CSU: A New Door Opens

Chapter 04

"Take a deep breath Rory, I'm going to jump in." Allen said in a playful voice.

I glanced at him quickly and understood what he meant. I took a deep breath and held it.

Allen started running toward the pool, then jumped with me still in his arms.

We landed in the water with a huge splash and then went under.

Maybe it's because I was surprised or maybe it's just because I trust Allen, but for whatever reason, I wasn't scared a bit. It was exciting and fun and the perfect way to start a day of swimming.

When we surfaced, I heard Kevin's voice asking, "Poppa, what's in here?"

"You know, I don't think I ever looked in there. Can you open it?" Allen asked as he guided us to the edge of the pool.

"Lookit!" Kevin said with excitement.

"What did you find 'Little One'?" Allen asked in a loving tone.

"All kinds of stuff." Kevin said as he started looking through things in the small cabinet.

"Kenny, do you think you can give me a better description of what your brother found?" Allen asked with a chuckle.

"It's all kinds of pool stuff. There's beach balls and inner tubes and all kinds of stuff like that." Ken said happily.

"I guess Chip must have forgotten that he left them here." Allen said, sounding uncertain.

"Rory, which would you like better? A raft or an inner tube?" Ken asked with excitement.

I felt an involuntary smile come over my face. His first thought was of me. I mean, it's not pity, it's really not. I can tell.

"I think an inner tube would be fun." I finally said.

"I'll blow it up for you." Ken said happily and carried the deflated inner tube to the side of the pool right by where Allen and I were.

I noticed that Kevin was still looking in the cabinet and asked, "What are you going to get Kevin?"

"I don't know. I have to unfold some of them to see what they are." Kevin said happily as he unfolded an inflatable raft.

I don't know if Kevin is sick or what, but he sure isn't unhappy. Watching his excitement at his discovery as he is going through the pool toys is amazing to me... It feels like forever since I was... carefree, I guess. I don't know the right word to describe it. It's something only a kid has, and when he loses it, it's gone forever...

* * * * *

"It'll be... ready... in just... a minute." Ken said as he held the nozzle of the inner tube away from his mouth to speak.

"Do you want me to help you with that Kenny?" Allen asked as he adjusted his hold on me.

"No... I want to... do it... for Rory." Ken said as firmly as he could in his breathless state.

"Alright, but take a break if you need to. We're not in any rush." Allen said, and I could tell from the sound of his voice that he was smiling.

"In fact," Allen said in a quieter voice as he started swimming us to the other side of the pool, "While Kenny is busy, maybe you could help me with something?"

"Sure. What can I do?" I asked as I turned to look at Allen's face.

"Well, it's a two part plan. When Jake and Xain get out here, I'd like your help keeping them out here. Juana and I are planning a surprise for them, but we need to keep them outside for it to work." Allen said with a mischievous smile.

"Yeah, I'll help." I said immediately. I don't know what surprise he's planning, but whatever it is, I know it's going to be something great.

"Part two is going to be up to you. Juana is going to let me know when it's set up. I'll get everyone out of the pool to go inside. That's when I want you to ask Jake to show you his room." Allen said with a smile.

"Okay, I can do that... will you tell me what you're doing?" I asked in a whisper.

"Only if you promise not to tell anyone else... not even Kenny. Do you promise?" Allen asked seriously.

I nodded firmly and even gave him my serious 'I mean it' look.

"Good. I arranged last night to get Jake and Xain a new bed. It's going to be delivered soon. I think the boys will be surprised." Allen said with excitement.

"So... you're buying one bed for both of them?" I asked cautiously, wanting to be sure I was understanding him correctly.

"Yes. Right now they each have a twin bed, but they've been sharing Jake's. With the new queen size bed, they'll be able to sleep more comfortably." Allen said with a smile.

I think this adds to my 'Heaven' theory.

"Jake and Xain are lucky to have a dad like you." I said before I could even think about it.

"I'm the lucky one Rory. My life was empty before the boys came along. I hope you'll have lots of kids someday and be able to have this feeling." Allen said as his hold on me transformed into a hug.

"I probably won't ever have kids. But I think I understand what you mean." I said in a distant voice as I remembered some of my darker thoughts from the past few months.

"Why do you think you won't have kids?" Allen asked curiously as he turned me to face him.

"Well, the disease or whatever you want to call it that's wrong with me, it's hereditary. If I had kids, I'd probably pass it on to them." I said in thought.

"Maybe you'll meet someone with kids or you can adopt." Allen said seriously.

"I guess... I'm just afraid I'll never be well enough or strong enough to do something like being a father. I've been sick and getting worse for so long that I finally stopped dreaming about getting better. I don't see a future for me except of being helpless and depending on everyone around me to take care of me... I guess I've forgotten how to dream..." I said before I could think. The words were just spilling out and I was helpless to stop them.

"It's okay Rory. With any luck, Solak will be able to do something to help you tomorrow. You don't have to hope or dream or wish or do anything else. I'm sure that the boys and I will be doing enough hoping and dreaming on your behalf."

I snuggled into Allen's embrace and soaked in the warmth and comfort.

Heaven, definitely heaven.

* * * * *

"Hey Ken, are you okay?" Jake asked as he led Xain out of the house.

Jake was wearing a speedo swimsuit like Kevin's, but red instead of blue. I guess with the baggy type of clothes Jake wears I didn't notice how skinny he was before.

"All... most... done." Ken said in little gasps.

"Really Kenny, you should take a break." Allen said with concern in his voice.

"Yeah Ken, I can finish that for you." Jake said as he sat beside Ken.

I don't think Jake looks 'sick' skinny, but he's really thin.

"No!" Ken said in a gasp, then hurried to continue blowing up the inner tube before anyone could stop him.

Xain on the other hand is... normal. His beige swim trunks make his naturally tan skin look even darker. He isn't fat, he isn't skinny, he's not muscled, but he's not flabby, he's just... normal.

"Poppa?" Kevin called quietly from the cabinet.

"Just a second Kevin. Kenny, take a break." Allen said firmly.

"Done." Ken said with a whisper of accomplishment and scooted the inner tube toward me.

"Thanks Ken." I said, barely able to believe Ken's thoughtful gesture.

"Uh huh." Ken said semi-coherently, then laid back and closed his eyes as he tried to catch his breath.

"Poppa, what's this?" Kevin asked from the cabinet.

I looked at Allen curiously as I felt him shaking, then realized that it was laughter.

"That's an air compressor to blow up the pool toys." Allen said with a chuckle.

Ken turned his head slightly and looked at me with one eye.

"Allen, Ken went to a lot of trouble to blow this up for me. Would you help me get on the inner tube?" I asked seriously, hoping Allen could understand how much it meant to me.

Allen stopped laughing and said, "You're right. Xain will you put the inner tube in the water and hold it steady? Jake, jump in the pool and help me get Rory onto the tube."

A moment later, Jake, Xain and Allen were working together to get me up onto the inner tube.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Ken watching us with a peaceful smile.

After a lot of horsing around and splashing, I was finally sat in a relaxed position with my legs draped over one side of the tube and my butt sunk down in the water.

"Are you comfortable Rory?" Jake asked me in a friendly tone as he made sure I wasn't about to slip through the middle of the tube.

"I'm fine. This is great, thanks for helping me." I said, unable to keep from looking at Ken as I said it.

"Poppa, can you help me?" Kevin asked from beside the cabinet where he looked like he was trying to figure out how to work the compressor.

"I'll be right there." Allen said as he walked toward the ladder to get out of the pool.

* * * * *

I glanced away from Ken and noticed that Jake was watching me.

"You like him don't you." Jake said in a low voice, so only I could hear.

"I like all you guys." I said quickly.

Jake looked at me with a 'yeah, right' expression and waited. He wasn't going to let me get away with it.

"Yeah, I like him a lot." I whispered to Jake, feeling a tingle in my stomach at making the admission.

"Take it slow Rory, I don't know if Ken feels that way about you." Jake said seriously.

"I don't know either..." I whispered in thought.

Jake got a distant look, then started looking around the pool area with panic in his eyes.

"Dad, where's Vina?" Jake asked suddenly.

Allen looked up from the inflatable raft that he and Kevin were blowing up and said, "Juana and Mona took Edovina and the boys to the store while we were changing. They should be back anytime now."

Jake let out a sigh of relief, then looked at me shyly.

Jake loves his daughter so much. I've never loved anyone like that, not even close.

"I don't even know why I was scared. I know Dad wouldn't put her down and forget her somewhere... I just..."

"You can't help it. Jake, you're just worried about your daughter." I said gently.

"Yeah." Jake said shyly, then looked at Xain who was sitting on the edge of the pool with his feet in the water.

"Will you be okay if I leave you here for a minute? Xain doesn't know how to swim and I want to show him the basics." Jake asked casually.

"Yeah, I'll yell if I start slipping through the middle of this thing." I said as I looked into his eyes.

"I bet you will."

* * * * *

As I floated on the water, I watched the family enjoying the pool.

Allen and Kevin were blowing up pool toys, all of them I think.

Jake was showing Xain how to tread water and some basic swimming strokes.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement and watched as Ken sat up, then slipped into the water.

"You all better now?" I asked as he approached.

"Yeah, it was like the whole world tilted for a few minutes." Ken said with a genuine smile.

"Thanks for blowing this up for me. I just thought someone was going to have to carry me the whole time we were in the pool." I said as I looked deeply into his eyes.

"If you want, I could go ahead and put some sun block on you. Your skin is really light, I don't want you to get a sunburn." Ken said in a soft voice.

"Thanks Ken, I burn really easy." I said, matching his soft tone.

In one swift graceful movement, Ken took off swimming for the other side of the pool.

A moment later, Ken was back at my side with a bottle of sun screen.

"Um, I guess I should start with your face..." Ken said hesitantly.

"Okay." I said as I started to smile.

I flinched at the first touch of the sunscreen on my skin. The stuff was cold, but after Ken started rubbing it in, it felt really REALLY nice.

His touch was gentle, like he was afraid of hurting me.

After coating my face and ears, Ken started working down my neck and to my chest.

"Um... Ken..." I said hesitantly as I looked down to see a tent starting to form in my swim trunks.

Ken followed my gaze, then said, "It's okay Rory." then in a whisper he continued, "I've got one too."

I tilted my head back and tried to focus on something else as his hands worked down my sides, then started to coat my belly.

"Rory... um, if you'll keep look-out, I could um..." Ken said, then dragged one finger just under the edge of the waist band of my trunks.

"Kay." I said, temporarily back in the wordless state that I had arrived in.

I watched as Kevin and Allen were working as a team to blow up the last of the pool toys. Jake had his back to us, he was holding Xain up in the water while Xain tried to get his swimming stroke just right.

Ken's hand slipped under the waist of my swim trunks and I felt the cool sunscreen come in contact with some very hot skin.

"Is that okay?" Ken asked with concern as his hand explored.

"Very okay. But I'd like to do it to you too." I said seriously, before glancing around again to make sure no one was watching.

"I've never done this before..." Ken said, then his eyes locked with mine.

Ken's hand slowly slipped out of my swim trunks as he moved in closer to me, almost as if he were going to climb on top of me.

"I really like you Ken." I said in a whisper.

"I really like you too Rory." Ken said as he moved within inches of my face.

"Kenny? Is Rory okay?" Allen asked with concern from the edge of the pool.

DAMMIT! Not again!

I looked away from Ken's eyes to find everyone at the pool watching us.

Ken glanced around, then said, "I'm about to find out."

I looked at Ken with question, and was surprised when he moved in for a kiss.

Heaven. This absolutely, positively has to be heaven.

Ken's kiss was gentle, barely a touch against my lips.

Without thought, I put my hand on the back of his head and guided him to make the kiss more forceful.

I don't know if we were like that for a second or for half an hour. I guess it doesn't matter.

All I know is that for an instant, everything was right.

My condition, being gay, looking like a spray-painted clown... it was all gone. For that moment taken out of time, I was completely happy.

Finally the kiss broke and Ken pulled back enough to look in my eyes.

"I think I love you." I said in a whisper.

"I think I love you too." Ken said with relief, wonder and joy.

"Kenny?" Allen asked hesitantly.

"He's fine... great in fact." Ken said with a playful glance at me.

I couldn't help but giggle at the statement.

Peace. Joy. Freedom.

* * * * *

"Kenny, I need to talk to Rory for a minute." Allen said in a firm tone that worried me a little.

"Okay Pop." Ken said reluctantly.

Allen swam to my side as Ken swam to the other side of the pool to watch us.

"Rory, I'm responsible for you while you're here. It's my job to make sure that you don't get hurt." Allen said with concern.

"He didn't kiss me that hard." I said honestly.

Allen smiled and said, "That's not what I mean. I'm talking about emotionally. It's hard for me to explain, but... since there aren't any girls here and we're all here in the pool, I can see how a boy your age could get confused..."

Okay, I've seen it in the cartoons and heard it described in stories and stuff. But I don't remember ever having the feeling like a light bulb just lit up over my head before. But that was the best way to describe what happened. It really felt like a light came on and I went from being oblivious to completely understanding what he meant in an instant.

"Allen, I've known that I'm gay for about two and a half years." I said seriously.

A smile came across Allen's face as he said, "I'm really glad to hear that."

"I know I'm kind of small, and the wheelchair makes people think of me as a little kid, but I'm fourteen. I've had months alone in my room to think about this stuff and I'm not confused about it at all." I said in almost a pleading voice, hoping that I was explaining it so Allen could understand.

"Okay. I can accept that. Just be careful, I'd hate for you to get your heart broken." Allen said with concern.

I smiled up at Allen and said, "I'd hate for you to get your heart broken too. But if we aren't willing to take chances, what's the point?"

Allen smiled and spun the inner tube half-way round in the water, then gave me a quick hug.

Before the hug had lasted a second, Ken swam up to us and said, "Pop, get your own. Rory's mine."

"I am?" I asked playfully.

"If you want to be." Ken said, now looking shy... By the way. Shy looks REALLY good on Ken.

"I will if you will." I said and couldn't help but let out a mischievous grin.

Ken moved in and gave me another kiss, this one a lot longer and more confident.

Allen must have swam away, or drowned, or been abducted by aliens or something.

Don't know.

Don't care.

All I know is that it was just me and Ken in that side of the pool.

We were kissing, hugging and saying more with our eyes than we did with our voices.

"I do love you." Ken said firmly as he looked into my eyes.

"I love you too Ken." I said, lost in wonder at the joy I was feeling.

* * * * *

"Well Rory, good for you." Mona said as she walked out to the pool area dressed in a one piece bathing suit.

"Thanks." I said as I squeezed one of Ken's arms that was wrapped around me.

Mona walked around the pool to the deep end, then dived in.

A few seconds later she surfaced beside us and gave Ken and I each a firm hug.

"So you guys are 'official', right?" Mona asked with excitement.

"That's right, we're boyfriends." Ken said proudly.

"I'm glad. I thought I was getting that vibe from you two earlier, but I didn't know if you'd connect. Has Allen had the safe sex talk with you two yet?" Mona asked seriously.

"No..." I said hesitantly.

Mona shook her head and rolled her eyes as she muttered, "You'd think a gay man would have better sense..."

"Grandma, I've never been with anyone before..." I said, then glanced at Ken with question.

Ken quickly said, "Me neither."

"So there's like, zero chance of getting anything... right?" I asked, knowing I was right, but wanting to assure Mona.

"Not exactly." Mona said in thought.

I looked at Mona with genuine surprise.

"Kenny's father had AIDS. I know from what Allen told me that he was very careful to protect Kenny, but that's something to think about." Mona said seriously.

I looked at Ken with question.

"Grandma is right. Even though I'm sure I don't have it... I can't say the chance is zero." Ken said with regret and a little fear in his eyes as he looked at me, obviously fearing rejection.

I looked up at Ken with love and admiration.

"Ken, I love you. It doesn't matter to me at all." I said, trying to be assuring.

"Kenny, I think you should talk to your Pop about getting a blood test, just to be on the safe side. As I understand the process, you have to have a series of tests that all come back negative before they can say you are absolutely virus free. There may be a faster way now with the new technology. Either way, it would probably be best to save the 'unsafe' things until you know 100% for sure." Mona said with concern.

"We will Grandma. I promise." Ken said with a smile.

"Do you know about safe sex?" Mona asked cautiously.

"Yeah, Dad and Pop both had the talk with me a long time ago." Ken said seriously.

"Good. Too many people are afraid to talk to their children about the reality of sexually transmitted diseases. In our modern times we don't have the luxury of letting kids discover sex on their own because there are things going around out there that are incurable and deadly." Mona said firmly.

"You sounded just like my dad when you said that." Ken said with a chuckle at Mona.

"Oh Lord, I could have gone all year without hearing that." Mona said dramatically.

Ken giggled and hugged me from behind.

"You two should probably be exploring each other's tonsils right now. I'm going to go talk with Allen and Kevin." Mona said with a smile before gracefully swimming away.

* * * * *

"Ricardo, no running." Juana said firmly as she walked out of the house at a slow pace with Edovina in her arms.

The little boy slowed down, but walked quickly with Reuben to the pool.

"I like your swimming trunks Ricardo." Ken said with a smile from behind me.

"Gamma got'm for me." Ricardo said happily as he slipped into the shallow end of the pool.

"Momma and Grandma took us to the store to get swimming suits for all of us." Reuben said as he climbed down the ladder into the pool.

"Jake, if you will take Edovina, I have some things to do in the house." Juana said from the poolside.

"Thank you Mamacita." Jake said as he accepted his daughter into his arms.

"T'hy'la, come look." Jake said with amusement.

I tried to see, but Jake was turned about half away from me and I couldn't see her.

"Wanna go see?" Ken asked with a smile.

I nodded and smiled in return.

In just a few seconds, Ken had floated me over to everyone else in the water.

"Isn't that just the cutest thing you've ever seen?" Allen asked happily.

I looked at the baby and saw that she was wearing a teeny tiny, itty bitty one piece bathing suit that was exactly the same color as Mona's. Her little pair of sunglasses made the look complete.

Jake cautiously lowered the baby into the water, watching for her reaction.

Edovina got a strange look on her face, like she was about to cry, then confusion, as if she were trying to decide if she like the feeling of being wet or not.

Finally she let out a giggle and slapped her hands on the water's surface causing a splash.

"Now that she's accepted the water, no mud-puddle in Florida will be safe." Mona said with a chuckle.

"It's okay Vina. You can play in the mud puddles anytime you want." Jake said as he gently bobbed her in the water.

"Kenny, give me ride?" Ricardo asked hopefully.

Ken looked at me with indecision, like he didn't want to leave me even for a minute, but he didn't want to disappoint Ricardo.

"Go ahead." I said to Ken gently.

He smiled at me, then turned so Ricardo could climb on his back.

"You look different." I heard a voice say from nearly behind me.

I paddled with my one hand and turned my inner tube so I could see Reuben looking at me consideringly.

"Maybe because I'm wet and dressed different." I said as I looked into Reuben's eyes.

Reuben tilted his head slightly in thought, then said, "You're not sick anymore."

I looked down at my skinny little legs that weren't really good for anything and said, "Xain helped me a lot, but I'm still a long way from being all better."

Reuben moved closer to look deeply into my eyes and said, "You're all better inside where you were really hurt."

I looked at Reuben curiously and was surprised when he broke into a smile and hugged me.

"You're my cousin now Rory." Reuben said happily.

"Kay." I said hesitantly as I accepted the hug.

"Do you want to go over to Xain and Jake?" Reuben asked with a smile as he pulled back to look at my face.

"Um, sure." I said uncertainly, trying to understand the young boy.

I mean, one minute he's a normal little kid, the next minute he's like Yoda or something.

I glanced over to see that Ken was at the far end of the pool, pushing off from the side with Ricardo on his back.

The smile and giggles of delight from Ricardo was fun to watch, but the joyful smile on Ken's face...

Yeah, okay. Allen was right... Someday...

* * * * *

"Can Rory and I watch Edovina for a while?" Reuben asked Jake hopefully.

Jake looked at Xain and received an almost imperceptible nod.

"Would you mind Rory?" Jake asked cautiously.

"No, not as long as I have Reuben to help me." I said as I glanced at Reuben at my side.

Reuben's chest puffed out a little in pride at my statement.

Jake noticed and smiled as he placed Edovina on my chest.

"I'm gonna push Rory and Edovina over there and back. Is that okay?" Reuben asked Jake hopefully.

"That's fine. Just be careful not to tip them over." Jake said in a fatherly tone.

Reuben carefully took hold of the inner tube and began to kick slowly, gently moving the three of us through the water.

I looked over at Ken to see him watching us.

I waved at him and he waved back with a loving smile.

Ricardo noticed and started waving wildly.

"Reuben, wave to your brother." I said as I watched the little boy waving frantically.

Reuben looked at Ricardo and started chuckling before he returned the wave.

"He loves you a lot." I said as I turned to look at Reuben.

"I love him too. Manny and Lupe are gone so I'm the only one who can take care of him." Reuben said as he put his finger out for Edovina to grab.

"Was that your brother and sister?" I asked softly, sensing that Reuben mentioned them, hoping I would ask.

"Yeah. Manny was my big brother. He always took care of me like I do for Ricardo now. He was killed. Lupe is my big sister... she's Edovina's momma." Reuben said as he played something like tug-of-war with Edovina. He would pull his hand away a little, then allow her to pull his hand back to her.

"What happened to Lupe?" I asked quietly, not knowing if I really wanted to know, but feeling that Reuben needed to talk about it.

"When Lupe was pregnant with Edovina, Momma made Lupe stay home and stop smoking and drinking and all the other stuff she liked doing until Edovina was born." Reuben said in thought.

"Okay." I whispered, prompting him to continue as I sort of played with Edovina's peach-fuzz hair.

"Lupe got out a couple times, but when she sobered up, she came back and said she was wrong and she was sorry and she didn't want to hurt her baby." Reuben rambled, just speaking his thoughts as they came.

"After Edovina was born, Lupe was gone for about two weeks. And when she came back she was really sick and smelled bad." Reuben continued in a distant voice.

"She kept going out and using and came back home when she used too much and got sick."

"She started getting red bumps and sores all over her body and she had a couple teeth fall out. That was right before we moved here. Momma said Lupe could come with us and get help so she didn't have to be sick no more, but then Lupe ran away and... and that's all. I don't know if she's okay or not." Reuben said in a desperate voice.

"Come here." I said and held out my one working arm.

Reuben moved to my side and I pulled him into a hug as well as I could.

"I have an older sister too. Her name is Corina. If Corina did what your sister did, I'd be worried and scared for her too. There's not much you can do but... hope... and dream." I said, nearly choking on the words.

"Ricardo says I should pray..." Reuben trailed off.

"You probably should." I said in a low voice.

"But it doesn't work. When Manny was shot, I prayed a lot and he still died." Reuben said as he looked at me with helplessness and question in his eyes.

"No, it doesn't always work, but sometimes it does. And I think that sometimes you don't get help unless you ask for it." I said as I finally released Reuben from the hug.

"Really?" Reuben asked cautiously.

"Yeah. This morning I prayed and asked for help. Now I'm here, and you said it yourself, I'm not sick anymore." I said softly.

"Thank you Rory. I think before we go to bed tonight, I'm going to pray with Ricardo." Reuben said as he hugged me again.

"That sounds good Reuben, but for right now, why don't you swim me over to Ken and Ricardo. They look like they're taking a break over there." I said as I pointed.

Reuben got behind me and started moving us across the pool.

* * * * *

"I believe it is proper at this time to voice my approval of my brother's choice of mate." Xain said as Reuben pushed me to the shallow end of the pool where everyone was gathered.

"Thank you Xain, I was thinking that you and Jake are a perfect match too." I said as I glanced at Ken who was trying to convince Ricardo to get off his back.

"Reuben, do you think Ricardo would like to play with some of those pool toys?" I asked as I pointed over to the pile of inflatable toys beside the pool.

"Those are Kevin's. I saw him blowing them up with Uncle Allen." Reuben said cautiously.

I saw Kevin a few feet away and asked, "Kevin, are all those floaty toys yours or can anyone play with them?"

"They're not mine, Uncle Chip left them here for all of us." Kevin said seriously.

"See Reuben. They're for all of us. Why don't you take Ricardo to pick out which toys he'd like to play with?" I asked, hoping it sounded like a good idea.

"Yeah, thanks Rory." Reuben said quickly and hurried to Ricardo.

"T'hy'la, Edovina has fallen asleep. Perhaps we should take her indoors to prevent injury from overexposure to the sun." Xain said seriously.

"If you'll hand me the sun screen, I could just put some on her. That way she can stay out here with us." I said, hoping I was convincing in my argument.

After a moment of consideration, Xain said, "Edovina's natural darker pigmentation in combination with sunscreen should be sufficient protection."

I accepted the sunscreen from Xain and squirted a line of it down my bad arm, then handed the bottle back to him.

"I wish to thank you for attending to the needs of my daughter." Xain said seriously while I rubbed sunscreen into the baby's back.

"It makes sense for me to watch her since I can't get up and move around. Besides, I really like having her with me. She's a good baby." I said as I rubbed sunscreen onto Edovina's legs.

"From the research I have done on the subject, I believe Edovina possesses a naturally contented demeanor. I believe it to be a hereditary trait passed to her by Jake." Xain said in thought.

I looked over Edovina to see that I hadn't missed any spots, then said, "You might be right, or maybe she's just happy because she knows that she's loved."

"That is a possibility." Xain said with a gentle smile.

"Thanks for sending Reuben to get Ricardo. I don't think I could have told him 'no', and what's worse, I think he knows it." Ken said as he swam to my side and put an arm around me.

"Someday you're going to spoil our kids rotten." I said before I could even think about it.

Ken looked at me with shock, then smiled.

"I mean..." I began to say when Ken interrupted.

"You mean that you've already decided that you want for us to have kids." Ken said, obviously thrilled with the idea.

"Yeah, that's what I mean." I said with relief at Ken's reaction.

"Was your meeting an instance of the Human peculiarity known as 'love at first sight'?" Xain asked curiously as Jake and Mona swam over to join us.

"More like 'Lust at first sight' for me, I took one look at Ken and couldn't get over how cute he was." I said with a glance at Ken.

"I think it was 'Like at first sight' for me. I took one look into Rory's eyes and felt like he was someone I could talk to and listen to and really care about." Kenny said with a smile.

"But you couldn't understand me." I said carefully.

"I would have found a way." Ken said sheepishly.

"I bet you would have." I said, as I remembered how Ken took every opportunity to be with me and try to understand me after we met.

"Xain, you said that 'love at first sight' is a human peculiarity. How does it work on Vulcan?" Ken asked as he reluctantly looked away from me.

"Typically, the eldest members of the family arrange for the logical pairings of the younger members with other families while they are still children. The children typically attain their education and become installed in their professions, then the union is consummated at the onset of pon'farr." Xain said without emotion.

"Does that mean that you have a fiancée waiting for you to be old enough back on Vulcan?" Ken asked with concern.

"No. He who is my grandfather believed that for one of mixed parentage to marry was illogical. He holds the belief that for those of differing species to intermarry disrupts the genetic progress achieved by millennia of logical matings." Xain said, and there was no missing the pain in his voice.

"Good. He did us a favor then. I can't imagine anyone else who I'd want to be my T'hy'la." Jake said as he pulled Xain into a firm hug.

"I concur." Xain said as he hugged Jake in return.

Ken moved behind me and hugged me gently, careful not to jiggle me around too much and wake Edovina.

I noticed movement at the house and saw Allen talking to Juana by the utility room door.

After a moment of talking, Allen walked to the pool and said, "It's time for Kevin's milkshake. Juana and I were talking and decided that it sounded like a good idea for everyone. What do you think?"

"Sounds good." I said happily, knowing the greater reason for getting us out of the pool.

"Well, everyone get out of the pool and come inside out of the sun for a while. Juana should have the milkshakes ready in a few minutes." Allen said happily.

"Pop, could you help me get Rory out of the pool?" Ken asked from beside me.

"Sure, Xain, grab Edovina. Jake, help me sit Rory on the edge of the pool." Allen said in thought.

"No need for that." Mona said and lifted me up and sat me down on the edge.

"Allen, you have a phone call." Juana said from the utility room doorway.

"I'll be right there. Jake, would you mind taking Rory inside?" Allen asked hopefully as he walked toward the house.

"Sure Dad." Jake said as he climbed out of the pool.

"Do you think we could go up and see your room before we have our milkshakes? I only got to see your bathroom." I said, hoping it didn't sound too stupid.

"Sure buddy. I love to show off my room." Jake said happily as he picked me up.

I put my arm around Jake's neck and smiled to myself, knowing that it was going to be great.

* * * * *

"It will be a few minutes before the milkshakes are ready. You have time to put on dry clothes." Juana said as she worked on scooping ice cream out of a large container into a blender.

"Okay Mamacita. Do Reuben and Ricardo have dry clothes down here?" Jake asked as he slowly walked us through the kitchen.

"Yes, they will change while you are upstairs." Juana said, trying to restrain a smile.

"Okay, we'll be right back." Jake said and walked toward the stairway.

I looked over Jake's shoulder to see Ken watching me.

I crooked my finger at him to 'come here'.

Ken looked at me curiously and followed us up the stairs.

"You're really gonna like my stereo. Dad said it's even nicer than his." Jake said proudly as we reached the top of the stairs.

I crooked my finger at Ken again, I wanted him to see the surprise.

As Kevin turned to walk to his own room, Ken stopped him and silently indicated for him to follow us into Jake's room.

* * * * *

"This is..." Jake said, then trailed off in wonder.

I twisted my neck to see what the new bed was like.

It was huge. A big, beautiful bed with a comforter that had a viney pattern on it that fit perfectly with all the plants in the room.

"How do you like it?" Allen asked as he walked into the room behind us.

"It's great! Thanks Dad!" Jake said as he hugged Allen with me between them.

"I had a lot of help. Teri arranged for it to be delivered today, Juana saw to making sure the delivery men took down the old beds and set up the new one, and Rory helped get you up here." Allen said with accomplishment.

"Thank you Father." Xain said with Edovina in his arms.

"Come here Rory." Allen said gently.

Jake handed me to Allen, then pulled Xain and Edovina into a hug.

"Well, aren't you going to try it out?" Mona asked from the doorway.

Jake gave Mona an embarrassed look, then started to laugh as she rolled her eyes.

"I mean lay down on it to see if it's comfortable." Mona said with exasperation.

Jake smiled and nodded, then broke out of the hug and threw himself on the bed.

"Do you think you'll be able to get a good night's sleep on it?" Allen asked hopefully.

"It's perfect Dad. Come on T'hy'la, you need to try this out." Jake said as he scooted up the bed to rest his head on the pillow.

"You can lay her down between us." Jake said peacefully as he watched Xain approach the bed.

I cautiously took my arm from around Allen's neck and held out my arm to Ken.

Within a second, I was hugging Ken as I watched Xain, Jake and Edovina all on the bed.

"Let's get changed and get downstairs. The milkshakes are probably ready." Allen said happily.

"Is it okay if I help you?" Ken asked me hopefully.

"If I get to help you too." I said with a smile.

"Come on guys." Allen said with a chuckle and carried me to the door.

"Just put on some short pants. We may swim some more in a little while." Allen said as we walked out into the hall.

"Then why are we changing?" Kevin asked seriously as he walked with us.

"Because I don't want your wet butt prints on all the chairs and the couch. Just change into some dry shorts and come down. After we've had our milkshakes and some time out of the sun, we can decide what to do next." Allen said as he walked us into Ken's room.

"If you'll put me on Ken's bed, it'll be easiest." I said, thinking about how to do this.

"Kevin, will you grab a towel?" Allen asked as he walked me to Ken's bed.

A moment later, Ken laid out the towel so I wouldn't get his bed wet.

"I'll be back in about five minutes, have fun." Allen said into my ear as he sat me down.

"Okay, thanks." I said in a whisper.

I watched from my spot on the bed as Allen walked out of the room.

"Do you want me to leave you alone?" Kevin asked as he pulled a pair of short pants out of a dresser drawer.

"Kevin, I want to kiss your brother for a minute or two... naked if possible. I don't know how you feel about that, but this is your room and I won't ask you to leave. If it bothers you, just tell us and we'll find someplace else to do it." I said as I looked at Kevin seriously.

"That's okay. There's a guy that I'd like to be kissing too... But I can't. I'll just go change downstairs." Kevin said frankly and walked toward the door.

"I hope you get the chance to kiss your guy really soon." I said quickly.

"His husband won't let me." Kevin said simply before walking out of the room.

"What..." I began to say, but my words were swallowed by Ken's firm kiss.

"Long story, ask me later." Ken said, then grabbed my swim trunks and tugged them down and off my legs.

"Nice." Ken said with a whisper as he looked at me, then pulled off his own swim trunks.

I looked at Ken's naked body before me and couldn't believe how right it felt to be here.

"I love you." Ken whispered as he climbed on top of me and slowly eased me to lay back on the bed.

"I love you too." I whispered in return, and felt his skin against my own, all the way down my body.

Ken began to kiss me as I felt his hand slowly drifting down...