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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Chapter Six

Teri looked up as she heard the boys coming into the dining room. She was unable to suppress her smile when she saw them; each had the arm closest to the other draped over the other's back, with the hand firmly anchored on the shoulder. In Cory's right hand was what looked to her like a plaque; judging by the grip he had on it, it meant a lot to him.

"Morning Mom!" The boys chimed.

"Good morning guys. How did you sleep last night?"

The boys looked at each other, and then replied in chorus; "GREAT!!!!"

Cory giggled as he turned to Sean. "Bro, you wanna cook breakfast again?"

"Sure, let me get the cereal and the milk." Sean replied with a grin.

As Sean went off to retrieve the breakfast necessities, Cory walked up to Teri and shyly asked "Mom? Do you mind looking at something?"

"Sure Cory, whatcha got?"

"Sean made a surprise for me, and I kinda want to show it off."

Cory handed the plaque to his mom, and waited expectantly to see her reaction. Sean saw him handing it to her, and quietly emptied his hands of cereal and milk as he waited to see her reaction.

Teri smiled, and a few tears of joy trickled down her face. It was certain that she re-read the poem about twenty times, but the last time she finished out loud. "If only, you'll be mine, I'll be with you, until the end of time."

Teri looked up at the boys. "Cory, that is the most wonderful gift I have ever seen anyone get; and you are worth every bit of it. Sean, that is the most beautiful thing you have ever written, I'm proud of you!"

She carefully set the plaque on the table so it would be safe, then smiled. "Come here boys, group hug time!" As the hug broke off, she looked over at Cory. "I know you are going to want to put this where you can see it, but try to find a spot where the sun is not shining on it directly, that way it won't fade. And Sean, if you still have this stored on your computer, could you make a copy on a CD that I can put in the safe, in case anything ever happens to that?"

Sean was still in shock, he had figured she would like it but did not expect the intense reaction. All he was able to do was nod his head.

Cory retrieved the plaque from his mom; "I'll be right back, I'm going to put this up so it does not get hurt accidentally."

Teri turned to Sean. "Put the milk and cereal away, Sean. I'm going to make us all some French toast and sausage for breakfast. How's that sound to you?"

Instead of answering, Sean flew back to the kitchen with the milk and cereal; there was no way he was going to pass up French toast, no matter if it was for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

Cory came back into the dining room, and was surprised to see nobody there. He heard sounds coming from the kitchen, so he headed in that direction and was pleased to see Sean mixing something in a bowl. "Whatcha doing, bro?"

"Mixing up the batter for French toast, Mom decided we needed hot food!"

"Mom, is there anything I can do?"

Teri looked over from the stove where she was pre-heating the griddles. "Why don't you get the sausage out and make the patties?"

"Great! Millions of sausage patties coming right up!" he exclaimed with glee. After getting out the bulk sausage, and laying out the waxed paper on the counter, he started making the patties.

Shortly the griddles were ready, so Teri turned around to see how many patties were done. Her timing was perfect; and what she saw brought pain, then joy, to her heart. Cory was working on the tenth patty, when suddenly he paled slightly, frowned, and a single tear ran down his face. Almost immediately, his mood shifted, he grinned, and then broke out in a fit of giggles.

Before Teri could say anything, Sean spoke up. "What's so funny, dufus?"

Cory then broke out into a full laughing fit. Teri knew there would be no answer until it was over, so she just smiled and waited for Cory to settle down. Amazingly, in his fit of laughter, Cory was managing to finish the patties, so she started cooking breakfast while waiting for him to come back to earth.

When he had finally managed to settle down to an occasional chuckle, Cory filled everyone in. "Sean, remember when Mikey, you, and I used to sneak down to make an early breakfast?"

"Yeah, why?"

Cory answered between giggles. "Well, I just remembered it myself, and I also remembered how he always ragged on you. He always insisted that I make the patties, because YOU WERE TOO WEAK TO PACK THEM AND THEY ALWAYS WOULD FALL APART!!!!" At that Cory deteriorated into another fit of laughter.

A smile crept across Sean's face as he walked over to Cory and wrapped his arms around him. Not a word was said, but they all knew an important event had just occurred; Cory was starting to remember good times without slipping into depression.

The mood during the meal was light-hearted, as the three of them bantered back and forth between bites. Teri noticed there was a distinctive difference in the way the boys responded to each other, they seemed to be bonded even closer than they had ever been before Mike's death.

Once the meal was finished, the boys proceeded to clear the dishes. As usual, there was no food left; two hungry teenagers definitely ensured that! Just as Sean started the dishwasher, the doorbell rang.

"Well, that eliminates all of our friends!" Cory chuckled, "None of them have figured out how to push a button yet!"

Sean had to laugh; as funny as it was, it was true; everyone they knew knocked instead of ringing the doorbell.

Sean walked out of the kitchen towards the foyer, and spotted Dan standing there with Teri and two boys he had never seen. One looked to be just a little bit younger than Sean was, while the other could be no more than nine years old.

Just then, Cory walked out of the kitchen.

"CORY!!!!!!" screamed the younger kid; he immediately launched himself across the room and almost tackled Cory.

Sean instinctively went to pry the child off of his brother, when he felt a small hand on his shoulder. The other kid was standing there, and shook his head with a smile on his face.

"Don't worry, they are okay. I'm JJ, and that 8 year old tornado over there is Kyle. Just so you know, Kyle worships the ground Cory walks on."

Sean looked over towards the other two. Cuddled up in Cory's arms, Sean saw a very contented little boy. He was about 4 ft 3, with wavy shoulder length deep brown hair. Just then Kyle turned his face, and Sean saw his almond shaped brown eyes, and a thin nose centered in the slender angelic face. Despite the obvious joy Kyle was feeling, Sean noticed a hidden pain in his features, a pain he had learned to recognize all too well in the last year with Cory. Sure that Cory was safe, Sean turned back to JJ.

Sean had to admit JJ was cute; the combination of collar length wavy strawberry blond hair, slim but not scrawny build, and an angelic face punctuated with an aquiline nose and full lips, was to die for! Sean then looked JJ in the eyes, and was immediately captivated; the glistening hazel eyes drew him in, and he had a feeling that they both shared something in common that few others did. The feelings did not arouse Sean, but he immediately felt as if JJ was a part of him, almost a brother. Sean managed to break the gaze, and was greeted by a look of wonder and acceptance on JJ's face. "What grade you in, JJ?"

"Sixth, I just turned twelve."

Just then Dan walked up to them. "Shit," he chuckled to himself, "you could bake a potato with the energy from all the gaydar going off right now!" He then spoke up: "Boys, do you think you can coax the two leeches over there into the living room; I've got quite a bit to fill you all in about."

That evoked giggles from JJ and Sean, while drawing embarrassed glances from Cory and Kyle. Cory picked up Kyle into his arms, and the five of them headed toward the living room. As they were walking, Kyle spoke up for the first time.

"You must be Sean." Kyle said shyly. "Thanks for taking care of Cory, he is my bestest friend! He told me about you, can you be my friend too?"

The procession stopped as if they had hit a brick wall. Dan, JJ, and Cory waited expectantly for Sean's reply. They were all in shock, this was the most outgoing thing that any of them had ever seen Kyle do. They also knew this might be an important turning point for Kyle; for with as little as he had let each of them know about what went on inside his head, all three knew that his little ego was easily shattered.

Sean looked into Kyle's eyes, and his heart broke when he saw the longing, insecurity, and pain that they reflected. He walked over to Cory and Kyle, lifted Kyle's arms and moved them to his shoulders, then took Kyle into his arms.

"Kyle, little buddy, I will be your friend forever if you will let me." As he saw the smile appear on Kyle's face, he turned his head up and gave Kyle a quick kiss on the forehead.

The other three breathed unconscious sighs of relief, then finished going into the living room. When Sean walked in behind the rest carrying Kyle, Teri's jaw hit the floor.

Dan chuckled; "Teri, lets just say that your son's charm has struck again. His instinctive grasp of what to do when put in an emotional situation with another person impresses and amazes me!"

Teri gave Dan a confused look.

Dan pulled her off to the side, and started explaining in a low voice. "Kyle is extremely insecure and fragile, the only two friends he had were Cory and JJ. On the way in here, he managed to ask Sean if he would be his friend. Honestly, it shocked me, usually he won't even speak to anyone else unless spoken to first, but Sean had not even said a word to him yet. Instead of reacting like you would expect a thirteen year old to do when asked that by an eight year old; he took it seriously. Sean not only said yes, but he did it in a way that let Kyle know he was serious."

Teri nodded her head in understanding, and then quietly motioned Dan to look behind him.

Dan looked around, and it was his turn to have his jaw hit the floor. The three oldest boys had managed to squeeze into the overstuffed leather chair, Sean in the middle, Cory on his left, and JJ on his right. Kyle had climbed onto their laps, stretched out over all three, with his head laying at the juncture of Sean and Cory's shoulders. "Dang it, where is a camera when you need it?" Dan quipped.

"Look in the game cabinet." Cory replied. "My drawer, it’s the middle one, wrapped up in a bag in the back." A look of shock crossed Cory's face as he realized what he just said. "HOLY SHIT!!! I put that in there before we went to the mall!! I had hidden it there so that Mikey could take pictures of us when we got back without you knowing about it, Sean!! I JUST REMEMBERED MORE!!! Sean, umm, I hate to ask, but..."

Sean cut Cory off. "It has been put up since that day, now I think we can finally enjoy it the way we planned. Congrats, bro; you don't…well I guess you DO know how long I have waited for you to ask me that!

Everyone was smiling except JJ, who looked totally lost. Kyle noticed it first, and was so happy for Cory that he blurted out "Something bad happened to Cory a year ago, and he can't remember stuff. It's so cool; he just remembered something while I was here!"

Teri retrieved the digital camera, and then started to go to the study to get fresh batteries for it. As she neared the door, Sean called out.

"Mom? Could you do me a HUGE favor?"

"What's that, Sean?"

"Could you NOT look at what's on the camera already, PLEASE?"

Teri looked at her son's blushing face, and decided she probably did NOT want to know what pictures were on the camera. "Okay, but you need to empty it later tonight so nobody forgets and looks."

By the time she returned, the boys had settled back in, and she was able to get the picture. None of them realized it at the time, but that picture would prove to be a prophecy.

Teri and Dan sat on the love seat, and Dan began talking.

"Okay, now that you guys are done fooling around; I've got a few things to update you all on. Some of you know different parts of what I'm going to say, but we all need to be on the same page here, so I'm going to cover all of it. First off, Sharon sends her regards; she came down with a migraine this morning, and decided it was best to stay home while we got everything settled. Secondly, I received a call from the Judge confirming that Cory is fully released, as of now you have your son back for good Teri."

Teri smiled, and Sean and Cory both gave a happy "YES!!!" Sean noticed the confused look on Kyle's face.

"What's up, little buddy?"

"When did Cory get adopted? He never told me." Kyle replied with a pout.

"He has been my brother for a long time, bud. He just did not remember it."

"OK, I understand now." Kyle replied as his face relaxed.

Cory reached around with his free arm and gave Kyle a half-hug, which brought the smile back to Kyle's face.

Dan made a mental note that Kyle had smiled more since they arrived here than he had seen him smile in the last three months total. He hoped that what he was about to say next would make it a more permanent fixture on that cute little face.

"Okay, my next announcement concerns Kyle." Dan smiled at the youngest member of the pile in the chair. "As most of you either know, or have guessed by now, Kyle was one of my other patients in the home. After it was shut down, which by the way looks to be permanent, a few case workers from Social Services were called in for emergency placements. Kyle's case worker was one of those called in. In a couple minutes, you will understand why that is important. You see, for the last few months, I have been fighting with the home over adopting Kyle; I had approvals from everywhere else but there, and Social Services could not sign off until they either had the home's approval, or could prove it was refusal with malice."

"When Social Services went to pull everyone's records, they found out there were two sets of records being kept on each patient; one that the doctors used, and another that was used for Social Services and insurance charges. The files were coded so that the right one was given to the right people, so as soon as they were balanced against the records that Social Services had, your case worker had all the information he needed to generate an approval for the adoption. The only thing we were missing was the supervisors' countersignature, but after a phone call, the Judge was assured that if we completed the process last night, he would have the required signature this morning. Sharon already knows, but on the way here I picked up the paperwork." Dan paused for effect: "As of 8am this morning, Kyle, you are no longer Kyle Hodges; you are my SON, Kyle Calvin Richardson!"

As Teri leaned over to give Dan a hug of congratulations, the chair exploded into a mass hug for Kyle. Dan gave them a couple minutes, then went over and dug out Kyle.

When he was finally able to see his new son's face, his heart melted. Kyle had the biggest grin that Dan had ever seen, and still had tears of joy running down his face. "I have one question; may I have a hug, SON?"

Kyle managed to get one word out as he threw himself around Dan's neck: "DADDY!!!!"

It took fifteen minutes before Kyle pulled back from Dan, and another ten for JJ to finish welcoming his new brother.

After everyone was settled back in, Dan continued. "I made some arrangements for a tutor, if it's okay with you Teri. Both Kyle and Cory need time to make adjustments to the sudden changes they just went through, and with Cory getting the memory flashbacks as fast as he is, it's better that he not be in a public school if a bad one hits him. I believe the best support for both boys is sitting next to them right now; their brothers. I have made arrangements for all four boys to be tutored at the same time. I figure that way they can help each other adjust. Would it be okay for them to be home-schooled by the tutor here, Teri? That way if Cory needs to go off to recover, he will have a familiar place to go to."

"I think it’s a great idea, I was worried about Cory at school anyway." Teri replied. "Also, you are right, this would be the best place, and Cory can go to either his or Sean's room if needed."

"What about Soccer?" Sean asked.

"You will still be considered a student at the school, and your coach should have no problems with you still being on the team. We will finalize everything tomorrow; so it looks like you guys get an extra day this weekend."

That satisfied Cory; but just as Dan was getting ready to ask if anyone had any questions, his cell phone rang.

Chapter Seven

Dan answered his phone.


"Dan, this is John. Is someone there with you?" The voice on the other end sounded concerned.

"Yes John; I'm at Teri Short's with the boys. Why, what's happening?"

"I stopped by the house to see how you guys were doing; and when I went inside, I found Sharon passed out on the floor. We are on our way to Mercy Hospital right now, Life Flight just left with her. Do you think Teri would mind watching the boys so you can get down here?"

Dan's face slowly turned ghost white as John was speaking. Dan put his hand over the microphone on the cell, and then turned towards Teri. "Teri, could you please watch the boys for a little while, I need to run to Mercy right away?"

Teri saw the terror in Dan's eyes, and immediately responded. "Yes, Dan. Take as long as you need."

"She said yes, John, so I'll be right down there."

"OK, but be careful driving; those boys need you. Bye." John hung up before Dan could ask him any questions.

"What's happened Dad?" said JJ in a small, panicked voice.

"Sheriff John stopped by the house to see how we were doing, and found your mom lying on the floor." Dan answered in a low voice, "They are on the way to Mercy hospital right now, and I am going to meet them there. I want you two to stay here with Teri until I know more. I promise to let you know as soon as I know something."

"But ... " Kyle and JJ started simultaneously.

Dan held up his hand and stopped them. "No arguments boys, I need to get going."

With that, Dan grabbed his coat, gave Teri a hug and whispered in her ear, "Thank-you, she was taken out on Life Flight.", and then he hurried out the door.

It was times like this when Dan appreciated the Iowa road system. Once he got off of 86th street onto I-80, he was easily able to do 80 without being a hazard; in fact he was passed a couple of times. "Not bad for a 65 zone." Dan thought. Once he hit the west mixer, (the local name for both the west and east junctions of I80, I35, and I235), he dropped to 70 for the trip down I-235, even though the speed limit was 55. Within fifteen minutes he was at the 6th Ave exit, then three minutes later he was handing his keys to the valet and running toward the emergency room. As he went through the revolving door; he found John, along with one of the deputies from the other night, waiting for him.

As Dan headed out the door, Teri looked over at the boys. She saw the worry about Sharon in Kyle and JJ's faces, and her own boy's faces reflected the worry for their friends. Teri opened her arms, and immediately had JJ and Kyle on each side. Sean and Cory came up behind them and joined in the hug, wrapping the two youngest boys in a circle of support.

At first, Teri said nothing, but then she felt a familiar chill, and she knew Mike was with them again. It was immediately followed by another; not familiar like Mike, but she felt the care and concern. Just then, she had a premonition, and realized what needed to be said. "Kyle, JJ, could you please listen to me, it will only take a second?" The boys raised their faces to look at her, and as she looked them in the eyes, she said; "I want you to know that if anything happens to your mom, I will be here for both of you, for as long as I live."

Cory gasped, and a fresh tear ran from his left eye. As more tears began to fall, Sean pulled him up close, tight to his shoulder. Feeling Sean's support, Cory began to slowly speak quietly. "When I was little, my mommy went to the hospital. I was scared, and Teri was holding me, just like she is holding you now."

Teri looked into Cory's eyes, and a lump rose in her throat with what she saw. Looking back at her was the scared little boy that she had held so long ago, a little boy who put his absolute trust in her when he found out his mother was sick. Even before Mike's accident, this was one subject that was taboo around Cory, a wound that had never healed.

Cory continued. "When I found out that my mommy was sick, Teri said the exact same thing to me. She has kept her promise, and now I am proud to call her Mom. It hurts in my heart, I know I just remembered her saying it, and it reminded me of my mommy when she said it to you, but it feels like I had forgotten her being sick, even before Mikey's accident." His face slowly retuned to normal, and then he spoke again. "Mom, I need to thank you for giving me a family back."

Teri leaned over the top of Kyle's head, and then kissed Cory on his forehead. She then managed to choke out "You're welcome, son."

After a few more minutes of hugs, they broke apart. Teri headed to the kitchen for a much-needed drink, while the boys headed toward the love seat. When Teri returned, she found Sean holding Cory, with JJ leaning against both of them, holding Kyle. The emotional roller coaster had been too much for them, and all were fast asleep. She retrieved a blanket to put over them, praying that her premonition was wrong, for their sake, and then took a seat in the chair to wait.

Three hours later, Teri woke up to the sound of the front door opening. She immediately shook off the sleep, and hurried to the foyer when she saw John helping Dan through the door. She guided them to the kitchen, and helped John seat Dan at the table.

Teri pulled John off to the side. "Is she that bad?"

A tear ran down John's face. "Sharon had a brain aneurysm, she was pronounced dead on arrival, there was nothing the doctors could do for her."

Teri gave John a hug of consolation, then went back to Dan. As she put her arm over his shoulder, she spoke softly to him. "Dan, I'm sorry, I want you and the boys to stay here, and I'll do whatever I can to help you. You gave me my son back, so the least I can do is to be here for you now."

Dan looked up, with obvious gratitude behind the sorrow etched upon his face. "Thank you Teri, right now I'm so lost, I don't know what to do." He then broke down into quiet sobs. Once he had regained some control, Teri gave him a concerned look.

"The boys need to be told as soon as possible, can you do it, or would you rather have either John or I do it?"

Dan seemed to draw on an untapped reservoir of strength when she said that. "I can do it; I need to be the one who does it."

"Alright, I will go get them, but wait until all four boys are in here and settled. I think my two are going to be the support that your boys will need. I learned the hard way what happens if you let them try to handle something like this on their own."

Teri went in and awakened the boys, sending Kyle and JJ to the bathroom before they went into the kitchen. As Sean and Cory got up, she pulled them close and spoke softly to them. "Guys, Kyle and JJ are going to need your help. Their mom has passed away, and I think you guys can help them more than anyone. I want you to promise me something. If either one of you even starts to have a problem, or you are not sure what to do, let me know right away. I don't want to see you lose everything you have gained back, Cory. And you, Sean, keep an eye on Cory too. When this is all over; I want all four of you to make it through; without anything even close to what Cory went through happening. Do you guys think you can handle it?"

Both boys gave Teri a hug, and she heard them both answer "Yes, Mom."

They went into the dining room, and Teri pulled out four chairs into an open area of the room. Just as Cory and Sean sat down in the two center chairs, JJ and Kyle came into the room. Cory waved Kyle over to sit in his lap, and, to Teri's surprise, Sean motioned JJ to come sit on his. Teri sat next to Cory and Kyle, and John took the seat next to Sean and JJ. Dan came over and knelt in front of the chairs the boys were sitting in.

"JJ, Kyle, your mommy had a brain aneurysm. What that means is that a blood vessel broke inside her head. There was no way to tell it was going to happen, there are no warning signs." Dan paused, seeing Sean and Cory pull both their charges tight against them. "Your mommy passed away before she even got to the hospital. The doctors said that she did not feel much pain, and that she passed quickly." Dan reached up, and JJ and Kyle fell into his arms. Right behind them, Cory and Sean joined the hug, expressing their sympathy and support without words.

"Does this mean I have to go back?" whimpered Kyle.

"No, baby, you do not have to go back." Dan replied.

"If anyone tries to make you go back they have to go through me first!" Teri stated, her resolve evident in her tone. "You have a father now, and I will not let you lose that."

That must have been the right thing to say, because Kyle relaxed and cuddled in closer to Dan. It took a half hour for everyone to get their emotions back under control. Teri then went to the kitchen and brought out some sliced ham, bread, and condiments. She knew if she had asked, nobody, or at least no adult, would admit to needing to eat. With the food in front of them, she hoped that they all would at least try to eat something.

The boys didn't disappoint her; as soon as they saw food they were at the table, plates in hand. "Nice to know they still think with their stomachs." Teri thought wryly.

"Dan, John; get over here and grab a sandwich, before these monsters eat it all!" Teri called out. When Dan shook his head, Teri walked over to him. "I told you I would help however I could; that includes making sure that you eat something. You of all people should know that not eating when you are depressed worsens the depression. Now EAT!"

After they ate, Teri took Sean and Cory aside. "Guys, I'm going to have Dan and the boys stay here at least tonight. Would you mind Dan using your room Sean, and then the boys can camp with you two? I'm hoping I can get John to stay with Dan, in case he has any problems overnight." She was proud when they both agreed without hesitation. Once Dan was convinced that he was not kicking Sean out of his room, he agreed that it would be better to try to rest there instead of on the couch.

Teri then went up to John. "John, I hate to ask this of you, but is there anyway possible you could stay here with Dan tonight? I really think that he will need a friend close by before the morning comes."

"I agree. If I could use your phone, I'll call the station so they know where to find me, I'm a bachelor, so not going home is not a big deal."

As she showed John to the phone, Teri looked in on the boys. They had migrated to the living room, and were holding a quiet discussion, punctuated with copious amounts of hugging. It was obvious that Sean was paying attention to JJ and Cory the most, both of which were paying close attention to Kyle. It appeared as if Sean and Cory were succeeding in comforting the other two boys; and surprisingly Cory looked to be holding up well, so far.

Fifteen minutes later, Teri showed Dan and John to Sean's room, while Cory and Sean took the boys to Cory's room. As the boys entered the room, Kyle exclaimed, "WOW, look at the size of that bed - COOL!"

Kyle's reaction at seeing the queen-sized bed that was in Cory's room, (Actually, there was a matching one in Sean's room too), broke the somber mood some, and caused the older boys to begin giggling under their breath. JJ was the first to regain control, "Kyle, put your eyes back in your head and hit the bathroom - you are first."

As Kyle headed into the bathroom, Sean explained to JJ: "Mom got queen size beds for both of us when we were kids, we would always end up sleeping in either my room or Cory's room. As a matter of fact - we still do, I don't know about Cory, but I have trouble sleeping without someone next to me. Last night, knowing that Cory was back home for good, I slept well for the first time in a year."

Cory started to give Sean the evil eye when he stated that they still slept together, but he was unable to restrain himself once Sean finished speaking. Cory pulled Sean into a tight hug, and quietly whispered in his ear; "I promise you will never sleep alone again. I love you, Sean."

Just before Cory pulled away, Sean said "It looks like tonight is a boxer's night, too much of an audience for nude." Just then Kyle walked back into the room, and the worried expression on his face immediately caught Cory's attention. "Sean, why don't you hit the bathroom with JJ; I think Kyle and I need to talk alone for a minute" Cory said, loud enough that JJ could hear him too. JJ looked over at Kyle, then returned his gaze to Cory and nodded his head, giving a slight smile showing he understood.

"Let us know when you are done, so we can come back out," said Sean.

Once the other two were out of the room, Cory sat on the bed and patted his leg for Kyle to sit on his lap. "What's the matter, buddy? You wanna tell me about it?"

"Do you have a sleeping bag I can use to sleep on the floor?" Kyle whispered.

"Why do you want to do that, the bed is big enough for all of us?"

"It's such a nice bed ... umm ... and, all of you will be sleeping there and ... well ... "

"Kyle," Cory interrupted "are you worried about someone getting mad if you have an accident tonight?"

"Yeah ... " Kyle muttered, hanging his head.

Cory put a finger under Kyle's chin, and then lifted Kyle's face up and kissed the tip of his little nose. "Don't worry little buddy, it wouldn't be the first time that bed has had a wet spot on it in the morning. Does JJ know you have problems sometimes?"

"Yeah, but what about Sean? Won't he get mad at me?"

"Would it make you feel better if I talked to him? I'll tell you what; if he has a problem, I will make HIM sleep on the floor! Remember, this is my room!"

Kyle giggled at that thought. "Okay, you can tell him. Thanks Cory."

Cory lifted Kyle down, and then went over to the bathroom door and knocked. JJ came out first, but as Sean came out, Cory grabbed him and pulled him back into the bathroom. At the quizzical look from JJ, Cory replied; "Didn't you know? He's my slave; I need him to hold it for me!" Cory laughed and closed the door once he saw the shocked look on JJ's face.

Sean could barely contain his laughter. "I'm gonna kill you, what do you mean SLAVE!"

Cory giggled. "You are a slave to love, silly. Now, seriously, I need to talk for a second."

"Okay, what has that one lonely brain cell in that blond head of yours thought up now?"

"HEY! No kisses tonight if you are going to talk like that!" Cory giggled. "But, the reason I pulled you back in here is to warn you; Kyle has a problem with peeing the bed sometimes. He is worried that you will get mad if he has an accident tonight, and wanted to sleep on the floor. I think he needs to cuddle, considering all that has happened today, and told him I would make sure you knew, so you would not get mad or make fun of him."

Sean got serious. "Wow, poor little guy. Thanks bro, I think you are right. Don't worry; I will be just fine about it if he has an accident."

"I knew I loved something about you besides that cute face" Cory replied, then pulled Sean into a passionate lip lock."

As he paused to catch his breath, Sean replied, "Yeah and you are pretty smart, for a blond." Then he pulled Cory back to him to resume the kiss.

When they finally separated, Cory giggled. "Okay, get on out there so I can take a leak without you attacking me. If we stay in here much longer together we will be busted."

Sean smiled, and then left the bathroom. A couple of minutes later, Cory followed, and found the other three sitting on the edge of the bed, waiting for him. "Come on guys, let's hit the sack." Cory then proceeded to strip down to his boxers.

After cleaning out his pockets, and then tossing his and Cory's clothes down the laundry chute, Sean turned around. He was surprised to see that Kyle was standing there nervously, still wearing his jeans. "Don't worry Kyle, we are all boys. Besides, if you have a problem tonight, you won't have anything to wear tomorrow."

Kyle blushed. "I ... umm ... don't have on underwear. I get all red and itchy if I wear any."

"What do you usually wear to bed?" Sean asked softly.


Sean got on his knee in front of Kyle. "Would you be more comfortable if we all slept with nothing on? Usually Cory and I do, but we thought it would make you feel weird if we did that with you here."

A small smile graced Kyle's face. "Would you really do that for me? Yeah, it would make me feel lots better."

Sean gave him a quick hug. "Yes, you are a part of our family now; our mom decided that earlier today, when she said she would watch out for you."

Sean stood up, backed away from Kyle a few feet, and then dropped his boxers to the floor. He then looked around and saw that JJ and Cory had followed suit, both of them were also nude. He couldn't resist checking out JJ's hairless body, and appreciated the show JJ was unknowingly giving him.

Sean pulled his gaze from JJ before it became too obvious that the scenery interested him, and looked to see how Kyle was doing. Kyle was not at the bed, so he looked around, and found him putting his jeans over the back of the desk chair. Looking at Kyle from the back, Sean was amazed at how tiny he looked, the little butt cheeks, with just a tiny bubble, and cute little dimples on the sides. When Kyle turned around, Sean was almost in shock; there was not an ounce of fat on him! Even though he did not look starved, Sean could still see each of his ribs. Kyle's hip bones were obvious, and as Sean looked closer he felt a jolt of sorrow for the boy in front of him; instead of two little lumps in the sack between his legs, there was only one, on the right side.

"Come here, angel, let's hit the sack" said Sean, motioning to Kyle.

As he headed towards the bed with Kyle snuggled under his arm, Sean thought to himself 'I swear, I'm going to protect this little angel from anybody hurting him from now on.'

JJ was already in bed, and once Sean and Kyle were there, Cory shut off the light and then joined them. It took a couple of minutes to sort out who was going to sleep where, then after a flurry of "Good Nights" and hugs everyone drifted off.

About fifteen minutes later, Teri looked in to make sure the boys were all okay. She smiled when she saw the arrangement. Cory was lying with Sean cuddled up to his right side and Kyle cuddled up to his left. Sean's right hand was just below Kyle's armpit on the side of his ribcage. JJ was cuddled up to Kyle's back, with his left arm draped over Kyle and Sean. The sheet was being held in place by Sean's forearm, and all the boys were snoring softly.

Chapter Eight

Hey Y'all - Mike again!

I'm really proud of my little brothers right now; even though they are just getting over me "moving" up here, they are trying to be strong for JJ and Kyle. Sharon is really worried about the two boys and Dan, but she feels much better knowing Teri and the boys are there for them. I did my usual and opened my big mouth; in other words I volunteered to watch over Kyle and JJ so she could concentrate on Dan. There are good and bad sides to that - the good part is watching them grow, and seeing their memories. In one case that's bad though, once I started with Kyle I saw something which I hope the others can handle once it comes out.

I better go here; Sean screwed up and left a CD in the stereo, and things are about to get VERY messy! Sometimes I wonder about that kid...


Sean was awakened by soft moist lips pressing against his mouth and a tongue trying to worm its way between his teeth. He opened his eyes, and was barely able to distinguish the side of a very familiar head in the soft moonlight. There was no mistaking that bright, blond hair; it was Cory.

Sean began to return the kiss, and soon a tornado could have struck the bed and not disturbed the two lovers; both had completely forgotten about the other two occupants of the bed. Suddenly they both reached a simultaneous orgasm, coating each others chest with sperm.

As soon as he was able to speak, Sean managed to whisper: "What was that for?"

"I woke up, and I just needed to kiss you." Cory replied softly.

"Wow, why's that?" Sean asked with a huge smile.

"Just for you being you." Cory replied with a glint in his eye.

Just then, they were brought back to reality by a barely suppressed giggle. If blushes could glow, the entire bedroom would have been lit by the glow from their faces! They both looked in the direction the giggle came from, and there was JJ braced on one elbow with a very evident grin on his face.

"I wonder how Kyle slept through that; you both are so cute, but noisy as heck!" JJ snickered.

"You ain't gonna freak on us, are you?" Sean asked nervously.

"Naw; the only problem I have is deciding which one of you I wish was kissing me instead of the other one!"

"So, I guess that means you're gay too?" asked Cory.

"If I had any doubts, they are gone now;" he replied. "I think Kyle is the only one who did NOT make a mess in bed tonight!"

This got quiet chuckles from the three boys, and then Sean looked over at the clock. "Man, its only 3 o'clock? We better try to get some sleep here!"

"I'd better get between Kyle and you guys, let him cuddle up to my back; just in case he decides to cuddle again tonight." JJ stated.

"He fell asleep cuddled to me, so it might be better if we switch around, that way he won't wonder too much." Cory replied.

The other two agreed, so they switched around so that Sean was laying with Cory on one side and JJ on the other. Just as they settled in, Cory heard a low whimper behind him.

"I'm right here, lil' buddy, come on and cuddle up behind me" Cory said softly.

Cory felt Kyle's young body press against him, and what sounded almost like a purr was heard, as Kyle found Cory's arm and wrapped his little fingers around it. JJ laid his arm over Cory and placed his hand on Kyle's shoulder. Shortly thereafter, all four boys returned to a blissful sleep.

The next thing he knew, Sean awoke with a start; "Dang it! I forgot to shut off the alarm on the stereo!" he muttered.

Sean had been listening to his Backstreet Boys Millennium CD the day before, and had shut it off just as the last song started. As Sean sat up and reached for the remote to turn it off, JJ grabbed his arm to stop him. Sean looked over, and saw the tears running down JJ's face, and then heard soft sniffles coming from behind Cory.

'Of all the songs that could have played,' Sean thought, 'why did it have to be The Perfect Fan?'

Sean then looked down at Kyle, and saw that he too was in tears. He laid back down on his back, and pulled a weeping Cory up close to him. When the final chorus played, there were three tearful voices singing softly along with it:

You showed me
When I was young just how to grow
You showed me
Everything that I should know
You showed me
Just how to walk without your hands
'Cause Mom you always were
The perfect fan

(©1999 Backstreet Boys)

At the very end, as the stereo went silent after the final "I love you Mom"; Cory, Kyle, and JJ collapsed in full fledged tears on top of Sean. All Sean could do was gather them in his arms and hold them to comfort them while they were releasing the pain and loss they were all feeling. Sean considered one of his own "perfect fans", Mike, and tears that had long been held inside of him suddenly came forth. The sound of Sean letting loose was the final straw, all the boys let their emotions free.

Fifteen minutes later, the tears were finally tapering off. The four boys had ended up in a massive 4-way hug, with Kyle lying on top of Sean's chest, and the other two taking opposite sides. Arms and legs were intertwined as each tried to give and receive support from the other by bodily contact.

Suddenly, Kyle whimpered and the other three noticed a sudden flow of warm fluid flowing near their midsections.

Sean looked down and saw the terrified face of Kyle. "You're okay, lil' buddy" Sean said calmly. "I'm proud of you, you made it all night. I understand it's hard to tell sometimes, but all of us crying made it harder for you to feel yourself getting ready to pee."

All three boys hugged Kyle tightly, then Cory asked; "Why don't we all go into the shower now and get washed up? When we are done Sean and I will change the sheets."

"They were due to be changed today, anyway," Sean said to Kyle. "You just made sure we actually do it for once!"

Kyle couldn't help but grin at that, "I'll have to ask your Mom what the laundry schedule is then, so I can make sure you do it when you are supposed to!"

Everyone chuckled at that, and then untangled themselves from each other to sit on the edge of the bed.

Sean got a serious look on his face, and started speaking. "Guys, the shower is just barely big enough for all of us; so I think to save time we might as well all shower at once. I don't know about the rest of you, but that crying session we just had makes me feel a little better. I know who some of you were crying for, and I can guess at the rest I think; but I thought I would answer before anyone has to ask, I was crying for Mike." He paused for a minute, and then continued. "Cory already knows this; but JJ and Kyle, I want both of you to know that anytime you need to talk, cry, or just have someone hold you I will be here for you."

Cory interrupted; "JJ, Kyle, trust me, he means it. I know you guys are just starting to see how close I am to Sean. When I heard the song, I started thinking about my mommy and also Mikey; and I realized that I needed to make sure I get better to make them happy. If you hold your hurt inside it will eat you up, you guy's dad taught me that; but I just figured out that you need to be happy too, or else you will end up being an old grouch." He looked at JJ and Kyle, and then continued. "I know right now y'all are thinking about the things you won't be able to do, but trust me, think about the good times that happened already. I had to learn the hard way you can't change what's already happened. In my case, I almost lost two people who love me in my grief. Please let Sean help you so you don't have to go through that."

As Cory finished, JJ and Kyle got up and hugged him, then went over to Sean and repeated the gesture.

"You both have helped me more than you can guess," said JJ. "I promise to let you know if I need anything, Sean, but if you see that I need a hug, or you think I need to talk, please just do it."

"That goes for me too," Kyle said softly.

The four of them joined in a group hug, and just before they broke it a warm wave of love covered them, the expressions on each one's face showed that they all felt it.

Kyle suddenly spoke up, his voice a mixture of awe and surprise; "That's Mike, he says we are all brothers now!"

The wave increased in intensity, seemingly confirming Kyle's proclamation, then slowly faded away. Sean, Cory, and JJ all looked at Kyle in wonder; it was obvious he was telling the truth, but they were shocked that he was able to know so much. At a loss for words, the three boys kissed Kyle on the forehead and then the four of them went to take a shower.

The shower was actually a little tight for all four of them to wash themselves, so JJ got an idea. "Why don't we just wash each other?" asked JJ, grinning at Sean and Cory.

"That's okay with me, what about you two?" Cory replied.

"Me too, what about you, Kyle?" Sean added.

"Well, I guess so, since you guys want to." Kyle replied quietly.

They washed Cory first; to nobody's surprise, when it came time to wash Cory's genitals there were three hands making sure EVERYTHING was spotless! The scene repeated itself with Sean and JJ, and by the time they were ready for washing Kyle, all three older boys were proudly sporting serious wood.

When it became Kyle's turn, they started at the top and worked down; but when they reached his waist, Kyle suddenly put his hands over his scrotum.

Sean had an idea what was wrong, and knew that how he responded now could make or break the trust Kyle was developing towards him. He waved the other two back, sat down in the corner of the shower on the ledge, then looked over to Kyle. "Come here and have a seat lil' buddy," he said, patting his leg. "We need to talk for a second."

Kyle sat on Sean's lap, with his legs held tightly together. He seemed on the verge of crying, so Sean wrapped his arm around him and pulled him up tight to comfort him.

"Kyle, you don't have to worry. We all know that you are younger that us, which means everything is smaller. But that's not what has you worried, is it?"

Kyle shook his head no.

"I think I know why, if I saw what I think I did last night. We need YOU to tell us for sure though, and I promise I won't laugh or make fun of you; and if either of your other brothers does I'll beat them up for you."

Kyle looked into Sean's eyes and saw the sincerity there, and then looked at the floor, speaking so softly Sean could barely hear him. "I've only got one ball; I'm a useless little eunuch who will never be a man."

Sean's hazel eyes darkened to almost black, and in a barely controlled voice, he asked, "Who was the sorry bastard who told you that?"

"My daddy used to tell everyone that before I was moved to the home."

"Kyle, I'm not mad at you at all, but I need you to look at my face for a minute while I tell you something."

Kyle looked up, and was stunned at the obvious rage that Sean was feeling.

"I swear, if I ever find that useless piece of shit that made you believe that about yourself, I will cut off his nuts and make him eat them while he slowly bleeds to death. That is a promise Kyle, no matter if its next week or twenty years from now, he WILL suffer for making you suffer."

JJ spoke up, the anger at what he had heard also evident; "Sean, there is one condition to that; you have to allow me to help you."

Cory reached up and turned off the cutout on the shower head. "You better make that both of us; that bastard has messed with the wrong kid, he messed with my little brother."

Sean stuck his right hand out flat, and Cory immediately placed his right hand on top of it. JJ followed suit, with Kyle being the last to join the group. "With God as my witness, we are brothers forever. As the saying goes from the Three Musketeers, All for One and One for All!"

With the show of support, Sean had calmed down enough to think rationally. "Kyle, I'm going to have Mom make a doctor's appointment for you. That way the doctor can tell you how you are going to be affected, and if there is anything that will need to be done to make sure you don't have any problems. I'm going to pay for it out of my savings, that four-wheeler I have been saving for can wait, you are more important."

The look of amazement on Kyle's face was priceless. He was speechless; all he could do was tighten his hold on Sean to express his gratitude.

"Kyle, I have and idea," said JJ, "before we wash you up, why don't you show each of us your nut and let us feel it, so that way you know for sure that none of us have a problem with it?"

Kyle thought for a minute; "Yeah, that would make me feel better, is it OK if Sean goes first though?"

"That's fine lil' bro, this is for you, not us."

All three boys checked Kyle out, commenting on how nice they though he looked. JJ took it a step further, as just before he stood up, he dove in with his head and placed a quick kiss on the smooth sac. This evoked giggles from all the boys, as they then turned the shower head back on and finished washing up Kyle.

After everyone was dried off, JJ and Kyle got another shock as Sean and Cory started combing out and fixing up each others hair. "JJ, can we do that too?" Kyle asked.

"I would love to, lil' bro; especially if it will make you happy!"

It took twenty minutes for everyone to be satisfied with the other's hair, with Cory and Sean giving JJ and Kyle pointers on how to make each other look better. When they finally emerged from the bathroom, another problem presented itself.

"You guys need some clothes to wear today!" Cory exclaimed.

"Naw, we can wear what we wore yesterday." JJ replied.

"No way! I'm sure there's still something of mine here that y'all can wear!" At that, Cory began digging through his dressers and closet, tossing out various items for the boys to wear. The boxers and shorts he tossed out to JJ fit fairly decent, and he found an old pair of drawstring swim trunks, which had been too small even before he left, that were able to be worn by Kyle without looking really out of place; they just looked like the extremely baggy style that some boys wore. He pulled a tee shirt out and tossed it to JJ, and then he suddenly stopped for a second. He slowly reached in and carefully pulled out a well-worn Chicago Cubs tee shirt. With a small smile on his face, he turned to Kyle.

"Kyle, this shirt is very special. A couple of years ago, Mikey took Sean and me to Chicago for a Cubs game. He bought this shirt for me, and it became my favorite shirt. It won't fit me anymore; but now more than ever it means a lot to me. Seeing you wear it would make me so happy, it will be as if I am sharing Mikey with you. If you say OK, it's yours, all I ask is that you take care of it the best you can; maybe someday when you outgrow it you will find someone else special to give it to."

Kyle walked over and carefully took the shirt from Cory's hands, then reached around Cory with his free arm to give him a hug. "I'll take really good care of it, Cory. It's my favorite shirt now too!"

As Kyle stepped away, Sean stepped up to Cory and wrapped him in an embrace. "This is for being the most loving, caring person I know." said Sean as he moved to passionately kiss Cory.

When they had finally managed to untangle their tongues, they turned to see JJ running for the bathroom holding his crotch, while Kyle was just standing there frozen with his jaw on the floor. Cory walked up to Kyle and gently closed his mouth.

"Hey lil' bro, are you alright with what you just saw, or do you want to talk?" Cory said softly while lightly placing his hands on Kyle's shoulders.

"I thought boys only kissed girls like that."

"Most of the time you are right, but some boys, like Sean and I, fall in love with other boys instead of girls. Does that make any sense to you?"

"Yeah, I've heard some of the older boys. But they called boys who did that faggots and made fun of them; they said they wear dresses and makeup."

"You did not know this, so I'm not mad at you; but faggot is a nasty name, its just as bad as calling someone a nigger. The right way to say it is that Sean and I are gay. As far as makeup and dresses go, a few gay people do that, but most of them dress just like the rest of the boys you know. Sean and I were born this way; it's not something we chose to be. Being around us won't make you gay, and we don't force other people to do the things we do with each other."

Kyle reached out and pulled Cory close to him. "I understand now, and I swear I will never use that bad word again, or make fun of someone like you guys."

"Thanks bud. But you need to try not to tell anyone, let us do it. There are people out there who would hurt us, just because they don't understand."

"OK, I promise. If I think someone should know I'll ask you to tell them."

"That's a great plan, buddy."

As Cory was talking to Kyle, JJ came out of the bathroom blushing fiercely. Sean took him off to the side out of hearing range.

"JJ, as you obviously figured out, Cory and I are now out to Kyle. It might not be a bad idea for you to do the same while we are all here; Cory is explaining it so that Kyle understands."

"Thanks, I've been wanting to for a while, but did not know how to do it without taking a chance of him hating me."

Sean looked over at the other two just as they started hugging. "It looks like Cory has that taken care of, sometimes he amazes me. By the way, Mom is cool with it too, so you might want to tell her so she does not worry. Tell her Kyle knows too, that should make her feel better."

"OK, will do. Dad is cool too, you want to tell him?"

"Sure, I'll do that. Thanks for telling me."

JJ walked over to Kyle and Cory. "Kyle, bro, I need to tell you something too."

Kyle looked up at JJ, paused for a second, and then smiled. "Go ahead, I bet I know now, but it's just a guess."

JJ relaxed. "Kyle, I'm gay too. I don't have a boyfriend yet, but someday I hope to find someone like Cory or Sean."

"I hope you do, JJ. I love all of you!"

Sean interrupted; "I hate to break this up, but we better get downstairs before all the food is gone!"

JJ laughed, "You're right. Dad's here, he will eat the place spotless!"

They went out in the hall, and were just getting ready to go down the stairs when Kyle spoke up. "Cory, can I PHULEEEEEEEEZEEEEEE have a ride on your shoulders?"

In between chuckles, Cory replied; "Sure, but these two are going to have to help steady us going down the stairs!"

After they were all in position, they slowly made their way down the stairs into the foyer. The adults were all in the living room, and it appeared they had been talking until they saw the kids in the foyer. There was Cory standing there with Kyle on his shoulders, while Sean and JJ all but hung off of each side of him. The way the boys were holding each other made it obvious that they were more than friends. There was a closeness and comfort level that no boy over the age of ten would ever allow if he was straight.

Sheriff John was the first to speak. "Well, I guess that answers that question. Just to get things out in the open, guys, I'll let you know I'm Bi."

"What's Bi?" asked a puzzled Kyle.

Cory had recovered from the announcement quickly, so he answered. "Bi means that he likes boys as well as girls, Kyle."

"Wow, lucky you!" Kyle replied.

The innocence in the tone of Kyle's reply made the comment too much for the adults to take, as they all fell laughing into the nearest seat. The boys were barely containing their giggles, and as soon as Kyle realized what he had said he himself was giggling.

"Thank you Kyle," John choked out, "that's the best anyone has made me feel in a long time!"

The boys entered the room, and JJ spoke up first. "Teri, Sean and I talked a bit, and he said I better tell you that I'm gay."

Sean spoke next. "Dan, just to be fair, it's best you know that Cory and I are both gay, as well as boyfriends. Kyle knows about all of us."

All the adults looked at Kyle. "Don't look at me; I'm just here for the free shoulder rides!"

Teri spoke up. "Did all you ... "

JJ interrupted; "No, we did not do anything. But, if you see me running for the bathroom when they kiss, now you know why."

Dan decided to speak too; "OK; since everyone else is out, I might as well get it in the open too; I'm also Bi."

Teri chuckled; "I love it, I'm a minority in my own home! From the looks of it, my suggestion for housing has become a need, instead of an idea. To fill you kids in, we were discussing getting a place together in Waukee. Hopefully, one with a good amount of property, so you guys can have fun. That way, Dan can travel to conferences to update his schooling, without having to worry about you clowns."

The boys rushed the adults in a frenzied hug. Cory then stepped back for a second and faced Dan. "Dan, you know how you always told Kyle and me that we needed to release our emotions to get better?"

"Yes, why?

"This morning all four of us released a lot at the same time. I know I feel better, and it looks to me like everyone else is too. I thought you would like to know so you would not be worried."

"Thank you Cory. It makes me feel a LOT better knowing you are watching out for each other. I am still here, if any of you need to talk to someone else though, as is Teri."

"Thanks Dan, we'll all remember that."

The conversation was interrupted by a soft knock at the front door.

"I'll get it, mom" said Sean.

Sean opened the front door, looked outside, and yelled "MOM; Come here QUICK, it's Tyler, and he is crying!"

Teri ran to the door "What's wrong Ty?"

Tyler handed her an envelope, then wrapped his arms around her and started sobbing on her shoulder.

Teri looked at the outside. It simply said, "Tyler, read right away." She then opened the envelope behind his back. There were two items in it: A note and another envelope. She read the note first.

By the time you find this, we will be long gone.
The only time you ever seem happy is when Teri baby-sits you after school, so we are leaving you with her. Take the note inside here with you, it gives her all the papers she needs.

Teri then opened the other envelope. Inside were a key, a power of attorney, and another note.

You get along so well with the brat, you can have him!
The key and power of attorney will get you into a safe deposit box at the Firstar bank down the street.
In it will be all his important records, along with a letter giving you guardianship of him. Note that he is non-returnable, even after you see what he is really like you are still stuck with him.
Frank and Julie Cooper

John walked up just as she finished reading. "Grab your badge, John, you are on the clock starting RIGHT now; read these!" Teri growled.

John read the notes, and then knelt behind Teri so he could talk to Tyler. "Tyler, I'm Sheriff John Cooper, but you can just call me John. Can you tell me when and where you found this?"

"Yes sir; I found it in a box of cereal this morning."

"Thanks, now for the hard question, then I'm done. When was the last time you saw them?"

"Friday before school, sir."

"You are safe now; I know Teri is going to take care of you. I will be back out in a minute; I have to make a phone call."


John grabbed Dan and dragged him into the office. He did not even take the time to close the door, so everybody heard him about a minute later. "... I don't care if he has the POPE in his chambers! I said I need to speak to Judge Lewis on an official police emergency; get Joe on the phone NOW!" Five minutes later, the two came back out of the office, Dan grinning from the show he just witnessed.

"Teri," John said, "Judge Lewis will be here in about an hour. We are going to make sure you are set up LEGALLY so they can NOT cause this little angel any more pain."

He then knelt down to be at Tyler's face. "Hey Tyler, do you want to live here with Teri and the boys from now on?"

For the first time since entering the foyer, Tyler raised his head, and a glimmer of hope appeared in his eyes. "Yes, sir! Can you do that?" Then his voice dropped; "That is if Teri wants a pain in the butt like me around."

"Ty, you are no worse than the other four in the other room," Teri replied "and I feel sorry for anyone who tries to separate the FIVE of you. When you walked in the door today this became your new home."

"Does that mean I can call you mommy?"

"Only if you want to and are comfortable with it, if not you can still call me Teri."

"Okay ... mommy!"

Teri's heart melted at the sincere trust he placed in that one word, and Teri vowed to herself that she would never break that trust; even after what had happened, the little angel had just placed his full trust in her.

"C'mon squirt! Let's go in to see your brothers. You have more than you expected!" Teri said with a smile.

Kyle's viewpoint:

It was weird! I was sitting on the love seat, facing away from the door, when Teri came in with Ty. I heard her introduce him to JJ, and she made sure that Cory remembered him; it took Cory a few seconds, just like most blonds, but then his brain started working and he remembered Ty from before the accident. It seems that Ty was already gone by the time Cory got here on weekdays while we were living at the home, so they did not get a chance to re-meet each other.

Anyways, shortly it was my turn, so I stood up and turned around to see him. Our eyes met and we both froze! My chest felt like it was gonna explode, and I was lightheaded. Ty later told me he felt exactly the same way. Standing in front of me was a boy about my age, with fine blonde hair that was so bright it almost looked silver. He was about my height, but built a little sturdier, unlike me he did not have to run around in the shower to get wet!

What really caught my attention though were those steel grey eyes; I could see a loneliness and fear in them I knew all too well, but there was something deeper, a need to love and be loved, that grabbed my soul. Without thinking, I walked up to him, ran my fingers through his hair, which is almost as long as mine, and pulled him into a tight hug. I felt so happy when he immediately returned the hug!

While I have the chance, I want to thank Mikey for helping me write down what I felt. For some reason, he is able to talk to me, and he helped me figure out what to write so it made sense. I'm really glad we are all keeping these diaries now, there is so much happening I'm not sure I can remember it all!

Everyone watched as the two boys embraced for almost ten minutes. Once they finally separated, Teri said gently; "Why don't all you boys go up to your room and talk. We are going to get everything ready for when the Judge gets here. If he needs to see you, one of us will come and get you."

She was hit with a mixed chorus of "okay, mom", "okay, Teri", and "okay, mommy". The boys then all headed upstairs to their room.

"Dan," Teri said as she walked into the office with Dan and John "don't worry about how many bedrooms are in the house when you are looking. just make sure it has lots of property. Even though I'm betting most of them won't be used for sleeping, we might as well build a whole wing of bedrooms for that crew."

"I agree, from the reaction we just saw, I think it might be a good guess to say that within the next four years you might find out you are the token straight person in the household. Are you sure you don't want to switch sides while you can?" Dan sat down with a grin.

"No way, somebody has to keep all you guys in line!" Teri laughed.

"Dan," John started, "before things get nuts again, I have something to tell you. I was going to tell you last night, but once you calmed down you fell right asleep. I made a couple of calls, and you don't need to do a thing about Sharon's funeral. The State is going to handle it all for you, including paying for it. The governor said it's the least they could do, after all the help you have given us."

"Thanks John, you just settled the one thing that was worrying me the most. As long as I can hold it together long enough to get some things from the old house today, I should be OK, with you and Teri supporting me."

"You are not going there alone; I already have guys fighting to help. Word got around quick, and I kind of slipped over the open channel and let everyone know you were going to be staying here." John grinned as he said it; obviously the slip was on purpose.

Just then the doorbell rang. John answered it, and came back into the office with Judge Lewis.

"Hello Dan; and you must be Teri. My condolences about Sharon, are you doing OK, Dan?"

"I'm holding on, Judge. Teri's two seem to be helping my two a lot, so it's easier than it could be."

"Dan, you know out of the courtroom it's Joe! Of course SOME people have been known to use that familiarity to badger a certain clerk, who for some reason does not understand what ‘Police Emergency' means."

John looked up in the air, and attempted to look innocent.

"Have you eaten yet, Joe?" asked Teri.

"Actually, no. I have been running all morning."

"You mind joining us for brunch? I know five boys who must be starving. Then we can settle the rest of this mess after we have all eaten."

"That sounds great, I always think better on a full stomach, plus it gives me a chance to see all the boys in an informal setting."

Teri went to the intercom. "Sean?"

"Yes mom?"

"Get your crew together and come on down to the kitchen. We're going to set up for brunch, and I can use a few hands."

"Okay, Mom, we'll be right down."

A minute later, the five boys walked into the kitchen. Teri was pleasantly surprised to see that someone had ensured that Ty was cleaned up and groomed. Considering he and Kyle never got more than three feet apart since they met, she had her suspicions as to who that someone was!

"Okay guys. Grilled ham and cheese sandwiches sound good?" Teri asked.

She received a resounding "YES" from everyone, so she began to work.

"Kyle, Tyler; You guys are in charge of buttering the bread and putting the sandwiches together. JJ, Cory; you two get everyone drinks and set the table in the dining room. Sean, you are in charge of slicing the ham and cheese for the sandwiches."

In no time the brunch was ready. The boys made the normal amount of "mistakes"; which naturally had to be eaten to hide the evidence. The remaining sandwiches were put on a platter, bags of chips were set out for whoever wanted them, and Teri led the boys into the dining room.

John stood up. "Boys, before you sit down, come over here so you can be introduced."

"Boys, this is Judge Lewis. As long as you are not in his courtroom, you can call him Joe. Joe, you already know JJ, and I'm SURE you remember Kyle. The tall blonde standing next to Kyle is Cory, the other tall one is Sean, and the young blonde is Tyler."

"I'm glad to meet all of you. Tyler, do you know what? My middle name is Tyler, so that must mean you are a good person to have such a great name!" Joe said with a smile.

Ty's face turned bright pink. "Thank you Joe. I'll do my best to live up to it"

At that, everyone sat down to eat. As they were finishing up, Joe spoke up. "I'm impressed. All you boys should be proud of yourselves; I would have never expected a group that has been put together the way you all were to be so in-sync. Your parents and I need to do some work now, but I had to say how lucky they are to have kids like you. Tyler, enjoy your new home here and your new brothers. Teri, be prepared to come by my chambers on short notice, I am going to fast-track adoption papers for Ty, so we can ensure he never has to leave here."

After a chorus of thank-yous, the boys returned to their room to finish getting acquainted, as the adults settled down to prepare the paperwork to protect Tyler, and guarantee his place in the household.

Chapter Nine

Once the boys returned to Cory's room, Sean decided that it would be best to have a serious talk.

"Kyle, Ty," Sean started, "We all need to talk. Do you guys promise to pay attention, or does JJ have to sit between you?"

This caused both suspects to blush fiercely, but they then looked at each other and answered as one; "We'll listen."

"Okay, everyone grab a seat on the bed then." Sean said with a grin.

"Cory, JJ; can I go ahead and speak for you? You know what I need to talk about, and it is something we share."

Both boys nodded their head yes.

"Thanks. Ty, listen up. I have a few things to talk about. Since it looks like you are going to be living here, there are some things you need to know about us. It's nothing bad, but it would be better to know now if you are uncomfortable, instead of finding out later. First thing is, do you know what it means if someone is gay?"

"Doesn't it mean that they are really happy?" Ty replied. This immediately produced a round of giggles from all the other boys, which took a few minutes to settle down.

"In some cases, yes, that's right." Sean replied, grinning. "But it also has another meaning. When a guy likes other guys instead of girls that means gay too."

"Does that mean I'm gay?" Ty replied. "I really like Kyle a lot! It scares me if I think he is even going to leave the room." He then looked at Kyle, the fright in his eyes obvious. It increased as he realized what he had just said.

Kyle saw the fear, and immediately pulled Ty into his arms to prove it was okay. The other three boys just looked on in shock, not believing they had heard an eight year old profess love so plainly. Once he felt Ty relax again, Kyle started to pull away, but he stopped long enough to whisper softly in Ty's ear. "Ty, even if you can't see me, you don't need to worry. I PROMISE I will never run away from you." He then looked deep into Ty's eyes, and watched the fear melt away as Ty realized he was serious. The boys resumed their positions side by side, holding hands to give each other strength.

Sean finally recovered. "Well, that saves me quite a few things I was going to ask. I guess that means you have no problems with Cory, JJ, and me being gay, do you?"

Kyle spoke up. "I feel about Ty like he does about me - so I guess I'm gay too!"

"All you guys have been so nice to me, I wouldn't care if you were from Mars!" Ty replied. "But I don't care who you like, the judge said you are going to be my brothers forever, and if being gay was bad he wouldn't let you be my brothers. I have always wanted a big brother, but the closest thing I ever had was you, Sean. Now I have a whole bunch of big brothers!"

Sean smiled at the logic behind Ty's statement. "Kyle, Ty, you guys are too young to tell if you are gay for sure, but I think there is a chance that you might be. Being gay is something you are born with, like the color of your eyes, but it's hard to be sure till you are eleven or so. Don't worry, we all will support you; no matter if you are gay or not when you get older. Now, Kyle, we can all see that it's impossible to separate you and Ty, so it's a good guess that you will probably be sleeping together tonight. Don't you think there is something you need to tell him? And Ty, don't laugh, promise?"

"Okay, I won't laugh, I promise."

Kyle shrank in embarrassment; the insecure little boy showed through as he looked at his feet. He mumbled just barely loud enough to hear. "Sometimes at night, I have accidents, I pee the bed. I guess you should know something else too. I'm not normal in my privates; instead of two nuts I only have one."

By the time Kyle had finished, Ty was holding him tightly, not speaking, but showing his support through body contact. Once Kyle settled back down, Ty spoke softly "I don't care about the pee, if it's an accident, then there nothing either one of us can do. Don't worry about your privates; I like ALL of you Kyle, just as you are. If only having one nut helped make you like this, then I'm happy you only have one."

Kyle gave a small smile. "Thank you, Ty. You don't know how much better I feel hearing that from you. You're the greatest."

"I think that just about covers anything that could be a problem." Sean said. "What you guys think about pl...?" Sean stopped when Kyle suddenly sat up straight with a far away look in his eye.

"JJ, you need to go get John NOW!" Kyle barked. "Mike is talking in my head again; he says it's urgent!"

JJ started to run for the doorway, but he then remembered the intercom in the room. He pushed the all-call button, and yelled into the microphone. "If anyone can hear me, we need John up here NOW!"

JJ then ran over to the door and opened it. The sounds of adults running up the stairs made it quite clear he had been heard.

"What's wrong?" an out of breath John asked.

Kyle started to speak, but Cory interrupted him. "You won't believe it, but trust us. This is not the first time this has happened, but Mikey can somehow speak to Kyle in his head so that Kyle can understand him. It happened just now, and he told Kyle to get you in here quick. Please listen, this is not a joke."

Before anyone had a chance to answer, Kyle spoke. It was not his normal voice; it seemed deeper and much more urgent. "Mike says there is a Days Inn at the corner of University and 109th. Ty's parents are in room 126, and they have his half-brother Adam there. Mike said to get someone over there now, because Adam is about to get hurt by them." As soon as he finished, Kyle collapsed onto the bed, looking completely drained.

Ty cuddled down next to him. "Are you okay, Kyle?" Then it hit him what Kyle had just said, and he began sobbing. "I have had a brother and nobody told me? They left me for him, now they are going to hurt him too. WHY?" Teri came over to the bed and pulled both boys into her arms, slowly calming Ty while reviving Kyle.

There was just a seconds hesitation, but then John quickly looked around the room and spotted the phone on the computer desk. He strode over to the desk. "Joe, I'm glad you witnessed this, because nobody is gonna believe the source!" John said as he reached for the phone. He quickly dialed a number, which was answered almost immediately. "Ruth? Sheriff Martin. I just got a lead on the parents who abandoned the Cooper boy. The information also suggests another boy may be in danger. Roll all available units to the Days Inn at University and 109th, Code 3. I'm rolling now, call the manager and request he standby with keys to room 126. My ETA is 5 minutes. I'll radio you from the car." John looked over at the boys. "Kyle, Ty, JJ; come with me. Everyone else load up in the other cars and follow me, if Mike is right you all might be needed before this is over."

With JJ's help, Teri managed to get Kyle and Ty to John's car. Cory, meanwhile, made sure all the seats in Teri's Suburban were folded up for use. Sean followed Cory, and as they were latching the 3rd row seat in place, they were surprised to hear the deep rumble of Dan's Camaro starting. The two boys looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders.

"Guess we'll be alone with Mom" Cory quipped.

"OK guys, strap in." Teri stated as she walked up at climbed into the drivers seat. The roar of Dan taking off told everyone who would be there first.

Dan's Camaro was parked at the curb, so by the time John and the boys backed onto the road, Dan and Joe were already out of sight. John flipped on his dash flashers, and then sped off with Teri's Suburban in close pursuit. JJ was in the back of John's car with Kyle and Ty, holding them and calming Ty down.

Sean and Cory were in the center row of seats in the Suburban. Cory leaned forward and asked Teri; "If Adam is Ty's brother, does that mean he might be moving in with us too?"

"I don't know, son. If he is taken from Ty's parents, I would think that they would want to keep them together. I will try to keep him and Ty together, if they want it and all of you agree to it. It's amazing how well all of you have bonded, but if he does not fit in I will not force you boys to live with him. Remember, none of us has even met him, not even Ty."

In the other car, John picked up the radio. "Unit 3 to all units, there is a black 93 Camaro en route to the Days Inn at 109th. You are instructed to escort him to that location if you spot him; the vehicle contains emergency response personnel."

"This is unit 23, he is on Hickman, and I just waved him in behind me."

"This is unit 3, thank you unit 23."

"Unit 3 to all units, Clear channel 2 for Days Inn traffic only."

"Dispatch to unit 3, Channel 2 clear for Days Inn. All units, all other traffic is to move to Channel 3"

As they pulled into the lot, John turned around and said; "Boys, stay low in the back seat there. Either an officer, one of your parents, or me will come and tell you it is okay to get out. I don't want to take a chance of any of you getting hurt."

As the car came to a stop, the motel manager came up to the driver's door. "I have to ask this, Sheriff. Why do you need access to room 126? And do you have a warrant?"

"We have information the occupants are wanted, and other information a crime might be in progress. That's all I can say. If you have a pen, there's a judge sitting in the passenger seat of that Camaro who will gladly sign the warrant to make you happy." John replied.

Just then, Dan walked up and handed a paper to John. "Joe said you might need this," he said with a grin.

John smiled. "Never mind the pen, it looks like he found one." he said as he showed the signed warrant to the manager.

The manager reached in his pocket, and handed the master key card to John. "Thanks, Sheriff; that was all I needed; now both of us are covered. That key will open the Cooper's door as long as the deadbolt is not set. If it is, you will have to kick down the door to open it."

John waved Dan to go back near his car, and then, after a quick conference with the rest of the officers, the police moved into the lot near room 126. Two of the officers went up to the door. "This is the Polk County Sheriffs Department. Open up, we have a warrant."

There was no response from inside, so one of the officers tried the key card. It turned the light green, but did not release the latch. "Someone's inside, the deadbolts set." the other officer said over his radio.

Both officers suddenly perked up. "We just heard a loud slap then a scream inside; request permission for forced entry." the second officer called over the radio.

The manager was standing behind John and heard the radio. "Go ahead." he said. "If anyone bitches, I'll take the heat." John nodded, and then motioned two other officers to move in to assist in opening the door. "Access authorized." he called into the radio.

The two largest officers moved in and set themselves to kick, while the other two took up positions to move into the room. It took two solid kicks, but then the door suddenly caved in. The two officers moved in fast. The officers outside heard a "thud" and saw one of the inside officers start to fall, then a shot was heard from in the room.

"Unit 57 to dispatch; Roll EMS to Days Inn, shots fired, officer down." The outside officers locked and loaded, then crashed into the room.

A minute later, there was a scream; then a preteen boy came running through the door, totally naked. He was covered in welts and marks from what appeared to be a belt. As he ran across the lot, John moved to intercept him. As John got closer, he could see most of the marks seemed fresh; but there were also bruises starting to appear, which told John that the torture had been going on all morning. Every inch of the boy's slim body seemed to have a mark on it.

As the boy reached the grassy area at the edge of the lot, John finally got close enough to grab him.

"Are you Adam?" John asked as he caught the boy and held on to him as carefully as he could.

"Don't hurt me!" the boy cried.

"I'm not going to hurt you. I'm John Martin, the sheriff here. You are safe now; I won't let anyone hurt you."

The boy collapsed, crying, into Johns arms. John knelt so that the boy could sit on his lap, and let him cry out the pain. John looked up after a few minutes, and noticed JJ heading toward him. He looked towards his car, and saw Teri there with the rest of the boys. When JJ reached them, he did not say a word, but dropped his shorts so that he was just in boxers and a long tee shirt. He handed the shorts to John. "He needs these more than I do."

John smiled at the generosity of JJ. He lifted the boy's head, and asked again in a soft voice; "Is you name Adam, buddy?"

"Yes, Sir." he sobbed.

"Please call me John, I get a feeling you will see a lot of me when I'm off duty. It looks like you have already made a friend. This is JJ, and it sounds like he has decided that he would prefer to walk around in his boxers instead of letting you stand here nude."

Adam dropped his head in shame, and mumbled through his tears "He don't want me to wear them, I'm a no-good queer. Nobody would want to be friends with a faggot, and if I did put them on, he would probably throw them away when he got them back. That way he wouldn't catch cooties from me. I bet he would never want them back."

On hearing this, JJ quickly walked up to Adam. He lifted Adam's chin so he could see his face. "Adam, there is no such thing as a no-good queer. You are gay, so am I, and so is the boy who all the clothes that I'm wearing belong to."

JJ noticed Adam had hair just like his little brother, a blonde so bright it looked silver, and as he lifted Adam's chin to look him in the eye, he found the most amazing ice-blue eyes he had ever seen. Adam stood up straight as JJ lifted his chin, and it became evident they were almost exactly the same height. Dan moved off to the side of the boys, and was pleasantly surprised when JJ knelt down to assist Adam, helping him put the shorts on with a minimum of pain.

As the shorts were finally wiggled in place, John was shocked again as Cory walked up and stripped off his shirt; he then handed it to JJ so that JJ could help Adam put it on.

"It's probably best he has a shirt too, bro. Ty is gonna freak if he sees all them bruises up close. That's not what anyone wants to see on his big brother, especially not the way he's all marked up. By the way, I'm Cory." Cory then got a grin on his face "You know what? I think my clothes are being worn by half the city today. Let me guess, you must be Adam, right?"

Adam gave a little smile at the humor, "Yeah, seems like everyone knows me already." Suddenly it registered what Cory had said. "You said his big brother? Wait a second; did you say Ty? Tyler? You mean Tyler Cooper?"

"That's him. He is waiting over there to meet you. He did not even know he had a big brother until just a little while ago" Cory replied.

Adam was overcome with rage, but managed to speak through clenched teeth. "That bastard told me Tyler was dead! Mom got real sick, so she called him. She had told me I was going to be living with him, his wife, and my little brother, but when I asked where Tyler was, that bastard told me he was dead."

Cory took a chance. "Who did this to you?"

"They both did, I was getting along great, then I thought I'd be honest and tell them I thought I was gay, but then the next thing I knew they had stripped me and both of them were beating me with belts and slapping me."

Just as Cory had asked who did it, Joe walked up, so he heard what Adam had said happened. "Hi, Adam, I'm Judge Lewis, but call me Joe out of the courtroom. I'm the local family judge, so I can make emergency placements if I see a reason to. What you just said is more than enough reason; so I'm placing you with the first available emergency home. The good news is; it happens to be these boy's mom that is available. The better news is; it happens to be the same place that Tyler is going to be living from now on."

"What about them?" Adam asked, as he looked toward the motel room in fear.

John spoke up first "Don't worry about them; the state of Iowa tends to frown on gay bashing. The state REALLY frowns upon it when it's a child who is the victim and the bashers are adults. On top of that, they abandoned Tyler; so my guess is they won't even be allowed to have Beanie Babies. There is a better chance of me becoming President of the United States next year than there is of them EVER getting custody of either you or Tyler."

Joe chuckled. "Well put, John." He then looked back at Adam. "He was right, though. Put those two out of your mind, John's boys will handle them. Right now, you need to follow along with your new brothers, that way you can meet the rest of your family. John and I have to write down a statement from what you just said, and then he needs to secure the area. Later on, he will probably need to ask you a bunch of questions, but for now you have been through enough. Once we get this all cleaned up here, we are going to take you to the hospital to be checked out. We need to make sure that you are going to be okay before you go home with your new family, wouldn't you agree?"

Adam looked at Joe quizzically. "But how do you know they are going to be my family? They're probably not going to like me. There is no way all of them are going to want someone they don't know around, especially someone who is gay."

"The reason I know is I will be the one signing the papers," Joe replied. "As far as the rest of your question, ask Cory and JJ."

Cory turned Adam toward him before speaking. "I can tell you now, being gay is not a problem in this family. The only person who lives in the house who is not gay is mom; and she supports all of us as long as nobody gets hurt. The two youngest, one of which just happens to be your little brother, are too young to tell; but they both are showing signs that they may be too. Sean and I have already talked to mom; and she agreed to let you join the family as long as all of us agreed to it. Honestly, from what I have seen so far, you will fit in with the rest of us with no problem. Actually, you are a lot like your little brother, so you should fit in great. Besides, I think goofy over there might be developing a crush on you!"

Both boys looked over to see JJ standing there with a beet-red face. "Well ... ummm ... what can I say, he's CUTE!"

Adam pulled JJ close. "You are too, but how you can think I'm cute looking like this we are going to have to have a LONG talk about!"

JJ and Adam both giggled over that statement then returned their attention to Cory, once they had finally calmed down.

"I will warn you," Cory continued, "Sean will probably get on your case if you talk down about yourself around him. It will be because he wants to help you though, not because he is mad. He is the best guy I know to talk to; maybe later we can sit down and catch up on everyone's recent troubles. Right now, though, there's an eight year old little boy who is going to kill us if we don't get you over to him. By the way, how old are you, Adam?"

"I just turned twelve on July 30th. By the way, thanks for taking the time to talk to me, Cory and JJ, I feel a little better now."

"AWESOME!" JJ broke in, "my birthday is August 1st!"

"You're welcome, Adam," Cory replied, "and I guess since my birthday is July 31st, that means we get to have a MAJOR three-day party next year!"

Adam smiled. "I'm already starting to feel like I fit in. You guys are great!"

Cory and JJ each took one of Adam's hands, then they escorted him to the waiting group by the car. As they walked, JJ talked to Adam. "You know, everyone has problems. The difference with this group is; all of us kids have sworn to stand alongside each other, and to help with those problems. If it's something we can't handle, there are a BUNCH of adults who are willing to help. You never have to worry about there being nobody there to help if something happens."

Just then they reached the car. It was obvious Teri had been keeping Ty's attention, that way he didn't see Adam and the boys walk up. Everyone else watched expectantly to see how the first meeting of the brothers would go.

Adam smiled, and tears of joy started slowly running down his cheeks. "Tyler? Is that really you, little bro?"

Ty froze, and then slowly stood up. "Adam? ADAM!" Ty almost ran over Adam running to give him a hug; once Kyle reached Adam, he buried his face in Adam's shirt. When he opened his eyes, he finally saw the damage on Adam's arm. "WHAT DID THEY DO TO YOU?" Ty screamed.

"I will be alright, bro. They tried to hurt me, but it don't matter now, because I'm with you. If you will let me, I want to stay here and be one of your big brothers."

"Adam, I will never forgive them for what they did to you. And if you ever try to leave, Kyle and I will hunt you down and drag you back."

"Thank you little bro. By the way, I'm curious, why did you say Kyle and you? Why not just you?"

"Oh, yeah, you wouldn't know that. Kyle is like my other half; ever since we met this morning, we have been kinda like glued together. I don't know why, but being without him by me scares me. It's kinda like he is a missing part of me that I just found"

"Kinda like glued together? That's an understatement!" Cory giggled.

"Yeah," JJ chuckled, "if one of them farts, the other one's butt cheeks flap!"

Just then Teri came over with the rest of the group; and, as if proving their point, Kyle immediately came over and wrapped his arms around Ty.

"Hey Ty, are you gonna introduce your big brother, or do we all have to just guess?" Kyle said with a grin.

Ty lightly elbowed Kyle, but then stepped back so he could point out everyone. As Ty stepped back, JJ came back up close alongside Adam and held his hand.

"Everyone, this is my big brother Adam. Adam, watch close, I'm going to show you OUR family! You already know Cory; well that big old teddy bear hanging on him is Sean. This cute cuddly boy hanging from my arm is Kyle, and you probably already know the kid hanging from you is JJ. Over here is our mommy, Teri, and next to her is Dan, he's JJ and Kyle's daddy. It's weird, even though some of us have a different mommy and daddy, we are all brothers, Sean will have to ‘splain it though; it makes my head hurt to try to figure it out."

"I'll do that later," Sean chuckled.

Everyone came up to hug Adam, all being careful not to hurt him.

As Teri started to walk away with Dan, Sean pulled them aside. "I'm going to take Adam to the Suburban. From what Cory has said I think he will fit in great, but I would like to talk to him too. I'll let you know for sure when we are done."

"Okay, don't grill him too much though; I think he's been through enough today." Teri replied.

"No problem, mom." Sean then walked back to the group, all of whom were trying to keep Adam's attention.

"Hey guys, I hate to interrupt, but I need to talk to Adam alone for a couple of minutes. It's nothin' bad, but it needs to be in private. There's only one problem; Ty, could you and Kyle try to separate JJ from Adam so Adam can come to the Suburban with me? That way, we can sit in it to talk."

Adam started to panic until he noticed that Sean was smiling, and then he fully relaxed when he felt Sean's hand being carefully laid on his shoulder. It amazed him that Sean was apparently giving him comfort as he was being guided to the Suburban.

As Adam carefully perched on the edge of the Suburban's seat, Sean suddenly realized how much pain the boy was really in, and how he must be straining not to show it. "Adam! You should have told us you were hurting that bad! We would have got you here sooner if you had said something"

The concern in Sean's voice was the final straw; Adam started sobbing. "Why are you all being so nice to me; I KNOW you will all hate me next week, just like everyone else. My mom would rather smoke a joint with her friends than pay attention to me, and as soon as my dad found out I might be gay he tried to kill me." He then gave Sean a defiant look through his tears, challenging Sean to prove him wrong. "Why should all of you be any different?"

"That's all over with, Adam." Sean said patiently. "I don't know about your mom, but I will bet she had worse problems in her own head, it was not you. As for that s.o.b. you got stuck with as a father; do you know what he and his wife did to your little brother? They left town while he was in school Friday; he finally found a note they had left for him in, of all places, a frigging cereal box he finally opened this morning! Be glad you are not still with them; they were nothing but trouble waiting to happen. I'm just glad we were able to save you, and I hope you will be happy living with us. Anytime you need to talk I'm available. I have no idea why, but somehow it seems that everyone comes to me lately, even though Dan is the shrink." Sean carefully put his arm over Adam's shoulder in a semi-hug. "We really DO want you to stay with us. Mom said the final decision was up to Cory and me, I know what Cory thinks, and I know that I really want you to stay too. All of us older kids are gay, and I'm pretty sure the two young ones are too, so fitting in here is not a problem. Once we get you fixed up at the hospital, we can go home and have a talk with all of us boys together, that way everyone knows what's happened to everyone else."

Adam was shocked; he could tell Sean was serious. "OH MY GOD! I didn't know they did that to Ty! Sean, if you are all willing to give me a chance, I'll try not to disappoint you. Please promise me that I won't be kicked out again, though."

"That I will promise. Here's a secret for you, even if you do happen to do something that makes mom mad, she will never kick you out. Once you hear what Cory has been through you will understand, she does not give up on anyone." Sean began to get out of the truck. "Stay here bro; I'm going to get the others so we can get you checked out by a doctor." Sean took off at a jog towards the adults; lines of worry crossing his face as he pondered what the latest addition to his family had just been through.

Chapter Ten

The first person Sean ran into was Judge Lewis; he filled Joe in on the info he had learned about Adam's mother, and then hurried over to get Teri. "Mom, we need to hurry up and get Adam to a doctor, he's in a lot of pain!"

"Okay, we need to get everyone around then. By the way, what did you decide? Do I need to have Joe start on permanent custody papers for Adam too, or does he need to find another place?"

"He's gonna live with us, there's no way I'm gonna let him lose the only brother he has! They never even knew that the other one existed until recently; it would hurt them both to be torn apart again, now that they are finally together. I know how it would feel, and neither one deserves that." Sean said forcibly.

Teri looked at Sean, and realized that he was taking charge over the ragtag group that was suddenly becoming a family. She smiled; proud of the willingness Sean was showing to put others before himself. "Okay, Sean; Let me get John and Dan. You can figure out who is riding where and get everyone together."

"That's easy!" Sean replied, "We've already unfolded the third seat, so all of us kids will ride with you. The only argument will be who sits where, and that's easy to take care of."

"Hurry up then Sean, lets get Adam to the hospital and checked out as soon as we can."

Sean quickly got the rest of the boys together. "Load up in the Suburban. Kyle and Ty, you guys get in the jump seat in back. Cory and JJ, you get the middle seat with Adam, and I'll sit up front with Mom. Hurry up, Adam is in more pain than he'll admit to us, so we need to get him to the hospital as soon as possible to get fixed up."

By the time Sean drew his next breath, Ty was half way to the Suburban with Kyle close on his heels. JJ was not very far behind, but was catching up quickly. Sean looked at Cory, and they both took off jogging to join the rest of the crew. By the time they reached the SUV, the rest of the boys were in their seats and strapping in. As Cory latched down the rear access seat and climbed in, Sean looked around for Teri. He saw Dan and Joe getting in Dan's Camaro, while Teri had just left John as he was climbing into his squad car. Satisfied that there were not going to be any delays, Sean got in the passenger seat and waited for Teri.

John turned on his lights, and motioned Teri and Dan to fall in behind him. The three vehicles took off in a line to pick up I-80 to get into town.

Twenty minutes later they were at the Mercy Medical Center Emergency Room. After a few quick words from John, Teri and Adam were immediately taken into one of the exam rooms while everyone else went to the waiting area. There was not much conversation; the worry about Adam's condition was evident in all their faces.

After about ten minutes, a doctor came out and asked to talk to John. They went through the exam room hallway, to one of the private consulting rooms on the other side of the ER.

"Sheriff" the doctor started, "I'm Dr. Mike Jones. I need to report the boy's injuries to CPS, he has bruising over 90% of his body, along with welts from what appears to be a belt over most of his torso. I have to recommend his removal from parental custody until an investigation is completed, are you able to assist with that?"

"Actually," John replied, "all you need to do is write the report; the group out there is not his family with the exception of one boy, and that boy just met him for the first time today. He is being placed in emergency foster care with Teri, the mother of some of that group. In fact, Judge Lewis is out there with them; he's one of the family court judges. What passed for his father and step-mother have been taken care of, there is no way he will even have to see them again unless it's to testify against them in court."

"You don't know how much better that makes me feel, I was prepared to hold him here if I had to. As long as the x-rays show nothing, he should be free to go. Is that Teri that's in there with him now?"

"Yes. And, if at all possible, could you go over any care she needs to provide for him with her? Assuming the other five boys will let her, she will be the one taking care of Adam."

"I'll do that. Five other boys, huh? Maybe I should ask her if she needs any sedatives while she is here! Let me go see if the x-rays are done, then we should be out shortly."

Meanwhile, Teri was getting to know Adam better. As they sat in the room waiting, they began discussing the day's events.

Adam spoke first. "Teri, do I really get to stay with all of you?"

"Yes, Adam, you are moving in with us. As long as there are not any problems with your mother, you will be living here until you are grown up. The rest of the boys already consider you a part of the family, so it would take an act of Congress to get you away from them."

"You know," Adam started as tears began flowing down his face, "I think I've felt more love today since I ran out of that room, than I've felt the entire rest of my life."

Teri brought Adam into her arms. "Adam, I can promise you it's just starting. You made a good impression on all the boys this afternoon, I know for a fact every single one of them wants you to join our little tribe."

"How did I make a good impression, Teri? I was running around naked all beat up. I know for sure I said some things I shouldn't have; JJ, Cory, and Sean all three told me off. Sean was nice about it, but I could tell he did not like what I had said."

"Well, Adam, you running around naked did not mean anything, they understood why. I would bet that you being beat up had an effect on what you said, and all three of them took that into account. I think what impressed them was that even though you may have wanted to, you did not just crawl into a corner and give up. Either all those boys out there have been through some hard times, or they know someone who has. In the last day, they have went from a bunch of kids trying to solve their own problems, to a group that works together to help everyone. I think when JJ handed you those shorts; you were being welcomed into the group right then. When Sean took you to the Suburban, it was official.

"I'm so scared that I'm going to let you guys down, especially Tyler. Right now my head feels all messed up, I'm so afraid I'll do something wrong then he will hate me."

"I've known Tyler for a long time, Adam. I think he understands more than you give him credit for, and right now he is probably worried about the exact same thing. Dan is a psychiatrist, so you can see him if you need to. Listen and talk to the rest of the boys too; you will be surprised at how much they already know. Believe me, over the last weekend I've almost became numb from all the times they have surprised me."

Adam squeezed Teri tighter. "Thanks, just hearing that makes me feel lots better. I'm going to try real hard not to disappoint any of you."

"Just be yourself, Adam. Any problems can be worked out, but it's unfair to ask you to be something you are not. You are going to be part of my family; once that happens I will never give up on you or anyone else."

"Thanks Teri, I promise I'll make you proud." Adam said as he snuggled in as tight as he could without causing himself too much pain.

A few minutes later, the doctor returned. When he saw Adam cuddled up to Teri, he smiled. "That's the best thing I've seen all day. I've got some good news, the X-rays came back clear. Teri, let me show you what you need to do. I'm going to give you a prescription for some of this salve, and for something to dull the pain. He is going to be uncomfortable for about the next week, but the only place there might be scarring is on his chest. Adam, if you have some loose shorts you can wear around it would be a good idea, that way there is nothing pressing against your welts. When you have anything on that can rub against them, you need to have Teri put gauze over them until they heal, that will cut down on some of the scars and let them heal faster."

Once the doctor was sure Teri knew what needed to be done, he walked with them to the sign-out desk. It only took about 15 seconds for them to be spotted, but then they were immediately surrounded by boys, all asking, in their own way, "Is Adam OK?"

"Settle down boys!" Teri exclaimed. "He's going to be sore, but other than that he's fine. Now let me finish signing him out so we can all get home!"

As they walked out of the hospital, Teri noticed it was getting dark already. She thought to herself "Oh, shoot. I'll bet the kids are all starving!" She waved Dan, Joe, and John over to her.

"I'm going to stop by Perkins with the boys, you can join us if you want to." she said.

They all agreed, so everyone retrieved their vehicles and loaded up for the drive.

When they arrived at Perkins, a cheer arose from the boys. Teri smiled at their excitement.

Suddenly Adam spoke up. "Teri, there's a problem; I don't have any shoes."

"What size do you wear, Adam?"

"Size 7, why?"

By this time Dan was at Teri's door. "Dan," Teri said, "Could you run over to Big K down the street and grab a pair of size 7 shoes for Adam?"

A sudden crash from behind the restaurant got their attention. When they looked over, the sight sickened them. Two boys, no more than 10, were trying to get the dumpster open. Both were dressed in shorts and old sneakers, with no shirts, and even from a distance it was obvious they had not eaten in a long time.

Before anyone else had time to react, Sean was out the passenger side door, running towards the two boys. In no time flat, he was joined by the rest of the kids; Kyle and Ty didn't even bother with the seat latch, they just went over the top of the middle seat and rolled out the open door.

The two boys at the dumpster froze, the sight of six boys running at them was more than they could handle. They were expecting the worst, and were confused when they could see nothing but concern in the faces that were gathering around them.

Sean spoke up first. "Don't panic guys, we're not here to hurt you."

The two boys visibly relaxed. As Sean looked closer, he noticed they were twins. Both had strawberry blonde hair, green eyes, and millions of freckles. You could count their ribs; they were so thin a slight breeze might have blown them away.

"I'm Sean; these are my brothers Cory, JJ, Adam, Kyle, and Ty." Sean started, pointing each one out. "Why don't you guys come back to the truck with us, we will convince mom to hook you up with some hot food, I can probably get her to let you stay a bit."

"I'm Jacob, that's my brother Jamie. That sounds too good to be true, what do we have to do for you to get that?" The tone in his voice made it clear he was not talking about raking leaves.

The boys all figured out what he was insinuating at the same time, and as a group they all turned white.

"You mean people have made you do ... ummm ... stuff, even ... sex stuff ... to eat? That's SICK! If anyone even suggests that while you are with us, tell any of us and whoever it is will get the holy crap beat out of him." Sean then fell speechless at the disgust he felt.

"Jamie, Jacob," JJ spoke up, "besides the awesome hair color we share, you guys have something else in common with me. My full name is James Jacob Richardson, and since Jamie is short for James, that means all three of us share a name. That is enough reason for me to protect you myself."

Adam stepped to the front, and Jacob and Jamie both stared in shock as he removed his shirt. "Do you see those marks? This group standing here rescued me from nearly being beat to death by my so-called father. I really owe them my life, and now I'm going to be living with them, permanently. This time yesterday, the only one of these people I had even heard the name of was Ty, and I had been told by my father that he was dead; I had never even met him. Right now, every inch of clothing on me belongs to someone else. JJ's father is getting ready to go buy me some shoes so I can go into the restaurant, yet I have not even had the chance to really talk to him so he would know me. There ain't anyone here going to force you, but my suggestion is join us and come back to the truck. I promise, things will only get better."

There was not a dry eye in the group, even Jacob and Jamie were moved by Adam's speech. They both walked up and gave him a tentative hug, and then they each grabbed a hand, turned him around, and started walking to the vehicles, with everyone else following behind.

All the adults were standing in front of the Suburban watching as the boys turned and headed towards them. "Teri," Joe chuckled, "do you realize that I don't have group rates?"

"I'm not the one you need to tell that to, Joe. There's a certain thirteen year old who seems to have made a hobby out of collecting brothers. Tell HIM that, but leave yourself room to run." Teri replied. She then looked over to Dan. "Dan, add a shirt for Cory to the list, and some shorts for JJ. Might as well add two shirts for the new boys, I got a sneaky feeling we will need them."

Dan grinned. "I better get moving then, before they find anyone else. Do you need any extra soap, shampoo, or towels while I'm at it?"

"Good thinking, Dan. You better grab some economy size stuff, and get some body shampoo for Adam, it will be easier on him than bar soap would be."

"Will do, once the introductions are over I'll head out."

The boys walked up just then, and to everyone's surprise, Adam waved Sean back as Sean walked up to make introductions and plea his case.

"Mom?" Adam started, his face showing the need to be able to call Teri mom.

"Go ahead Adam, you are allowed to call me mom."

Relief flooded Adam's features, giving him the strength he needed to continue. "Mom, this is Jamie and Jacob. I haven't asked why, but I think they need our help as much as I needed your help earlier today. Can we help them, PLEASE?"

"It is fine with me, Adam, but there are three other people who you have to get the okay from, your brothers. Cory, Sean, Ty; Come on up front here."

They moved up front by Adam, Jacob, and Jamie.

"Alright, Adam has asked me if we can help these two boys. My guess is they will be living with us a long time if we do. This is your one chance, do any of you have a problem or concern about them joining us?"

Cory whispered in Sean's ear, and then Sean spoke up. "Cory and I are fine with it, mom. He just told me he thinks its time to make use of Mike's room. He seems to think our bed is getting full!"

Teri smiled. "That's good thinking. What about you Ty?"

"Can I talk to Kyle for a second?"

"Go ahead, angel."

Tyler and Kyle whispered back and forth for a minute, then Ty came back up to Teri. "It's okay with me, as long as they share a bedroom with me and Kyle."

The twins responded in chorus "You WANT to share a room with us!" They both grabbed Ty in a double-hug, then moved on to Kyle to do the same.

Sean peeled the twins off of Kyle, and took them to finish introductions. He introduced them to Dan first, who welcomed them to "the tribe" and explained he was off to get them some shirts, but would be right back.

Next was Joe. Sean brought the twins over to him, and began the introduction. "Joe, this is Jacob and Jamie. Guys, this is Judge Joe Lewis. He does the adoptions around here, and by the time Mom's done he should have a new car."

Both boys shook his hand, and then Jamie said, "It's a pleasure to meet you, Judge."

"You only have to call me Judge in the courtroom, we are all friends here, so just call me Joe, okay? I'll sit down with you boys later with John and get some information from you so there's no trouble. Just looking at you gives me enough reason to place you in emergency custody with Teri, so you will definitely be sleeping in a warm bed with a full tummy tonight. One question for now; is there ANY way to tell you two apart?"

Both boys instantly turned beet red, blushing from the waistband of their shorts to the top of their heads. Finally, Jacob spoke up. "Well ... there is ONE way, but we don't show it off. Jamie is ... uhhh ... well ... he's circumscribed, and I'm not." At that the twins did the seemingly impossible; they turned an even deeper red.

"Do you mean circumcised?" Joe asked.

Both twins nodded.

"Well I guess you will just have to tell me which one of you I'm talking to then, I really would rather not look down your shorts every time we talked." Joe said with a wide grin.

The humor relaxed the twins, and they returned to their normal color. Just then, Jacob saw John's car on the other site of the Suburban. "Shit, the police are here!"

Sean reacted quickly, and grabbed both of them before they could run. "Settle down guys. That's John's car. He's with us; he won't haul you in for digging in the trash. He's a good guy, I bet that when you guys sit down later, if you tell him everything you did wrong and why, he will help you straighten it out. Just don't lie to him, please."

The twins looked at Joe, asking with their eyes if Sean was right.

"Guys, I've known John a long time," Joe began, "and the last thing he ever wants is to put a kid in jail. Him and I will work together to help you, all you have to do is tell us what happened."

This finally satisfied the twins, and they relaxed in Sean's arms.

John had been watching, and saw the twin's reaction to his car. He stayed back until he was sure that Sean and Joe had calmed them, and then he headed over toward the group.

"Hey there, how you guy's doing?" John asked.

"Fine sir." The twins replied.

"John, do me a favor; DON"T ask how to tell them apart, you really don't want to know!" Joe said with a chuckle. "When we're not around the rest of the group, I'll tell you. There's no use in embarrassing these two again."

Jamie held out his hand. "I'm Jamie, that's Jacob." He said.

"Nice to meet you; I'm John, Sheriff Martin if you have to call me at work. After we get back to the house, I'll sit down with you so we can figure out what all needs done to help you two."

"Thanks John, I think we will have a lot to talk about." Jacob said as a thin smile crossed his face. "We were scared that you would take us away, but Sean and Joe said you would help us."

"That I will, Jacob. Right now the best place I know for you to be is with Teri and the boys. As long as you are honest with them, and me, you will be just fine. Now, if I'm not mistaken, I think I hear Dan's car coming; why don't we get over there with the rest of the group, so you can get your shirts and we can all go in to eat. Do me a favor; tell me your last name and where you are from so I can make sure there are no problems."

"Our last name is Stewart, we are from Grimes."

"OK, you all go on over, I'll be right there."

John climbed in his car, and called an inquiry over the radio. A minute later, he received a response.

"Dispatch to unit 3. We have a missing persons report active for one Jamie Sampson Stewart, age ten, from Grimes; and another report for one Jacob William Stewart, age ten, also from Grimes. Subjects were reported missing Saturday morning at 08:45, missing since 17:30 Friday. Do you need descriptions?"

"Unit 3 to dispatch; Negative on the descriptions, which department was that filed through?"

"Dispatch to unit 3; report filed through Polk County."

"Unit 3 to Dispatch; 10-4, be advised subjects are now in protective custody. Both subjects physical condition gives cause to believe neglect is occurring. By order of Judge Joseph Lewis, the children are now being placed in foster care until investigation is complete. Request CPS be notified, inform them to contact Judge Lewis tomorrow morning for a full report."

"Dispatch to unit 3; Copied all, Sergeant Davis requested I tell you he will handle the necessities from this end. He also said to stop working so hard, you need a break."

"Unit 3 to dispatch; 10-4, I plan to start that break right now. Tell Sergeant Davis to call me tomorrow and I'll introduce him to the work I've been doing all day. Unit 3 clear."

John got out of the car and headed over to where Dan had just parked the Camaro. As he walked up, everyone fell silent, expecting the worst. John walked directly up to the twins, knelt down, and spoke gently to them. "Boys, I have to ask you two questions. The end results of your answers will be the same, you will go home with Teri tonight, but they will make a big difference on my next step to protect you. The first question is; did you guys run away or were you told to leave?"

"We ran away, John." Jamie replied, with his head down.

"I'll ask more about that later, but now the other question. When did you run away?"

Jacob answered this time. "Right after we got out of school Friday. We went home, changed into play clothes, then left."

"Why didn't you put on shirts?" Cory asked.

"We are not allowed to play with shirts on." was Jacobs reply.

Everyone was shocked! Joe was the first to find his voice. "Boys, I never thought I would ever say this to anyone, but you did exactly the right thing running away. The only mistake you made was not going directly to the Sheriffs office, but I'll bet when we talk later I will understand your reason why."

"Here's the news you want to hear, guys." John said. "The answers you just gave matched the missing person's reports that were filed. It's obvious that you have not been fed right in a long time; you honestly could pass for an early nine years old, even though I know you are ten. That in itself is enough reason for me to do this." John turned to Teri. "Teri, are you willing to accept Jamie and Jacob into your care. This is an emergency placement; you will be contacted within a week by CPS as to whether you wish to accept it as permanent."

"Tell CPS don't waste a call," she replied, "I already accept permanent placement. Now as soon as Dan stops picking his nose, and hands out what he went to pick up, we can go eat. Speaking of which; Ty, Jamie, Jacob, I need to see you three before we go in."

Everyone chuckled at Teri's slam of Dan. Dan got the bags out of the car, and started handing things out. "Adam, here's your army boots!" he joked as he tossed a pair of Nike's to Adam. He then pulled out three tie-dyed shirts. After looking at the tags, he tossed one to Cory and the other two to the twins. He then grinned as he announced "Will my exhibitionist son please come forward and put some pants on!"

An obviously embarrassed JJ slowly walked up. "Dad, I'm gonna kill you for that! Please don't make fun of me in public!"

Dan handed JJ a pair of shorts, then slipped in a hug. "Sorry buddy, I was just joking. You know I love you."

"I know Dad, I guess I'm just not in a funny mood right now. Thanks for the shorts."

Dan gave JJ a quick kiss on the top of his head, then turned to the rest of the boys. "How'd I do picking out stuff for you guys?"

All four exclaimed "Great, they're KEWL!" in response.

As soon as their new shirts were on, the twins joined Ty with Teri. "Okay, guys; I know that for at least the last few days none of you have ate right. Restaurant food can be hard to eat when you have had an empty tummy for a while. All three of you can get what you want, but I want you to eat slow, and as soon as you start to feel a little bit full, stop. You don't need to get sick from eating too much, and it will happen if you force yourself. I don't care if you leave half your plate, if you get hungry later I will fix you a snack. Have fun, but take it easy."

"Yes, mom!" all three answered at once, grinning.

Teri reached out and ran her fingers through the twin's hair, straightening it out some. "Let's go, guys. It's time for you to get a decent meal."

As the group walked in the door, the staff behind the counter watched in fascination. The look on the Waitress's face was priceless when they asked for a table for twelve; it turned to horror when Sean asked if they were still running the all-you-can-eat special on pancakes.

To be continued ....