Brotherhood of Love

Chapter Four: Timmy's Law

Dining room:

"Thanks for not quitting after our first lunch," DJ grinned as he helped Mary clean up the table.

Mary smiled, "I was expectin' them boys to be wonderin' what was what. They's gettin' all kinds of new things in their lives. They ain't never had our food, so they're gonna be confused. Finn done good with them, and I'm gettin ideas on things that all of them might be likin' to be eatin'."

"Let me know if me or Dilly can help," DJ responded. "Dilly might be able to help you see if there are things that they are used to that can be duplicated with food here on Earth."

"I'll be talkin' to Dylan then," Mary acknowledged. "Them there boys need to be gettin' their comfort foods."

"I like how you think!" DJ giggled. "Just so you know, I promised some guys I'd take them to the mall for their first Clan issue of clothing. Your boys are going too, as well as all of my new family."

"It sounds like you ain't giving me no choice," Mary stated knowingly.

"I'm not," DJ replied. "Your boys are core members of Clan Wagner, and I'm making sure they are treated as such."

Mary nodded. "I ain't arguing; my boys could use a little ego boost. They ain't never been put in a position like y'all's done just gave them."

"Plan on a few extras for dinner," DJ warned. "Knowing the way this normally goes, everyone will end up back here after we're done."

"Have Dylan swing by before y'all leave," Mary asked. "I think some boys might like some down-home cooking for dinner."

"I like that," DJ smiled. "Dylan says he'll be right in."

An hour later:

DJ looked around the recreation room and grinned. The Schaffer boys had quickly made friends with the new additions to Clan Wagner, and were doing their best to fill in their new friends about all of their new discoveries.

"Thanks for inviting us, bros," Tommy stated as him and his little brother Simon joined DJ and Tanner in the doorway, both boys holding hands with their partners Karlin and Damon.

"If I gotta suffer through a trip to the mall, I'm going to share the pain," DJ semi-joked. "Besides, you guys need some time away from your zoo, so I'm gonna let you join our zoo for a while!"

"I was worried that we wouldn't see you anymore," Tommy admitted. "You guys gave us a new family, and then you made your own family."

"We ain't running off on you," Tanner assured them. "We're getting the dimensional doors installed between our new place and our old places. All of you guys are always welcome over here; we need you guys around just as much as you need us. We're gonna be over there too sometimes; just because we got married doesn't change who our family is, it just means you got a bunch of nephews."

"Told ya!" Simon giggled. "Timmy said that nothin' was changin'!"

"Now if you could teach me how to control our little brothers..." Tommy snickered as he reached over and gently squeezed the back of Simon's neck.

"I gave up already!" DJ giggled. "I just let them live their daydreams."

The older boys all grinned as their younger companions stuck out their tongues in defiance. The final members of their expedition decided to join them just then, one with his son happily getting a piggy-back ride.

"We ready?" Dylan asked as he came to a stop.

"Just about," Tanner replied, "We just have to figure out who is watching who when we get there."

"I promised all the Schaffer boys except Ferris and Ton that I was taking them," Dylan commented. "DJ's claimed Ferris and Ton, which means he'll get the two boys Ferris adopted."

"I think I'll have JD too, he's still shadowing Ferris," DJ added. "That means Dilly has seven, and I probably have five so far. Knowing Finn, him, Chris, and their kids are gonna want to stick with me too, so now I'm up to thirteen."

"Can I go with Sylys, Uncle Deej?" Jimmy asked hopefully.

"If it's okay with your parents," DJ smiled. "If they say yes, you'll need to help Syam along with helping Sylys; neither one of them have been to a mall before."

"Make that fourteen, Deej," Dylan grinned. "Don't spoil him too much!"

"Tanner?" Chek added, "If you want to take Shane, his brothers, Casper, and the rest of our boys, I'll stick with Deej. That way each group has someone that's High Race with them in case we need to get out quickly."

"Sounds like a plan," Tanner nodded. "I like having more than one emergency escape plan."

Florida Mall, one hour later:

Tanner followed his group out of the Apple Store, having drawn the first wave of attacks on the store's stockroom by Clan Wagner. He had to work hard to not break into laughter at the shocked looks on just about every member of his group's faces.

Shane dropped back to join Tanner, commenting "Momma's gonna chew your butt clean off, Tanner!" as soon as he was at Tanner's side.

"Why?" Tanner asked, trying very hard to sound innocent.

"It ain't workin'!" Shane sniggered. "You ain't innocent, and she's gonna flip when she sees all this stuff y'all got us! She's done said I ain't old 'nuff for an iPod, but y'all got all of us onea them AND phones, pads, and computers!"

Tanner shook his head with a grin. After a quick glance told him that Casper was helping the rest of the crew program each other into their phones, he said "You ain't figured it out yet, have you?"

"Figger'd what out?" Shane queried.

"You're not just someone that lives with us," Tanner explained. "When Grandpa Sarek declared us a sub-Clan of Family Clan Short, you became a Clan officer. You're one of the core members of the team, bro, and we're going to make sure that you have everything that you need to do whatever you find as your place in the family."

"Y'all don't even know me," Shane countered, "so why you doin' that?"

"Do you think Timmy would have done what he did for just anyone?" Tanner replied. "Ignore the jokes about him making a hobby out of sending demons home. He didn't have to do what he did for you; he could have easily kicked it Upstairs and went on with his day like normal. Bryce filled me in on everything that happened. Timmy could have released you from those ties without getting involved with everything else, but instead, he liked you enough to assemble a spiritual Special Forces team to rescue your friend. When our little brother does something over the top like that, the rest of us take note, and make sure that we're ready for whatever the results are. That means that even though we're still getting to know you, you unintentionally passed the most invasive background check that's possible in this Timeline; you were declared family by Timmy."

Shane knew better than to argue, since after personally being involved with Timmy while in action, he fully understood why his new extended family had so much respect for Timmy's opinions.

Noticing that he'd made his point, Tanner added, "For now just chill; we don't go looking for our places in the family, our places seem to find us. Sooner or later, something's gonna need done, and you're just gonna step up and do it without another thought. When that happens, then we'll all know where you're gonna fit in this family. Until then, enjoy the insanity!"

"I guess I gotta be gettin' used to y'all treatin' me like I'm family," Shane smiled, feeling a little less pressure after Tanner's explanation.

"You ARE family, bro!" Tanner giggled. "We just ain't told Mary ... yet!" Tanner put an arm over Shane's shoulder, then stated as they went to join the rest of the group, "Let's get our phones synced up with everyone else, then we'll hit the toy store over there."

To DJ's surprise, the staff of Dillards had stepped up to help, and his group had made it out of the store relatively quickly. It had seemed to take longer to find all of the tags on the clothes that Finn's boys insisted on wearing out of the store than it took to settle on their new wardrobe, mainly because they kept spotting other things that they just had to look at. Now, he and Finn were watching as their group did their very best to drive the staff of the Kid's Foot Locker into early retirement, despite Chek's best efforts to maintain order.

"I think I figured out why our old Mom always left me and Rollie with Dad when she shopped for our school clothes!" Finn quipped as he leaned into DJ's side. "Do you think Mom's ready for our help yet?"

DJ shook his head. "Chek says he's having fun, and he wants us to just relax after the madness in Dillards. Don't worry, him and I are talking over our bond while he tries to tame the hoard. He's already picked out shoes for both of us, so be prepared for anything."

"I wonder if they have any of those new shoes that just came out?" Finn asked as he watched his triplets arguing playfully over who deserved which color of one of the shoe styles they were looking at. "You hear about them? They've got wheels in the bottom!"

DJ grinned. "Don't worry; if they don't have them, we'll just ask Kyle's son Levi for a few pair. Since he owns the factory, he'll get some for us. He found a pair in another timeline, and was able to set it up so that he can make them here. He donates the profit to the Clan, so it helps everyone, and he's watching for other things that we don't have that he thinks would be popular."

Their conversation was interrupted by the store manager, who had spotted them and made her way over to see them.

"Sorry to interrupt," she began, "I'm Mandy Dwiser. By any chance are you with the Clan group?"

"Yes, Ma'am," Finn replied before DJ could. "I'm Finn Wagner, and this is my Dad, DJ Wagner, Patriarch of Clan Wagner of Family Clan Short of Vulcan. Is there something we can assist you with?"

Mandy visibly stood straighter as she heard the introduction. "It is a pleasure to meet both of you. Would it be out of line to ask if your Clan accepts youth volunteers for membership?" 

As DJ gauged the mid-50's-aged manager, Finn continued speaking for them. "Sure, as long as they don't mind a pretty intense security scan. We've caught people trying to sneak in to either disrupt us or use us to get kids to abuse, so we don't take chances. Why do they want to join us, and are they related to you?"

"In reverse order," Mandy replied, "They are my twin nephews, and I just received custody of them as their last relative when my sister had a heart attack while driving. Since arriving here, all they talk about is the things they hear about the Clan in the news. I'm afraid that I'm much better as an aunt they visit than I am as a parent, and I think it would be more beneficial for them to be able to pursue their dreams in an environment where they don't need to worry about losing their last relation and ending up in foster care."

DJ gave Finn a squeeze, signaling that he wanted to answer. "Miss Dwiser, my youngest son has informed me that it is critical that you receive medical assistance within the next forty-eight hours. I have taken the liberty of arranging for you to receive care at our Camp Little Eagle Medical Center. Please call your babysitter and tell him that, upon the conclusion of your call, a youth named Thomas will appear at the dining room table, and that your boys will be returning with him to this store; while the babysitter does not require this information, Thomas will evaluate him while onsite for possible offers from FYS or the Clan to assist other families. Once they are present, we will determine the logical solution to your query. My wife is currently in contact with your superior to arrange for a relief so that you may tend to your physical needs immediately."

Mandy's eyes grew wide as she processed the bombshells that DJ had just dropped. Before she could begin her protest that the Clan didn't need to waste their resources on her, she felt a little hand tapping her arm.

"Here you go, Aunt Mandy!" Davner stated cheerfully as she turned and looked at him. "I brought you your phone! Don't worry, Doc Austin's really, really nice!"

"Thank you!" Mandy smiled as she took the phone, Davner's smile and innocent expression completely disarming any comments she might have normally made. She caught both Finn and DJ rolling their eyes as she turned back to them, and decided she'd probably be better off not knowing what just happened. Deciding that the best course of action was to follow DJ's instructions, she dialed her home phone number and passed on the message.

After she hung up, she once again started to form an argument about the medical help. only to be interrupted by the appearance of three boys, two of whom she knew.

She was not the only one surprised; both of DJ's eyebrows hit warp 9 as they slammed as high on his forehead as they could go. All three new arrivals were outfitted in Clan cloaks bearing the Clan Intel crest, and Thomas did not look happy.

"Patriarch, I have a report," Thomas stated.

"Proceed," DJ replied with dread.

Thomas nodded. "Upon arrival, standard security scanning revealed that the babysitter, Frank Harrison, was registered as a sex offender, with stated victims under the age of majority. In accordance with standing orders for situations where a registered offender is in contact with youth without making their status known, a detailed scan was performed. Due to the results of the scan, an immediate judicial action was determined to be required. As both Gerry and Gary met standards for Clan Intel, and both wished to use their natural skills in the field, I initiated training to allow them to preside over the trial. Upon conclusion of the proceedings, it was determined that the defendant was not guilty of the charges he was previously convicted of, and had no interactions of that nature at any time within his history. At this time, Frank Harrison is in discussion with Doctor McCoy regarding the revival of his pediatric dental license once Alligator Alley finishes clearing his name. I have completed arranging the training of Gerry and Gary, and as of now they are certified as Clan Intel Telepaths."

After a sigh of relief, DJ looked at his feet as he slowly shook his head in disbelief. "Please God, just once," he muttered, "all I ask is just ONCE, could these nuts do things in the right chronological order?"

"I don't think even God can do that miracle, Dad," Finn quipped with a grin at Thomas.

Thomas stuck his tongue out at Finn, then turned to Mandy. "Ma'am, your boys were absolutely safe with Frank, despite the false charges he was convicted of by Terran courts. The priority of the Clan is family, which extends to those trusted as surrogate caregivers. Tonight all three of us will fall asleep knowing that we undid a wrong that almost destroyed someone's life. No matter what DJ, Gary, and Gerry decide, you are their family and part of the twin's lives. That means if you need help, we make sure that you get it; and when it comes to medical help, we get you the best help we know of."

"About that," Mandy tried to reply.

"Stop arguin', Aunt Mandy!" Gary exclaimed firmly.

"You ain't gonna die too," Gerry added.

Mandy froze at Gerry's statement, her eyes wide as she actually paid attention to the faces of the twin blond seven-year-old boys that had been quiet since their arrival. The silent tears slowly seeping from the corners of their bright green eyes erased any arguments she had to DJ's statements. At that instant, she realized that she was the only thing keeping them from a mental breakdown, so she finally accepted the forced help that she'd been given. Taking a seat on the nearest bench, she held her arms open as she softly said "Get over here, you two."

"Deej?" Thomas said softly as they watched the twins latch on to Mandy as if their lives depended on it, "I've got their side of the custody question, too."

"Go ahead, bro," DJ acknowledged.

Thomas nodded. "Gerry and Gary had an extremely tight bond with their birth mother. Their Aunt Mandy, however, was their go-to for things their mother wouldn't comprehend, things like their telepathy that borders on N-Gen. They're missing a few pieces right now, and I've already set up the safeties just in case they try to push too hard. Emotionally, they'll probably never accept another mother, they've made it so far because to them it's just a really long visit with their favorite Aunt. Neither one really has any ties to their father; he was killed in the line of duty with the County Sheriff Patrol shortly after their birth. Based on my impressions of their dreams of the perfect male caregiver, I think Antonio and Byron would be recommended as possible candidates."

"Chris is getting them now, Dad," Finn interrupted.

"When did you turn into a telepath, squirt?" DJ asked with a grin.

"About the same time as when Chris and I got our kids," Finn stated with a shrug of his shoulders. "It only works with Chris though, and his only works with me."

"Thomas," DJ replied with a smile, "I think you and Finn need to poke around some while you're in his head; we might have another Conner / Rayn bond starting. Thanks for the info, I hope your gut feelings are right; those two little guys really need to feel stable again."

Their conversation was interrupted by Chris, Antonio, Byron, and Yist joining them. The fragile hold that they had maintained on reality lost the battle the second Yist laid eyes on his prospective brothers. "Dad? Pop?" Yist stated in awe, "That's them! The Great Spirit sent me my little brothers from my old family; I know those spirits! They're really my little brothers!"

 Before anyone could process what he'd just said, Yist inserted himself into the cuddle between Gary and Gerry. Within seconds, two arms snaked behind Yist's back, ensuring that he wasn't going anywhere soon.

"I know you hate doing this kinda stuff," DJ said as he turned to look at Thomas, "but I think we need a bubble so I can call in Uncle Mikey. I'll even let you help me pluck some feathers."

"I was just about to suggest the same thing," Thomas admitted. "Bubble's live."

Before DJ could vocalize it, Mikey popped into existence inside the bubble. "Congrats on the promotion, Deej!" he grinned as a greeting.

"Thanks, I think," DJ quipped. "By any chance, do you have some kind of idea just what in the Hell Yist is talking about?"

"Dad, did you just cuss at an Angel?" Finn asked in shock.

"He's said worse!" Chris giggled.

"Before I answer you, Deej, I've got a few messages to pass on," Mikey stated as he nodded at the statement from Chris. "Finn, your Mom and Dad said to tell you that you made them very proud with what you decided for Rollie, and they adore your soon-to-be husband and all of your new sons. They were fully aware of the possibility they would be killed trying to get you guys to safety, but they were counting on you stepping up to do exactly the type of things you did if that happened."

"I didn't do that much, and I was gonna kill myself," Finn protested weakly.

"Neither one of you remembers it," Mikey replied, "but it was you that pulled Rollie out of his seat belt and onto the floor, then covered him the best you could in the few seconds you had. If you two had been in your seats, you would have been crushed. Rollie was taken first because you were pinned in the wreckage, while the first responders were able to get him out immediately. After that, you went through a period that was Needed for things Yet To Come, and once you proved yourself with your new family, the Past was reopened so that you could restore Destiny to the right path."

"Couldn't you just say Timmy's Law, Uncle Mikey?" DJ prodded.

"Yeah, but then you wouldn't have anything to complain about, Deej," Mikey sniggered. "Finn, your actions set you up for the dream that gave you your sons, as did the actions of Chris with his family that allowed him to be united with you sooner than what was originally Planned. The original five were to be your sons anyway, but the way that you handled yourself in the situation earned you Sylys as a reward. That is why Sylys is so attached to you, Finn; just like Timmy with Cory, his Spirit knows that you alone are the reason he's here today. That is also the reason Rollie will be your closest brother for the rest of your life; he knows that you are the reason he's alive, and will never forget that."

"What about Yist, Gary, and Gerry?" Finn asked, hoping to lose the focus of the conversation on him.

"Yist is right," Mikey admitted, "but there's a larger reason behind his joy. His twin little brothers passed on shortly before he came to this Time, but their Spirits never left his side until he jumped forward in Time. His being reunited with them is Ordained, and with the formation of Clan Wagner, their presence is now needed. This is one of those things that Has To Be, and Now was the first time that everyone needed was in the same place."

"Is he always this confusing?" Finn asked.

"No, sometimes he's worse," DJ replied with a grin. "So basically, Clan rules apply for brothers, and Mandy just became Matt's daughter?"

"Works for me!" Mikey giggled, "Matt's getting pretty good at having descendants older than him! A daughter twice his age sounds like fun; I'll supply the popcorn when you tell him!"

"I'll let Quint know that he's up for popcorn duty when Deej tries to explain it to Mandy," Thomas quipped. "Dilly's gonna be mad that he didn't think of it first!"

DJ finally noticed that Antonio, Byron, Yist, Mandy, and the twins seemed to be in their own bubble inside the bubble. "Mikey, did you keep everyone else out?"

"Yes," Mikey acknowledged. "What we discussed was not for their ears. Chris, you may update Antonio and Byron on the history of their new sons in private, but the boys and Mandy will need to come across the information naturally from Yist."

"Gotcha, Uncle Mikey," Chris replied. "Do they know anything about their previous life?"

"Only that Yist is right in the type of their bond," Mikey explained. "More will be revealed to them as Yist is shown by his Spirit that it is time; once all that needs to be revealed to them has been, they will take their tribal names once again for use within the family."

"Something tells me that my little brother's gonna be involved in that somehow," DJ noted.

"I'm not saying!" Mikey grinned. "Okay guys, subject change while I pass on a couple of things."

Everyone nodded, deducing that Mikey was about to de-bubble the rest of their group. Once he saw they were ready, Mikey brought the rest of the occupants of the bubble Thomas made into the conversation. After making his wings and halo visible, Mikey stated "Good evening Mandy, Gerry, and Gary. The rest of these guys know me, but to save you hearing what they call me I'm Saint Mikey of Urbandale, Protector of Gay and Abandoned Youth."

"Wazzup, Featherhead?" Antonio giggled. "Let me guess, this is all your fault?"

"Actually, you're partly responsible, 'Tonio," Mikey replied. Seeing the shock on Mandy's face, Mikey explained "I'm the deceased brother of Cory, the Patriarch of Family Clan Short. That makes me related to pretty much everyone here, and as one of their Guardian Angels, I've spent one-on-one time with all of them. We talk to each other like the family that we are; just because I'm a Saint doesn't make me different from my family."

As Mandy tried to digest another shock, Gary turned his head. "Yist says we can call you Uncle Mikey. Do we getta be brothers and live together and can Aunt Mandy stay with us and be all of our's Aunt?"

Mikey smiled. "You've found your home, Gary, and those you need to grow into your Destiny are already around you. Bring your brothers, and sit on my lap, as there are those from your past which have messages for you."

All three boys quickly complied, finding themselves wrapped in Mikey's wings a few seconds later. As Mikey showed them things that were for their eyes only, DJ got Mandy's attention. "Mandy, don't worry about Uncle Mikey," DJ began. "He really is like he told you; he treats us like his brothers, and wants us to do the same. I'll bet right now the twins are talking with your sister and brother-in-law. Usually, that helps a lot with healing, and lets them make the right choices for their future and the futures of those they care about."

"Yeah, and his girlfriend thinks it's funny when I call him featherhead," Antonio added. "Mandy, there are some things about Yist that will make all of this make more sense once you know him. Take his statements about the twins as fact; when Mikey told Gary to bring his brothers' that confirmed it. That makes you my sister, which is going to make Dad bang his head on the wall. After Doc Austin finishes with getting you healthy, Dad will be sitting down with you to catch you up on the family the boys just gave you. You can move into our family's wing of the house if you want; I know the twins would love it if you do."

"That explains the extra rooms in your area, 'Tonio," DJ mused. "I think Mary would like another female in the house anyway; she's having trouble keeping up with the random cuddles!"

"Shouldn't we be asking the owner of the house before you guys make plans?" Mandy asked.

"That's me!" DJ giggled. "I'm still trying to decide if it's a house or an apartment complex; I've seen hotels with less bedrooms!"

"Tell me about it," Byron added. "If it wasn't for the turbolifts, I'd get lost finding the kitchen for midnight cookie raids!"

"Mandy, once the Doc is done, Matt , Antonio, and Byron will sit down with you and discuss the options for you retaining your place in the lives of the twins, as well as giving Yist an Aunt that he can call his own," DJ explained. "You were right, the boys need you as their Aunt; their bond with their Mom is too strong to allow them to accept a replacement for her. As their Aunt, you fill a very important role in them accepting themselves and their unique skills; forcing them to respond to you as a parent would break that."

"Knowing that," Byron added, "that means we need to do everything that we can to make sure they can keep that bond with you. As they have a spiritual bond with our son, that makes you our family. As family, you get the same access to Clan resources as myself and Antonio. A Tribe takes care of their own."

"Putting it that way, I see your point," Mandy admitted. "But why are you so willing to take in Gary and Gerry without exchanging a word with them?"

"Yist is the son of a Medicine Man from over eleven hundred years ago," Byron explained. "He was brought to this time to seal a destiny that would otherwise have caused my father to never be born, which would have broken the chain of events that made Clan Short what it is today. He was trained in the ways of his father, and has restored customs long lost to our people. One thing that Yist does not do is use the Great Spirit's name in vain; when he said the Great Spirit sent him his brothers, he was stating a fact as relayed through his Spirit. As his parents, we have the duty to his brothers to ensure they are able to fully reunite and restore their bonds."

Mandy nodded. "You guys need to start giving classes on parenting. I've never heard an adult be that honest about the reasons for their actions; most have ulterior motives to make their kids into something they never managed to be."

"Maybe it's because we get to try our dream careers now thanks to the Clan?" Antonio interjected.

"That would do it," Mandy agreed.

Just then, Mikey opened his wings. As soon as the three boys climbed off his lap, the twins sandwiched Yist between them with arms over his shoulders, while Yist pulled them in close with his arms around their waists. Looking at Mandy with a grin, Yist stated "Aunt Mandy, Momma Renee says hi! She said to tell you that you're doing the right thing, and you better listen to Uncle DJ or she's gonna haunt you!"

Mandy laughed. "Yep, that's Renee! So, have the three of you discussed how you would like for things to work out?"

Gerry giggled. "We ain't gotta, Uncle DJ's already done it for us!"

"Yeah, he did it really good," Gary added.

"Now you just gotta move in with us," Yist finished.

"AFTER YOU SEE DOC AUSTIN!" all three said in unison.

"Okay already! I surrender!" Mandy laughed. "Do the three of you plan on making a habit of this?"

"Yes!" all three giggled.

"Welcome to our world!" Antonio and Byron added.

"I'm going to head out while there's still some sanity left!" Mikey giggled. "Have fun!"

"CHICKEN!" DJ laughed, earning him a strawberry from Mikey before he vanished.

Thomas looked around, then stated "Mandy, if it's okay with you I can drop you off for your doctor's appointment on my way back to see what kind of trouble my husband's got us into this time. I'm pretty sure Yist is planning on spoiling his little brothers, so you'll be safer with the doctors."

"Don't worry, we can handle the three of them," Antonio assured Mandy. "The twins haven't been corrupted by Timmy, yet!"

"I'll tell him you said that," DJ threatened with a grin. "Chris, get ready to heal your brother's broken bones from pounces!"

"I'm on it!" Chris giggled. "Maybe we'll all get some sleep if I put him in a body cast!"

"CHRIS!" Antonio and Byron blushed.

"Promise?" Yist giggled, trying to look innocent.

"On that note, I think I'll take you up on the offer, Thomas," Mandy stated quickly. "There are some things I don't want visions of!"

"Okay, dropping the bubble, I'll see you guys at the food court," Thomas grinned.

 If there was one thing that Dylan had learned above all other things during the tours with Time Touched and Platinum Habits, it was to never place adults in a position where they didn't know that you were more than you appear. As such, the very first thing he'd done when they walked into Macy's was to ask for the manager, politely presenting his Clan ID to help explain why he needed them. The manager on duty rewarded Dylan's courtesy by providing the group a dedicated associate to assist them. After explaining that most of his group had never been in a Terran mall before, and that they were shopping on the Clan's resources for their initial setup for their new lives, Dylan found that he now had more help than he'd ever expected.

As with any group of kids in a strange place, the boys counted on safety in numbers, sticking together in the various departments as they made their way through the store. Tommy, Karlin, Simon, and Damon had decided the group would need their help, so they acted as tour guides and consultants to their new friends while both Thomas and Dylan got caught up in the excitement, and made quite a few contributions to the growing bill for the trip. Only Dylan noticed the few microseconds that Thomas took to handle the issues with DJ's group, but other than that blip in time things went amazingly smooth, especially as word got around and other Macy's team members joined in the fun of outfitting the boys.

As the boys made their way around the various departments, they passed near the customer service counter. Something about the emotional state of what appeared to be a mother and her five-year-old son grabbed Damon's attention, so him and Simon broke off from the group and headed over to where the pair were waiting in line.

"Excuse me, Ma'am?" Damon asked politely as him and Simon got close.

"Yes?" the woman replied, confused as to why these two unaccompanied young boys would be trying to get her attention.

Damon gave his best smile as he pulled his outer shirt back and revealed his commbadge on his tee shirt. He then replied, "I'm Damon Williams, Family Clan Short Atlantic Fleet Intel, and this is my boyfriend Simon Brown, son of Cory Short, Patriarch of Family Clan Short. We're here with a bunch of new cousins getting them set up. Since I can feel people's emotions, I'm making sure nobody feels like they're gonna try to hurt the new guys, and I felt how sad you and your son are and wanna see if I can help make it better."

Despite her depression at her current state of affairs, the woman couldn't help but to smile at the two boys offering their help. "It's nice to meet you, I'm Patricia, and this is my son Terry. As she gave her auburn-haired five-year-old son a squeeze on his shoulder, she added, "I don't think there's much you could do though; I'm just having a little bad luck."

"Yeah," Terry interjected, "Mommy just lost her job cuz' her boss went to jail cuz' of somethin' called a sting. Now I can't have my new bed."

Damon and Simon exchanged quick glances; due to their family's being involved with the core of the Clan, they had a lot more knowledge of current police actions than the normal citizen. Additionally, Tyler's presence in Damon's head allowed Damon to ask him to start looking into the situation. Just as they were about to reply, the customer service representative asked "How may I assist you?"

Patricia stepped up, placing her receipt on the counter. "I'm afraid I need to cancel this layaway."

"Because Family Clan Short is paying it off today," Simon interrupted as he put his ID and Clan Credit Card on the counter. Turning his head to Patricia, he stated with a smile "Don't argue; you'll lose!"

Damon, on the other hand, was quickly reviewing the information that Tyler was feeding him in their shared room in his head. Ty had done a quick scan backwards, and caught Damon up on everything he might need to know. Now up to speed, he joined Simon at the counter. "Please flag the delivery as being part of the Clan pickup," Damon requested.

"Yes, Sir," the representative replied.

Turning to Patricia, who was still in shock at the turn of events, Damon commented "Mrs. Gentry, Simon's little brother once said 'Sometimes bad things gotta happen so good things can happen', and he's been right every time. We call that Timmy's Law. Right now, I probably know more about what happened than your old boss does. Since I'm Clan Intel, I was able to find out everything. The Orlando Police Department says that if you don't mind one of the Clan telepaths looking in your head, they will take you off the possible accessory list as long as we don't find anything. I can set that up to happen right here, it'll only take a minute."

What Patricia didn't know was that by being up-front with her, Damon was monitoring her emotional responses to catch any red flags. Satisfied that her reactions seemed normal, he waited for her reply.

Patricia thought it over as they moved off to the side. When she saw that Simon had distracted Terry by starting a discussion of his favorite cartoons, she decided that these two boys might just be serious and took the chance. "I guess it can't hurt," she stated.

"Thank you," Damon replied. "I think your luck just turned!" He then tapped his commbadge, "Hey Dilly, I need ya' over at Customer Service, Code Tango Five."

"On my way," Dylan replied.

About thirty seconds later, Dylan jogged up to the group. "Wazzup?"

Damon grinned. "Your Pop left a package in my head, go ahead and grab it. This is Patricia Gentry, and that's her son Terry over with Simon."

"I'm glad to meet you, Mrs. Gentry," Dylan smiled as he reviewed the report from Tyler. "I know Damon asked you, but I gotta hear it myself; is it okay if I look in your head and make a report for the police department?"

Relaxed by Dylan's professionalism, Patricia nodded. "Go ahead."

Dylan closed his eyes for effect, and quickly gathered what he needed. Opening his eyes, he giggled as he observed "I think your old bosses son Todd wanted you as his mommy! One of Simon's big brothers just got made a Patriarch; how'd you feel about becoming a live-in housekeeper in the house of one of the Clan's leaders? Terry'll make a lot of new friends, and so will Todd if you wanna give Terry a big brother. DJ just told me he approves if you're interested."

"Can we, Mommy? Simon's tellin' me 'bout it and it sounds fun!" Terry interrupted. "Todd's fun, I liked goin' to work with you and visiting, he knows lots of stuff about sports and video games, can he be my big brother?" 

"While the job sounds interesting, I doubt CPS would let me foster Todd," Patricia stated, trying to grab onto some reality.

Dylan grinned. "Do you know Orange County's CPS Director, Randal Franklin? I do, and he's used to us helping them out. Due to what Todd went through, Randal would probably be calling us in anyway, but I'll beat him to the punch if you say yes. You'll be adopting though, not fostering."

"If you could actually pull that off, I'll do it. When will you know anything?" Patricia asked.

Realizing that a challenge had been issued, Simon interrupted. "Hey, I need a stopwatch before you start!"

Dylan giggled as a stopwatch appeared in front of Simon. "You can join us taking your new son shopping, I'll be right back!"

"Go!" Simon announced as he started the stopwatch. 

Dylan seemed to flicker for a second, then stabilized with an eleven-year-old boy with caramel-blond hair to his right, and an older man to his left. "Randal, meet Patricia Gentry. Patricia, this is Randal Franklin, head of Orange County CPS."

"Do you really wanna be my mom, Mrs. Gentry?" the eleven-year-old asked warily.

"If Mr. Franklin will let me, yes Todd," Patricia replied.

Todd's opinion was obvious, as he crashed into her and held on for dear life.

"Log it, Uncle Justy!" Dylan giggled, then turned to Simon, "How long?"

"Twenty-three seconds, not bad!" Simon giggled. "Hey Terry, your Mom's still standing, you'd better help your new big brother hug her into submission!"

"Okay!" Terry giggled as he quickly made it a three-way hug.

As he watched Patricia manage to navigate to the nearest chair with two boys attached to her, Randal stated "To answer the questions you're thinking of asking, or will think of soon, yes, this purple-haired urchin just pulled off an adoption in twenty-three seconds. Todd is all yours, and his name has already been changed. These boys can bypass a lot of red tape for kids in Todd's situation, and I'm honored to be on their list of people they trust to work with."

"What do you mean by Todd's situation?" Patricia asked.

"To put it politely, his genetic sire had progressed beyond grooming," Randal stated. "No other living relatives met CPS minimum guidelines, and your existing bond with him put you at the top of the Clan's list. Dylan assisted with an expedited review of his other relatives; thanks to you I believe he has a chance of breaking the family tendency towards criminal behavior."

"Hey, Dilly?" Simon interrupted, "Deej says when y'all get home 'Tonio wants you to be there when he gives Todd his physical."

"Tell him I'll be there," Dylan replied. "Don't worry, Todd; we won't make you see any grown-up doctors."

"What do I need to do now?" Patricia asked.

"Enjoy your new life," Randal advised. "Trust me, while it may seem insane at times, I've learned a lot from these boys that I apply both at work and at home. They've been given the power to step in when they see a problem, and they're not afraid to break conventional procedures to fix them. One of these days, I might just retire and join them, but for now, I can do the most good where I'm at."

"I think Damon proved that quite well," Patricia stated. "I'm still not too keen on moving into someone's house who I've never met."

"You'll meet DJ and Tanner when we leave here," Damon offered. "We're raiding the food court next, with all three groups."

"You wanna join us, Randal?" Dylan asked.

"Even if I don't get food, I wouldn't miss it!" Randal chuckled. "Just the looks on the faces of the staff are going to be priceless when you guys invade!"

"Sweet!" Dylan grinned. "Thomas is bringing the rest of the guys back here, then after we do a quick lap to get Todd and Terry their new stuff we'll be ready to go!"

Patricia spotted the remaining ten members of the raiding party heading her way, and unconsciously muttered "Dear God!"

To be continued...