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Chapter 8

Chapter co-authored by ACFan. . .

(Springfield, Ohio 1976)

Charles Conner was seven years old when he became a kidnapping victim. The green-eyed boy was camping out in a tent in the backyard with his little brother, Harold Conner who was only four at the time. The father of the boys had made certain that the backyard was secure before the man crawled into his own tent for the night, leaving the two boys alone on the warm-summer evening. Charles and Harold giggled as they used their flashlight to make shadow puppets on the canvas walls of the tent, speaking in quiet voices as they lay close to each other in their sleeping bags. Charles hadn’t really planned on bringing his little brother along with him, but the older brother couldn’t refuse when Harold batted his emerald-green eyes at him.

“I have to pee,” Charles said with a groan as he fought with the zipper on his sleeping bag. “I’ll be right back, Harry.”

“Huwwee, Chawie,” Harold replied, the smaller boy missing both of his front teeth.

“I will, Harry,” Charles told his little brother. Then, Charles slipped out of the tent flap, and made his way to edge of the privacy fence. The boy relieved himself, not noticing the ship hovering above him until a light flashed around Charles. The boy cried out in disbelief as he saw his yard and house disappear before he found himself standing in a small metal-walled cell. “What’s going on?”

A doorway stood open on the opposite side of the room from the boy as he felt his heart beginning to race in his chest. The boy took a step towards the door, and metal bars slid across, blocking his exit. Then, an alien with three long spikes sticking from the top of his scale-covered head in a single line, stepped in front of the bars and started speaking in a series of clicks and grunts. Before Charles could even process what the four-armed creature wanted him to do, a sharp shock spread through Charles’s body, throwing him to the floor as he screamed out in pain. The moment that the shocks ceased, Charles scooted as far away from the door, as his tiny little body would let him. The alien made several more clicking noises before it moved out of sight. The tiny boy vowed that he would kill the yellow-eyed creature if he ever got the chance.

Charles screamed as another shock ripped the boy from his dreams. For a brief moment, he was happy, believing that he was still back in his yard with Harry, and the alien was nothing more than a bad dream. But no, Charles’s nightmare was still very real when he found himself still inside of the small cell. The same alien was standing at the bars, again, making different clicking noises and gesturing towards Charles.

“I don’t know what you’re saying,” the boy whimpered before another wave of electricity traversed through his small frame. Charles had tears in his green eyes as he begged for the creature to stop tormenting him. “Please, stop! I’ll do anything!”

Suddenly, the electrical shocks stopped, completely, and Charles could feel a cool breeze caressing his cheek. He hesitantly opened his eyes to find himself curled up near the base of a massive tree with large vine-like branches that nearly reached the ground. The boy had no idea how high the tree went, unable to see the very top through the thick canopy, but the sound of rain could be heard pounding off of the leaves far above.

Three other boys were standing near Charles, each with bewildered expressions on their faces as they took in the sight of the new arrival. None of the boys said a word, though, even if Charles could see that they wanted to. He was about to ask them what was going on, when one of the boys quickly shook his head, motioning for the child to be silent. One of the others kept glancing over his shoulder, and Charles followed his gaze to see thousands of hide-tents surrounding the base of tree, out beyond the protection of the canopy. Only the boys were beneath the tree, but Charles could see other figures moving throughout the heavy, green-tinted darkness. Figures that moved hauntingly fast.

“Stand aside,” a feminine voice hissed, and the three boys quickly moved away from Charles. “On your feet, boy!”

Charles stood up slowly, afraid to meet the strange woman’s gaze. She was wearing a skirt that looked like it had seen better days, and her bare feet and legs were covered in dirt and mud. The boy quivered as he felt the woman stick her finger under his chin and force him to meet her deadly gaze. Her cheeks were narrow, and her lips were a faint pink in color. Her skin was so white that she almost glowed in the eerie darkness, and there were dark bruises beneath her glowing red eyes. Then, in a move faster than the tiny human could make out, the woman tore the sleeve from Charles’s shirt and sank her sharp fangs into the boy’s shoulder.

The boy screamed out as the searing pain flashed through his arm, the feeling of his flesh being torn open made the boy begin to struggle. It was a useless notion to attempt, though. The seven-year-old was barely able to get a swing in with his free arm before the woman grabbed his wrist and broke it with a quick squeeze. Charles screamed out in agony, once again, as the woman continued to squeeze the shattered bones in her hand, all the while, enjoying the boy’s virgin blood.

Charles felt his world begin to spin around him and his knees started to give out before the woman released him with an angry hiss. The boy dropped to the ground, barely clinging to life as the woman turned away from him.

“Make sure that he’s fed and well rested,” the woman ordered to the other boys. “He’ll be leaving on the first slave ship that passes by. He has too many connections to stay here, and he is too young. Have him ready by morning.”

“Yes, mistress,” one of the boys replied humbly, just as Charles slipped unconscious, giving into the heavy oppression of the darkness.

(Present Day)

Isaac Jennings was checking, and double-checking each boy, making sure that they weren’t feeling sick or overfed, when he noticed two of the boys huddled closely together. One of the boys was pale and he was sweating profusely. Isaac could feel the boy’s fear as he struggled against whatever was wrong with him. Isaac was at the boy’s side a moment later, gently running his hands across the boy’s brow.

“He has a fever,” Isaac said absently before he checked the boy’s wrist for his pulse. Isaac frowned. “His heart feels like it’s trying to jump out of his chest.” Isaac looked up at the other boy, whose brown eyes were filled with tears as he clung to his friend. “What happened to him?”

“I think they changed him,” the boy whimpered in fear. “He disappeared for a few days, before they dumped him in the hollow of the tree. I couldn’t leave him behind.”

“I wouldn’t have asked you too,” Isaac reassured the boy. “We need to get him help, though. I’m sure Doctor Marc can fix this.”

Isaac glanced around the room until he saw Harold looking in his direction, and he motioned the man over, urgently. Harold saw him and pulled Charles along with him.

“What’s wrong, Isaac?” Harold asked as he joined the group of boys with his brother at his side.

“Something’s wrong with him,” the boy said in a pleading tone.

Charles glanced down at the boy Isaac had motioned to and froze. His worst nightmare was coming back to life in front of him. Not only did Charles see a monster in the making, he saw a little boy that had been put through Hell, and was now being forced into an existence that nobody should be made to live.


“Yeah, Charles?”

“Are you seeing the same thing that I am?” Charles asked in a shaking voice.

“Yes,” Harold replied softly, trying not to frighten the boys, any more than they already were. All they saw was a boy in need of help. They couldn’t see what he was becoming. “What should we do?”

“You have to help him!” Isaac demanded fiercely, his shout bringing complete silence to the room. “I don’t care what you think he’s going to become! Help him, now!”

“We didn’t say we weren’t going to help him, Isaac,” Charles quickly reassured the boy. “I don’t care if he’s turning into a vampire, or not. He doesn’t deserve to suffer because some bastard decided to force this life on him. It doesn’t matter what I’ve been through, either. We’re trying to figure out how we can help him.”

“What do you mean, Charles?” Isaac asked, tears glistening in his hazel eyes. “He’s just a kid.”

Harold knelt next to Isaac and put his hand on the boy’s shoulder.

“He’s not just a kid, Isaac,” Harold told the boy. “He’s far from it, actually. We can’t help him the same way that we are everybody else. We need to figure out where he is in the process of the change and get another vampire to help him.”

“I’ve got you,” Julio said with a grimace as he joined them. “Julio to Brant, Code November Bravo at my location, I need you NOW!” Julio then spun to the receptionist. “Shit me a room with no windows, NOW!”

The receptionist almost argued for about 3/10ths of a second, before the pissed-off glare of the Clan Director, who was now wearing his official robe, caused her to reconsider crossing the boy in front of her. “There is a doctor’s lounge three doors down that hall, Sir,”

Julio nodded. “That room is now reserved for Family Clan Short of Vulcan personnel until further notice.” He then tapped his commbadge, “Ark, please relocate all of us to the indicated room.”

< Relocating you now, Director. >

As they appeared instantly in the lounge, Brant joined them. It took him almost three seconds to take stock of the situation, then he growled “Where in the Hell is the Sire?” as his eyes began glowing from his anger. “This kid needs to be in a darkroom! Julio, we got any Clan doctors on-site?”

Julio nodded. “We’ve got Mike and friends from Des Moines, and Marc is here too. They’re dealing with the rest of the group.”

“Mike’s been through training on Moroi,” Brant nodded as he tapped his badge. “Brandar to Dr. Jones. Code Victor, Reception Staff Lounge. Level 1.”

“Gotcha, give me a minute to transfer,” Mike replied instantly.

Julio, meanwhile, was making his own arrangements. “Dad,” he stated into his commbadge, “We’ve got one of Phil Dawson’s relation who is suffering young growing pains. Could you have Phil join us when he gets up?”

“I gotcha kiddo,” Mick Hernandez replied. “He’ll be over in about three hours, he’s got a sentence to deliver once he gets up.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Julio replied. “Brant, I’ve got a possible foster sire to fill in, he’ll be over once he wakes up.”

“Okay,” Brant replied. “I’m hearing more than I want to off of surface thoughts, who wants to fill me in before I decide to find out the hard way what in the fuck happened.”

Isaac looked around at the others; their inner voices filling his mind as he felt his own anger beginning to build. The adults were too busy planning as usual, and the boy in his arms was suffering because of it. Isaac looked down at the trembling boy and ran his thumb down the boy’s cheek. Everyone was talking at once, and all Isaac wanted was for them to do something. The roar of voices was getting louder, and Isaac was beginning to hear more and more of what was actually being said. He glanced up at the others, seeing them talking quietly, but he could hear their thoughts. He could hear Charles telling Brant that Kyle and Tyler had taken him to a planet called Exa, and that he and his wife had found all of the children in the lobby.

“Bull shit!” Brant growled. “Moroi aren’t allowed off of the Earth’s surface!”

“It’s true!” Isaac snapped, finally. The others in the room looked at him curiously, Brant’s attention was focused only on him, and Isaac gulped nervously. “I know it’s true!”

Brant sat on the floor near Isaac with a slight grin on his face. “How?”

Isaac looked back down at the boy in his arms. Every thought that the boy was having was crystal clear to Isaac, now. He could hear everyone’s thoughts like they were being played over a loudspeaker. None of the others in the room seemed to doubt Isaac in their thoughts, which helped to reassure the boy as he finally told someone what he had been experiencing.

“His name is Chase,” Isaac began softly, rubbing the palm of his hand across the boy’s chest. “He said it helps him focus to rub his chest like this.”

Brant smirked at the boy. “Go on,” he told Isaac. “Tell me more.”

Isaac felt something probe at his own thoughts and he quickly pushed it away, afraid that someone would learn of his past that was outside of his inner circle. He jumped slightly when Kyle appeared next to him and wrapped his arms around Isaac.

“It’s okay,” Kyle told him. “You’re not the only one in the Clan that can hear thoughts, Isaac. Welcome to the club, man.”

“Chase was terrified when they took him,” Isaac continued softly. “He was on the way home with his mom, and they were both taken. He said that she had already been killed by the monsters when he woke up beneath the tree. Chase was on Exa for three weeks when one of the Moroi accidentally changed him. He feels like he’s dying, Brant. Please, help him!”

“I’m trying, kiddo,” Brant replied with a firm nod. Then, Doctor Mike entered the room and went straight to Isaac. Isaac’s eyes were filled with tears as the man knelt next to the boys.

“Let’s see what we’re working with,” Mike said as he went to work examining Chase, while a very worried Isaac watched apprehensively.

“Thanks, Kyle,” Harris said, thanking the Mikyvis with a smile. The boy frowned though when he realized that he didn’t know where he was. “Umm, Kyle?”

Harris looked around to see that he was standing in a large lobby with a glass roof nearly nine-stories above his head that slanted all the way down to the front of the building. The atrium was full of sunlight, nearly shining directly on the giant Clan Short emblem that was hanging on the edge of a balcony between two escalators that stretched up to the third floor. Two indoor gardens were on either side of the main entryway with fountains shooting water into the air in the center of each of them. Several pallets of equipment were being unloaded in the lobby by multiple Vulcans, each one heading in a different direction with their cargo. The six elevators that were just beyond the escalators were constantly moving between the different floors of the building as the workers moved about.

Harris looked over at Kyle in confusion. “Where are we, Kyle?”

“Your new Headquarters,” Kyle replied with a bright grin. “Your house is on the top level. There are ten bedrooms right now, but there’s room to expand if we add a few more levels.”

Harris looked up towards the top of the atrium. “How many levels are there?”

“Nine above ground, Harris, and there are three sub-levels.”

“Who is in charge here?” Harris asked.

“You are, Harris,” Jeff Sawyer said as he joined the preteen.

“Hey, Jeff,” Harris greeted the security officer. “What are you doing here?”

“Daryl assigned me to be your security guard,” Jeff responded with a shrug of his shoulders. “Perks of being a Director.”

Harris frowned.

“You’ll get used to it, Arys,” Kyle told the boy. “Harris, make sure you go pick out your room before I get back with the rest of your family.”

“It wouldn’t be right for me to get first pick, Kyle,” Harris said pointedly. “My dads deserve that.”

“They’re rooms are already picked out,” Kyle informed him. “Now, go pick your room before I let everybody else pick first!”

“We’re going, Kyle,” Jeff chuckled as he steered Harris towards the elevators. “Give us a few minutes, please?”

“You have five,” Kyle quipped from behind the two receding figures before he vanished.

“That’s plenty of time, Harris,” Jeff said as he led Harris onto one of the open elevators. The brown-haired teen hit the button for the top floor and a voice that sounded like Mickey Mouse came out of the speakers in the elevator.

“Voice identification, please?”

“Say your name, Harris,” Jeff instructed the boy.

“What do you mean, Jeff?” Harris asked, but his question was answered by the voice, instead.

“Voice identification recognized,” the Mickey Mouse voice responded pleasantly. “Welcome home, Director Conner.”

Harris gave Jeff a sideways glance as the doors to the elevator slid closed.

“What was that about?”

“Extra security, Director Conner,” Jeff replied formally. “You’re an important man, now.”

Harris frowned. “I don’t want to be important, Jeff. I just want to be me.”

“It’s a little late for that, Harris,” Jeff revealed with a grin. “If you wanted to remain incognito, you shouldn’t have taken charge of that rescue the way that you did.”

Harris thought back to just two hours prior when he had been given the position as Director. The lobby of Saint Mikey’s had been filled with children that needed help, and out of the twenty-seven that had been rescued from Exa, only seven of the children needed to be placed with new parents. Charles and Harold each took in two of the boys, while Dalton took in one, and Daryl took another. The last boy, Chase, was going to be living with Harris, Harold, and Vanek, along with his Foster-Sire, Phil Dawson, who had yet to arrive in Charleston or Springfield. Brant, the vampire that Julio had summoned, had sworn to Harris that he would keep an eye on Chase with Isaac until Phil was able to handle the situation. Doctor Mike made Chase comfortable before ordering everybody who wasn’t necessary from the room. Arys was on the heels of his father, only to be snatched back by Julio before he could escape from the doctor’s lounge.

“Not so fast, Director,” Julio had stated as he grabbed Harris’s shoulder. “There are some decisions that you need to make.”

“Crap,” Arys mumbled.

The outcome of the ordeal had turned out better than Harris could have hoped, though. His father and his Uncle Charles were arguing over who was going to adopt the two new vampires before Harold finally won, using Charles’s experience on Exa against the man.

“That was a low blow, Harry,” Harris heard his uncle mutter.

“I know, Charlie,” Harris’s dad acknowledged. “It’s something that should be taken into account, though. Are you really going to be comfortable with a vampire roaming around your house at night?” Something in the back of Harris’s mind told the boy that his father was correct. His uncle would never truly be able to love the new additions without cringing every time they touched him as he waited for them to hurt him, again. “You do need to explain it to Chase, though.”

“I will,” Charles had agreed.

“What’s wrong, Harris?” Jeff asked as the elevator the two were riding on came to a stop.

“I’m just thinking about Chase and Uncle Charles,” Harris replied with a shrug before stepping out into a small foyer area that overlooked the atrium below. The boy turned to look out the glass as it slanted away from the pinnacle of the building, staring out at the tree-dotted countryside that the building faced. “It’s beautiful.”

“Just wait until you see inside,” Jeff said as he turned the boy to face a set of black doors with silver knobs on them. Just beside the door on the right, there was a small digital display with the green Clan Short emblem hovering in the center of it. The security guard motioned towards the display. “Go for it, Harris. It’s your penthouse.”

“What do I do, Jeff?” Harris asked nervously.

“Voice identification recognized,” the Mickey Mouse voice called out before the doors made a clicking noise and swung inwards, revealing a large front room with several leather sofas placed decoratively throughout the room. “Welcome home, Director Conner.”

“Holy-,” Harris began before Jeff finished for him.

“Shit,” the security guard muttered in disbelief. “Damn, dude. Let’s go check it out.”

Alexander threw his arms around Isaac’s frame the moment the smaller boy had been released from the doctor’s lounge. The tear in the boy’s hazel eyes worried Alexander until Isaac smiled warmly at him.

“Everything was figured out,” Isaac told him as he returned the deep hug. “I thought that there would only be four kids that needed homes, but Julio and Arys changed my mind after interviewing the parents of two of boys.”

“What about the vampire?” Alexander asked in concern, still holding Isaac tightly in his arms. “He’ll be fine. Harold and Vanek are adopting him and his new Foster-Sire. All I know, is that you’ve got yourself a night-shift security team.”

“Me?” Alexander asked in confusion as he leaned back from the love of his second life. “My security team?”

“You are going to be the Ohio Valley Division Security Director, Alexander,” Isaac giggled. “You’re going to need people working for you. It only makes sense.”

“Who said I’m, what now?” Alexander asked in confusion.

Alexander listened as Isaac explained everything that had happened in the doctor’s lounge, a steadily growing frown appearing on his face during the story. Alexander glanced around the hospital lobby for a brief moment when he was told that Harris had left with Jeff earlier.

“I think Kyle sent them home,” Isaac explained when he noticed Alex looking for his cousin. “Kyle mentioned something about a new house.”

“Oh,” Alexander said disappointedly. “I wanted to talk to him.”

“You’re going to see him, soon,” Isaac reassured his boyfriend. “We’re all going to be living in the same building.”


“Yeah,” Isaac giggled at the look of surprise on Alexander’s face. Then, he kissed the taller boy on the cheek making Alex blush deeply. “I love you, Alex.”

“I love you too, Isaac,” the former angel told the blond-haired boy. Then, he looked at Isaac in confusion. “How do you know all of this stuff?”

Isaac giggled, “Harris made me his Assistant Director.”

“Oh,” Alex replied in shock. “That’s really cool, Isaac, or should I call you “Boss”, now?”

“I’ll show you “Boss”!” Isaac exclaimed with a giggle as he lunged into Alexander’s arms, kissing the boy soundly.

“Hey guys!”

Alexander and Isaac looked around to see Charles and Dalton approaching them. Both boys began blushing as they realized that their parents had caught them kissing.

“Hey, dad,” Isaac greeted his dad with a long hug.

“We were just wondering if you boys were ready to head back to Springfield, yet?” Charles asked as he pulled Alexander to him with a grin. Then, he lifted the boy up and hugged him tightly. “Do you honestly think that you don’t deserve a million hugs?”

Alexander giggled nervously.

“Fine,” Charles said with a chuckle as he hugged Alexander even more. “A trillion hugs!”

“You’re gonna’ squeeze the cookie dough outta’ me, dad!” Alexander laughed as Charles continued to hug him.

“Hey!” Isaac protested. “Don’t damage the goods, Uncle Charles! I prefer the cookie dough to be kept on the inside. It makes him squishy when I hug him!”

“Aren’t we missing a few people?” Alexander asked as he looked between the two adults.

“I think this is good enough,” Charles quipped.

“Oooo,” Alexander said in disbelief. “I’m telling Mel- I mean. . . I’m telling mom!”

“You don’t need to, bug!” Melissa stated, slipping in and wrapping her arms around the boy from behind. “Did you believe that I would let you spend your first night in a new home without me?”

Alexander laughed merrily as his new mom tickled his ribs before patting the boy on the back.

“Are you about ready, Melissa?” Charles asked curiously.

“Almost,” Melissa replied with a slight smile. “I need to go check on Chase, really quick. Plus, all of our new kids are going to be waiting for us in the lobby of the new building.”

“I like the sound of that,” Charles grinned.

“Me too,” Dalton agreed.

“So,” Charles said to change the subject. “What do you boys want to do when we get home?”

“Sleep,” Alexander replied quickly before his eyes lit up.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing is wrong, dad,” Alexander told the man that looked like he was only in his early twenties. “I just realized that I get to sleep in a bed! A real bed!”

“God, I hope they remembered to put beds in the rooms,” Charles said absently, not really understanding Alexander’s excitement.

“How long has it been, Alex?” Dalton asked.

“Almost nineteen years,” Alex informed them with a sad smile as he lay his head on his dad’s shoulder. Charles immediately started rubbing the boy’s back to reassure him when he heard Alex sniffle quietly.

“Shh, little one,” Charles whispered soothingly. “You will never be without a bed again, Alexander.”

“Thanks, dad,” Alex said only loud enough for Charles to catch. “I love you.”

The man felt his own voice catch in his throat at the boy’s words.

“I love you too, Alex,” Charles responded easily. “More than life.”

Charles wiped his own tears from his eyes as he continued to hold Alexander, not even noticing the subtle shift in the boy’s breathing as he fell asleep. Alex felt safe in the arms of his new father. Safer than he had felt in over twenty years thanks to his new mom and dad. He didn’t care if Melissa was really his sister. Alex had already missed out on that part of his life, and he couldn’t remember much from his prior years as a human, besides the torture his father had put him through since Alexander’s mother had died from cancer. That was when Nikolas Martin had turned his attentions to the young boy, admiring the delicate features the boy possessed before he finally acted on those urges. Urges that the man would kill to keep secret.

“Dad! Dad!”

Charles turned around and smiled at the two twin boys that were pulling a very startled looking brown-haired boy between them. Charles purposely turned his attention to his newest son and smiled at him.

“Good evening, Fritz,” Charles smiled warmly at the boy before he focused on the twins. “What’s going on, Enon? Why are you so excited?”

“Fritz was just telling Orez and me about Trick or Treating!” Enon explained happily. “We were wondering if we could go?”

Both of the twins turned on the puppy dog eyes, then, as the duo worked in unison.

“Please?” Both of the boys begged.

Charles and Dalton chuckled lightly.

“Halloween is a sin, though,” Isaac said before his hazel eyes went wide in shock and he put his hands to his mouth. “Sorry. I forgot, daddy.”

Dalton grinned and hugged his son. “Don’t worry about it, buddy,” the man told his son. “Have you met your brothers yet, Isaac?”

“How many brothers do I have, now?” Isaac asked in disbelief.

“Three,” Dalton told the boy with a wide smile. “Come on. I think Doctor Zach should be about finished with them. I saw Jax and Hunter running around with a few other kids, a little bit ago.”

“Sweet!” Isaac grinned. “Let’s go find them, then!”

“We’ll be right back, Charles,” Dalton told the man. “I need to go see a doctor about some boys! I’ll see if my group wants to go along, too. Then, we can make an outing of it.”

“That works for me,” Charles replied. “I’ll let Melissa know as soon as she comes back.”

“Works for me,” Dalton called over his shoulder.

“Is that our brother, too?” Enon asked, studying the sleeping form of Alexander that Charles held in his arms.

“Yup,” Charles replied with a grin, kneeling so the boys could get a better look at Alex. “He’s eleven-years-old. You also have another brother.”

“Really?” Orez asked in shock before he quickly looked around. “Where is he?”

“He’s still in space, unfortunately,” Charles replied with a slight frown. “Geoff is fifteen and he works for Starfleet.”

“That’s awesome!” Enon said amazement. “When do we get to meet him?”

“He will be home tomorrow morning,” Charles told the boys. “He’s super excited to meet you guys, too.”

“Really?” Fritz asked in a soft voice. Charles couldn’t stop himself from pulling the frail boy into a hug with his free arm.

“Yeah, Fritz,” the new father responded. “He’s really nice, too. He gets along with all of his shipmates, I’ve never heard a bad word about him from his superiors at Starfleet, and he’s never been in trouble. I think all of you will like him, and he is going to love all of you.”

“I hope so,” Fritz said sadly.

“What’s wrong, buddy?” Charles already knew the answer to the question he had asked. He just needed to hear the response from the boy in order to be able to help the boy overcome his grief at being abandoned by his family. Especially, after the boy had just been rescued from a world with vampires on it. Charles knew that Fritz was feeling hurt at the moment, and completely alone. Instead of pushing the boy to tell him anything, Charles simply tightened his hold on the boy’s waist and kissed his cheek. “You will always be loved with us. I will never let you feel abandoned, Fritz. You’re my son, now. I know that it’s going to take you time to get through this and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help you, but I need you to take the first step, baby boy.”

Fritz nodded before he finally spoke up in a crystal clear voice that made both of the twins smile when they heard it.

“I want to be wanted,” Fritz declared with tears in his eyes. “I want to be loved!”

“Your wish, is my command,” Charles stated before he finally released the boy from their embrace. Alexander started to stir then and blinked several times as he leaned his head back.

“Sorry, dad,” Alex whispered. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep on you.”

“Don’t worry about it, Alex,” the man waved off his son’s apology. “Your new brothers were just drawing wieners on your face while you slept.”

“No, we weren’t!” Orez protested.

“We should have, though,” Enon grinned before he made Alex look at him by poking the boy’s shoulder. “I would never do anything to take away from your beauty, brother!”

“Brother?” Alex’s sleep-filled mind was slowly beginning to clear itself as he studied the three boys. Then, he turned his attention to Charles. “Brothers?”

“Yup,” Charles grinned. “I’ve been busy. Why don’t you get to know you brothers, while I figure out what’s taking your guys’s mom so long?”

“Okay, dad,” Alexander replied sleepily before Charles kissed his cheek and set the boy on his own two feet.

“I’ll be right back, guys.”

Before Alex could process what was going on, Enon and Orez were smothering the boy in hugs, making him giggle from the attention they were showing him. Then, Alex noticed that Fritz was standing back, and pulled the boy into the group hug.

“Welcome to the family, brothers!” Alex told them happily.

“We’re trying to talk dad into taking us Trick or Treating,” Enon told the boy.

“Sweet!” Alexander stated with a grin. “I haven’t done that since my mom died. . .”

“Your mom died?” Fritz asked in disbelief, slipping his arm around Alexander’s waist. “I’m sorry, Alex.”

“It’s okay,” Alex replied. “It was a very long time, ago. I barely remember what she even looked like. Whenever I try to remember, all I see is Melissa’s face.”

“Nobody should have to be without a mom, though,” Fritz told him pointedly.

“We all have a mom, now,” Alex said with a grin. “She’s the best. . .”

Melissa Conner slipped her cell phone back into her pocket as she headed over to where the three different families were waiting. “Where’s Harris?” She asked as she studied the large group. “Wasn’t he just here a few minutes, ago?”

“Jeff took him over to the house so he could pick out his room,” Harold explained with a chuckle. “Kyle actually insisted on it.”

“Oh?” Melissa asked with a raised eyebrow. Then, she smiled at all of the boys that were gathered around her. “You are all very lucky boys. I can’t wait until we see what the future has in store for each of us as a family. Even though, you have each chosen your new parents, I want all of you to know that I will always be available for you if you need it. I don’t care what you need, I will always be there for you. I would hug each and every one of you, all day long if I could. Dalton doesn’t know this yet, but he and his new crew are part of my family, too. There’s a place in my heart for each of you.” Then, Melissa laughed lightly. “Now, enough with the heavy stuff. A certain Mikyvis has told me that you guys were thinking about going Trick-or-Treating, once we get home. So, I’ve arranged to have some costumes delivered to your rooms if you want to participate. Then, when you all get back, we’re going to have a small party in our new Common Room. I heard there’s a pool table.”

Several of the boys giggled before Alexander rushed forward to hug his mother, soon to be followed by the other twelve boys, each squeezing in wherever they could.

“Damn, dude,” Melissa heard Charles mutter to his brother. “Can you believe the affect she has on people?”

“She is a remarkable woman, Charles,” Vanek observed. “You are a fortunate man to have her in your life.”

Then, the three boys from Sharyn each gasped out in sorrow and collapsed to their knees.

“What’s wrong, Samy?” Harold demanded as he rushed to his son’s side. Alexander and Charles went to Enon and Orez. Melissa suddenly found herself comforting the group of boys clustered tightly around her while Harold and Charles tried to get answers from the three boys. “Please, tell me buddy. It’s the only way I can help.”

“It’s-,” Samy fumbled with his words as he tried not to cry. “It’s Tymrk. He- he- he passed into the void. I felt it, daddy. I felt him die.”

Melissa saw her own vision cloud over as the tears filled her brown eyes. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing, and she turned her head to see Marc walking towards her, his shoulders slumped in defeat.

“Can you guys let Doctor Furst into the hug, please?” Melissa asked the huddle that was clinging to her. The boys simply parted slightly and pulled Marc in close enough for the woman to hold the doctor tightly. She spoke only loud enough for him to hear her words of comfort. “It’ll be okay, Marc. Nobody blames you, mister. You’re still my favorite doctor.”

“I tried so hard, Momma M,” Marc whispered. “He just faded away, like he had given up long ago.”

“I’m so sorry that you have to suffer through this, as well, Marc,” she tried to reassure the boy. “Everybody knows that you did everything that you could. Next time one of these boys are in trouble, you’ll have a new idea of how to save them, I just know it. You should get some rest.”

“I need some food, first,” Marc said with a sniffle, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand. “Thanks for letting me in on your hug, Melissa.”

“It was my honor, Marc,” Melissa replied with a grin. “You are always welcome to hug me whenever you need it.”

Marc smiled and hugged Melissa, again.

“Make sure you keep Doc Zack in line,” the android said with a chuckle.

“I heard that, Marc,” the twenty-seven-year-old man said as he joined them. He glanced into the group gathered around Melissa and frowned when he didn’t see his own two boys. “Where’s Jax and Hunter?”

“Sorry, dad!” Two voices chorused out as they ran into the lobby of the hospital.  Zack turned around to see the two boys in question, running towards him, each dressed as soccer players. “We were getting ready to go Trick-or-Treating! Kyle said he had costumes for us!”

“You guys look awesome!” Zack told the boys as he hugged them. He promptly adjusted Jax’s jersey once the two boys pulled away.

“I’m going to take the trio back to see their brother before we all leave,” Harold informed them as he picked Samy up into his arms. Charles picked up the twins and nodded for his brother to lead the way.

“We’ll meet you at home, Melissa,” Charles told his young-looking wife as he passed her.

“I’ll see you there, Charles.”

“Are you guys ready?” Tyler asked the remainder of the group as he appeared in front of them.

“Are you going to be bringing Chase home, too?” Isaac asked curiously.

“Once it’s safe,” Tyler assured the boy. “We’re still waiting for Phil to wake up, too. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you get to meet your new nighttime security team.”

Isaac giggled and nodded. “I’m going to hold you to-.”

Isaac’s words fell silent as the group disappeared. Tyler giggled before he turned to face Marc.

“Momma M was right, Marc,” the Mikyvis told the doctor plainly. “You need some rest. Want me to take you somewhere?”

“No,” Marc replied. “Thanks for the offer, though, Tyler. Maybe next time.”

“Don’t say I didn’t offer, Marc,” Tyler giggled.

“Would you mind transferring me to my bedroom?” Marc asked. “It’s been a long day, and it’s not even over, yet.”

Tyler didn’t answer, merely sending Marc to where he wanted to go. Tyler glanced around the lobby of the hospital with a satisfied grin on his lips before he vanished with a slight pop.

Chapter 9