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David pulled a chair to the bedside and said, "I'm David Gallagher and I'm in charge of seeing that those boys get a good home."
"Are you from Child Protective Services?" Allen asked with concern.
"No, but I'll explain about that later. You know Kenny better than I do, I need your advice." David said seriously.
"I'll do anything I can to help." Allen said in concern.
"The boy's mother abandoned them when Kenny arrived. She left a note at her job and said that she was leaving... The boys don't know yet." David started.
"Oh God. Kenny never could understand why she didn't call him or send him Christmas cards. They've lost both their parents now." Allen said with a devastated expression.
"You see my problem. The boys have no relatives that want them and at their age, Child Services will probably try to find someplace to hide them till they're old enough for prison." David said frankly.
Allen looked at David in shock.
"The boys were targeted by a pimp in Chicago. If we hadn't gotten to them when we did they'd either be dead or wishing they were right now." David said firmly. "Now I have these boys who have no one in the world who cares for them..."
"I care!" Allen said desperately with tears in his eyes.
"Do you want them?" David asked quietly.
"Yes! God yes. I just can't think of any way to get CPS to allow it." Allen said desperately.
"Let's say for the sake of argument that I can arrange that. Are you able to financially support two growing boys?" David asked hopefully.
"Yeah, money's no problem. Carl and I saved quite a bit over the past three years and I've got a good job." Allen said with hope in his voice.
"Is there someone to be there with the boys while you're working?" David asked curiously.
"I could hire someone, a live in housekeeper and baby-sitter." Allen said quickly.
"Just a suggestion, you don't EVER want to use the word babysitter around eleven year old boys." David said in prelude, then asked, "Do you know anyone that you could hire?"
"No. I'd probably have to go to an agency for something like that." Allen said in thought.
"I may know someone..." David said with a smile.
"I'm open to any suggestions." Allen said as he sat up in his bed.
"I spoke with Kevin's neighbor, a Mrs. Vasquez, and we discussed Kevin's situation. She was genuinely worried for him and was reluctant to believe what I told her at first. After I assured her that Kevin was going to be alright, we got on the subject of the neighborhood where Kevin lived. The drug dealer who's been, basically protecting the residents of the block is dead. Fortunately, the pimp who was out to get Kevin is also dead. The bad news is that every dealer and pimp in the area is going to try and claim that area as their own. The police advised Mrs. Vasquez that she should consider moving her family out of there. I believe it would be an ideal situation if you could employ her as your housekeeper. Kevin already knows her and she obviously cares for him. I'll see to it that she and her family are moved to Orlando regardless of your decision, but it seems the perfect solution to both your problems." David said in thought.
"I see what you mean. I hope you don't mind, but I'm reluctant to hire someone sight unseen. I'll keep an open mind on the subject and once I've had a chance to talk to her in person, I'll make a definite decision." Allen said seriously.
"That sounds good. I'm glad to know that you're being cautious." David said with a nod of approval.
"Why is Kevin so small? Is he sick?" Allen asked with concern.
"What I'm about to tell you came from a telepathic scan that was done without his knowledge or consent." David said in prelude, then continued, "I don't think that boy knows what a full stomach feels like. During the school year, he would eat his free school lunch and that would be the only food he'd have all day. When school was out for weekends or holidays, he'd sometimes go days without eating. Occasionally his mother would bring home peanut butter and bread or a can of soup and crackers. During the summer months it was worse. More times than not, he'd have to find the food for himself. He's dug through garbage trying to find edible food. He's stolen food from convenience stores and he's carried drugs for drug dealers to earn enough money to buy the necessities to keep him alive." David said darkly.
"It's a miracle that he's still alive." Allen said in wonder.
"I have to agree. And from the small amount of time I've spent with him, he seems to have come through it with his innocence and his joy for life intact." David said with a look of admiration.
"So do you think it's really possible that I could get custody of the boys?" Allen asked with hope.
"There's a chance. I have to consider what's in the best interest of the boys. I know Kenny loves you, and I believe that you love Kenny, but sometimes love isn't enough." David said with regret.
"Is there anything I can do to help my chances?" Allen asked hopefully.
"You could go with us to Southcrest to help sort out what's going to happen to the boys. I'm going to ask for advice from a few people with more experience at these kinds of things than I have." David said humbly.
"I believe that's one of the traits of a wise man." Allen said gently.
David smiled and pulled out his cell phone.
* * * * *
"David told me to do it." Kevin said firmly.
"You've got two ice creams and there's two of us. I should carry one." Kenny said reasonably.
"Okay, but if David is mad, you have to tell him it was because you made me." Kevin said and handed one of the cups of ice cream to Kenny.
Kenny and Kevin walked into the room to find David and Allen smiling.
A moment later Dr. Reynolds walked in behind them and stood inside the door.
"We brought your ice cream." Kevin said proudly and presented the ice cream to Allen.
"Thank you Kevin." Allen said with a smile.
"And thank you Kenny." David said as he received his own ice cream.
"Doctor Reynolds, when will I be able to leave here?" Allen asked hopefully.
"I see no reason that you can't leave right now." Doctor Reynolds said with a smile.
Kenny got a downcast look as he asked, "Where am I going to go?"
"You're going back to Southcrest with me." David said quietly.
Kenny hung his head and nodded in acknowledgment.
"And me." Allen said with a smile.
"What?" Kenny asked as his head snapped back up.
"I'm going to Southcrest with you two so we can sort out what's going to happen to you." Allen said gently.
"Is there some way that maybe we can live with you?" Kenny asked hopefully.
"It's too early to be able to promise you anything like that, cute stuff, but I'm going along so if there's any possible way, I'll be there to volunteer." Allen said with assurance.
"Then let's get you signed out." The Doctor said with a smile.
* * * * *
David glanced in his rear-view mirror and saw Allen sitting in the middle of the back seat with a twin on each side, both cheerfully chattering away.
"Are you sure giving them ice cream was such a good idea?" Allen said with a teasing smile as the two boys rattled on about meeting Aaron Carter and JC from N*Sync.
"I just wanted to be sure they'd be in a good mood when we got them back to the Ranch." David said with a smile.
"I don't see that being a problem." Allen said and shifted his arms so he could pull both boys into a full hug.
"I really missed you Pop." Kenny said into Allen's chest.
"I missed you too cute stuff." Allen said and kissed Kenny on the top of the head.
"And I've heard about you for years little one, and I'm glad that I'm finally getting to meet you." Allen said and kissed Kevin on the top of the head.
"I'm not that little." Kevin said in a small voice.
"And I'm not that cute." Kenny said with a smile.
Kevin laughed and snuggled tighter into Allen's side.
* * * * *
Kevin, Kenny, Allen and David walked into the study to find the whole crew waiting for them.
"Did you call Cory?" David asked JJ as he took a seat.
"Yeah, he should be here any minute." JJ said happily.
"Everyone, this is Allen Thompson, he's Kevin and Kenny's Pop." David said in introduction.
"Shouldn't you explain that?" Allen asked cautiously.
"I will if I need to, I think I hear Cory." David said and looked to the door.
Cory walked in with a troop of young kids surrounding him and older kids following.
A young blond boy broke from the group and ran across the room to jump on JJ at full speed.
"I missed you, Pop." Harley said as he hugged JJ closely.
"I missed you too, son." JJ said with love.
Adam walked over to sit beside JJ and pulled both JJ and Harley into a lose hug. Sean and Cory took their seats and were immediately covered by their sons.
David decided it was a good idea to make the rest of the introductions.
"Kenny, Kevin, Jake and Allen. I know you've already met some of these guys, but I'll go ahead and introduce everyone just in case. Beside you is Aaron Carter, my boyfriend. On the next couch we have Teri Short, Director of Federation Youth Services and the mother of many of the others you'll meet. On the floor in front of her is Jacob, and Jamie Dodds, intelligence for Clan Short and their boyfriend Beau Wagner. Up on the couch again we have Sean Short, Clan Short historian and Cory Short, the Patriarch of Clan Short. In their laps are their sons CD, Calen, and Timmy Short. On the next couch we have JJ Richardson and Adam Short of Starfleet and Clan Short Security and their son Harley Short-Richardson. Beside them we have Josh Chasez-Dodds, the father of Jacob and Jamie as well as Justy Dodds who is Clan Short's liaison with Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan and last but not least, Mark Owens and Zac Hanson of Clan Short." David said, then took in a dramatic inhale of air.
"I guess you don't need to explain about me being their Pop." Allen said with wide eyes.
"No, it's not a problem around here." Sean said with a smile.
"Now, if no one objects, I'd like to get the situation with Kenny and Kevin sorted out. JJ did you make that call I asked you to?" David asked carefully.
"They're here aren't they?" JJ asked with a grin.
"No, the other call, doofus." David said in an aggravated tone.
"Yeah, it's a done deal." JJ said with a smile.
"Director Short. We were called to help two boys who were in a dangerous situation. Their custodial parent was not on the premises and had in fact quit her job and abandoned them. Jamie and Jacob can fill you in on the conditions, but suffice it to say that there were more than enough grounds for child endangerment, criminal neglect, and abandonment. For those reasons Kenny and Kevin were taken into the custody of Clan Short." David said, trying to maintain his formal demeanor.
"The boy's father passed away recently and the mother is unfit. The only logical course of action is to place them in an environment that is supportive and nurturing. I've asked you all here today to help me decide where that is." David said to the group.
"Why don't they live with their Pop?" Harley asked loudly enough for all to hear.
"It does make sense." JJ said seriously.
"David, I'm guessing that you approve of Mr. Thompson, otherwise he wouldn't be here." Teri said plainly.
"Yeah, why'd you call us all here if you've already got it figured out?" Cory asked playfully.
"Okay, okay. You guys never let me have any fun. Allen, do you want Kenny and Kevin as your sons?" David asked in the tone of a minister at a wedding ceremony.
"Yes." Allen said reverently.
"Kenny, do you want Allen to be your father?" David asked as he looked in Kenny's eyes.
"Ask Kevin first. I want to, but if he says no then so do I." Kenny said firmly.
"Okay, Kevin, do you want Allen to be your father?" David asked seriously.
Kevin walked to stand before Allen and asked, "Would you still want to be my Pop if I was dumb and couldn't read or write and I used to do bad stuff because I had to?"
Allen knelt before Kevin and said, "No matter how smart you are or what you can or can't do and no matter what you did before, I still want you to be my son."
Kevin gave a luminous smile and turned to David and said, "Yes, I want him to be my Poppa."
David smiled and looked at Kenny.
"Yes." Kenny said happily, then joined his brother.
"Teri, do you want to make it official?" David asked and stood aside.
"Consider it done. I'll get in touch with Judge Robison and let you know when we can do the name changes, but as of now, you are officially a family." Teri said happily.
"What about Jake?" Kevin asked as he pulled out of the hug.
"What about him?" David asked carefully.
"Don't you have a Poppa for him too?" Kevin asked in worry.
"It's not that easy in Jake's case. We have other things to consider." David said seriously.
"Poppa, can you please be Jake's poppa too?" Kevin asked as he looked into Allen's eyes with a pleading expression.
David knelt down to look in Kevin's eyes and said, "Kevin. Jake has some problems that he needs to deal with. I promise that we'll try to find him..."
"I'll do it." Allen said firmly.
"What?" David asked in confusion.
"My son obviously loves Jake enough to want him as a brother. If Jake has problems, then he needs a family to help him work them out." Allen said reasonably then turned to face Jake who was sitting with a stunned look on his face.
"Jake? What do you say? Would you like to be my son?" Allen asked hopefully.
"Really? I mean, what if I mess up?" Jake stammered.
"If you mess up, I'll help you fix it, whatever it is. All these people heard me say it. I want you to be my son and no matter what happens, I won't give up on you or leave you." Allen said as a vow.
"Yes." Jake said in a whisper as he got up off the couch.
"Come here son." Allen said as he pulled Jake into a hug and held him close.
A golden glow surrounded Allen and Jake as they hugged and Jake began to shake.
"It's okay. I've got you son." Allen said soothingly.
"What's happening to me?" Jake asked in a trembling voice.
"Unca Mikey!" Timmy shouted happily.
Mikey became fully visible and picked up Timmy. Within a minute he also had Calen, CD and Harley surrounding him wanting to be held.
"What did you do to me?" Jake asked shakily from Allen's arms.
"I removed all traces of drugs and disease from your body. I can't fix the problems that caused you to use drugs in the first place, but what kind of saint would I be if I couldn't do a miracle now and then?" Mikey asked with a smile as he alternated between picking up one then another of the giggling boys and hugging them.
"You mean it? It's for real?" Jake asked and looked at his arms to see them smooth and unblemished.
"Yeah. Really for real. This doesn't solve all your problems Jake. You're still yourself and you've got all of your experiences and insecurities to deal with. Allen, I'm recommending therapy and lots of it. You included. You all need some one on one time with a professional and some group time to learn healthy ways to interact. Let's face it guys, some of you have had some seriously bad examples." Mikey said, then turned quickly when he felt a tug on his wing.
"Hey little guy, that's attached." Mikey said to Kevin.
"Are you really an angel?" Kevin asked with an awed expression.
"I sure am. You look like you've got a question. Go ahead." Mikey said as he turned his full attention toward Kevin.
"Is Janice in heaven?" Kevin asked slowly.
"Yes Kevin. She's in heaven and she isn't in any more pain. She's happy, I promise." Mikey said with assurance.
Kevin gave a watery smile and whispered, "Thank you Mikey. Thank you for helping Jake and thank you for letting me know Janice is okay."
"Anytime my friend. Do you know what?" Mikey asked as he sat down Harley and pulled Kevin close to his side.
"What?" Kevin asked curiously.
"If you pray to me, I can hear you. You'll never, ever be alone again. What do you think of that?" Mikey asked with a smile.
"I think your the best angel ever." Kevin said as he hugged Mikey as hard as he was able.
"Don't let the other angels hear you say that, they'll start picking on me." Mikey said with a smile.
"Okay, I'll only say it to you." Kevin said joyfully.
"Mom, do you want to do the honors and make Jake official?" Mikey asked as he enjoyed children hugging him from every direction.
"Well, after a miracle, anything I can do is pretty much a let down, but here it goes. Jake, you are now officially Allen's son. Come with him when he visits Judge Robison and he'll change your name too." Teri said happily.
"Thanks." Jake whispered from his Pop's arms.
"I assume all the official paperwork will be on my desk tomorrow with legal names, birth dates and the like?" Teri asked David sternly.
"Yes ma'am." David said with a smile.
"Everyone. It just so happens that I've been working on a home made lasagna all day and I'd be happy if all of you would join us for dinner." JC said to the group.
Kevin, Kenny, Jake and Allen gathered together again and shared a family group hug.
* * * * *
"Are you okay?" Kenny asked Kevin as they sat at the huge dining room table.
"Yeah. Josh said I don't have to eat if I don't want to." Kevin mumbled as he leaned close to Kenny's ear.
"If anyone gives you any trouble about it, I'll take care of 'em." Kenny said with assurance.
"Thanks Ken." Kevin said in a whisper as JC brought a large pan of lasagna into the room.
* * * * *
"How is it that you were making a meal big enough to feed all of us?" Teri asked as Justy brought a basket of garlic bread to the table.
"I was making enough to freeze some for when I'm on tour. The guys shouldn't have to do without just because I'm on the road." JC said as he cut the lasagna into sections.
"No!" Sean said firmly.
"Just a little?" Cory asked in a whine.
"If you eat one piece of that garlic bread, you're not coming home with us." Sean said playfully.
"Daddy. You don't love the garlic bread more than us do you?" CD asked with puppy dog eyes.
Cory looked at CD and stopped trying to fight the basket away from Sean.
"No baby, I love you boys more than anything." Cory said quietly.
"Told'ja." Timmy said, not quite as quietly as he thought.
* * * * *
"Allen?" Jake asked hesitantly from beside Allen at the table.
"You can call me Dad or Pop if you want, Jake." Allen said seriously.
"Okay, Dad. I was just wondering where we're going to live?" Jake asked cautiously.
"To tell you the truth, I've been wondering about that too, son." Allen said with a slight look of worry.
"What's wrong?" Teri asked from across the table.
"Our house is a two bedroom. It's small but was just fine for the three of us. Now we'll need a four bedroom, so I guess we'll have to go house hunting." Allen said in thought.
"Hold up on that. Let me check around the family first. Maybe someone knows of something for you." Teri said in a considering voice.
JC spoke up, "And you can stay here tonight, we have plenty of room. Tomorrow we'll make a few calls, buy some clothes and see about physicals for the boys."
"I couldn't ask you to..." Allen began to say.
"You'd better just go with it Allen. When Uncle JC gets that look, there's no stopping him." Cory said with a smile.
"Unless you're Uncle Chip." Sean said teasingly.
As if on cue, a man in a Starfleet uniform walked into the room. "Is someone having a party without me?" Chip asked in surprise.
"Daddy!" Justy said with excitement as he ran to hug his father.
Jacob and Jamie were out of their seats next and clustered into a tight family hug.
"Go over and hug him too. I want to see the look on his face." JC said in a whisper to Kenny and Kevin.
The boys looked at each other for an instant, then ran to gather into the hug.
"You too, Jake. I want to see his reaction." JC said with a smile.
* * * * *
Chip was enjoying the hug, then noticed that something was different.
He could identify the top of Justy's head easily. Even though he couldn't tell them apart from this angle, he could identify Jacob and Jamie, but no matter how he did the math, the head count kept coming up three over.
All six boys were hugging him tightly, so he looked over at JC to find him looking back innocently.
"What did you do?" Chip asked accusingly.
"What makes you think *I* did anything?" JC asked with an angelic expression that Mikey would envy.
"Because whenever you look *that* innocent, you're definitely guilty of something." Chip said playfully.
JC laughed, then said, "Chip, I'd like to introduce you to some new friends. This is Allen, and mixed in with our boys is Jake, Kenny and Kevin. I've invited them to stay with us a few days until they find a big enough house for their new family."
"You had me worried. If you start doubling our offspring every time I'm off planet, we'll overrun Florida inside a year." Chip said with a grin.
"Just visiting, I promise." Allen said with a smile.
"And what's your name, young man?" Chip asked Jake, who had pulled out of the hug.
"I'm Jake sir." Jake said in a shaky voice.
"I'm off duty now. You can call me Chip, or Uncle Chip if that makes you more comfortable." Chip said warmly.
"Nice to meet you Uncle Chip." Jake said with a hesitant smile.
"Would you introduce me to your brothers?" Chip asked kindly.
Jake put a hand on Kenny's shoulder to draw his attention.
"This is my brother Kenny Waite." Jake said proudly.
"Nice to meet you Kenny." Chip said with an inviting smile.
"Nice to meet you, Uncle Chip. This is my twin brother Kevin." Kenny said and pulled his brother to his side.
"Twin?" Chip asked in concern.
"Yeah, he's been living with his Mom and they didn't have a lot of food and stuff." Kenny said, trying to say it without making Kevin feel bad.
Chip knelt down to look into Kevin's eyes and asked, "How old are you, Kevin?"
"I'm almost twelve." Kevin said as he looked deeply into Chip's blue eyes.
Chip couldn't help himself as he looked at the skinny, frail boy. He pulled him into a hug and said, "I bet you've got quite a story to tell."
"You'd win that bet." Kevin said seriously.
"Are you hungry, Love? We were just serving the food." JC asked from Chip's side.
"Yeah." Chip said with distraction as he pulled out of the hug and looked at Kevin, then Kenny.
"Come and sit down. Homemade lasagna tonight." JC said with a smile.
"Your home cooking is one of the reasons I'm home two days early." Chip said as he stood and pulled JC into a hug.
"What's the other reason?" JC asked playfully.
"You'll find out later, Angel," Chip said with an obvious leer.