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Stuffed with cake and ice cream, Hal and Orin followed Antonio into the conference room.
"About time! I'm not getting any younger!" an older man in jeans and a flannel shirt stated.
"I can talk to Dilly about that, Uncle Bones!" Antonio giggled.
"You do and I'll get one of my Klingon nephews to give you an enema, brat." Bones shot back.
"From what I have heard, I would not wish that on my worst enemy." Ranger whispered to Jackie.
"Me either. Is he really that mean?" Jackie whispered back, "He seemed nicer at the hospital."
"I don't think so. Could it be what is called a dry sense of humor?" Ranger asked.
"I'm not deaf, boys." McCoy stated with a smile. "You spend most of your life with Jim Kirk and Spock and see what your bedside manner becomes. I'm a doctor, not a diplomat."
Jackie sat up a little, "Oh, well then, that explains everything." Then leaned over and whispered in Rangers ear, "Not!"
Ranger let out a giggle and then burst out laughing. "I totally agree."
"Good. I can cancel the anti-depressants." McCoy quipped.
Jackie and Ranger looked at each other, then Ranger looked at the Doc, "In two hundred and thirty-six years I have not had need of these anti-depressants you speak of. Nor shall I wish to ever invade my body with drugs of that sort. Oh, the horror stories of institutions that I had closed down in my younger days." Then Ranger leaned over to Jackie and held him, "But then again, the Loup Garou can make people think that they have taken some awesome hallucinogens."
Jackie laughed then, "Oh, I can imagine that. I know when I saw him when I was five, I thought my mind was playing tricks on me." Then Jackie hugged Ranger, "But I love my Loup Garou."
"You fit in around here just fine." McCoy observed. "Shall we begin already?"
"Two hundred and thirty-six? You look like you are fourteen or fifteen." Phillip said with a look of shock on his face.
Ranger looked over, "Yes, I age one year in every sixteen years of life. I was born on February 29, 1768. And may I ask what your true age is? Are you another cousin as Antonio is to me?"
"You are nine years younger than me, little one." Phillip replied with a smile.
Ranger laughed out loud, "Well, then, old man, maybe you are an uncle then, or a great grandfather several times over."
"Told ya you're ancient, Dad!" Orin giggled. "At least 'Tonio and I were born in the last century!"
Ranger and Jackie let out deep belly laughs, "Ancient, I don't feel ancient. Puberty for so many years is keeping me very young."
"Yeah, Dad's entering men-opause!" Orin giggled.
Jackie and Ranger burst out laughing, "Oh, I shouldn't laugh. That will be me in another century, or more."
Mitch had been watching, and shook his head. "Obviously, none of you have grown up any. I still can't believe my SON managed to hook up with the same boy I spent almost five years trying to get to admit he liked me!"
"Oh, my boy, if I wanted to I could act my age very easily. I choose not to. While I may have lived two hundred and thirty-six years, I am still very much only fourteen years old. I choose to be the fourteen years old that I am." Then putting his arm around Jackie he levitated Antonio and Byron over to them, set them on their laps and proceeded to give a demonstration in a tickle attack.
"That has been one of my questions," McCoy observed. "While you obviously physically age slowly, how does the normal progression for mental and emotional age occur? Antonio switches gears constantly, yet the rest of you appear to have settled into your physical age."
Ranger sat back and thought then murmured, "Settled into your physical age. Interesting choice of words. Give me a moment to put my thoughts together."
Ranger pulled Jackie closer to him, "The youngest years were so difficult. Can you imagine being two years old, physically, that is all your body has grown and since that is all your body has grown you are being potty trained as a two year old, yet the mind, oh the mind and the things you have seen in those thirty-one or thirty-two years." Ranger stopped and shook his head, "I remember screaming at two years old that I wanted to go on a date like my cousins, and my Tante had to explain over and over to me that I was only two years old with an exceptional mind that was much older than my body. She would not tolerate anyone teasing me. She encouraged me to learn. I fought wars, and killed people when I was three, when I did that I was every bit the forty-seven years old that my mind said I was. Then I went to my 'family' and went right back to being the three year old that I was." Ranger sighed, "I have been so afraid of loving, Dr. McCoy, that I only allowed myself to love once before, but I found that was just teenage lust, not love. It is not easy to find someone and know that you will most likely lose them as they grow old and your body only aged two or three years. So, you see, I flip back and forth. I have to to be able to survive, to live, to continue. I need all those years of knowledge to survive, and I need only to be a child to stay sane. I don't know if I can explain it better. I would really need to think on this more, but this is a good start."
Then Ranger hugged Jackie, gave him a soft kiss, "If I did not have the family that found me, raised me and loved me, I would not be here today. I would not have been able to find my heart."
Phillip looked over at Ranger, "You were very lucky. Not many survive. We have to hide who we are. Our minds are saying we are one age because we see and learn so much, while our bodies are telling us what our actual age is. We have to move, and how do they say it, dumb things down to assist us in appearing our actual age in many areas. We can't show just how much we have learned over the years. Especially at your age, Ranger. Even Orin and Antonio. I remember when we were hunted down and killed due to superstitions like the witch trials." Phillip shook his head and fell into deep thought as his memories started to go way back.
Phillip looked around the room, "Sorry about that, got lost in my thoughts. You see, I have moved around the world with our family. Taking on new identities. When pictures came into the world, we tried very hard to not have our picture taken. It was too dangerous to have that image surface and be questioned. We have faked deaths, then created new identities. For me, the younger years were the most difficult, when you are where you are now Ranger, so young in the body, but so much knowledge in the mind, are the most dangerous years and usually when our kind find ourselves killed or captured and tortured by people trying to find the key to longevity. Right now I am at the age where I can actually be thirty-five, I can hold two or three degrees and be who I really am, for a while."
Ranger thought about that, "That is so very true. I have remained hidden in the swamp because there are times I cannot hide the way I am. I have been sheltered and I find I am too old world for this new world. I have never gone to school, I learned from text books that my family has brought to me. I create pottery that is sold under our family name. While it is my art work, it is sold under my tantes names. With out a safe haven I would most likely be dead. I should have died when I was just a mere babe, but I was found, left to die in the swamp. I am so thankful that I am here today and to find others like me. Antonio was the first, you and Orin next. I can't help but wonder, how many others have survived?"
"Well, there is a council, a central committee of elders that live near you. While you don't know of them, they have known about you. That is why they moved near to you. All the myths around the swamps, your Loup Garou isn't the only one. Where did you think all those tales come from. Many of our elders have watched and learned from you. Myself included. When we needed down time, when we needed to hide for awhile to regroup, create new identities, and figure where to move next, we always went home, to the swamps. You were never alone, but you were loved and well cared for. We left you alone since you were in no danger and better protected than we could ever protect you." Philip said to the shocked Ranger.
"But, but....." then Ranger started to cry, "I always thought I was alone. I had family and...and...I never got to know any of them."
"Ah, but you had the family you needed, young one, the one chosen for you the day Miz Zelime found you in the swamp. She went to the elders and told them that if they couldn't take care of one of their own any better then they did you, then we didn't deserve you. You were her Eternal Boy, her family's forever childe and they would raise you. That we were not to have any contact with you until the day your heart was found and dragons walked our lands again. We thought she was out of her mind, until now, when dragons walk our earth."
Ranger shook his head, "And her being 'touched with sight' she did what she knew she had to do. While it brings pain to know that I had family so close, at the same time I can find peace in knowing that my Tante did what was expected and loved me as her own, and then each Tante after her. They all loved me."
Phillip smiled, "As it should be. You got to grow, while many of us..." Phillip shook his head, "many of us died, there aren't that many of us left."
Then Phillip looked over at his son, "The last eighty-four years have been very scary for me, loving and keeping Orin alive. I almost went to your family to ask for asylum once, but chose not to. I knew that the time was not right to bring two families together. Something that Miz Zelime said when I was just a babe and cannot remember the words correctly stopped me from going close to your village. I found many out of the way places to live and teach Orin. Now that he is fifteen and the world is changing, I believe that the young ones will have a much better life."
Antonio had been listening, and chose this time to interject his experiences. "So I wasn't the only one always moving every year or two to keep from getting caught? Eli and Benji were the only friends I've managed to keep over a couple of moves; they found out about me and were kewl about it. It pissed off my old sperm donor, because he couldn't screw up my head and wipe my memories while they kept in touch. When their plane crashed, he thought that he was home free; instead it gave the Clan a reason to go looking for me and save me."
"Just over thirty years after they needed to," Bones growled. "If I ever get my hands on that creature, I'll do things to him that'd make a Klingon nauseous."
Both Mitch and Phillip had an instant attack of 'Daddy Syndrome' as their heads snapped to look at McCoy. "Explain, Doctor." they growled in unison.
After getting a nod of acceptance from Antonio, Bones began. "Somehow that little urchin survived being raped by his sperm donor, having his mind blocked with hypnosis, and generally being abused in just about every definition of the word. The fact he survived to become one of the most proficient doctors I know is a damn miracle; the love and trust he shows are unheard of for someone with his past."
"What happened to that piece of trash?" Mitch demanded.
"He's giving 'Bubba' something to do on a Federation prison planet," Byron replied. "Antonio was rescued before we really knew what we were allowed to do with bastards like that."
Ranger hugged Antonio closer to him when he heard what happened to his cousin. Jackie, picking up on Rangers emotions, hugged Byron closer to him. The boys were still cuddled up with them after the tickle attack. Once some of the talk eased for a moment Ranger asked, with steel in his voice, "What I want to know is if this so called council knew about the transgressions and severe abuse my cousin was going through? If they knew, why did no one step in to stop it and get him to safety? If they knew, were the ones that knew also held accountable for their non-action?"
"Correction." Matt stated as he joined them, "He somehow 'fell' in the shower and passed on due to cranial injuries. Sorry I'm late, but I'm up-to-date thanks to one of the leeches. It was a real tragedy; it seems he 'fell' about twelve times and refused the help of the guard that was watching him."
"How are you so sure of that, Matt?" Phillip asked. "And Ranger, if the Council had known, Antonio's location would have been common knowledge. Even in your case, there was always someone keeping tabs on you to make sure that you were still safe."
Ranger thought about that statement for a moment, then nodded. "I can accept that then." Then he pulled Antonio to him and hugged him closer and whispered in his ear, "If I knew of any of you I would have kept you safe. I love you cousin."
As Antonio smiled at Ranger, Matt gave a wicked grin in reply to Phillip. "One of Seth's 'friends' works where he was sent. When he found out that I had a personal interest in that piece of trash due to what he did to my first son, he was nice enough to keep me informed."
"When you have friends like Seth has," Antonio giggled, "your enemies seem to wet themselves! Thanks, Dad!"
Matt tried really hard to look innocent. "I didn't do anything; I just heard the news after his accident."
"Nice try, Dad. You can hold a grudge longer than a Klingon whose honor has been called into question." Antonio said with a shake of his head. "I still remember the look in your eyes when you saw what he'd done to me. You were ready to dismember him by hand."
"I concur with Doctor Barnes' diagnosis," Bones added. "You couldn't lie if your life depended on it, Matthew. I'm sure someone has an award for improving the gene pool; as soon as I find it, you're getting one."
Phillip noticed the amazed look on Orin's face, so he explained. "Son, while the society you have experienced is not as open about it, Humanity has an honor system at its roots that is almost as strong as the Klingon system. Ranger and I have seen more of it; it is still alive and well in the Cajun culture, as well as the Native Americans and the old-family Mexicans. Vulcan is even stronger, and I'm starting to see that Clan Short is following the example of both the Terran groups that have joined them and the Vulcans that empowered them."
Ranger took a moment to add, "Phillip, you are correct in that. We do have an honor system, and I have seen it many times over the years. While it does not appear that it is strong in our world, the opposite is true. It is strong, unfortunately it is the bad that seems to bring the most attention."
Mitch nodded as he added "These young men and women won't stop until things are set right. I found out a little bit ago that my six-year-old grandnephew, Timmy, was issued TWO Distinguished Service citations when the Clan was attacked in Montana. At least two people owe their lives to him, one of which is his Dad, Cory."
Hal nodded. "Sean talked with me and my brothers. We're joining the Clan, Dad. All of us kids are; our cousins started something good, and we'd be wrong if we didn't help our family."
Mitch easily read the challenge in Hal's expression. "I've already been warned by your Aunt Teri this might happen," Mitch explained. "While I can't say that your mom and I are happy about you guys giving up your innocence, we both realize that current events in the universe have changed things in a way that makes that loss worth it. The little group your cousins started has turned into one of the biggest names in the post-battle reconstruction. Not only are they stepping up to help the multitude of orphans from the attack, but they're providing a central command center for all of the world-wide relief efforts. Your Aunt Teri got the approval to show me the command center in Utah; I saw boys half your age who were coordinating Red Cross and National Guard assistance like they did it every day. Our family is providing the one thing that will help Earth recover quickly; a single point of contact for any assistance needed."
Mitch paused to collect his thoughts, then continued. "It helps to know things aren't always serious. While I was in Utah, a few of the youth assisting the people on watch decided the watch commander was getting a little too serious, with Teri's prompting. Last I saw, they were carrying him out of the command center in search of a pool while his second took over. Before he was carried out, Teri reminded them that they were dealing with people who didn't do this kind of thing every day; they just needed to prioritize and only step in if they saw assistance wasn't even trying to respond. After that, she passed on some comments she'd heard in the U.K. about how amazed everyone was at the coordination they were achieving. The thing is, it took her telling them how proud she was personally of their efforts that brought smiles to every face; I almost think her praise meant more to all of them than a Presidential Citation would."
"It does." Byron interrupted. "Our Unit brothers honor less adults than I have fingers. The only two whose opinion matters more than Aunt Teri are Momma Janet and Poppa Joe. None of them give a crap what the world thinks, as long as those three approve of what they are doing. When Aunt Teri adopted Jory recently it sealed her place; as one of the original escapees he was one of the first to be taken in by Janet and Joe. When he asked her, with Momma Janet and Poppa Joe there giving him support, in a way he was asking Aunt Teri to officially accept the entire Unit, even though she already was looked up to by most of them. As soon as she said yes, she became an honorary mother to every single Unit member."
Mitch nodded. "That explains them all calling her 'Momma Teri', now if I could just figure out how she remembers all of their names I'll be happy."
"I'll answer that one, Uncle Mitch!" Tyler giggled as he carried a tray of cookies in. "Momma is the one who gave Sean his big memory. Jamie and Jacob helped her set up a better filing system, so now she can remember all of the family. Usually she waits until she meets the new guys, but for the Unit she asked Daileass to give her a download so she could acknowledge her family properly. A lot of them know she did that, and it makes them like her more since she took the time to find out everyone's names and faces."
Phillip chuckled at the bemused look on Mitch's face as he watched Tyler put the platter on the table then worm his way onto Hal's lap for a quick cuddle. "I don't believe we've met, little one."
"Yeah we have!" Tyler giggled. "Did you know cuddle skills are genetic? Hal's got the same cuddles as Sean does! Oh, yeah, I'm Tyler Short; last time I saw you was about 1827. You were a cute eight-year-old, what happened?"
It was unclear as to which triggered the rest of the group to fall into uncontrolled laughter; it was either Ty's comment or the look on Phillip's face. More than likely, it was a combination of the two. Either way, it took a full five minutes before any intelligible conversation could be attempted.
Once they had mostly recovered, Tyler prompted "Do you remember the sanitarium in south Texas? The one out in the middle of nowhere?"
Phillip nodded. "I try not to; to this day I have no idea what happened."
Tyler grinned. "That was my son Levi that you were playing truth-or-dare with back then. We jumped back 'cuz you were needed to make things happen in your future from then. I was given the authority to judge the people who put y'all in jail; even by the standards back then they were criminals. The good people 'happened' to be scheduled to be off the day we decided to do our thing, while all the bad people were scheduled to be on-duty. The bad guys who didn't work there came down with non-contagious Andorian flu somehow; it was a really bad strain, too."
"So YOU were responsible for an epidemic years before the disease was known to the medical community?" Bones growled.
Tyler nodded. "I asked 'Tonio how to do it safely after 'splaining what they did. He just wasn't 'posed to say anything until after today to prevent a bad loop."
"I sent Test Strain forty-seven-D," Antonio added. "That one was the safest one to use, and it had negative responses to the medications of that time period."
"That explains why everyone affected died before they could start on a cure." Bones stated. "Now explain the four children that were lost."
"They were just misplaced, Uncle Bones!" Tyler explained. "Levi used his patented body replacement trick; they joined the group who've spent the last two months getting culture updates. There were a dozen kids who couldn't go with Phillip's group when we got done, including those four. 'G' told us to bring them back to yesterday, and they've been up at the Intel base spending the two months getting to know the world now before coming down today."
"I need to talk to your father-in-law; that actually made sense!" Bones chuckled. "I still expect a full report before I go to bed tonight, no matter what day it is or was to you."
"Yes, SIR! By the way, I already made you an appointment at seven!" Tyler giggled. "Phillip, you made a big impression on my son, and not just because of the smiley birthmark he found on the underside of your nuts, either! He likes you as a friend, which is why things got weirder than we planned."
Ty waited for Phillip to stop blushing and the rest of the kids to stop giggling before continuing. "Out of all of our boys, Leev is the most dangerous if he gets mad. He couldn't do anything evil even if forced to; Kyle and I didn't realize what making a true innocent kid would mean. If he gets mad and acts, things get nasty from an outside view. What was being done to you and your family set him off, that is why there was a tornado in a cloudless sky. As soon as I popped you all out and dropped you in Mississippi, he caused the building and the little town that supported it to be flattened. To this day, nothing's been built there, the legends say it's cursed ground."
"I know which parent HE got his temper from, Mr. 'blow-the-roof-off-CIC'." Antonio smirked.
"One little loss of control and nobody lets me live it down!" Ty pouted.
"Now that sounds interesting. I would also like to visit the cursed ground someday." Ranger smiled at Jackie, "Think of the gossip that would be going around if we walked on that land." Then he started to laugh.
Jackie just shook his head, then giggled, "You enjoy stirring the pot. I can picture the looks on peoples faces."
Byron shook his head. "Just so you know, after Tyler got done with his hissy fit we had to completely rebuild this building from the ground up. Don't let him fool you; people who cross him don't like the results."
Ranger and Jackie both took a moment to really look at Tyler. Then they looked at each other and smiled, "Yep, we can see that. He is like a dynamite, he may come in a small package, appear stable, but one wrong step and light the fuse and BANG! Better not be in the immediate area or you may get crushed in the aftermath of the explosion."
Jackie added with a smile, "And the halo, puppy dog look and pouty smile only adds to the truth of the topic."
Bones shook his head, and reached for the tricorder sitting on the chair next to him. "One thing I've learned; NEVER leave home without one of these when the Clan's involved."
"Yep!" Antonio agreed. "Got mine right here!"
Nodding, Bones looked at Tyler. "No tricks, or I convince your oldest brother to assist me in giving you a FULL physical. Understood?"
Ty nodded quickly, sure that somehow Bones would 'convince' Galli to do just that.
Turning to Ranger, Bones asked "Do you remember how I showed you to work this while your stunt-partners were all recovering?"
"Ah, yes Doctor, I do. What or who would you like me to scan?" Ranger asked with a smirk as he took the tricorder from Bones.
"The answer on both counts is Tyler." Bones stated.
Jackie and Ranger started to laugh, "Well then, Tyler, could you please step over here as I do not wish to let go of my cousin yet."
Tyler popped over instead, not wishing to irritate Uncle Bones in any way. "Ready!" he giggled.
Ranger and Jackie's eyes widened as they first started to see normal human entries which changed to anti-energy warnings and then dual hearts beating in sync. "Wow, maybe dynamite is not powerful enough to describe you."
Then Jackie added, "but we know with two hearts he has double the love, hugs and cuddles to give."
"Look close;" Antonio said seriously. "You might be seeing humanity in the next few thousand years. You're right about one thing; Kyle, Ty, and their kids are all awesome cuddlers. They're also the most dangerous humans in existence if pushed to act against something. If they tell you no, I think you can see the reason why all of us take that as the final word. Also keep in mind that emotionally and personality-wise they are no different than any of us; they are our brothers, and THEY ARE HUMAN."
Ranger pulled Antonio in and hugged him, "Of course they are. It shows right here, that he is human first and foremost. And I am sure that anyone who takes the time to really see, look into their hearts, will see that too."
Jackie looked around the room, "For those of you who can't see this nifty little gadget the first thing we saw was normal human readings which suddenly changed to anti-energy warnings and when Ranger scanned over Tyler's chest we were able to see two hearts beating in sync with each other. Which I find very impressive. But remember, the first thing we saw was normal human readings."
Mitch cleared his throat. "I think that makes two of the three special nephews Teri told me I had that I now know. Come over here please, Ty."
Tyler nervously went over, suddenly unsure how his uncle was responding. "Yes, Sir?" he asked hesitantly.
Ranger could see the love in Mitch's eyes and body language, it was very subtle but it was there. He let out a relieved sigh.
Jackie noticed that Tyler acted the same way that Ranger did at times, very mature and confident one moment, and then insecure and very much the little boy he is the next. Jackie watched more closely the interaction.
Also picking up on Tyler's nervousness, Mitch slowly held out an open arm. "Come here little guy, I'm not gonna let you get hurt."
Matt let himself smile as he saw Tyler meekly slip onto Mitch's lap. 'He's getting better.' Matt thought to himself. 'He didn't cheat, he's allowing this to happen just like it would pre-Mikyvis. He's finally allowing himself to be a kid.'
Jackie also smiled, seeing how someone else approached people other than his parents was showing him that he had learned a lot from his parents.
Mitch, on the other hand, found that he had a very nervous boy on his lap. Speaking softly, he stated "I've already met your brother Quint, and witnessed his popcorn fetish. You don't need to worry; I'm proud to have both of you as nephews. I'm a little worried that Cory and Quint were discussing training your twin cousins, but I'm sure the world might have a chance at surviving it."
Tyler allowed himself a small giggle. "I'll warn Levi!"
Sensing that Ty was starting to relax, Mitch continued. "I'd really like to know more about you, Tyler. I did this when Sis adopted Cory, and I'm going to be busy for the next month doing the same for the rest of your brothers. One thing is certain; when Teri adopted you, that made you my nephew forever. Nothing you tell me can ever change that, and your grandparents drilled it into us that family means everything. That means you never have to worry about me accepting something you do. I might question it until I understand, but I'll never abandon you for who you are or what you do."
Jackie leaned back, still looking at Mitch holding Tyler, "My mom and dad said the same thing to me when they adopted me."
Ranger looked over, "I was always told that through the years by my adopted family. It seems that the best families realize that family means everything. Too bad more people didn't see that."
"Exactly, Ranger." Mitch stated, having overheard. "You mind telling all of us about yourself, nephew?"
Tyler nodded, then softly began. "Momma Teri used to babysit me after school. Just after Cory got to come back home, I found a note in a cereal box. I hadn't seen my parents for a couple of days, and the outside of the note said to take it to Momma Teri. I did, and that's when we found out they'd left me. Momma and Judge Joe set it up so Momma adopted me immediately, and I got to meet Kyle, who's my husband now. Later that day, Mikey told us that I had a brother, and we rescued him, then Momma adopted him too. When the stuff happened in Montana, me and Kyle were with Sean on the moon fixin' stuff. That's when Kyle's body started changing, and he became the first Mikyvis. We took a nap at the hospital in Charleston later after we got back, and that's when Kyle's body decided that it wanted company so it changed me into a Mikyvis too. We've had to do stuff to save the Universe from other higher races that most humans don't know about, and we've had a few kids. You'll meet them pretty soon I bet."
"That seems to have covered the big stuff!" Mitch said with a smile. "I assume somewhere in all of that you got married, since I heard that Kyle's your husband? Tell me more about the Mikyvis; the label does not change you being human, but I think it would be good to know what to expect if I'm told that someone is known as one."
Ranger looked over, "I, also, would like to know more."
Jackie didn't say a word, just got a funny grin on his face and his eyes looked blank for a few moments. All of a sudden he asked Ranger to float a paper origami swan over to Tyler. "It helps that I have a Mikyvis that visits in a room in my head. We make a lot of origami when he visits."
Tyler giggled as he caught the swan. "That's cheating, hon! Nice swan, you're getting good! Kyle's hanging out in Jackie's head, it's onea the perks of Jackie being a Division Director. Kyle's kinda like a massive telepath, and I'm a massive empath.We both can do what the other does, just not as good. We're kinda linked as one, so we always have part of us with the other one."
Ranger looked over at Jackie, "So, will we have privacy when we finally get to go on our honeymoon?"
Bursting out laughing, Jackie replied "I can't promise anything. Kyle said he might learn a few new things that he hasn't found during his travels through time."
Ranger groaned, "You are joking, I must believe you are joking."
"Oh Kyyyllleeee..." Tyler said sweetly, "the honeymoon suite on Archnania's open. Cam just changed the sheets!"
Everyone could have sworn that Jackie and Ranger seemed to flicker for a second, but those not in the know figured their eyes were playing tricks on them.
They also sat a little closer and somehow Rangers arm was around Jackie's shoulder and Jackie leaned his head against Rangers shoulder. Others just put it off as them moving sometime and they didn't notice.
At least they did until Tyler giggled. "You enjoy the break?"
Jackie glanced up at Ranger with a blissful smile on his face, "I didn't even realize a month had already gone by. It was good to be able to really get to know each other. Thank you."
Ranger kissed the top of Jackie's head, "And I concur."
Sensing the confusion he'd intentionally caused, Tyler explained. "Kyle and me sent them to Archnania, it's a planet we hang out on that exists outside time as you know it. We can do stuff like that since technically we exist almost everywhere at once; our bodies are just hanging out wherever or whenever we are focused on."
He then looked at the pair freshly back from their honeymoon. "You didn't adopt any trees like Julio did, did you?"
Jackie burst out laughing, then Ranger added, "Of course we did, how could I leave that cute, adorable, stumbling youngling behind. He loves our island home the best. And since he has reddish/orange leaves we named him Acer."
"Yeah, he's awesome." Tyler replied. "The other thing is our aging. We start out as an anti-energy form with a shield that gives us our human form. When we 'grow up', we can choose to be one of two ways. We can either be like Kyle and me, where we have bodies that kinda age in a way; they age at the pace of our home timeline, but if they die we regenerate with all our memories intact, so really we don't die. The other way is that we become pure anti-energy, and able to adjust our form at will. We just found out about this, and due to one of our boys having an issue we're learning to control how our bodies age if we choose this form. We can stay in the form that we were born in forever if we want to, but that leaves us open to the chance of something happening that forces a change. That happened to Kyle; he touched something that had a bad reaction to him and it hurt him so bad it forced his body to change over."
"Damnedest thing I've ever seen!" Bones interjected. "The little miracle boy grew a second heart while laying on the floor puking his guts out."
Ranger looked over at Tyler and a tear fell down his cheek. "I was always called my families eternal boy or forever childe. But, you, Kyle and your children are in fact the eternal boys or forever children. I know that I am eventually going to grow old and die. It may take me centuries to do this, but I know that my time will come. Sometimes I dreaded that thought of the time in front of me, after the years I already went through. For you, we are really going to have to come together and find ways to make sure we don't lose ourselves in time and find time to have fun. To always love, play, and laugh. For without these the years will be long and difficult."
"I'm in full agreement." Phillip added. "Suicide is high amongst our people, followed closely by insanity, due to the difference in aging. It sounds like you only have one of those as a possibility, but that is something we need to ensure never happens due to the possible consequences."
"There is? How, how could anyone consider ending ones own life. And insanity, how does that come into play." Ranger stopped and thought for a moment, "If they are not loved, if they are alone, hiding, isolated and haven't found their heart as I have, and as you have Phillip with your son, then yes, I can see that happening. So, together, as a family we all have an even better chance of survival. We must protect each other from those tragedies."
"Since Quint already gave you your wedding present, can I try to give you mine?" Tyler asked, trying to change the subject before it depressed him.
Jackie and Ranger looked at each other with a question in their eyes, then Jackie asked, "Um, what wedding gift did Quint give us?"
Jackie heard in his head, 'Quint changed your genetic makeup so that you will age at the same rate as your husband. He couldn't stand by and see Ranger lose his heart within just a few short years of finding you now could he. While he won't admit it he does have a soft spot."
Jackie yelled, "He did what?"
Ranger looked over at Jackie, "What? What did he do?"
"He, he, oh my, he, he..." Jackie couldn't stop stuttering.
Ranger started to get frustrated, "Would someone please tell me what he did."
All of a sudden Ranger heard Kyle tell him the same thing in his head.
Ranger got a big smile on his face, "Oh, what a wonderful wedding gift. Someone please tell Quint thank you from both of us."
Quint suddenly appeared in front of them. "You're welcome. Now Jory owes me three dozen cookies, neither of you passed out." Quint stated before vanishing once again.
Jackie looked over a Ranger, "he, he, he...." then Jackie hugged Ranger and cried tears of joy.
Ranger then looked over at Tyler, "And yes, Tyler, you may."
Tyler smiled, then called out "Mikey? I found them!"
Mikey appeared, a golden ball of energy cradled in the wings wrapped around his front. "You have Our Father's permission to restore that which was taken before its time, brother." Mikey stated seriously.
Tyler suddenly became very serious. "The powers of evil attempted to assist in the destruction of all that is Good when Earth was attacked; they failed in their efforts, but some were taken that must exist. The High Races of the Universe have been tasked with restoring those who were destroyed to the point that only the Highest could recover them. Under Mandate, I now order that which Must Not Be shall be restored into What Must Be." With that, Tyler's eyes began to glow a blazing purple, and tendrils of energy began to rise from the center of Jackie and Ranger's chests.
"The Eternal Children are hereby gifted with the return of one of their own. He is of them and by them from this point forth. That which is of each is commanded to replicate itself into the one that is of both." The tendrils joined, forming a large blob that slowly formed into the shape of a ten-year old. Once it had formed, Ty continued. "Saint Mikey of Urbandale, Protector of Gay and Abandoned Youth. If this body is truly pleasing to Our Father, place into it that which only He can bestow."
Jackie and Ranger watched, stunned as the tendrils moved from them to the child forming in front of them.
Mikey stepped forward. "Joshua Harris Kenton. As Commanded, you have been returned to your own. Behold your parents; that which was the Past is just a memory to you, that is To Come is now before you. Become as One with this body, as Mandated by On High." With that, Mikey used his wings to gently place the golden ball in the chest of the energy-body in front of him. The body almost immediately took on a more solid form, quickly becoming an extremely naked, freckle-covered unconscious ten-year-old boy, only standing because of Mikey's will. Mikey suddenly glowed gold, the aura surrounding the seemingly lifeless body. "Under Mandate from Our Father, I give you Life!" he stated in an echoing voice.
When Mikey started to speak, and Ranger heard 'returned to your own' he knew that this child had been a long lifer. Jackie was in total awe of what he was seeing.
Byron and Antonio slowly slid off of Ranger and Jackie's laps. The moment that Mikey said, I give you life, both Ranger and Jackie moved to kneel in front of and hug to them their new son. They both had tears running down their faces and huge grins on their faces.
They picked him up and moved back to the couch with him in their arms. As they got him comfortable, Ranger motioned for Byron and Antonio to resume their seats on their laps and join them in holding their new cousin.
Mikey smiled as the new family began bonding, then turned to Bones. "I have a Gift for you as well, Uncle Bones."
"I don't see no miracle balls, so what is it?" Bones replied.
Mikey smiled as he brushed his wing over the top of Bones' head. "Our Father has decreed that His Nexus needs certain Ones at their side. You Shall Not Pass until the last of the Nexus is Called Home." He then turned, his wings stretching to Antonio and Doc Austin. "You Shall receive this Gift as well; your Place in Our Father's plan is assured."
"At least I have companions to share my misery." Bones quipped. "You've got a physical scheduled in an hour, Angel Boy. All three of us will be attending."
"I'll be there!" Mikey giggled. "This should give Saint Peter a good laugh!"
"Umm, Mikey?" Tyler asked as he tried not to giggle. "Isn't Kyle one of the Nexus?"
"Exactly!" Mikey laughed. "Good catch, little bro!"
All three doctors exchanged worried glances, which turned into glares at the Angel before them.
"Gotta go!" Mikey exclaimed quickly before vanishing.
"If it makes you feel better, he was worse when he was alive!" Mitch chuckled at the three victims of Mikey's latest miracle.
His chuckles quickly subsided when all three doctors stood up. "Come with us; your physical happens now!" Antonio ordered in a tone that warned of dire consequences if not heeded.
With Doc Austin holding one of Mitch's arms, and Bones the other, Antonio ordered "George, take us to the Camp Little Eagle Isolation Ward exam room."
All three vanished, to re-appear in a spotless exam room, the red light above the decontamination lock indicating there was no escape for Mitch. "Strip." Antonio ordered as all three doctors started making adjustments to their tricorders.
"Why the isolation ward?" Mitch wondered, and began unbuttoning his shirt.
Antonio cackled, "So no one hears the screams."
Mitch wasn't sure that Antonio was joking, so he kept quiet while undressing. He hesitated when he got to his briefs, however, causing Doc Austin to prod "Drop 'em unless you're hung like a field mouse. All of us have seen plenty of what you've got hidden in there."
"Nice bedside manner," Mitch mumbled as he finished disrobing.
"I've taught him quite well, I think." Bones quipped. "Now have a seat on the biobed, we will be right with you."
Not having much choice, Mitch sat down. Antonio glanced over, then commented "Slightly above average. Don't be so shy, we've all got one."
Despite knowing how long Antonio had been alive, Mitch still found it uncomfortable to be sitting there nude with an apparent nine-year-old in the same room. What made it worse was the fact that all three were concentrating on their tricorders; it seemed like they were busy scanning each other.
To prove the point, McCoy muttered "Interesting. According to this, several aging indicators have actually reversed on you, Austin."
Antonio nodded. "Check me, Doc. My readings show Uncle Bones has regressed ten years and seems to still be regressing at a much slower rate."
Austin shook his head in wonder. "I match your findings; I think Byron's going to get a surprise though. It appears that your glandular functions have selectively decided to enter puberty. I'm seeing testicular activity that is off the chart, despite no apparent change in outward appearance."
"Maybe I'll let Mikey live after all." Antonio stated with a tilt of his head. "You might wanna warn the other adults that Byron's probably gonna yell tonight from surprise."
"I'm curious just how far he went; bring Byron by in a few days so I can get a sample." Bones stated seriously. "Knowing that little mischief making angel, we probably need to run a check on what he did to your future husband without telling us."
"Yeah; we better check Aunt Carrie too." Antonio replied.
Austin nodded. "Knowing his feelings about family, that's a good point."
"Okay; I think that answers those questions." Antonio stated. "Once all three of us get used to hearing each other think, we should be fine. Uncle Bones, would you mind assisting with the deep scan? Doc Austin, I'll need you to do a full genetic workup. Since he's Aunt Teri's brother, I'll handle the basic normal checks and inoculations."
"Ummm, can I request a minor change to that?" Mitch asked in a worried tone.
"No." all three doctors responded as one while approaching the bed.
"As a member of the Short family, Antonio is your primary physician." Doc Austin added.
As if proving the point, Antonio had Mitch stand, then without any warning began the time-honored manual test for a hernia. "Turn your head and cough." Antonio stated professionally as soon as his hand was in place.
Mitch gave a weak attempt at a cough, causing Antonio to state "I'm not moving my hand until you get it right. I'm a doctor; grow up and cooperate."
After a few tries, Antonio was finally satisfied. "Finally! Now lay down on the biobed with your hands behind your head."
Mitch complied, his face clearly showing his discomfort. Once he was in position, Antonio performed a quick but thorough check for any issues with Mitch's foreskin. Once done, Antonio looked Mitch in the eyes. "Now do you believe that what your neighbor did back when you were a kid didn't make you into someone that will get excited by a kid being near your genitals?"
Mitch gasped in shock. "WHAT? How did you...?"
"You submitted to a scan." Doc Austin answered. "As your primary physician, Antonio is automatically given access to any information that could affect your physical or mental health. You have just adopted some boys who are going to need physical contact which your current mental state would have issues with. This physical is real, but we also decided to assist you with breaking a chain from your past which could be detrimental to the emotional needs of your new children. You don't need to worry about having a physical reaction to a clothed son sitting on your lap for a cuddle while you are clothed; the chemical stimuli which would trigger that reaction were not present while Antonio performed your physical. If you tended to have physical reactions to youth, there would have been at least a small amount of change in the levels no matter how much you tried to suppress it or were emotionally resistive due to the situation."
"Before you ask," Bones added, "If we'd warned you, you wouldn't have given as accurate of a response."
Mitch looked at all three doctors in shock. "So the three of you were just looking for a chance to prove to me something I didn't consciously think wasn't right?"
"It's the things that you don't consciously think that cause the most trouble." Antonio explained. "My main specialty is pediatrics, for obvious reasons. I've spent a lot of time with the Clan shrinks and the Leech Patrol learning ways I can help them with troubled kids. A lot of it applies to adults as well, especially in your situation. The difference is that it had become so deep-seated in you over the years that you needed shock therapy to counter it. I know I'm cute; I hear it all the time from my Clan brothers; if I can't get a reaction out of your genitals by the contact necessary for the tests I did, then I'm confident that you have nothing to worry about."
"A conceited doctor? What a concept." Mitch commented with a groan.
"Conceit is a fault." Antonio deadpanned. "I have no faults, therefore I can't be conceited; I'm convinced."
As Bones and Austin exchanged amused glances, Mitch totally forgot his current state as he quickly reached out and pulled Antonio onto the bed with him and began tickling the miniature doctor.
After a few minutes of tickles, Antonio giggled "Look between your legs, Mitch."
Suddenly realizing what he'd done, Mitch stopped the attack and looked. When he saw that nothing had moved or grown, he turned his head to Antonio and asked "Why did you point that out?"
"Because absolutely nothing happened," Antonio replied with a smile. "Even with me rolling around and bumping into you, nothing happened. I was actually serious about the cute comment; the Triple Threat have told me that I'm one of the kids that even the straightest guys look at and think is hot. I've been around on a few rescues where there were pervs who acted on their attraction to kids, and as a general rule just seeing me causes them to react. I'm not the only one, but due to my mental age I can deal better with being told it happens. Even though you don't think of it, the worry was there that you'd do that too. I think you can really fight that now that you've had a safe chance to prove that you're not gonna repeat what happened to you."
Mitch thought about it for a minute. "Okay, that I can understand and agree with."
Doc Austin interrupted. "I just verified the genetics of what the twins found. Mitch, you have a family trait that you share with your sister. It's a very weak and passive empathic sense. You tend to understand the feelings of others, but the flip side of that is that you are hyper-sensitive to your own emotions. That is a contributing factor to your reactions from the past, and it might actually help your recovery now."
Mitch nodded. "Has anyone told the three of you that you have the strangest interpretation of medical procedures in the entire Federation?"
"Yes. I thanked them," Bones replied seriously.
"Just out of curiosity, what would you have done if you guessed wrong?" Mitch asked.
"We don't take that chance," Austin explained. "There is no way for you to leave this room, Bones has the bed on remote control to knock you out instantly, and I'm armed. Antonio's covered everything else."
"You could say that..." Antonio giggled. "Hey Rainbow Brain, you gonna share that cookie?"
"Nope!" Ezra said as he appeared sitting in the corner, half-way through eating a cookie the size of a pizza pan.
"See if I share with you!" Antonio fake-pouted. "Mitch, this is your grand-nephew Ezra. He's one of Kyle and Ty's sons. Standard Clan practice for interventions is to have a telepath listening to surface thoughts of the subject while the intervention is in progress. Since Ezzy can put himself out-of-phase with time, he was here the entire time but you couldn't see him. If you had any thoughts about doing something or something you would like to do but couldn't because of who was here, all three of us woulda known almost the same instant you thought it. At that point, we woulda went to plan 'B'; I don't think you woulda liked that, 'cause that plan don't care WHO you're related to."
"You seem a little hard-core here, nothing like how Alec was acting." Mitch observed.
Antonio nodded. "I am; and with good reason. One, you are going to be interacting with some of the most fragile youth in the Clan, and I'm not giving anyone a chance at repeating what we saved them from. Two, you will be interacting with my Patriarch and his family; the same rule applies there. The people who built this extended family will not suffer if I can stop it. Three, you just adopted two boys who will still be either prepubescent or early pubescent when you retire due to what they just lived through. Their safety comes first. You're gonna figure out pretty quickly that the fun kids you've met turn into real bastards if a kid or a good parent are put into danger. We let the adoptions go through with you involved only because our team had already determined that you had a ninety-nine percent chance of not being any danger as long as you were confronted with your past fairly soon. We actually fight to keep good families together, which sometimes means taking the hard line with one member to ensure the family survives intact."
"You haveta excuse Uncle Antonio," Ezra stated with a grin, "he hasn't been in a good mood ever since Bryce spiked his Geritol with boner pills."
Ezzy barely managed to shift his cookie to another dimension before he got hit by the pounce from Antonio. The next five minutes were spent with the adults watching the two boys wrestle on the floor, ceiling, walls, and any other surface that would hold them.
Ezzy pouncing Antonio into another timeline gave the hint to the rest that the intervention was done. Bones walked over and put a hand on Mitch's shoulder. "Don't hold his actions against him. That boy has lived through Hell, and doesn't have any qualms about protecting those he's close to. Sean is probably closer to him than any other Clan member, due to being the one leading the rescue that found Antonio. That means Antonio is being more protective than normal."
"I understand," Mitch nodded. "If I hadn't interacted with him before this happened, it would be different. I can see where he's coming from, so his caution makes sense. He really needs to practice delivery though."
"Yes he does. You still have the contents of your bladder." Bones stated matter-of-factly.
"I think I found his role model!" Mitch chuckled. "Keep an eye on him, Doc; he's gonna need someone to keep him on his toes."
"That's the least of his worries." Bones chuckled. "Trust me on that."
"Yeah, now he has to worry about getting Byron pregnant!" Austin sniggered.
"I think I'm going to need Joel's 'special' tricorder." Bones mused. "This could make living longer fun."