Eran, Beau, Cris and Val are at it again, damn muses.
The saga continues... In a Christmassy induced waffy sequel... I always get this way at Christmas, I tend to really write a lot this time of year...
Sel by the time you finish Beta on Sempre Dolcissmo Cantabile, I'll have another for you. *Ducks flying tomatos.*
“Giubilante Con Calore”
T H E I N F I N I T Y S E R I E S
* II *
Author: D. Sanders
“Cris, come look at this one!” Beau hollered across the store holding up a large stuffed octopus. Cris stuck his head around the corner and quirked an eyebrow.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“What’s wrong with it?”
“That is the ugliest stuffed toy I’ve ever seen.” Cris made a face at the garish green and purple striped nightmare.
“It’ll give her nightmares.” Cris laughed as he looked over the huge pile of toys with Beau. “Here, this is much nicer.” Cris said pulling out a large leopard in white with rainbow spots.
“Oh, that is nice. But I think that one suits Valeria more. I’m shopping with Bo in mind.”
“That octopus is bigger than she is, she’s only three, and seriously Beau, I’m getting images of tentacle nightmares here myself. Do you really want to give your namesake cause to see a shrink the rest of her life?”
“You’re probably right.” Beau set the octopus back and dug deeper into the pile pulling out a huge blue lamb.
“Oh no, wrong again, worse much worse.”
“What’s wrong with this one?” Beau asked wondering what the hell Cris had to complain about a lamb for.
“Can you not hear the Bo peep jokes?”
Beau dropped the lamb like it had a virus. “You’re absolutely right. Bad idea.”
“What about a doll? Is she too young for a doll?” Beau asked looking at the frilly dolls in pretty dresses on the store wall.
“Yes, both she and Valeria are too young yet really. Remember they’ll be chewing on these more than likely. Erin on the other hand is five, she’s old enough. I already bought her one though, you’re too late.” Cris grinned finding a small teddy bear that was perfect for Valeria, just small enough for an eighteen-month-old beauty. It was soft and squishy and Beau sighed.
“I give up, I’m losing my touch.” Beau grumbled.
“There’s just not a lot here, Mirastor is not famous for catering to children. I bought Erin’s doll on Lotorax last month, Val picked it out.” Cris said as he helped Beau search through the toy store for their nieces’ Winterfest Presents. This would be their first time back in five years, they weren’t about to go home empty handed, and certainly not when they hadn’t even met the two new additions to the extended family. Their second daughter they’d named after Beau, and the most recent baby named after Val. Four men couldn’t wait to get their hands on those girls, all three of them were gorgeous, and Winterfest was a time to spoil children rotten after all.
The front door chimed and two men walked in stamping snow off their boots. “I knew we’d find them both in here.” Eran said rolling his eyes.
“Naturally.” Val smiled as he saw his husband and Beau deep in debate over the perfect toy.
With Eran and Val’s help Beau finally decided on a little kitten that played music when you pressed it’s nose. It wasn’t like this was the only present he had, they’d been stocking up on toys all year long for this Winterfest, it was a good thing Mandy and Farin had a lot of room, one spare room would certainly be full of toys by the end of Winterfest. Twelve days of gifts, twelve days of squealing children and parents.
Mandy was going to be showered with kitchen gadgets galore and Farin was getting a new workshop for the homestead and it would be totally outfitted with power tools. Val had been the one to help them all select Farin’s presents, if he liked it or grunted over it with engineer lust, they knew Farin would.
As they left the shop, bags in hand a little girl, probably around four or five came running out of nowhere and slammed into Cris, hiding behind his legs. “Whoa, what the?” He censored his language as a Man came out of the same alley, furious.
“There you are you little brat. Give it back!”
“I didn’t take it!”
“You little liar!”
The little girl clutched Cris’ pants, shaking with fear.
“OI! What the hell is going on here? You’ve got her scared out of her wits. Just what has she supposed to have stolen?” Cris asked resting his hand on the little girl’s shoulders protectively.
“She’s got my wallet! The little pick-pocket!”
Cris turned to look at the child and then squatted down eye level. “Honey, do you have it?”
“No I don’t! I saw Phineas take it! He did, honest!” The little girl sobbed, her face dirty and she was dreadfully thin, Cris’ heart sank into his shoes. He was looking at himself as a child.
“Little liar!, Turn out your pockets!” Cris stood, anger in his eyes.
“I don’t think she’s lying, and will you stop yelling at her.” Cris moved in front of the child and Val, Beau and Eran moved to box her in behind Cris, all four of them furious.
“Don’t let that little bitch fool you. She’s always running around here stealing!”
“Ever stop to think she might be HUNGRY?” Cris growled.
“Who the hell do you think you are? These fucking urchins are everywhere, fucking whores dump their bastards every day of the week. Not my fault those bitches can’t keep their legs shut.”
Cris hauled off and punched him sending him flying back into a pile of snow. “It’s people like you that make this place foul. Not these kids. You sure don’t mind going around making these babies, but none of you sure stick around to take care of them.” Cris was livid with fury. He knew precisely what that little girl felt like, he’d been there in her shoes.
The man stood up wiping his bloody nose. “It’s a whore’s job to take the birth control drugs. It’s law here. Not our fault they spend it on drugs that just get them high. Just who are you to think you’re so high and mighty?”
Cris was about ready to tear this man a new asshole when another man came forward and grabbed his friend. “Turk don’t! That’s one of them Callum brother’s you don’t wanna fuck with them man.”
“You have a smart friend. I’d walk away if I were you before I bury my foot up your ass.” Cris said rolling up his sleeves.
Turk spit on Cris’ shoes. “Fucking pirates.”
Cris watched the man turn and storm away, he’d always hated men like him, it felt good to no longer be terrified of them. He turned to the little girl kneeling again in front of her. She was crying and he wiped her tears.
“Hey now, no crying sweetie.” Cris comforted reaching into his discarded shopping bag and handing her the stuffed bear. She was afraid to take it. “It’s alright honey, you can have it. What’s your name?”
“Tovi.” The small voice hiccupped as a tiny hand touched the toy reverently. Cris’ heart ached for her, her wide stormy gray eyes were so empty and scared and her light brown hair, the same shade as Cris’ was a rat’s nest of snarls. She didn’t need a toy, she needed much more, and Cris just could not leave her alone to her cruel fate.
“Tovi, do you have a mommy or daddy?”
When she shook her head no, Cris felt gutted. “Where do you live sweetie? DO you have someone that takes care of you?”
When she shook her head no again, Cris felt Eran grab his shoulder. He looked up to see him smile. Val knelt beside Cris and took the child’s hands and folded them around the toy. “That’s yours sweetheart, you can have that.” He encouraged and then looked at Cris and he too smiled.
“Things always come full circle Cris, you should know that. It’s impossible to save them all, but you can save one. Like I did.” Here Eran smiled fondly at Cris. “Give to her what you know she needs and what we all know you want to.” Eran said and Cris turned and met Val’s eyes. He looked happy and he nodded encouragingly.
“Tovi, would you like to come with us? I was like you too when I was little. I didn’t have a mommy or daddy either.”
“You didn’t?” Tovi asked as Cris held her hands and the bear she held tightly.
“No I didn’t. I know how scared you are, I promise we will never hurt you. My name is Cris and this is my husband Val.” Cris said softly reaching up to tuck her hair behind her ear.
Val cupped his hands around Cris’ who held Tovi’s “Would you like to be our little girl?” Val asked, his rich deep voice soothing and comforting. Cris could see in his face what he felt. This sad, lost little girl needed them, fate was once again at work in their lives.
“Really?” She asked in disbelief, her face awash with hope and tears.
“Really.” Cris smiled and the small child burst into tears nodding and Cris pulled her into his arms and held her gently. She was shaking and she was so small in his arms. He felt an overwhelming urge to protect her, she belonged here in his arms. He would not let this babe walk a road he had before her, she would never know the pain he would save her from it while she was still young enough to forget. He picked her up and settled her on his hip, her small arms clinging to his neck where her face was buried in his neck sobbing.
“No more tears Tovi honey. You’re safe now.” Cris whispered into her hair, tears in his own eyes as he held her. Val folded them both into his arms, his husband and his daughter.
Beau was using Eran’s scarf as a makeshift handkerchief as he wiped his eyes. “Softy. Someday that will be us, I hope.” Eran whispered, his own eyes rather moist even if he’d never admit it to anyone other than the three men around him currently. He and Beau had talked about adopting their own children before; several times in fact, they wanted children too. Eran had always taken in stray children over the years, but never any he’d made his children and only Cris had he ever adopted outright. Now that he had his husband back, being a father was the next step for them both.
It would be difficult, and heartbreaking to watch them grow old and die eventually, but they could make a difference in a life that needed them, it was worth the loss to gain and give the love. This time however, Eran would resist being the one to reach out to a child who needed help and let Cris follow in his footsteps, Cris needed her as much as she needed him. This was cathartic for Cris, he could bury his ghosts from Mirastor, he could change a life, as his had been changed once before.
Love came in many shapes and sizes, and always suddenly, without warning and came when you least expected it.
“Come on, it’s cold out here. Cris, Beau, Why don’t you take her back and get her something warm to eat. Give her a check-up and I’ll need her D.N.A scans and fingerprints. Val and I will go get her some clothes and I’ll contact the Mirastor adoption registry, you’ve got to adopt her legally before you can take her off planet. It takes twenty-four hours to register, or at least it did when I adopted you.” Eran winked at Cris who smiled back at his brother, love and gratitude in his eyes.
“Val?” Cris turned to his husband. “I don’t want to be her brother. Please, make her ours?”
“Absolutely. I want her too.” Val smiled at them both as he and Eran headed out to take care of business and Beau and Cris took Tovi back to the “Infinity”.
Cris smiled even if his entire insides were knotted up with fear, he was saying every prayer he knew internally while he held Tovi’s hand as Beau ran the diagnostic scan of her body where she sat swinging her legs over the edge of the table.
“Put my fears to rest Beau.”
“Clean. Everything is in tact as it should be for a four year old. She’s just hungry and undernourished, you do not have to worry Dad.” Beau said flipping off the medi-scan and sending her information blueprint to Eran’s communicator.
“Thank the Gods.” Cris wanted to cry for joy, he’d gotten to her before she’d set foot down a path that left far too many scars. “Well then, let’s see about some lunch for my girl.” Cris said helping her down from the table and taking her hand, the other still held the teddy bear she’d not let go of since Cris had given it to her.
“Lunch and then bath time with bubbles!” Beau grinned, she was positively filthy, but she needed food first and foremost.
Tovi skipped in-between Beau and Cris down the corridor to the galley. Cris piled some books on a chair at the table for her to sit on while Beau, the only decent cook on board, made Tovi some tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch.
Val’s communicator went off as he left the registry building with Eran. “Cris?”
“She’s a child’s size four dress, and a size three shoe. And get her a booster chair too while you’re at it, she’s tiny.”
Val chuckled, making notes on his palm recorder. “Anything else?”
“Whatever you see that you like and I’ll of course call you back if I think of something. She’s just eaten, and Beau and I are giving her a bubble bath. She’s making a mess in our bathroom but Ah god Val she’s so CUTE! Wait until you see her she looks like night and day!”
Val chuckled “I can’t wait. Eran and I are going to get her bed linens while were out, we’ll make the spare cabin next to ours hers. She’ll have to grow into the bunk, but I’ll get a bed rail for it for now so she doesn’t roll out.”
“I am so happy.” Cris cried on the phone and Val smiled.
“So am I baby, so am I. We’ll be back soon, we just put in the adoption petition at the registry, we’ll know by tomorrow after they run her scans and D.N.A through the database.” Val said and Cris grinned over the vid line then turned the monitor to show him Tovi in the tub, soaking Beau as they played with a rubber duck.
“Where did Beau get a rubber duck?”
“I’ve no clue. But is that not the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?”
Eran leaning over Val’s shoulder laughed. “Adorable. We’re off shopping, we’ll be back by dinner.”
Cris nodded and cut the connection going off to help “clean” a toddler. He just wanted to play with a rubber ducky himself.
Val couldn’t wait to get back to the “Infinity”, he prayed their petition went through.
Eran and Val came back with crates worth of items. Tovi greeted them with Cris and Beau dressed in one of Beau’s shirts. He was the smallest and even his shirt hung to the floor on her tiny frame. She was positively stunning all cleaned up. Cris had her long wavy hair braided in two braids that hung over her shoulders and two white ribbons tied the ends. She looked angelic on Cris’ hip as they walked into the shuttle bay, she still carried her teddy bear, and full of bright smiles for them all. Val reached out to take her from Cris and settled her on his own hip.
“Hello princess. Did you have fun?”
“Uh huh! We played ducky in bubbles! Unca Beau is funny and Daddy made my hair pretty, and he told me a story and everything.” Tovi gushed like an exuberant four year old, her fear evaporated like it had never existed and Val’s insides turned to jelly. He’d heard her call Cris Daddy and he melted.
“Well then, shall Papa show you what he and Uncle Eran brought back for you Princess?” She nodded and Val carried her around to the boxes and bags that Eran was unloading from the shuttle.
Her little eyes went wide. “Is all that for me?”
“It sure is Princess. Want to help put it away in your room?”
“Oh papa! I get my own room too?”
The word Papa was like seeing stars and Val just hugged her, he was totally enamored with her, his little angel. “Absolutely.”
Everyone helped decorate Tovi’s room. Eran and Val installed the bed rails. They could be lifted up while she was sleeping to keep her from falling out of bed, and then they folded away for ease of making up her bed when they weren’t needed.
There were stuffed toys, blocks, dolls, and a ball or two piled in one corner, the built in bookshelf along the lower wall was now full of every child’s book they could find in the city, the whole closet was crammed full of new clothes and new shoes, Val had bought everything in her size he could find in every color of the rainbow. The room was rounded out with pristine white with pale pink heart shaped poke-a-dot bed linens, and a huge down comforter in the same pale pink with white daisies printed all over it, the bed linens came complete with matching curtains to frame in her portal window. It looked like a little princess’ bedroom indeed by the time they got finished turning the cabin that had used to be Enjoe’s into Tovi’s little frilly sanctuary on board the “Infinity”.
Everyone was seated around the galley table, Tovi in her booster seat in between Val and Cris, where Val was cutting up her meat into tiny bite sized tidbits while Cris stirred in a chocolate flavored vitamin powder into her milk, she needed the nutrients desperately, but there was no sense in making it taste foul in the process. Eran and Beau smiled into their own meals as they watched Val and Cris turn into instant fathers, and good ones at that.
“I must say this is going to be quite fun for us all.” Beau mused passing the vegetables to Val to add to Tovi’s plate. “I certainly will no longer be bored while you three work.” Beau added and all three looked to him in query.
“Hello? who else will be her teacher? She’s got to learn to read and write and all sorts of other projects. I will at last feel useful.” Beau grinned leaning over to smile at Tovi. “And of course what lesson plan is complete without messy finger painting and music?”
Val laughed. “Very true, I don’t think her learning will be an issue between the four of us.” Val stated as he set her plate in front of her and handed her a fork. “There you are Princess, eat as much as you can.”
Tovi tore into her meal with gusto and Cris grinned as he watched her occasionally peering over her head to Val. “I am so over the moon right now.”
“me three!” Beau added and Eran chuckled.
“Me four I suppose. Rules however need to be established. Let’s keep her out of the cockpit until she’s older. Dangerous up there.”
“Agreed. The same goes for the engine room for now. As much as I’d love her in there with me while I’m working, it’s not a child friendly environment.”
“Very true. Don’t worry, Tovi can stay with me during working hours, I’m always in the living areas anyway, staying out of everyone’s way. I could use the company and she can help me.” Beau said and Tovi rather oblivious to the adults’ conversation was concentrating on her food.
Just then Val’s communicator buzzed and he flipped open the vid view. “Chief Engineer Vitale. We’ve got the data back from her background check.”
It was the registry and everyone held their breath waiting for the news.
“D.N.A. Analysis shows Birth mother was a Shandria Mulvoxia, deceased six months ago of Dartax Wasting Disease. Birth Father is of unknown origins. Mother’s occupation: Prostitute, Ruby Casino, prior to her death. Child was never registered, sadly typical of her mother’s profession. This is cut and dry, there are no claims on the child, no living relatives. We’ve registered her as per your request as “Tovi Lyn Callum-Vitale”, congratulations she’s yours, Adoption request completed. Thank you from the Mirastor Adoption Registry, we wish there were more people out there like you to take these poor children who need homes.”
The cheers were deafening as Val disconnected the communication and he threw his arms around Cris and Tovi. “She’s ours! Did you hear that Princess? You’re ours!”
“Oh Val! I love what you picked for her middle name! I always forget you Pirotainians have to have two names. Tovi Lyn is perfect!”
Eran chuckled and took out a cigarette then put it back, he’d have to watch that, smoking didn’t affect his health, but it would hers, it was no big deal to smoke in a room she wasn’t occupying. He’d curb his bad habits and keep them in his own cabin until she was no longer a child in danger of second hand smoke. Beau smiled at him, Eran really was considerate to others around him, even if his consideration went unannounced as per her want to do. He was a good man, Beau was in love with him more today than he had been when they married. Tovi could not be in a better environment, she’d have two fathers and two uncles to protect and raise her. Beau pitted any future suitors, they were going to have one hell of a time.
Val and Cris released their new daughter to allow her to finish her dinner and actually eat theirs for that matter and Val smiled as he cut into his steak. “I didn’t expect them to call so quickly.”
“In cases like hers it’s simple really. If there are no warrants or claims it’s just a few hours. I’ll give Mirastor one credit, they at least try to make it easy for these poor kids. It really is a problem here what with legalized prostitution and the huge drug market. There are just far too many children. The only reason I had to wait the full twenty-four hours for Cris was I had to get his birth father to sign him over and take care of the warrants on him.” Eran said and Cris dropped his fork.
“You never told me that. You know who my father is?!”
Eran nodded and shrugged. “Biological sperm donor in your case, your D.N.A. scan revealed him at the registry. He had no idea you even existed and was rather quick to sever all ties. You really do not want to meet him Cris. Real scumbag, he was your mother’s drug pusher. I never told you for obvious reasons. You were well rid of this place. And your warrants were easy enough to pay restitution on, they really don’t hold it over kids heads here, they know you guys don’t have much choice but to steal to survive in this shithole. Thank goodness the registry is here, they make it a lot easier to help the kids.”
“I had no intention of going to find him, I just didn’t know you knew who he was. I always just wondered who I resembled. Ya know the stupid stuff. Whose nose do I have? Whose eyes? That sort of thing.” Cris said resuming his meal. Eran pulled over the galley tabletop computer console and tapped out a search. He turned the monitor around for Cris to see, two side-by-side images one of his mother, one of his father. Cris made a face.
“I think it’s safe to say you don’t look anything like your father.” Val grimaced at the man’s face too. Cris’ mother on the other hand was beautiful, the picture was probably taken years before she’d lost her beauty to drugs and prostitution. “Anais Tinskerin, she was pretty. Easy to see how you made up Tinks from that.”
Cris nodded “I don’t remember her much, at least not how she looked. Who knows what happened to her to make her the way she was, but I know whatever she did I can blame on drugs. I look like her though, wow, just a male version, but the resemblance is remarkable I cannot deny that is my mother.”
“She’s pretty. Daddy is pretty too.” Tovi said finishing her milk looking at the monitor with Cris.
Cris turned to his daughter and smiled and leaned over to kiss her cheek. “I think Tovi is even prettier.”
“But she’s right. Daddy is pretty. I’m a lucky man. Pretty husband, Pretty little girl, I’ll need a particle blaster.” Val grinned and Cris winked at him.
“You’re supposed to be biased Papa and I think we have a little time before you need to start shooting boys away.” Cris laughed and Tovi just grinned having no clue at all what they were referring to. She was just happy and content sipping away at the straw in her milk.
“Ya know, we should be glad our private lives don’t show up outside of this ship. Our image would be shot. The “Infinity” crew, rough and tough efficient traders, if they new how domestic we really were we’d never get business.” Eran chuckled as Beau leaned against him on the bench they shared against the wall at the table.
“That is so true. I swear I walk into a shop and they part in waves. It’s nice to be respected, but I’ve no idea how they get it in their heads I’m dangerous. Do I look dangerous?” Beau laughed and Cris sniggered.
“You don’t but they know you’re married to Eran. Eran has a reputation leagues long. I certainly would not want to mess with his man.” Val said with humor as he finished his meal and took his plate and Tovi’s to the dishwasher.
“What about me, I don’t particularly look mean, and you saw today. How did I get his rep?” Cris asked handing his plate to Val standing behind him.
“You do through a mean punch.” Val quipped taking the plate. “That was a nice right hook earlier by the way. That laid that ass out flat, I was impressed.”
“He deserved to be laid out. It felt good, I know how scared she was, those sorts of men who pick on kids piss me off. I’ve been in her shoes, it felt good to finally be big enough to fight back. I’m just glad I was there for her when she needed me.” Cris said taking her empty glass and passing it back to Val, then taking Beau and Eran’s from where he sat and passing those back too.
“I told Phineas not to take his stuff. He never listens.” Tovi said and everyone turned to her, they’d forgotten she knew the boy responsible.
“Who is Phineas? Is he your brother?” Eran asked and Tovi shook her head.
“No. He’s a grown-up, he’s fifteen. He sometimes gave me food and he let me sleep on his blanket when I was cold. He was nice to me, he made sure “dirty men” would stay away from me.”
“God… That kid, we can thank him for…” Cris breathed, Phineas was a good kid, he’d made sure no one hurt Tovi, he must be out of his mind looking for her about now. He remembered kids like him, he’d been a kid like him. Fifteen was hardly a grown up, but to Tovi he had certainly acted like one.
“I’m already looking for him. You coming Beau?” Eran said grabbing his coat.
“Absolutely.” Beau grabbed his coat and turned to Tovi. “What does he look like sweetie?”
“Like Papa. Only his hair is like an orange. But he has freckles too.”
“Curse of the Redhead.” Val chuckled. “We’ll hold down the fort go find him, we have some thanks to pay that kid.”
“We’ll be back!” Beau waved over his shoulder as he and Eran headed out back into the port city near where they’d found Tovi.