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When Ken helped me into the back seat of the car, it surprised me a little that he automatically climbed in next to me, leaving Allen up front alone.
"How are you doing, Cute Stuff?" Allen asked with concern as he pulled the car out of the driveway.
When Ken didn't answer him immediately, I looked at him and noticed that he seemed to be lost in thought.
Although I wanted to say something to make him feel better, I had no words. I mean, it was the house that he was raised in, and now other people are going to be living there.
I know, I know. It's not even a blip on the radar compared to what other people have gone through... but, come on! It's Ken. I want him to feel better.
"I'm fine." Ken finally responded halfheartedly, almost as if he didn't hear the question and was speaking out of reflex.
Even though I wanted to do something to help Ken to feel better, I got this feeling that it might be better to not... Sometimes a guy needs some time and space to feel what he's feeling and deal with it. Ken knows I'm here when he needs me.
Allen glanced at Ken, then at me and asked, "What did you think of Pete and Jono?"
Ken was pretty much out of it, so I went ahead and answered the question, "They seem nice. In fact, I really like Jono."
"I do too. From the way Billy described him to me, I thought I might." Allen said with a slight smile.
"He was so excited about everything that I thought he was going to bounce off the walls." I chuckled, remembering Jono's enthusiasm.
"Just don't expect him to be much calmer the next time you see him." Allen said frankly.
"Why not?" I asked curiously.
"Billy says that that's just the way he is. He's always been that way."
"Wow. I can't imagine being that energetic all the time. I'd go crazy." I said honestly.
Allen seemed to be debating on whether to say something, then reluctantly said, "It seems that some people think that he is crazy."
I looked at Allen with surprise at the statement.
Allen was watching the road and didn't seem to notice my expression as he continued, "Being so energetic and 'up' all the time falls outside some people's idea of what is 'normal'. For most of Jono's life, he and his parents have been dealing with various good intentioned people who have wanted to 'fix' him."
"Fix him?" I asked cautiously, "Like how?"
"From what Billy's told me, Jono's parents have had to go to court more than a few times to fight to keep Jono from being drugged... 'for his own good'." Allen finished with a rueful smile.
"Who was trying to drug him?" I asked as my mind raced over what Allen was saying.
"Mostly, the schools, or people representing the schools. It seems that where Billy and Jono are from, it's not uncommon for the school to recommend that an energetic child be taken to a psychiatrist to be evaluated. Of course, nearly all of those children are diagnosed with some form of ADHD and put on mind altering drugs to calm them down." Allen said distantly.
"But wouldn't a psychiatrist know that some of them are just kids being kids? I know that I've been in a few classes that were so mind numbingly boring that it was nearly impossible to sit still." I said cautiously.
"I suppose that depends on their motives." Allen said thoughtfully. "The doctors that are really interested in what is best for the child might ask questions, or do some investigating. But the rest... whether they're in a rush or just trying to make the most profit, they'll do basically the same thing. They'll try to see as many patients as quickly as possible and deal with their supposed problems in the easiest and most profitable way they can."
"By prescribing them drugs." I said with a nod.
"As long as they're being drugged, they'll have to keep coming back for follow-ups and to get their medications adjusted. Think about it, the doctor doesn't make any money if you're well." Allen said with a pained glance at me.
"Wow!" I said with astonishment. I've had a ton of experience with doctors, and there have been quite a few of them who looked at my condition and didn't see me, the person. And, looking back, I guess some of them were pretty mercenary, looking at Dad as a cash cow for them. But I never even considered that any doctor would think about treating a person who didn't need it or keep someone sick as a way to keep making money off of them.
"Jono's family has had to move once because of it. Jono's father believed that the only way for Jono to grow up and have anything resembling a normal and productive life was for him to 'deal' with his unique nature and learn how to behave properly. Medicating his problems away wouldn't teach him anything... except maybe that drugs are the answer to all of life's problems." Allen said quietly.
"I'm glad his parents watched out for him like that. I hate to imagine what he'd be like if they'd listened to the school and drugged him to calm him down." I said in wonder.
"Yeah. If things had worked out differently for him, we might not have had the chance to get to know an energetic and interesting person." Allen said with a grin.
"I'm glad that Pete and Jono are going to be living in our old house." Ken said from beside me.
I looked at him curiously, hoping that he was feeling better.
"I was always happy when I lived there. I hope they will be too." Ken said thoughtfully.
"I think that when they've settled in and realize that they have that house because they're welcomed and wanted here, that they'll be happy." Allen said gently.
I thought about Allen's words for a moment, then ventured to say, "Maybe that's the difference between a house and a home."
Ken slowly nodded his agreement.
"Do you guys want me to drop you off at Rory's?" Allen asked casually, and I suddenly realized that we were almost home.
"No, why don't you just take us home, then I'll take Rory over to his house from there?" Ken asked seriously.
"That okay with you, Rory?" Allen asked me gently.
"Sounds good." I said to Allen, then looked at Ken with a loving smile.
Ken returned the smile, and I felt the echo of it in my heart.
* * * * *
"What happened here?" I asked as Ken pushed me into the living room of my home.
"We've been packing." Dad said as he stood away from the collection of suitcases.
"Where are you going?" I asked cautiously.
Dad rolled his eyes at me and chuckled, "We're packing for you, Skeeter."
"I don't think I own this much stuff." I said disbelievingly.
"Rory, you're not going to Vulcan for a weekend, you're moving there. So your mom and I have been packing all your things, so you won't be without the things you need when you get there." Dad said frankly.
"All I need are some clothes." I said in a small voice as I looked at my father with question.
"Men!" My mom huffed as she walked into the room carrying my coat, an umbrella and my galoshes.
"What are you going to do with those?" I asked cautiously.
"If you're going to be away from home for over a year, you'll need to take some things with you, so you'll be prepared." Mom said as she started packing everything in a duffel bag.
"Um, Mom, Vulcan is a desert planet. I don't think I'll be needing those." I said reluctantly, not wanting to upset her.
"You'll have them if you need them. And if you don't, then you'll bring them back when you're all better." Mom said simply, as she started to cram a heavy blanket into the bag.
"Rory, I had the same reaction as you when we started packing, but I think your mom is right." Dad said as he stopped to look me in the eyes.
"You're going to be on an alien world. Even though you may not see the need for these things now, I'm willing to bet that you'll be thankful before it's all over." Dad said honestly.
"Okay." I said reluctantly, then thought to ask, "What do you need for me and Ken to do to help you?"
Dad looked at the clock, then back at me in consideration.
I shared a glance with Ken to see if he was as uncertain as I was about all of this.
"We've scheduled things so that we can do everything that needs to be done before you have to leave." Dad said seriously.
I waited, feeling a little bit apprehensive about what we might have to do next. None of the things I could think of sounded like they were going to be fun.
"For the next hour and a half, you and Ken have time to relax, get something to eat, and go through your room to see if there's anything that we've missed that needs to be taken to the spaceport tonight." Dad said thoughtfully.
"Tonight?" I asked cautiously.
"Yes. We'll be dropping the majority of these things off at the spaceport and they'll be sent ahead and loaded as cargo on whatever ship you'll be taking to Vulcan. When you leave, you'll just have one or two bags. You know, just the things you might need while you're in transit." Dad said frankly.
I slowly nodded that I understood.
"In an hour and a half, we'll be going to the mall, so that you can pick up clothes, posters, maybe some new music. You know, just the general things you might not have a chance to get for a while when you're on Vulcan." Dad said carefully, and it looked as if he was holding something back.
"Can Ken go with us?" I asked cautiously.
"I think we can manage that." Dad said with a smile at Ken, then looked at me and continued, "Allen and his family are all going to the mall with us."
"Oh yeah. Pop said something to us about that." Ken said suddenly.
I thought for a moment, then realized he was right. I guess with all the things that have happened today, it's no wonder that I'm forgetting things.
Apparently, my mouth has it's own memory and it remembered something before my brain did, because I suddenly said, "Maybe Davis could go with us."
Dad looked at me curiously.
"Yesterday we told him that if we were going to go and do something this weekend that we'd call and invite him." Ken explained quickly.
"I don't see any problem with that." Dad said thoughtfully, then turned to Mom and said, "Davis is a vegan. Do you think we'll be having anything he could eat for dinner?"
Mom considered for a moment, then happily replied, "Yes. Everything. I was going to top the zucchini ragout with some cheese, but it's completely optional. I'll just put a bowl of cheese on the table and let everyone put on their own."
"That's great." My dad said with a smile, then turned to us and said, "Why don't you boys invite Davis over for dinner, then we'll leave for the mall, right after."
"Thanks dad." I said immediately.
I don't know how anybody else's parents are, but I'm starting to think that I really lucked out.
"It's going to be about forty five minutes until dinner. Are you boys going to be able to hold out that long?" Mom asked curiously.
"Yeah. We had a good lunch after the photo shoot. We'll make it." I said with a grin.
"I'd love to hear all about how that went, but I need to get dinner started." Mom said anxiously.
"Then we'll wait and tell you all about it at dinner." I said gently.
Mom looked surprised, then dashed across the room and pulled me into a quick hug and gave me a kiss on the cheek.
Before I could react or even think about it, she was gone into the kitchen.
"Why don't you guys call Davis, then go into your room and see if there's anything you want packed in with this stuff." Dad asked as he looked at me with a loving smile.
"Yeah. Sure." I said slowly, feeling that something had just happened and I missed it completely.
* * * * *
"May I please speak to Davis? This is Kenny Thompson from down the street." Ken asked carefully into his cell phone.
I saw him wince and could easily imagine the sound of Mrs. Plimpton screeching for Davis to come to the phone.
After a moment, Ken smiled and said, "Hi Davis. This is Kenny. I'm over at Rory's house. We're planning to go to the mall a little bit later and wondered if you'd like to go with us."
Ken chuckled, then said, "Good. And Rory's father wanted for us to invite you over for dinner."
"Yeah. Rory's dad made sure of that before he told us to invite you. From the sound of it, they were going to be having a mostly vegan meal anyway so it's no extra trouble at all." Ken said with a grin at me.
"Well, dinner will be in about forty-five minutes, but you can come over whenever you want and hang out with us." Ken said frankly.
"Okay. We'll see you then." Ken said happily, then rang off.
"When is he coming?" I asked curiously.
"He's not sure. He has to talk to his mom. He said that as soon as the drama subsides, he'll be over." Ken said with a chuckle.
"Let's go see what's left to pack." I said as I led the way toward my room.
* * * * *
"Were you wanting to pack the dust on the lightbulbs?" Ken asked as he looked around my barren room.
"I think mom already got it." I chuckled.
"Oh. Yeah. It looks like she did." Ken said as he made a show of going up on his toes to look at the overhead light.
"She packed my sheets and pillows." I said as I looked at the bare bed.
"I guess you'll have to find someplace else to sleep tonight." Ken said casually, then looked at me with an absolutely wicked grin.
"Hmm. I guess I don't have a choice, do I?" I asked as I smiled at him.
"But I'm surprised that they didn't pack your computer." Ken said as he walked to my desk.
"I doubt that it would be much good for anything if I did take it. It's so old that it can't run any decent software." I said frankly.
"Pop's really good with computers, maybe you could get him to look at it for you." Ken said casually.
"I'm pretty sure that I'll be able to use a terminal for email and stuff when I get there. That's all I really need." I said slowly.
"You'll have your own terminal. Cory will see to that." Ken said with certainty.
At my look of question, he continued, "You'll need it to do your stuff for the Clan."
Logical. What more can I say?
"I don't see anything else here to go through. It looks like they already packed everything." Ken said as he looked in the closet and dresser drawers.
"I feel like I've been living here in this room forever." I said as I looked around.
Ken looked deeply into my eyes for a moment, then moved in to give me a long, slow kiss.
* * * * *
A gentle tapping sound intruded on my enjoyment of the kiss that had gone on for who knows how long.
When it became apparent that it wasn't going away, I reluctantly broke the kiss with Ken and looked up.
"Hi guys." Davis said shyly from my doorway.
"Hi Davis." I said timidly.
I had actually expected it to be my mom or dad.
"I'm sorry to interrupt, but your dad said that it would be okay if I came back here." Davis said hesitantly.
"It's no problem." I said casually.
Ken started to move away, but I caught him.
"I don't think Davis will mind if you come down here and sit with me." I said gently.
Ken smiled, then carefully climbed onto my lap.
"Come on in and have a seat." I said as I gestured toward the bed.
While Davis was making his way to the bed, I turned the wheelchair so we would be facing him.
"I thought it would take longer for you and your mom to talk." I said as Davis got settled.
"So did I, actually. But she was watching this documentary or infomercial about some kind of new cosmetic thing, so I told her I was going and she said 'fine'." Davis said happily.
I didn't know if I was happy or sad for him after hearing that story.
"Here in about two hours it'll probably occur to her that I'm being awfully quiet, then she'll start looking for me." Davis said with a grin.
"What's she going to do when she doesn't find you?" Ken asked cautiously.
"Probably nothing, but there's a chance that she'll suddenly kick into overprotective uber-mommy mode." Davis admitted reluctantly. "Either way, there's nothing to worry about. I left her a note."
"Good." Ken said, sounding sort of relieved.
"It looks like you guys really cleaned this place out." Davis said as he looked around.
"Not us. My parents." I said immediately. "You saw how it was yesterday. When we got back this afternoon, it was like this."
"It really sucks that you're leaving." Davis said irritably.
"Yeah. But I've got the choice to stay here and maybe get sicker or go there and maybe get cured." I said frankly.
"I know." Davis said quietly, then added, "But it still sucks."
"I think Ken agrees with you." I said as I hugged Ken gently.
"It's going to suck. But maybe with us being able to talk on our terminals and being able to visit each other, it won't be that bad." Ken said quietly.
"Yes, it will be that bad. But I still have to do it." I said with resignation.
"But once you're better, we're getting married and I don't care what it takes, we're going to be together." Ken said firmly.
I wasn't used to hearing that level of determination in his voice. But since I agreed with the sentiment, all I could do was smile.
"Whoa, Married?" Davis asked hesitantly.
"Yeah. As soon as Rory can walk again." Ken said seriously.
Davis seemed to be considering it for a moment, before he finally said, "I'm really happy for you."
"Thanks." I said immediately.
I still don't feel like I really know Davis all that well, but I think I've been around him enough to know that he's a person with strong personal beliefs, and he wouldn't offer his congratulations insincerely or frivolously.
* * * * *
After just sitting and talking with Davis for a while, Mom finally called us in to dinner.
"I just got a call from Allen. He said that Billy and the boys aren't going to be able to go with us. They're going to be spending the evening with some friends of theirs from out of town." My dad said casually as we were all getting settled in around the table.
"Pete and Jono." Ken said with a smile, "I hope you get to meet them, they're really a lot of fun."
I nodded my agreement as Ken pushed me to the end of the table.
"Would you like to sit in a chair?" He asked me casually.
It hadn't even occurred to me before, but I suddenly realized that I would. And it meant even more to me that Ken thought to ask, anticipating my desires before I even had them.
I couldn't hold back my smile as I nodded at him.
The loving look in his eyes told me more than words that he understood exactly what I was feeling.
Ken leaned over me and I held onto him as he shifted me up and onto the chair.
I glanced over in time to see my dad with the beginnings of tears in his eyes.
"I hope everyone's hungry." the Zombie Hyper-Mom said in her ever oblivious way as she raced into the room, totally breaking the mood.
It used to annoy me. I don't even know why I was so bitter about it. But now I look at her zipping around the house, at warp speed, and feel nothing but love and admiration for her.
"Where is Corina?" Dad asked as he looked around.
"Oh, haven't you heard?" Mom asked ebulliently, "She's found herself a stunningly handsome, 'older' man. So she has to spend time passing on all the details to 'the pack'."
Davis looked at the Zombie Hyper-mom with surprise, then broke into a smile once he was sure that she was talking about him.
"Ah yes." Dad said knowingly, "One must share all knowledge within the teenage girl collective."
Davis and I chuckled as Ken seemed to be trying to understand what Dad was meaning.
"Dig in!" Mom said as she finally stopped flitting around and took her seat.
"It looks good." Davis said as he looked over the food selections.
"Everything here is vegan, well, except for the bowl of shredded cheese, obviously." Mom said with a grin. "Please, help yourself to as much as you want."
"Thank you." Davis said with a smile and seemed to be a little bit overwhelmed.
"Do you want some orange stuff?" Ken asked as he offered me a bowl of... something.
"Sure. Why not?" I said casually.
You know, what the hell. I'm feeling adventurous.
I plopped a few big globs of the fluffy dark orange stuff onto my plate, then offered the bowl to Davis.
"Thanks!" He said happily, and I noticed that he was taking large portions of everything.
It made me feel good to know that he was honestly enjoying the meal.
"Green beans?" Ken asked from beside me, breaking me out of my thoughts.
"Yeah." I said quickly.
* * * * *
"Mrs. Teeter, this sweet potato puree is fantastic. Is it hard to make?" Davis asked with interest.
Mom seemed surprised by the question, but quickly answered, "No. It's really very simple. And like most of my recipes, it adheres to the five item rule."
"Five item rule?" Davis parroted curiously.
"Yes. Each dish has no more than five ingredients. Of course, there are some exceptions, but for the most part, five items is the most you need to make a flavorful and healthy dish. More than that muddles the flavor and doesn't improve anything."
"Hey, that makes a lot of sense. And it sounds a lot easier than the cookbooks that I've been using." Davis said frankly.
"Oh? Do you cook?" Mom asked with interest.
"I have to if I want to eat." Davis said with a chuckle. "I'm not, like, a chef or anything. But I try to eat a healthy diet and this is the only way I'm going to get it."
"So your mother doesn't cook for you?" Mom asked with concern.
"She does. And she really tries... I guess. She just doesn't get the whole 'vegan' concept. She usually starts off okay, but somewhere along the way she decides that whatever she's cooking needs bacon grease or some cheese for flavor. What she doesn't seem to get is that she's actually 'hiding' the real flavor by doing that and adding a lot of unnecessary fat besides." Davis said passionately, then noticed that everyone was listening.
"Sorry. I don't mean to get preachy about it." Davis said shyly.
"Don't worry about it." Dad said assuringly. "We're interested in getting to know you and this is a part of who you are."
Davis seemed uncertain, then glanced down the table at Ken and me.
We immediately nodded that we agreed with what Dad was saying.
"No one ever wanted me to talk about it before." Davis said in an awestruck voice.
Dad chuckled at the comment, then asked, "So, I'm assuming that you chose a vegan diet at some point, how did that happen?"
"My dad, my real dad was having problems with his health. His doctor jerked him around for a year or two doing tests and prescribing medicine and stuff and the whole time my dad was just getting sicker and sicker. His wife at that time was sort of into the health food thing, but not really. She did some checking around and convinced my dad to give the healthy way a chance."
"How do you mean?" Dad asked curiously.
"Detox diet, colon cleanse... you know, that kind of stuff. And after doing some investigating, they realized that none of the eight prescriptions he was taking actually did anything but mask symptoms, and some of what he was suffering from was side effects from the medicine." Davis finished gravely.
"Did he get better?" My dad asked with interest.
"From the way he tells it, he feels better than he's ever felt in his life. All his fatigue, cloudy thinking, depression and general aches and pains just went away. Since I was living with him, I got put on a vegan diet, too. After a while, I realized that I really felt good... like, all the time. So I've been eating this way ever since."
"It sounds like you and your father might have been suffering from some sort of food allergy." Mom said thoughtfully. "A series of allergy tests could probably tell you which specific foods you should avoid."
"Maybe. But since I know that eating healthy food will make me feel good, I don't really want to know that if I avoid one certain thing that I can go back to eating all the other crap that I used to eat. I think I'm a lot better off this way." Davis finished happily.
"It does sound like that." My dad said with a smile. "We started eating healthier food because Doris thought it might help Rory..."
"It did help." I interrupted. I didn't want there to be any confusion on that point.
Mom beamed at my words.
Dad nodded at me in agreement, then continued, "But I think all of us have benefited from the healthier diet. I think that when Rory leaves for Vulcan, that we'll probably continue to eat this way."
"Do you think, maybe, I could come over sometime when you're cooking? Your food is a lot better than mine and I'd really like to learn how to cook like you do." Davis asked Mom timidly.
"I'd be proud to share my recipes with you." Mom said happily.
"And you'll always be welcome to join us for dinner. That way your poor mother won't have to try to make 'special' food for you every night." Dad said with an inviting smile, then added, "And I'm sure that Corina won't have any objections, either."
"Yeah! That'd be great!" Davis said happily.
"If we're just about finished, I suppose we should get ready to go to the mall." Dad said frankly.
"We have time for dessert, don't we?" Mom asked hopefully.
"Yes. I think we have time." Dad said with a loving smile at her.
Mom raced out of the room and I noticed the contented look on Davis' face.
It looked to me like he had found a place where he belonged.
* * * * *
"Apple crumble!" Mom said triumphantly as she placed a baking dish on the table.
"That looks great!" Davis said with a smile.
To me it looked like a pan of toasted oats with puddles of slime oozing up here and there, but what do I know?
Mom scooped some out and passed plates to each of us.
"This is good!" Ken said with surprise.
I smiled at him as I remembered his encounter with Mom's fake chocolate brownies.
"How did you get it this sweet?" Davis asked curiously.
"I juiced some apples, then cooked down the juice." Mom said simply.
"Brilliant!" Davis said happily before taking another bite.
Mom beamed at the praise and I felt a smile on my own face, knowing that she felt happy and appreciated.
* * * * *
"Okay guys. Stay in the mall. Call on the cell phone if you run into any trouble. And if nothing else comes up, meet us in the food court at 8pm." Allen said firmly, then asked, "Any questions?"
I think everyone else was as surprised as I was that the adults were going to turn us loose without us even having to ask.
"Good. Have fun!" Allen finished with a smile.
"Rory, we're going to be shopping for things for you to take on your trip. If you find anything that you want to buy, just have Ken call and let us know and we'll meet you at that store." Dad said seriously.
"Okay. Thanks Dad." I said, then reached up to pull him into a quick hug.
Yeah. I know. I'm a teenager and it's absolutely uncool to hug your parents in the mall. But, you know what? I don't care. Besides, I've been alone in my room for over a year and I'm leaving for Vulcan tomorrow. What reputation do I have to be worried about ruining?
"Guys, this is Davis." Ken said as the parents walked away.
Jake and Kevin gave casual waves and Xain inclined his head slightly in acknowledgement.
"Davis, these are my brothers Jake and Xain, and my twin brother Kevin." Ken said happily, then curiously asked, "Where are Reuben and Ricardo?"
"Mamacita wanted for them and Edovina to have a quiet night at home." Jake said casually to Ken, then asked more loudly, to the group, "Is there a certain store that anyone wants to visit?"
No one answered him, so after a moment he started walking, seemingly with no particular destination in mind.
The rest of us followed along behind, apparently not having any better ideas.
* * * * *
We followed along, until Kevin said, "I want to go in there."
I looked at the store and realized that it specialized in craft and art supplies.
Even at my best, I never made it much beyond the finger-painting stage of art.
"I'll go with you." Ken said quickly, then looked at me, silently asking if I wanted to come along.
I love Ken.
And I really like Kevin.
But there's just no way I'm going to roam around a craft store for God only knows how long, looking at crap that doesn't interest me.
"I'll wait here. Go have fun." I said with what I hoped was a convincing smile.
I felt a hand on my shoulder and looked up to see that it was Davis. "I'll stay and keep him company."
Before Ken could ask, Jake and Xain had taken seats on a bench that faced the craft store.
"You guys want to sneak off and spark one up?" Davis asked quietly. "I've got some pretty good weed."
I looked up at Davis with surprise at the question.
Before I could say anything, I was stopped cold by the expression on Jake's face.
"That shit will ruin your life. If you decide to go ahead and do it anyway, I can't stop you. But I don't want it and I don't want you offering it to any of my brothers." Jake said in a low voice that sounded like he was using every bit of self control that he had, not to scream.
"Come on, Jake, it just relaxes you a little, it's no big deal." Davis said quietly.
"It is a big deal. It doesn't take as much as you think to make you into an addict and ruin your life. The weed isn't the problem, but it's the first step. Each step after that is easier to take until you're somewhere you can't get out of. I don't want any of my brothers to take that first step." Jake said in a distressed voice, then walked away, apparently to calm himself.
I could tell that Davis was shaken. I wanted to say something, but before I could think of what to say, Xain stepped up to him and looked him right in the eyes.
"In Jake's earlier life, he was addicted to many illegal substances, therefore he cannot process his emotions on this subject logically." Xain said in a clear, serious voice.
Davis nodded, then looked with concern in the direction Jake had gone.
"I, however, can see past the emotions." Xain added firmly, drawing Davis' attention back to him. "If at any future time, I find that you have offered any sort of illegal substance to Jake or any of my brothers, I will kill you."
Davis' eyes went wide at the seriousness of Xain's expression and the tone of voice that said it was simply a statement of fact. I think my own mouth might have dropped open in shock for a second or two.
"I would gladly sacrifice my future freedom to protect my family from going through the experiences that Jake has endured." Xain said firmly, then walked off in the direction Jake had gone.
After a moment to get over the shock, I was finally able to find my voice and quietly said, "Davis."
It took him a moment, but he finally tore his gaze away from Jake and Xain, who were now standing together about forty feet further down.
"Please think about what they've just said. You're my friend and I don't want to see you hurt." I said to him honestly.
I mean, I really don't know Davis... at all. But I know that I trust my instincts, and my instincts tell me that Davis is a really good person.
After a moment of thought, Davis quietly said, "Okay. Yeah. I'll think about it."
I suppose I could have let it go at that, but his wishy-washy answer didn't sit right with me and... I guess it's the red hair. That's got to be what did it. I couldn't just leave it lay.
"By the way..." I said, drawing his attention back to me. "If I ever find out that you've given Corina drugs, you'll wish that Xain had gotten to you first."
Davis looked at me with surprise, then quickly stammered, "I wouldn't...."
"Good." I interrupted, letting him know with that one word that I believed him.
* * * * *
As we wandered around the mall, I actually did find a few things that I wanted to buy to take to Vulcan with me.
Xain helped me pick out a few nature posters, telling me that the desert landscape on Vulcan can become a bit depressing over time.
I found some nice sports gloves and bought 6 pairs. Now that I could use my arms again, I was going to have to get used to driving myself. And let me tell you, moving a wheelchair around may 'look' easy, but it's serious work and it'll tear up your hands.
As we were wandering down yet another leg of the mall, I noticed a sign out of the corner of my eye and reached up to pat Ken's hand.
"Did you see something you needed?" Ken asked curiously as he moved up where he could see me.
"Yeah." I said, then timidly admitted, "The bathroom."
Ken glanced at the sign, then asked, "Do you want me to go with you?"
"I can do it myself." I said, trying not to sound offended by his offer.
"I know you can." Ken said dismissively, and from the way he said it, I knew he was being completely honest with me. "I just know that I don't feel comfortable going anywhere in the mall alone."
I thought about it for a second, then said, "Yeah. Company would be good."
"Guys! We're taking a bathroom break. We'll be right back." Ken called to the others, who were ahead of us.
Jake nodded as he stopped.
* * * * *
"Standing room only." Ken said frankly when he noticed that all the stalls were in use and only a few of the urinals were available.
"It's the mall." I said by way of explanation.
"Do you need..." Ken trailed off as he pointed to the handicapped stall.
I regretfully nodded.
"Great." A weary voice said from behind us.
I turned and saw that an older man in a wheelchair had just entered the bathroom.
"Yeah. Mall traffic." I said, trying to lighten the mood.
"I just had to park half-way between here and Georgia because someone decided that the handicapped spaces were just too good to pass up." The man said with frustration.
"I know how that is." I said sympathetically. "I think they should have their cars towed away... and crushed."
"That might make them think twice." the man chuckled.
"It would stop repeat offenders." Ken added thoughtfully.
The man and I both chuckled at Ken's statement.
"I'm Rory and this is Ken." I said as I offered my hand.
"Robert." the man said as he shook my hand, then Ken's.
The door to the handicapped stall opened and a perfectly healthy teenage guy stepped out.
Robert and I gave him 'the glare of death' as he hurried out of the bathroom.
"I can wait for a minute if you really need to go." I offered quietly.
"God bless you." Robert said gratefully.
As he started toward the stall, a teenage girl poked her head out and looked around nervously.
Robert, Ken and I all watched with wide eyes as she made a mad dash for the restroom door, mumbling "Excuse me" along the way.
After a moment to get over the shock, Robert grinned at us, then went on into the stall.
"Are there any more in there?" Ken called out playfully.
"I'm not telling." Robert called back.
There were a series of chuckles from other guys in the restroom who had apparently noticed what had happened.
* * * * *
Business taken care of, we joined the rest of the guys to continue our shopping adventure.
I noticed that Davis seemed to be keeping himself separate from the rest of the group. So I decided to try to put him at ease.
"Davis?" I called quietly.
He responded by lagging a little and falling into step at my side.
"Are we okay?" I asked cautiously.
"Yeah. We're fine." he said assuringly.
"You don't need to explain." Davis interrupted. "If I thought someone was going to hurt one of my brothers or sisters, I'd react the same way... probably worse."
I nodded, believing that he really did understand.
"The Vulcan kid, he said that Jake used to be an addict." Davis said slowly.
I nodded, then said, "I really don't know much about Jake's past, and I wouldn't feel comfortable telling you what I do know. But, I think that if you have questions, it would be a really good idea to talk to him about it."
"I doubt that he'll want to talk to me." Davis said quietly.
I shook my head, then said, "Jake obviously has strong feelings on the subject. I know him well enough to be able to tell you that, if you're really interested, he'll want to talk to you about it."
"Why?" Davis asked cautiously.
"To keep you from making the same mistakes that he made." I said frankly.
"But he seems okay." Davis said slowly.
"Yeah. Now he is. But just because he got help when he needed it, doesn't mean that other people will." I said seriously as I looked him in the eyes. "You need to talk to him. Listen to what he has to say and ask him questions."
"You guys about done?" Jake asked from ahead of us.
I didn't realize it before, but we were stopped.
I looked behind me and saw that Ken was a few feet away with one arm draped around Kevin.
"What's wrong?" I asked him curiously.
"You guys looked like you were having a serious talk, so I left you alone for a minute." Ken said frankly, then added, "Besides, Kev looked like he could use some attention."
"Thanks." I said shyly. "Sorry about that."
"You don't have to explain to us. We all know how it is." Jake said frankly as he approached.
"Yeah. I guess you would." I said timidly.
"Is it anything we can help with?" Jake asked, now standing right before me.
I looked up at Davis with question. It wasn't my decision to make or my place to say anything about it.
"Sometime, you know, if you want to..." Davis said to Jake nervously, then trailed off.
Jake slowly nodded, encouraging him to continue.
"Could we talk... you know, about... stuff?" Davis asked nervously.
Jake looked at Davis cautiously for a moment, maybe waiting to see if he was going to say more. Finally he looked at me with question.
"Davis has some questions, and I think you probably have the answers he needs." I said honestly, hopefully not revealing too much in front of everyone.
"Sure." Jake said slowly as he looked back at Davis. "If you have questions, I'll help you however I can. And if I don't have the answers you need, I have a whole lot of people that I can ask for help. All you have to do is ask."
Davis was watching Jake carefully, finally he said, "Yeah. Sometime when we both have time, I think I'd really like to talk with you."
"We're going to a funeral, tomorrow afternoon, but I'll be free the rest of the day after that." Jake said frankly.
"You'd be welcome to go to the funeral with us." I added quickly.
"It seems wrong, since I don't know the people who died." Davis said quietly.
"None of us do." Ken said simply.
"That's right. We're going for Vincent, and none of us even knew him before this week." I said honestly.
"I remember you telling me about him." Davis said thoughtfully, then nodded.
"You'll come?" I asked hopefully.
"Yeah. But I don't think I have anything to wear. I mean, you know, like, nice stuff."
"Have you noticed where we are?" Jake asked with an impish grin.
Davis made a show of looking around, then said, "Oh yeah!"
"Let's go get you some 'going-to-funeral' clothes." Jake said with a smile.
"Yeah." Davis happily agreed.
I was relieved to see that Jake and Davis seemed to be getting along.
With me leaving, Jake was going to be the best person to help Davis find the right path.
"I love you." Ken whispered, right next to my ear.
I looked up at him and whispered, "I love you, too."
He smiled at me, then started pushing my chair so we could catch up to the others.
* * * * *
It was only a few minutes before we were supposed to meet the parents and we were heading toward the food court.
Suddenly, I saw someone familiar.
"Ryan?" I called out.
He stopped and looked around curiously.
"Ryan! It's me, Rory!" I said as I waved.
I saw the recognition light up on his face. Then it was replaced by something else... embarrassment?
"Ryan, who's your friend?" The girl with Ryan asked curiously.
I was barely able to hear him say, "Nobody. Just someone I used to know."
That hurt bad.
We had been best friends.
I might be a teenager now, more mature, a member of the clan... but at that moment I just wanted to hurt him back.
Ryan tried to usher her away, but she hesitated and looked back at me.
"Remember today, because next time, you might be someone he 'used to know'." I called out to her.
She looked at me with surprise, then was tugged away by Ryan.
"Are you okay?" Ken asked me with concern.
I looked up at him, then quietly asked, "Will there ever be a day when you 'used to know' me?"
"Never, not in a million million years." Ken said with certainty.
That's my Ken. He knows EXACTLY the right thing to say to make me feel better.
"What about after that?" I asked playfully.
"After that I want for us to start over and do every single bit of it again." Ken said gently.
"Sounds like a plan." I said as I looked up at him.
To my surprise, Ken leaned in and gave me a full, deep kiss.
I mean, not that I have anything against that, but we're in the middle of the freakin mall!
"The parents are waiting." Jake called out, not sounding the least bit bothered by our public display of affection, just reminding us.
When the kiss ended, Ken backed away slightly and I could see straight into his soul.
I could tell that he was feeling our impending separation and needed desperately to imprint every loving moment that he could, to hold him through the days ahead.
There was no way I could resist the urge to pull him into a firm hug. It was all I could do not to burst into tears.
"Ken, climb on up there. We need to get going." Jake said firmly.
I smiled as I guided Ken to sit on my lap.
Jake got behind us and pushed us through the mall as we snuggled.
Were people staring?
Did I care?
* * * * *
After the mall, we went back to my house and packed all the things I had bought so they could be taken to the spaceport.
When that was done, Ken and I went over to his house to spend some time with the family.
I guess we must have spent, maybe half an hour with them when Ken went and talked to Allen.
The next thing I knew, Allen was carrying me upstairs and Jake even brought up my wheelchair.
When we arrived in Ken's bedroom, Kevin was there, drawing something.
"I'm almost done." He said quietly as he worked.
"You don't need to hurry for us, as long as you don't mind if we cuddle." I said honestly as Ken helped me onto his bed.
"I like it when you cuddle." Kevin said quietly.
"You know, when you're done with that, maybe you could read something to us." I said as I snuggled into Ken's embrace.
"You don't have to pretend." Kevin said more to his pad of paper than to us.
"Pretend about what?" Ken asked before I could form the question.
Kevin turned to look at us, then said, "You don't have to pretend that you want to hear me read. I don't need your pity."
Well, that felt about like a slap in the face.
And you can guess what happened next.
The red hair.
I swear, it has a mind of its own sometimes.
"Kevin! Look at this!" I demanded as I raised my hands and wiggled my fingers. "Last week I couldn't do this, now I can. Are you happy for me?"
"Yeah!" Kevin said immediately.
"Well, you couldn't read last week. Now you can. And I'm happy for you." I said in a voice that, I'll admit, was angry.
Kevin stared at me with wide eyes, but I think he got the message.
"Now, will you read something for us or not?" I asked firmly, then waited.
"Well, since you asked so nicely." Kevin was able to say before breaking into giggles.
It turns out that Kevin's giggles are the antidote to my red hair. Within a few seconds, I was giggling right along with him.
After putting down his sketching pencil, Kevin walked to the bookcase and picked out a book.
I snuggled into Ken's warm embrace as I relaxed and listened to Kevin read.
* * * * *
After reading us a story, Kevin went downstairs to spend time with the rest of the family for a while.
"This is our last night together." Ken said with regret.
"Only for a while. I won't be staying on Vulcan forever, I'll get to come home for visits." I said, fighting down my tears.
"Yeah. And I'll come to Vulcan with Pop when he has to go for his job." Ken said quietly, and I knew that he was about to cry, too.
"Ken. I love you." I whispered, and felt the last of my self control slip away.
"I love you, too, Rory." Ken managed to choke out before he, also, broke down into sobbing.
I know our last night together should have just been spent loving each other, and I suppose that's what we were doing.
But we were also grieving at what we were losing.
Then something changed.
We were silent and still, and yet, I felt the fire ignite between us.
Ken and I started moving at the same time.
Our gentle caresses became more desperate and feverish.
Our kisses were almost violent in their intensity, like we were trying to devour each other.
Suddenly it became clear to me. I knew what I wanted. I knew it was time.
What I didn't know was if Ken was ready or even interested.
We had never really talked about it. And for some reason, until just now, I had always felt like we could wait. I knew without a doubt that eventually we would be ready. But there was always time.
Now the reality was setting in. Whatever we did tonight would have to carry us through the lonely times ahead.
I don't know if it was my feeling of powerlessness that gave me a need to feel in control or maybe it was just the age thing, but for whatever reason, I had always envisioned myself making love to Ken. I hadn't ever considered otherwise.
Now that the moment was upon us, everything was different.
I wanted to feel Ken inside me.
No, I needed to feel him.
"Make love to me." I whispered to him, and my voice was hoarse to my own ears.
"That's what I'm doing." Ken responded in a low growl.
That was sweet... and true... and totally not what I meant.
"I want you to stick it in me." I said bluntly, so there would be no misunderstanding.
Ken stopped all movement for a moment, and I was afraid that I might have asked for too much. Maybe he wasn't ready, or if he was, maybe he was only interested in being the bottom.
Finally Ken reluctantly said, "We don't have any... supplies."
"In my pouch." I said with relief, understanding his momentary hesitation.
I was glad that we were going to be able to put the Zombie Hyper-Mom's gifts to good use.
"Huh? You have a..." Ken slowly said in a bewildered voice, then perked up with sudden comprehension, "Oh! On your wheelchair!"
Okay. I'm pretty sure a laughing fit would be a real mood killer, so I used every bit of self control at my disposal to keep from just laying out on the bed and laughing myself silly.
Ken found the supplies that I had squirreled away for just such an emergency and returned to the bed.
"Are you sure? I don't want to hurt you." Ken asked gently as he moved up to look me in the eyes.
"Yeah. I'm sure. Do you need for me to tell you what to do?" I asked seriously.
"I've never done this before, but I've heard and seen stuff..." Ken said cautiously.
"Go ahead. And if I have any suggestions along the way, I promise to speak up." I said, then moved in for a slow, deep kiss.
When the kiss finally ended, Ken pulled back and looked at me appraisingly.
"Having second thoughts?" I asked, not sure what his thoughtful expression meant.
"I just don't know how you want to do it... I mean, you know, like what position." Ken said cautiously.
I had to think about that one for a minute. Since I had always assumed that I would be on top, I never considered the best position for me on the bottom.
Finally I said, "Why don't we try this? We can put the pillows in the middle of the bed then roll me on top of them."
"Yeah. Okay." Ken said with a smile.
* * * * *
There were a few awkward moments getting me positioned and comfortable, but when we were finished, it was all worth it.
I had to give Ken a few basic instructions to get him going, but once he understood what he was doing, he seemed to have a natural talent.
I was lovingly stretched with aggravating slowness that built pleasure upon passion.
In fact, I was almost to the point of telling him to 'just stick the damned thing in already!'.
When I thought that I couldn't possibly wait a moment longer, I felt it, I felt him, nudging his way slowly and carefully.
I took in a deep breath and braced myself for a pain that never came.
Thanks to his diligent preparation, all I felt was a stretching and a wonderful sense of fullness.
Of course, it also didn't hurt that Ken was still pretty young. I mean, he's still got a lot of growth left in him.
"Are you okay?" Ken asked with concern.
"I'm perfect. Go ahead." I whispered back to him.
The first thrust was a surprise.
As timid and gentle as Ken naturally is, I expected him to go slow and take his time.
The little bugger got in there and started going to town.
I mean... damn!
Here, I was all prepared for 'slow and easy' and what I got was 'fast and furious'... not that I'm complaining!
Not at all!
Talk about perfect!
It was just what I needed right at that moment.
I knew that Ken loved me. In the short time that we'd been together, I'd completely accepted that.
But with him back there, ravaging me, I couldn't deny that not only did he love me, but he WANTED me.
I know it sounds like a simple thing, but when you spend years thinking of yourself as goofy looking, it's a revelation to find someone that's really, honestly attracted to you.
My straining erection was begging for attention, but I wasn't really in a position to do much about it at the moment.
As it turns out, I didn't need to worry about it.
When Ken's movements started becoming jerky, I felt my own passion raise to another level.
Ken seemed to have given up any control over himself and was just going for the gold.
The animalistic thrusting, skin slapping on skin, was exactly the stimulation that I needed to push me to the edge.
When Ken finally thrust hard and held it, that was all I needed.
I could feel him spasm within me and my own seed released in response.
I don't think I've ever had an orgasm before without having my cock touched at all.
Let's just say... I highly recommend it.
Ken pounded again and again, digging his fingers into my hips.
I had my hands balled in the sheets as I rode my own orgasm, feeling wave after wave of pleasure.
Ken and I both stopped suddenly at the sound of the bedroom door opening.
We looked up in unison as Kevin walked in the door.
He stopped and looked at us for a second, then backed out of the room.
Before I could react in any way, I heard Kevin call out, "Poppa! They're making puppies!"
As I buried my face into the bed and started laughing uncontrollably, I felt Ken collapse on my back doing the same.
Editor's Notes: Hmm, what do I say, after that?
Of course, I am very glad that Rory is going to get the treatment he needs, but it is so sad to know that he and the love of his life are going to be separated for a long time.
I am glad that Mrs. Teeter finally has someone who really appreciates her "cooking."
I think it is rather ironic that Davis, the health nut would even be interested in doing drugs.
It was nice to see the situation with Davis turn out well. Hopefully, it gave him that proverbial wake up call, in terms of him taking and offering drugs.
Thank you, MultiMapper, for another chapter in Rory's story. We certainly don't get enough time with him, lately. He is one of my favorite people in your stories.
I am ready for more, any time at all.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher
Proof Reader Notes: I think Ken might be leaving a note on the door next time, but then Rory is leaving soon for Vulcan and it might be a while.
Davis seems to be at a turning point. Hopefully he will make the right decision and drop the drugs and find other ways to be happy, of course Davis and Zombie Hyper Mom will be spending time cooking together and it might make Davis happy to be part of a family again.
Let's hope Rory and Ken will be able to get together every so often, otherwise animalistic won't describe even half of it. Yet, the filters would remove anything extremely bad. LOL.
Thank you, MultiMapper, for an excellent chapter addition to this wonderful story.
Privatecomm983 / Robert