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"Does anyone have anything else to add before we turn this recording over to the legal boys for prosecution?" John asked as he looked around the room.
"I think that should do it." Brady said distantly as he felt a chill crawling up his spine.
The others in the room silently nodded their agreement.
"Now that we all have a better sense of what happened tonight, it's time for everyone to take what you've learned here and apply it to your own investigations to try and uncover any other evidence that might be relevant. Report in with any significant discoveries, otherwise I'll see each of you when your report is complete." John said as he stood.
The mood was serious as the group of people stood and walked for the door.
"Lieutenant Thompson." John said firmly.
Brady turned and said, "Yes sir?"
"Good work on getting us that recording and handling the locals. I like the way you get things done. If you ever decide that you've had enough of starship life, consider a posting with me. I think I could put your talents to good use." John said seriously.
"Thank you sir. I'll keep that in mind." Brady said as he tried to restrain his smile of pride.
"Now I suppose you'd better get back to the Winters home and look it over again with this new information in mind." John said seriously.
"Yes sir, and thank you for letting me be part of this investigation." Brady said professionally.
John smiled and said, "I can see why Chip is proud of his security staff. Let's go."
* * * * *
"You look really good holding him." Joe said with a smile as he watched Mona holding Vincent in her arms.
Mona chuckled and said, "Sitting here and holding Vincent like this reminds me of when Allen was a little boy. I suppose now that I'm a grandmother I'll get to do a lot more of this."
Allen walked into the room holding Edovina cradled in his arms.
"Like mother like son." Billy said with a tender smile.
Allen glanced at Billy with question for a moment, then noticed that Mona was holding Vincent exactly the same way he was holding Edovina.
"I learned from the best." Allen said with a peaceful smile as he sat beside Mona on the couch.
"Is everything okay with the boys?" Billy asked quietly.
Allen nodded and said, "They're on their way back. Xain should be here any minute, the others are going to Camp Little Eagle to get a friend of theirs settled in."
"I wonder if that's what Deacon and Lawrence had to leave for." Billy said speculatively.
"Probably. But I'm still not sure how they knew they were needed." Joe said honestly.
"There's enough telepathic energy zinging around this place to bake a potato. I'm sure that some of the clan members figured out a way that Deacon and Lawrence could help and contacted them the most efficient way that they could." Allen said quietly as he looked lovingly at the little girl in his arms.
"I'm not that comfortable with the whole telepathy thing. But you seem to be alright with it." Billy said cautiously.
"I work with Vulcans. It's just a part of everyday life for me. You'll get used to it... Does this mean you have some deep dark secret that you're trying to keep hidden?" Allen asked with a playful smile, obviously not believing it to be so.
Billy chuckled and said, "No. No secrets. There are just a few of my thoughts that I wouldn't want transmitted for everyone to see."
Allen thought about the statement, then said, "All the telepaths I've known are very cautious about how they use their abilities. I get the feeling that they're scared that if they use their abilities improperly, then people won't want to be around them because they won't feel safe."
"I'm not sure I understand." Billy said slowly.
"It's the same as if you got the reputation for being a 'Peeping Tom'. Can you imagine how you would feel?" Allen asked quietly.
"Yeah. Okay, I get it." Billy said seriously.
"Where am I?" Vincent asked groggily from Mona's arms.
"You're in the living room at the Southcrest Ranch." Mona said gently.
Vincent looked curiously up at Mona and saw the love for him in her eyes.
"Thanks for taking care of me Grandma Mona." Vincent said as he snuggled into her embrace.
"I'm here for as long as you need me Vincent." Mona said with contentment.
* * * * *
"Here they are." Chip said as he walked into the family room.
Xain walked in next and an almost imperceptible expression of relief came over his face as he saw Edovina in Allen's arms.
"I think she needs her A'nirih." Allen said as he stood.
"Thank you Dad. I did not expect to have a feeling of apprehension when I was away from Edovina for an extended period of time." Xain said as he accepted his daughter.
"It's the same thing I've been feeling while you and your brothers have been gone." Allen said honestly, then gave Xain a gentle hug and a kiss on the top of the head.
Xain thought about the words for a moment, then said, "I had not considered that you would be experiencing this same emotion. I understand."
Allen smiled at the statement.
Xain got a distant look in his eyes, then said, "Jake, Kenny and Kevin are returning from Camp Little Eagle. They will be here momentarily."
"I guess I'll go out to welcome them back. I'll send Jake in when he gets here." Allen said as he released Xain from the hug.
"I am in contact with him and he knows where to find me." Xain said peacefully.
Allen stepped away from Xain, then turned to the other men in the room and asked, "Do you want to go out with me and welcome the boys back?"
Joe looked at Vincent cautiously, not wanting to leave him.
"He'll be fine here with me. Go on." Mona said peacefully.
Joe glanced at Billy and received a nod.
Joe, Chip, Billy and Allen walked out of the room to welcome the boys back from their adventure.
* * * * *
JC noticed the group of men walking out of the house and toward the driveway and decided to join them.
"Uncle Chip!" Kevin crowed as he jumped out of the Camp Little Eagle van.
Chip chuckled and held his arms open to Kevin who was running to him.
JC smiled at the sight as he watched the other boys getting out of the van and Aaron's car more slowly.
"How did everything go?" Allen asked as he walked to pull Jake into a quick hug.
"Just fine. We were really able to help someone." Jake said joyfully as he returned the hug.
"Xain's in the living room waiting for you with Edovina." Allen whispered.
"Thanks Dad." Jake said happily, then hurried away.
"How you doing Cute Stuff?" Allen asked as he hugged Kenny tightly.
"I'm great! How are you?" Kenny asked as he enjoyed the hug.
"I'm about one hundred percent better now that you and your brothers are back." Allen said peacefully.
After another moment of hugging, Allen noticed that Billy was hugging Deacon and Joe was hugging Lawrence just as joyfully.
"So did you have a good visit with your mother?" Chip asked quietly, not knowing if he should even broach the topic.
"Oh yeah. It was great. I got to tell her how happy I am with my new Poppa and then I got to see her get all mad about it because she could see that it was really true. I guess now she knows that all the stuff she did to me didn't make me be like her and that I'm just like my Dad." Kevin said happily.
"I'm glad it worked out for you." Chip said peacefully.
Kevin leaned close to Chip's ear and whispered, "I love you Uncle Chip."
Chip smiled at the statement and whispered, "I love you too, Little One."
Kevin broke loose from Chip's hug and moved to hug JC at his side.
JC gladly accepted the hug.
"I love you Uncle Josh." Kevin said happily.
JC smiled at the loving statement and said, "I love you too Kevin."
* * * * *
As everyone was about to return to the party, a taxi pulled into the driveway.
"Dad, I wanna talk to you!!" A young man said in a demanding tone as he swung open the door of the taxi.
Kevin watched and immediately felt defensive before the angry young man.
"What's the matter Keith?" JC asked with concern.
"Butt out of this Josh," The young man said angrily. "This is between me and my father!"
Kevin's eyes went wide at the statement as he realized that the young man was talking about Chip.
"Hold it right there, young man!" Chip said, raising his voice. "STUDY - NOW!!!"
Kevin watched as the young man followed Chip into the house, leaving JC shaking his head in bewilderment.
"Who was that?" Kevin asked JC quietly.
After a moment of standing with a stunned look on his face, JC shook himself out of it and said, "That's our oldest son, Keith."
"How many kids do you have?" Kevin asked slowly.
JC smiled at Kevin's expression and pulled him into a hug as he said, "We have four. Keith is Chip's son from his first marriage."
"Does he always talk to you like that?" Kevin asked quietly, feeling bad about having yelled at JC earlier in the day.
"No. He's never talked to me like that before. He must be really upset about something. I'm sure Chip will straighten it out." JC said assuringly.
Kevin hugged JC even tighter and said, "I'm sorry I yelled at you before. I didn't really mean the stuff I said and I'm sorry if I made you feel bad."
JC squatted down to be closer to Kevin's eye level and said, "I know that you were really upset and feeling a lot of different things this afternoon. I understood it then and wasn't hurt by what you said. I was just worried about you."
"Thanks Uncle Josh. I really really do love you. If I can't have Uncle Chip, I'm glad he's got you." Kevin said, then moved in to give JC a kiss on the cheek.
JC thought about the statement for a moment, then chuckled as he said, "Thank you... I think."
* * * * *
"Do you want to explain that outburst out there, and why you felt it necessary to bite Josh's head off like that?" Chip asked, barely restraining his anger.
"I wanna know why you changed my orders!" Keith said angrily.
"Why am I now headed for the Enterprise instead of the Paladin? I thought we'd agreed I'd make my way through Starfleet without your help?" Keith asked in an increasing voice.
"We did," Chip said as he sat down on the couch.
Keith watched his father cautiously, trying to gain control of his anger.
"If you'll sit down and lose the attitude, I'd be more than happy to explain it to you." Chip said reasonably
Keith slowly took a seat in one of the wingback chairs, watching his father cautiously.
"I routinely check on up-and-coming graduates from the Academy to see if any of them are good enough for the Enterprise, per Captain Kirk's orders. I especially check on their marks and their attendance," Chip said seriously.
"You're name was at the top of the list."
"I gave my recommendations to Captain Kirk, and he approved them." Chip said with tears in his eyes.
"You earned that position on the Enterprise son. Not because of me, but because of your grades and your attention to duty and details." Chip finished with a proud smile at his son.
"So it wasn't because you're my father that I'm going to the Enterprise?" Keith asked cautiously.
"No, it isn't." Chip said as he regained his emotional control.
"You've worked so hard to get where you're at and Josh and I are so proud of you." Chip said with a joyful smile.
"Guess I owe Josh one hell of an apology, huh?" Keith asked timidly.
"Yup," Chip said as he got up from the couch.
Keith also stood, then moved to hug his father as he whispered, "I’m really sorry for blowing up, Dad."
"It's okay," Chip said, returning the hug.
"How about we go find Josh, alright?" Chip asked as he injected cheer into his voice.
* * * * *
"Grandma Mona?" Vincent said quietly.
"Yes?" Mona answered with a smile as she turned her attention away from Jake and Xain fussing over their daughter.
"Are you gonna be my grandma, like, from now on?" Vincent asked in nearly a whisper.
"Yes Vincent. Once you're my grandkid, I never let you go." Mona said with a smile.
"Good." Vincent said peacefully and rested his head on her shoulder.
"Do you need to talk about anything?" Mona asked gently.
"Yeah. It sounds kind of silly but... I guess... I mean... I'm used to going home and doing homework and taking a bath and stuff like that. Now... I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing." Vincent said quietly.
"I can understand that completely. I'm sure being around all these people isn't helping." Mona said quietly.
"I don't mind people. I just don't know what I'm supposed to do next. I don't even know where I'll be sleeping tonight." Vincent said quietly.
"Then why don't we find out?" Mona asked with a smile.
"Vincent would be welcomed at our house." Xain said from Mona's side.
"What?" Mona turned to face Xain with question.
"Jake and I share a bed so there would be a bed for Vincent at our house if he would like to stay with us." Xain said reasonably.
"Yeah, it wouldn't be any problem at all for us." Jake said seriously.
Mona smiled and said, "Thank you boys. I'm going to see if Joe has made any plans yet. I'll make sure to mention your offer."
Xain nodded, then turned his attention back to Edovina in his arms.
* * * * *
Kevin stayed close to JC's side, wanting to make sure that Keith wouldn't return and yell at him again.
Billy and Allen had witnessed the outburst in the driveway and couldn't help but notice Kevin's protectiveness toward JC.
"Is everything okay?" Allen asked cautiously.
"I'm sure it will be." JC said, then noticed that Kevin had put an arm around his waist to hold him in a loose, protective hug.
"Let us know if there's anything we can do to help." Billy said seriously.
"I know that Chip is getting everything sorted out." JC said and forced a smile of assurance onto his face.
"Josh?" A weak, trembling voice said from behind JC.
A shiver of dread ran up JC's spine at the tone of voice and he whirled to see Ethan Nichols, Keith's boyfriend, standing with a devastated expression on his face and a backpack slung over his left shoulder.
"Oh my God Ethan, what's wrong?" JC asked with his parental instincts going off like flares.
"They... I told my parents and... they... they cut me off. I don't know what I'm going to do." Ethan said, barely restraining his tears.
"What do you mean by 'cut off'?" JC asked cautiously, wanting to be sure he understood the situation before doing anything about trying to resolve it.
"No more college. No more dorm. No more... anything. I'm not even allowed to go to their house or call them..." Ethan said as the tears started running down his cheeks.
Kevin looked around the gathering and spotted Kenny talking with Justy and Dean.
Without even thinking about what he was doing, Kevin focused on the thought that he needed Kenny and urged him to look up.
Kenny glanced at Kevin curiously, not consciously aware that his brother had just contacted him.
Kevin made a 'come here' gesture, then walked to Ethan's side to pull him into a firm hug.
Ethan looked down with surprise at the skinny pale kid who started hugging him.
"Ethan, this is Kevin." JC said as he thought about what he needed to do.
A moment later Kenny joined the hug.
"That's his brother Kenny." JC said, then smiled at the confused look on Ethan's face.
"Ethan, you're hurting. They just want to make you feel better." JC said with sympathy at the look of pain in Ethan's eyes.
"Thanks guys." Ethan said in a whisper as he returned the hug.
"Ethan, why don't you walk with the guys for a minute while I check on some things. Try not to worry, I think things are about to get better." JC said with an assuring smile.
"Okay. Thanks Josh." Ethan said hesitantly, then started to walk as the two brothers guided him away.
* * * * *
"Joe, I've got someone here with some very serious questions for you." Mona said as she walked out of the house with Vincent at her side.
Joe looked away from Billy and Allen, then smiled when he saw that Vincent was looking better.
"How you doing Champ?" Joe asked as he walked to give Vincent a quick hug.
"I'm feeling a lot better. I was just kind of wondering where I'm going to be sleeping tonight." Vincent said seriously.
"Hmmm. That's a good question. I suppose we'd better figure that out." Joe said carefully.
"My grandson Xain said that Vincent could share his room. He has a spare bed." Mona offered with a gentle smile.
"What do you think about that?" Joe asked casually.
"Um, well. He seems nice and everything but... I really don't want to sleep in the same room with gay guys if I don't have to." Vincent said reluctantly.
"Oh." Joe said in thought.
"My grandsons wouldn't try to do anything to you. You'd be perfectly safe with them." Mona said with assurance.
Vincent looked at Mona and realized that she might think he was insulting her grandkids.
"I'm sorry Grandma Mona. I didn't mean for it to sound like that. Xain and his... um, boyfriend, they seem like they're really nice and everything and I don't think they'd do bad stuff to me while I'm sleeping or anything like that... It's me that's the problem. I don't think I could feel comfortable sleeping in the same room with someone I know is gay. I'm sorry if that makes me a bad person but it's how I feel." Vincent said as tears welled up in his eyes.
Mona pulled Vincent close for a hug and said, "I don't think that makes you a bad person Vincent. You're just being honest about what you're feeling. I hope that one day soon you'll get past this and realize that people are people. But until then, just keep being honest with everyone and with yourself and we'll do our best to make you comfortable."
"Mona's right. As long as you're being honest about your feelings, we won't be mad at you. What would you think about us getting a motel room for the night?" Joe asked with a smile.
"Not a good idea." Teri said as she approached.
"What?" Joe asked with confusion.
"Oh Teri, how are things?" Mona asked with a gentle smile at her new friend.
"The jury is still out on that one. And if you were just talking about taking Vincent to a motel for the night, that's not a good idea at all." Teri said frankly.
"Why not?" Joe asked curiously.
"Let's see. Child protective services would love to get their hands on Vincent. I'm sure the local police would like to ask him a few questions. The media would like nothing more than a photo op with an emotional child.... do you need more?" Teri asked seriously.
"No. That's enough." Joe said reluctantly.
"Off the top of my head, I can think of five very good choices where you could spend the night that will be secure." Teri said in a considering voice.
"Five? I think I know two of them. What choices do you have for us Teri?" Mona asked with interest.
"Well, the first choice is here. I mean, you're already here and I happen to know that Chip and Josh have plenty of room." Teri said frankly.
Joe hesitantly nodded.
"Next would be my place at the Short Compound. It's just as secure as this place and we have plenty of room too. You'd both be welcomed to stay with us." Teri said with an inviting smile.
Vincent looked up at Joe curiously, not sure which option he would go with.
"Next is Camp Little Eagle. Their compound is secure and with one phone call we could have a place for Vincent to stay." Teri said seriously.
Joe nodded hesitantly.
"Choices four and five would be the Enterprise and the Yorktown. They're both in orbit and I doubt that it would take much convincing to get either one of the captains to allow you to spend the night on their ships." Teri said with a smile at Vincent.
Vincent perked up at the last suggestion.
"At ease Champ. I know how much you'd enjoy spending the night on a starship, but I think we'd be better off spending the next few days on Earth. We have too many things to take care of here and it just doesn't make sense to be transporting back and forth." Joe said seriously.
Vincent tried to hide his disappointment as he said, "I guess that makes sense."
"Vincent, if we can get everything done before Sunday you'll be living on a starship. You're going to need to get medical clearance and take at least a dozen different tests before you can be cleared to go. I really think this is going to be the best place for us to stay." Joe said, trying to ease Vincent's disappointment.
"Us?" Vincent asked in confirmation.
Joe smiled at the question and said, "Us. I'm sticking with you for as long as you need me Champ."
"Okay. Then I guess it doesn't matter where I stay as long as you're with me." Vincent said with a smile.
* * * * *
Chip and Keith returned to the party where they found JC talking to Billy and Allen. "You having fun, guys?
"Oh yeah," Billy replied as he looked at Keith cautiously, not knowing what to expect from him.
"Josh?" Keith said timidly.
"Yeah, Keith." JC replied, already knowing that Keith was feeling regret at his outburst.
"I'm sorry Josh," Keith said. "I didn't mean to blow up at you."
JC pulled Keith into his arms as he said, "It's okay, kiddo. We all have our moments."
"Dad explained everything to me," Keith said with relief, knowing that JC really understood and accepted his apology.
"Good," JC said then pulled out of the hug and took hold of Keith by the shoulders.
JC turned Keith to face the driveway and said, "Because right now, someone needs you badly."
Keith looked out over the driveway to see Ethan walking up with two boys holding him.
* * * * *
Teri, Mona, Joe and Vincent walked over in time to see Keith walk away from Chip and JC.
"Do you have a minute to talk with me Chip?" Teri asked quietly.
"Let's see what's going on first." Chip whispered, keeping his focus on Keith and his boyfriend.
Teri glanced at Joe and received a nod of agreement, then waited to see what was going to happen next.
* * * * *
Keith's heart broke at the sad look on Ethan's face.
"What happened?" Keith asked in panic as he ran to Ethan's side.
Kenny and Kevin simultaneously pulled back from Ethan to allow Keith to hug him.
"My parents... I finally came out to them and... It's worse than I imagined. They disowned me. They completely cut me off and said they never wanted to see me again." Ethan said as tears fell down his cheeks.
"Then you're better off without them. If they can suddenly stop loving you because you're gay, then it's not really love, it's just their way of trying to control you." Keith said quietly, then pulled out of the hug to look Ethan in the eyes.
"I love you Ethan. No matter what." Keith said firmly.
"You don't have to do anything or be anything other than yourself for me. I love the person that you are and I'll never stop loving you." Keith said as he kept a firm gaze.
"I knew that." Ethan said with a watery smile of joy as he looked deeply into Keith's eyes.
"I know, but I thought you might need to hear it." Keith said gently, then pulled Ethan into a deep, passionate kiss.
"Guys?" JC said, feeling that they needed to be reminded that there were other people around.
Keith broke out of the kiss, and looked at JC with question.
"From the look of it, you two have some things to talk about. So before you go upstairs, I just want to say one thing." JC said seriously.
Everyone watching was silent, waiting to see what JC was going to say.
"Ethan, you've been a part of our family since Keith brought you to meet us the first time." JC said seriously as he put an arm around Chip.
JC glanced at his husband and received a nod to continue.
"Chip and I want you to know that this is your home now. You don't ever have to worry about being 'cut off' by us." JC said with assurance.
"But what if..." Ethan started to say, but couldn't continue past the lump in his throat.
"We aren't doing this because Keith loves you. We've gotten to know you and consider you one of our kids. From now on. You'll *never* be cut off." JC said firmly.
"Thanks." Ethan whispered as he held Keith close to his side.
"And I'm going to take care of your college expenses." JC said seriously.
"I can't let you do that." Ethan said quickly.
"Ethan, you've been working on this degree for years and it only makes sense that you finish. It would be a crime to let all your hard work go to waste." JC said more quietly.
"I'll pay you back." Ethan said firmly.
"If you feel you have to, that's fine. But this isn't about the money. It's about helping you have the best possible future." JC said, then looked at Chip to find him nodding in agreement.
"Now you two should go inside. I have a feeling that you two need to talk." JC said with a smile.
"Yeah. Thanks Josh. I don't know how I'll ever repay you for all this." Ethan said as the tears started flowing down his cheeks again.
JC released his husband and walked to Ethan to pull him into a hug of comfort.
"Just make the most perfect future that you can for yourself. That's all the payment I'll ever ask." JC said from the hug.
* * * * *
After Keith and Ethan had left the gathering, there was a long moment of silence that was finally broken by Chip asking, "Did you need to ask me something Teri?"
Teri thought for a moment, then said, "Oh, yes. Joe and Vincent need a secure location to stay in tonight. You know, to keep Vincent away from the media and CPS."
"I already asked Hazel to get a room ready for them. I just naturally assumed that they would be staying here." Chip said frankly.
"Oh, well then, if that's alright with you guys, I guess it's settled." Teri said happily.
"Is that okay with you Champ?" Joe asked quietly.
"Let's see, is it okay with me if I get to stay in the mansion where Commander Dodds from the Enterprise lives..." Vincent said in a playful, considering voice.
"Should I take that as a yes?" Joe asked with a chuckle.
"Well DUH. Can you think of anyplace on the planet that would be better than this?" Vincent asked seriously.
Joe laughed and said, "No Vincent, I can't."
* * * * *
"What's going on Dad?" Jake asked as he walked out of the house with Xain at his side and Edovina in his arms.
Allen looked around, then cautiously said, "I don't know. I think the gathering is finally starting to wind down."
"Does that mean we can leave?" Jake asked hopefully.
"Sure. Is something wrong?" Allen asked with concern.
"No. We've just been here all day and I'd really like to just be at home where I can relax." Jake said honestly.
"I'll go tell Juana and Billy that we're going. You two can go get your brothers." Allen said quickly.
"Three." Jake said as he lifted Edovina.
"Right. Go on." Allen said with a smile.
* * * * *
"Mona, were getting ready to leave. Are you going to come with us or do you want to take a cab?" Allen asked as he approached Joe, Mona and Vincent.
"If you'll give Joe your address and phone number I'll go with you." Mona said with a smile.
Allen looked at Mona with question.
"We're going on a date tomorrow." Joe said with a happy smile.
"Oh, okay. Do you have something to write on?" Allen asked quickly.
Joe reached in his pocket and pulled out a small address book and a pen.
Allen filled in the information quickly, then handed the address book back to Joe.
After a moment of looking at the address, Joe flipped a few pages back and said, "Your address is almost the same as Billy's."
"Yeah. He lives right across the street from me." Allen said with a smile.
"Oh, well that works out fine." Joe said happily.
"I'll see you tomorrow Joe." Mona said with a girlish twinkle in her eyes.
"I'll see you then." Joe said, then moved in to give her a quick kiss.
Allen glanced down to Vincent, feeling funny about intruding on his mother's personal life.
"He said he was straight." Vincent said with a smile.
Allen giggled at the statement and smiled at the young boy.
* * * * *
"Are you guys ready to go? Dad's about ready to leave." Jake said as he walked to Kenny and Kevin.
"Yeah. It's been fun but I'm really tired." Kevin said seriously.
"Same here. It feels like this day has gone on forever." Jake said honestly.
Kenny nodded his agreement.
"Come on. Let's see if Lawrence and Deacon are ready to go too." Jake said with a smile at his brothers.
"Deacon's right over there." Kenny said as he pointed.
Jake looked where Kenny was pointing, then took off across the pool area.
* * * * *
Allen walked to Juana and said, "We're about to leave. Do you want to come with us?"
Juana considered for a moment, then said, "I would like to stay so I can help to clean up after the gathering."
Allen smiled and said, "That sounds like a good idea. Would you like me to take the boys home with me? That way Ricardo can lay down when he gets sleepy."
"Yes. If it wouldn't be a problem for you." Juana said shyly.
"I've got Mona and all the boys to help me watch after them so it won't be a problem at all. You'll have the beamer so you can stay as long as you want and have fun." Allen said gently.
"Thank you Allen. I didn't even realize before how limited my life had become. I am very happy in my new life here." Juana said timidly.
"Having you here makes all our lives a lot easier. Have a good night." Allen said peacefully.
Juana nodded, then went back to tidying up the snack food table by the pool.
* * * * *
"Hey Deacon. We're about to take off. Do you want to come with us?" Jake asked happily as he approached.
Deacon looked around and saw that Billy was just a few feet away.
"Billy, the guys are leaving. Do you want to hang around or go with them?" Deacon asked curiously.
"I just have one thing to do, then I'll be ready to go. Why don't you guys go find Lawrence while I talk to Chip and Josh?" Billy asked casually.
"Okay." Deacon said with a happy smile, then looked at Jake to see if he was going to go with him.
"I think he's inside, let's go get him." Jake said happily.
The ever increasing group of boys headed for the house as Billy looked around the pool area trying to find their hosts.
* * * * *
"Hey Lawrence, what's up?" Deacon asked as he walked into the family room and approached Lawrence cautiously.
"Hey Deke, I just needed a couple minutes of peace and quiet." Lawrence said, then noticed the rest of the boys entering the room.
"We're getting ready to leave and wanted to see if you're ready to go." Deacon said with a gentle smile.
"Very ready. That whole thing with Mikey is still blowing my mind." Lawrence said in a tired voice.
"I wasn't even thinking about that. I just want to be alone with you for a little bit." Deacon said timidly.
Lawrence smiled at the statement, then said, "That sounds perfect Deke, let's go."
* * * * *
"Did the guys already talk to you?" Allen asked as he approached Billy.
"Yeah. I just need to talk to Chip or JC for a second before we leave. Do you know where they went?" Billy asked as he continued to look around.
"Yes. I saw them go inside a few minutes ago." Allen said, then noticed that Mona had joined him.
"There's JC, let's go." Billy said quickly and started walking toward the door.
Allen and Mona followed to see what Billy was planning.
"JC, do you have a minute?" Billy asked as he ran to JC's side.
"Sure, what's up?" JC asked casually.
"Before we leave, I just wanted to ask you if it would be okay if I did a photo shoot here." Billy asked quickly.
"What kind of photo shoot?" JC asked cautiously.
"Well, I've got this children's fashion shoot that I've been trying to get done for a while now but I haven't been able to get it together. I think your home would be the perfect location for the shoot." Billy said honestly.
"Why?" JC asked curiously.
"The color scheme and architecture would be the perfect compliment to the clothing line. I still need to find the right model, but I wanted to be sure that I could use your house as a location before I started working on that." Billy said seriously.
JC considered for a moment, then smiled as he said, "I think that sounds nice. Sure. Come by whenever you want."
"Thanks Josh. Finding the right location was half the battle. If I can find the right model, this layout will be a work of art." Billy said happily.
"Make sure you send us a copy of the prints when you're finished. I'd like to see what you come up with." JC said, drawn into Billy's enthusiasm.
"I'll do that. Thanks again. I'd better get going, there's a group of boys staring at me to get a move on." Billy said as he glanced at the gathering in the driveway.
JC looked over and chuckled at the intent expressions on all the boys faces.
"Yeah, you'd better go before they come and get you." JC said with a smile.
* * * * *
Allen glanced in the rearview mirror to find Kenny and Kevin both wearing beaming smiles.
"Is everything alright?" Allen asked curiously.
"Everything is great." Kevin answered immediately.
"Something must have happened on your trip, you really seem to be in a much better mood than when you left." Allen said speculatively.
"Yeah. We went to see Kevin's mom, then we went to Chicago and helped this guy who Kevin and Jake know who got shot in the face and then... well, some stuff happened at the camp and now we're here." Kenny said happily.
"Stuff?" Mona asked curiously.
"Yeah. Stuff." Kevin said with a chuckle.
Mona glanced at Allen with a smile, then decided to play along and asked, "What kind of stuff?"
"Good stuff." Kenny said with a mischievous grin.
"I don't think they're going to tell you." Allen said as he tried to restrain his laughter.
"I wouldn't be so sure." Mona said, then turned to look at the two brothers side by side.
Kenny and Kevin saw the determined look in Mona's eyes and simultaneously broke into uncontrollable laughter.
Jake smiled at the reaction and said, "I think they've got you outnumbered Grandma."
"Then why don't you tell me what's going on?" Mona said seriously as she turned her determined gaze on Jake.
"Because I don't know. I was in the next room when whatever it was happened. But they're happy, so why mess with it?" Jake asked with a smile.
Mona looked consideringly at the boys for a moment, then turned to face forward in her seat.
"So is everyone doing alright now?" Allen asked with a happy smile.
"We're good." Kenny said happily.
"Yeah, us too." Jake said as he put an arm around Xain.
"How about you Reuben?" Allen asked as he peeked in the rearview mirror.
"We had fun with all our new brothers." Reuben said happily.
"Timmy and Ricky told me I was bestest at giving hugs." Ricardo said proudly.
"I have to agree with that." Allen said happily as he pulled his car into the driveway.
"It's good to be home." Allen said as he sat peacefully and stared at the house.
"It's better than my best dream for you." Mona said as she was captivated by the peaceful mood that had fallen over the group.
"When I left for Chicago, I thought I was leaving my home forever. I was just going to my new home. This is where I belong." Kenny said peacefully.
"I always lived in apartments and never felt like anyplace was home until I was here with all of you." Kevin said and hugged his brother happily.
"When I was on the streets, I dreamed about what it would be like to have a home where I didn't have to worry about finding food or a safe place to sleep... but I never dreamed anything like this." Jake said as he pulled Xain to his side.
"My home on Vulcan was filled with the memories of my mother and the sadness of her loss. This home is filled with hopes and dreams for the future." Xain said in a quiet, contemplative voice.
"I've got to pee." Ricardo said loudly.
Everyone started laughing at the statement. The peaceful spell that had fallen over the group was broken and everyone started to get out of the SUV.
Allen opened the front door and stood aside as his family entered the house.
Kenny stopped at Allen's side and said, "When Dad died, I thought everything good in my life was gone. I never thought I'd be happy again."
Allen pulled Kenny into a hug and said, "I know Cute Stuff. But that's just the way life is sometimes. Every now and then things seem to fall apart all around you and you don't know what to do next. But later you realize that everything fell apart so that something new could take it's place."
"I love you Pop." Kenny said as he held Allen tightly.
"I love you too. Come inside now, we're home."