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"There is a matter we have not discussed." Solak said as he took a seat in the office chair at the desk.
Jake and Xain looked at Solak with matching expressions of question as they sat on the couch.
"It is possible to discontinue the bond if either of you find it undesirable." Solak said without emotion.
Xain and Jake looked at each other but didn't say a word.
"May I suggest that you use the bond to share your preferences on the matter. It is more efficient than spoken language." Solak said calmly.
Jake nodded and opened himself to Xain's initiation of their bond.
After a long silent moment of sharing their emotions and looking into each other's eyes, Xain said, "We both desire the continuation of our bond."
Solak gave a half-nod of acknowledgement, then said, "You have demonstrated the ability to share memories and skills. With practice, it is possible to develop true telepathic communication and even 'real time' sharing of sensory information."
"What does that mean?" Jake asked slowly.
"It would be possible for you to see through my eyes or feel what I touch." Xain said in thought.
Jake nodded as he considered what it would be like to have that ability.
"Have you attempted direct telepathic communication?" Solak asked simply.
"No. There has been no need." Xain said seriously.
"Please do so while I observe. The initial contact can be elusive, so I will guide you." Solak said carefully.
Xain looked at Jake and attempted to send a telepathic message.
"Jake is not telepathic in the manner you have previously encountered, therefore the process of contacting him is different. Instead of calling to him from outside in the traditional manner, you must enter his consciousness and make contact with his primary essence." Solak said in a low voice.
Xain carefully adjusted his telepathic technique and ventured inside Jake's mind to find the cluster of mental activity that made up his consciousness.
'My discipline and your freedom make us complete.' Jake heard clearly in his mind.
"It is good." Solak said as he watched them carefully.
"I heard him. Can I do that too?" Jake asked hopefully.
"Yes, but your role is different. Withdraw from your bond for a moment, then initiate contact." Solak said instructively.
Jake gently let the sense of contact fade and let their bond be silent for a moment. Finally he reached out through the bond and touched the sphere of Xain's consciousness and carefully embraced it.
"Very good. He who is my son should be able to feel not only your presence, but your intent as you touch his barrier." Solak said carefully.
"Yes, I am aware of Jake's desire to contact me." Xain said in thought.
"Jake's consciousness is focused at your barrier. You do not need to reach out to him, you may focus your thoughts to him directly this way. Your awareness of him allows you to hear his thoughts." Solak said calmly.
'My experience and your knowledge make us complete.' Jake said in his mind.
Xain got a look of surprise at the message.
"Well, I had to come up with something better than 'Hey, are you there?' didn't I?" Jake asked with a smile.
Xain gave Jake a brief look of fondness, then looked at his father.
"Experiencing each other's senses may be attempted at a later time, when you have become more comfortable with this level of your bond. The experience can be disorienting at first, but is rewarding in certain circumstances." Solak said seriously.
"For example?" Jake asked, trying to think of a situation when the ability could be used.
"When experiencing intimacy." Solak said without emotion.
Jake's eyes went wide at the statement as Xain looked at his father in confusion.
Solak noticed the reactions and said, "It was a natural progression for Mariah and I to seek physical intimacy as a continuation of the unity we shared mentally. It is logical to assume that your bond may lead you to the same point."
"Is that okay? I mean, Xain is twelve." Jake asked hesitantly.
"As his bond-mate, you will know when it is appropriate to progress to that level. In other circumstances, there might be cause for concern, but since you are able to know each other's true emotions I am assured that you will not take any action until both of you are of sufficient emotional maturity to accept it." Solak said carefully.
"I will never do anything to hurt Xain, I promise." Jake said seriously.
"Of that I have no doubt." Solak said calmly.
"When the time comes to share our physical stimuli, what is the process?" Xain asked curiously.
"She who was your mother likened the sensation to 'putting on a glove'." Solak said seriously.
Xain looked at his father for a more meaningful explanation.
"You will merge your consciousness with Jake's and be able to feel his sensations, however you will not be in control of his actions. As I previously stated, the sensation can be disorienting." Solak said seriously.
Xain nodded in acknowledgement.
"I believe this concludes the aspects of your bond that should be discussed. There are other lesser attributes that you will discover, but they are easily mastered and require no explanation." Solak said in a tone that indicated the end of the session.
"I thank you for your instruction." Xain said formally.
"It was logical to do so." Solak said in a matching tone of formality.
"Yes, thank you Solak." Jake said shyly.
"Jake, you are bond-mate to he who is my son. As such, you are entitled to call me Father." Solak said seriously.
Jake smiled and said, "A few days ago I didn't have any parents. Now I have a biological father, a real father and a father-in-law. Thank you Solak, I will be honored to call you my Father."
Solak gave a half-nod of acknowledgement before saying, "I will now make use of your terminal so I might make official record of the change of status of Allen, Jake, Kenny and Kevin in my family."
"All of us?" Jake asked curiously.
Xain looked at his father, then said, "Allen is to be recognized as a'nirih in relation to me and as k'war'ma'khon in the family of Solak."
"You will be recognized as T'hy'la in relation to me, which has many meanings, friend or soul-brother would be most accurate... correct?" Xain asked his father curiously.
Solak considered the question and said, "Correct. It may also mean soul-mate and life companion."
Xain nodded and continued, "Kenny and Kevin will be recognized as our brothers."
"Your status in Clan Short takes precedence in this matter, so my acknowledgement of Kenny and Kevin does not change their status. This is merely a formality to acknowledge their inclusion in my family." Solak said as he worked the controls of the terminal.
"I wish I knew all these words. I feel kind of stupid with you having to explain everything to me." Jake said in a low voice.
"If you wish, I could give you the knowledge of the Vulcan language." Xain said simply.
"Really?" Jake asked with surprise.
"It would be no different than my acquiring of English from you earlier." Xain said frankly.
"Um, would it take long? I mean, can we do it now?" Jake asked hopefully.
"I can complete the transfer in less than two minutes. Although it may take some time before you are comfortable with Vulcan syntax and pronunciation." Xain said seriously.
"Do I need to do anything?" Jake asked with a smile.
"Establish our bond and I will begin the transfer." Xain said quietly.
Jake felt for Xain's presence and embraced it.
"The process is underway. Please tell me if there is any discomfort." Xain said seriously.
"Is that it? I mean, I don't feel anything." Jake said slowly.
"The transfer is occurring on a sub-conscious level. I do not anticipate any sensation." Xain said casually.
"She who was your mother and I transferred our language skills consciously over a long period of time. You appear to have unique aspects to your bond." Solak said as he turned away from his terminal.
"It is a benefit of mapping my mnemo complexes and studying the mental constructs of Vulcans and Humans. I have no unique ability, only an understanding of a specialized skill." Xain said reflectively.
"A fortunate happenstance." Solak said as he focused on the activity in their bond.
"The transfer is complete. You now have an understanding of the spoken Vulcan language. Mastery of proper pronunciation and inflection will require practice." Xain said calmly.
"You said 'spoken' what about the written language?" Jake asked curiously.
"I do not have the ability to transfer that skill as of yet. When I have identified the mnemo structure that houses written language skills, I will transfer that skill-set for both of us." Xain said carefully.
"That's why you can't read English. You got the spoken language from me, but not the written." Jake said in realization.
"Correct." Xain said quietly.
"Should the inability to read become a hindrance, your bond should prove invaluable." Solak interjected.
Xain nodded in acknowledgement.
"The official record has been appended." Solak said and terminated his transmission.
"Thank you for accepting me Father." Jake said quietly.
"It was logical to do so." Solak said simply.
"And thank you for your language T'hy'la. I really feel like a part of your family now." Jake said with contentment.
"I should thank you for the same reason. Not only your language, but also your actions have made me feel as a part of your family." Xain said seriously.
'We are part of the Clan Short family, the Thompson family and the family of Solak. But you are *my* family.' Jake said seriously through their bond.
'As you are mine, T'hy'la.' Xain responded peacefully.
* * * * *
"Can we go outside and play?" Kevin asked hopefully from the living room doorway with Kenny, Reuben and Ricardo gathered behind him.
Allen glanced outside and considered, then looked at Brady with concern.
"Would you guys mind if I came with you?" Brady asked gently.
Kevin looked at Brady in question.
"We're new to this neighborhood and we live beside a lake. Until we get to know people and you're familiar with the area, I think it's best if you have an adult with you. At least for a while." Allen said seriously.
"Okay. But I thought you trusted us." Kenny said dejectedly from behind Kevin.
"I do trust you guys. It's the rest of the world that has me worried." Allen said frankly.
"Let's go play Uncle Brady." Kevin said with a small smile, obviously accepting the answer.
Xain, Jake and Solak walked into the living room to join Allen and Juana.
"Did everything go alright?" Allen asked cautiously.
"Just fine Dad. Solak said I can call him Father and Xain taught me Vulcan." Jake said happily as he automatically walked to Juana to check on Edovina.
"You learn to speak the language?" Juana asked in astonishment.
"Yes. Xain just... did it. It was easy." Jake said with a smile.
"Perhaps there is a way..." Xain said in thought.
"If you plan to do what I suspect, you would run the risk of forming another bond. It would be necessary for a telepath to facilitate the transfer as intermediary. In this instance, I would be willing to do so." Solak said seriously.
"Mamacita, if you would like, Xain and Solak can give you my English." Jake said carefully.
Juana looked at Jake with astonishment for a moment, and looked as if she were about to agree when she suddenly shook her head.
"Ricardo needs the English the most of any of us. Please to give to Ricardo." Juana said seriously.
Jake looked at Juana with love and said, "I think we can do you both."
"Then you must give to Ricardo first. He has most need." Juana said in nearly a begging tone.
"I'll get him." Jake said with a smile.
* * * * *
After a long silent minute with Solak's hand held gently to the side of his face, Ricardo asked, "When do I learn to speak English?"
"You just did." Allen said in wonder.
"Oh Mijo. Es... it is wonderful." Juana said as tears filled her eyes.
"It's okay Mama. Everything is fine." Ricardo said in a soothing voice as he reached for her.
"Just a few more seconds." Solak said quietly as he kept his contact with Ricardo.
"Is everything okay?" Allen asked with concern.
"Yes. All is well. I am taking the necessary precautions when melding with one so young. The transfer is complete." Solak said and removed his hand.
"Mijo. Do you feel well?" Juana asked with concern.
"I'm fine Mama. It's funny to know what everyone is saying." Ricardo said happily.
"My time is short Juana. We have time to give you English as well." Solak said carefully.
Juana looked lovingly at Ricardo and said, "Yes. If it is no trouble to you."
"It is no trouble." Solak said simply.
* * * * *
"Allen, can I talk to you outside for a minute?" Brady asked seriously from the living room doorway.
Every parental instinct Allen had went off like a flare at the words as he hurried out of the room.
"What is it Brady?" Allen asked before they could reach the front door.
"The boys are fine. I just saw something that concerned me and wanted to get your advice." Brady said as they walked outside.
"What is it?" Allen asked with worry as he saw Kenny, Kevin and Reuben playing Frisbee in the yard.
"Follow me." Brady said and walked up the driveway.
Allen followed along looking for any sign of trouble.
"See that boy?" Brady asked, pointing to the house diagonal across the street.
"Yes." Allen said cautiously.
"He was sitting there when we got back from the DMV this morning." Brady said seriously.
"Are you sure?" Allen asked as he looked more closely.
"Yes. I thought it was odd because it's a school day." Brady said in a quiet voice.
"That's been at least six hours... what do you think we should do?" Allen asked with concern.
"He would probably run off if we went over there. I think we should send the boys to check on him and invite him over if he's hungry." Brady said in thought.
"I think that's a good idea." Allen said seriously.
"Let's go talk to the guys." Brady said and started walking toward the boys.
* * * * *
"It doesn't feel any different." Juana said curiously.
"It doesn't for me either. But I just kind of know things I didn't before." Jake said with a smile.
"That's strange. I understood you completely. I'm used to having to listen closely and hope I'm translating correctly." Juana said in wonder.
"I'm glad it worked for you." Jake said happily.
"Thank you Jake, thank you too Solak and Xain. I can't think of any way to repay you for this wonderful gift." Juana said as tears formed in her eyes.
"Your acceptance of he who is my son is sufficient reward." Solak said simply.
"Yes Mrs. Vasquez, there is no need to repay." Xain said seriously.
"Please call me Juana or Mamacita, we are like family." She said shyly.
"Thank you. I will call you Mamacita like Jake does." Xain said quietly.
"I am curious Juana, where does the name Mamacita come from?" Solak asked cautiously.
"My oldest son, Manny, used to call me that. He would bring all the children in the building to play at our apartment... it means 'little mother'." Juana finished with a teary smile.
"Manny was killed less than a year ago." Jake whispered.
"My condolences on your loss." Solak said formally.
Juana nodded as her tears fell and said, "At least I won't have to worry as much for Reuben and Ricardo now that we are here."
Jake looked at Edovina, who was sleeping peacefully, and said, "And Vina won't have to know what it was like to live that way."
Juana followed Jake's gaze to Edovina and smiled.
* * * * *
"Hi." Kenny said hesitantly.
"Hi." The boy replied cautiously.
"My name is Kenny. I live right over there." Kenny said and pointed.
"I'm Deacon, this is my brother's house."
"My Uncle Brady saw you here this morning and wanted me to find out if you're hungry."
"Yeah. I've kind of been waiting here since last night. He didn't come home." Deacon said shyly.
"Well, we have plenty of food and my Pop said that if you're hungry, I'm supposed to invite you over." Kenny said seriously.
"Yeah. I'll just write a note for Billy so he'll know where to find me." Deacon said and picked up a backpack.
"This is my brother Kevin and my cousin Reuben." Kenny said as Deacon wrote the note.
Deacon glanced at Kevin and Reuben and said, "Hi." Then continued to write his note.
After an uncomfortable moment of silence, Deacon wedged his note in the door by the knob where it could be seen.
A moment later, Deacon picked up his backpack and followed Kenny, Kevin and Reuben across the street.
* * * * *
As the boys walked into the yard, Allen and Brady were waiting for them.
"This is my Pop, Allen and my Uncle Brady. This is Deacon." Kenny said happily.
"Hi." Deacon said shyly.
"Come on in and we'll fix you a good meal." Allen said gently as he led the way to the house.
"Um. Can I use your bathroom?" Deacon asked shyly.
"Sure. Kenny will show you where it is while we fix your food." Allen said with a smile.
"Thanks." Deacon said as they walked in the front door.
* * * * *
"Wow. This looks good!" Deacon said with wide eyes when he walked into the kitchen and saw all the food on the counter.
"We all enjoyed it. Have a seat and I'll have your plate ready in just a minute." Allen said happily.
Kenny, Kevin and Reuben all sat down at the table with Deacon.
"Reuben, would you like to get Ricardo, Jake and Xain so they can meet Deacon?" Allen asked gently.
Reuben nodded and quickly ran out of the room.
"Here you go Deacon. If you want more, just ask, we have plenty more of everything." Allen said as he also took a seat.
"Thank you sir." Deacon said quietly.
A moment later Reuben came back into the room followed by Jake, Xain and Ricardo.
"Deacon, I'd like you to meet my sons Jake and Xain and my nephew Ricardo." Allen said with a proud smile.
Deacon nodded with his mouth full of food, then his gaze focused on Xain.
Allen noticed Deacon's stare and quickly said, "Okay guys. Now that you've all been introduced, why don't you go into the living room so Deacon can eat. We'll join you when he's done."
Reluctantly, all the boys left the kitchen, much more slowly than they had entered.
"You have a lot of kids." Deacon said between bites.
"I have four, but Reuben and Ricardo are just like my own kids." Allen said with a smile.
Deacon looked at Allen curiously but didn't say anything.
"I sent the guys out of the room because I need to know one or two things." Allen said cautiously.
Deacon looked at Allen and nodded hesitantly.
"Are you in some kind of trouble?" Allen asked in a gentle voice.
Deacon looked at his plate for a second, then nodded.
"Will you tell me about it?" Allen asked quietly.
"Do I have to?" Deacon asked in a fearful voice.
"No. You don't have to tell me anything you don't want to. I'm only asking in case it's something I can help you with." Allen said seriously.
Deacon looked at his plate and shifted his food with his fork for a few seconds before asking, "If I tell you, are you going to call the police?"
"Not if you don't want me to. But depending on what you tell me, I might need to call some of my friends to help you." Allen said carefully.
Deacon nodded, then said, "I kind of ran away from home."
Allen nodded and waited for more.
"My brother Billy lives across the street, but I don't know when he's going to be home again. He didn't come home last night." Deacon said in a scared voice.
"That's okay Deacon. We'll see that you're taken care of until he gets home." Allen said with assurance.
Deacon nodded and took a bite of food before saying, "I got a friend of Billy's to buy me a bus ticket to get me here. But I didn't expect him not to be home."
"Well, you're in luck. You'll have food, a place to sleep and a whole crew of guys to hang around with until he gets back." Allen said with a smile.
Deacon went to take another bite of food and found that he had emptied his plate.
Allen noticed and said, "There's dessert if you're ready for it, or you can have another plate of food if you'd rather."
Deacon considered and finally said, "Dessert would be good. Thank you."
"No problem. In fact, if you'll wait a minute, I'll see if anyone else would like some." Allen said as he stood.
Deacon watched Allen walk out of the room, then looked around the room curiously.
* * * * *
"Deacon is finished with his food. Would anyone like to have dessert with him?" Allen asked into the family room.
"I'd love to but I have to be going." Brady said with regret.
"I too must depart." Solak said seriously.
"Oh. I need to drive you to the spaceport." Allen said in thought.
"I can drive them Allen. It wouldn't be any trouble." Juana said with a smile.
"Thank you Juana. I appreciate that." Allen said happily.
"Then all those not going to the spaceport, into the kitchen for dessert." Allen said happily.
Reuben, Kenny and Kevin ran past Allen into the kitchen.
"Do you want some dessert Ricardo?" Allen asked carefully.
"Yes. But I want to be with Uncle Brady more." Ricardo said shyly.
Brady smiled at Ricardo and opened his arms.
Ricardo happily jumped into Brady's embrace.
Allen smiled as he left the room.
* * * * *
"Did you like the food?" Kenny asked as he took a seat beside Deacon.
"It was really good." Deacon said honestly.
"Our brothers Xain and Jake made it." Kevin said with a big smile as he took the seat on the other side of Deacon.
"Is Xain the one that looks funny?" Deacon asked carefully.
"He looks that way because his Dad's Vulcan." Kenny said frankly.
"He's an alien?" Deacon asked with wide eyes.
Kenny thought about the question for a few seconds, then said, "I don't think he's an alien, he's like a half-alien because his mom was Human."
"Oh." Deacon said in thought.
"He's really cool and smart." Kevin said seriously.
"If his father is Vulcan and you aren't, how is he your brother?" Deacon asked carefully.
"Oh, we're all adopted." Kenny said with a smile.
Allen walked into the kitchen and stood in the doorway, not wanting to interrupt the conversation.
Deacon looked at Kenny with confusion and said, "I thought being adopted was a bad thing. Why are you happy about it?"
"Because my mom, our mom, Kevin's and mine, didn't really want us. She was only our mom because she had to be. Allen is our Pop because he wants to be. Nobody made him or nothing. I think that's a whole lot better than having a mother or father just because you were born to them." Kenny said happily.
"I guess so. My parents sound kind of like your mom." Deacon said darkly.
"Well you're here now so everything will be alright. We have lots of friends who can help you." Kevin said happily.
"Really?" Deacon asked cautiously.
"When Kenny and I were in trouble David came and got us and brought us here and made it so Poppa could adopt us. I bet David can help you too." Kevin said with a grand smile.
"That sounds great. I just hope that Billy wants me here..." Deacon trailed off darkly.
"Is everyone ready for dessert?" Allen asked into the silence.
A whoop of affirmation raised up from the table.
"Well Brady and Solak are about to leave, go in and say goodbye while I get your desserts ready." Allen said with a smile.
All the boys, even Deacon hurried out of the room.
Allen stood thinking for a moment, then began to get the desserts ready.
* * * * *
"I'll miss you Uncle Brady." Kevin said as he walked up to Brady and hugged him tightly.
"I'll miss you too Little One." Brady said softly.
"It was nice to meet you Mr. Solak." Kenny said seriously.
"You and your brother may call me Uncle Solak if you wish." Solak said peacefully.
Kenny couldn't contain his excitement at gaining a new uncle and hugged Solak quickly.
"Goodbye Uncle Brady." Reuben said sadly as his eyes began to fill with tears.
"I'll be back before you know it Reuben. Take good care of Ricardo for me." Brady said as he hugged Reuben warmly.
"I'm glad you came to visit Uncle Solak." Kevin said with a shy smile.
"As am I Kevin." Solak said calmly.
"Are you going to come back and visit again sometime?" Kevin asked hopefully.
"Yes. When my duties permit." Solak said warmly.
"I have packaged the asenoi for travel." Xain said as he walked into the room.
Solak gave a half-nod of acknowledgement.
Deacon watched everything carefully and was surprised when someone placed a hand on his shoulder.
"I'm sorry I didn't get to spend any time with you Deacon. Hopefully we can visit next time I'm on Earth." Brady said gently.
"You're leaving Earth?" Deacon asked with wide eyes.
"Yes. I am an officer on the Starship Enterprise." Brady said with a smile at Deacon's look of wonder.
"Really? The Enterprise!" Deacon said with excitement.
"Ask Kevin and Kenny about it when you have a chance. They were able to tour the ship when they visited." Brady said with a smile.
"Awesome!" Deacon said in amazement.
"We have to go now. I hope everything works out for you." Brady said and gave Deacon a squeeze on the shoulder before leaving.
* * * * *
After fastening Edovina's car seat into the middle seat of the Caravan, Brady and Ricardo got into the back seat. Xain and Jake sat either side of the car seat in the middle, Solak sat beside Juana who was driving.
"I discussed your education with Allen and we agreed that it would be most advantageous to hire a tutor to oversee your studies." Solak said seriously to his son.
Xain looked at his father, but did not respond.
"Allen suggested that we ask for your preference in tutor." Solak said seriously.
"I have had the most productive sessions with T'Mal." Xain said in thought.
"I will contact T'Mal tomorrow and inquire if she is interested in relocation." Solak said with a nod.
"If she isn't, I'm sure she could coordinate Xain's studies with one of the teachers at Camp Little Eagle." Brady said from the back where he was holding Ricardo on his lap.
"Would this facility be agreeable to such an arrangement?" Solak asked curiously.
"The Camp was established by Clan Short and is administered by the Seminole Tribe. I think they would be willing to make accommodations so a member of Clan Short can get a proper education." Brady said in a considering voice.
"That being the case, I will propose that arrangement to T'Mal and offer relocation as a secondary option." Solak said carefully.
"I believe that to be the preferable solution. Kevin and Jake will also be attending Camp Little Eagle. The arrangement will allow me to have adequate education as well as social interactions." Xain said seriously.
"I will contact K'war'ma'khon Allen with the arrangements when they have been finalized." Solak said calmly.
"Acceptable." Xain said peacefully.
* * * * *
Allen sat in the living room and just relaxed for a while after the incredibly long day.
"Poppa?" Kevin asked from the living room door.
"Come in Little One, tell me what's going on with you." Allen said in a relaxed tone.
Kevin came in slowly and climbed into Allen's lap to snuggle in with him in the wing-backed chair.
"I thought you'd be playing upstairs with the others." Allen said quietly sensing that all was not well in Kevin's world.
"It was boring. I didn't want to look at models" Kevin said in a small voice.
"That's okay Kevin. You don't have to like the same things that Kenny does" Allen said gently.
Kevin snuggled further into Allen's shoulder and said, "I love you Poppa."
"I love you too Little One." Allen said and began to gently rub Kevin's back.
A long moment of silence fell between them as Kevin soaked in the love and attention.
"Are you happy here Kevin?" Allen asked in a distant voice.
"I'm happier than I've ever been. I have lots of brothers and cousins and friends and a bunch of uncles and a wonderful Poppa" Kevin said as he snuggled even tighter.
"And every single one of us love you Kevin." Allen said slowly.
Kevin stretched up to give Allen a gentle kiss on the cheek.
"While Kenny and Deacon and Reuben are looking at models, can I do something with just you?" Kevin asked hopefully.
"That sounds nice Kevin. Would you like to read to me?" Allen asked quietly.
"Yeah!" Kevin said happily and squirmed down out of the chair.
"I'm going to get my book. I'll be right back!" Kevin said with excitement.
"I'll be waiting for you." Allen said with a smile as he watched Kevin hurry out of the room.
* * * * *
Jake looked at Xain curiously, then initiated contact through their bond.
Xain didn't betray any outward sign of the contact, but accepted it and waited.
Jake's contact was on an emotional level and was simply a flood of comfort and well-being.
Xain let a small smile show as he looked at Jake.
A thread of happiness flowed through the emotional link from Jake at the sight.
* * * * *
Kevin hurried into the living room carrying his book and went directly to Allen's chair.
"Before you start, I just want to tell you something." Allen said carefully as he guided Kevin to sit on his lap.
Kevin got a hesitant expression and waited.
"I just want you to understand how proud I am of you Kevin. Not just for your reading but everything. You behaved perfectly with Solak... well, except when you yelled at him." Allen said with a smile and snuggled Kevin warmly.
"I'm so proud the way you get along with your brothers and behave so I don't have to worry about you every minute. I don't know if you know this, but there are some very misbehaved children that I wouldn't want to be in the same room with. I enjoy your company, you're fun to be around." Allen said as he snuggled yet again.
"I love you kiddo. Now let's read." Allen said, then gave Kevin a quick kiss on the cheek.
"I love you too Poppa." Kevin said in a whisper and returned the kiss, then said in a clear voice, "The boy from town sat in the tree..."
* * * * *
Ricardo was clinging tightly to Brady and refused to let go.
"Come Ricardo. It is time for Uncle Brady to leave." Juana said carefully.
"No! He's going to leave like Daddy and never come back!" Ricardo said as he clamped his hold even tighter.
A look of pain fell across Juana's face.
"Ricardo. How does this sound? How about I send you a message when I get back to the Enterprise. That way you'll know right where I am. And I can send you a message every day so you'll know that I'm coming back. How's that?" Brady asked carefully.
"Every day?" Ricardo asked in a small, shaky voice.
"Every day. I promise." Brady said seriously.
Ricardo nodded hesitantly and hugged Brady again.
"Okay. I'll send you a message when I get home tonight and it will be waiting on you in the morning. Just ask Uncle Allen to get it for you when you wake up." Brady said gently.
Ricardo nodded again, then stretched up to kiss Brady on the cheek.
"I love you Uncle Brady." Ricardo said quietly.
"I love you too Ricardo. Be good for your mother so she'll let you go and do something with me when I get back." Brady said with a gentle smile.
"Really? Just you and me?" Ricardo said with excitement.
"If your mother says it's okay." Brady said, feeling relief at Ricardo's improved mood.
"Can we go camping?" Ricardo asked hopefully.
"I don't know. Let's both think about what we want to do. If you have any other ideas you can tell them to me when you send me a message in the morning." Brady said happily.
Ricardo smiled a beaming smile and kissed Brady again.
* * * * *
"Earlier you spoke of your desire for my approval." Solak said as he stood with Xain on the shuttle pad.
"Yes." Xain said impassively.
"I approve of your dwelling." Solak said simply.
Xain thought about the words and finally asked, "Do you approve of me?"
A long moment of silence fell between the two as Solak considered the question.
Finally Solak said, "No."
Xain didn't betray any emotion at hearing the statement.
"But I approve of who you are becoming." Solak added seriously.
Xain considered his father's words and said, "It is sufficient."
"Live long and prosper... Xain." Solak said quietly.
"Live long and prosper... Father." Xain said in a neutral voice.