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"Carson, it is seven o'clock in the morning. You asked for me to wake you at this time." Dizzy said calmly.
It was surprising to Carson that as he opened his eyes, he actually felt awake. He was accustomed to feeling bleary and foggy for the first half hour or so after waking.
"Thank you, Dizzy. I'm awake." Carson said, as he automatically moved himself into his wheelchair.
"Would you like the overview of events that transpired while you were sleeping?" Dizzy asked in a voice that was just a tad too cheerful.
"Unless there's anything that's a priority alert, how about you give me a few minutes to shower before you do that." Carson said as he went to his bathroom.
"Nope. No priority alerts." Dizzy said pleasantly.
Carson slowly went into the bathroom, automatically reaching for his pain medication... which wasn't there.
A hitch of something that felt like fear or anxiety assaulted him at the realization.
The adrenaline rush that Carson was feeling very nearly escalated into a full blown panic attack, but after a few deep breaths, he forced himself to start his shower routine.
Carson could barely keep himself together enough to complete his shower and dress himself. The sense of panic consumed his every thought and several times he very nearly called out to Dizzy that he needed to enact 'Code 4'.
With no thought to the rescue effort or anything but the gnawing need that seemed intent on consuming him, he left his room to join his family for breakfast.
"Good morning." Brother Jacques said gently when he saw Zane's eyes flutter open.
"What time is it?" Zane asked slowly, in sleep fogged confusion.
Before Brother Jacques could answer, Zane added, "What day is it?"
"Saturday. And it's a little after seven in the morning." Brother Jacques said gently.
Zane was silent for a long moment as he processed the response, then he quietly asked, "What happened? It's all a blur."
"Do you remember what I told you yesterday?" Brother Jacques asked softly.
"No. I think I remember waking up and you telling me something, but I don't remember what it was."
"You remember that we went to Mr. Brown's lab so that they could remove the tracking device, right?"
"Yeah. I remember that." Zane said slowly.
"Well, I guess the doctor was thinking he could just open you up, pop the thing out, then sew you back up and it'd be done. But when he got in there, it was a whole lot worse than he expected."
"Worse, how?" Zane asked as he seemed to come more awake.
"The doctor will be able to tell you a whole lot more than I can, but the way I understood it, when they put the tracking device inside you, they kinda carved a notch out of your breastbone and stuck the tracking device down in there, so it'd be really hard to get to it and take it out." Brother Jacques said seriously.
"So that's why he knocked me out, instead of doing it under a local anesthetic?" Zane asked curiously.
"I think so. Like I said, you'll have to talk to Dr. Murten if you really need to be sure about this stuff. This is just what I figured out while it was going on."
"Okay. I think I've got that."
"Well, the next thing was, when he finally got the tracking device dug out, he realized that it was booby trapped. I think that's when he stopped everything and made us all leave." Brother Jacques said seriously.
"Booby trapped?" Zane asked cautiously.
"When your grandfather put the tracking device inside you, he wanted to be sure that no one could ever take it out. And, if they tried, that it would kill you and probably the doctor trying to help you."
"Yeah. That sounds like him." Zane said regretfully as he let his eyes fall closed again.
"I wasn't there for the rest of it. I was waiting outside, in the hall. But I guess it goes something like this. There was this guy, a little kid, his name was Juan. I know it sounds unbelievable, but he really knew what he was doing. He showed up and knew how to get the booby trap out of you without killing you or setting it off." Brother Jacques said excitedly.
"A kid..." Zane said slowly.
"Yeah. I think he's with those kids in the tents on the front lawn. I really don't know anything about that. But anyway, he goes in and a little while later he comes out of the surgery carrying an ammo box. Within, like, five seconds of him stepping out of the clean room door, there's an explosion inside the box. I think it means that not only was your transmitter booby trapped, but also that your grandfather had it rigged so that he could push a button somewhere and that it would explode inside you." Brother Jacques said frankly.
"Was anyone hurt?" Zane asked hesitantly.
"No. The ammo box just jumped in his hand a little bit. No one was hurt at all." Brother Jacques reassured him.
"Good. So, that's it?" Zane asked hopefully.
"Yeah. I don't know what all they had to do to patch the hole in your breastbone, but I think whatever it was, is why you're feeling this way."
"It's not too bad." Zane said with a slight, unconvincing smile.
"Don't worry. From what I've seen, they're going to take really good care of you, here. You're going to be just fine." Brother Jacques said as he carefully took one of Zane's hands to hold.
"Have your tremors started back up, again?" Zane asked as he looked down in concern.
"Yeah. Just a little. They were this way when I woke up this morning. Don't worry about it. Just concentrate on feeling better."
As his eyes opened, for just a moment he couldn't remember where he was.
The room was unfamiliar.
He was certain that he'd never been here before.
It was plain. There were no decorations or pictures on the walls, but it seemed to be a nice place.
As he shifted, he noticed a weight on his chest and looked down to find Colton fast asleep.
That's when the memories all came flooding back to him.
Last night, Father Doherty had been given custody of Colton and the judge said that when he turned eighteen, he could adopt Colton as his son.
Emo smiled at the thought as he remembered the surreal drama of getting custody, then riding through the night with the baby in his arms.
He was surprised that Colton had slept through the night, but supposed that since it was so late when they arrived, that it worked out just about right.
It wouldn't be long before Colton would be awake and hungry.
When he had made Colton's formula the night before, he noticed that there wasn't a lot left. He would have to get more.
Emo's mind started racing as he thought about all the other things that Colton needed.
Formula and diapers were just the beginning.
All he had was what was in the diaper bag.
The baby would need clothes, a crib, a stroller, a car seat and... the list was too vast to contemplate. His own experience with babies was extremely limited. And Colton had absolutely NOTHING.
"Cocksucking douchebag motherfucker." Bug muttered in his sleep.
"That was a good one." Kev chuckled as he wrote it down.
"I wonder what he's dreaming while he's saying that." Ken said warmly.
"I'm sure it's all rainbows and fluffy bunnies." Kev said with a grin.
"Yeah. Right." Ken laughed.
"This is the way I want to wake up every morning." Bug said as he opened his eyes.
"Sounds like a plan." Ken said warmly.
"I'm sorry we didn't stay up to wait for you last night." Kev said quietly.
"I got in after two in the morning. I didn't expect for you to wait up." Bug said frankly.
"Here. I think it's still hot." Ken said as he handed a mug of coffee to Bug.
"Thanks." Bug said gratefully.
After a sip of coffee, Bug quietly asked, "Did you guys make breakfast, again?"
"We were going to if you didn't wake up pretty soon. But, so far, all we've done is made coffee." Kev said warmly.
"God. You guys are gorgeous." Bug said, sounding to be amazed.
"Look who's talking." Ken said with a grand smile.
"How'd things go with that Allen guy, last night. Did you guys have a good visit?" Bug asked curiously before taking a long slow sip of his coffee.
"It was probably the creepiest thing I've ever seen." Ken said frankly.
"Really? He seemed nice." Bug said curiously.
"I walked into his house and he had pictures of me from when I was, like, twelve years old. His house had the same style and furniture that was in my dad's house when I was growing up. And then he said that he'd recreated my bedroom... I had to get out of there." Ken said with a shiver at the memory.
"To me, it sounds like Allen wasn't ever able to let go of you or your dad when he lost you." Kev said frankly.
"Our dad." Ken gently corrected.
Kev nodded, although it seemed more likely that he wasn't in the mood to debate the point, rather than that he agreed.
"Was he nice to you?" Bug asked curiously.
"Yeah. In a creepy, clingy way. He kept putting his arm around me and calling me 'Cute Stuff'. When I got home, all I wanted to do was take a shower." Ken said frankly.
"Well, after doing all my computer stuff most of the night, I got to see some adoptions before I went to bed." Bug said with a grin.
"Adoptions?" Kev asked cautiously.
"Yep. Two of yours and a baby from the Lesbian Gravy bus... I really like that name, by the way. I need to download some of their music and check it out." Bug finished with a smile.
"What do you mean 'two of ours'?" Ken asked cautiously.
"Yeah, that pissed off little asshole... what's his name? The one with the grey hair?" Bug asked uncertainly.
"Ty." Kev said hesitantly.
"Yeah. The Browns adopted him, he even got his name changed. His name is Tyrone Brown, now." Bug said seriously.
"Tyrell Brown." Ken corrected gently.
"What the fuck ever." Bug said with a grin at Ken, then continued, "Anyway, Ben adopted that Ollie kid that he's been carrying around for the past few days."
"Oleksandr?" Kev asked with a smile.
"Sounds right." Bug confirmed.
"So Ben adopted Oleksandr and Mr. and Mrs. Brown adopted Ty?" Ken asked to confirm his understanding.
"Yeah. It was Zane's dad, I guess he's the Lesbian Gravy priest. Him and some little teenage goth punk kid adopted this little, like a few weeks old, baby." Bug said seriously.
Kev fought to keep from laughing as he said, "Well, that sounds perfectly reasonable."
Bug smiled at him and responded, "I guess you just had to be there."
"I know you've probably got a lot of stuff going on, today. But is there anything we can do to help?" Ken asked seriously.
"Yeah. Actually, there are two things." Bug said as his mood turned serious.
Both twins waited to see what they could do.
"First, be sure to check on the mission kids. As far as I know, Brother Jacques is still at the hospital. He needs to know that he can count on you." Bug said seriously.
"Yeah. Last night, when Ken left for Allen's house, I kind of checked around to see that they were all doing okay. All the kids seemed to be alright and none of the adults seemed to mind that they were hanging around." Kev said honestly.
"Well, since two of them got adopted, I guess not." Bug said with a grin.
Kev smiled at the response as Ken asked, "What's the other thing we can do?"
"Figure out how to work things out with that Allen guy." Bug said frankly.
"How about he stay over there and we stay over here and just call it good?" Ken asked hopefully.
"Listen, I could be totally wrong about this, I'll admit that upfront. But from the way it looks to me, this Allen guy, you called him your 'Pop', he got his heart broke real bad when your dad died and you had to leave. From what you just told me, it may have hurt him so bad that he never got over it. After all these years, he still hasn't even started to heal." Bug said seriously.
"I guess." Ken reluctantly admitted.
"Okay. I get that it's creepy. But you've got the chance to take something that's gone horribly fucking wrong and help him change it into something healthy." Bug said honestly.
"Why does this matter so much to you?" Kev asked curiously.
"I guess because of how I lost my parents, I can sort of sympathize with someone who can't let go and move on." Bug said frankly.
Both twins moved in to hug him at the same time.
"Coffee!" Bug warned as he held out his cup and fought not to let it spill.
Ken released Bug for a moment and relocated the coffee to the bedside stand before moving in to show Bug just how much he was loved.
"Good morning, Love."
"Is it time to get up already? I didn't even feel it when you came to bed."
"I haven't been to bed, yet." Mike quietly admitted.
Eric sat up and asked, "That operation you were worried about?"
"Yes. But please don't worry about it. Everything worked out. We accomplished our goals at a minimal cost." Mike said with a weary smile.
"You look dead tired. Why don't you crawl in here with me for a while?" Eric asked hopefully.
"I'd really love to, but if the boys aren't awake already, they're sure to be any minute." Mike said regretfully.
"I meant to talk to you about the guys who saved Kurt and Lana. I didn't get to spend much time around them, yesterday. But when I saw them with the boys they seemed to be interacting almost like older brothers to them." Eric said thoughtfully.
"I noticed that, too. I haven't tried to put it into words, but I agree with you." Mike said with a considering nod.
"I know that they've been cleared by security, but... I just wanted to be sure that you approve of them before we let the boys get too attached." Eric said seriously.
"I think you're probably in a better position to decide something like this. Why don't you take a little time to get to know them and then decide if they're positive role models for the boys to have in their lives." Mike said seriously.
"Yeah. That sounds good to me. I just wanted to be sure that we were both on the same page." Eric said honestly.
"You decide and I'll back you up." Mike assured him.
"What about the other two?" Eric asked curiously.
"What other two?"
"One of the agents pulled me aside and told me that two more people would be staying up here. I was sure that he must have cleared it with you, first." Eric said with concern.
"Are you talking about the young teenagers?" Mike asked cautiously.
"I suppose so. I haven't really heard anything about them." Eric said honestly.
"All I was really told is that they were cleared by security and that the two of them were instrumental in organizing and maintaining a convoy of over five hundred vehicles halfway across the United States. Apparently, they're going to be working downstairs in Carson's command center, so we might not even see them." Mike said seriously.
"They sound interesting. I hope we can get a chance to talk." Eric said with a smile.
"Oh my God! It can't be morning already! Come back to bed." Lucas begged.
"Regardless of what time you went to sleep, the morning has come and there are certain things that must be done. Feeding our children, for instance." Gordon said cheerfully.
"Oh my God. You're perky. How in the world can you be perky this morning in the early... um... you know what I mean." Lucas grunted.
Gordon laughed delightedly.
"What do we have to do?" Lucas asked resignedly.
"Well, I was thinking that this would be a perfect opportunity to have a nice family breakfast, you know, with everybody sitting down at once, at the same table, at the same time." Gordon said cheerfully.
"If I remember right, Max spent the night at Walter and Reginald's." Lucas said slowly.
"Totally off the subject, but are you worried about that?" Gordon asked curiously.
"Maybe I should be worried, but I'm not. I feel confident that Bax and Ro will watch out for her. If there were any problem at all, I feel certain that they'll let us know." Lucas said honestly.
"Just to confirm, you're also not worried about her hanging around with two boys?" Gordon asked cautiously.
"Maybe I'll worry a little more about that when they realize that she's a girl." Lucas finished with a laugh.
"Right. Back to the topic at hand. Even if Max isn't able to attend, I'd still like to have a sit-down breakfast for everyone at once."
"You'd better be sure and catch Jay before he can run off to be with Carson." Lucas said frankly.
"I don't know that it'll make a difference. Even when he's in the same room with us, it's like he's a million miles away. I haven't felt that with any of the other kids. Even with Max, I feel certain that we'll eventually get to a point where we'll all accept that she's part of our family. But with Jay, I feel like there's an insurmountable distance between us." Gordon said quietly.
"At the moment, I think there is. But I think that all we can do right now is be there for him and, hopefully, when he's ready, he'll come to us." Lucas said assuringly.
"Of course. It's only been a few days. We need to really give it a chance." Gordon said as his smile returned.
"Don't forget to make enough food for Loquicia and Jamiah." Lucas added with a grin.
"The girls really like spending time with Loquicia." Gordon said happily.
"What about Jamiah?" Lucas asked curiously.
"Well, he's no trouble at all. But when Loquicia and the girls are playing, he just kind of fades into the background and you kind of forget that he's there. But the moment Loquicia wants or needs anything, he's right there at her side." Gordon said seriously.
"I guess I haven't spent as much time around them as you have. But now that you've pointed it out, I can see what you're saying." Lucas said thoughtfully.
"Ready to help me make breakfast?" Gordon asked with an irritating amount of cheer.
As Father Doherty opened his eyes, the image of Margaret's face, filled with concern for her children, faded from his mind's eye.
There were so many things that needed to be done, that it was overwhelming, but first and foremost in his mind at that moment was to seek out Margaret and find out how she and her children were doing.
The next thought to cross his mind was of Zane, lying in the hospital. He felt a small sense of reassurance that Zane wasn't alone, wondering if anyone cared about him. But still, there was no doubt that he would find a way to work it into his schedule to visit Zane in the hospital. There were so many people counting on him, literally hundreds, and now that they had arrived in Kettle Falls, he didn't have the slightest clue of what he could do for them.
Of everything that was going on, the only consolation that he could find was that the children he had been taking care of for so long had ended up in a place where they were well cared for.
Witnessing the adoptions of Ty, Oleksandr and Colton the previous night had injected some much needed hope into his weary soul.
A vague, distant memory of warmth, of holding and being held at a time in his life when he was afraid made him smile as he slipped into consciousness.
As the dream faded, the warmth did not.
Jody slowly opened his eyes and realized that he and Nick had cuddled together in their sleep.
Although he had never really thought about Nick in those terms, he had to admit that it was kind of nice.
He had always been aware of Nick having sort of a crush on JD. None of them ever mentioned it, but it was always there, in the background.
"What happened?" Nick asked as he opened his eyes.
"We arrived in Kettle Falls. We're at Allen's house." Jody said gently, not wanting to startle Nick and possibly send him into a panic about sleeping with another boy.
"Yeah. I remember that." Nick said slowly.
"I know that Allen brought us in here and said this would be our room, but since we're still dressed, I think that when we stopped moving for a few minutes we kinda fell asleep." Jody said honestly.
"Is that okay?" Nick asked as Jody could see the anxiety building in his eyes.
"It's fine." Jody said honestly.
"I'm so screwed up." Nick said as his eyes filled with tears.
"Welcome to my world." Jody said with an understanding smile.
Nick considered that for a moment, then quietly said, "I think that If I woke up with anyone but you, I would've freaked."
"Yesterday, you took some really big steps. I think this might be another one. Just be happy about it and I'll help you when you have to face the next one." Jody said gently.
"Thanks, Jody. I just wish there was something I could do for you to make up for all that you're doing for me." Nick said sincerely.
"Someone helped me when I needed it. Now I'm doing that for you. So, just help the next person who needs it and it's all good."
Dax had never really understood the phrase "the weight of the world" before.
Now, he knew exactly what it meant.
His father trusting him to oversee the refugees from the Chicago area and ensure their safety, was a burden far beyond anything he had ever experienced.
On the surface, Jingo and Trav were the type of people that he would avoid having anything to do with. But knowing that his father had sent them made all the difference.
With his father's faith in him and having him only a phone call away gave him a certain amount of assurance. Having Jingo and Trav to help him with all the people gave him some more. But the thing that brought it all together was having Ben and Oleksandr, the one who cared for him and the one for whom he cared. Without them, he wouldn't be able to deal with the rest.
With that thought firmly in mind, Dax felt that the first thing he should do is seek out Ben and Oleksandr. He would be able to face everything else in his day if he started by spending time with his 'family', making that his foundation.
As Carson entered the family dining room, he was relieved to see that the food wasn't on the table yet.
He hated arriving late for breakfast, because he knew that someone had set food aside for him earlier and had to do extra work later just because he couldn't be on time.
"Good morning. How are you doing this morning?" Deb asked as she walked into the room and automatically dropped a kiss on the top of his head.
"Fine." Carson said in an obligatory tone.
Deb stopped and looked at him for a moment, then gently asked, "Are you in pain?"
"No. But I want one of my pills really, REALLY bad, right now." Carson reluctantly admitted.
"Well, it's just about that time, I'll be right back with it." Deb said simply and didn't wait for a response before leaving the room.
Carson was astonished, but also felt a swell of relief that the gnawing need was going to be satisfied any minute now.
"Oh, I'm glad you came in here first. I meant to tell you that we'd be having family meals in here so the Vice President's party could use the formal dining room." Ryan said as he walked into the room and directly to his chair at the head of the table.
"I wasn't sure with all the guests, so I checked in here first." Carson said as he watched the door anxiously, waiting for his mother to return.
"Have you had a chance to look at the body armor at all?" Ryan asked his son curiously.
"No. That swell of people last night pretty much took all my time and attention." Carson said without looking away from the doorway.
"Well, I didn't have a lot of time, either, but I've decided that I'm going to take this weekend to break it down to its component parts, then categorize which parts we can purchase, which ones we can replicate and which ones we'll have to do some improvisation on." Ryan said thoughtfully.
"Um, yeah." Carson said absently, then felt his heart leap with joy when he saw his mother walking into the room with a glass of water.
"Here you go. I'll bring you your next dose when it's time." Deb said as she waited for Carson to take the pill.
"Thanks, Mom." Carson said as he nearly snatched the pill from her hand, then rushed to wash it down with the water.
"If I can get my work done this weekend, then Monday we'll start converting the factory to mass produce as much as we can." Ryan said seriously.
"Really? That seems kind of quick." Carson said as he tried to get his mind to focus on their conversation.
"Well, that's what I'm saying at this point in the planning phase. Reality may have other plans for us." Ryan said frankly.
"Yeah. Okay. I get that. So, you'll buy what you can, you'll make what you can't. But what are you going to do about the 'improvised' parts?" Carson asked curiously.
"Actually, if an answer doesn't immediately present itself, I'll pass it on to Allen so he can delegate it to one of the project teams at the lab and see what they can come up with." Ryan said frankly.
Carson nodded, then said, "Yeah. What's the point of hiring a ton of brilliant people if you don't ask them to use their brains now and then?"
"Exactly. And, as they overcome each obstacle, we'll find a way to mass produce the workaround and add it to the overall body armor." Ryan said seriously.
"That sounds right." Carson nodded.
"Which leaves us with one last, rather large, obstacle." Ryan said gravely.
"The programming?" Carson guessed.
"I looked at the 'trinary' last night. I think that with two or three years of uninterrupted study time and twelve tons or so of coffee, I might be able to learn it, but short of that... I'm a little concerned." Ryan said seriously.
"Let's give Bug a few days to see what he can do with it. In the past few days, I've seen him write entire programs right off the top of his head. I think he's probably going to be able to make sense of it." Carson said frankly, then smiled as he felt a tingle start to run through his body, relieving the screaming need.
"If what I saw him doing yesterday is any indication, then you may very well be right. He really impressed me." Ryan said honestly.
"I think that I could have done everything that Bug did the past two days, except that it would've taken me about, maybe, three weeks and the code would've been about half again as long." Carson said honestly.
"When things settle down, I'd like to take a closer look at his code." Ryan said decisively.
"Yeah. And when this is all over, I think he'd be great at the lab. I mean, we've already got some really good programmers, but it looks like Bug is self taught and just... get's it." Carson said with irritation at not finding a better way to explain to his father.
"I suppose so, but we'll also need to make allowances for his colorful language. That kid's got a foul mouth."
"Is anyone in here ready for breakfast?" A nurse in her mid-to-late fifties asked as she pushed a cart into the room.
"I don't know." Zane said honestly.
"Well, Sweetie, the doctor seems to think that you need to have your breakfast through a straw for a while. But I brought a full breakfast for your moral support." She said with a tender smile at Brother Jacques, then leaned close and whispered, "And I brought you some extra toast, you look like you can use it."
"Thank you." Brother Jacques said with a smile, unable to resist her warm, friendly nature.
"Now, before you start your breakfast..." The nurse said as she turned to Zane. "I've got something very special for you, and it's going to end up being your best friend."
Zane stared at her incredulously as she held up a small pillow.
"This is your 'Bobo', if you feel the urge to cough, or if your moral support, here, starts getting rambunctious and gets you to laughing, you take your Bobo and clutch it to your chest and hold it as tight as you can. Holding Bobo will take a whole lot of the pain away." The nurse said seriously.
Zane cautiously nodded that he understood.
"Should I go somewhere else to eat this? It seems wrong to eat solid food in front of him." Brother Jacques asked hesitantly.
"No. He'll be doing good to finish his juice and gelatin. By the way, Sweetie, would you like some coffee or tea?"
"Coffee, please." Zane said hopefully.
"Would you like some, too?" The nurse asked as she poured a cup for Zane.
"Yeah. Thanks." Brother Jacques said gratefully.
The nurse obviously noticed, but didn't say anything when she saw Brother Jacques' trembling hand.
"You go ahead and start eating while I help your friend with his breakfast, but you keep a close eye on what I'm doing, because next time it may be your turn to help him." The nurse said as she raised the head of Zane's bed.
"I can't believe how nice everyone's being, letting me stay here overnight with Zane and now you're even bringing me food." Brother Jacques said gratefully.
"Honey, I think everyone here either knows what it feels like to be sick in the hospital, or to have someone you care about down sick. We all understand what it's like. You being here makes you feel better, it makes Zane here feel better... Hell, it makes me feel better to see y'all taking care of each other. It's like it should be." The nurse said firmly.
Brother Jacques looked at the nurse's name tag, then said, "Thank you, Tammy. My name is Jacques. Please pass our thanks on to everyone else. If there's any way we can be of help to you, please let us know."
"Jacques? Really?" Tammy asked with delight.
Brother Jacques nodded hesitantly.
"I just always thought that name was so romantic. I always imagined that someday I'd meet a man named Jacques and that he'd kiss my hand and pamper me and say sweet things to me in French, then when that weekend was over, he'd be gone and I'd have that memory to carry with me." Tammy said with a distant gaze.
"Um, well..." Brother Jacques stammered as he tried to think of what to say.
Tammy gave a delighted laugh, then said, "Don't worry, Honey. All I was trying to say is that I love your name."
Brother Jacques gently took her hand to his lips and gave a gentle kiss before saying, "Merci."
Tammy made a show of slightly swooning before getting back to work.
"Go ahead, Sweetie. I'm not going to feed you. But I'm here to help you if you run into trouble. I bet you'll be able to manage that gelatin all by yourself." Tammy said seriously to Zane, then turned to Brother Jacques and said, "You'll need to open anything for him that requires pulling or twisting."
Brother Jacques watched as Tammy opened the cup of fruit juice for Zane.
"When he gets on solids, you'll probably need to cut up his food for him." Tammy added as she watched Zane carefully.
When a little bit of the gelatin missed it's mark, Tammy quickly brought up a napkin to dab it clean, then said, "Spills are going to happen. Accept it. Live with it."
Brother Jacques smiled at the advice.
"You're doing just fine, Zane. In fact, you're doing so well that I think you probably won't need me watching over you, next time. Just remember that if you or Jacques have any problems or questions, you call me right away. I can't make it all better if I don't know about it." Tammy finished with a smile.
"Since you asked, there is one thing that you might be able to do to help me." Zane said cautiously.
Brother Jacques looked on with concern, since he had no idea what Zane might need.
"What might that be?" Tammy asked curiously.
"Would you ask Dr. Murten to come and see me as soon as he gets here? I have something kind of important that I'd like to ask him about." Zane said seriously.
"You never know, it might be something that I can help you with." Tammy said with concern.
"Dr. Murten gave Jacques a pill and his tremors went away. Now they're back." Zane said anxiously.
"I'll let him know that you need to see him, just as soon as he arrives." Tammy assured him.
"Thank you." Zane said in relief.
"I think you guys have got this under control. I'll just be a call button away if you need me for anything." Tammy said as she looked at each man to be sure that they were alright.
"Yes. Thank you again, Tammy." Brother Jacques said sincerely.
"My pleasure, Jacques." Tammy said with a delighted smile before withdrawing from the room.
"You know, you didn't have to do that." Brother Jacques said as he looked deeply into Zane's eyes.
"And you didn't have to do any of what you've done for me the past two days." Zane said frankly.
Brother Jacques finally gave up fighting the urge and leaned in to give Zane a gentle kiss.
"I'm surprised to see that they stocked our refrigerator. I thought that we'd have to go and get breakfast at one of those tents this morning." Father Doherty said absently as he worked on preparing breakfast.
"I'm amazed at how we were welcomed, last night. All we had to do was tell them who we were and they had everything lined up. They even gave us a map to tell us how to get to the house." Artimus said in an impressed voice.
"And this house is amazing. I can't remember the last time I slept in such a comfortable bed." Harry added happily.
"Good morning." Ahmid said as he walked slowly into the kitchen.
"Good morning, Ahmid. How are you feeling this morning?" Father Doherty asked with concern.
"I'm feeling much better. I slept very well." Ahmid said as he took a seat at the large table in the dining room area, across the breakfast bar from the kitchen.
"I'm glad to hear that. I was thinking that, later in the morning, I could go with you to the hospital so that they can look at your wound." Father Doherty said as he kept most of his attention on the potatoes that he was frying.
"I wouldn't mind taking him. I'm sure that you have a million other things that you also need to be doing." Artimus said frankly.
"Honestly, I'm so overwhelmed that I actually don't have a clue about how many things I need to do, or where to start." Father Doherty said with a chuckle.
"I'm so sorry. I can't believe I slept so late." Father Franklin said as he rushed into the kitchen.
"Not to worry. Everything's under control." Father Doherty said pleasantly.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" Father Franklin asked as he looked around.
"Set the table. I'll have breakfast ready in just a minute or two." Father Doherty said warmly.
Father Franklin went immediately to the cupboards and began searching for plates as he said, "In all the confusion, I didn't get to see that Keith and Emmogene got settled in."
"I'm sure that they're fine. But if you like, you can ask any of the volunteers to find out where they are." Father Doherty said as he took his skillet off the stove.
"I tried calling my ex-wife last night and couldn't get through." Greg said anxiously.
"And how will I know if my family makes it here? How will they find me?" Artimus asked anxiously.
"Harry, would you do something for me?" Father Doherty asked as he tried to focus on the pan of scrambled eggs in front of him.
"Of course. What can I do?" Harry asked immediately.
"Get something to write on and make a list of all the friends and family that any of you would like for me to check on. I honestly don't know what I can do for you, but I believe that I know the people who can answer all our questions." Father Doherty said seriously.
"Yes. I should have thought of that. I'm just so worried about them." Greg said quietly.
"We all have people that we're worried about, as do many of the people who arrived with us. Perhaps we could use this understanding to help people deal with their fears and possibly find a way to help them reconnect with their loved ones." Father Doherty said thoughtfully.
"How would we do that?" Jim asked curiously.
Father Doherty stepped back from the stove to peer into the dining room, then chuckled, "Jim, I didn't see you there."
"I blend in." Jim said timidly.
Father Doherty laughed, then said, "To answer your question, if it were just you and me, offering to help, I think I would walk up to any volunteer and just ask them what I can do. But, if all of you are interested in helping people, I think it might be most effective if I asked the people who are coordinating the whole thing, so they could look upon us as an organized group, able to accomplish specific goals."
"Yes. If we approach them as a group, the organizers of all this could probably utilize us most effectively." Father Franklin said thoughtfully.
Father Doherty nodded as he carried a large bowl of scrambled eggs to the table, then thought to ask, "Where is Father Kinsey, this morning? Is he already helping out at the kitchens?"
"Possibly." Father Franklin said hesitantly, then cautiously added, "But I think maybe not. The last time I saw him, he was talking rather seriously with Trav."
Father Doherty stopped, halfway back to the kitchen as he thought about that, finally he walked to the stove as he said, "That's good. I believe Father Kinsey and Trav fit together very well. Each has something the other needs."
A few of the men around the table were obviously fighting not to reveal their dirty thoughts, but to their credit, none of them voiced their thoughts or even laughed aloud.
"Do you want to start on the toast?" Ken asked as he carefully stirred a deep skillet of gravy.
"No, I think I'll go wake Lawrence and ask him if he wants to help us. He always loves it when he can contribute to the meal." Bug said as he washed various pieces of fruit to make a simple fruit salad.
"That sounds good." Kev said with a smile.
A strange chiming started sounding from the dining area.
"Carson must want something. Give me a second." Bug said as he quickly dried his hands.
"If he wants you to make another table, tell him 'after breakfast'." Ken said firmly.
"Got it." Bug agreed with a chuckle.
Both twins watched as Bug opened the laptop and waited for it to recognize him.
"Don't worry. It's just a reminder that I need to tell Lucas and Davis what a good job they're doing. I can do that later." Bug said pleasantly.
"Good morning!" Corina said as she walked into the room, followed by Davis and Cheyenne.
"Good morning, Corina." Ken said with a smile.
"Everyone, this is my husband, Davis." Corina said as she walked to the dining room table, carrying a plate of food.
Ken and Kev both noticed when Bug's gaze fixed on Cheyenne. Although he was obviously trying to look casual, his quick retreat from the dining room very nearly made both of them laugh.
Bug only took a few steps, but his new position behind the kitchen island strategically put a physical barrier between him and the sweet, innocent four year old girl.
"It's nice to meet you, Davis. I'm Ken and this is my brother, Kev. And I'd like to introduce you to our boyfriend, Bug." Ken said warmly.
"So you're Bug. I've heard some amazing things about you." Corina said frankly.
"Yeah. It's nice to meet you." Bug said, trying to mask his nervousness, then he quickly added, "Davis, good job on the warehouse thing. You're making everyone's lives a lot easier."
"Thanks. I'm surprised that you know who I am." Davis said with a smile.
"You're the guy who saved all our butts. Without you, we'd have thousands of people heading this way and no way to feed them." Bug said frankly.
Cheyenne finally worked up enough courage to wander away from her mother's side and started toward the kitchen.
Of course, Bug noticed, and immediately said, "Excuse me. I have to go wake up Lawrence and Roris."
"Is something wrong?" Corina asked curiously.
"No. It's just Bug being Bug." Ken said with a tender smile.
"Well, we've got to go. Davis has to get to work." Corina said, seemingly accepting the explanation.
"Have a good day." Ken said with a smile.
"Bye bye, Cheyenne." Kev said happily to the little girl.
Like the day before, Cheyenne bellowed, "BYE BYE!"
Ken and Kev both chuckled as they watched her leave.
A moment later, Bug's head peeked out of Lawrence's room and he quietly asked, "Are they gone?"
"Yes. Davis had to leave for work." Kev said with a loving smile.
Bug looked around carefully, then cautiously walked out of the bedroom.
"Good morning!" Jeremy said, causing Bug to jump about a foot in the air.
Ken and Kev couldn't restrain their laughter at the reaction.
"Hi. Sorry, you scared the shit out of me." Bug said as he tried to calm himself.
"Sorry about that. We just decided that we've spent enough time in seclusion and decided to see what's going on." Jeremy said as he glanced back at Hank to see how he was doing.
"That could take a minute to tell. Have you two had breakfast yet?" Bug asked as he started walking back toward the kitchen area.
"No, I thought we could grab a bagel or something later." Jeremy said cautiously.
"Come on in. Sit down. There's plenty!" Bug said with a smile.
Jeremy looked at Hank with question and received a shrug in response.
"Thank you, that's very kind of you. Is there anything we can do to help?" Jeremy asked as they walked to the large dining room table.
"Nope. We got it covered. Would you like some coffee? They got really good coffee here." Bug asked as he went back to work on his fruit salad.
"Do you still need for me to do the toast?" Lawrence asked as he walked out of his room.
"Sure. I'll get the bread out for you." Bug said as he quickly dried his hands again.
"Where's Roris?" Ken asked curiously.
"He said he'd be out in a minute. I left the door open, didn't I?" Lawrence suddenly asked as he turned to look.
Everyone looked to see that Lawrence and Roris' bedroom door was propped open.
"He told me, but I forget stuff." Lawrence said with relief as he joined his brother at the toaster.
"There you go, Lor. Just toast all that and we should have enough for everyone." Bug said, then gave his older brother a hug.
"Okay." Lawrence said happily.
Bug went back to the sink, then looked toward the dining room table and said, "Well, let's see. I think you got most of the big big news already. The only really new stuff is that President Asswart tried to say that the election wasn't fair... because he lost. So, because of that, he said that the election didn't count. A whole bunch of political shit went down because of that, you can ask my Oma Shoupe about that when she gets out here. She's into that stuff. But what's important is that after a bunch of shit, the president was impeached, and President Bryce was inaugurated."
"Oh, that's all..." Jeremy said disbelievingly.
"Well, I guess since we've got the Vice President staying in the main house, yeah, it's kind of a big deal." Bug said with a shrug.
"Wait! What?" Hank said in confusion.
"Yeah. You know, Mike Reynolds, gay guy, kinda hunky, has a whole shitload of kids?" Bug asked with a grin.
"I know who he is, I was there when he arrived. I guess everything seemed so surreal, that it didn't register." Hank said irritably, then quietly asked, "You mean he's still here? In this house?"
"Yeah. For all I know, he might be eating breakfast on the other side of that wall, there." Bug said as he pointed at the temporary wall that separated the two dining rooms.
"Bug, do you want me to go get Oma Shoupe?" Lawrence asked as he walked to Bug's side.
"Just tell her that breakfast is almost ready." Bug said absently, then looked to Jeremy and said, "I think that's all the big stuff that happened. But Oma Shoupe can probably tell you what they're talking about on the news right now. She's kind of a news junkie."
"Is there anything I can do to help?" Eric asked gently.
"I don't know. I'd still be in there, helping to coordinate things, but I think I've reached my physical limit." Mike reluctantly admitted.
"Just tell me what I need to focus on, and I'll do my best to hold things together until you wake up." Eric said gently.
"I think Adams has everything in hand. The only thing I can think of is, if you would, please try to find a way to get those Canadian bureaucrats to stop stalling. We've got an amazing plan in place. All the pieces are there and everything is working beyond our expectations. The only thing gumming up the works is people being stalled at the border." Mike said wearily.
"I'll work on it. I promise." Eric said soothingly.
"Make sure they keep it a priority. Everyone seems to want to put it on the back burner and forget about it. They don't understand that if we don't clear that blockage soon, people are going to be stalled at each and every point along the rescue route, and before any of them knows it, we're going to be dealing with hundreds of thousands of starving people." Mike implored him to understand.
"I'll keep it a priority. I promise." Eric said as he tried to soothe his husband to sleep.
"I can't sleep yet." Mike said as he started to sit up.
"You have to trust us. Lay back down. We can handle things." Eric implored him to understand.
"I know. But I need to say good morning to the boys. I refuse to let everything else prevent me from being a part of my children's lives. They need to know that their dad still exists and loves them." Mike said firmly as he stood.
"Okay. I happen to agree with you on that, so let's go."
As they walked into Sammy's room, they immediately noticed that the walls had been removed on either side, to make it one enormous bedroom with six beds.
Just as they expected, all the boys were there. The only thing that seemed unusual was that everyone wasn't gathered around Sammy's bed this morning.
The young man, Danny, was sitting on the edge of Sammy's bed with his younger namesake, apparently telling them a rather involved story about a cabin in the woods.
Randy and Kevin were having their own conversation and appeared to be telling their older friends, Myron and Gerry, what it was like to be famous and have security following them around all the time.
On the other side of the room Apollo, Scotty and Brian were silently watching as Jarritt was making an incredibly intricate paper falcon.
"How is everybody doing this morning?" Mike asked from the doorway.
All the boys turned at the sound, and all but Sammy rushed to him to give him enthusiastic hugs.
"Is anyone hungry?" Mike asked as he gave hugs and kisses all around.
If anyone had been asleep, the resulting roar of affirmation would have been sure to wake them.
The young men around the periphery of the room watched with tender smiles, as the fathers and sons, openly expressed their love for each other.
"How about I take the boys down and come right back with plates for you and Sammy?" Eric asked gently.
"That sounds wonderful." Mike said gratefully.
Danny, the elder, leaned down to whisper to Sammy that he would bring something extra when he came back, in case Eric didn't bring him enough.
Sammy happily agreed.
"Would you guys mind staying with the boys while I take Mike and Sammy their food?" Eric asked as he herded the boys out of the room.
"No problem. We'd love to." Gerry said frankly.
"Yeah. The guys are great." Danny agreed as he approached the door.
Once the last of them were out, Mike turned to Sammy and quietly asked him, "How are you doing?"
"I'm always falling asleep, but besides that, I'm not bad." Sammy said seriously.
"Do you need anything? I mean besides breakfast, that's on the way." Mike asked curiously.
"No. I'm really fine. Danny... I mean, old Danny, he's been telling us all kinds of stories about this cabin in the woods that doesn't have any electric or water or even a real toilet. I guess he's been there a bunch of times. When I'm listening to him, I don't hurt and I'm not bored, just laying here." Sammy said honestly.
"Well, that's good. I hope he has lots of stories to keep you entertained until you're feeling better." Mike said warmly.
"He says that if he runs out, he's got this friend named Ben, who has a whole lot more stories about the cabin." Sammy said happily.
As Eric and his group started walking toward the stairway, he heard someone behind him.
"Pardon, but we only just arrived last evening. Would you happen to know where one would go for breakfast?" A young teenager with a British accent asked cautiously.
"We're going down to breakfast right now, you can join us if you like. My name is Eric."
"I am called Art. My companion is Euan." Art said as he gestured toward another boy of his same age.
The boy, Art, looked somewhat familiar to Eric and it teased at the back of his mind. But as he looked closer at the boy, with obvious signs of a recent fight and dressed in secondhand, possibly thirdhand clothes, he dismissed the thought as extremely unlikely.
"Come on. I'm sure it's probably already on the table." Eric said as he led the way.
"Cooking breakfast for my family, like this, I feel just like Donna Reed." Gordon said happily.
"Seriously?" Lucas said as he gave his partner a withering look.
"Come on, Mr. Grumpy-pants. You don't want our kids to see their daddy being such a sad sack on a beautiful morning like this." Gordon said as his cheerfulness seemed to escalate to a new level.
Lucas stopped all movement and looked at Gordon disbelievingly.
"Okay. Okay. I'm too cheerful, but I can't help it. Watching those Chicago kids get adopted last night just... it was so wonderful! I really want for us to be able to do that for our kids." Gordon finished in an earnest tone.
"You said that the judge last night gave custody of a baby to a priest and a teenage boy, right?" Lucas asked cautiously.
"I think that, technically, she gave the priest guardianship, but that's basically right." Gordon confirmed.
"So this judge sounds like someone who might possibly be willing to allow us to adopt." Lucas said thoughtfully.
"Sure. From what I saw last night, she just wanted to be sure that the kids were getting good homes and being taken care of." Gordon said with a smile of anticipation.
"Then maybe we should talk to her about adopting Misti, Annie and Lazlo." Lucas said simply.
"What about Max and Jay?" Gordon asked with concern.
"Of course, I'd like to adopt them, too... eventually. But we've only had them a few days and it's too soon." Lucas said seriously.
Gordon thought about it for a moment, then quietly said, "It would be wrong for us to adopt only some of the children. I can only imagine how Max and Jay would feel. Forcing them to watch the other foster children being adopted just seems cruel to me."
"Good morning." Jamiah said as he approached from the stairs with Loquicia at his side.
"Good morning, Jamiah. How are you doing this morning?" Gordon asked happily.
"Are Misti and Annie up, yet?" Loquicia asked hopefully.
"I haven't seen them. But since it's almost time for breakfast, why don't you go and find out?" Gordon asked with a smile.
Loquicia didn't need any further prompting. She scurried away to Misti's bedroom door.
"I suppose we should wake Jay and Lazlo. It's almost ready." Gordon said as he returned to his cooking.
"I can do that, if you want." Jamiah said quickly.
"Yes. Thank you, Jamiah. That would be very helpful." Gordon said happily.
"What about them?" Lucas asked once Jamiah was well away.
"What about what?" Gordon asked in confusion.
"While we're adopting... what's two more?" Lucas asked curiously.
Gordon considered for a moment, then said, "I hadn't really thought about it, but they do seem to fit in."
"Let's give it a few days and see how things shake out. Right now we've got three 'for sures' and four 'maybes'." Lucas said seriously.
"I suppose so. It's just, after last night, I feel so ready to take that final step." Gordon said urgently.
"I know. We'll get there." Lucas quietly assured him.
"How are you doing this morning, Jay?" Lucas asked when he saw Jay approaching.
Misti and Loquicia had only popped out of Misti's room long enough to go to Annie's.
"I'm fine. I think I'm going to be really busy today." Jay said frankly as he took a seat at the dining room table.
Lazlo walked to the table and took the seat beside Jay before asking, "Can I still help you today?"
"You don't mind him helping, do you, Jay?" Gordon asked, as he placed glasses of juice on the table.
"No. We can use all the help we can get. I bet Lazlo is going to be able to help a lot of people." Jay said with a smile at his foster brother.
"I just wanted to be sure that having Lazlo around wouldn't be 'cramping your style', you know, with Carson." Gordon said warmly.
Jay chuckled, then said, "No. That's no problem. Carson and I don't do anything that we'd be ashamed of."
"Yeah. I got to watch when Carson was feeling bad and Jay laid on the bed with him. It was nice. I hope that someday I'll find a girl... or maybe a guy, to do that with." Lazlo said honestly.
"Well, there's no rush for that." Gordon said before walking away from the table.
"I guess not. But now that I've seen it, at least I'll know what I'm looking for." Lazlo said cheerfully.
Jay smiled at Lazlo, thinking what a special person he was.
"Can we go down and see Grandma Murten after breakfast?" Misti asked suddenly as she led the trio of girls to the table.
As Lucas approached, he noticed that all the children were seated, although he couldn't remember seeing Jamiah return from Jay's room, much less, take a seat at the table.
"I think that Mrs. Murten might need some time to finish her own breakfast. And if what I saw last night is any indication, she may be busy attending to matters of the court." Gordon said as he carried plates with Eggs Benedict and sides of cantaloupe and fresh berries, to the table.
"We got to hold the baby last night. That was fun." Misti said happily.
"Yeah. Brother Emo said we did a good job holding him." Annie added.
"Did you enjoy that?" Gordon asked curiously as he placed more plates.
"Yeah! And Colton was really cute and warm." Misti said joyfully.
Gordon turned to Lucas and asked, "Do you think they might be needing any help down at the school with the babies?"
"They might. I'll be sure to check when I start work today." Lucas said as he took his place.
As they walked down the stairs, lagging behind the group a little, Euan quietly asked, "Is this really what we should be doing?"
"Eating breakfast?" Art asked, acting like he didn't know what Euan was really asking.
"Staying here, in this house, with these people... basically hiding out." Euan said seriously.
"I believe that this is a worthy undertaking. I fully realize that things cannot continue this way indefinitely. But I believe that at this point in time we are where we need to be, doing what we need to do." Art said decisively.
"Okay. I just thought it was important to ask." Euan said as they walked through the living room and toward the dining room.
"Is everybody up?" Allen asked cheerfully as he busily worked in the kitchen.
"Yeah. Whatever you're making smells good." Nick said appreciatively.
"Just some old fashioned waffles. And a little bacon and eggs to go with it." Allen said happily.
"Wow. I never smelled bacon that smelled that good before." Nick said honestly.
"It's local." Allen said simply.
"Is it okay that JD is using his laptop at the table? Some people don't like it when you do that." Jody asked from Nick's side in the doorway.
"That's no problem, as long as he puts it away when he's eating." Allen said casually, then thought to ask, "Is he a programmer?"
"No. He's a writer. He woke up early this morning with a new idea for a book and he's been working on it ever since." Jody said seriously.
"A writer? I remember doing some writing when I was his age... Although, mine wasn't very good. I suppose that's why I went into programming." Allen said with a smile, then asked, "Would you mind carrying this into the dining room for me?"
"Sure. We'd love to help." Nick said immediately.
Allen handed each of them a platter, then followed carrying one of his own.
"I'm sorry. I'll put this away." JD said when he saw that the food was being carried in.
"No need to apologise. Even as a programmer, I sometimes get a sudden inspiration that I need to explore before I lose it." Allen said pleasantly as he placed a platter of waffles on the table, then took the platter of eggs and bacon from Jody and Nick and presented them to his hungry guests.
"Good morning, Walt. Will you join us for breakfast?" Ben asked when he saw Walt exiting his room.
"You don't need to bother. I can fix something for myself." Walt said slowly.
"Come on, I've got everything set up and already hot. Just take a seat at the table and I'll have it ready in a minute." Ben said with a smile.
"Well, if it's not any trouble." Walt said hesitantly.
"No trouble at all. Olex, do you want to get Walt some coffee?" Ben asked as he started breaking eggs into a skillet.
"Do you like stuff in your coffee?" Oleksandr asked as he got up from the table.
"Stuff? No. But thank you. Black is fine." Walt said with an involuntary smile.
"Ben adopted me last night. He's my daddy now." Oleksandr said proudly as he carefully poured the coffee from the carafe.
"Really? I hadn't heard about that." Walt said, sounding to be interested.
"Yeah. When Mrs. Murten... I guess I should call her Judge Murten, now. When she found out that Olex didn't have a family, she asked her daughter, Deb, who happens to be a lawyer, to draw up the papers to make me Oleksandr's legal guardian. She said that after ninety days, that we can go back and make it an official adoption." Ben said happily as he walked to the table and put a plate in front of Walt.
"I can't believe that I missed it. I really wish I would have been there." Dax said frankly.
"It happened so fast, that if I had called you just as soon as she asked me, it would have been over before you would have gotten here." Ben said honestly, then added, "But you're going to be there for the official adoption. There's no way we're doing it without you."
"Thanks." Dax said quietly, then when Ben placed a plate of food in front of him, he quickly said, "Thanks." again.
"Dax, I was meaning to ask, how did things go after we left last night. Did you have any problems?"
"No. Everything worked great. I can't believe that program. It's like I can see the communities developing out of almost nothing."
"I'll be sure to tell Bug and Carson that it's working." Ben said as he put his and Oleksandr's plates on the table, then took his seat.
Well, I am surprised in some ways, that is, we actually got a chapter that pretty much picked up where the last chapter ended. I think that is a first for this story.
Don't get me wrong, it was a nice idea. Although, we did manage to skip around quite a bit, anyway. Did Brother Jaques forget to take his medication? is that why he started having his tremors again?
I'm glad to see Sam Sam starting to feel better. I can hardly wait to hear Ben and or big Danny tell some of the cabin stories. grin.
It's nice to see Nick getting himself a bit more together.
I hope someone can help Allen move forward and bring himself into the present. Living in the past is not a healthy way to live.
I definitely think some more adoptions are in order, and the sooner the better, I would say.
As always, I am all ready for the next installment. Thanks, MM for another wonderful chapter.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher