Chloe recovered quickly and completely from the gunshot and when Dr. Greenlee saw her and did his first tests a week after her surgery, he tentatively announced that the liver cancer seemed to be completely gone, but that he wanted to do a short-term treatment mix of radiation and chemotherapy, just to make sure. She would still be fine to work at the funeral home with Scooter as long as she kept her workload from being physically stressful. He and Kathryn both kept her in the hospital several extra days because apparently, she was undernourished as well.
Billy decided he didn't mind staying in the nursery with the littler boys since they had better toys than Frim. Apparently, he was less than impressed with video games of racing cars or shooting aliens since he wasn't very good at them. He wouldn't sleep in anything but his Frim's t-shirt at night, and he was extra proud that we all told him how much he looked like Frim when Frim would wear one of his Pop's t-shirts to sleep in. He also told me more than I needed to know about my brother and oldest son as well as my new little sister.
"Derrie? You gotsta wear t-shirt to bed like me and Frim," he announced one night.
"That's ok, little buddy, I have my own pajamas to wear," Derek told him.
"But it don't cover up no more on you than it does when Mommy wears hers," the little tyke replied innocently. "Jammies sposeta keep you warm."
"It's ok, Billy," Ephraim told him. "Whenever Derek wears his little nightgown, Brendan makes sure he's nice and warm at night."
"Derek, I bought you a nice long robe for your birthday," I told my blushing second oldest son. "You will start using that when you leave that room at night."
"Yes, sir," he agreed quickly and I knew he would because it was clear that he didn't know he had been seen wearing the sheer teddy from the lingerie store Brendan found online. "I think maybe I will check into some regular pajamas as well," he added with a blush.
"But the purple lace looks so good on you," Ephraim told him and was serious about it. It was not a tease, but given the reaction it got from Derek, it might as well have been.
"Mommy's is black," Billy gladly shared with us all. That was a mental image we could have all lived without, but it didn't stop me from teasing Chloe the next day at the hospital.
"OHMYGOD!" Chloe squealed and hid her face under the covers of her bed. "I ran in his room one night when he was having a bad dream and forgot to put my robe on. I didn't think he noticed me at all."
"Little eyes see more than we ever know, most times," I told her, just as Kathryn came in the room.
"Good morning, second favorite person in the world," Kathryn greeted warmly. "Oh, hello to you too, Cameron," she added without even looking at me.
"You and Dragonlady spend far too much time together," I pouted and stuck my tongue out at her. "I can tell when I'm not wanted. I will leave you two to discuss when we can bail my new sister out of this prison cell."
"Well, that would be today," Kathryn announced with a smile. "Dr. Greenlee and I will be keeping close tabs on you for the next few months for sure, but I need you around so that there is one other sane person in this family I seem to be stuck in, so I will keep an eye on you for a long time."
"One other sane person?" I repeated. "Hmmm, that means that you don't think Janice is right in the head, either. I can't wait to tell her you said that."
"It's a good thing you have such a large family already, Cameron, because if you spout that total lie to Janice, I will neuter you faster than you can blink. I'm a doctor. I have scalpels and I know how to use them."
"Ok, so good to know who the sane normal ones in the family are," Chloe announced from her bed. "None of you," she added with a grin. "I think I'm really going to love this family."
"I know you will," Kathryn said sincerely. "If they managed to turn me human, as the hospital staff puts it... Yes, Cam, I know what they say about me. Cameron, you and I didn't get off to the best start, but I know without a doubt that Janice wouldn't be here today if not for you, several times over. If for nothing but that, I owe you my thanks, but you didn't stop there. You have accepted me into your family, not just as her lover, but as a real family member on my own. For that, there aren't words to thank you enough. And that is as mushy as I will ever get over a man, so go away now and let me rebuild my dyke walls."
"As long as you keep a gate in those walls for me and the other males in the family," I told her and then hugged her and Chloe. "Give me a call when the discharge is actually happening. Karen already has a bed ready for you at her place, and Billy has spent a few nights with Peter and Ephraim in Peter's room so he is familiar with the cabin as well."
I left the hospital and called Karen to let her know that she could definitely plan on having a roommate tonight. I went to my afternoon class at the college, keeping my phone on vibrate and telling my professors that I was expecting a call about a friend in the hospital. Of course, they had seen and heard the news and wished Chloe a speedy recovery. I didn't tell anyone about Chloe's cancer diagnosis of course, as that wasn't my story to tell. Oddly, the call never came, so when I got out of the third and final class at 6 pm, I called the hospital and was told that Dr. Grant handled everything and my ninja superpowers were not needed for this particular task. Everyone's a comedian lately.
I headed home and was stunned to see cars for the whole family at my house. Now we had discussed the fact that Chloe would probably be tired and not want the WHOLE family overwhelming her when she arrived. She would go straight over to the cabin with Karen and that would be that. Everyone could go there in small doses. I walked into the house and the loudest laughter I heard was from Chloe. I had arrived just as she had been told the story of my obsession with carnations.
"Oh, there's Mr. Romance now," Brendan called out.
"There is nothing wrong with liking carnations," I grumbled as I put my book bag on the dining room table.
"There certainly isn't," Chloe agreed. "They are my absolute favorite flower."
"You've corrupted her already," Derek scolded Scooter.
"Chloe, are you feeling all right?" I asked as I walked into the living room. "Are you sure this isn't too much for you?"
"Cammie, don't be a worrywart," I was told by my new sister from yet another mother. "I'll let you guys know if I start feeling tired. I've only been here about an hour and I've just been sitting on the couch cuddling Billy and these two little ones the whole time."
I came around the end of the couch and saw that she was indeed being cuddled by Billy on one side, Caine on the other, and she was holding Andy. I was rewarded with both of my youngest boys reaching for me as soon as they saw me. Billy just smiled and called out, "Hi Uncle Cammie," as he stayed glued to his mother's side.
"DAD!" the shrill, squeaking, puberty-stricken voice of Ephraim echoed through the house. "Is this where your book bag belongs, young man?"
"OOO Busted!" Brendan crowed happily.
"I was just about to move it," I said meekly, knowing that I had busted Ephraim and Peter for the same thing more than once.
"Am I allowed to use excuses when I do it, Dad?" Ephraim stood there patting his foot with his arms folded across his chest.
"Ok, when did you get rid of the timid little boy I brought you, and replace him with your mini-me clone?" Janice teased me.
"I'm sorry, son," I apologized. "I know better than to put the book bag on the table, and I shouldn't have let my concern for Chloe cloud my judgment."
"Aunt Chloe, are you ok?" Ephraim blurted, running into the living room to check her.
"I'm fine, Ephraim," she smiled at him, but beckoned for him to come sit with her. "Just for a minute. I know you're cooking." He sat down beside her and she wrapped an arm around him tightly and kissed him on the side of his head. "I haven't had the chance to thank you for what you did that day at the bank. You did a very brave thing, just like your Dad has taught you to do. On top of that, I couldn't have asked for anyone better to watch over Billy for me, which is something else I think you get from your Dad, I might add. So don't you ever get that silly teenage idea that you don't want to be anything like your Dad, and never be ashamed that you are his mini-me. Just remember the miniature version of awesome is still awesome." Ephraim and I were both blushing by the time she finished speaking.
"Hear, hear," Grandpa Reynold called out as she finished. "I couldn't be more proud to call you family, boys."
"The same goes for me," Grandma agreed as she came over and hugged Ephraim and me before Ephraim escaped to the kitchen. I grabbed my book bag after handing Caine and Andy off to their grandma, and I escaped to the sitting area in my bedroom. I came back a moment later, only to be grabbed by Janice in a bear hug.
"I'm sorry if I sounded like I was picking on you or Ephraim, Cam," she told me and she did her best to break several of my ribs. "As one of the people you have rescued, I really have no right complaining or making comments about the influence you have had on the kids you have gotten through my office, especially when that influence is precisely why I brought them to you. I knew that Ephraim needed a role model that would be tough as granite when he needed to be and soft as butter when that was needed. There was never anyone but you in my mind for that role." She was wiping tears as she stepped away. "I love you, brother."
"I love you too," I told her honestly.
"You guys remember what today is?" Scooter asked as he walked up and hugged us both.
"It is today, isn't it?" Janice whispered.
When the rest of the family asked what we were talking and crying about, Scooter explained, "Today is the anniversary of the day our ninja here saved mine and Janice's lives in a convenience store holdup."
"Is that why you sent that card to our house today?" Grandma asked.
"Every year on this day, I have gotten a thank-you card from Scooter," Reynold explained to all of us. "And every year I tell him that seeing him healthy and happy is all the thanks I need for stepping in and taking care of him when his father had to leave his life. I am every bit as proud of you as I know he is, Scooter."
"I wouldn't be healthy or happy if it weren't for Cam," Scooter said as he gave me a kiss. "Although when I was crushing on him the rest of my high school years, I never dreamed that I would ever be this happy, because I never dreamed I would be living with him like we are, and surrounded by a family that we love and that loves us."
"Ok, stop it, all of you," I ordered with an emotionally shaky voice. "Don't you people know it's bad luck to make a ninja cry in public? Not to mention, it's bad for our image."
"This isn't public, Dad," Daniel called out. "This is family, and speaking of family... Brooke, you want to tell them?"
"I had a sonogram today," Brooke announced with a giggle. "I'm having twins. One of each. So in a few months, we will be introducing you to Edan Cameron Walborn and Bethany Karen Walborn."
"We wanted to give them the four best role models a kid could have," Daniel told us all. Karen and I were wiping tears as we hugged our oldest children.
I could hardly believe it was happening, but I woke up one morning not long after that to hear rather loud music from the living room. I came out to scold the older boys for making too much noise but just as I got to the living room; I saw what was going on. The music being played was Edward Elgar's well-known march most commonly called Pomp and Circumstance. Brendan and Derek were walking down the stairs in their cap and gown ensembles as Peter and Ephraim played the music on their little music devices. When the oldest two boys saw me, they both broke their solemn march rhythm to run down the rest of the stairs to hug me.
"I would never be graduating from high school if it weren't for you, Dad," Derek told me as he held me tightly. "I thought when I joined that gang that I was finally kissing all my dreams of what I wanted to be when I grew up goodbye forever. I knew I wouldn't be popular in the gang, but I couldn't keep on living the way I had been from foster home to foster home to juvenile detention. I had given up caring about myself and then I met Brendan, and not long after that, we both met you and Pop. You may not have provided the sperm that created me, but you have given me life just as much, no, more so than my jerk of a father ever did."
"Same goes for me, bro," Brendan told me as he hugged me from the other side. "When I was little, I was convinced that I not only hated my father, but anyone related to him, for what had happened to my mom and me. I didn't think anyone in my father's family could or would ever give a crap about me, and now... Not only would I not be graduating from high school today without you, I very literally would not be alive today. Death would have taken me out, and probably Derek too, if we hadn't had our own personal ninja to save us."
"No, you can't graduate today, I won't let you," I said firmly. "I don't want my boys to grow up and leave me."
"It's not like we're going anywhere, Dad," Derek laughed. "You think either of us could survive with our cooking skills?"
"Yeah, we'll just be going to the same school as you now, instead of the same school as Thing One and Thing Two," Brendan teased. "Although... fair warning, we will be moving out in about six months according to Ray. The apartment in the basement of the new office building will be completed by then. Like Derek said though, we're still going to be coming back here to eat."
"Yeah that or we're taking Little Bro with us to be our personal chef," Derek said with a smile at Ephraim.
"I'm not moving without Peter," Ephraim told them as he stuck out his tongue.
"You can bring him," Brendan announced. "In rich houses, the cook is always married to the butler, anyway."
"Yeah, pass," Ephraim snorted. "When we get married, I want to marry a lawyer, not a butler."
"Awwww, he said when," Derek cooed and giggled. "They're so cute."
"Yeah, no marriage for you until you're eighteen, Ephraim, or at least finished with high school," I told him. "I will not have my sweet little boy being a child bride."
"HEY! Why does everyone always assume I'm going to be the bride?" Ephraim yelled. At the looks he got from all of us, he caved and started pouting. "Ok, fine, I get it, but just once somebody could at least suggest him for the bride." Another round of looks from everyone and he stomped up the stairs. "I don't have to take this kind of abuse. I'm going to my room and I'm going to call and tell Auntie Piper on all of you." With that, we all lost it and were holding our sides in pain from laughing too hard.