Memories Part 1: The Gathering

Chapter 29

The Admiral glanced around the transporter room one last time before he signaled for the technician to accept the signal from TerraMain. Satisfied everything was in order, he gave the signal then came to attention. John had briefed him as to Cory's appearance, so he knew who to greet. As the eleven forms began to materialize, he scanned them for the telltale blond hair John had told him to watch for. As soon as he spotted Cory, the Admiral turned so that he directly faced him.

Once they were fully materialized, the Admiral gave the Vulcan salute as he addressed Cory. "Welcome to Orlando, Mr. Short. I sincerely hope your negotiations prove successful. Commander Martin has been authorized to provide any assistance necessary."

Cory returned the salute. "Your assistance is appreciated, Admiral. Initial indications are showing a positive outcome is probable. May I suggest we retire to an informal setting; there are probabilities of some situations arising which I believe you should be aware of."

"As you wish, Sir." the Admiral replied. "Please join me in the Conference room." He waited for Cory to join him, then led the group to a room just outside the Transport bay.

Once inside the room, Cory spoke up. "Admiral, would you be offended if we make this totally informal. This was one of the boys' first transport, and I'm not sure how much longer he will be able to restrain himself."

"I understand, I've raised three boys myself. Feel free, they have both done quite well so far. Since we are dropping the formalities, you may call me Juan."

Cory smiled. "Thank you. Let me introduce my companions. As I'm sure you know, I'm Cory; the young man who seems glued to my side is my life partner Sean Short. Sean also holds the position of Clan Historian." Cory held out his arm, and it was instantly filled with a five year old. "This little imp is our son Timmy, that's his friend Ricky climbing onto Sean." Cory positioned Timmy on his hip before moving around the room. "I'm really proud to introduce you to our Mom, Teri Short, who also happens to be the Federation Youth Services Director."

Juan held out his hand to Teri. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Teri. I'm not sure which you are better known for around here; your exceptional sons or the Safe Haven cases you have already streamlined."

Teri smiled. "I really hope it's the Safe Haven cases, these two boys have achieved all of this completely on their own."

"From what I've heard, they had an excellent teacher."

Teri blushed at the compliment. "Thank you, Juan."

Cory decided to rescue his mom. "Juan, the man standing next to Mom is Dr. Austin Michaels, Ricky's father and the new Youth Services Medical Director. Next to him is the son of Chief Tecumseh, Derek Tecumseh. Last but not least are the twins, John's sons Jeffy and Sammy Taylor, and finally there's our Clan Youth Coordinator, Kelly McCarthy.

With the introductions completed, everyone took a seat at the table. Cory couldn't help but giggle when he noticed Kelly ended up with two little imps sharing the chair with him. "Juan, don't hold it against John, but there's a few things he was under orders from me not to tell anyone."

Juan looked at Cory with interest. "Really now! You've got my full attention, young man."

Cory grinned as he continued. "I'm sure you know about the new youth shelter Mom is setting up outside town. I actually have a secondary interest in the shelter, which is why I'm here to sign a treaty with Chief Tecumseh. The first wave of boys entering that shelter are going to need protection of the highest level; I want them so not even the FBI can touch them. The fact it is Federation property would normally be enough, but I've got a feeling that before this is over that will not be sufficient. With this treaty, I will be able to insert a little twist into things. One of the key points is that the Chief and his Tribe will staff and run the complex. Sean has contacted the proper people, and once I sign the treaty the Seminole tribe will be granted the return of their forefather's land in the area the complex covers. It will remain Federation property, but they will be the managing custodians of the land. By Terran law, that makes it an Indian Reservation; but once the treaty is signed the tribe is considered an equal to my own Clan under Vulcan Law. I figure that's gonna put a few twists into anyone's plans for retribution against any boys in there; they are going to have to jump through so many hoops to get a kid out of there we'll definitely catch them. The best part is the fact that Chief Tecumseh's tribe will have permanent jobs for a good portion of the members. In case I sound paranoid, there's two little reasons I'm being careful. Both of them are sitting on John's lap right now, and it's my responsibility to ensure the trash that defiled them is disposed of properly. In the process I plan to help every other boy who was used by these idiots."

Juan looked at John in shock. "I didn't know it was your new sons! Sammy, Jeffy; I promise that you will be avenged. As of right now, anything your new Dad needs to catch those people I will make sure he gets."

Juan then stood and straightened his uniform. He turned towards Cory, who noticed the look on Juan's face and realized things were about to get official again. Cory stood and faced Juan with a totally serious face.

"Mr. Short, now that I am fully aware of the scope of your mission, I wish to make the full resources of Starfleet Security available for your assistance. Commander Martin has any resources you require available to him."

"Thank you, Admiral. Your assistance is most welcome, and I graciously accept the offer. If at some future time my Clan may be of assistance to you please do not hesitate to ask."

"I will remember that, Mr. Short." Juan then relaxed. "Cory, you are an amazing young man. Sean and Timmy are truly blessed to call you family."

Cory blushed and looked over at Sean. "Juan, I'll be honest, without Sean I really don't think I could do all of this. He has stood by me through the worst parts of my life, everything I've done is my way of paying him back."

Juan smiled and placed a hand on Cory's shoulder. "Cory, that is what is amazing about you; it's obvious when I watch you that you are not doing all this for yourself. Whatever you do, don't change. There's very few people in this universe who can honesty say they live their lives that way, those that do usually go far and leave a lasting impression."

John chuckled as he stood up and joined the pair. "Sir, with all due respect, I think you've embarrassed Cory enough. If he blushes much more he's going to spontaneously combust from the heat."

"I see what you mean, John." Juan chuckled. "I guess the historians are going to have to add modesty to their description of Cory. Is there anything else before you have to go? I just noticed it is getting close to time for you to leave for your meeting."

Cory recovered enough to answer. "I think that covers everything I thought would help you. Would it be possible to arrange transportation for Mom and Dr. Austin to meet with Judge Robison while we finalize the treaty?"

"Consider it done. If you think of anything else, just ask."

Ten minutes later, two limos pulled away from from the building; both heading for destinations which would change someone's destiny.


Kelly watched in awe as they passed in front of the property the complex was built on. "Man, this is NOTHIN' like the place I was stuck in!"

Cory scanned the view with a smile. "I agree Kel, Uncle Josh really went all out! I know I told him to make it like a camp instead of a group home, but MAN is this place sweet!" He was about to add more, but the limo passed the property, slowed down, and made the turn into Southcrest.

Once it was stopped in the driveway behind the mansion, it suddenly gained occupants. First in were Jamie and Jacob, giggling madly as they pounced Kelly in greeting. Next was Justy, who plopped himself on Cory and Sean's laps then wiggled around until he was sitting between them. Aaron, David, Mark and Zac squeezed in next, with Josh finishing off the invasion. Josh made a beeline through the crowded limo to sit with Jeffy and Sammy on his lap.

Once everyone was settled, the limo made its way back down the driveway and off the Ranch, heading for the front entrance of the Youth Services Compound.

Inside the limo, Josh gave the two boys on his lap a hug. "How do you guys like your new home?"

The both giggled before Jeffy replied. "It's awesome, we're lovin' having a real family! We didn't know what we were missin' with our old dad."

Josh squeezed both boys as he stared out the window. In a low voice he stated "I've found out that you missed a lot, boys, and I promise he that is going to regret denying you your childhoods."

Sean noticed Josh's mood change. "Hey Uncle Josh, did you hear Kelly got a promotion?"

Josh's face lit up. "Promotion? I didn't even know he had a job! You guys opening up a slave camp?"

Sean giggled. "You're a goof ball, Uncle Josh. He's got a position in the Clan - Youth Coordinator. Since he's so good with the young kids, Cor and I figured he deserved a title to recognize his skills."

That broke Josh's funk. "You two are a pair of nuts! I have to admit you're right though, I noticed it too."

Kelly interrupted just as the limo came to a stop again. "So THAT'S what you were talkin' about when you introduced me! I thought you mighta' sucked Cory's brain cell through his tonsils again when he said that!"

"Bite me, Kelly!" Cory exclaimed as the car exploded in laughter.

They managed to settle down before the driver opened the door. Cory moved to get ready to exit, but John held out his hand to stop. "Sir, I must insist that you allow me to verify the area is safe before you exit."

"Carry on, Commander." Cory replied, realizing that playtime was over.

John nodded. "Mark, I need you to join me exiting first. Josh, ensure protocol is followed as far as everyone else goes."

"You got it, John," Josh replied.

Mark shifted to be by the door as Josh began listing who was to leave when. The driver opened the double door facing the tepee that had been erected in the center of the courtyard, and John immediately exited along with Mark. Once they were both stationed on either side of the door, John motioned for Cory to exit. Once Cory was standing by John, Sean was helped out and immediately joined Cory. Once Derek was out also, John told everyone else to wait until the main introductions were completed. He then motioned for Derek to take the lead, while he and Mark flanked Cory and Sean. As they began the approach to the tepee, two young braves in full ceremonial dress stepped out, followed by Chief Tecumseh. The two groups met in the middle of the thirty foot space between the limo and the tepee. As they met, both Mark and Derek moved to the side and took positions facing each other. John nodded to Mark.

Mark came to attention and took a step forward. "May I present the Patriarch of Clan Short, Cory Short. Accompanying him is his life partner and Clan Historian, Sean Short. We are joined by Commander John Martin, Director of Starfleet Security for Southeastern North America. I am Mark Owens, I will be the liaison between yourself and Clan Short." He then took one step back into his previous position.

Derek mirrored Mark's previous actions. "I am honored to present my father and Chief of the Seminole Nation, Chief Hawkeye Tecumseh. To his right is my middle brother Charles, and to his left is my youngest brother Byron."

Cory and Hawkeye both stepped forward and clasped forearms. Cory greeted the Chief. "Greetings, Chief Tecumseh. It is an honor to meet you in person. I look forward to a long and mutually prosperous relationship between your Tribe and my Clan."

"It is a pleasure and honor to meet yourself and your partner, Cory Short. The Great Spirit has smiled upon us with this blessing of our Tribes' joint venture."

Cory gave a small smile as he continued. "I have selected some members of my Clan to witness this historic occasion. Would you please accompany me to the limo and I shall introduce them to you?"

The Chief gave his own small smile at the pride evident in Cory's voice. "Let us go to them, I look forward to meeting some of the boys my son has told me about."

The group moved back to the limo, and John motioned to the occupants that it was okay to come out. As they exited the vehicle, Cory introduced them.

"Chief Tecumseh, representing Ambassador Sarek, who is the Head of the House of Surak of the planet Vulcan, is Mr. Joshua Chasez-Dodds. Accompanying him are his sons, who are also the liaisons between Clan Short and Ambassador Sarek; in order, Justin Dodds, Jamie Stewart, and Jacob Stewart." Cory waited for them to exchange greetings, then signaled for the next group. "This is Kelly McCarthy, Clan Youth Coordinator. To his right is Ricky Williamson, son of Dr. Austin Michaels, Federation Youth Services Medical Director. To his left is Sean and mine's son, Timothy Short." Cory watched with pride as Timmy politely waited his turn, said hello to Chief Tecumseh, then walked over and stood next to Sean. Ricky followed Timmy's example, then went to stand with Kelly. "It is my pleasure to introduce you to our eldest brother and Lieutenant in charge of the Orlando Clan Branch, Aaron Carter. Accompanying him today is his life partner, David Gallagher." Cory barely managed to keep a straight face as Derek's younger brother's jaws dropped at the sight of Aaron and David climbing out of the car. "Chief, I realized you would definitely want to meet these two Clan members, both of which are Commander Martin's sons; this is Samuel Taylor and his brother Sebastian Taylor. Sebastian goes by Jeffy normally, this is one of the few times any of us have even spoken his given name. Finally, this is Zachary Hanson, Mark Owens' partner."

Cory was shocked when the Chief greeted Zac, then knelt down placing one hand on each of the twin's shoulders.

"Sammy, Jeffy, I've waited to meet you ever since I heard what happened to you." Chief Tecumseh began. "You are two amazing boys, I can see the Great Spirit is strong in both of you. Very few braves would survive their own blood selling them as slaves for pleasure. You have not only survived but are seeking to re-balance the great scales of justice. Soon you will face another challenge. One which will bring you great joy upon completion. Follow the signs the Great Spirit leaves in your hearts, for He has great plans for your futures. Jeffy, my Shaman tells me your old father is the one who insisted you use your middle name, as it was the same as his. Sebastian was your great-grandfather on your mother's side, and I'm told he was a great man. Your old father had no respect for him, but I think a strong young brave such as yourself using the name would be a fitting tribute to a great man."

The two boys looked at each other silently, then Sammy spoke. "Chief, is that why nobody ever used 'Bastian's name out loud? I've always called him that when we talk to each other, just not when anyone hears it. Our old father wouldn't even use it unless he was really, really mad."

"Yes, Sammy, that's the reason. It is also why he got hurt more than you. Both of your given names were chosen by your mother; are you willing to honor her memory by using them?"

The two boys looked at each other again. A few seconds later, Jeffy spoke. "It's gonna take getting used to, but now that I know about my names I don't want to be called Jeffy no more."

Cory joined Chief Tecumseh and the twins. "Are you positive about that?" Cory asked. When he received a nod from the boys, Cory cleared his throat and announced "From this time forward, I hereby decree that Sebastian Jeffery Taylor shall no longer be addressed as Jeffy and shall be addressed by his given first name. Justin, notify the Family Archivist of the change at your earliest opportunity."

"I'm on it, Cory." Justy responded.

The twins shyly gave the Chief a hug of thanks, then Chief Tecumseh walked with the boys over to John. "Commander, you have been truly blessed to be given charge of these two young braves. Take good care of them." He then put a hand on Cory's shoulder. "Come Cory, I believe we have an appointment with destiny."

Everyone proceeded into the tepee, following Charles and Byron's instructions and sitting along the wall of the tepee. Chief Tecumseh and Cory sat opposite each other at the table set up in the middle of the room.

Cory began the proceedings. "Tonight we are gathered to finalize the treaty between Clan Short of the planet Vulcan and the Florida Seminole Nation of the planet Earth. My Clan is prepared to support the Seminole Nation to the best of our abilities upon signing of this treaty."

Chief Tecumseh took over. "As Chief of the Florida Seminole Nation of the planet Earth, I pledge the assistance of my Tribe to Clan Short of the planet Vulcan. It is my hope that this will be the start of a long and plentiful relationship."

Cory motioned to Sean, who stood and placed a tricorder on the table, then returned to his seat. Cory's fingers flew over the controls, then he turned the instrument towards Chief Tecumseh. "Could you please review the treaty on the tricorder and ensure I did not miss anything we discussed previously?"

Chief Tecumseh reviewed the display then pressed a point on the screen. "On behalf of the Florida Seminole Nation, I, Chief Hawkeye Tecumseh, accept this treaty as written and hereby affix my seal." A beep a few seconds later confirmed his entry, and he turned the unit to Cory.

Cory pressed the same point on the screen. "I, Cory Patrick Short, Patriarch of Clan Short, Clan of the Family of Sarek of the House of Surak of the planet Vulcan, ratify and accept this treaty and hereby affix my seal." A double beep confirmed his entry, and Cory placed the tricorder back into the center of the table. Both he and Chief Tecumseh stood at the same time and extended their hands.

As they clasped hands, Chief Tecumseh spoke. "Technology does not seal a treaty. The clasping of hands of two men of honor does."

Cory smiled slightly. "You speak wisely. Mike used to tell me to look in his eyes when he was trying to tell me something. He taught me that the eyes can't lie. I can see the honor in your eyes, and know in my heart that great things will come from tonight."

"This Mike sounds like a wise man. I must meet him sometime."

Cory prepared to explain about Mike's death when he was startled by a voice coming from above his head.

"Hey little brother, are you just gonna sit there or are you gonna introduce me to your distinguished guest?"

Everyone in the tepee looked up to see Mike floating near the top, sitting Indian style in mid-air. Mike chuckled. "What? Did you honestly think I'd miss seeing my bros making history? Give me some credit!"

Everyone in the room was speechless - except Timmy. "Unca Mikey, you're bein' bad. Stop messin' with Daddy an' get down here!"

Mike shook his head as he floated down and sat by Timmy. "You know something, kiddo? You're the only five-year-old I know of who has the guts to talk to a Saint like that."

Sean interrupted before Timmy could respond. "Mike, give it up. Someone has been taking lessons from his Daddy; you know as well as I do that you don't have a chance."

Cory shook his head. "Chief Tecumseh, may I introduce you to my other older brother Michael Short, better known as Saint Mikey of Urbandale. Despite his manner, he's actually the one person most responsible for how I am today."

Chief Tecumseh turned to face Mike and nodded his head in respect. "It is a great honor to be in your presence, Saint Mikey. I sense that it is a good omen that the Great Spirit has allowed for you to join us."

Mike smiled. "You are very perceptive, Chief. The One you call the Great Spirit and the One we call Our Father are one and the same. I had already made plans to be here, but I received a message from Him that I needed to be here personally. Cory has made some arrangements which affect not only those I am responsible for, but yourself and your future generations. There are forces which would do anything to prevent his announcement of your next step; they know that once it is spoken it is out of their realm. My presence prevents them from even getting near anyone associated with this treaty to cause harm. Oh, and before I forget Chief, your Great-Grandfather said to tell you that your actions tonight have returned great honor to the Seminole Nation. May I suggest that we drop the formalities and get to business; as great as my little brother is doing, he does much better when he can be himself."

Chief Tecumseh's smile grew wider. "Mike, I see what Cory meant by you making him what he is today. You're influence in his attitude is quite obvious. Thank my Great-Grandfather for me, he has buoyed my spirit with his praise."

Cory looked over at Mike. "Bro, I think the REAL reason you showed up is so you had a voice in this too! You know, I was going to wait until I felt it was time to cover the arrangements Sean made, but you HAD TO open your mouth! I'll get you for this!"

Mike chuckled. "Hey lil' bro; just think of it as payback for trying to sell me off a while back!"

"BUSTED!" Justy and his brothers chorused.

Cory turned beet red, unable to come up with a reply. Once the laughter in the room subsided, he regained his composure. "Since a certain Saint decided to throw formality out the window, Chief, I'll just tell you what we've managed to arrange."

Chief Tecumseh was still smiling as he replied. "That sounds fine to me, Cory. I've always thought more productive work gets done in informal settings than any formal meeting."

Cory sat back. "First thing is your Tribe's status. Ambassador Sarek has said that once you entered into the treaty, you basically have the same legal status in the Federation as my Clan does. Any tribal lands that belong to you are now protected by Federation law; unfortunately that does not apply to the lands provided for you by the US government. Sean did a little digging and found out that the land that we are on now was once your tribal territory. The Federation has decided that it will be turned over to your Tribe for their use; with the condition that the tribe runs the Youth Shelter on the property. Everyone who works for the Shelter will be on the Federation's payroll, at Federation standard pay rates for the job they are doing."

The Chief looked at Cory with interest. "It sounds like you have everything pretty much covered. How are we to handle schooling for the residents?"

"Actually, I was just getting to that. I would like everything to be handled on-site; schooling, medical, you name it. I'd even like you to handle your own security; if it's something you can't handle, John will have a contact set up for you with Starfleet and Federation Security. Anything else you need help with just ask Mark; if he can't handle it he'll get ahold of someone who can for you. Basically it's been set up so that no Terran law enforcement officials are allowed access onto the property; no FBI, no Sheriffs, no US Marshals, nobody but assigned Federation or Starfleet Security personnel. Some of your first residents are going to be wanted by a lot of people, and we are going to make sure that those people have no way to access them. Most of the first group will have sold their bodies; some will be gay, the rest just did what was needed to survive. After seeing what happens when a group of boys with similar histories gets together, I really think that learning to live as a tribe is going to be just what these boys will need."

The Chief thought for a second before responding. "You have planned it out quite well. It sounds like you want every boy to walk out of here not only a man, but a brave as well. I only have one more question, but it's for Saint Mikey." He turned to look at Mike, but froze with a smile on his face at what he saw. Mike was 'sitting' a foot off of the floor, with Charles and Byron sitting in front of him. The three of them were deep in conversation regarding the afterlife as compared to the teachings they had received.

Without missing a beat. Mike turned his head. "Go for it, Chief. I like the name, and your dedication will be just fine." Mike then turned back to his conversation.

Chief Tecumseh smiled as he stood up. "Joshua, Cory, Sean, will you please join me outside for a moment?"

Once the four were outside, the Chief signaled for quiet. He stood quietly for a couple minutes, then began speaking. "Great Spirit, you have blessed us with new lands to raise your children. These hunting grounds of our forefathers are now returned to us to rescue those who are forgotten." He opened a pouch and began spreading some dust from it as he continued. "I call on you, Great Spirit, to protect these lands from those who would cause evil to come upon its inhabitants, and ask of you that it be guarded by your helper, Saint Mikey, until the sun goes to it's final sleep. In the name of the Great Spirit I call these lands Camp Little Eagle, and in the Great Spirit's name, I banish all evil from these lands."

The evening became suddenly still; there was not so much as a cricket chirping to be heard. The silence was broken by two distinctive screeches as two eagles flew in from the north and landed on Chief Tecumseh's outstretched arms.

"Welcome, Eagle Spirits, to Camp Little Eagle. If it is your wish to make this your home, you may choose your residence and it will remain yours and your children's forever."

The two eagles gave a chirp of acceptance, then glided down from his arms into the opening of the tepee. Cory led the procession in behind them, but came to a stop when he saw what was happening inside. The two eagles walked up to Timmy and Ricky, allowed the boys to gently pet their heads, then started looking at the boys then at the tabletop.

Kelly softly giggled as he watched the birds. "Hey guys, I think they want you to help them onto the table! Hold out your arms in front of you and I'll bet they climb on."

Everyone watched in awe as the two boys put their arms in front of their chests and the eagles gently climbed on. The eagles then nuzzled each boy's neck, helping support their weight by bracing on the boy's shoulders. Kelly helped each of the boys stand up, and braced them as they walked carefully to the table. As they were set down, each bird reached into the boy's hair and carefully used their beaks to cut out a swatch of hair. The eagles carried the two swatches of hair to the center of the table, then turned to Mike and sounded three quick screeches.

Mike responded with two similar screeches, then turned to the boys. "Timmy, Ricky, you guys are getting quite an honor. As the Chief knows, these guys are the Guardian Spirits for the Camp. You guys know how Kyle can talk to me, right?"

Both boys nodded their heads. "Yeah, why?"

Mike smiled. "These guys would like for you two to be able to do the same thing with them. That way you can help them watch for trouble. When they took a little of your hair to start their nest with that was the first part, but I need to talk to you about the second part."

Timmy and Ricky looked at each other. Ricky nodded then they turned back and Timmy said "Okay, go ahead."

"Okay. What they need to do to finish the ceremony is for you to let them pierce each of your right ears with their talons." Mike saw the confused looks and clarified. "Talons are what you call claws. Each of these guys has an extra talon that normal eagles don't have. That's the one they use for your ear. Once it's in, the talon will break off and stay in your ear. I've called the Medicine Man already, he's on his way to finish making it so they don't fall out. Each Eagle Spirit can only do this once during each time they are here, so it is something that almost nobody else will have. I won't lie to you, it will hurt a little when they pierce your ear, but not for long, okay?"

Mike then turned to Cory and Sean. "You two can drop out of Daddy mode. Our Father has approved this. Do you really think He would let something like infection happen as a result of one of His ceremonies?"

Cory and Sean both grinned then stuck out their tongues at Mike. Sean giggled his comeback. "Hey, YOU'RE the one who taught us to take care of family, dude!"

Timmy got Mike's attention. "Unca Mikey, we wanna let the Eagles do it."

Mike scanned both boys. "You guys are great. I see you really do understand what we're asking. The Medicine Man is almost here, so whenever you are ready we can start."

To everyones surprise, both boys immediately sat at the table and laid their heads on it with their right ears up. The eagles walked over and nuzzled their chosen boy's ear, then climbed on his shoulder. They carefully placed the special talon against the boy's earlobes and pressed them through. To all who were watchings surprise, neither boy so much as flinched as the talons went into place. The eagles climbed down and stood in front of the boys. Once both Timmy and Ricky were sitting up, the eagles reached around and plucked one of their own tail feathers. They presented them in their beaks to the boys, who smiled and gently accepted the gifts.

The quiet in the room was broken by a new voice. "Thank you Great Spirit for allowing me to witness this sacred event!" Everyone turned and found the Tribal Shaman standing just inside the door. He walked over to the table and addressed the two young boys. "You have received quite an honor. The Eagle Spirits have declared you braves by their gift of their feathers. The last time this happened was to my grandfather's grandfather." He sat next to Timmy and began the final locking of the talon into Timmy's ear. "You have been through much, little one, yet you rise above it all. You shall now be known as Soaring Eagle, Timothy." He finished with Timmy and moved over to Ricky. As he worked on Ricky's ear, he addressed him. "You are a very impressive young man. You have survived rough times, and are healing well. You are patient and quiet, two very admirable traits. You shall now be known as Sitting Eagle, Ricky." Once he finished, he turned to the two eagles who were watching closely. "Thank you Spirits for choosing these young braves. I will ensure that tonight they will receive a proper headdress for the placement of your gifts."

Mike finally spoke up. "We all need to head outside, there is some private business that these two need to take care of." He floated over everyones heads and led them outside. Once they were all out, he announced "I need to head out for a bit, but I'm definitely going to be back to see my nephew's ceremony tonight. Thanks Chief, there's a party on the Happy Hunting Ground tonight thanks to you!" Mike then slowly disappeared into the night air.

Everyone stood around and discussed the night's events while waiting for Timmy and Ricky to finish.


Teri and Austin were surprised when Judge Robison met them at the doorway to his chambers. "Aha, you must be Teri! I finally get to meet you in person!"

Teri smiled. "You got it, Judge. This is Doctor Austin Michaels, Youth Services Medical Director."

Austin shook the Judge's hand. "Pleasure to meet you, Your Honor."

"Please, just call me Jamie. No need to be formal out of court. Your timing for this visit is perfect. I actually was considering calling you when I got the message you were coming over. Please, come in and have a seat. Coffee anyone?"

Both Teri and Austin accepted the coffee. Once they were all seated, Jamie began. "Teri, what is the status of that new Youth Shelter that I heard you were planning?"

"Well, now that you ask, Cory and Sean are signing a treaty right now with Chief Tecumseh of the Seminole Nation to administer the property. All the buildings are in place, and Cory is planning on the Tribe staffing the positions. I would guess it will be up in less than a week knowing those two."

"There's a couple of points, though Jamie." Austin interjected. "The main one is that this place is going to give 'secure facility' a whole new meaning; Sean researched every law he could and has set it up so that not even the FBI has a chance of walking through the gates uninvited. My understanding is this is not a short-term facility. The program is designed to help kids recover from their past and become the best they can be, no matter what their sexuality. Sean said it's going to be family-based, Indian style. I take that to mean that the Tribe will be family to anyone in there."

Jamie smiled. "Not bad, it sounds like Sean's actually taking the old saying 'it takes a village to raise a child' literally. I think I see their point on law enforcement. A lot of the street boys have got into trouble while trying to survive. Once they are inside, they no longer have to worry or run. What about when they are grown up and ready to move out?"

Teri giggled. "Would YOU argue with a blanket pardon from the Patriarch of a Vulcan Clan? Cory came to me on that one - once they turn twenty and are ready to move into society, he is going to pardon them for any outstanding crimes from before they started - as long as they leave on good terms."

Jamie chuckled before replying. "I guess that pretty much covers it, seeing as to the fact the shelter seems to double as a rehab center. I guess you are wondering why I'm asking."

"I figured you'll get to it." Teri replied. "Chip and Josh both warned me that you were long-winded."

"Wait till I see those jokers!" Jamie laughed. "Seriously, three months ago a small plane crashed outside town. There were two boys and their parents onboard. Both parents were killed instantly, but by the grace of God the boys survived. One of them lost his right arm and most of his right leg, the other has some damage to his left hand. The court has temporary guardianship of them, but I do not feel comfortable putting them in a standard shelter, especially the severely injured boy. Both boys hint that they were responsible for the crash, but nobody has got any details from them of how, and right now I honestly consider both of them suicide risks. Also, for some reason the FBI has been poking around, and I really don't want them to take the boys. I would like for you to evaluate them and see if you have any ideas."

"How old are they?" Austin asked.

"They just turned 10, they're twins."

Teri looked at Austin. "What do you think? 'Bastian and Sammy?"

Austin nodded. "Yep, probably Kelly and the munchkins too. Between the five of them someone will get through."

Jamie gave them a puzzled look. "You are planning to use some of the boys to evaluate them?"

"You better believe it," Teri replied. "I've watched these guys take one day to get histories out of kids that it would take months for any of us to get. If these five can't pull it off, I know of two other boys who can literally force it out of them. I've learned from my sons, success is knowing your resources and not being afraid to use them. The boys are the reason the new shelter went up so fast, they kept pulling strings until they got what they wanted."

"It sounds like you know what you are doing, I know none of our people have had any luck. When would you be able to get the boys here to try your luck?"

Austin grinned. "Call the hospital and inform them Federation Medical Services is taking over as of right now. We'll meet you at the hospital at 9am with the boys. How's that sound?"

Jamie chuckled. "It sounds like you've been taking lessons from a certain Chief Medical Officer I know named McCoy! You have a date, I'm curious to see how these boys work."

They chatted for a few minutes about some other cases that Jamie was considering forwarding to Teri. Once that was done, Teri and Austin excused themselves to go rejoin the rest of the group.


Teri and Austin climbed out of the car at the reservation. "I wonder what the party is for?" Austin commented as they looked over the expanse of people in the central park.

They were suddenly startled by a voice above their heads. "Hey Mom, Doc!"

Teri looked up. "MICHAEL PATRICK SHORT! Don't you know it's not Saintly to go around scaring people!"

Mike giggled as he sank down to stand in front of the pair. Teri shook her head then introduced him. "Austin, this is my son Michael; otherwise known as Saint Mikey of Urbandale. Get used to having him pop in. He tends to show up whenever something big is happening." She then turned back to Mike. "Could you save us the shock and fill us in on the reason for the big party?"

"Sure Mom. Part of it is the celebration of the treaty. It's not final until a celebration is held to thank the Spirits. Which, by the way, has made me a guest of honor! The other reason is a lot more serious, and you two are just in time to see it. The Guardian Spirits of Camp Little Eagle chose Timmy and Ricky as their Spirit Helpers. Tonight they are going to receive their official rank as braves of the tribe. Oh, and before you freak, neither one of you needs to do anything with either of the boy's new earrings. I promise there is no reason to worry about infection or anything like that. Our Father does not allow injury to come from Spirit Gifts, and those earrings are the mark of chosen men."

Teri noticed Austin looked unsure, so she turned to him. "Austin, take him at his word. Even while he was alive, he would not lie about something that could hurt his brothers. He is the Guardian Angel of all of our boys. He can't allow them to be hurt."

Austin smiled. "If you put it that way, now I feel better. Shall we go see what kind of trouble the Clan is causing?"

Mike led the way, escorting the two of them to a table set in the center of the park. As they approached, a man in full ceremonial dress stood up.

"Chief Tecumseh," Mike began, "May I introduce to you mine, Cory, and Sean,'s mother, Teri Short. Accompanying her is Doctor Austin Michaels, father of Ricky."

Chief Tecumseh shook both of their hands. "It is an honor to meet the parents of these fine young gentlemen. Saint Mikey, I'm to tell you that the time has arrived for the ceremony."

"Thanks Chief." Mike replied as he flew off towards the fire that was set up.

Teri addressed the Chief. "Chief, are the arrangements the boys made for you satisfactory?"

"Yes, Teri, they are. Cory said that you would be able to sit down tomorrow and assist me with the staffing. Is that still viable?"

"It looks like tomorrow afternoon is open if that fits into your schedule. In the morning Austin and I need to evaluate a couple of boys, but then we are free to assist you however you need us."

"That sounds fine. For now we need to head over to the fire, there are two young boys there who are about to move on to the next stage of their lives. I know that Ricky was hoping you would make it in time, Austin. He's looking forward to having his new father watch the first time he has achieved something on his own. My Shaman tells me you saved the boy just in time, Austin. You will see many rewards for your care about his future. Continue to follow your heart, for many good things will come from it."

"Thank you, Chief. I had worried about if I was doing the right thing when I took him from his mother; but between what we found afterwards and what you just told me I'm now positive I did the right thing. Shall we go join the boys?"

Chief Tecumseh led them to a front-row spot for the ceremony. There were five blankets laid on the ground, two of which were occupied by Sean and Cory. Teri sat next to Cory, Chief Tecumseh sat next to her, and Austin sat at the end. As they looked around, they noticed Mike floating off to one side, and a pair of eagles sitting on an ornate perch on the other. Just then the Shaman exited the tepee in the back and walked to the center of the clearing.

"Oh Great Spirit," he chanted, "this day You have gifted us with more blessings than we can count. You have returned honor to our nation and provided a means to pass it on to our children's children. You have gave us prosperity when the world has denied us. Most importantly, You have provided us two new braves to guide us into tomorrow, chosen by Your helpers and full of Your Spirit. Great Spirit, guide us tonight as we confirm to the Nation those You have chosen. Give them the honor and courage to overcome the evil of the world."

A lone drummer started a slow beat as Timmy and Ricky slowly walked out and stood beside the Shaman. As the drum stopped, both boys turned and walked over to the perch. They held out their arms, and both eagles carefully moved off the perch, down their arms, and onto their shoulders. They then moved back to their spots by the Shaman, an eagle on each of their right shoulders.

Once they were in place, he continued. "The Spirits have chosen. Who shall come forward to pass these young men on to their destiny?"

Cory answered first as he rose and walked forward. "I come forward as father of Timothy." He walked up next to Timmy and placed a hand on his left shoulder.

Austin took his cue from Cory, and stood up. "I come forward as father of Ricky." He took the same position as Cory and waited to see what was next.

"As these boys have been chosen to hold positions of braves and warriors, so shall their names and stations reflect their responsibilities. The Spirits have decreed these two boys as men, and they shall be recognized by our Nation as such. Timothy, step forward."

Timmy stepped up and turned to face the Shaman. "Timothy, the Spirits have chosen you." He then placed an ornate headband with the eagle feather standing proudly in the rear on Timmy's head. "The Seminole Nation no longer shall call you Timothy; from this moment forward you are Soaring Eagle. Turn around and view your fellow braves."

Timmy turned, and once he was facing the crowd he let out a yell of victory, in chorus with the screech of the eagle on his shoulder. Cory picked up a bowl from by his feet and stepped in front of his son. "Today you became a warrior, son. May I have the honor of being the first to paint you to match your status?"

Timmy nodded his head. "Yes, Dad."

Cory carefully painted Timmy's face to match the markings of the companion on his shoulder. A soft 'cluck' from the eagle told Cory when he was done. Cory stood, turned, and announced to the crowd "Fellow warriors, I give you Soaring Eagle!"

As he was told to do, Cory went back to his seat. To his surprise, Timmy followed and sat between him and Sean with 'his' eagle still on his shoulder. Cory leaned up and whispered to Timmy "Hey, kiddo, ain't you supposed to be up there?"

Timmy giggled and replied softly. "Naw, William said I'm 'posed to sit with you and Pop right now."

Cory looked at the eagle on Timmy's shoulder, and was satisfied when he saw him nod. "Okay, he knows what to do better than any of us."

Cory turned back to the ceremony in front of him just in time to see the Shaman place the headband on Ricky's head.

"The Seminole Nation shall no longer call you Ricky; from this moment forward you are Sitting Eagle."

Austin repeated Cory's motions, stepping forward and applying his son's first war paint. Once he was finished, he turned to the crowd. "Fellow Warriors, it is my honor to present to you Sitting Eagle!"

After the cheering died down, Austin went back to his seat with Ricky right behind him. Once they were seated, the Chief rose and turned to the assembled tribe. "Tonight we celebrate two new braves, and tomorrow we start a new beginning for our Tribe. Soaring Eagle's father and I have just signed a treaty which not only will give us our own land, but will provide for us and our children's children. We will be taking in those that have been abused and abandoned. When they are grown, they will have learned our ways and will be able to pass them on to future generations."

When he stepped down, the crowd broke up and the celebration began. The boys both received a warm welcome, and had the time of their lives dancing and talking to their new tribe. As things started to wind down, Josh managed to corner both of them. The eagles had returned to their shoulders, and they were sitting on a bench resting.

"Boys, I was really proud of you tonight." Josh began. "You listened to your friends on your shoulders and did exactly what you were supposed to. I have a message for you. Ambassador Sarek said to tell you that you represented Clan Short and his family properly."

Ricky looked confused for a second, then smiled as his companion explained the compliment. Timmy got the idea right away and replied "Wow! Thanks, Unca Josh! How'd he find out?"

Josh chuckled. "Well, the Chief let me transmit the ceremony to him, since he IS the Patriarch of my family. Something this important I couldn't just tell him about, I figured he would want to at least hear it for himself. I guess I was right, since he told me he was forwarding a copy to Mr. Spock and your Uncle Chip."

"Kewl." Timmy replied. "Unca Josh, could you find Daddy and Pop? William says we gotta get to bed."

Josh leaned over and kissed both boy's foreheads. "Sure thing, I'll find Doc too. You guys just wait here."

A few minutes later, all of the boys were gathered together. After some begging, Josh relented and let Justy, Jamie, and Jacob stay over with their friends, as long as they promised to return home with Aaron in the morning. The Chief showed them to the guest house, and shortly everyone was sound asleep, worn out from the day's activities.

Before he left, Mike looked over the sleeping boys. "Sleep well, guys. You've earned it." He then turned to the two eagles sitting on the headboard. "Welcome to the Clan! If you need any help with these guys give me a yell."

Two soft squawks acknowledged him, and the eagles closed their eyes as he faded away.


Teri was just finishing her morning coffee when she heard a commotion in the room the boys slept in. She slipped to the doorway and peeked through the partially open door. "Do you two ever stop torturing Kelly?" she chuckled.

Timmy and Ricky looked up from their perches on a giggling Kelly's chest. "Hi Gran'ma!" they chorused.

Teri shook her head. "Come on guys, get out here before you wake the rest of the boys up! I'll fix you three some cereal."

At the mention of food, the two young boys hopped up and ran through the doorway. Kelly followed behind, giving Teri a hug as he slipped past.

Teri followed the three boys into the kitchen. As she was fixing their breakfast she commented "Where did your friends fly off to?"

Timmy grinned. "William said they were gonna catch breakfast before we go to the hospital to see 'Li-jah and Benji." he announced proudly.

"Yeah," Ricky added, "Duke says Daddy is gonna fix it so they can come in too!"

Teri froze in shock. "How did you guys know about the trip? Did Jamie or Jacob tell you?"

Timmy giggled. "Gran'ma, WILLIAM told me! Duke told Ricky!"

Teri looked at Kelly in shock. Kelly grinned as he replied "Don't look at me, I think these two have been taking lessons from Sean and Cory!"

"Are they picking on you again, Kelly?" Austin asked as he walked up and grabbed a seat.

"Hi Daddy!" Ricky exclaimed as he jumped up and rushed to give Austin a hug. As soon as the hug broke, Ricky rattled off "Duke said to tell you to tell them that him and William are animal helpers when we go to see Elijah and Benji so that they can come in with us."

Austin chuckled. "Slow down Ricky, your brain is moving faster than your mouth can handle!"

Kelly giggled. "Let me help you out, Doc. The eagles filled in the boys on the trip to the hospital today. They want you to tell the hospital that they are some of the animals that visit sick kids. Elijah and Benji are the two boys they are going to visit, and from what I understand Elijah and Benji are injured somehow."

Austin pulled Ricky onto his lap. "Is that what you meant, son?"

"Yeah, Daddy, what Kelly said!"

Austin looked off into space for a second. "You know, I just might be able to pull it off. Kelly, you were wrong about one thing though; you, 'Bastian, and Sammy are going too. There's no way I'm going to be able to check those boys without you helping with Ricky and Timmy."

The conversation was interrupted by the sound of two voices yelling in the bedroom. Suddenly William and Duke flew out, each carrying a pair of small boxers. They dropped their prizes just before they landed on the back of Kelly's chair. Sebastian and Sammy came running behind, as soon as they saw Teri and Austin watching they dove for their underwear and turned to run back into the bedroom.

"Hold it right there, you two!" Teri giggled. "Put those on and have a seat."

"Mom!" Sammy groaned as they both sat down. "Those stupid birds stole our boxers! Why are WE gettin' in trouble?"

Teri moved to stand between the two boys and placed a hand on each of their shoulders. "You are not in trouble, guys. Those eagles can't talk to you, so they got you out here the best way they could. I don't think they would have done it if you would have got in trouble. Remember that they are just like Mikey, they can't let you get hurt. I was just going to come get you two anyways. Doc and I need your help with a pair of boys in the hospital this morning."

"Why us? We ain't nothin' special. Cory, Sean, or Justy can help better." Sebastian replied.

Austin butted in. "That's where you are wrong, Sebastian. You and Sammy will understand these boys better than Sean, Cory, or even Justy can. The boys are twins, and they are about your age. Kelly, Timmy, Ricky, and our feathered friends are going along to help you; since the boys have lost their parents we figure the seven of you will be able to help more than any adult."

"Besides," Kelly added, "I've heard you guys complaining the last couple of days about how everyone's trying to help you but you can't find a way to help them. This is your chance, dudes. Give back some of the help you have got."

"But what do we do?" Sammy asked.

"Relax, guys." Teri replied. "Just be yourselves. If you get stuck, I'm sure that William or Duke will have ideas to help you. Austin and I are going to stay out of the way and let you boys work the Short Clan magic. Elijah and Benji have had enough adult interference from what Judge Jamie said, so it's up to you to help them."

"Okay, we'll try." Sebastian answered. "What's for breakfast?"

Austin laughed as Teri went to get more bowls. "You are as bad as the rest of the boys; you're all a bunch of walking stomachs!"


Benji climbed out of his hospital bed and moved over to join Elijah in his bed. "Hey bro, wanna watch some TV?"

"Yeah, might as well. Did you hear the nurses? Some big doctor is gonna take over caring for us. Why can't they just leave us alone?"

Benji shook his head as he cuddled into the remains of Elijah's right side. "I don't know bro. It's not like anyone's gonna want a couple of freaks like us if we ever leave here."

The two boys cuddled silently and soon fell back asleep holding each other protectively.

They woke to find Austin standing in the room watching them. He was smiling as he looked at the two boys, their thin faces accented by the sandy blond hair cascading to their shoulders. They were laying in such a way that their injuries were hidden, neither boy showed much leftover baby fat in their thin frames. Both boys were fair skinned, a trait which was accentuated by the lack of sun from their extended hospital stay.

"Take a picture, it'll last longer." Benji mumbled.

"Yeah, then you can show all of your friends the freaks." Elijah added.

Austin thought to himself 'with spunk like that, these two definitely have a chance'. He then replied "Sorry Benji and Elijah, it's just that the two of you remind me of older versions of my new son, Ricky. You have the same sandy blond hair as him, the only thing different is your eyes are gray while his are green. I'm Doc Austin, and as of last night I'm your new doctor. I'm with the Federation Youth Services, in fact I'm the Medical Director! Anything you guys want or need just let me know, I've got a lot of pull, so I can get it for you."

Benji looked Austin straight in the eye. "Yeah, we've both heard that before. Every time it happened we never saw the doctor again; what makes you different? Nobody wants a cripple and his freak brother."

Austin rose to the challenge. "I guess you want proof, don't you? Have either one of you ever touched a live eagle or had one stand on your chest? I'm talking about a free eagle; not on a leash, in a cage, or anything else like that."

Elijah answered. "No, but that would be cool. Both of us love eagles. It'll never happen though. Nobody can bring birds into a hospital."

"Never say never, Elijah." Austin replied with a smile. "My youngest son is outside with four of his friends. They brought a couple of their feathered friends with them, would you like to meet them?"

Benji looked at his brother before answering for both of them. "Okay Doc, we'll play along. I know there ain't no hospital gonna let eagles loose inside, so let's see you pull that rabbit out of your hat."

"Well, Benji, it seems you don't believe me. What do you think about making this a bet? If I'm lying, I'll walk out this door, check you guys out of the hospital, and take you anywhere you want. If I'm telling the truth, you both have to agree to join my family, permanently. No questions asked, and I will not be able to change my mind."

The bet had it's desired effect, it cracked Benji's attitude. "I guess you've made your point Doc. Don't worry about the bet, but can we still see the eagles?"

"Ask and you shall receive!" Austin announced with a smile as he stuck his arm out the doorway and waved. He stood back and watched with joy as Elijah and Benji's faces broke into huge grins.

Timmy and Ricky were first through the doorway, with William and Duke perched on each of their shoulders. Kelly, Sammy, and Sebastian followed directly behind, with Teri and Judge Jamie bringing up the rear. As they watched the two youngest boys carefully head towards the bed, Teri leaned over and whispered to Austin "Timmy was giving me a play-by-play; you are cruel!"

Ricky was the first to reach the bed, and walked up to Elijah's left side. "Hi Elijah. I'm Ricky and this is Duke. He says if you want to he'll climb down so you can pet him."

Elijah was speechless, all he could do is nod his head. Ricky leaned over slightly, and Duke hopped off of his shoulder and strutted onto Elijah's chest. Ricky gently grasped Elijah's hand and guided it to pet Duke's folded wings.

Benji was absorbed in watching his brother with Duke, and did not notice Timmy coming up to his side of the bed. "Hi Benji; I'm Timmy and this is William. Would you like to hold him?" Benji turned to the little redhead and grinned. "Sure Timmy, thanks!"

Both boys spent the next few minutes exploring the eagles, allowing their curiosity to run free. They slowly came out of their trances ad began to notice the room full of people watching them. Kelly noticed they were listening, and began the introductions. "It looks like you are family, guys; William and Duke are Indian Spirit Guides, since they like you it means you must be good people. Before they run off to break you two outta here, I want to make the official introductions. You already know Doc, he's Ricky's dad. The lady next to him is Timmy's grandma, Teri. The old guy is Judge Jamie Robison, he's the one that's been tryin' to protect you. In fact, he called Doc and Teri to ask them to help you guys. I'm Kelly, and these two behind me are Sammy and Sebastian. Guys, the one on the left in the bed is Elijah and the other one is Benji." Kelly turned to the adults with a big grin. "Mom; don't you and Doc need to leave so you can get his new sons out of this hole?"

The room fell so silent you could hear a flea fart. Kelly giggled at the surprised looks on Austin and Teri's faces. "What??? Mikey and I had a little talk last night. Before todays over you were gonna do it anyways, so why not get ahead of the game!"

Austin relaxed and glanced over at the bed. "Don't scare me like that, Kelly. For a minute there I thought you had been taking mind reading lessons from Jamie and Jacob. You are right, but why don't you take the munchkins and go get some ice cream for everyone while Teri, Judge Jamie, and I ruffle a few feathers in the hospital. I'm sure Sammy and 'Bastian can fend off any evil nurses that try to sneak in. If not, William and Duke will definitely handle the problem."

All the boys quickly agreed to ice cream, and they all headed towards the door, Timmy and Ricky in the lead. Suddenly Ricky stopped and looked at Duke. "Daddy, Duke says the tube in 'Lijah's pee-pee is hurting him a little. He says the nurses put it in him so they didn't have to carry him to go potty every time he hadda pee. Can you fix it for him?"

"They did WHAT!" Austin yelled as he spun on his heels and strode to the bed. He walked up next to Sebastian, who had just joined Elijah in giving Duke attention, and ripped the sheets back. He took one look and then turned around. "Kelly, go get my Med Kit out of the Doctor's lounge, make it quick!"

"Yes Sir!" Kelly yelled as he sprinted out the door. Austin turned back towards the bed to find Sebastian had slipped behind him and was gently rubbing the six-inch stub that was once Elijah's leg. He glanced at Elijah's face and saw the shame in his eyes. Austin took a deep breath before he said "Sebastian, I think you might be the first person to really pay attention to Elijah's leg. Why don't you tell him what you think, and tell the truth, okay?" Austin crossed his fingers in hope that the right thing was said.

"It feels kewl. It's kinda soft all around except at the end. I can feel Elijah wiggle when I rub a couple of spots!" Sebastian noticed the disbelief on Elijah's face and added "You ain't gotta have two legs and two arms to be a friend. I want to be your friend 'cuz I like you, if it feels good I'll rub your leg and where your arm was whenever you want."

Sammy spoke up from the other side of the bed. "If you don't believe him, try to look at his mind, Elijah. When he started rubbing your leg we got to see some of what happened; we still like you. I bet you can do it now too. Benji, can I see your other arm? I know you hurt it saving Elijah; I hope that I can be as brave as you if my brother is about to get hurt."

Benji sat back in shock and slowly moved his left arm into view. Just past the base of his thumb his hand ended. As he laid back, Elijah's right shoulder came into view. There were no traces of the arm which used to be attached to it. Benji stared at the ceiling with tears in his eyes as he softly spoke. "When I felt the plane turn sideways, I tried to grab Eli and pull him to my side. I didn't move fast enough. When the wing came in it hit his leg and arm. Daddy had taught us how to use the emergency kit, so I was able to stop my hand and his arm and leg from bleeding. By the time I got to Mommy and Daddy they were dead. After we got to the hospital, the doctor told me I messed up and it was my fault that Eli would lose his arm and leg. I'm really sorry, bro I screwed us both up!"

Sammy grabbed Benji and pulled him into a hug as he collapsed in tears. Austin reached over and gently rubbed the back of Benji's neck as he softly spoke. "Benji, it's okay. The doctor was wrong, you did everything just right. You are only ten, yet you did a better job of saving yourself and Eli than most adults could. I have already looked at both of you guy's medical records and viewed the scans from when you came in. Do you want to know what mistakes I found?"

Benji looked up at Austin and slowly nodded.

"I only found ONE mistake, and it was with Eli's arm. IF the arm could have been saved, the worst thing it would have caused would have been Eli having no control of his hand; when you sealed off a vein you burned through one of the nerve clusters. If you don't believe me I can get you a second opinion; Dr. Leonard McCoy, Chief Medical Officer of the Starship Enterprise."

Benji started to reply, but Sammy stopped him. "He's serious. If Doc McCoy heard what you were told, he'd come down here and rip that doctor a new butthole!"

"So it's not my fault?"

Austin leaned over the bed and kissed Benji's forehead. "No son, it's not your fault. If it wasn't for your quick action, I would only be getting one new son today instead of two."

Benji gave Austin a small smile. "Thanks, I feel a little better now."

Austin stood back up. "Anytime either of you needs to talk, I'm here for you. You are also going to find out that you have a whole bunch of friends you haven't even met yet, all of which will help you in an instant. I get the feeling there is more to that crash than you want to say right now; whenever you feel ready we can talk about it, if we never talk about it I will just assume you worked it out with your brothers."

Just then Kelly returned with the bag. Austin first got out his tricorder and scanned Eli. "Well, kiddo, it looks like you should have been out of here about two weeks ago. The only thing I see with your leg and arm is some scrambled nerve signals, but I think two massages a day should help them relearn where they go."

Sebastian interrupted. "Is that what I was doin'? If so, I'll take care of Eli and massage him."

Austin gave a knowing smile. "As long as it's okay with Eli, it's okay with me. You were doing just fine earlier, and he's had enough strangers messing with him."

Eli's gave a hesitant smile. "You really want to come see me after I get out?!"

Sebastian giggled. "I guess climbing over from the other side of the bed is coming to see you, so sure! We're friends, ain't we?"

It took a few seconds for the comment to sink in, but then Eli and Benji's eyes got wide. "We're gonna LIVE with you!" they chorused.

Austin chuckled at the reaction. "Yes you will, guys. For now these guys live a couple of houses down from me in Iowa, but you and your brothers will usually be at their house anyways. Once we move down here, we are all going to be living in one huge house. I would not be the least bit surprised if the four of you decided to share a bedroom." While Eli was distracted with sorting through the new information, Austin removed the catheter from the boy. "There you go, Eli. When you need to go to the bathroom, let the boys help you for now. Once 'Bastian gets the nerves in your leg trained some, we'll see about setting you up with something so you can walk on your own. Benji, could I see your hand for a minute?"

Shocked to hear that his twin might walk again, Benji numbly held out his left arm. Austin scanned it and reviewed the readings. "Just as I thought. Sammy, since your bro is going to help Eli, do you want to help Benji?"

Sammy grinned. "Sure Doc, whadda I need to do?"

"Pretty much the same thing for Benji's hand as what your brother is doing for Eli's leg. The rehab specialists should have been doing it for a while, but since they're obviously idiots I'm making you two responsible for retraining the nerves in my new son's injuries." Austin then turned to Teri. "Let's go, Teri. You, Jamie, and I have some butts to chew as soon as you get these guys transferred to my family. Kelly, here's my card, take your fan club down and get the ice cream. If the munchkins see something down there that our feathered friends would like, get it too."

A few seconds later, the room was emptied of guests except for Sammy and 'Bastian. 'Bastian stared at Sammy for a minute as they silently argued, then hesitantly spoke. "Eli, Timmy says you can make things float. Can you make yourself float so you don't gotta use a wheelchair?"

Tears came to both Eli and Benji's eyes as they heard the question. Eli answered "I could, but I ain't gonna ever do it again. That's why we're here; I was showing our mom and dad that I figured out how to and they crashed. I killed our parents, screwed up my body, and hurt my bro 'cause I was showing off. It ain't gonna happen again, I wish Benji and I had never found out we could do it!"

Sammy looked at the two boys next to him, obviously Eli spoke for them both. "Eli, Benji, You are gonna hear the long version of this pretty soon, but I can give you the short version. Did you ever think that it was your parent's time to die? I'll bet it was, and I'll bet right now they are watching you and smiling 'cause you got a new family. Sometimes bad things happen so that good things can happen. I know a kid whose daddy was killed, and he was six seconds from getting killed too. He's got a new family now, and just had an Indian tribe hold a ceremony for him and his best friend making them braves. In fact you know him, it was Timmy. One of Timmy's uncles was abandoned by his original parents, and another was hurt bad by those same parents. They didn't even know about each other, but now they are together in one family and learning all about each other. Actually, one of them is our big brother's boyfriend; the other is our little brother's boyfriend. Do you see what I mean?"

Benji looked over at Eli then responded. "I kinda see it, but nothing good has happened to us. Both of us have screwed up bodies now."

"Yes it has." 'Bastian quickly replied. "Instead of going to a group home, you are getting a real family. You ain't gotta worry about goin' to different homes, you both get to stay together. None of us care what you look like, and none of us care if you can do stuff we can't do. Them two eagles sittin' here watchin' us can talk to Timmy and Ricky; how kewl is that!"

Eli and Benji's eyes almost popped out of their heads when they looked at William and Duke. Both eagles made eye contact then nodded their heads in agreement.

"WOW!" Eli exclaimed. "I guess we ain't too weird after all. But I still feel bad about makin' myself float."

Just then Kelly, Timmy, and Ricky returned. Kelly was pushing a cart covered with hot fudge ice cream sundaes, Pepsi's, and two dishes of meat chunks. Timmy and Ricky wrestled a folding table in behind him. As they set up the table, Kelly commented "Eli, I can tell you right now you ain't gonna get away with being carried around or sittin' in a wheelchair. You guy's bodies got hurt on the outside, before the night is over you are gonna meet a lot of guys who have been hurt just as bad on the inside. We don't let anyone feel sorry for themselves; we'll help you get over it. You have already done something today that all of us have been hoping for; you have helped Sammy and 'Bastian feel more secure and needed. When we get home we'll see what we can do about you feeling guilty about your mom and dad; right now forget about it and float your skinny butt over here before the ice cream melts!"

Eli blushed. "But ... well ... I ain't got nothin' on my bottom!"

Kelly giggled. "Don't sweat it. We're all used to seeing each other nude, among other things. Doc's got all the nurses scared to come near this room, so there ain't nobody gonna walk in who would care."

Benji climbed off of the bed. "C'mon bro, it sounds like we gotta get used to it."

As Sammy and Benji headed towards the table, 'Bastian helped Eli finish getting untangled from the sheets and lowered the safety rail on the side of the bed. "C'mon Eli, you can do it." he encouraged.

Eli concentrated for a minute then slowly lifted a couple of inches off of the bed. He slowly slid towards 'Bastian, once clear of the bed he went from horizontal to vertical and 'stood' by him.

'Bastian placed an arm around Eli's waist. "I'll help steady you, let's go to the chair Kelly's moved for you."

The rest of the boys were silent as they watched him move across the room. Just as they were reaching the chair, Timmy said "William says for you to sit with Eli, 'Bastian. That way you can help him balance, 'cause he ain't used to his new body yet."

'Bastian took a seat, then helped guide Eli down to sit to his right.

Eli grinned once he was in place. "Whoa, that was weird! I kinda felt like I was going to fall over at first, but as soon as 'Bastian put his arm on me I was fine. I really did it!"

Ricky grinned back. "Duke says it'll get easy once you do it more. That looked sooooo kewl!"

Kelly moved two more chairs for Timmy and Ricky. As soon as they sat down, they were joined by their feathered companions, who perched on their shoulders and waited for their treats.

The boys went into full attack mode on the sundaes. 'Bastian helped Eli steady his dish when needed, while Timmy and Ricky repeatedly put down their spoons and used some forks they had brought up to hand chunks of meat to their feathered friends.

As they were beginning to finish, Teri and Austin walked into the room carrying two piles of clothes. Austin smiled at the sight of his two newest sons smiling and sitting with the rest of the boys. Suddenly it hit him, ELIJAH was out of bed and sitting with Sebastian!

Austin swallowed his surprise long enough to make his announcement. "Guys, I am proud to announce that Elijah and Benjamin Saunders are now officially members of the Michaels family. Since both of them are strong enough to destroy ice cream sundaes, I think it's time for them to stop laying around in here and come home."

A cheer erupted around the table. Austin walked over to Benji and said "Welcome to the family, Son. What's the chance of a hug?"

Benji smiled and threw both arms around Austin. "Thanks for helpin' us ... Dad."

After about a minute, the hug broke up and Austin moved over to Eli. "I didn't forget about you; it's just hard to hug two people who are in different places! Welcome to the family, Son."

Eli threw his arm around Austin and melted into the hug as Austin cradled him. "Thanks for not lying to us. I was scared a lot about what was gonna happen to us. I'm still a little scared but I think I can trust you Doc ... I mean Dad."

Austin kissed Eli's forehead. "Son, I don't want either of you to think you have to call me Dad. I only want you to do it when, and if, you feel comfortable with doing it. Okay?"

"Okay, Doc." Eli replied.

Benji thought about it for a few seconds before answering "Okay, Dad."

Austin considered his words carefully before asking his next question. "Eli, I'm glad to see you're out of the bed and sitting up. How are you doing?"

"I'm doing okay as long as 'Bastian holds me. I feel kinda wobbly, like I'm falling over."

"That's okay, your body has to get used to it's new balance. Did the boys carry you over?"

Eli considered all he had been told by Austin and the reactions he had from the boys before he replied. "You ain't gonna believe me, but I brought myself over with 'Bastian helping hold me steady. I made myself float."

Austin gently turned Eli's face so they could look eye-to-eye. "Eli, not only do I believe you; I'd like to know more. You guys are now part of a group of very special boys, boys who don't understand impossible. A few of those same boys can do things that most people refuse to believe. It sounds like you are talking about telekinesis; the ability to move things just by thinking about it. Is that what you did?"

Eli gave a small grin. "Yeah, that's it; telekun .... kan .... whatever that big word was. I can't do it long though."

Austin chucked. "Don't worry about that, the more you practice the longer you'll be able to do it and the easier it'll become." Austin turned his head towards Benji. "Benji, can you do it too?"

"A little bit, not as good as Eli though."

"Good." Austin replied. "On our way home we'll swing by Southcrest and I'll have the three musketeers see if they can give you a hand. Their uncle has taught them a few tricks that help sharpen your skills faster."

Everyone looked at Teri as she tried to stifle laughter. Kelly spoke first. "What's so funny, Mom?"

Teri composed herself enough to reply. "I hope you brought spare clothes, Austin. That little comment you made is definitely gonna put you in the pool!"

"How would they find out?" Benji asked.

"Well, Benji," Teri replied, still grinning, "knowing those three they probably already know. If not, as soon as we walk in the door they will find out. They check out every new kid to see if he needs any help. They usually won't tell anyone else what they find except Sean or Cory unless it's urgent."

Benji began to look agitated as he formed a reply, but Sammy placed a finger over Benji's lips and said "Benj, let it go for now buddy. There's a lot of kewl stuff you haven't heard about yet. By the time we get to bed tonight you'll understand, okay?"

"Okay, Sam. I know I can trust you." Benji replied.

Austin gave Sammy a smile of thanks, then announced "Okay, since everyone's done eating, let's blow this joint! Sebastian, if you wouldn't mind, help Eli get dressed. Sammy can help you if you need it Benji. I'll be right back. I have an idea that will blow those nurse's minds as we're leaving. Ricky, ask Duke if he ..."

Ricky interrupted. "Duke says twenty-two inches, Daddy. Fourteen between his ankle and the knee."

"Thanks, son." Austin chuckled as he headed to the door.

By the time he returned, the boys were dressed. Austin unwrapped a long package as he knelt in front of Eli. "Son, nobody can give you your real leg back, but I think this will help your balance enough that you can walk without having to concentrate as much on floating. Shoot, I bet with a little practice with using your mind to move this nobody will even notice that only one of your legs is permanently attached. Lift up so I can pull your pants down to attach this. Sebastian, watch closely, from now on this is your job."

Austin adjusted the air bladders behind the plastiskin so that the new leg was close to matching the existing one, then he placed it over the remaining stub of Eli's leg and pressed the button to let it clamp in place. "How's that feel, Eli? Is it too tight?"

"It's kinda weird, but it ain't to tight. How's it gonna help me walk though?"

Austin smiled. "Right now, I've got the knee joint locked until you get some practice, but basically it's going to push on your leg to let you know when you are standing on it. You still need to use your 'floating' to balance yourself, but now you won't have to hold yourself up as much."

Eli grinned as he realized what was said. "Okay. I still want you to hold me, 'Bastian - that way I know I ain't gonna fall."

A few minutes later, Eli and Sebastian led the procession to the elevator in front of the nurse's station. As the elevator doors opened, Eli moved away from Sebastian, turned around, and lifted himself a foot off of the floor. He looked directly at the nurse who had gave them so much hassle and did his best Terminator impression. "I'll be back!"

Eli then floated into the elevator following Sebastian. Once the doors closed, he settled back to the floor and erupted into giggles. "Did you SEE her FACE!"

Austin managed to squeak out between chuckles "Yes I did, Son. I think you almost gave her a heart attack! That was great. I wish I'd had a camera. You are definitely a Michaels with a sense of humor like that!"

As they entered the entrance lobby, Kelly noticed two suited men near the exit. When the men looked at their group and started their way, Kelly grabbed the communicator off of Austin's belt. "Clan business, Doc. You just stall them."

Kelly opened the communicator and set it to the priority channel. "Clan Short Youth Coordinator to Commander Martin."

"This is Commander Martin. Go ahead, Kelly."

"I need assistance at this location. I am escorting two youths under Clan protection." Kelly heard the two suited men announce themselves as FBI. "Be advised FBI personnel are attempting to detain us."

"Assistance is on the way, Kelly. Martin out."

Kelly then began listening to what the FBI agents were saying. "... we had evidence these boys might have ESP, but needed proof. That boy's stunt upstairs is enough, they are FBI property now, Doctor, and there is nothing you can do about it."

"Maybe not him, but I can." Kelly announced as he stepped forward. "Let me introduce myself. I am Kelly McCarthy, Youth Services Coordinator of Clan Short of the Family of Sarek of the House of Surak of Vulcan. These youths are under MY protection. If you believe you have justification to detain them, I require you to serve the proper warrants to the Vulcan Embassy. Otherwise, you must desist immediately or I shall file a formal grievance through the Embassy."

"Out of my way, Kid. This ain't playtime." the largest agent said before pushing Kelly and sending him sliding across the floor. The agent never saw Kelly come to a stop at the feet of the Starfleet Security detail that had just materialized. The agent was laying on the ground, hit by the fire of three phasers set to 'stun'."

Kelly looked up to see he was at the feet of the Lieutenant which had been their driver the night before.

The Lieutenant reached down and helped Kelly to his feet. "Sir, I witnessed the attack on you. Do you wish formal charges be pressed?"

Kelly stood up straight. "Lieutenant Barnes, I had identified myself as a representative of Clan Short. As I was in official capacity, the Clan wishes full retribution for his actions. The boys are Safe Haven and Clan Short protected."

"As you wish, Mr. McCarthy." Lt. Barnes then quickly walked up to the remaining agent, phaser out and at the ready. "Sir, your fellow agent is under arrest for attacking a Vulcan Dignitary. Please state your business."

"This so-called Doctor is trying to leave the premises with two youths which are under the FBI's custody. This is out of your jurisdiction, Lieutenant." the agent sneered.

Lt. Barnes turned to Teri. "Mrs. Short, may I please borrow your ID for a second? Yours also, Doctor."

Both handed their ID's to Lt. Barnes. He turned back to the agent. "I'm sorry, but you are completely wrong. Right now I am holding the ID's for the Federation Youth Services Director and the Federation Youth Services Medical Director. Additionally, Mr. McCarthy was not playing when he identified himself, he is in fact the Youth Coordinator for Clan Short. As a matter of fact, Mr. McCarthy can override both Mrs. Short and Dr. Michaels if he sees good reason. This is one of those times. He has declared the youths in question as under Clan protection. If you insist on continuing, I will be required to detain you under Interstellar Law. The boys are also under Safe Haven Act protection, which nullifies any Terran claims for custody."

The agent grinned. "So you think. The boys are coming with ..." He never finished the sentence, as Lt. Barnes stunned him point-blank with the phaser. "Ensign, take these two into custody." he ordered his companions.

Lt. Barnes then turned to Teri and Austin, handing them back their ID's. "Thanks for your assistance. Kelly has already told me what to do with the first one, if he declines doing anything with the second one we will still proceed with any charges you wish to press."

"Thanks, Lieutenant." Teri replied. "Youth Services wants anything you can come up with against both of them. These two are about to serve as examples of what a bitch I can really be when crossed."

Lt. Barnes chuckled. "With pleasure! The FBI still thinks they are above Federation law, it's about time someone put them in their place!" He turned to Kelly, who had rejoined them. "Kelly, what do you want to do about the other agent?"

Kelly thought for a second. "How's about attempted kidnapping?"

"That works. If you would like, I can stay with you until you rejoin your Clan. That way none of their associates can try anything."

Kelly got a mischievous grin on his face. "Mr. Barnes, are you married or dating anyone?"

Lt. Barnes looked at Kelly in shock. "No, I'm not. Why?"

Kelly tried to look innocent. "Oh, nothing. I just was thinking about getting you a permanent assignment. I'll talk to Cory and John, then we'll see."

"I think I just got drafted!" Lt. Barnes commented to Austin.

"I think you're right!" Austin chuckled.

Kelly motioned for Lt. Barnes to follow him. They walked over to where the rest of the boys had grabbed a seat, then Kelly spoke. "Lt. Barnes, I would like you to meet the two boys who are so important the FBI is going to jail over them! This is Benji Saunders, one of Doc's new sons."

Lt. Barnes shook Benji's hand. "You're a lucky boy. Wait until you meet the rest of your new family."

Kelly then guided him to the other bench. "Lt. Barnes, this is Elijah Saunders. He's also one of Doc's new sons."

Lt. Barnes looked at the boy as he held out his left hand to shake hands. "Elijah, if you need any help getting used to your new body let me know. If my guess is right, you and I have something in common."

"What's that?" Eli asked as they shook hands.

"Let me show you." Lt. Barnes then sat down, leaned over and reached down to press on the middle of his lower shin. A few seconds later, he was handing Sebastian his foot and the lower twelve inches of his left leg so that Eli could inspect it. "I've had this for the last six years. Trust me, it's not too bad once you get used to it."

"Wow! Thanks for showin' me. They still let you work even with one leg?"

"Actually, Security insisted that I take Terran duty. They said I was too valuable to be on disability and spent a lot of money to train me so I can use my disability to my advantage. I think Kelly is planning on me being around you guys for a while, if you would like I can teach you some of the things I was taught."

"AWESOME!" Eli exclaimed as he inspected the leg. As Lt. Barnes took it back and re-attached it, Eli continued. "I thought I was gonna have to ride in one of those motored wheelchairs all my life, now Doc and you are tellin' me I can walk like I used to. This is KEWL!"

Lt. Barnes looked over his shoulder and watched as the rest of the Security team beamed out with their prisoners. "Now that the troublemakers are gone, I think the first step is getting you out of here." He glanced at Timmy and Ricky. "I'm surprised the two of you took off your war paint. You could have used it today."

Timmy giggled. "It ain't off, Will and Duke taught us to hide it - see?" Both boys suddenly were covered with the designs painted on them by their parents the night before.

Lt. Barnes smiled. "That's great! The races that can do that usually show it if their family or them is threatened. Right now you guys have every right to show it until Cory tells you things are safe, okay?"

Both boys nodded their understanding.

Kelly announced "Okay guys, lets blow this joint!"

The group headed out the door and over to a long white Hummer limo parked at the curb. "I need to get one of these!" Teri joked as she helped the boys in.

Lt. Barnes smiled. "I agree. Let me make some calls after we get to Southcrest. Maybe Commander Martin can pull some strings." He was about to add more, but then he saw Eli levitate himself up and into the limo without anyones help. He turned back to Teri with a grin. "I can see that those two are going to fit right in! You do realize that as soon as they figure out how to raid the 'fridge without leaving their rooms, your food bill is going to triple?"

Teri laughed. "I doubt I'll even notice. As it is right now, when I walk into the meat department the butcher runs for cover!"

As the limo pulled away, the adults sat back and watched as the newest additions to the family investigated every inch of the Hummer's interior.