The ringing of a phone jarred Bug out of a deep sleep.
When it rang again, Bug finally realized that it wouldn't stop until he answered it.
He was struck with the sudden realization that he wasn't alone in his bed when he tried to reach for the source of the ringing and encountered a shoulder in his path.
"Do you want me to get it?" Ken muttered in a barely coherent voice.
"Could you hand it to me?" Bug asked hopefully.
Ken grunted, then lifted the handset and passed it to Bug.
"Hello?" Bug asked in a low rough voice.
"Bug. There's something that you need to see." A female voice said seriously.
"Oma Shoupe?" Bug asked blearily.
"Can you come to my room? You really need to see this." Oma Shoupe said firmly.
"Yeah. Is it an emergency, or do I have time to get dressed?" Bug asked cautiously as he came more awake.
"Take all the time that you need." Oma Shoupe said more softly.
"Alright. I'll be over in a few minutes." Bug said slowly, then tried to reach across Ken to hang up the phone.
"I've got it." Ken muttered, then took the phone from Bug's hand.
"Thanks." Bug said as he sat up and tried to will himself to be more awake.
"Is it a big problem?" Ken asked groggily.
"I'm pretty sure that my grandmother just saw something on the news that freaked her out a little. I'd tell her to tell me about it later, but I don't think she would have called me unless it was something kinda big." Bug said thoughtfully.
"Do you want us to stay here, or should we leave, in case she wants to come to your room for some reason?" Ken asked cautiously.
"No. You can stay. In fact, you can even go with me, if you want. Oma Shoupe knows that I like guys sometimes, and she's never had any problem with it." Bug said frankly.
"Sometimes?" Ken asked curiously.
"Yeah. I like some girls, but let's face it, guys are easier. You can tell them exactly what you want and most times, they're overjoyed to give it to you. The girls I know are all into drama and bullshit games... I hate to break it to 'em, but pussy ain't so great that it's worth putting up with their shit."
Ken chuckled and nodded his understanding.
"Anyway, let me out, so I can get dressed. If you want to come along, it's okay." Bug said seriously.
Ken quickly got out of the bed, then said, "I'll wake up Kev. He'd kill me if I left him out."
"You know him best." Bug said simply as he pulled on his clothes from just a few hours before.
As he was pulling up his pants, he noticed that Ken was also dressing, and not making any move to wake his twin.
Suddenly, Kev's eyes opened and he looked at Ken and Bug with question.
"We're going to meet Bug's grandmother." Ken said simply.
Kev nodded and went immediately to the task of dressing himself.
"Bug, would you like your hair braided?" Ken asked as he walked to one of the backpacks in the living room area.
"I don't know if it's really long enough." Bug said hesitantly.
"Sure it is. I bet we can get a nice little braid off of it." Ken said with a smile.
"Yeah. If you want to, sure." Bug said as he pulled on his shoes.
"Let me brush it out, first." Ken said quietly.
Bug couldn't remember the last time anyone had brushed his hair. He thought it might have been his mother when he was a small child.
It felt like such an intimate act for being something so commonplace.
As he was having his hair brushed, Kev walked past him and behind Ken.
Bug couldn't see what he was doing, but imagined that Kev was brushing Ken's hair.
"You've got really nice hair." Ken said as he started sectioning Bug's hair to make a braid.
"Thanks, I guess. All I really do is wash it." Bug said frankly.
Ken chuckled, then said, "I just mean that it's not dry or oily and there's no split ends. Hair like this is easy to work with."
Since Bug was used to the tension of his ponytail, the braid being tightened didn't bother him. It actually felt kind of nice.
"I think you're going to like this." Ken said with a smile sounding in his voice.
"You're going to have to teach me how to braid, so I can help you guys." Bug said frankly.
"Yeah." Ken said happily, then added, "I'm done. See what you think."
Bug walked to the bathroom and turned so he could somewhat see the braid that ended just about level with the tops of his shoulder blades.
As Bug walked back into the room, he saw that Ken was now braiding Kev's hair.
"I like it. It's longer than I thought it would be." Bug said as he walked to their sides.
"It looks good on you." Kev said with a smile.
"How would you guys feel about getting some breakfast after we talk to Oma Shoupe? I don't know about you, but I'm hungry." Bug said honestly.
"I don't know. I didn't get anywhere near enough sleep, so I'm still feeling a little bit jittery. But I think that once my stomach has a chance to wake up, that I'll probably be as hungry as you are." Ken said frankly.
"I think I'm ready to go, if you guys are." Kev said as he looked himself over.
"Yeah. Just give me a second to get Oma's meds." Bug said quickly.
Ken and Kev were waiting by the door when Bug returned.
"If this takes very long, I may need to call room service for some coffee. My body doesn't function well on, like, 3 hours of sleep." Bug said frankly.
"Get enough for three." Kev said simply.
* * * * *
Bug knocked on the door to his grandmother's room and waited for her answer before sliding the card key and opening the door.
"Oma Shoupe, I brought some friends with me. I hope you don't mind." Bug said as he led the way into the room.
"Oh, Bug! I'm in my nightgown!" Oma Shoupe said in frustration.
"You look fine, Oma." Bug chuckled, then said, "Oma Shoupe, I'd like for you to meet Ken and Kev."
"Which is which?" Oma Shoupe asked as she looked at the identically dressed twins.
"They're interchangeable." Bug said with a grin.
"I'm Ken." One of the twins said shyly.
"Which is short for..." Oma Shoupe asked in a leading tone.
"Kenny... um, Kenneth Waite." Ken said shyly.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Kenneth." Oma Shoupe said gently, then turned her inquiring gaze on Kev.
"I'm Kevin Harris, ma'am." Kev said in an equally shy tone.
"It's a pleasure, Kevin." Oma Shoupe said with a warm smile at him, then a curious look came over her face.
Bug glanced to see how the twins were holding up to his grandmother's inspection of them.
"How is it that two identical twin brothers happen to have different last names?" Oma Shoupe asked curiously.
"Our parents divorced when we were babies. Kev's mom went back to using her maiden name and changed his name at the same time." Ken said frankly.
Oma Shoupe slowly nodded, then her inquisitive gaze shifted to Bug.
Rather than play dumb and make her ask, Bug simply said, "They slept in my room with me, last night."
Oma Shoupe looked at Bug with surprise for a moment, then smiled as she said, "You never were one to do things halfway."
Bug smiled at her easy acceptance, then asked, "So, what was it that you needed me to see?"
Oma Shoupe pointed to the television, which had the news playing quietly as she said, "I've always said that you should only believe about half of what you see on the news. But what I'm seeing here is saying that the news back home was nearly all lies. Things are much, MUCH worse than we've been led to believe."
"I know." Bug said quietly.
At her look of surprise, Bug continued, "For a while now, I've been following things on a sort of underground Internet. It's like a collection of hackers who work to keep the information flowing, even though the government and media corporations have been trying to keep it quiet."
"How bad is it, really?" Oma Shoupe asked with concern.
"It's been getting worse and worse, a little at a time, for quite a while now. But after that thing with President Bryce... now it's suddenly bad enough that I asked someone I didn't really know for help to get us out of Florida." Bug said frankly.
Oma Shoupe thought about the words for a moment, then quietly said, "I pieced together enough facts to realize that there was more going on than we were being told. I thought, at worst, that President Assworm might declare martial law, but that isn't the worst of it, is it?"
Both twins smiled at Oma Shoupe's name for the president.
Bug shook his head and said, "Think about it. The president called for a military strike against another military base on American soil. He was trying to kill his political opponent in the election. If he's willing to do that much openly, just imagine what dirty things he's got going on, behind the scenes."
"Like what?" Kev asked cautiously.
"People disappearing in the middle of the night without a trace. Whole families being wiped out in mass executions. Secret prisons of 'domestic terrorists' being held without any charges or trials. And that's just the stuff that I've run across. I'm not really heavy into the underground. There's probably a lot more that I haven't heard about." Bug said frankly.
"Look at what we've become." Oma Shoupe whispered sadly.
"It's not all bad news. There are good people fighting against him. I saw on the Internet last night that a group of hackers took down a bunch of government servers and were giving President Asswart a major headache."
"Some of your friends?" Oma Shoupe asked cautiously, obviously worried that Bug might be involved in something that would be dangerous for him.
"I don't know for sure, but I don't think so. My friends tend to work in the shadows. Whoever did this... they were on a whole different level." Bug said seriously.
"Does anyone mind if I order some coffee? I'm in serious need, here." One of the twins asked hopefully.
Bug saw the hopeful look and felt an involuntary smile cross his face.
"Are you hungry, Oma Shoupe? If you are, we could order breakfast for all of us." Bug asked gently.
"We're going to be having breakfast at ten o'clock." Oma Shoupe said carefully.
"Yeah. But that's, like, three hours from now. I know that me and the guys aren't going to be able to wait that long." Bug said frankly.
Oma Shoupe smiled, then said, "Just get me something light. I think waiting until ten might be a bit of a stretch for me as well."
"Everybody like eggs and toast?" Bug asked as he walked to the phone.
"Scrambled." The twins said in unison.
Bug chuckled, then picked up the phone.
* * * * *
After a pleasant breakfast, during which Oma Shoupe seemed determined to learn everything there was to know about the twins, Bug finally explained that they needed to go wake up Lawrence and get their showers taken before the 10am breakfast meeting.
"Do you guys want to go get your showers while I see that my brother's awake?" Bug asked as they walked away from Oma Shoupe's room.
"Why? Don't you want us to meet him?" Kev asked cautiously.
"Guys, we just sat down and had breakfast with my grandmother. That wouldn't have happened if I was ashamed of you." Bug said frankly.
The twins shared a look, but still seemed wary.
Bug stopped outside Lawrence's door and turned to face them.
"Okay. I need for you guys to hang back for, like, one minute. There's a very good chance that my brother and his... I guess he's officially his boyfriend... they're probably naked and might even be... you know... at it." Bug said slowly.
"And what are you afraid is going to happen if we see?" Ken asked with a mischievous grin.
"One minute, okay?" Bug asked hopefully.
"You're no fun." Kev said with a roll of his eyes.
Bug chuckled, then knocked on the door.
* * * * *
A knocking on the door jolted Ben out of an absolutely hideous dream where he was chasing after a boney-assed girl while she was repeatedly rejecting him and putting him down.
Even louder knocking forced him to open his eyes and realize where he was.
"Didn't know you could get a hangover from hamburgers." Ben muttered as he got up and walked to the door.
Another bout of knocking had started before he reached the door and opened it.
"What happened, Ben? Did Oleksandr have trouble last night?" Brother Jacques asked with concern.
"What? No. Why?" Ben asked in sleep fogged confusion.
"Man, you look like shit!" Brother Jacques said honestly.
"What time is it?" Ben asked blearily.
"A few minutes after nine. I figured I'd make the rounds and see that everyone's up, so they'll have time to get ready." Brother Jacques said with a smile.
"We were up kind of late." Ben said weakly.
"No kidding. I've seen roadkill that looks better than you." Brother Jacques chuckled.
"Yeah, yeah. I'm awake now. By the way, Dax is here, so you don't have to worry about waking him." Ben said as he realized that he could 'feel' the bags under his eyes.
"He was going to be my next stop. Thanks for letting me know."
"Yeah. Thanks for the wakeup call. No matter how I look, I really do appreciate you waking me up." Ben said as he tried to force a smile.
Brother Jacques nodded, then something seemed to occur to him.
Ben was surprised when Brother Jacques stepped closer and leaned in.
"If I ever get the chance to meet your grandfather, I'm going to kill that man." Brother Jacques said in an icy, firm voice.
Ben nodded then said, "Don't expect me to try and stop you."
* * * * *
When Lawrence opened the door, Bug was relieved to find him at least wearing his boxer shorts.
"I just wanted to stop by to make sure that you and Roris woke up on time. We have to be at breakfast in less than an hour." Bug explained carefully.
"Oh. Thanks, Bug. I forgot all about that." Lawrence said happily.
"Did everything go okay last night?" Bug asked cautiously.
"Yeah! The best!" Lawrence said with unbridled joy.
Bug smiled at his brother's happiness, then remembered the guys in the hall.
"Lawrence, after you went to bed last night, I kind of met some guys." Bug said shyly.
"Did you go out?" Lawrence asked curiously.
"No. I met them here. They're some of the guys who came here from Chicago." Bug hurried to explain.
"Are they nice?" Lawrence asked curiously.
"Yeah. I really think they are." Bug said slowly.
Lawrence smiled cheerfully, happy that Bug had made some new friends.
"Well, the thing is... they're in the hall. They'd like to meet you." Bug said nervously.
"Why?" Lawrence asked curiously.
"Because you're my brother, I guess." Bug said frankly.
"Oh. Okay." Lawrence said without concern.
"Is Roris... covered?" Bug asked hesitantly.
Lawrence thought for a moment, then took a few steps into the room so he could see the bed.
"If you'll make sure he's presentable, I'll tell the guys that they can come in." Bug said gently.
"Thanks for thinking of that, Bug. Roris was real embarrassed when you saw him last night. I bet he'd be even more embarrassed if it was someone I didn't even know." Lawrence said honestly.
Bug smiled as he nodded, then turned to get the guys.
* * * * *
Ben was about to wake Oleksandr, but realized that, while he had a 'kid free' moment, that there were a few things that he'd like to take care of.
So, after a quick shower and a few minutes to tidy up the room, all that was left was to wake the boys.
He knelt on the floor where Dax had fallen asleep and gently shook his shoulder.
"Don't make me go. Everyone hates me." Dax whined in his sleep.
Ben's eyes immediately filled with tears at the words as he flashed back on some of the darker days of his own childhood.
He sat back on his heels and tried to contain his emotions before attempting to wake Dax again.
After a few deep breaths, Ben leaned forward again and gently shook Dax's shoulder as he said, "Wake up, Dax. It's Ben. It's a new day and we're starting a wonderful adventure."
"Huh?" Dax said blearily as he opened his eyes.
"We're in Kansas City, remember?" Ben said gently.
"Oh. Yeah." Dax said as he slowly rolled onto his side, then pushed himself into a sitting position.
"How are you feeling?" Ben asked softly.
"Like a piece of chewed up bubble gum." Dax said in a raspy voice.
Ben chuckled, then said, "I'm right there with you, Dax. But we need to get up. In less than an hour we'll be finding out where we're going and what's going to happen next."
Dax slowly blinked his eyes, then asked, "What time is it?"
"A little after nine." Ben said gently.
Dax looked over at the couch, where Oleksandr was fast asleep.
"I'll wake him in a few minutes. I wanted to talk to you about something, first." Ben said quietly.
Dax looked at Ben curiously.
"I just wanted you to know that you're not alone in all of this."
Dax didn't seem to be getting what Ben was trying to say.
"I just wanted you to know that I've got your back. I know that you're old enough that you don't need someone to watch over you like Oleksandr does, but... I guess what I'm saying is that, if you want to, we can kind of stick together." Ben said cautiously.
"Like how?" Dax asked warily.
"We don't know where we'll be going or what we'll be doing next. I just thought that instead of both of us trying to figure stuff out by ourselves, we could kind of team up and face it together." Ben said hopefully.
"But aren't you going to be embarrassed to be seen with a sissy fag?" Dax asked in a whisper.
Ben fought to contain his emotions as he said, "I don't know about that, but I know that I won't be embarrassed to be seen with my friend, Dax."
There was a long moment of silence as Dax considered the words. Finally, he quietly said, "Father Doherty was right when he called me hot headed. Sometimes I get angry, I get mean, even to the people I like."
"Well, I guess if that happens, that I'll just have to put you in a headlock and keep you that way until you calm down." Ben said thoughtfully.
Dax looked at Ben with surprise at the suggestion.
"Of course, if you're feeling angry, you could choose to sit down with me and vent. Then, when you've got it all out of your system, I'll probably say something stupid like, 'everything will be fine', and then maybe we can go out for hamburgers or something." Ben said with a smile.
Dax thought it over for a few seconds, then quietly said, "That sounds nice."
"Yeah. Just as long as you don't expect me to come up with anything brilliant to say to make you feel better. I really suck at stuff like that." Ben said frankly.
"I don't know. You seem to be doing pretty good right now." Dax said with a smile.
"Yeah. I'm great now, when no one's scared or mad or anything. But when the tears are flowing, I'm an idiot." Ben said ruefully.
Dax chuckled, then said, "Then I'll forgive you in advance."
"Thanks, Dax. I'll forgive you in advance, too." Ben said warmly.
Dax looked at Ben with surprise, then nodded his agreement.
* * * * *
As Bug ushered the twins into the room, he noticed that Lawrence was sitting on the edge of the bed, talking quietly to Roris.
"The blond is my brother, Lawrence. The redhead is his boyfriend, Roris." Bug said simply.
"Wow. Your brother's a total hunk." Kev said with surprise.
"So I've been told." Bug said as he watched Kev cautiously.
"Actually, I think Roris looks kinda cute." Ken said frankly.
After a few long, silent moments, waiting for Lawrence and Roris to finish their talk, Bug hesitantly asked, "Should I leave you guys alone with them?"
Both twins looked at Bug with surprise.
"Are you jealous?" Kev asked hesitantly.
"Well, this happens every fucking time I find someone I like! I introduce them to Lawrence and they forget that I ever fucking existed." Bug growled as he fought back his tears.
"Bug. I know that we like you, but no one has said anything about us being, like, 'boyfriends' or 'exclusive' or anything." Ken said frankly.
"I introduced you to my grandmother and told her that I slept with you. Doesn't that count for anything?" Bug asked seriously.
Ken and Kev shared a look, then both faced Bug with matching smiles.
"Yeah. It counts." Kev finally whispered.
"We just met last night... technically, this morning. Aren't you worried about jumping into this?" Ken asked slowly.
"I jump into everything. All you got is right now. You gotta grab it, do it, make it happen, right now. Otherwise, you're always waiting around for tomorrow and nothing ever gets done." Bug said frankly.
Kev looked at his twin and said, "I'm in."
"Me, too." Ken said with a grin.
"Good. Then let's get out of here. You can talk to Lawrence and Roris when they've got some clothes on." Bug said firmly.
The twins looked over and found that Roris and Lawrence were kissing passionately, and seemed to be totally unaware that anyone else was in the room.
"Come on. We've got showers to take." Bug said as he walked between the twins and put his arms around them.
Roris and Lawrence didn't seem to take any notice as the trio walked out of the room.
* * * * *
"Time to wake up." Ben said gently as he sat beside Oleksandr and pulled him into a gentle hug.
"Huh?" Oleksandr asked without opening his eyes.
"We've got to wake up and get cleaned up for breakfast." Ben said softly as he smoothed Oleksandr's sleep rumpled hair.
Ben was concerned for a moment when something caught his eye, but then broke into an involuntary grin as he asked, "How did you get catsup in your ear?"
Oleksandr looked up at him with wide, innocent eyes and gave a slight shrug.
"I think 'someone' needs a good bath." Ben said frankly.
"I gotta pee." Oleksandr said suddenly.
"Go on, and when you're finished, I'll help you with your bath." Ben said gently.
Oleksandr seemed not to hear Ben's words and pulled insistently on his hand, urging him to go along.
"Okay. I'll go with you this time, but pretty soon, we're going to have to work on you being able to go by yourself." Ben said as he got up off the couch.
"You might want to wait on that." Dax said seriously.
"Why's that?" Ben asked as he was led away by the young boy.
"The next time he has to poop, he's going to need you to be there." Dax said firmly.
Before Ben could ask for an explanation, Oleksandr had pulled him into the bathroom.
* * * * *
As Bug was going through his clothes to decide what to wear after his shower, a knock on the door startled him.
"Do you want me to get it?" Ken asked casually as he looked up from his backpack.
"Nah, I got it." Bug said as he dropped what he was doing and walked to the door.
"Gordon! Good morning!" Bug said happily.
"Good morning, Bug. Would you mind if we came in?" Gordon asked pleasantly.
Bug looked out in the hallway and found Hank standing with a luggage trolley filled with boxes and bags.
"Sure, the twins and I were just about to get cleaned up before breakfast." Bug explained as he ushered Gordon and Hank into the room.
The twins stopped what they were doing and looked at Gordon and Hank with matching expressions of surprise.
"Hank, do you work all the time?" Bug asked curiously.
"I volunteered to stay late to help your group. I figured that, this way, I might get a bigger share of the gratuity and some overtime." Hank said shyly.
"Yeah. I bet you don't get too many chances to make extra money. You gotta grab it when it comes." Bug said with a smile.
Hank nodded, then quietly said, "I still haven't paid my rent this month, and I'm hoping that this'll be enough to get me caught up."
Bug looked at Hank with sympathy, knowing from his own experience how it felt not to have enough money to cover all the 'necessities'.
"Gentlemen, I did a little shopping this morning, and thought that I'd bring you a few things that I purchased for you." Gordon said, mostly to the twins.
"You bought stuff for us? Why?" Kev asked cautiously.
"Lucas told me about you. While I was shopping, I saw a few things that I thought you might like." Gordon said frankly, then picked up one of the boxes off the luggage trolley.
Kev accepted the box, and before he could open it, another box was being handed to Ken.
The twins shared a look, then opened the boxes at the same time.
"Wow!" They exclaimed in perfect unison at the sight of the charcoal gray peacoats.
"You like?" Gordon asked with a smile.
"They're awesome!" Ken said happily.
Gordon saw the smile on Bug's face, and handed a box to him.
"You got something for me, too?" Bug asked curiously.
Gordon gave a single nod.
Bug opened the box and took out another peacoat, but his was pure black.
"Nice!" Ken said happily.
Bug looked at him and broke into a wide smile.
"I started here, because I thought you might like to take care of delivering the next two items." Gordon said as he picked up a bag and a large flat box.
Before Bug could ask, Gordon continued, "These are coats for your grandmother and your brother. I thought that rather than forcing your grandmother to answer the door, you might like to deliver these when you next visit."
"Yeah! Sure." Bug said happily.
"Then, Hank, our next stop will be two rooms down." Gordon said to his companion.
"Wait." Bug said firmly.
Gordon turned to look at Bug curiously.
"Something's wrong." Bug said slowly.
"What do you mean?" Gordon asked in confusion.
"Something's got you worried, what is it?" Bug asked slowly.
"It's nothing." Gordon said dismissively, but Bug noticed that Gordon wouldn't meet his eyes.
"Bullshit. Something's got you freaked. Normally, I wouldn't give a shit, but right now, you're a very important part of getting my family to a safe place. So whether it's my business or not, I'm making it my business." Bug said firmly.
Gordon saw that the twins had moved to either side of Bug and were waiting for a sign to tell them what to do.
"You're right, Bug. This morning I got a phone call from my boss... actually, my boss's boss. She told me that the climate has changed and that me and my family should... evacuate." Gordon said slowly.
"You mean, Kansas City isn't safe?" Bug asked as he thought over what little he knew about the local political climate.
"I don't know. She was passing on what she'd been told. People who are in areas considered to be unstable and potentially volatile are being given as much warning as possible. At approximately six fifteen this morning, we got that warning call." Gordon said seriously.
"What are you going to do?" Bug asked quietly.
"Let's just say, the flight today is going to have a few more passengers than we had originally planned." Gordon said frankly.
"Wait! What are you guys talking about?" Hank asked hesitantly.
All attention turned to Gordon, awaiting his reply.
"I suppose that there's no delicate way to put this. Sometime soon, maybe within weeks, maybe within days... conceivably within hours, it's believed that an operation will begin that is meant to 'control' the disruptive influences of the people the current administration feels are terrorists, dissidents, disruptive influences... or... undesirables." Gordon said slowly.
Bug got an aggravated look, then said, "They're probably gonna start by rounding up all the fags, the retarded, the homeless, and maybe even the old people, and they're gonna say it's because we're a drain on society."
"I'd prefer it if you'd say 'mentally disabled'." Gordon said quietly.
"Yeah, well I'd prefer it if this shit wasn't happening at all." Bug said frankly.
Gordon slowly nodded, then quietly said, "As to what Bug was saying, it is believed that certain groups will be disproportionately targeted when the government launches it's operation. So we are doing our best to get such people out of harm's way."
Hank looked around the room, then quietly said, "So, you guys are all here, trying to get to someplace safe?"
"Yeah. I'm from Orlando and the twins are from Chicago. Both those places are worse than it is here, but if Gordon is right, then Kansas City may be going bad real soon." Bug said honestly.
It was clear to see that Hank's mind was racing and there were tears forming in his eyes.
"Hank. Do you have a place where you can go? Maybe some family, someplace safe, that you can stay with?" Bug asked quietly.
After a moment for the words to register, Hank slowly shook his head and said, "Last May, I turned eighteen. On the day of my birthday, I came home from school and found everything I owned in boxes on the front porch of my parents' house. They even changed the locks... since then, I've just been trying to survive. I've got nothing and no one."
"You do now." Gordon said gently.
Hank looked at Gordon with surprise.
After a moment to get over the shock, Hank hesitantly asked, "You'll take me with you?"
Gordon smiled and gave a single nod.
"Do I have time to get my stuff?" Hank asked hopefully.
"We'll be leaving from here at eleven thirty this morning. Will that be enough time?" Gordon asked cautiously.
"Yeah. More than enough. I don't have much stuff and I don't live very far away. I'll be right back." Hank said quickly.
"We've reserved the dining room for 10am, you can join us in there when you get back." Gordon said with a smile.
"Oh! I.. um... you need my help." Hank said as he looked at the luggage trolley.
"Don't worry about it. We got this; you go on." Bug said reassuringly.
Hank gave a quick nod, then hurried away.
After a long moment to collect himself, Bug quietly said, "I'll help you deliver this stuff."
"Thanks Bug." Gordon said as he walked toward the door.
"If you want, we can shower, now. When we're done, we can take over doing this for you, so you can get a shower." Ken hurried to say.
"Sounds good." Bug said as he started pushing the luggage trolley toward the door.
* * * * *
"Bug!" a voice called from far down the hall.
Although Bug had seen the boy the night before, he couldn't remember his name.
After a moment, the boy finally caught up to Gordon and Bug in the hallway.
"Ben sent me to find you. He remembered you saying last night that there were two kids with your group. He was wondering if either of them is seven or eight years old?" The boy asked hopefully as he tried to catch his breath.
"First, who are you?" Bug asked cautiously.
"It's nice to meet you, Dax. And to answer your question, Bax is the youngest and he's eleven. Why?" Bug said slowly.
"The clothes that Oleksandr wore yesterday have blood stains and are torn... there's just no way he can wear them again." Dax said quickly.
"If you'll lead the way to your room, I think we may be able to help." Gordon said frankly.
"How?" Dax asked in confusion.
"My name is Gordon. Lucas told me about the members of your party and I bought new clothes for all the children. That's what's on this cart. I was just starting on this end, since I met the members of the Orlando group last night." Gordon said as he walked down the hallway, followed by Bug pulling the luggage trolley.
As they passed the elevator, all of them heard Brother Jacques' voice coming from the open door of the first room. "Jamiah, you are NOT to dress your little sister like a streetwalker. Wash off the makeup, she can have one bracelet and one necklace. Now get her cleaned up before breakfast."
A moment later, the trio in the hall saw Jamiah and Loquicia walk into the hallway.
"Some people have no sense of style!" Jamiah grumbled as he led his sister to the next room.
Gordon smiled at Dax and Bug, then continued on until Dax stopped at a door and opened it with a keycard.
* * * * *
Once inside the room, Gordon smiled at the sight of Ben holding a freshly bathed eight year old boy wearing a t shirt that was obviously Ben's.
"Hey Bug! Did Dax ask you about the clothes?" Ben asked hopefully.
"Yeah. And Gordon is here with clothes for all the kids, so it worked out just fine." Bug said happily.
"Good! I didn't know what I was going to do." Ben said with relief.
"Let's see, what do I have here for an eight year old blond boy with big beautiful blue eyes?" Gordon asked as he rummaged through the bags and boxes.
"I'll go get cleaned up while you're getting Oleksandr dressed." Dax said quietly as he walked toward the door.
"Hold up. I also have stuff here for a skinny fifteen year old with brown hair, brown eyes and a brown attitude... whatever that was supposed to mean." Gordon said as he pulled a few of the bags and boxes off the cart.
Ben and Dax exchanged a look at the strange comment.
"Here you go, Dax. Lucas said that you had some stuff with you, so I just bought you a few fill-in items. A coat, some sweaters, a hoodie and a new suitcase to carry all of it." Gordon said as he was once again digging in his cart of goodies.
"What did you get?" Ben asked with interest.
Dax took out a dark navy peacoat, then cautiously tried it on.
"Wow, that fits perfectly." Ben said with surprise.
"A skinny fifteen year old is easy to estimate, it's the fat ones who have a range of sizes that you have to worry about."
"Look at this sweater! I love this!" Dax said happily, then held the sweater to his face to feel the softness of it against his cheek.
"I like that color, I don't know what it is, but I like it." Ben said frankly.
"It's cornflower. The color is perfect!" Dax said joyfully.
"I'm glad you like it. You just made my day." Gordon said happily.
"Thank you, Gordon. And you can tell Lucas next time you see him that the 'brown attitude' is just for him. You get cornflower blue." Dax said with a sincere smile.
"I hope Oleksandr likes his clothes as much as Dax does." Ben said with a grin.
"He's happy in your t shirt. I don't think he's gonna care one way or another." Dax said frankly.
"Here we go. I wish that I had known that he didn't have anything. But I'm glad that I took the precaution of buying extra for the younger ones." Gordon said before calling out what each bag contained as he moved it toward Ben.
"A pair of nice pants, some plain colored t shirts, a nice button up shirt, some sweaters, a coat and, of course, another suitcase." Gordon finished with a smile..
"Wow. You really went all out." Ben said in an impressed voice.
"I'm not done yet." Gordon said as he handed Ben a large box.
"What's this?" Ben asked cautiously.
"Lucas suggested that I try to find you a bomber jacket. He thought it would suit you." Gordon said frankly.
Ben took the coat out of the box and was obviously happy with the style.
"As I was saying before, if I had known that the boy didn't have anything, I would have bought him much more. But, hopefully this will get you by for now." Gordon said with a weak smile at Ben.
"This is wonderful. At least this way, I won't have to worry about how to take Oleksandr out of the room." Ben chuckled.
"Well, we have other stops to make, and it's getting close to time for breakfast." Gordon said as he motioned to Bug to get ready to leave.
"Thanks again, Gordon." Ben said with a smile.
"Yeah. Thanks." Dax said with a genuine smile that warmed Gordon's heart.
* * * * *
"Shower's free." One of the twins said as he walked up to Bug in the hall.
"Okay, thanks for doing this." Bug said then, on impulse, gave the twin a quick kiss before hurrying away.
"And you two only just met this morning?" Gordon asked with surprise.
"Yeah. I know. But it feels right."
"By the way, I'm Gordon. I don't think we were ever officially introduced." Gordon said to the twin.
"I'm Kev. It's nice to meet you, Gordon."
"If I understood the room assignments correctly, our next stop is here. A twelve year old with gray hair?" Gordon said to Kev uncertainly.
"That's Ty. Just try not to be offended by him." Kev said simply.
Gordon glanced at Kev for a moment, then knocked on the door.
"I already told you! I'm awake! God!" The boy screamed as he opened the door.
"Good morning, Ty. Gordon, here, bought you some new clothes." Kev said seriously.
"Sorr-rry." Ty said in a bored obligatory tone as he rolled his eyes.
"Sure you are." Kev said flatly, then looked at Gordon with question.
"I bought you a few shirts, a few sweaters, a new coat and a suitcase to carry it all." Gordon said as he handed the packages stacked on top of the suitcase to Ty.
After a moment, Kev quietly asked, "And what do you say?"
Ty released his grip enough to flip one finger up in Kev's general direction, then turned and went back into his room.
"You warned me." Gordon said simply.
"I keep hoping that we'll find a way to get through to him." Kev said frankly.
"I don't know what I'd do if my son ever behaved like that. I hope I never find out." Gordon said honestly.
"How old is your son?" Kev asked curiously.
"He's thirteen. I never thought that any kid could be so proud to 'officially' be a teenager." Gordon chuckled.
"It sounds like you have a good relationship with him." Kev said thoughtfully as he stopped the luggage trolley outside the next room.
"Yeah. He's one of the best things in my life." Gordon said frankly.
"I'm guessing that our next stop is Loquicia and Jamiah's room." Kev said as he looked at the door.
"Any warnings?" Gordon asked cautiously.
"No. There's nothing that I can say to prepare you for Jamiah." Kev chuckled.
* * * * *
Bug walked into the room to find Ken waiting for him.
"Are you ready for your shower?" Ken asked with a smile.
"Yeah. But I kinda figured that you and Kev..." Bug stopped when Ken shook his head.
"Kev is a little bit shy about the sex stuff. He knows that I really want to be with you, so he said that it's okay if we fool around a little. Later on, when he's gotten more comfortable, he might want to join in or have you to himself now and then. We'll just have to see how it goes." Ken said as he walked up to Bug and put his arms around him.
"We don't have much time." Bug said regretfully.
"I know. I figured that, if it's okay with you, we could just shower together. If one or both of us ends up getting off, that's fine, but if not, that's fine, too." Ken said with a smile.
"No pressure. I like that." Bug said as he looked deeply into Ken's eyes.
"Come on. We only have about twenty minutes before we're supposed to be at breakfast." Ken said as he took Bug by the hand and led him toward the bathroom.
A minute later, Ken's voice could be heard saying, "Wow. It's a good thing you're dating twins, because it's going to take two of us to tame that!"
"Don't worry, it doesn't take much to make it happy."
* * * * *
Gordon knocked on the door and was surprised when it opened right away.
"Oh. I thought you'd be Brother Jacques, telling me something else I can't do." Jamiah said honestly.
"Jamiah, this is Gordon. He bought you and Loquicia some new clothes." Kev said with a smile.
"Seriously?! Oh! Thank you! You wouldn't believe what I've had to work with! Come in! Come in!" Jamiah said quickly.
Gordon and Kev shared a look before following Jamiah into the hotel room.
"Lolo! We've got company!" Jamiah called into the bathroom.
"Who's here?" A small voice called in return.
"One of the twins and... some guy. He bought us clothes!" Jamiah finished happily.
Loquicia hurried out of the bathroom wearing a plain white dress.
"See?" Jamiah said with exasperation.
"My name is Gordon. Lucas told me about you and your sister, so I did some shopping this morning. Let me show you what I've bought for you." Gordon said as he went through the diminishing supply of boxes and bags.
"What did you get me?" Loquicia asked hopefully.
"Tell me what you think of this." Gordon said as he handed her a shopping bag.
Loquicia opened it quickly and pulled out a dress with a bright pattern of butterflies on a white background.
"This would go great with your butterfly hair band. A solid sweater to set it off, maybe a belt... Even Brother Jacques couldn't find anything to complain about with that." Jamiah said happily.
"I also got you a few sweaters." Gordon said as he took them out to show them off.
"Oh, I like those. They'll look better on her when she has boobs, but I think we can make it work." Jamiah said consideringly.
"This is pretty. Can I put it on?" Loquicia asked as she held up the butterfly dress.
"Yes. Then bring me your hair band. I think you'll look great." Jamiah said happily.
"While your sister's changing, would you like to see what I got for you?" Gordon asked gently.
"You can put my stuff over there. I'll look at it later." Jamiah said without looking away from the collection of sweaters.
"I also bought your sister a new coat." Gordon said hesitantly, watching for Jamiah's reaction.
The boy looked up suddenly and was immediately paying Gordon his full attention.
"I had to go on what Lucas told me about sizes, but I think this should fit her just fine." Gordon said as he pulled a thigh length light blue coat out of a box. The neck and wrists were trimmed in white faux fur.
"Oh. My. God! That is so cute! Loquicia is going to look wonderful in that! And if Brother Jacques will let me, I think some sky blue eyeglitter would just set off the whole look." Jamiah said as he took the coat from Gordon and held it out at arm's length.
"I'm ready." Loquicia said as she hurried into the room, carrying a black hairband with a gold butterfly attached to it.
"Hold still." Jamiah said as he brought the hairband over her head, then with well-practiced ease, he swept the hair away from her face and adjusted the butterfly so it was resting on one side of her head.
"What do you think?" Jamiah asked as he backed away.
"Absolutely beautiful." Gordon said softly.
"I still have a few finishing touches, but I think, if I'm careful not to use too much, I can sneak a little eyeliner and a faint eyeshadow past you-know-who." Jamiah said as he looked at his sister critically.
"I have a suitcase for each of you and a few other small items." Gordon said as he took a few more items from the cart.
"Thank you. I think you saved my sanity." Jamiah said gratefully.
"We'll leave you to it. We still have a few things left to deliver." Gordon said as he looked at Kev to see if he was ready to go.
Kev smiled and pushed the rapidly emptying cart out of the room.
* * * * *
"I've never felt like this before." Bug said as he held Ken close, under the shower's spray.
"Wet?" Ken asked with a grin.
"I've wanted guys before, and I've even been with some of them. But this, what I feel for you, it's not like that. It's like I want to hold you in my arms, but also in my heart." Bug said quietly.
"I know what you mean, Bug. I'm just a little bit scared. I don't think I'm as strong as you are." Ken said thoughtfully.
"I think, right now, sex would be the easy way out. It would probably be really fun and really good, but then it would be over, and that would be all that we really had. For the first time, I want more than that." Bug said as he looked into Ken's eyes.
"Kev and I, we've lost everything, over and over again. I don't know if I'm brave enough... if we're brave enough for what you're talking about." Ken whispered.
"I know. That's why we're going to take it slow. Showering together, sleeping together, that's all part of getting to know each other, getting to trust each other. And later, when we're all ready for it, we'll take the next step. Don't worry, Ken. Live in 'now'. When the time is right, we'll do what's best for all of us." Bug said gently.
"Thanks, Bug. When I decided to do this, I thought we'd just end up tossing off in the shower together. I guess I didn't have enough faith in you." Ken said quietly.
"We're still learning. We'll get there." Bug said, then moved in for a kiss.
A moment later, he whispered against Ken's lips, "But, for now, we need to finish showering. Breakfast will be starting soon."
* * * * *
"We're running out of time. If you want to take the cart to the last room, you can deliver the clothes to the boys. I'll take the coats to the adults while you're doing that." Gordon said seriously.
"Okay." Kev said as he pushed the luggage trolley more quickly.
When he got to the last room, he knocked on the door.
A young boy opened the door and looked at Kev with surprise.
"I've got new clothes for you. Gordon sent me." Kev said quickly.
"Oh. Good. Bug said that we were going to get new clothes. Ro's dad came over to make sure we were awake, but he didn't know anything about it, so we put on our old clothes from yesterday."
"If you'll let me in, we can unload this in your room. Then you can choose whatever you want to wear." Kev said with a smile.
"Yeah. Come on."
Kev walked into the room and found a slightly older boy sitting in the living room area, watching TV.
"The new clothes are here." The younger boy said happily.
"Who are you?" The older boy asked curiously.
"My name is Kev."
"I'm Ro. He's Bax."
"It's nice to meet you. I'm helping Gordon deliver the new clothes he bought. I hope you guys like what he picked." Kev said with a smile.
"Whatever it is, it's gotta be better than nothing, and that's what we've got now." Ro said frankly.
Kev nodded his agreement.
"Hey! Look! I bet this one's for you." Bax said as he held up a football jersey.
"I like that." Ro said with a spark of excitement.
"If I understood what Gordon was saying, all of this is for you two." Kev said as he unloaded boxes and bags.
"There's underwear and socks and shoes and... and... everything!" Bax said joyfully.
"He even bought you some new suitcases to carry all your new stuff in." Kev said with a smile.
"Bax! Look at this!" Ro called out from one of the boxes.
Kev watched for a moment as the boys explored their new clothes, then quietly wheeled the empty cart out into the hallway.
* * * * *
As Bug opened the door, he found Kev waiting just outside.
"You could have knocked. We weren't doing anything." Bug said cautiously.
"It's okay. I just needed a minute." Kev said quietly.
"That, I understand." Bug said gently, then added, "We didn't do anything but kiss."
"You could have done more." Kev said seriously.
"I know. But I don't want to screw this up by going too fast. I think you must feel that way, too, or you wouldn't be waiting outside in the hallway." Bug said quietly.
"I've seen a lot of people fall in and out of love. I don't want to make their mistakes." Kev said frankly.
"I can't make any promises except that I'll try not to hurt you. I hope that's enough." Bug said gently.
"I'll try not to hurt you, too, Bug. I'm really starting to like you. I think that I'd rather not ever have you than hurt you." Kev said honestly.
"Thank you, Kev. That's probably the nicest thing that anyone's ever said to me." Bug said with a sad smile.
"I need to help Ken with his braid." Kev said as he pushed away from the wall.
Bug smiled and followed him into the room.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Well, These poor guys have had quite a night, and most of them have had very little sleep, come morning. When all is said and done, I am sure that there will be quite a few people having a nap, later on.
Gordon certainly did a good job of shopping for the kids, and apparently the adults, too.
They were all going to need some nice warm coats, and it was nice that he thought of getting coats for everyone.
It is nice to see that Bug has found someone, make that two someones, he can get along with so well. And since Brother Jacque has found Zane, it would have left the twins a bit lonely, to say the least.
Those of you who have read my some of my editors notes already know that I find my eyes starting to leak, and this chapter is certainly no exception.
Poor Hank, he was feeling pretty down, thinking that no one cared about him. It's nice to know that he won't have that problem any more. He has people he can count on, and who really do care about him.
Ah, and poor Ben had that bad dream, but he wasn't the only one with a bad dream, poor Dax was certainly having a bad dream when Ben woke him up, "Don't make me go. Everyone hates me!"
Guess what, Dax, Ben doesn't hate you, I am sure he is going to love you, and be there for you. You have a family, now, a real family.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher