CSV-DSM Part 1

Chapter 6

Teri and Bruce almost fell out of their chairs in laughter as the kids returned to the house. Tyler had decided to have a little fun, and had created the illusion that every single one of the kids was wearing bright purple bunny suits. To add to the hilarity of the sight, the younger kids were hopping around in circles around the older ones.

"I thought that you said spending a couple of hours with your kids couldn't have any effects on mine?" Mick commented with a chuckle.

"Sorry, Sir, but on the way home Cory was instructing us on the proper way to imitate rabbits," Jesse commented, causing Teri to actually have to grab the arm of the chair to keep from falling.

"Daddy, why do bunnies need saddles and spurs? Cory said I hadda ask you," Casey said with a twinkle in his eyes.

Mick moved like lightning, and grabbed Cory. Then he gave the teen a world class wedgie. Bruce, on the other hand, sat there in shock, doing a very good imitation of a fish gasping for breath.

Kai laughed as he commented "Bruvs, you be a needing to be finding a tank for Casey's dad! He's turning merman on us!"

Teri shook her head, still laughing. "If I know my two angelic sons, you'll probably understand by morning Casey. At least you will, unless you sleep with earplugs on the other end of the house."

"MOM!!!!" Cory and Sean exclaimed in unison.

"I'll vouch for you, Cory." Julio said with a grin. "It's only halfway across the house that wakes people up!"

Julio was quick, but Sean and Cory were quicker. Within seconds, he was suspended between them and on his way towards the pool.

Tyler finally decided that the joke was over, and just before Julio landed in the water the bunny suits vanished from everyone but Casey, Eddie, and Tina. The three littlest ones were having so much fun that Ty couldn't think of a reason to take their fun away. As a still-speechless Bruce was pounced by his two bunny-kids, the rest of the boys spread out into the Rec Room, drawn by the smell of fresh-baked brownies sitting there awaiting their attack.

Once everyone was caught up on the escapades of the kids at the Capitol, Mick and Janice gathered their group together for a 'visit' to their own home for the evening. Teri headed into the kitchen to take care of the dishes from the after-trip snack as Bruce explained the sleeping arrangements to the latest additions to the group. Jeremy was more than willing to cuddle Bast through the night, a point he made clear loudly and vehemently. Robin had decided to stay over as well, since he and Tyler still had some training to do with his newly-expanded skills.

"Mom?" A small voice asked uncertainly as Teri felt a light tap on her arm. She looked down to see Kyle, dressed in worn Transformers pajamas and clutching an equally-worn teddy bear, standing there with a look in his eyes that she had not seen since before the attack in Montana.

"What's wrong, little guy?" Teri asked softly as she quickly put down the plate she was washing and turned to kneel in front of Kyle.

"I don't wanna be Superman no more," Kyle sadly stated before falling into Teri's arms and pulling himself in close.

Teri picked up the frail-seeming boy in her arms, then made her way to the chair, which had seen more than its share of mother-son talks over the years.

"Do you want to tell me about it?" Teri asked softly as she took a seat and arranged Kyle on her lap. Inwardly, she was wondering if this might turn into one of the few issues that she would not be able to help one of her boys through.

Kyle nodded his head, then after a pause started mumbling just loud enough for Teri to hear him. "It's all my fault, all of it. I went to the Moon and became a Mikyvis, then Sammy got attacked, Jamie almost got killed, and Cory almost died twice. I'm always screwin' up; thinkin' I'm helping' when other people coulda helped. Not only do I gotta watch everyone I love die, I gotta watch Ty suffer because he hasta do the same thing 'cuz I made him as screwed up as I am."

"So it's your fault that Jamie and Jacob are still alive, instead of one being dead from injury and the other being dead from losing his other half?" Teri asked. "Even if Jamie had survived with normal help, his brain would have been damaged so badly that it still would have killed both of them."

Kyle looked up into her eyes, silently trying to incorporate the response that she had given into his own thoughts.

Teri kissed his forehead, then softly continued. "It must be your fault that Axon was killed instead of everyone else being killed, then. I'm pretty sure that it's your fault that Cory had brothers who loved him so much that they kept his head together when it tried to destroy itself... twice. I'm positive that the attack couldn't be your fault; if you'd had anything to do with planning it it would have succeeded instead of failing like it did. If I understand things right, it's your fault that there are N-Gens instead of grave markers; in fact, from what I hear it is your fault that Robin is going to live his full life instead of becoming another statistic, having a death certificate stating cause of death is unknown. It'll probably be your fault if all of us are around a hundred years from now too, because you love us too much to let us die. I'll admit that Tyler is going to have to live with the one he loves more than anything for a really long time; don't you think that was mean making him have to live instead of him getting old and passing on knowing that he would be leaving you alone forever? I'll even bet there are some ancestors of the human race from wayyyyyy back in history that are mad at you because you made it so that their descendants survived instead of being killed off by an insane Ferox."

By this time, Kyle was staring at her with wide big brown eyes. "I kinda guess that stuff is my fault inna way; but it's all good stuff. What about the bad stuff I've done?"

"Let's see... you mean bad stuff like the time that you tried to play me against your dad and pop?" Teri asked with a small smile. "That's history, we dealt with it then. The fight you had with Galli? That was normal brothers; it's over with. Maybe you mean that time you stole Adam's new game just to see what we'd do to you. That is settled too. So far, you have not done anything that I wouldn't expect from any other eight-year-old who has had a bad history. Well, except for your habit of creating sons, but that is not a bad thing, in fact I actually like my Mikyvis grandsons."

"What about Kai? I screwed up there." Kyle insisted.

"No, you did not screw up." Teri said with conviction. "You might have done the lesser of two goods, but there was nothing really bad about it when you healed him. You listened to your heart, which is one of the things that causes all of your brothers to love you. Part of being eight, no matter what species you are, is learning how to interact with the world. You might have a few new twists to what you need to learn, but you are still no different than anyone else that is your age."

"I still don't wanna be Superman," Kyle stated with a pout, his arguments being shot down as fast as he conceived them.

"Then don't be Superman; be Kyle Richardson," Teri suggested. "Kyle Richardson, the boy who can step up and do amazing things if they are needed, but who is just a normal kid otherwise. Kyle, the kid who likes to make dragons for the little kids. Kyle, the kid who hangs out in some people's heads to make sure they never have to suffer again like they did in the past. Kyle, the boy who still thinks shoulder rides are the best thing ever. Are you seeing a pattern here, Kyle?"

"Yeah, but now people expect me to do stuff," Kyle replied.

"That means that you get to use a really big word that is usually reserved for adults," Teri chuckled.

"What word's that?" Kyle asked with a tilt of his head.

"The word is 'No', and it can even be expanded to 'No way in Hell' if they are really insistent!" Teri laughed.

"But then I'd be cussing!" Kyle said with a small giggle.

"Nice try, Angel," Teri laughed. "I hear more than you boys think I do!"

A halo appeared over Kyle's head. "Who, me? I'd never use bad words, Mom. Never, Ever, EVER!"

"Is that your nose growing by three feet? Why, I do believe it is, Pinocchio," Teri chuckled as she leaned closer and kissed Kyle's cute button nose.

Kyle giggled, seemingly relieved that his arguments were shot down. "You really don't mind me an' Ty havin' kids, Mom?"

"No, I don't mind at all," Teri replied as she gave Kyle a hug. "In fact, I think you are going to find out that your kids are going to be the biggest help in setting examples for what should and should not be done. They don't have a human background coloring their view on things, so the dividing line between Mikyvis actions and Human actions is clearer to them. Just watch Dylan's pranks and you'll see what I mean. He has one set he uses on family, including you and Ty, and a whole different set that he uses on his brothers. Parents learn more from their kids than the kids learn from their parents at times in a healthy family; take my advice and let them help you sort out the boundaries."

"Are you SURE that you want me takin' advice from Dilly?" Kyle giggled.

"Yes!" Teri responded. "If anyone knows how to tailor their sense of humor to the same level as the recipient, it's Dylan. Bryce is great for teaching how not to get caught when something needs done, something that you don't want others to know that you did. Levi is a lot older than he looks if you pay close attention to his eyes; he has wisdom there that is only gained through many years of life."

"He kinda worries me, Mom," Kyle said seriously. "Levi is the only one of our kids who knows how to hide when he's gone from us. I don't know if that's good or bad."

Before Teri could even think of any answer, a quiet voice came to both their ears, //It is a gift of Forever, little Prince. If you were to know what he needs to do, you may be worried. Simply know that I am looking after my Voice... as for his maturity, you will be surprised by how much he has grown once you return home, Child of Forever//

"Now as for meddling omnipotent beings, I have no suggestions," Teri chuckled, which caused Kyle to break out in a fit of giggles.

Teri started chuckling as well, but then gasped and jumped slightly as if someone had goosed her.

Which was exactly what had happened.

Kyle laughed harder as the Guardian whispered into his ear before his presence left them.

"I'm not sure I want to know!" Teri laughed. "Are you feeling a little better now, Angel?"

Kyle nodded, and wrapped his arms tightly around Teri as his laughter slipped back to giggles. "Thanks Mom."

Teri smiled and returned the hug. "Don't forget that you can talk to me at any time, Kyle. I might not have all of the answers, but I'll do my best to help you towards making your own decisions with the information that we both have."

"Thanks, Mom, you're the bestest ever!" Kyle stated as he retrieved the teddy bear from next to Teri and climbed down.

"You're a great boy, Kyle. I'm proud to have you as a son," Teri replied, causing Kyle to grow a huge grin. "On your way out, tell Cory its his turn," she added.

"Okay!" Kyle giggled. As he sprinted out of the kitchen, he yelled "Hey, Cor! You're busted! Mom wants to see ya NOW!"

"You're goin' swimming later, Squirt!" Cory giggled as he came into the kitchen. "Is Kyle okay?" he asked seriously as he took over the freshly-vacated spot on Teri's lap.

"He'll be okay; he just needed to know that he's still the same little guy that you knew back at the home. I think it would do both of you some good if you got back into the habit of being more involved with each other's lives."

Cory tilted his head. "Yeah, we used to always find time to sit down at the home and just talk; since the attack both of us got so busy that we don't do it hardly at all."

"Why do you think I let Ted hijack you guys tonight?" Teri said with a smile. "I knew what he had planned, but I also knew that you needed to see how he manages to run a state without going insane. From the sound of it, you guys all learned something. I've already informed Sarek that if you even start to have any issues like you've had in the last week that I'm going to put my foot down. I don't think you need to ask what that would mean."

Cory shook his head. "I know you, Mom. It means Jace would be Patriarch, or else Vulcan will be at war with you. Ted says that he's gonna help me get something set up to make it so that I'm not tryin' to do everything."

"Good. I talked to him while you guys were on the way home; I think you're going to find that you're getting a little more help than you expect."

"Whadda you mean?" Cory asked curiously.

"I mean that Biff and his family have already asked about housing in Orlando. Once he gets things settled here in Iowa, he is moving into my place and is going to take over setting up a proper chain of command for you."

"How do you know about Biff, and why didn't you ask me if it was okay?" Cory asked, his voice hovering between hurt and confusion.

"The Session was being broadcast real-time," Teri replied. "As far as Biff goes, he's married to one of my second cousins. I've known him for years, and right now I'm pulling the Mom card and doing what I think is best for my baby boy."

"Owwww! Moooommmmmm!" Cory whined, in his best 'little boy' voice. 'I've still got it,' he grinned to himself as she gave him 'the look'.

After a suitable pause for Cory to gloat, Teri continued. "Seriously, the Clan has grown much too large to be handled by just you, Cory. It is too much to ask of any group of youth to run something this big; in fact most adults could not do it. I can handle FYS because I immediately set up a staff to handle daily operations. In a lot of ways, your group is much more diverse than the FYS group. You need someone in place who has experience with working in a large mixed environment; someone who is willing to fight for children yet has experience in coordinating at a level only seen in government. That is the one bit of experience that nobody under the age of thirty is going to have."

"Galli has," Cory pointed out cheekily. "He's ten."

"Ten billion, yes... smart ass," Teri chuckled as she gripped Cory's ribs to make him squirm.

"Sean says it's a cute ass too!" Cory giggled as he squirmed to try to avoid her fingers. As he saw Teri roll her eyes, he added "Well, he does!"

"You two are just as bad as your fathers." Teri said with a smile. "I used to sit down with your Dad and we'd discuss what we thought was hot about Sean's dad... while Cheri was on the other side of the table doing the same thing with Michael. For some reason, Mikey always decided to find somewhere else in the house to play when we did that; and after you two were born he'd drag you with him, sometimes literally, crib and all...."

"He was protecting our fragile little minds from evil parent speak!" Cory exclaimed with a blush.

"MOOMM!!!" Sean yelled from the other room. "That's just WRONG!!!"

"What is he complaining about? It's not like I'm discussing what your fathers did when they had a 'boys' night out', now is it? Just because they were bow-legged when they came home...."

"MOMMMMM!!!!!" Cory groaned, joined by over half of the kids in the other room, thanks to Ty deciding to share his pain.

Teri chuckled. "Paybacks are a bitch, ain't they, kiddo?" She gave Cory a hug, then added "You didn't come in here about Kyle. I know you too well. What do you really want to talk about, son?"

Cory grinned. "You caught me!" His face then got more serious. "I guess I kinda need some advice. After learning all about Tesnian culture from an actual Tesnian, I'm starting to think that maybe I AM too young to be a dad; it seems like I'm not spending enough time with my kids. It's like I'm abusing them by not being there for them."

Teri nodded understandingly. "You're seeing a problem that I can see becoming an issue in the future. You spend about the same time with your kids as an average parent, Cory. You just spread it out over the whole day. If you keep trying to know about everything, you'll get to the point that you're worried about, but you are not there yet." She paused, then continued once she thought he had absorbed her words. "You have a few sons who need more contact than others; and you're really good at being there for them when they need you. You might just now be saying that you want more time with them, but we can all see that you want more time with them. The kids see it too; and they love you for that."

Cory shrugged. "Wanting it is not good enough, Mom."

Teri nodded. "I'll help try to get you more time. Adults have that issue too, but between me and Spock we can help get the priorities set in a better light for everyone. Just knowing that you are watching seems to make a difference for the Clan that has sprung up; I think there are ways to make this all work out so that you can give the proper attention to both families."

"I guess that'll work, Mom. I just don't want my sons thinking I care about everyone else more than them," Cory replied softly.

"Don't worry, Cory; I'll step in long before that can happen. Grandmas have even better ears than Moms do."

"I'd better warn them about that!" Cory giggled. "It was bad enough the stuff you heard Sean and I doin'!"

"I'm just waiting for the first time that you complain to me about one of your kids keeping you up all night with their antics in the bedroom; that is when justice will be served." Teri responded with a chuckle as Cory turned deep red.

Once Cory recovered, he looked up to see a big smile on Teri's face. "What?" he giggled.

"I'm just thinking about how much you have learned in the last few months," Teri replied. "I can see where you're taking the Vulcan training you've had, and adapted it to solving your own personal problems without excluding emotions. You are learning to balance adult responsibilities with keeping your youth; I'm really proud of you, Cory."

"Thanks, Mom!" Cory replied with a smile. "I think I kinda understand a little better now."

As Cory stood up, Teri commented, "The most intelligent thing to do when you are unsure is to ask questions. You'll never go wrong if you follow that rule."

"I'll remember that!" Cory replied. "Thanks again, Mom; I better go check Sean's tonsils though; it's been almost an hour."

"You're welcome, son. I still wonder about that though. Sean had his tonsils removed when he was five, so just what is it that you're checking?"

"Ummmm... I dunno...." Cory replied as he quickly made his way back to the Rec Room. As he reached the door, however, he turned back with a quirky grin  "Making sure they haven't grown back, Mom!" he said as he ducked out the door.

As the adults all decided to retire to the living room to recover from the kids, Cory began flipping through the movies. "How's about 'George of the Jungle'?" he asked.

"Suuure, pick the one with a Lion as a bad guy! See if YOU get any grooming tonight!" Mont replied before breaking out in giggles. "Go for it, Cory. It's good, even though they got the lion ALLLLL wrong!"

"What do you expect, he's not exactly the 'mane' character!" Sean quipped, which resulted in a bunch of groans and airborne pillows in his general direction.

"Now we know why you two are always kissing; you're trying to prevent bad puns!" JJ  giggled.

Cory just nodded with a grin, which caused Sean to send some of his excess pillows in his husband's general direction, while the rest were thrown quite accurately at JJ.

"Kewl!" Tyler exclaimed as he tapped his commbadge. "Hey, Draco, we need more pillows!"

'Your wish is my command, Queen Tyler,' the Vulcan AI giggled as the room filled to capacity with pillows. As in, floor to ceiling, and wall to wall. The guys were buried. 'Oops! Too many? How about this?' Draco laughed as he removed all of the pillows, bar those covering the floor.

"I'll get you later for that 'queen' comment, pico-chip!" Tyler giggled before grabbing a pillow off of the floor with each hand. "PILLOW FIGHT!" he yelled.

Within seconds, most of the kids had at least one pillow in their hands. Fife watched for a few seconds, then once he realized that the purpose was to have fun hitting each other with pillows, he quickly grabbed two of his own and jumped right in. Casey and Tina took care of the low shots, while the older kids handled higher shots. Without it being announced, everyone tailored their strikes to the person they were aiming for, with the little ones getting light taps, and the cats getting pillow-shredding strikes. Amid the chaos, the kids all were laughing and giggling loud enough to be heard throughout the house.

A few minutes after they started, Bruce stuck his head in the doorway to see what the commotion was. One look at the pillow-stuffing-filled room and the still-playing kids made him think twice and he quickly retreated to safety.

Once almost three-quarters of the pillows were destroyed, the kids settled down in the now-destroyed rec room, their excess energy now temporarily burned off. Cory retrieved the movie and once it started, everyone cuddled into groups to watch the show.

Later that evening:

Teri and Bruce decided to look in on the boys one last time before heading upstairs to check on Mikey and Candy. Teri had to work hard at restraining a chuckle as she looked into the dimmed Rec Room. Every surface of the room was covered with the stuffing from almost a hundred pillows; the pillows that had survived had been gathered into the center of the room and had become the base for the obligatory 'nest' of kids.

Bruce shook his head in wonder. "Just how can such a small group of kids create such a big mess?"

Teri smiled. "I don't know, but it's wonderful seeing them just be kids finally."

"What about the mess they made?" Bruce asked, confused about Teri's reaction.

"If it takes making a mess for my boys to experience some normal kid time, they can make any mess they want to," Teri replied seriously. "Thanks to some very bigoted people, they have been denied their childhood because they chose to protect other kids. They need fun time, and I'm going to personally strangle anyone who tries to stop them from getting it when they can."

"Aunt Teri means it, too!" a young voice giggled from behind them.

Teri and Bruce turned their heads, and saw Davie slowly appear behind them. "What brings you here, Davie?" Teri asked with a grin.

"Mandate," Davie replied cryptically. "Besides, there ain't no way I was gonna miss out on a First-Class pillow fight! Mom never let me and Booger-Breath have one that good!"

"I'll have to talk to Mary about rectifying that," Teri laughed. "You are both overdue. Now what is this about a Mandate?"

Davie grinned mischievously as he let his wings become visible. "You'll see! In fact you gotta see it; that's why I had to wait for you to check on Cor and Sean like you always do. I don't know what was funnier while I was waiting: the movie, or Mont and Bast wanting to take out the lion in the movie for being such a dick!"

"I didn't think angels talked like that!" Bruce exclaimed at Davie's last comment.

"You should hear Pablito!" Davie giggled. "He makes Saint Peter blush!"

A voice from the ceiling corrected the grinning angel. "No, David. YOU make me blush. Pablito makes YOU blush, and gives ME a heart attack! I am just glad I am already AT the pearly gates!" After a pause, the voice added, "And I was a sailor back when I was a fisherman, too!"

Davie giggled as he let his halo show above his head. "I ain't THAT bad!"

"Just because you have a halo doesn't mean you're innocent," Teri laughed as Bruce shook his head.

"I get no respect!" Davie deadpanned. He made his way around the adults and moved into the Rec Room. He spread his wings wide, and a golden glow filled the room as he announced "Okay, here we go! Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Cats and Tesnians; its SHOWTIME!"

Surprisingly, the kids in the room stayed asleep. As the adults watched with interest, the glow seemed to pulse with a life of its own. "My Mikyvis brothers, it is time for that which has been in your thoughts to become reality," Davie announced formally. "The One has spoken; it is now the time of the Seal. By Mandate of the Ultimate Power, that which would destroy upon contact is herby nullified in its effect within this room and those areas which He has declared are needed. That which must be shielded shall be free to perform His Mandate. As I have Spoken, so shall It be done."

As Davie finished, a purple glow began to form around Kyle and Tyler. Unlike any other time, this glow expanded to engulf the entire Nest; after a few seconds, it separated from the group, with the exception of a few tendrils of energy. Each tendril led to a specific person; there was one each for Cory, Sean, Kyle, JJ, Adam, Tyler, Kai, Robin, and Fife. There were other tendrils which seemed to leave the room, their destination unknown.

The ball of energy started to take form, and Davie once again began speaking. "Seal of the Nexus, you are granted the best of those that you have been guided to touch. It is now the Time for you to assume the task of Protectorate of the Nexus. As He has created the Mikyvis to enable the continuity of the Nexus, so has He declared that you shall now be the Mikyvis Protector of His Nexus. If you accept that which He had tasked you with, show thyself and be Named."

The tendrils withdrew into the ball of energy, then it began to swirl with a rainbow of colors. As it floated in the center of the room, each of the other occupants of the room awoke, already knowing what they were witnessing thanks to Davie. They all watched in wonder, even Kyle and Tyler not really knowing just what would happen next. The ball turned into the general shape of a human, then began to take on features. First was the general skin tones, approximating the natural tan of Kai. Next came hair, which was a rainbow mix of the hair of each person touched, but in the natural scalp hair pattern of a Tesnian. Finally came the features, which somehow showed elements of each of the Nexus without singling out a particular one. As the body settled into it's chosen physical age of nine, it floated over to stand between Kyle and Tyler.

"Uncle Davie, I accept my Destiny. What name has the Book Of Life given me?" the naked boy asked.

Davie nodded. "Your acceptance has been noted. Kyle and Ty, I present to you your son, Ezra Richardson Short." He then giggled as he added, "You may now hug the birthday boy."

As the glow faded from the room, Kyle and Ty jumped up and gave their newest son a hug. Within seconds, they were joined by the rest of the kids in the room, each expressing their wonder at being witnesses to his birth as they welcomed him.

Once he had been welcomed by everyone, Ezra made his way to Teri. "Grandma Teri, Daddy says I need Grandma cuddles. Poppa says that all the kids get special Grandma meals when they're born; is it too late for me to get one?"

Teri smiled as she picked up Ezra. "I think I can come up with something for our latest miracle," she responded as she and Bruce turned to head to the kitchen.

As she was leaving, Davie joined the rest of the group in the Rec Room. Kyle got to him first, curiosity clearly showing on his face. "Okay, Angel Boy, what gives? Is he a Mikyvis, or something else?"

Davie motioned for everyone to take a seat around him in a circle, then began to explain. "Ezra is a Mikyvis just like the rest of your sons, Kyle and Tyler. Just like all of your kids, he has a purpose in the Universe that is unique to him. While Levi has a purpose that is far-reaching, Ezra has only one purpose; maintain the stability of the Nexus. He is linked to those that the Father has declared key to the continuation of the Nexus; otherwise he is just like any of the rest of you."

"You mean he even watches over his parents?" Cory asked.

"Yep; and he's got the knowledge of a few people in the room to help him." Davie grinned. "Plus a few skills that are unique to him among the Mikyvis. One he picked out himself was the desire to totally fit in with the Clan family, so he's probably going to act less like a Mikyvis than any of his brothers do right now. I think I'm going to enjoy watching this play out!"

Sean smiled. "I get it; you're gonna make us wait to see just what he decided to be. You've been taking lessons from Mikey, ain't you?"

Davie just laughed, then faded from view. "It is not my place to spoil the fun of learning!" his voice announced as he faded away.

Upstairs, Two hours later:

"Mike," Candy whispered softly. The room was dark except for a simple night light by the bed.

At the foot of the bed, a Vulcan physician stood with a tricorder running. Other than the odd beep from the device, there was no other sound from the dark, quiet house.

Mikey moved closer and sat at the side of her bed. "I'm here, love," he murmured as he reached and took her hand. "I'm here."

"I don't have long, do I?" she said, more of a statement than a question. "You're an angel. You'd know."

Mikey was about to shake his head and deny the obvious, in a very human gesture, but he felt a touch upon his spirit. Instead, he whispered, "No. Not long now, my love."

There was a moment's pause.

"Does it hurt?" she asked. "Dying, I mean?"

Mikey couldn't help but smile. It was the oldest question there was. "No. It's like taking off your shoes after a long, hard day. You've already been through the worst, now, Candy. Taking this next step is just... just that, really. We all take this road, and Our Father made it very easy."

Candy smiled weakly, before turning her head away from her dead boyfriend and looking over at the open doorway and into the hall. Mikey hadn't missed the fear that was still in her eyes. "I'm scared, Mikey," she trembled, her voice just noticeably weaker than before. "So scared."

The Saint gripped her hand tighter and was about to reassure her when a shadow filled the darkened doorway.


Her free hand shaking with the strain of simply lifting it off the bed, Candy raised it towards Mikey's mother, and the look in her eye made Teri rush over to grasp that hand. "I'm here as well, sweetheart," Teri whispered softly as she sat  down on the side of the bed and reached with her other hand to stroke Candy's hair.

"Couldn't sleep, Mom?" Mikey asked softly as tears trickled from his eyes.

"No," she answered as she continued to look down into Candy's fear-filled eyes. "I just lay there. Then I just... had a feeling that I should be here."

"Thanks," Mikey managed before just continuing to hold his girlfriend's hand.

Smiling gently, Teri brushed her hand along Candy's cheek, "Don't be scared, daughter. There's nothing to be scared about."

Sniffing weakly, Candy whispered, "But what if I'm not good enough? What if I don't measure up? I don't want to... to..."

"You won't," Mikey said with assurance.

"I don't think it works that way," Teri said simply as she shook her head.

"It doesn't," Davie whispered as he shimmered in next to Teri.

The Vulcan man raised an eyebrow, and then decided to go and sit down to watch what was going on. There was nothing more that he could do in this situation in any case.

Davie reached out and laid a hand on Candy's forehead as he looked at her shocked face. "Yeah, I'm an angel too. And if Pablito can get into heaven... well, anyone can."

"Hey!" came the protest from a smaller boy who shimmered in next to Mikey.

"It's true, though," Davie said with a gentle smile.

Candy chuckled, but a coughing fit tore through her frail form as she gasped for breath. Once she was able to speak, after a sip of water that Teri offered to her, she managed to ask, "So it doesn't matter that I've not lived a good life like those preachers say?"

Mikey shook his head slowly. "I always told you that your pastor was speaking a bunch of shi... crap. Sorry, Mom," he winced as he managed to stop himself from swearing. He continued quickly, not looking at Teri as he did so - just in case, "All it takes is love, Candy. You've always been good to other people, and you've helped everyone you could, just because you wanted to. That is what is important. You remember coming to church with me, just before I died? You enjoyed it, right?"

"Yeah," she nodded, then she managed a grin, "you were a bad boy, my parents said. You didn't go often enough... but yeah, I liked your church when we went, but my pastor told me off for going. I wish I'd continued to go there... even... even after you..."

Mikey smiled. "My brother found a better one after I died," he said. "My pastor was great, but Pastor Mills is amazing. It don't matter, Candy. God understands."

Teri leaned forward and kissed the girl's cheek, "Don't worry now, love. God doesn't mind. I agree with Mikey and the others; love is what's important."

There was silence in the room for a long while after that. They all just stood or sat there, keeping the dying girl company and making her feel calm just by their very presence.


Teri smiled at Candy - it was a large step for her to call her that. "Yes, sweetheart?"

"Remember that song you sang that one time I came with Mikey? In Church? You got up and sang a solo..."

"I remember," Teri nodded.

"Can you sing it again, please? I don't remember the words, but... please?" Candy almost begged, her voice so quiet now that it was all Teri could do to understand what she was saying.

The woman simply nodded and started singing softly:

"Wonderful, merciful Savior,
Precious Redeemer and Friend.
Who would have thought that a Lamb
Could rescue the souls of men?
Oh you rescue the souls of men.
"Counselor, Comforter, Keeper,
Spirit we long to embrace.
You offer hope when our hearts have
Hopelessly lost the way.
Oh, we hopelessly lost the way.
"You are the One that we praise,
You are the One we adore,
You give the healing and grace,
Our hearts always hunger for.
Oh, our hearts always hunger for.
"Almighty, infinite Father,
Faithfully loving Your own.
Here in our weakness You find us
Falling before Your throne.
Oh, we're falling before Your throne.
"You are the One that we praise,
You are the One we adore,
You give the healing and grace,
Our hearts always hunger for.
Oh, our hearts always hunger for.

('Wonderful, Merciful Savior' by Selah)

By the time Teri finished singing, tears were trickling down Candy's cheeks. Her hands were also loosing their grip on both Mikey's and Teri's, so Teri knew that the time was close.

"You'll look after our son, won't you?" Candy whispered.

"Always," answered Teri. "Forever and always."

Candy added as her strength started to leave her body for good, "You'll tell him about us?"

"All the time, dear child," Teri wept as she started to see the light die in the poor girl's eyes. "He will know his mom and dad, I promise."

Candy's lips moved in another question, but she no longer had the energy or breath to voice it. Instead of trying again, she just seemed to wilt and close her eyes, as if breathing was all she could truly concentrate on, now.

"With all my powers," Mikey sniffed where he sat, "I can do nothing. I wish... wish you could have a full life with our boy, Candy... I really wish..."

"Don't, Mike," Teri wept, "don't. Don't make yourself feel like that."

Mikey looked up at his mother, an answer to her statement forming on his lips, but then his eyes started from his face and he turned to the foot of the bed. So too did the eyes of Pablito and Davie. Respect was writ clear on all their faces; respect and awe. Teri looked but saw nothing; however, a feeling of peace did fill the room to overflowing.

Candy opened her eyes and just looked, and looked... and looked. A smile spread itself over her face as the room started to grow brighter and brighter around her.

This, Teri saw. The wings on the three angels were unfurled and reflecting the light back and forth as it increased, and the feeling of peace grew with each second.

Fear not...

Candy shook her head. She could not imagine being afraid ever again.

... for I have redeemed you.

Teri closed her eyes and gripped onto Candy's hand tightly yet gently.

I have called you by your name...

Candy's hand removed itself from Teri's, and the girl seemed to reach out towards someone that, still, Teri could not see - but she could guess as to who.

You are mine. Come, Candy - it is time for you to come home...

The light faded and was gone. The three angels were also gone. Only the bedside night light remained to give its feeble light to the room. Teri stood up and gently arranged the girl's body into a dignified repose, then reached to close the joy-filled, yet very dead, eyes. Then she turned to look at the Vulcan physician, "You know what to do."

The Vulcan man simply nodded. If he had been surprised by the turn of events, he didn't show it.

Teri slowly walked from the room and back to her own. Into her bed she crept, intent on crying herself to sleep - but another thing happened. She opened her eyes to find herself in the Dream Realms, and her Vulcan son was before her...

Candy, however, felt more awake than she'd ever felt.

With Mikey holding one hand, and a Man holding her other, she was ushered through some rather large and impressive looking gates into the most beautiful place she had ever seen.

"Welcome home, my daughter," the Man said simply as she looked around. "Welcome home..."

To be Continued...

Editor's Notes:

Wow, one comes into the world and another leaves it.  What on earth is going on?  What has ACFan got in store for us now?  Seems like we have a few boys growing up a little bit, and Cory and Sean are going to get some managerial help or lessons too.  Just what is going on with Ezra?  To many questions for me to even wrap my head around.  We need ACFan to get back to writing and not leave us hanging here very long.  As they say "inquiring minds want to know."

Your friendly neighborhood editing pup!