"I though those two waitresses were gonna have heart attacks when you told them to round the bill up to one thousand dollars and split the leftovers as a tip, Grandma!" Adam giggled as they walked down the sidewalk towards the main mall building.
Grandma smiled. "Something you should always think about is that girls their age usually take waitress jobs either because they have children they are trying to raise by themselves, their husband is out of work for some reason, or they are trying to make it through school. If you have the means, giving them an above-average tip might just allow them some relief. What you didn't catch was me checking with the manager to make sure which method they used for tips; some places split them among everyone on the shift, while others will give them to the people they were left for. In this case, each of those girls will get half of the tip."
"They're getting more than a tip, Grandma," Lucas stated. "They both fit the first one, and I told them to call in and talk to us about gettin' some help with their bills and stuff. That's why they were smilin' so much after I talked to them."
"You just did a wonderful thing, Lucas. I'm proud of you," Grandma replied as she stopped long enough to give him a hug. "If each of you boys makes a difference in one or two people's lives like this, the world really does have a chance at becoming what you would like it to be. Sooner or later, an act of kindness tends to be passed on as kindness to another person."
Toward the front of the group, Callihan whispered to Trevois "Why does Mom not yell at us to do stuff, but she explains it when we do stuff right?"
Trevois put his arm over his brother's shoulder. "She told me that yelling makes the brain fight things, but explaining why something is good makes the brain remember it as something happy."
"I think I like her as a Mom better!" Callihan stated as he put his arm around Trevois and leaned into the cuddle with his new older brother.
"Hey guys," Kerry stated as they prepared to enter the store, "just so you know, since we used up a lot of our new brother stock with the refugees, any clothes you get here are covered under the Clan's budget. You'll need regular clothes and a couple of suits, but you'll get to pick out what looks good on you. If you're not sure on something, use your commbadge and I'll bring Grandma over to help you figure it out. I'm gonna hang with her and her sons, but the rest of you can stick together. Don't leave your group, I don't wanna have to call a red alert to find you!"
"We gotcha covered, bro!" Alien replied as the two groups headed towards the boys department.
An hour, and one very shocked assistant manager, later, the two groups met outside the store. Once Kerry had teleported their purchases home, he asked "Are you guys ready to hit the Apple store?"
"Y'all dont need to spend that much on us!" Jake commented as he cuddled up to Garrett.
"Uncle Steve doesn't make us pay for your first setup," Kerry explained. "His son is one of the Clan officers at Alligator Alley; after Adrian decided to pay for an entire family to get set up just because he could, Uncle Steve decided to do even better than his original idea. Now your first setup is free, and after that we get everything at cost."
"Why?" Garrett asked, knowing none of his brothers were that confident yet.
"He says it's because he doesn't want to see kids left behind," Kerry replied. "He's got a few other reasons too, but those are between him and the people he's shared them with."
"He must be one of us," Garrett stated. "You ain't got to say it; you kinda did by not saying it."
"You may be right," Grandma stated. "He did have that feel to him. Lead the way, Kerry."
To everyone's surprise, the second that Kerry told the Apple Store team member that the group was new to the Clan he called back to the stockroom and had the pre-configured basic Clan welcome kits brought out. Once Kerry won the standoff with Grandma about her getting one of the kits, she took the time to fill the team member in on the family that was still at home. After verifying their status with Kerry, the team member added the additional kits to the order. He then took the group through the accessories, making sure that each of them had anything they might need for their personal use of the systems, and then held a training session on basic operation of the various devices they were receiving.
Once they finished there, Kerry took them to a couple of other stores to finish off the wardrobe items that they might need that were not stocked by Dillards. With that done, he stated "Okay, that takes care of the stuff you really needed. Now we get to walk the mall, if one of you sees a store you want to go in to check something out, speak up and we'll go in. If you decide you want something, I'll let you know if it's covered by the Clan or will be on your account."
"How much do each of us have?" Callihan asked.
Before Kerry could reply, Grandma stated "You have enough to get the best of things you actually will use, but you don't have enough to buy junk that'll just sit in a corner."
"What she said!" Kerry giggled, earning him glares from his brothers and uncles.
Mark added his thoughts. "I think Grandma's saying if we want it and will use it, we'll get it. If we just think it might be kewl, or just want one because someone else has one too, then she's not gonna let us waste our money."
Callihan nodded. "That's fair."
Their discussion was interrupted by the mall's PA system. "May I have your attention please. Would an available Clan Short representative please report to the Mall Office on the Lower Level. Once again, would an available Clan Short representative please report to the Mall Office on the Lower Level."
Jake Busch was the quickest to respond, hitting his commbadge and stating "Butterfly King to Dutchmen Lead, set Condition Yellow and stand by for response."
"Acknowledged, BK. K-bot's shooting us intel."
"10-4, BK out."
With Mini and Alien in the lead, the entire group took off at a jog towards the office, mall patrons quickly giving them room as they realized the boys were responding to the page.
As they reached the hall leading back to the office, they were met by a mall security guard. "You guys don't mess around!" he stated as he motioned for the group to follow him.
Once they were in the office, he motioned to the two boys cuddled up to each other in a chair. "They're Safe Haven dropoffs; they had this note with them."
Mark took the note that was handed to him, quickly reading it before turning to Lucas. "Babe, read this."
Lucas took the note, then shook his head after he read it. "This sucks. You in?"
Mark nodded. "Give everyone a mental, they don't need to hear it."
The rest of the group heard Lucas in their heads as he explained 'Their father was killed and replaced with a Romulan asswipe. Obviously, he's gone now, and their mom committed suicide because of it. Their Grandma is terminal, and brought them here because there is no other family to take them in.'
While Lucas was passing the word, Mark went over and sat down in the chair next to the boys. Both had auburn hair that was a mess of curls, the oldest looking to be eight and the youngest appearing five. "Hey guys, you look like you need some cuddles. You wanna cuddle with me while we find out how we can help you?"
The boys didn't respond verbally, but did take Mark up on his offer, moving onto his lap. At that point, they melted into his chest, his touch empathy kicking in and helping them sort their emotions.
Adam walked over and began rubbing their backs as he stated softly "Hi guys, I'm about to become your Uncle Adam according to your Uncle Kerry. Go ahead and cry, your new Daddy and I ain't gonna leave you by yourselves."
"Poppa's right here," Lucas added softly as he took the seat they had previously occupied, twisting around so that he could rub both of their backs as well.
Logan took a seat on the other side of them, while the rest of the boys formed a semi-circle around the group, sitting silently as they watched their four friends start on the mental and emotional healing of the two boys.
Having not been included in the mental briefing, the guard turned to Grandma and stated "This is nothing like I expected. What are they doing?"
"Following the examples set by their leaders," Grandma replied. "The only right way to deal with a child in need is the way that allows that particular child to heal; no two situations are ever the same. Unlike most adults, they understand that."
Grandma continued to explain the mission of the Clan to the guard while the boys were intent on helping their apparent newest additions.
Ten minutes later, their conversation was interrupted by the voice of a young boy in the hall screaming "Let me go, asshole! That hurts!"
The guard reached for the door and opened it to find out what was going on, but found himself pushed out of the way as Grandma, Garrett, both Jakes, and Thomas flew through the opening. He made it through the doorway just in time to see the four boys pulling the boy that had yelled away from a mall security officer, who at that moment found himself on the receiving end of a right hook from Grandma that laid him out on the floor.
"KB to Dutchmen Lead, I need a medic and Colin at this location ASAP!" Jake Busch instructed over his commbadge.
The reply was given by the appearance of the two requested boys. Christian immediately checked the new kid first, then once he was certain that there were no injuries needing immediate attention he made Grandma allow him to check her right hand for injury.
Colin took a reading on the unconscious guard first, then looked up at the first guard, who was still standing in the doorway. "Do you want to fire him before or after I tell you what he was doing on his guard tours?" Colin growled.
"Let's make it after," the guard replied. "I want to make it stick, he's got contacts with the owners, so he's been immune to reprimands so far."
Colin nodded. "Hey Chris, make sure Grandma's hand is fully healed, I want to see that right hook in action."
"Gotcha, bro," Chris replied. "You heard him, Grandma; now stand still!"
Colin stood up, then stated "I don't think his contacts are going to have any say. He was on his way back to the mechanical room; he's got a thing for blond homeless kids, male and female. He is guilty of one hundred and forty-seven counts of rape of a minor. I will deliver his sentence once he has recovered from Grandma demonstrating the proper application of a right hook to those of us who missed it, if you wish to fire him you may do so before she does the training."
The guard's reply was cut off as the boys that had remained inside filed through the door, taking seats along the wall once they were in the hall. Mark has the youngest of the two boys latched onto him, the boy obviously not planning on letting go any time soon, while Lucas was in the same situation with the older boy.
Thomas gave the boy who has just escaped being the bad guard's next victim a squeeze as he cuddled the shocked seven-year-old on his lap. "The two boys cuddling with Mark and Lucas didn't have any family left, just like you," he whispered. "You ain't got to worry anymore, Hanson; me and Jake are gonna take care of you now."
"How'd you know my name and that I ain't got no family?" Hanson asked in shock.
"I'll explain later," Thomas promised, "but for now, I'll just say being an ex-Angel has it's benefits!"
Hanson started to roll his eyes, until he felt what seemed to be an invisible set of wings wrapping around him. He turned to look at Jake, only to feel a sudden peace throughout his entire body once he locked eyes with him.
Once he was satisfied that everyone was in a safe location, Chris set to work at reviving the suspect. As the guard regained consciousness, he realized two things; one, he was completely disarmed, and two, there were a bunch of kids watching him, over half of which had weapons pointed in his direction.
"Chester Wayfield," Colin growled, "You are hereby placed under arrest for the molestation and rape of one hundred and forty-seven youth under the age of thirteen. You have been scanned by a certified telepath and have been found guilty."
As Colin paused, the first guard interjected "By the way, you're FIRED immediately."
"You're full of shit, brat," the guard sneered, "and as for you, asshole, go ahead and try it, you'll never work security again!"
"Guess what, dickwad," Colin stated in a tone that kicked on the mall heaters, "You're zero for three on getting your way. You just met your worst nightmare; tell Satan that I said 'have fun'. Now before I deliver the sentence, I believe Grandma has something to say to you."
"You mean that old bitch who got in a lucky shot?" the guard commented.
There was only one reason the man didn't perish that second - Grandma was suddenly in the line of fire as she got right up in the guard's face. "Listen up, bastard. It's shit eating, diaper licking piss stains like you that have made my family give up their normal lives to protect their own. I was kicking the asses of actual men bigger and badder than you long before the skanky sperm that created you snuck through the hole in the condom. You ain't shit, I've seen pimples on babies asses that scared me more than you. I'll save my Grandson the trouble; you're sentenced to death!"
Before the man had time to react, Grandma drew back and delivered an adrenaline-boosted right hook. Everyone heard it as the man's jaw shattered from the impact, his entire body spinning before it began to fall.
"I confirm the sentence," Colin stated as he fired the phaser he was holding, turning the falling body into a cloud of dust.
Grandma turned, locking eyes with Colin. Not breaking the gaze, Colin stated "While you are allowed to deliver the sentence once announced, you can not declare the punishment without knowing the facts as found by telepathic investigation. In this case you were correct, but I would not hesitate to reverse you if you had been wrong."
Grandma nodded. "Cory will be relieved that you are learning. You passed this test, don't be surprised if you are tested again."
Colin shook his head. "I shoulda known; only you would do that, Grandma!"
"If the situation arises, there is no reason not to assist your growth," Grandma stated. "Your brothers and nephews learned with you, so this worked to help all of you."
Now that the immediate problem was taken care of, Mini and Alien decided to check on their little brothers and prospective nephew. Mini smiled as he saw the peaceful smile on the young boy's face as he was being cuddled by Thomas. "Hey little bros, did you think to check before claiming him?" Mini giggled.
Jake smiled, reaching over and wiping some stray hair out of Hanson's eyes. "Being ex-Angels has some good points, bro. Mikey says this is a fixed point, we're making an anchor for the new future. We felt it happen, but I still checked with him to be sure."
Alien grinned as he commented "You know, I'm gonna remind you of this every time you worry about really being our brothers! Only a real Busch kid could pull this off. We're gonna check on the other two, I'll send Kerry over to make your new son official."
"Hey Dion," Mark said to the little five year old on his lap, "are you about ready to meet your Great-Grandma?"
"Is she gonna make you my new Daddy and Poppa for real?" Dion asked hopefully.
"I bet she'd love to if you ask her," Mark replied as he snuck in a quick tickle.
"That means you too, Nico," Lucas stated to his own personal lap monster. "You ready to become a family?"
Nico thought over the discussion they had recently had about why Mark and Lucas were allowed to adopt them, then answered "Yeah, I wanna have a home again for us."
As if she was paged, Grandma came over, Mini and Alien right behind her. Mark giggled at her knowing look, then did introductions. "This little guy is Dion, and his big brother on Lucas' lap is Nico. Boys, the big lady in front of you is my Grandma, the taller kid is Lucas' brother Alien, and the last one is their brother Mini. Alien and Mini have four seven year old sons who are gonna love having new cousins."
As expected of any five-year-old, Dion wasn't about to wait for anyone else to get around to what he thought was most important. "Great Grandma, Daddy says that you can make him and Poppa our Daddy and Poppa for real. Can you do it right now, PLEASE!"
"You're stuck, Grandma!" Mini giggled. "Julio made you a Divisional Officer when he called you the Division Grandma!"
"I'll have to thank him during his next swimming lesson," Grandma replied with a smile. "Yes, Dion, I can do that, but I need to know that they want you and that your brother wants it too. Nico, obviously your brother has made up his mind; what do you think, and do you have any questions?"
"Will they really be our Dad and Pop, or is someone else really our parent?" Nico asked.
"Good questions," Grandma stated. "Both of them have accepted commissions in the Clan Fleet, which is recognized by the Federation. Federation law says commissioned officers are considered adults no matter what their age, so since they are adults they can legally adopt you. Your prospective Pop had to look in your head to find out what kind of help you needed because of the condition you were in when we were called in to help you. The Clan works with some really powerful equipment, and they were able to make sure that you needed to be adopted using Clan procedures. I have a device in my ear called a subvocal; while we were talking, I was told on it that you were cleared for adoption, and that the two young men that you claimed are clear to adopt you if that is what you want. Remember one thing, though... this is forever, they are not allowed to give up on you, and you can't just change your mind if you get mad at them." Grandma paused as she turned to Mini and Alien. "I believe your sons would like to witness getting new cousins."
"Beat you to it, Grandma!" Alien giggled. "Dad's getting them ready to pop over now!"
"You're learning," Grandma chuckled. "Boys, once your cousins arrive, I will help you make this official."
While Grandma assisted the rest of the group as they prowled the mall to form an attack strategy for when they were all re-assembled, Colin escorted the recently-expanded families to assist them with catching up with their cousins. Mini and Alien had all four of their sons with them; the twins Frank and Fred excitedly explaining the process to their new brothers Yenn and Iggy. Mark and Lucas each had a son latched onto them, with both Dion and Nico still not totally believing this was real. Jake and Thomas found that Hanson has no intention of letting them get out of his sight, as he securely held on to one of each of his new parent's hands. Just to make sure his new dad didn't have all the fun without him, Colin's son Glenn had came over with Mini and Alien's boys, and was now getting a piggy-back ride from Colin.
As they walked past one of the aisle booths, Frank spotted a tee-shirt that made him call for a change of plans. "Dad! Pop! We gotta get some of these!"
Mini looked over at where Frank was pointing, and began giggling. "New family uniforms!"
The group quickly detoured to where the bored attendant was running the booth. Colin asked "Miss? By any chance do you have those designs in multiple sizes?"
Figuring she'd only sell one or two to a group of kids, she replied "I have a few different sizes. Which of you boys are interested?"
Colin grinned. "We'll take all you've got of these two styles, and I'll give you my info to get ahold of me over at the Clan's Division Headquarters. When Julio sees these, he'll probably order a few cases of them! Would you mind making a house call?"
"Dad and Pop gave us Iggy and Yenn as new brothers yesterday," Fred announced proudly, "and just a little bit ago, Dion, Nico, and Hanson became our new cousins! Colin made Glenn our cousin yesterday too!"
"I'll tell you what," the woman said with a smile, "from one adopted kid to another, you boys go ahead and pick out the one you each want. They're on me, and then I'll box up the ones that are left."
Jake smiled. "Mark and me's the only ones here that's not adopted, thanks for helping my brothers and their kids."
"That makes you really special," she replied. "Not everyone can share their parent or parents with siblings that are not related to them by blood." She reached under the counter, and pulled out a book, quickly flipping to a page near the middle. "I think I have a couple of these with me, do you want me to see if I have any that would fit you and Mark?"
Mark joined Jake as she showed them a picture of a tee-shirt that stated "Family is in the heart, not the blood".
"That's awesome!" both boys exclaimed in unison. "Yeah, please!"
As the attendant was focused on giving the various boys some personal attention as they shopped, Colin watched with a smile. While fully aware that the effect would only be temporary, he knew that the distraction of a normal activity would at least give their minds some break from the stress of the last few days. His thoughts, however, were interrupted by Glenn. "Dad? How many shirts am I allowed to get?"
"As many as you want," Colin replied. "While you're at it, I want you to make sure that the rest of the guys get all the shirts they want to. I'll take care of payment."
"Thanks, Dad!" Glenn replied, giving Colin a quick hug before heading back into the fray to spread the news.
'Ark? By any chance, would you be able to give me an estimate of the total sale price of the inventory of this shop?' Colin asked over his subvocal.
.< Yes, I would, Colin. >. Ark replied.
Rolling his eyes, Colin continued. 'Could you please transfer that sum plus ten percent from my personal account into the account for this booth, and trigger a receipt to be printed for the sale?'
. < The receipt will print in approximately twenty seconds. I have taken the liberty of notifying Clam medical staff that the may be needed to revive the sales associate. > .
'Thank you, Ark,' Colin replied with a grin as he headed over to retrieve the receipt. Once he had it in his hand, he waited for the associate to be between kids. "Just so you know, I just arranged for payment while you were busy. According to our senior AI, this will cover anything the boys want that is chargeable; anything left over you can consider a bonus, or if you want you can use it to cover for other kids in need, or any mix of the two. We'll swing by on the way back, put together a list of anything that you give as a gift to the boys, either personally or from the company; I know by the time we're done shopping they're gonna need reminders of anything that was a gift compared to the complete restock of clothing that the Clan is buying them. Don't be too surprised if our Director offers you a space in the Compound; he likes giving kids that are scared of the outside world a chance to get normal kid stuff whenever possible."
The associate took the receipt Colin handed her and looked it over. Her eyes got wide as she reached the total paid, "That would buy me out completely! This is too much, I can't accept this!"
"Too late," Colin giggled, "it's already been deposited. You've been added to the Clan's list of preferred vendors, Gail, and we like to make the companies on that list know that we'll support their growth. All but five of us here only have the clothes on their back at the moment; thanks to you, they're not thinking of that, they're being normal kids. There's a pretty good chance they'll be back today, along with the rest of our group, who are also getting their first stock of clothing. You should have just enough time to have someone run in a restock from your home before they get here."
"We'll discuss this later, right now I have a group of boys to spoil," Gail stated before spinning around and diving back into the group.
The group got quite a few stares as they headed into Dillards. The cause of the stares was due to all of the boys, except for Mark and Jake, wearing one or the other of two tee-shirt designs. Mark and Jake had the "Family" ones on, while the rest either had ones stating "My Grandma and I got in trouble today!" or they were wearing ones that had a drawing of a grandma riding a wheelie on a motorcycle on the right side, with "My Grandma" printed underneath, with the other side having a drawing of a classic grandma holding a balloon stating"Your Grandma" underneath.
The group was no more that twenty feet into the store when the manager intercepted them. "Back so soon, Mr. Busch?" the manager asked with a smile.
Colin smiled back, replying "Yeah, a couple of the guys found some kids that really needed new families, so they adopted them."
The manager nodded. "In that case, we should get them set up so they have time to get to know their new families. Follow me, and I will help expedite the process so that you can get them to their new homes."
True to his word, the manager assisted the group with finding what they needed, while not rushing the new boys as they chose what styles they wanted. The group made record time getting the same types of items that the first group had picked up, then they headed to the Apple Store to get the accessories not already covered by the earlier-arranged welcome kits. After a few more stops, they caught up with the rest of the group.
As the mob re-formed, Grandma snickered as she realized what Colin's group was wearing. "I see you stopped at that booth we passed earlier!"
"Yep, and Gail's expecting to meet the legendary 'Grandma' before we leave," Colin giggled. "I've already covered it so the rest of the guys can pick out stuff from her booth, she's now on the Clan vendor list."
"How did I know I'd gain more family?" Bob joked as the group dropped in to his place first after the trip. "Grandma, you're being a good example again!" he added as he welcomed his new grandchildren.
"This was all just the boys," Grandma replied. "Jake, Thomas, and Lucas proved what they learned from their Dad. We do need to decide what to do about Lucas and Mark, as they now have two sons they are responsible for. As a family, they need to remain together."
Bob nodded. "Kerry already brought that up. I called in Peter, and he's made some adjustments for us. It seems that Logan and Adam, while not a couple just yet, are getting closer. Since Mark and Adam have a bond that requires them to be close to each other right now, it was decided by Peter that the best thing to do is put a dimensional door between the expanded bedroom for the four of them over there and the bedroom over here that Logan and Lucas use. They can work out sleeping details themselves, but this way they're not having to choose which family they live with, because they are part of both houses."
"Dad?" Nico asked softly, "Does that mean Uncle Adam and Uncle Logan are gonna live with us?"
Mark smiled as he gave Nico a squeeze. "I think so, what do you guys think about that?"
"I like that, they're nice uncles!" Nico replied.
Dion smiled. "If they live with us, that means they can help us if you and Pop are busy."
Logan grinned as he put an arm around Adam's shoulders. "See? I told you they'd find a way to get us together!"
"Yeah," Adam giggled, "but at least they're giving us some choices!"
"I'm in," Lucas replied. "Maybe over there, Dad's snores won't keep us awake all night!"
Not taking the bait, Bob turned to Jake, Thomas, and Hanson. "Jake and Thomas, Peter turned your end of the hall into a suite, with Hanson's bedroom next to yours. Even though that gives you more privacy as a family, it doesn't change the fact that you can come to me at any time you have questions or need help. The only thing that's changed is that you now have your own area for just the three of you."
"Thanks, Dad," Jake and Thomas chorused. "We're gonna go take a nap," Jake added. "Hanson's a little worn out from the mall, so the three of us are gonna chill until dinner."
"Good idea, guys," Bob replied. "Give me a yell if you need help setting up Hanson's room later."
"Welcome home, guys," Frank said as he made the rounds of the latest additions. "Just so you know, Peter was here too. You guys have a suite for your family now, one that connects to both houses. Have you guys discussed the possibility of being co-parents yet?"
"With how we're bonded to each other," Logan replied, "we've really got no choice. Adam and Mark are bonded like me and Lucas; we physically need each other to stay stable. We've been having a conference in our heads, and we decided that our families need to be raised together, even if Adam and I find other partners."
"You four are doing a great job of thinking this through," Frank stated. "Dion, Nico? Once you guys are settled in, I think having a family conference where you can learn about why you have such special parents and uncles will answer a lot of the questions bouncing around in your heads. One thing you'll probably need to get used to is that you have free run of two households, both of which have multiple families living in them. Your Dad and Pop make the rules for you though; even though they'll probably start off with the rules that they've lived under already."
"Thanks, Grandpa," Dion and Nico replied.
"Lucas, Mark?" Frank noted, "I think you might want to take your sons and your twin brothers back to your suite for some family time, I'm sure that your sons are feeling a little overloaded right now."
"Yeah, I could use a break too," Mark admitted. "See ya at dinner."
Links to images of the tee shirts: