"DROP THAT GUN, MISTER!" came a new voice from behind them. Kevin's heart leaped in excitement. Could it possibly be...?

"Mom..." he breathed in delight. Sure enough, there she was, a few feet away, a gun leveled right at Harry. Harry burst into laughter upon seeing her. "Look boys, Mommy McCallister wants to play vigilante!" he snickered to his cronies, many of whom had the rest of the children at gun or knifepoint too.

"Take your hands off my son right now!" Kate warned him furiously.

"Oh no, lady, YOU put it down, or sonny boy's dead meat!" Harry threatened, pressing his gun right against Kevin's temple, "'Cause I know you ain't got what it takes to shoot me, and as you can see, you're way outnumbered," he gestured at the other villains, "And if you even try to shoot me, I'll take you out too!"

"YOU drop your gun, or I'll fill you so full of holes they'll be using your head as a colander!" Kate bellowed, cocking her gun, "Now this is your last warning: let my son go!"

"I'll kill him, McCallister, I swear it!" Harry hauled Kevin off his feet and held him in front of his face as a shield.

"No you won't!" it was Peter arriving now, also armed. He took his place alongside his wife. "We're more than prepared to take all of you out if you don't let our kids go now!" he warned all the villains.

"That's right, we are," came Mr. Clark's voice. Kevin's spirits rose even more to see the other parents arriving on the scene as well-and to hear the wail of sirens approaching in the distance and the sputtering of what he assumed was a police helicopter overhead. "The cops are on their way, you cowards," Mr. Clark continued, leveling his own gun at Stone, who had a wide-eyed Julian in his hands, "And those we already met were more than happy to let us have some spare weapons to help our kids. So are you going to let them go, or is this going to be rough!?"

"Uh, Harry, I don't like this...!" Marv whispered nervously to his partner.

"Stand your ground, ya wimp!" Harry barked back at him. "I wanna see all yer guns on the ground on the count of three, or everybody here dies!" he warned the parents, "One...two...!"

And then, from out of nowhere, a sledgehammer conked him hard on the head. With an agonized groan, Harry released his grip on Kevin and toppled forward onto his face. A loud Tarzan yell rang out from above. Kevin's heart leaped higher to see Sidney swinging on a cable overhead like Indiana Jones. The bellboy dropped another sledgehammer on Marv's head, making him groan and release Nate, before leaping to the ground and delivering Akido kicks and blows to burglars and guards left and right. The parents also rushed forward and started brawling with the villains. Kevin rushed to safety away from the fighting with the other children. "Now that's what I call a cavalry appearance," he said with a smile.

The wail of sirens got even louder. Police cars were streaming onto the Walley property. "Over here, there they are," Sarah ran over and waved them towards where the fighting was. Police swarmed out of the cruisers and rushed towards the fracas. "OK folks, we can take it from here," the apparent leader of the police announced out loud to the parents, who largely let up their assault on the villains, "We can...miss, miss, it's all right," he said strongly to Kate, who didn't hear him, as she was busy punching Harry hard with angry shrieks.

"Kate, Kate, it's over," Peter pulled her off Harry, "The police can handle it from here. Are you calm?"

"I'M PERFECTLY CALM, PETER!" she bellowed. She took a deep breath and told the lead sergeant, more calmly, "These men kidnapped all of us earlier; they were just about to kill our children before we stopped them."

"Oh no, they're the ones ya gotta arrest, officer!" Harry shot back, pointing accusingly at Kate, "They assaulted us after their kids put us through the wringer first! I'll press...!"

"Will someone explain what just happened here?" Roy Walley himself appeared on the scene.

"Mr. Walley, glad you're here. These men worked with Mr. Burke to rob your vault and frame your son so Mr. Burke could take over the company," Kevin explained to him.

"That's a lie, Roy; this kid's a menace. He attacked all of us...!" Burke started to stammer.

"Well it doesn't look good for you at the moment, Chuck, given this boy's statement matches what I've heard so far, so I hope you can prove yourself innocent," Walley glared at him.

"I don't think so, Mr. Walley. Take a listen," Kevin gleefully pulled out his Talkboy and played back Burke's incriminating conversation from the previous night. "And I also have photos of the robbery in progress," he handed them towards the sergeant, who took them and looked them over. "Yep, this looks pretty airtight to me," he nodded, "Cuff them and read them their rights, boys," he told his men.

"This is all a mistake! Roy, I've been set up here, you have to believe me...!" Burke desperately pleaded to Walley.

"Chuck," Walley leaned coldly in his face, "You're fired. And so are all you men if you went along with him," he growled at the guards, who hung their heads in shame, "Get them out of here," he told the police.

"I swear I know nothing of these men!" Burke pointed desperately at the escaped criminals as he was handcuffed and led away, "You have to believe me...!"

"Oh shut up!" Sam shouted after him, "It's all over! And I knew I should have stayed in Joliet...!"

"Well, Samuel Robert McGurk, Joliet's where you're going back to very soon," the lead sergeant told him with a grin, handcuffing Sam, "So you won't have to worry about leaving it again." He walked over to where the Wet Bandits were being handcuffed. "Harold Sylvester Lyme, Marvin Quentin Murchens, you're both charged with attempted robbery, attempted homicide, endangering minors, conspiracy to commit escape, assaulting an officer of the law, and illegal use of firearms in a public place."

"That's the most ridiculous bunch of charges I've ever heard!" Marv protested, "What else're ya gonna try and pin on us, square dancin' in a roundhouse!?"

"Shut up, Marv!" Harry bellowed, kicking his partner, "They just might, ya know!"

"Actually, Sarge, we also got their fingerprints two nights ago from a Lowe's robbery in Denver," another officer nearby spoke up, "Around ten thirty, and the prints are clearly theirs, so that's another charge they can be nailed with."

"That's a lie!" Marv countered, "We was robbin' the WalMart across town then!"

"Oh my God, SHUT UP, MARV!" Harry kicked him again, "It's Central Park all over again...!"

"What is, Harry?" Marv asked, confused. Harry screamed in frustration. "OK you guys, let's go," the nearest officers hauled the burglars towards the nearest unoccupied cruiser, "You'll have a nice long trip back to Chicago to work your problems out."

"And you can add kidnapping to those charges too; they grabbed us here earlier in the day and held us all at gunpoint," Peter ran after them, glaring at the burglars, "And they tried to kill our son three years in a row now. So we'll be pressing full charges against them when this comes to trial; I don't want them to see the light of day again."

"Don't worry, Mr. McCallister, with all the charges these two are facing now, it's safe to say this is the last you'll ever hear of the so-called Wet Bandits," the sergeant assured him.

"Actually, officially, we ain't the Wet Bandits no more; now, we're officially the Sticky Bandits," Marv pointed out as the officers started loading him into the cruiser, "Ya got that, bud? S-T-I-K-E, Sticky!"

"SHUT YER CAKEHOLE AND GET IN THE CAR!" livid, Harry kicked his partner once more. "You're gonna be hearin' from my attorney, pal!" he threatened Peter, straining to avoid being loaded into the cruiser himself, "I got yer little brat dead to rights on over eighty counts of aggravated assault, and every judge in the country'll back me up against him! When I get through with ya, ya ain't gonna have a cent left; you and yer whole damn family's gonna be livin' under a bridge wishin' he'd never...!"

He shrieked in agony as the sergeant accidentally slammed the cruiser's door on his leg, which Harry had foolishly left hanging outside. Shaking his head, but smirking, the sergeant gently nudged the leg into the cruiser and closed the door properly. "We'll be back to get your official statements once we have them locked up, so don't anyone go anywhere," he told the civilians, climbing into the front of the burglars' cruiser. Kevin grinned and waved goodbye to his foes as all the police cars pulled away with their sirens roaring, hoping this would finally be the last time they'd cross paths.

"Kevin," came his mother's voice behind him. He slowly turned to see her squatting down at his level with an overwhelmed and relieved expression. "I'm sorry, Mom..." he started to say.

"No need to be sorry, honey," she told him, extending her arms, "No one did anything wrong this time, especially not you."

Breaking into his largest smile yet, Kevin ran to her and hugged her hard, relieved she'd made it to find him-how, he didn't know, but at the moment, he didn't care how. "I love you, Mom," he whispered in her ear.

"I love you so much, Kevin," she said between deep tears. Kevin wiped his own tears away. He turned towards the sounds of happy sobbing and watch his classmates' families embrace them again. "I'm so sorry, Mom, I don't hate you," Nate sobbed happily into his mother's shoulder next to him, "I didn't mean anything I said before I got on the plane..."

"Oh Nate, Nate, Nate," she gushed, hugging him close, "I don't know what your father and I would have done if anything had happened to you. You're the most precious thing in our lives, and not even your new sister could take your place for us."

Kevin grinned, happy the Ostrowskis had found peace. He turned to his right to watch Mrs. Tafton hugging Sarah close, and the Clarks embracing Julian to their right, Mr. Clark seeming to tell his son that, going forward, he'd be more supportive of Julian's writing. More happy shrieks made him turn to his left, where the Rhodeses were embracing Ethan. "...sorry if we'd made life miserable for you at all," Mr. Rhodes was apologizing to his son, "But we'd both have just died if you'd been..."

"So are you two...?" Ethan asked hopefully.

"Let me put it this way, honey," Mrs. Rhodes pulled him close, "Even if your father and I can't make it work together with each other, that doesn't mean we still can't be a family, and that we can't love you. No matter what happens from here on, you'll always come first for us..."

"Let me have a turn, Kate," Kevin felt his father pry him out of his mother's hands. "Thank God you're all right," his father gushed, hugging him close, "Those men told us what you'd done to stop them from robbing our house, and that toy store last year, Kevin..."

"They did?" Kevin frowned, "Well, I can explain, Dad..."

"There's no need to explain anything," Peter pulled back and looked at his son with deep pride, "We're so proud of you, Kevin. That took a lot of courage to stop them like that...a little unusual, but very brave by you nonetheless."

"Yep, it sure was, and so was what he did this year," Sidney approached as well, "Your kid's one in a million, Mrs. McCallister."

"Have we met?" Kate frowned, "I could swear you look exactly like that clarinet player I caught a ride home with two years ago..."

"Clarinet? Nope, I don't play clarinet. Sidney Evangeline, pleasure to meet you both," Sidney shook both their hands.

"And thanks for the save there, too," Kevin told him warmly.

"Didn't I say no kids were going to suffer tonight on my watch?" Sidney said with raised eyebrows, "Well," he looked around at the families all embracing, "Glad to see everyone got a happy ending in the end..."

But Kevin noticed one sad-faced figure at the edge of the crowd who had no family at the moment. He bustled over towards her. "I'm sorry, Danielle, I..." he started to say.

"I know," she said tearfully, "But what could I have expected? I'm nothing to him anyway, not compared to his job. Even if he did get their ransom request, there's no way he..."

"DANIELLE!" came a sudden cry from the edge of the Walley property. Kevin only then realized the helicopter that had been flying overhead had come to a landing in the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard-and a man was sprinting quickly towards their group. Could it possibly be, he wondered...?

"Daddy!?" Danielle seemed stunned to see him. With a low sob, she rushed towards him. The two of them met and hugged hard in the middle of the courtyard. "Daddy, how did you...why did you...!?" she stammered to say.

"When I got that call that some creeps wanted money for you, I hopped the first plane back; I ran a check with the police and saw you'd used the credit card here, so I suspected this was where you were. The police scanner on the helicopter filled me in on the rest. Oh my God, my baby, are you all right!?" he squeezed her close.

"I am now, Daddy," she was overwhelmed with joy, "I thought you didn't care..."

"Well, maybe it took the prospect of you being ransomed for me to see more clearly, but I know now I care for you more than anything, Danielle. I love you so much..." he started kissing her all over. Kevin grinned again; now at last, everyone had a happy ending.

"You know, though," he heard Nate whisper in his ear, "How convenient for him to show up just now like this. It's almost like someone tried to force through a happy ending for the two of them here."

"Kind of," Kevin shrugged, "But it's Christmas, so why knock it, I say? And if Scrooge could turn around completely in one night, why can't anyone else?"

"Folks," came Roy Walley's voice. The media mogul was approaching with his son. "Martin here's filled me in on the whole story," he pointed to him, "And I can't thank you kids enough for what you've done for me and my company," he bent down to their level with a smile.

"Well, we knew that money deserved to go to charity, Mr. Walley, so it was the least we could do," Kevin told him, "We'd be glad to clean up the hotel for you now that it's over."

"Well, you wouldn't have to do that. I do think you kids do deserve a reward, though. So, folks," Walley turned to the rest of the families, "For starters, I'd be willing to offer you all free lodging for tonight here at the resort, plus front row seats for the premiere of Jorinde and Joringal when we get everything cleaned up. And, for all of you, a seven day all expenses paid trip out to the park in California for each of you."

"A free trip to Walley World!? Thank you, Mr. Walley," Sarah was excited.

"Thank YOU," he told her, smiling, "So, if you're all set and everyone's OK now, why don't you go on in, and we'll have whoever on the staff that's still on the level set you people up in the best rooms we've got, then get you in place for the premiere once we're all clear."

"OK then, everyone, come along with me; I guess I am back on staff, right?" Sidney turned to Martin, who nodded, "Follow me, then,"

"We do have some other people with us; they're waiting where those crooks took us," Peter informed Sidney, "So I hope there is enough rooms for everyone..."

"Hey, for this little guy here, we'll make all the room we can," Sidney rubbed Kevin's shoulders, "I owe him a lot too."

"Glad to have helped. And I know you made your kids proud tonight, wherever they are now," Kevin winked at him, "Just try and be the big father figure to all the kids here, and I think you'll still make them proud."

"I'll do my best," Sidney told him with a smile. "And it looks like you guys'll have a lot of traveling to do in the near term, since Kevin here and his friends also won that trip to Space Camp on Splat Zone," he told Peter and Kate eagerly.

"Oh...oh, lovely, another vacation. Two vacations to take we weren't expecting," Kate shot her husband a nervous look, "Two more rolls of the dice..."

"Relax, Mom, what ELSE could go wrong?" Kevin pointed out to her.

"That's what I'm afraid of, honey..."

There came a sudden loud cry from Mrs. Ostrowski, who doubled over. "Lisa, is this it!?" her husband grabbed her by the arm to keep her from falling.

"It...is...Mitch...get a doctor...!" she managed to say between gritted teeth.

"Doctors, over here, pregnant woman!" Mr. Ostrowski called to some of the medics conversing with policemen nearby. The medics rushed over and carried Mrs. Ostrowski to a private place alongside the hotel hidden by bushes. Kevin turned away himself, not wanting to witness the miracle of birth directly just yet. He noticed, however, Nate watching with intensity. After about five minutes of cries and grunts, the wail of a baby broke out from behind the bushes. "Oh my God, oh...!" Mr. Ostrowski was overcome with emotion, "Oh, she's beautiful. Nate, come on over and look at your new sister," he called to his son.

Nate approached the bushes cautiously. Moments later, he emerged into sight, holding the baby in his arms-and he was grinning. "She's pretty cute, Nate," Kevin finally dared to approach, "I think you'll make a great big brother."

"Maybe I will," Nate smiled down at his new sister, "You know, she doesn't look half bad after all. Maybe I can make this work after all."

"Like your mother and I said, too, you'll always be special as our first child, Nate," his father bent down and hugged him from behind.

"Well, let's get you folks to the hospital, so we can take care of anything the child might need," the medics were wheeling Mrs. Ostrowski on a gurney towards one of the ambulances. Grinning, Nate handed the baby back to his mother and followed his father towards the ambulance. Kevin felt his mother's hand on his shoulder. "I knew Nate would warm up to it once the baby did come," he told her without looking up.

"I'm glad he did too. Come on," Kate took him by the hand and led him after the remaining families towards the hotel, "Let's go check in; after everything we've both been through, a movie and a long night's sleep sounds real good right now..."

Behind them, Walley grinned as he watched the families disappear into the hotel for the night. "Very nice people. And I love a happy ending," he confided in Martin, "And now we have a happy ending too, it looks like, since it appears the person I trust most is going to be the new head of Walley Entertainment after all."

"I'm...I'm glad I've done well enough for you, Dad," Martin looked overwhelmed.

"You've always done well enough for me, Martin," Walley hugged him close. "You know," he continued, his gaze falling back to the hotel door, "Kevin's family told me on the way here that he'd done exactly what he did tonight to those thieves before, actually..."

"Yeah, he told me that too, Dad," Martin nodded, "So you know what I think...?"

"Yes I do, Son," Walley was smiling, "I think we might have found an idea for a new blockbuster, if that young man's willing to let us film it..."


"So, I'd like to propose a toast to one and all," Peter raised his champagne glass to everyone gathered around the McCallisters' dining room table the following evening, "To family, which is never more important than at Christmastime, and to friends old and new."

"To us," all the available members of the Ostrowski, Clark, Rhodes, Lindhurst, Tafton, and McCallister families (excepting Buzz, who upon their return to Chicago had been immediately sent to the attic by his parents to begin his grounding for the next few months) raised their glasses in turn. Kevin lowered the glass of apple juice he'd had instead and took a sip. While Las Vegas had been largely fun overall, he couldn't deny that the best part about this trip, as with most other trips, was coming home.

He noticed the rest of his classmates standing by the front window, watching the Christmas Day evening snow coming down outside (which was another reason Kevin was glad to be home, as Christmas Day was never right without snow). Unnoticed by any of the adults, he walked in and joined them. "Well, we did it," he told them with a grin, "We got justice served, and we get to spend Christmas at home with family. What could be better?"

"Well, it was wonderful to get a taste of the better life in Las Vegas," Sarah did seem a bit glum to be back home, "Now I'll have to go back to our broken-down house on the wrong side of the tracks and pick up where I left off..."

"I don't think so, Sarah. You've already moved beyond that," Kevin told her, putting an arm around her, "You proved in Vegas you're more a princess than a pauper, and don't anyone tell you otherwise. And I'd be glad to make sure anyone who doesn't get that does, because I don't forsake my friends."

"Thank you for everything, Kevin," she hugged him close, "You're the best friend I could have ever asked for."

"Mine too," Danielle hugged him as well, "Thanks to you, I finally feel like the richest girl in town, Kevin, now that I actually have a friend...several good friends," she smiled at the other boys.

"Well, I won't say it was easy at times, Danielle, but we were glad to have you along in the end," Nate told her, rubbing her shoulder, "I have to thank you too, Kevin, for being there for me when I needed someone," he told him, "I might still be stuck in Vegas and have gone through who knows what if you hadn't..."

"That's what best friends do, Nate. And like I said, the best part was that I got to share the experience of saving the day with you this time," Kevin gave him a high five as the phone rang behind them.

"So, what do we do for an encore, then?" Ethan asked innocently.

"Who knows?" Julian shrugged, "In a way, I hope there isn't a next time. Still one interesting thing is, look at us," he looked among them, "the rich girl, the smart boy, the girl who's the outsider...funny enough, we've kind of formed the kind of group Andy's started hanging out with lately. Crazy, huh?"

"I guess," Kevin mused, "Who knows how any of these things work...?"

"Kevin, Alex is on the phone for you," Kate leaned into the room.

"Oh. be right back, then," Kevin told the others. He took the phone off his mother. "Merry Christmas, Alex; hope you're feeling better," he told his other friend, "Did you see us on Splat Zone?"

"I sure did, Kevin," Alex told him, sounding somewhat excited, "But before you tell me about that, have I got something to tell you that happened here while you were gone that you won't believe..."

THE END