Castle Roland

Book I

by MultiMapper


Chapter 7

Posted: N/A

Copyright © 2012 - 2015 by MultiMapper and The Revolutions Universe Partnership
All Rights Reserved

The Great Egress

Metamorphosis LogoBug had been surprised to receive a call from his Oma Shoupe, announcing that she was going to go down to breakfast with Marcus and Doris Teeter.

As Bug and the twins walked into the reserved dining room, they automatically walked up to Gordon.

"We seem to be running a little bit behind. If you'd like to take a seat, you can order breakfast whenever you'd like." Gordon said as he kept watch on the door.

Although Bug was curious, he followed Gordon's instructions and looked around for a place to sit.

"Bug!" Hank called from the doorway, where he had two suitcases and a backpack.

"Hey, Hank. Did you get everything?" Bug asked as he walked over to greet his new friend.

"Yeah. But could you do me a favor and watch my stuff? I need to talk to my boss and tell him that I'm quitting. I owe him that much." Hank said honestly.

"Yeah. Sure. But what are you going to tell him about 'why' you're quitting?" Bug asked curiously.

"The truth. I'm just going to tell him that I'm gay and that I've heard that Kansas City is about to become very unfriendly toward people like me." Hank said seriously.

"That should do it." Ken said with a nod.

Kev nodded his agreement.

"I'll be back as soon as I can." Hank said with a tinge of nervousness under his words.

"We'll save a seat for you." Bug said with a smile.

As Bug and the twins were walking back to the tables, Kev quietly asked, "Is he the one?"

"What?" Bug asked in confusion.

"Last night… this morning, you said that there was someone you wanted, but you knew it couldn't work. Was he the one?" Kev asked seriously.

"No. He just delivered my bags to my room and tripped my gaydar. That's it." Bug said honestly.

The twins shared an unreadable look.

After a moment, Bug smiled and asked, "Jealous?"

"No. But if he was the one, I was going to make damned sure that he knew you weren't available." Kev said with a smile.

Bug thought for a moment, then said, "That's right. I'm only yours."

Kev and Ken beamed identical smiles at the declaration.

"Lawrence, take your pills." Bug said, as soon as he found his brother sitting at a table with Roris.

"Oh, thanks." Lawrence said as he accepted the pills from Bug.

Once Bug had seen him take the pills, he quietly said, "Gordon left a new coat for you in my room. Make sure you get it from me before we leave."

Lawrence leaned down and whispered something to Roris, then sat up and said, "Roris said that he'll remind me."

The twins were both surprised to see Roris in a wheelchair. When they had briefly seen him in Lawrence's room, there hadn't been any indication that he had any sort of disability.

"How are you guys?" Bug asked his brother gently.

Roris let out an involuntary giggle, and that was all that Bug needed to know.

"I've never felt like this before. I can't stop smiling." Lawrence said joyfully.

"I'm happy for you, Lor. This is what I've always wanted for you." Bug said quietly.

"It's what I wanted for you, too." Lawrence said frankly.

Bug looked at one twin on his right, then the other on his left, before saying, "I'm getting there."

"Are these your boyfriends?" Lawrence asked in wonder.

"Yeah, I brought them to meet you, don't you remember?" Bug asked playfully.

"I got busy with something else and kinda forgot. I'm sorry." Lawrence said quietly.

"It's okay, Lor. I'm just glad to see you happy. We're going to find seats, now. Just come and get me if you need anything." Bug said before leaning in to give his big brother a kiss on the cheek.

Although it was the kind of thing a seventeen year old wouldn't normally do, especially in public, Bug knew how happy it made Lawrence to know that he was loved. That overrode Bug's usual shyness about such things.

Bug and the twins found a table and began to look at the menus when a young voice asked, "Can I sit with you?"

Bug closed his menu and found Bax looking at him hopefully.

"Sure. But I figured that you'd want to sit with Ro and his dads." Bug said honestly.

Bax shrugged one shoulder and his gaze went to the floor.

"What's up, Bax?" Bug asked curiously.

"It's just… he's their kid and I'm not." Bax mumbled.

Bug nodded, then quietly asked, "Would you like to be their kid, too?"

"No." Bax said immediately.

Bug looked at him curiously.

Bax thought for a moment before slowly saying, "Ro is their kid and they love him. But I'm not part of it. Oh, they treat me alright and everything, but, I'm like a puzzle piece that doesn't fit."

"Would you like to be my kid?" Bug asked casually.

Ken, Kev and Bax all looked at Bug with matching expressions of surprise.

"No judge in his right mind would let me adopt you, I'm only seventeen. But, if you wanted, I think you'd fit into my family, right along with Lawrence and Oma Shoupe." Bug said frankly.

"You really mean it?" Bax asked hopefully.

"Sure. The only reason I didn't say anything about it before was because I wanted you to have a chance to get to know Ro's dads. If that would have worked out, I would have been happy for you, but since it didn't, I think it'd be great to have you around." Bug said frankly.

"Cool!" Bax said with a grand smile.

"That means that Oma Shoupe is your grandmother, now, so you'll need to be sure to spend time with her, and let her know that she's loved." Bug said seriously.

"Yeah. She's nice, so that'll be easy." Bax said happily.

"This also means that you're Lawrence's little brother. That means that you'll need to be nice to him, too, and listen when he tells you things. And, sometimes, you may need to help him with the things that he can't do for himself." Bug explained carefully.

"Lawrence is probably one of the nicest people I ever met, so that'll be easy, too." Bax said confidently.

"Well, I guess before we call it settled, you should also know that I have some new boyfriends." Bug said as he motioned to the twins.

Bax's eyes went wide as he looked at one twin, then the other.

"Wow, Kev. There's two of you!" Bax said as he seemed to be having trouble believing his eyes.

"I'm Kev, that's Ken." Kev said with a tender smile at the boy.

Bax finally turned to look at Bug and said, "You didn't have any boyfriends at all last night, and now you got two?"

"Yeah. We're still getting used to it." Bug said with a chuckle at the boy's reaction.

"I didn't know you could have two boyfriends! I bet that's awesome!" Bax said happily.

After a glance at one twin, then the other, Bug smiled as he said, "I think it might be. I can't wait to find out."

Everyone had been seated and most people had ordered. A few people were just starting to receive their food when Lucas hurried into the room.

"Tell me what happened!" Gordon called, as he rushed to the door.

Bug immediately stood. With his (ever growing) family's well-being at stake, he wasn't going to stand by without at least trying to be informed as to their situation.

Apparently, Bug wasn't the only one who felt that way, because Ben (carrying Oleksandr), Marcus Teeter, and Walter also got up from their seats and walked across the room to be in on the conversation.

"It's nothing bad. I promise, I just got held up at the hospital…"

"Hospital!?" Gordon shrieked.

"What's going on? Is there anything we can do to help?" Marcus asked seriously.

"No, no. You see, when Gordon and I received the call this morning telling us to evacuate, we decided that he would be able to handle our duties for all of you, while I packed our belongings and made arrangements with Social Services Child Division to take the kids out of state." Lucas said quickly.

At Marcus' questioning look, Gordon explained, "We're foster parents. We can't legally take the kids out of state without permission."

"Oh. I see." Marcus said with a nod.

"Well, all was going as expected, until I talked with Miss Winer in the Child Division."

"Did she deny you?" Gordon asked with a sinking feeling.

"Oh no, not even close. She thought it was an excellent idea. In fact, she said that since we were leaving, she wanted us to take two more kids with us. She says that with the way things have been going lately, that she's concerned for their safety." Lucas explained.

First Gordon, then the rest of the men turned to find five children standing just inside the dining room door.

After a moment for the relief to kick in, Gordon asked, "So, what's this about a hospital?"

"The boy; his name is Jay, was assaulted and was at the hospital awaiting someone from Child Division to pick him up. This isn't the first time that it's happened to him, and Miss Winer's afraid for his life, if he stays in Kansas City." Lucas said quietly.

"We don't have any experience with abused children. I don't know if we can handle it." Gordon said quietly.

"That's not the half of it." Lucas said frankly. "The abuse wasn't just physical, it was emotional and sexual as well. And to top it off, it's at least two different family members that have been doing it. He's been placed in three different foster homes in the past three years, and somehow, they keep finding him."

"I don't know how, but we'll help him." Gordon said with a nod.

"We also got Maxine. She's a happy, healthy little ten year old girl." Lucas said carefully.

"Then why does Miss Winer want to send her with us?" Gordon asked carefully.

"Maxine, she likes to be called Max, by the way, has some rather… masculine tendencies. Miss Winer is afraid that Max might be seriously and permanently damaged if someone tried to force her to adapt to their preconceived notion of gender roles." Lucas said carefully.

"So she's a ten year old bull-dyke?" Bug asked cautiously.

"I'd say she's a 'tomboy'." Lucas carefully corrected, then continued, "From what Miss Winer has observed, Max hasn't shown any sexual interest in either boys or girls, so this isn't a matter of orientation. It's all about her gender identity. Miss Winer was hopeful that Max might be able to avoid any serious trauma if we were to help her as she discovers her way in life."

"Brother Jacques knows a lot about working with kids. I bet if you have a problem with either of them, that he could probably give you some good advice." Ben said seriously.

"The twins, too. They're really great with kids." Bug added quickly.

"I've raised two children that I'm quite proud of. So, if there's anything I can do, I'd be happy to help." Marcus said frankly.

"We don't have any more experience than you do, but if you need a sympathetic ear sometime, Reginald and I would always be glad to help." Walter offered sincerely.

Lucas and Gordon looked at the four men with surprise at the offers, and Gordon finally said, "Thank you. We really appreciate your support."

"If you'll get the kids seated, I'd better get this meeting started before there's an uprising." Lucas said with a smile.

On that note, the four men went to their respective tables as Lucas walked to the front of the room.

"Thank you, everyone, for your patience this morning. As I've told many of you, expect things to change at a moment's notice. I know that many of you have questions and I'll answer as many of them as I am able, if you'll just raise your hand." Lucas said as he looked over the people in the private dining room.

"Yes, Brother Jacques, what did you want to know?"

"Who's paying for all of this?" Brother Jacques asked seriously.

"Well, that's kind of complicated. You see, there's a group of companies in Washington…"

"Those are the motherfuckers we're trying to get away from!" Bug said suddenly as he stood, then realized that he was speaking in front of a room full of people, including several children and his grandmother.

"Please tell us that you mean Washington STATE." Brother Jacques asked hopefully.

"Yes. Of course. I work for a company called KF Transport. It's owned by a consortium of companies in Kettle Falls, Washington. I don't know who it is, or from which of the companies that comprise it, that has instructed us to come and get you. I only know what my direct supervisor has told me about the situation. When you've asked me questions, I've done my best to get answers, but I don't have any avenue to get answers directly. I have to ask him; he asks someone above him, and who knows how many others, before the answer finally comes back to me by the same channel."

"Do you really think that they just want to help us, and don't expect anything in return?" Brother Jacques asked cautiously.

"Yes. I really do. I say that because the company I work for has been incredibly generous and accommodating. As the saying goes, 'talk is cheap', but I've seen from their actions that they care a great deal for their employees. In the situation that Gordon and I are in, the company has been flexible in our schedules so we can spend as much time with the kids as possible. Of course, things are out of the ordinary, right now, but normally, one of us would be at home anytime the kids aren't in school."

"So they want to help us, just because we need it?" Brother Jacques asked slowly.

"Yes. And another important point, from what I understand, it's because you asked. You contacted someone high up in the company, and he or she instructed us to come and get you."

Marcus stood up and walked to Lucas' side. The contrast in their heights was immediately noticeable. Marcus' head was just about level with Lucas' shoulder.

"Excuse me, Lucas. But my son works directly for the person who is helping us. Out of respect for our benefactor, I'm not going to reveal any details about him. I'm sure he will introduce himself in due time. But I will say this. When he became aware of the situation in Orlando, he called my family and told us that he was arranging transportation to get some people out of Florida. He said that he feared for our safety and urged us to go." Marcus said seriously.

"Do you know where we're going?" Bug asked cautiously.

"No. I don't know any more than you do. I just know who it is that is arranging all of this. And I want to assure you that he is a kind and generous person." Marcus said seriously.

"Actually. I know where you're going." Lucas said quickly.

Everyone looked at Lucas hopefully.

"You're going to be taken to Kettle Falls, Washington. Unfortunately, I don't have any details to share with you beyond that, but I have been assured that all the arrangements have been made. Suitable housing and provisions for your comfort have already been arranged." Lucas said as he looked around.

"What are we going to do when we get there? I mean, we've left our jobs, our homes…" Walter asked in a diminishing voice.

"I don't have an answer for that, either, but I believe that you will be meeting the person who does, before the end of the day." Lucas said frankly.

"What did I miss?" Hank asked as he slid into an open seat at Bug's table.

"We're going to a place called Kettle Falls, Washington." Bug said frankly.

"That's it?" Hank asked cautiously.

Bug and the twins nodded in unison.

"I'm Bax." The boy in the seat next to Hank said cheerfully.

"Hi Bax, I'm Hank."

"Are you gonna come with us?" Bax asked curiously.

"Yes. You see those bags by the door? That's my stuff." Hank said honestly.

"You look nervous." Bax observed.

"Yeah. I don't know what to do next." Hank said weakly.

"Just stick with Bug and you'll be fine. He really knows his shit." Bax said firmly.

First Hank, then the twins looked at Bug to see how he was going to react to Bax's swearing.

"He's with a group of guys, he can say what he wants." Bug said to the others, then looked at Bax and said, "But when there's girls around, and especially in front of Oma Shoupe, you need to keep a lid on it."

"Well, DUH!" Bax said with a roll of his eyes.

"Yep. You're part of my family." Bug said with a grin.

After a few minutes to answer questions one-on-one with a few different people, Lucas stood back from the tables a little and raised his voice to get everyone's attention. "For those of you who haven't heard, the company that I work for has started recalling it's people from the areas of the country that are considered to be potentially dangerous. I received that call at six-fifteen this morning and was advised to evacuate my family as soon as realistically possible. My family and I will be accompanying you to Kettle Falls this afternoon, and it's possible that some of my coworkers may also choose to join us."

Looks of concern went around the room at the announcement.

"I don't want to startle anyone, but I thought that I should give you advance notice that there might be some people beyond those gathered here who may be going with us." Lucas said frankly.

Just then, an older man walked into the room and stood just inside the door.

"Walt, did you bring everything?" Lucas asked slowly.

"Everything that's important. You said I should bring the big truck, right?" Walt asked cautiously.

"Yes, we're going to need it for carrying some luggage. But don't worry about that right now, just sit and relax for a bit." Lucas said to the man in a friendly tone.

Gordon stood and ushered the older man to join him at the table with the five children.

Once Walt was seated, Lucas said, "Walt is semi-retired and does odd jobs for our various offices in the area. He'll be joining us on the flight this afternoon. Please introduce yourselves when you get the chance."

After a moment to think, Lucas said, "Gordon and I are both going to be with you all the rest of the way, so if any of you have questions or concerns, please get with one of us and we'll do our best to help you. For right now, just enjoy your meals, and relax for a bit. When breakfast is finished, I suggest that you go to your rooms and pack your belongings. Remember to keep your coats out, the temperature in Kettle Falls may or may not get over fifty degrees today."

"Do you have a coat, Hank?" Bug asked curiously.

"Yeah. It's not much to look at, but it should keep me warm enough." Hank said frankly.

"That's what's important." Bug said with a smile.

When various groups finished with their meals, they left to go pack.

Somehow, and Ben couldn't seem to determine how it happened, he ended up supervising not only his and Oleksandr's packing, but also checking up behind Dax and Ty.

Brother Jacques and Zane had their hands full trying to help Jamiah and Loquicia, who didn't want to be helped.

Bug and the twins finally gave up trying to help everyone together and ended up going separate directions. Kev helped Bax, Ken helped Oma Shoupe, and Bug helped Lawrence. It wasn't that Bug didn't trust the twins with Lawrence, but he had never been one to tempt fate unnecessarily.

Walter and Reginald went to help Ro and were surprised to find Kev already helping him.

When Bax had everything packed, he pulled Ro aside and said, "Go spend some time with your dads. I know you need some time with them, with me not around. I'll be with Bug and Oma Shoupe."

After a nod from Ro, Bax left with Kev to join the rest of his family.

The three limousines were nearly filled to capacity. If it hadn't been for Walt following behind in the truck, carrying a large share of the luggage, there wouldn't have been room for everyone as well as their belongings.

Bug could tell that Bax was somewhat fragile at the moment and made an effort to pay special attention to him. The twins watched with matching smiles at the tender way Bug gently talked to the boy and kept an arm around his shoulders. Bug's other hand rested on his tote bag which contained his laptop, his family's medications and his 'protection', just in case it was needed.

Brother Jacques and Zane were able to spend a few quiet moments together while Loquicia and Jamiah enjoyed the scenery as it passed by outside the window. One odd thing interrupted their tranquility. Every now and then, for no particular reason, Roris would seem to break out into uncontrollable giggles.

Ben had come to the conclusion that 'contrary' was a priest's way of nicely saying 'asshole'. With little more than dirty looks and attitude, Ty had pissed off just about everyone in their limo before they reached the airport. Dax seemed to be the only one that Ty wasn't openly hostile toward, but saying that he was 'nice' to Dax would be a bit of an overstatement.

"Hi Bug! Welcome aboard!" Jeremy said happily.

"Hey, Jeremy. It's good to see you again." Bug said, taken aback by being welcomed so warmly.

Within a heartbeat, Kev and Ken were at Bug's sides, warning Jeremy away with dangerous looks.

"Oh, I see that you guys have met." Jeremy said, a little less enthusiastically.

"Is he the one?" Ken asked quietly.

Bug turned to glance at Kev and slightly nodded.

"Am I what?" Jeremy asked cautiously.

"The one that got away." Kev answered simply.

"The guy that Bug almost fell in love with before he met us." Ken clarified.

"Oh!" Jeremy said in realization.

"Bug's taken. He's ours. Got it?" Kev asked firmly.

"Yeah." Jeremy said as he looked from Ken to Kev.

"We're blocking traffic." Bug muttered shyly.

"Can we sit anywhere?" Ken asked simply.

"Come on, guys. The best seats are over here." Jeremy said as he motioned for them to follow.

The twins shared an uncertain look, then followed Bug up the aisle.

"You guys sure told him." Bax giggled from behind them.

Ken turned and gave the boy a quick smile.

Ben felt a huge weight lift from his shoulders when he saw that the seats were grouped in threes. Ben took the center seat and placed Oleksandr beside him. Without hesitation, Dax took the seat on his other side.

A disinterested glance was Ty's only reaction as he walked down the aisle to find somewhere else to sit.

"Listen. Here's the deal. I want you two to stay here in this cabin. You can sit wherever you like, but when the flight crew tells you to sit down and buckle your seat belts, you do it." Brother Jacques said firmly to Loquicia and Jamiah.

"Dad, can we do that, too?" A boy close to Jamiah's age asked hopefully from behind them.

"Yes. I think that sounds reasonable. But Lazlo, I'd like for you to stick with Jay. He just got out of the hospital, and I'd rather he wasn't left alone." Gordon said frankly.

"Yeah. I was wanting to talk to him anyway. We're brothers now, so I wanted to let him know what things are like at home." Lazlo said cheerfully.

"Can we go, too?" A younger girl asked hopefully.

"Will you two stay together?" Gordon asked gently.

Both girls nodded immediately.

"Remember to sit down and put on your seatbelt when Daddy tells you, and stay sitting until he says it's alright for you to get up." Gordon said seriously.

He received another set of nods in response.

"You wanna sit with us?" One of the girls asked Loquicia, who had been watching from the row ahead.

Loquicia slowly nodded.

"I'm Annie and this is my sister, Misti." The older of the two girls said cheerfully.

"I'm Loquicia."

"Your dress is really pretty, Loquicia. I love butterflies." Annie enthused.

"Me, too!" Loquicia said happily.

"You three go find a place to sit together." Brother Jacques said with a chuckle.

Gordon smiled as he watched the three young girls hurry away to find a place where they could talk.

Ken walked through the aisles, making sure that all the kids from the mission were accounted for and behaving themselves.

Of course, Dax was sitting with Ben and Oleksandr. From the look of them, Ken estimated that the three of them would probably be fast asleep before the plane left the ground.

Ty had ended up sitting with Jamiah and they seemed to be having a heated discussion about Rihanna.

Farther back in the cabin, Ken happened upon Bug's newly adopted brother, Bax.

"How are you doing, Bax?" Ken asked gently.

"I'm great!" Bax said happily then looked at Ken for a moment before cautiously asking, "Which one are you?"

"I'm Ken."

Bax smiled, then quickly said, "This is my best friend, Ro. And this is our new friend, Max. We just talked to that waiter guy and he said that once we're up in the air, they're gonna show a movie and it's the same one we tried to watch last night, but we fell asleep."

Ken chuckled at the boy's enthusiasm, then said, "We're up at the front of the cabin, if you need us for anything."

"He's got a twin brother named Kev and they look totally exactly alike." Bax explained to Max.

Max's expression seemed dubious.

"You can come up front and see for yourself if you'd like." Ken said simply.

"Maybe after the movie." Bax answered for her, then asked, "Do you think there's any way we could have some popcorn while we watch the movie?"

"I don't know. I guess I could ask Jeremy." Ken said thoughtfully.

At Bax's look of confusion, Ken clarified, "The waiter guy."

Bax smiled in comprehension.

Ken started walking forward to find Jeremy when he spotted Hank, sitting by himself in a row of seats.

"How are you doing, Hank?" Ken asked as he approached.

"I just quit my job and lost my apartment. I'm jobless and homeless, traveling to somewhere I've never been before… I guess I'm scared." Hank said distantly.

"I don't know if you've thought about it, but just about everyone on this plane is in close to your same situation. We've left our homes and jobs and everything that's familiar to us for nothing more than a promise of safety." Ken said honestly.

Hank nodded that he had heard, but Ken wasn't sure that he really had.

Ken left Hank to his own thoughts and encountered Jeremy in the aisle a few rows ahead.

"The boys back there wanted to know if you have any popcorn for when the movie starts." Ken said cautiously.

"Yeah. Believe it or not, they're not the first ones to think of that. In fact, we have a whole 'movie experience' selection that we keep, just in case someone requests it. I'll be sure to offer it to them." Jeremy said with a smile.

Ken looked at his friendly expression, then quietly said, "I'm sorry if we were rude to you before. If Bug likes you, then we know you're not a bad guy. We just didn't want there to be any question about where we stand with Bug."

"Don't worry. I got it. And, honestly, I think Bug's probably a little bit too bold for me to be able to handle for any length of time. Being with Bug would probably have been like being on a roller coaster. It might be fun for a while, but who wants to live on a roller coaster, long term?" Jeremy said thoughtfully.

"He's not like that with us. But, I suppose that's the difference. It's not him, it's the combination of you and him." Ken said frankly.

Jeremy nodded, then quietly said, "I still like him… you know, as a friend."

"He still likes you, too. Just remember, he's ours." Ken said with a smile.

"Yeah. I got it. I promise." Jeremy said shyly.

"I'd better get to my seat before the flight attendant has a reason to be mad at me." Ken said with a smile, to break the mood.

"Yeah. You wouldn't want that." Jeremy chuckled.

As Ken walked away, he could understand how Bug could have been attracted to Jeremy. There was a lot more to the man than his stunning good looks.

"Is everyone doing alright?" Bug asked in a lazy voice. It was obvious that the lack of sleep was catching up with him.

"All the kids are fine. Bax and Ro have a new friend named Max, and they're sitting there, all excited about watching the in-flight movie." Ken said with a smile.

"Max? Oh yeah, the little bull dyke." Bug said with a nod.

"Max is a girl?" Ken asked with surprise.

"Yeah. I mean, technically." Bug said frankly.

"I don't think the boys know." Ken said speculatively.

"Well, unless they're planning to have a pissing contest, I can't think of any reason why it would matter." Bug said frankly.

"I guess not." Ken said with a shrug, then thought to mention, "Hank seems to be really depressed. You know, thinking he made a big mistake."

"Yeah. That sucks, but I guess we're all probably feeling some of that right now." Bug said honestly.

"He's such a nice guy. I hate to see him sitting there, all alone…" Ken trailed off in thought.

Bug waited for a moment, then quietly asked, "What are you cooking up with those supernatural twin powers of yours?"

Ken chuckled, then quietly said, "I was just thinking that, well, Hank's all alone, he's a nice guy, hard working…"

Bug nodded that he was following so far.

"Well, Jeremy was kinda heartbroken about things not working out between you two, so he's probably feeling especially lonely right now…"

"So you think that we should play matchmaker?" Bug asked cautiously.

Before Ken could answer, Kev spoke up, "I think that either one of them would throw you down and fuck you stupid if they had the chance. Maybe that's enough in common to get them started."

"And, before you ask, they're not going to get the chance." Ken said firmly.

"I think that I could have had either of them if I really wanted them. But I want you. Both of you." Bug finished softly.

"You've got us." Ken said gently.

After a long quiet moment of reflection, Kev softly asked, "So what are we going to do about them?"

"I'll talk to Hank and you can talk to Jeremy." Ken said to his brother.

"Why can't I talk to one of them?" Bug asked cautiously.

"For the same reason you wouldn't let either of us help Lawrence to pack." Kev said frankly.

Bug considered for a moment, then said, "Tell Jeremy something for me. It might help."

"What should I tell him?" Kev asked cautiously.

"Tell him that I think I spotted a unicorn for him." Bug said with a smile.

After a moment of consideration, Kev said, "Okay. But don't expect me to be passing messages to your exes all the time."

"Jeremy isn't an ex, he's a 'might have been' that never was. Just tell him what I said, and he might be more likely to give Hank a second look." Bug said frankly.

Ken and Kev shared a momentary glance before getting up to go their separate ways.

"I've got a message for you." Kev said as he walked up to Jeremy.

Jeremy looked up from the clipboard he was holding with question.

"Bug said that he might have spotted a unicorn for you." Kev said frankly.

Jeremy got a curious look, then hesitantly asked, "You're not the one I was talking to before, are you?"

"No. I'm the evil twin." Kev said with a grin.

Jeremy chuckled, then asked, "Did he tell you where I could find the unicorn, or am I just going to have to be on the lookout?"

"He's sitting alone, scared shitless about giving up everything that he has, to move someplace he's never been before." Kev said frankly.

"I think I know who you're talking about." Jeremy said as he looked past Kev toward the back of the plane.

"Well, evil twins don't make any predictions about love. But Bug seems to think that if you guys talked, maybe you could find something special. If not, it'd still be nice if Hank didn't feel so alone right now." Kev said sincerely.

"It looks like I've got a couple minutes before the pilot is going to be ready. Maybe I'll stop by and see if he needs any help with his seatbelt." Jeremy said with a smile.

Kev rolled his eyes and asked, "How many guys have you got with that one?"

Jeremy smirked as he gave Kev a knowing look.

"Oh!" Kev said in realization, then continued, "I'm going to get back to Bug, now. I'm beginning to think it's not safe to leave him unattended."

"You've got nothing to fear from me. But if you look around at the other passengers… I'm thinking that the heterosexuals are in the minority on this flight." Jeremy said frankly.

"Right." Kev said as he turned to leave.

"Thanks." Jeremy said quickly.

Kev nodded as he hurried back to Bug.

"Do you mind if I sit here for a second?" Ken asked from the aisle of Hank's row.

"No. That's fine." Hank said cautiously.

"We were talking with Bug and he thought that maybe you could help us with something." Ken said slowly.

"What's that?" Hank asked with interest.

"There's this guy who was interested in Bug. Nothing happened, but the guy's kind of feeling the loss of 'what might have been'." Ken said frankly.

"Yeah. I know how that feels." Hank said with a sigh.

"We thought, if you wouldn't mind, maybe you could talk to him and take his mind off of it for a little bit. There's really nothing that we can do ourselves because we ended up with Bug. Anything we could say would probably only hurt him more." Ken said quietly.

"Yeah. Talk about twisting the knife." Hank said with a wince.

"Right. So, maybe you could just… I don't know, give him a chance. Who knows, you two might end up getting along?" Ken finished with a smile.

After a moment to consider, Hank finally said, "I guess it'd be better than sitting by myself."

Ken nodded his agreement.

"I won't know what to say." Hank said thoughtfully.

"How about, 'Hi'?" Ken said with a smile.

Hank looked at Ken curiously.

"It'll come to you. Say 'hi', then see what happens next." Ken said confidently.

"Where is he? Maybe you could introduce us?" Hank asked as he looked around.

"Actually, he's probably already introduced himself to you. His name is Jeremy, he's the flight attendant." Ken said with a smile.

"That hunk! He's way way out of my league." Hank said with a shake of his head.

"I think that's probably why he's alone. Nice people like you see him and think he's out of their league. The people who actually see themselves as 'worthy' of him are most likely a bunch of self-centered jerks. I talked to Jeremy for a few minutes, and I think there's a really good guy hiding behind those perfect cheekbones. He might enjoy someone who treated him like a person." Ken said honestly.

"His cheekbones are perfect, aren't they?" Hank asked with a smile.

"I would kill for them." Ken said simply.

After a moment, Hank nodded his agreement.

"Here he comes. I'm outta here." Ken whispered, then hurried away.

Jeremy looked at the young man, sitting by himself and looking scared half to death.

He hadn't failed to notice the twin who darted away at his approach.

"I get the feeling that we're being set up." Jeremy said frankly.

A look of relief filled Hank's expression and he responded, "I'm glad you already know that, because I didn't have a clue of what to say to you."

"You're Hank, right?" Jeremy asked cautiously.

"Yeah. And you're Jeremy." Hank said nervously.

"The twins told me that you're feeling a little bit overwhelmed by everything that's going on. Is there anything I can do to help?" Jeremy asked simply.

"Not unless there's a spare job and place to live that you know about. I don't think that anything's going to make me feel better until I can get back on my feet." Hank said hesitantly.

"I can understand that. Actually, I'm going to have to find an apartment, too. I've been living here in Kansas City, but when I got the warning, I decided that I didn't want to push my luck." Jeremy said quietly.

Hank nodded his understanding.

"We're scheduled to take off in a few minutes, so I'm going to be busy for a little…" Jeremy trailed off as he looked toward a movement at the front of the cabin, then muttered, "Oh, shit."

"What's wrong?" Hank asked as he followed Jeremy's gaze.

"Do you see those two people who just came aboard?" Jeremy asked absently as his mind seemed to be racing.

Hank looked to the entry door and saw an Asian man and a spinsterish pinch faced woman talking to Lucas.

"Yeah. What about them?" Hank asked cautiously.

"Those are two of the most demanding passengers I've ever met." Jeremy said seriously, then looked into Hank's eyes and asked, "Were you serious about wanting a job?"

"Yes. Why?" Hank asked cautiously.

"Because, with those two here, my job just became about ten times harder. As soon as they're done talking to Lucas, I'll ask him if there's any way that you could help me. That is, if you're willing." Jeremy said seriously.

"Sure. I guess. I don't know how to be a flight attendant, but I've been a bellboy, a waiter and a busboy." Hank said quickly.

Jeremy chuckled, then said, "You're practically over-qualified."

Before Hank could respond, Jeremy said, "There they go. Stay here for a second and I'll see if Lucas will hire you."

Hank nodded slowly as Jeremy raced away.

It took a moment for what had just happened to sink in, but finally, Hank broke into a smile.

"Lucas, I think I've got a problem." Jeremy said as he approached.

"What is it?" Lucas asked immediately.

"Mr. Nguyen and Mrs. Peil." Jeremy said seriously.

"You don't have to worry about them, they said that they're going to be working in the conference room for the entire flight." Lucas said carefully.

"Those are two of the most demanding people I've ever flown with." Jeremy said frankly.

"They have nothing but nice things to say about you. In fact, I seem to recall that they always request to have you as their flight attendant when they have to travel." Lucas said seriously.

"I'm not complaining about them, really. It's just that taking care of them is a full time job. There's no way that I'm going to be able to help the rest of your guests at the same time." Jeremy explained carefully.

"This has blown all out of proportion since we started. I had thought about requesting a second flight attendant to help with the two groups, but I felt sure that you could handle it." Lucas said thoughtfully.

"And I could have. But those two being here changes everything…" Jeremy looked up as a buzzer sounded.

He stepped to the nearest phone and picked it up.

"Yes. Right away." Jeremy said quickly into the phone, then looked at Lucas with aggravation.

"Mrs. Peil needs her pencil sharpened." Jeremy said frankly.

"I suppose that Gordon and I could try to help out…" Lucas offered weakly.

"There's a passenger named Hank who is really upset that he had to give up his job to come on this flight. I told him that I'd talk to you about hiring him…" Jeremy trailed off when the phone buzzed again.

He quickly answered it, then said, "Yes, sir. I'll have your coffee right away."

"I know who you're talking about. I'll go talk to him, now." Lucas said decisively.

"I can talk him through it. I just don't have time to do everything myself." Jeremy explained.

"If you say that you can handle it with Hank's help, then I'll consider it done." Lucas said confidently.

"Thanks, Lucas. I really appreciate your faith in me." Jeremy said with a smile.

The smile fell when the buzzer on the phone sounded again.

"Hello, Hank. It's nice to see you again." Lucas said as he approached.

"Yes. Thanks for bringing me along with you. I really appreciate it." Hank hurried to say as he stood.

"Jeremy mentioned that you might be interested in helping him take care of the passengers this afternoon." Lucas said seriously.

"Yes. I've never been a flight attendant, but I've been a bellboy and a waiter and a busboy, so I should be able to do most of what needs to be done to keep your passengers happy." Hank said quickly.

Lucas smiled at Hank's enthusiasm, then said, "I think we can consider this interview over. You're hired. Go get with Jeremy and he'll tell you what needs to be done."

"Thank you! I'll do a good job! I promise." Hank said joyfully.

"Just remember that your job isn't about being fast or perfect, it's about keeping our guests happy. Talk to them, make them feel welcome. If you can do that, you'll have a job with us for a very long time." Lucas said with a smile.

"Yes, sir. I'll do that." Hank said with a bright and sunny smile on his face.

"Then I'll let you get to it." Lucas said as he offered his hand.

Hank shook the offered hand, then dashed away to find Jeremy.

After a brief conversation with Jeremy about his duties, Hank made a round of the main cabin to introduce himself to the passengers and let them know that he was going to be taking care of them.

He smiled when he approached the row of seats where Bug and the twins were sitting.

"Hey, guys. Guess what happened." Hank said with a grin.

Ken looked to Bug and said, "And I thought you moved fast."

Hank heard the comment and laughed before saying, "Jeremy got me a job. I'm going to be your flight attendant."

"Well, it's not as good as getting laid, but I guess it works." Bug said frankly.

"We're happy for you, Hank. Maybe with you and Jeremy working together… who knows?" Ken said as he waggled his eyebrows.

"Yeah. Who knows?" Hank said with a smile, then continued, "Anyway, if you guys need anything at all, just make sure to call me. After everything you've done for me, I'm going to do my very best to keep you guys happy."

"I think we're good." Bug said with a smile.

"Oh yeah, you guys should probably belt up. I'd offer to help you, but Jeremy told me not to go there." Hank said with a grin.

"You got that right!" Kev said with a chuckle.

Hank beamed a smile at them before walking back to the next row of seats.

As he was talking to another group of passengers, Hank noticed an older man walking down the aisle of the main cabin.

"Walt, right?" Hank asked as he approached.

"Yes. Lucas said that I could come along. If you'll just show me to some out of the way place, you won't need to worry about me." Walt said slowly.

"I know exactly where you should sit, and it's not someplace off to yourself. Come with me." Hank said seriously.

Walt seemed uncertain, but followed Hank up the aisle.

Hank led him to sit in a row of seats that was facing backward, making a conversation area.

"Ladies, I brought you some company, you probably remember him from the breakfast." Hank said as he waited for Walt to be seated.

"Thank you." Walt mumbled shyly.

"Excuse me, ladies. But I don't think I caught your names." Hank said to the women gently.

"I'm Geraldine Shoupe." Oma Shoupe said as she looked at Walt appraisingly.

"I'm Doris Teeter." Doris said with a smile at Hank.

"Geraldine and Doris, may I present Walt. I can't really tell you any more about him than what you heard at breakfast, but I thought you might enjoy getting to know each other." Hank said pleasantly.

"Because we're old?" Oma Shoupe asked as she looked askance at him.

"Because you've probably been through a lot of the same things and seen how the world has changed over the years." Hank said seriously.

Oma Shoupe considered for a moment, then said, "I like you, young man. You've got some grit, like my grandson, Bug."

"Thank you. I know your grandson, and being compared to him is a wonderful compliment. I need to check on the other passengers, but if you need anything at all, just call me and I'll do my best to get it for you." Hank said with a smile.

Oma Shoupe returned the smile and watched as Hank hurried away.

Once everyone was belted in, Hank and Jeremy had a few minutes together to talk while the plane was taking off.

Jeremy complemented Hank on his choice to seat Walt with Oma Shoupe and Doris Teeter, saying that he probably made all their flights a lot more enjoyable by doing that.

As soon as the 'fasten seatbelts' sign had been turned off, Jeremy instructed Hank on how to prepare the in-flight meals, and gave him a crash course on the crash procedures, and then on how to do the 'movie food' for the kids.

About half an hour into the flight, Jeremy was finally able to get away from Mrs. Peil and Mr. Nguyen for a few minutes.

As he walked through the cabin, he stopped at the row of children who were happily watching the in-flight movie and munching popcorn, hotdogs and nachos, as if they hadn't had food in weeks.

"How's the movie?" Jeremy asked with a smile.

"You shoulda seen it! That guy just blew up a car with ONE SHOT! It was AWESOME!" Bax said joyfully, while reaching for another handful of popcorn.

Jeremy smiled and said, "I'll have to take your word for it. Maybe I'll get to see it for myself next flight."

All the kids had their full attention back on the screen as the soundtrack heralded some more explosive action about to happen.

"Are you guys doing okay?" Jeremy asked the two boys sitting together.

"Beyonce is a knock-kneed skank ho, right?" The gray haired boy asked seriously.

Before Jeremy could answer, the boy next to him said, "Like I care what she looks like! She's just a clothes hanger that can sing! LOOK at what she's wearing. That's what I'm saying is awesome!"

The gray haired boy looked at the magazine the other was holding, then said, "I'd lose the belt, but, yeah, the rest of it works."

Jeremy chuckled to himself as he walked up the aisle to check on his other passengers.

"How are you three ladies doing today?" Jeremy asked as he stopped at the young girls' row and squatted down to be closer to their level.

The middle tray table was lowered and had a coffee carafe and three cups on it.

"We're having a tea party." The youngest of the girls, the one in the butterfly dress, said happily.

"Well, then, I'll leave you ladies to it." Jeremy smiled as he stood.

The girls went back to playing, not giving his momentary intrusion a second thought.

"What's up, guys?" Jeremy asked the two young teenagers when he approached.

"Lazlo was just telling me all about his dads."

"Our dads." Lazlo corrected.

"I hope he's telling you nice things." Jeremy said as he eased into the third seat in their row.

"Yeah. Some of it's so nice that I can't even believe it." the boy said frankly.

"Jay's old family sucks pond water. I know he'll be a lot happier with us." Lazlo said seriously.

"Just don't be upset if Jay isn't comfortable right away. Sometimes it can take a while to get settled in." Jeremy warned gently.

"I know. But it's gonna be great! I finally got a brother! I mean, sisters are alright and everything, but there's a lot of stuff I don't get to do because they don't want to do guy stuff." Lazlo said imploringly.

Jeremy chuckled as he said, "Okay, I believe you. It's going to be great."

When Jeremy arrived at the next row, he found Walter and Reginald on one side of the aisle and Marcus Teeter and Gordon on the other. The four of them were discussing their kids and parenting strategies, and didn't even notice as Jeremy walked between them.

When he arrived at the next row, he found Brother Jacques and Zane talking quietly and very seriously. He knew better than to interrupt a conversation like that and moved on.

Ahead, Jeremy found Hank standing and looking into one of the rows.

The first row he passed had a sleeping blond and redhead.

The second had a young man, a teenager and a young blond boy, also asleep.

Finally, Jeremy walked to Hank's side and found that he was looking at Bug and the twins, who were cuddled together and, of course, dead to the world.

"I want to do something nice for them." Hank whispered.

"For as gruff as they act, I think all three of them have hearts of gold." Jeremy said frankly.

Hank chuckled and nodded his agreement.

"I came up to help you with dinner. It's just about that time." Jeremy said quietly.

"I've already got the first load in the warming oven. And the cart's stocked." Hank said absently.

"The last few times I've had to train someone to work with me, I ended up asking to work alone because I felt like I was doing double the work with their so-called 'help'. You're really doing great and I feel like I can leave things in your hands if I need to, without worrying." Jeremy said with a smile.

"Well, I've still got a lot to learn. So don't go leaving me with it, yet. But since you walked me through everything, I feel like I can handle it." Hank said seriously.

"I think you can, too." Jeremy said with an encouraging smile.

"I'm sorry to bother you, but you need to wake up and put your seatbelts on. It's nearly time to land." Hank said to Bug and the twins in a gentle voice.

"What? Already?" Bug asked groggily.

Hank chuckled as he said, "You've been asleep for nearly three hours."

"Ow. My neck." One of the twins said as he slowly sat up.

"My head. I've got a headache." The other twin said miserably.

"I need coffee." Bug said as he tried to force his eyes to fully open.

"I'll be right back with coffee for three and some aspirin." Hank said gently.

Bug looked at him with surprise, then said, "Thanks."

Hank smiled, then rushed away.

"Excuse me." Hank said as he gently prodded the shoulder of the young man in the middle seat.

Slowly, Ben slightly opened one eye.

"It's nearing time to land. You'll need to wake the boys and get their seatbelts on." Hank said softly.

"Never took'em off." Ben said before yawning and closing his eye again.

Hank looked down to find that he was right.

All three of them were still belted in from takeoff. It was just the way that both boys were leaning in and holding Ben that made it look like they were sitting in one seat.

In the next row, Hank found the blond and the redhead cuddled together. He had to lean in to be sure, but he found that, they too, had never released their seatbelts after takeoff, so there was no reason for him to disturb their sleep.

As he was about to walk away, he heard the redhead let out a quick, joyful giggle in his sleep.

Hank couldn't help but smile as he walked on, to the next row.

"Guys, we're going to be landing soon." Hank said hesitantly. He had tried waiting for a break in Brother Jacques and Zane's conversation, but there didn't seem to be one.

"Oh. I guess we need to go make sure all the kids are belted in." Brother Jacques said absently.

Before Hank could say any more, Brother Jacques slowly stood.

"Crap! How long have I been sitting there?" Brother Jacques asked as he stretched, trying to get the kinks out.

"It's been over three hours." Zane said with surprise.

"Check your batteries." Brother Jacques said as he stood upright.

After checking the box on his belt, Zane nodded that they were fine.

Whimpering woke Ben out of another horrible dream where a boney-assed girl was leading him into one disaster after another then blaming him for all their misfortunes.

It took a moment for Ben to realize where he was and what was happening, but finally he quietly said, "Wake up, Oleksandr. You're having a bad dream."

"It hurts." Oleksandr said in a pained whisper.

"What hurts?" Ben asked cautiously.

"My butt. It hurts really bad." Oleksandr said as tears started gliding down his cheeks.

Ben didn't know what to do and quickly shook Dax's shoulder to wake him.

"What is it?" Dax asked blearily.

"Oleksandr is hurting and I don't know what to do. Should I call Brother Jacques?" Ben asked quietly.

"Hold on." Dax said as he came more awake, then turned to Oleksandr and asked, "Do you feel like you have to go poo?"

Oleksandr nodded slightly, then said, "But it hurts."

"I know. But if you go to the bathroom, it'll stop hurting, I promise." Dax said gently.

"Is that what's wrong?" Ben asked cautiously.

"He got tore up back there. It's not completely healed yet, so it's causing him pain. Just go in there and help him through it. You'll need to clean him up afterward and put some more salve on him, but then he should be fine. He might need some more Tylenol, but that should be about it." Dax said seriously.

"Can't you help me?" Ben asked cautiously.

"No room. You'll be doing good to get the two of you into an airplane toilet. There's no way three of us will fit in there." Dax said frankly.

"The ointment and Tylenol are in my luggage." Ben said with sudden realization.

"No they're not. I've got them here in my pocket. I knew this was going to happen sooner or later." Dax said regretfully.

Ben couldn't help himself, he put an arm around Dax and gave him a firm, one-armed hug.

"Thank you, Dax. When I asked you to team up with me, I thought I'd be watching out for you, but it's turning out that you're the one taking care of me." Ben chuckled.

"We take care of each other, isn't that the deal?" Dax asked seriously.

"That's right. I guess you're just doing a better job of it than I am, so far." Ben said with a smile.

"Don't worry. I'm not keeping score. Now, you'd better take Oleksandr to the bathroom before you have a whole different set of problems to worry about." Dax said frankly.

"Right." Ben said seriously, then turned to Oleksandr and said, "Hold my hand until I'm standing up. Then I'll take you to the bathroom."

Oleksandr slowly nodded as his tears continued to fall.

As soon as Ben was standing, Oleksandr clung to his side.

Dax held out the tube of ointment and Tylenol bottle as soon as Ben had his grip.

"Thanks." Ben whispered, then carried the boy forward to the bathroom.

Oleksandr cried openly when he finally loosed his bowels, but very soon after that, his cries receded to a slight whimper.

"I know you don't want me to look, but I have to clean you up and put on more ointment. This is to make it so you'll heal up and stop hurting." Ben explained.

It took a few tries, but Ben was finally able to convince Oleksandr that holding onto him wasn't absolutely necessary, just maintaining some kind of physical contact was enough. Oleksandr finally released him enough to let him work.

Ben nearly threw up when he saw a trickle of blood on the boy's inner thighs.

It took him a while, but he finally was able to get the area clean, and the bleeding seemed to have stopped on it's own.

Once the boy was clean, Ben carefully applied the antiseptic salve. He wasn't sure if he was doing it exactly right, the way Dax had done, but finally determined that it would have to be good enough.

Ben got Oleksandr dressed, then washed his hands thoroughly. Once he was done, he guided Oleksandr to wash his hands as well, if for no other reason than it was a good lesson for the boy to learn.

Finally, business done, Ben picked Oleksandr up and held him close, then exited the lavatory.

The landing went without incident.

All the children stayed in their seats and seemed to enjoy the experience.

All the adults seemed to be relieved that the traveling was nearly over.

The plane seemed to take an inordinate amount of time to finally come to a complete stop, but either no one was bothered by it, or they were all too tired to complain.

"Everyone, may I have your attention." Lucas said from the front of the cabin.

"We have just landed in Kettle Falls, Washington. The local time is now one-twelve in the afternoon. You may want to adjust your watches accordingly. The current temperature is fifty two degrees Fahrenheit, so I hope you remembered when I suggested that you keep your coats with you." Lucas said with a smile.

In a slightly softer voice he continued, "Transporting you from your various origins to bring you here was our job, and it was also our pleasure. But getting to know you, learning about your lives, getting to know your families… that was a privilege. Should you ever need to contact Gordon, Jeremy… or Hank, just contact our offices at KF Transport. They'll put you in touch with us."

Sad looks went around the cabin as people realized that Lucas was saying 'goodbye'.

"If the groups from Orlando and Chicago will please gather your carry-on items, I believe that the people outside the plane are waiting for you." Lucas said with a bittersweet smile.

"I want to stay with Misti and Annie!" Loquicia cried out.

"Daddy! Please!" The two young girls begged as they ran up to Lucas.

"Shhh. I'll see what I can do, I promise." He said gently to his daughters.

"We want Max to go with us." Bax said firmly.

"You just got him today, you won't miss him!" Ro said reasonably.

Lucas looked around the group, then asked, "Do you think we might be able to make some arrangement for the children to be able to visit together?"

"None of us know what's going to happen when we step off this plane, so it's kind of hard to promise anything. But if we can manage it, I'm on board." Bug said seriously.

"That goes for us, as well." Walter said with a nod.

"Yeah. I don't think Loquicia's going to let me forget that she has two new best friends." Brother Jacques chuckled.

"Contact me as soon as you're settled in, and we'll make play date arrangements for as soon as possible." Lucas said with a smile.

"The sooner, the better." Brother Jacques said as he looked at the grumpy little girl in the butterfly dress.

"If everyone will be patient for a moment, we'll allow those with limited mobility to precede us off the plane." Lucas said seriously.

"If you'll allow me, Geraldine." Walt said as he stood and offered his arm to Oma Shoupe.

"Thank you. That's very kind of you, Walt." Oma Shoupe said as she slowly stood.

Bug noticed movement out the window, close to the plane, and could see that someone had already taken Roris' wheelchair out and it was waiting at the bottom of the stairs.

Everyone watched as Oma Shoupe and Walt slowly walked up the aisle and out the door of the plane.

A moment later, Lucas walked up to the row where Roris and Lawrence were sitting and talked to them quietly for a moment.

Finally, Lucas backed away from the row of seats. A moment later, Lawrence emerged, carrying Roris in his arms.

Bug smiled as he stood aside to let them pass.

For a moment, it looked as though the children might stage a rebellion and refuse to be separated. But with the combined efforts and assurances of the adults, the children were finally sorted, each into their own family, or what served them as such.

Bug walked forward to be with his Oma Shoupe. She was still holding Walt's arm for support and seemed to be perfectly content doing so.

Bax was standing in front of Bug, being gently held from behind. Bug had a twin at each shoulder, almost close enough that they were touching.

Ro stood with his fathers, each of them with an arm around the boy, keeping him securely between them.

Brother Jacques had his left arm draped around Jamiah's shoulders, while Zane had his right arm around Loquicia's. Brother Jacques and Zane were standing side by side. They weren't physically touching, but anyone looking at them would swear that they were.

Ben had Oleksandr clung tenaciously to his right side and had his left hand on Dax's shoulder, squeezing it encouragingly.

Ty stood by Dax, just out of reach, but also acutely aware of his proximity.

"Hello everyone. My name is Ryan Brown." A handsome gentleman said as he walked forward from the small group of people.

"Are you Studmuffin?" Bug asked cautiously.

"My wife's always thought so, but you're the first guy who's noticed." Ryan said with a grin.

"Daaaad!" A voice said from behind the man.

A moment later, a boy in a wheelchair rolled forward.

The boy was younger than Bug, even younger than Dax.

"My name is Carson, and I'm Studmffn."


Editor's notes:

Well, it does look as if Carson is Studmffn.

I suspect that there are still a lot of travelers who are very tired, and still need a good night's sleep.

One of the fun things about this story is that you never know just how far you are going to get in story time, from one chapter to the next.

I think we have actually progressed quite a ways in this chapter. We have finally reached Kettle Falls, and maybe in the next chapter we will find out just what is going on.

Bax has found a new family with Bug, Oma schoop, Ken, Kev and Lawrence.

I did notice that Ro's dads didn't seem to be overly concerned about Bax, and it made me rather sad. But, Bug and his ever growing family seems to be just the right place for Bax to find a loving home.

Ben seems to have taken on a fatherly role with Dax and Oleksandr. I strongly suspect that he has resigned himself to the fact that his so called future In-Laws didn't find him suitable for their precious Daughter, and took it upon themselves to solve that problem quite neatly, by heading to Europe, on very short notice.

I would say he is much better off without her, and her high maintenance family. I honestly don't think that the feelings of love that Bug may have had for her were returned by her, in anything close to the amount that he felt for her, at the time.

It wouldn't surprise me in the least if she were in on the whole European trip, knowing full well that Ben didn't have a passport.

I can hardly wait for the next chapter, to see where things go next.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

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