One Door Closes

By MultiMapper
Copyright ©2002-2009 MultiMapper and CSU Productions.
All Rights Reserved.

For full disclaimer and Copyright information visit Copyright/Disclaimer Page. Continuation of viewing this document is deemed acceptance of all terms on the preceding link. While these stories are provided for free, I would appreciate it if those who were able would consider contributing to this artist via my Patreon.

CHAPTER 36

"Master Justy, you have a visitor in the entry hall." Hazel said cautiously through the family room door before quickly withdrawing.

Justy looked at Cory, silently asking if they were done.

"Go ahead, we're almost done here. Someone can fill you in later." Cory said with a smile at Justy.

"Thanks Cor." Justy said quickly and hurried out of the room.

Cory looked around the room and said, "Okay everyone. I just wanted to cover a few things about the new languages."

Seeing that he had everyone's attention, he continued, "I've had some time to think about this since Xain mentioned that he had the skill to transfer languages and there are a few things I'd like for you to think about before we join the gathering."

"I think Reuben, Ricardo and Xain can tell you how it feels to be around people that you don't understand. Now that we have the ability to speak a variety of languages, we should use the gift responsibly."

"Whenever we're around someone who speaks only English, we should only speak English. If you want to speak privately to someone, take them aside to speak. Even though it may be tempting to slip into Vulcan or Eagle just to show off, it's rude and immature and makes people feel left out." Cory said, looking around again.

"So we'll just use the new languages when we're alone or when we're around someone who speaks one of the new languages. Does anyone have a problem with that?" Cory asked and looked around for everyone's reactions.

"I agree with your reasoning, Patriarch Short. It is logical." Xain said seriously from Jake's side.

"Hey, we're a Vulcan Clan, what more do we need to hear?" Beau asked with a smile.

"That's right Beau, Xain said it perfectly. Now I think JJ had something to say to everyone." Cory said and looked at JJ with question.

"Yeah, Gabe and I were talking and thought it would be a good idea if we had a few more clan members trained in hand-to-hand and phasers. Anyone who is interested should get with us after the meeting and we'll see about setting up a time when we can do some training. As soon as we've got a time pinned down, we'll arrange for a qualified instructor to give the lessons." JJ said seriously.

"You never know when you're going to need to be able to defend yourself or one of your brothers, so it's a good idea to know this stuff." Gabe interjected.

Deacon looked at JJ introspectively for a moment then said, "I felt so helpless when I saw Lawrence getting beat up. Kenny and Kevin and Xain and Jake all jumped on the guy and scared him away, but... there was nothing I could do. I would really like to take the training so I never have to feel like that again."

Lawrence hugged Deacon to his side and whispered, "You helped me as much as anyone by being there for me."

Deacon hugged Lawrence in return and looked around the room.

"As a father, it would be logical if I developed the necessary skills to defend my mate and our child." Xain said in a measured tone.

"Okay guys, work it out with JJ. Unless anyone has anything else, I think we're done." Cory said as he looked around with question.

Some murmuring went around the room, but no one spoke up.

"I need to go to the bathroom." Kevin whispered to Kenny.

"I'll meet up with you outside. I'll be with Pop." Kenny said with a smile.

Kevin hurried to the door and slipped out quietly.

* * * * *

"I know that look, that's a phone call." Allen announced as he saw the surprised and somewhat embarrassed look come across Billy's face.

"Yeah, excuse me while I take this." Billy said as he took out his phone and walked away from the group at the tables.

Perhaps it was the acoustics by the pool, or maybe the fact that no one else was talking, but for whatever reason, everyone at the table could clearly hear everything that Billy was saying as he walked away.

"No shit?" Billy asked in surprise.

"Chill dude, you're talking so fast that you're skipping words." Billy said with a chuckle.

"Yeah... That sucks... What... When... Yeah, I was being totally for real. Just tell me when you want to leave and it's like... done." Billy said seriously.

"Cut the shit Jono. We're buds, I know that if I needed help you'd be right there. Give me a few minutes to work this out and I'll call you right back. Is Petey there?" Billy asked quickly.

"Hey Petey, Jono sounds like he's on the edge of losing it. You need to do something to get his mind off his problems..."

"Whoa man, that was like, totally way too much information. I'm planning on eating in a while, I don't need that mental picture." Billy said with a sour look on his face.

After a small laugh, Billy said, "Just hang on until I call you back before you start, I really REALLY don't need to be talking to you on the phone in the middle of that!"

"What?" Billy asked with surprise.

"That would be totally awesome!"

"Fuck that! You two are my buds. Listen, I'll call you back as soon as I've got it set up. Is Saturday okay?"

"Yeah, just hang on. I'll call you right back." Billy said seriously.

"Yeah, best buds forever. I'll talk to you in a few." Billy said, then hung up the phone.

Billy put his phone in his pocket and was surprised when he looked at the group of people all looking at him curiously.

* * * * *

Kevin stepped out of the family room and was about to walk away when he heard an unusual squeaky sound from down the hall.

Quietly, he walked toward the entry hall, trying to identify the unusual sound.

As he walked around the corner, he came upon the sight of Justy holding a boy that he hadn't met before in a tight hug.

The sound he heard was the two boys engaged in a passionate kiss.

Squeaky sucking sounds and the occasional growl was coming from the pair who seemed to be almost desperate in their passion.

Kevin felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see David at his side.

Behind David were various others, all coming to investigate what Kevin had stumbled upon.

A long moment that would have been silence but for Justy and his companion filled the entry hall.

"Last time I heard that sound, it was my Pappy workin a chicken neck." Tommy said, breaking the silence.

Justy looked up in shock to find about half the Clan watching him.

Soft snickers spread through the group at Tommy's statement.

"Um, hi guys... I'd like you to meet my friend..." Justy said hesitantly.

"Somehow I got the feeling he wasn't an enemy." David said with a teasing smile.

Justy gave a nervous laugh before saying, "Dean, I'd like you to meet... the guys."

Dean timidly looked around the group of boys and noticed that the group was still increasing.

"Guys, I need to talk to Dean about... us. Could you give me a few minutes?" Justy asked hesitantly.

"Sure Justy, we'll be outside. Just be sure to introduce Dean to everyone when you're done." Aaron said from David's side.

"Yeah, I will." Justy said quietly, looking distinctly uncomfortable.

"Come on guys. Let's see if Daddy has the food cooking yet!" Jacob said from somewhere in the middle of the group of boys.

That was enough encouragement to cause the entire group to move as a unit toward the back of the house.

Kevin stayed behind until the others were out of hearing range, then said, "You remember when you said that someday I was supposed to tell you when you're making a mistake?"

Justy looked at Kevin and slowly nodded.

Kevin looked into Dean's eyes for an instant, before looking at Justy again and saying, "I don't think today's going to be that day."

Justy smiled and said, "Thanks Kevin. We'll be out in a little bit."

Kevin nodded happily and hurried to find the nearest bathroom.

* * * * *

"Sorry, that was a friend of mine from back home." Billy said timidly as he walked back to his place at the table.

"Which one is the act?" Mona asked Billy curiously.

"What?" Billy responded in confusion.

"When you were talking to your friends on the phone you seemed to be a completely different person, it was like you were sixteen years old. Which one is the real you?" Mona asked in a speculative voice.

Billy thought about the question and finally answered, "I guess I'm somewhere in between. I kind of adapt to whoever I'm around."

"Do you do it on purpose or does it just happen?" Mona asked curiously.

"Most of the time I don't even realize I'm doing it. Every now and then I have to stop and think about what's the 'mature' way to say something." Billy said in thought.

"Well, just so you know, if you feel comfortable talking the other way, I wouldn't mind. It's kind of nice." Mona said gently.

"Yeah, I like it too." Allen said with a tender smile at Billy.

The sound of a cell phone ringing stopped further conversation as everyone looked around and a few people checked their phones to see who it was.

"It's mine." Allen said and got up to walk away from the table.

"I guess it's the time of day when everyone is making their calls." Teri said absently as she watched Allen walk away.

"Chip, is there any way I could borrow your computer for a few minutes? I need to make some travel arrangements for some friends of mine." Billy asked quietly.

"I'll take you into the study." JC said as he stood.

Billy quickly stood and followed.

* * * * *

"Hello?" Allen said cautiously.

"You have the right number. I can get her for you if you need me to." Allen said into the phone.

"Sure, no problem. What's the message?" Allen asked as he noticed JC and Billy walking toward the house.

"Okay, can you be more specific?" Allen asked with distraction in his voice.

"No, that's fine. Do you have the address?" Allen asked curiously.

"Yes. That's right. Someone will be there, thank you for calling." Allen said seriously.

"Goodbye." Allen finally said, then disconnected the call and walked back to the table.

"Bad news?" Chip asked with concern.

"No, not at all. That was the moving company calling to say that someone will need to be at the house on Friday." Allen said in thought.

"That was quick. I didn't expect them to be in until Monday." Teri said with surprise.

"Yeah, I'd actually forgotten that her stuff was coming." Allen said as he took his seat.

"Is that going to be any problem?" Chip asked curiously.

"No. As far as I know we don't have any other plans on Friday. It shouldn't be any problem at all." Allen finally said as he relaxed back into his chair.

"Hey, you didn't start the party without us did you?" A voice called from beside the house.

"No way. Now that you're here the party can begin." Chip called out with a smile.

"Are the boys here yet?" The woman asked as she looked around.

"Yes. They're in a Clan meeting." Teri said with a smile.

"Everyone, this is Russ and Sarah Wagner." Chip said to the gathering, then looked at Russ and Sarah and said, "I thought you were going to be here earlier."

"We kind of got... um... sidetracked..." Russ said timidly and started to blush.

"Oh... I see." Teri said with a knowing smile.

Sarah giggled, then she and Russ took a seat at the table with Teri, Mona and Christine.

Chip smiled warmly, then said, "Now that you're here, I'd like to introduce everyone..."

* * * * *

"What's going on here?" Dean asked quietly.

"There's some stuff I didn't tell you about me." Justy said with difficulty.

Dean thought about the statement as Justy led him into the study off the main hallway.

"First of all, I never lied to you. But, I guess there's some stuff I just didn't tell you." Justy said, searching for the right words.

Dean pulled Justy into a hug and said, "You don't have to tell me. I know what a wonderful person you are. That's all I need to know."

Justy smiled and leaned in to kiss Dean briefly.

"If you want me to leave so you can be with your other friends, I can come back when we can be alone." Dean said quietly.

"You'd really do that?" Justy asked in wonder.

"I just need to call for a ride." Dean said bravely as he pulled out of the hug.

Justy took hold of Dean's arm and gently said, "I don't want you to go. I was just surprised that you would be that understanding."

Dean kissed Justy on the cheek and said, "Whatever this is, it's obvious that you don't want me to be a part of it. I'm fine with that... really."

"Please sit down with me. I really do want to tell you about it." Justy said in a soft voice.

Dean walked with Justy to a nearby sofa and sat down, not releasing Justy from his hug.

"Um, I don't know where to start..." Justy said in thought.

"The beginning usually works." Dean said quietly.

"You've met Daddy and Pop. I guess it started when Daddy was adopted into the family of Sarek." Justy said carefully.

"I've heard that name before. Who is he again?" Dean asked in thought.

"Grandpa Sarek is the Ambassador to Earth from the planet Vulcan." Justy said quietly.

"So your grandfather is a Vulcan." Dean said, seeking confirmation.

Justy nodded as he looked into Dean's eyes, looking for a reaction.

"Okay, what else?" Dean asked cautiously.

"Well, some of the guys you just saw in the hallway, they kind of went through a bunch of really messed up stuff." Justy said with difficulty.

"Define 'messed up'." Dean said, not in a demanding way, but wanting to be sure he understood what Justy was trying to tell him.

"Um, like abused, abandoned... stuff like that." Justy said uneasily.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Go on." Dean said quietly.

"Well, when I met Sean and Cory, it was kind of... it was right. I mean, it was like we were instantly friends... beyond friends." Justy said with difficulty.

Dean's eyebrows went up in surprise at Justy's statement.

"No, not like that. Like brothers. We totally trust and depend on each other. It's really hard to describe any other way. We ARE brothers." Justy said in thought.

"Okay, I get that." Dean said slowly.

"Well... now all the guys you just saw in the hallway are my brothers too." Justy finished, looking into Dean's eyes.

"No problem so far." Dean said cautiously.

"A while back, some of my brothers were in danger from some really bad guys." Justy said, then stopped to think.

"How bad?" Dean asked, not sure he wanted to know.

"These guys made my brothers do sex stuff and took pictures and movies and stuff of them and sold it on the Internet." Justy said in a pained voice.

Dean nodded that he understood, then pulled tighter to Justy.

"Grandpa Sarek believed it would be logical if me and my brothers were given status as a Vulcan Clan so we could protect our brothers." Justy said carefully.

"Wait a second. I've heard something about a Vulcan clan on Earth that rescues kids in trouble... is that what you're talking about?" Dean asked with wide eyes.

"Yeah, that's us. Clan Short." Justy said timidly.

"A guy at school said that a friend of his was in trouble when his grandfather beat him up and threw him out. He said that some guys from your Clan showed up and took him to a doctor. Then they told him that if he wanted, they would get him a place to live and go to school where he'd be safe. He said that his friend was really happy and talking about how he wants to go to college for engineering when he gets out of school there." Dean said with excitement in his voice.

"Engineering? I think you're probably talking about Devon. He's a good guy... except that I can't understand what he's talking about most of the time." Justy said in thought.

At Dean's curious look, Justy continued, "Devon is really smart. He's a great guy, but when he gets excited about something, he usually starts talking way over our heads. Everyone at Camp Little Eagle likes him a lot. Even though he's one of the older guys, everyone, even the little kids feel like they need to protect him."

"So is that all of it? Is that the big secret that you've been hiding?" Dean asked cautiously.

Justy smiled and said, "Yeah, that's it. And I wasn't really hiding it. I mean, it's not like I'm ashamed of being part of the Clan."

"Are you ashamed of me?" Dean asked bravely.

"No. Absolutely not!" Justy said firmly and looked into Dean's eyes to convey his sincerity.

"Then why didn't you tell me before?" Dean asked quietly.

Justy thought about it for a moment before saying, "When I'm with you, it's not complicated. Things get a little crazy sometimes with my brothers and my parents and with the Clan. When I'm with you, it's like a vacation from everything else in my life."

"So you use me to escape from your problems?" Dean asked haltingly.

"No... Well, not really... I really messed this up, didn't I?" Justy asked with a worried look into Dean's eyes.

After a moment of silence, Dean said, "No. I'm flattered that you wanted to keep me all to yourself. I'm really glad that we had so much time with just the two of us to get to know each other without the world intruding on us."

Justy smiled with relief at the statement and pulled Dean in to a heartfelt hug.

"I just need to know where we're going from here." Dean whispered into Justy's ear as they hugged.

Justy pulled away and looked into Dean's eyes.

"Do you still want to keep me out of that part of your life? I need to know the ground rules so I'm not trying to intrude on something you want to keep private." Dean said with concern.

Justy smiled at Dean and said, "It's not just about what I want, I need to know how much of the rest of my life you want to be involved in."

Dean nodded in thought.

"I think I'd like for you to get to know all my brothers." Justy said quietly.

"Yeah, they seemed nice, I think I'd like that too." Dean said with a gentle smile.

"Once you get to know them and they get to know you, then we'll see if you're interested in becoming part of the Clan." Justy said carefully.

"Yeah. I think I'd like to wait on that part of it for a while... do you think they'll mind us... you know, being... boyfriends?" Dean asked cautiously.

Justy smiled at the question and said, "Most of the guys have boyfriends. No one will have any problem with it. The only thing they might be upset by is that I didn't introduce you sooner."

"Okay, I just don't want to make trouble for you." Dean said quietly.

"I promise that there won't be any trouble at all." Justy said assuringly.

Dean nodded and snuggled into Justy's embrace, just soaking in the comfort.

* * * * *

"Is the meeting over already?" JC asked as he came face to face with nearly thirty boys headed toward the sliding glass doors.

"Yeah. Is Uncle Chip cooking dinner yet?" Calen asked hopefully.

"Not yet. I think he's waiting on more of your parents to show up before he starts." JC said with a gentle smile at the boy.

Several serious looks passed among the boys before Sean finally spoke up. "Timmy, get Harley, Ricky, Reuben and Ricardo. You're in charge of hungry looks and puppy dog eyes."

Timmy nodded seriously and started to gather his troops.

"Kyle, CD, Calen and Tyler. You're going to be the cranky kids. Each of you grab someone older to comfort you. All you have to do is look hungry and glance at Uncle Chip every now and then with your most pitiful look." Sean said in thought.

"Jacob and Jamie, hang back until Uncle Chip has noticed the others, then when the time is right, move in and ask him when the food is going to be ready. If you can manage your quivering lip thing, it'll help." Sean said firmly.

JC chuckled and said, "He doesn't stand a chance."

"You're not going to rat us out are you, Pop?" Jamie asked with a hopeful look.

"No way. I love to see a plan come together. Please just hold off until Billy and I are back outside. I don't want to miss a minute of it." JC said with a smile.

"You got it, Uncle Josh." Sean said with a mischievous grin.

* * * * *

Justy and Dean both looked up from their embrace as the door opened.

"Sorry guys, I didn't know you were in here." JC said as he looked into the study.

"It's okay, Pop. I just needed to talk to Dean in private for a few minutes. We're done." Justy said timidly.

JC looked at his oldest son curiously and asked, "Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, I think everything is going to be great." Justy said with assurance as he stood, then held out his hand to help Dean off the couch.

"Everyone else is out by the pool." JC said with a smile at the two boys holding hands.

"Is Daddy cooking yet?" Justy asked hopefully.

"Not yet. Go talk to Sean and get your assignments," JC said with a chuckle.

Justy looked at JC curiously, then shrugged and walked out of the study with Dean at his side.

"They look like they're close friends." Billy said speculatively.

"At least." JC said with a hopeful gaze at the closed door.

* * * * *

"It's mine." Teri said with a chuckle as she took out her ringing cell phone.

"Director Short." Teri said with a smile as she got up and walked away from the tables by the pool.

After listening for a long minute, a serious look came over Teri's face and she glanced at Sean and Cory walking out of the house.

"Thank you for calling me, Doctor. Keep them there, call the police to detain them if you need to." Teri said as she motioned for Sean and Cory to come to her.

"I'll be right there. Thank you again," She said firmly before hanging up the phone.

Teri thought for a moment, then looked at Sean and Cory as she said, "We've got some work to do."

"How big a job?" Cory asked, immediately in his professional persona.

"Both of you, security, intelligence... and Lawrence," Teri said quietly.

Both Cory and Sean looked at Teri with question.

"When I got the intelligence report on Lawrence, I learned that he has a half brother still living at home. This morning I faxed notices to the local hospitals and urgent care clinics that if Vincent Winters was admitted, I was to be notified immediately. Today just after lunch, the school nurse took him to the Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital for treatment for symptoms that indicate a concussion. Vincent said he fell down the stairs at home this morning." Teri finished with a dubious look.

"I'll get the team together." Sean said quickly and hurried away.

"How did you know?" Cory asked quietly.

"Well, it was just a hunch. Think of it this way. Lawrence was the target for his father's abuse for at least two years. Just because Lawrence left doesn't mean that his father suddenly stopped being abusive." Teri said quietly.

"I should have thought of that... we could have prevented this." Cory said in a defeated tone.

"No, you couldn't. Like I said, I was playing a hunch. It might just as well have turned out the other way... it may still. There's a chance that Vincent is just clumsy and DID fall down the stairs this morning." Teri said speculatively.

Cory looked at his mother with his most incredulous look turned on full blast.

"Okay, I grant you that it's not likely, but we can't automatically assume that it's a case of abuse until we have the facts." Teri said quietly.

"Yeah, I guess so." Cory finally relented.

"It looks like the guys are ready to go. Let's go find out." Teri said as she put an arm around Cory's shoulders.

Cory nodded and started walking with his mother toward the car.

Sean and his assembled group walked from the back door of the house to join them.

"Is it okay if Deacon comes along too? Lawrence would feel more comfortable if he was there." Sean said carefully.

"Yeah, that's a good idea." Cory said as they walked toward Teri's car.

Suddenly Cory turned back toward the house and rushed to Aaron.

"Postpone operation 'Feed Me' until we get back, okay?" Cory asked Aaron seriously.

"No problem, it'll just give us more time to plan." Aaron said with a crafty smile.

Cory smiled at the statement, then hurried to join his mom at the car.

* * * * *

"What do you suppose that's all about?" Allen asked curiously as he saw the group walking toward Teri's car.

"If I were a betting man, I'd say that there's a hurting child somewhere who is about to have their life changed." Chip said as he half turned in his chair to watch the group leave.

"Really? Right now?" Joe asked with wide eyes as he watched his son get into Teri's Hummer.

"That's what these guys do. They help kids who need it." Chip said frankly.

"That's how Lawrence got to be with us. One of my sons found out that he was in trouble and without a moments hesitation, he called his brothers and ran to the rescue." Allen said with pride in his voice.

"And Lawrence is going to do that now? I mean, *right now*, right this minute he's on his way to rescue a kid that needs help." Joe asked in confirmation.

"Exactly. It kind of makes you proud, doesn't it?" Chip said with a smile.

"Proud, in awe, scared to death..." Joe trailed off helplessly.

"His clan brothers will make sure that he's kept safe." Chip said firmly.

Joe nodded nervously at the statement.

* * * * *

"So why did you need me to come with you?" Lawrence asked cautiously.

"Didn't Sean tell you?" Cory asked as he looked around.

"I figured that you were getting the whole story while I was gathering the guys so I'd let you explain." Sean said simply.

"Okay." Cory said in thought, then took a deep breath.

"Lawrence, when you asked for our help, we had to investigate your past to try and find your father." Cory said carefully.

"Yeah." Lawrence said hesitantly, getting the feeling that Cory was about to lay some bad news on him.

"We got a lot of information, we kind of did a full profile on you, just to see if there was anything we could do to help you. It's stuff we'd never ever share with anyone except Mom and the Clan." Cory finished quickly.

"Yeah." Lawrence said again, waiting for whatever was coming that he wasn't going to like.

"When we were done, we shared the report with mom so we could figure out the best way to help you." Cory said carefully.

"Yeah." Lawrence said, this time with a small nod to prompt Cory to get to the point.

"This morning Mom faxed a warning to the urgent care clinics and hospitals to be on the lookout for your brother."

Lawrence only wore a look of surprise at the statement.

"We're on our way to Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital where your brother is being treated for a head injury." Cory said softly.

Lawrence shook his head and said, "I don't know why you would want me along. He hates me."

A moment of silence filled the car until it was broken by Sean asking, "How do you feel about him?"

Lawrence thought about the question for a moment before he said, "I don't know..."

"If you want to go in there with us, maybe something good can come from it. If not, you can stay here in the car and no one will think any less of you." Cory said assuringly.

Lawrence thought about it for a second, then looked at Deacon helplessly.

"I think you're going to have some stuff to deal with either way. No matter what you decide, I'll be there to help you deal with it." Deacon said seriously.

"Cory? Can you please help me? I don't know what to do." Lawrence asked desperately.

"Follow your heart." Cory said in a pained voice, knowing that no matter what happened, that Lawrence was likely to be hurt.

* * * * *

"Hey Dad. How are you doing?" Jake asked as he approached his father.

"Great." Allen said as he automatically got up and gave Jake a gentle hug, careful not to crush Edovina between them.

"Oh, it looks like the little princess is awake. She didn't cause any problems in the meeting did she?" Allen asked with concern.

"No. She was a perfect angel." Jake said as he looked at Edovina proudly.

"Where is Xain?" Allen asked as he looked at the group of boys funneling out of the house.

"He went to the kitchen to get a bottle of juice ready for Vina. He's afraid that she'll get dehydrated being out in the sun so much." Jake said with a contented smile.

"That's a good idea. I'm glad he thought of that." Allen said as he carefully caressed the baby's cheek with one finger.

Edovina reached up and grabbed Allen's finger and got a good, firm hold.

"Your daughter has a good strong grip." Allen said with a chuckle.

"Wait till she gets hold of your hair and see what you think." Jake said happily.

"Oh, she's beautiful. Can I see her?" A girl's voice interrupted.

Jake turned to see a teenage girl looking at Edovina wistfully.

"Sure, her name is Edovina." Jake said as he turned so the girl could see Edovina more fully.

"Oh, she's absolutely beautiful. My babies are boys." The girl said, then rubbed her slim belly.

"You said boys... how many you got in there?" Jake asked curiously as he noticed a guy about his own age approaching.

The boy walked up and put a hand on the girl's shoulder.

She looked over her shoulder at the boy and gave a loving smile.

"Three, and this is my boyfriend Clint." She said timidly.

"I'm Jake, what's your name?" Jake asked with a gentle smile.

"Oh, I'm Crystal. Oh, look at her..." Crystal said and leaned in to look at Edovina more closely.

"Watch out for your..." Jake tried to warn, but alas, too late.

"...hair." He finished in a defeated voice as Crystal tried to get the little baby girl to release her hair.

"Um, can you help me here? She's really got a good hold of me." Crystal said in a pained voice.

"I believe this should help." Xain said as he joined the impromptu gathering, carrying a bottle.

"What's that going to do?" Clint asked incredulously.

Xain carefully moved the bottle between Crystal and Edovina and waited for the expected reaction.

"It will distract her." Xain said as Edovina took the bottle and began to drink it thirstily.

"Thanks... oh, my brother told me about you. You're Xain aren't you?" Crystal asked curiously as she stood and fussed with her hair.

"Correct. Who, may I ask, is your brother?" Xain asked curiously.

"Ian. He's one of your Clan brothers." Crystal said proudly.

"Yes. As I recall, he is mated to Toby. I have not, as of yet, had the opportunity to interact with your brother. But his actions seem consistent with one who is a caring and generous person." Xain said casually.

Clint looked around and found Ian watching them from about twenty feet away.

Jake and Xain watched as Clint motioned for Ian to join them.

The boy seemed hesitant, but finally came over to Clint and shyly stood beside him.

"Guys, this is Ian. Ian, I think you've mentioned that you know who Xain and Jake are." Clint said with amusement at Ian's timid expression.

"It's nice to meet you Ian." Jake said warmly.

"Hi." Ian said timidly, then looked hopefully at Xain.

"It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance." Xain said formally, then extended his hand to shake.

Ian quickly took Xain's hand and shook it as he said, "Thanks, I heard what you said in the meeting and it's really cool that you're here now and have a family where you fit in."

Xain raised an eyebrow at Ian's excitement.

"I concur with your observation." Xain said carefully.

"Crystal, would you like to hold Vina for a few minutes. I mean, so you can get some practice before you have your own?" Jake offered with a gentle smile.

"Clint and I have just started taking some parenting classes so we'll be ready, but yeah, I'd really like to hold her." Crystal said with a grand smile.

Jake carefully transferred Edovina into Crystal's waiting arms.

Clint moved to Crystal's side and looked on with love at the sight of his girlfriend holding the baby.

"Let's all sit down. Maybe you have some baby questions that we could answer." Jake suggested as he gestured to an empty table by the pool.

"Yeah, thanks." Clint said for both of them.

"Ian, when the children are born, will you be assisting in the child care?" Xain asked in a casual voice.

"Yeah. I'm going to be their uncle so I want to help whenever I can." Ian said quickly.

"Then it would be logical if I were to instruct you in the proper method for formula preparation and diapering." Xain said in a neutral voice.

"That would be really cool. Thanks Xain." Ian said with a great smile.

Jake looked on with fond amusement and sent to Xain across their link, 'I get the feeling that Ian looks at you like a hero.'

Xain arched an eyebrow in surprise, then glanced at Ian's look of happiness and admiration.

'If it is to be so, then I will endeavor to be worthy of his trust in me.' Xain returned with an undercurrent of contentment.

* * * * *

"Well Lawrence, we're here. We're going in, whether you stay or go is up to you." Cory said, making no move to get out of the car.

"I'll go, but I don't think it will do any good." Lawrence said quietly.

"I don't know that it will. But we have to do what we believe is right. I think that being there to help your brother is the right thing to do. It's going to be his choice whether or not he accepts your help... or ours." Cory said gravely, then opened his car door.

Before the group could get into the hospital, Teri said, "Give me a minute to talk to the doctor. Let me get the facts before we storm the place."

"Do you have anything yet Sammy?" Cory asked the smaller boy beside him.

"No. Too many people, I haven't found him yet." Sammy said in thought.

"Let's do it my way, this once." Teri said with a smile, then started walking again.

"Okay, Mom. It's your show." Sean said with a smirk.

"That's a first." Teri said with a chuckle as they entered the hospital.

* * * * *

"Hey guys." Justy said timidly with Dean at his side.

"Hey Justy, so are you ready to tell us about your friend here?" Aaron asked curiously.

"Sure. I've known Dean for a couple years now. We used to go to school together and... well, we've always been friends." Justy said uncomfortably.

David noticed Justy's discomfort and said, "Don't worry, Justy. There's nothing wrong with having friends outside the Clan. I'm just glad we're going to get to meet Dean. He must be a great guy to be your friend for so long."

Justy got a smile of relief as he said, "Yeah, he really is. Dean, this is David Gallagher and Aaron Carter."

Dean got a surprised look on his face as he said, "I thought you guys looked familiar but... wow... and you're Justy's clan brothers?"

Aaron smiled at Dean's mellow reaction and said, "That's right. It's a pleasure to meet you."

"Justy, have you got a minute?" An anxious voice called from Justy's side.

Dean looked curiously at the pale thin boy beside Justy and remembered him from the entry hall.

"Sure, Kevin. What's up?" Justy asked seriously.

"Well I just had some questions about that stuff you told me before about being in love and acting like an adult and stuff... I'm sorry, I'm interrupting." Kevin finished shyly.

"That's okay, Kevin. But I really think you need to talk to Dan about that stuff. He knows a lot more about how to be an adult than I do. While you're here, I'd like you to meet my friend Dean." Justy said with a gentle smile.

"From the way you guys were 'chicken necking' in the hall, I think he's more than your friend." Aaron said, then broke into chuckles.

"Kev, Dean. Give me a hand here. Aaron needs a swim." Justy said firmly.

Kevin smiled as Dean's eyes went wide.

When Aaron tried to run, David grabbed hold of him and held him until the others were able to get a firm hold of him.

"Come on, I was only joking..." Aaron pleaded as the boys carried him toward the pool.

"Stop struggling or we'll drop you." Justy said as he fought to keep hold of Aaron's arm.

Looking as if they'd practiced the act for weeks, the group of boys heaved Aaron sideways into the pool.

"We just threw Aaron Carter into the pool." Dean said with shock as he watched Aaron swimming toward the side.

"I bet he won't be the last one today." David said with a chuckle.

"Safe bet." Justy said in return.

"Justy, I really need to talk about this stuff. It's getting all mixed up in my head and I don't want to do something stupid like I did before." Kevin said from Justy's side.

"You see that car coming up the drive?" Justy asked as he pointed.

"Yeah." Kevin said as he turned to look.

"That's John's car. I'm betting that Dan is with him." Justy said, then pulled Kevin into a hug. "Kevin, I'll always listen to you and help you however I can. But this time I really think that Dan is going to be able to help you sort things out better than I can. I don't want to tell you the wrong thing and take the chance of making it worse." Justy said seriously.

Kevin enjoyed the hug for a second, then asked, "Do you think you could tell Dan... you know, what's going on? I think you understand better than me anyway... it's still mixed up a lot."

"Sure thing. Wait here while I talk to him." Justy said with a smile, then hurried away.

David walked to Aaron and gave him a playful hug when he was fully out of the pool.

Kevin was standing and watching Justy talk to Dan beside his car.

"Are you in love with Justy?" Dean asked quietly from Kevin's side.

Kevin looked up into Dean's eyes and saw concern.

Kevin shook his head and giggled, before saying, "No. His father."

Dean's eyes got wide and he involuntarily looked over at Chip.

"Dan said he's got a few minutes now. Come on." Justy said from across the pool area.

"It was nice to meet you, Dean. Don't worry, Justy loves you, I can tell." Kevin said with a smile before hurrying away.

Justy made his way to Dean's side and they watched as Dan and Kevin walked into the house.

"He's in love with your Dad?" Dean asked in disbelief.

"Yeah. If things work out the way he wants them to, someday he'll be your mother-in-law." Justy said with a giggle.

Dean looked at Justy in shock, then broke into laughter.

* * * * *

The boys waited anxiously as Teri talked with the doctor.

"This sucks. We should be in there finding out what's going on." Sean groused.

"We'll let mom do it her way this once. You've got to admit that she's been pretty cool about letting us take charge so often." Cory said reasonably as he discretely rubbed Sean's back.

"I guess." Sean said reluctantly, then added, "It still sucks."

"How you holding up Lawrence?" Deacon asked quietly.

Lawrence looked into Deacon's eyes and said, "I'll be fine. He's my past, you're my future. Nothing he says matters anymore."

"But if he does say something that hurts, remember that I'm here with you." Deacon said softly.

"That's the only reason I was strong enough to come in here and face this." Lawrence said honestly.

"Okay guys. Here's the story." Teri said as she walked out of the office, followed by the doctor.

"Vincent needs to be in observation for a few hours because of his head injury. They're going to put him in a room in a few minutes and the doctors said that he can have visitors. You guys go talk with Vincent while I have a 'heart to heart' with his mother." Teri said, and finished with almost a growl.

"Is there enough evidence to support a claim of abuse?" Cory asked, considering how soon they should try telepathic interrogation after a head injury.

"When the hospital staff finally associated my fax with the boy who had been admitted, Dr. Jenkins made a thorough exam for signs of abuse. Let's just say that the police have already been notified and there is enough evidence that you won't even have to worry about that." Teri said seriously.

"But what if Vince claims that he fell down the stairs?" Lawrence asked cautiously.

"Unless he can prove that the staircase has knuckles, that's not going to work." Dr. Jenkins said firmly.

"He's only nine... this shouldn't happen to him..." Lawrence said regretfully.

"It doesn't matter how old he is, it's never right to abuse a child." Teri said with sympathy in her voice.

Dr. Jenkins looked at Lawrence curiously.

"This is Lawrence Winters, Vincent's half-brother." Teri said as she pulled Lawrence into a gentle hug.

"You're not in any danger are you son?" Dr. Jenkins asked with concern.

"Lawrence is in his biological father's custody now. He isn't in any danger." Teri said quietly.

"Good. Every time I see something like this it turns my stomach." Dr. Jenkins said with irritation.

"I hope you never get used to it." Teri said quietly.

"The day I do, it'll be time for me to find another job." Dr. Jenkins said in agreement.

"Let's see. Vincent should be in his room by now. I'll take you boys to talk with him. Then I'll take Director Short to visit with Mrs. Winters. I believe she would appreciate a few minutes alone with her before the police investigators arrive." Dr. Jenkins said and led the way out of the waiting room.

"If the school nurse brought Vince here at lunch, why is it almost dinner before we're hearing about all this?" Lawrence asked from Deacon's side.

"There was a pretty bad car wreck at about noon today and we had to treat the most seriously injured patients first. If anything would have happened that Vincent needed immediate treatment, he would have gotten it." Dr. Jenkins said with assurance.

"Here we are, you guys can go on in. I'll check back later." Dr. Jenkins said seriously.

* * * * *

"What's up with Kevin? Is he okay?" Kenny asked with concern as he ran to Justy and Dean.

"Yeah, he just needed to talk to Dan. Kenny, this is my friend... boyfriend, Dean." Justy said shyly.

"Cool. Nice to meet you." Kenny said with a smile at Dean, then hurriedly asked, "Is Kevin okay? I'm just worried about him."

"Did he already tell you about what happened today?" Justy asked curiously.

"Not really, I just know that he felt bad about something, then he said that stuff about falling in love in the clan meeting." Kenny said seriously.

"Well that's about all there is. You really need to ask Kevin about that stuff, it's not my story to tell." Justy said with regret.

"But he's going to be okay, right?" Kenny asked firmly.

"Yeah. The worst part is over, now he just needs to talk about stuff with Dan to get it all sorted out." Justy said assuringly.

"Oh, okay. I'm sorry that I interrupted you guys..." Kenny said quickly.

"That's okay Kenny, I understand. You've just found your brother and now you just want to make sure that he's going to be okay. Try not to worry, he's going to be fine." Justy said softly as he put an arm around Dean.

"Yeah. That's it." Kenny said with a timid smile, then said, "I'm glad you've got a boyfriend. You two look really good together."

"Thanks." Justy said happily and squeezed Dean to emphasize the word.

* * * * *

"Brady, do you think I could talk with you for a minute?" Mona asked with a look of determination in her eyes.

"Sure." Brady said cautiously as he got up from his seat beside Allen.

"We'll be right back." Mona said in response to Allen's worried gaze.

"Don't be too hard on him. I just found him." Allen said with a knowing look at Mona.

"He's Starfleet security, I'm sure he can handle it." Mona said with a smile.

Allen nodded, but didn't look as if he were as sure as Mona.

To Be Continued...