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Chapter 17 – Where Were We?
Portions contributed by: ACFan
Opening Scene By: TheEggman
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Sunday, October 24, 2004
The first to return home late that afternoon were Caleb, Noah and Hunter. Standing in the living room between his two protectors after teleporting in, Hunter’s eyes got huge as he slowly stepped up to the sliding glass doors and pressed his nose against the glass. In absolute awe, Hunter exclaimed, “Whoa! We’re at the beach? You never told me you lived at the beach!”
Shrugging, Caleb smiled, “Me and Noah used to live in Florida, before we moved here. We do plan to get back to the other house in Orlando once in a while and you can come with us. Maybe we should take you to Disney World sometime. It’s not that big of a deal to us anymore but I bet if you’d like to go, I could talk Noah into tolerating it for you.” He said with a giggle as Noah poked him in the ribs.
“Not a big deal?” Hunter gasped, “I never even seen a beach for real an’ my dad said I’d never get to go to Disney World.” After struggling with the big sliding glass door, Hunter stepped outside, only pausing for the few moments it took for Caleb and Noah to join him.
They walked down the steps, started for the beach, and had just reached the sand when they heard, “Thank goodness you’re back!” Turning and seeing Scott Shannon, all three widely smiled. Scott gushed, “This place is boring without anyone here, ya know. Seriously, only Mary and Jon Owens were seen comin’ and goin’ for the better part of two days. The most fun I’ve had was during walk-throughs of Marc’s house, watching the contents of the refrigerator float up the stairs.” He then wondered, “Is anyone else in the house?”
“Not yet,” Noah smiled, “the doctors are making the last rounds of the day.”
“The last we saw, Jerry and his son are doing their best to stay one step ahead of Aunt Mary and Uncle Jon,” Caleb giggled. Catching Scott glancing down at Hunter, Caleb proudly beamed, “Hunter, this professional looking dude here is Scott. Scott, this is Hunter. He’s kind of a little miracle.”
Noah nodded, “The best gift Mikey ever gave any one.”
A familiar yet soft ‘You’re welcome, for the tenth time,’ was heard by all four.
Unexpectedly, Hunter almost doubled up in hysterics, and then loudly squealed, “Feathers tickle!”
The back door opened again, and KC stepped outside, saying, “Hey.” Caleb, Noah and even Hunter noticed that Scott’s expression dramatically brightened. Catching Scott giving him a slow once-over, KC approached him, smiling, “Miss me?”
Rapidly nodding, Scott cheerfully acknowledged with affirmative hums, while Caleb and Noah indifferently shrugged and giggled. Ignoring Caleb and Noah, KC locked eyes with Scott and asked, “How about a walk on the beach?”
Since Noah was the assistant director, Scott offered, “John Murphy’s at the security shack. Everything is quiet, so if it is okay with you…”
“Go ahead,” Noah giggled.
Walking close together, KC and Scott went north following the shoreline around toward the breach. To give them a little more privacy, Caleb looked down at Hunter, suggesting, “Let’s show you around a little.” With nods and an agreement from Hunter, the trio walked south. With his free hand, Caleb pointed at the nearest house, saying, “That’s the Owens’ house, where Joey and Jerry live.”
“Sweet!” Hunter enthusiastically replied. “I’ll finally have a friend close enough to play with.”
Up the beach, KC playfully wondered, “Are you going to speak to me, or just keep on smiling at me?”
Scott giggled, “I wish I knew what to say.”
“Anything you want, like what it would be like to be boyfriends.”
“JEEZ!” Scott laughed, “You don’t hold anything back, do you?”
“Life’s short dude.” KC chortled, “Have you ever had a boyfriend?”
Scrunching his face, Scott muttered, “Sort of yes and no. I thought of him like it could happen, but we never got far enough to say that’s the way it was. Then he moved away with his folks. I was accepted into the academy the next spring. Only after he was gone did I really understand how much he meant to me.” He then asked, “How about you?”
“Plenty of male friends, but no real boyfriends,” KC replied. “So, I guess we’ll just have to make it up as we go.”
After many quiet steps together, Scott asked, “What’re you thinking?”
Sadly shaking his head, KC smirked, “Of friendships, of brothers, of fathers, of over protective fathers who think I’ve got nothing better to do than hurt their kid.”
Scott scowled, “That started really nice and went downhill fast.”
Pausing and facing Scott, KC sighed, “I’m really sorry. I’ll be honest, I really want to spend a lot of time with you. Unfortunately, what’s getting in the way is a really awesome little brother and his overprotective father. Jerry and I had an argument, a big one, about Joey and how I’m a bad role model for him. I don’t know anything about being a big brother. Joey follows me around though, so I guess I need to start thinking about ways to change how I was programmed, start doing things that are completely not me so Jerry will let me keep being Joey’s older bro. If that makes any sense.” Noticing Scott slightly grinning, KC smiled, “What did I say?”
Scott softly admitted, “Believe it or not, everything you just told me makes perfect sense, and makes me care about you a lot more.”
KC smirked, “I’m not following you.”
Scott explained, “Put yourself in my shoes for a minute; a human sixteen-year-old that was immediately attracted to a teen android. A little more than a day later, you were at the hospital functioning as a doctor. These last two days, I’ve been asking myself what I can offer someone like you. You access a database and what you need is there already. I haven’t got that luxury; I have to learn the slow human way. Now I’m learning that even you need to learn some things the slow way, by trial and error sometimes. Being a big brother is a brand new experience for you, and it’s not covered in any database already stored. So you’ve made mistakes, but so will Joey, and I’d be willing to bet; so has Jerry. Talking like this is what I want most of all with you KC. Sharing this kind of stuff is exactly where we need to be, so we can move forward.”
KC giggled, “I’m an accident looking for a place to happen, Scott. Taking risks is how I’ve had some of the best times in my life. It’s also how I wound up on the bottom of Malibu Bay and in a box. How can I be myself and be a big brother for Joey, without Jerry havin’ hissy fits every damn day?”
“I guess you’ll have to talk to Jerry and Joey about that,” Scott smiled. “You’ll have to make efforts, and so will Jerry, and so will Joey. If you want, I’ll be there with you, so it’s not the entire Owens family versus you. I can play mediator pretty well. I’ll bet Mary and Jon will play that role with me. My job is to offer you, my new boyfriend, some reasonable advice before we talk with them, and again while you’re talking with them. If you do a good job, Joey’s a little brother, you’re his new big brother, and I get to give you plenty of rewards!”
Loudly laughing, KC stepped closer, took Scott in his arms, and then giggled, “Which rewards are you referring to, Lieutenant?”
Scott chuckled, “The ones that don’t require ranks, like hugs, Mister McKensie,” and then stole a tender kiss.
From further up the beach, KC and Scott heard Joey screaming, “DADDY! GWANMA AND GWANPA, COME WOOK! Casey is kissin’ Unca Scodd!”
Trying to hide his face on KC’s shoulder, Scott blushed and giggled, “Great, my first ever kiss is announced to the whole island.”
When his dad, grandma and grandpa came out onto the back porch, Joey sang, “Casey and Scodd, siddin’ in a dwee, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!” Abruptly, Joey stopped his taunting and tilted his head. “Did you heaw dhad?” He looked back up toward the house and yelled, “OH NO! WE GODDA HEWP DHEM!”
“Better go see what the twerp is getting all bent out of shape over.” KC softly sniggered. Embarrassment overshadowed by KC’s smile, Scott stepped back from KC, but reached to hold his hand. They started to walk towards the Owens’ house, watching Joey crawl around the back porch on his hands and knees. In a flash, Joey was tugging at the lattice boards.
Jerry gasped, “Joey! Don’t do that; there’s probably all sorts of bugs and stuff…”
Rapidly blinking, Mary softly asked Jon, “Did Jerry just imply bugs were bad, after bringing pet bugs into the house from age three until seven?” Jerry smirked at his mom and dad as Joey continued to search for a way to get under the porch.
“Id’s a cad and hew kiddens, Daddy! I godda save ’em and bwing ’em in dhe house whewe id’s wawm! Dhey’we so smaww, dhey’ww sdawve an’ fweeze oud hewe!” As the group gathered on the porch looking over the railing, Joey managed to rip off three lattice boards and quickly he squeezed and wiggled his way under the porch, scratching his back and both legs in the process. Caleb, Noah and Hunter were the last to join the onlookers, Hunter cringing as he watched Joey get scratched up. “DHEY’WE ON DHE GWOUND! GED ME A BOX DADDY, PWEASE! DHEY’WW DIE UNDEW HEWE!”
Hurrying back up the steps, Jerry impatiently huffed, “This is not really happening!” His dad widely smiled, and his mom burst into giggles. Jerry ran in the house to find a box for his boy.
Under the porch, Joey was meowing and purring, gaining the trust of the mother and promising her; “We god wodsa good food, miwk and duna, and wawm beds fow youw kiddens.” Sitting perfectly still, Joey allowed the momma cat to rub against him and mark him with her scent.
“You’re doin’ great, Joey,” Caleb softly encouraged.
“Timmy does it just like that too,” Noah offered.
Arriving at the Owens’ house with Scott at his side, KC looked up at Jon and Mary, asking, “Have you got a hammer and nails, Uncle Jon? How Joey got in there must’ve been by sheer willpower and luck. Scott and I can take a few more boards off, so Joey can get out of there, and then we’ll put them back again.”
Jon nodded, “I’ll be right back,” and went back inside.
“And I’ll see what’s delaying Jerry,” Mary offered, and followed her husband.
“Check the liquor cabinet,” Scott suggested helpfully, getting a playful elbow in the ribs from KC.
KC chuckled as he knelt down and started pulling at the lattice work that Joey partially pulled down, “What’s goin’ on in there creep? You startin’ a Clan refuge for animals or sumthin’?”
Nodding, Joey giggled, “Dimmy says, when animaws ask fow hewp we godda hewp dhem.”
Looking over the space Joey had crawled through, KC observed, “This hole is way smaller than you are you little monkey.”
Jerry stepped outside with a nice size box, about twelve inches by eighteen inches by eighteen inches. Jon followed with two hammers and a box of nails. They heard Joey tell KC, “I know. I scwadched my back and wegs a widdwe, bud I’ww be oday. Dhe kiddens awe onwy fouw days owd dheiw momma says. Dhad means dhey wewe bown when I was sweepin’. Dheiw eyes awen’d even open, Casey.”
Jon handed hammers to Scott and KC. They went right to work removing the lattice boards. Scott said, “Jerry, Joey’s going to need to be cleaned up. He’ll probably need some antiseptic and bandages, and clean clothes too.”
Squatting down, Jerry peered through the lattice, asking, “Are you okay, Joey?”
“I’m oday, Daddy, jusd some scwadches. Dhey didn’d even bweed vewy much.”
Jerry sighed and turned to glare at KC. Busily removing the lattice, KC softly reminded, “You can’t pin this on me. I was way down the beach, remember?”
Jon prodded, “Let’s go inside, Jerry.”
“Not now, Dad.”
“Right now, Jerald,” Jon firmly ordered, guided him up the steps and wrapped an arm around his son.
On the way up the steps, Jerry griped, “I don’t believe it. He’s only been back a couple’a days.”
Opening the back door, Jon patiently nodded, “Would you like to know how many bumps, scrapes and bruises you got just learning to walk? You can’t protect him from each and every life lesson, Jerry. You’ll bleed for every wound and drive yourself crazy. In the end, he’ll end out resenting you for not allowing him to live.” They went inside to continue the conversation.
Sitting cross-legged under the porch, Joey sighed, “Casey, I dhink Daddy’s fweakin’ oud ’cause of me doo.”
With a space made large enough for Joey and the box for the kittens, Scott saw KC’s expression instantly melt and took his hammer from him. Looking back into the opening he sighed and softly asked, “You just found the kittens, but want to keep them safe and warm, right?”
Pushing the box under the porch, KC watched as his new boyfriend continued, “Jerry feels the same way about you. That’s why he was upset, and why we’re all gonna have to sit down and talk about it. He’s scared for you and he’s new at this whole Daddy thing.” Scott stuck his head in the hole and instructed, “Push the box onto its side and let the momma move her kittens, Joey. If you move too fast, even the momma cat will get scared for her babies, and you might get scratched up even more by her.”
“Jusd wike Daddy,” Joey smiled, and did as he was told. “I dhink I ged id now Scodd. Dhanks.”
Watching the mother pick up the first kitten, KC smiled, “Ya know, your gonna have to name them all?”
“I’ww jusd ask dhem whad names dhey wand,” Joey giggled.
“Ask them?” Scott laughed. “They’ll all just say mew.”
Caleb giggled once realizing that Joey was taking instruction from the momma cat and helping her. “I don’t think so. Looks like Joey got officially accepted into the family after all.”
Inside the Owens home, Mary told Jerry, “Imagine my surprise when you started bringing home spiders, beetles and cocoons, with lord only knew what was inside. I’d tell you no, and you’d scream and cry like it was the end of the world.”
“All those aquariums and terrariums in the basement were yours, for your little friends,” Jon reminded. “Our larger problem right now is not Joey collecting animals, it’s you, treating KC like an enemy. Joey considers KC his android big brother. You glared at KC like it was his fault that Joey got a few little cuts and scrapes. KC was nowhere near Joey, and didn’t instigate anything. You need to start learning now that you cannot keep Joey safe from everything. He’s going to get plenty of physical and emotional boo-boos, that you cannot and should not prevent. Your choice is to continue to hurt and upset Joey while you’re keeping him safe from KC. How can Joey grow and learn without making mistakes? You trying to keep Joey safe is pointless in the grand scheme of things, and could cause more harm than good.”
Mary sighed, “You don’t want to make Joey choose between his dad and his brother, do you?”
“No, course not,” Jerry muttered.
“Some compromises need to be reached, and it’s up to you, KC and Joey,” Mary instructed.
Jon put a hand on Jerry’s shoulder. “Welcome to parenthood, Son. Remember why we moved here? I could have made a lot of mistakes, just like you are, after David…” He trailed off. “Instead, we decided to move someplace where that memory wouldn’t haunt us. In the end, we got him back, in a way, thanks to you making some very special friends. What you are doing now is just what a lot of parents do when they are new at being a parent and afraid. Do you think a part of this is because you are afraid of losing Joey too, and pushing it on KC?”
Pausing to think about it, Jerry scowled, “I don’t mean to, but it’s not like I can forget what happened.”
Appearing in the room, standing between Jon and Jerry, and causing Mary to gasp in shock, Davie smirked, “Nice try, Booger Brain. You almost evaded the question, but guess who’s here to call you on it. Dad could’ve easily locked you in the house and never let you step outside again.”
Jon smiled, “Believe me, the thought had crossed my mind several times.”
“If you were two minutes late getting home, I would’ve climbed the walls too,” Mary admitted.
“Hey! Some big brother YOU are!” Jerry grumbled. “You’re supposed to take MY side!”
“I am on your side and always have been,” Davie cheekily grinned. “No one in this room caused my departure from this world. I didn’t even do anything to cause it. One person carries all the blame for that, and he’s paying, several times a day, in the Phoenix Federal Correctional Facility. Child abusers are not happy people in prison, proving that there is honor amongst thieves.
“KC is far from a child abuser, he just doesn’t know how to be a big brother yet. As a matter of fact, I happen to know KC was talking to Scott about you and Joey, which led to a first kiss, which was subsequently derailed by my little nephew’s discovery under the porch. All I’m saying is new dads need chances to learn, and so do new big brothers. You can learn from dad, and KC will learn how to be a big brother too, I can guarantee that.”
“As old as he is, he’s never been a big brother?” Jerry asked, his voice reflecting his skepticism.
Davie giggled, “Does 28 years monitoring fishes in Malibu Bay count?” He turned to Jon and Mary, uncontrollably laughing, “The stories traveling around the pearly gates about that are getting more humorous by the minute!” Returning his attention to Jerry, Davie sniggered, “No, KC only had a dad, no siblings.”
“From remarks I’ve heard from him,” Jon commented, “I think his family consisted of seaweed, strings and wood for most of his life.”
Davie giggled, “Not goin’ there, Dad.” He looked down at Jerry, saying, “You know what needs to be done, but how you do it is your choice. Make it easy on yourself, Joey and KC too, okay?” He looked over at Mary, smiling, “I smell corn muffins in the oven. It was one of my last memories, by the way. I followed that smell into the light, feeling like I was going home at last.”
“Good lord, I forgot about the muffins!” Mary gasped as she hurried to the kitchen, loudly imploring, “Please find a way to give us a warning before just appearing, David. I love you but you are going to give me a heart attack just popping in like that.”
Davie grinned and vanished from the living room. A single loud knock was heard from every direction. Davie appeared in the kitchen, at his mom’s side and stole a kiss. “Love ya,” Davie giggled, and disappeared.
Mary took the corn muffins out of the oven and placed them on a cooling rack. Watching the back door open, she took the oven mitt off her hand. While Scott held the door open, Joey slowly and carefully walked in with the box of kittens. At Joey’s feet, the momma cat proudly strutted inside, meowing, “Hello, grandmother. The pleasure is all yours, I’m sure.” Inside the box Joey was carrying, higher pitched meows called for the momma. “I will not be carried, so just relax,” the momma cat told her brood. “There are some things that are far beneath me.” Hearing the conversation, Joey broke out giggles.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Back at the hospital, Marc and John finally had a chance to sit down as the last of the patients were teleported out finally. “Doctor Murphy, I believe we are finally done here.” He said with a loud exhale as he sat back in his chair and closed his eyes.
“No joke.” John said with a grin. “After all this though, I still can’t believe I’m sitting here actually talking to you. I never even dreamed of meeting you and now… I guess now that things are quiet, reality is beginning to set back in.”
“You’ll get over it.” Marc laughed as Danny and Rylan rounded the corner, looking like they had just run a marathon. “All the Medbots go back home?”
“No.” Rylan smiled weakly. “A decent amount of them intend to be permanent staff here and are now looking forward to doing something productive with their time.”
“Like the Techbots.” Danny laughed. “Have you been upstairs lately? This place isn’t just going to be ready early but it’s going to be the most technologically advanced hospital on the planet. It’s amazing!”
“I’m glad they could be of service, as I’m sure you know they are as well.” Rylan said closing the medical kit he was carrying. “So, now that things are quiet, I would really enjoy some rest. I believe you should all consider following my lead.”
Danny patted Rylan on the back and watched as he silently asked the Ark to teleport him home and vanish from sight with a quick wave goodbye. “Who’s left on site Marc?”
Marc hummed and tapped on the P.A.D.D. he had on the counter. “Bare bones now. Billy is securing the transporter and regeneration units. He plans to take this down time and finish work on the new console now that we know what issues we would have with it in an emergency situation. Then he’s taking a day off. Chris Herron is at Starfleet Command meeting with medical directors to add our hospital to their network. That’ll give us an influx of interns and resources. Nurse Patty is the only nurse left on site. She wouldn’t leave until the second floor was cleaned and secured.” Marc smiled. “I put in a request to bring her on board permanently. She has to be our head nurse.”
“Agreed.” Danny smiled. “What about this guy? You sticking around John?”
“No.” John smiled as he pulled off his medical cap and ran his fingers through his hair. “I have family on the west coast and can’t just relocate. Call anytime you need help though.”
Danny grinned as he pulled another chair over and sat down. “Thanks to Ark, west coast to east coast can be traveled in the snap of a finger.”
< This may be of assistance. >
On the counter, a subvocal unit appeared, causing Marc and Danny to laugh. “Thanks Ark,” Marc said as he picked up the ear piece and handed it to John. “I’ll have you added as reserve medical staff and now that you can ask to be teleported anytime you want, we’ll expect you to visit the house too.”
“Deal.” John said as he put the ear piece in. “Thanks guys, you too Mr. Ark.”
< You are welcome John. You should however, speak with your new friends about what I am and how ‘Mister’ is not an accurate prefix to my name. >
“I’ll do that.” John giggled, turning his attention back toward Danny. “So, other than turning off the lights and locking the door; what’s left to do?”
Danny sighed and leaned his chair back. “I need to wait for the last of the staff to finish up. You and Marc can head back to the house, I have one last phone call I want to make and I’m sure you both won’t want to be here for it.”
“Mr. Fraser? You sure you don’t want me to make the call?” Marc questioned, receiving a somber gesture to go away from Danny. After a silent moment, Marc stood from his chair and rubbed Danny’s shoulder. “Let’s do this then, John can head to the house to rejoin his um…” He looked at John and questioned; “…partner?” receiving a nod in the affirmative, he continued, “Cool. I’ll head outside to see if Gramps is still here working on the signage and to let him know that we will all be leaving for a couple of days while the Techbots finish their work, You make that call and I’ll rejoin you here so we can do the final shutdown and head home together.”
“Sounds good,” Danny said as John stood up and patted his new friends on the backs. “See you guys at your house then.”
“We shouldn’t be long.” Marc said as he watched John grin while he mouthed his request for teleport.
“That’s so cool.” John barely managed to get out as he vanished.
“Go check on your friend, I’ll be right here.” Danny said as he pulled his chair closer to the counter and picked up the phone receiver.
Marc quietly turned and walked down the hall, looking into the triage area to watch a Medbot methodically putting equipment and supplies back in their proper places. Happy that they were not in need of instruction or supervision at this point, he continued on through the building to the main lobby where, he needed to rub his eyes to be sure he wasn’t hallucinating. “Dad?”
“I was in the neighborhood.” Jim said as he suddenly found himself the recipient of a bear hug. “So, you mind telling me what you are doing in this old retired naval hospital?”
“Sure.” Marc said with a smile as he tried to pretend he wasn’t excited to see his adoptive Dad. “As soon as this retired naval officer explains why he’s in uniform, sporting what? A commander’s rank?”
“Fair enough.” Jim said with a smile. “You sir, are looking at the Captain of the Navy’s newly declassified deep submergence vessel, “Deep Quest”. I lied a little about my trip back to Titanic.”
“I guess.” Marc giggled. “Why did the Navy reinstate you though? You said you were done with the military life.”
Jim motioned toward the waiting area in the lobby to sit down as he continued, “Deep Quest is my design. We were field testing her when the order was given to back the U.S.S. Iowa in securing our coast.” He paused as he plopped into one of the padded chairs near the entrance. “I could have refused the assignment but, it’s my boat. I don’t think I’m ready to give her up yet.” He got out as Marc’s communicator chirped.
“Sorry Dad, one second.” He said as he pulled out the device and flipped it open. “Marc here.”
“Dr. Furst, it’s Lieutenant Shannon.” The voice began. “In all the confusion, I almost forgot to tell you that your father called earlier and left a message for you. He said he will be home ahead of plans and that he needs to speak to you. I gave him your current location.”
“Thank you Lieutenant. Did he provide you with an ETA?” Marc questioned trying really hard not to laugh and failing as his father watched in amusement.
“He’s there already, isn’t he?”
“Arrived a few minutes ago Scott.” Marc finally giggled. “But thanks for the heads up.”
“I’m sorry. He called in the middle of…”
Marc rolled his eyes and cut him off, “Scott, don’t sweat it. Even if you had told me I probably would have forgotten in this mess.” He smiled. “I’m talking to my father right now so there was no harm done. Keep holding down the fort, we’ll be home soon. Marc out.”
“Looks like we both have a new command.” Jim laughed.
“Nooooo… Not me. Danny’s the head grunt here.” Marc laughed. “Once the remodel is complete, Federation Youth Services and our new AI Division of Clan Short will have one of the most technologically advanced medical facilities on the planet. I’m a medical director, Danny’s the Division Head.”
Jim looked around the quiet lobby before standing up. “Well you will have to give me a tour sometime in the next three days. Deep Quest is getting a once over and resumes testing in about 36 hours.”
Marc smiled as he looked out through the doors and saw that no work was being done to the signage. “I’ll give you a tour of the hospital but you have to give me a tour of your new tub.” He giggled as he dodged a playful swat from his dad.
“I’ll give you a tub.” Jim laughed as they made their way back into the building.
“Dad, do you think if we knew the date ahead of time that you could plan to come back here for the re-opening and re-dedication of our new hospital?” Marc asked as he wrapped his arm around Jim’s waist.
“Wouldn’t miss it.” Jim smiled. “Just pass the message to Admiral Morrow and he can arrange clearance of Deep Quest to return home.”
“Awesome.” Marc replied with a squeeze.
“..yes Mr. Fraser.” Danny could be heard as they rounded the corner back into the ER. “Please let me handle the details. The Federation or Vulcan Embassy will handle the rest.” He said with a sniffle, “I’m so sorry sir. Please call me if you need anything, anytime. Yes sir. Goodbye sir.”
“Oh, I know that look.” Jim said as Danny buried his face on his folded arms and sighed loudly. “Dan, is there anything we can do to help?
“No.” Danny said barely above a whisper. “I just want to go home.” He continued; looking up with an unreadable expression. “I never want to see anything like this, ever again!”
Marc rushed over and pulled Danny into a protective hug as Jim watched, shook his head and muttered, “Clan Short.” He sat down in an empty chair and repeated to himself. “Clan Short. A Vulcan clan comprised of our own kids.”
“What?” Danny questioned. “They’re good guys, all of ’em.”
“Oh don’t get me wrong,” He said with a small chuckle in his voice. “The entire planet should be ashamed that it took our kids to step up like this.” He got out with a sigh. “Even better, it took a Vulcan to find the most human of humanity.” When both boys were paying close attention he continued; “Marc, when I first met you and learned what you were doing with all of your time my first thought was that you weren’t even human but more of a humanitarian than I have ever met.”
“You thought that?” Marc asked as he scooted in to share Danny’s seat without breaking the hold he had on him.
“I did.” Jim replied. “I also swore that I would do whatever I could whenever I could to help you. You are the most selfless creature I have ever seen, until I learned of this band of kids making adults answer for their wrongdoing. A group of mistreated youth taking a stand against the people who mistreated them and most importantly, standing up for the ones who can’t stand up for themselves. Marc, you’ve been doing that longer than most people have been alive. You went out of your way to bring Danny back into the mix and look what you both have accomplished. Look what you both have started here. How many casualties did you log in this confrontation?”
Marc and Danny looked at each other and couldn’t answer. “A lot?” Marc questioned more than stated. “I don’t know the actual numbers.”
“I was briefed once our situation allowed. At last count, cadets, military, law enforcement, clan, unit and civilians; over 80 of your boys and around 10 supporting adults.” Jim almost spit out. “But do you know what was accomplished?” He asked both wide eyed boys. “The FCC was nothing shy of a terrorist group. Your actions as a group completely decimated them. More than 1000 casualties of its supporters are reported, not counting how many of them are in the military and clan custody. You boys had to have seen absolute hell in this old building but, without you and your friends stepping up to the plate, those numbers would be a hell of a lot different I’d be willing to bet.” Jim sat back and sighed. “I’m proud of you boys but so sad that you had to go through all of this.”
“Why didn’t you say you knew what happened when you got here?” Marc asked with his head tilted.
“Cause somewhere deep down, I hoped you had been shielded from the brunt of it all.” Jim replied. “Danny just made the absolute worst call anyone in a position of authority would ever be expected to make. The call to let a family member know that their loved one will never come home again.”
“Have you ever made that call?” Danny asked as he rubbed his tired eyes and stretched.
“Yes.” Jim replied. “Too many times actually.”
Danny cleared his throat and asked, “How do you get used to it?”
“You don’t.” Jim replied. “But you learn to respect the intent of the person who gave their life. You honor the fact that this person was willing to stand up for what they believed in so strongly, that they did it knowing full well that this end was a price worth paying. When you call that person’s loved ones, you do it with respect for the people who were privileged enough to have known such an outstanding human being. Someone you will forever respect and whose life you celebrate each and every time you acknowledge the good that came from their final action.” Jim smiled. “It was the part of my position I hated the most but, seeing you here after making that call,” Jim sighed, “it made me realize that I have an opportunity to help.”
“You’ve always helped. I never thought you didn’t.” Marc stated, sounding a little confused.
“Marc, I left the Navy because I didn’t see any more of a future in it for myself. It gave me the time to build this new sub. The biggest, fastest and most heavily armed deep submergence vessel ever built.” Jim chuckled. “I was considering making my command permanent because I don’t want it to become simply a weapon, losing sight of the scientific aspects of its design. Today, she stood in defense of our border to protect you boys while you were fighting so hard to make your stand. I wouldn’t have been any use to you here.”
“Wait, what are you saying?” Marc asked.
Jim smiled and looked at Marc and Danny as a proud father would watch his sons move on with their lives. “I can be a resource for you. I can be a bridge between the Federation and Earth side military. You are based here and I can help to make here a little safer, if even just in a small way.” Jim looked around the empty ER and grinned, “Besides, you don’t need a guardian anymore. You need allies.”
Marc sat with his mouth open, unable to think of anything to say. Danny finally cleared his throat again, breaking the silence. “Jim, are you taking this assignment because it’s what you want or just because you feel that we need to be protected and that’s the only way you can do it?”
“Good question,” Jim hummed. “Both maybe? I mean you need to see this boat to start with. The design is mine, the crew is mine and it can go deeper and faster than any vessel in or on the water. I suppose I wanted to resume command after all the testing had completed but felt a little guilty because Marc would be left all alone. Hell, I’ve been living in his house all this time and now I’d just be saying see you later.” Jim sighed. “That wouldn’t be right.”
“Why didn’t you ever say anything?” Marc questioned, tilting his head.
“Because sometimes it felt like I really had a kid with you. The first time you went on an extended trip with me, I saw the wonder of an actual child in your eyes that just made it seem like I had something to offer.” Jim smiled. “Then there were other times that you got buried in your own work. If we weren’t working together on my projects or yours it was like just having a roommate. I’m not father material so you are the perfect son for me cause you really don’t need a dad.”
“Oh.” Marc looked at the floor as tears threatened to start flowing. “What if I want you to be my dad?”
Jim smiled and motioned for Marc to come to him. In less than a second he had his arms full and a tear began to work its way down his own cheek. “Then I guess it would be okay to tell you that we are family. Always have been and always will be,” He laughed, “but Dad thinks it’s time for his boy to have his own place and for him to take the next step, whatever that might be.”
Just then Danny’s communicator chirped and without interrupting Marc and Jim, he pulled it out and flipped it open. “Danny here.”
“Hey Danny, it’s Billy. Just wanted to let you know that Nurse Patty just beamed out. All staff is clear except for myself, you and Marc now.”
Danny smiled and once he realized that Marc and Jim were paying attention he pushed the P.A.D.D. that he was working from away from himself. “Thanks Billy, we’ll be beaming out in a few minutes and you are free to beam out whenever your work permits. Just don’t overdo it. We all need a break, that includes you.”
“Understood sir. But in all honesty, I’m gonna have some fun with these plans. I’ll stay as long as the Techbots allow I guess.”
Danny laughed and shook his head. “Fine then, but when you are on break, come to the house. I find you asleep in this building while it’s under construction and I’ll take your toys away. Do I make myself clear Chief?”
“As crystal sir. See you at the house. O’Keefe out.”
“He makes a good head grunt.” Jim laughed as Marc nodded his head in agreement.
Danny stood up and looked over the desk to the Medbot that was speeding down the hallway with a load of freshly replicated medical supplies. “Number Fifteen!” He shouted, halting the unit instantly. “All staff will be leaving the premises with the exception of the Chief Engineer and Techbots. Do you and your team need anything from us before we leave?”
“Negative director Page.” The unit replied. “All medical supplies will be fully replenished in approximately 8 hours, after which all units will be utilized to outfit newly restored sections of this building with the required equipment according to your division’s specifications. Do you have any further requests?”
Danny smirked as two more Medbots rushed down the hallway, both loaded down with supplies. “I seriously don’t think so. If you require anything from staff, communicate it to us through Ark.”
“Affirmative.” The unit replied as it sped off.
“They are efficient.” Jim laughed.
“You have no idea.” Marc giggled as he grabbed Danny’s arm. “Let’s go home.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“That’s his foot, see it?” Caleb could be heard as the trio teleported into the kitchen.
“Whewe Caweb? I don’d see id.” Joey whined before gasping, “WAID! I see id! Wook Casey, wook! Dhad’s Uncah Danny!”
“What are they up to?” Marc asked as all three quietly snuck into the living room where they could see the small group was gathered with the TV on. “What’s all the noise in here?” Marc giggled as Joey started jumping up and down.
“Uncah Mawc! Uncah Danny! We saw you’we food in dhe mud undew dhe dawk wadew!” Joey squealed before noticing Jim. “Hey, who’s dhad?”
Marc smiled as everyone in the room turned and looked, Caleb pausing the video they were watching. “Guys, this is my dad, Jim. Dad, these are…um, new family.” Marc smiled. “That’s KC and Scott on the couch. These two squeezed into the chair are Noah and Caleb and that little ball of energy bouncing around in front of the TV is Joey.
“You god a big Daddy!?!” Joey gasped. “Jusd wike my daddy does!”
“Cool, right?” Marc asked as Joey seemed to calm down and walked up to Jim, appearing to be interested in something that no one else could figure out.
“If you awe Uncah Mawc’s daddy, whad do I caww you?” Joey questioned with his hands on his hips, making Jim laugh as he got down on his knees to look the little guy in the eyes.
“Well,” He grinned. “what do you want to call me?”
Joey seemed to think about it before looking at Marc and smiling. “Uncah Jim.” He tried it out. “Yeah, you awe my second uncah cuz you awe my uncah’s daddy so, you godda be an uncah doo.” Joey said in one breath, finishing it with a toothy smile.
“You are such a dork.” KC giggled.
“No I’m nod!” Joey turned and shot back. “You’we a sdupid poopy head.”
“Poopy Head?” KC laughed throwing his hands in the air, “So uncalled for, twerp.”
Marc just shook his head as he sat down on the arm of the chair Noah and Caleb were sitting in. “You guys found the video we took on the day we found Danny?”
“Yeah,” Noah grinned. “We told Joey to put in a movie and this is what he grabbed.”
“Uncah Mawc!” Joey almost shouted as he started bouncing up and down again. “KC says dhad Uncah Danny was undew wadew jusd wike he was bud he was nexd do a big boad named Didandic!”
“It’s Titanic ya little monkey.” KC laughed.
“Dhad’s whad I sed!” Joey huffed. “Didandic!”
“Yep, ya nailed it buddy.” KC laughed. “It’s nice to finally meet ya Jim.”
“Same here.” Jim said as he ruffled Joey’s hair. “I have some catching up to do.” He said.
“Did you see dhis movie whewe Uncah Mawc fines Uncah Danny in dhe dawk wadew?” Joey asked as Jim sat on the floor indian style and Joey helped himself to the now available lap. “Dhey’we gonna puww him oud of dhe mud and dhen bwing him hewe!”
“Uncle Jim was driving the sub Joey.” Caleb said as Noah kissed him on the cheek, tapped Marc on the shoulder and motioned toward the door, looking back at Caleb wordlessly. “Okay.” Caleb whispered with a knowing smile, kissing Noah back.
“Be right back.” Noah said getting up from the chair. Out on the deck, Noah sat down at the table and waited for Marc to close the sliding glass door. “You’re gonna kill me.” Noah said now getting a concerned look from Marc.
“I doubt it.” Marc grinned as he sat down. “With what we just went through, there is nothing you could have done that could be that bad.”
“Caleb knows.” Noah almost whispered looking down at his feet.
“Knows what?” Marc asked as he watched Noah start fidgeting with his hands. “Noah?”
“Your notebook was still in with my laptop.” He said, still looking at the deck. “I’m so sorry. I know I promised…”
“Noah, look at me.” Marc cut him off. When Noah was looking him in the eye and was quiet, he thought for a moment and then nodded his head. “Look, you two are like brothers to me. Family shouldn’t have secrets.” He crossed his arms and sat back in his chair before continuing, “Cal knows to let me talk to Danny, right?”
“Yeah. He wouldn’t say anything. I told him you didn’t know how to bring it up and made him swear to keep it to himself.” Noah said. “He understands.”
“Okay, then I’ll just need to work up some courage then.” Marc said with a sigh. “Oh boy.”
“You can’t still be worried that he’s gonna take it bad.” Noah shook his head. “If anything, being around me and Caleb all this time, something had to have rubbed off on him.” He said with a smirk.
“You guys are carriers then?” Marc’s serious expression melted.
“Oh yeah,” Noah laughed, “Caleb wasn’t but I infected him and now…” He got out as Marc started to laugh. “Seriously. I know Danny would be lost without you. Even if he doesn’t feel exactly the same way he would never turn you away just because you have a crush on him.”
“I know.” Marc said shaking his head. “I’m still scared though. I don’t want things to change.”
Noah laughed, giving Marc a start. “Yes you do. Of course you do…” Noah stood up and walked toward the door, placing his hand on Marc’s shoulder on his way. “…and so do the rest of us.” He giggled as Marc leapt from his seat and chased him in the door.
Back in the living room, Jim looked up and smiled. “Noah, Caleb tells me that you and he are living here now.”
“Yes sir.” Noah smiled, a little out of breath. “We requested to be assigned to the AI Division permanently.”
Jim smiled and waited until Noah was snuggled back into the chair with his boyfriend before continuing, “Marc wouldn’t have had a chance to tell you this yet but, I am returning to my career in the Navy commanding a deep submergence sub. I’ll be living on the boat and when I have the opportunity, I’ll be looking for my own house soon. You guys need your own room.”
“So much has gone on, I don’t think either of us looked that far ahead.” Noah replied, scratching his head.
“Jim had an idea.” Caleb said, causing Marc to laugh.
“Oh, that’s never good.” Marc continued to giggle, earning a raspberry from his dad.
“If you guys liked my room, why not take it over. It’s a good size, furnished and has its own bathroom.” He said turning to look at Marc, “Unless I’m mistaken, it’s available now.”
“Really?” Noah smiled. “Marc, would that be okay?”
“It does solve a space issue.” Marc grinned.
“What space issue?” KC giggled. “There’s a vacant room down here.”
“That’s my bedroom.” Marc huffed.
KC’s expression became dead serious as he locked eyes with Marc. “You aren’t sharing the big room with Danny?”
“No.” Marc quickly replied.
“Why not?” Danny innocently asked. “It would make it easier for you to steal my clothes. Besides, it’s too big for just one person.”
“Uncah Mawc, can Casey and I sweep in dhe odhew woom donighd? Dhe one my daddy sweeps in? Pwease?”Joey whined, causing everyone in the room to laugh.
“I don’t see why not.” Marc replied with a smile. “Actually, I may need to talk to Jerry about that room anyway. The Owens clan just got larger and I know room in their house is going to become a problem. KC needs his own room.”
“I can sleep in the garage.” KC shrugged. “I don’t want to take his bedroom here and living over there right now may not be a good idea.”
“You aren’t sleeping in the garage.” Danny shook his head. “I’ll talk to Jerry later on, there won’t be a problem.”
“An I ged’da sweep ovew, wighd?” Joey giggled.
KC grabbed his little brother and started tickling him, while he was squirming and squealing he said, “Just you remember… Creeps who steal the sheets… Wake up on the beach with the crabs.”
Through his fits, Joey was able to agree before squealing; “CASEY! SDOP! I GONNA PEE!”
KC laughed and let him settle into a hug. “None of that in the bed either ya little monster.”
As a quiet fell over the room, Joey cleared his throat and asked, “Can we finish wadchin’ dhe movie now?”
Jim got up and stretched. “You guys go for it. I’m going upstairs to pack up my clothes and stuff. Most of my stuff is in my quarters on Deep Quest already so it won’t take very long.”
“You need some help Jim?” Caleb asked, smiling when Jim reached over and ruffled his hair.
“That’d be a huge help Caleb.” Jim smiled. “You can tell me if there’s anything I’m leaving behind that you don’t want.”
“Cool! Noah, you wanna come up later on and help me set the room back up?” Caleb asked as Jim started up the stairs.
Noah smiled as Caleb leaned in and gently kissed him. “Yeah, I want to see if we can get Dad to send us copies of the family pictures we have at the house.”
As Caleb started up the stairs himself he stopped and snapped his fingers. “Oh yeah, when you talk to him, ask if we can get a copy of the one we are all in. Don’t forget that cute one of you with Antonio sound asleep in your lap.”
“I will.” Noah smirked as he watched Caleb run up the stairs laughing.
“You’re a pain in the butt!” Caleb giggled as he disappeared.
After Joey started the video back up, Marc and Danny stood up and wandered into the kitchen. “You need coffee bro?” Marc asked as the sound from the TV faded into the background.
“You know it.” Danny replied as he sat down at the table and watched Marc silently begin to set up the coffee maker. “So, what do you think about being roomies?”
Marc paused what he was doing for a moment as he appeared to give it serious thought. “It may not be a great idea.”
“Why not?” Danny asked, tilting his head. “There is so much room up there and it would give us more space down here. We could even think about knocking the walls to your room down and opening the kitchen into the living room. It would make both a lot larger. I bet the Techbots would make short work of it.”
Once the coffee maker was turned on, Marc sat down in the chair next to Danny and took a deep breath. “There’s something I haven’t told you and I think it might change your mind about wanting to share a room with me.”
“I doubt it.” Danny laughed, stopping once he realized Marc had a serious look on his face. “Is something wrong?”
“Well, no. I mean yeah there… Argh… I don’t know how to say this.” Marc got out as he folded his arms on the table and put his head down.
“With words.” Danny said with mock sarcasm in his voice as Noah wandered into the kitchen.
“Something wrong?” Noah asked as Danny began to rub Marc’s back.
“No.” Marc sniffled.
“Oh, okay.” Noah replied, shrugging his shoulders. “Am I interrupting something then?”
Marc looked up and forced a smile. “No, I think I’m going to take a little walk down the beach and then jump in the shower.”
“Okay then.” Noah said with concern in his voice. “You guys want company? Caleb and your dad are busy and that video is creeping me out a little. Tough to see you as a metallic endoskeleton bro.”
“No, I just need a little time alone. Just stress and stuff.” Marc said noticing the confused look on Danny’s face. “I’m fine. We’ll talk later, okay?”
“Yeah sure.” Danny replied to Marc’s back as he was already on his way out the door.
“Everything okay?” Noah asked as he pulled out a glass and poured himself some milk. “Marc looked upset.”
Danny shook his head, got up and grabbed a coffee mug and poured himself a cup from the pot of coffee Marc had just made as it was just finishing. “Noah, if I talk to you about something personal, can you promise me it will stay between us?”
Noah grabbed an unopened package of chocolate chip cookies off the top of the fridge, opened it and put it on the table between them. “Yeah, of course.” He said as he took out a cookie, Danny following his lead. “Personal or not, you are my friend and my commanding officer. What’s said between us, stays between us.”
As both took a bite of their cookies, Danny sighed and shook his head. “I think there is an unexpected problem and I’m not sure how to handle it.”
“Okay.” Noah said with a mouthful before chasing it down with some of his milk. “We’ve handled more than our fair share of those already. Do we need to contact Sean and Cory?”
Danny smiled and put his cookie down on the table. “No.” He said before taking a sip of his coffee and pausing for a moment. “Noah, when we heard that you guys were on your way, I needed to catch up on a ton of history to patch over the decades I missed just so I’d be able to function with all that tech you guys brought.” Noah nodded and began to tackle another cookie. “To do that, Marc incorporated one of his backups into my brain. It gave me a quick easy way to just know how to function in this time. It was a backup Marc took while he was in the process of reactivating me.” Danny looked into his cup and sighed. “It also carried records of how he was feeling and what he was thinking.”
Noah took another sip and then smiled. “That sounds really cool. You get to experience how hard he worked to bring you home.”
“It is.” Danny paused before looking back up toward Noah. “It also provided information that is very personal about him. I don’t know how to talk to him about it, or if I even should.”
“About his past?” Noah asked, reaching for another cookie and breaking eye contact, knowing that he had to hide what Marc had already told him.
“That’s there too. You swear this stays between us?” Danny asked and Noah nodded his head in response.
“Of course. I wouldn’t be much use to you as your second in command if I couldn’t be trusted.” Noah replied with a dead serious expression. “I swear on my life to never betray your trust,” He started to giggle into his glass before adding; “unless you go all psycho android on us.”
Having the desired effect, Danny smiled and took another sip of coffee. “What I’m about to say feels like a betrayal of Marc’s privacy even though he told me to explore the information he uploaded into my head. I’ve been attempting to ignore it but, it has me a little confused too.”
“Okay.” Noah replied as he stuffed another cookie in his mouth.
“Marc had developed some feelings for me as he repaired and reconstructed me.” Danny redirected his gaze toward the steaming cup in front of him as Noah continued his assault on the cookies. “He hasn’t said anything to me about it and bringing it up doesn’t seem fair because I shouldn’t have this knowledge.”
Noah tilted his head and sat back in his seat as he finished chewing and swallowed hard. “Feelings?”
Danny scrunched up his face a little and replied; “Yeah, It feels like he was developing a crush on me. More than just a kinship, you know?”
“I have an idea.” Noah smiled, thinking of the poem Marc had written. “Does it bother you?”
“Oh, god no.” Danny replied, suddenly going silent as Joey padded into the kitchen.
“I godda go do dhe badhwoom and Hundew is sweepin in Uncah Mawc’s woom.” Joey said with a grin as he continued through the kitchen without pausing. “I don’d wand do wake him up.”
Noah ruffled Joey’s hair as he passed and smiled. “Joey, you’re gonna be an awesome cousin for Hunter. You know that, don’t you?”
“Bwodhew.” Joey grinned. “I wand Hundew do be my bwodhew. I wove aww my famiwy.” He got out as he closed the door.
Noah focused back on Danny and decided to do a little fishing. “So if it doesn’t bother you, how do you feel about him?”
Danny took a sip from his coffee, slowly placed his cup on the table and then appeared to think. Shortly after a flush, Joey ran through and back into the living room giving both a laugh. “Confused.” He said, breaking the silence that had begun to settle over the table.
“Oh.” Noah simply answered as he continued attacking the cookies. “So you don’t feel the same toward him then?”
“Well…” Danny paused trying to come up with a response, “…I gave up on finding anyone else, years ago.”
“So, I haven’t put any thought into it.”
“So, I…” Danny sighed and took a sip from his coffee. “…I don’t want to lose a brother.”
Noah was about to take a sip but decided to put his glass back down. With a scowl, he folded his arms and shook his head. “Caleb and I are brothers by adoption. A lot like you and Marc are now.” He got out as Danny tried to open his mouth to say something but, raised his voice a little to cut him off; “IF I had allowed the title brother to tell me how I was allowed to feel about him, I wouldn’t have the relationship I have now.” He spouted. “We’re closer than any brothers ever could be. Same with Sean and Cory you know. They were always like brothers, and it got way deeper. Look what they have now! If you can ever find that with someone for real, grab on and hold as tight as you can. When you finally get past the label brother and try to do something about it later on, it may be too late.”
Danny sat there, dumbstruck at the lecture he didn’t expect. “But what if I’m not sure myself?”
“Then that’s the best part of this whole setup.” Noah smiled as he stood up from his seat. “Your brother is someone who you can talk to, he can help you figure it out.” With that said he downed the rest of his milk. As Danny thought over what he had told him he put his glass in the sink, grabbed a hand full of cookies out of the package and on his way by, kissed Danny’s forehead. “You have more brothers than you can handle now. As one of them, I want to see you both happy. Talk to him, seriously.”
“Thanks Noah.” Danny said to Noah’s back as he left the room and smiled. Laughing as he realized Noah only left two cookies in the package, he finished his coffee, cleared off the table and considered his choices.
“Decision time.” KC almost sang as he walked into the kitchen.
“What? Decide what? I’m not deciding anything!” Danny jumped and nervously said in a panic, causing KC to look at him like he was crazy.
“Easy there boss man, I was talking about sleeping arrangements.” KC laughed as he turned a chair backward and sat in it with his arms folded on the back. “Why? What aren’t you deciding” He finished with a laugh.
Danny just rubbed his eyes and waited for his heart to dislodge itself from his throat. “Nothing. It’s just been a long couple of days.”
“I gotcha.” KC smiled as Danny sat back down. “The way I see it, we got more butts than beds so we gotta do some planning.”
“It’s not all that bad.” Danny smiled. “Whoever doesn’t make it into a bed can build a nest in the living room.”
“A nest?” KC laughed. “You feelin okay bro?”
Danny shook his head and smiled, “This is easy. Marc will want to sleep in his own room tonight. I’ll sleep in mine. Noah and Caleb in their room with Hunter. That leaves Eli, Benji, Sammy and ‘Bastian in Jerry’s room. So we move the coffee table out of the living room grab all the extra pillows and blankets and cushions and spread them out on the floor. You guys can watch a movie and crash in the nest.”
KC smiled and nodded his head. “That sounds like fun actually. Not a bad idea comin’ from an old guy like you.”
Danny smiled and nodded his head, “I’ll give you old.” He said as KC stood up and started to back out of the kitchen.
“Bet you got the nesting idea from the pterodactyls. You know, the ones you kept as pets?” He got out as Danny stood up quickly causing KC to jump and miss-judge his footing, tripping and slamming head first into the wall, hard. “Oh man… Owwwww!” He laughed, rubbing the sore spot. “That’s definitely gonna leave a mark.”
“…on the wall!” Danny snickered as he started the chase.
Just as KC turned to run for the living room, Hunter opened the door and almost got trampled. “COMIN’ THROUGH LITTLE GUY!!!” He half laughed as Joey rounded the corner and pounced him, knocking him off balance and crashing to the floor.
“Sdop pickin’ on Uncah Danny.” Joey giggled. “He’s doo owd do be wunnin’ wike dhad and he mighd ged huwd!”
KC burst out laughing as he pointed at Danny. “Ooooohhhh! Burned by the creepster. Sad to see it happen, really it is.”
“You guys are weird.” Hunter giggled as Joey started a tickle fight with his brother. “Danny, do you know where Caleb is?”
Danny smiled as he picked him up and stepped over the giggling pile on the floor. “He’s upstairs buddy. I’ll bring you to him.”
On the way up the stairs, Hunter seemed to study Danny’s face. “Danny, is it true you guys are all family but not really?”
Danny laughed and put Hunter down on the top step. “I never thought of it that way but, yeah. Except our family chose to be family. Does that make sense?”
Hunter gave a toothy smile and grabbed Danny’s hand. “Yeah. I think that’s the best kind.” He said as he led the way to the only open door in the hallway.
Inside the room, Jim was packing up a military duffel bag while Caleb was wrapping pictures and other breakable stuff in paper to be packed. “Hey Caleb.” Danny said as Hunter ran into the room and latched on to Caleb’s waist. “I found this little green eyed smile machine downstairs looking for his protector.”
“I never sed that.” Hunter giggled as he wrapped his arms tighter. “I didn’t know where you were.”
Caleb sat down on the bed and gave Hunter a big hug. “You never need to worry about that. Wherever you are, I won’t be far away.”
Hunter continued to hold his hug for as long as Caleb would let him. When Caleb finally went to stand up, Hunter climbed up on the bed and watched as Danny and Jim took the bigger bags and carried them out of the room. “He’s moving away?”
Caleb noticed the thoughtful expression on his face and smiled. “He lives in a submarine out in the Atlantic.”
“Wow.” Hunter replied in awe. “Under the water?”
“Yup.” Caleb smiled. “But he’s Marc’s Dad so he’ll come by to visit and stuff. Maybe he’ll even let us go see his sub.”
“Is he Marc’s real Dad?” Hunter asked, beginning to fidget with the trim on the blanket.
Caleb thought for a moment and replied, “As real as he needs to be. Marc and Jim kinda adopted each other a long time ago.”
“Cause Marc is an android and Jim is not.” Hunter reasoned.
Caleb nodded and started to wrap another framed picture in paper. “I was wondering if you knew the difference.”
“Yeah.” Hunter smiled and handed Caleb another picture from the pile on the bed to wrap. “God made the people and he made the people make the android people and they both take care of each other.”
“I like that.” Caleb smiled. “So if you look at it that way, Jim is his real dad because he looks out for Marc and Marc wants him to be his dad. It’s really cool how that happens.”
“What if I knew someone who looks out for me? Could he be my dad if that’s what I want?” Hunter asked, watching Caleb continue packing.
“You got a lot of people looking out for you now.” Caleb reached over and ruffled his brown hair, earning another wide smile from the little guy.
“I saw what you did. You and KC.” Hunter almost whispered.
“Oh?” Caleb tilted his head and questioned. “When was that?”
Hunter reached over and grabbed Caleb’s hand tightly. “I see it every time I touch you.” His eyes began to tear up. “In the hospital, I can even hear you crying. You looked out for me, just like Jim looks out for Marc.”
“But every thing’s fine now.” Caleb said with a lump developing in his throat knowing that the boy was right. Anytime he held the little guy, he couldn’t get the images out of his head.
“Can you be my Daddy?” Hunter asked, a tear starting to make a trail down his cheek. “Please? I’ll be good, I swear.”
“Me?” Caleb sniffled as he sat down on the corner of the edge of the bed, Hunter in his lap in seconds. “Are you sure?”
“I want you to be my Daddy and I want KC to be my brother and I want your family to be my family.” Hunter said as he buried his face in Caleb’s neck. “Forever.”
Just then, Danny and Jim came back into the room pausing in the doorway and allowing Hunter his moment. “Maybe we can come back and grab this stuff in a little while.” Danny whispered.
Caleb looked up and with tears in his eyes smiled toward them. “Thanks guys. If you see Noah, could you tell him I need him?”
“Sure thing.” Danny said and they both backed out of the room, closing the door.
“How could you have seen what happened at the hospital? Did Mikey show you?” Caleb sniffled.
“No.” Hunter replied, shuffling into Caleb’s lap. “You were thinking about it. You and KC both do it a lot.”
Caleb looked at the little guy and then pulled him into a tight hug. “We were both scared for you.”
“I got your shirt wet.” Hunter sniffled and tried to wipe the wet spot on Caleb’s shirt. “I’m sorry.”
Caleb began to rock and Hunter melted into his embrace. “You got nothing to be sorry about.” He smiled. “And I don’t know how but, you’re right. I do think about what happened all the time. I bet KC does too. We were so scared that we would lose you.”
“I know.” Hunter whispered.
Caleb grinned and looked at the top of Hunter’s head. “Someday you gotta tell me how you know though.”
“Not right now?” Hunter questioned as Noah came into the room and quietly closed the door.
“No, not right now.” Caleb smiled. “Hunter, do you see something when you touch Noah too?”
“I think so.” He replied as he crawled across the bed and grabbed Noah’s hand. Closing his eyes, he smiled and nodded his head. “He’s happy. He sees you making me safe and he thinks that he’s lucky, I think.”
“What’s goin on?” Noah asked as Hunter started tugging at Noah’s hand to get him to sit on the bed with them.
Caleb let Hunter climb back into his lap and he pulled Noah closer to him. “Hunter, do you know who Noah is to me?”
“Your brother?” Hunter asked more than answered.
“Yes and no.” Caleb replied as he tried to work out a way to explain that they were much more than brothers. That they in fact were something that his biological father would have taught him was wrong, maybe even something that should be hated.
“Oh.” Hunter almost whispered seemingly in response to Caleb’s thoughts. “But he was wrong. He tried to kill people because they loved people. I think people should love the people who love them back.”
“How do you do that?” Caleb asked in awe.
“I dunno.” The little one smiled. “Been happening since after Mikey took me for a walk.”
Caleb looked at Noah and smiled. “Hunter wants me to be his Daddy.”
Hunter smiled and looked at Noah, placing a hand on his cheek he sighed and settled deep into Caleb’s arms. “He thinks it’s okay cause it makes you happy, and if makin’ me happy makes you happy then he wants me to be happy too.” He giggled as Noah looked at him with a crooked grin, “Or somethin’ like that.”
Noah thought for a moment and then leaned over, kissing Hunter on the head he looked up and into Caleb’s eyes. “Caleb, would you consider a legal adoption after we go see Tyne?”
Caleb began to tear up again. “See Tyne? Are you proposing? Socius? Seriously?”
“If you don’t mind being stuck with me forever.” Noah smiled.
Caleb sniffled again and as he opened his mouth, Hunter cut him off and giggled. “He’s screaming in his head.”
“We should probably talk to Mikey about how he’s doing that first.” Caleb laughed and the three settled into a hug that resembled a miniature huddle. “Our family.” He hummed.
In his room, Danny sat in the darkness on the couch looking out the window and down on the beach. He could just barely make out Marc’s form sitting on one of the pilings that used to secure his original father’s dock. With a sigh, he sat back on the couch and pulled out his communicator. “Danny to Jerry.”
After a couple of moments of silence a voice responded “Jerry here. What’s up Danny?”
Danny rubbed his eyes and lay back on the couch. “I didn’t wake you, did I?”
“Nope, I was sitting up with my parents talking. Is something wrong?”
Danny smiled and stretched. “No, I just almost forgot to tell you that Joey wanted to sleep over. After Jim finished moving the last of his stuff out to the garage, the boys built a nest in the living room. He wants to sleep in it too.”
“Oh…um, yeah that’s fine.”
Danny nodded his head and sighed. “I also wanted to touch base with you about your bedroom over here.”
“That’s easy. Dad and I were just talking about that. I don’t need two bedrooms so KC should take it.”
Danny held his communicator out at arm’s length and just looked at it for a moment. “That’s cool. I was worried that you would be upset since Marc offered it to you. I mean you even moved some of your stuff in there.”
“Yeah, I was when Dad first brought it up but you guys are right, KC needs a place too. Actually, I’ll leave my PlayStation there for him. I’m getting the system in the den because Joey needs a room too.”
“That works then.” Danny smiled.
“Yeah, I even get the big TV to go with it so Joey gets my smaller TV in my old room with the Wii for himself.”
“Sounds like a plan then.” Danny sighed. “When Eli, Benji, Sammy and Sebastian head back to Florida we’ll get KC’s stuff moved to the garage so he can start moving it all in.”
“Okay, I’ll grab my clothes out of the way tomorrow so whenever he gets his stuff he can move it right in.”
“Sounds like a plan buddy. Glad things are starting to smooth out between you and KC.” Danny said as he got more comfortable.
“Mom says she’s going over there in the morning to make breakfast so we’ll all be over.”
“Sweet.” Danny grinned. “See you then. Danny out.”
Putting his communicator on the coffee table, he looked out the window at the horizon one more time as his eyes got too heavy to stay open.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
After dozing off, Danny found himself in his interface mode, but there was no connection. “Why do I hear crying? Hello? Is there someone else here?”
“Hi Danny.” Came a tiny sounding voice from deeper in the blackness.
“Kyle? What’s wrong? Are you actually in my dream?” Danny questioned as he continued to walk toward the sound of sniffles.
“I’m sorry! I’m tryin’ to stop it, I swear!” Kyle got out as Danny finally found his small form curled up in the fetal position against a representation of a dark corner.
Danny sat down and pulled Kyle into his lap and hugged him tightly. “Stop what Buddy? I don’t get it. What’s wrong?”
Kyle continued to sob as he spoke into Danny’s neck, “I’m trying to pull back but now I can’t. From you or Cory. I don’t know what to do.”
Confused, Danny rubbed Kyle’s back trying to calm him. “What do you mean? Pull what back? Try to calm down a little and talk to me. What happened exactly? Why are you crying?”
It took a moment for Kyle’s sobs to subside before he continued, “It’s changed. Before I was playin’ around in your head cause it’s…different. Your head makes room for me and can be as quiet or as loud as I need it to be. Now that I’ve changed it’s like I’m being sucked in. Like a vacuum that I can’t turn off. It’s the same with Cory. Just as strong. But his brain doesn’t just give me space. I can’t just ignore it. I don’t know what to do!”
Danny began to rock Kyle a little, further calming him. When Kyle seemed to relax a bit, Danny softly continued; “Easy kidoe, we’ll figure this out.” Once he was sure Kyle was listening he went on; “You said my brain makes room for you. Exactly what do you mean?”
Kyle wiped the tears from his eyes and sat back so he could look Danny in the eye. “There’s a part of your brain that sleeps. That’s how it feels anyway. It’s like your brain says okay, if you’re gonna be in here, you can take the sleeping part. So I do.”
Danny put some thought into what Kyle said before drawing a conclusion of his own. “My tech mode. Yeah, It’s gotta be that. It’s a dormant personality, normally. Maybe this can help somehow.”
“How?” Kyle asked, looking so much smaller and more fragile to Danny than he had ever appeared to him before.
“Well, if you’ve been focusing on your presence in my old tech mode, then my brain is allowing you to actually be its personality. Actually, you are channeling through the same neural pathways that I would normally use to give tech mode instructions. I don’t know why I didn’t realize that before.” He said looking deep in thought.
Not understanding what Danny was getting at entirely, Kyle scratched his head and asked, “Is that bad?”
With a reassuring smile, Danny shook his head. “No, actually that’s a really cool way to give you access without overriding processes. I can choose to ignore chatter from that personality. So, if you were to kinda yell at me to get my attention, to me it would be a voice in the distance until I focused on it. To you, I guess that would feel like my brain was giving you your own room that I can be outside of or inside.”
Kyle thought for a moment and then replied, “Maybe. Before you came in here it was like listening to what you were saying in your head like it was echoing in a big room. But I can hear Cory just as loud and I can’t block it out.” Kyle started to tear up again. “Focusing on this corner was keeping it down to an echo far away.”
Danny opened his eyes wide. “So what happens if you stop focusing on this space?”
Kyle sighed and replied, “Then your thoughts and Cory’s come through louder and clearer than anyone else’s. Like this.” And for a few moments, a loud echoing voice thundered through the virtual space “…I better go in and check on Timmy. It’s not fair he had to go through all of this…”
Danny covered his ears as Kyle adjusted his focus again and quieted it to a distant murmur. “Just me and Cory?”
Kyle shrugged. “Yeah. Ever since I became Mikyvis. It’s weird but I can kinda look into everyone else’s…um…self I guess. When I’m not looking in then it’s something that I can make go quiet. I don’t know how to describe it right, but with you guys, it’s just so hard to just make quieter and I’m so tired.”
“Actually, I do think I get it. Let me ask you this,” He continued deep in thought; “why are you in here right now? I mean, does it help somehow?”
Kyle thought for a moment before nodding his head. “It’s darker, quieter. Kinda like when you are in a scary place but in your mind you pretend you are somewhere not so scary, just to make it easier. In here, I pay attention to the dark and then I start to miss the loud thoughts coming from you both. Kinda.”
Remembering Marc’s explanation of their first interactive memory, he smiled. “This sounds like our imagined reality. I wonder.” He looked deeply into the little munchkin’s eyes. “Kyle, try to calm your mind. Close your eyes and imagine that you are physically here.”
“Okay.” Kyle replied, closing his eyes and as Danny had hoped, a white light seemed to brighten the area like a spotlight was suddenly aimed at them both. “Now what?”
Danny smiled and nodded his head. “Now, imagine we are in a room, some place that you would feel safe and comfortable. Make it a room with a door that’s open.”
“Like this?” Kyle asked as instantly they both appeared to be sitting in the corner on a bed in an unfamiliar bedroom.
“That’s perfect. I can’t believe this is working.” Danny ran his fingers across the blanket on the bed and smiled. “Ok sport, make there be two doors. One of them leads to Cory and one of them leads to me. Make them thick and heavy and soundproof. Leave them open for now.”
“This is hard.” Kyle said as he clenched his eyes shut. “There, I hear Cory through this one and you would be on the other side of that one if you weren’t in here right now.” He said appearing to finally relax. “Am I doing this right?”
“Yup, this is perfect.” Danny ruffled Kyle’s hair, gaining a weak smile from him. “Okay, try this. You are trying to not to listen to every one of Cory’s thoughts right now, right?”
“Yeah,” Kyle replied as Danny shuffled himself off the bed and stood up. “But it’s like trying to not listen in on a loud conversation. You can’t help but hear most of it.”
Danny smiled and crossed his arms. “Okay, close the door to Cory then.”
Confused, Kyle tilted his head and questioned; “What?”
“This is a reality that you control. Convince yourself that those doors are real, and heavy and most important, soundproof.” Danny tapped on his chin as he thought. “Then put Cory on the other side of it and close it. Let the door muffle the sound so you don’t have to.”
Kyle’s expression showed that his confusion wasn’t lifting. “But it’s not real.”
Danny simply smiled and replied, “It’s as real as you make it. Just try it.”
After a few moments of Kyle looking as if he were straining against an imagined force, the door slammed shut, quieting the sounds to an incomprehensible mutter. “It works. I mean I can still tell he’s there but…wait. How can it work? It’s not really real.”
Danny laughed as he sat back down on the bed. “It’s as real as you need it to be. Marc taught me that. Here, check this out.” He continued as the room changed into a different bedroom.
“What’s this?” Kyle questioned, standing up and looking around.
“My bedroom when I was about your age.” Danny replied going over to a closet and pulling out a big plastic bucket. “Let’s take your mind off of what’s going on outside this room.” He grinned as he dumped the bucket’s contents onto the floor. “What do you want to build?” He said as he sat down on the floor and spread the huge pile of Legos out some more.
Kyle started to giggle, instantly looking like the little kid Danny got so attached to just a couple of days earlier finally. “Really?” He sat down as Danny nodded his head. “There’s like millions of them. Let’s build a pirate’s ship.”
“Aye Cap’n Kyle!” Danny replied getting another giggle from Kyle. “I haven’t done this in years. This is gonna be fun.”
After a few minutes, Kyle stopped working and looked up at Danny. His silence drawing Danny’s attention. “Thanks Danny. This helps.”
“Anytime Leech.” Danny giggled. “If this can be a safe room for you then I want you to have it. You can call me or Cory in here or you can just have some alone quiet time. It’s up to you.”
Kyle put his head back and closed his eyes. “You may need more Legos.” He giggled.
Danny raised his eyebrows and smiled. “There are three buckets in the closet over there besides, it’s imagined reality. The whole room could be made of them if you wanted so, you have all that you would ever need.” He laughed as Kyle looked at the bed and turned it into one made of Legos. “There ya go. Now, about this pirate’s ship…”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“You haven’t been out here all night have you?” Jon asked Marc as he approached.
Marc stretched and jumped down off the piling. With a stretch he nodded his head’ “Yeah, I came out here to think last night. When I realized the sun was coming up I just stayed and watched it.”
Jon looked out at the morning sky and took a deep breath. “Did you work out what you needed to?”
“Kinda.” Marc yawned. “Actually, not really; no.”
Jon wrapped his arm around him and steered him back toward the house. “I suggest you come in the house, jump in and take a shower and sit down and have some breakfast. Mary is hard at work already. Then I believe a nap wouldn’t be a bad idea.” Jon smiled. “If you get up and still need to talk, I have two ears and tons of time.”
“Thanks Jon.” Marc giggled. “I may take you up on that.”
The second they stepped through the sliding glass doors into the living room, the smell of bacon made them both smile. “Now we just need to get past Mount Pillow in here.” Jon laughed.
As they carefully worked their way around the big pile of blankets, pillows, arms and legs, signs of life were beginning to show. As the two were almost half way around the pile, Eli shuffled his way out, freezing when he saw Marc standing there knowing he was still restricted to his bed. “I can explain.” He squeaked before realizing that he stood up without even thinking about controlling his new leg. “Oh my god! I did it! Did you see that?”
“You sdand up aww dhe dime Ewi.” Joey said sleepily as he climbed out of the pile as well.
Marc smiled as he pulled Eli into a hug. “I told you, stop trying and it will happen. Now you just need to start doing without thinking. Just take it slow for a couple of days, okay?”
“Yeah.” Eli smiled as he looked back and forth at each leg and then did the same with both hands. “Tan them a little and you’d never know they were new. This is awesome Marc!” He got out as he took a couple of careful steps. “Awesome!”
“Yay, you can walk, yay.” KC groaned, laughing as Sebastian tackled him and started tickling. “I mean YAY! You can… walk… stop it tiny!”
As the pile erupted into a mass of giggling, the smell of food started to bring them all to life, Marc and Jon started to head for the kitchen as Caleb came down the stairs with Hunter in tow. “Morning!”
“Morning Caleb, Hunter. Where’s Noah?” Marc asked as they both watched Hunter run and jump into the middle of the pile.
“Not sure.” Caleb said as they turned for the kitchen. “He and Danny took off somewhere really early.”
“Oh.” Marc replied with a dull tone in his voice.
“Is everything okay?” Caleb turned to step in Marc’s path outside of his bedroom door.
“Yeah, everything is fine.” Marc forced a smile. “I’m gonna take a quick shower before breakfast.”
“Okay.” Caleb replied, as he watched Marc vanish into his room. “Hi Aunt Mary!” He said the moment he got into the kitchen. “I was told you needed a taste tester.”
“Is that what you were told?” Mary laughed, slapping her husband’s hand as he tried to steal a piece of bacon. “What I need is for security to come in and guard the food until it’s done.”
Caleb laughed as Jon waved his hand as if the slap stung, smiling when his wife shook her head and looked the other way. “Just be lucky that doesn’t mean JJ cause then you’d need security to keep security away from it. The world is safe but the bacon,” He giggled, “not lookin’ good.”
Mary kissed Caleb on the forehead as she began to bring food to the table. “Could you be a sweetie and call the rest of the gang in to eat?”
“Chow time at the zoo!” Jon yelled toward the living room, earning an exasperated sigh from his wife. “Handled.” He finished with a chuckle.
“Worse than all the kids combined.” She laughed as Caleb shrugged his shoulders and began to set the table.
After breakfast, the group worked its way out to the beach where they continued to either lounge and enjoy the rest or take turns throwing each other into the ocean until about lunch time. Marc, Eli and Caleb sat at the table on the deck watching the smaller kids in the surf until the unmistakable sound of a sport car could be heard pulling up out front. “Sounds like Noah’s Mustang.” Caleb grinned.
“You can tell the difference already?” Marc asked with a giggle.
“No.” Caleb smiled. “The Camaro has been in the driveway all day so it has to be the Mustang.”
“Besides,” Eli giggled, “You can always tell a Ford; it sounds like it’s about to die.”
“That’s cold.” Marc grinned as Noah came running out through the sliding glass doors.
“There you are!” Noah barely got out before tackling Caleb. “Danny started teaching me how to drive!”
“Oh no.” Caleb moaned. “Haven’t even gone through the ceremony and already I’m in danger of being a widower.”
“Shut up!” Noah laughed. “I did really good. I drove us home and no one died.”
“Frightened nearly to death maybe but died, no.” Danny said as he stuck his head outside. “Marc, can I talk to you please?”
“Be right in.” Marc replied, his gaze directed toward the decking.
“He frightened you Danny?” Caleb questioned.
“God no,” Danny laughed. “But a few of the neighbors are trying to find out what just came screaming down Station 32.”
“That car can scream too.” Noah smiled as Danny went back inside, followed by Marc.
“You were speeding down Station 32?” Eli asked with a smirk.
Noah looked up and beamed. “Oh yeah. You should’ve seen it.”
“Told ya, Ford.” Eli grinned. “Brakes probably failed then.”
“Funny.” Noah fired back. “See if I take you for a ride.”
“Oh no,” Eli waved his hands, “if it ain’t the Camaro, I’m stayin’ here. My new parts ain’t ready to push a car yet.”
“I don’t need this abuse.” Noah laughed. “Where’s Benji? I’m gonna go tell him how mean you’re bein’.”
“He won’t help you push the car either.” Eli giggled as Noah just shook his head.
In the kitchen, Marc sat down at the table while Danny poured them both a soda. “Danny, I’m sorry I took off in a rush like that earlier. I’ve just had a ton of stuff on my mind.”
“No doubt.” Danny smiled. “Look, we’ve all been under stress. More than any of us have ever dealt with. Consider it forgotten.”
“Okay.” Marc weakly smiled before taking a sip. When Danny sat down he tilted his head. “Something up?”
“A few somethings actually.” Danny stated sliding a P.A.D.D. across the table toward Marc. “Where do you want to start?”
Marc sighed in relief when he realized it was an itinerary he was looking at. “Wait,” He almost gasped, “the hospital’s done?!?”
Danny sat back in his chair and smiled. “Can you believe it? They finished early this morning and when we took a swing by, they requested other projects, for fun. Plans for renovations to this house and the Owens’ are being hammered out.” Danny smiled. “I told them that the bedroom downstairs is off limits and all renovation ideas are to be run by you first.”
“Oh, okay.” Marc said as he pretended to scrutinize the diagrams that were on the screen. “We should probably keep the upper lab closed in as a communications hub since the computers are all installed there.”
“Not a problem.” Danny said watching Marc’s glum expression. “You know Marc, Federation Youth Services needs to be notified that their facilities in the building are ready to be used. You want to call Teri about the dedication details?”
“I do want to talk to her about it.” Marc began to smile. “I miss her already.”
Danny smiled and took another sip from his soda. “I never thought about how you would feel about having a Mom after all these years.”
Marc nodded in agreement as he continued to tap on the screen, a smile surfacing as the thought of calling Mom somehow made him feel comforted. “So, we need to plan for a week out; hospital dedication and Memorial service for our fallen, security rotation schedules and,” Marc paused, “what’s with the three day blackout the day after the dedication?”
Danny smiled and picked up his glass. “A break.”
“Really?” Marc questioned as Danny’s grin made him wonder. “Do you plan on letting me know what we’ll be doing?”
Danny smiled and crossed his arms. “I plan to tell you that Noah will be taking charge of the efforts here as the hospital begins to come to life.” He grinned. “I plan to tell you that you need to pack for three days away from society and I plan to tell you that we will have company.”
“That’s it?” Marc questioned as he placed the P.A.D.D. down.
“Yup.” Danny replied as he emptied his glass. “I have a ton of work to do now, Noah and I will be heading back to the hospital. If you want, Eli and Benji are ready to head home. Maybe you and Caleb could beam down with them and if you’re lucky catch Teri at home.” With that, Danny put his glass in the sink, and turned to face Marc. “Noah and I are gonna hit Denny’s later on so, don’t hold dinner for us. Tomorrow you’ll be needed at the Hospital.”
“Okay.” Marc replied, tilting his head. “For what?”
Danny walked over to his brother, kissed him on the cheek and knelt down in front of him. “Billy, Jerry, you and I have one thing to do before we get up and running.” Danny smiled as he stood up and turned for the door. “Kevin’s waited way too long…”
To Be Continued…
* * * * * * * * * * * *