A New Door Opens

Chapter 01

The worst day of my life. Ha!

If anyone would have asked me yesterday, I would have said that the worst day of my life was the day I was diagnosed with this damned unpronounceable disease... condition... whatever.

I always thought that nothing in my life could ever be worse than that day when my mom took me to the doctor for the results of the tests to tell us why I was having muscle twitches and getting weak.

Everything else that's gone wrong in my life traces back to that day.

I was normal.

Not cute. Not ugly. Not super smart. But not super dumb either.

My friends Ritchie and Ryan would hang out and talk about, well, nothing really. We'd just talk.

Everyone who knew us knew that if you saw one of us, you'd see the other two following a second later.

The three R's. Ritchie, Ryan and Rory...

I haven't seen Ritchie since last year, when mom took me out of public school.

I guess watching me get sicker and sicker was freaking them out pretty bad.

It's best to stick me in a little room where no one has to think about me or deal with the fact that things like this happen.

No, God is in his heaven and all's right with the world.

Anyway, Ritchie emailed me a few times but... it just wasn't the same. I could tell he was doing it because he felt like he had to.

Last spring he finally stopped.

Ryan came by about five months ago.

He said he's got a girlfriend...

I'll never have a girlfriend, well, not like that was going to happen anyway, but I'll never have a boyfriend either.

Who would want to have anything to do with a hideous, twisted monster like what I've become.

A few days after Ryan visited, mom came in and told me that he wouldn't be back.

Ryan's mom wouldn't let him visit anymore because it upset him so much... I guess he had nightmares and even missed some school because of it.

That day, everything traces back to that day. If the test result had been anything else I would have had a future... but now...

My body is shutting down around me.

The first thing to go was my legs.

I never really thought about my legs before, I mean, who would?

I wasn't a runner or an athlete so I didn't really think it would be that big of a deal...

God, I was so wrong.

When I sat down in that wheelchair, it was the first day of the end of my life.

It was like my world got smaller that day.

Now there were so many places I couldn't go and so many things I couldn't do.

Little, unimportant things that I never thought of before.

Mom tried to take me places to make up for it but I think that might have made it worse.

We used to be able to decide to go somewhere and just hop in the car and go...

Now... well, until a few months ago anyway, we would have to plan ahead to make sure the place we were going had ramps and stuff. Then mom would have to help me get into the car and pack the wheelchair in the trunk.

More often than not, all the handicapped parking would be full and she'd have to park out in BFE so she'd have enough room to get the wheelchair beside the car to get me out.

Then she'd have to push me all over the place the whole time we were there.

For a while I could move the wheelchair myself but eventually, that was taken away from me too.

I lost my freedom.

I couldn't go anywhere by myself anymore.

That was why I decided that I'd be better off in my room...

The family room is what it really is. It became my room the day I couldn't make it upstairs anymore....

It wasn't so bad. I had my computer and the whole world of the Internet to entertain me.

Finally that was taken away from me too when my hands were so twitchy and twisted that I couldn't write an email in under a day.

Mom got me some special things to make it possible for me to use the computer, but...

I couldn't.

I just couldn't go out into the world again, only to have it taken away from me.

I'd settled into the routine fairly well, Mom would load the CD player for the day and leave me alone to think and listen.

For a little while I could lose myself in the dreams of the singers, telling me about their loves and lives and joys and pains.

It wasn't much of a life, but it had some peaceful moments in it.

Mom would sometimes slip some other music in to try and put me in a better mood.

Hah!

As if she can even understand what that is.

She used to have moods.

She used to cry and mourn the loss of my health and freedom right along with me.

She doesn't have moods anymore. She takes a pill for that.

Now I have the ever-cheerful zombie hyper-mom.

Nothing ever gets her down or makes her mad.

All she does all day, every day, is zip around and try to make everything just 'perfect'.

I miss my real mom...

I miss my dad too...

When it first happened he tried to cope.

He took me camping and when we got to the parking lot he just picked me up and wore me like a backpack all the way to the campsite.

It was one of the best weekends I can remember since this curse fell on me.

But I just kept getting sicker and every day I would see him less and less.

Now dad is a ghost in my life.

I can't remember exactly when was the last time I saw him.

He even looks like a ghost.

It's like all the life is gone from his eyes and he doesn't see the world around him anymore.

It's like he's dead.

Walking around and still going through the motions, but dead inside.

I guess it doesn't matter now.

This morning I went back to the doctors for the latest test results...

I never imagined this could happen, not in my deepest, darkest nightmares.

We went into the office, just like always.

We sat in the waiting room and all the other people there tried to pretend that they weren't staring at me.

Mom was her hyper-cheerful self reading the out-of-date magazines at warp speed.

There was a little kid there who was pointing at me and asking his mother what was wrong with me.

Do you know what the bitch had the nerve to tell him?

'Don't look at him. You'll make him feel bad.'

I want the kid to look at me damn it! Take a good long look because I'm a person and I don't want to be ignored.

Talk to me! Ask me questions! Hell, point at me and call me names if you want to! BUT DON'T IGNORE ME!

Sorry... sore spot.

Where was I?

Oh yeah, the waiting room.

You'd think they would put a TV with HBO or something in there wouldn't you. I mean you go in and pay them how many hundred dollars every single time you visit? Then they make you wait with two-year old National Geographic's and crying babies?

What? Oh, the point. Yeah, I'm getting there.

We went into the doctor's office for a 'consultation', I think that's French for 'I could have told you over the phone but I'd rather drag you across town, make you fight traffic, make you try to find parking somewhere in this zip code, and then keep you waiting for half an hour so I can charge you a few hundred bucks and see the look on your face when I tell you.'

Anyway, Dr. All-Knowing finally comes in and has to look at my file to remember my name.

Remember me? The twitching little lump of flesh that drools on himself? The thing that used to be a normal kid three years ago? The monster that you said you could help? Ring any bells? Apparently not.

Zombie Hyper-mom was on the edge of her seat, listening to his every word as if he were about to impart the secrets of the universe.

As if.

So Dr. Know-it-all goes all the way back to the beginning of my file to recount my treatment and the 'progress' of my condition.

You call this progress?

Going from Playstation to PS-2, that's progress.

This is decomposition.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure Dr. Look-At-How-Smart-I-Am is getting paid by the hour.

He drones on and on, throwing in some twenty-two syllable words now and then just to prove that he's smarter than everyone else and finally he said the word.

He said the word that made today the single worst day of my entire life.

"Mrs. Teeter..."

Yeah, that's right, Teeter, I'm having a bad enough day, don't start with me.

"...your son's condition has..."

here it comes, the one word that I never expected. The nightmare made reality.

"...stabilized."


?

!

!?

!!!

!?!?


WHAT THE FUCK!?!?

Not gotten worse or better, NO.

If there was a merciful God in heaven the word would have been 'deteriorated' or 'improved'. Either one, I don't care!

But STABILIZED!?!?

Sweet Jesus no!

Cure me or kill me! Don't leave me like this!

"Since we're between treatments, I'm at a loss to explain..."

Stabilized!

"...need a sample of his spinal fluid...

Stabilized.

"...come back next week for a complete work-up...'

stabilized...


I just endured one of the Zombie Hyper-Mom's whole-grain, organic, free-range creations.

Yuk!

Somewhere she got the idea that if we eat this way we'll live longer... you call that living? I'll gladly trade one year off my life for a Big Mac right now.

I guess I shouldn't complain, it's not like I can pick and choose since I can't even feed myself but... damn. That stuff was just nasty!

Oh well, I was telling you about my exciting morning...

Stabilized...

Not that it was a great day to begin with.

First of all my sister, Corina comes in and wakes me up to tell me about how she's got this horrible zit and how lucky I am that I don't have to go to school.

Um, yeah. That's me... the lucky one.

Then I find out that my dog, Possum, ran away last night.

He's supposed to be like my best friend or something.

He's okay. I mean, he doesn't try to feed me organic things or complain about zits, so that automatically moves him to the top of my friends list.

Possum doesn't do much, he just kind of lays around and listens to music with me, licks his nuts for half an hour or so, then goes to sleep.

As entertainment goes, it ranks right up there with afternoon television.

So to recap, I woke up to the zit story, found out my dog ran away, then went to the doctor to find out that I'm stuck like this.

Maybe I should get Zombie Hyper-Mom to load up a good book on CD for me next time she zips through here.

It takes my mind off things for a while at least.

But last time she loaded it, she got the CD's out of order. I can't even tell you how weird that was.

What am I going to do?

Up to now I've been facing the fact that this disease was eventually going to get to my heart or lungs or something else vital to life and then it would all end.

But now...

Stabilized.


"Rory honey, how would you like to go outside for a while? It's such a beautiful day!"

I guess every day is beautiful in her world.

"No."

Hey, it's not great exposition, but I can't talk very well anymore.

I'm pretty sure she doesn't understand what I'm saying most of the time, she just pretends so I'll feel better.

It's not like it's that hard to figure out what my answers will be.

"I've got a batch of brownies in the oven. I know how much you love them!"

Oh God. Not brownies!

Don't get me wrong, I love brownies, real 'chocolate' brownies. But the things that she makes are some kind of chocolate substitute from the health food store. No sugar, that is soooo unhealthy. So she uses concentrated mango juice or something. And we mustn't use any refined flour, no no no. Only whole grain flour... or maybe she just uses dirt. I really can't tell.

"When they're ready I'll bring you one with a tall glass of milk!"

No, not *cow's* milk. For some reason cows have been exiled from the realm of nature in Zombie Hyper-Mom's world. No, I get to enjoy a tall glass of soy milk.

Have you ever tasted soy milk?

I bet baby soybeans won't even drink it.

Okay, two years, one Big Mac, that's my final offer.

Stabilized...

The way the disease was going, I was looking at one more year, tops.

It didn't matter that I wasn't going to school because I'd never be old enough to need an education.

Years... I'm looking at living like this for years now.

When some people see me, they speak loudly and slowly because they think my brain is as messed up as my body.

It used to bug me... but it beats being ignored.

I guess it doesn't matter now... I can barely communicate anymore.

It would have been better if it was the other way around. If my mind was paralyzed and twisted and my body had been left untouched. At least that way I wouldn't have to endure the torture of watching the world continue around me without anyway to effect it.

Stabilized.

'Dear God! I know I stopped praying a long time ago, but... you can't let this happen. Please... I'm begging you... Please don't make me have to live for fifty or sixty years without being able to talk or feed myself. I can't...'

I just can't...


"Rory honey, I've got good news!" Zombie Hyper-Mom said in her ever-cheerful voice through the door.

Good news. What a surprise. To her, the oven timer dinging is good news.

"These boys found Possum over at their house."

Boys?

I looked up to see a skinny blond kid, I guess he was a little older than me standing in my doorway.

"Hey, I'm Jake. How you doing?" The boy asked with a genuine smile.

"K" I forced out through my uncooperative mouth.

"This is my brother... Ken, where are you?" Jake asked as he looked behind him.

And in he walked, the most beautiful guy I think I've ever seen.

Eyes like pools of chocolate, brown hair spiked up and looking wild. He was fit and tan and just gorgeous.

"Um, hi." The boy, Ken, said shyly.

"Hi." I forced out.

"We found your dog. It's a good thing the address is on his collar or we wouldn't have known where he belonged." Jake said in a friendly and casual voice.

"Thanks." I said, making the single word mostly understandable.

"I've just made some brownies. How would you boys like some?" Hyper-Mom asked with a too-big smile.

"No thank you, we're about to have lunch." Jake said softly.

"Yeah. I'll have one. I love brownies." Ken said with a smile.

Oh God, he's going to eat one of mom's brownies!

This could be the end of any chance of friendship with these guys.

"Jake." I forced out.

"Yeah?" Jake asked and leaned closer to hear me.

"Mom's brownies suck." I said, working as hard as I could to make myself understood.

"I won't tell if you don't." Jake said with a conspiratorial whisper and a wink.

I looked at Jake curiously and saw the mischief dancing in his eyes.

"Here you go, and a tall glass of milk to wash it down." Hyper-Mom said extra-cheerfully.

"Thank you." Ken said with a huge smile and took a big bite of the brownie.

The look on his face was priceless. I thought for a second he was just going to spit it out right there.

Come to think of it, that would have been the winning option.

Instead, he tried to hide his horror and disgust by taking a long drink of milk.

I didn't think his eyes could get any wider, but they did.

There he was, standing in the middle of my bedroom with a mouth full of nasty-ass chocolate-substitute brownie and soy milk.

I raised my twisted hand and gestured in the general direction of the side door and said as loud and clear as I could, "Bathroom."

Ken nodded with tears in his eyes and ran toward the indicated door.

"Is something wrong?" Zombie Hyper-Mom asked in puzzlement.

"I think it went down the wrong way." Jake said, barely restraining his laughter.

I couldn't help it. That had to be the funniest thing I'd seen in years.

I began to laugh and laugh hard.

"That'll teach Ken to take food from strangers." Jake said through his chuckles.

"His face..." I said, trying to calm myself.

"Yeah. After seeing that, I'm glad I'm saving my appetite for lunch." Jake said happily.

Still laughing, I did my best estimation of a nod of agreement.

"Would you like to come over to our house and hang out for a while?" Jake asked casually.

This guy is asking if I want to go to his house like I'm just a normal kid. It's like he doesn't even notice that I'm all twisted and gross.

"Yeah." I forced out, trying harder than I ever have to make myself understood.

"Mrs. Teeter? Would it be okay if Rory came over to our house for a while?" Jake asked Zombie Hyper-Mom with a smile.

"Oh, I don't know Jake. Rory is very sick. I don't think it's such a good idea." Hyper-Mom said, and an almost human expression of concern came over her face.

"We'll just be three houses away. If he starts feeling bad or anything we can bring him right back or call you." Jake said seriously.

"Well, I'll need to talk to your mother to make sure it's okay." Hyper-Mom said in the state of mind that passed for thought.

Jake looked at the bathroom door and said, "Ken, stop washing your mouth out and tell me the phone number. Mrs. Teeter needs to call Dad."

A second later Ken walked out of the bathroom with an embarrassed look on his face.

"Here, just hit 2 on the speed dial." Ken said as he handed Jake his phone.

Jake took the phone and hit the button.

After a second of waiting, Jake said, "Hola Mamacita. Por favor, yo necessito hablar con Papa... Si, gracias."

I looked at Zombie Hyper-Mom and saw the surprised look on her face.

"Hey Dad. We brought the dog over here and made a new friend. I asked if he could come and visit and his Mom wants to make sure it'll be okay." Jake said, then waited a second before handing the phone to Zombie Mom.

"I just wanted to be sure that it wouldn't be any trouble... But someone will need to be with Rory all the time... Oh, a housekeeper? And your neighbor too? And your Mother? Well, I guess that's okay then. Let me give you my phone number in case anything happens." Hyper-Mom said with confusion, then rattled off our phone number.

"Oh yes. Five o'clock would be fine. Thank you very much Mr. ? Thompson. Allen... Okay, and you can call me Doris. I'll see you at five o'clock." Zombie Hyper-Mom said, then handed the phone back to Jake.

"He said that there will be four adults there and that he'll bring you back home at five. Where did I put your coat?" Hyper-Mom asked suddenly and dashed out of the room.

"It's warm out, why would you need a coat?" Ken asked with confusion.

I didn't know how to explain with my extremely limited ability to speak.

"I guess Mrs. Teeter is worried that we're overdue for another ice age. Just smile and nod until we can get out of here." Jake said with a knowing look at me.

"Okay. Rory, do you have a swim suit? We have a pool and we were planning on swimming after lunch." Ken asked.

"In the gym bag." I tried to say, but it came out sounding like, "I ieee gee gah."

"In the gym bag." Jake said and I looked at him with disbelieving eyes.

Jake smiled and said, "I used to have a friend named Lewis in Chicago who was in about the same shape as you. I got pretty good at understanding him."

All I could do was respond with what, I'm sure, was a completely dorky smile.

"Here is his coat, an umbrella and some galoshes." Hyper-Mom said as she zipped into the room.

Jake and Ken just smiled and nodded as they took the gear from her.

"Can you get it yourself or would you like me to push?" Jake asked me casually.

"Push." I tried to say. I don't even know what the sound was that I made, but Jake apparently understood, because he unlocked my wheels and pushed me out of the room.

"Which one is your house again?" Zombie Hyper-Mom asked, sounding like she was about to panic.

"Three houses that way." Ken said as he pointed.

"The Dodds house?" Mom asked carefully.

"Yeah, Uncle Chip sold it to my Dad." Ken said with a smile.

"Oh, well you make sure and call me right away if anything at all happens. Do you promise?" Zombie Hyper-Mom asked in an almost lucid voice.

Ken smiled and nodded.

"We'll see you at five. Don't worry, we'll take good care of Rory." Jake said with a smile.

Zombie Hyper-Mom stood at the doorway and watched as Jake pushed me down the walkway to the sidewalk.


"Rory, your mom's kind of..." Ken trailed off, searching for the right word.

"She's just really really happy Ken." Jake said seriously, then after a moment of consideration, he continued, "Probably lithium... That or maybe a mood enhancer and a pharmaceutical grade amphetamine."

"She's sad and takes drugs because of me." I said, but somewhere between my brain and my mouth the message must have got mixed up.

"Jake, you can understand Rory better than I can. Let me push for a while." Ken said seriously.

"Sure Ken." Jake said and traded places with him.

"What were you saying Rory?" Jake asked in a friendly voice.

"Mom's sad and takes drugs because of me." I said, and it sounded a little more like what I meant to say this time.

"Oh. So when you got sick she got all drugged up to deal with it." Jake said as more of a statement than a question.

"It's not your fault buddy. You didn't choose to get sick and you didn't choose for her to deal with it like this. Some people just can't cope. It's not your fault at all." Jake said with assurance.

Wow. That made total and complete sense! It's not my fault. It wasn't my choice.

"Um, I'm going to ask you to do something that might seem a little strange when we get to the house, but please just trust me, okay?" Jake asked hesitantly.

"K" I forced out.

"My boyfriend is going to meet us at the back door where we'll be going in and he's going to give me some candy. If it's okay with you, I'm going to put it in your pocket." Jake said in thought.

"Why?" I asked. It sounded more like a sigh than a word, but he got it.

Then it hit me. He said boyfriend. Jake is gay. He's like me. Not only did I find some new friends, but one of them is gay!

"That's the part where you're going to have to trust me. If it works, it'll be totally cool, I promise." Jake finished with a smile.

"K" I forced out again.

Hell, he wants to put candy in my pocket. That's no big deal... just a little strange.

"This is our house. What do you think?" Ken asked from behind me.

"Nice." I said.

I'd been by here a lot of times before. Ryan and Richie and I used to make up reasons to walk by here, hoping to get a look at JC from *NSync. We never got to see him, but it was worth a try.

"Here are the items you requested." A boy said as he approached us.

The kid was a Vulcan. I'd read about Vulcans back before I stopped going to school.

I never, ever thought I'd ever see a real live Vulcan.

"Thanks T'hy'la." Jake said so softly that I almost couldn't hear.

"Rory, this is Xain, my boyfriend. Xain, this is Rory. He owns the dog we found this morning." Jake said with a friendly smile.

"It is a pleasure to meet you Rory." Xain said formally.

"Let me stash the candy, then we'll go inside and meet the family." Jake said with a smile.

"K" I said. Hey, it's the one thing I can say that sounds like what I want it to.

Jake carefully put some wrapped butterscotch candies in my right hip pocket, then stepped back.

"Come on Ken. Let's take Rory into the living room to meet everyone." Jake said with a smile.


Ken pushed me through a utility room and into a really big kitchen. A lot nicer than ours.

We passed by a big curved staircase with a really cool mural on the wall and then went into a huge living room.

"Hey everyone, this is Rory." Jake said to the room full of people.

"Rory, this is Billy and his brothers Deacon and Lawrence." Jake said and indicated three of the most gorgeous guys I'd ever seen.

I looked at the oldest one, then realized that I'd seen him before.

OHMYGOD!!! IT'S THE UNDERWEAR GUY! I have his pictures cut out and stuck under my mattress at home!

"Nice to meet you Rory. We live across the street, so I hope we'll be seeing a lot of you." Billy said with a warm smile.

I felt a prickly feeling, then realized that I was blushing.

This guy who I'd been... Um... thinking about... for a couple years was saying he wanted to 'see a lot' of me! Hell, I wanted to see a lot of him too!

"This is my brother Kevin, he's Kenny's twin." Jake said and gestured to a skinny, pale kid with the same haircut as Ken.

"Hi." I said, looking at the kid carefully. He seemed so small and fragile.

"Hi. Are you going to get to go swimming with us today?" Kevin asked with excitement.

"Yeah." I said with a smile.

I noticed Xain approaching and turned my attention to him.

"T'hy'la, I must call Father. Depending on Father's advice, I may need Rory in the family room." Xain said seriously.

"Just give a yell when you need us and we'll be there." Jake said, then kissed Xain on the lips.

I mean, right there, in front of everyone.

"Um, where was I. Oh, Reuben, come over here and meet Rory." Jake said and motioned to a shy boy.

The kid was Cuban or Mexican or something like that, but he had the same haircut as Ken and Kevin.

"What happened to you?" Reuben asked quietly.

"I got sick." I said, but it didn't come out very good.

"He got sick. Sometimes things like this just happen." Jake said slowly, obviously trying to make Reuben understand.

"Is he going to be okay?" Reuben asked timidly.

"I don't know. Why don't you ask him?" Jake asked seriously.

"Are you going to be okay?" Reuben asked even more quietly.

"Yeah. Stabilized." I said, hoping that made some kind of sense.

"That means he's not getting better or worse." Jake said seriously.

To my absolute surprise, Reuben climbed up into my lap and hugged me.

"I hope you get better. You're nice." Reuben said with an honest expression.

There wasn't much I could do but let the little boy hug me.

When was the last time anyone hugged me? I can't remember.

"Next is Reuben's brother Ricardo." Jake said with a smile and pointed to a tiny boy standing beside my wheelchair.

Reuben let loose of me and climbed out of my lap.

Just as soon as Reuben was gone, Ricardo climbed right up and took his brother's place.

"Is he like Loose?" Ricardo asked Jake with such an innocent expression that I couldn't help but be amazed by it.

"Why don't you check?" Jake asked with a smile.

"Can I have a candy?" Ricardo asked hopefully.

I remembered the candies Jake had put in my pocket and nodded.

"Remember, just one." Jake said in a fatherly tone.

"Uh huh." Ricardo said as he started patting my pockets.

When he found the one with the candy, he reached in and pulled out one wrapped butterscotch candy.

"Save that for after lunch." Jake said seriously.

"Uh huh." Ricardo said and put the candy in his own pocket.

"Now what do you say?" Jake prompted.

"Domo arigato gozaimasu." Ricardo said seriously.

Hang on. I know what Spanish sounds like, and that wasn't it. I think it might have been Japanese.

"Ricardo, Rory speaks English, so it would be best to thank him in a language he understands so he knows you mean it." Jake explained carefully.

Ricardo nodded, then looked me in the eyes and said, "Thank you Roaree."

Then he gave me a big hug the way only a little kid can do it.

When he finished the hug, he kissed me on the cheek.

"Over here we have my Dad, Allen." Jake said and walked to the guy and put his arm around him.

"Nice to meet you Rory. I hope you can visit us often." Allen said warmly.

Wow. This guy was almost as cute as Billy. I mean, he's a little older, but... wow.

Jake walked to a woman and said, "This is Mamacita, but you'll probably want to call her Juana. She's my daughter's grandmother."

I looked at Jake with wide eyes.

Daughter?

Jake has a daughter?

Before I knew what had happened, Jake was placing a baby in my arms.

I mean, I can't make them do anything. But Jake just nestled her in there as if they were that way just for her.

"Hurt her." I whispered in panic.

"Just relax. I'm right here. You won't do anything to hurt her. Rory, I'd like you to meet my daughter Edovina." He said with pride.

I looked at the little girl and couldn't believe what I saw.

The baby had Jake's eyes. They were beautiful, dark green and looking up at me curiously.

"Beautiful." I whispered, not wanting to disturb the baby.

"Yeah, she is, isn't she." Jake said with a smile.

I'd never really been around babies before, but... well, I can't even describe what I felt.

"Finally I'd like you to meet my grandmother, Mona." Jake said as a tall woman approached.

Okay, tall is an understatement. The woman looked like she could kick the shit out of every guy in the room without breaking a sweat.

But when she spoke I knew it didn't matter what she looked like. This woman, Mona, was a real grandmother.

"It's nice to meet you Rory. You look very good holding my great-granddaughter." She said in such a gentle loving voice that it made me want to cuddle up to her.

"Thanks." I forced out.

"And I insist that you call me Grandma. Every child in my son's house is automatically one of my grandkids." Mona said firmly.

"Grandma." I forced out. And believe it or not, it sounded right.

Mona smiled her approval at me and nodded happily.

"Now that you've met everyone, would you like to join us for lunch?" Allen asked gently.

I didn't know how to respond to that.

I mean, this was a chance for me to get some real food, but to do that I'd have to explain that I can't feed myself.

But real food...

"I'm not going to eat. So if you don't want to, we can just talk." Kevin said quietly.

I finally figured that I'd better just let them know. I mean, they can see how bad off I am and they don't seem worried about it.

"Can't use fork." I said, only half-heartedly trying to make myself understood.

"No problem. Kev, Rory can't make his hands work right to use a fork. Would you mind helping him eat?" Jake asked casually.

"Really? Yeah!" Kevin said with excitement.

Okay. I didn't think it was going to be that big of a deal. You'd think I was the prize at the bottom of the cereal box from his reaction.

"Cool. Then let's go. Ken's the only one who's had anything to eat, the rest of us are starving." Jake said with a mischievous smile directed behind me.

I started to laugh, remembering the look on Ken's face when he bit into the brownie.

"What's so funny?" Allen asked cautiously.

"Rory's mom offered us some brownies when we were at his house." Jake said as he tried to fight down his chuckles.

"Come in the dining room and tell us. I'm starved." Allen said with a smile of anticipation.

"Will you get the door for me Kev?" Ken asked from behind me as he turned my wheelchair.

"I got it." Kevin said as he rushed ahead of us.

"After lunch I want you to come up and see my room." Ken said from behind me.

"Can't. Stairs." I said as clearly as I could.

"Pop, would you carry Rory upstairs after lunch so he can see my room?" Ken asked hopefully.

"Sure thing Cute Stuff." Allen said with a gentle smile.

"Oh Pop." Ken said from behind me, and I swear to God, I could *hear* him blushing.

As soon as we entered the dining room, Kevin rushed ahead of us and started moving chairs.

"Reuben, would you bring me Vina's stroller?" Jake asked as he took the baby from my arms.

A few seconds later, Jake had the baby settled into her stroller beside him at the table.

"You can sit between me and Kenny." Kevin said as he worked to get everything settled to his liking.

"So now tell me what happened with the brownies." Allen said with anticipation as he took his seat.

"Ken, you tell him. I don't think I can." Jake said as he broke down laughing.

"Well, Mrs. Teeter offered us some brownies and I said I'd like one. I've never tasted anything so horrible... I mean, like, ever!" Ken said with a screwed up look of disgust on his face.

"Then... then he took a drink of milk." Jake fought to say through his laughter.

"It was spoiled or something." Ken said with a shiver of revulsion at the memory.

"Soy." I said, trying to explain.

"Oh. That makes sense." Allen said with genuine laughter.

"What?" Ken asked in confusion.

"It was soy milk." Allen said with a chuckle.

"Whatever it was, I couldn't swallow it, I couldn't spit it out, and I was standing in Rory's bedroom." Ken said, finally giving in and smiling at everyone's laughter.

"Then Rory points and says, 'Bathroom.' And Ken takes off like his ass is on fire." Jake said before breaking down into laughter again.

"And I kept washing out my mouth and I couldn't get rid of the taste." Ken said and broke out in laughter.

"Look on his face." I said, getting into the spirit of the story telling.

"Yeah. I wish Billy had been there with his camera. It was so funny." Jake said with laughter.

Juana came into the room carrying a big platter loaded with sandwiches.

"Rory, is there anything you can't eat?" Allen asked with concern.

"No." I said, and I think everyone actually understood it.

Jake got a curious look on his face, then looked at me with question.

"Dad, will you save us some sandwiches? Xain needs Rory in the family room." Jake said seriously.

"Can't it wait till after lunch?" Allen asked curiously.

"No. It really can't. We shouldn't be gone long." Jake said with apology.

"Okay. We'll try to save you something." Allen said with a teasing smile.

I guess since Xain's an alien, he can let Jake know what he wants from the next room. That's kinda cool.

Ken immediately stood to get behind my chair.

"I can take him Ken." Jake said softly.

"I want to. I can't understand Rory like you do, but I can do this. Please let me?" Ken asked hopefully.

"You got it. Come on." Jake said with a big smile.


"Father, this is Rory Teeter." Xain said as we entered the room.

"Greetings." A Vulcan man said from the terminal screen.

"Hi." I said, trying my best to sound formal. Hey, give me a break, I don't have much to work with here.

"With your permission, he who is my son would like to try some nerve adjustments to circumvent some of the symptoms of your condition." The man said seriously.

"He's going to try and untwist you a little." Jake whispered beside me.

"Doctors say can't." I forced out.

"Vulcan healers have other tools at their disposal. I assure you that if this does not work, no injury will befall you. This treatment will either relieve your symptoms or it will not. There is no risk." The man said firmly.

"You got that didn't you?" Jake asked from beside me.

"Yeah." I forced out.

"You want to give it a try?" Jake asked in an almost casual voice.

"Yeah." I said, wondering if I was making a mistake.

"Kenny, please turn his chair 90 degrees so I may observe." The man said seriously.

"Yes Uncle Solak." Ken said from behind me and turned my chair.

"Xain, begin at the nerve plexus of the neck. Go slowly and begin to redirect the neural impulses." The guy, Solak said in a voice that sounded like a teachers.

"There are many nerve pathways. How am I to identify the correct one?" Xain asked in concentration.

"Place your other hand in the area you wish to effect, then identify the nerve impulses that are common to both points." Solak said in a slow, instructive tone.

"I will first attempt to establish contact with his facial muscles." Xain said carefully as he moved his hand to rest on my face.

"If it is necessary to do so, withdraw and view the nerve pathways of your brother as a comparison." Solak said very slowly.

"Yes. I believe I will do that. I would not wish to redirect the nerve impulses incorrectly." Xain said and removed his hands from my face and neck.

"The technique you are employing will cause fatigue with prolonged use. Prioritize which functions are most desirable and restore those." Solak said in his teaching voice again.

"Yes Father. It is my intention to restore Rory's ability to communicate and control of one hand. Is that a reasonable expectation in the allotted time?" Xain asked as he looked at the terminal.

"It is not possible to predict, since I have no first hand knowledge of his condition. Do not over-tax your abilities or you risk damage to yourself. It is preferable to have many small sessions with lesser risk to you." Solak said seriously.

"I will heed your warning Father. Jake can observe through our bond in the event that I become so focused that I am unaware of my own condition." Xain said in thought.

"It is acceptable." Solak said, then glanced at Jake.

Jake nodded and said, "Let's do it before Deacon and Lawrence eat all the sandwiches."

"Kenny, may I use your nerve pathways as an example?" Xain asked Ken, who was beside me now.

"If it'll help Rory, you can do whatever you want." Ken said firmly.

How sweet. I hope he's not just feeling pity. That would suck.

He's so cute and he really seems to like me.

"I have found the first nerve path I wish to redirect." Xain said from beside me.

"Proceed." Solak said from the terminal.

To Be Continued...