DJ smiled as he looked at how Warren had arranged his new acquisitions from the mall trip. "I think it's looking really good, kiddo!"
"Thanks, Dad," Warren replied. "Is someone going to teach us how to use all of this computer stuff you got us?"
DJ nodded, "Me, Pop, and Mom are planning on taking time to sit down with each of you to help you get started. You'll get to sit down with each of us, that way you'll learn a lot of the tricks each of us knows about."
"I wish all parents were like you," Warren smiled as he gave DJ a hug.
"Thank you, son," DJ replied as he returned the hug.
"Rand?" DJ asked as he finished his rounds of his son's rooms, "Could you please let everyone on site know that I'm calling a meeting of Clan Wagner in the rec room? Make sure the other parents are aware that they're needed at the meeting this time too."
"Okay, DJ," Rand replied. "Do you want me to link George in?"
"That's probably a good idea," DJ said after some thought. "He can help with questions, since he has the archives from the old CIC VI system from when Jimmy and Davey were rescued."
"George says that he'll have everything in a buffer by the time everyone's present," Rand stated. "I've notified everyone that's here; Tracy, Karl, the Rat Pack, Cory and Sean are going to sit in to give you help if you need it."
"That's probably a good idea," DJ admitted. "Thanks, bro."
DJ smiled as he looked around the room, the curious faces of his family watching his every move. "Okay everyone, I guess I should say 'Welcome to the first official meeting of Clan Wagner'. Normally, the adults have their own meetings instead of meeting with us, but today they need to know what the rest of us need to know. Before I get to why I called the meeting, I finally get to get even with Dad and Pop, because I'm going to make them start off the part where we all introduce ourselves and say something about why we're Clan now. Don't worry though, we only need to do this when people are here that have never been to a Clan meeting."
Taking the hint from the look DJ gave him, Cory stood up, "Don't worry, Deej; it gets easier the more you do it." Cory looked around the room, then stated, "Okay, first off, I'm Cory Short, and I'm the Patriarch of Family Clan Short. That pretty much means Sean and I are the Grandpas to all the members of Clan Wagner. I was adopted by Sean's birth mom when my original Mom died; Sean and I were best friends before we even learned to talk."
"Dad, just in case you didn't realize it, best friends don't usually use their weiners as pacifiers for their friend in the playpen!" Tanner interrupted.
"Mom's SOOOO gonna pay for telling y'all about that!" Cory blushed as the room was filled with giggles. "ANYWAY... when our big brother Mikey was killed in an accident, I had a mental breakdown and lost my memory for a while. I was put in a juvie home while Kyle's dad, Dan, tried to help me get my memory back; that's where I met Kyle, which I've been told was the key event that started this rolling. Within minutes of meeting him, I swore brotherhood to Kyle, a promise I plan to keep for the rest of his life."
"Umm, Cor?" Kyle interrupted. "Don't you mean your life?"
Cory shook his head as he held out an arm for Kyle to join him. Once Kyle was cuddled into his side, Cory stated, "With God as my Witness, little brother, I'm going to be by your side until the day you die, no matter what it takes. If I gotta ask Levi to take me to petition the Pearly Gates in person, that's what I'll do to keep my promise."
A sense of peace settled on the room, as Cory dropped down enough to pull Kyle into a tight hug, which Kyle wordlessly returned.
Dylan, Thomas, and Tyler all exchanged knowing looks, small smiles on their faces. The three Mikyvis boys had felt the shift as Time disposed of unneeded alternate futures; while Cory's promise being able to be followed through with was still an unknown, the act of making the promise, in front of the present group, set events in motion that were well into the future.
Once the hug broke, Cory continued, Kyle taking up residence under his arm as he talked. "Sean does a better job of telling about everything that went down when Kyle's dad Dan released me back to Mom, so I won't bore you with my version. Between us, Mom, Dan, and John, we ended up helping a few other kids. Us swearing brotherhood to them led to us drawing Grandpa Sarek's attention when Justy's dad and pop at the time adopted Jamie and Jacob. When he found out that we were trying to get some bad pictures of Sammy and Sebastian off the internet, he contacted us. Once I told Grandpa all the other stuff we had found, he made us the type of Clan that I made you guys earlier, and gave us the backing so we could hunt down the trash that were abusing Sammy, Sebastian, and a bunch of other kids."
"Grandpa made me Patriarch, and things went nuts from there," Cory continued. "Just when I thought things were starting to settle down, Grandpa Sarek determined that things had fell in place to make it logical for us to become a Family Clan, which is why I was able to create a sub-Clan of my Family to acknowledge what DJ has accomplished. That means every single one of you are still part of Clan Short, and you have the same rights as any other member of our family. The biggest difference is that DJ, Tanner, and Chek don't have to get my permission on Clan stuff; any decision they make is the same as if I had made it."
"Before I let Sean fill in what I missed, there's one thing I want to point out. Clan meetings ain't formal, so feel free to be comfortable, ask questions, and comment on what you hear. The Clan works because everyone's ideas are accepted for discussion, and then we all decide as a group how to do what's needed. If you happen to be over at Headquarters when I call a meeting over there, you're welcome to join in and tell the rest of us how you think your Clan would be able to help. It's Sean's turn now; Kyle and I will wake y'all up when he's done!"
Once the abbreviated version of the introductions was completed, DJ took the lead once again. "Okay, please pay attention, because this is the main reason I wanted the adults here too; normally they'll hold their own meetings. There was a reason Dad pulled us off to the side after we got home, and it's going to take all of us in the house to deal with it. Gerry, Gary? Your babysitter Frank had two sons. Their mother had custody, mainly because the false charges against Frank were actually being done by their stepfather. Since you two know Frank the best, you'll probably be the most help in helping them overcome their fright about their real father."
After making sure that he had everyone's attention, DJ continued. "Okay, the two boys are named JR and AJ. JR's ten, and AJ's nine. Both of them suffered through the FCC Church doctrine of hate, shame, and brainwashing. Right now, they're having to re-learn being kids from step one; to give you an idea, AJ had to ask what to do with a Super Soaker. That means that they know less about what to expect here than our grandsons, Chris and Finn's boys, did when we first met them. I broke a rule due to their situation though, they were in bad enough shape emotionally that I didn't have time to ask our sons if they were okay with new brothers."
"Dad, do I gotta sic Pop on you?" Finn interrupted. "Thomas didn't give details, but he told me enough that we approved it before you even asked them! It was good practice for our new telepaths."
"He's already taking after his parents!" Sean sniggered.
"Hey Rand, I think Pop wants to help you test your teleporter calibration," DJ stated with a pointed glare at Sean. As Sean vanished, DJ turned to where Finn and Dylan's families were sitting and smiled. "Thanks guys, and great job. You just made things easier, and saved me from a bad reaction for adding to the family without permission."
"Pop?" Wes asked with a grin, "Could you explain to Dad that if he thinks someone needs us as brothers, he ain't gotta ask?"
"I told ya so, hon!" Tanner sniggered. "You better accept it before they call in Timmy!"
"Okay," DJ laughed as he shook his head in defeat, "I give! I'm still very proud of you guys though."
Just then, Sean re-appeared, now wearing different clothes. As he shook his head to get his wet hair out of his eyes, he stated "Special delivery!"
The 'delivery' was a pair of wolf pups, who quickly jumped out of his arms and made a beeline to Finn's lap. After jumping up and giving Finn's face a lick, both pups curled up into little fuzzballs on his lap, obviously claiming him as theirs.
"Dad?" Finn asked with wide eyes.
"It looks like your Grandpa brought you some new friends," DJ smiled. "Yist, if you haven't authorized the full animal language dump, you might want to while we're all here."
"I didn't know I could," Yist replied. "Uncle Kyle? Could you please give everyone all of the animal languages?"
"I'm on it," Kyle giggled. "Timmy says congrats; you just became the Clan Wagner Tribe representative, which means you can do stuff without waiting for him."
Yist's smile was all the answer needed. Looking around, DJ asked, "Okay, where was I?"
"Deej?" Dylan asked, "Do you want me to give everyone the basics on what we know about the FCC's mission and treatment of kids?"
"That'll help a lot," DJ smiled. "Good idea!"
Nobody needed to tell DJ when Dylan was done; the looks on the faces of the group made it quite clear. Once Casper and Finn finished their review of the known swear words of the English language, Casper's contribution in stereo, DJ continued. "Okay, now that we all have a general idea, here's how I think it needs to work out. Finn and Shane, I think you guys might be able to help JR adjust the best. He was like you, he took over the job of being a parent for his little brother. Finn, he also took on abuse to protect his brother as much as he could, so you and him have that in common. All three of you are probably going to end up doing the same thing that your Uncle KC, me, and Tanner do for your uncles and aunt; we're the big brothers of the family. That means that as you guys learn from us, the rest of the family will be looking to you to show them how their new lives should be. I know it sucks being an example, but trust me, you'll think it's more than worth it the first time one of the little guys said he did something good, just because that's what he thought you would do."
"That's not something that we're making you do," Tanner added. "We've already seen that the rest of the family has put you two in that position, just because of what your little brothers have told them about you. Based on how JR and AJ were acting, JR's probably going to join you on that list once you've helped him start to adjust to a real life again. Me, Deej, and Chek are going to be helping too, but after what JR and AJ have went through, they are not going to totally trust parents on stuff for a while."
"Especially AJ," DJ continued. "Both of them have personal security gorillas; not because they need protected from anyone here, but because they need the emotional support of knowing someone is always watching out for them. AJ especially, since the only ones that he's trusted so far are JR, me, the Rat Pack, and his security. JR had time with his real dad, so he's adjusting a little better, but AJ's never had an adult he could trust. That means you younger guys are probably going to be closer to him than any of us older guys for the near future. You need to remember that he was punished for doing things that you consider normal, so you'll have to show him that those things are okay."
Adrian signalled to DJ that he wanted to speak. "The former parents, except Frank, got turned into ice statues and broke into a zillion pieces, that's how bad they were. George and Emmy are letting us know what sizes the boys both wear, so after this I'm taking the Rat Pack out to hit the mall. Since neither one of them's gonna be ready for a Clan mall trip soon, I need you guys to tell us anything that you think your new brothers will need or want. Think about it, and we'll get the list before we leave."
"Grandpa?" Tarsee asked, "Do you think us being aliens will scare them?"
"Actually," DJ replied, "I think you guys being humans from another world might help, because you're learning to live here too. You're just as human as the rest of us, just ask Antonio and your Pop. I bet that if all of you work with your parents and uncles, you'll figure out how each of you can be a part of helping JR and AJ."
Mary, Matt and Patricia were sitting back and watching as the group of boys worked together to arrange their suggestions as they arrived.
"How did DJ do that?" Patricia asked, "I've never seen Todd stay this focused on something before."
Matt chuckled at her shock. "Get used to it. What you're seeing is normal for Clan members. It doesn't matter that they don't know a thing about their new family, what matters to them is making sure the new boys know they are welcomed. Did you notice that there's not a pile of fancy toys?"
"I was a wonderin' 'bout that myself," Mary admitted.
Matt nodded. "When DJ commented about AJ not knowing what to do with a super soaker, they listened. Some of them have lived through isolation too, so when all of them put their heads together, the experience of those boys guided what they picked for recreation. In the process, all of them are bonding into the core group that's going to take Clan Wagner into the future; now that they have experienced doing things the Clan way, they'll approach other problems the same way. There's a lot of trust being built right now, and they're doing it without us having to get involved."
"I'm still trying to wrap my head around the amount of freedom and unstructured interactions that the adult parents are allowing," Patricia admitted.
"I've done figger'd that one out," Mary stated, "It ain't none of them 'llowwin' nothin', it'd be more of them yung'uns have done sworn to be just like the boys that saved them. There ain't one single rule them boys live by that they don't unnerstan, an' they know their brothers and kin will jump them like a hog on slop iff'n they break them. Their rules ain't our rules; they done made rules for today, not when we was yung'uns."
"I'd say that covers a lot of it," Matt stated. "The bigger picture is that as adult parents, we're trusting the Clan to give our kids chances that we'd never be able to give them in the society we lived in. That means that we gave up some control, but we also gained the chance to provide our experiences to help the Clan avoid mistakes that were made before they were born. By allowing the kids to be themselves, they are accomplishing amazing things."
"To give an example, just look at the first son I adopted, Antonio. Generally, he's a polite cuddle monster that thinks nothing about giving me a hug in front of his friends. He's also a Board-Certified MD, who has the honor of working as an equal to Doctor Leonard McCoy of Starfleet, and from what I hear his language skills had sailors taking notes during the Battle of Earth. By outside standards, he should be grounded for the rest of his life for his language, or at least had his mouth washed out with soap multiple times. As a Clan parent, I realize that there are times that such language is necessary to get adults to stop focusing on his physical age; since he normally expresses himself appropriately, I see no reason to say anything. Chances are, I wouldn't need to; his brothers would beat me to it, and would be much harsher than I would."
"It makes sense now," Patricia admitted. "I think every kid has stated that they are not going to do what their parents did when they grow up, only to do just that without thinking about it when they have their own kids. It looks like the Clan is breaking that chain, and our job as parents is to make sure they know about the things that still need to be observed."
"Learn from the past, don't be repeatin' it," Mary added with a nod.
Finn, Shane, and Casper were in the process of assembling the pair of computer desks for JR and AJ with the 'help' of the two wolf pups, who Finn had named Macha and Maikoh after consulting with Yist. To the amusement of Shane and Casper, the extent of the 'help' from the pups mainly consisted of pouncing their new friend any time they thought he wasn't working. The fact that Finn cooperated by wrestling with the pair each time they 'attacked' just encouraged them, which proved quite entertaining to Shane and Casper.
The three boys had just moved the second desk into position with the pile for AJ when Wes came over, standing far enough away that he could run if either of the strange new additions to the family made a move towards him. "Finn?" he asked, keeping a close eye on both pups.
Noticing his brother's fright, Finn replied "It's okay, bro; they're just playing with me. What's up?"
"We was talking," Wes stated, obviously still not sure about the pups, "and we think it might scare JR and AJ less if you and Shane do the big brother thing and tell them about why we got them this stuff instead of all of us doing it."
"Does everyone agree on that?" Finn asked as both pups rolled onto their backs at his feet. "I think Macha and Maikoh want to know if you'll give them belly rubs, bro."
"Yeah, we all think it will work better," Wes replied. "You promise they won't hurt me?"
"They can tell you're scared," Finn explained. "I don't think they'll try to play with you until you are not scared. They don't try to hurt when they play, but sometimes things happen. After you get to know them, pass on to everyone I said they had a great idea, and I want you to know I'm proud of you for coming over here to ask for them."
Deciding to trust Finn's explanation, Wes slowly came closer and sank to his knees in front of Finn, slowly reaching out until his hands came in contact with the bellies of the pups. After he started to slowly rub, the pups stretched out to give him better access, which helped him to start to relax. As Wes tended to the pups, Finn asked, "What do you think, Shane? I'm pretty sure they're right."
Shane nodded. "Yep, we should be okay doin' that. Cas, you think y'all can keep the grownups under control?"
"You're giving us the easy job? We're in!" Casper giggled in stereo. "We handling this in Clan mode?"
"You probably should," Finn nodded, "Shane and I can play it by ear with our new brothers."
Casper nodded. "I'm going to let the adults know the plan; if Shane doesn't mind filling in DJ, you can finish helping Wes get to know the pounce-monsters."
With the Rat Pack back and helping put the final touches on the welcome piles, DJ, Tanner, and Chek moved into the newly-nicknamed 'Great Hall' to minimize the shock to JR and AJ upon their return. Finn and Shane, along with the pups, were waiting just out of sight, listening for DJ to pre-warn JR and AJ before they came out.
"Hey, DJ?" Rand asked as the trio took a seat on one of the couches along the wall.
"What's up, Rand?" DJ responded.
"AJ just made the comment that he wishes Jimmy could come with him to meet his family."
"Tell AJ that Daddy's granting wishes today," DJ replied with a smile. "Make sure it's okay with Gabe and Travis, and you can tell them we're okay with it. As long as they're good, Jimmy's welcome to visit. Tell them they've got a group of nephews to meet when they're free, too. If JR wants to invite Davey, he's got the okay on our end as well."
"Gotcha, Boss; I'll take it from here," Rand replied. "Bryce says he thinks the boys will be ready in about five minutes, so he'll see you as soon as we stop talking."
"We're ready for them, so tell him to loop when ready," DJ stated with a roll of his eyes.
Seconds later, seven people popped in a few feet in front of the group. As soon as he was sure they could hear him, DJ announced "I'm claiming first cuddles! JR, AJ, I'm proud of you; you guys both look awesome!"
"Jimmy, Davey?" Tanner added as the first two made their way to DJ with shocked pride, "You two both did something really difficult considering what you lived through, so I'm claiming thank-you hugs. C'mere guys!"
"You're not getting out of it either, guys," Chek stated with a smile at Gianni and Gino, "Get over here for your welcome hug!"
Almost all of the group made the rounds of the three proud parents, the exception being AJ, who was still unsure about Tanner and Chek. Noticing that AJ seemed to be withdrawing because of it, DJ softly told him "You know, little buddy, you've been through a lot of changes today, and nobody is going to get mad if you need time to adjust. I bet if you ask, Jimmy would love to cuddle with you, right here next to me, while we make sure that you guys are ready for your brothers to meet you."
"You're silly, Uncle DJ," Jimmy giggled. "Me and AJ are best friends, he ain't gotta ask!"
"Patriarch," Gino stated, "I think if there are two boys between each parent, we can sit at their feet and give all four the sense of security they require."
"That's a good idea, BUT," DJ replied with a mischievous grin, "if either one of you clowns keeps calling me Patriarch in our home, I'm going to have Rand get a case of florescent hair dye from Timmy's supply so that Davey and Jimmy can teach JR and AJ how to apply it ... with you two as the test subjects!"
"That sounds like fun!" Gino sniggered. "AJ, we need to find out what colors Timmy has!"
"I bet Yist knows; he uses them on his Grandpa all the time!" Jimmy giggled. "He might even have some here; me and AJ can find out after we meet everyone!"
"We can do that?" AJ asked in awe.
DJ nodded. "Since it sounds like Gino wants to try it, you guys can have fun. Gianni, you'll have to let JR and Davey know if you're willing to do the same."
Gianni grinned, "As long as they don't use red, I'm in! Glowing red looks too much like blood."
Tanner decided that this would be a good time to add his own comments, as the hair dye conversation had took the boy's minds off of the rest of the family. "JR, AJ, I think you did really good letting Bryce help you grow your hair out; it looks a lot better on you than the buzz cuts that you used to have. We're not going to tell you how you need to wear your hair, so if you want to try different things until you find a length and style that you think is the best, you already have our permission. Bryce, you have the okay to help them, you did good by taking that reminder away from them."
"Davey saying that seeing themselves in the mirror was the hard part was what made me think of it," Bryce explained. "I knew you were okay with Mikyvis hair styling; you guys in Time Touched have all asked Dilly to help you for concerts."
"Why don't you go check with Gabe and Trav?" Tanner suggested, "I'm not going to speak for them, but I'll bet that once you explain what you did and why, they'll give you permission to help Davie and Jimmy if they want it."
"Okay, I'll be right back!" Bryce replied with a big smile.
"Wait for it ..." Tanner giggled, "Knowing Bryce, he's already on his second time explaining it, the first time was so fast that they had to tell him to slow down!"
"That sounds about right!" DJ giggled.
A few seconds later, Tanner's commbadge chirped. "Tanner?" Travis' voice asked.
"Go ahead Uncle Trav," Tanner replied, "Your sons are listening!"
"I owe you one for sending Bryce in hyper mode to see us!" Travis laughed. "Jimmy and Davey, you guys can go ahead and get your hair styled, if you want to. I think you might want to wait to do it until after you and your friends meet their new brothers though; going by what we've heard, some of them might like your idea too."
"Thanks, Pop!" Jimmy and Davey replied in unison.
"You're welcome, and don't forget to let us know if you decide that AJ and JR need you to spend the night there, okay?"
"Okay," both boys replied.
"Have fun, Dad and I love you, guys. See you later!"
"Love you too," Jimmy and Davey replied with big smiles.
As the conversation ended, Bryce appeared with two overnight bags. "Your Dad sent these for you," he told Jimmy and Davey. "He said to tell you that he wants you guys to not worry, and either one of you can call him or your Pop if you feel like talking or you need their help. If you don't stay the night, you can just bring the bags home with you, but with them here you're prepared either way."
"I've never been at a sleepover!" Jimmy stated, his voice reflecting his insecurity.
"That means your parents think you've healed enough to change that," DJ explained. "You know a lot of people here, and if you need anything, any of us will help. The final decision is between you and AJ, just like Davey and JR need to decide; none of us are going to try to force either one of you to choose either way."
"Thanks Uncle Deej," Jimmy replied, relaxing at the assurances.
Seeing that everyone was in place, DJ stated, "Okay guys, I'm about to have Bryce go get a couple of people. One of them is Finn, he's AJ and JR's new big brother. The other one is Shane, he's a new Uncle, and the big brother of his family. AJ, Finn is a lot like you; he needs Daddy cuddles a lot when he's in a situation that's new to him. That means sometimes both of you will be cuddling with me at the same time, which is just the way it should be. When he comes out, he might need cuddles right away; he's standing close enough that he's probably heard everything, so he already knows how scared you both still are. Your Uncle Shane was just helped by your Uncle Timmy; there was a bad guy trying to make him bad too, and Timmy fixed it."
Davey decided more detail was needed, so he added "I was with Dad when that happened. Timmy's a Spirit Guide, and does stuff sometimes that Uncle Mikey could do, but the Great Spirit thinks Timmy's able to handle it. The bad guy was a Devil, and Timmy sent it back to Hell where it belongs, then made it so Shane can't be touched by Devils no more."
"Close enough," Bryce shuddered. "I was there; Davey's short version covered what you guys need to know."
Deciding it was best to not know why the detail was needed, DJ just said "Go ahead and get them, Bryce."
As Bryce walked towards the Rec Room, JR asked "Mom? Why are you not saying as much as Dad and Pop?"
Chek smiled. "There are two reasons. The biggest is that I'm learning to adjust just like you are. Since I come from a different world, I'm learning to live on Earth; just like you're learning to live with a real family again. Families are different where I come from, so I'm still learning the differences here. The second is that the way my brain works, I can hold conferences in it with your Dad and Pop due to the bond we have. That means we can talk things over and decide what is going to help you the most without you having to wait, because thinking is faster than speaking, plus it is more accurate than words."
"So if Dad or Pop say all three of you agree on something, they're not guessing?" JR clarified.
"Exactly, JR," Chek replied. "That's one of the things from my homeworld that we decided made sense for us to use in our own family."
"Chris and me have a different bond, but we do that too with our kids we adopted," Finn stated as he came to a stop a few feet away. "Hey JR, I'm Finn; I heard that I get to help you learn to share being a big brother with me for all of our little brothers."
Finn's tactic worked, as JR's resolve that AJ was his responsibility alone weakened at hearing the Big Brother that had already established himself in the family offering to share the position. "Huh?"
Finn smiled as he said, "I know what it's like, bro; I had to try to keep my little brother safe, as much as I could, too. Our abuser killed our parents and almost killed us. If both of us work together, all of our brothers can feel safe again."
JR stared into Finn's eyes for almost a minute before making his decision. "Okay, I think that'll work out. AJ? Finn's on the safe list, okay lil bro?"
"Okay," AJ replied, obviously still having absolute trust in JR's decisions.
Having broke the ice, Finn stated, "Thanks! Bryce told me who everyone is, so blame him for me cheating. I'm under orders to tell all four new family members 'welcome' from all of our brothers and my kids. Davey and Jimmy, I'm adding you to the list, because anyone that helps one of our brothers like you've helped JR and AJ becomes an honorary brother. That means you're both just as much family as the new friends that you made tonight. Gianni and Gino, both of you joined the family the second you appeared in the conference room. Theres a few little guys out there that are going nuts waiting to meet their new furry family."
Shifting his attention to the two boys warily watching him from between DJ and Tanner, Finn added "AJ and Jimmy? The little brother I was protecting is Rollie. When you guys meet the rest of the family, I bet he'd be the best one for you to get with at first. He knows a lot about the rest of our brothers, and I think the three of you might get along, due to you having things in common. That would also help me, JR, and Davey, because you can let us know if there's anything that needs one of us, even if it's not in our families."
"I like that idea," Davey offered. "That way Jimmy and I can share what we've learned from the families at Headquarters."
JR allowed himself a smile, seeing his new friend and his new brother putting together a scheme to get the younger boys actively involved with the group. "That sounds like it might work."
Finn gave JR and Davey a smile and a quick nod, silently thanking them for the support. "Since AJ and Jimmy don't look like they're ready for anyone new to be close to them yet, do you guys mind if I grab a seat with Mom? He's overdue for cuddles anyway!"
Realizing just how well Finn understood their little brother's emotional states, both JR and Davey exchanged looks before nodding their heads. When they saw how Finn melted into Chek's chest as soon as he was seated, they knew in their hearts that he was a kindred soul, and silently decided that they would have his back from that point on.
Seeing that Finn was done, Bryce announced from the doorway, "Hey guys, Shane will be right out. He just found out that he's got a couple of side effects from Timmy's help, and he's trying to calm down so that they go away. Timmy gave him warpaint, and the combined emotions of all of you younger guys together triggered it."
"Oh, Uncle Mikey!" DJ said in a sickly sweet voice, looking at the ceiling.
"Not my fault, I wasn't even there!" Mikey chuckled as he appeared on the floor in front of the couch.
"Bryce, please tell Shane that I have a Saint standing by to explain what in the Hell is happening!" DJ 'requested'.
"Daddy, you ain't supposed to cuss at Angels!" AJ blurted, beginning to cower as soon as he'd realized what he'd done.
"Relax son," DJ quickly stated soothingly. "You're not in trouble, and I'll never hit you like what used to happen to you. Remember, Mikey is our family first, but he happens to be a Saint. Just like you did earlier, we all talk to him like the Uncle that he is. Other Angels that are not family, we wouldn't talk like that, so you're right in those cases."
AJ quickly relaxed, DJ's words re-affirming that he could be trusted. Movement from the doorway caught his eyes, which went wide as they saw a black eleven-year-old covered in warpaint walk into the hall. "JR! Look! The pastor was fibbing; he said black skin means Devils, but Uncle Mikey's here and that boy isn't scared of him!"
"Y'all's pastor was a lyin' bigoted sack of elephant shit!" Shane stated before catching himself.
"Amen!" Tanner and DJ stated in unison, gaining them shocked looks from everyone present, even Mikey. "Now that we've determined the obvious," DJ quipped, "we can deal with what my little brother did this time, and then it sounds like AJ and JR might be able to help our Intel team by telling us about some of the other fibs their old pastor was preaching."
By the time DJ finished, Shane had figured out what he was up to; it was a trick that had worked on his own brothers quite a few times. Shane hoped it would work again, because the chances were good that the pastor might have preached himself into a visit from Clan Short.
"Shane, I'll send Pablito down later to compare notes; you're good!" Mikey giggled, drawing everyone's attention back to himself. "Before I start; AJ, you can tell your family everything about your old church, and name people's names if you can. The church threats mean nothing now; I think that your Daddy's already proved that to you."
"Okay, Uncle Mikey," AJ replied.
"Now to deal with the latest hijinks of my first nephew," Mikey began. "First, you need to understand a few things. When someone is born, they can sense things from other realms unconsciously. The ability slowly fades until they reach puberty, at which point it is gone for most people. Timmy and Ricky were picked as Spirit Guides by the Guardian Spirits of Camp Little Eagle, William and Duke, because they had a stronger than average sense for their ages. DJ, you have it too; that's why you and Timmy connected even before you knew about each other."
"Now you tell me!" DJ quipped.
"You didn't ask!" Mikey prodded. "Now, things get interesting. Just like anyone else, Timmy and Ricky have free will, with their decisions shaping the future. All I'm allowed to say is that they've either directly or indirectly caused quite a few events that have had, or will have, positive effects on their family and humanity in general. Through their actions, they've forged a bond with their Spirit Guardians that is now affecting them directly, a Bond that has not been seen in a VERY long time. Normally, they would see something, and their Guardian would focus the power to act. Those two are different; they started working alongside William and Duke while you guys were learning to be a band, and during the Battle of Earth they pushed themselves to the point of Bonding as One with their feathered friends. Basically, they are living Spirit Guardians, with the ability to hide their powers unless absolutely needed. They are part of William and Duke just like Jamie and Jacob are a part of each other, which is why Antonio discovered that they seem immune to disease now. Them merging with the birds and them having the ghost Eagle wings is the most obvious effect on them; once they merge with their companions, they are able to directly follow Mandates."
"Does that make them Angels?" JR asked in awe.
"Not really, but it does allow them to act as the Hands of Our Father," Mikey replied. "Generally, they will normally not need to go that far more than once or twice in their lives; but with the various events caused by Others, they've stepped up more than has ever happened before. Now for your situation, Shane. Remember being told that you were family before you even met any of us?"
Shane nodded. "Sumthin' 'bout Mom an' Aunt Sara callin' themselves sisters. I understand it now, 'cuz here kin is by oath not blood."
"Exactly," Mikey acknowledged. "The entire Clan is Timmy and Ricky's 'Tribe', which put you under their protection. The role they originally swore to was to protect their Tribe from evil spirits. They were not asked to do what they did, they did it to protect a member of their family, and they knew from watching other events in the Clan's history that they needed to go in expecting the worst. Only Our Father knows how they picked the team they did, but once they were done they had eradicated that evil spirit from this plane until the Final Judgement. What Timmy called 'Claiming your key' is a lot more complex than I can explain, but the basics are that you had the opening to be a Spirit Helper, so him and Ricky cleaned out the old hooks and took the slot for themselves. That's where you got the warpaint, and from what I've been told Yist should be able to assist you with fine control of it."
"Why did it pop up now, though?" Shane asked.
"Even though you're not an empath, you have empathy," Mikey explained. "You could tell by what you were hearing that you had brothers feeling emotional pain, and your protective instincts kicked in."
As he saw Shane nod, Tanner said "I think that answers it Mikey. Do you want us to dunk Timmy a few times for you for not warning us?"
Mikey shook his head. "It wouldn't work; he wouldn't believe you telling him it was from me! I'll be hanging around, but I think it's time to introduce some brothers."
"Okay, catch you later, Uncle Mikey!" DJ said. "Thanks!"
As Mikey vanished, Chek commented, "You heard the winged dude, let's hit it!"
"Chek?" Rand whined over the speakers, "PLEASE stop with trying to imitate surfer talk! That HURT!"
"Wait until you hear my Russian!" Chek giggled. "Seriously, guys; you have some brothers and nephews that worked really hard to get things ready to welcome you, so we should head in there so that you can meet them."
"Don't worry about being scared," Finn added. "A lot of them are still scared too. They're still learning about having good parents, instead of the bad ones they used to have."
"If they get out-of-control, we'll just have your Mom do more voice impressions!" Tanner giggled.
"Daddy, you didn't say torture was okay here," AJ risked hesitantly.
"That's my boy!" DJ chuckled as the rest of the group giggled, earning him a happy smile from AJ. "Look, our escorts have arrived! Your brother Finn has started his own wolf pack, and they're coming out to meet you; the lighter one is Macha, and the darker one is Maikoh."
"Puppies?" AJ and Jimmy chorused.
Finn turned and grinned at his furry companions. "Did you guys wear out Yist already?"
"Yip yip grrr yip!" Macha replied as he headed towards Jimmy and AJ.
"Yip yip yip," Maikoh added as he split off to meet Davey and JR.
"Okay, that makes sense," Finn replied, earning him strange looks from his newest brothers.
Acting as if it was normal, both pups used the seated security gorillas as their own personal on-ramps to reach the laps of the boys. Davey and Jimmy were visited first, each getting a chin lick and nose-to-nose rub. Then the pups moved over to the new family members, repeating the greeting before cuddling into the arms of their respective boy.
"They want you to carry them," Finn explained. "They can smell it if you're getting too scared, and they'll let me and Shane know so that we can help you."
Remembering his own reaction, Davey stated, "Remember me telling you how Timmy talks to animals? The Clan can teach everyone that's family how to do it too. If you want to learn it, I bet Finn knows who can teach you once you're comfortable here."
"I thought you was fibbing," AJ admitted.
"Don't worry, I didn't believe it until I saw it either," Davey replied. "At least now you can really see that weird stuff happens here."
"I think I'm going to like weird," JR stated as he scratched Maikoh's ear. "How'd you find these pups, Finn?"
Finn grinned, "Grandpa Sean made a smart-aleck remark to Dad about me, so Dad had Rand take him swimming in a few lakes. Grandpa Sean picked up those two while he was swimming, and he brought them back for me."
"YIP! Grr grr Yip!" Maikoh stated.
"Okay already!" Finn laughed. "Maikoh says that Grandpa Sean gave me to them!"
As they had been speaking, everyone had stood up. After checking on his little brother, JR stated "Okay, I think we're ready."
"Stick together until you feel comfortable," Tanner instructed as they started towards the Rec Room doorway.
As they entered the room, even the parents were surprised as they spotted a huge banner stretched over the windows to the pool, stating "Welcome Home JR, AJ, Gino, and Gianni!"
"When did you guys make the sign?" DJ asked Finn. "That wasn't here when we went out into the hall! Great job!"
"We had to wait until we got rid of you!" Finn giggled.
"That's from all of your new brothers, guys; no parents involved," Shane added. "We wanted you to know that we really want you here."
"That means a lot more knowing that DJ, Tanner, and Chek didn't make you do it," Gino stated with a smile. "Let's meet everyone so I know who I'm saying thanks to!"
Satisfied that his family's plot had relaxed the new additions, DJ announced to the waiting family members, "Okay guys, this is AJ next to me, and his friend Jimmy from Headquarters is holding his hand. AJ's security is Gino, he's the one closest to Jimmy. Next to Tanner is JR, and his friend Davey is next to Chek. The last new face is Gianni; he's JR's security. I think if you guys come over in family groups to introduce yourselves, we should be able to keep from overloading your new brothers."
"Once everyone's said 'Hi'," Tanner added, "we'll all sit down together so that you can show what you did to make things easier for your new brothers."
Once introductions were completed, Finn banished his parents to sit with the adults. After consulting with JR and AJ, it had been decided to split into two groups; Shane leading the group with JR, and Finn leading the group with AJ. They had just finished giving their new brothers the supplies they had selected, and were now gathering back into one big group to relax.
"Finn?" AJ asked, still shocked at the amount of things that he was told were now his, "I've never had this much stuff before. Why do I need it?"
Finn carefully put a hand on AJ's shoulder. "You need it because you get to be a real kid now. The rest of us went to the mall to get our stuff, but Dad was worried that you and JR might get scared there. When he told us that, we all picked out things that we thought you guys might want to start out. The rest of us are going to help you learn about how to use all of your new things; since JR has to learn too, the rest of us are going to help both of you."
"Why?" AJ asked.
"We're gonna do it for the same reasons that JR did everything he could for you," Finn explained. "You're our family now, and brothers take care of their brothers, no matter what."
Time is the most unusual axis of the fabric of the Universes; only Time can ebb and flow, split and join, yet seemingly remain rigid to outside observance. Without Time, all that exists would cease to be; yet with the passage of Time, most things slowly cease to exist as well at some point. Despite this seemingly unstoppable power, even Time must bow to the one thing which even it can not affect, Love.
It has been said that there is no bond deeper than the Love of brothers and/or sisters; it is a love that is present even as they are at odds with each other. Such is the power of that Love that it can shift Time to a previously unseen path without any visible intent.
Just such an event occurred on the day that Cory swore brotherhood to Kyle and vowed to protect him forever. The second such event in recent history was the day Dmitry assisted as Jimmy and Davey were rescued.
On this day, November Fourteenth, Two Thousand and Four, as observed by the local calendar of the planet Earth of the Alpha Prime Universe, Finn's love once again triggered a fundamental shift, opening Time to a future previously unmapped by all those who have the ability to view such things, and forcing all of Creation to shift to the new future.
On this day, throughout all Planes of every Universe, for the third time in the lives of the founding members of Family Clan Short, Time was irreversibly affected by one of the strongest forces in all of Creation ...
The Brotherhood Of Love.