By ACFan
Portions contributed by Slash

Copyright 2003 by ACFan

Dedicated to the memory of Justin Case 1956-2003

We will all miss you Justin, but your kind words and support will never be forgotten. 04/13/2003

Authors note: I wish to express my extreme gratitude to slash for his numerous contributions to this story -- they added the final touches to make this all come together. Also thanks to Art, BillW, and Jay for their assistance in editing, proofreading, and generally helping me out of a rut occasionally.Thanks to "Z", Karla, and the rest of the Library members for your support when I started this.
A HUGE thanks to Comicality for his support of all of us aspiring writers!

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.


Send comments and suggestions (flames ignored) to:AC Fan

Part I: The Gathering
Chapter One

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

"I think so..." I told him. The truth is; I was scared, happy, and nervous all at the same time, not knowing what I might find on the other side of that door. I looked down at those keys, holding them there in my hands for the first time in what seems like an eternity. A lot of memories lay behind that door; just waiting to be opened again...

Ok, ok, I think I'm getting ahead of myself here. I'll start from the beginning. My name is Cory Patrick Short. I'm 14 years old with blonde hair and blue eyes. I don't think I'm the best looking guy in school; but I wouldn't say I'm the worst looking, either. If I had to compare my self to someone I would have to say I have the same kind of build that JTT has.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Cory headed toward the kitchen at a barely suppressed run, she watched with a far-away look in her eyes. As happy as the 14-year-old appears, it's sad that he has to live in the home without a true family ... the little blonde angel that asks for no one to feel sorry for him. But she knows the pain that sometimes shows in those sky-blue eyes - and wishes that she could help him.

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

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

Terri studied her son - 13 years old (13 1/2 if you ask him), auburn hair, and hazel eyes - if she didn't know better she'd say he was a lady killer, but his destiny had become apparent long ago. "Hey you two - you better grab some milk to go with those brownies!" she said as she headed for the living room.

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

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

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

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

As he settled back in, Cory thought to himself "I hope that Sean isn't too worried about me. He is the person I care the most about in the whole world; the last thing I want is for him to worry."

Once he saw that Cory was involved in the game again, Sean's smile faded as he started thinking to himself ... "I really hope he's ok ... I'd die if he's hurting inside..."

The boys played for another hour, then decided they better do their homework before they forgot. Just as they finished, the ritual Friday night pizza delivery arrived.

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

By the time the boys finished inhaling their share of the pizzas, it was time for Cory to go back to the home.

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

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

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

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

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

Sean's Room:

Sean couldn't get to sleep -- he really wished Mike was here to talk to -- Mike would know what to do. After the accident Sean's life took a turn for the worse in his opinion ... and even tho a year had passed he still had trouble believing his brother was gone. Cory was back at the home for the nite, but before Sean went to bed he made his mom promise to arrange for Cory to be able to spend the weekend with them. The look he saw on Cory's face earlier was keeping him awake -- could the unimaginable be happening?

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

Cory and Sean had managed to talk Mike into dropping them off at the mall on his way to football practice -- they were pooling their cash together to get an X-Box. After picking it up, they strolled the mall laughing at all the guys and girls making out, while promising each other to slap whichever one of them ever even thought of doing something like that with a girl (Yuk!). About 15 minutes before Mike was due to pick them up, they headed to the food court and grabbed a burger from Mickey-D's, then sat down and waited for their ride. An hour later Sean saw his mom coming in and looking around -- he pointed her out to Cory who then asked, "Why is she crying?"

Mike had been on his way back to meet them when a man who had too much to drink decided to leave Hooters. The Ford Explorer he was driving was no match for Mikes Toyota Camry -- when the guy ran the red light he T-boned Mikes car at the driver's side door, killing him instantly. Cory took it hard -- blaming himself for Mike's death. The shrinks had decided it was in Cory's best interest to be placed in a "residence" where he could be watched closely -- it took 6 months before they would even let him visit Sean at home.

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

Sean glanced towards his closet -- just then a moonbeam illuminated a yellow plastic bag on the top shelf in the corner -- a bag he knew contained a brand-new X-Box, still in the original packing, along with a few games ... something that everyone in the house understood was not to be touched because Sean was saving it, never to be opened until Cory was able to share it with him exactly the way they had planned while waiting in the food court ...

Cory's Room:

As I lay there trying to get some sleep, a cold chill ran down the back of my spine. It was as though someone had opened the window in the middle of a blizzard. I sat up and looked around, letting my eyes adjust to the low light in the room. Nothing had changed, the window was still closed and Mark, my roommate, was still finishing up his homework at his desk. He must have heard me sit up because when I looked over his way, he was looking right at me. He kind of scared me a little and he must have noticed because he started laughing.

"What's so funny?" I asked him.

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

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

"Your right, that is weird. You should get back to sleep though; you have had a long day. Aren't you going to Sean's tomorrow?"

"Ya I am. It's gonna to be good to spend some time with him. We have a lot of catching up to do. They are going to adopt me, so I would like to get to know them."

"Yes, you do have to get to know them. But on some way you already do know them."

"I know I KNOW Sean, but I can't remember that much about him. I don't know them that well but I feel like in the short visits I've had with them that in some way I've known them all my life. They seem to know a lot about me."

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

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

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

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

"No problem buddy, what are roommates for?"

And with that, I lay back down and tried to get some sleep. Shortly after falling asleep, I began dreaming.

"Hey! What are you doing? Get off of me Sean!" I yelled as I pushed him off from on top of me.

"Sorry Cory, I thought... I thought that's what you wanted. You did say that you love me didn't you?"

"Uhmm... ya I guess I did but I didn't mean... wait. Are you... ummm...Do you..." My mind was racing a million miles a minute. Can it be? Could he love me? Is he gay? All of these flooded my mind in a great tidal wave of emotion. It hit me like a brick fallen from the sky. Suddenly it was so clear; all of the signs, all of the touches, all the times he was looking at me with those eyes; staring deep into my soul, imbedding himself deep into my heart. All this time and he does love me. With that one unexpected kiss he just planted on me, he opened his heart and soul to me. I sat there on the side of his bed with a blank expression on my face, a look of confusion, but also a look of happiness. It was then that I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I did love him. I love him as a best friend, as a brother, and now a deeper kind of love. It is a love that is rare, and is only found by a very few lucky people. I did what I thought was best. I looked him right in those beautiful hazel eyes, looking as deeply as I could and whispered the words, "I love you too" to him.

I woke up in a sweaty panic. "What the hell was that?" I looked franticly around the room to see where Sean was but he was nowhere to be found. Mark was laying in bed, fast asleep, the light from the computer ceased to exist. I could only imagine that he had been asleep for a while now. I calmed down enough to let my eyes adjust to the low level of light and remembered where I was, at the home, in my own bed.

"That must have been a dream. But why would I dream about kissing Sean?" I said to myself. I stood up and made my way to the kitchen to get a drink of water. My mind was racing so I thought I might relax a bit by having a drink and sitting down to think things through. I got a glass from the cupboard and poured myself some fresh water from the filtered jug. The cold flow of the water ran down my throat causing me to suddenly feel the need to use the bathroom. I quickly went to the bathroom to relieve myself when a feeling came across me. I was standing there when the sentiment of being alone swooped in on me. It was as if I was missing something in my life. I couldn't quite put my finger on it but it was there. I knew that there was more to my life than what I remembered. The emptiness was just so clear but the solution was still uncertain.

The sound of a dog barking brought me back to reality. I must have been standing there holding myself for a while because my usual morning woody was now limp resting in my hand. I finished up in the bathroom and went back out into the kitchen. I looked at the clock, 6:27am. "It's too damn early to be up and awake." I thought to myself. "Why did I dream about kissing Sean? I know I love him as a brother but could there be something more?"

My mind was racing. The thought of Sean brought a warm feeling to my chest. A feeling I've felt before but this time it was different. It seemed like it was the first time I felt it but I know it wasn't, the feeling of being protected, cared for, and... well, a feeling of being loved. This realization sent a cold shiver down my spine. "Could this mean what I think it means? Am I...I...?" I can't even say it. This is way too much for me right now. I need to go for a run and just clear my mind. That's exactly what I need, a run.

A run will help me clear my thoughts. I quickly changed into my sweats for my run and left a little note for the "Warden", which I like to call her. I closed the door and started my run. The cool air was shocking at first but I was quickly able to adjust. I started at a slow pace being as I forgot to stretch before leaving the house. The day was still new and I was going to make the best of it. I was going to spend the whole day with Sean. Who knows what he has planned for the day. He's always doing something to make life interesting. He's been there for me when I needed someone to help me. He's the hinge to my door. Without him, I don't know what I'd be doing. Just then a horn came blasting from the side of me.

"Look out you stupid little shit! I almost hit you!" a man yelled from his car.

"Sorry, I didn't see you there. I was just running and my mind was kind of off on the moon."

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

"I will, thanks." I replied, and with that the man took off. I crossed the street and started to look around. The sight I saw was miraculous. I was on Sean's street, just one house away from his. I was into my thoughts so much that I hadn't even clued into the fact that I was running straight to Sean's. I thought for a minute and then proceeded to his front door.