Copyright © 2012 - 2015 by MultiMapper and The Revolutions Universe Partnership
All Rights Reserved
Copyright © 2012 - 2015 by MultiMapper and The Revolutions Universe Partnership
All Rights Reserved
Bug took off at a run and was immediately followed by the rest of the group from the gator parking lot.
By the time they reached the front of the house, the door of the helicopter was just opening.
"Is the doctor with you?" Bug demanded as he ran up to the door.
"Yes. Is there an emergency?" The security man asked cautiously as he surveyed the area.
"Yeah! Brother Jacques needs his blood test results!" Bug demanded.
Dr. Murten was the next to step out of the helicopter, and had heard Bug's words.
"If you boys will go to Ryan's office and wait for me, I need a few minutes to get my patient settled, then I'll be right with you." Dr. Murten said calmly.
"Can't you just tell us? Brother Jacques is going nuts here!" Bug implored.
"Young man. Go to the office and wait." Dr. Murten said in a no-nonsense firm voice.
Bug held the doctor's gaze for a moment, then reluctantly said, "Yes, sir."
"I won't be any longer than necessary." Dr. Murten said more gently, then turned his attention back to those inside the helicopter.
"Come on." Bug growled as he started back toward the house.
After witnessing Bug's exchange with the doctor, none of the rest were willing to push any further than Bug had already done. They followed Bug, all feeling anxious, but also assured that an answer was forthcoming.
"Sammy's bed is over here!" Randy and Kevin said in unison as Sammy was carried onto the third floor.
"We made him his own room, right next to ours, but it has a wall that we can take out if he wants us to." Danny added hopefully.
"Our room is on the other side, and we can take that wall out, too." Scotty said quietly as he fought down tears at the sight of his injured brother.
"How is he?" Brian asked his dad cautiously.
"Sammy's going to be just fine. Doctor Murten said that the surgery was a complete success, and that Sammy will be as good as new when he finishes healing." Mike assured all the boys.
As soon as the security man had placed Sammy on the bed, Doctor Murten moved in and began checking him over.
You could have heard a pin drop as everyone watched his examination.
"The anesthetic should be wearing off within the next half hour. I've already given him medication for the pain, so he might be a little bit spacey when he wakes up. He's going to need lots of sleep, so try to limit your visits with him to about five minutes at a time until he's had a chance to gain strength." Doctor Murten said to the crowd at the foot of Sammy's bed.
"But he's going to be okay?" Max asked from his place, held at General Adams' side.
"Yes. He's bumped and bruised and has a few broken bones, but everything has been set back in place and will heal just fine." Doctor Murten assured the boy.
"I'd be dead right now if he hadn't pushed me outta the way. He saved my life." Max said as tears welled in his eyes.
"Then I'm sure that he has no regrets about what happened." Doctor Murten said with a smile at Max, then said to everyone, "Sammy needs his rest, now. If he's in pain when he wakes up, or if anything happens that concerns you, call me on the house intercom."
"I can't thank you enough for all your help, Doctor Murten." Mike said gratefully.
"I'll have all the thanks I need when I see Sammy up and feeling well." Doctor Murten said as he looked at the boy on the bed.
Mike and Eric followed his gaze and all of them spent a long moment saying silent prayers of well-being for Sammy.
Finally, Doctor Murten quietly said, "I suppose I need to get down to Ryan's office before that group of boys come up here to find me."
"They looked really worried. Is it anything I can help with?" Mike asked cautiously.
Doctor Murten slowly shook his head, then quietly said, "I've been doing this for a lot of years. I've seen reactions all across the spectrum, and I've reached a point where very little surprises me. I usually have a sense of how people are going to react and can prepare for it. However, today, I don't know what to expect."
Everyone watched as Doctor Murten walked down the hall to the stairway.
"We've just got word from station B3 that a group of people, approximately thirty-five of them, are approaching from Seattle. Their homes were damaged in the earthquake and they said that they received the tip-off from the Kingdom that Kettle Falls was a safe place for those seeking refuge." Dizzy said in a serious tone.
"That shouldn't be a problem." Carson muttered absently.
"I thought you would want to know, since the person who received the tip-off is known to you as 'Cheshire'." Dizzy added more quietly.
Carson looked up with surprise, then said, "Send a note to whoever receives them to tell Cheshire that Studmuffn welcomes him, and that if he needs anything, that all he needs to do is ask."
"The note will be waiting for him when he checks in." Dizzy said efficiently.
"Carson? Can I come in?" A voice asked from the doorway.
After a glance to verify who it was, Carson turned his attention back to his computer screens as he said, "Sure, Hobie. From the way things are looking, things are about to get real interesting around here."
Hobie cautiously walked into the room, then looked around uncertainly.
"As I started setting things up, I realized that this is going to spiral out of control if we're not really careful. So I asked your dad if you could come over here and help me out." Carson said without looking away from his screens.
"Sure, I'll be happy to help... but what can I do?" Hobie asked as he stared at all the different monitors.
"Basically, what I need for you to do is to help me coordinate things with your dad in regards to transportation and parking. We're about to get a zillion people flooding in here and the last thing we need is a big traffic jam. At first, I thought that I could just pass the information on to your dad and let him handle it, but I'm probably going to have too much going on at once for that to work for very long." Carson said slowly as the majority of his attention seemed to be focused on what was in front of him.
"Okay. Sure. But what do you want me to do?" Hobie asked helplessly.
"Help me set up a table over by the door, and we'll hook up a laptop for you to work on." Jay said as he approached.
"Thanks, Jay. Once you've got him set up, I'll give him access to the database. Then he should have everything he needs to coordinate things with his dad." Carson said absently.
"Did you need me?" Another voice asked from the doorway.
"Hey Seth. Yeah. Um, I've got something going on here. Talk with Hobie and Jay, they'll get you set up." Carson said before breaking into a bout of furious typing.
"If you'll help us get Hobie set up, we'll do you next." Jay said quietly.
"Sure... but why are you setting this up over here when you have a desktop over there that's not being used?" Hobie asked cautiously.
Before Jay could answer, Carson said, "That's for Bug. He has some serious skills, so I want him to have a computer that can keep up with him."
Alvin glanced at his brother, and it wasn't clear if they were communicating telepathically or just thinking the same thing at the same time.
"Carson. I think we may have something else for Bug, that will be more suited to his talents." Alvin said seriously.
"He's the only backup plan that I've got, if I get stuck on anything. So whatever tools we can give him will be greatly appreciated." Carson said before becoming engrossed in his screens again.
"Would you like to go for a walk with me, Oleksandr?" Alvin asked the boy at his side.
Oleksandr looked at Ben and seemed to be struggling with the decision.
"We're just going to go out to the tents and get a new laptop for Bug. We'll be back in just a minute." Alvin told him gently.
Oleksandr looked into Alvin's eyes to find kindness and assurance.
"Okay." Oleksandr whispered, then glanced to Ben with concern.
"I'll be right here when you get back." Ben said gently.
Oleksandr nervously smiled at Ben, then walked with Alvin out of the room.
"Thanks, Bug." Brother Jacques said, breaking the silence that had settled over the group in the office.
"For what?" Bug asked in puzzlement.
"For trying to help. Even though we didn't go to the hospital or get the answer any faster, it really helped to take my mind off of things for a few minutes and it was nice to know that someone wanted to do something to help." Brother Jacques explained.
"We all wanted to help." Ken said frankly.
Brother Jacques smiled warmly at him and quietly said, "I know, Ken. Thanks for that. I just meant that Bug, sort of, took action. Even though it didn't change anything, we were doing something. It helped."
"I was just surprised when that big cuddly grandpa of a doctor suddenly turned into a Marine on me." Bug chuckled.
Brother Jacques smiled, then quietly asked, "Bug, would there be any way that I could ask you for a favor?"
"Sure. I'll do what I can. But you've got three guys here who'd do just about anything in the world for you." Bug said as he looked at Zane, Ken and Kev.
"I know." Brother Jacques said as he looked at the three people who loved him most, then at Bug and the two others, Mikey and Bruce, who were standing just inside the door.
"What can I do for you, Jacques?" Bug asked earnestly, clearly wanting to do whatever he could to help.
"Well, I was just wondering. I mean, I know you don't even think about it while you're doing it. I get that. But if you could..."
"Is this about my swearing?" Bug interrupted, hoping to get Brother Jacques to the point.
"Yeah. I mean, I'm not asking you not to swear. I just... could you not take the Lord's name in vain when you swear around me? It really bothers me when I hear it." Brother Jacques asked timidly.
Bug thought for a moment, then said, "I don't always know when I'm doing it. It's just that I've kinda used the swearing as a mechanism to get rid of some of the tension that builds up, sometimes, so I can't promise that I won't ever say that in front of you again, but I can promise to try. "
"That's all I'm asking. Thanks." Brother Jacques said with relief.
"Even though we call you Brother Jacques, I didn't get the feeling that you were religious." Bug said honestly.
"For the past eight years, Father Doherty has been teaching me things as I need to know them, to help me deal with what's been going on in my life. I really respect Father Doherty and believe the things that he's told me. But I don't do the churches and prayers and candles and ceremonies. I think the best way to say it is that I have faith, but I'm not religious." Brother Jacques said thoughtfully.
"I always figured that going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car. Having faith sounds like a good way to go." Bug said frankly
"It's been working for me, so far." Brother Jacques said with a weary smile.
A sound from the doorway caused everyone to turn at once.
"I'm sorry to keep you waiting." Dr. Murten said as he entered.
"Do you have a boyfriend?" Oleksandr asked as he walked through the house with Alvin.
"No. Do you?" Alvin asked with a smile, already knowing the answer, but enjoying the conversation.
"No." Oleksandr responded, then looked at Alvin hopefully as he added, "Not yet."
Alvin was actually surprised. His telepathy had let him know about Oleksandr's feelings from the beginning, but he honestly didn't think that Oleksandr would have the courage to acknowledge the feelings, much less, act on them.
"Oleksandr..." Alvin began to say.
"You can call me Olex, if you want to." Oleksandr said gently.
Alvin smiled, then said more quietly, "Olex, I'm not ready to have a boyfriend."
Oleksandr looked at Alvin strangely.
"I'm a telepath. I see people differently than you do. Some people grow up fast and are ready early, some people take more time. When I look at myself, I know that I'm not ready for something like that." Alvin said as he looked deeply into Oleksandr's eyes.
"Can we be friends?" Oleksandr asked hopefully.
"We already are, Olex." Alvin said with a smile.
"Best friends?" Oleksandr asked as he watched carefully for Alvin's reaction.
Alvin laughed, then said, "Okay. As long as you understand that a person can have more than one best friend."
Oleksandr thought about it for a moment, then asked, "But when you're ready to look for a boyfriend..."
"You'll be the first to know." Alvin assured him.
"Even if we're not boyfriends, I still love you." Oleksandr said quietly.
"I know. I can feel it. I think some people call what you're feeling 'Puppy Love'." Alvin said as he put an arm around Oleksandr and guided him to start walking again.
"What does that mean?" Oleksandr asked curiously.
"It's a kind of love that you feel when you're young. It can feel very real, but it can also go away, just as suddenly as it appeared." Alvin said softly as they walked out the front door.
"So, I could just all of a sudden, not love you?" Oleksandr asked curiously.
"I'm not sure how it works, really. I just know that people who think that it's real love sometimes get really hurt because of it. I wouldn't want to take the chance of hurting you like that. I'd rather love you as a friend... a best friend. Then, later, when we're both ready to find someone to love for real... who knows? Maybe we'll find each other." Alvin finished with a smile as they approached the first tent.
One of the older boys stepped out of the tent, carrying a messenger bag and handed it to Alvin.
"Thanks, Lee." Alvin said with a smile.
The boy smiled back, then retreated back into the tent.
"Do best friends kiss?" Oleksandr asked as they turned to go back to the house.
"Only on the cheek, usually when they're saying goodbye." Alvin said gently, then added, "But best friends can hug a lot."
Oleksandr firmly hugged Alvin to his side with one arm, then said, "I've never been a best friend before. Maybe that's what I really wanted, anyway. I just didn't know about it."
"I think maybe you're right." Alvin said as he returned the hug.
"Would you like to have this discussion privately?" Doctor Murten asked as he looked at the group of boys in the office.
"No. These guys are here to support me. Please don't ask me to face this alone." Brother Jacques said nervously.
Doctor Murten noticed that Brother Jacques' ever present tremors were noticeably worse in his frazzled state.
"Let me begin by saying that I've personally checked and double checked these results. There is no margin for error." Doctor Murten said seriously.
"For fucks sake! Would you just spit it out already!" Bug nearly screamed.
The twins pulled Bug in between them and enveloped him in a hug.
"Brother Jacques, according to the blood tests that I've done, there is no doubt whatsoever. You do not now have, nor have you ever had, the virus commonly known as HIV." Doctor Murten said slowly and clearly.
"I.... what?" Brother Jacques asked in confusion.
"All that I can think is that your first test must have been a false positive. But there is absolutely no doubt, not only do you not have the active virus, you also do not have the antibodies that would be present if you had ever had the virus." Doctor Murten said seriously.
"You mean, for eight years, I've been taking all that medication for nothing?" Brother Jacques asked quietly.
"It appears so." Doctor Murten said cautiously.
"Those medications, Father Doherty used funds from the mission, he even used his own money... think of how many people could have been helped; people who needed medication and couldn't afford it. How many people have suffered? How many people have died... to treat a disease that I didn't even have!" Brother Jacques said as his tears fell.
Zane was immediately at Brother Jacques' side, holding him firmly.
Bug urged the twins to release him, then pushed them toward Brother Jacques.
The twins surrounded Zane and Jacques in their embrace, trying to convey their caring through touch.
"Thank you, Doctor. I'm sorry I was so pushy before." Bug said quietly as he watched the group of four hugging and sharing comfort.
"Don't worry about it. I know how frustrating it is. But there was no way I could have given you news like this out in front of the house." Doctor Murten said frankly.
"He thought you were going to tell him that he was about to die." Bug said in a small voice.
"I know. I've had to deliver that unfortunate news more times than I care to remember. I'm sincerely grateful that I didn't have to do it this time." Doctor Murten said introspectively.
"You're sure? Like, one hundred percent, sure?" Brother Jacques suddenly asked.
"Yes. That's why I took the second blood sample." Doctor Murten said with a smile at the question.
"I've got stuff that I need to be doing. I'm glad that things turned out good for you." Mikey said hesitantly.
"Thanks for helping us." Brother Jacques said quickly.
"I've got to go, too." Bruce said with a grin.
Bug saw the grin and hesitantly asked, "You knew, didn't you?"
The grin broke into a full smile before Bruce quickly followed Mikey out the door.
"Before you leave, I also wanted to let you know that I have everything arranged for tomorrow in the RF clean room at Ryan's lab. So, Zane, if you'd meet me after breakfast in the morning, I'll go with you and we can get your situation resolved in short order."
"I'll be going, too." Brother Jacques said simply.
"I had assumed as much." Dr. Murten said with a smile, then thought to add, "Perhaps you could bring me a list of your medications so I can go through them with you and decide which you can stop taking and which, if any, you may need to be weaned off of."
"We're going, too." Bug said immediately.
Zane looked at Bug with surprise at the declaration.
"Brother Jacques is going to need someone to help him while you're in surgery. My twins need to be there for him." Bug said seriously, then quietly added, "And I need to be there for them."
"So it's settled." Dr. Murten said as he stood from behind his desk, then asked, "Does anyone have anymore questions?"
Rather than ask a question, Brother Jacques quietly said, "Thank you, Doctor."
"It's what I do."
"Attention everyone. Dinner will be served in the dining room in five minutes." Sounded over the public address system.
"We need a single level with a ramp for a family of nine." Hobie called out from his workstation.
"Why a single?" Seth called in return.
"The grandmother has a scooter."
"What's the name?"
"Barker, from Oregon." Hobie said quickly.
"Dad will be ready for them. By the time they hit the registration desk, they'll have a place." Seth said seriously.
"Dizzy. Interrupt the radio stream and tell Ben that dinner will be ready in five minutes." Carson said absently.
"How are we going to do dinner? We can't leave this." Hobie asked cautiously.
"Actually, we've got that covered." Alvin said from his place at the laptop that he had brought in for Bug.
"How's that?" Carson asked curiously.
"If you'll give Courtney access to the network, the guys out front can keep it together long enough for you to eat. Of course, they'll save anything that can wait, for you to deal with when you get back, so you'll have to play a little catch-up. But if something comes up that requires an immediate decision, they can do that, or contact you telepathically, if necessary." Alvin explained.
"What's that sound?" Ben asked as he looked around curiously.
"We have company!" Alvin said with surprise, then added, "It's not very often that someone can sneak up on me."
"Who is it?" Carson asked cautiously.
Alvin closed his eyes and seemed to be extremely focused for a long, silent moment. When he finally opened his eyes, he smiled and asked, "Some more guests. Ben, would you go out to the front lawn to welcome them?"
"Do you want to go with me?" Ben asked Oleksandr as he stood.
Oleksandr looked to Alvin with indecision and received a nod of encouragement.
"Okay." Oleksandr said shyly, then Ben picked him up and carried him out of the room.
"So, who is it?" Carson asked as he looked at Alvin curiously.
"Some unlikely heroes." Alvin said with a mischievous smile.
"I don't know... what do I do now?" Brother Jacques asked as his tears finally subsided.
"Sounds to me like, anything you want." Bug said with a smile.
"Oh, forgive me. I nearly forgot. There was one other thing that I was hoping to talk to you about, before you started your celebration." Doctor Murten hurried to say as he stopped beside the desk.
"What's that?" Brother Jacques asked distractedly.
"I did a little research and I found an experimental treatment that's had some promising results in treating essential tremors, like yours." Doctor Murten said as he took a pill bottle out of his pocket.
"What is it?" Brother Jacques asked cautiously.
"Something to try. Unlike most treatments, this beta-blocker is very specifically targeted and has very few side effects. Basically, it will work, or it won't. If it doesn't work, we'll try something else. The worst that will happen is that you might have difficulty sleeping tonight." Doctor Murten said as he offered the pill bottle to Brother Jacques.
The single pill rattled in the bottle as Brother Jacques held it in his shaking hand.
"Just one?" Brother Jacques asked him cautiously.
"As I said, It will work, or it won't. We should know within an hour if the treatment will help you." Doctor Murten said frankly.
"Attention everyone. Dinner will be served in the dining room in five minutes." Sounded over the public address system.
"Perfect timing." Doctor Murten smiled, then looked to Brother Jacques and added, "You should take that on a full stomach."
"I will. Thank you." Brother Jacques said as he continued to look at the single pill rattling in the bottle.
The helicopter on the lawn wasn't one of those that had landed earlier.
The rush of wind from the helicopter was whipping Ben's hair and he held tighter to Oleksandr, feeling like, if he didn't, the small boy might be blown away.
"Excuse me, you need to go inside. We need to secure the area." A dark suited man said in a no-nonsense tone.
"He needs to be here." Trevor said as he walked directly toward the man.
"You don't understand..." The man began to say.
"No. you don't understand." Trevor interrupted, then continued in a firm voice, "You need to secure this location, but this man has been cleared by us. If you can't get that through your head, then get an agent out here who understands who we are and just where we reside in the chain of command."
"Yes..." The agent started, but seemed to choke on the, "...Sir."
"Well, go on! They won't open the door until you give the all clear." Trevor said impatiently.
Ben held Oleksandr close, not knowing what to think.
When the door of the helicopter finally opened, Ben stood back and watched as two agents stepped off and looked around cautiously.
Suddenly, every muscle in Ben's body tensed as he heard a familiar voice call out, "Hey! Princess!"
Trevor broke into laughter at his side as Ben reluctantly said, "Gerry?"
"Saying that it's a small world doesn't even begin to cover it, man. I can't believe that we ran into you here... wherever here is... where are we?" Gerry asked as he looked around.
As Ben watched, Myron, Danny, Jarritt and a small latino man that he didn't know walked up to him.
"You're in Kettle Falls, Washington. As far as I can tell, this is the first, and biggest, evacuation site in the country." Ben said honestly.
Gerry looked around, then quietly said, "There's not much to it."
Ben chuckled as he said, "The actual evacuation site is pretty much all of Kettle Falls and Colville, plus everything in between. Where we are now is the nerve center of the whole operation."
"So, what are you doing here?" Gerry asked cautiously.
"I've been asking myself that very same thing." Ben said honestly.
"Hi. Who are you?" Myron asked the boy that Ben was holding.
Oleksandr hid his face in Ben's chest.
"This is Oleksandr, and he can be a little bit shy, sometimes." Ben said tenderly as his hold on the boy became more of a soothing hug.
"Is he... I mean, you got a kid?" Gerry asked cautiously.
"I guess I do." Ben said with a smile, then thought to ask, "Are you guys hungry? I think they were just about to serve dinner."
"I'm starved! Those Secret Service and Army guys were real good about zig-zagging us around so no one could follow and switching us from one helicopter to another and up and down and back and forth, but did they feed us? Nooooo." Gerry complained.
"Do you think anyone would mind if we joined them?" Myron asked cautiously.
"Honestly, there's so many people here already that I doubt that they'll notice." Ben laughed as he motioned for everyone to follow.
"We need to wait for Mr. and Mrs. Reed." Jarritt said seriously.
"Who's that?" Ben asked curiously.
"You got a new kid, we got new parents." Gerry said with a playful grin.
Ben didn't see any need to question further and waited with the group.
Two elderly men, one who looked to be somewhere around ninety years old, slowly got off the helicopter, followed by a man and woman who appeared to be in their early to mid fifties.
"We waited for you!" Jarritt announced as he walked with the small latino man toward the couple.
"Who's the new guy?" Ben asked Danny quietly.
"Paul-o." Danny responded.
"But who is he?" Ben asked as he watched Jarritt hug the woman, and talk with the couple comfortably for a moment.
"Honestly, I don't know. When the earthquake hit, we turned around and he was knocked out cold in a doorway. Jarritt picked him up, because it wasn't safe there and... he's kinda been with us since." Danny said honestly.
"Mr. and Mrs. Reed said that they're hungry, too." Jarritt said as he walked with the smaller man, Paul-o, held at his side.
"Then let's get to the dining room." Ben said as he started to lead the way.
When the PA announced that dinner would be served in five minutes, Mike, Eric and the boys all looked at one another. Eric sighed. "I'll stay up here with Sam Sam. You go down with the boys and act all Vice Presidential."
"You can let them know to save me a plate of food, and maybe a cup or two of coffee. When you finish eating and mingling, you can come back up here, then I'll go down and eat. Maybe by then, Sam Sam will be awake, and if I know him, he'll be ready for something, too. I can't actually remember a time when any of the guys were awake and weren't ready to inhale a full meal."
"I can't leave him here; if he wakes up, and I'm not here, he's gonna freak. I need to be here, so he'll know I'm all right."
"Nonsense! Your place is down there in the dining room, looking as if you are taking responsibility, and being there for the boys. You know that if you don't go down there, they won't either, and they're growing boys who need nourishment. You wouldn't want them to waste away, and starve to death, would you?"
"All right, I'll go, but if Sam Sam wakes up before I get back, I'm going to ditch that meal in a New York second, and get back here in a hurry. Capish?"
Mike and the boys headed toward the stairs, none of them looking particularly happy.
"Carson, I'll have to be leaving before very long. But if you'd like, I can take over for you here while you have dinner." Alvin said seriously.
"I can cover for you guys." Simon said as he walked to the side-by-side tables, by the door.
"Both of us?" Hobie asked cautiously.
"Don't worry, I can handle it." Simon said with a grin.
"Have Dizzy call me if you need anything." Carson said as he undocked his wheelchair.
"Either that, or I'll call you telepathically, if it's just a simple question." Alvin said with a smile as he grabbed the extra wheelchair.
"I'm never going to get used to that." Carson chuckled.
"It's easier than you think." Alvin smiled as he docked the wheelchair and sat down.
As the group walked toward the dining room, Mr. and Mrs Reed were intercepted by their Secret Service agent, Steven, and led toward the stairs.
"Just find a seat anywhere. The food should be ready any minute." Ben said as he carried Oleksandr to the middle table.
Ben had noticed that there were several men, all dressed in identical uniforms, working at a series of portable steam tables and chiller tables against the wall.
"I was looking for you." Dax said as he rushed up to Ben.
"Sorry. I was out front greeting some new arrivals who turned out to be friends of mine." Ben said then turned to his friends and said, "Everyone, this is my friend, Dax."
All the guys except Paul-o gave an obligatory greeting.
"I went to school with these guys. It's really freaky seeing them this far from home." Ben chuckled, then motioned for everyone to take seats at the table.
"Excuse us." An older man said as he brushed past Ben carrying one end of a table.
Ben watched as the table was fitted perfectly between the first and second table, making them into one huge, continuous table.
"How many people have you got here?" Danny asked as he noticed people entering the room from both ends.
"I've completely lost track. Maybe a hundred." Ben said uncertainly.
"Where are you staying? Do you have a place in town?" Danny asked curiously.
"No. I'm staying here. Look down the table, where the room lets out down there, that's the house I'm staying in." Ben said frankly.
"Oh. Well, I guess that we're probably going to need a place to stay." Danny said anxiously.
"Let me take care of that. That's part of what I'm doing here." Ben said happily.
Oleksandr giggled and Ben felt himself smiling. "What's so funny?"
"I was just missing Alvin, then I heard him talking to me in my head." Oleksandr said happily.
"As soon as we're done eating, I'll take you back in to see him." Ben said warmly.
"I heard about you and Melissa. I'm sorry, man." Danny said to Ben sincerely.
"Thanks." Ben said quietly, then looked up with question and asked, "Wait. How did you hear?"
"From Kendra." Danny said simply.
"You two broke up a while back. Do you still talk to her?" Ben asked curiously.
Danny laughed, then said, "No. Not at all. But, for some reason, I'm still on her twitter feed and Facebook and all that stuff. So I get to see every random thought that crosses her mind, day and night. I don't think it has ever occurred to her to 'unfriend' me or block me. I'm sure she doesn't even think about me anymore. It may sound kind of creepy, but it's really helped me a lot to know what's going on in her head. That way I'm reminded every single day how lucky I am, not to be hooked up with her anymore."
"Sick!" Ben laughed, then asked, "So what did she have to say about me and Melissa?"
"I guess Melissa's been thinking about dumping you for the past month or so. I think the phrase that Kendra used was, that she felt like she was ready to 'trade up'." Danny said frankly.
"She could have just told me, back then." Ben said quietly.
"She could have done that. But I get the feeling that she wanted to tell everyone else about it, first."
"I guess so. You know, it took me a about half an hour to accept it when I got her email, but after that, I really wasn't that broken up about it." Ben said honestly.
"Did she tell you about the guy her parents set her up with?" Danny asked with a grin.
"No! You mean she's already got someone else?" Ben asked with surprise.
"Yeah. But I don't know many details, or should I say, Kendra doesn't. All I've heard is that his name is Fernando. And I guess he comes from 'old money'. He's from Spain, don't you know." Danny said with a grin.
Ben thought about it for a moment, then said, "Nope. I just checked to see if I was feeling any jealousy or disappointment or anything, but honestly, good for them. I hope her and her parents' money and him and his parents' money are very happy together."
"That's very mature of you." Danny said diplomatically.
"And... I hope they have twelve of the ugliest, pimply faced, most disobedient children that were ever born." Ben added in the same serene tone.
"That's more like the Ben I grew up with." Danny laughed.
"So you guys really grew up together?" Dax asked with a smile.
"Oh yeah. Ever since first grade, I think." Danny said with an uncertain look at Ben.
"That's right. Jarritt and Myron came along later, but Danny and Gerry and I have known each other for as long as I can remember." Ben said happily.
"And we've got ALL KINDS of embarrassing stories to tell you about Ben." Gerry giggled.
"You've got nothing on me. I've had a perfect life." Ben said as he fought down a grin and managed to stifle a giggle.
"Whatever you say, Princess." Gerry laughed.
"Princess?" Dax asked as he looked at Ben inquiringly.
"We don't need to be telling that story at the dinner table." Ben hurried to say, then pointed and said, "Hey, it looks like the food's ready! Let's eat!"
Ben hurried to lead the way to the serving line that the caterers had just finished setting up.
As Paul-o was starting to stand, he felt a large hand gently holding him back.
"Here." Jarritt said as he presented a paper flower made out of his dinner napkin.
"Thanks." Paul-o said with surprise as he accepted the gift, then looked to Jarritt and said, "It's beautiful."
Jarritt beamed with pride at the compliment as he stood to walk with Paul-o to the serving line.
"Have you seen Oma Shoupe?" Bug asked as he rushed into the dining room.
Several people turned and found that he was directing his question to Bax.
"No. I haven't seen her since lunch." Bax said honestly.
The butler, Mr. Crante, walked up to Bug and quietly said, "Young Sir. Please do not be concerned. Your grandmother is in the kitchen, helping to oversee the dinner preparations with Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Murten."
"Thanks. I went to her room and she wasn't there. It's time for her and Lawrence to get their medication and I couldn't find her." Bug said as he wilted with relief.
"No need to worry; all three ladies seemed to be enjoying each other's company." Mr. Crante said with a smile at Bug's display of concern.
"Thanks again. I'll just take her meds to her, now." Bug said before hurrying away toward the kitchen.
"Can I talk to you for a minute?" A voice whispered close to Paul-o's ear, causing him to jump a little.
He turned and saw a teenage boy with a deadly serious look in his eyes. Hesitantly, Apollo asked, "Who are you?"
"Who I am doesn't matter. What matters is that I know who you are, Apollo Isaacs."
"How do you know my name?" Apollo asked in a whisper.
"I know a lot more than that, like where you've been for the past two years. Would you like to talk to me now?" The teenager asked in a deadly serious voice.
Apollo saw that Jarritt had his full attention on the serving line ahead of them. Without a word, he set his empty plate down and followed the teenager out of the room.
They walked away from the dining room and through the living room before coming to a stop in a secluded space in the hall, by the stairs.
"What do you want from me?" Apollo asked as he looked around nervously to be sure that no one could hear them.
"I thought we might be able to help each other out. Maybe you could do some jobs for me, deliver some packages... maybe entertain a few friends of mine." The boy said with a sly smile.
"And if I don't?"
"Then your new friends will learn all about your stay at Club Fed." The boy said frankly.
"No." Apollo said in a voice that was little more than a whisper.
"Are you sure? Look at this place. Are you sure you want to take a chance of giving all this up?" The boy asked as he gestured back toward the living room.
"I've got nothing, so I've got nothing to lose... except myself. You can tell these people whatever you want about me. It doesn't matter. I won't be here." Apollo said, sounding more self assured than he felt. Then he looked at the paper flower that he was still holding and realized that to one person, it would matter, and that if he left, he would have one regret.
"So you're just going to leave?" The boy asked derisively.
"Yes. But I'll be sure to tell someone, probably Danny, about your offer before I go. These are good people and they need to know that there's someone like you running around. If I can warn them about you, then what happens to me doesn't matter." Apollo said firmly as he fought to steer his mind away from Jarritt and his probable reaction to him leaving.
"Is that your final answer?" The boy asked slowly.
"It is." Apollo said, feeling confident in his decision. It wasn't what he wanted to do and he knew that he would be miserable if he did it. But he couldn't deny that it was the right thing.
"There's only one thing that I can say to that." The boy said with a sideways glance at Apollo.
"Which is?" Apollo asked cautiously, on guard for an attack from the teenager, should it be coming. Apollo was too small to be much of a fighter. But the teenager wasn't that much bigger than he was and he felt that if it came down to it, he should be able to hold his own.
"Congratulations. You passed." The boy smiled.
"I'm sorry I put you through that. But... let me back up. My name is Trevor. I'm part of a group whose sole purpose for being here is to protect these people. Most of the new arrivals are known quantities, but you, my new friend, are a wild card. The only way I could know if it would be safe to have you around here was to test you like this." Trevor said seriously.
"What if I'd failed?" Apollo asked hesitantly.
"Then you would have been considered too dangerous to be allowed to stay here and would have been removed."
"I think you know what I mean." Trevor said with a cold look that sent a chill up Apollo's spine.
"So, since I passed... you're not going to tell anybody about me?" Apollo asked cautiously.
"No. Well, the members of my team already know, but they won't spread it around. I can promise you that none of us will tell anyone anything about you without your permission."
"Thanks, I think. Well, if that's it, I'd better get back..." Apollo began to say, wanting to be out of the very uncomfortable situation that he had found himself in.
"Hang on for a second, you need to meet these guys." Trevor said as he gestured upward.
Apollo followed his pointing finger, not knowing what Trevor meant. But a moment later, he heard the thundering of several feet on the stairs, and watched as a small herd of kids raced down.
"Hello, Trevor. That's right, isn't it?" One of the men that followed the children asked pleasantly.
"Yes, sir. Thank you for remembering. I'd like to introduce one of the new arrivals to you. This is Apollo Isaacs. He arrived in the helicopter with the Reeds." Trevor said in a surprisingly formal tone.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Apollo. Kurt and Lana told me about what you and your friends did today. My boys consider them as another set of grandparents. I don't have words enough to thank you for helping them." The man said as he offered his hand to shake.
"I'm just glad that I was there to help." Apollo said shyly as he shook the offered hand.
"I'm terrible at this introduction thing. Apollo, I'd like to introduce you to General Richard Adams and Mr. Mike Reynolds, the newly elected Vice President of the United States." Trevor said as he indicated each in turn.
Apollo's eyes went wide, then he looked down at his hand as he whispered, "Oh... my God..."
Trevor laughed, then looked to Mike and asked, "How's that for a reaction?"
"I've seen worse." Mike said with a warm smile.
"It looks like you have a whole squad of boys who are ready for some chow. Maybe Apollo would be kind enough to show you into the dining room." Trevor said pleasantly, then flashed Apollo an encouraging smile.
"Won't you be eating with us?" General Adams asked curiously.
"Not right now. I have a job to do. I'll get something later. Enjoy your meal." Trevor said happily, then turned to leave.
"Thank you, Trevor." Apollo called after him.
Trevor smiled and waved as he continued toward the front door.
"Can we eat now?" One of the boys asked hopefully.
"Boys, this is one of the people that your grandparents were telling us about. He helped to save their lives. I'd really like it if you could be patient for a minute and show him some respect." Mike said to the group of energetic children.
"Respect can be tough on an empty stomach. Why don't I show you to the dining room before we worry about that." Apollo asked as he gestured for everyone to follow him.
All the boys perked up with that suggestion.
"Thanks for saving Grandpa Kurt and Grandma Lana. They're really nice." The smallest of the boys said earnestly.
"How are they doing?" Apollo asked curiously, directing his question mostly toward Mike.
"I can tell that they were pretty shaken up. They just wanted to take a few minutes to collect themselves and freshen up before they came down to dinner." Mike said seriously.
"We made a room for Grandpa Kurt and Grandma Lana. They have walls up there that you can use to make rooms any size or shape that you want." One of the boys said as they walked through the living room.
"As soon as we're done eating, we're going to go out to the store room and get them a bed, too." Another boy quickly chimed in.
"Why don't you tell me about it over dinner? The dining room is right through here." Apollo asked as he gestured to the doorway they were approaching.
At that announcement, the conversation was officially over. Only one thing was on the boys' minds, and talking wasn't it.
Eric was a total wreck watching his son lying fast asleep, with his arm in a cast and all bandaged up. His eyes filled with tears as he sat in the chair next to Sammy's bed. He sniffed, and grabbed a tissue from the box on the nightstand.
"Why does he always have to get hurt, when he helps someone else?" He mumbled. He blew his nose and nearly jumped straight up when Sammy spoke.
"Pops, Don't cry, I just couldn't let someone else be hurt, if I could do something to stop it. You would've done the same thing. I know you would've." Sammy smiled. "I'm not stupid, and I really do try not to get hurt, but if I hadn't pushed him, that thing would have fallen right on his head."
Sammy took a deep breath, and Eric could see the pain flicker across his face. "I couldn't let that happen... I just couldn't. Besides, it happened so fast, that I guess I really did it without thinking, anyway. When I try to think about it, now, it's all sort of a blur."
"How long have you been awake, Son?" Eric asked, as he leaned over and kissed Sammy's forehead.
"I'm not sure, but I heard you sniff, and then you asked that question, and I couldn't help but answer you. Where's Dad?"
"He's downstairs, trying to let everyone think he's doing fine, but inside, he's wishing he were up here looking after you. Are you in pain? Do you need anything?"
"My arm hurts a little, but not real bad or anything. Things seem a bit weird, like, I feel a bit fuzzy, if you know what I mean. My senses are all a bit fuzzy. I guess it was the medicine the Doctor gave me, but I'm starting to feel more awake, now. I am hungry, though. Do you think it would be alright if I ate something?"
Eric grinned, and chuckled. "I guess you're getting better. I was a little worried, there, when I saw you were awake and you hadn't asked for food. Now I know you're going to be fine. Let me go see what I can do about getting you something to fill that tummy of yours. I'll be right back."
"Thanks, Pops, I love you."
"Love you, too, son. I always will."
"How's my adopted grandson doing?" Kurt asked when Eric walked into the hall.
"He must be doing better, because he says that he's hungry. It's just killing me to see him like this." Eric said in a weary voice.
"Eric, listen to me. These things happen. It wouldn't matter if you were a farmer in Wisconsin, life would still throw trials and tribulations into your path. Don't let it drag you down. You've chosen an admirable path. Don't start regretting it because bad things happened." Kurt said firmly.
"Thank you, Kurt. It's just hard. I feel responsible." Eric whispered.
"Of course you do. You're a father." Kurt smiled.
"I'm ready." Lana said as she walked to Kurt's side, then gently asked, "How is Sammy doing?"
"Better. He's awake, if you'd like to pop in and visit with him for a minute." Eric said as he tried to get his emotions under control.
"Yes. I'd like to see for myself that he's on the mend." Lana said tenderly.
"While you're doing that, I'll get the agents to let Mike know that Sammy's awake and hungry. He'll want to bring Sammy some food." Eric said decisively.
"We'll be going downstairs in a minute, anyway. Why don't you let us tell Mike, after we've had some time to visit with our grandson?" Kurt asked reasonably.
"Yes. Thank you, Kurt. I don't want to leave Sammy, even for a minute." Eric said as he motioned for the couple to follow him back into Sammy's room.
What little conversation there was among the boys at the serving line was centered on the choices of food before them.
Once the first few had their plates loaded, they started looking around trying to find a place to eat.
The dining room was less than half filled, with people still entering from both ends of the room. People were congregated in small groups up and down the massive, continuous table, leaving several open chairs in-between.
As soon as Apollo was done filling a plate for himself, he walked to the family and said, "My friends are sitting right over here. You can sit with us if you like."
"As soon as we're done eating, I'll ask Tommy to find you a place. Don't worry I promise that it'll be someplace nice." Ben was saying as Apollo approached.
"Do you mind if we join you?" Mike asked cautiously. Although Apollo had invited him and his family, he didn't want to barge in.
"Are you kidding? You're the Vice President, you can sit anywhere you want!" Apollo said as he automatically took the seat beside Jarritt.
He was immediately pulled into a firm hug as Jarritt quietly said, "I couldn't find you. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." Apollo said as he briefly returned the hug.
"Please sit with us, Mr. Vice President, sir. There's plenty of room." Ben said quickly, then added in a more controlled voice, "I'd like for you to meet, Danny, Gerry, Myron and Jarritt. And you seem to have already met, Paul-o."
"Thank you. It's nice to meet all of you. But please don't let us interrupt. Go on with what you were saying." Mike said as he took the seat next to Ben, then indicated for the boys to sit down.
"Yeah. Um... I was just telling the guys that when we're done here that I'd find them a place to stay." Ben said as he fought to regain the thread of their conversation.
All the adults watched curiously as the boys put their plates on the table by Mike's, then ducked down and crawled under the table. Once they were on the other side of the table, they lined up and started reaching toward their food..
"They should stay with us. They saved Grandpa Kurt and Grandma Lana." Eric's son, Danny said as he strained to take hold of the edge of his plate.
"Maybe they wouldn't be comfortable with that." Mike said with a smile as he picked up Danny's plate and handed it to him.
"Why not? We don't bite or smell bad or make lots of noise or anything." Randy, or possibly Kevin, said seriously.
"What do you say, guys? You saved our grandparents. Wouldn't you like to stay upstairs with the Vice President?" Brian asked in a wheedling tone.
"I don't know..." Myron said in a conflicted voice.
"Say yes." Scotty stage whispered as he accepted his plate of food from Mike.
"Do you want to?" Myron asked Gerry cautiously.
"Duh!" Gerry said with a roll of his eyes.
The boys on the other side of the table broke into giggles at the response.
"Are you sure you're going to have enough room?" Ben asked cautiously.
"We'll make your rooms where we were going to put the game room." Brian (maybe Scotty) said simply, as though it were settled.
"They must really want you if they're willing to put you before their games." Mike said with a tender smile at the boys.
"Is everyone OK with that?" Ben asked as he looked around the group that had traveled from Anaheim.
"Again. Duh!" Gerry said with exasperation before taking another bite of food.
"I guess that's settled." Mike chuckled as he started to eat his own meal.
"Can we sit over there?" Max asked General Adams quietly.
"Sure. Whatever you want." General Adams said slowly, not knowing why the boy would suddenly not want to sit with Mike and his family.
"Can we sit here?" Max asked as he walked up to the table where some children were already sitting.
A young caramel skinned boy looked up with surprise at the question, then quickly said, "Yeah. Sure."
"I'm Max." the boy said as he sat down, General Adams automatically taking the seat next to him.
"I'm Jamiah, this is my sister Loquicia." Jamiah said pleasantly.
"Is it okay here?" Max asked as he looked around the dining room nervously.
"Yeah. I guess... what do you mean?" Jamiah asked cautiously.
"Is it okay to be black? I mean, around all these white people? Is there anyone I need to watch out for?" Max asked seriously.
"No." Jamiah chuckled, "There's no one here like that. And from what I've seen, if there was, they'd be tossed out on their butts so fast they wouldn't know what hit 'em."
"So they're for real?" Max asked to be sure.
"Yeah. I don't think anyone here would have treated me or my sister or Ty any different if we were as white as snowflakes." Jamiah said frankly.
"Okay. Until today, I never knew there was white people like this." Max said honestly.
"There's some. Back in Chicago, Father Doherty and Brother Jacques and the twins never treated us like we were less important than anyone else. But there were plenty of people there who looked at us like we were something dirty, or just tried to ignore us and pretend that we didn't exist."
"Yeah. I know those types." Max said darkly.
Jamiah looked past Max, at the man who was accompanying him.
When Max finally noticed, he quietly said, "That's General Adams. He said that he'd be my dad. I just wanted to be sure that if we did that, that no one would treat him bad because of it."
"No. These are the kind of people who will be happy for you and think it's the greatest thing ever that you found a new dad." Jamiah said frankly.
"Thanks... you're gay, aren't you?" Max asked cautiously.
"Yes. Not only that, I also have too much style for just one gender." Jamiah said flamboyantly.
Max was surprised by the response, but found himself smiling before he considered how he should be reacting.
A hand on his shoulder startled Max.
"I'm sorry to interrupt, but you need to eat so that we can get back upstairs. Mike and I are going to have quite a bit of work to do before we can call it a night." General Adams said gently.
"Okay, Dad." Max said as he turned his attention to his untouched plate of food.
"It's likely that I won't be able to spend much time with you when we go back upstairs, so you can invite your new friend to come up and visit, if you would like."
When Kurt and Lana entered the room, Sammy was sitting up and looking around.
"Hi Sammy." Kurt said, smiling broadly. "It's good to see you awake. Are you in pain?"
"Nuh Uh. Just a little headache, but it's going away." Sammy replied. "How did you guys get here? I thought you were in Anaheim. Were you hurt in the Earthquake, too?"
"Well, not really. A lot of stuff got rattled around and a few things were broken.
The house isn't really safe to be in right now, but that had less to do with the earthquake and more to do with those goons who were trying to kill us."
"Someone tried to hurt you? Are you okay?" Sammy asked with sudden worry.
"We're fine, thanks to some really brave young men, that we've now adopted. Some young men, punks, broke into our house and were trying to get us to go with them. And we knew that if we did go with them, no one would probably ever see us alive again."
"Just when it seemed that all hope was lost, another group of young men broke in and started kicking the doo-doo out of the bad guys." Lana said with a blush at using such language.
"After that, thanks to a few of Jack's 'Suits' or 'MIB's with copters, the creeps didn't get the job done." Kurt chuckled.
"In fact, I suspect that none of them will be doing any more killing; our secret service man seemed to be a bit miffed with them. But I really don't even want to think about that anymore. It might spoil my appetite." Lana finished warmly.
"If you're going to eat, can you get me some?" Sammy asked quickly.
"We're going to tell your father that you're awake and hungry, just as soon as we get downstairs. In fact, we should get going now, so you won't have to wait." Kurt said with a smile.
"Well, it looks like we have two Danny's here, so why don't we call my Danny, Little Danny, and you Big Danny?" Mike asked, then glanced at his son who was busily eating.
"No. Please don't do that." Ben's friend, Danny, said quickly.
"Why is that?" Mike asked curiously.
"I'm actually a 'Junior', my father's name was also Daniel. I don't know how to explain it, except that I always hated being called 'Little Danny'. All I know is that it made me angry and resentful. Please feel free to call me Dan or Daniel or even Junior if you like, but please don't call your son 'Little', I would feel like I'm perpetuating something that should be lost and forgotten."
"I understand, Daniel." Mike said with an assuring smile, then looked to his son and asked, "Does that work for you, Danny?"
"What?" Danny asked obliviously then, seeing that he had his father's attention, hurried to ask, "Can I have seconds?"
"I suppose that since it's a buffet, you can help yourself to more if you like." Mike said with a smile at the boy.
Before he knew what had happened, several plates were thrust at him, all at the same time.
Then, all the boys ducked down, nearly in unison, and emerged from under the table a second later.
All the adults at the table could do was smile as they watched the boys collect their plates and rush over to the serving line.
Although Carson had learned to manage doing things by himself when they had a buffet, it was always something of a balancing act. And no matter how careful he was, from time to time, things happened.
Without offering or being asked, Jay automatically assumed the role of being an extra pair of hands for Carson. When something was out of reach, all he had to do was make a move for it, or quietly say what it was, and Jay would get a portion for him. Many times he resented it when people helped him, but for some reason, it was different with Jay. He didn't have the sense that Jay felt pity for him or was helping out of some sense of obligation. It seemed to Carson that Jay would just step in, just for a minute, to help when it was needed, then step back to allow Carson to do the majority on his own.
Once they were away from the serving line, Carson led the way down the enormous table and spotted a familiar face.
"Bug, do you mind if we join you?" Carson asked as he and Jay approached.
"Yeah, sure. Roll on over here." Bug said as he scooted the chair beside him out of the way.
"I just wanted to let you know, before I forgot, that Alvin brought in a new laptop for you to use. From the way he acted, it's state-of-the-art." Carson said as he pulled in.
Jay sat Carson's plate before him, then automatically took the seat beside him.
"Did we miss anything?" Bug asked as he glanced over to see if Zane were paying attention.
All Zane's attention was entirely focused on Brother Jacques at that moment.
And, as far as Bug was concerned, that was fine.
"We've started getting calls from the different checkpoints. The first little trickle of refugees are starting to arrive. They're mostly from the West Coast, trying to get away from the chaos of the Earthquake." Carson said frankly.
"I had an idea, but I don't know if it's worth the trouble." Bug said thoughtfully.
"Lay it on me." Carson said between bites of food.
"I was just thinking that we might make people a lot more comfortable if we housed them according to where in the country they came from." Bug said slowly.
"Why?" Carson asked curiously.
"Because that way the people who are grouped together will be more likely to have things in common. They can work together to find out about what's going on back at their home and they'd be more likely to end up in the same place if they're looking for someone." Bug said slowly, seemingly working it out as he spoke.
"So far as I know, the only refugees we've received from the East are fairly local. So if we were going to do something like that, now would be the time to institute it." Carson said as his mind ran through the dynamics of such a move.
"I just thought that if we had a place where the 'Florida' people or the 'Orlando' people could all be housed together, that they might be able to form some sort of a community." Bug said as he waited for Carson's reaction.
"I like it. If you want to do it, then as soon as we're done with dinner, you can get to work on the housing plan. You can let Hobie and Seth know what you're doing so they can coordinate things with their dads, but as far as I know, I think everyone is going to be following our plan, so if you make the change in the computer, everything else will automatically fall into line." Carson said seriously.
"I was also thinking that if we do this, that I'd like to keep a special eye on the Orlando people. It's not just to see if there's anyone that I know, but also to let them know that they have someone on the 'inside' who cares especially about them." Bug said before taking a bite of food.
"Don't you think it will cause problems with the others if we treat one group differently from another?" Carson asked cautiously.
"It's not like we're going to be giving them silk sheets and maid service. All I was wanting to do is talk with them, now and then, to be sure that everything's going okay. Maybe we could get someone like Brother Jacques to do the same for the Chicago people, and Lucas or Jeremy to do that for Kansas City."
"I think it would help me a lot to know that there was one person I could go to if I had a problem, and that that person was especially concerned about my situation." Jay said seriously.
Carson nodded, then said, "You're right. A lot of people are going to be feeling helpless and powerless. This is one small thing that we'll be able to do to hopefully make them feel like they have some sort of control."
As Carson was about to take another bite of his food, he noticed his father walking out of the room with a cell phone pressed firmly to his ear.
Mike turned suddenly, then smiled when he saw Kurt and Lana standing behind him. "I'm glad to see you both looking much more relaxed. Please, join us."
"We will in a moment. I was given a very important message to pass on to you, so I have to do that first thing." Kurt said gravely.
"Oh no. What now?" Mike asked with a sinking feeling.
"There is a young man upstairs who is awake and has a very empty belly. It was suggested that you would like to be the one to remedy that situation." Kurt said with a playful smile.
"There is nothing that would please me more." Mike said emphatically.
"I thought so. While you're doing that, Lana and I would like to take this opportunity to visit with our grandkids for a few minutes." Kurt said with a smile at the boys, who seemed unaware that Kurt and Lana were present.
As Mike looked around the table, he quietly said, "Send the boys upstairs when they notice that I'm gone. I'm sure that Sammy will want to visit with them... once his belly is full."
"Go to your son. Your other boys will be fine." Kurt assured him.