"I'll get it!" Ivo yelled as he went to answer the doorbell. After a quick check out the window, he threw the door open and pounced the unsuspecting visitor. "GRANDPA!"
As he caught the boy, Ron smiled. "While you're not who I was expecting to answer, somehow I'm not surprised," Ron quipped. His eyebrows raised when a man who embodied the classic British butler stereotype joined them in the foyer.
"Master Ivo, it would be prudent for you to invite your grandparents into the household before greeting them in the future. Mr. and Mrs. Michaels, please follow me and I shall show you where you may deposit your outdoor clothing. I shall also endeavor to inform you of recent events which have affected your family to reduce the shock."
"I don't believe we have met," Ron stated, unconsciously shifting Ivo to where he could protect him.
"My apologies, Sir and Madam. Due to the efforts of Masters CJ and Chad, a tragedy was averted. I am Nigel Chapman, and I have assumed the position of household manager."
"Now who's making them stand outside, Uncle Nigel?" Ivo giggled.
"Do not be an insufferable pain in the posterior, Master Ivo," Nigel stated without blinking. "Please follow me."
"Grandpa? Did he just call me a pain in the butt?" Ivo asked innocently, his impish grin giving him away.
"Yes, you achieved your goal, Ivo," Ron chuckled as they followed Nigel. "How many more surprises should we expect besides the house growing by itself, and our son having a butler?"
"Only a dozen or two!" Ivo giggled.
The reason for Nigel's delay at the door became apparent as he led the guests into the family room, where the entire household was gathered. Three of the four couches were occupied, each with more people than intended by the designers. Josh, Chad, CJ, Andrei, Willy, and Johnny were in one pileup, with Phil, Ash, and the two mini-Marcs, Mitch and Morton. The third mini-Marc was in midair already, targeting Ivo as he yelled "Daddy!" The last couch had Jeff and his wife Amanda, with their sons Jason, Alex, and the last two mini-Marcs, Marvin and Melvin.
"Welcome to the zoo, Mom and Dad!" Josh grinned. "You might want to grab a seat before the rest of the family gets here!"
Somehow managing to not be taken down by the pounce, Ron raised both eyebrows at the six-year-old white-blond who obviously had claimed Ivo. "I'm sure that there's an explanation, but is it believable?" Ron muttered.
Caroline decided to roll with it, kneeling down to be at Matt's level. "You know what?" she stated, "If Ivo's your Daddy, that means we're your great-grandma and great-grandpa."
"Do Grandmas know how to cuddle?" Matt asked with wide eyes.
"We sure do, do you want to try one?" Caroline replied softly.
"Daddy, will she hurt me like the bad lady did at my old home?" Matt asked softly.
"None of your new family is ever going to hurt you like that again, Matty," Ivo replied as he gave Matt's little shoulder a squeeze.
"Okay, I trust you, Daddy," Matt replied as he stuck out his arms.
Shocked by what the short conversation revealed, Caroline slowly pulled Matt into a cuddle, whispering promises that he'd never get hurt again. Ron, meanwhile, took one look around the room before locking eyes with Josh. "I believe you were about to explain why a six year old boy is scared of adults, Joshua?"
"You're in trouble now, Dad!" CJ stated with a smile. "Nigel, could we please have some drinks?"
"Yes, Director," Nigel replied. "Mr. and Mrs. Michaels, I have been told that you both prefer coffee. Will that be appropriate, or do you wish something else?"
"Coffee please, for both of us," Ron replied, not breaking his glare at Josh. "Phil?" he added, "You're next, so don't try to leave."
By this time, Caroline had managed to relocate to the last empty couch, which she was now sharing with Ivo with Matt cuddled on her lap. "Ron, I think you'll get better results if you take a seat and let our son figure out how to explain this all rationally. Besides, I think you're giving all of these new boys a bad first impression of their new grandfather."
Knowing better than to ignore the tone in his wife's voice, Ron replied by taking a seat on the other side of Ivo.
"If you don't mind waiting," Josh grinned, "I just called for the rest of the family to be here." After getting the pointed stares he was looking for, Josh added "CJ and Chad have been busy, Dad; I think you'll like what they've pulled off in the last three days."
Ron glanced over at his wife, and couldn't help but to notice the little guy on her lap was making very sure he wasn't anywhere close to Ron. Recognizing it as the same look he'd seen in his grandson's faces the day of Josh's party, Ron kept his voice as soft as he could. "Matt, I get really mad when people get hurt, and I can tell that someone's hurt you, probably some adults from your reactions. Right now, I'm mad for you, not at you; I work to put people in jail who hurt little boys."
"Daddy saved me and my brothers from the bad man," Matt whispered just loud enough to hear.
"That makes him pretty special, doesn't it?" Ron replied with a smile.
Matt nodded, still not sure about trusting this strange man. Noticing this, Ivo leaned over and added "You know what, Matty? Your Great Grandpa Ron is the one who took my Uncle Mike to get rid of the bad guy who hurt your Uncle CJ and Uncle Chad."
"Really?" Matt replied, brightening up considerably at the news.
"Yes, really," Ivo replied with a smile.
"Is the bad guy that hurt my uncles really gone?" Matt asked Ron hopefully.
"Yes, I was allowed to watch as he was punished and killed for hurting your uncles," Ron replied with a nod.
"Grandpa gives nice hugs, do great grandpas give nice hugs too?" Matt asked.
"Your uncles think so, but you better test it for yourself, since you're our first great-grandson," Ron offered.
Emboldened by the group that rescued him being right there, Matt took the chance and slowly slid over just far enough to give Ron's neck a one-armed hug while holding onto Caroline's arm with his other hand. Without looking, Ron could feel Ivo's stare as he watched every move Ron made with his new son. Carefully making sure he didn't spook the young boy, Ron slowly reached up with his free hand and began rubbing the shoulders of his first great-grandson.
"Go ahead, Honey," Caroline whispered, "We're all right here."
With that, Matt finished shifting over, allowing Ron to give him a proper cuddle. Finally deciding that it was really safe, he relaxed against Ron's chest, falling asleep almost instantly.
Satisfied that their new great-grandson was finally feeling safe, Caroline looked around the room. "First," she commented, "Can I assume that you two supposed adults have finally settled your little squabble about being together and have came to your senses and became one family?"
"MOM!" Phil and Josh exclaimed in unison.
"I hate to interrupt," Jeff inserted, "I'm Jeff Schroder, and this is my wife Amanda; the mob occupying our laps are our sons. Since it appears that most of the room is just as confused as I am, could you please explain that?"
Ignoring Phil and Josh's glares, Caroline nodded. "When they were in high school, the only thing that kept them from getting hitched was their ages. When Josh decided to get his medical training from the military, Phil had issues with it, so they had their first drag-out fight. All of us knew that they still cared for each other, even though both of them are just as hard-headed as my husband. Ron and I had already welcomed Phil into the family, since he grew up in an orphanage, and just because him and Josh were arguing, we saw no reason to change it. Phil and the boys were planning on joining the party we threw for Josh the day he saved CJ and Chad; after having been through the same thing, Phil decided to give Josh a couple of days to bond with his new sons before invading his life with the two boys he'd rescued."
Jeff nodded. "Okay, that makes some sense now, but you might want to hold off on the wedding plans. Out of all of the boys here, only four of them look comfortable right now, which tells me that you have a group of grandsons who are still really unsure about their places in the family."
"So my favorite troublemakers found themselves a brother?" Caroline quipped, earning her a cough from Ron as he tried not to laugh. "I'll give you this one, Jeff; don't get used to it though. Josh, it would be nice if we had some idea about who lives here now."
After rolling his eyes, which earned him giggles from most of his sons, Josh started to comply. Before he could start, however, another couch appeared containing Jamie, Jacob, Marc, and Danny.
"Sorry we're late," Jamie giggled.
"We woulda been here ..." Jacob continued.
"... sooner, but Marc ..."
"... and Danny were busy ..."
"... washing Marc's butts!" Jamie finished.
"I think that's more than any of us wanted to know, munchkins!" Josh sniggered as the twins tried to avoid repeated dummy slaps from Marc and Danny. "No killing each other while we have company, guys."
"You're no fun," Marc commented as he finally landed a slap on Jacob.
Josh shook his head as he stated "For those who don't know them already, from left to right the latest arrivals are Jamie, Danny, Marc, and Jacob. Even though all four of them have been given families in their home Divisions, I've welcomed them into my family as well." Noticing the look on Ron's face, Josh got his revenge on his father for many things as he added "Close your mouth, Dad; you'll end up swallowing a fly! Yes, Marc Furst and Danny Page are your grandsons now, and both of them are the exact people that you think they are. How does it feel having a grandson older than you?"
"Don't start something you can't finish," Ron replied. "Marc and Danny, I hope that we can find time later today for me to get updated on a few things with you. Just know that you're both a part of this family for the rest of your lives."
"Hold that thought while you hear what CJ and Chad have been up to!" Danny giggled.
"Anyway!" Josh interrupted, "Since you've already met Nigel, I'll give you the official introduction now. Besides deciding that we needed a butler, he's also the core AI for the system that runs the houses here. He was almost killed when he tried to save Andrei, who you'll meet shortly. CJ was able to save his personality from his matrix, and with his full approval Marc set him up so that he could run the compound as well as spend time in his new body paying us back for helping him and Andrei."
"When did CJ learn that kind of thing?" Ron asked, his tone clearly not trying to degrade his grandson.
"CJ and Chad are naturals," Marc interjected. "When you hear about everything else they've done, you'll understand."
"I know they are smart, but I'm still amazed," Ron explained. "Very proud, but amazed."
Deciding that shocking his dad was amusing, Josh asked "Doctor CJ? Doctor Chad? Would you be kind enough to introduce your first patients?"
"But we just helped!" CJ and Chad exclaimed in unison.
"Not according to the patient's records, Doctors," Josh replied, enjoying the looks he was getting from his parents. "Both patient's records clearly list the two of you as lead physicians. Considering their seniority, I'm sure Doctor Furst and Doctor Page would not have let a mistake that obvious remain in the records unless they agreed that you two were the leads."
"You're not Clan, you ain't supposed to use logic," CJ muttered before exchanging a look with his twin. "Me and Chad's gonna take turns. Jamie and Jacob found our friend Willy. When they brought him back, he kinda had a problem when he found out we were making him family. It made him shut down, and when Marc and Caleb helped us learn to bring him back, we found out he had another kid in his personality. When Willy was made, he was supposed to be Marc's little brother, but Vision stole him, put in a second personality, then sold him. Since a bunch of stuff was breaking in the old body, we made new bodies for both of them and got our first brothers, Willy and Johnny. They're twins, except for Willy's a redhead and Johnny's blond."
"I think I just figured out how Marc is your brother," Ron replied. "Willy, Johnny? Once Matt finishes his nap, you'll get a proper welcome. For now I'll tell you one thing that you can bet your lives on; it doesn't matter how you were born, you are my grandsons for as long as I live. CJ and Chad, your Dad gave me a major ass chewing when I doubted Antonio's credentials due to his age. I will not make that mistake again, and your first two brothers are proof that you earned the titles of Doctor."
"It sound's like your Grandpa is on our side!" Danny sniggered.
"Yourself and Marc are included, Daniel," Ron stated firmly. "We are your grandparents from this point forward just as much as we are Chad and CJ's grandparents. The matter is settled."
"Great, we have an adult version of Cory as a grandfather," Danny quipped.
"I will assume that was a compliment, Danny," Ron replied. "Otherwise, Mike has been kind enough to instruct me on the proper techniques for dealing with Clan grandchildren who need reminders that they are still children, no matter how long they have been alive."
"I think it's time for Mike's full physical, Marc," Danny grumbled as he decided to play it safe.
"I'll get it on the schedule," Marc nodded, amazed at how similar Ron was to Cory in Patriarch mode.
Even though it was unintended, the interaction between Ron and the two most senior youth androids in existence calmed quite a few fears in the rest of the youth androids in the room. Even then, they were surprised at the next statement out of Ron's mouth.
"Nigel," Ron stated, "before we continue, be advised that despite your age, you are also included in the family as my son. I belive there are multiple persons here who are legally capable of making it official. I will not stand for any member of this household not having a family."
Nigel nodded. "I will gladly accept the honor, as it is one that has not been extended to me in ninety-six years. Justin is making the entries and uploading to Vulcan as we speak."
Jamie giggled as he stated "Nigel, our big brother only gets called Justin if he's in trouble, you need to call him Justy!"
"I will consider it," Nigel replied with a smile.
"Is he always this bad?" Chad asked Andrei.
Andrei giggled, "Naw, but I think he's trying to teach everyone how the rich families live. It's kinda good to know, that way we don't look stupid for not knowing their stupid adult rules."
"Adults are weird," Chad giggled before speaking up. "My turn! Andrei's here because Nigel used his old body to protect him from a rockslide. While Dad was fixin' his body, me and CJ made him our brother."
"They did it without asking first," Josh added, "which made me very proud of them. Despite everything my former asshole brother-in-law did to them, they saw a boy in need and thought of him first. Going by Nigel's injuries, I'm certain Andrei's matrix would have been destroyed; thanks to three people with very big hearts, he's here and has the family he deserves."
"Which is why Danny, Cory, and I made CJ and Chad the Directors of the AI Annex," Marc added. "Ash and Ivo earned the Security spots the same way; they stepped up and did what was needed at the right time. Willy and Johnny earned Assistant Director when they proved they could step in when their Directors were overloaded."
"We still owe you for that!" CJ, Chad, Johnny, Willy, Ivo, and Ash exclaimed in unison.
"We have revenge meetings for Directors and their staff to plot getting even with Cory on alternate Fridays," Danny giggled. "I'll make sure Nigel has the schedule!"
"George already handled that, Danny," Nigel interjected. "The Divisional AI meetings are held opposite of yours; you have no idea what it is like having buildings that are hooked to your systems randomly changing and appearing between processing cycles. At least Peter has started warning us, from what I understand Aiden over in Pacific Rim almost had subsystem crashes the first time it happened to him."
"You guys need to let us know about that kind of thing," Danny replied. "I'll let Hayden know, if anyone can design a real-time buffer for the inputs, it'd be him. That kind of thing needs to be in hardware."
"I have informed the rest of the group of your statement, Danny," Nigel replied.
"Are you guys done yet?" CJ asked, obviously impatient.
Smiling at seeing CJ starting to come out of his shell with family, Danny nodded. "Go ahead, CJ."
"Finally!" CJ commented. "Andrei was tellin' us about a friend he had, one that he was made to watch being killed. When we heard that it was done by cuttin' off his head with an axe, we figger'd that his personality was still in his head. We went over to Indiana to find out, and after Ash stunned a butthole policeman we got ready to check it out. That's when Uncle Jeff came over to help us, and we went to the house to see. When the witch at the house opened the door, Matty came runnin' out and started cuddlin' Ivo. That's when Jacob and Jamie let us know there were actually five kids, two that had been killed, Matty, and two that were in forced comas."
"We found the two that had been killed, their heads were on a shelf in the basement. After Federation Security took out the trash by picking up the professor that was doing this crap, we found the other two in his workroom at Notre Dame. He was friends with the family that Nigel and Andrei had been at after they left their first family, so Andrei had got to know Mitch and was friends with him. Mitch had replace Morton when the buttwipe got tired of him. Ivo's Matt's new daddy, Uncle Phil is Mitch and Morton's new daddy, and Uncle Jeff and Aunt Amanda are Marvin and Melvin's new mommy and daddy. Uncle Jeff is gonna be working for Uncle Eric, since he wanted his new sons to be with their identical brothers. All five of them were ordered to be younger versions of Marc."
"Exact versions, as in they used my genetic map," Marc added. "I didn't even know about them until CJ and Chad teleported in and put the matrixes on the terminals; they were produced a few years before I went back to Vision. Phil's sons have the same Clan version of skeleton as Johnny and Willy, while the other three have the late run Vision skeletons."
"What happened to the bas... thing that did this to these boys? Ron growled.
"Tried, convicted, and terminated by order of the Federation High Court," Jeff replied. "His wife is serving life on a Class 4 Prison planet, with no parole, for being an accessory. Phil, Ivo, me, and Amanda have already sent thank you cards to the bitch."
"By the way, there..." Jamie started,
"...are female Bubba's..." Jacob added,
"...in prison too. They..."
"...really don't like..."
"...people that hurt..."
"...or any other kids."
"She's not gonna last long," they finished in unison.
At that moment, Ron finally realized just what being Clan meant to the boys, the expressions on Jamie and Jacob's faces clearly showing that they considered justice as being done. As he looked around the room at the rest of the boys, he could clearly see that they were waiting for his reaction. After a moment of thought, Ron stated "While that is not the way I learned law, I will not deny that you all did the right thing in the right manner for the situation. All of you working together accomplished something that could have taken years in open court, and in the process gave five young boys their lives back. Every single one of you earned your place in this family, some of you before you even knew us as family, and I am proud of all of you." Ron then turned to look at Jeff's family. Noticing the looks on the two oldest boy's faces, Ron stated "I'm going to assume that you two oldest boys are your parent's natural sons, correct?"
"Yes, Sir," The oldest boy replied.
"In case you missed it, your dad was declared our son by your grandma, which makes me your grandpa," Ron smiled. "Before you start feeling left out, there are two munchkins sitting on your laps that prove that you are part of this group of amazing kids. Your little brothers have latched onto you, so obviously you welcomed them into your family. From what I was told, that is the key expectation of Clan members; if a child needs a family, they give them one with open arms. I was told by Cory that everyone gets a job in the Clan based on what they do, not what someone tells them to do. You're already part of the core group just by sitting here with your new brothers; it's up to you to find out where you fit in."
"Wait until I tell Mike that for the first time ever you listened to someone!" Phil laughed.
"Nigel," Ron commented in a sweet voice, "I learned recently that parents are allowed to cool off sons that are getting too headstrong. By any chance would you have a means to assist so these boys don't miss anything?"
"I would be glad to assist, Father," Nigel replied as Phil vanished, only to appear seconds later in the middle of the room, soaking wet, sitting in a kiddie pool.
"Daddy, Uncle Phil's too big for a kiddie pool!" Marvin exclaimed indigently.
"Paybacks, Dad," Phil threatened as the rest of the room giggled.
"Grandpa, can we have Nigel dry him off?" Andrei asked with a grin.
"Go ahead, I think I made the point," Ron replied.
"Nigel, could you get him dry and dressed please?" Andrei grinned.
Fully aware of Clan protocol for Andrei's phrasing, Nigel complied, with Phil vanishing long enough to be dried and outfitted in a Clan Green evening gown. Unknown to the rest of the group, Nigel made sure Phil was aware of the reasoning behind the prank before returning him.
Phil's return got the intended result, as the room broke into laughter. Matt woke up just long enough to see his Grandpa and comment "Gran'pa, you look silly inna dress!" before settling back into Ron's chest and falling back asleep.
"Okay, do I get to know the names of my last two grandsons before you add any more?" Ron asked, still chuckling.
The oldest of Jeff's sons answered, still giggling. "I'm Jason, and the midget is Alex!"
"It's great to have you guys in the family," Ron commented, "But if I were you, Jason, I'd be careful; Alex has the same access I do to swimming lessons."
Jason turned his head, looking at Alex, who had an angelic smile on his face. "Oh, crap!" Jason groaned.
"Something tells me that brotherly pranks are about to get interesting," Jeff chuckled. "At least they're evenly matched!"
Before the theory had a chance to be proven, Peter appeared in the middle of the room, a confused look on his face. He quickly counted heads, then crossed his eyes for a second. "How'd you do that?" he asked nobody in particular.
"Do what?" Josh asked before adding "Everyone, this is Peter; he's in charge of Clan construction, general confusion, and cookie testing.
"Don't forget cuddles and random hugs!" Jamie and Jacob chorused.
Peter grinned, then explained "Your houses are not set up for this, I never saw this timeline!" He seemed to concentrate, then added "That's it, none of the timelines I could see had the five little guys being saved! I only saw Ivo saving Matt, how'd you save the other four?"
"My sons are just that good," Josh chuckled, earning him appreciative grins.
Peter shook his head in wonder. "That shouldn't have been able to happen though, that wasn't even an option."
"Maybe Davie helped us," CJ stated with a shrug. "He says he's our big brother now."
"That sounds like him," Peter admitted. "I'm going to have to do a major rework on the houses. If you guys want, I can send you up to Archnania. Danny and Marc know everyone there, and they can make sure all the security guys are certified. You'll be gone for a couple of minutes, no matter how long you're there."
After getting a nod from Danny and Marc, Josh replied "That sounds good, just don't forget to give us a tour when we come back."
"Uncle Danny!" the yellow-haired munchkin screamed mid-pounce as the entire group suddenly found themselves standing under a purple sky.
Before the words totally registered in Danny's positronic brain, he found himself laid out on the ground, the young boy now attached to his chest. As he recovered, he shook his head in wonder. "How did I know that you would be welcoming us, Chance?"
"Daddy Dylan said you were bringing a special new family up!" Chance grinned.
"You get a ten for that pounce, Chance!" Jamie and Jacob announced in unison. "Everyone, this is Chance. He's the Junior Prince of Archnania, but actually in-charge since they became High Race. To make things more screwy, Kyle's son Dylan and King Harroldo share custody of him."
Deciding that Danny could use the help, Ron walked over and picked up Chance, settling the young Prince on his hip. "While my grandson obviously enjoyed your welcome, Your Highness, could you please explain where we are? The stress of fright is not doing my other grandsons much good."
Before Chance could reply, Pablito popped in next to Ron. "Hey Grandpa Ron! Chance was keepin' ya' all busy 'til I got here. Phil, you're comin' with me, Boss's Orders. You can't be here yet, and I don't really give a fuck why; the Boss says it, I do it. Uncle Josh? You're gonna be in charge of his family while they're here, it'll do all ya' some good."
"Now wait a minute!" Phil interrupted, "My family goes where..."
"That wasn't a fucking offer," Pablito stated as he held up him hand, silencing Phil. "Ash? Ivo? Uncle Josh has the Saint Mikey stamp of approval; even I think he's good. Go ahead and open up while you're here, you won't regret it."
"Just what are you up to, Pablito?" Ron asked with a slight grin.
"Hell if I know!" Pablito shot back with a smile. "I gotta go, Grandma Morrison's taking me Harley shopping."
With that said, both Pablito and Phil vanished. Shaking his head, Ron quipped "If I didn't know better, I'd think that boy was Mike's blood son!"
As he pondered the reduction in stress that he felt from the twins, Josh waved Ivo, Matt, Mitch, Morton, and Ash over to join him and his boys. "C'mon guys; you live under my roof, so that makes you my sons too. It looks like your cousin decided it was time for you to bond with the rest of the family. Besides that, Ash, I think Andrei and you need to start looking at where your feelings are going before either one of you joins Ivo in the adopting kids club."
Noticing the expression on Andrei's face, Ron added "I've been informed that when two persons with different lifecycles in the Clan truly love each other, somehow things work out so that they are more equal. Your Dad is an example of the Michaels creed; he decided what he wanted, then did it no matter what anyone told him. If Josh could earn his MD despite my hard head wanting him to be a lawyer, every single one of you can make your dreams work. CJ and Chad used to comment about wanting to be like their Uncle Josh; not only did they do that, but they did it in a field where I have spent most of my career trying to undo the injustices that were enacted into laws. Now they get to expand on the dream; the rest of you need to follow their lead."
"You're gonna make a great Division Grandpa!" Chance giggled. "Let's head over to the pond; Antonio, Byron, and their son Yist are waiting for us there. We'll take turns catching anyone up that has questions while the rest have some fun. Just follow the grass, Grandpa Ron; it knows the way."
Marc could see the question in the eyes of the adults before it was even asked. "The plant life here is sentient, or at least mostly so. Chance has the right idea, sitting down and relaxing while you learn the basics about what is different here makes more sense."
Caroline smiled at Marc. "Thank you for explaining that, Marc. Do you know how far this pond is?"
"About five minutes or so, mattering how many trees the little ones play tag with," Marc replied with a grin. "The saplings learned the game from Timmy, and they've got pretty good at it."
"Yes, the trees are mobile," Danny added seriously. "The wildlife is safe too, so you guys don't need to go into Daddy Mode if one of the guys picks up a strange friend or ten."
With Ron, Caroline, and Chance, (who found that Ron had no intention of letting him walk), in the lead, the group headed off towards the nearest pond. By the time they got close, all five of the mini-Marcs were riding on the backs of their new Darmi friends. The deer-like creatures had made it clear that they had no intention of letting the little guys walk, and once Chance had explained the relationship that the Darmi had with the Archnanians there was no argument about letting the boys have a special treat.
They arrived at the pond just in time to find Antonio and Byron tossing their giggling son into the water. Spotting the new arrivals, Antonio sprinted over to greet them, Byron on his heels.
"Wazzup!" Antonio giggled as he joined the group and began giving each of his friends hugs. "I had Cam grab us a snack, let's sit down and you can all do introductions. This is my soon-to-be husband, Byron, and the waterlogged munchkin is our son, Yist." Pointing behind him, Antonio added "The food's over there."
Willy looked in the direction Antonio was pointing, and was surprised to find three medieval-scale picnic tables loaded with hamburgers, hot dogs, various types of cold salads, and all of the expected toppings for same. Six other boys were already at the tables, one of which Willy immediately recognized. "Stryker!" Willy yelled as he took off running towards the tables, Johnny quickly joining him.
The nine-year-old ash blond looked up from his snack, and jumped to his feet as soon as he realized that it was Willy yelling his name. Seconds later, the two boys crashed into each other and exchanged bone-crushing hugs. Once the hug broke, Willy exclaimed "Johnny, this is my best friend Stryker. Stryker, this is my twin brother, Johnny."
"Willy's been worried sick about you," Johnny stated as he pulled Stryker into a welcome hug. "Both of us are glad you made it out alive."
"Okay, when did Willy get a twin brother?" Stryker asked as he was let loose from Johnny's hug. "You never said anything about a brother, dude!"
"He was hiding in my head," Willy replied with a grin. "C'mon, I'll introduce you to our family, then Johnny and I will get you caught up."
"Sounds like a plan," Stryker nodded.
After the three boys made the rounds, they quickly took off to sit at the table and catch up with each other. Once they were out of earshot, Antonio stated "Marc's already cleared him. He's got the same upgrades that Willy and Johnny got; I just need another day with him Earthside to make sure his organics have stabilized, then which ever one of you is adopting him can take him home."
"What makes you so sure that one of us will adopt him?" Jeff asked.
"This is the first time he's done anything but mope around since he arrived," Antonio replied.
"Dad, while you guys figure out what you're gonna decide, I'm gonna help Willy and Johnny welcome my new little brother, okay?"
Josh grinned at the implications. "You've been comparing notes with your little brothers, haven't you, son? Go on, let us work out the details while you four plot the demise of the refrigerators."
With a big grin on his face, Andrei quickly made his way to join his brothers. As Josh shook his head, he commented "I'm glad to see him opening up. I just wonder if I'll survive it."
"You're a keeper; we got ways to make sure you survive!" Antonio giggled as he turned to join Byron and Yist, who were giving the Clan version of the Archnanian briefing to the younger group of first-time visitors.
Putting a hand on Danny's shoulder, Ron stated "Just because the rest of your brothers snuck off doesn't mean you get out of explaining where we are, Grandson."
"I'll handle it, Grandpa Ron," Chance commented. "Danny's head is still a little rusty from swimming."
"CAM!" Danny exclaimed, "Chance is going to need some dry clothes after he's done explaining Archnania. He's going to be really, really wet."
"Gotta catch me first!" Chance giggled. "Anyone interested in Archnanian Life 101, go to the far table; I'll be holding classes there once everyone's seated."
Josh smiled as he looked in on the puppy-pile of kids sharing the bedroom in their section of the visitor's treehouse. All of the boys were cuddled against whoever they could touch, even the five that Ron had claimed for his own. After he'd gotten over the shock of suddenly having five little brothers, Josh had realized that they might just be the best thing that could have happened for his parents.
"Sweet dreams, guys; you've earned it," Josh whispered as he turned and went into his room across the 'hall'. In no time, he was sound asleep; the knowledge that his growing family was safe allowing him to completely relax.
Peter and Galen took one more tour through the newly-rebuilt house. "What do you think, Babe?" Peter asked.
Galen smiled. "I think you outdid yourself. Your crews are getting good at being creative with the designs. Once we get everything furnished, it'll be good to go. How long are you going to give them on Archnania?"
"I think they'll need about a week to bond as a family," Peter stated with a smile. "I can't see why, but something's gonna happen soon that will need that bond. I can just feel it."
"I'm getting that too," Galen admitted. "Let's head over to Grandpa Ron's to get started there; he's a Clan Grandpa, so he's gonna have to adopt pretty soon!"
"Too late; he just picked his first five!" Peter laughed. "Here we go!"