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"Would you care to discuss your reasons for concern?" Xain asked quietly as he approached Kenny who was looking out the view port in the Enterprise's forward lounge.
"Um, I don't know. I guess I must've got used to having Kevin around and knowing how he's doing. I know it's stupid for me to worry but I can't help it." Kenny said in thought.
"I understand. The unknown can be quite disconcerting." Xain said carefully.
"Yeah. And on top of that, Kev doesn't seem like himself. He's acting really different." Kenny said slowly.
"I too have noticed uncharacteristic variations in Kevin's patterns of behavior." Xain said in a neutral tone.
"Do you have any idea what's wrong with him?" Kenny asked as he looked Xain in the eyes.
"No. I have no insights into the matter. But be assured that if Kevin is having difficulty that we, his family, will take all necessary steps to see that his emotional needs are met and any problem he is having is corrected." Xain said with certainty.
Kenny thought about the words, then smiled as he said, "Thanks Xain, you're right. No matter what's wrong, we'll all be there to help him."
Xain gave a single nod then joined Kenny in staring out the view port.
* * * * *
Vincent ran into the family room with a wild look in his eyes.
Several conversations stopped as people turned their attention toward the obviously distraught boy.
Jackie and Karen both noticed him immediately and moved as one to comfort the hurting child.
Vincent saw the two women approaching and was about to turn and leave when he felt a stabbing pain in the back of his head.
Karen saw Vincent grab his head and heard him gasp. Quickly she ran to his side to support him in case he passed out.
"Come over here and sit down for a few minutes until it stops hurting." Karen said as she carefully pulled him into a hug.
Vincent was barely able to think as he walked with her to a nearby chair.
Karen lifted the boy into her lap as Jackie stood close by, warning everyone away with a look.
"It hurts." Vincent said in a mumble into Karen's chest.
"Do you need a doctor? Dr. Chapel is right over there." Karen asked with concern.
"No. Doc Austin just said I was gonna be okay." Vincent said softly.
"I'm Karen Chasez, you can call me Grandma Karen if you like." Karen said gently as she rubbed his back.
"Okay." Vincent mumbled.
"Chip told me what happened. It's okay to cry if you want." Karen whispered.
"But... but boys ain't supposed to cry." Vincent said, barely holding back the tears.
"It depends on where you are. If you're sitting on the school bus going to school, then no, you probably shouldn't cry. But when you're sitting on your Grandma Karen's lap it's okay to cry if you want to." Karen said softly.
Karen's permission was all Vincent needed to let loose the floodgates.
"It's okay baby. Just let it all out." Karen said in a soothing voice as she began to rock him in her lap.
* * * * *
"We've landed Dr. McCoy. You can let go of the arm rests now." Lieutenant Masterson said, trying not to laugh.
Dr. McCoy looked down at his white knuckles and said, "I don't know if I can."
Lieutenant Masterson unbuckled his seatbelt and walked to the hatch of the shuttle.
"Do you boys remember where the sickbay is?" Dr. McCoy asked as he approached Jake and Kevin beside Dylan's bed.
"Not really." Jake said hesitantly.
"I remember." Kevin said proudly.
"Good. Kevin, why don't you and Jake go on ahead and meet us there. We'll be there in just a few minutes." Dr. McCoy said with a gentle smile.
"Uh huh. I'll see you in a couple minutes Dylan." Kevin said happily, then hurried toward the front of the shuttle followed by Jake.
"Now that I've got a minute alone with you, I want to be sure that having Kevin and Jake around isn't bothering you." Dr. McCoy said seriously.
Dylan thought about it for a moment, then said, "If you would have asked me half an hour ago, I would have told you that I didn't want them anywhere around me but now... I think they really want me to be okay. And besides, they help keep my mind off... other things."
"Good enough. Here's your ride." Dr. McCoy said as he stood aside.
Lieutenant Masterson led two crewmen with a gurney to Dylan's bedside.
"Gently." Dr. McCoy warned as he watched them shift Dylan off the make-shift bed.
"Let's go get you fixed up." Dr. McCoy said as he fell into step beside Dylan as they left the shuttle.
* * * * *
"I'm so sorry Lawrence. If there was any way I could have prevented this I would have." Teri said with anguish.
"How did it happen?" Deacon asked in a small voice as he held Lawrence close.
"I'm not sure about everything but it looks like Mr. Winters shot his wife, another woman and Detective Blair. Then killed himself trying to ram the gate at the Short Compound." Teri said quietly.
"Your house?" Deacon asked cautiously.
Teri nodded and said, "I think he was trying to get to Vincent."
Lawrence pulled away from Deacon suddenly and asked, "Where is Vince? Is he okay?"
Teri put a hand on Lawrence's shoulder and said, "Your father went after him. He'll be fine... Well, as fine as anyone can be after finding out..."
Lawrence nodded and moved back into Deacon's embrace.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Teri asked helplessly, feeling powerless to do anything that could really help.
"I said such awful things to her..." Lawrence said, then began to cry again.
"Do you remember the last thing that you said to your mom?" Teri asked softly.
After a moment, Lawrence nodded and slowly said, "I told her that I loved her."
Teri gave a weak smile and said, "I'm sure that's the thing she remembers. The last time she saw you she knew that both her sons were safe and that you both loved her. As a mother I can tell you that knowing those two things will help her be at peace with whatever happened."
Lawrence nodded and said, "Thank you Teri. Would you please go check on Vincent? I promise that I'm going to be okay. I've got Deacon to take care of me. Vincent doesn't have anyone..."
"I'll check on him. But if you need to talk about anything, all you have to do is ask." Teri said gently.
"Okay. I will. Thanks." Lawrence said as he held Deacon tightly.
* * * * *
Joe looked down the hallway and didn't see any sign of Vincent. He walked to the nearest door and looked in to see if Vincent had ducked into the family room.
He glanced around the room to find Vincent sitting in a woman's lap being held and another woman standing by them in a protective stance.
Hesitantly, Joe walked back into the hallway as JJ walked past him into the family room with a determined expression.
Joe stopped and thought for a moment about what he could possibly do to help Vincent. He realized that all his reasoning and thoughts about what he should do were meaningless. His heart had already decided what needed to be done.
As he started walking up the hall, he noticed Chip step out of the study with a disturbed look on his face.
"Commander, if you have a moment I'd like to ask your advice." Joe asked hesitantly.
Chip thought about all that was going on and decided that he could spare the time.
As he guided Joe into the study he said, "Of course. What can I do for you Lieutenant Bowers?"
"Director Short just told us that Vincent's parents both died tonight. In your professional opinion, how difficult do you think it would be for me to take some family leave time so I could stay with Vincent... I mean, since he isn't legally part of my family?"
Chip considered the question for a moment before saying, "Lieutenant... Joe, Vincent's parents didn't just die. Vincent's father killed his mother then died trying to ram the gate of the Short Compound."
Joe was stunned by the statement, then thought to ask, "Why was he trying to get in there?"
"I'm assuming that he thought that is where Teri and Vincent were." Chip said quietly.
A shiver of dread crawled up Joe's spine as he asked, "So you think he was trying to get to Vincent?"
"Teri believes that he wanted to kill Vincent." Chip said in a whisper.
"Commander Dodds?" John asked quietly, obviously hesitant to interrupt.
"Yes?" Chip asked as he turned his attention to John.
"Lieutenant Thompson wants to head the security team to investigate the Winters home for any clues behind Mr. Winters' motives for tonight's action." John said professionally.
Chip looked at Brady with question.
"It's all I can think of to do to help." Brady said in a hollow voice.
Chip nodded his understanding to Brady, then said to John, "That's fine. And I'd like a copy of the report of what you find."
"Of course. Thank you. Sorry for interrupting." John said then walked to Brady.
"I'm sorry about that Joe... where were we?" Chip asked curiously.
Joe shook his head to dispel the racing thoughts and said, "I was asking about the possibility of taking family leave time."
Chip nodded in thought.
"Maybe I should consider requesting an emergency transfer to a planet-side posting." Joe said, obviously thinking out loud.
"You'd do that for Vincent?" Chip asked curiously.
"Yeah. I would. My career has been the most important thing in my life for the past ten years but now... I'd give it all up in a heartbeat if it would help Vincent." Joe said quietly.
"Joe, before you take that step, I think there's another possibility you should consider." Chip said as he thought about his conversation with Vincent earlier in the day.
* * * * *
JJ hurried to JC and said, "Uncle Chip told me to tell you that it's okay for everyone to go back outside now. The Security Red has been cancelled."
"Thanks JJ. I think Spock already got the message." JC said as he noticed Spock walking to clusters of people around the room and speaking to them briefly.
JJ nodded and turned toward the large group of Clan members gathered at the far side of the room.
JJ stopped at the feeling of a hand on his shoulder and turned as JC asked, "Can you tell me what's going on?"
"Sure Uncle Josh. I need to tell the guys what's going on too. How about I make you an honorary Clan member just for tonight so you can sit in on the briefing?" JJ asked seriously.
JC smiled at JJ's suggestion and said, "That'd be great. Lead the way."
* * * * *
Teri walked into the family room and was surprised to find Karen Chasez comforting Vincent. She had expected to find him with Joe.
She was about to go over and see if there was anything she could do when she noticed Billy, Allen and Mona talking quietly.
"Mind if I interrupt?" Teri asked, trying to sound cheerful.
"Of course we don't mind. Maybe you can give us some answers about what's going on." Mona said frankly.
Teri nodded and said, "It's a long story but the main facts are Victor Winters killed his wife, and then himself."
"Oh my God... Where's Lawrence?" Billy asked immediately.
"In the living room. He's with Deacon." Teri said softly.
Billy gave Allen a quick, helpless look, then nearly ran for the door with Allen following close behind.
"How are you holding up Teri?" Mona asked with concern.
"I feel like all this is somehow my fault." Teri said in a whisper as she looked up into Mona's eyes.
Mona pulled Teri in to a gentle hug and said, "It's a natural thing for a mother to want to be in control of everything and take responsibility for the world. But it doesn't work that way."
Teri nodded into Mona's chest.
"Teri dear, there's something that you need to remember at times like this." Mona said gently.
Teri pulled back to look at Mona with question.
* * * * *
"It looks like you found the way without any problems." Dr. McCoy said as he walked into sickbay beside Dylan.
"Kev took us straight here, he didn't make a single wrong turn." Jake said with a proud smile at Kevin.
Dr. McCoy watched carefully as the medical assistants moved Dylan to the biobed, then said, "That's quite an accomplishment Kevin. There are a few Starfleet graduates who can't find their way around after being on board for a week."
"Really?" Kevin asked with wonder.
"Yes. I remember one particular instance when a newly commissioned ensign was searching for the mess hall on the wrong deck." Dr. McCoy said with a teasing glance at Lieutenant Masterson.
"You're never going to let me live that down, are you?" Lieutenant Masterson said with embarrassment.
"Now let's have a look at you young man." Dr. McCoy said as he looked over the biobed's readings.
Cory walked into sickbay and said, "I asked the others to wait in the forward lounge. I figured Dr. McCoy wouldn't want everyone under foot."
Dr. McCoy didn't answer, but spared an approving glance at Cory before pressing some buttons on the head of the biobed.
"Kevin. You need to let go of Dylan's hand for a moment so I can get some accurate readings." Dr. McCoy said gently.
"Okay." Kevin said and reluctantly released Dylan's hand.
"What does it say doctor?" Jake asked hesitantly.
"It says that Dylan has had an extremely adventurous life and is very lucky to be alive."
"It really says that?" Kevin asked with wonder.
"If you know how to read it." Dr. McCoy said with a smile.
"Am I going to be okay?" Dylan asked with worry.
"Eventually. Right now there are toxins in your blood stream that are poisoning your entire body. Normally your kidneys would deal with that, but they aren't functioning at the moment and your spleen is damaged so it isn't offering any assistance... I wouldn't brag on your liver function either." Dr. McCoy said as he looked carefully at the readings.
"So what does all that mean?" Jake asked with concern evident in his voice.
Dr. McCoy looked at Jake and gave a gentle smile as he said, "It just means that this is going to take some time. The biobed is already working to detoxify Dylan's system. Once the antibiotic level has decreased some, then his kidneys should slowly return to normal function and speed the process along considerably.
"How long is all that going to take?" Dylan asked hesitantly.
"There's no way to know how your body will react as the toxins decrease. It could be a few days or over a week." Dr. McCoy said in a speculative voice.
"We'll come to visit you all the time. I bet Poppa would let me spend the night here if I told him it was important." Kevin said seriously.
Dylan looked at Kevin and gave a reluctant smile.
"What happens after you get the toxins down?" Cory asked in thought.
"Well, like I said, his kidneys should start back up on their own. As far as the organ damage... I think everything should be able to heal naturally once the toxin level comes down." Dr. McCoy said as he looked at the readings again.
"Doctor, there's something else that might be a problem." Dylan said reluctantly with a pained look on his face.
"I'm aware of your drug addiction. Even if I hadn't seen your blood toxin readings, the tracks on your arms would have let me know. The past few days must have been hell for you." McCoy said sympathetically.
"They should have let me die." Dylan said as he closed his eye.
* * * * *
Chip and Joe walked into the game room to find Karen sitting and rocking Vincent in her lap.
"Vincent? Can I talk to you for a minute?" Joe asked quietly.
Vincent looked at Joe with tear stained eyes and said in a trembling voice, "I'm sorry I said that to Aunt Teri."
Joe gave Vincent an assuring smile as he said, "I'm sure she understands about that. Don't worry about it now."
Vincent nodded, then looked at Joe with question.
"Commander Dodds and I were talking about what happened and thought that, if you wanted to, you could come with me on the Yorktown for a few weeks." Joe said quietly.
"Really?" Vincent asked with excitement, temporarily forgetting his problems.
"Yes. We already talked to Captain Byrne and he gave his approval." Joe said with a smile.
"Did you hear that Grandma Karen? I get to go on a real starship!" Vincent said happily.
"I heard sweetie. That sounds like a wonderful idea." Karen said and flashed a smile of appreciation at Chip and Joe for thinking of it.
"We still need to work out a few details about your custody. But Commander Dodds assures me that as long as you're in favor of it, that's not going to be too much of a problem." Joe said with a smile at Vincent's improved mood.
"Where will we be going?" Vincent asked with anticipation.
"The Yorktown is scheduled to transfer cargo and personnel to Alpha Centauri. It won't be a very exciting run, but for the two weeks we're gone from Earth, you'll be living on a starship." Joe said with a warm smile.
"That's sooooo cool! Grandma Karen! I get to live on a starship!" Vincent said as he turned and hugged Karen tightly.
"I heard." Karen said as she gently returned the hug.
"And we should have plenty of time to discuss 'things' while we're gone." Joe said with a significant look at Karen.
"That sounds like a very good idea." Karen said softly. Her look, more than her words, speaking her approval.
* * * * *
"Dylan. Would you like a nice bowl of chicken soup?" Doctor McCoy asked into the ensuing silence.
Dylan opened his eye and looked at the doctor with surprise at the question.
"By the look of your readings, you haven't eaten for a while. I promise that our chicken soup is much better than what you would get in the hospital." McCoy said seriously.
"Um, yeah. Sure." Dylan said in a confused voice.
"Ensign Short, would you take Jake and Kevin to the mess hall to get Dylan some chicken soup? You can get something for yourselves while you're there if you like." Dr. McCoy said casually.
"I want to stay with Dylan." Kevin said immediately.
"Kevin. I need to look at the wound on Dylan's face. I'm sure he won't want you to see what's under his bandage so I need for you to be away for a few minutes." Dr. McCoy explained patiently.
"Do you want me to go?" Kevin asked Dylan quietly.
"Yeah. I don't want you to see my face all messed up like it is. Besides, chicken soup sounds really good. Could you try to get me some crackers too?" Dylan finished with a smile.
"Sure. We'll be right back." Kevin said as he hurried to Cory's side.
Dr. McCoy watched as the boys left the room, then said, "It looks like you've got a real friend there."
"I guess I do." Dylan said in thought as Dr. McCoy carefully pulled the bandage back from Dylan's face.
Lieutenant Masterson gasped at the sight of the damage.
"That bad, huh?" Dylan asked as he glanced at the Lieutenant.
"I've seen worse." Dr. McCoy said seriously as he washed the wound.
"Thanks for making the guys leave. I haven't seen it yet, but from the way the nurses acted when they changed the bandages, it's really bad." Dylan said, trying not to react to the feeling of the doctor cleaning the raw flesh.
"I won't lie to you. It's bad. But it's not the worst I've ever seen. Do you have much pain in your face?" Dr. McCoy asked seriously as he continued to clean.
"Only when you're touching it like that." Dylan said honestly.
"Nurse Holden, please dress the wound." Dr. McCoy said to a nurse who was standing nearby.
"Before the others get back, I wanted to ask you how you would like to proceed in dealing with your drug addiction." Dr. McCoy said seriously as he looked Dylan in the eye.
"I don't know what to do... I'm craving so bad right now that I'd do anything for a fix." Dylan said with pain in his voice.
"I thought so. I can give you something to help ease your craving for the moment. It isn't any kind of long term solution but it should allow you to get a break from the... need." Dr. McCoy finished with difficulty.
"Yes. Please." Dylan said in a desperate voice.
Dr. McCoy went to a cabinet and returned a moment later with a hypo spray.
Dylan watched with anticipation as Dr. McCoy injected him.
Relief washed through his body as the crawling sensation and the gnawing need started to ease.
Dylan felt a smile creep across his face at finally being able to be comfortable after so long, then he noticed that Dr. McCoy was watching him carefully.
"Thank you Doctor. If there is ever anything I can do to repay you, just name it." Dylan said with gratitude.
"Get into treatment." Dr. McCoy said immediately.
Dylan glanced away as he said, "It doesn't work for someone like me. I've seen it too many times and it never works."
"How do you mean?" Dr. McCoy asked with interest.
"When someone gets arrested for dealing or using, they sometimes get sentenced to treatment. That's all good and nice, but as soon as the treatment is over, they're back on the streets, needing to survive and... when the drugs are the closest thing to happiness you can find in your life..." Dylan drifted off.
Dr. McCoy slowly nodded his understanding.
"It's not hard to put it down for a day. Anyone can do that. But when you're living out there and every day is just a little bit worse than the one before. You've got no hope of things ever getting better... you finally say, 'Why not?' When you've got nothing, you've got nothing to lose." Dylan finished in a begging voice.
Dr. McCoy looked up at a movement and saw Cory, Jake and Kevin standing in the doorway.
* * * * *
"Cory wants to know what's going on." Tommy said immediately as JJ and JC approached.
"Yeah. I'll go ahead and tell you what I know and you can pass on the basics to him. He'll get all the details in my report." JJ said seriously as he came to stand beside Tommy at the terminal.
Before JJ could begin, he noticed everyone looking at JC with question.
"Uncle Josh wanted to know what's going on too, so I said that just for tonight he could be an honorary Clan member and sit in on our discussion." JJ said with a smile at the group.
"Don't worry guys. As soon as I've heard JJ's explanation, I'll be getting back to my guests." JC said seriously.
Some significant looks went around the group and it was silently decided that just this once, it was okay.
"You guys don't mind if Dean is here do you?" Justy asked carefully.
"No problem. Dean will probably join us sooner or later anyway." Sebastian said with a smile at the couple.
Justy returned the smile with relief.
"Okay. Gabe, you went to the hospital to get Vincent, why don't you fill us in on the history, then I'll tell you what just happened." JJ said, now completely in his 'Security' persona.
"Right. Okay, you all know that Aunt Teri got a copy of our report about how Lawrence used to get beat up and degraded by his father." Gabe said as he looked around the group.
"Well, Aunt Teri put out an advisory to all the hospitals and clinics and stuff to be on the look out for Vincent, Lawrence's half-brother. He showed up at Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital today with a head injury and they called her." Gabe said in thought, trying to stick to the most important facts.
"Vincent's dad hit him this morning and ended up knocking him down on a staircase where he hit his head... that's why he's got the bandage." Gabe finished seriously.
"We went to the hospital with Aunt Teri and she pretty much handled everything while we visited with Vincent. It ended up that Vincent's mom went with a police detective to make a statement. A CPS worker got arrested and banned from the hospital and Aunt Teri ended up taking care of Vincent for the weekend." Gabe said, then looked at JJ, indicating that he was done.
JJ nodded, then said, "Mr. Winters, Vincent's father, somehow knew where his wife was going to be and set up an ambush. He shot Vincent's mom, another woman and a police detective. He called Aunt Teri and she heard him get shot, that's when she called the 'Security Red'. After that, he drove here and tried to ram the gate of the Short Compound. He died when the gate held."
"Oh my God." JC said with wide eyes, then glanced over to see his mother holding Vincent tenderly in her lap as they talked with Chip and Joe.
"I'll pass it on to Cory when he checks in." Tommy said seriously.
JC shook his head to dismiss the random thoughts and quickly said, "Thanks for letting me sit in guys. I'll get back to my guests now."
* * * * *
"Lieutenant Thompson, would you please come into the study? We just got past the security on the computer and... I think you need to see this." Ensign Carlson said from the living room doorway of the Winters home.
Brady stopped looking through the mail on the coffee table and walked to join the ensign as he asked, "What did you find?"
"Probably the most disgusting thing I've ever seen." Ensign Carlson said as he led Brady across the hall.
"When you've been in security for a while, you start to build up some calluses. Don't worry, you'll toughen up." Brady said with assurance as Ensign Carlson stopped inside the door and extended his hand to indicate the desktop computer.
Brady walked to the computer and felt the bile rise in his throat at the sight before him.
After taking a breath to calm his stomach, Brady quietly said, "Then again Ensign Carlson, there are some things you should never get used to."
* * * * *
"What's wrong?" David asked with concern as they walked away from the other Clan members.
"Vincent." Aaron said quietly.
David turned to see Vincent sitting in Karen Chasez' lap and talking happily with Chip and Joe.
"What about him?" David asked with concern.
"He's lost both his parents. When it finally hits him... I don't know if he's going to be able to handle it." Aaron said seriously.
"Do you want to try talking to him about it?" David asked cautiously.
"No. Not right now... and not me. But I know someone whose been through basically the same thing." Aaron said distantly.
David gave Aaron a curious look.
"I'm going to call Jake and see if he'll have a talk with Vincent. I don't know when Vincent's going to be ready to deal with it. But when that day finally comes, I'm pretty sure Jake is going to be the one who can help him make sense of things." Aaron said seriously.
"Because he's been through it." David said in a speculative voice.
"Yeah. Let's see if we can get Tommy off the terminal long enough to call Jake." Aaron said with a smile.
"I love you." David said with a scorching look.
Aaron got a look of surprise which slowly turned into a tender smile.
"You're going to be a great father someday." David said with a dreamy look.
At that, Aaron's smile turned back into surprise.
David giggled and said, "I'm not talking about now or even a year from now but... someday. It would be a horrible waste if you didn't put that wonderful, caring heart of yours to use by being a father."
Aaron's expression changed back to tender as he said, "Someday, I promise."
David pulled Aaron into a firm hug, not having any words to adequately express what he was feeling at that moment.
After a long minute of hugging, Aaron finally said, "Let's go call Jake."
* * * * *
"Try to look at this as an opportunity. You have a chance to make a fresh start." Cory said, trying to inject cheer into his voice.
"I only know one way to make money and no one's gonna wanna pay me looking like this." Dylan said gravely.
"Dylan. Listen to me. This may not make sense to you, but please try to understand what I'm saying." Cory said seriously.
Dylan turned his full attention to Cory.
"You're a kid. You shouldn't have to worry about earning money." Cory said firmly.
Dylan had a spark of understanding, then shook his head and said, "I'm an addict. I've got to make money... I've got to..." He choked on a sob, then continued in a whisper, "I've got no choice."
Jake thought about Dylan's words as he moved closer to Dylan's bedside and said, "Dylan. I need to ask you something really serious. It may sound like a joke at first but it's really important."
Dylan looked at Jake with question.
"If you had one wish to make your life better, what would it be?" Jake asked seriously.
Dylan looked at Jake with surprise and was about to tell him what a stupid question that was when he was taken off guard by the absolute seriousness in Jake's eyes.
After a minute of thinking, Dylan hesitantly said, "If I had just one wish... I think I'd like to have a life like what you said."
"What did I say?." Jake asked in thought.
"You said that you have a life without drugs or whoring or fighting... it sounds nice." Dylan said softly.
"I'm sorry to say that one of your goals may be difficult to accomplish." Dr. McCoy said seriously.
Everyone looked at Dr. McCoy with question.
"Your body is physically addicted to some very powerful drugs. Leaving aside the psychological addiction, your physical addiction will require at least a month of treatment to wean you off the drugs completely." Dr. McCoy said seriously.
Dylan's hopeful look fell as he realized the impossibility of his dream.
Jake watched Dylan's expression fall and came to a decision deep within himself.
With a look of resolve, Jake knelt beside the bed and gently urged Kevin to release Dylan's hand.
Once Kevin had let go, Jake took a firm hold of Dylan's hand and closed his eyes as he said in a clear voice, "Saint Mikey, The miracle you gave to me is wonderful and I'm really thankful for it, but Dylan needs it worse than I do. Now that I have a family, I know I'm strong enough to fight the pain and the cravings. You already said that you can hear us when we pray to you so I know your listening. Please give my miracle to Dylan instead."
Kevin moved behind Jake and pulled him into a hug as he joined him in prayer.
Jake clenched his eyes tightly shut and prayed as hard as he could, trying to impress on Mikey just how important this was.
"What the...?" Dr. McCoy said in shock as a golden glow started to radiate from Jake's body, then slowly moved to engulf Dylan's as well.
"What are you doing?" Dylan asked with fear as a cold numbness seemed to wash over him.
"Granting your wish, I hope." Jake said as he continued to hold Dylan's hand firmly.
"Whatever you're doing, keep it up." Dr. McCoy said as he watched the toxicity level in Dylan's blood rapidly decrease.
Dylan felt a warmth rush over his body and a sense of overwhelming peace.
"That's got it." McCoy said as he saw the readings stabilize well within the normal range.
Jake opened his eyes and whispered, "Now you don't have to do drugs anymore. They're all gone."
"Look at your arms." Kevin said with a smile.
Dylan looked down and was shocked to see that not only were the needle tracks gone, but also the slashes and gashes where he had cut himself.
"My turn." Cory said as he moved to stand beside Jake.
Dylan looked at Cory with question.
"I can't let Jake have all the fun. You said you'd like a life without drugs and whoring and fighting. Right?" Cory asked with a gentle smile.
Dylan nodded hesitantly.
"Well, it appears that Jake took care of the drugs, and I think that if you'd like, I could take care of the rest." Cory said carefully.
"How's that?" Dylan asked cautiously.
"I know of a place where everyone gets along and there is no fighting. Food, clothes and everything else you need are provided and all that is expected of you is to attend classes and occasionally help out with some chores." Cory said in a measured tone..
"Is it a group home?" Dylan asked carefully.
Cory shook his head and said, "There's a group of people in each cabin, and we do our best to make it a home but no, it's not a group home in the way you mean."
"I've heard about how you get gang raped in the group homes. I'm not going to anyplace like that. I'd be better off on the streets." Dylan said, looking like he was ready to fight.
"Well, we try to stress sexual responsibility at Camp Little Eagle. But if you're interested, there is one cabin where none of the residents will even approach you about sex." Cory said slowly.
Dylan looked at Cory with question, obviously interested.
"There are a lot of people at Camp Little Eagle and some of them have special needs. The members of Cabin One have been through a lot of different life experiences but they have one thing in common. None of them are interested in getting into a sexual relationship with anyone. If you're interested in living there, no one in the entire camp would even approach you about anything sexual." Cory said seriously.
"For real? You mean that if I lived there no one would even ask?" Dylan asked carefully.
"That's right. It's not like the rest of the camp is one big orgy or anything, but in the other cabins if someone found you attractive they might try to get to know you better and you might eventually end up in a sexual relationship. That won't happen in Cabin One. The whole camp knows that the guys in cabin one aren't interested and don't want to be approached." Cory said frankly.
"Cabin five too." Sean said from just inside the doorway.
"Oh, I didn't see you come in love. Come over here. Sean this is Dylan." Cory said with a smile.
Sean walked over and put a casual arm around Cory.
"What were you saying about Cabin Five?" Dylan asked with interest.
"No one approaches the Cabin Five guys either." Sean said casually.
"That's because they're straight." Cory said with a smile.
"I'm straight." Dylan said frankly.
Everyone in the room except Kevin looked at Dylan with disbelief.
"I just worked the streets to pay for drugs and stuff. When you feel like you have maggots crawling under your skin because you need a fix and a rice queen offers you fifty bucks to do a job... you do what you've got to do. I'm not really into guys at all. They're kind of gross if you think about it." Dylan said frankly.
"Well then... I guess it's up to you. You'd fit in either place." Cory said consideringly.
"The cabin one guys, have they been through stuff like I have, I mean like Jake and me?" Dylan asked as he glanced at Jake.
"Not exactly. I mean, some of them have been sexually abused or exploited... but some of the guys are just there because they like the relaxed atmosphere in Cabin One." Sean said in thought.
Cory smiled and nodded at Sean's statement.
"If I don't like it at this camp... can I leave?" Dylan asked hesitantly.
"Sure. With only a few exceptions, everyone at Camp Little Eagle is there by choice. If you choose to leave, the staff will want to know that you have someplace safe to go, but they won't force you to stay." Cory said seriously.
"And we'll be going to school there so we'll get to see you every day. And maybe you could even come over to our house sometimes and spend the night." Kevin said with delight.
Dylan looked at Cory with question.
"Sure. If you wanted to, that would be fine. We know that you would be safe at Kevin's house." Cory said with a smile.
"Okay. I'll give it a try." Dylan said in thought.
Cory smiled and said, "Good. Then as soon as Dr. McCoy has you all taken care of, we'll take you to Camp Little Eagle."
Dr. McCoy looked up at the sound of his name and said, "I'm not exactly sure what Jake just did, but according to Dylan's readings his blood toxin level is low enough to be considered normal, his kidney's are functioning normally and the damage to his spleen is... gone."
"So how long will Dylan need to stay here?" Kevin asked carefully.
"He'll need another half an hour or so for his kidneys to flush the excess water out of his body. After that he should be stable enough to leave." Dr. McCoy said in a considering voice.
"What about my face?" Dylan asked hesitantly.
"That's another matter entirely. I happen to know that Dr. Michaels attends to the residents at Camp Little Eagle. Once you get settled in, you'll need to go see him so that he can give you your options. The reconstruction of your face is going to take several surgeries to complete and you need an Earth based physician to oversee that process. When the Enterprise leaves, I leave with her. There's no way I could be available when you needed me." Dr. McCoy said seriously.
"Is there any chance that he can fix my face to look like it was before?" Dylan asked hopefully.
"Honestly, I just don't know. Reconstructive and cosmetic surgery isn't my area of expertise. You'll need to talk to an expert to get a definite answer. But I do have some good news." Dr. McCoy finished with a hopeful smile.
"I could use some." Dylan said frankly.
"The damage to your left eye is to the eye socket, not the eye itself. It shouldn't be any problem to reconstruct the socket and return your eye to full functioning. On top of that, the antibiotics that those idiot doctors in Chicago were pumping into you assured that your doctors won't have to deal with any infections before they can begin reconstruction. That will save a lot of time." Dr. McCoy said professionally.
Dylan nodded in acceptance, then quietly said, "I've got to go to the bathroom."
"Right over there. For the next half hour or so you'll be doing that a lot." Dr. McCoy said with a smile.
Dylan nodded, then hurried away.
"How is he really Dr. McCoy?" Cory asked with concern.
"Physically, he's going to be fine. Emotionally... I think you've got your work cut out for you." Dr. McCoy said honestly.
* * * * *
Ensign Carlson walked into the study to hear Brady saying in a frustrated voice, "I understand that, but this investigation was ordered by the head of the Southeast Division of Federation..."
"Excuse me Lieutenant Thompson, but the clearance just came through. If you'll let me know what you need. I'll do whatever I can to help." The male voice on the communicator said politely.
"Thank you. I need two things. First, I need the phone records for the Winters residence for today. If you could just fax them to Commander Martin's office to my attention it would be a big help." Brady said, in a much more relaxed tone.
"I'll have that sent within half an hour. What else can I do for you?" The man asked courteously.
"If there's any way you can do it, I need to know who called the Winters house right before... give me a second." Brady said, then clicked on an icon on the computer.
"...Four Thirty-five pm today." Brady continued.
"It will probably take me a few minutes to convince the phone company to give up that information. Would you like me to call you back?" The man asked in a casual tone.
"Yes. Thank you very much for your help." Brady said with gratitude.
"You're welcome. Brandon out." The man said professionally.
"Thompson out." Brady said, then closed his communicator.
"I'm sorry to interrupt you sir, but we found something I thought you should know about." Lieutenant Carlson said hesitantly.
"Go ahead." Brady said as he turned away from the computer.
"There was a false back in the master bedroom closet. We've found a collection of gay porn and bondage gear in there." Lieutenant Carlson said carefully.
"Anything illegal?" Brady asked curiously.
"Not so far, but it's quite a bit to go through." Lieutenant Carlson said seriously.
"I guess it doesn't matter. After seeing what's on this computer... I'm glad he's dead. I'd be sorely tempted to hunt him down and kill him otherwise." Brady said in a cold voice.
"Sir?" Ensign Carlson asked with surprise.
Brady looked at the Ensign for a moment, then asked, "Ensign... What's your first name?"
"Gary." Ensign Carlson answered slowly.
"Gary. I think I'm going to need your help." Brady said with a tired look in his eyes.
"How so?" Ensign Carlson asked hesitantly.
Brady turned to the computer and clicked on one of the picture files.
The picture that came up was of a teenage boy, naked and just about to step into the shower.
"This is Lawrence. Mr. Winters oldest son. Gary, this isn't like a regular investigation for me. I know these kids." Brady said, then clicked another picture.
The image of a younger boy, naked from the waste down, obviously changing out of his pajamas.
"This is Vincent, the younger son. From the looks of these pictures, there are some hidden video cameras in the bathroom and the boys bedrooms." Brady said with a pained look.
"That's just sick." Ensign Carlson said in a low voice.
"Yes. And it gets worse. There are thousands of pictures and movie files here. It looks like Winters must have been at this for years. As far as I know he never did anything sexual to either of the boys but... Gary, will you help me keep my objectivity? If you see me becoming too focused on something that isn't relevant to the investigation, will you please tell me?" Brady asked quietly.
"Only if you'll do the same for me." Ensign Carlson said with a dark tone in his voice.
Brady looked at him with question.
"I've got two boys about the same age as these. I've read the report about suspected abuse, that alone is enough to make it personal for me. But now this..." Gary said as he shook his head.
"There's more." Brady said in a whisper.
"What else." Gary asked in a hollow voice of dread.
"Winters kept a journal of his... interests." Brady said with a queasy look.
"Does it have anything useful?" Gary asked with hope.
"Yes. This file is huge. Winters tells about when he first became interested in Lawrence... here." Brady said and opened the document.
"It starts out as a collection of fantasies about Lawrence based on these pictures. They're not even really sexual to start with but they still make my skin crawl." Brady said with a disturbed look.
"As you read from week to week through this... thing. You can almost hear Winters slipping deeper and deeper into his obsession with Lawrence. The fantasies get darker and more violent. From what I caught as I skimmed over this, he blames Lawrence for tempting him, for making him turn gay." Brady said in thought.
Ensign Carlson nodded as he quickly read the passage on the screen.
"Now here's where it gets bad." Brady said and hit the page down key until he came to the photo he wanted.
"A dress?" Ensign Carlson said with surprise.
Brady nodded, then reluctantly paged down to the next screen.
"That's disgusting on so many levels I can't even..." Ensign Carlson trailed off with disgust as he looked at the body of a nude woman in a vulgar pose with Lawrence's face pasted in place of her own.
"He has hundreds of these pictures. But here's the really interesting part." Brady said as he quickly paged down.
I finally did it. I threw my wife's faggot son out of my house.
He didn't get me. He's been wanting it. He's been begging for it but I'm too strong for him.
That little whore has been trying to seduce me for years, I didn't give in and now I've won.
Now I can get my life back.
Without that little slut around to tempt me and distract me, I can be a proper husband to my wife again and show my son what it is to be a man.
I'm free. It's finally over. My new life begins today!
"So he was fighting it." Ensign Carlson said in a speculative voice.
"On some level. I don't see any evidence of concern here for the children but, he *was* fighting it. As you read from the beginning of the document... almost two years earlier, you can see how Winters became progressively more abusive as his attraction to Lawrence increased." Brady said slowly.
"So Winters hated Lawrence because he couldn't acknowledge his own sexual desires." Ensign Carlson said in a speculative voice.
"That's what it looks like." Brady said in thought.
"So what happened to cause today?" Gary asked quietly.
"There's a time gap after that entry. The next entry is three days ago." Brady said as he paged down.
God Damn Him! That little faggot whore slut!
My wife's faggot son did something to my Vincent!
Today Vincent gave me that look. The one that Lawrence used to give me. The one that says he wants it. He wants me.
My son! That fucking faggot made my little boy into a sissy-fag!
At supper tonight he was tempting me. The way he put the food in his mouth, the way he moved his mouth when he chewed his food.
Every move he made was just to get me worked up, to turn me on.
Then after supper he kept it up...
Oh God! When he walked into the living room, the way he walked was like a dance. Every move he made was like he was touching me. Stroking me.
"So he transferred his fixation to the younger son, Vincent."
Ensign Carlson said in concentration.
"Yes. And then here is today's entry." Brady said and paged
down a few more times.
I just got a call from someone telling me that Peggy went to the cops.
I've been fighting it and staying strong for so long and now that bitch has the nerve to call the cops on me!
I didn't do it. I didn't give into her slut of a son and I didn't give in to my own little faggot whore and the bitch still called the cops.
Fuck it! If I'm going to be damned, I'm going to be damned for doing it!
I bet she's going to that dyke bitch Sharon's house.
She thinks I don't know about what she does when she says she's going shopping.
Well I've got a little surprise for her.
I just hope that the last sight in her dying eyes is me fucking the shit out of my little faggot whore of a son!
"Call?" Ensign Carlson asked, then remembered what Brady was saying when he walked in.
"As far as I can tell, that's the only loose end. Winters is dead, we've got a detailed confession... with pictures. Everything I've seen and heard here confirms what I've read." Brady said in thought.
Ensign Carlson looked at Brady and quietly said, "Lieutenant Thompson..."
"Brady, you said you know the boys. If they need anything at all, please let me know. We have plenty of room at my house if they need a place to stay. And like I said, my boys are about the same age..." Ensign Carlson drifted off with a tone of concern.
"If there's any way you can help, I promise that I'll let you know. As luck would have it, today Lawrence met his biological father for the first time and they really hit it off. I think Joe will be more help to Lawrence than anything anyone else can do." Brady said quietly.
"What about the younger brother, Vincent?" Ensign Carlson asked with concern.
"Peggy Winters asked a friend to watch out for Vincent so she could go to the Police Department and make her statement. That friend happened to be Director Teri Short of Federation Youth Services. I don't think there's any way that this will turn out to be anything less than devastating for Vincent, but Director Short is the most capable person in the entire Federation to see that he's provided with the best possible future." Brady said seriously.
Gary nodded as he absorbed the statement when his thoughts were interrupted by Brady's communicator.
"Lieutenant Thompson." Brady said quickly.
"I have the information you requested." Lieutenant Brandon said professionally.
"Go ahead." Brady said and devoted his full attention to the communicator.
"The last call came from the Orlando Police Department." Lieutenant Brandon said frankly.
Brady looked at Ensign Carlson with surprise.
"I took the liberty of talking to the Police Department and found that the phone used was for prisoners to make their 'one phone call'. Also the calls are recorded for security purposes. And before you ask, I've already requested a copy of that recording." Lieutenant Brandon said and a note of accomplishment could be heard in his voice.
"Were you able to find out who called?" Brady asked firmly.
"Yes. According to their call log and the time you gave me, the caller was a Ms. Carolyn Rind."