"Well, that was certainly quite the unexpected turn of events," Josiah said to all and sundry as the group settled in Maureen's living room.
"It surely was," Maureen responded, as she laid out sandwiches and drinks on the dining-room table. "Do all your interventions have that much, well, drama?"
"Speaking as a father, more than I'd like," Dan said. "From the day we rescued my son's fiancé here," resting his hand affectionately on Adam, "it seems like confrontations and shootouts are the rule rather than the exception."
Jonas chuckled. "Well, how do you expect J.J. to get his practice shooting cops?"
J.J. looked daggers at Jonas.
"Busted, babe!" laughed Adam.
Maureen interrupted briefly, "There's sandwiches and coffee here, everyone, and soda for them as don't like coffee. Ye c'n go ahead an' help yerselves."
As people started to file toward the table, Tanner said to Jonas with a chuckle, "You'll fit right in with this group."
"You're right, Tanner," J.J. said. "Which brings me to the task I was given." Tanner, J.J., Jonas, and Harry seated themselves around the coffee table holding their sandwiches and cans of soda. "Jonas and Harry, you two stuck your necks out to help C.J. and Jed when you could have just ignored them. Deej and Tanner have kept me posted on what all you have been saying and doing with them since, including Harry taking the cop car out to hide it. They say they've already come to look on you as brothers, and after their reports, the rest of us are inclined to agree.
"What I'm leading up to is that we'd like to invite you to join the Clan. You're our kind of people, and we need to help and support guys with the balls to do what you did."
"Would we be expected to move to Florida with you guys?" Harry asked. Maureen and Abbie, standing nearby, looked stricken.
"No, we have guys who don't live there - in fact, two of them, Rory and Vincent, are on starships right now. What it would mean is that you'd be committing to be our brothers, and the other way around too. If you need help with something up here, we'd have your backs. And there may be times when we need your talents on something we're doing."
"Although," added Adam, "Airboy wants you to get in touch with him, Harry. He's trying to put together an opening act for his next tour, and they need a good bass player."
"Huh?" said Harry.
"Aaron Carter," Jamie took pity on him. "He's part of the Clan too. He's trying to put together a group to open before he performs, to go on tour with him, much like how the Backstreet Boys and N*Sync got started, and the thing they need right now is a bass guitarist with talent who they can depend on. He and Zac remember your performance in Bangor quite well, and after the past couple of days, he knows you're somebody he can count on."
Harry's expression made it clear that he could not have been more stunned if all the Security guys present had phasered him. "Uh, ah, ubb... I'll get in touch with him as soon as possible!" Abbie beamed at the recognition coming to her son.
"There are advantages to joining," Adam pointed out. "You're deemed legal adults under the law when you're in the Clan. And if you come down for a weekend, we can train you on phasers and issue you each one."
"I think the *logical* thing to do would be to talk this over with our mothers before we accept," Jonas said.
"'Told ya they'd fit right in," D.J. giggled. "They're already talking like Cory."
"Now come over here and tell me what in the name of Satan's asbestos slippers you've gotten yourself into, Harry Bertram Johnson," Abbie said, patting the arm of her chair.
"Give us a minute before he does that, Aunt Abbie," Jonas said to her. "I've got something to say, myself.
"I finally figured out what you meant, Jacob," he said in an aside to the smiling ten-year-old, and draped his arm over Harry's shoulder.
"Mom, everyone, listen. Harry has been my best friend since third grade. He's been there for me, loyal, the guy who understood when nobody else did. And I've taken him for granted all that time, and never really gave him back what he gave me freely.
"We had some long serious talks the past two days, and that's going to change. I want you all to know that Harry is my beloved friend and brother, and no matter what happens, for the rest of our lives, he'll always have a place in my life - and my heart!"
Jonas was startled by the round of applause and cheers that marked his announcement.
Josiah knelt down next to Jed and C.J., sitting on the floor next to Rina with their sandwiches and sodas. "Boys, I want to tell you how deeply sorry I am for your loss. While nothing can ever bring your parents back, I want your OK to act as your lawyer, to make sure your parents' estate comes to you."
Turning to John, he continued, "Commander, I should assure you I'm doing this without fee, to do what I can for the boys' future. I'll just need to have an address and contact person at Clan Short to send the paperwork and eventually the checks to. I assume the boys won't want to keep the house?"
"Actually, judge, the person you'll want to contact is Rina Baldwin, sitting there in the chair next to you," John replied. "She's accepted custody of the boys and will be making a home for them."
"Yeah, we got to choose her!" C.J. said animatedly.
"You said 'custody,' not 'adoption'?" Josiah asked.
"Right," Dan interjected. "I'm not sure why Cory did it that way...."
"You said he acts by Vulcan logic?" Josiah asked.
"Then I know why - settling an estate that passes to minors is far easier when the arrangement is for custody rather than adoption," Josiah responded. "Pass my thanks to him for thinking of that detail; it'll make probate of the estate far easier for me."
"After the estate is settled, you can proceed to adoption if you and the boys agree," he told Rina. "I'll be glad to handle the adoption for you through my court if you like, since they were Maine residents before this week, but from what I've gathered, doing it by Federation law is much simpler. I will need an address and phone number for you, though."
"I'll be moving shortly into a larger place, with room for the boys," Rina said. "Teri has been an immense help in helping me find what we need."
"You can contact Rina through the FYS office until she's settled," Dan suggested. "We've had this come up before with placements, and Teri and Kayla are set up to relay messages as needed."
Frank strode up to Maureen. "You were not joking about how big a story this was, were you? - Randall Scordo and a bunch of cops arrested by Starfleet in the graveyard! My God!"
"I've got most of the story together already, but I'll have to do a new lead about the arrests today. I'll put that together tomorrow morning, and bring everything to the office by noon," she answered.
"Good. That'll give us just time to put the paper to bed to meet Friday's press run. I'll give you six columns on page one; any idea how much more copy you'll have?"
"Probably half a page continuation on the lead story, and two features: a background on Clan Short and a human interest story on their actions to protect the two boys - four and three full columns respectively, if you can give me that much."
"You've got it - and a bonus for terrific work, too," Frank replied.
"Guys, I want to talk to you," Jacob said seriously to Jed and C.J. "Maureen, you might want to listen in on this, too. Rina, would you hold C.J., please?
"I found out a lot of stuff about your parents, that will answer the questions you've been asking yourself, Jed. I think you need to hear it, but some of it's not pretty. Your Dad designed a bridge over something called the Sandy River, a few years back."
"I remember that," Maureen said. "Scordo got the contract to build that; I was surprised."
"Well, George made a major mistake in the numbers he used on the construction estimates," Jacob continued, "one that threw the probable cost off by quite a bit. Scordo bribed a woman who was working with your dad at the time to get him the figures. That's how he was able to be the low bidder.
"When your dad caught his mistake, he wanted to throw out the bids and have the project rebid with the right estimates, even though he'd catch a lot of flak from the state and his bosses for it. He went to Scordo to tell him that, and Scordo offered to cover for him if he would approve the change orders needed - which meant Scordo got to keep the contract, and made even more money on the change orders, and kept your father from getting grief from the authorities.
"Since he'd agreed to that cover-up, it was easy for Scordo to blackmail him into pushing contracts his way. I got the sense your father felt guilty about that; that asshole Scordo was scornful of his scruples.
"But then Scordo went a step too far. Your dad got the assignment to design the new dam that they were going to build upstream from here. Scordo wanted him to cut corners on his materials estimates, so that he'd make more money on it, but the dam wouldn't be safe. It would have cracked, broken, and flooded Arkham. And your dad refused to do it, even when Scordo threatened to expose him.
"Sunday night, he told Scordo he was quitting, that he wouldn't do what Scordo wanted any more.
"It cost him his life, and your mother's. But he died rather than do something that would endanger you guys and this town. I think you can be proud of him."
Jed and C.J. were both whimpering softly at this news. Maureen looked stunned.
"I think the paper better only say about refusing to design an unsafe dam," Jacob said. "But I believed you guys ought to know the whole truth, and you too, Maureen."
She wrapped her arms around the serious-faced ten-year-old. "Thank you, Jacob. I think you did the right thing."
"Yeah," he said, his eyes watering. "But sometimes it hurts a lot." He reached over an placed a hand on Jed's shoulder. "I'm here for you, brother," he said. Jed gave him a wan smile.
"Well," said John, as he finished off a sandwich, "I hate to eat and run, but I'd better beam up to the Lafayette, and see about preferring charges against Scordo and an assortment of cops. Jacob, when will your testimony be ready?"
"Most of it is already recorded at home; Tommy knows where the files are," Jacob answered earnestly.
"What we got today, we'll add to that, and upload the whole mess to your office and to the Lafayette after we get home. Will that work?" Jamie asked.
"Works for me," John answered. Pulling out his communicator, he asked the Lafayette for transport, and moments later beamed out.
"Sounds like it may be time for the rest of us to be on our way, too," Dan suggested. All the boys nodded. D.J. and Tanner stepped over to Maureen and thanked her for her hospitality. Then they quickly hugged Jonas and Harry.
Dan, Matt, Rina, and the Clan boys formed up into an array for transport. Moments later, after J.J. had again called the Lafayette, they beamed out.
The room seemed much larger to the five people left there. Josiah turned to Jonas. "I hope you won't mind if I take your mother out to dinner," he said.
"Not at all, Judge Josiah," Jonas said with a smile. "Actually, I was planning to take Harry out and treat him to a pizza, then we'll come back here and hang out and, uh, see what comes up," this with a wink to Harry.
"Sounds wonderful," Maureen said. "Can we drop you off, Abbie?"
Abbie smiled. "No thanks, Maureen. It's such a beautiful evening - and God knows there won't be too many days left like this - now that it's safe again, I think I'd like to walk home."
"Don't blame ye a bit," said Maureen. Call me over the weekend, and we'll get together for coffee or somethin' when th' boys are in school, or whatever."
Abbie's smile widened into a grin. "You got yourself a deal, girlfriend!" And she walked away, humming to herself.
As the Clan boys sat around, listening to music, chatting, and occasionally breaking into horseplay, Jed sat near the edge watching. He'd been invited to join in by a couple of groups, but told them he just wanted a little quiet time to collect his thoughts.
Kenny slid down beside him. "C'n I talk with you?" he asked shyly.
"Yeah," Jed said. "But honestly, a couple guys have asked already, and I really don't want to talk about my parents yet. Don't be insulted."
"Nah," Kenny said. "It's not about your parents; it's about mine. And if it helps you, then good. But it's stuff I've needed to pull together into one piece and say to someone. And because saying it to you not only helps me but might help you too, that makes you the guy I need to get it out to. Did that make sense?"
"Yeah, sort of. I'll listen, sure." A pause. "And Kenny?"
"Thanks. That's the first time since I got here somebody's treated me as a *guy*, as opposed to somebody that just needs help. I mean, I sure appreciate the help and all, but...."
"I get it. It's cool." Kenny smiled, then frowned a bit. "It's hard to figure out where to begin.
"I never knew my mother," he started. "The only time I ever saw her, she was in a jail visiting room, cussing out Kevin and Jake for things that were her fault, or society's, or God's, or somebody's, but not theirs. She never in almost twelve years ever even cared enough about me to acknowledge my existence.
"At that, though, I was further ahead than Kev. She did everything she could to destroy him without resorting to actual beatings and such that would make someone step in.
"My Dad, on the other hand, was wonderful.. He loved me, he showed it, we were always doing stuff together, from a quick game of Slapjack to going to Sea World. He was big, strong, caring, brilliant - Pop always compared him to a leopard ready to pounce, and I see why.
"When I had just turned nine, Pop moved in with us, but he didn't sleep in with Dad. I knew about that stuff by then - when your father is gay, you grow up realizing that it's just something that some people are, and no big deal.
"A couple months later, they told me why - Dad had AIDS.
"Over the next couple of years, I watched the big, strong, loving, independent man that I wanted to grow up to be just like him, turn into a bedfast, skin-and-bones invalid with big purple sores over a lot of his skin. They told me I had to take special precautions before I could hug or cuddle with him, and I wanted to hug and cuddle a *lot*. I knew I was losing him, and I had to get enough hugging to last me a lifetime.
"Then he died. And Pop said he'd love to keep me, but the law said I had to go live with my mother, so I flew off to Chicago to be with the twin brother I'd always wanted to know and the mother I'd never met.
"The rest of it is how the Clan rescued Kev and me, and Jake too, from what all happened there. Now I've got Pop back, not just Kev but three brothers at home, and over thirty here in the Clan too, and an awesome boyfriend as well.
"But I guess what I'm telling you is that Mom never caring hurt, losing Dad hurt like being kicked in the balls, I think maybe no matter how you lose them, if you love them it hurts. And *nothing fixes that.* There's no magic way to make it all go away and feel better. The cure is loving and letting yourself be loved. I'm finally united with my twin; Jake's an awesome big brother, Rory's the greatest boyfriend anybody could ever have. Mamacita, and Mona when she's here, aren't my mothers, but they're big warm welcoming caring women, and they try. Pop's not Dad, he's Pop, and I love who he is. But I still miss Dad, and I miss never having had a Mom.
"Maybe what I'm saying is that it's OK to hurt, OK to miss your Dad because you loved him and he's not here any more. But you don't stop there. You grab hold of the good things that come along afterward...."
"Like Rina?" Jed asked.
"Yeah, just like Rina."
Jed gave Kenny a warm smile. "Thanks. That *did* help. Can I hug you?"
"Any time," Kenny smiled, and wrapped his arms around Jed.
"Hey, Ceej?" Jamie called.
"You like to play Baja Car Chase?"
"Yeah! You got it?"
"Sure do," Jamie answered. "C'mon over to our place, and you and I'll kick Jacob's butt on it."
"In your dreams, bro," grinned Jacob.
Rina watched the three boys run off, with a broad smile on her face.
"Dr. Dan?" Jed said hesitantly at the latter's office door.
Dan looked up and smiled warmly.
"Can I talk to you a little?"
"Would you tell me a little bit about that precognitation stuff?" Dan smiled at Jed's mispronunciation, and motioned him to a chair.
"Oh, sure. Precognition is the term we hang on the fact that people sometimes get foreknowledge of some future event in their lives, either consciously or unconsciously, usually but not always in dreams. Recalling that you dreamed about it beforehand just as it's happening is called a déjà vu experience - that's French for 'already seen.' Sometimes the dreams are symbolic in nature. If you and Xain are right about yours being one of them, your younger brain, when you were a little kid, used a fantasy setting to give you a prevision of Rina and Mr. Scordo. I'll bet you liked fantasy stories as a kid."
"Yeah, Mom used to read them, and then she'd retell them to me as bedtime stories, without the sex stuff. I figured out she was leaving that out when I got to be ten and read for myself one of the ones she used to tell me. So those dreams're not weird things?" Jed asked.
"No. The more skeptical of my colleagues don't think that precognition exists, because they don't have a physical mechanism for it and it's not easily reproducible in a laboratory. But they think the same thing about telepathy, and around this place you bump into telepathy on a daily basis."
"I *did* pick up my dirty clothes already," Kyle said, poking his head into the room.
"See what I mean?" Dan said. Jed and Kyle giggled.
"Well, I was askin' because there's one thing I didn't tell you already," Jed admitted bashfully.
"Hey," Dan said. "You don't *have* to tell me *anything.* The more you feel comfortable telling me, though, the more information I have to use to try to figure out what will best help you deal with the stuff you've been through. And there are some things I do know about useful therapies that even my little psychic vacuum cleaner here doesn't know," he said, gesturing at Kyle.
"That's what he thinks," Kyle said to Jed in a mock prison whisper. They both giggled again. Dan blew his son a raspberry, with an affectionate smile.
"Anyway," Jed said, "when I walked into the house Monday and saw Mom and Dad lying there, I remembered seeing them lying dead like that in a nightmare last spring. It was one of those déjà vu things you mentioned. And in the nightmare, people were chasing Ceej and me to kill us. That's why I grabbed Ceej and ran, and why it hit me so hard. They were after me, and I didn't know who they were - and at first my brain must have read you guys as being part of the bad guys, just because I was so panicked by seeing them and having that nightmare come true."
"So that's why Rina was able to bring you out of it?" Dan asked. "Because she too was a dream figure, even though from a different dream?"
"I think so," Jed said slowly. "It calmed my fear enough to realize that you guys were just trying to help, that you were the good guys. But until Rina showed up, and it was another dream coming true, it was like if I told you I'd dreamed the murder scene ahead of time, you'd think I was some kind of nut. But as I got to know you, I realized you all were kind of like the angels God had sent to help me."
"Hey, we ain't no angels," Kyle said.
"That's Justy's line," his father shot back at him, grinning.
Jed looked mystified at them at the two of them laughing. "You'll see," Dan said.
Kyle reached over and wrapped an arm around the older boy. "Hey dude, you're among friends now - brothers who have your back. Sometimes it gets crazy around here, sometimes it's warm and cuddly, sometimes it's dead serious. But it's always us all doing it together - as the four of us promised way back when, 'One for all and all for one!' Welcome to the rest of your life."