Memories Part 1: The Gathering

Chapter 39

DJ slowly awoke from the best sleep he'd had in a long time. He smiled as he realized who was snuggled in his arms; his boyfriend and soon-to-be brother Tanner. He began to wiggle free; but stopped when he heard a soft whimper from behind him and felt a small arm reach across his chest and take hold tightly. DJ's smile grew to a grin as he looked over his shoulder. Latched securely to his back was his long-lost little brother. DJ twisted around and ran his fingers through Timmy's bright red hair lovingly. After a minute of this attention, Timmy's eyes fluttered open and he smiled up at DJ.

"Kewl! You're really here, bro!" Timmy whispered.

DJ replied softly "Yes little brother, I'm really here. Did you sleep okay?"

"Yeah. I ain't gotta be scared no more that you'll get hurt. I was 'fraid I'd never get to meet you."

DJ shifted to where he could pull Timmy against his chest. As he hugged the small body of his long-lost brother he replied with a tear running down his face. "Now that I've got you, I swear you'll never have to worry about losing me again. You're a really special little fireball, and I ain't gonna lose you again."

Timmy snuggled tightly against DJ's chest. "I love you big brother. I ain't gonna ever let you get hurt again."

DJ sobbed softly as he replied. "I love you too little brother. I really don't know what I'd do without you now, you're really a part of me."

Timmy replied by snuggling tighter against DJ. A few seconds later, he asked shyly "Deej, can you take me into the bathroom?"

DJ was interrupted in framing a tactful response by the sound of someone giggling from the other bed. DJ turned his head and found Cory sitting there watching them.

"It looks like you got his seal of approval, DJ. He only schemes to get people into the bathroom he likes; you must really mean something to him since he's not including Ricky. You've got mine and Sean's okay; if we didn't trust you Timmy would not have been sleeping where he did last night. Go spend some time being a big brother; when he tries to talk you into a shower go ahead, I'll see you downstairs."

DJ smiled at Cory. "Thanks Cory; I think I'll do just that. Why are you guys so nice to us?"

Cory smiled back. "We'll talk about it over breakfast; right now get your little brother into the bathroom before I ground both of you!"

The boys all finally managed to make it down to the breakfast table. They waited patiently as Helen, Tommy and Tyler took turns bringing out omelets cooked to each individual order. Once everyone finished eating, Cory got their attention. "I was asked earlier why we are being so nice to our newest Clan members. I think it's gonna sink in better hearing it from all of us. DJ, since you asked, I think it's only fair you get your answer first."

Sean stood up. "DJ, the ONLY reason that Cory and I did not adopt you ourselves is that it would not be fair for you to have to answer to someone your own age. You are, and always will be, Timmy's big brother. Cory and I talked it over this morning; you are just as much our son as Timmy, but asking you to respond to me as a parent when I'm only a couple of hours older than you is just wrong. Tanner, Toby, Beau; that goes for you guys too in a different light. The three of you are about to become Timmy's brothers by adoption; if we had decided to adopt DJ the three of you would have been included. That means that once the adoption is final, you all have a little fireball as a brother. Russ, Sara; as of now we want you to know you have our permission to treat Timmy just like the rest of your sons. That includes straightening him out if he gets in trouble."

DJ had tears running down his face as he replied to what he just heard. "Two weeks ago I had someone I didn't even want to call my father; now I've got two dads, a pop, and a mom, not to mention a boyfriend who's also my brother plus three more brothers. I don't know what to do or say; I'm scared I'm gonna wake up and this is all a dream."

Cory walked over and pulled DJ into a hug. "DJ, it's not a dream. This is your reward for surviving the hell you lived through. Sean and I don't expect you to call us Pop and Dad; if you want to and it's okay with Russ and Sara you can. If you do, plan on seeing people outside our group giving you weird looks!"

To everyones surprise, Tanner spoke up. Turning to Russ, he asked "Dad; is it okay if we call Cory and Sean Dad and Pop sometimes?"

Russ smiled as he replied. "Guys, if it wasn't for those two all of us wouldn't be here. If you feel comfortable with it AND you promise not to confuse people with it I'm fine. Just remember that they have the same rights with you guys as they have given us with Timmy. You don't know this; but Teri, or should I say your Grandma, told me last night that legally Sean and Cory are adults. That means that even though they are your age, they have to answer for their actions just like Sara and I do. If they tell you to do something, listen and do it."

All four boys agreed. A few more minutes were spent discussing their status within the group, then they all split off to take care of their daily business.


Russ couldn't help but smile as he looked at the passengers in the Hummer. When him and Sara announced they were taking their new sons out to get some clothes, they suddenly found they had a mini-army that insisted on coming along to assist. At first Russ and Sara tried to argue, but they gave up after Tommy informed them 'There ain't no way we's lettin' no grownups pick our nephews new clothes. Y'all's got no sense of whats cool.' Now they had DJ, Tanner, Toby, Beau, Tommy, Adam, Tyler and Timmy joking around in the back as they headed out to Jordan Creek Towne Center to raid the clothing stores. Ian managed to con his way into joining the group, but Cory and Sean begged off on the trip; saying there was no way they were going to miss a chance at some alone time.

In the back, Adam giggled as he watched Timmy bouncing between his big brother and his soon to be brothers. As Timmy started his third round on DJ's lap, Beau moved over and sat next to Adam.

"Adam?" Beau asked shyly.

"Yeah little guy?" Adam replied as he placed an arm over Beau's shoulder.

"Please don' get mad, but I wanna know something."

"I won't get mad; go ahead. If I'm gonna be your uncle I gotta be there to answer questions for you."

The boys fell silent waiting to hear what Beau was going to ask. "Okay. I kinda looked at ya when you got up this mornin. I know Sean told us about what happened to you, but when I saw all them marks I felt sick. Would it hurt if I touched them?"

Adam was blown away, he definitely didn't expect the question he was asked. "I guess it's okay. I'll let you know if it starts to hurt." He carefully pulled up his shirt and sat forward to give Beau access.

Beau gingerly reached out and gently ran the tip of his finger over the large scar that ran the length of Adam's spine. Silent tears rolled down Beau's face as he finished tracing the large scar and began working his way through the smaller visible scars using both hands. It only took him a couple of minutes to work through all of the accessible scars on Adam's chest, back and arms. Beau sat back and placed a hand over his eyes, now audibly sobbing softly.

Adam pulled Beau onto his lap and held him tightly. "It's okay lil' guy; the people who did this ain't gonna hurt anyone no more. I'm gonna be okay."

Beau spoke through his sobs. "Look at my arm, Uncle Adam."

Adam looked down, and was shocked to see a map of the injuries on his arm fading from Beau's arm. "What did you do? Are you okay?"

Beau had mostly recovered, and asked Adam "Does it feel different where I touched you?"

Adam thought for a second before replying. "Yeah, I don't feel the spots I was hit there."

Beau gave a small smile. "Jamie and Jacob were right then. They told me that they thought I could make someone not hurt by touching them. It don't heal ya, but it stops your hurts. I felt what you was feeling. Why was you lying to everyone and tellin' them you didn't hurt?"

Adam was shocked. "The rest of the guys needed help a lot more than me; I didn't want anyone worrying about me."

"Please don't do that. Too many people love you."

Tommy interrupted. "Yeah, bro. If we don't know you're hurtin', then we worry sumthin's wrong when you don't wanna do stuff."

Adam looked at the faces surrounding him; all of them showing concern. "Dang it guys, y'all worry too much. Beau can tell ya, it was just my bruises hurtin'; there was nothing major wrong. Beau, that's an awesome talent you got there; if you don't mind, I think I'll have to get with you later for the rest of the spots. How long does it last?"

"I don't know; it's the first time I've done it. I'll do the rest as long as you promise not to hide hurting from us again."


Tanner waved Beau over to join him. "Hey bro, I do have a question for ya'; whats the deal with you, Jamie, and Jacob? Y'all seemed kinda tight when they were here, and you've kinda been down since they left."

Beau blushed as he took a seat. "Jamie and Jacob talked to me a lot while we were on the Enterprise. They knew Toby and I were gonna end it all until we met you guys on the bus. They told me all about their old life; even stuff Justy don't know. They had it really bad, I guess I kinda like them both since they shared with me what they had to live with."

Everyone turned their heads to look at Ian as he announced, "I'll do it, Timmy." Ian took a deep breath. "I guess William and Duke like me. I can hear them in my head!"

William squawked from his perch on the rear shelf, nodding his head.

Ian continued. "Kyle's talking to the twins and Duke's relaying it. They're not ready to tell everyone what all happened; they said thanks Beau for keeping the secret. Did y'all notice how they always do stuff together? They have spent all of their lives supporting each other, and even though they are in a safe home they still can't handle it if the other one's not around. Until they met Beau, they had figured they'd never have a boyfriend. All the guys they liked were either taken or would have weirded out about having to share them. Beau, you're different. As soon as they scanned your head like they do for all the new guys, they knew you were different. I guess the best way to say it is you're the third part that is going to make them complete. William just told me that the Book Of Life has updated again; and thanks to you, their future just got better."

Tanner smiled as he put his arm around Beau. "Bro, I guess that means you got a pair of boyfriends, don't it?"

Beau managed to turn an even deeper shade of red. "I dunno. I guess that'd be kewl, but I ain't asked and they didn't either. I really don't know how."

Ian surprised them all with his next move. He moved over by Toby, and shyly spoke. "Toby, I ain't doin' this just for show; this is for real. Can we... I mean... would you be my boyfriend?"

Toby was speechless for a second. From being with Ian the last couple of days, he had already learned that Ian was quiet and shy about expressing his thoughts. "Ian, I've been wanting to ask you the same thing since I met you, but I was scared you'd say no." Toby reached around and pulled Ian into a hug. "Yes, I'd love to be your boyfriend!"

As everyone congratulated the new couple, Tommy pulled Beau off to the side. "When we git back home, you're callin' the twins on the console. Y'all need to settle this, ain't none of y'all gonna be settled 'till ya' do. Maw's been harpin' me to start lookin' out for myself, I guess that means I'm needin' to be lookin' out for kinfolk too. Cor called you our kin this mornin'; so y'all are gittin' treated as such. Get to thinkin' 'bout what you're gonna say, you ain't gonna be happy 'less you do it."

Beau just nodded his head as he tried to figure out what he was going to do.


Russ did a quick head count as the group left Yonkers and headed for the Food Court. He was pleasantly surprised at the choices the boys made in clothes; the 'uncles' made sure that the choices were not too plain or too outlandish. Once he was sure everyone was still with them, he led the group over for lunch.

On their way over, Adam had to hit the restroom; as he was coming out he heard someone say hesitantly, "Adam? Adam Short?"

Adam turned to see who was talking; and was surprised to find one of Sean's teammates, Clint Anderson. He had met Clint at the party two weekends ago; but was surprised that Clint recognized him. "Hey Clint, wazzup?"

Clint smiled. "Not much, just chillin'. How you doin', last I saw you was kinda messed up."

"I'm healing slowly. Thanks for asking."

Clint joined Adam as he headed to the group's table. "Hey, Adam, I know your mom said if anyone needed help to call her. Does that apply to straight kids too?"

Adam suddenly stopped and gave Clint his full attention. "You better believe it; straight, gay, from any planet in the Federation, it don't matter. What's up?"

"Well, I kinda goofed up, and I think I got my girl pregnant. Crystal is cool with it, but we think our parents are gonna blow. I know my dad's gonna beat my butt raw; her dad is worse than mine. When I met him, he not only told me he'd cut my nuts off if I touched her, he showed me the knife he'd use to do it. The bad part is, if she is pregnant I want to raise the kid. I'm adopted, and I know what it's like wondering why your parents got rid of you. She agrees, but we both know her parents are gonna force her to get an abortion."

Adam shook his head. "Dude, you ain't kiddin' you need help. I'm glad I'm gay; if JJ gets pregnant, it really is a miracle. Come on, I want you to tell Russ and Sara what you just told me; they can call Mom and fill her in. Is Crystal here?"

"Yeah, she should be coming out of the restroom any time."

"Get her and bring her over, she needs to be involved in this too."

As Clint went to get Crystal, Adam hurried over to Sara and Russ. "Sara, did you bring that tricorder Doc gave you?"

Sara gave Adam a worried look. "Yes, what's wrong?"

"We might need to do a pregnancy check."

Russ chuckled. "Adam, I really don't think you have to worry. JJ's not THAT good!"

Adam shot back with a grin. "Don't be so sure, he carries a lot of magic in that wand of his! Trust me!"

Sara giggled at Russ's flushed face. "You should know better, Russ. You're an easy target!" She then turned back to Adam. "Okay, on who?"

Adam motioned towards Clint, who had just joined Crystal and was talking to her. "Clint's girl Crystal. If she is, Mom might have to pull some strings for both of them."

Sara looked over at the couple; they appeared to both be in their mid-teens, with matching medium blond hair. The body structure of both indicated that puberty was well along. As she watched, they headed towards the table, both obviously nervous. After they arrived, Adam did the introductions. "Russ, Sara; this is Clint Anderson and his girlfriend Crystal."

Russ stood and shook both of their hands. "It's a pleasure to meet you. Adam said that you might need some help; he hinted that Clint's little head took over thinking from his big head and now you might have a problem. Have a seat, tell us about it."

As Clint recapped what he told Adam, Sara scanned Crystal with the tricorder. Once Clint was done, Sara gave her findings. "Crystal, Clint; you performed an adult act, and seem to be willing to be responsible for the consequences. I've talked to Teri quite a bit, and am pretty sure that if even one of you has problems with your family over this, both of you will be taken in for your own protection if she thinks it's needed for your safety. If your parents respond the way Clint thinks they will, both of you will be removed from your families. Are you both willing to take that step, and more important are you willing to stay there for each other?"

Sara was impressed to see that both of them thought it over before responding. Crystal answered first. "My Mom had a heart attack in her sleep last year, so now it's just Dad and me. He doesn't like Clint; in fact he's hated ever boy I've even been friends with. Once, he threw a boy across the yard then slapped me so hard I got a black eye; just because the boy kissed me. I love Clint; if I didn't we wouldn't have done it."

Clint took his cue. "Like I said, I'm adopted, and any time I screw up they throw it in my face. I don't want to put another kid through that, and I know abortion is just legal murder. I love Crystal and want to spend my whole life with her. If she's pregnant, I'll do whatever it takes to protect her and our child."

Sara smiled. "Good answer, both of you. Give me your numbers, I'll get Teri to have your parents over. Crystal, whats your last name?"

Crystal relaxed slightly knowing they had support now. "It's Thornton."

"Okay; have a seat, we'll head out shortly. By the way, start thinking up names; you'll need three of them."

The sudden silence at the table was broken by Timmy. "William says they're all little boys too!"

Russ placed a hand on each of the shocked couple's shoulders. "Congratulations! I think there are going to be three boys who will have some very good parents. If things go down like we think they will, I promise you'll have all the support you need with them."

Crystal finally found her voice. "How does he know they are boys? He's on the other side of the table! And who is William?"

Russ chuckled. "Relax; you're about to meet a very special group of boys and young men. As compensation for the trouble they have all lived through, it appears that Our Heavenly Father has Blessed some of them with some additional skills. The little redhead over there is Timmy. Do you see the eagle sitting on his lap?"

As Crystal and Clint looked over, William stuck his head over the edge of the table, his beak open and his little tongue hanging out.

"The eagle is William; I can tell you for a fact that him and Timmy are able to talk to each other. William is what the Indians call a 'Spirit Guide', and Timmy basically acts as his interpreter. A couple of the guys can read minds and emotions; I'm going to make sure they are watching your parents while we give them the news. If any of them see that your parents are faking accepting it to make Teri happy, they'll speak up and Teri will respond according to what they find."

Clint looked over at Adam. "Dude, is he for real?"

Adam smiled. "Oh yeah, he's for real. He's seen all of us in operation; in fact they have four new sons thanks to us."

As soon as Adam made the comment, DJ, Tanner, Toby and Beau raised their hands. DJ spoke for the four of them. "Trust me, you guys are safe. The FBI won't even mess with these guys. If Teri says you need protection, you've got it. I'd tell you to ask my ex-father, but last I heard he was building fires in Hell."

"DJ!" Russ said in shock.

DJ grinned. "Sorry Dad, but that's what Uncle Mikey told me!"

Russ shook his head. "I think I'm gonna have to have a talk with that boy!"

The table broke into laughter when Tommy quipped "Don't bother, Russ. Mikey is just denser than a force field sometimes!"

Adam took over the conversation one it quieted back down, introducing the rest of the group while Sara called and filled in Teri on what was happening. Thirty minutes later, they were finished eating and headed back home.


Teri, Dan and John took their seats at the table and looked around to ensure everyone was present. To John's right was Mr. Thornton; next to him was Mr. and Mrs. Anderson. Finishing out the side of the table were Sean and Cory, both in full uniform. On the opposite side of the table sat John, Clint, Crystal, Sebastian, Sammy, and Tommy. At the end of the table sat Robin and Kayla.

Teri introduced everyone, then began. "Clint and Crystal approached one of my sons today to ask for assistance with a problem they are having. At their request, I arranged this meeting to discuss it in a controlled environment. Does anyone have any questions before we begin?"

Mr. Anderson spoke up. "Yeah, this ain't none of these kid's business, get them out of here. Those Starfleet costumes don't impress me."

Before Teri could reply, Cory waved her off and stood. "Mr. Anderson. I am afraid Director Short was in error during her introductions. Let me clarify the duties of the persons attending this meeting. My presence here is two-fold. In one regard, I am present at the request of Director Short as a representative of Starfleet. In that regard I am acting as Ensign Cory Short, Engineers Assistant, assigned to the USS Enterprise. My secondary function here is as my official title; Patriarch of Clan Short of the family of Sarek of the planet Vulcan. Your offspring approached a member of Clan Short for assistance; if at any time during this conference I determine that it would be logical for Clan Short to assume responsibility I will declare such. Present to my right is Ensign Sean Short, Helm division, USS Enterprise. Present to Miss Thornton's left is Samuel Martin and Sebastian Martin. Both are Clan Short Intelligence, and are here at my request. The final Clan member to the left of Sebastian Martin is Thomas Short, Communications Officer for Clan Short. His presence is required due to the probability of Clan Short involvement; he will be logging these proceedings. Have I clarified the necessity of our presence sufficiently?"

Anderson growled "Yeah, you proved your a punk who knows a lot of big words." He started to reach over to push Cory, but suddenly found John holding his arm.

John flipped out his credentials with his free hand before speaking. "Mr. Anderson, let me refresh your memory; I'm Commander John Martin, Starfleet Security. I would highly recommend you sit down and relax. You just about put yourself in a serious situation. If you would have made contact with Patriarch Short, I would have no choice but to put you under arrest for assault on a Vulcan Dignitary. Once he identified himself as such, Patriarch Short is no longer operating as a Starfleet witness. I assure you he is not playing a game; I can also assure you he has no sense of humor in this capacity. He is literally the most powerful fourteen-year-old on Earth, take my advice and don't cross him."

Anderson glanced at Cory, expecting to see a smug look. He was surprised to see an expressionless face looking back at him. "These guys are serious! What the hell is going on here!" he thought as he sat down.

Once everyone was re-seated, Teri began. "This will be easier if I describe the situation. I'm sure all of you know that Clint and Crystal are dating. You may not be aware of this, but they are committed to each other and plan to marry upon reaching adulthood."

Cory stopped Teri. "Director Short, I must inform our guests that I have security personnel standing by with phasers set to stun. They have been instructed to disable any occupant of this room which attempts a hostile act or logically appears to be doing same."

Teri took the hint, one of the twins had signaled Cory there was going to be trouble. "Thank you Patriarch Short. Everyone, he's not joking, and if he's got who I think he does behind those phasers they are crack shots. The reason Clint and Crystal came to me is they made an error in judgment due to their love for each other. They are both very mature for their age; most fifteen year olds would have panicked. Federation Child Services has performed a med scan on Crystal, and we have determined that she is pregnant with triplets; additionally they are confirmed to be Clint's children. The couple has declared their wish to keep the children and raise them."

Crystal's father landed halfway across the table, hands outstretched towards Clint. The Andersons watched in shock as John calmly walked over, sat him back in his chair, then restrained him. He turned to Cory. "Sir, how long will he be out?"

"At the setting Mr. Michaels is using, approximately seven point three minutes Commander."

John nodded. "Mr. And Mrs. Anderson, it look like you have about seven minutes for your response, we already know his."

John glanced at his sons, both of them frowned, telling him they still needed to watch the Anderson's. John signaled behind his back to the security team to keep on guard, then took his seat.

Before either of them could speak, Sebastian stood up. "Mr. And Mrs. Anderson, don't bother. Patriarch Short, we have determined the unborn children and possibly their parents are in lethal danger."

Cory stood up. "Report, Mr. Martin."

"Mrs. Anderson intends to perform an abortion with a clothes hanger on Miss Thornton. In addition, Mr. Anderson intends to beat his son, using a leather strap and/or bare fists. He is also considering the same for Miss Thornton. We also found that Mr. Anderson fully intends to remove Clinton's testicles with his military Bowie knife."

"Acknowledged, Mr. Martin. Notify me of any additional developments. Director Short, Clan Short requires you to invoke the Safe Haven Act based on the information you just received."

Mr Anderson stood up. "Now wait just a cotton-picking minute! What's this 'Safe Haven' bull; and where do you get off basing anything on some little punk blowing smoke out his ass? I'm taking my son right now, and as soon as he's safe I'm calling the cops and reporting you for attempted kidnapping!"

He started to continue, but froze as he felt two phasers at his back.

"Mr. Anderson, I would suggest you take your seat." JJ said from behind him.

Once he sat down, JJ and Gabe stepped back towards the wall and held their phasers at the ready.

Seeing things were under control and that Mr. Thornton was awake, Teri began. "The Safe Haven Act is a law that was passed by the Federation Council back in 2002 which protects children and youth from unsafe or abusive situations and abandonment. Tommy, Sammy, and Sebastian are all three recipients of that protection. As far as Sebastian's report, it bears more weight in a court of law than a signed confession. The twins are telepaths, and have been trained to Vulcan standards for collecting evidence. Since their accounts have been accepted by Patriarch Short, I have no choice but to honor his request. As of this time, I hereby take custody of Clinton and Crystal under the Safe Haven Act, article sixty-seven point six. From this point forward, you are to have no contact with either of them. Failure to heed this no contact order will result in prosecution under Federation law in a Federation court. You will remain here while Federation Security escorts both youths to retrieve their personal belongings. You will be given the chance to review same belongings before you depart; once you depart any claims to same belongings are null and void. Any attempt to bring theft charges against either youth will be considered contact and prosecuted as such; in addition civil courts will be given the option to charge you for filing of a false report. Do you understand and acknowledge these stipulations?

"Yes" All three adults replied in a beaten tone.

Tommy spoke for the first time. "I have acknowledgment. Case number Two-F-Seven-Dash-CPS-Four-Nine-Eight-DHQ is filed and former guardians acknowledgments are on record. Clint's case file is on your terminal, Mom."

Robin spoke up. "Teri, what is it going to take to get custody of them?"

Teri smiled. "Seeing as I have all of your information on file, you are halfway there. Kayla, you and Ian need to be in on the decision too."


Teri, Robin, Kayla, Ian, Clint, and Crystal were sitting in the living room, winding down from the earlier excitement.

"I don't believe he tried to claim my underwear was his property!" Clint chuckled.

Teri laughed. "I know, he was getting pretty pathetic. The twins told me he was going to pull that before you even got back; I wish I had a picture of his face when they started listing off everything you left that was legally yours. Oh, the couple of things you forgot about that you did want have been taken care of, they're with the rest of your stuff. Transporters come in handy, we even got your teddy bear from when you were in the group home. I think your sons will love having something their Daddy used to cuddle with."

Kayla smiled at Clint's blush. "Don't be embarrassed; all kids have one of those. It might not be a bear, but they all have a special cuddle toy. Ian's still got his raccoon; and still uses it if he feels lonely."

"MOM!" Ian moaned.

Clint giggled. "Don't worry Ian; the only reason I didn't still use mine is it was hidden from me. Where was it?"

"In the basement" Teri replied. "Your old mom hid it from your old dad, he was going to burn it. Not to change the subject, but does anyone have any problems with Clint and Crystal moving in with y'all?"

Kayla was the only one to speak. "Is either one of you going to have a problem with Ian being gay? I'm sure someday he's going to have a boyfriend."

"No problemo!" Clint replied. "I've got a few gay friends, in fact some of them live here. It's no different having a gay little brother; I'll protect him either way."

"That goes for me too." Crystal replied. "As long as he don't mind me asking advice on fashion; I'm a klutz when it comes to picking out clothes!"

Ian giggled. "I can do that! Oh, Mom, I do have a boyfriend - Toby! He said YES!"

Ian suddenly found himself in the middle of a parent sandwich, as Robin and Kayla expressed their joy at his new-found happiness. Clint and Crystal looked at each other, then went over and joined the hug.

Teri waited for the congratulations to die down, then announced "I guess its official; y'all are now a family!"


Tommy looked over his shoulder at Cory; he was standing behind Beau with his hands crossed over Beau's chest, trying to calm Beau's nerves.

"Hang in there Beau; we're gonna stay right here with you." Tommy said softly.

Cory smiled as he squeezed Beau. "You better believe it; no matter what happens we're here for you. You ready?"

"I guess so; are you sure they won't laugh or hate me?" Beau asked.

"I'm sure." Cory replied as he gave Tommy the nod to go ahead.

Tommy entered a command into the terminal in front of him. A couple of seconds later, Josh came on the screen. "Southcrest, how may I help you?"

"Hey Uncle Josh; are the twins available."

"Hey Tommy. Just a second, I'll see if I can catch them. They just dumped an ice tray down the front of Zac's pants; last I saw he was chasing them around the dining room table."

"Tell Zac I said pick on someone his own size!" Cory yelled.

"I'll be sure to tell him that." Josh chuckled as he turned away to get the twins. A minute later, Jacob and Jamie appeared in front of the screen, grinning but out of breath. "This better be good, Tommy; we just about had Zac!"

Tommy grinned back. "I think you'll like this. Cory and I have someone here who wants to ask you guys a question. When he asks, trust me he's serious."

Cory moved Beau in front of the screen. "Go for it. You'll never know until you ask."

Beau blushed and said under his breath. "I can't. I'm scared."

Jamie and Jacob looked at each other and smiled. Jacob spoke for them. "We could find out Beau, but we think it's gotta be important for you to be scared. Remember, it's us; there's nothing you could say that will make us mad at you."

Beau gathered up what little resolve he could, and blurted it out. "I love you guys and wanna be your boyfriend!"

Cory watched the screen as Beau tried to pull himself tighter against Cory's chest, sure he was about to be rejected.

The twins stood there speechless, mouths hanging open in shock. Jamie found his voice finally and whispered just loud enough to be heard "Did you mean both of us?"

Beau nodded his head, then returned to looking at his feet.

Jacob recovered. "Beau, look at us, please!"

Beau looked up; he was shocked to see both boys looking back at him with smiles on their faces and tears running from their eyes. Once they were sure he was looking, they gave their answer in stereo. "You really DO understand us! We had been tryin' to figure out what to do if you asked one of us since we both like you; we never figured you'd ask us both. We know things are gonna be weird sometimes, but YES!!!!"

Beau got a glimmer of hope in his eyes. "For real? REALLY!"


Southcrest Ranch, Orlando:

Jacob and Jamie's heads bobbed up and down like kids on pogo sticks. As Beau broke into a huge grin on the screen, Jamie turned his head and yelled "POP! DADDY! JUSTY! C'MERE!"

Justy was first into the room; as soon as he saw the trails of tears on their faces he ran over and put his arms around his foster brothers. "What's wrong bros? Who made you cry; I'll kill 'em."

By that time, Josh and Chip had joined the group. Cory figured he better help calm them down before things turned bad and came onto the screen. "Justy, put your fists away; those are tears of joy. You might wanna take a seat; your bro's have some good news."

Chip and Josh each put a hand on Justy's shoulders. "Settle down and hear them out, Munchkin."

Jacob and Jamie were not fazed by Justy's protective outburst. Both of them glowed with joy as they announced "Daddy, Pop, Justy; We got ourselves a boyfriend! Beau asked us and we said yes!!"

Chip and Josh looked at each other in shock. Justy broke free of his parents, knelt down, and looked his new brothers in the eyes. What he saw brought joy to his heart; the boys had a spark and life in their eyes he'd not seen since he first met them. Justy looked up at his parents and saw the doubt in their faces. "Daddy, Pop; it's right. Daddy, they've got the same light in their eyes you had when you came home from that New Year's Eve party after meeting Pop. I don't know how they're gonna do it, but they're happier now." Justy turned to the screen. "Beau, thanks buddy. Welcome to the family! I know this is gonna be new to you and my little bros; if you need help or advice just give me a yell."

The twins looked up at their new parents. Chip took one glance at Justy and Josh, then smiled broadly. "Congratulations guys. It looks like you got the approval of the leading matchmaker in Florida. Seriously, you guys deserve to be happy; if you honestly are going to be happy having Beau as both of you's boyfriend we'll give you the chance."

Josh turned to the screen. "Beau, you just made two boys really happy. I'll tell you now, you are moving into territory I wouldn't even attempt to try. All three of you need to ask for help for this to work; once you get down here, I want to sit down with the three of you as soon as you get here."


Short Residence, Des Moines:

Beau was all smiles. "This is for real, ain't it? The two cutest boys I've ever seen not only are my boyfriends, but their parents are happy about it! I was so scared y'all'd think I was weird 'cause I wanted to ask both of them; it's so kewl you want to help us! I hope Russ and Sara are this okay about it."

"Okay about what?" Russ asked as he walked into the room.

Beau was still riding the high of finding out he had Chip and Josh's support. "Jamie and Jacob said YES! They're my boyfriends now!"

Russ looked at the screen and saw the joyous faces of the twins, then looked at Beau and saw the same look in his eyes. "From the looks of the three of you, it doesn't matter what we think. Just for the record, I do wonder if you guys are old enough for a relationship; but I'm willing to support you if you're serious. Come here Beau; congratulations son."


Two Days Later:

Sean slowly looked around the yard. The adults had announced at lunch that the houses in Orlando were ready. Now all of the kids were relaxing in groups in the back yard; most discussing how this house had changed their lives in such a short time. It was sobering listening to them; even though Sean knew each story and had told them himself countless times, hearing it from the person it happened to was different. What was really getting to Sean was their claims as to the help they had received from himself and Cory.

Cory joined his boyfriend. "Hey babe; whats up? You seem kinda out of it."

Sean wrapped an arm around Cory's waist. "I don't know, Cor. These guys are makin' you and me sound like some sorta miracle workers. We mighta helped them, but I'm not sure about all the stuff they're sayin'."

Cory pulled Sean with him and found a seat. Once Sean was safely on his lap, Cory began. "Teddy bear, they are totally right; but it really is all because of you. If you hadn't stood by me when I was down, none of these guys would be here today." Cory saw the stubbornness in Sean's look. "You don't believe me, do you? I can think of one thing which proves my point. When we saved Adam, he was convinced he was worthless. A couple of days ago, he did something that I know he learned from you; he took charge and helped someone he barely knew. You're the reason that Clint and Crystal are going to be able to have a go at a life together. You might not have been there, but your big heart is contagious. That is one of the things I love the most about you.

Sean snuggled closer. "Thank's babe. I guess it's just too weird hearing people say I'm special; I just treat everyone like I wanna be treated. I guess Mom taught us good, didn't she?"

"Yep; but you learned better than me. I had to copy you and Mikey to figure out what to do."

The two boys cuddled for the next hour, then joined everyone as they joined in a group hug. As the hug was breaking up, Clint got everyones attention.

"Guys, I heard an old song yesterday. When I heard it, it hit me that it could be a theme song for all of you. Teri has a copy of it, come inside I want you to hear it.

Everyone followed Clint into the Rec Room. He played the song through, then looked at Cory. "What do ya' think, Cory?"

Cory smiled. "I think we need the lyrics real fast so you can play it again."

Sebastian giggled. "You're getting' slow Cory!" he announced as he brought the lyrics up on the big screen. "Play it again!"

The older boys who remembered the song took the leads as the rest kicked in on the chorus.


This ain't a song for the broken-hearted

A silent prayer for the faith-departed

I ain't gonna be just a face in the crowd

You're gonna hear my voice

When I shout it out loud



It's my life It's now or never

I ain't gonna live forever

I just want to live while I'm alive

(It's my life)

My heart is like an open highway

Like Frankie said

I did it my way

I just wanna live while I'm alive

It's my life


This is for the ones who stood their ground

For Tommy and Gina

who never backed down

Tomorrow's getting harder

make no mistake

Luck ain't even lucky

Got to make your own breaks


It's my life
And it's now or never
I ain't gonna live forever
I just want to live while I'm alive
(It's my life)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said
I did it my way
I just want to live while I'm alive
'Cause it's my life

Better stand tall when they're calling you out
Don't bend, don't break, baby, don't back down

It's my life
And it's now or never
'Cause I ain't gonna live forever
I just want to live while I'm alive
(It's my life)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said
I did it my way
I just want to live while I'm alive

It's my life
And it's now or never
'Cause I ain't gonna live forever
I just want to live while I'm alive
(It's my life)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said
I did it my way
I just want to live while I'm alive
'Cause it's my life!


"It's My Life"
Available on the Bon Jovi Album "Crush"
©2000 Bon Jovi / The Island Def Jam Music Group

The boys turned to the sounds of applause from the doorway. Dan spoke for the assembled audience. "Boys and Crystal, that song fits your lives to a tee. If that's the official song of Clan Short, I can't think of a more fitting one. Oh, you sounded awesome by the way!"

Russ chimed in. "When we get all set up in Orlando, I'm going to get the arrangements made so you can all record it. You really did sound good."

Sean got everyones attention. "You know, that really does fit all of us; but it's not just because of Cory and I. Every one of y'all got here today by being stronger than the ones trying to hurt you. Mom, Cory, and me mighta helped some, but y'all need to take credit for yourselves too. Together we might be hard to beat, but that's because of all of you."

Antonio smiled as he added "He's right, I've seen the changes in all of y'all since I got here, and they didn't do nuthin' to make you change; you did it yourself. Y'all are my family now, and I couldn't want a better one!"

The emotional charge of the room finally got to be too much, and all of the kids all huddled into another group hug. Once the hug broke, everyone separated into their respective families and began preparing the move to Orlando. The first group to leave was Russ, Sara, Robin, Kayla, and their new families. Matt and Helen rounded up their group next; they wanted to make sure the house was ready for Teri and her boys tomorrow. Andrew decided to go with Helen to give them a hand. Doc Austin rounded up his group and joined them, saying he wanted to get started setting up his new office.

Dan came in to the Rec Room and addressed the shrinking group. "Guys, I think its time to get our stuff from our old house. I want to do this as the family we've become. Teri, John, and I talked; we think each of our families deserve some one-on-one time without all of the craziness of the last couple of months. Enjoy the break guys. JJ, Kyle, Sammy, 'Bastian, let's head out."

Fifteen minutes later, Dan and John took their family in one of the limos to Dan's old house. Derek said his goodbyes, and Teri suddenly found herself with nobody but her sons and grandson sharing the house with her. She made the rounds of her boys, giving each a hug and kiss, then went to the kitchen to start supper. She was pleasantly surprised when Tommy and Tyler shyly followed her.

"Mommy, can we help?" Tyler asked with puppy dog eyes.

Teri pulled both boys into a hug. "I wouldn't miss that for the world guys."