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As Jake and Xain walked into the kitchen, all the women fell silent.
Jake looked around curiously and noticed that Mona was holding Edovina.
"Is everything okay?" Jake asked cautiously as he sat down the bundle of clothes he was carrying.
"Just fine, she's been sleeping the whole time you've been gone." Mona said with a gentle look at her great-granddaughter.
"Would you mind if we took her outside with us? We've kind of missed her." Jake asked hopefully.
"Of course. It was really nice to have some time with her." Mona said as she carefully shifted the baby into Jake's arms.
"Then I'll see to it that you get to spend some time with her later. Vina has a lot of people who want to fuss over her." Jake said with a tender smile at his daughter.
"Whenever you need me..." Mona said gently at the beautiful sight of Jake holding Edovina cradled in his arms.
Jake turned his loving look from his daughter to Xain and whispered, "Our daughter needs her a'nirih."
Xain's only response was a tender look at Jake as he accepted Edovina and held her to his chest.
"What would you like me to do with Ricardo's extra clothes?" Jake asked casually as he looked at the gathering of women.
"Just leave them by my purse. Before the end of the night, I'm sure he will need them." Juana said as she watched Xain and Edovina with a tender smile.
Jake moved the small pile of clothes to the chair where Juana's purse sat, then dropped her keys into the purse.
"Thanks for watching out for Vina." Jake said as he turned to walk for the door.
"Thank you for leaving her with us." Juana said with an honest smile.
Jake nodded as he walked out of the kitchen, followed by Xain.
* * * * *
"How is everyone doing out here?" Chip asked as he walked to the poolside with one arm around JC and the other around Justy.
"Just fine, we're playing at being 'the idle rich'." Billy said with a smile.
Chip chuckled at the statement as he let loose of JC and Justy and pulled up a seat to join the gathering.
"I noticed that you've got something cooking over there. What do you have planned for dinner?" Allen asked as he glanced at the bar-b-que grill.
"That's a brisket that's slow cooking. Later on I'll start cooking a variety of meats for dinner. With all the people that were invited, we're going to need plenty of food." Chip said casually.
A distant chiming drew the attention of everyone at the table.
"I'll get it." Justy said quickly and bolted from the table.
"I don't think I was ever that young." Joe said as he watched Justy race away.
Lawrence reached over and took his father's hand and squeezed it gently.
Joe glanced over to see the look of love directed at him and squeezed Lawrence's hand in return.
"I'm done, let's go." Kevin said uncomfortably and stood from his place at the table.
"How are you doing Kevin?" JC asked hesitantly.
Kevin froze in his tracks and looked JC in the eyes.
With obvious effort, Kevin forced himself to walk to JC and leaned in to hug him.
JC returned the hug.
"Thanks for not hating me Uncle Josh." Kevin whispered.
"We all make mistakes sometimes, it's okay." JC whispered in return.
Kevin pulled out of the hug, then walked away slowly.
A moment later, Kenny followed Kevin out into the yard.
* * * * *
"Aunt Jackie?" Chip asked in shock as he stood.
"Are you surprised? Pop made us promise not to tell you." Justy beamed with accomplishment as he walked his Aunt Jackie to the gathering by the pool.
"Surprised is an understatement." Chip said as he walked to his aunt and pulled her into a firm hug.
"How is my 'Little Duck' doing today?" Jackie asked with a loving smile.
Chip smiled at the nickname and said, "I was doing good before, but now that you're here, I'm perfect."
"Please sit down and join us. We're just relaxing before everyone gets here." JC said as he was also pulled into a hug.
"Well, before I do that, introduce me around. I see a lot of new faces here." Jackie said as she looked at the unfamiliar people gathered before her.
"Do you want to do the introductions, Justy?" JC asked with a smile.
Justy smiled and said, "Aunt Jackie, you know Uncle Spock, these guys beside him are Allen and Brady Thompson. They're brothers."
"I think I've seen Brady before, though I can't recall if we were introduced." Jackie said with a gentle smile at the two handsome men.
"Brady works on the Enterprise with Dad." Justy said quickly, then hurried to stand behind Billy.
"This is Billy Pierce and that brown haired guy over there is his brother Deacon." Justy said as he pointed.
"Nice to meet you, I feel I may have met you before too." Jackie said with a voice of uncertainty.
Billy blushed as he shyly said, "I used to model, you might have seen some of my pictures."
Jackie looked at Billy carefully, then her eyes went wide in recognition.
Billy saw the look, and blushed even more.
"This is Lieutenant Bowers, but you can call him Joe and beside him is Lawrence Winters, his son." Justy said as he hurried from one to the other.
"Nice to meet you." Jackie said as she was captivated by Joe and Lawrence's identical pale blue eyes.
"Come on and sit down. Kenny and Kevin are going out in the yard for a while." Justy said as he guided Jackie to the chair that Kenny had been using.
"Kenny and Kevin?" Jackie asked as she took her seat.
"They're Allen's sons. They're twins." Justy said simply.
"Honestly, when Josh invited me down here, I just thought it would be the family." Jackie said in an overwhelmed voice.
"When I invited you, I thought it would be just the family too. Everyone got invited in the past twenty-four hours." JC said with a smile.
"Mind if we join you?" Jake asked as he approached the group.
"There's plenty of room, just pull up another chair." Chip said warmly.
Jake pulled a chair over to join the one vacated by Kevin. Then he and Xain took their seats.
Noticing Jackie beside him, he said, "Hello, I'm Jake and this is Xain and our daughter Edovina."
"Nice to meet you. How old is she?" Jackie asked as she looked at the baby.
"She'll be two months old tomorrow." Jake said with pride.
"So she's *your* daughter?" Jackie asked as she gestured from Jake to Xain.
"That's right Aunt Jackie, exactly the same way that Justy is our son." Chip said in a gentle tone.
Jackie nodded, then glanced at the baby, then at Jake and Xain curiously.
"Please ask whatever question you would like. We will not be offended." Xain said seriously.
"Well, I was just trying to figure out which one of you is her biological father. She has Xain's hair and coloring, but Jake's eyes." Jackie said curiously.
Jake smiled at the statement and said, "I'm her biological father, Xain is her nurturing father."
Jackie watched the gentle way that Xain was holding the baby and said, "He certainly is."
"Jake and Xain are Allen's sons." Justy said into the ensuing silence.
"Well, now that I know who everyone is. What is everyone doing here?" Jackie asked with interest.
"Billy and I took the boys over to Camp Little Eagle to look around today to see if they want to go to school there. Chip left a message for us, inviting us over after our tour." Allen said with a smile.
"And Commander Dodds invited me along because he knew my brother would be here." Brady said with an identical smile.
"He invited me so I could meet my son." Joe said with a loving look at Lawrence.
"Meet your son?" Jackie asked with interest.
"That's right. I haven't seen him since he was less than a year old." Joe said, never taking his gaze off Lawrence.
"Well it's wonderful that you were reunited. I can see that you're happy together." Jackie said with a warm smile.
"Yeah, my Dad is great." Lawrence said simply as he took Joe's hand.
Chip and JC simultaneously looked up, then at their watches as they saw the school van coming up the drive.
Then there was another, and finally a third.
"I guess the peace and quiet is over." JC said as he watched the first van come to a stop.
"If anyone gets between the boys and the snack table, I won't be held responsible for what happens to you." Chip said to the group.
"I don't think any of us are going to make that mistake." Allen said as he watched the boys erupting from the three vans.
* * * * *
"What is it Kev? You know you can tell me anything." Kenny said quietly as they walked away from the pool.
"Yeah. I just... would you mind holding me. You know, like you did last night?" Kevin asked in a small voice.
Kenny turned Kevin to face him and pulled him into a firm hug.
"I don't know what's wrong Kev, but just remember that you're my brother and you'll always be my brother. I'll always be here for you no matter what." Kenny said gently.
"Thanks Ken, will you just hold me for a while? I don't feel like talking about stuff yet." Kevin said in a small voice.
"You got it." Kenny whispered as he held Kevin tightly.
* * * * *
"Hi Aunt Jackie, Pop said you were coming today." Jacob said as he walked to Jackie's side and gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
"How was your day at school, Jacob?" Jackie asked gently.
"It was okay. We stopped working about a half an hour ago and just talked for a while." Jacob said with a smile.
"Well isn't that nice. I hope you still learned something." Jackie said with interest.
"Oh yeah. We talked about some really serious stuff, it was just cool because it wasn't the same as reading it out of a book or something." Jacob said happily.
"Well, I think I saw a table of snacks over there, why don't you get some while I talk to your brother?" Jackie said gently.
"I'm glad you're here. I've missed you." Jacob said and hugged Jackie again.
"I've missed you too." Jackie said with a warm smile.
"Hello Jamie, how are you today?" Jackie asked as Jamie approached.
"Okay I guess." Jamie said shyly as he stood before Jackie.
"Where's my hug?" Jackie asked firmly.
Jamie smiled and moved in for a hug.
"So what's got you in this mood today?" Jackie asked as she looked Jamie in the eyes.
"I guess I just, I don't know, I kinda did something I shouldn't have and I feel bad about it." Jamie said in a low voice.
"What's that? Maybe I can help you with it." Jackie said seriously.
"Well, I kinda looked into someone's mind and saw some stuff I shouldn't have." Jamie said with a look of shame.
"I'm sure that happens now and then." Jackie said softly.
"Not like this... I did it on purpose." Jamie said in shame.
"Then you need to tell whoever you did this to and apologize." Jackie said firmly.
Jamie got a look of horror on his face at the suggestion.
"That is, unless you like being in turmoil like this?" Jackie asked in her grandmotherly voice.
"No. I hate feeling this way." Jamie said as tears began to well up in his eyes.
"Then go make it better. I'm sure everything will be okay." Jackie said with assurance.
"Thank you, Aunt Jackie. I'll take care of it now." Jamie said softly.
"Come back and talk to me later and tell me how it went." Jackie said gently in return.
"I will. I've got to go find Kevin." Jamie said and hurried away.
* * * * *
"What was that all about?" Chip asked curiously as he watched Jamie run out into the yard.
"Jamie just needs to talk to someone named Kevin. I'm sure it will all work out." Jackie said, then noticed the group of boys swarming the snack table.
"Goodness! How many children do you have now?" Jackie asked in astonishment.
"Just the three... and Aaron, but he's more like a brother than a son." Chip said in thought.
"Just look at all of them." Jackie said with disbelief.
"Would you like some sweet tea Aunt Jackie?" Justy asked from his place at the table.
Jackie looked lovingly at Justy and said, "Yes, thank you. That would be nice."
Justy hopped up and ran to the snack table.
"He was really excited when he heard you were coming." JC said with a proud smile at Justy's good manners.
"He's grown so much since the last time I was here. I really need to visit more often." Jackie said distantly.
"Well, you know you're always welcomed, But the reason you were invited now is because we're both home for a few days. This time next week you'd be lucky to catch either of us at home." JC said honestly.
"I see what you mean. Well thank you for inviting me. The whole trip was worth it just to see that look on Chip's face." Jackie finished with a smile.
"I should have thought to have a camera handy for that." JC said with a chuckle.
"I'll deal with you later, Angel." Chip said with a glance at JC.
* * * * *
"Kevin, um, can I talk to you for a minute?" Jamie asked as he approached the brothers who were still hugging.
"Sure, what's up Jamie?" Kevin asked as he released Kenny.
"I, uh, kinda did something I shouldn't have." Jamie said with difficulty.
"Me too. What did you do?" Kevin asked with increasing concern at Jamie's remorseful stare at his feet.
"I kind of read your mind." Jamie mumbled.
"Yeah, so?" Kevin asked, waiting to find out what was making Jamie feel so bad.
"That's it. I read your mind without your permission. I'm not ever supposed to do that and I'm really sorry." Jamie said quickly.
"It's okay. You can read my mind whenever you want. Or if that makes you feel funny, just ask me whatever you want to know." Kevin said frankly.
Jamie looked deeply into Kevin's eyes to find that he was telling the truth.
"Oh. Um, thanks." Jamie said in a confused voice.
"My brother is something special isn't he?" Kenny said with a smile.
"Yeah, he really is. I guess I'm going to go get a snack now before they're all gone. Thanks for not being mad." Jamie said, then walked away, still trying to understand Kevin's attitude.
"I think you just freaked him out." Kenny said with a smile.
"I guess he's used to people having secrets. I've done stuff I'm not proud of, but it's not secret and I don't care if Jamie looks at my mind and stuff." Kevin said frankly.
"You'll have to teach me to be like that. I'd be really scared if I knew someone was looking around in my mind." Kenny said as he casually put an arm around his brother.
"Do you have stuff that you're ashamed of?" Kevin asked curiously.
"Sure. I think everyone does." Kenny said in thought.
"Well, the thing I figured out a long time ago is that no one cares about that stuff but you." Kevin said seriously.
"What do you mean?" Kenny asked with interest.
"Just think about the biggest, most embarrassing thing you ever did. I bet if you told everyone here, no one would care even a little bit." Kevin said frankly.
Kenny smiled and said, "You're right. But you can't ever call yourself stupid again. That's probably one of the smartest things I've ever heard."
"Maybe you just need to get out more." Kevin said with a shy smile.
* * * * *
"Uncle Chip, would it be okay if we used one of the rooms for a Clan meeting right now?" Cory asked quietly.
"Sure, why don't you use the family room. We're just going to relax for a little while before we start the cookout." Chip said casually.
"Okay. Thanks Uncle Chip." Cory said with a beaming smile before running back to the cluster of boys at the snack table.
* * * * *
Jacob ran up to Kenny and Kevin who were walking aimlessly around the yard.
"Hey guys, we're about to have a Clan meeting. Cory asked if you would invite Deacon and Lawrence." Jacob said, somewhat out of breath.
"Yeah. Sure, but why us?" Kenny asked curiously.
"Because you guys know them best. It'd be kind of weird for one of us to ask them. Sean and Cory are going to invite Reuben." Jacob said seriously.
"Okay. We'll do it now. Where are we having the meeting?" Kenny asked in concentration.
"The family room. The guys are just finishing their snacks then we're all heading inside." Jacob said quickly.
"Let's go then." Kenny said and started back toward the house with one arm still draped around his brother's shoulders.
* * * * *
"The Clan is about to have a meeting. Do you guys want to come with us?" Kenny asked with a gentle smile.
Lawrence looked at Deacon hesitantly, not understanding what they were being invited to do.
"Kenny and all his brothers are members of a Vulcan Clan. From what Kenny told me, they help kids who need it. In fact, Sean and Cory helped make it so Billy could be my guardian." Deacon said quietly to Lawrence.
"So why do they want us there?" Lawrence asked hesitantly.
"I don't' know. But there's one way to find out." Kevin said seriously.
"Yeah. I guess..." Lawrence said with apprehension.
"You can sit with us so you won't be alone." Kenny said with assurance.
"I'll be right beside you the whole time." Deacon said in a whisper into Lawrence's ear.
"Thanks Deke." Lawrence whispered in return.
* * * * *
Sean and Cory walked into the family room to find Reuben sitting and watching television while Ricardo slept on the couch.
"Hi Reuben. Do you have a minute to talk with me?" Cory asked gently.
"Sure. I already seen this show anyway." Reuben said as he turned his full attention to Cory.
"Well, Sean and I are part of a group, a Vulcan Clan." Cory said slowly.
"Yeah, Kevin told me all about it. You're the pate-tree-ark... or something like that. It means you're like the boss. Sean is the guy who remembers everyone's stories. You help kids who are being hurt and make sure they don't get hurt no more." Reuben said in thought.
Cory smiled and said, "That's right. I couldn't have explained it better. Right now, we're going to have a Clan meeting and if you think you'd like to, you could join us so you could help kids too."
Reuben thought seriously for a moment, then asked, "Is it just me, or can Ricardo join too?"
Cory looked at Sean with question and received a shrug in reply.
"Ricardo is a little young to understand what it means..." Cory began to say.
"I love my brother and if he can't join then neither will I." Reuben said firmly.
Cory smiled and said, "I tell you what. If you'll talk to your brother and explain the Clan to him, later I'll ask you both if you want to join us. If Ricardo wants to join us, he'll be welcomed."
"Okay. It's time for him to wake up anyway. I'll talk to him now." Reuben said seriously.
"Thanks Reuben. You just proved to me that you've got what it takes to be a part of the Clan." Cory said with a tender smile.
* * * * *
Kevin and Kenny walked into the family room on either side of Deacon and Lawrence, their expressions broadcasting their protectiveness of the pair.
Jake led the way to the couch where Reuben and Ricardo were sitting and motioned for Xain to sit with Edovina before he took his seat beside them.
"What are we going to do now?" Reuben asked with worry in his voice.
"We're just going to sit and listen. When the meeting starts, Sean is going to tell you what everyone's life was like before they joined the Clan. If that stuff starts to make you feel sad, just remember that everyone is here now and they all have families that love them now." Jake said softly.
"Is everyone ready?" Cory asked from beside the door.
Timmy started to pull off his shirt and had his pants half-way down when he noticed that he was the only one undressing.
"We're going to be having dinner after the Clan meeting, so we're going to stay dressed this time." Cory said with a smile.
"Daddy! That was mean." Timmy said gruffly as he pulled up his pants.
"Now that we've enjoyed the floor show, it's time for me to tell you how we all got to be here." Sean said with a tender smile at Timmy.
A screech sounded loudly in the quiet room, drawing everyone's attention to one of two eagles perched on the back of the couch.
"Duke says that Kevin and Kenny and Xain and Jake should tell their own part of the story. He says that Deacon and Lawrence need to hear it from them." Ricky said in a loud voice.
"Well, you heard the bird. Who wants to start?" Sean asked curiously.
Jake stood and said, "I'm the oldest, I will."
After a moment of thought, Jake turned to face Deacon and Lawrence and said, "My dad had a really bad temper. Mom would pick and nag at him, like she was trying to make it worse."
"When dad had been drinking, it got really bad. He'd slam doors and throw things and even put his fist through the wall a few times..." Jake trailed off in thought.
"He never hit me... I've been thinking about this stuff for two years and it never occurred to me that he never hit me. He'd scream at mom and slam things and trash the place, but no matter what else he did, he never once hit me when he was mad..." Jake said as he looked off into a distant place only he could see.
"The night that it happened... I don't even know what the fight was about. Mom was nagging and bitching and trying to drag dad into a fight. I was in my room, so I don't know exactly everything that happened. It went on for a couple hours I guess, both of them screaming, just getting madder and madder..." Jake said as he relived the memory.
"Then I heard the gunshots... three of them. Then it was quiet." Jake said with a vacant expression.
"I just sat there in my room, afraid to move a muscle. I was scared to breathe."
"Then the door opened and my dad walked in." Jake said as he blinked and a tear started falling down his cheek.
"All he said was, 'You need to go to a friends house for a while. Don't come back here tonight."
"He stuffed some of my clothes into my backpack and then he picked me up and carried me through the living room to the front door. I guess he was hiding my mom's body from me because I don't remember seeing it." Jake said distantly.
"I went..." Jake choked on a chuckle, and started again, "I went to my friend Manny's house that night."
Jake turned to look at Reuben and said, "I forgot that I stayed at your house that night Reuben. Mamacita didn't ask me what happened, she just took me in and let me stay with Manny that night."
"I was so out of it that I didn't know what to do. The next day when Manny went to school, I went to Daddy K and asked him what I should do. I mean, All I really knew about him is that a lot of people went to him when they wanted stuff. He was someone important who lived on our block, so I went to him and asked for his help." Jake said, gazing off into the distance again.
"Daddy K wouldn't 'give' me money. He used to say that something that you get without earning it ain't worth nothin. But what he did is gave me jobs doing stuff for him."
"I slept in the basement store room at first. I used the money I earned from Daddy K to get food and... well, I survived... barely." Jake said absently as he looked at Lawrence and Deacon to see how they were doing so far.
Jake smiled when he noticed that they were holding hands and looking on with their full attention devoted to him.
Hesitantly, Jake continued, "I needed more money. I didn't really want to, but I went to Daddy K to ask him if there was anything else I could do to earn more money."
"He called this guy named Moochie who was a few years older than me. I'd met him before but didn't really know him." Jake said with a disturbed look.
"Daddy K told me that Moochie was going to show me how to earn more money. He said that he knew it was going to be scary and was going to hurt, but that I'd be able to make enough money to be able to buy food and clothes and maybe even a few bucks to pay someone to rent a room if that's what I wanted." Jake said, then looked around the room at all the interested faces.
"You guys don't need to hear the details. I probably couldn't say it out loud anyway. Let's just say that Moochie broke me in and showed me what I needed to know to earn some money." Jake said, then turned his gaze to look at Lawrence and Deacon.
"I was a whore." He said frankly, not wanting there to be any possibility that they weren't getting it.
"Daddy K would set me up on 'dates' and get me good money. It worked out best that way because when Daddy K set it up, I knew I was going to get paid and I didn't have to worry about it being a cop or a social worker."
"When the money started coming in regular... I don't know, I guess I felt lousy or something. I can't really tell you why now, but for some reason I started smoking weed." Jake said in thought.
"When I tried that and it felt kinda good, I tried other things to make me feel even better..." Jake said in thought.
"I can't even tell you all that story, because I don't remember most of it, and what I do remember doesn't make much sense. I just got stoned... a lot." Jake drifted off, then took a deep breath and continued.
"I didn't get so messed up that I couldn't work and I tried to stay in my right mind enough to keep an eye on..." Jake glanced at Kevin and received a nod.
"Well, to keep an eye on Kevin here. He wasn't far from being in my situation, so I did my best to see that he wouldn't have to do the things I did and turn out like me." Jake said as he looked back to Deacon and Lawrence.
"Kev and Ken can tell you their part of the story about how these guys rescued us. But for my part, all you need to know is that now I'm clean. I have a family..." Jake said and looked at Xain and Edovina.
"I have a daughter and a fiancée." Jake said with a warm smile, then turned to face Lawrence and Deacon again.
"I have brothers, cousins, uncles, a Dad, and a grandmother. As horrible and messed up as my life was before, I'd go through every single bit of it again if I was going to end up here." Jake finished with a gentle smile.
Jake sat back in his seat and received a one armed hug from Xain from one side, and a two armed hug from Reuben on the other.
"Thanks guys." Jake whispered shyly.
"Edovina needs her sa-mekh." Xain said quietly as he handed the baby into Jake's arms.
"I am next oldest." Xain said as he stood.
Xain turned to face Deacon and Lawrence and said in a neutral voice, "I am Xain, son of Solak of the house of Suvak of Vulcan."
"I am also Xain Thompson, the second eldest son of Allen Thompson." Xain said with an introspective look.
"We, of Vulcan, are defined as a people by our logic and emotional control." Xain said carefully.
"We, of Earth, are defined by our passion and determination."
"From my first awareness of myself, I have held the belief that I was imperfect because I did not conform to the Vulcan world around me." Xain said with increasing difficulty.
"That which came naturally to those around me was elusive to me. The methods that served to purge emotions in others only caused me disappointment and distress."
"Initially, I believed that the source of my distress was due to my mixed parentage. I believed that I experienced a sense of isolation because there were no others like me to guide my way." Xain said in thought.
"He who is my Grandfather enlightened me on this point. He referred to me as 'the abomination' rather than by my name or station in his family." Xain said as his expression grew dark.
"It was then that I realized that I am what Humans call 'a freak'. I am a Vulcan without proper emotional control. I am a Human without the ability to express emotions properly. I am the combination of two unique species, without the ability to adapt to the culture of either." Xain said as his eyes began to shine with unformed tears.
"With years of evidence to prove the point, he who is my father reluctantly accepted that I am unable to adapt to Vulcan culture."
"However, when I arrived on Earth, my inability to assimilate the language or understand the culture proved to be more of a hindrance than could be overcome. The evidence seemed to bear out the assumption that I was unable to adapt to Human culture."
"Logically, creatures that do not have the ability to adapt to their surroundings should become extinct." Xain said as he looked into Deacon's eyes.
Xain waited for a long minute as he collected his thoughts.
Finally, in a low voice, Xain said, "The members of Clan Short became aware of me and requested that I be permitted to join Clan Short to design and maintain a database."
"He who is my father found this to be acceptable due to the fact that Clan Short is of the house of Surak, possibly the most respected house on Vulcan."
"I followed the instructions of my father and took the shuttle that Clan Short had arranged for me. I mistakenly believed that Clan Short, of the house of Surak would be composed of only those Vulcans who had mastered the ultimate emotional control." Xain said as he turned his gaze to Lawrence.
"It was my expectation that shortly after my arrival, they would recognize me as the flawed being that I am and become aware of my inability to adapt. Logic would then suggest that they should expel me from their Clan." Xain said quietly.
"In the spaceport that day I met the man who I would eventually call 'Dad'. Without knowing it, he told me that he would adapt to me and my needs. My inadequate English was not a concern and he was willing to speak Vulcan to accommodate me."
Xain turned to look at Kevin, and betrayed a tender smile before saying, "Likewise, my new brothers were willing to adapt to my needs. Kevin would translate the literal meaning of my spoken words, Jake would interpret the meanings of my statements and Kenny was my example of normalcy in the new environment."
"It is due to the actions of Clan Short that my existence is anything more than a series of frustrations and failures. And as my T'hy'la so eloquently said, 'I'd go through every single bit of it again if I was going to end up here'." Xain said, doing his best estimation of Jake's Chicago accent as he quoted his words.
Xain took his seat again and was promptly pulled into a one armed hug by Jake.
Deacon gently moved to put an arm around Lawrence.
* * * * *
"I'll go first if you want." Kenny said quietly.
"Yeah." Kevin said, lost in his own feelings.
Kenny stood and looked around the room to see all the boys watching him.
Finally he turned to face Lawrence and Deacon and a resolved look came over his face.
"I never had to live on the street like Jake. And I never had to feel like I didn't fit in like Xain. I grew up with my Dad. Ever since I can remember it was me and him." Kenny said with a distant look.
"I loved my Dad so much. I don't think there was ever a day in my life when he didn't tell me how much he loved me. He'd take me places and do things with me and... I guess I could go on all night telling you about how great he was." Kenny finished sadly.
"About three years ago, Dad found out that he had HIV. I'd met Pop, Allen, a few times before that, but that night was the first time I saw him as something more than just a friend of Dad's."
"Allen was the one who explained what HIV was. He told me because he wanted me to understand why there were some things we were going to have to do different around the house. It was all little stuff that didn't bother me anyway. But he talked to me like I was, I don't know, like a grown-up or something." Kenny said in thought.
"At first when Allen moved in, I was worried that Dad wouldn't love me as much or something like that. But I guess Dad could tell what I was thinking or something because he sat me down and told me that he loved me just as much as ever, and said that he thought that Allen might even love me a little bit too." Kenny said with a smile.
"I guess Pop had lived with us about a year when Dad got the news that his HIV was officially AIDS..." Kenny said as his mood shifted to darkness.
"I can't tell you everything because thinking about those two years still hurts too much." Kenny said as tears started welling up in his eyes.
"I'll just tell you the one, worst thing... I got to watch him get weaker and sicker every day. My big strong wonderful Dad who could handle anything or anyone just got sicker and sicker and there was nothing I could do to help him." Kenny said with tears flowing down his face.
"But he never stopped loving me. The last things he said to me before he died were 'I love you' and 'Go find your brother'." Kenny said before he broke down into full tears and went to Kevin to hold him as he cried.
After a minute to get Kenny calmed down, Kevin stood and walked to the middle of the room.
"I guess you can look at me and know most of what happened to me." Kevin said with strength.
"My momma didn't feed me much or really care about me too much." Kevin said as he tried to think about what to say next.
"I didn't know why Jake looked out for me the way he did, but I'm glad he did. I probably would've starved to death or been out whoring if it wasn't for him taking care of me." Kevin said with a smile at Jake.
"I mean, I dug through the trash looking for food sometimes and I stole some food from the stores a few times. But that was when there just wasn't no other way to get something to eat." Kevin said in thought.
"I guess if I had to pick the one best thing about being here instead of there, it'd be that there are people here who love me no matter what." Kevin said as he looked around the room.
"I did some stuff today and acted really stupid. I fell in love with someone whose already in love with someone else." Kevin said seriously.
"I acted like a kid... worse than that, I acted like a spoiled brat." Kevin said as he looked directly at Justy.
To Kevin's surprise, Justy gave him a small smile in response.
"Anyway, I did some stuff and said some stuff that was really wrong and if I was back in Chicago and acted like that I'd get beat twelve shades of blue. But everyone who I was bad to here just said that they forgive me and that they still love me." Kevin said frankly.
"My clan brothers made me see that what I was doing was wrong. I'm grateful for them saving my life and getting me out of Chicago and finding me a great Poppa. But... it's hard for me to put into words. You could've just done all that stuff and left me with Poppa. But instead, you made me one of you, a member of Clan Short. It's more than just words. We call each other brothers. Jamie and Justy showed me today that we really are brothers." Kevin said with difficulty.
"It's easy to call someone your brother when you're happy with them. That's the easiest thing in the world. But when you're screwing up, it's your real brother who's going to be there to tell you about it and help you make it right. And it's your real brother whose going to tell you when he's screwed up and take the chance that you'll be mad. You're brothers because stuff like that won't change the fact that you'll still love each other and still be brothers when it's all over with." Kevin said firmly.
After a long moment of silence, Kevin shyly said, "I guess I didn't do such a good job with my history."
Sean smiled and said, "If you don't mind, I'll just fill in the parts you skipped over. But for the record, what you just said needed to be said. We all call each other brothers, but it's not very often that someone can explain what that means."
"Thanks for your stories guys. Kick back now and let Sean do his historian thing." Cory said with a gentle smile.
Kevin nodded as he took his seat beside Lawrence.