"Do you have any idea what's going to happen to Jed and C.J.?" Jonas asked.
"I can't be sure," D.J. responded, "because every intervention ends up just a little different. But in general terms, it'll be this: Dan, who is a child psychologist and J.J.'s father as well, will do whatever he can to help Jed and C.J. cope with what happened, and all the guys will be there for them. Since between us, we've encountered practically every sort of abuse, neglect, and every other form of hurt, there'll be somebody who will know from personal experience just how they're feeling, and therefore he'll know just the right things to say. We also have resources that I would probably sound like a religious nut for telling you, but we have boys with a direct Indian hotline to the Great Spirit, two guardian angels who show up and walk us through the worst problems - when I was suicidal, St. Mikey did just that for me, and it was just as real as Tanner sitting over there scratching his behind - something like eight or nine telepaths who can read their minds - Jacob was one of them; I'll be another one when I finish my Vulcan training; my gift is pretty sporadic at the moment except with my little brother. Anyway, what I mean to say is that one way or another, and what we have for resources is pretty extensive, and bizarre by everyday standards, we'll figure out what it is they need, and provide it for them.
"Then we'll try to help them find a new family that is what *they* want, not what some judge or child care worker thinks would be a good idea. That's what Teri is good at: when we were first rescued, they figured Russ and Sara would be good for us, and invited them to adopt us, complete with new jobs and a new home provided by Starfleet. But then they gave Tanner and me, and Beau and Toby as well, the choice to be adopted by them or not.
"Finally, they'll probably be invited to join the Clan, and help others the same way as they were helped. That's what we're doing here - 'paying it forward,' as the saying goes. We were given what we needed; now it's our turn to help others."
"I thought J.J. ordered you to be sent here," Jonas said.
"Nope," D.J. responded. "We volunteered for security because it was our chance to help out. Yeah, he asked for us to be sent, but only because it was our free choice to pass on the help we got first. We guys in the Clan expect each other to pitch in and help, because it's what brothers do for each other. But we're all free adults, even the youngest; nobody forces us to do anything."
"Uh-oh," said Tanner. "Cops pulling up out front."
A police car slid silently to a stop at the curb in front of the McConnaghay frame house. The car's searchlight flicked on, and illuminated the empty driveway, and Maureen's Camry sitting off at the side. Then a uniformed policeman carrying a flashlight emerged from the passenger's side door and walked down the driveway.
"Better tell your mother to be alert," D.J. told Jonas. "But let's watch and see what he's up to. I'm getting no sense of imminent danger."
The policeman shone his flashlight in the garage, empty but for Jonas's old bike, then walked around behind the house. The boys silently walked through the house to observe him through the back windows. Tire tracks in the grass were visible in the flashlight beam. Silently, the policeman walked around the other side of the house, got back into the car at the curb, and it pulled away.
"Whew!" Jonas said. "Close call!"
"That wasn't a close call," D.J. said. "A close call is when a rogue cop's shooting bullets at you, and a Starfleet security man is shooting him with a phaser." His expression was haunted.
"Hey, babe, get hold of yourself," Tanner said. "Your father's dead, ashes in the wind now!" He slid over next to D.J., drew him into a tight hug, and gently kissed him on the lips.
"Mmmm," D.J. said. "That will pull me out of a funk every time! But we better wait for later to continue that," he added, adjusting his pants.
"You two make a terrific couple," Jonas laughed. "I wish I could find a girl that cared as much for me as you two do for each other."
D.J. got a distant look for a few seconds, then said seriously to Jonas, "Message from Jacob: you're looking in the wrong place."
"What's he mean by that?" Jonas said, puzzledly.
"I don't know," D.J. responded. "Remember, I'm not very good at telepathy yet."
"Well, how's about I make up some hot chocolate?" Jonas offered. "Harry'll be back soon if he didn't have any trouble, and it's probably a bit cold out there. And I could use something to quiet my nerves."
"Cory to D.J.," came the voice from D.J.'s communicator.
"D.J. here," he said into it.
"I called to see how you guys are doing," Cory said. "But first, is there something wrong with Tanner's communicator? I buzzed him first, and he didn't answer."
"Oh, Harry - that's the guy who called Zac to get us involved - is out hiding a cop car, and Tanner gave it to him in case he needed to call for help. Showed him the panic button. Tommy knows about it."
"I wish people'd tell me these things," Cory groused. "Good move, though. Any developments?"
"No," said D.J., "but I'm wondering about tonight. We could impose on them for coffee and stay up all night, but I don't think there's likely to be any action, and I'd rather be fresh for tomorrow."
"I was just getting to that," Cory answered. "Feel free to go to bed when you want to - to sleep, that is; I know you two horndogs." D.J. and Tanner both blushed. "We were going to ask for one of the geosynchronous surveillance satellites to keep an eye on things, but the brain leech twins vetoed it, and Matt backed them up. The information from any of them gets fed as a matter of standard programming to the local police, and I gather you don't want that to happen. By the way, just why are you guys hiding a police car?"
"Guess," giggled D.J. "Hint: twelve years old, shoots off on Adam and at cops, strawberry blond hair."
"He did it again?" Cory was giggling too. "I gotta have a word with that boy! But what we've got worked out is surveillance by the Lafayette, with relays from Terra Main and three low-orbit satellites. They'll take a quick scan every minute or so, automatic, with preprogramming to blast a warning on your communicators if something seems imminent. You miss three minutes each hour plus one five-minute gap between two and three A.M. and another between six and seven, but that shouldn't be a problem in a small town like that."
"Sounds good," D.J. said. "We'll hang out here for a few hours, then catch some Z's and check in in the morning."
"Good plan. Cory out."
"You've got *Starfleet* covering while you sleep?!" Jonas said, goggle-eyed.
"Well, you know how it is," Tanner answered with a deadpan expression. "When the first team needs a break, you call in the second string."
Both thirteen-year-olds burst out laughing at Jonas's reaction to that.
Jonas headed for the kitchen, and within a couple of minutes Harry came walking up the sidewalk. Tanner opened the door for him, and he slipped off his jacket. "Man, it is cold out there! Here's your communicator. It started calling for you, so I found the mute button."
"Good move," Tanner said. "I hope it didn't cause any problems."
"No," Harry answered. "I was going by the Roberts place at the time, and they both go to bed with the chickens and would probably sleep through a Metallica concert in the middle of their living room." Tanner grinned at that.
"Be right in," called Jonas. "Hot chocolate is ready, and sugar cookies to go with it."
"Awesome," said D.J. "Should we take some in to your mother?"
"No," Jonas answered. "She prefers not to be disturbed when she's working, unless I really need her for something. She'll come out if and when she's thirsty."
Tanner quickly alerted the Clan that he had his communicator back. The four boys then sat down with cups of hot chocolate and a few cookies each.
"Starfleet's going to be keeping an eye on the place while we sleep," Jonas informed Harry.
"Yeah, right!" Harry answered. "And Santa will land his sleigh on the roof too, I suppose?"
"We haven't recruited him - yet," Tanner said straight-faced. Jonas laughed.
"The police checked out the driveway and yard while you were gone," D.J. told Harry. "But they didn't come to the door."
"I wonder why," Jonas mused.
"Probably just looking for the missing cop," D.J. hazarded a guess. "Let's not ask for trouble."
"I keep wondering if things will ever get back to normal," Harry commented. "We've got cops looking for Jed and C.J., and probably for us too."
"Any doubt in your mind we did the right thing?" Jonas challenged him.
Harry looked at Jonas, and seemed to draw strength from him. "Not in the slightest!" he said firmly. "You finding them in the bushes almost certainly saved their lives, if you can believe what your mother and the little telepath had to say."
"I don't have the slightest doubt about Jacob," Tanner said. "He and his brother have saved our bacon with what they've ferreted out half a dozen times in less than a month."
"You said their father is JC?" Jonas asked.
"Well, one of them," D.J. answered. "The other one is Commander Dodds of the Enterprise, JC's husband."
Harry's eyes widened at this. "I didn't know Commander Dodds was..."
"You can say 'gay' around us," Tanner said with a grin. "We only consider it insulting if somebody means it that way."
"Yeah," D.J. added. "Since we got rescued by the Clan, it seems like most people are pretty cool with it, and don't mind us being a couple."
"I can't get over how relaxed you guys are about it," Harry confessed. "Seems like you'd always be worrying about what people think."
"Like the old saying goes," Tanner responded, "those who matter don't care, and those who care don't matter. Russ and Sara are cool about it; our adopted brothers and our brothers in the Clan are cool with it...."
"They'd have a nerve being upset," D.J. said. "Most of them are gay too. Our little brother Beau is Jamie and Jacob's boyfriend."
"Both of them?" Harry's jaw dropped.
"Well, yeah. They do almost everything as a pair, except for a few interventions. And that includes having the same boyfriend." D.J. grinned. "Our Clan Patriarch has a life partner and, what, three adopted sons now?"
"Seven, counting us. But with me only a few hours younger than Sean, sharing us with Russ and Sara, along with Toby and Beau, made more sense," Tanner added.
"Who's Sean?" Jonas asked.
"He's Clan historian and chief pilot, and a helmsman trainee under Chip - Commander Dodds. And he's Cory's life partner, and one of our fathers."
"And he's not quite 14," D.J. added.
"How old is your Patriarch?" Harry asked.
"Fourteen," Tanner answered.
"What!!" Jonas said. "He's a year younger than Harry and me, and a Patriarch?!"
"Yeah," D.J. said. "Like I was explaining earlier, the Vulcan way is not to look at what your calendar age is, but at what you're capable of doing. Cory is a superb leader, and was the oldest of the original group except for Aaron and David, so Sarek made him Clan Patriarch."
"And Aaron and David are...?"
"Aaron Carter and his fiancé, David Gallagher. Aaron was the first guy ever rescued under the Safe Haven Act, by Commander Dodds, and he lives with Chip and Josh now."
"Commander Dodds and JC."
"Ooooookay." Harry was looking a bit poleaxed by this information. "And I thought I was doing good, having Zac Hanson's phone number."
"Well, if you hadn't, none of us would be here talking this stuff through. Remember that." Tanner responded. "Like Kenny once said, it's not who you are but what you do that matters. And you two are as responsible for saving Jed and C.J. as the rest of us."
"Not another celebrity," D.J. grinned. "Kenny Thompson, another Clan member. He's not quite 12, has a twin brother and two adopted older brothers, Jake and Xain."
"How old are Jake and Zane?" Harry asked.
"Xain, not Zane - he's half Vulcan, and 12. Jake's 15. They're boyfriends as well as brothers by adoption, just like Tanner and me."
"I think you just passed Harry's bogglement level," Jonas grinned, looking at the stunned expression on his friend's face. "I suppose it makes sense for a Vulcan Clan to have a half-Vulcan member, but how'd he get to be their brother?"
"Another long story. We rescued Kenny, Kevin, and Jake from a gang war in Chicago, and Kevin drew Xain's picture that first night, and recognized he needed rescuing too."
"Drew his picture?" Jonas looked puzzled.
"Psychometry," Travis offered in explanation. "Kevin can draw pictures of people he's never met, or of things important to them, and read their emotions. When we reunited Kenny and Kevin, it turned out Kenny could read who and where they are, and what their emergency is if there is one. They're responsible for alerting us to several guys we've rescued."
"It almost sounds like you're making this stuff up," Jonas said. "No offense, but most people don't know anybody famous, or anybody with all these talents."
"That's where you're wrong," D.J. said. "Everybody has something special about them, some reason they come into contact with the people they do. It's just that the world dumps on you if you're different from 'normal,' instead of helping you be the best you that you can be.
"Take Tyler, the youngest guy on the intervention party. He's an empath. He reads people's emotions, feels what they feel, and can help lift their feelings. But the world frowns on people showing that kind of caring. We welcome it and nourish it, train it and enable him to help others with it. It's like being gay - neither of us chose to be gay, it's something we discovered about ourselves. You know the names we'd be called most places - in the Clan, we're welcomed, our love is encouraged and rejoiced about. Every single one of us has over 30 brothers that he knows would put their lives on the line for him. You two did that for two kids you scarcely knew today, and you both would do it for each other. Imagine having a whole community of people you can trust that much."
"I see what you mean," Jonas said. "But we didn't do much."
"Bullpuckey," Tanner responded. "Nobody told you to climb into the bushes to help those two, and then bring them home to find them help. And Harry, for some reason you decided to store Zac's phone number and remembered to call him, and then you took that cop car and hid it at major risk to your own freedom. That's just as important as anything we did - if you hadn't done what you did, nobody from the Clan could have done what we did. And we've got the whole resources of the Federation to draw on if needed; what you two had to work with was a reporter mother who believes in doing the right thing, a rock star's telephone number, and your trust in each other."
Jonas and Harry sat quiet for a moment, realizing the changes that had happened in their lives in the past few hours. Then Harry said, "But what about the cops?"
D.J. responded, "If we can get safely through the next day or two, that should be taken care of. Remember, my father was a rogue cop, just like your locals here. The Federation will step in, and it has a pretty big foot when it chooses to exercise it. In a very real way, it already has, right here in your living room this afternoon."
"Huh?!" Jonas exclaimed. "You need to explain that."
"What I was telling you earlier, about the Clan's legal rights. When Zac invoked the Safe Haven Act and put Jed and C.J. and you guys under Clan protection, he was acting as a fully authorized agent of the planet Vulcan, invoking a Federation law. If an Arkham cop walks through your front door, draws his gun on me, and I shoot him dead with my phaser, I'm in the right, not him, under the law; all I have to do is answer to my Patriarch, and to Ambassador Sarek if he chooses to ask, as to why I needed to kill rather than stun."
"I'm really having trouble wrapping my head around all this," Jonas admitted.
"Just go with the flow; it's easier," Tanner smiled.
"Anyway, as far as the cops go," D.J. continued, "some combination of Federation security and telepaths is debriefing what Jacob collected today, and putting it together into a case against the local cops and that guy behind them, what's his name?"
"Randall Scordo," said Maureen from the hall doorway.
"Oh, hi, Mom," Jonas said. "The guys were just filling Harry and me in about what it is they do."
"And sure it is that I'll be wanting to interview ye tomorrow," she said to D.J. and Tanner with a smile. "But for now, are ye comfortable here?"
"Very much so," Tanner answered for them. "The Clan has nothing to hide, and we'd welcome a chance to tell more people about the Safe Haven Act. But there'll no doubt be stuff that I can't say, or at least that you can't publish, for the sake of Jed and C.J.'s safety. But I think you'll see Scordo and all the corrupt cops arrested by Federation security within a few days, if what J.J. passed on to me is any indication."
"I'm still having trouble taking you at face value," Maureen admitted. "You seem so serious about this, but you're only 13, and it almost seems like you're playing Spy Kids."
"When we're acting in Clan capacity, we're dead serious," Tanner shot back, his steel-grey eyes flashing. "We are answerable to Sarek as adults for what we do, and we make sure to do the right thing."
"We can goof off and have fun as kids when we're not handling something serious like this," D.J. amplified. "But just like you, Maureen, when there's a job to do, we buckle down and take it seriously, and do what has to be done. Fun's for when there are not lives on the line."
"I'll not have two children sassing me in my own home," Maureen responded angrily.
"And we aren't," D.J. said back, visibly keeping his calm. "We're telling you that we're answerable as adults for what we do on a Safe Haven intervention like today, and that we take that seriously. We're guests in your home, but we're here on something serious, protecting you from Scordo's thugs, and never mind that we're 13 years old, we'll do what it takes to keep you and these two guys safe. I'm sorry if any part of saying that offended you. But it's the job we agreed to undertake, and it's important enough to us that we'll risk our lives alongside Jonas and Harry if the situation calls for it."
"I'm going to have them beam us out," Tanner said with a disgusted look. "She doesn't want us here and doesn't respect what we are trying to do for her."
"Chill, bro," D.J. answered. "It's the same old 'adults failing to understand young people acting responsibly' thing all over again. Maureen's not used to us; be patient with her, instead of acting your age and getting mad."
"You're right," Tanner said, drawing a deep breath. "It's so damn annoying when it happens, though. I'm sorry, Maureen," he said, turning to her. "I should not have gotten upset at your comment."
"And I am sorry, too," Maureen said. "We adults are always telling kids to act more mature, and then we fail to give them credit when they actually do. It's hard to realize you two are not merely kids playing, but I'll try. Forgive me for getting my Irish up?"
"Of course," smiled Tanner. "If you'll forgive me too; there's Irish ancestry in my family, and I can be just as quick to get mad."
"As long as you don't start talking in a brogue like Jonas's mom!" Harry put in, causing them all to laugh.
"I just stepped out to get a drink, and overheard you talking," Maureen said. "Do you really think that the Federation can finally put Scordo and his toadies away?"
"Without checking in with Clan H.Q., I can't say for sure," D.J. answered. If you want, I can easily call down there with my communicator. But they're probably mostly in the rec. room or nesting by now, so I can get a better answer in the morning."
"Jacob said he'd taken a reading of Scordo, whatever he meant by that," Jonas interjected.
"OK, that changes things a little. Remember that despite being ten years old, he's been trained by Captain Spock in the Vulcan discipline of gathering telepathic evidence. That's what he was talking about. By the time he was done, Jacob probably knows more about what crimes Scordo has committed than Scordo remembers himself. And I have very little doubt that Commander John Martin of Starfleet Security knows everything Jacob does by now; he's J.J.'s Pop and lives right with most of us."
"I thought J.J.'s father was a shrink," Harry said.
"That's his Dad, Dan," Tanner answered. "John is Dan's partner, J.J.'s Pop."
"Partner?" Jonas said.
"As in life partner, married to, sleeps with, that sort of stuff," D.J. explained.
"Oh, OK. I missed the fact they were gay," Jonas smiled.
"Bi, actually," D.J. added. "The first few Clan members knew J.J.'s mother Sharon, who was Dan's wife until she died. It was the day she died that Sean, Cory, J.J., and Kyle vowed to be brothers, and everything since then has grown from that."
"So you're telling me that Starfleet will arrest Scordo on the word of little Jacob?" Maureen asked.
"More or less," D.J. answered. "Jacob's testimony of what he learned telepathically, when authenticated by another Vulcan, is regarded by any court as being equal or superior to eyewitness testimony or a signed confession. I'll bet when he testified for Zac's recording of Safe Haven Act intervention, he sounded pretty much like a robot."
"Well, yes, he did," Maureen said reminiscently.
"That was him going into Vulcan witness mode," D.J. explained. "When he's doing that, he's trained to report only what he's learned and logical inferences from it, and we're talking Vulcan logic here; if a Vulcan draws a conclusion from information, you can bet your life he's right.about it. Did Jacob say Scordo was behind the deaths?"
"Yes, he did," Jonas said firmly.
"Then he's as good as convicted," D.J. responded equally firmly. "I'll fill you in tomorrow morning on Vulcan evidence techniques, Maureen. I'm just halfway through my training. When I get fully trained, I'll be able to tell you what you had for breakfast on Jonas's first birthday, and how you thought it tasted."
"Saints preserve us!" Maureen exclaimed. "That's amazing. It's glad I'll be to see Scordo locked away where he belongs.
"I believe I will go back and work some more on this story. I take it you boys are nearly ready for bed?"
"Yeah, we'll talk a bit more and then go up. I'm figuring Harry will take the sleepover twin bed in my room, and D.J. and Tanner the guest room?" Jonas asked his mother.
"That was what I'd thought, if no one objects," Maureen answered. "You boys won't mind sharing a double bed, will you?" she asked the 13-year-olds.
"I think it's safe to say they'll be comfortable with it," Jonas grinned as they blushed. "What about school, though?"
"I do hate keeping you out of school, but I think it's probably the best move, for your own safety," she answered. "Harry too; I'll talk to Abbie about that in the morning. Don't forget to rinse those mugs," she added as she turned back towards her study.
"Covered," Harry said, picking them up and heading for the kitchen.
"Thanks, dude," said Jonas.
"What was that you said earlier about nesting?" Harry asked as he returned.
"Oh, the guys who live or stay over at Clan HQ have a standard custom: when it's time to sack out, everyone strips down, pairs off by couples for cuddling purposes, and sleeps together in one big pile, like a litter of puppies. We started doing it early on when some of the guys were dealing with major trauma, and it's become a tradition," Tanner explained.
"Sounds like an orgy!" Jonas grinned.
"Not really," Tanner answered. "Guys who want to get off with their partner will usually either do it in the shower or take a private room for the night. This is more for comfort and security, and helps us bond together as brothers. D.J. and I usually sleep in our bed at our place, but we sleep over with the guys once or twice a week, for fun."
Harry was looking stunned again. "Earth to Harry," Jonas kidded him. "Come in, space cadet."
"How many of you are gay?" Jonas asked.
"Most of us," D.J. answered. "We've done interventions for quite a few straight kids, but actual Clan members are mostly gay, except for Clint and Crystal. They live next door to us; they're both 15, and expecting triplets."
"Parents at 15?" Jonas said.
"Yeah. Their parents were going to force them to abort, and were threatening to kill Clint. So John and Teri did a Safe Haven bit for them too," D.J. said. "But they're not the only parents among the Clan. Sean and Cory have adopted three kids, besides us and our brothers, and J.J. and Adam have a six-year-old of their own."
"J.J.? The 12-year-old that was here earlier?" Jonas was incredulous. "How'd he get a kid?"
"Adopt, of course," Tanner responded. "We gay guys may be good, but we're not that good, to get our partners pregnant."
"Good thing, too," D.J. added. "As horny as my lover here is, we'd have a hundred kids by now if he could."
Tanner blushed, and continued, "Seriously, the guys raided an orphanage that was run by a child molester, and Harley just attached himself to Adam - and the other way around." Adopting a Vulcan demeanor for a moment, he added, "It was only logical that Adam and J.J. adopt him."
"We've talked about adopting, too," D.J. added. "We decided we'll know the right thing to do when the time is ripe. And everyone bands together, boys and adults both, to help, so it's not like you're trying to raise a kid alone at a real young age."
"I don't know about you guys," Jonas said. "But I'm beat. Think it's time to crash?"
The other three chorused agreement, and they headed for the stairs.
Under his breath, he said to himself, "I want Jonas so much, I love him so much, and I can't ever tell him so. He'd hate me for sure. I envy those guys he said he messed around with; why couldn't I have been one of them? I envy those two in the next room; why can't it be like that for us? What am I going to do?" His quiet thoughts went away as he reached climax, and shot three spurts onto his stomach. He grabbed a sock to wipe up the mess, rolled over, and went to sleep.
In the other bed, Jonas's thoughts were in turmoil too. Harry's moans had awakened him, but something had told him to keep quiet and pretend to remain asleep. "Holy shit!" he thought, startled by overhearing Harry's whispered confession of his feelings to himself. His mind went back to Jacob's cryptic message, "you're looking in the wrong place." His thoughts spinning, he drifted back asleep.