Dan with question.
"You have a very complex boy there Allen." Dan said seriously.
"How is he?" Allen asked, now with full worry in his voice.
"Lucky." Dan said frankly as he pulled up a chair from a neighboring table.
"Just spit it out." Mona said firmly as she scooted her chair closer so she could hear.
"You must be Kevin's grandmother." Dan said with a smile.
"Yes. How is he?" Mona said, none too pleasantly.
Dan smiled at the woman's irreverent tone and said, "He's headstrong, stubborn, single-minded and extremely focused."
Mona gave Dan a 'duh' look, and waited for the punch line.
Dan noticed Mona's expression and nearly chuckled.
"Under all that will-power and determination is a naive, frightened little boy who feels like his entire world was pulled out from under him." Dan said, now more seriously.
"What can we do for him?" Brady asked with concern.
"Just what you're doing. You've moved him out of a horrible home environment into a place of love and safety. On top of that, you've brought the people in his former life who provided any sense of security for him here to Florida." Dan said happily.
One glance at Mona told Dan that he needed to continue... now.
"The only thing that I'll suggest is that you try to understand that if Kevin does something that might be considered 'acting out' in another child, it may be something very different with him. Kevin is not a typical child. Developmentally, he's all over the place. He has the emotional complexities of an adult, while at the same time, he has the problem solving skills of a young child. On top of that he has a level of tenacity that is almost frightening. Put it all together and the outcome is impossible to predict." Dan said honestly.
"Thanks Dan. What I saw this afternoon worried me. I mean, I think he's *really* in love with Chip. Not just a crush or puppy love." Allen said with concern.
"He is. We talked at length about that and I think we've got it covered. We discussed some 'appropriate' ways that he can express his love for Chip." Dan said with an introspective look.
"So he's still in love?" Brady asked hesitantly.
"Oh yes. I doubt that that's going to change anytime soon. But now he's going to try to express his love in a way that's appropriate for an eleven year old toward his Uncle." Dan said seriously.
Allen nodded in thought.
"Just a suggestion though. You might want to set some extra money aside for Kevin to buy Chip's Christmas gift." Dan said with a smile.
Allen thought about it for a second, then said, "I can guess how important that's going to be for Kevin, so I'll see to it that he can get Chip something nice."
Dan smiled with relief and said, "I'm glad you understand. Now that the professional business is out of the way, let me get John over here so I can introduce him to you all."
* * * * *
Mrs. Winters and Detective Blair entered the room and crossed to the bed where Vincent was getting up.
"Baby, I'm going to be going now." Mrs. Winters said softly to Vincent.
"Don't worry momma. Lawrence said he'll make sure that I'll be okay. I think I believe him." Vincent said seriously.
Mrs. Winters looked sadly at Lawrence and said, "I think you *should* believe in your brother. He's a fine young man and I hope that you'll be able to grow up to be like him someday."
Lawrence looked at his mother with complete surprise.
"Really?" Vincent asked in disbelief.
"Really. I'll be calling Director Short later tonight, probably after you go to bed. I'll leave a phone number where you can call me if you need to talk. I'll call you tomorrow and let you know what's going on." Mrs. Winters said with tears in her eyes.
"I'll be okay. Lawrence said so." Vincent said softly, trying to comfort his mother.
"Then it must be true. I've never known Lawrence to lie about anything. Bye baby, I love you." Mrs. Winters said softly, then leaned down and kissed Vincent on the cheek.
"Bye momma, I'll talk to you tomorrow." Vincent said with tears starting to form in his eyes.
Mrs. Winters moved slowly away from the bed, then looked at Lawrence hesitantly.
Lawrence gave her a small nod and was quickly enveloped in a tight hug.
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." She whispered into his ear.
"So am I." Lawrence whispered in return as he felt a tear falling down his cheek.
Mrs. Winters abruptly broke the hug and pulled back to look Lawrence in the eyes.
"I *do* love you." Mrs. Winters said firmly.
Lawrence looked at his mother through his teary eyes and said in a whisper, "I love you too mom."
Mrs. Winters turned to Detective Blair and said, "I'm sorry to keep you waiting. I'm ready now."
"Yes Ma'am." Detective Blair said professionally as he led the way out of the room.
"Are you guys ready to go now?" Teri asked, hoping to break the somber mood that had fallen over the room.
"Yeah." Vincent said without enthusiasm.
"I will call to set up a time when Koji can visit later this week." Kem said gently as he helped Koji out of the bed.
"I don't know where they put my clothes." Vincent said as he looked around.
Lawrence looked at his brother in the hospital gown and couldn't help but laugh.
"What's so funny?" Vincent asked suspiciously.
"Look who's wearing the dress now." Lawrence said, then broke into full laughter.
Vincent tried to keep a gruff expression on his face, but finally smiled and said, "Mom said I should follow your example."
All the boys broke up in laughter at the statement.