Ezraka and Sym were just leaving the latest Platinum Habits practice session when they spotted an Alpha Prime kid who looked about ten years old walking by himself, head hung low.
"He looks sad, Daddy," Sym commented. "Can we find out why?"
"I knew Timmy would rub off on you!" Ezraka grinned as he gave his son a one-armed hug.
The amount of time Ezraka had spent with Clan kids was obvious as he raised his voice. "Hey dude, wait up!"
The boy looked around, obviously surprised when he saw the two Archnanian kids who were jogging towards him. "Who, me?"
"Yeah," Ezraka replied as they reached the boy. "You looked like you needed someone to talk to. I'm Ezraka, and this is my son Syminel; I'm Chance's big brother, and we're the sons of the King."
"I'm Finn," the boy responded.
Deciding that knowing the boy's name was enough, Sym announced "Uncle Cam? We need a couplea chairs so I can give Finn cuddles while Daddy helps him be unsad."
"Don't argue, Finn," Ezraka grinned, "He's been taught by the expert in cuddles, Patriarch Short's son Timmy. While he's giving you the best cuddles on the planet, we can talk about anything you want."
Before Finn had time to reply, two chairs appeared, with Ezraka finding himself suddenly in one while Finn found himself in the other with Sym on his lap. "What in the ...!" Finn exclaimed.
"Cam's the Clan's local AI," Ezraka explained, "and he tends to give things a push if he thinks it's needed. Seriously, even without using the skills I've gained, thanks to my little brother turning our entire planet into a High Race, I can tell you're depressed about something. Talk it out, dude; I won't judge you, you'll feel better, and I might even be able to help you."
Unconsciously, Finn wrapped his arms around the youngster in his lap. "Why'd I have to live?" he asked softly, more to himself than to his companions.
"Because there is a Higher Power that still has jobs that He needs you to do," Ezraka stated seriously."Why don't you tell me what happened?"
"We were trying to get outta Frisco 'cuz of the attack," Finn started. "Last thing I remember is seein' a truck comin' down a hill as Dad drove through an intersection. Next thing I knew, some little kid who thought he was a doctor was telling me I'm gonna live a long time, and he'd find me a new family. I want my Dad, Mom, and little brother. I don't wanna wander around some strange planet while some kid forgets me."
"By any chance was his name Antonio or Chris?" Ezraka asked.
"Yeah, that's the pipsqueak's name, Antonio," Finn replied.
"I'm pretty sure he didn't forget you," Ezraka smiled. "In fact, I'll bet he was waiting for your new family to come back here for their next visit. I'm going to make a guess about who it is too, and if I'm right there are four boys who were just rescued from being abused that could really use a big brother in their new family. If I'm wrong, the parents will probably be able to figure out a family that you'll fit into perfectly. You up to trying my luck?"
"Won't that Antonio kid be mad?"
"No," Sym interrupted, "Uncle 'Tonio an' Uncle Chris are with Uncle Deej an' Uncle Tan right now!"
"I'll explain while we catch up with them," Ezraka stated as he saw the look crossing Finn's face.
DJ, Tanner, and Chek finally sorted out their response, and were now getting ready to talk to their sons. "Hey guys," DJ said with a smile as they took a seat on the grass. "Did you come up with any ideas or questions?"
"Could we stay together?" Warren asked hesitantly. "Dav is nice."
Realizing that even this little bit of decision making was stressing the boys, DJ opened his arms. "C'mere guys, I want a group cuddle with our sons. This is for real, you guys are really a family, and Clan families make decisions together on things that affect the whole family."
Warren, Wes, Hank, and Pierce quickly scrambled to claim the security they were starting to feel when their new parents cuddled them. Noticing Dav wasn't moving, DJ smiled as he said "I only count four cuddle monsters on my lap, where's my fifth son?"
With a huge smile, Davner sprung to his feet, running to claim himself a spot.
Once all five boys were comfortable on DJ's lap, Tanner took over. "Okay guys, nothing you say is wrong, we really need to know what you think before any decisions are made. The first thing we need to know is do all five of you want to be one family of brothers?"
"Yeah!" all five replied as they nodded their heads.
"Dav says his mommy is nice, does that mean he'll be our mommy too?" Hank added softly.
Chek smiled as he signalled that he'd answer. "I'd love to be a mommy for all of you, if that's what you want. Dav is a miracle in a lot of ways, one of them is that when he was made was the only time I felt close enough to someone to do the things that make babys. That's what the three of us had to talk about, because I don't want to mess up the love your Dad and Pop have for each other. We discovered that we all have feelings for each other, it's just that your Dad and Pop's feelings for each other are stronger due to what they've shared in their lives."
"That means we're ready to find out what would make the five of you feel the most secure," DJ added.
"Three people can't be married though," Wes stated.
Cory had popped in behind the group, and made his presence known as he replied "Who's gonna say no if I tell them yes, Wes?"
"Isn't it illegal, Grandpa?" Warren asked.
Cory took a seat on the ground, far enough from DJ to not spook the boys on DJ's lap. "Your Dad and Pop haven't had a chance to explain this to you yet, because they were more worried about helping you learn that you're safe. As citizens of Vulcan, the limit is based on logic; if I need to, I have the final say for anyone in the Clan. I don't do that normally though, because every time it has happened, it was logical. Your Dad and Pop are in a funny position, though; if anything happens to me, DJ is next in line as Patriarch, and the same applies to Tanner if something happens to Sean."
"WHAT?" DJ and Tanner exclaimed in unison.
"I knew I forgot to tell you something; Dad and I discussed it last week!" Cory grinned.
"Why us?" Tanner asked in shock. "Our last name is Wagner!"
"Your surname is a relic of your Human heritage," Cory replied as he slipped into Patriarch mode. "As Timothy is our first son, and DJ shares blood ties with him, DJ is the logical heir. If by some unforeseen event DJ is not capable of assuming the position, Timothy would then be called to take the position. Once those who are my sons have been exhausted, then those who are DJ's sons shall be the head of the line."
"Does that mean Daddy and Poppa are Princes?" Pierce asked in awe.
Shifting back to his normal self, Cory replied "They're Princes in Russia, and they're the equivalent of Princes on Vulcan. That means you little guys are Princes too, but any kids you adopt would be Lords."
Knowing that there were five boys who would need time to process their new status, Cory changed back to the original subject. "Deej, Tanner? I'm really proud of you stepping up and accepting your unexpected son. The next time you wonder why your brothers look up to you, your answer is the only redhead Archnanian I've ever met, the one that calls you Daddy and Pop. You did the right thing without a second thought, which is one of many habits you guys have that all of your brothers try to copy. Before I tell you three what Timmy said about his 'little' big brother, it sounds like the boys have made up their minds. What do you guys think?"
Tanner decided to take charge of answering. "The only reason Deej and I did what we did is that we both feel more than just friendship with Chek. He feels the same way, but all three of us are worried that it might mess up the family if we don't make the right choice."
"All three of us are going to stay together for our kids," Chek added, "so I'm going back to Alpha Prime."
Cory nodded. "I'd be more worried if the three of you had committed to a plan already. Thanks to Kyle helping me in my head with reading Chek's emotions, I can tell you guys that the emotional part is there for you to become a three-parent family. Timmy and William said to follow your hearts, and they can't wait to pick on you for catching you in a three-way kissy kissy. That was Timmy's exact words, by the way."
"Deej, I think YOUR little brother is overdue for swimming lessons!" Tanner interrupted.
"Why's he always just MY brother whenever he acts his age?" DJ sniggered.
"Because you two are so much alike!" Cory giggled. "I'm giving you my blessings to form a three-parent family, guys. All you have to do is decide if that's what all three of you want in your hearts."
"Please?" five young voices asked in unison from DJ's lap.
Antonio and Chris walked up, both with amused grins on their faces. "Cam kept us in the loop," Antonio began as they both took a seat. "Here's the deal; after comparing notes between you guys and the scans of the rest of the nutcases that've been spending more time here than at home, we've got an idea of what happened. For some ungodly reason, it looks like this planet likes you, and it's invaded your bodies with super-cells that are working to keep you at what it thinks is your optimum health. Parts of you are growing faster than normal, while other parts have stopped or slowed down. Our guess is that y'all are joining the long-life club, so just worry about your family, your bodies got the rest covered."
Even Chek had wide eyes at the proclamation of the doctors, exclaiming "WHAT?"
Chris giggled. "After we check out all of your sons, we're gonna dig deeper. Don't worry, we'll tell you when it's the most entertaining what we find out."
Noticing the look on Cory's face, Antonio piped up "Don't worry, 'Daddy,' almost all of your sons are showing miracle health improvements because of this. Timmy and Ricky are the only exceptions, and that's because it looks like they are immune to everything ... including things there is no cure for. Blame their feathered friends for that one, I do. Yes, Timmy was the first person we checked after we started figuring things out."
"Guys, your Uncle Ty is taking Dylan on an interuniversal tour of major lakes and oceans as we speak," Cory stated as he looked at DJ and Tanner. "Your Uncle Kyle says either choice will be a good one, but you'll get a reward really soon if you choose the best one."
"CAM!" DJ exclaimed. "Contact Uncle Justy! Our sons need emergency pouncing lessons ASAP so they can pay Kyle back for picking on us!"
"I'm on it!" Cam replied before breaking out in giggles.
"I'm in too; so whadda you think, Chek; you up for a three way?" Tanner asked.
"EWWWWWW!" all five sons exclaimed before giggling.
After joining DJ in giving Tanner a slap on the back of his head, Chek grinned. "Last time we tried that, I got pregnant! You gotta wait until we're married before you get to try again!"
"Yeah, all y'all are a perfect match!" Cory laughed. "Kyle's letting the King know he's got a wedding to do!"
As Tanner and Chek joined DJ in cuddling the five smiling boys on DJ's lap, Antonio slipped over to talk to Cory privately. "Just so you know, Cor, between what we're learning about Creston and this, I'm starting to suspect that a bunch of us are going to be around a while. You might wanna get word out to the Division heads so they can start prepping everyone that, for some reason we ain't figured out yet, it appears that some Clan members are starting to show signs of extended life. Tell them as I know more, I'll pass it along."
"Gotcha, bro," Cory replied, "take some elf time though; it's not an emergency to figure it out."
Spotting three people approaching from behind Cory, Antonio replied "I'll take it after these three are done."
Cory twisted around, spotting Ezraka approaching with a kid he'd never met and his son. Even from a distance, the new boy's chrome-red hair stood out, along with the silver tint of his skin. "Vifer?" Cory asked softly.
"Yeah," Antonio whispered back. "Orphan too, I hope Deej, Tanner, and Chek are ready; Deej is about the only one I know that'll be able to help him with his feelings after the loss of his parents."
Cory found himself unable to respond, as Sym had spotted him and did his sworn duty as a member of Timmy's tribe. "UNCLE CORY!" Sym screamed joyfully as he was mid-pounce.
"How ya doin', Munchkin!" Cory giggled a few seconds later after being laid out on the ground.
After taking a deep breath, Sym replied "Me an' Dad were walking and we found Flynn and he was sad so Dad and me talked to him and we found out that he was sad cuz' he lost his mom and dad and brother and he ain't got a family anymore but Uncle Antonio says he has a family that Finn would like but he hasn't shown Finn who the family is yet."
"Timmy really needs to stop teaching you guys how to give reports!" Cory commented as he poured water on his ears to put out the friction fires on his eardrums.
"You're goofy!" Sym giggled.
By then, Ezraka and Finn were standing there, amazed looks on their faces at the lung capacity of Sym. "You actually followed that?" Ezraka asked in awe.
"Having a twinlink with Kyle helps!" Cory giggled. "Let me guess, your friend is the famous Finn that Sym was telling me about."
"Cheater!" Ez giggled. "Finn, the weird blond on the ground is Patriarch Cory Short. Cory, this is Finn Forescythe."
"Hi," Finn said half-heartedly.
Doing his best to hide the alarms going off in his head about Finn's emotional state, Cory commented "Antonio was just telling me about you, and had just suggested a family for you when I was attacked by a munchkin. I think he's right, so would you like to meet the family?"
"I told ya' I was working on it," Antonio said softly. "You need some parents that understand your past, as well as how you're going to live from now on. I just found out that they're gonna live longer than expected, so you'll fit right in."
"You didn't need to, it's not like I'm gonna need them," Finn whispered.
Unfortunately for Finn's plans, DJ picked up on Finn's surface thoughts. Giving the boys on his lap a squeeze, DJ stated "Guys, let me and Pop up; I think we need to have a talk with your new big brother."
"Oh shit!" Chris exclaimed as he realized what the look on DJ's face could mean. "Cam, start recording; I don't think DJ's waiting for the adoption."
DJ strode over to Finn, pulling him into a tight hug. "Do us both a favor, stop thinking like that before your new Pop makes both of our lives suck. You and I can talk about it more when he's not holding a phaser to my head to get me to talk."
"Stuff it, hon," Tanner stated. "Finn, I'm guessing that means you have something in common with my bonehead husband. Cam just filled me in on your history; it sucks right now, I know that too well. I lost great parents too; before numb-nuts there decided to misfire and try to kill himself, he helped me through the bad part."
"You made your point, put the hammer away," DJ stated firmly. "Finn, he gets pretty hung up on it after I tried to kill myself, so don't hold it against him. I didn't get a report from Cam, because I want to let you decide what I know. I'm a telepath, and I've been trained to be able to hold conversations in the other person's head. That means you and I could talk and you can show me what your old life was like."
After a worried glance at Tanner, Finn replied "Go ahead, I guess."
DJ nodded, and carefully began, not breaking his hug with Finn. After fifteen minutes, Finn finally returned the hug he had been receiving, whispering "Thanks, DJ"
"You're welcome, buddy," DJ replied as he gave Finn a squeeze. "What do you think, are you up to showing four boys what it is like having a great big brother?"
"I think so," Finn replied softly. "Are you sure Tanner's not always that mean?"
"I promise, he only gets that way about suicide," DJ said with a smile. "He almost lost me, so he gets really emotional about it."
"After what you showed me, I think I see why," Finn admitted. "Can I meet my brothers?"
"I think you might want to let your Pop know what you decided," DJ suggested, "then we'll introduce you to your mom and brothers."
"Okay," Finn replied before heading over to Tanner.
As Finn and Tanner talked, DJ went over to the rest of the family. "Guys, Finn just lost some really good parents and a little brother, and almost died himself. I think he'd be a great big brother if you give him lots of cuddles to help him heal."
"Why was Pop mad?" Wes asked hesitantly.
"He was mad because it hurts him to see people who want to kill themselves," DJ explained. "I almost did it, but a lot of guys came forward and gave me a reason to live. I think he still blames himself because I made it to that point. It's just something I'm learning to deal with when he goes off about it, since it's my fault he went through that."
Wes smiled. "Okay, that's fine; it's okay to be mad when it is for something good."
"Great, now he's got help!" DJ giggled as he reached over and gave Wes' head a rub.
Wes reached up and held DJ's hand in place for a moment, giving it a squeeze. "Love you too, son," DJ whispered just loud enough to be heard by Wes.
The smile he got in return made DJ's day. Just then, Tanner and Finn joined them, Tanner holding Finn's hand. "Guys, this is Finn, and he'd like to be your big brother. Finn," Tanner continued as he pointed out each person, "That's Warren, Wesley, Hank, Pierce, and Davner. Their chair is your new mom, Chekrolo, or just Chek usually."
"Hi," Finn stated nervously with a small wave.
Chek's lap quickly cleared as the five boys decided to swarm their new brother and give him a group cuddle. After seeing Cory waving him over, he got up and joined DJ and Tanner where Cory had pulled them off to the side. Once he joined them, Cory spoke up. "All three of you need to sit down and talk BEFORE you go home," Cory began. "Tanner, you've got an issue that is only going to be fixed if you open up, and you have a husband and wife who will bend over to help you fix it. There was no need for you to immediately go off on Finn; you're lucky it didn't make things worse."
"It did," DJ interrupted, "but I was able to fix it while talking with him in his head. Once he saw what we went through, he understood, even though he doesn't like it."
Cory nodded. "You're letting it eat you up, Tanner. We've been through too much as a family for me to sit back and watch one of my sons make the same mistake I did and not ask for help. If any of the three of you think that the talking it out wasn't enough, consider the order for a mind healing already given, all you have to do is say the word, Tanner."
Tanner had a million thoughts running through his brain at once; the one that kept popping to the top was 'Why don't I feel mad?'. He finally latched onto that thought, giving it his full attention. At that point, it finally dawned on him that from the first meeting in the bus station, Cory had done whatever was necessary to give him and his brothers everything they would need to recover, yet never made it obvious. Even now, there was no anger; Cory was obviously worried, and had decided that it would take him stepping in to prevent damage.
The first words out of Tanner's mouth came without conscious thought, even he was surprised as he heard himself say them. "Dad, call Grandpa up please. I think he needs to fix me before I can even talk about it."
Cory quickly made eye contact with both DJ and Chek, receiving nods of agreement. "Thank you, son; I think you'll find out you feel better afterwards, I know I did."
The words were barely out of Cory's mouth before Spock appeared along with Kyle and Ty. "We're gonna help Chek pick out a dress while Dad's helping you, Tanner!" Kyle giggled. "C'mon Deej, you can help!"
"I've got some new grandsons to spoil, Dad," Cory giggled as Kyle and Ty popped out with their victims. "I'll be over with them if you need me."
Spock nodded. "Shall we investigate what is troubling you, Grandson?"
Cory peeked through the curtains of the stage of the suddenly-expanded former practice arena, As soon as the word went out on the Mikyvis grapevine about the additional Archnanian wedding, Kyle and Peter's families went into overdrive to celebrate the first union between one of their family and an Archnanian. The simple arena was quickly transformed into a quad-level stadium-sized amphitheater, with Peter arranging consultations with the best sound engineers from multiple timelines and universes to make sure the acoustics were perfect. The upper level was designed for, and now filled with, media representatives to cover events.
Cory had to grin as he observed the occupants of the upper level; Dylan personally invited various friends he'd made in the media during the concert tours, and now there were over a hundred different levels of technology set up to transmit the proceedings, with Cam having dedicated four primary cores to providing translation services to the media representatives. The other three levels were packed solid with guests from all over the Universal spectrum, guest whose lives had been touched personally by the members of Time Touched.
As he turned around, his eyes fell on CD, who was running his final checks on an almost-exact copy of the Wanamaker Grand Court Organ, which was the largest operating pipe organ on Earth. A constant grin occupied CD's face from the moment he was let in on the plans, and he was now about to give the massive seven-story pipe organ its first public performance. The only changes from the original design were made to accommodate CD's stature, by making controls adjustable to allow him a comfortable reach without changing functionality.
As arranged, CD indicated he was ready by beginning to play. Cory quickly moved to the side of the stage and smiled as he recognized the song CD had picked; "I Want To Know What Love Is".
The members of Time Touched and Platinum Habits not getting married had formed the choir, all of them dressed in white robes. Prez took on the role of conductor, keeping the choir in sync with CD's organ. Once the song was finished, Cory and King Harroldo converged on the center of the stage, where an ornate podium had been placed.
King Harroldo went first, stating "Citizens of the Multiverse, we thank you for joining us today for this historic union of families. I am King Harroldo, Patriarch of Archnania of the Great White. I am accompanied by Patriarch Cory Short of Family Clan Short of the House of Sarek of the House of Surak of the planet Vulcan of Alpha Prime. Today the families of both of us move beyond a treaty of words, and truly bond as one. Today the eons-long barriers to living together of different developmental levels of sentient beings are taken down. Division is no more, and with todays joining we shall all move forward in unison as one race no matter where we are from or what our development level is."
As Harroldo stepped back, Cory stepped forward. "First off, please just call me Cory; I've got so many titles that we'll all fall asleep listing them!" Cory's attempt at lightening things up worked, because he had to pause to let the chuckles, giggles, and outright laughter taper off. "There is one word that translates to every single language in the Multiverse, that word is Love. According to my youngest two sons, cookies runs a close second! There is a reason that Love is universal; without it no sentient species will survive any length of time, even if they are timeless. True love knows no bounds, and if it is strong it will resist any attempt to subvert it. Today we witness the results of allowing such love to grow, as three young beings pledge their Eternity to being there for each other in the most personal way possible."
"Six youth will have them as an example from this time forward as to what love can accomplish; the rest of my sons already have learned from two of them just what it means to share your love to better the lives of others. For those not aware, the band you know as Time Touched is completely comprised of my offspring and their significant others, with an occasional uncle thrown in. If you would, please join us in blessing this union in which ever way is your custom for such events."
Some of the crowd bowed their heads, others chanted, and a few set off pyrotechnics. By the time everyone had completed their rituals, Cory and Harroldo were behind the pulpit and ready to proceed. With a nod from Cory, CD launched into the Processional and the ceremony began.
Everything went pretty much the same as the previous wedding that DJ and Tanner had just completed, at least until it came to the rings. DJ and Tanner each put a ring on Chek's finger, then Chek put one more on each of them. One ring was left, which Timmy instructed Chek to have put on him by both of his husbands in unison. As the last ring slid in place, all three boys ring sets glowed brightly as they merged into one ring on each of them.
Throughout the multiverses, all who were attuned heard a chime, then a voice that seemed to come from nowhere yet everywhere stated "It is done. The Seal is set. The Guides are now Empowered. So Shall it be Forevermore."
"Hey guys?" Tanner asked as they entered their suite, "Everyone go to their rooms and get out of their clothes, and decide on how you'd be comfortable for a group cuddle while we talk, then come on back out to the family room. Dav, your stuff is in with Hank and Pierce's stuff; Finn, yours is with Warren and Wes' stuff."
"Okay," all six boys replied.
Tanner gave a wry smile at the questioning looks from DJ and Chek. "I gotta take care of something before we can really move on as a family."
Chek nodded. "Okay, I was almost expecting that."
"We're here for you, hon," DJ added.
A few minutes later, the boys re-joined their parents. The youngest three decided to go nude, while the older three wore loose shorts. All three parents were in shorts, the seriousness of the discussion making them decide that a repeat of the morning wasn't needed at this point.
DJ smiled as he saw the split in clothing of the boys. "Finn, I'm going to guess that you were not comfortable going nude, and the brothers you are sharing a room with decided to support you?"
Finn glanced at Wes and Warren, who obviously were trying to appear innocent. "Yeah, I think so."
"Don't worry," DJ replied, "Nudity isn't required, but you won't get in trouble for it either. Talk with your twin roommates later, I'm confident they can fill you in on the talk we had earlier. After they catch you up, all nine of us will sit down and go over details and answer questions."
"Thanks, I'll do that," Finn replied.
"Family cuddle guys," Tanner smiled. "I gotta talk with y'all about some stuff."
Once everyone was comfortable, Tanner began speaking. "Guys, I screwed up today, and I apologize to all of you for it. When Grandpa did the meld with me, we found out that I was still feeling like Deej tried to abandon me in my head, even though I thought I had forgiven him for trying to kill himself. I was taking it out on anyone else who was thinking of doing the same thing, and that was wrong. Even though Grandpa Spock helped me fix it, I really need to ask you guys to stop me if you think I'm doing something like that again, no matter who I'm doing it to."
Finn shifted around, obviously uncomfortable. "Do we have to keep talking about it?"
"This isn't discussing your previous thoughts anymore, Finn," DJ explained. "Something that Dad and Pop taught all of us is that when you screw up, admit it to the people who it affected, let them reply about how it made them feel, then all of us learn from the mistake. Nobody knows everything, so doing this gives you the tools to maybe step in and prevent someone else from doing the same thing."
Finn latched on to one part of what DJ said, the part about replying, and let loose with both barrels. "You want to know how I feel? I'll tell you!" Finn started, tears starting to roll down his face. "I just lost two great parents and my little brother that thought he was my shadow because some buttwipe driving a truck ran us over. I woke up, and got told by a midget doctor that I was gonna live almost forever because that was the only way they could save me. Ezraka kinda told me about you all, because he was sure that you were the family that Antonio was thinking about, and DJ was just like I was expecting; he came right over, telling little jokes as he let me know how he could help me and what it would take."
"Everything seemed great until Tanner opened his mouth and started chewing me out because of something I had started to reconsider because of the way DJ welcomed me. The ONLY reason I didn't tell all of you to screw off is DJ showing me what happened when he tried to do it, and then showing me how Tanner deals with just about everything else. DJ's earning me calling him Dad; Tanner, you got some work ahead of you to earn the title Pop, and Chek, you're about the same as DJ. Tanner, if I see you doing that, I promise you'll be eating with a straw; I ain't gonna let you hurt someone like you did me."
"DJ, you better order a genetic test; I think you and Finn are related!" Chek quipped. "Tann, I'm going to make a guess that you're worried that you might have some other triggers that you are not consciously aware of. I kinda like your jaw the way it looks, so now that I'm aware of it I'll let you know, hopefully before Finn breaks out the bat."
"Oh SHIT," Tanner exclaimed as he twisted his head to try to see Finn. "Finn, thank you for being honest about your feelings. Chek just said something that reminded me of the last time I felt like you just said you felt. DJ's sperm donor tried to rape both of us, and I had to hit him with a bat to get him off of DJ before he could kill us. We ran away then, which led to us being Clan later. Please, keep being honest, but I kinda feel that there is something besides my stupidity that was triggered when I went off on you. If something needs fixed, please let us know now so that we can take care of it permanently before we go back home."
Before Finn could say a single word, all three parents had the answer they dreaded, an answer that was even hidden from DJ when he was in Finn's head. The sight of a very pale Vifer set off their parent alarms, causing them to instantly go into protective mode. "He can't get here, can he?" Finn whispered.
"Nobody's allowed here unless they're invited," Tanner replied. "This place is outside Time, so they'd never find it. We're not going back as a family until your demon is eliminated... permanently."
Despite his own feelings about Tanner's temper, Finn felt secure at his words; he had absolutely no doubt that if he revealed his ghosts Tanner would be on the warpath.
DJ exchanged quick glances with his husband and wife, then added "Finn, there's another side to talking in our heads that I can do, and it is collecting evidence to take out people who did wrong without making you tell it. The thing is, I'll be looking at areas you don't look at yourself. I promise you that I won't hold what happened against you, and it will only be used to solve your problem. Mattering what I find, I might call a second person like me in to make it legal before we start fixing it."
Finn nodded. "Go ahead," he whispered.
As Finn found himself being group-hugged by all five of his brothers, DJ began his scan. Before he even finished, Timmy and Ricky appeared in front of the couch, both in full warpaint with two very pissed-off eagles on their shoulders. Bryce appeared a second later, once again in full uniform.
DJ finish his scan, and immediately saw the war party waiting. "Bryce, I need a second; Timmy's got my scan."
"Yes, Your Highness," Bryce replied. Seconds later, he had his own copy, and was obviously less than pleased. "Cam, open relay to Alpha Prime for my badge," Bryce ordered.
"Relay active," Cam replied.
"Bryce to Nathan, Priority message," Bryce stated after tapping his badge.
"What now, brat?" Nathan replied.
"I need Dima and Tanis to help take out some trash," Bryce growled. "Timmy's the second via DJ, and Ricky's judging."
"Override!" Tanner injected. "Judgement will be delivered by myself and Ricky. It's my fault this was discovered, and I'm going to personally make sure it is resolved."
"I agree with Tanner, two judges," Nathan responded. "If it's serious enough to piss you off, Bryce, it needs to be absolute. As soon as you see that Dima and Tanis have said they are ready, grab them for briefing and deploy."
"Yes Sir," Bryce replied. "Time Warp engaged."
Bryce flickered, re-appearing with two very large Russian men in full gear. "I have already delivered my report. DJ, could you verify? Timmy will be the on-site second."
DJ nodded, and quickly presented his findings. The six boys watched warily, the sight of two enraged Russian Special Forces soldiers making them afraid to even whimper. Tanner wiggled out from under the pile, and quickly retrieved his Clan robe from his bedroom as the team prepared. Once he'd rejoined them, Dima and Tanis locked and loaded their weapons, then Bryce provided the transportation to their destination.
"What happened?" Warren exclaimed as soon as they vanished, his fright obvious.
"I'll explain in a second," DJ replied calmly. "Finn, would you like for me to summarize things for you so your brothers understand and can help you?"
"Please?" Finn whispered.
"Guys, give your big brother lots of hugs, this is going to hurt him just hearing a little of it," DJ instructed. Once he saw the support network was operational, he continued. "Finn did have a really good family; his problem lived next door, and had blackmailed him to keep him silent while he abused Finn and his brother while babysitting them. The man had threatened to kill not only Finn and his brother, but the entire family, parents first, if they ever said anything or tried to run away. Tanner, Bryce, Timmy, and Ricky are going to verify this, but Finn's memory of the accident appears to show that the truck belonged to the neighbor and was being driven by the same neighbor."
"That sucks!" Wes and Warren exclaimed in unison. "If it was, what'll happen?
Chek beat DJ to the answer. "Those two big Russian guys will make sure he never breaths again. You guys will learn more about the Safe Haven Act pretty soon. Pop, your Uncle Timmy, and your cousin Bryce all know it well and will decide the same thing; the violations DJ just listed are a death sentence unless something really unusual was involved. Even then, the man will never see Earth again, he'll be sentenced to life on a remote prison planet."
"Before you ask," DJ snickered, "the entire race of Archnanians, which your Mom is one of, have the role of Gatherers of Knowledge on a multi-Universal scale. If one of us doesn't know something, your Mom can find out better than any of us."
"Why didn't you know about what happened?" Finn asked.
"Because your cousin Dylan taught us something that his parents taught him," Chek explained. "Gathering general knowledge is fine, but invading the personal space of a living being without their consent is a misuse of power that results in lack of trust. If I was to do that, I couldn't comfortably live among others besides my own species, which would result in not gaining knowledge."
"Is that why Daddy asked him before looking in his head?" Hank asked.
"Exactly," DJ responded with a smile.
"So you ain't looking in our heads?" Wes asked warily.
"No, but right now you guys transmit surface thoughts that anyone like me can hear without trying," DJ explained. "Once you're comfortable, I'm going to teach all of you how to shield yourselves so that you can control that better; even people who can't see other's thoughts can shield themselves a little."
"Okay," all six boys exclaimed in obvious relief.
Just then, Tanner returned, his face unreadable. "Finn, your memory was correct," Tanner stated softly. "I now know that a head will separate from the body on the third turn around. If you need to see that he is no longer a threat, have your Dad hold you as he shows you what I witnessed and helps you deal with the sight of it. Maurice Gaines is currently serving as a main course for a Sehlot snack." Pausing, Tanner then added "Deej, I've already seen a Healer, so I'm good."
"Could I look, Tann?" Chek asked.
Chek quickly viewed Tanner's memory, then stated "Finn, I think it was worse than you thought. The team was able to gather evidence from him, but he never made it to trial. I saw their evidence, he was to be killed anyway, but he attacked them and was taken out. His targets were Timmy and Ricky."
Tanner locked eyes with Finn, then extended his arms to offer his support. Finn only paused for a second before jumping up and crashing into Tanner's chest, immediately soaking Tanner's shirt as the years of tears finally were let free. the rest of the family quickly followed, surrounding the pair in a healing family hug.
Fifteen minutes later, Finn finally calmed down enough for the family to move back to their previous seating. Once everyone was comfortable again, Tanner stated "Before we get back to chewing me out for being an idiot, there's something important we need to talk about."
"We're not going back to that," Finn interrupted. "You know you scared us, we know you didn't mean it. It's done."
Tanner grinned. "I think Chek's right; you and your Dad gotta be related somewhere down the line!"
Finn turning his head and sticking his tongue out at Tanner said more than any words could say; the incident was forgotten.
"As I was saying," Tanner giggled, "Despite everyone's best efforts to track things, it appears some hospital emergency efforts during the Battle are still in the process of being logged internally so that they can be sent to the relief agencies to reunite people. California was hit hard, and now that we know just how bad, some of the Unit teams are going out to assist them with catching up on the paperwork. Finn, in a way you're responsible for them getting help that they were afraid would cut the assistance to other areas. I'm not sure if you remember it, but you were still aware enough for your mind to store that your little brother was taken from the scene before you were; in fact he was taken before any Clan members were on site to help. A second ambulance had been called in for you, and the Clan was able to respond faster than any locals could."
"Why do we need to know that?" Finn asked.
"Because thanks to you, we were able to find one of the people whose paperwork was never filed, which put them on the presumed dead or missing list." Tanner explained. "Also because I have to ask you to make the most important decision you have ever made, one that you really need to think about before you answer. Your little brother Rollie is not dead, yet. Right now he's at the Archnanian Medical Center, and Antonio and Chris are managing to keep him going. He's in a coma, and if he survives he'll be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life unless something major is done."
"Right now there are three options; let things go as they are and hope he comes out of it, let Bryce use his skills with Time to reverse the damage, which will also reverse his memory, or perform a procedure similar to what saved you. Before you reply, I'll tell you that if you choose the second option, it will go way before the time of the accident, as both of you were being poisoned with something the Clan just found out about, something that has now been banned Federation-wide. You'll meet Cory's new cousins when we get home that were victims of the same thing; they're just like you now."
Finn found himself unable to speak, the shock of his brother being alive, but with a death sentence because of their abuser, being beyond his conscious capability to fathom. From the depths of his sub-conscious, a long-forgotten conversation from years ago floated to the surface...
"Finn, do we gotta go over there?"
"I don't wanna either, bro; we gotta though or he'll kill Mommy and Daddy."
"I know. I wish he'd just die. Is he gonna kill us?"
"I'll kill him if he ever tries to kill you, lil' bro"
"He'll have to kill me before he can kill you."
"I swear I'll never let you die if I can stop it, lil bro."
Finn's mind cleared, and he found the ability to speak again. "It's gotta be the last one; I promised him I'd never let him die if I could stop it. I swore to him that I'd do that."
"I think you just figured out why you felt suicidal, Finn," Tanner observed. "Bryce was listening in my head; as his last surviving relative your decision is approved by Clan Medical and the procedures are starting. Bryce will arrange a time loop to bring him here in a little bit; right now I think you need to give your head time to prepare for explaining his new life to him. Just so you know, it's Clan policy not to split siblings, so you need to decide if he's going to be your son or if you trust us enough to keep him as a brother."
"I think you're right about what caused it ... Pop," Finn stated as he found himself once again getting silent cuddles from his five newest brothers.
The entire group was silent for the next hour, slowly bonding as they comforted each other. The silence was finally broken by Warren, as he softly asked "Dad? Pop?"
"Yeah, bud?" DJ replied.
"Wes an' me were head-talkin', and we think we were kinda bad," Warren stated. "We were tryin' to make you do sex stuff 'coz we didn't think we deserved nice daddies."
"Thank you for admitting it," Tanner replied softly. "We figured that out, you're not the first kids who had stuff happen to them like you did who have tested their new parents like that. For most kids, that would have been bad; for kids who are becoming survivors like you, that's a test that is expected as you decide if you can finally trust someone to actually protect you. Neither one of you are in trouble; in fact I'm proud of you for doing it verbally instead of physically."
DJ added "I'm pretty sure there's something Hank and Pierce are not telling us too, but I'm not worried about it because the two of you have shown that you'll help them heal as they help you."
"It sounds like I need to find out what four of my little brothers really went through," Finn observed.
"You're right, BUT," Chek observed "you also need to remember that your own experiences were not normal. Your youngest brother is a miracle of love. To someone from Alpha Prime, he looks three; physically Dav is the Archnanian equivalent of an Alpha Prime seven-year-old, and despite his speaking skills he's about equal to an Alpha Prime teen on knowledge. That means he's your best resource for questions you won't feel right asking parents, as well as being able to guide you through things we all know you'll do even if he's not physically ready to do them himself. I caught him watching his Dad and Pop remotely on one of their recent visits; Cam was helping, and Dav saw every minute of four days before I found where he was hiding. I'm assuming he's snuck in more, which means he probably knows more about humans expressing love than any of you. Take advantage of that, you'll thank him later."
"How long will it take for Marc to replace Cam?" DJ wondered aloud.
"Cam said Tyler told him to do it," Chek explained. "Tyler limited it to just you two, though, since you are family. I'm going to guess Ty knew it would be needed."
"You hold Ty down, I'll tickle him until he explains," Tanner offered.
"Deal," DJ nodded.
"Warn me before you do it so I can get Uncle Quint to provide the popcorn!" Bryce exclaimed as he popped into the room. "Finn, Antonio thinks you should be there when Rollie wakes up; that way he don't go through what you did."
Finn quickly glanced around before stating "All of his family needs to be there. He's not gonna wake up as an orphan."
"Okay, you can wake him up, Finn," Antonio stated as he dropped the status field on the biobed. "Remember, he'll take a few minutes to be able to sit under his own power."
"Gotcha, Doc," Finn replied.
As the rest of the family gathered close behind him, Finn reached out and put his hand on the left shoulder of the eight-year-old mini copy of himself lying on the bed. As he gently shook the shoulder, he lovingly said "Hey Rol, time to get up lil' bro. C'mon, I've got a surprise for ya'."
"I don' wanna," Rollie muttered as he weakly tried to raise his arm to swat his brother's hand away.
"C'mon bro, we're going somewhere really special if you wake up," Finn insisted.
"We ain't gotta go there?" Rollie asked weakly.
"We're never going there again, lil' bro; I swear that we'll never go back there."
"Promise?" Rollie asked as he slowly managed to open his eyes. "Why are you all fuzzy looking?"
"Your eyes are still waking up," Antonio replied as he watched for issues.
"Who was that?" Rollie asked, his voice starting to steady.
"He's a really smart friend I want you to meet," Finn replied as he decided to help his little brother sit up. "Hold on, bro; I was wobbly when I woke up here yesterday. I'll keep ya from falling."
"Where are we?" Rollie asked as he latched on to Finn. "Who's all these guys behind you?"
"I'll fill you in once you finish waking up, bro. Just give me some cuddles, I've been waiting for them."
The trust Rollie had in Finn was made clear at that point, as without question Rollie shifted himself so that his head was on Finn's shoulder, then closed his eyes. Once Antonio did a final tricorder check of his patient, DJ helped Finn over to a nearby chair and steadied him as he sat down. After ensuring that Rollie was comfortable on his lap, and waiting for the rest of the family to be seated on the floor in front of them, Finn spoke up. "How are you feeling, bro?"
Rollie opened his eyes and looked around. "My eyes ain't fuzzy no more. I'm tired though."
Finn gave a small nod as he heard the suggestion from DJ in his head. "Okay lil' bro, you need to promise not to be scared or sad, but I kinda need to know what you remember so I know what I gotta tell you about, okay?"
"You ain't sad or scared, so I can't be," Rollie stated as fact.
After leaning his head to rub cheeks with Rollie, Finn asked "What's the last things you remember before you went to sleep?"
"Mommy, Daddy, you and me were going on a trip somewhere, I think it was You-tawe. I was playin' a game, and I heard a big boom then you woke me up."
Relieved that his brother didn't remember suffering, Finn gave him a squeeze then continued. "Okay bro. Before I fill you in, do you see the big kid with hair like ours?"
"Yeah, he looks sad."
"He's sad because he knows what I have to tell you," Finn explained. "He knows what our old neighbor did, and he just went out and made sure we never have to worry about him ever again. He's part of a big family called Clan Short, and they are like super-policemen that help kids be safe. The bad guy broke a lot of laws, and he was executed because of what he did."
"That's good, why is he sad?"
"The bad man caused the big boom you remember," Finn explained as he pulled Rollie closer. "He used the big truck he had to run over our car. He killed Mom and Dad, and almost killed you and me. That big redhead is our new Pop, Tanner. The big yellow-haired kid is our new Mom, Chek, and the big blond is our new Dad, DJ. Clan Short kids get to do some adult stuff before they are adults, and we were adopted by them since we were saved from the bad guy by the Clan. All those other guys with them are our new brothers; thats Warren, Wesley, Hank, Pierce, and Davner."
"You couldn't save Mommy and Daddy too?" Rollie asked.
"No, Rol, I couldn't," Finn replied. "I thought I lost you too, but Pop found you for me."
"Finn's the reason you're alive," Antonio interrupted as Chris left the room. "Finn had to make the hardest decision in the world, but he loved you enough that he kept a promise that he'd made long ago. I sent Chris for some snacks, because this could take a while. Not only was that buttwipe abusing you, he was poisoning both of you. Between that and the injuries from his attack, both of you were in bad shape. Rollie, if you look at you and your brother's arm, you'll see they look a little weird; that's because of what we had to do to fix you because of the poison he used. The good thing is that you're healed from the poison. The rest is that your big brother had to choose for you to live with the side effect that he's still not totally sure about for himself; you're no longer going to grow up as fast as other kids you knew. The new family that Finn found for you is made up of people who grow up slow too for different reasons, so in the family you're not different about growing."
"You 'memb'rd the promise?" Rollie asked softly.
"I remembered it even when I didn't know I remembered it," Finn admitted. "I was about to kill myself after Antonio fixed me up because I thought I lost you. When Pop said he found you, I heard our talk that day in my head, and I knew I had to let him fix you like he fixed me."
"Can we sit with our brothers yet?" Rollie asked hopefully.
As Finn was about to reply, his eyes got wide. He nodded, then said "Before we do, Dad says Pop is worried about why you're not sad about our birth mom and dad being killed."
Rollie shrugged his shoulders. "The bad guy told us every time he had us that he was gonna kill them. I was 'spectin it, I just didn't know when. Now he can't hurt them again."
Tanner quickly added "You guys were not the only victims; he did things to your parents too, not sex but other things that made them scared to move away. That's why I wanted to know; Finn, while you were concentrating on protecting Rollie as much as you could, Rollie picked up on things you missed about your parents. Parents notice things, but sometimes don't tell you they know. I'll bet they knew what was happening, or guessed some of it, but were under the same kind of threats that you were. That would explain why the bad guy put a tracking device on your parent's car.
"Okay, I think that explains some things," Finn admitted. "C'mon Rol, you're gonna love cuddle piles!"
For the first time as a family, all three parents and all seven kids were comfortably lounging in their birthday suits. Cam provided a economy-sized beanbag chair that held not only the ten family members, but also Timmy and Ricky. The latter two had decided to come over, fully intending on narrating a Gremlins marathon. By the time the credits rolled on the second movie, however, all twelve of them were fast asleep in a mass cuddle-pile, the hectic day finally catching up with them.
"Sleep well guys," Cam whispered as he turned off the movie and dimmed the lights. "You earned it."