"Hey Lehman, me and Dylan want to go and do some stuff." Thomas said quickly.
"Would you mind waiting for a minute for Jordy to get back so we can go with you?" Lehman asked cautiously.
Thomas looked conflicted, then hesitantly asked, "Why do you need to go with me?"
"I just promised Vincent that I'd watch out for you." Lehman explained quickly.
"I didn't know that I was going to have a babysitter." Thomas said darkly.
Dylan had been watching Thomas at a distance. When he could see that Thomas was becoming upset, he hurried to Thomas' side and asked, "Is something wrong?"
"Lehman says that he needs to follow me around and watch everything I do because I'm new here." Thomas said irritably. "And since he's only been here one day longer than I have it seems unfair."
"You don't have to worry about us, Lehman. You can call me telepathically whenever you want. That way you and Jordy can go and do stuff by yourselves and you'll know that Thomas will be fine." Dylan said assuringly.
"But I can't call you, I'm only a touch telepath." Lehman said hesitantly.
Dylan shook his head as he said, "Don't worry about that. I'm a Mikyvis."
"That means he's a telepath-plus." Thomas interjected helpfully.
Dylan smiled as he pulled Thomas into a one armed hug, then quietly said, "Just call to me and I'll hear you."
Lehman looked uncertainly at the younger looking boy.
"Besides, wouldn't you like to spend some time with Jordy?" Dylan asked frankly.
Lehman reluctantly smiled and gave a timid nod.
//Enjoy some time with Jordy.// Dylan sent happily as he guided Thomas to walk away. //Just think at me if you need anything at all.//
Vincent, Dylan Chang and Jason K were all giggling as they finally made their way outside through the crush of people.
"Dylan! Dylan!" A voice called anxiously as soon as they were away from the door.
Due to his smaller size, Vincent couldn't see who was calling, but it was obvious that Dylan could because he started working his way through people with a definite purpose.
"We need you to come quick! It's one of the new guys, we think he's in trouble." One of the boys said desperately.
"Hold on, Kole. What kind of trouble?" Dylan asked seriously; all traces of his lighthearted mood from a moment before were immediately banished.
The second boy made a series of quick hand gestures as Kole watched.
"Ryvan thinks that Geoff got a little bit freaked by the empathic thing that happened during the ceremony. He kind of ducked out when it was all over and Ryvan saw him heading toward the driveway." Kole said seriously.
"Get the rest of the guys from your cabin and meet me in front of the house." Dylan said seriously.
"Do you need for me to help?" Vincent asked immediately.
"No. I don't think this is as big a deal as it sounds. We can handle it." Dylan said thoughtfully.
"Let me know if there's anything I can do." Vincent said seriously.
"Yeah. I promise." Dylan said warmly, which told Vincent more strongly than words that Dylan was sincere.
"Wow. Look at all these people. I don't know if we'll be able to find Deacon." Thomas said as they emerged from the hall.
"He's over there." Dylan said casually as he pointed to the left.
Thomas looked at Dylan curiously, then hesitantly asked, "Do you know that because you're a Mikyvis?"
"Yeah. I can kind of see where everyone is with my telepathy." Dylan said gently as they continued to walk. "It's not a big deal, but if you want me to explain it more, I can."
"Maybe later." Thomas said with a casual smile. "I just thought it was kinda cool that you can look at a group of this many people and be able to know where someone is."
"Yeah. I guess it is cool." Dylan said with a warm smile directed at Thomas.
"Hey, hold up! I know that guy!" Thomas said as he pointed.
"Which guy?" Dylan asked curiously.
"That's Daniel Wiggins! His Dad is Lawrence's commanding officer." Thomas said with excitement.
"I'm sorry, Thomas, but that guy's name is Dixon." Dylan said reluctantly. "You know how you and Vincent are the same person in two different worlds, I think Dixon is probably the same person in this world as the one you remember from your own."
"Oh." Thomas said thoughtfully.
"We can still go and talk to him if you want to. If he was your friend there, he might be your friend here too." Dylan said gently.
"Well, we weren't really friends... I just knew him." Thomas said quietly. "Him and his family were in a different CD from us."
"A different what?" Dylan asked curiously, somehow both annoyed and enjoying the fact that he didn't already know the answer.
"Civil defense group." Thomas answered seriously. "The people in our neighborhood were all part of a civil defense group so we could work together and help each other."
"Help each other how?" Dylan asked curiously.
"Lots of stuff. One mom would babysit so other moms could work. Or they'd check on the old people who live in the neighborhood and do stuff for them when they needed it. Some of us kids would mow their lawns or help them in their gardens... you know, stuff like that." Thomas said casually.
"That sounds really nice." Dylan said gently.
"I guess so. That's just the way it's always been." Thomas said simply. "Each CD group takes care of their own people so no one ever has to go without stuff or be alone when things are tough."
"Can I help you?" Dixon asked cautiously. "I noticed you watching me."
"No. I'm sorry, Thomas just thought he knew you from somewhere." Dylan said frankly.
"Yeah. You look like someone I know from, um... where I'm from." Thomas said uncomfortably.
"I don't think I've ever been told I look like anybody else before," Dixon said with a slight blush. "I hope he was a nice guy."
"Well, yeah. I guess so. His name is... was Daniel Wiggins. I didn't know him that well, but he was always nice to me." Thomas said haltingly.
Dixon looked at the boy standing beside him with wide eyes.
He turned back to Thomas and asked, "Do you mind if I ask where you are from?" He gulped and added, "My name was supposed to be Daniel Wiggins, except I was kidnapped when I was just a baby."
"You'd probably think I was crazy if I told you." Thomas said, then looked at Dylan, hoping that he would help.
"Thomas, just about anyone who is here today would believe you." Dylan said frankly.
Thomas nodded, then looked at Dixon and said, "I'm from another Earth... What do they call it again?"
"An alternate dimension." Dylan said with a gentle smile at Thomas.
"There really are alternate dimensions?" the other boy with Dixon said with a gasp. He and Dixon shared another look.
"I know there's at least one alternate dimension. Because that's where I'm from." Thomas said frankly.
Dylan turned to Dixon and his friend and nodded his agreement to Thomas' statement.
"I think we need to talk to someone about those dreams soon," Dixon mumbled.
"Thomas and I are doing something right now, but I'll talk to you later." Dylan said with a smile at Dixon and his friend.
"Ok," Dixon said. "I think Jesse and I are going to go find Jason and Phillip again. It was nice meeting you, Thomas. We'll see you later, or earlier, or whatever," he added with a grin at Dylan.
Dylan chuckled and waived goodbye to the pair as they left.
"Deacon is right over there." Dylan said as he pointed.
Thomas glanced at Deacon, then looked back at Dylan thoughtfully.
"Do you still want for us to go look at him?" Dylan asked hesitantly.
"Can you do that growing thing again?" Thomas asked cautiously, then added, "I mean, if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to see what you'd look like at Deacon's age."
"Sure." Dylan said with a grin, then started to grow.
Thomas looked at Dylan carefully, then glanced back at Deacon again.
After a moment of thought, Thomas looked Dylan in the eyes and said, "I don't think I need to look at Deacon anymore."
"I thought Thomas and Dylan were going to be waiting with you." Jordy said as he approached.
"Thomas didn't want a babysitter." Lehman said shyly.
"I guess I can understand that." Jordy said frankly. "I mean, who does?"
"So, did you get things worked out with Seth?" Lehman asked curiously.
"Sort of." Jordy admitted shyly.
"How is that?" Lehman asked hesitantly.
"Well, I told Seth what I wanted to do and he said that with all this going on, it might take a few minutes to make the arrangements." Jordy said timidly. "As soon as he's taken care of everything, he's going to call me."
"Oh. I guess that works." Lehman said with a smile.
"Vincent?" A voice asked from behind Lehman.
"No, I'm Lehman." He said shyly as he turned. "Hi Grandma Mona."
"Hello, Lehman." Mona said as she automatically stepped forward to pull him into a hug.
"Do you know Jordy?" Lehman asked as he returned the hug.
"Yes and no." Mona said frankly, then turned to Jordy and said, "I've seen him a few times, but I don't think we've had the chance to talk." Mona said with a gentle smile.
"I feel like I know you already. Jake and Xain have told us all about you." Jordy said timidly.
"Come here, Jordy." Mona said warmly as she drew him into her hug with Lehman.
"And don't believe a word of what my grandsons have told you. I'm not nearly as bad an influence as they would have you believe." Mona said playfully.
"They only said nice things, I promise." Jordy said as he enjoyed being held so tenderly.
"But what are you boys doing inside on a beautiful day like this?" Mona said in a more serious tone. "I hear that they have food out there."
Lehman pulled out of the hug as he said, "We were just waiting on more people to get outside before we went. It was kinda crowded."
"But food sounds like a good idea. Would you like to eat with us?" Jordy asked hopefully.
"I don't think so. I haven't been feeling like myself recently and I doubt that food would be a good idea for me at the moment." Mona said regretfully.
"Are you sick?" Lehman asked with concern.
"No. I'm sure it's nothing." Mona said dismissively.
"If you're not feeling good, you should see a doctor." Jordy said immediately.
"There's no need to bother a doctor with something like this." Mona said frankly.
"Grandma Mona, please let us get a doctor to look at you. I don't want you to feel bad." Lehman said with a pleading expression.
"It always passes in a few hours. I'll be fine." Mona said gently, touched by his concern.
"Does that mean that this has happened before?" Lehman asked curiously.
"Just for the past week or so." Mona said frankly.
Lehman gave Jordy a significant look.
Jordy nodded once, then dashed away.
"You boys are making a big deal out of nothing." Mona said with exasperation. "It's nothing to worry about."
"Is that what you'd be telling me if I was feeling sick?" Lehman asked reasonably.
"That's different. You're too young to know which things need to be worried about and which things are just nature taking its course." Mona said quietly. "When you get to be my age, you'll understand."
//Dylan, I'm sorry to interrupt, but I think I'm going to need Thomas and Vincent's help.// Lehman thought carefully, hoping that Dylan would be able to hear him.
"What's wrong?" Dylan asked cautiously.
Thomas blinked, then looked at Dylan curiously.
"Something's bothering you. Can you talk about it?" Dylan asked gently.
"I don't know... I mean, I'm not sure." Thomas said distantly.
"What do you mean?" Dylan asked cautiously.
"Well, I don't know if you know this, but not too long ago, I was dying." Thomas said carefully.
"Levi told me a little bit about how you were when he first met you." Dylan admitted reluctantly.
Thomas nodded, then continued, "I was really sick. Some of my hair had fallen out and I lost a few of my teeth. My skin had these really gross sores and I was so weak that I could hardly move."
Dylan fought not to imagine how it must have been.
"Then I woke up and I was in a dream place and I wasn't sick anymore." Thomas said quietly. "That's where I met Vincent and he talked to Brakkii and they figured out how to take me from my world and to the dream realm."
"Levi told me about that part." Dylan whispered.
"Yeah. Levi healed me and I lived in the dream realm for a while, and now I'm here." Thomas said carefully.
"So what's bothering you?" Dylan asked carefully.
Thomas looked into Dylan's eyes for a moment, then reluctantly said, "What if, when I was back in my world, I died? How would I know that this... all of this, isn't a dream or the afterlife?"
"I guess since anything I could say or do could be part of your dream..." Dylan drifted off with a shrug. Then after a moment of thought, he hesitantly continued, "...I don't know what to tell you."
Thomas shared a pained look at Dylan which melted into a sympathetic smile.
Dylan got a distracted look on his face, then quietly said, "We need to find Vincent. Lehman needs our help."
"Well, Mona, what seems to be the problem?" Doctor Austin Michaels asked as he approached with Jordy at his side.
"My only problem is that these boys don't understand that old ladies sometimes have aches and pains." Mona said impatiently.
Doc Austin smiled, then quietly said, "I can sympathize with that, but I can also tell you from personal experience that the boys won't stop worrying until they know that you're going to be alright."
"Austin, I'm not going to waste your time with something as minor as a queasy stomach." Mona said frankly.
Before the words were out of her mouth, Vincent, Thomas and Dylan approached.
"What's up?" Vincent asked seriously.
"Grandma Mona is feeling sick and she won't let Doc Austin look at her." Lehman said firmly.
Vincent looked at Lehman on his left, then at Thomas on his right.
"Grandma Mona, we love you and we don't want you to be sick. Please let the doctor help you." Vincent asked in a begging tone and ended with puppy eyes.
Lehman caught on immediately and mimicked Vincent's expression.
Thomas looked at Lehman and Vincent, then up at Mona with wide, sad eyes that begged her to go along with them.
"Ouch! Triple whammy." Doc Austin chuckled as he watched the three identical boys urging Mona to allow him to help.
"Fine! Just... do it." Mona growled past clenched teeth.
Doc Austin grinned as he opened the portable medical scanner that he had taken to carrying with him.
"But you boys should know that this is something that happens to women my age." Mona groused. "Even though it's not always pleasant, it's just another cycle of nature and it's nothing to be worried about."
"Mona, that's not quite accurate." Doc Austin said carefully as he looked at the readings on his scanner.
"Austin, these boys need to understand that as you get older, your body changes." Mona said frankly.
"That's not what I was disagreeing with." Austin said cautiously.
"Does that mean that something is wrong?" Vincent asked quickly.
"No. Not wrong." Doc Austin said cautiously. "Mona, we should really go somewhere and talk privately about this."
All the boys exchanged concerned looks at the doctor's statement.
"Now you've done it, Austin. You've got these boys worried about something as simple as 'the change of life'." Mona said dramatically.
"First of all, 'the change of life' isn't simple. It can be traumatic and life altering for some women..." Doc Austin began but was interrupted.
"It's nature. It happens. I just have to deal with it." Mona said bluntly.
"Mona... You're not in menopause, you're pregnant." Doc Austin said frankly.
A long moment of silence hung in the air as everyone absorbed the statement.
"But... how?" Mona asked in a whisper.
Doc Austin gave her a decent version of the 'duh' look.
"I know how, but I mean, how? I've been to a dozen doctors that told me that it wasn't possible for me to get pregnant." Mona blurted out.
"Well, without any direct knowledge of your medical history, I can't do more than make an educated guess. But consider that your body goes through quite a few chemical and hormonal changes as you get older. I think it's reasonable to assume that whatever prevented you from conceiving might have resolved itself."
"How sure are you? I mean, you could be wrong." Mona asked hesitantly.
"Completely sure." Doc Austin said firmly. "I wouldn't have told you if there was even the slightest doubt."
"I was sure that me feeling sick was just menopause." Mona said absently.
"No, Mona, that's called morning sickness." Doc Austin said gently.
"But I don't always get it in the morning." Mona said quickly, like maybe that bit of information would change his diagnosis.
"That's just what they call it, Mona. It happens when it happens." Doc Austin said simply.
"If you're my Grandma Mona, does that mean that you've got my aunt or uncle in there?" Vincent asked with a big toothy grin.
Mona smiled at the question as she looked down at her abdomen, then quietly said, "No Vincent, I think that since you've claimed Joe as your father, that this will be your baby brother or sister."
"Daddy Joe is gonna freak." Lehman said with a joyful smile as he hugged Jordy at his side.
"I feel like we should be doing something." Thomas whispered to Dylan.
"I'm already on it." Dylan said with a glowing smile.
"Thomas, you already know Levi, and this is my brother Bryce." Dylan said as his brothers appeared in front of them.
"Wow. Hi." Thomas said with amazement.
"I like him." Bryce said immediately.
"Yeah. Me too." Dylan said happily as he hugged Thomas to his side, then said more seriously, "Here's what I was thinking..."
Thomas looked from Dylan to Bryce and Levi and could tell that the three were talking without talking.
"I'll do the freeze." Bryce said quickly.
"Then I'll do the rest." Levi said before vanishing.
"What's going on?" Thomas asked Dylan curiously.
"Bryce is setting up a little time freeze." Dylan said simply, waiting to see if Thomas needed for him to explain.
"So that means that we'll kinda have our own little piece of time that exists down in-between one second and the next?" Thomas asked cautiously.
"Yes. And I couldn't have explained it better than that." Dylan said as he hugged Thomas again.
"What are you guys up to?" Doc Austin asked cautiously.
"Good stuff. I promise." Dylan said with a big smile.
Levi appeared a moment later with a stunned Starfleet Officer at his side.
"What? Where?" the officer sputtered and turned to see the people around him.
When Thomas saw the man's face, he froze in shock.
"What's wrong?" Dylan asked quietly.
"That's... That's Lawrence's father." Thomas whispered.
"Yeah. His name is Joe." Dylan said frankly.
Thomas blinked, then stared as Vincent and Lehman both ran to the man and gave him joyful hugs.
"Joe? *That's* Vincent's Daddy Joe?" Thomas asked in wonder.
"Yeah. What's the problem?" Dylan asked cautiously.
"All my life, I've been hearing about what a wonderful man and what a great hero Lawrence's father was. We always had a picture of him in our living room and we would all go and put flowers on his grave on Memorial day. He died saving lots of people's lives." Thomas said distantly. "Now, I actually get to see him."
"See him?" Dylan asked with a chuckle, "I bet if you get over there, you'd get to do more than that."
Thomas opened his mouth to say something, then snapped it shut and ran to join Vincent and Lehman.
Dylan shared a smile with his brothers as they watched the three identical boys trying to hug the stuffing out of Lieutenant Joe Bowers.
Joe chuckled at the hugs, then noticed that instead of two identical boys, there were three.
He looked up in confusion, hoping for an explanation, when he stopped and broke into a tender smile.
"Hi, Mona." Joe said happily.
"Hi, Joe." Mona said in return, warmed to the depths of her soul to see him surrounded by happy children and looking at her so lovingly.
Vincent urged Lehman and Thomas to let go of Joe so they could watch what was going to happen next.
"I'm really happy to see you, but I don't know what I'm doing here..." Joe trailed off hesitantly.
"We brought you here so you could talk to Grandma Mona." Levi said bashfully.
"Don't worry about anything. I froze time so that when you go back to the Yorktown it'll be the exact same second that you left." Bryce said seriously.
"It's nothing you need to worry about. Vincent can explain everything later if you really want to know." Dylan said frankly.
Joe looked away from the boys and his curious look melted into a loving gaze directed at Mona.
"I really wish you'd get a terminal, Mona. There have been so many nights that I've wanted to talk to you." Joe said distantly.
"For the next few days you can reach me at Allen's house. But after that, I'll have a terminal installed at home. I've wanted to talk to you too." Mona said warmly.
"That'll be great." Joe said with a wide smile, then added more quietly, "But I still don't know why I'm here."
"Joe, we're going to have a baby." Mona whispered cautiously, not sure of what his reaction was going to be.
"We..." Joe gasped as his eyes went wide, then he rushed forward to pull Mona into a joyful hug.
"Her baby is gonna be our little brother or sister." Vincent whispered to Thomas.
"Really?" Thomas asked in wonder.
Vincent nodded happily.
"Lawrence is gonna freak out." Lehman said with a chuckle.
"We'd better make sure that Deacon is close by when we tell him." Vincent said with agreement.
"We're going to have a baby." Joe whispered in awe.
"I guess this means that you're as happy as I am." Mona said gently.
"Oh Mona, I've always wanted to have more kids, I just never thought I'd have another chance. This is wonderful!" Joe said joyously.
"From the look of it, you've got quite a passel already." Mona said with a fond look at Vincent, Lehman and Thomas.
Joe followed her gaze, then curiously asked, "Weren't there two of you when you left the Yorktown?"
"We found another one on the way to Earth. This is my newest brother, Thomas." Vincent said with a giggle.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Sir." Thomas said formally.
"Thomas, if Vincent has claimed you as a brother, then you don't call me Sir, you call me Daddy Joe."
"Really?" Thomas asked in amazement.
"Ask Lehman, he'll explain how it works." Joe said simply, then turned back to Mona and gave her a gentle kiss.
"Lawrence should really be here for this." Vincent said frankly.
"I can do that." Bryce said immediately, then vanished.
"Tell him to bring Deacon." Vincent rushed to say.
"I told him." Dylan said with a grin.
"What happened?" Lawrence asked with confusion as he looked around.
"Do you remember yesterday when you asked me to trust you?" Vincent answered immediately.
Lawrence and Deacon both hesitantly nodded.
"It's your turn to trust me." Vincent said seriously. "This isn't anything bad. One of these Mikyvis guys just froze time for a few minutes and you need to be here."
"Hi, Daddy." Lawrence said happily to his father, then looked back to Vincent and asked, "What do I need to do?"
"Listen to your dad." Vincent said with a cheeky grin, then turned his attention to Joe.
Joe released Mona from their hug, then quietly said, "Come here, Lawrence."
After a moment of hesitation, Lawrence ran to his father's side.
"You too, Deacon, come over here." Joe said gently.
Deacon smiled and walked to Joe's other side.
Joe held a boy under each arm as he carefully said, "I don't know exactly the right way to tell you this, but... in about nine months you guys are going to have a new little brother or sister."
"Closer to eight months." Doc Austin said quietly.
Joe thought for a moment, then nodded and said, "Right, eight months."
Lawrence pulled out of the hug to look at his father for a moment, then looked at Mona with surprise.
"Grandma Mona?" Lawrence asked happily.
Deacon looked with confusion at Lawrence, then at Mona with realization.
Joe looked at Mona warmly, but a look of concern crept into his expression.
"What's wrong?" Mona asked hesitantly.
"Nothing." Joe said quickly, but Mona obviously wasn't going to accept the answer. "There's something that I've been wanting to ask you, but now that we know that you're pregnant... it's going to sound like I'm asking for the wrong reason."
"Lehman already blabbed about that. So Grandma Mona already knows that you were going to ask." Vincent chimed in helpfully.
Joe glanced at the boys and noticed Lehman's remorseful gaze directed at the ground in front of him as Jordy held him gently.
"Thank you, Lehman." Joe said quietly, then waited for him to look up before continuing, "You made doing this a lot easier."
Lehman smiled at Joe's sincere appreciation.
Joe turned to Mona and quietly asked, "Mona, will you marry me?"
"Yes." Mona said joyfully.
Joe moved in to kiss her as all the boys erupted into cheers.
"So when are you and Grandma Mona going to get married?" Lawrence asked happily.
"I think it's going to be strange for the baby if you keep calling Mona 'Grandma'." Joe said honestly.
Lawrence looked at his father for a moment, then slowly nodded.
"What do you say, Mona? Do you think it'd be alright if the boys started calling you Mom?" Joe asked quietly.
"It would be better than alright. It's something I've always wanted." Mona admitted shyly.
"And as far as the wedding date, I think that's something we can decide on together when we've had a chance to make some decisions." Joe said as he looked at Mona with question.
"I think that's a good idea." Mona said warmly, then quietly asked, "Is it going to cause any problem if I tell Allen and the boys the good news right away?"
"Problem?" Joe chuckled, then said, "Tell anyone... Tell EVERYONE!"
"I may just do that." Mona said with a grand smile.
"Are you ready to go back to the Yorktown now?" Levi asked as he approached Joe's side.
"No. But I need to go anyway." Joe said with a look of apology at Mona.
"Will you call me at Allen's house tonight?" Mona asked hopefully.
"Yes. Absolutely." Joe said, then moved in to give Mona a firm kiss.
When the kiss finally broke, Joe looked around the group and his gaze fixed on Thomas.
"I'm sorry I didn't get to spend more time with you. But I promise that when I get back to Earth, we'll go and do something as a family." Joe said to Thomas gently.
"Really? I'm really your family?" Thomas asked hopefully.
Joe smiled at the question, then gently said, "Yes. Just the same as Vincent and Lehman. They can explain how it works."
"Thank you." Thomas whispered in wonder.
Joe leaned down to give Thomas a quick kiss on the top of the head, then looked over at Levi with question.
Levi smiled and in an instant, they were gone.
The silence that had surrounded them seemed to burst like a soap bubble.
All of a sudden people were moving around them and talking as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
Mona looked at Lehman, Vincent and Thomas, all standing in a row.
"Thanks for getting involved and insisting." Mona said gently.
"We're just happy to see you happy." Lehman said with a smile, then quietly added, "Mom."
Mona pulled Lehman into a warm hug, then quickly said, "I need to find Allen and the boys."
"If you don't mind, I'll go with you." Doc Austin said quietly. "I'd like to give you something for that queasy stomach."
"That's probably a good idea. Besides, Allen might faint when I tell him." Mona said with a chuckle. "He can be such an old lady sometimes."
"Let's go tell Billy." Deacon said to Lawrence with excitement.
A chirp drew Vincent's attention and he saw Jordy take a communicator from his belt.
"This is Jordy." He said seriously.
Vincent couldn't hear what he was being told, but watched curiously, hoping that it wasn't something bad.
"Yeah, that sounds good. Thanks, Seth." Jordy said a moment later, then closed the communicator.
"If you guys still want to go shopping, everything's been taken care of." Jordy said as he looked around the group.
"We've got stuff to do." Bryce said seriously, then glanced at Dylan.
After a moment, Dylan distractedly turned to Thomas and said, "You need to go with your brothers and I need to go with mine."
"Will we see each other again soon?" Thomas asked hopefully.
"Sure. I'll be here when you get back." Dylan said warmly.
"Good." Thomas said with a smile, then looked at the others with question.
"First stop, the Clan clothes closet so you guys will fit in when we go to the mall." Jordy said as he gestured for everyone to follow.
Thomas looked back to find Dylan standing with his brothers, watching him.
Dylan raised his hand to give Thomas a small wave 'goodbye' and watched as Thomas returned the gesture.
"What did you need me to stay for?" Dylan asked Bryce curiously.
"I need to know how things are going with you and Thomas." Bryce said as soon as they were alone.
"Everything's great. Levi was right about him. He's wonderful and except for one thing, I know that we could be happy." Dylan said reluctantly.
"What one thing?" Bryce asked cautiously.
"He's got this idea that you and me and all of this is a dream." Dylan said regretfully.
"He thinks we don't exist?" Bryce asked with surprise.
"He was really sick and now he thinks that he might have died and that this is all some kind of afterlife or elaborate fantasy." Dylan said quietly.
"What can we do to convince him that this world is real?" Bryce asked simply.
"I don't know. I've never looked into his mind. I think that if I did it, I'd ruin everything between us." Dylan said hesitantly.
Bryce looked off in the direction that Thomas had left.
"You shouldn't look without his permission." Dylan warned.
"Yeah. Just like you shouldn't pull a kid out of oncoming traffic unless he asks you to." Bryce said distantly.
"It's not the same." Dylan said firmly.
"He's convincing himself that he doesn't exist. How much more serious do you need for it to be?" Bryce asked absently, then focused fully on his brothers and said, "I know something that we can do that might help him. But if we're going to do it, we'll need to do it right now and we're going to need help."
"What can we do?" Levi asked uncertainly.
"We're going to need dad and pop." Bryce said urgently. "Seriously, it may already be too late."
Levi and Bryce both looked at Dylan expectantly.
Finally Dylan said, "Let's hurry then."
"Go ahead and pick out whatever you want to wear." Jordy said as he led the trio of boys into the Clan's clothes closet.
"Is this a store?" Thomas asked as he looked around.
"No. We just keep some clothes handy in case someone needs them." Jordy said frankly. "We've ended up needing them more often than you'd expect."
"Do you guys want to go to the mall as triplets?" Vincent asked playfully.
At Thomas' curious look, Vincent continued, "Would you like for us to all wear the same thing?"
"I always like doing that." Lehman said with a grin. "It freaks people out."
"Yeah." Vincent said with a smile.
Lehman turned to Thomas and said, "It makes me feel like I'm really Vincent's brother when we dress the same."
Thomas considered, then broke into a smile as he quietly said, "Yeah. I'd like to do it."
"How about this?" Jordy asked as he picked up an olive green T-Shirt with the Clan Short crest on the right side of the chest.
"I like that." Thomas said immediately.
"It works for me." Vincent said with a smile at Thomas' enthusiasm.
"I can't even remember when I've had new clothes." Thomas said as he accepted the T-Shirt from Jordy. "All I've ever had was Lawrence's old clothes or stuff that was given to us by the neighbors."
"Was your family poor?" Lehman asked quietly.
Thomas seemed surprised by the question, and thought for a moment before answering, "No. I don't think we were poor. That's just the way people did things where I'm from. Everything was rationed, so you learned not to waste anything. The only time you bought new clothes was when there was no other choice."
"Well, all these clothes are new and they're yours to keep. So just pick out whatever you like. Underwear and socks are over there, pants are on the shelves on that wall and we even have baseball caps if you guys like those." Jordy said peacefully, then glanced tenderly at Lehman.
"I like these Soleen-Avalla robes, but I guess it'll be nice to have some regular clothes since we'll be around regular people." Vincent said as he made his selections.
"If any of you need shoes, come over here and I can measure your feet. You'd be surprised at how many of the new guys are wearing the wrong size of shoes because they've never worn shoes that fit right." Jordy said as he walked to the back of the room.
Lehman followed immediately behind Jordy and sat down in the chair opposite him.
"Take off your shoe, then put your foot here." Jordy said gently.
Jordy watched in surprise as Lehman's shoe seemed to melt away and transform into his foot.
"Thomas is wearing my shoes." Lehman explained quietly.
"Well, everyone gets their own shoes now." Jordy said with a tender smile at Lehman, then began to measure his foot.
After getting the measurements, Jordy went to the wall of shoe boxes and took down the correct size of shoes for Lehman.
"Socks are over there." Jordy said as he handed over the shoes.
"Thanks." Lehman whispered, then got up out of the chair.
"Who's next?" Jordy asked as he looked at Vincent and Thomas.
"Go ahead." Vincent encouraged.
Thomas took the seat, then hurried to take off his socks and shoes.
Jordy could tell that Thomas was excited about getting a pair of brand new shoes that were all his own.
"You guys can go ahead and get changed. Our ride should be waiting in the parking lot by the time you're ready." Jordy said with a tender smile at Lehman.
"Do you want to change too, Jordy?" Vincent asked casually as he sat down to remove his boots. "You can be an honorary brother."
"No. I think it'll be better if only you three are identical. I'll be there for contrast." Jordy said with a smile.
"Yeah. I guess you're right." Vincent said as he watched Jordy measuring his foot. "We might just look like a tour group or something if all of us were dressed the same."
"There's one more thing that I think you guys should know about before we leave." Jordy said seriously as he went to the wall to retrieve a pair of shoes for Vincent.
When he turned back, he could see the three identical boys looking at him expectantly.
"Oh, I guess that did sound kind of ominous." Jordy chuckled. "I just wanted you three to know that when we go shopping, Clan Short is paying for everything. It's all been arranged."
"But Lehman and I have our own money. You don't need to do that." Vincent said cautiously.
"Vincent, you're a son of Clan Short." Jordy said seriously. "And since you've claimed Lehman and Thomas as your brothers, they're sons of Clan Short, just as much as you are. So don't even think about arguing. The Clan wants to make sure that all three of you have the things you'll need."
"I guess that sort of makes sense." Vincent said as he laced up his new shoes.
"It doesn't sound that different from my home." Thomas said thoughtfully. "If my CD could have bought all of us new stuff, I know they would have done the same thing. They were kind of like our bigger family."
"Well, are we all ready to go?" Jordy asked as he looked at the group.
"Just a second." Vincent said as he gathered his Soleen-Avalla robes, then gestured for Thomas and Lehman to do the same.
"Manu? Can you transport our robes and stuff aboard?" Vincent asked hopefully.
"Certainly, Vincent." Manu replied gently.
There was a momentary burst of sparkles on the table, then their combined pile of clothing was gone.
"We're ready now." Vincent said as he turned to look at Jordy expectantly.
Jordy nodded and was about to leave when something caught his attention.
The sight of the three identical boys brought a smile to his face and he couldn't help saying, "You guys look great."
The trio exchanged looks with each other, then broke into three identical smiles.
"Dad! Pop! We need your help." Bryce said as soon as the trio had appeared.
"What do you need?" Kyle asked curiously.
"We need to hurry and go to Thomas' universe before it's gone." Bryce said urgently.
Kyle stared at his son for a moment, then quickly said, "It's going to be close, but I think we can do it."
"Not without me, you don't." A voice said from behind the family.
Everyone turned to watch the young ginger haired boy stroll into their midst.
"To do this successfully, you're going to need me to stabilize the time stream." the Doctor said seriously.
"Do you know what we're doing?" Dylan asked cautiously.
"Guys. We can either talk about it, or we can do it." the Doctor said frankly.
Kyle looked around the group, then a burst of power erupted as he moved them into the collapsing universe that Thomas was from.
The group found themselves in a fenced-in back yard.
The sounds of shrill sirens filled the air from all around them and people could be seen rushing around frantically, outside the fence.
Dylan looked around and a look of dawning comprehension filled his eyes.
"I need..." He began to say, then abruptly vanished.
Kyle looked around, hoping someone would explain what Dylan was doing, but they all seemed to be as puzzled as he was.
As Kyle was about to ask, Dylan reappeared with a relieved look in his eyes.
"Listen." The Doctor said, drawing everyone's attention. "No one do anything to manipulate time while we're here. It's going to take everything I have to keep this place stable long enough for you to do what you need to do."
"What do we need to do?" Dylan asked as he looked at Bryce anxiously.
"That's the bomb shelter where Thomas and his family are." Bryce said quickly. "The last thing Thomas did before they closed the door was to set Fluffy free... that's his pet. What we need to do now is to find Fluffy before this universe totally collapses. He's got to still be in this yard."
"And you'd better do it now." the Doctor said in a strained voice. "Right now!"
"That's it, guys! Let's find Fluffy!" Kyle commanded as he hurried toward the back fence.
It was obvious that everyone wanted to ask questions, but it was also obvious that they didn't have time so everyone spread out, searching for Thomas' pet.
"Fluffy! Here boy! Come on!" Kyle called desperately as he arrived at the back gate and found it securely closed.
"Guys, seriously, you'd better make it quick... we're talking seconds!" the Doctor called out as he looked anxiously at the sky.
"What are we looking for?" Dylan asked frantically as he ran to the bushes lining the fence at the right side of the property.
"I don't know, but if you find something fluffy, grab it and we'll sort it out later." Levi said as he searched through the creeping vines around the outside of the bomb shelter's entrance, then said in a gentle voice, "Come on, Fluffy. We're not going to hurt you. Let us help you."
A rocket streaked above them as the Doctor watched with worry.
Bryce was in the garden, crawling between the rows and looking under the broad leaves of squash and cucumber plants.
"Hurry!" the Doctor urged in a scream.
Tyler was at the back of the Winters' home, looking through the various herbs that were growing there as he called out, "Fluffy! Come on, don't be afraid. We're going to take you someplace safe."
"Dammit!" The Doctor said in a gasp. "Kyle, get them out of here, it's going!"
With a flex of his power, Kyle gathered his family and twisted them out of the collapsing universe just as the light of a nuclear explosion could be seen in the distance.
"Is everyone alright?" Kyle asked as he looked carefully at his family.
Bryce stood and brushed the dirt off his pants as he nodded.
"I think we're all fine, but did anyone find Fluffy?" Levi asked cautiously as he also stood.
"All I found was this." Tyler said as he held out what looked like a small leather ball, slightly larger than a baseball.
"What is it?" Levi asked curiously, then smiled with delight when he saw it uncurl and a tiny pair of eyes look around curiously.
"It's an armadillo! Isn't that cute!" Levi said happily, then added, "Timmy's going to love him."
"Yeah. But I have a feeling that we weren't looking for an armadillo." Tyler said regretfully.
"Well, this is kinda fluffy... but not very friendly." Dylan said as he held up a squirming gray squirrel. "She keeps trying to bite and scratch me."
"I think that's because she's wild, she's not a pet." Kyle said with regret to his son.
"Who would have thought that it would be so hard to find one little turtle." Bryce said despondently.
"Hold on. We were looking for a turtle? I thought Fluffy was a dog." Kyle said cautiously.
"I was looking for a cat." Tyler said frankly.
"Actually, I thought we were looking for a pet rabbit." Dylan admitted shyly.
"You said turtle, right?" Levi asked hesitantly.
"Yeah. A little one, about this big." Bryce said as he held his index fingers about three inches apart.
"Like this?" Levi asked as he pulled a small turtle out of his pocket.
"That's him!" Bryce said with delight. "That's Fluffy!"
A sound of giggles drew everyone's attention.
"What's so funny?" Kyle asked curiously.
"Think about it. Five Mikyvis and a Time Lord were nearly caught in a collapsing universe because of a little turtle named Fluffy." The Doctor fought to say past his chuckles.
"He doesn't look very fluffy to me." Kyle muttered as he looked at the turtle in Levi's hand.
"Guys, bring all the animals over here for a second. I need to associate them with this universe or they might vanish when the collapse is complete." The Doctor said gently.
Levi was first in line and held Fluffy out so The Doctor could manipulate his quantum resonance frequency.
"There you go. Fluffy is all sorted." The Doctor said happily.
Levi walked to Dylan and offered Fluffy with one hand as he accepted the squirming gray squirrel with the other.
"What should I do now?" Dylan asked as he looked at the turtle.
"Maybe while Thomas is away, you'd have time to make a nice home for Fluffy." Tyler suggested gently.
Dylan considered for a moment, then smiled happily at his pop.
"It probably wouldn't hurt if you made a nice home for Thomas, too." Kyle added thoughtfully.
Dylan looked at his father with surprise.
"I think he might be more likely to want to stay if he knew not only that he was wanted, but that he had a place that was all his own." Kyle explained gently.
"Yeah. I guess he would." Dylan said slowly.
"We could all help." Bryce said happily. "It'd be fun."
"But first I want to take these guys to meet Timmy. I know he's going to love them." Levi said as he indicated the baby armadillo and the gray squirrel.
"We're going to get back to the party. You boys call if you need us." Tyler said with a loving smile.
"We will." Bryce said quickly.
"We love you." Levi said with a gentle smile at his fathers, then vanished in a glow of lavender light with his brothers.