Memories Part 3: And A Child Shall Lead Them

Chapter 31: I Wanna Know What Love Is

Cory smiled as he turned the corner to head towards the auditorium. Obviously whatever Dilly had up his sleeve was going to be interesting, as Pablito and Davey were playing 'ticket taker', verifying that everyone going through the doorway was on the invite list. Spotting Mark talking with Tracy, Karl, and a few people he didn't recognize, Cory headed over to join them.

"Hey lil' bros, how's it goin'?" Cory asked as him and Sean joined the group, Timmy riding along on Cory's back. "How bad did you guys get hit by the loops?"

Tracy grinned as Torrey and Trey yelled "Uncle Cory!" before dropping from their parent's backs and mobbing Cory.

"Let's see," Tracy giggled, "Cam and Teddy gave birth, then gained two new sons from some timeline that don't do talking. Mark here took lessons from Uncle Mitch and Matt, and just found a genetic son and a girlfriend to join him, AFTER adopting the security force that Prez issued to his family. Also, I declared Pablito as my little bro, so live with it."

Cory nodded with a grin. "Same crap, different day!" Giving Timmy's leg a squeeze, since Timmy had decided today was a piggy-back-ride day, Cory added "We've had a few changes too; Conner got hitched and adopted a son, so don't be surprised about the two guys with four arms each running around. My favorite cookie monster here decided to bring JR's boyfriend Jeremy back to life after giving us a new little brother from back in the 60's. Dilly and Thomas are married now with a son, his name's Jimmy. Thomas made Dilly convert him to Mikyvis, but Jimmy's a regular kid. We'll have to make a list later! Oh, watch out for Justy; he's trying to find someone to blame for all the new guys at once. Since he's the one that enters them into the systems, he says someone's goin' swimming for all the extra work."

"I might just help him!" Tracy laughed. "Mark, do you wanna introduce your mob?"

With a smirk, Mark replied "You're just afraid of a repeat of what happened last time you introduced Cory!" Laughing as Tracy nodded his head furiously, Mark motioned for his family to gather closer. "Everyone, the bigger version of Tracy is his big brother Cory Short, the Patriarch of Family Clan Short. The fireball on his back is the legendary Timmy Short, and the guy trying to sneak a feel of Cory's butt is his husband Sean Short, Family Clan Short Historian."

Interrupting Mark, Kandra asked "Did I just hear that right? Are you really the one who runs all of this, Patriarch?"

After rolling his eyes, Cory replied "Yep, that's me! Please, just call me Cory; I only use the title if I have to. Are you Mark's wife yet?"

Raising her eyebrows as Mark tried suppressing his laughter, Kandra replied "We just got back together after seven years, so it's too soon to say yes or no."

Nodding, Cory stated "No pressure, but just so you know I can feel the bond between you two. Listen to your heart, not your head. That seven years didn't change anything spiritually."

Kandra suddenly realized what the subconscious 'tickles' she sometimes felt meant, piecing together earlier events with Cory's statement. "I'll keep that in mind," she replied with a smile.

"That was Kandra!" Mark exclaimed with a smile. "Y'all already know Bri and Terry; the kitten attached to Terry is Liko, and the twin of Liko is Lorin. The blond wearing sunglasses is Jordan, and the littler blond helping him watch for trouble is Cris. The bigger of the two gorrilla hybrids is Cal, and his brother is Mags. The little guy carrying a bunny is Kan and I's genetic son Damon, and the redhead trying to hide behind everyone is the latest addition to the family, Karlin."

"I've already got the updates on everyone," Sean stated as Cory and Timmy started the welcome hugs. "Damon had Ty pass on the update just as soon as Trace finished the adoptions. Damon, Terry, and Liko? Good job guys, you did awesome on your first rescue." Sean then worked his way around to Karlin. Once he was able to pull Karlin into a hug, Sean whispered "A few of our guys are out checking on your friend. All of us watch out for each other, so you ain't gotta worry about any kinda crap like you had happen happening again. People like your ex-mother ain't allowed around here; if one of us doesn't take them out, the other adults will."

Karlin mumbled "You make it sound like nobody cares if I like guys or girls. There ain't no way everyone here thinks that."

"Welcome to your dream home, dude," Sean replied. "Even the adults who don't understand it don't care, and most of the youth here have been abused, some even worse than you could ever imagine. Even the straight couples really don't care who you're with, all any of us care about is you finding someone that you love and are safe with."

"Why?" Karlin asked.

"Because too many of us know what it's like to feel like you've lost the one person who makes you whole," Sean explained. "I lost Cory after his memory shut down, and spent a year seeing him every day yet not having the companionship that we'd had, since one of the few things he remembered was my name, but he had no memory of how we felt for each other. One of our extended brothers, JR, was suicidal after the boy he was about to ask to become his boyfriend got raped by his father and overdosed on pills. The Thompsons went over and got him to hold off, then me and Cory met him and helped more. Our big bro Mikey was killed by a drunk, that's what tripped Cory's brain dumping, and Mikey became our Guardian Angel, then became a Saint. Mikey brought JR's prospective boyfriend Jeremy back long enough for them to talk, which healed JR's heart enough so he could keep going. When all of this crazy loop stuff was happening, we got to see a miracle."

Sean paused, then realized that he now had an audience. The entire group was listening intently, absorbed in Sean's recount of recent events.

Taking advantage of the pause, Timmy piped up. "When Daddy setup Camp Little Eagle, me an' Ricky was choosed to be Spirit Guides by William an' Duke; they're the Spirit Guard'ns of the Camp. Me an' William was ask'd by the Great Spirit if we want'd to fix some bad stuff that happ'nd to Unca Jeremy and we said yes and so we got to fix 'em!"

William chose that point to join them, nodding his head in agreement as he landed on Timmy's shoulder and got comfortable.

"Thanks, Munchkin!" Sean giggled. "By the way, that's William parked on Timmy's shoulder. What Timmy just stated is the truth, he's not making anything up. Even though I couldn't watch with my eyes, I 'saw' in my head what happened. Timmy and William literally merged into one being, then they channeled the power of the Great Spirit to bring Jeremy back to life so that he could spend it with JR, who actually is his soulmate from what I was told."

"No wa... holy shit!" Karlin exclaimed, his eyes wide as he stared at Timmy.

Sean turned his head, his eyes going wide as he found that Timmy was now sporting a set of semi-translucent eagle wings, which were fully extended just like William had extended his.

"Karlin," Timmy stated in a serious voice, "your brothers found you because you are needed to be there when others are brought forward. Me and William protect the Camp; when the time is right you are in line to protect a group as well, if you are ready and accept the job. William can see evil; no matter what you were told, you ain't evil." With that, Timmy's wings faded away as William brought his down.

"What's with the wings, Fireball?" Cory asked as everyone else sorted out where their eyes had landed on the floor.

Timmy grinned. "William's teachin' me howta use them; when we helped Unca Jer they kinda stayed after William came back out. I can't fly with 'em or nuttin, but if I think really hard I can show them! Did they look kewl, Daddy?"

Cory smiled as he held out his arms, which were immediately filled with Timmy and William. "They looked awesome lil' guy! Just remember, they're kinda like your warpaint; you need to save showing them for times that need them, okay?"

"Okay, Daddy!" Timmy purred as he settled into a cuddle.

Karlin shook his head to clear it. "The little guy sprouts wings, and all you guys do is help him learn when to use them? Who spiked the drinks? Where's mine?"

"These guys understand that there is no such thing as a 'normal' person," Mark explained. "I think that's what Sean was trying to show you, son; all of us just want you to be the best you that you can be."

Karlin nodded. "I guess I need to get used to not worryin' about when y'all are goin' to get tired of me, huh?"

"We'll never get tired of you," Mark replied. "If I didn't want you, I wouldn't have adopted you; no matter what your brothers wanted. Even if I didn't feel that way, Tracy and Karl would have refused to let me adopt you if they were not positive that our family was the best place for you."

For the first time in years, Karlin suddenly felt the need to be held by an adult. Hoping for the best, he haltingly started towards Mark, who immediately realized what was happening. Mark opened his arms, catching Karlin and pulling him in close as Karlin almost fell towards him.

Two hours later

"... I now pronounce you Husband and Husband. You may now seal your vows." Cory stated, completing the ceremony for Peter and Galen. Once the pair of Mikyvis completed their tonsil inspection, he turned them and placed a hand on each of their shoulders. "Brothers and Sisters, Family and Friends, I present to you Peter and Galen Lambert!"

Once the newlyweds made their way off the stage, the rest of the Mikyvis quickly began setting up for whatever was planned next. Maureen and Josiah had quickly made their plans with the assistance of their Mikyvis grandsons, and had the reception set up in the Headquarters Recreation room. As expected, the cake was courtesy of Tommy and Tyler; Maureen had insisted that nobody else deserved the honor. Levi and Antonio had been chosen as best men, due to their work saving Peter's life, and were all smiles as they took their seats at the head table.

Amazingly, the reception went fairly normal, with Russ doing DJ duties once it was time to dance. Just as he left the dance floor with Sean after the latest slow dance, Cory's subvocal got his attention.

"Cory, this is Stevie. Could you grab Karlin and his parents and bring them to the conference room?"

"Gotcha Stevie, thanks!" Cory replied, figuring he'd find out why Stevie called him instead of Tracy sooner or later.

Spotting Mark and Kandra first, Cory headed over to where they were talking with Tyler. After waiting for Ty to finish explaining what he'd discovered about the family history, Cory asked "Mark, Kandra? Would you mind going to the conference room? Stevie Jobs just called in and said he needs you guys and Karlin there."

"I'll go with you," Tyler immediately added. "Karlin's with Damon; Damon's sending him over."

Mark shook his head with a grin. "I told you these guys never stop working, Kan!"

"We'll have to work on that," Kandra smiled. Noticing Damon and Karlin working their way over to meet them, she added "Lead the way."

With Cory in the lead, the group made their way towards the main conference room. When Cory spotted Killian, Andreas, and Jorge standing guard outside the door, his threat radar kicked into high gear. Mark noticed too, which led to him tapping his commbadge and stating "Williams family, set General Quarters."

Within seconds, all of Mark and Kandra's kids joined the group, with the security members in full gear. Mont and Bast were not far behind, since they had been talking with Jordan when he got the call.

"Don't you think this might be a little too much security?" Kandra quipped as she looked around the heavily armed group.

With a grin, Mont replied "Just wait until you see what happens if Cory goes outside the base!"

"Tell me about it!" Cory moaned. "I hear Uncle Colin's told his secret service guys to take notes!"

Mark smiled at Cory's expression. "Cory, just remember that they're not doing that because you're their Patriarch, they're doing it because they love you and don't want to take the chance of some idiot taking you away from them. Most people in your position would be assigned security; you have trained brothers who will step up to protect you just because they happen to be there. There's a big difference between just doing their job and wanting to protect you; let the guys show you just how much they care, since none of them see it as a job."

Grinning, Cory replied, "I know that, Mark, but my furry brothers over there would think I'm sick if I didn't complain!"

Mont nodded. "Yep; it stopped being our 'job' a couple of days after we were assigned to Cory and Sean. Both of us have turned down chances to head our own teams because we didn't trust anyone else to keep that blond goofball brother of ours out of trouble."

Kandra looked around at her own squad, giving each of them a smile. "I think I understand things a little better now. Guys, I'll fully accept you showing you care this way, but I'm still probably going to comment on it; that's a mother's job, and it is my way of showing you that I care too."

"Thanks Mom," Jordan replied, obviously speaking for his brothers as well. "We can live with that, since you're just doing what a good mom should do. Mont, Bast, and me were talking about our kind being in a family, and they said we need to all sit down and get to understand what we expect and work out anything that's gonna cause problems."

"That sounds like a good idea; we'll need to do it as soon as we get home," Kandra replied. "One thing though; there is no 'your kind', so get that idea out of all of your heads. No matter how you gained the skills and appearance you now have, the only thing you are is our sons - all of you."

Jordan raised his eyes as both Mont and Bast began to chuckle. "What's so funny?"

"I had to beat that into those two's heads with a sledgehammer!" Cory explained. "They've been there, Jordan. No matter how much you've convinced yourselves that you're freaks, you really are no different than anyone else, no matter how you look or what you can do. You're not going to really feel like family until you get that through your head."

"Now I know where Trace and Karl get it from," Jordan quipped, "All Y'all are hard-headed!"

"I'll second that, but it's a good thing," Mark interjected. "Is there a reason we're not heading into the room yet?"

Cory nodded. "Yeah, helping your family bond is more important than some meeting."

"Point taken," Mark chuckled. "We ready now?"

Jordan nodded. "Yeah, but you and Mom need to wait until Cris and me are in the room before you or anyone else goes in."

"Gotcha," Mark replied, "lead the way."

With that said, Jordan and Cris took point leading the group into the room. As soon as Karlin walked through the door, he recognized the oldest of the two boys sitting there. "Tommy!" he exclaimed, quickly heading over to reunite with his friend.

Spotting who was heading towards her son, the lady in the room spat "That's who wanted to see Thomas? That faggot? Get that heathen scum away from my so..."

She found herself unable to complete her sentence, as Kandra took a personal offense to her statements. In fact, she was now laying unconscious on the floor with a shattered jaw courtesy of Kandra's right hook.

"That's gonna hurt, but it was worth it," Kandra growled as she glanced at her right hand, which was already starting to swell. "Say something else, bitch, so I can wring your neck!"

"I don't suppose that you have anything to add?" Mark growled as he headed towards the man who was obviously her husband.

The man looked between his wife and Kandra before locking eyes with Mark. "Other than she's needed that for the last couple of years, no."

Having just received a mental update from Stevie, Cory ordered "Ty and Terry, take the adults, Stevie and Cris take the boys. As Patriarch of Family Clan Short I order a full telepathic investigation of the circumstances which lead to this. Mont, Bast, secure the suspect to prevent any more issues."

"What..." the man asked.

"If you know what's good for you, just sit back and let them do their job," Mark advised strongly. "If you're lucky, you might actually be allowed to see your sons after today."

The man's response was cut off by Tyler. "Patriarch, request permission to refer our findings to Doctor Richardson?"

"Approved," Cory replied, Tyler's request confirming what he had suspected. "If he wants to be present, arrange it."

Half a minute later, Dan appeared in the room. After making the rounds of the telepaths, who had completed their scans of all parties involved, Dan pondered the information he'd received before turning to the man sitting across from him. "Jack, I'm Doctor Dan Richardson, Director of the Mental Health department of Federation Youth Services. I'm going to be blunt; if you don't file for divorce from Gail, you are headed to needing to be committed within the next five years for mental breakdown. For the protection of your sons, I am immediately putting them under FYS protection and issuing a no-contact order regarding Gail Brown. My professional opinion is that you should request the order be extended to yourself, and that you discuss expedited review by the Director of FYS for a Federation nullification of your marriage. Based on the criminal charges I am about to place, FYS hereby terminates all claims to custody that Gail Brown may have to your sons Thomas and Simon."

"The only reason I haven't done that already was the chance she'd get the boys," Jack replied. "I'll take your advice, Doctor, thank you."

"Consider the charges filed, Doctor," Cory interrupted. "Mr. Brown, the resources of Family Clan Short are available to you as well to assist you and your sons in recovery. Especially for your sons, as there are multiple members of the Clan who have suffered similar situations in the past. Trust me, it helps a lot more talking with someone who has been there and is already learning to put it behind them."

"You gotta watch Cory, he gets impatient!" Dan chuckled. "Cory, you taking the trial?"

"Naw, I've already had Kyle pack up the evidence and deliver it to Federation Legal," Cory responded. "Once she regains consciousness, and has her jaw fixed, they'll put her on trial and then ship her off, probably to a class 2."

"What makes you so sure they'll find her guilty?" Jack asked.

"The fact that she's got two counts of extended emotional and mental abuse on your sons, that's a Safe Haven Act violation that pretty much guarantees jail time," Cory explained. "Add to that the counts of the same regarding you, and now she is considered a habitual offender. Failure to incarcerate her would be illogical." Pausing for a second, Cory stated "George, open a relay for Federation Security to do a pickup."

"Relay Gamma 5 open, Your Highness," George replied.

"You know, I CAN arrange for you to have the voice of our old system!" Cory threatened before tapping his commbadge. "Patriarch Short to Federation Medical."

"Proceed, Patriarch Short," an obviously Vulcan voice responded.

Quickly adjusting his request to the recipient, Cory replied "I require transport for a human who has suffered multiple fractures of the jaw resulting in loss of consciousness. Upon restoral of normal functions, the human is to be turned over to Federation Security for trial. Advise staff that human is known to be mentally manipulative. Transport through FCS Headquarters relay Gamma 5."

"Your observations have been noted, Patriarch Short. Appropriate personnel shall arrive at your location in 2.7 minutes. Live long and prosper, Patriarch."

"Acknowledged. May Logic always be your guide." Cory replied.

"THAT is why none of us want to cross Cory," Dan quipped. "He's got too many friends in high places!"

"Ya know, Dan," Cory warned with a grin, "I could very easily convince JJ and Adam that they need a night to themselves, and that feeding their kids pixie styx and Mountain Dew Code Red before sending them over to spend the night with you and John would be a great idea."

"Don't you dare!" Dan winced. "Last time they did that, I had to see Doc Austin because 'Roo kicked my knee out of place in his sleep!"

"I thought so," Cory smirked.

Just then, three transporter beams began forming off to the side, causing the few boys in the room who had never seen one to exclaim 'Kewl!'

Cory walked over, returning the salutes of the two Federation Security officers that were given as soon as they spotted him. The medic quickly dropped down and scanned the injuries, still focusing on his display as he asked "What was used to do this much damage?"

"The right hook of a very protective mother," Cory replied. "I think the word heathen might have pushed things over the edge a little; Kandra was already cocking back when it was said."

"What is she going to be tried on?" the medic asked as he began to stabilize her for transport.

"Three counts of serial mental and emotional abuse, certified by FYS Medical. Two of the three are SHA violations. Testimony was provided by FCS Intel Corps."

"Okay, I know just the doctors to handle her then; they'll be immune to anything she might try," the medic replied as he began stowing his equipment. "Once we get her on the cot, we'll have her out of the way."

"I'll help!" Tyler offered, waving his arm theatrically as he yelled "WITCHIUS RELOCATIOUS!"

In the blink of an eye, Gail was suddenly on the antigrav backboard, already strapped down. Giggling, Cory explained "You gotta excuse my little brother, he's been binge-watching Harry Potter movies lately!"

"No wonder Doctor McCoy retired," the medic quipped. "He needed to keep what sanity was left after meeting you guys!"

"He was sane?" Cory giggled.

"I'll get back to you on that," the medic promised as he opened his communicator. "Medical to Terra Main. Four for direct beam to SFHQ medical secure intake."

"Acknowledged, you have priority. Standing by."

Getting nods from the security detail, the medic ordered "Energize."

After the reception:

Once Peter and Galen had vanished to Archnania for their honeymoon, Teri had made it quite clear that she expected Cory, Tracy, Mark, and Jack to round up their families and meet in the family room in her house.

Teri looked around the room as Cory and his family straggled in. "Nice of you to join us, Cory!" Teri sniggered as she watched Cory and Sean attempting to herd their mob, including partners and their kids, into the room.

"Every time we found one of them, two others would disappear!" Cory giggled. "We taught them good!"

"Since y'all were the last to arrive, Sean gets the honor of doing introductions," Teri stated with a smile as she took her seat.

"Thanks Mom, I didn't need my voice tonight anyway," Sean giggled.

"Good, maybe your kids can sleep tonight!" Teri prodded.

"MOM!" Cory and Sean exclaimed in unison.

"Get started then!" Teri laughed.

Sean quickly introduced everyone, then took a seat next to Cory. Teri nodded, then commented "Boys, feel free to move around and hang out with your friends. I'm going to handle some FYS stuff with the adults and directors, if any of you are needed to answer anything I'll find you. Just don't leave the room, okay?"

"Okay Grandma!" a chorus of voices replied.

As Teri began helping Jack sort out his future, DJ and Tanner moved over to see how Tommy and Simon were doing after noticing the two boys had isolated themselves off to the side. "Wazzup, dudes?" DJ asked ask him and Tanner took a seat.

"Nothing," Tommy replied, protectively pulling Simon into his side.

Tanner looked over the two boys, both of which were classic blond haired, blue eyed all-american kids. If he had to guess, Tanner figured Tommy to be twelve, while Simon appeared to be about seven. "Guys," Tanner began, "You just went through something a lot of us understand first hand; Dad stepping in when a parent goes bad. Grandma, Dad, Uncle Tracy, and Uncle Mark are going to make sure your Dad's set up and has any help he needs. All the rest of us are gonna help you figure out what happens in your life now - if you let us. Deej and me had to deal with being used for porn without us knowing, then being chased down and almost killed after we ran away. Terry's recovering from being tortured all his life until a few days ago, Calen's mom tried to castrate and kill him, and Alfie's caregivers were even worse than your Mom was with the mental games being played. Those are just examples; all the guys here have a story to explain why they were adopted by their current parents."

Tommy looked Tanner in the eye. "You ain't got no idea what it was like."

"You're right;" Tanner admitted, "at least not as bad as you guys had it. Karlin does, though. Your mom is going to jail, his was executed on the spot after she tried to attack him."

"You're not going to get in trouble for being friends with Karlin ever again," DJ added. "If Grandma doesn't put her foot down, one of us will." Pausing, DJ then added "It really hurt Karlin when you snubbed him back in the conference room. If you really don't want to be friends with him it's okay, but if you're just trying to protect yourself from the crap your Mom put in your head, forget it. She ain't got any say no more, and Grandma's gonna help your Dad recover from the crap she put in his head."

"How are you so sure?" Tommy asked.

"Because we've watched the Clan grow around us," DJ replied, "and we've helped other guys and gals get over what happened to them before we found them. You've met Cory; if he needs to, he can overrule everybody in this room, even Grandma, when it comes to you guys."

"What if you're wrong?"

"Then a certain set of munchkins you ain't met yet will make all of our lives miserable," DJ sniggered. "They kinda take offense to anyone not getting the best life that's possible."

"Tell me about it!" Tanner laughed.

Tommy shrugged his shoulders. "I dunno where to start."

"Do you want to try to recover your friendship with Karlin?" DJ asked.


"I'll go get him," DJ offered. "We'll stick around to give you guys a hand; we'll catch up on cuddles if you don't need us."

"What about me?" Simon asked meekly.

"I'll bring Damon over too," DJ replied. "He's your age, and is really the one responsible for saving Karlin, which led to helping you guys. I think he'll like meeting someone he's responsible for helping out."

"Okay, that sounds kewl," Simon replied, his interest peaked.

With that, DJ got up and headed over to where Mark's family was comparing notes with Tracy's family. A minute later, he returned with Karlin and Damon by his side.

"Hey Kar," Tommy said softly, unsure as to how Karlin would respond after the way things had went in the conference room.

"Dude, I'm not mad; after what I saw happen in there I'd be scared to say anything too," Karlin replied seriously. "Why don't we catch up while our little bros get to know each other?"

"Sounds like a plan," Tommy replied, risking a small smile.

Understanding that the two older boys needed some time to talk, Damon held out the PADD that he was carrying. "Hi Simon, I'm Kar's little brother Damon. You wanna check out the kewl stuff they got around here with me? Dad got me this PADD so I can figure out what to do first, and I'm just starting to go through it."

Simon looked up at Tommy, obviously asking permission. Tommy felt the movement of Simon's head, and turned his head to look down at his little brother. "Go ahead, bro. You guys just stay in the room, okay?"

"Okay," Simon replied as he wiggled free and stood up.

Damon motioned towards a nearby chair. "C'mon, we can sit there and watch out for our brothers while we're lookin' through the PADD."

Feeling more secure since he would still be able to see Tommy, Simon nodded then followed Damon to the chair. Once they were both comfortable, their concentration became focused on the contents of the PADD, ignoring everything else in the room.

Tommy and Karlin, on the other hand, were nervously glancing at each other, neither knowing what to say or do next. Watching the pair, Tanner took a guess at what could be going through their minds. "Guys, it's okay to hug, and it's okay to cry. You both need it, so go ahead. If anything else happens Deej and I will get you some privacy to talk or whatever where you ain't gotta worry about everyone seeing or hearing."

Hoping that his trust in these new friends of his was right, Tommy turned and hesitantly put his arms around Karlin. With the ice now broken, Karlin pulled Tommy into a tight embrace, both boys suddenly finding silent tears running down their faces. DJ and Tanner watched with smiles on their faces, both knowing that words would only delay the emotional healing going on in front of them.

A few minutes later, Timmy came over and climbed on DJ's lap. Speaking quietly so he didn't disturb Karlin and Simon, Timmy stated "Me an' Ricky's gonna take Simon an' Damon to our house to teach Damon howta wash their old mommy outa Simon's spirit. Grandma says you can use her shower, and you know where the special strawberry shampoo is."

"Is that an order?" DJ giggled as he poked at Timmy's belly.

"Yup!" Timmy nodded as he tried to avoid the pokes. "Daddy says you an' Tanner's the bestest ones to teach them to heal like Unca Mikey healed Daddy whenever he was sad!"

DJ's attack quickly turned into a cuddle as he exchanged an amazed glance with Tanner. While both of them understood that the rest of the boys looked to them as the senior brothers, they had never been compared to Mikey. Until this point, even Cory and Sean hadn't said much more than how proud they were of the way DJ and Tanner looked out for the younger guys. Knowing that Timmy would never joke or fib about something to help another kid, both boys realized at that moment that there was no doubt about their place in the family. When Cory and Sean had told them that despite being adopted by Russ and Sara they were still their sons, both boys had accepted it with the subconscious expectation that they would still be outsiders. Being put in charge of the one ritual that was normally only shared within the inner family erased all doubt in their minds; they actually were the sons of Cory and Sean.

"You better hurry up, or Ricky'll start without you," Tanner advised Timmy as DJ still recovered from the shock.

Before getting up, Timmy twisted around and rubbed noses with DJ. "You're the bestest big brother in Alpha Prime, Deej! You're gonna do good, Daddy wouldn't let ya if you wasn't gonna."

"Thanks, Fireball," DJ whispered. "Try not to flood the place, okay?"

"Okay!" Timmy exclaimed as he gave DJ one of his special hugs that he reserved for family.

"Love you too, lil' bro," DJ stated as he returned Timmy's hug.

Once Timmy had vacated his perch, DJ and Tanner went over to where Karlin and Tommy were still holding on to each other for dear life. After managing to get them to focus their attention on him, DJ told them "You guys need something more to heal you, and I'm pretty sure I know what will do it. Uncle Mikey had a special way that he'd shower with Dad and Pop when they needed emotional support. You guys need that, and we know what to do to do it right. Timmy, Ricky, and Damon are taking Simon to help him; Timmy's got his own type of shower that he's figured out that works great with the little guys, but it's not the type of help you two need. From what Timmy told me, Grandma Teri's got us covered, so you ain't gotta worry about parents."

Both Tommy and Karlin were too emotionally exhausted to really argue, not that either of them wanted to after the help these two boys had already given them. Just as soon as they were on their feet, Tanner reached over and pulled their hands together so they could hold hands while walking.

"You can sort out if you're friends or boyfriends later," DJ explained. "Either way, there's nothing wrong with holding hands to support each other's emotions."

Tommy looked around the room, freezing with his eyes wide as he spotted Terry and Liko doing tonsil inspections... with Kandra obviously giving them pointers. "She don't care?" Tommy whispered.

Tanner shook his head, smiling as he saw Teri joining Kandra. "Nope, not at all. Knowing Grandma, she's going to be talking to them about what's okay in public, what's okay when you're with family and Clan, and what needs to be in private. She'll also tell them who she recommends they talk to about any questions they might have."

"Mom beat my butt every day for a month after we got caught," Tommy whispered, "and we were just watching each other make it stiff."

"I know all about what happened in the conference room," DJ explained. "Aunt Kandra and Grandma Teri are a lot alike. After what Aunt Kandra did to your mom for talking bad about Karlin, what do you think would happen if either of them found out one of you was getting beat?"

"They'd kill whoever was beating me," Tommy stated. "How would they know?"

DJ pointed up. "You've heard us all talking to George. He's the Headquarters AI, and is listening everywhere on the compound. Most of the time he's ignoring what's going on; but if someone's being hurt he automatically gives it his highest priority. Even when you're not here, you'll have a commbadge with you that is being monitored the same way by multiple AIs. They'll always be watching out for you, and sometimes will even take calls for you without you asking if they think you shouldn't be interrupted or need privacy."

"He's gonna have to be faster than Liko," Karlin commented with a small smile. "I think my old mother was dead before she realized he'd attacked her."

"Yeah, I think Liko is going to be your family's version of Timmy," Tanner stated. "He'll be the family cuddle-monster until someone tries to hurt one of you, then he'll become somebody's worst nightmare."

"Timmy? The little guy who was just on your lap? He wouldn't hurt anyone!" Tommy exclaimed.

DJ shook his head with a frown. "You guys heard about the Battle of Montana, right?"


"Timmy killed two grown men within ten minutes of his arrival there." DJ stated softly.

"One of which was trying to kill me, and almost succeeded," Cory stated as he joined them.

"Shit!" Tommy exclaimed, quickly putting his hand over his mouth once he realized what he said.

"Don't worry, I said a lot worse when I found out afterwards about the first one," Cory grinned. "C'mon, I wanna tell ya some things while you're walking."

Cory waited until they were out of the room before he began. "Everything I'm going to tell you Sean is telling Simon right now; Sean is just phrasing it differently to account for Simon's age. First off Tommy, me and Mom have been working to figure out how to help your Dad. The way Dan's got it figured, another year of your ex-mother would have literally killed him. As it is, it is gonna take years to get his mind fixed from her messing with it. Doc McCoy ordered a Mikyvis healing of his body, so the immediate health problems got fixed."

"So he's gonna be okay?" Tommy interrupted.

"Physically, yes," Cory replied. "Mentally, it's going to take time. There are two ways it can work, and your dad said you get to choose which one you can live with. The first is going to take the longest, which is you stay with him while Dan helps his head. Going that way, Dan figures it might take about five years to take care of the worst parts. The second way is that you agree to shared custody, which basically means that you have two families that are equal. Doing it that way, he'll be able to go in for intensive therapy, with plenty of time to visit and keep up with your lives. The second way will help him more because he won't be worried about you and your brother."

"How can you have two families?" Tommy asked. "That can't work."

"Yes it can," Cory replied, "you have proof of it standing next to you. Deej and Tanner are the role models that sixteen kids look up to as the ultimate big brother. They earned that spot, which is amazing since that group comprises three families. When we rescued them, Sean and I didn't think it would be fair to them to have parents the same age. We've learned different now, but our mistake back then turned out to be a great move, because it gave these two room to grow into the next Short family generation's version of Mikey."

The procession had to stop, mainly because Cory suddenly found himself being squashed between DJ and Tanner. Once he managed to free his arms, he pulled them in close, stating "Love ya, guys."

Karlin and Tommy exchanged glances, both unsure as to what they should be doing while watching this unexpected show of emotion.

Tanner broke the hug first, and noticed their discomfort. "You'll get used to it, guys; parents around here like showing that they love you. It makes up for the crap a lot of us went through before we were saved."

After giving Cory one more squeeze, DJ turned around with a big smile on his face. "Yeah, Dad and Pop are awesome about that."

Still not sure about the open hugging thing, Tommy asked "What should I do about Dad?"

DJ considered the options for a minute, then replied "If it was me, I'd let him get help while I spent time with the other family. That mind crap ain't a game; it almost killed Dad a while ago, and all we could do is watch. I'd just tell him that I love him and want him better, so he needs to go get help and visit when he can."

"That makes sense," Karlin admitted.

Tommy nodded. "Since you know what it's like, I think I'll trust your idea. How do we pick a family though?"

"Your second family has already picked you, if you'll let us," DJ replied.

"Don't the parents have to decide that?" Tommy asked.

"If DJ and Tanner think you fit, we're not going to argue with it," Cory replied. "They know who will fit just as good as we do, and we trust their judgement."

"Do you always let your kids decide who joins the family?" Karlin asked.

"No," Cory admitted, "only DJ, Tanner, and Timmy get that right. Just like Mom lets me or Sean add brothers, but she reviews the rest."

"Why Timmy?" Tommy asked, "He's just a little kid."

"DJ'll explain it while you guys shower," Cory replied. "Timmy is unique, trust me. There's a reason all of us love him."

"Yeah, my little big brother's awesome," DJ giggled.

Seeing the confused looks, Cory quickly stated "I'm outta here! I'll help Sean explain your decision to Simon. Good luck explaining Timmy, Deej!"

"Chicken!" DJ laughed as Cory quickly turned and went to find Timmy's group.

"Why'd you call Timmy your little big brother?" Tommy persisted.

Grinning, DJ explained "His Dad was part of a time-travel experiment that went wrong. He's my brother by blood, but was born before me. When they finally were able to bring his Dad back, he brought Timmy with him. Some bad guys put a bomb in Timmy's Dad's car that went off just as Dad and Pop were driving by. They stopped, and were able to get Timmy out before the second bomb could go off, and Dad accidentally disarmed the second bomb while he was getting Timmy out. That night, Dad and Pop adopted their first son."

"Whoa!" Tommy and Karlin exclaimed.

"How'd they find you?" Karlin added.

"Even though we had never met, somehow Timmy and I have a bond," DJ continued. "It started working when the asshole that was supposed to be my parent attacked us. Timmy freaked out, and was barely able to give Dad my name. That's where things get weird, since it seems one of the cops was related to Admiral Morrow in Starfleet, who got ahold of Dad and asked him to step in to help us. Instead of just dropping everything and picking us up, Dad listened to Timmy after Timmy told him they had to wait until the right time. We got two new little brothers because of that, and the assholes that were using us got what they deserved for screwing with us. We also ended up finding the two adults who became our main parents, Russ and Sara. They're actually co-parents to all of Cory and Sean's kids, and their kids have Cory and Sean as their co-parents."

"Why did you use their names instead of Mom, Pop, and Dad?" Karlin asked. "Don't you get in trouble for that?"

"We all use their names if it makes things confusing saying it the other way," DJ explained. "None of them care, since they understand that sometimes titles make things hard to follow."

Realizing they were now in the bathroom, Tommy tilted his head. "Don't it bug you when you get asked a bunch of questions?"

"Nope," DJ smiled, "Big brothers are supposed to answer the questions of their little brothers; that's how they learn."

"But ain't we the same age?" Tommy asked.

"We got you beat by a few months," Tanner giggled. "Plus we've been part of this a lot longer."

"You win," Tommy smiled.

"Even though you guys seem to be doing better, you still need this shower," DJ explained as he retrieved the strawberry shampoo from its place of honor. "Whenever Dad and Pop needed to know they were loved, Uncle Mikey would take them to Grandma's shower and show them just how much he cared about them. Since Uncle Mikey was killed, Uncle Aaron has taken the job, but everything else is the same; it is always Grandma's shower, it is always this shampoo, and it is always in love."

Tommy and Karlin exchanged glances, both understanding just how serious DJ was about what they were about to do. Any doubts either of them might have had were erased by the care DJ and Tanner had shown in answering their questions. Deciding to go for it, they both kicked off their shoes and prepared to get ready.

"Hold on, guys," Tanner instructed. "This starts before we get in; each of us will be undressed by the other three. I think you'll understand why once we're done with everything, it's hard to explain otherwise."

"Who first?" Karlin asked.

"Tommy first, since he needs the most help," Tanner replied, "then you, then me, then Deej."

"Don't worry if you get stiff down there," DJ added, "We're all teenagers, it does that just because the sun rises."

"Tell me about it!" Tommy giggled as Karlin reached over and began removing his shirt. In no time flat, all four boys were naked, the two newest ones sporting a full body blush. DJ started the shower, quickly adjusting the water to a comfortable temperature, then him and Tanner helped Tommy and Karlin in. Once both Tanner and DJ were in the shower as well, DJ explained the next steps.

"This shampoo is also a body wash," DJ explained. "Tommy, you're first. The rest of us are gonna wash you, ALL of you. It ain't gonna be a fast wash, it'll be slow because we'll be showing you how much we care about you. If your body reacts, just let it; we're not trying to make this into something like sex, but some parts of your body won't care."

Ignoring the butterflies in his stomach, Tommy nodded his approval to go ahead. As he felt six hands begin at the top of his head, he started to feel stress that had been part of him for years melting away. By the time the other three finished, he was more relaxed than he'd ever felt before.

Things went pretty much the same until it was DJ's turn. Just after the three boys started, a fourth set of hands joined them. Seconds later, the fourth set was explained by Mikey becoming visible, stating "You did good, DJ. I'm proud of you, nephew."

Both groups met just outside the family room, all of them smiling. Seeing their big brothers, the little guys quickly split up to collect cuddles. Simon homed in on Tommy, Damon snagged Karlin, Ricky pounced Tanner, and Timmy climbed up DJ. As he was getting comfortable on DJ's hip, Timmy giggled "No fair! You got washed by Unca Mikey!"

"How'd you figure that out, squirt?" DJ asked with a grin.

"I can feel it; he gives special washes!" Timmy replied.

"Deej," Ricky added, "I think you've learned Mikey washes, Tanner feels like a Mikey wash but different!"

"What they talkin' 'bout, Tommy?" Simon asked.

"I'll have to show you, lil' bro," Tommy replied. "Just like Karlin's gonna have to show Damon; we can't explain it, but we know what to do now."

"Okay," Simon replied. "Timmy says you know who our family is while Daddy's gettin' his head fixed so he can show us he loves us."

"Timmy's close," Tommy replied after a glance at DJ. "We're gonna have two families now, and both are forever. We'll have our family with dad, and we'll also have a new family with Cory and Sean as our Dad and Pop. That means we get another family too, since DJ and Tanner share their other parents with all of Cory's family."

"Does that mean Timmy's our brother?" Simon asked.

"Yes," Tommy nodded, "and it also means we have DJ and Tanner as big brothers who are gonna teach us what we missed because of Mom."

"I knew you'd make things better!" Simon exclaimed as he pulled himself into a tight hug with Tommy.

As Tommy wrapped his arms around Simon to return the hug, he looked up and caught DJ giving him a thumbs-up. His smile became a mile wide, as the big brother that he'd always wanted wordlessly told him he'd done good.

"Remember what DJ told you, guys," Cory said to Tommy and Simon as they approached the auditorium. "This time you get to watch, then they'll do the same thing for you that they did for Milo. They'll take you to a practice, and help you decide where you'll fit in the best." Turning to Karlin, Cory added "Since you and Tommy hooked back up, you're included Kar."

Karlin grinned. "I swear, if anyone wakes me up from this dream, I'm gonna kill them!"

"I'm glad it ain't a dream," Tommy giggled before stopping long enough to grab a quick kiss. "I still can't believe Dad actually chewed us out because we hadn't discussed if we were boyfriends or not yet!"

"Yeah, I thought your Grandma Teri was gonna need a doctor, she was laughing so hard!" Kar giggled.

"I think Dad felt a lot better when he found out about how Cory and Pop had figured out this shared family thing," Tommy stated. "He seemed to relax a lot."

Sean reached forward and gave Tommy's shoulder a quick squeeze. "He was worried that he might lose you guys, either physically or emotionally. When you showed him that you wanted him to get better so that you could share your expanded family with him, he finally knew that despite everything your mom did, he still had his sons. Both of you did an awesome job of letting him know that you don't blame him for what your mother did."

"I just did what I thought DJ would do if he was me," Tommy stated, "I told the truth, and made sure Dad still knows I love him."

Cory smiled. "Tommy, that's the best statement of how DJ affects his brothers I've heard yet. You did it exactly right, and you've proven that you're one of the family. Simon, you followed your brother's example and helped just as much as Tommy did. Your Dad is going to get better BECAUSE of BOTH of you. That's something our son's are known for doing, and you guys both got it first try."

Simon and Tommy both got the message, they were family. It didn't matter if it was shared, Cory had just made it clear that they were his sons just as much as DJ, Timmy, or any of the other kids.

Just before reaching the auditorium doorway, they were joined by Mark and the rest of his family along with Teri, Spock, and Cory's two youngest.

"Daddy!" Ffion yelled as she dropped off of Teri's side and pounced Cory, while Gabe held out his arms while repeating "Poppa!"

"Hey Princess, did you guys have fun at Aunt Helen's?" Cory asked as he picked her up, smiling as he watched Gabe latch onto Sean.

"Yes!" Ffion exclaimed. "She let me and Gabe make cookies!"

"I'm glad you had fun!" Cory giggled. "Did Grandma tell you that you got two new brothers?"

Ffion nodded quickly. "Are they here?"

"Yep, let's go meet them," Cory smiled, turning just in time to see Gabe laying a very wet welcome kiss on Tommy's cheek.

"EWWW! Baby-Gabey slobber!" Ffion giggled.

Trying hard not to laugh, Cory said "Ffion, this is your new bigger big brother, Tommy; that's his boyfriend Karlin holding his hand."

"Hi Tommy!" Ffion said as she leaned over and kissed his dry cheek. "You got a cute boyfriend!"

"Thanks, Sis!" Tommy giggled, feeling Kar's blush through his hand. "Can I introduce you to our brother?"

"Put me down so I can meet my other brother, Daddy!" Ffion stated.

"Okay Princess," Cory replied, glad that she was hitting it off with the newest additions.

Once Ffion was on the floor, she took Tommy's free hand. Even though it was only a couple of steps, she held on until Tommy was able to show her the other new brother. The fact that only one other person had drool dripping from their cheek made it kind of obvious, but she still needed to make sure.

"Ffion, this is your other new big brother, Simon," Tommy said proudly.

Ffion reached out a hand to touch Simon, then quickly decided to turn it into a hug. "You cuddle good!" she exclaimed.

"Thanks, you do too! I think Timmy's been giving you lessons!" Simon giggled.

"He has!" Ffion giggled back. "Are you and Tommy gonna come tuck us in with Daddy and Poppa after our brothers play music?"

"Of course," Simon smiled.

"Okay, I'll see you later!" Ffion exclaimed as she broke the hug and twisted around to see if Sean was free yet. Once she saw that Gabe was collecting his Cory cuddles, she claimed her cuddle quota from Sean. After giving the two young ones time with their parents, Teri softly cleared her throat.

"It sounds like Grandma's ready to take you two upstairs," Sean stated. "Be good for Poppa Russ, okay?"

"Okay, Poppa," Ffion replied.

Cory grinned as he passed Gabe over to Spock, as Gabe immediately fell into his favorite pastime, tracing Spock's ear. Ffion transferred to Spock's other side from Sean's arms, quickly settling in to a cuddle with her Grandpa.

"I shall meet you at our standard seating," Spock informed Teri before turning to take the young ones up to the sound booth.

Once Spock had went through the doors, Teri decided to save Cory from the questions. "Those two are still adjusting to living here," she began. "Gabe's got a mild form of Asperger's, and is really sensitive to sudden or loud noises. Tommy and Simon, I think you're going to understand this more than anyone. Due to how crazy Cory and Sean's house usually is, they sat down with Russ and Sara to figure out what would be the best environment to make Gabe and Ffion the most comfortable. What they worked out was that Ffion is at the age where she needs a mother, while Gabe needs more supervision right now than Cory and Sean could guarantee. So the two of them are being raised by both families, with Russ and Sara taking the lead whenever Cory and Sean's responsibilities have to take priority. From what we've seen, it appears that seeing his large family in small doses has actually helped Gabe with adjusting; all of their brothers manage to visit at least once a day if the two of them are not over here. Cory and Sean sneak over more often, usually with Kyle or Tyler's help. Bedtime is fun, though, as the entire family pops over one at a time to say goodnight to their youngest brother and sister. Gabe knows exactly how many to expect, and refuses to go to bed unless every single one has told him goodnight."

Tommy tilted his head. "Grandma Teri? I know we're Cory's kids because it would hurt Dad to try to take care of us until he's better. Does that mean that even though Ffion and Gabe are his kids, he lets them stay with Russ and Sara because he knows that will make it better for them?"

"That's pretty much the short version, Tommy," Teri replied with a smile.

After a few moments of thought, Tommy stated "That makes sense. DJ knew that Cory understands what Dad's going through, so he'd be able to help us with it too. Since DJ's been in our place, he can help us from the way we would look at it. Y'all didn't make us family out of pity, you made us family because you care and wanted us with people who understand what we're going through. Simon and me used to only have that with each other, but since DJ took a chance we really do have a big family to help us."

Cory smiled. "I wish Dad had heard that, you would've impressed your Grandpa with that logic, Tommy! Even though none of us thought it out in that detail, you're right; we just did it subconsciously. One part wasn't subconscious though; we really do care... a lot."

Tommy smiled, then leaned over to give Cory a hug. "Thanks, Dad!"

As Cory returned the hug, he looked over at Mark, who had watched the entire thing with his family. "Mark, since you're pretty much an in-law now, you're sitting in my section. Besides, I'm pretty sure Damon and Simon would like to sit together."

"Thanks, Cory!" Mark replied as Damon grew a big smile. "We'll have to talk later about the rotation for Tommy and Kar."

"I've already got our tech team on it!" Cory giggled as he looked around. "C'mon guys, looks like we're the last ones, as usual!"

Ten minutes later

DJ came to the front of the stage as his siblings and their families gathered behind him. Nodding at Russ, he waited a second for his mic to be active, then addressed the assembled crowd. "Hey y'all, thanks for not running when Uncle Kyle's kids told you we're having a meeting! Seriously though, all of us have had a really strange week over the last day or so, and we figured you might like a little something to relax. Uncle Prez started having concerts over in Hawaii to help everyone chill, and we figured it sounded like a good idea. We'll probably be having open concerts from now on, but this first one we wanted to be for some very special people. The first group of special people are our family, and the rest are the new guys who really have no idea what they're looking forward to. New guys, when Timmy asks you to shower... RUN!"

The laughter of the crowd was for two reasons; those who knew Timmy were laughing because of knowing the truth about his 'welcome showers', while the rest were laughing as DJ was pounced by a six-year-old fireball, obviously Timmy.

After a brief tickle war, which Timmy won, DJ managed to get back on his feet to continue. "Gotta love little brothers!" DJ giggled. "Before we start, though, theres one thing that I wanted to talk about. Ya see, all these clowns behind me are family, a lot more of a family than what I spent the last few years with. In fact, Dad let me add two more today. You new guys haven't seen it yet, but all of us really take being family seriously. One of our newest brothers, Milo, wanted to know how his new family got started, so we bribed Dilly with cookies to take us to look at the past year in our Dad's life, since that's one part that still hurts Grandma Teri to talk about. It also helped us show Milo how this all started, which is hard to do even for those of us who have lived it."

Pausing to look around, DJ smiled as he spotted Kyle sitting next to Cory. "What we found even Pop doesn't know, since he wasn't there. A lotta people say that our family started when Grandpa Sarek declared us a Clan. Other people say it started when Jamie and Jacob were found. Some more say it's when Dad, Pop, Uncle Kyle, and Uncle JJ made their promise to each other. All of them are wrong; those are important times, but it started a lot sooner. Ya' see, all of this comes from the guy a lot of us up here are proud to call Dad; y'all know him as Cory."

"We've all heard a lot of adults quote the Bible line that 'a child shall lead them', for the first time ever, the adults are right. Back when Dad was having trouble with his memory, he was in a juvie home. He'd already stood up for a few kids there, and had got a lot of respect from the good adults there. One day though, a new kid arrived. When Dad met the kid, he saw something that even Dilly can't explain, and he made the promise that made all of this happen. That promise was when Dad told Uncle Kyle that he was gonna be his big brother for the rest of his life, and that he'd protect him. Dilly showed us the time tree, and there's a big knot at that point where another branch used to be. Dilly says that branch didn't have a Clan Short, and from what he could tell it died the day that Dad, Pop, Uncle Kyle, and Uncle JJ made their promise to be brothers forever."

Smiling, DJ added "Dad and Uncle Kyle are the examples that both families look up to. Even before we knew anything about what happened, they showed us how to be brothers, being there for each other no matter what. Dad stood by Uncle Kyle as he became the start of a new type of human, and Uncle Kyle did everything possible to help Dad when his memories coming back almost killed him. Even if they goof, they always have each other's backs. The Short and Richardson sons all look up to them as examples of what we need to be, and we're dedicating tonight to both of them."

By this time, both Cory and Kyle were glowing red with blushes and trying really hard to hide in their seat cushions. Noticing their plight, Spock leaned forward and put a hand on each of their shoulders. "While I comprehend your emotive response, sons," Spock stated, "in this instance it would be appropriate to exhibit pride. There is no greater honor than to be acknowledged by your offspring in public for your accomplishments. I concur with their determination that you both have earned the status as models to be emulated."

"That didn't help, Dad!" Cory muttered, fully aware that Spock would hear him.

"I agree with Cory!" Kyle added as he mentally discussed with Cory the option of popping away for a few hours to recover.

Knowing both boys quite well, Spock noted "I believe your families would feel emotive hurt if you were to vanish, if that is in fact what you are considering."

"Dang it, we're busted bro!" Cory moaned as Kyle decided he needed to grab a cuddle.

"We'll take that break after they're done; just us, Ty and Sean," Kyle promised as he settled on Cory's lap.

"That is the logical choice," Spock stated as he sat back.

DJ didn't miss the interaction, and giggled "Don't worry Dad, I'll be good and stop telling everyone how awesome you are!" That caused the rest of the group on stage to giggle, which DJ waited for before continuing. "For the new guys, just over a week ago local time me and my brothers decided to surprise Dad and Pop and make a band. Thanks to a lot of help from our cousin Dylan, we've spent a few years outside normal time learning to play and touring other timelines. The right people saw us, and we've became the inter-Universal representatives of our timeline. We have a lot of fun together playing, and I think all of us are a lot closer because of it. After tonight, we get to welcome our latest brothers, Tommy and Simon, into the project; tonight they get to watch to find out just what they're becoming a part of. We've all got two things in common; we're the descendants of Cory and Sean Short either directly or through being bonded to their descendant, and we are Time Touched!"

With that, every person on the stage cheered before scrambling to wherever they needed to be. Most of them headed backstage to prepare for the next song, but eight of the boys quickly took position near their instruments. As Pauly got himself set on his drum kit, Jacob picked up a gut string classical guitar while his brother Jamie grabbed a six-string acoustic. KC got comfortable at his pedal steel guitar, Timmy grabbed a teal single-coil Telecaster, and DJ picked up a black Gibson. Once Conner was seated at his piano and CD had the bass that he'd got for his birthday slung on his shoulder, DJ gave the twins a nod then headed towards center stage.

To the surprise of everyone who knew the band, they didn't start with one of the many power numbers they would normally use. Instead, Jamie and Jacob began strumming, as Pauly set a slow beat with his bass drum. KC came in with the pedal steel, and then DJ began singing.

Livin' out of a suitcase
Sleepin' in hotel rooms
Rental cars and airport bars
And dog day afternoons

My occupation is a picker
Music is my game
Sometimes it makes me crazy
But I would not change a thing

So lay down a back beat
Crank up your trusty Gibson
Let's give it everythin' we got, just one more time
Lovin' the life we're livin'
Playin' that Georgia rhythm
Nothin' else ever made me feel so fine

Four o'clock in the morning
Waitin' for a plane
We passed around the bottle, Lord
And we don't feel no pain

Life out here on the highway
Has its ups and downs
But last night the Georgia rhythm
Tore up another town

So, lay down a back beat
and crank up your trusty Gibson,
Let's give it everythin' we got just one more time
One more time
We are lovin' the life we're livin'
Playin' that Georgia rhythm
Nothin' else ever made me feel this fine,

Oh yeah!


Rising above the madness
Homeward bound again
To normal ways and lazy days
And old familiar friends

Some conversation with my lady
Some love long overdue
God knows I hate to leave her
But I got a job to do

So, lay down a back beat
Crank up your trusty Gibson, son
Let's give it everything we got just one more time
We are lovin' the life we're livin'
Playin' that Georgia rhythm
Makin' music, movin' on down the line
One more time

Lay down a back beat
Crank up your trusty Gibson
Let's give it everything we got, just one more time, one more time
Lovin' the life we're livin'
Playin' that Georgia rhythm
Nothin' else ever made me feel this fine

Give it everything we got just one more time

Atlanta Rhythm Section, Georgia Rhythm © 1977 Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

As the song wound down, Tanner took a seat at his synth, immediately going into the repeating notes of their next song. KC and Toby moved to join DJ at vocals, while Jamie and Jacob picked up mirror-image Carvins and took up position on either side of Timmy. As soon as everyone was in position, the three lead vocalists began: "Where do we go from here..."

As the band made their way through Allen Parsons Project's 'Games People Play', the assembled crowd watched in fascination as Timmy held down the lead guitar position all by himself.

The very second that CD hit his last bass note, Brandon took his place while CD sprinted towards his conductor's podium. The stage quickly filled with the remaining members of the band, each taking their positions as Conner played the opening notes to 'Live And Let Die'. A roar of approval was heard when Toby sang the first verse. Cory and Sean watched with pride as they saw that Milo was the soloist at the two-thirds point on violin, his smile visible even from their seats.

Keeping the increase in tempo going, the band then launched into 'I'm Just A Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band)', smiles on their faces as they found their audience fully engaged.

At the conclusion of the song, Timmy bounced to front stage and announced "It's dancin' time! C'mon, let's have fun!"

"You heard the Chief!" Fife giggled as he watched Timmy pulling Ricky and Wyr from their hiding spots off to the side of the stage. "Last one to dance has to ride in a car with Uncle Danny driving!"

"HELL NO!" Tracy exclaimed as he physically drug Karl into an open area before the very first note was played. When Spock followed with Teri, loudly stating that he had no wish to die at this time, everyone, including the band, collapsed in laughter. Once they recovered, KC began the session with 'Keep it Comin' Love', with Fife joining in as needed. Timmy, Ricky, and Wyr kept everyone on their toes as all three danced around the stage, grinning widely as they entertained everyone watching.

Fully in his vocal element, Fife then signalled for the band to continue right into 'You Should Be Dancing', which, besides the fact Fife hit notes that had Slider tilting his head, gave the guys a chance to show off the improvement to their percussion section now that Rayn was assisting Ian.

By this time, everyone was dancing, most not really caring who they were dancing with. Eiyythos and Fyrlenn were all smiles as they danced their way around the floor, finding that they enjoyed moving their bodies to the strange noises being made by their cousins on stage. Wayne, Simon, Damon, Erin, and Evan decided to join Timmy's group on stage, making it eight little bodies bouncing all over the place for the rest of the band to avoid.

Toby joined Fife for the vocals on 'Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car', the band switching around as needed on the fly. During a vocal break, he snagged Simon, whispering something in his ear. Simon nodded with a big grin, then returned to dancing.

As the song wound down, DJ made his way to the front of the stage again, only tripping over Timmy twice. Once the final notes faded, he began speaking. "Okay, the next one's a slow dance for the couples. We're missing one of our brothers though, so could Tommy and his partner Karlin please join us?"

Having been warned about Simon's plotting with Toby by George, Tommy led Karlin onto the stage. To DJ's surprise, however, Tommy had plotted his own surprise with the base AI. As he reached DJ's side, Tommy waved at the mix booth, then began speaking a few seconds later. "Hey everyone, I'm Tommy Brown, son of Cory and Sean Short. DJ started all of this off telling you how great Cory is; he wasn't wrong, but he missed something. Ya see, earlier today my family was asked to come over here because they said someone I knew was having problems. Thanks to Cory, we were taken away from my mother's mental abuse before it killed Dad or messed me and my little brother up. After that is when I met Deej, and I learned just what it means to be a big brother. DJ and Tanner took the time to explain everything that was happening, which I'm learning is pretty normal around here. They did more than that, though; they took me and Kar off to the side and taught us real love, love that we'd never had given so freely. I really think DJ and Tanner don't know just what they mean to their family. We're gonna fix that right now; I want every one of DJ's siblings that agree with me that he's the best big brother in all the Universe to join me in giving him a hug in front of everyone."

With that, Tommy turned and pulled DJ into a tight hug. By the time he released it, the entire band was lined up behind him, while the partners of the brothers filtered in from backstage and the audience to join the line. Taking a wild guess that KC had some pull in the band, Tommy found him near the middle of the line and had a quick conversation with him. KC quickly agreed to Tommy's request, promising to get things setup as everyone worked their way through the line.

Once the last hug had been collected, Tommy yelled "Hey George, I need a couple of chairs here!"

"INCOMING!" George chuckled as two chairs appeared front center stage, facing the band.

"Thanks, dude!" Tommy giggled as he walked up to DJ and Tanner. "You two, sit!" he ordered with a smile.

"Something tells me KC's gonna have competition," DJ quipped. "We're in trouble."

"I heard that!" Tommy laughed before turning to the audience. "We'll have that dance in just a minute; first we gotta send DJ and Tanner a message from their family."

With that, the lights dimmed to a subdued blue, with the exception of one spotlight which focused on Tommy. Once the music began, Tommy looked right at DJ and Tanner as he began singing, his voice clear and strong.

(Note: Lyrics in italics are being sung by all of the brothers as a choir.)

I gotta take a little time,
a little time to think things over
I better read between the lines,
in case I need it when I'm older

Ohhhh oHHhHooOhh!

Now this mountain I must climb,
feels like the world upon my shoulders
Through the clouds I see love shine,
it keeps me warm as life grows colder

In my life
there's been heartache and pain
I don't know if I can face it again
I can't stop now,
I've traveled so far,
to change this lonely life

I want to know what love is,
I want you to show me
I want to feel what love is,
I know you can show me

I'm gonna take a little time,
a little time to look around me
I've got nowhere left to hide,
it looks like love has finally found me

In my life
there's been heartache and pain
I don't know if I can face it again
Can't stop now,
I've traveled so far,
to change this lonely life

I want to know what love is,
I want you to show me
I want to feel what love is,
I know you can show me
I want to know what love is,
I want you to show me
And I want to feel
I want to feel what love is
And I know
I know you can show me
Let's talk about love,
I want to know what love is
The love that you feel inside,
I want you to show me
And I'm feeling so much love,
I want to feel what love is
No, you just can't hide,
I know you can show me
I want to know what love is
let's talk about love,
I know you can show me
I want to feel it,
I want to feel what love is
I want to feel it too,
and I know and I know,
I know you can show me
Show me love is real, yeah,
I want to know what love is
I wanna know,
I want you to show me...

Songwriters: Michael Leslie Jones

I Want To Know What Love Is lyrics © Somerset Songs Publishing Inc

To Be Continued...