A/N: Just a reminder that I am straying from canon with some of the relationships of family and friends. If my memory serves, Jack had been presumed dead when he met up with amnesiac Steve on the show, but since this is primarily a Steve and Kayla/Shane and Kim story, I'm ignoring all of that.
"I wish you could be here for supper tonight," Adrienne lamented as she bid her husband a tearful goodbye. "It's going to seem lonely without you, especially after everything that's happened."
"I know," he said, softly. "I came here anticipating a few days spent negotiating for your release, only to find that Roman and Bo had already seen to it. For which I am eternally grateful," he added with a meaningful glance at Bo, who stood patiently waiting near the door to the two bedroom suite that Justin had requested for his family's use. Jo would stay in the one bedroom suite across the hall. "But now that you're safe, I need to go back and get the boys. They should be here with us. I'll pick them up at their friends' houses and pack a few more things for us to use for a few more days, then we'll catch a few hours of sleep and then catch an early flight in the morning. We'll be back early tomorrow, I promise, and there will be other dinners."
She nodded, feeling strangely choked up at their temporary parting. "I understand. And I still have Mama here to keep me company."
"That's right." He kissed her warmly, then drew back. "I'll see you tomorrow."
She nodded. "I'll see you then."
Justin walked out the door with Bo, and they started down the corridor to the elevator.
Jo and Adrienne spent the next half hour unpacking their suitcases and getting settled into their suites, then met up again in Adrienne's suite to marvel at the luxury of their quarters.
"I didn't even know they had suites like this at the Inn!" Jo exclaimed, looking at the beautifully appointed living room from the door. "It's like a small house or apartment. My suite has almost as much space as my condo back in Dallas!" Having spent most of her life in poverty, it was still astonishing to her that her family could now afford finer amenities.
"Bo said it has an entire floor of one and two bedroom suites."
"Look, it even has a kitchenette!" Jo exclaimed. "I've stayed in a lot of motels in my life, but I have never seen anything like this!"
Adrienne moved to the sliding glass door leading to the balcony. "Did you see the view of the city?"
Jo joined her, and they stepped outside to admire the view of the city. But she wasn't really thinking about the view. She was thinking of the son, long believed dead, who had suddenly and unexpectedly reappeared in their lives. For her, it was a miracle that changed everything. "It's a lovely view," she agreed, "but it pales in comparison to having my Stevie back." She placed her arm around her daughter. "And having my Adrienne back safe and sound. The last 24 hours have been some of the worst I've ever endured."
"I'm sorry you had to go through all that," Adrienne said. "I wanted so bad to call you, to let you and Justin know I was all right, but they wouldn't let me."
"It's all over now, and we will have a nice future together."
"Steve looks wonderful, doesn't he?"
"He seems a little thin, but I guess after everything he's been through, that's to be expected. Kayla will take good care of him."
"I can't wait to get back there for supper. I just wish Justin would be here by then, but I know he'll just be arriving back in Dallas about that time."
Jo fell silent again for several moments, thinking of her other son, the one who continued to keep them at arm's length. "I wonder if they've told Jack yet."
"I don't know. I do know they had been keeping the number of people who knew down to a minimum until they caught those guys, but now that most of them are in custody and the only one who is left probably won't try anything on his own, I don't see any reason why he couldn't be told. Why don't I give Bo a call and see."
"Oh, would you?" Jo asked. "He has a right to know! He's family!"
Returning to the living room, Adrienne sat down in one of the chairs and picked up the telephone. After securing an outside line, she paused briefly, silently recalling Bo's phone number, then pressed the appropriate keys on the touch phone. It wasn't a number she called often, but she had a good memory and had kept it programmed into her cell phone back home. Bo answered on the second ring.
"Bo, this is Adrienne."
"I thought it probably was when I saw the Salem Inn on the caller I.D., but Shane is registered there too, so I wasn't sure. What's up?"
"Mama and I were wondering. Has anyone notified Jack that Steve is alive? He's family, and Mama and I think he should know."
"With everything that's been going on, I don't think anyone has even thought about it."
"That's terrible, you know?" Adrienne said reproachfully. "He's Steve's brother."
"I know, but we've been a bit preoccupied trying to rescue you and apprehend those criminals. It wasn't a deliberate slight."
Adrienne sighed. "I know. I'm sorry if I sounded judgmental. Would it be all right if I call him and Jennifer?"
"I think that would be okay if you want to give him a call. I meant to tell you, though. Even though the only one left that we know if is Vaughn, I would appreciate it if you would both keep your heads up and your eyes open for any signs of suspicious behavior. When you leave the room, look around and make sure it's safe. I don't think he'll try anything on his own, but Vaughn was once an I.S.A. agent, and you don't reach the level he obtained in the organization without being cunning and bold. I'm not trying to frighten you. I don't think he'll try anything, but I just want you to be alert. We just got you back."
"We'll be careful," she promised.
"Okay. I'll be picking you up about 4:00 to take you to the safe house this evening. Your mother mentioned she wanted to help with the meal, so that should give enough time for that and some time to visit while it's cooking. If Jack wants to go, have him drive over to the Inn and leave the car there, and we'll all go in one vehicle."
"Sounds good. Thanks, Bo."
"You're welcome. See you then."
"Bye," Adrienne said, then hung up the phone. Turning to her mother, she said. "He says it's okay with him, and that Jack is welcome to come to the supper tonight. Bo just wants him to meet us here, and we'll all ride over together in Bo's SUV."
"I can't believe we're all going to be together again, all four of us," Jo said, then her exuberant mood seemed to slip a bit. It was no secret that Steve's relationship with Jack had been strained in the few years before his kidnapping, and Jack had not been eager to rejoin the Johnson family. "Do you think he'll come?" she asked. "He's sort of grudgingly accepted us as family, and I wouldn't want to cause him any discomfort. I know it's been hard on him, being abandoned by me and then raised by that awful Mr. Deveraux -"
"Mama, don't go there," Adrienne warned, affectionately. "Jack will either go or not, but either way, I think he'll be pleased that Steve is okay."
"Yes, you're right. I tend to worry too much sometimes."
Adrienne picked up the telephone again and secured an outside line, then said, "It's still Sunday, right? Jack won't be at work today. Man, it's been a long day already!"
"Yes, it's Sunday, so Jack should be at home with Jennifer."
Adrienne nodded, and dialed Jack's home phone number. After several rings, the other end of the line was picked up and a woman's voice said, "Hello?"
"Yes. Is this Adrienne?" she asked, recognizing her sister in law's voice.
"It's been a long time! How have you been?"
"Couldn't be better. A lot has happened, though. We're in Salem, Mama and me, and we have some wonderful news for Jack. Is he there?"
"Yes, he is. Hold on, I'll get him."
Jennifer laid the phone down to fetch her husband, and a few moments later, Jack Devereaux, formerly Billy Johnson, picked it up, and after taking a moment to decide how to address the sister he still barely knew, he said, "Hello, Adrienne? Jen says you're in town. Is everything okay?"
"Everything is wonderful, and we'll explain more when we see you, but I have some major news, wonderful news, that we needed to tell you. You might want to sit down for this one, though. It's huge! I mean colossal!"
He chuckled. In spite of the differences in their upbringing, it was impossible to not appreciate Adrienne's exuberance when she was excited about something. "Shoot, I think I can take it."
She laughed, happily. "I just found out last night that our big brother Steve is alive and well. A lot has happened to him, but he's back in Salem!"
There was a brief pause on the other end of the line as Jack mulled over the news he had just been given. His journalistic instincts were aroused, sensing a mystery, but his logical mind objected. "How can that be? We attended his funeral. We saw the body. There's no way -"
"It's a really long story, one that's pretty shocking and also one that would be best if he told himself in detail, but it's true. Mama and I just got back from seeing him. He's at a safe house under police protection."
"A safe house?" Jack repeated. "Like witness protection, or something?"
Briefly, she gave him a recap of the things Steve had told them. "There is a lot more for him to tell, but that's the gist of it," she said when she was through.
"That's incredible. I don't understand how they could make him appear dead like that. I mean, I touched his face, and he was so cold!"
"It was something that was caused by the drug they used, some kind of I.S.A. drug that was never even approved for use in humans. Steve is really lucky to be alive!"
"The other reason I called is that Kayla is preparing a family dinner tonight at the safe house, and we're all going to be there. We'd like for you and Jennifer to join us, if you don't have anything else planned. Please say you and Jennifer will come."
His hesitation was brief as conflicting emotions surged to the surface. He had accepted his humble heritage as fact. Even though it completely changed his heritage and everything he had grown up believing, he had even grown fond of them, but he still found it difficult to participate in family functions. It was a painful reality that he was still struggling to figure out exactly what his feelings were for them. "Well, I'll have to talk it over with Jennifer," he replied. "And we'll need to find a sitter for the kids."
Adrienne heard the uncertainty in his voice. "Please, Jack. "I know it hasn't been easy for you to accept us and that you're still uncomfortable with us, but you're our brother, and we really want you to be there."
He closed his eyes briefly, responding to the fact that they had gone out of their way to welcome him into the family, regardless of how reluctant he had been to embrace the family fold. "I'll talk to Jennifer, but I'm sure we won't have any trouble finding a sitter for the kids. I'll try to be there."
Adrienne did not press him, understanding that it was the best he could do. "Okay. If you can come, meet us at the Salem Inn before 4:00. That's when Bo is picking us up to take us to the safe house. We're in Suite 410."
"Okay. Thank you for calling.," he said in a non-committed fashion.
"Well?" Jo asked anxiously when Adrienne hung up the phone. "Is he coming?"
"He says he'll try to make it," she replied.
After letting Justin off at the airport, Bo's next stop was the Pub to carry a specific request from Stephanie.
Sunday was traditionally a very busy day as locals flocked in to enjoy Caroline's lunch specials, so Bo was not surprised to find Kim in the dining room wiping down a table that had just been cleared by a busboy. The lunch rush was winding down, but when Kim saw her brother, she flashed a weary but cheerful smile.
"Hey, Bo. I don't suppose you came out to help clean up."
He shrugged. "No, actually I didn't, but I suppose I could be persuaded if you did a bit of arm twisting."
She smiled in response. "Well, we're just about finished. What's up? Did you get Adrienne's mom out to the safe house okay?"
"Yes. It was a very touching reunion," he told her. "It was quite an emotional rollercoaster for her, though. When Jo and Justin left Dallas, Adrienne was still missing, and they didn't know she had been found and freed until they arrived. Top that off with finding out that the son she thought was dead these past fifteen years is actually alive and well, and it was a pretty overwhelming experience for her."
"I can imagine!" Kim exclaimed. She finished wiping off the table, and placed bundles of silverware wrapped in clean white napkins on them. Taking her rag, she went back to the bar and returned the rag to the tub of disinfectant. "I remember how I felt when Andrew had been kidnapped. I was afraid we'd never get him back."
"That was a bad time," he agreed. "I wish I'd been more help back then.
"Well, you were having problems of your own. I understood that," she assured him, then changed the subject. "So, can I get you a cup of coffee or something?"
"No. The reason I came by is that the Johnson family is having sort of a reunion get-together this evening with dinner and conversation, and Stephanie is complaining about not having anyone her own age to talk to. She asked me to see if it would be okay with you if Jeannie came along to keep her company. I think she's getting kind of bored and frustrated that she's the only teenager there."
Kim instantly became wary, especially with Bo's suggestion coming right on the heels of their discussion about Andrew's kidnapping years earlier. "Oh, well, I don't know . . . ." she said, hesitantly. "I never really considered . . . I mean, Jeannie's been grousing about not having Stephanie around to talk to, and ordinarily I wouldn't mind at all. She'd be in good hands with Kayla and Steve, but what about getting her there? How safe is that? What if Vaughn decides to get even with Shane by kidnapping our daughter?"
Bo nodded, understanding that he could not dismiss his sister's concerns. "I can understand your concerns, but when I go out there, the SUV is going to be pretty full, and I honestly don't think Vaughn would be stupid enough to try something against that many people. As a precaution I'm not going to let anyone drive themselves out there. Instead, I'm picking everyone up in the SUV and driving them all out together, and I'll pick them up later. Most likely, Vaughn is still in shock over losing his entire work force this morning, and it's almost a certainty that he could not get a contingency plan operational yet. He's completely alone right now, and if he decides to put together another group of helpers, it's going to take time to round them up."
Kim drummed her fingertips on the countertop indecisively, and Jeannie, who had just come down the stairs from the private residence and who had been listening unnoticed from the private doorway, decided it was a good time to speak up. "Mom? Please, can't I go? I promise I'll do everything Uncle Bo and Aunt Kayla tell me to do."
Kim and Bo turned to face her, and Kim's expression was apologetic. "Honey, I know you will. That isn't the issue. I just want to make certain its safe for you to go out there. If anything happened to you, I don't think I could ever get over it."
"If it makes you feel better," Bo said, "I checked with Shane on the way over here, and he agrees with me that it should be perfectly safe, but he said I should speak with you first."
Annoyance prickled. His intent to defer to her authority as custodial parent had the opposite effect. "And make me the bad guy if I say no."
"I don't think he intended it to be that way," Bo said in Shane's defense. "He couldn't have known that Jeannie would overhear.
She sighed, heavily. "I know." She looked into Jeannie's anxious face again as the girl waited, a silent plea in her eyes, and felt her resolve slip a bit. "I know you're right," she allowed. "I trust you to look after her and keep her safe, but I remember Vaughn. He's smart, and he's not above using anyone or anything to achieve his goal. He's far more dangerous than any of those men you caught this morning."
"I can't deny that," Bo said, honestly. "All I can do is remind you that there will be six people in that SUV, including me. You said yourself that he's smart. I just don't think he's going to try anything against that many people."
"Yeah, Adrienne called a few minutes ago and asked if it would be okay if we take Jack and Jennifer along, since he's Steve's brother. I promise, Kimmie, I'll keep a sharp eye out for Vaughn, but like I said before, I don't see any chance that he'll try anything against so many people. If I see him, I'll have the cops on him faster than a duck on a June bug."
"Well . . ."
"Please?" Jeannie pleaded.
Kim sighed again, but didn't have the heart to deny her. "All right. But when you get there, I want you and Stephanie to stay inside that house and do everything Kayla or Steve tell you to do. Okay?"
Jeannie danced eagerly into her mother's arms for a hug. "I will! Thanks, Mom!" Turning to Bo, she asked, "What time should I be ready?"
"I'm picking everyone up at the Inn at 4:00, and then we'll swing by here to get you."
"I'll be ready!" Excitedly, she turned and left the room. A moment later, they heard her feet pounding up the stairs.
Bo reached out to take his sister's hand. "Kimmie, I wouldn't have even asked if I wasn't absolutely certain that it's safe."
"Just take care of her, Bo."
Jack locked the car door and pushed it shut, promptly and unceremoniously fumbling the keys, which slipped from his fingers and landed on the hard asphalt of the parking lot with a harsh jingling clunk. With a sigh, he bent at the waist and scooped them up, then shoved them into the pockets of his jeans as he walked around the rear of the car to join his wife.
Jennifer reached out and took his hand, correctly reading the apprehensive expression on his handsome face. "Nervous?" she asked as they started walking toward the front door of the Salem Inn.
"Yeah, it's pretty obvious. You look almost like a condemned man making that final walk."
"That's a pretty harsh comparison," he said. "The problem is that's sort of how I feel. I'm just not very good at these Johnson family events. No matter how hard I try, even after all these years, I still feel like an outsider."
"There's no need to feel like that. Jo and Adrienne have gone out of their way to make you feel like one of them."
He nodded. "Yes, they've been great about including me in things without being pushy, but I still feel like I'm on the outside looking in. Like I don't know where I belong."
"They understand that," she assured him. "A lifetime of being raised to think that you were a Deveraux can't be pushed out of your mind so easily. Your whole world was turned upside down when you found out that you were actually a Johnson."
"Not to mention that the man I thought was my father turned out to be a murderer. And my real father, Duke Johnson, was a wife beater. And worse." He gave a slight grimace, recalling the brutal rape of Adrienne. He did not want to get into the other bad qualities of Duke Johnson for fear of seeing a bit of himself.
"You're not him, Jack," Jennifer said, firmly. "You're not either of them. You know that, and we've put all that behind us. The Johnsons know it's been a hard transition for you, trying to figure out where you belong."
"That's just it," he said, his voice mirroring the irony he felt. "I'm actually starting to feel more like a Johnson, yet a part of me will always be a Deveraux. After all this time, when I get together with the Johnsons, I still feel like I'm being pulled in two different directions. Like my mind says one thing, while my heart says another."
"Maybe this reunion will help you sort it all out," she suggested. "Maybe the person you've really needed to talk to all this time has been Steve."
Jack looked at her, surprised that it had never crossed his mind. As adults, they had never been close due to past spiteful actions and personality clashes, but Steve had always been sort of an outsider as well, and his reunion with their mother had not been a pleasant one, at first. Perhaps he would understand. "Maybe," he allowed. "The difference is that Steve always knew who he was. Even when he was on his own, he's always been a Johnson."
"But he had bad experiences too. He grew up in an orphanage, thinking his mother had abandoned him. And he watched you, his only kin, being taken away by adoption, leaving him there by himself. That had to have been traumatic."
He nodded. "That's true."
Releasing his hand, she slipped her arm around his waist and squeezed him affectionately. "Jack, you could take your biological family's name, or you could keep your adoptive family's name, or you could choose an entirely different name. I don't care about that. You'll always be my Jack, the man I love."
He smiled, then pressed his lips to the side of her head. In her presence, hearing her kind words, he always felt comforted against the turmoil inside. "When I'm with you, I feel like the luckiest man alive."
They were approaching the front door of the Inn, and two women stood up from the bench they had been sitting on near the entrance.
"There's Jo and Adrienne," Jennifer said, raising her hand in a friendly wave.
As they stepped onto the curb, Jo moved forward to embrace him in a motherly hug. "Jack, I'm so glad you decided to go with us. I was afraid you might decline."
"No, I wouldn't miss this for anything," he replied, then stood back. "You look beautiful. Is that a new outfit?"
She beamed at his compliment. "This old thing? No, it's just something I threw together before leaving Dallas."
"We're running a little late," Jennifer exclaimed, giving her mother in law a quick hug. "We were going to meet you in your suite, but the sitter had a flat tire on the way over, and had to wait for the auto club to come fix it for her."
"How are the kids?" Jo asked.
"They're growing like weeds," Jennifer replied. "They wanted to come, but we explained that this was an adult dinner, and they could go next time."
Jo looked pleased, encouraged that there would be a next time. "I can't wait to see them again."
"How is Steve?" Jack asked. "It just seems so unreal, to think of him being alive. Is he okay? No ill effects from his incarceration?"
"No, he's terrific," Adrienne told him. "He looks fantastic, pretty much the same as he did before. He's thinner and he may have mellowed a bit, but that might be because of everything he went through."
The toot of a car horn interrupted them, and Bo drew the SUV alongside the curb and released the locks on the doors.
"All aboard," he called through the open window.
Jack and Jennifer took the rear seat, and Adrienne and Jo slipped into the seat directly in front of them, leaving the front passenger seat unoccupied.
"Where's Hope?" Jo asked.
"She's not coming, and I'm just playing shuttle service. "This is totally a Johnson affair, except for Jeannie Donovan. Stephanie asked if we could bring her along so she'd have someone her age to talk to."
"I hate for you to have to drive all the way out there and back on our account," Jo said, regretfully. "Especially since you'll have to drive all the way out to pick us up again later. We could have rented a car and driven ourselves."
"Well, until we know for certain that its safe, we'd rather that not too many people know the exact route out there," Bo replied. "The guard is still in place at the gate and he knows me, so this is the simplest way to do it."
Jack noticed then that Bo's eyes were constantly looking around, surveying the street and cars, looking up each and every side road. "So, it could still be dangerous for Steve," he concluded.
"Could be dangerous for anyone Steve cares about. We just don't know yet how many contacts Vaughn has. By arresting his three cohorts, we think he's been pretty much crippled, but there could be others here that we don't know about. We just don't want to give them an opportunity to follow us to Steve's doorstep."
Jack became more vigilant as well, and like Bo, he kept a cautious eye on everything as they drove along a route that took them through Salem's side streets rather than the main roads. And finally, the SUV pulled up into the parking lot of the Pub, and Bo honked the horn again.
The back door opened, and Jeannie Donovan darted out, running with youthful exuberance toward the SUV. She opened the door and hopped in.
"Thanks for coming to get me, Uncle Bo."
"You're welcome," he replied. "Jeannie, have you met Jo and Adrienne Johnson, and Jack and Jennifer Deveraux?"
"No, I don' think so. Nice to meet you," she said over her shoulder.
The others responded in kind, then they fell into casual conversation as Bo left the parking lot and drove toward to the safe house.
The delicious smells of baking ham, roasted turkey, candied sweet potatoes, and pecan pie drifted from the kitchen and wafted throughout the cottage. It was no coincidence that it was food typically associated with Thanksgiving, for the Johnson family had much to be thankful for.
Attracted to the enticing aromas, Steve's stomach growled in eager anticipation of the coming meal. Raised and trained by her mother, Kayla was an excellent cook, and these were the kinds of meals Steve had so desperately longed for during his years of captivity.
Kayla and Stephanie were both in the kitchen seeing to the preparation of the meal and the setting of the table, but Steve remained in the front room, frequently parting the drapes with his hands to look out at the parking area, even though he knew no one would be there. The guards at the gate had not notified him of coming visitors.
"Shouldn't they be here by now?" he called.
Kayla appeared in the kitchen door, a stack of paper napkins in her hand, and watched as her husband peered between the drapes, intent on the winding drive that led from the gate. Having been greeting by his mother and sister, she knew the one person Steve wanted to see at this point was his younger brother. Although she had long ago made peace with Jack for the act of violence he had committed against her so many years earlier, she could not help the small niggling of apprehension that nudged mutely whenever she thought of facing him, a sensation she kept carefully concealed.
"I'm sure everything's okay," she said. "I hope they remember to stop for the hot rolls. The only bread we have in the house is sandwich slices. And it would have been nice to have had some cloth napkins instead of these paper ones."
But Steve was not thinking about bread or napkins. He was thinking about the phone call Adrienne had made an hour ago to let them know that she had invited Jack. "Do you think Jack will be with them?"
"I hope so," Kayla responded promptly, maintaining a cheerful voice. "It would be nice to have your whole family together for this."
Dropping the drape back into place, he turned to look at her, and a silence communication passed between them, one neither of them acknowledged except through an understanding meeting of their eyes. Steve understood that it was uncomfortable for her to be around Jack, and she understood that it was important for him to see his brother. She would deal with it, and he appreciated it.
At that moment, the intercom buzzed, and Kayla flinched.
"Mr. Johnson, Bo Brady is here with your family."
"Thank you," Steve responded. With his eyes still on his wife, he drew a deep, steadying breath. "They're here."
She gave a nod and disappeared back in the kitchen to place the napkins beside each place setting. Then, that done, she returned to the living room and stood at his side, the dutiful wife and hostess.
Steve parted the drape again and watched as the SUV emerged from the tree line and moved slowly into the clearing. The vehicle was full, and in the rear seat he saw his brother and a blond-haired woman that he recognized as Jennifer Horton Deveraux. A thrill went through him that Jack was willing to set aside the past and join them as a family. He was, of course, aware of what Jack and done to Kayla, but in a very real way, he shared the blame for that, since he had willfully pushed her toward him back in those dark days when he had felt himself unworthy of her love. It had ended up hurting all three of them.
He continued to watch from the window as the passengers emerged from the vehicle, marveling that time had been so kind to them all. Jack leaned back inside the van and offered his hand to his wife, who stepped from the vehicle, tossing her thick blond hair back with a smile of thanks. After departing the SUV, all of them paused to look up at the cottage, clearly impressed.
"I can't believe it," Steve said. "Jennifer doesn't look a day older than she did before I left!"
"She's one of the lucky ones," Kayla agreed. "It's hard to believe that she's had two children, and one of them is only a few years younger than Stephanie."
"I wish there had been room in this little house for everyone to bring their kids," Steve lamented.
She stroked her hand along his bicep. "I know, but there will be plenty of time to get acquainted with the extended family."
"That must be Jeannie Donovan," he said, noticing the teenage girl who stepped from the front seat and remained near Bo.
Kayla leaned closer. "Yes, that's her."
Hearing her friend's name, Stephanie entered the front room, her expression eager. "She came?" She fairly bounced with excitement. "Oh my gosh, that's great!"
Steve glanced at his daughter and smiled, pleased at her happiness. Letting the drape fall back into place, he cupped Kayla's face in his hands and gazed into her blue eyes. "You're okay with this?"
Although he didn't elaborate, she knew he was referring to Jack, and she appreciated the fact that he was sensitive to her emotions. She nodded. "It's in the past, and that's where it's best left."
He pressed his lips to hers in a quick kiss before Bo knocked on the front door to announce their arrival.
Stephanie watched the kiss, understanding that she had missed something significant, but reasoned that it was in the ancient past, before she was born, and had nothing to do with her, so she didn't ask. Instead, she called through the door, "Come in!"
Bo keyed in the code, and the door opened.
With squeals of delight, Jeannie and Stephanie, best friends and cousins, rushed into each other's arms and embraced eagerly, both of them talking rapidly. Then Stephanie took Jeannie's hand and led her to Steve.
"I want you to meet my dad. Dad, this is Jeannie Donovan."
Steve extended his hand toward the teen. "So, you're Kim and Shane's daughter."
"Yes sir," she replied, shaking his hand in a rather timid fashion. Her eyes darted briefly to the patch, and she felt the mild discomfort that many people felt upon meeting him. "Dad speaks highly of you," she added.
"He speaks highly of you too," he countered, cheerfully. "In fact, he talked a lot about you and Andrew on the plane coming over here."
She looked into his face again, this time with an expression of pleasure. "He did?"
The familiar voice drew Steve's attention to the door where Jack stood, his eyes wide with disbelief.
Jeannie slipped away unnoticed, rejoining Stephanie, and they both watched as the two brothers gazed at one another.
"You look good," Jack said. "You don't look much different than you did the last time I saw you."
"You too," Steve replied.
A smile fleeted around Jack's mouth. "That was a lame thing to say, wasn't it? I'm supposed to be a writer, and I'm suddenly at a loss for words, saying the first dumb thing that comes to my mind."
Steve responded with a smile of his own. "It's okay, Jack. I know it's a bit of a shock." He thrust his hand toward his younger brother. "It's good to see you again."
Jack stepped forward and took his hand in a firm grip. "You too, Steve. I mean that."
Standing quietly to one side, Josephine Johnson beamed happily as her two sons greeted one another. Her family was once again complete.