Clan Short Pacific Rim Division

Chapter 24

Ewa Beach School

Tuesday, November 9, 2004, 3:02PM HTZ

At the end of the school day, AJ and Jerry transported to the Rapid Response Base for their level one phaser training. Walking out of school with his husband and most of the Core team, Prez tapped his sub-vocal, asking, "Alden, connect me to the PA at both bases, please?"

"Go ahead, Prez," Alden replied.

"Attention all Rimmers," Prez announced, "Platinum Habits will be rehearsing in the Ewa Beach auditorium. Everyone is welcome to attend. That's all."

Running back to Prez with Dillon and Geoff, Richie whined, "Poppa, we wanna play with our Hamster Balls!"

"Yeah!" Dillon and Geoff chimed.

Most of the Core Rimmers roared laughing. Richie, Dillon and Geoff impatiently squinted. Squatting down, Prez chuckled, "You know where we'll be, so go have a good time," and planted a kiss on Richie's cheek.

Nudging Troy, Keith smiled, "Richie, what's the deal with Jimmy?"

"He's the best kisser and huggerer!" Richie cheered.

Troy giggled, "Are you sure you're not the best hugger and kisser, Richie?"

Shrugging, Richie giggled, "Dunno, lemme check," and ran off to find his boyfriend, with Dillon and Geoff running after him.

Once Richie was far enough away, Troy chuckled, "I know they're mostly emulating us, but I wish I had been just a little like our kids are."

The Core Rimmers resumed their walk toward the auditorium. Kaleo prompted, "You'll have to play some love songs and ballads today, dudes."

"Yeah," Drew agreed, "I can think of at least three or four new couples that would appreciate it."

Corey giggled, "So leave plenty of time between the end of rehearsal and dinner."

Evilly grinning and leering at Troy, Sean shared, "If the band plays ballads, we'll need twice as much time." Pausing briefly, Troy pulled Sean close for an after school tonsillectomy. They stopped walking long enough to leave each other dizzy, and then hurried after their team mates.

Tapping his comm-badge, Drew called, "Jake, are you available, dude?"

Moments later, Jake answered, "Yeah, workin' on it, Drew. We'll meet you in the PA booth."

Corey giggled, "We didn't see you during lunch."

"Yeah," Jake chortled. "We were... uh... busy... but we did have lunch, about one o'clock."

Terry sniggered, "It was a very helpful flick, Corey. We'll have to thank all the fuzzy facts-of-life professors."

"You're welcome," Kaleo, Sean and Troy chorused.

Tory grinned, "This is at least the third time I've heard of this video. While you dudes play love songs, I'll watch the video on my PADD."

"I guess we'll have dinner around eight o'clock," Kaleo playfully warned his hubby.

Jake sniggered, "Please don't say another word, or we'll miss the concert. Jake out."

Up ahead, streams of kids and some off-shift adult employees could be seen walking toward and into the auditorium. Reading the river of kids, John learned that Tony Lanning and Ray Varga had hooked up that afternoon. Hearing his husband's telepathic remark, 'It took them long enough!' Stephen went into a giggling fit.

Drew gasped, "The place isn't even powered up yet," and started running, with Corey and Leo hurrying after him.

Prez, Keith, Derrick, Mike and Troy began building the list of songs they specifically wanted to work on that day. At a pause, Sean asked, "Please play 'Just My Imagination' and 'Oo-oo Child'? Those songs are just too good to leave out."

The band members agreed to play the songs, but Derrick reminded Sean, "On both those tunes Reyes sings lead vocals. If he doesn't show up, we'll have to choose alternatives."

Inside the auditorium lobby, Corey and Drew found the lights were already on. Erik and Travis were holding the theater doors open for the kids. Lance and Scott were at the circuit breakers, with Alden instructing them on which switches to flip on. It was one of those rare moments when Alden's voice could be heard saying different things from two comm-badges. First, Corey turned to Leo, and then to Drew. Seeing his dad's and pop's stupefied expressions, Leo sputtered, covered his mouth and turned away, softly giggling.

Going to Scott, Drew wondered, "Have you ever messed around with electronics before?"

Busily flipping switches, Scott shrugged, "At my place in New York, the building used breakers and old fashioned fuses. I replaced the things all the time. I don't think that really counts as electronics though."

Overhearing the question, Lance said, "I got my Les Paul pretty cheap because it needed new pickups. I soldered the new pickups to the pots, found the tone knobs weren't working right at all, and installed the replacement capacitors and potentiometers."

Jake and Terry entered the auditorium. Right behind them, Prez, Keith, Derrick, Mike, Sean and Troy filed inside. Drew went to Prez, pointed at Scott and then Lance, and smiled, "We've got two more Toy Rimmers, Prez."

"Kewl," Prez chuckled, "log it." The members of Platinum Habits went into the theater, greeting Erik and Travis as they passed, but Sean remained in the lobby.

Almost in unison, Lance and Scott spun around and shouted, "We turned on the friggin' lights!" Sean softly chortled because they said the same thing at the same time again. Going to the concession stand, Leo leaned over onto it, covered his mouth with his arms and busted up laughing.

Corey giggled, "Did anyone else even try, or think to double-check with Alden?"

Seeing both teens shaking their heads, Drew grinned, "You took the initiative without anyone prompting you. Both of you have electronics experience too."

"I couldn't have soldered pickups in a guitar," Corey giggled. "And you know what a capacitor does in that simple circuit."

Drew offered, "We'll keep your jobs easy at first, maintaining HTML and PHP for our website. That'll allow me, Corey and Reyes to concentrate on more advanced programming. Growing your skill set is entirely up to you."

Lance grinned, "We're guitar players, primarily interested in music."

"Like six other Core Rimmers," Corey reminded.

"Besides," Drew smiled, "I see a team of two, working together on this task, and very probably their music and much more. And by the way, we heard what you two did for the McPhearson brothers Friday morning. You might think it was nothing, but a five-year-old and a seven-year-old know otherwise. When their parents never came home, and their baby sitter had to leave them, you made them feel safe on the scariest day of all." Drew uncontrollably sniggered, "You were Core Rimmers before we met you at Des Moines."

Still holding open the theater doors, Erik and Travis sang the blues; "It's too late, it's too late. You're secret is out, and now it's too late." Losing it, Sean howled.

Nodding at the poor impromptu performance, Drew laughed, "Those McPhearson boys followed you here. Now they have a new family too."

Alden playfully asked, "Did you know that Grandma Morrison can giggle?"

At the theater doors for no other reason except to eavesdrop, Erik fell into a giggling fit and Travis cracked up.

Corey sniggered, "Are there any other excuses; chronic gas, hang nails, jock itch, warts or unruly pubes?"

"ALL OF THE ABOVE!" Lance and Scott hollered.

Corey cackled, "Damn pubes, always trying to wrap around dicks, making us rearrange the furniture in public places." Loud howling laughter escaped Leo before he covered his mouth again.

Drew nodded at his hubby, and then told Lance and Scott, "Say yes and you can get married whenever ya want. You can also adopt some kids. Besides, we need and want you two. This weekend, four hundred kids will become almost five hundred, when eighty more orphans show up."

Scott checked with Lance. Lance sighed, "When Troy and Sean talked about this yesterday, I really wanted to, but now I've got major league butterflies."

Sean interjected, "Remember what I said yesterday? Family and relationships come first. I'm confident that you two guys can do this job."

Scott told Lance, "I had web design in high school last year, and got an A."

"I just started that class in September," Lance shared. "I was doin' good, but we didn't get to Javascript or PHP yet."

Reyes and Ryan ran into the auditorium lobby, waved at the group gathered, and kept going into the theater. Scott reached for Lance's hand. Lance took Scott's hand in his, and then told Drew, "It's kewl."

Scott told Drew, "It's kewl by me too."

Drew smiled, "Go watch the show, bros. I'll take care of the rest. We'll talk more during dinner." Lance, Scott, Erik and Travis went into the theater together. Corey gathered Leo, Jake and Terry. Drew joined them and had the group transported up to the PA booth. While getting the gear set for the show, Drew had Alden log Scott Shetley and Lance Kinchen as Toy Rimmers. Corey notified Lieutenant Vorik to have personal security assigned.

Walking down the theater's left side aisle with Erik and Travis, Scott and Lance were called by Alden on their comm-badges. He had the two newest Core Rimmers hold out their hands and then transported their sub-vocals into their palms. 

Walking up to a microphone, Prez told the gathered audience to "greet the two new Toy Rimmers, Ensigns Scott Shetley and Lance Kinchen," and then welcomed them to the team. Amid the applause and cheers, Mike flashed two thumbs-up. Kaleo and Tory went to Scott and Lance to help them get their new sub-vocals fitted and tested. In the audience, the entire Gibbons family, including Al and Charles, stood and applauded the two newest Core Rimmers.

Troy cracked up and went to a microphone, laughing, "I could've sworn I told you to wait two days."

Lance giggled, "You didn't tell Corey and Drew though."

Shuffling down the third row, where Erik, Travis, Chris and Jay were already seated, Scott loudly told the band, "We expect some rockin' jams."

Stepping up to his microphone, Mike chuckled, "We'll see what we can do about that."

Playing a few chords and arpeggios on his electric piano, Keith told the audience, "We learned a few new tunes, and there's another we're going to give a first try today. Your responses will tell us if they're cooked and ready for prime time, or if we go back to the proverbial drawing board."

Lance and Scott yelled, "Got ya covered, Keith."

"Back here too, dudes," KC hollered. Sitting along the same row as KC were Fred and Chauncey Eckhart, John and Rich Murphy, and Jerry, Joey, Jon and Mary Owens.

Keith chuckled, "How're the waves, KC?"

"This morning they were better at Waikiki," KC replied. "When they flattened out on us, we went over to Oneula Beach."

Prez confirmed, "There were no problems?"

Above the negative chatter, Matt loudly answered, "No homophobic moose sightings east or west of Pearl Harbor." Ryan cracked up, making his presence on stage obvious.

Joey loudly announced, "Uncah Wyan is on sdage widh Weyes!" Many of the Rimmers' sons that had met Joey turned around and giggled. Waving at his new friends, Joey giggled, "Hi guys!"

Unaccustomed to being on stage in the first place, Ryan blushed. He stood, picked up his chair and tried to slink away, but Reyes hurried after him.

Bringing his boyfriend back and sitting him down beside the drum risers again, Reyes giggled, "That's right, Joey. I'm hoping to prove that I can dance too."

Prez smiled, "Drew and Kaleo asked that we play some ballads and love songs for you guys. If we see some more dancing partners, like Sunday night, we'll know we've got these tunes ready."

Derrick announced, "Troy's gonna start us off with a tune called Baby Come Back," and softly counted off. Derrick, Prez and Reyes started the song. Keith, Mike and Troy joined in. After a few more bars, standing and strumming his favored Stratocaster near center stage, Troy sang;

Spending all my nights
All my money going out on the town
Doing anything just to get you off of my mind
But when the morning comes
I'm right back where I started again
Trying to forget you is just a waste of time

By this time, Craig and Felicity were out of their seats and dancing in front of the stage. Phil was whittling away at Owen, who wouldn't go dance because he had never danced before. The entire band sang along during the chorus.

Baby come back, any kind of fool could see
There was something in everything about you
Baby come back, you can blame it all on me
I was wrong, and I just can't live without you

Gage and Jonah, Ben and Sammy, Jason and JD, Ralphie and Pat, Robbie and Billy, Ronnie and Garret, Jason and Trinity Taylor hurried down the aisle to dance before the stage. The last of the single and available quadruple Rs, Richie began tapping other twelve year old boys on the shoulder to dance with him. With a brief glance, Richie could easily tell who was gay or bisexual and would be willing to dance with him.

All day long, wearing a mask of false bravado
Trying to keep up the smile that hides a tear
But as the sun goes down
I get that empty feeling again
How I wish to God that you were here

Owen had at last agreed to dance. Before he could change his mind, Phil took Owen's hand and hurried down the aisle. 

Baby come back, any kind of fool could see
There was something in everything about you
Baby come back, you can blame it all on me
I was wrong, and I just can't live without you

Richie Taylor found Theo Triggs, who was trying to act inconspicuous and disinterested. Truthfully, Theo's thoughts were still mixed up; he wanted a boyfriend, but wasn't sure if he was ready. Richie thought Theo's surface thoughts were really interesting. Richie immediately knew Theo was gay, and had been in a relationship before. That relationship had ended because of Theo's parents, which was why Theo was part of this Division, and also why Theo had mixed up thoughts. Richie sent a test telepathic message, asking, 'Do you like to dance?' Theo grinned and nodded. Bursting with fear and joy, Theo almost imploded when Richie held a hand before him and implored, "Please?" 

Now that I put it all together
Give me the chance to make you see
Have you used up all the love in your heart
Nothing left for me

Really feeling the words because Paul was missing, Reyes desperately sang: "Ain't there nothing left for me?" It sent shivers down the spines of many, especially Ryan Owens.

Taking Richie's hand, Theo stood, leaned close and told Richie, "I've been hurt."

Richie replied, "Me too. We'll definitely get around to that, after we dance. Kewl?"

Theo nodded. They shuffled down the aisle and walked hand-in-hand toward the stage.

Baby come back, any kind of fool could see
There was something in everything about you
Baby come back, listen baby, you can blame it all on me
I was wrong, and I just can't live without you

I was wrong, and I just can't live

The band played out the song, extending the guitar solo a few more bars before abruptly ending the song with all the band members singing "Baby Come Back!" The audience erupted with applause and cheers, the loudest coming from Jason Taylor's whistles.

Popping into the PA booth, a boy's voice giggled, "They really loved that song in New Boston," causing Corey, Drew, Leo, Jake and Terry to spin around. Seeing purple eyes, Corey giggled.

Leo wondered, "Who are you?"

"Dylan Richardson. Hey, how's the boyfriend doin', Leo?"

Leo squealed, "I don't have one!"

"Yet," Dylan corrected.

Glancing at each other, Jake and Terry left the PA booth without saying a word.

Sighing, Drew turned and pulled down the talkback microphone to sorrowfully tell the band, "We've got trouble." Down on the stage, the band wondered what had gone wrong.

"No," Dylan giggled, "my brothers are trouble. I'm cuddly, cute and innocent!" Turning around again, Drew rolled his eyes. Dylan giggled. "Okay, to be specific, my big little brother is trouble!"

Corey and Drew simultaneously wondered, "Which big little brother, specifically?"

"All fifteen of them!" Dylan answered innocently, with twinkles in his eyes.

Seeing Leo pacing around the booth, softly wondering who his boyfriend was and when he would meet him, Corey digressed into a giggling fit. Drew grinned, "We've met four before you; Kyle, Tyler, Levi and Peter."

Dylan giggled, "Gotcha!" He looked around the booth and smiled. "I thought I'd pop in and see how you were doing on setting up your road crew. Looking good; you've just about found everyone."

Slipping off his stool at the lighting console, Corey howled laughing. Frighteningly, the band started playing Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me), with Reyes singing lead vocals. Drew pressed the button to start the preprogrammed lighting that Corey had prepared.

"I prefer 'Twilight Zone'; the guys really do that one great!" Dylan giggled.

"They don't know..." Drew started to say, but thought better of it and never finished the statement. Suddenly, Drew had images of shoveled piles of spaghetti pouring over checkered table cloths running through his mind. He softly offered, "KC and Joey are here, down in the audience. I kind o' need to monitor the board too."

Noticing that Leo was still pacing, Dylan seriously said, "You can relax, Leo. You're doing fine, and if you need someone to bounce things off of, that you think are too weird for anyone to understand, just have Alden look me up. Unlike my Dad and Pop, I don't try to drown Rimmers!" Dylan added, "Oh, Drew; I just told KC to catch up with the band later. You can fill them in on why he's showing them the song."

On his hands and knees on the floor, Corey hiccuped. Drew rolled his stool over to the lighting console to be sure Corey had programmed it for the next song. Dylan popped out of the booth and down to the audience, into a chair beside Joey and KC. 

Leo whimpered, "Dad?"

Holding an arm out for his freaked out son to take, Drew grinned, "I know, Leo. We're not even at the beach and he still managed to make a twenty-foot Mikyvis wave."

Taking his dad's hand and moving closer, Leo whined, "I have no idea who he was taking about."

"Don't worry about it," Drew gently instructed. "You're ready, whenever and for whomever you decide."

"I don't know," Leo sighed. "It still seems a little weird, ya know?"

Drew nodded and smiled, "I sure do. I felt the exact same way a couple hundred times, before I ever touched your pop's dick. For a long time, I thought of every friend I ever had, and tried to figure out why they were my friend, and then I tried to understand what made Corey so special. Once you find a boyfriend and start sharing your feelings, the weirdness turns into willingness. You'll want to hold him and be held by him. It gets to the point where you can't wait to make your boyfriend feel good. You barely even think of him returning the favor, it's way more important to give than to receive. Every hug, kiss and shoulder massage is paradise. Go a little further to sexual contact and it's the rollercoaster dive you felt the other night." Having caught his breath, Corey got up off the floor. Drew grinned, "The song's almost over, Cor."

Nodding and returning to his seat, Corey giggled, "No problem," and pulled over the PADD with the band's set list.

The audience erupted with more applause, cheers and whistles. Seeing his boyfriend wiping his eyes, Ryan hurried over to give Reyes a quick hug and kiss. As far as the audience was concerned, it was only a cute public display of affection for a job well done. However, Ryan understood how wrecked Reyes was feeling because Paul hadn't yet shown up at Ewa Beach.

Mike switched guitars and picked up his Candy Apple Red Stratocaster. Reyes moved over to the electronic drums. Once Reyes and Mike nodded signals that they were ready, Derrick counted off and the band began playing How Much I Feel. Troy sang lead vocals. More couples meandered down the aisles to dance, including Chris, Jay, Horacio, Sonia, Roy, Mollie, Tony, Ray, Nell and Pete.

Noticing Ray and Tony dancing, Nate Ramos widely smiled. After a few moments consideration, Nate got up and went down the aisle to his friends. He paused near them, chuckling, "Three's a crowd?"

Blushing and nodding, Ray began giggling his ass off. Tony smiled, and loudly spoke over the music, telling Nate, "I had to deal with a very embarrassed roomie. In the process, I spilled every thought and feeling that I've been hiding for days."

Nate laughed and locked eyes with Ray, asking, "You didn't notice?" When Ray shook his head, Nate sniggered, "Everyone else noticed both of you."

Ray hid his blush on Tony's shoulder. Tony chuckled, "For how long?"

"It started in the meeting with Doc Wiener, I think. Definitely since lunch Sunday," Nate smiled.

Lifting his head off Tony's shoulder, Ray giggled, "You purposefully suggested..."

Shrugging, Nate giggled, "That wasn't my goal. I would've, with you two, but when I didn't see you for a while, I starting thinking if you two might finally hook up." The song ended and all three applauded. During the break, Nate quickly gave Tony and then Ray hugs and offered his congratulations. He started back up the aisle to return to his seat. Before he arrived though, fourteen-year-old Amelia Medicus stopped him.

She cutely smiled, "Do you like to dance?"

Shocked, but equally pleased, Nate stammered, "I do, but never have before." He almost mentioned the times his mom had attempted to teach him, but caught himself before actually saying something completely dorky.

Amelia giggled, "It's time you learn," and reached a hand out. Nate took her hand, and they went down towards the stage.

The next song was You're My Best Friend, with Keith singing lead vocals. The song prompted Scott to take Lance's hand and lead his lover down before the stage. They were followed by Erik and Travis. Also deciding to dance, Carter, Doug, Neil and Tad went down the aisle to the stage. Swaying hip-to-hip and cheek-to-cheek, Scott and Lance watched Mike play during the entire song. 

With his arms draped over Ray's shoulders, Tony saw Nate dancing with Amelia and told Ray. Amelia was petite, and very pretty. Tony had to wonder how Nate had lucked out. Leaning close to Tony's ear, Ray wondered if Amelia had any clue of Nate's clearly bisexual tendencies. Soon, they were closer together, and softly giggling silly remarks and commentaries, few of which Nate would find very funny, and Amelia definitely would not appreciate.

When the song ended and the audience applauded, Scott and Lance went to the edge of the stage, loudly calling, "Mike!"

Grinning, Mike went to them and knelt down. Scott asked, "We're just wondering, why don't you really wail?"

"We know you can, and it seems you're holding back," Lance added.

Understandingly, Mike nodded and answered, "We're a band. Prez or Troy could've easily played that guitar part. I could've played the piano part or the bass guitar. This isn't about any one of us showing off; it's about the music. After a couple more love songs, we're going to play some rockers, like you asked. I'll talk with Troy and Prez, and ask if they'd like to switch instruments, so you can see exactly what I mean."

"Kewl," Scott and Lance chimed.

Standing again, Mike waved the band members together in front of the drum risers. Lance and Scott believed Mike was only sharing what they had just spoken about, but that was only part of what they were saying. The next song required close vocal harmonies and precision for all the instrumental parts. When the band separated, Keith went to the Hammond organ on the right side of the stage. Troy went to the stack of keyboards on the left side of the stage, where Keith normally stood. Reyes and Derrick swapped places; with Reyes taking a seat on his dad's drum throne, and Derrick went to the congas and assorted percussion instruments. Prez picked up Mike's Stratocaster. 

Returning to his microphone wearing a Fender Jazz bass guitar, Mike told the audience, "We're going to try this next song a little differently, just for Scott and Lance. All you musicians and wanna-be musicians, check it out; our vocal parts are very much locked in place, but Keith's going to play the organ part that Troy normally plays. Troy's taking the synthesizers and keys that Keith normally plays. Derrick and Reyes have switched and so have Prez and I. Sunday night, you saw Keith pick up a guitar. During our music appreciation class today, most of you saw each of the five of us sitting down at a piano and playing different songs. This is what it means to be a musician, making Good Vibrations."

Counting off and then starting the song, Keith sang lead vocals and played the Hammond Organ while Mike played the bass guitar part. Reyes came in with the drum parts, Derrick shook a tambourine and Troy added the synthesizer part. Soon, all six boys were singing various parts, with Prez taking the lowest part, Troy and Mike harmonizing and Reyes and Derrick harmonizing. Everyone was simply awestruck, especially Lance, Scott, KC and Joey. Not even Dylan had seen Platinum Habits perform the song that way. When the song ended, every kid and adult in the audience bounded to their feet to give the band an ovation. Focusing on Scott and Lance and gesturing an open palm to the audience, Mike grinned, "That's what it's about, dudes."

Locking eyes, Scott and Lance laughed, "We are so screwed!" Shoving their two friends around, Chris, Jay, Erik and Travis cracked up.

Returning to their normal places on the stage, Platinum Habits performed That's The Way Of The World, How Can I Be Sure and O-o-h Child, with Reyes singing lead vocals on the first and third songs, and Keith singing lead vocal on the second song. For the next tune, Mike and Troy sang The Dave Clark Five song Because as a duet, playing their guitars before a single microphone. After hearing all the intricate songs the band had already played, Lance and Scott could barely believe the band chose to play the simple tune. Once again seeing all their friends and other couples dancing, they were pushed to realize that the performances were for the audience and not the musicians. Playing a very simple bass part and not too occupied, Prez saw Angelo and Reggie enter the auditorium and walk down the aisle.

Angelo and Reggie saw a lot of kids were near the stage dancing. There were gay couples, straight couples and more who were dancing alone. Two of the adults were up there too. Angelo grinned, "Do you get the impression Clan Short likes taking things to extremes? Sunday night there were about six or seven hundred in here, and we barely occupied an eighth of the place." 

Nodding, Reggie chuckled, "There are three more bases, according to my dad, but we'll never fill this place on our own. Even the dorm rooms were pretty extreme; they're huge for two dudes, so imagine two little orphan boys in a room that large."

Beginning to scan the center seating area for his mom, Angelo admitted, "Butterflies are starting to flap again, like when you ran away from me this morning." Concerned, Reggie squeezed his partner's hand and turned to examine Angelo's expression. Noticing Reggie's concern, Angelo smiled, "I feel like I'm walking on clouds again. Where do I start explaining?"

"Anywhere," Reggie grinned. Up on the stage, Troy and Mike played guitar and shared a single microphone. He noticed that they sang and played really well. Reggie told Angelo, "Might as well start with the weekend, which is really where we both started."

Glancing to his right again, Angelo returned to his search. He soon found his mother, amongst the other adults and parents sitting about thirty rows back. Beside his mom sat his dad, still wearing his hospital greens. Surprised his dad was there, Angelo told Reggie. Nodding, Reggie now understood how anxious Angelo felt when his dad walked into the townhouse. The band finished the song they were playing and their audience applauded. Eugene and Laxmi Diaz had seats near the center of the row. There were other adults sitting on both sides of them. Angelo led Reggie down the empty row behind them. On the stage, most of the band had shifted around to other instruments. The drummers counted off and the band began playing another song titled Miracles, which was a complete reversal and another intricate song with many vocals and kewl instrumental parts. 

Leaning forward so his head was between his mother's and father's, Angelo mischievously smiled, "Can we chat? I've got news to share."

Eugene Diaz began laughing. Widely smiling, Laxmi Diaz, turned to her son, giggling, "Keith and Preston told me that you have a boyfriend."

"Word has it that it's very serious too," Angelo's dad chortled. "Once again, you made up your mind and dove headlong into something."

Rapidly blinking, Angelo glanced up at the stage and at Prez. Fully occupied performing for an audience, Prez didn't notice.

Leaning back, Eugene reminded, "We're employed by Federation Youth Services, and have comm-badges and sub-vocal devices. Reggie's father clued us in first, and then a few minutes later, his mother did."

Laxmi giggled, "Would you like to get up on stage and announce to everyone that you have a boyfriend?"

Feeling all the blood in his body race into his face, Angelo giggled, "Talk about anti-climatic information. All the wind has been taken out of my sails."

Laxmi said, "You're having dinner with the Clan tonight, so I assume you're no longer afraid."

Eugene wondered, "Do you know where you're staying at night?"

Realizing that he only knew the dorm building and location, but not the actual room number, Angelo gasped. He then smirked, "Is there anything you don't know?"

Laxmi laughed, "He doesn't have a clue!"

"Dorm three," Angelo giggled.

Eugene and Laxmi laughed, "Room number twenty-six." They then leaned over to give their son kisses on the cheek.

Eugene suggested, "If I were you, I'd take my partner down to the stage and dance with the rest of the kids."

"But first," Laxmi stipulated, "have Reggie lean over so we can welcome him to the family."

Angelo nodded and stood up straight. He told Reggie, "They know everything." Watching Reggie's head tilt, Angelo giggled, "Thanks to comm-badges and sub-vocals, everything your mom and dad know was shared. There are no secrets to keep anymore. They'd like you lean down between them, so they can welcome you to the family." Angelo stepped back out of the way. 

Already blushing and giggling, Reggie took his boyfriend's place and leaned down. He got kisses on the cheeks too, and congratulations from both of Angelo's parents. Reggie giggled, "I promise to take good care of him."

Laxmi smirked, clearly showing Reggie that it was already assumed and understood.

"Go dance," Eugene prompted, "we'll proudly watch."

Standing up, Reggie reached for Angelo's hand and had his taken. Shuffling down the row to the aisle, Angelo suggested, "Let's pause on the way for a kiss."

Reggie giggled, "We didn't kiss for my parents."

"That's exactly why we should do it; to give gossiping geezers something to blab about." 

Reggie sniggered, "You might have to twist my arm?"

Angelo giggled, "It's your tongue I wanna twist, stud."

After taking few more steps down the aisle, Angelo and Reggie paused, and moved close together for the deepest, most passionate lip lock yet. At first, their arms hung loose at their sides and they held hands. Unconsciously, Angelo's hands then began climbing up Reggie's arms. Reggie put his hands on Angelo's hips. In small increments, Angelo and Reggie moved closer together and their arms effortlessly moved to hold one another tight. It wasn't only to show off, but to show each other how completely thrilled they were. Every time they had tried to plan something all day, the plans were blown away, but somehow, everything worked out better than either might have hoped. In the middle of the song 'Miracles', Angelo and Reggie proved the theme of the song; that miracles can and do sometimes happen.

Smiling and holding hands, Eugene and Laxmi noticed their sons tightly embracing and kissing. They were happy for their son and proud of the young man emerging. Several of the other adults around the Diaz's also noticed. There was a lot of soft chortling amongst the group of adults. Since the band members were rather busy, with an intricate song and multiple vocal parts to give their full attention, none of them ever saw Angelo and Reggie. 

However, down by the stage, Lance, Scott, Erik, Travis, Tony and Ray noticed Angelo and Reggie. Hysterical and trying to not show it, the former six hurried up the aisle, surrounded the latter two, patiently broke the kiss, and then led them down the aisle, razzing the two new lovers the entire way.

Travis chuckled, "It sure looks like your day progressed nicely, dudes."

"So," Lance giggled, "Angelo, might I suggest a change from hand lotion to AstroGlide personal lubricant?"

"We'll get an official gay Rimmer welcoming package prepared for you two after supper," Tony sniggered.

Scott joked, "The kit consists of four bottles of lube, four boxes of rubbers, dildos in assorted small, medium, large and WTF sizes, and the condensed version of the Kama Sutra - pictures only."

Erik giggled, "That ought to get you through tonight."

For the first time in his twelve years, Ray had laughed himself into a case of the hiccups.

When the group of eight arrived near the stage, Chris and Jay were waiting.

"I have an idea," Jay cheekily grinned.

Whipping out their Mr. Fuzzy puppets and sliding them on, five of the eight squeaked, "NO-OO-OOOO!" Angelo, Reggie and Chris roared laughing.

Faking a pout, Jay slumped, and then sniggered, "Fine, I'll tell you later. We're all needed, and the rest of the Core Rimmers too, to execute this plan."

The song 'Miracles' ended and everyone applauded. The band shifted around again, preparing for the next tune and getting different instruments. Erik turned to Angelo and Reggie, smiling, "We hear that you're moving into our dorm tonight."

Angelo nodded, "That's right. Our original intention was to make it seem temporary, so our parents didn't freak, but even that plan altered." Quickly moving behind Reggie and wrapping his boyfriend up tight, Angelo prompted, "Tell 'em what you did, Reg."

Brightly beaming, Reggie smiled, "I told my dad the real deal. He'll keep my mom from flippin' out. My parents told Angelo's, so we're all set. We've got a place to be a real couple."

At the break between songs, while the majority of the audience applauded, Mike and Prez were at the guitar stands. Seemingly having a playful argument, Mike and Prez began shoving one another, driving their band mates to giggles and the audience into loud laughter. At his rack of keyboards and sniggering, Keith told the audience, "This kind of argument would normally upset me. Eventually, they'll figure out who's playing top and who's playing bottom." The audience roared laughing.

Collapsing against each other, Angelo and Reggie cracked up. "I can't believe Keith said that, on stage!" Reggie sniggered.

Mike and Prez suddenly hollered, "FINE!" and walked away from the guitar stands. However, neither had a guitar.

Stepping up to a microphone, Prez giggled, "I can fix this. Alden, get me and Mike new guitars; Gibson EBSF-1250 double-neck electric bass and guitar."

Mike sniggered, "We'll need an extra bass amp and an extra guitar amp too, Alden."

Two black double-neck guitars materialized on Prez and Mike. They then went to turn on and adjust the two amplifiers. Further back in the audience, Dylan howled laughing, "I was wondering when they'd actually get those guitars! They bring them on the tour."

Slightly out of sync, the six band members wondered, "Who said that?"

Standing and pulling Dylan up with him, KC grinned, "Platinum Habits, meet Dylan Richardson. He already knows all of you, thanks to his time-shifting shifty ways."

Waving, Dylan giggled, "Hi guys! Where are Lance Kinchen and Scott Shetley?"

Pointing at the couple before the stage, Mike answered, "Right there."

Dylan asked, "Have you hired them yet?"

Prez nodded, "They were just made Core Rimmers before we came in here."

"Not THAT!" Dylan giggled, "They're your guitar technicians and roadies."

Scott and Lance squealed, "We are?" Cracking up, Jay, Chris, Travis and Erik shoved Lance and Scott around some more. Sadly shaking his head, KC dropped back into his seat.

"Don't cutely flutter those purple-eyes at us," Prez sniggered. "Are you planning on telling us more about the concerts we performed, that we haven't left for... yet?"

Nodding, Dylan giggled, "Dinner tonight sound good?"

"Kewl," the five of six band members chanted.

Dylan giggled, "You were about to play 'Europa,' as dueling guitars and basses for the first time."

Noticing Troy rubbing his temples, Mike asked, "Are you all right, bro?"

"Fine," Troy huffed, "just a temporal causality headache, I think."

Prez asked, "Wanna take a break, Troy?"

When Troy nodded, Mike called, "Sean, come up here and help your partner. We'll need him for the next songs."

Standing and jogging down the aisle, Sean giggled, "I'm just glad my name wasn't mentioned."

"Sean Moorhead?" Dylan giggled, "Yeah, you're eventually a roadie too, primarily amplifiers."

Stopping short on the stage steps, Sean spun around and shouted, "I just took my first basic electrical principles class this morning!"

Dylan giggled, "You're Troy's husband, aren't you?" Whimpering, with visions of sparking amplifiers flashing through his mind, Sean turned and went to Troy, where it was safer. Dylan giggled, "There's a drum roadie and a keyboard roadie too, but I can't say without chancing a paradox." Dylan then called, "John?"

Standing up and turning around, John waved, "Here, Dylan."

Dylan checked, "You know your job?"

"I do now," John sniggered. "I'll try it out when they play those songs."

"That's everybody," Dylan giggled. "Kewl, go ahead, guys."

Glancing around to be sure everyone was ready, Prez softly counted out the tempo. Mike loudly laughed, "WAIT A MINUTE! Who's starting on guitar and who's on bass?"

"Not this again," Prez giggled. The audience helplessly fell apart.

Mike sniggered, "You only doubled the problem by getting us double-neck guitars."

Prez grinned, "I'm Head Rimmer, so I'll start on guitar."

"Kewl," Mike giggled, and shifted his hands up to play the bass.

Derrick chuckled, "Are either of you going to face the audience?"

"Once in a while, when we're not preparing to swap parts," Prez sniggered. "Count us off, bro."

"One of these days, they'll stop sharing their part-swapping in public," Dylan stage-whispered in a voice the entire audience heard.

"I wouldn't count on it," KC chuckled.

Regardless of the audience's laughter, Derrick counted the tempo and Prez played the first eight notes of the guitar part to Europa. About thirty-seconds into the song, Prez signaled Mike and they swapped off. About every half-minute through the entire song, Prez and Mike swapped parts, and shifted from bass to guitar and back again. Lance and Scott told Erik, Travis, Jay and Chris that Prez and Mike had obviously never done this before, but they were effortlessly playing the song as good as the record, only giving each other four beats notice before swapping parts again. Many of the kids had only seen Prez playing acoustic guitar and raced down to the stage.

To crying and wailing guitars and the latin beat, Craig slow danced Felicity over toward where Phil had Owen swaying hip-to-hip. The brothers smiled at each other and stealthily flashed thumbs-up gestures. The song ended to a dueling bass guitar part and thundering drums, forcing the entire audience onto their feet.

The stage lights dimmed to dark blue. Prez and Mike put their double neck guitars down and picked up their preferred axes. Derrick came out from behind the drum kit and moved down to center stage. Reyes took his dad's place again at the drum kit. Coming out from back stage, Troy went to his stack of keyboards. Keith took a seat at the Steinway. Before the audience's applause had faded, a spotlight shone down on Keith and he began playing the introduction to Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now). Couples that hadn't already come down to dance before the stage got up, including Kaleo and Tory. A spotlight hit Derrick a moment before he began sweetly singing.

How can I just let you walk away?
Just let you leave without a trace?
When I stand here, taking every breath with you.
You're the only one who really knew me at all.

How can you just walk away from me?
When all I can do is watch you leave?
Cause we've shared the laughter and the pain,
and even shed the tears.
You're the only one who really knew me at all.

So take a look at me now!
There's just an empty space.
And there's nothing left here to remind me, 
just the memory of your face. 
Well take a look at me now! 
There's just an empty space. 
And you coming back to me is against the odds,
and that's what I've got to face.

Reyes began pounding on drums and provided backup harmony vocals for his dad. Fully involved in what he was singing, Derrick didn't even realize he was rising up off the stage.

I wish I could just make you turn around, 
turn around and see me cry! 
There's so much I need to say to you, 
so many reasons why. 
You're the only one who really knew me at all. 

From about ten feet above the stage, Derrick realized where he was. Many rows back, John, Stephen, Frankie and Wade began giggling at Derrick's silent complaint to be warned before being levitated in the middle of a song.

So take a look at me now! 
Well there's just an empty space. 
And there's nothing left here to remind me, 
just the memory of your face. 
Now take a look at me now! 
Cause there's just an empty space. 
But to wait for you is all I can do 
and that's what I've got to face. 
Take a good look at me now! 
Cause I'll still be standing here. 
And you coming back to me is against all odds, 
It's the chance I've got to take. 

Take a look at me now.

All the stage lights went out and the audience roared approval. John lowered Derrick down to the stage floor. Walking back to the drum risers and sadly shaking his head, Derrick softly growled at John's "special effect". Heading for the Steinway, Troy knocked knuckles with Keith as they passed each other. Keith took center stage to sing lead vocals. A spotlight shone down on Troy as he began playing the piano introduction to Faithfully. Couples gasped and immediately pulled back together for another great slow dance tune. This time, Keith and then Mike were levitated by John, but had returned to the floor before the last tones faded.

The band members began exiting the stage, leaving Troy at the grand piano to gently call, "Come out here and sit with me, Tiger." Forewarned by Troy this would happen, Sean proudly walked out from behind the stage right curtains and a spotlight followed him across the stage. He took a seat on the piano bench to Troy's left, mostly out of sight from the majority of the audience.

Right after kissing Sean, Troy inhaled deeply to tell the cooing and smiling audience, "A week ago today I met Sean. Right about this time, before dinner, I had an idea to play this song for Sean. It took him days to tell me all of what it meant to him. It's our song, but I'd like to share it with all of you, so you can make it yours too. I think everyone here will get the message."

Troy began playing Bridge Over Troubled Water and was soon singing to Sean before an audience of over five hundred. During the first verse, Ryan and Reyes slow danced out of the shadows and just behind the piano bench where Sean and Troy were. In the middle of the second verse, Derrick, Keith and Prez returned to the stage to play their parts. Keith also provided a brief section of harmony vocals during the third verse.

During the song, while couples slow danced, Reggie admitted that he really didn't know the names of all the members of the leadership team. Hip-to-hip with their lovers, Erik, Travis, Tony, Ray, Chris and Jay filled in Angelo and Reggie, completing the roll call with the newest two Core Rimmers, Lance and Scott, who were still glued to the stage.

Angelo and Reggie had no idea that Lance and Scott were Core Rimmers. Since he had met and spoke with them that morning, Angelo was especially surprised. Then Erik giggled, "Just before we came in here today, they were found powering the place up. Drew hired them before they could complain too much."

"No one was more surprised than they were," Travis sniggered.

Still swaying hip-to-hip with Angelo, Reggie wondered, "And who are the two dudes that were talking to the band?"

Jay replied, "KC McKensey was the older one. He's a friend of Reyes', from the AI Division. We met him yesterday. I'm not sure who Dylan is, or where he's from."

Erik offered, "Clan Short is all over the world, pretty much. There are tens of thousands of Clan kids, dude. We've only been here a few days. It would take lifetimes to know them all." Gesturing to Chris and Jay with one hand, and then Tony and Ray with the other, Erik giggled, "On the other hand, these pervs we call friends think all Trav and I do is get crazy and messy, but we can read, and browsed our division's web site."

Chris smiled, "The Clan is really big dudes. It took us an hour in the Command Center to just say hello to the folks at six US divisions, and the Australian Oceanic Division. We didn't get to Wales or St. Petersburg, Russia, partly because it was late there."

"And because somebody needed comm-badges and Mr. Fuzzies," Jay sniggered accusingly at Angelo and Reggie.

Giggling and nodding, Angelo teased, "What's required to make the dimensional doors work, Jay?" Jay held up his Mr. Fuzzy hand, and then reached over to have it nibble on Angelo, Reggie and Travis' necks. Suddenly, Jay jumped in place and devilishly grinned at Chris.

Chris giggled, "You don't Fuzzy anyone but me."

Reggie evilly snickered, "I saw that. Nice one, Chris; you pinched Jay's ass." Wild cackling broke lose in the small group.

Pulling back to make eye contact, Angelo giggled, "Tell me you weren't checking out Jay's butt." Erik and Ray digressed into giggling fits. Tony and Travis cracked up.

"No!" Reggie laughed, "Honest, babe, I was watching Chris slip his hands into Jay's back pockets. That's why I did the same thing to you. Only when Jay jumped did I realize Chris had a motive."

Almost at once, Erik, Ray, Chris, Jay, Tony and Travis congratulated Reggie on an excellent rebuttal, which caused all eight of them to crack up.

Still giggling, and wiggling his fingers around Angelo's back pockets, Reggie asked, "Jay, how tall are you?"

"Five feet nine inches," Jay answered.

"Convert that to metric?" Reggie giggled.

"About one hundred seventy-three centimeters," Angelo quickly calculated, "probably a little more. It's two point five-four centimeters per inch, so sixty-nine inches times two point five is a rough guess. He's about three inches taller than you, and four inches taller than I am."

Travis grinned, "You did that in your head?"

"Yeah," Angelo giggled, and reminded, "My mom's a math and music teacher." Seeing a bunch of grinning faces, Angelo laughed, "Sixty-nine times two is a hundred and thirty-eight. Half of sixty-nine is thirty-four point five, so add it together and round up, since I rounded down a little bit."

Slowly swaying with Phil, on the floor before the stage, Owen was sobbing his heart out. As soon as Troy lowered his hands from the piano, Sean grabbed him and passionately kissed his sentimental Lover. The audience and the band members applauded and cheered the couple, seemingly making five-hundred sound like fifty-thousand.

A quivering wreck again, it took Sean about two minutes to be able to stand up and walk with Troy, past all the band members congratulating them, and off behind the stage right curtains. During this brief interruption, Phil lead Owen way up the aisle, heading toward seats where they could talk privately. Stepping back out to the stage again, Troy got more applause from the audience. He picked up his twelve-string acoustic, went to a microphone and giggled, "I love him, and it's our one week anniversary. Sean's already warned me to be prepared for reprisal later."

Troy moved nearer to Keith and they counted off then began playing the introduction to Time For Me To Fly. This time around it was Keith's turn, as lead vocalist, to levitate with his keyboard rack and microphone stand. John had forewarned his brother what he was intending to do, but no one was prepared for the method. The audience, all the other band members and even Ryan and Sean were hysterical watching Keith float a little higher every time he sang the word 'fly'. It was the crazy nervous twists in Keith's expression that drove his fellow band members to giggling the backup vocals during the final chorus. By the end of the song, Keith was about a half-meter below the racks of lights above the stage and profusely sweating from the heat.

Returning to the stage floor during the applause, Keith sniggered, "Alden, get me a towel and a bottle of cold water." The towel materialized just above Keith and dropped onto his head, causing the audience to crack up. Mike had to walk off stage, where he was heard howling with laughter.

"The water bottle is on the stage, by your right leg, Keith," Alden giggled across Keith's comm-badge. Insanely snickering, Angelo, Reggie, Chris, Jay, Erik, Travis, Lance and Scott found seats to sit on in the front row.

Since Prez was still leaning on his bass amp and hysterically wheezing, Derrick giggled, "This next song is a brand new cover tune for us and one we've always wanted to play. Prez and Mike are going to share lead vocals, if either can ever stop laughing. After this song, we're going to play five heavy rockers for Lance and Scott, but that'll probably push us past dinner time. Anyone that's hungry is free to go eat whenever you want. Please stick around through one more song though."

The stage lighting dimmed, but Corey left only some of the blue and green stage lights on. Lance and Scott noticed Mike's Les Paul appearing on his guitar stand, and then Mike's Stratocaster disappeared. Troy and Keith moved to their racks of keyboards. Prez moved forward to his microphone. Fog began billowing onto the stage, cooling the band members and the kids still standing before the stage. From the darkness, six voices sang, "Is there anybody out there?" After a few seconds to allow the reverberating sound to dissipate, more blue lights flooded the stage, and the band started playing Comfortably Numb. Slide guitar could be heard, however Mike was nowhere to be seen and kids wondered where he was.

Prez's voice echoed around the theater.

Is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me.
Is there anyone at home?
Come on, now,
I hear you're feeling down.
Well I can ease your pain
And get you on your feet again.
I need some information first.
Just the basic facts
Can you show me where it hurts?

Bright beams of red light shone behind the drum risers. Floating down from high above the stage, in silhouette causing most of the audience to gasp, Mike sang:

There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship, smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying.
When I was a child I had a fever
My hands felt just like two balloons.
Now I've got that feeling once again
I can't explain, you would not understand
This is not how I am.
I have become comfortably numb.

Hanging in the air about five feet above Derrick's shoulders, Mike leaned back to play the guitar solo. Corey added a little bit of red light so Mike could be seen by the audience. Grabbing hold of the Stratocaster's tremolo bar, Mike made his guitar sing. At the end of the solo, the entire band sang:

I have become comfortably numb.

Returning to his microphone, Prez sang the next verse.

Just a little pin prick.
There'll be no more 

The sickly scream "AHHH-AHHHHH-AHHHHH!" was sang by Reyes, Keith and Troy. Then Prez continued.

But you may feel a little sick.
Can you stand up?
I do believe its working. Good.
That'll keep you going for the show
Come on it's time to go.

Still floating motionless above his husband and son, Mike sang:

There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship, smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying.
When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown,
The dream is gone.
I have become comfortably numb.

The final crescendo dramatically built and Mike closed his eyes, leaned back and played the closing guitar solo. Soon, Mike was laying flat on his back, hovering above the drummers and slowly spinning. These special effects had been prearranged with John during the minutes Mike was back stage and out of sight. Moments and about eight bars before finishing the song, John returned Mike to an upright position and brought him forward to land at his usual spot at right center stage. The band finished the song with thunderous explosions of sound then all the stage lights went out. Applauding and hollering, Angelo, Reggie, Lance, Scott, Chris, Jay, Erik and Travis bounded out of their seats. All the kids stood and cheered, screamed and yelled.

Corey raised the stage and audience lighting slightly, so anyone who wanted to go to dinner could safely do so. Not very many people stood and left the auditorium, mostly adult employees. When Jon and Mary decided to leave for home, Jerry, Joey, KC, Fred and Chauncey hurried down the aisle to the stage. Putting his drum sticks down, Reyes went to Ryan and they walked off to far stage right. Keith meandered over to the Hammond Organ. Mike switched from his Stratocaster to his Les Paul. Troy picked up his Stratocaster. Prez switched from his favored Gibson EB-3 bass guitar to a Rickenbacker 4001. Seeing the band was ready, Corey lowered the audience lights. 

Holding up his hands with his index finger and pinky protruding, Mike ordered, "Let me see them horns!" Derrick counted off, and then hit his bass and snare drums, starting Born To Be Wild, with Mike singing lead vocals. Seeing Prez and Troy bopping along, Corey set and activated the strobe lights. The band extended the song to allow Mike, Troy and Prez to each take twelve bar solos. Many of the kids seemed to love it, especially Angelo, Reggie, Lance, Scott, Jay, Chris, Travis and Erik, who had planted themselves before the center of the stage.

For the next song, Keith walked away from the Hammond Organ and got a drink of water. Mike picked up his Randy Rhoads white Les Paul Custom. Derrick played the drum introduction to The Rover. Prez, Mike and Troy began playing. Lance pointed out Mike's right foot riding a wah-wah peddle. Keith had the vocal range to pull off a damn good impersonation of Robert Plant. For the solo, Mike lifted his Les Paul and played his axe behind his head. Never hearing a missed note, Scott faked slamming his head against the stage edge, driving his friends, Prez, Mike, Troy and Derrick to hysterics. Without giving the audience much chance to applaud, the band drove directly into Flight Of Icarus, with Keith handling lead vocals again. Effortlessly and without even watching one another, Troy and Mike played the guitars solos note-for-note. The band didn't even pause at the end of that song. Derrick changed the tempo through drum rolls and the band went right into No One Like You.

At last, after three songs in a row, the band took a breather. Reyes came back on stage to play his electronic drums. Grabbing his bottle of water and towel, Keith walked off the stage to keep Ryan company. Prez and Mike decided to swap guitars again, and this time Troy joined the argument, wanting to play lead guitar, causing Lance, Scott and most of the audience to crack up. While the three guitarists got silly and endlessly swapped guitars around, Derrick and Reyes began juggling maracas and tambourines. When at last Mike stepped forward wearing Prez's EB-3 bass, and Prez had Troy's Stratocaster and Troy had Mike's white Les Paul Custom, Mike giggled, "This will be our last song for the day. Then we can go have dinner." Derrick and Reyes stopped juggling and prepared to play The Boys Are Back In Town. Jonah immediately recognized the song lyrics that his pop had taught him more than a week earlier and sang along.

During the course of the song, the band members noticed many of the girls wandering around. When the song ended, the male two-thirds of the audience cheered, but the female third loudly booed. Having never been booed before, the band members were obviously surprised. Trinity Taylor, Felicity and the other female dorm leaders near the stage cracked up. They only laughed louder when the highly put-off girls stormed out of the theater to go have dinner. Squatting down near the edge of the stage where Lance and Scott were with their close friends, Mike sniggered, "Lesson two: know your audience." Nodding, Angelo, Reggie, Chris, Jay, Lance, Scott, Erik and Travis cracked up.

The adults and kids began streaming toward the exits for dinner. "Lance and Scott, hang back with us, dudes," Mike called. "We'll be talking about our tour, so you'll need to be here with us."

Scott told the other six, "We'll catch up with you soon," and turned around with Lance. Dylan Richardson was already standing on the stage. Used to dealing with point-to-point transportation, Lance and Scott didn't think twice about it. Mike waved them up on stage, and they happily hurried, so they could bounce a couple hundred questions off the band members.

Angelo, Reggie, Erik, Travis, Chris and Jay continued up the aisle. Many meters ahead of them were Tony and Ray. Referring to Lance and Scott, Jay joked, "Just a tiny bit obsessed, those two." 

Chris smiled, "With each other."

Travis chuckled at Chris and Jay, "Don't you two dare try acting innocent! It's partially your fault."

"We spent most of the morning with Lance and Scott," Erik giggled, and teased, "Yesterday morning's shower?"

Jay laughed, "Did they mention that they were freaking out because we walked in on them?"

"Yeah, we got the whole story," Travis smiled. "They weren't a couple a whole hour when you two started slippin' and sliding around."

Blushing, Chris giggled, "They caught on fast." In that short glance, Chris noticed Angelo and Reggie blushing and fighting back giggles. Soon, Jay, Erik and Travis joined Chris, widely smiling at Angelo and Reggie.

"It was only a shower," Reggie giggled.

Angelo softly sniggered, "With other couples."

Chris, Jay, Erik and Travis loudly laughed, "AH HA!" 

Angelo laughed, "Tony, help us out here, dude." 

Spinning around with Ray at his side, Tony asked, "How?" and paused, but then noticed the evil expressions none of the six were able to hide.

"We didn't do anything," Reggie giggled. "Couples showered, that's it."

"Oh, that!" Tony laughed, "It was very kewl, in a steamy way."

Ray giggled, "Dinner time conversation just took a dive."

"No, it won't," Tony assured his boyfriend, and then told the others, "It was a grown up shower, with three couples, and partners washing each other like we wanted, with no little kids around."

Erik, Travis, Jay and Chris, incredulously laughed, "Three couples?"

Angelo giggled, "We are not mentioning the other couple, until they're around to defend themselves."

"Good call," Tony chuckled, and flashed a thumbs-up gesture.

Pulling his Mr. Fuzzy out of his back pocket and slipping it on, Ray squeaked, "What's all this about four teen couples in the shower yesterday, with the Soul Rimmer?" Angelo and Reggie howled. Ray giggled, "John will always take the side of the youngest dude in a group. Thankfully, that's me."

Putting his Mr. Fuzzy on his hand, Tony squeaked, "You taught the fuzzy-facts-of-life, Jay. Face it, bros, a lot of what goes on around here is largely your doing. That's how you became Core Rimmers."

Now near enough to Ray and Tony, Jay softly sniggered the warning, "During tonight's cozy cuzzy fuzzy Water Blaster Battle, you two are targets."

Nodding, Tony chuckled, "Which reminds me, where are our Cuzzy Fuzzy Cozies, bro? We can't play fuzziless." Ray sputtered and then lost it and cracked up.

Tapping his sub-vocal, Chris giggled, "Alden, get Cuzzy Fuzzy Cozies for Tony and Ray, please?" Mid-step, Tony and Ray phased out and back in again.

"HEY!" Ray giggled.

Tony sniggered, "That felt way weird!"

Across Tony's and Ray's comm-badges, Alden giggled, "You weren't wearing underwear."

"That's what felt weird," Tony chuckled, "hanging loose and suddenly being confined."

Ray grinned, "At least it's a comfy fuzzy."

Leaning close to his new boyfriend, Tony whispered, "A little too comfy, pretty boy." Widely smiling, Ray locked eyes with Tony. "Too many ballads and love songs," Tony softly offered. "Thank goodness they finished off the show rockin', or we'd be making time."

Ray giggled, "Can you wait until after supper?" getting everyone's attention, and causing another breakout of snickering.

Closest to Tony, and giggling madly, Erik nudged his neighbor, prompting, "Gotta get your strength back first, dude."

"You're tellin' me!" Tony cackled. Again, the group cracked up. Ray blushed and laughed as loud as anyone, but proudly held his head high.

Noticing Angelo and Reggie sadly shaking their heads, Chris wondered, "What's wrong, guys."

Reggie shrugged. Angelo smiled, "We're just starting out. You dudes are in a different mindset than we are."

Chris nodded, "You'll get there too."

"It's the best part of being gay teenagers," Jay grinned.

Travis added, "Being gay teenagers, we each know our partners well enough to guess when its time to play, or time to talk. Alone time is right after dinner. At some point later tonight, Jay will drop another fuzzy bomb on us."

Jay scowled and tapped his sub-vocal, prompting, "What's that, Alden? I was listening to Trav and only got part of what you were saying." Listening to the AI, Jay's frown turned into a grin that slowly widened until it almost split his face. Jay chuckled, "Redesign it and give him a new one, when he's alone with Angelo. We'll have two basic types, problem solved."

The last group stepped out into the auditorium lobby. Reggie giggled, "Since no one besides me will be alone with Angelo tonight, what the heck was that all about?"

"I didn't want to embarrass you," Jay offered, and veered off course, away from the exit door and over by the concession stand. The entire group followed Jay and stopped, glancing around for some explanation. 

Guessing what Alden was saying to Jay, Angelo leaned closer to Reggie and whispered, "I'm pretty sure your hidden secret is out."

Reluctantly, Reggie smirked and sighed, "I'm living in your dorm now. Everyone will know soon enough, so go ahead."

"It's a lack of planning on my part," Jay explained. "When we had Alden and his brothers design the Fuzzy G-strings, the top part, Mr. Fuzzy's nose is for our dicks..." 

"WE KNOW!" Tony and Ray loudly laughed.

Jay chuckled and finished, "And only comfy for dudes that hang six inches or less."

Angelo gasped, "Uh oh!" and quickly pulled Reggie close to whisper the conversion from inches to centimeters. Covering his flushed face with Angelo's shoulder, Reggie couldn't help it and broke into giggles. 

During the moments the group was gathered and waiting, Alden was explaining the facts to Chris. Rapidly blinking, Chris could barely believe what he was hearing. Chris locked eyes with Angelo, saying, "Only you could explain it."

Glancing around and carefully watching reactions, Angelo described Reggie's challenges with puberty. Noticing no one was smiling or grinning, Angelo bluntly said, "Reggie hangs over seven inches. He'd never fit."

Ray squealed, "We were in the same shower and I never noticed anything."

Shaking his head, Tony chuckled, "You were as focused on me as I was on you. It was the first time we showered together and could take advantage of our new relationship. Of course we didn't notice."

Angelo asked, "Did you notice I was circumcised, Ray?"

"No," Ray giggled, and innocently rolled his eyes up, adding, "I guess I was preoccupied at the time." Roughly grabbing Ray around the waist, Tony softly sniggered and proudly glowed.

Angelo grinned, "So Reggie and I paid more attention in the shower than you and Tony. I was the only one in there with a snipped dick."

Travis shrugged, "So what? I was cut as a baby too."

"And it works perfectly, believe me!" Erik excitedly giggled, causing the group to break into loud laughter again. Chuckling insanely, Travis held his lover by the shoulders and spun him around for a kiss.

Jay sniggered and patted Reggie on the back, carefully assuring, "It's kewl, bro. Every guy notices his dick changes at puberty, and we can easily understand how your change might've been too much to cope with. While you're the one packing, it's Angelo who's the winner of the stud contest in your relationship, because he's the one that has to deal with you."

Chris added, "Before, when we were all goofing around about showers taken and who saw what, the reality of the situation is, I was looking much higher, in everyone's eyes and at their expressions. We've all seen more at the pools here than we ever did anywhere else. In only a couple o' days, it's already very normal. Only the longest, thickest dicks might be noticed."

Erik, Travis, Tony and Ray all agreed. Jay offered, "Even when the shower was more intimate, with Lance and Scott across from us yesterday morning, all I could say for certain is that Lance is longer and cut, and Scott is thicker and uncut. So, since I messed up the design, I told Alden to design Mr. Fuzzy G-strings for those who hang longer than six inches. Even with the redesign, there's eventually going to be a dude longer than ten inches who won't fit. To make Mr. Fuzzy's nose bigger than ten inches, he'd need to be renamed Mr. Droopy." Everyone in the group evilly sniggered, including Angelo and Reggie.

Nodding at the group who were very considerate of his boyfriend, Angelo appreciatively smiled, "I know Reg well enough to say, he won't wear it for anyone except me, when we're alone."

"That's exactly why you should help him get over what other dudes said," Erik instructed.

Travis said, "They probably meant well, but Reggie hasn't lifted his face off your shoulder. That tells us that it's time to drop this subject. Reggie, the only dudes who will ever say a word to you about it here are younger boys, those that are having the same challenge. Teach them, bro. I liked you this morning, way before this conversation, so please, chill."

Proving that he was done with this conversation, Tony said, "I'm starving, so let's go have dinner, together, like we planned."

Only partially lifting his head up off Angelo's shoulder, Reggie softly confirmed, "It really doesn't matter?"

Almost simultaneously, Tony, Jay and Erik answered, "Only to Angelo."

"As it should be," Chris finished.

Angelo brightly smiled, "Believe it or not, you've all helped Reg, simply by being kewl about it. At Reggie's old school, dudes would often talk to him looking down." 

To complete the conversation, Chris, Jay, Erik and Travis shared Sean Moorhead's personal information. With Angelo's math skills, Reggie learned Sean's limp and erect size. Then everyone else gathered shared their limp and erect sizes. What struck Reggie was how easily all of them proudly told very personal information. Even Ray, the youngest and only starting puberty, never blushed and simply stated the facts. Again, Tony brightly beamed, knowing that if they hadn't already hooked up, Ray wouldn't have been as confident, and neither of them would have been participating in the first place.

Paired up as couples, first Erik and Travis went toward the door. Following the first couple, Tony grinned, "I want PB&J" When Ray turned to him, quite obviously confused, Tony teased, "Pretty boy and jelly." Giggling his ass off, Ray mooed. Evilly snickering, "Dinner could take all night!" Tony raced past Erik and Travis and out the door, with Ray only a pace behind him. Sniggering, Travis and Erik jogged after them.

Seeing Reggie lifting his head off Angelo's shoulder, Jay grinned, "In case you haven't gotten the full picture, let me say a few words. A boyfriend that chooses a long dick over anything else is shallow, and probably has a poor self image. From Alden, I happen to know Angelo chose you days ago, way before he saw you nude. Similarly, I love Chris, and have since we were kids. Erik is crazy for Travis, and it's the same with Lance and Scott. Tony has turned his best friend and roommate into his boyfriend, thanks at least partially to you two."

Stepping back from Angelo, Reggie wondered, "What did Alden say?"

Taking Jay's hand, Chris smiled, "It was Alden who told us some of what you were telling Angelo this afternoon. That's how we knew to tread carefully, when we explained the deal with the Fuzzy G-Strings. Alden's a trip, and a pervert, but he really does care about every kid here. He wouldn't intentionally hurt anyone, which is why he privately told Jay about our miscalculation, and then filled me in."

The four of them started for the exit. "An observation," Jay began telling Reggie, "the only adult man on this base taller than your dad is Bill Seaver, Corey Seaver's father. Assuming you grow to be as tall as your dad, seven inches won't seem so out of proportion, Reggie."

Uncontrollably, Angelo giggled. Seeing his partner's dancing eyes, Reggie grinned, "You obviously like that idea."

"I hadn't thought of that at all," Angelo laughed, and couldn't stop laughing. Sighing, Reggie sadly shook his head but widely smiled. Opening the door and waiting for the other couple, Chris and Jay glanced over at Angelo, who was still laughing, and then at Reggie. There was no doubt about it, Reggie was standing up prouder than a peacock.

Dumbfounded, Chris simply couldn't believe Jay had done it again. They were approaching the CIC doors before Chris found his tongue, and giggled at Jay, "Stop being so pleased with yourself."

"I can't help it," Jay sniggered.

Ewa Beach Dining Room

Tuesday, November 9, 2004, 5:40PM HTZ

Minutes later, when Chris, Jay, Angelo and Reggie walked into the CIC dining room, some of the little kids slipped on their Mr. Fuzzy puppets and disjointedly squeaked greetings; "Hi Jay, hey Chris." Struggling to keep from cracking up, Angelo and Reggie sputtered and immediately went into the kitchen chow line. Slipping on their Mr. Fuzzies, Chris and Jay went to the kids, squatted down and made squeaky-small-talk, asking which foods the kids were enjoying most, and if they had fun at the playground with Hamster Balls and trampolines.

Already seated at a table for twelve were Travis, Erik, Tony, Ray, Phil and Owen. Watching Chris and Jay with the little kids, Phil was evilly snickering, knowing it was only a matter of time before the two new Core Rimmers latched onto kids. 

Owen was slowly eating, because he was uncontrollably giggling. Owen had just learned that of the six showering earlier that afternoon, he had been paying attention to the others as much as Angelo and Reggie had. Phil knew this immediately after the shower, because Owen had told him that the kids in his home were strictly timed when they were allowed to bathe or shower. Owen didn't know how to take a relaxing shower and just enjoy the warm water; his normal routine was to get clean as quickly as possible, before a bathroom door flew open for the next kid to be timed. Since that day's two showers were the first with Phil at his side, Owen was learning to slow down, but didn't know what to do with the extra time. Naturally, Owen's eyes wandered. Owen's eyes were wandering again, busily watching Chris and Jay, two of the Fuzzy G-string lunatics that started the water blaster battle the prior night.

When adults from FYS began coming in, and filing into the kitchen, Chris squeaked to the kids, "It's time to feed our fuzzies, guys."

"Famished fuzzies get feeble and fall down," Jay grinned, causing many of the kids to crack up.

Rolling his eyes, Chris giggled, "That's how Jay hurt his wrist."

Angelo and Reggie came out of the kitchen just as Chris and Jay were going in. Tony and Ray raised their hands, so Angelo and Reggie could see where they were. Balancing trays in their hands, Angelo and Reggie signaled with nods that they had seen Ray and Tony. 

Meanwhile, in the chow line, Chris and Jay were beside Jen and Jim Hundser. Waiting for her main course, Jen teased, "Chris, how many children are you and Jay planning on adopting today?"

Chris giggled, "Today is a little too quick, Aunt Jen."

"Maybe tomorrow," Jay smiled, "the kids have to choose us."

Jim chuckled, "You both realize that the bringer of Mr. Fuzzy puppets will have a long line of kids?"

Taking her plate from Miguel, Jen giggled, "You may be the first Core Rimmers to move into a full size house, and have children that are your own age."

Hearing Jay chortling and turning to see him nodding his head, Chris laughed, "No, Jay!"

"Why not?" Jay sniggered, "Derrick and Mike have Reyes."

Chris giggled, "Reyes still looks thirteen. Please, let's keep it to twelve and younger, at least two years younger than us?"

Jay shrugged, "We'll see, is the best I can offer, baby. If a thirteen year old wants us for parents, I couldn't say no. Could you?"

Looking over at the chef who was patiently waiting for his dinner order, Chris giggled, "Soup, please; about a gallon, so I can drown myself in it." All the chefs and adults cracked up.

"Chicken," Jay teased.

"With noodles works," Chris giggled.

Before leaving the kitchen, Doc Wiener smiled, "I think I'd better clear my schedule."

"Thanks, Doc." Chris evilly grinned, "I'll send Jay over right after dinner," causing Jay to snap his neck turning to his lover, and another round of laughter.

Prez and most of Platinum Habits, and the band's roadies came into the kitchen chow line while the majority of laughing parents were going into the dining room. KC, Jerry and Joey invited Reyes and Ryan to their condo for dinner, so the latter two weren't present. Picking up a tray, Prez grinned, "You've demented our parents too now, Jay?" All the chefs suddenly put their utensils down, stepped back from the food and howled laughing.

"Can't leave some people alone for five minutes," Scott joked.

Jay laughed, "It wasn't me! Chris did it, I swear!"

Before leaving the kitchen, Carl Seibert smiled, "We've got the nineteenth and twentieth floors of a new condo put aside, just for Chris, Jay and their brood of twenty kids."

Picking up a tray, Keith commented, "Twenty, huh? That leaves very little time for Core Rimming." 

"Or any other sort of rimming," Mike softly joked.

Two of the lady chefs, laughing themselves to tears, hurried to the back of the kitchen. Lance smirked, "We're killing the kitchen staff. Can Dylan put us back in a time bubble thingie, so we can eat tonight?" Glancing around for the little Mikyvis, Lance wondered, "Where'd he go?"

John smiled, "Never can tell where or when."

Suddenly, the entire group found themselves in a clear bubble, sans clothes. The weird thing about the bubble was that it had clock hands on the outside.

Prez, Keith, Mike, Drew, Corey and John cracked up. Outside the bubble, everyone was moving in extreme slow motion. "Nice!" Derrick groused. "We tell the kids they need clothes in here, but here we are, setting a great example."

Dropping his tray back on the stack, Stephen covered his eyes, excitedly squealing, "But where is Dylan? How the heck do we get out of this, and when?"

Having been with his dad and pop the whole time they were in the auditorium, Leo tapped Drew on the back, wondering, "Why is there a clock, dad?"

Facing his son, Drew sighed, "Knowing Mikyvis pranks, it probably means we're on a timer. The question is, at what rate are we versus the clock and the rest of the world?"

Trying to leave the confines of the bubble, Corey giggled, "Dudes, come over this way. Maybe if we all walk back outside, this bubble will pop."

"Or at least let us get dressed again," Leo hoped. As a group, they all moved to where Corey was. Once they were all close together, Leo noticed, "The clock is smaller."

Near the back of the group, Scott sniggered, "Watch your fuzzy, Jay. You walked right into me."

"Watch your own fuzzy!" Jay laughed.

Lance giggled, "I'll watch Scott's fuzzy, Jay, but you need to back up a step or two."

Chris slapped Jay's shoulder, sniggering, "What did I tell you about fuzzying other guys?"

"I usually try to brake for Core Rimmers," Jay innocently chuckled.

Getting bumped from behind, Troy turned slightly and sniggered at Lance, "I promise to teach you guitar, bro, but that's as far as I'll go."

Blushing, Lance cackled, "So, we're all learning to hold the long, hard, wood things?" A chorus of groans and moans erupted.

As the group digressed into more silliness, Prez, Keith, Derrick and Mike huddled up to figure a way out of the bubble. John levitated to try and learn the bubble's dimensions. Of course, Jay, Chris, Sean, Troy, Lance and Scott passed a few remarks about John floating around with an unfuzzy fuzzy drooping down. Giggling his butt off, John slapped away hands reaching up. Stephen had a fair amount of complaints for all the goofy teenagers, and his floating husband, who should've known better. In a few moments, John gathered the bubble was oval shaped, sort of like an egg, and telepathically shared that with his brothers.

Having reached an agreement, Prez, Keith, Mike and Derrick began sharing their plan. The main problems were Leo and Stephen, who were more than a little worried, and then there were Chris, Jay, Lance, Scott, Troy and Sean, who weren't worried about anything except 'accidental' fuzzy brushings within the confines of the bubble.

Having little other choice, Prez loudly commanded, "ATTENTION, RIGHT NOW!" Once everyone was silent and watching him, Prez ordered, "Line up as couples, according to height, arms' distance to the man in front of you. When I say march, you WILL march, left leg, and then the right leg, in unison. We're going to march right out of this bubble."

Leo pointed and reminded, "But the clock, Uncle Prez."

"The hands haven't moved," Prez recognized. "That clock is a figment of our combined imagination, a play on Mikyvis ability. The only purpose for that clock is for Dylan to see how long it takes us to pull our act together, as a team. He's already had at least fifteen minutes of giggling, while we get more hungry and desperate."

Smiling down at his nephew, Prez explained, "You're the only one in here without a partner, Leo. That means you have to lead us out of here."

Leo squealed, "But the dining room is full and I'm naked!"

Drew reminded Leo, "When Dylan showed up, his first words were to you, asking how your boyfriend is. It sort o' makes sense, in a Mikyvis manner."

Nodding, Prez said, "My guess is we'll pass out of the time bubble dressed again. This bubble is egg shaped, so you're our point man, Leo. Lined up by height, we're sort of egg shaped. After Leo are John and Stephen, then Drew and Corey, Lance and Scott, Mike and Derrick, Sean and Troy, Keith and I, and lastly Chris and Jay." Turning to the rest of the team, Prez ordered, "As couples, and taller than man in front of you, military style, we'll march out of here."

After making some adjustments to keep their height organized, Prez ordered, "Forward, march." As it worked out, they exited the kitchen chow line in the reverse order as they had entered it, which was Dylan's twisted intention.

From his swing hanging from a light fixture, Dylan giggled, "You didn't specify what type of time bubble!" He paused, then added, "Remember this, Leo. You can lead, and Time will let you out. If you follow, you'll be stuck in Time forever."

Dylan and his swing popped out of existence. Everyone in the dining room paused to watch the bulk of the Core Leadership, who had just walked into the kitchen, walking back out with hands on the shoulders of the those in front of them. Giggling erupted from the little kids who were closest to the kitchen. Near the center of the room, Angelo grinned, "This must be a statement of some sort, I'm just not sure of what exactly."

Nodding, Reggie chuckled, "When my dad came home from work last Thursday, he told us stories that I didn't believe, until we got here Saturday. Act like everything's normal, and maybe they'll stop." Erik, Travis, Owen, Phil, Tony and Ray cracked up.

The group of Core Rimmers dropped their arms and smiled at one another. Billy got up from the table where he had been eating with the rest of the Taylor family. He hurried to his dad and pop, giggling, "Why did you do that?"

Not willing to cause a bigger disruption by explaining Mikyvis to his eldest son, Troy grinned, "How did it look to you?"

"Like you just wanted to show everyone that you're a team of close friends," Billy sniggered, "like we don't already know that."

Since neither he nor Troy had had a chance to speak with their eldest since breakfast, Sean wondered, "Did you have good day with Robbie?"

"Awesome," Billy cheered. "We spent the early afternoon playing Blackjack, with Ronnie, Garrett, Richie, Carrol, Ralphie and Pat. After that, we went to Des Moines." He gestured for his dad and pop to lean down. When they did so, Billy smiled, "We're going along at a slow pace. We went no further then step two, and it's so kewl like this. He wants us to know each other, so it's not just sex. We talk about all kinds of stuff, like school and sports. Even TV shows and movies are a lot more fun than they've ever been before."

"That's what boyfriends are really like," Sean smiled. "Suddenly everyday normal stuff becomes more important."

Troy placed a soft kiss on Billy's forehead, and then prompted, "Go finish dinner. And remember to let us know where you'll be sleeping tonight."

Nodding, Billy giggled, "He wants to be at our place, but I want to be there, at the Taylors', just for the change. I'll let you know when we figure it out." When Billy hurried back to his dinner, Sean and Troy returned to the kitchen.

Jay was sharing his plan with the rest of the team for the second cozy cuzzy fuzzy water blaster battle. It was a good idea, and would likely help many of the level two newbies feel included. With that shared, Chris and Jay joined their friends at the table. As soon as they sat down, they shared the same plan with Erik, Travis, Tony, Ray, Phil, Owen, Angelo and Reggie.

Immediately, Reggie slowly shook his head and went into a giggling fit. Angelo chuckled, "I'll try to get Reg to wear it outside of our room, but I won't push too much."

Widely grinning, Erik told Chris and Jay, "We already talked a little about that. Phil and Owen were the other couple with Tony, Ray, Reggie and Angelo. We paused their shower fun when Trav and I needed to leak and had to flush."

Nodding, Travis grinned, "We introduced Reggie to Darren too."

Locking eyes with Reggie, Chris suggested, "If you can't deal with the G-string, wear your underwear instead. It's more important that you're there than what you're wearing."

"Those kids need to know they can get crazy once in a while," Jay explained between mouthfuls. "Just like you're a little self-conscious, consider the kids whose overall growth was stunted because of those orphanages."

Phil smirked, "I guess you didn't realize that Owen is one of the level-two kids?"

Jay shrugged and locked eyes with Owen, asking, "Did I exaggerate or offend you?"

"No," Owen meekly replied. Turning to Phil, Owen smiled, "It's true, and I'm sure most of the dudes at Oneula Beach are looking forward to it. When lots of dudes here go there, just for fun, they'll know what I already do, from you. The icing on that cake is Jay's plan. All the Core Rimmers being there to play is a good idea."

Jay grinned, "But you two are cozy cuzzy fuzzy veterans, so you're on our team."

Owen giggled, "Like teams matter."

Feeling the need to say something for his new boyfriend, Phil looked at Angelo and Reggie, chuckling, "After a while, it's every man for himself."

Finished with his dinner, and since Reggie, Phil and Owen had empty plates before them, Angelo suggested, "Let's go over to the condo." With nods and affirmative replies, the four of them gathered their trays and said their goodbyes. 

Erik, Travis and Tony were nearly done eating too, but Ray was chowing down like food was a rare commodity. Tilting his head slightly toward his ravenous boyfriend, Tony bounced his eyebrows and widely smiled at the others. Erik giggled. Travis matched Tony's smile. Chris and Jay intently watched Ray dunk a dinner roll into brown gravy and then stuff most of the roll into his mouth. Noticing everyone was looking at him, Ray gleefully bounced in his seat and chewed until he could manage to laugh, "WHAT?" Almost at once, everyone offered something from their plates to Ray.

Cracking up, Tony howled, "I'm not saying a word!"

Suspiciously squinting, Ray giggled, "Good, just grunt and groan some more. I'll understand perfectly." Watching Tony turn red and digress into a giggling fit, Chris, Jay, Erik and Travis roared.

The Scooby Gang scampered into the dining room and directly to Nathan Hayes. Sitting with Brice Glotzbecker, Jerry Burk, John Huth, Roger Mosqueda, Nick Shavers and Greg Holton, Nathan was alternating between the hope the Scoobies would simply say hello and go away, or maybe the extinct volcano on Oahu would suddenly erupt. In either scenario, it would only hurt a moment.

"Yous needs to come sees your new Shiny, Nathan," the Scoobies cutely sang.

As if this interruption wasn't enough to cause giggling at the table, in Nathan's mind, Daileass, Draco, and all the Clan AIs were clogging his positronics with more insane thoughts, half of which were unique ways to commit suicide and make it appear accidental.

Since Nathan seemed to be in a trance, Brice giggled, "You guys got a special Shiny for Nathan?"

"Uh huh," Willow sang, and scampered over to sit on Brice's lap.

Picking up a dirty spoon from Nathan's plate, Xander began polishing it and smiled, "It tooks almost a week to make it just right."

"Com'on, Nath," Nick prompted, "we'd all like to see your new shiny." The sentiment was shared by all the other boys at the table. Pleased with the excitement all the boys were portraying, Faith climbed onto Jerry's lap, and Spike joined Nick.

Nathan sighed, "Where is the shiny?"

"Daileass," Spike called, "transports us all into the new Shiny!"

In a blink, all seven boys and four ferrets were sitting inside a Hummer at the parking garage. Nathan was sitting in the driver's seat, and Brice was in the passenger seat. Rarely getting the chance to be transported, the five sitting in the back seat chorused, "Kewl!"

Still polishing the spoon, Xander concentrated on his task, and explained, "The dull loving ZCC man don't needs this no more."

Spike added, "We's tooks it to Utah for armaments, and then we's tooks it to Des Moines, for Shiny camouflage paint, Shiny bullet proofs glass, and to installs the Shiny weapons."

"On the roof's a thirty-millimeter canon," Willow smiled.

And Faith giggled, "Underneath, its gots laser-guided missiles. Targeting system is ins the dashboard."

Handing Nathan his brightly polished spoon, Xander grinned, "In the back is four surface-to-air rockets." He seriously warned, "Don't be's standing up top and shoots the thirty-mil and fire the rockets. Yous'll get cooked that ways."

Brice and the other five in the back seat howled laughing.

Spike grinned, "It's gots independent suspensions, five-feets off the ground, so's there's ladders on all four doors."

"And don't forgets the sound system," Willow cheered. "Five hundred watts, seven speakers and a sub-woofer! Preloaded with Platinum Habits concerts!"

Nearest to the driver's side rear door, Roger opened it and smiled, watching the ladder steps cascade to the concrete floor. The other three doors opened and the gang climbed out to see the exterior for the first time. It was painted in camouflage, but with enough polish and shine to reflect a single candle to ten thousand times brightness. Add in the polished chrome ladders at all four doors and the chrome wheels, the vehicle was anything but stealthy.

Pointing at the chrome side ladder, mounted between the front and rear driver's side doors, Xander prompted, "Come on, Nathan." The little ferret-boy practically flew up the side of the vehicle.

Widely smiling, Nathan moved slowly to take hold of the ladder and put one foot on the first step. Willow wondered, "Don't you like it, Nath?"

Climbing steadily up the ladder to the roof, Nathan chuckled, "I love it guys. I'm just really surprised, that's all."

Faith giggled, "Yous a UNIT Rimmer, and needs a Hummer." 

Almost to the roof, Nathan abruptly stopped, felt his face flushing red, and hung his head. His life had changed radically in the days since joining the Pacific Rim Division, and mostly in good ways, but sometimes he truly had to wonder if anything had changed at all. The flavor of the insanity was different, but still, everyone around him was nuts. He climbed the last few steps up to the roof and stood.

All five boys on the ground paused and glanced at each other. Breaking into giggles, Greg, Jerry, John, Nick and Roger nudged Brice around, each playfully asking why Nathan hadn't gotten a hummer before now. Laughing his ass off, Brice didn't admit or deny anything. Fiercely blushing, Brice smiled up at Nathan, the blond cutie that had become his best friend.

Taking hold of the thirty-millimeter cannon, Nathan insured the weapon wasn't loaded and the barrel was cleared, and then swung it to the side, aiming at the group surrounding and teasing Brice. Louder shouts erupted on the ground. Greg and Jerry pretended to be shot and hit the floor. Screaming in mock horror, Nick, Roger and John scattered. The Scoobies cracked up and chased after them. Only Brice stood his ground, still smiling up. Brightly beaming, Nathan softly prompted, "We've got stuff to talk about tonight."

Nodding, Brice giggled, "Yeah, I think so too."

Laying on the concrete deck, off to each side of Brice, Greg and Jerry giggled. Evilly smirking, Nathan hit them both with more imaginary cannon fire. Giggling louder, Greg and Jerry made their bodies jolt and dance from the pretend gun shots.

After finishing their dinners, AJ, Jerry, Chris, Jay, Lance and Scott went into the Command Center. Returning to the dining room only a few minutes later, the group went to the married Core Rimmers, and began handing out little black velvet boxes. On their one week wedding anniversary, all the married Core Rimmers received their wedding rings. They were all two-tone, yellow and white 14 karat gold, with round ruby center stones, signifying the ring of fire, and had smaller diamond accent stones around the ruby.

AJ wondered, "Will we all get rings like that?"

Keith smiled, "You dudes can get whatever rings you want. The ten of us decided on this style."

"We wanted to keep ours the same," Kaleo offered.

Stephen said, "If you guys like the same style, I think it would be kewl for all us leaders to have the same rings."

Sean giggled, "We haven't even decided when to get married."

Glancing around the eight unmarried Core Rimmers, Prez quickly said, "Tell me when, and shop around for rings."

AJ told Jerry, "Those are awesome rings."

Jerry nodded and chuckled, "I think so too." Almost simultaneously, Sean, Troy, Chris, Jay, Lance and Scott agreed. Jerry chuckled, "Kewl, so unofficially we've got a style of ring already chosen for future Core Rimmers."

"Now to set the date," AJ prompted.

Kaleo grinned, "I suggest Friday afternoon, after school."

Several members of the team asked, "Why Friday?"

Kaleo explained, "It would be a week after AJ and Jerry joined us, and it's a reminder that they found the Hunnicutt brothers the same night. Remember, some time this weekend, we'll be receiving the level three kids. Or you could wait for those kids to arrive and get settled in?"

Lance told Scott, "Friday's as good a day as any."

With the realization that Lance had just asked him to marry him, Scott shivered. So incredibly happy that he couldn't help it, Scott beamed, "Yeah?"

Nodding, Lance giggled, "I already promised you everything, including my Les Paul. We might as well make it official." Scott took Lance's hand and wordlessly led him from the CIC dining room. Lance giggled, "Where are we going?"

"To work up another, bigger appetite, MSLB," Scott chortled. The rest of the team grinned.

Jay reminded Chris, "This cast will be history by Friday." Chris took hold of Jay's hand and they followed Lance and Scott back to dorm three.

Playfully, Prez observed, "Those two couples need kids."

"They're at least sort o' thinking of kids," Keith sniggered.

Over the PA at both bases, Jerry announced, "For everyone that has arrived since last Wednesday night, your ID cards and Clan debit cards have arrived." Pausing for the cheering, Jerry then chuckled, "After breakfast tomorrow morning, we'll get them passed out."

The youngest sons at the tables of the Core Rimmers gathered together more young level one and level two orphans to go to the rec room. Once Ray had finished eating, he and Tony deposited their trays at the dishwasher. Leaning close to Ray, Tony quietly asked, "Wanna hang out in the rec room for a while?"

Surprised, Ray softly giggled, "Don't you want to go back to our room?"

Beginning the walk across the dining room, Tony smiled, "After the water blaster battle, pretty boy. Once we're there, that's where we'll be for the rest of the night."

Pulling Tony off to a deserted area of the room, Ray paused and smiled, "When we play with the dildos, I'd like it if we both played at the same time."


Rapidly nodding, Ray giggled, "I haven't stopped thinking about what you said, about you bottoming for me?"

Feeling a shiver race up his spine, Tony smiled, "I'm gonna show you off in the rec room. I hit the Super-Lotto with you today. By the time the water blaster battle is over, every dude's gonna know; I'm yours and your mine. Then we'll go back to our room and have some more fun." He sealed his promise with a tender kiss that Ray quickly turned into a passionate lip lock. 

Many of the adults and teens still in the dining room noticed the new couple. Chatting about Platinum Habits cover songs, Derrick, Mike, Keith, Prez, Troy and Sean warmly smiled at the couple across the room. Sean grinned, "Normally, Tony's the one leading Ray around, but now it seems that Ray's taking the lead." Nodding, the other five agreed, and then returned to their conversation.

It wasn't planned, but when Leo and Bruce walked out of the CIC alone to talk, AJ and Jerry had an opportunity to talk with Kenny alone. AJ and Jerry walked through a dimensional door to find Kenny and pull him aside. Firmly holding his eldest son's shoulder, Jerry gently asked, "Would you like to know what happened to your parents, Kenny?"

Rapidly blinking and sighing, Kenny thought about it for about a minute, until they were seated at a small table. At last, he softly replied, "I do and I don't. I can figure stuff out, pop. My parents went to work, at the downtown financial district. When the two gay men came to our apartment to check on us, I overheard some of what they were whispering. Downtown was the worst place to be, they said."

AJ nodded and sighed, "That's right."

"That was Friday," Kenny struggled to say, "and today's Tuesday. Since there's been no word until now, it's more certain that they didn't make it." Grimly, AJ and Jerry nodded. Kenny whimpered, "What I can't understand is why they kept me and Mike home from school, but they went to work. If I had known then what I know now..." Trailing off, Kenny couldn't stop the tears. AJ reached for some napkins and handed them to Kenny, hoping that he wouldn't join his eldest son and break down crying. Finally, after about two minutes, Kenny softly sobbed, "We had a real nice apartment and went to private school. I'll bet they were more worried about paying bills."

Leaning closer, Jerry patiently reminded, "Adults have to work to provide for their families, Ken. They were more concerned about keeping their three sons safe. I'll bet you they didn't think twice about their own well being, only about providing for their family. That won't happen again in this family. Me and dad each have gorillas and enhanced human security to keep us safe."

"I know," Kenny cried. Unintentionally, Kenny drew attention from other kids in the Oneula Beach dining room.

Rather than embarrass his son or create a very public scene, AJ asked, "How about we go home, Kenny?" Getting nods in response, AJ tapped his sub-vocal, ordering, "Alden, get all three of us home and on the sofa, dude." Without a comment, Alden executed the order. AJ was seated on Kenny's right, and Jerry was on the left side. Two teen dads shifted closer to their boy. AJ sighed, "We're sorry, Kenny. We thought about where and how to tell you, but there were no good answers."

Shaking his head and wiping his eyes with the damp napkins, Kenny whimpered, "There ain't a good place or way. My brothers couldn't be around either. It just sucks. I don't even want to know how or where they died, not now, and maybe not ever."

Jerry nodded, "All you have to do is ask, Kenny."

Nodding, Kenny sighed, "I'm glad me and my brothers got out of New York, and even more happy that we found you two guys. Being here, as a family, is so much more than I hoped might happen. I was afraid I'd lose my brothers; that we'd be separated. I don't ever want to go back to New York. It's stained." Sadly shaking his head, Kenny forced a small smirk, showed it to his dad and pop, then admitted, "More than anything, I'm angry at them for thinking more about money than they did about our family. I had to deal with Mike and Shaun constantly asking, 'Where's mommy and daddy?' I had to deal with it the entire day and into the night. As far as I'm concerned, it was the dumbest thing they'd ever done."

Jerry wondered, "What do you want to do now?"

"Stay here, at my new home, with you, my new dad and pop," Kenny answered.

AJ gently prompted, "Why don't you talk with your friends about it?"

Shaking his head, Kenny firmly said, "Not yet. This is where I want to be now, in my new home with my new dad and pop. Tomorrow I'll see what the other guys are doing. All you did was verify what I already expected. Someday I might want to know more, but maybe I won't. The more I know, the worse it'll be; like Leo. I don't want to relive that day. I want this family in this home." He paused and scowled, and then asked, "Am I being selfish?"

"I sure don't think so," Jerry quickly answered.

AJ smiled, "Definitely not. You're making perfect sense; choosing to move forward rather than look back or stagnate."

"Yeah," Kenny brightly smiled.

Jerry gave Kenny a hug, and then suggested, "How about we do something, since we have time available?"

Kenny wondered, "Like?"

"My thoughts are looking into the future, to winter rainy days, with three boys and two teenage fathers, chilling out in this house," Jerry grinned.

"Kewl," Kenny smiled.

"To the basement we go," Jerry prompted, and stood up.

Also standing, Kenny asked, "Why the basement?"

AJ answered, "It's a big empty space right now. It needs to be set up for those rainy days, with games and toys and all the stuff we'll need."

"Sweet!" Kenny brightly cheered, and hurried to the basement door. Before he had even opened the door, Kenny said, "I know a bunch of games and stuff Mike and Shaun would love." He started down stairs with his dad and pop trailing behind. "We'll need beanbag chairs, enough for all of us."

Jerry said, "Get extras for friends."

Like every other basement in the houses and townhomes, the walls were finished and the floor was carpeted. At the bottom of the stairs, Kenny turned and smiled. AJ sniggered, "What are you waiting for? Tap your comm-badge and call Alden."

Happily doing as he was told, Kenny called the AI to help get the beanbag chairs, enough for twelve kids and six teenage fathers. A shelf unit was ordered, and then games and toys, that Mike and Shaun had in New York City, filled the shelves. A convertible card table and snack table, with seating for four went to the other side of the staircase. Since they already had four televisions in the house, they decided to put a stereo radio and CD changer in the basement. Of course, a CD changer required a CD library. Kenny ordered a lot and both his dads added to the collection. Ripping off the CD wrappers meant they needed garbage bins, so two good sized ones were ordered; one for each side of the basement. While they worked on the CD library, Kenny revealed, "I have an embarrassing question that needs to be asked."

Never pausing their work, AJ and Jerry smiled. Jerry joked, "You want me in a full-body Fuzzy for this?"

"NO!" Kenny loudly laughed. Jerry and AJ softly chortled. Sadly shaking his head, Kenny giggled, "You're on the right track, it does have to do with last night." Seeing his dad and pop patiently waiting, Kenny said, "I played a game yesterday, and the prize was Jason Mullins. I didn't win the game, but almost did. It suddenly put me on the spot, ya know? Jase and me are friends, and cousins, and that's all it'll ever be. Since last night, I've been noticing the couples, gay and straight. The straight side is much easier to figure out, it seems to me."

Jerry blinked, "I'm not sure I get what you mean." 

"Girls sit on their boyfriend's lap," Kenny said. "Most of the time, it's the boyfriend that wants a kiss, but I have seen some girls do that too. With the gay couples, it's not easy to figure out. Honestly, I can't really see having a girlfriend or a boyfriend any time soon, because nobody is that special. But then I noticed how Billy was with Robbie, and how Jase was acting with JD, and all the other gay couples during the day today, like Gage and Jonah, and Ben and Sammy. Are there some rules that gay guys agree on or what?" He tossed the crumpled CD wrapper in the trash and then turned to his dad and pop.

Jerry explained, "Looks are deceiving. In most cases, guys are heavier and stronger than their girlfriends, so that's why you see that being pretty constant. I sit on your dad's lap, even though I'm a little taller and a little heavier. For now, Gage and Sammy are heavier and stronger than Ben and Jonah, but that won't necessarily always be the case. Troy sits on Sean's lap and they switch, just like me and dad, and just like Keith and Prez."

Kenny gasped and then squealed, "Keith and Prez switch too? I never saw that! And Prez is our leader! HOLY CRAP!"

Only because Jerry was fighting to not crack up, AJ giggled, "You've only been here three days, not counting the day at Kaho'olawe. Later on, talk to your bother, Mike. I'd place big money on him being with Geoff right at this very moment." He went to throw a CD wrapper away, saying, "You could also talk with Gage, Jonah, Sammy and Ben. I guarantee that none of them have made any agreement about who is doing what and how. When you find someone that makes you feel good, and discover that you make him feel good, everything else simply falls into place, very naturally."

"Your dad and I went through some rough times together," Jerry reminded. "A lot of our bedtime chats were about that bad stuff, and we made each other feel better. When we were reunited, we shared more bad stuff, and with each day since we were rescued, less of that and more of the good stuff we were discovering together. Now we talk about our three sons, and each other too. Even with straight couples, everything is pretty even. It has to be, or the couple won't last. Somebody's gonna feel hurt about something, and they'll split apart."

AJ recommended, "Talk with your cousins and buddies, Kenny. Another bet I'll place is against Jase, JD, Gage, Jonah, Ben and Sammy having a lot of sex. Maybe in the mornings they're playing in the shower, and at night they're playing before they go to sleep. None of them are like any teenager, I guarantee it. They're just having fun. It'll be the same with you, when you find that special person, especially if it's another guy. And in about five years, if you're very lucky, you'll be teenagers and having more grown up fun together, like me and your pop."

Finishing the last CD and tossing it onto a beanbag chair, Jerry loudly laughed, "It makes me crazy when you do that!" AJ cracked up and backed away. Kenny's eyebrows shot up. Advancing on his future hubby, Jerry giggled, "You did it with Shaun yesterday." Playfully imitating AJ, Jerry teased, "Maybe you'll want to hold hands, or maybe you'll want to hug, and maybe you'll even want to kiss, like me and poppa kiss." 

AJ and Kenny roared laughing. In an instant, Jerry picked up AJ and they kissed around their combined laughter. Practically in tears from laughter, Kenny watched Jerry carry AJ to the nearest wall. Once trapped between the wall and Jerry, AJ wrapped his legs around Jerry's butt. When the kisses paused, AJ turned to Kenny, giggling, "See, I started it, and we both got what we wanted."

"For now," Jerry sniggered, "bedtime tonight will be reversed." He placed AJ back on the floor and they each stole tender kisses. Jerry finished his fatherly advise, reminding, "Everything is even, the love and caring flows back and forth however it's needed. As we said last night and tonight, don't worry about the sex part; when you've got the sharing, it really does happen just as easily as what you just saw us do."

Still red faced from laughing, Kenny rapidly nodded.

With all the CDs unwrapped and stowed on the shelf, the three of them glanced around their new family playroom. Satisfied, AJ called Kaleo and told him what they had done. Intrigued, Kaleo transported into their basement with Tory to see the results for themselves. The space was perfect; comfortable, inviting, and clearly a place that kids and their teenage dads could hang out at. Glancing around the space, Kaleo chuckled, "This is great!"

Tory suggested, "How about we add to it?"

Tilting his head, AJ grinned, "You could add whatever you want in your basement, bro."

"We will," Tory giggled, and walked over toward the basement half bath. However he didn't go in the bathroom, but stopped short. He pulled a little lever that opened a hidden latch in the wall, explaining, "These are collapsible, folding walls; they'll slide open, so your basement opens to Sean's and Troy's next door, and their basement will open to ours at the end unit. Our three families can chill together, or apart, or we could even make a space large enough for newbie nests." Tory then went to the opposite side of the half bath and opened the other sliding wall, effectively doubling the space. Kenny cracked up at the surprised expressions his dads wore. Evilly sniggering, Kaleo hurried to the next wall that separated Troy's and Sean's basement from his.

Jerry went to help Kaleo open both sections of sliding walls. Tapping his comm-badge, AJ called, "Sean, are you busy, bro?"

"Not yet," Sean evilly cackled. In the background, Troy began giggling. Recognizing that teenaged boys were insane, Kenny covered his mouth with both hands and muffled a belly laugh.

Bouncing his eyebrows at his eldest son, AJ giggled, "If you can, you two need to come down to your basement. We've got a surprise for you."

Out of sync, Sean and Troy uncertainly muttered, "A surprise in the basement?" 

Troy said, "We're only chatting with Prez, Keith, Derrick and Mike."

"Bring them along too," AJ quickly suggested.

Kenny giggled, "I'll go get my brothers, and all my new cousins too, dad."

"Kewl," AJ nodded. He pulled Kenny close for a moment, gave his eldest a hug and mouthed, "I love you, ya know?"

Giggling and nodding, Kenny warmly smiled, "I love you too, dad." He then called Alden to be transported to the CIC rec room, where his brothers and friends were. In a blink, Kenny was gone.

Prez reminded, "That's about three dozen of us in your basement, AJ."

Now that all the basement separator walls were open, AJ giggled, "Space won't be a problem, Prez."

Mike chuckled, "Right, now I'm curious." The sounds of chairs sliding could be heard. Then Mike called Alden to have the group of six Core Rimmers transported from Ewa Beach's dining room to AJ's and Jerry's basement.

Upon arrival, Prez, Keith, Derrick, Mike, Sean and Troy glanced around the space that was now about ten meters long by twenty-four meters wide. AJ giggled, "The walls on both sides of the half bathrooms and stairs are temporary sliding walls. Tory showed us."

Kaleo cheered, "The division's basement nest just moved. There are three half bathrooms down here now, and plenty of space for at least fifty kids to nest."

Prez chuckled, "We were just talking about combining gear in Mike's and Derrick's basement with ours. At our townhomes, we could set up a little jam space, have space to chill, and including Drew's and Corey's basement, still have space for kids to nest."

Tapping his comm-badge, Keith called, "Drew?"

"Here, bro."

"Transport over here," Keith grinned. "You and Corey need to see this to believe it."

There were a few seconds silence, then Drew giggled, "We've heard plenty from you two, and still don't believe what we've seen!"

Derrick sniggered, "Then the next trip to Archnania, the bedroom walls come down."

"And we'll show you how to do it while standing on your hands," Keith teased. Corey and Drew cracked up.

Obviously near his dads, Leo squealed, "That's more than I needed to hear, Uncle Keith!"

"For the moment, nephew," Keith sniggered.

Drew chuckled, "Give us a minute to rinse the glasses we're using and we'll be right there. Out."

Happily cackling, "I found 'em!" Kenny transported into the basement with his two brothers, Stan, Leonard, Russ, Mark, Marv, Jimmy, Richie, Scott, Dillon, Jonah, Gage, Ben, Sammy, Dee, Jason, JD, Randy, Lenny and Geoff. The only Core Rimmer son that wasn't present was Billy, because he was over at the Taylors' house. Moments later, Drew, Corey and Leo transported into the basement. With twenty-two Rimmer sons and twelve Core Rimmers roaming around, there was still plenty of space. Soon, the boys were making themselves at home on bean bag chairs. Games and toys were pulled off the shelf. They began playing and chattering. Their dads made preparations for nesting kids, getting blankets, mattress padding and pillows piled in one corner of Kaleo's and Tory's section. When that was complete, Corey, Drew, Keith and Prez transported to their townhomes to make similar preparations in their basements. Derrick and Mike went to dorm three to meet with Lance and Scott for a prearranged guitar lesson.

Ewa Beach, Condominium A

Tuesday, November 9, 2004, 6:40PM HTZ

Outside, it was twilight. The sky to the East was dark, and to the West there were the final vestiges of sunlight bouncing off of orange and pink clouds. Angelo, Reggie, Phil and Owen began the walk up one of the exterior staircases at condominium A. Owen was trying to keep up with Angelo and Reggie until Phil called his name at the third floor and gently reminded, "Slow down for me, okay?"

"It's already so pretty!" Owen beamed. "Don't you think it's pretty?"

Pausing at the landing halfway between the third and fourth floors, Phil nodded, smiled and leaned close to whisper, "I want you to keep that dinner in your belly."

Owen pulled back and saw the sincerity in his boyfriend's eyes. He was already getting a little winded and understood Phil's intent. "Okay," Owen smiled, and quickly kissed Phil on the cheek, but then he grabbed Phil's hand and hurried up another flight of stairs. Giggling hysterically, Phil held Owen back, making him slow down. By the sixth floor, Owen was feeling the exertion from climbing and they paused there.

Already at the tenth floor, Angelo and Reggie looked out over the base. "The CIC and auditorium look like a bloated teal guppy," Angelo sniggered.

Pointing over to the right, Reggie smiled, "Some kids are going to the pool and diving well."

Angelo wondered, "Do you want to hang out there tonight?"

"When we're done here, I want to be alone with you," Reggie confessed. Taking the hint, Angelo moved closer and was soon wrapped in his boyfriend's arms. Angelo rested his head on Reggie's shoulders. After a few peaceful moments, Reggie whispered, "Can I tell you something?"


"We can and will be more social... tomorrow. Tonight, we're gonna dance, and we're gonna watch TV, and all the while we'll be chatting about everything and anything. Some of that's gonna be done naked, just 'cos we can. We'll play in the water blaster war, and then go back to our room. We're gonna talk, and cuddle, and make love, and talk about making love. Before we crash, we're going to know so much more than we do already. What we did alone before was too good to be true."

Angelo giggled, "Yeah, it was way too much fun."

Reggie asked, "If I said I'd like it if we stayed like that for another few days, what would you think?"

"You're scared of intercourse too?"

"That's only part of the reason," Reggie admitted, and then explained, "It's plenty for now, babe. You made me do something that I've never done before. If your hand could do that, and your mouth was even better, then what's the rush?"

"All true, but don't you feel like we have to try?"

"I do, very much, but I'm not going anywhere. I guess I want it to be special. Since this day is already very special, we don't need to make it better."

Angelo asked, "You'll tell me when you're ready to make another unique day?"

Squeezing Angelo tight, Reggie sighed, "I'm counting on it happening automatically and naturally, like this entire day has been. I'd like it to be two very unique days; the first day I'll be looking up into your eyes, and the next, you'll be looking up into mine."

Surprised and pulling his head off Reggie's shoulder, Angelo checked, "You want to go first?"

Reggie giggled, "Why are you shocked? I love you, Angelo. If we're gonna make us work, then I have to be all you'll ever need, all the time, so all of me is yours. I already know that you're who I'll be turning to for everything; whether that means to talk, or if it means bedroom playtime. You may be more than average, but you're closer to average than I am. Since I expect challenging first times with you, I can only imagine what you must be expecting." Because Angelo was only smiling at him, Reggie sniggered, "After I finished your portrait Sunday night, I was in the bathroom, putting out the fire." 

Angelo began giggling. Reggie planted a tender kiss, and then teased, "You needed hand lotion, but thanks to foreskin, I only needed soap and water to clean up when I was done." Cracking up, Angelo flung himself against Reggie and muted his laughter. Reggie giggled, "I really do love you very much, Angelo. Everything that was impossible suddenly became possible today. Let's keep this day just as it has been. We can have plenty of fun for as long as we want, before going for intercourse."

"I'm all yours, Reg. Take me home."

Soft chuckling caused Angelo and Reggie to look over toward the sound. Leaning against the wall that separated the balcony from the staircase was another teenager, wearing the widest grin he could manage. "Sorry, but you two are just too cute," the teen boy chuckled. Mindful to not appear aggressive in any way, he slowly came around the corner, saying, "My name's Mathew Thornton, but call me Matt. My dad and I just moved here today. Dad's joining the housekeeping staff. We're over in condo B, seventh floor. Since the view from my bedroom was partially blocked by this building, I was only coming over to get the full picture." 

He giggled at his own understatement, then offered, "Don't worry, I'm gay too, so it's kewl. It's more than kewl, really. There were two other guys, another couple, that I passed on the way up. They seemed a little younger, so I didn't stop. This clearly is the place for me to be. Being gay wasn't too kewl back in Kentucky. That's why my dad was searching for a job, and why we're here." 

He paused again and blinked, "Am I talking too much? I always do, which is why my orientation became a tiny problem."

Separating from Reggie, Angelo reached to shake hands and introduced himself, and then introduced Reggie. Reggie also shook hands and greeted the new kid. Immediately, Angelo and Reggie took notice of Matt's southern United States accent, but hadn't heard those inflections before. Angelo noticed that Matt was taller than Reggie, but they both had the same large frame. Between Angelo and Reggie, they managed to explain that their parents were employees too, and that they had just met over the weekend, and hooked up that day, before Matt took over again.

"While I was unpacking, I occasionally peeked out the windows," Matt admitted, and then offered, "There seems to be more guys than girls here." All Angelo and Reggie did was nod, and Matt cheered, "SWEET!" He looked up, clasped his hands together and loudly prayed, "Dear Lord, just one cute guy about my age, please?" Angelo and Reggie giggled, and Matt continued, "I only want one, and I'll never cheat or nothin'. Fourteen, and if he's a ginger too, that would be really nice, but beggars can't be choosers, ya know, so just sayin', I've been good, and I promise to stay good; really, really good, if ya know what I mean. And thanks for the pretty sunset, and my dad's new job here, and tonight's dinner was primo, so thanks for teaching dad how to cook and not burn food. Amen and out." He unclasped his hands and brightly smiled at Angelo and Reggie. Soft giggling turned into triplicate loud laughter.

Angelo giggled, "Is your dad expecting you home soon, Matt?"

Matt shrugged, "Eventually, ya know, he knows where I said I was goin'. Why'd ya ask?"

"Your prayer has been answered," Angelo smiled. "Why don't you walk with us?"

Catching on to Angelo's plan, Reggie grinned, "As you heard, we were just about to go to our dorm room. We can show you around a little, and hopefully introduce you to two leaders. At least you can meet a few dudes."

"And you can get a comm-badge too," Angelo said. He pointed out, down and to the right, explaining, "That building is our dormitory."

Matt grinned, "I thought your folks worked here."

"They do," Angelo and Reggie chorused.

Gesturing to Angelo, Reggie sniggered, "We've been successfully avoiding each other for three days. Today, Angelo knocked at my door. This afternoon, we were scheming to find a place to be alone, away from my kid brother, and Angelo's little sister. Need I say more?"

Dropping to his knees, Matt clasped his hands, again praising the Almighty for everything in heaven and Earth, including the creation of Angelo and Reggie. He hopped up again, prompting, "Lead the way."

Walking with Reggie to the nearest staircase, Angelo grinned, "We'll introduce you, but the challenge is yours."

Following them down the steps, Matt wondered, "Challenge? What challenge?"

"Turning an acquaintance into a boyfriend," Reggie briefly answered.

"All we can do is shake our heads when we know someone is already spoken for," Angelo said.

Matt asked, "How many gay couples are here?"

Pausing at the next landing, Reggie looked up at Matt, still a few steps up and away. Reggie grinned, "What do you know about this division?"

Matt shrugged, "It's Clan Short, so that tells me its better than where I was."

Angelo and Reggie smiled at each other, and then started walking again, telling Matt about the leadership team, and that they referred to themselves as Core Rimmers, and the rest of the kids are Rimmers. They admitted that they had personally met five gay couples that one day, and the entire leadership team accounted for another seven couples. At a pause, while Matt was again praising the good Lord, Reggie tapped his comm-badge, calling, "Reggie to Jay, come in, please?"

A couple of seconds later, Jay and Chris simultaneously laughed, "PLEASE?"

In his Mr. Fuzzy squeaky voice, Jay sniggered, "Sorry, the number you have dialed is out of service. PUH-LEAZE re-try your call, without the friggin' politeness."

Reggie chuckled, "We met a new kid, the son of a new employee, dude. Can you hook him up with a comm-badge and the necessities?"

"One Rimmer welcoming package, comin' up," Jay replied in his normal voice.

Chris sniggered, "Your welcoming package is waiting in your room, Reggie."

Angelo giggled, "Accept our Fuzzy thanks in advance."

"We'll meet you in our common room in five minutes," Reggie smiled.

Chris giggled, "Guess this means we need to get dressed, lover." Angelo, Reggie, Matt and even Jay cracked up. "Whoops!" Chris giggled, "Please insert another five credits to continue with this obscene call."

"OUT!" Jay howled.

Matt chuckled, "I'm not askin' what's in the welcoming package." Seesawing back and forth, Angelo and Reggie recalled the exact contents mentioned in the auditorium, driving Matt to hysterics. Not knowing any better, Matt thought it was all made up, just friendly banter. The truth was that Angelo and Reggie also thought they were kidding, and were simply repeating what they had been told. 

Entering the quad, Matt's jaw dropped when Aki and Hajami were chased outside of dorm one by Stephen Wicks and Aaron Farris. All four had super-soakers and were in their underwear. The pre-cozy cuzzy fuzzy water blaster battle practice sessions were already beginning. Angelo and Reggie glanced over at Matt. Finding the newbie with wide eyes and his jaw dragging on the ground, Angelo and Reggie evilly snickered. Matt provocatively growled, "Those two older guys are too cute."

"We haven't met them," Reggie sniggered.

Angelo grinned, "There are three hundred kids here, and another hundred at Oneula Beach. Having parents, we initially felt out of place, but we haven't met a bad kid here all day. Once we introduce you to Jay and Chris, I expect all three of us will get introduced to some more kids."

From the direction of the CIC, another two boys were racing toward them. Brice Glotzbecker howled, "You cheat so bad, Nathan!"

Several meters in front of Brice, Nathan Hayes loudly giggled, "It's not my fault that your organic brain can't keep up with my positronics!" They ran directly for dormitory one and went inside.

Matt grinned at Angelo and Reggie. "We haven't met them either," Reggie cheekily smiled.

Looking up at the sky, Matt called, "Mamma, please don't call me home now."

Angelo checked, "Momma?"

Nodding, Matt briefly explained, "A bad car accident on an icy road, four years ago. Since then, it's been just me and dad."

Angelo sincerely apologized, "I'm sorry, Matt, I didn't know."

"It's been a long while," Matt explained, "and my dad is one of the best. He's always known which way I lean, and he has never been critical about it. He changed his life and career for me. Just to give you an example, when mamma passed, and I woke from a nightmare about the accident, he stayed the night with me in my bed. He knew about me, and didn't care about nothin', 'cept makin' it better the best he could. Now it's my turn to make things better for him. I'll find a nice boyfriend, someone he'll like too, and then he's gettin' booted out, to find a nice lady that I'll like. The hopes and dreams I had last week are materializing real nice. If it weren't for them stupid Romulans, we would o' been here Saturday. Everything's going to work out better now." Realizing they were heading toward a doorway, Matt asked, "This is home?"

Nodding, Reggie smiled, "The last room at the far end of the shorter hall, yeah."

"Room twenty-six," Angelo repeated what his parents told him.

"The scenic route," Matt happily chortled. "It's not like the walk hasn't been plenty scenic enough, mind you."

Pulling the outside door open, Angelo giggled, "You're gonna do fine around here, Matt."

"I sure hope so," Matt smiled. He stepped inside and paused to wait for Angelo and Reggie. Glancing around the area, Matt saw the stairs leading up to the second floor, and what appeared to be postal mail box units, like he would see at post offices in the United States. The mail box units were resting on the floor, by the stairs and out of the way, needing to be mounted on the walls. Installation was a task his dad would very likely help to accomplish.

In moments, they were walking beyond the inner door and into the hall. The first couple of room doors were closed, but they could see the TV on in the common room, and there were electric guitar sounds gushing from far down the hall. They passed a room where two little boys were seen on the floor playing video games. A little further down, near the lavatory, another two younger guys were watching TV. Quite unexpectedly, a really horrible note was played, and the guitar playing stopped, but loud laughter from multiple voices reverberated down the hall. Angelo, Reggie and Matt stopped at the last room and looked inside. Seeing Lance, Scott, Erik, Travis, Jay, Chris, Derrick and Mike inside the room, Angelo and Reggie raised their free hands.

Still sniggering, Scott waved them in the room, causing everyone else to look to the door. Standing before one of the two closets, with his Les Paul hanging from his shoulders, Lance was pretending to slam his head against the doors. Turning around, blushing red and still giggling, Lance lifted the guitar off his shoulders and handed it to Mike, prompting, "Once again, please." Looking over at Angelo, Reggie and the newbie teenaged boy, Lance giggled, "Great! All the new guys heard me blow chunks."

Everything paused while Angelo and Reggie introduced Matt Thornton. Jay continued introductions around the room. Since Reggie hadn't yet been formally introduced to Derrick and Mike, they also shook hands and knocked knuckles. Soon, Matt was the center of attention, repeating all that he had already shared with Angelo and Reggie. Hearing a familiar accent, Derrick wondered, "Where are you from, Matt?"

"Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA," Matt smiled.

Derrick asked, "Is that close to Louisville?"

Matt nodded, "About two hours south of, on I-65."

"Just what the doctor ordered!" Mike cheered. Causing the rest of the boys in the room to nod and chuckle.

"Careful, Lick," Derrick grinned, "Galli will pop in, TARDIS and all, and melt our brains again." Wobbling unsteadily, Mike groaned through his chortling. Chris and Derrick went to Matt.

Chris explained to Matt, "One of our brothers, from Louisville, has been in the dumps and grumps, because he learned both his little brothers found themselves boyfriends today."

Nodding, Derrick asked, "Could you try and help us out, Matt?"

Shrugging, Matt smiled, "I'll give it a shot."

Chris giggled, "Maybe by the time we get back, Lance and Scott will be able to play all of 'Flight Of Icarus'."

"It's a rough tune to play," Matt chuckled.

Realizing there was another guitar player in their midst, Mike smiled, "If Kassidy insists on being grumpy, come right back here again, Matt."

Nodding, Matt chuckled, "Sure thing."

Chris, Derrick and Matt walked out of the room and passed through the common room. Chris softly offered, "Kassidy is fourteen, like us, and has two little brothers, eleven-year-old twins. Kade is getting close to Brad Triggs. Karey is building bonds with Reggie's little bro, Cameron."

"In the meantime," Derrick smirked, "Kassidy is stumped, wondering how both his younger brothers managed what he hasn't. He's a real nice guy and mixes in easily with every group, but he's just a little down tonight. All Kassidy needs is an ego boost, and someone detached to get him off the ground."

Beginning to think of what he might say, Matt wondered, "Is he gay?"

Chris shrugged, "I'm not sure. At dinner, he had a bunch of guys from this dorm sitting with him. I've seen him chatting with girls too, before today, but that's not proof of much, besides being social."

Pausing at the Oldcambus brothers' room, Derrick checked, "Ready, dude?"

Matt nodded, "This will be simple, unless he decides otherwise."

Chris knocked on the door. In moments, the door swung open. Soft country music drifted out into the hall. Dressed as he was at dinner, only now barefoot, Kassidy forced a small grin, asking, "How's it goin', bros?"

Derrick gestured to Matt, introduced him and added that Matt was from the same state. "We thought maybe a dude with the same background might help you feel better," Derrick sincerely tried.

"Damned kids," Kassidy smirked, "I turned my back on 'em for ten minutes, and two hours later they come runnin' to me, braggin' about boyfriends."

Chris had been watching Matt closely. He hadn't blinked once. Chris and Derrick didn't know that Matt had prayed for a ginger haired boyfriend soon after meeting Angelo and Reggie. Kassidy had strawberry blond hair, gray eyes and a medium build that momentarily stopped Matt's heart. Concentrating on Kassidy's reactions, Derrick felt invisible for the first time in a long while. Chris could tell Matt was attracted and fought back the urge to grin. Raising an open palm, Matt cleared his throat and offered, "If you wanna talk, I'll listen?"

Nodding, Kassidy grinned, "Lets talk about anything but brothers."

"Since I don't have any brothers or sisters, that's not a problem," Matt chortled.

"Come on in," Kassidy prompted, and stepped aside.

Walking between Chris and Derrick, Matt went inside the room, past Kassidy and turned around to raise a hand to Chris and Derrick.

"We'll catch y'all later," Kassidy said, and closed the door before Chris or Derrick could say a word.

Blinking uncertainly, Chris and Derrick went back down the hall. After only a few steps, Chris softly giggled, "Did you feel that?"

Derrick nodded and chortled, "Kassidy looked at only Matt, like we weren't even there. Matt was every bit as spellbound."

Chris laughed, "Talk about your turnarounds! Kassidy should've just said, thanks for the hunky hottie, dudes. You're dismissed."

Nodding and cracking up, Derrick and Chris raced back to Lance's and Scott's room to share what had happened.

Once the door closed, Kassidy turned to Matt, smiling, "We've got trikes and a huge area to ride them, right here on base."

"Sweet!" Matt chuckled, "My dad and I had dirt bikes that we sold before coming here."

Gesturing to the stereo in the room, Kassidy wondered, "Do you like music?"

Nodding, Matt answered, "Dad plays bluegrass banjo, mandolin and acoustic guitar. I started on acoustic guitar and got an electric two years ago. Country rock and southern rock are my favorites though. That's why dad chose to work here, instead of other US Clan divisions, so I could go to school here." He paused and then seriously said, "I have a question for you."

"Ask away."

"Do you believe in miracles?"

Widely smiling and nodding, Kassidy replied, "A few days ago, I probably would've said no. My parents and an aunt and uncle were killed during Battle Of Earth."

Matt groaned, "I'm sorry. I know what that feels like, because my mamma died a couple o' years ago. It's just been me and dad since then."

Taking a few steps closer to Matt, Kassidy softly said, "Miracles ain't like magic tricks, but sometimes things happen that are just too good to be true. It started hours after I lost my parents, and it's continuing, right to this very moment. A bunch of really kewl kids took the sting out of the loss. The first time someone says, 'it'll be all right,' you don't really believe it might happen, but I can say that it does, and it has. For four days, I've been doing some major soul searching, knowing I couldn't only be a big brother, but not being able to tell myself what I really want. I think I've found my answer. That's another miracle I didn't expect."

"I think you're right," Matt smiled. "All I did was decide to take a walk to see my new home. Climbing the steps at condo A, I passed two younger kids that were hugging and kept climbing. That's when I met Angelo and Reggie, hugging and sweet talkin' at the tenth floor balcony. They brought me here, where I saw two more miracles before we even stepped inside. Then I heard Lance and Scott playing electric guitar. Now I'm up to six miracles in about half an hour."

"What're we gonna do about these miracles?"

Reaching his hand out and having Kassidy take it, Matt answered, "Be glad for what we've been given."