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The Technopath's Webb (formerly the Tracker and the Tech)

Chapter Text

                Carl Webb sighed after checking his watch and stepping out of the elevator on the office floor where he worked with his coworkers. The dark haired, green eyed man in his late 20’s, whose lean, muscular body stood about 6’3, knew that he was late. Technically, it being 9:05, he was only 5 minutes late, but he knew that at least two of his coworkers would still give him hell about it.

                Carl’s teammates didn’t disappoint him on that score. The first thing that one of the man’s coworkers, Bill Harken, said to him as Carl passed the super-strong African American’s office was: “I see Mr. Webb has finally decided to grace us with his presence. This is the third time this month that you have been late, sir. Is this because you just like to make a grand entrance? ‘You can relax everyone, the seer of all things is here! You can all go about your business now!’”

                Carl chuckled dryly. He knew from the larger man’s joking tone that he was just trying to have fun with him, just like he did with all of his other coworkers. Bill was, after all, known for having a somewhat bad attitude and inappropriate sense of humor. He was the closest thing to an office asshole that Rosen’s group had among its ranks. But everyone put up with the man, not just because of his Alpha gift, but also because they knew that, when the chips were down, Bill was an extremely loyal man who would always have his team members’ backs. Besides, the black man’s experience that he had received in the FBI made him invaluable in the field. Even so, it somewhat rankled Carl that Bill still seemed to be threatened by his presence, and his particular Alpha ability, even though Mr. Webb had been working with Dr. Rosen’s team for almost 3 months now.

So the skinnier man still felt a need to comment on Bill’s remarks. “We’ve already been over this, Bill, sometimes I have to drop Charles off at his school when my wife has an art show in the early morning, and he’s still not used to the ‘traffic’ in this city. And you can cut it out with this seer business already .As you know, I can’t see the future. I’m just good at finding certain people that Dr. Rosen wants found. I’m part of the team, like you. I hope you can get used to that soon.”

                Bill, already seeming to have gotten bored of this conversation, which he and Mr. Webb had already had about 6 variations of, just nodded and turned back to the paperwork on his desk. “Yeah. Yeah. Whatever, man. But some of us have work to do, and if you don’t mind. I’m going to get to it before you and I get caught in another web of conversation.”

                Carl ignored the bad pun and nodded while faking a smile. “Sound like a good idea. I’ll go get to work now, too.” Bill just nodded while the second newest recruit to Dr. Rosen’s team (Carl had joined up just a few weeks before Hicks had done so) continued walking towards his office near the back of the building on this floor. The man said a quick hello to both Cameron Hicks and Rachel Pirzad, the former of which nodded politely from his office, and the latter of which waved enthusiastically at her coworker from her seated position at her desk while reciting a quick “Hello!” back before going back to her huge pile of paperwork.

Carl smiled, he and Hicks were still getting used to each other, despite having one very important thing in common, but, out of all his coworkers, Rachel was probably the one he got along with the best. Like him, Rachel had a somewhat shy and quirky personality, and saw the world differentially then most people did. For these reasons, she and Carl had become fast friends within the first couple weeks of Mr. Webb’s employment for Dr. Rosen. Carl was glad to have the quirky red-head as a friend.

                As Carl continued going towards his office he almost literally ran into another one of his co-workers, Gary Bell, who had stormed out of his office right in front of the taller man, visibly agitated, but still holding his hand up in the air to manipulate the electromagnetic frequencies that only the gifted autistic Alpha could see. “You were supposed to be here at 9AM! Everyone is supposed to be here at 9 to greet each other, then start work! But now it’s almost 9:10, and I have to greet you now because Dr. Rosen says that it’s not socially acceptable not to greet people when they walk in the room, and it will probably be at least 9:15 before I can start working! You’re throwing my entire schedule off, and I may have to cut my lunch break short, so I won’t be able to watch sports center for Bill and tell him the scores of the games he can’t watch! I’m looking for when those games are and…no, the first one doesn’t start till 11, so I can’t tell him now…Not that he deserves my help if he’s the one that keeps stealing my sandwiches which my mom makes for me. He said he hasn’t stolen any since that first one, but I don’t know if I can trust him after he did before…” The young man suddenly put his hand down and gave Carl a suspicious look. “You haven’t been stealing my sandwiches, have you?”

                Carl sighed, then smiled. He was used to Gary’s antics by now. The transducer’s personality had been a little annoying at first, but it hadn’t taken long for Carl to understand how to get along with the autistic individual. The time he had spent with Charles had given him plenty of experience in associating with people with child-like minds. People like Gary needed routine in their lives, and they tended to see even the slightest breaks in procedure as suspect. Also, being somewhat egocentric(but not necessarily vain), Gary sometimes fell into the trap of thinking that people who broke a rule, no matter how small the rule was, or how unintentional the deviation from it, did so on purpose in order to throw off his schedule. The slightly older man had long since learned that he had to explain himself to Gary when he messed up, or the transducer would assume that he had broken a rule on purpose.

He had also learned to humor the young man, no matter how outlandish Gary’s propositions, or in this case, accusations, occasionally where. “No, Gary, I haven’t been eating any of your sandwiches. I always get a salad from that place down the street at lunchtime, remember? So I don’t need your food.”

Mr. Webb knew better than to suggest that Gary grab something healthy to go on his lunch breaks, as well, so that no one could steal his food. The somewhat child-like man had made it clear before that he preferred to eat his mom’s sandwiches in the office break room during his lunch hour from exactly noon to 1 PM every day. As in almost every other aspect of his life, Gary’s lunch hour was part of his strict daily routine. “And I am sorry that I messed up your schedule, Gary. But we’ve been over this before. Sometimes I have to drive Charles to his special school on the edge of town, and we have to pull over and take breaks because he isn’t used to being around so many people and I need to help him calm down. Occasionally that whole process makes me late for work. But I am sorry about that, and I’ll do my best to be on time from now on. Are we okay now, Gary?”

                The younger man, hand now back in the air, reluctantly nodded. “Yeah. We’re good. We’re okay, just as long as you don’t come into work late again.” The transducer started to walk away, then quickly turned around. “Oh, and Dr. Rosen says that we are going to have a meeting in an hour in the meeting room.” The man moved his hand slightly to the right and added. “Oops, sorry. 59 minutes. The time just changed.”

                Carl said “Thank you!” to Gary while the younger man was already walking back towards his office. The transducer, without turning around, waved back as if to say “you’re welcome.” And Carl was happy with that. He knew that was as close as Gary got to being polite when his mind was on other things.

                Just before Carl stepped into his office, he was met in the hallway by Nina (she had given the group a last name, but Carl wasn’t sure if Theroux was her actual last name, or just another lie, like the ones the “pusher” often told others about her past), who had just gotten out of her morning therapy session with Dr. Rosen. The woman smiled in a teasing manner and pointed at the sunglasses that Carl had always worn to work since the first time he had met Nina. “Still rocking the shades, are we Mr. Webb? You know, if you keep doing that every day, a girl might get the impression that you don’t trust her.”

                Carl sighed, then rolled his eyes behind his sunglasses. “Nina, we’ve been over this already. I trust you with my life when we are out in the field, and I know you are a valuable part of this team. I’ve even begun to consider you a friend. But no. I don’t trust you not to push me. From what Dr. Rosen had told all of us, your ability is like a drug for you, and sometimes you just can’t seem to stop yourself from using it, especially when you see something you really want. So until Dr. Rosen says you have it all under control, the shades stay on.”

                Nina frowned at him, making Carl feel slightly guilty, as he did every time he and the dark haired woman had this conversation. He had figured out by now that it sometimes hurt the woman’s feelings when people didn’t trust her because of her Alpha ability, or the ways she had used that ability in the past. And Carl knew that, despite the fact that Nina was somewhat vain and occasionally selfish, she did care about her friends and teammates, including himself, and that she often put helping people above following rules and procedures. Carl, who had a similar set of priorities, admired that in the woman. He also liked that Nina had befriended Rachel and taken the younger, less confidant woman under her wing, even allowing the red head to move in with her.

Even so, Mr. Webb knew that he couldn’t risk allowing Nina to have the opportunity to get inside his head. If the woman gave into temptation and pushed him, one of the most potentially powerful Alphas on the planet, according to Dr. Rosen, the results could be disastrous. Still, Carl was glad when Nina’s frown disappeared as she laughed her teammate’s comment off. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know his whole spiel. ‘Pushing someone for personal gain is wrong, Nina! And you need to control your ability, not let it control you!’ I get it okay? But can we at least be civil with each other and greet each other properly? Good morning, Carl.”

                Carl grinned. “Good morning, Nina.” Truth be told, being on a first name basis with his co-workers had been a little weird for Carl at first, since everyone had called each other by their last names at his old job, but he had quickly grown to like the slightly more laid back way things were done in Dr. Rosen’s group. Before Carl walked into his office to start on some paperwork, he also added. “I’ll see you at the meeting then.”

                The dark haired woman smirked good-naturedly. “You bet. I’ll see you at the meeting…shades.”

                Carl rolled his eyes again and closed the door, so he didn’t hear whether or not Nina punctuated her last sentence with a laugh or not. ‘Well…’ Carl thought to himself. ‘Time to get to work!’ Carl started on the pile of paper on his desk. The man was able to put a sizable dent in his workload by the time he got up to go the team meeting with Dr. Rosen, which Carl was only just on time for, with only 1 minute to spare.

                The older, gray haired man greeted each member of his team individually before he started the day’s briefing. “I’ve just been going over some intel that I received this morning. It seems that a known Alpha, named Skylar Adams…” Dr. Rosen pushed a button on the remote in his hand, and the projector at the front of the room displayed a picture and the usual biographical info on the brunette (with streaks of dyed blond hair) Alpha. “Who has the remarkable ability to build almost anything out of everyday items. She had her apartment broken into, and was attacked by unknown assailants. From physical evidence that the FBI has been able to find at the crime scene, it appears that Miss Adams was able to escape from her pursuers by using some sort of explosive trap she had set. However, it does not appear that any of her pursuers were killed in the explosion…”

   Nina visibly held back a gasp and interrupted Dr. Rosen with a barrage of questions. “Is Skylar alright? Where is she now?! Do we know who is trying to attack her?” Carl, Cameron and Gary all looked at Nina with surprise at the woman’s concern for the other Alpha, but everyone else already knew of the Pusher’s friendship with Skylar.

Dr. Rosen sighed. “We don’t know where she is, Nina. That’s one of the things we’ve been assigned to find out. But from the evidence that the FBI has been able to gather so far at her old place, she hasn’t been physically harmed. I know you and Miss Adams were friends, and rest assured, we will do everything we can to find her before her pursuers do, to bring her to safety. Then we can find out who tried to attack her and why. That is our mission, after all. Luckily, we have an advantage that Miss Adams’ pursuers don’t. Isn’t that right, Carl?”

Carl snapped his focus from the projector screen toward Dr. Rosen. Truth be told, he had zoned out slightly for a moment while looking at the image of the young woman on the projector screen. The woman reminded him so much of something familiar…that he couldn’t put his finger on, it was surreal. And it wasn’t so much how the woman looked as the tattooed girl actually didn’t look all that much like anyone he knew…except for her eyes. Although Skylar’s facial features clearly radiated anger and defiance (towards whom, Carl couldn’t say), her eyes were different. Her eyes were…for lack of a better word…kind. They just had a way of pulling you in… just like his spouse’s eyes had always done to him. Thankfully, preoccupied as he had been, Carl had still managed to catch the main points of the briefing, as well as the sentence directed at him. So the younger man managed to stammer out awkwardly “Urm…yes. Miss Adams’ ability sounds pretty distinctive, I’ve never heard of another Alpha that has that power. So I should be able to help find her without too much trouble if you can give me a starting location. Where was the woman’s dwelling again?”

Both Lee and Carl ignored Bill and Gary as the former chuckled about Mr. Webb using such and academic word as “dwelling”, causing Gary to comment (obviously mistaking the large man’s slight for confusion) that the word meant the same thing as a home, and a bunch of other dictionary definitions no one paid attention to. Dr. Rosen told Carl the location of Skylar’s living space. And then everyone got quiet as Carl closed his eyes and announced that he was “getting into his zone”, or focusing his abilities to track an Alpha over large distances, in this case, Skylar. Usually this process took some time, from a few minutes up to half an hour, because Lee had only recently taught Carl how to use his ability this way.

But Skylar was different. Almost as soon as Carl had closed his eyes and focused on finding the technopath (a term he had just invented in his head for what Skylar was, due to her particular ability), a strong feeling and a bright white light seemed to shine behind his eyes, acting as a beacon for him, pointing almost directly to Skylar’s present location. The technopath had a very strong and unique Alpha presence indeed, more so than any Alpha that Carl had ever been asked to look for, with an energy signature who he felt drawn to with a strength that was only matched by one one other person that Carl had ever met. And that bothered the man a lot. Still, this meant that Carl was easily able to pinpoint Skylar’s approximate distance from his present location within a matter of seconds, and it wasn’t that far. Carl opened his eyes. “She’s in this city, or near it, anyway. She couldn’t be more than 20 square miles from our present location. It’s hard for me to pinpoint anything else with too much accuracy but…given how close it feels like the woman is, and the approximate direction I felt she was in…I think she might be in the Lower East Side.”

Lee’s smile betrayed a mixture of delight and surprise at the speed of Carl’s projection, then turned to the transducer, who was already waving his hand in front of his face, obviously manipulating the electromagnetic waves that only he could see. “Gary, can you confirm if Miss Adams is in the Lower East side Borough at this time?”

The transducer nodded, then raised his hand excitedly in the air after several minutes. “Yep. It looks like Carl was right, Dr. Rosen. I just spotted her image from a traffic camera on the Lower East side Borough.” The transducer turned to Carl with a distrustful look. “Hey, you told me before that your abilities weren’t accurate enough to pinpoint an Alpha with that level of precision from a distance, and you’ve never been able to find an Alpha that quickly before. Have you been holding out on us, Carl? What else can you really do?”

Dr. Rosen raises his hand in the air in a calming gesture. “Now, Gary. You remember what I told you about jumping to conclusions. We can’t know what’s been happening with Carl here until all the facts are in…”Lee turned to Carl after the transducer had reluctantly nodded his assent of what Dr. Rosen had said. “But I am curious how you found Miss Adams so quickly, Carl. Have your abilities getting stronger of late? Did you eat something different for breakfast this morning? What’s different about you today?”

Carl tried and failed to suppress a blush after all eyes turned to him. “Actually, there’s nothing different about me, Dr. Rosen. Skylar’s Alpha signature, as you call it, is just very…” Carl took on a very contemplative look as he decided how to word the powerful surge of energy that Skylar’s ability created in his person. “distinctive. I probably could have spotted the woman if she was in China without too much more time or effort. I can tell you that there is no one else on Earth that has her particular ability.”

Bill, either misinterpreting Carl’s blush and contemplative look or choosing to make a joke out of it, laughed. “It sounds like somebody is very…interested in Miss Adams, Mrs. Webb better watch her back!”

That earned Bill a glare from everybody else in the room except Dr. Rosen and Gary, while the latter shook his head in confusion. “I don’t understand. Do you mean that you think that Carl is attracted to Skylar? Like physically? Because that wouldn’t be right! Carl, you’re already married! You shouldn’t be thinking of other women like that!”

Carl rolled his eyes, but kept a friendly tone in his voice when he spoke to Gary, who obviously didn’t know any better than to question his devotion to his wife. “Relax, Gary, Bill doesn’t know what he is talking about, he’s just blowing smoke, like he often does. All I meant was that Miss Adam’s ability has a very unique Alpha signature that is very powerful, distinctive, and easy to spot.”

Gary nodded in understanding. “Oh, okay. That’s okay, then. But what do you mean, ‘blowing smoke’? I don’t know what that means…”

Lee cleared his throat. “If we could please get back to the matter at hand. Time is an important element here, so we need to finish this meeting quickly! Bill, Cameron, I would like you to go in the van with Carl, Nina, and Rachel. Carl will tell you if Miss Adams goes to another part of the city, Rachel will help zero in on the Alpha’s location, and Nina will…convince the young lady to come with us, for her own safety, if she tries to resist. And she very will might. As some of you might recall, Miss Adams has problems with anyone she perceives to be an authority figure, but we need to bring her here, or we can’t protect her from whoever is trying to hurt or abduct her. Gary, I want you to stay here with me and monitor Miss Adams movements through the traffic cameras, and keep the team updated on her location. We need to get to her before her pursuers do.”

Nina sighed. “I really don’t feel it will be necessary for me to push Skylar, Dr. Rosen…”

The doctor interrupted her. “I hope not, Nina. And I know I’m putting you in an uncomfortable situation here, because Skylar is your friend. But I’m hoping you will be able to convince her to come willingly, so that we can protect her. I think that would be for the best, don’t you?” Nina nodded reluctantly, and Dr. Rosen took that as a confirmation and continued. “Very good then. Now all of you know what you need to do. I suggest you get onto your designated tasks. Time is off the essence, after all.”

And with that settled, everyone but Gary and Dr. Rosen departed the meeting room and walked toward the elevator to begin their assigned task to help rescue Skylar Adams from her pursuers.


 

30 minutes later….

Skylar Adams grabbed the money with an impatient glare to the man who had just bought one of her inventions, and ran away from the men in black suits who were pursuing her. As the technopath ran down the busy street, she was looking for an escape, any escape, from her pursuers. Suddenly, a large white van pulled right in front of her and stopped in the middle of the road. Skylar immediately turned around to run away from whoever was in the van, since they were obviously looking for her as well, but the woman soon saw that the men in black suits were pursuing her from the only other path that was open to her.

Before Skylar could come to a decision about which direction to run in, the technopath heard a door to the van behind her open, and then a familiar voice called out from the vehicle. “Skylar, get in!”

Hearing the voice of Nina, one of the few people that Skylar had come close to considering a friend, the young woman quickly made a decision and dashed inside the van before her pursuers could reach her, and Nina closed the door behind Skylar.

After everybody was seated, and the van was safely out of the reach of Skylar’s pursuers, the technopath looked around the vehicle. In addition to Nina, Rachel and Bill, who she had already become acquainted with the last time she had met Dr. Rosen, and the latter of which Skylar did not like very much, there were two men in the vehicle that Skylar didn’t recognize. Both men had dark hair, but that’s where the similarities ended. The man driving the vehicle, next to Nina riding shotgun, was the more muscular of the two, but he was also the short one, and he kept glancing suspiciously at Skylar out of the corner of his eye every few seconds in a way that made the techno path nervous. The taller, slightly less muscular, trim man seated immediately to Skylar’s left, however, was the one that freaked the talented woman out the most, despite the fact that Skylar found his physique physically appealing. In addition to the fact that the man was wearing sunglasses on a very cloudy day and was the only one wearing a suit while the others were wearing street clothes, the taller man was also craning his neck as far to his left as he could, as if he was desperately trying NOT to look in Skylar’s direction at the moment.

Rachel said “hello, again.” and extended her hand forward so Skylar could shake it. When the brunette hesitated for only a moment to do so, the red head pulled her hand back and looked down sheepishly in embarrassment. Deciding she really wasn’t sure she wanted to know what the man in sunglasses’ bizarre behavior was about, Skylar frowned and asked about something else. “I don’t suppose there is any chance you could drop me off at a greyhound bus or train station, is there?”

Nina sighed. “Sorry, Skylar. Dr. Rosen wants us to bring you in, just for a little while, to talk to you and keep you safe until we can determine who is after you and why. I promise I won’t let anything happen to you.”

Skylar rolled her eyes. A “caring” prison guard was still a prison guard in her book. But all she said was: “Fine. I’ll talk to the man. But I really need to get going soon, I’ve got some important business to take care off.”

Bill sighed. “Look, whatever ‘important business’ you may have, it’s just going to have to wait until Dr. Rosen’s done talking to you, okay? So the sooner you cooperate with us and tell us who is after you and why, the sooner we can help you, and you can go on your way, alright?! Until then, you aren’t going anywhere.”

The man in front nodded his head in assent to what Bill had just said. “I’m afraid he’s right, Miss Adams. If you want to go home, you’ll have to cooperate with us. But Dr. Rosen has helped me a lot over the past few months, I’m sure he can help you too. I’m Cameron Hicks by the way.”

Skylar rolled her eyes at the man’s name and demeanor. She could already tell she didn’t like the guy, but it was the man in sunglasses to her left, who was still refusing to look at her, that Skylar was still on the fence about. On the one hand, the stranger’s present demeanor freaked her out a bit. On the other hand, she had always liked men who were a little mysterious, and he certainly wasn’t bad looking, as far as she could tell so far. Deciding she wanted to learn more about him after all. Skylar turned toward the only person in the vehicle she hadn’t been formally introduced to yet and spoke. “So, what’s your story, what’s with the shades, why won’t you look at me, and could you, or anyone else, please tell me how the hell you all found me so fast?! I’ve gone through a lot of trouble to try to stay hidden!”

The man in sunglasses turned his head toward the front of the vehicle, while still not looking directly at Skylar, and opened his mouth to speak, before Nina cut him off with a laugh. “First of all, the man you are trying to talk to is the one that found you. Well, mostly. Gary, who has a gift for monitoring all information that moves through electronic signals, who’ll you’ll probably meet later, helped, as did Rachel. But it was ‘shades’ here who got us in the ballpark with his ability to zero in on any other Alpha on the planet. And he wears those silly looking glasses of his because…”

Now it was Carl’s turn to cut Nina off. “Because I work with you. And thanks for giving away all of our secrets, Nina. That was really nice of you.” The man’s voice, which was dripping with sarcasm, made Skylar smile despite herself while Nina said something about “relaxing” and “you really don’t trust anyone, do you?” to the man in the sunglasses. It was easy to see from the smiles on both “shades” and Nina that the two were just engaging in a playful verbal sparring contest that they had gone through several times before and would likely repeat many times in the future.

However, as fun as that spectacle was to watch, Skylar still had words to say to ‘shades’. “So, you’re the one in the group who doesn’t trust anyone, huh?” Carl just shrugged in response, causing Skylar to smile thinly. “Well, I guess you’re smarter that you look.”

Carl chuckled. “Well, it’s better than looking smarter that you are, I guess.”

Skylar nodded, but her smile quickly vanished. “I suppose so. It’s still freaky the way you refuse to look at me, though, and you’re still a government flunky, if you’re working with Dr. Rosen. You’re still using your ability to find Alpha’s for him and recruit them, or throw them into that hellhole at Binghamton, just so the so-called normal people, with their closed little minds, can feel safe from us. You all work for ‘them’, whether you realize it or not.” The technopath’s words came out with a sneer.

The whole van suddenly got quiet, other than several people in the van coughing loudly. It took several seconds for Carl to reply to Skylar’s words, and the barely controlled angry tone in the man’s voice made it clear to Skylar that she had crossed a line with him, although she couldn’t tell what it was. “I have my own reasons for working with Dr. Rosen. And I’ll have you know that I don’t always agree with the way the government deals with Alphas either, but at least I get to help save innocent lives. You see, Skylar, I don’t make a distinction between ‘normal’ humans and Alphas, like you seem to. There is no ‘us’ and ‘them.’ We’re all just people in my book.”

Before Skylar could make a snarky reply to the effect that is just what a true believer disciple of the overly idealistic Dr. Rosen would say, Rachel meekly spoke from the back seat in a voice so soft that Skylar could barely hear it. “Carl’s wife isn’t an Alpha, Skylar.”

                Bill didn’t say anything, but he glared at Skylar, letting everyone else in the van know he was also thinking about his non-Alpha wife at the moment.

The technopath’s eyes widened in realization as she spotted the ring on “shades’” left hand for the first time. “Oh. I didn’t realize. I’m sorry….” Skylar’s words came out in a stammer as she realized that she had, once again, said exactly the wrong thing to the wrong person, as she had done so many times in the past.

The man shrugged. “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.” But the man’s tone indicated that he was still a little upset with Skylar as he added. “And as for the reason I’m not looking at you. Your alpha signature is very distinctive and…strong…for lack of a better word. Looking right at you actually hurts a little, and I felt like it almost blinded me when you got into the van. But I’ve been adjusting the focus and sensitivity levels on my ability since you entered the vehicle and I think that I should be able to look at you now. Yes.” The man finally turned towards Skylar. “That’s much better.”

The man briefly took of his sunglasses, allowing Skylar to see a glimpse of the man’s green eyes. “You feel better now?” Skylar nodded, even as she noted that Carl’s emerald eyes brought out a strong feeling in her person that she did not have time to identify before the man quickly put on his shades again and turned back toward the left side of the vehicle, as if he had been burned by something. Skylar just assumed that it was because he still couldn’t look at her too long without her Alpha ability adversely affecting him, but she was wrong. Carl had turned away because the look in Skylar’s eyes once again reminded the man of his wife in that moment, as the same care and concern for other’s that Skylar tried to hide from the world underneath a mask of anger and cynicism was obviously present there, for anybody who knew where to look for it to see. And Carl, who had seen that same kind of light in another person’s eyes every day for years, definitely did.

The man continued speaking as he stammered out. “My name is Carl Webb…by the way.” The man awkwardly held out his right hand toward Skylar, without looking right at the technopath, and Skylar reluctantly shook it briefly. After that, Carl once again resumed paying attention to anything but Skylar in the van and keeping his head facing left, and the rest of the occupants in the vehicle all remained silent as well.

Skylar sighed. This was clearly going to be a long ride to Dr. Rosen’s offices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The next 24 or so hours went by in a blur for one Carl Webb, as the case pertaining to the Alpha known as Skylar Adams brought about a mixture of many emotions for the only Alpha on Rosen’s team who wore a suit (since he was still used to the more formal dress code of his last job). Skylar’s refusal to tell Rosen who had been trying to attack her recently, her escape from Rosen’s team and the FBI, and the brunette and blond haired Alpha’s recruitment of a defiant Nina to help her evade Rosen’s team all made Carl more than a little annoyed with Skylar. However, the FBI’s frequent attempts to use extreme and unlawful methods to apprehend Skylar in the name of “public safety”, attempts which most of Rosen’s team had to run interference on, because they didn’t want Skylar to go to prison for the rest of her life without good cause, as well as Rosen’s discovery that one of the tracking devices which Skylar had built for the federal government had been put for assassination missions, made Carl extremely angry at the government that he reluctantly worked for, and made him somewhat more sympathetic to the techno path’s plight. Carl also felt a mixture of relief and amusement when he discovered that Skylar had, with Nina’s help, destroyed her own creation so that the feds couldn’t keep using it to kill people.

                Even so, by the time that he and the rest of Rosen’s team had tracked Skylar to a small house in a suburb, he was fairly angry at Skylar because she he had used one of her devices to knock both Gary and himself unconscious after the two male Alpha’s “finally” managed to track the technopath and mesmerizer to a gas station parking lot earlier after Carl and his transducer teammate had "accidently lost” track of Skylar’s location several times before they had been able to give the feds the slip and go after Skylar on their own. After all, in Carl Webb’s book, hurting him was one thing, but hurting his friends was something else again. Therefore, by the time that Rosen’s team had tracked Skylar down to her uncle’s house, Carl was livid with Skylar for harming Gary, even temporarily, and the fact that Carl was secretly intrigued by Skylar’s unique energy signature and personality (because Carl kept telling himself that he, a married man, could NOT be interested in Skylar on a physical level) did not change that.

                However, as soon as Rosen’s team discovered the reasons that Skylar had gone to such great lengths to evade them, the FBI, and any government-related entity for years, his anger at the technopath quickly evaporated as he saw her interacting with a young five year old Alpha girl who was drawing pictures and complex strings of numbers on numerous sheets of paper when he and the rest of Rosen’s team entered the room. Carl’s eyes widened. He already knew, based on the way that Skylar was interacting with this child, as well as the similarities between the little girls energy signature and the technopath’s, although the young girl’s signature was less intense for Carl, that this little girl was Skylar’s daughter…and that she was an Alpha, just like her mother.

                As Skylar noticed the other people in the room and quickly explained what he already knew, that the little girl, Zoe, was her daughter, Carl quickly surmised that everything that every nonsensical, annoying, and sometimes even dangerous extreme that Skylar had gone to in order to avoid government entanglements…she had done to try to protect her daughter from the scrutiny and suspicion that the government cast upon all known Alpha’s. And as much as he didn’t like some of the things Skylar had done in the past 24 hours, he couldn’t fault her for wanting to protect her own child.

                Dr. Rosen interrupted Carl’s train of thought, however, when, after talking to both Zoe and her mother quietly for several minutes, he started speaking to Skylar loud enough for the rest of his team to hear. “Your little girl is really quite remarkable, Skylar. As a parent myself, I can understand why you would want to protect you child from the world. But you should know that your Zoe is really quite extraordinary, not only for her ability to create and break complex mathematical codes, but also because she is only the second 2nd generation Alpha I have come across in all my years of studying gifted individuals like the two of you.”

                As if on cue, everyone on the offbeat Alpha team, other than Rosen, immediately looked right at Carl, causing the Alpha in question to stare self-consciously at the floor for several seconds while mumbling the word “traitors” to his teammates. Skylar also turned her attention to Carl’s presence in the room, and he noted that she had a look on her face that he couldn’t identify, although it was a softer look than the angry scowl that Carl had grown used to seeing on the technopath’s beautiful (and Carl mentally scolded himself for thinking so) face since he had met her. Finally, just as Carl was starting to get anxious about what that look meant, Miss Adams spoke to the slightly older male Alpha she had been looking at for the past 30 seconds. “You’re a second generation Alpha too, Carl? Like my daughter, Zoe?”

                Carl cleared his throat. “No, actually. But….” The Alpha in the business suit hesitated for several seconds before deciding that, since he had come to know many of Skylar’s biggest secrets lately, it was only fair that he should trust Skylar with his most precious secret. “My son, Charles, is an Alpha like me. Well, not like me, per say….”

                Carl hesitated a second more, than added, in hopes that Skylar might be able to help his child. “He’s a telepath. He can know what a person near him is thinking at any given moment. Actually, he does know what everybody within about 100 yards around him is thinking at all times. He…he can’t turn it off. Ever. Or at least, we haven’t been able to find a way for my son to block out other people’s thoughts entirely. It’s been…really hard for him for the last few years. Overwhelming at times, to be honest. But I was able to make a deal with Dr. Rosen. He helps Charles find ways to cope with all of the thoughts he receives from other people. He also keeps my son’s existence, and his ability, a secret from the government on my behalf. In exchange…I left my previous six figure job as a corporate headhunter in Chicago, and my wife and I moved to New York, so that I could help Dr. Rosen and the rest of his…my team, track down and stop Alpha-related threats to the American public.”

                Skylar’s features softened even more before she nodded while giving him a sympathetic look with her beautiful (‘stop that!’ Carl silently himself again) hazel eyes. “I understand. You made a deal to work with Rosen and the bureaucrats he works for to get help for your son. Even though I don’t approve of your line of work, Mr. Webb, and I wouldn’t ever want to be in it, I really do think I understand why you made that deal…”

                Skylar looked at her own child and smiled, and said in a softer voice that Carl and his teammates could only barely hear. “We do what we have to do to look after our children.”

…..Minutes later…

   Looking around the room, which was just next to the one Skylar and Zoe were playing in, at the members of the team he put together, Dr. Rosen sighed, then turned to the rest of his team. “So, what do you think? Do we let them go?”

                Nina raised her eyebrow. “You’re giving us a vote? That’s unusual for you. But whatever. Skylar’s my friend. I obviously think we should not hand her and her daughter over to the Feds and let them do who know what to them at Binghamton.”

                Lee nodded. “I figured that would be your vote, Nina. You’re right though. I would usually make decisions like this myself, but…as a professional, my first instinct is to hand Skylar over to the authorities, since letting her get away might jeopardize this entire program’s future with the government, and because Skylar’s abilities could be used for very dangerous purposes if she ever fell under the influence of someone inclined to do so. On the other hand…As some of you know, I am also a father. And after seeing her interact with Zoe…Let’s just say I’m conflicted about this. So I want everyone else’s opinion on the matter now. Knowing what is at stake, should we let Skylar and Zoe go?”

                Rachel nodded and said. “Yes. Absolutely. Skylar and Zoe are people and they deserve to have their own lives, just like everyone else.”

                Gary nodded his head, although his hands were in the air, and he seemed distracted, like usual, by whatever electromagnetic frequencies he could see now. “I think we should let them go. Skylar seemed nice, and she treats Zoe kind of like my mom treats me.”

                The transducer frowned. “She did hurt me and Carl, though. Still, I’m feeling better now, and Skylar apologized to me and Carl for that, and my mother says that you should forgive someone for something if they apologize so…I still say we should forgive her and let her and Zoe go.”

                Bill Harken sighed. The African-American’s eyes seemed to have a far-away look for several seconds, as if he was thinking about something else, but the FBI agent eventually gave his own answer to Lee Rosen’s question. “Damn. You know I could lose my job for this, right? But yeah, we should probably let them go. I don’t know much about Binghamton, but I know that it is no place for a child, and I’m not letting Zoe get sent there. I don’t need that on my conscience. Fine. Let them go!”

                When everybody looked at Carl for his answer, the man with the suit and dark glasses actually chuckled. “Come on. You all already know my answer. I’m a father too, and there is no way I’m letting the FBI, or NSA, or any other government agency get their hands on Skylar or her child. It’s just not in me to see a parent and child suffer like that.”

                Bill chuckled. “Yeah. And I’m sure the fact that you have the hots for Miss Adams has nothing to do with it, right? I saw the way you were looking at her in there, man.”

                Bill’s jovial mood soon died, however, when, instead of defending himself from the African American man’s jokes, like usual, Carl just glared at his team mate for several seconds before turning around and walking out of the front door of the house with a frown on his face while muttering something about “needing some air.” At that point, Bill knew that, for the first time since he had met Carl, he had actually managed to hit one of the man’s nerves and offend him somehow.

Still, after everybody in the room finished glaring at Bill and Nina actually called the FBI agent an “Ass.”, the vote concluded with Cameroon telling Dr. Rosen he should let Skylar and Zoe go while also citing his own parental experience as a reason for his decision. Then after Dr. Rosen called him about the vote results and a noticeably calmer Carl reentered the home of Skylar’s uncle, the team went into the room that Skylar and Zoe were playing in and gave them the good news that they were free to go.

Skylar’s mouth took the shape of a thin grin after hearing this news. “Well, I guess you government types do have souls after all. Some of you, anyway. That’s good to know, I guess.”

Skylar than looked at Carl and Gary and frowned. “Seriously, though, I’m sorry I hurt you two when you were looking for me. I know I didn’t do any permanent damage to either of you, and I did really feel like I had to get away at the time but…You were just doing your jobs, and I hurt you for that. And I’m sorry. But…”

Skylar’s grin became a smirk. “I know a way that I can make it up to you two. Gary…”Skylar passed the Transducer what appeared to be an ordinary phone, but the autistic man’s eyes let up when she told him what it could do. “I build that phone. It has unlimited data and roaming, so you’ll never get a phone bill from using it, and it has its own built in Wi-Fi that makes use of every satellite around Earth. You will never have to be without the internet. Ever. Also, it has my own personal number in there. But please don’t call it unless you actually need something important, okay Gary?!”

Gary just nodded, as he was actually too absorbed with playing with his new electronic device to actually respond to Skylar, even though he had heard every word the technopath had said. So Skylar turned to Carl, who looked noticeably uncomfortable now, as he always did when he was the center of attention for a group, since all of Dr. Rosen’s team, sans Gary, was not staring at him as Skylar walked closer to him while speaking in a sadder tone of voice. “Unfortunately, Carl, I think it will take me a little longer to pay you back. But I’m going to work on building a device that will allow your son to block out other people’s thoughts when he wants to, and maybe even better focus his abilities. But it might take me awhile, so I will notify either Gary or Nina when I have something for Charles. Don’t bother contacting me about it. I’ll call you. Oh, and one more thing…”

Carl’s posture visibly stiffened when Skylar drew him into an embrace he had not been expecting. For several seconds, Carl debated with himself wither or not he should try to push Skylar away, despite her unexpected hug feeling unusually pleasant, and the man in the suit was just about to distance himself from the technopath due to his present feelings of awkwardness and guilt, when he heard Skylar whisper in his ear, just before she pulled away from Carl of her own accord. “And when I’m finished with the device for your son, you won’t need Dr. Rosen to help him anymore, and you can break free from the control he and all those other government flunkies have over you. Then you can choose to stop working for the pen pushers.”

…..hours later…

After dropping Skylar and Zoe of at Niagara Falls across the Canadian border, the team began their long trek back to New York via van. As expected, some of the his teammates, especially Nina, were still making fun of Carl’s awkward reaction to Skylar unexpectedly hugging him (although Bill was strangely silent about the subject during the entire ride back to Rosen’s office), but Carl just let his teammates words slide right off of him now. He was honestly too excited by the prospect of Skylar keeping her promise to finally “cure” Charles of the negative side effects of his abilities, instead of just treating the symptoms of his Alpha ability, as Dr. Rosen did, that he didn’t even care what his teammates thought of him right now. All Carl knew was, he was definitely looking forward to hearing from Skylar Adams again…because she was going to help Charles. Not because he happened to find her attractive (as he had finally admitted, but only to himself), or because the tinder look she gave him at her uncle’s house had turned his stomach into nots, or even because it had felt way better than it should have when Skylar hugged him (a fact Carl still felt guilty about since he was still very much in love with his wife).

No. None of those other reasons, besides the prospect that the technopath might be able to help his son, mattered to him, or made him anxious to see the slightly younger Alpha again.

 

Did they?

Chapter Text

… Many months later…

As time passed, Carl Webb was almost able to get Skylar Adams out of his head. Several factors, such as Rosen revealing the existence of Alphas to the world, and the subsequent disintegration of Dr. Rosen’s Alpha team, kept Carl quite busy as he was forced to look for a new (although it turned out to be a temporary) job and looked in vain for another counselor that could help his son cope with his ability since Lee got himself thrown in prison. The Alpha spending more time with his wife and son, and many other things, kept his mind off the hazel eyed woman with the multi-colored hair. Even after Rosen’s Alpha team reformed, although the team dynamic was not the same as it had been before (since it soon became common office knowledge that Cameron had, stupidly, in Carl’s personal opinion, broken up with Nina for accidentally using her ability on Mr. Hicks during a moment of passion), Carl was able to keep his mind on his work or his family most of the time…Except on occasions when Skylar would text Gary (once a week or so) to tell Carl that she was still working on a device to help Charles manage his ability and that she hoped the father and son were both doing well and the transducer would relay that message to the father of the gifted child. Nina used every opportunity this state of affairs presented to “joke” that this was basically Skylar’s way of flirting with Carl, and making somewhat lewd insinuations that Carl should do something about this. This bothered Carl a bit, as these moments always briefly brought those old forbidden feelings for Skylar back to the front of his mind, but the “Tracker” of the group was usually able to chase such thoughts away quickly and write of Nina’s words as her trying to meddle with someone else’s love live since her own was pretty much wrecked at the moment.

                And if, sometimes, Carl had some not-so innocent dreams involving himself and a certain technopath, well…Carl figured there was no harm in that. After all, a man couldn’t control what he dreamed about, right? Besides, Carl was still very much in love with his wife, the mother of his child, who was one of the kindest, most creative people he had ever met, and he knew he would never allow himself to be unfaithful to her. Besides, Carl honestly doubted he would ever see Skylar again (the agent expected Skylar would sent the device she was building for Charles in the mail or something), so he didn’t thinking dreaming about the technopath every now and again would hurt anything.

                However, Carl was somewhat thrown for a loop one day when Rosen walked into his office and told Mr. Webb that he needed him to track down Skylar Adams…now. Remembering that Lee had promised he and the team would not ever go looking for Miss Adams again, Carl raised his eyebrow and asked. “Why would you want me to do that? You promised Skylar that we would leave her and her daughter alone after the last time we encountered her, remember? Why are you asking me to break that promise now?”

                Lee sighed. “You remember that photic simulator that we recovered from that hospital? The one that Stanton Parish had developed and fast tracked through the FDA? Well, nobody I’ve contacted so far can tell me how Parish could be using it for his own ends, and they swear it is just an ordinary piece of medical tech. But I know better. I’m certain that stimulator is central to Stanton’s plans and I need to know what it can do to people’s brains! If anybody can figure out what the stimulator does, it will be Skylar. So I need you to locate her right now so she can help us with that!”

                Carl resisted the urge to roll his eyes. This photic stimulator nonsense sounded like a waste of time to him, since every expert Rosen had contacted so far had insisted there was nothing sinister about that piece of technology, and Carl wasn’t about to break his promise to Skylar without a good reason. However, to appease Rosen, Carl closed his eyes and “got into his zone” again to find Skylar. Carl frowned when he instantly noticed from their strong Alpha signatures that the technopath and her daughter were somewhere in upstate New York, surrounded by other Alphas, but nothing he saw about Skylar’s location indicated she was doing anything wrong, so…

                Carl opened his eyes and looked right at Dr. Rosen. “I can’t find Skylar, or her daughter. Skylar must have…”Mr. Webb shook his head as his mind scrambled for a good excuse, and his mind finally found one. “She must have created a device that can keep me from tracking her or her daughter’s Alpha signatures. I have nothing. I’m sorry.”

                Dr. Rosen looked at Carl for several seconds, but eventually shrugged and sighed. “Yes. Miss Adams is both clever and paranoid, and that sounds like something she would do. But it is absolutely imperative that we find her. I’ll have to check if Gary and Nina can help me track her down. I’ll let you know if we find anything.”

                Carl nodded as Lee started exiting his office. “Thanks. Sorry I couldn’t help you more, Dr. Rosen.”

                Dr. Rosen just shrugged again and left the office while Carl privately hoped, for a variety of reasons, that Rosen would be unable to locate Skylar. Unfortunately, Carl’s hopes turned out to be in vain…

…..Sometime later…

     Carl’s heart stopped for a second when Dr. Rosen’s team did eventually find Skylar due to a little trickery on Gary’s part. Even though he only caught a glimpse of her before Rosen’s team was surrounded by a bunch of angry, territorial Alpha’s, and Skylar’s appearance was drastically changed, as she had grown her hair out and let it go back to its natural brunette color, (evidentially) lazered off the tattoos that had been on her arms and neck, and she was now more modestly dressed then before, the technopath’s presence still took his breath away just like it had since the first time he had met her. Therefore, even after Skylar was able to make the angry crowd disperse, Carl knew that this mission was going to be trouble for him.

                After parking the team van just outside the village full of Alphas were Skylar was staying, Dr. Rosen started to talk to Skylar. “I’m sorry I forced Gary to use the phone you gave him to trick you so we could track you down, but you left us with little choice. It was imperative that we secured your help to help us to ascertain how dangerous the object I’m about to show you might be. And Mr. Webb explained that he couldn’t locate you with his ability, and guessed that you must have used your ability to create a device negate his ability, we had no other way to find you…”

                While Dr. Rosen was still talking and reminding Skylar she “owed him” for shielding her and Zoe from the NSA, Skylar cast a quick side-glance towards Carl, who was busy talking to Gary and Rachel nearby. The technopath mentally noted that she would have to thank Carl (something kept Skylar from thinking of the attractive man, who was now wearing a polo and a jeans instead of a suit, although he still wore a pair of shades, as “Mr. Webb”) for his attempt to keep his promise to her not to track her down again. But for some reason, Skylar was unable to completely take her eyes off of Carl the entire time that Dr. Rosen was talking to her about the photic stimulator, right up until the moment that Lee Rosen cleared his throat and said. “I actually do need to show you the device now, Skylar. Time is an important element here and…”

                Skylar rolled her eyes and followed Lee to the van the device was currently sitting in. “Fine. I’ll help you this one time, Dr. Rosen. And then you and your team will leave this sanctuary, which is supposed to be for Alpha’s only, behind for good. After all, not only are you not an Alpha, you also have a lot of people here who hate you for broadcasting about the existence of Alphas to the world, since the people here really like their anonymity. So, I will help you, but only if you agree that you and your team will never, ever come back here or try to contact me again. Do we have a deal?”

                Dr. Rosen just nodded, and with a sigh of resignation, Skylar Adams followed Dr. Lee Rosen toward the photic stimulator….

                Three hours later…

                After hours of working with the photic stimulator and finding nothing interesting so far, Skylar decided to call it a day and look at the device again in the morning. It was dinner time at the Alpha commune, which some residents referred to as “Alphaville” and everyone there was invited to eat the food that had been prepared by the Alphas who had been assigned cooking duty tonight. Even the Alpha’s from Rosen’s team, who had been already been briefed by some of the locals about how things worked at this sanctuary away from “neuro-typical people”, were invited to dine at the long wooden picnic table near the center of Alphaville. The only person that had trouble getting served food was Dr. Rosen himself, for various reasons, but the doctor was also eventually served after Skylar asked the cooks to do so.

                There was a jovial atmosphere at the picnic tables, even among the members of Rosen’s team, who were currently busy eating, talking and laughing amongst themselves while still mingling with some of the Alphaville residents. Except for Nina. Nina decided to spend her time talking to Skylar as she ate, and the two old friends, who had a small, out of the way table all to themselves, since Skylar didn’t feel comfortable sitting too close to Carl, talked about how things had been for both of them since they had last met. However, Skylar was not as focused on the conversation as Nina was, since her gaze kept alternating between her daughter, Zoe, who was busy playing with some older kids just outside the picnic area, since she was the youngest child in Alphaville…and Carl. Carl was seated at another table as he kept trying to convince Bill Harken that it would be okay to eat the green algae the people her had grown as food. The technopath noted that Carl only looked her way once when she had diverted her eyes in his direction, but the man’s eyes, hidden by his sunglasses, looked away from Skylar after she looked right back at him, and the technopath could have sworn that the man in shades actually looked guilty when she had caught him staring in her direction.

                Finally, after that awkward exchange of gazes occurred, Nina waived her hand in front of Skylar’s face. “Earth to Skylar!”

                Skylar actually blushed as she looked down at her half-eaten food before she rolled her eyes, even while Nina continued speaking. “Why don’t you just take a picture of him, Skylar? It will last longer! Or better yet…”

Nina lowered her already low voice to a whisper. “At least one of the cabins around her must be deserted. I could arrange for Carl to ‘accidentally’ meet you in one of them for a little while. I wouldn’t even have to push the man. I could just tell him Rosen wants him there, and you could be there instead to have your wicked way with him while I look after Zoe for you for an hour or two. After all, I happen to know he is interested in you, and you certainly look like you could use a little fun in your life right now. How long has it been since you’ve gotten laid?”

Skylar hesitated for several seconds, then glared at her friend and whispered right back. “None of your business, Nina! And that is not funny! You know I don’t do married men! I just…I don’t need the complications, okay?!” Truthfully, that wasn’t the only reason Skylar didn’t want to make a move on Carl right now. It was true that Skylar didn’t involve herself with married men, because that was one of the few moral lines, alongside killing people, that the rebel didn’t feel comfortable crossing. But the technopath also guessed, from how guilty Carl had looked after staring at her only once, that he would reject an advance on his person by Skylar, or probably anyone that wasn’t his wife, and that the tracker Alpha would avoid her Skylar like the plague forever after if she tried to make any kind of move on him.

That didn’t mean that Skylar hadn’t briefly considered taking Nina up on her offer though. The truth was, the technopath had thought a lot about Carl since her brief encounter with him and the rest of Rosen’s team many months ago. About the man’s emerald eyes, which had almost seemed to gaze straight into her soul. About how good the man had looked in that suit. How the man had, along with the rest of the group, voted to let Skylar and her daughter escape the U.S. government. And finally, Skylar couldn’t help but think about the tender looks Carl had shot in her direction when he saw the technopath playing with her daughter, or the way the man had talked about his own son, which made it seem like Carl loved his Charles just as much as Skylar loved Zoe. Or how good it had felt to hug Carl, even if hug that had been a ruse to get close to him and whisper her encouragement for Carl to leave Rosen’s group ASAP. And as much as Skylar tried to blame boredom (since she had little to do, other than watching Zoe, since moving into Alphaville over a month ago), or that it had just been too long since she had been with a man, the technopath couldn’t quite bring herself to believe that her nearly year-long fascination with Carl Webb could be explained away that easily, especially since Skylar hasn’t felt the kind of intense, desperate longing that Carl brought about in her person since…well, since before Zoe’s father had died in a car accident. A longing that only got stronger when Skylar found out that Carl had recently lied to Dr. Rosen to try to protect her and her daughter’s location. But still, Skylar knew that she shouldn’t be thinking this way about a married man, much less about the naughty dreams she had about Carl over the past few months that had just poped into her traitorous mind, or entertain any wild notions about trying to come onto the Alpha-tracker…

Thankfully, Nina rescued Skylar from her racing thoughts when the mesmerizer let out a nervous (the one Skylar knew Nina only used when she was lying) laugh and another whisper. “I was just joking, Skylar! Obviously, I knew you wouldn’t try to seduce a married man! Besides, shades over there is way too much of a tight pants to do anything dishonorable at all, and I’m sure that he loves his beloved wife, whom he talks about all the time at the office, way too much to…”

“Can we talk about something else, please!?”

Thankfully, Nina heard the edge in her friend’s voice telling her that this was not just a polite requests, and that Skylar might storm off in a huff if she didn’t change the subject. So Nina did so with a forced smile. “Right. How about your tattoos, or lack thereof? I can’t believe you actually got them lazered off!”

Skylar smirked, glad for both the change in subject and the chance to show off, as she wordlessly pulled out a UV light out of the pack of gadgets that she brought everywhere with her and showed Nina the tattoos that she still had, which had been inked onto her arm with invisible ink, before she explained. “This says I’m a rebel…”

The technopath pointed the UV light away, making her tattoos invisible again. “And this says I’m a mom. I had to give up my old…distinctive look to hide from the feds, but I wanted to keep some of my individuality, so I thought this was a good compromise.”

“That’s really cool.” The voice of a third party listener to the woman’s conversation, who had silently walked behind Nina a short while ago, made himself known by speaking.

Nina jumped up a little with a start and playfully smacked Carl’s arm for startling her like that, while Skylar gulped and said. “How long have you been standing there and listening in on our conversation, Carl?”

The technopath shoot a mild glare at Mr. Webb and added. “Eavesdropping is rude, you know?”

Carl shook his head vigorously. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but…I just walked over her about a minute ago, just in time to see you show off your invisible tattoos with the UV light and I wanted to hear your explanation about what they meant to you before interrupting you. Sorry. But like I said, I thought those tattoos looked really neat and I think it’s very impressive you were able to think to do something like that to express yourself and still stay hidden.”

Skylar actually smiled at that while Nina just smirked knowingly as the technopath finally managed to speak after a long moment. “Oh. Thank you, then.”

Finally, after several seconds, Carl coughed and said. “Actually, I wanted to talk to you about something important Skylar. Alone, if you don’t mind…”

Seeing that Nina had that look on her face that suggested she was about to say something sarcastic or laced with innuendo, Carl quickly clarified his words. “You know…as one parent wanting words another.”

Skylar smiled, then frowned, then forced herself to smile again due to Carl’s words choices before she replied to him. “Of course.”

Carl and Skylar took a brief walk to a part of the woods that was far enough away from the picnic area not to be overhead (by anyone except Rachel, anyway), but close enough that the technopath could still watch Zoe. For several seconds, neither of the Alphas said anything, as Carl looked down at the ground and scuffed his hiking boots against the ground repeatedly, while Skylar worried on her bottom lip with her teeth, until the latter finally spoke. “So…first of all, I just wanted to thank you for not telling Dr. Rosen where I am. I know he and Gary still managed to find me, but I appreciate that you weren’t the one that helped him do that,”

Seeing the confused look on Carl’s face, Skylar clarified. “Dr. Rosen told me that you told him you couldn’t find me with your ability and that you suspected that I had created a device that could hide me from you. And I think we both know that’s not true. Not that I didn’t try to make a device like that, but I haven’t succeeded in building such a gadget…well, not one that wouldn’t hamper my Alpha ability, which I really wouldn’t know how to live without…”

Seeing Carl’s smirk, Skylar took a deep breath. “My point is, I’m grateful that you tried to cover for me and didn’t tell Dr. Rosen where I was.”

Carl shrugged. “It’s not a big deal. I promised you that I wouldn’t look for you again unless there was an emergency. I didn’t think there was an emergency, so I didn’t look for you. It’s as simple as that. The only thing a man has in this world is his word, after all.”

Skylar nodded but said. “Be that as it may, I’m grateful. So thank you. And speaking of keeping promises….”

The technopath smiled and pulled a small plastic bag with two clear, thin strips of material, with all kinds of circuits running inside of them, out of her bag. “These for your son. His name is Charles, right?”

Carl just nodded, so Skylar continued talking. “These strips of material can be places on both sides of your sons head, under his ears however they fit him. I’m afraid they probably won’t block everybody’s thoughts from your son’s head completely, but they will still lessen the intensity of those thoughts enough that Charles should be able to ignore them if he wants to. And I just want to say that I am so sorry it took me this long to finish this, but until lately, Zoe and I had been on the run all the time and…”

Carl took the offered devices from Skylar’s hands and smiled before he interrupted the technopath’s words. “No. Don’t apologize. If this does everything you says it will for my son, then you will have helped my son more than over a year of Dr. Rosen’s therapy sessions have. And that would be a miracle I could never repay you for. Thank you so much!”

Skylar’s smile widened. “It was no problem at all. You helped me and my daughter, so I thought it was only far that I helped you and your son.”

Thinking that the device for Charles was all that Carl had wanted to talk to her about, Skylar turned to go back to the picnic tables, until Carl spoke again. “Wait! That wasn’t actually all that I wanted to talk to you about.”

As Skylar turned around with a curious expression on her face, Carl quickly added. “I also wanted to ask you a question. I was wondering…In your opinion, is this…Alphaville a good place to raise an Alpha child? Because it actually looks peaceful, and I was wondering if Charles would like it here.”

Skylar slowly nodded. “Absolutely…Zoe is very happy here because there are other gifted people that don’t judge her for being different. And this is a relatively safe place for Alphas because the government never comes around here and everyone looks out for each other. It gets kind of boring at times for adults, to be honest, but it’s safe!”

“I also think…” Skylar paused for a few seconds before continuing. “That your son would like it here. There aren’t as many people here as there are in the big city, so there would be less…thought pollution, I guess, that would be able to mess with your Charles’ head. And…how old is your son again? Because Zoe is six now, and I know she would enjoy being able to play with someone closer to her own age. Next to her, the youngest person here is 12 and…”

Carl smiled and interrupted Skylar. “My son is 8 years old, and I’m sure he would love to have someone like Zoe to play with but…”

The man with the shades sighed. “I don’t know. It does sound like this may be a good environment to raise Charles in. But…Do you think the people here would let Charlotte live with Charles and me here?”

Seeing the confused look on Skylar’s face, Carl rubbed his forehead and added. “Right. I didn’t tell you. Charlotte is my wife’s name, and like I said before, she’s not an Alpha. So I was just wondering if you think they would let her move here with Charles and me if we decided to…”

Skylar raised her eyebrow and interrupted Carl. “Wait. You’re telling me that your last name is Webb and you married a woman named Charlotte? That you’re married to a woman named Charlotte Webb?”

Seeing that Skylar was now smiling wide and holding her sides, Carl frowned and said. “Yes. A lot of people have made remarks on her name in reference to that book and movie, but I don’t think it’s that funny…”

But when Skylar finally lost control and burst into a fit of laughter, Carl’s frown relented and turned into a smile as he said. “Fine. It is a little funny. I guess. But obviously, her last name wasn’t Webb before we got married. Although…even when she and I were still dating, people would go around calling me ‘Charlotte’s Webb.”

If anything, that information only made Skylar laugh harder, which even made Carl chuckle a little, and the two Alphas were only able to stop laughing when they noticed that several people from the picnic area were now staring at them. After getting her laughter under control, Skylar nodded. “I’m sorry. I’m sure your wife is a wonderful woman. It’s just…you have to admit that’s a funny coincidence.”

Carl continued to smile. “You’re right. On both counts. But back to my question…”

Skylar’s own smile quickly turned into a frown when she remembered Carl’s question and replied to it. “I don’t think they would let your wife live here, Carl, even if you and the son you had with her are both Alpha’s. This place is supposed to be an Alpha’s only sanctuary, and the people here are very strict about that rule. Hell, I had a hard time convincing the people here to let Rosen stay here overnight. I could put in a good word for your wife, if you like, but I don’t think it would carry much weight. Zoe and I have been living her only a little more than a month, after all”

Skylar bit her lip again. Part of her wanted to suggest that Carl and his son should move here without Charlotte, both because she honestly thought Alphaville would be a better environment for a telepathic Alpha than a big city…and for other, more selfish reasons. But the technopath remained silent on the matter instead, knowing she had no right to interfere in the lives of the Webb family. This had to be Carl’s decision.

Carl sighed. “Thanks, but it sounds like that idea was a bust. There is no way that Charles and I would ever live anywhere without Charlotte. She, Charles and I are a family, after all, and family sticks together. Sorry for wasting your time on this subject, Skylar.”

Skylar shrugged, trying to ignore the feeling of her heart sinking to her stomach as her hopes of Carl living near her disappeared. And even thought the technopath told herself that was a very selfish line of thinking, she couldn’t help but feel disappointed as those selfish hopes were dashed. And the female Alpha began to feel even more disappointed as Carl said he would “See her around” and began to walk back to the tables. Therefore, not knowing what to say, but knowing that she didn’t want this conversation, the last conversation she may ever have with a man she had so suddenly developed intense, nonsensical feelings for, to end, Skylar said the first think that poped into her head to keep Carl from walking away. “Say, I was wondering, Carl. What’s the downside to your Alpha ability? Because Dr. Rosen says every Alpha has one, and according to him, mine is that, the way my brain is wired, it’s very easy for me to understand machines, but harder for me to understand human social interaction. I’m not sure if I buy his theory, but I will admit that I sometimes find other people…difficult. So I was just wondering, what’s the downside to your ability? Besides the fact that you can’t look at me without those shades on because I look bright enough to you that it must seem like I’m on fire…”

Carl turned around and after only a second of wearing a confused expression on his face, he began to smirk. “Actually, you look more like a supernova when I don’t have my talent finder ability dialed down. And only one other person’s energy signature stands out to me as much as yours does, even though she isn’t an Alpha…” Given the smile on his face and the wistful tone of Carl’s voice, Skylar guess that the other person was his wife even while Carl continued speaking.

“But it’s easy enough for dial my abilities down, or zone out, enough, to keep that from being a problem.” Carl took of his shades and smiled at Skylar while looking right at her with his emerald eyes in order to prove his point, but then quickly looked away for reasons that had nothing to do with his Alpha ability and everything to do with how looking at Skylar’s eyes made him feel….things he knew he shouldn’t.

Skylar’s own eyes widened as she seemed to recognize that moment for what it was, but both Alpha’s choose to ignore the feeling they both felt when their eyes met as Carl continued speaking while putting his shades back on. “Anyway...since you were kind enough to tell me the downside of your ability, I will tell you mine. But honestly, I would think that’s it would be rather obvious. I mean, my ability is pretty much its own downside….I’m constantly surrounded by people who are way more talented than me, and I know it! So basically, the only thing I’m good at is finding other people who are better than me! I don’t even think I have any real talents of my own, really…”

Skylar shook her head. She understood now. Carl suffered from what Dr. Rosen would probably describe as an inferiority complex as a result of being able to see the talents of others at all times…but not his own. But the technopath knew that Carl was wrong about having no real skills, and Skylar really hoped she could convince him of that. “I know I haven’t known you very long, but I’ll have to call bullshit on that self-assessment, Carl! From what I’ve seen, you are a good father, who cares a lot about his son, a decent person, for letting me and Zoe go before and trying to keep my location secret, a supportive teammate and friend, from what Nina tells me, and you seem like you are very good at talking to people. After all, you and I were able to have this whole conversation without you pissing me off…right up until the moment that you started saying bad things about yourself. And even Nina well tell you that it takes talent to talk to me that long without making me annoyed! You are a pretty cool person, Carl. Not just for your Alpha ability.”

There was a long pause, during which Skylar worried if she had said too much, before Carl nodded his head and said. “Yeah. Charlotte says that too, all the time. That I’m special even without my Alpha ability. I wish I could believe that. Thanks for trying though, Skylar. I…better get back to my team to see where we are sleeping tonight.”

It was only then that Skylar looked back at the picnic tables in time to notice that almost everybody had left and where returning to their cabins, and that Zoe was now playing by herself, before Skylar could act on this information though, Carl quickly spoke. “Oh, by the way. I know you shut down the phone you gave Gary shortly after he tricked you into revealing your location, and it probably serves him right, but….he’s going crazy out here without any electrical or radio signals to follow. Do you think you could turn the Wi-Fi on his phone back on before he loses it completely, please?”

Skylar sighed. “Alright. I’ll see if I can catch up to Gary before he goes to sleep tonight and turn the Wi-Fi back on his phone, but only because you asked nicely, and because I would hate to feel responsible for driving an autistic individual insane.”

Carl nodded. “Thanks. I think he would really appreciate that. I think he likes you, you know? He may even have a small crush on you, based on the way he looked at you the first time he met you in person at that gas station a while back. Just keep that in mind.”

Skylar frowned at the thought that Carl might be trying to deflect whatever feeling he may have for her (that Nina swore he did have) for her by steering her in the direction of Gary, of all people. Still, Skylar tried to keep an angry edge from entering her voice when she honestly said. “Thanks, but…Gary seems like a nice guy and all, but he isn’t remotely my type. If he comes on to me though. I’ll let him down gently.”

Carl just shrugged at that before he spoke and departed back toward the picnic area, where Nina and Rachel where still waiting for him. “Oh, okay then. I guess I’ll see you around then.”

Skylar sighed and spoke to Carl’s retreating form before walking towards Zoe so she could take her little girl to the cabin she shared with her and get her ready for bed. “Yeah. See…you around…”

…. The morning of the next day….

Skylar ran out of the cabin where she had just finished restoring and improving the photic stimulator for Dr. Rosen, and there was currently only one thing on the technopath’s mind as she began darting from place to place around the Alpha compound. She had to find Zoe right now! The brunette Alpha cursed herself over and over for the careless words she had spoken to Dr. Rosen and Rachel about how it was easier for her when she didn’t have Zoe around…words that Zoe herself had overheard before running away with a sad, betrayed look on her face.

So right now, consumed with both guilt and worry, all that Skylar could think about was finding Zoe and apologizing to her daughter for the terrible thing she had said. Skylar was so consumed by her current state of panic, in fact, that the technopath barely noticed Gary Bell, who tried to stop her and ask if he could book a cabin in Alphaville so he could stay here, as she ran right past the transducer Alpha. And as she neared an area in the woods at the edge of the compound, the technopath also very nearly missed seeing Carl Webb, who was just coming back from a short walk in the woods back to Alphaville, until the later party stopped the clearly agitated Skylar with a shout. “Skylar!”

Skylar turned around and sighed with relief when she saw Carl, and before the man in shades could even ask if Skylar was alright or why she was running, the technopath started speaking in a hurried tone. “Carl! Thank god I ran into you! I need your help to find Zoe right now! I said something really stupid and wrong, and she heard it and ran away and now I can’t find her and…”

Carl put his sunglasses away, then put his hand on Skylar’s shoulder to calm her down. “I’ll help you find her. Try not to panic. Zoe is going to be okay, all right?!”

Skylar looked at Carl’s mesmerizing emerald eyes and just nodded, while she mentally nodded that the combination of the slightly older man’s words, his hand on her shoulder (the technopath knew she would be complaining to, if not outright hitting, most people if they touched her that way, but it felt kind of nice when Carl touched her) and Carl’s green eyes looking at her hazel ones did make her feel…not quite calm, but certainly better, and less panicked, then she had a few moments ago. But then, as if noticing for the first time that he was touching Skylar’s bare skin, Carl slowly withdrew his hand away from the technopath and looked away from her while Skylar tried not to be too disappointed that the moment, whatever it was, between her and Carl had passed before the green eyed man spoke again and began walking deeper into the woods and the technopath followed him. “It feels like Zoe went this way…”

Skylar followed Carl for over a minute, noting that the man seemed more at ease in nature, with his hiking boots on, than she did in her sneakers, before she finally found the nerve to speak. “What’s taking so long?! Do you know where my daughter is or…”

Carl rolled his eyes and interrupted the technopath as both Alpha’s kept walking. “It’s not that simple. I can sense approximately where Zoe is, get in the ballpark, but…there are so many Alpha signatures around her that it’s difficult for me to get an exact location of your daughter right now. But I can tell you that Zoe was definitely on this trail a few minutes ago, and she is still somewhere nearby…”

Skylar nodded. “Sorry for snapping at you, Carl. I know you are trying to help. I guess I’m just really nervous that something will happen to Zoe while we are looking for her and…. I still feel really guilty about what my daughter overheard me say to Dr. Rosen, that things were easier for me when I didn’t have Zoe around! I mean, how could I say something like that?! What kind of mother says something like that about their own child?!”

After a few seconds, Carl just shrugged. “It probably wasn’t the most prudent thing for you to say, but it doesn’t mean that you weren’t right. Your life was probably easier to manage when Zoe wasn’t in it…”

Skylar glared at Carl. “How could you say something like that?! I love my daughter and…”

The male Alpha cut Skylar off. “You didn’t let me finish. I said things might have been easier for you when you didn’t have Zoe. Easier. Not better. My life was easier when I didn’t have a psychically sensitive Alpha child to raise…but I wouldn’t trade Charles, or one moment I’ve spent with my son, for anything, much less an ‘easier’ existence. That’s why I tell him I love him every day. And I’m sure you feel the same way about Zoe. That you wouldn’t trade your daughter for anything. You should tell her that when you see her again.”

Skylar nodded. “I will do that. And that…actually makes a lot of sense. Zoe is the most important person in the world to me, and I love my daughter with everything I have. I guess I just don’t tell her than nearly often enough. But I will start doing that from now on….”

Skylar sighed. “I wish I was as good at this parenting stuff as you are. I’m sure you would never have lost track of Charles, for one thing…”

Carl laughed. “Please! I don’t have parenting even remotely figured out, and a lot of what I’ve learned about being a good dad has come from trial and error! I’ve made a lot of parenting mistakes with Charles! And I actually did lose him in a mall once, although that only lasted for about a minute because I was able to find my son quickly using my ability, but still…I’m still learning how to be a good parent one day at a time, just like you are! The key is, when you make a mistake, you learn from it, and don’t do it again! If you do that, and try to watch out for Zoe as best as you can, I’m sure your daughter will always think of you as a great mom! Besides, I’ve had it easy, compared to you. I was twenty when my son was born. I’m guessing you were in your late teens when you had Zoe?”

Skylar laughed. “Please! I’m not that young! I was 20 as well when I had Zoe.” But the smile on the technopath’s face gave away that she was flattered, rather than insulted, that Carl had believed her to be younger than she was.

Carl looked down and blushed, but his voice remained even as he spoke “My mistake. But still, I haven’t had to raise my child alone, as I heard you say that you have had to do for all of Zoe’s life. I had Charles’ mom, my wife Charlotte, helping me the whole time, while you’ve had to be a single parent to a second generation Alpha for six years! That has got to be tough, and quite frankly, I admire you for doing it. Not matter what you might think, from what little I’ve seen of Zoe and her interactions with you, your daughter really loves you, and I think you are doing an amazing job at raising her by yourself. Heaven knows I would be completely lost if I didn’t have Charlotte helping me raise Charles!”

Skylar smiled, but before she could reply that she thought that Carl was probably selling his own parenting abilities short, she saw something that almost mad her heart stop, Zoe’s stuffed animal, the one she never went anywhere without, was lying on the ground in a ditch!”

The technopath turned to Carl with a look of pure terror on her face. “Carl, I think something might have happened to Zoe…”

Carl held his hand up. “I know. And what’s more there are three Alpha’s closing in around us.”

Skylar’s eyes widened. “What?!”

The green-eyed Alpha frowned. “I think we are about to be ambushed!"

Sure enough, within seconds, three men, one of whom was holding a knife and spinning it around in his hands, walked out of the woods and stood around Carl and Skylar, effectively blocking all routes of escape for the two Alphas. Carl took on an aggressive fighting stance, but Skylar put her hand on Carl’s shoulder and shook her head, and the green-eyed man took on a more relaxed stance while still glaring at his and Skylar’s pursuer’s before saying. “I’m guessing you three are Stanton Parish’s men, right? What do you want?!”

One of the men, who Carl remembered had the last name Scipio, laughed. “From you, little G-man? Nothing! We didn’t know that Miss Adams would even come looking for little Zoe with a bodyguard, not that it would do any good, but we decided to bring Bruiser here…” Mr. Scipio pointed to a tall, bald, broad shouldered Alpha, who just grunted in reply, before the shorter man continued speaking. “When we saw you were with Skylar, in case you gave us any trouble! But we are here…” the man pointed to Skylar. “For you. Well, for the device you were working on.”

Skylar shook her head. “It’s not mine to give.”

Scipio chuckled again while looking at Carl. “It doesn’t belong to you government types, either, does it?! You stole it! But…” The man turned back to Skylar. “You are going to get it back for me. Otherwise something real bad is going to happen to both your daughter and your bodyguard here!”

….Sometime later…

Skylar walked into the barn carrying the photic stimulator in her hands, sparing a worried look at Carl Webb, whose hands and feet were currently tied to a chair near the middle of the small building, before she turned to Mr. Scipio. “Untie that man and tell me where my daughter is right now!”

Scipio laughed. “That’s not how this works…”

But Skylar interrupted the Parish sympathizer as she pulled a high tech stun gun out of her pocket and growled. “90,000 volts! That’s how this works! Now give me back Carl and my daughter!”

Right about that time, Dr. Rosen showed up and began to speak to Skylar. “Skylar, please don’t give Mr. Scipio that device! He works for Stanton Parish…”

Carl ignored the rest of the short conversation between Dr. Rosen, Skylar and Scipio while he focused on untying his bonds, a trick he had learned when he was a boy scout and the rest of his troop had tied him to a chair as a prank several times, since Scipio’s attention was currently not on him. Unfortunately, by the time that Carl was able to get free, Scipio was struggling with Skylar to get the stun-gun device and when Carl was finally able to pull the .32 pistol (which Bill had given him for his birthday last year and personally taught Carl how to use at a firing range) out of one of his boots, which Scipio and his men hadn’t even bothered to search, in order to threaten Scipio into submission, the Parish sympathizer was burning Skylar’s skin with his Alpha ability!

As Skylar screamed in pain and dropped her stun-gun, something snapped inside of Carl.

Before the tracker Alpha could even register what he was doing, while a red haze settled before his eyes as every other sense but his eyesight became dull, Carl found himself automatically aiming and firing his gun several times, as he had done many time before at the firing range, while barely hearing the loud BANG! sounds coming from his gun. But this time, Carl realized with horror after the fact, he had not been shooting at lifeless targets, and the tracker Alpha could only gasp as his now empty gun and Scipio’s lifeless body dropped to the ground simultaneously, while the Parish sympathizer’s head and torso, which were now riddled with bullet wounds, bleed out profusely. Carl started to shake then, and there were a few tears in his eyes when Dr. Rosen and Skylar Adams looked at Carl with shocked looks on their faces. “What have I done!? I didn’t mean to kill him! I swear it! I just saw what he was doing and…” Carl was hyperventilating now “I just wanted to stop him! I didn’t even think about it and…Oh my god! I’ve never killed anybody before!  I don’t like this feeling! ”

Carl was actually sobbing now as he continued his rant. “I’m never killing again!”

Skylar put a comforting hand on Carl’s right shoulder, and the woman’s touch instantly calmed Carl down as the man unconsciously leaned towards Skylar’s hand while the technopath dried Carl’s tears and began speaking to the traumatized Alpha as Dr. Rosen simply picked up Carl’s gun and looked on in interest at the way that Carl and Skylar responded to each other. “Hey. I believe you. Okay? I believe that you didn’t mean it. I know you are a good person and that you do not have the heart of a killer. But you need to calm down now, okay? I need you to help me find my daughter!”

Carl just nodded and dried the last of his tears out of his eyes as he, Skylar (who was once again holding the photic stimulator in her hands), and Dr. Rosen broke out into a run as soon as they left the barn to get to the van and continue to search for Zoe using Carl and Rachel’s alpha abilities…

…Some time later…

After Dr. Rosen’s team, sans, Nina, Gary and Rachel, stormed the compound and took out the Alphas who had been assigned to guard Zoe, Bill started getting Cameron’s wounds patched up and Skylar quickly ran up to Zoe and hugged her while speaking to her daughter as tears of happiness streamed down her face. “I’m so glad I found you! I’m sorry for what I said, Digit! I should never have said that! I love you so much so don’t go running away from mommy again, okay?!”

As this scene was unfolding, and everyone else on his team was distracted, Carl walked out into the woods by himself as Skylar continued talking to her daughter and the rest of Dr. Rosen’s team huddled together to talk about what their next move against Parish should be. Finally, Carl sat down on a large, smooth rock about half a mile away from the house where the team had rescued Zoe, and the man tried to focus his senses on the sounds of animal noises and leaves falling and trees swaying in the breeze, on anything but his own tumultuous thoughts and feelings at that moment. But the peace that being alone in nature had given when he was a child alluded him now, and Carl couldn’t help but think about the lifeless look in Scipio’s eyes after he had killed the pyro Alpha.

After about half an hour of dwelling on the guilt he felt for what he had done, however, Carl saw and felt two familiar Alpha presences nearby, and five minutes later. Skylar, with her stun-gun in her hand, and Zoe found the man in shades sitting on his rock with his back to the technopath, who began speaking to the tracker Alpha. “Carl?”

When Carl didn’t respond to Skylar’s voice after several seconds, Skylar tried again. “Carl, you need to come with me. We, and by we, I mean me, Zoe, and everyone on Rosen’s team, have been looking for you for a while. Dr. Rosen was worried…I was worried, that you had gotten lost in the chaos. Alphaville is gone now. Claude shut it down and everybody is scattering to the four winds now that the war between the U.S. government and Parish’s people has come here. Carl. Please say something!”

Skylar turned back towards her daughter, who was playing a few yards away. “Digit! Don’t wander off too far while mommy is talking to her friend, okay?”

Carl smiled and began speaking when Skylar turned back in his direction. “You called me your friend. That’s new. I thought the only person in Rosen’s group you trusted that much was Nina. And by the way, don’t worry about your daughter. I can sense exactly where she is at all times now that most of the Alphas that were in the area have left. I know about the scattering already. And I know that Rosen has been looking for me. I can feel my teammates all around me and see their Alpha signatures. But I wasn’t ready to be found yet. Not until you got here about a minute ago. Believe me, Skylar. You wouldn’t have found me if I didn’t want you to.”

The technopath just nodded, unsure about what to respond to first, until she simply said. “You earned my trust and friendship when you helped me find my daughter and…when you defended me from Scipio…”

When Carl flinched at the mention of Scipio, Skylar tried to change the subject. “But we really should go now, Carl. Everybody is worried about you after you just wandered off. Especially Rachel…”

Carl shook his head and interrupted the hazel-eyed Alpha. “In a minute”

The man took off his shades, allowing Skylar to see his green eyes, which had a far-away look to them now. “All people have energy signatures….essences, souls, whatever you want to call them, I call them lights. Do you know that, Skylar? Most people can’t see them, but I can. And I feel them. Anyway, every living human on this planet has lights coming out of them. Some are brighter than others to me, but everyone, whether they are Alpha or not, young or old, poor or rich, fat or thin, white, black, any race really…everyone has them. Lights of talent, and power, and personality, whether they are good or bad… and they are all amazing to behold. I can’t even describe how amazing they are.”

Carl sighed. “Even Scipio had lights. But after I pulled the trigger, his lights all went out, one by one. I watched it happen. I felt it happen. I made it happen…”

Carl didn’t seem to be able to complete that sentence, and Skylar’s heart broke at the despondent look that was in the green eyed man’s eyes as he mourned the death of his enemy, which he had caused. Finally, Skylar found her voice enough to speak. “I’m sorry, Carl. I’m sure that was hard for you to experience. But I’m also sure that you were only doing what you thought was right when you killed Scipio. You were protecting me. Scipio might have killed me if you hadn’t shot him, after all.”

Carl shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe he would have killed you, and Dr. Rosen, and me. Or maybe he wouldn’t have. And maybe I killed Scipio to protect us all, and maybe I did it because I was just mad at him for hurting someone I care…someone I consider a friend.”

Skylar let Carl’s verbal slip go as the green-eyed man kept speaking. “I guess we’ll never know now. But a man is dead because of me. And I have to live with that.”

Carl got of the rock he was sitting on and stood up after a long moment of silence. “I guess it’s time for me to go back to the group now.”

Skylar nodded, not knowing what else to say, and called to her daughter. “Digit! Come on, it’s time for us to go!”

Zoe quickly climbed down from the tree she had been climbing on and ran to her mommy before giving Skylar a hug. The little girl then turned towards Carl, who she had seen before, but not formally met, as she, Skylar and Carl all started walking back to Dr. Rosen’s van. “You’re mommy’s friend, right? What’s your name? My name is Zoe!”

Carl smiled and held his hand out for Zoe to shake. “Yes I am a friend of your mom. And it’s a pleasure to meet you, Zoe! My name is Carl!”

After the little girl shook the man’s hand enthusiastically, Zoe turned towards her mom and said. “I like Carl! He seems nice!”

Carl blushed slightly when Skylar smiled at her daughter and said. “I like him too, Digit!”

Over a minute later, Carl turned to Zoe and said. “I was wondering, Zoe. Do you like puzzle books? Because there are a few Mensa level ones that I have seen in book stores that I think you might find interesting….”

A little while later…

Skylar and Zoe stood outside of Dr. Rosen’s van, which had the doctor’s entire team inside, while Carl (who was now wearing his shades again), Nina and Rachel looked at the mother and daughter Alphas through the van’s open windows. Nina frowned at Skylar. “Are you sure about this? You and Zoe, going off on your own again?”

Skylar nodded. “I’m sure. This is the only way Zoe will be safe.”

Carl frowned and said. “I’m not so sure about that. You two could come with us, and we could all help you look out for Zoe. I could even arrange some play-dates between Charles and Zoe, if you want.”

Skylar’s frown deepened. As tempted as she was by Carl’s offer. She knew she had to decline. Zoe would never be safe around Rosen’s group. Today’s events had been proof enough of that. “I’m sorry, Carl. Dr. Rosen gave me a similar sales pitch about joining your team, but I can’t. Today’s events have shown me that my child isn’t safe around Dr. Rosen. So Zoe and I will be striking out on our own again. But before we go…”

Skylar walked closer to the van and whispered in Carl’s ear. “Do you still have the device I gave you for Charles?”

Carl just nodded before Skylar continued speaking. “Good. That means you don’t need Dr. Rosen to help your child any more. Word of advice? Get as far away from that man as you can, as soon as you can, before someone in your family gets hurt. Oh, and take these.” Skylar handed the tracker Alpha a small plastic case.” They’ll block out Nina’s mesmerizing abilities without you having to wear shades all the time like some kind of weirdo. And I can leave you messages on them if I need to. Goodbye, Carl.” Skylar leaned closer to Carl, as if she was about to kiss the man on the cheek, but the technopath evidently thought better of it as she pulled away from Carl with a sad smile on her face before She and Zoe walked away towards Skylar’s vehicle just before the van drove off.

Everyone in the van, except for Bill, who was driving, was looking at Carl now and Dr. Rosen sighed as he looked towards the tracker Alpha. “Carl, would you mind telling us what Miss Adams just told you, or what she just gave you?”

Carl just smiled, quickly looked at the anything but ordinary contact lenses in the case Skylar had just given him, without letting anybody else see the contents of the small plastic case, looked right at Dr. Rosen and said. “Nothing important on both counts, Dr. Rosen. Nothing important at all.”

…..Later that night…

Bill Harken confronted Dr. Lee Rosen several hours after everyone else on the team went home. “So, I’m guessing that you are going to tell the FBI that the photic stimulator was destroyed by Scipio when he was trying to retrieve it from Miss Adams?”

Lee smirked and said. “It was a real tragedy.”

Bill shook his head and replied. “You know one of these days all of this crap is going to come back and bite you in the ass right?”

When Dr. Rosen didn’t say anything for several seconds, Bill spoke again. “Stanton Parish knew we were going to be out there today.”

Lee sighed and said. “I know. Somebody has been feeding him information about our team. Someone close to us. I want you to do in-house investigation, Bill. On anyone who works with us, FBI, NSA, DCIS…everyone.”

Bill nodded. “I’ll bring Gary and Hicks up to speed…”

Lee interrupted the black man. “No. I want you to keep this investigation just between us.”

Bill sighed, then said. “What about Carl? He killed Scipio, so I sincerely doubt that he’s working for Parish. And I could really use his expertise to track the movements of the rest of the team….”

Lee shook his head and said. “No. You’re right about one thing. Carl is definitely not the mole. But…I’m not sure how long we can count on him being motivated to stay with this team and help us. I believe Miss Adams has been a bigger influence on Mr. Webb’s behavior than I would like as of late, and that may cause Carl to do something foolish…like trying to leave the team.”

Bill raised one of his eyebrows and replied. “I know that I like to joke that Carl is attracted to Skylar…probably more than a married man has any right to be, but if you are really suggesting that the most full-on family man in our group would up and run out on his wife and kid to pursue her, I really don’t think you know the man as well as I do.”

Lee shook his head and spoke again. “I don’t think anything of the sort. In fact, of all the people that I have ever met, he is one of the least psychologically capable of cheating on his wife or abandoning his children. No, I believe Miss Adams influence on Carl is a lot more subtle than that. Gary told me that, while he and Skylar were still talking, she told him to relay messages to Carl about a device she was building for Charles. A device that would allow Charles to control his abilities without any negative side effects…thus, negating any need for me to help Charles manage his abilities. And I think we both know Carl was lying to us today when he said that Skylar didn’t give him anything, or say anything important earlier this afternoon.”

Bill nodded and said. “I see. So you think Skylar gave Carl this device for Charles…and maybe even told Mr. Webb that he should stop working with you now that his son may not need your help to manage his telepathic ability? And you think Carl might actually try to leave the team because of that?”

“Yes.” Dr. Rosen confirmed. “That state of affairs is exactly what I think…what I fear…may be the case. Mr. Webb has always made clear that, while he cares for all humans, Alpha or otherwise, his primary concern will always be for his own family, and the primary reason he is working with us is because I am helping his son manage his Alpha ability. If he no longer thinks he needs me for that purpose?”

Dr. Rosen shrugged. “Who knows what he might do? But I think you and I both know, Bill, that the government would never let Carl just walk away from the team. He’s one of our most vital assets to monitor and track down Alpha threats, and I’m afraid the FBI or NSA may try something drastic, like locking Mr. Webb in Binghamton, in order to keep him under control and out of enemy hands. And I don’t think either of us wants that to happen to Carl. So…I will talk with Mr. Webb myself. Remind him why what we are doing…trying to stop Parish, is so important for the future of the human race. Try to get Carl to stay with DCIS of his own free will.”

Bill nodded, then hesitated several seconds before he asked Lee a question. “And if Carl doesn’t choose to stay with us? You know you can’t make Nina push him. He’s far too careful to let that happen.”

Dr. Rosen sighed and said. “I don’t know. We’ll confront that problem if and when we come to it. In the meantime, I want you to monitor Carl…along with everyone else who has worked with us in the last 6 months. Watch Carl and find our mole. And when you find the mole, report his or her identity to me, and then I will decide what to do with them.”

Bill had a stoic expression on his face as he replied. “Consider it done.”

Chapter Text

Carl sighed and got up from his chair to leave his office. He had finally made a decision. He needed to do this.

                As the man with the Daniel Cremieux jeans, Polo shirt and specialized contact lenses headed towards Nina’s office, he thought over the last six months. The last half-year had been a hard one for everyone in DCIS. Gary was still mourning the loss of Anna (as evidenced by the screams Carl had heard when he had gone to work in the early hours of the morning, to catch up on paperwork one time). Both Dr. Lee Rosen and Cameron Hicks were still reeling from the relatively recent news that Danielle Rosen who had even more recently been killed by Stanton Parish for being a mole for the government, had been the traitor in their organization, something that the rest of the team had only been made privy to about a week ago. Furthermore, pretty much everyone on the team was still shaken by the things Nina had done when she went on a binder with her abilities as she tried to run away from Dr. Rosen with her childhood friend, Tommy. That little episode hadn’t ended well for anyone, and although every member of Lee’s group felt betrayed and angered by Nina’s actions that day (especially Rachel, who Nina had forced to kiss her in order to incapacitate the Alpha with synesthesia abilities), it was Nina herself who had suffered the most from the fallout of that day’s events, which had occurred about a month ago. Nina had pretty much been the pariah of the group since then, despite the fact that Dr. Rosen had asked his team not to treat the mesmerizer any differently than before, and Carl was the only person in the DCIS office that still made small talk with Nina on occasion. Not that the green-eyed Alpha (who had been the only member of the group, other than Gary, that Nina hadn’t managed to push that day, due to the special contacts Skylar had given him) hadn’t been angry at Nina at the time. He had just forgiven the pusher for what she had done that day long before everyone else had been prepared to, a fact some of the other members of the group, including Cameron and Rachel, gave Carl hell for, even though the tracker Alpha had his own reasons for forgiving Nina so fast.

                Carl’s personal suffering was of a different kind than Nina’s, or any other member of DCIS, for that matter. Other than the fact that Dr. Rosen had basically told Carl that he had no choice but to stay with DCIS if he didn’t want the NSA to hunt him down, his other problem had a name, and that name was Skylar Adams. In short, since the events at Alphaville, Carl hadn’t been able to get the beautiful, hazel-eyed Alpha out of his head. He couldn’t forget the way that she had looked at him from her picnic table. Couldn’t forget that the brunette had given him the device that had increased Charles’ control over his abilities to a remarkable level and almost eliminated the downside to his son’s ability. Or how she had tried to convince Carl that he was somehow special, apart from her Alpha ability. Or how Skylar was trying so hard to be a good mom to Zoe, despite the difficulties that the technopath had with human social interaction. Or a thousand other things about Skylar that Carl couldn’t get out of his head.

                But most of all, the knowledge that Carl cared about Skylar enough that he had killed for her, that a person who had been alive six months ago was now dead because he had killed that individual in order to protect Skylar from harm, weighed heavily on Carl’s heart and mind. For all of these reasons, as well as the fact that both Carl and Nina were worried because Skylar hadn’t contacted them at all in the last six months, Skylar had been on his mind a lot lately.

                To his credit, Carl didn’t usually think of Skylar when he was at home with his wife and child. Spending time with the two people that mattered most in the world to him, his blonde-haired, green-eyed son, and his voluptuous blonde-haired, blue-eyed wife, who, between crafting her sculptures and her love for Carl and Charles, was one of the most alive people that Carl had ever known, made Carl forget all of his troubles temporarily. In short, when he was spending time with Charles or Charlotte, his thoughts were only on them (expect when visons of Skylar appeared in his dreams, which happened regularly now), But at work, when Nina mentioned how worried she was about Skylar (which also happened regularly), or when Rosen mentioned how much help the technopath could provide the team while they were going against Stanton Parish, or for no reason at all, Carl would think of Skylar, and how he knew he cared about the athletic, brunette Alpha more than he should.

                Whenever these daydreaming sessions happened, it would sometimes take hours for Carl to get his thoughts away from Skylar. Although Carl didn’t let his (sometimes impure) thoughts about the technopath keep him from getting his work done, the other members of Dr. Rosen’s team had noticed that something was going on with Carl, and Dr. Rosen had even pointed out in one of Mr. Webb’s therapy sessions that Carl seemed distracted lately, an observation that Carl had refused to comment on. The point, Carl knew, was that he could not let this go on. Could not let himself care about, perhaps even love, Skylar Adams so much that his thoughts dwelled on the technopath for at least a couple hours every workday. The tracker Alpha told himself it wasn’t decent for a married man to feel this strongly about a woman that wasn’t his wife.

                It had to end.

                And that decision weighed on Mr. Webb’s mind as he entered Nina’s cramped office without a word and sat on Gary’s bed, which hadn’t been moved since Nina returned to the team, because Gary hadn’t found a new place to live yet. The mesmerizer turned around from the chair in front of her desk to look at Carl with a raised eyebrow and said. “You know, Carl, I’m glad you are still talking to me and all, but I would appreciate it if you would at least knock before…”

                Carl interrupted Nina while taking Skylar’s contacts out of his eyes. “I need you to push me, Nina.”

                Nina’s expression was unreadable as she looked at Carl and replied. “I know you aren’t joking, since you took off the contacts Skylar gave you, but…I really can’t imagine why you would ask me to do something like that. You have always been so paranoid, a justified paranoia, I will grant you, as recent events have shown, about the possibility of me pushing you. Besides, you know I’m not allowed to push people anymore…”

                Carl shook his head and gave his rebuttal. “For personal gain, no. But I’m asking you to do this. Just like Dr. Rosen has asked you push other people for his own agenda. So please, if not as part of my team, then as my friend, I’m asking you to push me. We are friends, aren’t we, Nina?”

 Nina sighed. “Of course we are, Carl. Fine, tell me why you want me to push you, and I’ll consider it.”

Carl’s eyes shifted from side to side for several seconds before he finally looked down at the floor, as far away from Nina’s gaze as he could and said. “I need you to force me not to have…feelings for Skylar Adams anymore.”

   Nina smirked. “So Bill and I were right about you being sweet on a certain tech expert, huh? I guess I win the office pool concerning when you would finally admit that fact to someone out lou…”

                Carl glared at Nina. “This isn’t funny, Nina. I’ve been having…inappropriate thoughts and feelings about Skylar for the past few months…feelings a married man really shouldn’t have. I love my wife, Nina, and I know I shouldn’t be thinking this way about another woman and I…I just want it to stop. I know this is awkward, me admitting that I have feelings for your friend and that I want them erased but…”

                Nina laughed. “Don’t worry, Carl. With some of the things I’ve seen and experienced in my life, one of my friends crushing on another barely hits two out ten on the weird scale for me. If anything, your confession just lets me know you have good taste in women. I should know, bexause Skylar and I were...together a few times, when we still spending time together years ago and…”

                Carl help up his hand while mentally trying to block out all the naughty, tantalizing thoughts about Nina and Skylar being naked and together that Nina’s words were making him visualize. “Stop. I don’t want to know. I’m not judging…either of you for whatever you and Skylar may have done together in the past, but that’s your personal business that I would rather not know about. And it’s beside the point of this discussion. I just want my feelings for her to go away.”

                Nina shook her head. “That’s not how my pushing ability works, Carl. You know that better than anyone. The suggestions I put in people’s minds are temporary, so even if I did what you asked, your feelings for Skylar would return within a few hours…”

                Carl sighed. “I know that, Nina. I just thought that, if you used your pushing ability on me two or three times every work day for a couple of months, that eventually the suggestion might sink in and my feelings for Skylar might go away permanently. So I would appreciate it if you would stop making any more innuendos or jokes at my expense and push my feelings for Skylar away. Please.”

                Nina frowned. “And what, exactly, is so wrong with you have feelings for Skylar, Carl? She’s a good person, a good mom, and a good friend, on top of being beautiful and intelligent. Who could blame a guy for liking a woman like that?”

                Carl tried to open his mouth to protest Nina’s words, but the mesmerizer would have none of it as she continued to speak. “You’re a good man too, Carl. Whether you believe that or not. Everyone in this office know that you love your wife and kid, alright? Everyone who knows you knows you wouldn’t cheat on Charlotte. Ever. It’s not like you are having an affair, Carl. You are feeling way too much guilt over nothing.”

                The green-eyed man shook his head. “Please. My feelings for Skylar are a distraction and…”

                Nina glared mildly at Carl as she spoke. “I’m going to do you a favor and not tell Skylar you said that the next time I hear from her. You are a red blooded male and Skylar is an attractive woman. It’s perfectly natural for you to have fantasies about her. There is nothing wrong with them. And because there is nothing actually wrong with you…I’m not going to push you, Carl. I’m sorry.”

                Carl glared at Nina for a long moment. “So…you are willing to push people for your own benefit. Willing to push when Dr. Rosen tell you to. But you won’t push your friend when he asks you to as a favor. Good to know.”

                Carl rolled his eyes as he left the room and said in a sarcastic tone. “You’re a real great friend, Nina. So glad we had this talk.”

                Carl left Nina’ office and closed the door before the mesmerizer could reply. The truth was, the tracker Alpha already felt horrible about how he had treated Nina just a moment ago, but he was still too angry at Nina’s refusal to help him to apologize. Which means that he was already on edge when Cameron Hicks walked up to Carl from his office, stared right into Carl’s eyes, and said. “You’re still great pals with Nina, I see. Just dropping by to talk to her, like you’re an old friend just wanting to chat. How could you forgive her so fast for what she did to us? Why are you so easy on her?”

                Carl glared at Hicks and replied. “I’ll answer that when you can answer my question. Why were you so easy on Danielle, Cameron? She intentionally betrayed our entire team and potentially endangered all of our lives. All of our family’s lives. I understand Dr. Rosen forgiving her and trying to make a deal with the Feds on her behalf. He’s her father. Protecting children is what fathers do. We both know that. But how did you forgive Danielle for what she’s done?!”

                Cameron sucked in a long breath, obviously trying not to lose his temper. “Because she was my girlfriend and I love her. Loved her”

                Carl was barely able to resist telling Cameron that of course Hicks loved Danielle. She loved him, after all, and once Cameron had allowed Dr. Rosen’s daughter to touch him, her empathic touch ability had insured that Cameron would feel the same way about her. And even thought Carl knew Danielle hadn’t been able to help using her ability when she touched people, he still couldn’t comprehend how Cameron didn’t realize that he had allowed himself to be dominated in his relationship with Danielle much more often than he had in his short lived relationship with Nina, during which the mesmerizer had accidentally pushed Cameron only once. The sad, angry look In Cameron’s eyes stopped Carl, while simultaneously letting the tracker know he had gone too far with his words already.

                Finally, after several seconds, Carl looked down at the ground and said. “Okay. I’m sorry. I crossed a line by asking that question and I…I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead like that. I’ve just been really on edge lately and…I’m just really sorry.”

                Cameron shook his head. “We’ve all been on edge, Carl. And you shouldn’t have said that, but because you are my teammate, I’m willing to forget you did. Once. You understand?”

                Carl nodded before Hicks continued speaking. “So, your turn. Why are you so easy on Nina?”

                Carl sighed while rubbing his right temple. “Well, for one thing, she never pushed me, so I guess I never felt as violated by Nina as most of you have but…there’s more to it than that. It’s like Dr. Rosen told me the day he introduced me to the team, Nina’s ability is also her addiction, like your…difficulties with alcohol. It’s extremely difficult for her not to use her pushing ability. That’s why I forgive her when she messes up and misuses it occasionally.”

                Cameron shook his head. “Occasionally? That’s a laugh! She used to misuse her ability all of the time. And you know, I’m not sure I buy what you are saying. I’m not sure you can compare Nina’s ability to alcoholism…”

                Carl raised an eyebrow. “You’re right of course. Because you weren’t born with a bottomless beer in your hand that you can never let go of. Nor were you ever told that you could sip from it…but only when your handler said that you could. That’s the kind of situation that Nina is in most days because of her ability and her place on this team which requires her to use that ability on some occasions, but not others. If that isn’t tough, I don’t know what is.”

                Cameron scratched the side of his face and looked down. “Oh. I…I guess I never thought of it like that. That makes sense…”

                Carl nodded. “Right. And recently, when this team disintegrated for a while when Dr. Rosen…left, and then Rachel moved out of Nina’s apartment. And you ended your relationship with her…” The tracker held up his hand to stop the objection that was already on Cameron’s lips. “And I know you had your reasons for doing that. I’m not judging. But when those things happened, Nina’s entire support system fell away. And we…this team, still hasn’t recovered from the fallout of Dr. Rosen’s stunt. I should know. My wife and I have had to homeschool Charles since Dr. Rosen outed the existence of Alphas to the world, after one of his classmates pegged him as an alpha and began ostracizing him for being different. The point is, Nina’s support system was unstable when she went on a binder with her abilities recently. And it is even more so now that most people on this team don’t even want to talk to her most of the time. But Dr. Rosen still insists on making Nina use her gift in his crusade against Stanton Parish. And I know that both you and Dr. Rosen have cause to hate that Alpha, probably more than I can imagine, but…using Nina like this?”

                Carl shook his head and tried to ignore the guilty voice in his head telling he had just tried to use Nina the exact same way as he continued speaking. “I don’t think it’s going to end well for her…especially if she doesn’t have any friends to lean on for support. But that’s just my opinion.”

                Hicks had a thoughtful expression on his face as Carl, only now remembering they were still off, put his contacts back on….Only to find two words now swimming right at the bottom of his field of vision in red. Two words, blinking over and over, which Carl knew couldn’t have been there half an hour ago: HELP. US.

                Cameron looked at Carl and sighed while Carl was still taking in the implication of this message, and Hicks started to speak. “Look, I’m sorry for giving you a hard time for spending time with Nina…”

                But Carl quickly interrupted the other Alpha. “Hicks, you’re a good man, and a fine soldier, but I need you to shut up right now.”

                Before Hicks could reply to those words, Carl had already run over to Dr. Rosen’s office and opened the door, before the tracker Alpha shouted. “Skylar and Zoe are in trouble! I know you’ve been looking for them, and I know where they are, but we all need to go get them right now!”


 

…..Sometime later….

                Carl fidgeted with his two hands while he waited in the van, alongside Nina, Rachel and Gary, outside the building were Skylar was being held captive by a group of Alphas that Carl could only presume were Stanton Parish’s men. The group in the van was just waiting for Bill, Cameron and Kat to give the all clear signal indicating they had dealt with all of the hostiles and that it was okay for them to go to see Skylar and Zoe. Noticing that the altercation was taking longer than he hoped, and that no one inside the building was dying yet, Carl decided to break the tense silence by turning to Nina and saying. “I’m sorry, for what I said earlier. You’re a good friend, Nina. I’ve just been really on edge ever since Dr. Rosen took me aside six months ago and told me that I could never leave this team, even if I wanted to, If I didn’t want the NSA to come for me and take me and Charles to Binghamton. But I shouldn’t have taken that out on you. I’m sorry.”

                Nina sighed. “It’s okay, Carl. I understand how hard it is to not feel in control of your own life. Given my abilities, I guess that’s ironic, but, whatever. It’s okay. You and everyone else on this team has every right to hate me for some of the things I’ve done recently, anyway. And you’re the only one that doesn’t hate me. Thank you.”

                Carl just nodded at that, but Gary actually stopped moving his hand in the air and looking at electrical signals for several seconds to look at Nina with a frown on his face. “I don’t hate you, Nina. It was bad that you did some of the things you did, and I’m still mad because you hurt our friends. And my mom says friends shouldn’t hurt friends, but…I don’t hate you.”

                Gary then went back to waving his hand in the air and tracing invisible signals only he could see, but Nina and Gary’s words stirred something inside Rachel, who spoke to Nina next with just enough moisture in her eyes to make them misty. “I…I don’t hate you either, Nina. What you did to me in that club…that was a huge betrayal of our friendship and my trust that hurt me both physically and emotionally. But….you have been there for me so many times over the years, helping me manage my parents, even to the point of encouraging me to speak up to my dad to save his life when I sensed he had cancer, letting me live with you for a while…For the longest time, you were like the cool, sometimes reckless, big sister that I wished I had along with my perfect biological one. And even though you hurt me…I still care about you and…I hope we can be friends again soon. I think I just need some time”

                Nina smiled, even as several tears came out of her eyes. “I understand. Thank you, both of you, for telling me that. I would hug both of you, but…I know neither one of you would appreciate it. So I won’t”

                Gary nodded as he continued chasing signals with his hands. “Good. Only my mom is allowed to hug me. I let Anna hug me a couple times but she’s dead now…”

                There was a troubled look on Gary’s face for several seconds, but it quickly vanished after the transducer said. “So now, only my mom can hug me.”

                Everyone else in the vans smiled then, despite Gary’s dark words, and the mood in the vehicle was just a little bit lighter by the time Bill radioed Nina to let her know that the coast was clear for everyone to come inside to get Skylar Adams. Everyone in the vehicle immediately got out and raced into the building. As expected, Carl was able to reach the room where Skylar and Zoe where being held before anybody else on the team, even Harken, Hicks, and Cat, were able to, since Carl’s Alpha ability allowed him to find the location of the two female Alpha’s faster than anyone else.

The sight that greeted Carl when he reached the room nearly made his heart break. Both Skylar and Zoe were asleep and hooked up to some medical equipment that Carl didn’t really know the purpose of. However, both Adams’ girls had grimaces on their faces that indicated they were not sleeping peacefully, making the tracker Alpha want to immediately wake the mother and daughter up. But he waited for the other members of Rosen’s team to enter the room and consulted with Rachel to make sure that course of action would be safe for the mother and daughter first.

After Rachel said it was okay, Carl’s first instinct was to run straight towards Skylar to wake her up, but the tracker Alpha resisted that impulse in favor of walking calmly towards Zoe and waking the technopath’s daughter up by repeatedly tapping on her small shoulder instead, while Nina woke Skylar herself, for two reasons. One, he still felt guilty about not looking for Skylar one with his ability in the last six months, and he didn’t want to look Skylar in the eyes just yet. Two, Carl knew that if his and Skylar’s positions were reversed, he would want the technopath to make sure Charles was okay before checking on him.

Zoe responded to Carl waking up by crying out in fear at first, but after Carl lowered his voice and informed her that. “It’s going to be, okay. You and your mommy were just having a bad dream”, and pointing towards an already fully awake Skylar to emphasize his point, Zoe noticeably calmed down and smiled before catching Carl off guard with a hug. “I remember you! You’re mommy’s friend, Carl! Thank you for saving us from the nightmare and the bad man!”

Carl blushed while awkwardly returning the little girl’s hug as he began to explain. “Actually, it was Kat, Mr. Harken, and Mr. Hicks that did most of the….”

But Skylar interrupted Carl’s words, and the tracker Alpha noted that the technopath had stopped talking to a concerned Nina and was now sending a grateful look in his direction as she said. “Yes, thank you, Carl, for getting help here so quickly.” Skylar smiled nervously before looking at the other members of Rosen’s crew before she added. “Thank all of you. And Gary, thanking you sending me that ping through my drones and helping me to realize that I was being kept in an artificial dream state, so that I could ask Carl for help. I really don’t like owing people, but I guess I do owe all of you one…”


 

…..Back in the Big Apple…

Sometime later, after Rosen’s team, plus Skylar, dropped Zoe off at a distant relative’s house, then drove to the DCIS office in New York, the technopath quickly told Dr. Rosen and his team about what had happened to her and Zoe over the last six months. About how the two of them had been abducted by Stanton Parish the day after Alphaville fell, then had his underlings trap them in a constant dream state while forcing Skylar to do…something that Skylar couldn’t quite remember in order to improve a large number of photic stimulator’s somehow. Then, after having a quick discussion with Dr. Rosen, in which the technopath agreed to help analyze the shipment of mechanical parts Lee’s team had intercepted from Red Flag, as well as help try to figure out what Rosen was doing with the photic stimulator’s she had been forced to enhance for him, on the condition that Dr. Rosen would guarantee Zoe’s safety.

As Skylar began to analyze the tech components at the workbench Dr. Rosen had set up for her, Nina opted to stay with her friend “for moral support” as the rest of team began to leave the room. Before Carl, who was the last one to try to leave the room, and who had looked guilty for some reason almost the entire time since Rosen’s team had rescued Skylar, the technopath spoke to the tracker Alpha and the mesmerizer. “Hey Nina, could you give Carl and I a minute?”

Nina smirked, looked between Carl and Skylar in a suggestive fashion that made both parties uncomfortable, then said. “Okay, then. I’ll just leave you two….alone. In this room…all by yourselves…”while the mesmerizer did exactly that.

Skylar sighed and looked at Carl, who was now staring at the ground, and said. “You know, Nina’s fun in small doses, but how you and the rest of your team put up with her five days a week is beyond me.”

Carl actually smiled at those words and looked up at Skylar to reply. “As you well know, Nina is an acquired taste. Also, since the hunt for Stanton Parish went into overdrive, it has been closer to seven days a week. What did you want to talk about, Skylar?”

“Straight to the point. I like that. I just wanted to thank you again for hurrying to save me and Zoe so quickly after I sent you my distress signal…”

The tracker Alpha shook his head. “You don’t need to thank me for responding to a friend in crisis quickly. That’s what any decent friend would do. Besides, this whole situation, you and Zoe being captured for so long, Parish having so many enhanced photic stimulators…all of it is my fault. If I had just checked up on you every now and again with my ability, made sure you were alright after everything that happened in Alphaville…None of this would have happened.”

Skylar frowned and put down her tools for a second to look Carl in the eyes, which made Carl nervous, but he was able to hold the technopath’s gaze this time without having any embarrassing reactions, Alpha ability related or otherwise, while she spoke. “This situation isn’t your fault Carl. One, you need to stop blaming yourself for everything, like you did about killing Scipio, which was unfortunate, but necessary. Two, you had promised me that you wouldn’t check on my location unless there was an emergency of some kind, and you kept both parts of that promise. And three…”

Skylar sighed and looked down. “If anyone is to blame for me and Zoe getting kidnapped and Stanton Parish getting me to enhance some of his tech, it’s me. I should have taken you and Nina up on your offer to come here, to New York City, and join the team. Zoe and I would have been safer here…”

Carl shook his head. “Not necessarily. There was…a traitor to our organization up until fairly recently. She’s…gone now. But she might have told Parish where you were if you had come here, and then you two could have gotten kidnapped anyway and we would all be in the same boat we are in right now. It’s kind of like…I tried to leave DCIS after you gave me that device for Carl, but Dr. Rosen said if I did leave, the NSA would just hunt me down and bring me to Binghamton. And since I don’t know how to just drop off the grid like you can by myself, much less with my wife and child…”

Carl shrugged. “Maybe all of this, everything that is happening right now, was inevitable. I guess we’ll never know.”

Skylar frowned. “I guess not. I have a good idea. Let’s just blame Stanton Parish for all the bad stuff that is happening right now and leave it at that.”

Carl smiled. “Sounds good to me. I…I guess I’d better leave now and keep trying to find Parish. That bastard is a needle in a haystack though. I’ve never met the man before and there are way too many Alphas with healing abilities for me to just pluck his location out of…”

The tracker Alpha laughed after he realized he was rambling, earning a smirk from Skylar before he said. “I’m just going to find Nina and tell her to come back here with you now…”

Skylar shook her head and spoke, even as she started working with her tools again, before Carl could walk out the door. “Please don’t. I prefer to work alone. Keep as much noise out of my head as possible. Oh, and just so you know…From a strictly objective point of view, you have nice eyes, and you look better with my contacts on you than you did with your old shades.”

Carl turned away from Skylar, hiding his blushing face from the technopath as he replied while walking out of the room. “Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind. And…strictly from an objective stand-point, your eyes aren’t half bad either.”

With Skylar’s eyes on the electrical components in front of her, and Carl’s eyes facing straight ahead, neither the tracker, nor the technopath could see the smile on the other’s face


….hours later…

After the accidental death of an electrical technician trying to mess with equipment beyond his pay grade (an act, everyone agreed with Skylar, was stupid, although Carl pointed out that man’s death could lead to many more lives being saved) Rosen’s team was able to puzzle out that Parish was going to kill millions of neurotypical humans while upgrading the abilities of hundreds of Alphas, all with photic stimulators placed in power grids worldwide in major cities around the planet. Rosen’s team and many other national and international agencies quickly went into damage control mode by turning off the power to every major city that Stanton Parish’s recovered notes indicated he had sent Red Flag agents to. With one exception.

It turned out that post-9/11 New York City had been switched to a power distribution network that could not be shut down remotely. Which was why Skylar and several other tech experts were now trying to find a way to manually shut of all the power in New York City so that Stanton couldn’t kill over a million people, while all of the other people in the DCIS building without high levels of tech knowledge were relegated to doing nothing but sending their families out of town while talking amongst themselves (or in Nina’s case, with Skylar) until someone could figure out a way for them to do something useful.

This was the situation that the group was in when Cameron Hicks finally announced to the team that he was leaving to go look for Dr. Rosen, who had gone missing hours ago looking for Stanton Parish, as well as Parish himself. Everyone in the group, save Skylar, who was so focused on her work that she barely noticed Cameron leave, wished Mr. Hicks good luck as he left…including Nina, who looked at her ex with a worried expression and begged him to be careful and not to do anything rash. Cameron’s only reply to his ex as he walked towards the elevator was a nod.

With a sigh, Nina returned to her seat next to Skylar, who paid just enough attention to see Cameron leave, but not enough to see the distressed look on Nina’s face, which spoke of a combination of concern and longing, as she watched the muscular Alpha get into the elevator. Therefore, Skylar’s tone was quite cynical when she looked at Nina and said. “It’s a shame, really. That man is so pretty, but so useless.”

Nina’s tone of voice when she responded was quiet, but firm, letting Skylar know her friend was being defensive when the mesmerizer spoke. “He’s smarter then he looks.”

The frown of concentration on Skylar’s face softened, and she was about to open her mouth to apologize for her careless comment about Hicks, when Nina added in a catty tone. “And at least the man I’m in love with isn’t a married man who tried to pass me off to Gary, of all people.”

Skylar looked down and her eyes became misty, a reaction which caused her to question if she really was in love with Carl Webb. Finally, after several seconds, the technopath was able form a reply on her lips. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to insult the man you loved. Now can you please go away so I can focus on my work?”

Seeing that her usually thick-skinned friend evidently had even deeper feelings for Carl than Nina thought, as evidenced by the fact that Skylar seemed to be just short of bursting into tears, the mesmerizer hung her head and said. “I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have gone th…”

Skylar turned back to her model of the New York City power grid and resumed manipulating the model with her hands as she interrupted her friend with unshed tears still in her eyed. “Please go.”

Nina sighed as she got up from her chair and went to go talk to some of her friends in DCIS. “Okay. But I really am sorry.”

Skylar just nodded at Nina’s words. She knew she would forgive her friend for her careless words eventually, but right now she knew she needed to get thoughts of Carl out of her head in order to focus on the task at hand. After several minutes of Nina’s words running through Skylar’s head however, Skylar couldn’t help herself, and she gave into her curiosity as she got up to see what Carl was up to. As she passed the tracker Alpha’s office, she caught the tail end of a conversation he was having with his wife via his cell phone. Skylar’s heart seemed to catch in her throat when Carl, who didn’t even seem to notice Skylar standing right outside his office, spoke into his phone while smiling. “I have to go now, Charlotte. I love you too. Hug Charles goodnight for me, alright?”

Not needing to hear any more evidence of how blissfully happy the man she now realized she was in love with was with his wife and family, Skylar soon found herself running to the women’s restroom and finding a vacant stall, which she was just able to close before she started crying. Skylar knew there was important work to be done tonight. Work that only she could do. Work that could save over a million people. But for a minute, just for a minute. Skylar let her sadness, loneliness, and self-pity take ahold of her as she cried her eyes out and thought of the difference between her and Nina’s situations and idly wondered: which was worse? To be in love with someone that no longer loved you, or to be in love with someone that definitely cared about you, maybe even loved you, but that could never be with you because they had already fallen in love with and married someone else, and had a child with that other person to boot? Skylar didn’t know the answer to that question. All she knew from personal experience was that the second scenario hurt like hell.


 

…Several hours later…

Eventually, Skylar had figured out that she could manually turn off New York City’s power from a control panel in Grand Central Station. However, Bill suspected that Parish may have anticipated that someone may try to turn the power off there and left Alpha soldiers there to prevent this from happening. Carl confirmed this fear, and added that, among the man Alpha’s that were posted in and around Grand Central station, there was an Alpha with a powerful healing factor, which everyone guessed was probably Stanton Parish himself

Knowing that the stakes couldn’t be higher, DCIS worked tirelessly to stop a catastrophe many times worse than 9/11 from occurring in the Big Apple, while trying to recapture the head of Red Flag, who had escaped government confinement before, even as Cameron and Dr. Lee Rosen secretly plotted to avenge Danielle by killing Stanton Parish. In the end, the night did not go as anyone planned it to.

While the DCIS team ran interference against Red Flag, Skylar had been able to shut off the power to the rest of the city from the terminal in Grand Central Station, but she had been horrified to discover that she did not have enough time to undo all of the work that Stanton Parish’s tech expert had done…so she wouldn’t be able to shut off the power to Grand Central Station itself in time. However, determined to save as many lives as possible, Skylar still turned on a fire alarm in hopes that some people would escape the train station, while trying futilely to dismantle the mechanisms which would keep her from shutting off the power to Grand Central station. Unfortunately, as she had predicted, Skylar did not have time to do this, and all of the photic stimulators in the train station went off before every neurotypical human there could escape being killed by the devices…or before every Alpha in the station, including Skylar herself, was rendered unconscious by the artificial lights the devices created.

Before this horrific event occurred however, Cameron and Lee had been able to find Stanton Parish and incapacitate him with a cocktail of blood coagulants that rendered the “immortal” Alpha unconscious and temporarily suspended his healing ability. Carl, who had used his Alpha ability and the process of elimination (as there were no other Alphas with healing abilities in the station) to track Parish down, was also present at this moment, and he watched Hicks urge Dr. Rosen to kill Stanton, for various reasons. But in the end, the doctor’s conscience wouldn’t allow him to do such a thing, and he urged Hicks to spare Parish’s life as well. The three conscious men were still arguing about what to do, even as their team was trying to prevent catastrophe while fighting Red Flag’s Alphas, when the photic stimulators activated themselves.

By the time all of the Alphas still in Grand Central Station (including, surprisingly, Dr. Rosen himself) woke up, they discovered two important things. One, every “normal” human that had still been in the train Station when the photic stimulators went off was now dead. And two, Stanton Parish was missing.

And so was Carl Webb.

Chapter Text

The next six months of Carl Webb’s life were agony.

   The first week after Stanton Parish and his people kidnapped Carl Webb in Grand Central Station were torture. Literally.

After it quickly became apparent due to a quick “conversation” between Carl and the Alpha Alpha, two things became apparent. One, Stanton knew about Carl’s ability and wanted him to use it to find Dr. Rosen’s “old team”. And two, that Carl was unwilling to help the healer Alpha in this regard. Therefore, for a week straight, Stanton Parish had Carl tortured both physically (although Carl was able to make this stop after one particularly nasty 30-minute session by convincing Parish that physical injuries negatively impacted his Alpha ability) and psychologically (with Stanton employing his mind-raper Alpha to read Carl’s mind through her agonizing touch, a tactic which also did not work, since Carl was able to block her Alpha ability using mental images of card games and waterfalls). However, after a week of these tortures, Stanton Parish finally came up with a more devious plan to make Carl talk. A plan that, once unveiled, made Carl wish that Parish had stuck with torturing him instead.

Parish abducted Charles Webb.

Carl had, off course, been keeping his “third eye” open towards his family members as often as possible between torture sessions, so by the time Parish returned to his home base (somewhere underground, underneath a major city, if the noise and the number of people that Carl could “feel” above him were any indication), the tracker already had a good idea about what had transpired. Stanton Parish had found his captives son and kidnapped him as well. In the process, Charlotte Webb had been killed.

Carl could think of nothing else, could look at nothing else except his wife’s death as he watched, from many miles away in his underground cell, as Charlotte Webb’s extremely bright lights slowly went out. And by the time that Stanton Parish had returned to Carl’s cell, the tracker was simultaneously depressed and livid. In fact, the first thing that Carl did when he looked at his captor with tear-filled green eyes was say: “When my son and I get away from you, I swear I’m going to kill you for what you’ve done to my family! For what you’ve done to Charlotte!”

Stanton had merely shrugged at that comment and made up some sob story on the fly about Charlotte having “resisted” his efforts to reunite Charles with his “true brothers and sisters” and that killing her, a mere neuro-typical human, was necessary to get Carl to do what was necessary for “the greater good.” Carl didn’t really listen to Stanton’s explanation. Or care.

Carl was mostly under Stanton’s thumb after that, as the villain threatened to kill Charles, who was at another location miles away, if the tracker didn’t tell Parish whatever he wanted to know.

However, sometimes, Carl was able to avoid giving Stanton the information he wanted through deception, as the tracker Alpha would lie. He told Stanton the same lie he had told Rosen (that Skylar had created a device that could counteract Carl’s abilities). And sometimes he would tell the healer that he was too tired, that his abilities were strained under duress, or that Rosen’s people were blending themselves in among a number of other Alpha’s or moving too frequently (which was actually sometimes true), so Carl couldn’t keep track of them. And on occasion, this would keep Stanton Parish off Carl’s back.

But all too often, Carl’s lies would only make Parish more impatient, and he would retaliate by punishing Carl, or worse, Charles, for the tracker Alpha’s failures to perform his “duties” to Red Flag. Two of Stanton’s favorite methods of retaliation for Carl’s failures to perform included subjecting Carl to NSA torture methods or more mental raping. However, when Carl continued to resist Stanton after these tortures were employed, as the tracker cited a “really messed up upbringing with some seriously twisted foster parents” and that “I have a telepath for a son, you moron! Do you really think I could have gone this long as his parent without learning to create some serious psychological barriers?” as his reasons for being able to resist Stanton’s physical and psychological torture, Parish turned his sights on Charles. After this point was reached, Carl was forced to watch, via video chat, some of Stanton’s men shock Charles every time Carl didn’t tell Parish were a target of interest was. He even forced Carl to watch as his people “upgraded” Charles’ abilities with a photic stimulator, a process which caused the young boy to scream out in pain and hold his head while complaining he couldn’t “make the voices stop.” Then, the healer Alpha had threatened to make Charles psychically interrogate his own father, or suffer the consequences, if Carl didn’t tell Stanton everything he wanted to know.

Carl finally broke then, telling Stanton Parish everything he wanted to know, including where the members of Dr. Rosen’s team (which had expanded considerably since Grand Central Station) that Carl knew about, were. With one exception. Evidentially, Stanton had bought Carl’s lie that Miss Adams’ had a machine that could hide her from his abilities, so Stanton did not continue to pressure Carl to find Skylar or any Alphas near her. As a result, Carl was able to keep at least a few of Rosen’s Alphas safe at any given time. But many Alphas were still killed by Red Flag using information that Carl was forced to give them, as well as any humans that got in Stanton Parish’s way of eliminating any “traitor Alphas”, including, sadly, Rachel’s boyfriend, John Bennett, who died saving Rachel and Nina from some of Stanton’s thugs. Carl “watched” the man’s lights go out with great sadness from afar when this happened, knowing that he had indirectly caused the death of someone one of his best friends loved.

Due to all of these events, by the time six months had passed in Stanton Parish’s “care”, Carl was in bad shape, and he didn’t even notice the presence of multiple familiar Alphas entering the facility he was being held in until he heard the sound of sirens coming from the center of the Red Flag base.

The noise finally got Carl’s attention, but the tracker was too exhausted to smile even when he heard several small explosions, heard the telltale sound of electricity, or smelled a faint whiff of ozone coming from underneath the door to his cell. However, the tracker did manage a half grin when Bill Harken and Cameron Hicks came into his cell (after Bill broke down the door) to rescue him and Cameron shouted. “Carl! We’re here to rescue you, but we need to hurry! Skylar’s stun bots will only keep Stanton’s men unconscious so long, and we still need to find Parish and your son!”

Carl shook his head sadly as Bill propped up the tracker and helped the half-starved, exhausted Alpha walk even as said Alpha spoke. “Don’t bother. They’re not here. Not anymore. Stanton or Charles. I know where they are though, and as soon as you get me out of here, I’ll lead you straight to them so that you can rescue my son…and so that I can kill Stanton Parish!”

Cameron shook his head. “No, you won’t kill Parish. He can’t be killed now. We’ve tried since Grand Central Station. The blood coagulants don’t work anymore…”

Carl chuckled. “No. You’re wrong. Don’t forget, my abilities got upgraded that day too. Now I can sense more than just people’s talents and abilities…I can sense their weaknesses too. Parish can still be killed. It requires a complex chemical formula which includes Borax, being injected into his veins. But he can be killed. And after what that bastard did to my wife and son, I want to be the one to kill him!”

Cameron shook his head. “No. You’re not a soldier. If Parish can be killed, I will kill him.”

Carl snorted. “Yeah, I’ve heard that before. Your reluctance to do what was necessary is what got us all in this mess.”

Neither Cameron nor Bill had a reply ready for that, so the soldier and former FBI agent said nothing as they led Charles out of the Red Flag facility.


 

…One hour later…

Carl Webb’s “homecoming” to Rosen’s group was an awkward one, to say the least. After Harken and Hicks escorted Carl to Rosen’s team’s mobile command center, a train, with many technological wonders, including a robot servant, inside, that continuously moved from coast to coast, the tracker Alpha soon found that nobody on his old team could look at him the same as they used to. Bill and Cameron had looked like they were irritated with Carl since the moment they had rescued him, Neither Rachel nor Gary, the former of which had bags under her eyes, like she had been crying for several days, would even look at the tracker Alpha now. Kate also ignored Carl, although she would glance at the tracker out of the corner of her eye from time to time, the way she did when she was trying to remember someone she knew she should know, but couldn’t remember. Nina and Skylar, on the other hand, both looked at Carl with pity in their eyes. Before Carl could try to take in the faces of all of the new members of Rosen’s team, one of which had a scaly, reptile-like appearance, while another, a female, had brown spikes jutting out from her shoulder blades, the tracker’s attention was forcefully brought back to Dr. Rosen himself, who began to interrogate the still shell-shocked Alpha, who could only barely make out what was being said over his own mental confusion, about what information Carl had hemorrhaged to Parish, if Stanton knew the location of their home-base, and why Carl had never told him the doctor that he, himself, was an Alpha.

At that point, Carl lost it, as all the anger he had been holding in for six months towards Parish, Red Flag, and Dr. Rosen himself, exploded out of the tracker Alpha all at once.

Carl reacted so swiftly and instinctively to Lee’s questions and accusations that no one saw it coming until Carl hit Rosen, breaking the doctor’s nose and sending him tumbling to the floor while the loud SMACK! Sound the hit made was still reverberating through the air. But even after Bill restrained Carl, the tracker wasn’t finished with Rosen yet. “How dare you!?”

Carl glared at all of the members of his old team, except for Nina as he continued yelling. “How dare all of you! When I signed on to work with this team, I was promised…I was promised, that my family would be kept safe! You all didn’t live up to that bargain, especially you, Lee! And now my wife is dead!”

Carl was crying now, and tears started falling from his face even as the angry expression remained and he continued shouting. “And my son, my only son, is in the clutches of a psychopath!”

The room was silent for several seconds as Carl looked down at the floor and quietly sobbed before he added so quietly that some of the newer members of Rosen’s team, who were at the back of the train car, couldn’t hear. “And Red Flag tortured him. They tortured my son. And I could stand it when they tortured me but…I couldn’t watch them hurt my son. I just couldn’t. That’s how Parish broke me.”

Carl sighed heavily. “That’s why I gave away some of your locations to him over the last six months. And I know that a lot of good Alpha’s, and a lot of good non-Alpha women and men died because of me. I’m very sorry about that.”

Rachel quietly sobbed into Nina’s shoulder then, although Carl noticed that the red-haired Alpha would at least look at him now, as the tracker continued speaking. “But I did not give away the location of this train because I couldn’t find it. It’s always moving.”

Carl glared at Rosen as the doctor got off the floor while pinching his nose, and Carl added. “The rest of these people can blame me for the deaths of their friends and loved ones all they want to. But don’t you dare take that tone with me again and judge me, Lee! You and I both know that I did what I had to do because you failed to keep my family safe like you promised to by killing Parish when you had the chance! And by the way, the only reason that I didn’t tell you that you were an Alpha who attracted other Alpha’s into his presence like a magnet was because I thought you already knew that and just wanted to keep it a secret from the team! It’s not my fault that my assumption was wrong!”

Dr. Rosen motioned for Bill to let Carl free from his grip, and the big man reluctantly did so before the doctor spoke through his broken nose. “Yur…right, Carl. I...wees….shudn’t…have…judged…you…or…been…so quick…to…weez…blame…you…I…think…we all…need to rest…and…talk…in…the morning….”

Cameron led Rosen away from the meeting car before his nose could bleed more heavily, even while Skylar, looked right at Carl and said. “I don’t blame you for what happened, Carl. A lot of us here…”

The tech motioned towards Nina with her head. “Don’t blame you for giving Stanton information. He had your son. And it just makes me think that if Parish ever got ahold of my daughter…”

Skylar shuddered. “I don’t know what I would do. I don’t think any of us know what we would do if our loved ones were being threatened like Charles was. We will find your son, Carl. I promise. But you look like you could use something to eat and some rest first. You are no good to your son if you are too tired and hungry to think straight. You should do that while I go back to the lab car to make more drones to look for Parish and Charles. And by the way, I'm so sorry about your wife's death..."

Without another word, Skylar, who Carl just now noticed looked  emaciated and sleep-deprived due to the bags under her eyes, left the room, and many other Alphas, who had nothing to say as this point, all began leaving for another train car as well, but Carl gently pulled Nina to the side of the car before she could leave for her quarters. “Hey, Nina. I know I must look like death warmed over right about now, but that’s because I’ve been tortured and forced to help Stanton hunt down my friends over the last six months. Why does Skylar look about as bad as I feel right now? And why is she still working with us? I thought she would leave to go see her daughter after Grand Central Station, but I sensed that she has been working with our team and that she has not seen Zoe in six months! What is going on with Skylar?”

Nina sighed. “Wow, Carl! That’s a lot of questions! But I know you’ve been…out of commission for the last six months so I will answer them as best as I can. Skylar blames herself for the 1,264 people that were killed in the Grand Central Station incident, since Red Flag used her device to commit that massacre. Therefore, Skylar said she was determined to continue helping Rosen until we stop Parish. Taking orders doesn’t come easy for her, but I think remembering what she is fighting for has helped her to swallow her pride enough to work with a team…at least temporarily. And that’s where you come in.”

Carl shook his head. “What are you talking about? What do I have to do with Skylar working for you and what does any of this have to do with why Miss Adams looks as bad as I feel?”

Nina frowned. “I was getting to that, Carl. Stop interrupting. Anyway, ever since your disappearance, then Charles’ abduction, Skylar had been obsessed with getting you and your son away from Parish. In fact, when the rest of us couldn’t find you after we woke up at Grand Central Station, she was the first one to theorize that Red Flag had abducted you, then that you child’s disappearance and you wife’s murder…”

Carl inhaled deeply at the mention of Charlotte’s murder, but said nothing as Nina continued speaking. ”Were connected to you going missing. And as I said, Skylar has been working tirelessly to get both you and your son back ever since you both were taken. She let us use this train she invented years ago, built thousands of drones to search for you and Charles since the day of your disappearance, argued with Dr. Rosen at every turn whenever the missions he assigned concerning Red Flag didn’t involve trying to get you and/or Charles back, and eventually, created a way to find you, using numerous gadgets she built to identify your Alpha signature and locate you based upon everything you have ever told her about how your powers work. And that’s how we found you. But in the meantime…”

Nina shook her head. “Skylar hasn’t been sleeping. And she only eats when I make her, and even then, not nearly enough. Between her lack of food, sleep deprivation, her obsession with finding you and your son, and missing her daughter, who she refuses to see until Stanton is defeated, so Zoe won’t be endangered…Skylar’s gotten herself in bad shape trying to help you Carl!”

Carl shook his head and looked down in shame. “I’m sorry, Nina. I didn’t mean for that to happen, to hurt Skylar and so many other people over the last six months…”

Nina playfully smacked Carl’s arm softly and rolled her eyes. “Again, Carl. I don’t blame you for everything that’s been happening over the last six months, and neither does Skylar. You were held captive by Red Flag, and forced to help Stanton, against your will! Everyone on this team knows that now. I didn’t tell you what’s been going on with Skylar to make you feel guilty! I just wanted you to know that….”

Nina sighed deeply and rubbed the bridge of her noise before she spoke. “That Skylar cares about you a lot, Carl. Loves you, even. And yes, I do know that for sure! I have never, in all my years of knowing Skylar, seen my friend this obsessed with helping another person that wasn’t Zoe. So I can tell you for certain that Skylar loves you. And we both know you care about her too.”

Carl opened his mouth to reply, but Nina verbally steam-rolled over him as she continued speaking. “I know now isn’t the time for you and Skylar to discuss that though. I know that your son is still being held captive, and your wife hasn’t been dead that long, and that you are probably rocking a major case of PTSD right now because of…whatever Parish did to you. I understand that. I just want you to understand what Skylar’s mindset is right now, and warn you not to do or say anything stupid that could break my friend’s heart or further destabilize her mental state. Also, I was wondering if you could talk to Skylar about getting some food and sleep? Maybe she’ll listen to you, even though she won’t listen to me or Dr. Rosen.”

Carl smiled thinly. “Yeah, sure. Why not? After all the harm I’ve brought upon this team and other people over the last six months, it might feel good to help someone again. And for the record, Nina, you’re right. I do care about Skylar. But I need to focus on getting my son back and nailing Parish to a wall right now. That being said…I can still try to be a good friend to Skylar when she needs one…just like you are being a good friend to me now. Goodnight, Nina.”

And with that, Carl walked out of the meeting room train car while Nina smiled and spoke to the tracker’s retreating form. “Goodnight, Carl.”


 

…. 30 minutes later, In Skylar’s lab car…

Skylar Adams face was scrunched up in concentration as she tried to fix a circuit that had shorted out in one of the damaged drones that had made its way back to the train for repairs, but her eyelids kept closing, as they felt heavy on her face, and the technopath was finding it hard to focus on what she was doing because she hadn’t slept in almost 72 hours. In fact, the only thing that was keeping Miss Adams awake at the moment was the gurgling of her own empty stomach, which the tech Alpha felt hard to ignore, even though she was used to going for long stretched of time without food, since she hadn’t ingested anything but coffee over the last two days. The results of Skylar’s lack of food and sleep, and her subsequent inability to concentrate one any one tasks for longer than a few minutes at a time, where found all over the technopath’s left arm and hand in the form of small burn marks from her small welding instrument, but still Skylar pressed on with her task for Charles…and for Carl Webb.

Eventually, however, fatigue overcame Skylar once again, and she once again found herself closing her eyes. This time, however, Skylar slipped into an unconscious state for several seconds, while the small welding tool in her right hand slipped out of her grasp and onto the table next to the still damaged drone. Only a few moments later, however, Skylar was awoken by the sound of several objects, including the drone and welding tool, being pushed to one side of her long work bench.

Skylar opened her eyes, and her mouth, to yell at whoever had the gall to touch her things, on her workbench, before a large bowl filled with a familiar substance and a spoon was placed on the table in front of her. Skylar quickly recognized that the person who had moved her things, and put a bowl of macaroni and cheese in front of her, was Carl Webb, and the technopath quickly shut her mouth as the equally tired-looking tracker Alpha and father put a tall glass of ice water in front of her as well, before the man, who was still carrying a tray with the same items he had placed in front of Skylar on it, spoke. “Here. A little bird told me that you weren’t sleeping and eating enough, so I came over here to make sure you took your own advice and got some food and sleep.”

Skylar shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Nina always has meddled too much for her own good. But I will tell you what I told her before. I need to do this. To help you find Charles and Stanton Parish before…”

Carl’s gaze hardened and his voice took on the same tone as a parent scolding a child. “I already know where my son and Parish are, Skylar! I told Rosen where they are too, and we are currently driving the train in that direction. But it will be a couple of days before we reach them…plenty of time for us both to get some much needed rest! But first, we both need to eat something! Now, Nina told me once that macaroni and cheese was your favorite food, which is a weird coincidence, since that’s my favorite food too, so I had some of that made for both of us by your robotic….assistant. Now, here’s the thing, neither one of us are going to be any good on this next mission to rescue my son, or kill Parish, a job I am greatly looking forward to doing myself, if we are too tired and hungry to focus! So, I’ll make you a deal, you eat as much of that food in front of you as you can, then get some sleep, and I’ll do the same! Deal?”

Skylar reluctantly nodded, then took a bite of the food in front of her. Given how hungry she was, it was the best macaroni and cheese that Skylar Adams had ever tasted, and the technopath was embarrassed when she couldn’t stop a loud “Mmmmm!” sound from escaping her lips after she pulled the spoon out of her mouth. The tech expert was mortified as she looked at Carl and waited for his reaction.

It turned out she needn’t have worried, as Carl just smirked and took a bite of his own pasta before making a similar noise of his own, an action which caused Skylar to laugh for the first time in over six months. Skylar smiled. “Thanks. I needed a laugh. There haven’t been many of those around here since…you know...”

Carl nodded as the smile ran away from his face. “I know what you mean. There hasn’t been much happiness in my life over the past six months either. But that’s going to change for both of us very soon. After I kill Parish and get my son back, you can go back to your daughter and be on your way…”

Carl frowned after making that last statement, and Skylar responded in kind. Neither of them were looking forward to being apart again, as both of them were enjoying this rare moment, were the two of them were able to spend time together. And in that moment, a familiar ache that Carl had not felt in over six months, when he had been mourning his wife and focusing on protecting his son and teammates as best he could, returned to Carl’s chest as his feelings for the brunette in front of him returned with a vengeance, causing Carl to feel elated, guilty (for having romantic feelings for someone else when his wife still wasn’t “cold in her grave”) and fearful of the near future, when he would have to say goodbye to the technopath again, perhaps for good. And Skylar was feeling similar feelings and attraction and dread, but with one added complication, which she now revealed to Carl as she cast her eyes downward. “Actually, I’m not sure it would be in Zoe’s best interest for her to stay with me. I mean, just since you’ve meet me, my daughter has gotten kidnapped twice because she was near me, and when I think about what happened to your son…” Skylar shook her head sadly as she took another bite of mac and cheese. “I’m not sure it’s safe for Zoe to be around me anymore. So I was thinking of just leaving her where she is, with my uncle, after this is all over. I miss Zoe so much!”

Skylar was getting slightly tear eyed now, but she refused to cry as she wiped the moisture from her eyes and continued speaking. “But she’s better of where she is, away from me!”

Carl frowned and ate his food silently for several seconds before he replied. “You’re wrong.”

“What?!”

Skylar glared at Carl, but the man wouldn’t budge as he continued to frown and said with a steady voice. “I said you’re wrong. About you daughter being better off without you.”

Skylar’s glare intensified. “Well, with all due respect, Carl, I don’t think it’s any of your business to decide what I should do to keep my daughter safe and…”

Carl shook his head and shrugged while interrupting Skylar. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe it isn’t my business but…I felt I had to say something because this subject…of a parent leaving their child behind? That’s something I know a little bit about. You see…”

The green-eyed man sighed. “I don’t know who my father is, and I probably never will. Even my mother, who I’ve met a grand total of three times, told me she doesn’t know who fathered me. But my mom…That’s a different story. When I turned eighteen, right after I got out of foster care and started making my own way in the world, my mother reached out to me for the first time. And, long story short, I met with her, and she told me that she gave me away to social services when I was six months old because…she had a lot of problems back then. She didn’t elaborate, and I didn’t ask during that visit, but…She claimed that she believed that, given her circumstances, I would be better of being raised by someone else. Now, I’m sure her intentions were good, and that’s what I told her, but…foster care was hell for me, Skylar. And not just because some of my foster parents were abusive, but also because I couldn’t stop wondering one thought. One thing that kept me awake at night more times than I care to recall. Wondering why my parents gave me up. Why they didn’t want me. And I know that my mom was just doing what she thought was best for me when she gave me up but…I would kill to have those years back, to be able to spend them with my mom. To actually have a parent. And I am bound and determined to make sure that Charles never feels that way about me. So I will get him back, at any cost. And, one parent to another, I strongly suggest you go back to Zoe at the first available opportunity before her childhood runs out, like mine did.”

There were tears in Skylar’s eyes again as she nodded. “I never thought about it like that. That my absence could negatively impact Zoe’s psyche. You’re right! I need to get back to my daughter! I need to see her again.”

Carl nodded. “Yeah. You do. Because, look. I don’t know everything about this parenting stuff, but…I can tell you really love Zoe, just like I love Charles and I think…I think that the best person to raise a child isn’t necessarily the person who’s life is the most stable, or who has the most things to give them, but the person who loves them the most. And for Zoe, I’m pretty sure that would be you.”

Skylar smiled and said. “You’re damn right that’s me! Zoe is my daughter, and even though she can be a handful sometimes…nobody in this world loves her as much as I do!”

Carl just nodded again. “Just likes nobody in this world loves Carl as much as I do…nobody alive, anyway.”

The tracker sighed. “I don’t know how I’m going to be a good parent without Charlotte. Especially with how crazy the world has become since Grand Central Station. Dr. Rosen told me a little about that. Told me that the government has been cracking down hard on pretty much any Alpha that isn’t already working for the government. And given some of the things that Parish made me tell him…that doesn’t bode well for me. Or for Carl. All I know is that, whatever I have to do, I will not let my son become some government lab rat!”

Skylar s squeezed Carl’s hand for a second after that, and somehow, the moment wasn’t awkward at all until the technopath pulled her hand away and both parties immediately regretted the loss of contact as Skylar said. “I know you won’t let that happen to your son. And I really think…that you and Carl will be okay by the end of all this.” The technopath forced a smile and forced herself not to tell Carl that she was thinking about helping the tracker and his son evade government custody after the situation with Parish had been handled, because she wasn’t sure how she was going to do that yet.

Carl nodded and said. “Thanks.”

The next few minutes were spent in relative silence as the two Alphas ate as much as their malnourished stomachs would allow them to, before Skylar put down her spoon and half-eaten bowl of mac and cheese. “I’m done.”

Carl put down his spoon in his ¾ full bowl as well. “Me too. We better get some sleep. Do you know where the nearest unoccupied bed is on this train of yours?”

Skylar sighed. ”Good luck with that. This train is currently holding far more people than it was designed too. All the beds are full and a lot of people are in sleeping bags. You should ask around, see if there are any sleeping bags left. In the meantime, I’m going to tell Dr. Rosen that I want to see my daughter again as soon as possible before I go to bed.”

Carl nodded. “Good. Stanton and Charles are in a facility in Norther New York state. If Zoe is at the same house as last time, we should be able to pick her up on the way to the mission.”

Skylar smiled. “Great. It will be nice to see her again.”

The technopath was about to turn and leave the room, leaving the dishes and leftovers for her robotic assistant to clean up, before she turned to Carl with a thoughtful look on her face and said. “Don’t kill Stanton Parish. Let Harken, or Hicks, or one of the others do it.”

Carl shook his head. “No. That’s not up for discussion. That man tortured me. Worse than that, he tortured my son. And he killed over a thousand people at Grand Central Station using a device he brainwashed you into mass producing for him…”

Skylar interrupted Carl. “And for all of those things, and more, Parish needs to die. I know that. Everyone on Rosen’s team knows it too. Believe me, I certainly want him dead, after he used my tech to kill all of those people. But you shouldn’t be the one to do it. I know you, Carl. I saw what you were like after killing Scipio. I was worried you had lost your mind due to guilt for a little bit there.”

The tracker shook his head. “This is different. This is personal…”

Skylar shook her head too. “And saving my life wasn’t?”

Carl didn’t answer, and Skylar took that as his permission to continue speaking. “I know you hate Stanton Parish. And you have every right to. But please…just let someone else kill him. Because I have a really bad feeling that if you kill again…especially if it’s premeditated, it will destroy you. You won’t come out of that experience as the same man. And I’m afraid that if that happens, you won’t be the same friend that your teammates need, or the father your son needs, or that man that I lo…”

Skylar shook her head and mentally face-palmed herself for her lack of restraint. She always had been impulsive, but this? Practically throwing herself at a grieving widower who was focused on getting his son back? That was a new low for her. “Actually, can you just forget I said that last part? I didn’t mean to just blurt that out, and I know you are still grieving and… Please just forgot what I was about to say.”

Carl smirked, but his eyes were sad as he spoke. “Sure. And …I will take your advice into consideration. About not killing Parish myself, I mean. But that’s all that I’m willing to promise for now.”

Skylar nodded. “I understand.”

The technopath nearly left the room again before she turned to Carl and smiled. “Is Macaroni and cheese seriously your favorite food too? Because I know it’s an odd favorite for an adult to have but I picked up and appreciation for that stuff when I was pregnant with Zoe, and she loves it now too, so I guess that’s my excuse. What’s yours?”

Carl’s smirk grew wider now. “Actually, I like lasagna. But I figured…close enough.”

Skylar smiled back at Carl. “I guess so. Still, I’ll see if I can program my assistant to make the two of us lasagna tomorrow. And by the way….” The technopath hesitated, then added. “If you have trouble finding a place to sleep, I have a cot available here in the lab. It’s not that big or comfortable, but…you can use that as a last resort option, if you want.” Skylar pointed to a niche in the wall that, open closer inspection, the tracker saw held a fold out mattress, and Carl just nodded before Skylar went to tell Dr. Rosen about a slight change in the train’s travel plans.


 

…30 minutes later…

Carl arrived back at Skylar’s lab car, although he supposed thinking it was Skylar’s wasn’t technically accurate, since Lee had told him that the government had commandeered the vehicle for Dr. Rosen’s purposes…and their own. The entire car was plunged into darkness at the moment, and Carl was fumbling for a light switch as he thought out loud. “Damn it. First I can’t get a sleeping bag, because they’re all taken…and now all the lights are off in this car so I can’t find the cot here. I love you Skylar, but what the hell?!”

Suddenly, all the lights in the train car came on, and Carl saw a sleepy-looking brunette with disheveled hair and purple pajamas holding up a remote of some kind while smirking. “Well, that’s nice to hear, Carl. But no woman wants to wake up to someone cursing them out!”

Carl’s eyes went towards the floor as he shuffled his feet. “Right. Sorry…I, um…didn’t mean for you to hear that and…All I meant was, you know…”

Carl cleared his throat. “Obviously, you are already sleeping here. I should probably find an unoccupied, hopefully heavily carpet-padded, section of floor to sleep on somewhere around here….”

Skylar rolled her eyes. “You just spent the last six months being tortured, Carl! You need to rest, if nothing else, and get your body looked at by out medical specialist in the morning! In the meantime, I’ll sleep on the floor, I’ve had to do that a number of times while running from the Feds or other people. I’ll be fine.”

Carl shook his head. “No way. You need rest too. And after you spent the last six months burning yourself up trying to look for me. I wouldn’t feel right about letting you sleep on the floor.”

Skylar shrugged. “Okay then. How about we share the bed? We’re adults, right? And I know it’s small, but I will try to keep to one side of the bed as best as I can if you will. And Carl, we both need to sleep, so I won’t take no for an answer.”

Carl looked warily between Miss Adams and the bed she was setting up in for a long moment before making his decision. In the end, despite all the reasons he knew it might be a bad idea, Carl’s longing to sleep in a real bed after being forced to sleep in a sitting position over the last six months outweighed his fears, and Carl quickly found himself crossing the distance between him and the bed and crawling under the covers on the side of the bed that Skylar had just vacated for him. Then, as childish as it felt, Carl added with a smile. “Good night, Skylar. And thank you.”

Skylar used her remote to turn off all the lights again, so Carl didn’t see her smile as well before she replied. “Good night, Carl. And you’re welcome.”


 

…The next morning…

When Carl awoke the next morning, Skylar was still sleeping, and the tracker and the technopath were spooning in each other’s arms, with Skylar’s head on Carl’s chest, and Carl’s head on top of Skylar’s. This revelation nearly made Carl jump out of the bed in surprise, but the tracker choose a more subtle approach instead, opting to carefully untangle his limbs from the technopath’s and pull away from the latter’s body before slowly getting out of bed, so as not to wake Miss Adams from her much needed rest. The man then slowly crept out of the room, hoping he could bum some sanitary supplies, a comb, and a change of clothes from another member of Rosen’s team, and that he would be able to sneak away from the lab before anyone would notice that he and Skylar had slept in the same bed and jump to baseless conclusions.

Carl was successful in the first endeavor. He was not so successful in the second.

Carl came to realize this shortly after getting out of the (cold) shower he had taken in the train’s only bathroom, combing his hair, and putting on a fresh change of clothes he borrowed from another male earlier that morning. As he was exiting the bathroom, he found Bill Harken smiling and waiting outside the door to the facility. The African American’s smile grew wider after he made eye contact with Carl and said. “Well look at you, finally up and ready for your day after spending the night with Miss Adams! Well, I guess you must have streamline the mourning process pretty well if you’re already getting right back on that horse! And if Miss Adams still being asleep is any indication, you rode that horse well!”

Carl rolled his eyes, but inwardly, he was glad that he and Bill were in a good enough place that the latter felt comfortable teasing him again. “It’s not like that, Bill….”

Bill’s smile didn’t diminish in intensity as he patted Carl’s shoulder before walking into the bathroom. “Right. Whatever you say, man. Whatever you say…”

The next several hours were uneventful, for the most part, other than a quick visit to the healing Alpha in the train’s small med-bay, a brief meeting between Rosen, Harken, Hicks, Carl, Gary, Rachel and Nina concerning how they were going to rescue Charles and kill Stanton Parish, and the tracker having to deal with Alphas he didn’t know staring at him untrustingly, or some of his friends (like Cameron, and of course, Nina, who were a couple again, according to Rachel) congratulating him for “sealing the deal” with Skylar, despite his protests that they were misinterpreting what was happening. Throughout all of these events, a clearly exhausted Skylar kept right on sleeping, and she continued to do so until they arrived at the train station nearest to the house where Zoe was staying with Skylar’s uncle, at which point Carl woke Skylar up to tell her what was going on.

Skylar’s excited reaction, which involved getting herself showered and ready in record time, then taking off like a bat out of hell in her car (which had been housed in the rear car of the train) with Carl and Nina in tow, both for moral support, and because Dr. Rosen insisted that none of his team members should be traveling alone as long as Parish was still at large, towards her uncle’s house. By the time the three Alpha’s arrived at the small house to the sound of screeching tires, Zoe was already waiting for her mom outside with her great uncle.

Skylar quickly got out of the car and ran towards her daughter, who was, in turning, running towards Skylar and shouting “mommy!” at the top of her lungs. When the mother and daughter were close enough, Skylar grabbed Zoe in a big hug. “Digit! It’s so good to see you again! I love you so much, you know that?! I’m back and you are coming with to live with me again!”

Zoe slowly pulled away from her mother. “I love you too, mommy, but…how long will I get to stay with you this time? You were gone a really long time!”

Skylar nodded with tears running down her face. “You’re right, Digit. I was gone too long this time.” Carl didn’t even spot Skylar giving him a look over Zoe’s shoulders as the mother hugged her daughter again. “And one of my friends helped me see that. And in return, I’m going to be helping him find his own child. But know this, I’m never leaving your side again, okay? You’re coming with me to stay!”

Zoe yell was almost deafening. “Yay!”

Several seconds later, after pulling out of a long hug with her mother, Zoe turned towards Carl and Nina’s general direction and shouted. “Hey, I remember you! You’re mommy’s friend!”

Nina held her arms open wide as Zoe ran…right past her and towards Carl, whose legs she hugged. “Carl! You saved me and my mommy before!”

Carl shrugged, then, after receiving a nod from Skylar gave Zoe a quick half-hug before he smiled and nodded. “Yes, I did, Zoe! But I had lots of help from some of my other friends! Like Nina here…”

Nina smiled gratefully at Carl as Zoe hugged her as well and said. “Yeah, Nina! I like you too!”


 

…. …

Shortly after Skylar, Zoe, Carl and Nina left the house, after Skylar thanked her uncle for taking care of her daughter and giving him some money for his trouble, the four Alphas all made the short trip back to the train, with Zoe chatting excitedly along the way. Hours later, after Skylar, Zoe and their friends shared a small lasagna dinner in Skylar’s lab car, and going over some of the details about tomorrow’s mission with Skylar, it was time for bed.

Skylar decided to let Zoe sleep in her bed that night, since their where no free beds available. But Carl wasn’t bothered by this, and he made do…by still Bill’s sleeping bag that night…and hiding in the rear train car as he slept in it.

By the time it was time for the mission to start the next morning, everybody had been awake and ready at the meeting spot near the front of the train for over half an hour. As Dr. Rosen went over the details of the plan once again, two people were glaring at Carl, for completely different reasons. Bill was glaring at the tracker for stealing his sleeping bag the night before, but Skylar was glaring at Carl for a completely different reason…the .45 gun at the man’s side, loaded with the same special ammunition as Bill and Cameron’s weapons were loaded with, made the man’s intentions all too clear. He still wanted to kill Stanton Parish himself.

However, before Skylar got the chance to talk to Carl about this after the mission briefing, it was time for Dr. Rosen’s team to take their positions, and Skylar knew her protests wouldn’t be heard anyway as Carl loudly declared, as the members of Rosen’s team split up around Stanton’s base. “It’s time to get my son out this hellhole and end this!”

Chapter Text

The last battle of the Alpha Wars (as history would later refer to the conflict between Parish’s followers and the Alphas working for the U.S. government) was a long, bloody affair that lasted for the better part of the day. But the contest’s outcome was inevitable. Stanton Parish’s people all had their abilities upgraded by photic stimulators, they were all willing to fight and die for their cause, and they had the home field advantage during the battle, at one of the last of the Red Flag bases. Red Flag also had had Charles Webb’s psychic abilities, as well as all of Parish’s 200 years of military experience, to guide them.

                But none of it was enough.

 

                Dr. Rosen’s team had too many advantages for Parish’s people to overcome. Due to Rosen’s newly upgraded ability to attract even greater numbers of individuals with Alpha abilities to his person, Rosen’s small team of Alphas had grown into a small army over the last six months. An army that easily outnumbered the small group of fanatics that Parish had at his heavily fortified base. Furthermore, Rosen’s group had federal funding and Skylar’s genius, which gave them a large technological advantage over Red Flag. And finally, Dr. Rosen had Carl Webb on his side.

                Despite the fact that Dr. Rosen wouldn’t let him fight on the front lines (a condition Carl had agreed to only after Lee had agreed to take Charles straight to Carl after the battle was finished), Carl Webb’s involvement in the battle heavily aided Rosen’s people in a number of ways. Obviously, Carl was able to use his abilities to pinpoint the positions, abilities, and weaknesses of every Alpha in the Red Flag base, but his influence over Rosen’s success extended farther than that. Carl was also able to use his insights about Parish’s psyche, which the tracker had acquired over the last six months, to inform Rosen’s changing battle strategy as conditions of the battle fluctuated. Furthermore, the instructions that Carl had given Rosen’s forces before the battle, concerning how to block their thoughts from Charles, and any other psychics Stanton might have with him, allowed Rosen’s people to guard their minds during the battle with at least moderate success.

                For all of these reasons, by the time the sun had set on the last battlefield of the Alpha Wars, it had become quite obvious to everyone that, despite the fact that the Red Flag forces had managed to kill almost 3 of Rosen’s people for every 1 of their soldiers that died, leaving Stanton’s base and the surrounding area a bloody mess, the battle had turned against Parish’s forces. Therefore, out of desperation, Stanton’s remaining Alphas unleashed the full brunt of their upgraded abilities against their opponents.

                This was a mistake.

                As Rosen and Rachel had found out over six months ago, upgrading an Alpha’s abilities using a photic stimulator often made that Alpha’s powers unstable. A lesson that one particular Red Flag Alpha, who had the ability to create small earthquakes when he became angry, learned the hard way when he disregarded Stanton’s orders to manage his anger in favor of becoming consumed with rage over the way the battle against Rosen’s people was turning out. Although this tactic did, in fact, cause the ground underneath five of Rosen’s people to swallow them whole, the quake quickly grew out of the angry Alpha’s control and consumed the earth-moving Alpha himself…and then kept growing, swallowing Rosen’s people and Red Flag forces alike, until it became apparent that the quake was going to destroy the entire Red Flag facility and the surrounding area with it.

                Thankfully, Skylar’s numerous scout robots were able to ascertain how bad the quake situation was getting long before any of the Red Flag forces figured out their base was doomed, so most of Rosen’s forces were able to evacuate the Red Flag base. Carl (against Dr. Rosen’s orders) was even able to dash in the crumbling military base (with a few of Skylar’s stun robots in tow to keep him safe from enemy attacks) and get his son away from harm and back to “Rosen’s” train” just before the building and it’s immediate surrounding collapsed.

                Carl hugged his green-eyed, blond haired child while he wept and checked his son for injures, all of which were quickly healed by Rosen’s medic Alpha. However, even after his son was healed, the tracker Alpha wouldn’t stop checking to see if his son was okay as he repeatedly asked Charles: “Are you alright?!”

                It was only after Carl’s son wiped the tears from his own moist eyes and rolled his green orbs before replying, “I’m fine now, dad,” that Carl let himself relax a little and smile at his son while Skylar and Zoe Adams observed the father-son reunion with a smile.

Carl’s joy was short-lived however, when the tracker Alpha, who was hugging his nearly emaciated son at the time, finally noticed something with his Alpha ability. Although all the other Red Flag forces, and their vehicles, had been destroyed during the quake which was still raging on, Stanton Parish himself was still alive and on the run.

                Carl quickly acted on this revelation, and with a loud exclamation of “Parish is still alive!”, the tracker Alpha quickly ran off on his own, away from the rest of Rosen’s group, including Skylar, and started up a government jeep that one of Rosen’s Alphas had foolishly left near the train with the keys still in the ignition, then took off like a bat out of hell towards Parish’s general direction with a special gun in his back pocket.

                The tracker’s actions swept Rosen’s remaining forces into a frenzy, as most of them talked among themselves, debating whether anyone should risk getting close enough to the epicenter of the ongoing earthquake in order to save Carl and/or help him kill Parish. Bu Skylar was busy doing something else, as she quickly formed a plan in her head while looking at a nearby jeep without keys in the ignition, even as she lead Zoe towards Nina and told the dark-haired Alpha: “Take care of my daughter.”

By the time that Dr. Rosen came to see what all the fuss what about, Skylar was already sprinting towards said jeep, and when the psychiatrist asked the tech expert what she was doing, she yelled back. “Saving Carl from himself! I lost him six months ago, and I’m not letting that happen again!”

Skylar then quickly hot-wired the jeep, and she was just about to take off after Carl, using the device she had created to track the tracker’s Alpha signature, before she heard someone cocking their gun in her direction. When the technopath looked up, she was surprised to see Bill Harken pointing his gun at her right arm, although Skylar noticed the black man’s hands were shaking slightly as he spoke. “I can’t let you take that jeep, Skylar. That vehicle is the property of the U.S. government, and you are a government asset, which means I can’t let you put yourself in harm’s way without cause.”

Skylar gulped, then glared at the former FBI agent. “Without cause my ass! Carl is our teammate, your friend! And I care about him. I let him down at Grand Central Station when I failed to rescue him then, but I will not let him down again! And I will drive this jeep with one arm, or even my knees, if I have to, Mr. Harken! The only way you are going to stop me from saving Carl is if you kill me! So what is it going to be?!”

Skylar didn’t wait for an answer. The technopath simply started the engine and drove off at the Army jeep’s top speed, an action which caused Bill to lower his weapon and sigh. “Damn.”


 

Carl Webb wasn’t a bad driver, as he had been forced to navigate through bad traffic conditions, such as rush hour on the streets of Hong Kong, countless times during his days as a corporate head hunter. However, despite his above average driving skills, it was taking every last bit of concentration the tracker had to run down Parish, who was currently running away from the quake and the remains of his base on foot, while simultaneously avoiding the areas where the ground was being swallowed up by the quake. Therefore, Carl was not going as fast as he would have liked when he finally caught site of Parish.

At the same time, Skylar, who had a lot of experience driving cars at fast speeds to get away from various pursuers in the past, started catching up to the tracker Alpha and his vehicle.

Skylar’s jeep had nearly caught up to Carl’s, and the technopath was just about to yell as the tracker, when the brunette woman felt a tell-tale lurch beneath her feet, even as she heard the earth under her jeep give way, as the back of her vehicle started to sink into the earth and the front two tires of her jeep span uselessly as the front of the vehicle started to follow the rest of jeep down into the depths of the earth.

“Ahhhhhh!” Skylar screamed as she quickly climbed over the jeep’s driver side door, then onto the vehicles front windshield before jumping up towards the still sturdy patch of ground several feet in front of and above her (for the earthquake had finally ceased).

Skylar’s hands just missed the edge of the newly formed cliff while the jeep she had just been occupying seconds ago plummeted away from the world above, never to be seen again.

The combination of Skylar screaming and the sight of her jeep plummeting off the newly formed cliff several yards behind his own vehicle finally snapped Carl out of his dazed tunnel vision, and distracted the tracker from his single-minded pursuit of Parish. The male Alpha slammed his hand against the steering wheel and swore. “Fuck!” But the tracker Alpha quickly turned his vehicle around and aimed it towards the spot Skylar’s jeep had been while he simultaneously prayed to a God he wasn’t sure he believed in that Skylar would still be alive when he reached the cliff.

Carl’s prayers were answered, and when the dark-haired man stopped his jeep as close to the new cliff as he dared, Skylar, who had evidently heard his vehicle pull up, called up towards Carl from her current precarious position, holding onto a root springing out of the ground about a foot below the cliffs edge. “Carl! Help me! Please!” The tracker’s face betrayed his feelings of both anger and worry when he looked down towards the tech expert who had endangered her life just to chase him down and stop him from killing Parish. For a short moment, Carl actually turned away from Skylar towards the still-fleeing Stanton while he mused to himself that Parish just might still be in range of his special gun right now…

But the moment only lasted half a second before Carl quickly turned back towards Skylar, as his love for Skylar (and it was love, Carl knew, although he wasn’t ready to tell the tech expert that to her face yet) won out over the tracker’s hatred of Stanton Parish, and the dark-haired man bent down to offer both his hands towards Skylar just as the root she was holding onto began to tear itself from the earth under the strain of the slim woman’s weight. Thankfully, Carl had reached towards Skylar just in time, and the tech expert was able to use first one, then both of her hands to grab onto Carl’s arms just before the root fell away from its place and fell into the bottomless pit below.

Carl managed to pull Skylar up towards stable ground with only a little bit of effort, and the technopath quickly threw her arms around Carl’s torso and put her head on his right shoulder. “You saved my life! Thank you so much, Carl!”

The tracker’s response was instinctual, and before he knew it, his arms were returning Skylar’s embrace as he put his head on top of Skylar’s, not caring about the dirt on Skylar’s person that was now getting all over him as well. Then, as the brunette woman sobbed onto his shoulder, the tracker’s anger at the technopath for making him lose his chance to kill Stanton Parish today dissipated. Even though Carl’s anger towards the Alpha with the healing factor was still burning white-hot in his heart, he knew that Red Flag was losing the war, and that another chance to kill Parish would present itself soon. On the other hand, Carl knew that he would never have forgiven himself if he had let Skylar die, even if doing so had resulted in Parish’s death…

Carl’s thoughts were interrupted by a loud BANG! By the time Carl turned around, his tracker sense told him what had happened, as he felt Parish’s life force finally, finally begin to dissipate nearby, close to the presence of another Alpha’s energy signature. But when Skylar and Carl turned around, the former was confused and frightened about where the gunshot had come from and what it meant, because neither she nor Carl could make out the person on a hill who seemed like a dot on the horizon from this distance, although they could just make out the glare from the lens on what they both guessed was the man’s sniper rifle. But the tracker just smiled at the technopath and said. “Don’t worry, Skylar. I cans sense that there are only two people out here besides us. I’m guessing the man who fired the gun was Cameron Hicks, and the individual who got shot must have been Stanton Parish! It looks like you got your wish, Skylar. Cameron killed Parish with the special ammunition I helped create, because that bastard’s life force is fading and he should be dead right about…now.”

Carl frowned. He had expected to feel something more concerning Stanton’s death, other than the empty feeling that resided in his chest right now, and the tracker was idly wondering whether he would be feeling better or worse right now if he had killed Parish himself, when Skylar pulled the tracker away from his thoughts as she spoke to him with a smile on her face. “So it’s done then. The war’s over, and that bastard is finally in the ground. And you didn’t have to kill him yourself. You won’t have to live with the guilt of having his blood on yours hands. We are all finally free of Parish’s shadow over our lives!”

Carl returned Skylar’s grin, as he decided that maybe it was better that he hadn’t killed Stanton himself after all. But before the tracker could reply to Skylar’s words, the technopath, high on the adrenaline still in her system from her recent near death experience, as well as her happiness that the threat of Stanton Parish toward all non-Red Flag Alphas, and the world at large, had ended, without Carl having to kill the regenerating Alpha himself, did something really impulsive. Something that took Carl’s breath, and the words that would have come from him mouth, away completely.

Skylar quickly closed the small distance between herself and Carl and crashed her lips into the tracker’s own. Despite the rather jarring onset of Skylar’s osculation, Carl’s lips instinctually responded in kind, meeting Skylar’s lips with his own before slightly opening his mouth and allowing the technopath’s tongue to lightly brush his own. During this perfect moment, both Alpha’s were experiencing a feeling of euphoria that neither of them had felt in a long time, as they both became lost in the kiss for several seconds.

But all good things must come to an end, especially experiences that an individual is not yet ready for, no matter how wonderful those experiences may be. And this moment was no exception to this rule.

When Skylar leaned even further into the kiss and put her right hand behind Carl’s head, the latter party’s brain finally caught up to his body and the tracker quickly pulled away from the technopath before the latter could put her tongue into his mouth any further. Skylar then snapped out of her love-induced mental haze and quickly backed away with a fearful look on her face. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. I just thought, with the way you look at me sometimes, and some of the things you said, that you felt the same way as I do, but I guess no…”

Carl sighed and rubbed both sides of his forehead as he closed his eyes for several seconds. “It’s not like that, Skylar. I do…like you, like that. You didn’t do anything wrong, per se, but…”Carl shook his head from side to side to clear the mental cob webs in his mind as he tried to put his thoughts into words as delicately as he could. “It’s just too soon for me. I’m not ready for…” the technopath awkwardly moved his right hand in the air between himself and Skylar. “This. Not yet. Not so soon after…”

A tense look appeared on Carl’s face then, as his eyes stared straight ahead and his mouth set itself in a firm, straight line. It was clear that Carl didn’t want to finish stating his last though, even though he felt he had to, so Skylar did it for him while she had a frown on her face and a sad look in her eyes. “So soon after your wife died?”

Carl nodded and pinched the bridge of his nose as he closed his eyes to keep tears coming out of them. “Yeah.”

A sad smile appeared on Skylar’s face as she gently put one of her hands on Carl’s shoulder and said. “Yeah. Sorry about that. My timing sucks sometimes, but...That’s okay. I understand. You need time to process Charlotte’s death before you can…move on. T get it, believe me. It took me a long time to get over the death of Zoe’s dad so…I know what mourning, really mourning, like you are doing right now, feels like. You take all the time you need, Carl. I’m not going anywhere.”

Carl opened his eyes with a surprised expression on his face, and he was about to ask what Skylar meant by that last statement, when he was interrupted by the sound of a vehicle approaching his and Skylar’s location. After the two Alpha’s put what they considered to be a professional amount of space between them, Cameron Hicks opened the car door with a smirk on his face that made both Carl and Skylar wonder just what the super-coordinated man had seen them do, before Mr. Hicks finally spoke after several seconds. “Oh good, you’re both still alive….”

“Parish is dead.” Cameron added offhandedly.

Carl nodded. “I know. I felt it happen.”

Hicks nodded back. “Of course you did. It still creeps me out that you can do that, by the way. But anyway…”

Cameron gave both Carl and Skylar pointed looks. “Dr. Rosen needs to see you both now.”


 

….sometime later…

Dr. Rosen was pacing back and forth in front of the train when Carl, Cameron, and Skylar all arrived at the team’s mobile base. Carl raised his eyebrow at Dr. Rosen when he noticed that both Charles and Zoe where standing next to Lee, but no one else was outside the train with the doctor. The tracker’s suspicions where increased after Lee signaled for the sniper to go inside the train, and Cameron did so. Apparently, Carl noted, Skylar was getting the same strange vibe that he was about the whole thing as he was, because even as Charles and Zoe ran forward into the arms of their respective parent, the technopath was glaring at Rosen as she hugged Zoe. Finally, after several seconds of awkward silence, Lee gave Skylar a pointed look and said. “Skylar, I would like to speak with Carl and Charles alone for a moment about some urgent business. Why don’t you and Zoe go ahead and get settled in the train?”

Skylar looked at Carl and raised her eyebrow while keeping Zoe in her embrace, and Carl shook his head and gently, but firmly, grabbed hold of Charles hand, before turning to Dr. Rosen. “I think everyone will stay just where they are, thanks. What’s with the cloak and dagger routine, Lee? What is this really about?”

Dr. Rosen sighed. “You know, I liked you more when you called me Dr. Rosen.”

Carl shrugged. “I liked you more when I thought you could protect my family.”

The tracker Alpha simply waited for several seconds until Dr. Rosen nodded. “Right. Fine. I’m going to tell it to you straight then, Carl. I think you’ve earned that after over a year of service to DCIS, and for helping insure today’s victory over Red Flag. The FBI wants to investigate your role in every atrocity that Red Flag has committed over the last six months, and investigate any possible collusion with Stanton Parish on your son’s part….”

Charles started to cry as he was forced to relive several unwanted memories, and Carl was helpless to do anything but hold his son and cover the telepath’s ears as the young boy wailed. “No! I don’t want to remember the bad men! I don’t want to remember them hurting you us, daddy! I don’t want to remember all the bad thoughts they were thinking!”

Skylar and Zoe shot Carl and Charles a concerned look, but after Mr. Web shook his head, indicating she couldn’t help Charles with this, Zoe’s mother held her daughter close and glared at Dr. Rosen as she spoke. “Did you explain to them that both Carl and Charles were being tortured? That they were forced to watch each other be hurt until they gave Stanton Parish information? Did you explain to them that everything they did for Red Flag, they did under duress?!”

Lee frowned. “I did. But they didn’t listen to me. I’m afraid, with Parish dead, the Feds aren’t sure they need Carl walking free anymore. Therefore, the FBI has orders from the Pentagon that Carl and Charles Webb are to be captured and held in the Bureau’s custody pending a government investigation and military tribunal. Until then…the government wants both of them to be held in Binghamton.”

Having successfully calmed Charles down, Carl stood up and looked at Lee with no expression on his face, but that changed when Charles caught images of Binghamton from Lee Rosen’s thoughts. Images of Alphas being tortured, studied and cerebrally neutered and turned into factory workers in a government lab. Images that made Charles cry out again. “No, daddy! Don’t let them send us there! It’s a bad place! I can see it in that man’s mind! I can see it!”

Carl hugged his son once again, ceasing Charles’ crying even as an angry expression appeared on the tracker’s face as he spoke to both Charles and Dr. Rosen. “Don’t worry. We’re not going there.” Skylar nodded towards Charles to reassure him that his daddy’s words where true, even as she gently told Zoe, who was asking what was going on, to remain silent.

The tracker’s full attention turned to Lee as he looked over his son’s shoulder. “I’m guessing the Feds told you to hold my son and me until the FBI gets here?”

Lee nodded.

Carl nodded back. “And, given the lack of a welcoming committee when Skylar and I got back, I’m guessing you are refusing to obey that order?”

Lee sighed harder than Carl had ever seen the old man do so. “That is correct. I will not hold you here, by force, until the Feds arrive to take you and your son to Binghamton. But if you and your son decide to run, Carl, I’ll have to lie and said that the two of you evaded arrest by my team. You and Charles will be wanted. I really think it would be better for you and your son to surrender to the Feds while I get you a good lawyer to plead your case…”

Carl shook his head, dried the last of his son’s tears, then stood up, with one of his hand’s holding his son’s smaller hand, and glared at Dr. Rosen. “No thanks. I trusted you to protect me and my family once. I won’t make that mistake again. And my son will never set foot in that experimental hellhole for one second. I promise you that. My child is only nine years old, and he’s already suffered enough for an entire lifetime. I will not let him be hurt again by you, or any other government tool. Charles and I are running.”

Lee shook his head. “Be reasonable, Mr. Webb! You have no experience running from the authorities! How far do you think the two of you will get before…”

All three males outside turned around when they heard the beep of a car horn, then spotted Skylar pressing another button on a portable controller in her hand, just before the rear train car opened in the back. An electric blue sports car then rolled out of the caboose and speed towards the Alphas’ location in front of the train…just before the vehicle came to a screeching halt right in front of Skylar and her daughter! The technopath smirked, but the look in her eyes was serious when she looked in Rosen’s direction. “Actually, I think the four of us will be just fine, Dr. Rosen. I’ve been running all of my adult like, and Zoe’s been doing so almost as long as I have. I’m sure we can show these boys the ropes and help them stay under the radar!”

Skylar turned towards Carl with a small smile on her face. “If that is alright with you, of course. If you trust me.”

Carl smiled back and led his son towards the sports car and the Adams girls as he spoke. “Of course I trust you, Skylar. Thank you so much for this! I promise Charles and I won’t make you regret this!”

Skylar nodded. “I know you won’t. Besides, I couldn’t let those government bastards throw you and your son in that hellhole anyway”

The mom turned to Zoe as she unlocked the car. “Come on, Digit! It’s time for us to get in the car and go! And don’t forget to put on your seatbelt!”

Carl smiled at Charles. “You heard the nice lady, Charles! It’s time for us to go! Why don’t you sit next to Zoe and see if you and her can make friends after you put your seatbelt on, okay champ?!”

Charles nodded enthusiastically, hugged his dad, then looked at Skylar for a long moment and said. “You are a nice lady! Thanks for keeping us away from the bad men, Skylar! I can see why my dad likes you so much!” And with that, the little boy dashed into the car and buckled up in his seat next to Zoe as his dad and Skylar both blushed bright red.

After Carl shot Skylar another thankful glance and got into the passenger seat of the car, Dr. Rosen finally regained his wits about him after recovering from Skylar’s stunt from with the car, and the older man ran up to the technopath and grabbed Skylar’s right arm. “Don’t do this, Miss Adams! Despite your criminal past, the government has cleared you of all charges in exchange for your help against Red Flag! The FBI doesn’t want you or your daughter arrested, just Mr. Webb and his son! But if you help those two get away, that’s aiding and abetting, Skylar. You could get sentenced to Binghamton a long time for helping Carl and Charles escape, and Zoe could lose her mother! Please don’t…”

Skylar shrugged Lee’s hand away. “Sorry, Dr. Rosen. But I never liked working with you government flunkies anyway. I helped you stop Red Flag so that we could save the world…and get Carl and Charles somewhere safe. I’ve already helped you accomplish that first objective, now it’s time to get my friend and his son somewhere safe. Besides, even if I didn’t mind working with the government, I wouldn’t be setting a very good example if I let Zoe see me abandon my friend, would I? Especially since Carl saved my life. Several times. Even if I wasn’t as…fond of Carl as I am, I would still help him and Charles now. I owe him that much.”

Lee’s shoulders slumped, and the man looked defeated as Skylar climbed into the driver’s seat of her car and shut the door while she smiled and whispered to Carl. “I never liked that train much, anyway!”

Everyone in the Carl was all smiles when Skylar loudly asked. “Who here likes to go fast!”

Both Charles and Zoe raised their hands and enthusiastically shouted “Me!” This earned a chuckle from Carl and a smile from Skylar before the latter party added. “Then hold onto something, Digit! Mom’s going to take this thing up to light speed!”

Emphasizing her hyperbolic point, the sport car took off down the road, away from Skylar’s old train, at a breakneck pace, kicking up dust as it went along.

Several minutes later, while Charles and Zoe where playing in the back seat as Skylar drove down a long, straight road, Carl leaned towards Skylar and briefly squeezed her right hand.  A silent promise of things to come for the two adult Alphas.  Soon. But not yet.

Skylar smiled at Carl and squeezed the man’s hand back  for a brief second before she turned her eyes back to the road and whispered back. “I understand,  Carl. Thank you for trusting me, and...I promise I will always be there for you..." 

  "And Charles and Zoe of course." the technopath added awkwardly.

   Carl  chuckled,  but gave Skylar a smile to show there was no malice in the gesture before he turned back towards the road.  He knew it might be a long time before he was done mourning his wife, and he was truly ready to be…close with Skylar. But,  as guilty as it made him feel, the tracker knew it would happen eventually. And both of the adult Alphas in the blue sports car knew that moment would be worth the wait when it came.

Chapter Text

6 months later...

“Aaaahh!” Charles Webb woke up in the morning with a yawn, then looked at his father. The young boy sighed as he looked at Carl Webb, who was standing in front of the sole window to the hotel room that the father and son had slept in for the night. But even at a glance, Charles Webb knew that his father, who had bags under his bloodshot eyes, hadn't slept well, and had probably been vigilantly watching for possible threats for hours. This suspicion was confirmed by the few images the young boy was able to snatch from his father's mind before Carl noticed his son was awake and put up his mental walls of water and brick . Images of a woman screaming, fire and blood, and Carl waking up drenched in sweat while the motel room was still dark. Of Carl striding over to the window to lookout for threats until morning.

Carl turned towards his son. “You're awake. That's good., Charles. We overslept again. You'll need to get dressed, comb your hair, and get your psychic suppressor on so we can head out with the girls before Skylar yells at us again for being late!”

“Too late for that! We should have been out the the door five minutes ago! Carl, I swear if you two keep sleeping in, one of these days, the feds are going to find us because you're too busy sleep...”

But the words, as well as the angry look on her face, died in Skylar's throat after she and Zoe stepped through the unlocked door that ran between their room and that of the recently diminished Webb family. Skylar surveyed the state of the room, which nearly immaculate because Carl had already gotten all of his stuff, and most of Charles' things, packed away. The technopath also looked at Carl's tired face and sighed before she frowned at both of the Webbs, even as her eyes radiated love and pity for the recently widowed father. “Or maybe it's just Charles that sleeps to much...”

“I'm sorry.” The tracker interrupted the technopath. “I know I should have woken my son sooner, but being on the road, among all these people, is hard on Charles. And after...what happened, my son needs all the sleep he can get!”

Skylar sighed. “ I know. But so do you. You can't keep staying up all night trying to guard us, Carl! Your abilities won't be any good to us if you are too tired to focus. You need sleep...but you can get it in the car. You and Charles need to be downstairs in two minutes. I'm driving first shift today.”

Carl frowned. “I can't ask you to do that ,Skylar. You drove eight hours straight last night. It's my turn to..”

Skylar crossed her arms defiantly, and Zoe mimicked her mother's pose. “This isn't up for debate, Carl. You're too tired to drive right now, and I'm not going to put my life, or either of our children's lives, at risk until you get at least two hours sleep.”

Zoe giggled. “Yaaah!”

Father and son rolled their eyes simultaneously at Zoe's childish attempt to help her mother “lay down the law.” Skylar would have found the father and son's moment of solidarity cute and charming if she wasn't so mad at, and worried for, Carl Webb. “If you want to take some of the burden of driving, or keeping watch over our families during the day, off my shoulders, Carl, you need to sleep through the night. I know that stiff motel mattresses are probably not what you are used to, but...”

Charles frowned. “It's not the beds that keep my dad awake, Skylar. He wakes up in the middle of the night whenever he dreams about mom dying...”

“That's enough, Charles!” Carl folded his arms in front of him, then sighed as he got down on his knees to meet his son's eyes as he spoke to Charles in a softer voice. “I know you can't always help eavesdropping on people's thoughts, but what have I told you about blabbing secret thoughts to others unless it's an emergency, or to keep us safe from the bad people trying to track us down and throw us in the bad place?!”

Charles looked down at his still bare feet. “That I'm not supposed to? But Skylar and Zoe are our frien...”

“Yes...”Carl looked meaningfully at the the Adams girls, who were both giving Carl and Charles sympathetic looks. “Skylar and Zoe are our friends, and we owe them both a great deal for everything they have done for us, including keeping us out of Binghamton for so long!” Carl shifted his gaze back to his son. “But we don't need to burden them with daddy's bad dreams, alright?”

Charles wordlessly nodded and walked towards the bathroom with his his comb and change of clothes, knowing their would be time to brush his teeth at a rest stop later. Meanwhile, Carl wordlessly gathered up his and his son's luggage in both arms, looked towards Skylar and said. “We'll be down in two minutes.”

….One hour later...

Skylar sighed as she looked at the slumbering form of Carl Webb, who was in the passenger seat next to her in the car, using her peripheral vision. But the woman attempted to quickly put her worries, feelings, and thoughts concerning Carl Webb (including how unbearably cute the man was even when he was snoring) away with a shrug, in order to focus on the road. It didn't work.

And, as if the fates where trying to make an already difficult task impossible for Skylar, Charles Webb, the only other person in the car that was awake, whispered to Skylar from the backseat. “You're worried about my daddy. I'm worried too.”

Skylar nodded. “I'm sure you are. He hasn't been getting enough sleep,. Still, your dad is right. You shouldn't be reading people's minds unless it's an emergency.”

Charles shrugged. “Can't help it sometimes, even with the nice present you gave me to keep my head quiet.” The young boy pointed to the nearly transparent device in question, which was now compact enough to fit under the young boy's long hair since Skylar had upgraded her invention. “Besides...” Charles smiled. “I don't need to be psychic to know you are worried about my daddy. Or that your like him a lot. You look at him funny a lot, and you frown a lot when he isn't sleeping enough.”

Skylar blushed. “I didn't know I looked at him that way so often. I can...” The technopath sighed. “Does it bother you, when I look at your dad like that? Or that I like him?”

Charles frowned, then nibbled his lip for a whole minute before her replied. “I guess not. You're a nice lady and you help my dad take care of me, just like he helps you take care of Zoe, and...” Charles leaned towards Skylar's position in the seat in front of him and whispered in an even lower voice than before. “Can you keep a secret? I know daddy doesn't want me to tell you this, but I thing you need to know, because he's not to good at talking about things sometimes..”

It only took Skylar thirty seconds to take the bait. “Well...only if you really think I need to know...”

Charles nodded, and even form her peripherals, Skylar could tell that the young boy who was talking had a serious look on his face that betrayed he had experienced enough trauma to make him grow up way too fast. “Daddy still likes you too. He's afraid you don't know that because he doesn't spend much time with you alone, and you and he haven't...” Charles's brow furrowed. “What does the word 'fuck' mean? My daddy won't tell me what that word means, but he thinks about you and that word sometimes and he's worried that...”

Skylar's face turned bright red, and she sighed in relief when she saw that her daughter, and Carl, were still sound asleep before she cut Charles off. “That's an adult word, and you aren't old enough to know what it means yet, much less say it. And neither is Zoe, so please don't say that word in front of my daughter.”

Charles looked down and nodded, although Skylar couldn't see this from the driver's seat. “I won't. Sorry. Daddy says I'm not supposed to talk about adult things, but so many people's thoughts get jumbled in my head, especially since the bad man used that flashing light on me, and I sometimes don't know which are kid thoughts, and which are adult thoughts. I sometimes don't even know which thoughts are mine. You're device does help, though.”

Skylar nodded and exhaled. “I'm glad. I wish I could do more to help you keep others thoughts out, though.”

Charles shrugged. “You are doing your best. And I know you are trying to help my daddy too. And he appreciates that just as much as I do, but...” The young boy sighed. “He still thinks about mommy a lot. Has bad dreams about her too. About the day she died. Not how it actually happened though. In real life, she died quickly. The bad man shot mommy in the head. It was very sad...”

Skylar shot a quick, sympathetic look towards Charles using the rear view mirror. “I'm so sorry about what happened to your mommy, Charles. I never met her, but I'm sure she was a wonderful woman.”

“Thank you. She was. She was the best mommy I could have asked for. And I really miss her a lot, but I can't talk about it in front of daddy because I know it makes him really sad too.” The young telepath quickly wiped tears out of his eyes before Skylar, who spared a quick glance at the young boy using the rear view mirror, could see them. The boy sighed and spoke before Skylar could ask if Charles wanted to talk about his mother's death with her. “Daddy's dreams are even worse, though. In those, mommy always died screaming and on fire. It's really bad and...”

Carl shook his head from side to side. “Since the dreams started, while the bad man was keeping daddy captive, my dad's thoughts are confused. He loves you, but he still loves mommy. And loving you makes him feel bad. Like he's betraying mommy somehow. I don't understand why. Thinking about it too much hurts my head...”

Skylar nodded. “That's okay. I understand. For a long time, after Zoe's daddy died, I felt bad every time I started liking a person. Like I was trying to replace him every time I even thought about being...um...special friends with someone else. But that's not how it works, Charles. I know I could never replace your mother, and I promise that I will never try to. I just...”

“Want to be special friends with my daddy so the two of you can be happy together and do...whatever that word I'm not allowed to say means?”

Skylar snickered quietly at Charles' innocent appraisal of the situation between her and Carl. “Yes. Exactly. And just so you know, if me and your daddy did become special friends, or even started loving each other, it wouldn't mean that he loves your mother any less, any more than I would love Zoe's father less. There's room for both. I hope that both you and your daddy come to understand that.”

Charles sighed. “I think I'm starting to. The only reason I told you all this private stuff about my daddy is that I hope you can make him happy again if you and him become special friends. You're a real nice lady, after all. I still love my mommy, but every time my daddy thinks or dreams about her, it makes him sad now. And sometimes, thinking about you, or even dreaming about you, although daddy is always careful not to let me see much of those dreams, makes him happy. And I want my daddy to be happy again. I think that would make me happy, and you too.”

Skylar smiled. “I think you might be right about that, Charles. Me and your daddy being closer would probably make things better for all of us, including Zoe. But I think your dad might need a little more time before we can make that happen, so don't say anything to him about this stuff, okay?”

Carl woke up with a yawn. “Don't say anything to me about what? Is it my turn to drive yet?”

Skylar shook her head. “Not yet. Charles was asking if we were going to hit a rest stop soon and whether or not we should wake you up yet. I was just about to tell him that it would be another hour before we stopped, got some money from our accounts, and got supplies and gas, so we shouldn't wake you up yet. Go back to sleep. I'll wake you when we get there.”

“Okay.” Carl Webb yawned, then went back to sleep, never noticing the brief smile and look of understanding that passed between Skylar and Charles as he did so.

. ..Two hours later...

“Fuck!”

“That's a bad word, mommy!” Zoe glared at Skylar, who had just finished throwing her phone and credit cards to the ground and smashing them with her shoe while Carl and Charles just looked at the technopath with raised eyebrows.”

Skylar rubbed her forehead. “I know. I'm mother of the freaking year again, exposing you to language like that. Sorry, Digit. You too, Charles...”

Charles just shrugged and pointed to his head. “I've heard that, and a lot worse, many times before. At least I think I've heard worse. Still don't know what that words means because it's not time for me to know yet. Right, Skylar?”

Carl's eyebrow raised even higher at the exchange of words between the telepath and the technopath as the latter nodded and replied. “Right.”

Carl gathered up all his credit cards and his and his son's cellphones while Zoe smiled at Skylar. “I forgive you, mommy. It's okay.”

Carl handed the items he finished gathering to Skylar. “I'm guessing the last account got hacked and drained too? And, based upon what you just did, that it's not safe for us to use these phones anymore?”

Skylar sighed as she took the offered items, as well as Zoe's phone, and smashed them all on the ground. “I'm afraid so. It was that code breaker Alpha you told me about. The one you sensed was now meeting with some members of the FBI you've met. He must have broken Zoe's code, which had encrypted our phones and bank accounts from being hacked or tracked. Another minute or two, and they would have been able to triangulate our positions using our phones.”

Carl sighed. “And with the FBI and NSA taking your contacts into custody one by one, with or without charging them with anything, we don't have many places left we could ply your trade. Or lay low, for that matter. And we're running out of money now. We have a little bit of cash in the car, but that will barely last us a week. I told you we should have kept more.”

Skylar shook her head. “You're a smart guy, Carl, and you and Charles have taken to living on the LAN like fish to water. But you're still new at this. Having too much cast lying around draws too much attention. Both the criminal and Fed kind. It would have been dangerous for us to carry more. You're right though. We don't have enough money now. Or a place to stay. Or anyone we can trust that we can get too without alerting the government....”

“ARGH!” Skylar let out a muffled yell in frustration as she rubbed both sides of her head. “What are we going to do now!?”

Zoe hugged Skylar. “It'll be okay, mommy. We'll figure something out. You, me, Charles and Carl. We always do!”

Skylar pulled Zoe further into the hug. “Thanks, Digit. I know you're right. Mommy's just frustrated is all.”

Carl looked at the spectacle of the mother and daughter before him as he reached his hand out to Charles' and held his son's right hand before he spoke. “I know somewhere we can go. Someone who will take us in, no questions asked. And I doubt she'll charge us for the privilege of laying low with her for a while. I wanted to save her place as a last resort, but...looks like we are about out of options. If we leave now. We can probably reach Charlenne Branagan's house after about...a three day drive, if my Alpha sense isn't deceiving me.”

Skylar scoffed. “So you don't even know this person's address? And what makes you think Charlenne will help us? Is she an ex-girlfriend of yours or something?”

Carl's face turned a sickly green for a moment. “No. Not even close. And the reason I know that Charlenne will help us, the reason I know I would recognize her Alpha signature and be able to find her from anywhere, is that she is my mom.”

Two and a half days later...

Carl was driving this time, and Charles and Zoe were sleeping peacefully in the back seat of the technopath's car, when Skylar turned towards Carl from the passenger seat. “Okay, so run this by me again. Why can we trust a person who left you on a caseworker's doorstep when you were six months old, sentencing you to what you yourself described as eighteen years of hell? Someone, who, may I remind you, you've only met a grand total of three times?”

Carl sighed. “Like I said, we're running out of options. Besides, my mom explained to me why she left me all those years ago. She had a really bad drug habit at the time that took her about two decades to kick. According to her, she had been able to resist doing drugs while she was pregnant with me, but she relapsed about six months after I was born. Knowing how desperate drugs could make her, Charlenne took steps to make sure I ended up in foster care before...before something bad could happen to me while she was high. I'm not...I haven't quite been able to forgive her for leaving me, all those years ago, quite yet. Maybe I never will. But the knowledge that she did so while trying to protect me when she left me on that doorstep...It does help. Good intent should always count for something, you know?”

Skylar sighed. “Yeah, I guess you're right. After all, I had to leave Zoe with family members a few times to keep her safe. And I really hope she doesn't resent me for it.”

Carl took his right hand off the steering wheel for only a brief moment to squeeze Skylar's left shoulder. “Your daughter loves you, Skylar. Even if she is still angry about being left behind a few times, she will understand why you did it in time. And she will never stop loving you.”

Skylar sighed. “I hope you are right, but enough about me. Do you trust your mom to not only take us in, but be careful enough to keep us from the feds?”

Carl nodded. “Yeah, Look, I guess I do still love my mom, especially after she fully explained to me why she had to give me up during her second visit, when she met Charlotte the day after I married her.”

Carl's eyes watered a little after mentioning Charlotte, but he quickly wiped the unshed tears away from his eyes. “Charlenne is still my mom, you know? And I guess she was just doing the best she knew how to, when she gave me up. Anyway, I know we can trust her, because her lights have shown me, time and again, that my mom is a trustworthy, loving person. It's part of her core personality So when she told me, after the first time I met her on my eighteenth birthday, that she loves me, and that I could come to her with any problem, no matter what it was, and she would do anything within her power to help me, I know that it is still true.”

Skylar nodded. “Okay, so your mom loves you, will do anything to protect you, and we can trust her to give us sanctuary and not rat us out to the feds. That's good to know. Still, if Charlenne's your mom, surely the government knows that, and they will be watching her in case you and Charles try to make contact with her? And are you sure your mom is off drugs for good? I don't want Zoe being exposed to that world...”

Carl shook his head. “”The U.S. Government has not idea Charlenne is my mom. According to her, my mom gave birth to me alone, in the bathtub of an abandoned building. I have no official records of my existence before I was dropped on that caseworker's doorstep when I was six month's old, so even I didn't know who my mom was until she contacted me once I got out of foster care, and my ability, as well as a simple blood test I conducted myself, confirmed her words. So the Feds don't know to watch her. And I'm very sure that my mom is off drugs because...let's just say she has someone who keeps her very accountable, and she has been sober for about a decade now. I' for one, am very proud of the progress she has made. Anyway, my mom is, by her own admission, a very private person. Every time we met, it was at a crowded, loud location with no cameras, and she always contacted me through...unofficial means, so my association with her couldn't be tracked. Whenever I asked her why she was being so secretive, my mom just said that the feds couldn't be trusted to know we were related, and that one day, I would be glad the government didn't know she was my mom. I always thought she was being paranoid.”

Skylar chuckled. “Or maybe she was just being smart, because today seems to be that day. And if your mom doesn't trust the feds, she seems like somebody I might learn to get along with, if given the chance.”

Carl smiled. “Yeah. I know my mom will love you. From what little I've seen of her, Charlenne seems a lot like you.”

Carl cleared his throat. “Don't take this the wrong way, but you actually remind me of her sometimes.”

Skylar smiled widely. “”Since you seem to hold your mom in some regard, I will take that as a compliment.”

Carl nodded. “You should.”

As the tracker Alpha steered the car onto the street his mom was now living on, he sighed again. “There's just one more thing. I've already told Charles' this, and I hope you will tell Zoe this too, before we go inside my mom's place. My mom is a...Well, she is a very big woman. She confessed to me once that she has a very addictive personality, and the only way she was able to kick her numerous drug addictions was by getting a new fix:food. So, she's been a compulsive eater for years now and...well, it's caused her to put on a lot of weight over the last ten years or so. Even I don't know how much, because I haven't actually seen my mom since the day Charles was born, but...she's been noticeably heavier every time I've met her. I thought about saying something about it to her, because I do worry for her health but...if eating keeps her off drugs, I figure it's best to leave her alone about it. The way I see it, french fries and Oreos will kill her a lot slower than heroine and meth, you know what I mean?”

By this point, Carl had already parked his car in the driveway of his mom's residence, but Charles and Zoe were still asleep, and nobody had moved to get out of the car yet. Skylar nodded. “I understand. Eating that much may not be good for your mom, but it's better than the possible alternative of her relapsing. The lesser of two evils.”

Carl sighed. “Yeah. Look, my mom loves to cook almost as much as she loves eating, so just eat whatever she prepares us tonight, so she doesn't get offended, and I'll make sure to stock up on some healthy stuff for you, me, and our kids to eat after that for...however long we stay here. Also, my mom is very aware of her weight, and she might even make jokes about her size at her own expense, but...she gets very self-conscious whenever anyone else points out how big she is, no matter how many times her husband, who is a good guy we can trust, that I've met once before, tries to reassure her that her weight doesn't bother him, so...”

Skylar gave Carl a sympathetic look and squeezed his shoulder gently. “i promise I won't say anything to Charlenne about her size, and I'll tell Zoe not to either. No matter how big she might be, she's your mom, she loves you, and if she's willing to take us all in, that makes her okay in my book...”

The passengers in the car (including the children, who were awakened) were all started by the sound of someone knocking on the window closest to Carl. “You're all right on time! Come on inside, the two guest rooms are all ready for you, and supper is almost ready! And Bill is anxious to see all of you! Please come on in!”

Carl and Skylar barely got a look at the very large, green eyed, brown haired (although there were several streaks of gray) woman before she started waddling as fast as her plump legs could carry her past the now-open gate and towards the large house that was her residence. Skylar gave Carl a pointed look. “I though I told you that it wasn't safe to tell her you we were coming! That the NSA could be monitoring public phone calls and use that to find us!”

Carl frowned. “I didn't tell her we were coming.”

Skylar raised her eyebrow. “Then how did she...”

Carl shrugged. “She's an Alpha, like us. An unregistered one. She knows things sometimes. Sorry I didn't tell you before but...she;s my mom, and I didn't want to invade her privacy by telling you unless I had to.”

Skylar nodded. “ I understand. So she's an Alpha? A telepath like Charles, only more powerful?”

Carl opened his mouth to reply, but was interrupted by two small voices from the backseat, who spoke simultaneously. “Who was that lady, mommy?” Who was that, dad?”

Carl smiled. “That woman's name is Charlenne Branagan. She's your grandmother, Charles. And you haven't seen her since you were very small. But we are all going to be staying at her house for a while.”

“Yay!” Both children yelled, excited at the prospect of being able to sleep in an actual house, instead of a dingy hotel, and after the car was parked, they began getting their things out of the car without being prompted, and their parents soon followed suit. Within minutes, the two small families, which had almost become a clan due to traveling together for the last six months, were walking in the already open front door while the electronic gate behind them closed.

The small group was immediately greeted by a tall, blonde haired and blue-eyed man, who had a medium build with just a hint of a pot belly marring his otherwise muscular physique The man quickly shook the hands of Carl, Skylar, Charles, and Zoe as he introduced himself. “Hi, I'm Billy Bob Branagan, but please, call me Bill! You've already met my lovely wife, Charlenne, outside...”

The large woman in question waddled back to the front of the house.“Sorry I couldn't greet you properly then, but part of you dinner would have burned if I left it in the stove too long! Dinner's on the table already! I made all your favorites! Homemade macaroni and cheese for Skylar and Zoe,, five-cheese lasagna for Carl, and chicken nuggets for Charles! I also made salads, club, Caesar, and dry, warm garlic bread, and apple pie, cheery cobbler, and chocolate cheesecake for dessert!”

The four guests of the house fully took in the sight of the very large woman, who they all now noticed was wearing a huge apron, and Carl and Skylar both mentally noted just how big the former's mom, who had clearly cleared the four hundred pound mark, was. Skylar gulped before she decided to clarify something. “Um, excuse me, Mrs. Branagan, but Carl told me he didn't tell you anything about Zoe and I, so how could you know that those were our favorite foods?”

Charlenne smirked. “I saw us all having this conversation almost a week ago. Because I'm a clairvoyant Alpha. Did I not tell you that, Skylar?”

Skylar shook her head and Charlenne shrugged. “Oh well. Funny thing, being clairvoyant I often remember things that haven't happened yet, better than things that have already happened. But then, Einstein says time's relative anyway, right?! Now, I must not be a rude hostess, and I need to greet you all properly while dinner cools off on the table!”

Charlenne immediately swept her son into a large hug. “It's so good to see you again, Carl! I'm so sorry about what happened to Charlotte a year ago, she seemed like a very good woman. But I'm glad you brought Charles, your new girlfriend, and little Zoe to your new home!”

Before anyone could respond to all that, his mother had already moved on to hugging Charles, whose eyes widened a little, even as he hugged his grandmother back while she spoke...”Hello again, Charles! It's been far too long since I've seen you and your father, but I hope you and I can get to know each other quite well while you are all staying here with me. It's great to see you!”

Charles looked uncomfortable, but he smiled politely as Charlenne pulled away. “It's nice to meet you too, grandma!”

The large woman then went on to hug Skylar and Zoe, respectfully. Both of the Adam's girls
stood very still and their eyes widened when the large women hugged the mother and daughter, so Charlenne quickly pulled away before either of her guests became too uncomfortable, but not before muttering something that Skylar couldn't quite make out, but sounded suspiciously like “lots of fat children!”

However, just after Charlenne pulled away from Zoe, the little girl laughed and poked the older woman's large stomach. “You're fat, and you have a big, squishy belly!”

“Digit! That's not nice!” Skylar mentally face palmed herself for forgetting to tell her daughter not to say anything about Charlenne's weight, and she looked, first at Carl, then at Charlenne, as she began to speak. “I am so, so sorry! I think my daughter and I need to have a little talk about...”

Charlenne laughed. “It's alright, Miss Adams! I'm not offended. I know I'm fat because I eat too much! But food is just so good!” The older woman shook her large belly to emphasize her point. This action earned a small smile from Carl and Skylar, and laughs from both Charles and Zoe.

Skylar sighed in relief. “Okay. But I am still going to have a talk with Zoe later about keeping certain thoughts to herself!”

Mrs. Branagan nodded, before she turned to address everyone else in the house, save fore Bill, who had already retreated to the kitchen to gather dishes for dinner. “Now, all of you should go ahead and go to the dinning room, which is that way...” Charlenne pointed to a large room with a big table, loaded with food, which was just to the right of the new house guests. “And get ready for dinner! Don't worry about your luggage. Just leave it here and Bill will bring it to your rooms later! As for me, I'm going to help Bill get the last of the dishes in the kitchen. I will only be a few minutes.”

Most of the new arrivals to the house quickly did as they were asked, and all of them gently placed their luggage on the floor. However, instead of going to the dining room with the others, Skylar followed Charlenne as the large woman made her way to the kitchen, then gently put her hand on the older woman's right shoulder. “Excuse me, Mrs. Branagan, may I have a moment of your time?”

Charlenne nodded and smiled. “Sure. There aren't many dishes left to bring out, and I suppose I could let Bill finish, since I did all the cooking.. Go ahead and speak your peace. Just do it quickly please, before the food gets cold. And please, call me Charlenne!”

Skylar nodded. “Okay...Charlenne. I guess you can call me Skylar, then. I just wanted to clarify something. I'm not actually your son's girlfriend. Nor are we involved in any romantic capacity whatsoever...”

Charlenne shrugged while she interrupted Skylar's words. “Oh. I guess that means you and he haven't gotten together yet. Like I said, I get the present and future mixed up sometimes. Don't worry though, dear. You and my son will be...involved, as you said, soon.”

The older woman smirked as she added. “Very soon, If I'm remembering correctly.”

Skylar gulped. “Really? You're that certain? The future is that set in stone? I mean, what If Carl and I decide we don't want to be together?”

Charlenne chuckled. “Do you want to be my son's girlfriend, Skylar?”

The technopath's face turned bright red. “Well, yeah, but...”

Charlenne nodded. “Well, there you have it. Carl is obviously crazy about you as well, if the way he stares at you when you two are in the same room is any indication. You two will happen because you both want it to happen. All that's left is for some little push, some twist of fate, to make you and Carl an item. And it's going to happen soon, I think. Now come along, it's time for dinner!”

Skylar had a large smile on her face as she went to the table before she joined Zoe, the Webbs, and the Branagan's for dinner. And what a dinner it was! All the visitor's soon discovered that not only was there enough food on the table to feed several large families, but that every bite of it was delicious!

The salads were excellent. The lettuce was crisp, the croutons had just the right amount of salt on them, and all of the other toppings were made from fresh ingredients that had been bought from a farmer's market that morning. Also, all but the dry salad was loaded with those toppings, as well as enough ranch dressing for a person to drown in! As a result, everyone, even Zoe, the pickiest eater among them, finished their large bowls of salad before moving on to the rest of the meal.

The garlic bread was similarly exquisite. The dough had obviously been baked with a lot of love, care, just the right amount of garlic...and enough soft churned butter to make the infamous Paula Dean blush! Before long, all three of the large loaves were gone, with the new house guests having devoured one and a half of them, Bill eating half a loaf, and Charlenne wolfing down one loaf all by herself!

At first, once appetizers had been consumed, everyone at the table stuck to their favorite entrees, but all of the newcomers at the table unconsciously let out an low moan when they first tasted their favorite, a reaction that made Charlenne smile with pride. The homemade macaroni and cheese was richer, cheesier, and Skylar surmised, more calorific than any pasta she and Zoe had ever tasted....and it tasted damn good! Without even realizing it (because Bill happily reloaded the girls' plates when they began to run out), Zoe ate two helpings of the pasta, and Skylar ate three!

Carl and Charles had similar thoughts about the lasagna and chicken nuggets they started. The lasagna had five layers of creamy cheeses, but it was perfectly balanced with the large chunks of perfectly cooked beef, rich marinara sauce, and the multiple layers of pasta that were in every bite that Carl took of the delectable dish, which he consumed three helpings off. Furthermore, Charles couldn't seem to stop shoving nugget after nugget down his gullet, barely tasting anything but the first nugget, which was deep fried and crispy on the outside, and tender and juicy on inside. Even so, the young boy did not neglect to dip one of his nuggets into each of the rich, tangy, sweet or spicy sauces at least once, while he devoured two plates of the nuggets..

All of the newcomers to the house were pretty satiated by that point, despite not having eaten all day because of being on the road before, But Charlenne put some more food on each of her guest's plates... a little bit of the dishes that each of them hadn't eaten yet. “Please, you all need to sample at least a little of each dish so that I can know which one was cooked better, and how I could make any improvements!”

Each of the newcomer's reluctantly took their first bite of the new dishes out of politeness..but they soon resumed eating at a breakneck pace and moaning under their breath again when they tasted how delicious everyone else's favorite dishes were. In the end, despite the huge amount of food that Charlenne had given them, every guest cleaned their plate, and by the end of the main course, everyone had eaten at least one plate full of every entree, except for the Branagans. Bill ate two plates of every dish, while Charlenne wolfed down four. And everyone agreed that every dish was delicious, while no one had suggestions for improvements.

While all of this was going on, Charlenne made sure all the other adults drank freely from the large bottle of vintage red wine she got out of the cellar, as the hostess continually filled everyone's glasses to the brim whenever they became even halfway empty, until all of the wine was gone. Due to her history of addictions to other drugs, the hefty woman didn't drink herself, and she stuck to the several liters of soda, as well as the large pitcher of water, that she had brought out to share with the kids. Needless, to say, Bill, Carl, and Skylar slowly became slightly drunk during the course of the large meal. Carl and Skylar got just drunk enough, in fact, that unlike their children, who complained they were too full, the two younger adult Alpha's ignored their own full stomachs and quickly agreed to eat one slice each of the cobbler, pie, and cheesecake, respectfully, after they smelled the heavenly aroma of each dessert when they were pulled off the oven. And they were glad they did.

Each bite the house guests took of the desserts made Carl and Skylar feel like they had died and gone to heaven. The apples in the pie were fresh and just tart enough, the crust was warm, and fluffy, and the copious amounts of cinnamon and sugar somehow only enhanced the rest of the ingredients in the desert. The cherries in the cobbler were sweeter than any artificial, cherry flavored syrup on the market, and the crust was flaky, buttery (but not enough to offset the taste of the cherries), and so fluffy and delicate that if fell apart in every one of the adult's mouths before they started chewing each bite! And the chocolate cheesecake was indescribably rich and decadent!

By the time everyone was done eating, Carl and Skylar had eaten one large slice (as in, the size of three normal slices) of each dessert, while Bill and Charlenne both had four huge pieces each! Everyone at the table needed five minutes of rest before they could get up, and all the adults had to discreetly (or in Charlenne's case, very openly), take off their pants buttons and let their distended stomachs hang out slightly in order to breathe. Skylar closed her eyes and discretely rubbed her belly under the table. “Oh, god! That was the best food I've ever eaten in my life! But I may have had a bit more of it than I wanted to!” Being to drunk to realize that such a joke may be inappropriate in front of a genuine fat person, Skylar added. “Now, would someone kindly roll me to my guest room?”

Bill and Charlenne laughed when Carl patted his own distended belly and quipped. “Right after they finish rolling me to mine, Skylar!”

The hosts then kindly helped Carl, Skylar, and their thoroughly confused children up from their seats. The older couple then told the technopath and the tracker which room the children would be sleeping in, which they quickly added had two child-sized beds made up already in it in anticipation of the two familes' arrival. Charlenne then gave Carl and Skylar directions to another room and added. “And I'm afraid that's the only other vacant room in the house. And it only has one bed, but it's King sized, so there should be plenty of room for both you and Skylar. We'll take care of the cleanup for dinner this time, and we'll bring all your luggage up in the morning. Right now, just focus on getting your children tucked in for the night, then getting yourselves some sleep. I'm sure you've all had a very long day, after all!”

Carl sighed. “We sure have. Okay. Skylar and I can see if we can arrange a different sleeping arrangement tomorrow. Maybe I can sleep on a couch But tonight, I think we are all tired and could use some sleep in a comfortable bed. Is that alright with you, Skylar?”

The technopath nodded. “Sure.”

The two younger parents then quickly showed their children to their new room and tucked them in Charles closed his eyes and went out like a light as soon as his head hit his pillow. Carl smiled and spoke softly to everyone before he left the room. “Goodnight Charles, Skylar, Zoe.”

Zoe nodded, and spoke through a yawn. “Good night, Carl.”

Skylar turned towards Carl, and, remembering what Charlenne had said about her and the tracker becoming an item soon, shot a flirtatious smile and smoldering look in Carl's direction (which Zoe couldn't see) and said. “Goodnight, Carl. Hope you sleep well.”

Carl nodded with a goofy smile on his face before he left for the room he would share with Skylar, where he would promptly fall asleep while hearing the lyrics to and old 80's song about landslides and lost loved ones, in his head.. Zoe, on the other hand, wasn't quite sleepy yet, so Skylar decided now would be a good time to have a quiet little talk with her daughter about her earlier rudeness. “I don't like what you said about Mrs. Branagan earlier today, Digit. It's not nice to point out physical differences like that, and it is especially not nice to call someone fat!”

Zoe scrunched up her nose. “But she said I was right. She even called herself fat!”

Skylar sighed. “That's not the point, Digit! Sometimes...people make fun of the things they don't like about themselves in order to pretend that other people's words don't hurt them. But words do hurt.. Especially when you make fun of something about a person that they can't hide. I want you to apologize to Mrs. Branagan in the morning, understood?”

Zoe hung her head in shame. “Yes, mommy.”

Skylar smiled at Zoe and hugged her. “That's a good girl. Now, its been a very long day, and it's time for you to go to sleep, okay?”

Zoe nodded. “Ok, mommy.”

Skylar smiled again as she started walking towards the light switch of the room. “Good night,Digit. Good night, Charles.”

“Mommy?” Skylar's hand stopped when it was halfway to the light switch when Zoe resumed speaking. “It's because being fat is bad, right? That's why I'm not supposed to call someone fat. It reminds them that they've been bad, and that makes them feel bad, right?”

Skylar turned to Zoe and walked over to her bed. “No. It's not nice to point out physical differences, but being fat doesn't make someone a bad person. Where did you ever get that idea, Digit?”

Zoe raised one eyebrow slightly. “From you, mommy. Whenever I want to get normal meal instead of a kid's meal at a restaurant, or to get two bags of chips because I can't decide to between two flavors I like. Or whenever I want to get more than one dessert a day, you say something like. 'I can't let you eat that much, Digit, or you might get fat.' So being fat must be bad thing, right? And you, me, Charles, and Carl just ate a lot and dinner, right mommy? Does that mean we are all going to get fat and be bad too?”

“Well no, I...” Skylar's head was already spinning from the alcohol, and Zoe's tricky questions weren't making things any easier for the girl's mother. At the moment, Skylar didn't know how to explain that, no, being fat didn't make someone a bad person, but morbid obesity came with health risks that she didn't want her daughter to have to deal with. Nor did Skylar want to go into her own personal history on this thorny subject. How her loving (although not always as understanding as Skylar would have liked), fat parents had died in a house fire , and the firefighters had been unable to get them out on time due to their size. Or how Jake, Zoe's own father, had been a smart, kind, and loving man., who just happened to be very fat, had died in a car wreck caused by a drunk driver, simply because Jake's large size meant the paramedics couldn't get him out of his truck before it exploded...all while Zoe was still in Skylar's womb.

Skylar didn't know how to voice any of this at the time, or how to assure Zoe that she was just looking out for her health when she monitored her daughter's food intake, but she did know she didn't want her child to develop any body image issues due to more careless words on her part. So, knowing she could continue to control Zoe's food intake anyway, at least for a few more years, Skylar settled on the kindest, most encouraging response she could come up with. “No, we aren't going to get fat from one big meal, Digit. And you know something else?”

Skylar spoke from her heart then, not her brain, telling Zoe something she desperately wished was true for Zoe...and herself. “I just want you to understand, it's okay to be skinny, and it's okay to be fat, if that's what you want to be. Whatever you want is okay.”

Zoe shook her head. “But I thought you said...”

Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was the fact that she was tired, or maybe it was just her desire for her daughter to be happy and not worry about the very real possibility, given her genetics, that her metabolism would slow down and make Zoe fat when she got older, that made Skylar phrase her next words the way she did. Skylar ruffled Zoe's hair and chuckled. “I didn't know what I was talking about before, Digit. Whether you grow up to be fat or thin, you will still be a good person, and I will always love you, okay?”

Zoe smiled. “Okay, mommy! I'll always love you too, even if you get really fat!”

Skylar smiled and whispered. “ That's good to know..I love you too, Digit! Now go to sleep!”

After Skylar tucked her daughter in and turned off the light to the children's ('Temporary, this is all just temporary.' Skylar told herself) room, she started making her way back to her and Carl's temporary room. However, before she did, Skylar was greeted by...a sight she hadn't been quite prepared for. Charlenne and Bill, having apparently just come upstairs after cleaning the dishes and putting them in the washer, were now standing just outside the door to the Master bedroom, which was between the children and adult guest bedrooms. Skylar wouldn't have marked this sight unusual, if it weren't for what the older couple where doing at the time, which was heavily making out while fumbling for their own door handle...a task complicated by the fact that Bill hand one hand on Charlenne's huge ass, while one of Charlenne's hands was squeezing one of Bill's small love-handles Finally, however, the amorous older couple managed to open their bedroom door and quickly shut it behind them again, all without either of them seeing Skylar.

After deciding to ignore what she had just seen, since it wasn't her business what the Branagans did in their own home, and especially their own bedroom, Skylar said nothing when she heard several low moaning sounds coming from the master bedroom as she walked by it, although the mom was thankful that the noises weren't loud enough to wake Charles or Zoe. Ditto for Carl, who Skylar saw had quickly fallen asleep on one side of the massive king size bed he was to share with her, before the man had even been able to pull the covers over his body. Skylar silently shook her head and pulled the covers over Carl before climbing into her own side of the bed , putting her own sheets over her body, then promptly falling asleep.

…..

That night, Carl Webb had a dream.

But this dream was unlike any other dream Carl ever had. He was surrounded by light, he was lucid, and Carl got an undeniable feeling that went to his bones that even though it was a dream, it was also real.

The strange dream had just started, and Carl was looking around to see if he could find anything around him other than solid white light, when he heard the sound of an achingly familiar voice. “Hi, Carl. Long time no see.”

Carl's eyes widened as he took in the sight of a familiar, beautiful, blue-eyed and blonde-haired woman, but she looked different than the last time Carl had seen her. Charlotte Web had the same eyes and smile the tracker remembered, but she was a bit younger, and significantly heavier, than she had been when she died. In short, Charlotte looked just like she did on the day Carl had meet her and instantly fell in love with her in college. Before she had aged, or forced herself to lose a lot of weight to impress some of her friends in the art world. There were happy tears in Carl's eyes now. “How? How can you be here?! You're dead! Oh no..Am I dead too?! Charles still needs his father...”

Charlotte chuckled. “Yes, Charles still needs you. But you aren't dead. This is...a moment. Every soul in heaven gets to visit someone living in a dream. But only one time. One visit. And I can see now that you're the one that needs a visit from me.”

Carl nodded. “Yes. It is...great to see you again! How long can we stay here together?”

Charlotte shook her head.. “Not long, I'm afraid. But I'm not here to talk about me. I'm here to talk about you. You and that wonderful woman you are currently sharing a bed with. Why haven't you made a move on her yet, Carl? Skylar's a bit of a rebel, but she's a good person. A good mom. She would make an excellent wife for you someday, and a good stepmom for Charles. Skylar's been watching both of your backs for six months, anyway, and Charles and Zoe get along really well. And she stopped you from killing again, which we both know would have ruined you, in order to secure vengeance for me. vengeance hat I didn't even want. I'm very grateful for how much Skylar has sacrificed to help you and Charles. I know you love her, Carl, and you know Skylar loves you. So what's holding you back?”

Carl sighed. “I'm still in love with you. And I don't want to lose the love that I have for you by pursuing a relationship with Skylar. Or for Charles to think I'm replacing you. Besides, I sometimes feel guilty because I...Anyway, why are you asking me about my relationship to Skylar? I would think that you would want...”

Charlotte frowned. “What? That I wouldn't want you to move on? That I would want you to be alone and miserable for the rest of your life because I died? Did I really strike you as being that selfish when I was alive?”

Carl shook his head. “I guess not, but...”

Charlotte shrugged. “There's your answer, Carl. I want you to be happy. And a year is a more than adequate mourning period for you to move on with your life. You can still remember me and love me for the rest of your life. Just...love Skylar too. Love's not a zero-sum game, Carl. Giving love to Skylar won't make you love me any less. It's okay. You're allowed to love us both now that I'm gone. And Charles is a smart little boy, he'll understand that.”

Carl sighed. “Here's the thing, I also feel guilty because I...”Carl hung his head low,,,”I started developing...feelings for Skylar even...before you died. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean for that to happen, but I couldn't help how I felt. Also, I may have flirted with Skylar a little bit before....”

Charlotte raised an eyebrow. “Did you cheat on me?”

Carl shot Charlotte a look of indignation. “No! Of course not!”

Charlotte nodded. “And did you ever tell Skylar you wanted a relationship, besides friendship, with her when I was alive? Or try to have a romantic relationship with her in any way?”

Carl shook his head. “No. Not ever.”

Charlotte smiled. “I know that, Carl. And, from my sources up here, I also know that Skylar became attracted to you while I was still alive as well, but she never tried to make a move on you while I was living, out of respect for our marriage. Neither you, nor Skylar, did anything wrong. And flirting doesn't count. Not to me. You know I was a terrible flirt when I was alive, Carl, even after we got married. But I was faithful to you from the first day we met, just like you were faithful to me. But I've passed on now, and you and Skylar are both good people who deserve to be happy. So go get her.”

Carl's eyes widened. “I just...I'm surprised you're taking this so well. Encouraging me to move on and have a romantic relationship with someone else after you...passed.” The tracker Alpha sighed. “Also, I was also worried about, you know, what happens after Skylar and I both die? I mean, I know Skylar still loves the father of her child, and I still love you so, will we both end up together then or...What? Or is this something we won't even have to worry about because there won't be any se...”

Charlotte laughed. “That's not how it works up here, Carl. I wish I could explain, but...it would be out of the range of you current ability to understand. Just...let's suffice to say that there is isn't any jealousy up here and that everything will turn out alright. And by the way, I actually met Zoe's father up here. His name is Jake. He's a very nice man, and he said you would have his full support if you started a relationship with Skylar. Because he wants her to be happy too.”

Carl dried the tears he had just stopped shedding from his eyes. “That's good to know. Thank you. For everything, I guess I have no reason not to tell Skylar how much I care for her. I just...I'm never going to stop loving you, either and...Is it okay for me to start a relationship with Skylar if I still miss you?”

Charlotte smiled and leaned her plump lips towards Carl's. “That's allowed. And I'll always love you too.” Charlotte brought Carl in for a long kiss that lasted almost a minute before she pulled away from the Alpha and smiled. “But don't let your love for me stop you from living your life.” Charlotte beamed even harder as she started walking backwards, towards the blinding white light. “I can't see the future, Carl, but I can wish you and Skylar all the happiness in the world.. You and Charles will see me again some day, but I can wait. Don't you dare rush it.”

Carl nodded. “I won't.”

Charlotte smiled. “Good. Now...go catch that tech genius in your web...”

 

,,,

When Carl Webb woke up in the middle of the night, he wasn't surprised to see that he had woken up crying again, but he was grateful that, for the first time in six months, he was shedding happy tears. However, Carl was a little bit embarrassed that his crying had woken up Skylar, who quickly migrated to Carl's side of the bed. “Are you alright, Carl? You're crying!”

Carl looked into the warm, hazel eyes of the woman in front of him, who was giving Carl a look so full of love and concern that she made the tracker Alpha wonder how he had resisted Skylar's charms this long. Carl smiled as Skylar wiped the tears from his eyes without asking as he spoke. “Actually, I'm okay. For the first time in a long time...I'm okay.”

Skylar was about to open her mouth to ask what Carl meant by that statement, before she felt something hard against her belly, which was still pretty full. Carl looked down in embarrassment Apparently, while his mind, heart and eyes had been focused on Skylar's eyes, and hadn't even noticed that Skylar, who was now wearing nothing but a bra on the upper half of her body, since her pajama top wouldn't fit over her temporarily enlarged belly before she had gone to sleep, had wrapped Carl's body in her warm, half-naked embrace But Carl's body had definitely noticed this pleasant turn of evens, and responded accordingly. Carl blushed. “ I didn't meant to...I'm sorry.”

The tracker tried to move away from Skylar, but the technopath wouldn't let Carl out of her embrace. Skylar smirked. “I'm not. I'm just glad I can still get a reaction from you. I was beginning to think you had lost interest. “

Carl shook his head. “No way. I've been interested in you for a long time, Skylar. I...love you, actually. I'm sorry I didn't tell you that sooner. It's just, until today...I didn't feel ready to act on that love because I...”

Skylar put two of her fingers on Carl's lips to gently silence the man's rambling before she smiled. “It's okay, Carl. I was in that place too, for many years, after Zoe's father died. You don't need to explain, apologize or be embarrassed I'm just glad that we got to a place that you could tell me that you love me. Because I love you, too, Carl.”

All restraint went out the window after that. Carl brought Skylar into a deep kiss that lasted for several minutes, which lead to both Alpha's practically tearing each others clothes off before the new couple engaged in a hours long lovemaking session that was deeply pleasurable and cathartic to both of them, as their long repressed, once forbidden, love for each other could finally be expressed. The only hitch in the whole event, other than the fact that Carl and Skylar had completely forgotten to use condoms, was that both Alphas were initially embarrassed by their bellies, which were still slightly enlarged from dinner. But the couple quickly got over this embarrassment after Carl kissed Skylar's belly on the way from one set of her lips to the other, smiled at the embarrassed look on the technopath's face, and said. “Don't worry, you're just as beautiful with a big belly as you are with a small one.”

The technopath had then laughed, kissed Carl's belly in return, and smiled. “And you're every bit as handsome with a big belly , too.” With that out of the way, what little remained of Carl and Skylar's inhibitions dissapeared, and the newly formed couple continued to make love well into the morning, until their bodies collapsed into each other in exhaustion, and they fell asleep, smiling, content, and completely naked in each others arms just as the sun began to rise in the sky.

Chapter Text

...The next day...

Carl and Skylar woke to the sound of a knock on the door, as well as Charlenne's voice. “Good afternoon, sleepyheads! I've been watching Charles and Zoe for hours this morning, now it's time for the two of you to join me and your children for brunch! Bathroom's at the end of the hall, so go ahead and get yourselves cleaned up so you can meet us downstairs in fifteen minutes...” Charlenne chuckled. “On second though, I just remembered which morning this is...go ahead and make it thirty minutes, lovebirds! You won't be able to have a honeymoon for a while, so make those minutes count!”

Skylar's face turned bright red. “Did your mom just insinuate that she knows we had sex last night, and that we should have sex in the shower now!?”

Carl nodded, glad that the technopath didn't mention his mother's insinuations that he and Skylar would get married in the future. The tracker loved Skylar, but he had just gotten together with her last night, and he wasn't near ready to ask her to marry him. “Yeah. I think she did. She can be pretty blunt sometimes. I learned that the first time I met her. But her heart is in a good place.” Carl gave Skylar's naked body, which had a couple new pounds of soft, squishy fat around her mid-section after digesting her large dinner last night, a once-over before the tracker lifted his eyebrow in a suggestive fashion. “And I've found it's usually a good idea to follow her suggestions. We should do what she says.” Then Carl remembered that his mother mentioned it was now the afternoon, looked at his watch on the nightstand, and cursed. “Damn! We better hurry too! It's almost one PM! I hope Charles and Zoe were okay without us this morning.”

Skylar smiled. Both at the familiar sound of Charles and Zoe playing, which she could now hear coming from downstairs, and the fact that Carl had just expressed concern for Zoe's welfare, as well as Charles's safety. The tracker was always being thoughtful like that, looking out for her and Zoe, as well as himself and his own offspring. Making sure they were all safe from both government and criminal threats at all hours of the day. Driving and/or watching both Alpha kids when Skylar needed extra sleep, or when Charles or Zoe, who had started teaming up against their parents to pull pranks on them, started driving the technopath crazy. In short, Carl's behavior made it obvious that he was a great father, and would make an excellent step-father for Zoe. And this fact further reinforced Skylar's conclusion that she had chosen well when she had set her heart on Carl becoming hers, even if her feelings for the man had initially sprung up at an inopportune time...while Carl's late wife was still alive. But none of that mattered now. What mattered was that Carl was finally, fairly, hers, and that, based on what Charlenne had said, Carl would be her husband someday! The technopath finally gathered her thoughts together enough to respond to Carl several seconds after he had spoken. “It sounds like they are okay to me”

Skylar then mock-sighed, even as she leered at Carl's body, which also had an every so-slightly bigger middle than the tracker had possessed yesterday.. “ As for your mother's suggestion...I suppose if we must, we must. What temperature water would you prefer we suffer through shower sex with?”

Carl laughed, appreciating both the the oddity and levity of the current situation. “I'm not sure. This is a very serious mission, and I've never had sex in the shower before. You may have to show me the ropes, captain.”

Skylar smirked. “That I can do, corporeal. I'll have you standing at attention and getting the thrust of it in no time!”

After putting on bath robes and making sure that neither Charles, nor Zoe was anywhere on the second floor of the house, the new couple dashed to the bathroom while laughing like school children. Pretty soon, Carl and Skylar were naked in the shower together, and Skylar was trying to find a suitable water temperature for both of them. As she did so, Carl started humming a song from an old romantic comedy he had watched (under duress from Charlotte) a long time ago. Carl didn't remember the name of the rather silly song, about a teenage boy trying to score with his girlfriend by convincing her that world war three had just started. But the pleasant, albeit awkward situation that he and Skylar were currently in sort of reminded him of that old tune now.

Skylar laughed after she finally found a temperature that her and Carl could agree on, just before she and Carl started lathering each others bodies in soap. “ 'Let's Do It For Our Country? Grease 2? Damn, that's a blast from the past! It does sort of fit the situation though. Not exactly, but...”

Skylar moaned as Carl lathered soapy hands over the technopath's breasts. Carl smiled at the reaction while finishing Skylar's sentence. “Kind of? I know, right?”

Carl started a little when Skylar squeezed both of his butt cheeks, shot her lover as innocent a smile as she could manage, under the circumstances, and said. “What? I've been wanting to squeeze that hot ass of yours for over two years. I can't be responsible for squeezing it every chance I get now that we can finally be together, can I?”

Carl just smiled and squeezed Skylar's ass right back, making the technopath shriek, them smile at her new boyfriend, who shrugged and spoke in his best 'Patrick Swayze' voice. “Ditto.”

Skylar laughed even harder now, desperately hoping that no one else in the house could hear her and Carl over the sound of the running water, even as the two of them finished washing each others bodies, paying special attention to each others soon-to-be muffin top bellies. “Did you seriously just quote Ghost to me...” But Skylar's next words were lost as they faded into moaning when Carl gently backed Skylar up against one of the shower walls and initiated coitus

Fifteen minutes later, after Carl and Skylar had dried off, gotten dressed, and brushed their teeth, while Carl was still shaving. Skylar's posture became stiff as a board. The technopath's eyes widened when she finally realized that, in the throws of lovers bliss, she and Carl had forgotten to use protection while making love last night and this morning...and Skylar had not yet taken her birth control pill for the day. Skylar knew that likely wouldn't matter, since she had been diligent about taking her pill every day since right after Zoe had been born, but still...her and Carl's slip-ups gnawed at Skylar, especially when she remembered Charlenne's whispered words...or perhaps, prophecy, about the technopath having “lots of fat children” in her future. In addition to worrying about whether Charlenne's words were meant to be taken literally, Skylar was filled with conflicting feelings of excitement and fear when she thought about the possibility that she may have just sired her second child with her new boyfriend.

Carl was still shaving when he caught sight of Skylar's shocked look in the miror. Carl frowned. “Is something wrong, Skylar?”

The technopath shook her head and laughed nervously. “No...probably not. I mean...I was just thinking that it was nice that you have a secret soft spot for romantic comedies, because now, wherever we may end up going, You, me, and the children can have a rom-com movie night once a week.'

Carl chuckled, then went back to shaving. “Sorry, Skylar. I'll have to veto that idea. I will admit that there are some...” Carl pointed his blade, covered in shaving cream, at Skylar in a non-threatening manner. “Some, rom-coms that I don't totally hate. Totally. But even if. If, mind you, I liked that genre, I would totally have to revoke my man-card if I raised my son on those movies.”

Skylar smiled seductively, but Carl could tell she was still nervous as she drew closer to Carl, placed her hand over his chest, then slowly drew her hand downward, stopping a moment longer than necessary on Carl's belly before moving on, until the technopath's hand rested just above the tracker's crotch. “I know you're all man, Carl. And after last night and this morning, trust me, I will never forget that fact. But me and Zoe kind of miss watching those kinds of films on a regular basis, I can till you don't hate rom-coms as much as you pretend too, and I think it would be good for Charles to be in touch with his feelings, don't you? Wait...please tell me that you aren't homophobic. You're not afraid that watching chick flicks will make your son gay, or something stupid like that..”

Carl stopped shaving long enough to shake his head while frowning “First, I'm not homophobic. I've had plenty of gay and lesbian friends over the years. Secondly, your questions are costing us time, and we are going to be late going getting downstairs for brunch. Thirdly, and fourthly, I would love my son just as much if he were gay, and I will allow Rom-com movie night once every two weeks, if that's what it takes to prove it to you, but Charles is straight. Trust me, I know.'

Skylar smiled and shook her head. “And how, exactly, do you know that already?”

Carl laughed.”Because, after accidentally reading some adult's mind, Charles ended up acting like a little pervert towards all the girls in his class for the better part of a week in the first grade.”

Seeing Skylar's worried look, Carl hastily added. “Don't worry. I set Charles straight. Told him what kind of looks and touching were appropriate, and which weren't. And he hasn't acted out since. He would never do anything inappropriate towards Zoe. I would stake my life on that.”

Skylar sighed in relief. “I believe you. But I got it. Charles is definitely not gay. But..if you ever did have another child, with me, for example...”

Carl sighed and interrupted Skylar. “Talking about having children with me when we just got together last night...that's a bit premature, don't you think?”

Skylar looked frightened now, and Carl didn't know what to think about that when the woman's voice trembled. “Probably premature. Yeah. I mean, I hope so...It's just....You know, we didn't use condoms last night, or this morning, and I haven't taken my birth control pills in over twenty-four hours...”

“Ow!” Carl yelled as he cut himself shaving.

Skylar quickly got a bandage and disinfectant, and helped her boyfriend apply those items to his face before she looked down in shame, even as her hands trembled in fear. “I'm sorry! I shouldn't have brought this up while you were shaving, this is my fault..”

Carl gently took Skylar's hands in his own. “Don't worry, I've cut myself shaving before. I'll be fine. Me cutting myself isn't your fault, it's mine for not being more careful. And if you were referring to not using protection...that's just as much my fault as yours. We'll be more careful from now on, that's all.”

Skylar took a deep breathe, and Carl drew his hands away from Skylar's hands once her dainty fingers stopped shaking. “Of course you're right, Carl. I'm just freaking out a little because your mom insinuated last night that you and I were going to have a lot of kids together, and because I haven't been this careless since, well, since Zoe was conceived.”

Carl just nodded, not sure what to say except, “Oh.”

“But that was before I started taking birth control, so you and I will probably be fine...”

Carl laughed. “We'll be fine either way, Skylar. But now that I think about it...you probably are going to end up pregnant from last night or this morning. I don't know whether to say sorry, or congratulations..”

Skylar frowned. “What do you mean? What makes you think I'm going to become pregnant from one...okay, two, little slip ups?”

Carl sighed when he looked at his watch, noticed that he and Skylar were already late for brunch, but decided this was too important a discussion to table for later.” Okay, first of all, my mom told you that you you and I were going to have lots of children together. I wish you had told me that last night, because my mom's predictions are always right, and her core personality makes it impossible for her to lie about something that important, unless she were lying to protect someone she loves, perhaps. And I don't see how that could apply here. Secondly, we both forgot to use any form of protection. And thirdly....”

Carl sighed. “Please don't laugh. But I'm pretty sure I have super-charged Alpha sperm, or something, because the only other time that I had sex without a condom...Charles was conceived. And Charlotte swore to me, up and down, that she had been taking birth control pills every day since she was twelve, and by themselves, they had never once failed to prevent her from getting pregnant...until she met me.”

Skylar nodded. “Oh. Um...you don't regret...”

Carl shook his head. “What's to regret? Having a wonderful son that I love more than life itself? Marrying and having a happy, however short, life with a woman I loved? No, I don't regret any of that. And I don't regret last night and this morning, either. And I never will, whether or not I am right about you getting pregnant. Because I love you. And if Zoe and Charles are any indication, I don't see how any children we might have could fail to be great.”

Skylar blushed. “I love you too. Thank you.”

Carl sighed again. “You're welcome. But...I know it's not up to me. If...and I could be wrong about this, but I don't think I am. If you do end up getting pregnant now...are you...”

Now it was Carl's turn to look scared as he looked away from Skylar and refused to make eye contact. “Will you keep the baby?”

“Yes.” Skylar's reply was immediate, and Carl's eyes were wide with shock due to how quick the answer came out of his girlfriend's mouth. The technopath smiled at Carl's wide eyes and dopey, but adorable, grin as she clarified her words while rubbing her stomach gently. “I mean. I know it will make things trickier. Having a baby on the run. I don't know, maybe your mom will let us stay here until I can have the baby, assuming you're right about your” Skylar made air quotation marks with her fingers. “super charged Alpha sperm” getting me pregnant.” Carl chuckled softly as Skylar kept speaking. “And yeah, I'm sure it wouldn't be easy for Charles and Zoe to adjust to having a new brother or sister. I get all that. But...I'm in love with this baby's daddy so...”

Skylar drew Carl into a long slow kiss, and the new couple were all smiles when they pulled apart, but the technopath's face grew serious when she added. “Just promise me, something, Carl. I wish you could promise me that you won't die on me, like Zoe's father did, but we both know it may not be in your power to keep that promise so...just promise me that, if we do have a child together, whether or not you and I work out as a couple...”

Carl frowned. “Skylar, we aren't going to break up.”

Skylar's expression was somewhere between a frown and a smile as she nodded. “And I hope you are right, but even if we do, just promise me that you will never abandon our child. That you won't make me single parent again, as long as we both live.”

Carl nodded. “I promise. I would never abandon any of my children. I thought you knew that.”

Skylar smiled. “I know. I just wanted to hear you say it.”

Carl nodded back. “Great. We'll find out if I'm right or nor later, but right now, we need to go downstairs for brunch...”

A couple minutes later, Carl and Skylar made their way downstairs to the kitchen. Charlenne, who was cooking there, noted that Skylar had her messy hair up in a bun, and Carl had a bandage across his face, where he had obviously cut himself shaving, but otherwise, the couple's casual attire of jeans and t-shirts made them appear ready for the remainder of the laid back day their families where about to enjoy. Carl and Skylar both started talking at the same time. “I'm so sorry, Charlenne.” “Sorry for coming down here so late...mom.”

But the super-sized woman just waived off the concerns of her son and future daughter in love as she set two large stacks of pancakes, which had just finished cooking on skillets, onto two large platters of food, which were already loaded with large helpings of bacon, eggs, hash browns, french toast, and various types of fruit. The huge woman gave the new couple in her home a mischievous look. “Don't worry about it. I knew very well that you two would be a little late coming downstairs. I'm actually glad you are enjoying yourselves here, since you are probably going to be staying at this house longer than you probably planned too. That's why I didn't start making your two platters of food until everybody else had finished eating there's.”

Carl shook his head, not knowing what his mom was getting at yet. “I'm still sorry Skylar and I came downstairs so late.”

Skylar nodded. “Me too. And I'm also sorry that I won't be able to eat all this food. It's smells delicious, but there's just too much...”

Charlenne laughed and shook her head. “Nonsense. I'm certainly not sorry you came down here late, considering the circumstances. And Skylar, I think you, out of everyone in this house, needs as many calories as you can get. After all, you are eating for four, now.”

Carl and Skylar's eyes widened as they spoke simultaneously. “What!?”

Charlenne smiled at Carl and Skylar. “Yep. You two are going to be having triplets in nine months! Since I'm going to have more grand babies soon, feel free to stay here with me and and Bill as long as you want. I'll even help you two raise your kids, if you wish. Oh, and congratulations!”

“I'm going to get so fat.” Skylar quickly sat down on a nearby bench while avoiding eye contact with Carl, who was grinning nervously while giving his girlfriend a look she couldn't quite read after she accidentally spoke her last thought aloud. “Carl...this is unexpected news. Great, but unexpected. And I'm a little frightened, because I actually gained 40 pounds while carrying Zoe, and it took me three years to lose it. So I have no idea how big I'm going to get with triplets, or if I'll ever be able to lose all the weight I gain. But yeah, I'm probably going to get pretty fat from these pregnancies...”

Carl quickly took one of Skylar's hands in his own as he interrupted his new girlfriend's nervous rant. “That's okay. No matter how big you get, during,or even after the pregnancies, even if you can never lose a single pound of post-baby weight... It won't diminish my love for you. All it would mean is that there would be more of you for me to love.”

Skylar smiled at the sincere look in Carl's eyes, which she had learned long ago meant that he was telling the truth.“Thank you, Carl. That means...so much, I...” Skylar whispered in Carl's ear. “I've never had a man tell me that he would still love me if I got really fat.”

The technopath looked down nervously at her shoes, not noticing the slight bulge in her boyfriend's pants that her words had already caused as she quietly added. “And just so you know um...I've heard that at times, guys with pregnant partners gain weight by picking up their significant others eating habits. Sometimes, those changes to their eating habits even become permanent, and the man keeps gaining weight throughout the rest of his life and..” Skylar blushed bright red, nervously chomped down a whole piece of bacon, then gulped, before she quickly added, before she could chicken out. “I just wanted you to know, if that happens to you, even if you get really, enormously fat...I'll still love you too.”

Carl smiled, not really sure how to respond to that, but thankfully, he didn't have to, as his eavesdropping mother smiled at the new couple and said. “I'm glad you two have developed such a positive view on this subject so quickly, when it took me years to develop good feelings about fat..”

Carl and Skylar had both started digging into their large platters of food by then, and this sight made Charlenne smile as she added. “Also, glad you enjoy my cooking so much, and decided not to sweat the portion sizes. Life's to short to count calories. And it would be rather pointless for you to worry about that anyway.”

Carl shook his head at his strange mother's words, and spoke to her between mouthfuls of fried eggs. “Yeah. Why is that?”

Charlenne smiled mischievously “Because everyone in this house is going to get, and stay, really fat!”

Carl and Skylar both dropped their forks in shock as Charlenne, seemingly oblivious to this shocked reaction, quickly shook her belly and laughed. “Or in my case, fatter!”

Finally seeing Carl and Skylar's shocked reactions, Charlenne quickly added. “Don't worry. I'll keep you and your children safe here for the foreseeable future. Over six years in fact...”

Skylar sighed. “With all due respect ma'am..We weren't planning to stay here nearly that long. Also, while I respect you and Bill's life choices, and I would never judge you for them...I don't want to endanger Zoe's, or Charles' health by allowing them to become obese at such an early age...”

Skylar gave Carl a look, and he quickly backed the technopath up. “I agree with Skylar on this. I'm sorry, mom. But we can't stay here and allow our kids to get fattened up.”

Seeing the hurt look on his mother's face, Carl quickly added. “Not that being big makes someone a bad person. I know you aren't a bad person, after all. But Charles and Zoe are still minors, and it the responsibility of Skylar and myself to teach them to make healthy choices while they are still young. If Charles decides to adopt a lifestyle that makes him a ...bigger man, after he turns eighteen, I would be at peace with that, and I wouldn't love him any less for making those choices. But right now, it's my responsibility to teach him restraint, good exercise habits, and self-control.”

Charlenne shot the younger parents a smug grin. “You'll change you mind. In fact, you are both going to feel real silly in the next five minutes.”

As if to prove her point, Zoe started shouting from the living room, where her and Charles were watching TV with Bill while snacking on a large bag of potato chips. “Mom! You need to see this! You were right! It is okay to be fat!”

Carl and Skylar shot each other confused looks before hurrying to the living room, platters of food still in hand, while Zoe pointed to the television and shouted, “Turn it up! Turn it up!”

Bill, who was holding the remote, turned up the TV with a smile. As he did so, Carl and Skylar sat down and started eating their large, delicious brunch while watching the commercial that was playing, which featured a typical looking family of four enjoying a picnic in a park. Typical in every respect, save one. Every member of the TV family, both parents, the brother and sister, were all very fat.

Nevertheless, the commercial family were all smiles as they ate a small feast in the middle of the park, even as a voice over played in the background. “Lipidpro is not a weight loss product. Instead, it works with the fat in your body to strengthen muscle, organs and bone, removing the health risks and stress on the human body that usually comes with being overweight, while keeping blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels in a healthy range All while substantially reducing the odds that a person will get cancer. Lipidpro has even been shown to eliminate preexisting conditions caused by being overweight. Lipidpro has been approved for use for individuals five years old and over. It is not necessary to engage in an exercise regimen, or change your diet in order to experience the full positive effects of Lipidpro. Side effects of Lipidpro include increased appetite and rapid weight gain in some subjects, but these side effects have not resulted to any health risks. Lipidpro is available over the counter.”

The camera panned to the face of the “father” in the commercial. “Me and my family love good food, but we don't enjoy exercising. As a husband and father, I wanted to provide the lifestyle my family enjoys, without endangering their health “

The fat “wife” turned towards the audience as she smiled. “ That's why everyone in our family takes Lipidpro once a week. And now, we can all eat what we want, as much as we want, whenever we want, and still be healthy, without having to do any pesky exercise.”

The camera panned away from the family a bit, showing the four fat individuals from a distance as they all got into their car and the dad loudly asked, “ Who wants to get some ice cream on the way home?” Just before the voices of the other family members all cried out. “Me!”

The voice over finished as the pretend family drove away towards the sunset. “Lipidpro. Be healthy while keeping the lifestyle you love.“

Carl and Skylar looked stunned, not knowing how to process the fact that a product liked Lipidpro even existed, much less that it was available to the general public. Charles looked up towards his father and smiled. “ Grandma had me and Zoe take some of that Lipidpro this morning when we split all of the leftovers from last night's dessert at breakfast this morning.”

Skylar looked confused. “Wait. This morning? I thought you just ate breakfast less than an hour ago?”

Bill laughed. “No. That tasty meal you just finished...” Carl and Skylar looked down in surprise at their empty food platters and full bellies, as they realized they had absentmindedly eaten their entire brunch while watching the commercial and listening to their children speak. Carl and Skylar both blushed bright red, but they privately acknowledged that the pleasant, full feeling in their stomachs was a sensation they could easily get used to.

Bill kept talking. “Was brunch. We had breakfast hours ago, while you two were still sleeping. In an hour or two, we'll have a late lunch, than dinner later, supper a bit after that. Then dessert. And our cupboards and fridge are always open to all of you if you get hungry in between meals. Or want a late night snack. We eat like hobbits around here. And we get round like them too. We have lower calorie foods too. You can try to stick to that perhaps exercise in the yard, if you want. I tried all of that to keep the pounds off, and tried to resist my wife's cooking for years…” Bill patted his pot belly. “Obviously, I fell off the wagon. But Charlenne and I are both happier now that I've stopped trying to fight the battle of the bulge. Especially since we got Lipidpro about six months ago. Surprised you two have never heard of it, but I guess being on the run makes it hard to keep up with current events. Anyway, if you all stay here, you're going to get fat.”

“But you will be safe, and happy and loved.” Charlotte walked into the room, behind Carl and Skylar, and whispered soft enough that only the tracker and technopath could hear it. “ This is a moment in time where you do have a choice. Two possible futures are before you all. You can leave, but sooner or later, some government will find you and lock you all up in Binghamton, or another place just like it. And the lives of you two, and all your children, will end in misery and pain. Or you could stay here. You and your children will be will provided for for the rest of all of your days. The two of you will get married in the larger parlor of this house by Bill, who is a retired justice of the peace. I, a licensed midwife, will help deliver the triplets in a bathtub in the master bathroom. Two girls and a boy, all fat and healthy. They will all be delivered without incident. And yes…no matter what any of us do, no matter how hard you try to exercise, or eat modestly, no matter how hard I try to make lower calorie foods items ’s available to you, eventually, you and your children will get very fat. But you will all have long happy lives here. So please. I'm begging both of you, stay here with me and Bill, where you will all be happy and safe.”

Charles didn't even look away from the television as he spoke. “She's telling the truth, dad. I've seen both visions in her head. We should stay here.”

Zoe, who had not heard the adults conversation, since she had neither enhanced hearing, nor telepathy, only responded to Charles’s words as she turned to her mother with wide, excited eyes, and a pouty look that Skylar always found it impossible to say no to. “ Can we please stay here mommy ?! This house is great, and Bill and Charlenne are really nice. They say I will still have to eat vegetables and fruit and stuff, but otherwise, I can eat whatever I want!”

Zoe looked down for a minute. “ I know that if I eat too much, I'll get fat, but I thought about what you said last night. That I could be fat if I want to be. And I really love eating, so..i think I would like it if we could stay here and get fat, just like the happy family on the TV!. Wouldn't that be fun, mommy?!”

Skylar looked at Carl, and was relieved to see no judgment in her lover's eyes when he discovered Skylar had already given her own child permission to get fat, if Zoe wanted to. “I'll follow your lead in this, Carl. Charlenne's your mom, so this should be your choice. Do you want us to stay here, with your mom, get married, have the triplets here, get fat? Or do you want us all to leave and take our chances on the road? How much do you trust your mother's visions, Carl?”

Carl sighed, then smiled as he looked at his mom. “Your visions have never steered me wrong before, mom. The first time I met you on my eighteenth birthday, you told me which college to go to, and I met Charlotte there, leading me to a wonderful marriage and son. After Charles was born, you told me I would one day need to contact Dr. Rosen to help my son with his Alpha abilities. And even though that advice led to Charlotte getting killed, it also kept my son sane, allowed me to help save the world from Stanton Parish, and to me meeting this wonderful woman…” Skylar smiled as Carl took her hand, even as the Tracker smiled at Zoe. “And her precious little girl. Both of whom have been traveling with me and Charles for the past six months, and both of whom me and Charles already consider family. So, I trust your visions, mom. So I know that there will be no point in any of us trying to keep thin if we stay, and staying does seem the better option here. I'm just afraid all seven of us, including the triplets, staying here with you will put an undue burden on you and Bill.”

Charlenne hugged her son as hard as she could and cried. “ You listen to me, Carl Webb. You and yours have never, and will never, be a burden to me. I know it probably didn't feel that way to you, when you were growing up as a ward of the state, but I didn't know any other way to keep you safe, at the time. Still, there's not a day that goes by that I don't regret that I wasn't there to raise you. Letting your growing family stay here indefinitely…that's the least I can do to make it up to you. Besides…”

Bill went to the kitchen to get something, while Charlenne pulled away from Carl and smiled. “ I don't like to talk about money, but…I have used my Alpha ability to win the lottery a couple times, and make a few good investments and…let's just say that none of us are ever going to have to worry about money. But you, Skylar, and your children could still do chores around the house and garden, if you want to feel useful Plus, I would love to see all my grand babies growing up while I'm still alive, and I promise we can make room for all of them. So please stay.”

 

Bill returned to the living room with a tray in his hand, which had two glasses of water And two small, white pills, which were clearly marked “Lipidpro “. The man then smiled at the new couple. “ And this offer on the part of my wife and I comes with a lifetime supply Of Lipidpro for both of your families If you decide to stay, of course.”

Carl turned towards Skylar, picking up his glass and pill as the technopath did the same. “ What do you say, Skylar? Do you want us all to be one fat, happy family?”

Skylar smiled and nodded. “ Fat happy family. “

Their decision made, and their destinies now set, Carl and Skylar poped the Lipidpro into their mouths and gulped it down with two large swigs of water.

The couple never suspected just how enormously fat everyone in their soon to be family would become as a result of that decision.

Chapter Text

“Mommy! Daddy! You have to wake up so that we can say goodbye to grandma and Bill!”

Carl and Skylar both yawned loudly before opening their eyes. The super obese couple then smiled at the their three youngest offspring so far (Skylar had recently fallen pregnant with Carl's twins, whom the couple had decided to name Jake and Charlotte), as they jumped on their parent's bed. The “oldest” of the three obese triplets was a brown haired, green-eyed boy named Gary, who could predict the weather with even greater accuracy than his grandmother. The “middle child” of the three (by a little over a minute) was a dark haired, hazel-eyed girl named Nina, who could control any and all electronic devices within a quarter mile of her person. And finally, the youngest child of the tracker and the technopath (by three whole minutes) was a brunette, green-eyed girl named Rachel, who could both sense and control the moods of those around her.

Skylar shook her head, being sure to keep her and her husband's equally naked bodies covered as she did so.. “Settle down you three!Your father and still have to get ready for our day, but we'll meet you downstairs in five minutes, alright!?” Gary, the shyest member of the triplets, nodded, then Rachel, and last of all, Nina, the most outgoing of the three children, did the same, before all three simultaneously said “Sorry!” The triplets then quickly ran (well, more like waddled, Skylar noted with a fond smile) out of the room.

As his and Skylar's three offspring exited the room together, Carl grinned (a gesture that enabled Skylar to catch a full view of her husband's plump cheeks and double chin) and whispered. “You know, it's weird, other than them looking similar, and all being Alphas, our three youngest children couldn't be more different. And yet they still do everything together!”

Skylar rolled her eyes, showing off her oval, cherubic face and three chins as she did so. “Of course they do! They all came out of the womb together and they've never been apart for very long! Besides, you know as well as I do that all of our children, not just the ones we had together, now have one other thing in common. Just like their parents and grandparents, they're all really fat!”

Carl laughed. “Yeah. My mom's cooking really did a number on all of us, huh?”

Skylar nodded. “That, and me getting pregnant with the triplets! I certainly planted the idea of you gaining a sympathy belly during pregnancy in your head didn't I, fat boy?!” Skylar shook her husband's double belly and large, dropping man boobs with her two hands while smiling. “You really took my words to heart when I told you, over six years ago, that I would still love you if you got enormously fat, didn't you?! You ate almost as much as I did when I was pregnant with triplets, and now you are almost as big a fat ass as I am!”

Carl smiled as he rubbed his wife's massive spare tire, then stroked the nipples of Skylar's huge breasts, which had long ago succumbed to gravity and had been slowly growing towards the technopath's belly button. “Yeah, and I don't regret a single second of it! Or anything else that has happened over the last six years. Do you?”

Skylar beamed at her husband. “No way! I'm so glad the two of us decided to stay at your mom's house, get married, have our triplets here, home-school all of our kids, and get fat and happy! Hell, even if my fat ass...”Skylar shook her huge ass, which resembled two flesh-colored basketballs, aside from the stretch marks and cellulite which dotted both her posterior and her always-touching thunder thighs, but this action had an unexpected consequence. The gas that had been trapped In Skylar's stomach since she had eaten a large steak dinner the night before suddenly escaped through the brunette's asshole as a loud fart!

Skylar resisted the urge to apologize for her smelly accident, remembering the deal she had made with her husband that they didn't have to apologize for being gross when she and Carl were alone together. The technopath was rewarded for her discretion when her husband burped right in her face, scratched his own rotund, flabby ass and said. “Continue.”

Skylar chuckled. “As I was saying, even if both of us get to fat to move on our own, I can have the robot helpers I built in your mother's huge, well-equipped tool shed build us hover-chairs, similar to the one I designed for your mom, so we could still get around. And if we get too fat for sex during this next pregnancy, well...I'm an inventive soul. I already have ideas for a few toys I could build so we could still get each other off once we can't have intercourse the old fashioned way!”

Carl smiled. “Well, that's certainly good to hear! Because I love food, I love having a fat wife (Carl squeezed his wife's huge belly as he said this), and I have even grown to love being fat and growing fatter! I honestly don't think I could stop getting bigger if my life depended on it!”

Skylar smirked with a wicked gleam in her eye. “Me neither. Good thing neither of us will ever have to stop then, isn't it, my fat, handsome husband!? Never have to lose weight. Never have to stop eating. Never have to stop growing fatter, and fatter, and fatter, even when both of our bellies reach the floor!”

Skylar's smirk widened when she felt Carl's large member emerge out from under her husband's belly and poke her own belly button as the man whispered in her ear. “I love it when you talk dirty, your naughty fatty!”

Skylar's breath caught in her throat (which was completely hidden by her chins) for a second before she spoke in a teasing tone while her and her husband's large bellies squished together. “I'd watch who you are calling fat, fat ass!” The brunette then grabbed Carl's ass, which was almost, but not quite as fat as hers, but had a more, smooth gelatinous texture to it, since it lacked and cellulite or stretch marks, unlike the tracker's squishy thighs and belly, which had both. Carl then grabbed his wife's sexy, “crater filled” ass before the married couple began to furiously make out...

Only to be interrupted by the sound of their door, which had been left slightly ajar by the triplets, swinging open due to a sudden gust of wind. When Carl and Skylar, still covered by the comforter to their chins, looked past the door , the tracker and the technopath's faces shared an expression that was somewhere between a blush and a worried look when they spotted Charles and Zoe. For it was obvious , from the expressions the fat step-siblings had on their faces when they looked down, that each of them had seen a little bit of Carl and Skylar's make-out session by accident. However, what worried the step-siblings respective parents more was the way that Charles and Zoe had quickly distanced themselves from each other in the hallway after the bedroom door had swung open. Carl and Skylar also worried about the way that Charles and Zoe's opposite hands were sweaty, as if the teenage step-siblings had just been holding their chubby hands together.

Charles gulped. “Hey, dad. Skylar. Um...Grandma says she and Bill are leaving for their big trip in an hour or two so you might want to hurry up and get downstairs soon.”

Carl just nodded at his teenage son's words before Zoe added. “Yeah, Charlenne says she wants to go over the will with you two before she leaves so...please hurry.”

Before Skylar could even open her mouth to promise she would hurry, Charles and Zoe dashed down the hall and towards the stairs with embarrassed, guilty looks on their faces. The technopath shook her head. “Carl. I think it's starting already.”

Carl sighed and nodded before he got up from the bed with a might groan, due to the effort of lifting his own body weight. However, Skylar was denied the opportunity to gawk at her big handsome husband's fat ass and thick rolls of back fat for more than a few seconds as the man struggled to get into his too-small plus-sized underwear on and started to speak. “Actually, from the looks of it, things between those two started awhile ago. We'll have to watch Charles and Zoe a bit closer from now on. Other than that, all we can do is love them and accept the choices they will make together.”

Skylar nodded in agreement before Carl groaned in frustration as he failed to button his pants. “Can you help me with this?”

Skylar smirked as she helped her husband into the jeans he had bought at a Big and Tall Store only two weeks ago. “Suck your belly in as much as you can. There you go. I guess my cooking has gotten almost as good as your mother's, because I've been doing all of it for the past month and we, have all still been gaining weight at an exponential rate. I think we will have to buy a new wardrobe for us, as well as the children, when we get on the cruise ship later today. Glad we picked a fat friendly cruise-line for the trip, even if it is going to cost us a small fortune!”

Carl shrugged as his wife helped him put on his socks and shoes (the fat man had not been able to see his feet for two years), and spoke while his wife helped him put on his Hawaiian style shirt, which was just small enough to show of some of Carl's pale flesh between shirt buttons. “Yeah, but we both know this family can afford it. Between my mom's investments, your and Zoe's inventions, and the experts that Charles and I picked to market them, we've saved up millions over the years. Even I don't know exactly how much, but it's a lot. And this family is going to need this year-long vacation considering...what's going to happen soon.”

Skylar put a supportive arm on Carl's shoulder as her husband struggled not to cry. “Do you think..Do you think that we're doing the right thing by not telling the younger children what is going to happen ahead of time? By not trying to stop my dad and step-dad from getting on that plane?”

Skylar nodded and hugged the tracker, even as Carl lost the battle with his emotions and started crying. “I know we are. Like you said, the triplets don't need to know that Bill and your mom are going to die in a plane crash on their way back from the Bahamas a month from now until after it happens. Besides,your mom and Bill made their choice, based on Charlenne's visions, a long time ago. They said it was either this, or your mother dies from a brain tumor a year from now, and Bill's past history as a smoker starts to catch up with him several months after that, causing him to slowly and painfully die of lung cancer over the next three years. But according to your mom, if they both die in the plane crash instead, it will be quick, since they will die on impact. And it will be painless, since they'll be high on oxygen from the emergency breathing masks when they die. Also, according to your mom, the plane crash itself is a fixed moment in time. As unpreventable as Charles and Zoe getting together, and the two of them getting married shortly after Zoe turns eighteen.”

After Skylar wiped the tears from her husband's eyes, the fat man nodded his head, then helped his massively fat wife put on her tent-like panties, shoes and socks, huge bra, and her Lane Bryant jeans and Hawaiian shirt as he spoke. “Yeah. That last part really freaks me out too. But if my mom says that your daughter and my son getting together, and eventually getting married, is inevitable, then there's no stopping it. My mother's always right about these kinds of things.”

Skylar nodded. “I know. And there's no reason for us to tear this family apart by not accepting the inevitable. Like we agreed beforehand, all we can do is make sure the two of them don't do something stupid and get my daughter pregnant when she is still a teenager, then be supportive when they decide to get married later. Family reunions may be a little awkward afterward, but its definitely better for us to have an intact family than a normal one. At least if we support Charles' and Zoe's choice to get married later, they won't try to do something foolish like running away alone and shunning the rest of their family. Charles and Zoe gotten along well over the years, and your mother said their marriage would be a happy, life-long one, just like yours and mine will be. Besides, it's not like your son and my daughter are related by blood, anyway. So...”

Carl nodded. “Supporting them will be the right move, later. Watching them, and our other children, like hawks is our responsibility right now. Even though Dr. Rosen finally convinced the government to drop the charges on our family over a year ago, and end the witch hunt for us, Charles and Zoe, there's still a lot of anti-Alpha sentiment among people these days. It's best if this family stays close together. At least for a little while.”

Skylar just nodded before the married couple quickly packed for their trip, then waddled out of the room, suitcases in hand, and quickly made their way to the carnival car sized chair lift at the top of the stairs. The device, which Skylar had originally built years ago to make it easier for Charlenne to get up and down the stairs, was now regularly used by every member of the Webb matriarch's fat family, and Carl and Skylar were no exception After the lift had carried the super obese couple's bodies down the stairs, Carl and Skylar made their way over to the lone office area in the house so quickly that they round-shaped man and woman were out of breath and slightly sweaty by the time they reached the Webb matriarch.

The older woman, an enormous specimen of femininity, with coconut sized cheeks, four chins, squishy tree-trunk sized limbs with lots of fatty skin dropping down, a quadruple belly, and an enormous ass that stuck out a foot behind her and several feet to either side of her torso, smiled from her position on the yellow hover chair that Skylar had built and patented for it's 800 pound occupant. “I'm glad you came down here quickly when you got my message, but you didn't have to tire yourself out by rushing down that fast. Please, sit down. Make yourselves comfortable and having something to eat and drink.”

As if to emphasize this last request Bill, who currently weighed a little over five hundred pounds, with the extra adipose equally distributed between his puffy, double-chinned face, his large moobs and double-belly, his huge ass, and his meaty arms and legs, pulled out extra-large chairs for his stepson and daughter in-law. The older man then handed Carl and Skylar 2 three liter bottles of cola, and a large platter of freshly made chocolate chip cookies for each of them. Charlenne smiled and began speaking in between bites of the several King-sized candy bars which were resting on her belly. “Good. I want you two to be comfortable. You and all of your children and grandchildren for the rest of all of your days. That's why what I am about to say will be important. Even so, there's no need to stand on ceremony just yet. This family's lawyers were there when Bill and I drafted this will, and they will met you in the middle of your year-long cruise when you stop in Corto Maltese for a few hours shortly after Bill and I...pass.”

The older couple held hands for a few brief moments, and the younger couple in the room stayed respectfully silent while munching on cookies until Charlenne could compose herself enough to resume talking.”But everyone in this room is family. So I will talk to you like family now. The first thing you both should know is that mine and Bill's assets are even more...robust than I lead you two to believe. Between winning the lottery in several states, the good investments we have made over the years, and all of the inventions you have allowed us to patent in our name, Skylar, Bill and I have not made millions. We have made billions!”

Carl and Skylar's eyes widened, but Bill just smirked as his wife resumed speaking. “We also own several dozen properties besides this one all over the world, all of whom are fully staffed and well maintained, and all of which are much bigger than this cozy little home that Bill and I had decided to spend our last years in.. Just so there are no surprises for you all when the lawyers read the will later, I will tell you what it says now. Fifty percent of mine and Bill's assets will go into seven trust funds, which neither you, Carl, nor you, Skylar, will be able to touch. This fifty percent will be held by investors, who will follow the precise instructions I have given to them to make the right investments and cause those trusts to grow substantially, until your children are able to access their specific trusts when they turn eighteen. You and Skylar, however, will immediately inherit all but six of my properties. Each of your children will inherit one mansion, along with the surrounding property and the associated staff, except for Charles and Zoe, who, as we all know by now, will get married as soon as they turn eighteen. Therefore, I am leaving the largest mansion that Bill and I own to them. The two of you...”

Charlenne pointed a sausage like finger at Carl, then Skylar. “Will inherit everything else. Fifty percent of our financial portfolio, and all of our properties, besides the ones I mentioned, including several hotel chains, a B&B and several mansions, beachfront properties, and summer homes. All fully staffed and perfectly preserved. In addition to watching over all these properties and managing these new funds, I am tasking you with making certain investments...” Bill passed a large vanilla folder to Carl, who began reading its contents with Skylar as Charlenne continued speaking. “Over the next twenty years. That's as far past my death as my abilities will let me make reliable financial predictions I'm afraid. Don't worry though. You two won't have to make any investments while on your year-long trip with your family, as our lawyers, who I have foreseen will act in a trustworthy manner, will make any necessary investments during that time, and take care of any and all tax matters. Furthermore, they will get you and your family settled into one of our bigger properties once you get back from your year-long trip. Make the necessary investments over the next twenty years, and not only will you two and your children be set for life, but your great grandchildren should also be wealthy their whole lives, even if all the generations between you and them spend money like crazy!”

Skylar smiled. “That's good. Because while all of mine and Carl's children are good kids, and they have always been kind to strangers, I'm afraid that the upbringing that my husband and I, as well as you and Bill, have provided them has made them all, well...”

Charlenne laughed. “Fat, spoiled, and not very good at managing their appetites and desires? Yes, I know. It's probably my fault that all my grand babies become so much like me in that way...”

Carl and Skylar just smiled as Charlenne patted her belly to emphasize her point before she added. “But that's why all those investments are so important! So that you, and all the generations of your family that come after you, will have enough money to feed their always growing appetites without having to work a day in their lives. It's okay to be fat and spoiled as long as you can afford it, right?!”

Carl nodded and chuckled. “I guess you have a point there. Our children and grandchildren's happiness is what really matters in the long run!”
Charlenne smiled. “I thought you would think so..”

Moments later, after everyone in the room (including Bill) had eaten a large tray of cookies and their bottles of cola, all four individuals in the room burped simultaneously and laughed before Charlenne said. “Better out than in! Now, I hope you still have room for breakfast, because Bill and I have been planning a huge going away feast, which we are about to cook now, all week! “

Charlenne held up a hand to stop any protest from Carl or Skylar. “I won't have any arguments on that point! I know Skylar had learned to be just as good a cook as me over the years, but Bill and I want to cook for our family, since this is the last time we will be able to see all of you on this side of eternity, and we both want this to be a happy occasion for all of us, okay?”

Carl and Skylar reluctantly nodded and went to watch TV with their obese children (who were currently munching on kettle corn) in the house's spacious living room for what would probably be the last time. Finally, after over an hour, breakfast was served! The large meal, which was composed of just about every breakfast food imaginable, was big enough to make the two large tables in the dining room groan from the weight of all the food. Thankfully, the large extended family quickly relieved the tables of their burden, as the ravenous fatties wolfed down the large feast in only half an hour!

 

After the meal, Carl, Skylar, and all of their children gathered all their luggage, then waddled outside behind Charlenne and Bill. The tracker, the technopath and all of the their offspring then individually hugged the elder two members of their family, thanked them for everything the elder obese couple had done for all all of them, and bid them a tearful goodbye. Carl also whispered he would be monitoring his mother and stepfather's return flight until the moment they passed away, and vowed he would tell his and Skylar's youngest three children about their grandparents' deaths only after they died. After goodbyes and well-wishes were exchanged, Bill and Charlenne drove off in a large black Sedan towards the airport, and Carl and Skylar's large family drove in a van towards the port where their year-long cruise around the world would begin.

However, after the large family got out of the van at the port, everyone of them grunting with effort as they lifted their heavy bodies out of the vehicle, causing all of their fat bodies to jiggle from head to toe, they were slightly delayed from getting on the cruise ship when Zoe tugged on her mom's arm. The fat teenage girl and pointed towards a slightly plump woman, who was setting near the car port next to her bags, sobbing. Zoe looked at Skylar. “Mom, that woman seems really sad. Do you think we can do something to help her?”

Charles, Zoe and the triplets all looked pleadingly towards Skylar, who then turned to Carl, who shrugged and said. “Well, I mean...we are a couple hours early. I don't suppose it could hurt to just talk to the woman and see what's wrong.”

All of the triplets cheered, and Charles and Zoe just smiled as the entire obese family waddled toward the sobbing woman. The bleach blond woman, who seemed to be in her late 20's, could almost have passed for a thin girl, since her face and limbs were slender, but her huge ass and sizable pot belly ruined any illusion that this woman was “fit' by conventional standards. However, no one in the Adams-Webb family cared about any of that as they waddled over to the crying woman, their bellies jiggling the whole way, before Skylar stopped in front of the plump woman and spoke. “Hi. My daughter over there...”

The technopath nodded towards a smiling Zoe, who was standing a few feet behind her mother. “Couldn't help but notice you were crying. Is everything all right?”

The plump woman shook her head and quickly dried her eyes. “ Sorry for making a spectacle of myself. Don't worry about me. There's nothing you can do help me.”

Skylar shook her head, causing her chubby cheeks and double chin to jiggle a little bit before she spoke. “No need to apologize. Why don't you tell me what's wrong, and let me be the judge of whether I can help? My name is Skylar, by the way. The big handsome man a few feet behind me and to my right is my husband, Carl.”

The man in question quickly shook the plump blonde's hand before his wife continued speaking. “Our children are named Gary, Rachel, and Nina.” All of the children in question waved when their name was mentioned before Skylar resumed speaking. “Charles, my step son, is the oldest.”

Charles waved before Skylar pointed towards her daughter and said. “And you've already met my daughter from a previous relationship, Zoe.”

Seeing that it pained her mother to say this last fact, The fat teenage girl added. “ My dad and Charles' mom are in heaven.”

The plump woman shook her head. “Oh, I'm sorry to hear that.”

Zoe shook her head back. “It's okay. They both passed a long time ago, and we'll see them both again some day. Until then, I still have the best mom and step-dad in the whole world. And I have Charles and three new brothers and sisters now. It's nice to meet you, by the way!”

The plump woman smiled as she shook Zoe's hand, then looked towards Skylar and said. “ My name's Natalee. Please don't call me Nat, though, because my family used to call me 'fat Nat' while I was growing...”Natalee shook her head as she realized the woman she was talking to was more than twice her size, and the rest of Skylar's family wasn't much smaller. “Never mind. That's a wonderful family you have there.”

Skylar smirked. “I know. And don't worry, everyone in my family knows that we are all fat. And we're not ashamed of that. Sorry that my daughter, who I sometimes called Digit, is such a chatterbox now that she's a teenager, though..”

Zoe rolled her eyes. “Moooom! I told you not to call met that anymore!”

The super obese technopath smirked. “But she has a good heart. And she wanted the rest of us to see what was troubling you. So...”

Natalee sighed. “I lost my ticket for this cruise! I looked everywhere for it, but I can't find it! And now the company is saying that I can't get on board without a ticket, and the only tickets left on sale are the first class accommodations You know, the really expensive, all expenses paid tickets that cost more than I make in a year!? I can't afford that!”Skylar shot a look across her shoulder towards her step-son. Charles nodded in affirmation that everything Natalee was saying was the truth, so Skylar shot her husband a look and nodded, causing Carl to smile as he lead his family towards the ticket booth.

In the mean-time, Natalee had resumed crying as she said. “I spent my life-savings just to get two general passenger tickets for me and my boyfriend! I know that's crazy, but I was supposed to met my online boyfriend from Nigeria when the cruise stopped in Africa in four months! And maybe it's silly spending this much on a man I've never met. But he's the only boyfriend I've ever had, the only man \ who said he actually likes my curves, even to the point of saying I should gain more weight if I want too, although I'm not sure if he's serious. And after chatting and face timing with him for over two years...I know that I'm in love with Aanuti, and now I'll never get to meet him!”

Skylar sat down next to Natalee, an action which caused the brunette's entire body, especially her belly, breasts and ass to jiggle uncontrollably for several seconds, before the fatter woman gently patted Natalee on the back for over a minute as she said. “Hey now, everything's going to be alright.”

As if to confirm her point, Zoe ran back to Natalee and, after stopping a minute to huff and puff for air while wiping sweat from her brow, the fat teenager handed the blonde woman a piece of paper, causing Natalee to look up in surprise. “Wait. What's this?!”

Zoe smiled. “It's a first class ticket for the cruise, silly woman! We were lucky, there was a cabin right across from my mom and Carl's room still available, so we got you that one!”

Natalee shook her head. “Thank you, but I can't accept this! That first class ticket must have set your family back a fortune! It's too much, please take it back!”

But Skylar used her plump hand and sausage-like fingers to stop Natalee from handing her ticket back to a visibly disapointed Zoe as the technopath said. “Keep it. I insist.”

Natalee shook her head. “But I can't.”

Skylar frowned. “If you don't want to break my daughter's heart, you will. Believe me, it won't set my family back at all. We don't like to flaunt it, but we're pretty well off. Well off enough that we were able to get seven tickets and four first class cabins for Carl and me, Charles, Zoe, and the triplets without putting so much as a dent in our bank account. And that ticket in your hands won't hurt us either. Besides, it's completely none refundable, so it would be a waste for you not to join us on the cruise.”

Natalee smiled, nodded, then quickly put the ticket in a safe place in her purse, before enthusiastically hugging Skylar.”Thank you! Thank you! Aanuti is going to be so happy when I tell him that I can meet him after all!” Natalee pulled away when she saw that the hug was making Skylar uncomfortable, but she didn't stop smiling as she looked at both the technopath and her daughter. “Thank you all, so much!”

Skylar smiled and nodded, then motioned Zoe to join Carl and the rest of the family before the technopath put a more serious look on her face and said. “There are a couple conditions that come with that ticket, though.”

Seeing the worried look on Natalee's face, Skylar quickly added. “Don't worry. I don't want your money, and it's nothing too outlandish but...Okay, first of all, your boyfriend, Aanuti? Some of the men in that region do actually like fat women, so you might want to take him seriously when he says he would like you even bigger. Do you take Lipidpro?”

Natalee blushed. “Yeah. I have everyday for the past six years, why?”

Skylar smirked. “Good. Keep taking it. Because my first condition is, when you're on this cruise, I want you to eat to your heart's content. I'm not saying you have to be stuffed to the gills all the time or anything, but don't try to do something silly, like diet on a cruise. Just let yourself eat whatever you want. Take it from a fat woman who's madly in love with her fat, chubby chaser husband, it will drive your boyfriend absolutely wild with desire if you surprise him by gaining a lot of weight before you see him again!”

Natalee smiled mischievously “Well, if you really think Aanuti will like it, and it's one of the conditions attached to the ticket, sure...I'll let myself get fat for my man! What's your second condition?”

Skylar smirked again as she whispered. “Since you're in a cabin across from all of ours, try to keep it down when you and your boyfriend have sex after he joins you on the cruise so that my family can get some sleep. I'll let you know when my family and I leave our cabins to do other things though. And when we're out, as far as I'm concerned, you can make as much noise as you want!”

Natalee blushed even harder as she nodded and smiled. “Deal.”

After Skylar rejoined her family, the Adams-Webb clan all turned in their tickets, then waited for Natalee, so the family and the chubby blonde woman could all talk and wait in line together during the seemingly endless que to the ship. After entering the ship together, the group only split up long enough to get settled into their rooms. After the Adams-Webb family had finished unpacking, Carl and Skylar decided that the family should go down to the bar area on the first deck of the ship to have a couple drinks (wine for Carl and water and sodas for Skylar and the children). However, just before the family walked towards the elevator, Skylar had an idea, and after running it by her husband, the hugely obese woman knocked on Natalee's cabin door. “Hey Natalee. It's Skylar! I don't mean to bother you, but I was wondering if you would like to join me and my family for drinks downstairs before the safety briefing, seeing as they come with the first class tickets and all. “

Natalee quickly opened her cabin door and smiled. “ I would love to!”

Skylar smiled. “Great. I just want to be clear though, that I don't want you to feel obligated to join us for drinks if you don't want to just because...”

Natalee shook her head. “Actually. I could use a drink just now. And seeing as I don't really know anyone on this cruise besides Aanuti, who I won't see for four months, I was kind of hoping that I could tag along with you and your family a little bit. You know, be friends for the cruise? Sorry, that probably sounded weird and super needy..”

Skylar laughed. “Don't worry about it. I asked you to join my family for drinks, remember? Besides,it's been a long time since I've had a female friend so...How about this? You come down and have a few drinks with us, and we'll see if we can't plan some events were we can do girly stuff together when I'm not spending time with my family. Maybe you can even go on a few excursions with the Adams-Webbs. We'll play it by ear.”

Natalee smiled. “That sounds like fun!”

The next four months were a whirlwind for the Adams-Webb family. Most of that time was fun for the family, as they spent time eating from buffets on the ship, watching shows, eating local food from restaurants around the world, going to tourist sites and interacting with various animals in multiple countries, eating late night and early morning snacks the size of large meals that were delivered by room service, hanging out with Natalee (who spent time with Skylar going to the on board spa, getting mani/pedi's etc, as well as having meals and going on a few excursions with the family of fatties), and just eating any food they could fairly get their hands on. But of course, their was one tragic event that temporarily eclipsed the family's fun a month after the cruise left port.

Carl and Skylar received news of Bill and Charleen's deaths in the crash of a sparsely populated plane (the elder couple had used a pay phone to place an anonymous false bomb threat on the flight, causing many would be passengers to change their travel plans) right after making port in Corto Maltese. The two parents were forced to tell all their children what had happened before they started hashing out the will with lawyers. Thankfully, Natalee had offered to watch over the children while Carl and Skylar signed various documents and went over Bill and Charleen's last will and testament.

Needless to say, it had been a trying day that had left the family in no mood to go on an excursion at Corto Maltese. So, for the next three days, Carl and Skylar led their family in a familiar ritual that always helped them and their children feel better. They ate. They ate a lot. At the buffet. On restaurants on the ship, in Carl and Skylar's room while they would watch late night movies as a family while eating chips, popcorn, candy, and other snacks. During this time, Natalee was very supportive, sharing several meals with the family, and even offering to watch Carl and Skylar's kids a few more times so that the parents could spend some “alone time” comforting each other in their cabin.

But eventually, after having a long discussion about whether the family should get off the cruise and fly back to the United States, Carl and Skylar decided to honor Charleen's previously expressed wishes for her family to finish the year-long trip, try to have a good time, and to “be happy without me, until I can see you all again in paradise.” So the family stayed on the cruise and managed to have more fun and happy memories. All despite their underlying sadness for the loss of two of their loved ones.

Finally, four months into the trip, Aanuti (whose ticket had “mysteriously” been boosted to first class status shortly after the Adams-Webb family boarded) was finally able to board the cruise ship in Africa, and meet Natalee. However, since the online couple had not been able to keep in contact for four months, due to the high cost of internet services and phone calls in the middle of the ocean, it took the man a whole minute to recognize a much chubbier Natalee than the one he remembered. Aanuti's jaw dropped when he saw his now indisputably fat girlfriend, as the African man took in the site of the big, jiggly apron belly, the fat ass, the fat-laden, dropping breasts, and the slightly plump face and limbs of the woman before him. Finally, after gathering his wits about him, Aanuti smiled. “I though you were pretty before, but now you are most beautiful things I have seen!”

Natalee responded to the man's words by giving the man a big hug, then bringing her lips in contact with his, leading to to a long drawn out kiss between the fat American woman and slightly chubby African man (who sported love handles and a noticeable pot belly) that lasted long enough that Carl and Skylar, who had come to witness the reunion, had to cover their triplets' eyes. Seeing Carl and Skylar's slight glare, and Charles and Zoe's smirks, after she finally pulled out of the kiss with her boyfriend, Natalee blushed. “I'm sorry, Aanuti! I forgot to introduce you to my friends. The ones who helped me get on board the ship so that I could finally meet you!”

After Natalee introduced Aanuti to the Adams-Webb family, the slightly pudgy African shook all the adults hands and said, in his best broken English. “Is nice to meet you all.”

Shortly thereafter, Natalee and her boyfriend excused themselves to have some “alone time” in their cabin (since Carl and Skylar had promised to keep their children occupied for a few hours after Aanuti arrived on the ship). However, as they were walking off, Skylar overheard a conversation between Aanuti and Natalee that made the technopath blush and smile at the same time. “I sorry I gain so much weigh since we spoke. I stress eat because so exited to finally meet you, but I hope am not too fat for your American sensibilities now. Maybe I should. What that American expression? Diet.”

Skylar, from a distance saw Natalee shake her belly as she spoke. “Don't be silly! I'm way bigger than you are. Besides, I'd love you at any size, and the food on this ship is way too good to turn down. Now, let me show you just how much I love that bigger, manlier body of yours...”

Skylar was grateful that the new couple had walked away from her range of hearing by that point (although the technopath noticed that the deep blush that Charles was currently sporting indicated that telepath had, probably unwittingly, heard much more of Natalee's conversation with
Aanuti than his step-mom had). Still, Skylar was all smiles as she walked back towards her family, as she was glad that her new best friend (for Skylar and Natalee had already made plans to keep in touch after the cruise was over) was so happy after finally meeing Aanuti. It warmed Skylar's heart to think that her family had made it possible for the previously online-only couple to finally have this moment of happiness together.

However, Skylar's thoughts about her new friends were momentarily derailed by the sight of some older friends that she had not expected to ever see again getting on the ship. Judging by the looks on Carl, Charles' and Zoe's face, they had not expected this reunion either. However, Carl took the meeting between his family and his much-changed long-lost friends faster than the others, as he quickly shook hands with the three Alphas who had just boarded the ship (except for the dark haired Alpha female, who insisted on hugging Carl instead) and began introducing all three of them to the Adams-Webb family. “Hicks, Nina, Rachel! I'm so glad to see you all again! You remember Charles, Zoe, and my wife, Skylar...”

At the mention of Skylar being Carl's wife now, Rachel and Nina both quietly high-fived and whispered “called it!” to each other, an event which caused Skylar and Cameron Hicks (who didn't let go of Nina and Rachel's hands on either side of him) to simultaneously roll their eyes as Carl finished speaking. “Anyway...” Carl pointed toward his and Skylar's other three children one by one. “These three precocious tots of ours are Rachel, Nina, and Gary...”

The adult Nina and Rachel gasped in happiness when they learned that Carl and Skylar had named their triplets after them and one of their closest friends, even as the tracker alpha looked at Cameron and shrugged apologetically “Sorry, Hicks, we didn't name one of them after you.”

Hicks shrugged. “That's okay. You and Skylar were always closer friends with those three than you were with me.”

Carl nodded and resumed speaking. “Yeah. Anyway, all three of them are...special. Just like us.”

Rachel's eyes widened as she whispered “All three of them are Alphas?!”

Skylar finally regained her wits about her enough to join in. “Yes. But that's a fact we've taught them all to hide well. And we will be teaching the twins to do the same thing. Carl and I just found out that I'm pregnant again!”

Nina rushed as fast as she could over to her old friend and hugged the technopath. “Congratulations! You and Carl have such wonderful children and I'm sure the twins will be just as special!”

Skylar smiled. “Thanks, Nina! I'm sorry Carl and I haven't kept in contact with you for over six years, but after that code breaker Alpha...”

Nina and Rachel simultaneously shook their heads, but for once, it was the soft-spoken technopath with the superior senses who spoke first. “None of us blame you for that. Nor does Dr. Rosen or any of the old team. We all know that you and Carl did what you had to do to keep your loved ones safe. I'm so glad that we finally met again though!”

Carl and Skylar both simultaneously said, “Me too!” The married couple then burst out laughing before Carl eventually said. “I don't have Dr. Rosen's contact information, but when you see him again once you are all done with your vacation, please tell him thank you for finally convincing the UN to leave our alone, and that I'm sorry for the harsh words we exchanged last time we spoke.”

Cameron, Nina and Rachel all looked at each other before Hicks spoke to Carl and Skylar. “Funny you should mention that. Because Dr. Rosen actually encouraged the three of of us to get on this cruise as part of our “extended vacation” because he finally managed to track you down. He wanted us to apologize on his behalf for not keeping Charlotte safe, and for taking so long to get the government to leave you alone.”

Carl and Charles were taken aback by the mention of Charlotte, but only for a moment, and Carl resumed speaking while his wife simultaneously explained to the triplets that “Charlotte was the nice lady that was married to your dad before me. Charles' mom, who died a year before your father and I became a couple.” Meanwhile, Carl nodded as he spoke to Hicks. “That was all a long time ago. And even though I'll always love Charlotte, and I'm sorry she's dead...I've moved on since then.”

Nina pointed between Skylar and the triplets. “Clearly.” But Carl just rolled his eyes and ignored his slightly immature friend even as Rachel lightly smacked Nina in the arm for being rude. The father of five (soon to be seven) resumed speaking. “Anyway, when you get back to the field office after your vacation, tell Dr. Rosen that I forgave him a long time ago. And even though Skylar and I are clearly in no shape to rejoin the team..”Carl shook his enormous double-belly, causing Cameron, Nina, Rachel and Skylar to all laugh. “Tell him that I appreciate all he has done for me, Skylar and our family, and that I wish him all the best.”

Nina and Rachel just nodded, but Hicks grinned. “Actually, none of us will be going back to New York anytime soon. Rachel, Nina, and I all retired a few years ago. I retired because Nina and Rachel did, but Nina and Rachel were sort of let go from DCIS, albeit with a very generous severance package, because, well...”

Nina laughed. “Because Rachel and I both got fat! We weren't going to say anything about it, Carl, because you and your family have fairly substantial figures as well, but...seeing as Cameron brought it up...Rachel and I discovered, at pretty much the same time, that we could use food to help us with our Alpha abilities. So now, Rachel eats constantly to keep her senses of smell and taste focused on that, instead of her environment. Whereas I eat constantly because when I'm focused on the pleasures of the moment, I'm less likely to use my ability to 'convince' other people to help me experience other pleasure. In both of our cases, the results have pretty much been the same..”

To emphasize their point, Nina and Rachel both pulled King-sized candy bars out of their travel bags (a Milky Way for the raven haired woman, and a Milk-Chocolate Hershey bar for the red-head) and began to munch on their snacks, completely shutting the world out as they got lost in the pleasure of chocolate As the two large, bikini-clad Alphas ate, Hicks, Carl and Skylar (the latter two having a 'look but don't touch policy”) took in the sight of the two plump Alphas. Although both Nina and Rachel seemed to be about the same weight (somewhere in the 200-250 pound weight range), the fat on their bodies had accumulated in different ways. Most of Nina's weight seemed to have gone to her ass, hips and thighs, all of which were huge, jiggly, and covered with cellulite now, and the dark-haired mesmerizer's belly, breasts, arms, and face only seemed to be a little bit more filled out than a skinny woman's. Even so, Nina was clearly starting to develop a small double-chin. Rachel, on the other hand, had an ass, hip and thigh combination that were barely thicker than her old svelte, self. But the exotic woman's body had clearly been busy converting all the empty calories it had been forced to consume into fat that now enveloped Nina's meaty, squishy arms, with overhanging fat, an enormous belly laced with stretch marks, and her cute cherubic cheeks and large double chin!

Carl and Skylar were able to pull their gaze away from their old teammate's bodies before their children could ask inappropriate questions about why their parents were staring at Rachel and Nina. But Hick's loving gaze remained on the two fatties (who were still eating), making it increasingly clear that Cameron did not mind the weight gain on either female. At all. This revelations was made even more awkward when Charles suddenly smiled and said. “Zoe and I are going to play in the pool with the triplets. In the meantime, why don't you tell Skylar and my dad more about your two girlfriends, Hicks?”

Hick's jaw dropped as Charles and Zoe promised to watch out for their younger sibling, then lead their three half-siblings (all of whom had already learned how to swim, due to lessons their parents had purchased for them almost a year ago) to the pool. Cameron (for Nina and Rachel had just opened up two more candy bars, and were to busy enjoying them and moaning with pleasure to pay attention to the conversations going on around them) looked at Carl and Skylar and chuckled nervously. “It's not as bad as it sounds. Actually, all three of us, me, Nina, and Rachel, are together now. It's a long story...”

Skylar smirked. “That's okay. My husband and I have time to kill. Do tell.”

Hicks sighed. “Okay. So, as you both know, Nina and I got together again shortly after everything that happened at Grand Central Station. That day put things into perspective for me, and I realized it had been stupid of me to dump Nina over one stupid mistake. One loss of control. Anyway, about six months later, after you two ran away from the Feds after I finally killed Stanton Parish, Rachel came into the apartment that Nina and I were sharing at the time, looking to talk with her friend about the hard time she was having then do to her then recently deceased boyfriend's death. I didn't know Rachel still had a key to the place, and Nina had forgotten to use the dead bolt to indicate that she and I were currently um...expressing our love for each other. And Rachel walked into the bedroom and saw everything. Anyway, it was clear that Rachel liked what she saw, and Nina and I had both always been attracted to Rachel. And since we were all close friends anyway, and we figured one time wouldn't hurt...Nina and I asked Rachel to join us that night. One thing lead to another, and Nina and I soon decided to make Rachel a permanent member of our relationship. Turning a couple into a trio.”

Finally coming out her food induced haze of euphoria, Nina chimed in. “Yeah. It's still a commuted, exclusive relationship. There's just three people in it now, instead of two. Right, babe?”

“Wha...” It took Rachel a couple extra seconds to finish her second candy bar and mentally catch up before the red-headed big beautiful woman nodded. “Oh, right. Exactly. Hicks, Nina and I all love each other. And we've made each other happy over the last six years. And honestly, none of us ever plan on ending our relationship....”

Cameron sighed. “Unfortunately, marriages with more then too people aren't legal in most of the western world, so the three of us can't make things official. But I consider both Nina and Rachel to be my wives...”

Nina and Rachel both nodded, but it was the raven haired woman that spoke. “And Rachel and I think of ourselves as each others wives, with Hicks as our husband, so...”

Seeing that Cameron looked embarrassed that this discussion had even come up, and that Nina and Rachel (the latter of whom was currently biting her lip) were looking at the tracker and the technopath for approval, Skylar shook her head and smiled. “I'm not sure I understand...any of that. Carl and I couldn't imagine sharing each other with anybody. But as long as all three of you are happy, that's what really matters. I hope your relationship, as unorthodox as it is, is a happy one that last the rest of your lives!.”

Carl smiled and nodded. “What my wife said.”

Nina and Rachel both smiled at their old friend's acceptance of their relationship, and the two girls hugged both Skylar and Carl (although Nina and Rachel were smart enough to keep their hugs with Carl brief so as not to provoke Skylar's jealousy). However, after the hugging was done, Skylar turned to Hicks and whispered. “But if you ever hurt either of my friends, break Nina or Rachel's hearts in anyway...I will build a hundred drones to track you down and take you out. Understood?”

Hicks nodded. “Got it.'

Shortly thereafter, after Hicks gave both of his girlfriends brief pecks on the lips, Carl and Hicks went to one of the nearby bars on the ship to drink beer and reminisce, leaving Skylar to spend some time with her long-lost friends. As Skylar, Rachel and Nina (the latter two of whom were holding hands the whole way) waddled towards a nearby buffet, Skylar started making small talk with her old friends. “So...seeing as you two have been, shall we say, expanding your horizons as of late, although not as much as me...”

Skylar patted her enormous belly, the crowing jewel of gluttony on her 400 pound body, causing the other two girls to laugh before Skylar continued. “I have to ask. Are you both taking Lipidpro? Me, Carl, and the rest of our blended family are all a bunch of fatties, so we take the stuff religiously.”

Nina nodded. “Duh. Of course Rachel and I are taking Lipidpro. With our appetites, our waistlines keep growing, so it would be stupid for us not to keep taking the stuff, since we both seemed destined to become enormous.”

Rachel smiled and squeezed Nina's hand. “That's okay, baby. I'd love you at any size.”

Nina smiled and quickly pecked Rachel on the lips. “Thanks, I feel the same way about you. And we both know Hicks just loves us both more the bigger we get.”

Skylar chuckled. “So, how does Hicks manage to keep those rock hard abs of his when the two of you are constantly eating stuff in front of him?”

Nina sighed. “I don't know. It's really annoying actually. Rachel and I both love Cameron, don't get me wrong, but...”

Nina smirked and whispered. “We've both decided that we would love him even more as a fat guy. We don't care how fat. Just really, really fat. Rachel and I have both developed a fondness for softness, you see...”

After Nina lightly tapped one of the red-heads forearms, causing it too jiggle uncontrollably for several seconds, Rachel added in a low voice. “Unfortunately, our former GI Joe seems to have some sort of hyper-metabolism related to his Alpha ability. The man eats almost as much as Nina and I, but he never gains any weight. He also runs every morning, so that probably makes it hard for him to gain weight too.”

Skylar thought for a minute, then smirked. “Well girls, you're in luck. Because I have a plan that just might help you turn your He-Man into a Pillsbury Dough Boy. First of all, get him to eat as much as food as you can while you're on this cruise. Bring food into the bedroom, if you can. Carl and I started gaining weight a lot faster when we started mixing food with sex. Second, Keep him from exercising in the morning, or throughout the day by diverting him with more...pleasurable activities, if you catch my meaning, every time he even brings up running.”

Nina smiled evilly. “I like this plan already.”

Skylar smirked. “And finally, if his Alpha metabolism still gives you trouble, let me know. I'll see if I can whip up an invention that will shut his metabolism down...without hurting him..of course.”

Nina quickly agreed to the plan to fatten Hicks up. Rachel picked at her food for a minute while Nina and Skylar dug in, but eventually she agreed to the plan to. The red head smiled and spoke before she started eating her own massive lunch as well. “As long as you give your word that this plane won't hurt Cameron...I'm in..”

Skylar smiled and spoke through a mouthful of food. “ I pwomise!”

 

Another six months passed. The Adams-Webb family and their friends all had a great time seeing more of the world, going on excursions, enjoying on ship entertainment, and most of all, eating. During this time, Carl and Skylar's twins were born on the ship. Luckily, after spending a few days in the ship's maternity ward, and purchasing a double crib, complete with baby restraints, for her and Carl's room (which Skylar, with permission from the captain, temporarily bolted to the floor), as well as many other baby essentials, the Webb family was able to continue their cruise for the remained of the twelve months. This was thanks, in no small part, to the top of the line daycare on board the ship. But Natalee and Aanuti also often volunteered to babysit little Jake and little Charlotte, who would later become a telekinetic and a manipulator of pretty much any form of energy a person could think of, respectfully, when they grew up.

And so it came to pass that the Adams-Webb family was able to participate in many important milestones during the course of the trip. One of these milestones included their entire family getting fatter (even the twins were somehow getting fat off their mother's breast-milk), with Natalee and Aanuti gradually porking out as well over the course of the trip, partly due to Carl and Skylar's influence. Nina and Rachel were, unsurprisingly, getting fatter all the time as well, but the two Alpha girls had also, surprisingly, managed to get their formerly fit boyfriend to willfully put on weight as well.

This last surprising turn of events came about when Rachel, who had felt guilty at the mere idea of keeping her and Nina's plan to fatten up their boyfriend a secret, and knowing she and Nina would have trouble executing the plan without Hicks realizing what was going on, had decided to try the direct approach first Rachel simply asked Cameron Hicks to get fat for his girlfriends...when all three of them were naked. This requests had surprised both Cameron and Nina (who had not been consulted about Rachel's new plan), but Nina had taken her girlfriend's impulsive requests in stride and added. “Think about it, Cameron. It will be great. All three of us all will have bellies and asses that jiggle when we make love. We'll all have love handles that will get kissed every night. And we'll all have adorable double chins that will we'll give each other love bites on. And the best part for you, honey, is that all you have to do to join me and Rachel in the blissful paradise I just mentioned...is nothing. Just relax, enjoy your retirement. Eat constantly, like we do. Instead of running in the morning, sleep in, and enjoy breakfast in bed with your two gorgeously fat girlfriends. Or lunch in bed. Or dinner. Any meal really, because we will be bringing food into the bedroom for the three of us whenever we make love anyway. Eat yourself large, and I promise you...Rachel and I will make it worth your while...”

Rachel smiled as she stroked Cameron's chest and her large, blubbery belly at the same time “Oh, we definitely will...”

Cameron shook his head. “I don't know. I've been fit my whole life. What would my old CO in the military think if he saw me fat? What would my son think, the next time he sees me? Or our friends in New York?”

Cameron Hicks train of though was completely derailed, however, when Rachel knelt down and started giving her boyfriend a blowjob. Meanwhile, Cameron's other girlfriend smiled, shook her fat, cellulite covered ass for several seconds right in front of her boyfriend, then moved her left breast towards Hicks face. “Don't talk. Suck.”

Hicks couldn't think of doing anything but obeying as Nina smiled and talked, even as her boyfriend's inhibitions were being overwhelmed by the pleasurable sensations that he was receiving from his lips and his dick. “You know you want this lifestyle we're offering. You're just afraid to admit it. Afraid of what other people might think if you got so deliciously fat...”

Rachel emphasized those last two words for her girlfriend by stroking Cameron's penis with her tongue the way her boyfriend liked, even as Nina pumped her left breast with her arm,two actions which caused Cameron to moan with pleasure in the back of his throat before Nina kept talking. “But that's okay, baby. Rachel and I will make sure you get the pleasurable life you secretly want and definitely deserve. You can even blame our 'evil influence” for making you fat, if you want. Just say you'll get fat for us, and Rachel and I will make all of your wildest dreams come true...”

Rachel once again did that thing to Cameron's dick that he liked, causing the man to loudly moan again as Nina gently guided her boyfriend's lips to her right breast and said. “And don't worry about what other people will think, sweetie. That nasty old drill sergeant of yours won't understand how much we'll love the new rolls you'll be developing. How much Rachel and I will love fucking you even more once you're a fat guy. He'll will never know the pleasures the three of us will have stuffing each other silly with food, than making love until dawn while our bellies, ass and boobs, or in your case, moobs..”

Hicks almost turned away at that word, but Rachel's skilled mouth, aided by her Alpha ability, which allowed the red-head to see exactly which parts of her boyfriend's genitalia to fondle and suck to bring about maximum pleasure, as well and Nina's shaking belly both stopped him before Nina spoke. “ all shake like jello. And don't worry, Hicks. You'll love having moobs. They're pretty much the same thing as girl boobs, and you will be able to shake and fondle them whenever you want. And Rachel and I will looove touching and sucking them when we all make love. Anyway...the three of us will have so much fun when we're all fatties, Cameron. And the people that love you...Rachel and I, obviously, but also your son and all our friends in New York... They will understand when they see how much happier you are as a fat guy on Lipidpro. And you will be happier Cameron. Rachel and I promise. So what's it going to be?”

Finally, after Rachel performed another skilled tongue movement on her boyfriend's member, Cameron couldn't take it anymore, and the muscular man took his mouth off Nina's tit to moan with pleasure as he ejaculated straight into Rachel's mouth. However, Rachel, whose “food therapy” had helped her gain much greater control of her abilities, deep throated her boyfriend's dick like a pro and swallowed all of Cameron's cum. Afterwards, the red-head stood up with a loud grunt and gave her boyfriend her best innocent puppy dog look. “Please say yes! It would make Nina and I so happy if you got fat for us!”

Hicks sighed. “How many times do I have to tell you two it's not fair when you team up on me like that?! Saying no to one of the women I Iove is difficult. Saying no to both of you is impossible!”

Nina smiled. “So, does that mean you'll get fat for us?!”

Seeing the expectant, pleading look on his beautiful, fat girlfriends' faces, Hicks sighed. “Yeah. I guess it does. How fat do you want me to get anyway?”

Nina just smirked while Rachel got a large box of cupcakes out their cabin's fridge, which the two hefty girlfriends had been saving for a special occasion such as this. After the red-head opened the box on a table and said with a smile: “Who wants cupcakes?!” Then smeared two cupcakes against her two boobs, letting lemon cream frosting (Hick's favorite) smudge all over her tits, Nina wordlessly gave two cupcakes to her boyfriend, then smeared two cupcakes against her own breast. Both girl's then squished two of their tits together and leaned towards Cameron, giving Hicks easy access to Nina's right breast and Rachel's left one. As the former soldier alternated between sucking his girlfriends breasts and eating his own cupcakes (during which times the girl's would alternate between eating their cupcakes and licking frosting off each others nipples), Nina was just barely able to speak before the second wave of cupcakes was taken out of the box. “Huge, Hicks. Rachel and I want you to get so hugely fat!”

This actually took some doing. Although Nina and Rachel were still gaining weight like crazy, Cameron found that, due to his Alpha metabolism, it took a week of non-stop gluttony and total sloth to even gain a single pound the old fashioned way. Thankfully, by the end of that week, Skylar had managed to finish her invention, and with Cameron's permission, slow Hick's metabolism way down. As a result, the formerly fit Alpha was able to gain an astonishing 100 pounds in six months!
In the meantime, the Adams-Webb family spent most of their time eating either with each other, with their new friends, Natalee and Aanuti and/or with their old friends Hicks, Nina and Rachel. All of whom were in the process of getting fat ( due to Skylar's invention, and because it turned out Aanuti really loved the food on the ship) or fatter (at Skylar's request, Carl also used his wife's invention to speed up his own fattening). Besides the obvious effects this gluttony induced transformation had on their bodies, as Skylar gained an incredible 110 pounds (100 of them from her pregnancy), Cameron gained 100 pounds, Carl gained an amazing 200 pounds, and Aanuti, Natalee, Nina and Rachel all gained around forty pounds in six months, this transformation also degraded the manners of this group somewhat.

As it turned out, eating as much as the Adams-Webb family and their friends did in such a short period of time made everyone in that group very gassy. At first, everyone in this group tried (and usually failed) to suppress every belch and fart that their body produced. But over time, embarrassment over each others gas turned to laughter, which turned to casual shrugging, and eventually, just settled into acceptance as everyone in this flabby group got used to each others flatulence and concussive eructations. This acceptance of gross habits continued as everyone in the group got so comfortable with each other that all of them would sometimes scratch themselves in front of each other, and the adults would often not bother to update their wardrobe size until the last possible minute, resulting in plenty of flabby tummy flesh, and and even a bit of cellulite covered ass crack here and there, being exposed. And if the gradual erosion of their family and friends manners sometimes caused the triplets to laugh, or for Charles and Zoe to be horribly embarrassed when one of their parents accidentally exposed themselves somewhat, none of the adults in this group of friendly fatties noticed. Nor did they notice that, ever since they had all started belching and farting regularly, none of the other tourist on the boat would sit anywhere near this large groups tables during meal times.

Aside from Adams-Webb family and company's weight gain, and the birth of the twins, there were three upcoming additions to the group, as Nina, Rachel and Natalee all fell pregnant on the ship due to their male significant others. Nina and Rachel's pregnancies didn't change the relational dynamics of Hicks/Nina/Rachel much, other then the fact that all three members of the trio were now planning on bringing two new babies into the world and taking care of them for the rest of their lives. But Aanuti and Natalee, whose relationship had quickly been growing during the course of the trip, decided that their pregnancy was as good an excuse as any to get married, since they already felt their relationship had been heading that way anyway.

Aanuti and Natalee's wedding was a very non-traditional one. Not only did it take place on the cruise ship, instead of on land, the new couple had actually decided to have the ceremony by the pool (which the Adams-Webb family had insisted on renting for their friends for the event as their wedding present), and have the reception spill over into the adjoining bar and buffet, as well as into the pool itself. Furthermore, since their was no formal wear sold on the ship, and the next port where the wedding guests (which just consisted of the friends they'd made during the cruise) could buy formal attire in their size was over a month away from the proposed wedding date, Aanuti and Natalee had made the unorthodox move of making the dress code for the wedding casual.

Therefore, the day of the wedding, as the bride and groom's friends observed the captain marry the newly fat couple, all of them were standing up in sandals (those of them who wore shoes at all), and shorts and t-shirts. Since many of these garments were now too small for the wedding guest wearing them, a lot of tanned, flabby flesh was on display for everyone present to see. Only the bride and groom themselves made any effort to look “presentable” for the occasion, as Aanuti wore a t-shirt that had a picture of a tuxedo jacket on it, as well as polished shoes and a nice pair of slacks that almost fit him, while Natalee wore a white sun-dress that didn't fit quite as well, showing off her abundant belly and quite ample bosom off a little more than she intended. But no one present at the wedding minded the lack of formality for the event, nor how quickly the captain of the ship (who had other duties to attend to) ran through the ceremony. So after rings were exchanged, “I do's” were said, and the newly married couple capped of the event with a classy, but passionate kiss, every one of the wedding guest, including the children (sans the twins, who were in daycare at the time) cheered and applauded the new couple's nuptials.

After the ceremony was over, the pool was reopened for all cruise guests, but the wedding party still stuck around to enjoy food, drinks, and swimming in, or lounging by, the pool. After eating and drinking their fill, Carl and Skylar found the two biggest lounge chairs on the pool decks and pushed them close to each other. The hugely obese married couple then grunted as they sat down, causing the two lounge chairs to creak a little bit in the process. Secure in the knowledge that Charles and Zoe had volunteered to babysit the kids for awhile while Carl and Skylar enjoyed the aftermath of the wedding they had funded (which had included a special cake for the bride and groom), the married Alphas relaxed in the sun and held each others fat hands while Skylar watched her family and friends relax and play in the pool area. It made the technopath smile to see all her loved ones so happy and having a good time, and that smile widened further when she mentally noted that, among all of the people she cared about, their was not a single flat belly in sight. On the contrary, everyone that Skylar cared about, including Carl, and Skylar herself, now carried large quantities of jiggling fat on their frames. Everyone Skylar loved, including her spoiled children, was fat and happy. Even so, the fat on their bodies did not distribute itself the same way for each individual.

Skylar, had the second biggest belly of anyone present, and she wasn't afraid to flaunt her stretch-mark laced stomach in the plus-sized bikini she had bough for the trip, the front of which was completely covered by the technopath's overhanging belly flab. Skylar's breast had also expanded, to the point that her sagging tits, which were constantly being pulled down by her fat and gravity, had grown all the way down to her belly button. The technopath's thighs had also expanded, and now constantly rubbed together when she walked, and her arm fat had expanded to the point that it always met the sides of her breast and belly, even when Skylar's arms pointed upward. Skylar's chicks had grown even chubbier during the cruise, and her three chins now completely covered the front of Skylar's neck, obscuring the technopath's facial features in so much flab that it was impossible to tell that Skylar had ever been thin. The Alpha's back was covered in thick rolls of back fat and stretch marks, and her huge ass (which almost completely swallowed her bikini string) resembled a pair of flesh-colored watermelons. However, despite the cellulite which covered her rear end, Skylar's ass checks were soft and squishy to touch, a fact which the technopath and her husband knew very well.

In short, Skylar's body was absolutely covered in fat, to the point that many people looked at her in disgust when she waddled by, but the technopath and her husband both loved Skylar's new figure. Carl, in particular, was enamored with his wife's expanding body, and when the tracker and the technopath made love, there was no part of his wife that Carl didn't want to admire, touch and kiss. And Skylar also loved how fat her husband was getting, meaning that the married couple's lovemaking sessions just kept getting more pleasurable and mind blowing with every pound the Alphas put on their bodies. The only trouble was, sex didn't last as long as it used to, since Carl and Skylar's flabby bodies were no longer built for physical activity, and even the acting of walking from their room to the pool for the wedding had tired the two fatties out.

However, Carl and Skylar weren't inspired to lose weight to improve their fitness and sex lives, because the married couple had long ago decided that their eating habits, and their expanding, soft, and squishy bodies, brought them too much pleasure to give up their hedonistic lifestyle And the Alphas both agreed that they wouldn't give up the way their bellies, asses, and boobs (or in Carl's case, moobs) shook every time the couple had sex, for anything. However, Skylar had already made plans to have her servant bots build her and her husband hover-chairs, with on board cleaning and waste disposal protocols. That way neither member of the couple would ever have to walk again, and could continue growing fatter for the rest of their days, without having to worry about mobility .Skylar would then surprise her husbands with some special sex toys she had built during the few moments of private time she had been able to snatch away while on the trip. The technopath had designed the “toys” (which she would later patent) for larger couples, so that even immobile individuals could experience simulated sex with their partners, which was just as good, if not better, than the real thing.

That naughty train of thought inspired Skylar to look at her huge, handsome husband, who, thanks to the help of his wife's invention, was now 580 pounds, and was now even bigger than Skylar. Likes his wife, the majority of Carl's weight now went to his triple belly, which had almost as many stretch-marks as that of his wife, even as the third roll he had added to his belly on the trip made his stomach bigger than his wife's.. But the man's moobs, which were the part of his anatomy Skylar loved to suck on the most, were a close second, as the man's grape-fruit sized globs of fat rested on top of the man's emperor belly...then spilled 2/3 of the way down to his belly button. The moob/belly combination, combined with Carl's chubby cheeks and double-chin, as well as the man's meaty arms, legs and thighs, was a sight that Skylar had recently confessed to Nina, Rachel, and Natalee as “the sexiest thing I have ever seen in my life!” However, the sight of Carl's numerous rolls of back fat, and the man's shelf-like ass (barely hidden by the man's far too small swim trucks), which had somehow grown even fatter, squishier, and softer than Skylar's, was a close second on Skylar's list of the hottest things she had ever seen. So it was not wonder that Skylar practically worshiped every inch of her husband's sexy fat body whenever she and Carl made love.

Still, having a “look, but don't touch” policy concerning other people built into their relationship, both members of the Alpha couple decided to take this opportunity, when their children were distracted, to look at some of the other sexy fat people around them. At the same time Carl and Skylar ate food and drank champagne from serving trays they had brought with them to the pool. Skylar, being bisexual, allowed her eyes to wander over the fat bodies of everyone of their group of friends, even as she held her husband's pudgy hand while Carl did some equally spouse-sanctioned girl watching. Skylar frowned when she noted that Natalee and Aanuti, who were both equally apple shaped, and the former of whom had resembled a beautiful parade float during her wedding, had already left to have honeymoon sex in their cabin. But the technopath smiled when she saw that Nina and Rachel, who had been fat before boarding the cruise, were now huge. Nina's formerly almost-svelte belly, breasts, arms and face had all filled out, leaving her with a plump cheeks, a double chin, and form that was round and flabby all over (a fact that was accentuated by the raven haired Alpha's tight bikini, which left little to the imagination). On the other hand, Rachel's ass, legs and thighs had finally started to fill out, and the Alpha with the enhanced senses now waddled when she walked, as her thighs constantly rubbed together. However, in keeping with previous trends, Rachel still had a bigger belly, arms, and face than her girlfriend, while Nina still had the bigger ass, thighs and flabulous legs. But it was only a difference of degree now, and both girls looked very fat and sexy in Skylar's eyes, especially her old girlfriend Nina. Even though Skylar was glad she had settled down with Carl, who she loved with all her heart, and knew she would always remain faithful to her husband, the technopath was privately proud she had tapped Nina's fine ass a few times. Back when the technopath and the mesmerizer had briefly been an item years ago. Skylar just thought it was a shame that she and Nina had both been so damn skinny at the time.

After looking at her hotter than hell husband for a moment to chase away her gloomy thoughts by remembering how good she had it now, Skylar turned her lustful gaze towards Hicks. Unlike his girlfriends who were swimming around in the pool, Cameron Hicks had not stopped eating since the ceremony had ended. For several minutes, Skylar kept stealing glances at Cameron's huge beer gut and pear shaped moobs, as well as the chubby cheeks and double chin that now engulfed the man's formerly defined jaw line. The technopath smirked as she though “Oh, how the mighty have fallen.” Gone was the muscular man that Skylar had met during that fateful van ride years ago, on the same day she had met Carl. Gone also, was the fitness fanatic boyfriend that Nina had often described in correspondences with her technopath friend years ago. In his place was a very fat man who always woke up late, never walked further than he had to, even missing excursions that he thought were “too much of a hassle”, and who ate constantly.

Skylar shook her head at the pretty, fat man as he wolfed down his fourth whole pizza and third sundae since the wedding reception had started. But the technopath had to suppress a giggle when Hick's button popped off his pants and the fat man simply unzipped his zipper, as if nothing happened, while letting out a loud fart at the same time. The formerly fit man then scratched his fat ass and got up to head towards the buffet again to get even more food. These actions gave Skylar a great view of Cameron's many rolls of thick back fat, as well as the man's fat ass, as part of the fat man's butt crack and just a hit of cellulite, had escaped Hick's far too-tight pants. Skylar shook her head and softly said. “That man is going to get huge at this rate.”

“We sure hope so.” Skylar jaw dropped in horror as she turned towards her left side and saw that Nina and Rachel, still dripping wet from the pool, a sexy sight that Skylar desperately tried to ignore as she looked at the two big girls' faces, were now standing next to her. Skylar gulped. “ I was...I was just..”

Nina smirked. “Oogling our fat, sexy husband? We know. And Rachel and I saw you and your husband both checking our fine, flabulous asses out earlier.”

Carl and Skylar both blushed and looked down before they spoke simultaneously “We're sorry!”

Rachel laughed. “Don't be. Me, my wife, and my husband are all really hot! And Nina and I don't blame you for wanting to watch us and enjoy the show!”

“Just as long as you two regulate yourselves to just looking, not touching!” Nina quickly added.

Carl shook his head. “Don't worry, I would never cheat on Skylar by doing anything untoward with any of you.””

Skylar nodded and squeezed her husband's hand reassuringly as she looked at Carl with love in her eyes. “I wouldn't do something like that either. Not ever.”

Nina and Rachel both burst out laughing before Nina added. “We know that! Rachel and I were just fucking with you two! You should have seen your faces!”

Carl opened his mouth, as if to reply, but his stomach loudly rumbled,, and the man shrugged and patted his belly as he pulled his heavy body up with a grunt instead. “Well, that's my belly calling for more food, and I must answer that call. Does anybody want anything while I go to the buffet for more food and beer?”

The girls all replied that they were full after several plates of food, so Carl shrugged and started waddling over to the buffet while his wife and her two Alpha friends watched in lustful appreciation as the tracker's thighs, ass, and rolls of back fat all jiggled as he walked. Skylar smiled and turned towards Rachel and Nina as she said. “That's so hot! My husband just finished ten burgers, with everything on them, and fifteen large orders of fries, as well as two large pieces of wedding cake and several beers, and he's still hungry! At this rate, my husband will twice my size soon, unless I start using my invention on myself! From the way Hicks is eating, I think increased appetite is one of the side effects of the invention I used to slow down our husbands' metabolisms. It's not going to hurt either of them, but...Do you think I should tell Carl and Hicks what is going on before they eat themselves into immobile blobs?!”

Seeing the guilty look on Skylar's face, Rachel shook her hood and patted her friend's arm reassuringly and said. “I don't think there's a need for that. Your husband, as well as mine and Nina's “spouse”, are both happy and healthy being lazy gluttons, so I don't see any reason to jeopardize that! Besides...”

“Besides...” Nina smirked. “Rachel and I are both hoping that our husband get even fatter than us, just like Carl did for you! And I don't know about your situation with Carl, Skylar, but neither Rachel nor myself would mind if Hicks became a sexy immobile hunk! Or hell, if all three of us become immobile! If that happens, we'll just buy some of those hover-chairs and robot assistants that you invented, to take care of the three of us! After all, thanks to that formula that plant and animal growing Alpha created three years ago, food just keeps getting cheaper and more abundant anyway!”

Skylar nodded, and bit her tongue to stop herself from adding that she would also happily recommend the trio buy some sex toys so that Nina, Rachel, and Hicks could still have “intercourse” if they all became immobile, for this wasn't the time nor place to discuss such things. But the technopath did smile and say. “Actually, Carl and I have already discussed it, and we are both planning on building some hover-chairs of our own once we move into our new home, and becoming happy, sexy, immobile fatties!'

Nina smiled appreciatively “Congratulations! I'm just sorry Rachel and I won't be around to see that!”

Skylar smiled. “Actually...You could be. The two of you and Hicks, if you want. Once Carl and I have settled on a place to live, we could help you all find a house in the same town. Natalee and Aanuti have already agreed to live nearby as well, as soon as mine and Carl's lawyers help Aanuti become a U.S. citizen. If you need financial assistance to buy a home in that neighborhood, money is not a problem for Carl and me. And it would mean a lot to us, a lot to me...to have friends living nearby. For all of our children to grow up and go to school together. I'm not trying to pressure you, but true friendships are one of those things money can't buy and...”

Nina and Rachel both smiled and simultaneously said. “We'll do it!” After the two girlfriends laughed for a moment, Nina continued. “I think that's a great idea, Skylar! It would be nice for our trio to live near friends too, and I'm sure Rachel and I can convince Hicks it's a good idea! So yeah, let's do it! Let's be neighbors!”

Skylar smiled at her friends' declaration. The technopath thought to herself that between herself, her big, handsome husband, their plump, spoiled children, and her fatty friends, life had turned out pretty well for her and her loved ones. As Skylar watched her husband and Hicks start making their way back to the decks chairs with two beers each, and massive trays of food in her hands, then turned towards the pool to look at her Alpha friends and her fat, happy children, the technopath couldn't help but think that the future would be a bright one for all of them. And more than likely, Skylar thought with a smirk, their futures would be quite fattening as well!