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"How can you guys adopt a kid, you two are both kids too?" Lance was somewhat puzzled.
Sean smiled. "Since both Cory and I are commissioned officers in Starfleet, then legally, we are treated as adults, which meant we were allowed to adopt Timmy."
Brent was surprised. "Wow, that's really cool. I don't think there is any way I would be able to raise a kid like that."
"It's s'okay!" Timmy bubbled. "My daddy and poppa have lots of help from my grandma and all my other aunts and uncles. Grandma even watches me sometimes when dad and pop are busy playing horsey."
"TIMMY!" Both Sean and Cory called out in unison, as they both started to turn red.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to!" Timmy giggled, his voice clearly indicating otherwise.
JJ couldn't help joining into the fun. "You know Timmy, you better be careful. If you lie too much like that, God might strike you down."
"Nut uh!" Timmy said in defiance when suddenly everything went black as all the light and power in the house went out. Timmy gasped and hugged Cory tighter as a small faint glow could be seen forming in the center of the room.
"You doing okay Hay?" Evan asked his younger brother, as he glanced back to make sure he wasn't getting too far ahead. The terrain was starting to get slightly more difficult to transverse as they were getting closer to the mountains.
"A little hungry." Haden replied as he cautiously grabbed hold of a small tree to steady himself as he climbed up one of the steeper sections of ground.
Evan smiled to himself at how amazingly well his brother was handling himself. He knew his brother had to be more than just a little hungry, as they had been walking almost all day, and other than the second half of the cinnamon bread that they had as lunch, had not found any other food to eat. He would swear that he even heard his little brother's stomach growl from several feed ahead of him at several points over the last few hours, yet his little brother complained very little.
"How could anyone ever try to hurt someone like him?" Evan thought to himself as his smile slowly faded.
Evan also became aware that hunger was not their only problem as his brother caught up with him and he could see him shivering slightly, and he could also see that the sun was already setting below the horizon. Given the time of year, he knew the night would get cold. "Come on, let's get some sticks, and see if we can find a place to build a fire and stay warm for the night."
Although clearly tired out, Haden glanced up toward his older brother and after a few moments of considering his situation, gave his nod of agreement. He knew how dangerous fires could be, especially if you accidentally fell into one, however he was also getting kind of cold, and he knew that he could freeze at night if they didn't have a way to stay warm, so in the end he decided the benefits of staying warm would out weigh whatever dangers might be presented.
With that, the two boys set off on their task of finding wood, completely unaware of several small sets of eyes that were watching them not too far away.
In the darkness, Timmy held on tight to Cory, as he was not sure what to expect. It didn't take long, however, for his expression to change completely. The faint glow that was forming in the center of the room quickly became the form of an older teen with a golden halo and golden wings.
"Unca Mikey!" With all traces of fear gone, Timmy leaped from Cory's lap causing yet another grunt, and did a flying pounce into the angle's arms. "I told you to stop scaring us like that!"
Adam giggled, "Wow bro, you've really outdone yourself this time, making all the lights go out and all."
"Thanks, but it wasn't me." Mikey grinned as he ruffled the bright red hair of the squirming fireball he was holding in his arms. "A car hit a telephone pole causing some of the power lines to break."
"Don't worry guys." Justy piped in, "Any moment now Southcrest's emergency generators should..." Before Justy was able to finish his statement, the lights in the room flickered back on.
A few sniggers could be heard around the room as just about everyone started to glance toward the new guys waiting for the expected 'first' response at seeing a guardian angel appear in front of them. Unfortunately, most of them were disappointed.
"Mikey!" Both Brent and Greg shouted with surprise at the same time.
"You already know him?" Justy asked from where he was sitting.
Brent smiled, "Yup! I met him a few nights ago before all of this started and he..." Brent's voice trailed off as he clearly was not sure whether he wanted to actually say what he was about to.
Mikey nodded towards Brent's pleading eyes. "It's okay Brent, I know why your hesitating. The first answer is yes, you are allowed to say it, your part of the family now. The second answer is that no one here will ever force you to say anything before you are ready to say it. Go ahead and finish listening to the stories of everyone else, then you can decide if you want to say anything or not tonight."
Brent quickly glanced around the room, and saw several of the other guys nodding in agreement. "Thanks Mikey!". Brent's expression suddenly changed as he realized that Greg had recognized Mikey as well, "Greg, how do you know Mikey?"
Greg beamed with pride from Lance's lap. "I met him before dinner when Timmy and Ricky were telling me about their eagles."
Timmy's head started bobbing up and down in agreement as he sat on the angel's lap. "Uh huh! He was ask'n some questions about William and Duke that we didn't know the answers to, and Unca Mikey stopped by to help."
Lance gave Greg a squeeze which caused the small boy to smile even more.
"So why ya here now big bro?" Cory asked a bit more seriously.
"Someone has to keep an eye on you guys." Mikey then floated over to sit near Cory and his other brothers. It took only seconds for another boy to 'appear' on his lap as Ricky decided that angel laps were easily big enough for two.
Eli couldn't stop himself from giggling at Mikey's answer. "Yeah right! We all know you REALLY came here because you know what part of the story is next."
Eli's statement caused a few of the other guys in the room to also giggle. Seeing the guardian angel stick his tongue out toward Eli caused even more of the guys to giggle, including Brent, Lance, and Greg.
"Okay guys." Sean said while raising his hand to get order and trying to stop himself from giggling at the same time. "We really need to keep going, or we are not going to have any time to hit the pool before bed."
Suddenly, the entire room was miraculously dead silent.
"So you guys added Mikey to the clan next?" Brent asked when the silence got too much for him.
Mikey smiled. "I've been a part of the clan from the day that Cory, Sean, JJ, and Kyle made their original promise to each other."
"Ah." Brent nodded, deciding that he will just wait for Sean to continue.
"The part Eli was talking about was when Mikey was officially made a Saint, which was the night Timmy was rescued." Benji added, as, with a glance directed toward Eli, he too started to giggle.
"So which of my brothers were added next?" Greg asked Sean which caused Lance to give him another squeeze.
"I was" Kelly said while he got a squeeze of support from Tommy, who was sitting next to him.
Sean nodded, "Yup. First, you need to know that Kelly was not always the perfect angle that he is now."
Kelly looked like he was about to say something, but instead only nodded toward Sean.
"A few years ago he was caught vandalizing a place, and the judge sentenced him to be taken from his mother and forced to live in a shelter until he was 18." Sean paused a moment to make sure the new guys understood what he was talking about. "Second, you need to know that Kelly was on the same soccer team that Cory and I were on."
Brent, Lance, and Greg nodded which caused Sean to continue to explain that the day after Timmy was rescued was the last game of the season for their soccer team, and how a bunch of his new family wanted to go to the game to watch. He also mentioned how at the time, although he knew that Kelly lived in a shelter, they didn't really know the details behind it, and how when Aaron showed up with them and started talking with Kelly, he found out the reason, and after that made it his personal mission to get Kelly back with his mom.
"Wait." Lance seemed a bit puzzled, "So you made Kelly a part of the clan, but his mom didn't do anything wrong and still loved him?"
Sean grinned as he already knew where this was going. "Uh huh!"
"But... Kelly lives here with the rest of the clan... why isn't he with his mom?" Lance was getting more confused.
Sean couldn't continue to confuse the poor boy any longer, so he gave Lance the parts that he was missing. "Kelly does live with his mother. On further investigation we learned that Kelly's mom was a really good house keeper and an even better cook, so she was hired by the clan to work here."
"Kelly's mommy works here?" Greg asked with surprise.
"Yup!" Kelly beamed, "Who do you think makes all the food around here. Of course, Tommy and Tyler help her out a lot too."
"Cool!" Brent, Lance, and Greg all exclaimed.
Teri entered the CIC Dining Room area where she found Dan and Neal still chatting quietly. "Looks like everything was fine, was just a car hitting a power pole a little outside of the main compound."
"I had a feeling it was nothing serious." Dan agreed taking another sip of his coffee.
Neal seemed puzzled, "What would make you say that?"
Teri smiled answering for Dan, "Because, knowing these guys as well as we do, if it was anything serious, they would all be over here and on top of it in a heartbeat."
"Ah." Neal said lost in thought for a few moments before the obvious hit him. "Speaking of kids, where are they all? This place was packed not that long ago, but over the last hour or two, I don't think I've seen any kid at all."
"Then consider yourself lucky." Helen tried to keep a straight face as she came out from the kitchen bringing a cup of coffee for herself and for Teri. "This is one of the rare times during waking hours that you will see something like this."
Seeing that Neal was still somewhat confused, she continued. "Right now all the kids are across the street at the Southcrest ranch having a clan meeting."
Neal thoughtfully took a sip of his coffee. "But my guys are not part of the clan. Are they?"
This caused the rest of the adults at the table to chuckle slightly, as they each knew what Neal was most likely going to be involved in. It was Teri, however, that answered his question. "If I know my sons at all, I have no doubt that by the end of tonight, not only will your kids know the entire history of the rest of the clan, but the clan will know their histories as well, and they will be invited to become full clan members. Whether they accept that or not, will be their choice."
"Well," Neal started as he tried to put his thoughts together. "If it helps my boys heal and get past their hurt then I don't think I would have a problem with that."
Dan placed his hand briefly on top of Neal's as a sign of support and to get his attention. "Neal, You already know my background, and I can personally say that there is something really special about this group of kids. Working together, they have helped each other heal more in the last two weeks than I could ever hope to have accomplished with 2 years of sessions with them."
"There is a touch of magic in the air with this clan Neal." Helen added, "I've seen it several times myself. When these boys get together, I can't think of anything else to call it. It might be a little bumpy and nerve-wracking at times, but you will never see anything else like it."
Neal nodded taking another sip of coffee.
Helen continued her speech. "I don't think anyone can really say where your boys would fit in the clan if they do join. But I can say that whatever it is, the rest of the clan will bring out the best in them, that's what they seem to do, bring out the best in each other."
"Just hope your boys don't end up like mine, and decide to bring home every stray boy they find." Teri added with a smile.
Neal gasped slightly, "Well, I guess it's good that Rick and I decided to keep our house after all. We have 8 bedrooms, 6 of which are currently unused."
Dan took a final sip of his coffee finishing up the cup, "That's good to hear Neal, that might hold you for a few days."
Everyone else could not help but laugh when a small amount of coffee came flying out of Neal's nose as he gasped looking toward Dan.
Alec and Travis were both being held close by their respective partners while Sean was recounting their part of the story on how they came to be a part of the clan. Travis could be seen wincing a few times as Sean explained that their mother died when giving birth to Travis, and how their father always seemed to treat Travis poorly since he blamed him for that death, and would often take out that blame in the form of beatings that otherwise had no apparent reason.
Things went from bad to worse for the two brothers when Travis and Gabe got caught kissing each other at Gabe's house. When Gabe's parents called their father to let him know they were okay with it, he went ballistic, and literally threw the 12 year old out of the house, and refused to allow him to come back. It was then that Alec, who had always swore to protect his younger brother, decided to run away with him, and leave their abusive father. Alec was able to get a hold of clan short, which allowed mom to protect both of them under Safe Haven.
Lance seemed a bit curious, "How did Gabe get to stay with Travis if Gabe's parents were nice?"
"That's the cool part!" Travis smiled as he looked into the eyes of his boyfriend, "Cory found out Gabe's dad was pediatrician, and since Aunt Teri didn't have a doctor yet for her FYS office, the clan was able to hire him."
"It's a good thing too." Sean continued. "Otherwise we would not have Ricky either."
"Wait." Brent raised his hand before Sean was able to continue any further "You said Travis was your younger brother? But you two look about the same age?"
Both boys nodded as Alec answered, "Yeah. Where as Travis is 12, I'm actually 15. For some reason, I just didn't grow like I should have." By the time he finished answering, he was looking toward the ground.
The bright red haired boy that was hugging onto Alec smiled, lifted Alec's chin up, tilted it so they were facing each other, and gave him a loving kiss. "I love you just the way you are Alec, never forget that. If you did grow up normally, we probably would never have been able to have as close of a relationship as we have."
"Thanks Andrew. I know, and I love you too." Alec smiled returning the kiss creating some 'oooo's from a few of the youngest boys.
One small boy who was noticeably not taking part in the 'oooo'ing was Timmy's friend Ricky. Sean seemed to notice this as well. "Timmy, will you make sure to hold Ricky really close for this next part?"
"I will!" Timmy beamed nodding his head enthusiastically. As proof of his commitment, he proceeded to squeeze Ricky as hard as his little arms would let him. For Ricky's part, he ended up making a sound that was a something between a 'Squeak' and a 'Meep'.
When Sean felt that Ricky was being supported sufficiently by Timmy he continued. "I know you met Doc Austin earlier today. Well, before he worked for the Clan, he was working at a smaller clinic. One of his patients that he had been seeing for the last 6 months was Ricky. Ricky's mom didn't really want Ricky because she was too busy getting high on drugs and having fun with her boyfriend's all the time. Not only was he constantly neglected by his mom, he was never allowed to have anything of his own, he got very little to eat, was never cared for, and was only used by his mother as a way to get free stuff like food stamps."
Brent let out a small gasp while Lance held Greg tighter. If it were possible, Timmy would have hugged Ricky tighter, but thankfully for Ricky, he didn't.
Sean continued. "Doc hoped that her run-in with the law would help get Ricky's mom's head on straight and the court ordered constant monitoring of Ricky's health and well being for 6 months would encourage her to be a more responsible parent, but it only seemed to make her more defiant and hostile toward anyone who tried to help her."
Timmy moved his cheek closer to Ricky as a small sob could be heard coming out from the small boy.
Not wanting to drag this out any longer than needed, Sean finished up as quickly as he could. "Doc's last day working at his clinic also ended up being the last day that Ricky was going to be required to be checked up on. So, since his mother still showed no desire to care for him, and showed every intent that things would get much worse for Ricky when she no longer had to have him checked on, Doc Austin used the Safe Haven act to put Ricky under clan protection, and adopted him as his own child."
Sean looked up to see if the new guys were following his explanation when he noticed Brent was gone. Slightly surprised by this, he glanced around the room and saw him next to Timmy and Ricky.
Ricky had his head buried in Timmy's neck when he felt a gentle tap on his shoulder. Looking up through his tearing eyes, he saw Brent's compassionate face.
"Can I hug you?" Brent timidly asked. It only took a few moments for Ricky to consider the situation and see the sincere look in Brent's eyes before he reached up and allowed the older boy to lift him up and embrace him.
Brent and Ricky continued to hug like that for a long moment as they each could feel the emptiness from the other as only two abandoned boys could feel.
Sean could feel a tug at his heart as he watched Brent comfort Ricky in the only way he knew how. He had already made up his mind that the new guys would fit in perfectly with the clan. He could only hope that they would make that choice as well.
As Brent and Ricky's hug continued, it was Brent's turn to feel a little tap on his arm. Looking down he saw Timmy smiling up at him. "It's okay Unca Brent, me and Ricky 'came real good buds as soon as his daddy brought him to my house when my daddy was make'n us a Clan and look'n for the bad guys that hurt my other brothers."
Wiping a few stray tears out of his eyes with his free hand, Brent looked up toward Sean in confusion.
Sean grinned. "I think Timmy just covered the next the parts in one sentence." As quickly as Sean's grin appeared, it disappeared. "The same day that Doc Austin brought home Ricky, we had learned that in addition to hurting Sammy and Sebastian, their father, and those he trusted to care for them when he was gone, would force the twins to do sex stuff together, not only for their own personal pleasure, but so they could also take pictures and sell those pictures on the internet for profit."
"What?" Brent hugged Ricky tighter as he was slightly in shock from what he just heard.
Sean nodded. "We had the same reaction as well when we found out. To put it mildly, none of us were that happy when we heard that, so we decided that we would find some way to hunt everyone involved down, and do whatever it took to get every picture of the twins removed from the net. In doing this, I guess Ambassador Surak found out, because he called Cory in the middle of the meeting we were having to get our search organized, and told him that in order to assist us in ensuring that justice was carried out, we were all being made an official Vulcan Clan, and that Cory would officially be our Patriarch."
Brent continued to hug Ricky as Sean talked a bit more about how they ended up finding a bunch of people that were going to need to be rescued and protected as a result of the massive internet investigation they launched. He told about how Camp Little Eagle was set up as a result, how Timmy and Ricky became Indian braves and how they each were picked to be a spirit guide for an eagle spirit. This caused Ricky to smile a bit as he tried to push the bad thoughts out of his head.
Sean went on to talk about Benji and Elijah, or Eli as he preferred to be called. The twins had loving parents, but there was a plane crash and both of their parents died, leaving both Benji and Eli seriously hurt. Sean stated that they both closed themselves up and refused to say much to anyone as they were moved around from doctor to doctor, because they felt responsible for the crash due to their unique talents.
"Talents?" Brent asked as he and Ricky broke their hug.
"Uh huh." Came the soft soprano voice of 10 year old Eli Michaels who was sitting close to Sebastian. It was at that same time that Brent noticed that Ricky started to get lighter and lighter until he was literally floating. A few moments later, Ricky floated out of his arms, and floated back down where he was originally seated next to Timmy.
"You can make things float?" Greg asked with surprise as Brent walked back over to sit next to him and Lance.
Ricky answered before Eli had a chance to. "Yup, they can! And it makes you feel funny too when they do it, it's really kewl!"
Sean agreed. "As a result of the plane crash, Eli lost his right leg and his right arm, and Benji lost most of his left hand. For a long time, they thought that it was their fault that the plane crashed, but now they know that it wasn't."
Everyone nodded while Greg spoke up again, "Can you make me float like that too Eli?"
Eli smiled, "Sure, but maybe after the meeting."
"Okay!" Greg beamed and sat back into Lance's embrace.
Just when Brent and Lance thought that they had heard the worst of what their new brothers had gone through, Sean started to tell Antonio's story. For the next 5 minutes, they sat in horror as Sean recounted just a small number of things that Antonio's own father did to him. How he was repeatedly raped and molested. Some of the worst things he left out because of the young ears in the room, but all 4 of the new guys already had a pretty good idea in regards to what was being said.
Sean also explained how Antonio was special in that his physical aging seemed to be drastically reduced, such that his body only physically aged 1 year for every 4 years that went by, and that because of this, each year his family would have him brainwashed so that he would forget everything that happened the prior year, and so that he could continue to be abused. By the time Sean finished, even Eric seemed to be emotionally hurt from some of the stuff that was being said.
"It's okay now." The small 9 year old tried to re-assure his new friends as he himself was being hugged tight by Byron. "It's all over now, and I have a new dad and a new family who loves and cares for me and who I care for back."
Brent wasn't buying it. "How could anyone ever think of doing stuff like that. Especially to their own son?"
Antonio sighed. "He got what was coming to him, plus in the end he will have to answer to HIM." Antonio's eyes first fell on Mikey before they glanced upward to the ceiling. "Besides, something cool that I didn't realize at the time was each year my brain was being wiped, I would study a different medical book, and now that the wipes are gone, with all the knowledge I have, I am now a doctor, and I can help a lot of other people as well."
"That still doesn't make it right." Brent steamed.
"Lot's of things in the world aren't right. There are a lot of messed up people out there, like Sammy's and Jeffy's Uncle Calvin that killed my mom. We just need to make the best of it." Tommy, who had been quiet for most of the meeting, added in.
Brent shuddered in shock, but decided to remain quiet and let Sean give the full explanation.
Sean nodded. "Well, you guys already know how Sebastian and Sammy's father was treating them. The thing is, their father wasn't the only one, their Uncle Calvin was in on it too, but we were never able to track the slime down until he managed to track the twins down instead when we were out celebrating Alec's birthday. As it turned out, he was keeping himself pretty busy, since he no longer had access to the twins, he went after Tommy. He caused his mom to OD so he could take Tommy and sell him out for prostitution instead, then to clean things up, he planned on capturing and killing Sebastian and Sammy."
Sean continued to describe the events that occurred at the Chuck E. Cheese where the party was being held. He explained how in the process of trying to take the twins, he hurt Ricky breaking two of his fingers, and tried to kill Eli before he and Benji were able to use their 'talents' to not only disarm, but also knock Calvin in the groin so hard that he flew onto the stage. Finally, without going into too much detail, he talked about how the clan had it's first Vulcan trial right there at Chuck E. Cheese to address the actions and intents of Calvin.
By the time Sean finished, neither Brent nor Lance could think of anything to say or do, other than sit there in shock.
Neal thoughtfully took a sip of his Coffee. Teri Short and the other adults that were relaxing in the clan's large dinning room had spent the last several minutes taking turns explaining various expects of clan life to him. When they were done, Neal smiled. "I have to say that I am thoroughly impressed with how much trust and freedom all of you have given to the kids. But, aren't you concerned that you are not getting involved enough in what they are doing?"
"Normally I might agree with you," Teri smiled. "However, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. Besides the fact that this group of boys is anything but normal, most of them have spent the majority of their lives being lied to and hurt by adults. Something I learned rather quickly with this group is that they have the ability to help each other far better when it's done on their level and you don't have adults constantly getting in the way."
Seeing that Neal was not convinced, Dan added his thoughts as well. "She's right. If you look at it from a psychological perspective, it's going to be a lot easier for a traumatized child to trust another child than it will be to trust an adult, especially when it was an adult that violated their trust in the first place."
Neal nodded in agreement as he continued to try to wrap his head around the realities of clan life. "I think I can see what you mean. I guess my only other question would be, what happens if my guys do join the clan? Will we need to move here or what?"
Teri thought for a few moments before answering. "There are actually a number of possibilities as far as that is concerned. Given the clan's relationship with Starfleet, transportation and communication is not really an issue, so things could still work out fine with you living in Nevada. Depending on how active your boys will be, it's also possible that we could find some work for you to do here, and you could live here at the compound with the rest of the guys. But overall, I've found it best to not make too many plans ahead of time since the boys usually end up working out something that not only have we not thought about, but works out better in the end."
Again, Neal nodded his understanding and then sat in silence as he started to worry about just what it was that he was getting himself into.
Seeing that everyone had calmed down a bit, Sean continued. "Okay, that brings us to Caleb and Noah." Sean nodded toward two 12 year old's with their arms wrapped around each other. One had short medium blond hair with bright green eyes while the other had short medium brown hair with deep blue eyes.
"About a month ago, Caleb's parents had adopted Noah. Right from the start, he and Noah hit it off 'well' together." The way that Sean phrased 'well' caused a few of the other boys to giggle. "Then, about a week before we rescued Timmy, Caleb's father went to wake Caleb up and found them not only sleeping next to each other in only their undies, but given how boys usually are when they wake up, their stuff was hanging out."
Greg giggled from Lance's lap, "You mean they both had boners?"
Sean nodded which caused Greg to giggle more, which in turn caused a few of the other little kids to giggle just because.
"We weren't even doing sex stuff or even awake at the time." Noah added. "We both liked each other, yeah, but that's just how we ended up when we were sleeping, and Caleb's father totally flipped."
"It turned out that they weren't even my real mom and dad. They had lied to me my entire life saying I was their real son but I was also adopted as well." Caleb added with a small hint of scorn in his voice. "And to say my parents flipped was an understatement."
Noah continued. "Caleb's dad went out of town that day for a business trip so for the next week it was just Caleb's mom, but for the entire week she treated me like crap, and wouldn't let us be alone together, ever. We thought that maybe they would calm down after a few days, but it just keep getting worse and worse to the point that she was saying she wouldn't let me 'corrupt' Caleb or anything like that."
"And when it came time for my dad to come home from his trip a week later, they were still so upset that I knew for sure that when he got home he was going to force Judge Jamie to take Noah back, so that's when we both ran away and went to Teri's house." Caleb gave his boyfriend another tight squeeze.
Sean smiled. "So, two days after we got Timmy, Caleb and Noah showed up on our door step, mom tried to call Caleb's parents, and when they went off on her, she basically put her foot down and brought both Caleb and Noah under the protection of the federation, and they became part of the clan shortly after that."
"Why would Caleb's mommy and daddy be mad at Caleb and Noah if they weren't doing anything?" Greg asked somewhat confused.
"Sometimes adults get so caught up in their own feelings and beliefs that they become really closed minded and can't deal with anything that's different. It's kinda sad, especially when those adults are parents or foster parents, and they can't accept their own kids being different." A well tanned 13 year old boy with strawberry blond hair answered. "Then you get other adults that just try to use you."
"Yeah, Tanner's right." Another 13 year sandy blond haired boy hugging onto Tanner added. "Tanner's parents died, and his foster parents didn't care about him at all, they were just after his inheritance money."
Lance scrunched his face. "That's terrible."
"That's nothing. DJ's dad was just using him for porn, he would take pictures of him doing things when he didn't even know it!" A black haired, blazing blue eyed boy who was sitting between Jamie and Jacob jumped in. Compared to the two twins, he looked like he was about 8 years old.
DJ winced slightly but nodded his head in agreement.
"Thanks guys, that actually brings us up to the next group." Sean smiled at how everyone seemed to be jumping in right where they belonged. Motioning first toward Tanner, and then toward DJ he continued. "The cute strawberry blond with the long thin pony tail over there is Tanner, and the boy hanging off of him is David, but he prefers to be called DJ."
Timmy started to bounce up and down again. "Yup! It's really cool! DJ is my older younger brother!"
"Huh?" Both Brent and Lance were confused.
"Whoa, slow down fireball, your jumping ahead a bit." Sean grinned. "The next 5 guys that became part of the clan are kinda grouped together. As you already heard from them, Tanner's foster parents didn't really care about him, they were more interested in getting his inheritance money, so he was constantly being abused and yelled at. DJ's mother died as well so he was just living with his father who was constantly trying to take advantage of him sexually, so they decided to run away together. Timmy was the first to know about DJ being in trouble because of the link he had. We didn't know it at the time, but Timmy and DJ were half brothers."
"Why did Timmy call DJ his older younger brother? Is Timmy like Antonio?" Brent pondered.
Sean tried to figure out the best way to answer. "No, not really. This gets kind of complicated, but basically Timmy's father was involved in some top secret temporal mechanics research work for Starfleet, there was an accident, and instead of getting sent back in time 13 minutes, he was sent back 13 years. By the time he was located 2 years later, he had met Timmy's mom, and Timmy was born. When Timmy's father came back, he brought Timmy with him, so temporally Timmy will always be 11 years older than he currently looks. Timmy's mom eventually found and married another guy and they had DJ, that's how Timmy and DJ are half brothers. Starfleet never allowed Timmy's father to contact his mother and everything was classified, which is why we never knew about this until our Intelligence team started researching DJ."
Brent's eyes rolled slightly. "Your right, that does sound a bit confusing, but I think I get the general idea."
"Cool." Sean smiled. "So, Tanner and DJ ran away and were starting to make their way here. We didn't pick them up right away because we were told they had a bunch of issues they needed to work out first, so we held back and just kept them under surveillance the best we could."
"It's a good thing too, otherwise Beau and I never would have met them, and I don't really want to think about what we were about to do if we didn't." A white blond haired boy who looked to be about 10 added.
"Actually, our father already knew exactly what would have happened to you if I had not been given permission to intervene." All eyes turned toward Saint Mikey who, up to now, had remained silent from where he was sitting near the corner of the room. "Beau, Toby, do you two mind if I tell your brothers what really happened?"
Both Beau and Toby nodded their heads in agreement, which caused Mikey to continue. "Beau and Toby's mom and dad loved them very much. However, they were a rather poor family and they had a hard time making ends meet. After their mother was diagnosed with Cancer, their father ended up killing himself, which put their mom in the impossible position of trying to care for the boys on her own. Although she really wanted to, as time went on and the cancer progressed, she simply was not able to. As a last resort, she put the boys on a bus to Iowa with instructions to find their Great Aunt Gloria and live with her. What no one knew is that their Aunt was also dead, and with no family here to take care of them, and being faced with having to be split up, the book of life already had it recorded that Beau and Toby would have decided to follow in their dad's footsteps and kill themselves."
Gasps could be heard across the entire room as Toby only nodded. "He's right I think. We never really discussed it much, but Beau and I cared about each other a lot, and could not bare to be separated from each other, and forced to live with people who didn't care or want us, so that was the direction we probably would have taken if we didn't meet Tanner and DJ."
Mikey nodded and allowed his love to flow throughout the room to help comfort the boys as he continued. "Fortunately, our father has a plan for all four boys, and he allowed me to intervene, so I was able to help encourage events so my brothers here at the clan did not pick up Tanner and DJ until they had a chance to meet Beau and Toby and agree to be brothers for each other."
"If it was you helping, why did you let DJ get shot?" Ricky challenged.
"That wasn't the work of our father." Mikey sighed. "The guy downstairs has his own plans which often go against those of our father. In this case, he managed to allow DJ's father and Tanner's foster parents to not only track them down, but to also catch up with the boys while they were at a layover in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His plan didn't work out that well though, because my brothers were already inside a shuttle, and were able to reach DJ, Tanner, Beau, and Toby pretty quickly when Tanner called for help. Now, all 4 boys have a whole bunch of parents and brothers who will always be there for them and never let them be alone again."
After waiting a few moments to make sure Mikey was done with his explanation, Lance turned his focus back to Sean. "Sean, you said the next 5 members of the clan, but you only mentioned 4. Who was the 5th?"
"My boyfriend, Ian was." This time, Toby jumped in before Sean could answer. "On our way here, we met two really nice adults that helped us out, Russ and Sara. They let us spend the night at their house, and fed us and were really nice. Ian lived next door to them. Although we didn't get to meet him when we were there, after we were rescued in Cheyenne, when we got here, Ian was waiting here along with Russ and Sara."
"I guess that makes sense." Lance replied thoughtfully.
"Okay guys, we are just about done. If we can get through this, we should still have some pool time left before bed." Seeing everyone become quiet and motionless, Sean continued, "The next day a bunch of us took a trip to the mall, and that's where we met Clint and Crystal. They are helping out their parents tonight so they couldn't be here, but you will get to meet them at breakfast tomorrow. Basically, Clint got Crystal pregnant, and she is going to have triplets. Although they are both 15, they both decided to take responsibility for their action, and both want to raise the babies."
Brent and Lance both nodded that they understood, so Sean continued. "Unfortunately, their parents were not as understanding. After we got home, mom arranged a meeting with Crystal's father and Clint's mother and father to see how they would take the news."
"I bet they didn't like it." Greg offered.
"That's an understatement," Adam grinned. "Terry didn't make it half way through what she was going to say before JJ had to stun Crystal's father when he tried to leap across the table to strangle Clint. Then Sammy reported some of the things that Clint's parents were planning on doing to both Clint and Crystal."
"Actually, that was Sebastian, but yeah, they had so much hate and anger flowing off them, all the telepaths could feel it." Sammy corrected.
"Anyway, that brings us to our last day in Iowa before leaving to move here," Sean continued. "Just about everyone else had left to come here, but mom decided to let us stay one more night at our old house for some family bonding time and all because things had been going so crazy. So, we ended up having to go to the store to pick up a few things. On our way out, William and Timmy spotted a car at the far side of the parking lot. When we got there, we found Calen."
Sean gestured toward an auburn haired 11 year old sitting near Cory as he continued. "I'm not going to get into all the details, but to sum things up, we found him chained up in the back of the car, nearly dead, partially castrated, with the heat of the car going at full blast. Cory got Doc. McCoy to come down from the Enterprise, got him stable, and then took all of us back up to the ship to finish helping him. While we were there, he mentioned his younger brother, CD, had run away a week earlier, so we started searching for and managed to find him registered in a shelter about 50 miles southeast from where we lived in Iowa."
Sean started to worry that he might have been covering too much too quickly as he knew both Brent and Lance were fairly overloaded already in everything that they have heard, but seeing that they were both following fine, he continued. "Adam had found some information on the shelter that made it seem rather suspicious. When we got there, Tyler was able to confirm that all 15 kids in the building felt incredibly scared and hungry. And when we got in there, we were able to see for ourselves that none of them had anything on other than light boxers, and that they all were being physically and sexually abused."
"So you were able to find CD?" Greg asked.
"Yup. That would be the slightly smaller version of Calen that is sitting next to him. We were able to rescue him and the other 14 kids that were being housed in that hell hole. Let's just say that the scum bag that was sexually abusing them only had a few seconds to regret his mistakes." Sean replied.
"What happened to all the other kids?" Lance looked around the room and saw they were out of additional kids for the clan.
"That little guy sitting near Timmy and Ricky became JJ's and my son. The others are staying at Camp Little Eagle. You'll get to meet most of them tomorrow as well if you want." Adam answered as he motioned toward a small blond haired 6 year old that was sitting next to Mickey.
Looking around to make sure that he did not miss anyone, Sean rubbed his hands together and looked toward the new guys. "Okay guys, You've pretty much heard the histories of every member of the clan that is here in this meeting in addition to Clint and Crystal who had already given us their permission to be mentioned. At this point, we usually give you guys a chance to say anything you might feel comfortable saying about yourself. What's said will just remain within the room, unless it's agreed on by all of us.
Lance looked like he was about to say something, but Sean stopped him and continued. "I also want to make it clear that you don't have to say anything at all right now if you don't want to. That's totally alright, and it will not effect the last part of the meeting. It's just that some guys feel better saying things right off the bat and getting it off their chests while for others it takes a little bit before they are able to get to the point that they can feel comfortable about it. Whichever way you choose, just remember no matter what it is, there is not one kid here that will laugh at you or tease you about it, and everyone here really does want to try to help you."
Lance and Brent looked at each other for a few moments before Brent stood up and started talking. "Well, I thought my life was pretty sucky. That was, at least, until I came here and got to meet some of you guys."
Brent looked around the room and saw several knowing smiles, and a few uncontrollable giggles from the littlest ones. "My mom died when I was 3, so I never really got to meet her. It was really just my father and myself for most of my life, and he was usually busy all the time with work stuff to pay attention to me."
Brent could see some of the smiles turning to frowns. "It's not like he abused me or neglected me or something, well maybe he did, I don't know, but sometimes he would get home really late from work at nights, and he would still spend a little time with me, and sometimes on the weekends. When I started getting older, he would invite some of his lady friends over on the weekends, but we didn't really do the things I heard other kids in school talking about what their dad's did with them."
Seeing the frowns turn to nods, Brent relaxed and continued. "I think when I was ten was when I met the first person I could ever call a best friend, and that was Randy. He was only like 2 months older than me, and we did everything together. A lot of times, when my dad would be working really late, or when he had to go overnight on business trips, Randy's parents would invite me to stay over at their house so I wouldn't be home all alone."
Brent noticed that just about everyone seemed to be paying very close attention to his story now. "I guess about 2 years after we met each other, right after we had both turned 12, we started realizing our bodies were starting to change, and, well, I don't want to say everything, but we also realized that there was something between us that was more than just best friends."
There were a few giggles from a few of the youngest boys there, which were quickly stopped. "So, for the next year, we tried to figure out how to best let his parents and my dad know about how we felt for each other. Being 'gay' wasn't exactly something that either of our families accepted. In fact, I think Randy's parents were starting to catch on that something was going on, because over the last year, I kept getting invited less and less to spend the night at Randy's. Then, the clan held it's concert in Des Moines for all the local schools. Both Randy and I were there in the audience. It was one of the best concerts ever! We also learned a lot about the clan, and that being gay doesn't always have to mean something bad or evil. So, with Randy's support, I made the decision to out myself to my father that night."
At this point, the room was completely silent, even the normal shuffling around had stopped as everyone waited with baited breath for Brent to continue. "I started to try to tell my dad about how I loved Randy, but as soon as I started, he blew up on me. He called me a fag and a queer and started yelling that this is how I repaid him and mom, and kept yelling and getting madder until.... until he just stopped and fell over because he had a heart attack."
"We called 911. The ambulance came and took him to the hospital and we had to wait there for hours. Hours of waiting not knowing what would happen. I don't know what I would have done if Randy had not been right there next to me. Finally they let me in to see him.... the last thing he told me.... before he died...... was that he had no son." With this, Brent started to cry softly where he stood. Lance gently transferred Greg into Eric's lap, then stood up himself to embrace Brent and give him all the comfort he could give him.
Brent finally managed to continue, "Randy stayed at my side the entire time. I didn't think I had any other relatives alive that wanted me, they couldn't find any, so I was allowed to spend a day or two at Randy's at least I think it was a day or two, it's hard to remember. But eventually they came to me, and told me that I would have to live in a children's home, for kids that don't have anywhere else to live, and that's where I stayed."
Feeling Brent's sobs, Lance tightened his squeeze letting Brent know that he was there and safe. "A week after *sniff*... A week after dad died, Randy finally talked me in to going out to watch a movie with him, that was the first time I let myself start to have fun around him again, and was thinking that perhaps there was some better reason things happened the way they did. It was a great movie, and we were having fun together. After the movie he took me back to the home I was living at, we kissed and said we loved each other, and then he headed on toward his home, and I went inside."
Not knowing that he could, Lance squeezed Brent even tighter to give him just a little extra support for what he knew Brent would need to say next. Although no one other than Lance and Brent could see it, Randy too joined in with the hugging of Brent. Filled with Sniffles, Brent continued. "About 5 minutes later while I was inside getting a drink, I felt a sharp pain go through my stomach. I don't know how I knew, but I just knew something was going wrong. I darted out of the house and ran faster than I ever thought I could run. I didn't know where I was running to, I just ran, and I ended up in an alley, and that's where I found him.... *sniff*... found him dead. Randy... *sniff*..... found him dead..."
At this point, it was clear that Brent had totally lost himself. He might have babbled a few other words, but nothing was coherent. Lance gently pulled Brent back down so they were both sitting, and silently tried to calm him with his love.
"Why did you guys let him go so far?" Cory sharply called out as he glanced toward the double J's.
"It's a good hurt Cory." Jamie replied
Jacob directly followed his twin. "It's something he had to say before he could start to heal."
Cory only shook his head.
It took a few minutes, but between Lance's gentle and love filled embrace, and some of the other telepaths helping to stabilize him a little, Brent managed to calm down to the point that he was at least coherent again. "Sorry guys." Brent finally said weakly.
Although it was clear that several were getting ready to offer answers, Sean was the first to speak. "Don't worry about it bro. Like you said, just about everyone here has been though a lot, or at least enough to know what your going through. There is no one here that is going to laugh at you or anything you say. No one here will ever think your stupid just because it's how you feel. We are all brothers and we work together to help each other through the hard times, not just the good times."
Brent nodded and gave a weak smile of thanks. Through Lance's and Randy's combined love, and the love and support that flowed over him from the other members of the clan that were there, Brent recovered fairly well, but he was still emotionally exhausted and couldn't think of saying or doing anything else.
After a few moments, Sean glanced over to the new group. "Anyone else want to say anything? Remember you don't have to if you don't want to."
Hesitantly, Greg pushed himself off of Eric's lap, and stood up a step or two away. "I guess I could tell you a little about me, but there is not much to tell."
Everyone turned their attention to little Greg, as he stood alone, looking toward nothing in particular. I was born blind, something in the way I developed makes it so doctors can't fix me. Mom didn't have enough money to let me go to any off-world doc's, since our dad was a druggy and left mom as soon he learned she was going to have twins, so we didn't have much money, but it was okay because I had Creg, who was my twin, and I could somehow see through his eyes which was also cool."
Greg stopped babbling and took a breath as he felt a pair of hands reach around his neck and chest giving him a gentle hug of support. Immediately, he realized the presence of Lance. "Then about a year ago, mom was taking us to pre-school and a big truck ran a red-light and slammed into us. Mommy and Creg were both killed instantly since they were both in the front seat. But I was in the back seat, and just bruised up a bit. I was sent to live in a children's home since there was no one else to take care of me, and that's where I met Doug who is like a year older than me, and somehow I was able to see a little bit through his eyes too. Not as good as I could with Creg, but it was good enough."
A number of boys nodded as everyone continued to listen patiently. "Then a few nights ago, there was the fire.... Doug made sure I got to safety... but then he got burnt really bad, and now I don't know where he's at either... So Lance has been taking care of me, but I can't see through his eyes at all. He tried, but I can't, and then Lance was going to run away with Brent, and Lance took me with him. We found Eric, and I could see through his eyes a little, and then we came here to meet all of you guys."
Cory made a mental note to make sure he got up with the twins later in regards to Doug. 'We're a step ahead of you bro. We are already working on tracking down Greg's friend. We should have it pinned down later tonight.' Cory heard Kyle send into his head.
After another squeeze, Lance guided Greg back to sitting on Eric's lap. But, instead of returning to his own seat, he took a step or two forward himself to stand before everyone. "If Brent and Greg can do this, I guess I can say a little bit about myself as well."
"Compared to all of you guys, my life is going to seem pretty boring." Lance heard a few small giggles from around the group, which was just the effect he was looking for to break the ice a little. "My parents had me when they were both really young. My dad was 18 and my mom was 17, so I don't think either of them were really ready for me yet. My first memories from when I was 3 or 4 always involved my parents fighting and arguing with each other. Then when I was 5, my parents got a divorce, dad went away and to this day I've never heard from him again. The state gave custody of me to my mom."
So far, so good Lance thought to himself as he continued. "Then when I was 6, maybe a little before, mom started to get a lot more angry about stuff. She started blaming me for my dad leaving us, and then she started hurting me. I guess one of the neighbors saw mom beating me or something, and the police came and took me away. They made me live in a group home with other kids for about 2 years while mom went through counseling and therapy classes and stuff. She would come to see me on the weekends sometimes, but they never let us be alone. Then when I was 8, they said I was her's again, and she could take care of me, so I moved back home with her."
Brent was now paying very close attention as well, since there was very little of the past of the boy that he loved that he knew about.
Lance took a moment to catch his breath before continuing. "I guess there is something about me that turns people bad or something, because it wasn't long after I started living with my mom again that the problems started. At first, everything seemed okay. People from the state would come by from time to time to check on us and make sure I was doing okay. But soon they stopped coming, and that's when my meanness started turning mom bad again. It started out with little things at first. But by the time I turned 9, she was back to beating me every night, if I made a mistake, I got beat... if she made a mistake, I got beat, if someone at work pissed her off, I got beat. One night I was so scared of being beat again that I ran across the street to the neighbor's house, but mom came over and started beating down their door to get to me, and then when Mr. Persay answered it, my mom started beating him up as well."
Everyone seemed wide-eyed and shocked at what Lance was telling them, so Lance continued. "I guess it's different when an adult beats up another adult than when an adult beats up a kid, because then the cops came. They took my mom away and threw her in jail. I think they said she is going to be there for the next 40 years or something. That also meant that I got sent back to the children's home, and that's where I've been ever since."
Sean walked over and wrapped his arms around Lance in a loving hug. "That was very brave of you to share that with us bro, but there is one thing that you said that I don't agree with, okay?"
Lance accepted the older teen's embrace and smiled before looking up in his eyes. "What?"
"I never want to hear you say that you were the one that caused your mom to be mean, or that you were the reason that your parents got a divorce." Sean answered.
Lance looked puzzle. "But it was me."
Brent came up and joined in hugging Lance. "No way man, I've felt how much love can flow out of you, and there is no way you could possibly turn anyone 'bad'."
Sean nodded in agreement. "Besides the fact that if that were true, one of the telepaths here would have let us know. Sometimes adults try to raise kids long before they are actually ready. Sometimes adults have a lot of their own issues, and many times a defenseless kid seems to be the best way to take out their frustrations."
"I bet your mom did it intentionally." JJ called out. "From what you described, she knew that when she got you back, CPS would continue to keep an eye on you and her for a bit, just to make sure there were no problems, so during that time she kept up her 'being nice' act. But when she knew that they would not be checking anymore, she dropped the act, and you became her punching bag again."
Sean nodded in agreement.
Lance wanted to say more, there was so much more he wanted to argue. But, they had already been at this whole meeting thing for so long, he simply gave in with a nod and smile. "I guess you guys are right. Thanks."
As Lance and Brent sat down, Sean started to walk back to the center of the group to continue the next part of the meeting, but stopped himself as Eric, the small sandy blond 10-year old that had remained silent through the entire meeting, stood up. Everyone started to look in his direction, not sure what to expect.
Eric stood there blinking. A few times he opened his mouth as if he were about to say something, but then stopped.
"Guys." Kyle jumped in. "Everyone needs to give Eric a few minutes here. He just learned to talk a few hours ago. I can see him trying to put his thoughts together in his head, but I think it's important for him to be able to say this on his own."
Everyone nodded in agreement and with understanding. The room was quiet for almost a minute as Eric was given a chance to put his thoughts into words.
Finally, when he spoke, it was with a very light, high tenor voice. "It hurt." He started to say, then moved his hands up to his neck as if trying to remove something. "The ropes... around me." Eric's eyes began to tear up, and for a moment it looked like he was going to sit back down.
"You can do it Eric, I know you can!" Greg reassured gently.
Eric nodded and tried to continue. "By day.... outside.... alone, I was... on rope." Eric's eyes started to tear up more. "Mean man hurt.... Was all I knew." The small boy was clearly trying to say more, but nothing came out. Finally, he looked toward Kyle pleadingly. "Help?"
Kyle smiled and nodded. "You did a good job Eric, it will take a little bit for the words to settle out in your head, but the more you try to say things, the easier the words will fit."
Still teary eyed, Eric nodded and sat back down. Immediately, he found a Greg crawling into his lap.
"Okay guys, basically what Eric was wanting to say is that there is not much that he can remember. But, the memories he does have mostly center around his former owner tying him up with a rope and leaving him outside during the day, and at night he would be brought in the house where he would be hurt." Seeing that many others were about to jump in, Kyle held up his hand. "And before anyone says anything, his former owner was already dealt with. Unfortunately, he died before I was able to get to him."
"How was he hurt?" One of the other boys hesitantly asked.
Kyle shook his head. "That's part of the confusing part. Eric isn't completely sure. He has some memories of physical abuse but most of it is cloudy and fractured." Kyle tilted his head slightly and thought for a few moments. "He has some memories of being injected with something. If I had to guess, I would say that he was commonly given drugs that made it hard for him to remember things, which would also perhaps explain why there is no knowledge in his head about any time before a few weeks ago."
The room remained silent for a while longer as no one was quite sure what to say. It was Brent who broke the silence by walking over to Eric, and wrapping his arms around both Eric and Greg. "Don't worry bro, somehow we will find who else was responsible for this".
Lance then got up and joined in to make it a 4-way hug.
After giving the four boys a few moments, Sean continued. "Guys. This brings us to the last, and most important part of the..."
"Hold on little bro." Mikey Interrupted. "There is still one more person that needs to speak before you do what you were about to do."
After doing a quick re-count of the new guys, Sean scrunched his face in confusion. "Who's that bro? I'm pretty sure we covered everyone."
Mikey did not answer Sean, but instead looked toward Brent. "Brent, would you like to do the honors?"
Brent seemed as confused as Sean. In fact, if it were not for several of the other kids suddenly looking past Brent and gasping, he would have said the same to Mikey. Instead, he looked where everyone else was glancing, and standing slightly to the side of the four boys, with a faint white glow around him, was Randy.
"Everyone can see him?" Brent asked with surprise.
Mikey nodded. "Since I'm around, I can make it so everyone can see him, at least for a small amount of time."
[Hi guys!] Although he did his best not to show it, Randy too looked rather surprised at everyone's ability to see him.
"Uncle Mike?" Ricky asked looking back and forth between Randy and Mikey. "Is Uncle Randy a guardian angel like you?"
Mikey smiled toward Ricky. "Not like me, little one. Our father has a special plan for him that not even I am sure about. But I'll leave it up to Brent and Randy to decide what they share with you."
All eyes now turned toward Brent and Randy, who had now walked to stand next to Brent.
"Well." Brent started, trying to figure out exactly what to say. "You guys know how I said Randy was killed a few weeks ago? Well, on Friday Saint Mikey... Umm... Uncle Mikey? Visited me when I was still living in the home, and made it so I could see Randy. Then, after Lance and I started getting close, we learned that he could see Randy as well."
[Brent had just lost his dad, and had been forced to move to the children's home. I loved him so much, but there seemed to be so little I could do for him, his life was turned upside down.] Randy's voice was soft and trembled slightly as he talked. [I remember laying in the alley after I was attacked, the only thing I could think about was Brent, and how his life was going to be even worse now, and wishing that things could be different, and that I could somehow have shown my love for him more before I died. I know it sounds pretty stupid.]
A single tear started to make it's way down Brent's cheek. "I never knew that, and I don't think it's stupid."
Mikey smiled warmly. "Actually, it was that selfless love and devotion you had toward Brent, which was partly responsible for you being able to remain here with him now."
"Really?" Brent and Randy both said together.
"You said his love was part. What is the other part?" Lance asked.
Mikey's smile widened. "Your right, I did say that. The other part has not even been revealed to me. I just know that although it's a factor, the love that Brent and Randy shared with each other was not the only factor."
Sean jumped in at this point. "Well, I guess that settles it. That means that all 5 of you have an important decision to make."
After seeing that he had their attention, Sean continued. "You guys have heard the stories from all the members of the clan that are here, and we've heard your stories. Now, you have a decision to make. I don't think there is anyone here that does not feel that they would like you to become a member of the clan. However, the choice is up to you. Mom has already declared Brent, Randy, Greg, and Eric as being under the protection of the Federation's Safe Haven act, so no matter what you choose, you guys will still be protected and safe."
[Wait, your including me in this? How can I be a part of the clan?]
"Why not?" Adam spoke up. "Everyone hear considers Mikey just as much a part of the clan as anyone else. Just the fact that he feels it is important enough to make it so we can see you is good enough reason for me as to why you should be allowed to be in the clan if you want. The fact that your going to be watching out for Brent and Lance and probably others of my brothers is extra icing on the cake."
While Randy simply nodded, not really sure what else to say as he was clearly surprised by what he was being included in, the rest of the boys sat there and thought for a few moments before Lance spoke up. "What's the difference between being in the clan and not being in it?"
"I can answer that." Cory jumped in. "In short, everyone who is in the clan has taken an oath to be there and protect every other member. If you guys accept our offer, you will basically be making the same oath. In effect, everyone in the clan will become your brother, and you will become ours. If you don't become clan, that's fine as well, we will all still be friends."
All five boys nodded in understanding.
After waiting a few seconds, Sean continued. "If you guys want, you can go into the room over there and discuss this between yourselves before making your choice."
The five boys wordlessly spoke between each other for a few moments before Brent spoke up. "I don't know about the other guys, but I don't need any time to decide. I would like to become a member of the clan."
Lance spoke up immediately after Brent stopped. "I would like to become a part of the clan as well."
[If Brent and Lance are choosing to be in the clan, and if you guys will have me, I too would like to be a part of the clan.]
"You guys are all really nice. I want to be clan too." Greg added.
Everyone was silent for a few moments as Eric struggled to say the words he was looking for. "Clan... I would choose."
"Then it's official." Sean smiled. "Welcome to Clan Short guys!"
Without warning, the entire room erupted with cheers as everyone got up and circled around the five newest members of the clan. For several minutes, there were many hugs, handshakes, and congratulations exchanged.
A few minutes into all the hugging, Mikey announced that he would need to leave now, so everyone also said their goodbyes to Mikey and Randy. A few moments after Mikey left, to everyone other than Brent and Lance, Randy slowly started to fade away until he was no longer visible.
When things started to calm down, Cory got everyone's attention. "Okay guys, we have about an hour before we need to head home, which means if anyone is interested, we can get some pool time in."
Almost instantly, the room was empty.
Evan sat with his back against a tree and Haden in his lap as his hands clasped those of his younger brother's. Both boys were focused on watching the small burning fire that cheerfully crackled a few feet in front of them.
"I'm hungry." Haden softly murmured.
"I know." Evan replied as he used his upper arms to squeeze on the sides of his younger brother. "We'll find food somehow, I promise."
Truth be told, Evan had already been thinking a lot about it. Unfortunately, he really had no ideas on how they would manage to get food in the middle of nowhere. He knew his younger brother had to be starving, given how little he would ever complain about anything unless it was really serious, but he just couldn't come up with any solution.
The sun had set about a half of an hour ago, and the final lights in the sky had all faded such that beside the flicker of their small fire, darkness was all around them. He had seen some small critters crawling around here and there, and he knew from his survival training, some of them were edible, but he also knew that his younger brother would literally allow himself to starve to death before being willing to eat anything like that. Forcing him wouldn't work either since he knew how sick it would end up making him, regardless of the fact that he had already promised himself to never force him to do anything he was not willing to.
A small breeze caused both boys to shiver slightly which also caused Evan to wonder if the heat of their small fire would be enough to keep them warm. Last night it had gotten rather chilly, but they had a nice sheltered area of bushes they were able to crawl under. Tonight, there would be no such shelter, but probably be just as chilly.
A small scratching sound suddenly caught the attention of both boys. It was the sound of something scratching on some type of hard surface. A few seconds later, from the direction of the sounds, the boys could see two yellowish eyes look up and start peering at them.
"What is it?" Haden whispered as his entire body began to tremble uncontrollably.
Evan didn't answer. He just sat there holding his younger brother as tightly and as still as possible. As his eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness, he was fairly sure that he could make out the faint outline of a wolf like creature.
After starring at each other for a few seconds, the wolf started pawing at something solid a few more times, almost as if it were a bull getting ready to charge at them.
Evan reached out and grabbed one of the small sticks from the fire. Although no flames were visible, the end of the stick was glowing bright red. As he tossed the stick in the direction of the wolf, the wolf took off in the opposite direction, disappearing into the darkness.
Both boys sat motionless for several more seconds. "Is he gone?" Haden finally asked still trembling.
"I think so." Evan answered. He moved Haden off his lap as he stood up, and started to walk cautiously toward the stick that he had tossed, which was just now was starting to go completely dark.
"Careful!" Haden's voice was filled with concern toward his older brother.
Evan reached down and picked the stick up. Taking a few more steps forward with the stick in hand, his foot hit something solid. Reaching down, Evan could feel that it was smooth and metallic. "I found something." He calmly stated as he started to investigate it more.
"What?" Handen softly asked, still not daring to speak too loud, less the wolf return and find them.
"I'm not sure. It's kinda like a brick or metal block. It's buried in the ground partially." As Evan continued to feel the metal object, his fingers came across a small latch, which immediately let him know what it was. "It's a metal lock box! With no lock."
Haden remained silent as he watched the shadow of his older brother investigate the object.
"Holy crap!" Evan reached down into the box taking out an object, then started walking back toward his younger brother. When Evan was close enough, Haden was able to easily see the large can of raviolis that Evan was holding in his hand.
Instantly, Haden's eyes lit up, and any lingering trembling was gone. He would not starve to death after all. At least not tonight.
"Umm... Evan?" Hadan asked quietly when they were both sitting back together.
"Yeah bro?" Evan asked with a hug.
"Umm... How do we get it open?" Hadan's voice started to fill with concern again.
Evan hugged is smaller brother tighter. "Relax little bro, it has a flip top, and my utility knife has a folk that we can share."
Haden's only reply was to cuddle deeper into his older brother's chest.
Other than Sean and Cory, who decided to slip away for some alone time, all the kids were outside enjoying themselves. Any sign of the hurt and pain that everyone had just re-lived was gone.
Brent sat on the side of the pool watching all the other kids playing in the pool. The larger boys were having a jumping and diving contest in the deep end where one boy would do something, then the next person would try to do a jump or dive that was cooler. What surprised Brent the most was how well all of them seemed to be able to handle the stuff they have been through, and still be able to act like kids.
Lance, Eric and the smaller kids were hanging out in the shallow end of the pool. They had decided to play Marco-Polo, which most thought that Greg would do well at since the game involved one person not being able to see anything, and trying to tag another player. As it turned out, Greg was doing remarkably well. If it were not for the fact that everyone knew that Greg was blind, and for the fact that the double J's had insisted that Greg was not using anyone else to see through, many would have thought he was cheating. Not that anyone really would have minded if he were, since the game was specifically picked for Greg, and he certainly seemed to be enjoying himself and finally finding a game that he was good at.
"You know, we don't have much pool time tonight." A boy's voice said.
"Sorry?" Brent was startled out of his daydreaming as a slender 12 year old with straight, collar length black hair boy sat down next to him.
"You're just kinda sitting here. If you're going to go swimming at all, you should soon because we will have to go back home soon." The boy's deep gray eyes seemed to sparkle slightly.
"Oh. Umm. Alec, right?" Brent asked trying to place a name to the face.
Alec nodded. "Yup!"
"Oh, sorry." Brent wasn't really sure how he wanted to answer the question. In fact, he wasn't really sure himself why he was just sitting instead of swimming. "I was just kind of thinking. So many people have gone through so many terrible things."
"Yeah, kind of unreal. Isn't it?" Alec's boyfriend, Andrew, swam up to where Brent and Alec were sitting, and pulled himself up to sit next to Alec. "Sometimes you just have to accept the bad things that happen, because if they didn't, then the good things that come out of them wouldn't be able to happen either."
Brent sighed, "It's not that. It's just we've been made a part of the clan, but I don't know if I can do what Cory and Sean do. I don't see how I can go out and hunt down kids to rescue."
Alec let out a small giggle that he quickly tried to stop. "No one goes out looking for kids to rescue. And, I know for a fact that Cory, Sean, or anyone will never expect you to do that."
"Yeah," Andrew agreed. "Sometimes it just kind of happens. Like last weekend when Alec came with me and my parents to visit my grandparents in Tampa. We were just walking into Denny's to get some lunch, and there was a little guy begging for change outside."
Alec agreed, "Yes, exactly like that. We were just being ourselves and talking with Arlo. When we found out he had run away because his parents were going to try to have him committed to a mental institution, Andrew called Aunt Teri, and she just told us to bring him back with us, then she took care of everything and now he's safe living over at Camp Little Eagle."
"Wow, that's kinda cool," Brent agreed. "But what if we are never in the exact right place at the exact right time for that to happen to us?"
"Then you don't rescue anyone," Andrew smiled.
"Yup," Alec agreed. "You're not a part of the clan because we think you will rescue lots of people. Your a part of us because we all care about you and want to help keep you safe and be the best you can be. If you find others, you find others. If you don't, then you don't."
"That makes sense," Brent smiled.
"Come on!" Alec stood up which caused Andrew to stand up immediately after. "Let's see if you know how to do any cool dives."
Brent agreed. Deciding that he had pondered enough on the topic for now, he decided to join Alec, Andrew and the other older boys in their diving contest.
A short while later as the younger boy's game winded down, the older boys joined up with their younger brothers in the shallow end, and games of toss-the-kid ensued as the older guys would lift up and toss the smaller guys into the slightly deeper water. This, of course, had the added effect of causing large amounts of laughter and giggling from the younger kids.
After everyone had been swimming for about an hour, Cory and Sean came outside and informed everyone that it was time to head back home. Once everyone had gotten out and rinsed off in the outside showers, most were ready to go.
Lance noticed that a number of the smaller boys stripped off their swimsuits and never put anything else on. He wasn't going to say anything about it at first, but as a larger number of the boys seemed to be doing this, he finally decided to ask Adam about it.
Adam could only smile as he told Lance that most of the guys were doing that because they knew they were heading back to go to bed, and that's how must slept at night. Accepting this, Lance went along with everyone else as they made the short trip across the field and across the street back to the compound.
As all of the kids started piling into the rec room inside of the main C.I.C. building, the adults were just heading out from the dining room. With Lance at his side carrying Greg, and Eric not far behind, Brent walked over to talk with Neal.
"Hey guys, how did the meeting go?" Neal dragged all four boys into a group hug.
"It was okay." Brent admitted.
Lance let out a sigh. "I can't believe people would do some of the things that have happened to our brothers."
Greg bounced up and down in Lance's arms. "It was cool! We got to meet two angles, I got a bunch of new big and little brothers, and I was the bestest at catching others in the pool!"
"Whoa! Slow down there tiger!" Neal couldn't help but smile at the small boy's enthusiastic attitude. "New brothers, huh? Does that mean you have become members of the clan?"
All four boys nodded.
Dan walked up behind Neal and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Heaven help you now Neal."
Walking by with a pile of large fluffy blankets, Kyle overheard Dan's comments. "Don't worry dad, Uncle Mikey said he would keep an eye on all of them as well, and help out where he could."
"Uncle Mikey?" Neal was clearly starting to get confused.
"You remember how I told you that Lance and I could see Randy?" Brent's expression was dead serious as he waited for Neal's nod before continuing. "Well, during the meeting, Cory and Sean's older brother Mikey, who happens to be Saint Mikey, stopped by and made it so everyone at the meeting could see Randy."
Neal glanced toward Dan for confirmation.
Dan nodded. "He's being serious Neal. Teri's oldest son was killed in a car accident a little over a year ago and has been watching over everyone in the clan since it started. Just recently, the pope officially proclaimed him to be Saint Mikey of Urbandale, Protector of Gay and Abandoned Youth.
At hearing Mikey's name, Teri walked over to investigate. "Is that angelic son of mine causing more mischief and havoc?"
"Apparently he stopped by the clan meeting earlier tonight." Dan answered.
Teri nodded in understanding. "As I said earlier Neal, give it a few days, and you should start getting use to the craziness around here."
Neal smiled, unsure exactly how to respond.
"Uncle Neal?" Lance hesitantly asked as he was unsure if the reference was appropriate. "Do you know where we are going to be sleeping tonight? I think Greg is getting pretty tired."
"Uncle?" Neal asked.
"Actually guys." Teri interjected. "I was going to wait until breakfast to let you know, but I see no harm in you knowing now. As of a few hours ago, Neal and Rick are officially your parents. The only thing that is not set in stone yet is what your last names will be. Each of you can decide if you want to keep your current last name, or if you would like their last name of Knocks-Downing."
"Cool!" All four boys responded then each in turn indicated that they would like to have Neal's last name.
"Great, then with any luck, I should have some good news for you by lunch tomorrow. As far as where you will sleep, that is mostly up to you. If you want, you can sleep in the overnight room with Neal, however, I'm guessing that the rest of the guys would like you to sleep in the nest." At seeing the confused expressions on the boy's faces, Teri pointed behind them where they saw a large number of blankets and pillows.
Seeing Neal's face filling with both question and concern, Teri decided to continue, "Although they have not been doing it as much lately, it's sort of a tradition in the clan to build a large 'nest' where all the guys that want to, can sleep together."
Dan also added his professional observations, "A lot of the kids here have been hurt pretty bad in a number of ways. It seems that sleeping in the nest helps a bunch of them feel safe and secure, knowing that they are with a bunch of others who care about them and will protect them."
"Also, you don't have to worry about any of the guys trying to touch or do anything else that your boys don't consent to. Everyone in this group is very sensitive to that, and if one person tries something, they will have to answer to everyone else," Teri finished.
Neal nodded, "I'm okay with that. However, I think the decision should be up to them. What do you say guys? Do you want to sleep in the overnight room with me, or would you like to sleep in the nest?"
Glancing back at all the other kids that were helping to lay out pillows and blankets for the nest, Brent looked up toward Neal with a hesitant smile. "Would you mind if we decided to sleep in the nest tonight?"
"Not in the least," Neal answered seriously. "I want you guys to be happy, and if sleeping in the nest with all of your new friends will make you happy, then that's what I would want for you to do."
"But, what about?" Lance got a worried expression on his face as he looked at Brent trying to decide the best way to ask his question.
Brent waited for a few moments for Lance to finish his question, but then figured out what he was trying to ask. "I'll just keep an arm around you while your asleep, that way if you get up, I'll know about it. Would that work?"
Lance nodded and smiled, feeling relieved that his concern had been addressed without too much embarrassment, as well as a new sense of love toward his boyfriend who cared about him so much that not only had he known ahead of time what Lance's concerns would be, but also thought of a great solution to it.
"You guys best go and get yourselves a good spot then." Neal's voice drew Lance out of his thoughts. "I'll be right across the hall in the overnight room if you need me."
After each of them had given Neal a kiss and hug good-night, Neal left the rec room along with the rest of the adults who were still lingering around after giving their respective kids kisses and hugs.
With the adults gone, Brent turned his attention back toward the nest. With all the blankets and pillows they had, it looked very comfy. Already, a number of boys were finding their spots for the night. Then, something hit him. All of the boys that were in the nest, as well as several of the boys that were still wandering around adding a few extra blankets here and there, had forgotten to put their clothes back on.
Brent then started to look around the room to see if he could find Cory or Sean to let them know about the error that everyone had made. It only took a few moments for him to spot both boys already sitting and talking in the center of the nest, also missing clothes.
"Sup guys?" An equally naked Kyle asked as he walked up to the group with a large grin on his face.
"Everyone's naked?" Brent asked looking toward the nest, and then back at Kyle.
Kyle put his hand under his chin as if seriously considering the question. "I don't think Kelly is yet, because he had to take something over to Helen. But I'm sure when he get's back he will be."
Brent and Lance looked at Kyle.
Kyle smiled. "It's okay guys, must of us are nude because it makes it easier to sleep. But you guys don't have to if you don't feel comfortable about it. Even though no one will ever touch you or do anything to you unless you give them permission first, it can take a little while to get used to sometimes. I know it took a bit for me."
"Why is that? You look fine to me." Brent asked, then covered his mouth with his hands as he realized what he had said.
Kyle blushed slightly. "Thanks! But I'm already taken. Besides, I wouldn't want to make Lance too jealous."
Now it was Brent's turn to blush as he looked toward Lance.
Just as Brent was about to come up with a good answer and try to explain why he and Lance didn't feel comfortable yet sleeping nude, Kyle nodded and answered loudly for them. "Okay everyone! Brent and Lance are going to sleep in boxers tonight, they are not ready for clan style just yet. Please, no one tease them about it. They don't have a problem with everyone else sleeping nude. Greg doesn't mind sleeping nude though, which is fine since he's going to be sleeping with Timmy and Ricky tonight. And Eric.... well, I think he just made up his mind.
Just as Kyle predicted, Eric dropped his shorts where he stood, giving his answer.
Brent and Lance were not sure whether they should be glad that Kyle answered for them, embarrassed from what he said, or surprised that he knew exactly what they were thinking.
Timmy, on the other hand, was not as amused. "Hey, we were just going to ask Greg! But Uncle Kyle? William says it's best to let people ask their questions first."
Kyle grinned. "Sorry squirt, but I'm tired, and I need my Ty-Bear time."
Timmy was about to say something back, but he decided he was tired as well. "So you want to Greg? We have a nice comfy spot over here."
"I thought you were going to sleep with us tonight fireball?" Cory asked.
"I was, but Ricky and I need to keep Greg safe tonight so that Unca Brent can keep Unca Lance safe." Timmy replied.
Deciding not to argue with their son, Cory and Sean laid down and cuddled close to each other. Timmy came over to collect Greg from Lance and took him over to where the rest of the little kids were sleeping at. Everyone else finished whatever they were doing and made their way to find spots in the nest as well.
Within 5 minutes, the lights were turned out. Within 10 minutes, everyone was sound asleep.
At some point in the middle of the night, Brent woke up as he felt Lance sitting up. "Lance?" Brent whispered as to not wake anyone else up.
Lance said nothing, but started to stand up.
"Oh no ya don't. Lay back down with me babe." Brent prevented Lance from standing, and then draped an arm around him as he pulled him back down to the blankets. Instead of trying to get back up, Lance simply wrapped himself around Brent, snuggling closer, and fell back asleep.
Brent laid awake for a few minutes, listening to the rhythmic breathing of everyone around him. He wasn't sure what to think about this new clan that he was now a part of. However, he couldn't help but admit that he did in fact feel safe, and for the first time in his life, he felt that he might have found somewhere to really belong. Within minutes, Brent drifted back to sleep as well.
Brent awoke to light tapping on his arm. "Unca Brent?" a young voice whispered.
Opening his eyes, Brent saw Timmy standing over him. "Good morning Timmy. Is Greg okay?"
"Uh huh!" Timmy replied. "Greg hasn't had a shower in a few days, so Ricky and I were gonna to give him one. We wanted to know if you and Lance could help us."
Brent's eyes went wide with surprise as small giggles could be heard coming from different spots of the nest.
Cory whispered over to them. "It's okay guys. Timmy and Ricky do this with everyone they like. I think it's their way to be able to take notes on everyone's packaging. Besides, we wouldn't have allowed you to join the clan if we didn't think we could trust you with the little guys."
Lance woke up as well while Cory was giving his explanation.
Brent nodded. "Okay Timmy, as long as your dad's are okay with it."
Timmy ran over to fetch Ricky, Greg and Eric.
"Really, it's okay guys." Cory reassured. "Go get showered up, and by the time your done, breakfast should be ready in the dinning room."
"Okay, thanks Cory." Brent helped Lance up while at the same time giving him a quick kiss good morning. The two boys quietly made their way out of the nest where the three smaller boys were already waiting for them. More giggles were heard as Timmy and Ricky stood on each side of Greg to help guide him while with their free hands impatiently dragged an uncertain Brent and Lance out of the room and toward the shower. Eric timidly followed behind them.
Haden sat with his arms wrapped around his legs, starring at the burnt out fire, waiting for Evan to return. Evan woke up about 30 minutes earlier, and managed to sneak out from under Haden so he could do some quick scouting around and get up.
"I figured you would be up by now." Evan called over to Haden has he jumped a small hill that was not far from where they were sitting.
"I saw smoke, Haden!" He wrapped his arms around his younger brother. "It might be another campfire, or it could be a small house. It's not going to be hard to get to, it's just over the next ridge.
"Can you make it up?" Evan offered his hand, which Haden took to pull himself off the ground. After giving Haden a few minutes to brush himself off, the two boys headed in the direction that Evan had found the smoke rising from.
What Evan and Haden had found was neither a camp fire, nor a house, but was instead a small double-wide trailer setup in the middle of nowhere. The trailer was surrounded by a ragged face which seemed to have been hastily constructed. There were many trinkets and nick-nacks that surrounded the trailer as well. Most of them were inside the fence area, while some of the larger ones were outside of the fence.
Both boys took a few moments survey that which they were actually seeing. Just about every type of trinket that one could ever want to put in one's yard was there. There were lots of different types of garden gnomes. Various types of plant holders, decorated flower bins, lifelike statues of various farm animals, everything from small chickens to sheep, and lamas.
"You boys look hungry," came the scruff sound of a middle aged man who was wearing a green sweat suit , and holding a hose in one hand that had water spraying out of it.
Both boys stood there saying nothing. They were both trying to size up the strange looking man that was in front of them. He could easily have been in his late 40's, or early 50's. Most of his hair, though short, was gray and stringy.
"If your here for the shop, It don't open until 2 more hours, I don't make a habit of letting customers in early. Lots of stuff to do around here." The man continued as he directed the water from his hose to start spraying some of the plant containers that their main plant had died months ago, or were now sporting small weeds.
"Don't have no money." Haden hesitantly offered. Evan looked and scrawled at Haden. Why could the kid never get a clue that sometimes always being honest is not the best course of action.
The man snorted and looked back at his plants that he was watering, before turning the water off and looking back at the boys. "Well, come on then, breakfast it is." A few moment later, he started walking toward the trailer.
Haden looked up at Evan as if questioning what to do. Given that they were still very hungry from only having a half can of Raviolis each, Evan figured it should be safe enough to see if he was really going to make breakfast for them. Thus, the boys entered the yard, and walked up toward the door to the trailer that the older man left open.
"Come in! Come in! You'll let the flies and gnats, and other nasty critters in." The old man glanced at the two boys briefly to make sure they were inside, then closed and locked the door behind them.
Now that they were very close to the older man, the man took a few seconds to properly size each boy up. Looking at one boy for a few seconds, he would sniff, then look at the other boy, and sniff again. "Yes, yes, two lost boys have come to me for food, but they have no way to pay for food, creates a bad position for us don't you think?"
"We could work it off sir?" Haden offered bringing the mans attention back to him.
"Evan is very crafted with paints, sir." Haden took a moment to take a look around the stench filled trailer. In contrast to outside which was very messy and disorganized, inside had been kept very neat and tidy. "I can help with dishes or cleaning things up or maybe helping you in your yard for a bit."
The old man nodded. "So I see. You are willing to offer your services freely in payment for a well cooked meal?"
Both boys nodded.
The old man clapped. "Bright boys indeed! What do you say we go ahead and get some food into you guys now, and then we can work out the specifics later, after you're not so hungry."
More nods from the boys.
The old man smiled as he pointed at Haden. "You, my boy, look like you are a pancake boy."
Haden smiled a little.
With that, the old man set to work making a breakfast with pancakes. He suggested that the two boys go sit in the front room and watch some T.V. while they waited for him to get done, which they did.
The boys did not have long to wait. In almost no time at all, they were being called back to the kitchen. Evan was asked to get three plates down, and Haden was instructed where the cabinet containing the silver-ware was at. By the time the boys had three places set on the table, the old man was plopping down large sized pancakes, fluffy scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, a small bowl of fresh home-made applesauce for each boy, and small glasses of orange juice.
The meal was eaten mostly in quiet. Haden and Evan, who had eaten very little over the last two days, were surprised at just how yummy this food was, and couldn't seem to scarf it down fast enough. The old man, in addition to eating his food at a more respectable rate, constantly tried to steal looks at the boys trying to figure how they might have ended up here.
When they were finished, and the dishes were brought to the sink, the two boys thanked the man for his generosity and hospitality. Evan walked over to the door to open it so he could walk back outside, but was surprised when the door was locked.
"You wouldn't be trying to walk out on our agreement, would you?" The old man asked looking toward Evan and seeing Evan's hand on the door.
Evan immediately removed his hand. "No sir! I just thought I might.... well, you know.... while I was waiting..."
"I understand," The man replied. "Why don't you two go back in and watch a little T.V. while I finish cleaning up the kitchen, and put something on that we can snack on later. Then we can discuss just how, specifically, you could pay me back."
Even and Haden went back into the T.V. room to wait for the man to finish up his work in the kitchen.
About 10 minutes went by and the old man was still doing stuff in the kitchen. Evan wasn't really interested in the show they were watching, because almost suddenly, a strange desire to sleep had started to come over him. "Hey Haden, you okay bro?" Evan asked in a sleepy voice.
"Haden did not answer. When Evan touched Haden's shoulder, Haden fell over onto the pillow, sound asleep.
"Drugs," Even grumbled. He had landed himself and Haden right in the middle of a trap, and there was nothing he could do about it. He could feel it himself, he was at the edge of falling asleep. His body was filling up with that warm sensation, what could he do?
"9-1-1," he saw a phone on the other side of the table that he started to crawl toward. Even if he couldn't say anything, his pressing buttons frantically and his gasping and dying on the floor should get their attention, if he could just reach the phone. If the damn thing would stop getting further from him as he got closer, until finally the phone disappeared.
"Don't tell me you're looking for this?" The old man held up the phone that Evan was trying to get to.
Evan tried to raise one of his hands to reach the phone.
The old man shook his head. "Uh-huh." The man croaked and continued to watch the boy struggle against himself for a few more seconds, until he too collapsed on the floor, sound asleep. Placing the phone back in its original position, he lifted Evan back onto the couch, and then set both boys up in a sitting position. They might have seemed awake if it were not for their very relaxed facial muscles, their eyes being closed, and light snoring coming out of each boy's mouth.
"Okay." The old man said out loud as he is started to unbutton the first boy's shirt. "Let's see what beautiful play-things our God as delivered unto me today!"
Doubly nearly had the small boys shoe off when the door bell rang. "Two hours until we're open!" He called out, forcing himself to stand up to check out the window, closing the living room doors behind him. Seeing who it was, he went to unlock the door.
"Director! You've picked a wonderful time to visit." The man insisted the younger woman come inside.
"You know why I'm here Doubly, this is your final chance. Do you have something for me or not."
Bowing lower, "I live to serve."
"I'll take that as a no, have a pleasant life, Doubly."
"No! No! I have.... I have two! I do.... this way.... now...." Doubly motioned for the director to follow him.
"If this is another statue or fake, I swear I'll end you my...." The director never managed to finish her threat when the living room doors were opened, and she could see two kids, one around 11 and the other around 9 sitting motionless and shirtless on the couch.
"Did you kill them?" The director asked as she walked over to the first, lifting his head up by the chin and looking him over, then doing the same to the older boy."
"No Director, it was done exactly as you explained. In their applesauce, the younger boy was gone in 15 minutes, the older boy took 20."
"They are both clean?" The director asked.
"They are! I scanned them myself.... twice!" Doubly answered.
"Great, then finish getting them ready, And I'll bring in some of my equipment to the back."
A few minutes later, two naked boys slowly walked into a back room. Each of their necks were being held by Doubly.
"Careful you fool! We need undamaged goods." The director said, somewhat annoyed by a large camera objective she was working on.
"Nahh." Doubly answered back a bit hurt. "You can make the body of a kid do almost anything you want them to do if you know the right places to apply pressure." Haden's arm started waving up and down.
"We can't afford to have any of these damaged. Not yet. I'll have some of the rejects brought over later that you can play with."
"Mmmm," Doubly grunted as he sat the first boy on a chair, and left the other lying off to the side. "We got less than 90 minutes with 'em boss?"
"That should be more than enough," the director answered as a bright white flash went off signaling the first picture had been taken.
Timmy and Ricky ran quickly into the C.I.C.'s large dinning room area, followed a few moments later by Brent, Lance carrying Greg, and Eric. "Daddy, Daddy!" Timmy called out as he made his way for a table where Cory and Sean were sitting along with Teri, Neal, and another man.
"Hey Munchkin, did you make sure your new brothers got all nice and clean?" Cory asked as he caught a pouncing Timmy in mid-air.
Timmy giggled in Cory's arms, and grabbed some quick daddy cuddles. "Your silly daddy, told ya I'm not a Munchkin." Timmy leaned in closer to Cory's ear as if to whisper something, but still spoke loud enough for everyone near by to hear, "Sides, Eric is different!"
"You mean he's uncut like some of your other brothers?" Sean reached over to make it a 3-way hug.
Timmy shook his head. "Nope, different from that too."
"Guys?" Teri looked over at the the boys with a face that suggested that this was probably something that did not need to be talked about right now.
"Neal!" Brent and Lance called out as all four boys started to run toward Neal, who had just stood up.
"Good morning boys, did you guys sleep well?" Neal asked as he wrapped his arms around all 4 boys created a huge group hug.
"Yeah, it was great." Lance answered.
"Uh-huh! I got to sleep next to Timmy and Ricky. Their eagles were watching over us to keep us safe," Greg bubbled.
It was around this time that the boys first registered the presence of another man who had stood up along with Neal. He looked a little younger than Neal with long black hair and brown eyes.
Neal broke the hug to allow the boys to see the visitor. "Guys, I would like you to meet Richard Knocks-Downing, my husband. He flew in earlier this morning."
Brent hesitantly walked toward the man to stand in front of him, "Does that mean Richard is our new papa?"
The man knelt down slightly so that he could be at the same level as Brent. "Please, call me Rick, and I am only your new Papa if you will have me."
Brent couldn't help but notice Rick's gentle face as he looked deep into his eyes to see if he was lying. Seeing that Rick was being sincere, he wrapped his arms around him. After a few moments, Lance, Greg, and Eric joined in the hug.
"That goes for all of you." Rick spoke softly as he hugged all 4 boys. "None of you need to call me papa, or Neal as daddy until you feel that we have earned it, and you feel comfortable saying it."
All four boys nodded as they continued their hug.
When the hug was finally broken, Teri got their attention. "Guys, if you want, you can eat at our table this morning, then we can discuss a few more things over breakfast."
Brent glanced toward the table. It wasn't until then that he noticed that the rest of the clan was already busy eating. Each table had a large bowl of eggs, along with plates that contained bacon, sausage, and toast, along with pitchers of milk and juice. Each seat also had a small bowl of fruit in front of it.
Brent, Lance, Greg, and Eric took their seats as Cory sat Timmy down next to Ricky and everyone began or continued their breakfast.
Cory was the first to speak. "Well, I guess that answers the question about how the guys will take to Rick."
Sean nodded in agreement.
"Does that mean you've decided on where Brent and the others will be staying?" Teri asked leadingly.
Cory nodded. "I didn't want to make anything final until we had a chance to meet Rick, and see how the guys would take to him. Now that we have, I don't see any problem with either option. I think we should let them make that decision."
"What decision?" Lance asked as he took a bite of eggs.
Sean answered for Cory. "There are 2 main options. Either you guys can live here in Orlando with us. We are still getting things setup here for the Clan, and mom still has a lot of positions to fill for F.Y.S, so I'm pretty sure we could find jobs for Neal and Rick. Or, the other option is that you could live with Neal and Rick in Henderson."
"I hear Neal and Rick have a pretty big house in a rather nice neighborhood. How many bedrooms did you say it had?" Teri asked.
"Eight." Neal answered.
"I just met Timmy and Ricky and a bunch of other new friends. I don't want to loose them like my other friends." Greg spoke softly as if about to cry.
"Don't worry Greg," Cory replied. "You won't loose any of your new friends. If you guys decide to live in Henderson, before you get home we will have a special communication terminal setup there, and you will be able to use it to talk to any of your friends here whenever you want. Also, since you are part of the Clan, we can use the Starfleet transporters on Terra Main so that whenever you want to come for a visit, it will only take a few seconds."
This got a series of really's and wow's from all four boys.
Lance looked thoughtful for a few moments, "So, that means that if we wanted to, we could transport over here for a clan meeting and sleepover and then transport back home in time for school?"
"Well," Teri answered, "You will need to keep in mind that there is a 3 hour time difference between here and there. But yeah, essentially that is exactly what Cory is saying."
Cory rolled his eyes, "Mom, we're kids. We can handle time zones."
Teri slowly shook her head as all the kids at the table grinned.
Brent seemed a bit more hesitant. "What if we were to try out living with Neal and Rick and didn't like it?"
"Then you can move back here," Teri answered. "Regardless of what happens, the overall objective is for you guys to be living somewhere that you feel safe, and somewhere that makes you happy."
Brent nodded, "I think Neal and Rick both like their jobs, so I would hate to make them have to change them, and the large house sounds cool, so I think I wouldn't mind trying out living in Henderson with them."
Lance and Greg nodded in agreement.
Cory smiled, "Great, then it's settled. I'll arrange to have a clan communications terminal setup at your house. Neal, is there anyone who would be able to let them in?"
Neal thought for a few moments, "Miranda is kind of like our house keeper. She should be there by 8."
Cory checked his watch. "Okay, so that would be eleven am our time. Let her know to expect a team of Vulcan technicians there at 8:30. It should only take them about twenty minutes to set the system up. I'll make sure Tommy shows Brent and Lance how to use it with the one we have here before you guys leave."
"When will we be leaving?" Lance asked as he finished the rest of his bacon.
"I know Doc Austin wanted to run a final set of quick tests on Greg and Eric after they ate lunch, but unless there is anything else that needs to happen, I don't see why you couldn't leave after that." Teri sent a questioning look toward Cory.
Cory nodded, "After lunch would work for me. That actually fits perfectly. We were hoping to be able to take them over to Camp Little Eagle with the rest of us after breakfast. Maybe let them see how the classes are run there."
"I can go to Timmy and Ricky's school?" Greg asked.
"Why not?" Cory replied. "But that's only if you want to."
"That sounds like a cool idea," Lance stated as Brent nodded his head in agreement.
"Oh, and before I forget," Teri handed a large envelope to Neal. "This is for you. It's the paperwork that officially changes Brent, Lance, and Greg's last name to Knocks-Downing. Eric's change isn't completed yet since we are having some issues tracking down legal information on him. But one way or the other, we should have that cleared up in a day or two."
"Thanks Teri. I can't even begin to thank you for everything that you have done for us." Neal took the envelope and then handed it to Rick.
"It's my pleasure. That was the easy part. You and Rick will be faced with the hard part of raising your new sons. Just remember, just as the kids will be in constant contact with each other, you are both welcome to call or visit at any time. My door is always open to any kid or adult that needs to talk, and I mean it." Teri made sure that both men knew that she was serious.
As it became clear that a large amount of the clan had already finished breakfast, and were helping to clear the tables, Cory stood up to address everyone. "Okay guys! We're running a few minutes behind schedule, so go ahead and finish getting your stuff cleaned up, and then we need to head over to the camp."
Once all the tables had been cleared, the clan started filing out of the C.I.C: heading across the street to Camp Little Eagle. Before they left, Cory, Sean, and Timmy all gave Teri a kiss goodbye. For their part, Brent, Lance, Greg, and Eric each gave Neal and Rick a hug goodbye. Soon, the adults were once again sitting in silence, with only the occasional clang of the dishes being washed in the kitchen being heard.
Cory and Sean were among the last of the group that were making their way toward the camp. They were walking along with Brent, Lance, Greg, and Eric as they continued to explain more things as they walked.
After they passed and greeted the two guards who were standing at the guard station at the camp's main entrance, seeing the resulting confused looks on Brent and Lance's faces, Sean decided to fill them in. "Basically, we have some kids that stay here at camp, which because of what they were forced to do to survive in life, there are a number of government agencies out there who would love to get their hands on them. The guards and defenses you see here are not designed to keep people in, but are actually designed to keep unwanted people out."
"Kind of like how the FBI was wanting to get a hold of Eli and Benji?" Brent asked.
"Exactly like that." Cory agreed. "Legally, the way the camp is setup, there is no earth based organization that has the right to forcefully take any kid that is here under our protection. But sadly, that doesn't stop some of the less bright from still trying from time to time."
As they continued to walk by various buildings, Brent could not believe how beautiful the grounds and scenery were throughout the camp. The feeling he got was one of peace and security while at the same time, a sense of adventure. It was a rather curious sensation. Just as he was about to pass the building everyone else was walking into, Lance reached out and tapped his shoulder, bringing him back to reality.
A large man was already standing near the door as the boys walked in, "It was nice of you to join us today Cory and Sean. Are these new students that you have brought with you?"
"Good morning Mr. T," Sean answered. "They are probably not going to be new students, but we were hoping that they could sit in as part of the class this morning to see how things worked here before they leave for their own home this afternoon."
Mr. T nodded in understanding. "I believe our lessons for this morning will fit into that just fine. Feel free to have them sit with whatever group you feel would be most appropriate for them."
Brent noticed that the room was already split into several smaller groups of kids. Each group seemed to be a little older than the next group. Although there were occasionally some exceptions, a kid taller or shorter than the rest of the group here and there, he figured the groups were organized by grade or ability level of some type.
"Hey Greg!" Timmy called out from where he was sitting with the littlest kids. "You can come and sit over here. We saved you a seat!"
Greg blinked his eyes a few times as he seemed momentarily confused. Then he looked up toward one corner of the classroom and saw one of the eagles seated on a small perch looking back at him. Smiling, Greg was set down by Lance, and he carefully walked over to where Timmy had indicated.
Right behind Greg, Cory walked up with Eric, "Hey guys, this is Eric. I know he's not as little as you guys are, but he just learned how to talk yesterday. Do any of you think you might be able to help him out a little this morning?" Before Cory could finish his question, every hand, except Greg's, went up at the table which caused Cory to smile. "Thanks guys, I'm sure Eric will appreciate it."
As Cory walked away, he could already see Ricky racing to get a seat for Eric to sit in.
"Which group should we sit with Cory?" Brent asked as he continued to look around at each of the groups.
"Well." Cory thought about his answer for a few moments. "Although it might be a little challenging to Lance, since it's just for this morning, I was kind of thinking you could sit with Sean and I and the other 13-14 year olds."
Brent and Lance both agreed, and within moments, everyone was seated with a group.
"I don't think I've ever seen a school setup anything like that before. The way that we were all in our own little support groups, and how there was a main overall lesson being caught, but that each group had a different take and way of addressing the lesson. It was awesome!" Brent bubbled as he walked through the main C.I.C. doors leading into the dining room area.
"And you..." Lance added as he gave Greg an extra squeeze while holding him. "You were incredible as well, I had no idea you were so smart."
Greg beamed with pride. "Thanks, but don't forget about Eric, he helped a lot too."
Brent and Lance both gave Eric a pat on the back and a squeeze. "Thankful." Eric responded.
"Come on guys." Cory nudged the group a head a bit. "If we don't get in there, we might not have much lunch left to eat."
With the threat of the lack of food on top of them, everyone increased their pace a bit to get to the dinning room as quickly as possible."
As the boys entered the dinning room area, they noticed that there seemed to be a much higher level of chaos and commotion than there had been in the morning, even though the total number of kids seemed to be much less. Immediately, they found their way to one of the front tables where Neal, Rick, Teri, and Dan were sitting.
As they reached the table, Cory walked up and whispered something into his mom's ear. Teri nodded. "I'm sorry guys, but if you will excuse me, there is a small issue that I need to deal with."
As Teri got up and left the table, the rest of the boys sat down.
"So?" Neal asked impatiently. "How did you guys enjoy Camp Little Eagle."
"It was funly!" Eric spoke up, his soft high voice surprising everyone else. "My friends, they helped me, and we learned fun."
"Well, looks like at least one of my new sons enjoyed it," Neal chuckled softly.
"It was really cool Neal, nothing like any school I've been in before," Brent offered.
"Umm," Lance looked around hesitantly at their empty table, and then at several of the other tables where kids were busy eating, "Where's lunch at?"
"See Neal, you are always forgetting the important things in life," Rick joked. "Looks like they are just having sandwiches today, and most of them, along with some drinks and other snacks, are up on the front counters. Just take your plates up and help yourself."
Within moments, nearly every kid at the table was gone. While they were waiting for the kids to come back, Rick gave Neal a warm, loving squeeze.
"What was that for?" Neal asked.
Rick smiled, "Just so you don't forget that I love you, and love everything you are getting us into."
Neal nodded and smiled.
"I hope you still say that in a few days once you have met some of our new brothers and sisters, Rick!" Brent said as he sat back down with a plate filled with two ham sandwiches and a turkey sandwich.
"Now Brent!" Lance fake scolded as he sat down with his own plate of two roast beef sandwiches. "What I have I told you about trying to scare away the adults so quickly?"
Everyone else at the table giggled.
Lance was watching Eric carefully carrying his own tray back toward the table when suddenly he stopped, tilted to the left slightly, then collapsed to the ground. Everyone else noticed as well as the loud clanging of Eric's plate and glass hitting the ground could be heard.
Sean and Cory were both up in an instant heading toward Eric, "Tonio?" Sean called out.
Within seconds, another boy, about 9 years old, was standing over Eric, with a medical tricorder scanning him.
After a few seconds of looking at his readings, the small boy shook his head, "This doesn't make sense Cory, Eric is unconscious, but I can't see any type of injury or issue that would cause this."
Cory nodded and took out his communicator. "Cory to Doc Austin."
A few moments later, Doc Austin's voice responded. "Go ahead Cory."
"Doc, we have a medical emergency in the C.I.C. dinning room. Eric, one of the new guys, has just collapsed and is unconscious. Antonio can not find any problems in his scan." Cory spoke into the communicator.
"Understood. Doc out." With that, the communicator went dead.
Woot! Finally managed to get another chapter posted, thanks to all of the support and encouragement of the other CSU authors. Unfortunately, our visit to the clan's Orlando HQ isn't going to take the two chapters I had hoped for, but with everything that needs to be done will take 3, and possibly part of 4, although if the kids will let me, I'm going go try to keep it to 3.
As you have probably noticed, one of the main things that ate a lot of the chapter size was the clan meeting. However, since no other CSU story has ever covered a full clan meeting like this, I felt that it was a fairly important thing to do.
Finally, I would like to apologize for where I left Haden and Evan. This was not something I had originally intended for them to have to suffer through, but as I hope will become clearer as we read chapters 8 and 9, it was necessary, and better than the other alternatives that were available. I'll be happy to discuss this in more detail when we get to that point of the story, but for I hope that you can just trust me when I say nothing really bad is going to happen to them that otherwise would have, and in the end, because of what is happening to them right now, a lot more good is going to come out of it.
With that being said, I now turn chapter 7 over to some great editors as I jump right into working on chapter 8. I think it took about 3 weeks to write chapter 7 which included taking a week off to help with testing of the new tree house that Timmy has set up for us, so with any luck, by the time you are actually reading this, a very good chunk of 8 will be ready to go.