Jesse slowly climbed out of the group bed in Cory's room, being careful not to wake anyone on his way out. As he reached the edge of the bed, he turned and smiled as he took in the still-sleeping bodies on the bed. Johnny and Eddie were each sharing one of the cats with Casey and Tina, Johnny's new kitten purring softly in his free arm. Cory, Sean, and their brothers were all in a tangled pile in the center of the bed; neither Cory nor Sean were visible under the protective shield of their brothers. Jesse's eyes finally settled on Julio, who he found watching him with a smile on his face.
Julio quickly joined Jesse. "I didn't wake you, did I?" Jesse asked softly, the underlying fear of having messed up evident in his tone.
Julio pulled Jesse into a hug as he replied in a whisper. "No; I was watching you sleep. Don't worry about waking me; I'll be a lot happier knowing that you got up instead of waking up alone."
Jesse smiled, and gave Julio a quick kiss before starting towards the bathroom. When he noticed Julio hanging back, he turned to his new boyfriend. "You can share the bathroom with me. I can't remember the last time I used it by myself."
Julio nodded and followed Jesse, inwardly wondering just how much his boyfriend had been through that he didn't know about.
A few minutes later, the rest of the crew started slowly working their way out of their sleep. After Cory finally made his way out of the pile, he noticed Kyle and Tyler sitting on the floor with the four youngest kids. They had retrieved the Uno deck from Cory's dresser, and Kyle was in the process of dealing the cards.
"Uno before breakfast??" Cory asked in surprise.
Kyle giggled. "Yeah; we need somethin' to do while waiting for you slowpokes. Jesse and Julio have this bathroom tied up, and all the little guys needed to 'go', so Ty and me took them to Marc and Danny's house to take care of morning stuff. They even got to meet Joey."
"I think that was a good idea, Kyle." Cory replied. "Jesse and Julio are gonna need their time. Why don't you guys go on down to the Rec Room and play cards there while you're waiting on us?"
"Okay Cor." Kyle replied, standing up to give Cory a quick hug before retrieving the dealt cards.
Teri was the first one downstairs, as per normal, and breakfast was well on the way. She hummed to herself as she was laying the table, between sips of her first cup of morning coffee. As she turned back from the table, she had to catch herself from yelling, for Mikey was standing there, holding out the stack of bowls for her to take.
"Good Morning!" he said brightly, although there was something forced about his smile.
"Good Morning, Mikey. Something's wrong, I can hear it in your voice. Spill it, son."
Mikey's face tightened, and he bowed his head. "No need. You'll be getting an update on that link of yours any second," he whispered as he moved forwards to embrace her. He reached out with his power and caused silence to surround them, as well as tie together Tyler and Kyle's laces on their tennis shoes in a knot that even their powers couldn't undo quickly.
Teri automatically wrapped her arms around her son. "What's wrong, Mi.... wha... Spock! NO! Oh, GOD!" she screamed out as both fury, rage and grief fought for control over her heart.
Mikey squeezed his eyes tight shut. She was feeling the same as he had done nearly an hour before when he was made aware of the problem, and he had known instantly - and had been forbidden from helping. Now, all he could do was help here. To preserve all that existed. To keep his brothers 'in the dark'.
Teri's eyes were wide and they ran with tears as her mind-link with Spock became a highway of grief and screams of rage.
"Mom," Mikey said as he tried to break through to her, "Mom, you need to focus. You need to hold yourself back, Mom. We can't let my brothers know. We can't! Not yet, not now. Can you imagine the chaos if Kyle were to know? It's why I'm here. You HAVE to pull back, Mom!"
"Why!" Teri exclaimed in a rage that Mikey had never seen from her. "Why HIM?"
"I don't know... I don't know..." Mikey sobbed suddenly in frustration. Then he felt Kyle giving up on his shoes. "Father! I need more Time! We need more Time!"
Everything around them became still. Everything. Everywhere.
Teri didn't notice. She just gripped all the tighter onto Mikey. "He's been through... through... NO! I can't accept this, Mike! You HAVE to be able to DO something. No, wait. GUARDIAN! YOU DO IT, CHANGE IT. NOW, God damn you! NOW!"
"He's busy, Mom," Mikey sobbed as he rubbed her back. "He's chasing down the Fallen and - best I not tell you. He can't change this, Mom. I can't either. I don't know how it happened, how the Defenses failed, but... he's going to need you, and..."
"I swear by everything that is holy that if I ever get my hands on the being that caused this to happen that being is going to think Hell is a vacation destination." Teri exclaimed.
"That's what the Guardian is doing right now, Mom," Mikey whispered. "He's playing Vengeance, and he's skating near to breaking his Mandate to do it too..."
"That's just a taste of what I will do." Teri stated matter-of-factly. "My son needs me. Take me there. Now, Michael."
"I can't. You're needed here, and..."
"Mom, think! If you up and leave, Cory and Kyle will find out. Then we have..."
Teri's mouth went dry. "Oh... FUCK! WHY HIM, Mike? Why?" A second after she said it she added, "Wait! Cory's going to know anyway! Kyle will see I'm not myself, he'll find out, and..."
"No, he won't. It's why I'm here. You will use me to help cover yourself from revealing this. You HAVE to, Mom. This is the hardest thing I've ever had to ask you, but you HAVE to pretend everything is normal - that there's no problem. At least right now. Once the Unit have finished their invasion of Orlando and we have the ones that did it, we'll see how to tell the guys then, but not right now. If they... no, we have to wait," Mikey whispered the end. Then, "He's going to need you, but that will be tonight. For certain, he's going to need you then - but I don't know how, as you won't be leaving here either... oh, God... this is too much. I'm being supplied with help, Mom, and I'm here to pass that onto you. I'm also here as a 'holiday'. Don't ask me, St Peter just told me to go and that was the second reason."
"Holiday? When Joel is going through...? What in God's Name...?" Teri spluttered.
"I know," Mikey whispered. "I know... that is what I'll tell the guys, anyway. I won't lie. I just have to help you hide the truth..."
"Who is watching our family if you're on 'vacation'? Teri asked, trying to use the basic skills that Spock had recently taught her for use in situations where she needed a clear head.
"Well, they called in a very old, OLD spirit to take point in Orlando. Then my dad and Uncle Pat and Aunt Cheri are helping him," Mikey said as he felt her start to regain control.
"Who's the spirit?" she asked as she started to close doors in her mind.
"Black Feet's father, the Earth's oldest Animal Spirit and progenitor of all the others. He's called Cynoeswr, but to the Dragon guys, he's Silver Wolf. They've known him for nearly a year, now - just not WHAT he was."
"Going by what William and Duke can do, I can live with that choice." Teri replied.
"Just be glad that I-Cheya's father was told 'no'."
"That big Sehlat we met at Joel's naming?"
"The same. He's older than Cynoeswr, and very short tempered," Mikey said as he tried to smile. "Look, Mom, I know this is a lot to ask of you, and it was a lot to ask of me, but I can see why the Higher Ups did so. He's going to be okay, Mom. You're going to make sure of that. We all are."
"He better be, or else someone is going to wish that Cory had found out first...." Teri replied, the unstated threat left hanging.
"Do you think you can handle this, Mom?" Mikey asked softly. "I can ask for us to stay here longer if you need it."
"If Cory really has the power to end the Universe because Joel got hurt, I don't really have a choice, now do I?" Teri asked seriously.
"No, you don't," Mikey agreed. "In the end, I think it's going to be that Joel will be the one to tell Cory. From anyone else, we're going to have a big problem on our hands." He hugged her tight for a moment longer, then said, "Time is starting. Remember, I'm on holiday. That's all."
A few seconds later, they heard Kyle and crew coming down the stairs. "...and if I find out which one of our resident pranksters welded our shoelaces together, they're gonna be standing in the corner until there is no more corner to stand in!" Kyle exclaimed as he led the rest of the youngest kids towards the Rec Room.
"It was me; I haven't taught that trick to Bryce or Dilly yet!" Mikey announced as he held up his hand. "Big brother prerogative; pulling pranks on his little brothers."
Kyle and Ty both stopped and glared at Mikey. "That was too much!" Tyler exclaimed. "We had to get Quint to fix them!"
"And you ain't NEVER going to teach ANY of our sons that... ARE YOU MIKEY?" Kyle added, obviously not happy with the scale of the joke. "Then you stand down here with Mom to let us suffer before you disappear again."
"I'm not going to disappear for a while, guys. I've been given Orders like Dad gave Cory. I'm on holiday," Mikey said as he came over to the two not pleased boys and tickled their ribs to get them laughing.
"Angels get holidays?" Johnny asked as he watched Mikey slowly melt through Kyle and Ty's displeasure.
As Cory and Sean finally made their way into the Rec Room, they overheard Eddie talking to Kyle.
"Hey Kyle? How did you meet up with Cory?" Eddie asked seriously.
Kyle tilted his head, then gave a small smile as he began his tale. "It kinda started when I walked in the door of the last Home we were in....
'I wonder how long it'll take this shrink to decide I'm too much of a freak to stay here' Kyle thought as he followed the social worker up the walkway to the latest of many 'homes' he had been shuffled through. His previous psychiatrist had lasted a record three weeks before giving up and passing Kyle off to someone else. According to the Judge, the Psychiatrist that was being assigned by him personally did not believe in giving up. Kyle risked a small smile at that thought; it sounded like a challenge that he was well up for.
As they entered the door and walked up to the desk, Kyle noticed something that made him pause. In all of the previous homes, within seconds there was a mob of kids gathered around him to 'meet the new kid'. While all of the kids in the area were watching him in this home, they seemed to be holding back for some reason. Kyle turned his head and saw what he assumed was the reason heading towards him; a blond kid barely in his teens. 'The bullies work quick around here!' Kyle thought to himself. He chanced a look at the kid's face, and was surprised to find a welcoming smile instead of the sneer he expected.
Just then, Kyle's head had one of the 'flashes' that he had lived with as long as he could remember; flashes that lately had grown stronger and larger. Within a second, he knew more about the kid approaching him than the kid himself knew. As Kyle worked to reclaim his own thoughts again, he felt the kid stop next to him and place a hand on his shoulder.
"Hey, I'm Cory." The kid announced. "Hey Jeff, Jake's about his age and could use a roomie." he suggested, something in his tone saying that he wouldn't be too happy if the suggestion wasn't taken. "Besides, that way 'Drew and David have another target besides me for their Monopoly marathons!"
Jeff erased something he had written down and made an entry on the other side of the paper. "You know, Cory, you could at least give me room to argue when you pull stunts like this!" he commented with a chuckle. "Just for that, you can introduce him to your shrink, since he's Kyle's shrink too. I swear, that judge must have the hots for that guy or something. No matter how many times he gets told that Doctor Richardson is not allowed to practice here, he still issues court orders stating that we have to allow it."
Cory shrugged. "I ain't arguing none; he's helping me." He then moved so that he could pick up Kyle, having the young boy on his hip before anyone could say otherwise.
Kyle twisted his head, and found himself looking into Cory's eyes. Kyle's eyes grew wide at what he saw; absolute compassion and friendship, even though Cory didn't know a thing about him. 'If he's for real, I ain't never gonna tell him nothin that'll make him hate me.' Kyle resolved as he melted against Cory's chest and enjoyed the first innocent cuddle in recent memory.
As Cory felt Kyle relax against him, he announced loud enough to be heard in the still lobby area. "You can chill, Kyle; if anyone here even thinks of messing with you they have to deal with ME."
"Why?" Kyle asked softly from the new-found security of Cory's arms.
"Because you kinda feel like a little brother. I felt it as soon as I picked you up. I dunno if I really have any little brothers, but even if I don't you feel like one." Cory continued as he started carrying Kyle down the hallway. "Since you feel like a little brother, I gotta protect you like a big brother is supposed to." Cory paused, then in a quiet voice added "That includes not letting you try to kill yourself, because that is sure what it looks like you planned from the way your eyes looked."
"You don't know what it's like..." Kyle mumbled softly.
"I don't know a lot of things, memory loss does that." Cory replied seriously. "Doctor Dan has taught me that there is nothing that teamwork can't beat; my roommate Mark and my friend from school, Sean, have been working together with me to try to get my memories back. It seems to be working a little bit too; there's stuff at school that I'm starting to remember how to do again, and sometimes I even get little flashes of me as a little kid."
"Will you still want me as a brother when you get all your memories back, though?" Kyle asked.
Cory nodded. "Sean says that is one thing I never forgot; when I make promises I always keep them. With God as my Witness, you'll always be my little brother ... forever."
Kyle tilted his head. "I guess you better get working on getting your memories back then, because I'll only promise to stick with getting better if you do too."
"You've got a deal, little bro." Cory said as he gave Kyle a squeeze.
"Why is everyone scared of you; you're so nice?" Kyle asked softly.
Cory sighed. "Last month a kid killed herself. Her note said that one of the staff was doing stuff with her. I had thought I had seen something and had said something to one of the other staff members, but they blew me off. Jeff had heard me report it, and when he saw that no report had been made the next day, he started getting suspicious. He went to check on her after going through the report book one more time, and he found her body. His partner on the shift was a really good friend of the guy who did it. I was at the counter by Jeff's request to help with the report; When Jeff came running up to call the paramedics and said what he found on the note, the other guy grabbed me and informed Jeff that I was the one responsible. That really pissed me off, and I screamed as I threw the guy off of me. He fell back against the counter, hitting the back of his neck on it. Jeff called 911, telling me to stay still and relax. He pulled out the tape that records everything that happens at the counter, and gave it to the cops as soon as they showed up while he told them everything that had happened. Even the administrator admitted it was self-defense, so I didn't get in any trouble. Ever since then, everybody is afraid of making me mad. Sean says that he knows I have taken Judo lessons before, and he thinks I used some of that even though I can't really remember taking the lessons."
Kyle's brain played it's tricks on him again, and he saw in his head the events as Cory was describing them. He reached up and pulled Cory's head down to where he could wipe the tears from Cory's cheeks. "You're still good. I bet that with you around there are a lot of people who don't get hurt no more. I think I'm gonna like having a big brother named Cory."
"...And after that, we kinda became inseperatable." Kyle finished.
Cory walked over and picked Kyle up for a cuddle. "Yeah, I think you started moving into my head the same day, Squirt!"
Kyle giggled as he poked Cory just under the ribs. "Nuh-Uhh!!! I waited at LEAST a WEEK!!!!"
"Why?" JJ asked, then he snapped his fingers, "Nevermind, I figured it out. You had to get the cleaners in to get rid of the cobwebs and dust off the braincell. Makes sense!"
"Be glad I'm holding Kyle, or you'd be halfway to the pool already JJ!" Cory giggled.
"We got ya covered big bro!" Ty replied as JJ was grabbed by him and Adam.
"One of these days, you're gonna learn not to make blond jokes...." Adam giggled as they escorted JJ to his punishment.
"Well, at least THIS time it wasn't an ocean!" Teri commented softy as she squeezed Mikey's hand.
Kyle giggled. "That's only cuz Harley ain't got his room for new friends... yet...."
"I'm not saying a word," Mikey commented with a half smile at Kyle.
"So, why'd you say you were here, Mikey?" Cory asked. "When I was heading out of the bathroom earlier I heard you tell Mom you'd been told to stay with us."
Mikey shrugged, "I'm under orders to have a holiday too, bro."
"You tryin' to say we're working you too hard, bro?" Sean half-giggled.
"I'm copying your new nephew - saying nothing," Mikey grinned.
"Who? Which new nephew?" Cory asked as Adam and Tyler walked back in, followed by a naked and dripping JJ who was carrying his clothes. "Jules? He's about as quiet as Timmy on a sugar rush."
Mikey smiled, "No. One of his brothers. A wise little boy called Lee."
Sean tilted his head. "So you're saying this wise boy named Lee says not..hi..ng.... MIKEY! That was bad! Your sense of humor is worse now than when you was alive!"
Mikey, his face serious, said, "It's no joke, but you won't believe me until you meet Lee."
Cory glanced at Sean, "Jules DID say he had a brother called Lee, hon."
"It's still bad," Sean giggled as he poked his tongue out at Mikey.
Julio giggled as him and Jesse cuddled Eddie and Johnny. "Admit it Sean, you're just pissed that you didn't think of it first! You're the only person I know that can make puns that make a Brit grimace in agony."
"Just think of him like a parent Julio; then you won't hear half of it!" JJ commented, forgetting that Teri was in the room.
Teri stood up and stopped JJ from going upstairs to find dry clothes. "You won't need them yet, young man. This way please," she said firmly as she took a hold of JJ's ear and guided him back out towards the pool.
"Now THAT is a world-shattering event... Mom using the pool as a punishment for JJ's mouth not being attached to his brain!" Cory giggled. "Usually she sticks to me and Sean."
"I know... when you two were rugrats that's how I'd calm you down during your wilder moments." Mikey replied with a laugh. "It worked so well she started doing it too."
Kyle assisted Cory by making a halo above his head as Cory replied. "But Mikey; we NEVER caused any trouble!"
"No. You instigated it instead," Mikey grinned as he remade the halo into a pair of horns. Attractive horns, Sean thought appreciatively.
"Cory's horns are making Sean horny!" Eddie exclaimed before collapsing against Jesse in giggles.
As the rest of the boys giggled, Sean tried unsuccessfully to not blush. "He's MY horn-y blond!" Sean quipped.
"You better believe it!" Cory giggled.
Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of the doorbell. Teri went to answer the door, pausing in surprise as she saw the young woman in a wheelchair holding a small baby. The older lady pushing the wheelchair addressed Teri. "Mrs. Short?"
Teri nodded her head as she placed the name with the emancipated face in the wheelchair. "Yes, that's me. Candy? Candy Burroughs?"
"Hi Mrs. Short." the girl said weakly. "I'm not bugging you, am I?"
"It's still Mom, young lady, and I've been worried sick about you, since you never returned my calls. Get in here, introduce your escort and that little bundle in your arms, then relax while your friend here explains to me why you are in such poor health." Teri replied, giving no room for argument.
"Yes Mom." Candy replied, relief evident in what was left of her voice.
Teri led the pair into the Rec Room, where all conversation came to a halt as soon as Cory and Sean saw the new arrivals.
Mikey had hidden himself from view, since for some reason he was blocked from 'looking' to see who was arriving. He caught himself just in time as he realized that appearing next to her would probably literally scare Candy to death. 'Mom, you need to tell her about me... please ... I'd kill her if I just popped in!' Mikey said in Teri's head, his emotional overload present in every word.
'Let her get comfortable with the rest of us first, Mike. I'll make sure she is ready; plus I think she'll say more if she does not know you are here.' Teri thought back.
'Okay, Mom. Mikey replied, inwardly realizing that his Mom had things under control.
As the wheelchair came to a stop, Bast stood and quietly signaled for the overstuffed recliner to be evacuated. As Adam and JJ found another seat to cuddle in, Mont walked over to the wheelchair. "Hi, my name is Mont. Can I help you to a more comfortable seat?" he asked softly, his limited telepathy having told him more than he really wanted to know about what was about to happen.
"I'm Bast. I'll hold the little angel for you while my brother helps you, if you want." Bast added as he came up on the other side. The baby obviously liked the idea, as he was already holding his arms out towards the big furry boy he saw standing there.
"I don't think Patty is going to give me a choice." she answered softly. "I would appreciate the help; this thing is almost as comfortable as a bed of nails."
Bast smiled as he reached down and picked up the little baby. Almost instantly, the baby wiggled around until he was able to reach the bottom of Bast's mane; within seconds giggling as he played with the hair.
"I think you've made a new friend, bro!" Sean giggled as he watched Patty cuddle into Bast's fur.
Bast smiled. "Now you see why I'm so proud of my fur; it makes me more cuddleable!"
Even Candy laughed softly. "You can hold him for a while if you want... Bast."
Bast nodded. "Thanks; he's a little cutie." he replied as he found a seat.
Mont helped Candy into the chair, then once he was sure she was comfortable he made himself a seat next to the chair.
Candy nodded her head towards the lady who had brought her. "Mom, this is Julie Wilkins. She is with Central Iowa Hospice, and was nice enough to bring me here on her day off when I found out that you were back in Des Moines."
The rest of the group had taken seats to see what was going to happen; the actions of the cat boys signaling that this was something important. Kyle and Tyler both positioned themselves out of the direct line of sight of the rest of the group, both trying their hardest not to display their emotions over what they had figured out was causing Candy's failing health.
"Hello Julie; thank you so much for helping Candy. I'm Teri Short, you can feel free to just call me Teri." Teri said.
"It's a pleasure to meet you Teri." Julie replied. "Candy, save your strength; I'll take care of filling them in."
Candy nodded. "Thanks Julie."
Julie looked around the room, inwardly amazed at how all of the kids were just sitting and waiting to hear what was said. "Teri, Candy is suffering from the advanced stages of acute leukemia. When she got pregnant, it weakened her body enough that the disease took hold and began to run rampant. Even with Federation help, the doctors were unable to stop it. I've spent the last month getting her to agree to contact you, since she believes that you might hold interest in what happens to her son."
Teri held up her hand, the pieces in the puzzle falling into place inside her head. "Before you continue, there is one more person that needs to be fully here. My son Mike was dating Candy before he was killed. He's known as Saint Mikey of Urbandale now, and I think he should be present. Candy, prepare yourself; he's going to probably be appearing right next to you."
Mont saw the disbelief in Candy's face. "Candy, Aunt Teri is telling the truth." Mont said softly.
Candy looked at Mont, the seriousness of his face convincing her. "Okay, I guess I'm ready." she announced.
Teri didn't even have a chance to inhale before Mikey appeared next to Candy, tears flowing freely down his face as his wings glowed brightly. "Candy!" Mikey whispered, the whisper somehow echoing throughout the room.
"Mikey?" Candy replied, the reality of Mikey actually being there a surprise even though she had been prepared for it by Teri. "You're dead though, or I thought you were...."
"Still a textbook blond I see..." Mikey said with a small smile. "I'm a Saint now, just like Mom was saying."
"So miracles DO occur." Candy shot back, making it obvious that this had been normal banter between them.
"Not the one I want to happen." Mikey replied, sadness in his voice.
As Mikey and Candy were talking, Teri quickly glanced around the room. When her eyes fell on Kyle and Ty, their tear-streaked faces told her more than any tricorder reading ever would. She motioned for the two young Mikyvis to join her, aware that right now they needed cuddles no matter how powerful they could be. As they took positions under each of her arms, she turned her attention back to Candy.
"Mikey, I would like you to meet somebody." Candy was saying as she motioned for Bast to join them.
Mikey looked over at the baby that Bast was bringing over, Patty happily swatting at Bast's mane. He saw himself in the face of the little baby boy, and he felt his mouth go dry.
"Mikey; this is Patrick Michael Short... your son." Candy said softly. "I wanted to name him after you, but juniors are so stupid for names, so I swapped your middle name in as a first name."
Mikey carefully took Patty from Bast. Patty didn't mind, as he quickly decided that he wanted to play with the pretty wings. Mikey smiled, managing to control his wiggling son long enough to look him in the face. "I have a son," Mikey said softly as he kissed Patty's forehead. Tears were pouring from his eyes as he blinked at his baby boy. "I... I have a son!"
Candy looked at Mikey curiously. "Why do you act like this is a surprise? I thought Saints can see everything?"
Mikey shook his head as he wrapped his wings around his son, much to Patty's delight. "I can only see what falls under my Mandate. The way my Mandate is worded, I was not able to watch over you. I... I never knew, Candy. I never knew... oh, Patty," he cried softly as he took his son's gaze with his own. "May Our Father Bless you, Patty."
Cory and Sean saw how distraught Mikey was getting, for they knew that he would have been there had he known, and it was tearing him up inside. They came up and cuddled in either side of their big brother and looked into their nephew's face. "He's beautiful, Mike," Sean whispered. "Don't kick yourself in the nuts for not being there. It wasn't your fault."
"You were only obeying the rules, Mikey," Cory added with a whisper.
"Miracle number two... Michael Short following the rules." Candy quipped, causing both Sean and Cory to giggle. "If your Mom only knew...."
"I did know; Mothers know everything - and I taught him well; always obey the rules, right Mike!" Teri replied as she joined them. "Michael, you and your brothers need to introduce the newest member of the family to your other brothers while Candy and I talk... unless you'd like for your brothers to know some of your more embarrassing pranks...."
Mikey gave Teri a small grin. "I get the hint, Mom. I'll get lost."
As Mikey, Sean and Cory headed around the room to show off Patty, Teri tried to get comfortable with the two young Mikyvis clinging to her. Tyler pulled himself in tighter to Teri as he whispered "Mommy, Candy's really hurting bad."
Teri gave Tyler a squeeze as she addressed Candy. "Candy, this little blond is one of my newer sons, Tyler, and the one under my other arm is my son in all but name, Kyle. Tyler says you are in a lot of pain, and for reasons that would take forever to explain I'm taking his statement as fact. Would you like some help with the pain?"
Candy shook her head. "I can handle it; I don't want any drugs messing up what I need to ask you."
Teri could tell by the slight trembling she was feeling from Tyler that it was probably bad enough that he was having to fight his instinct to step in. "Candy, I'm not talking about any drugs. What you see on the surface is not always what is reality; these two little angels are proof of it. Neither one of these boys would register as human on a medical scanner; in fact I would not be surprised if they could manage to not register at all if they really wanted it. It doesn't matter, I love both of them just as much as my other sons. Tyler is able to take away a good portion of your pain if you let him; he won't do it unless both of us agree to it though."
Candy looked closer at Tyler, and noticed the purple 'halo' on his steel grey eyes. "Is that why you're crying Tyler? Because you feel my pain?" Candy asked softly.
"Kinda." Tyler replied softly, afraid to put into words the fact that neither him nor Kyle could take away what was killing her.
"Will you be feeling my pain if you take it from me?" Candy asked.
Tyler shook his head. "No, Ma'am.... I convert it to energy."
Candy nodded. "I don't think I need to know how you do that, but if it keeps my head clear while I'm talking to Teri, I'll take the help. How long will I have before you have to stop?"
"Forever." Tyler replied simply, taking the squeeze he felt from Teri as permission to begin. The sound of thunder in the clear skies outside told Teri just how much pain Tyler was siphoning off; the relaxed look on Candy's face showed that his efforts were having the desired effect.
Candy glanced at Kyle, and had the sudden urge to reach out and pull him into a hug as she saw that he was glued tightly against Teri's side, his face buried in her chest.
"Is he okay?" Candy asked, nodding her head towards Kyle.
Teri shook her head. "Kyle has legitimate issues with anyone losing family. Right now he just needs to be held; when he's ready we'll talk it over until he can get his mind around why."
Candy slowly leaned so that she could rub Kyle's back. "Thank you for caring, Kyle." she said softly as she rubbed in small circles between his shoulder blades.
As she helped to comfort Kyle, Candy started quietly vocalizing the thoughts that had been tearing through her mind since the day Mikey died. "The day Mikey was hit, he was supposed to pick up his brothers from the mall after practice, then we were going to surprise them by taking them out to dinner...."
"A double date?" Teri injected with a small smile.
"Actually, yes." Candy replied. "I figured out they were a couple the first time I met them, and we figured they'd get a lot less hassle if Mikey and I were there. I was planning on giving Mikey the news that I was pregnant during the date; due to how close he was to his little brothers, I figured it would only be fair that they find out at the same time. I still can't remember much about what happened when I got the call about what happened; everything is pretty much a blur until the funeral. That's when I found out that Cory had completely lost it, and that Sean was on a twenty-four hour a day suicide watch. You were going through enough already, there was no way that I was going to add the extra stress because Mikey was thinking with the wrong head."
Teri knelt down, both boys still clinging to her sides, and held both of Candy's hands with her own. She smiled into Candy's face, and her expression took the nervousness out of Candy's eyes. "Sweetheart, I understand. I won't say you thought right, but I understand why you said nothing. But I do want you to know, just for yourself to really know that Patty will be okay, is that I would never ever have abandoned him - nor would I have thought any less of you or Mikey. And I don't now. I know that, if things were different, you and Mike would still be together, and the two of you would have been excellent parents together. How could I think any less of a wonderful girl that I feel is my daughter in law?"
Candy, her eyes running tears, leaned her head forwards to rest against Teri's shoulder. Tyler, who was now looking up into the teen's sobbing face, reached up more to kiss her on the cheek.
"Besides," Teri said softly as she comforted the crying girl. "It wasn't just Mikey not 'thinking'... it does take two to tango, sweetheart," she continued with a smile and a loving laugh in her voice.
Candy laughed even as she cried. Between the mix of gentle sobs and soft laughter, she managed to say, "Yeah... and oh boy, did we tango..."
The dual 'ewwww!!' from each side of Teri made both women chuckle. "You two don't have any room to talk." Teri said softly, moving her arms back down to give them a loving squeeze before returning to the task of comforting Candy. "Is this why you seemed to get tired easily?" Teri asked, changing the subject for the benefit of the boys. "I always thought it was because you barely ate enough to feed a sparrow."
Candy nodded. "Yes. I had chronic leukemia that was developing so slow that nobody realized it. When I became pregnant, the doctors say that the combination of the hormone changes from pregnancy and the actual stress of being pregnant, on top of the stress from Mikey's death, allowed the disease to become Acute. I had the choice of them trying to treat me immediately, which probably would have killed Patty, or waiting until he was born and then hope it could still be stopped. There was no way I was going to take a chance of losing the best thing Mikey left with me, so I gambled on the doctors being able to stop it after he was born."
Teri paused for a minute before responding, her expression insinuating that she was listening to something in her head. "You did the right thing, at least that's what Davie says."
"Davie?" Candy asked curiously.
"One of Mikey's sidekicks Up There." Teri responded. "He's a good kid, I've become good friends with his parents. He was abducted and killed a while back, now he helps Mikey keep track of things. Knowing him and Pablito, one or the other of them stretched their Mandate to find out if you made the choice that you were supposed to."
"So Mikey has Angel sidekicks that are just as bad as him? Are they that desperate for Saints nowadays?" Candy asked with a grin.
"I heard that!" Mikey laughed from across the room. "You would be surprised to know I'm the angel of our little trio!"
"Jerry's told me about Davie." Cory said. "There's no way he's even half as bad as you!"
"Like you have room to talk, Squirt!" Mikey chuckled as he let Adam hold Patty for a minute. "Do we need to discuss the reasons you were told that you couldn't do any more independent study in the computer lab?"
"All I did was beef up their firewall!" Cory replied innocently.
"Yes, and set the home page for every teacher in the district to the "Teaching for Dummies" webpage." Mikey chuckled.
"Well... I was just trying to help book sales." Cory tried, looking totally innocent.
"Suuurrreeee.... and I supposed setting the 'beep' sound on Principal Maas' computer to the 'Mickey Mouse' song was an accident, right?"
"Maas... Mouse... hey, that's as close as I could get!" Cory giggled. "With that accent he had, it sounded like Mouse anyways!"
"Let me guess..." Teri said from where her and Candy were listening carefully, "that must have been the year that Mikey somehow got listed as the legal guardian for both of you in the school's records."
"Ummmm... hey Mikey, what's the weather supposed to be like tomorrow?" Cory quickly asked.
"I thought so..... busted!" Teri laughed.
Sean just shook his head with a grin as he took a turn holding Patty. "Hey little guy!" Sean said softly as he rubbed noses with his nephew. "Just remember I'm your innocent Uncle; don't listen to the rest of them!"
Mikey shook his head in wonder. "Innocent... I'm not EVEN going there; I've grown kinda attached to these wings...."
Since the rest of the Short boys were busily discussing the latest twist in their vacation, not to mention the fact that he was closest to the door, Jesse decided to answer the doorbell when it sounded.
"I'll get it!" Jesse stated as he started towards the foyer. A few seconds later, he returned and walked up to Cory. "Sir? Governor Jacobs is in the foyer and wishes to speak to you."
After a second to remember just why Jesse was so formal, Cory turned and gave Jesse a quick hug. "Thanks, Jesse. Why don't you take him to the kitchen? I'll grab the rest of your division that are here and we'll be right behind you."
"Okay Si... Cory." Jesse replied, this time catching himself. He understood why he didn't need to be formal anymore, but the habit was a hard one to break.
Jesse went back to the foyer. "Governor, if you would please follow me, Patriarch Short will be with you shortly."
Ted Jacobs smiled as his young escort. "That will be fine. Lead the way, young sir."
Jesse nodded, then led the way into the kitchen. Once Ted was seated, Jesse asked "Would you like some refreshments, Sir?"
Ted was impressed with the manners of his host. "Thank you Jesse, by some chance would you have any coffee?"
Jesse nodded. "Yes Sir, Mrs. Short just made a fresh pot. Would you like cream or sugar?"
"No thank you, Jesse. No reason to ruin good coffee." Ted replied, inwardly glad to see the small grin on Jesse's face at his humor.
A few minutes later, Jesse returned carrying a tray of drinks just as Cory led the other boys into the kitchen. Jesse served Ted first, then as everyone took their seats he placed drinks in front of each of them, whispering a quick 'thanks' to Eddie as he served him.
Once Jesse was done, Cory spoke up. "Thanks for helping out, Jesse. Go ahead and have a seat, I'll take over from here."
Jesse smiled and took his seat by Julio, then Cory got down to business.
"Good Morning, Ted. What brings you here on a Saturday?" Cory asked with a smile.
"I heard that your Mom makes the best coffee in Des Moines, and I had to verify it!" Ted replied with a grin. "I will say that this is the most professional reception that I have had in ages... I am quite impressed."
Cory grinned. "Considering Jesse is the First Officer of the Des Moines Division, I think you should be telling that to his Division Head, Julio! I'm pretty impressed with both of them!"
Ted smiled at the young teen that had spearheaded the initial organization of the Compound; even if he had not known Julio, he would have been able to distinguish Julio by his blush. "So it's official now? Congratulations, I think Cory has made a perfect choice."
"Thanks, Governor." Julio squeaked.
"Don't worry, the responsibility grows on you." Ted chuckled. "You've got my number if you ever need to bounce some ideas off of me or just are not sure of how to deal with this ancient elephant we call a government."
Just as Cory was about to get the meeting on track again, Eddie stood up, his eyes burning with anger. "Patriarch, I need one of the kitties." he stated.
"I'm going too... Bast, full dress uniform. Des Moines Division is in need of our assistance. Move out!" Ty stated as he stood up. "My apologies Ted, but your surface thoughts on a matter that you just became aware of were intercepted by Eddie as he was performing his normal safety procedures which we taught him. While you may suffer from having to follow a statute of limitations, we are under no such illogical restrictions. Des Moines Division of Family Clan Short has claimed jurisdiction and hereby releases all jurisdictional claims of Earth governments."
Before Cory had time to process what just happened, two black hooded robes appeared in front of the two standing boys. As Eddie put on the robe from in front of him, Cory noticed a new crest in addition to the Family Crest. It consisted of a smaller version of the Family Crest overlaid on a grey shadow outline of the Des Moines skyline; the same skyline that was present on every license plate issued for vehicles in the State. Crossing diagonally over the entire Crest was a silver lightning bolt.
Just as Cory took in the new crest, Bast came jogging in. His uniform drew everyone's attention immediately. Cory took in the sight in awe; the highly polished combat boots, up through the blue trousers with gold braid down the side of each leg, on through the dark blue jacket and white shirt with black bow tie, all topped off with a Green Beret. As Cory's eyes dropped back down, he first saw the First Lieutenant rank insignia on the shoulder boards, with the Unit insignia on the right collar lapel and a Special Forces insignia on the left. On the suit lapels, there appeared two Military Police insignia laid over the letters F.C.S.H.Q.. On the right side, a gold Aiguillette signified that Bast was assigned to duty involving a dignitary. On his left side, a green fourragere signified that Bast was active in the Montana Massacre. Cory had been mildly shocked when the President had personally come down to present the award; a U.S. Army award that was only to be worn by those units actively involved in repelling the attack in Montana. On the left sleeve, a black brassard indicated that his Commander still considered the Unit in a state of mourning. Below his name tag, centered on the right pocket, was a single combat service badge; an outline of the State of Montana with a Clan Crest centered within it. On the left side, a Montana Conflict Medal stood alone under his Sharpshooter insignia, the bottom of the ribbon just over the Military Police badge on the right pocket. Bast was perfectly groomed, right down to the fur on his tail which extended from the slit in the seat of his pants.
"Request permission to depart on temporary duty service to the Intelligence Corps, Sir." Bast barked as he came to a full-attention stop in front of Cory and snapped a salute.
Cory quickly stood and addressed Bast. "Permission granted, Lieutenant." He then returned the salute. "Dismissed."
Bast turned, and quickly decided that now was not the time to threaten Tyler if the 'monkey suit' was not necessary; as soon as he saw the robes he knew this was serious. Before he even had a chance to approach Tyler, he knew just how serious it was due to the telepathic briefing Tyler gave him. He saluted Tyler, then after dropping the salute announced "Reporting for duty Sir." He unconsciously adjusted the pistol and phaser on his belt as he added "Ready and able for deployment."
Tyler nodded wordlessly, then a second later all three were gone.
"What happened to not working?" Sean asked nobody in particular.
Kyle smiled. "Exceptional circumstances. Eddie has been trained in Vulcan Information Extraction, but has not been given his final. Ty and I are his trainers, so we have to witness the final. This will be it; and Grandpa Sarek okayed it as soon as he found out what the issue was." Kyle then mentally relayed to everyone but Julio exactly what was causing the fuss.
'When will he find out?' Cory sent to Kyle, his heart aching from what he just learned about his friend's past.
'Don't worry bro; once they are done, Ty is making a stop on his way back to start the healing from the past.' Kyle replied.
Ted had a small smile on his face as he interjected his observations. "I'm starting to see why you guys are so successful where standard methods fail. Just out of curiosity, how long until you bring this to trial?"
Kyle looked Ted straight in the eyes. "The trial is done; I estimate sentence in thirty seconds."
"Holy crap!" Ted exclaimed under his breath....
As soon as the three boys appeared in front of the Reception desk, Bast stepped forward. "I am First Lieutenant Bast Lion, Family Clan Short Special Forces. It is our understanding that you are holding one Carlos Julio Sanchez. He is currently under suspicion of multiple charges under our jurisdiction. May we assume your cooperation as we verify his guilt or innocence?"
The Sergeant behind the desk took one quick look at Bast's uniform, then took in the two hooded figures behind Bast. He pressed a button, then quickly stood before replying. "We have standing orders to provide full cooperation, Lieutenant Lion. Will you require any assistance?"
Bast formed his reply based on the information that Tyler was feeding him on the fly. "We shall relocate the subject to holding cell three. Please have one of your senior officers present for a State witness."
"That can be arranged, Sir. We should have someone available to assist you shortly."
Within seconds, another officer came through the doorway behind the counter. "Security informed me of your request, Lieutenant Lion. I am authorized to assist you in any way you deem necessary."
"Thank you, Corporal. We shall join the subject in the cell now." Bast replied. He drew his weapon, then a second later the four of them found themselves in the holding cell.
Bast barely had time to realize that the man sitting in shock in front of him was an older version of Julio before Eddie announced "I have the information; can you please check me Ty?"
Tyler nodded, then a few seconds later announced "Confirmed. Give it to Bast and Corporal Johnston, Eddie."
As the Corporal's eyes went wide at the confessions that were suddenly in his head, Bast came to attention and addressed the prisoner. "Carlos Julio Sanchez. You have been tried by a Vulcan Tribunal. Stand to receive your charges and sentence."
Carlos had just about recovered from the shock of the sudden cell change and appearance of his four visitors. This latest order renewed his shock level, so he mutely stood to await whatever was coming next.
Bast allowed him to wait in silence for almost a minute before continuing. "Carlos Sanchez; at a New Years party on January 1st, 1990 at 12:43am you slipped a drug into the drink of Janice Hernandez. Thirty minutes later, you performed sexual intercourse with Janice without her consent. After you completed the Act, you left the party and immediately left the State, assuming a false identity. The act resulted in the impregnation of Janice and the subsequent birth of a son. Due to the fact that you have repeated the offense three times since that date, We have determined that you shall be punished for those actions in addition to abandonment and failure to support a minor child. The maximum punishment for your actions under Vulcan Law is death. Due to the suffering that you have caused, I consider it logical that you shall suffer yourself as you have made others suffer before the death sentence is delivered by those of your own social ranking; history has shown the period that you will survive will be minimal. You are to be castrated immediately and will spend the rest of your life on a Federation Prison Planet." Bast turned to Ty and Eddie. "You should step outside; what is about to happen is not for young eyes."
Tyler nodded his agreement, and the two boys disappeared.
Tyler quickly turned to Eddie. "Turn on all of your mind blocks; you don't need to hear this part in your head, it'll give you nightmares. I'll cover your ears so that you don't hear the sound either."
"What about you, Ty?" Eddie asked with concern.
"I already have the nightmares...." Tyler replied softly before reaching out and covering Eddie's ears.
It was at that very moment the screaming started, only to taper off a few seconds later. Shortly thereafter, the Corporal came quickly out of the cell and ran towards the nearest bathroom. Bast followed him out of the cell with a scowl on his face. "Not only did he pass out before I was done with the first part of his sentence, but he got blood on my best uniform!"
Tyler gave Bast a weak grin as he uncovered Eddie's ears and activated his commbadge. "Federation Security, this is Clan Short Intelligence."
"Federation Security. Please don't tell me you're calling in a pickup, Mr. Short; I thought you were supposed to be taking a break!"
Tyler allowed himself a small giggle as he recognized the voice of one of his favorite operators. "I heard you were bored, Frank. I have a pickup for you, destination P-7-C. Tell Bubba I said Happy Birthday."
"Got it." Frank replied, understanding the hidden meaning behind Tyler's apparent joke. "I'll let them know they have incoming, then I'll help you take out the trash. Go home and relax already, Kiddo."
"Thanks Frank; I plan on doing just that. Short out."
Tyler turned towards the doorway, where soft moans signified Carlos was coming around. "Bubba will be sooo happy to meet you, bastard...." Tyler growled just before the beginning sounds of transport reached everyone's ears.
Once Carlos was gone, Ty turned to Bast. "You're right, he was messy. I'll hook you up, bro." Within seconds, Bast's uniform was back to it's original condition.
"Thanks!" Bast purred, then gave the two boys a quick face wash in appriciation...
The three boys appeared on the sidewalk in front of the newly-designated Des Moines Division Headquarters. After quick telepathic instructions from Tyler, they headed towards the front door, Bast in the lead. Bast came to attention as he stopped at the door and rang the bell; his two hooded companions matching his formal posture.
Mick answered the door, his eyes going wide as he saw Bast in formal uniform, Tyler in formal robes, and his youngest son in robes matching Tyler's. "Hello guys. Why is it that I get a feeling this isn't a social visit?"
Bast nodded his head as he replied. "Your intuition is correct, Sir. A recent maneuver has necessitated our requiring a conference with yourself and Mrs. Hernandez regarding an incident which occurred approximately fourteen years ago. May we enter to discuss the results of the action with you and your wife?"
Mick's face went pale as Bast's request revived long-suppressed memories. "Oh shit...." Mick whispered as he braced himself against the doorway to keep from collapsing on the floor. After a few seconds, he collected his emotions enough to be able to form a response. "You gentlemen know where the living room is. Please make yourself comfortable while I get Janice."
"As you wish, Sir." Bast responded. They followed Mick through the entry, splitting off to wait in the living room as Mick headed out to the back yard to get Janice. They waited ten minutes for Mick and Janice to join them; when they did finally come into the room, it was obvious that Mick had spent the time preparing Janice for what was about to be discussed.
Bast stood and motioned the two adults towards an open loveseat. "Thank you for giving us your time. I would suggest you sit together so that you may comfort each other. Lieutenant Hernandez will update you on the current situation. Captain Short will assist, with your permission, in ensuring that your emotional state does not exceed a safe level."
Mick and Janice both twisted their heads towards Eddie so fast that it caused their necks to audibly 'pop'. What they saw made them temporarily forget about the pending discussion; their youngest son was sitting there, a stone cold serious expression visible on the parts of his face able to be seen through the hood. Eddie reached up and lowered his hood, in the process revealing brand-new Lieutenant's bars on his shirt collar under the cloak.
"Will you accept Captain Short's assistance?" Eddie asked seriously, putting the training that Kyle and Tyler had given him in the Dream Realms overnight to full use.
Mick and Janice looked at each other in shock. "How... when... Lieutenant?????" Mick stuttered.
Bast took pity on the two adults. "Eddie is fully qualified and has passed training for the Clan Short Intelligence Corps. His training was completed in a side timeline to our own last night. He is certified to dispense testimony to courts as a Vulcan Registered Telepath; his word is considered more evidence than a signed confession."
As Mick was mulling over this new information, Janice looked her son directly in the eyes. What she saw convinced her more than a million words ever could; for the first time since Eddie had joined her family, his green eyes showed a life and glow that had been sadly missing. Despite the seriousness of his face, she could see that he had been healed of the worst of his hurt by the chance that this group of boys has given him. She placed a finger over Mick's mouth as he was about to respond to Bast. "Hon; look at Eddie, really look. These boys have given our son life, and it's not our place to interfere."
Mick followed his wife's instructions. A few seconds later, he stood and faced Eddie, coming to attention for the first time since he had mustered out of the Quartermasters Corps.
Bast silently assisted Eddie with military protocol as soon as he noticed what Mick was doing. With Tyler ensuring that all three were able to participate in a telepathic conference while they were here, it made it easy for Bast to give Eddie a crash course in military procedures.
Eddie quickly stood, coming to attention facing his dad.
Mick saluted Eddie, dropping the salute after Eddie returned it. "Lieutenant Hernandez, I accept your offer of assistance. On a side note, congratulations; you've made me very proud."
Eddie was unable to hold his serious expression after Mick added the side note. His face broke into a huge smile as he replied "Thanks, Daddy!" and ran over to give Mick a huge hug. Janice joined the hug as well, expressing her pride in his accomplishment softly as the two adults sandwiched their youngest son.
Once the hug broke and everyone was seated again, Janice looked at Eddie. "I think I'm ready for the reason you came home, son. Tyler, if we need help feel free to do it. Your reputation proceeds you as far as your help when there is emotional distress."
Tyler nodded his head in acknowledgment, as Eddie brought his emotions back under control before beginning.
Eddie looked at both of his parents seriously. "I understand the emotional impact of going into detail regarding past events, so I will only state what is required to ensure all present are aware of what event is being discussed." He paused to give the statement time to register, then continued. "In January, 1990, Janice Hernandez was attacked by Carlos Julio Sanchez. The attack resulted in the birth of her son Julio, who at this time is unaware of the circumstances of his conception. Within the last two hours, Clan Short Intelligence was made aware that Mr. Sanchez was being held on unrelated charges in a local penal institution. While local authorities were hampered by a statute of limitations, Vulcan does not recognize such illogical statutes. Mr. Sanchez has been found guilty of this action and other repeat actions of the same nature by Vulcan trial as administered legally by Officers of Family Clan Short of Vulcan under jurisdiction granted by the State of Iowa. Mr. Sanchez has been castrated and is now beginning a life sentence on prison planet P-7-C, at least as long as his cellmates consider him useful."
Mick and Janice sat there, staring at Eddie in shock. Even with all they knew about how the boys operated, witnessing it firsthand with something that involved them personally was still a shock.
Tyler allowed time for Eddie's statements to settle in, then he added softly "Mr. Sanchez automatically lost any and all claims to parental rights towards Julio upon conviction... forever." He paused, then added "It's over, Mr. and Mrs. Hernandez... it is really over."
I thought Sean and Cory were on vacation; I guess some things never change and justice and help must given whenever necessary.
It was very nice getting to learn a little bit more about how Kyle and Cory met and I look forward to more of those flashbacks.
Now if only the boys can get the vacation they really need.
The Story Lover