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"What is this?" Kenny asked as he spooned a large helping onto his plate.
"I'm not sure. It's a casserole of some kind, it smells wonderful." Brady said before taking his first bite.
"Is that all you're going to have Kevin?" Allen asked gently.
"Uh huh. It makes my stomach hurt if I eat too much." Kevin said shyly.
"Okay, but just remember that there is plenty so you can eat as much as you want." Allen said with assurance.
"Thanks Poppa, I will." Kevin said with a small smile.
"This food is pleasing." Xain said with a look of thought.
Allen smiled and said, "I'm glad you like it Xain. I'm sure if you ask Helen, she'll tell you how she made it."
Xain got a speculative look, then said, "I will. It is my wish to compile a collection of food preparation instructions."
The others at the table looked at each other, not sure if they should comment on Xain's choice of words.
Finally Allen said, "The word 'recipes' can be used in place of the phrase 'food preparation instructions'."
Xain nodded and looked at his plate as if he'd been severely scolded.
"Xain, I'm not criticizing you. What you used were proper English words and you used them correctly. I'm only suggesting an alternative word that will convey the meaning more efficiently." Allen said carefully.
"Thank you father." Xain said quietly.
"How does this sound? When you are talking with any of those of us at this table, we will offer suggestions like I just did, for the purpose of improving your English. None of us will do it if there is anyone else around. Is this acceptable?" Allen asked slowly.
Xain considered for a moment before saying, "It is acceptable."
"Good. Then let's enjoy this meal." Allen said happily before taking another bite.
* * * * *
"What do we do now?" Kenny asked as they finished putting the last of the dinner dishes in the dishwasher.
"I don't know, it feels strange to be here all by ourselves. Let's look around." Allen said in thought.
Kenny led the way out of the kitchen and opened the dining room door.
"Pop, look at this!" Kenny said loudly.
Everyone walked into the dining room to see it set up in regal splendor.
"It's beautiful." Brady said in an impressed voice.
"I only seen stuff like this on TV before. I didn't think there was places like this for real." Jake said as he hesitantly looked around.
Allen got a smile as he walked to a china hutch and said, "Kenny, these dishes are from Carl's family. They've been handed down for generations. He told me that when you move out on your own, they are to be yours."
"Shouldn't they be Kevin's too?" Kenny asked hesitantly.
"No. I have a quilt from Carl's grandmother that's for Kevin." Allen said quietly and led the group out of the room.
"That's really cool Kev. You'll have something that your great-grandmother made, and it's something that was your father's that he wanted you to have." Jake said quietly.
"Well, I guess this is as good a time as any to tell you about this. Wait in the living room while I get something." Allen said before going upstairs.
* * * * *
Allen walked into the living room carrying a small box.
"I was adopted too. Mona, the woman who raised me, couldn't have kids so I was her only child. When I moved to Orlando, she sent a few things with me that belonged to her family." Allen said quietly and opened the top of the box.
"This is a shaving kit that belonged to Mona's grandfather. She gave it to me in hopes that I could pass it on to my eldest son when he was old enough." Allen said with a smile.
"For a long time, I didn't think I was going to have anyone to pass it on to. But now I do. Jake, when you move out on your own someday, this is going to be yours." Allen said as he looked at Jake.
"But I can't. I'm adopted, I can't have a piece of your family history." Jake said with wide eyes.
"So am I Jake... and so was Mona. This isn't a symbol of blood ties, it's a symbol of family. Teri made you legally my son, the piece of paper the judge signed today gave you my name. By giving you this, I'm giving you more than the family in this room, I'm giving you my family history too. Don't worry if you don't understand it now. It took me a long time to understand how important it is."
After a long silent moment, Brady said, "I'll be right back." And walked into the family room.
A minute later Brady returned and stood before Allen.
"This belonged to my... our grandfather." Brady said seriously and held out a pocket watch.
Allen accepted the watch and looked at it carefully.
"I'm going to give this to Allen right now, I just feel that it should be his." Brady said, then glanced at Xain.
"But when Xain is ready to move out on his own, I think it should be passed on to him." Brady said carefully.
"I could not. It is your family history." Xain said with a startled expression.
"Xain, *you* are a part of our family history now too. This will be a symbol to show that you are forever a part of our family, no matter where your life takes you in the future." Allen said seriously.
"I am honored." Xain said reverently.
"Come on guys, one quick family hug, then let's check this place out. I still haven't seen your rooms." Allen said cheerfully.
* * * * *
"What is it supposed to be?" Allen asked as he looked at all the different paper shapes on the walls.
"David said it was my art studio. He said I can paint and draw on all the different pieces of paper any way I want." Kevin said happily.
"Well, it looks like you'll have plenty to keep you busy for a while." Brady said as he noticed a paper chef's hat and apron just below a Chinese lantern.
"Look at this." Kevin said as he pointed to his easel and huge sketchpad.
"That paper's nearly as big as you are." Allen said in surprise.
"Yeah. I want to draw something before I go to bed tonight." Kevin said joyfully.
"Okay, but be sure to show it to me when you're done." Allen said with a peaceful smile.
"Why don't you show me what you've got Kenny?" Brady asked quietly.
"I have a whole bunch of models, but I couldn't think of any way to put them out where you could see them." Kenny said seriously.
"Where are they? Maybe I can come up with something." Brady said in thought.
"I put them in the closet." Kenny said and hurried away.
Brady followed and stood in the closet doorway.
"I've got mostly ships in this box. Cars in those two." Kenny said and opened the largest box in the closet floor.
Brady walked closer to see what Kenny had.
After a long moment of looking at the contents of the box, Brady said, "I think I know how we can display all your models."
"How?" Kenny asked with surprise.
"We'll need to go to a hardware store for some supplies, but we can make a shadow box to house all your models. If you wanted to, we could work on it together." Brady asked hopefully.
"Really? I could help?" Kenny asked with excitement.
"More than help. This will be a team effort. We'll work together on every phase of the project, starting with design." Brady said in thought.
Kenny hugged close to Brady and said, "Thank you Uncle Brady, I'm glad you're my uncle."
"I am too Ken." Brady said happily.
* * * * *
This has to be the most peaceful place I've ever been." Allen said as he looked at the beautiful scenes of nature all around the room.
"I was afraid my posters were going to make it feel wrong, but then we decided to mix them." Jake said happily.
Sure enough, there were posters of popular bands interspersed among the nature scenes.
"I never would have thought that N*Sync would fit between a snowfield and a forest path but somehow they look right at home." Brady said as he looked around.
"I like the tree and the plants. It smells alive in here... in a good way. Not like most teenager's bedrooms." Allen finished with a smile.
"It smells like Earth." Xain said peacefully.
"And I see that you have a nice stereo... nicer than mine in fact." Allen said as he walked to examine the stereo.
Jake picked up the remote control and pressed play.
Sounds of wind rustling through trees and water trickling in the distance filled the room.
"That's nice. But I kind of expected some of Aaron or Josh's music." Allen said as he listened to the peaceful sounds of nature.
"I have them in there too along with Backstreet and Hanson. It's got a five disk changer." Jake said with pride.
Allen smiled at Jake and said, "As long as you're respectful of everyone else, enjoy your stereo. It's beautiful."
"I'll only play the things that Xain likes out loud. I'll use my headphones when I want to crank it up." Jake said and held up a pair of very nice headphones.
"Well, I suppose you'll be wanting to see my bedroom." Allen asked the group curiously.
* * * * *
"Wow. This is pretty." Kevin said as he walked to the large windows.
"Yeah. Now you see why I wanted this room." Allen said as he stood beside Kevin.
"Your room has many admirable qualities." Xain said as he walked to Allen's other side.
"I thought you were just being nice when you took the smaller room, but now I see that you really did get what you wanted." Brady said from beside Xain.
"It's a lake. What's the big deal?" Kenny asked curiously.
"They like it cause it's pretty." Jake said with a shrug.
"Yeah, I guess." Kenny said as he walked up to peek out the window.
"So what are we going to do now?" Kenny asked after five seconds of looking at the water.
Allen smiled and said, "We're in our own house. You can watch television, play games, do something with your brothers. We're home, we can do whatever we want."
"Uncle Brady? Can we work on the thing to hold my models now?" Kenny asked hopefully.
"Sure Ken, let's go to your room and start designing it." Brady said happily.
"I'm going to draw a picture." Kevin said quickly and hurried out.
"How about you guys?" Allen asked Xain and Jake.
"I think I'd like to put on my headphones and listen to some of Aaron's music for a while." Jake said peacefully.
"That sounds nice." Allen said with a smile.
"May I contact he who is my father?" Xain asked carefully.
"Of course Xain. And for future reference, you don't have to ask my permission. You may call your father at any time." Allen said seriously.
"Thank you father." Xain said with a smile.
* * * * *
"He who is my father wishes to speak with you." Xain said from the double doors of the family room.
Allen got up from the couch and walked in the family room to find a surprisingly young looking Vulcan man on the terminal.
"T'nar pak sorat y'rani." Allen greeted Solak formally and held out his hand in the appropriate salute.
" T'nar jaral." Solak said, giving the customary reply.
"He who is my son has summarized the events of the day." Solak said formally.
Allen waited, not seeing any need for a response.
"Due to his inexperience in dealing with Humans, I wish to verify his observations." Solak said simply.
"Proceed." Allen said without emotion.
"I have given permission for him to accept your family name on the pretext that it will aid in his interactions with Humans. Is this true?" Solak asked, betraying a note of suspicion in his voice.
"Correct. There are many situations when a surname is desirable when interacting in Human society." Allen said without inflection.
Solak raised an eyebrow at the response, then proceeded, "He claims to be regarded as part of your family. Is this true?"
"That is correct. The brother of my sons is to be regarded as my son." Allen said in slow calmness.
Solak nodded then asked, "When his work for Clan Short is completed, will his status be changed in your family?"
"My sons are members of Clan Short, I am not. Therefore I cannot speak as to their actions. However, regardless of his status in Clan Short, Xain will be regarded as k'war'ma'khon and have status equal to my sons hereafter." Allen said calmly.
Solak sat silently for a moment before saying, "My efforts to provide for his education have proven futile. Perhaps immersion in Human culture will be beneficial for him."
"Perhaps. I have personal experience with existing in the area of intersection between Vulcan and Human culture. Xain will have choices to make and I will be here to offer guidance when it is necessary." Allen said properly.
"She who was his mother claimed that his place was on Earth. After her passing, I accepted a position at the Vulcan consulate on Earth in hopes that it would be of benefit to him." Solak said pensively.
"When dealing with children, one can only present opportunities and encouragement. The child will embrace or reject what he will for his own reasons." Allen said in thought.
Solak nodded at the statement.
"Will you be remaining on Earth now that Xain has been accepted by Clan Short?" Allen asked curiously.
"No decision has been made on that point as of yet. It is my wish to return to Vulcan, but it is also my wish to have contact with he who is my son." Solak said seriously.
"My work for the federation requires my occasional presence on Vulcan. If you were to return to Vulcan, I could bring Xain with me so you might have contact. If you choose to remain on Earth, you will always be a welcomed guest." Allen said respectfully.
Solak reached for something before him and began to press a sequence of keys. After a moment he said, "I will return to Vulcan. I approve of Clan Short's choice of guardian for he who is my son. It would be possible to be at your location at 1800 hours federation standard time tomorrow so I might give he who is my son those of his possessions that he left in San Francisco. Would that be acceptable?"
"Perfectly acceptable. There is one other matter of concern." Allen added quickly.
Solak raised an eyebrow as a prompt to continue.
"The English language does not have an equivalent word for k'war'ma'khon. Xain used the word 'father' to explain our relationship to others. Is this acceptable?" Allen asked with a feeling of dread.
Solak thought for a moment, then said, "To call two men father seems illogical."
Xain walked to stand at Allen's side and said, "You are 'he who is my father', Allen is 'father', the distinction is clear."
"I understand. It is acceptable. I will deliver your possessions tomorrow. Live long and prosper, he who is my son." Solak finished peacefully.
"Live long and prosper, he who is my father." Xain said with peace and reverence.
The screen went blank as Allen and Xain remained still.
"How much were you listening to?" Allen asked as he turned to face Xain.
"All. Please to forgive that I remained within concealment." Xain said quickly with frustration.
"Calm down. I'm not angry. Even though it is not proper to listen to someone else's private conversation, this conversation had to do with you. Come here." Allen said as he stood.
Xain walked to Allen cautiously.
"Jake can probably explain this better than I can, but sometimes it's easier to show your feelings than speak them." Allen said as he hugged Xain tightly.
After a full minute of hugging Xain said, "I believe I understand. When is it appropriate for me to express feelings in this manner?"
Allen was surprised at Xain's wish to express feelings, but responded, "With those in this house and those of your clan. Others might not understand."
Xain pulled out of the hug and assumed his full Vulcan control as he said, "Thank you for your guidance Father."
Allen smiled and said, "I'm always here for you whenever you need me."
Xain gave a shy smile before leaving the room.
* * * * *
Allen walked into Kenny and Kevin's room to find Kenny's bed covered with models of every shape and size.
"What are you guys doing?" Allen asked curiously.
"We're trying to figure out how we want to build the display case for Kenny's models." Brady said happily.
"How's it going?" Allen asked as he looked more carefully at the collection.
"Well, Kenny's trying to decide what order to put them in right now. Once he has them arranged how he wants them, we'll design the shelf." Brady said seriously.
"That sounds like a good idea. Maybe you could use Kevin's help with that part." Allen said in thought.
"What can I do?" Kevin asked in surprise.
"Well, you've got that great big pad of paper. When they're ready, maybe you could draw the shelf that they're wanting to build." Allen said speculatively.
"Would you Kev? That would be a big help." Kenny asked with excitement.
"You'll have to tell me how you want it to look." Kevin said slowly.
"Yeah. As soon as we've got them all in order just right, I'll tell you how we want the shelf to be and you can draw it." Kenny said with a grand smile.
Allen smiled at the interaction and turned for the door as he said, "Kevin, come downstairs in a few minutes for your milkshake."
"Okay Poppa." Kevin said happily as he looked at the collection of models with interest.
* * * * *
Xain walked into the bedroom he shared with Jake to an unusual sight.
Jake was laying on his bed with tears streaming down his face.
"Brother? Do you require assistance?" Xain asked with hesitation.
Jake's eyes opened at the sound and said, "I was just remembering things Xain. I'll be okay."
"Your memories cause pain?" Xain asked curiously.
Jake considered the question for a moment as he removed his headphones and turned off the stereo with the remote.
"I guess they do. Everything is just starting to catch up to me." Jake said and wiped his eyes quickly.
"I do not have words to offer comfort. Perhaps I could 'show' my support?" Xain asked hesitantly.
Jake looked at Xain for an instant, then gave a watery smile and nodded.
Xain sat beside Jake and pulled him into a gentle hug.
Jake felt the warm arms wrapped around him and smiled in contentment as he carefully returned the hug.
* * * * *
"Poppa?" Kevin asked as he walked into the kitchen.
"Right here Kev. Your milkshake is almost ready. Have a seat at the table and I'll bring it to you." Allen said from the refrigerator.
After a moment, Allen emerged with a milkshake, topped with whipped cream and a cherry on top.
"Wow. That looks great!" Kevin said happily.
"Dr. McCoy says you have to have milkshakes, but I just thought I could make them extra special for you." Allen said with a smile as he presented the milkshake to Kevin.
After drinking through the straw for a second Kevin said, "I love you poppa. I'm really glad I'm here with you."
"I'm glad you're here too, little one. Carl always wanted you to live with us. I only wish you could have known him." Allen said as he sat across from Kevin with a glass of fruit punch.
Kevin thought about that and finally said, "You're the only poppa I ever had. He was Kenny's dad, not mine. Just like my momma ain't Kenny's momma cause he never knew her."
"Kevin?" Allen asked in a quiet voice to draw Kevin's attention from the milkshake before him.
After a moment, Kevin looked up to meet Allen's gaze.
"Please don't deny your father. I know you never knew him, but I'm sure if you ask Kenny, he'll show you the pictures and tell you all about Carl. I'd never ask you to try and feel something that you don't, but please don't deny him as your father. He loved you and it broke his heart that he couldn't share in your life." Allen said seriously.
Kevin looked back at his milkshake for a moment, then said, "I won't say he ain't my Dad no more, but I can't love someone I never knew."
"Fair enough, little one. That's all I'm asking." Allen said with a gentle smile.
A long minute of silence fell over the kitchen as both thought their own thoughts.
"Poppa? Can I ask you something?" Kevin asked in a small voice.
"Of course. Anything you want." Allen said with concern at the tone in Kevin's voice.
"How do you know if you're in love?" Kevin asked seriously.
"Oh. That's a tough one. I've been in love one time and I'm not sure if it's the same for everyone, or even if it would be the same for me if I fell in love with someone else." Allen said in thought.
"What did it feel like when you fell in love with my Dad?" Kevin asked, sounding desperate.
Allen thought about it for a minute before answering, "It was like being in a dream. Whenever I'd see Carl or talk to him my world seemed to be brighter. I would find myself thinking about him all the time and wanting to talk to him."
Kevin took another drink of his milkshake and thought about the words.
"It's funny. You're a lot like your Dad, even more than Kenny." Allen said with a smile.
"I am?" Kevin asked in surprise.
"Sure. You have the same strength that he had. When you've made up your mind about something, nothing in the universe is going to change it." Allen said with a smile.
"Is that good?" Kevin asked hesitantly.
"It's not good or bad. It's just the way you are. And just like with your Dad, I'd never want to change it. Not too many people have your kind of determination and strength." Allen said with admiration.
Kevin took his final drink of the milkshake and smiled.
"Was that okay for you?" Allen asked as he picked up both their empty glasses.
"Yeah. It was even better cause you made it extra special." Kevin said with a smile.
"Why don't you go up and work on your picture for a while? I'm going to unload the dishwasher and I'll be up to visit in a few minutes." Allen asked as he sat the glasses in the sink.
"Can I help?" Kevin asked seriously.
Allen smiled and said, "I'd like that son."
* * * * *
"How do you like living here?" Jake asked Xain quietly.
"I am... these words are difficult." Xain said with frustration.
"Maybe you can show me. Dad and I figured out that it works better than words sometimes." Jake said as he renewed his hug.
Xain considered the words, then increased the strength of his hug.
"I'm glad. Because we like you living here too." Jake said peacefully.
"I do not understand why." Xain said as he relaxed his hug.
"Have you ever put together a puzzle?" Jake asked casually.
"I have." Xain said hesitantly, confused by the non-sequitor.
"We're all pieces of the puzzle that makes up this family. You complete us. There would be an empty space in our family without you." Jake said in thought.
Xain thought about the words and finally said, "I can see no evidence to support your assertion."
"You like to cook. None of the rest of us do. You made our room into a peaceful haven. I would have had a music museum. When I was remembering, you held me and made me feel better..." Jake trailed off.
"You have accepted me as I am. Given freely of advice and touch... My words fail." Xain said with frustration.
"Then show me." Jake said quietly.
Xain immediately hugged Jake tighter and expressed his feelings through touch.
"I understand. Xain, I'd like you to be more than my brother, I'd also like you to be my friend." Jake said in thought.
Xain didn't even consider trying to find the words, he just increased his hug into a crushing grip.
Jake smiled at the response and hugged Xain just as tightly.
* * * * *
"How goes the project guys?" Allen asked as he and Kevin walked into the bedroom.
"We're just about ready to plan the shelf." Kenny said happily.
"So you decided to separate them by type I see." Allen said as he looked at the intricate arrangement on the bed.
"Yeah. I have cars on top and ships on the bottom cause I have the most of them. On the sides I have motorcycles and the other things I only have a few of." Kenny said seriously.
"What's that big spot in the middle for?" Allen asked curiously.
"It's for my best model. I don't want to take it out of the box cause it's got a lot of little parts and I don't want it to get banged up." Kenny said as he looked over his arrangement again.
"Are you ready to start drawing Kevin?" Brady asked with a smile.
"Uh huh. Just let me move this." Kevin said and carefully moved his easel so he was facing the bed.
"I'll leave you guys to it. Have fun." Allen said as he walked out of the room.
* * * * *
Allen walked to Jake and Xain's room and noticed that the door was closed.
He carefully knocked and waited for a, 'Come in.' before entering.
"How are you guys doing?" Allen asked and noticed that they were both sitting on Jake's bed.
"We were just talking about stuff." Jake said simply.
"So you're getting along okay?" Allen asked curiously.
"Jake is my brother and friend." Xain said seriously.
Allen smiled and said, "Then I'm glad you two ended up sharing a room. How would you two feel about making some cookies for everyone?"
"That sounds great." Jake said with a smile.
"I am not familiar with that... recipe." Xain said carefully.
"There's a recipe on the bag of chocolate chips. Jake or I can help you if you get stuck on any of the words." Allen said with a smile.
"I would like to try to make cookies." Xain said seriously.
"Great, then come on downstairs and we'll get started." Allen said with a smile.
Xain got a curious look, then walked up to Allen and pulled him into a hug.
"That means he doesn't have the words for what he wants to say." Jake explained with a tender look.
"I know exactly what he's saying... and I don't have the words either." Allen said as he returned the hug.
* * * * *
Allen sat at the kitchen table and watched as Jake and Xain worked in the kitchen.
After mixing the cookie dough, Xain took a taste and considered carefully.
Allen became curious as Xain began to look through the cabinets, obviously looking for something.
"What are you looking for?" Allen asked curiously.
"She who was my mother explained that to follow another's instructions... recipe, is much like buying preprepared food. The preferable way is to follow the instructions, then add or alter ingredients to adapt the food to one's own taste." Xain said and pulled a spice container from the cabinet.
"The resulting product is unique, perhaps an improvement." Xain said as he carefully added a small amount of the spice.
"Maybe I'll get you to show me how to do that. I've only ever followed a recipe before." Allen said as he watched Xain add something else to the dough.
"I would be honored to share my experience." Xain said as he mixed the cookie dough again.
"This is fun. I'd like to learn too." Jake said as he watched Xain work.
"Perhaps we could prepare tomorrow's meal to welcome he who is my father." Xain said and handed the bowl to Jake.
"What do you want me to do?" Jake asked cautiously.
"Spoon the dough onto the pan." Xain said simply.
"Oh, okay." Jake said and began to work.
"I think that's a good idea Xain. If you'll get a list together of what you'll need for the meal, I'll go to the store and get it. I'd like to invite Juana and her kids too." Allen said in thought.
Xain looked at Allen curiously.
"They're going to be like part of the family, so I'd like to start making her feel welcomed." Allen said carefully.
"That's a good idea. She's invited me to eat with her a few times, it'll be nice to be able to repay her." Jake said as he started scooping dough onto a second cookie sheet.
"I'll ask her in the morning." Allen said with a smile.
* * * * *
Kevin, Kenny and Brady walked into the kitchen, led by their noses.
"That smells really good. Are you making cookies?" Kenny asked as he walked over to hug Allen.
"Not me. Xain and Jake are making the cookies, I'm just keeping them company." Allen said peacefully as he hugged Kenny.
"I drawed a big picture of the shelf Uncle Brady and Kenny are going to build." Kevin said with pride.
"We should be able to start on it tomorrow. We've got the design figured out and just need to make some measurements." Brady said as he took a seat at the table.
Xain walked to the oven, and after a moment to consider, pulled the first pan of cookies out and sat it on the stove.
"While the cookies are cooling you can scoop out the ice cream." Allen said with a smile.
Jake nodded and carried a stack of plates to the sink where the ice cream had been left to soften.
"Those cookies smell wonderful guys. I can't wait to try them." Brady said with a smile.
"Yeah. I'm going to have some too." Kevin said with delight.
Allen leaned over in his seat to put an arm around Kevin and give him a quick hug.
* * * * *
"These are the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had." Brady said in ecstasy.
"Yeah, whatever you added to the recipe made them taste even better." Allen said, then took another bite of cookie.
"I simply added spices I believed would accentuate the taste." Xain said with a tone of pride in his voice.
"I never tasted nothing this good before." Kevin said as he took a second cookie from the plate in the middle of the table.
"Thanks for thinking of the ice cream. It's really good with the cookies." Jake said, then savored a spoon of the vanilla ice cream.
"It is the perfect compliment." Xain agreed, then took a bite of his own cookie.
"I guess this means that tomorrow's meal is going to be incredible with you three making it." Brady said with a smile.
"We will endeavor to prepare a satisfying meal." Xain said gently.
"That's Vulcan for 'it's gonna kick ass!'." Jake said with a grand smile.
After a chuckle Allen said, "And I thought Kevin and I were the translator's here."
"You translate the words, Jake translates the sentiment." Xain said with a ghost of a smile at Jake.
Laughter and good cheer were in abundant supply as the family began to recount the events of the day.