"Wait, Obie's still gone." Paul said as he noticed Obie's distant expression.
"No I'm not. I snapped out of it a few minutes ago." Obie said quietly.
"Are you alright?" Paul asked with concern.
"Yeah. I don't have any big bad things like what happened to all of you. I'm fine." Obie said as he looked around the room.
"You have something. You can tell us if you want." Paul said cautiously.
Obie considered for a moment, then quietly said, "Nobody ever did any of the sex stuff to me or hit me or anything like that."
"Then why are you here?" Arlo asked slowly, more as a prompt for Obie to continue than out of curiosity.
"My mom was a drug addict. By the time it got really bad, Mike and I were old enough that we could take care of ourselves so it wasn't that bad. We didn't have nice stuff like some other kids, but... we got by." Obie said quietly.
Silence fell over the room as everyone waited, knowing that there was more to come.
"Then one night mom told me we were going to go somewhere. Just me and her. I thought that was weird because we never went anywhere." Obie said distantly.
Devon carefully placed one of his hands on Obie's shoulder to give it a gentle squeeze.
Obie took in a deep breath, then said, "This car was waiting on us when we left the apartment building. We got in the car and this really scummy looking fat old guy drove us to this warehouse."
More than one of the boys in the room felt a chill run up their spines as they easily envisioned what was about to happen.
"We went into the warehouse and mom started talking to this really creepy looking guy with long stringy hair and a tattoo on his face. I didn't hear what they were saying, but when they were done, he handed her a paper bag and it got real quiet." Obie said as tears started to well up in his eyes.
"She started to walk away, but then the fat guy grabbed her and before I knew what was going on, he held out a badge and told her that she was under arrest." Obie said distantly.
"So do you know what was going on?" Paul asked in a soft voice.
"Not then, but when we went to court I found out that she was trying to sell me for drugs." Obie said as his tears finally began to fall.
There was another long minute of silence before Simon quietly asked, "But the people she tried to sell you to were undercover police officers?"
Obie nodded without looking at Simon.
"And when she was sent to jail, you and your brother were sent to Camp Little Eagle where you would be safe." Uri said in confirmation.
Obie silently nodded and said, "They were going to put Mike and me into cabin two so we could have, you know, something like parents. But we didn't want that. Our mom wasn't much of a mom and we never had a dad. We told Sean and Cory that we were done with having parents and that we've always taken care of each other. So they let us move into cabin three."
"I'm glad you didn't have to go through the things that Uri and I did." Simon said honestly.
Obie looked up with tearful eyes and said, "But... I never done any of that stuff... even Trent and Jose have done it and I haven't... Maybe I don't belong here..."
"I haven't done it either." Paul said quietly.
Obie looked at Paul with surprise.
"You're not alone Obie. I'm going to be living here and I've never done any of those things either." Paul said gently.
"Me either. I've never done anything." Arlo said quietly.
Obie looked at Arlo with question.
"Most of you know about my... um..." Arlo trailed off.
"Gift?" Jerico offered quietly.
Arlo gave Jerico an uncertain look, but finally nodded and continued, "My parents are kind of... well, really rich."
He seemed to be searching for the words, and finally continued, "They thought I was nuts. I overheard them talking in the kitchen one night... they were going to send me away. They were going to put me in this place where no one would ever see me or hear from me again. That way their rich friends would never know that they had a kid who wasn't 'perfect'."
"So you ran away?" Simon asked in a whisper.
"Yeah. I was so stupid. There I was, living in a mansion with art and stuff worth millions of dollars and... I didn't even realize that when I left I would need money." Arlo finished with a defeated chuckle.
"What did you do?" Dylan asked quietly.
"I did what I saw some other kids doing. I found a place to sit and begged for change." Arlo said with an expression that said he couldn't believe he had ever done that.
"And?" Paul asked with concern.
"And on the second day that I was 'spare changing' outside this Denny's, two guys stopped and talked to me. Their names were Alec and Andrew." Arlo said as he looked around to see if anyone recognized the names.
"Alec McCarthy and Andrew Evans?" Devon asked curiously.
"Who's that?" Dylan asked carefully.
"They're members of Clan Short. They go to school here." Devon said seriously.
"Whatever happened with your parents? Do you know?" Obie asked Arlo cautiously.
Arlo chuckled and said, "Yeah. Cory and Sean were going to tell them that I was safe, but they did some checking first. It turns out that they never even called the cops to tell them that I was missing. They just went on with their lives like I never existed."
"You're b-b-b-better off without th-th-them." Trent said firmly.
Everyone turned with surprise at the intensity in Trent's voice.
Jose looked at Trent cautiously.
Trent's response was an urging look.
"You want me to tell them?" Jose asked to be sure.
Trent nodded firmly.
Jose looked around and noticed that everyone was watching.
"Since we're all telling our stuff, Trent wants you to know that his dad used to screw him in the butt and videotape it. Trent told his speech therapist at school about it and he got sent here." Jose said seriously.
Trent poked Jose's arm, then pointed at him.
"Oh. Yeah. I, um... guess I got stolen or sold or something when I was a baby. I don't know, but the guy who I thought was my dad was white. He always did sex with me and took pictures and movies and stuff. I don't remember most of it but Dr. Dan says that it'll probably come back when I'm older. Anyway, the Clan guys saw some of the pictures of me on the Internet and figured out where I was and brought me here." Jose said frankly.
"Guys." Dylan said with distraction, gaining everyone's attention.
"I know I'm the new guy here, and you might want to make me move to a different cabin for saying this..." Dylan trailed off darkly.
"Go ahead Dylan. Say whatever you want." Paul said with concern at his dark tone.
"I went through some stuff like you guys did and I know what you're talking about. But... the stuff I went through wasn't all bad." Dylan said distantly, then lifted his head and looked around the group.
"You all seem to agree that the sex and stuff was horrible and kind of ruined your lives. But I don't feel that way." Dylan said, then ducked his head again.
"It's okay Dylan, you don't have to agree with us. But would you explain what you mean?" Paul asked gently.
"I don't know... I went through some pretty messed up stuff and there were things that I hated, but there was stuff that I liked too. Some people were really nice to me and I think they actually cared about me. Hearing you talk about what you've gone through makes me feel like I'm supposed to... I don't know, feel like a victim... or maybe I should act like I lost something that I can never get back." Dylan said carefully as he considered his words.
"So how do you feel about things?" Simon asked in a whisper.
Dylan expected Simon to be upset with him for feeling differently and was surprised to see that Simon really wanted to know.
After a moment of consideration, Dylan looked Simon in the eyes and said, "I guess I feel kind of like I'm a fighter. When a fighter fights, whether he wins or loses, he learns things. If he doesn't learn from his battles, he ends up having the same fight over and over."
Everyone was silent as glances were exchanged around the room.
Dylan thought for a moment, then decided that since he'd come this far, he might as well continue.
"I had sex with a lot of people in the past few years. Some of them were nasty, some of them were mean, but there were some of them who were really good to me and I enjoyed it. I think I need to take some time to get everything sorted out in my head, but after that, I'm going to get on with my life. I'm sorry if that sounds cold blooded of me and like I don't care about the things you guys went through. But it's best if I tell you this now so I won't piss everyone off because I don't feel the same way about things that you do."
Paul wanted to give Dylan some assurance, but didn't feel that it was his place.
He looked around the room and noticed that everyone seemed to be lost in their own thoughts.
"What do you guys think about what he said? He needs to know." Jerico said in a careful and controlled voice.
Paul turned to face his cousin and could clearly see the strain in his features.
"You need to rest don't you?" Paul asked with concern.
Jerico turned his attention to Paul as he strained to say, "After this."
Paul nodded, then glanced around the room again.
Obie stood and walked to the center of the gathering.
"If you want Dylan to leave, then I'm going to leave too. I've never really been a fighter, but I think that's what I want to be." Obie said seriously.
Trent nudged Jose and gave him an urgent look.
Jose nodded and said, "Trent and I want to be fighters too."
Paul sat forward in his chair and was about to say something when he felt Jerico's hand on his arm.
He turned to see Jerico shaking his head.
Paul sat back to watch and listen.
"Is there anyone here who *doesn't* want to be a fighter?" Arlo asked seriously.
After a long silent moment, Simon reluctantly said, "I don't."
Arlo looked at Simon with surprise.
Simon raised his eyes to meet Arlo's shocked gaze and said, "That doesn't mean that I won't. It just means that I've kind of gotten used to sitting here, thinking and rethinking everything in my past, I guess I didn't realize that by doing that, I'm not really creating a future. I never really thought about it before but, not everything was horrible. There was good stuff..."
After a moment of looking around the room, Arlo said, "Dylan, I don't think you'll have to leave because if you did, you'd be taking everyone with you."
Dylan looked at Arlo with surprise.
"All that personal stuff that we shared tonight needed to be brought out into the open so we could help each other deal with it, but what you said is right. We need to learn from our battles and get on with our lives." Arlo said with conviction.
"Yeah. Sean and Cory gave me a chance to be normal, but all I've been doing is obsessing about how nerdy I used to be." Devon said with irritation.
"We will help each other to move on." Uri said with assurance.
Devon looked at Uri and his irritated expression transformed into an amused smile.
"Yeah. Let's do that." Devon said warmly.
"Does that mean that everything is settled?" Paul asked as he looked around the room.
Several people looked at Paul with question.
"Well, it looks to me like everyone shared their histories and you've all decided to follow Dylan's example and work toward the future. Right?" Paul asked frankly.
"Not *everyone* shared their history." Devon said as he looked Paul in the eyes.
"Oh." Paul said shyly and looked at Jerico with question.
Jerico gave a single, firm nod.
"Okay. I guess that means it's up to me." Paul said nervously.
"You don't have to tell us anything Paul." Mouse said quickly.
"That's right. We said our stuff because we wanted to. No one made us do it." Arlo added seriously.
Paul shook his head and said, "It's okay guys, I thought about telling you while everyone else was telling, I just couldn't get up the nerve."
"Well, if you feel like you need to tell us something, just go ahead and say it." Simon said gently.
Paul reluctantly nodded and quietly said, "I, um, I don't..."
"Come on. You can do it." Arlo said assuringly.
"I don't, um, have any, like, um, sex drive or... anything like that." Paul murmured as his gaze fell to the floor.
After a long moment of silence, Obie turned to Dylan and quietly asked, "What does that mean?"
"I'm not sure." Dylan responded, then turned to Paul and asked, "Could you maybe explain that?"
Paul forced himself to look up and was surprised to see everyone looking at him with concern. He had expected amusement or at least disinterest.
"To tell you the truth, I'm not really sure either. I just know that most people, feel something, you know, like a sex urge or something when they see someone attractive. I don't have that." Paul said disjointedly.
"Sex urge?" Simon asked slowly.
"I don't know what it is that you feel because I've never felt it. I just know that the things that turn most people on don't do anything to me. I can look at porn and it's the same to me as looking at the pictures in a newspaper. I don't feel anything." Paul said quietly.
"Wow. That must be nice." Devon said with wide eyes.
Paul looked at Devon with shock.
"I'm popping a boner about every five minutes all day long. Almost everything I see or hear reminds me of sex and I have trouble thinking about anything else." Devon said frankly.
Everyone watched the crimson blush rise up Devon's face as he realized what he'd just blurted out.
"So does that mean you don't get boners?" Obie asked Paul with confusion.
Paul blushed a little at the question and hesitantly answered, "Well, I wake up with one most mornings, but I don't usually get them any other time."
"I can tell that you're really shy about it, but I don't think it's something so bad." Arlo said quietly.
"Yeah. And you can still be a fighter with the rest of us if you want to be." Jose said happily.
"Okay. Thanks guys." Paul said with a relieved smile, then noticed Jerico touching his arm again.
"Oh yeah. Jerico wants you to know that he's kind of a sex addict. He doesn't have sex with anyone anymore because if he did, he couldn't think about anything else. It would take over his whole life... is that right?" Paul asked as he turned to look at Jerico with question.
Jerico hesitantly nodded.
"What's wrong? Why can't he talk now?" Dylan asked curiously.
"He's tired and can't control his gift right now. If he said anything, he might accidentally hurt someone." Paul said quietly.
"So that thing that him and Luke can do... he can't control it?" Simon asked carefully.
"He can, just not constantly. It makes him tired to try. Once he trains me how to be his anchor, he won't have to control it all the time." Paul said seriously.
"I don't understand." Simon said slowly.
"Mouse and Luke can explain it. I need to get Jerico home so he can get some rest." Paul said as he stood.
Dylan looked at Lieutenant Masterson who had been sitting silently at his side and said, "I think I'll be okay here if you want to go."
"I think so too. But I wouldn't mind staying if you want to be sure." Lieutenant Masterson said quietly.
"I'll take care of Dylan, I promise." Obie said firmly.
"Then I won't worry about him." Lieutenant Masterson said with a smile at the young boy, then turned to Dylan to say, "If you ever need me for anything, I'm just a phone call away. Call Starfleet and they can get a message to me no matter where I am."
Dylan was surprised by the statement, but hid it quickly and said, "I'll remember that. And maybe I can call you just to let you know how things are going."
"I'd like that. The Enterprise isn't scheduled to depart until Sunday night, maybe I could stop by and we could go do something this weekend?" Lieutenant Masterson asked hesitantly.
Dylan smiled and said, "Yeah. I'd like that."
"I'll see you then." Lieutenant Masterson said as he stood and began walking toward the door.
"Paul, do you know when you'll be moving in here?" Simon asked as he also stood.
"No, but I'm sure it will be soon. Maybe we'll get you guys to help us move when it's time?" Paul asked hopefully as he walked with Jerico toward the door.
"Yeah. We'll all help." Simon said, then looked around to see that everyone was in agreement.
Paul stopped at the door and looked back at the collection of boys of all different ages.
"I have this feeling like today we all ended some things that have been holding us back and now we're ready to start something new." Paul said peacefully.
"I think we all feel that." Simon said honestly.
"And I don't think any of it would have happened without you Dylan. Remember that." Paul said as he looked Dylan in the eye.
"What did I do?" Dylan asked hesitantly.
"You gave us a reality check. Thanks." Paul said with a smile, then turned to open the door.
"Um, sure. Anytime." Dylan said uncertainly as he watched Lieutenant Masterson, Paul and Jerico leave.
"It's getting late and we have school tomorrow. Are we ready to call it a night?" Simon asked as he looked around.
"There is one thing I would like to do first, if I may." Uri said as he turned to face Simon.
"What's that?" Simon asked hesitantly as he looked up into Uri's eyes.
Uri held out his hand to Simon and waited.
"You know I don't like to..." Simon said, then realized that Uri knew very well what he was doing.
"I believe it is time." Uri said quietly.
Simon reluctantly forced himself to take Uri's hand.
Uri responded by placing his other hand over Simon's.
"Good night Simon. I hope you have good rest." Uri said quietly, then gave Simon's hand a gentle squeeze before releasing it..
"Thanks Uri." Simon said in a slightly shaky voice and managed to give him a faint smile.
Uri responded with a single nod, then turned to walk to his room.
"Goodnight guys." Devon said quickly and hurried to follow Uri.
"Are you ready for our first night in our new room?" Obie asked with excitement.
Dylan smiled at the younger boy and slowly nodded.
"Then come on." Obie said, then happily hurried away.
"Good night everyone. Thanks for accepting me here." Dylan said quietly, then turned to follow Obie.
"Thanks for being a fighter." Arlo said frankly as he watched Dylan leave.
As soon as the bedroom door had closed, Arlo turned to Simon and asked, "Are you okay?"
Simon sat down on the edge of his bed and stared at his hand for a moment before quietly saying, "Yeah. I really think I am."
"I'm here if you feel like talking. So if something's bothering you, you can tell me." Arlo said seriously as he walked to his dresser.
Simon watched Arlo pull his pajamas out of the dresser drawer and said, "I think I'm okay for right now, but there is something I'd like to try if you wouldn't mind."
Arlo sat his pajamas on the bed and looked at Simon with question.
"You've been really good about doing things to keep me from feeling uncomfortable and I really appreciate it. But I think maybe it's time for me to try to start doing normal things again." Simon said slowly.
"Like what?" Arlo asked curiously.
"Well, like getting ready for bed. I wouldn't mind it if you changed in here... I mean, if you wanted to." Simon said quietly.
Arlo was surprised by the statement. Ever since his first day at Camp Little Eagle, he had always gone to the bathroom to change clothes so Simon could change in private.
"Okay. If that's what you want. And if it'll help, I promise that I won't look until you say so." Arlo said quietly.
Simon smiled and said, "You don't have to do that. Having you look at me wouldn't bother me at all. The only thing that might cause me to panic is if you walked toward me while you were undressed." Simon said with a pained expression.
"Then I'll stay right over here." Arlo said as a vow.
Simon nodded that he heard.
"So, do you want to do it now?" Arlo asked cautiously.
Simon walked to his dresser and pulled out his pajamas, then said, "Okay. I think I'm ready."
Arlo sat on his bed and began to remove his shoes and socks.
He resisted the urge to look at Simon, not wanting him to feel that he was being stared at.
After placing his shoes under the bed, Arlo pulled his t-shirt off over his head.
He decided that he needed to know how Simon was doing so he quickly glanced across the room.
Simon was in the process of removing his t-shirt and didn't notice.
Slowly, Arlo reached down to untie the drawstring on his sweatpants.
As he began to pull the string to undo the knot, he glanced up to see how Simon was doing.
Arlo froze when he saw Simon staring at him, at his hands.
"I can still go into the bathroom to finish this if it's going to bother you. I really don't mind." Arlo said quietly.
Simon blinked twice, then slowly moved his gaze up to look Arlo in the eyes.
"No. It's really fine. Please keep going. I need to do this." Simon said in a shaky voice.
Arlo nodded, then began to pull on the drawstring again.
"Do you like to take your shower at night or in the morning?" Obie asked as soon as Dylan walked into their room.
"I usually just take a shower when I've got the chance. I've never really thought about it." Dylan said quietly.
"Well, I like to take my shower at night because I think it makes me sleep better. But Mike always said that it was better to take a shower in the morning because it wakes him up and besides it makes your hair stick up funny if you sleep on it when it's wet." Obie said as he started going through the drawers of his dresser.
"I suppose I'll take a shower now. I do feel kind of grubby." Dylan said as he watched Obie searching through his things.
"Here it is." Obie said as he pulled a duffle bag out from under his bed.
Dylan remained silent, but leaned forward to see what Obie had found.
"Do you need a towel or a toothbrush or anything like that?" Obie asked as he looked at Dylan with question.
"I really don't have anything. All I have is what I'm wearing." Dylan said shyly.
"Oh. Okay. Well we can get you all that stuff in the morning. Tonight you can share mine... except for the toothbrush. They probably have extra toothbrushes in the cabinet in the bathroom." Obie said as he stood and put the duffel bag on his bed.
"Sounds good." Dylan said as he looked around, not sure if he should be doing something.
"In cabin three, we'd usually get undressed in the bedroom, then wear a towel to the bathroom... well, except for Nathan. But he has a really big dick and likes to walk around naked to show it off." Obie said as he held out a towel to Dylan.
"Thanks." Dylan said with a smile.
"Uh huh." Obie said then began to undress.
Dylan toed off the slipper shoes that he had been given on the Enterprise and pushed them under his bed.
"What do you like to sleep in? I mean, do you like pajamas or boxers or what?" Obie asked casually as he skinned the t-shirt off over his head.
"I usually either sleep in my clothes or I don't wear anything. It just kind of depends on where I am and what I'm doing." Dylan answered honestly as he opened the top half of his coveralls.
"Okay. I was just asking because if you wanted, we could borrow boxers or something from one of the other guys... probably Devon. He's about your size." Obie finished in a considering voice.
"We won't need to do that unless it's going to bother you if I sleep naked." Dylan said hesitantly as he pushed the coveralls down his legs.
"I don't care about that. The only person who ever bothered me was Nathan and that's only because he kept showing his dick off like it made him really special or something." Obie said frankly.
"You don't have to worry about me doing anything like that." Dylan said as he stepped out of the coveralls.
Obie looked over at Dylan and smiled.
"What?" Dylan asked as he looked down at his naked body.
"That's how I want my body to look when I grow up." Obie said happily as he pulled down his pants.
Dylan broke into a full smile at the statement as he said, "Thanks Obie. I think that's the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me."
"Really?" Obie asked in surprise while removing his white cotton briefs.
Dylan casually draped the towel around his waist as he said, "Yeah. I've had creepy old guys tell me I'm beautiful and things like that. But I don't remember anyone ever telling me I looked good without wanting something in return."
"Come on. It's already late. We don't want to take too long." Obie said as he draped his towel around his waist and held it with one hand.
Dylan continued to smile as he said, "Let's go."
"Uri, can I ask you something?" Devon asked shyly.
"Certainly." Uri said formally.
"Is it because of all that stuff between you and Simon that you won't open up and talk about... much of anything?" Devon asked cautiously.
"Perhaps to some degree. But I am a very private person by nature and do not share personal facts easily." Uri said in thought.
Devon nodded, then began to change out of his 'nerd' clothes.
"If you have a question, you may ask." Uri said uncertainly.
"Okay. But just because I ask you something doesn't mean you have to tell me. Okay?" Devon asked seriously.
"Agreed." Uri said as he sat in one of the two desk chairs and gave Devon his full attention.
"Let's see... I guess the one that's been bugging me the most is about the food. I know from working in the kitchen that you're on some kind of special diet. But I still don't know why. Everyone says to not talk about it." Devon said as he sat on the edge of his bed, wearing only his boxer shorts.
"The food I eat is kosher." Uri said simply.
"Kosher... like the pickles?" Devon asked hesitantly.
Uri chuckled and said, "Yes. Like the pickles. Kosher food meets certain requirements in its selection and preparation and is considered to be 'clean' by those of the Jewish faith. When I came to Camp Little Eagle, I had a long discussion with Doctor Dan about many things and he encouraged me to embrace this aspect of my faith."
"Oh. Okay. I guess that answers a few of my questions." Devon said slowly.
"In the past few hours you have learned some disturbing truths about me, and yet you are still willing to be my roommate. I would like to think that I would be as loyal a friend to you if the situations were reversed. So please feel free to ask whatever you like." Uri said seriously.
"Okay. I've heard a couple people ask you this one before and you always dodged it. Are you Russian or Serbian or what?" Devon asked as he looked into Uri's eyes.
Uri smiled at the question and said, "I am Israeli."
"Oh. Um... then how did you get here?" Devon asked hesitantly.
"I have little memory of living in Israel, I remember my parents being afraid and the explosions that killed them. I held to them and cried, not understanding at the time that they were dead. I remember a man, a soldier I think, took me away from the ruins that had been my home and put me on a truck with many other people. I don't remember clearly what happened after that. I was constantly moving, never staying in one place for very long. Eventually, I ended up in the custody of the people who used me for pornography." Uri said distantly.
"So you don't have a home to go back to." Devon said in a whisper.
"No. But I have a country. Israel holds my past, my ancestry. Someday I will return there and learn all that I can about my origin." Uri said with conviction.
"Want some company?" Devon asked with a small smile.
Uri looked at Devon with confusion at the strange question.
"When you go to Israel, would you like some company?" Devon asked more quietly.
Uri broke into a full smile and said, "Yes. I believe that company would be good."
"Good. Let's plan on doing that." Devon said firmly.
"Are you going to take your shower tonight?" Uri asked as he noticed that Devon was still sitting in his boxer shorts.
"No. It's too late and besides, I think I got enough of a shower while we were trying to keep Arlo warm." Devon said seriously.
Uri considered the statement, then said, "I agree. If you have no other questions, I will prepare for bed now."
"Nope. I just wanted to know about the food and where that kewl accent of yours comes from." Devon said with a grin as he started walking toward their bedroom door.
"You like my accent?" Uri asked with a smile as he followed.
"Absolutely." Devon said firmly over his shoulder.
"Okay. We're alone so you can talk." Mouse said as he closed their bedroom door.
"I don't think I really have anything to say." Luke said helplessly as he sat on his bed.
Mouse giggled and said, "I guess I'll have to talk enough for both of us."
Luke smiled and made a show of nodding his agreement.
"What do you think about everything that's happened today?" Mouse asked as he plopped down on the bed next to Luke.
"Well, I'm glad I can talk." Luke said quietly.
Mouse looked at Luke strangely for a moment, then said, "Funny, it doesn't show."
Luke smiled at the statement and said, "It's just a lot for me to take in. My whole life I was told all these lies about who I am and the abilities that I have. I figured out for myself that the stuff they were telling me was lies and finally escaped from them. Now I've got someone else telling me a whole different story... do you see where I'm going with this?"
"So whether you're angel food or devils food, you're still the dessert that someone else gets to eat?" Mouse asked curiously.
Luke stared at Mouse for a moment as he thought about the statement, and finally said, "I guess that's right, but in a million years I never would have thought of saying it like that."
Mouse shrugged and said, "Maybe it's an anchor thing."
"Maybe it is." Luke said quietly as he smiled.
"Come on 'Chosen'. Don't make me have to call Paul and Jerico back here. You can talk to me now, so talk." Mouse prodded.
"You've just got to understand that I got out of the habit of talking and sometimes I don't know what to say." Luke said seriously.
"Okay. I get that. I can just tell that you've got something serious on your mind and I want to help you if I can." Mouse said frankly.
"All of us talking about our pasts got me to thinking. I'm worried about my parents." Luke said simply.
"Oh. Like what happened to them?" Mouse asked quietly.
"No. More like, are they waiting outside the camp gates to grab me the next time we go into town?" Luke said seriously.
"You know, the TV sitcoms totally lied to us. Families suck." Mouse said as he stared at the wall in front of them.
"Well, we're kind of like a family, and we're okay." Luke said quietly.
"Yeah. We are." Mouse said with a smile.
"You know, it's past our bedtime. Let's go check on Trent and Jose, then call it a night." Luke said quietly.
"Why do we need to check on them?" Mouse asked curiously.
"Because they're part of our family." Luke said as he stood and started walking toward the door.
Mouse smiled as he also stood.
"We're alone now. You can talk." Paul said as he walked with Jerico toward the parking lot.
"Thanks for taking care of me Paul. I wouldn't have been able to help them if it wasn't for you." Jerico said quietly.
"We take care of each other. We've already decided that. Now I just need to know what we're going to do next." Paul said seriously.
"In the morning I'll make a few calls and find out how soon we can move over here. From everything that happened tonight, I think it had better be as soon as possible. I need to start training you, Luke and Arlo right away." Jerico said as he stopped at the side of his truck.
"I think you're right. The stuff that angel guy was saying about something big coming... it's got me spooked pretty bad. If we get bogged down with the little things, it could be here before we're ready." Paul said seriously.
"Will you help me with that? I'm going to have to do the majority of the training and hands-on stuff. Will you help to keep me from getting too bogged down in the details and remind me about the big picture from time to time?" Jerico asked in a voice of concentration.
"I'll add that to my job description... do you want to drive through McDonald's for a snack on the way back to the house?" Paul asked curiously.
Jerico smiled and said, "Sure. Then we can watch the Gilligan's Island episode that you recorded before we call it a night."
"That would be perfect." Paul said with a happy smile, then climbed into the Fiero.
Jerico got into his truck and waited for Paul to finish backing out before starting his engine.
Simon's eyes tracked to the movement and he stood, transfixed by the sight.
As soon as the knot released, Arlo hooked his thumbs in the waistband of the sweat pants and pulled them down.
He reached down to pull first one, then the other leg off over his feet, then looked at Simon and asked, "How are you doing?"
"I... I'm okay." Simon said in a daze.
Arlo could clearly see the nervousness in Simon's eyes, but he couldn't even guess how emotionally fragile Simon was at this point.
"Almost done." Arlo said with assurance and began to pull on his sleep pants.
Simon blinked, then seemed to notice that he was standing shirtless, watching Arlo change.
"I'm... I'm sorry." Simon muttered in a flustered voice.
"It's okay Simon. Really." Arlo said as he pulled on his pajama top.
"Thanks. I mean, thanks for trusting me when I said I was ready." Simon said shyly as he hurried to finish changing.
"All you need to do is let me know when you're ready to take another step and I'll be right there with you." Arlo said with assurance.
"Okay. And if you ever need me, I'm here for you too." Simon said shyly.
"I've known that since the beginning." Arlo said as he pulled back his covers.
Simon smiled at the words, then did the same.
"What's all this stuff?" Dylan asked cautiously as he noticed that there were still pouches of herbs and various other things scattered around the bathroom floor.
"I don't know. I'll move it out of the way so no one will step on it." Obie said and began to gather the scattered items with one hand as he held his towel with the other.
"I'll help." Dylan said as he knelt down.
"Hey guys." Devon said as he walked into the bathroom.
"Hey Devon. You look a lot better without your nerd things." Obie said as he sat some pouches in a pile in the corner.
"Thanks." Devon said with a smile as he went to the first sink to start brushing his teeth.
"I am unaccustomed to staying up so late." Uri said as he walked into the bathroom and went directly to the next sink.
"Yeah. Me too." Obie said as he walked around the partition into the shower room.
After dropping off the miscellaneous items he had collected around the bathroom floor, Dylan walked casually into the shower room where Obie was turning on his shower.
Dylan followed Obie's example and hung his towel on the hook next to Obie's.
"You'll probably want to tilt the shower down a little so you don't get your bandage wet." Obie said as he glanced at Dylan.
Dylan smiled and said, "Thanks. I almost forgot."
"Whoa. Full house tonight." A voice said from the main part of the bathroom.
Dylan considered the voice for a moment, then decided that it was Mouse.
"Trent and Jose are already asleep. They didn't even change out of their clothes." Mouse said casually.
"Did you wake them so they could dress for bed?" Uri asked curiously.
"Nah. Luke and I took off their shoes, then covered them up. They'll be fine." Mouse said cheerfully.
"That was very considerate of you." Uri said in his usual formal tone.
"Well, it was Luke's idea to check on them." Mouse said, sounding a little bit shy.
"You almost done?" Obie asked from Dylan's side.
Dylan had been listening to the conversation outside the shower and lost track of what he was doing.
"No. I'll need another minute or two." Dylan said as he snapped back to the task at hand.
"How are you going to wash your legs and stuff if you can't get your head wet?" Obie asked curiously.
"I guess I'll step away from the water to do that." Dylan said carefully.
"I can help you if you want. I don't mind." Obie said seriously.
Dylan was about to refuse, but then saw the hopeful expression in Obie's eyes.
"If you'll get the legs, I think I can get the rest." Dylan said with a grateful smile.
As a response, Obie started lathering up a washcloth.
"Don't stay up too late guys. School tomorrow." Mouse called out and sounded like he was becoming more distant.
"Okay." Obie said quickly.
Dylan hurried to wash himself, taking care not to get the bandage on his face wet.
"I'm done down here." Obie announced.
"I'm done up here too." Dylan said as he turned under the shower's spray to rinse off the last of the soap.
As soon as he had finished turning off the shower, Obie was standing at his side holding out his towel.
"Thanks Obie." Dylan said gently.
"No problem." Obie said quickly as he began to dry himself.
As Dylan began to dry his chest, he watched the energetic, happy young boy who was his roommate.
By the time Dylan had reached his waist, Obie had finished drying himself. Dylan watched as Obie draped his towel around his midsection, then held it in place with one hand.
"Do you want me to tie that for you?" Dylan asked gently, not wanting to offend Obie.
"Would you? It always falls off when I try to do it." Obie asked hopefully.
Dylan smiled and slung his own towel over his shoulder, then squatted down and tied Obie's towel firmly around his waist.
"Thanks. Mike used to do that for me too. I'm going to see if they have any extra toothbrushes anywhere."
Dylan watched with a smile as Obie scampered out of the shower room.
"Arlo?" Simon whispered from his bed.
Arlo opened his eyes and looked at Simon curiously.
"What do you think about that stuff that Dylan was talking about?" Simon asked quietly.
"You mean about not all of it being bad?" Arlo asked, having sensed that Simon was having difficulty with that one point.
"Yeah." Simon whispered.
"If you would have asked me yesterday, I wouldn't have had an answer. But since all that stuff happened today I have some of your memories... do you remember Shane?" Arlo asked quietly.
Simon closed his eyes and distantly said, "I haven't thought about him since I've been here."
"But you know how you felt about him, right?" Arlo asked seriously as he turned on his side and propped himself up on an elbow.
"Yeah. But he was... like, nearly thirty years old." Simon said slowly.
"He was nice. He obviously cared about you and you know as well as I do that if there was any way he could have gotten you out of there, that he would have." Arlo said frankly.
"Yeah. I do know that." Simon said in distant thought.
"So that's one. I bet if you thought about it, you could find some more memories from back then that weren't so bad." Arlo said more gently.
After a moment to consider, Simon said, "You're probably right."
"This is just the beginning Simon. Think about it, you're getting better." Arlo said with encouragement.
"You really think so?" Simon asked cautiously.
"I know so. What would you have done if I tried to change clothes in the same room with you two weeks ago?" Arlo asked frankly.
"I probably would have had a panic attack and I'd be curled up on the floor crying right now." Simon said with resignation.
"I think so too. Be proud of it Simon, and when you're ready we'll take another step." Arlo said with a smile.
"Okay Arlo. As long as you're there with me, I'll be able to do it." Simon said quietly.
Arlo smiled at the statement and whispered, "Go to sleep now. It's late."
Well, it seems that finally the day is over. I can see that a lot of progress has happened. Everyone seems to have made some progress, some, more than others, but it is definitely a good start. I am so proud of all the boys. They are taking the steps necessary to begin the healing process. Thank you once again MultiMapper for another wonderfully heartwarming chapter of a wonderful story. He told me that this chapter would be easy to edit, and he was right, but then, I can't remember ever receiving a chapter from him that wasn't a pleasure to edit. Of course some were more scary than others.
Now, let me remind you that one of the nicest things that you can do for me, or MultiMapper, or for any of your favourite authors, is to write them an e mail, telling them what you thought of their work. You would be amazed at how good it makes me feel, for instance, to get a letter telling me that something I wrote either changed things for someone, or that it somehow inspired them in some way.
I will be right here next time, so come on in and have a seat. Let's sit down and relax while we read a new chapter.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher