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"How are you feeling Vincent?" Lawrence asked with concern.
"My head hurts a little but it's getting better." Vincent said in a small voice.
"You can move over here and sit between us if you want." Deacon offered quietly.
Vincent looked at Deacon and Lawrence for a second, then said, "No. That's okay."
Deacon nodded, then casually put an arm around Lawrence.
A beeping sound from the front seat drew everyone's attention.
"This is Cory, go ahead." Cory said into his communicator.
"A cop from Chicago just called. They found Gloria Harris." Tommy said seriously.
"Where is she?" Cory asked in a tone of voice that was all business.
"Provo, Utah. She was drunk, in a stolen car and ran a stop light. When the cops tried to stop her, she tried to outrun 'em... she ended up ramming a police car that was blocking the road."
"Was anyone hurt?" Cory asked in deep thought.
"She put one cop in the hospital but he's gonna be alright."
"Anything else?" Cory asked seriously.
"The cop said that they're not gonna try to extradite her to Chicago. If we want her, we need to talk to Utah."
"Got it. I'll talk to Kenny and Kevin about what they want to do when we get back. We're about ten minutes away." Cory said firmly.
"I'm thinkin Kevin and Kenny are down to the stable ridin. You want I should go and get 'em." Tommy asked curiously.
"No. Let them have fun. I'll talk to them after I've checked out our legal options." Cory said in thought.
"I can get Justy on that if you want." Tommy offered.
"No. I'm giving Justy the day off so he can enjoy his time with Dean. I'll take care of it myself." Cory said with a small smile.
"Okay, Uncle Chip's started cookin, so y'all best be hurryin up." Tommy said playfully.
"I'll tell mom to step on it. Cory out." Cory said with a chuckle.
"Tommy out." Tommy said with amusement.
* * * * *
"Allen? Pete and Jono are going to be here Saturday. I need to go ahead and buy your other house." Billy said in thought.
"Don't you want to see it first?" Allen asked cautiously, then noticed that Mona was holding out her hands to him.
After a moment, Allen realized what she wanted and handed Edovina to her.
In a distracted voice, Billy said, "No. If you say it's nice, that's good enough for me. Besides, I don't have any time to waste. I'm going to have to get furniture and stuff for them before they get here... I don't know if I'll have time to get everything taken care of..."
"If you're willing to trust me, I could take care of it for you." Allen said seriously.
"You've got too much going on already, the last thing you need is something else to worry about." Billy said frankly.
"Trust me?" Allen asked with a gentle smile.
Billy nodded and responded with a smile of his own.
Allen pulled out his cell phone and started looking through his phone book.
After a few seconds of searching, he pushed a button and held the phone to his ear.
"Hello. Is Damon there? Tell him it's Allen Thompson." Allen said, then glanced at Billy and smiled again.
"I'm fine, thank you. Actually, I've called to ask you a favor..." Allen began to say, but was interrupted.
Billy chuckled as he watched a blush wash over Allen's face.
"As nice as that sounds..." Allen sputtered and glanced at Billy shyly before continuing, "...I was calling to ask for a *business* favor."
"That's right. I moved into a new house last weekend. A friend of mine is buying my old house and it needs to be furnished and decorated by Saturday... Are you up to it?" Allen finished with a smile.
"I bet you are." Allen said with a chuckle, then glanced at Billy again.
"Okay, this is being set up for two guys in their early twenties with a skater or surfer type of personality." Allen said, then glanced at Billy with a raised eyebrow.
Billy smiled and nodded at the generalization.
"Cost isn't an issue. Keep it casual, fun and masculine..." Allen trailed off and looked at Billy with question.
Billy nodded again, amused at how easily Allen was taking care of the situation.
"That's it. You've already seen the house. I'll drop a key off to you in the morning so you can do whatever you need to do. I'm leaving all the details up to you." Allen said in a serious, business tone.
"I'll tell you later. I'm at a party right now and can't talk. Call Bobby and Eric, they can fill you in." Allen said in a happy voice.
"Okay, I'll see you in the morning. Take care." Allen said with a smile.
Allen put away his phone and said, "There, it's all taken care of."
"I'm guessing that whoever you were talking to is an interior decorator." Billy said cautiously.
"Yes. Damon is one of my friends. He's really good at interior design, you just have to specify 'masculine' because he tends to go a little bit frilly and dainty in his designs." Allen said as he relaxed back into his chair.
"I'll remember that." Billy said as he also relaxed.
"Don't worry. I'm willing to bet that you'll love what he comes up with, he really is good." Allen said seriously.
"I trust you. I guess I'm just a little too much of a control freak to be comfortable with doing what you just did." Billy said shyly.
Allen laughed and said, "As casual and laid back as you seem on the surface, there's really a hard-working, controlled person inside."
"Yeah." Billy said in a mumble.
"I'm not complaining Billy. Actually, it's perfect. I think I'm kind of the opposite." Allen said with an impish grin.
"What do you mean?" Billy asked cautiously.
"I don't know how everyone else sees me, but I feel like I project a... conservative image?" Allen asked with difficulty.
Billy nodded slightly.
"Outside I try to be tidy, organized and in control. But when no one is looking, when I'm just being me, I like to take chances, let things happen, let go of control and feel the excitement of doing something spontaneous."
Billy smiled and said, "Like the birthday party."
"So what you're saying is that we're kind of like opposites." Billy asked carefully.
"Maybe, I think it's more like we're two people who compliment each other." Allen said with a smile.
Billy looked deeply into Allen's eyes and hesitantly moved a fraction of an inch closer.
"Kiss him." Mona said firmly.
Allen broke the gaze with Billy and looked at his mother with question. He hadn't realized that she'd been listening.
"Either you kiss that man this minute, or I'm going to steal him away for myself." Mona said firmly.
Allen looked at Billy with question to find a look of amusement in his eyes.
"Do you mind?" Allen whispered.
Instead of answering, Billy leaned in and gave Allen a full, deep kiss.
"It's about time." Mona said with exasperation.
"You probably should have let them go at their own pace." Brady said with an embarrassed glance at his brother.
"Who has time for that? Your brother is just too timid for his own good." Mona said seriously.
"What do you think Joe? Did mom do the right thing?" Brady asked with a smile.
Joe looked away from Allen and Billy, who had stopped kissing and were just looking into each other's eyes.
"I think so. At least Billy and Allen don't seem to mind." Joe said, then glanced back at the couple.
Mona gave a warning glance at Brady, then said, "I spent over twenty-five years of my life getting Allen to this point, don't think I'm going to let him screw it up now."
Joe laughed at the statement and looked at Mona with admiration.
"How would you feel about going somewhere tomorrow night?" Billy asked, then glanced at Mona and continued, "Just the two of us."
Allen chuckled and said, "That sounds great. I just need to make sure that Juana can watch after the kids."
"Oh yeah... I don't want to leave Deke and Laura alone..." Billy said in thought.
"Allen. Kenny and Kevin are staying at Teri's tomorrow night. Jake and Xain will be enjoying an evening alone in the house, Juana and her kids will be in the apartment if they need anything." Mona said seriously.
Allen just looked at Mona with question.
"Deacon and Laura will be having their own date at your house Billy. I'm sure both couples would appreciate it if you two would consider going to a hotel after your date tomorrow night." Mona said frankly.
"How?..." Billy trailed off in confusion.
Mona rolled her eyes and said, "Don't ask. Just accept it."
Billy nodded hesitantly, then looked into Allen's eyes and saw the amusement within.
"I'm guessing that your inner-control freak is having a little trouble with Mona's match-making technique." Allen said with a smile.
"Yeah, that's it." Billy said with a chuckle.
"Well, I think she's right. We can go on our date and trust that Mona has everything else taken care of." Allen said as he looked deeply into Billy's eyes.
"Okay. It just feels strange for someone else to make decisions for me like this." Billy said cautiously.
"Don't get used to it. I'm just getting you two set on the right track, then I'm out of it." Mona said firmly.
"So where will you be staying tomorrow night?" Brady asked Mona carefully.
"Oh... I guess I didn't think of that. I'll need to check to see if Teri has room for me at her place." Mona said in thought.
Billy looked at Joe and gave an urging look, as if to say, 'Here's your chance! Go for it!'.
Hesitantly Joe said, "Mona? Maybe the two of us could go out and do something tomorrow night?"
Mona looked at Joe with complete surprise.
"I mean, it sounds like you don't have any other plans and I don't..."
"Yes." Mona said with a warm smile.
"Yes?" Joe squeaked in shock.
Mona giggled and said, "Yes."
"Then it's a date." Joe said proudly.
Mona nodded at Joe, feeling incredibly young.
* * * * *
"What was that all about?" Vince asked curiously.
"I don't know for sure." Lawrence said and glanced at Sean, silently asking for an explanation.
"Kenny and Kevin's mother abandoned them. Since then we've been trying to find her. Now she's in Utah where it looks like she's going to be staying for a long time... unless we get involved." Sean said seriously.
"What are you going to do?" Deacon asked curiously.
"Well, it's hard to say until we've been able to see what our legal options are. If there is some way to get the charges of abandonment and neglect transferred to Utah, then we'll probably just do that and leave her there. Otherwise, we may need to have her case moved into a Federal or Federation court to be sure that she's tried on all the charges against her." Cory said in thought from the front seat.
"If that's what Kenny and Kevin want." Sean interjected.
At Lawrence's questioning look, Sean continued, "This isn't about punishing her, it's about getting justice for Kenny and Kevin. Once we know what they consider justice, we'll do our best to see that it ends up so that they're satisfied. If they want to let it drop, we'll just back off and stay out of it."
"So she might get away with what she did to Kevin?" Deacon asked cautiously, sounding very unhappy at the prospect.
"She's going to spend a long time in jail however it works out. The only thing our getting involved is going to effect is to determine whose jail and for how long." Sean said in thought.
"What did she do to him?" Vincent asked curiously.
"She didn't feed him. His whole life he's never had enough to eat. Kevin is eleven years old, but he's smaller than you are Vincent." Cory said seriously from the front passenger seat.
"Why did she do that? I mean, is it because she didn't have enough money to buy food?" Vincent asked carefully.
"That's what I thought when I first read JJ's report, but the evidence doesn't support that reasoning. By everything I've found out about Kevin's mother, she just didn't care. She used her money to take care of herself and if there was anything left over after her own wants and needs were met, she *might* buy something for Kevin to eat." Cory said in thought.
"The point is, Kevin was neglected. Even if she couldn't afford to feed him, she could have found ways to get food for him. There are charities that will help families in need. She could have even gone to Kevin's father for help or to offer him custody of Kevin... But she didn't." Sean said firmly.
"Vincent, look. This is where we're having dinner." Lawrence said as he pointed at Southcrest just coming into view.
"Is it a hotel?" Vincent asked as he pressed his face against the window so he could see everything.
Gabe laughed at the question and said, "That's Uncle Chip's house."
Vincent looked away from the window for an instant to try and determine if Gabe was serious.
"For real. I promise." Gabe said with a smile.
"Wow. I don't know any rich people. Am I dressed right?" Vincent asked as he looked down at his jeans and T-shirt.
"Don't worry, you're fine. Look at the rest of us." Gabe said with a smile.
Vincent looked around to see that no one was dressed any better or worse than he was.
"Vince, do you feel well enough to go out by the pool for a while or do you want to lay down inside?" Teri asked softly.
"Pool?" Vincent asked with excitement, then said with distraction, "Um, I'm okay. My head just hurts a little."
"Okay. But if you start feeling bad, you've got to tell me right away. Is it a deal?" Teri asked seriously.
"Yes Ma'am." Vincent said shyly.
"Please call me Aunt Teri." She said with a gentle smile.
Vincent nodded but remained silent.
"Guys, you heard what the doctor said, Vincent could become light headed or nauseous at any time. I'm going to trust you to see that he isn't left alone." Teri said in her motherly, commanding voice.
"We'll take care of him Mom." Sean said seriously.
Teri nodded and said, "Then go ahead and show him around. Come and get me if he starts to feel bad."
"Got it." Cory said as he opened his door to get out.
"Come on Vincent. I want you to meet Uncle Josh and Aaron." Gabe said quickly as he climbed down out of the hummer.
Vincent started to follow, then looked hesitantly back at Lawrence.
"I'm here if you need me. Go and have fun." Lawrence said with an encouraging smile.
Vincent nodded with a confused look, then followed Gabe toward the pool.
"How are you doing Lawrence?" Sean asked with concern.
"Better than I thought I would be." Lawrence said as he hugged Deacon to his side.
"Is Vincent being here going to be a problem for you?" Teri asked gently.
"No. All this time I've been thinking that Vincent was evil and hateful... it turns out that he just believed everything that he was told. I think that it's a good thing that he's here. Maybe he'll start to un-learn some of the stuff that his dad taught him." Lawrence said seriously.
"That's a very mature attitude Lawrence. I'm proud of you." Teri said with a smile.
"But if he calls Lawrence a 'sissy fag' again, I'm throwing him in the pool." Deacon said firmly.
Teri laughed and said, "Just remember that he's had a head injury."
"We'll throw him gently." Lawrence said with a mischevious grin at Deacon.
* * * * *
In a distracted voice, Billy said, "I really need to call Pete and Jono back and let them know what's going on."
"That's a good idea." Allen said in a dreamy whisper.
Billy looked at Allen's contented expression and felt a fresh wave of love wash over him at the sight.
Hesitantly, Billy stood and walked away from the gathering before opening his cell phone and placing the call.
"Jono?" Billy said in a peaceful voice.
"Yeah, it's all set. I emailed all the details to you. Just pack a few suitcases with the stuff that you want to bring. If you have any big stuff to ship, go ahead and send it to my address." Billy said, then glanced at the group at the tables to find Allen turned in his chair, watching with a loving gaze.
Billy smiled happily at the sight, then turned his attention back to the call, "No, you don't need anything like that. Just your clothes and anything personal that you want to keep like pictures and stuff."
After a pause, Billy said, "Jono! Stop. Breathe. Rewind. Play at normal speed."
Billy smiled as he waited, then listened intently.
"That's better. No, you don't need sleeping bags. You'll each have your own bed, in fact, you'll each have your own room." Billy said with a smile.
"Hey Petey, what happened to Jono?" Billy asked with confusion.
After a chuckle, Billy said, "You'd better go ahead and help him burn off some of that energy before he hurts himself. Just check your email and be at the airport on time. Everything is handled."
"Shit Petey, just chill and go with it. All you gotta do is pack your shit and get here. Got it?" Billy said firmly.
"Good. See ya Saturday." Billy said with a smile, then turned off his phone.
Billy smiled to himself and chuckled as he walked back to the tables by the pool.
* * * * *
Justy led Dean to the table where his Aunt Jackie was sitting.
"Aunt Jackie, I'd like you to meet my boyfriend Dean." Justy said, trying to sound less scared than he really was.
Jackie looked at Justy's apprehensive look and Dean's timid expression carefully before saying, "It's nice to meet you Dean. Josh has told me all about you. I'm glad you two are finally an official couple."
"Thank you." Dean said shyly.
Justy looked at Jackie hesitantly for an instant, making sure that she really approved before he moved in and gave her a tight hug.
"Thanks Aunt Jackie." Justy whispered into her ear.
"All I want is for you to be happy. From what Josh has told me, Dean can do that for you." Jackie said warmly.
Dean felt a glow of contentment at the feeling of being accepted.
"Now why don't you two pull up some chairs and tell me what's been going on with you. Sooner or later Josh and Karen are going to notice that we're here and want to spend some time with us." Jackie said playfully, then glanced at JC and his mother still chattering away, oblivious to everyone around them.
"Probably later." Jackie said with a chuckle, then turned her attention to Justy and Dean.
* * * * *
Gabe led Vincent to the poolside and quickly said, "Vincent, this is Aaron Carter and David Gallagher."
"You're wet." Vincent said as he looked at Aaron seriously.
"Yeah. I just went for an unexpected swim. You're Lawrence's brother aren't you?" Aaron asked with a smile.
"Um, yeah. David, weren't you in that Richie Rich Christmas movie?" Vincent asked with distraction.
"That was a few years ago. Now I'm on 7th Heaven." David said proudly.
"Oh, I've heard of that show. That's one of those soap operas for teenage girls isn't it?" Vincent asked seriously.
David and Aaron both looked at Vincent with disbelief.
"I thought you'd be taller." Vincent said, looking at David with a critical eye.
Gabe laughed at Aaron and David's expressions and said, "I'm going to take Vincent to meet Uncle Josh."
As David watched Vincent and Gabe walk away, Aaron whispered, "You're tall where it counts."
* * * * *
"Uncle Josh, this is Vincent Winters, Lawrence's brother." Gabe said happily.
JC turned from his mother and said, "Hi Vincent, it's nice to meet you."
"Hi." Vincent said with a look of question.
"This is JC from *NSync." Gabe said proudly.
"Oh." Vincent said in realization, then dutifully said, "Nice to meet you."
JC was surprised by Vincent's disinterested manner.
"I take it that you're not a fan of my son's music." Karen Chasez said uncertainly.
"Um, no. I tried to listen to it once. I didn't like it." Vincent said with distraction as he looked around.
"At least he didn't tell you that you're short." Gabe said with a smile.
At JC's questioning look, Gabe said, "I'll tell you later."
"Who's that?" Vincent asked, pointing to the bar-b-que grill.
"That's my husband Chip." JC said quietly.
"Commander Chip Dodds?" Vincent asked with excitement.
"Yes." JC said hesitantly.
"Can I meet him?" Vincent asked Gabe hopefully.
"Sure, come on." Gabe said with a smile at JC.
As JC watched Vincent and Gabe walking away, Karen gently said, "They can't all be fans."
JC looked at his mother and said, "I guess not. It's just kind of a kick in the ego."
Karen looked at her son with love and said, "At least he seems to like Chip."
JC smiled and hugged his mother.
* * * * *
"Justy, do you want to introduce Dean to Chok. He's online right now." Jamie asked with Beau at his side.
Justy looked at his Aunt Jackie with indecision, not wanting to leave her alone.
"Go on dear. I think your grandmother and pop are just about talked out. It's been good to have this time to catch up with you." Jackie said with a gentle smile.
"Thanks Aunt Jackie. I love you." Justy said as he gave her a firm hug.
"And it's been very nice to meet you Dean. Maybe later we can have a chance to talk, I have some wonderful stories to tell you from when Justy was a child." Jackie said with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.
"Yes Ma'am, I'd like that." Dean said with a warm smile.
Justy gave his Aunt Jackie a pained look, not wanting to imagine what stories she was going to tell.
* * * * *
"Uncle Chip, this is Vincent Winters, Lawrence's brother." Gabe said as he presented Vincent.
"Nice to meet you Vincent." Chip said with a warm smile.
"Are you really Commander Chip Dodds from the USS Enterprise?" Vincent asked in nearly breathless excitement.
"Yes..." Chip said cautiously, as he recognized the expression as one that Kevin sometimes had.
"What's it like to fly a starship? I mean, to be the one who actually controls it?" Vincent asked with wide eyed wonder.
Chip began to feel slight relief as he recognized that Vincent's interest was in his profession.
"I can't really describe the feeling. There's nothing else in the universe like it. Do you want to be a helmsman someday?" Chip asked with a smile as he picked up a tray of meat and started laying out steaks on the grill.
"I don't know. I want to go to the academy and do whatever I'm best at. That's how it works isn't it?" Vincent asked hopefully.
"Yes. Cadets are tested for aptitude in all the operations of a starship, then are generally guided toward where their strengths lie." Chip said absently as he continued to place the meat on the grill.
"Good. I think it would be awesome to pilot a starship. But it would be just as cool to be in engineering or medical or just about any section of the ship." Vincent said honestly.
"I'm glad you think so Vincent. It sounds like you have a realistic attitude. Maybe the boys can take you into the game room sometime tonight and let you take a crack at the training sim." Chip said as he looked up from the grill.
"I have the Starfleet simulator at home. I'm good on all the positions." Vincent said proudly.
"Then you'll have a lot of fun with Ensign Cory Short, from the Enterprise's engineering section and Ensign Sean Short from the Enterprise's helm division on your team." Chip said as he closed the lid on the grill.
"Cory and Sean are... they're really Starfleet officers?" Vincent asked in amazement.
"That's right. Come to think of it, there are quite a few Starfleet officers here... and one civilian employee. Since you're open to any division, maybe Gabe could introduce you around and you could ask some questions?" Chip asked, then looked at Gabe expectantly.
"I'd be happy to." Gabe said with a happy smile and motioned for Vincent to walk with him.
"Thank you, it was nice to meet you Commander Dodds." Vincent said with respect.
"It was nice to meet you too, Vincent, and please call me Chip. I'm off duty now. Maybe we can talk again later." Chip said with a gentle smile.
"Yeah. I'd like that." Vincent said happily before turning to walk with Gabe.
* * * * *
"Jackie? Oh, it's good to see you again, how have you been?" Karen Chasez asked as she turned her attention away from JC.
"Just fine dear. I'm glad you were able to make it." Jackie said as she stood from her chair.
Karen gave Jackie a gentle hug and said, "I am too. I didn't realize just how much I've missed the boys until I saw them again."
Jackie took her seat again and said, "I know just what you mean. We really must do this more often, it's good to see everyone together again."
"There are a lot of new faces here." Karen said as she looked around, then noticed JC at her side and put an arm around him.
"Yes. I believe there is one person in particular you should meet." Jackie said with a smile, then looked at JC and said, "Josh, you should really greet your other guests. I can introduce Karen around."
JC looked at Jackie cautiously, but finally just nodded, then gave his mother a kiss on the cheek before walking away to talk with his other guests.
* * * * *
"Vincent, I'd like for you to meet Dr. Christine Chapel from the Enterprise." Gabe said formally.
Christine looked at the young boy with a bandage on his head and immediately felt concern for him.
"It's nice to meet you Vincent. How are you feeling?" Christine asked gently.
"I'm fine Dr. Chapel. Aren't you the one who developed the electrolyte replacement therapy to help people who've been hit with high stun phasers?" Vincent asked professionally.
Christine looked at Vincent with surprise for an instant before responding, "Yes. I don't know how you know about that, but I developed that treatment last year."
Vincent smiled and said, "I try to learn anything I can about Starfleet and especially the Enterprise. You and Dr. McCoy are like legends. You've seen things that no one else ever has." Vincent said with wonder.
Christine smiled and said, "I suppose we have. I just didn't know we had a fan club."
"If there really was a fan club, I'd be a member. I have a million questions..." Vincent began to say, but was interrupted by Gabe.
"Why don't I introduce you to the other Starfleet officers before you start in on those questions." Gabe said with a chuckle.
"Oh, Okay." Vincent said happily.
"Lieutenant Bowers is right here if you want to meet him." Christine said with a smile.
"I don't know him, could you introduce us?" Gabe asked seriously.
"I'd be happy to." Christine said, then took two steps and tapped Lieutenant Bowers on the shoulder.
"Lieutenant Joe Bowers, I'd like to introduce you to Vincent Winters and Gabe Michaels." Christine said in a friendly voice.
Joe looked at the boys and noticed the facial features Vincent had in common with his ex-wife Peggy and with his son Lawrence.
"It's nice to meet you Gabe, Vincent." Joe said, only briefly glancing at Gabe.
Vincent looked at the Lieutenant curiously and tried to remember where he might have seen him before. He looked familiar.
"Dad, I see you met my brother Vince." Lawrence said as he walked to his father with Deacon at his side.
"Dad?" Vincent asked in shock. Then noticed that Lieutenant Bowers had exactly the same eyes as Lawrence.
"Yeah. You know how your dad was always saying that I was adopted. I was. This is my real father." Lawrence said and leaned over the back of the lounge chair to hug his father from behind.
"Really? Your dad is in Starfleet? That's so cool!" Vincent said with amazement.
Joe felt himself relax a little at the statement and said, "That's right. I'm in deflector control on the USS Yorktown."
"The Yorktown is a Constitution-Class starship, just like the Enterprise, right?" Vincent asked seriously.
"That's right. You're the first person I've met outside Starfleet who's ever heard of her." Joe said with a warm smile.
"I try to learn everything I can about Starfleet." Vincent said with a shy smile.
"Since when?" Lawrence asked with surprise.
"Since always." Vincent said seriously.
"Oh... I guess I never really talked to you about what kind of things you enjoy." Lawrence said in a small, apologetic voice.
Vincent looked at Lawrence curiously and hesitantly said, "Don't feel too bad about it. I don't know what kind of stuff you like either."
"So you guys grew up like strangers in the same house?" Gabe asked carefully.
"Yeah. I guess so." Lawrence said with regret.
"Well, maybe it's not too late to get to know each other. You're both here now." Joe suggested in a quiet voice.
"Maybe." Vincent said in thought.
"Come on, I want to introduce you to Uncle Spock." Gabe said quickly, hoping to break the somber mood.
"Captain Spock?" Vincent asked with delight and started looking around.
"He's over there." Christine said with an indulgent smile and pointed to the grill where Spock had joined Chip.
"Come on." Vincent said quickly and took Gabe by the arm to pull him away.
Lawrence put an arm around Deacon and said, "There's a lot more to Vince than I thought. I always thought he was just a screwed up little kid. But it turns out that he's really smart."
"Nothing says he can't be both." Deacon said quietly as he hugged Lawrence with one arm.
* * * * *
"Uncle Spock, this is Vincent Winters." Gabe said as he presented Vincent.
"It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance." Spock said formally.
Vincent looked up at Spock with wide eyes as his mouth fell open.
"I notice that you have had an injury. Do you require further medical attention?" Spock asked as he watched the young boy stare at him silently.
"I believe what you are witnessing is hero worship, my brother." Chip said in a playful voice.
Vincent looked at Chip quickly, then back to Spock.
"Um, Vincent has been studying everything he can find out about Starfleet. He really knows a lot of stuff." Gabe said, hoping that would cause Vincent to snap out of his daze.
"Do you have an interest in pursuing a career in Starfleet?" Spock asked Vincent slowly.
"Yes... Yes sir." Vincent said through his stupor.
Spock nodded seriously, then said, "Starfleet has need of dedicated and intelligent individuals. If one as knowledgeable as Gabriel finds you to be of acceptable ability, then I have no doubt that you will succeed in the academy."
"Thank you Captain Spock." Vincent said reverently.
"Come on Vincent, I want to introduce you to JJ." Gabe said and took hold of Vincent's arm to guide him away.
Vincent resisted Gabe's tugging on his arm and said, "It was nice to meet you."
Spock gave a slow, single nod in acknowledgement of the statement.
"Come on, JJ's over by the pool." Gabe said as he drew Vincent away from Chip and Spock.
* * * * *
"Mona, I would like to introduce Karen Chasez, Josh's mother." Jackie said as she led Karen around to Mona's side of the table.
Mona stood and looked at Karen curiously before saying, "You must be really proud of your son."
Karen looked up at Mona and smiled as she said, "Oh yes, he's achieved everything I could have dreamed of for him... even if he did take a somewhat different path than I would have predicted."
Mona laughed and said, "I know how you feel. Karen, these are my sons Allen and Brady. You'll have to excuse them, they're in their own little world."
Karen glanced at the two men engaged in conversation with two other men, oblivious to the women talking beside them.
"And who is this that you're carrying?" Karen asked as she looked at the baby in Mona's arms.
In a voice of boundless pride, Mona said, "This is my great-granddaughter Edovina."
"Great-granddaughter?" Karen asked with surprise as she looked at the small baby.
"Would you like to hold her?" Mona asked with a gentle smile.
"Yes. It's been far too long since I've held a baby." Karen said happily.
"Look at her eyes..." Karen said in wonder.
"She has her father's eyes." Mona said gently.
"She is just the most adorable baby I've ever seen." Karen said as she cuddled the baby in her arms.
Jackie watched the tender scene of Karen holding Edovina for a moment, then a look of resolve came over her face.
"Teri dear? Could you come over here for a moment?" Jackie asked in a friendly, yet somehow commanding tone.
"Of course." Teri said as she turned off her padd and got up from her seat at the table with Christine and Kayla.
Jackie waited to see that she had Karen and Mona's attention before saying, "Ladies, from what I've seen since I've been here, I think we have a job to do."
Mona and Karen both looked at Jackie curiously.
* * * * *
"That was REALLY Captain Spock!" Vincent said with excitement as they walked past the tables to the poolside.
"That's right. I guess after that, this guy is going to be a let down." Gabe said with a smirk.
Vincent looked at Gabe with question.
"JJ, this is Vincent, he's Lawrence's brother, he wants to be in Starfleet someday." Gabe said with a secretive smile.
"Hi." Vincent said to JJ, then looked at Gabe and said, "I thought you were going to introduce me to Starfleet officers."
"I am. This is Ensign Richardson of the Enterprise's Security Division." Gabe said proudly.
"Really?" Vincent asked with wonder.
JJ discretely lifted the edge of his untucked T-shirt to reveal a hand phaser clipped to his belt.
"Have you ever fired it?" Vincent asked with wonder.
"Yeah. A few times." JJ said with a smile.
"So you and Sean and Cory are REALLY Starfleet officers?" Vincent asked in amazement.
"That's right." JJ said seriously, then broke out into a genuine smile when he spotted Adam and Harley approaching.
"Daddy, tell Poppa I don't have to do my homework yet. Not till we get home." Harley demanded in a grumpy voice.
"What did your Poppa say?" JJ asked as he picked Harley up onto his hip and looked him in the eyes.
"He said it was up to you." Harley said with a cranky tone.
JJ looked around the pool area and found Timmy, Reuben, Ricardo and Ricky sitting by the pool, playing with some toys.
"Well, since it looks like your friends aren't studying right now, I suppose it's okay. But when it's time to do your homework later, no complaining. Right?" JJ asked seriously.
"Thanks Daddy. Can I play with Timmy and Ricky now?" Harley asked hopefully.
"Kiss first." JJ said with a smile.
Harley gave JJ a big wet kiss on the cheek.
"Give your Pop a kiss, then go play with your friends." JJ said as he sat Harley down.
"I love you Pop." Harley said and ran to Adam.
Adam bent down to get his kiss and gave Harley a quick hug before turning him loose.
"Vincent. This is my partner Adam and that little tornado was our son Harley." JJ said proudly.
A look of confusion came over Vincent's face, then his eyes darted around the pool area.
"All you guys are fags?" Vincent asked in wide eyed realization.
"Um, Vince. That's probably on the top ten list of things you don't want to say to someone armed with a phaser. And no, not everyone here is gay." Gabe said in a hesitant voice.
Vincent looked into JJ's eyes and found anger and resentment looking back.
"I'm sorry I said that JJ. It's just... I guess it just surprised me." Vincent said uncertainly.
JJ thought for a second, then said, "Apology accepted. But there's something you should think about."
Vincent looked at JJ with hesitation.
"How are you going to be in Starfleet around all the people of different species when you can't even accept the people of your own species?" JJ asked seriously.
"I never thought of that." Vincent said in a whisper.
"I think it's important that you do think about it. Vincent, when you get out into the universe you'll meet people that act and believe differently from you. And if it's just the sex thing that bothers you, think about this. Some species have one, two and even three genders." JJ said with concern.
"Yeah." Vincent said in thought.
Adam walked to JJ's side and said, "Vincent, when you use words like 'fag', it hurts and makes people not like you. If you keep using those kind of hurting words, the only people who'll want to be around you are people who are filled with hate. People like that make themselves feel better by making other people feel bad."
JJ nodded and said, "If that's the kind of person you want to be, then Starfleet probably isn't the place for you. You'll need to find a place where there are other people who think the same way that you do so you'll be able to keep believing that you aren't evil."
"I really am sorry." Vincent said in shame.
"And I really do accept your apology. But just so you know, if you use any of that hateful language around Harley I'll make sure you regret it for the rest of your life." JJ said firmly.
"I won't, I promise." Vincent said in a mumble.
"Alright then. What do you say we start again? I'm JJ and this is my partner Adam." JJ said seriously.
After a moment of thought, Vincent said, "It's a pleasure to meet you."
"It looks like Uncle Chip is about done cooking. Would you like to sit with me and my family at dinner?" JJ asked with a smile.
Vincent looked at Adam with question and received a nod of encouragement.
"Thank you JJ, I think I'd like that." Vincent said shyly.
"Cool." JJ said happily and motioned for Gabe and Vincent to walk with him toward the tables.
* * * * *
"The boys need some time together." Jackie said firmly.
Teri, Mona and Karen nodded with agreement as they looked at JC mingling with guests and Chip working the bar-b-que grill.
"This is one of the few times they are both home at the same time and they planned this party. I think they need to have some time as a couple before they have to go their separate ways." Jackie said firmly.
"I'd be happy to take care of the boys for a night so they could be alone." Teri said simply.
Mona had a look of deep concentration, then said, "I don't know your sons that well, but if their being together is such a rare occasion, then we should make their time together really special."
Jackie looked at Mona consideringly for a moment, then said, "Mona's right. This isn't a quiet night at home kind of affair. They need a weekend away from all of this for just the two of them."
"Time to reconnect as a couple." Karen said as she nodded in agreement.
"How do you want to do it?" Teri asked in thought.
"Teri, would you be willing to take care of the boys for a weekend?" Jackie asked seriously.
Teri smiled and said, "I can't think of anything that would make my boys happier than to have Justy, Jamie, and Jacob stay the weekend."
Jackie nodded and said, "Karen, do you think you can get it through to Josh just how important this is?"
Karen immediately nodded, and said, "I'm sure it won't take much doing."
"Chip may be harder to convince. I get the feeling that his extended trips off-planet have distracted him from what's going on here on Earth. I think it's time to remind him of his priorities." Jackie said firmly.
"Is there any particular place you had in mind for them to go?" Mona asked in thought.
"The place doesn't matter. It's just the change of scenery so they can focus on each other that's important." Jackie said firmly.
Karen and Teri nodded in agreement.
"Then if you would allow me, I'd like to plan the weekend for them. I think my boys and I will be able to come up with something memorable." Mona said with a smile.
"Thank you Mona. That will leave Karen and I free to work on the boys." Jackie said firmly.
"And I can enlist the help of the kids." Teri said with a smile.
* * * * *
"Were I Human, I believe I would be experiencing a sense of apprehension at the sight of that gathering." Spock said in an introspective tone.
Chip followed Spock's gaze and a chill ran up his spine as he saw Mona, Karen, Teri and his Aunt Jackie gathered into a tight group.
"Maybe it's not..." Chip began to say, when the group of women all looked at him in unison and smiled sweetly.
"Oh shit!" Chip said in a gasp.
"Well spoken brother." Spock said seriously.