Brotherhood of Love

Chapter Six: Lessons From the Past

Conference room:

"Oh, shit!" Tanner and Chek both stated as they felt DJ's shift over their bond. "Dad," Tanner added as he turned to Cory, "I don't care what rules you set for yourself about using your empath skills on family. You need to calm Deej enough to think logically RIGHT NOW!"

Cory focused on DJ just long enough to feel the reason Tanner was in a panic. As soon as he felt the rage, he quickly shifted his mind into the calm state that he used for what everyone called his 'Vulcan Mode', and began gently pushing the emotion-that-wasn't-an-emotion towards the advancing Patriarch of Clan Wagner.

DJ knew almost instantly who it was when he felt the soft push in his mind from Cory. Even in his rage, he knew that Cory wouldn't be doing it unless he knew something DJ didn't, so DJ let himself be calmed to the point that he could think rationally again.

Once he was back with Tanner and Chek, DJ growled "Okay, someone better have been punished for putting those boys in the condition that they are in."

"If you had let any of us say something," Cory stated, "you might have been able to explain things better."

"Bite me, Dad; you would've done worse," DJ shot back.

"That's beside the point," Cory admitted. "Have a seat, brat. Don't declare war without facts."

"I'll give you brat, Dad ... when you least expect it," DJ threatened.

"Bring it on," Cory shrugged as he took a seat. "Okay, whose turn is it to give the report?"

 Cody stood up, his face clearly reflecting that he didn't like what he was about to say. "Based on telepathic evidence provided by Thomas Winters, which was found during an associated investigation, it was determined that a welfare check of the genetic offspring of Doctor Frank Harrison, DDS, was necessary. As the report indicated the possibility of forces being involved which might bear an association with the FCC, the Director of Alligator Alley dispatched the Rat Pack to evaluate the situation. With the assistance of Bryce Richardson of the Family Clan Short SWAT team, we were able to initiate an initial evaluation without being noticed."

"The initial evaluation indicated immediate response was required. The former wife of Doctor Harrison was discovered to have been having an affair while still married to him, and was currently living and engaged to the male which she had the affair with. Said male was a member of the recently disbanded FCC 'church' of Jacksonville, Florida. During forced mental scans, it was discovered that the male was abusing not only his genetic son, but also the son of Doctor Harrison, and orchestrated with the help of other FCC members the prosecution of Doctor Harrison for the transgressions the male was guilty of performing. We found the abuse to be of the same type and scale used on the children adopted by Gabe and Travis, with the mother being an active participant who willingly placed her offspring in danger. Upon conviction for their crimes, the adults suffered sudden onset frostbite of one hundred percent of their bodies. The victims witnessed the destruction of the frozen bodies of their tormentors, so they are aware that they are not returning."

 "Sudden ... onset ... frostbite?" DJ asked. "When did that one get added?"

"When Jason joined the Rat Pack," Tracy replied with a grin. "It makes it easy to prove to victims that their nightmares are over."

"No shit," DJ quipped. "Good job, Jason; do me a favor, make sure anyone else involved gets a logical punishment as well."

"You heard him, guys," Tracy added. "You've got a green light to chase down the rest of them now."

"Thanks, Deej," Cody stated. "We weren't sure if we had the okay for anyone other than the supposed parents."

DJ nodded. "You do now, and you can mobilize any help you need without asking. Dad made me a Patriarch, so that means you can use my name if anyone argues your orders."

"If they still argue, I'm backing Deej on this one," Cory added. "Tracy made you guys his top team, and you have two Patriarchs who just made you the leads on this operation. You guys run the show, and everyone else reports to you."

"I'm with Cory and DJ with this one, little brothers," Tracy assured them. "You guys started the job, so it's only fair that you be in charge of making sure it is finished. This could get big, so get some teams together to do the hard part while you take care of keeping it all together; pick the ones you want to personally handle, and let your teams do the rest. Stevie can help you if you need suggestions on how to organize things."

"Thanks for trusting us, bro," Adrian replied for the group.

"You guys earned it all on your own," Tracy smiled. "Not bad for a bunch of little rats!"

Seconds later, Tracy found himself to be a victim of a mass hug from the Rat Pack. Tanner shook his head at the display as he asked, "Does that mean it's safe for us to talk now?"

"What?" DJ queried as he turned to look at Tanner.

"You're just as bad as Dad when you get wound up, hon," Tanner giggled. "None of the rest of us wants to risk our safety when either of you gets going!"

"What'd I tell you, Cor?" Sean giggled. "Tanner and Chek are on my side!"

"Why'd we marry them, Dad?" DJ asked with raised eyebrows.

"They keep us sane," Cory giggled.

"Wouldn't we have to have been sane first?" DJ quipped.

"If you don't tell them, I won't!" Cory laughed. "Why don't you take care of the boys, and I'll catch up on your mall trip with your husband and wife?"

"Sounds good," DJ smiled. After a quick kiss with both of his partners, DJ headed back over to where the boys were sitting and watching him. As he re-took his previous seat, he addressed the two boys. "Okay guys, the hard part for all of us is done, now we get to help you make a new life. I've got a good idea of what was done to you, and I think I know the perfect brothers to help you learn to put it in your past. A couple of my uncles adopted two boys that had been through what you did, so I learned from them how to help you deal with it. If it is okay with you, I'd like for you to join my family, that way I can make sure that you're always safe."

Reading the understanding in the eyes of the two boys, DJ continued. "I guess the first thing you guys need to know is who I am. My official title is DJ Wagner, Patriarch of Clan Wagner of Family Clan Short of the House of Surak of the planet Vulcan. What all that really means is that one of my Dads is the head of Clan Short, and he trusts me so much that he made me the head of my own Clan inside his family. That also means that I decide if a rule fits in my family, and the only one that can make me change it is Cory; he's the blond in the purple shirt over there."

"In a little bit we'll sit down with all of your new brothers, and they'll help me explain what rules you guys had to live with that we don't have here. For now, the important ones are that you can just call me DJ until you feel comfortable calling me something else, only you can decide what is done with any part of your body, and you're allowed to speak when you have something to say, you do not have to wait for permission. Why don't we start with you telling me your names?"

"Jared Harrison, si... DJ," the ten-year-old blond replied warily.

"Kirk Cohan Junior, sir," his nine-year-old redhead brother almost whispered.

"Thanks, guys," DJ replied. "I know that you've got a lot to say that you've not been able to for a long time. When you're talking to me, Tanner, or Chek like we're talking now, the rule is that you can't get in trouble for anything you say, no matter how you say it. We might help you phrase it better, but that doesn't mean that you're in trouble. Jared, the report I got when Thomas did a telepathic scan of your birth father said that he used to call you JR. Just so you know, my guys overturned the court ruling, because they found out that he'd never molested anybody during his entire life. He was banned from seeing you by that court, but he's not banned anymore. Once you are ready, we'll arrange for you and him to visit, in our house, using our rules. If you want, we can start calling you JR again, that'll be one less thing to remind you of your recent past."

"He won't want me ever again," Jared whispered as he hung his head.

Before DJ could respond, Rand interrupted, speaking over DJ's commbadge. "Jared, right now he is sitting with Gabe, Travis, and their sons Jimmy and Davey. Jimmy and Davey went through what you guys did, and right now your birth father is learning what he has to do to help you from them. He wants to be part of your life again, but some of the things that Jason found in your head are going to make that hard until you've re-learned to trust him. He's taking a position in the Dental Department of Clan Medical, so he'll be around just as much as you are comfortable with letting him be there for you."

"Just so you know," DJ added, "I was given two Dads, a Pop, and a Mom when I was rescued. That means a lot, because I can invite your original Dad to join the family and become a Dad for you and all of your brothers. I won't do that until you and I agree that you've undone enough of the mess that was put in your head that you can be comfortable with him always being around."

While faint, there was a slight shift in Jared's eyes, as a glimmer of hope took hold within the dull grey of despair that had occupied them for too long. "JR? Please?" Jared softly begged.

"Log it, Rand; he's now JR," DJ smiled. "JR, you don't have to change your last name to be my son, do you want to keep Harrison? If you want to have my last name too, you can use both of them at once, something like Wagner-Harrison or Harrison-Wagner, or you could just use my last name."

The lessons Gabe and Travis had learned proved to be working, as by DJ leading JR through all of the decisions that he needed to make one step at a time, JR was slowly starting to believe that he might be listened to. With a glimmer of confidence that had not previously been present, he asked "Can I really be Harrison-Wagner?"

"Your wish is my command," DJ joked, earning him a flash of a smile. "All you have to do is say that you're sure, and Rand will log it, which makes it official."

"I'm sure," JR stated.

"Logged," Rand announced. "Justy's entering it now."

"What does that mean?" JR asked.

"That means you're registered with the Family Archives on Vulcan," DJ explained. "That makes you a Vulcan citizen that is part of my family. If you can, I need you to help with something very important. Your little brother has a name that's going to remind him of a lot of bad. Do you think that you can help him and me with giving him a new name to go with his new life?"

DJ crossed his fingers, hoping that he hadn't jumped too soon with giving JR a chance to act independently. He barely stifled a sigh of relief when JR turned to Kirk and asked, "Can you have the same last name as me?"

Noticing that Kirk was fighting to sit still, DJ made an educated guess and stated, "In my family, brothers give their brothers lots of hugs, especially if they are scared or confused. I get mad at anyone that tries to stop them."

Fortunately, Kovu was quick, as otherwise the force of Kirk landing on JR's lap and latching on for dear life would have toppled both boys to the ground. Kovu glanced up at DJ, stating "I've heard 'yes' over a dozen times already!"

"Thanks, bro," DJ smiled. "Rand, these two get flagged as equal to genetic brothers for all decisions. My word is given."

"Yes, Patriarch," Rand replied, sure that any other response would get him in hot water.

"Does anyone know how it's going over there?" Cory asked, now caught up on the results of the mall trip.

Chek nodded. "DJ's walking them through the steps to become our kids. He's starting to get through to Frank's son, JR, which is helping gain him credibility with the other boy, who has gone by the name Kirk but might be changing that."

"He's thinking really loud right now!" Jason noted. "He'd like to be Adrian Jason Harrison-Wagner, but he's afraid that me and Rat would be mad."

"Sounds to me like the heroes of a scared boy need to go over and tell him how honored they'd be," Cory prodded.

"Told ya he'd say that," Adrian giggled. "C'mon bro, let's give DJ a hand before Cory comes up with something else."

Twenty minutes later:

DJ smiled to himself at the changes to his new sons, even though he was sure there would be regressions very soon. His choice to address their names turned out to be the right one, as both of them had latched on to them as proof that they were no longer associated with their abuser. After Jason and Adrian has convinced Kirk that they didn't mind, Kirk took their names as his own, deciding to use AJ so that he could use both at once. Now, as the first small act of rebellion against their former rules, both of them were sharing one chair, JR defiantly keeping his arm over AJ's shoulder as they cuddled.

DJ was about to tackle the issue of how they were dressed, which he expected to be an interesting battle if the experience with Davey and Jimmy was anything to go by. He was interrupted, however, by his husband and wife coming over to introduce themselves.

"Hey, Babe," Tanner said as he leaned in to grab a quick kiss. "How's it going with our new sons?"

"We'll see once they pick up their eyeballs," DJ quipped after returning the kiss. "Grab a chair so they know you're not going to touch them."

After exchanging his own kiss with DJ, Chek stated, "We're going to introduce everyone to the family. I'll send Finn and Chris in to give you a hand; I'm sure Chris will want to check their health, considering who had them, and Finn needs to get to know them a little so that he can be ready to help them adjust."

"Good plan," DJ replied before turning to the shocked boys. "Guys, the carrot-top is your new Pop, Tanner; the yellow-haired one is your new Mom, Chek. Chek is from a planet that doesn't have boys or girls, because they have all the stuff to be both. It's okay to call Chek a him like we do, since there's not really a small word in English for people like him. If you really need to know that the three of us being married isn't a sin, and you're not ready to trust my word, I can call for one of your new Guardian Angels to explain it for you; Uncle Mikey helped Jimmy and Davey when they were rescued from another family like you had."

"You ... you can call ANGELS?" JR asked, DJ's statement successfully derailing the thoughts forming in his head about the three boys kissing.

"Just because I'm dead doesn't mean I have to abandon my nephews," Mikey stated as he appeared in front of the chair between DJ and the boys. As with the time he'd appeared for Jimmy and Davey, he was in full Angel mode, even sporting a halo. As he took a seat with his wings spread wide, Mikey stated in a voice that could not be ignored, "Come, little ones, as your Souls require cleansing of That which is Not of the Word."

"Express service!" DJ grinned.

As Mikey's wings sealed the boys who were now on his lap off from the world, Tanner wondered "Usually he talks with the new guys first, I wonder what we missed?"

"I'm sure he'll tell us," Chek surmised, "most likely in the most confusing way he can think of."

"His chariot's probably double-parked," DJ grinned.

"Nah," Tanner giggled, " he was probably making out with Candy... again."

"You know, I CAN still hear you," Mikey stated, his grin audible even if they couldn't see his face.

"Of course," Chek giggled, "Why else would we be saying it?"

All three broke into laughter as Mikey's right hand appeared under one of his wings, all but his middle finger folded over. "No thanks, we're married!" DJ sputtered, which made all three collapse, holding their sides as they laughed at their own humor.

They had calmed down by the time Mikey opened his wings, revealing the two boys on his lap snuggled into his chest. "Go ahead, guys," Mikey said softly, "now that you know the Truth, you can enjoy your new family."

"You promise that you'll visit?" AJ asked in a small voice.

Mikey smiled as he replied. "You guys are direct family, so you'll see a lot of me. Sometimes you'll feel that I'm with you, too; I like to do that if it would mess things up if others saw me."

"Okay," AJ replied, obviously satisfied with the answer. "Love you, Uncle Mikey."

"Love you too," Mikey said as he gave both boys a kiss on the top of their heads. "While you guys are getting settled in, I'll do like we talked about and fill in Jimmy and Davey on the things you'll need their help with. Remember, even though your new parents are weird, they're also never going to let anything like what you lived through happen again, not if they have any way to stop it."

"Okay," JR and AJ replied as they leaned their heads up and kissed Mikey's cheeks. They then climbed down, and hesitantly made their way to stand in front of DJ.

Reading the need in their faces, DJ softly stated "Neither one of you ever needs to ask if you need cuddles from any of the three of us." Opening his arms, DJ added, "Come here guys, I'll hold you while you officially meet the rest of your parents."

DJ had no need to repeat himself, as both boys quickly accepted the security of being held by the first living person to even partially earn their trust in years. As they slowly started to relax in DJ's arms, Mikey answered the question that he saw in the eyes of all three new parents.

"Thanks to DJ putting the lessons to use that you all learned from helping Davey and Jimmy," Mikey explained, "a temporary window was opened when the three of you kissed. At that moment, all the falsehoods that were forced into their brains that were against their natural nature were open for reconsideration. I took advantage of that to restore their ability to compare and decide for themselves, and explained to them where the teachings of their former church went against Our Father's Word. They are now where Jimmy and Davey were once I first assisted them, and their lives moving forward are no longer dictated by the lies of the FCC, but they still have to decide for themselves if the FCC teachings that were not manipulative untruths are something they want to incorporate into their new lives. That is where the guidance of their new family comes into play, just as it did for Gabe and Travis with their boys."

"Now I know where Cory got being long-winded from," Chek quipped. "Next time, I'll bring a pillow so I'm comfortable!"

"You're just as bad as your husbands," Mikey grinned.

"Thanks!" Chek giggled as he stuck out his tongue.

"Why's he picking on Uncle Mikey?" AJ asked cautiously.

"Uncle Mikey is really family, bud," DJ replied gently. "When he was alive, he was the big brother of your Grandpa Cory and Grandpa Sean. I bet Mikey had to explain a few new feelings you felt while he was helping you, didn't he?"

"Yeah," AJ acknowledged.

"Mikey's had to do that for a lot of us," DJ explained. "It makes you a lot closer to someone if they're the first person that you experience a good emotion with. When you get really close like that, sometimes there are things that become jokes between the two of you that seem like picking on someone to other people. If you're not sure, look to see if they both look happy; if someone is being picked on, they will look hurt, even if they try to pretend that they think it is funny."

"Okay," AJ replied, obviously satisfied with the answer.

"That, Deej," Mikey said seriously, "is why you're a Patriarch now. Your brothers learned to take the time to explain things from you, and now your sons will learn the same, and pass it on to their families."

"It's your fault," DJ giggled. "You're the one that made me listen to you!"

"Hey, it takes a lot of work to get through that hard head of yours!" Mikey shot back with a grin.

"SECONDED!" Tanner and Chek exclaimed in unison.

"All three of you can bite me," DJ sniggered. Hearing two faint giggles from his lap. DJ added "Do you see what I mean, guys?"

"It sounded like you were having fun," JR observed.

"Nobody looked mad," AJ added.

DJ nodded. "I bet if someone had said that to one of you, you would have been mad or hurt, wouldn't you?"

"Yeah," both boys replied with nods of their heads.

"That's why we don't say stuff like that to people we are not really close to," DJ explained. "Sometimes, even if you're close to someone, they can't be joked with like that, but since you're close to them, you'll already know that."

"How?" JR asked.

"I'll give you an example," DJ replied. "One of my cousins who lives on the Iowa has three brothers. His nickname for the older two, when he wants to say he loves them without embarrassing them, is 'Runt One' and 'Runt Two'. He doesn't ever call their littlest brother 'Runt' though, because he knows that the little guy won't take it the same way the other two brothers do."

"So don't say something that might be bad unless you know the person knows you don't mean it bad?" JR summarized.

"Exactly! Good job, JR" DJ smiled. "Did that make sense, AJ?"

"Yeah, I understand now!" AJ replied. As he processed seeing a caregiver give positive reinforcement for the first time in his entire life, he finally started to accept that his life up to this point was really just as wrong as it had felt. With that acknowledgment, he subconsciously decided to latch on to this new life he was being offered, and to never treat anyone the way he'd been treated. While not consciously aware of the decisions made in the depths of his mind, AJ did feel it as the weight of a lifetime of abuse and oppression were lifted from his soul. Consciously, he pulled DJ's arm tighter against him as he totally relaxed, allowing himself to begin to emotionally attach to a father figure for the first time.

Mikey smiled as he watched DJ's instincts once again working to bring peace to troubled souls. "Guys, just call for me if you need me; I need to go welcome a few other new family members. Don't be too surprised if your other two Guardian Angels stop by to say hi, okay?"

"We get THREE Guardian Angels?" JR asked.

"Yep, and I'm the sane one!" Mikey giggled. "Remember what I told you; there are going to be a lot of things that you were told were wrong that you're now going to be told are okay. You can trust your parents and brothers; they won't tell you that it is okay to do something unless it really is."

"Okay," JR and AJ nodded. "Thank you, Uncle Mikey."

"You're welcome," Mikey replied. "I'll stop by before bedtime tonight, just so you can ask anything that you think of during the day today. I think you're ready to get to know your other parents now, so have fun!"

As Mikey faded out, JR warily assessed Tanner and Chek. After considering their actions that he'd witnessed, he asked "Is it okay if I go see them, Da ... DJ?"

DJ smiled, aware just how big of a step it was. "Yes, you can do that. Thank you for asking, even though you didn't really need to. I heard what you almost called me; just remember that you could call me Dad if you really want to. I have two people I call Dad, all I do is use their names if it would be confusing. Calling two people dad doesn't mean that you care about them any less."

"Thanks ... Daddy," JR replied as he leaned his head to rub on DJ's cheek, then shifted enough that he could stand up."

AJ pulled DJ's arm even tighter over his chest. "Do I have to?" he asked.

"No, little buddy," DJ replied. "You can stay right here and learn about them, and all of us understand why you need to."

Now that he was the sole occupant of DJ's lap, AJ shifted around so that he was sitting sideways. Once in position, he latched onto DJ with both arms, obviously not planning to let go anytime soon. "Love you, Daddy," AJ said softly.

"I love you too, Son," DJ replied as he took the chance and kissed AJ's forehead. The tightening of AJ's arms around his chest told DJ that he'd made the right choice; what everyone else saw was the contented smile that very possibly was the first one to grace AJ's face.

JR watched the interaction between DJ and AJ like a hawk. While he felt that he could trust DJ, he had sworn to protect his slightly younger brother the day he met him, and wasn't about to break that vow anytime soon.

Tanner had been splitting his attention between the two boys, and visibly noticed the shift in JR's posture when AJ smiled. Deciding it was his turn, he softly said "JR? Why don't you join me over here, and we can both watch AJ to make sure he's safe while we talk."

"Why wouldn't he be safe?" JR asked as he shifted over in front of Tanner.

"You tell me," Tanner replied. "DJ used to do exactly what you're doing when he first met his half-brother, Timmy. It's not bad, but if something is making you worry, then we need to know so we can fix it."

"Aj's never had a real Daddy before," JR stated as he continued to watch his brother.

Recognizing the situation, Tanner summarized, "I'll bet that you've tried to be a Daddy to him, along with being a big brother. You're not the only one that's had to do that; even though the situation was different, the Big Brother of all of our kids, Finn, did the same thing for his little brother, Rollie. Just remember; AJ will NEVER forget what you did for him, and the two of you will share a special bond for all of your lives because of it."

"Finn and Chris just adopted six kids from somewhere else, but I'm sure you and him will still have lots of time to learn from each other about dealing with the feeling of not being needed as much, now that your little brother has a Dad to protect him. DJ and I share the title of 'family big brother' in your Grandpa Cory's family; maybe you and Finn can do the same thing. A family big brother is like a helper between the parents and the rest of the family, we help our brothers understand family rules, and we fill in if, for some reason, none of our parents are around when they're needed."

By this time, JR had slowly shifted over and took a seat on Tanner's lap. "I'm scared," JR admitted as silent tears began falling.

"AJ is too," Tanner explained softly, "that's why he is sitting with his Daddy. Would you like me to have Rand get us a recliner, that way you can cuddle with me and Mom while we help you become unscared some?"

"Yeah," JR whispered.

Thirty Minutes Later:

"DJ?" Rand asked over the room speaker, "Cody Wilkins from the Rapid Response Base is requesting a security override to join you."

"Took him long enough," Kovu stated. "I only called him while I was waiting for DJ to find out what was going on."

Having a good idea of why Kovu would have made that call, DJ replied "Go ahead, Rand. Tell him to give us a minute to prepare the boys." 

"Okay," Rand replied. "I'll warn you before he pops in."

"Thanks, bro," DJ stated. "Kovu, who'd you call for?"

"The 'Guerra brothers'," Kovu grinned. "They'll fit in great around here, and I trust them."

DJ chuckled, "Oh yeah, they'll do great!" Turning his head, he added "Tanner, Chek? You might want to wake up JR so he isn't surprised. Make sure you warn him about how his new security is going to look."

"We're on it already," Tanner replied.

DJ then gave his own lap-rat a soft squeeze. "AJ, Kovu picked out a security guard for both you and JR. You don't need to be scared of them, they look like gorillas, but they're really kids that some bad guys mixed gorilla and human to make."

"Are they coming here?" AJ asked.

"Yes, one of our friends runs the military base for the Clan over in Hawaii," DJ explained. "He just asked us to allow him to come in here so he can make sure that you and them can be friends."

"Are they scary?"

"They try to look scary so that nobody messes with the people they are protecting," DJ explained. "You need to remember that when you see them; if they scare you, that means they'll scare anyone trying to hurt you a lot more. Just keep telling yourself that they are not here to hurt you, and you'll see real soon that they are not really scary at all, once you know them."

"You're holding me, so I won't be scared," AJ stated, verbally affirming the trust he now had in DJ.

"Thank you, son," DJ replied with a smile.

A few minutes later, both boys were prepared for visitors. After getting the go-ahead from DJ, Rand contacted the Rapid Response base and gave them the channel to use for transport. once confirmed, Rand then announced, "Four incomings!"

"Here we go, guys," DJ stated, just to make sure the boys were ready. He smiled when he saw that Cody had decided to use the transporter, as it gave just a little more warning to the boys that the guests were arriving.

Within seconds of the new arrivals materializing, even JR and AJ were openly laughing. The reason for that was the 'uniform' the two new pre-teen security officers had chosen to wear. Both were outfitted in pinstriped suits ... ORANGE pinstriped suits, with rainbow pinstripes. On their feet were purple bunny slippers, while the undersized pink fedoras on their heads had large bunny ears attached to them. Oversized sunglasses, with flashing lights on the rims, and the biggest Super Soaker they could find completed the costume.

"I love it when a plan works!" the slightly older one of the outlandish gorilla boys grinned.

"Agreed! You think they're ready for us yet?" the younger one asked.

"Does it matter?"

"Good point!"

Seeing that the laughter was down to giggles, Cody Wilkins pulled his significant other, Sheldon, into his side as he announced, "Since these two decided to talk an AI into changing their uniform somewhere between Hawaii and here, they're all yours, DJ!"

"You're just mad that they out-thought you, Cody!" DJ grinned. "This is one of our new sons, AJ, on my lap, and his brother JR is over there with Tanner and Chek. Boys, the big kid is Colonel Cody Wilkins, the other normal-looking one is Sheldon, the gorilla boy with the green Super Soaker is Gianni Guerra, and the last one is his little brother Gino."

Both gorilla boys picked up one of the bags next to them, and then Gianni headed over to JR while Gino headed to AJ.

Gino stopped just far enough away to ensure he didn't invade AJ's 'safe zone', then dropped to one knee so he was less imposing. He reached into the bag, pulling out a slightly smaller version of his own Super Soaker, then held it out towards AJ. "I am delivering your weapon, Sir," Gino stated in a very bad British accent.

"Mine?" AJ asked in shock. "I never had one of those, what do I do with it?"

Gino smiled as he replied "I am going to teach you to be the best nine-year-old with a water gun in the state of Florida! These don't hurt anyone, and water fights are really fun."

"Go ahead, son." DJ encouraged, impressed by the way Gino had strived to disarm AJ's fears.

"Th ... Thank you," AJ replied as he took the water rifle, awestruck as he started inspecting his first toy.

Gino gave DJ a wink before replying, "You're welcome. I heard that you never were allowed to be silly, which needs to be illegal." Gino pulled out a hat just like his, and added "Do you want a silly hat like mine?"

After receiving a nod from DJ, AJ replied "Please?" then leaned forward, obviously allowing Gino to place the hat on his head.

Once the hat was in place, Gino made a big deal out of surveying the rest of AJ's wardrobe. After faking thinking about it, Gino stated "DJ, I have serious safety concerns regarding the clothing his former caregivers outfitted AJ in. On top of being restrictive to free movement, none of the outer layers appear to meet minimum flammability requirements for the clothing worn by Clan members. His footwear offers insufficient traction to prevent injury in almost any situation, and by the shape of the upper toes of the shoes, they appear to be at least one size too small. If you wish, I can escort AJ to the Emergency Clothing Locker in CIC and assist him with his initial outfitting of clothing suitable for the son of a Patriarch."

Before AJ could ask, DJ assured him by saying "It doesn't mean anything if you trust me and I didn't trust you. I DO trust you, and I think that if you're ready to try it you might really like making some decisions for yourself. I know that Gino will help you, and he won't tell you lies about clothing. Remember, it is his job to make sure that you're safe when I'm not around; he can't do that if you are wearing something that makes it easy to hurt you."

"Is Jar ... JR going too?" AJ asked.

"Gianni is going to take him to Alligator Alley's locker," Gino explained. "That way you can show him just how great of a big brother he's been by making your own choices."

AJ thought it over, finally deciding that he didn't want to make DJ mad by not letting DJ trust him like he was trusting DJ. "Daddy? Will you come help if I can't do it?"

"Yes, Gino can call me, and I'll be right there," DJ replied. "I know it's scary, but I'm really proud of you for trying."

DJ's words boosted his confidence, so AJ replied "Okay, when can we go?"

"Let me put on my scary uniform," Gino grinned. "Even though we're going someplace friendly, I want you to see what I'll wear if I really do need to keep you safe. We'll keep the hats though, they're fun!" Pausing long enough to see AJ nod, Gino then said "Rand, please help me get changed for away detail."

As Gino vanished and AJ waited expectantly, DJ received a call on his subvocal. After some quick coordination, he smiled and got AJ's attention. "Hey buddy, I just was told that the boy Jimmy that I was talking about earlier wants to know if you want him to join you. If you remember, he went through pretty much the same stuff you did, so he wants to help by telling you the things that surprised or scared him when he first came here. He thinks it will make it easier for you, and there are probably lots of things I didn't notice that he can tell you about."

"Is he nice?" AJ asked warily.

"Yes, I think he's turning into a great kid as he recovers from being abused," DJ replied honestly. "His big brother is asking JR the same thing. I know it helps me when I talk to someone else who's been through what I did, so it might help you too. You can take as long as you want; Bryce told me he's going to make sure that you and JR come back at the same time."

Recognizing the name of the weirdest member of the team that saved him, AJ nodded. "Do you think me and Jimmy might become friends? I never had a friend before."

"That is up to the two of you," DJ replied. "I hope you do, because both of you deserve it."

"I think I want to meet him," AJ admitted.

"Gino knows him too," DJ added. "I'll let Bryce know to pick him up on the way over to CIC with you and Gino."

"Okay," AJ replied. "Are you talking in heads like Jason does?"

Realizing why AJ seemed to not be fazed by conversations he wasn't hearing, DJ explained, "I can do that a little bit, but I'm not as good as Jason. I have a little device in my ear called a subvocal. With it, I can hear stuff and talk without moving my lips, so I can do stuff without everyone knowing about it. Sometime tomorrow, I'm going to make sure that you and your brother have one for each of you, unless Gino beats me to it."

"Okay," AJ smiled.

Just then, Gino returned, now in full uniform with the exception of his hat. AJ softly giggled, as the hat stood out even more against the uniform, looking even sillier. "Bryce already updated me," Gino told DJ. "If AJ and Jimmy decide to destroy his old clothes, is it okay to proceed?"

"As long as you record it," DJ replied. "Go have fun, AJ; I hope you make a new friend!"

AJ gave DJ a firm hug, stating "Thanks, Daddy," as he climbed down and took Gino's hand. Seconds later, Bryce popped in, waved hi, then popped back out.

As he picked up DJ's left arm and snuck under it, Tanner commented "Great job with AJ; I think the only reason JR agreed to go with Gianni was that he was satisfied that his little brother was safe."

"I think he was listening to you more than us at times," Chek added as he took the other side.

Cody and Sheldon walked over and joined the trio. "I don't believe those two goofs pulled that off!" Cody commented as he shook his head.

"They surprised me!" Tanner replied. "It worked, though."

"Why?" Sheldon asked. "Security's not exactly a fun job."

"That might be why it worked," Chek offered. "If I understood the reports about Jimmy and Davey right, the one thing they were absolutely not allowed was fun. If the same was true about JR and AJ, that means they were just exposed to the one thing they didn't know was missing. Structure and discipline would equal pain to them, so anything rigidly military would scare them."

"So by putting them in a situation they were not expecting, that was outside of their life experience, it removed their fear?" DJ asked.

"It makes sense," Cody admitted. "They would be too busy trying to understand the joy they were feeling for the fear to take hold, since they are opposite emotions."

"Talk it over with Prez when you get back," DJ stated. "We might be onto something that can help the orphanage kids."

"That reminds me," Cody stated with a grin, "Prez wanted me to ask you when you're bringing the family over so that Jay can do the official Fuzzy issuing?"

"He also said Kyle cheats at Pissed Off Chickens!" Sheldon added with a chuckle.

"Tell him Uncle Kyle's an angel," DJ grinned. "We'll probably be able to come over once these two are settled in; of all the new guys, I think they'll take the longest."

"Don't count on it," Sheldon offered. "I'm pretty sure their security is planning on fast-tracking them into a normal life."

"Probably," DJ replied. "You might want to update the placement to permanent; I have a feeling that JR and AJ are going to keep them around."

"I'll be surprised if they don't," Cody admitted. "Unless you think that you'll need us, we're going to head back and catch Prez. The sooner he knows about this, the easier it'll be for everyone."

"I agree," DJ replied. "Thanks for bringing them over, and let me know what Prez thinks."

"Will do," Cody replied. "See you guys soon."

"Have fun controlling Gino and Gianni," Sheldon added just before they vanished.

With the room finally down to just the three of them and their two security, DJ sighed. "This was not how I wanted to spend the afternoon. Bryce said he's going to buy us some time to spend with the rest of the boys. We need to let them show off their new stuff before JR and AJ get back, plus we need to warn them about their new brothers and their security."

"We'll make sure the adults are all briefed," Kopa offered. "That should give you more time with the kids, and less questions you don't want to answer."

"Thanks, guys, that'll help a lot," DJ replied. "Okay Rand, lift the lockdown on this room; we're heading out to join the family."

To Be Continued...