Isaac held onto his father's hand, staring at the man in disbelief.
"I can't believe that you're here, daddy," the nine-year-old said quietly.
Dalton held onto his son, tightly, never wanting to let go of the tiny boy, again. "I can't believe it, either, Isaac. I thought that I would never see you again."
"Mommy would hit me whenever I asked about you," the tiny boy admitted sadly. "She said that I wouldn't get into heaven if I thought about you, daddy."
"What kind of God would ever keep a sweet angel like you from his side?" Dalton asked the boy as he pulled him against his chest. "You're perfect in every way."
"Even though, I'm gay?" Isaac asked nervously. "Mommy said that fags go to Hell. . ."
Dalton barely froze before he turned Isaac to face him and proceeded to kiss his son's cheek. Isaac felt his father's body shaking as the man cried.
"I love you, so much, buddy," Dalton told his son. "God teaches us to love one another. Why would He ever care if you loved another boy?"
"But mommy," Isaac started until Dalton quickly put his finger over his son's mouth.
"From what I understand," the father reminded his son, "your mother doesn't even exist anymore, so her opinion doesn't exactly matter. Now, does it?"
"I guess not," the boy said sheepishly. He knew exactly what had happened to his mother.
"Trust me, son," Dalton told the boy honestly, "You can forget about your mother. She's never coming back."
"That's an understatement," Noah Barnes said as he reentered the room with a tray that had three mugs on it. The light-brown haired boy set the tray on the nearest empty table before proceeding to hand one of the mugs to Dalton and another to Isaac.
"Thank you, Noah," Dalton thanked the boy.
"Thank you," Isaac said.
"I find that hot chocolate helps people cope with sudden changes in their lives," Noah said as he sat in one of the empty chairs and sipped from his own mug. "The hospital didn't have whipped cream, though," he added with a frown. "Hot chocolate is always better with whipped cream."
Isaac giggled as he sipped from the mug of steaming cocoa.
"Are you doing okay, Isaac?" Noah asked in concern. "All of your numbers seem to be leveling out, finally."
"I feel much better, Noah," Isaac said happily. "Thank you for helping me."
"It was all Marc," Noah said with a slight blush. "I'll make sure he knows, though."
"You helped save my son's life," Dalton said gratefully. "That's all that matters to me."
"He's not completely out of the woods, yet, unfortunately," Noah said. "Marc is going to want to take him back to a much better-equipped hospital for further testing. The dedication ceremony is supposed to be tomorrow."
Dalton nodded in understanding.
"Whatever it takes, Noah," the father said firmly.
Harold stared at the boy in disbelief.
"He's my son?"
"Yes, T'hy'la," Vanek said warmly. "He is your son, though I do not know why he is reacting this way towards you."
"I do," Davie said softly. He took a sad look at the sobbing Arys being held by his Guardian Angel. "It's the ultimate nightmare. I was the one that brought him back, and I saw the man that he had been living with." Davie looked at Harold and frowned. "The man that has been his foster-dad for the past two years, is your opposite in the universe where I found him."
"What?" Harold was completely confused.
Davie sighed sadly.
"This is difficult to explain, Harold," the angel said. "Just bear with me for a minute. Look, when Alex tried to save Harris from the house fire, he intended to send the boy to your sister-in-law, but he forgot to take into account a few events that had shifted the timelines around. His miscalculations sent the little Harris into another universe. Charles and Melissa didn't live in the same place, since the Harold from that universe had never been saved by Vanek after his wife died. He fell into a deep depression that was lifted when he met a woman named Abigail Clark. Ms. Clark died shortly after they had wed, and Harold was stuck with the new foster-kid they had brought into their home. He resented the child because the boy looked like his first wife that had died in a house fire, and he began to take out his anger on the boy. Arys' Social Worker had pretty much forgotten about the boy, and only checked on the child when his boss mandated it." Davie turned and glanced sadly at Harris. "It's not his fault that he doesn't trust you, Harold. It's not your fault either."
"It's mine," Xander said grimly as he looked up at Davie and Harold. "It's all my fault. I screwed up and didn't think before I acted, and your son suffered because of my mistake. I will never forgive myself for the damage this poor boy has suffered from."
"I forgive you, Alex," Arys said quietly. "I understand that mistakes happen." Arys looked out towards the man that was supposedly his father. He had tears in his green eyes, and his body was trembling with the fear he radiated. "I'm sorry. I- I- I just can't trust you, yet."
"No matter how much I wish that you could, Harris," Harold said, trying unsuccessfully to keep the tears from his voice. "I understand. I just want you better so that I can have you back in my life." Harold sniffled slightly as Vanek squeezed his hand. "I love you, so much, Harris. I only want what is best for you."
"He's telling the truth, Arys," Xander said quietly. "This man is your real father. I'll show you everything."
"But you lied to me, too!" Arys said as he scowled at his Guardian Angel. "You told me you were homeless!"
"I thought I was, Arys," Xander said. "It was part of my punishment for screwing up your life."
"Oh," Arys said sadly. He sniffled and hugged Xander. "I'm sorry that you had to suffer, too. You didn't deserve to be punished for what happened, Alex."
"I failed my family, Arys," Xander said humbly. "I deserve whatever punishment that God thinks I deserve."
Xander looked over at Melissa.
"I'm sorry that I didn't remember you, Melissa," Alex said as tears fell down his cheeks. "I was given the task of protecting you, and I didn't. I abandoned you to skip off across the realms in search of Arys. Can you ever forgive me, Melissa?"
Melissa stood as Tyler and Kyle quickly slid off of her lap. She went over and sat on the edge of the biobed and ran her hand down Xander's wing with a whimsical smile on her lips. Then, she reached out and pulled both of the boys into her arms.
"I can't be mad at you for something that I didn't even know was happening, baby brother," Melissa told the angel quietly. "I've missed you for so long. We never even found out who did this to you."
"I don't know," Alex said sadly. "I've tried to remember what happened, but all I know is that I woke up in the woods, then I was standing at the pearly gates a moment later. I begged Saint Peter to let me stay, but he said it was only possible if I was sincere about guarding my sister's life. I told him that I wanted to protect my entire family. I begged him to give me the chance." Xander sighed in defeat. "It was easy at first. I followed Melissa around everywhere that she went. Then, she met Charles and my family started to grow." Xander looked down at Arys and stroked the boy's cheek with his thumb. "Your father and mother joined my idea of a family next. My nephew came along, and then you were shortly after Geoff, Arys. It'll be easier just to show you guys. Davie?"
"Can you help me?" Xander asked softly. "I need to show a few people my memories, and I don't think that I can do it alone."
"Who do you want to include, Xander?"
"My sister, Arys, Harold, and Vanek," Xander said with a thankful smile. "Kyle and Tyler can look on their own. I don't think my memories will be blocked to them, now."
"They're not," Tyler confirmed. "Kyle and I have someplace else we need to be, though."
Kyle looked between Arys and Harold with a thoughtful look on his face before he did something that surprised all of them. Kyle walked over and wrapped his arms around Harold's waist and hugged the man. Harold was stunned but reached down to pat the boy's back gently.
"Thank you for fighting for my Harris, Kyle," Harold said sincerely. "I'm glad that you're on my side."
"I'm glad that you're on my side, too," Kyle said with a smug grin. "I saw what you wanted to happen to the defendant. She was lucky that Isaac needed to see the results of the punishment, or else you would have gotten to see something completely different."
"Remind me to never piss you off, Kyle," Harold told the boy with a slight chuckle. "If you ever need to talk about it, don't be afraid to come find me."
"I'll remember that, Harold," Kyle said before he finally stepped away from the man. He looked over at Tyler and giggled. "What?"
"Is there anything else that you want to surprise me with, today?" Tyler asked with a roll of his eyes. "Come on, we've got things to do. We'll be back, later!"
Kyle and Tyler vanished in the blink of an eye. Harold shook his head in disbelief.
"Welcome to Clan Short, Harold," Davie said with a smug grin. Then, the angel turned his attention back to Xander. "Show me the memory, and I will help Vanek and Harold. You take Arys and Melissa."
"Okay," Xander said before he closed his eyes and he appeared to be searching for the right memory before Xander frowned. "There, Davie."
Davie closed his eyes.
"I've got it, Xander."
A golden glow filled the room as everyone started to see the night that changed Harris's life forever.
Meanwhile, at a small ice cream shop near the hospital, Charles listened as the blond-haired preteen told him about his life, glazing over the boring parts, before he started telling Charles about a teen named Danny that was also an android. The man listened, intently, wanting to gain as much knowledge about Clan Short as he could. Charles wanted to know what he was getting involved with after everything he had witnessed that morning alone.
Charles, in turn, told Marc about his own life, and how he had started 'Conner's Shop' with nothing more than the money in his pocket, and Melissa's love and support. Marc smiled as he listened to the man tell his story and asked a few questions that he had while the man and boy enjoyed their ice cream together.
"This is really good, Charles," Marc said with a grin.
"It's one of the best places around here," Charles said with a smile.
"That's not the real reason why you wanted me to come here, though, is it?" Marc asked with a smug grin. Charles couldn't help but grin at the seemingly young doctor's grasp on the situation.
"I need your help, Marc," Charles explained.
"With what?" Marc asked curiously.
"The care of Isaac Jennings," Charles admitted.
"Oh," Marc said with a shrug. "That's handled. The Clan will make sure that he gets the best care. So, will I, of course. I'm his personal physician, for now."
"Of course," Marc added. "He'll be getting a new doctor to do follow-up exams on him once his father is fully transferred back to Springfield."
"I see," Charles said with a grin. "So, all of this wasn't even necessary?"
"No," Marc said. "But it does show me that I'm doing the right thing when I go tell Cory that you're the perfect person to fill the spot of Clan Short Logistical Support Director for its new Ohio Valley Division."
Charles's jaw fell open making Marc grin at the dumbfounded man.
"The Clan Short, what?" Charles had trouble even forming the thought. "What could I ever do for Clan Short? They have access to everything."
"They don't have you," Marc said with a slight grin. "Now, I'll get with Kyle and Danny to see about buying 'Conner's Shop' and procuring your new office within the Division Headquarters."
"There aren't any Clan Short offices around here," Charles tried to argue.
"There will be once I have a talk with a few people," Marc said with a smile. "Now, let's grab some ice cream for Noah, so I can go check on my patient. I'm sure Noah would like a break, anyways."
"You're not entirely what you seem to be, are you, Marc?" Charles asked suspiciously.
Marc grinned smugly as he shrugged.
"I have no idea what you could be talking about, Mr. Conner," the blond-haired youth said.
Alexander's memory appeared in front of the small group, the hospital room vanishing from their sight as the Guardian Angel showed them his past. Xander stared at the house, unable to let the memory move forward any further. His heart was breaking as he tried to show the others what had happened to Arys that led to Alexander's mistake. The mistake that had ruined Arys' life. Xander sighed and turned to look at the people gathered. The members of his family that were there to see the truth behind why he had become an outcast of Heaven.
"It's time, Alexander," Davie told him softly. "It's the only way for Harris to understand everything that's going on."
"I know," Xander said sadly. "It doesn't mean that I have to like it."
Davie smiled at his friend. "Nobody said that you did, Alexander."
Xander waved his hand and the scene started to play out in front of everyone.
"What is this?" Harold asked curiously.
"The night that your wife died," Alexander replied. "The worst night of my existence. Let's go inside, so we can see what's actually going on."
Xander closed his eyes, and suddenly the small group found themselves standing inside the living room of the small modern style home. A woman with long brown hair was busy shuffling about the kitchen while a younger version of Harold was gathering up his belongings for his night shift at the bank headquarters.
"Theresa," the older version of Harold said distantly, a hint of longing in his voice. "Oh, how I have missed you all of these years."
The woman was smiling happily as she put together her husband's lunch for him to take along to work, while their toddler-aged son watched on from his spot on the plaid-colored sofa with a soppy-cup in his tiny hands.
"When are you getting off, Harry?" Theresa asked curiously as she finished up with Harold's lunchbox.
"Hopefully, not any later than two in the morning," Harold replied as he grabbed his jacket and pulled it on. "Diego was late all last week and the bosses didn't do crap about it."
"Aww," Theresa said as she crossed the room to console her husband. "I'll make sure that I leave a plate of food for you in the microwave."
"Thanks, love," Harold said as he kissed his wife soundly. Harold wiggled his eyebrows at the woman, making the little boy on the couch begin to giggle. Harold quickly went over and scooped Harris up into his arms. "Just what are you laughing about, little man?"
Harold proceeded to tickle the tiny boy until he squeaked about having to pee. Harold kissed the squirming toddler before putting him down. The man couldn't help but laugh as the boy frowned.
"That's what the diapers are for, buddy," Harold said with a grin. "Don't worry. I'm sure that if you ask mommy really nicely, she'll get you all cleaned up."
Harris looked up at his father, his green eyes full of the love he felt for the man. Harold looked down and couldn't help but reaching down and hugging his son one more time before he left for work.
"I love you Arys," Harold said softly. "You be good for mommy, okay?"
"Okay, daddy," the tiny boy replied. "I love you, too."
Harold ruffled his son's brown hair before he went over and gave his wife another kiss.
"I'll call you at break time, Theresa," Harold said as he gathered up his stuff for work. "I love you."
"I love you, too, Harold," Theresa replied before Harold left for the evening. She turned and smiled at her son. "Well, Arys, it looks like it's just going to be us, tonight."
The boy giggled as the memory slowly faded away, leaving the small group surrounded by darkness.
"I left right after Harold did," Xander told the group. "My nephew was in the hospital because he broke his leg."
"I remember that," Melissa said with a frown. "Geoffrey wouldn't stop jumping on his bed, and he fell off the day before and broke his leg. The doctors were going to have to do surgery, which is why he was still in the hospital."
Xander nodded absently.
"Before I can continue," the angel said regretfully. "I need to warn all of you about something. I need you to remember that nothing you are about to see is real. Nothing can harm you in any way. So, don't freak out on me, okay?"
Melissa and Harold both exchanged worried glances as Vanek just nodded at the angel. Xander reached over and squeezed Arys' hand gently.
"Are you ready for this?"
"Yeah," Arys said with a sad smile. "I think I am."
Alexander nodded before he closed his eyes and the group suddenly found themselves standing back in Harold and Theresa's living room. Everything was different this time, though. The entire living room was filled with smoke as a fire burned uncontrollably through the lower floor of the house. Glass could be heard shattering in the kitchen as the fire burned through the cabinets and crackling and popping could be heard from upstairs as the fire continued to spread everywhere throughout the two-story home.
"The smoke detectors never went off," Harold said distantly as he watched the house of his memories burn right in front of him. "The Fire Marshall said it was due to faulty wiring."
The house groaned as pictures began to fall from the walls and the paint started to bubble as the fire took its toll on everything. Suddenly, another version of Alexander appeared in the center of the room. He appeared confident and ready to handle the situation. The angel studied the room before there was a choking cough from the top of the stairs. The angel's eyes went wide in fear before he darted up the stairs.
"That's me," Xander said quietly. "Let's go upstairs."
The second floor of the house was completely engulfed in flames, everywhere you looked. They all looked up as the angel pulled Theresa Conner out of her bedroom and into the hallway. Her breaths were shallow as she slowly suffocated from the smoke.
"Arys," she whispered in a ragged sounding voice.
The angel suddenly vanished just before the floor fell out from beneath Theresa, and she fell towards the first floor with a soft cry.
Harold let loose with an anguished cry as he saw his wife fall to her death, the debris sending sparks and fire shooting out of the hole in the floor where the woman had one been. Melissa quickly grabbed Harold's arm to keep him from falling to his knees in grief.
"We're almost done," Xander said calmly as he looked upon the scene before them, with a look of utter sadness that haunted his blue eyes, belying his true feelings. "It's time for you to see me make my mistake."
The group vanished and reappeared in the infant's room where the angel was picking the toddler into his arms.
"I'll make sure you're safe, Harris," the angel said softly. "I promise."
The Guardian Angel kissed Arys on his forehead before the child vanished in a flash of light. The angel glanced around the room and disappeared just before the second floor of the house collapsed down into the first floor.
Xander took the small group back to their spot outside of the burning house where he watched as the other Alex stared at the fire in disbelief. It was Harold that broke the silence.
"Why didn't you save, Theresa?" He asked in a choked whisper. Seeing how his wife had perished was not one of the things he was expecting to see during this journey.
"She told me not to save her," Alex said so quietly that everyone had to strain to hear him. "One of the Reapers had already taken her soul so she wouldn't suffer in the fire. It was her Destiny." Alexander looked over at Harold with tears falling down his cheeks. "I'm so sorry, Harold," he said sadly. "This night is filled with nothing but regrets, that I will never be able to take back. I tried to save her, but the Reaper's job had already been done, brother-in-law."
"I- I think I understand," Harold stated sadly as tears fell from his green eyes. Vanek reached up and squeezed Harold's hand gently. Harold looked down at his T'hy'la with a frown. "I'm sorry for letting these emotions from the past overwhelm me like this, Vanek. I love you more than anything in this universe, besides my own son." Harold turned and looked down at Arys as the youth gripped the Guardian Angel's hand tightly. The boy looked up at his father, a timid smile broke across his lips, before he ducked behind the safety of the angel's wing. "You'll come to love me, soon enough, Harris. Then, we can be a family, again."
"It's time to move on," Alexander said.
"What happened next?" Melissa asked softly.
"I spent the next seven years trying to find Arys," Xander said quietly. "In 1992, there was the Trans Warp Disaster, and it was so powerful of an explosion that it shifted universes and timelines around. The universe that I sent Arys to, had been shifted to the point that it was twisted around our own universe. It bunched up our universes enough that the night of October 29th, 1995 in our universe, lined up with the night of October 29th, 2008 in the other universe."
Everyone looked at Alexander, dubiously.
"That does not sound even remotely possible," Vanek said calmly.
"Yet, here you are, talking to a Guardian Angel, within his own memory, Mister Vanek," Alex replied confidently.
"I stand corrected," Vanek said with a slight bow of his head. "Please, continue."
"Charles is missing out on some prime material here," Melissa said with a chuckle.
Vanek gave Melissa a side glance but didn't comment.
"There's one last thing that Harris needs to see," Xander said as the scenery shifted around them until they were all standing at the entrance to the same alley that Harris had come stumbling out of only days prior.
"I know this place," Vanek stated, as he glanced at the boy peeking at him from around Alexander's white wing. "I believe that we had our first encounter here, Harris."
"This is so Harris knows that I was telling the truth to him," Xander stated humbly as he pointed towards a spot next to one of the walls. "Watch there."
The spot that Xander had pointed to began to shift and twist before Alexander entered the universe. The moment that the Guardian Angel appeared, a woman with golden wings shimmered into view, and Alexander froze as he stared at the woman with familiarity in his eyes.
"Theresa?" His tiny voice trembled in fear as he said the dead woman's name.
Harold, Vanek, and Charles all gasped in disbelief as the woman nodded.
"Yes, Alexander," she said softly. "I am Harris's mother."
Alexander fell to his knees and began to sob uncontrollably.
"I'm so sorry, Theresa," he cried out, his white wings drooping against the ground as he let go of his sorrow. "I tried so hard to protect him, I really did!"
"I know, little one," Theresa said to reassure the boy as she stepped closer. "Nobody is mad at you for what happened, Alexander. I forgive you. I know that my husband will forgive you, as well as Harris when he is found."
"I will find him!" Xander said, suddenly defiant as his blue eyes flashed with a moment of sobriety. He stood, but Theresa held out her hand to stop him. "What? I can't stand here, wasting time like this!"
"I'm sorry, Alexander," she said solemnly. "This is the hardest thing that I have ever had to do."
"What do you mean, Theresa?" Alexander looked at the woman in confusion. Her eyes were filled with sadness as she gazed at him. "What's going on?"
"You will be the one who finds Harris, Alexander," Theresa told the boy as she reached out and took one of his hands in her own. She pulled him closer to her before she knelt in front of him. "It just won't be today, little one. You are such a beautiful soul, Alexander Martin. I hope that you will be able to find it in your heart to forgive me once you remember all of this."
Theresa pulled the confused boy into a tight hug and kissed his forehead. Her golden wings stretched out and wrapped around the tiny boy, shielding him from view before they were both bathed in a golden glow.
When the glow faded, the woman was gone, and a tiny eleven-year-old human boy was standing there at the end of the alley, with a confused expression on his face. He was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, and he had a small backpack on his shoulders. He glanced around him, as if he had no idea where he was, or how he had gotten there before he started to dig around in the pocket of his pants. The boy pulled out a tiny slip of paper and carefully unfolded it. He read it quickly, before he had to read it again, just to make sure it said what he thought it said.
I am sorry that you are being forced into going through this. In time you will come to remember everything. Please, forgive me.
"PS: Your name is Xander Croft. You are eleven, and it is October 31st, 2002. There is one month's worth of supplies in the bag. Go to the church circled on the map for refuge."
The boy folded the note and stuffed it back into his pocket before he quickly dropped the backpack to the ground and started to search through it.
The group watching the memory all turned to see that Alexander was crying softly, a muted-white glow surrounding his body.
"That's the end of everything that I wanted you to see," the angel said softly before the memory faded away, and the small group found themselves standing in Arys' hospital room, again. "Thanks, Davie."
"No problem, bro," Davie replied with a grin. "That's what family is for."
"I don't mean, just for helping me, right now," Alexander said shyly. "Thank you for saving Harris for me."
"I'd do it again in a heartbeat," Davie said firmly.
"You've both done very well," a woman's voice said from the corner of the room, making everyone turn to see the same woman from Alexander's memories standing there, with her golden wings resting against her back. A warm-golden glow surrounded her body, and the woman smiled happily at the others.
"Theresa?" Harold asked in shock, his voice cracking as he stared at the angel. He took a step forward before Harold's face went pale and the man crumpled to the floor.
"Daddy?" Arys called out, unexpectedly as he gripped the Alexander's wing firmly.
Isaac was clearly growing antsy as he and his father waited for one of the doctors to return to the boy's room.
"I'm tired of being in this bed," the blond-haired boy whined. "It's been hours, already, daddy!"
Dalton smiled at his son and patted his knee. "It hasn't been that long, Isaac," he told his child. "Relax, Doctor Marc will be back in a little bit."
"What about Noah?"
"He went to check on Arys," Dalton replied with a chuckle. "As soon as Noah gets back, we'll see about getting you a nice and comfy wheelchair to sit in."
Isaac groaned until Dalton reached over and tickled the boy, making him giggle excitedly.
"I love you, daddy," Isaac said as he suddenly found himself wrapped in his father's arms.
"I love you, too, Isaac," Dalton responded softly. "I would do anything for you."
"Get me out of this bed?" The boy suggested hopefully before his father began to tickle him, again. "Okay! Okay! I give up!"
Isaac laughed happily along with Dalton as they spent some time reconnecting with each other. Noah entered the room and stood by the door as he watched the father and son.
"I just keep getting happier, and happier, every time that I come in your room, Isaac," Noah told them as he walked over to the end of the biobed. "How's my favorite patient doing?"
"Can I get out of this bed, yet, Noah?" Isaac pleaded, hopefully. "Please?"
"Let me check the readout, and see how you're doing," Noah said as he walked over to study the biobed's display panel for a moment. "Well, I still think that you need to go to my other hospital, but I'll at least, let you roll around for a little bit. Let me see if I can find a whee. . ."
Noah fell silent as a wheelchair appeared next to the bed, with a green pendant attached to a pole on the back of the chair. In the center of the tiny pennant was the Clan Short symbol. Noah couldn't help but giggle.
"Ask and you shall receive," he muttered as he struggled to contain his laughter. "Thanks, Kyle! I'll have your cookies tomorrow evening!"
"I'm holding you to that, Noah!" A tiny voice quipped from the air around them.
"Mister Jennings," Noah turned his attention to Isaac's father. "Would you mind placing your son in his new wheelchair, please?"
"Not a problem, Noah," Dalton said almost proudly as he lifted his son into his arms for the first time in several years. The man couldn't help but hold the boy close as he carried him around the edge of the bed. It was with a heavy reluctance that he finally placed the child in the wheelchair. Dalton kissed Isaac's cheek before he grabbed the handles of the chair and turned his son to face the door. "Where to, my prince?"
"Can we go see Arys and Xander?" Isaac asked, hesitantly.
"You're going to enjoy this, Isaac!" Noah said with a smug grin. "You guys are in for the surprise of your life."
"I highly doubt that Noah," Dalton said dismissively.
"Ten bucks says you're wrong," Noah said as he gazed up at the man, his blue eyes seemed to be sparkling with excitement at the challenge.
"Deal," Dalton said with a shrug. "Lead the way, Noah."
There were two people, though, that had no idea what was happening in the hospital. Charles and Marc crossed the street, each still lazily sipping on their own milkshakes, the hospital parking lot entrance only a few feet away. Both of their hands held cups in them as Charles had decided to grab something for Melissa, as well as Noah. The man highly doubted that Melissa had taken the time to eat anything that morning, and while the milkshake was empty calories, he knew the sugar would hold her over until he could convince his wife to take a break and visit the shop.
"Melissa's a lucky woman," Marc told him.
Charles glanced down at the boy, curiously. "How so, Marc?"
"She's got a great guy that cares about her, Charles," Marc said with a giggle. "You would do anything for her just to see Melissa smile, and she knows it."
Charles smiled down at the boy.
"I'm the lucky one, Marc," he informed the doctor. "I do all of those things to show her how much she means to me. If she isn't smiling, then I'm not doing my job properly. Do you understand?"
"I think so," Marc grinned.
"Good," Charles said with a chuckle. "I'd hate to have to explain something to someone older than I am."
Marc blushed and giggled. "Just because I'm older than you, it doesn't mean that I know everything."
"That's rich, coming from an android," Charles teased Marc playfully before changing the subject. "When are you going to transfer Arys and Isaac to your own facility?"
"I don't think Arys is going to need to see me any longer," Marc informed the man. "But I am planning on transferring Isaac tomorrow. My hospital will be open by then, and this way I can keep a closer eye on Isaac."
"Why not Arys?"
"Didn't you see what Xander did?" Marc asked in disbelief.
"Wait," Charles' face fell for a moment. "He's completely healed?"
"Yes, Charles," Marc told the adult fondly as he patted his shoulder. "Arys is completely healed."
"So, what's going to happen to Xander, now?"
"If you wanted to know the answer to that, you should have stayed in the hospital room and asked Alexander himself," Marc said with another giggle. "I'm not a mind reader like Kyle and Tyler, though I could find you one or two telepaths if you really need them?"
"I'm good," Charles replied quickly. "Tyler and Kyle were enough for me."
Charles was about to say something else when there was a blood-curdling scream coming from the direction of the park. The man didn't even hesitate to run in the direction of the sound, something that Marc clearly took note of. Even when the sound of gunshot reached their ears, Charles never stopped running. Charles was solely focused on rescuing whoever it was that was in trouble. Another gunshot and the screaming ceased. The man barely heard Marc call out for help from behind him, noticing someone in a dark car suddenly peeling out of the park and onto the main road.
"I got his license plate," Charles called out to Marc as he kept running until he saw a tiny figure slumped against the side of the outbuilding with his hand clenched against his stomach, and blood soaking through his t-shirt. The boy slid to his side just as Charles and Marc ran up to him. Charles took charge of comforting the dark-haired youth as Marc started calling into his communicator for assistance. "Just hang on, buddy. We're going to get you some help."
The boy's blue eyes looked hopeful even as they slowly started to fade. Charles quickly lay the boy flat out on the ground and yanked his own jacket off before using it to help staunch the flow of blood, not caring about the blood covering his hands. Charles was only worried that he was going to lose the child before he even got a chance to try and save him.
"Don't worry," Charles said with a slight smile, making sure the boy's attention was focused only on him. "I'll make sure that the bastard who did this is sent to the darkest corners of the universe. Not even God will be able to save him from my wrath."
"It hurts," the boy mumbled.
"I know," Charles said calmly. "I was shot once when I was twenty-one. It was an awful experience. Why don't you tell me your name?"
"I'm Enon," the boy said with a grimace.
"It's nice to meet you, Enon," the man said, trying to maintain his calm demeanor, even though he was furious that anybody could just shoot a child like this. "I'm Charles Conner. I own a little shop around the corner, and my lovely wife works for Federation Youth Services." The boy began to whimper unintelligibly about going back into foster care, and Charles quickly put his finger to the Enon's lips. "My wife doesn't put children into foster care, Enon. She gets them adopted by loving families. Now, why don't we let Doctor Furst, here," Charles pointed his thumb at the android, and Enon's blue eyes went wide in disbelief. "Take a look at ya, and when he's done getting you fixed up, I'll see about getting us some ice cream. Okay?"
The boy looked hesitantly at Marc.
"Trust me, Enon," Charles said reassuringly. "He's the best-damned Doctor that I've ever met!"
"You'll stay with me?"
"Until you ask me to leave," Charles told the boy.
Enon finally nodded reluctantly. "Okay."
"Ark, NOW!" Marc yelled out without a second of hesitation.
A moment later, the park was silent again, and Charles, Marc, and Enon had all vanished.
Back in Arys' hospital room, Arys glanced between the three angels in disbelief. The woman that everyone else knew as his mother, was talking to the man named Harold that looked like the Monster, and the Vulcan named Vanek. Arys was confused, though. The brown-haired man holding onto the Vulcan's hand didn't seem to be mean like the Monster had been, and he certainly cared more about Arys than anybody else had ever even remotely shown.
Can I really give him the chance he deserves? Arys asked himself sadly as the man that was supposedly his father looked over at him again with worry in his emerald-green eyes. Arys blushed and hid himself in Xander's wing. He peeked around the edge to see Harold smile and look back towards the woman with golden wings. I have to try, don't I?
"Everything is going to be okay for you, now, Arys," Xander whispered to Arys. "I swear on my life."
"You're not alive, though," Arys told Xander, absently. Not realizing his mistake until he felt his friend cringe. Harris quickly looked at Guardian Angel and pulled him into a hug. "I'm sorry, Xander. I didn't mean it like that."
"I know," he said with a sniffle.
"Please, don't cry, Xander," Arys begged quietly. "I really am sorry."
"It's not that Arys," the angel said as he leaned his forehead against Arys' own with a sad smile.
"What's wrong, then?" Arys asked him, feeling a knot forming in his own throat at the sight of Xander crying.
"I don't think that I'm ever going to be able to see you again after this is all over," Alexander told Arys, sadly. "And all I want is to be able to be your friend. I want to always be there for you."
Harris Conner frowned.
"I'm sorry, Xander," he told the angel. "I wish there was something that I could do to help you."
"Me, too, Arys," Xander said regretfully. "Me, too. Now, how about we go over and take a chance meeting your dad?"
"I don't think I can, yet," Harris replied nervously, his heart still beating erratically in his chest. "I really want to, though."
Xander squeezed Arys' shoulder affectionately.
"Don't worry," Xander told his friend. "You'll get there. I'll do whatever it takes to help you get through this."
"Do you promise, Alex?"
"I do," Xander replied sincerely. "I would never do anything on purpose to bring you harm."
Harris nodded and let his angel hug him, again. The boy's mind was conflicted with different motions as he watched the man known as Harold Conner. Everything in his tiny body, every fiber of his being yearned for the moment he could be held by someone that claimed they loved him, but there was still the doubt that the man would turn back into the Monster without a second thought. He knew he needed to take the chance, but he also knew that he was terrified beyond measure. All his life, the only thing he had ever really dreamed of having was a mother and father, and now that his father was standing just on the other side of the room, Harris Michael Conner knew that he couldn't let the moment pass him by.
Then, Harris did something he never thought he would do. He slowly slid from Xander's lap. The room went silent when his feet hit the floor. Arys took a deep breath to calm his nerves. The first set of eyes he met when he started to look up where the blue eyes of Vanek. The man nodded encouragingly to Arys, giving him the hint of courage he needed to keep moving forward. The boy stopped for a moment when he reached Vanek's wheelchair, still unable to meet the gaze of the people watching him. Arys reached up to grab the arm of the wheelchair, and jumped slightly when he grabbed Vanek's arm, instead.
"Sorry, Mister Vanek," Harris said, quickly. He went to yank his hand away, but Vanek simply reached over and patted the boy's hand with his free hand.
"No apology is needed, Harris Conner," the Vulcan said warmly, trying to calm the child beside him. "You are more than welcome to seek comfort within my presence whenever you feel the need. I would never turn you away. Especially, now."
Harris looked at the man in confusion for a moment until Vanek reached over and took Harold's hand in his own. Arys trembled slightly but nodded in understanding.
"Thank you, Mister Vanek," the boy said quietly, eyeing his father from the corner of his eye.
He took a deep breath before he finally took the next few steps until Arys was standing directly in front of Harold Conner. The boy was trembling in fear as he waited for the man to make his move, hoping that everyone was right about the man that they all said was his father. Arys froze until heard the soft voice of Vanek.
"You are a very brave child, Harris," Vanek told the boy in a serious tone. "Not everyone can face their demons like you are doing. Especially, someone who is almost eleven."
Harris felt himself smile at the Vulcan for a moment, grateful for the man's words of encouragement before he finally brought his eyes up to meet his father's gaze. Harold Conner knelt slowly in front of his son and simply smiled as he waited for the boy to make the next move.
"Vanek is right, Harris," Harold said quietly. "You are one of the bravest kids I have ever met. I know that you're terrified of me, and I wish I could understand all of it, but I will be there for you, no matter what. It's been nine years, Arys. All I've wanted is to have you back in my life."
"Really?" Harris asked quietly. "The Monster always said that I was nothing but a disappointment. He's going to do the same thing to Zachary, too."
"You're not a disappointment, Harris Michael Conner," Harold said sincerely. "You never were! If I could change anything about your past, I would go back and remove Harold Stubbs from existence for what he did to you."
Arys froze. Harris looked at the smiling man kneeling before him, and finally took that last fateful step, and let his father reach out and hug him. Father and son could both be heard sighing in pleasure as they held onto each other.
"It's a start," Davie said with a grin.
"Davie," Theresa said with a smug smile. "I believe that it's time for you to give me back my powers. You look beautiful in gold, but it's not the time for you, yet."
"Yet?" Davie asked with a confused smirk. "I need to go have a talk with Mikey."
"I don't think that he'll be able to give you the answers that you need, Davie," Theresa said pointedly. "The only reason he even knows about any of this, is because you told him."
"Isn't he listening?" Davie countered.
"He's not allowed," Theresa said soberly. "The higher-ups didn't want him to get involved, since he has enough on his plate, right now. That's why you were brought in, Davie. Saint Peter knew that you would be able to bring Arys back without help."
"Oh," Davie said soberly. "I didn't think of it like that."
"There's a reason for everything," Theresa told the blond-haired boy. She held out her hand towards Davie. "Take my hand, Davie. Our time is growing short, and there are still a few more things that we need to deal with."
Davie reached out and placed the palm of his hand in Theresa's. Both of the angels were surrounded in a golden glow that was so bright that Arys had to squint to see around it. The golden light seemed to pull from Davie's form and was absorbed by Theresa, leaving Davie with his soft-white glow when the gold light finally vanished. Arys blinked a few times until Theresa turned and smiled at him.
"It's your turn, my son," the woman said warmly as she held her hand out to the boy. Arys glanced up at his father who nodded at him humbly. Harris turned his attention back to the softly glowing woman.
"Are you really my mom?" He asked quietly.
"I am, Arys," Theresa told him. "I know this is all very hard for you to believe, but I'm going to help you continue down the right path."
Arys hesitantly reached out and let the woman pull him from his father's arms. The moment she wrapped her arms around him, Arys' mind was filled with a song that seemed to calm him and made him feel warm throughout his entire body.
"Just relax, little one," Theresa told him softly. "All I'm doing is helping you."
Harris nodded as his mother continued to hold him, feeling the love and devotion that she held for him surrounding his entire being. He opened his eyes and saw that his skin was glowing softly, and he gasped in surprise. Theresa laughed lightly and kissed her son's cheek.
"Now," Theresa explained quietly. "I couldn't take away the memories from you, Arys, but I could help you separate the image of the Monster from the image of your father, so that should help you realize that there is a heavy difference between them. Okay?"
"Okay," Arys said softly.
"Now, go give your new daddies a hug for me."
"Two daddies?" The boy asked in disbelief.
"Did you honestly think that I would ever let your father go through life without being able to move on?" Theresa asked her son. Then, she turned him to face Harold and Vanek. "Those two men will do anything to protect you, Arys. Just like I will, and just like Xander did. Plus, I don't think your aunt or uncle would let them hurt you, either. Okay?"
The boy nodded silently. His thoughts were filled with confusion.
The mother and son glanced up to see Melissa looking at them in confusion.
"Is this real?" The woman asked in disbelief.
"It's very real, Melissa," Theresa told her. "Now, I need you guys to take Arys, so I can have a few minutes alone with Xander."
Xander looked down as Theresa set her son back down on the floor. Arys was about to walk over to his father and Vanek when he decided that he needed to say something in Xander's defense. He turned around quickly and looked up at his mother, his green eyes flashing with worry.
"You're not going to punish Alex," Arys said firmly. It wasn't a question. Theresa listened solemnly to her son. "He only did what he did to protect me. It's not his fault what happened, afterward. If anybody deserves to be punished, it's me. I could have tried to fight the Monster off, but I didn't. I was too scared to try. Xander was the only person that actually showed himself to me and helped me. The only person that deserves to be punished is Harold Stubbs. I won't let you punish Alex. He's my family, too."
"What's going on?" Dalton asked as he wheeled his son Isaac into the room.
"A slight family dispute, Dalton," Harold said with a grin as he watched his son stare down Harold's long-dead wife. "How is Isaac doing?"
"I'm much better, Commander Conner," Isaac said with a shy smile. "Thanks for helping me, sir."
Harold walked over and stood in front of Isaac and Dalton.
"It was the least I could do, Isaac," he told the father and son. "No child should ever have to go through something like what you went through. Don't ever be afraid to let me know if you need anything. Give us a few minutes, and I'll meet you guys in the hallway."
Arys was only half-listening to the other people in the room as he continued to stare at his mother, a hint of challenge in his eyes as he waited for her to say anything. Finally, Theresa smiled and knelt in front of her son.
"He's not being punished, baby boy," Theresa said solemnly. "Saint Peter agrees with you, completely. Alexander. Now, keep that same devotion to your friends and family throughout your life. I can't wait to watch you grow up."
"Thanks, mo. . .," Harris hesitated as his cheeks flushed red. "Thank you, mommy."
He threw himself into the angel's arms and sobbed happily.
Arys finally had a real family.
Melissa pushed Vanek's wheelchair as she watched Harold hold his son in his arms. Harris was smiling, but Melissa could see that the child was holding back emotionally, but he was clearly doing much better than he had been when he had first woken up. The boy was listening to his father tell him a story and the sound of his happy giggle brought a smile to Melissa's face.
"It seems as though you and I both have some major changes coming in our lives, Melissa," Vanek said calmly.
"I've noticed, Vanek," Melissa said. "Everything is happening, at once. I just wish it would slow down a little bit, at least."
"I do not think that you will be getting that luxury, for a long time, Melissa," Vanek told her. "None of us are."
"Speaking of slowing down, Vanek," Melissa said as she changed the subject. The group stopped in the main waiting room of the hospital, and Harold carried Harris over by the windows. Dalton and Isaac were nearby, having their own private conversation as the fathers reconnected with their sons. "I would like to offer you a job, Vanek."
"I accept, Melissa," Vanek said without even considering the offer.
"Don't you even want to know the details, Vanek?"
"I believe that you have been giving this idea some consideration, Melissa," Vanek stated. "And I believe that you came to the logical conclusion that you are in need of my assistance. . ."
Vanek was interrupted by the sound of the elevator chiming as it arrived in the hospital lobby. Everyone turned to look as a boy shouted out Melissa's name.
"Melissa!" The brown-haired boy called out as he darted from the elevator and ran towards where the woman was standing. She looked at the boy in confusion as he slid to a stop in front of her. His blue eyes were sparkling with excitement as Melissa stared in disbelief.
"Alex?" Melissa asked. "What happened to your wings?"
The boy giggled and held out his arms for his sister to pick him up. Once he was secured, he hugged her tightly.
"I'm not an angel, anymore, Melissa," he said with a soft hint of sadness.
"Oh," Melissa said softly. "I'm so sorry, Alex."
"It's okay, Melissa," the boy said with a grin. "I get to grow up with you, now!"
"Wait?" Melissa asked in disbelief. "What? How is this possible?"
"Theresa didn't want to see me to punish me," Xander said as he rested his head on his sister's shoulder. "She saved me."
"What did she save you from, Alex?"
"She saved me from finding our dad and killing him."
"Alex?" Melissa asked in disbelief. "Why would you want to harm, daddy?"
Alex sniffled as the smile faded from his lips.
"He murdered me," the boy stated in an angry whisper. "He fucking murdered me and left me to rot next to the railroad tracks."
"Oh, shit," Melissa mumbled. She felt herself freeze as so many things her father had said throughout the years finally started to make sense to her. Then, Melissa's cell phone started ringing. She pulled out her phone and saw it was her husband's number, so she answered it quickly. "Charles? You'll never guess what happened. . ."
"Melissa," Charles cut her off. "Tell Dalton that he's in charge for the day. There's a boy barely hanging onto life here."
"Where are you, Charles?"
"Charleston." The man said shortly. "Ask Noah. I think they called it Saint Mikey's, or something like that. There hasn't really been time for me to ask, yet."
I need to thank my editors for helping me out with this chapter, and hopefully, kept me away from the jumbled mess it was! Thanks to SirACFan, The Story Lover (though, I think I wound up giving TSL the gift of more characters to keep him entertained), Iluvantir, and Jeff P for permitting me the use of their characters throughout this story!
As always, if you wish to provide me with feed back on this story, or any of my other stories located throughout the Fort Family, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can also find me on Discord on The Nook by following this invite: https://discord.gg/Yt8u8TQ
Stay Safe and Stay Healthy this Holiday Season, if you decide to venture out and visit with family. (Wear your mask!)