Cory and Sean followed the group out of the meeting room into a completely empty CIC. "Where's everyone at?" he asked aloud.
<They are in the Recreation Room, Crafter. I shall ensure any important communications are routed properly.> Ark's voice responded from its console.
"Thanks, Ark," Cory replied as Sean guided him to the Rec Room, everyone else following behind. They opened the door, entered the room, and froze at the sight in front of them. Off to their left in the Dining room, Helen, Tyler, Tommy, and Kelly were busy ensuring the massive layout of food and drinks was continuously replenished. Cory watched with pride as he saw CD and Calen rush to join Austin and Brandon in delivering food and drinks to some of the obviously still bedfast guests in the compound. Cory then took a closer look at the room. In the center of the room was a huge 'nest', filled with not only Clan members, but also kids whom he had never seen before. Along the longest wall, beds were arranged for the adults and those who were in no condition to join the main group on the floor; in some cases, two or three beds were pushed together to form one so that entire families could be together. From one of those triple beds a familiar face looked up and saw Cory and Sean. He said something really quick to the rest of the bed's occupants, then hopped up and rushed over to Cory.
"Do you want to come over and sit with us?" Sammy asked, as he came to a stop. "I want you to meet my Dad."
Cory smiled as he realized that Sammy seemed to be under a lot less stress now. "I'd like that, Sammy." He turned to Sean, "Babe, after I've sat down with them, could you find Timmy and Paul?"
"They're already over there; they've been staying near Matty." Sammy said with a grin. "C'mon!"
Cory and Sean followed Sammy over to the triple bed that he came from.
"Guys this is my family. You all already know Matty but I wanna introduce ya to the rest of them," Sammy said as he started the introductions. "That's Brian, Peter, Yuri, Chris, Derek, Kevin, Randy, Danny, Nikolai, and Alexei. The grown ups are Samantha and Uncle Eric and this is my dad, Mike."
Cory and Sean nodded at each as they were pointed out.
Sammy got a huge grin on his face as he announced to his family, "Everyone, this is Cory Short, Patriarch of Clan Short of Vulcan, and his partner Sean Short, Clan Short Historian."
Mike's mouth dropped open as he shot Sammy a questioning look that made Sammy giggle.
"You shoulda let me die," Mike muttered barely loud enough to hear.
Sean pulled Cory in tight to his side; the only thing that kept him from reading the riot act to Mike was the smiles and muffled giggles from the rest of the kids on the bed.
Sammy saw Cory and Sean's responses on their faces and quickly said, "Umm, he's just joking."
"No, I'm not," Mike deadpanned, causing the giggles to increase.
"Daaaaaaad!" Sammy replied, obviously not wanting to see Cory hurt emotionally any more.
"You fowgot Wusty," Matty interjected with an indignant look on his face while holding out the puppy.
"I'm sorry, Matty," Sammy quickly told him.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, and thank you for saving my family," Mike said as he gave up on the topic.
"It's nice to meet all of you too," Cory said before turning his head to Sean. "I need to sit down, babe."
Sean nodded, and formed his reply as he helped Cory sit on the edge of the unoccupied bed next to them. Before Sean could even say a word, Timmy, Ricky, Paul, Matty, and Wusty scrambled across the triple bed and climbed in with Cory, all five immediately claiming a cuddle-space.
"Mike," Sean said carefully, "while I am glad to meet you and your family, please don't try to joke about death right now. From what I've been told, Cory wouldn't be here tonight if it wasn't for Sammy. Sammy was probably the only reason he didn't give up; if he hadn't stayed by Cory's side, I'm afraid to think of what I'd be telling our sons right now."
Sean paused to look around them, then continued. "I stopped listening when the amount of people that died today on our side alone passed the triple digit mark. Our six-year-old son is dealing with killing two people. I don't know how many Cory killed; all I know is the sparkle in his eyes is gone and might not ever come back. On top of everything else, Cory watched one of our brothers get taken down by some jerk with a grenade strapped to his chest; the blast from it took out two more boys we call family. It took some pretty fancy medical magic to save them, even fancier than what was used to save you. I'm betting there are just as many ghosts here tonight as there are kids."
Sean was interrupted by Brant running up to him. "Sean?"
"You remember the help I was talking about?" Brant asked, continuing after receiving a nod from Sean. "They just contacted me; they got word of what happened, and they are standing by to provide night security if it is okay with you."
Before Sean could reply, Kyle's voice rang in his head. 'I checked them out, bro; they're all okay. Our friends won't even see them; anyone that wishes harm on us will either be restrained or disposed of, mattering on what you tell Brant to tell them.'
Sean sent a silent 'Thanks' to Kyle, then replied, "Tell them we accept, and if another attack is attempted, I don't care what happens to the attackers."
Brant felt a chill at the tone of Sean's final statement. "I'll make sure Tyne knows. I'll handle it from here, bro." With that, he spun and trotted back into the main control center.
"I'm sorry, Mike," Sean said as he turned back. "Grandfather Sarek has put me in charge until Cory has recovered as much as he's going to from what happened today."
Mike looked at Sean and said, "Sean, believe me when I say that I don't take any of what happened lightly. What you have been through and what you have done for my family is something I will never take lightly and something I will never forget, ever. Now as to the other, I know it's kind of hard to explain it, but police, fire and emergency medical workers use humor to cope, and to those who aren't familiar with it, that humor can seem completely inappropriate. I damn near lost my family today, and it's kinda that or just curling up into a ball right about now; not that that doesn't sound like a good idea. It's the way I cope and these guys know what I was talking about, and as you saw, it got some smiles on their faces for a moment."
"Don't tell me you slept through that part of your security training, Sean." Teri said as she walked up. "Hello, Mr. Reynolds; I'm Teri Short. I wanted to see if you're going to be okay here for the night; it seems that my little tyrant's minions decided everyone is 'invited' to camp in here tonight."
"Moooom!" Cory groaned from the bed.
Mike whispered something in Sammy's ear before turning to Teri. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Short."
Teri smiled at the evil grin that appeared on Sammy's face. "Your little angel here seems quite attached to you," Teri said as she ruffled Sammy's hair. "I know you're probably wondering what's going to happen now. I've got about 50 spare rooms in my house across the yard here; I would like for you and all of your family here to use them while you are healing physically and mentally. Federation Youth Services is picking up the tab for everything you may need, under orders of Admiral Morrow; at least the stuff my angels have not already decided to take care of personally. Oh, feel free to call me Teri; I'm sure that your sweet angel here has already informed his brothers that I prefer to be informal."
"Well Mrs...ah, Teri, that was a concern of ours, among a number of them as you can probably imagine," Mike replied as he smiled at his blushing son. "I think I'll manage to survive 'camp' for at least tonight though. And yes, my 'angel' is quite attached to me, as I am to him. Thank you for the offer, it's quite generous of you and I would be happy to take you up on it, but don't worry about the tab, anything you need money-wise I can provide and want to help in anyway that I can."
"You ain't doing nothing til you're better," Sammy interjected, which was immediately answered by a chorus of "Yeah" from the rest of the boys.
Teri sat on the edge of Cory's bed and took one of his hands in hers as she pulled Sean down next to her with her other hand. "There is no tab, Mike; from the moment Sammy called me, you became Federation protected citizens. You don't have bills right now; everything is covered by either the Federation or by my two angels here."
Cory squeezed Teri's hand to show her he had something to add. "To give you an idea, Mike, every bit of medical care you have got or will need from now on has been covered by Clan Short. We have things available that even the Federation can't touch; just ask Sammy, I'm sure he saw the Medbots."
"They saved Kev here, Mike, and he was hurt really bad, real bad," Eric said as he hugged Kevin to him tightly.
"He's gonna be doing that a lot, ain't he?" Kevin said as he smiled towards Sammy.
"Yeah, they usually do," Sammy replied as he received his own hug.
Mike looked around. "I can't tell you how much I appreciate all this, and what you've done for us. I'll drop the money issue but I want you to know that if you need anything, now or ever, it's yours. I have resources that might surprise even you and those are now at your complete disposal. You will find that they are not inconsequential."
Clint chose that moment to walk up with Crystal under his arm; right behind him Ian followed with Toby latched securely to his side. "Thank God you're okay, Mike!" Clint said as he stopped by Teri. "Do you mean resources like your friend that asked us to watch you? When you talk to that friend, let your friend know next time undercover is not an option."
Mike gave Clint a shocked look as Sammy wiggled free and went over to give both Clint and Ian a hug.
"I'm not sure what friend you're speaking about," Mike replied. "I never asked anyone to contact you; but yes, Clint, thanks to these guys we're okay. I'm glad you're all right too."
"Cryptic voice who always hangs up without saying goodbye ring any bells?" Sean said, as complete shock came across Mike's face.
"You've been contacted by..." Mike started to say.
"Yes" Clint replied.
"I'll be damned," he muttered before looking up at Clint again. "I never knew that party had contacted you, but that is certainly one of those resources; yes, and that resource has a lot at their disposal. It is only one though, I don't know if any of you have ever heard of Gideon Industries, but I own it and everything it controls, which is quite substantial."
Cory grinned. "Gideon Industries. Founded in 1847, has been overseen by a Reynolds family member since day one. Primary business involves prototypes for Terran and Starfleet defensive systems. Projected income for this quarter is 179 billion dollars. Did I miss anything?"
Both Mike and Eric's mouths dropped in shock. As Mike recovered, he asked, "How the hell did you know that? I don't even have those projections!"
Cory giggled softly before he replied. "I know more about you than Sammy does, Mike; and believe me, Sammy knows more than you think he does. I even know that Sammy's favorite way to pick on you is to offer to visit us here!"
Before Mike could answer, Randy said, "Yeah, he's scared to death of Clan Short!" which caused several giggles on the bed and confused looks from Teri, Ian, Crystal, Clint and Toby.
As Sean giggled at the glares Mike was giving Sammy, Cory explained to everyone. "Kyle says Randy's right; Mike is afraid Sammy'll start collecting brothers like we do. You're too late though, Mike; he's got a head start way before we decided that he should be part of the Clan. You've known our telepathic twin brothers since they were rug-rats, even if you haven't seen them in years; they've been keeping tabs on you."
"Hey, you wonder why I'm scared? Last week I had one kid, now I have ten, and he idolizes you guys," Mike said. He got a shocked look on his face as he added, "Did you say telepathic twins? You don't mean my angels, do you?"
"Angels?" Cory and Sean snickered. "You been talking to Justy?"
"Hey, dad, you forgot Vishnu!" Sammy added with a giggle. Suddenly what Sean said hit him. "Clan, me?"
"The twins didn't ...?" Sean said, as he looked around real quick and found Jamie and Jacob a few beds away. "Hey double J's - you're fired!" Sean yelled to them.
Jamie and Jacob stuck out their tongues and thumbed their noses at Sean. "We were busy getting to know our new brother!" Jacob yelled back.
"And you called them angels?" Teri asked as she tried hard not to laugh.
Mike stared at Jamie and Jacob, obviously thinking back. "You don't know what those two did for me, and to me, they were angels sent from heaven. They still are, even though I know they're real now."
As Danny moved over and wrapped his arms around Mike, Cory responded, "I do know, Mike. When things started getting rough for you, they filled our key personnel in on it. I know that you're worried about Davey and Jimmy; their parents messed up their heads so bad that it is legally brainwashing. Jamie and Jacob led their rescue, and are part of the team that is working to undo the part of the brainwashing that makes them scared to even talk about you. Their former mother and step-father have been dealt with, permanently."
Cory paused to make sure Mike got the point, then continued. "I talked to Davey and Jimmy before we left the hospital; they know that you are here and they promised that they will visit tomorrow. I know they'll keep their word, but you're gonna need to let them take the lead in how much contact they feel comfortable with. Gabe and Trav will be with them; the twins will probably be around to help too. The happy boys you knew are still in there, as long as you take it slow and listen to everyone that has worked with them, I think you'll be able to help them recover a lot faster. I'll warn you; the shrinks their former step-father brought in were FCC regulars and poisoned their minds so badly that being with you without one of the few people they trust standing right by them would probably give them heart attacks from fright. You're gonna need to trust us, Mike. Oh, and don't complain about ten kids; one of ours just made Sean and me instant grandfathers of two kids today."
Mike looked stunned as he said softly, "David and Jimmy are here?"
Sean nodded as he replied in a low voice, "Yes, Mike, they are here; they are safe and healed from what was done to them physically. Their stepfather was vacuumed up by housekeeping after one of our Security detail converted him to dust on the spot for his crimes. Their mother's mind was unrecoverable and she is now serving a Federation sentence off-planet. You really need to understand this, Mike; take everything that every single one of your boys has gone through, roll it all together into one, triple it, and you might just be close to what just one of them has been through. We knew from the day they were rescued that you would be needed to help them recover, but we didn't want to put you through the pain of watching their initial recovery. Travis is going to give you a letter one of the boys wrote to you in the morning; it's at their house right now. When you read it you'll understand; that was written from his heart. Jamie and Jacob are keeping me updated, Mike; in fact they've been telling me what you need to know."
The sound of a cat howling from behind them made both Cory and Sean turn their heads. Just as they were able to focus on where the noise came from, they heard Sammy yell, "Vishnu NO!" as Kyle's voice telepathically transmitted to the entire room 'EVERYONE PUT YOUR GUNS AWAY!'. The initial order from Kyle was followed by a quick rundown of what was happening. They both watched as Adam Casey, most of his command force, and a few people they had never been introduced to joined Mike and his family.
Mike looked around at the new arrivals. "I'm sorry guys. I...I was told something that hurt me a great deal and made me a bit angry. I'm not in any danger, but thank you all for coming like that." He then turned back to Cory and Sean. "I don't know what to say. I knew they had been through hell just from the look of them in court but I...I didn't know it had been that bad. They're something very special to me and I'll do anything I can to get them back, so I'll follow your lead in this. Thank you for saving them and for giving them someplace safe to heal in until we could find one another again."
Teri was watching what was going on when she saw Adam Casey scanning the crowd. When he spotted something and started laughing, she turned to look. "Oh my GOD!" she exclaimed as she saw a large black panther literally prancing over with a pizza box in her mouth, followed by what appeared to be her kittens. She pushed her way over to where Mike was and dropped the box in his lap.
"KITTIES!!!!" Paul exclaimed as he broke free of Cory and jumped off the bed to wrap his arms around one of the kittens.
Timmy giggled as everyone in the area laughed at Paul's antics. "Daddy? Wacko likes Paulie! Can Wacko live with us? He's a good kitty, I promise!"
A few seconds later, as everyone was still recovering from the shock of the cats, an eight-year-old that had came in with the last group smiled, then made some sounds that resembled sounds you would hear from a big cat. Timmy grinned, and immediately replied with similar sounds, obviously having a conversation; after the first 'words' Ricky joined into the conversation. To seemingly make the point, William and Duke flew over from across the room and perched on their respective boys' shoulders.
Timmy looked over and saw the looks on two of the cat-boys' faces, and immediately said something to them in what was obviously a slightly different language. From the tone of the sounds Timmy was obviously not happy.
"But... we're hungry!" The cat kids replied as they made puppy dog eyes. Timmy added one more comment and both of them sat back down.
Just then Brant walked up with a tray full of raw meat. "Did one of you guys drop something?" he asked while trying to keep a straight face.
The two cat-boys looked between the platter and Timmy, obviously not wanting to cross him again.
Timmy paused and then smiled. "THAT you CAN eat," he announced.
Both cat-boys immediately scrambled to get to the food, in the process causing Mike to yelp in pain, "WATCH THE CLAWS!"
"Yep, they're definitely boys!" Teri exclaimed with a laugh.
The woman that had come up with the boys agreed. "Yeah... that they are."
Just then, Eric turned to Mike and asked, "You still functional?"
Mike glared at Eric before replying, "I don't know."
As the laughing died down again, Cory smiled as he saw the cat-boy he recognized as Vishnu look up at Mike and say "Sowwy" through his mouth full of meat.
"Your family seems to fit right in here, Mike!" Cory said with a grin. "You're welcome for the thanks you gave before my son decided to try to claim a kitten. Adam, would you please introduce your family to everyone here?"
Just as Adam was replying, Paul climbed back onto the bed and reclaimed his spot on Cory's lap. Wacko immediately followed him and purred as he placed his head on Paul's lap.
"Sure, Cory," Adam replied. "First off, this is my mom and dad, Janet Hayes and Joe Casey." As he pulled one of the boys close to him, he continued. "This is my partner, Logan Hayes, then there's my brothers Chang, Will, Jory and Juan. Next to Will you have his partner, and Mike's son, Billy. You've already met Tommy and Fluffy, and then her kittens Yacko, Wacko, and Dot... Dot's the pretty one, just ask her." He then pointed out each of the cat-boys. "Over there you have Amur Khan, Vishnu, and Kartik."
"Don't squish anything there, Wacko," Sean said as he looked over at Cory and laughed.
"Maybe your sons will get some sleep if he does!" Teri chuckled.
"MOOOMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Cory and Sean both exclaimed as they began blushing fiercely.
Wacko stood up and leaned over to give Teri a wet lick on her cheek before putting his head back down with a look that Teri could swear was an evil smile.
"Okay, Cory, now for your side of the introductions?" Adam asked, trying to change the subject before the adults could get the upper hand.
Cory rolled his eyes at Teri before giggling and running down the list, pointing out his other sons and his grandsons that were helping the guests as they became visible to the group. He finished with Crystal and Toby before asking if he forgot anyone.
"Cory," Adam asked, "I know a lot has happened today, but I have another concern I'm not sure what to do about. Some of the kids in my Unit are still in hospitals, mainly because I don't know where to send them. I mean I do have the base in Utah, but I really think it would be best to keep everyone together right now. For now, however, I do believe our duties require us to be here and I would like everyone to be together, if that's possible."
Cory smiled as he replied. "They are your family, which means they are family to all of us now. Ark, are there any Unit members which are in a condition which prevents them from being relocated here?"
<All of the members which went to other locations are stable and safe to relocate. Do you wish for me to proceed?>
"Wait until Seth tells you that the hospitals have been notified," Cory replied. "If any medical personnel wish to come in to assist with their patients, Seth is allowed to authorize it."
<I will await his reply.>
'I'll take it, Cory; now stop working!' Kyle giggled in Cory's head.
Cory nodded at Adam. "The rest of the group will be here soon; Kyle is letting Seth know what to do now."
Adam was visibly relieved as he replied. "I do appreciate that, Sir, but can I ask, who were you talking to?"
"Yeah, who's everyone always talking to?" Sammy added.
Cory tilted his head before replying. "Sir? Please Adam, unless we're at an official function where we have to flaunt levels of authority, just call me Cory. Before I can tell you who I've been talking to, I need to ask one thing. Would you be willing to have the position I gave you on the battlefield, which is second only to me as Fleet Commander of the Clan Short Fleet, made permanent? If so, I will notify the Vulcan Council and the Federation."
"Sir, before I accept that position, I would like a bit more information, because what you are asking is way above my pay grade," Adam replied, obviously in shock.
"Whoever gave you that pay grade cheated you, Adam," Cory replied seriously. "JJ made his report to me through Kyle earlier; our Intelligence Corps is composed of ninety percent telepaths. You have already proven you can do the job; in fact, from what I've been told you've already been performing the duties of the position for quite a while now. This makes it official and you would be recognized as such by all Federation planets."
"He's right, Adam. I saw you in action today with everything you had to face and everything you had to do. You still kept doing it, and against overwhelming odds you prevailed. You'd be great in that position and somehow I think these people could use you here," Eric added during the silence that followed.
As the boys around Mike chorused 'Yeah', Joe reached over and touched Adam's arm. "Adam, this is something that you need to do. I've known since the first time I met you back in the lab, that you were able to do far more than they ever gave you credit for. This is a chance for you to use your talents, and the talents of your family, to help ease the pain of children everywhere. Not just here on earth, but everywhere you go. Make no mistake, son, you're the one that brought this family together, and you're the one that turned them into what they are. Now it's time to show the universe what you started here."
Cory noticed Adam was choking up over Joe's words, and softly added, "You have a lot in common with Sean, JJ, Kyle, and me, Adam. What you have put together and how everyone in your group feels about each other proves it. If I didn't like you or your family that you assembled into an amazing team, I wouldn't even consider offering this to you no matter how qualified you are. It is your heart that makes the difference, and that difference shows in everyone around you."
Adam came to attention and snapped a full salute. "Sir, I would be honored to accept the commission as you have offered." He then slowly drew his sword and dropped down to one knee, bringing the blade of the sword across the palm of his hand, blooding it slightly. He then reversed the sword and offered the hilt to Cory.
Cory looked shocked as the reason for what Adam had just done popped into his head, along with what he was expected to do when a Samurai expressed loyalty. As he took the sword's hilt in his hand, he formally stated, "Commander Adam Casey, I accept the fealty you present and hereby declare yourself, those who follow you now, and any who may follow you in the future, brothers and sisters in the family of Clan Short of the Family of Sarek of the House of Surak of the Planet Vulcan." Cory removed his hand from the sword. "Rise, Commander Adam Casey, Warrior of Clan Short."
"I will have to get with you soon to know what duties you would ask of us, but I do believe for now, that can wait," Adam said as he stood and looked around at the rest of the group. He then looked back at Cory and grinned. "I think that concludes the formal part of this evening, and with your permission, I will let my family relax for the rest of tonight."
Cory nodded. "That actually is my orders; your family is your only priority tonight. Tomorrow we can sit down and discuss everything. For now, I think that all we need to do is relax and share the few good things that happened today. Do not worry about security; our guard force that will be in place until sunrise could teach Ninjas quite a few new tricks. After sunrise we have other protections in place which will tell us if an ant walks the wrong way."
As Adam nodded, Chang commented, "Worry not, brother, no harm will come to Cory while I still breathe."
Cory gave Adam a curious look. "Does this mean Sean and I have company other than Timmy in the shower now?" he asked with a smile.
Adam extracted himself from Logan's hug and smiled at Cory, but before he could respond, Chang spoke up. "I am sure that will not be necessary, unless of course you get attacked by a bar of soap and can not fight it off."
Brant shook his head as he tried not to laugh. "They use soap?" he giggled. Before anyone could respond, he added, "Would you like the grand tour of CIC, Adam? We can chase down a few people so you can place faces with the names of the people you'll be talking to a lot."
"Thanks Brant, that'd probably be helpful." Adam said as he turned and looked at the group behind him. "Vishnu, Kartik, you have your assignment. Everyone else, just relax for a bit. Jory, I want you to relieve Chang in a couple hours, okay?"
As Logan and Adam followed Brant, Vishnu turned to Mike. "Any chance for another belly rub, Uncle Mike?"
"Wacko likes his belly bein' rubbed!" Paul giggled from Cory's lap.
"Oh no, not again!" Sammy muttered loud enough to be heard. Juan and his companions shook their heads as they headed towards the dining room for more food.
"It's not my fault if 'some' people have an overactive imagination," Mike groaned
"It didn't take too much!" Samantha added with a big smile. "Hell, it didn't take any!"
Everyone broke into giggles in Mike's group as Sean looked over. "I'm not sure I wanna know; but yet I do."
"No, you don't!" Mike said quickly.
"Oh, it was so funny!" Samantha said as she tried to regain her composure.
"No, it wasn't!" Mike replied.
Vishnu, with all four paws in the air while purring madly, piped up. "This feels soooooooooooo good; y'all oughtta try it!"
"Well, you see...." Samantha said with a grin at Mike.
Samantha, me, Adam, and Derek had been in the other room talking about what to make for dinner when we heard the strangest noises coming from Dad in the other room.
"What?" Samantha asked, looking at me. I just shrugged my shoulders as she turned towards the doorway into the other room.
"Oh, oh, yes, rub harder!" I heard Vishnu cry.
"What the hell?" Samantha exclaimed as Adam looked like he swallowed something.
"Someone sounds like they're having fun!" Derek replied with a big grin.
"They better not be!" Samantha stated as she started for the other room.
"Oh yeah, YES, YES, YES!" Vishnu screamed as we walked into the room.
We all stopped just inside the room, staring at the back of the chair that Dad was sitting in.
We could see Vishnu on his back with his legs up in the air and heard his purring from here.
It was kind of obvious what happening as Samantha began to walk forward with a look of disbelief on her face.
Samantha walked around in front of Dad and stopped in shock. "Oh My GOD!"
Just as she stopped, Vishnu screamed "NO, DON'T STOP, PLEEEEEEEEASE!"
It really hurt that Dad would do that for him; I started forward saying, "He wouldn't even do that with me!"
Samantha was just staring at Dad as I came around the corner of the chair just as he said "What?"
"Oh my God!" I said, staring in disbelief.
"Jeesh!" Derek mumbled as Adam kind of laughed and commented "Oh, guess I forgot to tell ya, but he really likes that."
Vishnu was laying on his back stretched out with his hands and feet up in the air while Dad was rubbing his belly, his belly and nothing else.
"What? It feels sooooooo good!" Vishnu cried as he added, "Harder, harder, oh yes!"
That was it; we couldn't help but to bust out laughing.
Everyone's laughter brought Sammy back to the present to see Mike blushing and Vishnu looking around with a confused look on his face.
"What? You don't know how good it feels!" Vishnu said, looking at everyone innocently.
Everyone broke out laughing even harder. Sean giggled as he commented, "So you got in trouble for stroking your kitty, Mike?"
"SEAN MICHAEL!" Teri exclaimed before collapsing on the bed in laughter.
"He didn't just say that!" Samantha choked out between laughs.
Cory met Sammy's eyes, then both turned to see Mike almost glowing red.
"Hey! I didn't know people could get that red!" Sammy exclaimed.
Before Cory could say anything, Paul looked up at him. "Daddy? Am I gonna gett'n troubles for petting my kitty?"
"No, angel," Cory replied with a smile. "Poppa was just making a comment that adults can take two ways."
"Adults are weird," Paul stated as he resumed scratching Wacko's ears.
"Don't ya just know it!" Sammy giggled.
"Hey!" Mike and Eric exclaimed.
Cory smiled. "Truth hurts!" He paused, then looked Sammy directly in the eyes. "If you need anything, bro, just ask; all y'all are family now, this place is yours just as much as anyone else in the Clan. We need to chase down some people and get around for bed."
Sammy stood up and walked over to hug Cory. "Thanks, Cor, thanks for everything."
Sammy then turned and wrapped his arms around Sean. "You too, thank you," he said, punctuating it with a kiss on Sean's cheek.
As Sammy stepped back by him, Mike added, "Sammy speaks for me too, thank you for everything but most of all thank you for my family."
Everyone who could stand did so, and Alexei ran over and wrapped his arms around Cory saying loudly "Spasibo."
"He says what is in all our hearts, Cory Short, that is thank you." Yuri said with a smile.
Cory smiled as Paul moved off of his lap and Sean reached over to help him up. "Thank you. I owe you my life, Sammy; that's something I'll never forget. It was great to meet y'all; tomorrow we'll work on getting everything set up for you."
Sammy replied softly. "I didn't do all that much, just reminded ya of a couple of things is all. We'll see ya tomorrow, Cory. Sean, you take good care of him tonight, I think he needs lots of cuddles. I know I do."
"We all do this night," Yuri added as he pulled Chris against him.
"Yeah we do," Sammy replied. "I think we all do," he added as he looked around the room.
"Just keep following your heart, bro," Cory said as he looked Sammy in the eyes. He then turned and leaned against Sean as they led their family off towards the center of the room, Wacko happily trotting alongside Paul. It was obvious by the way Cory was moving that the day's events had caught up to him.
Sammy nodded his head and replied softly. "I will, bro, I will."
Cory and crew were almost half way across the room when Daniel sprung up from his seat by Dan, John, and the rest of his family, and ran over to give Cory a hug.
"What's the hug for?" Cory said with a small smile as he returned the gesture.
"You needed one," Daniel said matter-of-factly.
Cory gave him an extra squeeze. "I guess I did. Thanks buddy. I hear you helped out here when things got rough."
Daniel tilted his head. "Everyone was feelin' sad; all I did was give them hugs and tell them it was gonna be okay. I didn't do nothing."
Sean giggled. "You did something nobody else could, Daniel; you give special hugs that make people feel a lot better. That was more help than any work you could have done."
Daniel gave Sean a huge smile. "Wow, really?"
Sean nodded. "Yep; in fact I think you can do that whenever you want."
"I gotta tell Daddy!" Daniel exclaimed as he broke the hug and hurried back to his family.
Sean giggled. "I think Dan's doing him good!"
As Cory was about to reply, Ryan came up beside him and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Cory? Dad said to ask you to come over and sit with us and Bon Jovi. Jack is gettin' Austin and the rest of your kids together to join ya. Dad thinks ya need to take a break before you pass out."
Cory nodded. "I won't argue...."
"That's a first." Sean muttered with a grin.
Cory shook his head. "You're one to talk. Let's go; I need to thank Jon and the guys for all of their help."
Ryan shook his head as he led the group over to the center of the room where Jon and Fred were discussing the day's events.
As everyone in Cory's group found a seat on a nearby bed, Jon motioned Cory to come sit on his lap. The rest of Bon Jovi pulled up chairs and formed a semi-circle behind Cory and Jon. Once Cory was seated, Jon looked around the room. "Could I have everyone's attention?" he asked loud enough to be heard. The room fell quiet, everyone curious as to what he was about to say. "Some friends of mine published a song a while back," Jon said, just loud enough to be heard by the occupants of the Rec room. "I never realized how much it meant until today. I know my life has changed after what I saw today, just like everyone else here. Today I gained family through despair; I hope I can give back what you've given me." Jon then shifted Cory so that he was leaning against his shoulder before reaching out for the acoustic guitar Richie was holding out somberly.
With wet eyes, Jon began to slowly pick the notes as he softly sang to Cory; his voice carrying to every corner of the silent room.
dry your crying eyes.
How can I explain,
the fear you feel inside?
Cause you were born
into this evil world,
where man is killing man,
but no one knows just why.
What have we become?
Just look what we have done.
All that we destroyed,
you must build again.
The rest of the band softy joined Jon with the vocals as the chorus started.
When the children cry;
let them know we tried.
Cause when the children sing;
then the new world begins.
Richie leaned over and turned Cory's face towards him as he took over vocals.
you must show the way.
To a better day
for all the young.
Cause you were born,
for all the world to see;
that we all can live,
with love and peace.
No more presidents;
and all the wars will end.
One united world,
When the children cry;
let them know we tried.
Cause when the children sing;
then the new world begins.
With their hearts in every word, the members of Bon Jovi harmonized the final verses.
What "have we" become?
Just look what we have done.
All that we destroyed,
you must build again.
No more presidents,
and all the wars will end.
One united world,
When the children cry,
let them know we tried.
When the children fight,
let them know it ain't right.
When the children pray,
let them know the way.
Cause when the children sing,
then the new world begins.
("When the Children Cry" Copyright 1987 White Lion from the album "Pride")
Cory took one of Jon's hands in his, then silently reached out and took Sean's hand in his free hand. "Everyone join hands," Cory said softly. Once everyone had complied, Cory spoke just loud enough to be heard by everyone. "Today we lost a lot of brothers. For the next few minutes I would like us to be silent in memory of those who died so that we could live. Those of you that wish to pray silently, please do so."
With those words, Cory bowed his head as the entire CIC complex fell into complete silence.