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TOC Files 13: Time Heals All Wounds

Title: Time Heals All Wounds
Series: The TOC Files
Word Count 6874
Summary Alan is having recurring nightmares and is unable to sleep. To keep from having a breakdown, he goes on some R&R only to find his nightmare isn't just in his head.



XIII. Time Heals All Wounds


Alan Kelly woke in a cold sweat, shivering from head to toe. He extricated himself from the bedclothes and got off the bed. This was becoming routine. He hadn't had a full night's sleep in days, maybe weeks. He put on a sweatshirt, left his quarters and headed for the gym. He discovered that the only way he would be able to go to sleep was to exercise until he was completely exhausted.

His brother found him the following morning sprawled lengthwise across the bed. God, he hated to see him like this. He sat down next to him. "Another tough night?"

Alan slowly turned his head and opened a bleary eye. "What a master of understatement." He sat up and ran a hand through his mussed-up hair. "I wonder if I look as bad as I feel."

"Worse."

"You're a great help, Evan." He stood and stretched.

"Why don't you tell me what's bothering you? It could help."

"I can't."

"You always used to before. Why don't we try to pick up where we left off?"

"Promise not to laugh?" Evan nodded. "I've been having this recurring nightmare. I know you must think I'm acting like a scared kid, but it was so lifelike. I'm sitting on a chair in a room; it's dark all around me. Then I hear a voice, it's distorted, but I feel like I'm supposed to know who it is. Then these hands come out of the shadows. Sometimes there's a gun, sometimes a knife, or even just the hands reaching for my neck. The scary part is that I can't move a muscle. Then I wake up."

"When did they start?"

"Couple of days after we came back from the last mission."

"Robin Hood," said Evan with a quick smile. "Did anything happen that could have triggered them?"

"No, but I did have a bizarre feeling during it."

"Okay. I'll see what I can do about this. Meantime, I'll bunk with you. Maybe you'll talk in your sleep and I'll be able to figure it out."

"Thanks. At least you don't think I'm crazy."

That night Evan was awoken by Alan's strangled cries. He jumped out of bed and rushed over. Alan was thrashing about and Evan put his hands on Alan's shoulders to calm him down. Evan could see that he was still dreaming. "Who is it, Alan? Who's trying to kill you?"

"I...I can't see. I don't know."

"Yes, you do. Try to look at his face."

"No, I can't!"

"Do it, Alan!"

He lay still and Evan could see he was trying to pierce the darkness of his dream. His lips moved, but Evan couldn't hear. He leaned over and heard Alan whisper "Cameron", the name of a dead man. He gave Alan a sedative as watched as his body relaxed and he slept quietly.

Evan went back to bed and thought about Cameron James. He hadn't seen him in years and remembered him only as a friend of Alan's when they were growing up together. He had missed the turning point in the friendship when Alan had gone into the Military and Cameron disappeared for a number of years. He also missed when Alan discovered James dealing arms and corrupting both the Military and the Government. He was arrested and escaped a number of times, until he was killed in an aerial fight over Sirus.

Now Alan was having nightmares that someone was trying to kill him, someone from beyond the grave. He'd have to talk with the others to see if they could shed some light on the subject.

* * * *

The following day at lunch, he talked to the members of the Temporal Observer Corps--the TOC. "Hi, guys."

"God, Evan, you look terrible. Is Alan's sleeplessness contagious?" asked Captain Eric Rader.

"Not exactly. I did find out the cause, though. He's having a recurring nightmare that someone is trying to kill him." He told them about the dream.

"Surely the idea of people wanting to kill him is nothing new, nothing to keep him up nights?" said Shannon Flynn, the only woman on the team.

"I forced him to face the shadow in his dream and tell me who it was."

"Did he?" Dr. Gilbert Connor asked.

"Yes. He said he was scared but finally broke down. You won't believe who he said."

"Don't keep us in suspense," said Eric.

Evan looked at them and said, "Cameron James."

"James died months ago," said Eric. "Why does Alan think he's after him?"

"I went to visit my mother this morning and looked through some of my old stuff. I found this." He showed them an old photograph that showed Evan, Gil, Alan, and Cameron when they were younger.

"Hey, I remember that," said Gil. "That was taken before I went to the Institute and Alan started at the Academy. Those were fun times."

Shannon took the picture from Gil's hand. "I don't understand. You mean Alan and Cameron were friends?"

"Yep. We were about 10 or 11 when Cameron and his parents moved into the building. We had something of a gang and Cameron joined up with us. He and Alan struck it off great from the beginning," explained Gil.

"I think he was lonely, though," added Evan. "He was at our place more than his own."

"But what made him change? Why did he hate Alan so much?"

"I don't know," said Gil.

"He told me that the dreams started after you returned from your last mission. Did anything happen that could have caused them?"

"Nothing that I could see. But he did say something that stands out. After Tuck told us about the Sheriff, he said he had a strange feeling he couldn't describe."

"This really deserves some looking into."

"You can't really believe that Cameron's still alive? I saw that ship explode!"

"The thing is that Alan believes it. It's running him ragged. He needs to get away from everything; go somewhere he can rest."

"Maybe you can get him a medical leave? Exhaustion or something?"

"Will he go? Maybe if he thought the rest of you were going on leave he wouldn't feel so singled out."

"I think we can work something out. Here he comes. Alan, how're you feeling? You look better."

Alan joined them at the table. "Thanks, Eric." He looked at his brother. "I'm sure Evan's told you about the dream."

"Yes, he has," said Shannon.

"I know you all probably think I'm crazy, but for some strange reason, I don't think he's dead. I wouldn't put it past him."

Gil decided to change the subject. "Evan, I hear the negotiations start tomorrow."

"Yeah. The representatives arrive today."

"What do you think the chances are of avoiding war?"

"Fifty-fifty. That part of the galaxy is pretty volatile at the moment and the slightest little spark could set them off. Plus, I've heard that Derek Stoker was spotted in the area."

"The arms-dealer? What could he want there?"

"Use your head, Gil. There is a potential war brewing there, an arms-dealer's dream," said Eric.

"If there is a war, do you think we'll get involved?" asked Shannon.

"If the Government does, they're fools," remarked Alan. It'll be too much like a domestic argument."

"We'd better make sure that you get your sleep in the future. You're certainly a drag otherwise."

"Thanks a lot, Eric. I'll remember that." Alan attempted a smile.

"Maybe you need a break," said Shannon. "You know, to 'get away from it all'."

"You think I'm loosing it, don't you? I knew you wouldn't believe me."

"Maybe all you need is time to come to terms with what's happened; time away from all the pressures here on the Base." Evan was trying to apply reason.

Alan looked like he was about to fight them, and then relented. "Maybe you're right. I don't want people thinking I'm having a nervous breakdown. Do you think they'll let me go?"

"Don't worry about that. We'll handle it. You just decide where to go and get packing," Gil told him. Alan hesitated. "Go on."

Alan smiled, picked up the photograph that they had left lying on the table, and went to his quarters to pack, feeling that a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

* * * *

Two days later Alan was disembarking from a tourist shuttle onto the planet Sylvan, a wooded getaway that boasted an idyllic pastoral setting. He noticed that there were a few planet-hoppers, but nothing for long distance. A man a few years older than himself came running over. "Major Kelly, it's an honor to meet you. I'm Duncan."

"Nice to meet you, Duncan," Alan said, shaking his hand. "I trust you have a cabin ready for me and my friend here."

Duncan noticed Morgan perched on Alan's shoulder. "Yes, Major. We received your reservation the other day. I can drive you out to your cabin now if you like."

"Thanks." Alan followed him to his waiting hovercraft. Morgan sniffed the air, excited at the scent of nature.

"What is that?" asked Duncan.

"A fey. She adopted me when I was on Arcadia." The small ferret-like animal licked his ear as if she were giving him a kiss. Alan smiled and scratched behind her ears. He threw his bag in the back and climbed into the seat beside Duncan. "Have you rented many cottages?"

"A couple, not many. What, with the possibility of war, people don't want to risk travel." He looked at the woods lining both sides of the road. "Pity. It's always nice this time of year."

Duncan dropped him off at the cabin. "You'll find the place is fully stocked and has all the amenities. There's a hover in the garage for you to use. If you run out of anything, there's a small store near the spaceport that carries just about everything. Enjoy your vacation, Major." Duncan drove away.

Alan picked up his bag and walked towards the cabin. Outside, it looked like something Abe Lincoln could have called home. Inside had the rustic look a few centuries old--Shannon would have loved it. There was a sound system with CD player, a wide-screen TV with VCR in the living room, and a microwave in the kitchen. The bathroom gave you a choice of a sunken bath or a shower with multiple nozzles to pound away the sore muscles. "This is going to be just fine. Right, Morgan?" They fey simply curled up on the couch. "Guess so."

That night he had the dream again and woke up in a cold sweat. He thought back on what Evan had told him. Cameron was dead. Even if he wasn't, would he risk his life to come back and kill him? He took a deep breath and lay back down. Morgan sensed his distress and nestled up against him. With her comforting presence, he fell asleep.

* * * *

The terror of the nightmare diminished as the days went by. Soon it became more like a dull ache instead of a throbbing pain. During the days he wandered through the woods. At his first attempt at hunting, he couldn't go through with it. He had the deer in his sights, but then it turned and looked at him and he couldn't pull the trigger. He decided to stick to hiking and fishing.

It was on one of his hiking expeditions that he saw action at one of the supposedly empty cabins. He went to explore and observe. A group of five or so men were loading boxes onto two waiting hovers. He tried to read the print on the boxes, and then it all went black.

He woke in a dark room and found himself tied to a chair, unable to move. He heard voices whispering in a corner. "But, boss, he was watching us, he could have sent word to the authorities."

"You didn't have to bring him here. We would have been long gone by the time he got anyone to listen. Never mind now. Leave us alone." A door opened and closed somewhere behind him.

Alan tried to pierce the shadows, but his eyes couldn't penetrate the dark. Then he felt a sudden chill as a hand holding a laser pistol emerged from the dark. He froze. "Well, if it isn't Major Alan Kelly, Darling of the Alliance. I bet you didn't think you'd be seeing me again." A face appeared, the face of the Sheriff of Nottingham.

"Cameron," he whispered. "I had the strangest feeling you were alive."

"Thank you for the belief. Now, what are you doing here?"

"Shouldn't I be asking you that? You're the one who's supposed to be dead."

"Yes, but I'm the one holding the gun."

"Can't argue with that." Alan took a deep breath and told his story. "So, you are the cause for my being here."

Cameron had a sardonic grin on his face. "So they sent you away to keep you from having a nervous breakdown. I guess in a way, I almost achieved my goal."

"Are you going to tell me how you escaped on Sirus? You owe me at least that much." He moved his arms in an attempt to restore circulation.

"I guess so. After all, you won't be leaving here." Cameron smiled. "I just barely made it out of the ship when it blew. I was in bad shape; second degree burns practically all over. There were some soldiers who got me off the planet and took me to a hospital where I underwent reconstructive surgery. As I was healing, I came up with a new identity. I started up where I left off before you interfered."

"Selling arms? You're Derek Stoker. Didn't you learn anything the last time?"

"You ruined me twice before, Kelly, and I'm not going to give you the opportunity to do it again. But I digress. You're probably wondering how I got to medieval England."

"It has crossed my mind."

"I simply stole the plans out of Dr. Connor's lab and had one made for myself. It wasn't that hard to be accepted as the Sheriff. It was quite dull until you showed up. It was quite a surprise."

"Can I ask you a question? Why do you hate me so much?"

"You don't know? You're thicker than I thought. You ruined me, took everything I had."

"I went to you first to tell you to stop. I felt I owed you that out of friendship. When you didn't, I had to tell them. But that's not it. You hated me before then."

"You want me to believe that you liked me then? That I wasn't just one of your admiring circle?"

"Yes." Alan tried to think of something to make him believe. "Look in my pocket." Cameron reached into Alan's pocket and pulled out the photograph. As he looked at it, his face softened. "Would I carry that with me if I didn't have good memories?"

Cameron put on the hard face again. "Yeah, but why did you leave me, hunh? Life with my parents was absolute hell. Why do you think I was always visiting you?" Alan didn't dare interrupt; Cameron's emotions were on the loose. "No, you probably only thought of yourself. My father was a cold man and a drunk. Oh, he put on a front for company, but he was cruel to me. Mom wasn't much help when he got like that. She withdrew into her own little world. He used to hit me every once and awhile, but that was nothing compared to the verbal abuse, especially when he said I wasn't his. One day, after a real bad fight, I ran up to see you, but you were gone. Your mother said you went away to the Academy. Gil was gone, too. You left me when I needed you.

"The next time I saw you, you were trying to ruin me, tell me what to do. But I got you, if only for a few years, until you stuck your nose in again. You ruined me again then 'killed' me. They always say revenge is best served up cold; my revenge from beyond the grave is positively frigid." He smiled. "You see, we plan to destroy this little hideaway with a bomb, and we kind of have to leave you here." He made his way to the door. "You have twenty minutes to make your peace."

Alan heard the door close. He struggled against the bonds, but soon that became automatic as his mind thought back on what Cameron had said. He had felt deserted as a child and that's what made him turn. He couldn't take the full blame himself; maybe if Cameron had had a happier home life... But he didn't have time to think on that now. He had to get out of here before the bomb went off and warn the Alliance. He heard the hovers leave and knew they were heading for the spaceport. Cameron had gotten away again. He wouldn't be able to stop him now. Hopefully he could avert the war.

The ropes were too tight. How could he--the window! If he could break that, he could use the glass to cut the ropes! He slowly inched his way to the window. He stood, leaned forward so the chair was resting on his back, and then aimed the legs through the glass. He then found a nice, sharp piece and began to rub the rope back and forth. He then heard a chittering sound. "Morgan! You're a life-saver. See if you can do a better job." Morgan complied and began to gnaw on the ropes. It took time, but with them working together, it was halved.

Once he was free, Alan picked up Morgan and climbed out the window. It would be a waste of time to try and stop the bomb while he had more important things to do. He ran towards the wood and fell to the ground when the cabin exploded. He then ran in the direction of the spaceport.

God, but he was out of shape. Maybe he should take up running when he got back. Breathing heavily, he arrived at the spaceport half an hour later and raced into the radio room to find Duncan looking down on the smoking ruins of their only means of communication. "How long ago did they leave?" he asked.

"Twenty minutes or so." Duncan looked at him. "Who were they, Major?"

"Derek Stoker and his men. They were using Sylvan as a base of operations. He's gone off to start a war." He looked out the window at the ships. "I guess it would be too much to ask if one of the ships is working?"

"Not one. What can we do? We have no means of warning the Alliance."

Alan stood there, wondering what to do. His eyes rested on his wrist. Why didn't he think of that in the first place? "Duncan, you can still monitor ships' positions, right?"

"Yes, but--"

"Just give me the coordinates of the nearest Alliance ship." Duncan complied and read out the coordinates of a nearby cruiser. Alan punched the numbers into his machine. "Thanks." He disappeared.

Duncan turned to see him gone. He shook his head. He would never understand Military types.

* * * *

Alan appeared in a companionway within the cruiser. He was a little disoriented and tried to locate someone to direct him to the bridge. He found a young lieutenant. "Excuse me, I must speak with your captain. Could you direct me to the bridge?"

The lieutenant looked at the man in front of him. He was dressed as a civilian and was dirty and sweaty, with scratched hands. "What are you doing aboard? We have no civilians on this trip."

"I need to talk with the captain on a matter of urgency."

"We are a Military ship, mister, and I have no time to deal with your petty problems." He walked past him.

"I'm going to report you, lieutenant, for your shabby treatment. I'll go find him myself." Alan stormed down the hall.

The lieutenant went to the intercom. "Security, we have an angered civilian heading for the bridge. Keep him from reaching the captain."

Alan knew that Security would be after him, but now that he was in familiar territory (all cruisers followed the same blueprints) he would have no trouble reaching the bridge. He absently wiped his face with the back of his hand then noticed the blood. He smiled. No wonder the lieutenant thought he was crazy. He stopped short of the bridge entrance and saw two guards waiting there. He took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and strode up to the door in his best Military fashion.

The guards reached out their hands. "Halt."

"Step aside. I'm here to see the captain."

"No civilians are allowed on the bridge."

"Nonsense. I demand to see the captain." Alan tried to push past them. One laid a hand on Alan's shoulder to restrain him. Alan tried to use a karate move he had learned from Shannon, but the space was too confined.

"What's going on here?" asked an authoritative voice.

"This civilian wished to see you, Captain."

Alan turned around and faced a man with thick dark hair who looked to be in his late forties. "You are the captain of this vessel?" He nodded. "Just the man I want to see." He reached out his hand. "I'm--"

"Major Alan Kelly." The captain smiled. "An honor. What can I do for you?"

"This isn't a social call. Derek Stoker was on Sylvan. I know, he tried to kill me. He's been supplying both sides and is now off to start a war. You've got to stop him before it gets out of control."

The captain took immediate control. "Saren, put out a call on the emergency frequency and notify all Alliance ships in the area of Scylla and Charybdis and tell them about Stoker. When you're done with that, call Earth and tell them to keep negotiations open." He turned back to Alan. "You go freshen up in my quarters. I'll send the doctor to tend to your scratches. Maybe we can find you a uniform as well."

"Thank you, Captain." Alan took his leave of the bridge.

The captain sent for the doctor and waited for her to arrive. "A word, Doctor. You know who's in there?"

"Word spreads, Captain."

"True. He was 'sent' to Sylvan on the advice of his brother and doctor because he was on the verge of a breakdown. He hadn't slept for weeks and believed that someone dead was trying to kill him. He needs a rest. Give him a mild sedative so he can be at his best should we encounter Stoker."

"How do you know all this, Captain?"

"Word spreads," he answered with a smile.

The Alliance ships arrived on time to avert the war between the two negotiating planets. A few of Stoker's men were captured, but Cameron escaped once again. Alan kept that information to himself. He knew he wasn't crazy; he knew that Cameron was still alive. The nightmares stopped.

* * * *

Later that week he returned to the Base fully rested. The others were waiting in his quarters. "Surprise!"

"What's this all for?" he asked, looking at the party taking place.

"It's a Welcome Home party," said Shannon as she kissed him on the cheek. "Hello, Morgan," she said, scratching the fey behind the ears.

"You're looking great. Your vacation seemed to do the trick," said Eric.

"Yeah. The nightmares stopped a few days ago and I finally got some sleep."

"You found your answer, then?" asked Evan.

"Yep, I think I did." He smiled. "Anything happen while I was gone?"

"Nothing really. Evan was busy, though," said Eric.

"Oh, yeah, the negotiations. How did they go?"

"The message that captain sent about Stoker made both sides see how stupid they had been. They were a snap after that."

"Tell him what else," prompted Shannon.

"When the ambassadors found out we were brothers, they asked for an introduction. I said I'd see what I could do."

"And that's not all."

"Shannon, why don't you let Evan tell him," said Gil.

Alan turned to his brother. Well?"

"Rumor has it that you're getting a promotion for this."

"It's not exactly a rumor," said Eric. "It's just not official yet."

"What for? I didn't do anything deserving that."

"I think it was mainly at the instigation of the ambassadors. The President was waiting for you to return before announcing it."

It was announced that evening that the ceremony would take place at a gala dinner in Alan's honor. Heads of State and other dignitaries were invited and then the dinner was opened to those who could afford the tickets.

* * * *

The night of the dinner arrived and Alan was pacing nervously. He always hated things like this when he was on public display. For about the fifth time he stood in front of the mirror to straighten his blue uniform. He wondered if wearing his decorations was too much.

"You look fine," said Shannon from the doorway. "Turn around and let me get a better look." Alan obliged and she walked towards him. "You know, I've only seen you in your dress uniform once before," she said as she brushed it off.

"Oh, yeah. Cameron's trial." Cameron.

"You still don't think he's alive, don't you?" she asked.

"No." That was the truth--he knew it. "He's affected my life more than I thought. I had time to dwell on that on Sylvan. If you think about it, he created the TOC. It was because of him that I met you."

"He does have his good points," she remarked.

"Such a tender moment," said Eric as he and Gil came in. "All set?"

"Ready as we'll ever be."

"Where's Evan?" asked Gil.

"He's getting my mother," Alan answered as they walked through the halls to the waiting limousine and were taken through the city to the Presidential mansion.

The streets outside were lined with people trying to catch a glimpse of the dignitaries and other celebrities, as well as Alan himself. A path was cleared for the Military hover and a hush came over the crowd as the door opened. Eric was the first to get out. He waved to the crowd before turning to help Shannon. Gil got out next and then the crowd knew the big moment had arrived. Alan stepped out and the crowd went wild. Security had a hard time holding them back as Alan walked to the door.

The others were waiting for him. "God, I hate this stuff," he said

"There are the politicians yet," said Gil.

"Great. You're supposed to make me feel better, not worse."

"C'mon," said Shannon as she took him by the arm. "The sooner we start, the sooner it'll be over."

They walked into the banquet room and everyone stopped what they were doing and clapped. The President saw him and approached. "How lovely to see you, Major." She held out her hand. Alan kissed it in an old-fashioned gesture. "I know you must hate these functions and would rather let your actions speak for themselves."

"Are my feelings that transparent?"

"I know what to look for, Major, because I suffer from that particular 'ailment' as well," she said with a smile. A waiter came by with some champagne. The President took a glass for herself and one for Alan. "The ambassadors from Scylla and Charybdis would like to meet you and thank you for preventing war."

Alan allowed himself to be taken to meet all the diplomats who were attending. As soon as he could, he escaped to be with his friends. "Man, I really hate this things. Have you seen Evan yet?"

Gil looked at the door. "He just got here. Gee, your mom looks great. I haven't seen her in ages."

Alan pushed his way through the throng to his family, the others following. Gil was right, his mom did look good. She had her brown hair pulled back from her face and her hazel eyes sparkled when she saw her youngest son. "Hello, Alan," she proffered her cheek for him to kiss.

"Hello, Mother," he replied after kissing her. "I'm sorry I couldn't pick you up myself."

"That's all right. I understand how busy you've been." She looked behind him. "Hello, Gilbert."

"Hello, Mrs. Kelly. How are you?"

"As well as can be expected. Eric Rader, isn't it?"

"Yes, ma'am. I'm flattered you remember me," he said.

"I try to remember all my sons' friends." She looked past him. "You must be Shannon. I've heard so much about you. I'm surprised Alan hasn't brought you around to meet me before," she remarked with a sideways glance at her offspring.

Shannon laughed at Alan's embarrassed face. "I was always busy when he visited you, Mrs. Kelly. Now that I've met you, I'll make a point of coming myself."

"You do that," said Alan's mother.

After dinner it was time for speeches and the presentation. Alan still couldn't believe that they were making such a big deal of this. Normally, a decoration was given to a soldier by his C.O. with only a handshake. Maybe they needed a reason for a big party. They brought out old teachers from the Academy, previous superiors, and old friends to talk about him. When they were done, the President asked him to stand and step forward. He did so and she made a speech thanking him for all he had done and how much he was appreciated.

Alan's mind wandered as her voice droned on. He knew it wasn't good manners, but he couldn't help it. There was something puzzling in the back of his mind; something dark and misty like his nightmare. Cameron! He's here! His eyes searched the audience and saw light glinting off metal. "Duck!" He pushed the President down behind the podium as the laser fired. "Are you okay?"

"Yes, I'm fine, but who could have gotten past Security?"

"A dead man. Stay down." Alan ran off to find Cameron.

"Where does he think he's going?" asked Eric from behind a table.

"To chase the man who tried to kill him," said Evan.

"Not without me, he isn't!" Eric followed Alan.

"We can't let them go alone," Shannon said as she looked at Gil and Evan.

"No, they could do something they'd both regret," said Mrs. Kelly. She stood and walked out of the room. The others followed, grinning.

Alan had a vague idea of the layout of the mansion and tried to think of where Cameron would go. He knew Cameron wanted him and would wait in a small room where he could waylay him. There was a little-used room off the hallway that would serve his purposes. Alan walked slowly into the room. He couldn't see him, but he knew Cameron was there. "You can come out now. It's just us."

Cameron slowly moved towards him. "This is becoming quite monotonous, Kelly. I plan to do something about it."

"Shooting an unarmed man? I didn't think that was your style. Blowing him up, maybe."

"I couldn't smuggle a bomb through Security. I had a hard enough time with the gun." He set it down on a nearby table. "I guess maybe you do deserve a more personal death."

"How do you plan to go about it?" asked Alan calmly.

"I was thinking about the old-fashioned way--our fists."

"Fine by me." Alan unbuttoned his cuffs and rolled up his sleeves. Cameron took advantage of this and landed a right on his jaw. "You never did fight fair."

"I figure, why start now." He aimed for Alan's face, but Alan ducked and the blow went wide.

Alan went into a boxer's stance and landed a few blows himself. Cameron rushed him and knocked him to the ground. They rolled on the floor and grappled for the upper hand. Cameron had it for a short time and, with Alan pinned to the ground, he began to punch him in the face. Alan pushed him away and rolled over, reversing their positions. He then channeled all his anger through his hand and prepared to hit the enemy.

Eric arrived to see them wrestling on the floor. The others arrived shortly afterwards. Shannon got a good look at the second man and let out a gasp. "My God! It's the Sheriff!

"Alan was right," said Gil. "That can only be Cameron."

"Alan!" called his mother. "Stop this instant!" Alan hesitated, hearing his mother's voice. "For God's sake, he's your brother!"

Silence reigned. Everyone was still. Alan was the first to move as he slowly sat back from Cameron, who then rose to a sitting position. Alan wiped a trickle of blood away from his lip and looked at Cameron. How could this be? No way was this man his brother.

Cameron was filled with questions and doubts. He strongly wanted to believe Mrs. Kelly, yet suspected the sincerity, feeling it a trick to catch him off-guard.

Mrs. Kelly walked forward and reached out to help both stand. She looked at Evan. "Is there a place where we can talk privately?"

Evan, brought out of his shocked stupor, nodded. "There's an office down the hall." He led them out of the room, past the other three.

"This is too much," said Shannon as she watched them leave. "First I find out that they were childhood friends, and now they're brothers."

Eric looked down the hall and watched them disappear into another room. "I don't think I'll ever doubt Alan again. He was right about Cameron. I wonder how he escaped that fireball?"

"What do you think about all this?" Shannon asked Gil. "You've known them both the longest."

"It would explain a lot of things," he answered as they headed back to the banquet hall. "Thinking back on it now, people in the neighborhood commented on how similar they looked and asked if they were brothers. I just wonder how it's gonna effect them, this sudden revelation."

"We can only wait and see," said Shannon.

* * * *

Evan held the door open and Mrs. Kelly ushered Alan and Cameron inside. Evan made to leave, but his mother told him to stay. "This involves you as well."

Alan sat in a chair opposite Cameron so he could keep an eye on him. He looked at his mother. "How long have you known? Why didn't you tell me before?"

"I found out a year ago when the trouble between you came to a head and I didn't think it an appropriate time. I started to build up the courage to do so, and then you told me he was dead. It didn't seem important after that."

"But how? Why?" asked Cameron. Alan glared at him because he was about to ask the same question.

"I gave birth to twins and the doctor told me one was ill and would need to stay under observation. The following morning, he told me the baby died. I never got to hold you. I even had a name for you: Ryan. We decided never to tell Alan or Evan and let them lead normal lives."

"But how do you know that they baby lived or that it's Cameron?" asked Alan.

"A little over a year ago, the doctor who delivered you both was arrested for selling babies on the black market. The silly man kept files on the babies, including their birth parents and the new parents. Cameron and the James were on the list. He is your brother."

Alan looked at Cameron and tried to picture him as his brother. Since he had the reconstructive surgery, it was hard to see the similarities. His eyes were what made Alan ready to accept. They weren't the emerald green like Evan or himself, but they were hazel, just like his mother. How come he hadn't noticed them before? Was that a tear?

Cameron was speechless. When he was growing up, he always envied Alan and his close-knit family. Whenever his father was particularly drunk, he would escape to the Kellys'. Now, he was told he was one of them. If he had only known then, he might not have done all that he had. He tried to act nonchalant and hold back the tears, but he lost the battle. "If you only knew how much I wanted to be with you..." He broke down and Mrs. Kelly went over and took him in her arms.

"Go on and cry. It's all right." She patted him and cried a little herself. "If I had know how bad your life was, I would have taken you in."

Evan slowly walked over to his mother and Cameron. "I guess I should call you brother." He held out his hand. "Welcome to the family." Cameron took it and smiled.

They all then turned to Alan who was still sitting on his chair and hadn't said a word since the beginning of his mother's explanation. They knew he was the one most affected by this revelation. He stared at the three of them standing together, then walked out without a word.

He went back to the banquet hall and strode past his friends without any recognition. He found the President and whispered in her ear. She nodded and stepped up to the podium. "Colonel Kelly would like to say a few words. He assures me that the gunman has been found and everything is under control."

"What's going on?" asked Eric. "Something major must have happened."

"It did." The three friends turned to see Evan and his mother walking towards them with a third person in tow. As they got closer, they recognized Cameron.

"What is he doing here?" questioned Shannon.

Before she could have her answer, Alan took his position at the podium. "I'd like to thank you all for being here tonight and letting me know how I'm regarded. I've never thought myself worthy of all this. Especially for something I enjoy, something I've longed to do since I was a boy. I've never been in this alone in this. I've had friends and supporters when I was a Ranger and even more recently with the Temporal Observers." He looked in their direction. "I'd also like to thank my family. My parents for giving me love and allowing me to follow my dreams, and my brother Evan for being such a great role model.

"But most of all, I'd like to thank someone who was a friend when I was growing up, and, who more recently provided a sense of competition and the incentive to force me to do my best. A few moments ago I learned the truth about him. I learned I have a twin brother." He waved with his hand for Cameron to come forward. "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Ryan Kelly."

Cameron hesitated. Alan was doing more than he thought he could. He looked over and saw Shannon, Gil, and Eric staring at him. He couldn't move. Evan smiled and pushed him towards the dais. The crowd was silent which made it harder. If they had clapped or even booed, it would have been something. When he saw Alan reach out his hand and smile, he felt complete. Fate certainly was strange. He smiled and through his teeth asked, "What are you doing?"

"Saving your neck," Alan answered the same way. He turned back to the audience. "If you will excuse us, my brother and I have a lot to catch up on."

* * * *

They went to Mrs. Kelly's where they were sure to get some degree of privacy. "Why didn't you tell them about Cameron?" asked Eric.

"As far as everyone knows, Cameron James is dead and it's best kept that way."

Shannon looked carefully at the man who had kidnapped her twice and said he had loved her. She thought of him as the Sheriff of Nottingham and remembered how kind he had been to her. Maybe he was changing, or maybe it had just been an act. "Don't think my attitude will change because of this," she told Cameron.

"I wouldn't dare presume that. Besides, the challenge is no longer there. I wouldn't mind if you'd agree to be friends."

"I guess."

Eric pulled Gil aside. "This is going to take some getting used to. Just look at them." Alan and Cameron were smiling and talking with each other as if the past 15 years had never happened.

"I know. He's even being nice to Shannon."

"This is going to need close observation. I was thinking of recommending counseling for both of them, especially Cameron."

"Would you do it?"

"Lord, no. I'm too close to it. I doubt he'd open up to me anyway."

"Do you think Cameron really wants to change?"

"We'll see. We'll see."

14. Time Out of Joint.

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