"Dude, you're a lifesaver!" Tracy giggled as him, Karl, Julio, and Jesse searched for a spot where they could blend in for a while. "Now I understand why Cory sticks with hangin' out with close Clan family; if I hear 'I'm so honored to meet the Tenth' one more time, I'm gonna move into Timmy's zoo!"
"I figured that when I saw your face," Julio sniggered. "That's why I interrupted, nobody's gonna argue with me pulling you guys away for Director stuff. They just don't need to know that it's cookie sampling!"
"Hey, we gotta make sure the munchkins are only getting the best!" Karl interjected. "Cory put us in charge of the Divisions, so we gotta look out for them."
"Hey guys?" Jesse interrupted, "Kerry says we're needed at the front gate for a few; the State guys just raided a place near the Missouri line, and they want Julio there for the drop-off."
"Sounds like a road trip," Tracy nodded. "Emmy, could you please get Karl and I's winter coats?"
"Winter coats?" Jesse queried.
"Yeah, anything less than 70 is freezing!" Karl replied. "We'll get frostbite in Iowa in November!"
"Wimps!" Julio laughed. "Get your coats already, don't forget your mittens and stocking hats!"
"I wonder what's so unusual that the guys called us in?" Julio commented as they joined up with Benny and headed towards the main gate.
"No idea," Benny stated with a shake of his head. "They just told us incomings with special handling needed, and they needed the head twerp here."
"Keep it up," Julio threatened, "and you'll be sleeping with the kids!"
"Naw, you love me too much!" Benny giggled. "Besides, Jess'll join me, I cuddle better!"
"Karl?" Tracy quipped, "If I ever suggest joining the husband collecting crowd, remind me of this!"
No reply was needed, as Karl nodded his head rapidly while Julio, Jesse, and Benny blew raspberries at the pair. Satisfied that all had made their opinions known, the five boys resumed their journey to the gate. After a couple of minutes, they arrived and checked in with the guard.
"Hey Jason, where's the new guys?" Jesse asked.
"They should be here any minute now," Jason replied. "They wouldn't give me any more details when I talked with them a few minutes ago, so we'll see what's so important about this group."
"I think we're about to find out," Tracy commented as he noticed a small bus making its way through the entry drive.
"Game time!" Julio stated. "Jason, notify Medical to stand by for possible intake injuries."
"Gotcha, Boss," Jason nodded as he turned back to his shack.
By the time the bus was stopped, the leadership team was waiting near the door for whoever was slated to explain why they were interrupted at the party. They didn't have to wait long, as an Iowa State Trooper quickly made his way out the door. "Good afternoon, gentlemen; by any chance is one of you Director Hernandez?"
"That would be me," Julio admitted. "I received communication that you determined that this group may have members which require special handling."
"Yes, at least three if I'm right," the trooper replied. "Sgt. Sam Holden, Special Victims Unit," he added as he held out his hand.
Shaking Sam's hand, Julio replied "Director Julio Hernandez, Des Moines Division." While pointing each of them out, he introduced the rest of the group. "This is Assistant Director Jesse Crowley, Des Moines Division, Benny Roberts, Des Moines Divisional Headquarters Security, Director Tracy Butler, Alligator Alley Division, and Assistant Director Karl Butler, Alligator Alley Division."
"I believe you are missing some introductions, Director!" a firm female voice stated from behind the group.
"How'd I know you'd be here, Grandma?" Julio snickered as he turned around to find out who all had snuck in. "Sam, the lady holding the invisible baseball bat is our Divisional Grandmother, Grandma Morrison. The other two adults are Jesse and I's Mom and Dad, Mick and Janice Hernandez. The blond kid is Kerry Morrison, Des Moines Intel."
Grandma stepped forward, and after shaking hands with Sam suggested "I believe the children would be much more comfortable if they were to be seated on the grass over there. If you would be so kind as to arrange that, I will assist Director Hernandez with placing his plan for assisting them in motion."
Trying not to be obvious as he tried to get the blood flowing in his hand again, Sam replied "I think you're right" after catching Julio's nod in his peripheral vision.
As Sam quickly made his way to safety, Julio asked "Do I want to know how you found out about this, Grandma?"
Grandma Morrison smiled as she replied "We happened to be discussing another problem, and this seemed like a perfect time to solve it while we assisted you."
"That would be a 'NO'," Julio groaned. "Tracy, do you have room for us to move in down there?"
"I ain't crazy!" Tracy giggled. "Grandma would hunt me down if I stole her favorite Director from her!"
Hanging his head, Julio muttered "Why me?" before turning his attention to the thirty plus boys nervously finding seats on the grass. "Hey guys, listen up a sec." Once he had their attention, he continued, "When y'all got on that bus earlier, you were put under the protection of Family Clan Short. I'm Director Julio Hernandez, and I run this Division, no matter what a certain Division Grandma says. Y'all are gonna get a chance to talk with multiple people before we even consider what kinda help you need; remember that even the adults answer to me, and I'm not going to agree to anything that isn't what you and I both agree is best for you. The blond over there plotting with our Division Grandma is Director Tracy Butler; he's from the Alligator Alley Division down in Florida, and is the only one equal to me here today. The guy who looks like Tracy's twin is his husband Karl, the two guys next to me are my boyfriends Jesse and Benny, and the little guy helping Tracy plot is Kerry with Division Intel. All of them are able to speak for me and Tracy, so if they say they'll do something to help you, it's gonna happen."
"Where're ya gonna put us?" an older kid asked loudly. "I ain't stayin' in no detention center again."
Joining Julio, Tracy tapped his shoulder to let him know he'd take the question. "Julio didn't mention that I'm a blood brother of the Patriarch. Cory doesn't do detention centers, so y'all can forget ever seeing one again unless you break the law. We own a total of one orphanage, which we just took over and are planning to use as an intermediate stop for kids who need time to adjust to returning to society, but are not comfortable with any other options. Before the sun sets, y'all are gonna have the choice of multiple locations around the world to live at if you don't have a GOOD family that passes our checks to go back to. We have one compound that is secure if you think you're in danger - you're free to go in and out, but even the FBI can't come inside of it. You will choose where to go, not us. If you want to check a place out first, one of us will take you to look at it."
Another boy asked "The cop on the bus said it didn't matter what we've done, you guys would fix it so we ain't wanted by the police. How come you can do that, or was he bullshitting us?"
"I got this one!" Julio stated. "Y'all know how the Federal guys can come in and tell local police what to do? It's kinda the same thing; we're given our rules to operate by from the United Federation of Planets. We usually work with the police, but we can take charge whenever a kid is involved if we think the local guys on any Federation planet ain't doing the right thing for the kid. Sam is with a section of the State Police that works closely with us; his section is allowed to step in just like they were one of us if they need to, and we'll back them. Once they picked y'all up, you were no longer in police custody, you were under our protection and none of the planetside police could touch you without going through one of us. That helps Sam's guys a lot, because it really messes up what they are doing when other jurisdictions try to get involved."
After getting Julio's attention, Sam added "Director Hernandez is right on target. Since we took you guys in, we have received twenty-seven calls at last count from other law enforcement agencies attempting to get access to some of you. We have also had calls from Child Protective Services, all of which ended up with cases being closed and forwarded to the Des Moines Division as soon as they learned that we were acting under standing orders of Director Hernandez. A couple of you have outstanding warrants or parole violations; those are already in the Clan legal arm, and you'll be getting the best help available to clear them."
"Yeah," Tracy grinned, "Dad's having fun with a couple of them, he loves showing buttholes what happens when you ignore evidence!"
Julio had to giggle at Sam's surprised look. "Tracy is half-owner of the largest Private Investigative Service in South Florida! His Dad and him ran that before he joined the Clan, and instead of shutting it down like they planned, it's become an arm of Clan legal."
"I'll have to remember that," Sam replied. "You'd be surprised at how much it helps having someone available to watch suspects who doesn't wear a badge."
Interrupting the discussion, Karl cuddled into Tracy's side then commented "Guys? Kerry's going to have a few of his friends go around and ask y'all what you'd like for drinks and a snack. Anything goes except alcohol; if we can't get drunk, you can't... sorry! Once we have talked to y'all individually, then we're gonna take you to a cookout that's goin on down at Clan Headquarters in Orlando. Any of you that decide to live at one of the other divisions can hook up with your division staff there and you'll be able to go home with them. Save some room, the Gumbo's killer!"
Grinning, Tracy added "While y'alls having a picnic, Karl and I are gonna fix a little problem. You get to watch, so get comfortable and enjoy the show!"
"NOW KERRY!" Karl ordered as him and Tracy quickly stepped back. Taking the hint, Sam retreated as well, just in time to avoid being stuck in the middle of the festivities.
Julio, Jesse, and Benny never had a chance. Before any of them had a moment to question what was about to happen, they found themselves dressed in matching white tuxedos, standing under an arch. Tracy was now off to their side in full dress uniform behind a podium, and all of Julio, Jesse, and Benny's kids appeared, seated on benches to witness whatever was about to occur.
As soon as he spotted their son Terry, Julio knew what was about to happen. Standing with Grandma Morrison, the little seven-year-old was virtually glowing as he waited in a tux exactly like his Daddies were wearing. The pillow in his hands explained why the shy, socially deprived boy they had helped rescue was now beaming with pride; someone had chosen him to be the key player in making the family forever. "Guys, look at Terry," Julio pointed out softly. Jesse and Benny both looked, then silently exchanged nods with each other and Julio; all three realizing that their families and friends had stepped in to arrange the one thing they were unable to find time to plan.
Satisfied that everyone was ready, Tracy began speaking. "Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for joining us today. I've only been part of Family Clan Short officially since the day the Earth was attacked, but in that short time I've learned a lot. The most important thing that I've learned is that Family Clan Short stands for family; all that is asked is that every child be raised by a parent or parents who love the child and work to ensure the child's health, safety, and emotional well-being. While I had that and still do to this day, I am in the minority at this gathering. The three young men in front of us today are not only leaders of a Division, they are examples to all of us as to what we wish society as a whole would strive for. They have opened their hearts to what has grown into a large family, giving each and every one of the kids they claimed for themselves the support that was needed to grow out of the label 'abused' and earn the label 'survivor'. I have seen their family emulate their parents, supporting others that they barely know."
"Today, we gather to give this family the gift that has been stated in words but has been pushed back by outside events, the sworn commitment of their parents to each other. While their legendary triple-twins might have been the first youth that they have committed their lives to giving a family, the results of not only their love, but the love that the twins learned to give from their new parents has been chosen to bear the rings today. Their seventh son, Terry, is the first child that they put themselves into danger to rescue, the first child that they had to learn to help recover from abuse that would make any responsible person physically sick, and the key child that bonded the family into what it has become. On a recent excursion off-planet, Terry overcame his insecurity enough to instigate the addition of their eighth son, Kanin, who he realized needed just as much help as he did. He also had the honor of approving Felix and Lyle to join the family, sharing his experiences with them so they would give Julio, Jesse, and Benny a chance."
"Those are just small examples of what the love of these three has accomplished. While they provide the example to all around them, today we have made the time for them to express their hearts for the world to see. Would those giving these young men into marriage please come forward and state your intentions."
Julio and Jesse's dad, Mick, stepped forward first. "As Dad of Julio Hernandez, I give my son's hand in marriage."
Janice, Julio and Jesse's mom, went next. "As Mom of Jesse Crowley, I give my son's hand in marriage."
To Benny's shock, his dad was next. "As Father of Benjamin Roberts, I freely give his hand in marriage."
Tracy smiled, then looked around the growing crowd. "Marriage is a commitment of the partners to their children past, present, and future, that there will always be someone loving there for the rest of the parent's lives. More importantly, the partners commit to each other to be there through good times and bad for the rest of their lives." After a pause, he added "If there is anyone present who has reason this union should not be consummated, speak now or hold your peace for the remainder of Eternity."
Even the wind seemed to hold its breath as Tracy paused for a full minute. "As there are no dissents, we shall proceed. Terry, you're up little guy."
Terry started towards the podium, his stage fright at realizing he was the center of attention obvious. That was quickly handled by his brothers, who flipped over the backs of the benches and lined the path to the front, each whispering encouragement to their brother. For the last stretch, Kanin personally escorted the little brother responsible for him having family to stand in front of their parents.
"Stay with Terry, Kanin," Julio instructed softly. "Both of you just did a very brave thing for you, and you both earned the right to stay up here for the rest."
Tracy smiled at the instructions. "Throughout recent history, the ring has been a symbol of the commitment of marriage. While I have no idea who found these or where, the rings chosen for this event share a property with the rings provided by Clan Short when I was married to Karl. Each set of rings is made of a metal that signifies the person it represents, and when in contact with the ring of another partner it will merge together just as their souls merge into one family."
Turning to the trio, Tracy asked "Julio Hernandez, do you take the hands of Jesse Crawley and Benjamin Roberts in Holy Matrimony, to have and to hold, through sickness and heath, for the remainder of Eternity?"
"I do," Julio managed to reply.
"Jesse Crawley, do you take the hands of Julio Hernandez and Benjamin Roberts in Holy Matrimony, to have and to hold, through sickness and heath, for the remainder of Eternity?"
"I do!" Jesse exclaimed.
"Benjamin Roberts, do you take the hands of Jesse Crawley and Julio Hernandez in Holy Matrimony, to have and to hold, through sickness and heath, for the remainder of Eternity?"
Benny looked between Julio and Jesse multiple times, searching their eyes for any indication that this was a joke. Finally satisfied, he hesitantly risked "I do."
Tracy softly instructed "Guys, lay your hand flat over the three sets of rings. One set will just feel right, that is your set, pick them up and put one on your ring finger." In a normal voice, Tracy added "Benjamin, you may proceed."
Despite having telepathic assurances and help volunteered by Karl, Benny's hand still shook visibly as he placed it over the rings on the pillow. To his surprise, one set felt 'warmer' than the others, so he picked them up and placed one ring on his finger as instructed. His choice of who to go to first was easier, as it was the person who broke down the wall he'd been hiding behind. After dropping to one knee like he'd seen in movies, Benny stated "Julio, you believed in me when I didn't believe in myself, and showed me love when I really didn't deserve it. Please accept this ring as my promise to always be there for you."
"I accept, Benny," Julio whispered as he allowed Benny to put the ring on his finger.
Turning to Jesse, Benny stated "Jesse, you held me at my lowest and carried me back into life. You showed me how to accept love that I didn't think I deserved. Please accept this ring as my promise to always be there for you."
"I accept, BenBen," Jesse replied with an encouraging smile.
Jesse went next, selecting his rings the same way Benny had. Turning to Benny, he began. "Benny, you have taught me that my past doesn't have to affect my future. You accepted me into your heart unconditionally, and if you accept this ring I promise to be yours forever."
With tears freely flowing, Benny replied "I accept, Jess."
Jesse turned to Julio, sincerely stating "Julio, you gave me Love and Strength before I even knew what they were. You taught me the difference between being owned and belonging to someone's heart, and with this ring I promise to be yours forever."
"I accept, Jesse," Julio replied softly. Taking the last rings, he faced Benny and dropped to one knee. "Benny, you taught me just how much it means when you love someone, and with this ring I promise to be yours forever."
"I accept," Benny replied softly.
Turning to Jesse, Julio held out the last ring. "Jesse, you completed me when I didn't even know I was missing something. You gave me love, taught me Hope, and taught me to share as a family. With this ring, I promise to be yours forever."
"I accept, Julio," Jesse replied with a smile.
Once Julio was once again standing, Tracy continued. "We have witnessed the oaths of Julio, Jesse, and Benjamin before family and friends. Know that the rings are only a symbol; their commitment is in their hearts and souls. By the powers vested in me as an Officer in Starfleet by the United Federation of Planets, and as Director of the Alligator Alley Division of Family Clan Short, I hereby declare Julio, Jesse, and Benjamin Hernandez husbands, with all of the rights and responsibilities accorded to the Union. Gentlemen, you may now seal the Union."
There were grins all around as the witnesses watched the trio somehow manage a three-way kiss, with Benny's legs wrapped around his taller husband's waists as he was held at the same lip level. Once the kiss finally broke, they were mobbed by their sons for an immense family hug. After that, with Tracy's help they formed into a suitable group for him to complete the ceremony.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," Tracy announced, "I present to you the Hernandez Family; may their Love endure to the end of Eternity!"
Even the new kids waiting to find out where their lives were going applauded. Being allowed to watch the family being legally acknowledged had even the most skeptical of the group looking forward to what their lives might be like; in their eyes this proved more than any words could say that the Clan was really not going to be the same old B.S. that they had seen before.
Once the applause settled, Karl announced "The Honeymoon Suite on Archnania's ready, guys. Y'all enjoy your month off, we'll see you in five minutes!"
Before any of the newlyweds could protest, they were gone; their kids joining them for their own mini-vacation while their parents sealed the marriage. Looking to the waiting new kids, Karl explained "We just sent them to a place where Time doesn't work like it does here. If you guys want to get your welcome hugs from Grandma out of the way, you should be all set when they get back for us to help you start your new life."
"I see that you have paid attention, Karl!" Grandma Morrison snickered as she pulled him into a hug from behind. "I am sure that your family is going to approve of the lucky ones that will be joining them today."
"Grandma, I figured that much when I saw you," Karl giggled. "I'd think you were sick if you weren't the only one adding to your family!"
"And just what does that mean, young man?" Grandma asked with a smile.
"Julio's not the only one who isn't afraid of you," Karl giggled. "Call your kids, Grandma; they're gonna be welcoming at least one new brother."
Karl and Grandma Morrison were still locked into a stare-down when Julio and his family returned. "What'd we miss?" Julio asked Tracy as he got the rare opportunity to watch someone else challenge Grandma.
"Karl told Grandma that she's adopting today," Tracy explained with a grin. "She's trying to get him to back down, but it ain't working."
"Frank's gotta see this!" Jesse giggled. "Hey Kerry, get your dad, mom, and brothers; Karl's challenging Grandma!"
"Gotcha, Jesse!" Kerry replied over the subvocal. Seconds later, the Morrison family arrived, Kerry once again in his new body to see who gave in first.
It took another five minutes, but finally Grandma gave in. As she went to ask Kerry to call her family, multiple arms wrapping around her told here that her grandson had already handled the issue. "Karl," Grandma stated seriously, "you just proved why you and Tracy were given your positions. Don't ever change, your strength is what all of the children in the Clan need to count on."
"Thank you, Grandma," Karl replied seriously. "Now figure out with your non-adult kids how many brothers they want to add."
"Yes, Sir," Grandma replied with a smile before turning to discuss the options with her family.
Frank Morrison shook his head in wonder as he commented "In all her life, Mom's never backed down if challenged. Now in less than a month, Julio and now Karl have out-stubborned her. I thought I'd never see this day!"
"Actually, Frank," Julio explained, "I think I figured it out a while back. She's not being stubborn; she's testing people to see if they have the conviction to follow through. Since you grew up with her, she knows you and only has to guide you if you're not considering everything, but for the rest of us she's giving us the full test. Most people will fail that, but the personalities of the guys that Cory has approved for Divisional leadership tend to make a decision based on everything they know and are told by their staff, then stick with it. I know I'm right if she challenges me like that; if I'm wrong she just tells me what I'm missing."
Frank nodded. "I see your point. I think I need to help my little brothers keep her kid collecting to a reasonable level."
"Good luck with that!" Julio giggled as Frank and his family headed over towards Grandma.
Now that there was a split-second of sanity, Julio turned to Tracy. "Let's get started before one of Kyle's kids gets involved!"
"Lead the way!" Tracy responded.
With the help of Julio's kids, the waiting group quickly learned what to expect in their lives from this point forward as they had open discussions, either one-on-one or in small groups. Each of the new boys talked to multiple people, some being guided to a certain person once it was discovered that they had something in common with the person's past.
There was one group of three boys that seemed to be trying to blend into the background, somehow managing to only talk to the youngest members of the Hernandez kids. Tracy and Karl picked up on it first, and decided to find out what was wrong.
"Hey guys!" Tracy announced as they took a seat in front of them. Two of the boys looked to be ten years old, with brown hair and brown eyes. The third on first glance appeared to be Vulcan, and was the size of a human nine-year-old, with black hair that hung over his eyebrows. "I'm Tracy, and this is my husband, Karl. Do y'all have any questions that the guys haven't answered?"
All three shook their heads. Karl had been studying them as Tracy talked, and spotted something on the Vulcan boy as he shook his head. "Guys, I'm putting you under Diplomatic Protection of the Alligator Alley Division of Family Clan Short effective immediately," Karl stated. "That means nobody can touch you without either Tracy or me approving it, and that ain't gonna happen. What are your names?"
Having been updated on Karl's concern over their link, Tracy quickly tripped his subvocal. "Director Butler to Alligator Alley Control. Inform Starfleet that we need a Diplomatic Liaison onsite and standing by at Divisional Headquarters immediately. Emmy, initiate full secure record and log on the commbadges of myself and Karl."
"Acknowledged, Director," CIC replied immediately.
"Recording started, Uncle Tracy," Emrys added.
The three boys exchanged glances, finally deciding that they could trust the two older boys that they had just watched arrange for the other older boys to get married. "I'm Carson," the twin on the left stated.
"I'm Cadrian," the other twin replied.
"s'Kiell," the boy sandwiched between the twins replied, his pride evident even in his soft voice.
His suspicions all but confirmed, Karl stated "Upon my Family's honor, I, Commander Karl Simon Butler, swear to protect you with my life, s'Kiell. Do you accept my vow?"
For the first time since arriving, s'Kiell looked someone straight in the eyes. Once he was satisfied that Karl showed no deception, he responded "I, Yhea i-Rateg s'Kiell, accept your vow."
"As we share a Vulcan bond, my husband's vow is my own," Tracy stated, the child's formal name satisfying any doubt he had.
s'Kiell nodded, accepting the acknowledgment of what he would naturally expect of a vow like the one Karl had offered. "What are your plans for me?" he asked flatly.
"First we need to verify your status, then if it is your wish we will do what is needed to allow you to join our House," Karl explained. "Have you sworn the bond of friendship with your companions?"
"I have," s'Kiell replied, now more animated.
Karl nodded. "We will work to honor that bond. Carson and Cadrian, your friend has sworn a bond that in his culture is unbreakable. In a minute I'm going to have some help giving us the privacy to discuss in the open things that he possibly couldn't tell you. I'm letting you know now that some of them might affect your friendship if you allow them to; no matter what new things you learn, you need to remember that they do not change the person that you made friends with. He didn't lie to you, he just couldn't say some things because of what they would mean to other people."
"Okay," the twins replied as they gave s'Kiell a hug of support.
"Ty's on his way," Tracy announced. "Guys, you're about to meet our little brother. He's human, but he's an evolved human that can affect how we perceive time. He's bringing one of our uncles, a famous starship captain who knows how to help us with s'Kiell's situation."
Just then, Tyler popped in, immediately placing the group in a bubble before popping Jim Kirk in, Jimmy tagging along for the ride on his Dad's lap. "Hey bros!" Tyler giggled as he took a seat. "Bubble's up, go for it!"
Grinning, Tracy pointed out "Everyone, look at the people around us. They look like they're not moving because we're running on faster time than they are right now. They can't hear us or see when we move, so we're completely private."
Even s'Kiell smiled as he realized that he was being allowed to experience something unique. "What do you need to know?"
"That's what we need to figure out," Tracy admitted. "First, I'll introduce everyone. The cuddle monster next to me is our little brother Tyler, the big guy is our uncle, Admiral James T. Kirk, the little guy on his lap is his son Jimmy, the twins are Carson on the left and Cadrian on the right, and the star of the show is s'Kiell. Uncle Jim, just so you know, Karl and I are under a vow of protection of s'Kiell, and the twins are under a friendship bond with him."
"You've been taking lessons from Cory on how to make things interesting, haven't you?" Jim chuckled. "Welcome to Earth, s'Kiell; even though I suspect you didn't have much choice in the decision to leave Romulus."
Surprised at Jim putting his biggest secret out in the open immediately, s'Kiell replied "You would be right; I spent the entire voyage learning Federation Standard and how to appear Vulcan. Fortunately, at my age I didn't have to attempt to fake emotional control."
"It's a good thing most humans wouldn't notice the hint of ridges on your brow, too." Karl added. "Did both of your parents have them, or only one?"
"My Mother did not have them," s'Kiell replied. "I wish I didn't either, even though mine are barely there, after the dishonor my father brought on our family."
"I'll have a talk with Bones to see if he can grant that wish," Jim stated, already forming a plan of action. "Could you fill me in on what happened to put you here?"
As he felt his friends cuddle into his sides for support, s'Kiell answered the request. "When we left Romulus, my father had explained the trip as we were going to a meeting with the Federation. My Mother and I did not get suspicious until just before we arrived, as his explanation for my training to appear Vulcan made sense. Both my Mother and myself could easily pass as Vulcan on appearance, we just needed to learn the mannerisms for our ages. It was when my father was fitted with the cloaking device that his story started to unravel, as there was no reason that he should need to hide his appearance if this was peaceful."
"After we were dropped off in Kansas, his true agenda came out; he was planning to assassinate the Governor of Iowa and take his place to prepare for the invasion by the rebel forces he had joined with. Mother was not happy, since she had no idea of his association with them. She confronted him, which led to a fight for honor. Even though she killed him, her injuries were bad enough that she died the next day. I used the disrupter she had snuck down to eliminate both of their bodies, then fended for myself until I was picked up by a crooked police officer and turned over to the men who were using us to make pornography."
"Since Federation scanners would have picked up on a disrupter self-destructing, I assume it is still out there somewhere?" Jim asked.
"Yes, I hid it in a barn in Kansas."
"s'Kiell?" Tyler interrupted, "I'm a telepath too. Can I look in your head to see where you left it, then I'll go get it for you? I won't look at anything else in there unless you let me, and anything you do show me is private unless you tell me to share it."
"He's good at his word, s'Kiell," Karl assured the Romulan boy.
"As the brother of those who swore to protect me, my mind is open to you," s'Kiell replied, risking his trust on the lack of adverse reaction to knowing that his father was part of the invasion force.
"Thanks!" Tyler replied before closing his eyes. Two minutes later, he opened them, then stated "s'Kiell and I put together a report that'll help you, Uncle Jim. I'll be back, then I'll give it to you and their new parents!"
As Tyler popped out, Tracy asked with a grin "s'Kiell, going by Tyler's comment, can I assume that you know enough about your friends to make it probable that they're going to be your brothers really soon?"
"We have had discussions which I do not think my friends need to re-live,"
Tracy nodded. "I hope that you have enough info to allow that; our Intel team can get more details if they need them as long as your information gives them a place to start."
Tyler returned as Tracy was speaking, and added "I already have Intel on it, Trace. I checked on a couple of things that weren't clear, then turned it over. They're free and clear to adopt." Ty then turned to s'Kiell, handing him the disrupter. "Since this was your mom's, you can keep it. If you want trained with it, we'll get you set up; if you want it disarmed so that it is safe for you to display it in the open, we should be able to do that in a way that you can restore it if you change your mind later."
s'Kiell looked over the weapon, then passed it to Karl. "Disarm it permanently. I have seen and lived the results of soldiers with no honor attacking with no provocation; I wish this to be a reminder of the honor of my mother in preventing a small part of the plan."
"I'll make sure that happens personally," Karl promised.
Jim Kirk watched knowingly, his own experiences telling him that this little Romulan boy had already decided that Tracy and Karl were his new family. At that point, he received Tyler's report, which filled in a large gap of detail that the boy had not felt comfortable vocalizing. His eyebrows rose at the report, but he could almost promise that the results would be in s'Kiell's favor. "s'Kiell? I have reviewed Tyler's report, and I'm pretty sure that you will retain your honor as a Romulan. If it is okay with you, Tyler and I will go to the nearest Embassy and take care of the details, but unless I'm completely wrong you're looking at your new family right now."
"Please, go ahead," s'Kiell replied hopefully.
Exchanging glances with Tyler, Jim nodded before both of them vanished. A few seconds later, they re-appeared, Tyler grinning madly.
"Tell him, Uncle Jim!" Tyler giggled.
"After a very productive meeting with the Emperor's Legate, which the Embassy arranged for with only a little of the information you gave Tyler, it has been decreed that you are now listed in Romulan registers as Yhea I-Rateg el-Short s'Butler. Your mother has been awarded hero status, and your father has been dishonored. It has been agreed that you have earned the honor of being part of one of the families helping recovery from the dishonorable attack, and house-clan 'Butler' is now recognized under Romulan law as an established family. For your own safety, it has been recommended that you take an Earth-style name for everyday usage, saving your formal name for situations that require it."
After pausing, Jim added "Your memory served you well; the instigators that you caught glances of were able to be identified easily. Last I heard, they were being 'persuaded' to reveal their associates. You have avenged the dishonor of your father's actions in the most effective way possible; you brought the people that misled him down that path to justice."
"I think Skyel works," Karl interjected. "If we spell it out in English, it would be s-k-y-e-l. It's close to the House-Clan name he is used to for pronunciation, and he can just go by 'Sky' normally. I'd like to keep his given name for family though, maybe even use it as a middle name for English."
s'Kiell smiled at the acknowledgement of his culture. "Thank you, ... Uncle Jim?"
"Yes, you have earned the right to call me that, as have your brothers cuddled up to you."
"Thank you, Uncle Jim! Does that mean I can be Skyel Yhea Butler?"
"I think that sounds like a great name," Jim acknowledged,
"Now for your brothers," Karl giggled. "Okay you two, even though you've been silent, your twin-link has been so active that your little antennas are glowing! Don't try to deny it, either - you have other brothers who are twins, and we've learned to read it in their faces. Pick one of you to speak, and let us know what's on your minds."
Both boys shared amazed looks, before locking eyes with each other and mentally arguing about who was tagged. Finally, Carson spoke up after giving his twin a death glare that fortunately wasn't fatal. "We was just talking about how kewl it is meeting Captain Kirk?"
Karl didn't say a word, just tilting his head while looking Carson in the eyes.
After multiple checks to ensure he still had two feet and ten fingers, Carson tried again. "We know that you're adopting us because we're Yhea's friends. What's gonna happen when you find out what we've done?"
Jimmy picked that point to remind everyone he was there, and decided to prove the bloodline to his dad. Standing up, he came over and faced down Carson. "You can't be that stupid! You just watched Uncle Tracy and Uncle Karl work to help the son of one of the bastards that attacked Earth regain his honor, then commit to adopting him so that he once again had a family to call his own! What did you do, huh? You did sex stuff on porn films, so what? I could give you a list of kids I know who have done that, some who liked it! Uncle Tracy and Uncle Karl know them too, and they treat them just the same as the rest of us! Did you kill your parents because they abused you? I've got a couple of Uncles who did, and they're treated just like everyone else. Did you have to steal to survive? There's a big club there, almost half of the kids here have had to do that at least once. I know the one thing you DID do, and that was becoming friends with someone who looks nothing like you, giving him friendship when he literally didn't have any family on Earth."
Jimmy pause to take a breath, then resumed his attack. "The Clan don't allow adoptions unless the parent really wants to raise the kid, ESPECIALLY if it is a Clan Officer, because they are busier than anybody. Uncle Tyler can override anyone, even Uncle Cory, and he's the PATRIARCH! If Uncle Tyler ain't sayin' nothing, that means they want you, and want to help you be normal kids again. You've got one minute to get your heads outta your butts, then I start convincing Sky to help me do it for you. GOT IT?"
With that, Jimmy turned and sat next to Tyler, giving the twins a glare that heated the inside of the bubble ten degrees.
"I told you letting Uncle Jim give him those Diplomacy lessons was a bad idea, Hon!" Tracy joked.
"It's gotta be genetic," Karl observed. "Uncle Bones is gonna die laughing when he sees this!"
"Neither one of you clowns needs to give up your day job," Jim observed. "Guys, what my son was trying to say, while he was doing a decent imitation of his Uncle JJ, is that your new parents head the Intel arm of Clan Short. They have devices in their ears that can give them reports without us knowing, and if I know their team half as much as I think I do, they know more about you two right now than you know about yourselves. Does that sound like something that someone who was just adopting you to keep a promise to someone else would do?"
"No, Sir," Carson replied softly.
"I'm relaying a signal to your commbadge, Trace," Tyler snuck in.
"Rat Pack to Tracy."
"Go ahead, Adrian."
"Tell our new twin nephews that their former parents are on the way to a prison planet for selling them. We just located their little brother, and we'll swing by with him once the Iceman finishes his snack."
"Gotcha, lil' bro. Check with Ty before coming over, we're bubbled right now. Tell the rest of the guys to join you."
"Kewl! Catch ya soon, love ya bro!"
"Love you too, Rat." Tracy replied before tapping his badge to close the channel. "Carson? Cadrian? You just heard the report; I ordered that within seconds of Tyler telling me how you ended up in the situation you were in. The Rat Pack is special, just ask Tyler, since he's part of them. It started with a nickname I gave to boys who I considered special little brothers, not knowing at the time I was related to one of them. Tyler and his husband Kyle were added once I got to know them and saw how hard they try to get back what they lost when they evolved. The four of them added Jason, just because he was like them. The thing is, even though they're listed as Clan Intel and Security, they only go out as the Rat Pack if they are helping me. That's their decision, not mine."
Karl picked up the conversation. "Guys, Tracy doesn't do that for everyone. If it was any of the other guys out there, he probably would have sent one of the other teams. Neither of us can explain how we know it, but after a couple of minutes with the three of you we knew that you'd fit best in our family. This is for real, guys; all three of you are wanted for who you are as individuals."
After a pause, Karl added "Sky? I think your brothers are overloaded right now. Could you help them over to Tracy's lap for a cuddle, then come over here so we can cuddle and discuss what kind of display would be fitting for your Mom's disrupter?"
"I'll pop the bubble once cuddles start," Tyler announced. "Adrian says they'll be over as soon as Jason gets out of the shower; he took it all the way."
"Everyone needs to hang around then," Tracy commented as he helped the twins get comfortable. "Jason's usually a mess after he does that."
Karl smiled as he glanced over and saw that the twins had fell asleep within seconds of Tracy wrapping his arms around them. "I think the answer's yes, Trace. They're asleep already."
Skyel made himself comfortable on Karl's lap, only jumping a little when Tyler dropped the bubble and the surrounding noise resumed all at once. "What's going to happen with their little brother?" he asked as soon as he was comfortable.
Karl smiled as he replied "I think you're gonna have to help me figure that out. Normally, we don't split up families, and usually we can get the input of the siblings to make sure there isn't an issue. Right now, your brothers are emotionally overloaded; do you think you know them good enough to make the decision for them?"
Skyel thought over his answer for a few seconds, then nodded. "I think once we know how his life has affected him we can decide. It would be bad if he hates them or they hate what he's become."
"That's the answer I was hoping you'd come up with," Karl assured Skyel. "Since Ty popped the bubble, we'll try that out very soon."
Before Skyel could reply, their spot in the grass was invaded by a fairly large group popping in. Not only was the Rat Pack arriving with their rescued kid, but all of Tracy and Karl's kids had joined the invasion. Trey and Torrey immediately made their way over to Tracy, scooting onto their prospective brother's laps to create a five-way cuddle. The other eight sons decided to form a cuddle pile around Karl and Skyel, deciding that the youngest set of twins had welcoming the prospective new twins under control.
Karl quickly did introductions while Cody and Adrian were busy assuring their charge that he didn't need to be scared of the group of kids surrounding Karl. Just as Karl finished, Adrian escorted what appeared to be a five-year old boy with platinum blond hair and bright blue eyes over to them. The little guy was obviously still afraid, as he had a death grip on Adrian's hand.
"Hey little guy! What's your name?" Karl asked softly.
"Camden," the boy replied, more to the ground than to Karl.
"Well Camden, have you ever cuddled with someone from another planet?" Karl asked gently.
"This is Skyel, he's best friends with your big brothers. I bet if you climbed up here, he'd let you sit on his lap and cuddle with him while your brothers are sleeping."
"He won't hurt me?"
"No," Karl assured the little tyke, "he won't hurt you. He is the one who protected your brothers so they'd be here today."
While not letting go of Adrian's hand, Camden inched his way towards Karl and Skyel. Once they were close, Adrian picked him up and sat him on Skyel's lap. After that, it only took a few seconds for Camden to snuggle in to Sky's chest, softly giggling "You're warm!"
Looking around, Karl spotted Kalen and Daren comforting their son Jason. Satisfied that the most fragile member of the Rat Pack was receiving the support he needed, Karl stated "You gonna climb up here and give your report, Rat?"
"I thought you'd never ask!" Adrian giggled as he claimed the unused space on Karl's lap. "The old parents were real dirtbags; they sold Camden so they could buy a new car! We sent them off to life in high security, since they were fully aware of what they sold their kids to do. I'll just say that the scumbag who bought him was in the process of burying the kid Camden was going to replace when we found him. It was a quick trial."
"Was Camden violated?" Karl growled.
"Only orally, we got there before it went to the next stage," Adrian replied. "There are fifteen kids buried in his back yard, but Cody still wouldn't let me cut the pervert's dick off with the hacksaw I found."
"That's not you, little brother," Karl stated lovingly. "You wouldn't survive knowing that you did something like that, no matter how much he deserved it. Don't let your anger lead you into doing something against your morals."
"I really wish you and Tracy would stop being right," Adrian semi-pouted. "What happened to big brothers teaching their little brothers bad habits?"
"It don't work that way, little bro!" Karl responded as he started poking at Adrian's sides, causing him to giggle as he fought Karl off.
Meanwhile, Skyel was taking his assigned role of checking his friend's little brother seriously. "Did you know that your brothers were sold like you were, Camden?"
"They were, and we used to talk a lot about how they hoped their baby brother was safe," Skyel explained. "Right now they're really scared about a lot of things, including not knowing if you are okay. If you tell me what you're scared of, maybe they will wake up and find a happy little brother waiting for them."
"I don't wanna do nasty stuff no more," Camden whispered.
"I don't either, and your big brothers don't as well," Skyel replied. "Right now, we're sitting on one of my new dads, and your brothers are on the other. When your brothers wake up, we're gonna make them your brother's dads too, and your's as well if that's what you want. You see all these guys watching us? They'll be your big brothers too, and I bet they'll tell you that you'll be safe here."
"Dad's the one that sent Uncle Adrian to save you," Morris offered as he leaned on Skyel with an arm over his shoulder. "If anyone tries to make someone do nasty sex stuff, they'll get caught before they have a chance to finish, and then either Dad, Pop, or one of our uncles will make sure they can't do it again."
"Thanks, ... Morris?" Skyel replied.
"Good guess, you got it right!" Morris giggled. "Don't worry, all of us twins understand; Dad and Pop still get confused sometimes. How old are you in Earth years, Skyel?"
"I will be nine earth years old in a month," Skyel replied, wondering about the change of subject.
"Awesome!" Morris exclaimed, "That means we've got enough time to plan a big birthday party! You're our brother now, and we gotta make sure that you know we love you!"
"None of you care about me being Romulan?" Skyel asked in amazement.
"The only difference between you and the rest of us is the color of your blood," Morris replied. "If you need proof, look at Camden."
Skyel looked down, only to find that he had a five-year-old human latched onto his chest, sound asleep.
Once sure that Skyel had caught on, Morris added "You just calmed the fears of a young boy who has nobody to count on, yet. You probably just gained a shadow, because he's going to look up to you and try to copy you. Even though Uncle Adrian and his brothers saved Camden, you just gave him security. Did it matter to you that he is human?"
"No, he needed someone to talk to him," Skyel replied.
"That's why you being Romulan doesn't matter to us," Morris stated. "You need a family that loves you and will support you, and we're all willing to be that family. A lot of us had to learn not to judge a group based on the actions of a few; when Dad let us know he was considering you, we all agreed that you shouldn't be blamed for what a bunch of buttwipes did."
Jim wandered by at that moment, and added his own comment. "Listen to your brother, Skyel; more conflicts have happened because of a few bad people than any other reason. If you only target the bad ones, the universe becomes a better place."
As Skyel watched Jim walk away, he muttered "Did I just hear an adult tell me to listen to another kid?"
Morris giggled. "Get used to it; even though they still give us advice, like Uncle Jim just did, the adults understand that we have ideas that work better for the society we live in now than the ideas they grew up with. It ain't always like that, but if we really seem to be thinking wrong, they tell us what happened the last time our idea was tried so that we can look for a better way."
"I think we're gonna like our new home, little brother," Skyel whispered as he shifted Camden into a closer snuggle.
"Hey Julio, what's the final score?" Tracy joked as he led his family to join with the rest of the group.
Julio grinned as he saw two new faces holding Tracy's hands, with a third new face just behind him carrying a young boy that Julio had never seen before, one that was younger than all of the new arrivals. "Grandma gained two, Frank picked up the other set of twins, Kalen and Daren picked out a little brother for Jason, Jesse grabbed three more for us when I wasn't looking, and the rest decided to go fishing for parents at the party. Cory's gonna love us, that leaves twenty-three adoptions left to do!"
"Twenty-one!" Benny giggled as he pointed off to the side. Julio and Tracy turned, grinning when they saw the two boys sandwiched between Jim Kirk and his son Jimmy.
"Should we head out before things go nuts again?" Tracy suggested.
Julio nodded. "Let me tell Grandma; she insisted on helping the kids who didn't hook up with a family yet. She's gonna make sure none of them get freaked out by the crowd, and knowing her she'll be assigning them families before the night is over!"
"I ain't gonna argue, she's been right on every one so far!" Tracy acknowledged. "You do that, and I'll get the names of Uncle Jim's new kids to update the Family Archives."
"Okay, see you in five!" Julio snickered as he sprinted off to locate Grandma Morrison.