Part One: The Gathering

©2003-2005 by ACFan. All Rights Reserved.

Portions of this story contain copyrighted characters from other authors. Johnny Carter is © ND from his story Nick & Ashley and is used with permission. The characters and situations from A New Day Dawns are © GunRunner and are used with permission. Mark Owens is © Slash and is used with permission. The characters and situations from One Door Closes are © MultiMapper and are used with permission. The characters and situations from Enterprise Tour are © Greybear and are used with permission.

This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. Any celebrities portrayed in this story are used ficticiously and have no resemblance to the personalities or preferences carrying the same name. This story is set in an alternate reality, and in no way, shape, or form reflects any events or interactions which may have or ever will happen in the real world.


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Welcome, reader to the universe of Clan Short. This started out as a short story just to see if I could write something interesting. Somewhere along the way, it turned into a full-time project which I've been told has touched quite a few lives in different ways. Over the course of the two and one-half years it took to write Part One, the characters have become a part of my life that I cherish. Along the way, I made a few very good friends who I now call brothers, and have had the honor of helping a few teenagers through problems in their own lives.

As you read this part of the series, remember it is set in a parallel universe to our own; one in which things progressed just slightly different than they did on our timeline. The general public has almost identical access as we do to what we would consider "advanced" technology. Space travel and the technology that is associated with it is reserved for military and goverment use. Earth is at the point of a societal revolution, brought about by interaction with the races of other planets, much to the chargin of the Earth governments. The youth of this universe are leading the way, and you are about to see how one group became the leaders in the revolution.

I truly hope you enjoy the story, and look forward to writing Part Two. Thanks to the authors who have contributed their talent and ideas to this saga: Slash, Greybear, GunRunner, MultiMapper, Lil' J, Ghost, and Dakota


Chapter One

"Do you remember which key it is?" Sean asked.

"I think so." I told him. The truth is, I was scared, happy, and nervous all at the same time; I had no idea what I might find on the other side of that door. I looked down at the keys, holding them in my hands for the first time in what seemed like an eternity. A lot of memories lay behind that door; just waiting to be opened again...

Okay, okay, I think I'm getting ahead of myself here. I'll start from the beginning. My name is Cory Patrick Short. I'm fourteen years old with blonde hair and blue eyes. I don't think I'm the best looking guy in school; but I wouldn't say I'm the worst looking, either. If I had to compare myself to someone, I would have to say I have the same kind of build that JTT has.

I was asked by Ter ... err ... Mom, (I'm still getting use to that) to write down some of my thoughts, memories, or just anything I want. She says it will help me remember what happened, but I'm not quite convinced it will. My shrink, Dr. Richardson, agrees with Mom and wants to read what I'm writing at some point down the line so I guess I kind of have to or I'll pay for it later; plus I would do anything to get a normal life again.

I think I'll start just a little before the day my life changed forever. It was an average day, nothing much happening. I got up for school, did my normal routine, which consists of hitting the "sleep" button a few times (giggle). I decided to grab a nice hot shower. I turned on the taps and let the room heat up a bit before I stripped out of my boxers. I climbed into the shower, and let the warm water relax me into an almost meditating daze. I love the way a hot shower relaxes me. It lets me forget, just for a few minutes, the pain of not being with my family. After my shower, I went into the kitchen to get myself something to eat. I was the first one up, so the house was still pretty quiet. My first class was about an hour before anyone else's in the house so I was up and out the door before any of the others.

The house I live in is a "Home" for kids that have had problems with their families. I wasn't sure why I was there at the time; I knew that there was an accident and I lost some of my memory, but I didn't know what it was all about.

It wasn't until lunch that I remembered that I was going to Sean's after school. That brightened my mood for the rest of the day! Just the thought of spending time with my "brother", hanging out, and just being a normal kid for a while, was enough to make anyone happy. The rest of the day went by pretty quickly. I thought I'd better get a move on if I wanted to spend as much time with Sean as I could, so I walked straight from my last class to the door and out the school towards Sean's house.

As I walked to Sean's house, I noticed how beautiful the day was. I had been inside the school all day, so it came as a shock to me how warm and sunny it was. I turned the corner to Sean's street; and saw the familiar view of his house half way down the block. I noticed that Terri's Suburban was parked in the driveway as I approached the door.

Cory knocked at the door. When it opened, he said "Hey there Mrs. Short, Is Sean home?"

"Not yet, but he should be here soon; soccer ended a half hour ago." Teri then got an evil grin on her face. "And how many times do I have to tell you to call me Teri or Mom you little rascal!" she exclaimed while rustling his hair.

Cory giggled, "Yes ma'am ... err ... Teri," he answered with a big grin. He noticed an aroma drifting from the kitchen that got his full attention. "Are those brownies I smell?"

She smiled, "Go ahead, they are on the breakfast bar. You better not eat them all though, Sean will strangle you!"

As Cory headed toward the kitchen at a barely suppressed run, she watched with a far-away look in her eyes. As happy as the fourteen-year-old appeared, it was sad that he had to live in the home without a true family. He was nothing but a little blond angel that asked for no one to feel sorry for him. But she knew the pain that sometimes showed in those sky-blue eyes, and wished that somehow she could help him.

While Cory slid into the kitchen to enjoy some of the brownies, he pondered the look he saw on Teri's face. It was a look that he'd seen before, but yet he couldn't quite explain it. It seemed as if she was happy to see him, yet sad that he was there. He shrugged it off; figuring it must be one of those 'Adult' issues, and continued towards the brownies.

Just then the entry hall was hit by a tornado. "CORY! BRO, YOU BEAT ME HERE!" screamed Sean as he homed in on the brownies. "You shoulda came by practice, Coach wanted you to play!" Sean soared onto the stool by Cory, and then proceeded to help devour the plate of brownies.

Terri studied her son; thirteen years old (Thirteen and one-half if you asked him!), auburn hair, and hazel eyes. If she didn't know better she'd say he was a lady killer, but his destiny had become apparent long ago. "Hey you two; you better grab some milk to go with those brownies!" she said as she headed for the living room.

The brownies were quickly devoured, so the boys headed for the rec room and fired up the computer. Recently they have become addicted to the game emulator that Sean's older brother Mike had downloaded, so in no time they were in a heated battle for high score on Tron. Since Cory seemed to be heading for a new record, Sean sat back to watch his best friend mastering the game. Suddenly Sean noticed a flash of emotion across Cory's face; it was just a quick flash, but it was something that Sean had noticed happening a lot recently. "Are you OK bro?" he asked.

Cory paused the game and looked at Sean. "Yeah, I think so. I just felt weird for a second; something kinda itched in my head, but it's gone now."

Sean giggled "It must be that one blond brain cell of yours trying to work! You blonds are all the same!"

Cory jokingly slapped Sean upside the head, grinning widely, and then went back to the game.

As he settled back in, Cory thought to himself 'I hope that Sean isn't too worried about me. He's the one guy I can really call a friend; the last thing I want is for him to worry.'

Once he was sure that Cory was involved in the game again, Sean's smile faded. Sean thought to himself "I really hope he's okay, I'd die if he's hurting inside."

The boys played for another hour before Teri reminded them to do their homework before they forgot. Just as they finished their assignments, the ritual Friday night pizza delivery arrived.

"FOOD!" they yelled as they ran toward the dining room. When Teri entered the room with the pizzas, she chuckled at the expressions on their faces. The looks of hunger the boys were giving her would make an Ethiopian cringe in pity.

By the time the boys finished inhaling their share of the pizzas, it was time for Cory to go back to the home. Sean tried to talk his mom into calling to see if Cory could stay, but she reminded him about the Home's policy on overnight visits without prior arrangements.

Everyone loaded into Teri's Suburban to take Cory back. As Teri and Sean watched Cory walk to the door of the home, Sean spoke for the first time since they had got in the truck.

"Do you think he will ever get better, mom?" he asked in a worried voice.

"I really hope so Sean. I hate seeing Cory like this. Dr. Richardson said the time you have been spending with him has helped a lot, so I think he will come around soon."

"I really hope so too; I miss the old Cory so much." Sean then quietly sat back and wept.

When they got back home, Teri locked up. They both headed to their rooms, each needing to resolve the emotions stirred up by Sean's question in the truck.

Sean's Room:

Sean couldn't get to sleep. He really wished Mike was here to talk to, Mike would know what to do. After Mike's accident, Sean's life took a turn for the worse. Even though a year had passed, he still had trouble believing his brother was gone. Cory was back at the home for the night; but before Sean went to bed he made his mom promise to try to arrange for Cory to spend the weekend with them. The look he saw on Cory's face earlier was keeping Sean awake, Sean wondered if the unimaginable could finally be happening.

Sean laid back in the dark and thought about the events of a year ago, ignoring the tears sneaking down his cheeks.


Cory and Sean had managed to talk Mike into dropping them off at the mall on his way to football practice. They had pooled their cash together, and had came up with enough to get an X-Box. After picking it up, they strolled the mall, laughing at all the guys and girls making out. They jokingly promised each other to slap the other one if he ever did something like that with a girl. About fifteen minutes before Mike was due to pick them up, they headed to the food court and grabbed a burger; then they sat down and waited for their ride. An hour later, Sean spotted his mom come through the door and start looking around. Sean pointed her out to Cory.

"Why is she crying?" Cory asked.

Once Teri spotted them, it didn't take long before they had the unfortunate answer to the question.

Mike had been on his way back to pick them up. Some guy who had too much to drink had just left the bar. The drunk blasted through the red light and nailed Mike's Toyota in the drivers door. The Toyota was no match for the Ford Explorer he was driving; the impact killed Mike instantly. Cory took it hard; he blamed himself for Mike's death, since it was his idea to go to the mall. Cory totally broke down; after that the psychiatrists decided that it would be in Cory's best interest if he was placed in a "residence" where he could be watched closely. The decision tore Sean up; it was six months after the accident before they would let Cory visit Sean's house.

End Flashback

Sean wondered if the look he saw today was a sign that Cory was finally getting over Mike's death. Sean really hoped so; Sean missed having the old Cory around, and wondered if he ever would be back to what he once was like.

Sean glanced towards his closet; just then a moonbeam illuminated a yellow plastic bag on the top shelf in the corner. Sean knew the contents of the bag too well; it contained a brand-new X-Box, still in the original packing, along with a few games. Sean had made it clear that it was not to be touched, it was not to be opened until Cory was able to share it with him, exactly the way they had planned while waiting in the food court.

Cory's Room:

As Cory laid there trying to get to sleep, a cold chill ran down the back of his spine. It was just like someone had opened the window in the middle of a blizzard. Cory sat up and looked around, letting his eyes adjust to the low light in the room. Nothing had changed, the window was still closed. Mark, Cory's roommate, was still finishing up his homework at his desk. Mark noticed Cory sitting up and looked right at him. When he saw the look on Cory's face, he started laughing.

"What's so funny?" Cory asked sleepily.

"You have a bad dream or something? You just sat up like I poured a bucket of ice water on you."

"No, it's kinda weird. I was just about asleep when a cold chill went down my back."

"You're right, that is weird. You should try to get back to sleep though; you've had a long day. Ain't you going to Sean's tomorrow?"

"You bet I am. It's gonna to be good to spend some time with him. We have a lot of catching up to do. Teri's going to adopt me, so I better get to know them."

"Yes, you do have to get to know them. But in a way you already do know them."

"I know that I KNOW Sean, but I can't remember that much about him. I don't know them that well, but its like I've known them all my life. They seem to know a lot about me."

"Of course they do, they've read your files and from what I've heard, you and Sean used to be best friends so you've probably slept over at his house a lot."

"Your right, I guess not having all of my memory makes things confusing at times. I'm trying to remember, I really am, but it's so hard trying to get the memories back. It seems the more I try, the less I remember. Then, I'll walk past something, or smell something, and it brings back a feeling that, I don't know, that I just remember."

"Well, that's a part of the whole healing process, Cory. You can't just sit and think about what your life was like. You have to get up, look around and enjoy life now, in the present. You will remember, but it takes time. When you get those feelings, they are feelings of closeness, comfort, and familiarity. That's when your mind is working on remembering. Just let it take its course, and things will come back when the time is right. You're right, you can't try to remember something that you can't remember; that's just impossible."

"Wow, I never really thought about it that way. I didn't pay close attention to how I was trying to remember. The only time I remember anything is when I see something. That's when things come back. Maybe if I just let it come to me when it wants to, I'll remember more. I don't know if I'll ever get back all of my memory, but that might be the way it's suppose to be. There might be something to learn from all of this; thanks Mark, that really helped a lot. I'm tired so I'm going to try to go back to sleep. I have a lot to think about."

"No problem buddy, what are roommates for?"

Cory laid down, and shortly thereafter fell asleep. As he slipped into deep sleep, he began dreaming.

Cory's Dream

"Hey! What are you doing? Get off of me Sean!" Cory yelled as he pushed Sean off of him.

"Sorry Cory, I thought... well I thought that's what you wanted. You did say that you love me, didn't you?" Sean responded in a scared voice.

"Well, yeah I guess I did but I didn't mean... Wait! Are you... I mean... Do you really..."

Cory's mind raced a million miles a minute as he thought; 'Can it be? Could he really love me? Is he gay too?'

Cory's mind was flooded with a great tidal wave of emotion. It hit him like a brick falling from the sky. Suddenly it became clear; all of the signs, all of the touches, and all of the times Sean looked at him with those eyes. Sean's stares that seemed to stare deep into Cory's soul, slowly embedding himself deep into Cory's heart.

'All this time and he does love me!' Cory thought. 'With that one unexpected kiss he just planted on me, he opened his heart and soul to me.'

Cory sat on the side of his bed with a mixed expression on his face; a look of confusion combined with a look of happiness. That was the point when Cory knew without a shadow of a doubt that he really did love Sean. The realization hit Cory, his feelings finally making sense.

Cory finally was able to assign words to his feelings as he thought 'I love him as a best friend, as a brother, and now I know a deeper kind of love too. It is a love that is rare, and is only found by a very few lucky people.'

Cory did what he thought was best. He looked Sean right in those beautiful hazel eyes, looking as deeply as he could and softly whispered "I love you too, Sean".

End Dream

Cory woke up in a sweaty panic. "What the heck was that all about?" he exclaimed to nobody in particular.

Cory looked franticly around the room to see where Sean was, but he was nowhere to be found. Mark was laying in bed, fast asleep; the computer had timed out and went into sleep mode. Cory figured Mark had been asleep for a while. Once Cory had calmed down, his eyes adjusted to the low light and he remembered where he was; at the home, in his own bed.

"That must have been a dream. But why would I dream about kissing Sean?" Cory muttered to himself. He stood up and quietly made his way to the kitchen to get a drink of water. His mind was racing, so he figured he might be able to relax a bit by having a drink and sitting down to think things through. Cory removed a glass from the cupboard and poured some water from the filtered jug. The cold flow of the water running down his throat caused him to suddenly feel the need to pee. Cory quickly went to the bathroom to relieve himself. As he stood there, a new feeling hit him; he suddenly felt all alone. It felt like he was missing something in his life; he couldn't quite put his finger on what it was, but the feeling was there. He realized that there was more to his life than what he remembered. The emptiness was clear, but the solution was lost in a haze.

Cory was brought back to reality by the sound of a dog barking. He realized how long he had been zoned out when he noticed his morning woody was now limp resting in his hand. He hurriedly finished up in the bathroom and went back out into the kitchen. When he looked at the clock, he was surprised to see it was only 6:27am.

'It's WAY too early to be up and awake.' Cory thought. 'Why did I dream about kissing Sean? I know I love him like a brother, but could there be something more?'

Cory's mind was reeling; thinking of Sean was bringing a warm feeling to his chest. Cory had felt this way before, but this time seemed different; almost like it was the first time he felt it, but somehow he knew it wasn't. It was the feeling of being protected, cared for, and a strong feeling of being loved. The realization of what it could mean sent a cold shiver down his spine.

Cory thought to himself 'Could this mean what I think it means? Am I ... ?'. He couldn't even think it, it was way too much for him to even consider at the moment.

Cory muttered to himself under his breath. "I need to go for a run and just clear my mind. That's exactly what I need, a run."

A run usually helped Cory clear his thoughts. He quickly changed into his sweats, and left a note for the "Warden"; his private nickname for the night shift supervisor. He closed the door and started on his run. The cool air was shocking at first but Cory quickly adjusted. Since he didn't stretch before starting, Cory decided to start with a slow pace. The day was still new, and Cory planned on making the best of it.

Cory thought about the plans to spend the whole day with Sean. He never knew what Sean would have planned for the day; it was always something that made life interesting. What little Cory could remember always had Sean being there for him when he needed someone. Cory was hit with a sudden thought; without Sean, Cory had no idea what he'd be doing. Cory was jolted from his thoughts by the sound of a horn from beside him.

"Look out, kid! I almost hit you!" a man yelled from his car.

"Sorry, I didn't see you there. I was just running and I kinda spaced."

"Well you better pay attention, or you'll end up getting yourself killed." the man exclaimed.

"I will, thanks." Cory replied, and with that the man took off. Cory crossed the street, and started to look around. He was shocked when he realized where he was; he had ran to Sean's street and was just one house away from Sean's house. He had been lost in his thoughts so much that he hadn't even noticed the fact that he was running straight to Sean's.

After a moment of thought, Cory walked to Sean's front door.

Chapter Two

Cory walked up to the house and knocked on the door. He didn't want to ring the doorbell. This early in the morning, waking Sean up was definite suicide.

Teri opened the door, and the moment she saw who was there she got a huge grin on her face. "Oh my! Well, isn't this a surprise, you snuck out. Come on in Cory, do you want something to drink?"

Cory walked into the foyer and closed the door. "Hi Teri! Actually, some water sounds good, thanks. Is Sean up yet?" He sat down on the bench beside the door, and started to undo his shoes.

"No, he's still sleeping. He should be up in about an hour. You can go wake him up if you want; but I wouldn't recommend it. Not if you like your head where it is, anyways." Teri laughed at the comment, and then went to the kitchen to get a glass of water for Cory.

"Okay, maybe I'll just wait for him to get up. Would it be all right if I take a shower though? I stink somethin' fierce."

Teri laughed, "Sure you can, sweetie. While you're having your drink, I'll get you a clean towel and some clean clothes. I don't think Sean will mind if you wear his clothes today." Teri placed the glass on the kitchen table, and then went to get what was needed.

Cory went into the kitchen where Teri had left his water. After he finished the glass of water, he headed to the bathroom. He turned on the water to let it warm up first, and then started to undress for his shower. The warm water felt soothing on his skin. He stood there, just letting the water wash away all the sweat from his run, and the dirt in his mind.

The clouds that had blurred Cory's mind were, for a short while, cleared and forgotten. His mind was cleared of all thoughts as the steaming hot water coursed down his body. He was lost in nothing, but searching through everything.

Reality struck as the water turned suddenly cold. Cory finished up as quickly as possible, and started to towel himself off. He took his time getting dressed; making sure that he looked as nice as possible.

Teri had extremely good taste in clothes, and had picked out something that she thought he would look good in; baggy 501 Levis and an olive colored t-shirt. Cory fixed his hair so that it looked the best he could get it; it never seemed to go exactly where he wanted it. After one last look in the mirror, he headed back to the living room to watch some cartoons while waiting for Sean to wake up.

After a while, Teri joined him in the room. "Cory, why don't you go ahead and wake Sean up. He must have had a late night last night; if he doesn't get up soon, he'll have another late night tonight."

"Sure thing Teri, will do."

Cory walked up the stairs and opened Sean's door. Sean was sprawled in the middle of the bed, tangled blankets surrounding him.

'He looks so beautiful sleeping. He kinda looks like an angel dropped down from heaven.' Cory thought.

Cory stood there watching Sean sleep, gazing down on him as he dreamt about who knows what. Sean looked peaceful and relaxed, as if he had no cares in the world.

Suddenly an enormous rush of warmth ran through Cory's body. Images, or more exactly feelings of images, flashed through his mind. It was the most intense feeling he had ever felt. His vision clouded, and his arms and legs tingled.

Cory intuitively knew this was a good feeling, and that there was no reason to be worried or scared. He followed Mark's advice, and let the feelings run their course. They flowed like the hot lava from a volcano, but didn't burn. It was an intense moment to say the least!

When Cory opened his eyes, he finally realized that the figure sleeping in front of him was someone special. Not only special as a brother; but also as someone whom he loved more than anyone, or anything, in this world. Though it was slightly confusing, the thought relaxed him.

Just then, Cory remembered why he was there. He walked over to Sean's bed and sat beside him. So many possibilities went through Cory's mind on different ways to wake him up. He considered them carefully, and decided that the best way for Sean to wake up would be laughing.

Cory reached under the blanket and felt around for Sean's feet. He found one and began tickling it. A flash in his mind brought the memory that he had done this very thing before. Suddenly, Cory found that another part of his body was re-gaining it's own memories.

Cory let go of Sean's foot as fast as he could. 'What's going on here? Why did I just get a boner?' Cory thought. He looked down at Sean, who still hadn't moved a muscle, and knew right then and there. All of the feelings he had felt towards Sean were now so clear. Images were coming back faster than he could comprehend. The one that stood out in his mind was the look on Sean's face. It was the look of love, happiness, and pure joy, time and time again reappearing through the mess of images.

Just the thought of touching Sean while hiding an erection was uncomfortable, but the image of the love on Sean's face was calming and relaxing. The realization that he was gay was scary, but Cory somehow knew he had told Sean; and that Sean had accepted him, and still loved him in spite of it.

After finally calming down, Cory resumed tickling Sean's foot. Immediately Cory's nether regions responded, and this time refused to be calmed down. Cory did his best to hide his problem from view. It took a little work to find Sean's sensitive spot; but when he did, the results were instantaneous.

Sean awoke with a start. He looked toward the foot of the bed and found that it was Cory tickling his feet. "HEY! Watch it bro! You're about to end up in a puddle!" Sean ran to the bathroom and proceeded to relieve his full bladder. Sean looked over to the doorway as he was finishing up, and to his surprise Cory was standing there watching him with a small smile on his face.

"Hey there bro, you like what you are seeing?" Sean giggled. "Don't worry, I don't mind."

Cory's grin got a little bigger, so Sean finished closing up and went to the doorway and gave Cory a big hug. "Come on bro, I'm cooking breakfast; Lucky Charms sound good?"

That brought a big grin to Cory's face, so Sean put an arm over Cory's shoulder and they headed downstairs. The two boys were in the process of finishing off the box of cereal when Cory looked at Sean with a puzzled look on his face.

"Sean? After breakfast could we talk a bit?" Cory asked. "Something real weird is happening, and I need to talk about it; I feel like I'm going nuts here."

The two boys went off to the rec room, and Sean was surprised to see Cory close the door behind them. Sean sat in the beanbag chair, and Cory come over and sat with him, which placed him as close as possible without actually sitting on Sean's lap. Sean put his hand on Cory's shoulder, "What's wrong bud?" he asked.

"You gotta promise not to laugh at me first," replied Cory.

"Bro, I couldn't hurt you like that; I promise not to laugh"

Cory looked at Sean seriously "You got to pinky swear that you won't laugh"

Cory held up his right hand with his pinky extended, then hooked it into Sean's pinky when he lifted his hand up with it. "I pinky swear not to laugh or make fun of anything that you are about to say" Sean said.

Cory then cuddled up to Sean with his head on Sean's shoulder. Sean was unable to tell if it was for security, or to ensure that nobody could hear them outside the room; or maybe even a combination of both. Even though Cory was older, Sean wrapped his arms around him and held him like a protective big brother. He knew that he was about to hear something that he had been waiting to hear for months, but was also enjoying the first chance to hold his friend like this in a long time. Sean reached over with his left hand and slowly ran it through Cory's blond hair; it was amazingly still baby-fine and soft. He massaged the back of his head, feeling Cory's stress and trying to relax him. After ten minutes or so, Sean noticed Cory's warm breath on his neck getting more even and softer, so he knew that Cory was finally relaxing. He turned his head and kissed Cory on the cheek, then said, "OK bro, whenever you are ready I'm listening."

Cory looked up at him with a tear running down his cheek. "I think I'm going crazy. I'm afraid to tell the shrink back at the home what's been happening, he would probably make me stop coming over here; and I couldn't handle that right now." He snuggled in closer "It feels like I belong here with you, not at the home; and over the last week some weird things have been happening." Cory looked up at Sean, and saw a tear running down Sean's face; but what surprised him more was the slight smile that accompanied it.

Sean looked over at Cory, and looked deep into his eyes. "Cory, if you are about to say what I think you're about to say, don't worry; you are not going nuts. I noticed a couple of things yesterday and this morning, but I was afraid to ask you about them. I love you, bro; please go on. If it's what I think it is, I'll try to help explain it to you as much as I can." With that, Sean pulled Cory over and embraced him in a loving hug; at which point Cory broke into tears and tightly wrapped his arms around Sean.

Just then Teri opened the door quietly to see what the boys were doing; at the sight of Cory crying in Sean's arms she started to come into the room to see what was wrong, but then she saw the look in Sean's eyes that told her it was best to leave them alone. She quickly closed the door, and went into her bedroom to get the diary the doctor had told her to keep. She thought back to the last time she had seen that look in Sean's eyes, and wondered yet again if things would have been different if she had paid attention to it, instead of ignoring it and barging in on the two boys. As she sat down to write the latest entry, she prayed that it would be the last one she would ever have to make; and that her family might return to as close to normal as it could after the loss of Mike.

After the door closed, Cory hesitantly started talking "For the last week or so it seems ... umm... it's like... well... I feel like there's something I'm missing, kinda like I'm here but not really all here. It's like this morning, when I saw you taking a leak; I felt like I've done that before, yet this is the first time I really remember doing that. Then yesterday when we were playing on the emulator, I had this weird feeling that it had been set up for US!" Just then a pained expression crossed Cory's face. "Mikey set it up for US... " he exclaimed, breaking into tears.

Sean caressed Cory and held him, whispering to him things that he hoped would calm him down. As the tears settled down into sobs Cory finally was able to speak: "Why ... why ... why did it have to be him ... why was it Mikey ... why did Mikey have to die?" Cory pulled back with a start, a look of pain in his eyes "Why do I have to live at the home? Don't you want me anymore? I thought you loved me?"

It was Sean's turn to break into tears, but he managed to get a few words out between sobs. "I DO love you bro; I don't know how to prove it, but I still do. Mom can explain better why you had to go to the home, but maybe now you can come back here. I would like to show you something I found on a site I've been visiting though, maybe it will help you see what I'm feeling; then we can talk some more."

Cory looked at Sean, and it seemed like a dam breaking in his mind; all the things that had happened suddenly burst from the doors they had been locked behind for the last year. He leaned forward as if to kiss Sean on the cheek, then at the last second diverted to his lips. Shortly the two boys were locked into as passionate of a kiss as possible without using tongues

As they separated, Sean looked at Cory "I love you, I always have and I always will. When you were not around, I found a site with some really cool stories on it called The Shack. You GOTTA read 'Gone From Daylight' sometime, but I want to show you something that a guy named Slash posted in the Library; it's a poem that fits how I've been feeling this last year." The boys headed over to the computer and logged on the Internet, and then Sean pulled up The Shack off of his Favorites menu. It took a couple of minutes to find the poem, but he found it and Sean clicked the link "Here ya go bro –see what you think"

Author: slashsarmy

Subject: (P) Any Idea

Have you any idea to the way this life is?
To lie awake watching the time?
Too many times I sit and ponder.
To where this road untraveled will lead.
You can't tell a lie today.
Choose a different path along the way.
You can turn your life around.
So pick your ass up off the ground.
Can anyone tell me where our life is?
Alone, watching you live.
If you could tell how much I love you.
My life would be turned upside down.

Cory looked at Sean "I'm sorry, you really DO still love me. I really don't know how I could ever make this up to you."

Sean looked deep into his eyes and replied, "You are doing it right now; having you back is the one thing I've been wanting for a year now." Sean closed the Internet connection then looked to Cory "I really think we need to talk to mom here, I've listened in while she's been talking to your shrink on the phone, but she can answer a lot more of your questions than I can." When he saw the questioning look in Cory's eyes he added "She really wants you back as much as I do; don't worry, all mom wants is to help you, but neither one of us was able to say anything to you about what happened until you were able to bring it up yourself."

Cory relented, and as they both got up, he reached over and pulled Sean into a hug. "I love you Sean, please don't ever let us be separated ever again. Pretty please?"

"Never again" replied Sean. "The thought of losing you again hurts too much to even think about. Let's go straighten up a bit before we find Mom, you are a mess!"

Cory giggled, "You ain't exactly straight yourself, did you get the number off the train that hit you?"

By the time they were done both boys looked fairly presentable; the bathroom on the other hand resembled a war zone. They walked down the hall with their arms over each others shoulders; Cory was the first one to spot Teri at the kitchen table.

"Mom?" Cory started.

Teri looked up in joy and shock, it had been a year since she had heard that sweet voice use that word; a long and trying year.

Both boys said in unison "... We need to talk ... "

Chapter Three

Teri looked at the two boys, she could see by their eyes that they had both been crying. Cory calling her 'Mom' meant only one thing; finally the time she had impatiently waited for had arrived. A fleeting feeling of fear came over her; would she be able to handle this right without anyone getting hurt?

Sean broke Teri out of the trance she was in "Mooooooommmmm! Did you hear us?"

Teri blinked a few times then said "Yes boys, sorry. Why don't we all go into the living room; for some reason I get a feeling this might take a while."

They went into the living room and Teri sat down in the large overstuffed leather chair. To her surprise, both boys climbed into the chair with her; something they had not done in quite a few years. "Trying to make sure I can't run away?" she joked. That extracted a couple of small giggles from the boys; somewhat breaking their somber mood.

Cory got right to the point. "Mom, why do I have to live at that place? Why can't I be at home with you and Sean? Don't you want me anymore since Mikey died?"

Teri wiped a tear from his cheek that had started running down it. "I can't tell you everything right now; there are still things which you are not ready to hear. I will try to tell you what you want and need to hear. I need a promise from both of you first, OK?"

"What's that?" said Sean

"Go ahead." said Cory.

"If EITHER one of you starts feeling even a little bit uncomfortable with anything I'm saying, I want you to stop me IMMEDIATELY; and the same goes if it looks like the other one of you is having problems with what they are hearing. Do you agree?"

"Yes Mom." they answered in chorus.

"The reason I asked that of you is I don't want any of us to have to go through what we have in the last year ever again; we all need to be careful that we don't try to do too much too fast." Just then Teri felt a strange, comforting, chill go through her; she could tell that both boys felt the same thing as she felt their shivers.

They all three looked at each other, the silence broken by Cory. "Mikey is here to protect me." he stated matter-of-factly.

Teri just nodded. "I believe you are right, and I hope he lets me know if I'm going too far." With that she felt a quick chill, and she knew her youngest charge had a very strong guardian angel who loved him deeply.

"Cory, could you please fill me in on everything you remember first?" asked Teri.

Cory reached over and grasped Sean's hand for strength. "I remember that I used to live here with you, Sean and Mikey. Mikey used to download stuff for me and Sean, and would do cool things with us. I remember that Mikey died and then the next thing I knew I was living in the home. I can remember things here and there before he died; but I don't remember how it happened, in fact you guys never even talk about it around me." Cory grew silent for a minute, then continued. "I was confused when I first started realizing this; I thought that maybe since Mikey died you didn't want me around anymore and that's why you sent me to the home. But then I wondered why you let me hang out here all the time. Sean showed me that he still wants me around, that he even still loves me. I'm so confused; why can't I live HERE?" Cory looked at Teri with tears running down his cheeks: "Why, Mom? Why?"

Teri pulled Cory in tighter to her. "I really do want you back here Cory; we will see how you feel once we're done here, but I hope I can make the phone call I've been waiting forever to make. With one call you can be back here at home, where you belong. I'm not going to get into how Mike died; I don't think you are ready for that yet" A quick chill confirmed what she just said. "But I'll try to fill you in on some things before and after it happened. First, do you remember how you came to live here?"

"No, not really." Cory replied.

"Okay, I'll give you the short version. Your birth mother, Cheri, and I were best friends throughout school. The two of you used to live down the street. You always came over here ever since you were born. As soon as you and Sean were old enough to walk, either you were over here or he was at your house. Mike was with you guys a lot; he felt like he had to protect both of you from coming to any harm. About the time you were six years old, your mom found out that she had cancer; she arranged for me to adopt you if anything happened. Since your father died right after you were born, she knew it was the only way to make sure you ended up with someone who she trusted to take care of you."

Teri thought it was best not to tell Cory that both his and Sean's fathers were killed by a drunk driver, since it was the same way Mike had died. The two men were in Cory's dad's Pinto; when they were rear-ended by the drunk, the car exploded, killing them both. "Mike took you under his wing after we adopted you, and helped both of you boys through Cheri's death. There are a few other things that happened during that time that only you two can work out; I'll just tell you now that I understand, and if you want to discuss it with me I will help as much as I can. You will know what I mean, and I promise that I am fine with it." Teri looked at the two boys; Cory looked confused, while Sean showed a combination of shock, embarrassment, and gratitude. "Don't worry Cory, it's not something bad; but when the time is right you boys will have to discuss it. Sean, don't push it before you are both ready."

Cory took advantage of Teri's pause and commented, "So that's why we all have the same last name; that's been bugging me for a while now."

"You got it, Cory." Teri replied as she looked up at the clock. She was shocked to see that it was 4:30 already; as if on cue, both boy's stomachs growled. "Sean, could you hand me the phone from the table? I just realized that we all missed lunch, so if it's okay with y'all I'll order us a pizza real quick."

She called the local pizza shop and ordered three large double pepperoni with extra cheese pizzas, a double order of breadsticks, and two 2 liters of soda for delivery. "Okay, that should hold you guys for a couple of hours anyways" she chuckled as she hung up the phone.

Once both boys were settled back into place, Teri looked at Cory and noticed that the break had done some good; the tension she had seen building up in his face had melted away. "Are you ready for me to continue?" she asked Cory.

"Yeah, I think so." he replied.

"Well, when Mike died, you took it really hard; later that night you just blacked out." Teri's voice broke as she was saying this, and it took a couple of minutes before she could continue. "When you came out of it a week later in the hospital, the only person you recognized was Sean; even though you were able to place a name to his face, you still had to ask him if he was your friend." Teri looked to see how Sean was taking this; she knew it would be hard on him. When Cory had asked that, she had been worried that Sean was about to join Cory in the hospital room. She saw the troubled look in Sean's eyes, "Sean, are you okay?"

Sean looked up at her "Yeah Mom; I have Cory back now, so I'm okay hearing it."

"I just wanted to make sure." Teri responded before continuing. "Shortly after that, the doctor took me aside and told me what they thought had happened. It seems that Mike's death had been too much for you to handle, and it caused your brain to overload and shut down. From what we later found out, anything even remotely associated with Mike was blocked in your memory; since you two had known each other since you were born, that meant pretty much everything. Sean stayed with you every day in the hospital. A month later when school started, the doctors arranged for his school work to be brought to the hospital; that way Sean wouldn't have to leave you. Due to him not giving up, after a couple months you were able to do enough on your own that you were ready to leave the hospital. The staff psychologist decided that you would relapse if you were brought here, so he ordered that you were to be put into the home until you recovered more of your memory. The first psychologist that you had at the Home decided it was best if you had no contact with us at all. After the first month, we found out that you were losing more of your memories instead of recovering them; so we got a court order to change your doctor. While we were at it, the judge approved a requirement that we were allowed visits there; also he forced the Home to allow you to come here if you wanted to to visit."

Teri was interrupted by the ring of the doorbell. As she looked at the boys, she was glad it did; both of them obviously needed time to absorb what she had said. "Well guys, it looks like the chow is here. Go get some glasses and plates on the table, we'll finish after we eat." In a split second her lap was empty as the urge for food overrode any wish to hear more.

She paid the delivery boy, and then carried the boxes to the kitchen. By the time she had poured the drinks for all of them, one pizza box and one breadstick box were empty. She picked up one of the empty boxes and started inspecting the edges of it carefully.

"Whatcha doin' mom?" Cory asked.

"I'm looking to make sure nobody got cardboard instead of pizza! It looks okay though, I don't see any tooth marks." Teri replied with a grin.

That elicited loud groans from both boys, followed by giggles when they saw the grin on Teri's face.

As Teri snatched the last breadstick, more to prevent a war over it than actually wanting it, she looked at her boys. Then she realized, this was the first time she had been able to see them as "her" boys in a long time. For a long and trying year, she had been forced to regard Cory as nothing more than Sean's friend to keep up appearances until Cory's memory came back. " You know, Cory; after thinking about it, I think that's enough talking tonight. I don't want to push you. I know all of this probably brought up more questions, but did I answer some of the ones you had?"

Cory looked up from licking the pizza sauce off of his plate: "Yeah mom, you got a lot of them; I think a little more is coming back now that I'm thinking about it." He then gave her a big smile, accentuated by a pizza moustache. "Thanks a lot for sticking with me, I'm really glad you didn't give up on me!" He then leaned over to Sean "And thank YOU for helping me, even when I didn't know it; I will owe you forever!" He then gave Sean a big kiss on the cheek, leaving a line of sauce most of the way across it.

Teri laughed and went over to the sink. She wet a rag and came back to the table, then started cleaning off both boy's faces. "I don't know what to do with you two, but I love both of you anyway" she chuckled.

Teri knelt next to Cory. "Cory, you need to trust me here; I'm going to call Dr. Richardson now, he will probably want to come over and talk to you. Wait!" she said when she saw the panic appearing in both boys' eyes "Dan and I planned for this a while back; if you will talk to him tonight, Cory, it's possible that the only reason we will be going to the home tomorrow is to pick up your things. I'm hoping that tonight you made enough progress that he will release you; he said it would be soon, that's why he told me to call him at any time if you had a breakthrough."

She heard the sigh of relief from both boys, and saw a spark of hope light up in their eyes. "Okay Cory; does that mean you will talk to him? Actually, he will probably want to talk to you too, Sean."

Both boys answered in unison "Yeah Mom, I'll do it." Once they realized what they had done, they chorused "Jinx!" then collapsed in laughter.

Teri shook her head at their antics, and went into her study to call Dr. Richardson.

On the third ring the phone was answered. "Richardson residence." a female voice answered.

"Mrs. Richardson? This is Teri Short. Is Dr. Richardson there?"

"Yes Teri, just a minute. Is Cory doing okay?"

"He's doing better than ever; thanks for asking."

"Great, I'm glad to hear that! Here's Dan."

Dan Richardson's voice came on the phone. "I can tell from my wife's smile that you don't have bad news. What's up, Teri?"

"We just had a major breakthrough today; I would like for you to come over if you can tonight to talk to both of the boys." Teri replied. "I think it's time for Cory to come home for good."

"Are you positive?"

"Absolutely certain."

"Okay, give me twenty minutes and I'll be there."

"Thanks Dan, we will all be waiting. Bye."


"OK guys, he'll be here in twenty minutes; you need to hurry and get cleaned up." Teri said to the study door. The sounds of scurrying feet told her that her little snoopers had heard.

Fifteen minutes later, Dan arrived. He spent forty-five minutes with Cory, and a half hour with Sean, before he called Teri into the study.

"Teri, after talking to both the boys, I agree with you. The break we were waiting for has finally come; and in my professional opinion, it would be better for Cory to stay home with his family instead of going back. If you don't mind me using your phone for a few minutes, I'll make the required calls to get him released, then you can pick up his belongings tomorrow."

"Go ahead" Teri replied, "Do I need to leave, or would it be better if I stayed in here; just in case I'm needed?"

"Actually, you are right; it would be best to stay, just in case anyone has any questions for you." he replied.

His first call was to the judge that had assigned him to Cory's case after the damage done by the first doctor was brought to light. Teri was shocked to hear Dan making arrangements for an emergency court order, just in case the home put up a fight. Dan saw the look of surprise on Teri's face, and after hanging up he explained.

"Teri, you know that I'm not exactly on the best terms out there at the home; in fact it took a court order to even allow me to take Cory's case. Chances are, they are going to demand a review by their 'staff'; from experience I know that they will stretch it out as long as they can. The major problem is, during the review I would not be able to have any contact with Cory; and honestly I believe that by the time they were done messing with his head, he would be in worse shape than he was when this all started. Judge Lewis is a good friend of my father, and I have been keeping him posted on Cory's progress. That was something that we wrote into the original order to protect Cory. The Judge actually already had the paperwork drawn up; all he has to do is date it and sign it, which he just did."

Teri looked at him with gratitude, knowing that Dan was actually trying to look out for her son "Thank you, I'll owe you forever for this." she stated.

"What I saw tonight was payment enough for the extra work!" he replied with a smile. "Just take care of those two boys; your love does more than any of us doctors could ever do."

Dan then called the home to give them his release order; and as he expected they refused to release Cory. In fact, they demanded to have him returned immediately. Dan just smiled, and told them he would see them personally shortly. After he heard their reply, he laughed and hung up the phone. "Teri, there will be some guests here in just a second; I need to make one more call in private, do you mind?"

Once Teri closed the door behind her, Dan dialed the sheriffs department. "May I speak to John please?" he said to the dispatcher when she answered.

"Please hold, sir."

"Polk County, this is Sheriff Martin."

"Hello John, it's Dan. The home is up to their shit again; I got a court order on its way to release a kid, one of your guys should have it now."

"I know about the order Dan. We just got a request for help from the home, nobody is there yet though." John replied. "Don't worry about it; I know what they're up to and you will have all the protection you need. In fact, as soon as I hang up I'm gonna call the responding officers on the scrambled channel and fill them in. I've got some advice though; you better grab the kid's stuff tonight, this ones gonna cause some fireworks until I talk to them downstate. Oh, don't be too surprised to see some new faces next time you're there; between you and me, this was the final straw we needed to close a major corruption investigation."

"Great, thanks John!" Just then the doorbell rang. "Looks like our escort is here, I better run."

"Okay, I'll see you on the course tomorrow; you be careful. Bye."

"I will. Bye John, thanks again."

Dan had Teri get the boys ready to go. While she was doing that, he filled in the officers as to what was happening, along with his discussion with their Chief. Just before they left, he took Teri and the boys aside. "Okay all of you; no matter WHAT you hear, let the officers and I handle this. You will definitely hear things you don't want to hear; in fact, it will probably sound like everything is going wrong. Don't worry; we have this all under control, and I'll bet if you read the paper tomorrow or Monday you'll understand."

"Teri, before we go; can you make copies of something on the computer here?"

Teri looked at him "I think so; do you know how to, Sean?"

"Yeah mom, what would you do without me! It'll take just a minute" Sean replied with a grin.

Dan shook his head. "Okay Sean, make two copies of this. Leave one here, and give me one."

Teri gave Sean a playful swat on the butt as the giggling boy slipped past her. Two minutes later, he was back with the copies.

Now that the paperwork was in order, they piled into Teri's Suburban and drove over to the home. As they were pulling into the lot, they were shocked to see eight sheriff's cars and two state cruisers sitting in the lot.

'Shit!' thought Dan. 'It looks like John called out the big dogs. At least I hope it was him!'

They climbed out of the Suburban and walked up to the door of the home. As Teri and the boys waited just inside the door, Dan walked up to the counter and handed the copy of the order to the desk clerk. "I have a court order here to release Cory Short to his mother, Teri Short."

Without even looking at the order, the clerk tore it into pieces. She turned to the State Trooper at the end of the counter. "I want him, her and that kid arrested for trespassing! The blond is to be escorted to solitary confinement NOW!"

Before the Trooper had a chance to reply; one of the Deputies that had escorted them walked up to him. "Captain, we anticipated this response; here is the ORIGINAL order from the court granting immediate release."

The Captain took a minute to look the order over, and then nodded to his partner. "You stated before they arrived that you were the Director here, right?" he said, looking at the woman.

"Yes, why should that matter?" she replied.

"Because you just saved me a lot of work," he replied. "You are under arrest for obstruction of justice, disregarding a court order, attempted destruction of same, causing officers to be falsely dispatched, and whatever else the prosecutor can come up with. Sergeant; read her her rights and cuff her, this place is officially being shut down." He looked over at Cory. "Son, go get your stuff; if you would like, one of the officers can help you. Congratulations, you are free to go home."

Cory ran over to him and gave him a tearful hug. "Thank you, I will NEVER forget this! I hope I grow up to be just as good as you!" The Captain returned Cory's hug then lightly swatted his butt.

"Go on Cory, your family is waiting."

As Cory went down the hall with the Deputy that brought them, the Captain walked over to Dan, Teri, and Sean. "Would you mind joining me in the waiting room? We have a report to fill out."

A half hour later, everything was loaded, the report was finished, and they headed home. Teri invited the Deputies and Dan in for coffee; an offer which they accepted after a quick check with Dispatch. Between the joking about the look on the director's face, and the explanations of what happened and why; the boys calmed down from the recent excitement.

After all the men left, Teri went in the study and retrieved an envelope from her safe. "Hey guys, come with me for a minute." she said as she came back out.

They climbed the stairs and began walking down the hall. As realization slowly crept into Sean's eyes, Cory followed along, still confused. When she tore open the envelope and he saw what was inside, Cory suddenly realized what was happening.

"You WERE expecting me to come back!" He exclaimed. "Those are MY keys!"

Teri handed him the key ring, then handed one of the two remaining keys to Sean. The other she put on her own ring for emergencies only. Even though they trusted each other fully, the boys had asked to have real locks put on the bedrooms so that if there was company, a common occurrence during the holidays, they would not have to worry about their rooms being invaded. Each boy had a key to the other's room, a privilege which had never been abused.

"Do you remember which key it is?" Sean asked.

"I think so" Cory replied. He broke into a huge grin when the first key he tried opened the door. "Holy Shi ... OOPS, sorry Mom!" he exclaimed. "You left it exactly how it was!"

They all looked into the room; the bed was a mess, some dirty boxers were hanging from the bedpost, one wall was covered with Dale Earnhardt posters, a half-completed model car sat on the desk, and there were odd clothes hanging out of drawers.

Teri thought at that moment it was the most beautiful sight she had ever seen; it meant her other son was finally back home. She then said something that almost sent the boys into shock "Don't worry about cleaning it up right now, let's get all of Cory's new stuff in here and we will start sorting it all out in a few days."

It took forty-five minutes to get everything into the room exactly where Cory wanted it, and then they all went down to the kitchen for a bedtime snack. Teri smiled as she watched the boys suck down a quarter of a pumpkin pie each. She wasn't sure, but it appeared that each of them had a full container of Cool Whip on their slice.

As they were finishing up, Cory looked at Teri: "Mom, would it be okay if me and Sean slept in my room tonight?"

"Sure thing, Cory; as long as you two promise to sleep sometime during the night." Teri replied with a grin. "Also, both of you need to get a shower."

Teri left to go to her room. Cory grabbed a towel, then went through the common bathroom into Sean's room to get him.

"Sean, can we shower together like we used to?" Cory asked shyly, looking at Sean expectantly.

"REALLY!!! I was afraid to ask you 'cuz I was afraid if you didn't remember you'd think I was weird. You better believe we can!"

Sean started digging through his dresser. "What you looking for?" asked Cory.

"Something to put on after the shower." Sean replied.

"Why?" Cory asked, a hurt look crossing his face.

Sean saw the look and immediately took Cory in his arms. "I'm sorry bro; I just don't know what you remember, and I'm afraid of doing anything to freak you out. If I'm doing something that seems weird, please just tell me. We both still have lots of adjusting to do; I ain't gonna hurt you, so I might do some things that seem different from what I used to do. Just tell me, and real soon I think we will be back to how we used to be."

Cory sniffled then gave Sean a big squeeze. "I'm sorry. You're trying to watch out for me, and I was feeling hurt because you were doing it. I'll try to let you know when that happens; I don't want to lose you again."

Sean grabbed his towel, and they both went into the shower. They used the excuse of washing each other to reacquaint themselves with each others body, both commenting on changes as they noticed them. Cory insisted on using both shampoo and conditioner on the small patch of pubic hair that Sean had grown, then Sean inspected Cory closely until he found a couple tiny hairs so that he had an excuse to do the same for Cory. By the time they were done, both boys sported evidence that they appreciated the extra attention.

Cory knelt down and started washing Sean's legs. The next thing Sean knew, he felt something soft, warm, and wet on his erection. The new sensation was too much; Sean exploded in Cory's mouth. Cory stood up after he was finished and looked at Sean with a smile.

"Sorry Cory, I couldn't hold it. That's the best you've ever made me feel!"

"It's OK Sean, it's been so long I wasn't sure if I still knew how."

"Can I do that for you?" Sean asked.

"Please? I remembered us doing this when Mom was talking after the pizza. I was worried that you wouldn't want to do it anymore, but after you agreed to take a shower together I figured I would take a chance." Cory replied.

Sean was on his knees so fast he forgot to grab the soap. They both giggled when Sean had to ask Cory to hand it to him. Cory moaned as Sean began returning the favor. He was amazed at the feeling; he vaguely remembered that it felt good, but this exceeded his expectations. Suddenly a new feeling came over Cory, it felt like his entire groin was exploding. He latched onto the shower rails with a death grip, trying not to pass out from sensual overload. Once he recovered enough to think straight, Cory looked at Sean with an amazed look: "Whoa! That was the FIRST time I've ever done that!"

Sean looked up with surprise: "That was your first cum!?"

Cory reached down and pulled Sean up then enveloped him in a hug. "Yes, and I am sooooo happy that I gave it to you! After all you have went through for me, you are the only person who deserves it."

The boys stood there in the shower just holding each other until they noticed that the hot water had ran out a while ago. They hurried up and got out, then dried each other off. They brushed their teeth with an arm over each others shoulder, and then headed into Cory's room to hit the sack.

They laid down, and Cory snuggled up to Sean. "I love you, Sean."

"I love you too, bro." Sean replied.

Cory reached up and turned Sean's head. Looking deep into Sean's eyes, Cory said; "Not that way; I LOVE YOU!"

Sean smiled "Cory, I LOVE YOU!" He then locked his lips to Cory's and snaked his tongue into Cory's mouth.

Chapter Four

Sean woke up with his face just inches from Cory's face. "Ewww ... Morning breath!" Sean thought to himself. He had to stifle a giggle as he slowly snuck out of the bed and shuffled to the bathroom to empty his bladder. As he finished he thought to himself 'Great! It looks like he's gonna sleep for a bit more; that will give me a chance to take care of something real quick.' He looked over at Cory sleeping on the bed in the early dawn light, and felt as if his heart would burst from love and pride; his Cory was on his way back. Sean quietly went to his room and fired up the computer after making sure the speakers were off so that nobody was disturbed.

Sean went to his closet while the computer was booting and got out his old laptop. He dug out a patch cable and connected it to the network hub. After both machines were running, he used the laptop to unlock the file he had hidden deep in the main computer, then mapped that file to a drive letter so that he could access it. In no time he found the file he was looking for; and after fifteen minutes of reformatting it so that it looked just right, he printed it out and put it behind the Plexiglas on a plaque he had picked up a while back.

'I really hope he likes this.' Sean thought. 'I've waited so long to give it to him.' With that thought, a single tear ran down his cheek. Sean wiped the tear away, and then wrapped up the frame in some tissue paper. He then closed out the file and put the laptop away. Even though the pass phrase required was virtually unguessable, he did not want to take any chances of someone figuring out how he kept his most private writings and journals hidden.

He then logged into his favorite message boards and caught up on the recent posts. He posted an update to everyone on the happenings of the last 2 days; he figured it was only fair after all the support they had given him over the last year. When he heard his mom moving around, he sat up with a start. "Oh man! I better hurry; I need to get back into the other bedroom before Cory wakes up so I can get this hidden where I want it!" Sean muttered to himself.

Sean shut down the computer. He managed to sneak back into the room without waking Cory, and hid the package in Cory's underwear drawer. Sean didn't relax until he was back in the bed. He was pleasantly surprised when Cory rolled over in his sleep and snuggled tightly to him. The feeling of the one person he loved more than anyone else in the world laying so close to him relaxed Sean, and he immediately drifted back to sleep.

About 10:30 Sean awakened with a start to find Cory straddling him, tickling him under the armpits. In between fits of laughter, Sean managed to get out "Cory! Unless you want your butt pressure washed, you better get off of me NOW!" Cory took one look at Sean, then with a huge grin jumped off of the bed and ran to the bathroom. Sean was right on his heels, and the two boys proceeded to try to fill the toilet with the contents of their bladders. As they finished, Sean commented: "We better get some clothes on; I'm gonna grab some clean stuff outta my room, I'll meet you back here in a few minutes."

"Okay, bro; I'm betting Mom is wondering where we are at anyways" Cory replied. "Dang, it feels weird calling her Mom after the last year!"

Sean just smiled. "It may feel weird, but it's about the best thing I've heard in a long time; besides, for you feeling weird should be normal, since you ARE weird!"

Cory slapped Sean's butt. "I may be weird, but it's only because I've been hanging around YOU and it's rubbed off on me!"

They giggled and hugged, then separated to their rooms to grab some clothes.

Sean had just finished deciding what he was going to wear when he heard a sound behind him. He turned around to find Cory standing there holding the package he had hidden, still wrapped, with a smile on his face and tears of joy running down his cheeks.

"I found this in my drawer, it says 'To the number one person in my life, from Sean'." Cory said in a low voice.

Sean walked over to his bed, and motioned Cory to sit next to him. "Come on over bro, why don't you open it?"

Cory sat down and proceeded to carefully unwrap the package, making sure he was able to save the wrapping paper. Once he had the paper folded up to save, he looked at what was on the plaque. "Oh my God!" Cory reached over and pulled Sean into a bear hug, the looked back at the plaque in his hands.

The background was a semi-transparent picture of both of them when they were ten. They were standing in the back yard with their arms over each others shoulders, wearing matching Speedos. They both had huge grins on their faces. Superimposed over the top of the picture was a poem:

I sit here, Dream and wonder,
I look into your eyes and fade away.
You tempt me, you lure me,
Your innocence will let me dream today.
Your eyes, they look in beauty,
They send the sense of lovingness.
And they forbid me to look away.
Those eyes, they make me slowly drift away.
Today, is the day,
I'll never turn my back and walk away.
I'll tell you, I love you,
I'll take my chance, in a twist of faith today.
If only, you'll be mine,
I'll be with you, until the end of time.

Sean Short May 12, 2004

Sean looked at Cory: "Flip it over bud, please?"

Cory got a puzzled look on his face, and then flipped it over. On the back was hand-written:

For Cory with all my love, August 2004.

I have waited for the day I could give this to you,

You will forever be a part of my heart and soul.


Cory carefully laid it off to the side, and then looked over to Sean. When he saw the worry in Sean's eyes, he wrapped his arms around him. "Thank you Sean! It's beautiful, I'll treasure it forever. Even though I still don't remember everything, I know that nobody has ever done anything this special. I love you, it's the best thing you have ever given me."

The two boys settled into a loving cuddle. After holding each other for a while, they got up to finish getting ready. "Sean?" asked Cory

"Yeah, Bro?"

"Would you mind if I took this to breakfast and showed Mom? It's so beautiful I need to show it off."

Sean blushed. "Sure Cory! It really means a lot to you, don't it?"

"Of course, silly! How often does the one person you care about the most give you a present that shows how much he really cares."

"Aww man; you're gonna make me all mushy. You know, I didn't really realize how much you really meant to me until I almost lost you. I heard Mom telling Dan that she could tell whenever I had spent time with you; she said it was the only time I was happy. Last night was the first time in a year that I went right to sleep; and it was all because you are finally back home."

"Now, you're making me blush!" Cory giggled. "Seriously, usually I have to jog in the morning to clear my head; my head is usually all messed up after I wake up. Not only is this the first time in a while that I didn't need to run, it's also the first time I've slept in. I didn't realize it until yesterday, but I need you to feel secure. When I'm with you, I feel good; when you're not around it feels like somethings missing."

Sean smiled. "I know what you mean; I've been feeling the same way. I'm just glad you're back, I'm not sure how much longer I could have handled not having you."

Cory walked over and hugged Sean. "Bro, I'm really sorry for hurting you like this. If anything had happened to you because of my screw-up I woulda died. Sooner or later I would have remembered, and there's no way I could handle knowing I was the reason you were not around."

Sean kissed Cory's cheek. "Don't worry about it anymore. Dan promised that you would come back to me, and now you're here. That's what kept me going, and I learned to care for you more in the process. Who knows, maybe this is something good that's taking a while to develop."

Cory giggled. "If this was something good happening, remind me to run if something bad happens!"

Sean joined Cory in his giggles. "You know, when you put it that way you've got a point! I won't have to remind you to run; I'll be grabbing you and dragging you behind me!"

Cory smiled. "You got a deal! You know, we better get downstairs; Mom's gonna start wondering what we're doing."

Sean smiled. "You might not remember it, but this wouldn't be the first time she's wondered what we were doing!"

Both boys headed out the door and headed down the stairs. They walked side-by-side, arms over each others shoulders; just like in the picture on the plaque Cory held tightly in his free hand.

Chapter Five

Hey all, this is Mike, you know, the dead guy? I bet you thought I was out of this, didn't you? Well, as soon as I moved up here, I started watching over my brothers; I was watching when they found out at the mall what happened to me, and I have been there every second since then. It's cool not having to sleep; did you ever try to keep up with 2 teenagers? If I wasn't already dead it would kill me! Honestly, I love both of them very much, and I do whatever I can from up here to protect them.

Later; and remember, we are watching over you!


The previous evening:

Dan hung around Teri's place until he were sure that Cory was going to be okay after the fiasco at the home. It wasn't two minutes from the time he left the driveway that his cell phone went nuts. Dan looked at the caller ID and saw it was Judge Lewis. The first thought that came to mind was "Oh shit, Social Services wants Cory!" He answered it expecting the worst, but was shocked by what he heard.

"Dan," Judge Lewis started, "Pick up Sharon and JJ and get your butts down to the courthouse ASAP!"

"Sharon and JJ? Why? What's happening?"

Judge Lewis cut him off. "You know that eight year old, so-called 'angel', that you were asking me to look into you adopting? He has two of my officers hopping on one leg and two others singing soprano right now; so get your ASSES down here before I lose any more men!" The Judge paused for a quick breath before adding; "IGNORE the FUCKING speed limit - JUST GET HERE!"

Dan was in shock, he had NEVER heard the judge use language like that! Before Dan could respond, the judge hung up. Dan called home, and told Sharon to wake up JJ and be ready to go. He opened up the throttle on his Camaro and proceeded to fly home. He slid into the driveway, and found an obviously confused wife standing with an irritated twelve year old boy on the porch. Dan waved them into the car, and explained the situation to them as he drove downtown.

"It appears that Kyle is having 'issues' with some of Urbandale's finest at the courthouse. According to Judge Lewis, two officers must have got kicked in the knee; and, as he put it, two others are singing soprano."

Dan heard barely suppressed giggles coming from the back seat. "He kicked them in the nuts, huh Dad?"

"I'm glad to see you're listening, JJ." Dan replied. "Because you are probably the only person who can calm the little shit down."

"Why is he at the courthouse?" asked Sharon.

"Well, by the time we were done at the home tonight it ended up being shut down by the State Police!"

The car fell silent as they all considered the implications of the home being closed.

Dan mentally reviewed what he knew about Kyle's recent history. Last winter Kyle's mom was killed in an auto accident when a truck hit an ice patch on I-80. His father was an unfit parent who lost parental rights a year before; so there was nobody left to take care of Kyle, and he ended up at the home. Social Services had called Dan in because Kyle had major problems; after Dan's first meeting with Kyle he knew that normal therapy would not work. As an experiment, Dan brought Kyle home over a weekend to see if maybe having another kid to talk to in a neutral environment would help; and got the shock of his life. Kyle immediately hit it off with JJ; within a few hours they were inseparable. Dan managed to convince the home to agree to alternating weekend visits as part of the treatment plan; one weekend Kyle would come home with Dan, and the next weekend JJ would visit Kyle at the home. Unfortunately, they would not allow JJ to sleep over or Kyle to come over every weekend, and Dan did not want to push his luck by forcing them to; not with him treating Cory at the same time. Two months ago, Dan asked Judge Lewis to look into the legality of them adopting Kyle; by that time JJ had somehow convinced Kyle that he could trust Dan. That put Dan on the short list of adult males Kyle felt that he could trust; in fact he was the only entry on the list.

There was only one other person that Kyle would have anything to do with at the home, and that was Cory. For the last couple of months, they had decided to start sharing their appointment times; it became a double length group session instead of two one-on-one sessions. It seemed to do both of them good; they helped to support each other, and would yield to whichever had the most pressing thing to discuss.

As they pulled up to the courthouse, Dan noticed an officer waving him into the "police only" spot in front of the door. "Damn," he thought, "he must have REALLY gone off the deep end!"

They walked in to find an officer blocking access to the courtroom. Even through the thick oak doors, they could just hear the sound of Kyle mouthing off to someone inside. Once Dan introduced himself and his family to the officer, the officer moved from in front of the doors and waved them through.

"OK, JJ; you go first." Dan said.

"Thanks Dad, it's nice to know that you need me to deal with your problems!" JJ replied with a giggle and a grin.

JJ opened the door. "KYLE CALVIN HODGES! ZIP THAT LIP AND PLANT YOUR BUTT ON THE GROUND, NOW!!!!" he yelled as he stepped through the doorway.

They followed the officer through the door; even the termites were frozen in shock! Kyle was sitting on the floor with a look of absolute amazement on his face; he had never seen JJ reprimand him for anything, so he knew he had really screwed up. Judge Lewis was sitting there open-mouthed, since he had never seen a display like that from JJ either!

JJ walked over to Kyle; as he walked up, Kyle looked down at the floor and started crying. JJ knelt in front of him and gently put his fingers under Kyle's chin, lifting it up until they were looking eye-to-eye. "Hey little buddy. Sorry I yelled, but you were so wild it was the only way to get through to you. I got outta bed and hurried over here for you; do you think we can sit down and let my Dad and the judge figure out what's goin on?"

Kyle nodded his head; after JJ stood up, Kyle jumped up and wrapped his arms around JJ. Somehow, JJ carried Kyle to the witness chair and sat down with Kyle cuddling on his lap.

Judge Lewis started shaking his head in disbelief, and then waved toward Sharon and Dan. "Could you two please join me in my chambers; we have some urgent things to discuss. Boys, will you be OK out here by yourselves?"

Both boys nodded, so they headed into the chambers. "Dan, Sharon." Judge Lewis started, "I hated to call you this late, but we have an urgent problem."

"What's that? We didn't need to come in here just because you found an eight year old with a very accurate foot." Dan asked while holding back a grin.

"Smart aleck!" Judge Lewis muttered as he sat down. "Actually, thanks to the scandal at the home, we've got to find temporary placements for all of the kids. All of them but Kyle should have been released according to the real records. Kyle's case is unique; there is only one situation where he can be released, otherwise he is going to have to be put in a mental hospital. At least that's what your case notes say; are they accurate?"

Dan grimaced. "Unfortunately they are correct, he still has serious trust issues."

"Well, there's only one acceptable solution then. Dan, a while back you asked me to look into making Kyle a part of your family; are you still considering that option?"

Dan looked at the judge in shock. "You better believe I am; I thought there was no chance since you never got back with me."

Judge Lewis smiled. "The false reports that were being filed blocked it, but now that we've got the real reports the situation is totally different. If the two of you are willing, I'll release Kyle to you tonight; in fact I have enough of the paperwork completed for you to give a certain eight-year-old a huge surprise by lunch tomorrow. I'll call as soon as it's ready."

Dan looked at Sharon, her smile answered the unspoken question. He turned back to the judge. "Finish the paperwork; this will make two boys tonight that I'm making sure get to go home."

A few minutes later, they came back into the courtroom. Kyle was still on JJ's lap, excitedly telling JJ about the events at the home earlier in the evening. All three adults smiled as they silently watched the boys interact; to the casual observer, it looked like a normal little brother relating his day to a loving big brother.

Dan waited for Kyle to pause before interrupting. "Boys, it's been a long day. What would you say about loading up and heading home?"

Kyle looked over at Dan. "I ain't got a home no more; you shut it down! If you leave, I'll never see JJ again!"

Dan phrased his response carefully. "Kyle, did you hear me say 'boyS'? That means both of you; Judge Lewis thinks the best place for you is coming home with us. You are not going to lose JJ; you will live with us now."

Kyle spun to JJ. "Is he for real? Are you goin' to let me stay with you for a while?"

JJ smiled at the little imp on his lap. "Kyle, you know Dad don't lie. I've been begging him for you to stay with us forever; I think Judge Lewis is gonna try to make that happen. If I get my way, you ain't never gonna leave again."

Kyle wrapped himself around JJ. "Thank you! I wish you were my big brother, you're kewl."

Dan overheard Kyle as he joined the boys. "Kyle, say an extra prayer tonight. You might just have your wish come true." He picked Kyle up off of JJ's lap and held him to his chest. "Come on, little man, it's time to go home."

To be continued ....