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Kenny walked into the dining room carrying a pitcher of juice that was dark red in color.
"What is this?" Allen asked as Kenny walked from place to place filling glasses.
"You'll have to ask Xain, but I don't think he'll tell you... he wouldn't tell me." Kenny said as he continued his rounds.
The dining room door opened to Jake carrying a platter of steaks, Kevin followed closely behind with a pitcher of water. Reuben came in next with a large bowl of green beans and Ricardo brought up the rear carrying a basket of breads and rolls.
"Look at them go." Brady said with a grand smile as the boys placed their items on the table and Kevin started filling water glasses.
Jake walked out with his empty pitcher as Xain walked in carrying a large bowl of pasta.
A moment later all the boys were back in the kitchen as the adults looked at the selection before them.
"Everything looks good, I can hardly wait." Allen said with anticipation.
Xain led the boys back into the room carrying a bowl of sauce. Jake and Kevin each had a full pitcher which they placed on the table.
Reuben carried in a large platter of sliced and chunked vegetables, Kenny carried the bowl of fruit salad and Ricardo was carefully carrying a small tray with bowls of dips and dressings on it.
The adults held their breath as they watched the young boy carry the tray.
Xain took the tray from Ricardo and placed it on the table without incident.
All the boys took their places at the table and waited expectantly.
Allen stood and said, "Before we start, I'd like to welcome Solak to our home and thank Xain and Jake for preparing this meal."
Jake looked slightly embarrassed as Xain and Solak looked on impassively.
"If no one has anything else..." Allen began to say, but was interrupted.
"I believe this is the appropriate time to make a statement." Solak said as he stood.
Everyone turned their attention to Solak and the level of tension in the room increased dramatically.
"He who is my son has been accepted into Clan Short and into the family of Thompson. He has stated that he has accepted Allen Thompson as k'war'ma'khon and uses the English word 'father' to explain their relationship. After a discussion with Mr. Thompson and learning of his philosophies I would like to recognize Allen as k'war'ma'khon to my family and a'nirih to he who is my son." Solak said seriously, then sat down.
Allen saw the looks of confusion around the table and said, "A'nirih is a Vulcan word for father which implies caring or nurturing. The more common word for father is sa-mekh which means biological male parent."
"Correct, although both words are translated as father in English, the meanings are distinct." Solak said seriously.
"Thank you Solak. I realize that your acceptance of me as a'nirih to Xain makes me a legal parent to him by Vulcan law. I will be honored to accept the responsibility and do my best to provide Xain whatever support I can." Allen said in a tone of great reverence.
A moment of silence fell over the gathering until Kenny finally asked, "Can we eat now?"
Allen smiled at Kenny and said, "Yes son. Let's enjoy this wonderful meal."
The family began to pass platters and bowls around the table as if they had been rehearsing the process for years.
Kenny was looking at the food before him and asked, "Xain, what is this gravy for?"
"That sauce may serve as a topping for the meat. It is optional." Xain said seriously.
Kenny looked at the sauce, gave a shrug and spooned a little onto his plate.
"This syrup in the fruit salad is incredible. What did you put in it?" Brady asked as he looked to Xain.
Xain looked at Jake and raised an eyebrow as a prompt for him to answer the question.
"Some white wine and sugar." Jake said quietly, feeling uncomfortable with all the attention directed at him.
"Well, it's great." Brady said with a smile.
"Since we're asking recipes, what's in this pasta dish?" Allen asked curiously.
This time Jake didn't need any prompting to respond.
"Pasta, basil, olive oil and butter." Jake said, much more comfortably than before.
"That's it? The flavor is wonderful. You guys can team up in the kitchen anytime you want." Allen said appreciatively.
Jake smiled at Xain as he began to blush from the praise.
Feeling that there needed to be a change in subject, Xain turned to Kevin and said, "Brother, earlier you stated that you could feel my emotional distress. Though your description was accurate, the feelings you described occurred before my arrival. Would you explain?"
Kevin looked up like a deer caught in headlights.
Kenny noticed Kevin's fearful expression and tried to explain, "When Kevin draws a picture it's usually about someone. He can feel what that person's feeling when he's looking at it."
Xain looked at Kenny curiously, then at Kevin.
"An intriguing ability. May I inquire, when you created a picture of he who is my son?" Solak asked with interest.
"Um, I guess it's been about a year ago." Kevin said uncomfortably.
Everyone at the table was surprised by the statement.
Xain thought carefully, then asked, "Is this how Clan Short became aware of my existence?"
Kevin nodded shyly.
"Sort of. Kevin can only feel emotions. He knew your name but that was it. I'm the one who told the Clan where you were and what was happening." Kenny said seriously.
"So you have the same ability as your brother?" Solak asked slowly.
"No. Kevin can draw the pictures and... talk to the people in the pictures and make them feel better. If I can touch the pictures, I can tell where they are and what they're doing. It's just like when I touch other stuff, I can sometimes know things." Kenny finished with difficulty.
"I believe the ability you are describing is called psychometry." Solak said in thought.
"The manner in which you use your abilities in concert with the abilities of he who is your brother is uncommon, perhaps unique." Solak said as he looked at Allen who was listening with interest.
Xain was lost in thought. Allen noticed and waited to see his reaction.
"The night of Saturday. I was in distress. He who is my father had announced that we were to return to Vulcan. I recall a sensation of... assurance. I knew within me that I should not despair. Events were to happen that would provide a better future than I envisioned." Xain said in distant memory, then looked into Kevin's eyes and said, "Less than one hour later, he who is my father received a call from Ambassador Sarek inviting me to join Clan Short for the purpose of designing and maintaining a database for the Clan."
Kenny and Kevin nodded as Jake mumbled, "Um, yeah."
"K'war'ma'khon, were you aware of this?" Xain asked, not betraying any emotion.
"Jake said there was someone who needed our help and that he only spoke Vulcan. And since Kevin speaks Vulcan, he needed to stay with us. I didn't even know your name until the day you arrived." Allen said seriously.
"You accepted a child into your home on the word of your son without explanation?" Solak asked curiously.
"Yes. Jake has never given me a reason to distrust his motives or judgment. He told me that someone needed our help, and I could see that he believed it. That's all I needed to know. After I agreed and Jake rejoined the Clan meeting, the other Clan members' parents told me that the Clan would make sure that everything was legal and ethical." Allen said in memory.
"You're not mad at us are you?" Jake asked Xain with concern.
Xain opened their bond and let a stream of his inner emotions flow to Jake, letting him know that his questions stemmed from a desire to understand the events that brought him to his new home.
"Well, regardless of how it happened, we're all glad Xain and Solak are part of our family." Allen said, hoping to break the tension.
"Kenny, do you think you could show us that thing you do with touching stuff?" Jake asked, feeling that a change in subject was overdue.
"Yeah, I can try. But it doesn't always work." Kenny said and looked around the room.
"If you would allow it, perhaps he who is your son could use his ability on the asenoi." Solak suggested carefully.
"I'll get it. I don't think it will hurt to try." Allen said and got up from the table.
"What's an asenoi?" Kenny asked curiously.
"It is an ancient..." Xain began to say when he was stopped by Solak raising a hand.
"It will be a more accurate demonstration of his ability if he has no prior knowledge." Solak said reasonably.
* * * * *
Allen walked back into the dining room carefully carrying the asenoi.
"Here you go Cute Stuff." Allen said as he sat the asenoi gently by Kenny's plate.
"Alright." Kenny said nervously and put the fingertips of both hands on the asenoi.
"It's all jumbled... Hundreds of people... S'Aketh, M'Ambalu, T'Aurin, Ch'M'Kem'Be, S'Ek'Lah..." Kenny said in a trance.
"I'm not familiar with any of those names." Allen said in thought.
"I believe that lends to the veracity of the ability. For a random artifact to be associated with a prominent historic figure would be statistically unlikely and be reason to suspect subterfuge." Solak said in thought.
Kenny looked up with a distant gaze as he said, "There it is. I found the first. The asenoi was made by G'uhf'Ik for his own use."
Kevin giggled as Xain, Solak and Allen looked on with matching incredulous stares.
"What is it?" Brady asked at the reaction.
"Well, it may be a coincidence, but the word guhfik is literally translated as 'boring'. Either the maker of the asenoi was named before the word 'guhfik' came into common use, or..." Xain trailed off, with a glint of humor barely hiding behind his eyes.
"...or he was so boring that his name was used to describe being boring to the point that it eventually became the word." Allen said with a smile, finishing Xain's thought.
Brady laughed, and said, "No disrespect intended to anyone here, but just how boring would a person have to be on Vulcan for that to happen?"
Solak raised an eyebrow in surprise as Xain said, "I do not believe that English has sufficient words to describe what you are asking."
A contagious laugh went around the table.
"Is there anything else you can tell us about it Ken?" Allen asked with a smile.
"Daddy held this." Kenny said as tears welled up in his eyes.
"Oh, I'm sorry Cute Stuff, I didn't even think about that." Allen said as he hurried to Kenny's side.
"It's okay. When he was holding this, he was thinking about us... I feel his love." Kenny said as tears began to fall.
"I'll put this away now. If you want, you can look at it again after dinner." Allen said quietly.
"Thanks Pop." Kenny said and handed the asenoi to Allen.
Once again Xain saw a need for a change in conversation and said, "He who is my father explained that he experienced a bond like mine."
Everyone at the table was just as happy to let the change in subject happen without comment.
Solak sat silently for a moment before a resolved expression fell across his face.
"A human, Dr. Phillip Werner, brought his family with him to study Vulcan medical techniques. As a courtesy to Dr. Werner, it was decided that his daughter who had an interest in medicine was to accompany me as I attended to patients. That occurred before my field of study was specialized." Solak said with a look of concentration.
"Mariah Werner, she who was to be your mother, asked many questions regarding mental health and the treatment of specific conditions having to do with the mind. In an effort to demonstrate one of the techniques, I performed a mind-meld with her and our bond formed. We had been acquainted for three point two hours." Solak said distantly.
"It was as you previously described, the formation was 'instinctive'." Solak said to Xain, as an aside.
"Dr. Werner was displeased, and he who is my father insisted that the bond be severed. However, Mariah stated that she and I were of sufficient age to make the decision for ourselves. Within our bond, her free spirit gained discipline without losing freedom and my logical mind was able to envision possibilities that I had never before conceived. In the light of the... completeness... that we felt. It was logical that we maintain our bond and eventually marry." Solak said as he gazed into the distance.
"One point one years following our marriage the birth of he who is my son occurred. Two point three years later, Mariah was diagnosed with a degenerative genetic disorder that is unique to humans. In an effort to save her, I specialized my medical study in the field of cellular microbiology focusing on genetic disorders. Though she passed away seven years ago, I continue the work." Solak finished with a lost tone in his voice.
Jake looked at Xain with question.
"What became of Dr. Werner?" Xain asked and felt through the bond that Jake had expected a different question.
"He returned to Earth. He severed all contact with his daughter. To my knowledge Dr. Werner does not know of your birth or Mariah's death." Solak said quietly.
"So I have family on Earth?" Xain asked in confirmation.
"No. Dr. Werner forbade any further contact when we married. It is logical to assume that his prohibition of contact would include our progeny." Solak said, regaining his formality.
"That sucks!" Kevin said firmly.
Allen, Brady and Juana all broke into laughter at the declaration as Kevin blushed and tried to hide his face in embarrassment.
Solak considered the statement carefully before saying, "Though I might voice my displeasure of Dr. Werner's actions differently, I believe I share the sentiment."
"Can I have some more of that?" Reuben asked, pointing to the fruit salad.
"Sure, have as much as you want." Allen said as he passed the bowl to Reuben.
"But save room. There is to be dessert." Juana said with tenderness.
Reuben nodded, then offered some fruit salad to his brother who was happy to accept.
Edovina began to cry.
Juana and Jake stood simultaneously to take care of her.
"I believe that Edovina is hungry. I must fix a bottle." Juana said as she checked to see that Edovina was clean and dry.
"Will you show me how to do it?" Jake asked hesitantly.
"Si, yes. Come and I will show you." Juana said as she lifted Edovina from the stroller and handed her to Jake.
Allen watched with concern as Juana and Jake left the room.
* * * * *
"Why is Jake taking care of Edovina so much?" Reuben asked curiously.
Allen snapped out of his thoughts and said, "You'll need to ask Jake."
Xain glanced at Allen, then turned to face the closed dining room door.
"So can Xain read Jake's mind?" Allen asked Solak casually, but noticed Xain's reaction of turning at the question.
"Yes. But not as true telepaths communicate. He who is my son has the ability to access Jake's knowledge or skills and may send his own knowledge, but to communicate directly would require a specific telepathic technique that Xain is unfamiliar with. If the bond is sufficiently formed, I will attempt to teach them the technique after dinner." Solak said speculatively.
"So Xain can see everything Jake remembers?" Reuben asked with wide eyes.
"It is possible." Solak said with a slight nod.
"To do so would be an invasion of Jake's mind." Xain said with a curious look at Allen.
"You're right. Humans hold their privacy as something precious. If asked by someone close, a Human would probably agree to share his memories. But having that choice taken away could be taken as a betrayal or a violation, maybe even an attack." Allen said as he held Xain's gaze.
After a moment of thought, Xain nodded and said, "Thank you for your insights k'war'ma'khon. I was not aware of the scale of emotions associated with such an action."
Allen gave a gentle smile and said, "I think it's because telepathy is uncommon and relatively new among Humans. Vulcan culture has had millennia to adjust to the issues of sharing their minds. Humans are just beginning to deal with it. As long as both parties are willing and well-informed, I don't see it being a problem."
Jake and Juana walked back into the dining room. Jake went to his chair holding Edovina on his lap and making sure she didn't lose her bottle.
Juana took her seat and looked at Jake and Edovina lovingly.
Silence fell over the dining room until Reuben asked, "Why do you take care of Edovina so much?"
Jake got a look of fear, then thought and finally resolution.
"Because I may be her father." Jake said quietly.
The silence that fell over the room was thick enough to cut with a knife.
"Have you decided what you want to do?" Allen finally asked in a low voice.
"Yeah." Jake said in a mumble.
"Go ahead. It's best to face it and get it over with while everyone's here." Allen said seriously.
"Okay. Um, I'm sorry Dad. But I've been thinking a lot about the stuff we talked about and... it matters." Jake finished with a defeated whisper.
"What matters?" Kenny asked, barely understanding anything that was going on.
"It matters if Edovina is my daughter. If she is, I want to be a father to her but if she's not... I don't. I know it's wrong of me to feel this way. Allen took us all in even though he's not blood related to any of us, but... I can't help it. It's how I feel." Jake said with tears welling up in his eyes.
"Jake." Allen said firmly, trying to get his attention.
Jake looked at Allen with pain and fear in his eyes.
"I'm not disappointed in you. I'd rather that you be honest about your feelings than do what you think I want you to. I'm proud that you had the courage to tell me something that was so difficult." Allen said, letting the truth of his statement show clearly.
"How are we to know?" Juana asked quietly.
"I can make an appointment with Chip and Josh's doctor..." Allen began to say.
"That will not be necessary." Solak said in a measured tone.
Everyone turned their attention to Solak.
"I am a healer... a doctor. It is standard practice for Vulcan healers to carry a rudimentary medical kit when traveling... it is logical." Solak said seriously.
"But you can't have the equipment for a genetic analysis with you." Brady said, remembering the test Dr. McCoy had performed.
"True. But a blood test can be performed at this time which could exclude Jake from the possibility of being Edovina's father. If Jake is not excluded, then the probability of paternity is greatly increased." Solak said in an instructive tone.
"The test. It will not hurt Edovina?" Juana asked cautiously.
"No. The scanning device will cause no pain." Solak said calmly.
"Can we do it now?" Jake asked with a tremble of fear in his voice.
"Yes. If he who is my son will retrieve my valise from the entry hall, I will perform the test." Solak said seriously.
Xain hurried out of the room and returned a few seconds later with Solak's carry-on bag.
After a moment to find the correct instrument, Solak stood before Jake and Edovina.
Jake gave a nod and closed his eyes.
"Jake, which answer are you praying for?" Brady asked in a whisper.
Jake opened his eyes in time to see Solak pass the scanning device over his chest.
"Um... I don't know." Jake said in confusion.
"Son, I think it's important that you do know before you find the answer." Allen said quietly.
Jake nodded and looked down at a movement from Edovina.
Edovina locked eyes with Jake, and in a moment of clarity Jake said, "I want her to be my daughter."
After pressing some buttons on the device that looked similar to a Federation tricorder, Solak scanned Edovina.
"Are you sure son?" Allen asked carefully.
Jake looked up at Allen with a gentle smile and said, "I love you Dad. Being your son is the best thing that's ever happened to me. Everything that you are for me, I want to be for Edovina."
Solak pressed a few buttons on the scanning device and finally said, "Given the blood type of the child, eighty-four percent of the population can be excluded as possible fathers. Jake is not excluded."
Kevin got a look of confusion as he asked, "Does that mean Jake is Edovina's daddy?"
"Not exactly. It means that there's a much better chance now that he is. We'll need to do a much more complicated test to find out for sure." Allen said carefully.
"We're almost there Vina. One more test and I'll be your Dad for sure." Jake said to the little girl in his arms.
"Jake, everyone, let's sit down. I think there are some things we need to discuss." Allen said to the group that had gathered around Jake.
After a moment for everyone to settle, Allen asked, "Let's assume for a minute that Edovina is your daughter. What would you like to do as far as taking care of her?"
"Well, I was thinking, that since Mamacita is Edovina's grandmother and has been taking care of her that she might want to keep on taking care of her. I could help her out when she wanted me to and maybe keep Edovina with me sometimes..." Jake trailed off in thought.
"What about Xain?" Brady asked curiously.
"What about him?" Jake asked seriously.
"You share a room with him. I think any decision about Edovina staying with you should be discussed with him." Brady said in thought.
Jake looked at Xain and saw the Vulcan facade firmly in place.
For the first time, Jake tried to initiate their bond.
After some mental fumbling and initial resistance, Jake was able to make contact.
"Please Xain, I need to know what you think about this." Jake pleaded audibly as his emotions called through their bond.
Xain gave a single nod and let his emotional defenses fall away, revealing the essence of what he was feeling.
Jake took a moment to sort through the emotions and try to understand their source.
"Xain..." Jake began to say, then froze.
A look of realization came over Jake's face as he said in a whisper, "Because she's not your child."
Xain tilted his head in question as Brady and Allen got matching expressions of concern.
Jake looked at Allen, then turned quickly to Solak and asked, "If Edovina is my daughter, what would I have to do to make Xain her other father, like what you did with Allen?"
"As a citizen of Earth, you would be bound by the laws of your world. I do not know what steps would have to be taken for such a thing to be possible." Solak said seriously.
Jake nodded and looked at Allen as he asked, "If we can prove that Edovina is my daughter, what will I have to do to make her legally mine?"
"I guess we'd have to take the genetic analysis before a judge and ask that he legally recognize you as her father." Allen said carefully.
"And he could still say no, right?" Jake asked seriously.
"He could choose to leave Edovina's legal status unchanged. If you were an adult it would be different, but since you're a minor child, it's really his choice." Allen said weakly.
"So even if she's my daughter for real, I might have to wait till I'm eighteen to be a real father to her." Jake said in thought.
"It's a possibility." Allen said in acceptance.
"We are members of Clan Short." Xain said suddenly.
Silence fell over the room as the implications of Xain's realization fell over the room.
"That changes everything." Brady said into the silence.
"Correct. Your status as a member of a Vulcan Clan essentially gives you dual citizenship." Solak said in thought.
"Which means that if the genetic test proves that Edovina is your daughter, you could file the legal paperwork with the Vulcan consulate. As long as your argument is logical and uncontested, you won't even need to see an arbitrator... judge." Allen said with excitement.
"The argument to make Xain a parent to Edovina might be more difficult." Brady said seriously.
"Jake is my bond-mate. Acceptance of the responsibility of his child would be logical." Xain said with certainty.
"There is precedent." Solak agreed.
"Legally there is but realistically, Xain is twelve and Jake is fifteen..." Brady began to say.
"Sean and Cory aren't much older than Xain and I think they said that they have three sons. Adam and JJ have one... Harley. It may not be common by Human standards but it seems to be the norm in Clan Short." Allen said seriously.
"Mamacita? How do you feel about this? I mean, I kinda just figured you'd be okay with it..." Jake trailed off.
Juana gave a small smile, then said, "It is my hope that it is to be true. Edovina should have a parent. It would be better for me to be abuela... grandmother to Edovina."
"Then does anyone know a doctor who does genetic analysis?" Brady asked the group.
"Solak does, he just doesn't practice on Earth." Allen said with regret.
"Were I to take a genetic sample of Jake and Edovina with me, I could perform the test when I arrive in San Francisco." Solak said in thought.
"You don't have to go to that trouble..." Jake began to say, but Solak interrupted.
"It would be logical to expedite this matter." Solak said seriously.
Brady, Allen and Xain all tried to find the reasoning behind the statement, but had no will to dispute it since they all wanted the matter settled.
* * * * *
Juana's variety of homemade desserts were enjoyed by everyone present.
The remainder of the conversation was light and consisted of general topics. Everyone seemed to need time to deal with the more serious issues that had been discussed earlier.
At the conclusion of the meal, Solak stated, "It is nearing time for me to return to San Francisco. He who is my son and Jake require instruction in the attributes of their bond."
"You can use the family room if you like." Allen said as he stood from the table.
"When are you returning Solak?" Brady asked as he also stood.
"My shuttle is scheduled to leave at 20:15 hours in your local time." Solak said seriously.
"Mine too. I think we're on the same flight." Brady said in thought.
Solak gave a half-nod in acknowledgement.
"Go ahead into the family room and we'll take care of the dishes." Allen said as he began to gather plates.
"No Pop. Let us kids take care of this. Xain and Jake cooked the meal so we can clean it up." Kenny said seriously.
"Thanks Cute Stuff. We'll be in the living room if you need help with anything." Allen said with a warm smile.
"Come on Juana, the kids are going to clean up." Allen said as he sat the plates he had gathered on the table.
Juana looked uncomfortable, but followed Allen to the dining room door.