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"So what's it like living with Allen?" Jacob asked casually.
"Poppa's great! He talks to me like I'm special and we have food, like all the time, and we live in a big house like we're rich or something." Kevin said happily.
"How is it having a twin brother?" Jamie asked, then smiled at Jacob.
"Kenny is awesome. He really really loves me and is always making sure I'm okay and is always helping me with the stuff I don't understand so people won't think I'm stupid." Kevin said, then quickly turned and gave Kenny a hug.
"Are Jake and Xain good brothers?" Kyle asked next.
"Yeah, the best. Jake protects us and makes sure all of us are doing the stuff we should and that we understand what's going on." Kevin said seriously while keeping one arm around his brother.
"What about Xain?" Jacob asked with interest.
Kevin got a look of deep concentration before saying, "Xain takes care of Jake. He's smart and stuff and helps Jake by making him slow down and think about things before doing them."
"What does Jake do for Xain?" Kyle asked curiously.
"Jake gets Xain to try things and do things that he wouldn't usually do because Vulcans don't do stuff just because it's fun." Kevin said in thought.
"So all of you together really get along okay?" Jacob asked carefully.
"Yeah. It's like those families you see on TV at Thanksgiving when they all sit around and eat together and just feel good because they're together. I always thought someone just made stuff like that up because I never knowed... knew anyone who had a family like that... and now *I* do." Kevin said in wonder.
Jacob and Jamie smiled at each other as Kyle asked, "Kenny, how is it with Kevin living here?"
Kenny smiled and said, "Dad always wanted Kev to live with us. I've been waiting my whole life for my brother to come home, and now that he's here it's better than I ever dreamed... I just wish Dad could have lived to see Kevin come home." Kenny finished in a whisper.
"Mikey says that your Dad is watching over you and is very proud of you both." Kyle said frankly.
"Really?" Kenny asked as he glanced around quickly.
Kyle chuckled as he said, "Really. I promise."
"Would you guys mind if I borrow Kevin for a minute?" JC asked as he walked to the group by the pool.
"Sure, I think we have everything we need." Kyle said with a cheerful smile.
"You do? All we've done is talk." Kevin said in confusion.
"That's right. We were asking you questions about how your life is different since you came here. While you were thinking about how to answer, we were gathering the images from your mind." Jacob said seriously.
"And we picked up some happy memories of your Dad from Kenny to throw in for good measure." Jamie said with a chuckle.
"We'll work on putting them all together while we're having dinner." Jacob said with a grin.
"Kevin?" JC asked quietly.
Kevin looked at JC hesitantly, then nodded.
"Don't worry Kevin, the food is ready and I thought you might like to sit with me and Chip." JC said in a friendly voice.
"Are you sure?" Kevin asked hesitantly.
"Completely sure. You and I have something in common, we both love Chip." JC said frankly.
Kevin looked up at JC and nodded.
"I thought that instead of you tearing yourself up trying not to show Chip that you love him, we could work as a team. I'll show Chip how much I love him as his husband and you show him how much you love him as his nephew." JC said as he led Kevin to the table by the grill at a leisurely pace.
"But I don't really know how's the right way to be a nephew." Kevin said seriously.
"I think I can help you with that. The first thing we're going to do is sit down to eat. I'll make sure to get you some of the brisket. When you taste it, make sure you tell Chip how much you like it. The sauce is his own recipe and he's very proud of it." JC said with a smile as they finally reached the table.
"I will. Thank you Uncle Josh, you're really nice." Kevin said as he gave JC a quick hug.
"You're pretty nice too Kevin." JC said with a smile as he gave Kevin a casual hug in return.
* * * * *
Justy and Dean ran to Cory's side and whispered quickly into his ear.
After a moment to digest what he'd just been told, Cory quickly nodded at Justy, then stood.
"Is it almost ready?" Cory asked as he hurried to Chip's side.
"Yes. I was just about to make the announcement." Chip said, curious about Cory's anxious expression.
"Could you hold it for one minute please. I just need to talk to the guys first." Cory said and turned on the puppy-dog eyes (medium intensity).
Chip smiled at the expression and nodded.
"Would all the Clan members come here for a minute? I need to talk to all you guys." Cory said in a loud voice as Justy and Dean hurried around, making sure everyone heard.
There was a sound of rustling and scraping chairs as Clan members got up from nearly every table around the pool area.
Cory gestured for the guys to follow him to the back of the house.
* * * * *
"Guys, Justy and Dean had an idea and I think it sounds pretty good. Let's get all the adults sat down and serve them. We don't get a lot of chances to tell them how much we appreciate what they do for us. I think there's enough of us that we can each pick one or two people to take care of. Once we have all of them taken care of we can all get our own." Cory said seriously.
"Can I get Uncle Chip's?" Kevin asked quickly.
"Sure Kevin, you get daddy and I'll get Pop." Justy said with a smile.
"I'll get Aunt Jackie." Jamie said quickly.
"And I'll get Grandma Karen." Jacob said happily.
"You all work it out. I'm going to let the adults know what's going on." Cory said firmly, then stepped away from the group.
* * * * *
"Everyone! All us kids decided that we want to show you how much we appreciate all that you do for us. So everyone please sit down and one of us will be by in a minute to find out what you would like to eat... That includes Hazel, Helen and Juana." Cory finished with a look at the trio fussing over the table full of food.
"Go on, sit down. We're waiting." Cory said and crossed his arms across his chest.
"You too Uncle Chip." Sean said, now at Cory's side.
"Don't I get any say in this?" Chip asked in playful protest.
"Nope. Not unless you think it's worth risking an interplanetary incident." Sean said, doing his best to hide a smile.
"I may need to talk to father about his choice to give you clan status. It's gone to your heads." Chip said in a grumble as he walked toward the table where JC was watching with a grand smile.
* * * * *
"What kind of meat would you like Grandma?" Kenny asked as he approached Mona.
"I've been wanting to try some of that brisket that I've been smelling since we arrived."
"What would you like Daddy?" Lawrence asked Joe with a smile.
"I think I'll have the brisket too." Joe said, feeling immeasurable love for his son.
* * * * *
"What kind of meat would you like Uncle Chip?" Kevin asked with a smile.
Chip looked at Kevin with surprise, then asked, "How did you get stuck serving me?"
"I called it first." Kevin said proudly.
Chip couldn't help but smile in response and said, "I'd really like a slice of brisket and a nice thick steak."
"Would you like some sweet tea too?" Kevin asked hopefully.
"You know it." Chip said happily.
"I'll be right back." Kevin said happily and ran off to get Chip's food.
* * * * *
"What kind of meat can I get for you Dad?" Jake asked with a loving gaze at Allen.
"I'd like one of those steaks, medium to medium-rare if there are any." Allen said with a look of love and pride directed at Jake.
"How about you Billy?" Deacon asked happily.
"A burger with..." Billy began to say when Deacon stopped him.
"...Catsup and pickles only. I'll get you two. You always end up getting a second one." Deacon said before hurrying away.
* * * * *
"Here you go Pop." Justy said as he placed a plate loaded with food before JC.
"Thank you Angel, it looks like you got enough food here for two people." JC said as he looked at his plate.
"Well I know how much you like Daddy's steaks and brisket so I brought you some of each." Justy said with a proud smile.
"It's just perfect. Where is Dean?" JC asked as he looked around.
"He's bringing Hazel some food. She's always been really nice to him when he visits and he wanted to do something nice for her." Justy said happily.
"I'm glad you two are getting closer. It's been wonderful to watch you two go from classmates to friends to best friends. It's been all I can do not to interfere and try to push you two together." JC said peacefully.
"Really? You and Daddy have always been nice to Dean, but I didn't know you thought about us getting together as boyfriends." Justy said in wonder.
"Good. I didn't want you to know. I wanted whatever happened between you two to be because it's what you both wanted. Now that you've taken that step, I just want you to know that your Dad and I are here to support you however we can. We both really like Dean and approve of your relationship completely." JC said with a gentle smile.
Justy pulled JC into a hug and said, "Thanks Pop. I wasn't worried about you not liking Dean, but I didn't know how you'd feel about us being boyfriends."
"Dean is trying to get your attention. Go on." JC said with a grin.
Justy turned to see Dean shyly waving at him.
After giving JC a quick kiss on the cheek, Justy ran to the food table where Dean was waiting for him.
* * * * *
"Did anyone get Vincent?" Lawrence asked from the food table as he took a small portion of each salad.
"Adam got him." JJ said as he put a hot-link sausage onto the plate for his father.
As Lawrence took a step away from the food table, he noticed Xain walking behind Ricardo carrying a drink and carefully watching Ricardo's every move.
Lawrence continued to watch and couldn't help but smile at the expression on Brady's face as Ricardo presented him with a plate of food.
Juana's expression was nothing short of complete pride and love as Reuben sat a plate of food in front of her.
* * * * *
"What were you looking at over there, I couldn't see." Joe asked as he accepted his food from Lawrence.
"Oh, I was just watching Ricardo giving Brady a plate of food. I never thought about having kids before but... well, maybe someday." Lawrence said with a distant expression.
"I hope you do Lawrence. I've missed out on a lot of your life, but being here today... I'm so proud of you that I don't even have words." Joe said past the lump in his throat.
"I know what you mean Daddy. I feel the same way about you." Lawrence said with the beginning of tears in his eyes.
"C'mon, before all the brisket is gone." Deacon stage whispered from Lawrence's side.
"Do you mind if we sit with you two?" Lawrence asked his father hopefully.
"I'd like it if you would." Joe said with a smile.
* * * * *
"I'm sorry I took so long to get to you Dr. Chapel. Do you know what you'd like to eat?" Kenny asked as he hurried to the table.
Christine turned and smiled at Kenny before saying, "Yes, I'd like a small steak if there is one and at least two slices of that brisket. Everyone at the tables around us has been going on about how good it is."
"Is anyone getting your food Aunt Teri?" Kenny asked quietly.
"Oh yes. I had three waiters fighting over me, Aaron finally won. They made a point of mentioning that you asked if you could bring Christine's food." Teri finished with a contented smile.
Kenny looked shyly at Dr. Chapel to see her looking at him happily.
"You were really nice to my brother when he was scared and I just wanted to do something nice for you." Kenny said shyly.
"Thanks sweet pea. It was my pleasure to help." Christine said modestly.
On impulse, Kenny gave Christine a quick hug, then hurried off to get her food.
* * * * *
"Where is Xain?" Allen asked as Jake sat a plate of food before him.
"He's taking Uncle Spock his food. He just stopped to help Ricardo first." Jake said as he placed a drink before Allen.
"Would you and Xain like to join me and Billy?" Allen asked casually.
"Are you sure? You two don't get too much time alone, Aaron and David wouldn't mind if we sat with them." Jake said seriously.
"Don't worry about it Jake. Billy and I are going on a date tomorrow night. You'll need to ask your grandmother about what you'll be doing while we're on our date. I have the feeling that she has something planned for you and Xain." Allen said in thought.
"Oh okay. I'll ask her about it now, then I'll come back here to eat with you." Jake said with an expression that sought Allen's approval.
Allen nodded with a smile.
* * * * *
"It looks like you got the biggest steak of them all." Chip said as he had a loaded plate of food sat before him.
"I did. JJ wanted it for his dad but I got it before he did." Kevin said proudly.
Chip looked over at Dan's table to see JJ looking back at him cautiously.
"Can I get you anything else?" Kevin asked hopefully.
Chip made a show of looking carefully at his plate before saying, "No Kevin, it looks like you got everything."
"I'll be right back. Uncle Josh said I could sit with you." Kevin announced quickly, then hurried back to the food table.
Chip looked at JC curiously.
"I think it's time for some positive reinforcement." JC said with a smile.
"How's that?" Chip asked cautiously.
"I just thought that if Kevin could spend some time with us, we could encourage him when he acts appropriately and discourage him when he doesn't. Maybe that will help him learn how to express his feelings in a more... age appropriate manner." JC said carefully.
"A logical approach." Spock said consideringly.
"I thought so." JC said happily, then took another bite of his food.
Chip glanced over to the food table and saw Kevin happily gathering a meal for himself.
"Good brisket. You outdid yourself." JC said happily.
Chip looked at his husband with a smile and said, "You inspire me to do my best."
* * * * *
"Are you sure you don't want to sit with Daddy and Pop?" Jamie asked his Aunt Jackie seriously.
"No Angel, I'm fine here with Karen and two of my grandsons. How did your talk go with Kevin?" Jackie asked curiously.
"Fine. I just told him what I did and he said it was okay. He wasn't mad at me at all." Jamie said in thought.
"So what's bothering you now?" Jackie asked curiously.
"I don't know. It's like I can almost see something when I look at Kevin, but when I try to focus on it, it goes away." Jamie said in thought.
"Are you sure you aren't still feeling a little bit guilty about reading Kevin's mind?" Jackie asked carefully.
"I really don't think so." Jamie said in thought.
"Well, maybe it's like one of those things you catch a glimpse of out of the corner of your eye. Don't try to look at it and maybe you'll be able to see it easier." Jackie said in a considering tone.
"Maybe. I guess I can try that, nothing else has worked." Jamie said carefully.
"No need to worry about it now. Your father has outdone himself with the brisket. Relax and enjoy this meal with me." Jackie said in a warm tone.
"Okay Aunt Jackie. I hope someday I'm as smart as you are. You know how to fix anything." Jamie said as he got out of his chair and hugged her warmly.
"I'm sure you will be when you have your own children." Jackie said with a smile.
* * * * *
"Excuse me Grandma, Dad just said he was going on a date tomorrow night and that you had something planned for me and Xain." Jake said as he squatted by Mona's chair.
"Oh. Well I was going to tell you after the meal, but I guess it doesn't matter. Juana volunteered to make you and Xain a nice dinner tomorrow night. Allen is going to be on his date with Billy and your brothers are going to be staying with Teri so you'll have the house to yourselves." Mona said with a smile.
Jake looked at Mona with complete shock and gripped the arm of the chair as he felt his balance slipping away.
"Honey, I have some idea of how hard it is to be a couple and not have enough time together. We're just working it out so all the couples can have a special night of their own tomorrow night." Mona said seriously.
Jake quickly stood and leaned in to give Mona a tight hug as he said, "Thank you Grandma. I thought my life couldn't get any better than having Allen as my Dad, but having you as my Grandma too... I never dreamed anyone could be so cool."
Mona laughed as she said, "That means a lot coming from you Jake. Now why don't you go get some food before all the good stuff is gone."
"Can I get either of you anything while I'm over there?" Jake asked hopefully.
"You could grab me another slice of that brisket with some extra sauce. It has to be the best brisket that I've ever tasted." Mona said seriously.
"Anything for you Joe?"
"Nothing now. If I think of anything I'll get it myself." Joe said with a peaceful smile.
"No you won't. You just tell me and I'll get whatever you need." Lawrence said as he sat his plate on the table.
Jake gave Lawrence a smile and a nod of approval as he turned to walk away.
* * * * *
"Can I get you anything while I'm up?" Cory asked as he sat his plate on the table.
"No, we've got everything we need." Dan said happily.
Cory nodded and took his seat.
A moment later Sean was sitting by his side.
"Is everything ready for the shuttle?" Cory asked casually before taking a bite of food.
"The Mississippi will be ready for take-off when you arrive." Matt said seriously.
"Good. How's the progress on the telepathic surprise you guys are cooking up?" Cory asked Kyle curiously.
"We'll have 'the package' ready to deliver by the end of the meal." Kyle said with a distant look.
"Do you know who you're taking on this mission yet?" John asked seriously.
"Well Sean and I will go. Of course Kenny and Kevin will have to be there. Dan will go along to make sure Ms. Harris doesn't mess with their heads too much. Kyle, would you like to be the one to deliver the package?" Cory asked as he turned to face Kyle again.
"Yeah, I'd like that. It'd be nice to go on a mission with Dad." Kyle said with a smile at his father.
John smiled at Kyle and Dan and nodded his approval before taking another bite of his food.
"John, will you need to go along to get us in?" Sean asked curiously.
"No. It's all arranged. Just have your Vulcan IDs handy and they'll be expecting you." John said seriously.
Sean turned to Cory and said, "We really need to get the new guys Vulcan IDs and communicators."
"I can handle that if you would like. All I'll need to do is take a picture of each of them before we leave. Security at the spaceport will have the IDs and communicators waiting for us when we get there. " Matt said frankly.
"Thanks Matt. That'll be a big help." Cory said with a smile.
"And while I've got you here, I would like to talk to you about security for the Thompson, Vasquez and Pierce families." Matt said seriously.
"Do you really think they need security?" Cory asked carefully.
"Yes. I do. They need terminals installed in the Vasquez and Pierce households, upgraded security systems in each building and satellite security monitoring of both houses. I'd also like for security to have the ability to override and lock the entry gates to their gated community." Matt said seriously.
"What do you expect to happen?" Sean asked cautiously.
"I don't deal in expectation, I deal in preparation. The rest of the clan are kept secure at Southcrest, the Short compound and Camp Little Eagle." Matt said frankly.
"Cory, Matt's right. Until today, Gloria Harris was on the run and could have shown up at any time and caused all kinds of trouble. Deacon's parents might decide they want him back and hire someone to take him. Or Edovina's mother might show up and decide she wants her daughter back. That's not even counting the people who might just like to get even with someone from Clan Short." Kyle said frankly.
John looked at Kyle with pride and said, "Kyle makes a good point. And the most effective security is the kind that's in place 'before' you need it. I can't see any reason to wait, but I can see several good reasons to act immediately.
Cory gave a sigh of resignation, then said, "I'd be crazy to argue with all three of you."
"That would be my department." Dan said with a smile.
Cory rolled his eyes, then went back to work on eating his dinner.
* * * * *
"Wow Uncle Chip! This is the best meat I've ever had... ever!" Kevin said after tasting the brisket.
"Thank you Kevin. I had the briskets and steaks shipped in from Texas and made the sauce myself." Chip said with pride.
Kevin glanced at JC and saw him give a slight nod of approval.
"I think some of the boys are going riding after dinner before it gets dark. Are you going to join them?" Chip asked Kevin casually.
"Nuh uh. Me and Kenny are going to Utah to see my momma." Kevin said with a serious look.
"Oh? Your mother..." Chip trailed off in thought.
"Yeah. Cory and Sean are going to take us there so we can let her know that I'm happy here with my brothers and my new Poppa." Kevin said, then took another bite of the brisket.
Chip and JC shared a look of concern at the statement.
"Momma always tried to hurt me because I'm like my Dad. Now she'll get to see that all the stuff she did to me ended up not hurting me at all. It's because of all that bad stuff that I can really be thankful for the good stuff that I've got now." Kevin said in thought.
"Aren't you afraid that she's going to try to hurt you again?" JC asked with concern.
"No. I'm not scared of her no more. I kinda feel sorry for her." Kevin said seriously.
"Why is that?" Chip asked cautiously.
"Cause if she woulda been nice and loved me, she coulda been happy like I am now. Having a big house and lots of food is nice. But even if Poppa didn't have all that stuff, he'd still love all of us just the same and we'd still be happy." Kevin said seriously.
Chip smiled at the statement and said, "I'm glad you can see what's most important. There are a lot of people who never figure that out."
"Then they need a Poppa like mine. I never woulda learned it if he didn't show me." Kevin said honestly.
"I think you're right Kevin. More people need Poppas like yours." Chip said gently.
* * * * *
"Hey Kevin, are you about ready to go?" Cory asked as he approached the table.
"Yeah, just let me tell my Poppa where I'm going." Kevin said quickly.
Everyone watched as Kevin raced away to find Allen.
"He's made amazing progress from when he arrived." JC said distantly.
"Do you think him seeing his mother is such a good idea?" Chip asked with concern.
"I don't know. But it was his idea and we'll have Dan with us to make sure he's okay." Cory said seriously.
"He needs to put his past behind him so he can move on." Sean said from Cory's side.
"I guess so. He's just been through so much. I'd hate to see him get hurt again." Chip said quietly.
"Please trust me Uncle Chip. We'll protect him." Cory said seriously.
"You'd better, or there'll be hell to pay Ensign." Chip said as he looked Cory in the eyes.
A long moment of silence fell over the group until Chip finally broke into a smile.
Cory laughed and said, "Please don't do that Uncle Chip. I thought you were serious."
"Well, I'm not going to hold you responsible as your commanding officer, but I am going to hold you responsible." Chip said firmly.
"Got it. I'll protect him. I promise." Cory said sincerely.
Chip nodded his acceptance of the statement, his expression making it clear that he was serious.
* * * * *
"Poppa, Kenny and I are going to Utah to see my momma." Kevin said as he hurried to the table.
"You are? Right now?" Allen asked in surprise.
"Uh huh. She's in jail there and Cory and Sean said I could go there and tell her that I'm okay and I have a family now." Kevin said quickly.
"I'm going with you." Allen said firmly.
"Cory and Sean will make sure that I'm okay." Kevin said seriously.
"Kevin, I love you very much and I don't want to see you get hurt. I'm going along in case you need me." Allen said firmly.
"Dad. I'm pretty sure if Cory and Sean are going along, this is a Clan thing. It'd probably be best if you stayed here. Xain and I could go along to take care of Kenny and Kevin... besides, I have a few things I'd like to say to their mom." Jake said seriously.
Allen thought about the statement and finally said, "Okay Jake. I understand about it being Clan business. I know you'll take good care of your brothers so I'll try not to worry too much."
"Thanks Dad." Jake said as he got up from his chair and gave Allen a hug.
"No one ever trusted me like you do. I'll make sure all the guys are fine." Jake said firmly.
Allen enjoyed the hug, then said, "You'd better get going before it gets too late. I'll be waiting here for you to get back."
"Okay. We'll be back as soon as we can." Jake said, then glanced at Xain with question.
"I anticipate an atmosphere of hostility at our destination. Dad, would you be willing to care for Edovina? I would not wish to expose her to such an unfavorable environment." Xain said seriously.
"Of course. She can keep me company while you're gone." Allen said with a smile at the little girl in Xain's arms.
Xain carefully stood and handed Edovina to Allen.
"Her primary supplies are in a bag in the bathroom by the kitchen. Additional supplies are in the car, should you have need of them." Xain said seriously.
"I'm sure that between me and Juana, we'll find everything we need. Go on, the sooner you leave, the sooner you'll be back." Allen said with a smile.
Xain looked at Allen curiously for a moment, then nodded his acceptance of the statement and turned to join Jake.
"Kevin?" Allen called.
Kevin stepped away from Jake and Xain and hurried to Allen's side.
Allen pulled him into a one armed hug and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
"No matter what happens there, remember that I love you and I will always love you." Allen said seriously.
"I knew that." Kevin said with a playful smile.
Allen laughed at the statement and gave Kevin one more quick kiss before letting him go.
* * * * *
Jackie stood and glanced at Karen with question.
Karen gave a nod and also stood.
Jackie then looked around the tables and spotted Mona.
As Jackie and Karen started walking toward Mona's table, Mona glanced over at them.
Jackie gave a nod as if to say, 'its time'.
Mona gave a quick nod in return and stood.
Jackie, Karen and Mona then walked to Teri's table.
"May we borrow Teri for a few minutes?" Jackie asked sweetly.
"Of course." Christine said immediately.
"This won't take long." Teri said as she stood and walked to Mona's side.
"Ladies... let's do it." Jackie said as she spotted her target table and led the way.
* * * * *
"Kevin, please stand right here and face the terminal for just a second so I can take your picture." Matt said seriously.
"What for?" Kevin asked curiously as he turned to face Matt.
"Face the terminal. This is going to be for your Vulcan ID." Matt said as he tried to get the terminal to get a good picture of Kevin.
"What do I need one of those for?" Kevin asked Matt curiously.
"Face the terminal. It's to prove to people that you're members of Clan Short. Now hold still..." Matt said slowly, then turned and hit the video capture key.
When the image he captured came up on the screen, he couldn't help but laugh at the wide eyed, puzzled expression on Kevin's face.
"Kevin, what were you thinking when I took your picture? That expression is priceless." Matt said through his chuckles.
Kenny and Jake rushed to the monitor to see the picture that Matt had taken.
"I think the elastic in my underwear just broke." Kevin said uncertainly as he reached into his pants and pulled out the edge of his underwear.
Kenny, Jake and Matt were all laughing at the expression that Kevin wore in the picture. Knowing what caused him to look that way made it even funnier.
"It's not funny." Kevin said in a grumpy voice.
"Come over here and say that." Jake said with a snicker as he motioned for Kevin to join him.
Kevin walked to Jakes side and saw the picture for himself.
"It's not..." Kevin began to say, then broke up into laughter.
"Yes it is." Kenny said as he laughed even harder.
"Come on guys, picture time. We've got to get to the spaceport. Kevin, let's try again." Matt said with a smile.
"Can't you keep that one?" Kevin asked with a laugh.
"Are you serious?" Matt asked incredulously.
"Yeah. It's funny. It makes people laugh. I wanna keep it." Kevin said with a smile, then reached into the side of his pants and tugged up his falling underwear.
"Kev, go take those off. You don't want to be hitching up your drawers for the rest of the night do you?" Jake asked with a smile.
"But... then I won't be wearing any underwear." Kevin said slowly.
"So? It won't hurt you to go commando one night. Go ahead while we get our pictures taken." Jake said with an assuring smile.
"Okay." Kevin said reluctantly and walked out of the study.
* * * * *
"I hope that you will excuse me for discussing business at this gathering, but I must speak with Lieutenant Thompson about some security matters." Spock said as he stood.
"They're coming, aren't they?" Chip asked as he watched Spock carefully.
Spock's only response was to say, "Good evening ladies." as he passed the four women approaching the table.
"I'll get him for that. I don't know how or when, but I'll get him." Chip said seriously to his husband.
"Chip, you need to go away with Josh this weekend and take some time for just the two of you." Jackie said firmly as the four women stood by Chip and JC's table.
"I'm sorry Aunt Jackie, but I'm going to be needed on the Enterprise. We're leaving Sunday night and I have to make sure everything's ready." Chip said seriously.
"Can't you talk to Captain Kirk and make arrangements just this once?" Jackie asked carefully.
"Captain Kirk has been very understanding about giving me time off when I've needed it in the past. But I can't just call on a whim and ask for the weekend off." Chip said frankly.
"A whim." Jackie muttered as she shook her head in disapproval.
The other three women nodded in sympathy with her dilemma.
"Josh honey, talk to your husband and make him understand how important this weekend is." Karen said to her son in an imploring voice.
"I'm supposed to be in the studio to rehearse this weekend. This is the end of our break and we have to be well rehearsed before we go back to work." JC said to his mother.
"He *used to* listen to me." Karen said with a tremble in her voice.
"Chip, these are the times that you get to look back on. You can't squander an opportunity like this to spend a special weekend with the most important person in your life. If you can't see how important this is, then you need this worse than I thought." Jackie said in a pleading whisper.
"I'm sorry Aunt Jackie. As much as I'd like to go away with Josh for the weekend, I just can't." Chip said with regret.
Jackie got a determined look in her eye as she said, "We'll see."
Chip glanced at JC with question to find him looking back.
Jackie took out her cell phone and stepped away from the group.
"What about you Josh? Are you going to listen to the advice of your mother or not?" Karen asked intensely.
"I made a commitment to the band..." JC began to say but was cut off as Karen raised her hand in a 'stop' motion.
"But mom..." JC tried to say, but was silenced with a glare.
A moment later, Karen had her cell phone in her hand and was dialing.
"You should have listened." Teri said in a gentle voice.
Mona nodded her agreement.
* * * * *
"Kenny, how's your underwear?" Jake asked just as Matt pressed the video capture button.
"Guys, you need to be serious. These pictures are going to be stored at the Vulcan embassy." Matt tried to say with a straight face as he looked at the bizarre expression in Kenny's picture.
"Sorry Matt." Jake said, not sounding the least bit sorry.
"I'm guessing you're going to want to keep this picture." Matt said in a resigned tone as he showed the picture to Kenny.
After a giggle, Kenny nodded.
"Next." Matt said with a shake of his head.
Xain took his place before the terminal and let all expression drop from his face.
"Good." Matt said as he quickly turned and hit the capture key.
When the image appeared on the screen, Matt stared at it in wonder.
There before him was a picture of the Vulcan boy with a happy smile on his face.
"How did you manage that?" Matt asked as he turned to Jake.
Kenny laughed as he approached and looked at the picture.
Jake looked at Matt wearing his most innocent expression.
"Not buying it." Matt said flatly.
"Our bond. I just let Xain feel exactly how much I love him." Jake said happily.
Matt transmitted the image and motioned for Jake to take his place in front of the monitor.
"Are you going to *try* to be serious for this picture?" Matt asked cautiously.
"I'll try." Jake said assuringly.
Matt looked at Jake cautiously, then quickly turned and hit the capture key.
The image that came up made Matt burst out in laughter.
"Can we do that again?" Jake asked with embarrassment.
"Only if you tell me what made you blush all the way to the tips of your ears." Matt said with a chuckle.
"No deal. I'll just live with the picture." Jake said, then glanced at Xain and raised one eyebrow in a uniquely Vulcan manor.
"Whatever you say." Matt said and transmitted the picture.
Jake walked to Xain's side and muttered, "Horney little Vulcan."
* * * * *
Jackie walked back to the table and said, "Your Uncle Harold and I will be staying in Orlando for the weekend, is there room for me here or do I need to call a hotel?"
"Your guest cottage is just like you left it. You've always got a place here." Chip said quickly.
Jackie nodded seriously, then glanced at Karen who was approaching.
"Josh, your father will be arriving on the next available flight. Do you have room for us here?" Karen asked JC in a cold, professional tone.
"There's always room for you." JC said in a small voice.
Karen nodded, then looked at Jackie with question.
"Wait for it." Jackie said, then turned her icy gaze on Chip.
JC and Chip squirmed under the combined glares of the mothers until they were interrupted by Hazel saying, "A call for you Mr. Chip. It is Captain Kirk."
Chip accepted the phone and quickly said, "Commander Dodds here."
After a long moment of listening, he briskly said, "Yes sir!"
There was a shorter pause, then he again said, "Yes sir!"
JC looked on in concern at Chip's serious expression.
"I understand sir. Dodds out." Chip said, then hung up the phone.
Chip turned to JC and said in a disbelieving voice, "I've just been *ordered* to take leave until the Enterprise is ready to disembark Sunday night."
JC was about to say something when the phone rang.
"It's for you Josh." Karen said simply.
JC hesitantly picked up the phone and said, "Southcrest, this is JC."
"Hold on, he did what?" JC asked in shock.
"Yeah, I got it. I'll see you Monday." JC said absently, then hung up the phone.
"Dad called Lance's parents and told them that our rehearsal was keeping me and Chip from our second honeymoon." JC said with disbelief, then looked up at his mom.
"All the parents should know by now." Karen said without emotion.
"The rehearsal has been cancelled, we're going to rehearse Monday morning instead." JC said in a considering voice.
"So here's how it's going to work. You two be packed and ready to go Friday afternoon. A limo will pick you up and take you to the airport and you're going away on a romantic weekend for two." Jackie said firmly.
"We'll be staying here all weekend to make sure you two don't try to sneak back." Karen said as she crossed her arms across her chest.
"Don't we get any say in this?" Chip asked defensively.
"You had your chance." Jackie said firmly.
"Then where are we going?" Chip asked his Aunt carefully.
"You'll find out Friday when you get there." Jackie said seriously.
"Mom?" JC asked in a small voice.
"Am I still your mom? You couldn't tell by the way you ignore my advice." Karen said as she glared at JC.
"Ouch. Direct hit." Mona whispered to Teri.
Teri glanced up at Mona and nodded in agreement.
"I'm sorry mom." JC said even more quietly.
"To think that the little boy that I raised could grow up to be too rich and famous to care about what his poor old mother has to say..." Karen said in a tone of suffering with a shake of her head.
"Now she's just showing off." Teri whispered with a smirk.
Mona nodded and whispered in return, "She sank his battleship."
* * * * *
The group traveled in silence toward the spaceport until it was broken by Dan asking, "Are you going to be okay Kevin?"
"Yeah. I'm fine." Kevin said honestly.
Kyle looked at Kevin carefully, then turned to Dan and said, "He's telling the truth. He's not scared at all. He's fine."
Dan looked at his son with question.
"Really." Kyle said as he looked his father in the eyes.
"We need to get out here to get your IDs and communicators." Matt said as he pulled into the parking lot beside the security building.
"Will this take long?" Dan asked curiously.
"No. Just a minute. They just have to pick them up in person." Matt said as he got out of the hummer.
Matt led the boys into the security building and up to the reception desk.
As soon as the officer behind the desk looked up and saw the four boys, she burst into laughter and called out, "They're here."
Three uniformed security officers rushed into the room and immediately started laughing when they saw the four boys.
"We didn't know if you were really serious when we saw the pictures." One of the officers was barely able to say.
Another of the officers calmed down enough to say, "We thought it had to be a joke."
"Are the IDs ready?" Matt asked with a smile, fighting to hold in his own laughter.
"Yes. Anita will just need you to sign for them." One of the officers fought to say.
"Well Kevin, you said you wanted to make people laugh." Matt said with a smile as he accepted a clipboard and signed for the IDs.
"Each of you will need to sign by your name." The woman behind the desk said with a large smile as she handed four ID cards and communicators to Matt.
Each boy signed their name and received their ID card and communicator.
"Thank you, we have to be going." Matt said as he handed the clipboard to the woman behind the desk.
"No. Thank you. We don't get a lot of reasons to laugh at this post. Please stop by anytime." She said, directing her last statement to the four boys.
* * * * *
"Brady, I'd like to talk to you and your brother for a moment." Mona said seriously as she led the group of mothers through the gathering.
"Sure mom. I'll be right back." Brady said to Juana and the boys.
Brady and the mothers walked to Allen's table and stopped across from him.
"Allen, I need your help with something." Mona said firmly.
"Anything you want, just name it." Allen said immediately.
"We're planning a weekend getaway for Chip and JC, sort of a second honeymoon. I'm not very computer literate or organized. I was wondering if you could help me take care of it?" Mona asked sweetly.
"I don't have a lot of experience trip planning..." Allen began to say.
"I travel a lot. Do you mind if I help too Mona?" Billy asked hopefully.
"Thank you Billy, that would be nice. You can call me Mom if you want." Mona said with a twinkle in her eye.
Allen looked at Mona incredulously but remained silent.
"I could take care of security for them when we know where they're going." Brady said seriously.
"That's my boy." Mona said with a happy smile.
"I guess that leaves me to organize the details like entertainment, flowers..." Allen trailed off in thought.
"Mona, it looks like your boys don't need any convincing so we'll leave you to it." Jackie said with a smile at the three men.
"Don't worry about a thing Jackie. Everything will be arranged for Friday afternoon." Mona said seriously.
"We'll leave it up to you. I can't wait to hear what you have planned." Jackie said with a smile.
"I'll let you know as soon as we have the details worked out." Mona said happily.
* * * * *
"Do you remember the last time we were on a shuttle?" Jake asked Kevin with a smile.
"Yeah. When we went to the Enterprise. It feels like that was a hundred years ago." Kevin said with a smile.
"I thought Ken was gonna wet himself when he realized what ship we were going to." Jake said with a chuckle.
"I've been reading about the Enterprise all my life, and then, all of a sudden I was really there." Kenny said in his defense.
"Yeah, it was cool. I was so out of it I couldn't even go on the tour with you guys." Jake said with a smile.
"Then if the opportunity should present itself, we would be able to share our first experience of touring the Enterprise together." Xain said in a speculative voice.
"Yeah. I'll have to ask Uncle Chip about that sometime. That'd be cool." Jake said as he extended his index and middle fingers to Xain.
Without hesitation, Xain held out his fingers and initiated a 'Vulcan Kiss'.
Dan smiled at the expression of love between the two, then looked at Kyle and asked, "What's got you so preoccupied?"
"It's something Jamie asked me about Kevin... something is different about him." Kyle said in a voice of deep concentration.
"How so?" Dan asked curiously.
"You know how I said that Kevin wasn't scared at all?" Kyle asked quietly.
"Yes. I remember." Dan said slowly.
"That's what's wrong. Kevin is always afraid. When he's happy or sad or angry there's this part of him inside that's always afraid." Kyle said in deep concentration.
"I'll take your word for it. So what's different?" Dan asked curiously.
"It's gone. That part, the little boy that's always scared and wanting so badly just to be loved, is gone. And I don't know where it went." Kyle said in thought.
"I talked to Kevin about some things today, maybe he finally realized that he doesn't need to be afraid and that he *is* loved." Dan suggested.
"You're good Dad, but you're not *that* good. That kind of life-long pain doesn't just go away." Kyle said seriously.
"Who is the child psychologist here anyway?" Dan asked with a smile.
"Am I wrong?" Kyle asked in challenge.
Dan got a serious expression as he said, "No, you're not wrong. I don't have the luxury of being able to look into his mind. But if what you're saying is right, this might be an indication of a problem."
"Like what?" Kyle asked curiously.
"Speaking in a strictly theoretical sense, the loss of a component part of the personality could be a sign of a bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, a multiple personality disorder, or selective amnesia. And that's just off the top of my head. Keep an eye on him and let me know if anything else comes up that worries you." Dan said seriously.
"Yeah. I will." Kyle said in thought.