"Where you been love? I put your plate in the microwave so you can reheat it." Alan said as Andrew ported into the room.
"Just talking dad stuff with Angel. What's the topic of conversation here?" Andrew asked as he walked in the kitchen and hit the button on the microwave.
"Hank and Scott were just telling me about how a virus got loose and made Hank all... fuzzy." Alan said, not able to find a non-offensive term.
"I prefer fluffy." Hank said sarcastically.
"Okay then, it made Fluffy all... fuzzy." Alan said with a straight face for a moment, then he broke up into laughter at Hank's sour look.
"What've you been up to Dawn?" Andrew asked as he went to retrieve his plate from the microwave.
"Just doing spell research, opening portals, bleeding all over the place. Kinda like being back in Sunnydale." Dawn said in realization.
"Except there weren't any demons trying to cut you into pieces while you were opening the portal." Xander said bluntly.
"No, but there was a boy in the next room with a wooden stake in his heart... that counts." Dawn said in her defense.
"Okay, okay. You win that one." Xander said and went back to his food.
"How did you end up with six kids?" Tara asked quietly.
"Just lucky I guess." Andrew said with a shrug before taking a bite of food.
"Dere have to be more story dan dat." Remy said accusingly.
"The kids were brought on board our ship and we volunteered to take care of them for a while... and we were hooked. We love them. When you get a chance to spend some time with them you'll see what I mean. They're great kids, all of them." Alan said, ending with a shrug.
Alan noticed a sound behind him. He turned to see Jimmy standing with a big smile.
"Come here squirt." Alan said and turned in his chair.
"Thanks for saying all that Dad." Jimmy said and climbed up on Alan's lap.
Alan gave him a big hug then said to the people watching, "This is Jimmy, he likes to write and have adventures."
"I have to help Trey." Jimmy said and wiggled down off Alan's lap.
Jimmy quickly ran out of the room.
"There's no doubt that you love them, or that they love you. How do you think they'll fit in here?" Scott asked carefully.
"I expect there to be angst, heartache, rivalry, depression... maybe some attitude problems." Andrew said to everyone's surprise.
"In other words, normal teenagers." Hank said in realization.
"Yeah. We're at a school for mutants, I don't think their Borg-ness is going to be an issue. And as far as socialization... Well, for me high school was the most torturous, lonely, emotional hell that I've ever experienced, how was everyone else's?" Alan said frankly.
"Nerd. Virgin till I married." Andrew said then went back to eating.
"Lived in the shadow of a super-hero sister." Dawn said then took a drink.
"I didn't talk to anyone for three years." Tara said quietly.
"I lived the life my father wanted to have had in high school. I was the captain of everything, the first, the best... I never did one thing that *I* wanted to do." Hank said in pained remembrance.
Xander looked up and noticed that everyone was waiting for him to speak. "Me? Zeppo boy? The only non-slayer, non-witch, non-demon on the Scooby Gang? It was always a toss up of what I hated worse, being sent out for donuts while everyone else planned the attack or being used as bait..."
"There *was* that time..." Dawn said quickly before Xander cut her off with a sharp glance.
"Yes Dawn, one time they used me as bait at the donut shop. You're right, that one summed up my high school years pretty good." Xander said with hurt.
"Don worry Xander. Remy here now an don wan you to be nothin but here wit me." Remy soothed.
"What about you Remy? Was your high school a living hell too?" Alex asked curiously.
"Don know. Remy not been to school since Remy eight year old. Been livin on de streets, learnin bout life by livin it." Remy said with a defiant look that dared anyone to pity him.
"How bout you bro? How were your high school years?" Scott asked Alex quickly.
"I was invisible." Alex said simply.
"I don't understand." Dawn said carefully.
"Look in my yearbook. I didn't exist; I'm not in it. I was so ordinary that I didn't fall in with any of the groups or cliques. I'm guessing Tara didn't talk to anyone because she's shy. I talked, no one listened. I didn't have a single friend, a single date, not even a stupid valentine card. Nothing." Alex said with pain.
"How are you doing now that you're out of school?" Alan asked with concern.
"About the same." Alex said bravely, trying to hold in the tears.
"I thought your foster family were good people. What about them?" Scott asked with full worry.
"They're alright, but I'm not part of their family. I'm just a guy who stayed with them till he was old enough to be on his own." Alex said shyly.
"How about here?" Scott asked with a feeling of dread.
Alex smiled a watery smile and said, "Bro, do you remember when you came out of the basement, after the virus escaped. What you said?"
Scott thought back and finally shook his head in defeat.
"You said you were glad I was here. Then you pulled me into a hug. A real one, from the heart. Scott, until I came here, no one touched me except to shake my hand or pick my pocket... for four years. And... That's why I'm still here... and why I've been trying to come up with a believable reason to stay." Alex said guiltily.
"You just did it, Bro. I've always wanted you to be here, but I thought you loved Hawaii so much I didn't want to take you away from there."
"It's touristy, the cost of living sucks and it rains *all* the time. If you go there for two weeks, you can see everything that's interesting to see... but the surfing is kinda nice." Alex said honestly.
"Maybe you should be a travel agent. You could say something like, 'visit Southern California, where there's smog, mudslides, earthquakes, forest fires... and a beautiful ocean view." Xander said with a smile.
Everyone laughed at the statement and the silliness began.
"Visit Houston... where there are roaches bigger than your foot... but the football is good." Scott said and cracked up.
"Visit New Orlean where you be guaranteed to lose eider you money, you virginity or you life on de first night... But dere always be a party." Remy threw in, to everyone's delight.
"Visit Portland where the homeless outnumber the homes... but the shopping is good." Tara said, to everyone's surprise.
"Visit Santa Fe where the side streets narrow into goat paths without warning... But if you find the main street, the market is interesting." Hank added with laughter.
"Visit Sunnydale, a nice place to live and raise a family... if your family are the spawn of hell. "Dawn said, and looked at Xander's enthusiastic nod of agreement.
"Visit Barga Five, beautiful, scenic, and the home of the evil, crapping, scratching chickens with heart conditions." Andrew said, barely able to speak.
"Stop... Stop..." Alan said and tried to catch his breath. "God, I haven't laughed that hard in a long time. You don't know how much I've missed all of you."
"Father? Have you been ingesting alcohol?" Robert asked from the top of the stairs.
Andrew sobered immediately and said, "No son, we're just being silly. That sometimes happens when friends get together... come here."
Robert walked to the table with a look of caution. Andrew pulled him into a hug and said, "Everyone, this is my son Robert. He is the more outgoing of the twins and the best game player in the family... although I think Janine may try for his title before very long."
Robert shook his head.
"What is the status of the alcoves?" Alan asked with a smile.
"The others are completing the final alcove in the lower level, we will begin the alcove on this level momentarily." Robert said with a hint of shyness.
"Good, you are making good time with them. What do you think of Trey as the leader?" Alan asked curiously.
"He explains what is required and leaves us to do it. It makes me feel... trusted when he does not watch me work." Robert said honestly.
"I'm glad. Did Jimmy share some of his tea with you?" Alan asked with a smile.
"What did you think?" Alan asked quietly.
"The flavor was offensive to me... The others liked it, but I did not." Robert said with a note of apology in his voice.
Andrew held him tighter and said, "You're an individual. You don't have to like the same things as everyone else. As long as you're willing to try different things and let us know if you like them or not, we won't be angry with you for not liking something."
Robert smiled and pulled out of the hug.
"I must organize the components of Janine's alcove before the others finish." Robert said and quickly ran to the room under the stairs.
"What was all that about being an individual?" Alex asked with a hint of worry.
"The children were abducted by a race called the Borg. They were connected to a hive mind and lost any sense of individuality. Every now and then we have to remind them that they aren't expected to behave the same." Andrew said carefully.
"So the Borg made them into slaves?" Alex asked with horror.
"Not exactly, they are called drones. They operate like a beehive; there is a queen who directs all the actions of the collective. All those below the queen have no thoughts of their own, they exist to serve the queen and the hive." Alan said seriously.
"And is that why they have metallic components?" Hank asked in wonder.
"Yes, the Borg enhancements make them better suited to specific tasks for the well-being of the collective. Some of them are fairly useful, my ocular implant is what allows me to be without the glasses." Alan said honestly.
"So you two are Borg as well?" Hank asked in confusion.
"It depends on your definition of Borg. We have Borg technology inside us, so by that definition we are Borg, but we weren't assimilated by the collective and our individuality wasn't taken away, so by that definition, we aren't. I guess we're half-Borg." Andrew ended happily.
"And we are pleased that you are Father." Trey said with a smile from the doorway of the staircase.
"We need to hang bells on them." Alan said quietly.
"Trey, please come here for just a moment so I can introduce you to your aunts and uncles." Andrew said in a fatherly tone.
"Everyone, this is our son Trey. He is an engineer by nature. He tends to be quiet, but incredibly insightful. He will fight to defend his beliefs, but is willing to listen to other's points of view." Andrew said proudly.
"Admirable traits." Hank said honestly.
"I do not understand our relationship to these people, would you explain Father?" Trey asked quietly.
"Of course, Scott is your Dad's twin brother, that makes him your uncle. Alex is Scott's younger brother, so that makes him your uncle too. Dawn is your Dad's sister, so that makes her your Aunt. Everyone else at the table isn't related to you directly, but they are our closest friends, so we honor them by calling them uncle and aunt as if they were actually part of the family." Andrew said slowly.
"So while off duty I would refer to Dr. McCoy as Uncle Hank?" Trey asked hesitantly.
"What do you say Hank? Can the children call you Uncle Hank?" Alan asked and waited patiently.
"If Tara doesn't mind sharing me." Hank said with a tender smile.
At Trey's look of question Andrew said, "Hank is Tara's uncle."
Trey nodded and waited expectantly.
Tara shyly nodded.
"Uncle Hank it is. Will you let me give you a hug to make it official?" Hank asked and opened his arms.
Trey smiled and moved into the hug.
Robert's voice came from the doorway under the stairs, "The components are organized."
"I must go. Thank you Uncle Hank." Trey said a bit shyly and left the table.
"I must say, they are some exceptionally well mannered children." Hank said with astonishment.
"If they don't get those alcoves finished you'll see the other side of their nature. They get cranky... even a little mean... when they don't get to regenerate regularly." Alan said and got up from the table, carrying his plate.
"You two sit down, we'll take care of the dishes." Dawn said immediately.
"No way. You fixed the meal, you're not going to do the dishes too." Andrew said in his fatherly serious tone.
"Good point. You two sit down so Alex and Scott can take care of the dishes." Dawn said with a smile and walked to the living room.
"Xander and Remy help too." Remy said and began gathering things.