Many thanks to ACfan for his contributions to this chapter.
"Dylan's being a butthole!" Vincent exclaimed as Ken pushed me into the room.
I couldn't help but smile at the statement.
I looked Dylan in the eye and mock seriously asked, "Are you being a butthole Dylan?"
After rolling his eye at me, Dylan said, "Vincent wants to look under my bandage again, and I don't feel like showing it to him."
"See? He's being a butthole." Vincent said, as if Dylan had just proven his case for him.
"Why don't we go see if we can find the adults? They're probably wondering where we are by now." Ken said from behind me.
Vincent gave Dylan one final indignant glare, before standing and leading the way to the door.
Dylan looked at Ken and me, then gave a helpless shrug as if to say, 'kids!'.
"Does anyone know where we're going?" Ken asked as we stopped outside.
"Over there." Vincent said as he pointed then started walking.
The rest of us fell into line behind him.
"Have you been here before?" Ken asked Vincent curiously.
"No, but just look at that house. People live there. That's gotta be where they are." Vincent said with certainty.
I looked around at the other buildings in the Short Compound and realized that Vincent was actually right. The building we were walking toward was the only one that could easily be thought of as a 'home'.
"There they are! We were just about to send out a search party." Doc Austin said as we entered a large room.
"It would have helped if you had told us where you were going to be." Dylan said frankly.
Doc Austin stared at Dylan with surprise for a moment, then said in a considering voice, "You know, I probably should have thought of that. I'm just not used to working out of this temporary office. I'll be glad when I'm moved into my permanent office at Camp Little Eagle, next week."
"How are you doing, Dylan? Is everything okay? Are they going to be able to fix your face to like it was before?" Obie asked in one continuous verbal barrage.
"Anyone got a phaser?" Dylan asked as he looked around the gathering.
Obie got a confused look, then it turned to shyness as he said, "I'm sorry Dylan. I didn't mean to do that."
Dylan gave Obie a warm smile and said, "It's fine, Obie. Lets go find Jerico and Paul and I'll tell you what the doctor said."
"They're right over there, talking to Jake and Xain, come on!" Obie said with excitement as he tugged on Dylan's hand.
"It was nice to meet you guys. I've got to go." Dylan said over his shoulder to us.
"I can see that." I said with a chuckle as I watched Obie pulling him away.
"We'd better get going Champ. Commander Dodds and I have been talking about everything that needs to be done before Sunday and we don't have a minute to waste." A man said quickly as he approached us.
For a moment, I didn't remember who he was, but one look at his pale blue eyes was all it took for me to be sure. It was Lawrence's father.
"What do we have to do?" Vincent asked curiously from beside me.
"I'll tell you on the way. I'm serious, we have *no* time." Joe said firmly.
"We're ready." Lawrence said, as he walked up to us with Deacon at his side.
"Bye guys." Vincent said quickly, then was whisked away as they all but ran out of the room.
"Bye." I said in the direction of the door.
"Come on over here, Skeeter. We're just getting the last few things worked out." My dad called from across the room.
"Last chance to run." Ken whispered from behind me.
"Let's go find out what they've decided." I said as I craned my neck to look up at Ken.
"Just a second." My dad said to the other adults, then walked over to me and Ken.
Without a word, he leaned in to give me a tight hug, then lifted me out of my wheelchair.
"Would you park that out of the way somewhere Ken? I don't think we'll be needing it for a little while." Dad said as he half hugged, half carried me over to the other adults.
I glanced back to see Ken push my wheelchair against the nearest wall, then he hurried to join us.
I quickly mouthed the words, 'Love you.' to him.
Ken gave me a bright smile, then mouthed, 'Love you.' in return.
"You're going to Vulcan." Dad said, drawing my full attention.
"When?" I asked quietly.
"Sunday night. Commander Dodds has already made all the arrangements and Solak will be traveling with you." Dad said seriously.
I glanced at Ken helplessly, not even wanting to think about having to leave him so soon after meeting him.
"My Pop goes to Vulcan all the time. I'll be able to visit you a lot." Ken said seriously.
"And, if Allen will allow it, Ken could also visit when your mother has to go to Vulcan." Dad said with a secretive smile.
I puzzled over that for a moment, then hesitantly asked, "Why would Mom need to go to Vulcan?"
"Preliminary evidence suggests that some ingredient or combination of ingredients in the diet 'she who is your mother' prepared for you has had the effect of stabilizing your condition. With the aid of 'she who is your mother', we are going to attempt to isolate the ingredient or ingredients, so the effect may be duplicated for the benefit of others." Solak said seriously.
I thought about what he was saying, then in my most emotionless tone I said, "I see the logic."
"And Dr. Solak says that you won't have to stay on Vulcan all the time when he's treating you. You'll be able to come back to Earth to visit us too." Dad said frankly.
"Kenny, we need to be going now. They'll be delivering Juana's things from Chicago sometime this afternoon." Allen said slowly.
"Is there any way I can stay with Rory?" Ken asked hopefully.
"He'd be welcomed. And they've only got this weekend left." Dad said to Allen, gently.
Allen smiled and said, "If you're sure it won't be a problem. I can imagine that you'll want to have some time alone with your family before Rory has to leave."
"That's true, but it's no problem since Ken is part of our family now." Dad said as he looked at Ken warmly.
"We'll be at the house all day if you need anything." Allen said, directing his statement toward Ken.
"I'll be fine." Ken said with assurance.
"Actually, we should be going too. Tell Billy we'll talk to him more about the photo shoot tonight." Dad said cheerfully.
"I'll tell him." Allen said, then motioned to Jake to come to him.
"I just need to say something to Commander Dodds, then we should be going." Dad said in thought.
"What do we need to do?" I asked curiously.
"Pack." Dad said frankly as he walked us across the room.
"Commander Dodds, I just wanted to be sure to stop by and offer my best wishes. I hope that you and your husband have a wonderful time on your second honeymoon." Dad said warmly.
"Who told you?" Commander Dodds asked curiously.
"Allen and Billy mentioned it while we were talking." Dad said seriously.
"Did they happen to tell you where I'm going on my second honeymoon?" Commander Dodds asked hopefully.
"You know, as a matter of fact they did." Dad said with a smile.
"I was told that if I told you, I would face the full wrath of someone named Mona. Even though I haven't met her, seeing Allen and Billy's reactions made me take the threat seriously." Dad said frankly.
"I suppose I'll find out in a few hours." Commander Dodds said with resignation.
"They told me what they've planned and I think that if you give it a chance, you'll really enjoy it." Dad said in a more gentle voice.
"I'll do my best." Commander Dodds said in a voice that was somewhere between a grumble and a growl.
"There's your mother, let's go get her so we can go." Dad said to me, then hurried away.
I looked over Dad's shoulder to see Ken following only a step behind.
"Doris, are you ready to go?" Dad asked as we approached a small gathering.
"Yes. I need to get home so I can start cooking." Mom said quickly.
"Really, you don't need to go to all that trouble." A woman said with concern.
"It would be more trouble for me to try to describe the differences in taste and texture. I'll cook up a few things and bring them with me when we bring the boys over." Mom said seriously.
"Whatever you say, Doris. I have to admit, I'm really anxious to taste test some of your recipes."
I glanced over at Ken in time to see him get a queasy look.
I smiled at him and blew him a small kiss.
Ken broke into a big smile and... well, everything seemed alright.
"So are we coming back here tonight?" I asked once we were all settled into the car.
"Oh, no one told you about that?" Dad asked with surprise.
"About what?" I asked cautiously.
"There's going to be something called a Clan Meeting tonight." Dad said, as he started the engine.
"Oh yeah. Cory said something about that. I forgot." I said in thought.
"So it's okay if Rory comes to the Clan meeting?" Ken asked hopefully.
Dad chuckled as he said, "Of course it is. I had a chance to talk to the other parents and from what they said, it would be a good thing for him. Besides, I think it would be good for Rory to have the chance to make some new friends."
"My Clan brothers are all really great. I know Rory will fit in just fine." Ken said with assurance.
"I need dandelion greens." Mom said absently.
Ken and I shared an amused look at the totally off-topic statement.
"What was that dear?" Dad asked with a loving smile.
"I told Teri and Helen that I'd bring them a few of my better dishes so they can try them out on their boys. But I really need fresh dandelion greens or it won't be right." Mom said in thought.
"Oh, you mean that mushroom thing with the crunchy, cheesy crust?" I asked cautiously.
"That's right. You like that one, don't you?" Mom asked hopefully.
After all my bitching about Mom's cooking, I felt a little funny saying something nice about it in front of Ken.
"Yeah. It is one of your better ones." I reluctantly admitted.
"Good. Marcus, turn left here. Let's go down to Mrs. Johnson's store and see if she has any good greens today." Mom said firmly.
Dad turned the car at the next intersection and waited for Mom to tell him where to turn next.
"Rory?" Ken asked quietly from beside me.
I looked into his eyes and fell in love all over again at the sight of his smile.
"I love you." He whispered.
"I love you too Ken." I said in a low voice.
"Do you want me to go in with you?" I heard my dad ask from the front seat.
"No. Just pull in. I'll only be a minute." Mom said, then hurried into the small market.
"I guess while we have a few minutes, I can go over what we planned while you were having your examination." Dad said seriously.
Ken and I reluctantly looked away from each other and tried to devote our full attention to Dad.
"Well, this afternoon, I thought you could go through your things and pack what you're going to want to take with you on the trip. Try to keep in mind if there's anything you'll be needing from the store and we'll take care of that later." Dad said slowly.
"Then tonight, you'll be at the Clan meeting. The other parents said that the Friday meeting is a sleepover." Dad said slowly, as he watched for my reaction.
"It's really a lot of fun. I thought it was kinda strange when I first heard about it, but I know you'll love it." Ken said happily.
I smiled as I nodded at Ken.
"Then tomorrow morning, Billy is going to pick you up from the Short Compound and take you over to Southcrest for a photo shoot. Your mother or I can be there if you want us to be." Dad said seriously.
"Is Ken going too?" I asked hopefully.
Dad smiled and said, "Allen has already given his permission. Billy will be picking you both up."
Ken smiled at me and I could tell that he was thrilled with the plan.
The car door opened and Mom got in, carrying two grocery bags.
"Mrs. Johnson had some beautiful greens today. This is going to be wonderful." Mom said happily.
"Good. Then let's go home."
"What about this?" Ken asked me as he held up a red and black shirt with a twisted pattern.
"Do you like it?" I asked cautiously.
"I think this is probably what a blood clot looks like." Ken said frankly.
I smiled as I reached out my hand, then made a 'thumbs down' motion.
Ken dropped the shirt on the floor, then began working his way through my closet again.
"Rory honey, Davis is here." Mom said from the doorway.
I glanced at the door in time to see Davis looking into the room, unsure of his welcome.
"Come on in and have a seat. I thought you'd be with Corina." I said casually.
"We're going to go out and do stuff later. I just thought I'd come in and visit with you guys for a while." Davis said shyly.
Ken turned away from the closet, then looked at Davis speculatively.
I wondered what had caught Ken's attention, then considered what Davis had said.
"She's changing clothes, isn't she?" I asked in realization.
Davis looked at me and shyly nodded.
Corina changing clothes... Oh yeah. This could take a while.
"So what are you guys up to?" Davis asked quietly.
"Ken's going through my clothes to help me pick out the things I'm going to take to Vulcan with me." I said casually.
"Whoa. Hold on. You're going to Vulcan?" Davis asked in wonder.
"Yeah. There's a Vulcan healer who's got this new treatment that he wants to try on me. He seems to think that he can actually cure me." I said, trying not to sound too hopeful.
"So you're, like, going to this whole other planet? For how long?" Davis asked curiously.
"The treatment is supposed to take more than a year, but I get to come back to Earth for visits." I said, then looked at Ken to see if my words were hurting him.
Davis followed my gaze to Ken and seemed to realize the unspoken pain that was in the air.
"Yeah. Well, it'll be good if he can help you get better." Davis said, trying to sound optimistic.
"Do you like this one?" Ken asked quietly.
I looked up and smiled at the shirt he was holding.
"Only if I join a bowling team." I said with a smirk.
Ken turned the shirt to look at it, then nodded and threw it onto the floor with the others.
"It kinda sucks that you're going to be leaving. I was starting to think maybe it wouldn't be so bad here." Davis said quietly.
"You can come over and hang out at my place. I just live three houses that way." Ken said as he pointed.
"Thanks. I may do that." Davis said uncertainly.
"Davis. I've got three brothers and two cousins who would enjoy hanging out with you. Plus there's Deacon and Lawrence across the street. The only reason you'll ever be bored or alone here is if you decide that you want to be." Ken said frankly.
I looked at Ken with surprise at his sudden boldness.
Ken could obviously tell what I was thinking.
He smiled at me shyly and said, "I guess Kevin's starting to rub off on me."
"Kevin?" Davis asked curiously.
"My twin brother. I just met him for the first time last week... in fact, it was one week ago today." Ken said in a disbelieving voice.
"Wow. That must've been really freaky." Davis said in amazement.
"Yeah. Well, not too bad. For my whole life, my dad was talking about how great it was going to be when my brother got to live with us. I think it was a lot weirder for Kevin because his mom told him that our dad was dead and never told him that he even had a brother." Ken finished bitterly.
"Sounds like some of the moms I've had." Davis said frankly.
Ken smiled at the statement, then said, "It doesn't matter now. Kevin's here and everything else is settled."
"I'm glad to hear it. At least you'll have your brother around when you need him." Davis said darkly.
"What's wrong? It sounds like you're feeling lonely." I said before I could stop and think if it was the 'tactful' thing to say.
"As weird as it sounds, I think I am. When I moved here I thought it was going to be so great because I'd be getting away from my brothers Steve and Danny. Well, actually half brothers but we never really cared about that. They're a little younger than you guys and they're major pests... But right now I don't think I'd mind it if they were here too." Davis said distantly.
"You definitely need to hang out over at our house. We have older kids, younger kids... even a two month old baby." Ken said seriously.
"Ken's right. It's great over there. And you've already been invited." I added with an urging expression.
"Well, Corina and I are going to go out and do stuff tonight. But maybe if you and your brothers are going to be around tomorrow we could do something." Davis said hopefully.
"I'll need to check with my Pop and see what we've got planned. Can I have your phone number so I can just call you and let you know?" Ken asked as he pulled his phone out of his pocket.
"Sure. That'll work." Davis said happily.
Ken pushed the buttons on his phone for a few seconds, then handed his phone to Davis and said, "If you'll just punch in your number, I'll call you as soon as I know what we'll be doing."
"Thanks Ken." Davis said as he concentrated on punching in his phone number.
"Rory honey, you have a phone call." Mom said from the doorway.
I was surprised because, well, no one had called me on the phone in over a year.
"Hello?" I asked hesitantly.
"Is this Rory?" A man's voice asked cautiously.
"Yes. Who is this?" I asked curiously.
"This is Joe Bowers, I saw you just a little while ago at the Short Compound." He said seriously.
"Lawrence's father. I remember." I said in a more relaxed voice.
"Right. I just wanted to call to invite you to, well, a funeral." Joe said uncomfortably.
"A funeral?" I asked with surprise, then noticed that Davis and Ken were listening intently to my side of the conversation.
"Vincent's parents both died Wednesday and we're going to have a simple grave side ceremony. Vincent asked that you, Ken and Dylan be invited to stand with him." Joe said quietly.
"Why me? I just met him in the doctors office this morning." I asked before I could think better of it.
"I don't really know. When I asked Vincent if he had any friends that he wanted to invite, he asked for you." Joe said frankly.
I thought about what little I knew of Vincent from our brief conversations.
The only reason I could think of that he would consider us his friends is because maybe he didn't have any friends and we were nice to him.
"I'll have to talk to my parents about it. They've kind of got my whole weekend planned out." I said reluctantly.
"I've already talked to them and they said that if you want to go, they'll work it in." Joe said frankly.
I nodded in thought, then said, "Sure. And Ken's right here if you want to talk to him too."
"Yes. I called and talked to Allen and he said that it's fine. All I'll need to do is make sure that Ken wants to go." Joe said seriously.
"Okay, here he is." I said into the phone, then held it to my chest as I said to Ken, "Ken, it's Joe Bowers, Lawrence's father. He wants to talk to you."
"Okay." Ken said uncertainly as he accepted the phone.
"Did you say funeral?" Davis asked cautiously from beside me.
"Yeah. This guy named Vincent invited us to his parent's funeral on Sunday." I said in a distracted voice.
The fact that I was being invited to a funeral for people who I'd never met seemed somehow wrong to me.
"Is he a close friend of yours?" Davis asked with concern.
"I just met him for the first time today." I said honestly.
"Then why is he inviting you?" Davis asked curiously.
I noticed that Ken had already hung up the phone and was waiting for the answer to Davis' question with expectation.
"I'm not sure. But I think it's possible that Vincent may not have any friends. Ken and I, and this other guy named Dylan, met him this morning and I guess we were nice to him. I think maybe he just needs someone to care about him and... we're all he's got." I said quietly.
"Oh wow. That's got to be a really horrible lonely feeling, going to your parent's funeral and knowing that you don't have anyone who cares enough about you to help you through it." Davis said distantly.
"He's got a lot of people who care. And by the time Sunday is over, he's going to know it." Ken said firmly.
I looked at Ken with question at the statement.
"I'll tell Cory and Sean about it tonight." Ken said seriously.
I nodded at Ken, trusting him to do the right thing.
"Here you are Davis. I hope I didn't keep you waiting too long." Corina said from my bedroom doorway.
Davis turned to look at her and smiled.
"Nope. It worked out just fine. I had a chance to talk with your brother and Ken for a while." Davis said as he stood.
I looked at Corina and was a little bit surprised at how nice she looked.
It seems that she was able to get her frizzy mess of hair somehow sprayed, clipped, pinned and gelled into something resembling a decent hair style.
"You look nice." Davis said quietly as he approached her.
"Thanks." Corina said with a demure giggle.
Yep. She's really getting better at that 'feminine' thing she's been working on.
"I'll see you guys later. Don't forget to call if we can do something tomorrow." Davis said as he tore his gaze from Corina for an instant.
"I'll call you as soon as I know something." Ken said, and looked as though he were trying to restrain a giggle.
As soon as Davis and Corina were out of the room, Ken started to laugh.
"What's so funny?" I asked Ken curiously.
"Those two dressing up, acting shy and being scared that they'll say the wrong thing all the time. I'm really glad we don't have to do that." Ken said as he walked across the room and sat at my side.
"Yeah, it's really nice that we can just be ourselves with each other." I said as I pulled him into a gentle hug.
"I've got a visitor for you." Dad said from my doorway.
As I looked toward the door, I saw Possum lope into the room and settle into his spot by the bathroom door.
Dad walked into the room and took a seat beside me on the bed, the other side from Ken.
"Have you thought about what you want to do with Possum when you go to Vulcan?" Dad asked me quietly.
I looked at Dad with surprise and said, "I didn't think of that."
"He could go with you. It might be nice to have a companion when things are quiet there." Dad said gently.
Possum would need to go on walks and be fed and bathed... as nice as it would be to have him there with me, it wouldn't be fair to him.
Finally, I shook my head and said, "I couldn't take care of him."
"I'm sure that Solak can arrange for someone to take care of him for you until you're able to do it for yourself." Dad said with assurance.
"Maybe. But it's going to be bad enough having people doing things for me that I should be able to do for myself. It wouldn't be right to ask them to do more. Besides, it wouldn't be fair to Possum either. I don't know what my life is going to be like on Vulcan, but there's a chance that I won't be able to spend a lot of time with him. I'd hate for Possum to spend his days being alone just so I could have him around now and then when I need company." I said in thought.
"He could stay with me." Ken said quietly.
I looked at Ken with question.
"Everyone at my house loves Possum... especially Ricardo. I could keep him over at my house and bring him with me when I come to visit you." Ken said hopefully.
"Would that be okay with you Dad?" I asked as I turned.
"That would be fine. As long as you can talk Allen into it, I don't see any problem." Dad said with a gentle smile.
"Pop won't have a problem. I think he wanted for us to keep Possum as much as Ricardo did." Ken said happily.
"I think Possum will be really happy at your house." I said honestly.
"If you like, I'll talk to Allen about it tonight. The adults are going to socialize while you're having your Clan meeting." Dad said with a smile.
"So that's why Mom's cooking?" I asked curiously.
"That's right. When Solak and Dr. Michaels started talking to her about how she helped you, she started telling everyone about her theories on nutrition. Helen and Teri seemed very interested and asked about a few of her recipes." Dad said with a touch of pride in his voice.
"The guys in the Clan are never going to forgive me if they have to start eating health food because of me." I said weakly.
"Don't worry about that Skeeter. I'm sure Teri and Helen won't force their kids to switch entirely over to health food. But with your mom's help, they might introduce a few new items into their families' diets." Dad said seriously.
"Okay. I just don't want Cory and Sean to have a reason to be mad at me before I have a chance to really get to know them." I said reluctantly.
"I'll make sure that they know it's not your fault." Ken said with assurance as he gave me a quick squeeze of a hug.
"Thanks Ken." I whispered as I hugged him in return.
"Well, here we are again." Dad said happily as he drove us into the Short Compound.
"I hope you boys will have a good time tonight. I made sure to bring plenty of treats for both of you." Mom said cheerfully.
"Thanks Mrs. Teeter." Ken said as he tried to act happy about the announcement.
"Are you sure that Corina is going to be alright with Davis? I'm worried that if their date doesn't go well that she'll come home to an empty house." Dad said as he pulled into a parking place.
"I already talked to Hildy and she promised that she'd keep an eye on them. I just think it's wonderful that Corina has met such a nice boy." Mom said happily.
I glanced at Ken with question to receive a shrug in return.
I didn't really know much about Davis. He seemed to be nice, but I hadn't known him long enough to be sure of it.
"Do you want to help me with the wheelchair Ken?" Dad asked as he got out of the car.
Ken flashed me a beaming smile before hurrying to help my dad.
"I had a long talk with Helen and Teri this morning and they both said that if there's any problem at all, they'll call us to come and get you." Mom said seriously from the front seat.
"I'm sure everything will be fine." I said quietly.
"It probably will. But if you need to come home for some reason, just tell Helen or Teri and we'll be right over." Mom said as she looked me in the eyes.
"Okay Mom. I promise." I said quietly.
My car door opened and Ken leaned in so I could take hold of him.
On impulse, I stretched up and gave him a quick kiss before putting my arms around him so he could shift me out of the car and into my wheelchair.
"Now I owe you one." Ken said with a devilish smile as he made sure that my legs were positioned correctly.
"Guys, the Clan meeting is just about to start, so I'm here to show you the way." A boy said from a few feet away.
I looked at him curiously, feeling that I had met him somewhere before.
"Thanks Aaron." Ken said as he moved behind my wheelchair.
I looked at the boy more carefully, then my eyes went wide as I realized who it was.
NO FREAKIN WAY!
"Hi Rory. I'm Aaron, it's nice to meet you." He said in a casual voice.
"I... um, it's nice... Are you really Aaron Carter?" I asked in amazement.
He chuckled at my reaction and said, "Yeah. Last time I checked. Come on, we don't want to keep the guys waiting."
As Ken was pushing my wheelchair toward the house, he quietly said, "Ask Jake about Aaron sometime, he'll tell you about how great Aaron really is."
"I can hear you." Aaron said from ahead of us with a grin. "Zac's snoring hasn't deafened me yet!"
"Oh, um... well, you already know how much Jake likes you, so I guess that's okay." Ken said shyly.
"It goes both ways Kenny. We may have lived completely different lives, but Jake and I knew the same pain. That's how I was able to help him." Aaron said frankly.
I craned my neck to look at Ken with question.
"You'll be hearing all about that in the meeting." Ken said as we approached large double doors.
"It's time to meet the Clan." Aaron said, as he opened both doors and stood aside.
There were no less than thirty guys all sitting around the room in little groups.
As soon as Ken pushed me into the room, everyone got quiet.
"Everyone, I'd like for you to meet Rory. Rory, this is everyone." Cory said with a teasing smile.
"Hi." I said weakly as I waved at the room in general.
"Rory, come over here! I saved you a seat!" Kevin called from one of the couches.
Ken immediately started pushing me across the room to where Kevin was waiting.
There were people sitting on the floor, so it seemed wrong for me to take a seat on the couch. I mean, I had my own chair.
But there was just no way I could refuse Kevin's thoughtful gesture of saving me a seat.
"Ready?" Ken asked as he leaned over me.
"Yeah." I whispered as I reached up to hold on to him.
He quickly moved me into position on the couch and I released my grip on him.
Rather than move away, Ken leaned in and proceeded to give me a firm kiss.
I moved my hands back up so I could pull him closer and maybe prolong the kiss a moment longer.
A few snickers sounded around the room and made me remember that we weren't alone.
"That was the one I owed you." Ken whispered as he pulled back enough to look me in the eyes.
"It looks like you didn't have to wait too long to figure out if you liked boys or girls." Someone said from across the room.
"Yeah Kyle, I just had to meet the right guy before I figured it out." Ken said happily as he pushed my wheelchair out of the way.
"Go ahead and sit down Kenny so we can get started." Cory called from the front of the room.
"You can squeeze in here between us." Kevin said hopefully from beside me.
Ken looked from me to Kevin, then sat down in the small space.
After a moment of shifting around, Ken whispered, "I think I have a better idea."
Before I could ask what he had in mind, he picked up my legs and draped them across his lap.
He put his arms around me, then shifted me up onto his legs.
When I was in place, Ken wiggled over a little on the couch.
"Comfy?" Cory asked with a smile at us.
"Perfect." Ken said as he put his arms around me and snuggled me close to him.
I glanced around the room to see if anyone had a problem with Ken being so open about our relationship.
Movement caught my eye and I saw two or three people switch their seating so they were snuggled like we were.
"It looks like everyone has found a good seat, so let's get started. Sean?" Cory asked as he sat down.
Sean shrugged, then moved from his chair to sit in Cory's lap and said, "I was wondering when you'd get around to it."
Chuckles spread around the room at the action.
"I meant that it was time for you to give the Clan history." Cory said with playful aggravation. "Not that I'm complaining!"
"I know what you meant. I can do it just fine from right here." Sean said, then leaned in to give Cory a quick kiss.
"Go ahead." Cory said in a contented voice as he wrapped his arms around Sean.
Sean started telling this long story about all the people in the room and how they got to be members of the Clan.
As each person's name was mentioned, Ken would point them out to me.
A few of the guys noticed and waved at me when I looked at them.
I couldn't believe some of what I was hearing about the things they went through.
Some of the things were so horrible that I couldn't have imagined that anyone could be so completely evil as to do them to another living creature, much less an innocent child.
I was horrified by some of the things that I heard, and I was relieved to know that the guys were rescued and living happy lives now. But somehow it wasn't personal. These people were strangers to me so it didn't really hit home until Sean came to Ken's name.
"Kenny had the type of life that a lot of us have only dreamed about. He had a father who loved him very much. He was never abused and never knew a day of neglect in his whole life. But what happened to Kenny was worse in some ways. His father came down sick and Kenny had to stand by and watch as his big strong father who loved him so much became weak and frail. I can't imagine... I don't want to imagine what a living hell that must have been for him." Sean said sadly.
I looked at Ken to see that he was crying.
I adjusted my sitting position a little, then put my hand on the back of Ken's head and guided him to place his head on my chest so I could comfort him.
"After Kenny's father died, Kenny was sent to live with his mother in Chicago. That's where he met his twin brother Kevin for the first time. Kevin was neglected by his mother all his life. He basically raised himself on the streets of Chicago and did what he had to do to survive. When Kenny arrived, their mother abandoned them." Sean said with a heartbroken look at Kevin.
I glanced at Kevin and he seemed so small and alone even though he was sitting right beside us.
I held an arm out to him to invite him to share my hug with Ken.
Kevin shifted over in his seat and hugged both of us.
"After that, things went from bad to worse. Fortunately, Kenny called a friend for help and was put in touch with Clan Short. David took a team to see if we could help and while he was there he met someone else who was trying to protect Kevin. Jake was a street hustler and a drug addict who was willing to do whatever he could to be sure that Kevin would be kept safe." Sean said with admiration.
I looked at the floor where Jake and Xain were sitting side by side with Edovina laying on a blanket in front of them.
"After a few delays, we got them out of there and brought them here to Orlando. Kenny, Kevin and Jake have all been adopted by the same man and are now legally brothers. At our next Clan meeting, we invited the three of them to join us. At that meeting Kevin was showing us his pictures and we found out that someone named Xain was in trouble and needed our help. Kenny felt the picture and told us what was wrong and where to find him. Xain is half Human. He couldn't master Vulcan logic, but he also couldn't express emotions like a Human. He felt that he was a failure and didn't belong in either society. With a little help from Grandfather Sarek, Xain was brought to Orlando and was also adopted into the Thompson family where he belongs." Sean finished with a smile.
I looked at Xain with surprise. I never would have guessed that he had gone through any kind of pain like that.
"Deacon wasn't physically neglected, but his parents got so involved with their own lives that they began to ignore him. It finally got so bad that he could go weeks at a time without seeing them or talking to them. When his thirteenth birthday arrived and they completely forgot, he knew it was time for him to leave. He came to Orlando to ask his brother Billy if he could live with him. While he was waiting for his brother to come home, Deacon met the Thompson family. It ended up that not only did Deacon end up being able to live with his brother, but he has a whole family who care about him now." Sean said happily.
"And that includes all of us." Cory interjected. "Every single person in this room."
I glanced at Deacon to find him smiling with tears of happiness gliding down his cheeks.
Sean nodded with agreement at Cory's statement, then continued, "Lawrence was adopted. In the past few years his adoptive father became abusive. He would hit Lawrence, but what hurt the most were the cruel insults. He would call Lawrence prissy and feminine. We may never know if that's what caused Lawrence to start dressing in girl's clothes, but that's really not important. Lawrence's adoptive father threw him out of their house. Lawrence had no one to turn to and nowhere to go. He did what he had to do to survive. Lawrence was getting beaten up in an alley when Deacon, Kenny, Kevin, Jake and Xain found him. Lawrence, who they knew as Laura at the time, was hurt and frightened. They helped Lawrence find a safe home where he is accepted no matter which way he chooses to dress."
I glanced at Lawrence and smiled as I remembered just how pretty he had been last night when we stopped by their house.
"Reuben and Ricardo lost their older brother Manny when he was gunned down in the street. They lived in the same building that Kevin and Jake lived in. When they first arrived in Orlando, I don't think anyone considered that they would become members of the Clan. But if you get to know them, you'll understand that they are an example to all of us of what it really means to be brothers." Sean said with a smile at the pair.
"Love, get up. My legs are going to sleep." Cory whispered just loud enough that everyone could hear.
"I think you're getting old Cor." Sean said with a smirk as he stood.
"No. You're just getting a big butt." Cory said as he stretched his legs out in front of him.
Sean twisted around to try and see his butt as he asked, "Do you really think so?"
Cory glanced at Sean, then down to his butt before saying, "No. I don't. It's not big... it's perfect."
"Guys. You're not alone." Justy said in a mock whisper; giving a sudden 'squeak' when Dean reached down and goosed him.
Cory reluctantly tore his gaze away from Sean's butt and said, "Oh, right. One more thing before we get down to business. Yesterday Kevin drew a picture and found a guy who was seriously thinking about committing suicide. Kevin called Kenny to feel the picture so they would know where this guy was and how to help him. Kenny took Rory with him and, from all accounts, Rory was quite a bit of help in bringing this guy to his senses."
I looked at Cory with surprise.
Even though I was happy to go with Ken to help JR, I didn't think I really did that much.
"So Rory. You've heard our stories so you know what we're all about. We invited you to be here tonight so we can invite you to join Clan Short." Cory said frankly.
I was about to answer when something occurred to me.
"I'd like to, but I'm going to be leaving for Vulcan on Sunday." I said reluctantly.
"I already know about that and it doesn't affect this. You've heard about what we've all been through and about what we do. I'm asking if you want to join us." Cory said frankly.
I glanced at Ken, but his expression was no help to me.
He was looking at me, waiting for me to answer.
"I don't know how I could help anyone else... I can't even walk." My mouth said before my brain had fully considered the words.
"That's one of the reasons we need you." Cory said simply.
I looked at Cory with confusion at the statement.
"Let me try." Sean said quietly from Cory's side.
Cory nodded and turned his attention to Sean.
"What would you do if you met someone who was a real mess because their father was dying of AIDS?" Sean asked seriously.
I thought for a second before saying, "I guess I'd have them talk to Ken because he knows what it's like to go through that and he could probably help."
Sean nodded, then asked, "What about someone who was all freaked out because they want to dress in girls clothes, but they're afraid someone will find out."
"I'd have them talk to Lawrence." I said, then glanced at Lawrence to find him looking at me with a smile.
"Okay. Then what if you met someone who was hurt and was going to have to be in a wheelchair, maybe for the rest of his life?" Sean asked seriously.
I nodded that I understood what he was trying to say.
"Thanks babe." Cory said to Sean gently, then continued, "So do you see why we need you Rory? No matter how much research we did on the subject or how hard we tried to imagine, there's just no way any of us could know what it feels like to deal with having a major disability. Even if you weren't in a wheelchair, I think you'd be a great addition to the Clan, but because of everything you've been through you might be able to help people that we couldn't reach otherwise."
"I could have used some help when I was in the hospital... I was just starting to feel sorry for myself." Eli said hesitantly.
"Just starting? You were up to your ears, drowning in self pity." Justy said frankly.
Sammy and Sebastian both nodded from their seats on Benji and Eli's laps. "Both of you were;" Sammy said seriously. "You had us worried; I wondered if you'd ever open up!"
Eli shrugged dismissively, then said, "I just know it would have been easier if we'd had someone there who knew what it felt like."
I saw the honesty in Eli's expression and quietly said, "I wish I had been there for you."
"Me too. But you can be there for the next person who needs you. " Eli said seriously.
"So Rory, what do you say? Are you ready to join?" Cory asked hopefully.
"Yeah. I'll join you." I said and immediately felt like a ton of weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
"Good. Then I've got a job for you." Cory said seriously.
I looked at him with question, feeling like I might have been set up.
"You're going to Vulcan, right?" Cory asked as he looked me in the eyes, the twinkle in his proving he was having fun with whatever he was doing.
"Right." I said reluctantly.
"Then what would you think if, after you get settled in, you become the Clan's representative on Vulcan?" Cory asked in a professional voice.
"But, isn't Ambassador Sarek already there?" I asked cautiously.
"Yes. Grandfather Sarek is on Vulcan... well, not at the moment, but usually. That's actually part of the problem. Clan Short is a Vulcan clan. When people who don't really know much about us need to contact Clan Short, they try to contact us on Vulcan. Grandfather ends up having to deal with a lot of stuff that he shouldn't be bothered with. It would make things a lot easier for everyone if we had a Clan representative on Vulcan that people could talk to and get some answers." Cory said seriously.
"But I don't have any answers." I said helplessly.
"You'll learn the answers as you go. But the important thing is that you'll be there, on Vulcan, where they can find you and talk to you." Cory said frankly. "None of us know all the answers either; we just ask until we find someone who does."
Me? People from all over the universe will be coming to talk to me?
"I'll do it." My mouth answered before I could even begin to wrap my brain around the entire concept.
"I'm glad because I didn't have a backup plan if you said no." Cory said with a smile.
The rest of the Clan were talking about taking some guys from Camp Little Eagle to go clothes shopping this weekend.
I took the chance to devote a little more of my attention to Ken.
After a moment of looking at Ken I quietly asked, "Are you okay? Do I need to move off your legs for a while?"
"No. I'm fine for right now, but maybe in a little bit we could switch places. I think I'd like for you to hold me." Ken said hopefully.
"I'd like that too. Just let me know when you're ready." I said, then placed a kiss on the top of his head.
"...good. That's settled. Does anyone have anything else that they need to discuss right now?" Cory asked as he looked around the room.
"I do." Ken said quickly.
I looked down at Ken with question.
"Vincent invited Rory and I to his parents' funeral on Sunday." Ken said seriously.
Cory nodded and said, "I'm glad that someone thought to do that."
"Vincent just met us this morning. I think that he's got the idea that no one cares about him, or if they do, it's only because they feel like they have to." Ken said firmly.
"From what I saw of him the day we met... I can kind of understand that." Cory said reluctantly.
"What do you think Lawrence?" Sean asked curiously.
"I think Kenny may be right. Vince always kind of stayed to himself. I've never seen him hanging around with any friends. I guess I didn't think about it too much because he seemed pretty happy with things being that way." Lawrence said uncertainly.
"Vincent's going to be staying at Southcrest for the rest of the weekend, so that'll give us time to do this right. Guys, this is going to be completely voluntary. But try to keep in mind that a funeral isn't something you do for the dead. It's something that you do to help the living deal with the loss. When we told Vincent that we'd be his guardians and be there for him... well, it's all just words unless we back it up with actions." Cory said as he looked around the gathering.
"Maybe we could talk to some of the camp guys about attending too." Kyle said thoughtfully.
Before I could even think about being shy about it, I spoke up and said, "Dylan was already invited. I bet if you explained all this to him, he might be able to bring some people."
"I was going to call Dylan tomorrow anyway so I can talk to him about it." Jake said as he held Edovina in his arms.
"Make sure you tell Dylan that all of the Clan are Vincent's guardians. That means that Vincent is just like everyone at Camp Little Eagle. From a certain point of view, they're brothers." Sean said carefully.
"Yeah. I'll tell him." Jake said seriously.
"Let me know if Dylan has any questions or needs any kind of help." Cory said in thought.
Jake nodded that he would.
A knock at the door drew everyone's attention.
"Sorry to interrupt. But dinner will be ready in just a minute." A woman said quietly from the doorway.
"Thanks Helen, we're just about done." Cory said quickly.
Ken nudged me to get my attention.
"Do you think we should warn them about your mom's cooking?" Ken asked with concern.
"Nah. Now that I've met everyone, I'm pretty sure that they can handle it." I said, then moved in to give Ken a quick kiss.
"Everyone, since Rory is our newest member, I think he should have the honor of going first." Cory said in an authoritative voice.
I looked at Cory with surprise at the declaration.
"I'll get his wheelchair." Justy said as he hopped up from his seat.
"I'll get Rory." Eli said, then I felt myself starting to float up out of Ken's lap.
I would have been totally shocked if I hadn't heard about Eli's ability during the Clan Short history.
"Here, put him in the chair." Justy said in a rush as he pushed the wheelchair in front of us.
"I'll help push." Timmy said as he raced around to the back of the wheelchair.
"Me too!" Ricky said as he ran to Timmy's side.
"I wanna." Ricardo said and he hurried behind my wheelchair followed immediately by Reuben.
"I think that means that they're ready for dinner." Ken said with a chuckle as he stood.
I reached out my hand to Ken and he accepted it.
I held Ken's hand and felt contentment as the two of us led the procession out of the room.