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Aaron pushed Sean and Cory through the door. “You two; Cory’s room, NOW! Stay there until the rest of us get there, and NO Talking!” He then turned to the kids following him. “Tribal council in five minutes. I want all of you there, no excuses.” Aaron ordered sharply.
As Chip and Josh stormed past them and went up the stairs to their room, Teri cornered John, Justin and Brian. “Alright, spill it. Why the hell is Aaron treating Sean and Cory like convicts? WHAT HAPPENED?”
Brian answered for the group. “Teri, trust me when I say its best that we don’t give you details. You will hear all about it soon enough. If Aaron does not make the boys do a public apology, Chip will. I’ll leave it at this: the two of them had their first real lovers fight – in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and DEFINITELY over the wrong thing.”
Teri started to turn away. “I need to talk to Aaron. A talking to is fine, but not a friggin’ trial; which it sounds like he is planning.”
Curly grabbed her. “Teri, please don’t. This is actually necessary. All those boys swore a pact to stand by each other no matter what. Sean and Cory are breaking the rules they wrote, and Aaron is bringing them to task for that. I heard JJ tell John’s new sons about it. JJ told them if someone screws up the rest of them will straighten him out. This is going to be the first real test of that. Aaron knows to come for help if he needs it, but I’ve known him a long time. He can be more mature than Nick when it’s needed.”
Teri looked at Curly. “Justin, you better be right. If you are not, once I’m done with Aaron you are going to wish you had never been born. And that is a promise.”
Aaron slowly walked down the hall towards Cory’s room. He honestly was not looking forward to this, but he had promised to be Sean and Cory’s big brother, which meant it was his responsibility to set them back on the right path. As he passed their room, he could hear Chip from behind the door, throwing things and screaming words that Aaron had rarely heard him use. It was obvious that Josh was having little or no success in calming Chip, and Aaron winced at the thought of being on the receiving end of his anger. He opened the door to Cory’s room, hoping for the best.
JJ sat with Sammy and Jeffy on either side of him. As Aaron walked in the room, JJ pulled his new brothers in tight to him. It was scary, Aaron’s ever-present smile was conspicuously absent.
Just as Aaron was getting ready to speak, Kyle interrupted. “Hold on, bro. You got reinforcements coming. Mike is PISSED!”
Sorry to interrupt here, but I told the guys I would tell this part. Even Aaron has trouble being objective – I thought he was going to rip BOTH of their heads off! Well, here we go – sometimes being a guardian angel is really a drag.
I looked at all the boys before I began talking through Kyle. Sammy and Jeffy were looking confused, having no idea what I was about to do. Justy, Jamie, and Jacob were cuddled into a ball; I could see that all three were angry at my two younger brothers for getting their Dad and Pop so mad. Adam and Ty both were worried about their older brothers, as were JJ and Kyle. Mark, Rusty, Robbie, Andrew and Johnny had assembled together in their own little group, unsure as to what would happen now. Aaron and David were standing in the middle; both wondering if they had a chance of undoing the damage. Last was Cory and Sean; both feeling dejected and abandoned by the one they loved. Additionally, they both realized that they had probably trashed their chances at Starfleet. They saw no way that Chip would continue to support them after what happened on the shuttle.
I started speaking through Kyle. “Aaron, David; go ahead and take a seat. You have done great holding things together; now let’s see if we can fix them.”
“Okay, Mike. Thanks for helping.” Aaron replied as he sat down.
“Thanks for being there for them, Aaron. Now everyone gather in a circle around Sean and Cory, group yourselves by families. Johnny, that means you sit with your Uncle Aaron and Uncle David.”
I could see that being put together in the center was affecting the two boys, which was exactly the effect I wanted. There was nowhere either could look without seeing the face of someone they have helped.
“Sean, you go first, I want you to tell everyone everything you thought and felt from the time you entered the shuttle until you walked in the door here. NOBODY is to interrupt him, not even you, Cory. Jamie, make sure your Dad hears all of this, Jacob do the same for your Pop.”
Sean began. “When I got to the shuttle, I started to head up front, but then I got to thinking. Cory had got the promotion, I was still trying to get used to the idea, but I had not got to talk to him about it. I knew that he could ride co-pilot just by out-ranking me, so I decided to give him a treat and let him ride up front. When he came on, first he asked me to go up front. I tried to tell him he earned it, but then he ordered me to go. When he repeated the order before I could tell him I was giving it to him as a gift, I blew my top; I started feeling jealous and angry that he was able to use his rank to ruin a surprise I had for him. Once I got up front, I glanced back at him; I guess my anger at him ruining the surprise must have showed. After Uncle Chip calmed me down, I went back to apologize and explain; but he refused to listen and pushed me away. Aaron made me go back up front, I managed to handle the communications but that was about it. When we got in the limo, I sat in our normal spot, but he sat in the other corner and would not even look at me. Aaron grabbed both of us when we got here, sent us up here, and he still won’t look at me.”
“Okay, that about covers it, Sean. Your turn, Cory; save any comments to Sean until I tell you it’s time.”
Cory sniffled, and then started. “Once I had made sure all the adults transported ok, I headed to the shuttle. On the way, I was thinking about just getting home and finding a corner to cuddle with Sean for a while. I was really worn out; after the ceremony everyone was taking all of my time. I had not had even a minute alone with Sean. When I entered the shuttle and saw Sean in back I was exasperated. I knew he needed the flight time to get qualified as a pilot, as much as I needed him his qualification came first. I tried asking nicely for him to go up front, but when he refused the day caught up to me. I just wanted to get home, so I ordered him up front, as much as it hurt to pull rank. He started to argue, and I really lost it; it looked like he refused to acknowledge my promotion. After I repeated the order, he went up front; but when he looked back at me all I could see was the hate in his eyes. I felt like I was going to die, I just went to the back and withdrew into myself. I did not care about the promotion any more; I had lost my boyfriend because of it. When Sean came back and tried to apologize, I couldn’t listen – every time I heard his voice I saw that look he gave me. When Aaron separated us, I started going back into myself, but Uncle Josh shook me and informed me that I had better stop that now, just sit and relax until we got home and could straighten it out. I gave Sean some space in the limo, and the entire ride home Uncle Josh stared me down while Uncle Chip was staring Sean down. I did not realize how all this was affecting everyone else until I heard Aaron call a tribal council – and when he said we couldn’t talk to each other I kinda went into shock.”
“Jamie, Jacob, keep updating your parents. Sean, Cory; both of you pretty much were doing the same thing, looking out for the other one. But you are both guilty of the same thing too; not listening to what the other was saying. I will save Aaron the trouble of explaining; the reason he wanted you guys to talk it out here is this is the only setting where you could both speak without worry. I have another good reason, everyone here has just seen what happens when you don’t listen; I hope they all learn from your mistakes. Justy, I believe you had some comments?
“You’re as bad as my lil’ bros, Mike. Yeah, do you two realize how much trouble you could cause Dad for that little catfight you had? I grew up around Starfleet; Dad was the one responsible for everything that happened on that shuttle today. I know now why you did what you did, and so does Dad; but does knowing excuse what you did? Dad always told me that when I’m on a ship or shuttle I have to think about how every little thing I do is going to affect the crew; did EITHER of you think about that? Cory, YOU are a COMMAND OFFICER now; when you are in uniform, even spitting on the sidewalk is not allowed. Dad says being an officer is like a miniature ambassador, everything you say and do reflects on Starfleet and your crew. Now that I understand why you did what you did, I forgive you, but Dad and Pop won’t be that easy. A little advice; settle your war with each other quick, then see Dad before he makes up his mind whether or not to continue sponsoring you.”
“Guys, Justy made a valid point. Sean, do you have anything to say to Cory?”
Sean carefully put a hand on Cory’s shoulder. “Cory, I’m sorry I pushed you so hard. What started as a surprise got out of hand, and ruined what should have been the happiest day of your life. Will you forgive me?”
Cory placed his hand on Sean’s hand. “Yes, I’ll forgive you. Will you forgive me for using my rank to try to push you to succeed, and then not listening when you tried to explain?”
Sean pulled Cory into a hug. “Yes, babe. What would you say to hijacking a lounge chair by the pool for a while after this is all over?”
“I think you are pretty smart for a helmsman. It sounds great; I think we need a little private talk too.”
I know Kyle reflected my smile; hopefully this little episode has made those two stronger. I really hated to break the mood, but the rest of the group still had some things to answer to. “Cory, Sean, I’m proud of you, bros. Now the rest of you have a little lecture coming still, and make sure Chip and Josh know I’m applying this to them too, Jamie and Jacob. It seems that once the ceremony was over, all of you were so happy for Cory that you did not allow him any time with Sean. Most of you are paired off with someone, either as a boyfriend or a twin. Most of what happened would probably have been avoided if you had just given the two of them five minutes by themselves. All of you need to think about others, and if you see that a couple needs some time, take it upon yourself to separate them from everyone else and give them that time. Cory, Sean, it is time to go see your Uncles, they are expecting you by the pool. I am going to get the new members caught up on the tribal history while you are gone, come back once you are done. You still have to conduct your normal business before the meeting ends.”
Okay, I’m going to let Cory take over here. I’ll be back in a little bit; you really don’t need to see everyone’s histories again, do you? I’ll take care of the new guys while you are gone.
I stood up and helped Sean to his feet, then we headed downstairs to the pool. Mikey made a lot of sense when he was talking to us; I just hope my short temper did not ruin our chances of staying in Starfleet. When Mikey chewed out Uncle Chip and Uncle Josh I really got worried, I hope they did not take it personally. Okay, we’re at the door going out to the pool deck now, wish us luck.
I figured it would be best to get the official part over with first, then it would not be hanging over our heads.
“Commander? Ensign Short and Cadet Short requesting a conference, Sir.”
Chip stood up from in front of Josh with his arms behind him. “I’ve been expecting you, Ensign. I have reviewed your personal reasons for today’s incident. I am now awaiting your official report.”
Ouch, it looks like Uncle Chip is not going to make this easy. I’m on my own with this one. If I ask Sean to help it will look like I am not ready to be an officer. Here goes nothing!
“Sir, upon investigation, it appears that Cadet Short was attempting to reward my promotion by allowing me co-pilot privileges on the trip back, despite his status as Junior Helmsman. Due to my error in not allowing him to explain himself, he appeared to willingly disobey a lawful order. As a result of my review, I feel it would be inappropriate for any charges to be filed against Cadet Short. I accept responsibility for his actions, and request my personal reasons be entered in the report as explanation. I hereby apologize for the incident on the shuttle today, and accept full responsibility.
Chip thought for a minute, and then replied. “Ensign, your refusal to press charges is approved. By accepting responsibility for Cadet Short’s actions, you have shown me that you understand the responsibility a senior officer has to his junior officers. Despite the fact your actions were by the book, you disrupted the normal operation of the shuttlecraft. Before I decide what to do about that, you have one chance to tell me what you should have done.”
YIKES! Talk about putting me under pressure! Here I am, fourteen years old and about to make a speech which will permanently affect not only my life, but Sean’s life too. Any suggestions?
“Sir; upon entering the shuttlecraft and noticing that Cadet Short was not at his normal station, I should have politely asked him to step to the back and discussed it with him. As you were in command, if I had not been able to resolve the situation, I should have brought it to your attention for final resolution.”
OUCH! My head hurts after using all those big words! I hope I got it right, even if Sean forgives me I could never forgive myself for ruining his dream.
“That was correct, Ensign. Do I need to worry about a repeat of this offense?”
“No sir. I can assure you I will not repeat my actions, and Cadet Short has learned from both his and my errors.”
I really feel weird speaking for Sean, but it looks like Uncle Chip is expecting me to do just that. Please say this is over, I need to get some Tylenol from Mom.
“Consider this incident closed. There will be no more mention of it from either of you. I will express your apologies to the adults who were aboard. At ease, gentlemen.” Chip retook his seat in front of Josh on the lounger and leaned back into his husband’s arms. He then motioned the boys to take a seat on the lounger next to them. “Okay you two, you are off the record now, what do you got to say for yourselves – and I expect you each to reply.”
I think I’ll let Sean go first. He’s had to stay quiet since we came out here; it’s time for him to unload some.
“Go ahead babe; I’ve talked too much already.”
Sean gave Chip and Josh a nervous look. “Uncle Chip, Uncle Josh, I guess I was really stupid. I let things go way too far, and ruined the day for everyone. I’m sorry I messed up, I’m really gonna try to keep this from ever happening again.”
Chip responded first. “Sean, you did have a good idea by trying to give Cory a treat, but you need to listen more when he talks to you; not just when you are on duty, but all the time. You still take everything personally. That’s something you still need to work on a little bit. When you are on duty, taking things personal can get you or someone near you hurt or killed. I accept your apology, and I’m glad to see you learned something from this.”
Josh then spoke up. “Sean, I’ll accept your apology too. You were trying too hard, something even Chip is guilty of sometimes. Don’t be afraid to tell Cory to stop and take a breath. If you let work interfere with your personal life you two have no chance as a couple.”
Sean smiled. “Thanks, both of you. I’ve learned a lot today, even though I hate how I had to go about it. The only thing that matters to me right now is that I’ve got Cory back.”
Jeeze! Why did he have to make me feel all mushy just before my turn! Talk about messing up your train of thought! Oh, well; I guess he’ll just have to make it up to me with extra cuddle time later. OOPS, I think Uncle Josh saw my evil grin!
“Uncle Chip, Uncle Josh, I was really out of line today. I ignored what Sean was trying to tell me, and turned it into something that almost broke us up. I know that all the kids look at Sean and I as their leaders, and today I gave them a really bad example. I’m really sorry, and I promise it won’t ever happen again; next time I might not be lucky enough to get Sean back.”
Chip smiled. “Well put, Cory. The unique thing about you and Sean is the two of you seem to switch who’s in charge depending on the situation. That’s normally not a problem, but on duty just remember that whichever one of your departments is involved determines who is in charge. For example: Mr. Scott is senior to me in regards to seniority date; but unless he’s in command, I override him as far as Helm decisions go. Boys, give yourself some time. Don’t try to be the perfect officer all at once. You never will be. I accept the apology and hope you two can really patch things up the rest of the way.”
Josh chuckled. “From the look Cory gave Sean a minute ago, I think ‘patching up’ is a very polite term, babe.” He then turned his attention to Cory. “I accept too, Cory, and agree with everything that’s been said. Just remember, no matter how you feel, instead of pushing Sean away listen to him. As you found out, it can save a lot of problems. Now go on, you two. I think a few kids are getting worried.”
Sean and I gave Uncle Chip and Uncle Josh big hugs before we went back inside. When we got back upstairs, I stopped him before he opened the door and just stood there in a hug with him for five minutes. I don’t know about Sean, but to me that hug meant more than any words could ever say.
Well, we just re-joined the tribe in the room, and Mikey is whining that he wants the keyboard back. I swear, just because he’s our big bro, he thinks he can order us around! Anyone want a guardian angel – cheap?
WHOA! Now that’s gratitude for ya, I help save their relationship, and then Cory tries to sell me off! I swear, I get NO respect! (giggle) Anyways, the new members are all caught up on everyone’s history, so I’ll give the crew a few parting words and be out of your hair for a while. By the way, watch out for Aaron – the little sneak has big plans brewing!
“Welcome back, guys. I caught everyone up on the histories for you, as well as your usual comments. Kyle’s getting a little tired here, so I’ll let you take over now. I just want you to know I am proud of you guys, it took a lot to listen and make up after a fight like you had. These guys are counting on you, but also are willing to be there for you, never forget that little brothers.”
“Thanks Mikey. I miss you, but at least I know you are watching.” Cory said with tears in his eyes.
“Lil’ buddy, any time any of these guys gives you a hug, I’m there giving you one with them. That goes for any of you here; you are all my little brothers now. I’m gonna get out of Kyle’s head now, but don’t worry, I’ll still be here.”
I dropped back and made a quick pass through everyone, the closest thing a ghost can do to a hug. By the smiles on their faces, I could tell each and every boy understood what I had done. Now, time to plan revenge on that little squirt for trying to sell me off. This should be fun! Talk to y’all later!
Cory sat down and pulled Sean onto his lap. “Guys, I realize today has been really screwed up. Part of it is our fault, and we are both sorry about that. Sammy, Jeffy, believe it or not things are not always this weird around here; some days we can go up to four hours with everything being absolutely normal.”
The comment had its desired effect, as the room broke into giggles.
“Hey, Cory,” Justy squeaked between giggles, “Invite me over when you have one of those days, I haven’t seen one yet!”
That finished everyone off, as the boys dissolved in laughter. Once everyone settled down, Sean spoke up.
“Okay, Sammy first, do you have any questions or comments for any of us?”
“Yeah, I’m kinda bummed that I’ve made all these new friends today, and in a few days I’ll probably never see them again.”
Sean smiled. “I guess you didn’t hear about the plans, did you? In a couple months all of us, and that includes you two, are moving to Orlando. We just have to wait for the house to get done. It’s right down the road from Uncle Chip’s ranch.”
“Okay, I hope we are still here then.”
JJ spoke up. “That is not a worry, bro. I’ve known John a long time, and if he says that he’s taking care of you, it would take the firepower of the Enterprise to get you away. And I KNOW Dad ain’t letting him go anywhere, not if he knows what’s good for him.”
Sean giggled. “Easy there, Tiger. How’s about you, Jeffy?”
“Yeah, just one – where’s the food? I’m hungry!”
Mark raised his hand. “I second that. Last one to the fridge starves!”
There was a mad rush to the stairs, with Robbie and Johnny hopping on the back of the first older kid to get near them. Fifteen minutes and three loaves of bread later, all the boys, except Sean and Cory, headed to the Rec room. Sean and Cory headed out to the pool deck, and shared a lounge chair in a quiet cuddle.
An hour later, Chip was beginning the unlock of the simulator for the boys. He unlocked the Helm section without problems, but when he went to do the Engineering section he found that all the locks were already removed. He pulled out his communicator and called the Enterprise.
“Dodds to Enterprise.”
“Enterprise, Palmer here. Go ahead, Commander.”
“Get me Mr. Scott, please.”
A couple seconds later, Scotty came on the line. “Scott here. How may I be helping ye, Mr. Dodds?”
“Just a quick question for ya, Scotty. Did you do a remote unlock of the Engineering simulator for Cory?”
“Ahh … negative, Mr. Dodds. The young lad handled that all hisself.”
“That’s what I was afraid of. Thanks, Scotty. Dodds out.” Chip closed his communicator and turned to Josh. “I’m not even gonna bother asking.I just know he’s gonna tell me how simple it was. Remind me to update the security on the computer system at the Ranch BEFORE Cory gets to Orlando.”
Josh looked shocked. “Why? I thought we had the best out there?”
Chip shook his head. “We had the best on EARTH. I’m gonna have to use Vulcan security protocols to try to Cory-proof our systems!”
Chip caught Cory and Sean as they were coming in and heading to their room for the night and let them know the simulator was fully unlocked. They thanked him, and agreed that it would be best to wait for the next day to test it out. Chip looked in the Rec room and saw that the rest of the gang had passed out in their normal nest, with the notable exception of Sean and Cory. He then grabbed Josh by the hand and led him to their bedroom.
The next morning …
Aaron was bouncing off the walls as he woke everyone up. The day had finally come for him to spring his surprise on his new family. His first victims were Sean and Cory, much to their displeasure.
Aaron knocked once on their door, and charged in.
“AARON!!” Cory yelled. “Give us a chance to get decent! What’s the big rush?”
Aaron grinned. “I just got some plans for us all today! Hurry up and get ready!”
“Whatever. Give us a little peace; we’ll be down in a few.” Cory said.
Sean muttered from underneath the blanket, “Looks like we need to blond-proof the bedroom door.”
Cory reached under the blanket and swatted Sean’s head. “Watch it, another comment like that and you sleep in your own room!”
“OUCH! Sorry babe. I guess I should say ‘Aaron-proof’ instead.”
“That’s better. But you still are gonna pay for the blond insult.” Cory said as he began tickling Sean.
Aaron giggled as he backed out of the room. “I’m gonna get clear before the fireworks start!”
His next targets were Justy and the twins. As he tried to sneak up on them, Justy opened one eye and growled “You try it, blondie, and I’ll shave your head!”
Aaron took a step back. “Ok, Jus, you win. You mind waking the twins. It’s time to get your Dad and Pop up. I’ll need some help there.”
Justy concentrated on Aaron for a second, then grinned. “That’s sneaky, bro. We’ll take care of Dad and Pop. You better not be thinking about it when you wake Kyle if you wanna surprise him! You know what Dad will do to you if you wake him.”
Justy then nudged the twins, both of which were instantly awake. Jamie spoke up first. “You better not be foolin’ us, Justy! Let’s hit the bathroom first. If Daddy and Pop tickles us, it’ll get messy if we don’t!”
Aaron made the rounds of the rest of the kids, and was just finishing up when “JUSTIN!! JAMIE!! JACOB!!” was heard being yelled from upstairs.
Chip and Josh’s room:
Justy and the twins snuck into the room quietly. When they were about four foot from the bed, Justy counted down using his newfound skills with the twins. On cue, all three pounced on their sleeping parents.
“JUSTIN!! JAMIE!! JACOB!!” Chip yelled in surprise. “I’m gonna get all three of you!” He then began tickling whichever boy he could get his hands on. Josh exited his morning stupor and joined in on the torture.
After about five minutes, Chip looked over at the clock. “Justin, would you like to explain why we are getting such an early wakeup call?”
“Sure, Dad. Aaron woke us up. He’s getting everyone ready for his surprise today.”
Chip looked at Josh. “Pool?”
Josh grinned. “Agreed.”
Chip and Josh gathered the boys into a family hug, then Josh told them, “Go on downstairs. We’ll get dressed and be down shortly.”
The three boys gave their parents a kiss on the cheek, and then headed out to raid the kitchen.
A few minutes later, Chip and Josh exited their bedroom, and met Cory and Sean in the hall. “Why the red face, Sean?” Chip asked with a grin.
“I made the mistake of making a blond crack while Cory was on top of me. Aaron is SOOOO dead when I catch him!”
Chip chuckled. “Okay, I’ll let you have first shot. All he did to us is send the boys up to do a wakeup pounce. Obviously he got you two in person.”
“You could say that,” Cory replied, “at the worst time no less!”
“Let’s go Aaron hunting,” Josh said with an evil grin.
They found Aaron on the kitchen phone, calling the hotel to wake everyone there. As Sean and Cory grabbed Aaron, Josh grabbed the receiver and put it to his ear.
“This is JC. Who is Aaron annoying now?” he said into the phone.
“This is Nick. Tell my little brother he better update his will, there are two bands ready to kill him as soon as we get over there.”
“Nicky, if there is anything left you are welcome to it. Let’s just say he interrupted Cory and Sean in a private moment. Then he sent the twins and Justy after us. If anyone else wants a piece of him, they better hurry over.”
Nick began giggling. “I’ll be sure to pass that on. Sounds like he’s back to being his scheming, lovable self; don’t it?”
“The jury is still out on the lovable part! See you guys in a little bit, sounds like it’s almost our turn.”
“‘K. Later.” Nick then hung up.
Josh turned to Chip with a grin. “I almost could feel sorry for Aaron right now. Nicky’s on the warpath, along with the rest of Backstreet and N’Sync.”
Chip chuckled. “Let’s go see if there’s anything left for us!”
They walked out to the pool, and witnessed an already soaked Aaron being tossed off the diving board into a forced belly flop.
“Cory, how many times is that?” Chip yelled out.
“That was number four! One more then it’s your turn!” Cory replied as he prepared to catch Aaron again.
Aaron jumped out of the pool, and went to run towards the doorway. He came to a screeching halt when he saw Chip and Josh standing there with their arms folded across their chests. As Sean and Cory grabbed him from behind, Justy squeezed between his parents while a twin took each side. As Aaron went flying into the pool one last time, Cory looked over and giggled as he saw all three boys had adopted the same stance as their fathers.
Sean turned to look at what Cory was giggling about, and said with a grin “Looks like the fun’s just starting. Wanna watch?”
“Yeah!” Cory replied as he headed for a lounge chair.
Ten minutes later, Chip decided Aaron had been tortured enough. “Okay guys; let him out to dry off. Hopefully that took care of some of the excess energy he had.” Chip said with a grin.
A soaking wet Aaron walked up to Chip and Josh and pulled them both into a hug. “Chip, Josh. I know I’ve been a major pain in the butt since you guys took me in. I’m really sorry.”
They wrapped their arms around Aaron, and Josh spoke. “Aaron, we understand. The way your parents treated you would be hard on anyone at any age, but it’s really hard on a teenager. We are just glad to see you are safe and happy.”
Aaron sobbed. “Yeah, but all this time I’ve been pushing you guys and Nicky away. I was so scared that if I let you get close I’d lose you too. Until you brought me here, I couldn’t understand why anyone would want me. David and I have even had arguments about it.”
Sean and Cory had came up to see what was wrong, and upon hearing Aaron they joined in the hug. “Aaron,” Cory said softly, “you are a great guy who I’m proud to call my big bro. Whatever anyone has told you in the past, forget it. You made a promise to be there if we needed help, and you did that last night; it takes someone really special to do that.”
Josh smiled. “You know, Cory’s right, Aaron. We knew all along that you still had that special guy inside you. That’s why none of us ever gave up on you.”
Aaron pulled himself tighter into Chip and Josh. “I’ve never really said this, but thank you for having faith in me and taking me in. I’m gonna owe you for the rest of my life for giving me a chance.”
Chip moved his hand up and caressed Aaron’s shoulder. “Aaron, as long as you are happy and safe that’s all the repayment we’ll ever need. Let’s all get dried off, I’ll talk to the guys when they get here and see if I can get them to forget the dunking they are planning to give you.”
They broke the hug, but before they went inside Aaron grabbed Sean and Cory and hugged them. “Lil’ bro’s, thanks for believing in me. Anything at all that you need just let me know; thanks to you guys I’m getting my life back.”
The three boys walked to the house, Aaron keeping an arm over Sean and Cory’s shoulders.
Vets Auditorium, Des Moines, IA
Big Ken looked around him in wonder. In all the years he had been hosting the morning show on Star 102.5, with all the children’s charities he had worked for, nothing matched what was about to happen here. He did his final sound check with the studio, verifying everything was ready to simulcast the upcoming events over the station.
Chip yelled to Ken. “Hey Ken, come over here a minute!”
Ken looked around, trying to spot who was yelling at him. When he saw a man standing there in a Starfleet uniform waving his arms, he went into shock. “Uhhh, okay …”
Chip walked over. “Big Ken?”
“I’m Commander Charles Dodds from the Federation Starship Enterprise. How you doin’ today?”
“How ya doing, Commander. How can I help you?”
“I understand you are the man I need to talk to.”
“About what??” Ken asked with a puzzled look.
“Well, it seems that this concert is drawing a little attention. For some strange reason, MTV just cornered me backstage. It looks like they are one of two groups who want a live feed from here.”
“Wait a minute – ONE of TWO groups!?”
“Yep. The other one kinda serves a little larger audience – try the entire Federation.”
“Stop pulling my leg – there ain’t no way!”
“Ken, I just got off the horn with my CO about this little shindig; for some reason HIS boss is extremely interested in this.”
“WAIT A MINUTE! Are you telling me STARFLEET wants to broadcast the concert?”
“Exactly, Ken. You think you are up for the challenge?”
“For the kids of Iowa, I have never turned down a challenge. Bring them on!”
“Alright, looks like you and I are doin’ some co-hosting today. Be ready for a few surprises; this bunch is full of them.”
As the lights started dimming, Ken smiled. “To quote Pat Benitar – ‘Hit me with your best Shot!’ I’m up for it – are you?”
“What the hell are you waitin’ on? Let’s party!”
Ken grinned, slapped Chip’s shoulder, and then stepped out onto the stage.
“Des Moines! It’s great seeing all you guys and gals out here! How’s it feel to get a day off of school to go to a concert?”
The auditorium was full of students from Des Moines and surrounding area schools, and they broke into a thunderous roar of applause.
“I’m Big Ken from the Star 102.5 morning show here in Des Moines, and I’m just as surprised as you to be here. Our guests have asked me to tell you that not only is this being broadcast over the radio station, but it’s being recorded to be released on a CD – so make a LOT of noise! Oh, by the way, everyone wave, you are on MTV as well as all over the Federation – courtesy of Starfleet Command. Congratulations, you are about to participate in the Federation’s first galaxy-wide concert!”
That wound up the crowd even more, as Ken continued.
“Let’s get this show rolling, Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls … Here he is, the Little Prince of Pop … AARON CARTER!”
Aaron came sliding out on stage. “Thanks Ken, and thank YOU Des Moines for being here! I’ve got a whole buncha surprises for y’all today; but for now LET’S ROCK THIS JOINT!” Aaron then launched into a lively rendition of ‘Another Earthquake’.
After he finished, he stopped for a second. “THANK YOU! As a lot of you know, I was kicked out of my family a while back due to being gay. California does not have the shelter system for kids that Des Moines does, so if it wasn’t for two very special guys I would have been out on the streets. Not only did they give me someplace to stay, they gave me a family. Nick and I had always been close to our mom, so that hurt me more than anything when she rejected me. When I came here to visit, I was given the opportunity to have the one thing I was missing – the acceptance of a mother. The reason I’m throwing this party is to raise money for the Des Moines shelters, and we are donating all the proceeds from the CD we are going to make here today; but also it’s my way of saying thanks for standing by me when I was down. I’m proud to introduce to you my family: Commander Charles Dodds from the Federation Starship Enterprise; his husband, JC Chasez-Dodds of N’Sync; my new mom, Teri Short, who just became the Federation Youth Services director; and my brothers – Justin Dodds; Jacob and Jamie Stewart; Sean, Cory, Adam, and Tyler Short! Get on out here!”
Everyone filed out, and gathered behind Aaron. Once they were all assembled, he continued. “A few of you probably recognize Jamie, Jacob, and Tyler. You heard me right when I gave Ty’s NEW last name; he is now legally Teri’s son, while the carrot-top twins are now Chip and JC’s foster sons! Since this is MY party, it’s only right that my brothers and JC help with this next song. I’ll let Chip and Mom off the hook – this time!”
Aaron looked at the kids. “You know what to do; LET’S GET THIS PARTY STARTED!”
The music started, and shortly all the kids were hamming it up with Aaron as they gave him backup to ‘Aaron’s Party’. As the song finished, every light in the auditorium went out. A blue strobe began flashing to the beat as the Backstreet Boys stole the stage, immediately launching into ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)’. When the lights came on as the vocals started, the crowd went nuts.
As the song wound down, the opening notes of ‘Larger Than Life’ began playing. To the delight of the crowd, the opening scream was done by Justin as N’Sync came running out to join the men of Backstreet in the performance. The two bands performed the moves as if they had been doing it together all along.
In the back, Chip nudged Teri. “Please tell me I’m dreaming – this can’t be real!”
“Don’t look at me!” Teri replied in shock. “I’m still trying to figure out what’s going on myself!”
They both looked on in shock as Ashley ran to join the bands on stage. Seconds later, they heard him announce to the crowd “Hey Des Moines! You didn’t actually think I’d sit this out, did you? It took a few phone calls, but all the guys from O-Town couldn’t pass up putting one of our songs in the mix. We talked it over, and since they couldn’t be here, there are a couple of new daddies who are going to cover the leads. B-Rok? Curly? Get your skinny butts up here!” A few seconds later, the sounds of “All or Nothing” flooded the arena.
Aaron walked up to Chip and Teri. “Chip, I think you need to talk to your lil’ bro – that was his idea for that song. Oh yeah, get ready, you two are on next!” He then ran before either of them could grab him.
“If he’s serious, I’M throwing him in the pool!” Teri exclaimed. As the song finished, her worst fears came true.
Kevin took the microphone. “As Aaron mentioned earlier, a few of our families have grown in the last week. Chip, Teri, John, Dan, Kristin; come on out here for a minute.”
Chip walked up to Kevin and whispered to him, “Cuz, You are sooooooo dead when we get home!”
Once they were all out there and done threatening his life, Kevin continued. “I’m going to introduce the kids one at a time, and after they are seated in front of their parents we have a special dedication for them. First, I’ll start with my nephews, Dan and John’s boys.” As each one came out, they sat facing their parents. “JJ Richardson … Kyle Richardson … Sammy Taylor … and Jeffy Taylor. Now, the rest of these guys may not be direct nephews, but in mine and Kristin’s hearts they are just as much nephews as the four who are out here already. The next group is Chip and JC’s boys; Justin Dodds … Jamie Stewart … Jacob Stewart … and unofficially, Mark Owens. Now for Teri’s boys; Sean Short … Cory Short … Adam Short … Tyler Short … and Aaron Carter, with his boyfriend David Gallagher. Speaking of Carters, we can’t forget Nick and Ash’s son Johnny Carter! Now, B-Rok is getting in on the daddy game too, here’s his foster son Robbie Miller. Not to be left out, JT has his own angel, Rusty Miller. There’s one more special kid here, who I think of as my part-time son; come on out here Andy. Guy’s and gals – Andy Evans! Kids, this one’s from us to you!” Kevin gave the signal to the rest of the musicians, and in harmony they all began: “I’ll be the oonnneee … …” AJ, JC, Curly and Brian harmonized on the solo parts, while all the adults kicked in on the harmonies.
Brian stepped to the front of the stage with Robbie on his hip as the rest of the boys hugged their parents. “Speaking of dedications, this next one is very special. When I wrote this next song for my mom, I had no idea the effect it would have on my extended family. I’m sorry to say that Dan’s wife of 15 years passed away a week ago. We never got to meet Sharon, but the proceeds from the CD we are making tonight are being donated in her name to the local shelters. JJ and Kyle have requested that they be allowed to sing with us, and after discussion we decided that it would only be fitting that all the kids take over for this song. From this day forward, this song is dedicated to you, Sharon; you truly were the ‘Perfect Fan’.”
The lights dimmed as JJ and Kyle walked to the front of the stage. Adam and Tyler walked up next to their respective boyfriends and all four joined hands. Aaron, David and the rest of the boys formed a semicircle behind the four; then Ashley, Backstreet, and N’Sync made a third row behind them. Kevin sat at the piano, and as he played the first note the auditorium went silent.
Kyle: “It takes a lot to know what is love.”
JJ: “It’s not the big things, but the little things … That can mean enough.”
Kyle: “A lot of prayers to get me through”
JJ: “And there is never a day that passes by … I don’t think of you.”
Kyle and JJ: “You were always there for me.”
Kyle, Ty, JJ, Adam: “Pushing me and guiding me … always to succeed.”
For the first chorus, all of the boys onstage sang the “You showed me” verses, while the four boys in front handled the rest of the lines. For the second stanza, all four boys sang the verses. When the time came for the second chorus, the band members all joined in; adding a stunning dimension to the song.
For the third stanza, JJ took lead vocals, tears starting to run down his face as he put everything he had into the words. When the final chorus came around, every kid in the auditorium joined with the singers onstage; giving the song a presence which would make the Vienna Boys Choir green with envy.
When JJ and Kyle said the final “I love you, Mom”, the crowd was completely silent. Adam and Ty held their boyfriends after they finished, unmindful of the schoolmates watching them. When the boys separated, they looked out at the silent crowd. To their surprise, every person in the crowd was standing watching them; as soon as it was apparent that JJ and Kyle had recovered the crowd exploded into massive applause for the boys.
Brian came to the front of the stage and pulled the four boys in close to him. It took five minutes for the crowd to settle enough for him to speak. Once they had settled and seated, Brian spoke. “In all the times that song has been sung, thanks to these boys and all of you out there it has finally sounded the way I imagined it. I promise this one WILL be released as a single; every person here tonight deserves it. Thank you; I speak for all the family when I say you have just gained a permanent spot in all of our hearts.”
Kevin walked up behind Brian. “DES MOINES! I know every band says this – but this time we are being totally honest when we say YOU ARE OUR FAVORITE FANS OF ALL! For the ‘flip side’, this one goes out to YOU!”
As the kids scrambled backstage, Backstreet launched into ‘Everyone’. Every time the lyrics were supposed to be “This one goes out to you”, the band loudly replaced “you” with “Des Moines”. N’Sync did backup until the song finished, and then Justin came up to the front of the stage. “We feel the same as our bro’s in Backstreet. You guys and gals are the BEST! If there’s anyone who has anything bad to say about the fine state of Iowa, they are gonna have to deal with US!”
N’Sync then launched into a lively version of ‘Pop’. Justin was hamming it up even more than usual, so when the song finished Aaron yelled out “Hey JT, next one’s all yours!”
Justin saluted Aaron, as his bandmates evacuated the stage and tossed him a guitar. Nick snuck out to assist Justin with the vocals, which drove the crowd wild. The pair launched into ‘Like I Love You’. Once the song finished, Nick took the lead.
The crowd went insane as the spotlight lit up the drum set at the rear of the stage; Aaron had picked up some sticks and was ready to rock.
“Hey y’all, it looks like my little bro wants to play on the drums!” Nick announced. “This one goes out to the homeless kids out there – ‘I Just Wanna Take You Home’.” Justin had grabbed an electric guitar and the three of them gave a hot rendition of the single.
Once they finished, the rest of Backstreet and N’Sync came out, and as the lights softened Justin announced “This one is for you, Iowa. ‘God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You.'”
The two bands harmonized perfectly, giving the song an unreal quality that conveyed their emotions to all listening.
As Backstreet exited the stage, Chip walked around to the back of the stage. N’Sync started with ‘The Music Of My Heart’. When the part originally sung by Gloria Estefan came up, Chip walked out towards the guys, singing; surprising Teri and Anne backstage. He then took Josh’s extended hand and the two of them handled the lead vocals for the rest of the song to the delight of the audience.
Once the song finished, Chip announced, “This next one is a message to all the child abusers out there.” N’Sync then launched into ‘The Game Is Over’. Ashley and the Backstreet Boys joined them for the last chorus, then Brian and Justin went to the front of the stage and joined Nick and Ashley to sing lead vocals for ‘As Long As You Love Me’.
Backstage, Chip and Anne were watching. “Aunt Anne, do you see what I see?”
“I think so. Justin and Brian seem to be sending a message, wouldn’t you agree?” Anne replied.
“Yep. I think there are two people who better watch out, or they will be replaced.”
The song wound down, and Ashley stepped up front. “I’m gonna sneak in another O-Town one if the guys don’t mind helping out. ‘Cause you all know, I’ve ‘Been Around The World’.”
After the last song, Big Ken and Chip walked onto the stage. Big Ken started the announcement. “Des Moines, what do ya’ think?”
The crowd roared their approval.
“Well, Commander Dodds here just got a couple interesting envelopes. I guess I’ll turn it over to him.”
Chip took the microphone. “Hey y’all! It seems that y’all are getting kinda popular. This first envelope is from the Federation Council. They seem to think you might want a little donation.” He opened the envelope. “How does fifty thousand dollars sound to start things off?”
Ken looked at Chip in shock, as the crowd stood and applauded. Chip grinned. “This next one is from my own ship, the Enterprise. It has a note with it, which I’ll read:
To the people of Iowa:
As an Iowa native, I’m proud to see one of my officers take the initiative to help the best state in the Union. The officers and crew of the Enterprise have collected one hundred thousand dollars, and as the Captain of the Flagship of the Fleet, I personally challenge every other ship in the Fleet to match that. Additionally, I’m adding fifty thousand dollars from my own personal funds.
(signed)Captain James T. Kirk
USS Enterprise, NCC-1701-A
The audience went nuts at the fact that the legendary Starfleet Captain had sent that message, and the donation that went along with it. Once the applause subsided, Chip continued, “Just to let all of you know, JC and I are producing this CD, and we will match, dollar for dollar, each and every sale as our own personal donation.” The audience erupted again in a thunderous applause. After a few minutes, Chip was able to continue, “We have one more, but this one is a video.”
A screen dropped down, and shortly the crest for the Vulcan Embassy was on the screen. A stately Vulcan came onto camera. “Greetings, residents of Iowa. I am Ambassador Sarek of the planet Vulcan. One of the indicators of a civilized society is providing for the youth. We of the Vulcan High Council commend you for striving to do more than simply provide. The Council has determined that five hundred thousand dollars in your local currency would be a satisfactory assistance for your efforts. It would be logical for other planets of the Federation to match this donation.” The Ambassador raised his right hand in the traditional Vulcan salute. “Live long and prosper.” The screen then went blank.
Chip turned to Ken. “You know Ken, as well as I know Ambassador Sarek, I think my father just issued a challenge. Look out, I don’t know of any planet that will ignore a challenge from him!”
Ken grinned. “I’m just glad he’s our friend. Thank you, Ambassador.” Ken then managed the Vulcan salute. “Live long and prosper.”
As Chip and Ken headed off stage, Justin ran out ahead of his bandmates. “This next one goes out from all of Iowa to our FAVORITE ‘Space Cowboys’: Captain James T. Kirk, and the officers and crew of the Starship Enterprise!” N’Sync then started in on ‘Space Cowboy’.
Aaron rounded up all the kids in back. “Hey guys, we are all up for these last ones.”
The stage went black, and Aaron went out with the kids. As the drums kicked in for ‘Not Too Young, Not Too Old’, the lights came on and Aaron took charge with the rest of the tribe.
Josh grabbed Chip as he headed out to the stage. “We all are up on this next one – and I mean ALL, Ken included!”
Justin carried out a guitar, Kevin sat at the piano, and Aaron sat at the drums as everyone filed out and they began playing ‘Let the Music Heal Your Soul’.
Justin walked up to the front of the stage. “Thank you for being here, you were honestly the best audience we have ever had. As you know, there is only one song fitting to end this, and I give you the ONLY time you will ever hear Backstreet, Ashley, Chip and N’Sync all together singing our final song.”
The stage went black one final time, and as the lights flashed on, the groups launched into an extended version of ‘Bye Bye Bye’.
The lights dropped, and after a chorus of THANK YOU from everyone on stage, they all ran off. Ken came to the stage front. “Thank you, and remember to pick up your free shirt on the way out! You have proven Des Moines is the best, be proud and have a great weekend!”
Backstage, everyone finally got organized. Anne took control. “Alright, get in the limos! We’ll unwind at home!”