One Door Closes

Chapter 14

As Brady was giving his dramatic retelling of the antics of the movers, a knock on the door was heard.

"I'll get it!" Kenny said as he launched himself from his chair and bounded for the front door.

A moment later Kenny came back into the kitchen leading Mamacita and her family.

"Hello Juana, we were just enjoying some cookies and ice cream. Would you like to join us?" Allen asked kindly.

"Thank you, no." Juana said shyly.

Reuben and Ricardo both looked at their mother with their most pitiful and hungry looks turned on full blast.

"Would it be okay if the boys had some?" Allen asked, trying to hide his smile at the boys' hopeful looks.

Mamacita looked at her sons and said, "We have late dinner. Boys may not be hungry..."

"Por favoooooooooooor Mama!" Reuben begged shamelessly.

"I don't need a translator to understand that." Brady said with a chuckle.

Juana smiled and nodded at the boys.

Reuben and Ricardo both jumped up on chairs and grabbed cookies from the plate in the center of the table.

"Jake, would you get the boys some ice cream? Kenny, would you get Ricardo and Reuben some milk? Xain and Kevin, would you pull some chairs in from the dining room?" Allen asked gently.

The boys didn't answer, but instead went to work on their appointed duties.

"Can I get you some coffee or anything?" Allen asked Juana carefully.

"Leche... Milk, milk would be good." Juana said with difficulty.

"Kenny? Would you get some milk for Juana while you're at it?" Allen asked toward the kitchen.

"I got it Pop." Kenny said as he lined glasses up on the kitchen counter.

"I'm guessing you're here to find out about your job." Allen said conversationally.

"Si, yes. Please excuse. I do not speak the English often." Juana said in a mix of frustration and shame.

"That's fine, Xain also has difficulty with English." Allen said as Xain and Kevin carried chairs into the room.

"Come on, let's sit down and we can talk about the details of your job." Allen said seriously.

Juana nodded as she took her seat.

"The main thing I need is for an adult to be here with the boys when I'm at work. Sometimes I have to go to San Francisco for a few days and two or three times a year I have to go off-planet for a week or more." Allen said in thought.

"Kevin, Kenny and Jake are good boys. Xain will be good as well, I believe. It will be a pleasure to stay with them." Juana said as she cast fond looks at the boys.

"I'm glad to hear it. Besides being here with the boys, I was hoping that you could do the basic housekeeping. I expect the boys to pick up after themselves and clean their own bedrooms and bathrooms. The most you should have to do is  to remind them to clean or to teach them how to do it properly." Allen said, then noticed the sour look on Kenny's face.

"Come on cute stuff. You need to learn how to do this stuff for yourself. I wouldn't be doing you any favors if I hired someone to clean up your mess." Allen said seriously.

Juana nodded but remained silent.

"So that just leaves the main rooms of the house. We'll pick up after ourselves, so all you'll really have to do is vacuum and dust. I'd also like for you to take care of the laundry. And I'd appreciate it if you'd show the boys how to do the laundry for themselves." Allen said in thought.

"I been washing my own clothes for years and years." Kevin said seriously.

"Me too." Jake said quietly.

"Good, but let Juana show you how she does it. Maybe she knows some tricks that you haven't discovered yet." Allen said in a parental tone.

Jake and Kevin nodded.

"I am also experienced with laundry." Xain said in a broken meter, carefully choosing his words.

"It looks like Kenny is the only one you'll have to teach then." Allen said with a smile directed at Xain.

Juana looked at Xain curiously, then turned her attention back to Allen.

"And the only other thing I can think of is the cooking. On the days when I'm working and the boys are at school, I'd like for you to make dinner for us." Allen said in a professional voice.

"Yes, of course." Juana said simply.

"And of course you and your children will be expected to join us for dinner whenever you cook." Allen added, maintaining his serious tone.

"I cannot. It would not be proper." Juana immediately countered.

"Nonsense. It makes more sense than doing double work. Why should you cook a meal here, then go to your apartment and cook another?" Allen said reasonably.

Juana nodded slowly, but didn't look convinced.

"What I'd like to happen is for your boys to be included with my boys whenever possible. They can travel to school together, go clothes shopping, in fact, I was thinking of taking my boys for haircuts in the morning before they visit the schools. I could take Reuben with us if you'd like." Allen said in thought.

Juana's look of surprise turned to one of tenderness as she said, "It will be good for the children to have a man in their lives. Mi Carlos, he leave when I was pregnant with Ricardo. The boys are better off not to have him as example. He leaves the children, you take in the children."

Allen blushed at the praise and whispered a shy, "Thank you."

"Can Reuben come up and see my room?" Kevin asked quickly.

"If it's okay with his mother. And you should take Ricardo too. It's no fun to be left out because you're the youngest." Allen said seriously.

"Can I momma?" Reuben asked hopefully.

"Si, go and play with your friend." Juana said with a contented smile.

"Vamanos Ricardo." Kevin said as he hopped off his chair and headed for the door.

Ricardo looked at his mother. At her nod, he took off to follow Kevin and his brother.

"Can I go too?" Kenny asked hopefully.

"Sure. Go have fun." Allen said with a smile.

Kenny jumped up and gave Allen a quick hug before hurrying out of the room.

"That's about all I've come up with. Do you have any questions?" Allen asked Juana seriously.

"Si, I may need help to get Reuben into school. Mi Inglés es... is no good." Juana said with frustration.

"That's no problem Juana. I'll be taking the boys to get them enrolled on Tuesday. You can come with us and I'll help you." Allen said gently.

"Do you have a driver's license Juana?" Brady asked curiously.

"Si, pero es... is from Chicago." Juana said as she turned to face Brady.

"I was just thinking that Juana is going to need to be able to drive to buy groceries and to pick up the boys." Brady said carefully.

"I hadn't thought of that... it actually works out though. Dan drove Carl's car over while I drove my SUV. All we'll have to do is get Juana a Florida driver's license and get her put on my insurance." Allen said seriously.

"If you'd like, I can take Juana over to the DMV in the morning while you're getting the boys' hair cut." Brady said in thought.

"Don't you have to work tomorrow?" Allen asked curiously.

"No. I don't have to report back until Tuesday morning, I'll return to the ship tomorrow night." Brady said with a smile.

"Then it sounds like we have a plan." Allen said with a smile.

"Poppa, can Reuben and Ricardo call you Pop? I told them they could but they didn't believe me." Kevin asked as he ran into the kitchen.

Reuben, Ricardo and Kenny came in more slowly to hear the answer for themselves.

Allen thought about the question and motioned for Reuben to come to him.

"Reuben, you're old enough that you can choose what you want to call me. If you want to call me Pop or Poppa or even Dad, I wouldn't mind." Allen said as he looked into Reuben's eyes.

"You're not my father. Even if I want you to be, you're still not. But can I... may I call you Uncle?" Reuben asked carefully.

"I think that's a great idea Reuben. And since Brady is my brother, he'll be your Uncle too." Allen said with a smile.

"¿Que?" Ricardo asked in a small voice.

"Esos es Tio Allen y Tio Brady." Reuben told his brother carefully as he pointed.

Ricardo got a smile and ran to give Brady a big hug.

Brady hugged Ricardo for a second, then picked him up to sit him in his lap.

Ricardo snuggled against Brady's chest and hugged for all he was worth.

"Ricardo does not usually like strangers." Juana said with a note of surprise.

"They're not strangers, they're Uncles." Reuben said seriously.

Juana nodded as she watched her youngest son soaking in Brady's attention.

Reuben watched his brother for a moment, then inched his way toward Allen.

As soon as Reuben was within easy reach, Allen scooped him up into a full hug and said, "You're my nephew now. Do you know what that means?"

Reuben pulled back from the hug slightly and shook his head.

"It means that you're part of the family, so when I take the boys on a trip or buy them things, you're included." Allen said as he pulled Reuben back into the hug.

"Thank you." Juana said in a whisper.

"Juana, I'm not doing this just for the boys. It's a reward for me whenever I see one of the boys happy. Including your boys with mine will only increase the reward." Allen said seriously.

"I understand. It is why I would invite Kevin and Jake to eat with my family at times. To see them happy is a joy for me as well as for them." Juana said quietly.

"Thank you Mamacita." Jake said and walked to Mamacita's side to give her a hug.

"You always were a good boy Jake. You do what you must to survive and walk the hard path like my Lupe. But when you have a chance to take the right path, you take it. Lupe would not. She run away when she hear that we are to move." Juana said as her eyes filled with tears.

"I'm sorry Mamacita. I know Lupe is a good person inside, the drugs just messed her up so she can't see things right." Jake soothed.

"Si, I know. To see you here. It gives me hope for my Lupe." Mamacita said as a tear slowly fell down her cheek.

Jake renewed his hug, careful not to wake Edovina in Juana's arms.

"Well, if everyone is done with their cookies, I'd like to move into the living room." Allen said to the group.

"We must be going. It is time for Ricardo to go to bed." Mamacita said as she pulled out of Jake's hug and smiled at him fondly.

"Too late." Brady said in a low voice.

Allen looked at Brady curiously.

"He's asleep." Brady whispered.

"Wake him and we will go." Juana said with a smile at Ricardo.

"I wouldn't mind carrying him up to his bed. It seems a shame to wake him up, then try to get him to go back to sleep." Brady said as he looked fondly at the boy in his arms.

Juana smiled and nodded.

"Can Reuben stay here with us tonight?" Kevin asked hopefully.

"Really?" Reuben asked with surprise.

"Yeah. Come on. It'll be fun." Kevin said in a pleading voice.

"We both want you to stay." Kenny said as he looked into Reuben's eyes to show his honesty.

"And that way you wouldn't have to get Reuben up in the morning to get a haircut. It would actually be easier for everyone." Allen said with a smile.

"Yes, yes. You behave for Mr. Allen." Juana said seriously.

"Please just call me Allen. After all, we've already decided that Reuben and Ricardo are my nephews. You can't call your family Mr." Allen said frankly.

"Si, yes. Allen. Reuben? Will you behave for Tio Allen?" Juana asked in her serious 'mother' voice.

"I'll be good." Reuben said with an angelic expression.

"Then come and give a kiss." Juana said as she scooted her chair out from the table.

Reuben squirmed off Allen's lap and ran to his mother to give her a kiss.

"Reuben, I'll pick up some clothes for you to wear tomorrow while I'm up there." Brady said quietly as he stood.

"Thank you Uncle Brady." Reuben said with a satisfied smile.

Juana also stood with Edovina in her arms.

"Have a good night Juana... Oh, I forgot. Can you have dinner with us tomorrow? Xain's father is going to be in town and I wanted for him to meet you." Allen asked hopefully.

"Yes. I would like that. May I help in the cooking?" Juana asked hopefully.

"Xain and Jake are going to prepare the meal, but I'm sure they could probably use some extra help." Allen said, then glanced to see Xain and Jake's approval.

"Good, now you'd better get your sleeping kids to bed." Allen said as he walked with Juana and Brady to the door.

"Thank you for everything Allen." Juana said as tears began to fill her eyes again.

"You're welcome. Goodnight." Allen said tenderly and watched them go.

"You boys go on and get ready for bed. I'm just going to tidy up the kitchen before I call it a night." Allen said to the group behind him.

"But it's still early." Jake said hesitantly.

"You don't have to go to bed now. I just want you to go up and take your showers and tidy your rooms. That way when it's time for bed, you're ready." Allen explained as he walked back into the kitchen.

"May I help to clean the kitchen?" Xain asked quietly.

"If you'll take the extra chairs back to the dining room, that's all the help I'll need." Allen said as he began to gather the dishes from the kitchen table.

Jake automatically helped Xain as Kenny, Kevin and Reuben left to go upstairs.

"If we help you put away your models, will you shower with us?" Kevin asked carefully as they entered the bedroom.

Kenny looked at Kevin curiously, then at Reuben.

"If Reuben doesn't mind. You know how you felt funny about it when we showered together yesterday." Kenny said hesitantly.

Kevin nodded, then turned to face Reuben.

"Last night we showered together and it was really cool. It made me feel really special and like they love me and I want you to feel that way too." Kevin said in thought.

"But... I'd be scared. You'd be looking at me naked." Reuben said in a trembling voice.

"Yeah, that part was scary until we started washing. Then it wasn't scary at all. If you'll try it you can stop whenever you want. It's really nice, I promise." Kevin said in the tone of a solemn vow.

"Okay. But if I say I don't want to you won't try and make me?" Reuben asked cautiously.

"I swear. All we're going to do is wash each other. It's a way to show that we like you being our... if Poppa is Reuben's Uncle, what does that make us?" Kevin asked curiously.

"He'd be our cousin." Kenny said in thought.

"Then we'll be showing you that we like you being our cousin. I was scared until I tried it. Now I don't want to take showers alone no more." Kevin said seriously.

Reuben hesitantly nodded.

"Then lets get these models put away. And Reuben, if you change your mind just tell us. We'll still like you and we won't be mad at all." Kenny said quietly.

Reuben gave a slight smile and nodded at Kenny.

All three boys started gathering the models and putting them carefully into their boxes.

"Do you wish to shower now?" Xain asked as he and Jake walked into their room.

"No, go ahead." Jake said quietly as he stared off into the distance.

Xain looked at Jake curiously, then gathered the things he would need and went to shower.

Brady walked into Kenny and Kevin's bedroom to find it tidy and devoid of children.

He sat Reuben's clothes down on Kevin's bed and was about to leave when he heard a giggle from the bathroom.

Brady walked to the bathroom door and gently knocked before asking, "Are you guys alright in there?"

Kenny opened the door and said, "Sure Uncle Brady, we're just about to take our shower."

"All three of you?" Brady asked carefully as he looked at the three naked boys.

"Yeah. That's okay isn't it?" Kevin asked hesitantly.

Brady thought carefully before he said, "Yeah, that's fine. I just figured you'd be showering alone."

"This way we can show Reuben that we like him cause we'll let him be naked with us." Kevin said seriously.

Brady smiled at the answer and said, "You guys have fun showering then. Reuben, I left your clothes on Kevin's bed."

As Brady turned to leave the bathroom Reuben asked, "Do you want to shower with us Uncle Brady?"

Brady stopped in his tracks and thought seriously before answering.

"It's probably not a good idea. If we go to a gym sometime or go camping then I will, but it's better if I don't now." Brady said carefully.

"Why not?" Reuben asked curiously.

Brady walked to Reuben and knelt before him so he could look him in the eyes.

"Because there are bad people in the world who hurt kids. If I took a shower with you, then the good people who want to protect kids might think I was one of those bad people. Does that make sense to you?" Brady asked carefully.

Reuben thought seriously about it, then asked, "So if you shower with us there's people who'll think you want to fuck us?"

Brady thought for an instant about telling Reuben about swearing, but thought that it was more important to be sure that Reuben understood what he was saying, "That's right. And if any adult tries to talk you into getting naked, you need to come to your mother or Allen or me and we'll figure out if it's right or wrong. Can you do that?"

Reuben nodded shyly with tears starting to form in his eyes.

Brady pulled Reuben into a hug and said, "You're not in any trouble and you didn't do anything wrong. Thank you for inviting me to shower with you guys. It was really great of you to do that."

Reuben nodded into Brady's shoulder.

"Now it's probably best that you three get in the shower." Brady said in a gentle voice.

As Brady pulled out of his hug with Reuben, he was promptly hugged by Kevin, then Kenny.

"If being an adult means we can't shower together no more, then I don't want to grow up." Kevin said seriously.

"Growing up doesn't mean that at all. Growing up means that you get to shower with whoever you want... as long as it's other grownups." Brady finished with a smile.

Brady let loose of Kenny and said, "Now you guys had better get to showering before it's bedtime."

All three boys hurried into the shower as Brady walked out of the bathroom.

After completing his shower, Xain walked into the bedroom to find Jake with tears streaming down his face.

"You are distressed." Xain said quietly.

Jake nodded his head.

"May I be of assistance?" Xain asked carefully.

Jake considered the question for a minute before saying, "I don't know what's wrong with me. I don't know what I'm feeling. It's like something is screaming inside me, wanting to claw it's way out. I... I don't know what to do."

Xain looked at Jake curiously, then sat on the bed beside Jake.

"Perhaps. If I may touch. It is possible for me to help." Xain said with difficulty.

Jake turned to look at Xain and nodded slightly.

Xain lifted his right hand to Jake's face and carefully placed his fingers.

In nearly a whisper Xain began to say, "My mind to your mind..."

"Is this okay Reuben? Do you want us to stop?" Kenny asked as he slowly washed Reuben's back.

Reuben looked over his shoulder at Kenny and said, "It feels good. I usually bathe with my brother. I always thought I was just helping him get clean. Next time I bathe with him, I'll know it's a way of showing him that I like him."

"That's right. So now you know that we really like having you here and we aren't just saying it." Kevin said peacefully as he gently washed under Reuben's arms.

"Yeah. That tickles." Reuben finished with a giggle.

Allen walked upstairs and decided to check on Xain and Jake to see how they were doing.

After a few knocks on their door and receiving no answer he cautiously opened it.

Allen walked into the bedroom to find both boys sitting silently.

Xain had both his hands on Jake's face in a familiar position.

Allen resisted the urge to pull them apart and took a seat on Xain's bed.

He knew that interrupting a mind meld could cause damage to both boys so all he could do is wait for them to finish.

"How come you can speak English so well?" Kenny asked Reuben as he toweled him dry.

"Mama sent me to a preschool that taught us English, then I went to first grade and learned some more. It's not so hard." Reuben said as he enjoyed being dried.

"Does Ricardo speak any English?" Kenny asked as he stood.

"Not much. I've taught him a few words, but he knows mostly Spanish." Reuben said as he followed Kenny and Kevin into the bedroom.

"Do you think Mamacita would mind if we tried to teach him some English?" Kenny asked as he went through his dresser and pulled out a pair of boxers to wear.

"She'd like that. She worries that Ricardo won't fit in because he doesn't speak English." Reuben said seriously as he pulled on his briefs.

"What Pop said about him feeling bad about being left out made me think. If we try and teach Ricardo English, then he'll know we want to have him around." Kenny said and took a seat on the side of his bed.

"Are you guys ready for bed?" Brady asked from the doorway.

"Sure Uncle Brady. We're all showered and the room is cleaned up." Kenny said with a smile.

"That's good. Kevin, did you finish your picture yet?" Brady asked as he walked further into the room.

"Not yet. It's a really big piece of paper." Kevin said as he walked to his easel and pulled the cover of the pad back to reveal the picture underneath.

"What is it?" Brady asked curiously at the blurry images rendered in charcoal.

"I don't know. I never know till I'm finished." Kevin said as he also looked at the picture.

"Well, let me know when you're finished. Whatever it is, it's coming along well." Brady said as he took a final look at the ghost images beginning to form on the paper.

"Can we play some computer games before we go to sleep?" Kenny asked hopefully.

"That sounds like a good idea. It's about an hour before you need to go to bed. You guys enjoy your game and I'll come up and tell you when it's bedtime." Brady said with a smile.

"Thanks Uncle Brady." Kenny said as he turned on his television and video game console.

Reuben hopped off Kevin's bed where he had been sitting and ran to give Brady a hug.

"I really like it here with my cousins." Reuben said as he hugged Brady tightly.

"We're all glad you're here." Brady said as he hugged Reuben in return.

"Who wants to play first?" Kenny asked as the game came to life.

"You can show Reuben how to play and I'll watch." Kevin said as he moved to sit on the edge of Kenny's bed.

"Come on Reuben. I want to show you how to play." Kenny said happily.

Reuben gave Brady one final squeeze, then ran to sit at Kenny's side.

Brady gave one final look at the boys before leaving the room.

Xain let his hands drop from Jake's face and turned to see Allen staring at him.

A moment later Jake opened his eyes and looked at Allen curiously.

"Come down to the living room, we need to talk." Allen said in a low, firm voice then stood and left the room.

"He's pissed." Jake whispered as he stood.

Xain raised an eyebrow in inquiry.

"I don't know why, but he is." Jake said, answering the unasked question.

Jake walked into the living room followed closely by Xain.

"Sit down." Allen said as he looked out at the lake.

Jake and Xain sat side by side on a sofa.

"It didn't occur to me that you would even think of trying something so dangerous or I would have talked to you about this when you arrived." Allen said as he turned and directed his comment toward Xain.

"I attempted to..." Xain began to say before Allen cut him off.

"Listen to me for right now. When I'm done I'll listen to what you have to say." Allen said in a tone of voice that was firm and final.

"To start with, you are not to attempt telepathic contact of any kind without my permission. Do you understand?" Allen asked as he looked directly at Xain.

"Yes Sir." Xain said in nearly a whisper.

Allen paused to collect his thoughts for a moment before he continued, "This goes beyond a simple error in judgment, this is an issue of trust. If I can't trust you to behave in a responsible manner, then I may have to rethink you're staying with us."

Jake's eyes went wide as panic welled up in him.

"What was irresponsible was your choice to perform a mind meld without permission or supervision. It was every bit as dangerous as playing with matches and gasoline. Xain, if you're going to stay here you're going to have to think about the consequences of your actions." Allen said firmly.

Jake stood and took a step forward to look Allen directly in the eyes.

"Do you want us to leave?" Jake asked in a growl.

Allen took an involuntary step back in surprise.

"You're pissed, I get that. But if you're going to threaten to throw us out when we screw up, then we might as well leave now. You said that if we had problems you'd help us. You didn't say nothin bout throwing us out if we screw up." Jake said as his face began to redden.

"Jake, I didn't mean..." Allen tried to say before Jake cut him off.

"Bullshit! If you can threaten to kick Xain out, that means you'll do the same to me next time I fuck up. Is this the way it is for all of us or just me and Xain? Cause if you're going to throw Kevin and Kenny out too, they should be down here to see this!" Jake asked in a snarl.

Allen froze in thought.

"And just in case you even care, I was thinking about doing drugs when Xain helped me. Everything I was feeling was making me crazy until Xain helped me see what was happening." Jake said in frustration.

Allen's gaze drifted into a distant place only he could see.

"Can we stay tonight or should we leave now?" Jake asked as he forced Allen to look him in the eyes.

Allen looked deeply into Jake's eyes and asked, "What if I screw up?"

"Huh?" Jake asked in confusion, his anger temporarily derailed.

"I screwed up. I don't want either of you to leave. I'm sorry I said it. I didn't mean it." Allen said in a serious voice.

Jake looked into Allen's eyes to see the true emotion within.

"Guys. This parent thing isn't as easy as it looks. I don't have all the answers and I'm doing the best I can. If you can  take it easy on me when I screw it up, I'll try and do the same when you guys screw up. Will you give me another chance?" Allen asked with hope in his voice.

Jake blinked and looked away without saying a word.

"Xain, I'm sorry. I don't want you to leave and I promise that I won't say that again. It's just that I've heard about what happens when a mind meld goes wrong and it scared me. I don't want to see either of you hurt." Allen said quietly.

"Saying you're sorry doesn't make everything better. Dad said he was sorry. Mom's still dead." Jake said in thought.

"You're right Jake. It doesn't make everything better. I can't unsay the words and I don't know what I can do to fix this." Allen said as he took a seat.

Jake sat beside Xain and said, "Yeah. I know that feeling. Let's just forget it ever happened."

"There's a few problems with that. If we don't deal with this right now, we'll always have this standing between us. And besides that, you don't learn anything by forgetting." Allen said seriously.

Jake and Xain watched as Allen picked up the small box on the coffee table.

"How about this?" Allen asked as he opened the box and pulled out the shaving kit.

"I already told you what this means to me. If you'll agree to accept it now it can be a symbol of my promise that I'll never throw you out, no matter what happens." Allen said  hopefully.

"Then you should give it to Xain." Jake said seriously.

Allen reached into his pocket and pulled out the pocket watch.

"Both of you. This is my promise that I'll never ask you to leave." Allen said as he stood and held out the shaving kit and the watch.

"Okay." Jake said and accepted the shaving kit from Allen.

"Thank you Father." Xain said quietly as he looked at the watch.

Allen carefully gathered both boys into a hug and whispered, "I really am sorry guys. This is as new to me as it is to you. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do sometimes."

"That's what Xain made me understand." Jake said as he enjoyed the hug.

"What did you find out?" Allen asked quietly as he continued hugging the boys.

"I'm used to taking drugs when I start to feel something. When I would start to feel bad, I'd take drugs to make me feel better, when I'd feel happy I'd take drugs to celebrate. Every time I felt something, I'd take some more drugs. Today, when I had a few minutes to stop and think... I didn't know how to deal with it, how to just feel what I'm feeling. I wanted to take drugs to make the feelings go away because I don't know what else to do." Jake said in thought.

"Xain, what did you do to help Jake?" Allen asked curiously.

"Jake had difficulty identifying the source of discomfort. We merged and identified the root of the problem. Once identified, there was no longer a desire to quell the emotions." Xain said in thought.

"Thank you for helping Jake. Please just talk to me before you try anymore telepathy. Okay?" Allen asked quietly.

"Yes Father." Xain said into Allen's chest.

"Then it's done. Our first family dispute has been settled." Allen said in a semi-cheerful voice.

Jake pulled back and looked at Allen in surprise.

"What's wrong?" Allen asked curiously.

"You did what you said you'd do." Jake said in realization.

"What did I say?" Allen asked in confusion.

"You remember when I asked you what you'd do if you got mad?" Jake asked with excitement.

"Oh, yeah. I guess I did." Allen said in thought.

"You left the room, then worked it out. And you didn't hit us." Jake said with a smile.

Allen's look fell as he said, "I did something as bad as hit you. Guys, I swear, I'll never throw you out. Jake, I'm proud of you for standing up for Xain like you did. You're a good brother."

"This is one of those feelings I don't know how to handle." Jake said in a shaky voice.

"Father, may I ease his distress?" Xain asked carefully.

"What are you going to do?" Allen asked cautiously.

"I will lend of my control until the emotion can be accepted." Xain said carefully.

"Okay, but don't let it go too far." Allen said reluctantly.

Xain reached toward Jake then stopped suddenly.

"What was that?" Jake asked with concern.

"Unknown. The link should not exist without touch." Xain said as he held his hand ten inches from Jake's face.

"Am I interrupting?" Brady asked cautiously from the living room door.

"No, maybe you can help us figure this out." Allen said with worry welling in his features.

"What's wrong?" Brady asked as he walked to Allen's side.

Xain got a distant look in his eyes, then said in a whisper, "We are bonded."

"What!?" Jake asked in a voice between a gasp and a yelp.

Xain looked at Jake curiously.

Allen and Brady looked at Jake and Xain trying to comprehend the ramifications of the statement.

"Did we... Are we?" Jake sputtered.

Xain raised an eyebrow to prompt Jake to continue, not understanding Jake's apprehension.

"I don't know about Vulcan stuff but... Did we just get married?" Jake asked in a fearful voice.

Xain tilted his head slightly and said, "No. Not married. I do not know of human terms to describe what we have achieved. We are... bonded."

"Oh. Okay. I'm sorry. It's not that I'd have a problem getting married, it's just... It's a little too soon for something like that." Jake tried to explain.

"I am not offended. The bond means that we share ourselves... our lives. How we choose to share them is up to us." Xain said in peace.

Jake thought about the statement, then broke into a smile.

"So it just means we'll be friends forever? We'll always be a part of each other's lives?" Jake asked, cautiously.

"Yes, from what I've read on the subject, that's what it means." Allen said in deep thought.

"We have both fully accepted the bond. There is no harm." Xain said seriously.

Allen nodded in confirmation, then said, "I don't have a problem with the fact that you've bonded. I'm happy for you. I'm just concerned. You shouldn't have formed a bond. You've only known each other one day."

"I understand. But I did not choose to form the bond, it formed... instinctively." Xain said, searching for the right word.

"I see." Allen said quietly.

"What did he do?" Jake asked nervously.

"Nothing bad, I promise. He touched your mind. Now you carry a part of him with you and he has a part of you. Done correctly, it's a beautiful thing. I'm just worried that Xain is not an experienced telepath. I wouldn't want to see you two hurt if the bonding was done incorrectly." Allen said quietly.

"Oh. I guess that's okay." Jake said in thought.

"Do you regret our bonding?" Xain asked betraying a note of apprehension in his voice.

Jake's expression became tender as he said, "No, I was just surprised."

Allen looked at the two curiously, then asked, "Xain, would you feel comfortable talking to your father about this? I'd feel better if an experienced telepath could see that it was done right."

Xain looked at Jake for a moment, then said, "He who is my father has the necessary skill to examine our bond. I believe he will approve."

Allen smiled with relief and said, "Then we'll ask him about it when he comes tomorrow."

Xain and Jake both nodded simultaneously.

Allen pulled both boys back into a hug.

"I really am happy for you both. I just have to worry, it's my job as a father." Allen said as he held them tightly.

"I thank you for your concern Father." Xain said seriously.

"Yeah, thanks Dad." Jake said into Allen's chest.

Unable to resist the pull of the scene of caring, Brady approached and was pulled in to make it a four way hug.

"Why don't you guys go up and visit with your brothers for a few minutes? I need to make a call." Allen said when the hug finally broke up.

"Wait a minute." Jake said quickly and ran out of the room.

"Xain. Are you really okay?" Allen asked with concern.

"Be assured K'war'ma'khon, I understand the reason for your concern. He who is my father would have had similar concerns... though he would have expressed them differently." Xain said carefully.

"I'm sure you're right. I think you're English has improved since you've been here. You're expressing yourself much better." Allen said seriously.

Xain looked at Allen hesitantly and quietly said, "I have received language skills through the bond."

Allen looked at Xain in thought for a moment before Jake ran into the room carrying the shirt he had been wearing the day before.

"What do you have there son?" Allen asked as a tingle of dread crawled up his spine.

"Take this. If Xain hadn't been there... I might have..." Jake said as he handed the bundle to his father.

Allen opened the bundle carefully and found a small travel case. Inside were a tablespoon, some cotton balls, two syringes and a lighter.

"The stuff is in the zippered pouch." Jake said in a whisper.

"Allen, I can take care of that if you want." Brady said carefully.

Allen nodded and handed the case to Brady.

"I wasn't... I mean, I forgot that I had it in my pocket. I'm sorry Dad. I should have given it to you yesterday." Jake said in a defeated whisper.

"No son. You gave it to me when you were ready to. Some of what happened yesterday wasn't by your choice. This was. I'm so proud of you right now that I don't have words." Allen said in an increasing voice.

"Then show him." Xain said in a fully Vulcan tone of reason.

Allen smiled and pulled Jake into a tight hug.

"I really need to make that call now. I'll be upstairs in a few minutes when I'm done." Allen said as he released Jake.

"Yeah, I still need to take my shower." Jake said as he dried his cheeks.

"Go on. I'll be up in a few." Allen said as he pulled out his cell phone.

After pressing a speed dial number on his phone Allen hesitantly said, "Mona?"

"Allen, oh, thank God. I've been worried sick about you. How are you baby?" Mona asked with relief.

"I'm fine. A lot of things have happened the last few days." Allen said as he took a seat.

Brady started walking toward the family room but Allen waved and motioned for him to stay.

"I've been trying to call you for two days but kept getting your answering machine. I was afraid something had happened to you." Mona said with worry evident in her voice.

"Well, I was in the hospital for a little bit, but I'm fine now." Allen said cautiously.

"Hospital? What happened? Please tell me you didn't do something stupid over that no good..." Mona started to say before Allen cut her off.

"Please Mona, he's dead, let it go." Allen said in a weary voice.

"I'm sorry. It's just that I could see how you were wasting yourself on someone who didn't love you. It hurt so much, I couldn't keep quiet." Mona said in a repentant voice.

"I know. Just like Grandpa couldn't keep quiet about Cecil." Allen said seriously.

There was a long silence before Mona whispered, "Yeah. Just like that."

"Mona, when I left the hospital I met someone..." Allen began to say as he looked at Brady.

"Oh no, it's too soon baby. You need to stop and think." Mona said in a desperate, begging voice.

Allen's face expressed wide eyed surprise before he quickly said, "No, Brady's not my boyfriend, he's my brother."

"What?" Mona asked in confusion.

"My brother. We had a DNA test and everything. His name is Brady Thompson and he's in Starfleet." Allen said, then waited for her reaction.

"Your brother? Really? Oh Allen, I'm so happy for you. I know you always wanted a brother." Mona said in relief.

Allen looked at Brady warmly and said, "Yes Mona, I've always wanted a brother."

Brady's face broke into a wide smile.

"When can you come and visit? I'd like to meet him." Mona asked quickly.

"Well, I'm not sure. I'll have to get back to you on that. Um, do you remember that I told you about Carl's son, Kenny?" Allen asked cautiously.

"Didn't you say he was going to live with his mother?" Mona asked, straining to remember.

"When he arrived she abandoned him and his brother..." Allen trailed off, listening for a reaction.

There was a long silence on the phone.

"...Brady's commanding officer and some others were able to help me adopt them..." Allen trailed off again, not knowing if the silence was a good or a bad sign.

"...And two others." Allen finished and waited.

Silence was Mona's only response.

"Mona? Are you still there?" Allen finally asked.

"Yes. Just... You've adopted four children?" Mona asked with disbelief.

"Yeah. I know it's a lot to take in, but I really need to know how you feel about me adopting Carl's kids. If you're going to hold it against them..." Allen started but Mona cut him off.

"Allen Terrance Thompson! You can just stop right there." Mona said in a stern, authoritative voice.

"I may have thought Carl was a no good son-of-a-bitch, but his kids aren't any part of that. When you say adopt, what exactly do you mean by that?" Mona asked cautiously.

"I mean adopt. Kenny, Kevin and Jake are legally my sons. And I am Xain's guardian. The four of them have had their names changed to Thompson. I am their father and they are my sons." Allen said seriously.

"Well I don't know how you managed it, but I'm happy for you. I know how it felt when Cecil brought you home to me. Having kids... God, you gave my life a reason when I didn't have anything else. It would have killed me when Cecil left if you hadn't been there." Mona finished in a distant voice.

"I know. My boys. Mona, I can't wait till you can meet them. You're going to love them." Allen said with a smile in his voice.

"I'm a grandmother!" Mona said in realization.

"Do you want them to call you Grandma?" Allen asked with a giggle.

"Of course. And I'm going to exercise my right to spoil them rotten when I get to see them. Tell me about them." Mona said with excitement.

"Well, Kenny and Kevin are eleven..."

To Be Continued...