Memories Part 3: And A Child Shall Lead Them

Chapter 37 - Meltdown

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Now that they were done with all of the interruptions and time-looped rest breaks for recovery, JJ finally led his group out to the Clan garage to begin their planned excursion. Seeing as most of the visits were semi-official, the entire group had taken the time to outfit themselves in Clan tactical uniforms, which indirectly caused Alexei to blend in even more.

The group made it three feet inside the doorway before all but JJ and Adam came to a sudden stop. "HOLY CRAP!" Nathan exclaimed as he noticed the collection of vehicles lined up on both sides of the warehouse-sized building. "There's gotta be millions of dollars of cars in here!"

"Who do they belong to?" Leofwyn asked, "There can't be that many adults around here!"

JJ giggled as he turned to the awestruck group behind him. "Some of them belong to adults, but a lot of them belong to guys who accepted Starfleet commissions. Since we're considered adults legally, that means we can drive after we've took classes." JJ pointed to his left, "That side's for the adults; the Duesenberg's Momma Teri's, the Camaro is Dad's, the Hummers are for all of the adults for when we go on group trips, and the rest belong to all the other grown-ups hanging around." Turning to the other side, JJ continued. "The green 'Vette is Ray, him and Cory hang out. The orange Colbalt is Fife's buddy Hraffer; the triplet Vegas are Curly, Larry, and Moe... they're Jamie, Jacob, and Beau's project, and are still being updated; the old Firebird is Justy's, the red Impala is Sean's, the DeLorean belongs to Kyle and Tyler, the red Fiero is mine, the yellow one is Adam's, and the rest are either project cars or community property."

"You're not gonna try to fit all of us in a Fiero, are you?" Nathan asked while giving JJ a look that stated he better not try it.

JJ shook his head quickly, "Nope, we'll take the Security car. C'mon!"

The group followed JJ toward the end of the line of vehicles, finally reaching a section that contained a dozen various SUVs marked with Clan Security decals. JJ stopped, pointing towards the last vehicle in the lineup. "I think that'll hold all of us!"

Nathan nodded, "Yeah, but I've never seen a six-door Suburban before!"

Now that JJ had his fun, Adam spoke up. "One of JJ's Dad's friends made it for us. He put the back half of a Suburban on the cab and frame of a long bed crew-cab Silverado, took about six inches out of the body height, then chopped the top four inches. After that, he lowered it four inches and tweaked the seating so that it'll hold fifteen of us comfortably; then he added the full police package, except for the prisoner stuff."

JJ took over from there. "Once we got it, our teams started upgrading it. About that time, an adult android came in to Saint Mikey's after getting in a really bad accident that pretty much destroyed his chassis. He's spent his life working for Social Services, and wanted to do something to help the Clan once he was functional again. Marc offered him the choice between a new body or switching to become a vehicle AI, and Louis decided that he'd rather retire and join the AI vehicle family."

"Marc conveniently forgot to warn me about JJ, however!" Louis announced over his loudspeaker. "It's never boring around here, since there are so many of us here in the garage, and Fife is always popping in to tweak something in one car or another. Yesterday he asked me to try out one of his new ideas, so now I'm able to link into one of George's spare cores and watch you clowns directly while helping George with some of his projects. That means I already know all of you, and I had the honor of watching the ceremony. I've reconfigured the restraints in the back row for Lucas, Lazarus, Casey, Yegor, and Daniil so that all five can sit together. There's plenty of room for Senya to relax, as I've already folded two seats in the rear center row to give room. Nathan and Leofwyn, since I assume you want to be near your brothers, you can have that row. The front center row will hold Alexei, Morgan, Maddox, and Madison; which leaves JJ and Adam in the front. Fortunately, at least I know how to drive!"

"Bite me, Louis!" JJ replied. "Come on guys, load up!"

The little guys ran to grab their spot, scrambling over the folded seats to get in the rear row of seats. Nathan and Leof shook their heads as they grinned at their younger brothers and followed them to the rear doors. Alexei waited until his boys were seated, then followed the triplets to get into the row of seats suggested for them, while JJ and Adam hopped into the front seat, with JJ driving.

Most of the thirty-minute drive was spent with Adam playing tour guide, pointing out things that he thought were interesting to the Orlando newbies as JJ drove past them. When they finally reached the main police station, JJ pulled into the "Official Use Only" entrance, causing Nathan to ask "Won't we get in trouble parking back here?"

JJ shook his head as he looked for a parking spot the oversized Suburban would fit in. "Nope; we have to use the police entrance since we're armed. They have less alarms that way, since the lobby has energy weapon detection."

"That makes sense," Nathan replied with a nod. "Neither one of us needs any more issues with the police."

"Yeah, tell me about it!" JJ snickered. "Both of us had one little incident, and nobody will let us live it down!"

"Am I missing something?" Alexei asked in confusion.

"Both of them had run-ins with some bad cops," Adam explained with a grin. "Let's just say that the cops lost, and the legends of JJ and Nathan began."

Alexei nodded. "Now I know who to call when I'm ready to clean up the law enforcement in Russia, thank you."

"Not you too!" JJ and Nathan exclaimed in unison.

"Why not?" Alexei asked as he feigned innocence. "You've got the experience, so why not use it?"

"Nice try, Alexei," Nathan commented. "The horns really clash with the halo though."

Alexei decided it was best not to reply, as all three of his security detail were trying unsuccessfully to suppress their giggles. By this time, JJ had parked, and the group exited the Suburban before the conversation went any more downhill.

As they reached the Officer's entry, JJ took his wallet out and scanned it on the access reader. The door unlocked, and the rest of them followed him into the building. JJ obviously knew where he was going, as he escorted them to the staff elevators and selected the fifth floor.

"Don't we need to check in?" Leof asked, his concern obvious.

"I called ahead," JJ explained, "but we're considered local officers, so we get the same access as any other policeman on the force. Only a few places do that for us, they're usually places that are near our compounds or friends that one of us has made."

"I think I could get used to this!" Nathan giggled as they exited the elevator.

"JJ! Adam! I was beginning to think you forgot about us!" the Lieutenant sitting at the reception desk exclaimed as soon as she spotted JJ. "How are your boys doing?"

"Mischievous as ever, Grace," JJ replied with a grin. "Dad's got purple hair for a few weeks; he forgot to check the shampoo bottle again!"

"Of course," Adam added, "all of them had an alibi, which they presented to us BEFORE we could ask them about it."

"They've obviously been watching their parents," Grace commented with a wink before glancing at the rest of the group. "You giving tours?"

JJ shook his head. "Not really; I'd call this more of an indoctrination. Cory says I need to delegate some, so I'm giving these guys the same access that me and Adam have. Any of them can speak for me and it'll stick."

Grace nodded, then shifted her gaze to Alexei. "Tzar Alexei, I assume that you'll be using an alias as well as your sons? Before you ask, my grandparents emigrated from Russia just before my parents were born, and our family has been following the recent events there closely. My grandfather has stated for years that the policies of Russia were not those that a bearer of the name Alexei would allow; all of his offspring get daily calls reminding us that he was right as you step more into your hereditary role."

Before Alexei had a chance to reply, Daniil stepped forward, emboldened by the earlier public acknowledgement of his place in the family by his new dad. "Please inform your family that Tzar Alexei and his family send their blessings, and we request all who are able to appear for an audience tomorrow evening at Family Clan Short Headquarters. Transportation will be provided." Daniil paused, turning to Alexei, "Did I do that right, Dad?"

Alexei smiled as he pulled his eldest into a hug. "You did it exactly right, my small bear!"

Daniil's smile lit up the room at Alexei's praise; the tone of Alexei's voice telling him the love his Dad felt.

"My family will be honored to accept your request, Tsesarevich Daniil, and we thank you for the blessings," Grace replied formally. "I will call them while your family meets with Chief Harrison. Could all of you other than JJ and Adam tell me your names so I can issue your access cards and department identifications? Tzar Alexei, I'll let you decide on aliases for you and your sons, the only place that will show your real name is the secure database. We do this all of the time for detectives, so you'll be safe from being identified."

Alexei smiled, "Thank you, I appreciate it. I believe 'Alexander Short' would be appropriate for myself, while 'Danny' would be appropriate to Americanize Daniil's name. Yegor's name translates to 'George', so that would be appropriate. Naturally, their surnames should be 'Short'." Pointing at each of the triplets in order, he added "Morgan, Maddox, and Madison will assume the surname Richardson for purposes of an alias."

"Wait until I tell Dad he's got three new sons!" JJ giggled.

"We couldn't be that lucky," Morgan muttered.

JJ suddenly became serious. "If you guys want it, I'll bet Dad and Pop jump at the chance. If you're serious, we'll ask when we get home."

"My brothers would never ask, as they would not do well if denied," Alexei commented. "I believe that you would be a fitting big brother to them, so I will ask you to pursue this in their stead."

JJ smiled, "Consider it done, bro. Thanks for saying that about me; it means a lot coming from you. Guys, I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't like you and didn't already want you as brothers. Kyle thinks you'll fit in great too, so you've already got two votes for yes."

Madison looked between Alexei and JJ. "Alexei, are you saying you don't want to be our brother anymore?"

Alexei shook his head. "While I'm not ready to accept the authority of an adult, I don't wish my problem upon you. JJ has proven his words with his actions, and I accept his offer of brotherhood with no strings attached. I have studied the family structure of the Clan, and one unique thing about it is the fact that the Short family tree and the Richardson family tree are one and the same. At some time, I will be choosing one or the other as my own adoptive family; Aaron was right about it being something I will need, I'm just not ready yet. If you accept this, I will rest better knowing that my brothers are already a part of the family no matter what I finally decide."

JJ nodded, and made sure to phrase his response to show affection in the way that fit the Russian language. "My brother Alexei is right; when our Mom died, Teri brought me, Dad, and Kyle into her family. We didn't ask for it, in fact we didn't get a choice, but her doing that is what kept us together and sane. She can't replace Mom, but she's our second Mom. We're the only family in the Clan that are that close to her, and Cory and Sean are just as close with Dad. I think Tracy and Karl are just about there, so sometime soon their Dads will join in to make it a three-way family."

As soon as JJ paused to breathe, Adam jumped in. "Tyler and me came into this just after JJ and Kyle's mom died. It's been one big family from the start; we were the very first kids added to what would become the Clan. It never was 'Dan's family' or 'Teri's family', it was 'our family'. When I was almost killed, I had a mom and two dads who made time to show me that they cared and loved me. That's the reason that a lot of us who are engaged to someone with the opposite last name have decided to keep our last names when we get married; we don't need to join the other family, because we are already a part of it."

Morgan smiled, "So that's why everyone says that in the Clan your name doesn't designate your family! Let me know if this is right; if we say yes, that means we're not just JJ's brothers under Clan laws, but we're the Patriarch's brothers too?"

JJ nodded, "You got it; not all families in the Clan work that way, but ours does."

"Okay, we'll accept, and we'll help our brother Alexei recover from the dirtbag so he can join us too." Morgan stated after exchanging looks with Maddox and Madison. "Redheads, unite!"

"God help us!" Adam giggled.

While the group was plotting adoptions, Nathan, Leof, Laz, Lucas, and Casey had snuck over to get their ID cards. "You guys done yet?" Nathan asked as he slipped his new ID into his pocket.

"Yeah, I think so... for now!" JJ giggled as he rounded up his soon-to-be brothers to get them registered. Once the last four were done, Grace let the Chief know that they were on their way as JJ led them towards the front of the building.

As they made their way to the office that JJ was heading toward, Nathan dropped back to walk alongside Alexei. "You think we can talk later? I'd kinda like to know you better."

Alexei allowed himself to smile. "I think that would be great; it is nice making friends who don't care about my title."

Nathan grinned. "When you hang out with the leaders of the Clan, titles don't mean much any more. You seem to be pretty kewl, and I think we could be really good friends."

"Thanks," Alexei responded. "My Grandfather taught my Father and me that we need to spend time with our age group so that we would not think of ourselves as better than others. I have missed that since Grandfather died and I was put in isolation by my tormentor."

Nathan nodded. "It sucks to be alone. I learned in Des Moines that all of our Clan brothers want to make sure that don't happen to anyone ever again. It's kinda nice having friends that you can trust."

"I'm just starting to learn that," Alexei admitted. "It's hard to trust after being raped by the adult that was supposed to be helping you prepare for taking your position of the Tzar." Realizing what he'd just said, Alexei froze, his shame about his past written clearly on his face.

Without a second thought, as soon as Nathan saw Alexei's expression, he pulled his new friend into a hug. "Dude, I almost killed a cop that was gonna do the same thing to Leof, and I'd just met him. Tell me where that bastard is, this time I won't let anyone talk me into letting them finish the job."

Alexei risked a glance at Nathan's face, his shame being replaced by shock at the change he found. When he was younger, his Grandfather had tried to explain to him that some people will vow to protect you, but the ones that you need to count on will show you with their eyes. Logan and his pack were the first example of this that Alexei had encountered, and the triplets were the second. Nathan's eyes almost scared Alexei, as they showed Nathan took it personally, and was prepared to exact revenge on the guilty party. "I arranged for him to have an 'accident'," Alexei whispered. "While I did not do the deed, his blood is on my hands."

"Were you Clan when you did that?" Nathan asked softly.

"Yes," Alexei replied weakly.

"Then you followed Vulcan law, even if you were not aware of it," Nathan explained. "That is the punishment if the offender is not considered able to be rehabilitated; and Maddox just told me in my head that he was a serial rapist. You had the option of selecting someone else to deliver the sentence, which you obviously did. If Cory's anything like Julio over in Des Moines, he probably already knows more about that guy than you do. I know Julio would have said something already if he thought someone messed up, so if Cory hasn't said anything you're probably beating yourself up over something that was your legal responsibility."

Having noticed the two hanging back, Adam had joined them, and heard Nathan's explanation. "You're right, Nathan," Adam interrupted. "Alexei, later tonight, you're gonna be invited to join our inner council meeting. You won't be a guest though; we're wanting you to join us. Pretty much, it's where we try to put our heads together on stuff that nobody is comfortable deciding by themselves. We also look at any time someone has to use the death penalty, just to make sure that we're not becoming as bad as the people we're trying to stop. After Adam and Logan knew about your order to have your assaulter killed, they came over and filled us in. Grandpa Sarek happened to be here, and after he destroyed another table because of what you went through, he told us that you had proceeded logically and that it was now our job to ensure his previous victims or their surviving families were informed that justice had been served. Just to make sure you were covered, Bryce time-jumped back to suck everything out of that prick's head as he was dying, and he gave the full report to Cory, Sean, Sarek, and Kyle. That's when the table was destroyed, and all they would tell the rest of us is that you went through hell."

"They don't feel sorry for you," Lucas stated as he cuddled into Nathan's side, obviously having been listening in to Alexei's head. "They're proud of how you fixed stuff once you could!"

"I think I'm beginning to understand why I heard people referring to the telepaths as leeches," Alexei quipped as he started to relax. "Nathan, Adam? Thank you, I think you answered some questions that I didn't know I had, and I feel better knowing that my past isn't affecting how I'm being treated. Lucas, thank you for answering the question I was afraid to ask."

"Does that mean you ain't gonna toss me in the pool now?" Lucas asked hopefully.

"No, I still owe you for the Butterfly Ace ceremony," Alexei responded with a small grin.

"Darn!" Lucas giggled.

"C'mon, I think JJ's waiting on us," Nathan giggled as he released the hug and put an arm over Alexei's shoulder. "We'll play 'dunk the leeches' later!"

"Meanie!" Lucas quipped before scrambling ahead to join the rest of the group.

Once they were all back together, JJ caught Nathan's eye and gave him a nod, showing that he'd seen what Nathan had done and approved of the result. JJ then turned and knocked on the door, announcing "Clan Short Security, this is a raid!"

"Get in here, smartass!" an adult voice chuckled from inside the office.

"Hi, Harry!" JJ giggled after opening the door and leading the group into the office. "You ready to sign Junior over to us yet?"

"Don't tempt me!" the fifty-ish man behind the desk replied with a grin as he stood up. Noticing the triplets, he added "I thought you promised me that you wouldn't clone yourself!"

"They're not clones, just brothers!" JJ giggled as he began pointing to people and introducing them. "Harry, meet Morgan, Maddox, and Madison; they're Clan Security Special Teams as well as my little brothers. That's my new brother Alex, and his sons Danny and George. The rest are with Clan Headquarters Security, SWAT Team. Nathan's the team lead, the guy who just grabbed his hand is his second and boyfriend Leofwyn, and the three little guys are Lucas, Lazarus, and Casey. The furry guy is Senya, he keeps us up-to-date on our cuddle rations."

"By the look on Nathan's face, something tells me that you forgot to inform him of his position," Harry chuckled. "It is a pleasure to meet you, gentlemen; please take a seat and get comfortable."

It didn't take long for everyone to find a seat. Due to their previous run-ins with the law, both of Alexei's sons made it a point to sit on his lap, securely holding his arms around their bellies. Senya took post at Alexei's feet, obviously guarding his new charges.

Harry noticed this, and softly commented "Not all people in law enforcement are bad, boys. JJ wouldn't even talk to me until he made sure I was one of the good guys by having a telepath check me out. I'm sure that with the teams he said you guys were with that there is at least one telepath here today, and that telepath is following protocol and making sure I'm not a threat."

"Yep!" Maddox and Lucas replied in unison.

"Only two? You're slipping, JJ!" Harry chuckled. 

"With those two, any more would be a waste," JJ replied, earning him smiles from Lucas and Maddox. "How's everything been going? Any rumors going around I've missed?"

"Not really," Harry replied, realizing the meeting was now officially underway. "Two more pimps did a public service and killed each other during our sting operation this morning. You'd think by now they'd realize that doing that crap in the city that hosts Clan Short Headquarters is a bad idea, but just as fast as one is gone, more come in."

JJ shook his head. "Any idea why, besides being stupider than a rock?"

Harry shook his head. "I'm as confused as you, but as long as we can get them off the streets, I'm not going to turn down the volunteers."

"I might have an idea," Alexei ventured. "No matter where they come from, all kids dream of going to Disney. Add to that the fact that Headquarters is here, and suddenly you also have kids seeking help that could not manage it any other way but to head to the Clan location they've heard the most about. The pimps think there's lots of easy targets here."

Harry thought it over for a second, then nodded. "You've got a point, Alex. I'll sit down with our special teams to see if we can figure out a way to exploit that, while speeding up the process to keep kids out of their hands."

"Kyle says he's putting it out on the Intel network for ideas too," JJ added. "We'll let you know if any of us come up with anything, Harry."

"Thanks, guys," Harry smiled. "This is why I look forward to our meetings; the way that you look at things differently almost always ends up in a discussion that gives all of us more tools to make things safer."

"Sir?" Daniil asked, "If you're wanting to trap the bad guys, wouldn't it be easier if there was a 'safe zone' for kids only, one that's secretly monitored by us but your officers are dispatched when the pimps are suckered in at the border?"

Harry nodded. "What you're describing is what we call a 'honeypot'; people who are likely to want to break the law are drawn to it, and are caught. I like the idea, but it has to be done carefully so we don't get accused of entrapment. Give me a week to get ideas from my side, Danny, then we'll get together and toss them around with the ideas you get from your side. I think if we do that, we'll be able to come up with something the City will get behind and help us publicize."

Daniil's face broke into a huge grin as he realized that he'd just been asked to actually make his idea work. "That's great!"

Just then, there was a knock on the door, followed by a detective sticking his head inside. "Sorry, Chief, but I heard these guys were here, and we have an issue downstairs."

"What kind of issue?" Harry asked.

"It seems one of our former pimps was the last relative that could take custody of a nephew, and that nephew is now without anyone to take him in. FYS double-checked, and from what they have found they are willing to classify him as an orphan. We don't know if he's been 'used' or not, it took us this long just to get enough information to ID him." 

"It sounds like time to get a little exercise," Harry replied. "Tell FYS that JJ has a team onsite, he can sort things out once his team's done their magic."

"Exercise?" the detective chuckled. "That little guy is trying to take out half the force! I've seen Rugby games less violent! You might want to set your phasers to stun in case he targets you, guys."

"Nah, he won't be a problem," Nathan shrugged before exchanging a knowing grin with Leof. "We save the weapons for bad guys."

"You say that now..." the detective warned.

"Shall we go meet our visitor?" Harry asked as he stood up.

JJ nodded. "Minky, you're active; the rest of us will step up once everything's under control. Let's hit it!"

With the detective in the lead, the group was led to the second-floor offices. As soon as they exited the elevator, they could hear the sounds of someone trying to escape from somewhere. As they turned the corner in the hall, they spotted a group of officers trying to blockade an office. From the sound of it, someone in the office was trying to force their way out.

Almost at the same time, the boys took charge and announced their intentions. 

"Point." Nathan announced as he sped up to take the lead, Leof on his heels.

"Backup," Morgan added as he joined them.

"Active!" Lucas and Maddox chorused.

"All you officers, stand back, he feels trapped!" Madison ordered loudly.

"C'mon!" Casey announced as he glanced at Laz, Daniil, and Yegor, "I think he needs to know kids are here!"

"Harry, please have your officers evacuate to the far end of the hall," Alexei asked in a voice that demanded compliance. "Depending on what he has experienced, having his exit blocked will just make things worse."

Having received his initial report from the telepaths, JJ announced "Family Clan Short hereby assumes jurisdiction."

Harry nodded, "I accept your transfer of jurisdiction, proceed." Turning to his officers, he announced "Retreat! Clan Short's going to try their luck!"

"Thank God!" more than one officer exclaimed as they backed off to watch the fireworks from a safe distance.

"No faith!" Adam giggled to Alexei, getting a nod of agreement in return.

As Nathan was just about to the office door, the door exploded into the hallway. Seconds later, a redheaded boy about seven years old stuck his head out, obviously planning on making a run for it by the look in his green eyes. The look very slowly turned to surprise as his attempt to dart past the group heading towards him turned into a really bad imitation of a C-grade martial arts movie slow-motion scene.

"You can stop and let us help you, or I'll stop you." Nathan stated in a low voice. "The cops just let us take charge of what happens, so you don't have to worry about them anymore."

"He says he ain't gonna run," Lucas announced.

"Okay," Nathan replied as he lowered the power of his skill.

As soon as he could move again, the boy kicked out at Nathan, yelling "That's for whatever you did to me!" The only thing that kept Nathan from being injured was his skill instinctively kicking in, stopping the foot inches from his family jewels.

Leof shook his head as he caught the boy before he fell over. "What is it about redheads not learning the first time?" he asked. He picked the boy up, carried him over to a nearby chair, then sat him down and moved his legs until he was sitting on his own. "I know you can hear me, dude. That is my boyfriend, and he saved my life and just about killed the cop who was about to rape me. You damage his bits, I make you eat yours, understand?"

"Damn!" JJ groaned. "Note to self, use Leof if we ever need to have diplomatic talks with Klingons!"

"Nathan? You, me, and Leof need to have a talk when we get home!" Alexei interjected with a grin.

"Whose turn is it to take notes?" Madison quipped.

"Mine, already hit save!" Morgan replied as he put his PADD back in the holster.

"You're all a bunch of clowns," Adam stated as he shook his head with a grin. He then walked over to the boy, pulled up a chair, then sat in front of him. "Hey dude, I'm Adam. In case you ain't figured it out, we're not going to let you hurt yourself or any of us. That's a good thing though, because I think Leof would actually carry out his threat; and none of us want that. Here's the deal; right now, our group is responsible for making sure that you get a home that YOU are comfortable in. All of these officers watching are watching us, not you, because they want to learn how we handle your situation so that they can do it next time. The side bets that a bunch of them just lost on how many of us you would take out and how long it would take are just a bonus."

Adam paused, looking at the boy's eyes to make sure he understood. Once he was satisfied, he continued. "Okay, as weird as it sounds, a few of us have some special skills that most people think ain't real. You're experiencing one right now, and Nathan is the only person we know of that can do it. Going by how you're acting, there's something really serious that happened. A couple of the guys are telepaths or empaths, and if you let them they can find out what it is and help you control how it is affecting you without anyone having to say a word out loud. If there's something that needs fixed, we'll try to fix it for you."

Adam glanced at Nathan, who just nodded to go ahead. Turning his attention back to the boy, Adam stated "Nathan is going to let you go, but if it looks like you're going to hurt yourself or one of us he'll stop you again. Please, let us help."

With that, Nathan released his hold on the boy's nervous system. To the shock of everyone, as soon as he was free the boy stood up, moved over onto Adam's lap, and buried his face in Adam's chest as he began crying.

Madison, Maddox, and Lucas quickly moved to surround the pair. "I can keep him from going over the edge temporarily, but you guys need to find out what's wrong NOW, before he breaks!" Madison instructed. "Morgan, I need you to link me!"

"Nathan? Just how fine is your control?" JJ asked with concern.

"It matters on what I need to do," Nathan replied. "Why?"

"Could you slow down his heart if it goes nuts?"

Nathan shook his head. "Not directly, I'd have to suppress the general area just a little bit, but that'll affect his breathing too. Unless he's breathing fast as well, I could suffocate him. I had to make sure I didn't mess with that area when I restrained him."

JJ nodded. "Thanks anyway; I was kinda hoping we could avoid adding another face. I'm glad you're looking out for your targets though, too many of us already have nightmares about having to kill someone, I'd hate to know what it would be like to accidentally do it, and I don't want you to be the one to find out."

"Thanks," Nathan smiled, realizing that JJ had just proven that he didn't consider his team a tool, he considered them people.

JJ tapped his commbadge. "Richardson to Doctor Barnes, I need someone here to prevent a Code Blue."

"Chris here, we're on our way, JJ."

Seconds later, Chris and Antonio popped in, lab coats still open to reveal they both were wearing speedos. Their wet hair proved they'd been swimming, not that either one cared once they read the initial readings on the tricorders they were holding. "Which one of you is the empath?" Antonio asked strongly.

"Me," Madison replied. "I'm Madison."

"What level?" Antonio continued, Chris already beginning to adjust settings on his tricorder in preparation.

"Seven, bordering on eight," Madison stated, using the emotional trauma scale that Tyler had developed with Antonio for situations just like this. The scale was required knowlege throughout the Clan and the Unit for all registered empaths, and in more than one case had already made the difference between life and death. It basically told the doctor just how much suppression the Empath was providing, giving the doctor notice of just how much to compensate on his readings.

"Shit!" Antonio and Chris muttered in unison.

Chris checked his readings, then looked up. "I think we should slowly ramp him down to three, then let his body start on adrenalin cleanup. How fast can we go without causing shock?"

Antonio thought for a few seconds before replying. "No faster than a level a minute, with his body type I'd say two minutes a level."

"On it, call the levels Madison!" Chris instructed.

Antonio turned to JJ. "Spill it! If Madison wasn't here, that boy would likely be terminal. WHAT the FUCK caused this, and you BETTER be dealing with it already!"

"I'm waiting for the telepaths to report," JJ replied. "We haven't been able to actually have a two-sided conversation with him yet."

"What in the HELL is taking them so long?" Antonio ranted.

"Probably trying to help him contain the issue temporarily," JJ offered. "By the way, Kyle says that you've got a potty mouth."

"Get me that report as soon as you have it," Antonio growled before spinning around and joining Chris. The rest of the group tried not to giggle as they heard Antonio muttering under his breath what he was going to do to Kyle the next time he caught him.

Shaking his head at the pint-sized doctors plotting revenge while they helped their patient, Maddox came over to JJ. "Lucas is doing final clean-up and promised Reid that he'd hang around until the Docs get things stable in his body. Do you want the report first, or should I give it to 'Tonio at the same time?"

"Both, before he starts giving enemas with garden hoses," JJ chuckled.

JJ's chuckles quickly vanished, and by the time he had the full report his entire body matched his hair. "Antonio, Nathan, Alex, Maddox! Go hot, stand by for recovery; Kyle is inbound!"

The words were barely out of his mouth when Kyle appeared for about a second, then vanished with the named team. Adam stared at the spot JJ had been standing in, and exclaimed "Oh, shit!"

"What just happened?" Leof asked as he tried to figure out where Nathan went.

"Kyle hangs out in JJ's head, and whatever is messing up Reid here is bad enough that both of them are pissed," Adam explained. "That wasn't a rescue team; if I understand the review we had already, Alex is the only one keeping it from becoming a lynch mob, JJ is THAT pissed. Once Nathan finds out whatever it is that triggered JJ, he's probably going to be just as pissed."

"Chris, slow it down, his body's kicking in," Madison interrupted.

"Thanks," Chris replied. "Keep an eye in case it looks like the meds are going to overshoot; I have a two-second lag behind your reports."

"Gotcha!"

The boys fell silent, all watching the boy they now knew as Reid as he soaked Adam's shirt. No longer bordering on hysterical, it was obvious that he was still releasing a pain that none present but him and Lucas understood. Lucas had his eyes closed, and was obviously still inside Reid's head, helping in a way only a telepath would understand.

After a couple of minutes, the away team returned. Nathan immediately made a beeline to Leof, pulling him into a tight hug, while Maddox and Alexei headed for Harry. JJ just stood there, occupied with comforting a seven-year-old blond who was latched to his chest. Antonio scowled as he announced "JJ, Alex, and Nathan have visited Vulcan mind healers already, keep an eye on them for a few days and call me if you are worried."

The Clan boys all knew what that meant, and their faces showed it. Having worked with JJ a number of times. Harry was aware too, and acted accordingly when Alexei came to a stop in front of him, Maddox under his free arm. "These six men are to be treated as Clan operatives. Your officers are to ensure that their efforts to capture them fail." Alexei ordered as he passed a PADD to Harry. "They are under constant surveillance, and if they so much as think about violation of their terms of service, they will be spending the rest of their lives in the wilds of Siberia... naked. Their case files will give you needed details."

Harry suddenly realized why he had a nagging feeling that he'd see Alex before. Out of every Clan member he'd ever met, this was the one member who had the power to make that threat stick. "As you wish, Your Highness," Harry replied, sure that if he had questions or concerns it could be dealt with after everyone cooled down. Turning his head, he ordered "All of you head into Conference Room Seven for briefing; knowing these guys we're about to be really busy!"

"You have NO idea," JJ quipped darkly. "Your strike team from the Unit will be here to join the briefing in five minutes; we'll finish our meeting later. Call HQ when you're ready for the mind healers to come in." Turning his head, he added "Chris, Kyle's listening, let me know when you're safe for transport."

"I guessed that when I saw 'Tonio's face," Chris stated seriously. "Go ahead, Kyle!"

Almost instantly, the boys and bear vanished. Harry glanced at the PADD, and was shocked when the screen stated "Confirming access... Access authorized..." The screen went black, then in bold letters stated "Access to information beyond this point signifies acceptance of temporary commissioning with Clan Short Special Forces. Information contained within to only be forwarded to Special Forces officers or person authorized by same, unless specifically noted in documentation within."

"God help us..." Harry muttered as he accepted the warning, knowing in his heart that the Clan had just declared war on somebody, and his force was now invited to the party.


JJ and Adam's residence, Family Room:

One of the advantages of Mikyvis transport is that the Mikyvis can land you in a different position than you were in when you started. Kyle took full advantage of this, putting JJ and Adam on one loveseat, both still holding their respective seven-year-old cargo. Alexei ended up in a recliner, both sons and their bear on his lap. Nathan and Leof shared a chair as well, while their little brothers ended up on a huge bean-bag chair between their brothers and Alexei. The triple M's got their own love seat, with Maddox in the middle. Antonio and Chris found themselves on their Dad's lap in another recliner, instantly pulled into a hug by Matt. The couch was occupied by Dan, John, Kyle, and Tyler, all four obviously concerned about the rest of the group.

John looked around at the group, then sighed. "I know I'm supposed to stay out of Clan matters, but after Kyle filled me in, I agree with him that this time you guys need an adult to help you through the debriefing. Those of you that didn't go out, you're going to need to know what happened so that you can support the guys who did go. Kyle says he got involved only because there wasn't time enough for you to do this the old-fashioned way; I agree with his choice, and I think he did a great job of helping without playing Superman."

John paused to reach over John to give Kyle's hair a quick rub, eliciting a small smile from Kyle. Getting back to business, he continued. "You guys know that the little guy in Adam's arms is Reid; the boy in JJ's arms is Kent. The man who appeared to be their 'pimp' was actually saving them, and I'm sure they consider him a hero. He was part of a small group siphoning kids off the street using a hand-picked group of 'clients'. The 'clients' wouldn't do anything inappropriate with the boys, and would turn them over to him once they had the trust of the boys. He would take care of his boys, keep them safe, and kept his cover by staging 'pickups' that would actually end up being trips to Disney for the day or other fun activities. All of his boys have been recovered, and all but these two are checking in across the street right now."

"The adults that were helping him have already been visited by Unit operatives, and are being relocated with their families to Utah to protect their lives. The pimp who killed him wasn't part of this setup; he was trying to get Kent back into his harem, since Reid's guy had stolen Kent from him a couple of months ago. Reid had some of the things Kent had told him in his head, and it was enough to allow JJ to assemble a recovery team. Now that you know the background, it is going to make sense when these guys vent what happened. Maddox, could you go first, since you'll have more inside info?"

"Do I have to, Sir?" Maddox replied with a sour look.

"I prefer 'Pop' or even 'John' if you're not ready for 'Pop' yet, son." John replied, earning him shocked looks from all three triplet boys. "You have more in your head than any of the rest of your team, so yes, you have to go first."

"We'll finalize the adoption after we're done," Dan added. "The rest of your brothers want to be here for it too."

All three boys exchanged amazed looks, the news de-railing their internal discussion of what had happened. Once he'd recovered, Maddox replied "I guess you're right, but we wanna know how you knew later."

"Your redheaded big brother is persistant," Dan chuckled. "Go on, you'll feel better after talking it out."

Maddox nodded. "Kyle helped us find where they'd taken Kent pretty quick. I started scanning everyone, and the stuff I found gave me the authority to deep-scan without asking. The guy wasn't just a pimp; he was part of a big human trafficking ring that's been settin' itself up in Florida. They'd use their victims on the street once they'd drugged them and raped them a few times, then after they were broke-in by clients, they'd ship them off to other countries where they wouldn't be found. They were really sick, once they were done with the victims that survived, the victims all had scars and injuries."

"Sick's too nice of a word," Nathan interrupted. "One of those bastards was raping a two-year-old little girl when we found him! He's never gonna do that again!"

Alexei nodded, his face pale. "That was the guy who ended up having Kent. Maddox said that the guy planned on using Kent next to get his rocks off. None of us had a chance to respond; Nathan growled, then the next thing we knew that pervert was a puddle on the floor. I've never seen a body rip itself apart before, and I honestly never want to see it again."

John softly asked "Nathan? How many other criminals did you guys have to go through before that person?"

"About a dozen," Nathan replied.

"Were all of them as bad as that one?" John continued.

"Most of them," Nathan admitted. "The asswipe before him was worse; he'd eat his victims after they died."

"Did you consciously try to kill that last offender?" John persisted, walking Nathan through the same steps he would use at work.

"No, I just wanted to stop him," Nathan stated as he hung his head.

"Nathan? Look at me," John asked softly. Once Nathan looked up, John continued. "Nathan, I'm in charge of Federation Security for the entire Southeast quadrant of North America. I just asked you the same questions I would ask one of my men after an incident resulting in death, adjusted for how it happened. Between that, the evidence given me by a Vulcan trained telepath, and the background information from your teammates, I can tell you how I would rule if you were under my command. This doesn't affect how Cory will respond, but if I know him he'll take my opinion into consideration. Do you want to hear it?"

"Go ahead," Nathan replied, his dread obvious.

"George, open official log." John ordered.

"Logging." George replied.

"This is a Federation Review of the actions of November 13th, 2004 resulting in the termination of the person known as Craig Harrison Gorman. Commander John Martin, Federation Security presiding, Dr. Daniel Richardson, Federation youth Services witnessing, Commander Kyle Richardson, KG, Clan Short Intelligence present as a Certified Telepathic Witness. Being reviewed as a non-binding judgement is Lieutenant Nathan Collins, Clan Short Security. Upon the review of the details surrounding the termination with deadly force of Craig Gorman, said evidence to be filed by Commander Richardson, it is the determination of this review that the circumstances leading up to and including the events immediately preceding the use of deadly force were sufficient to allow any trained member of the Federation to determine that immediate and absolute action was required. The method used by Lieutenant Collins is determined to have been the most likely to not injure innocent persons in the immediate vicinity. Doctor Richardson, do you wish to add any observations?"

"Yes," Dan replied. "By observation of the responses and body language of Lieutenant Collins, it is my professional opinion that his response was in no way pre-meditated and was solely based on the tactical situation as he approached it and observed the situation. FYS will recommend to Family Clan Short that the members of the team be placed under a forty-eight hour stand-down for mental recovery. I recommend that Lieutenant Collins be returned to duty at the conclusion of said stand-down with no restrictions."

"Your observations are noted, Doctor," John stated. "The review board concurs, and advises Lieutenant Collins that the stand-down mentioned is not a punishment, it is standard operations when an officer is exposed to an emotionally stressing event in the line of duty. The Federation hereby voids any charges which might be filed, and rules Lieutenant Nathan Collins innocent of any results of doing his lawful duty during this operation. This conclude this review."

After a second's pause, John added "George, terminate recording and file."

"Filed." George replied. "Cory's on his way, John."

Nathan shook his head. "Why do I feel like I just went through a trial?"

"In a way, you did; but I already knew the result before I offered you the option," John replied. "The difference is, your commission as an officer isn't directly tied to the Clan, it ends up falling under my jurisdiction. By me doing an official review, I have went on record as stating that you responded properly for the situation."

"But I just did it, I didn't think about it!" Nathan argued.

"I know," John replied. "In the last few months, I've learned a lot of things I never knew. One of them I learned from Kyle, Tyler, and their boys. If you're a naturally good person with a special skill, there are times when your subconscious will act appropriately due to the situation not allowing time to think. It's something you can't fake; any of the telepaths will catch it if someone tries. I'm not qualified to guess what the urgency was, but I bet Antonio has a good idea."

Antonio looked up from where him and Chris were cuddled into Matt's chest. "Yeah. Nathan caught him as he was penetrating. he'd already caused damage that Kyle had to fix, but if he'd forced it all the way in he would have killed her. There might have been only a few seconds mattering how hard he was pushing."

"Thank you, 'Tonio," John replied. "Do you see it now, Nathan? Your subconscious stepped in to save a life; I'm pretty sure that you realized the danger as soon as you saw it."

"I call that a 'field judgement'," Cory said as he walked in the door. "Nathan, the Vulcan punishment to be delivered by a Vulcan citizen who witnesses rape that would presumably result in death or severe injury is immediate death of the person raping the victim. If by failing to act, the victim dies or is permanently seriously injured, the witness and the attacker both suffer the same fate. We have to adapt a lot of the punishments to allow for human emotions, but due to the ages involved the sentence of the attacker was logical, and a trial was not required. You did the right thing, even if your subconscious mind had to kick in due to the urgency."

"But did I need to do THAT?" Nathan countered. "I didn't know I could, and I really don't want to be able to!"

Cory nodded. "I know the feeling! Seriously; if you had just froze him, he more than likely would have penetrated all the way anyway from momentum. Being in intimate contact, 'morphs or phasers had a chance of damaging the victim as well as the attacker. What you did not only stopped him, but it destroyed the part of his body that would have damaged the victim."

"I guess, but how do you know so much about what happened?" Nathan asked.

"You know how twins seem to know what the other is thinking?" Cory asked.

"Yeah?"

"Before he became a Mikyvis, Kyle bonded with me at a time when the only two people he trusted were me and JJ," Cory explained. "Since I was first, I got the stronger one. It turned out that he'd somehow managed to make the same kind of link that twins have, and we finally got it fully working recently. Basically, I was there, even though I wasn't there. Before you were told by John that you were not in trouble, I had Dad do a meld with me. He saw it all, and reviewed what Kyle knows too. The House of Sarek has determined that your logic was flawless, and fully accepts the method used for termination as the logical course to prevent additional physical trauma."

"Ummm... what?" Nathan sputtered.

"That's Vulcan for 'Great job, and you used the right option to do it'," Cory grinned. "By the way, I agree with Dad!"

"Why did you have to ask him?" Alexei wondered.

Cory turned towards Alexei. "Even though I'm the Patriarch of the House, due to my inexperience my view of the situation could still be questioned. By seeking the advice of Dad, I showed that I was aware that my logic could be flawed, and ensured it was correct by seeking verification from someone more experienced in matters of this nature. As Dad is a retired Starfleet officer, seeking his guidance would be the most logical choice, as he's had to sit in judgement of similar situations in the past."

"That is nice to have," Alexei replied.

Reading between the lines, Cory added "Bro, you don't have to call him Dad to do that. When you joined the Clan, you became one of his sons, even if you don't claim the right. Neither one of us knows even half of what we really should know in our positions; Dad says it is his place to help us with advice or to help us find the answers for ourselves when we are unsure."

Glad for the change of topic, Alexei considered Cory's statement. "But shouldn't I go through you, since you're the Patriarch?"

Cory grinned. "The only reason that you haven't joined Jace with the title yet is I ain't figured out a way to do it without making it look like an empty gesture. You're the Patriarch of Russia, bro. I might be the head of the Family, but in everything but Family matters, you're my equal. If you overstep your authority sometime, we'll sit down and talk about it, but don't ever doubt that I recognize and approve of your inherited authority."

"Hey 'Lexei?" Kyle interrupted.

"Yes?"

"Cory's tryin' to say you're a Clan brother, but he knows sometimes you gotta be the boss of something because you're the Tzar too. If someone argues when you needta' be the boss, Cory'll back you up. When you don't wanna be the boss, Cory will do it or he'll ask Jace to."

"Thanks," Alexei replied with a smile. "Do you give lessons on understanding Patriarch?"

"You gotta be in his head!" Kyle giggled.

Cory stuck out his tongue at Kyle, then added "Don't worry about me, bro; if you need Dad's advice, just get it."

"Thanks, Cory," Alexei replied. "I do have a question though. Do JJ and Adam always sleep through debriefings?"

"I told them to," Tyler replied instead. "They can handle what happened better than the rest of us, since they've both had lots of mental cleanups after stuff happened. They wore out their emotions when they were tryin' to help the boys calm down, so they're recharging while the boys sleep too."

"Are you sure they're going to be okay?" Alexei asked. "I know my head feels like I should hold it under water for a few days to clean it out."

"That'll go away the more you think about other stuff," Cory advised. "Each of us has our own way of dealing with it. After everything they've been through, JJ and Adam recover the best with each other. Antonio and Chris get cuddles from their Dad, Kyle cuddles me, JJ, Mom, John, or Dan, Tyler blows up asteroids, and I find Jory and we launch trees into the air."

"I think this cuddle-pile is helping some," Nathan added from beneath Lucas, Laz, and Casey. "It makes trying to kiss Leof a pain though!"

"I think my little bears have been taking lessons," Alexei giggled as his sons kissed his cheek. He barely had time to close his mouth before Senya stretched up and gave him a chin-to-eyebrow lick. "All THREE of my little bears!" he added with a grin.

"We're triplets, we invented cuddle piles!" Morgan snickered. "But yeah, a three-way cuddle is how we always unwind. Even if all three of us are involved, each of us experiences something different, so if we put it all together it makes sense and works out." He paused, then added "Kyle, Logan just read the report, he says thanks and he misses all the fun."

"Tell him I said he better find out who is spiking his chew toys!" Kyle grinned. Noticing Nathan's confusion, Kyle explained "Logan is a Wolverine hybrid. Him and his team are really cool, as long as they ain't mad."

"Whatever you do, DON'T call them puppies!" Alexei warned. "They take extreme offence to that for some reason!"

"They like it when I do it!" Yegor giggled.

"That's because everyone loves my little bears," Alexei replied as he gave the boys a squeeze.

Dan smiled, hoping the reminder of how each person coped was enough to help speed the recovery. He turned his head to Kyle and Tyler and asked "Have either of you warned your Grandma Anne about the new family members yet?"

Tyler nodded. "Yep! She just found 'Roo, so her, Mom, and Dad are comin' over."

"Do I want to know why she had to find 'Roo?" Dan asked hesitantly.

"Probably not!" Tyler giggled.

The sound of the front door opening was barely enough warning, as the invasion force hit the house like a tornado. First into the room were Kyle and Tyler's family... with boyfriends, and pulling wagons behind them. Giggling like schoolgirls, the mob quickly assembled a set of pre-fab bleachers surrounding Kyle and Tyler's end of the couch and extending behind Dan and John. While the mob built bleachers, the rest of the crowd came in. Eli, Benji, Sammy, and Sebastian 'flew' in, with Daniel riding along with Leg on Eli's back. Once they landed, Daniel squeezed in between John and Dan and got comfortable, while Leg bounced over to join Kyle and Tyler as Eli, Benji, Sammy, and Sebastian joined their nephews. Harley, Brad, and Lil' Joe were herded into the room by Teri and Spock, who headed towards the extra couch that Tyler quickly provided. Last in was Anne, who also took a seat on the couch once she had scanned the room.

Anne quickly paid attention to the triplets. "You three must be the little brothers that JJ was hoping would join our family, you even look like him! Why don't you come over here and introduce yourselves, I'll be your Grandma Anne pretty soon!"

Suddenly nervous, all three boys stood and walked over to the couch. 

"I'm Morgan, he's Maddox, and he's Madison. Do you want us as family just because we look like JJ?"

"Not at all," Anne replied. "You'd be surprised at how much us adults know about you boys in the Clan. Especially when three young men request to be security for a lonely new Clan officer just so you can be friends with him. We've also been watching you while you were out playing with the rest of our family. You three have very big hearts, and you deserve a family that will support you as you grow."

"You must know that no matter what you decide," Spock added, "one of the Dimensional Doors has been installed in your residence to allow you to travel between there and here. I have instructed the technicians to initially program it for yourselves, Alexei, his sons, Senya, and his security squad. If you determine that it would be logical to proceed with joining the Richardson family, those that require technological assistance to traverse long distances instantly can be added at your request."

Teri smiled at the three boys. "Relax, as fast as it seems things are moving, you don't need to make a decision until you are ready, and if you say no it won't be held against you, at that point you can even change your minds later; you'll still be accepted then. If you do say yes, that becomes forever, just like you were born into the family. If you want to try it out first before deciding, that can happen too."

 Madison turned his head. "Alexei? What should we do?"

"I was told that I needed to learn to follow my heart," Alexei replied. "Whatever you decide, you will always be my brothers and friends, I just want you to be happy. Follow your hearts, my brothers."

Anne had been paying attention to all three boys, and decided she needed to take care of one little problem. "Maddox, I've been told there was a rescue that I would not like to hear the details of. I'm going to guess that you were on that rescue, going by the way your brothers keep glancing at you. The boys all say that Grandma hugs help them when they're down, would you like to give that opinion a test?"

Maddox hesitated just long enough for his brothers to decide to gently push him towards Anne's lap. Wordlessly, he gave in and took a seat, melting into her chest once she wrapped her arms around him.

"It would be logical for the two of you to 'cuddle' into either side of your prospective grandmother to assist her in providing emotive support for your brother," Spock observed, earning him amazed glances from Morgan and Madison as they took his 'advice'.

Anne's actions reminded Alexei of the comment that Timmy had made earlier. After thinking it over, he decided that it was time to test himself to see if it was possible to open up. "Boys, would you like to sit with your new cousins? I think I want to try those hugs from your Grandma that Timmy brags about."

Daniil and Yegor smiled, then kissed his cheeks. "You'll like them, Daddy," Daniil advised as they started to wiggle off his lap. "We'll help keep Grandpa Dan and Grandpa John occupied, okay?"

"Okay," Alexei smiled, sure that the two adults were more than occupied already by the mob surrounding them. Once his lap was free, he hesitantly stood and made his way over to stand in front of Teri. "Teri?" he asked, unsure of what to say next."

Teri looked into his eyes, and quickly guessed at what was wrong. "You've had a rough day, Alexei. It's time to take off your crown and be a little boy for a while. If anyone needs the Tzar, Cory or Daniil will handle it. Take a seat, my little one."

Teri's words hit home, causing Alexei to almost collapse onto her lap. After a few seconds of positioning, he was securely wrapped in her arms with silent tears rolling down his cheeks.

Once Alexei was securely in Teri's arms, Kyle heard Mikey's voice in his head. He quickly passed on the instructions, which had Harley, Brad and Lil' Joe join Daniel in the cuddling of John and Dan, while the rest of the boys (and one bear) moved down onto the floor and got comfortable. After everyone was in place, a golden light passed through the room, leaving every single occupant peacefully sleeping in its wake.


Three hours later:

JJ was the first to wake up. After a few seconds of confusion, his head cleared enough to realize where he was, and who was sound asleep in his lap. Being careful not to wake Kent, JJ shifted his elbow just enough to gently prod Adam. "Babe, time to wake up," JJ whispered.

Adam slowly opened his eyes, and looked over towards JJ. "You okay?"

"I am now," JJ replied. "Mikey pulled me into the Dream Realm and filled me in on what we did from his point of view. It sucked while it was happening, but he says we'll see a lot of good from it later."

"You had me worried, the last time you were that mad about something you wanted to kill anything that moved," Adam admitted. "I knew it was bad when Kyle popped over."

"You can relax, and I think it might be good to wake up Reid and show him the present I brought him," JJ replied with a smile.

"Present?" Adam queried.

"You'll see," JJ smiled.

Figuring JJ had something up his sleeve, Adam gently hugged Reid as he said "Reid, time to wake up little buddy. C'mon, JJ brought you a present!"

"I don't wanna get up yet, Poppa," Reid muttered, obviously not close to being awake.

"I think you'll like what you see if you wake up," JJ offered gently.

"Do I gotta?" Reid whined, now starting to wake up more.

"Yeah, I think you better," JJ answered as he felt Kent starting to wake up as well.

Reid finally opened his eyes, and looked over at where JJ's voice was coming from. As soon as his brain comprehended what he was seeing, his eyes got wide as he screamed at the top of his voice "KENT! YOU'RE OKAY!"

Hearing Reid's voice, Kent was instantly awake. "REID!" he yelled as he lunged towards Reid, meeting him halfway between JJ and Adam's laps. The two boys latched onto each other, tears rolling down their faces as they broke into huge smiles and held on for dear life.

"I'm guessing this is why Reid was so bent outta shape?" Adam asked with a grin.

"Yep," JJ acknowledged. "I think he knew what could have happened." JJ then glanced around the room, and found that the boys had managed to wake up the entire group, who were now watching the reunion patiently.

Turning his attention back to the boys, JJ reached out and rubbed Kent's back. "Do you believe me now that Reid's okay, Kent?"

"Uh Huh!" Kent replied happily. "Did you really mean it when you said we'd be together now forever?"

JJ smiled as he replied. "You better believe it! All you gotta do is pick out a family now. Once you get caught up on hugs, Adam and I will have our sons introduce you to everyone and explain how it works picking out a family."

"You can't have kids, you're just big kids!" Reid muttered, not really challenging, but still not totally believing it.

"Things work different here," Adam explained. "JJ and me are officers in Starfleet, which means we're considered adults. That means we can be married, and we're allowed to have families."

"Really?" Kent asked hopefully. "Does that mean you can be our daddies?"

"Well, Reid already called me Poppa when he was waking up," Adam giggled. "If you turn your heads, you'll see three boys sitting on a couple of goofy old men's laps. The boys are our sons, and the old guys are JJ's Dad and Pop. Why don't you guys talk to them and see if you like what they tell you about us, and you can also check out the guys who would be your new grandpas."

"Are you gonna stay here?" Reid asked, turning to Adam.

"Both of us will be right here, we're not going anywhere without you," Adam stated with a smile. "You guys are not leaving our sight unless we know you're gonna be safe and you say that you're comfortable without us nearby."

"Promise?" Reid asked warily.

"Promise!" JJ and Adam said in unison.

Without losing contact with each other, Reid and Kent climbed off of the older boy's laps and made their way across the room, taking turns looking over their shoulders to make sure Adam and JJ were still there. When they got near Dan and John, they came to a stop, not really sure about these new adults.

Realizing the problem, Dan softly stated "Boys, both of us are aware of the basics about what you just went through. It's going to be hard for you to trust adults you don't know for a while, and all of us here understand that and understand why. Take your time, and we'll try to help you get comfortable as much as we can. Just remember that JJ and Adam have sentenced people to death for doing less than what you got caught up in, and if any adult around here tries to hurt you they'll be the first to take them down."

Harley had been studying the two new boys, and finally decided to say something. "Daddy and Poppa saved all of us and then adopted us so that we could havea real family. I'm Harley, my little big brother is Brad, he's from the funny place with kang'roos, and my big big brother is Lil Joe, but we call him Roo because he bounces around so much! The big kid is our Uncle Daniel, he knows howta give really special cuddles that make you feel lots better when you're feelin sad! Daddy and Poppa are really good cuddlers when you're sad too, ain't they? You don't gotta worry 'bout our Grandpas; Grandpa Dan is a sych-e-olly-just and Grandpa John is the boss of ALLLL the Federatun Security guys 'round here!"

'Roo rolled his eyes as he stood up. "I hear Harley was shy at one time!" he giggled. "You guys pretty much told us your names when you saw each other and woke everyone up. You want me to introduce you to everyone else?"

Reid nodded. "Yeah, that'd be kewl. Are they really your parents?"

'Roo smiled. "You sound like I did! It's for real; in my case my Father is still alive and is seeing a shrink to try to fix the stuff he picked up from his family. At first, I was kinda hoping that he could be fixed and I'd be able to live with him again, but now I'm happier here with my new dad and pop. My father says that he thinks I'm goin' to be better off just staying here too; we visit and talk a lot, but he told me he's afraid that he'll mess up again. He likes it this way better, because he can be part of my life yet not be in a position where he will hurt me again or lose me."

"Who thought that up? You know, you having a new family yet still talking to him?" Kent asked.

"Dad did... that's JJ, we call Adam Pop." Roo replied. "He even arranged it so that my father doesn't have to pay to get helped."

"So he wants you to see your father?" Reid asked, "I thought that Social Services didn't allow that."

"Dad can tell Social Services what to do, and they gotta do it!" Roo giggled. "Grandma Teri and Grandpa Spock can explain it better than I can though; you'll meet them in a minute or two."

Roo stopped long enough to give time for Kent and Reid to join him, then he introduced Kyle, Tyler, and their entire assembled extended family. He then handled introducing his twin uncles, Sammy and 'Bastion, as well as their boyfriends. 

As they moved on to the next group, Kent's eyes got wide. "Hey, you're the guy who made the pervert disappear!" he exclaimed as he pointed at Nathan. "Reid! He's the one that took out Woods 'cuz he was tryin' to stick his weiner in a little girl!"

"He's the one that made me stop and listen to Poppa," Reid admitted. "I was tryin' to get out and save you, but after Nathan stopped me Poppa made me promise the let them help instead."

"Guys, right now Nathan's hurting really bad inside because of what he had to do," Cory interrupted as he walked up behind them. "Talking about it doesn't help, not yet. If you want him to know that you appreciate him stepping in, the best way is just to give him a hug whenever you feel the need to say thanks."

"Thanks Uncle Cory," Roo expressed in relief. "I didn't know how to explain it, but I saw Uncle Nathan was hurtin'."

"If I had the choice, you'd never need to know how," Cory replied as he gave Roo a quick hug. They both watched as Nathan's cuddle shield parted long enough to allow Kent and Reid access, then closed in behind them as the two boys wordlessly expressed their thanks. As they were watching, Cory's commbadge chirped. "Cory here," Cory whispered.

"Cory, this is Clint. Are you available to meet with us and the parents of the little girl Antonio brought back?"

Going on a gut feeling, Cory replied. "We're at JJ's. Bring them on over; Mom and Dad are here too, just in case we need them."

"You sure?" Clint chuckled from behind Cory, causing both of Cory's feet to leave the floor.

"You're SOOOO gonna get it, bro!" Cory threatened as he spun around.

"I'm still paying you back for forgetting to tell me and Crystal that we were married," Clint replied with a grin. After a pause to make sure Cory realized he had an audience, Clint added "Mr. and Mrs. Yamato, I present you Patriarch Cory Short, Patriarch of Family Clan Short of the House of Surak of the planet Vulcan."

Both adults respectfully bowed at the waist, as did their five-year-old son. The father seemed to be full-blooded Japanese, while his wife was clearly of African descent. The result of the mix of the two bloodlines was a cute little boy with the thin build and facial features of his father, but with a dark caramel skintone and wavy hair. As the three completed their acknowledgement of Cory's position, Cory stated "Welcome to Family Clan Short Headquarters. It would honor me if you would feel comfortable enough to proceed from this point informally, as the limitations of formal interactions can result in inappropriate solutions."

"Uncle Kyle! Are you helping Uncle Cory with the big words again?" Roo yelled, causing even the guests to smile.

"This," Cory stated as he pulled Roo into a headlock, "is my soon-to-be-soaked nephew, Joey Hartman, otherwise known as 'Roo."

Taking the hint, Mr. Yamato introduced his family. "Cory, I am known as Shin'ichi. My son is Takashi, and my wife is Kamaria. Our daughter that your family recovered was given the name Miyoko at her birth, but has never responded to that as she was stolen from the hospital. It is my understanding that she was mistakenly addressed as 'Lisa'."

Cory nodded, and took the time to take in the little two-year-old girl comfortably resting in Crystal's arms. "I see that Miyoko is like her brother, they share the best qualities of both of their parent's linage. If I understand the situation, I'm guessing it has been two years or so since you last saw her, and my experience tells me that you may have concerns about the process of re-assimilating her into your family due to not having any idea of what she's been taught."

"I am ashamed to admit that you are correct," Shin'ichi admitted as he bowed his head.

"Dylan!" Cory stated, "we need a table and chairs here!"

"Okay Uncle Cory!" Dylan replied as a table with eight chairs appeared behind them.

Cory motioned to the table, "Please, be seated. Roo, why don't you help Takashi with any questions he has?"

"Sure!" Roo replied as he broke free and headed over to Takashi. "C'mon, I know more big words than Uncle Cory does, so I'll explain what they're sayin'." he commented as he took the boy's hand and escorted him to a chair.

Once everyone was seated, Cory continued. "Shin'ichi, there is no honor lost is seeking help for situations that life has not prepared you for. I ended up where I am now because if I couldn't fix a wrong, I would find someone who can. Since Clint and Crystal thought I needed to get involved, that means they have discussed it in detail with you already, am I correct?"

"Yes, and I am impressed with how Clint has vocalized the things I have no words for."

"He's good at that," Cory acknowledged. "I trust him to take care of things, so to save you going through the whole process again, would you be comfortable with him just discussing his concerns and ideas with me? We'll do it right here, so if you need to clarify something, feel free to do it."

"I believe that would be for the best," Shin'ichi acknowledged.

Cory smiled, "Thanks; believe me, I want this to work out more than you do." Turning to Clint and Crystal, Cory just raised his eyebrows, telling them it was their turn.

Crystal went first as she gave her lap-leech a squeeze. "No worry about the name, Miyoko likes the name she was born with! I think it's going to be good for her not hearing anything that she's heard for the last couple of years, too. I think all of us agree that our biggest worry is culture shock on top of recovery. Since the idea we have to solve that is more Clan than FYS, I'll let Clint handle that end."

"I think we need to steal one from your playbook, Cory," Clint began. "While there is no reason that the family couldn't be reunited immediately, the valid concerns of the parents lead to us believing that additional support is required. As both parents are following careers which could fill gaps in the background operations of the Clan, I have already had them screened for the jobs, and they have cleared all requirements. With your approval, I would like to officially induct them into our support network, and petition you to allow us to become co-parents."

Cory nodded. "Shin'ichi, just to make sure you understand correctly, the co-parent arrangement is unusual in the way it is applied compared to normal Terran customs. I've actually become co-parents in three different families, and the end result is that all six involved parents have equal say in the raising of the children. Three of the parents in my group are adults, and our kids all say that they feel that they've got it great because they can go to the adults for things we don't know, yet count on us to understand things they don't think an adult would understand. The hardest part is being consistant with the rules; it takes a lot of double-checking with each other to make sure that you're on the same page. In this case, you'll be preparing Clint and Crystal for when the triplets are born, while they will be assisting you with bringing your family together and dealing with the aftershocks of a child being abducted. Any time you have a difference between parents that you can't resolve yourselves, Mom will moderate the issue for you and help you find a way to handle it that you all agree on."

"Is there a timeframe that this continues?" Shin'ichi asked.

"All of mine are for life," Cory replied. "When we did the first one, Russ pointed out that once the kids get used to it, it would be just like a divorce if we stopped it. There's a lot of security for them knowing that if something happens, they still know who they will be living with. Unless you four decide differently, all of mine are shared across the entire family, which would mean that Takashi has three little brothers coming in April."

Shin'ichi nodded, then turned to his wife. "I think that covered the questions that we discussed, did you have any others?"

"Only one," Kamaria replied. "Is there a reason that the humans in the Clan seem to be predominantly Caucasian? That is something that has been noticed in quite a few circles."

"Fair question," Cory nodded. "In most of our Divisions, you are correct; the Pacific Rim Division is actually the opposite as far as the balance of Caucasian to other bloodlines. In their case, Caucasians are the minority. But as far as the rest of the Clan goes, there are two things that tilt the balance. The first is that in most cases for non-caucasians, Federation Youth Services is able to provide what they need to recover due to the stronger bonds within families to their children. The second is that the really serious stuff that we end up chasing is usually a white-collar type operation, and the victims are worth more if they meet what most of the clients want. Those types of operations bring kids into the Clan in large groups, and in general the groups lack diversity, even within the caucasians. There are going to be a bunch of us spending the next couple of days helping Nathan overcome the emotional overload he suffered rescuing your daughter; he didn't see a color, he saw a child being hurt, and he tried, sentenced, and executed him on the spot for that action."

"I meant no offence," Kamaria apologized, "but your answer has given me some ammunition that may be useful to break the cultural 'it is our problem and we will not accept outside help' issue that still exists in some regions and ethnicities. I will get back with you once I have some ideas on how to use it."

"Just discuss it with Crystal so that she can coordinate FYS with you," Cory stated. "No matter what the outside world thinks, I'm not a dictator; all I care about is that kids ain't being hurt and families are getting help when they need it. If you really feel like you want an official okay, you can ask Mom and Dad if they think I need to be involved. Neither one of them will make a decision for me, but both of them know what things I keep track of."

"I think this is going to take some getting used to!" Kamaria smiled. "Shin, the proposal meets with my approval."

"As it does mine as well," Shin'ichi acknowledged. "May I ask how long it will take to begin the process?"

"A minute or two," Cory giggled. "Crystal, Clint? What do you think?"

"I'm in," Crystal replied. "I think Kamaria can teach me a lot, and I've seen how well it's worked with your mob!"

"Count me in too," Clint added. "I think the mix of all of our cultures might actually turn into a bonus for the kids."

Cory nodded, then turned to Takashi. "Takashi? Has Roo answered the questions you had?"

"Yes, Sir," Takashi replied with a big smile.

"Do you understand what your parents would like to do?"

"They want to give me another Mommy and Daddy but they're still going to be my Mommy and Daddy too," Takashi answered.

"Is that okay with you?"

"Yes, Sir. Roo says it means I'll learn more because they know different things, and if one Daddy or Mommy is busy I can go to the other one if I need their help."

"Thank you, Takashi," Cory replied with a smile. "Due to circumstances beyond our control, Miyoko has been declared a Ward of Family Clan Short. After interviews with her biological parents, older sibling, and the secondary choice for a family, I have determined that it is in the best interests of all concerned to facilitate the forming of a co-family under the provisions of Family Clan Short doctrine. I hereby approve the family of Shin'ichi Yamato, Kamaria Yamato, Clint York, and Crystal York. Custody of the biological children of any of the four parents is declared as equally shared between them, and Miyoko Yamato is hereby released into the family's custody and her Ward status is removed. George, log it."

"The Yamato-York Family has been entered into Family Clan Short records, Patriarch." George reported seriously.

Cory grinned. "Congratulations! If you hurry, you might be able to surprise Takashi and Miyoko's new grandparents and uncles before George opens his big mouth and tells them. Shin'ichi and Kamaria, I think you're going to like Robin and Kayla, and I think they'll be a lot of help with you adjusting to the insanity around here. Just don't ask them how they got their two youngest unless you're sitting down!"

Shin'ichi looked over at Clint. "Clint? By any chance, would your parents be able to explain what just happened at a speed that humans can comprehend?"

"it'll be fun seeing them try!" Clint sniggered. "You ready to go find out?"

Shin'ichi turned to tell their son he needed to say goodbye, only to hear Roo promising that they'd be seeing each other a lot and that after they were settled in they could talk with their parents about visiting each other's houses. The fact that Takashi's first friend here was three years older than him was not lost on Shin'ichi, and he considered it a good sign that there would be no issues with his son and daughter fitting in. "Once Takashi has finished making plans with his new friend, I believe we are ready."

About a minute later, Takashi and Roo exchanged hugs, then the new family was teleported out. Cory made it a point to give Roo a hug once they were gone, stating "I'm proud of you for making him feel welcome. I think you're going to have a really good new friend now!"

"I like him, he's funny and really smart," Roo replied. "Do you want me to rescue Uncle Nathan, Uncle Cory?"

"Go for it, just try not to break any bones!" Cory giggled.

Roo rolled his eyes, then made his way to where Nathan was buried in the cuddle pile. "Uncle Nathan, you in there?" Roo giggled as he looked for a hole in the pile of bodies.

"I don't have a choice, I can't move!" Nathan quipped from under the pile, earning him giggles from his human blankets.

"Timmy says we gotta hug our uncles and brothers until they give up and let themselves become happy again," Roo stated. "Are you happy now? I wanna cuddle-test Kent and Reid."

"I think they're in here somewhere, let me check," Nathan replied as he began randomly tickling bodies. After causing everyone piled on him to laugh and wiggle around, Nathan stated "Thanks, guys! You two need to go with your big brother now to make your new family official, okay?"

"Okay, Uncle Nathan," Reid replied as him and Kent wiggled free of the pile. 

By the time they rejoined Roo, Harley and Brad had made their way over and were also waiting. The two new boys suddenly found themselves pulled into a hug by their new brothers, who didn't want to wait for permission to start bonding. When the hug broke, Harley took hold of one of Reid's hands and one of Kent's hands, exclaiming "C'mon, we gotta make you our brothers before Uncle Cory forgets what he's doin'!"

"I heard that, Squirt!" Cory giggled from where him and Dylan were preparing for the adoption by exchanging the table and chairs for another couch. "Get your tiny butt over here, and bring your brothers!"

Harley stuck out his tongue, then giggled as he pulled Kent and Reid over to the couch, with Roo and Brad following close behind. He had the two new boys sit dead center, then climbed up to sit on both of their laps. Roo cuddled into the right side of Reid, and Brad cuddled into the left side of Kent, the trio seemingly making sure their prospective brothers couldn't go anywhere.

"What about us?" Adam giggled as him and JJ approached the couch.

"You can't cuddle them again 'till you 'dopt them!" Harley stated.

"Timmy's teaching you bad habits, rugrat!" JJ giggled as he leaned over and gave Harley's forehead a kiss. "You can chill, Pop and me ain't changing out minds."

After a little negotiating, JJ ended up with Brad on his lap so that he could give Kent support, while Adam ended up with Roo on his lap so that he was next to Reid. 

Now that they were in place, Cory took a seat on a chair in front of them. "Before we start, I just want to say something. Reid, Kent? I know that you wouldn't know this, but you two are getting a pretty special honor. JJ and Adam have had the chance at adopting hundreds of kids into their family, but they never did it because they thought it was more important that they concentrate on the sons they have. The two of you are getting the chance to become part of a family that all of us believed was never going to grow. You have something special inside of you that JJ and Adam spotted, something that told them that you belonged alongside the three boys they had already picked to be their sons."

"Blimey, Unc!" Brad interrupted. "We ain't got all day!"

Cory grinned as he added "Obviously your new brothers want you too! Okay, Reid? Do you want JJ and Adam to become your parents? This is forever, not some foster thing."

Reid nodded. "Yeah, Poppa makes me feel safe for the first time in a long time."

Smiling, Cory asked "What about you, Kent?"

Kent leaned his head on JJ's shoulder as he replied "Dad promised me he'd make me safe and make sure that I got to stay with Reid. He's the first person to keep his promises, so yes."

"He's good at that," Cory acknowledged. Before he could ask the other boys, however, he was interrupted by all three yelling "YES!" in unison.

"Okay, obviously your new brothers want you!" Cory giggled. "James Jacob Richardson, Adam Kelly Short? After review of the files and confirmation of intent, Kent Harrison Jacobs and Reid Reilly O'Reilly have declared their interest in joining your family. Your existing children have accepted their petition. Are you willing and able to include them as part of your family, providing for them equally as you do for your other children, supporting them as is appropriate for their ages and maturity?"

"Yes," Adam and JJ replied in unison.

"Kent and Reid, your request to join the family of JJ Richardson and Adam Short has been approved. You have the choice of keeping your existing name, or adopting the last name of either or both of them. Two of your brothers have kept their original last name, while your youngest brother has selected 'Short-Richardson'. You can change any part of your name if you want to, just let me know now."

Reid turned his head to look at Adam. "Poppa? Can I be Reid Adam Short-Richardson?"

Adam's smile threatened to split his face as he replied "Thank you, that means a lot! Yes, you can, son."

"I wanna do that kinda thing too," Kent added. "I wanna be Kent JJ Short-Richardson!"

"You got it, son, thanks!" JJ acknowledged, his smile also huge.

Cory smiled as well as he stated "As provided in the Safe Haven Act, as Patriarch of Family Clan Short of Vulcan I declare Reid Adam Short-Richardson and Kent JJ Short Richardson the sons of James Jacob Richardson and Adam Kelly Short. Any and all claims of guardianship or any other ties to other persons are hereby nullified and invalid. Congratulations, you are now family."

The couch instantly became the host of a five-way hug, as the occupants twisted around to welcome the newest pair into the family. Cory just watched, his pride at the choice his brothers had made obvious.

Teri and Spock stood up, coming over to stand behind Cory. Placing his hand on Cory's shoulder, Spock stated "With your permission, Son, I would be honored to perform the next function in welcoming youth into the Richardson family."

"You may proceed, Father," Cory replied with a very un-Vulcan grin.

Spock nodded, then stated "Doctor Richardson and Commander Martin, I require your presence. Tzar Alexei, with your permission I require the participation of your personal guard as well."

Alexei nodded, "Your request is granted, Admiral Spock." He then poked at the triplets, stating "Get over there, brothers; you've earned this!"

The three boys joined Dan and John in gathering in front of Spock and Teri, obviously nervous at being summoned by someone of Spock's rank.

Spock nodded once all of them were in position. "It has been brought to my attention that Lieutenant Commanders Morgan, Maddox, and Madison recently expressed a desire to legally recognize their developing family bond attachment to Commander James Jacob Richardson. Upon review of their personnel records, it would be illogical to deny this occurrence, as they would provide a necessary dynamic that would enhance the overall family. Doctor Richardson and Commander Martin, do you concur with my determination?"

"We find your logic sound, Admiral," Dan replied seriously. 

 Spock nodded, then shifted his attention to the boys. "Lieutenant Commanders Morgan, Maddox, and Madison. You have brought great honor upon yourselves, and it is illogical that you not have a family to share in your accomplishments. As Terrans you retain the choice, but logic states that as you are similar to James in your actions and motives, adopting the same surname as him would be appropriate. Commander Martin would be no less your father, as a surname does not define family."

"We can really be JJ's little brothers?" Morgan asked, his hope obvious.

"That status was already determined by James," Spock clarified. "Once you determine your preferred surname, the process will be complete. I have witnessed the acceptance of James' proposition by Doctor Richardson and Commander Martin as they interacted with yourselves upon your arrival."

The three boys exchanged amazed looks, seeming to hold a silent conference. Without warning, they twisted around to latch onto Dan and John, tears rolling freely down their faces. As they were being comforted by Dan and himself, John looked over at Spock. "Richardson," John stated.

"So be it. George, you shall update the Family Roster immediately," Spock ordered. "Myself and Teri shall allow you to bond with your new sons before we join you in welcoming them into our communal family," he added.

Cory had joined Alexei while Spock was busy, and commented "Dad likes taking the express route I think. If you wanna bring the boys over to my place, we'll hang out while your brothers get caught up on their new family."

"That sounds great," Alexei replied, "Do you think Nathan's family would want to join us? I'm worried about how he's taking things."

"Good idea; you wanna work on getting him to agree, and I'll call Helen to see if she can spare Tommy to help feed our mob?"

"I think I have the easier job!" Alexei quipped. "We have a plan, move out!"


To Be Continued...