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"Blue bedroom slippers." Kenny said in concentration.
Kyle shook his head and said, "Not even close. Concentrate and try again."
"What about burnt toast?" Kenny asked hesitantly.
Kyle shook his head again.
"Do you think that when Kevin and I are together that I'll be able to do it?" Kenny asked hopefully.
"Yeah, I really do. But until you've been able to develop your twin link, I think you're going to be about as telepathic as a rock." Kyle said frankly.
"Well, I can read a rock's mind without any problem. People are harder." Kenny said honestly.
"Oh yeah. I forgot about that. Why don't you try reading my mind again, but this time try doing it while you're touching me." Kyle said in thought.
"Okay." Kenny said hesitantly and reached out to touch Kyle's cheek.
"I'm ready, go ahead." Kyle said as he concentrated on the image he wanted Kenny to see.
"Too much... it's too much." Kenny said in a pained voice and pulled his hand away.
"Are you alright?" Kyle asked with concern.
"Yeah, but... I'm sorry. I saw stuff I shouldn't have." Kenny said as he tried to make sense of the images in his mind.
"Like what?" Kyle asked hesitantly.
Kenny shook his head as he said, "Doesn't matter. I couldn't see what you were thinking anyway, I could only see stuff from a long time ago. I don't think I can do telepathy that way."
"You're really good at avoiding a question. What did you see?" Kyle asked with a firm note in his voice.
Kenny looked him in the eyes and said, "Stuff that you don't want to be reminded of. I'm not going to tell you, so you can just stop asking. The only way you're going to find out is to go in my head and get it without my permission."
Kyle looked at Kenny with aggravation for a moment, then asked in a quiet voice, "Was it something really bad?"
"Okay. I'll let it go. But did you know that you have a stubborn streak just like Kevin's?" Kyle finished with a smile.
"We get it from our Dad." Kenny said with pride.
* * * * *
After Teri filled the group in on everything that happened at the hospital, John gave a very brief summary of what Brady had told him from the Winters' home.
"So I guess as soon as you get the recording of what Ms. Rind said to Mr. Winters, you'll know what you can do about pressing charges." Cory said in thought from the terminal screen.
"That about sums it up." John said in thought.
"I want to talk to Lieutenant Thompson. If he's read Mr. Winters' journal, maybe he can explain why all this happened." Joe said decisively.
"Lieutenant Bowers, I'm afraid that he won't be able to discuss the details of an ongoing security investigation." John said seriously.
"Then do you want me to send Vincent and Lawrence to you when they get to the point when they're trying to make sense of all this?" Joe asked with a pained look in his eyes.
"In my personal experience, there isn't often a clear-cut answer to why things like this happen. To this day I still don't have an answer for why my husband died... or Cory's parents or... Mike... Mikey." Teri choked on a sob.
Joe looked at Teri with sympathy. He didn't know anything about her own losses, but didn't need to know. He could see in her expression that reliving those memories was tearing her apart.
"I never could find those answers for my boys. If you can find any answers for your boys, you'll have my complete support." Teri said in nearly a whisper.
"I would have given anything to have been able to answer Justy's questions after Ben died. It was just pointless... How can you explain to a child that their parent died for no reason?" Chip said with anguish.
A moment of silence fell over the room until it was broken by John quietly saying, "I've seen how badly JJ and Kyle wanted to know why Sharon died. It nearly killed Dan and I when we had to admit that we didn't know. I'm not sure how much the information will help, but I'll authorize Lieutenant Thompson to tell you what you want to know. If it will help the boys make some kind of sense of all of this, it will be worth it."
"Thank you Commander Martin." Joe said sincerely, not sure that he really wanted the answers, just knowing that at some point the boys would want to know 'why'.
"If we're about done with this, I need to talk to you about something else." Cory said from the terminal screen.
"Yes. I think we're done." Chip said as he looked around the study.
"Can you fill me in about Vincent? I saw what you did out there, I just don't know exactly why." Cory said frankly.
Joe smiled at Cory and said, "Because Vincent's biggest wish is to be able to live on a starship. More than anything he wants to be in Starfleet."
"And to have a father who loves him." Teri added with a pained smile at Joe.
"He's got one." Joe said seriously.
"I talked with Vincent briefly before all this happened with his parents. The boy has the right mindset." Chip said in thought.
"I talked to him about some of the realities about living on a starship. I think he understands as well as anyone can who hasn't actually lived on a starship before." Joe said carefully.
"By making him a Vulcan citizen, he can be treated as an adult as long as he behaves in a reasonable manner. So I need to talk to Admiral Morrow about approving Vincent's training and assigning Lieutenant Bowers as his mentor... right?" Cory asked in thought.
"That's the plan." Teri said with a smile of pride for her son.
"It might be easier if Lieutenant Bowers transferred to the Enterprise. That way Vincent would have a support group to help him adjust to his life on a starship." Chip said in thought.
A moment of silence fell over the room before Lieutenant Bowers said, "It's hard to say if he needs that kind of help or not. I think I'll have a better sense of what needs to be done after our trip to Alpha Centauri."
Chip nodded and said, "That's probably best. Give him a little time to adjust and see how he's going to handle the responsibility. If it looks like he can't handle it, then you can consider the transfer or... other options."
"I'll be sure to explain that to him before we leave." Joe said carefully.
"I didn't get to spend much time with him, and I guess I didn't get to see him at his best. If you think this will work, I'll do my best to set it up." Cory said from the terminal screen.
"We're giving him a chance to live his dream. What he does with that chance will be up to him." Teri said in an uncertain tone.
Chip nodded his agreement at the statement.
* * * * *
"Is Dylan well enough to have visitors now? I'd really like to introduce the rest of the guys to him." Jake asked Doctor McCoy hopefully.
"Let's find out. Will you get on the bed for me Dylan?" Dr. McCoy asked with a casual smile.
Dylan looked at him cautiously as he climbed up on the bed.
As Dr. McCoy looked at the readings he asked, "What do you say Dylan? Would you like to meet Jake and Kevin's friends?"
"I don't know. I mean, look at me..." Dylan trailed off as he felt the bandage on his face.
"The guys all saw you when we were getting on the shuttle. They'll just be glad to see that you're looking better." Jake said seriously.
"Yeah, and I want you to meet my twin brother." Kevin said as he took his spot at Dylan's bedside.
Dylan looked at the anticipation in Kevin's eyes and gave a gentle smile before nodding his acceptance.
"Well, from the look of these readings, I'd say that Dylan is recovering nicely. He's going to be sore and tired for a while. You can have visitors on the provision that you tell me if you start feeling tired." Dr. McCoy said seriously.
"I will Doctor, I promise." Dylan said as a vow.
Jake concentrated for a moment, then said, "They're on their way."
Dylan looked at Jake with question.
"Oh, I guess I didn't tell you about that. Um, my boyfriend and I have a telepathic bond and I can send him messages." Jake said shyly.
"Boyfriend?" Dylan asked in confirmation.
"Yeah. His name is Xain. He's great. I know you're going to like him." Jake said happily.
"Xain." Dylan said slowly.
"Yeah, and he's a Vulcan. He's really cool." Kevin said happily.
Dylan turned his attention to Kevin and couldn't help but smile at the boy's enthusiasm.
"Just try not to feel bad if he doesn't act the way you expect him to. Vulcan's don't show their feelings the same as Humans." Jake said seriously.
Dylan rolled his eye and said, "I'm not stupid. I know about Vulcans. Emotional control, logic, touch telepathy, green blood..."
"Xain has green blood?" Kevin asked with surprise as he looked at Jake.
"Don't ask me. I've never seen him bleed." Jake said honestly.
Dylan chuckled at the sight, drawing both Jake and Kevin's attention.
"You two really are brothers, aren't you." Dylan asked with a smile.
Kevin and Jake looked at each other, then at Dylan and nodded simultaneously.
Dylan shook his head wistfully and said, "I really hope I can get a life like yours. All I've wanted for years is a real home where I can belong."
"We'll do whatever we can to get that for you." Jake said seriously.
"Yeah. Thanks Jake. It's still hard for me to believe that you're helping me like this... I mean, I was always so mean to you... Why are you helping me?" Dylan asked as his look turned serious.
Jake considered the question carefully before answering, "It's a long story, but what it boils down to is that a guy named David helped me... us. Me and Kevin and his twin brother Kenny. I didn't do anything to deserve help. At first I even said 'no', I didn't want his help. But David is a member of Clan Short and they've made it their job to help people who need it. David and the guys ended up rescuing us from Spade's guys and helped us get a family and a really good life. Even if I didn't become a member of the Clan, I'd still want this for you. I don't know how many chances you get to be happy in your life, but I'm here to tell you, this is real. Grab it. Hold on to it. This is your chance to get 'happily ever after'."
"Getting a little intense there aren't you Jake?" Kyle asked in a playful voice as he walked into the room, leading the group from the lounge.
Jake smiled and said, "Yeah. But I just wanted to let Dylan know how important this is."
"Dylan. This is Kyle, Xain, Doctor Dan, Matt and my twin brother Kenny." Kevin announced happily.
Dylan looked at the group and his inquisitive gaze fixed on the Vulcan boy.
Jake moved to Xain's side and said in a clear voice, "This is Xain. My T'hy'la."
"Your what?" Dylan asked hesitantly.
Before anyone else could answer, Kevin quickly said, "It means a lot of different things. It's like being more than boyfriends or brothers or something like that. It's like being best best friends."
Jake smiled at Kevin's explanation and nodded his agreement.
"What's wrong?" Kevin asked at Kenny's confused expression.
"I don't know." Kenny said slowly, then continued, "When I walked in and saw you, I didn't know who you were... are you really Kevin?"
Kevin looked down at himself, then back at Kenny before cautiously saying, "Yeah."
Kenny looked at Kevin carefully as he thought about what he was seeing.
Everyone watched in silence as Kenny walked to his brother and slowly brought up his hand to touch Kevin's face.
Kevin took a step back and asked, "What are you doing?"
"I want to touch you. I want to know who or what you are." Kenny said slowly.
"Okay, you're being weird now." Kevin said frankly.
"Maybe I am. But if you're really Kevin, this will prove it to me." Kenny said seriously.
Kevin rolled his eyes and tilted his head to one side with an expression of exasperation.
Kenny placed his hand on the side of Kevin's face and closed his eyes to focus on the images he was about to see.
* * * * *
A long minute of silence fell over the room, then was broken by an inelegant sniff from Lawrence.
Deacon, Allen, Billy and finally even Lawrence all broke up in laughter.
Allen guided Deacon to his side and walked him over to Billy and Lawrence.
"Thank you." Lawrence said shyly.
"You're our brother. Your pain is our pain." Billy said as he looked Lawrence in the eyes.
Lawrence gave a weak smile and said, "I'm realizing that. I mean, it hurts, but... I know I'm going to be okay. And it's because I know you're there for me. You're my family now."
Deacon broke away from Allen and pulled Lawrence into a new hug.
Billy stepped away from the pair and walked to Allen's side as he said, "My parents have no idea what they're missing. There's no amount of money more important than being there for the people you love when they need you."
Allen nodded his agreement and pulled Billy into a hug of comfort, sensing that he needed it as much as Deacon and Lawrence.
* * * * *
Doctor McCoy put a hand on Dylan's arm to gain his attention and said, "I understand that you will be going to Camp Little Eagle when you leave here."
Dylan looked up at the Doctor and nodded hesitantly.
"You see Lieutenant Masterson over there?" Dr. McCoy asked and pointed to the security officer at the foot of the bed.
Dylan nodded again.
"He's assigned to protect you. When you leave here, he's going with you." Dr. McCoy said firmly.
"Nobody's going to hurt Dylan at Camp Little Eagle. He'll be safe." Kyle said seriously.
Dr. McCoy turned to face Kyle and gave him a challenging look.
Kyle looked at the Doctor with question.
"Dylan was basically tied to a bed and tortured by the people who were supposed to be taking care of him. Now we're sending him to a new place where new people are supposed to take care of him. You and I know that Camp Little Eagle is a safe place, but considering what he's been through, I wouldn't ask Dylan to trust you or me about that. I'm going to send Lieutenant Masterson to protect Dylan for as long as he's needed." Dr. McCoy said seriously.
"Really?" Dylan asked in wonder.
"Yes. Really. Lieutenant Masterson's only job is going to be to see that no one hurts you. If you ever feel the least bit afraid, you can call on him." Dr. McCoy said as he looked into Dylan's eye.
Dylan looked at Lieutenant Masterson to find him nodding his agreement to the statement.
"Thanks." Dylan whispered past the lump in his throat.
* * * * *
"Lieutenant Thompson, I'd like to have a meeting with all the team leaders. When is the earliest you could be available?" John asked seriously.
"Immediately. I believe we've found what we were looking for here and Ensign Carlson has my complete confidence to be able to conclude the investigation of the Winters home without supervision." Brady said professionally.
"Very good. Return to Southcrest immediately and meet with me. I have a quick job for you to do before we have the team leader meeting." John said firmly.
"Yes sir. Right away."
* * * * *
"What's wrong?" David asked as he led Vincent to the group of clan members.
"I was thinking about that kid that Jake's bringing to Camp Little Eagle." Aaron said with a look of concern.
"What about him?" David asked curiously.
"Well, Jake said he's been shot in the face... I just don't know how I'm going to handle that." Aaron said uncomfortably.
"What are you afraid of?" David asked slowly.
"That I'll say something stupid to make him feel worse or that I'll stare at it or, I don't know, try too hard to not look at it." Aaron said with real worry in his eyes.
"Stop and think for a second about what you're doing." David said seriously.
"What am I doing?" Aaron asked cautiously.
"You're trying to decide how you're going to 'act' when you meet this guy... Jake said his name is Dylan, right?" David tried to remember.
"Well, stop it. Be yourself. If Cory and Sean are bringing him in then it's a safe bet that a lot more has happened to him than being shot in the face. He's probably had enough drama to last a lifetime. He doesn't need more from you." David said firmly.
Aaron looked at David with wide eyes.
"Aaron, the world is full of fake people who will tell you what you want to hear and act the way they're supposed to. Be real. It's the most important thing you can do for him." David said in an almost begging tone.
Aaron nodded and said, "I see what you mean, and you're right. Where did you come up with that?"
David shrugged and said, "I'm an actor. Sometimes the trick is knowing when 'not' to act."
Aaron looked down to see Vincent looking at him curiously.
"How are you doing Vincent?" Aaron asked with sympathy.
"I don't know." Vincent said honestly.
Aaron nodded his acceptance of the answer.
"David said that you guys are going to be my guardians... what does that mean?" Vincent asked curiously.
"It means that we'll all make sure that you're safe and taken care of." David said in a careful tone.
Vincent thought about the words and finally asked, "So it's not like you're trying to take the place of my mom and dad, but you're going to make sure I have a place to stay and food and stuff."
"That's right. When I asked for the Clan to be made your guardians I was making a promise. We'll listen if you need to talk, protect you from harm, make sure you have enough food and a warm bed. No matter how the thing in Starfleet works out, no matter what you ever say or do, you'll always have a home with us and we'll always care for you. Every one of the clan members are a part of that promise and we take our promises very seriously." David said as he looked Vincent in the eyes.
"And we're the guardians of the guys at Camp Little Eagle too. So that makes all of them like your brothers." Aaron interjected.
Vincent nodded at the information.
"Is that okay?" David asked quietly, not sure how to interpret Vincent's thoughtful gaze.
"Yeah. I was just thinking about how my dad threw Lawrence out and he didn't have anyone to take care of him. I feel bad because I didn't feel bad about it then... I thought he deserved it because he's gay." Vincent said distantly.
"I'm sorry you feel bad about that Vincent. If there's anything I can do to help you feel better, just let me know." David said quietly.
Vincent thought for a moment, then shook his head and said, "Too much stuff has happened today. I need to think about stuff and sort it all out."
"That sounds like a smart way of dealing with things. But if you don't mind, I'd like to give you some advice." Aaron said seriously.
Vincent looked up at Aaron with question.
"Don't think about it alone. I think if you ask any of the guys, they'll be happy to sit with you and listen while you talk or just hold you if that's what you need. It really helps to have someone there when you think about stuff like this." Aaron said seriously.
Vincent looked around the group, then back to Aaron and said, "But most of them are gay. I don't want a gay guy to touch me."
"You see that guy over there talking to the pretty girl, that's Clint. I bet if you asked, he'd sit and talk with you. He's a really nice guy and he's completely straight." Aaron said as he pointed toward Clint and Crystal.
"He's big." Vincent said with concern.
"Well..." Aaron said as he looked around the gathering.
"If you want someone smaller, there's a whole group of them over there." David said and pointed to a collection of younger boys playing off to the side of the main clan group.
Vincent looked at the group and smiled as he said, "I promised Ricardo that if I needed a hug, I'd tell him."
"Then you should keep your promise."
* * * * *
"What happened to you?" Kenny asked with an expression of horror.
"Nothing. Maybe something happened to you." Kevin said with irritation in his voice.
"No. You're not the same person I met in Chicago. You don't have any... history. I touch you and I can't see anything past this week." Kenny said in deep concentration.
Kevin brushed Kenny's hand away from his face and said, "I'm still me. I don't know why you're acting all funny like this but there's nothing wrong with me."
Kenny looked around the room to find everyone watching him.
Finally he said, "Okay. I'll let it drop for now. But I don't think it's me that's changed."
"Dr. McCoy, when can I leave?" Dylan asked in a small voice, breaking the silence that had fallen over the room..
After a quick glance at the biobed readings, Dr. McCoy said, "I think you're stable enough to use the transporter now. If you're planning to leave by shuttle, you'll probably need another half hour or so."
"Why does he have to wait before he can use a shuttle?" Jake asked as he put a casual arm around Xain's shoulders.
"Dylan will still need to make frequent trips to the bathroom for a while. If he were to leave by shuttle right now, the ride could get very uncomfortable for him. Remember that there isn't a bathroom on the shuttle craft." Dr. McCoy said with a knowing look at Dylan.
"I see what you mean. Besides, it may not matter anyway. By the time Cory and Sean get back Dylan might be empty." Jake said with a shrug.
Matt turned to Kyle and asked, "Are they about finished?"
"I don't know. I've been keeping my mental shields up." Kyle said shyly.
Matt thought for a moment before saying, "I'm sorry if I sounded like I was accusing you of snooping up in the lounge. I know you wouldn't do that... I guess from the way you were talking, I thought you were crossing the line."
"Thanks for saying that, but you were right. I was about to cross the line and intrude on something private. That's why I'm going 'mind blind' for a little bit to get my focus back. Without all the little distractions pulling at my attention in a hundred directions at once I can rebuild my discipline so I won't forget again." Kyle said in thought.
Matt glanced over at the bed and noticed that Dylan was gone. He looked over at Lieutenant Masterson and saw him watching the bathroom door intently.
"How are things going in here?" Sean asked as he and Cory walked into the Sickbay.
"Just fine. Dr. McCoy said that Dylan can beam down whenever we want. But if you want to take him on the shuttle, we'll have to wait for a little bit longer." Jake said simply.
"Oh, okay. Matt could co-pilot for me if you'd like to take Dylan down to the camp." Sean said in thought.
"Sounds good. Kevin and Jake can come with me, the rest of you can go back by shuttle." Cory said as he hugged Sean to his side.
"I need to go too." Kenny said seriously.
Cory looked at Kenny with question.
Kenny looked at Jake with a begging expression in his eyes, hoping for his understanding and support and at the same time, not expecting to get it.
Jake considered for a moment before saying, "If Ken says he needs to go, he needs to go."
Cory looked into Jake's eyes and saw the determined expression.
"Okay. Then it's settled. Dr. McCoy, is there anything we need to know before we leave?" Cory asked seriously.
"Two things. First, Lieutenant Masterson will be beaming down with you and staying with Dylan as his personal security. Second, Dylan is going to need to see Doctor Michaels in the morning. I'm going to give him an injection for the pain before he leaves that will get him through the night." Dr. McCoy said seriously, then turned his attention to Dylan who was walking out of the bathroom.
"We'll meet you down there. Love you." Sean whispered, then gave Cory a quick kiss on the cheek.
"Love you too." Cory whispered, then returned the kiss.
"Okay! Everyone who's going down on the shuttle, follow me." Sean said as he turned toward the door.
"Um, Sean. Could you call Aaron and let him know we're on our way. He's going to meet us at the camp." Jake asked quickly.
"As soon as I get to the shuttle." Sean said with a smile, then led his group out the door.
Jake concentrated as he looked at the group leaving and sent, 'Please check on Vina when you get back to Uncle Chip's house and let me know how she's doing.'
'Perhaps once Dylan has been shown his accommodations, we three may spend some time as a family unit.' Xain responded with a slight undercurrent of emotional need carrying under the words.
'That sounds perfect. I won't take any longer than I have to. I love you T'hy'la.' Jake sent with longing clearly sounding in his mind/voice.
'I love you as well my T'hy'la.' Xain responded with the love for his mate accenting each word.
Cory watched as Dr. McCoy injected Dylan with a hypo spray, then whispered something into Dylan's ear.
Dylan nodded, then turned and looked at Cory expectantly.
"Transporter group, follow me." Cory said in distinct imitation of Sean's tone.
Kevin walked to Dylan's right side and Jake to his left.
Lieutenant Masterson followed a few paces behind and Kenny fell in beside him.
* * * * *
"I need a hug." Vincent said to the group of boys playing in the corner.
Vincent was surprised when he was swarmed by CD, Ricky, Timmy, Harley, Reuben and Ricardo.
Vincent laughed and said, "I just meant Ricardo. He asked me to tell him if I needed a hug.
"More hugs is better." Timmy said with certainty.
Vincent smiled and said, "Yeah, I guess."
"Come on and play with us. We've got some of Justy's old cars and stuff that he don't play with no more." Ricky said happily.
"I don't play with stuff like that since I'm older." Vincent said gently, not wanting to upset the boys.
"You can sit with us while we play. You don't have to play if you don't want to." Reuben said encouragingly.
Vincent thought about it for a minute, then said, "Yeah. Okay."
"Ricardo, you give Vincent hugs. When you're done, it's my turn next." Reuben said seriously.
"I'm next!" Timmy said quickly.
"Then me!" Ricky chirped.
"Me next!" CD and Harley barked at the same time.
The boys guided Vincent to sit with them, then Reuben said, "Ricardo, I'll use your yellow truck while you're hugging Vincent. Then you can use my racecar while I'm hugging him."
"Okay." Ricardo said happily, since he wanted the racecar to begin with.
Ricardo snuggled into Vincent's side as they watched the other boys pushing their cars and trucks around a complicated track they had constructed in the family room floor.
Vincent felt a moment of peace as he remembered how he used to play like that and tried to remember why he had ever stopped.
* * * * *
"Camp Little Eagle, this is the USS Enterprise. I have six transporting to your location." The transporter operator said efficiently.
"Stand by." A voice said through the speaker, then there was silence.
A moment later the voice returned, "Acknowledged Enterprise, awaiting transport."
"Energize." Cory said from his position on the transporter pad.
There was a tingle and sparkle as the Enterprise's transporter room disappeared around them, and a warm room with rough hewn walls came into being.
"Cory. I should have known it would be you." Chief Tecumseh said with a warm smile as he walked into the room.
Cory grinned at the statement and said, "We have a new student for you. Chief Tecumseh, this is Dylan Chang. Dylan, this is Chief Hawkeye Tecumseh of the Seminole tribe and the head administrator of Camp Little Eagle.
"It is a pleasure to meet you Dylan. I hope your injury is not causing you discomfort." Chief Tecumseh said with concern.
"No. The doctor gave me something and it's not hurting at all." Dylan said shyly.
"I was wondering if there's still a spare room in Cabin One?" Cory asked hopefully.
"Yes, there is one bed available. Obadiah will have the other bed, he is in the process of moving into the room as we speak." Chief Tecumseh said as he gestured for the group to walk with him.
Dylan looked at Cory with question.
"Obie's really great. He's a little bit younger than you but I think you'll like him. Let me know if you two don't get along for some reason and we'll work out something else. It's important that you're happy here." Cory said to Dylan with a casual smile as they walked.
"It is good to see you again Jake. How is your lovely daughter?" Chief Tecumseh asked as the group walked to the exit door of the administration building.
"Daughter?" Dylan asked and stopped, just before reaching the doorway.
"Yeah. You remember when Lupe was pregnant?" Jake asked with a happy smile.
Dylan's eye got wide at the statement.
"We found out a few days ago that I'm her baby's father." Jake said a little quieter.
"You and Lupe?" Dylan asked with a devastated expression.
"Yeah. We weren't like a couple or anything. We were both messed up one night and I guess we were both wanting the same thing. To feel like someone understood and cared..." Jake trailed off as he noticed Dylan's eye beginning to sparkle with tears.
"You like Lupe?" Jake asked cautiously.
Dylan hesitantly nodded.
"Did you ever tell her?" Jake asked in almost a whisper.
Dylan shook his head and said, "She worked for Daddy K, I worked for Spade. There's no way we could have made that work."
"I know what you mean. Well you won't have that problem here. There's just one thing you need to keep in mind, Lupe's got problems. You and I made it out of there, but she wouldn't leave when she had a way out. Her mom's here and if she ever decides that she's done with all of that, I'm pretty sure this is where she'll come. But it could take some time." Jake said seriously.
Dylan's expression lit up, then just as suddenly fell as he reached up and felt the bandage on his face.
"Talk to the doctor tomorrow and see what he has to say. I bet by the time Lupe gets here you'll have that all taken care of." Jake said with a look of encouragement.
Dylan looked at Jake with question, then a small smile came onto his face as he asked, "You really think so?"
"I think it's worth a shot. You get your stuff taken care of and hopefully Lupe will get her stuff taken care of, then if it's meant to be, it'll happen." Jake said with assurance.
"Thanks Jake." Dylan said with a smile of relief.
"Are you ready to see your new home?" Chief Tecumseh asked with a tender smile.
Dylan looked at Chief Tecumseh with a little fear in his eye and hesitantly nodded.
Chief Tecumseh opened the door and stepped aside to allow Dylan to get a full view of the camp.
* * * * *
"Lieutenant Bowers?" Brady said cautiously as he walked into the study.
"Lieutenant Thompson?" Joe said as he stood.
Brady nodded and gestured to the couch where Joe had been sitting, indicating for him to take a seat.
As soon as Joe had sat, Brady took a seat in an armchair across from him and said, "Commander Martin gave me permission to tell you about what I found at the Winters home."
Joe nodded and waited for the explanation.
"Before I start, I just want to be sure that you understand that if some of this information got out before or during any criminal proceedings, it could cause irreparable harm to our case." Brady said seriously.
"I understand." Joe said as he sat a little straighter, giving his full attention.
"I guess the best way to explain it is to say that Victor Winters was an extremely disturbed man. I'm not a psychologist or anything, but it seems to me that at a certain point he experienced some latent homosexual impulses and couldn't deal with them. He had such an abiding hatred of anyone who was gay that he transferred the anger and hatred that he felt for himself onto Lawrence, then later to Vincent. He blamed them for the feelings of attraction that he felt." Brady said carefully.
"Oh my God. I never... it didn't even occur to me that it could be something like that." Joe said in shock.
"The man became fixated on the idea and set up hidden cameras to spy on the boys. He recorded them showering, changing clothes... everything. There are thousands of pictures and videos of them on his computer." Brady said in a low voice.
"It seems that in Winters' mind, his abuse was an acceptable way of... dealing with his attraction. He got an emotional high off hitting and degrading the boys, mainly Lawrence. He chronicled his fantasies and actions in a journal so he could relive the experience again and again. His fantasies started out as simple voyeurism and as time went on moved into more and more extreme scenarios of bondage, sadism and rape." Brady said in a tightly controlled voice.
"I can't tell them about this. Nothing they imagine could be as bad as the truth." Joe said as he stared at the coffee table between him and Brady.
"I don't know about that. Maybe knowing for a fact that what happened in that house was in no way their fault would give them some comfort. It's hard to say." Brady said as he fought to contain his emotions.
Joe nodded in thought.
"This is the most sensitive information and I really need for you to consider carefully before you share it." Brady said, now sounding more controlled.
Joe looked up at the statement and saw the pain in Brady's eyes.
Brady took in a slow breath, then said, "After being told that his wife had gone to the police to make a statement, Victor Winters left his home intending to murder his wife. After that, he came to the Short Compound to try and force his way in so he could rape and murder Vincent."
Joe shook his head, unable to believe that anyone could be so completely evil.
"When the time comes that the boys are ready. Tell them as much as you think they can deal with. And if there's anything I can do to help you... anything at all, just ask." Brady said, finishing in nearly a whisper.
Joe looked into Brady's eyes to find tears beginning to form.
"You really care for them don't you?" Joe asked quietly.
Brady looked at Joe with pain and said, "I've never really been around kids until this week. Whenever I would come across something like this I would be disgusted by it, but I could still maintain a professional detachment. Now I'm an uncle to Reuben and Ricardo and all of Allen's kids. I'm beginning to know what it feels like to fear for their safety. I can see what a kind and gentle person Lawrence is and it kills me to know that Winters abused him like that. And all I have to do is look at Vincent with that bandage on his head and... "
"I know. And the worst part is, the emotional scars run deeper than the physical ones. I don't think there is anything that will undo all the damage to Lawrence's self image. And Vincent is going to live with the belief that his father didn't love him, probably for the rest of his life." Joe said with downcast eyes.
Brady nodded and said, "Winters did a lot of damage on his descent into madness. This world is a better place without him in it. If he'd died a few years sooner he would have prevented a lot of pain."
Joe nodded his agreement, then looked at Brady curiously.
Brady raised his eyebrows in question.
"Do you think you'd be up to the challenge of having a few more nephews?" Joe asked with a smile.
Brady's features melted into an expression of contentment as he said, "I would gladly accept that challenge."
"Let's see if Deacon and Lawrence are still in the living room. After that we can check on Vincent in the family room." Joe said as he stood.
"I've got to be in a security meeting in a few minutes." Brady said as he glanced at the clock on the wall.
"Duty first." Joe said with a sigh of resignation.
"I'm still going to check on the boys with you. I just wanted you to understand why I'm going to have to leave before we're finished." Brady said quickly as he walked to Joe's side.
Joe looked at Brady and smiled as he said, "Then I guess we'd better hurry."
* * * * *
Dylan took a single step out the door of the Administration building and looked around in wonder at the camp.
Chief Tecumseh smiled at the sight, then turned to say, "Kenny, it's good to see you again and..."
Both boys looked on as Chief Tecumseh's eyes went wide in realization.
"Kevin." Kenny said quietly, not quite sure if Chief Tecumseh had forgotten his brother's name.
"Come with me. We must make haste." Chief Tecumseh said quickly and hurried out the door.
"What's wrong with him?" Kevin asked Cory as they followed.
"I don't know. I've never seen him act like that before." Cory said as he hurried to catch up to the chief.
* * * * *
"Would you look at that?" Teri said with a gentle smile as she walked to stand beside Mona.
"When I watch the news on television, I feel myself losing faith in humanity. But seeing this... I can't help but believe that we're going to be fine." Mona said as she looked with loving eyes at the group of young boys playing with toy cars and trucks and taking turns hugging Vincent.
"Oh, isn't that sweet." Jackie said as she and Karen came to stand beside Teri and Mona.
"How could anyone hurt a child like that?" Karen asked in a quiet voice as she focused on the bandage on Vincent's head.
"I really don't know. In the course of my work I see so many things, but I don't think I'll ever understand what drives someone to abuse a helpless child." Teri said with a distant look.
"Grandma Karen." Timmy said as he broke away from the group.
"Oh, how's grandma's little fireball doing tonight?" Karen asked as she picked him up into a warm hug.
"I'm having fun with all my friends. I like it here, but Ricky's stuck." Timmy said seriously.
"Stuck?" Karen asked and turned to see Ricky being held in Vincent's arms.
"Yeah. He was taking his turn hugging Vincent and Vincent fell asleep and Ricky doesn't want to wake him up but he wants to play with us some more." Timmy said in his most serious voice.
"I see." Karen said with an indulgent smile, then turned and asked, "What do you suppose we can do to rescue Ricky?"
"I'll take Vincent to the living room where he can lay down and it's a little bit quieter. When I pick him up, you can free Ricky." Mona said as she knelt down beside Vincent.
Mona slowly picked up Vincent and Ricky, then turned so Teri could free Ricky from Vincent's arms.
As soon as Teri had extricated Ricky from Vincent's grasp, Vincent turned and pulled Mona into a full hug.
"Shhh. I'm just going to take you into the living room where you can lay down." Mona whispered as they walked to the family room door.
"I love you Mommy." Vincent mumbled in his sleep.
Mona looked around to see if anyone was listening, then whispered, "I love you too baby."
* * * * *
The group of boys fought to keep up with Chief Tecumseh as he led them to Cabin One.
"He moves pretty fast for an old guy." Jake whispered to Dylan.
"I need the bathroom." Dylan whispered back.
"It looks like we're going in that cabin. I'm sure they'll have a bathroom you can use." Jake said as they approached the cabin.
"Kevin, follow me." Chief Tecumseh said with authority.
Kevin glanced at Jake with question and received a nod.
Chief Tecumseh knocked loudly on the cabin door and waited impatiently for it to be answered.