Cory opened his eyes slowly, enjoying the feeling of his family all cuddled into a pile on his and Sean's bed. He managed to wiggle around just enough so that he could see everyone, and his smile grew as he saw the migrations that had happened during everyones' sleep. Mont had both Casey and Tina cuddled under his furry arms, while Bast and Jeremy were in one big tangle. Sean had decided that Cory's chest made a good pillow, which meant Sean's face was now in the dead center of Cory's belly. Kyle, Tyler, and Ezra were wedged between Sean and JJ, all three snoring softly. Fife had gravitated into Kai's arms, and was purring in his sleep. JJ and Adam were in their usual tangle, apparently trying to occupy each other's bodies. Cory's eyes got wide as they settled on Adam's back. "Holy Crap!" he exclaimed in shock.
"What's wrong?" Kyle asked sleepily.
"Look at Adam's back!" Cory replied, waking the rest of the group.
Kyle wiggled around and looked over the pile of kids. "I don't see nothin' wrong with it." he stated, his mind still foggy from having a real sleep.
"Exactly! His scars are gone!" Cory said as an explanation.
By this time, JJ had sat up and was looking closely at his husband's back. "He's right, they're gone!" JJ said in amazement.
Ezra giggled as he watched everyone checking out Adam. Tyler looked at him and said "Okay, Rainbow Boy; you know something we don't, what is it?"
Ezra smiled at the new nickname his Pop just gave him. "I'm pretty sure it's got to do with Beau becoming a N-Gen along with Jamie and Jacob. Uncle Adam? Did Uncle Beau ever take some of your pain away from you?"
"Yeah, a few times." Adam replied. "After he found out I was hiding it, he made it a habit to do it every couple of days; he never waited to see if I asked or not."
"I thought so." Ezra replied. "He's got a little bit of a link to you, I saw it when I was born. I think his power has tied in with Uncle Jamie and Uncle Jacob; so he somehow managed to heal your old injuries without being here."
The pile had rearranged itself so that JJ could investigate Adam more clearly. All of the still-forming scars on his visible body parts were completely missing. Without thinking, JJ pulled off Adam's boxers to check the areas that he couldn't see.
"Casey, look! His thingie is silver too!" Tina giggled, causing JJ to remember just why they were all dressed.
While dodging repeated attempts at a slap upside the head from Adam, JJ quickly re-dressed his husband while blushing so brightly that it lit the room. "We'll check that later...." he mumbled.
"Yeah, in about fifty years!" Adam shot back, causing the rest of the group to giggle.
"Unca' JJ's in trrrooouuubbbbblllleee!!!" Tina said in a sing-song voice.
"Yes, he is." Adam stated as he glared at JJ. "I'll ... punish ... him later."
"There goes the lotion supply...." Sean giggled under his breath.
Fife climbed over and cuddled up to Adam. "Is the pain gone too, Uncle Adam?"
Adam stopped glaring at JJ long enough to actually pay attention to what he was feeling. "Yeah... usually I can feel my skin being kinda tight and some of my joints were kinda numb from that idiot that tried to kill us. It's all gone, the stuff that was just there ain't there no more."
"Good, I don't want my family to hurt." Fife stated. "You ain't gonna hurt Uncle JJ for showing us your penis, are you?"
Adam looked down into Fife's face. "Don't worry, little guy. Your Uncle JJ and I understand each other a lot better than we let people think. No matter how mad we get at each other, we'll never hurt each other."
"Okay." Fife replied with a smile. "I didn't smell danger, but your words said there was danger so I was confused."
Adam smiled. "I see what you mean. Trust your sense of smell when you hear any of us talking. Sometimes we'll tease each other but not really mean what the things we say suggest. We only do that with people we know really well though."
"BONZAI!" six voices yelled in unison as they landed on top of Julio and Jesse.
"Jesse! Save me! We've been invaded by twins!" Julio yelled in mock horror, his grin giving away his joy at their wakeup crew.
Not realizing how their new parents slept, the six boys rolled off of the bed and stripped it of it's covers in one unanimous pull. Kurt was the first one to comment; and in standard nine-year-old fashion, he was blunt. "Dad! You've got a furry weenie, and it's HUGE!"
"Pop too, he's just not all hairy like Dad!" his twin Kent added.
With their younger brothers drawing their attention to those parts of their new parents' bodies, Bobby, Bruce, Riley, and Reese openly looked themselves.
"Why you got stiffies?" Reese asked curiously.
Julio sat up, motioning for Jesse to sit next to him, then said "Have a seat guys. Your Grandpa and I had this same talk when I walked in on him and your Grandma getting out of bed. First, I'm gonna tell you guys the same thing he told me; when it comes to what's between your legs, don't be shy about asking us questions or coming to us if something don't seem right. If we don't know, we'll ask Grandpa for you."
All six boys nodded as they took seats on the bed in front of Jesse and Julio.
"Okay, first off, even though we use other words normally, I'm going to use the proper names for the body parts when we talk. If you don't understand something or have a question, stop me and I'll make sure you understand it before we go on. There are no stupid questions here."
For the next forty minutes, Julio and Jesse performed their first teaching action as parents. Once the triple twins found out that Julio was serious about answering every question, they opened up and unloaded a ton of questions and perceptions. As they finished, Jesse looked around at his sons. "You guys asked some questions that tell me that a couple of you should be taught proper cleaning of your genitals. Why don't you guys go grab some extra towels, and you can all shower with me and your Dad."
"Okay!" all six replied as they scrambled off the bed.
Once they were out of hearing, Julio stated "They were being groomed to become sex slaves in a few years, weren't they hon?"
Jesse nodded seriously. "Yeah, they were told a lot of the same stuff as me. You helped me too by telling us what the truth was."
Julio frowned. "That sucks. I dunno how to help more than that though."
"I do." Jesse said with uncharacteristic assurance. "It's called Cory Magic; and you've learned to do it well."
Julio looked into Jesse's eyes, and realized that for the next little bit, the shy boy from the dance was going to try to take the lead for the first time in his life. "You lead, I'll follow and learn, hon." Julio said softly as he heard the boys returning.
Janice was sitting at the table, feeding a very happy Arrow while Marcie was taking breakfast orders from Janice and Mick's new sons. They had found that the boys had come from a very good home, but their family had fallen victim to a corrupt local welfare worker who had everyone but the children deported, despite the family being in the country legally. Unfortunately, the bus the family was in had an axle failure while navigating the SoCal coast; by the time rescue crews arrived there were no survivors from the bus going over the seaside cliff that the highway ran along.
Once Janice finished telling Daileass to have the welfare worker skinned, rolled repeatedly in honey then in a nest of angry fire ants, then dipped in hydrogen peroxide, and then he could start punishing her, the two parents discussed their new life with the boys. They found out that, as in most close families, the boys usually answered to nicknames their parents had given them instead of their formal names. (Unless they were in trouble!)
Janice smiled as she thought back to the glow in all three boy's faces when she asked them what they liked to be called. Due to the similarity in their given names, each had a nickname that made it easier to tell who was being referred to. As the eldest, Abelundio was given the nickname Abe, which happened to be the same as his grandfather had used. Abelard was usually addressed by his middle name, Arlo. Agapito's nickname was given to him by Abe; as a youngster Abe had had trouble pronouncing his littlest brother's name, so he just called him 'Petey' and the name stuck.
When Janice asked if they would like to still be called by those names, all three boys nodded happily, Abe adding that it would make him feel like he really was home. Once Janice and Mick agreed to the use of their nicknames, they had found themselves dealing with three boys bouncing between them, giving them joyful hugs.
Janice looked up, and saw Marcie had fixed the boy's breakfast while she was musing over the recent conversation. All three boys had decided upon Chilaquiles once they were told that Marcie had learned to cook from a Mexican neighbor as a child.
(Link to recipe at end of chapter)
"This is almost as good as what MaMa used to make!" Petey exclaimed after he took a tentative taste. "Thanks Marcie!" he added as he turned into a living vacuum.
"Thank you, that's the best compliment anyone's ever gave me, Petey." Marcie replied with a genuine smile.
"Thanks!" Arlo and Abe added, their expressions clearly stating that Marcie had just earned some respect for how she had responded to their little brother.
Just then, Julio led his husband and sons into the dining room, all of them obviously freshly showered as shown by their still-damp hair. "What's for breakfast? That smells GOOD!" Julio stated as he stopped and inhaled.
"Abe, Arlo and Petey decided on Chilaquiles. I can make more of them, or I can make something else if you want."
Julio looked over his shoulder at his sons. "Whatever you want, just ask."
"She's gonna teach me some stuff that I don't know about cooking." Jesse added.
"We think it smells good too!" Bruce replied.
"If that is what..." Bobby began.
"You're gonna have Dad,..." Riley continued with a grin.
"Then we'll try it too." Reese said, picking up the thread.
"We're gonna learn the stuff you like..." Kent giggled, seeing the faces of the adults starting to scrunch in pain.
"Because we're a family now!" Kurt completed.
As Mick held his head in mock anguish, Janice laughed at the escapades of her grandkids. "I could tell that as soon as y'all walked into the room; I can see it in your eyes."
"There's something in our eyes?" Kurt asked with a grin.
"Dad!" Kent added.
"You forgot..." Riley giggled.
"...to wash..." Bobby said with a smirk.
"...our eyes!" Bruce and Reese completed in stereo.
Jesse and Julio exchanged grins, and five seconds later an eight-boy tickle war was in full swing between the table and the dining room doorway. Mick decided to assist Julio and Jesse, which led to Abe, Arlo,and Petey deciding to join the fun between rounds of breakfast. With Robin in the lead, Johnny, Eddie, Rocky, and Ricky came running into the room, immediately joining the free-for-all as Marcie and Janice watched with amused smiles.
While the boys cleaned up after breakfast, Teri thought over the eventful weekend as she finished feeding Patty. While she was not sure that it really would qualify as a 'vacation', the weekend had definitely changed the boys. Ty and Kyle had finally realized that their family didn't expect them to be little adults because of their powers, Adam and JJ had came to terms about the changes to Adam and were now deciding what to do based on what they wanted instead of what others wanted, Cory and Sean had let go of some of the stress that had been eating at them, and her favorite kitties Mont and Bast had finally taken the time to be kids.
The fact that her family had grown didn't surprise her in the least; compared to what Julio's parents were going through she considered herself lucky. Candy's arrival with Patty and her subsequent passing was a bittersweet moment, yet the boys made it through it without any serious problems.
"Earth to Mom!" Cory giggled. "Come in, Mom!"
Teri shook her head, then looked up to see all of the boys standing there giggling at her. "Yes, little rats?"
"We've been trying to get your attention for the last five minutes!" Sean exclaimed.
"Did you hear us asking if you wanted to join us at the park?" Tyler giggled. "We only asked a gadzillion times!"
"Sorry guys!" Teri laughed. "That sounds like a good idea. Any certain reason why?"
"Yeah, Julio's bringing his crew and I'm gonna grade him on his kid collecting!" Cory sniggered.
"You didn't... wait... knowing you turkeys, yes you did!" Teri chuckled.
"Mom, we wouldn't ever be mean to our friends like that!" the boys exclaimed in unison, halos appearing above all of their heads.
"If all of you are innocent, I'm next in line for the British Throne...." Teri laughed.
"I bet Quint can arrange that...." Tyler stage whispered.
"And I bet I can make him stand in a corner until his hair turns grey... naturally." Teri retorted.
"Someone call Juan; I'm placing my money on Mom!" Sean mock-yelled.
"I wonder... does Juan accept cookies?" Kyle giggled.
"Yes!" JJ and Adam exclaimed in unison. "They have to be fresh though." Adam added.
"You know this how?" Teri asked with raised eyebrows.
"Uhhh... rumors!" JJ answered a little too quickly.
"I would suggest you guys get ready to leave before I decide to ask Ark just what you've been doing when I was occupied elsewhere..." Teri said with a smile.
Within five seconds, the only signs of the boys was the dust still hanging in mid-air as they made a world-record exit from the room. "I thought so!" Teri yelled after them as she began to get things ready for her and Patty to join them at the park.
Cory was the last to exit the tram as they arrived at the park. What had once been a set of commercial office buildings was now a large field with areas of trees scattered throughout it. It was outfitted with entertainment for all ages; from rocking animals for the little kids to soccer and baseball fields and arcades for the older kids. What made Cory pause was the sign the tram had stopped next to.
Michael P. Short Memorial Park
Dedicated to children everywhere
in Memory of Michael Short
Big Brother of Patriarch Cory Short
Julio was waiting for Cory, and gave him a hug as he exited the tram. "Whadda you think?" he asked.
Cory smiled, wiping the tears from his eyes after he broke the hug. "It's awesome. Who named it?"
"Dad did." Julio replied proudly. "It's not really official yet though; they just finished it Friday, and we need to have a ribbon cutting yet."
Cory glanced around again, and realized that, while there were over a hundred kids there, not one was taking advantage of the various activities. "When is that?"
"Just as soon as you get over there and say something official and cut it!" Julio giggled. "Consider it paybacks for making me a Director."
"You DO realize that this means war, don't you?" Cory said with a smile.
"Bring it on Blondie, I've got an Air Wing and a Strike Team on my side!" Julio laughed.
"If I was you, I'd be running right now..." Cory replied with an evil glint in his eyes, while reaching out to grab Julio.
"Too slow!" Julio giggled as he twisted to avoid Cory, then took off in a sprint.
Cory tore off after him, the kids hanging around scrambling out of the way as they watched their Division Head run for his life from their Patriarch.
Julio zig-zagged as Cory kept on his heels, the two of them covering almost all of the park as they continued in their chase. They were almost back to the pavilion in the center of the park when Cory anticipated one of Julio's zags and tackled him, tickling him mercilessly as soon as they hit the ground.
Julio did his best to return the favor, and after a couple of minutes of mutual torture, both boys rolled onto their backs. "Bet you don't try that again!" Cory panted.
"You got lucky!" Julio replied, just as out-of-breath as Cory.
"You wish!" Cory laughed.
Before Julio could retort, Mick walked up, shaking his head with a grin. "And you two are in charge?" he laughed. "Stop hogging the park and get up here so everyone else can enjoy it!"
Cory and Julio exchanged glances, then in unison blew raspberries at Mick. "Spoilsport!" they chorused, which caused the quickly-assembling group around them to giggle.
They got up and followed Mick onto the stage, where a green ribbon was stretched across the center. "May I have your attention please!" Mick announced as he picked up a microphone. He gave the crowd a minute to settle down, then continued. "Today I'm proud to say that one of my pet projects has came to fruition. I watched as two of my son's friends suffered through the loss of their big brother, one so bad that he's recovering to this day. I then watched as the same two boys took their recovery and turned it into something that is changing the world as we speak. As all of you know, I'm talking about Cory and Sean Short. They invited my sons to join them, and they have already made their mark on the world themselves. When I thought up the idea for this park, it only seemed fitting to name it after the boy who was not only the guiding hand that made Cory and Sean the people they are today, but also the unofficial 'big brother' to most of the kids in the neighborhood."
Cory's grin was contagious as he heard Mick saying things about Mikey that brought fond memories forward. He put an arm over Julio's shoulder as they both listened to Mick continue.
Mick smiled as he saw Cory showing his friendship with Julio. "Mike's lessons to the neighborhood kids are what made it possible for all of you to be here today. It's only fitting that the first new recreational area in the Des Moines Compound be named after the one person that affected the lives of the boys who became Clan Short and the Des Moines Division. Before we get to the cutting of the ribbon, I believe your grass-stained Director has a few words."
"You're just jealous because we can all out-run you, Dad." Julio commented as he took over, Cory still at his side with his arm on Julio's shoulder. "A lot of you have never had the luck of spending one-on-one time with the Short family, so I'm going to give you an idea of what it's like so you believe it when those of us who have been there treat you like we've been treated. I'll start with Momma Teri; whatever you do, don't ever call her Mrs. Short! She'll talk your head off!" Julio had to pause as everyone who knew Teri giggled loudly. "Seriously, Teri is one of the nicest grownups I've ever known. You ain't gotta be her kid to be able to talk to her with problems or get a hug if you had a bad day. Even before there was a Clan, if you knew her then you were one of her kids. That leads us to Mikey; he was the big brother to all of us. It didn't matter how old you were, if you wanted to hang with Mikey you didn't even have to ask. If anyone had a problem with it, he'd chew them out. He even kicked a couple of guy's butts for complaining because me, Cory, and Sean were hanging with him and a couple of his friends."
"Oh really?" Teri said loudly, her tone making it clear that she was not in the least bit surprised.
"Oops; I wasn't supposed to tell you that!" Julio laughed, which brought chuckles from the crowd. "Now for the two guys who most of you have heard of, Cory and Sean. I can tell you from being there that both of them thought Mikey was the best thing ever, and they always tried to do things the way that he did them. Actually, most of us did, but they are lots better at it. Even today, when y'all saw Cory chasing me around, it was because Mikey brought all of us so close that we're more brothers than just friends. Don't let Cory or Sean fool you; they're the best friends you could have, but if you ever hurt someone while they're around you'll feel that hurt double. Whenever Cory's around, I realized this weekend that people always acted nicer to each other, even if nobody else knew him. Cory's got a special magic all his own, and Mikey made sure that he wasn't forced to hide it. That's why Cory is our Patriarch; because he's got something special that Mikey helped him grow into something that affects all of us."
Cory's blush was so strong that Julio could actually feel the heat, so he decided the timing was right to pass the microphone. "I'm done embarrassing Cory, so now I'll give you Patriarch Short for the official ribbon cutting."
Cory took the microphone from Julio and grabbed the scissors from Mick. "Y'all want official?" Cory announced with a grin. "I'm officially tired of all these words, it's playtime!" With that, Cory turned and cut the ribbon in half. "Last one on the playground is a rotten egg!" he quipped as he tossed the scissors on the floor and jumped off the platform, breaking into a run towards the fields as soon as his feet hit the ground.
The rest of the crowd took his lead, and with screams that would make a banshee green with envy they followed him out into the park. Within minutes, games of soccer and baseball had started, the swings and slides had lines as they got their first true test, and the arcade was ringing with the sounds of the free games being put through their paces. The parents which had attended the ceremony were spread out as well; some sitting and watching the kids being kids, while others were actively involved in games or helping the little ones on and off of various toys.
A few minutes later, Cory, Julio, Jesse, and Sean were taking a break from free-for-all soccer game that they had joined. "Dudes, this park is awesome!" Sean commented as he looked around at the quickly-growing crowds enjoying all of the activities.
"Yeah, it's like when Mikey used to take us out, everyones having fun and nobody is fighting." Julio added.
Cory nodded, a smile on his face. "Yeah, I think your Dad finally used his brain and did something right; a lotta kids are getting to have fun in someplace safe."
Jesse smiled as he cuddled into Julio's side. "Cory, I don't want to ruin the fun, but when is Candy's funeral?"
Cory blinked, but recovered quickly as he realized that Jesse was still going to have issues with determining appropriate timing. "You're fine Jesse; I just didn't get a chance to tell you guys, Mom filled me in yesterday. That's why she had a Vulcan doctor watching her. She told Mom that she didn't want me to go through what I did with Mikey, so no funeral. The Vulcan doc took her to the Research Institute as soon as she died so that they could research what killed her and try to find ways to prevent it from killing other people. Mom said that her and Candy talked about it, and Candy liked the idea of helping others like that."
Jesse nodded. "That is really nice; she thought about other people instead of just herself. Now I can answer it if anyone asks."
Not wanting to stick on the subject, Julio asked Cory "Do you want to meet our Division before you gotta leave?"
"Sure!" Cory replied, fully aware that Julio was trying very hard to make sure that he didn't have a relapse.
Julio tapped his commbadge. "Des Moines Division, assemble outside the Arcade for Patriarch Inspection." he announced.
Cory glanced at the arcade, his eyes going wide as he saw a very large crowd appearing in front of it containing kids and even a few adults. "Umm, who's running CIC?" Cory asked, assuming that EVERYONE was coming in.
"Daileass is helping out until we get organized." Julio replied as he started to lead the group towards the arcade.
As they walked up, Herman announced "Des Moines Division, A-TEN-HUT!"
Cory grinned as he saw that even the non-Unit trained kids did their best to follow the example of their division brothers. "At ease, ladies and gentlemen." he stated.
Julio took care of official introductions as they moved through the ranks, Colin joining them and assisting with the members of the strike teams that Julio had not interacted with yet. When they reached the non-Unit kids, Cory smiled when he found that Ted Jacobs' grand-nephew Richie was included in the group. Julio was glad to see that his new brothers and sons had decided to hang towards the back, because he wasn't sure how Cory would respond to having competition in the son collecting department. "Cor, these are my brothers Abe, Arlo, and Petey. Their baby sister Arrow is hanging with Mom right now." Julio said as he pointed out each of the boys.
Cory smiled at the three hispanic boys. "It's great to meet you guys; you've got a really great new big brother. He's kinda weird, but it's a good weird. You can trust him though, he's never gonna lie to ya."
Abe looked at Cory, obviously speaking for his brothers as well. "Thanks, Sir. We know he's been busy, but he's still made time for us. Dad was telling us about the Clan, and it really means a lot that you trust our big brother to run one of your Divisions."
"I'm putting you guys in charge of making him laugh whenever he gets too serious." Cory replied with a giggle.
"I think we can handle that!" Abe replied as his two younger brothers giggled softly.
Julio decided that it would be best to move on before Cory cause him any more trouble. "Cory, the last six are our new sons...." Julio said, the rest of his introduction cut off by Kurt.
"He's Riley..." Kurt said, pointing at his brother
"and he's Reese..." Riley added, continuing the circle.
"he's Bobby..." Reese said, adding the fun they were having.
"he's Kent..." Bobby giggled.
"he's Bruce..." Kent said while holding his sides.
"and he's Kurt!" Bruce finished before all six of them collapsed in laughter.
Cory and Sean exchanged amused glances. "Better you guys than us!" Sean giggled at Julio and Jesse.
Cory helped the six boys back to their feet. "Welcome to the family guys!" he giggled. "You're nuts; that's a good thing though. You can help your uncles keep Julio and Jesse sane."
"They're sane?" most of the assembled division muttered, the combined mutterings turning it into a shout.
"I used to be!" Julio shot back. "Y'all are fixing that quickly though!"
"Welcome to leadership!" Cory laughed. "It gets better though, they've got this nice white coat with really long sleeves that you get to wear when you wanna relax!"
Julio smiled, the hint that Cory was quietly giving him registering fully. "I guess I'm getting too serious?"
"Duhhh!" all six of his sons said in unison.
Cory nodded. "I'm learning it too, bro. These guys are your sons for a reason; all six of them are going to be learning from you while letting you know that you need to lighten up sometimes. You can't feel things like I'm learning to, but these guys love you a lot already; just like you two love them. Mick taught you a lot about being a Dad, now you need to teach them what he taught you."
Julio smiled. "Thanks Cor." Before he could say more, half of his sons decided it was time to play 'attack the parent' with him, the other half going after Jesse while giggling wildly.
Fife purred as he cuddled into Mont's side while watching his new family assembling in the front yard of the house. Bast and Jeremy were comfortably cuddling on the front porch steps, JJ and Adam were sitting on the ground, watching as Kyle, Ezra, and Ty played catch with Kai. Bruce had Casey and Tina on his lap, as he listened patiently to their descriptions of the highlights of the Orlando base. Teri, Mikey, and Candy had found a shady spot and were all three fawning over Patty, who was willingly soaking up the attention. The only two missing were Cory and Sean, who had decided to take a tour through the house before heading back to Orlando.
Inside the house, Sean joined Cory, who was sitting at the kitchen table with a small smile on his face. "What'ca thinking about, bro?" Sean asked as he put am arm over Cory's shoulder.
Cory scooted closer to Sean. "I was just thinking about stuff since the last time we left the house. You know, how things seem so different but when you put them all together they're the same?"
Sean thought it over for a minute. "I think I get it. We're all still family even though things have changed a lot?"
"Kinda." Cory nodded. "We still need Mom. We still like having fun, playing games and joking around. I think all of us forgot that for a little bit."
"Yeah; I think the buttholes almost won." Sean said seriously.
"If we'd let them turn us into adults they would have." Cory replied. "I think that's why we got sent on this little vacation, we were acting like adults instead of kids. None of us were having fun anymore."
Sean looked over at Cory, the full realization of what he was saying hitting him hard. "That's why we were all freaking out all the time?"
Cory nodded. "Yeah; everyone says that the Clan follows what you and I are doing and does it that way. I kinda figured it out when Julio had his entire Division staff report for an inspection. He's already doing it, and he's only been a director for a couple of days. The stuff we did before we moved worked because we were being ourselves; we gotta start doing that again or all the kids we've helped will end up lost again."
Sean nodded. "Yeah; I know Kyle seems to be feeling a lot better since he's not trying to be a King anymore."
"Yeah, I think we need to give him and Ty extra little brother time." Cory replied softly. "Mikey woulda done that for us if we'd had something like becoming a Mikyvis happen."
Sean nodded. "Yeah, and we shoulda been helping Adam and JJ too."
Cory leaned over and gave Sean a quick kiss. "We gotta watch each other, I guess. Nobody else really knows us like we do."
"Sounds like a plan." Sean replied seriously. "You ready?"
Cory nodded, then both boys stood and headed for the front door. As they closed it behind them, they looked out at their family in the front yard. "Thank you." Cory said as he glanced up.
"I'm supposed to pass you a message, Tigger." Mikey said loud enough for Cory to hear. "You're welcome."
Cory grinned his thanks at his brother. "Has anyone chartered us a flight on the Mikyvis Airways yet?" he giggled.
"I'm the pilot!" Tyler giggled. "Anyone who leaves cookie crumbs in the seats hasta listen to Mick's full pun collection though!"
"Pop! That's cruel and unusual punishment!" Ezra giggled.
"Nah, you ain't had to listen to Ty when he hasta clean cookie crumbs outta his ears!" Kyle laughed.
Cory and Sean ran over and pulled both Kyle and Tyler into a four way hug. "We love you guys." Cory stated, obviously speaking for Sean as well.
Tyler and Kyle both giggled. "We love you too." Tyler replied.
"Thanks for being my big brother even when I screw up." Kyle whispered in Cory's ear.
Realizing that Cory and Kyle were needing a private moment, Ty and Sean moved off into a side cuddle.
"You ain't screwed up any more than I have lately, bro." Cory said softly. "I can't expect you to learn from me if I'm not doin' stuff right either. I promised you back at the home that I'd be your big brother forever, and I'm keeping that promise."
"But you're gonna..." Kyle started to reply.
"I said forever, and I mean it." Cory said firmly. "I keep my promises."
Kyle smiled. "You're so hard headed, I bet you'll find a way!"
"If that is what it takes to keep you from turning into a grumpy old Q, that's what I'll do!" Cory giggled.
"You're the best big brother ever." Kyle mumbled as he buried his face in Cory's chest.
"I'll second that." JJ added as he joined them and sandwiched Kyle between them. "Thanks for looking out for us, Cory. I think you even managed to keep Dad from going crazy after Mom died."
Cory smiled. "You two had just as much to do with it as I did. We're family, and we need to start acting like it again."
Both Kyle and JJ looked into Cory's eyes, smiling as they saw the brother that had welcomed them into his family once again in control. "You got it, bro." they said in unison.
After another quick cuddle, they broke apart and waved for everyone to join them. Once the entire group was assembled together, Cory announced "I came here as Patriarch Short with members of my Vulcan family. I'm leaving here as Cory Short, and all of you are either my brothers, my son, my nephew or niece, my uncle, or my parent. It don't matter if everyone else in the Universe sees us as a Vulcan Clan; we're the Short family, and we're gonna treat each other and anyone that we help like the Short family always has."
"What about me, Mont, and Bast?" Jeremy asked.
"I said brothers, that includes you guys." Cory said with a smile. "I'm just waiting for Mont and Bast to decide to make it official, they're already brothers in my heart."
"Told ya!" Bast said with a toothy grin as he playfully poked Jeremy.
"You do realize that Janet and I have had the paperwork done to make it official since three days after you two were assigned to Cory and Sean, don't you?" Teri asked with a knowing smile.
Mont raised his furry eyebrows at Teri. "Why?" he asked.
"Because both of us saw how you two were bonding with the family." Teri replied. "You made yourself a second family just by interacting and caring about the ones that you were sent to protect. That's why I don't worry about Cory and Sean; you protect them because you love them, not because you have to."
Mont and Bast both nodded their heads, their minds busy processing the fact that they had really been accepted by this family.
From behind them, they heard a low rumbling voice. "You must do what is in your hearts to do." Kwan Ti said, his blazing wings furled up behind him.
"You both have families in many places, this is just one of them. It doesn't matter what a piece of paper says; who you call mom and dad or who you call brother is all that matters. Becoming an official part of this family is not a disrespect to the rest of your brothers. They're happy that you've found another family. But they also know that you will always be brothers with them as well."
He walked up and pulled them into a tight hugs, including Jeremy in the group. Speaking into Jeremy's ear, Kwan Ti said softly. "You're good for my brother. Thank you for looking past what he looks like, and seeing the person inside. That means more to us then you will ever know." He stepped back and grinned at all of them before vanishing.
"Think about it guys; you can come talk to me about it whenever your ready." Teri stated softly. After looking around at the group, she added "Is everyone ready to return to the madhouse?"
Once everyone replied that they were ready, Teri motioned to Tyler. "Take us home, son."
"Yes Mom!" Tyler said with a smile before emptying the front yard.
"Line up for hamburgers and hot dogs!" Mick yelled, making sure that he had something non-deadly in his hands first to deter any rabid kids.
The junior residents of the Headquarters compound quickly dropped what they were doing and lined up near the twenty-foot long grill that Mick, Bob, and Herman had been happily slaving over.
"That's cheating!" Mick laughed as he saw Johnny, Robin, and Eddie floating over the crowd to the front of the line.
"I'm glad to see that the boys have their priorities straight though." Herman added as he pointed to the moving gap that showed that another group was being shifted to the front. Sure enough, a group of the youngest members were being escorted to the front by Lucas and Logan; the group consisted of all three of Mick and Janice's newest sons, both of Mini and Alien's new sons, as well as Kurt and Kent.
Bob smiled as he watched how Lucas and Logan seemed to be guarding their nephews. He couldn't help but to think back to the events that had led to him becoming a grandfather to twin seven-year-olds just after they got back from the park.
Bob walked into the door of his house, Mini and Alien leading the rest of their brothers in behind him.
"I'll take care of Bobby, Dad." Doug said as he took their baby brother from Bob. "He needs big brother time!"
Bob smiled, fully aware that his youngest had the most protective big brothers that any kid could ask for. "I think he's getting hungry, you okay with getting a bottle ready?"
Doug smiled back. "I got it Dad; I'll cheat. Momma Janet has given Daileass all the specifics on making up food for Bobby for us."
"If you guys talk to her before I do, tell her thank-you." Bob replied. "That's not cheating, it's being smart. Now that I know about it, I'll probably do the same thing. That way if she decides that he needs supplements we'll all know that he gets them."
Doug's smile grew larger; being told that he was doing something right that he'd never been trained for by his new dad boosting his sense of worth as a member of a normal family. "Thanks Dad, I'll tell her!" he said as he headed out of the room.
Bob collapsed in his favorite chair. "You guys wore me out!" he joked.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Lucas and Logan prodding Mini and Alien toward him. "Get over here and spill it, guys. Did Herman finally catch you in his garden in a way that you can't tamper with his evidence?" Bob said with a laugh.
"We didn't tamper with ... uhh ... how can there be evidence if we wasn't there?" Alien sputtered.
"I thought so." Bob said with a smile. "C'mon guys, this is dad you're talking to. There's no need to get nervous now."
With Lucas and Logan at their sides, obviously to keep them from chickening out, Mini and Alien made their way to where they were standing in front of Bob.
"Sit!" Bob stated as he patted his legs. "Lucas, Logan? You want to hop on these two turkey's laps once they're seated? That way all three of us know they can't run off."
Realizing that they were outnumbered, Mini and Alien took the offered seats, wrapping their arms around the twins as they took the positions that Bob had requested. "You know when I went to the hospital?" Mini asked softly.
"Yes." Bob replied seriously, understanding from Mini's tone that this wasn't an area where he really felt comfortable.
"You remember me tellin' you how proud I was about my little brothers helpin' the doctors with those two boys that were in a plane crash?"
"Go ahead, son." Bob said as he wrapped his arms around all four boys. He felt Lucas and Logan flinch, but as he was about to pull his arms back they both grabbed them and held them in place.
"They ain't got no family anymore, and the Doc says they're okay to leave the hospital..." Mini continued, still speaking so soft that Bob had to pay attention to hear him.
"How would you like to help them?" Bob asked, the fact that Alien was being silent telling him that this wasn't a situation that would be found in any parenting handbook.
"I ... umm ... we ... umm ... naw, it's stupid." Mini said, his voice becoming deflated.
"If whatever you're thinking of was stupid, there wouldn't be a pair of mini-Minis sitting here to make sure you don't run." Bob stated. "You know the rule; the only stupid question is the one that you never ask."
Mini turned his head, his eyes showing the insecurity that he was feeling. "You're not gonna laugh?"
"I won't laugh; if this wasn't serious I wouldn't be holding four very brave young men on my lap." Bob replied.
Mini seemed to steel himself as he gripped Logan tightly. "Me-and-Alien-want-to-adopt-them-and-make-them-our-sons!" he blurted out quickly, hanging his head in preparation of the expected response.
"Logan? I'm sure you know more about these boys than I do. Is there anything that you or Lucas have found that would make this a problem?" Bob asked. "Answer in my head please."
Logan nodded, and gave Bob the pertinent information that he would need to make an informed decision. "Thank-you." Bob said as he thought over what he was just told. After a minute, he made his decision. "Guys, there are times when other parents say I'm crazy for how I raise you. I ignore them because I've seen that it's working. You're asking me for permission to take a step that most kids your age couldn't handle; but I've seen the other side of the coin with your Clan brothers. You guys might not know it, but all of us old people talk too, and we've been given advice on what works when you ask this question. The answer is yes, but there is a condition."
"What's the condition?" Mini asked warily.
"The condition is that you have to be willing to come to us adults for advice." Bob stated. "You're going to need kid time too, and my job is to make sure you get it while still being the great parents I think you'll be. You're going to run into situations that you have no idea how to handle; you need to ask for help instead of trying to do it all yourself."
"That's not bad." Mini said. "What else?"
"You four need to go get my new grandsons out of that stuffy hospital while I arrange for someone to make it official." Bob replied. "The sooner the better!"
"That's really it?" Mini asked, his surprise evident in his tone.
"Yes, now give this old man a hug and get moving!" Bob chuckled.
Once all four boys evacuated his lap, Bob stood up and pulled Mini and Alien into a double hug. After the hug broke, he was pleasantly surprised to find Logan and Lucas taking their own turn. "Thanks; you made our big bro feel better." Lucas sent telepathically.
"You're welcome, and thank you for watching out for Mini and Alien." Bob replied just loud enough for the two of them to hear.
Bob smiled as Lucas escorted the two new family members to the front. Frank and Fred hung onto their Uncle Lucas, still not sure of themselves in this big group of kids. The seven-year-old twins sported medium-length reddish blond hair, not a true strawberry blond yet not really blond either, and bright green eyes. They were actually easy to tell apart, as Frank was just over an inch taller than Fred.
"You sure that the big kids ain't gonna be mad?" Frank asked, his freckled face scrunched with worry.
"If they get mad, I'll kick their butts." Lucas stated, surprising force behind his soft voice. "Then we'll sic your Grandpa on them!"
"And I know how to use a spatula as a deadly weapon!" Bob added, as he struck a swordsman pose with the spatula. "En Guarde!"
That was enough to break the twin's worry, as both of them broke into a giggling fit at the comical sight of Bob fencing against thin air with a spatula. Lucas just smiled as he sent to Bob 'Not bad, I'll have to ask General Adam to teach you how to really use that as a deadly weapon!'
"You're nutty, Grandpa!" Fred exclaimed.
"Yep!" Bob replied as he took a bow, his strike team sons applauding his display. "Lucas and Logan are in charge of making sure all of you guys under ten get plenty of food. If we start to run low, we'll make more. Eat up, guys!"
The kids began filing through, and by the time the last member of Air Wing Charlie had filled his plate it was obvious that the size of the grill was just barely adequate. The adults got their share, and soon everyone was concentrating on their food. Richie had taken a seat by Julio, and finally got the nerve to ask "What happens now?" as he was finishing his plate.
Julio held up his finger as he swallowed the last bite of his third hamburger, then turned his full attention to Richie. "After we're done out here, Jesse, me and our sons are gonna help you get your stuff setup in your new room. Your Mom and Dad deciding that you were old enough to choose to join the Clan yourself makes everything really easy. I think that you're the only one on the command team besides me and Robin that can say their first parents helped them become part of the operation here. I figure that you'll need a couple of days to get used to your new home, then I'll hook you up with Daileass to get you up to speed on some new geek toys that you ain't been able to play with before."
"Am I gonna live in some kinda group home?" Richie asked.
"Only if you consider my house a group home; it just seems like one lately!" Julio giggled. "Mom and Dad claimed you as soon as Uncle Ted told them you were going to move here."
"Because you're family, even if it's a little distant." Julio replied. "Besides, Dad heard a rumor that you like to play with other people's servers. He said that you need to be close to CIC if you're gonna keep up that hobby."
"But... grown-ups think kids like me should be in jail." Richie said in surprise.
"Not when you're doing it for good reasons." Julio stated. "You know that new version of Space Sim that was just released?"
"Yeah." Richie replied with a frown. "I'm still trying to figure out how to unlock the stuff they hid again."
"You can stop trying!" Julio said with a grin. "Almost all of the code in that release was written by Patriarch Short and his top two hackers. You can't unlock what isn't there, but I'm sure that once Cory hears about you he'll make some time to visit with you and get you set up on the full version if you and him agree on the responsibilities that go with using it."
"So they were hired to write it?"
"No, Cory found the same holes you were using, and was offered the chance to fix them by Starfleet. When he got done, Mr. Gates was given the choice to either distribute what Cory had brought to them or lose his company."
Richie really smiled for the first time since his arrival. "Uncle Ted wasn't lyin' then; I might get to really do good stuff!"
Julio nodded. "Yep; and there are gonna be times where I'm gonna ask you to break into a network because there is information there that is needed to help kids, and there might be times that you'll need to crash one to help support an operation. Each of us tries to do what we're best at, and you joining us has just about completed the team we need for running operations."
"Thanks, I'm already starting to like it here!" Richie grinned. "You think your Dad will let me have another hot dog?"
"I think he'll chew your butt if he finds out that you didn't get one when you wanted to!" Julio replied.
"I sure don't want him to do that!" Richie laughed as he stood up and grabbed his plate. "Be right back!"
Julio rolled his eyes with a grin as he headed out of Robbie's room to go get some drinks. When they had arrived in the room, Unit engineers were just finishing running a dedicated power trunk to the area where the computer desk was to be set up. As they left, Julio found out why; Daileass began transporting in not only Richie's personal belongings, but also some 'welcome to the Clan' gifts that Daileass had personally picked out. Richie acted like it was Christmas as he opened the multitude of boxes; in no time the already formidable computer setup he owned quadrupled in size and power. Somehow, and Julio was pretty sure it involved Daileass, Christian decided to come over to 'help'; he hit it off with Richie immediately and the two of them began to obsess on making sure each of the fifteen monitors was in exactly the right position.
Just as Julio reached the stairs, his commbadge beeped. "Pacific Rim Division to Des Moines Headquarters."
"This is Director Hernandez, go ahead." Julio replied to the unfamiliar voice.
"Whoa," the deep teenage voice softly gasped and then apologized, "Sorry, Sir. I was just calling to offer you folks a little vacation here in paradise. We've met a few Clan from Orlando and a bunch from Utah, but not much else. Anyway, the invite is open, so just give us a call when you can make it."
"Slow down!" Julio giggled. "You call me 'Sir' again and I'll sic Aunt Teri on ya! I'm Julio, okay?"
Sounding relieved, the teenager chortled, "I'm Kaleo, communications officer here. I was just surprised that you were there to receive the call, Julio. My boss, Prez, is in the dining room, but about to head out for a school concert."
"You caught me getting drinks for my geek squad, Kaleo!" Julio responded. "They're setting up my new IT intel officer's bedroom; fifteen friggin monitors!"
"Umm... okay," Kaleo sniggered, "he'll be warm at night anyway, I guess."
"Yeah, but the laser levels seem a bit much." Julio deadpanned. "As far as your invite goes, by Wednesday I should be about ready for a vacation the way things are going; in the last three days, I went from having two little brothers to having a live-in boyfriend, six sons, three more little brothers, a baby sister, a live-in strike team, and an air wing as next-door neighbors. To top it off, my little bro has adopted a Sabre Toothed Tiger kitten!"
Taken aback, Kaleo was speechless for a moment and then roared laughing. "I know the feeling," Kaleo chuckled, "with about a dozen gorillas, another dozen G-cats, chimps and ferrets roaming around here."
"I didn't mention our furry brothers!" Julio giggled. "Me and my boyfriend have an awesome raccoon hybrid each to guard us. They're kewl, I like them!"
"Well, the Scoobies are a little larger than most ferrets, but they still love shiny things. That's how we met them Saturday..."
"Just a sec!" Julio said. "Hey Robin, drop me a couple of those cookies as you're going over my head!!"
"Sure!" Robin giggled as he passed over the top of Julio, three cookies floating off of the plate in his hand and landing in Julio's lap.
"Thanks, bro!" Julio said. "Sorry Kaleo, Robin's mom baked fresh cookies, and if I didn't grab some now they'd be gone by the time I get back upstairs!"
"Cookies are important," Kaleo said with an obvious smile. "We must go through hundreds of 'em every day. I just finished breakfast and had a sticky-bun."
"You were talking about the ferret kids?" Julio continued. "I think I've met one; Joel had a furry kid with him who claimed the disco ball from our dance with Robin's help."
Sounding confused, Kaleo stammered, "Umm... they took a disco ball... off the ceiling?"
"It's a long story; we'll have to sit down and go over it when we come over." Julio giggled. "Kyle thought it was funny!"
"OH NO!" Kaleo loudly laughed, "the creator of twenty-foot-kid-crushing waves!"
"Really? We're going to have to compare notes so we can compile a blackmail list!" Julio laughed. "I owe him a few hundred paybacks!"
"HEY!!!! He had help..." Daileass interjected into their conversation. "I seem to remember a large underwater explosion happening to kick things off!"
"That was the other waves," Kaleo giggled. "Guess it's only a different manner of death - from crushing or being blown to smithereens!"
"That sounds like Kyle and Ty alright!" Julio giggled. "Whadda ya think, Wednesday sound like a plan?"
"Should be kewl," Kaleo agreed. "I'll let Prez and the rest of the Core Rimmers know."
"Not going there!" Julio giggled. "I better get going, my triple twins just came out of the Geek Room, and from the looks on their faces I'm about to be escorted to the kitchen for their drinks!"
"Pool first, then kitchen, Dad!" Kurt said loud enough to be heard in Hawaii.
"Oh crap!" Julio muttered.
"Priorities!" Kaleo laughed, and then said, "Pacific Rim Division out."
"Des Moines out!" Julio exclaimed as twelve hands grabbed him at once.
It's one day short of the tenth anniversary of Memories, and I thought it would be fitting that you would get to see the formation of the Des Moines Division being completed. Julio and crew are just getting started, and I promise that you will see much more from their little base in the middle of the U.S. I think at one point or another every single author in the CSU has had their fingers in the events that led to this point, and I am grateful for their input and assistance.
Most importantly, thank you to all of you readers, you have stuck with me when real life made writing move slower than a Yugo with bald tires on a frozen lake! Thanks for the last ten years, and I'm looking forward to the next major anniversary where we'll get to say 'wow!' once again!
Thank you, and may all of your lives be blessed!
For the recipe for Chilaquiles, follow this link: Chilaquiles at Mr. Breakfast