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As Jake and Xain arrived at the top of the stairs they heard a whimpering cry.
Both hurried to Kevin and Kenny's room to find Kevin on his bed crying softly as Reuben and Kenny sat on either side of him trying to comfort him.
"Kev buddy, you want to tell me what's wrong?" Jake asked as he sat on the edge of the bed and began to rub Kevin's back.
"I'm... I'm stupid!" Kevin wailed with his face buried into the bed.
"Why do you think you're stupid Kevin? Please tell me." Jake said in a soothing voice.
"I can't even play a game cause I'm so stupid." Kevin cried in agony.
"I never noticed it before but the game I was showing Reuben and Kevin how to play had a lot of reading in it. I said I'd read it to him, but he just started crying and won't stop." Kenny said in a whisper.
"I can't do nothin. I'm so stupid, I don't know why you would even want me around." Kevin said and started crying even harder.
"You know a bunch of stuff that I don't. If you're stupid, then I'm really stupid." Reuben said quietly to Kevin.
"You're not stupid... you're only six... You're not supposed to know stuff." Kevin said through hitching breaths.
"Kevin, you are smart. I couldn't have lived in Chicago like you did. I felt so stupid with all the trains and buses and being around people that I didn't understand. It was just everyday stuff to you but I was lost there and you were the smart one." Kenny said seriously.
"It's just because I always lived there. If you'd lived there you would be like me..." Kevin trailed off as his tears began to fall again.
"Kev, do you know why I've always been nice to you?" Jake asked as he stopped rubbing Kevin's back and pulled him into a hug.
Kevin looked at Jake and shook his head 'no'.
"Because when I look at you, I see someone who is everything I wanted to be. Your life was just as hard as mine but you didn't crack. You didn't give into Spade and his guys and you didn't do drugs. In my book that makes you smarter than me." Jake said seriously.
"Kevin." Xain called in a firm voice to gain his attention.
Kevin looked away from Jake to see Xain's serious, composed expression.
"I am also unable to read English. By your logic, I am also stupid. Do you believe this to be true?" Xain asked with intensity.
Kevin thought a moment before saying, "No. You're probably smarter than all of us put together. You don't know how to read English because you never learned how. That don't make you stupid."
Xain didn't respond, but kept his gaze fixed on Kevin.
There was nothing but tense silence until Kevin finally said, "Okay. Maybe I'm not stupid, I just can't read."
"Kev, if it really bothers you that much, all of us can help you learn. You and Xain can learn together." Jake said quietly.
"Yeah, and I can only read a little bit. I can learn with you too." Reuben said happily.
"Thanks guys." Kevin said as he wiped his eyes.
"Kev, we're all going to have to depend on each other a lot for a while until we get used to this. What Kenny was saying about how he felt in Chicago is how I feel here. I'm going to have to try and listen to Dad and Uncle Brady and Kenny until I know how I'm supposed to act here. That's going to be really hard for me because I'm used to being on my own." Jake said in thought.
"I have never lived among Humans before. I am unfamiliar with Human interaction and customs. I too will have to follow the advice and example of Father, Uncle and Kenny." Xain said seriously.
"Guys, I may be used to living here but I was just a kid. Dad and Pop did everything for me, I never had to think about serious stuff or make any decisions. It feels like that was a hundred years ago..." Kenny trailed off as he thought.
"So we're all kind of lost here. That's why we need to stick together. Think about it guys, each of us is strong in some ways and weak in others. If we can just agree to ask for help when we need it and give help when it's asked for, we can get through this." Jake said firmly.
"And if it's something bigger than we can deal with, we can get help from Pop or the Clan." Kenny said in thought.
"Yeah, good thinking." Jake said with a nod.
"When can we start teaching Kevin how to read?" Reuben asked curiously.
"Right now if you want. You can teach Kevin and Xain what you know, then Kenny and I can take over and teach all three of you." Jake said seriously.
"I will observe. I have translated some things from she who was my mother, so I have some basic understanding." Xain said informatively.
Kenny ran to his bookcase and pulled out a few small books.
"Here, these are good ones that aren't too hard." Kenny said as he handed the books to Reuben.
"I'm going to go shower now. You guys have fun." Jake said as he turned.
"We will." Kevin said with a smile, then turned his attention to Reuben.
* * * * *
"Are you sure I won't be in the way?" Mona asked cautiously.
"Completely sure. Brady is leaving tomorrow night. We have a spare bed in the family room that you'll be able to use. I know the boys are going to love you. Just call me when your bus gets in." Allen said happily.
"I will. I love you, my sweet boy." Mona said tenderly.
"I love you too Mona." Allen said quietly.
Allen looked at Brady as he ended the call.
"Thanks, I didn't know if she was going to get nasty about me adopting Carl's kids and thought I might need some support." Allen said shyly.
"Why didn't she like Carl?" Brady asked as he shifted in his chair to get more comfortable.
"She thought that he was using me. She thought I was giving him everything without receiving anything in return." Allen said darkly.
"Was she right?" Brady asked carefully.
Allen looked up in surprise at the question, then took a moment to think about the answer.
"Maybe a little. But what Mona didn't take into account was what I needed from the relationship." Allen said in thought.
"Which was?" Brady asked, prompting Allen to continue.
"I needed someone to care for. I felt a need to give of myself. I didn't expect, or even want, someone who would be 'fair' or 'even'. My need was to give to someone who needed it. All I expected in return was the occasional acknowledgement that I was appreciated." Allen said carefully.
"Did he?" Brady asked, truly interested in the answer.
"Yes. He had rare moments when he expressed his gratitude, even his concern that he didn't offer me the same encouragement and support that I gave him. I told him that he was exactly what I wanted him to be and I didn't have any complaints." Allen said quietly.
"So even though the relationship appeared to be one-sided to someone like Mona who was outside it, you were where you wanted to be doing what you wanted to do?" Brady asked in confirmation.
"Exactly. We were just what each other needed." Allen said peacefully.
"Then I'm glad you found each other. I can't say I fully understand it, but as long as you two were happy, that's all that's important." Brady said with a smile.
"Yeah, my feelings exactly. Let's go check on the boys." Allen said and hefted himself off the couch.
Brady stood and followed Allen from the room.
* * * * *
"Tr... Tr... Tree?" Kevin asked uncertainly.
"Yes. You got it. That was a hard one." Reuben said with excitement.
"Tree. Wow, I did it!" Kevin said happily.
"I was in school for half a year before I learned my first four letter word. You're doing great." Reuben said seriously.
"The combination of the multiple consonants and a double vowel makes the word challenging. Your success is a notable achievement." Xain said in his Vulcan demeanor.
Kevin hugged Xain quickly and said, "Thanks Xain, when are you going to start learning with me?"
"I believe I have adequate knowledge of pronunciation, I will begin to participate when we reach sentences and paragraphs. My difficulty is with sentence structure and comprehension." Xain said calmly.
"How are you guys doing?" Allen asked from the door.
"Great!" Kevin said with excitement and raced to Allen carrying the book.
"Reuben is teaching me to read... see that word there? It's tree! I read it for real without anyone telling me!" Kevin said with excitement.
Allen squatted down to pull Kevin into a hug and said, "That's so wonderful little one. I'm proud of you."
Reuben and Kenny watched the scene with tender smiles as Xain watched impassively.
Brady walked to the three boys and said, "Thanks for helping him guys. I can't even imagine how he must feel but I know you just made this one of the best days of his life."
"Okay guys. It's time for bed." Allen said as he released Kevin and stood.
"But I wanted to learn to read some more." Kevin said with a pleading whine.
"If you really want to learn, you need to get plenty of sleep. Tomorrow after your haircuts you'll have all day to do what you want." Allen said seriously.
"Okay." Kevin said with disappointment.
"Now get into bed so I can tuck you in." Allen said and gently swatted Kevin on the butt.
Kevin scurried to his bed and crawled under the covers.
"Where should I sleep?" Reuben asked, looking back and forth between Kenny and Kevin's beds.
"You can share a bed with me or Kevin." Kenny said as he pulled off his shirt.
Reuben looked at Allen to see if he was going to say anything.
"It's your choice Reuben." Allen said with a smile.
Kenny slipped off his boxers and climbed into bed.
Reuben noticed that Kenny was naked and hurried into Kevin's bed.
Allen straightened the blankets for a moment, then bent down and kissed Kevin and Reuben on the foreheads.
"Sleep well boys. I love you. I'm glad you're here." Allen said quietly.
"I love you too Poppa." Kevin said with a smile.
"I love you Uncle Allen." Reuben said with a giggle as he snuggled in.
Allen walked to Kenny's bed as Brady walked to Kevin's.
"I love you Kevin, you too Reuben." Brady said as he kissed each boy gently.
"We love you too Uncle Brady." Reuben said as Kevin nodded his agreement.
"I love you Cute Stuff, sleep well." Allen said as he fussed with the blankets and gave Kenny a quick kiss.
"I love you too Pop." Kenny said with a smile.
"Good night Kenny, I love you." Brady said as he also gave Kenny a kiss.
Allen and Brady walked to the door and turned out the light.
* * * * *
After a moment of standing in the doorway and watching the boys settling into sleep, Allen and Brady walked into Xain and Jake's room next.
"Are you guys ready for bed?" Allen asked quietly.
"Not really." Jake said honestly.
"Well, since you're older, I think you should be allowed to stay up a little later. How's this? You two can stay up for another hour if you like. Just keep it quiet so you don't disturb your brothers. If you'll promise to be in bed by eleven, I won't come back and check on you." Allen asked carefully.
"Thanks Dad." Jake said with a smile.
"I know you're probably too old to be tucked in and kissed goodnight, but would you mind a goodnight hug?" Allen asked cautiously.
Jake smiled as he walked to Allen and pulled him into a hug.
"I really love you Dad. Thank you for everything." Jake said, then made a show of giving Allen a big smacking kiss on the mouth.
Allen and Brady laughed.
"I love you too son. Have a good night." Allen said with a chuckle, then moved to Xain.
Allen wasn't sure if Xain would accept a goodnight hug, but decided to give it a try.
"Goodnight Xain. I'm glad you're here with us." Allen said as he hugged Xain firmly.
Xain looked at Allen curiously, then gave him a quick peck of a kiss on the lips.
Allen smiled and said, "You two have a good night. I'll see you in the morning."
Brady hugged each of the boys in turn and followed Allen out of the room.
* * * * *
"Father! Come quickly! Jake is in distress." Xain called as he shook Allen by the shoulder.
"What?" Allen said sleepily.
"Come now! Jake needs help!" Xain said as he pulled Allen from his bed.
Allen stumbled behind Xain being led by the arm.
As Allen walked into Jake and Xain's bedroom he heard a horrible gasping sound.
Allen ran to Jake's side to find him staring in wide eyed panic as he fought to breathe.
In Vulcan Allen said, "Bring me a paper bag from above the refrigeration unit in the kitchen. Do it now."
Xain ran as fast as he could to the kitchen.
"Jake, it's Dad. You're hyperventilating. I need you to sit on the edge of the bed and lean forward. It will help." Allen said in English as calmly as he could.
Xain ran into the bedroom carrying a paper sack.
Allen fumbled to open the sack. Time almost stood still as he frantically tried to get the brown paper to separate.
Finally the bag was open and Allen placed the open bag in front of Jake's face.
"Breathe into this bag and you'll start to breathe normally. Don't worry son, you're going to be fine." Allen soothed.
Jake held the bag over his nose and mouth as he fought for breath.
The brown paper bag expanded and contracted with each of his exaggerated breaths.
"You're doing fine. Can you feel it? You're breaths are coming more normally now." Allen said in an assuring voice.
Jake nodded shakily.
Allen got up from the floor and moved to sit on the bed beside Jake.
Xain had been standing and watching. He took a step closer to Jake but stopped when Jake huddled into Allen with a look of terror in his eyes.
"Xain, would you mind going to the kitchen and fixing a glass of warm milk? Heat it on the stove, I'm not sure why but it doesn't seem the same when it's heated in the microwave." Allen asked in a steady voice.
"Yes Father." Xain said hesitantly and walked out of the room.
* * * * *
"Can you tell me what caused this?" Allen asked as he rubbed Jake's back gently.
"I had a nightmare." Jake mumbled.
"I thought so. Will you talk about it? Whatever scared you so badly to cause this must have been pretty bad." Allen said quietly.
"Yeah... I... Um... It's kind of... It's about sex." Jake said uncomfortably.
"That's okay Jake. Whatever it is, I'll still love you. If you tell me about it maybe I can help you to deal with it." Allen said with a serious note in his voice.
"Okay Dad. It's just... you know how I used to make money, right? I mean besides the drugs..." Jake trailed off.
"Yes Jake. Don't worry about it. I know and I love you. Go ahead." Allen said with assurance.
"Well, my dream started out like, I was with a guy, but I couldn't see his face." Jake said as he turned slightly and pulled Allen into a hug.
Allen returned the hug and kissed Jake on the top of the head before saying, "Go on."
"I was on my back... with my legs up... Well the guy was really plowing into me, hurting me, trying to hurt me and I was getting scared that he was going to really hurt me bad." Jake said as tears started flowing down his face and onto Allen's bare chest.
"It was only a dream, go on, you can tell me." Allen said soothingly.
"Well, then I could start to see his face... and it was me." Jake said in a shaky voice.
Allen kissed Jake on the top of the head again and started rocking him.
"Then it was all switched around and I wasn't on the bottom. I was the guy doing the fucking." Jake said as his voice started to tremble.
"It's okay. I love you son." Allen said in a whisper.
"I was fucking Xain... I was hurting him..." Jake said through sobs before breaking down into full crying.
"Shhh. It's okay. It was a dream. It'll be okay, I promise." Allen soothed as he continued the rocking motion.
After a moment to think, Allen asked, "Do you want to know what I think your nightmare means?"
Jake's crying had lessened and he nodded into Allen's chest.
"I think that somewhere in your mind some things got confused and you're trying to work them out." Allen said carefully.
"Because of the things you used to have to do, things like love and sex and pain and a lot of other stuff all got to be associated together." Allen said in thought.
"You've never had to think about it before, you just did what you had to do. Now you're in a whole new situation and all that stuff is tangled together." Allen said seriously.
"Can you help me? I don't want to hurt Xain. That's what really scared me." Jake said with a tremble in his voice.
"I'll call Dan today and get an appointment for you as soon as possible. If you'll talk to him honestly, I'm sure he'll be able to help you get all this straightened out." Allen said as he hugged Jake extra tightly.
"But what if he doesn't want to help me because I'm gay?" Jake asked suddenly.
"Well, if that happened I think his boyfriend John would be very disappointed in him." Allen said, trying to keep a chuckle out of his voice.
"Father." Xain said quietly, holding a steaming mug.
"Thank you Xain. Set it on the nightstand. As soon as Jake's ready to try and sleep again, it will help him sleep." Allen said quietly.
Jake looked at Xain with tear-filled eyes, then buried his face in Allen's chest again.
Xain looked at Jake with confusion.
"Jake had a nightmare and dreamed that he hurt you. He knows he didn't but he still feels like he did." Allen tried to explain.
Xain considered the statement then said, "If you will permit it, I can assure him through our bond that I am well."
Allen looked at Xain consideringly, then hesitantly said, "That sounds like a good idea."
Xain made no outward show of establishing their bond, but Jake's reaction was immediate.
Jake looked at Xain curiously, as his tension seemed to flow away.
"Thank you. I don't think that there's anything you could have said that would make me feel better, but now I know, I mean I really know in my heart, that you're okay." Jake said with relief.
"Perhaps tomorrow, with Father's permission, I may show you how to initiate contact through our bond." Xain said as he looked at Jake, then Allen.
"How about we wait until after your father's visit? Depending on how that goes, we'll see." Allen said cautiously.
Xain gave a single nod of acceptance.
"Okay Sport, are you ready to try and sleep again?" Allen asked as he combed his fingers through Jake's hair.
"Yeah. I'll try." Jake said quietly.
"I'm going to go tuck Xain into bed while you drink your warm milk." Allen said and gave Jake one final squeeze before standing.
"Okay." Jake said and picked up the milk.
* * * * *
"Are you okay with everything that just happened?" Allen asked with concern as he fussed with Xain's bedspread.
Xain was quiet as he tried to find the words to describe his feelings.
Allen noticed the look of concentration and waited.
Finally Xain responded in Vulcan, finding it easier to describe what he was feeling.
"Jake's distress evoked an emotional response within me that I do not understand." Xain said carefully.
Allen considered the statement before asking, "Try thinking of other people that you know in the same distress that Jake was in. Do you believe that you would have had the same emotional response?"
Xain considered the question and did his best to consider his emotional response to several different people if they had awakened hyperventilating.
"I believe I would have had a similar response if any of my family or clan brothers were in distress, but not with equal intensity. I do not understand." Xain said and looked at Allen with an almost pleading expression.
"Kenny, Kevin, Brady and I are all your family just like Jake. But you and Jake have become more than family. By your own statement you have become friends. I believe that is the key. Am I right in assuming that you haven't had any friends before?" Allen finished quietly.
"Correct." Xain said in thought.
"Well, you've just experienced one of the attributes of friendship. Friends are concerned about each other's well-being. When you saw Jake in trouble it caused you to respond more emotionally than if someone else had been in the same situation. It is appropriate and normal." Allen said seriously.
"It would not be so were I a full blooded Vulcan." Xain said quietly.
"I disagree. I work with several Vulcans and so far as I know all of them are full blooded. Although their emotional responses are more guarded than yours, they do express emotions. There is one on my team, Sopek who I consider a friend. If he were to see me in pain or distress of some kind I know he would come to my aid and perhaps even display an emotional response." Allen said in a considering voice.
Xain thought for a moment before saying in English, "I will consider what you have said. I thank you for your guidance Father."
"I'm here whenever you need me Xain." Allen said and leaned in to kiss Xain on the forehead.
* * * * *
"Are you feeling any better?" Allen asked as he sat on the edge of Jake's bed.
"Yeah. I think I'll be able to sleep soon. Were you two talking about me?" Jake asked suspiciously.
"Not really. We were talking about Xain's feelings when he woke up and heard you gasping for breath." Allen said gently.
"Oh. I heard you talking in Vulcan and figured it was because you didn't want me to understand." Jake said quietly.
"I don't think that had anything to do with it. Xain is just more comfortable talking in Vulcan and he was trying to understand his feelings." Allen said with a small smile.
"What kind of feelings did he have?" Jake asked with a note of concern.
"You'll have to ask him. He didn't ask me not to tell you, but I wouldn't feel comfortable talking to you about it without his permission." Allen said with an apologetic voice.
"Does that go for the stuff I tell you too?" Jake asked curiously.
"Yes. The only person I might tell would be Dan, so he'll be able to help you. Other than him, if it's something I don't think you'd want people to know, I won't tell." Allen said seriously.
"Thanks Dad. I guess I never had someone I could talk to and really trust before." Jake said as he snuggled into his bed, getting more comfortable.
"Well you do now. Go ahead and try to get some sleep. If you have any bad dreams, just come and get me, I don't mind at all." Allen said as he leaned over to kiss Jake on the forehead.
"Goodnight Dad." Jake said happily.
"Goodnight Son." Allen said as he left the room.
* * * * *
Allen woke and looked out over the lake.
He sat on the window seat and enjoyed the peaceful scene for a few minutes before giving into the inevitable.
He pulled on some sweat pants and walked down the hall to wake Xain and Jake.
He noticed that the bedroom door was closed and gently knocked on it.
There was no answer so he opened it a little and poked his head in as he said, "It's time to get up, I'll be making breakfast in a few minutes."
Xain opened his eyes immediately.
"Breakfast will be ready in about twenty minutes. Will you wake up Jake?" Allen asked with a gentle smile.
"Yes Father." Xain said quietly.
Allen smiled more broadly and left the room.
* * * * *
"Come on Cute Stuff, it's time to wake up." Allen said as he sat on the edge of Kenny's bed.
Kenny yawned and stretched, then looked up at Allen and smiled.
"Good morning Pop." Kenny said happily.
"You look like you got a good nights sleep. How are you doing this morning?" Allen asked gently.
"I feel good. I think I was asleep before you left the room last night." Kenny said with a considering look.
"Well, we have a few things to do this morning, so I'm going to need your help. Will you wake Reuben and Kevin and get them to get dressed. I'm going to try and have breakfast on the table in about twenty minutes." Allen asked hopefully.
"Sure Pop. I'll take care of it." Kenny said as he looked at the clock beside his bed.
"Thanks Cute Stuff." Allen said as he leaned in and gave Kenny a kiss on the forehead before standing to leave.
* * * * *
Xain sat on the edge of his bed and looked at Jake.
After a moment of indecision, Xain opened the link of their bond and gently guided Jake from sleep to wakefulness.
Jake opened his eyes and smiled. He didn't' need to turn his head to know where Xain was in the room, he could feel his presence clearly.
"Good morning." Jake said with a smile.
Xain considered the statement, but said nothing.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Dad warned us about that. Thanks for waking me up that way, that was great." Jake said as he stretched.
"I find it to be the preferable way." Xain said as he stood.
"Um, why did you wake me up?" Jake asked curiously as he sat up.
"Father said breakfast would be ready in approximately twenty minutes." Xain said as he pulled some clothes from his dresser.
"Oh, thanks... And thanks for helping me last night. That was really scary." Jake said shyly.
"It is what friends do." Xain said without emotion.
Jake smiled at the statement and said, "Yeah, I guess it is."
* * * * *
"We need to get up so we can go get our hair cut." Kenny said as he shook Kevin's shoulder.
"Go? Isn't Poppa going to cut our hair?" Kevin asked groggily.
"No. He's going to take us to get it cut. Pop's making breakfast now so you two need to get up." Kenny said firmly.
"When we get back from getting our hair cut we can probably do some reading." Reuben said from Kevin's shoulder where he had been sleeping.
Kevin's eyes opened fully.
"Good call, Reuben." Kenny said with a smile as Kevin nudged Reuben off of him so he could get dressed.
* * * * *
"Did Kenny tell you who was going to be cutting your hair?" Allen asked as he drove his Dodge Caravan toward downtown.
"No. He just said you were going to take us to get it cut. I never had anyone cut my hair but my momma before." Kevin said as he looked out the window.
Everyone in the car looked at Kevin's shaggy mop of hair and shared a look with each other but didn't say a word.
"Well the guys you're going to meet are some good friends of mine. I want you to meet them, and besides, Reuben, Kevin and Jake *do* need haircuts." Allen said seriously.
"Are you going to pick how I get my hair cut?" Jake asked cautiously.
"Not exactly. You choose whatever you want, but if I don't like what you choose, you may have to pick something else." Allen said as he turned off the main street into a side street.
After a second, Allen looked in the mirror to find Jake looking back at him angrily.
"Relax Jake, I'm fairly easy going. Chances are whatever you pick, I'll approve of." Allen said, then spotted a parking place along the street.
"Jake, pay attention. You'll be driving soon and have to parallel park this beast." Allen said as he eased into the space.
"It doesn't look that hard." Jake said as he watched the graceful maneuver.
"It never does until you're the one doing it." Allen said, then checked his mirror for oncoming traffic before getting out of the car.
* * * * *
"Okay, before we go in. Remember that these are my friends. You don't have to like them, but I'm asking you to be respectful to them." Allen said and looked at each boy to see them agree before continuing.
"Xain, I need for you to cover your ears until I signal you to uncover them." Allen said as he reached for the door handle.
Allen noticed a surprised expression fall across Xain's face, followed by an almost imperceptible expression of hurt before the Vulcan facade fell into place.
"Just do it and I think you'll thank me later." Allen said quietly and opened the door.
* * * * *
"IEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" Rang out in a shrill falsetto voice as the slightly chubby hairdresser barreled toward Allen.
Xain clamped his hands tighter over his ears at the sound.
"Oh Cupcake, how are you? We've been worried sick about you. We've been trying to call since we got back from Tampa." The man said as he hugged Allen tightly.
"I'm fine Bobby. Need air." Allen finished with a gasp.
"What's set you off this time?" A voice came from the back room.
"Eric, come out here this minute. Allen's here!" Bobby said in a scolding tone.
All the boys followed the voice and saw a tall thin man walk out of the back room.
"I'm glad to see you're alright Allen." Eric said softly.
"I'm fine. Kenny? Would you like to introduce everyone?" Allen asked as he made a 'stop' motion to Xain, indicating for him to keep his hands over his ears.
"Uncle Eric, Aunt Bobby, this is my brother Kevin." Kenny said proudly.
"IEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee..." Bobby squealed with delight.
Xain winced again as he clamped his hands tightly against his ears.
"Kevin? You're here? Both of you?" Eric asked in amazement as he looked at the two brothers.
"I've adopted them." Allen said and waited for the next squeal.
Bobby opened his mouth to squeal but nothing came out.
Xain clamped his hands even tighter and Allen noticed.
"I think Bobby went ultrasonic." Allen said with a note of sympathy in his voice.
After a moment for Bobby to collect himself Allen continued, "Kenny and Kevin are legally my sons now."
"Oh Pumpkin, how did you manage that?" Bobby asked with delight.
"It's a really long story Bobby and I've got a bunch of boys here needing haircuts." Allen said and motioned for Xain that it was safe to put his hands down.
"Who all do you have here?" Bobby asked as he looked at the group of boys.
"Kenny?" Allen asked with a smile.
"Okay. This is my brother Kevin, my brother Jake, my brother Xain and our cousin Reuben." Kenny said carefully.
Bobby stood with his mouth hanging open as Eric said, "It's wonderful to meet all of you. Who wants to be first to get their hair cut?"
"Can you cut Kevin's hair to look like mine?" Kenny asked hopefully.
"Sure thing Cute Stuff. Is that okay with you Kevin?" Eric asked with a gentle smile.
Kevin nodded uncertainly.
"Come with me. I'm going to wash your hair before we cut it." Eric said as he gestured to a chair before a sink.
"I washed my hair last night." Kevin said quietly.
"Well it's easier for me to cut your hair if it's wet and besides that it feels good, doesn't it Kenny?" Eric asked gently.
"It feels really nice. Can I wash Kevin's hair for you Uncle Eric?" Kenny asked hopefully.
"If that's what Kevin wants." Eric said with a smile.
"Who do you want to wash your hair?" Kenny asked hopefully.
Kevin pointed at Kenny shyly.
Kenny beamed a sunny smile and took his brother by the hand to the chair.
* * * * *
"Okay. Who wants to be next?" Bobby asked, finally over his shock.
"Can I?" Reuben asked hopefully.
"Of course you can. Oh you're just adorable. How old are you sweetie?" Bobby crooned.
"I'm six." Reuben said proudly.
"Well Reuben, come with me and I'll wash your hair." Bobby said as he held out his hand for Reuben to take.
Reuben immediately ran to Bobby and took his hand as he said, "You're pretty."
"Well thank you. You're one of the sweetest most wonderful children I've ever met." Bobby said as he lifted Reuben into his seat.
"As well as one of the most perceptive." Bobby said as he started the water.
* * * * *
"Have you decided on the hair style you'd like?" Allen asked Jake as he led Jake and Xain to take a seat.
"Well, I was thinking... I really like Xain's hair. I think I'd kind of like mine cut something like his." Jake said hesitantly.
Allen looked at Jake and Xain speculatively, then said, "I think so... but maybe with a part in the middle. Xain, can I comb your hair a different way to show Jake what I mean?"
Xain nodded hesitantly.
Allen walked over to the nearest hairdresser's station and picked up a comb.
"What I'm thinking is to get your hair cut just like Xain's... maybe with slightly longer bangs and part it in the middle like this." Allen said as he carefully combed a part into Xain's hair.
"I think that would compliment your face. What do you think?" Allen asked as he looked at Xain then Jake.
"I don't know. Xain, will you look in the mirror and tell me what you think?" Jake asked hopefully.
Xain nodded and walked to look in the mirror.
"What do you think?" Allen asked carefully.
"May I use the comb?" Xain asked and held out his hand.
Allen gave Xain the comb and watched as Xain combed a part high on the right side of his head.
"I believe this is more aesthetically pleasing." Xain said when he was finished.
"I want that. It looks great." Jake said as he looked at the new style.
"I agree. Good choice son." Allen said happily.
* * * * *
"Do you know what kind of hair style you'd like Reuben?" Bobby asked as he carefully shampooed the boy's hair.
"I like Kenny's hair, can my hair look like his?" Reuben asked hopefully.
"Of course it can. Anything you want. Let me rinse your hair and we can get started." Bobby said with a bubbly voice.
* * * * *
"That feels really nice." Kevin said as he relaxed in the chair.
"I'm doing it the way Uncle Eric always does mine. I can show you how at home if you want." Kenny said as he slowly rinsed the shampoo out of Kevin's hair.
"Yeah. I'd like that." Kevin said in an almost dreamy voice.
"Uncle Eric, did I do it right?" Kenny asked hopefully as he turned off the water.
"You did it just perfect Cute Stuff. Let me wrap him up and we can get started." Eric said happily.
* * * * *
"Okay Allen. Now that the hair washing is done, I want to hear the whole story of how you got these five wonderful boys." Eric said as he got Kevin settled into the chair.
"Wait for your beloved to get over here and I'll tell you both. Until then, tell me what's been going on with you." Allen said with a smile.
"Oh, well. Saturday we received a summons from the High and Mighty Agnes, himself." Eric said as he started to comb Kevin's hair into submission.
"They were invited to dinner with Bobby's mother." Allen whispered to Xain and Jake.
"She even had her rat groomed specially for the occasion." Eric said as he took a few short snips of Kevin's hair.
"Agnes has a poodle named Rasputin." Allen said to the boys.
"Well, the most appetizing thing on the table was the skin on the rice pudding. I think she actually microwaved TV dinners and scooped them into serving dishes." Eric said as he began to cut the hair above Kevin's collar.
"Agnes doesn't like Eric." Allen whispered.
"Then the old harpy had the gall to tell Bobby that he was still young enough to find a 'nice girl' and settle down." Eric said as he worked toward Kevin's ear.
"Eric, I think you'd better ease up there before you scare Kevin into a heart attack." Allen said loudly.
Eric looked quizzically at Allen, then noticed the terrified look in Kevin's eyes.
"Please forgive me my little prince. I promise that I would never do anything to hurt you..." Eric said and noticed that Kevin was nearly shaking with tension.
"Come over here Cute Stuff. I need you to hold your brother's hand and tell him that I won't hurt him." Eric said softly.
Kenny went to Kevin's side and held his hand tightly.
"We're back!" Bobby said with a grand flourish as he led Reuben to the second chair.
Allen looked around and said, "Now that the gang's all here I can tell you how the boys came to be with me..."