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Authors note.

As always my thanks to Neurparenthetical, whose untiring vigilance makes my illegible scribble readable. Any residual errors are left there purposely in order to give you guys something to do.

Enjoy. – and please, whatever you feel about the story feedback is always appreciated. I can’t improve if I don’t know where I am going wrong.

Caleb 13 - NSA

We had showered and retired to our own bed, leaving Jules’ parents to change their bed after we had made such a mess of it. Despite us not getting back to sleep until after midnight, I was still awake at four, and I slid out of bed and made my way down the stairs once again.

For some reason, the dogs were waiting for me on the deck, and they ambled over to say good morning before settling down again to watch. Apparently, my strange behavior intrigued or amused them in some way.

Cheryl brought a drink out to me an hour later. “Good morning,” she said. “Did you sleep well?”

“Like a baby,” I replied. “I guess I must’ve been tired.”

She chuckled. “I wonder why,” she said.

I looked at her, wondering if last night had been a horrible mistake. She must have read the expression on my face and interpreted my thoughts.

“Caleb,” she said, crossing the deck and putting her arms around me. “Last night was wonderful I enjoyed it immensely, and I know Dean did too.” She leaned in and gave me a brief soft kiss.

“Put my wife down and go shower,” Dean said from right behind me. “Those fenceposts aren’t going to replace themselves.”

Blushing, I extricated myself from Cheryl’s embrace and headed indoors, passing Ness at the kitchen door. I yelped as she slapped my butt as I passed.

“Hurry up,” she said, “breakfast is ready.”

I was showered, changed, and back at the breakfast table in ten minutes. After a very hearty breakfast, which I devoured, Dean and I headed out for the day.

We managed nine hundred posts that day. We could have done more, but we ran out of replacements on the truck, and Dean said it wasn’t worth driving all the way back to get fresh ones. He said that for the next day, he’d arrange for caches of posts to be dropped along the fence line.

Ness provided us with another feast, and afterward, Dean and I relaxed on the deck with a beer. He said it was a habit of his to take an hour for himself each day. It gave him time to decompress and sort out his thoughts without having to deal with either work or family issues. I offered to leave him to his ‘alone time,’ but he shook his head.

“Sometimes a man needs another man to decompress with,” he said, “and no, I’m not after your ass. As Jules said, I don’t swing that way. But living in a completely female household, it’s nice to have some male company for once.”

We sat for a while, sipping our beer and just contemplating the amazing view from the deck.

“Caleb,” he said after a while, “I don’t want you to get mad. Jules says that you get sick of people deciding things for you, but she’s my daughter, and I wanted to help her - and you.”

“Why would I get mad?” I asked.

“I bought your house,” he said simply. “When the FBI seizes assets like that, they go on an auction site. Until they’re sold, they use them. For some reason that house hadn’t sold – I think it had too much history – so they just kept it on the books. My lawyer closed on it yesterday.”

My mouth opened and then closed again. Despite the massive plot of land that I was sitting squarely upon, I still didn’t have a concept of how rich he might actually be.

“I don’t know what to say,” I said. “I’m shocked, overwhelmed.”

“Not mad?” he asked.

“I get mad with people for deciding things for me, yes,” I said,” but that’s because they are deciding those things for THEIR benefit and not for ours. The FBI didn’t give a fuck about me, or the girls when they put us in that house. It was just a means to an end – a way to put me in their debt and control me. Your motivation is different. You don’t want anything from me that I wouldn’t already gladly give: to love and protect your daughter.

“But we still can’t afford to live in the house. The property tax and utilities and all that is way more than we have.”

“I will take care of all that,” he said. “It will be the same deal as the FBI had with you. All you need to do is live there and pay for your own food. Everything else will be taken care of. Even the money Josh and Louise pay you, just put it towards your expenses.”

“I really don’t know what to say,” I repeated. “Thank you. It’s a weight off my mind. The twins have money, but I hated the fact that I was asking them to help when it’s my responsibility.”

“Wow,” he said, “I wouldn’t have expected you, of all people, to say that.”

“Why me, of all people?” I asked.

“I thought gender didn’t matter,” he said. “Or is that just in the bedroom? I thought you valued people for who they were, not for what they had between their legs. I also thought you loved your girls more than that.”

“What?” I asked. I was reeling from the sudden attack.

“Get your head out of your ass, boy!” he said sharply. And then more gently, “Caleb, what are those girls to you? Girlfriends? Concubines? Whores? What?”

“They’re my…” I struggled to find a single word to encapsulate all that they meant to me.

“Try ‘partners,’” he suggested. “Partners share everything, including the responsibilities.

“You think I built all this by myself?” he asked, waving his hand around. “Sure, I got a chunk of change from my pops when he passed on, but it took years and a shitload of work to get here. Cheryl was right beside me the whole way. In fact, she probably did more, because she helped me build the farm, and gave me two wonderful daughters.

“You need to share - not just the fun stuff, but the other stuff too. Those girls are not airheaded bimbos. They’re not trophy wives - arm candy to trot out to make you look good - although each of them is gorgeous enough to be. Don’t treat them like that. They are equals in your relationship, and that means an equal share of the burden. Don’t take it all on yourself.”

I quickly realized he was right, but the change in tone still left me reeling for a bit. I was still replaying everything in my head when the back door opened, breaking the strange mood that had settled over and between us. The girls emerged; our ‘man time’ had come to an end.

Jules came over and sat next to me. She looked a little worried, obviously knowing what we had been discussing.

“Jules,” I said in a soft voice, but loud enough for all to hear. “I’m sorry, but I have to tell you.”

“What?” she said, a worried frown creasing her forehead.

“I have a sugar daddy!” I stage whispered.

I had timed it perfectly. Dean had just taken a mouthful of beer, and it came rushing out of his nose. Cheryl and the girls howled with laughter as he coughed.

“That was mean,” Jules said when she had stopped laughing.

“Well, a guy’s got to have a little fun with the new father-in-law,” I said, repeating his words from the previous night back at him. “I’ve been going far too easy on him so far.”

“Boy, you just messed with the wrong marine,” he growled, but then he chuckled. “’Sugar daddy,’” he repeated, almost to himself, shaking his head.

I looked across at where Ness was sitting, looking at me.

“Scoot over a bit,” I sent to Jules, and she made space, Ness came over and sat beside me.

“Has Jules spoken to you about what we were talking about last night?” I asked her.

“Talking,” she said with a grin. “Was that what it was?”

“Has she?” I asked, trying to get her back on track.

She nodded. “She says that you can connect to me,” she said, “so that when I get pain, no matter where you are, you can help me.”

“Did she tell you what else can happen over the bond?” I asked.

“She said I might feel your emotions, sometimes, if they are strong. If you are happy or sad or angry.”

“And?”

She blushed. “That I might feel you guys having sex. But that shouldn’t happen, because you are controlling your powers much better these days.”

“Ness, I need you to swear to me,” I said, “that if you feel an ‘invitation’ from me in your mind, you will reject it. I can’t drag you in; you have to accept, and I know the temptation will be there to find out what all the fuss is about, but you have to promise me. If you ever get that invite, it will be a mistake, and you must reject it.”

“I promise,” she said, and her aura looked like she actually meant it.

“Ness?”

Her eyes widened.

“I know you can hear me,” I sent, “and tomorrow, probably, the girls will teach you how to use the bond, but for now, when I talk to you like this, you can answer just by thinking what you want me to hear.”

“Okay,” she sent.

“Are you sure this is what you want?” I asked.

“Yes… please,” she thought. “You don’t know how bad it gets. But Caleb, will you promise me something?”

“What?”

“Will you promise me,” she thought, “that when I am eighteen, you will show me ‘what the fuss is all about?’”

I looked at her, she wasn’t being bratty, or trying to get a rise from me. It was a heartfelt question and, I felt a yearning, and a vulnerability I couldn’t ignore. It could simply be a teenage crush, but I chose to answer her honestly.

“I will promise,” I sent, “that if, when you are eighteen, you still feel the way you feel now, then you, me, Jules, and the twins will sit down and discuss our future. And if it is right for you, then yes, we will show you. Until then, we need to keep this between you and I, ok?”

I saw a tear roll down her cheek and she nodded.

“Thank you,” she said.

“Okay then,” I sent. “In a second, you will feel a rush of emotions as the bond connects. It can be a little overwhelming at first until you get used to it. I want you to hold onto Jules, and just relax.”

I had included Jules in that last conversation, so she reached over and took Ness into her arms.

As gently as I could, I connected the bond.

I felt a rush of emotions from Amanda, Mary, and Jules: welcoming, love, and acceptance. I knew she would be feeling the same from me too. From her, I felt love, trust, fear, and also a little excitement. She clung to her sister and sobbed as the tide of emotions washed over her.

“Is something wrong?” asked a worried Cheryl.

I shook my head, smiling. “It can be a little emotional when you first connect and feel the love through the bond,” I said. “Imagine last night without the sex - not just a snapshot, but a constant feed. Jules described it as the difference between a lightning flash and the dawn.”

Her worry vanished. “Thank you, Caleb,” she said. “You don’t know what a relief it is to know that you will be able to help her.”

+++++

“Caleb?” Jules followed me into the bedroom. It was just after ten, and I had decided to go to bed.

“Hey, Kitten,” I said. “Are you okay?”

She squirmed a little. “I’m horny again,” she said. “This will be the last time, I promise, at least for this month.”

“Hey,” I said, “you know we are here for you, however many times you need.”

She hugged me. “Thank you.”

“Would you like me to help you?” I asked. “Or one of the girls? I’m sure they would be very happy to.”

She blushed. “Would you mind if they helped?” she asked bashfully.

“Just the girls?” I asked.

She shook her head. “You too.”

“911 we have a very horny girlfriend who needs attention stat,” I sent to the twins. I felt both of them flush with arousal and knew they would be there directly.

Less than a minute later, the door opened, and Mary and Amanda slipped in.

Amanda came over to us, gently turning Jules’ head to her, and kissed her.

Like me, she started with the normal Jules kiss, but I saw her eyes widen as Jules kissed her back in a very un-Jules-like way. Meanwhile, Mary had started undressing her, her hands caressing her as she gently, but incredibly efficiently, stripped her.

Amanda passed Jules off to Mary, who had stripped not only Jules but herself as well. Mary didn’t bother going for the Jules kiss; she’d seen and felt what had happened with Amanda and claimed the smaller girl’s mouth, their tongues battling with each other as Jules started to writhe in need.

Amanda was naked almost immediately, and I had stripped to my shorts. Mary, showing remarkable strength for her size, picked Jules up, and, still maintaining the kiss, carried her to the bed, laying her down and encouraging her to move into the middle so there was space around her for all of us.

I listened in on Jules to make sure she was okay, and also to direct the action if she had any ‘special requests,’ but at that moment the only thing she seemed to be able to articulate in her mind was “Yes!”

I approached her from the opposite side to Mary, and Amanda crawled up from the foot of the bed, a predatory look in her eye.

I began to massage her breast, and she broke the kiss with Mary. Turning her head, she reached for me and claimed my mouth. Mary switched her attention to her other breast and began lapping at it before circling the nipple with her tongue and sucking it into her mouth.

Jules shuddered from the dual stimulation. Then she surprised both of us by running her hands down both our bodies, searching.

“I want to feel you!”

Her hand found my cock first, still covered by my boxers, and gripped it before she began a slow movement. Her other hand had settled between Mary’s legs. Mary had obligingly shuffled up a little and was laid on her side, her lower leg straight and her upper one bent, giving Jules the access she obviously wanted. Jules was dipping her fingers inside Mary’s pussy and using the juices she found there to rub over Mary’s clit in tight, circular motions.

I continued to kiss her while Mary was still ministering to her breast. I used TK to mimic Mary’s movement on her other breast and was gently stroking her stomach with the flat of my free hand.

Amanda, meanwhile, had been closing in for the kill. As we’d worked on Jules, and Jules had worked on us in turn, the final member of our quartet had slithered up between Jules’ legs, gently parting them as she went, and had been stroking and kissing her inner thighs.

“Be gentle,” I warned. “She has a hair trigger just now. Also, steer clear of her ass for now. She is a little weirded out about anal.”

I had picked that tidbit up the day when Josh had opened Louise’s backdoor for the first time. I’d seen her face when I’d told her about it and had heard the thought. I was certain that Amanda would bring her around, but it was going be a longer-term project. That worked out well, though, because Amanda had been complaining about a lack of a challenge with Louise.

I got the mental equivalent of a pout from Amanda, but she didn’t argue. She just moved closer to Jules’s pussy before running her tongue up the length of her slit, from the bottom of her hole until just short of her clit.

Jules shuddered and squeezed my cock tighter.

“OOOHHH!”

Amanda did that twice more, and I could feel Jules building rapidly.

“My clit, suck my clit, please.”

Amanda obliged, lapping all the way up her slit once more before placing her mouth over the smaller girl’s clit, pressing hard against her public bone and sucking the sensitive nub, curling her tongue around it and lapping at it with rapid strokes.

She had just brought her hand up to maybe slide a finger into Jules, but it was already too late.

“YEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSS!!! Ohgod ogodogodogodogodogod dontstop no yes don’t stop, please don’t stop oohhhhh.”

We all held her as she rode out her orgasm, making sure we extracted every bit of pleasure we could for her, and then brought her back down with gentle kisses and caresses.

When she was done, she lay panting between us. Mary’s head was on one shoulder and she was stroking her neck and chest gently. Mine was on the other, and I was stroking her belly.

Amanda had her head on Jules’ thigh and she was stroking her other one, and occasionally placing gentle kisses on the less sensitive parts of her pussy.

I felt her breath catch and I looked up. She had tears in her eyes.

“Jules?” I said.

“That was so good. Thank you.”

“Thank you for sharing with us,” Mary said. “It was wonderful.”

Amanda just lifted her head and placed another gentle kiss, this time directly on Jules’ clit.

Jules jumped a little and laughed.

Turning her face to Mary, she once again kissed her - not the Jules kiss, nor the hungry kiss from before, but the gentle in-between kiss she had given me before sleeping last night. She turned to me, and I was treated to a similar kiss, and then she reached her arms down for Amanda, drawing the taller girl up her body until she was laid on top of her. She kissed Amanda, and then, pulling back slightly, whispered into her ear. I saw Amanda grin before turning her predatory gaze onto me.

+++++

The next couple of days went pretty much the same, except that Jules was truly done with sex for another month. It was like a switch flipped; it was actually a little jarring for the three of us, but we took it in stride. I got up, trained for an hour, and then went out with Dean to work on the fence. We got more efficient every day. I had started using my TK to pretty much do everything, including attaching the wires, splicing wires, and siting new posts. After the first day of that, though, I got the feeling Dean was actually getting bored, so I dialed it back a little.

Two things of note happened during that time.

The first was when we came across a stray cow, wandering outside the fence line. Dean cursed. She was some distance away, and every time we tried to get close, she moved further away. In the end, out of sheer frustration, I imagined her walking back toward the gate and then through it and into the field. Please don’t ask me why, but for some reason my imagination had her doing a little dance along the way.

By the time she got through the gate, Dean was on his knees, literally crying with laughter.

Once she was through the gate, the cow gave us both the dirtiest look I have ever seen an animal bestow before she wandered off down the fence line, this time on the correct side of the fence.

Dean was still chuckling when we got back to the house. He tried to explain to Cheryl, but each time he tried he just cracked up again and couldn’t continue. In the end, I had to show all the girls the memory, and the house dissolved into hysterics for the next thirty minutes.

The other thing that happened was that Ness apparently adopted me as a big brother. I counted my blessings; I had dreaded her teasing me relentlessly for the next two years. Instead, we found a comfortable rhythm that eliminated the awkwardness of being alone in a room together, or even making casual, physical contact. Dean and Cheryl noticed, too, and stopped giving me guff. Ness genuinely seemed less horny around me too, which made things much easier. If she’d been straining to put on act, I would’ve felt badly about the whole thing.

We finished the fence in the western pasture by Thursday mid-afternoon, and Dean called it.

“I think I have had my pound of flesh out of you,” he said. “Let’s call it a day. Tomorrow we’ll drive into town. The girls can go shopping, and you and I can meet up with my old buddy.”

Cheryl met us as we pulled up at the house. “Billy called; there’s been an accident.” We turned around immediately and headed back out.

+++++

When we pulled up at the ditch at the edge of the north pasture, we could see a tractor with a bale spike on the front. The problem was that it was almost upside-down in that ditch. The roof was half against the side and half against the floor of what must have been an eight-foot deep furrow in the ground – and half full of water besides. The cab was all but underwater. The tractor had apparently been being driven by one of the farmhands’ sons, who obviously should not have been behind the wheel, and he had misjudged the width and gotten too close to the ditch. The lip had crumbled under the weight of the tractor and it had gone in. The boy was trapped inside, apparently injured.

“What the fuck, Billy?” yelled Dean. “Why is a fourteen-year-old operating farm machinery? You know OSHA will be all over my ass about this.”

“He was here helping his pa,” Billy responded. “We let him drive because we can get stuff done far faster that way. He’s a good kid and has been working the farms with his pa for years. He made a mistake.”

“Where’s the backhoe? We can use that to pull it out.”

“We can’t,” Billy said. “It’s in the shop. We’re waiting for a new pump to arrive.”

“Where’s the next nearest?”

“Old Man Hardman’s, but it’s thirty miles away. Danny has already set out, but I doubt he’s even halfway there yet.”

I looked down into the ditch and could see the boy in the cab. It looked like he had a broken arm, and he was grimacing in pain. He was also in the water and was shivering.

“He’ll get hypothermia if he stays down there much longer,” I said. “We need to get him out at least.”

Billy gave me a ‘who the fuck are you?’ look, but since I had turned up with his boss, he chose to respond like a professional.

“Cab’s twisted, so we can’t open the doors. The screen is safety glass, pretty much bulletproof, so we can’t break that out, and the side windows aren’t big enough for him to get through. We won’t be able to get him out until we pull it out of the ditch.”

I looked around. I had no idea if I could even lift something of that size with my TK, but I knew I couldn’t do it with so many people watching.

“Let me go take a look,” I said to Dean. “Maybe I can figure something out.”

“Okay,” said Dean, “be careful.”

“Dean, what the hell?” asked Billy, “I’ve already told you…”

“Is him taking a look going to make things worse?” Dean asked quietly.

“He might injure himself climbing down,” said Billy.

“You’re worried about OSHA now?” Dean asked scathingly.

Billy had the grace to look embarrassed.

I clambered down into the ditch until I was at the side of the tractor. I was standing in four feet of freezing cold water. The poor kid was lying almost completely immersed in it, and his arm was sticking out at an unnatural angle.

“Hi,” I said, through the side window. “I’m Caleb.”

“Jonas,” he replied through chattering teeth.

“How’s the arm, Jonas?” I asked.

“It hurts.”

“Jonas, I’m going to get you out of there,” I said, “but I’m going to need your help.”

“I’m kinda busy just now,” he quipped, and I chuckled. The kid had balls. They were probably deep-frozen, but he had them. He had stopped shivering and was starting to get sleepy.

“Jonas,” I said, “I need you to stay awake and keep talking to me, okay?”

I looked at the cab and saw how it had been twisted. It was only about an inch or two out of alignment, but it was enough to make opening the door impossible. I thought I might be able to twist it back and get the door open, but I needed a plausible explanation as to how I had done it.

“Humour me,” I sent to Dean.

“Dean, you got any chain in the truck?” I shouted up.

“Yeah,” he replied. “We use it for pulling stumps.”

“Does it have a hook on the end?”

“Both ends.”

“How long?”

“Thirty feet or so.”

“Attach one end to your truck and drop the other down here. I think we can pull the cab enough to open the door.”

“That won’t work,” said Billy. “The truck won’t get enough traction, and even if it did the whole weight of the tractor is setting on the roof. You won’t pull it out enough.”

“Got any other ideas?” asked Dean, and Billy shook his head.

Dean backed his truck up almost to the lip of the ditch, taking care to not get too close and risk the edge caving in as it had done under the tractor. Then he attached one end of the chain to his tow hitch and then passed the other to me.

The other hands watched with skepticism as I found somewhere to attach the chain that looked even remotely like it might pull the tractor straight. My plan was to twist the cab using TK until I could open the door, but I needed a diversion.

“Now,” I shouted. “Don’t jerk - a steady pull.”

Dean sent Billy to drive his truck. After putting it in low-range four-wheel drive, he took up the slack and began to pull at the chain.

As the chain started to tighten, I flexed my power and started to try and twist the cab. It felt like trying to lift a bowling ball with my little finger. Pain lanced through my head and my nose started to bleed.

I turned away so that nobody could see and pushed harder. The cab creaked and I saw it start to shift. The pain was becoming worse, like someone driving a needle through my eyes and into my brain, but it was working. I could handle the pain. I felt a trickle of blood from my ear, and I wiped it away. My vision was starting to blur when I saw the door swing open under its own weight.

I relaxed my will and the tractor shifted back.

My head was throbbing, and I wiped away the blood from my nose with my sleeve. I reached into the cab as gently as I could and tried to extract the boy. He screamed as his arm moved.

“Jonas,” I said. “I’m going to press on your shoulder. There’s a nerve bundle there, and if I get it just right, it will stop the pain. It will only last an hour or so, but it will help for now. Is that okay?”

He nodded and I put my hand on his shoulder. I pressed, doing an impression of a Vulcan nerve pinch, and at the same time, I blocked all the pain signals from his broken arm.

Dean, Billy, and the boy’s father were clambering down. I was starting to feel dizzy, so I stepped back and let them retrieve the boy. I told Dean that I had blocked the pain for an hour, but he obviously needed to go to the hospital.

His father carried him out of the ditch and into his own truck, which was nearby. Dean helped me out and into his truck.

“You get that fucking tractor out of the ditch when the gear gets here,” Dean said to Billy. “When that’s done, come up to the house. We need to talk.”

I heard him unhitch the chain from the back of the truck and throw it into the bed, then I heard him get into the driver’s seat, and that was the last thing I remembered.

When I came to, I was naked, covered by a blanket, lying on the couch in the living room. My head throbbed. Jules was sitting on the floor, her back to the couch, but holding my arm around her and stroking my hand gently.

Amanda knelt beside her, her head on my lap. Mary was sitting on the couch, my head in her lap, and Ness was literally lying on the back of the couch above me, holding my other hand.

“If this is a wake,” I croaked, “shouldn’t I have pennies on my eyes?”

All the girls jumped - Ness so much so that she squawked as she fell off the back of the couch.

“Welcome back,” said Mary, smiling down at me.

“How long was I out?” I asked.

“About six hours,” she said.

“Why am I naked?”

“You were freezing cold and wet,” she said. “We needed to get you warm and dry.”

“How do you feel?” asked Jules. She had turned around and was kneeling up, still clutching my hand.

“I have the mother of all headaches,” I said, “and I’m hungry. Actually, not hungry - starving.”

In no time flat, I was sitting up, supported against Mary, while Ness fed me a bowl of soup.

I could have fed myself, but since Jules refused to relinquish one hand, and Amanda was holding the other, I was at her mercy. Ness seemed to be enjoying playing nurse, so I let her get on with it. I was just desperate to eat something.

After the soup, she fed me two full dinners’ worth of meat and potatoes, followed by apple pie. And then some more apple pie. And then I was finally replete.

“That really took it out of you, huh?” Dean asked as he came into the room.

“How’s Jonas?” I asked.

“He’s fine thanks to you,” he said. “Doc said he probably wouldn’t have survived another hour in that water. He’ll be in a cast for a while, but other than that, no harm done. Doc also wants you to teach him about this nerve cluster in the shoulder that blocks pain messages. The boy wouldn’t stop talking about it.”

“Did they get the tractor out?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “I’m going to have to get a heavy crane in. It’s jammed tight. The backhoe couldn’t shift it. You saved that boy’s life today, Caleb.”

“Team effort,” I said.

“What team?” he asked.

“You ran interference for me,” I said. “It was either that or set the cows dancing again.”

He smiled. “His father wants to come and thank you too.”

I sat up straighter. “He didn’t see…”

“No,” Dean said. “He saw a kid who had the brains to figure out a way to get his boy out of the jam he was in when everyone else was standing around with their thumbs up their collective asses. He believed the story, but he still knows you saved his son’s life.”

“You in trouble with OSHA now?” I asked.

He shook his head. “What OSHA doesn’t know won’t hurt me,” he said. “The boy fell over and broke his arm. Could have happened anywhere. Not a workplace accident; OSHA doesn’t need to know. They don’t care about farm equipment.”

I went to stand up, and then remembered I was naked under the blanket. I blushed.

“No need to be shy,” Ness said, laughing. “I kind of already saw.”

“Well, just remember,” I said, deciding it was too late to worry about it, “that water was very cold.”

Dean laughed. “That’s what they all say,” he said.

Amanda went and got me some clothes, and Ness had the decency to give me a little privacy to get dressed. I still had a headache, and wondered to myself if I had done permanent damage. Apart from the headache, which was fading, I didn’t feel any different, but I hadn’t tried to use any powers again.

Half an hour later, Mary, Amanda, Jules, and Ness were sitting out on the deck with me. Dean and Cheryl were in the house doing something.

“Testing, testing, 123,” I sent to the girls. They winced.

“Too loud!” Mary sent back. That was strange. I had used my normal level of power to send but I dialed it down by half.

“How’s that?” I asked.

“Much better,” she said out loud. “Why are you testing, anyway?”

I sent them the memory of my using my TK to untwist the cab, and Mary and Amanda both paled.

“You could have done yourself some serious damage,” Mary said worriedly. “Let me call Grandmother and…”

“No,” I said.

“But…”

“No!”

“Caleb, we…”

“I’m seeing Dean’s buddy tomorrow,” I said. “I can ask him. Right now, I don’t want to give the FBI any information about what is going on with me. If what I have been doing this week has damaged my power, they may think I’m vulnerable.”

“But it’s our grandmother,” Mary said, looking upset.

“I know, hon,” I said sympathetically. “I hate it too, but right now I don’t trust any of them, not even my parents. They have all lied to me and manipulated all of us to get what they want - all, it would appear, at the behest of Maggie Forbes. Until I have a stronger position, I don’t want any contact with any of them.”

“Is that why you haven’t turned your phone on since we left?” she asked.

She was right; I hadn’t. My phone had been switched off since I had walked away from James and Maggie at the gym.

“The only people I want to speak to,” I said, “are all here.” I indicated the girls around me. “Mary, please tell me you haven’t told your grandmother what our plan is.” I tried to say it as gently as I could, but I could feel myself getting agitated.

She shook her head. “I haven’t, and before you ask, neither has Amanda,” she said. “Grandmother called me to tell me that the house had been sold. I don’t think they know who bought it, since it was done via some corporation or other. She wanted you to know that it wasn’t the FBI that was forcing us to move out.”

“Wait, have Josh and Louise been thrown out?” I asked.

“Not yet,” she said. “The notice to vacate is for next Saturday.”

“I need to speak to them,” I said, “to tell them to sit tight, no matter what the notice says. Let me speak to Dean and see how we can make sure they don’t get evicted. I don’t know about you, but I’m not in a tearing hurry to go back.”

“I do miss talking to Grandmother,” she said sadly.

“Let’s get tomorrow out of the way,” I said. “Once I’ve spoken to Dean’s buddy, I will have more of an idea as to what our options may be. I also have a thought as to how Dianna might earn her way back into my good graces.”

I had been considering that for a few days. I knew that the twins loved their grandmother, and I couldn’t ask them to choose between the two of us. I also knew that Dianna was in a very difficult position, being under the command of Maggie and an agent in the FBI, but also a loving grandmother. Despite my knee-jerk reaction at the house, I did actually believe she loved me too.

But I was mad at her. In fact, ‘mad’ was an understatement. I hearkened back to the time we shared, and her assertion that I could basically fuck her back into my good graces. That was what had given me the idea.

Mary looked at me. “Will you tell me?” she asked.

“Only if you promise not to tell Dianna before I am ready,” I said.

She nodded.

Since Ness was sitting there, I sent Mary an image of what I had in mind.

Mary’s eyes went wide as an orgasm ripped through her. The other girls stared at Mary, and then at me.

“What the hell was that?” asked Ness.

“Mary just came,” said Amanda in amazement. “What did you do to her?”

“I just showed her my idea for your grandmother to redeem herself with me,” I said.

“Show me,” demanded Amanda.

“Later,” I said. “I didn’t think it would have that kind of an effect on her, otherwise I would have waited to show her too.”

“Can I see?” asked Ness.

“Sure, but later,” I said. “In your case, about eight months later.” I had stumbled upon Ness’s birthday. It remained a mystery whether she, Jules, or maybe even Cheryl had made sure I’d learned it.

Ness pouted. “That’s not fair,” she said.

I smiled at her. “Good things come to those who wait,” I said.

Ness stuck her tongue out at me.

Mary had recovered but was still breathing a little heavily.

“Caleb,” she said, “Will you really…”

“It’s totally based on what she told me that first night,” I said, sending her the memory of that Saturday night.

Mary giggled. “Please can I be there when you tell her?”

I smiled. “I plan for you AND Amanda to be there.”

Mary shivered.

“Just stop,” said Ness, “You’re doing this deliberately.”

I stood up and steadied myself, still a little dizzy.

“I think I need to go to bed,” I said. Despite my six-hour nap, I was tired, even though it was only just after eight in the evening. Jules and Ness walked with me to the bedroom and made sure I got into bed okay. Ness leaned over and pressed a soft kiss to my forehead.

“Night, Caleb,” she said as Jules curled up beside me, her head on my chest.

I was asleep before the door had completely closed behind Ness.

Four o’clock the next morning rolled around before I knew it, and I was wide awake. My headache had completely cleared, and, to my amazement, I didn’t just feel normal. I felt downright incredible. I felt so good that I didn’t even question why I felt so good.

I slid out of bed and got dressed before going downstairs and out onto the deck. Once again, the dogs were there to meet me, giving me a quiet, friendly greeting before settling down to enjoy the show. I wondered what they found so fascinating.

I examined the memories from James, deciding what to concentrate on, and noticed they looked different. They were clearer somehow. They were the same memories, but for some reason, I understood them better than I had before.

I chose one of the later katas to practice and started. The moves flowed much easier and felt more natural. Seemingly all the practice I had been doing had paid off. I ran through my entire repertoire, and everything just felt right. Unfortunately, I ran out of memories. I needed more.

Dean came out on the deck, two mugs of steaming coffee in his hands. I finished up and took a seat in what had become my usual chair, gratefully accepting the brew.

“How are you feeling?” he asked.

“Surprisingly good,” I said. “I did wonder if I’d done something permanent yesterday.”

He shook his head.

“You shouldn’t have put yourself at risk like that,” he said. “The fact that you did says a lot about you as a man, Caleb. Jules tells me that you are constantly doubting yourself, second-guessing your motivations for doing things. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Reflection can be a very powerful way of making sure you are on the right path, but there have to be limits, and not just on how much or how often you do it. You do need to have some confidence in your beliefs and your intentions. You need to build up some kind of a foundation.

“You have good instincts and a good heart. You have proved it over and over again. Trust them and trust yourself. Also, remember you are not alone. There is always help available if you need it.”

He got up and went back into the house, leaving me alone with my coffee and my thoughts.

“Caleb?”

I was startled; I hadn’t heard Jules come out.

I smiled up at her. “Sorry, I was miles away.”

“Ness told me to come get you,” she said. “Breakfast is ready.”

I stood, and before she could turn to go back into the house, I pulled Jules into a hug. With all that had gone on, she had emerged as the only person who was not involved in the games - the only person whose only agenda was to love and be loved. My doubts about the twins had lessened, but I couldn’t say that they had been completely erased. I could look at the bond and see the love, but my doubt over the origins of that love was still present. What I felt from Jules was pure and certain.

“Thank you,” I whispered into the top of her head as I held her to me.

Jules, for her part, had relaxed into my arms, and returned the hug, holding me, and allowing me to take whatever I needed from her. I knew that she would stand there all day and all night if needed.

Finally, I released her, and she looked up at me. “Are you okay?” she asked quietly.

“I’m getting there,” I said, trying to recapture my mood from earlier. “Let’s go eat; I’m hungry.”

She laughed. “You’re always hungry these days,” she said.

After breakfast and a shower, we all piled into two cars and drove the thirty minutes into the local town. My girls and I took Amanda’s car, and Cheryl and Ness rode with Dean in his truck.

The town’s main claim to fame was actually not in the town at all but was about ten minutes outside: a huge mall. Even thought I was only twenty, I found it quite sad that it was difficult to identify where in the country you were anymore. Most malls were all pretty much clones of each other, and, apart from some niche stores, were just full of big chains, selling the same stuff everywhere.

Jules was excited since there was a big electronics store there. She loved to browse around, and since her Daddy - or at least her Daddy’s credit card - would be there, she was going to take advantage of the situation. The twins were excited because... well, girls and shopping, and Ness was excited to hang out with the girls, and of course her Daddy’s credit card. Our plan was that Dean and I would go and see his NSA buddy and then meet up with the girls for lunch at the food court, or maybe one of the anchor restaurants.

After we left the girls, Dean and I traveled into the town, to the hotel where we were going to meet up with his buddy.

“His name is Major Wragge,” Dean said in answer to my inquiries about his friend. “I already told you he was the CO of the Psi ops that were out in Iraq with him. I did a full tour with him. I’m warning you: he takes no prisoners. But I put my life in his hands more than once, and I trust him.”

I nodded.

Major Wragge stood as we entered the conference room that Dean had booked for the meeting. I noted that although he was probably only in his mid-forties, he leaned heavily on a cane. He was my height and was solidly built. His hair was blonde, but like Dean’s, it was buzzed short. He shook hands with Dean, and then Dean made the introductions.

“Major Wragge,” he said, indicating to me. “This is my daughter’s boyfriend, Caleb.”

I held out my hand. “I’m pleased to meet you, sir,” I said respectfully.

“Vince,” he said, shaking my hand. “I’m not in the corps anymore, and for now, you don’t work for me. Please, have a seat.”

We sat. For a long moment, he regarded me. I had checked my shields on the way in, and they were as good as I could make them.

“What powers do you have?” he asked.

“Empathy, Telepathy, TK, and Compulsion,” I replied.

He raised his eyebrows. “No wonder Maggie is pissing herself,” he said.

“You know Maggie Forbes?” I asked, wondering if I was just approaching the same roadblock from a different direction.

“Know of,” he said with a gruff chuckle, “more than ‘know.’ Our world is a small one, Caleb, but probably bigger than you have been told. I’ll bet you were told that there were two major bloodlines: yours and the Eversons.”

I nodded.

“In actual fact, there are more,” he said. “Six that I know of in the US, obviously more throughout the world, and we suspect there are at least a couple that have successfully managed to keep themselves hidden. One of the bloodlines that Maggie didn’t tell you about is mine: the Wragges.

“The Wragge bloodline mostly produces Telepaths,” he continued, “but we have been known to produce the odd TK user as well. Because we are a military family, most of our power users end up in the military. I myself would still be in if it weren’t for…” he trailed off and indicated his leg.

“The Eversons have always been what you might call busybodies, interfering with other power users. They latched onto your family way back in the mists of time and became self-appointed ‘guardians’ of the norms against the evil that was the Stotts, all because your main power was Compulsion. Despite what they tell you, these days, there are very few pure-blooded Stotts who have abused their power and indulged in the depraved rapes and other crimes that they are so concerned about. Most of the perpetrators of those crimes are either progeny of a user who did, or just random genetic aberrations that are born with some power.

“These days?” I queried. “That implies that in the past things were different.”

“Wasn’t everything?” he asked. “Lots of things went on in the past that would never be tolerated in today’s society. We have evolved, Caleb, and you can’t let your history drag you down. Yes, you need to acknowledge it and learn from it. But you are not your forefathers, nor are you responsible for their decisions. You do not have to atone for their wrongdoing, you just have to make sure that you do not make their mistakes, or commit their crimes.”

“That, however, is not a view that the Eversons subscribe to. The practice of binding a child’s powers and letting them grow up ignorant is their brainchild. In my family, the children grow up with their powers and are policed by other power users within the family. Like any other child, if they misbehave, they are punished. They are educated in the use of their powers and the legal and ethical implications. I find it telling, though, that it is only the Stotts or any child that exhibits Compulsion that gets bound. Everson children aren’t.

“As I said, the Eversons have fancied themselves as guardians for generations, so when the FBI was formed in 1908, they managed to worm their way into the organization. Let’s not talk about whether they used their power to influence those decisions. Having said all that, they do a good and necessary job, even if I don’t always agree with their methods.”

I sat and contemplated what he had told me for quite a while. It certainly tracked with what I knew.

“Dean tells me that you are quite powerful?” he said eventually, interrupting my thoughts. “Would you be prepared to drop your shield and let me see?”

I looked at Dean for a moment. Obviously, Dean trusted this man. The question was whether I trusted Dean’s judgment when it came to power users. It was very, very easy for a power user to keep a Norm at least partially in the dark about pretty much everything, including their very nature as a person.

I decided to make the leap and dropped my shields. I felt a tickle at the edge of my mind. The impression I got wasn’t of my mind being invaded, just looked over from the outside.

“Fuck!” he said quietly.

“I pushed myself hard yesterday,” I told him. “I’m not sure if I did any damage, but it hurt.”

“It’s your TK,” he said. “It’s analogous to going to the gym. The more you use it, the better it gets. If you push too hard without training first, you can damage yourself, even permanently. I can see some indications of recovery – you pushed hard, but not too hard. You may find your other abilities feel sharper also after that because training your TK also can help your general psi presence.

“I’m surprised that your trainer doesn’t seem to have been particularly training your TK,” he said. “You have Empathy. Would you be prepared to share your training sessions with me?”

“You would need to drop your shield,” I said. “I can’t share through it.”

He smiled. “I know,” he said. “Normally I would never lower my shield around someone with Compulsion, for obvious reasons, but Dean has vouched for you, and I trust him, just as you trusted him a moment ago.”

He dropped his shield, and I shared the memories of all my training sessions with James, and although he hadn’t asked, I included the last session and the aftermath. I figured it would save time later.

By the time he had assimilated those memories, I had re-raised my shields. There was trust, and there was plain laziness. I noted his shields went straight back up too.

“First,” he said after a few moments, “given your powers and strength, I would recruit you into my organization in a New York minute, but you wouldn’t like the work. I have no problem pissing up Maggie Forbes’s leg from time to time though, so I’ll put the wheels in motion and start background checking you, just to let her know you are looking.

“Second, and before I say this you have to remember that I have absolutely no skin in this game, but she is absolutely right. You need that training. You need to take those hits. If you don’t, then once you get out there, the bad guys will tear you apart. I understand your anger at being lied to for your entire life, I really do, but you have to separate that out. It’s difficult to do when the person saying that they want to help you is the one that has been manipulating you all along.

“Make no mistake: she is still trying to manipulate you, but just because that is the case, doesn’t mean that she is wrong in this instance.”

I nodded. He wasn’t saying anything that I hadn’t really expected to hear. A few days had done a lot to separate my hatred and my anger for Maggie – much of it still justified, in my opinion – from the plain facts she’d laid out in front of me.

“You are ideally suited to the FBI,” he said. “Your powers and strength would be best placed there. But after what you told Maggie, your pride is now an issue, yes?”

I smiled ruefully at him. “Is this where you tell me to get my head out of my ass and suck it up?”

He laughed. “Caleb, I remember what it was like at your age, having a power that most other people didn’t. Even though I grew up with my powers, I had a lot of the same dilemmas and issues you do. Granted, you have them worse. This crazy bond is causing you problems, and three girlfriends, Jesus. Anyone would struggle with all that. I can help you, in as much as I can hopefully force Maggie to come to you and ask you to come back. She won’t want to lose you as an asset, and there’s no way she can black site you out of spite with the NSA interested in you as a recruit.

“If she can climb down enough to actually come and ask you, rather than tell you, to work with her, then I hope that’s enough for you to start negotiating.

“I have two more things I can do for you. Firstly, and I don’t think Maggie will tell you this, but you have all the prerequisites to become a Healer. It takes training, and a lot of practice, but with your powers and strength I would definitely look into it. Even if you go out as an agent, having that on your utility belt will save lives.

“And lastly, I can do one more thing for you, but it will require a great deal of trust. As adolescent Telepaths, the Wragges would play pranks on their siblings and sometimes their parents, pulling them into illusions all the time. Or at least they did up to about two hundred years ago when one parent got so sick of it that he figured out a way to be alerted the instant he was pulled into an illusion. It’s been a closely-guarded Wragge family secret since then, but Dean has called in a debt I owed him on your behalf, and I agreed to do it for you.”

“How did he even know about it?” I asked, wondering how such a thing would come up in conversation.

“He didn’t,” he replied, “is the short answer. He asked me to help you as much as I could and called in his marker. I decided that what I owed was worth this. It has never been shared outside our family, and I would ask you to swear that you never reveal its existence.”

“I can swear,” I said, “but if my mind is read, I can’t guarantee…”

“I am not worried about that,” he responded. “Once it’s in place you won’t remember it’s there until it triggers. Then, once you drop out of the illusion, you will remember that you used one of your ordinary tells. It would take a very skilled, experienced, and powerful Telepath to find this. The only time you could actually tell anyone about it is during the illusion itself. The disadvantage - at least it will be to the FBI - is that the usefulness of illusion as a teaching tool will be gone, right along with its power to secretly test you. You can play with them a little bit and make out like you didn’t notice, because they will not be able to see the alert even if you share your memory, but that will be up to you.”

“I take it you need to embed something in my mind,” I said after a moment’s thought.

He nodded. “And instantly you wonder,” he said, “’if he can embed that, then what else is he going to put in?’ etcetera.”

I blushed guiltily.

“It’s a perfectly reasonable concern,” he said. “You have no reason to trust me, over and above your trust of Dean, which is why you dropped your shields for me. This, however, is an order of magnitude greater than that. But you have my word. The only thing I will do is embed the alert.”

I looked across at Dean again.

“I would trust him with the lives of my children,” he said.

I nodded. “Okay,” I said.

“I warn you,” Vince said with a twinkle in his eye, “It’s a little quirky, and I would ask you to remember that it was devised over two hundred years ago, but there would be no point because you won’t remember it’s there anyway.”

I dropped my shields and waited. Once again, I felt the tickle, only this time it was inside my mind. I had to grit my teeth to stop myself from trying to push it out again. And then I wondered exactly why my shields were down.

“I’m just going to pull you into an illusion to show you something,” Vince said.

I nodded. I must have dropped my shields for that.

I looked across at Dean and he grinned at me. Then the door behind me opened. A pretty young girl, aged about six came into the room, she was dressed in some kind of period costume. She grinned at me.

“They got you again, Papa,” she said.

Suddenly the memory returned. This was the device Vince had been talking about as a method for warning of illusions. I grinned, knowing I wouldn’t remember the little girl once I had left the illusion.

I looked at Vince. “Who is she?” I asked.

“That is my great-great-great…” he rolled his hands to indicate there were a few more ‘greats’ in there, “grandmother Penelope. Other than this, I never met her. It was her father who created the tell, and he used her image in its creation. I believe she was his favorite child.”

“It is kind of strange being called Papa,” I said, “but I can feel his love for her embedded in the memory.”

“You can?” he asked, surprised. “Could you share that with me? Since nobody outside the family has ever seen this memory, and we have, to my knowledge, never produced an Empath, we weren’t aware of that. My family would be grateful to have something extra of their history.”

“Will you be able to carry the memory outside the illusion?” I asked.

“I will,” he said. “The forgetfulness was something I added just for you, as a protection of our secret.”

I nodded. I shared the memory, not only of the girl, but of the emotions attached to her by her creator.

Vince smiled. “Thank you,” he said. “Now I think it’s time you broke out of the illusion.”

I imagined the film strip, and the illusion disappeared. Once I was back in reality, I put up my shields and checked my tell.

“How did you figure out the illusion so fast?” Vince asked.

I grinned at him. “You saw James tell me I shouldn’t tell anyone my tells,” I said, and he smiled.

“I repeat,” Vince said. “Train your TK. It seems very weak, considering your other powers. Our TK in Iraq could lift an APC with his, and his core strength was less than a tenth of yours. If you don’t train, then when you need it in an emergency you could hurt yourself trying to move something that’s too heavy for you.”

I thought back to when I had tried to move the tractor. I also remembered how pulling posts had gotten progressively easier as the week had gone on. It was lucky, I figured, that I had done all that work before the accident. Otherwise, I might have done myself serious harm.

Vince stood, indicating the meeting was over, and Dean and I stood too. Once more, I shook his hand.

“You’ll be hearing from the NSA. Once we have completed the background checks, we will send you an application pack. If you decide the FBI is not for you, I would be disappointed to see you apply but would be very happy to have you join our team. And if there is anything else me or my family can do for you, let me know. I owe you a debt.”

“Thank you,” I said, puzzled. He’d just helped me, but was claiming he owed me. I thought to myself that maybe he owed Dean, and Dean had told him to transfer that debt. That seemed more reasonable.

Vince embraced Dean and they hugged for a second.

“We’re square,” said Dean as they parted.

“Not even close,” said Vince. “Stay safe, my friend. You know where to find me if you need me.”

That seemed to confirm my suspicion.

As we drove back toward the mall, I considered all that Vince had said. I still rebelled at the idea that Maggie had been right about anything at all, but deep down I had always known it to be true. I felt like my upset might be assuaged a little if Maggie actually came to me to ask me to come back, rather than demanding it.

I actually felt much better about things. I knew more about Psi users – most importantly, the fact that there were more of us out there than Maggie had wanted to let me know about.

“Why did Vince say he owed you?” asked Dean after a while.

“Wait, what?” I asked. “I thought it was because he owed you. You guys said the stuff right there at the end.”

“Huh,” he said. He didn’t seem convinced. Suddenly, neither was I.

Did I just get mindfucked?

It was the last thing I needed on my plate.

We were just pulling into the parking ramp when I felt the spike of fear from Ness.

“Ness, what’s wrong?” I sent instantly.

“Three men with knives, wanting our money,” she said. “Mary and Amanda are talking to them.”

“Where are you?”

“By the car, fourth floor, east end,” she sent. “We were just bringing our stuff back to the car.”

“We’re nearly there,” I sent.

“The girls are in trouble,” I said to Dean. “Fourth floor, east end.”

Dean put his foot down and the tires squealed as we climbed the floors, arriving at the car less than ninety seconds later.

The three ‘thugs’ were kneeling on the floor, sobbing, apologizing over and over again, begging for forgiveness, and promising that they would never try to rob anyone else.

Cheryl was on her phone to the police, and Amanda and Jules were comforting a shaken Ness. I could feel Mary’s power overwhelming the three would-be robbers. I could tell she was only holding back enough to make sure the men didn’t try to kill themselves. I had a hard time faulting her for it.

“What…” asked Dean as he got out of the truck.

“Don’t fuck with an Empath,” I said, grinning at him.

He grinned back. “I don’t know,” he said, “I seem to remember it being a much happier experience.”

I laughed.

When the police arrived, the boys couldn’t wait to confess their crimes and tell the police how sorry they were for holding up these good people. They were even sorrier about the other hold-ups they had been involved in, especially the one where one of them had slashed the hand of a young man who had been trying to protect his girl.

Bemused, the police cuffed them and put them in the backs of the squad cars. They took statements from the girls, and Amanda told them that the culprits had seemed like they were on drugs from the very start, and that then something had shifted in them during the attempt. The police seemed more than satisfied with an easy collar due to a bad trip, so they were off in short order.

The girls didn’t feel much like going back in for lunch after their ordeal. Although Mary and Amanda were fine, it had shaken Jules and Ness, and, to a lesser extent, Cheryl. Amanda, after asking if it would be okay, used her powers to soothe their nerves and make them feel better.

Even so, we drove straight back to the house and had lunch there. Jules happily showed me her new hot air rework station that she had acquired, and I admired it with her, figuring it was something for her electronics projects, but not knowing any more than that.

Mary came up behind me as Jules and I were talking about the hot air thingummy. I saw Jules glance up and realized it was an ambush.

“I surrender,” I said putting my hand up. “You have me surrounded.”

Mary smiled. “Caleb, I need to speak with my grandmother,” she said.

I looked at Jules, wondering why she was getting involved in this.

“It was my idea,” Jules said.

I frowned. “May I ask why?” I asked.

“Because,” said Jules, “nobody seems to know dick about your bond, and I have decided to do something about it. Given it’s your biggest vulnerability, we need to know as much as we can. The starting point for finding that information is Dianna.”

“Okay,” I said mildly.

This time it was Mary’s turn to frown. “‘Okay?’” she queried. “Just like that?”

“Yes,” I said. “It’s a perfectly sensible reason. You are right. We do need to know as much as we can about the bond so we can protect ourselves. I don’t trust anyone outside of our household to be honest about it, but that means research, and Dianna’s our only shred of a lead to start.”

Amanda entered the room.

“Just don’t mention my plans for her,” I finished.

“Plans for whom?” asked Amanda. “Are we talking about Dianna? You went to bed without telling me the plan, and Mary wouldn’t tell me. She said I would have to wait for you.”

I relented and sent her the images. Her reaction wasn’t quite as extreme as Mary’s. She didn’t orgasm, but I could see her nipples harden through her T-shirt.

“Wow!” she said. A grin spread across her face. “And we are going to be there?”

I nodded. “If she goes for it, yes.”

Jules and Mary had their heads together, and Jules was making notes.

I decided it was time to turn my phone back on. I had spoken to Dean about Josh and Louise staying in the house and he had told me to tell them to just stay put, and when the new “owners” came to take possession to just go and introduce themselves.

There were multiple missed calls and messages from just about everybody.

Josh and Louise had tried to call. Dianna, James, my parents, Angela and Bob... pretty much everyone except Maggie Forbes herself. I decided I should get back to each of them, with the possible exception of James.

I went outside and sat on what had become my lawn chair to make the first call.

“Hey Josh,” I said when he picked up. “How are things?”

“It’s got pretty crazy for a while,” he said, “but it’s settled down now. Louise and I have been talking to the accommodation officer and she is looking into whether we can move back in.”

“Why?” I asked. “Don’t you like the house?” I was in the mood to tease someone. He’d just gotten unlucky.

“Dude – did you not hear?” he asked. “It got bought. The new owners are coming to vacate us next Saturday.”

“Josh,” I said, “it’s fine. Stay put, and when the new owners come just go introduce yourselves. I promise they will be fine with you staying.”

“You didn’t…” he asked hesitantly.

“No!” I said, probably more harshly than I should. “Do you think I would do that?”

“Sorry,” he said. “I know you wouldn’t, I just don’t know how…”

“Negotiation,” I said. “I know the new owners, and they are renting it to me.”

“Another uncle?” he asked. “Not Uncle SAM this time?”

Dean came out and put a beer down beside me. It had become a ritual.

“No, not an uncle,” I said, and then grinned at Dean as he sat down. “More of a daddy.”

Dean glowered at me, but I could tell he was amused.

“Your Dad?” asked Josh.

“I’ll tell you all about it when we get back,” I said. “Just stay put, and see the new owners when they come over.”

“Okay,” he said. “When are you coming back?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Semester finishes on Friday, then there are the holidays. So, I guess it depends on when Jules’ parents get sick of us. Could be any time up to the new semester.”

“Okay,” he said. He sounded disappointed.

“Give my love to Lou,” I said, and ended the call.

“So, you’re sticking around for a while then?” asked Dean.

“I would love to,” I said, “but it’s not just my decision. First – I don’t want to imp…”

“Don’t even say it,” he interrupted. “You know our home is yours for as long as you want to stay. Cheryl and Ness love having you all here, and fixing fences has never been so much fun.”

“Then there are the girls,” I continued. “They are going to want to see their grandmother sometime over the holidays I’m sure, and I’m not sure I’m ready to be apart for that long yet. And then there’s work. I need to earn some cash. Dianna promised me an internship, but I guess that’s not really going to work until I sort things out with Maggie, and I doubt that will be quick.”

“Well, as far as work goes,” he said, “I’m happy to put you on the books and pay you a daily rate. It’s not like you didn’t work.”

“I wouldn’t feel right taking money from you after all you’ve done,” I said. “I’m happy to work for as long as we are here. And if it means I get to train my TK at the same time, all the better.”

My phone rang, and I glanced at the screen. It was Bob.

“Go ahead,” said Dean. “Let me know if you need privacy.”

I shook my head. I couldn’t think of anything private that Bob could want to discuss. “Hey Bob,” I said as I connected the call, “How are you? How’s Angela?”

“We are good thanks to you,” he said. “I was with Josh when you rang, so I knew you had surfaced. Angela is with me, and we both wanted to thank you properly. That FBI woman told us what you did, and how you stopped…”

“Bob, there’s no need,” I said. “You are my friends, and I couldn’t let him do that to her, or you.”

“Angela had an idea for a little something as a thank you,” he said, and I could hear a smile in his voice. “We’re sending it now.”

My phone beeped. I checked my messaging app. It was a picture of Angela, wearing the painted-on jeans and long shirt she had worn when I had seen her on the first morning of discovering my power. She had her back to the camera but was looking over her shoulder, smiling into the lens and holding up her shirt, giving me a clear view of her delicious rear.

“Bob I didn’t…” I began.

“She knows,” he said. “Dianna told us about that too. You didn’t know you had power, but he did, and he used it, and you stopped him. We will always be in your debt. If a peek at my girlfriend’s ass offsets that in any way, then ogle away, my friend, any time. We are both good with that.”

“Tell Angela thank you,” I said, “and I’m glad you’re both okay.”

“I will,” he said. “We’ll see you when you get back.”

I showed Dean the picture after Bob had hung up.

“Nice,” he said. “Who is she?”

“Do you remember when Jules was talking to Dianna in the counselor’s office, and she asked about my birthday party?”

He thought for a minute. Then I saw an idea occur to him and he grinned to himself. I briefly heard the name ‘Blaze’ flit through his mind.

“Yes,” he said. “Someone got attacked and you stopped them.”

“That was the girl that got attacked,” I said, indicating my phone. “It’s also a joke. One of the first indications I had power was when I was walking down the hall at PSU and Angela walked past me. As you see, she is a stunning young woman. I had turned for a better look and was disappointed her shirt was in the way.”

“Jules said you were an ass man,” he commented.

“Well,” I continued, “I thought how nice it would be if she would just pull up her shirt so I could get a look at her ass, and she did. I realize now I had Compelled her to do that, which, if I were to do it knowingly now, would be unforgivable. But in that picture, she is showing me not just her gratitude for helping her, but that she forgives what was an innocent mistake by someone who didn’t know what they could do.

“I also, apparently, have carte-blanche to ogle her ass any time I please,” I finished with a laugh.

“I thought,” Dean said after a short pause, “that since we’re at a loose end, we could go out for a ride. You do ride?”

“Sure,” I said. “I’ll see what the girls think.”

The girls were all for it, but I sensed the excitement in Dean. He was setting something or someone up, I thought, although whom that someone was, wasn’t clear. I guessed it might be revenge for my sugar daddy crack, but I decided I could let him have some fun.

We all walked down to the stables where there were a few people working, and Dean called one of them over.

Dean directed the stable hand, and horses were led out to us. Mary got a grey mare that took an instant shine to her and nuzzled her affectionately as she was led up. Amanda got a bay mare, who also seemed pleased with the allocation. Jules had her own horse, a black mare who didn’t even need to be led. She just walked up to her and nuzzled her pockets expectantly. She wasn’t disappointed; Jules produced some carrots and fed them to her. Ness’s horse was a brown mare, who similarly went straight to her, looking for treats. Dean and Cheryl’s horses were both piebald – siblings, apparently, a year apart in age.

Finally, I was the only one not mounted. The stable hand looked at Dean, waiting for his direction regarding a horse for me.

“Bring out Blaze,” he said with a gleam in his eye.

“Here we go,” I thought, expecting a donkey or some such animal to be trotted out.

But Dean wasn’t looking for my reaction. He was looking at Jules as a huge pure-white stallion was led out of the barn.

“I found his white horse, Button,” he said to her.
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