Copyright © 2012 - 2014 by Rilbur and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.
All Rights Reserved
Joe groaned as someone shook him awake. "Let me sleep," he begged, but now that he was awake again, the red-hot searing in his side was going to keep him there. "What's up?" he asked groggily.
"Almost home," Corey told him.
"Oh good," Joe responded. "I'm so looking forward to this."
The guys laughed lightly. "My parents will kill me," Mark agreed. "I told them I'd be out a little late, but I don't think they intended to let me go for 2AM."
"Crash at my place," Joe suggested. "We all shot the breeze until we fell asleep."
"Don't you think that'll look a bit suspicious?" Corey asked. "We aren't exactly friends."
Joe winced. "Well, there's not much in the way of options," he pointed out. "I didn't think about the trouble you guys would get in with the 'rents."
"Not much trouble in my case," Corey said. "They don't much care what I do so long as the cops don't bring me home."
"Oh," Joe said softly. "Sorry."
"Don't worry about it," Corey shook his head. "I'll deal."
"My parents think I'm spending the night with Sean," Mark said.
"And mine think I'm spending the night with Mark," Sean laughed.
"They let you do that?" Joe asked, surprised.
"To quote my mother, it's rather silly to try and pretend we're still virgins," Mark giggled.
"My mother was rather embarrassed about the whole thing," Sean laughed.
"Yes, very em-bare-assed," Mark emphasized the individual words, triggering a groan from Sean.
"Yes, well, at least I didn't flash her," Sean riposted.
"That's not my fault!" Mark protested, laughing. "You're the one who did it!"
"Is there something you'd like to share with the class?" Joe asked.
"No!" they agreed in unison.
"Then shut up about it," Corey suggested, laughing. "Not that I can't guess half the details from what you've already said."
"Fine then. We'll be putting you two up for the night, as well as Brian," Joe said. "Corey, do you need a ride home?"
"No," Corey said quickly. "No need."
Joe's eyes narrowed. "Is there something you'd like to share with the class?"
"No," Corey said flatly. Joe looked out the window, the old phrase about leading a horse to water going through his mind. Whatever was wrong with Corey, he'd open up when he was ready.
"We're here," Corey said, pulling into the drive. "Joe. Are you sure you wouldn't mind?"
"We've already got three guests," Joe shrugged. "It'll be crowded, but what's one more."
Joe let them help him out of the car and up to the door. Mum was waiting outside it. "Brian said you were cut, but we shouldn't 'worry too much'. How bad is it, really?" she asked, far too calmly.
"Rather nasty cut along my side," Joe told her. "Will probably scar."
"We've got our first aid kit waiting in our room," Mum nodded. "Come along."
Joe tried to get up the stairs under his own power, but Mark and Sean wouldn't have it. They insisted in carrying him, and after a few moments struggle, Joe gave in, pride assuaged. Besides, he was kinda tired.
"Alright, put him on the bed," Mom ordered.
"Get the shirt off him, first," Mum ordered. "How long is the cut, do we need the pants off?"
"No!" Joe ordered hastily.
"We'll see," Mum told him as the shirt was removed. "That looks painful," she commented once she could see the extent of the cut.
"It is," Joe agreed.
"Well, we can't tell much with all this bandaging in the way," she sighed. "Let's get it off you. We'll have to get rid of the bandages, and the shirt. You've bled through."
"What?" Joe looked, and saw a dark stain on the shirt. "The car seat!" he said urgently.
"There wasn't any blood visible on it," Corey reassured him. "I checked."
"But the shirt has got to go," Mum ordered. "Susan already told me it's her brothers, but he won't mind if it vanishes."
Joe groaned. "Does everyone in town know what we're doing?"
"No," Mum laughed. "Just way too many people. Move him so that his torso is over the red stains on the sheet."
"Red stains?" Joe asked, looking at the sheets in confusion. There was some odd red marks on it, though. "What happened, spill some cool aid?"
"Keep the cut up, we don't want to contaminate it with the blood already on the sheets," Mum ordered, guiding them until she had Joe where she wanted him. "Scissors," she ordered. Mom handed them over without a word. Clearly they'd made arrangements in advance, as every time Mum needed something, Mom was ready and waiting with it. First it was scissors, then it was a painful application of disinfectant. Not content to simply pour it over the injury, she actually wiped him down with it, actually reaching into the wound to get every last groan of pain she could from Joe. And then finally, a needle, already threaded with silk.
"What is that for?" Joe asked as she brought it close to his side.
"This needs stitches," Mum told him. "Now, hold still."
"Oh fuck," Joe complained. "Gah," he gasped as the needle punched through. "Hurts," he complained.
"Don't scream," Mum ordered. "You knew you could get hurt tonight. Don't complain about it now."
"I wasn't expecting to get sewn up by the Marquis de Sade," Joe complained.
"The good news is that it looks like the ribs stopped the blade from doing any real damage," Mum commented. "Bad news is you probably bled all over the place. If your DNA ever goes in the system, you're going to jail." An especially fierce jab emphasized her displeasure.
"Yeah, well, I wasn't exactly planning to get cut," Joe protested. "We were on our way out, and she just came out of the blue."
"Tell me about it," Mum ordered. Joe didn't realize it until he was winding up his story, but relaying the incident helped keep his mind off the pain.
"Alright, that should do it," Mum nodded. "Help me get a new dressing on it, Sarah."
By this point Joe was just ready for sleep. "Where's Brian, anyway?" he asked, realizing that he hadn't seen a sign of him.
"The twins took him camping," Mum told him.
"Oh," Joe shook his head. That explained why the twins hadn't shown up, wondering what was going on. "Why?"
"Because if someone managed to ID you or the car, I'd rather not have Brian in the house," Mum told him. "You broke all sorts of rules getting him here, and legally he should be sent back to his foster family before we serve the order reuniting him with his family. And I don't think that would be a good idea." She looked over at Sean and Mike before ordering, "Help him up. I want to wrap this around his chest."
Once again swathed in bandages, she let Joe lie down in the bed. "Sleep on your side, keep the cut up," she ordered. "Try not to move too much. The blood already on the sheet will help hide your blood, just in case somebody comes looking."
"Fine," Joe grumbled.
"I'll put Sean and Mark up in the twin's room, while this other young man — Corey, isn't it? — can have your bed," she continued.
Joe laughed, weakly. "Just put Sean and Mark in my bed, Mum," he told her. "They'll be sharing a bed anyway."
"Oh really?" she arched an eyebrow. "I overlooked that little detail. In that case, Mark can have your bed, and Sean and Corey can share the twins room."
Sean and Corey both groaned. "We don't exactly get along," Sean protested.
"All the better," Mum nodded, "he won't cover up for any hanky-panky." It hurt, but Joe couldn't resist further laughter. "The night isn't getting any younger," Mom nodded sharply. "Let's get you all to bed!"
"Wake up," Corey hissed, shaking Joe out of sleep.
"What's up?" Joe asked, blinking.
"Cops coming up the drive," Corey told him. "A bunch of them."
Joe groaned as Corey helped him up. "What are you planning?" he asked.
"I'm going to get you to your bed," Corey told him. "We'll pretend I camped out on the floor. Your mother set the bedding for that up last night."
"Smart of her," Joe groaned as they reached the stairs. Mom nodded sharply, waiting beside the door.
"Quietly," she ordered.
Despite still feeling groggy, Joe managed to walk up the stairs under his own power. A few hours rest had helped enormously. His side still hurt, but he could move around much more freely.
Joe had barely reached the hall when the police started knocking on the front door. Loudly. Joe let Corey help him the rest of the way to his room. "Wait, wasn't Mark supposed to be in here?" he asked.
"Yes, but the guys want to get caught breaking the rules," Corey explained. "They figure that if the cops catch us doing regular, teenage screw ups, they won't look for anything more complicated."
"And their efforts to cover up will explain anything that looks out of place," Joe nodded. "Clever."
"We haven't mentioned the plan to your 'rents yet," Corey added. "We figure they'll blow up more believably that way."
"Your funeral," Joe shook his head. "Hopefully they don't kill me too, just for verisimilitude."
"We waited until you were asleep to make the swap," Corey smiled. "Planned that ahead of time."
"Thanks," Joe laughed, pulling on a fresh shirt. "Don't think that'll help, but I'll grasp any straw I can."
"Hello?" an officer asked, not bothering to knock before opening the door.
"Didn't anyone ever teach you to knock?" Joe snapped angrily. Shit. Five seconds earlier…
"Sorry," the officer raised his hands. "Could you please come downstairs?"
"Sure," Joe nodded. "As soon as we're finished dressing."
"Alright," the officer nodded, leaning against the door frame, clearly content to wait.
It hurt to move naturally, but Joe was angry enough not to really notice. He stalked over to the officer, head up, shoulders back, and eyes on fire. "The door was closed, you aren't paying, we aren't offering a peepshow, and even if we were, we're both underage. Get out!"
The officer winced, stepping back just in time to avoid having the door slammed through his face instead of in it.
"Holy shit," Corey giggled. "Remind me never to piss you off, at least off the field."
Joe shook his head. "I probably overreacted a bit," he said loudly enough to be heard through the door, "but then again, the twins keep trying for a peepshow. I suppose I've developed a few bad habits."
"Apology accepted," the officer shouted back, clearly amused.
A few minutes later, with some very surreptitious aid from Corey, Joe was ready for the day. Trooping downstairs, they found the Moms cooking breakfast for an entire horde. "Finally," Mom sighed. "Say hello to the officers for us," she ordered.
"I think we already got enough of a hello for one day," Joe commented wryly, glancing at one officer in particular. The man at least had the decency to blush. "What's up?"
"These officers are with the state police department," Mum told him. "Apparently, there's some suspicion that we might be involved in a kidnapping case."
"Oh really?" Joe asked.
"Yes, our car was seen in the town where the kidnapping occurred, around the time it occurred," Mum told him. "Of course, I told him my son couldn't possibly have been involved in a kidnapping. He was only going out for a concert. Of course, he didn't tell me how late the concert would keep him out, but that's not exactly important right now."
"I trust you won't mind us checking your room, make certain you aren't hiding anything?" one of the officers asked. Demanded, really.
"I told him they were free to search the house," Mum told him. "Of course, your room is your territory, so they need your permission to see if Brian is in there."
"Brian?" Joe asked, not bothering to feign surprise. "I wish he were!" he added. "That would mean you did your job and got him away from those idiots who are abusing him. Imagine, keeping him locked up and away from his friends because someone claims he was being raped. A charge that I know for a fact he'd deny, angrily."
"So you admit you know where he was?" the officer demanded quickly.
"Of course I admit it!" Joe laughed. "I've been trying to get her to do something about it for nearly two days now!"
"My son ran into his friend the other day at the museum," Mum added. "Got an address and a description of living conditions. Unfortunately, your office has no interest in helping serve our court order to return him home. You actively interfered the last time we tried, and we're letting the legal system work matters through. I figure we'd have been out there later today, additional orders in hand requiring you to hand the kid over."
The officer blinked, clearly surprised. "Um, I don't suppose you have a copy of this order — purported order, that is?" he asked.
"Give me a minute, I'll get it out of my office," Mum told him. "You can also drop by the local court and police station, there are copies available there as well."
"Thank you," the officer nodded, confused. "Anyway, about the search?"
Joe jumped in. "You may look for yourself to see Brian isn't here," he said generously. "But that's all you can look for," he added quickly.
"What's wrong, afraid we'll find something kid?" another officer asked suspiciously.
"I imagine he's trying to hide the minor detail that the sleeping arrangements we set up last night were ignored," Mom said coldly. "We were going to discuss that matter this morning over breakfast."
Joe didn't have to fake the wince. Apparently Mike and Sean had done a little too well at faking their plan. Assuming it was faked. "I didn't know," Joe protested. "I mean, I was asleep when… I can't be blamed!"
"We'll talk about it," Mom said flatly. "Try to come up with a better excuse."
"Excuse me ma'am," another officer commented, stepping out of the hall and into the kitchen, "but I think we'd like to discuss the blood on your sheets, first."
"Blood? On our sheets?" Mom showed her teeth, but Joe couldn't call that expression a grin. "Sorry officer, but I don't particularly care to discuss that," she said flatly. "It's private."
"Evidence of a crime is never private," the officer told her.
"Since when is being a woman a crime?" Mom snapped back.
"Excuse me?" the office asked, confused, as Mum came back into the room, paper in hand.
"What's going on?" she asked, sensing the tension level in the room.
"This individual wants to know about the blood on our sheets," Mom snapped. "Men!" she added as an afterthought.
"That is a rather prying question," Mum agreed.
"Asking about blood is prying?!" the officer screeched. "I'm sorry, but it's our job to ask about anything likely to indicate a crime!"
"Oh," Mum shook her head in sudden understanding. "Officer, let me ask you this. Would semen be probative in a rape case, if found in a man's own dirty underwear? In his laundry?"
"Well, no," the officer shook his head. "Men are known to, ah, leave traces behind themselves."
"And blood in a woman's underwear?" Mum continued. "Or on a tampon, which you will find in our restroom trash?"
The officer began to pale. "Um, oh, ah-" Joe knew how the man felt. In fact, remembering how he'd spent the night lying on said blood, he felt himself turn a little green. He swallowed, trying to pretend everything was fine. He'd rather the officers didn't ask him why he was reacting so strongly.
"I think perhaps you owe us an apology," Mum continued. "In fact, I'm certain of it. Aren't you?"
"Well, um, perhaps-" the officer temporized.
"Forcing us to discuss our monthly cycle in front of the boys is not appropriate behavior," she added. "After all, not only do men in general find the subject unpleasant, but one of them is our own son, and most certainly doesn't need reminding that we are, in fact, women. Perhaps next time you'll be a tad bit more careful, won't you?" she demanded.
"Of course," he nodded quickly. "My sincere apologies, ladies, I never meant-"
"Under the circumstances," Mum cut him off, "perhaps you and your associated will consider your business completed, and leave? Before you further embarrass us?"
"Of course, of course," the officer nodded quickly. "If I can just look at that paper, verify that the order says what you claim?" he asked, while motioning for the other officers to get depart.
"Certainly," she handed it over. "I actually have three copies here, just in case, so you can take that one with you," she offered.
"Thank you ma'am," he nodded, quickly scanning the paper. "Very sorry to have inconvenienced you," he added, then quickly walked out the door.
"I think I may just be sick," Joe commented.
"Oh stuff it," Mum ordered, stalking off to the front door.
"You need some water, honey?" Mom asked, filling a glass for him. "Sip, don't gulp," she warned him as he took it.
"Thanks," he said. "I can't believe I spent the night… I mean… Gross!"
"But effective," Mum nodded, walking back into the kitchen. "They're gone. You can talk freely now."
"And I think I'd like to talk to the two idiots who thought we wouldn't notice them swapping beds," Mom growled.
"Actually, we only swapped this morning when Corey saw the cops coming," Sean smiled. "We figured that if-"
"Don't try that on me," Mum cut him off. "I'm not an idiot. We heard you last night. Joe's bed is a tad bit noisy."
Corey winced. "Um, ma'am-"
"Don't," Mom cut him off. "Lying will just make matters worse."
"I'm not lying," he told her. "And are you really going to tell me you've never heard Joe make noise while in bed?"
"Not that much of it," Mom told him.
"I think I'm going to take breakfast outside," Joe said calmly. "Any idea when the twins will be back?"
"Sometime later today," Mom told him. "We actually pulled you all out of class today anyway. Officially we called it a family event, but unofficially you're going to be doing a lot of shopping, hair cuts, and the like. Getting ready for tonight's announcement."
"And in between, we'll arrange some nap times so you can try to catch up on sleep," Mum added.
Joe groaned. It figured they'd find a way to get even with him. It really did.
Mrs. Laura Olivia Bryant walked up the town hall steps, her lovely bride Sarah Veronica Bryant at her side and their children trudging happily along behind them, none of them taking any notice of the hordes of reporters snapping footage and pictures and shouting out questions.
Joe had to a suppress a smile. He'd had no idea that 'unplanned' events involved quite so much effort and planning until he'd been stuck in the middle of this one. He was already counting the years before he could move out to college, and hopefully get away from having to attend events like this. Oh, he'd stick it out with a smile on his face, but however important this was, it wasn't pleasant. Even if Mom and Mum had both enjoyed shopping. And turning their children into mannequins. If Joe didn't have to try on another pair of pants for the rest of his life it would be too soon!
"What is going on here?" Mayor 'ey demanded angrily, pushing his way through the news crews.
"Oh, Mayor 'ey," Mum smiled broadly, "what an unanticipated pleasure. I mentioned to a few friends that I was planning to drop by today, and, well, apparently word spread."
"Word about what?" Mayor 'ey asked, annoyed.
Joe suppressed an urge to smirk. Nobody was supposed to 'know', but the Mayor had been dropping careful hints into all sorts of ears that today was the day he planned to pick up his petition form. Despite already being in office, everyone who wanted to run for mayor had to get a petition form and a ton of signatures. The four candidates with the most signatures were put on the ballot. A good start was to make a nice news event out of picking up the form, which would usually cause hundreds of people to line up.
From the looks of things, the Moms were disrupting his carefully planned news event. Too bad. Couldn't have happened to a more useless idiot. "Well," Mum smiled, "I've decided to pick up a mayoral petition form. I'm going to put my name on the ballot."
"You?" the mayor laughed. "A do-nothing cop whose been kicked out of three separate departments?"
Joe wanted to step forward and slap the mayor for addressing his mum that way, but the sound of his growl snapped him out of it just in time. Maybe Mum had a point about watching his temper. Maybe. "Actually, it was a voluntary transfer for two of those," Mum said smoothly. "And it's a matter of public record that the first department had all sorts of personnel issues. I believe the sheriff in question lost a civil suit about his misogyny. But thank you for reminding me, I need to point that out in my campaign."
"Point it out?" Mayor 'ey asked, confused.
"Oh yes," she nodded. "Unlike politicians that believe in hiding their little peccadillos — something I'm sure you know nothing about — I believe in full disclosure," she told him. The large, exaggerated wink was a giant signpost, transforming the statement into something quite the opposite. If pressed, she could honestly claim she'd never said a thing about the Mayor having something to hide, but only a complete moron would think she believed it. No, it was clear she believed he had something to hide. Probably several somethings. "I feel that if you can't own up to your mistakes, your flaws, your inconvenient truths, you don't have any business trying to put yourself forward as a leader. But don't worry, I'm planning to run a clean campaign."
Still smiling, Mum turned and started her way back up the steps.
"What is that supposed to mean?" Mayor 'ey snapped. "You're making an awful big deal out of yourself!"
Mum stopped and turned, a puzzled smile on her face this time. Joe almost had to laugh at how well she was playing the Mayor. Idiot man. "No, I'm-" she stopped and plainly rethought it. "Well, I suppose in a way I am," she agreed. "But then, you'd know all about that. Oh, sorry, just promised to run a clean campaign, didn't I."
"Excuse me?" Mayor 'ey demanded. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"Oh don't worry, I won't bring it up around the news," she reassured him. "As I said, I plan to run a clean campaign. If you don't want to own up to your mistakes, that's your business. It's the traditional political approach, too, but I'm betting the voters are smarter than that," she smiled and gestured broadly. "Please, Mayor 'ey, after you. It's the least I can do for the current officeholder."
Joe had never imagined how much venom could be packed into so few words, and the amused rumblings from the news crew suggested that they were finding it just as entertaining to watch as he was. Mayor 'ey had catapulted Mum to the spotlight far sooner than they'd planned. Today was supposed to get a footnote or two from the news crews, be a shot across the Mayor's bows. The buffoon had given her so many openings, and so many good sound bytes, that Joe wouldn't be surprised to discover they'd made the front page news.
The grin vanished from Joe's face when he realized that Susan had actually predicted that. Oh, she hadn't predicted that the mayor would be quite this big of an idiot, but Joe now owed her dinner and a movie. It had seemed a safe enough bet at the time, but not only had they made the front page within a week of announcing her candidacy, they'd be be doing it simply by announcing her candidacy. Dangit!
Oh well. It wasn't like the dinner would be unpleasant, after all. In fact, Susan was proving to be more fun to hang out with than most of the guys. Joe could surprise her by doing dinner in, and maybe even rent the movie instead of a theater trip. Ami's birthday was coming up next week and the Moms were going to take the family out to the movies. A little fast talking, and Joe and Susan could have the house to themselves for a while.
Joe was brought back to reality when a flash went off in his face. "Ouch," he complained.
"Sorry kid," the reporter apologized. "So, how are you feeling about your mother's candidacy?"
Joe resisted the urge to groan and instead plastered the biggest smile he could. "Well, I'm sure she'll do a fine job," he replied.
"We'd like to thank you, again," Mr. Richardson pumped Joe's hand.
"There's really nothing we can say," Jake Richardson agreed. "This means the world to us."
Joe smiled back. "It's nothing," he told them, scanning the woods. "This way."
Today was the first chance any of them had had to get away without being watched. Even so, Joe planned to be cautious as he lead the men out into the woods. "So, any progress on the legal stuff?" he asked.
Mr. Richardson sighed. "Pennsylvania is still furious with us," he admitted. "If Brian shows up in our hands, they plan to extradite him as a material witness."
"They don't have a name, but they definitely have the blood of whoever rescued our son," Jake Richardson agreed. "If someone gives them even the slightest of clues, they'll be all over it in a heartbeat."
"What my husband is trying to say, is that we hope you've covered your ass," Mr. Richardson translated.
"As best I can," Joe nodded. "Though it sounds like I made at least one convert. Brian used my name at one point, and the Pruitt's elder son had to have heard it."
"I didn't know about that," Mr. Richardson said, worried. "Do you think he's likely to cause trouble?"
"I doubt it," Jake Richardson laughed. "I think he's actually covering for the boy. From what I hear, he convinced his younger siblings to help clean up. He specifically suggested they wash Mom's favorite knife to get all the blood of it, as a favor to her. The two washed it well enough that the cops almost couldn't get DNA off it. They even used an ammonia based cleaner to get the stains off the porch. The cops have DNA, but it wasn't easy for them to retrieve."
"Glad to hear it," Joe nodded. "I hope he doesn't get in trouble."
"I hear he's being touted as a hero," Jake laughed. "He's getting the reward you deserve."
"We can't do much for you, but we're going to try and find some way to repay you," Mr. Richardson nodded.
"You want to repay me? Love your nephew the way he deserves," Joe told them. "Here's where the twins said they'd meet us."
"Really?" Mr. Richardson asked eagerly, looking around. "Where's Brian?"
"Quiet," Joe told him quickly, seeing that he was about to call for his nephew. "If you try shouting for him, God only knows who will hear you. Sound carries further than you think."
"Yeah," one of the twins commented. "Plus you've got someone on your tail."
"We do?" the Richardsons both looked back.
"Tim is convincing him to go away," Tom laughed. "Artificial skunk scent pellets."
"Ew," the Richardsons commented in unison.
"Follow me, and try to be quiet," Tom ordered, setting out at a rapid clip.
"How long are we going to be walking for?" Mr. Richardson complained half an hour later.
"Actually, we're almost there," Tom told him. "We took a roundabout route to make it harder for people to follow without us knowing about it. Wait in the clearing up ahead while I check with Tim."
The clearing had clearly been set up for this. A couple of logs had been dragged around to form a small circle, with a space for a camp fire in the middle. From the looks of it, it hadn't been used for a while, but Joe suspected the twins had set it up.
"Hey guys," Brian said, stepping out of the forest.
"Brian!" Mr. Richardson shouted, running over.
"Shh," his nephew warned him before embracing him. "It's good to see you guys again," he said. "I missed you."
"We missed you too," Mr. Richardson said. "More than you can know."
"We don't know where your brother is, and we wanted to talk to you, see if you have any ideas."
"No," Brian shook his head. "They split us up on the first day. I wish we'd headed straight home. They were running around like crazy, trying to round up all the kids they were supposed to catch. Apparently they thought they'd have another couple of minutes to get to our classes. I think someone in the front office pulled a fast one."
"She did," Jake Richardson nodded. "She got away with it, too, though everyone knows who she is. They're probably going to try to get her later, when no one is paying attention, but we've already told her that if she needs a job, she's got one."
"Just not with us," Mr. Richardson said sadly.
"What's wrong?" Brian asked.
"We weren't going to tell you like this," Jake sighed. "Joe, would you mind leaving us alone for a while?"
Joe nodded. "When your ready to go, just give me a shout," he told them. "I'll be waiting nearby. Close enough to hear, far enough not to eavesdrop."