CSV-DSM Part 1

Chapter Four: Furry Follies

Excerpt from previous chapter:

Ted had a small smile on his face as he interjected his observations. "I'm starting to see why you guys are so successful where standard methods fail. Just out of curiosity, how long until you bring this to trial?"

Kyle looked Ted straight in the eyes. "The trial is done; I estimate sentence in thirty seconds."

"Holy crap!" Ted exclaimed under his breath....

Back in Des Moines, a few minutes later....

Cory looked over at Julio. He could tell by the expression on his face that not knowing what was going on was starting to make Julio angry. Cory quickly went over to Julio's side and started massaging his shoulders. "You haven't had the crash course in temporal mechanics that I've had." Cory said softly. "You need to trust me; this time you need to wait to find out what is happening. If we tell you right now, things will be a lot different than if you find out when you're supposed to from the people that you're supposed to find out from."

"You sure?" Julio asked warily.

Cory nodded. "I've been taking lessons from my eight-million-year-old little brother; some things just have to wait for the right time to be revealed."

"Eight million... you're weird, Cory!" Julio commented as he shook his head. "Do you even remember what 'normal' is like?"

"Nope!" Cory replied with a grin. "That part of my history is still blocked!"

Julio looked over his shoulder and rolled his eyes. "You're still as weird as ever, Cor."

"Yep!" Cory giggled as he returned to his seat, satisfied that Julio had calmed down enough to continue.

Ted had been watching the two boys, and had a big smile as he asked Cory, "Do you think I could send my staff over for management training from you? You guys could teach them a few thousand things about how to resolve issues!"

"That's why we don't let adults resolve our issues; most of them don't think about the other person," Cory replied as he settled in.

Ted nodded. "Unfortunately, you're right. Getting back to the reason I stopped by, do you guys have any plans for later this evening?"

"Nothing too important; cuddle time don't start until about 10," Cory replied.

Ted grinned. "I wasn't born yesterday; the day you guys cuddle by the clock is the day the world ends. What would you say to all of you coming over to the Capital Complex for a special guided tour? That includes you and your Division, Julio. I've already cleared it with your parents; now that you're a Division Head, that means I can take you into a few areas you've never seen before."

Sean tilted his head. "You make it sound like Julio's been there a lot."

"He has," Ted replied. "His Dad and I are cousins. You should have heard the earful that I got after you guys ran off, just as the Vulcan technicians were arriving to install the new terminal."

"They called you too?" Cory asked, trying to suppress a giggle.

"Yes; right after they finished telling me how proud they were of Julio, they both spent the next twenty minutes plotting revenge on you for not warning them, Cory."

Johnny giggled from where he had been sitting back and watching the 'fun'. "You're in trroouuubbblllleeeee! Daddy can be eeevvvviiiiillllllll!"

"He hasn't beat me yet!" Cory giggled. "That sounds like a plan, Ted. Why is it I get the feeling you have something up your sleeve?"

"Let's just say my arm was lonely," Ted responded with a laugh.

The rest of the occupants of the table groaned in agony at Ted's play on words. "Now I see why someone else writes your speeches!" Kyle quipped.

"You have NOOOOO idea...!" Julio added, sticking his tongue out at Ted in defiance.

"Just remember, Julio; I know where your Mom hid your baby pictures," Ted replied with a chuckle. "I'm sure Jesse would be quite interested in them."

"Hey! That's playing dirty!" Julio exclaimed as he started blushing.

"What do you expect? I'm a politician!" Ted laughed. "I'll coordinate timing with Teri, Cory. That way your visit does not affect any plans she may have."

"Thanks, Ted," Cory replied. "Since we missed out on our pizza night last night, Mom's ordering in some for lunch. You wanna join us?"

"Thanks for the offer, but I need to get back to the Statehouse," Ted said with a smile. "I have a few papers that need to be signed."

"Chicken!" Julio giggled. "Just because I bit your fingers one time when you tried to take a piece I wanted...."

"Guilty... I almost needed stitches!" Ted laughed as he stood up. "Watch him, Cory... I think he files his teeth before bed at night!"

"He does not! He does spend a half hour making sure his penis is really clean in the shower, though," Jesse said with a straight face.

"Oh my God!" Julio exclaimed as every drop of blood in his body moved to his face. He quickly sank into his seat, trying to hide behind the edge of the table.

"I'll remember that!" Ted chuckled as he moved towards the Rec room. "No wonder your Dad was looking for a hundred-gallon water heater...."

Cory shook his head. "Thanks, Ted!" he replied before looking over to find Jesse giving Julio pre-emptive mouth-to-mouth. "Do you two need to borrow my bedroom?" Cory asked with a giggle.

"Yes Sir; thank you," Jesse replied as he broke contact and quickly pulled Julio out of his chair. As he began dragging Julio towards the stairs, Jesse added "We'll be back in a little bit!"

Sean giggled, "Take your time... Julio's already on a slow simmer there!"

Cory was about to respond when Ark spoke over his subvocal. <Cory, despite the standing orders about you being on vacation, I have intercepted a communication from Timmy's grandfather that you need to be aware of.>

Cory tilted his head. "Is there a problem, Ark?"

<No, Cory. The Ambassador has just arrived in Earth orbit, and I was able to intercept a communication between him and Admiral Morrow inquiring as to your location. It appears that the Ambassador wants to personally make sure that you are healthy; I believe I have learned a few swear words not ever used on this planet when the Admiral told him that you were not available.>

Cory couldn't help but laugh. "Yes, he's extremely multilingual. Could you please extend my welcome to him, and inform everyone that he's family and I expect to see him as soon as possible?"

<I expected you to say that. Daileass has agreed to communicate with them in exchange for a vocabulary update containing the words I have learned.>

"I know nothing!" Cory laughed. "I'll warn Mom that he's coming; could you please arrange appropriate transportation for a family member of a Founder Council Member as soon as possible?"

<Yes, Cory. I believe he has just about reached the lineage of the Admiral's oldest known ancestor. Once he pauses to catch his breath, I will have Daileass make arrangements.>

"Thanks, Ark!" Cory replied with a grin. He then turned to the rest of the room. "C'mon, guys, Timmy's grandpa is gonna be here pretty soon. Let's warn Mom, then we need to get cleaned up and get the two horndogs to settle." He then walked over to Kyle. "C'mon, lil bro; let Ty do what you guys do best. Timmy says Grandpa gives great shoulder rides; you feel up to giving a second opinion?"

Kyle looked up at Cory with a grin. "I guess since the 'Shoulder Elf' isn't here, I better handle his job for him. Ty's got things all handled; we all need to make a stop before we go to see Ted."

"Sounds good... let's go warn Mom that we'll have company soon," Cory replied as he knelt in front of Kyle. "Horse-back ride??"

"Yeah!" Kyle exclaimed as he scrambled to climb onto Cory's back. "Giddy-up, Cory!"

"I thought that was Sean's line, lil bro!" JJ laughed as he ran past the pair, Sean quickly taking chase after him.

The remaining boys worked their way into the Rec Room, Johnny having decided to get a kitty-back ride to 'keep from getting worn out'.

Teri had just finished making the arrangements for the night with Ted when they all showed up, a soaked JJ following the rest in. "Where's Mikey and Candy?" Adam asked as he noticed they were missing.

"They went up to his room to have a talk," Teri replied.

"Yeah, I bet Mikey just wants to see if Saints can still play around!" Sean chuckled as he joined them.

"I heard that!" Mikey yelled from upstairs. "Unlike you, Sean, I DO have SOME control!"

"Since when?" Cory, Sean and Teri all replied in unison.

"Buuusstteeeddd, Mikey!" Kyle giggled from his perch.

"You can all bite me!" Mikey yelled back with a laugh.

"Ewww... Angel Feathers!" Kyle giggled, barely managing to hold on to Cory's back.

Ted laughed as he headed towards the door. "I'll see you guys tonight. Try not to overthrow any more Governments between now and then, okay?"

"Who, us?" the boys all chimed innocently, halos appearing above their heads.

"I'm not saying a word!" Ted laughed as he turned the corner.

"That's okay; you're still my angels," Teri chuckled. "Are you guys about ready for pizza? You haven't had a snack in at least an hour."

"Yeah, you tryin' to starve us, Mom?" Sean asked with a grin as he took his new-found nephew from Teri and began cuddling him. "Don't worry, Patty, I won't let your Grandma starve you," he added as he quickly moved out of swatting range.

"Hold out your hand, Sean," Kyle giggled. Sean did as asked, and a second later a bottle appeared in it. "Patty's hungry," Kyle stated with a smile.

Sean sat on the loveseat and, after some quick mental training from Kyle, began feeding Patty.

Cory looked over at Sean with a smile. "Too bad we can't have kids; that looks so sweet."

"Don't let Elf hear ya say that, Cor!" Kyle giggled. "We ain't got any Maternity Patriarch Cloaks!"

"Why would it just be Cory having to say it?" JJ mused. "If I say that Cory and Sean'd make a good pair of natural daddies around Elf, would that trigger an Event?... mmmm, interesting..."

"You do and Adam loses his favorite toy!" Sean and Cory chorused, causing everyone else in the room to break into laughter.

"What are you punishing ME for?" Adam protested once he'd finished laughing.

"Not keeping your pet on his leash!" Cory shot back with a grin.

"Well, if you DO do what you threatened to do, I'll just get Joel to make it triplets. Each!" Adam grinned evilly.

"You guys are gonna really be lost if you're both castrated!" Sean responded.

"At least our dicks won't be the width of an elephant's trunk after having triplets," JJ murmured with a giggle.

"That's not much different than it is now..." Cory giggled.

"DAMN! Sean, I feel for you. REALLY!" Adam winced.

"Must be why I heard Sean practicing his caber tossing yesterday," Kyle said sweetly, another halo appearing over his head.

"Okay you guys, you're killing me!" Teri interrupted, holding her sides from laughing so hard.

Julio looked over at Jesse as they entered the room. "You ever get the feeling you're the only sane one in the group?"

"Yeah, and I'm really worried about you!" Jesse responded with a grin.

"Ahhh, Cory and Sean's horn-dog trainees have returned!" JJ quipped.

"You're just jealous that you can't keep up," Jesse shot back.

"He has no problems in that area..." Adam mumbled, causing JJ to break into a bright red blush.

Teri shook her head in wonder. "Guys, if you don't find another topic soon, I'm going to start discussing some of MY escapades in bed!" she announced with a gleam in her eyes.

Sean's face went white. "So, extra pepperoni on the pizza, guys?"

"I wonder if it's raining in Orlando?" Kyle mused out loud.

"No, but it's not very sunny there," Mikey said softly, then coughed and went over to tickle his baby boy's ribs gently.

Adam shrugged. "Sunny here though. When was the last time we had a pickup game of soccer?"

"I wonder if Mom and Dad have decided not to kill me yet for the surprises?" Julio said at the same time.

"I can make pizzas instead of us ordering them if you want!" Jesse added helpfully.

"I wonder what Grandpa O'Neal is going to want on his pizza when he gets here?" Cory asked, causing Teri and Mikey to both spin to look at him in shock.

"Just when did Timmy's grandfather decide he was going to be visiting, and why didn't I know about it?" Teri asked just as soon as she was able to bring her emotions back under control.

Mikey, however, let his eyes go blank for a moment before sighing slightly.

Cory just grinned at his mother. "Ark just sent the message. Admiral Morrow is talking to him right now, then he's coming in for a visit," he answered as he stood to go to his jacket where his communicator badge was. As he searched for it he found a folded piece of paper in one of the pockets. "What's this?"

He opened it up and read it slowly before tears started from his eyes. "Oh, Elf," he whispered, his voice getting thick.

Sean looked up from where he was feeding Patty and asked, "What is it, Hon?"

"Joel... he wrote... he... you read it," Cory answered tearfully as he walked over and handed the piece of paper to Sean.

Sean took it and read it out loud, and by the time he had finished, he was also in tears:

What is Love?

What is this that I now feel,

Held close in gentle arms?

No pain, no fear;

'Cos they are near;

No strike from hateful palms?

To hear true words of comfort

That let me know my place;

To sense concern,

And compassion;

Joy when they see my face?

My heart once hard from beatings,

My heart once dead through grief,

I now must walk;

That longest road;

That helps me find true peace.

My Brothers now forever,

And when push comes to shove,

They'll guard my back,

And light my way;

While I learn... "What is love?"...


By Joel Short

Date - 27th October

For my Big Brothers, Cor and Sean.

Kai gently took the paper from Sean. "I will put this up, Bruv; with the little bit I have known Joel I already would give my life to protect him, especially after hearing this."

Kyle wiped at his own tear-filled eyes and then held out his hand. A frame appeared and he handed it to Kai. Also, the paper Kai held suddenly smoothed out so that the folds vanished. "There. That'll keep it safe forever," Kyle whispered thickly.

Fifteen minutes later:

The kids spread out across the front yard, their plan of attack finalized for when the pizza delivery arrived. As each of them reached their assigned position, they took a seat, trying to look relaxed. Teri had wisely prepaid for the delivery, so all that was left was 'helping' the delivery boy bring in the food.

Just as Casey got into position, Tyler appeared with his group, including Julio's parents. Within microseconds, Kyle ensured the returning boys knew the plan and were assigned positions. Tyler grinned as he looked up at Mick. "Watch this!" he giggled as the new arrivals quickly deployed.

They got into position just in time, as the sound of an approaching go-cart heralded the arrival of lunch. As the cart and trailer skidded to a stop in front of the house, the assembled mob in the front yard sprung into action. Casey and Tina scrambled into the back of the trailer, immediately locating the pile marked 'Short'. As Casey yelled out the toppings on each pizza, the intended recipient claimed it, instantly being transported to the Dining Room by Kyle as soon as their treasure was in their hands. Tyler handled the pizzas intended for the adults, who had decided it was safer in the house.

Once the last pizza was accounted for, Tyler popped in next to the baffled teenaged driver. "Here!" Tyler giggled as he attached a pin to the driver's uniform that read 'I survived a delivery to the Patriarch of Clan Short'. "I'll have Mom handle your tip; she can put it right into your bank account. If you wanna swing by tomorrow and hang out, we'll explain what just happened!"

"Uhh.... okay, I guess.... thanks!" the driver said as he finally started to regain a sense of reality. "This is my first day. Is it always this nuts when deliveries are made to you guys?"

"The rest of the guys here ain't this good... yet. We're training them though," Ty responded between giggles. "The manager there musta remembered Mom; he used to send all the new guys for us to break in!"

"So THAT'S why Chuck ran out of the building as soon as he heard the order being taken!" the driver responded. "I'm Jeremy; I think I'll take you up on that visit tomorrow! Catch ya later!"

"See ya tomorrow!" Ty responded as Jeremy started the cart and began to pull away. Ty turned to find Mick standing there waiting on him.

"You guys give evil a whole new meaning!" Mick chuckled as he came over and put his hand on Ty's shoulder. "I'm impressed; not a single drop of blood spilled during the operation."

Tyler giggled and stuck out his tongue at Mick. Just as he was about to add a response, two sparkling columns appeared between them and the house. Tyler tilted his head, then grinned as the forms of an adult and a child began to form. "Kewl!!! I getta meet Granpa O'Neal finally!" he exclaimed.

"Ahhhh... the Universally famous Tyler Short has deemed himself worthy to greet me!" O'Neal said with a grin as soon as the transport was complete. "I am pleased to finally meet you, Your Highness."

Mick chuckled as Tyler literally glowed with a bright blush. "I believe you might have embarrassed our Royal Cuddle Monster, Sir. I'm glad to meet you, I'm Mick Hernandez, father of the latest addition to the Clan Director's Club."

"It is an honor to meet you, Mick; I believe your sense of humor might be needed, based on the information my sources have provided me. I am Ambassador Marcus O'Neal, UFP Ambassador to eleven planets as of yesterday. My companion is Hrfraffif Nijrthin Tassfret." (Hirrf-rav-eye-v Near-thine Tashh-fright)

Tyler shyly snuck over and took up residence under Marcus' arm as Mick turned his attention to the youngster who had arrived with Marcus. Mick quickly took in the child in front of him. The child appeared to be about seven years old, with an orange-tinted semi-transparent coat of fine hair about one-quarter inch long covering his entire body. On the top of his head, a single strip of orange-blond hair about four inches long stuck up in a 'v' shape, running in a stripe towards his back. Once it reached the area just below his shoulder blades, it became a pony tail that ended at the small of his back. Mick made eye contact with the boy, and despite the fact he was not human, his orange eyes clearly showed a recent loss that was affecting him still. "Hello, Hrfraffif, welcome to Earth." Mick said softly.

Hrfraffif gave Mick a small smile. "Thank you, Mick. You can call me Fife; we don't use our formal names unless it's something important happening."

"Okay, Fife it is!" Mick replied. "If I know my favorite pack of rats as well as I think I do, all four of us have food waiting for us inside. Tyler, do you think that you can interrupt your cuddles long enough to escort us in?"

"Nope!" Ty giggled as all four found themselves standing in the dining room.

Mick shook his head. "You know, one of these days you're gonna scare someone doing that."

"I warned everyone else, even Fife! I just owed you for the Royal Cuddle Monster comment!" Ty shot back with a grin.

"You do realize this means war, don't you, Prince Rat?" Mick said with a laugh.

"Bring it on, Ancient One!" Tyler giggled as he came over and took Fife's hand. "C'mon, Fife; we ordered a special pizza for ya! Admiral Morrow called Mom and told her what you could eat."

"Hey, Dad, your Geritol pizza is over there!" Julio added between bites of the slices of pizza he had in both hands.

"Hey, Cory; how do you deal with smart-aleck Division Heads around here?" Mick asked as he spotted Cory across the table from where he was standing.

"Easy; I promote them to Sub-Patriarch!" Cory giggled. "I usually wait at least two days after making them division heads... so you just gotta suffer, Mick."

"You might as well give up while you can, Mick!" Teri said as she motioned for Mick to join her, Janice and Bruce at the kitchen counter. "The safe zone is over here."

As Mick quickly made his way to safety, Marcus made his way to where Cory and Sean were seated. He smiled as he saw that Fife had been placed next to Cory, and the little alien was now completely absorbed in his vegetarian pizza.

As he stopped behind them, Marcus tapped on both Cory and Sean's shoulders. "Stand up, Grandsons." Marcus said in a tone that gave no room for argument.

Cory and Sean both quickly swallowed their most recent bites of pizza and complied. They had learned quickly that Marcus was not one to be trifled with when they had met with him on Rigel; yet once he considered you family it was forever. Marcus took the tricorder that he had hanging on his belt and quickly scanned both boys, then put it away and physically looked at and felt the injuries that Cory had received. "This is totally unacceptable. Timothy has lost one father to the crackpots of the universe; I will not stand for him to suffer another loss. Once we have finished eating, I have a matter to discuss with you, Cory. Once I depart Earth, I shall call in a few favors which have been outstanding for a long time. It is time for the Universe to start taking the offensive. Now, I believe I am overdue for hugs from the two of you; I intend to collect that debt immediately."

The two boys grinned, knowing that behind the harsh comments, Marcus was telling them to stop worrying and let him handle some of the details. They quickly gave him a double-hug, both whispering 'Thanks, Grandpa' before breaking it and returning to their seats.

Marcus smiled and ruffled both boys' hair before taking the seat reserved for him on the other side of Fife. "I see you have already adopted the eating habits of your new family, Fife; it has been a whole hour since you last ate!"

"But I'm hungry, Grandfather!" Fife giggled.

Cory looked over at Marcus, and immediately grew worried when he saw the gleam in his 'grandfather's' eyes. "You from Tesnia, Fife?" Cory asked, figuring a change in subject might be a good idea.

"Yes; how did you know?" Fife replied between bites.

"I gotta know most of the 'local' species from the Federation, and since Tesnians visit Earth a lot, it makes you guys one of the races I make sure I know about." Cory replied. "When did you have your last Boron breather?"

Cory's question made Fife pause in the destruction of his pizza to smile at Cory. As a courtesy to the people that they were visiting, Tesnians generally tried to get their six-hour dosages of the Boron/Nitrogen gas mixture that allowed them to remain healthy while breathing Earth's atmosphere in private. As such, their requirement was not general knowledge to most people on Earth. Cory's concern showed that he actually made sure he knew important details when he did his research. "Grandpa made me have it before we came down, I don't need another one until just before bedtime."

Marcus smiled at Cory's concern. He tickled the back of Fife's neck, causing the small boy to make a noise similar to that of a purr as he said, "Normally, he'd need to have the full dose at once; as the delivery system designed by the then Commander Trip Tucker, Sub-Commander T'Pol, and Doctor Phlox could not be stopped and started with ease. We've come up with a more advanced one now that allows him to take a few hours worth in the morning, then more midday, then the last before bed. It is also as unobtrusive as we can get it, so he can even run and play, or eat and drink while using it."

Fife, still 'almost purring', reached into the bag he had been carrying and pulled out a small gas canister with a tube attachment. "Watch, Cory," he smiled as he slipped the canister into what Cory recognized as a fanny pack, then placed the tube to run up his back. The top end of the tube was then split to loop over each of his little ears and ended with two fixture he plugged into each nostril. "It lets your air in as well, and then my boron air is mixed as I breathe! It's so...." The next word he said had no literal translation, so it came out as a purr-growl.

Bast's giggles from next to Sean got everyone's attention. "What's so funny, Bast?" Sean asked.

Bast held his sides as he choked out a response. "I don't know what that means in his language, but in Lion it means there is about to be a mess in his pants!"

"Is he picking on me?" Fife asked Cory softly.

"No," Cory giggled as Bast purred at his own joke. "He's kidding."

"Oh," Fife giggled, then he pulled a face and looked with 'shock' at Bast. "Grandpa! He's swearing! He's saying LOTS of bad words!"

Mont fell over laughing at the look that came to Bast's face. "Your joke backfired on you, bro!"

Fife giggled, then looked over at Marcus. "I like it here. Can I, Grandpa?"

Marcus nodded, and smiled as the entire group stopped eating to see what their little visitor would do next. Fife grinned as he stood up and slowly walked around the table, his little boy sized nose twitching as he walked by each person. After his first pass, he smiled and made a second pass, as if making sure of something.

"Have you decided?" Marcus asked as Fife came to a stop beside him.

Fife nodded with a smile. "I think you were right, Grandpa."

After a minute of looking around the table, as if he was making real sure, Fife softly spoke. "The furry guys, Mont and Bast, smell like big brothers; I like them. Tyler helped me place names to all of these faces. Julio and Jesse smell like they're going to be daddies soon. JJ and Adam smell like they're trying to be daddies again really hard but it hasn't worked yet."

Fife had to pause as the entire room broke into laughter, all except Adam and JJ who tried to make themselves as small as possible in their chairs. Once things calmed back down, Fife continued.

"Kyle and Tyler smell like Champions; I think Earth calls them Kings. Only a Champion bloodline can be a Champion. Kai, Johnny, and Eddie all have an 'Overseer' scent, I think the British call them 'Lords' in their government."

Fife paused again, his nervousness apparent in the quivering fur covering his body. As Fife's nose twitched again and again, Marcus took his hand to give him emotional support. After a minute to gain his courage, Fife let go of Marcus' hand and moved between Sean and Cory. "You smell different." he said slowly, trying to pick words that all would understand. "I think I smell Champion, but it's not like any Champion scent I've ever heard of. There is a whole mixture of scents I can't figure out. There is one really strong one that I know, but I don't know how you can have it. You both have the scent of my Father. By Tesnian law that makes you family. My family that lived on Tesnia was killed by some pirates while we were on our way back from a vacation in California here on Earth. Will you accept me as your son?"

Cory and Sean exchanged a quick glance as they mentally discussed the information they had just heard. After a few seconds, Cory looked Fife in the eyes. "We accept you as our son; not because the law of your land requires it, but because we desire it."

Fife smiled and whispered "Thank you". Before anyone else could figure out how it happened, Sean and Cory executed a complex maneuver which resulted in both of them in one chair with Fife sitting across their laps. As the four teen arms surrounded the young Tesnian, Fife leaned into Cory's chest and quietly began to release the mourning that he had been holding inside.

Once Fife had stopped crying, he started to do something unusual. Cory, being the oldest, was the first one who experienced it, and it was only Grandpa O'Neal's slight nod of his head that made Cory remain quiet while Fife did it.

First, he settled himself fully onto Cory's lap chest to chest. Then he buried his nose directly under Cory's chin, right against his Adam's Apple. After a few sniffs, Fife moved his nose about until it was near to Cory's left ear, yet still on the neck. Then he started to inhale slowly and deeply.

At O'Neal's visual instructions, Cory start rubbing the fur on Fife's bare back against the grain. He used moderate force so that the smaller boy's back was being firmly massaged.

After a few minutes had passed, Fife raised his left wrist and held it an inch from Cory's nose, still sniffing at Cory's neck.

While this was happening, the whole room was silent as a grave. Even Kyle and Tyler were watching with interest and yet without true comprehension. Only Mikey and O'Neal showed any form of true understanding.

Cory darted his eyes to O'Neal, for Fife was simply holding his wrist at his nose - nothing more. O'Neal made another motion, and so Cory leaned his face forwards enough so that his own nose was touching the small alien's wrist and he too started to inhale - just as slowly and deeply as Fife was doing to his neck.

Less than ten seconds later, Cory's less able nose detected a musky, relaxing and fairly pleasant smell coming from Fife's wrist. Now Cory understood, and although he wouldn't be able to 'scent' his newest son in the same way Fife would him, he realized that this was how children on Tesnia bonded with their parents.

After another minute, Fife stopped what he was doing and lifted his head to press his face nose to nose with Cory. "Dad," he whispered before kissing him gently. "Your scent is in me, and mine in you. I am your little one, and you my father."

"Son," Cory whispered back. "Your scent is in me, and mine in you. I am your father, and you are my little one."

Sean's eyes were running tears. In fact, everyone there had tears flowing.

Fife sniffed happily and purred a few times before shuffling over to sit fully on Sean's lap, chest to chest.

And the process began again.

All in all, each person there went through this with Fife.

An hour later, Fife had his family.


"Dad?" Fife looked up at Cory while Sean was helping Teri with the washing up.


"Can I ask you something that might be personal?"

"Sure, Fife. Questions are not bad. If I don't think I should tell you, then I'll be honest - I'll never lie, though," Cory assured him.

Fife nodded and then paused to collect his thoughts. "You know I said you smelled like Champions, and the other have their own smells?"

Cory nodded, "Uh huh, yeah."

"Well. There was one other scent I was picking up from a few of you. Not Johnny and Eddie, and really small from Julio and Jesse, but it was there with the others. You, Pop and Grandmother have it strong, though."

"Go on," Cory prompted gently as Fife seemed to run out of steam.

Fife took a deep breath, "I smelt a Vulcan smell, but while it was a Champion as well, it was also the smell of a Rescuer."

"If it's Vulcan, then it could either be my little brother, Joel, or our dad, Spock," Cory smiled. "It's more likely them than the other Vulcans as we've spent a lot more time with them. Joel's your uncle."

Fife nodded, then a tear trickled from his eye.

"What's wrong?" Cory asked gently.

"You don't know what a Rescuer is, do you," Fife stated.

Cory half shrugged, "I'd guess it's someone who saves people."

"Yeah, but... a Rescuer is someone who saves a village from a Jhrir.... a Jhrir Traafeen. There's only one way to save them and it's to fight the Jhrir... a fight that will last long enough for the children and some of the adults to run away... but... the Rescuer is going to die. Your brother... Joel... or your dad, Grandfather Spock, smells like a Rescuer, Daddy... I'm sorry..." Fife finished with a small sob.

"Shhh," Cory soothed gently. "Dad - Grandpa Spock - has been rescuing people for a long time, so that must be it. He died too, once."

Fife's eyes opened wide. "Then how...?"

"He came back. Vulcans can store their spirits in another person, and Dad's body regenerated, so the Vulcans put his spirit, his Katra, back into his body."

Fife visibly relaxed, "That must be it, then. That must be what I'm smelling."

"Yeah," Cory smiled - hoping against hope that it was only Spock that smelled like a Rescuer....

Marcus couldn't help but smile as he watched the group settling in to hear the announcement from him. Fife had decided that his Uncle Kai was due for cuddles, so he was sitting on Kai's lap while holding his Uncle Patty. Patty was happy with the arrangement, softly cooing as he rubbed his face in Fife's soft down. Mick and Janice had found themselves buried as their boys jostled for places on their laps, while Bruce was happily holding his two munchkins as they settled in with him. The loveseat ended up being the same mess that Marcus had seen when he last saw Cory and Sean; the two of them were almost buried in family as JJ, Adam, Mont, Bast, Kyle, and Tyler took up 'protective' seating around and on top of them. Julie, Teri, Mikey and Candy had all chosen seats well separated from the mob, placing their own safety first.

"Now that everyone is comfortable," Marcus announced, "I require the presence of Patriarch Cory Short up here with me. No arguments about being on vacation either, Cory; this is one matter which requires your personal seal and it can not be delegated. Director Short, please join us as well as a Federation witness."

Cory wiggled out of the pile, managing to reach Marcus' side just as Teri weaved her way through the room and joined them. Marcus motioned for them to both take a seat, then began.

"With the acceptance of Fife into the Family Short, I have been authorized by the Rfffafrapr Rfffafniaffijss (Elder Champion, pronounced Irrf-ey-af-ireh-rih Irrf-ey-af-nee-eh-ey-ea-shh) of Tesnia to commence negotiations on his behalf to enter into a binding treaty with Clan Short to provide a resolution to a societal issue which Clan Short is uniquely qualified to assist the Tesnian Governmental offices with. The Tesnian government has reviewed the Federation Safe Haven Act, and has determined that, despite the Tesnian status of being an independent system within Federation space, it is in their best interest to provide for their citizens as specified in the Act as written. As such, in accordance with Section 7.4 inclusive, if Family Clan Short accepts this treaty they have authorized me to deliver in-kind contributions in excess of the required .075% of their system GNP. The Tesnian cultural system has a historical practice which is in conflict with Federation cultural standards. There is a class in the culture known as Hralfffijss; (H-reah-elf-ey-ea-shh) it means 'Less than Family' but it more directly translates to 'Underclass'. The Underclass is made up of orphans without any family. By custom stretching back beyond memory, once Underclass it is possible after the second or third generation to become a citizen again by proving their worth to society. Until that time, the Underclass have no voice or voting rights on city or planetary matters, and they are not eligible for any type of space-related work. They are still taken care of, and are productive in the areas they are allowed to work in."

Marcus paused, looking at Cory and Teri. He wasn't sure which one was more displeased, or more accurately which one was closer to exploding. "The government and citizens of Tesnia recognize that this is unacceptable, but due to the structure of their society as a whole, it would cause a societal collapse if they were to just outright outlaw the practice. By utilizing Family Clan Short, they believe the natural attrition of the Underclass with no new orphans coming in to replace those who have reached Elder stage will give their society a chance to adjust to life without an Underclass."

Cory glanced over at Fife, happily cuddling Patty. His eyes turned dark as he stood up and turned towards Marcus. "I have heard more than enough, Ambassador. Do you have a copy of the proposed treaty?" Cory growled.

"Let Ambassador Marcus finish, Cory." Teri said gently, hoping that it wasn't too late to rein in Cory's temper.

"He was finished when he said 'Orphan', Mom." Cory stated as he took the Padd from Marcus. "My newest son almost became one of them; this shit ain't gonna continue." He quickly scanned over the proposed treaty. "Okay... a Skywalker-class science vessel; I'll accept that as in-kind since they just rolled out the second one. All Tesnian adolescent and younger are to immediately be transferred to us after loss of their last family member... good, I don't have to argue that with them." Cory quickly scrolled to the bottom of the document, and nodded before returning to where he was in the middle. "Good; an addendum giving citizen status to any adult that grows up in Clan Short." He quickly finished, then spun and locked eyes with Kyle. "Kyle, I need my robes... now." He turned back to Marcus, his clothes changing to his Clan robe as he spun. "Ambassador, there is one section which I find unacceptable that we must resolve with the Eldest directly." Cory stated, now in full Vulcan mode. "Kyle will arrange a conference on our terminal, may I presume your assistance in convincing the Eldest that he must follow my timetable?"

Marcus nodded. While he had seen glimpses of this side of Cory in their earlier meetings, seeing Cory in full Patriarch mode for the first time was unnerving for even him. He suddenly realized why Admiral Morrow had warned him about crossing the Clan; the sweet, fun Cory that he loved could easily turn into a terror that would make a Klingon tremble in fear if Cory were crossed.

Marcus followed Cory and Teri over to the terminal. As soon as he saw the security and priority settings that Kyle had initialized the session with, his jaw hit the floor. He had only seen higher levels once before, and that was a direct communication from the Vulcan High Council. For the first time in many years, he was in unfamiliar territory; this treaty seemed to be taking on a life which could change things universe-wide.

"Ready to initiate connection on your request, Ambassador." Kyle stated flatly, obviously also deciding to use his Vulcan training in this situation.

Marcus nodded. "Proceed." he replied as he moved into position. Immediately, the screen came to life; a few seconds later an impressive Tesnian adult came on the screen. "Greetings, Ambassador Marcus. Do you have word on the treaty deliberations?" the Tesnian said in his native language.

"Greetings, Eldest. I hope to have word at the end of this communication." Marcus replied in Tesnian. "I must introduce my companions. This lovely 'Family Female' behind me is Director Teri Short, Federation Youth Services. The young man who is assisting with this call is 'Champion' Kyle Richardson. My last companion is 'Eldest Champion' Patriarch Cory Short, Patriarch of Family Clan Short. With your permission, I would like to allow Patriarch Cory to express his concern to you directly."

"By your titles, it is proper that we discuss this directly as we are equals. May I ask how you determined the status of Champion that you mentioned, Ambassador?"

Marcus smiled as he replied. "The adolescent Fife has verified bloodline on every person present in this room, Eldest."

"I know his chosen specialty, as I had to approve it personally. As he has declared them Champions, so shall it be entered in our genetic database. Shall we switch to Federation Standard to begin?"

"There will be no need of that, Eldest. I have full knowledge of your language." Cory replied, his mind having just completed the language dump of Tesnian that Kyle took after getting Fife's approval. "My Intelligence division has assured me that all who need to hear this deliberation will understand it."

"Many thanks, Patriarch," the Eldest replied. "My command of Federation Standard is somewhat incomplete. May I ask what your concern is?"

Cory nodded. "You have proposed that the egress of orphans be spread across a three Federation year period. May I ask why you have suggested such an extended period?"

"I suggested it myself as I know of no organization able to handle over ten thousand orphans at once. Not without putting them in worse conditions than they are in now." the Eldest replied.

"Starfleet does, and I have resources that they don't," Cory stated with conviction. "The treaty needs to be revised to allow for evacuation as fast as I can arrange proper transport."

"There goes all of those favors the Admiral owes me!" Marcus chuckled. "He is correct, Eldest. I shall begin assisting with arrangements once I visit my Grandson in Orlando, if this is approved."

"Eldest, I assure you that Cory is understating the resources he has available," Teri added, the mental picture of ten thousand Tesnian children in the Dream Realm bringing a small smile to her face.

The Eldest nodded. "In that case, I approve the change. The Council will be pleased; they were hoping for a way to speed up the process. Are there any other concerns, Patriarch?"

"No, with that change I accept the treaty. Kyle is in the process of placing the modified document in the system to receive the final authorization," Cory replied.

"Done," Kyle announced a few seconds later. The Eldest quickly scanned the document, and shortly after he finished the terminal signaled receipt of his stamp. Cory stepped forward, reviewed the document that bore the Eldest's seal, then affixed his own seal to it. Teri and Marcus followed suit, their stamps witnessing the treaty and making it official.

"Thank you, Eldest; I look forward to a long relationship with you and your people," Cory said as the final seal was registered in the system and Marcus forwarded a copy of the document to Federation Headquarters.

"And I am as well, Patriarch. Marcus has informed me of your engineering accomplishments; Fife has been approved to investigate genio-mechanical interfaces, so I think you will be a perfect mentor," the Eldest said proudly.

"As my bonded son, he'll be right by my side, just as my other sons are allowed to be," Cory replied, a small smile at the new information crossing his face.

"Bonded?!" the Eldest said, the 'V' shaped crest of hair on his head quivering with his amazement.

Marcus nodded seriously, fully aware of the reason for the response of the Eldest. "Yes; bonded by the standards of Tesnian society. I verified it myself with Fife when Cory was in another room; I would say that Fife was accurate despite Cory being surrounded by other people."

"What about yourself, Cory?" the Eldest asked, now being less formal as he investigated this new twist.

"Just a second, let me move Fife," Kyle stated. "Okay, Cory, try now."

Cory closed his eyes, and his nostrils expanded as he slowly inhaled. "It's really weak, but I think that Fife is behind me off to my left side." Still facing the terminal with his eyes closed, Cory pointed his arm in the general direction he thought Fife was in.

"Amazing." the Eldest said as Cory was pounced by Fife.

"You found me, Daddy!" Fife exclaimed as he gave Cory a big hug. "I need to get back to Uncle Patty though; he likes my fur!"

With that, Fife bounced off to reclaim his Uncle. The Eldest smiled at the interaction he just witnessed. "While I've heard that you have done miracles, Cory, this is something that I have never seen or heard of. I have no worries regarding our orphans after witnessing that; any person given a gift such as yours by the Maker to be able to accomplish things previously unheard of must have a Mandate which protects those under his care."

"I'm just me; and Fife's pretty special himself," Cory said as he blushed slightly.

"I am glad that you are you; our society is going to finally move forward thanks to you," the Eldest replied. "One thing I forgot to mention is that Ambassador Marcus is in possession of our required in-kind payment to Clan Short. I know for a fact that there are a good number of 'Underclass' who would love to be in the space service; enough to give you a good crew once they receive training. I will ensure that not only they, but also qualified trainers, are present on the first group out."

"How long will the trainers be available to us?" Cory asked.

"Unless you want otherwise, I will be asking for lifetime volunteers. Our culture thrives on learning and training others; if you are willing to train them on your technology that is specific to Clan Short, you will find that you have trainers who can turn out the best new crew members in independent space."

"How long is 'lifetime'?" Teri asked.

"I expect most of the volunteers to have just entered adulthood; our structure of education ensures that they get their full training as young adults so they are fully prepared to teach their chosen profession. Those people have an expected lifespan of up to one-hundred and seventy Federation years. I also expect quite a few Elders; they will be more interested in general life training of your youth, and are probably going to still have forty Federation years left in their lives."

"Good... more help for me at bedtime, then," Teri chuckled.

"Hey; we've got almost as many kids as you, Mom!" Cory said with a giggle.

"Only by name, kiddo!" Teri chuckled. "Most of the Clan considers me Mom; there are countries with smaller populations than my unofficial family tree."

"The Vatican, Australia, Russia... China..." Sean listed off, then ducked a cuff to the back of his head from Teri.

The Eldest chuckled, then said to Teri, "Go for the back of the legs... young furr-tuggers hate that!"

Cory laughed as he watched Teri take off after Sean. "You asked for it!" he yelled to his husband. He then turned back to the screen. "Once things calm down and we have the adoptions running smoothly, I would like to come visit you. It's not fair to Fife to not let him visit his home-world occasionally."

A large paw came down on the elder's shoulder. In the background Cory saw a large... well, it looked to be a large skunk, with the head of a panda. The fur was red with orange and gray mottling the body. A large double purple stripe ran from its snout to its tail. It was emitting a series of excited grunts and chirps.

Fife ran over and immediately answered the large creature with grunts and chirps of his own. He showed his Uncle Patty to the creature, who seemed quite interested in what the young Tesnian was saying.

The creature looked at Cory and began to rattle off a further series of grunts and chirps. Cory grinned and looked at Fife expectantly. It took a moment before Fife caught on, and began to translate for his new father.

"His name is Traania (Trav-nee-eh), his name means 'Walks Land'. He's a Praffedral (Pih-a-ey-eh-d-reahl) and we've known each other since long before I was furred. He likes to travel a lot; he's traveled more than anyone else in his clan." Fife explained with a grin. "I was telling him all about my new family. He says to tell you that he will tell his clan that you are now family; and when you visit, the clan will provide you some guards to make sure no 'Death Walkers' try to attack."

Cory nodded. "Death Walkers? I think you need to teach me more about Tesnia. Please tell Traania I said thank you very much and I am honored to accept his offer."

Fife grinned, happy to be able to help his new father. He quickly chirped and grunted back, getting a response almost instantly. "He says that his people would be the ones honored, being able to guard the legendary Furless Bonder."

"Legendary?" Cory asked as the rest of the room broke into giggles.

"Praffedral legend states that one day a furless one will come and bring the world into a new state of awareness. This furless one will bond as a Tesnian yet not be of Tesnian descent," Fife explained.

"Kewl! I guess that means Sean ain't the only one who thinks you're a legend!" Kyle giggled.

Cory reached over and ruffled Kyle's hair. "Smart Alec!" Cory giggled.

A series of chirps and grunts came from the terminal, followed by a chuckle from the Eldest. "I agree, Old Friend; it is good to see Humans being a true family. I believe we should give them their privacy; they have started an event which will be listed as the most significant societal change in Tesnian history since our two species joined. It is time for them to celebrate. And time for us to let our people know that the treaty has become prophecy."

Cory smiled. "Thank you for your time, Eldest."

"Thank you, Cory, for helping us and our orphans. I look forward to further communications and one day meeting you in person. Thank you and your family, and have a good day."

"You too," Cory replied just before the connection dropped.

Marcus put an arm over Cory's shoulder. "Why did you say you had a diplomatic corps? I think that you do great by yourself."

Cory giggled. "If he would have said 'no', you would have seen why I need diplomats."

"Ain't that the truth!" Kyle giggled as he joined the cuddle. "You make JJ look like a Saint!"

"Leave the Saints outta this!" Mikey exclaimed from the other side of the room.

Fifteen minutes later, in Teri's office:

Julio nervously sat at the table with Jesse pressed tightly against his side. Tyler was off to his left, and Eddie to his right. Mick and Janice were across from them, Mick silently trying to decide how he was going to break the ice. As they waited, Teri and Bruce joined the conference, Teri closing the door behind them as they entered.

After she was seated, Teri looked at the assembled group. "All of you need to relax, okay? Nothing that will be said here will end the world; the only reason that we are in here is that I believe what we are about to discuss should be kept private until everyone is on the same page. Julio, your Dad is going to have a little trouble with what he needs to say, I need your sworn promise that you will let him finish before you say anything."

"Okay, Teri," Julio replied, glad that things were finally moving. "I'll wait until Dad is done."

"You're on, Mick," Teri said softly.

Mick nodded, then took Janice's hand as he began the toughest speech of his life. "Son, before I start I want you to know that your Mom and I love you now and always have. This is a subject which brings both me and your Mom to tears whenever we think of it; that is the reason that you are just now finding out about it. You can thank your little brother for taking care of this; Eddie closed out a part of the past that haunts us to this day." Mick paused, hoping to give Julio time to absorb his statements. At Julio's nod, he continued. "At a New Years party just before you were born, an ex-friend of ours decided to pull a stunt which just landed him in a Federation Prison for what remains of his life. He slipped what is known as a 'date-rape-drug' into your Mom's drink, and then raped her. After he did it, he disappeared until recently; he was picked up on other charges and your brother brought him to trial for his past crimes with a few other women in addition to your Mom. You don't need to worry about him; I doubt he will survive long in prison. That February, we found out that your Mom was pregnant; right then I made the decision that no matter what, you would be raised as my son. You are a gift from God to us, since I am unable to father children myself. When you were born I put my name on your birth certificate to seal the promise I made when we found out about you."

Julio sat there in shock as his mind tried to process the new information. As Mick stood to come around the table to comfort him, Julio sprang to his feet and began to sprint towards the door. Mick barely caught him, pulling him into a tight hug.

"I love you, son. Forever, I love you," Mick whispered just loud enough for Julio to hear. "Go think things over; we'll be waiting for you here once you have had time to sort it all out."

Julio pulled back and locked his tear-filled eyes with Mick. While the concern and love they reflected gave Julio some comfort, it was not enough to calm the thousands of thoughts running through his head. He nodded at Mick, not trusting himself to speak, then turned and sprinted out the door and headed towards the pool area.

At the sound of doors being opened and closed quickly, Fife sat up from his cuddle with Kyle. His nose twitched slightly, then he looked over at Cory and Sean. "Dads? Julio smells like he's scared. Can I go see what is wrong? I don't smell any danger."

"Go ahead," Cory and Sean chorused, both aware of just what the problem was. Sean thought quickly, having just finished reviewing everything he could find about Fife's home planet and added a warning. "Fife, there is a pool out there, a big pond of water. It is safe, there is nothing living in it or around it."

"Thank you, Dad." Fife replied as he stood up and headed out to find Julio.

Julio's Perspective

"Rape? My mom was raped and I'm....Oh God, por que? Por que?" was all I could think as I ran out of the room and finally collapsed into a lounge chair by the pool. "Por Que?"

So many thoughts were running around in my head and I could feel the tears falling but I didn't care. Dad, no, Mick wasn't really my dad. All these years... I'd thought he was the best dad in the world but he wasn't. He isn't.

He's just someone who took pity on us...but...he said he loved me... "Ah, Dios mio, Por Que. Quiero mi padre y no puedo mas."

I don't know how long I was there, crying, curled up in a ball before I smelt something, something sweet and something I somehow knew. It was like the scent of warm Churros fresh from the cooking.

I knew who it was, but I didn't want to see anyone right now and hoped he'd just go away.

He didn't.

"What's wrong, Julio?" I heard him ask softly, and when I didn't answer him, I could feel him moving closer and asking softly, "Why can't you have your dad anymore?"

I looked up at him and he gently crawled into my lap, wrapping his arms around me tightly in a hug.

I could smell the cinnamon much more strongly now, along with other scents, all soothing for some reason as I inhaled deeply.

"You're sniffing me like a Tesnian," Fife said softly.

"Sorry, but there is just something about you that smells so good to me right now," I had to say.

"We are bonded, and family scent soothes one another," he replied.

"Family..." I whispered, looking out over the yard at nothing. "Family, it's all a big fucking joke," I finally said.

"No, it is not," the young boy said strongly as he sat up looking straight into my eyes, which had come back to him now.

"You asked what was wrong? Well, my whole life is nothing but a lie. That's what's wrong. I don't have a father and my mother... my mother lied to me my whole life."

I could see Fife shaking his head as I spoke and he responded with, "You are incorrect, Julio. I do not understand what has happened, but you do have a father, and I do not believe your mother would do that to you."

I felt myself laughing bitterly as I said, "Well, it's true. My mom was raped and my dad isn't my real dad. They lied to me all these years ,Fife, THEY LIED TO ME!" I cried as I felt the pain coming up again.

"Rape? That is the word you use for forced copulation, is it not?" Fife asked.

"Yeah, and I'm here 'cause my mom got raped," I told him.

"But your father is not the one who did this thing?" he asked.

"He's not my father, they lied to me. He just someone who took pity on the poor pregnant girl and then me," I said.

"The one who did this, he has been dealt with?" Fife asked.

"Yeah, they said he's on some prison planet where he'll die soon," I replied.

"Good, for those who would do such a thing on my world, we would banish them to the wilds to be eaten, with no one to give them aid. They die quickly and painfully as they should," Fife explained to me.

Fife gently wiggled and pushed until he was cuddled into my chest. "On my old world, things such as that are punished by banishing from society. That means death, as the offender will be eaten by a Jhrir Traafeen (Zhrir Trav-af-een) not too long after banishment, and none of the other races will step in to help him or her."

"What is a zeer ... ziher ... whatever that thing is you said?" I asked, my curiosity partially overcoming my emotional turmoil.

Fife tilted his head a little as he tried to figure out a comparison. "It's about the size of one of those big city buses I saw here; it somewhat resembles one of Earth's armadillos, except for it being big, pink, and it has a bunch of tentacles that pull you into a big black hole with teeth, and ...."

"Holy Crap!" I commented as a shudder went down his spine. "That sounds like a nightmare."

Fife nodded seriously. "Which is why we don't have Red Alert... we have Pink Alert!"

"I think I can see why.... Yeah, well, it doesn't change anything now, does it? I still don't have a dad like I thought I did, and they both lied to me all my life," I told him.

"No it does not change anything, Julio, from what it was an hour of your time measurement ago," Fife said.

"What?" I asked.

"You were just given this information, is that not correct?" Fife asked me gently.

All I could do was nod my head.

"And before you were given this information, was Mick your father, your dad?" he asked next.

I didn't, no couldn't, answer for a moment or two, but finally admitted "Yes."

"Then why is he not still your father now?" Fife asked.

"Because," I muttered.

"Because why? I do not understand. Has he not loved you all your life?" he said.

"Y..y..yes," I stuttered out.

"And have you not loved him as well?" to which I admitted yes again.

"And has this love not been the love of a father and a son?" he asked me quietly.

I didn't answer him and finally he said "It is, is it not?"

"Yes, but it's different now," I finally got out.

"How?" he asked.

Didn't he understand anything? I thought to myself as I said "It just is."

"How?" he asked softly yet again.

"Fife, he's not my dad," I replied.

"Because an act of copulation between him and your mother did not take place, correct?" he asked as I blushed but nodded my head.

"So if this reasoning is true, then your Clan which you are a part of cannot exist, am I correct?" he asked.

"What? Of course not," I replied.

"I do not understand then," he said with a confused look on his face before going on. "Your Clan has people who adopt children in need of a parent, even though they themselves did not take part in the mating process which produced the younglings."

"It's not the same thing," I said.

"Grandfather told me that Cory is his grandson's father and Timmy sees Cory as his 'dad', yet Cory did not copulate with Timmy's mother to produce him. Are not Cory and Timmy father and son?" Fife asked.

"Well, yeah, but that's different," I told him.

"How?" he asked.

"Look, Fife, he's just not, okay?" I said, a bit mad.

"No, it is not 'Okay'. Mick is your father as if he had copulated with your mother, and you are his son, the same as if you were from his organ which secreted the mating fluids. The knowledge which you have gained does not change what IS there," Fife said, causing me to blush.

"Are you well? Your skin is turning a most distinct shade of color which is not normal," he asked.

"I'm... I'm fine, Fife. Your people don't have a problem talking about sex, do they?" I asked, smiling down at him.

"No, why would they? It is a natural process which all go through at some point," Fife replied confused.

"Never mind, little one," I replied.

"Do you understand now?" he asked.

"I'm trying, Fife, it's just so much to think about and take in right now. He said he loved me, even after he told me, he said he loved me and always has," I told him, sniffling back tears which were threatening to break free again.

"That is because he does. I can smell the bond, Julio, it's like a bright rope linking the two of you together saying "FATHER AND SON". There is no mistaking it. You are his heart and he yours in the way of a parent and child," Fife explained gently to me.

"I don't know, Fife, I just don't know anymore."

"Then let me tell you something which happened on Tesnia a couple years ago, and maybe it will be of help to your comprehension," he said.

"Okay," I replied, having no idea what he was going to tell me or could tell me to make this all better.

"In our society, sometimes a special bond is formed. It is hard to describe in your language because it has no counterpart really that I know of so far. It is a combination second parent, brother, friend, advocate, and someone who teaches the cub. It is a relationship that the parents, cub, and Toffprrfff (Toy-pih-Irrf-ey) must all agree to. That person is all and more to a cub. He is there to play with them, teach them, support them and love them, he is also there to advocate for them, and if something should happen to the parents, be a parent for the cub." He paused for a moment before going on.

"A Toffprrfff is family and sometimes in some ways closer than even the cub's actual parents are. He does not take the place of parents, but his role is for the cub, not the parents. Even a King is subject to this, should he pick a Toffprrfff for his cub or cubs. Several hundred years ago a King was at odds with his son and the Toffprrfff advocated for him, as was his duty. The king was going to banish his son to the underclass. This would violate the bond between the Toffprrfff and the King's son, as the Toffprrfff is a parent to his cub when the parent can't or won't be one. The only way to be part of the underclass is to have no family. The Toffprrfff stood up to the King, and in a fight the Toffprrfff killed the King. The Ruling Council stood by the Toffprrfff, ruling that not even a King could go against this custom, and he became father to the boy; raising him to be King when the time was right. A Toffprrfff has a unique place in our world and is very important to our family structure," he told me, stopping again to think before going on.

"My parents picked Afhralid (Af-h-reah-ello) to be my Tesffirapr (Tes-ey-ireh-pih), a holy father, and he was a part of my life since before I was birthed. He was there throughout my life, and in some ways I was closer to him than to my own father. When I was declared a child, and old enough to make the choice, we went to the Elders and declared him my Toffprrfff. It is difficult to explain, as I loved my father more than anything, yet Afhralid was just as important to me in other ways and I loved him so very much."

I didn't know why, but somehow I could sense this was hard for him, as he stopped once again and seemed to be trying to draw strength to continue from somewhere. I tried to give him some by hugging him to me.

"Thank you," he whispered before going on. "A few years ago Afhralid began to show interest in a female. That female had a small cub a couple of years younger than I. The cub and I became fast friends and then like brothers. He was the little brother I had never had and we were always together. I came to love him as a brother and he was like part of my family. After a while, my Afhralid announced his intention to bond with the female. He loved her and loved Hiafnia (eye-af-nee-ah) as if he was his own son. Hiafnia loved him too and you could smell the familial bond that existed between them. It was separate from the tie between he and I. Hiafnia was his son as if he had mated and produced him, and Hiafnia felt the same towards Afhralid."

He stopped for a moment, breathing deeply, then went on.

"I was more happy than I can say, to know that my Toffprrfff was going to be a father to one who I felt the bond of brotherhood with, and even happier that my little brother was going to have a dad to love and be loved by once again. It would also mean he would officially become part of my family through the Toffprrfff bond. The...then Hiafnia's mother was killed before they could enter the bonding ceremony, in a Jhrir Traafeen raid on a nature reserve they were visiting, and he was left an orphan. In our world orphans are not, well, they lose everything. They have no... Uhm... They have no say in government. I mean no rights. I am not sure what you would call it. I guess they are basically, uhm... I think slaves is the right word. They have no status as they have no family."

"Afhralid tried to adopt Hiafnia but it was not allowed, because of the serious injuries my little brother had received. I was losing my little brother and Afhralid was losing his son. By Tesnian law he could prove the bond existed, but his pleas were denied because of the demands of Hiafnia's care. It was going to take seven long years of intense rehabilitation and care for him to regain his mobility. They believed that they could return eighty-five to ninety-five percent of his mobility to him. The state would of course cover his healing, but that was not an option if Hiafnia was adopted.

"Afhralid even humbled himself and begged to the authorities but his pleas were denied. Hiafnia was to be taken and put into the orphan's sector with no contact allowed by any of us. My parents tried to intercede as well, and with their status an exception was made, but it came at a horrible cost to Afhralid....to him and to me." He stopped and I could see the tears running down his furred little face as I gently wiped them away and planted a kiss onto his downy cheek.

He buried his head into my chest for a moment before pulling back and going on.

"The authorities granted the pleas from my parents and Afhralid, but not in the way anyone had expected. They told Afhralid that if he gave up being my Toffprrfff, he could care for Hiafnia. I..I had to make a decision and it was the hardest one I have ever had to make. Let the man who I loved so much go and be a father to my little brother, or keep him for myself as was my right." 

He stopped at that point, crying now openly, as I rubbed his back the way I'd seen Cory do it earlier. 

When he could continue, it was brokenly but he bravely went on.

"I could have said no, Julio. I needed him but...there was no doubt that they were father and son the way my father and I were. Just as deeply as our bond, did exist their bond. Hiafnia was so scared of losing Afhralid and being alone. It broke my heart to see them and know that Afhralid would stand by me first and foremost, even at the cost of his son. I couldn't let that happen, so I released Afhralid from our bond. Hiafnia tried to stop me and cried, begging me not to let Afhralid give up everything he had for him. Afhralid would become nearly destitute caring for Hiafnia, and while Afhralid was well off, his family was not. At least Hiafnia would never be alone. He would have a family." Tears came to Fife's eyes.

"They were meant to be together and I could not keep them from their destiny. So I released him and Afhralid gave up everything he had worked so hard to gain for Hiafnia. They both came to say goodbye and we once again imprinted onto each other our love which would have to last a lifetime. That was the last I saw of them and it still hurts even now. It was the hardest day of my life until the day my parents were killed. Even though I realize that if Afhralid had remained my Toffprrfff, I would have a family and not... not... be a slave... I would not change a thing," he said stopping.

"I'm sorry, little brother" I whispered softly as I stroked his fur and let him cry his pain out.

I didn't answer him for a long time, thinking about my life until a little while ago. Did it really make any difference? Mick had been my dad and I could never have asked for a better one, until those words were said in that room. Did it really change anything, other than I now knew that like Afhralid and Hiafnia, he had chosen to be my dad, and what had happened hadn't made any difference to him at all. He'd loved me, he'd always loved me. Did those words change it all of a sudden?

Fife gave me a small smile. "I can barely smell the other man; he is like a spirit long in your family's past. Your mother is strong in you as she should be. Mick is as your father; he has bonded with you so much that he overshadows any other connection as your father. By Tesnian law, he is your father. Nobody can bond that strong to someone, yet he has. I think he was right; the Creator gave you as a gift to them and gave you some of his genes, even though he did not provide them."

"How sure are you?" I asked, as the hope I was beginning to feel seeped into my voice.

"I am studying genio-mechanical interface advance application and design," Fife stated simply. "I have to know my genetic theory and application every way possible to be in the field."

"I'd say that makes you more of an expert than me. So that means that Mick is my dad, even though he's not my dad, but genetically he's my dad anyway?"

"That pretty much explains it," Fife replied with a grin.

"Does this mean that anyone who adopts and loves a kid will do this?" I asked, my curiosity now fully in gear.

"No." Fife replied. "The bond you have with him is built from his love of you; it is a family bond that only love can build. That bond can be built by any family member; in fact it has started with your brothers already, even though they share none of the family's genes. In Tesnian history, the only time this has been seen is when one is born that is fated to lead the society to a new level of peace and prosperity. Those people, and only two are recorded, have been said to have been sent by the Creator to guide us, and they carried the scent of their mother and of one never seen. None of them gave their genes to future generations. You are the first known to ever have the genes of one not your father, yet be living with the one who matches those genes. I'll need to do a full workup of you, Mick, and your mom to record this!"

"You're definitely Cory's kid," I said with a giggle. "Get you going on something tech and you can talk for hours!"

"Thank you!" Fife beamed, overjoyed at the first time someone acknowledged him as one of Cory's sons by comparing him to Cory.

It was then that Mick's last words came back to me as I ran from the room, 'he always would'.

And I knew, I just knew. Dad was dad just like he'd always been, only now that meant even more to me than it had before, because with this new knowledge I realized he didn't have to be.

Fife asked me again. "Do you understand now, Julio? Do you understand that seed does not make a father nor a son?" 

As tears began to fall down my face, I said, "Yes Fife, yes I do." 

"Okay," Fife replied. As he started to get up, he actually paid attention to the pool nearby. "Julio. This may not be the right time to bring this up, but why does Earth have all of these ponds at people's houses? And why does the water smell dead?"

"You've never seen a pool or a water-park?" I asked in reply.

"No; when my family was here, my Elder was really vocal about making sure there was nothing called a 'pool' at our hotel," Fife replied softly. "The Tesnian travel guide has a stern warning about Tesnians not even viewing that thing you call a water-park."

I nodded my head, my gut feeling telling me this could prove interesting. "A pool is like a small water-park. It is a place for families to play games and swim in the water." I paused at the confused look on Fife's face. "What confused you?"

"I don't have any idea what 'swim' means; I don't think we have a word for it on Tesnia."

I nodded. "Okay. Swimming is pretty much you get into the pool and exercise by propelling yourself through the water using motions of your arms and legs."

"That's stupid! What if something was to come up and jump in the water? You can't get away, and you'd be dead!" Fife stated, an edge of panic in his tone.

"Calm down; remember this is Earth," I said softly. "It sounds like you have some creatures on Tesnia that we never had here. When you get back home to Orlando, your little brother Timmy will help you learn all about Earth animals. There are no animals here in the Des Moines area that we would ever have to worry about attacking us while swimming. it's another way that Humanity spends time with friends and family to have fun."

"Does that mean that I have to get in there? That water smells weird."

"No. In fact, I'm pretty sure Cory would try to strangle anyone that tried to make you get in," I replied with conviction. "Everyone takes time out of the water to just watch the others play and to talk, so you would have a lot of company if you just sat in one of the chairs. The water smells weird because it is treated to make sure no bacteria or anything bad like that can live in it."

"That explains it smelling dead," Fife acknowledged. "I guess I can try watching though."

I nodded. "A water-park is a really big pool with slides and other fun stuff to play around with in the water. They are safe too; but unless the Clan visits one and occupies the entire park, you'll have a bunch of people you don't know in the water with you. I would say that you should stay away from those unless Cory and Sean are with you."

"I think I'll do it that way; I don't know if I even want to do it then," Fife replied seriously. "I would like to look at the pool; would you hold me while I look?"

I nodded seriously, fully aware of the trust that Fife was putting in me. "Sure, then we'll head inside.

Fife held on to my arm like a boa constrictor as I led him around the pool area. "What is that for?" Fife asked, pointing at the diving board.

"It's called a 'diving board'; you walk out on it to the end, bounce a few times, then jump off of it into the water," I explained.

"Humans are nuts," Fife stated as he pulled on my arm to move on. "At least you can stop yourself on that slide over there."

"I never said anything about humanity being sane!" I giggled. "You ready to go inside?"

"Yeah, I really need to talk to Dads about this pool thing." Fife responded as he started dragging me towards the safety of the house.

"Well, I have to let someone know how much I love them, and even more, how much their loving me means to me; and you, little brother, need to have a conversation with Cory," I said smiling.

"About the pool things?" he asked.

"No. About why you became an orphan and what is going on in your society. I have a feeling your new dad will have a few asses to set on fire," I told him.

"Why would he ignite the posterior of someone?" Fife asked bewildered.

"Oh it's just something he likes to do, and it's fun to watch too," I said, giggling a bit as we both headed inside.

Fife still looked at me like I was an alien, which of course I am to him, but finally shrugged his shoulders, muttering something about 'humans' I think as I walked in and handed him off to Cory.

"Fife, you tell Cory about Afhralid and Hiafnia, everything, okay?" I said.

He nodded as Cory asked "How're ya doing, Julio?"

I smiled softly as I said, "Fine, thanks to my new little bro there," then I turned and headed back into the office where I knew my DAD was waiting.

As soon as I walked into the room, he stood up with a worried look on his face, but I just walked over to him and looked up at him without speaking for a minute or so before saying, "I love you, dad," then launching myself into his arms as we both began crying, and through it all came the words I'd so long taken for granted, but never would again: "I love you so much Julio, so very very much."

End Julio's Perspective

As Fife finished relaying his story to Cory, Cory looked around the room while he comforted his furry son. "You know, I'm really starting to have an issue with this..." Cory announced with menace in his voice.

Mikey rolled his eyes, and motioned for Kyle and Tyler to stay where they were. "Vacation, Tigger ... Vacation. All of you can stay put; it can all be dealt with after you get home."

"Spoilsport!" Cory, Sean, Kyle and Ty exclaimed in unison.

"You always ruin my fun!" Cory added.

Mikey shook his head in wonder. "I swear, if it wasn't that you and Sean would enjoy it, I'd tie you down to keep you from working."

"MIKEY!!!!" Sean and Cory exclaimed as they grabbed pillows off the couch and threw them at Mikey.

"Humans like being restrained when copulating?" Fife asked in wonder from his perch on Cory's lap.

"Only weird ones like your Uncle Mikey." Cory replied.

The boys broke into laughter as they once again got the chance to see a Saint blush. "BUSTTEEEDDDD!!" Kyle and Ty giggled.

"Mom, you really need to teach them respect for their elders!" Mikey groaned as he rolled his eyes.

"Don't blame me, young man!" Teri responded with a laugh. "You're the one who taught them to be what they are now!"

"Yeah, bro!" Cory and Sean exclaimed in unison.

Kai came over from where he had just finished changing Patty's diaper and smiled as he handed the baby boy over to Cory. "It is your turn to spoil Patty," Kai said with a grin. "Family before world domination, Bruv."

Cory laughed as he took his turn with his new nephew. "You're sounding just like the rest of our brothers already, Kai! One of these days, I'm gonna find a brother who takes MY side!"

"Not if I can help it!" Adam, Mikey, Sean, and Tyler exclaimed in unison.

Kai laughed. "I think I will join with the thoughts of the rest of my bruvs!"

"Jeeze ... outnumbered in my own family..." Cory fake pouted. His pout did not last long, as Patty noticed his furry cousin was on Cory's lap. Patty wiggled and squirmed his way around until he got his way and ended up where he was against both boys at once. Cory's hair was still long from the dance; a situation which Patty took advantage of as he reached out and started playing with a handful of blond locks while happily rubbing the side of his face on Fife's furry shoulder.

"I think he likes us!" Cory giggled.

Fife nodded. "He acts happier when you are holding him. I know he likes fur; he has fun cuddling with me, Bast, and Mont."

Bast walked over and put a paw on Fife's shoulder. "He likes us, but he's happiest when he's cuddling you or Cory. When we get back home, I think you're going to be busy with kid cuddles, Fife. Not because of your fur; because of your heart. You and Cory both have something special about you that other people can feel, and it'll give a lot of kids comfort they haven't felt before."

"You've got that right, Bruv!" Kai added, which just served to deepen the blush visible under Fife's fur.

"You can add Des Moines Division's vote to that too!" Julio giggled as him, Mick, and Janice rejoined the rest of the group. Julio was attached to Mick's back so tightly that a leech could take lessons from him, the smile on his face showing that the earlier events had been resolved. "If I hadn't already known he was your son before Fife came out, I woulda figured it out when he cuddled me!" Julio added.

Fife's grin became huge as Cory replied "That's my son!"

Sean smiled as well. "I think you and Timmy are going to get along great, Fife. Just don't be surprised when he offers you alligator rides!"

"You're both crazy, Dads, but I like it!" Fife giggled. "Can we talk about the pool thing out there?" he added in a more serious tone.

"I was wondering when you would bring that up," Cory replied. "I know that Tesnians don't have anything like a pool."

Fife snuggled in closer and stroked Patty's back as he tried to put his feelings into words. "I know you said that nothing could get me out there ... I know why animals don't come to that water, since the water smells dead. I don't understand why humans want to get in a lake like that, especially a lake that is dead. Julio explained it a little, but it don't make sense that you would risk your lives getting into water like that."

Cory nodded seriously, looking around to see if everyone was paying attention. "I think you should take it slow. While all of us enjoy pools who are from Earth, not all species from other planets enjoy the same things we do. Nobody will force you to get in there; if anyone tries I will deal with them personally. Just try not to freak out when you see one of us being tossed in the water by another one. We know how to do it so that it is safe, and we never do it to someone who can't swim or who is afraid of water."

Fife relaxed, trusting Cory at his word. "Julio said it would be okay if I watched everyone while they were in the water."

Sean spoke up. "He's right; not everyone is in the pool at once. You'll probably have plenty of company watching whoever is swimming. It's kinda a safety thing too - if there is a problem then the guys not swimming can get help faster than the guys who are swimming."

"It'll be a good thing if you're sitting there watching us." Cory added. "You might end up with a wet cuddle partner or two, but that is the closest you'll get to pool water unless you tell us otherwise."

Fife nodded, the assurances he received calming his fears. "Thanks Dads!"

To Be Continued ...

Editor's Note:

Wow, thanks AC!! What a change of events. Who would have know that while on Vacation, the Clan would sign a treaty with another world!! Someone needs to explain to AC what a vacation is! LOL I think this new information will be interesting as it unfolds. We know what happens when Cory starts questioning things and has the authority to change them. One world getting turned upside down coming up! I am glad that Julio was able to come to terms with his Dad. So many people let silly stuff come between them. It may seem like a big deal at the time but if you take a second to see the big picture, it really is not that bad. Oh darn, someone loves me! (That's the point).

Now we just have to figure out why Mikey is on vacation! I don't think this story is over yet. Something is brewing and it seems like it is going to be big! Let's hope that AC has chapter 5 started and going already!

Your Friendly Neighborhood Hound!