As the attack began, King Zedrick enlisted the aid of the Sooloo Crew. Some went in the Kaisokusen while others fought on the ground and Danny Harper had the experience of flying a fighter. Koji and the Terrific Trio saved the King's life as the prophecy foretold. One of the King's guards did give his life, saving the King, but leaving his ten-year-old son, Juro.
After the battle was over, many crewmembers started talking with Dave about marriage and adoption... Kyle and Danny decided that married or not, their relationship wouldn't change, and therefore, decided to marry and adopt Koji. Connor and Aiden were married and adopted Juro; Randy Thompson and Tom Kohl also wed. They didn't adopt but are struggling with the idea.
And Randy Jenkins learned to make some Draconian dishes.
This had certainly been an interesting stop on their voyage. First being attacked, rescued, and attacked again; then the outpouring of friendship from the Darastixian people. Three couples from his crew married and two of them adopted Darastixian boys.
Young Koji was to have a birthday in a few days, but the ship was ready, and Dave wasn't sure he should delay their departure.
Dave approached Zedrick, "Zedrick, our ship's repairs have been completed, but I am troubled. I want to allow Koji to celebrate his last birthday on his home planet, but I am not sure I should delay our voyage any longer. I seek your advice."
Zedrick turned to him and replied, "If you need my advice, Dave, then you shall have it. Our prophecy stated the number of days the ship of the stars would stay with us. By that reckoning, you should stay with us another three days."
Dave was taken aback. If the stars said it, he didn't DARE go against it. For all he knew, if he tried to leave earlier, the ship might not even start. Instead he invited King Zedrick, and anyone he wished to invite, to a tour of the Sooloo.
The Darastixians had made many improvements to the ship. Her hull was now completely made of the alloy the Darastixians use for their ships. Her hull was 300% stronger and only 40% of the original weight. They had assisted in fine-tuning the engines even further after the implementation of Zorn's adjustments. They had taken on a load of fresh and frozen foods from Darastix, including 900 pounds of Shimmy meat.
It was agreed that there would be a celebration on the planet for Koji's birthday. Dave sent Steve Boyer to the planet to coordinate the arrangements.
Word that the Sooloo would spend a few more days at Draconia spread like wildfire. Connor told Aiden that he had work to do on the Sooloo, so Aiden thought it would be a good time to show Juro around the ship. Aiden was surprised when he ended up following Connor to their quarters. "What work do you need to do?"
"Put up bulkheads in our quarters so that we will have our own room and Juro will have his. Plus, we will have the front of our quarters as a family area and greeting place for guests."
"You mean like Jordan and Jace have."
"I will have my own room?" Juro asked. "Sweet… no offense, but I've never had to share a bedroom before."
"I have, all my life; I was orphaned as a baby and had to share a room with two or three other boys. When I left there, I went to the Academy and had to share with Aiden. Don't get me wrong, I was happy sharing with him and still am, but I'm just saying, I've never had my own room, and don't want one as long as we both are alive."
When they arrived at their quarters, Connor was surprised when the door opened automatically. He found Andrew Taylor and Kai Daniels inside. "What are you doing in our quarters, and how did the door open without using my code?"
Andrew explained, "As for the door, the Draconians added sensors so they will open automatically, but only for those authorized. Your door will only open for you and Aiden. Computer, add Juro to those allowed to enter these quarters."
"Juro Marlin-Douglass has been authorized entry into these quarters."
"How did it know to add me?" Juro inquired. "You didn't give my full name."
Andrew informed him, "Captain Bowman already added you to the manifest and you are the only Juro on the ship."
"Ah, that sounds logical," Juro nodded his head in understanding.
"So... we won't need to punch in our codes?" Aiden asked. "Can anyone add to the authorization?"
"No sir, you and Connor can add whomever you want to give authorization from anywhere on the ship. These are YOUR quarters. Anyone else must be IN the quarters to add, like I did with Juro."
"From a security stand point, that's good to know, but is there a way to add an authorization code just in case someone finds a way in?"
"Yes there is, but only you or Connor can add it. And you can change it as often as you believe necessary," Andrew replied as he finished installing the bulkheads. "As for why we are in here, what do you think?" Andrew gestured toward the new walls.
"That was why I came aboard the ship. They look great, exactly how I planned."
"Steve Boyer suggested it. He said that since you adopted a son, you would want separate bedrooms and thought we should follow Jace's design."
Connor inquired of his assistant, "Are Kyle and Danny getting new bulkheads as well?"
"Crewmen Vince Abrams and Mark Wallace are working on them. We should go check on them."
"I'll go, why don't you two take some time on the planet?" Connor offered.
Aiden used the Security override code so they could enter Kyle's quarters. Abrams and Wallace were hanging something on one of the doors, but otherwise were done. They turned and saw Connor, "Sir, do you approve?"
"You did good work, but what were you hanging?"
"Steve asked us to attach this sign once we were done. I'm not sure what it's all about. He also wanted us to soundproof this room."
They moved so Connor and Aiden could see it. They read, "Warning!!! Scream Zone, Beware of Screamer."
Connor made a mental note to ask Steve, Danny or Kyle what that was all about.
Randy and Tom Kohl found Dave and Hal and asked if they could sit with them. Dave motioned to a seat and asked, "What's on your mind, Randy?"
"First off, I decided I want to take Tom's last name. Is it possible to change it in the computers?"
Hal responded, "You will need to talk with Brad or Jace, but it can be done."
"You said, 'first off,' so what else would you like?" Dave inquired.
Tom felt nervous, "Well, you know, we... ummmm, we don't want to adopt for a few months, but we decided that when we are ready, we would like to adopt one of the boys from here."
"That poses a problem," Dave declared. "If you don't adopt while we are here, chances are next to nil of you adopting a Draconian. In fact, there is no guarantee that you will be able to adopt before we return to earth."
"So... you think we should adopt now if we want to adopt?" Randy conjectured.
"I'm not saying you should, but I would definitely give it some thought. If you decide to, you have my approval. Why don't you visit the orphanage and see if they have anyone who you feel would fit with your family?" Dave advised.
Kyle felt like he was running around in circles. If this was what being a parent was about, he was wondering if he really wanted the experience. Koji's birthday party was two days away, but his stress level was telling him it was two minutes away. He was thankful that his good friend Steve Boyer was handling the details. All he had to do was handle Koji.
Danny's job was handling Kyle. He knew his husband could be high strung, but he seemed to be taking to new heights. Kyle wanted things to be perfect for their new son's birthday party, while Danny felt their goal should be for Koji to have a good time and to remember his first individual birthday party as something special. The fact that this would be Koji's first night living with them added to the stress even more. Danny was certain Koji was as nervous as they were and that it would all work out.
Steve Boyer was at the King's castle busily working with a couple of the King's advisors on the set up for the big bash. They were dealing with the furniture and the seating arrangements. The party was going to be held in the palace courtyard which would have plenty of room for the large number of expected guests. Koji was one of many heroes in the brief war against the Lizons and many Draconians had either received or finagled invitations to what would likely be Koji's last birthday on their planet.
Steve looked up and saw Kyle and Danny entering the courtyard. He shook his head and walked over to greet them. "Hey, dudes, welcome to the party zoo. You guys are my best friends and all, but I instructed you not to be looking over my shoulder while I take the burden of party planning off your shoulders."
"Sorry, Steve," Kyle said. "We're not here to spy on you. You're the only person we know we can trust to organize this perfectly."
"Yeah," Danny agreed, "we were thinking only of people like King Zedrick, Zarek, a few Draconians we know, some of the King's people, the Terrific Trio and some of the Sooloo crew would be at the party. Instead we end up with the party of the century or something." Danny and Kyle were convinced that Steve could herd cats into a room and organize them into a precision dance team.
"Anyway, we came to pick up Koji," Kyle told Steve. "He is in the castle with King Zedrick and Zarek. He's officially been our son for a day and now he's REALLY going to be our son. Damn, it seems weird to say that. Here we are twelve years old and talking about having a son who's going to be fucking seven."
Danny and Kyle turned toward the castle entrance. Danny stopped and faced Steve. "Thanks for doing all this, Steve. You are one awesome friend."
"I'd like to say it's in my job description, but that's not true. It's something I'm doing for two of the greatest friends a guy can have. Even if one of them is a screamer." He looked directly at Danny with a mischievous grin on his face, causing Danny to blush a deep red.
"Did you really scream?" Kyle asked Danny as they walked to the castle steps.
"Kyle, his blow jobs are so good. I couldn't help it."
"And just how did I become the screamer?"
"Because you're so serious about shit nobody would believe it was you, so Steve and Brad got the idea and, well, I guess I went along with it."
"You are so doomed," Kyle grunted.
"I don't think it's over. Sorry, love. I thought it was funny in a way."
Kyle opened the door and ushered Danny into the massive foyer. "It is funny in a way, only it would be funnier if I wasn't the one who was turned into a screamer. I'll forgive you if you either confess or help me figure out a way to get back at them."
"Yeah, but there was the one time right after I moved in with you and we... "
This time it was Kyle's turn to blush a deep red.
Connor, Aiden and Juro had spent the night and ate breakfast aboard the Sooloo. Juro had helped where he could when he joined Connor in Engineering. It surprised Connor with how much Juro knew, and how his suggestions were making the engines more efficient. It was no wonder the Kaisokusen's engines were so efficient.
"Connor and I were talking, and since you just lost your dad a few days ago, we don't think it's necessary for you to call us dad. If you want to call him Connor and me Aiden, we understand."
"He was my father, and I always called him as such," Juro said tearfully, "I have no problem with calling one of you dad and the other opsola, which is dad in my native tongue."
"Opsola"?" Connor pondered, "I like it."
"Then you will be Opsola and I will be Dad," Aiden suggested. Juro smiled.
As they went to eat lunch, Juro asked, "Do you think I can go down and play with Prince Zifaa and Tomo one last time? They are my friends."
"Prince Zifaa? Is he Zarek's younger brother?" Aiden inquired.
"He is the youngest, same age as me. Prince Zakku is the middle son of the King, Prince Zarek's younger brother. Tomo is in the orphanage, but he is my friend and Miss Dewel lets him play with us."
Aiden looked at Connor, "I think we need to go down on the planet for a few things. Do you think Juro will be alright on the ship without us?"
"No way, Dad, I wanna go down and play with my friends," Juro begged.
"He might get lost if we leave him," Connor explained, "I think maybe we should take him down and let him play while we do what we need to do." Aiden smiled wryly as he watched Juro.
"Oh, thank you," Juro said as he hugged Connor.
Aiden inquired, "Don't I get a hug?"
"You wanted to leave me up here," Juro teased before embracing Aiden.
Koji tried jumping into Kyle's arms when he saw his dads enter the play room. Nobody but Koji was surprised when Kyle toppled over backward into a pile of pillows with his little son on top of him. King Zedrick roared with laughter at the sight.
"I have to say that young Koji has been quite entertaining today," the King grinned. "It was nice to come in after a boring meeting of state and get treated to many laughs. It reminds me of when that one was young and wild." The King pointed to Zarek.
"I'm the reason there are a lot of soft things in the room," Zarek grinned.
Kyle and Koji got up off the floor. Koji looked at his dad for assurance he hadn't done anything wrong. Kyle ruffled his son's head, forgetting for a moment how much he hated having his own hair ruffled. "It's okay, Koji," Kyle assured the little boy. "You just have to remember that you might not be as big as Danny and me, but you're a strong dude and we don't move as fast as we're used to in our gravity."
"But wait until we're on the holodeck in Earth gravity," Danny grinned. "I can hardly wait to toss you into the pond."
"You have a pond on the spaceship?" Koji was fascinated by that piece of news.
"There's going to be a lot for you to discover," Kyle said.
"Koji's worldly goods have been delivered to your room," King Zedrick told the young fathers. "He will not be taking much, but it is all precious to him. Still, a new life requires a new start, and that means new things and new traditions."
He signaled to Koji, who approached the King with surprising humbleness. King Zedrick sat Koji on his lap. "You are such a young boy, and yet you have proven yourself a great warrior by saving your King's life." He pointed to Kyle and Danny "They are your fathers as chosen for you by the prophecies, the stars, and most importantly, by yourself." He wrapped his arms around Koji and hugged him as he fought back an unkingly tear. "They love you, my son. Always make them proud."
Juro led Connor and Aiden to Prince Zifaa. "In your language, my name would be Zephyr," the prince informed them. Then he told Juro how sad he was about his father.
Juro introduced his new parents, "These are my new dads, Dad Aiden and Opsola Connor."
"Nice to meet you, Zephyr. Juro was hoping to be able to play with you and Tomo."
"I am done with my schooling for today, and am free to play until dinner, we can go get Tomo if you would like to meet him." Connor and Aiden agreed.
The orphanage wasn't close to the castle, but close enough they could walk. Once they got to the orphanage, Zifaa asked Miss Dewel if Tomo was available to play. "For you, I will get him, Sire."
While they were waiting, Randy and Tom approached. "Randy, Tom, what are you doing here?" Aiden inquired.
"Well, we were talking to Dave and he suggested that we visit the orphanage."
Connor questioned, "Are you thinking about adoption?"
"Well... we were wanting to wait, but if we do, Dave reminded us that we may not be able to adopt until we get to Earth."
Miss Dewel came out with Tomo, "Here you are, Sire."
Randy couldn't explain it, but he felt a connection as soon as he saw the boy. Tomo left with Connor, Aiden, Juro and Prince Zifaa. Randy asked Miss Dewel, "What's his story?"
"His parents and brother were killed in a tragic accident. Apparently, a creature attacked them when they were swimming."
Tom inquired, "What's his name?"
"Tomo, which means twin. As you can guess, he and his brother were twins," Miss Dewel offered. "In fact, he worked hard at science, trying to figure out how to find the creature... well, let me take you out back."
Randy whispered, "He loves science."
Once they were out back, Tom saw a submersible. It was big enough to hold three people and sitting on a transport. Miss Dewel pointed it out, "Juro and Tomo built that. They had some help, but they did most of the work."
"He and Juro are friends?" Randy questioned.
"They were best friends, but Juro will be leaving with you." Tom wanted to cry. Miss Dewel asked, "So, was he why you came here?"
Randy explained, "We are thinking about adopting eventually and our captain suggested that we visit here to help us decide if we want to adopt now."
Tom added, "I'd like to get to know Tomo better. Is there any way?"
"If you would like to be responsible for him, he can stay with you until you leave."
"SERIOUSLY?!?!" Tom got excited.
Randy grinned, "I have a feeling we are going to want to adopt him."
"Babe, I know I'm the one who didn't want to adopt right away, but would it upset you?"
"Tom, seeing you like this, I hope Tomo wants us to adopt him."
Miss Dewel asked Randy and Tom many questions. After she was satisfied, she led them to where the boys would be playing. Seeing Miss Dewel, Tomo looked sad, thinking it was time for him to return to the orphanage. He ran up to her, "This will be my last time playing with Juro, can't I play longer?"
"I'm not here to take you back," Miss Dewel explained. "See these men? They want to get to know you."
"Me? Why?" Tomo questioned.
"They are hoping to make it possible for you to play with Juro for a long time."
"FOR REALS?!?" Tomo squealed. Miss Dewel just nodded and smiled. Tomo ran up to Randy and Tom, "You wanna take Tomo aboard your ship?"
"Well, we are hoping you like us and want us to adopt you," Randy explained.
"You seem nice," Tomo claimed. "What's your names?"
"His name is Randy. He's the Chief Science Officer aboard the Sooloo," Tom declared. "My name is almost like yours. It's Tom, and I am one of the engineering officers. I saw the submersible that you and Juro built."
"Zifaa helped and so did Juro's father."
"But still, I am impressed with you being a part of it."
"I wanted to use it to find the monster who killed my parents, but the King said it was too dangerous."
Randy left to find King Zedrick. It didn't take long, "Sire, I understand you not wanting the boys going down in the submersible, but what if Tom and I went down with Tomo?"
"It is too dangerous," Zedrick declared.
"That's what Tomo said, but with us, I was... "
Zedrick raised his hand to signal Randy to stop. "Just over seven years ago, the fighter pilots were testing the fighters underwater in the sea. One of those fighters didn't return. We found his fighter ripped apart. We thought maybe there was an internal explosion, but then, Tomo's parents and brother were killed. We scanned the entire sea and cannot find this beast; therefore, I will not allow anyone to enter the sea. Even those who mine the salt out of it do not enter. Do you understand?"
"Was that the accident that took Koji's father?" Randy was in tears.
The King nodded, "It is."
"Thank you for telling me. I do understand better how dangerous it is," Randy offered. "About Tomo... Tom and I would like to adopt him."
Randy returned to Tom, who was watching Tomo, Juro and Prince Zifaa playing. Connor and Aiden were sitting with him. Tom declared, "The more I watch him, the more I want to adopt him. He really is a great kid."
"King Zedrick has already given us permission. We can make it official the day after tomorrow."
"Tomo!" Tom called.
"Yes, Opsola?" Tomo replied as he ran over.
"Opsola?" Randy questioned.
"You want to adopt me and opsola means father or dad. It is my way of showing respect."
Tom wiped a tear, "I guess you just answered my question. I was going to ask if you wanted us to adopt you."
"OH YES!!!" Tomo squealed and he hugged Tom and then Randy.
Randy looked at Tom, "I guess we only had three days of being just us. Was that enough for you?"
"Do you see the smile on this boy's face? Three days was enough."
Koji saw the differences in the guest room as soon as he entered. A portable partition closed part of one side of the room. His curiosity took him to the other side of the partition where he saw a small bed that was obviously just for him. He had been wondering where he was going to sleep during the night or two he would be staying in the room. He also saw the two boxes with his clothes and toys stacked at the foot of the bed.
He grinned at Kyle and Danny. "Thank you, Daddies. Koji is happy." That netted each dad a quick hug. Kyle knew he would need to find a way to keep Koji from slipping into third person when he talked about himself. He understood that those kinds of lessons could wait.
"Is Koji so happy that he is hungry?" Danny asked.
"Dinner time," Danny shouted. They headed off to the dining hall.
That evening, Koji said he liked sleeping naked. Kyle said he and Danny did as well. He pointed out that since the partition gave them privacy that wouldn't be a problem. What could be a problem, he thought, was that he and Danny's normal state of dress in their quarters on the Sooloo was nude. That was something else that he could deal with later.
What was important was that was going to be the first night they would be sleeping as a family. After Koji announced he was under his covers, Kyle and Danny tucked him in and gave him loving kisses on his forehead. Despite all the stress and hassles surrounding Koji's upcoming party, Kyle and Danny were experiencing warm feelings like that reminded Kyle and Danny that they had made the right decision bringing Koji into their lives. Kyle turned out the room lights and crawled into bed with his new husband as a state of happiness and serenity flooded through him.
Kyle and Danny were amused when Koji's little naked body streaked by them into the bathroom. Kyle's alarm had awakened them, and they were chatting about their plans when Koji made his run. "Koji has the first shower," he laughed as he closed the bathroom door.
"Good thing our room will be soundproofed, or we'd have to wake up silently," Kyle observed.
"He has no problem being naked, that's for sure," Danny said.
"We knew that when he got in trouble for skinny dipping on the castle grounds with the Trio."
"And when he stripped to reveal his real self to us."
Kyle sat up on the bed and rubbed his husband's stomach. He needed to pee badly, but he knew he'd be able to hold it until Koji exited the bathroom. He listened intently for the shower to turn off. When it did, he was ready to make a dash for the bathroom as soon as Koji showed himself. It didn't take long for his son to come out, half covered by his towel as he continued to dry himself while walking past his daddies. He giggled when he saw his naked daddy run to the bathroom. Danny was still naked but was covered by the bedding.
"Daddy wants shower bad," Koji giggled.
"No, your daddy wanted to take a piss badly," Danny told him.
Koji's giggle turned to laughter as he ducked behind his partition. Danny was happy to see Koji in a good mood to start the morning.
Kyle opened the door and peeked out. "If you need to pee, come in now before I start the shower." Danny got up and joined Kyle in the bathroom to take care of his business.
Koji noted that his daddies slept together naked and that Kyle daddy had no problem with Danny daddy peeing when they were in the bathroom together. He enjoyed the openness of his daddies; it made him feel comfortable. And he liked that his daddies were boys like him with no hair on their dickies like older boys had; but he knew he had to remember that they were his daddies and not his play friends.
After everyone was showered and dressed, the family went to the dining hall for breakfast. Kyle ordered the shimmy omelet that everyone said was so good. Koji ordered the same thing while Danny had an order of pankeki, which was a stack of Draconian pancakes. Soon, as the waiter brought out breakfast for Koji and Danny, Kyle was surprised when Randy Jenkins followed with his omelet.
"I thought you were a cook, not a waiter," Kyle told his friend.
"Do I look like a waiter?" Kyle looked over Randy in his white hat and apron and shook his head. "I wanted to make sure you enjoyed your first taste of skunk," Randy grinned.
"Not skunk, shimmy," Koji said officiously.
"Same difference," Randy grinned.
"Skunk," Kyle grumbled. Kyle hesitated to stick his fork into his omelet, wondering what had possessed him to order it. When Koji started digging into his omelet, Kyle knew he had no excuse for not taking a bite. He placed a forkful into his mouth ready to spit it out. He didn't care what everybody had been saying about the meat, Randy was right – skunk was skunk. Once he started chewing, his entire outlook changed; the changing flavors of the meat and egg made his palate sing. Randy walked away smiling – he had made another convert.
Just after Randy returned to the kitchen, Jace entered the dining room with the Terrific Trio. Koji perked up as soon as he saw his new friends. Jace stopped at the table and greeted Kyle and Danny while the four boys were instantly engrossed in a cacophony of young boy voices.
"Looks like you drew short straw, Jace," Danny grinned.
"I had the fewest things to do, and somebody had to look over the rug rats while you two spend the day slacking off," Jace chuckled. "And as good as those kids are, I don't see it as being the short straw at all."
"We have to make sure things are ready to go for Koji's party," Kyle protested.
"From what I hear that party is going be the birthday party of the century. Poor Koji's hat size is going to double."
"Mostly because everybody here celebrates their birthday on the first day of their birth month no matter what day of the month they were born. Koji is going solo."
"As soon as you guys finish eating, send Koji over to our table." Jace gave Danny and Kyle a sinister grin and said, "You two will have your share of boy sitting duties, too."
"We got good practice being Unka Kyle and Unka Danny," Kyle reminded him.
After they finished breakfast, Danny sent Koji to Jace's table to sit with his buddies while they ate. Randy stopped them before they left the dining room. "Here's a picture of what Koji's main cake will look like."
The two young dads looked at Randy's picture and squealed with delight. "Holy crap, did you design that?" Danny asked.
"Nope, that is the work of the bottle washer in chief." The boys gave Randy a questioning look. "That would be Ben," he told them. "The guy might overcook spaghetti, but he's a genius with cake decoration. His mom owned a bakery and he learned from the time he was Lars' age. Wait until you see it for real. Just the simple icing job on our sample cake was the work of a master artist. Who knew?"
"He told me when I asked him if he could help me with the icing. It was like somebody threw a switch. Next thing I know he came up with this design and said he could ice a cake with that design on it."
Kyle and Danny left the guest lodge for the castle where they had an appointment with Zarek. They babbled non-stop about what Koji's cake would look like and how excited he would be, not to mention everybody else who saw it.
Zarek greeted them in the foyer and took them to his suite. "I take it you had breakfast," Zarek told them as they settled in the parlor. Danny said they did. Zarek offered them each a cup of hot green tea, which they accepted, happy they weren't offered coffee. Danny and Kyle had yet to develop a taste for Joe.
After talking about Koji's first day in his fathers' custody, the topic was the big party the next day. "Your helper, Steve Boyer, is most efficient," Zarek said.
"Oh, Steve is more than a helper, he is in charge. Steve is super-efficient," Danny told Zarek.
"I could see that as I watched him work. Even Dad's Chief of Staff, Tamura Matsou is impressed by him. It is Matsou who keeps things running efficiently around here." Zarek then got down to business, "You asked about a toy for Koji, a stuffed animal like your Megrez, to be a special... I think the word is charm... for him."
"I've heard Megrez called a talisman or totem, but, yeah, charm works, too." Danny told Zarek.
"Miss Dewel let the boys in the orphanage have such a toy, but she told me Koji let go of his long ago. I think she probably took it from him; her way of making boys be independent. This is why there was nothing in the two boxes of Koji's belongings."
"I think Miss Dewel is wrong," Danny said, surprising Kyle with his firmness. "Megrez was important to Kyle growing up and we think Koji needs a totem, talisman, charm, stuffed animal, or whatever it is to help him. He's gonna get homesick really bad, right Kyle?"
"And I agree as well," Zarek told them. "Miss Dewel is excellent with the orphans, but she has some rather strict ideas at times." Zarek signaled Masao, his assistant, who had been standing out of sight. He introduced Masao to Kyle and Danny. "It is time, my friend," he told his aide.
Masao walked over to a cabinet situated against the far wall and removed something from a cubbyhole. Kyle saw it was a blue stuffed animal with long, black horns, much like a ram.
"Whoa, that thing looks frightening," Kyle commented. 'And it's also ugly,' he thought, but he diplomatically kept that thought to himself.
"To the two of you, maybe, but to Koji it will be both beautiful and symbolic of strength, courage and honor." Masao handed it to Kyle who held it on his lap.
"What is it?" Danny asked.
"We call this a Spirit Doll," Zarek replied. "It represents a wyvern, a type of dragon who can be fierce with its enemies but kind, gentle and loyal to those it knows and loves. My father and I both believe young Koji could not get a better totem symbolic of our planet than this."
"It's perfect," Kyle said. He looked at Danny who nodded in agreement. "We'll take it."
"This business of giving presents on birthdays is not our way, but we understand how you do it. Please tell Koji it is a present from you, with the help of King Zedrick, me and my younger brothers."
As if anticipating Zarek's command, the assistant produced a box from seemingly nowhere, secured Koji's present in it, and handed it to Danny. Zarek then, went over a few things that would be happening at Koji's party. He explained how what he and Masao had planned together was approved by Steve Boyer and made a part of the celebration. "It will be a Draconian celebration mixed with an Earthling celebration. Everyone will either be completely confused or will have the time of their lives," Zarek laughed.
After Danny and Kyle each ate a roll served to them by Masao, they left for the courtyard to check with Steve on the status of the party preparation.
"Did you notice that those rolls tasted almost like cinnamon rolls?" Kyle asked Danny.
"I did, and they were delicious. I also noticed just how hot Zarek is," Danny replied.
"You mean you didn't already notice that?"
"I suppose so. But when we were sitting there in his living room I started wondering what he looked like when he was our age and then realized that even at his age he looked really sexy."
"Be careful or you'll become a sex fiend like Steve or Brad or Randy J."
"That will never happen... NOT," Danny giggled.
Connor, Aiden and Juro met with Tom, Randy and Tomo for lunch. The younger boys were happy when they got to sit together. They all ordered daburu chiizubaagaa with agejaga (" Agejaga is Draconian style French fries "). The daburu chiizubaagaa was two ground shimmy patties with a type of cheese on a bun. Connor asked, "Juro, what kind of cheese is this? It kind of looks like pepper jack."
"That is harapenero chiizu, it can be very hot," Juro responded.
Randy took a bite and enjoyed the heat mixing in with the different flavors. He announced, "Mixed with the shimmy, it's hard to really say, but the pepper tastes like a hybrid of jalapeño and habanero. Hal knows botany better than I do, so he could possibly be able to tell better."
Badras was walking around the dining area, letting Randy Jenkins "run" the kitchen for a bit. He walked over, and commented, "About three hundred years ago, some of our explorers brought back your jalapeño and habanero peppers. We still grow them from the seeds, and one of our scientists tried splicing the two together. What you taste is the result; you were correct, young friend. I hope you like it."
"It is very good, if you like hot foods," Randy was proud of himself for being able to tell.
After they ate, Juro and Tomo were able to play while Tom and Connor talked about engineering among subjects relevant to Aiden and Randy. They let the boys play until it was time to eat supper. After supper, the younger boys were tired.
When they arrived in the courtyard they found Steve sitting on a bench at a table looking at some papers. "Hey, pappies, I figured you'd be showing up soon. I know you wouldn't be able to leave poor Steve alone to do his work."
"I'll be sure to bring my crying towel next time I see you," Kyle said unsympathetically. "We came to see how close things are to being ready for tomorrow and what exactly is happening."
"Yeah, Kyle and me don't want any surprises. We want to know what's going on. Zarek's already told us a lot," Danny said.
"Zarek has as much to do with tomorrow as I do," Steve confessed. "Everything is ready to go except for the cakes."
"Are they being baked on the Sooloo?" Danny asked.
"No, no, no. I doubt they would hold up on a shuttle trip down. The castle kitchen has some huge baking ovens. Randy and Ben have baked small sample cakes using Draconian ingredients. Let me tell you this, guys, I don't know if it was the baking ingredients or Randy's talent in the kitchen, but the samples kicked serious ass. They're busy getting three cakes ready now. Only one will have the full icing treatment, but the others will be baked and iced and sliced up to feed the hungry masses."
"Do you have Koji's outfit?" Kyle asked his friend.
"It arrived on the morning shuttle," Steve told them. Kyle thought he saw Danny shudder when he heard the word shuttle. "The replicator made it right to your specifications. John Luke is sewing the finishing logo on the shirt. There's someone else with a hidden talent."
"John Luke knows how to sew?" Kyle asked incredulously.
"Yep, who knew? Let's go check out the duds."
John Luke was in a work area located just off the courtyard. He was just finishing with his sewing job. Since he had come to the planet on the morning shuttle, Danny and Kyle didn't know he was on the planet.
Kyle and Danny were ecstatic with what they came upon. What they had envisioned was a plain light blue shirt, but what they saw was something entirely different. The shirt was a reddish brown with a plaid design of various shades of blue and brown. There was a pocket on the left side. Sooloo's patch had been sewn on to the pocket by John Luke, who had also designed the shirt.
"Hi, Kyle and Danny," John Luke said when he saw them. "I hope you don't mind what I did. I kind of wanted to surprise you as my present to you guys and Koji."
"That shirt is incredible," Danny gushed. "How could we NOT like it?"
John Luke grinned with pleasure. "Of course, I expect my reward to be no midnight watches."
"In your dreams," Kyle grinned. "I love what you did, and your hidden talent tells me you are so qualified to do midnight watches."
"Careful, I know the route back to the Rogue Star."
"I don't think that SOB would appreciate your work as much as Danny, Koji and I do. It's just amazing."
A pair of dark brown pants and light blue shorts completed the outfit. Everything was ready and in place. The weather forecast was for sunny and warm. A big crowd was expected. It looked like Danny was right – Koji's birthday party was going to be the party of the century, if centuries were even counted by the Draconians.
On the way back to the guest lodge they ran across Aiden. "I've been looking for you guys," Aiden said when he saw them. He noticed that Kyle and Danny were each carrying a box. "Presents?"
"Yep," Kyle replied.
"I have one, too. Something I think Koji will really like. I just wanted your 'okay' first."
"I don't know why we should mind."
"What is it?" Danny asked.
Aiden told them.
"Koji is going to love it," Kyle told him. "Thank you very much of thinking of him." They showed Aiden what they were carrying.
"So that's what John Luke was making those drawings for. These are some great presents."
"Do you want to have lunch with us?" Danny asked.
"Let's go eat, I'm starved."
After dinner that evening, Danny and Kyle presented Koji with his new outfit as an early birthday present. He smiled and said he liked it, but the dads sensed a lack of enthusiasm. Kyle realized he and Danny had made an error in their timing. Since Danny had to attend a shuttle pilot meeting with Hal, Kyle was left to find out what was bothering Koji.
Kyle sat on his bed and invited Koji to sit next to him, which his young son did. "You look like something is bothering you, Koji. Don't you like your new outfit?"
"It is very nice," Koji replied. "Must I wear it tomorrow at the party?"
"I think you would look very good wearing it." Kyle wondered why Koji would have a problem dressing up in new clothes for his birthday part.
Koji left the bed and went to his little sleeping area behind the partition. Kyle sat patiently, wondering what the boy was up to. He found out when Koji returned wearing a beautiful Kimono made of a material very much like silk. It was black with two inverse crimson dragons, one on each vest as decoration. The kimono was set off by a brilliant red obi. "I wish to wear this."
The first thing that popped into Kyle's mind was that his son was ungrateful for what he and Danny, not to mention John Luke, had done for him. "We gave you the outfit before your birthday so you could wear it tomorrow, to start your new life on your birthday."
"No, Koji wants to wear this for birthday."
"That is a beautiful kimono, but tomorrow is a day of change."
"This was my father's when my father was a boy like Koji. I must wear it."
Kyle was ready to tell Koji that his wearing it wasn't going to happen when he took a deep breath and paused like he would have done solving a problem on the bridge. As he looked at the distraught face of his son, Kyle grasped that the way he was thinking must be close to what his own father thought – I am right because I'm your father and you are wrong because you're my son. He remembered something his father had said in one of his tapes, that when dealing with subordinates he shouldn't use his father's parenting as an example. He had listened, seen the other point of view, and compromised where possible.
"Daddy, did you hear me?" Koji asked, his voice barely audible. Kyle could see that Koji was almost quaking just like he had quaked when facing the unyielding authority of his father. Here he'd been a parent for just over a day and already his son was afraid of him.
"I heard you, son," Kyle said gently. He found it difficult to address a boy just a few years younger than him as son, but he managed to squeak it out. "I think you should wear your new outfit tomorrow as a new start and you think you should wear your kimono as a special ending, does that sound right?"
Kyle put his arm around the boys thin but strong shoulders. He loved the smooth texture of the kimono. "What if we could do both?"
"Well, when I'm on the bridge and people think there is more than one way to do something, Dave will listen and ask for a compromise. That means one that helps everybody get at least some of what they want. So, how about you and me make a compromise."
That was what they spent the next twenty minutes doing. When they finished, Kyle felt they had an excellent plan, one even better than Koji imagined because he knew there would be a surprise at the party that could be worked into the plan. But first, he would have to talk to Steve and Zarek.
During that twenty minutes, Kyle and Koji developed a special bond. Koji was used to the unyielding ways of Miss Dewel, but his new daddy had listened to him and made him happy. Plus, his new daddy was happy, too, which made Koji happier.
"We just have to get your Danny daddy to agree to the plan and I'll talk to the right people to make it happen," Kyle told his grinning young son.
When Danny returned from his meeting, he readily agreed to the plan. Kyle could see that Danny was still disturbed about something but talking about it would have to wait.
Kyle went to Steve Boyer's room to give him a heads up. When Steve ascertained that it was Kyle at the door, he didn't bother to dress and opened the door in the nude. Brad was half-covered by the bedding and Kyle could tell he was naked as well. That and Steve's tumescent state told Kyle he had disturbed something fun and important. He thanked Steve and Brad profusely for letting him in.
"It will just make the end result better," Steve laughed. "I gather this visit is something really important or you would have called."
Kyle told him. Steve and Brad both loved the plan. Steve said he would contact Zarek to make an appointment for him, and Kyle to tell him the plan so everything could be put in place. Within minutes, they learned they would be having breakfast with the Prince in his suite.
Danny and Kyle woke Koji from a sound sleep and gave him birthday hugs and kisses. Koji thanked them and once again beat them to the shower. After showering, Koji dressed the way he and his dads had agreed on the night before, in his regular clothes. Once they were showered and dressed, the three of them left the room to meet Steve and Brad in the lobby of the guest house.
Kyle, Danny, Steve, Brad and Koji walked to the castle together to enjoy breakfast with Prince Zarek. On the way to the castle, they ran across another boy heading in the same direction. When Koji saw him, his face lit up.
"Hi, Zakku," he shouted out with a wave. "He lets me call him that," Koji whispered to his friends like he was someone special.
The boy looked at Kyle and Danny and said, "I am Prince Zakku, but my friends call me Zack. Koji likes calling me Zakku; I think it's cute." Zack was thirteen and King Zedrick's middle son. "I assume you are going to the breakfast meeting with my brother. I am going as well, so we can walk together."
Kyle never ceased being amazed about the Royal Family. For all their power, wealth and privilege, they were all friendly and unassuming. Zack gave the impression of being a friendly classmate at school rather than a Prince. Koji grabbed Zack's hand and the group continued their walk to the castle. Koji obviously worshipped the young Prince and not because he was a member of royalty.
"You are from the Zulu, yes?" Zack asked.
"Actually, it's the Sooloo," Kyle replied. "I am Commander Kyle Robinson, and this is my husband Ensign Danny Harper." He introduced Steve and Brad as best friends of Danny and himself. Zack had seen Steve working on Koji's party in the courtyard and around the castle "And of course, you know our son, Koji." Kyle thought he should be formal since this was his first time meeting Prince Zakku, even though the Prince was friendly and informal.
"Yes, I know him well. Dad and Zarek have been talking nonstop about how great your crew has been with our people. So, you are the ones who adopted our sweet Koji. I will miss him, but I am happy for him. If you decided to never leave, they wouldn't complain. I am honored to meet you."
"And we are honored to meet you... um... Zack." Danny decided to be a little more informal than Kyle and talked to the Prince like he was just another friend of Koji's.
The breakfast gathering ended up being bigger than Kyle had imagined. They were greeted at the main entrance to the Prince's quarters by Zarek's assistant, Masao, who led them to a large dining room.
Prince Zarek and his youngest brother, Prince Zifaa were seated to his left. Zifaa, or Zephyr, was ten. In Kyle's and Danny's eyes, the youngest Prince was extremely cute. Koji smiled and greeted Zephyr with the same enthusiasm he'd greeted Zack with. He was directed to a seat between the two young Princes.
The four Sooloo boys received one more surprise when the three young Princes rose, bowed to Koji, and gave him a Happy Birthday wish. "My brothers and I are grateful to Koji for saving our father's life. We wish him a most Happy Birthday and long and prosperous future as he enters a new life." They finished with a second bow and sat together, leaving young Koji embarrassed and somewhat flustered, but also extremely happy and grateful.
Breakfast was dachou, pankekis and shimmy patties, which were much like sausage patties. There were also glasses of mikannoshiru, which the Earth boys found to be very much like orange juice. "I understand you have been developing a liking for shimmy," Zarek grinned. Everyone nodded except for Danny, who had yet to sample the Draconian delicacy. He decided that out of politeness, now was as good a time as any to give it a try. Like almost all the Sooloo boys who tried it, Danny fell instantly in love with the always changing flavors of the meat.
After a breakfast filled with lively talk and a lot of laughter, Zarek announced that the "adults" had some private things to discuss. Even though he was only sixteen, Zarek was considered an adult, and with all the responsibility he carried, he certainly considered himself to be one.
"I don't know about this adult business," Kyle said. "I think Zack is older than Danny and I are, but I don't feel like doing the math. Solving an astrogation problem is easier than comparing ages between our cultures."
Once the younger boys were out of the room, Zarek asked about the mysterious plan. Kyle explained what he and Koji had worked out the night before.
"Brilliant, simply brilliant," Zarek said. "And here are a couple of ideas I would like to throw in." Zarek then told the Sooloo boys his thoughts.
"Brilliant, simply brilliant," Steve grinned. "Especially the lights at the cake cutting."
The breakfast meeting ended with a mikan juice toast to the success of Koji's birthday. The "adults" left the dining room to hunt down the younger boys.
Randy, Tom and Tomo went to the Hall of Records. Michi, the recorder, stated, "Your adoption has already been approved by the King, I just need to handle the filing. Before you sign these papers, are you sure you wish to adopt Tomo? Will you treat him as though he is your flesh and blood, and meet all his needs?"
"Yes of course we will. All that matters are... Tomo's health and happiness," Tom stated.
"I'm glad to hear you say that. Tomo deserves some happiness," Michi averred.
"Yes, he does," Randy added.
Michi looked at Tomo, "I understand that you spent a couple days with these two."
"Yes Ma'am, and we had fun. Opsola Tom and I played a game while Opsola Randy made sure I had my own bed, then he joined us. Then the next day, I got to play with Juro and we all went to dinner together; my dads, Juro's dads and us two."
With a smile, Michi inquired, "Then, I am guessing, but must ask, do you want Tom and Randy Kohl to adopt you?"
"Yes Ma'am, I sure do," Tomo was all smiles.
"Tom or Randy, whoever wants to go first, place your thumb here to sign the adoption papers digitally." Tom placed his thumb where indicated and then Randy followed in kind. "Tomo, your new name is Tomo Kohl, you are officially the son of Tom and Randy Kohl."
Tomo gave Tom and Randy a hug.
After Koji was found in Zephyr's room, Kyle, Danny and Brad returned to the guest lodge with Koji, Zack and Zephyr. Zack and Zephyr were wearing their ceremonial kimonos. Koji was envious of them, but happy that he would soon be wearing his as well.
Kyle walked behind the others with Danny. He'd noticed that Danny had seemed down for a while and had lost even more of his customary glow since returning from the pilots' meeting the night before. Kyle decided to find out what was on his husband's mind.
"I don't know if I want to fly anymore," Danny confessed after Kyle questioned him. "It's not like I'm scared, it's just that I don't want to do it. It's like it's not fun anymore." Danny sniffed back some tears and looked into his new husband's eyes. "I'll be back on shuttle duty the day after tomorrow and I don't want to do it. But, if I don't do it, then I'm not doing my duty and I don't even belong on the crew and I don't know what to do." He wiped back some tears and sniffed again. "What am I going to do, Kyle?"
As much as Kyle wanted to have the answer Danny needed, he didn't have a clue about what kind of advice to tell his true love. But he did know who Danny had to turn to for the help he needed. "You need to talk to Hal, like right away," Kyle told him.
"But... but... but, look at me, I'm a mess."
"I'm looking at you and all I see is my beautiful new husband. You told me you've cried on Hal's shoulder before and I can't think of a better time to do it again."
They reached the entrance to the guest lodge. "I can't. He'll hate me when I tell him I don't want to fly because it's not going to be fun anymore."
"Well, you have never been a fucking whiner, and it's time for you to quit whining and go back to being Danny Harper. Kyle pulled out his communicator and punched in Hal's code. "Hey, Hal, Kyle here. Danny wants to talk to you." He held out the communicator and Danny grabbed it, certain he was going to stay angry at Kyle forever.
Danny muttered yes or no a few times and finally cut the connection. He glared at Kyle as he handed back the communicator.
"Well?" Kyle asked.
"He wants to see me now; I hope you're happy," Danny barked as he turned and walked away. As Kyle watched the love of his life walk into the lodge, he couldn't help but wonder if he'd done the right thing. He shook his head and told himself that even though Danny was thoroughly pissed, he HAD done the right thing, that there was nothing else he could have done. Danny obviously wasn't going to do it on his own.
Koji, the Princes and Brad had already entered the lodge. They found the Terrific Trio on the lounge and gravitated to the three boys. Brad had noted the friction between Kyle and Danny outside of the lodge. "I'll watch the boys with Jordan and you take care of what you need to take care of," Brad told Kyle.
"Thanks, Brad. Koji needs to meet us in our room in two hours. He has some things to discuss with Lars, so please make sure he doesn't lose track of time."
"Relax, I'll see to everything," Brad assured his friend. "Is everything okay with you and Danny?"
"Yeah, it's great," Kyle muttered as he walked away.
Danny went to see Hal about his "problem." How can he be a shuttle pilot when after flying a fighter in a war that wasn't his, it scares him to fly. The computer told Danny that Hal was in his guest quarters, so Danny went there.
He rang the chime and waited for Hal to grant him permission to enter. The door slid open... "Mr. Harper, what can I do for you?" Hal inquired.
Danny explained how just the thought of flying makes his stomach feel queasy. He had expressed his fear and started crying. Then he asked for Hal's advice.
"First, if you remember, the Lizons attacked us as we approached the planet. And I heard reports from the crew of the Kaisokusen that the Lizons were heading toward the space dock to finish off the Sooloo as well as the Draconian ship.
"Second, Space Fleet has sworn to help defend any potential allies, so we couldn't have sat idly by. And third, I heard reports that you were a natural in that fighter. The Draconians have been flying since before you were born, but Meagear Endou said that you had skill unmatched by any of them."
"But... " Danny started.
"But nothing, Ensign," Hal interrupted. "Look, Danny, you just fought with a fierce enemy, so it's natural to be scared. I was scared for everyone... you, Dave and those on the Kaisokusen, those on the planet, including our boys. Fear is a part of our lives, but it's what we do with that fear that defines us. I won't say that you'll never have to fight another enemy; we have no idea who we might come up against. Truth is, for the most part, the shuttles will not be a part of fighting."
Danny nodded, "That's true."
"Before we leave tomorrow, why don't you take the Raphael out for a couple of hours. I've been told that there is a special bond that can develop between a pilot and craft that he flies. I imagine that after what you and the Raphael have been through, that bond just might exist between you. Take it out for a spin and treat it like the special friend it is. I'll let Dave know that I authorized it. If after that, you still feel like you can't fly, we can discuss transferring you to another part of the ship."
"Thank you, Hal."
Hal looked at his shoulder and chuckled, "Next time we chat, I need to bring a towel for my shoulder." Danny chuckled as he left the room.
The Rafael... after talking to Hal, Danny couldn't think of a better spacecraft to prove to Hal, to Kyle, to Koji and especially to himself that he was still the best pilot in the fleet.
Kyle was with Jordan in the lounge of the guest lodge, talking and watching Koji playing with the Terrific Trio. They were anticipating the start of the big party; nerves were strung tight in the "adults" and the four boys were ready to climb the walls, they were so amped up. Kyle breathed a sigh of relief when he saw Danny enter the lounge with a smile on his face.
As soon as Danny sat next to him, Kyle said, "I guess the talk with Hal went well."
"How could you tell?"
"Your smile was a dead giveaway. Did you cry on Hal's shoulder?"
"Yeah. He said he'd bring a towel to put on his shoulder the next time I came to chat with him."
"And what did he tell you?"
Danny told his husband what Hal proposed and what they agreed to. Danny's enthusiasm for Hal's solution was contagious.
"Danny, that's just amazing. I mean totally and awesomely amazing. I'm glad you're feeling better now. And you do it tomorrow, right?"
"Yep. I still have to do it, but now I think I can. I didn't think that when I went to see Hal."
"And now you will be able to enjoy the party with no worries," Kyle gushed.
"Well, almost no worries."
Right after Danny told Kyle what Hal had decided and how much better he felt already, Koji came over. They reminded him about the details of the plan, without revealing the surprise touches Zarek had added.
With the help of the tremendous high points of the day plowing the low points aside, PARTY TIME had arrived. For Koji it would be the greatest day of his life as well as the fastest day of his life. He would remember most of what happened, he would forget a lot of what happened, he would wonder how it all happened so fast, and he would swear that every instant of the day was incredibly perfect.
Koji pranced around the room in his kimono, anxious to leave. Kyle and Danny had asked that their dress uniforms be sent down from the Sooloo. As Koji watched them button their last buttons, he found himself incredibly proud of how grand his daddies looked. 'They look almost as good as me,' he thought.
When they arrived at the lobby, Kyle, Danny, and Koji were met by Zack and Zephyr as well as a contingent of other children whom Koji knew from the orphanage, school and from other locales where children met and played. All of them were dressed in kimonos. A small band was playing quietly.
Koji knew that a birthday parade was about to start, which surprised him. Since Draconian children celebrated their birthdays together at the start of their birthday month, Koji did not expect to have a parade. What he didn't know was that King Zedrick had declared that because of the unique circumstances surrounding Koji's birthday and because of his service to the kingdom when he saved the King's life, Koji would have his own special birthday with all the trimmings.
Koji's friends greeted him with traditional children's greetings and they all walked out the entry and gathered for the parade. The band upped the noise and the tempo, and the parade commenced.
Many citizens and children lined the path between the guest house and the castle, cheering as the parade marched by. Draconians loved holidays and spectacles; getting an unplanned one was a special treat.
A large crowd had already gathered in the castle courtyard when the parade arrived. While the party was by invitation only, a massive number of invitations had been sent out and returned. The crowd cheered the children as if they were all birthday celebrants, but Koji received the longest and loudest cheers.
The courtyard was filled with people, music, singing, games, talking, laughter, and food and drink. King Zedrick and his sons circulated around the crowd (with their security guards to keep them from being overwhelmed). Koji had a security guard watching him as well.
The party settled down some when the Grand Meal was served at the tables set up on the north end of the courtyard. After the meal, the time came for the birthday cake. The Draconians did not have birthday cakes and were fascinated by this and other Earthling birthday traditions.
The main cake, with the Sooloo modeled in the center of the icing on the huge cake had drawn "oohs and aahs" from the entire party with hundreds of pictures being taken of it. As Koji walked proudly onto the stage at the center of the courtyard with his fathers clad in their elegant dress uniforms, the cameras started taking a few hundred more pictures.
Zarek joined Koji and his fathers on the stage and took over as Master of Ceremonies. He introduced Koji and his fathers, even though everyone knew who they were. He then had King Zedrick say a few words to the crowd.
"I want to thank everyone for showing up to celebrate Koji's last birthday on Darastix. In a moment, it'll be time for the cutting of the cake, but first, there will be a tradition of our own," Zedrick said as he concluded his remarks. "Our own Koji birthday boy will dance the traditional Asaku dance with my son, Prince Zakku. Before they do, Koji would like to say something to you."
Koji walked shyly to the front of the stage where the sound equipment would pick up his voice. When Zack told him how things would be unfolding at the party, he had not expected to talk in front if this many people. He took a deep breath and spoke in a confident tone that made his daddies proud. In his native tongue he said, "I am Koji and I am Draconian." He pointed to his chest and went on. "This is my kimono and belonged to my brave father who flew a fighter. I am proud of him and proud of my kimono. I will now dance the Asaku with my friend Zakku."
Zack was waiting in the open area between the stage and the tables. Koji stepped down to meet him and the band started playing. The two boys danced and whirled and twirled, their colorful kimonos flying with them. When Kyle had asked Zarek what Asaku meant, Zarek had laughed and said, "It means nothing. It's simply the name of the dance."
After the dance finished, Koji returned to the stage. He stepped behind the table with the three large cakes. The first slice was going to be cut from the main cake. Koji had practiced by taking a slice out of one of the smaller cakes under the supervision of Randy the day before.
Zarek then had Kyle and Danny come to the front of the stage. Kyle signaled to Aiden, who was waiting on the sidelines. Aiden handed Koji a large wrapped box. The guests looked raptly at what was happening on the stage. The giving of presents on birthdays was not a Draconian tradition.
Koji openly broke into a wide smile when he saw a beautiful new telescope.
"Your father, Kyle gave Connor and me a telescope, and now we give you one, so you and your father can look at the stars together," Aiden told him. His birthday outfit had been his first birthday present ever and now he had his first birthday present on his birthday. Kyle and Danny stepped forward and Danny handed Koji another wrapped box, which he opened. He removed the blue stuffed wyvern his daddies had found for him. He smiled at his daddies, gave them each a hug, then hugged the wyvern tightly to his chest in a loving gesture. The guests rose in a loving cheer.
Koji gave the wyvern to Danny for safekeeping. He then looked out at the audience as Zephyr walked up. Three spot lights lit up the two boys as Zephyr helped Kyle remove his kimono, revealing his new birthday outfit. Koji was being transformed from a Draconian boy to an Earth boy in front of the cheering guests. The lights were a surprise for Koji.
Koji was ready to speak again, and the crowd hushed. Once again, he pointed to his chest and spoke, only this time in English. "I am Koji and I am now an Earthling and will live with my new daddies. These are Koji's first Earth clothes that I got for my birthday," he said, the stress of speaking causing him to mix up his point of view. "My new daddy Danny is a fighter pilot hero and Koji is proud of him. And my new father Kairu finds the stars and Koji is proud of him. I will cut the cake."
The spotlight came back on, illuminating Koji and his new clothes. Despite the distraction, Koji made a perfect cut across the width of the cake and cut one piece from that. Then he looked down at the open area and saw Lars standing there alone. "Now Koji will dance the Asaku with his new friend Lars."
Koji had given Lars a quick dance lesson. There wasn't much to teach since the dance was more about free and fast movement than about precise movement. The spotlight followed Koji. The music started up again and he grabbed Lars. They took off in a whirl of movement with loud music, banging percussion, flashing strobe lights and loud cheers. Boys dancing with boys was not uncommon at Draconian parties, but a dark-haired boy dancing with a blond was almost unheard of since light-colored hair was a mutation and blond hair non-existent, except for Dracora and now Jason. The strobe lights were another surprise for Koji.
The boys let their hands go and danced circles around each other until Koji and Lars, in the birthday tradition, yelled out "Asaku!" and the empty area quickly filled with party guests who started to dance in controlled chaos. Boys danced with boys, girls danced with girls, boys danced with girls, children danced with adults - everybody danced with everybody.
The flashing strobes lit up the courtyard and the dark sky above with a super-powered light show. It was a grand birthday tradition and another surprise for Koji whose birthday was full of old and new traditions, from the parade, to Koji's old and new clothes, dancing the Asaku with old and new friends, cutting the cake, receiving presents, dancing with each of his new fathers, and declaring himself an Earth boy as well as a Draconian. It was that same sort of traditional birthday that the guests were used to while at the same time being different than anything they had experienced before.
As the party ended, Koji tried his hardest to stay awake, but it was a losing battle. Dave, Hal, Jace, Jason, Zarek and Masao, along with a couple of the burly security men, helped carry Koji, Lars, Jason and Jonas to two of the castle's guest rooms where the boys undressed, dropped into bed. Koji fell instantly to sleep, clutching his stuffed blue wyvern tightly to his chest.
It was a party that would live in Draconian legend.
With the boys sleeping, Jace, still wearing the blue kimono he was given that he wore to the party, approached Zarek. The katana Zarek let him use during the attack was in his hand. "Zarek, I still have this and thought you might want it back. We'll be leaving tomorrow, so... "
"You looked good using it, as good as our guards who have been training for einens. At the risk of sounding conceited, almost as good as me, and I've been training with the tou (" Tou is Draconian for katana or sword ") for twelve einen."
"I take that as a compliment," Jace responded. "I wasn't allowed to handle an actual sword until I was ten, but I did start training with a wooden one we called a bokken when I was nine."
"So... counting that, you've only trained with a sword for six einen, going on seven? You are very good. I think you should keep that sword; we have spares."
"I will cherish it and our friendship."
The crew was slowly returning to the Sooloo. While everyone else was getting reacquainted with the ship, Danny headed to the Shuttlebay. He sat at the controls of the Raphael, his heart beating rapidly. He hadn't been this nervous since his first solo shuttle flight. Even dealing with the Rogue Star and the space rift hadn't been this nerve wracking. As for the Lizons, that all happened so fast, he didn't have time to be nervous, he just reacted to everything. 'Maybe that was why I'm nervous now... because I'm thinking about flying instead of just doing it. It's like Hal said,' Danny thought, 'thinking is dangerous. You know what to do, so just do it.'
He finally took a deep breath and asked for clearance to take off from the shuttle bay. The controller granted him clearance. He already had his flight plan, so once he left the bay all he had to do was follow it.
'I can't do this,' he thought. 'Yes you can, you silly pecker head,' Kyle's voice said in his mind. "Shut the fuck up, you stupid brain and let's go fly and have some fucking fun!"
Without any more hesitation, Danny touched the controls and lifted the Raphael off the bay floor. Once at the proper height he accelerated forward until he exited the Sooloo. Once he was clear of the Sooloo, he found himself looking for attackers. 'Fuck that shit, let's have fun!' He sped off at full acceleration and did a barrel roll, a trio of loops, a straight run for five minutes, and did it all again. Hal had given him the Raphael for two hours and he was going to take advantage of every second if it.
He fired off the lasers, which were not weapons-grade lasers; they were for exploration and communication. But Danny didn't care because it was GAME TIME! He twisted, turned, and he rolled... then he flipped, he zigged and he zagged. He yelled and laughed like the young boy he was, pushing the little shuttle to its limits.
"Take that you Lizon bastards!" he screamed as he fired the lasers into empty space. Danny had quit thinking long ago, he was doing what came naturally.
After he finished blowing off steam and getting his head right, Danny flew the shuttle back to the Sooloo. This time he flew it as he would any shuttle mission, in a straight line at a reasonable speed. Of course, the Raphael operating at full speed would almost look like it was standing still when compared to Fighter 19. Danny felt content as he approached the shuttle bay and asked for docking instructions.
When he docked in the bay after his two hours were up, he was pleased to see Kyle, Brad, Steve, Koji and Hal waiting for him. He waved as he exited the shuttle.
"Well?" Kyle asked as he ran to meet his love.
"Well, I guess all I have to say is… DANNY IS BACK AND FLYING!"
Kyle gave Danny a hug, then stated, "Good, because Meagear Endou sent this up for you." He handed Danny a picture. It was of Fighter 19 and had an image of the wings he had been given.
Meagear Endou wrote on the image, "Danny Harper, your flying skills are beyond measure!!! I've never seen such a courageous pilot!!!" And then, he signed it.
Danny read the inscription and smiled when he saw Endou's signature. Coming from the commander of the fighter group, this was high praise indeed.
"Captain, the Shuttle Bay reported that the Raphael has returned and is docked."
"Thank you, Aiden," Dave responded. "John, did you and Kyle set a course?"
"Yes Sir, we took care of that as soon as we were aboard."
Jordan was curious, "Where are we heading, Sir?"
"I have no idea, let's find out. Steady as she goes, Lieutenant, remember, she is practically a new ship."