This is the chapter that would have contained the Weddings between Joel and Kevin, and Teri and Spock. However, due to many reasons that I won't bore you with, the weddings will be covered in a stand alone short-story at a later date (Similar to Hawaiian Honeymoon).
There will be a time-skip during this chapter. The main reason for such will become abundantly clear once you get to the end of this chapter...
The main hall of the Manor was not the normal place you would have expected to see lightning, nor hear the rolling thunder that suddenly shook the whole valley. The appearance of a group of distraught kids, however, was sadly common.
Cory was on his feet calling for whatever medic could get to his now fully convulsing little Vulcan brother fastest, while the Mikyvis gathered there tried everything in their repertoire to resolve Joel's issue.
As chaotic as their arrival was, it did not faze the Dragon Division members too much. The VSO machine rolled into action and Joel's twitching body was beamed quickly to the Manor's sickbay, along with all there, minus the Mikyvis.
What went through the minds of the overpowered kids, as they transported themselves to where Joel was, was something simple yet also utterly worrying.
How could Celoi transporters - judging by what Reliquary said, basically 'human' transporters - be used on them without causing the catastrophic antimatter chain reaction that they had been warned about?
"BOOOOOLLEEETS! BULLETS, PRECIOUS BOOOOOLLLLEEEETTTTS!"
Juan was trying franticly to keep the exuberant Lemic quiet, but wasn't having any luck. Not that they had to remain quiet, of course. Joel was meant to be awake at any time, but after this recent collapse, and with what had been done to help him, Juan half thought that gently waking would be in order.
Lemic, obviously, disagreed with that decision.
He and Juan had spent a few hours - after learning how to read 'human', as Lemic put it - practising with firearms. Then with a multi-player console first-person shooter game... and Lemic seemed to now have a massive bullet obsession.
And he had decided to set up that games console on the biobed that Joel was recovering on, so that he could do a number of things at once; be with his daddy while his Poppa Kev went for food, keep entertained, entertain his daddy, too... and shoot things. Mainly shoot things, but he was a good Gorn and wouldn't do anything totally selfishly, after all.
Juan stopped trying to shush the boy and instead picked up another controller. If you couldn't beat them, join them... "I'll kick your butt," he giggled as he started mashing the buttons.
"BOOOOLLLLLEEEETTTTS... ack ack ack!" Lemic yelled then laughed delightedly.
Joel woke up to that, his blind eye blinking uselessly. He did not move, nor give any other sign of being awake, and neither of the two sitting on the bed with him noticed. Instead, he listened. And decided that Lemic had already spent way too much time with Juan!
Something else concerned him, however, and kept him from revealing his wakefulness. His skin felt strange, and a sense of 'otherness' hung over him, as if there were other minds near yet not so near. He turned his mind inward to see if it was Sa'ren but could not sense his other side hiding in the back as per normal. Rather, he felt Sa'ren in the fore, with him. As much in control of their body as he was. The sense of 'otherness' was still there, and Sa'ren's presence did not account for it.
He moved his right arm slowly and silently, but stopped before moving an inch. Something was attached to his skin, from his elbow up to his neck, just under his right ear. Same for his left arm. He breathed deeply and slowly, and felt something odd about his chest. His brow furrowed, but only in part. Something was there as well, riding the sweep of his left eyebrow above his empty left eye socket.
What was going on?
"What has happened?" he asked, then gasped. His voice was strange. Choral. Metallic.
He knew what it was without being told as he sat up.
Juan and Lemic spun around to look at him for a brief moment before they both latched on in a hug.
Where Lemic's chin was resting on his left shoulder was something else strange. Joel was suddenly aware of Kataui, his Tribble, holding herself flat to his skin. He gently pushed Lemic back and felt his pet's soft fur. Tubes were branching off from her and into his skin.
That confirmed it.
He was Borg.
Borg... was his condition so severe that his family had elected to impose this on him? Borg?!
"Sa'ren and Joel of Borg. It has an... interesting ring to it," Sa'ren whispered in his mind. "I am as much in control as you are, Joel. This is... intriguing."
A sense. A presence. One of the 'others'. A movement. The door. Joel turned his blind face in that direction, hearing but not responding to Juan's stream of questions that were a constant, fast babble, and said, "Hello, Nine. Would you explain? Before I freak out?"
Nine moved into the room slowly, paying no heed to Juan's frosty glare, and answered, "I will, and I will offer my apology."
"Apology?" Sa'ren queried. "You saved our lives. Why is there a need to apologise?"
"Because he didn't ask!" Juan answered with a furious hiss.
"Correct," Nine agreed softly. "I did explain after I had started but..."
"You did not ask! Not even Kevin! You just walked in, pushed Doctor McCoy and Commander Xolan out of the way and... and... put those things into Joel's neck!" Juan exploded.
Joel reached with his hand to grasp Juan's shoulder. "T'hy'la. Please. I want to hear for myself." He then concentrated and summoned his Crown so that he could see as much of the changes as he could.
As Juan and Nine engaged in a staring competition, Joel satisfied himself that his change to 'Borg life' did not come complete with absent body parts. He looked back up to see the silent exchange going on and sighed. "Nine, please explain," he asked softly as he swung his legs over the edge of the bed to sit upright more comfortably.
As Nine turned to look full on him in order to answer, the door behind him suddenly filled with a number of bodies, all jammed together as they attempted to enter the room at the same time. Kevin had obviously felt Joel waking up and had told the others, whereupon they had all made a dash for their Lil'Elf.
With an almost audible pop, Cory, Sean, Kevin, Levi and Kyle landed in a heep on the floor just behind Nine's feet.
"I believe that is meant to be funny," Sa'ren stated simply. Then Joel started laughing.
Juan turned to look at the Vulcan, blinking in confusion. After a second he murmured, "Great. He's going to be around a lot more, then."
More questions as the five boys scrambled from the floor to surround Joel on the bed - Lemic now cuddled on Cory's lap to be as involved - and less chance of Joel getting anything from Nine. Juan continued to stand between the two Borg, and his posture oozed dislike of Nine's presence.
"Guys! I'm okay! Kev? I love you too... Levi, stop sucking my ear for a second... Lemic? Breathe. Juan? Behave. And Nine? Explain! Please!" Joel giggled, attempting to regain order.
"I am behaving... it's Nine who didn't..." Juan grated, but he did back off and sit down on the biobed next to the others.
Joel found himself on Sean's lap and being held tight against him. He felt that there were a few things, almost like lumps, on his back. He sighed. "Before you explain... Kev? Can I see myself? Through your eyes please?" he asked as he slipped off of Sean's lap to stand just away from the bed. "My current vision isn't that helpful when looking at myself," he added as he blinked his mist-eyes at his beloved.
"Sure, Sa'r," Kevin answered softly as his eyes turned blue. He looked full at his husband, and held back his own feelings of horror at what had happened to him. He got down from the biobed too to walk around Joel, giving his husband a full picture of what had been done.
Joel's skin was pale grey, his lips slightly darker. Down his chest and stomach were eight odd looking metal devices, similar to those on Nine's chest. Starting an inch above each nipple, then running in parallel down to just above his groin. The same were echoed on his back. Down both arms were Borg tubes, linking into his skin behind each ear as well as into his elbow, or near enough. A device of some kind was over his left eyebrow, with a red light - like a panel only brightly shining - blinking. There was a long, thin strip of a device running down each thigh, with a variety of lights blinking slowly. As Joel had guessed, Kataui was on his shoulder, but almost flush with his skin, and hooked in with smaller, thinner Borg tubes.
As Kevin came to stand in front of Joel, Sa'ren took over and said, "Most curious." As he did so, the red light on the Vulcan's forehead changed to green. Sa'ren raised his right eyebrow. "Even more curious," he stated. Then Joel moved into control and the light changed to red. "So," Joel whispered with a ghost of a smile, "at least you all know who's driving without us talking."
"Yeah," grunted Juan, "just peachy."
Joel flexed his fingers and rubbed absently over one of the devices on his front. "Shield emitters?"
"Yes," Nine answered as he moved to stand next to the new Borg. "There are some modifications that the nano-probes decided upon in their attempts to get around my orders, but none of them are useless nor have negative effects."
Joel blinked up at him. "Okay. Why did you do this, and why didn't you ask before you did?"
Nine tilted his head slightly, organising his thoughts. "You appeared along with Levi, Cory and the others in the middle of the main hall. I was not there to see it, but by all reports it was as if a lightning storm had happened inside the house. We all found out shortly thereafter what had happened. You were rushed in here and Doctor McCoy examined you. You were dying. He tried everything he could, but nothing could change that. Your father and Commander Xolan attempted a mind-healing, but that too failed. By listening to them speak I realised that your Vulcan brain was attempting to split itself apart to contain two now distinct personalities. Such was killing you in the process. I did what no other here could do. I stepped in to bridge the gap. I made you Borg so that the two of you could live in concert within one body. There was no time to debate it or run the risk of them getting in my way. Your life was in the balance. So I saved it. Once you have found another way to deal with this problem, or to heal it, then I can remove all that was done to you. No systems were implanted, all were grown by the probes. All the nano-probes can be removed easily. There would be no lasting changes." A pause, "That was as succinct as I believe I can make it. Buck is also here from the Unit to assist, should we need to step in – just in case the nano-probes cease to do as I have programmed. I do not think that they will, but it is better to be safe than sorry."
"Where is he?... oh, wait. Eating in the kitchen. I can 'see' him, if I concentrate," Joel whispered.
"You shall learn more as we go along, and the two of us will help you," Nine responded.
Joel nodded slowly, looking around the room carefully. There was a hole in one of the walls, near the door. It looked suspiciously like a hole made by a fist. A small fist. He looked at Juan, then raised an eyebrow. "Your handiwork, T'hy'la?" he asked, pointing at the damage.
Juan pursed his lips and nodded.
Nine put in. "When I injected you with the nano-tubes from my hand he ordered me to get away from you. He understood more fully than most what I was attempting as I had done so to him the day I arrived here. However, he had asked. You had not, and he remembered you did not care for being made Borg. It was, however, something that was needed. I told him I would explain after but that I needed to concentrate. He drew on me and ordered me again. I ignored him. I think he knew that bullets would not matter against me, so things became physical instead."
Joel blinked again. "What happened?" he sighed.
"He tried to pull Nine away from you," Nathan said from the doorway where he had just arrived with Jason and Koth. "Nine's stronger than he looks, but it was a close thing. If Juan had dislodged those tubes..."
"It was the only thing that stopped him," Nine put in softly. "I informed him that should the tubes be removed at that point the nano-probes would kill you. He would not risk that, so he stopped trying to pull my arm away from your neck."
"He should have asked! He could have at least explained briefly! He did something that I knew you'd not like, and it was obviously dangerous as if I had disconnected him you'd have died! It... it wouldn't have mattered if he'd taken five minutes..." Juan started to say.
"Juan," Nine interrupted gently, raising his hand, palm out. "There was no time. It was, as humans say, touch and go when I tried it. Any longer and not even I could have saved him. I know how much talking goes on between you all when you want to figure something out, and Joel did not have the time for it."
"It was logical," Sa'ren stated, the light above his left eye socket turning green. "Coldly logical, but logic can be cold. I had and have no wish to die." The Vulcan then paused before asking Nine, "Why would I have died had your arm been moved? Nano-probes would not kill unless... ah, I see."
Nine was nodding as well, knowing that the knowledgeable little Vulcan had worked it out. "You are blind, and it is not something we Borg can fix. You also have a dual personality in your mind. On both counts you are a defective drone and would therefore be disconnected from the collective and terminated. That is why I had to remain connected to you for your entire transformation - as well as to give the probes the energy to build all that they did. I kept full control over them. Then I had my adjunct link permanently with you to keep control. Kataui will not move nor talk nor do anything else until this issue with your mind is healed and I reverse the assimilation. All that she will do is act in concert with your natural Borg defences to keep you safe."
The light on Joel's forehead blinked between green and red before settling on Green. "We both agree. You did the right thing, Nine. Thank you. We are in your debt," Sa'ren stated with a slight inclination of his head.
Juan rounded on him. "I'm speaking to this Sa'ren person, not you, Joel! If it wasn't for you, this wouldn't be happening to Joel! How dare you speak of not wishing to die when you're the intruder! I wish you'd just go away and leave my Joel ALONE!"
Kevin moved over to lay a gentle hand on Juan's shoulder, but Juan was not in the mood to be stilled. "You're to blame for this! YOU! Get out of him! Leave him be! Hasn't he gone through enough?!"
Sa'ren blinked at Juan slowly. "Juan. I am the one you fell in love with. I am the one who was raped and hurt on Saturday. I am the one who could not face emotions and pain afterwards, and I am the one who wanted to live as a Vulcan; to not feel. However, my emotions were too strong. I made another persona to deal with them, the one called 'Joel'. I took the name 'Sa'ren'. We were just two masks of the one person, but as time went on we started to split and become separate people. It was not what I had intended, but at first everything seemed shared equally between us. Yet..."
"Yet," Nine said as Sa'ren trailed off, "yet now that they are fully apart, there is a noticeable difference between the two. Sa'ren retains and holds the katra of Sa'ren Joel Short. Joel does not, and it is only by close proximity to Sa'ren that Joel has life. As with any Vulcan who, when close to death, places his or her katra into another's body, for a short while the person they were will live on in the body, while the katra - or spirit - is in others. In all cases where they can, the one dying and the one carrying the katra remain close together until the body dies. Otherwise, if the carrier were to move more than twenty or so feet away... instant death for the body. Not a pleasant thing to do. For as long as both of these two remain in there, Joel will be 'alive'... but it is the Joel persona that is the creation of the real Sa'ren Joel. Not the other way around."
The light on Sa'ren's head changed to red, and Joel closed his eyes. "Sorry, Juan. Before earlier today I thought as you do. That I was me and that was it. In a way it's true, but I'm only a part of the Joel you knew. Sa'ren is the other part, but the true life - my katra - is in him. He created me by separating me off from himself. If... if we can heal this, then I'll be fully me again. The two of us one again. But... please don't push him away, Juan. He's the one you fell in love with. When we were whole. I'm... that is, we are both human and Vulcan. Both are our heritage, and even before Saturday I could put aside my emotions to think fully logically. It's my heritage. Well, Sa'ren's, now. I'm the human side."
"Fucking Goddamn Great! So now you've got a split personality, as in literally?! Do you think I don't know what this means? I lived as more than one person for most of my life! This is not GOOD!" Juan said as he backed away. He looked at Joel. So many emotions were roiling around inside him and they all played on his face. He was tough, but even though he looked almost eleven, the reality was that Juan had only been alive for about seven years. He was having real trouble dealing with this. "Sorry, but I just need to be alone for a while," he managed to say, his voice nearly betraying him. Then with an inhuman cry of frustration, he ran from the room.
Joel did not move. Sa'ren said not a word. They sighed and Sa'ren turned towards where he sensed Koth standing, "You might want to stay close to our beloved until he is ready to talk."
"I know the drill," Koth said softly, a half smile on his face. "I'll look after him," he added as he turned and left the room.
"You're not going to go after him?" Lemic asked, the control from the game lodged between his teeth as he chewed on it in nervousness.
Joel answered, "Nope. He said he needs to be alone, and Juan wouldn't lie to me. I'll go to him when it's time, Lem."
The control made a wet, crunchy sound as Lemic chewed on it for a few more seconds. "Okay," he muttered, before swallowing the poor gaming item and slurping up the cord as if it were spaghetti. Then he blinked, "What did I just eat?"
"Well, you're going to need some serious fibre to pass that padd, Lem," Cory giggled.
Lemic's large jaw seemed to droop and his eyes went downcast. "No more bullets?"
Levi giggled and made a new controller appear on the biobed. "There we go, Lem! Bullets a'plenty!"
Joel sighed, "You've been corrupted, young man."
"Yes, you can have bullets..." Joel sighed again as his son started to do a little dance on the spot. "A bloody ballistic fetish got passed onto you, didn't it?"
"You should see how good I am with a real gun! The bullets make LOUD noises and go BAM BAM BAM into the targets," Lemic crowed happily, still dancing on the spot. "But we have to have a war-cry, or it's not honourable to the stuffed targets... so I thought, 'Bullets are cool! I'll shout that!'.... see? BULLLLEEEETTTTSS!"
Kevin moved over and started whispering quietly to the excited Gorn while Joel shook his head, a grin on his face. He turned and felt about for his brothers and his hand found Cory's chest. "Don't be mad at Nine, Cor. I wouldn't have picked to be a Borg, not even if it meant dying, but what he did to me... I'm not a Borg, not really. He just used his tech to save me."
Nine was staring at Joel seriously, then a small smile came to his face at hearing that. He raised his head to look directly at the Clan Patriarch, his ocular device shimmering with holographic lights.
"Oh shit; here we go again!" Cory muttered.
Nine tilted his head, then stopped his device from working. "I am sorry, Patriarch. It was still in scan mode."
Joel giggled. "You're silly, Cor. Might be one of the reasons I fancy the pants off of you..."
"One of?" Cory giggled back.
"Yeah... another is that you have a wicked, cute butt! Anyway... you're not mad at Nine... are you?"
"Ask me again tomorrow." Cory replied seriously. "Right now, I'm trying to keep my own emotions in check so I can help everyone else think clearly."
"Besides," Sean added, "the way Cory transmits, I think it's better that we all have our own emotions, not his right now."
Joel scowled lovingly at Cory for a second, then sighed. "Okay..." he said. He turned back to Nine and moved over to him. He looked up at Nine and held out his right fist, causing the nano-tubes to start lashing out. Nine did the same with his own and the two sets linked. "Brother, now until forever. What is done to thee is done to me."
Nine blinked. "Brother, now until forever," he whispered back. Then he smiled, "Oh, and I'll take it as a courtesy if you don't assume control of us drones without a little warning."
Joel blinked. "What do you mean?"
"I wanted to make sure that I kept the collective away from your mind, Sa'ren, as you wouldn't have liked it. I could not, however, stop your mind from linking in anyway. You... it seems you have control..."
Joel blinked and the light on his forehead changed to green. Sa'ren whispered, "So that makes us... the Borg... Queen?"
"King," Nine giggled as Kevin burst out in laughter. "At least that's how you should tell the rest..."
"Hey, Ty's Queen of the Mikyvis, why can't Elf be Queen of the Borg?" Sean giggled.
Joel and Sa'ren - for the light was now split evenly into red and green - turned and looked at him. "Timmy is going to have a pet octopus," they said as Sean vanished in a whirling green transporter stream.
"What the hell was that?!" Cory exclaimed.
"Borg transporter," Nine sighed. "It is one of the adaptations I carry... and so do all who I convert... Sa'ren, or Joel, or both, have worked out how to use it!"
"The range?" Cory asked curiously as the stream returned, dumping a dripping wet and octopus-hat wearing Sean at his feet.
Nine smiled, "I could take you to Moon Base, if I wished... but I'd have to regenerate Borg style if I did. What Joel just did would mean a three course meal... and a cookie!"
Timmy came running into the room. "Draco says you got me a new friend, Poppa! Ohhhhhh! A octypussy! Thanks Pop! Jules is gonna LOVE his new pond!" he stated quickly as he ran over and hugged Sean, the octopus transferring itself onto Timmy's head mid-hug.
Joel giggled, then Sa'ren said, "And our Jules will like that he has a friend the same name as him that can help him find shinys that fall into the pond, Timothy."
"Uhhhh huhhh!" Timmy giggled. "C'mon Jules, I gotta intaduce you to the tribe!" he crowed as he ran from the room, the octopus waving all eight tentacles happily in the air.
"Could I get a little help drying off here?" Sean pouted.
"Uncle Cory could blow you dry!" Levi offered helpfully.
Sa'ren raised his hand, "Or I could step in and deal with that hard job..."
"You forgot the word 'blow'," Joel supplied mischievously.
"No, I did not," Sa'ren answered himself, his mist-eyes twinkling.
"Yes you did," T'Sara added as the light on Joel's forehead changed to pink for a moment.
"Oh good Lord," Cory sighed, face-palming in defeat. "Three of them... in control... we need help."
"I am not a part of the Borg link, child," T'Sara assured the worried Patriarch. "Which I am sure those who wish to love my son are happy about... as am I, otherwise when he makes love to them I will be too! That would be... uncomfortable..."
"I agree," Sa'ren nodded.
"Uh huh!" Joel giggled.
"That's it, I'm leaving," Sean muttered as he got to his feet and squelched out of the room.
"Did we scare the locals again?"
"Yes, Joel, we did. But it was mother's fault this time."
"It was not!"
"Yes, mother, it was."
"I agree with Sa'ren... wait! Where's everyone gone?"
The room was now empty.
Not much later, a group of kids were exiting the valley and onto the streets near to Port Talbot College. Their destination was a large, fairly new looking Fish and Chip shop. There had always been one on this street, of course, but since the Dragon Division - and their large group of kids - had been there, the shop owners had decided to upgrade. With the help of the Vulcans from the Division, a new building had been put up in fairly short order.
Timmy and Ricky were running ahead, the smells coming from the shop drawing them. Those behind were stepping up the pace. Sean was giggling as Joel, in a Vulcan robe with the hood pulled up over his head to keep his ears warm, bounced along muttering, "Foodfoodfoodfood! Foooood!"
"C'mon, Daddy, before its all gone!" Timmy exclaimed as he ran back and started pulling on Cory's hand urgently.
Cory giggled, "I'm sure they're not going to run out of food until after we order, munchkin!"
From ahead, Ricky's head popped around the doorway of the shop and called out, "These ain't chips! They're really fat fries! Unca Jace told a fib!"
"No I didn't!" Jason giggled back, somewhere at the back of the group of Clan members all treking up the street to the shop. "These are British chips. Not French fries... they do do them if you want them, but real chips are those fat ones."
Timmy scratched his head. "What do you call chips, then, if fat fries are chips?"
"Crisps," Jason giggled as he caught up with Timmy and Cory.
"Crisps?!" Ricky called from the shop. "That's a stupid name. They're chips and these are fat fries!"
"Yeah!" Timmy agreed, ceasing the scratching of his head and crossing his arms with determination.
"Nope, they're chips."
"F.A.T. F.R... daddy? How do you spell fries?"
Cory told Timmy, who then continued spelling it out for Jason in no uncertain terms, hugely proud of himself for learning to spell a new word.
"Chips..." Jason giggled back as he darted into the shop, grabbing at the hooded Joel as a distraction. "Isn't that right, Elf?"
"What is in a name?" Sa'ren answered, an edge of humour in his voice. "A Chip by any other name would taste just as good."
"There! I win! Elf said chip!" Jason crowed.
This continued as the rest of the group made it inside, only to find a group of local kids all laughing at Jason arguing with two obviously American six year olds.
Joel had moved to the counter and looked up at the lady behind. "H...hello," he said nervously. "B...before I order... can I touch your hand?"
She blinked down at this robed and hooded boy, whose face was mostly in shadow but whose eyes glowed. She held it out for Joel and felt the warmth of his hand in hers.
Joel giggled. "Can I have two cod and two large chips, please?" he asked, pulling out his Seal of House Surak for her to scan. "And everyone's order can be put on this," he giggled again as she scanned it.
The lady smiled, then gasped as she took a look at the readings on the till. She looked back at Joel, then at the Seal. "Well... as you wish, young master."
"Are they always like that?" she asked in a whisper everyone could hear.
"Yeah," Joel sighed.
Sean moved up next to him and added, "I think they're getting worse..."
There was a scurry of little feet and a furry face appeared on Joel's shoulder as Jules climbed his father's back. "Two raw fishies, please!" he squeaked. "Shiny if possible, but I'll eat it if dull!"
There was a squawk as two young eagles landed on Sean's shoulders. "They want two raw fish as well, please," Sean translated.
Another call from William.
"AND FAT FRIES!"
"CHIPS are not good for eagles!
Joel was handed his food just as Ricky, filled with a righteous determination only a six year old could pull off, went up and asked for "Fish and FAT FRIES, please... and for Timmy too!"
"Of course Sweety," the lady chuckled.
Joel fed Kevin a chip and sighed, "This will be a loooong night..."
"This fish is great!" Cory giggled as he sat on Joel's other side and pulled some of the batter off his portion to eat. "And this batter..."
"Great, no?" Nathan giggled as he joined them. "We love this place."
"Strange restaurant, though," Kevin said as he looked around, before opening his mouth for a small piece of fish that Joel was offering him. "No tables, and just benches," he mumbled around the fish he was chewing.
"It's tradition, mainly," Nathan explained. "Normally you'd just go in, order, pay and leave, carrying your food out to eat at home or outside as you're walking around. It's why it's wrapped in paper. Way back in ancient days it was wrapped in newspaper, but due to health and safety stuff, it's this plain paper now."
"Watch it, young man," the lady at the counter chuckled as she handed Levi, Kyle and Bryce their orders. "I remember those days. Only twenty years ago!"
"Yeah," Nathan giggled back. "Like I said; ancient times!"
"FAT FRIES, FAT FRIES, FAT FRIES!!!"
Nathan giggled and rolled his eyes. "They're having fun," he grinned at Cory.
"Oh, yeah," Cory agreed as he looked over at the three 'arguing' boys. Timmy and Ricky were sitting on either side of Jason, and all three were feeding each other. After ever few mouth fulls, one or other of them would start up with their preferred shout.
Ten minutes passed as they ate - and listened to the ongoing verbal 'fight' - then Nathan came back from the till with a large box of something. Whatever the something was, it smelt great.
"You make them here?!" Cody yelled happily as he sniffed the air. He skidded over and smushed himself in on his big brother's lap before grabbing at the paper wrapped item Nathan handed to him. He opened it carefully before sighing happily. "Ah! Deep fried battered Mars bar!"
"Deep fried what?!" Sean exclaimed, feeling his arteries hardening at the mere thought.
"Mars bar," Nathan answered, for Cody was already shoving his into his mouth as quickly as he could. Nathan handed one to Cory and another to Sean, "Try it. You'll love it."
Cory shrugged and opened his. He took a bite. His eyes rolled around as he started humming happily as he chewed.
"You're definitely Scottish," Sean muttered as he carefully opened his own and sniffed at it. "You nuts will deep fat fry anything!"
"Hmmmm ... anything?" Cory asked with wiggling eyebrows.
"Save it for later, love-birds," Nathan chortled as he came back from the counter with one last bar, which he handed to Joel. "Here, Elf. Vulcan friendly. Enjoying yours, Kev?"
"Mmmm MMmmmMmmm!" Kevin answered.
"He says 'Yes'," Joel giggled as he started on his.
"Yes, TimTims?" Cory called back.
"Can we have these yummy Mars bars at home?"
"Yeah, Munchkin... definitely!" the Clan Patriarch answered as he finished his own off.
It was black as coal outside of Joel, Kevin and Levi's bedroom window, but Joel saw more than others would have with his Crown-sight. He watched the play of the starlight over the ground, and the small, fine threads of Destiny stretching beyond the limits of his gaze. Kevin and Levi were spending the night in separate bedrooms, as per tradition before a wedding. This left Joel alone. But not quite as alone as he would have been. Sa'ren was there. However, even though the Vulcan 'him' was better at dealing with these situations, he was just as conditioned as Joel. Neither were enjoying the sensation of no-one being around them.
"I hope... I hope Juan will accept me," Sa'ren said aloud.
"He will... he needs time," Joel answered.
"You are just as... unsure as I."
"Shall we seek him out?"
"Are we allowed? We can't see any of them before tomorrow."
"If we do not resolve this issue there may not be a marriage to him tomorrow..."
"Uh, guys?" came a worried voice from the doorway.
Sa'ren turned to see Juan standing there, shuffling his feet. Koth was just behind and gave him a gentle shove to get him moving. The Klingon then winked and walked off softly.
Joel could not leave Juan to make the first move, and nor could Sa'ren. They walked over and wrapped their arms around Juan tightly - the light again showing both colours equally. "We care for you, T'hy'la," Sa'ren whispered. Joel added, "It hurts when you're upset. It hurts more because I... we caused it."
Somehow Juan looked both pissed off and contrite at the same time. He obviously was not happy at all with this situation, and things were warring inside him; it showed in his face. Joel pulled back slightly and just waited for the boy to speak, keeping both his hands holding lightly to Juan's upper arms and rubbing up and down lovingly.
"I am not all right with this. I can't just abandon you, but I am not sure I can stay," Juan said flatly. "I love you, but things are not good right now."
Joel hesitated for a moment. He wanted to run away and cry but another impulse was to explain or at least try to. Sa'ren opted for the latter. "This is not like the split you had, Juan. We do not fight each other as you did, nor would one of us do something that the other would not wish. We are both equal in this, and both wishing to be made whole. The fact that we are unable to be mind-healed is telling. Something is happening and until it plays out we will be thus. It does not lessen how we... I... feel for you. I have a feeling, a memory of sorts, that my mind has shattered many times in the past and has healed many times. This might be one of those times."
"I just don't know right now. These things are not what I am trained for... That is not right. I mean Fuck! This shit is so messed up, and I don't understand it. I can't just accept it. It's not that I don't understand it. It just feels wrong inside. I... Oh Fucking hell! That must make you feel like I meant that you... I mean... God damnit. You must feel. Son of a BITCH!" Juan began to physically shake. His breathing was ragged. He touched Joel's cheek. "I love you, and that means I can't just pretend I don't have real problems with this. If I did that it would be a betrayal of what we have. I can't do something like that. You KNOW me... All three of you know me, and I don't really feel I know you any more. This is not just going to magically fix itself..." He put a hand on Joel's shoulder and finished with a heartfelt but unconvincing, "T'hy'la."
Joel took over and tilted his head to the side. "Three? No, just two. The third is our mother. If you mean the Borg thing... ignore that. We found out that I've taken over Nine's 'collective'..."
"We are the Borg Queen," Sa'ren said, deadpan.
"... King... never mind..." Joel muttered as he shook his head. He smiled softly at Juan. "... as for knowing me, yes you do. And I'll prove it if you... if you want me to..." Joel finished, raising his hand to hover near Juan's face, but then held it there. Offering a meld.
Juan pursed his lips. "Why?" he asked. Then added as he saw the hurt look that came to Joel's face, "I mean, we've melded before... unless you think I can help you 'fix' yourself?"
Joel's face relaxed; it wasn't a rejection. At least not yet. "In our second meld, when I deprogrammed you and your brothers, you knew me then as I knew you. Your soul was linked fully to mine. Do you remember how it felt? What I felt, even then, for you?"
His eyes narrowing slightly in thought, Juan nodded. "Yeaaah..." he murmured slowly.
Smiling, Joel continued, "That's what I want to show you now. That even though my mind has split into two I'm still the same person you fell in love with and who also loves you, too. Sa'ren and I are two sides of the coin, and unlike you when you were split, we don't argue or fight. I'm not afraid of Sa'ren being 'in control', nor is he afraid of me. And now we both have equal access to control. But our heart... my heart... is still for you, just as it always was."
Juan thought for a moment, then took Joel's hand gently into his own and raised it to his face. Words were not required.
He closed his eyes to Joel's bedroom and opened them to white everywhere. Warmth. Love.
Two figures appeared at his side, both identical. Joel and Sa'ren. They took his hands, "Can you remember how it was before the Tardis?"
"What does it feel like now?" Joel asked.
"Same," Juan answered, "but your love for me isn't the issue. Not really."
"We know," Sa'ren responded. "Change is the issue. Your dislike of it, to be precise. You cannot adapt to what has happened to me, and then even more keeps happening. You are not in your 'comfort zone', and you seek stability above all things."
Blinking, Juan nodded.
"Do you remember how my mind, my personality, was before the Tardis? In our last meld?"
Another nod from the half-Klingon boy.
"Can you feel our minds, our personalities now?" Joel asked. At Juan's silent answer, he continued, "Compare them."
Juan did. And gasped. "Same... but... but! That's not..."
"Possible?" Sa'ren completed.
"Conceivable?" Joel giggled.
"It isn't funny, Joel," Juan whispered as he stared at the image his mind had made of the 'personalities' of the two boys in front of him and the memory of what Joel had been like before the Tardis, before his rape. "You are exactly half of what you were before," he said slowly, "and Sa'ren is the other half... and as I put them together, you're the same! But... you were..." He trailed off. He did not want to bring up the rape, not wishing to hurt or scare the boy - boys? - before him.
"Rape... you can say it, Juan," Sa'ren said. "We no longer hide it. And I know what it is that you are thinking. How can we - together, as if not split - be the same as the boy you melded with before the rape? We have been through a trauma, one so bad that our mind, our very life, split into two to compensate. Yet, if we were not split, we would be one and the same as before. It is not logical. It makes no sense. Yet it is what it is."
"We don't know," Joel answered, resting his head on Sa'ren's shoulder. "All I know is what I've found out from others and from the Guardian. I've split before, or been shattered before, and then reformed. Maybe... oh, I don't know. Maybes don't help. We don't know, but what we do know is that since Nine helped us we have been able to see this clearly. Once we return to being one again we'll be the same boy you knew then."
"But... everyone changes, Elf. If you live one day, you grow. You change a small bit... you're right that I don't like change, but that's BIG changes too fast. I never had anything solid in my life before Adam rescued me, so I really don't like things changing and being different in my safe place - my home. But I understand that over time, things DO change. They're meant to! But... it's like you were never raped! You haven't... no, wait, there's some new fears, here... but they're on the surface. What's beneath them... you're reacting to changes on the 'shell' of your persona, but your persona itself..."
"Isn't changing. Yeah," Joel nodded. "I'm more scared than before, but that's just a reaction to what happened and my memories of them. I'm wiser than before. I know more than before. But deep down? I'm the same. It's as if I already knew about all this. As if I'm at a point where nothing can happen that would cause me to change... It's so weird. I 'feel' like I've changed..."
"Agreed," Sa'ren nodded.
"But," Joel continued, "I haven't actually done so."
Juan did not know what to say. He just stared between the two faces before him silently.
"There is something else we have learnt, since you arrived in the meld," Sa'ren said softly.
Juan shook himself to bring his attention into focus and asked, "What is that?"
"We should not get married tomorrow," Sa'ren said simply. "It is not... right to do so."
Juan nearly felt as if he had been punched in the gut, but he stopped himself and took a serious look at what he was feeling. A tear fell from his eyes when he realised it was actually relief, not hurt! "I... I don't understand," he said, half to them and half to himself.
Joel smiled and rubbed his cheek with his fingertips. "T'hy'la, we are closer than friends, closer than brothers, closer than family, closer than two peas in a pod. We share everything with each other. All our secrets we share. We are most happy when playing games. In fact, I'd say we're the closest when playing games - at our most intimate... sure, we've tussled under the covers..."
"Most of the time out of the covers," Sa'ren put in helpfully - needlessly, but helpfully.
"Shh," Joel giggled. "But being sexual isn't a focus of our relationship. Not even kisses and cuddles and normal boyfriend stuff is. We have something special between us that can sometimes manifest in a 'partner way'. Right?"
After a long moment, Juan nodded. A smile on his face said everything, really.
Joel continued, "I think we've all been pressured into going for a marriage, as if we've thought we were expected to do so by the others. I don't think they have expected us to get married, but WE have felt like they have. Am I right?"
Another nod from the Klingon.
"But do you honestly feel we'd be better married? After thinking about it, especially with what's happened, I don't. It wouldn't change anything except to add a pressure on us that isn't going to help. I don't need a promise between us to tell me I care for you and love you."
"Neither do I," Juan whispered as he pulled the two boys in close to hug them.
They remained that way for what seemed like hours. Just hugging.
Juan opened his eyes and found that, during the hug, the meld had ceased. He stared down into Joel's eyes and saw that the light on the device over his left eye was an equal split between red and green. "What will we tell the others?" he asked.
"The truth," Sa'ren answered.
"And they'd better accept it!" Joel added with a giggle.
"... I... I think... I need to go think on things," Juan managed slowly.
Sa'ren raised an eyebrow, "Are you going to be okay, T'hy'la?"
"Yeah, don't worry," Juan said with a half smile. "I'm not going to think like I did earlier. I just need to work out what to say to my brothers so that they don't think you dumped me; or even worse, that I dumped you!"
They stood alone again, staring out of the window. It was getting late, now, and sleep should be had... but should they sleep alone? Sa'ren turned and surveyed the room. It would be nice to crawl into that bed and sleep away the hours so that he could be with those he loved again. But he was not really tired. He turned and headed for the en-suite to deal with a call of nature.
When he returned, Joel sighed, "We're getting no-where really fast here, Sa'r."
Sa'ren raised an eyebrow. "I am aware."
"Look! You know and I know that we're not tired. Sleep would be nice, but we don't need it. Yet. Let's go off and find something to do..."
"Are we disturbing you two?" came an amused question from the door.
Sa'ren looked over and saw both Cory and Sean grinning at him. "Yes, and thank you for doing so. Arguing with one's self is not conducive to one's sanity."
"I'm in trouble then," Cory giggled. "No you're not!" he said, then added "Yes you are!"
"My point exactly," Sa'ren said to Sean, pointing at the blond.
"I'm just thinking of how fun two of him would be...." Sean replied with a blush.
"You're no help!" Cory giggled.
Joel took over and smiled shyly. "Well... umm... two of Cory might be a bit much... would you settle for one of him and... me? Us? You know what I mean..."
"Shall I take over and help us get them in bed, or are you going to continue putting both feet into our mouth?" Sa'ren asked, his father's Vulcan dry-humour coming out clear as day.
"... you made them blush!" Joel giggled, his own blushing face ignored.
"I've never witnessed a five-some in three bodies," T'Sara interjected. "I believe that would be ... interesting ... to witness!"
"Mother! You will go to sleep now, please," Sa'ren stated, both eyebrows raised in horror. "I do not wish to make love to them with you along for the experience. Besides, whilst I and Joel are bi, they are not. And none of us wish to make love to a mother of the Clan, least of all OUR mother!"
"Please go 'way, Mammy..." Joel whined, "you're making Big Ted and Blondie nervous..."
A soft chuckle came from the boy's lips as T'Sara said, "Sleep well, children. On my honour, I will retire to a nice, comfortable spot at the back of your head."
Sean looked at Cory. Cory looked at Sean. They both looked at their little Elf.
"She's gone, and I've shut the doors," Joel trembled. Then he rushed out, "Sorry. Neither of us should have said anything about... any of that. We know you're both still thinking..."
"Well, I am... I'm not sure about Cory!" Sean giggled as he scrambled out of Cory's reach.
Cory glowered at him, "Maybe because I've already decided and I'm waiting to see what your answer will be, slow poke?"
Sean blew a raspberry at his husband, still ensuring he was out of Cory's reach. He was not out of Joel's, though. He felt two strong arms circle his waist, far stronger than they used to do. Joel moved around so that he was hugging Sean's front, and looked up into his brother's hazel eyes. "Got you... now, cuddles! It's the rules."
"Rule 342.5, Intergalactic Code of Cuddle Warfare," Sa'ren supplied. "'Trapped brothers with hazel eyes must pay for their freedom with large cuddles.'"
"Logical, I shall note that for future encounters," Cory stated in full Patriarch mode as he moved in to complete the hug.
"Traitor!" Sean giggled as he cuddled Joel, but he did reach to include Cory as well. He grinned at his husband, then looked down into Joel's shining eyes. "Angel," he whispered.
Sa'ren interrupted him, "Why have you both started calling me 'angel'? Neither of us mind, but we have both noticed it since Joel let slip in the meld earlier..."
"Because," Sean stated simply. "May I continue?"
"Hush, Sa'r," Joel giggled as he nodded, fully enjoying the sandwich hug he had going for him.
Sean began again. "Angel, the reason we've come here at near eleven at night is to tell you that we have decided already."
Joel started trembling.
"No matter the answer, we know nothing will change between us," Cory put in softly. "Everyone's said that, Mom included..."
"You talked to her, too?!" Joel squeaked.
"Sa'ren, I think your Elven half needs his voice box oiled!" Cory giggled.
"So it would seem," rasped Sa'ren. Then he coughed. "Never mind..."
Cory reached up and rubbed Joel's right ear comfortingly. "Shhh," he whispered. "Look, we won't keep you in suspense. If you'd been asleep then we'd have woken you for this news."
Joel blinked up at Sean, then twisted slightly to be able to look at his blond brother. "And that news is wh..."
He never got to finish for his lips were taken by Cory's. He trembled. It was just a kiss, like the many brother-kisses he'd bestowed himself... but then he felt Cory's tongue flick against his closed lips, seeking entrance. Whimpering, he allowed them to part and flicked out his tongue in response.
It was a good thing that he was being held up by the two of them, for his knees had gone suddenly weak. Especially so, as, when Cory released their lip-lock, Sean took over.
In a daze he watched as, once both had kissed him properly, they kissed each other. He felt a surge of emotion. Vast. It was love. Pure and unadulterated. He couldn't form words, he could only smile, his mist-eyes blinking.
"Does that explain why we call you 'angel', Elf?" Sean smiled after he and Cory had finished.
Nodding, Joel trembled, "Are you... you sure? I mean, this is not just 'cos I want it? Or out of..."
"We'd never choose this out of pity, angel," Cory said softly yet seriously, "and it isn't just because you want it. You spilling what you were now feeling to us simply made us take a good look at what we both feel for you, too. For Kevin, as well. With Kev we've not done a thing to change that feeling - the size of the fire, as you'd put it - but with you... we have. Unconsciously, maybe, but we have. Just as you have."
"And this simply means we're bringing you into our private place in our hearts, just as you and Kev brought Levi into yours..." Sean completed.
A few quiet moments passed thus, with the three in a loose yet loving embrace. "You're okay with knowing I've got Kev and Levi?" Joel whispered. "And that Juan and I share some of our special moments together physically... and there... it's likely there'll be another special person, if what my Grandfather has set into motion comes to pass?"
Cory blinked, then nodded. "Tera?"
"Yeah," Joel nodded.
"You talked to her yet?" Sean asked.
"No. She's not explained, but I can guess. I'll wait for her, though... and you didn't answer my question."
Cory smiled, "That was one of the many things we thought about. Elf, this does not change what Sean and I swore to each other. If Sean went off and played the field, that would be a betrayal; adultery. It would be wrong. But in this case, we've both talked honestly about what we felt with each other. We then made a decision in agreement with each other, and we're... we're inviting you in to be a third in our partnership. We know you have others in your heart, and we had to consider if we could deal with that. We can and will... Just as they do for us."
"Kevin told us that clearly before we came here," Sean giggled. "And Levi left a note... on Cory's back... in pink writing..."
"Sounds like Levi," Joel whispered. He then looked at each in turn, "So... to be clear..."
"If you accept us," Sean started.
And Cory finished, "... then you'll be our husband and we yours."
A tear trickled from the Vulcan's eye. He sniffed and tucked his head against Cory's chest for a moment.
"We don't know what will happen tomorrow, Angel, but we do know we love you. Yeah, we could have stopped ourselves from getting to this point if we wanted to be sticklers for 'normal rules'..." Sean smiled as he rubbed the nearest available ear on his Lil'elf.
"But when have we Clan boys ever been normal?" Cory whispered with a low giggle.
Joel wanted to say something - anything - to them, but 'I love you' seemed just too hollow to convey what he was feeling deep inside. Sa'ren, however, supplied an idea. Joel raised his face and tucked his nose against Sean's neck and sang, "There's a calm surrender to the rush of day, when the heat of a rolling wind can be turned away. An enchanted moment, and it sees me through;" he looked up and smiled as he turned his face between the two of them, "it's enough for this restless warrior just to be with you..."
"And can you feel the love tonight, it is where we are," Sean sang as he pressed his face to Joel's hair and then over to Cory's cheek.
"It's enough for this wide-eyed wanderer that we got this far!" Cory joined in as they both held Joel tight against them.
"And can you feel the love tonight," Joel smiled as he was held possessively. "How it's laid to rest; It's enough to make kings and vagabonds believe the very best."
"There's a time for everyone, if they only learn," Cory began the next verse in a whisper, "That the twisting kaleidoscope moves us all in turn."
"There's a rhyme and reason," Sean added, "to the wild outdoors..."
Joel grinned as he pulled back to beam at them both, "When the heart of this star-crossed voyager beats in time with yours!"
In their separate rooms on opposite sides of the Manor, Kevin and Levi opened their eyes and smiled peacefully before they each turned over and snuggled back to sleep; Levi with his brothers and Kevin with his twin. The song of three hearts singing together was somehow echoing through the whole valley.
Juan looked up from the book he was reading to Koth, then grinned at his equally grinning husband.
Up on the hillside, I-Cheya and Blackie stopped chasing the local wolves and turned to stare down at the Manor, at one window in the upper floor especially. I-Cheya started huffing softly, and Blackie was wagging his tail a mile a minute.
Teri was about to get into bed when the song impacted her senses. "Here we go again..." she whispered with a loving sigh.
A deep chuckle from Spock, who was already under the covers, startled her more than any hi-jinx she could imagine happening over the next few days from Joel, Cory and Sean.
Prince Harry was returning from his patrol with his Prince's Guard, and he chuckled as he entered the Manor. Wait until he found Seth, he thought to himself.
Timmy, Ricky, Lemic, Lee the Chimp and Jules and Verne were all in the Tribal Nest and nearly all asleep. The entire mound of boys, hovering on the edge of dropping off, all woke fully as Timmy giggled. "About time," he laughed before kissing Ricky happily.
"Now we gets to tease Joel about riding horseys!" Ricky agreed, while Lee went into silent fits of hysterics.
Above the Manor, a golden-winged Mikey smiled as he looked down at the love being shown throughout the valley.
"If only they knew what their very presence on this old world meant," he said to himself as the song finished. He stopped his power from transmitting the sound from that room... just in case. "If only..."
(Can you Feel the Love Tonight – © 1994 byWalt Disney Musuc Co.;music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice, from the film 'The Lion King')
"It's enough," Joel finished softly, "to make Kings and Vagabonds believe the very best."
During the song, all three had ended up on the floor in a sitting threeway cuddle.
Joel pulled back after a few moments of silence and looked at first Cory, then Sean. Then he watched as they turned to look at each other. When they kissed, his heart did flip-flops again. It did far more when they split off and Sean pulled Joel in for a kiss as well.
The little Vulcan turned to butter at that moment. Again.
After Sean had finished with the elven boy, Cory took over. Then he breathed, "Well?"
Joel stood up before them, his arms loose at his side. He just smiled and waited.
Sean took the hint and reached to take off his Elf's tee-shirt while Cory gently unbuttoned Joel's jeans.
After getting the younger teen down to just his boxers, Cory tucked his fingers into the waist band of Joel's under shorts. He felt Joel's warm skin and his own desire to see his Lil'elf's beautiful form unclothed, but he did not lower the boxers. The reason being is that he also felt a slight tremor pass through his brother's body; one of nervous fear. It was there and gone in a heartbeat, but it was enough to cause Cory to raise his eyes to meet Joel's.
"You're still scared, aren't you?" Cory whispered with compassion.
Joel half shrugged. "Not scared of you. I'm... I'm scared of being scared," came the hesitant reply. "In a way, so's Sa'ren..." he added in a whisper.
Sean took Joel's nearest hand comfortingly while Cory just rested his own on Joel's hips. Both older teens were still on their knees so they were both gazing up into their brother's face.
"It's just that the last time I was with someone who looked older I got really scared. Levi tried to look thirteen the night we first made love and I nearly freaked. That's why he made himself look like my apparent age; nine. I could accept that. Same with Juan and Kev. Juan looks a little older and he's bigger but not enough to make me scared. Right now... now I'm scared that I'll be scared, seeing you both naked. And... there's other things I'm scared of being scared of... I'm being silly, aren't I?" Joel asked, hoping that they'd agree, but wishing that they'd explain instead.
Cory took the latter option. "You're not being silly, Elf. It's perfectly understandable. You were hurt by those bigger than you, hurt in a very personal way. Both Sean and I are 'scared' too, but not scared of being scared. We're scared of scaring you."
Joel hung his head and sighed. "Soo... we shouldn't do anything yet?"
"We started undressing you, didn't we?" Sean smiled as he rubbed his free hand over Joel's belly. "What does that tell you?"
Joel's smile was like the sun coming up. He raised his face enough to link eyes with Sean.
"We're just going to follow your lead," Cory added. "We'll do only what you want and are comfortable with." A slight frown met that statement. Cory blinked and said hesitantly, "Unless there's something wrong with that?"
Joel sighed again but a smile did start at the corner of his mouth. "Making love is meant to be fun, Cor... part of that fun is not being entirely sure what the other person'll do next. Yeah, you say you like something, or for things to be done more or faster or harder and stuff, but surprise and making stuff up is part of the fun. If I'm telling you what to do alla time then that fun goes... I want us to make love... as long as you two want to..."
"But what about those things that you're scared of being scared of?" Sean asked curiously. "We might 'bump into' some of that stuff, and..."
"And if you do," Joel smiled as he laid a finger on Sean's lips, "then I'll tell you and you can cuddle me until I'm no longer scared of being scared... I trust you both. You won't hurt me on purpose."
"I won't hurt you ever," Cory said firmly.
Joel smirked, "Well, you've heard me say I want to be top to you, yeah?"
Cory nodded with a slight blush.
"Doesn't mean I don't want to be bottom to you, too! I'm a bottom, after all... but since Kev's one too we have to be tops as well... I like both, but really love being protected, which is what being bottom feels like. Which..." he paused as a shadow passed over his face. "... which is why it's one of the two things I'm scared of being scared of. Being bottom hurt me when they raped me. You two... I want to... I know it'll hurt a little when you make love to me, Cor... no matter how you prepare. It might just be a tight, stretchy feeling at first, but I'm okay with that. You won't be 'hurting' me, you'll be making 'love' to me, and that will be the world of difference to what they did."
Cory made another face, but continued to blush.
"Hehe, you're blushing like a wide eyed virgin!" Joel grinned as he watched the blond teen.
Sean burst out laughing, "You want to see wide eyes, wait until you see him as a bottom!"
Cory slapped Sean's arm as his blush got deeper.
Joel grinned, "That'll happen soon. Promise!" He then wiggled his eyebrows at them both. "I need to use the bathroom again," he added as he got up and moved toward the en-suite.
"Again?!" Sean exclaimed. "How much did you drink, bro?"
Joel stopped and turned. "I don't need to pee, Teddy... I need to, ummm... clean out?" he giggled pointing at his butt. Then he turned and wiggled his shorts at them. "So do you two, too!"
Sean got up and dragged Cory after him. Giggling, the older teens went into the bathroom behind Joel. "Together?" Cory asked, blushing five shades. "Normally we do this by ourselves..."
Joel grinned as he found and handed an enema bag to his blond brother. "Kev and I always mess around and do this first... it's so funny it's ridiculous!"
Sean blinked and laughed, then, with a still blushing Cory, they 'played along' with their exuberant brother and found out how much laughter could happen with this.
Ten or fifteen minutes later - they weren't counting - and now all three were sitting on the edge of the Queen sized bed. All of their clothes were scattered around the floor and Joel was running his fingers through the fine hair around Cory's nether regions - causing some rather interesting effects at the same time.
Cory was smiling but was concerned at the same time. "You don't have to, Angel. I know that I remind you of..."
Joel removed his hand and pressed himself into Cory's side. "Guys?"
"Yeah?" they both whispered back.
"Will you meld with me? If you... if you want to, that is..."
"Oh, Elf... of course we will. Can you tell us what you want us to do, or do you just want to show us something?" Sean asked as Cory nodded mutely.
The little Vulcan explained what he had done for Sammy back on his birthday, and how, every time Sammy wanted to make love with Vishnu, an image of Joel would appear in the corner of his mind to keep the shadows of Sammy's remembered rapists at bay.
"Can you do the same for me?... please?" he whispered, tears trickling down his cheeks.
With both his brothers nodding as he looked from side to side, Joel raised his hands to link to both their faces, and he pulled them straight into his mind...
Cory looked around. It was his bedroom from Orlando. "Why here, Elf?" he asked as he squeezed his brother's shoulder.
Joel smiled up at him, "This is one of the places I feel safest. I've a few relax spots I use in my mind, but this is one of my best memories..."
They all turned to the bed where an image of Joel, Kevin, Sean and Cory appeared, all asleep.
"Tuesday night... before the funeral. I never felt safer than that sleep," he mumbled. "That's what I want to regain. Your smell, your scent, Cor... it's similar to his and I want all my fears gone. Will you help me?" he almost pleaded as he looked up into Cory's blue eyes.
This was also something that Joel missed. In a meld, he could see them as he once did before he lost his sight. He smiled sorrowfully up at the face that, in the real world, he'd never see again as he saw it now. Framed by soft blond hair, Joel burned Cory's face into his memory forever.
"We'll help you with anything you need help with, angel," Cory said softly.
Joel reached and put his hand behind Cory's neck and gently pulled his brother's face close to his own. "It does not seem to bother Sa'ren, so that's why only I'm here... he's watching... I... I need to trigger it. Once it's here I can hold it in place for you and Ted to deal with..." he breathed before kissing Cory deeply. At first, just as normal a kiss as Cory had ever had from Joel, but then the young Vulcan started brushing his tongue against his lips. Cory returned the gesture.
After about thirty seconds, Joel broke off whimpering. The room they were in had darkened and black, oily shadows had appeared near them. Cory and Sean turned and hissed in anger at three of them. They were the closest and clearest; the images of Joel's attackers, Corey, Levi and Dillon. Behind, way off in the distance it seemed, two smaller boys were pressed to the floor and sobbing.
"Those are Brad and Stewie," Joel whimpered as he pointed at the two prone forms. "They were forced to violate me too, but it wasn't their fault. I tried to save them... and failed."
Cory nodded shortly.
"They're in Camp Little Eagle, now. Juan's keeping track of them. He want's to look after them too," Joel added, keeping his eyes away from the three main 'terrors' in the room.
Sean backed up until he could feel the little elf behind him; and partly to protect Cory as well, for the rage from his husband was intense. "How do we fight them?" he asked. "I don't want to hurt your mind..."
Joel's hand touched his back. "Take my Armour, my Sword..." he whispered as both appeared - the Armour covering Sean and the Shattered Sword floating before his hand.
Without looking around Sean asked, "What about Cor?"
"I... I have my own...!" came the shocked response.
Joel and Sean turned to look and they gasped. Cory was covered in scale-mail like armour with a helm that covered his entire face. He looked like a large lizard, or even a dragon. In his hand was a glimmering weapon, a sword of golden fire.
"I... whatever... come on, Sean," came the rasping voice from within the armour. "Let's free our elf from his fear..."
Sean grabbed the Sa'ren sword and swung it around lightly. "Abso-fucking-lutely!"
Joel watched opened eyed as his brothers went to town on the images of fear surrounding his three rapists. By the end of it, fear had gone and Joel was cheering like crazy. All around him, but only perceivable in the corners of his eyes, were silhouettes of both elder brothers - one in the Armour of Sa'ren and the other in that Dragon-Mail. Guarding him... forever.
"Did that help?" Sean asked, his mind filled with awe at what had just taken place.
"Does this answer it?" Joel whispered with a ghost of a smile as he slipped to the floor and got on his knees between Cory's legs. His eyes did not leave his brother's privates and his fingers traced lightly over them. "I'm connecting your smell with good memories," he said before leaning close and breathing in. He shuddered then relaxed. He blinked up at Cory and then at Sean, "I love you both so much."
"Same to you, Elf," Sean smiled as he moved close to cuddle next to Cory.
Cory tried to answer but Joel had already started using his mouth. So he mumbled something incoherent instead.
Once finished - and after getting the ringing out of his ears from Cory's yell of pleasure - Joel moved over the small distance to do the same for Sean.
Again he got a ringing in his ears. He got up and sat on Sean's tummy to wait until his auburn haired brother had calmed down. Cory had already done so by this time and was grinning at him, "Your mouth is way warmer than I'm used to!"
"Well, duh! I'm a Vulcan!" the happy elf giggled. Then tears started, happy ones. "The first time I tasted sperm was in the shower with you that first time, and that was just to see what this stuff was. Then I got forced to drink that foulness from those... you've both shown me what it should be like... tha.... OOOOOOoooooo!" he exclaimed.
Sean had recovered fast and found his Elf-Angel on his stomach. He had pulled Joel's hips forward enough to start to return the favour.
"Hey! Save some for me!" Cory protested.
The next thing the giggling and wiggling Joel knew was that he was on his back on the bed and both his teen lovers were making him feel like a million, million dollars...
Joel was still awake. As comfy as he was right now he knew that he could have a great night's sleep. But he just wanted to enjoy every moment of closeness with these two teens without sleep fogging the issue. He was in-between them both and deep under the covers of the quilt over them. Their faces were touching together as they slept, while he was almost curled up between their bellies. He sighed happily then giggled softly.
'Is something amusing?' he heard Sa'ren ask in their head.
'Yeah... a Joel Sandwich is cool! So's a Cory one and a Sean one!'
'It does put a whole new meaning on that for us now, does it not?'
The little Vulcan felt his eye grow heavy. With one last contented sigh he surrendered to sleep.
He opened his eyes to the vista of Forever World. His Crown was once again about his brow, allowing him to see far more about this place than others would see. He turned to look at the Guardian. "Do you need me, Vae'Runam?" he asked.
//No. It is in regards to more gifts that I have summoned you and the others here//
Joel raised an eyebrow and looked around. Walking in a group came Sean, Cory, Levi, Kevin and Juan. He turned back and giggled. "More pendants?"
The Guardian just pulsed white light and refrained from answering.
Joel turned and rushed into Kevin's arms. He looked up at Cory, "You and Sean've never been here before. This is the Guardian, and this world is Gateway."
"Ahh, so we finally will get to meet the face behind the confusion?" Cory giggled.
//Greetings, Cory Short; Son of the Past, Heir of the Present and Child of Tomorrow//
"Greetings, Guardian; the reason behind Valium!" Cory responded with a grin.
The Guardian pulsed for a moment, almost in laughter. Then, //I had nothing to do with your parents' need for strong sedatives. You and yours were doing that perfectly well before I made myself known...//
"We're innocent!" Cory and Sean exclaimed in unison. "Mikey says so!"
More pulses of light met that response.
"I don't think he believes you," Juan said wryly.
A gentle breeze blew up and seemed to go by each of their faces, as if rubbing their cheeks.
//It is nearly complete. The seven pointed star. Gifts I have for some of your number... and a warning that all but two cannot believe//
"You know, he sounds a lot like Kyle explaining time loops...." Sean dead-panned.
//It would be more accurate to say that the Child of Forever sounds like me. Sean Short. Step through me and receive the first of your gifts//
"And you don't have to strip for the perv as you're already ready!" Juan giggled.
Joel and Kevin grinned at that, remembering when Juan had been brought here. Sean grinned and wiggled his butt. "Later, cute stuff," Joel smirked. "Unless Cory calls dibs, of course."
"Mmmm..." Cory added as Sean walked towards the hole through the centre of the Guardian's visible form. "Soooo tempting..."
"I wonder if his armour will be like mine or like Juan's," Kevin mused as Sean disappeared through the mists.
Joel pointed, "Yours, there he is."
Around the side came Sean, much as he had looked during the meld with Joel earlier. The image of the broken Sa'ren Sword on his chest was backed by the Seal of Clan Short, and that was the only difference between his and Kevin's armour.
Joel, Kevin and Levi made their own armour appear, and Juan was only a second behind them.
"I feel under-dressed," Cory giggled.
Joel smiled. "Not for long."
//The Armour destined for you, Son of the Past, Heir of the Present and Child of Tomorrow, will not come from me. That is still yet to come//
"That's okay, this keeps his 'sword' available!" Sean giggled.
The Guardian pulsed again. //Remove your armour, Sean, and then walk through me with the others. All; remove your armour//
They all did so, but Sean needed help to physically remove his. Kevin smiled, "You just need to wear it for a few hours so it gets used to you."
Then, with Joel leading the line as they all walked with hands linked, they walked through the Guardian.
When they stopped on the other side, Cory and Sean found that they had pendants around their necks.
"Hey babe, you're starting to grow things on your chest!" Cory giggled.
Joel giggled at them both as they started checking out each other's chests. "Sheesh... teenagers," he grinned.
Cory turned to look at him, "So're you!"
"Yeah, but I'm cute. I get away with it!"
"I'm cuter, it's a requirement to be blond!" Cory replied with a grin.
"We're all cute," Kevin stated, just as Joel was about to try and top that one.
"Speak for yourself," Juan put in, not wishing to stop the mayhem that could happen. "I'm simply gorgeous!"
The whole group laughed, and their laughter was mingled with pulses of light from the Guardian. Cory looked over at the massive shape and, holding the pendant with one hand, asked, "So, is there a manual for these?"
//You will work out what yours does in time. All you need know is that, just as with the others, it will never come off; save at your passing. You are bound to me and to my Sa'ren, now. In your case, you have bonds that are different to all others, but those are Not Yet//
While listening to this, Cory was looking at the pendant itself, his face thoughtful.
Sean was doing the same but also rubbing his left hand against his thigh. He looked up, "Guardian. I was at the end of the line when we walked through you yet... I may sound silly, but I think something took my hand. Could you explain?"
Joel turned to look at Sean quickly, then his eyes darted around the area they were in. He blinked then stared hard at a space just behind Sean. "Why can't I see it right?" he asked no-one in particular.
//It is the last of your number, although out of place in the order. You have both to yet talk and make your choice, but she is as bound to us both as these others are//
"She?!" Kevin squeaked, covering his privates.
Joel smiled softly as he walked up to the space in question. "Kev, she's seen you naked already. Hello, Tera."
A shimmer in the air appeared, then a nude Tera came into focus. She had a pendant identical to that which the others all wore around her neck. "Hello, Sa'ren. Or is it Joel?"
"We are both here," Sa'ren answered.
The others were all shuffling around, with their hands between their legs. Joel turned to look at them, "Does it happen every time she arrives that you all get shy? She was in the communal bath with us, guys! You saw her naked then!"
"She'll get the wrong idea!" Sean exclaimed.
Tera smiled as she walked up to Sean. She looked him in the eye; measuring him, it seemed. Then she leaned forward and kissed his cheek. "Seeing you erect gives me no ideas, Sean. I know what my Deltan blood does to you, more so when I appear thus. Relax and you shall get used to my presence in but a moment, and your... 'problem' will go away."
"Damn!" Cory muttered. "I like that problem!"
He then meeped as Tera turned to look into his eyes.
"So that's where Austy gets his meeping from!" Levi giggled, fighting with Kevin's hands to see what he was hiding so carefully.
"Levi, you keep that up and Kev is gonna do more than 'meep'!" Sean giggled.
"That was part of the plan, Unca Se... Joel? How does this work? You're my uncle and my boyfriend. So's Kev. Now you're with Uncle Sean and Cory... what are they to me now?!"
"Answer carefully, Elf!" Sean threatened with a grin.
With a huge, mischievous grin on his face, Joel looked around at them all. "A seven-some?"
"Get the little monster!" Cory yelled with a giggle as he reached for Joel.
The Guardian watched as the seven children - for that is how he saw them - ran and played and tickled and joked. In wonder did he watch, for never before had this occurred on Gateway; on him. He watched, and in his own way laughed and played with them, kicking up small dust forms and chasing them down, or running from them. Small eddies of wind would push and tickle. It was the first time in forever that this had ever happened, but as the Guardian was an ever-present being, this event had always been in his mind. His memories. All that was, is, would be and could be was now.
But he still watched. And laughed. Holding back the moment he did not want to happen. The warning. The warning that must be given. The warning that would not be believed by all, but would be by only two of these seven.
The warning of dragons...
They sat in a loose semi-circle in front of the Guardian as he showed them images. Creatures they could not quite believe; except for Joel and Tera.
"The Enterprise had a record of... one of those," Cory said slowly. "Joel said the word zKath. Are they linked to these Vol'Kier?"
Cory shook his head slowly. "I want to believe it... but the image... every time I see it I feel it's a joke."
//You would. They would have it so//
Tera raised her hand then asked, "Why is it that neither I nor Joel feel that compulsion?"
"Speak for yourself," Joel said softly, "but I feel it too. Yet it's not that bad. I feel that I should ignore them, but I can fight through it."
Tera nodded at him before regarding the Guardian again. "Can you explain?"
//Myth and Legend. That is what they are. That is what they made themselves into in all who carry the blood of the Celoi, the first of Mankind. Even images of the ancient ones, the Celoi, would invoke the Denial. None can get around it, no force in nature can prevent it, until they themselves drop the Denial//
"Sounds like a big mind game," Sean stated.
//It is, and it was done for your protection. There is a message I was asked to give, in the words of the Prince of the Vol'Kier. A message I was bidden to pass on not a week ago, as you measure it... Harken to it...//
The mists within the Guardian swirled and it resolved into darkness, and two eyes became visible. Yellow, cat-like... powerful. And a voice spoke, one that seemed to come from both far away and close at the same time...
The War started long ago.
In the Age of Gold, when Celoi and Vol'Kier walked together as one.
But such is not the place to start this tale. This is not the beginning.
We are from of old; ancients from an ancient time. From when the Great Powers that walked both Time and Space were legion. From before the Great Time War and the Time Lock that was placed over our Universe by the last son of Gallifrey.
We were once as you; mortal. Many of us left our world when we became threatened. Most went to the far side of our galaxy to live and change and become as they are now. A small few remained close by and stayed mostly the same, but forgot their home.
Less remained. I was one, our King was another. Five Hundred in all.
And in the cataclysm, we changed. Changed because the Seventh changed us. Kal'Ras. The god who is not yet will be... our most beloved, yet not our greatest, god.
I conceived an Oath. We all swore to it, binding ourselves to a promise unbreakable. To a promise that enhanced us and changed us and bound us forever.
The lesser powers, those such as us, came to us then and demanded we join the Compact. The Great Powers also came and ordered us to. But our Oath took precedence and they could not compel our acceptance.
Only one understood, and not even all his people did.
Only the one in the Old, the New, the Borrowed and the Blue.
Only the Doctor.
And so they all left us alone. On our world. Our Home. Our Blessed Home.
And we waited. Then they came... you came. The Celoi, the first tribe of men from whom all others came; from whom the first kingdoms took their name.
It birthed a new age for us. A Golden Age of the Celoi.
Such a great age for your kind, never to be seen since. Our presence enhanced you beyond your time. You were giants on your world. Harnessing the power of nature to your will, walking through millennia unhindered. The first to join with us became king. We named him the Golden King. They named him Jak'laran, Dragonson.
Millennia passed. We lived in peace. Never looking to the Stars.
Yet we were betrayed by our own - by Vol'Kier. Oath Sworn, bound to the promise that could not, should not, be broken.
zKath I named them. Traitors. And their leader I cursed Aldunu - the Reaver of Life.
I took up the burden of leadership over my kind, a burden I had never wanted. The Oath came from me, and this betrayal was mine to correct.
The War took its toll, and the Golden Age fell.
Those of the Celoi that still aligned themselves with us, the seven greatest tribes, we took to our home - to a rest that would last tens of thousands of years. They were more than our friends. They were Sworn Rangers of the Oath, Wingriders in their tongue, and their seven leaders were the greatest of them all; one of which was the first Golden King.
The remainder rebuilt their lives on the surface, while the War shifted planes. The power of the Vol'Kier was great in elder days, far surpassing that of the zKath.
But attrition wore on us. Our veil over the sight of the Celoi started to wane, for none of our offspring could swear the Oath while the zKath were alive.
At the moment the war started, and as had happened long before we came to be as we are, a dream came to me from Kal'Ras. The dream was that there would come a time where a final Celoi King would arise, and he would be preceded by a Lord of Wings whom we would serve. In this king's coming, Kal'Ras shall walk with us at last.
Signs would herald this time - that the sea of stars, which had ever been closed over the Celoi, would open. Brothers and friends from distant worlds would come. New things would start and new oaths sworn. A forsaken and lost son would find home and become the Wing Lord. And a distant foe to him would strike at the Earth, at Earth's darkest moment.
Long we fought the war against the zKath while retaining the hope for Future's First Light. Our greatest war... The War of Pawns. It influenced you. Much horror was born directly and indirectly from this War. Until at last it all ended. We won, or so we thought, but at the cost of the Earth.
Was it all our fault? Maybe. Maybe not. You have it in you to do great harm, and much harm you did regardless of our War.
But we still took responsibility. If not for our actions in walking openly with your kind in your infancy you might never have gone to such extremes as you did. That possibility remains to this day a complete unknown.
So as the Earth burned and died we knew that it would take many ages until it was ready for your kind to dwell there again.
Rather than let that happen we sped up the healing. What would have taken thousands if not millions of years took a brief passage of decades. The survivors lived. And those of the Ancient Celoi were revived... to return to the Earth they had long been away from.
Six tribes did so, but the seventh and oldest, the Celoi themselves, remained for a time.
Seven thousand years ago they too rejoined your world, barring a handful. Barring the First Golden King, barring the Seven remaining Riders... and the Vanguard of the Celoi.
They remained, awake and watching with us. Just in case.
But now it may be too late...
We thought the War of Pawns was over and the zKath banished forever.
We were wrong. A thousand years ago, we were entrapped... the zKath struck and then withdrew... our ancient power to banish still working, but now weakening... and now...
... now the Dream Signs are upon us at last, yet we can do nothing to aid nor hinder.
... and we suddenly understand their plan...
We should have acted sooner, for they have returned.
We thought them gone, but the Memories, the Dream, spoke of their return; that their defeat was merely a delay.
We never believed... believed that they would even do this, and yet now that the truth has finally dawned, it dawns in fire.
Your cities will burn. Your people will be scattered. The great Federation that you helped found... it will fall.
Even if the Wing Lord frees us... we might not have the strength, now, to resist them. Even if our god be born at last amongst us, we may fail and you will fall with us...
There is a hope... there is one coming of whom the most ancient Memories speak... one that the zKath have always, truly, feared...
The Final Golden King...
In our tongue he is called Kla Vol... Oath Lord...
In ancient Celoi?
The last Jak'laran.
In the legends you know?
The King destined to Return...
... May Kal'Ras turn his gaze upon him...
The voice came to an end, and the mists swirled once more inside the Guardian.
//Your hearts will remember this warning, even though your minds will reject it once you leave my presence. Tera and my Hand - you shall remember, but know that until the time be right, your brothers and friends will not heed you - barring those here, yet they will not remember the words as spoken//
"But the voice! It's the same as the one who spoke to me before, and they remember that!" Joel exclaimed.
//The Denial was lowered for that time, by the youngest son of the Prince. He was not allowed to do so, but that is why you remember it. As for other times, as when Prince Kyle alone heard it with you, it was again lowered. Now, however, even though the Vol'Kier would have you remember, the zKath are coming. Their power is like unto thier brethren. It prevents you from keeping this warning...//
"But we'll remember discussing it now, with you?" Sean asked.
//To a point. When you return you will be of two minds about believing it. The Denial is pervasive//
"Sean forgetting something? This I gotta see!" Cory giggled.
Joel smiled but his face was clearly showing that he was thinking upon what the message had said. He eventually spoke, "I take it that the Great Powers are the High Races of the past, and the lesser powers would be any other energy being?"
//To a point. You are entirely correct about the Great Powers. Not all those the Time Lords call Middle Races know of those terms - High, Middle, Younger and the rest. To them, those who could transcend both Time and Space were simply the Great Powers. As for the lesser powers, only those Middle Races with enough power to be a threat were classified thus. There are many that exist in energy form that would not be classed as 'powers' of any sort, yet are still Middle Race. Then there are some that are Middle Race that are even more powerful than any of the High Races. The only advantage a High Race group has over all the rest is that key ability to go anywhere and when//
All those there nodded with understanding, even Juan. While here, before the Guardian, it seemed to make sense even if it was truly something beyond most of them.
Joel cleared his throat and continued with his line of thought, "What is this 'compact', then? Galli never spoke of that."
//The Compact was a law that the Time Council of old enforced upon those Middle Races that were powerful enough to cause damage. In short, if a group ascended from a Younger Race, but not the entire race did so, then those with 'power' were to not interfere with the development of those on their home planet. To a point they could interact with Younger Races from other worlds, but that was tightly controlled. Each Universe and each Dimension of each Universe, and even those Timelines that could contain a Middle Race, had its own Compact Council. Since the middle of the Great Time War, the Compact has slowly been forgotten. Many still remember but now feel that, with the absence of a Time Council, they no longer need to follow the old commands of the Compact//
"Didn't seem to stop Aunt Xanus," Levi giggled.
//There is a twofold reason as to why the Ferox did not abide by the strictures of the Compact. The first is that, while involving all of time and space, the middle of the Time War was long before the Ferox came to be. By the point of their 'birth', they were not approached. However, the second point takes precedence...//
Cory muttered, "Why do I get the feeling I need to hold onto something?"
//Because you are a highly intelligent and astute young man//
Once everyone - bar Joel, who was clapping his hands - stopped laughing, Cory glared at them. "At least TWO SOMEONES realize I'm special!" he announced as he pulled his Lil'elf over and onto his lap.
The Guardian pulsed with laughter before continuing, //The second reason is the Vol'Kier themselves. They were approached shortly after they came into their power. Normally, they would have been met within a day or so of their ascension, but due to the nature of their change they only came to the other's attentions one hundred years after//
"Wow... that's shortly?!" Kevin gasped.
"For us, yeah," Levi said. "Us cute, ageless and super powerful people, I mean... did I say that right, Juan?"
"Nearly. Just need a little more practice," Juan grinned at him.
The Guardian continued, while the pulses of light increased. He was finding this discussion vastly amusing. //The Vol'Kier were met and it was explained to them that they were forbidden from interfering in the natural course of their homeworld. They were told that, if they were to stay, they must remain hidden until any following peoples from Earth had advanced to the point that they would not be unduly affected by their presence being made known. The Vol'Kier, however, ignored this order. They had already sworn their great Oath and it took precedence over the strictures of the Compact - at least to them... the Compact Council attempted to force the issue. It was... disastrous....//
"Don't screw with Earthlings; we bite!" Sean giggled.
//Quite so, as the Council found out. They did not survive that experience. A new Compact Council was called and the most powerful of the Middle Races were called to order to oust the Vol'Kier. It was during the 'mild disagreement' that followed that the High Races became aware of the problem. Namely, the Time Lords, as their planet, Gallifrey, was within your galaxy, never mind this Universe. The might of all the High Races came in and called a truce on the 'disagreement'...//
Cory raised a hand, "How many were lost in this, ah, disagreement?"
//Vol'Kier? None. The others? Surprisingly, none as well. After the ease with which the Vol'Kier had wiped out the first Compact Council, they realised that there was no threat from the 'lesser powers'. They proceeded to enjoy a 'riveting game' of 'bounce-the-idiot-off-of-the-nearest-star' with the rest... it was, to put it bluntly, embarrassing//
Levi looked impressed. "Just how powerful are these Vol'Kier?"
//Powerful enough that, even when the truce was called and they were informed in no uncertain terms that they would abide by the Compact, their King kicked your Uncle Q 'into touch'...//
"They sound like a High Race, not a Middle," Sean stated.
//Strength of power is not a deciding factor. They can go anywhere they wish, but are unable to manipulate time in any way. They see things of the future, but that is not of their doing. That issue will be revealed to you in time... Their strength is extreme, but raw. They are primal. There are only a few things that they can do with precision. The rest is just unfocused and unrestrained power. And they are protected, as you heard from their message. The High Races could not go back and stop them from ascending. They knew from whom they had come but could not 'see' that event to change it. Neither could they use Time to affect them. Due to their ascension, they are Unbound. They cannot be seen nor found by any unless they allow it - at least now, that is the case. Then they had not learnt to hide themselves. They can only be confronted by force, not by Time. And they are vastly more powerful than the Q. Not even those mortals who can see into the Astral Plane can see them, unless they allow it. Especially not if they are of Celoi blood - meaning all non-Vol'Kier Terrans. It is this reason that they were left alone and your world was left alone. And it is due to this, that even if the Compact was still enforced, the Ferox would not have been contacted nor approached. They are of Celoi descent, and therefore protected by the Vol'Kier's presence - yet also just as unaware of them//
Joel hummed to himself for a moment before asking, "Is that why Earth had no contact earlier from aliens? These Vol'Kier?"
//Yes. While the peoples of the ancient past had a fear of Earth due to the besting of the Compact, those in recent years still felt uneasy about coming close. Added to that, if any had ill intent, the Vol'Kier would have appeared. Only those who meant no harm were allowed to land. Yet even so, as the Vol'Kier see it, 'the Sea of Stars' remained closed over the Celoi until the Vulcans and Andorians arrived. Those few humans of the past who met aliens or who left the Earth were too small to mean that alien races were in the 'world-view' of the general public, or were not even of the Celoi//
"I thought every human is descended from the Celoi," Kevin stated.
//Genetically, yes; all of humanity is of Celoi blood. But as a race, or tribe, those who did not side with the Vol'Kier at the end of the Golden Age ceased to be classed by the Golden King as Celoi. All of history from that moment to the start of what Ark calls Cycle 4 is the history of man, but not of Celoi. They returned to the surface in Cycle 4 and it was over them - you - that the Sea of Stars opened//
"How many of us - those on Earth - are Celoi?" Cory asked softly.
Joel sighed and answered for the Guardian, "All, I think. Everyone is by blood, but when they returned everyone is counted as Celoi as far as these seven who remained with the Vol'Kier are concerned. Oh, and their Vanguard..."
"Oh, come on, Cor," Sean giggled. "The message said seven stayed behind to wait."
"Ah," the blond teen giggled.
"Another question..." Levi put in.
//Just one more, and then you need to go back//
Levi nodded then asked, "Why can't you undo this Denial so that we can remember and maybe get things ready?"
//A Guardian's power cannot undo what another Guardian's power does...// came the reply from Forever, and then their eyes closed as they fell back through Time and Space... back to bed, asleep.
Joel awoke and found that he was now cuddled against Cory's back, while Sean was face to face with their blond brother. A grin plastered itself over his face when he attached the word 'lover' to them both. With a gentle exhale of breath, he wiggled slightly to get more comfortable and prepared to catch a few more precious moments of sleep. It was just as he was dropping back off when he felt a presence outside the bedroom door and then heard it open. He 'felt' the person approach and sit so that his bum was now pressed against the newcomer's side through the quilt.
A gentle, cool fingertip traced his available ear-lobe and he grinned. With a soft whisper he said, "'Mornin', Mammy!"
"Good morning, sweety," Teri replied softly. "How are you feeling?"
Joel giggled, "Usually I feel with my hands..."
"You've been spending too much time with your brothers; they're corrupting your sense of humor!" Teri sniggered.
With a wide grin, Joel kissed the back of Cory's head. "It's Blondie's fault," he explained in a normal tone of voice, his fingers digging into Cory's ribs just enough to tickle him into wakefulness. "Isn't that right, lover-boy?"
"Ugh.... gerroff! Too early!"
"I think you wore them out last night," Teri said, her face not giving away her amusement.
Joel nodded solemnly. "I know. It's a burden to be so much more energetic than these two light-weights... I suffered greatly..." He could not, of course, keep his face straight after finishing speaking and burst out into peals and peals of laughter.
Teri's own laugher joined his, thus thoroughly waking the now moody and grouchy pair of teens. "Why you waking us at this time, Mom?" Sean complained as he glanced at the clock before glaring at her.
Joel rested his chin on Cory's arm and said, "We did, not just Mammy... and it's just past seven! Not early... come on, lazy! I'm getting married today!"
Sean stopped glaring, sighed lovingly, and leaned close enough to kiss the happy little Elf. "Okay, Angel... come on, Cory's about asleep again. Time to TICKLE!"
"NO!! NOOOOOO!" Cory started squealing as Sean, Joel AND Teri went to work on his ribs and feet...
Just outside of the dining area, Joel bumped into Juan. He gestured for Cory and Sean to go ahead of him to get breakfast as he tugged on Juan's arm. "You got a minute?" he asked softly.
Juan nodded, "Yeah."
They moved aside just enough so that they weren't blocking the door from anyone else wanting to enter. "What's up?" the Klingon asked.
"Just wondering if you've told Adam of the decision we've come to already, and if so, how did he and the others take it?"
"I did," Juan smiled, "and there's nothing you need to worry about. But I do need to let you know; I won't be coming to London with you. We 'were' getting married, now we are not. Being there might make me feel..."
"Upset?" Joel offered with a quick hug of understanding. "I understand. Now we just have to go in there and let the rest know as well."
With a nod, Juan linked hands with Joel and together they walked into the dining room. They saw most of the Orlando group were all together, so at least they wouldn't have to gather everyone up first. They got to the table and Joel tapped it to get their attention. "We've got something to tell you," he said seriously before going into detail on what he and Juan had decided upon the night before.
There was a silence at first, once Joel had finished speaking. Then, "Does that mean you're not my daddy? That I don't have brothers an' a sister?"
Juan and Joel both looked over at Tumelo, who was sandwiched between Sue and Brian. His little face was showing his heart clearly, and he seemed close to tears.
"No, that's not it at all," Joel whispered softly as he moved around and pulled Tumelo into his arms for a hug. "Me and Kev and Leevee are still your daddies. You still have brothers and sisters. Juan and Koth are still daddies to Sue and Jules and the rest too! It just means that we don't need a wedding to express what our relationship is. That's all."
The small boy seemed to accept that, and the fast approaching tears had vanished. However, he still looked a little sad. "But I went to lots o' work getting somethin' nice for you and Daddy for later... but you're not gonna want it, now..."
A tap on the table made everyone look at Kenny. "Right... As the Clan's first Soul-Brother expert..." he said, with a wink at Cory, who smiled, "I need both Juan and Joel to stand together and hold hands. Tumelo, can you and Timmy go and get your surprises that you were talking about, please?"
Giggling, Timmy ran over and pulled Tumelo off to find Spock - who was holding the various 'surprises' that the group of imps had gone to buy yesterday.
Juan moved to join the little Elf. "What is your husband's brother up to now?" he asked with a grin.
"Something good," Kenny said firmly. "Now shush!"
They waited all of five minutes for the two rugrats to get back, and each was holding a small velvet covered jewellery box. Spock and Teri had come along with them to watch.
"Juan, do you promise to be the best Best-friend and Soul-Brother to Sa'ren Joel Short?" Kenny asked formally.
With a grin, Juan nodded and said, "Forever and ever."
"Joel, do you promise to be the best Best-Friend and Soul-Brother to Juan Casey?" Kevin's twin asked the Vulcan boy.
"Yup! Always!" Joel crowed.
"Then it is done. Receive your gifts from two of your children, and wear them as a reminder forever that you are Soul-Brothers!" Kenny finished as Timmy and Tumelo opened the cases.
Inside each was a small, golden chain-link bracelet. Tumelo offered one to Juan, and it had diamonds and emeralds encrusted on the chain. Timmy gave the ruby and sapphire one to Joel. The two small boys helped their Dads to put them on as everyone there cheered and clapped.
After hugging Timmy and Tumelo tight, Juan asked the rest, "No questions? I thought someone might say something about us notwanting to get married..."
Cory looked around the group, then smiled at Juan. With a shrug of his shoulders, the Clan Patriarch said, "You've both shown us that you care for each other deeply, and I, for one, was a little surprised at the idea of you both getting married. If it was something you both wanted, then that would be cool, but you're the closest of friends and brothers I've seen - more like Uncle Jim and Dad. If you decide later that you DO want to tie the knot, great. If never, also great. Love is love, and as long as there's trust, guys! - do what feels right!"
"Amen," JJ said simply.
And that closed the issue.
"FOOOOOOD!" Belar put in into the silence.
All this talking was, after all, eating into precious feeding time... and Belar was not one to eat 'time'... just food!
The weddings were over and most everyone was finishing off the feast that Her Majesty had prepared for them all.
Joel and Kevin were chatting with Cory and the Queen to one side of the private sitting room they had retired to.
"The room is all prepared, Joel, when you and your husband are ready," the Queen said with a smile.
Joel giggled happily. A room at the palace for the night for their wedding night... second wedding night, he amended silently. "Mam and Dad staying, too?" he asked.
She nodded. She looked at Cory, "There is a meeting planned for the morning, Cory, as per your request. I can arrange room here for you and as many as wish to stay."
"Thanks, Grandma," Cory responded seriously. "That would make things much easier." He glanced down and saw something that he had not paid much attention to before. "That's an interesting bracelet, Grandma. Could I see it?" he asked, pointing at her left wrist.
Kevin looked over with interest, as did Joel. Kevin saw a normal gold-link bracelet, one he'd seen on the Queen's arm each time they'd met. "It's nice, Cor, but nothing like the rest of the finery around here," he said softly.
Joel turned to look at his small husband curiously. That was not what he saw.
Nor what Cory saw, it seemed, however the Queen made a gesture with her hand at Cory before the teen could say anything further. "Kevin, sweetheart. I want to give some advice to your Vulcan other-half, and it will not be as good a surprise if you remain to hear it. Could you go and entertain my husband for a while?"
Blushing, the American boy nodded before kissing Joel's cheek and running from the room to seek Prince Philip - if nothing else, the Prince's sense of humour was a blast!
Joel narrowed his mist-eyes as he turned to regard the Queen. "He doesn't see it?" he asked, pointing at the Queen's arm. "Why not?"
The Queen was truly shocked, and it showed. "I never thought this day would come. But it has, and there are two of you! Have... have neither of you felt the need to mention this before?"
Joel was shaking his head, but Cory nodded slowly. She looked at him and he almost whispered, "Every time I wanted to ask, something came up to distract me."
The Queen raised her right hand so that her sleeve fell away from her wrist completely. Around it was a gold bracelet, all one piece and about and inch and a half wide. In the middle, directly centre of the top of her wrist, were five jewels in a diamond shape. One in the centre, one towards her hand, one away and the other two completing the shape, to either side. Four were very dark, so dark that you could not tell what they were; but the one closest to her hand seemed to be a ruby. It glimmered in the light of the room. Blood red. "Joel, you can see it, but you feel no... desire to ask about it?" she asked.
The boy simply shook his head.
Puzzled, the Queen held out her arm, as if prompting Joel to touch the metal around her wrist. He did so and snatched his hand back in shock at that touch. Nothing else happened.
"Curious," Elizabeth murmured.
Cory's hand was already stretched out toward the Queen's wrist, but before he could touch the bracelet, Joel stopped him. "It feels... no, Cory. I don't like it."
"There would be nothing to fear, Joel. At least, nothing to fear for your brother's life..." Elizabeth explained cryptically.
"You know, that really didn't help!" Cory said with a slight grin. "Does that mean I'll turn into a girl or something weird will happen like my hair falling out?"
Joel was shaking his head but not in any response or answer to Cory's question, and his mouth a thin line due to pressing his lips together so tightly.
The Queen answered Cory but kept her eyes on Joel. "Nothing like that, son, but before I explain; Joel, what is it that you felt from this?" she asked, shaking her wrist slightly.
"Need. Urgency. Desperation. I don't... it feels old. And I don't like that desperate feeling," Joel whispered, not taking his Crown-sight off of the golden item.
With a nod of her head, the Queen responded, "The need is there, as this wrist-band is looking for its next Keeper. And I've been growing desperate, seeking this person myself. That feeling was probably mine. This is the first time since I've worn this that anyone has seen it; other than myself and the one who gave it to me."
"Can you explain?" Cory breathed, his eyes still on the bracelet.
With a nod, the Queen started, "This bracelet has been handed down from Keeper to Keeper for thousands of years. The records go back to just about seven thousand years ago. No-one knows why, other than for one thing; and that can only be told to the next Keeper. Instructions on what it does? What I have said is all that I can tell you. You might just be sensitive, the both of you. You are not the next Keeper, Joel. You touched it and it did nothing. But you, Cory. You might be."
"You said it wouldn't harm me, but there was something else implied..." Cory whispered.
"You will not die until you find the next after you," the Queen whispered as well. "The one I received this from was a distant relation, and he was over one hundred and twenty when we discovered that I could see it. I was only ten. His life was a well kept secret by the Royals, and his official date of death was thirty six years before I was found to be the Keeper. No-one at the time knew why he was kept in seclusion, nor why he was living so long. Only me, now. After I received this, he started to fade. Oh, it didn't kill him to give it up," she assured them both as their eyes widened, "but he was old. He had done his job. If you are the Keeper, Cory... then you won't die until you find the next."
She looked at Joel, and was about to say something when Joel blinked. Something pressed on him. Some memory...
'Yet if he tarries in Empire's Heart, shall all be sundered and torn apart...'
Joel gasped. The words of the poem from the Book of Shiny, and it made his spine go cold. "I... I have to go. I can't stay here! Cory, I understand part of that poem from the Book of Shiny... I can't stay in London..."
"Where do you have to go?" Cory asked, slightly confused.
The Queen listened with interest as Joel recited the entire poem. Cory remained just as puzzled as before until Joel explained, "Empire's Heart is here. London. Can't be anything else. There's only one Empire on Earth right now. Then the line 'Seek us out beneath Golden Hills, Neighboured by Satanic Mills'. Satanic Mills, which is a reference to the song..."
"Jerusalem," the Queen said, nodding with understanding. "That would refer to England. 'Golden Hills' would be Wales, where we get Welsh Gold, some of the purest on Earth. Golden hills... But who is it that you're seeking?"
"A myth," Cory said quickly, his mind going back to the 'dream' he and the others had had on Forever World. He shook his head, for Joel's face was registering sadness. "Must be..."
Joel sighed and looked at Elizabeth. "Vol'Kier," he whispered.
"Go. Now. Seek them, child, if that is what you are destined for. I will keep Cory with me," the Queen said seriously, her body suddenly seeming alive with energy.
Joel blinked, "Huh? But... how can you know that... name? What about the Denial!"
"I do not know what that is, but I do know of them. Go, Prince Sa'ren. Find them. That is a royal order, young man..." Elizabeth said, pointing for the door.
Joel leapt up and ran, but skidded to a stop before the door. "What do I tell Kevvy about what you told him you'd tell me? I can't lie to him..."
The Queen smiled and gestured for him to come close. He did so and she whispered something into his ear.
"Yes. Now scoot!"
He grinned and ran off, the door clicking shut behind him.
"Now, as for you," the Queen continued, turning her eyes on the blond teen, who's face showed an internal struggle that she was not feeling herself. "Let us see if you are the Keeper I've been seeking..."
".... uh, meep?" Cory mumbled, shaking his head slightly.
"There is nothing to fear, son. Simply touch this bracelet. If you are the one then it will release me and you will be the new Keeper. Then I can tell you the rest..."
"Why do I feel like a fly caught in a spider web?" Cory muttered.
The Queen smiled and held our her arm, bringing the seemingly solid gold bracelet in easy reach.
"What will happen?" he asked softly.
"The gems will light up, all but the centre. Then it will release..." she explained just as softly as Cory tentatively reached toward it.
He seemed drawn, almost. Something about the band around this old lady's arm was calling to him. The air itself was charged.
He touched it, just a fingertip. A shimmer was heard all around them, causing him to look up and seek the source. The Queen did as well, just as surprised as Cory, and the blood drained from her face as the shimmering increased.
With a low tone, the already glimmering ruby closest to her hand shone out. Then the gem on the far side of it lit up; another ruby and another tone mixed with the first. The gem on the inner arm side came alive, yet another ruby and yet another tone to mix in harmony. Then the gem on the outer arm side came to life. This one was deep purple; an amethyst.
Cory was staring between the gems and the bracelet and the Queen's face. "You look surprised," he whispered, not wanting to disturb the four part harmony.
"This did not happen when I became Keeper," she answered, her voice trembling. "I never expected... but it was always a possibility..." Then she gasped, for the gem in the middle of the other four lit up as well.
An emerald. Green as green could be. The sound of all five gems thrummed in the air.
"Come with me," the Queen ordered as she got quickly to her feet and started out of the room.
There was no sign of the bracelet releasing her.
"... said the spider to the fly ...." Cory quipped nervously as he followed her.
Joel had found Kevin and Levi talking with Prince Philip, and had briefly explained his feeling about getting out of London. Kevin wasn't to sure about his husband's reasoning, but Levi seemed to accept it. They gathered up their cat guards and kids, bid everyone a good-night, and then vanished as Levi took them all back to the Dragon's Nest in Silver Ghost Valley.
Seconds after arriving, Nine and Buck appeared via Borg site-to-site transporter. "You should have told us, Joel," Nine said seriously. "We still need to remain relatively close to make sure everything is stable with your implants."
"Sorry," Joel whispered, wringing his hands. The uneasy feeling had not gone away on arriving back in Wales, but the urgency to get out of London was gone. "Wasn't thinking."
Buck smiled before walking off in search of food. Nine nodded at the group before heading off himself.
Jules and Verne attached themselves to one of Joel's legs each and looked up at him. "You gonna be okays, Daddy?" Verne asked, his whiskers quivering.
He received a nod, but Joel's face remained troubled. Levi gathered all of the kids together and said, "We're going to spend time with Daddy Joel to make him feel okay. Will you be okay by yourselves?"
"Yeah!" Sue exclaimed. "We'll find Poppas Juan and Koth and play with Tumelo. We've got some nice cakes we wanted to share with him!"
So saying, the eight kids roared off - Lee in the lead running with his arms pulling him forwards on whatever he could reach. Levi glanced around at the others, "I'll take Kev and Joel to our room."
Artimus grinned. "Have fun!" she waved as the three popped away quickly.
Cory followed his Royal grandmother down a staircase to the basement of the palace. A few of the palace staff were busy with their assigned tasks and did not seem at all fazed to have their monarch walk amongst them. "You, ah... come down here much?" he asked softly.
"Whenever I wish to sample a bottle of wine, yes," she responded with a smile. She stopped in the hallway they were traversing and faced one of the walls. "Tell me. What do you see?" she asked, pointing at the solid wall.
"That pattern there looks like a horsey, that pattern looks like a doggy...." Cory giggled nervously.
"You have had plenty of experience at staring at walls, I gather?"
"Uh, yeah," Cory grinned. "I'm not always an angel, grandma."
"Good. That would be boring." She offered her left arm, "Rest your hand on this again."
Cory looked at the bracelet. The thrumming and shimmering from the gems had not lessened, but since no-one that they had passed had reacted in any way, he assumed that only he and the Queen could hear it. He rested the palm of his hand upon it, then gasped as the wall they were by seemed to shimmer. He blinked at it, for there was a door there now that had not been there before. Solid oak with a golden handle shaped as a reptile's claw.
"It is a perception field," said the Queen. "I can see it, but only eleven others can."
"Eleven? Who?" Cory managed through dry lips.
"Other Keepers. There have always been twelve of us... but you are something else," she answered as she opened the door and gestured Cory inside.
"Don't tell me I'm getting another title!" Cory half-joked.
The Queen looked at him, and continued to gesture toward the door. As Cory went in, he noticed that some of the staff were in the hall, but were not able to look at him or the door. It was as if this 'perception field' were masking him as well. The Queen followed him and closed the door. The hall they were in now was dark, but a light at far end drew Cory forward.
As he left the end of that darkened hall, Cory found a round room with engravings around the walls. In the centre was a pedestal with a box resting on the top.
"You said something about titles," the Queen said seriously as she stopped beside him. "I cannot tell you. If you are the one we have been seeking then what is to be is for you to discover."
She raised her left arm, allowing the light shining from the five gems to gleam onto the brown, wooden box. There was a click and the box opened slightly, causing the Queen to pale further. "Open it fully and take what is inside as your own," she managed to say after a moment.
Hesitantly, Cory approached the pedestal and reached for the lid. He opened it, noting that the feel of it was old. Very old. Inside was a gray bracelet, similar to the Queen's, save for being made of iron. Unlovely, really. As his fingers touched it it flew and snapped itself into place around his right wrist. On it were seven dull gems, almost black. He could not make out what they were, even as he tried to take off this strange item.
"Ummmm - excuse my language, Grandma, but what the hell?" Cory exclaimed.
"You are that which the Druids have been seeking, since the founding of the Order," Elizabeth II said imperiously. "You are either the focus of the Search or the Key to it. Or both. But until all seven gems light up we cannot be certain."
Cory stared at her while continuing his attempts at removing the bracelet.
"You cannot remove it, if it is anything like mine."
Cory stopped trying and glared at her. "What does this mean, Grandma?"
The Queen explained as the box the iron bracelet came from turned to dust and vanished, "The Third is coming, and all shall bow before him. Two have already been, and one was at the start and is not yet gone. The other once was and his crown will return with the Third. The Greatest is our goal. It is the reason we Keepers were put into place, to prepare..."
"For this 'Third'?" Cory asked in confusion.
"No," Elizabeth answered. "For the End... Listen closely, child. No other sees my bracelet. No other, bar Joel, knows about it. Only the Order. Only you. The same will apply to yours. None shall see it or know it. If you tell people, they will not believe you. If your mind is read by another, they will not retain the knowledge. I know, I've had melds done on me and the Vulcans do not mention any of this. I do not know why. Keep your eyes and ears open, Prince of the Empire. Once those gems light up completely, return here. You will know what to do then."
Cory shook his head. "Can't you explain more?"
"There is no more I can tell you. I shall know more when it happens to you, so the Records teach. Now come. There is naught else we can do here, and..." she paused as the first of the gems on Cory's bracelet lit up. It was one of the two closest to his wrist. It was ruby red.
"...and that means what this time?" Cory said with exasperation.
"It begins," she answered as she took his hand and squeezed gently. "We are now on an unknown path, my child. It may be, if the Records are true, that I am watching the end of all I love... it may be that I am the last Empress... and this is the last day that the Earth has..."
Cory blinked at her. She was not yet aware of the disaster that Ark had warned them about. He had planned on informing her tomorrow. He changed his mind, and started to explain now...
Not an hour later, eleven people appeared in the large doorway to the private section of the Palace. In the room, Cory and Sean were talking with Spock, Teri and the Queen. They all turned to look at them, and only the Queen knew them. "Admiral, Lady Teri, Prince Sean; please excuse us. Prince Cory and I have things to discuss," the Queen said simply as she stood, facing the eleven newcomers.
Sean did not know what do to with such a curt dismissal, but he followed his mother's and Spock's lead. He got up, squeezed Cory's hand briefly and followed his parents from the room through the second, side door. Once the door was closed behind them, and once the eleven had entered and closed the larger, main door, Elizabeth half turned in Cory's direction. She said, addressing the eleven, "This is he." Then, to Cory, she said, "These are those who complete the Order."
They approached as Cory stood to his feet and inclined his head. One of the men half smiled and said, "I am Albert. I have waited long for this day, not expecting to ever live to be a part of it." He raised his right arm and allowed the sleeve of his jacket to fall to reveal a bracelet similar to the Queen's. The five gems were just as lit up. "I am the Keeper of Records, and the Records have started to open," he continued as he held up a small seeming book with his left hand. On the cover were seven gems, all but one were dark. They were in the same pattern as on Cory's iron bracelet.
"You're... druids? I couldn't believe it when Grandma Lizzie mentioned... Grandma. You're the Defender of the Faith. How can you be a Druid?" Cory asked, finally choosing to ask.
The Queen smiled, "My personal beliefs are not contradicted by this, Cory. Our Order is not part of a belief system. In fact, it was used in centuries past as a basis for what became 'classical Druidism'. We are watchers and waiters, Keepers and defenders. Not knowing for what we await, but chosen nonetheless to do so. We do not even know whom it was that started this."
One of the other women in the group came forward, "I am the Keeper of Arms, Highness. What has been revealed thus far points to a secret we were unaware of. That secret is this - that you will bear a weapon greater and more terrible than any other from this world, yet twinned with another that has already been, and gone and is returning. As more gems alight we hope to know more. I detest riddles. But come, we shall talk more of that later. Let us see that which you bare up close..."
It was midnight, and Levi and Kevin were fast asleep in each other's arms. Joel was not with them, but by the window looking at the stars overhead. Though the time he had just spent with the two of them had been so special, the weight of whatever it was pressing on his mind had not lifted one iota. He turned to gaze lovingly at the two boys in bed. Not since Saturday had he been this close to Kevin, other than Pon Farr and that was all heat and energy and very foggy in his mind. They had been so intimate before then, but... he closed his eyes. No, no fear there, but regret about what had happened. However, the evening in Kevin's arms, and with Levi as well for most of it; it had sealed part of the healing he had received from all of his brothers and sisters and family.
He needed to walk. He just felt restless. So he slipped on his clothes and left the room silently to walk around the mansion.
He lost track of time, which for him was unusual in the extreme. It felt like time was closing in on him, yet also far away from him. He wandered into the living room maybe minutes after leaving his bedroom, but it could easily have been several hours. He bumped into a ten year old ginger haired kid who giggled at him. "Sorry, Galli," he muttered absently. Then he stopped and focused his mist-eyes on the Time Lord. "G...Galli?! What! What are you doing here?!"
"Not pleased to see me, Elf?" the Lord of Time giggled.
"Of course," Joel laughed as he pulled his brother into a hug. "Of course, but... but you said the last time..."
"You change things, Elf. And so does your Clan," the Doctor said seriously while enjoying the hug. "Time is in an uproar about what is happening here... and I just had to come and see. And help, the Laws of Time be damned..."
Joel pulled back and looked at his brother closely. "You tried to outdo the Laws before, Doctor, and..."
"I've grown since my Tenth," Galli said, his eyes hard yet sad at the same time. He gazed at Joel and saw something shimmer around the Vulcan for a moment. He sighed, "You have two destinies now, one without destiny... not only the one I cannot fully see but another. And it shall be revealed this day."
Joel went cold. "And you can't tell me?"
"I shouldn't, but I will tell as much as I can. You will face a choice. In that choice, one path leads to the Unchangeable Destiny. The other to a Rewrite. Someone Else will need to step in to correct what could unravel all of Time. Before that.... before that you will find out the first secret to who you really are. I don't risk saying more..."
Joel trembled. "But... can't you tell me the choices? What is the good one and what is the bad? Or even which is which?!"
"No. I can see what you have to face, but not the details."
"Wait!" Joel exclaimed. "How can you see at all? You said that the future is clouded to everyone, even you High Races. Only the Guardian can see what is in the direct future until... until my original destiny...."
"Remember the First Rule of the Doctor?" Galli answered simply.
Joel stared at him, then whispered, "The Doctor lies..."
"But not completely, and not always," the Doctor smiled. "I am not just a Time Lord. I am the First High Race, born from the Chaos of the Fall of the Destroyer. Vae'Za and Vae'Runam clashed over my world as I was ascending, and the High Ones were there, and I changed. Something else happened, something yet to be understood. I am different to other Lords of Time in that I can still see things; not much, but I do get flashes from important people - especially if they ARE a Fixed Point themselves. And I'm not talking about fixed points as in destinies. Something fundamental to Creation instead. You are a Fixed Point, Elf. You are not natural to Creation, at least not yet. You may become it, but you have not done so yet. And there is something else I know..."
"What?" Joel asked, his voice nearly failing him.
"I'm coming with you," Galli grinned. "Look there, we have company... oh, and it's now 1.46am, if you're still wondering..."
Shaking his head to clear it, Joel turned around to see a group of boys approach. Kevin, Levi, Juan, Koth, Timmy, Ricky, Nine, Buck, JJ, Adam, Tera and all of his nine kids. Tumelo was not with them, nor were any of the other kids Joel and Kevin had 'inherited' from Cory and Sean. Joel blinked at them all, and especially at Timmy, Ricky, JJ and Adam. "I thought you guys were staying in London," he murmured.
"We had a dream, Poppa Joel," Timmy answered simply.
"As did we all, I believe," Nine added.
Buck was shaking his head, "I had one, but on comparing it with Nine's it was different. Whatever this dream is about, I'm to stay here with Koth."
"Yeah... it's very strange," Koth murmured. He glanced at Juan, then back at Joel. "I don't know what's going on, Elf, but you keep Juan safe."
"Isn't that his job to keep me safe?!" Joel asked in surprise.
What made it funny was that Juan asked at the same moment, "Isn't it my job to keep him safe?!"
"... I've just got a bad feeling..." Koth whispered. "Like I'm never going to see you again... bloody dream..."
"Wait just a fu..." Juan stopped himself as he looked at Timmy who giggled. He looked back at Koth and tried again, "Look little Klingon boy. You need a nursemaid, but I have graduated to the big boy's table."
Koth's eyes hardened, but he restrained himself. Just. "Just go and be safe," he managed to grate out before turning and walking off toward the command centre of the Manor.
"Hold on... what dream?!" Joel asked in exasperation as he watched him go. "What's going on, 'cos I'm really confused right now!"
Kevin moved over to cuddle with him quickly. He explained, "We all talked as we came down here. We all woke up and left our rooms, and bumped into each other! We saw a door that should never be opened, and stairs that should never be trod. A wind from the past called, and a fear for the future threatened... I'm even talking weird. Sorry, Sa'r. It's calling us, and it was your face on the door and on the stairs and everything. We knew we had to see you."
"I just knew on waking that I had to get here," Adam murmured. "We both did. We got up and left our HUGE AS FUCK room at the palace and found these two munchkins waiting outside it with their brainless birdies..."
"You're just mad because they took your bedtime toys and gave them to some of our new friends!" Timmy giggled.
JJ leaned close to Joel and whispered, "William gave Adam's favourite dildo to the palace corgis to play tug-of-war with..."
"Okay, never mind that... I still want to know..." Joel started, but another voice interrupted him.
"Am I missing a few scheduling emails, or something? Or are you all meant to be in bed and asleep... or screwing like mad, if you're Joel, Kev and Leev?" Jason asked from outside the room they were all gathered in. "And... what are you four..."
Duke screeched at him.
"Sorry... what are you six doing here?" Jason finished, eyeing the two eagles carefully.
They eyed him right back.
"Before this descends into feathered violence," the Doctor put in, earning him the eaglish-stares instead, "there's a few more that are joining us. Boys! You can come in now!"
In the corner of the room, a door opened from no-where. Inside was the Tardis control room, and out of it came six boys. Three sets of twins. Joel looked and smiled. They had been there with their new fathers, Jesse and Julio, at his wedding. He looked back at the Time Lord. "Did they have this 'dream', too?"
"Dream?" Jason asked as he came into the room. "What dream?"
"Don't start that again," Levi sighed, scratching his head.
"We sure did!" all six boys grinned.
"Can someone introduce them, please?" Buck asked with a smile. He had not been to the wedding with the rest of the gang from Orlando as he had been more interested in learning the ins and outs of the VSO command base.
The Doctor nodded and pointed, "The eleven year old red heads - nice colour that, by the way, guys - are Riley and Reece."
They blinked their green eyes at Buck and smiled.
"The two impish nine year olds are Kent and Kurt," the Doctor continued as he ruffled their brunet hair with each hand.
"Nice to meet you!" Kurt giggled.
"And finally," the Doctor pointed at the two hazel eyed ten year olds, "yet more blonds. Bobby and Bruce Almighty..."
"Yay! I'm the bestest!" Bruce giggled.
Bobby poked his twin in the ribs, "In your dreams..."
"... nuh huh! The Doc said it! I'm the almighty!"
"Pain the the butt, sure!" Kent grinned at the older boy.
Joel looked at Kevin. Kevin looked over at Levi. Levi looked at Joel. Together, they all turned to the six boys. "We... know... what... you're... like... and... if... you... try... it... again... we'll..." they said, each taking it in turns to say a word and seemlessly fitting it together.
Then, as Joel paused on the last word said, Reece found himself completing the sentence, "... get our own back... Hey!"
As a group, the non-twin-linked occupants of the room started frantically searching for an escape route. Except for Jason, who was still waiting on an explanation as to what was going on.
"Guys, I've got a headache forming and there's a lot of work I need to get done before I can even think of getting any sleep. Nathan's already in bed, and I want to get in there with him and catch some zees. However, the longer I'm here as you all mess around the longer it'll be before my tasks are done! Now, what the hell is going on?" he said, his face a little whiter than normal.
Kevin took that as a bad sign and quickly explained his dream. Joel, on hearing it again felt a click in his mind. Sa'ren had worked it out. "Jason," the Vulcan said seriously. "It is the forbidden door beneath the base. The one down at the far end of the level we found Reliquary on. We need..."
"You are not going through that door!" Jason said firmly. "And that's final."
Sa'ren raised an eyebrow, "We are, because we must. I have to seek that which is under 'Golden Hills'; it was for that reason that I could not remain in London, Empire's Heart. It seems that these here have had dreams linking what that poem said to the door you told us of."
"You won't be able to get through," Jason said, trying to find any reason he could to dissuade Joel and the rest. "It only opened the once... anyway, even if you did get through - what would happen if it closed again with you all down there? That place is wierd to the point of interfering with Mikyvis, for goodness sakes!"
"We have a Doctor," Sa'ren said simply.
The Doctor raised an eyebrow, but declined to add anything to that.
Jason breathed fiercely through his nose. All the eyes on him were resolute - if Joel said they had to go through some door to find an answer to the compulsion they all had, then they were going to go through the door.
"Go armed, and take ration-packs with you," the Welsh Patriarch said eventually, giving up. He pulled a padd from his belt and tapped something onto it before handing it to Joel. "You're going to get me into more than a little trouble with Cory, you do know that, right?" he hissed.
"Yes, and I'm sorry," Joel answered, Sa'ren having moved back to let the more human side of the duo take over.
With that, Joel sighed and pointed the way for them all to follow. They stopped at the VSO supply room to grab backpacks and as much equipment as they thought they would or might need, then they moved off toward the basements.
Jason watched them go and sighed again. If it wasn't for what he was currently tracking he'd have gone with them. He turned back towards the command centre only to find Koth standing there looking at him. "What's wrong, bro?" he asked softly.
"I'm afraid I won't see him again," Koth said simply before turning and heading to the stairs.
Shaking his head slowly, Jason continued to the command centre. Everyone was acting weirdly, he thought to himself as he entered and got back to work. I mean, what could happen that Juan couldn't deal with?
They had found the door easily enough, and the two guards accepted the padd with Jason's instructions without question. They were Vulcan, after all.
As for getting the door open, that was easy enough. More easy than getting into the Voth base had been for Juan. On his entry all communication he had with the links of the Unit went dark. He had yelped and jumped back out of the edge of the field, only to find that it had not severed, just gone silent. Dark. As if it had still been there just unusable.
Joel had very little knowledge to work with as to how Juan had convinced the rest of his brothers in the link that he was okay, but regardless of what was said, done or promised, Juan had re-entered the door and had come down the large spiral staircase with the rest of them. He was looking more than a little uncomfortable at being there, though. More so than Levi, who was similarly cut off from the rest of the Mikyvis.
The only ones who did not seem fazed were the Doctor and Nine. And Joel. He could still sense someone above. Unlike before, Kevin was with him, so he could still feel the bond-link with his miniature hubby, but there was now another that was way above them that he could feel.
The same one that Nine could feel. It was Buck. They had to fight to communicate, but they could manage it, barely.
"At least we have a way to call for help if we need it," Joel said as the Forbidden Door swung open before them at his mere touch.
"Not that it matters. They can't do anything to help if we meet..." Juan started miserably, but cut himself off quickly.
Levi giggled and poked the boy, "Ghosts? Remember the cave?"
Juan's eyes lit up briefly, even though there was also a glimmer of fear as well with it. "Mmm..."
"I too am looking forward to that, should it happen," Nine said, flexing his fingers. "I have a score to settle with that 'ghost'."
"Before you enter," came a voice from behind them, "know that most of your weapons will not work."
They turned to find the lightning form of Reliquary standing there watching them.
JJ grinned. "Since brains are weapons, does that mean all of us will become blond?"
Reliquary looked at him specifically, "I gather you have been told of me, going by thy lack of surprise. However, what may surprise you to learn is that, of those who created and invented the most in your history, over 57.29471% were blond... as are you." He paused, "It was really quite an achievement for a group of... how did that Time Lord put it? Ah... hairless apes."
"BUUUSSSTTTEEEDDDD Unca JJ!" Timmy giggled as him and Ricky pounced JJ.
Ignoring the kids and JJ, Juan kept his gaze fixed upon the ancient Voth AI holo-form before them. "I am not leaving my guns here."
"They will do you no good," Reliquary answered, "but you may take them if you wish. They will hinder you, and may even cause you to fail in this task. All that you can take which will be of use is that which is bonded to you, or that which is allowed under the Treaty of Avalon: weapons of Celoi design."
"Start bonding then!" Juan stated.
Joel looked between the two, then asked quietly, "I gather guns are not of Celoi design. What is, and what can you give us that will keep my best bud happy?"
With a low chuckle, the AI answered, "Mass Projectile weapons involving blasting ore were never developed by the first of Man, so you are right in that they were not of Celoi design. Bladed weapons, or long range projectile weapons using tensile forces were. Energy weapons, such as your Starfleet phasers, were. The closest thing you have on you to true Celoi weapons are those living creatures some of you have bonded to you." Looking specifically at Juan, he continued, "The Celoi were not, of course, the first to make bladed weapons in all the Universe; but since they did so, the treaty would recognise your Klingon knives. They are 'bonded' to you at any rate, and that alone would overcome the strictures. The same goes for one of the two greatest weapons ever created that is bonded to you, Winglord of Skies: the Sa'ren."
Adam asked quickly, "One of the 'two'? What is the other?"
"Like unto it. A brother. Wielded by only one before, and not yet created. The Unmade Blade. The Seal of Kings, that which the Vol'Kier call Goldfire, but which your ancestors called Fire's Gold..."
"...'Redeemer holds Fire's Gold'..." Joel quoted softly, almost to himself. "I am to find this other blade?"
"That I cannot answer," Reliquary said softly. He looked then at a quickly departing Juan, who was heading toward the way out. "Where is it that you go to, young Juan?"
"Outside of this 'field' so I can call Daileass! If I can't use guns, then I need something else. I'm going to get my bow..." the half-Klingon said as he continued down the hall toward the staircase that would lead up to the old Vifer base.
"This one?" Reliquary said as there was a burst of lightning before him, and a compact military-style bow appeared, along with a number of other items.
Juan came back to look at the deposited items curiously. "They're... not copies. How did you get them?"
Reliquary chuckled again. "Your AI brother is not the only one that can find what is needed quickly and bring it to you. I have more knowledge of this planet than even Ark," it said.
Joel smiled as Juan began to kit himself out in his gear. The small pile of weapons was exchanged for his normal ones that he had been carrying. "I don't want to leave these here," he said as he looked at Reliquary. "One of these thieving Vulcans might run off with them."
The two Vulcan guards nearby raised their eyebrows at the impishly grinning Juan.
Juan asked the Voth AI, "Can you take these back to their proper places, and also let Daileass know why things are appearing and disappearing?"
Another flash of lightning answered the Klingon, then Reliquary disappeared.
"Take that as an affirmative," Kevin giggled.
Looping an arm around Kevin's waist, Joel asked them all, "Ready?"
"Yeah..." Timmy said slowly, eyeing the darkened spiral staircase before them that headed down into the dark. "Are you sure Red'll work down there? He's not as sure of this..."
"He's bonded to you, munchkin," JJ said softly, "so he'll be fine."
Nine turned to the doorway and engaged an item on his toolarm. A beam of light splayed out so that they could see clearly.
"Let's go meet the locals," Joel said softly, his mist-eyes glowing briefly.
They trooped forward and down the huge stairs. The great door closed behind them.
Into darkness they now went...
"How is the Plan progressing?"
"Well. So far ahead of schedule that we can now move."
"When will you start?"
"At dawn's first light. The fleets are moving and will arrive shortly thereafter, but won't intervene unless things go wrong."
"Do you expect them to?"
"With so much at stake and so much to gain or lose, anything is expected."
"But we will win."
"But we will win. We can do no other with the Help on our side. We want the technology on this misbegotten world, we want the end of this Federation. They want the planet and could not care about ours."
"They will betray us. Joseph foresaw it."
"But he did not foresee the price we paid. We are more than we once were. Power from an age long lost to these humans. And there is none, now, left to defend them."
"There is the Starfleet... and those newcomers from the other side of the quadrant. Others as well. We do not know how they will react."
"Starfleet is outmatched and out of position. If things go well we will not even show our hand. If poorly, the two hundred of us that paid the blood-cost will be more than capable. This world is doomed. They just don't know it yet."
What is this thing that most are so good at, yet from which very little good comes?
The Binding is not complete, and so they come. The Ban is still unfixed, and so they come. The War of Pawns never ended, for they still come.
All that once was, and all that now is, and all that ever will or could be rides on this moment; for if we fail so too will fail the one you call the Shaper. What will be an end for us will be an end for all. The hand of the Sixth will descend. The Destroyer awakes and sends his 'children' as his herald.
Release us, Winglord. Empower us, Kla Vol. Be born at last, Seventh and Most Beloved.
It begins again where it began long ago. In Avalon, the Seat of the First, the Second and birthplace of the Third. In the Heart of the Last Empire will the hammer blow fall hardest. It begins and ends now...
But is this the end, or the beginning of the end... or, dare we hope, the end of the beginning?
Sergeant Phillips ducked another Romulan disruptor blast by throwing himself behind a wall. His mind rang with fear as a weight from around him pressed in. All his troops were either scattered or dead. And the sky... dark purple. A shield over all of London that prevented all communication with the outside world.
The fear grew as a white light appeared just above Westminster. The soldier looked over the wall carefully at it. Those Romulans, and the traitors with them, all turned expectantly toward this light.
Then something that tore through the Sergeants mind appeared. There, plain as day... a Dragon. No, not one. Many.
If he had had to guess, over a hundred of them. He had never heard of aliens like this. But what was immediately worse was the utter terror that filled his heart and mind. Unthinking, he threw himself to the floor, crying out in horror.
The world was doomed. All will fall. The Federation could not help. In orbit, the fleet battled for their lives against the Star Empire.
And now on Earth, legends had been born.
"Die, Celoi... children of men... Die! We have returned, and your protectors are not here for you this time!" roared the largest of the Dragons over Westminster.
Sergeant Phillips felt all will to fight flow out of him... but suddenly, as if a candle had lit in the darkness, hope bloomed in his heart.
"Think again, Aldunu!"
Over the Palace of the Queen-Empress a lightning storm appeared, and multitudes of strikes hit before the gate. Where each hit struck there appeared a being in shining armour. In the front of the huge group that had come out of the storm, Seven strode forward.
The middle one, the one in a Golden Crown and Armour who was carrying a lightning shaped spear, turned his face up to the largest of the white dragons. "As once I said; I will see you burn for what you did to my people... I, Lord of the Avalon and Father of the Celoi, have sworn it!"
The great white dragon, Aldunu, turned his head to look at the new arrivals and hissed a curse, "Taranis..."
The purple dome above the city seemed to shatter... and hundreds more Dragons appeared, each with fire in their eyes... and all of them red in stark contrast to the white with Aldunu. With them came the feeling of hope and courage and fortitude in the face of this terror.
"We bring the lightning," Taranis cried out, "and the Vol'Kier the thunder!"
The final act of the Battle of Earth had begun...
Ah, yes, it has come; the Battle of Earth!
Now where did I put the number for the Cliffhanger Police? I know I had it here, somewhere. Was it "1-800-Puppies"? No there is something wrong with that one.
Well, it looks to me as if Joel and his friends have their work cut out for them.
I have this terrible feeling hanging over my head. It looks like a sword. Let's just keep our fingers crossed, and say a few prayers, just to be safe.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher