We went out to the parking lot and Ken stopped my wheelchair when we saw the limousine.
It wasn't just a limousine, it was a stretched limo.
"We're going to ride in that?" Ken asked with surprise from behind me.
"That's the plan." Billy said cheerfully, as he passed us, then continued, "You'd better hurry. Their flight will arrive soon and I wouldn't want the guys to have to wait for us."
"This is gonna be great." Ken said, and I could tell by the sound of his voice, that he was probably bouncing with anticipation.
Even with all the exciting and new experiences of the past few days, getting to ride in a limo was its own special thrill.
"Please, sir. Allow me to help you." The driver said as he approached us.
"If you'll pop the trunk, I think we can get the rest." Billy said frankly.
"As you like." The driver said, then walked back to the front of the car.
You know how I've been telling you about how people react to me when they see me in my wheelchair. Usually they either stare at me, or try too hard not to look at me.
Well, the limo driver didn't do either. He was completely professional and I have no doubt that the expression on his face was exactly the same as it would have been if I'd walked up to the car on my own two feet.
"Ready?" Ken asked me, and I noticed that he seemed to have a devilish grin.
"Yeah." I said as I waited for him to lean down.
As expected, instead of leaning down to help me, he swooped in to give me a kiss.
Since I had some sense of what he was about to do, I began to kiss him with all the love and passion that I felt for him.
"Guys? Do you think that maybe you could wait until we're on the road to do that?" Billy asked cautiously.
Ken reluctantly pulled back enough to say, "Yeah. We can do that."
"Do I need to get a bucket of cold water for you two?" Billy asked, obviously trying to restrain a smile.
"Sorry." Ken said shyly, then leaned down to honestly try to help me into the car.
I put my arms around his neck and nuzzled his neck a little as he lifted me.
"That's nice." Ken whispered as he finally sat me down in the seat.
"Get in, Ken. I've got the chair." Billy said from just outside the door.
"Come here." I said and opened my arms to him.
Even though the back of the stretched limo looked big enough for an entire soccer team, having Ken snuggled up against me seemed to be absolutely perfect.
As soon as the car had started moving, Billy turned to us and asked, "So how are you guys doing?"
I smiled at the question.
I was riding in the back of a limousine, I had Ken snuggled tight against me, and... what more could I want?
"Perfect." I said as I squeezed Ken to emphasize the point.
Billy smiled at my answer, then said, "I just thought that since we're going to have a few minutes alone, it might be a good time to talk if you have anything that's bothering you."
"I can't think of anything." I said honestly, then looked at Ken with question.
"Well, this doesn't have anything to do with anything, but there was something that I was sort of wondering." Ken said reluctantly.
"Go ahead, Ken. You can ask me anything." Billy said with assurance.
"I was just wondering about your body... I mean, I've seen pictures of you... and I was just wondering if you work out or eat special foods, or what?" Ken asked hesitantly.
Billy seemed surprised by the question, but recovered quickly and answered, "Actually, I don't do anything special. I guess I've got good genes or something."
"Oh." Ken said, sounding to be disappointed by the answer.
"Are you worried about something?" Billy asked cautiously.
"No. I just... I like the way you look and I thought that if I knew what you did, maybe I could do that too so that someday I could have a body like yours." Ken said awkwardly.
"Then I'm glad I answered you the way I did." Billy said seriously.
"Why?" Ken asked cautiously.
"Because you don't need to try to have a body like mine. You need to have a body like yours." Billy said frankly. "Trying to sculpt yourself into something that you're not can only cause problems in the long run."
Ken slowly nodded as Billy continued, "Be happy. Be healthy. Be the best you that you can be and don't compare your body with anyone else because you can never be them and they can never be you."
"I think you're sexy just the way you are." I said to Ken in a whisper.
"But I thought you loved me for my mind." Ken said to me with a cheeky grin.
"Yeah. Of course it's the you inside that I love." I said seriously, then broke into a grin as I continued, "But I don't fantasize about throwing your mind down on my bed and making slow, passionate love to it."
"Guys, I'm still here." Billy said with a little wave at us.
"Hey. It's because of you that the subject came up." I said with a grin. "Deal with it."
Billy looked surprised, but not at all offended.
"That's not all that came up." Ken whispered into my ear.
"Do you think Billy would mind too much if I took care of that?" I whispered in reply.
"Whatever you just said to Ken just made him blush beet red." Billy said with a chuckle.
"Yeah. He's cute when he does that." I said, then moved in to nuzzle Ken's neck.
Ken seemed to be a little bit tense and resistant, so I pulled back to look and see if maybe I had gone too far and embarrassed him too much.
As soon as my eyes met his, he broke into the most devilish, evil grin that I've ever seen on him and said, "I will if you will."
Billy broke into laughter as I could feel the flaming, prickling burn of a MAJOR blush flood my face.
"You know, Ken, I thought that maybe you and Rory might have problems because he's a little older. But it looks like you can handle yourself just fine." Billy said with delight.
"I'd rather handle Rory." Ken said with a shy smile.
"Promises, promises." I said as I finally felt my blush starting to subside.
"Billy, I need to prove something to Rory right now. You might want to look out the window or something for a minute." Ken said as he got out of his seat.
"What are you going to do?" I asked as my heart seemed to skip a beat.
"Something that I wouldn't have been able to do before I met Kevin." Ken said as he knelt in front of me and put his hands on my knees.
I looked at Billy with panic, not knowing what he was going to say or do.
"It looks like he's calling your bluff." Billy said with a grin at me.
"Aren't you supposed to be looking away?" I said nervously as Ken spread my knees apart.
"Nah. I don't think Ken will go as far if he knows I'm watching." Billy said frankly.
"Wanna bet?" Ken said with a look that sent a tingle through my entire body.
I glanced at Billy and noticed that he was as surprised as I was at Ken's new found assertiveness.
"I said something about handling you. Wasn't that it?" Ken asked as he moved up my body and seemed to be climbing on top of me.
I'm sure there was probably something clever I should have said right then, but I'm pretty sure that every spare blood cell in my body had evacuated my brain at that moment and was moving for parts more Southern.
"I..." I began to say, but to tell you the truth, I have no idea what the next word was supposed to be.
I felt his hand work its way into my pants at the same moment his lips met mine.
His kiss was... amazing.
Ken may be a sweet, gentle guy. But there's definitely another side to him.
If he's right and Kevin is somehow responsible for Ken acting this way, then all I've got to say is 'God bless you, Kevin. I hope everything good and wonderful in the universe comes to you'.
Ken began stroking me as he finally pulled out of the kiss.
"Billy's watching." I whispered, feeling a fluttering tremble through my body as my breath became shallow.
"Yeah? So?" Ken said before moving in for another, even more forceful kiss.
"Ken, I think you proved your point." Billy said seriously.
Slowly, Ken pulled out of the kiss and looked me in the eyes.
"Kevin taught me what it means to have strength." Ken said, then as he released my engorged shaft he continued, "But my dad taught me to say what I mean and to mean what I say."
"Ken? We're almost at the airport." Billy said in warning.
"I love you, Rory." Ken said firmly as he looked me in the eyes.
"I love you too, Ken." I said with amazement and new found respect.
"I believe you." Ken said with a grin, then moved back to his own seat.
As Ken got settled, I felt my heart still racing about a mile a minute.
"Rory, you might want to do something about that." Billy said with a glance at my pants.
I followed his gaze and saw that I was pitching a tent like I'd never done before.
"If you would've let me finish, he wouldn't have to worry about it." Ken said frankly.
"I think I let you go a little too far as it is, Ken. That stuff should be kept between the two of you." Billy said seriously.
"Yeah. Thanks for being cool about it, Billy. I really didn't mean for that to happen." Ken said with a shy smile.
"I know you didn't. And I bet it's going to be a while before Rory challenges you like that again." Billy said with a chuckle.
There was no way to be discreet about it, so I put my hand down my pants and tried to shift my erection around to make it a little less obvious.
Ken was watching me with an obvious leer.
The ringing of a phone drew our attention.
Billy looked around and finally found the phone secured beside the door.
"Yes?" Billy asked cautiously.
After a moment of consideration, Billy smiled and said, "Yes. I think that would be very helpful. Thank you."
I glanced at Ken to find him looking back at me with question.
I shrugged, then turned back to Billy as he said, "Yes. Thank you again."
As Billy hung up the phone, Ken and I looked at him with question.
"The driver said that he would let us know when Pete and Jono's flight arrives so we won't have to stand around in the airport and wait." Billy said with a happy smile.
"I think I could get used to this VIP treatment." I said with a chuckle in my voice.
"I'd rather not." Billy said seriously.
At my curious look, he continued, "Limousines and the VIP treatment are really nice on special occasions like this, but if you do it often enough to get used to it, it stops being special. I hope the day never comes when I can't appreciate something like this."
Billy obviously has enough money that he could live a lot more extravagantly than he does. I really have to respect him for staying grounded and not losing himself.
"How are things going for your trip to Vulcan? Do you have everything taken care of?" Billy asked in an obvious attempt to change the subject.
It took me a moment to gather my thoughts, but I finally answered, "Things are going okay, I guess. My parents are really taking care of pretty much everything. I'm just going where I'm supposed to go and doing what I'm supposed to do. I trust them."
"That's good, Rory." Billy said with a chuckle, "I don't know if I could trust anyone enough to do that for me."
"Even my Pop?" Ken asked curiously.
Billy considered for a moment, then said, "If there was anyone that I'd trust, it would be Allen."
"Me too." Ken said shyly.
"Yeah. Allen's great." I said as I reached beside me to put my arm around Ken.
"Last week I couldn't have imagined being here, doing this." Billy said distantly. "My life was all about... you know, I can't even remember what was so important that I worked all the time."
"I'm glad you found Allen then." I said honestly. "I'd hate to think of you running around, working for the sake of working. It sounds like such an empty life."
Billy gave an ironic chuckle, then said, "I suppose it was. I just couldn't see that while I was in the middle of it."
"Well, don't beat yourself up about it, Billy. While you were running around in little circles keeping busy, I was wallowing in self pity, just thinking about 'poor little me'." I said frankly.
"Rory, you had every right to feel what you were feeling. You don't need to feel one bit guilty for the way you dealt with your situation." Billy said as he met my gaze.
"You snapped out of it when you were ready." Ken said gently.
"Thanks to you and your family." I said honestly.
Ken leaned in to give me a wonderful, gentle, tender kiss.
"What about you, Ken? Any regrets?" Billy asked curiously.
Ken finished the kiss, then looked at Billy and said, "Not really. I guess I could have handled it better when my dad died, but... I don't know."
"From the way Allen talks about it, you did just fine. In fact, he said that seeing how well you were dealing with it helped him through it." Billy said gently.
"I just wish you could have known my dad, Billy. He was such a great person. I know you would have been good friends." Ken said quietly.
"Well, seeing how much you and Allen loved him tells me that he was someone very special. So I'm sure that you're right." Billy said with a tender smile at Ken.
"I'm glad you and Pop found each other. I know it's what Dad would have wanted to happen." Ken said honestly.
"Thank you..." Billy said with astonishment.
The phone rang again before we could get any deeper into that conversation.
Just as well.
"Yes. Thank you." Billy said with a grand smile before hanging up the phone.
Ken and I shared an amused grin at Billy's expression of boyish delight.
"Do you guys want to come with me or stay here?" Billy asked casually.
"I think it's better if we stay. I'd rather not have to deal with the wheelchair when we'd only be going in for a few minutes." I said frankly.
"I could carry you..." Billy said thoughtfully, then broke into a grin as he asked, "Do you like piggy back rides?"
I chuckled at his expression and said, "Yeah. Actually, I do. But I think I'd rather stay here. Ken and I could use a few minutes alone."
Billy's eyes went wide with an 'oh' expression, then he seemed to drift into thought.
"Don't worry about us, Billy. We'll behave." Ken said seriously.
"Fair enough." Billy said with a touch of a wistful smile, then continued, "Just keep in mind that I'll be bringing the guys back in a few minutes."
"Yeah. Okay." I said, then broke into a grin as I asked, "Besides, how much could we possibly do in a few minutes?"
Billy shook his head as he got out of the car, not even dignifying my question with an answer.
As soon as Billy was away from the car, I turned to look at Ken and found him looking back at me with a worried expression.
"What's wrong?" I asked immediately.
It seems that when Ken has something on his mind, he needs for me to ask him about it before he'll tell me. I don't know if that's better or worse than how it would be if he just automatically spoke to me about whatever was on his mind.
"What are we going to do when you have to leave?" Ken asked quietly, then added in a whisper, "Will we still be boyfriends?"
"More than boyfriends." I said immediately.
It's not like the thought hadn't occurred to me. But deep inside myself I knew that no matter what happened, we'd find a way to make it work.
"Ken, there's something you need to understand." I said as I looked deeply into his chocolaty brown eyes. "I'm going to go through these treatments for us more than for me."
A curious look was the only indication that Ken heard my words.
"If it ever looks like I'm going to lose you because we're apart, I'll stop having the treatments and move back to Earth." I said honestly. "I love you that much."
"Don't do that." Ken whispered. "I wouldn't ever ask you to do that for me."
"I know, Ken. But you need to understand that 'we' come first. If we lose us, then whatever's left won't matter. What good will it be if I can walk again if I lose the love of my life?"
"I think I see what you're saying. I guess I was still thinking about 'you' and 'me'. But I agree with you. It's 'us' that's most important." Ken said thoughtfully, then confidently added, "And you getting better will be the best thing for 'us'."
"I think so too." I said honestly. "But it's going to be hard."
Ken chuckled, then sheepishly said, "Yeah, constantly hard."
"So hard it hurts." I said with a weary chuckle.
"I love you." Ken said as he shifted from my side and started to climb on top of me.
"Remember that Billy will be back in just a minute."
Ken grinned, then whispered, "Yeah. Like he doesn't already know what he's going to find when he gets back."
"Right." I gasped just before Ken's mouth claimed mine in a desperate kiss.
The car door opening somewhat registered in the back of my mind through the lustful haze that I found myself in.
For being so young, Ken was surprisingly good at kissing. And whatever he might be lacking in experience, he more than made up for with enthusiasm.
Also, the fact that he was laying on top of me, grinding his pelvis into mine, didn't detract from the kiss one little bit.
"Guys!" Billy barked, and from the tone of his voice, I would guess it wasn't the first time that he had tried to gain our attention.
"Yeah?" I muttered against Ken's mouth.
"Would you two stop humping long enough to meet my friends?" Billy asked in an exasperated tone.
"Yeah." I said in a sigh.
"But you'd better be quick." Ken said with a barely restrained chuckle as he slowly pulled away from me.
The look of regret in his eyes forced me to lean forward and give him another kiss.
I couldn't help it.
"Ready or not, here they come." Billy said in a voice of resignation.
Ken scrambled to get off me and move to my side.
The tent in my pants was pretty obvious and I worked quickly to adjust myself so it wasn't quite so bad.
A sandy haired guy poked his head in the door and looked around curiously.
"This is Pete." Billy said from behind him.
"I'm Rory and this is Ken. It's nice to meet you." I said quickly.
"Um. Yeah." Pete said uncertainly, more to my not so well hidden boner than to me.
As Pete continued into the car, Billy said, "And this is Jono."
A skinny guy with long brown hair climbed into the car and looked around excitedly.
"I'm Rory and this is Ken. It's nice to meet you." I said more quietly than before.
Jono paused as he looked at me and Ken curiously for a moment, then continued on into the car and took a seat beside Pete.
Billy got into the car and glanced at us anxiously, apparently looking to see if we were presentable, before also taking his seat.
The driver closed the door of the limo, and that seemed to be the signal for Jono to speak.
"This is so fucking awesome and a fucking STRETCHED LIMOUSINE and that fucking PLANE and i don't know who they thought we were but it was so fucking INCREDIBLE and they treated us like we were like fucking ROYALTY or something and that waitress on the plane was being REALLY nice to us and getting us stuff and treating us like we were her friends and now we get here and there's a fucking STRETCHED LIMOUSINE with a fucking DRIVER waiting for us and this is so fucking AWESOME!"
"Jono is pleased to meet you too." Billy said to me and Ken with a grin.
Jono blinked at the statement, then looked at Ken and I and muttered, "Yeah."
"So Pete, did you enjoy your flight?" Billy asked with a smile at his friend.
Pete seemed to consider the question carefully before he answered, "Yeah. It was good."
"So where are we going now are we going to go to a hotel or to your house or what because no matter where we're going it can't be half as incredibly fucking awesome as it was getting here and that flight was so fucking incredible and they treated us so great i can't believe that there's people who actually get to do stuff like this all the fucking time it's like a dream and i just never ever even dreamed about being treated so nice or doing so much fucking awesome stuff."
"Jono enjoyed it too." Pete said as he looked askance at his traveling companion.
"Really? It doesn't show." Billy said as he tried to restrain his chuckles.
"Where's Deke? I thought he'd come to meet us at the airport." Pete asked seriously.
"I was doing a job right before I came to pick you up so I went directly from there to the airport. Deke is going to meet us at the house." Billy said peacefully.
"How's Deacon doing i mean Petey said he was a real fucking mess before he left on the bus and then we couldn't get in touch with you to let you know that he was coming and we got all fucking worried about it and shit and Petey even talked about trying to scrape together enough money to go down to Orlando to try and find Deacon because he didn't want him to be here alone and not have you or anyone to take care of him."
"Billy wasn't home when Deacon got into town, but he stayed over at our house until Billy got back, so he was safe." Ken said carefully.
"Who the hell are you?" Pete asked cautiously.
"This is Kenny Thompson. Him and his family live across the street from me." Billy said with a smile at his friend, then shyly added, "And I'm dating his father."
Pete and Jono both looked at Billy with surprise.
Finally Pete said, "Wait! Wait. You mean that after years, and I *do* mean *years*, of you telling me and Jono that you're not interested, you end up doin a dude?"
"I wasn't interested in screwing around." Billy said frankly, "I wanted to find someone to love."
"But I thought you loved us." Jono said quietly.
I was surprised to hear that Jono could actually speak in a normal tone of voice when he had calmed down. And he didn't even say the 'F' word.
"I do, Jono, and I always will." Billy said with a tender look at Jono, then looked at Pete and continued, "But I'm finally 'in love'. I found the guy that I want to be with for the rest of my life."
"Well, so have I." Pete said as if it were a given fact. "But just because I love Jono doesn't mean that we can't love other people too. We might still find a couple of nice girls and decide to get married."
"Maybe we shouldn't be talkin about this shit in front of the k-i-d-s." Jono said cautiously.
"I think they can handle it, Jono." Billy said with a chuckle. "They're a couple."
Pete and Jono looked at us with identical expressions of shock.
"Really?" Pete asked in surprise. "When I was their age, I thought a dick was only for peeing."
"I guess kids grow up faster these days." Billy said with a chuckle, then seriously asked, "So Pete, how are your folks and Frankie?"
"The 'rents are same as always. They made me promise that I'd tell 'em how you're doing." Pete said in a slightly grudging tone, then added even more irritably, "I think they like you better than me."
Billy chuckled at the statement, then asked, "And how about Frankie?"
"He's got a girlfriend." Jono said quickly.
"Really?" Billy asked with surprise. "What kind of a girl would be willing to put up with Frankie?"
"Do you remember Chubby Carol from homeroom?" Pete asked seriously.
"Yeah." Billy said hesitantly.
"Her little sister." Pete said in a tone of voice that indicated that he barely believed it himself.
Billy seemed to be lost in thought for a moment, then suddenly looked up and said, "You can't mean Clawhammer!"
Ken and I exchanged an incredulous look at the name, then turned simultaneously to watch the exchange.
"Yep." Pete said in a resigned tone.
Billy stared for a moment, then shook his head and said, "I never thought there'd be a day when I felt sorry for Frankie."
"She's got 'im by the balls, that's for sure." Pete said simply.
The phone ringing drew our attention and Billy immediately answered it.
"You can put them outside the side door. The house is being remodeled, so I don't know if we can bring anything inside yet." Billy said seriously.
"Yes. Thank you." Billy said a moment later, then hung up the phone.
As Billy gestured toward the passenger side of the car, he said, "We're here."
"Fuck! Come on, guys!" Jono said as he bounded out of the limousine as soon as the door opened.
Jono is probably the only person I've ever seen who is more hyper than the Zombie Hyper-Mom.
Billy and Pete got out of the car next, but Jono was just outside the door impatiently waiting on us.
"Go on. We'll be there in a minute." I said with a chuckle.
"Come on! Get your asses out of the car already!" Jono said from just outside the door and was bouncing like a little kid who was about to wet his pants.
I was about to try to explain why we weren't getting out when I saw him look away and his eyes went wide.
A second later I saw the limo driver move my wheelchair beside the door.
"You need to scoot a little." Ken said quietly as he leaned down over me.
I put my arms around his neck and held on as he helped me scoot over so I was closer to the door.
I let go of Ken so he could get out of the car, but just a few seconds later he was standing over me and helping me out of the car and into my wheelchair.
"I'm... I'm sorry." Jono gasped in a mortified whisper from a few feet away.
"For what?" I asked, even though I was pretty sure I knew.
"I... I said stupid stuff..." Jono sputtered.
"You didn't know." I said simply. "Don't worry about it."
I really don't know if Jono heard my words as he continued to stare at me.
We walked as a group up to the front of the house.
I was about to suggest to Billy that Ken and I go to the side door so we wouldn't have to deal with the steps.
But before I could say anything, Billy said, "Come on, Petey, give me a hand."
Pete and Billy lifted me and my wheelchair up the three steps like I was light as a feather.
As Billy walked up to the door, it opened suddenly and a small, slender man stepped out quickly.
"Are you Billy?" the man asked cautiously.
"Yes. Are you Damon?" Billy asked in return.
"That's me!" The man said happily, then quickly added, "I was expecting Allen."
"He should be here any minute. Is the house ready?" Billy asked hopefully.
"Yeah. It was close, but I was just checking it over and I think everything's done." Damon said with accomplishment, then stood away from the door and made a sweeping gesture, inviting us inside.
The climbing wall with a sand pit at the bottom just inside the door was the first thing that caught my attention.
It seemed so freaky and out of place that I couldn't help but stare at it.
When I finally got over the shock of that, I noticed a staircase, then past it... a fire pole. I mean, a real brass fire pole right there in the living room.
"I... It's..." Billy stammered from beside us.
I turned to look at him, then noticed a HUGE plasma TV nearly filling one wall.
I looked at the walls and had to blink to be sure that I was seeing right.
There were framed posters of women in nearly non-existent bikinis on every wall of the room. Each woman had a tiny waist and enormous breasts.
"Allen said 'masculine'... You straight guys like these things, right?" Damon asked uncertainly as he pointed at one of the posters.
Pete was staring with wide eyes as he slowly nodded.
"If you don't want to use the stairs, you have the climbing wall to go up and the fire pole to come down." Damon said in a more relaxed voice, sounding like one of his major worries had been laid to rest.
"Come on, let me show you around." Damon said cheerfully, then led us across the living room, past a pair of huge, overstuffed recliners.
When we arrived at what had probably once been a dining room, I saw that it had a foosball table and an air hockey table in the middle of the room and free standing arcade games lining one wall.
I looked down at something curious, then realized that instead of carpet, the entire room had artificial grass... Astroturf.
"The kitchen is pretty much unchanged." Damon said with a dismissive wave at a doorway at the side of the room.
"If you guys want to follow me, I'll show you the upstairs." Damon said with excitement. "We really got creative up there."
I noticed a distant, disturbed look in Ken's eyes and quickly said to Billy, "We'll stay down here."
"Are you sure? I wouldn't mind carrying you." Billy asked carefully.
"I'm sure." I said with a smile at his consideration. "Go on."
As soon as we were alone, Ken quietly said, "It doesn't even look like our house."
"Are you okay Ken?" I asked as I leaned over to put an arm around his waist.
"Yeah. It's just weird. I grew up in this house and now, it's like it's all gone." Ken said distantly.
"It's okay to be sad. But I think Pete and Jono need a place that they can call home and you've got another home now." I said gently.
"Yeah. It just feels like I lost something." Ken said, then leaned down to give me a hug.
"Maybe you did. But you couldn't ever go back to the way things were anyway." I said softly. "Now that you've moved on, Pete and Jono can live here and make a bunch of new memories in this place."
"I guess so." Ken whispered into my ear as he held me tightly.
As I was about to give Ken a kiss, I heard a noise and turned in time to see Jono slide down the fire pole.
"It's so fucking awesome up there i can't believe that the bathroom is like a locker room and it has urinals and lockers and a jacuzzi and a sauna and the bedrooms are so fucking incredible with all kinds of awesome pictures and great big huge beds big enough for four people to sleep in and my bedroom even has a trapeze and Petey's room has two whole walls that are all like glass and shit and looks out over the lake."
Before Ken or I could say a word or react in any way, Jono was running off down the hallway to explore the other rooms.
Billy walked down the stairs with Damon following a step behind.
"How is it?" I asked cautiously, not knowing how to interpret Billy's expression.
"The decorating is... different." Billy said in a puzzled voice.
"How different?" I asked curiously.
"There's an electric train that runs through all the rooms up there." Billy said slowly.
"But do you like it?" Damon asked cautiously.
"Those posters..." Billy said in a diminishing voice.
"You DID say masculine, right?" Damon asked seriously.
"Well, yeah. But I never expected..." Billy said with a dazed expression.
"It's perfect!" Pete said with cheer as he bounded down the stairs.
"Really?" Billy asked incredulously as he stared at Pete.
"Oh yeah! I love this place. It's like... I couldn't even dream of someplace as cool as this!" Pete said with absolute glee.
From the few minutes that I had spent in Pete's company, I got the feeling that 'happy' wasn't something he did often or at all well.
"Well then, I'm glad you like it. Because this is your house. Welcome home." Billy said with a smile.
"Thanks Billy. I would have been happy just crashing on your couch. This is incredible." Pete said with excitement.
Damon smiled then picked up the remote control from between the recliners and said, "This remote controls the television, cable, DVD, home theater, stereo, lights and even the door locks. Don't lose it."
Pete snatched the remote out of Damon's hand and began exploring all the wonders that it held.
Damon smiled at his excitement and said, "The cupboards are stocked with microwave popcorn, pork rinds, pretzels and peanuts."
"Thanks for all your hard work, Damon. You did an excellent job. The guys love it." Billy said with a smile at Pete's happiness.
"Hey, there's a room back here that's like a real bar. It's got a pool table and dart boards." Jono said as he dashed into the living room.
"From the way Allen described them, I didn't think they would need a 'study'." Damon said to Billy with a shrug.
Billy watched with a smile as Jono guided Pete to go with him to explore the 'bar'.
"It looks like you're right." Billy said with a contented smile.
A moment later, we all smiled when we heard Jono's excited voice call out, "AWESOME!"
"That must be Allen." Billy said as he went to answer the knock at the front door.
"I'm sorry I'm late." Allen said in a rush as he walked in, leading Deacon and Lawrence.
"Whoa!" Deacon said as he looked around.
"What the hell?" Allen gasped.
"Hey Cupcake. What do you think?" Damon said with a grand smile of accomplishment.
Allen blinked with surprise, then looked around the room again, apparently verifying that his eyes weren't playing tricks on him.
"The guys love it." Billy said carefully.
Allen turned his attention to Billy then seemed to break out of his shock as he smiled and whispered, "Good."
"Damon, have you met Billy Pierce?" Allen said quickly.
"Not formally, although I feel as if I already know him from his modeling." Damon said with a leer.
"Well, Damon. This is Billy. *My* boyfriend." Allen said firmly, not leaving any room for doubt or misunderstanding of what he meant.
Damon seemed to be unfazed by the comment as he continued, "You owe me big time for this job, Allen. I may be losing one of my best designers, thanks to you."
"What did I do?" Allen asked with concern, temporarily diverted from his protectiveness.
"You asked me to do a very big job in a very short time. Marty is being a little prima donna and has decided that being rushed is disruptive to his creative process." Damon said cattily, then absently added, "Prissy bitch."
"I'm sorry, Damon. I thought that if it was going to be a problem, you would have told me." Allen said honestly.
"I would have." Damon said frankly. "Marty needs to realize that being artsy and creative is wonderful, but at the end of the day, this is a business and our job is to serve our clients. Don't worry about it, Cupcake, he'll probably get over it just as soon as the check clears."
"Well, you've done an amazing job here." Billy said with a smile as he put an arm around Allen to hold him gently.
"Then it was all worth it." Damon said happily.
"It really *is* amazing, Damon. It hardly looks anything like the house I used to live in." Allen said frankly.
"You're good for my ego, Cupcake." Damon said with a chuckle.
"Well, now that I'm over the initial shock, I think I'd like to have another look around. Do you want to join me?" Billy asked gently.
"I'd like to talk to Kenny for a minute. I'll catch up." Allen said, then looked at Ken and me with concern.
"See ya in a few." Billy said, then leaned in to give Allen a quick peck of a kiss on the cheek.
"How are you doing, Cute Stuff?" Allen asked gently.
"I'm better than I was." Ken said slowly.
Allen pulled Ken into a firm hug as he quietly said, "Change is difficult for all of us, but I know that this was the right thing to do."
"I know." Ken said slowly, then with a slight smile he added, "If someone else had to live in our house, I'm glad it's going to be someone who will enjoy it."
"What do you guys think about going on the grand tour with us, then I'll take you home?" Allen asked gently.
"Yeah." Ken said as he renewed his hug with Allen.
I nodded my agreement to the plan, and enjoyed watching Ken being held so gently and lovingly by his Pop.
"Come on, Rory. Piggyback." Allen said with a grin, then squatted down in front of me.
I guess if he had asked, I probably would have said that I'd be happy to stay downstairs. But somehow he made it seem like I was doing him a favor and letting him have fun by allowing him to give me a piggy back ride.
However he did it, I eagerly leaned forward and put my arms around his neck and held on tightly so he could lift me out of the wheelchair.
He hoisted me up a little bit, then stood.
Ken was watching me with a delighted smile, and I was glad to see that his dark mood about losing his childhood home wasn't going to linger.
"There's this machine down in the bar that's called a love tester and it said that I'm a stud!" Jono said as he rushed into the bedroom that we were exploring.
"I'm sorry... I thought you were Billy." Jono said hesitantly.
"Jono, this is Allen, he's Billy's boyfriend." I said with as much formality as any guy riding piggyback could.
"And he's my pop." Ken added from beside us.
"Nice to meet you." Jono said hesitantly.
"It's nice to meet you too." Allen said formally, then in a more playful tone he added, "And congratulations on being a stud."
"Thanks." Jono said timidly, then asked, "Do you know where Billy is?"
"We left them in the other bedroom to talk about payment details." Allen said frankly.
"There you are!" Deacon said as he and Lawrence hurried into the bedroom.
"Hey, Deke!" Jono said as he rushed to Deacon to give him a quick hug.
"Hi, Jono!" Deacon said with surprise at the greeting.
"Me and Petey were really worried about you. I'm glad that you're okay." Jono said seriously.
"Thanks for worrying about me, Jono." Deacon said happily, then added, "I'd like for you to meet my boyfriend, Lawrence."
Jono released Deacon from the hug, then froze when he saw Lawrence standing shyly before him.
"You're beautiful." Jono gasped.
"Thanks." Lawrence said hesitantly.
"No. I mean... really..." Jono stammered.
"Yeah. He is." Deacon said proudly as he put an arm around Lawrence.
"That kinda makes me feel like a pile of chopped liver." I said to Ken and Allen frankly.
"And what have you been doing since the last time I saw you?" Lawrence asked seriously.
It took me a second to realize what he was asking, then I smiled as I said, "Oh, yeah."
"What was he doing?" Jono asked curiously.
"Rory was doing a professional fashion photo shoot." Deacon said frankly.
Jono looked at me appraisingly for a moment, then to my surprise, he said, "Yeah. I can see that."
"You can?" I asked in wonder.
"You're cute." Jono said simply, as if he were stating an obvious fact.
"Come on, guys. I think we'd better get you home. I know that Rory's parents have some things planned for him to do today. And, as I recall, we have a few plans of our own." Allen finished with a significant look at Ken.
"Oh yeah." Ken said shyly, then continued, "But I think I'd rather spend time with Rory than do the sightseeing thing with everyone else." Ken said shyly as he walked with us out of the room.
"I thought you'd feel that way. So I took the liberty of planning something with Rory's parents that all of us can do later today." Allen said happily.
"What's that?" I asked with excitement, knowing that if Allen planned it, it was probably something wonderful.
"I was thinking about taking all the kids to the mall for a little shopping spree." Allen said as he started walking slowly down the stairs.
"But we just got stuff last weekend." Ken said hesitantly.
"That's right. But now that we're more settled into our house, we can buy the things we didn't know that we needed last week." Allen said carefully as he squatted just in front of my wheelchair to let me down.
"And besides, Rory is going to need to stock up on the things he'll want to take to Vulcan with him. I bet you and your brothers will be able to come up with all kinds of things that he might need." Allen said frankly.
"Yeah." Ken said thoughtfully, then broke into a smile as he said, "It sounds like fun."
"I'm going to go up and let Billy know that we're leaving. I'll be back in just a minute." Allen said as he turned to leave.
"I'll take Rory out through the kitchen and meet you at the car." Ken said seriously.
"I'll meet you there." Allen said with a smile, then hurried up the stairs.
We had been out at the car for a couple minutes, when a sound from the house drew our attention.
To our surprise, it wasn't Allen coming out of the house, but Lawrence.
"I think you guys might be here for a little bit." Lawrence said quickly as he ran up to us.
"Is something wrong?" Ken asked with concern.
"Yeah." Lawrence said frankly, but instead of telling us what it was, he immediately ran back toward the house.
"Do you want to go back in?" Ken asked me cautiously.
"Yeah. If whatever it was bothered Lawrence that bad, I think I'd like to know as much as I can about it." I told him honestly.
I reached down and unlocked my wheels, and Ken started pushing me as quickly as he could back toward the side door of the house.
We went back in through the side door and found everyone gathered around Billy, in the living room.
"What's going on?" Ken asked Pete, quietly.
"I don't know for sure, but it's something to do with his dad." Pete said seriously.
Ken looked down at me and I could see that he was as concerned as I was.
Billy has to be one of the nicest people I know and I'd do just about anything to shield him from whatever might hurt him.
"Yeah. I'm still here." Billy said nervously, into the cell phone.
Everyone else in the room was silent, waiting to hear his side of the conversation.
"I understand." Billy said seriously, then took the phone away from his face and said, "Teri set up a conference call with Cory and John."
Well, I knew who two out of three of those people were; considering that I've been a Clan member for less than 24 hours, that's not really too bad, I figure.
Billy held the phone to his ear again and after a moment, said, "Right. The basics... My dad just called and he was PISSED. I don't think I've ever heard him that mad before. He started going off on me about how me having custody of Deacon screwed up his chances of getting a big contract or something. I don't really know what that's all about. Me and Deke haven't done anything, or talked to anyone about my parents since the custody thing got settled."
I was so engrossed in listening to Billy's conversation and trying to figure out what was going on, that it didn't even register what I was seeing right in front of me.
While Billy was talking on the phone, Deacon and Lawrence were at his right side and Allen was on his left. Pete and Jono were standing behind him, one over each shoulder.
I guess I don't need to worry too much about Billy being hurt, he's got his protectors in place and ready to defend him.
"Well, the reason I called, Teri, is because my dad was screaming about how he's going to drag me into court and fight for custody of Deacon. He also said stuff about going to the national news and saying that I'd abducted Deke, I guess, to get public opinion on his side." Billy said nervously.
The cluster surrounding Billy tightened as everyone understood what had upset him so much.
Lawrence and Billy were both hugging Deacon from opposite sides. In turn, Allen was hugging Billy from his other side. Pete and Jono were right there, hovering.
"You've got to understand, my dad knows some important people..." Billy said seriously, then trailed off.
"Well, no... Not quite THAT important..." Billy said hesitantly.
"Wait! Seriously?" Billy asked as his eyes went wide.
After a moment of listening, Billy absently said, "I'll tell Deke... thanks..."
All of us waited expectantly as Billy hung up the phone.
I waited as long as I could, but Billy didn't show any sign that he was about to let us in on what was going to happen.
"What's going on, Billy? What are they going to do?" I asked, impatiently.
I can be as patient as the next guy, but unfortunately, my red hair wanted to know, *now*.
"They're going to send a detachment of Starfleet Security to talk to him." Billy said in a stunned voice.
"Teri permanently terminated all parental rights, and Cory said he was convicting them of child neglect, based on what Kyle, Jamie, and Jacob found out when Deke showed up here. He sounded cold and emotionless when he pronounced sentence. And John said that the men he sends will make sure they don't make any trouble for us, legally or in the news, or else the suspended sentence that Cory pronounced will go into effect, and they'll both be sent to Federation prison." Billy looked like he didn't believe it.
"I'm sorry," Deacon said, looking like he was ready to burst into tears. "Just me being around seems to screw people's lives up."
Lawrence pulled Deacon to himself and gave him a tight one-armed hug.
That seemed to bring Billy out of the daze he'd been in from the shock of the phone calls. "Don't ever say that, Deke! You deserve to be happy and cared about."
Allen smiled at Deacon. "Believe it, Deacon! Even Starfleet says so."
Deacon seemed to consider that, then reluctantly grinned at the statement.
"Actually, I think that's what set your father off, you know. I was trying to find a way to tell Billy about it when he called." Allen said frankly.
"Starfleet let your father know he was out of the running for the contract he's been trying so hard to land, leaving Deacon home alone so he could wine and dine the procurement officers. It turns out that they have a really low view of people who have the Safe Haven Act invoked against them for child neglect." Allen smiled mirthlessly.
"I guess that's what they call 'poetic justice'." Ken said, thoughtfully.
I glanced up at Ken, full of pride at his very accurate observation.
Then I realized something that hadn't occurred to me before.
Looking around, I could see that everyone here is special in their own way. Each of them is someone to be admired.
They're all kind, loving, smart, strong and fiercely loyal.
But that's not the thing that blew me away.
Part of what makes them all special is the special bond of caring that they all share. But the freaky thing that I still can't quite wrap my brain around is... I'm part of it.
I know it sounds really obvious, but it just now hit me.
I look at this group and admire them. But there's no way that I can deny that I'm part of them.
That means that all the fantastic things that I think about them, I have to apply to myself, too.
Imagine that. I'm special!