Joe and Billy took their seats by the pool as Lawrence looked on with indecision.
Joe smiled at Lawrence and said, "You can sit with me if you want."
Lawrence beamed a full smile and carefully sat in his father's lap.
Joe pulled him into a full hug and quietly said, "You said something before about being prissy and feminine, but I don't see it. You look just as good as a boy as you do a girl."
Lawrence kissed his father's cheek and said, "Thank you Daddy, Billy said that too. I just don't know what to believe."
Billy thought about the statement before asking, "Why did you feel like you had to change before Joe accepted you?"
"Because I had to be honest with him." Lawrence said as he turned to look at Billy.
"Even if it hurt him?" Billy asked in a leading tone.
"I think that's how it is with love. You have to be honest with the people you really love, even when it might hurt them in the short term because you know you're saving them a bigger hurt later on." Billy said in deep thought.
Lawrence considered the statement and finally nodded.
Billy gently smiled and said, "That's what you should believe."
Lawrence gave Billy a questioning look, silently asking for more of an explanation.
"If we tell you that you look good as a boy, we say it because we mean it. Please believe that we love you enough that we would tell you the truth even if it's something you don't want to hear." Billy said seriously.
"Yeah. Okay Billy. I'll try." Lawrence said as he snuggled against his father.
"Such an arbitrary method for determining the action to take seems inappropriate." Xain said in thought.
"Perhaps, but the method is expedient. In the absence of criteria that make one of the choices more desirable, this method allows one to make a choice and proceed." Spock said reasonably.
Xain slowly nodded, then said, "I thank you for your guidance Uncle Spock."
"Jake, do you have a coin available?" Spock asked in an emotionless voice.
"There is no need for a coin. I have decided to contact my cousin and no longer have any apprehension associated with the decision." Xain said reasonably.
Spock gave a single nod of acknowledgement.
"I think I get it." Jake said suddenly.
Spock and Xain looked at Jake with question.
"When Uncle Spock told you to flip a coin, you understood that you just need to make a choice. You'll know everything you need to do next after that choice is made either way, so the most important thing is just to choose." Jake said with a calm smile.
"Correct. I believe the Human expression that would best explain my difficulty is that I was 'over thinking' my decision." Xain said carefully.
"Cool. Well, why don't you take a seat and send him a message then?" Jake said as he stood.
"I believe it would be preferable if you would compose a response to his message, then when you have concluded, I will add my own message." Xain said peacefully.
"Yeah, okay. This'll just take a minute." Jake said as he took his seat again.
"Hey guys, I'm glad we ran into you." Chip said as he trotted his horse up to Allen, Kenny and Deacon.
"Hi Chip. Are you guys enjoying your ride?" Allen asked with contentment at the sight of Kevin's glowing smile.
"Yeah, it's been great!" Kevin exploded.
"We've had a good ride, but we need to go back to the house for a while to have a serious talk... I think you should be there too Allen." Chip said slowly.
"Sure, I think the guys can use a break anyway." Allen said as he looked at Kenny and Deacon.
"We should probably let Brady know that we're going back to the house." Chip said in thought.
"We saw him just a few minutes ago. He should be just over that rise. Boys, do you want to go let him know that we're heading back?" Allen asked with a smile.
Kenny quickly nodded and turned his horse to go toward the rise, followed closely by Deacon.
"You taught them well." Chip said as he watched Kenny and Deacon ride away at a decent pace.
"I think I got the point across to them about safety. They're not ready to gallop yet, but I think it's safe for them to ride off for a few minutes on their own." Allen said as he watched his boys riding away.
"Well, Josh has been wanting us to have a talk with Kevin for a few days now and I think it's the right time... maybe past time." Chip finished uncertainly.
"Can you tell me what it's about?" Allen asked casually.
Chip gave Kevin a squeeze and said, "Kevin is in love with me and I think we need to discuss it."
"Oh, I noticed. I remember having a few crushes at his age." Allen said with a fond smile at Kevin.
"You don't understand Allen. This is beyond a crush." Chip said seriously as he looked into Allen's eyes.
Allen sat stunned at the statement as he realized what Chip was talking about.
"Uncle Brady is coming back with us. He says Ricardo needs a nap." Kenny said as he approached.
"Okay, come on everyone." Chip said in his 'commander' voice as he led the way back to the stable.
Allen followed behind the group, deep in thought.
I'm glad to hear that you don't hate Xain because he's part
Vulcan. He's really great and I think you'll like him.
He's here with me on Earth, but didn't know how you would feel
about him. He's read your email and is going to finish this
message for me.
Don't worry, he's cool.
Jake stood away from the keyboard and motioned for Xain to take a seat.
"Your written language is difficult for me. If it would be acceptable, I will tell you what I wish to say through our bond." Xain said seriously.
"Sure thing T'hy'la. I'm ready when you are." Jake said gently as he sat before the terminal again.
I am Xain Thompson, son of Solak of the house of Suvak of
Vulcan. You have expressed a desire to 'get to know me'. I find
that to be acceptable and share the sentiment.
I know little of our family, however from your references to
our grandfather, I believe him to be the Human equivalent of my
grandfather on Vulcan.
It is my hope that our correspondence will yield a favorable
outcome. To my knowledge, you are my only Human family.
Live long and prosper,
After sending the message, Jake said, "I guess we'd better get back to Southcrest if we're going to get there in time for some food."
"Given the reactions of those in the kitchen, I believe we should make haste." Xain said in agreement as he watched Jake shut down the terminal.
"I would like to express my approval of your choice to initiate contact with your Human family. A sense of family can have many benefits." Spock said seriously as he followed Jake and Xain out of the room.
"Thank you Uncle Spock. We have tons of family now, but this is something different. This is about 'blood' family." Jake said in thought.
Xain stopped at the front door and looked at Jake curiously.
"Ask me later." Jake whispered, then walked through the front door.
"Hey guys, mind if we join you?" JC asked as he walked to the pool side with Reuben at his side.
"The more the merrier. We're just talking." Billy said peacefully.
Reuben looked at Lawrence carefully and finally asked, "Are you a boy or a girl?"
Billy and Joe froze at the question as Lawrence thought carefully about his answer.
"I'm a boy. I just like to dress like a girl sometimes." Lawrence said carefully.
"Why?" Reuben asked as he was guided by JC to sit in his lap.
"Um... I don't..." Lawrence sputtered as he tried to think of an answer.
"How do you think you'd feel if you put on a dress Reuben?" Billy asked seriously.
Reuben giggled at the thought and said, "I'd feel silly."
Billy smiled and said, "So would I. But when Lawrence puts on a dress it makes him feel pretty. Isn't he pretty when he wears a dress?"
"Yeah, he looks really pretty." Reuben said with a smile directed at Lawrence who was still sitting in his father's lap.
"That's why." Billy said with a look of accomplishment.
Reuben thought about the words, then asked, "So it's like when I get dressed nice to go out to eat with momma and Ricardo."
"Maybe. If you're dressing nice because you want to feel like you look good and not just because other people expect you to dress that way." Billy said in thought.
"I think Lawrence is prettier as a boy." Reuben said seriously.
Lawrence got off his father's lap and walked to stand before Reuben and JC.
"Thank you for saying that Reuben. Can I give you a hug?" Lawrence asked hopefully.
"Uh huh." Reuben said and hopped off JC's lap to be pulled into a gentle hug.
"Thank you Reuben. You're really special. What you said made me feel really good." Lawrence said, trying to make sure that Reuben would understand.
Reuben happily held on to Lawrence and said, "You're nice, I like you."
"Well, you're nice too. I hope we can be really good friends." Lawrence said honestly.
"Uh huh." Reuben said as he gave one final squeeze of the hug, then hopped back into JC's lap.
Lawrence smiled at the boy and pulled a chair over so he could sit beside his father.
"Is that your daddy?" Reuben asked as he pointed at Joe.
"Yes, that's my daddy." Lawrence said proudly.
"I don't have a daddy no more but I've got lots and lots of Uncles so I guess it's okay." Reuben said in thought.
"That's right Reuben. All of your uncles will be here if you need us for anything." JC said seriously.
"And since my son likes you so much. I'll be your Uncle too." Joe said with a gentle smile.
"What do I call you?" Reuben asked curiously.
"Uncle Joe." He said with a peaceful smile.
"Okay Uncle Joe." Reuben said with a smile as he snuggled into JC's chest with contentment.
"Just leave the horses saddled for now. When the boys get out of school, they'll probably want to go for a ride." Chip said as he eased Kevin down to the ground.
"Come here guys, remember I said that I owed you a hug." Allen said as Deacon and Kenny struggled down off their horses.
"Oh Pop." Kenny said with mock aggravation, but nevertheless went directly to Allen for a big hug.
Allen hugged Kenny firmly and discretely kissed his cheek before turning to Deacon and motioning him to 'come here'.
Deacon felt a silly smile come over his face as he was pulled into a three-way hug.
"Thanks guys. It'll be great if things work out so Billy and I can be a couple. You two made the chances of it working out a whole lot better." Allen said honestly.
"We love you Pop. And we know that Billy will make you happy." Kenny said gently.
"Yeah Pop. What he said." Deacon said with a teasing smile.
"So you're ready to call me Pop now?" Allen asked as he released the hug and kept an arm on each boy's shoulder as he steered them toward the house.
"Yeah. If that's still okay." Deacon said, already knowing the answer.
"Of course it is Deacon. From the moment you stepped into my house you became one of my kids." Allen said seriously.
"I kinda figured that when you offered to adopt me." Deacon said shyly.
"You did?" Kenny asked in wonder.
"Yes. I said that if Deacon and Billy thought it would be the best thing for Deacon, I'd be willing to adopt him. I just wanted to be sure that he ended up where he wanted to be." Allen said quietly.
"I did. Thanks Pop." Deacon said warmly as he put an arm around Allen's waist and squeezed him gently.
"Yeah Pop, what he said." Kenny said with an impish grin as he mimicked Deacon's hug from the other side.
"Hey Angel, we're ready to have that talk with Kevin now." Chip said as he walked to his husband's side.
JC looked at Kevin, held tightly to Chip's side and nodded as he stood.
"Lieutenant Thompson?" Chip said in his 'commander' voice.
"Yes Sir." Brady said immediately, out of reflex.
"I'm putting you in charge of my guests while we have our talk." Chip said seriously.
"Aye Commander." Brady said, keeping his serious expression.
Chip gave one nod, then betrayed a smile.
"The guest that I'm holding needs his afternoon nap. Where would you suggest I put him down?" Brady asked with a gentle smile.
"If you put him in the family room, you can put on a cartoon for him to watch until he's ready for sleep." Chip said with a smile at the sleepy little boy in Brady's arms.
"Yes sir. Thank you. As soon as Ricardo is settled, I'll watch after your guests." Brady said and turned to leave.
"Can I come too?" Reuben asked hopefully.
"Of course Reuben. We can talk while Ricardo is going to sleep." Brady said and held out his free hand, inviting Reuben to join him.
Reuben pulled JC into a hug and said, "I love you Uncle Josh."
JC smiled at the sincere words and said, "I love you too Reuben. Now don't keep your Uncle Brady waiting."
Reuben nodded and hurried to Brady who immediately pulled him into a one armed hug.
"Um, Uncle Spock said I should talk to you about this stuff. And since we're going to be at Southcrest all day, I guess now is the best time." Jake said hesitantly.
"I am sure we would be able to arrange an appropriate venue should you desire privacy for this discussion." Spock said as he started the car.
"No, not unless Xain wants it to be private. You understand this stuff better than either of us, so you could help us figure things out... unless you don't want to." Jake finished uncertainly.
"Pending Xain's approval of my inclusion in the discussion, it would be acceptable." Spock said as he kept his focus on his driving.
"Is it okay if we talk about Vulcan and Human stuff with Uncle Spock? There are a few things that are bothering me and he said I should just go ahead and tell you so we could work it out." Jake said seriously.
"It is acceptable." Xain said cautiously.
"Okay, I'm not sure how to put this exactly. I guess it's just that I feel like some of the Vulcan stuff is your private stuff and I feel funny asking about it. I don't want you to feel like you have to share everything with me and can't have anything that's just your own." Jake said seriously.
Xain thought about the words and asked, "Do you have the feeling that I am intruding on your cultural identity when I ask about the significance of a Human custom?"
"No. I know you're just trying to understand. But it's different. We're on Earth and you're going to run into stuff like that a lot. But, I don't know, if I ask you about Vulcan stuff, it's like I'm being nosey." Jake said with difficulty.
"We are T'hy'la. Though certain aspects of Vulcan history and culture are rarely discussed with Humans, that prohibition does not include you. There is no part of my life I wish to withhold from you." Xain said carefully.
"Oh, um... well there is one part of my life I want to withhold from you." Jake said hesitantly.
Xain responded with the raise of one eyebrow.
"When I was living on the streets I did some stuff. I love you and I think you seeing that stuff might hurt you... besides, I'd be ashamed if you saw it." Jake said hesitantly.
"I believe I understand. If the time should come when you are comfortable sharing that part of yourself, I would be honored to accept it. Rest assured that I love the person you are. Witnessing the events that made you into this person may cause some distress for what you have endured, but will not alter my perception of you." Xain said seriously.
"Thank you T'hy'la. I think that's what was worrying me. When you saw some of the things I did, you wouldn't want me anymore." Jake said shyly.
"The bond you share precludes that possibility." Spock said seriously.
"I believe I could make the same promise without our bond. Jake is my T'hy'la, but he is also my brother and friend. I am sure our union was predestined." Xain said in a voice of certainty.
Spock raised an eyebrow at the statement.
Jake thought about Xain's words, then smiled as he said, "Yeah, I feel that way too."
Spock glanced at Jake with a look of question.
After a moment of thought, Jake let all the emotion fall from his face as he said in a toneless voice, "One week ago I was living in Chicago. I lived on the street and did many illegal things to survive. Xain was living in San Francisco in the Vulcan Embassy with his father and couldn't speak English. He had no contact with Humans."
After a pause to form his next words, Jake continued, "The series of events that brought us to this time and place are so unlikely, that predestination or divine intervention seem the most reasonable explanation."
"Though a series of events may be statistically unlikely, them occurring does not necessarily suggest supernatural forces are at work." Spock said in thought.
"True. But given the evidence at hand, one has to make a choice. You may choose to believe that random and unrelated factors aligned to produce this outcome by chance, or you may choose to believe that a force outside our perception guided events to produce this result." Xain said carefully.
"To believe in predestination seems illogical." Spock said seriously.
"From a scientific perspective perhaps." Xain said as he noticed that they were pulling onto Chip's property.
"What perspective would you suggest?" Spock asked with interest.
"When science fails to explain an occurrence, it is regarded to be the statistically improbable alignment of random factors. Those who believe strictly in science routinely disregard what others offer up as proof. To accept the possibility that forces, as yet unknown to us, guide events to a certain outcome allows one to envision possibilities that exceed the forecasts of logic." Xain said in deep thought.
"What do you call this wider perspective?" Spock asked carefully.
"Okay guys, have a seat and we'll get this worked out." Chip said as they walked into the study with Kevin at his side.
"Kevin, do you want to sit with me?" Allen asked, hoping it would help.
Kevin shook his head firmly and sat on Chip's lap.
"Kevin, I know you love me. But it isn't right for a boy your age to love a man my age." Chip said seriously.
"I don't care." Kevin said as he held Chip tightly.
"Kevin honey, please try to understand. We don't want to hurt you. But you need to realize that you loving Chip like this is wrong." JC said softly.
"I'm not your honey and I don't like you. I love Uncle Chip. Maybe you loving him is wrong." Kevin said defiantly.
Chip pulled Kevin away from his chest and looked into his eyes as he said, "Kevin, Josh is my husband and no one. NO ONE is allowed to talk to him like that. Do you understand?"
Kevin saw the seriousness in Chip's eyes and nodded as his eyes filled with tears.
Feeling that he might have finally gotten something through to Kevin, Chip continued in a softer voice, "I love my husband and he comes first in my life. If you can't accept that, then it may be best if you don't come over here anymore."
Kevin got a look of panic in his eyes as the tears started to fall.
"I love you Kevin, but I love my husband too. If you force me to choose, I'm going to choose Josh every single time." Chip said, hoping that he was finally getting through.
Kevin broke down into full sobbing and buried his face into Chip's chest.
"Do you think I got through?" Chip asked JC and Allen with a helpless look.
"Too early to tell. He's just as stubborn as his father." Allen said with a concerned look at the sobbing boy holding tightly to Chip's chest.
"I... I... love... you..." Kevin wailed into Chip's chest.
All three adults felt their hearts break at the desperate declaration of love.
Chip was torn between his fatherly instinct to offer comfort to the suffering boy and the more logical part of him saying that Kevin had to endure this to understand.
The room became silent except for Kevin's crying.
All the adults thought about what they should do to make sure Kevin would be alright.
Finally Kevin looked up from Chip's chest and stared at JC with a look of such intensity that it made a chill run up his spine.
"What is it?" Chip asked with concern at JC's look of shock.
"He... for just a second the look in his eyes was exactly like Craig... The expression he had when he would look at you." JC gasped.
Chip looked from JC to Kevin and finally started to realize the seriousness of the situation.
"What's wrong?" Allen asked as he felt the tension in the room increase even more.
Chip thought for a second then said, "Let's just say that this is a lot more serious than I realized. I think we need to..."
All conversation stopped as the door to the study was thrown open.
The opening musical introduction of 'The Muppet Show' hadn't finished before Ricardo was fast asleep on the couch with his head resting in Brady's lap.
"How are you doing Reuben?" Brady asked quietly as he draped his arm around Reuben on his other side.
"I'm really good. I spent the day with Uncle Josh talking to people." Reuben said happily.
"Hmmm. That's an important job at a party. Ricardo said that you took a bath with him and told him that you like him and love him. That was really special to him. Thank you." Brady said in a soft voice.
"Kenny and Kevin made me feel special and loved when I spent the night with them. I just wanted Ricardo to feel like that too." Reuben said seriously.
"You and your brother are both very special. I hope you understand how much I love you both." Brady said gently.
"Yeah. I know Uncle Brady. It's like you're the Uncle that belongs just to us. We have you like Kenny and Kevin have Allen." Reuben said as he nestled his head into Brady's shoulder.
"I have to get back to the guests soon. Will you stay with Ricardo so he doesn't wake up alone?" Brady asked as he hugged Reuben.
"Yeah, but can we spend some time together later?" Reuben asked hopefully.
"Sure, I'll make sure that we can have some time for just the two of us." Brady said with a smile.
"It's okay if Ricardo is with us too. He's little so he can't do a lot of stuff. I don't want him to feel left out." Reuben said seriously.
"You're such a good brother. When Ricardo is done with his nap, come and find me and we'll do something together." Brady said with a smile.
"Thank you Uncle Brady, I love you." Reuben whispered as he hugged Brady more tightly.
"I love you too." Brady said as he leaned over to give Reuben a kiss on the top of his head.
"So did you guys have fun horseback riding?" Billy asked Kenny and Deacon casually.
"It was a lot of fun. Pop showed us everything we needed to do and even let us go and get Brady by ourselves." Deacon said as he pulled a chair up beside Lawrence, the other side from Joe.
"Pop?" Billy asked cautiously.
"Yeah. Allen said it was okay if I called him Pop... that's okay isn't it?" Deacon finished carefully.
"Oh, yeah. It's fine. I just didn't expect it, that's all." Billy said in thought.
"What have you been doing Lawrence?" Deacon asked with a smile.
"Well, we had our 'girl talk' in the kitchen, then JC took us on a tour of the house. This place is incredible. Did you ever watch that TV show with that English guy who screams when he talks?" Lawrence asked in a ramble.
"Do what?" Deacon asked in confusion.
"He shows off famous people's houses. I forget what the show was called, but I used to watch it sometimes. This place is as nice as any of the places he talked about on TV." Lawrence said seriously.
"Oh, I get it. Yeah, I've seen that show." Deacon said with a smile.
Billy and Joe shared an amused look and stayed silent as they watched Deacon and Lawrence interact.
"Well, the boys should be home in less than half an hour. Do we have everything ready for them?" Teri asked as she looked around.
"Right before they get home I'll go out and make sure the snack table is filled and has plenty of drinks." Hazel said as she picked up a spiral bound notebook.
"Is that the menu for tonight?" Mona asked curiously.
"Yes. There is too much for me to rely on my memory alone." Hazel said as she looked down the list.
"What still needs to be done?" Christine asked as she cut herself a piece of the coffee cake in the middle of the table.
"I think all the important things are ready. Now we wait for Mr. Chip to begin cooking the meat. When the cooking has begun I will clear away anything that is left on the snack table and begin to carry out the food for dinner." Hazel said in thought.
"It sounds like you have everything covered here. When do you think we should talk to the guys about tomorrow night?" Mona asked seriously.
"After dinner. Their attention span increases to almost three minutes when their bellies are full." Teri said with a playful smile.
"I wish I'd known that when Allen was a kid. No wonder he never listened to me." Mona said dramatically.
Juana chuckled as she said, "It will be helpful to know this when dealing with my own children."
"Just keep up with whatever you're doing with your boys. I don't think I've ever seen two sweeter, more well behaved boys." Teri said with a smile.
"Thank you. It has not always been so. Where we lived before they had many bad influences. I have done my best to shelter them from the worst of the ugliness of the world." Juana said distantly.
"Whatever you did, worked." Teri said with assurance.
"Thank you, and may I say that your own sons are quite well behaved and responsible. I was very impressed." Juana said honestly.
"Yeah. I wish I could take credit for all of that, but they've even surprised me. I just tried to prepare them for life the best I could." Teri said with a distant look.
"They wouldn't be where they are without you Teri. You raised them to accept responsibility. So just accept the compliment because you deserve it." Helen said firmly.
Teri looked at Helen with surprise, then turned to Juana and said, "Thank you Juana. I guess I'm still not too good at accepting compliments."
"Before I moved here, to receive a compliment was uncommon. I understand." Juana said with a smile.
"Why aren't you in school?" Chip asked as he saw Justy standing in the doorway panting for breath.
"I'll tell you in a minute. I need to talk to Kevin right now." Justy said in a rush.
Kevin looked at Justy with tear streaked eyes.
"Come over here Kev, this'll just take a minute." Justy said in a softer voice as he tried to get his rapid breathing under control.
Kevin hesitantly got off Chip's lap and walked across the room to talk to Justy.
All the adults watched as Justy talked seriously to Kevin.
They couldn't make out what Justy was saying, but his dramatic hand gestures while he was talking convinced them all that he was probably talking a mile a minute.
Finally after long minutes of discussion, Kevin shyly nodded and turned to face the adults.
"I'm sorry if I was bad. I didn't mean to hurt you Uncle Chip." Kevin said as his eyes filled with tears again.
"It's okay Kevin. Are you going to be alright?" Chip asked cautiously.
"Yeah." Kevin said in a whisper, then turned to look shyly at JC.
"I'm sorry I hurt you Unc... JC. It was wrong of me to say those mean things to you. I promise I won't be mean to you anymore." Kevin said, obviously feeling humiliated by his behavior.
"It's okay Kevin, you can still call me Uncle Josh if you want." JC said carefully.
Kevin shook his head and said, "I can't. I was bad..."
Justy interrupted Kevin's speech and whispered into his ear.
Kevin whispered back, then waited for Justy's nod.
"Okay Uncle Josh. If you're sure it's okay." Kevin said timidly.
"I'm sure, Kevin." JC said softly.
Kevin nodded and whispered, "Thank you."
A moment of silence fell over the room until it was broken by Allen standing and holding his arms open to Kevin.
After a brief moment of indecision, Kevin ran into Allen's open arms and buried his face into Allen's chest.
"I'm sorry Poppa. I didn't mean it. Please don't send me back. I'm really really sorry." Kevin said as his tears began soaking into Allen's shirt.
"Shhh Kevin. I'll never send you away. You don't even have to worry about that. I love you Little One and I will always love you." Allen said in a soft, assuring voice.
"I love you too Poppa." Kevin said in a whimper.
"Kev, did you eat anything yet today?" Justy asked in a soft voice.
Kevin looked at Justy and shook his head slowly.
"I think it's probably time for you to have something, it'll make you feel better." Justy said gently.
Kevin let loose his hug and whispered, "Thanks Justy."
"Sure thing bro. Just remember that when I screw up, it's your job to tell me. Then we'll be even." Justy said with a smile.
"I will, I promise." Kevin said with a watery smile.
"Go eat." Justy said softly as he patted Kevin on the shoulder.
Kevin nodded and left.
"You wanna get something to eat?" Deacon asked Lawrence shyly.
"I will if you will." Lawrence said with a grin.
"Come on." Deacon said and led Lawrence away by the hand.
After a moment of watching the two boys walk away, Joe said, "Your brother is quite the smooth talker."
Billy smiled and said, "He's doing a lot better than I did at his age."
"He really seems nice. I'm glad Lawrence found someone nice who can accept him no matter what." Joe said with a peaceful smile.
"Yeah. I'm really proud of him. I don't know what happened for him to turn out so open minded considering how we were raised. I'm just glad that he is." Billy said distantly.
"I think I know what happened." Joe said in a considering voice.
Billy turned to look at Joe with question.
"I bet he just followed the example of his brother." Joe said with a smile.
Billy looked back at Deacon for a long moment, then said, "Maybe, but when I was his age I didn't know anything about anything. I was just an innocent kid who didn't have a clue. Look at him... he knows what he wants out of life and he goes and gets it."
"You're talking about more than his relationship with Lawrence, aren't you?" Joe asked quietly.
"Yeah. He's thirteen and I think he has more of a handle on what he wants in life than I do." Billy said absently.
"Billy, I've been thinking the same thing looking at your life." Joe said honestly.
Billy looked at Joe with question.
"You have a job you love, enough money to live life the way you want to and enough sense to put your family before your money. I think what you're seeing in Deacon is something you also carry, you just have trouble seeing it in yourself." Joe said honestly.
Billy smiled and shyly nodded, then watched as Deacon and Lawrence came back to their table carrying plates of snacks.
Brady walked up to the table a moment later and asked, "What did I miss?"
Joe and Billy simultaneously looked at Deacon and Lawrence talking to each other, lost in their own little world.
Brady smiled as he took his seat beside the two men.
"What did you say to him?" Chip asked Justy in wonder.
Justy smiled and walked to his father for a hug.
"I love you Daddy." Justy said as he hugged his father tightly.
"Uh oh. That doesn't sound good." JC said only half-seriously.
Justy shifted over to JC and said, "I love you Pop."
Chip looked at Justy, waiting for the upcoming explanation.
JC guided Justy to sit between them on the couch.
"Um, I'm home early because every telepath and empath at Camp Little Eagle was about to crawl out of their skin. We could all feel what was going on over here." Justy began in deep thought.
"Why is that?" Allen asked curiously.
Justy looked up at Allen, as if just noticing that he was in the room, then said, "I think it's because Kevin is a twin. All twins have a sort of telepathic link, even if it isn't always on a conscious level, but I guess Kevin and Kenny's bond isn't strong enough to connect when they're apart. Kevin was in so much turmoil that he was broadcasting like a loudspeaker to anyone with the ability to hear."
Allen nodded cautiously at the explanation.
"So what did you tell him?" Chip asked cautiously.
"Um, I really can't tell you most of it. Some of it is Kevin's private thoughts and other things are his memories. But the main thing I told him is that he was having adult feelings and he was trying to handle them like a kid." Justy said carefully.
"I'm not sure I understand." JC said slowly.
"A kid's way of thinking is to think of himself, an adult thinks about someone else. When a kid is in love, he wants to be happy. When an adult is in love, he wants his partner to be happy." Justy said in thought.
"So you told him to think about what would make Chip happy?" Allen asked cautiously.
"Something like that. I used examples from his past to make the point so he could see what he was doing. I really can't say any more than that. Like I said, it's his private stuff and all it would do is hurt him if I shared it." Justy said quietly.
"We trust you. If you say he'll be okay, we'll let it go." JC said with a concerned look at Chip.
"That's right." Chip said and smiled at his husband.
"Well, I didn't say he'll be okay. I just steered him away from his obsession. He's really fragile right now and it wouldn't take much to cause him to break down." Justy said slowly.
"What can we do for him?" Allen asked with immediate worry.
"Right now he needs food. His physical state was affecting his mood and making his emotions more extreme. After that, he needs his Poppa to love him no matter what. He needs his Uncle Chip to show that he still loves him and his Uncle Josh to show that he's really forgiven." Justy said seriously.
"Okay, that sounds easy enough." Allen said with a questioning look at the other adults.
He received nods of affirmation in response.
"Then when Dan gets here, he needs to have a good long talk with him. Kev has a lot more than just this to work out and he needs to get started." Justy said seriously.
"You sure do know a lot about this." Allen said cautiously.
Justy smiled and said, "This isn't just me talking. I'm getting advice from all the Clan Short telepaths right now. Cory and Sean are being kept up-to-date on what's happening too. We're all worried about Kevin and want him to be okay."
"Oh. Well, thank them for me." Allen said quietly.
"They say 'your welcome'." Justy said with a playful smile.
"I guess I'd better go keep an eye on him. Thanks for all your help Justy." Allen said as he stood.
"Don't worry Allen, just love him. That's the most important thing you can do for him now." Justy said seriously.
Allen smiled and said, "As if I could stop."
Jake walked out to the pool and noticed the disturbed look on Kevin's face as he was staring at the snack table.
Xain and Spock continued on, to join everyone else at the table as Jake veered off to join Kevin.
"What's wrong Kev?" Jake asked with concern.
Kevin looked at Jake with tear streaked eyes and his lower lip began to tremble.
"Come here buddy and tell me about it." Jake said as he pulled Kevin into a hug.
After a moment of Kevin crying into Jake's chest, Xain approached and quietly said, "I will prepare his nutritional supplement."
Jake nodded and watched as Xain walked back into the house.
Finally Kevin was able to say in a barely audible voice, "That stuff you said before... about how I was hurting Uncle Chip... it was true. I was really really bad."
"Did you tell him you were sorry?" Jake asked softly.
Kevin nodded into Jake's chest.
"Did he forgive you?" Jake asked as he began to rub Kevin's back.
"Yeah." Kevin mumbled.
"What about Uncle Josh?" Jake asked cautiously.
"He said I could still call him Uncle." Kevin said quietly.
"Then it's not too late buddy. You fixed it before you really hurt anyone." Jake said gently.
"Really?" Kevin asked as he looked up at Jake hopefully.
"That's right. If Uncle Josh is okay and Uncle Chip isn't mad then everything is fine." Jake said assuringly.
"But I feel..." Kevin began to say, then started crying again.
"Kev buddy. You remember how it used to be, back in Chicago?" Jake asked as he pulled out of Kevin's hug and squatted down to look Kevin in the eyes.
"Uh huh." Kevin said hesitantly.
"You remember that I never told you a lie? Even when it was something that might bother you, I was always honest." Jake said seriously.
"Yeah." Kevin whispered.
"Then trust me now. It's not too late." Jake said sincerely.
"Thanks Jake." Kevin said with relief as he lunged forward to hug Jake.
Jake laughed as he lost his balance and fell back on the patio, pulling Kevin down with him.
On impulse, Kevin started tickling Jake.
Everyone at the table looked on with amusement as Kevin and Jake giggled and wrestled on the ground.
"Um, what did I miss?" Allen asked in puzzlement to find Kevin and Jake laughing.
"I'm not sure, but I think Kevin just tackled Jake." Kenny said in confusion.
"Whatever it is, Jake doesn't seem upset by it." Allen said as he pulled up a chair and sat down beside Brady.
"Kev buddy, Xain brought something for you." Jake said through his giggles.
Kevin looked up to see Xain standing over them holding a milkshake.
"Perhaps you could explain why you are sitting astride my T'hy'la?" Xain asked in a toneless voice.
Kevin felt a momentary spark of fear, thinking that he might have upset Xain when he looked into Xain's eyes to find the tiniest glint of amusement.
"I'm just keeping it warm for you." Kevin said with an evil smile.
Jake let out a full laugh at the response as Xain arched an eyebrow in surprise.
"I can't believe it! Kevin made a Vulcan blush!" Kenny said as he ran to join his brother.
Jake looked up in time to see Xain begin to turn away to hide his face.
"Xain is more than a Vulcan Ken, and you just embarrassed him." Jake said firmly with a note of anger in his voice as he shifted Kevin off of him and stood beside Xain.
"I'm sorry, I was just surprised. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings." Kenny said shyly.
"I am not offended Kenny. Kevin, this is for you." Xain said quietly as he handed the milkshake to Kevin.
"Thank you Xain. I'm sorry if what I said embarrassed you. I was just playing." Kevin said in a small voice.
"There is no need for apology, I instigated the verbal exchange. I was just surprised by your response and did not expect a physical manifestation of my emotional reaction. Kenny's comment further exacerbated the existing situation. Your comments have caused me no injury. However I must investigate my involuntary reactions..." Xain trailed off in thought.
"Okay guys, we're all fine. I think Xain and I need to go in and see our daughter." Jake said seriously.
Xain looked up at Jake and nodded his approval.
Kenny and Kevin watched as Jake put his arm around Xain's shoulders and walked with him into the house.
"What's wrong Kev? You're all tied up in knots?" Kenny asked with concern as he walked with his brother to join the others at the table.
"I got a lot of stuff to think about. But I think everything is going to be okay." Kevin said quietly.
"Just let me know if there's anything I can do to help. I hate to see you all worried and stuff." Kenny said seriously.
"After I finish my milkshake, maybe we can go somewhere and I'll tell you." Kevin said quietly as he pulled a chair over to the table to sit beside Spock.
Kenny grabbed a chair and placed it on the other side of Kevin's as he said, "I'll hold you to that."
"Did you run over here all the way from Camp Little Eagle?" Chip asked as he pulled Justy into a hug.
"No, Mr. T drove me over and dropped me off. I was just hurrying to get in here before you guys said something to make Kevin think he was nuts." Justy said as he enjoyed the hug from his father.
"Is he?" JC asked quietly, receiving a reproachful glance from Chip.
"I guess it depends on who you ask. Someone who can't look inside his mind might think he's obsessive or something. But actually that's just the way he is. Allen understands it best, because Kevin's father was the same way." Justy said in thought.
"But shouldn't he get some help learning how to... deal with it?" JC asked with concern.
"Yeah. Dan will take care of that. The real problem is that Kevin doesn't need to get the idea that he might have a mental problem. He already sees himself as little and skinny and stupid, if he thought he was nuts too it would be too much for him to handle. He's really fragile right now, but it shouldn't take too long before he starts to see his own self worth and he'll be able to deal with that possibility if he needs to." Justy said with certainty.
"But if he has to see Dan, isn't that saying he has a mental problem?" JC asked cautiously.
"Not to Kevin. Since his whole family is going to see Dan, he doesn't feel funny about it." Justy said with a smile.
"Okay, it's just... when I saw that look in his eyes... it really scared me." JC said as he snuggled Justy into his side.
"I know Pop. Don't worry about Kevin. We've got it covered." Justy said with assurance.