Any doubts Kaique still had about how the people he'd just met would respond in an emergency were quickly dashed. Before the word 'Now' was out of his mouth, the population of the room doubled; not only did Bento appear, along with the chair he was sitting in, but so did Colin, Glen, Hac, and a kid who looked amazingly like he could be Cleiton's brother. Before it had totally registered, another visitor joined in... a nine-year-old boy with long auburn hair, wearing an open lab coat and spiderman boxers.
The last visitor took one look at the situation, then stated "Kerry! Wake up Adam and Mark, tell them Antonio said grab their boyfriends and get their skinny asses over here yesterday!"
"Gotcha, Doc!" Kerry replied seriously. "Incoming as soon as they're dressed."
Turning to the three youngest, Antonio stated, "Guys, when your Uncles get here, cuddle with Mark and Adam; they're a different kind of empath from your Daddy, and they can help you if he accidentally lets too much of his sad out."
"Who are you?" Luan asked defensively.
"I'm Antonio; I'm the doctor in charge of making sure all of the head goofs don't kill themselves doing stupid stuff," Antonio replied. "I'm like your Daddy in a way, I don't grow as fast as normal people do either."
"He's one of us, guys," Hac added, sure that his word would be trusted. "The other new guy is your Grandpa Ardell; he's the one Avô Bento was talking about."
"Were you listening to us?" Kaique accused.
"No, but Kerry told me what triggered this so I wasn't coming in blind," Hac replied.
Kaique nodded, "Okay; that isn't a bad thing I guess."
Mark, Adam, Lucas, and Logan joined the party just then, Mark and Adam quickly moving to their three nephews, having been updated on Antonio's plan by Kerry.
Lucas and Logan, dressed in weapons belts and nothing else, turned to Antonio. "What you want us to do?"
"Diplomatic security," Antonio stated as he adjusted his tricorder to monitor Cleiton's vitals. "Try not to get any blood on the new carpets for once."
"Gotcha," Logan replied. "Kerry; we need Mini and Alien for out on the deck."
"I guessed that; they just finished dressing and loading up. Arrival in ten seconds."
"Thanks, bro," Logan replied as he headed to guard the door, Lucas taking the window not overlooking the deck.
By this time, Cleiton was shifted to sit leaning against Colin's chest, with Kaique sitting off to his left holding his hand. Colin had his arms wrapped around Cleiton, and Ardell was sitting on the opposite side from Kaique. Once Hac saw that Mini and Alien were on duty on the deck, he moved over to assist Logan. Glen stayed glued to Bento's side, planning on answering any questions he might have.
"Would it be too much to ask for someone to explain how I am sitting here?" Bento muttered, not really expecting an answer until Cleiton was emotionally stable.
"I can try, Avô," Glen replied in Portugese, having overheard as he joined his new grandfather.
"Please do, Neto," Bento replied, hiding his surprise at being heard.
"Dad says Kerry can teleport anyone he can see," Glen replied. "If you were on a video call through him, that meant he could see you, which means he could teleport you."
"I see," Bento nodded. "Remind me when this is over to discuss with your Dad making arrangements to make this option more available. Now, is that boy really a doctor?"
Glen giggled. "Yeah, and you should hear him when things ain't moving fast enough for him; I heard he taught some sailors new words during the battle. He's got a degree from Harvard, and is licensed by Starfleet Medical."
"Impressive," Bento replied. "Would you know why he called guards in? I was under the impression that this residence was secure."
"Because you are here, Avô," Glen stated. "You're not only family, but also a Diplomatic Guest. That means no matter how secure the house is, there's going to be extra security whenever you're on Clan property. Kerry says it's a standard thing that's done so that you don't have to worry about being in danger; usually you won't see it, but tonight there wasn't time to set things up ahead of time. Oh, Kerry's helping me through a subvocal thing I've got, so I don't have to guess about the answers."
Bento visibly relaxed. "You are doing well, Neto; It takes a wise man to make use of his resources when he doesn't know the answers himself. As all of my interactions with Ardell have been on a professional level, by some chance have you interacted with him on a personal level to where you can give me an idea of his suitability to interact with your Godsons?"
"Uncle Ardell's just a really old kid when he allows it, Avô," Glen stated. "In some ways, what he started was started for the same reasons the Clan was started; to protect kids from adults who used and abused them. He knows a lot, but he doesn't show off. Grandma picked him to be my Uncle, so you know he ain't bad."
"The way you answered told me more than your answer, Neto," Bento smiled. "Fear not, he will have my guidance if he so wishes. Come, I believe your Godsons would appreciate our company."
Cleiton was unaware of the interactions going on around him, as his mind had retreated into a space where the only things that registered were from his empathy. The concern, comfort, and love he felt from Kaique kept him from sinking any deeper; once he was in Colin's arms as well the additional comfort, fatherly love, and concern gave him the extra strength to slowly regain control.
The addition of a third touch gave his mind a sudden jolt, as it contained all of the above, but also something else. While his subconscious didn't recognize the person by name, it did recognize the one thing that set this touch apart; this touch was from an ancestor even closer than his Avô, an ancestor which he had never consciously met, yet one who was the closest that an ancestor could be. Cleiton's mind drew from this touch, drawing the strength it needed to regain conscious control to find out who this person was.
Ardell winced as Cleiton's hand latched onto his wrist like his life depended on it. Thanks to the Clan, it had been discovered that he was distantly related to Tyler; in fact he was a cousin of the line that led to Tyler. As such, he carried enough empath to know what was happening. He felt it when Cleiton's mind latched onto him, drawing strength from him. Thinking back to what his second Father would have done; Ardell reached up with his free hand to brush some hair out of Cleiton's eyes as he honestly softly stated, "C'mon Cleiton, I'm right here. You can do it; I'm here now."
Colin felt the initial involuntary jerk when Ardell first made contact with Cleiton; when it was immediately followed by Cleiton relaxing, he breathed a sigh of relief. After Ardell spoke, Colin followed his instincts, adding "Daddy and Papa are right here, buddy; you're safe now."
Kaique was just about to ask if anyone was going to do anything to help Cleiton, besides the three of them comforting him, when he felt a series of weak wiggles from the fingers of the hand he was holding. The wiggles calmed his fears tremendously, as they were in the one sequence that the pair of them had devised years ago to signal to each other that they were okay. Hopeful, Kaique replied with the arranged acknowledgment, adding an 'I love you' at the end.
Antonio was monitoring Cleiton's brain activity, ready to spring into action if it appeared that he was getting worse. He was hopeful, however, because Tyler had dropped him a mental message warning him about what should happen. Understanding that this was something that, according to Tyler, could heal itself if the right actions were taken by the right people, Antonio felt safe in letting the three boys in contact with Cleiton do their part to allow his mind to recover naturally. A quick flash on the screen caught his eye; he quickly switched modes, and smiled as he watched the detailed map of Cleiton's neural pathways. "Get ready guys, you're starting to bring him out of it," Antonio announced.
Cleiton's first conscious action after his emotional crash was when he realized he was holding Kaique's hand. Aware of the worry of his love, Cleiton carefully sent the signal that he was okay. When he received the 'I Love You' in reply, he felt the overwhelming worry from Kaique slip away, allowing him to process the other emotions he was feeling.
'Don't scare me like that, son!' Colin's voice suddenly quipped in his head, the tone showing how relieved Colin felt. Sensing where Cleiton's thoughts were going, Colin added 'Don't worry, I'm not looking inside your head. I'm just talking on the edge of your mind so you can hear me, and I'm hearing the normal surface thoughts that you are going to be taught how to shield when you're ready.'
'Okay,' Cleiton thought back, willing to trust Colin's word as he didn't feel any deception. Feeling the extra squeeze of support from Colin's arms, he mentally smiled. After another minute, he finally felt strong enough to turn his head and open his eyes, curious as to who this third person could be that was feeling like family.
The second his eyes opened, Cleiton had no doubt. While there was a difference in the tone of the skin, he recognized the face, hair, and eyes as being the same as one he knew quite well only two years ago - his own. The hazel eyes showed knowledge and pain beyond their years, but Cleiton was sure enough of what he was seeing to ask, "Papa?"
Ardell smiled in relief at hearing Cleiton's voice. "Yes, son, I'm your Papa. You're the only one who has ever had the right to call me that. Are you going to be okay?"
"I will if you help Daddy hug me," Cleiton managed to whisper.
"Does that mean Uncle Ardell is our Grandpa now, too?" Afonso asked as they watched Ardell move to sandwich Cleiton between him and Colin.
"Yep," Glen replied, "and now he can't complain if I call him Grandpa! I'll bet Uncle Kerry's already making sure that Vulcan is aware of it, too."
"You're slow!" Kerry stated over Glen's commbadge. "I had it submitted the second Cleiton said 'Papa', and it was approved immediately!"
"You need to remember that this is as new to him as it is to you," Bento added, giving the twins on his lap a squeeze to show he meant them too. "He told your Daddy that nobody else has been able to call him 'Papa'; I think we can take that as meaning he's never had a child before."
"Do you think he'll like us calling him grandpa?" Luciano asked.
"I think that it will remind him that he has a full family," Bento replied. "That could be a very good thing, going on what little I do know about him."
The room was down to the original occupants ... plus one. Bento accepted the invitation of Julio to stay over in Headquarters, taking the opportunity to learn more about his family's new home from Mick and Janice. The Morrison couples went back to their place, and Antonio borrowed the guest bedroom just in case he was needed overnight. Colin and Glen returned to their side of the house, both fully trusting Ardell to call if they were needed again.
"I think our boys decided they're sleeping here," Kaique observed with a smile, tilting his head towards where Luan was spooned against Luciano's back, with Afonso securely spooned up to Luciano's front, the arms of both of his brothers keeping him safe.
"Where do you want me to sleep?" Ardell asked, unsure of the plan after being told by his son that he needed to stay.
"Kaique usually has me hold him, Papa," Cleiton replied. "Can you hold me while I'm holding him?"
Ardell nodded, almost overcome with the feeling he had not experienced in uncountable centuries; the feeling of being needed by someone for a different reason than being the leader of their civilization. "I think I'll like that. Time for bed, guys."
Colin smiled as he snuck in a quick check on the family later that night. The twin cuddle piles had merged into one, with Ardell stuck in the middle. "It's about time you fully accepted a family," Colin whispered to himself as he closed the door and headed back to his room.
"Mornin', Dad; what's for breakfast?" Glen asked as he gave Colin a quick hug, then sat in the chair next to him.
"Ask your Grandma Janice; she kicked me out of the kitchen," Colin replied as he finished his morning review of the reports from the HQ assault team and Air Wing. "How'd you sleep?"
"Kinda okay," Glen admitted. "I guess I was worried about Cleiton; I woke up any time I heard a noise."
"Me too," Colin admitted, "but I've had to be like that since I was born. We gotta trust Kerry; he'd let us know if we were needed."
"I dunno, is it always this weird in the Clan?" Glen asked as he tried to make sense out of the report on the PADD that his new dad had been looking at.
Colin reached over an put an arm over Glen's shoulder. "Not always, but I think you'll start to see that the weird helps a lot with keeping everyone's mind off of what they were rescued from."
Glen nodded as he leaned into the hug. "I guess; now that I think about it, I ain't had time to figure out what I did to get picked by that dirtbag."
"Don't waste your time trying," Colin advised. "You fit his fantasies of who he could dominate; you'll make yourself a mess trying to figure out what he saw in you. That was the last chapter of your old life; now we get to write a whole new book."
"Thanks Dad; love ya'," Glen smiled as he tilted his head to lay on Colin's shoulder.
They were still in that position when Ardell led the rest of the family over from the other side of the house. "Kerry said breakfast was over here," Ardell stated. "He promised that you were not cooking, Colin, so I told our sons and grandsons it would be safe."
"Bite me, Ardell," Colin grinned. "I've heard all about your first time trying to make something without an autochef!"
"That figures," Ardell stated, "Hac's never going to let me forget that, even though that was over nine thousand years ago!"
"Don't worry, I'll help," Colin grinned. Noticing the unsure looks on the rest of the faces, Colin added, "Go ahead and grab a seat, guys. Mom's decided to make breakfast for us; just sit where you want, this isn't some formal meal."
After giving a full five seconds for a response, Colin added "Glen, why don't you make sure your Godsons get good seats to watch the show, and I'll take care of reminding your brothers that this is their home."
"Sweet! I get the easy job!" Glen giggled. After grabbing quick hugs from his brothers and Uncle Ardell, he gathered up his three Godsons and began whispering instructions about what was expected during a clan meal.
Colin stood up and immediately went over to Cleiton. "How you doing, son?" Colin asked seriously as he pulled him into a hug.
"Better than last night," Cleiton replied as he returned the hug. "I'm just feeling kind of lost."
"You've got me and your Papa to take care of things for you now," Colin advised. "Just concentrate on your family, the two of us will worry about the big stuff for you until you're ready."
"But everyone expects me to step up to head the entire Remos family," Cleiton explained. "I don't know what to do first."
"You need to just let us handle it," Colin explained. "Your Papa was heading an entire civilization eons before you were born; trust him, he's able to do this in his sleep, and nobody will know any better. When you do need to do something in public, him and me will make sure that you're prepared long before you start. That is our job, to make sure that you're ready when you need to do something."
"I'm not doing this alone?" Cleiton whispered.
"You'll never going to be alone again, son," Colin assured Cleiton. "You're part of a family that is thousands of times larger than the Clan appears to be, and every one of them has your back."
Cleiton finally relaxed, accepting the help that Colin promised. Once he'd taken a seat next to Glen, he watched as Colin moved to Kaique.
"If I have to repeat myself, I'm tickling you until you pee," Colin threatened with a grin as he pulled his third son into a hug. "You doing okay, son?"
Kaique nodded. "I'm still trying to figure out what happened yesterday, but I'll be okay."
"If you figure it out, let me know," Colin quipped. "Something I learned really quick, though, is if the Guardian Angels get involved, you'll go nuts trying to figure it out. Pablito got involved for a reason, so now you just have to take what he gave you and make it the best that you can. I think Glen, Cleiton, and you are gifts to me for surviving what I went through. Before Glen, I was afraid to even open up to myself. In the couple of days he's been my son, I had to not only open up to him, but I had to open up to me. With all three of you as my sons, I'll have to do it more; I am finally learning how to take down some of the walls that I used to protect myself."
"Why do I get the feeling you're telling me something?" Kaique asked.
"Because you're more like me than you realize," Colin replied, "and you have three sons who need to know how their parents really are."
"I'll try," Kaique replied as the hug broke, then he headed over to take a seat next to Cleiton.
Once she saw that everyone was now seated, Julio's mom, Janice, came out of the kitchen long enough to calm a few worries she was sure the new arrivals would have. "Good morning, boys, I see Kerry got my message to you. Bento and I compared some notes, and we realized that you boys might have a little culture shock this morning if we let Colin make breakfast. Colin and Glen are used to having a large breakfast, Ardell usually skips it according to Kerry, and the rest of you have grown up with something totally different than what is usual in the States. After looking over the normal choices you would have, I passed the word to the rest of the Clan divisions that they should add in your normal options to the menus, since I think there are a lot of kids who would like the choices that you are used to."
"You don't have to do that, Grandma," Kaique offered. "We could have just ate what Dad does."
Janice smiled, "I'd be a lousy grandma if I didn't do something to lessen the shocks that you all are going through. Besides, I think your Dad, Papa, and brother will enjoy it as much as you. Just about everything this morning is what Bento suggested; I added one thing that he said you would find unusual, but it is something I know your Dad loves. It's called French Toast; it's like your fried bread, except it is dipped into an egg and milk mixture before frying it. You can eat it with just about anything on it - butter, jam, peanut butter, and even honey. Your Dad usually has peanut butter and maple syrup; I would recommend trying a bite of his before attempting it yourselves. Kerry helped out by getting me the selection of jams from your old houses, so you can try it with them if you want to. I've got the normal breads that you might want instead, plus a few other things that you'd normally see."
"Do you have real coffee?" Cleiton asked hopefully.
"Yes, and I need to warn your dad!" Janice grinned. "Colin; these boys grew up with coffee that will strip the hair off a lesser man's chest. I know about the rumors of everyone accusing Caleb of abusing his coffee; he actually isn't too far off from the way it is normally drank in the regions where it is grown. It is strong enough that is is served in smaller cups than we are used to."
Colin nodded. "Okay, so don't freak when they bury it in sugar and milk. Got it, Mom!"
"I think I know Cleiton's answer," Janice smiled, "but who else wants coffee, and who wants chocolate milk, Brazil style? Don't worry, there's a selection of juices too."
"Grandma Janice?" Afonso asked shyly, "My daddy used to put two spoons of coffee in my choclatte milk, do I still get to have that?"
Janice tilted her head like she was in thought, then replied "I think that is a Daddy job, not a Grandma job."
Cleiton smiled, giving Janice a nod of thanks for how she redirected the reply. "My Dad did that when I was little, too. Yes, I'll give you some of my coffee; all of you guys need to let us know if there's something we can do to help you feel like things are still normal, okay?"
"What is this normal thing he speaks of?" Ardell quipped.
"I told you that getting old was affecting your memory," Colin grinned.
"Daddy?" Luan smirked, "Can we trade in our grandpas for ones that are not crazy?"
"We really should keep them," Cleiton sniggered, "They're good for giggles."
"Besides that," Kaique added, "We have to have someone to blame for the insanity!"
"Looks like they've figured you two out already," Janice laughed. "Luan, Luciano? What would you like to drink?"
"...please." the pair responded, alternating words.
"Okay, cuties," Janice smiled. "What about you, Kaique?"
"Coffee, please," Kaique replied with a smile.
"Okay, Kaique; I know what Colin wants, what about you, Ardell?"
"I've had Brazilian coffee; I think I'll stick with cocoa milk," Ardell replied. "I really don't need a caffeine buzz for the next three weeks!"
"Lightweight!" Colin laughed. "Just because you didn't listen the last time, and drank it like water!"
"Yeah;" Ardell replied, "you and Hac forgot to warn me until after the fourth cup, dufus!"
"We warned you, though," Colin giggled. "It's not our fault we were out of sequence!"
"You two are incorrigible," Janice quipped. "I'll be back out with the drinks, try not to kill each other!"
"You're no fun!" Colin and Ardell chorused, grinning at the three younger boys rolling their eyes.
Kaique smiled as he watched the quickly-forming family finishing their first morning meal. The twins had decided to try the 'french toast' that they saw their Grandpas eating, which meant Afonso had to follow his big brother's example. Each of the three boys had a slice piled with their favorite jam, and all three now had sticky faces and fingers from the new treat. Feeling less adventurous, the new parents had stuck with what was known to Americans as a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, along with the expected fresh fruits.
"How can you eat so much this early?" Kaique asked Colin as he watched him finishing off his second pile of french toast, complete with peanut butter and syrup.
"I'll probably be asking you the same thing at lunch, going by what Kerry's telling me," Colin replied between bites. "I'm used to a big breakfast and a lighter lunch, Kerry says that you guys are used to the opposite. I'm guessing that we'll all end up with parts of what we're used to turning into our family's normal for meals; I'm already thinking the fresh fruit is great, I can get used to that really quick."
"I think the little guys have already started," Kaique commented as he watched Cleiton try to get the boys to let him clean them up. "Boys, sit still and let Daddy get the jam off your faces!"
Once Cleiton managed to clean all the jam off of himself, jam that was transferred off of his sons while trying to clean them, Ardell got everyone's attention. "Since the hospitals are still busy, I'm not going to wait to make sure my family is okay; we're going down to the Klaus main medical bays."
"We?" Colin asked with a raised eyebrow. "Were you planning on telling me?"
"You're getting checked too," Ardell stated, obviously taking command. "Argue with me, I dare you."
"I know better; the council will back you," Colin quipped. "I'll pay you back when you least expect it."
"Yeah, I'll be waiting. You mind doing it before I hit full puberty?" Ardell laughed.
"I'm not going to live THAT long!" Colin sniggered.
"Are you two married or something?" Cleiton asked with a grin, "It sure sounds like it!"
"Do you know how to swim, son?" Colin squinted.
"Yes, why?" Cleiton asked.
"Good," Colin smirked. "Klaus, Cleiton wants to visit the dolphin pool!"
Kaique was about to ask what Colin meant when Cleiton vanished, then re-appeared seconds later, soaking wet. "What just happened?" Kaique exclaimed.
"Dad just had Klaus drop me into a pool somewhere," Cleiton complained as he shook the water out of his hair. "I got goosed by a dolphin!"
"What's goosed mean, Papa?" Afonso asked innocently.
"That means a dolphin poked his bottom with his nose," Kaique explained as he tried hard not to giggle.
"Paybacks, Dad," Cleiton warned. "Now I have to go dry off!"
"I've got ya, Cleiton," Kerry announced.
Cleiton vanished again, this time appearing completely dry in fresh clothes. "Thanks, Kerry!"
"I'll explain while we wait for Colin to get a FULL physical," Ardell offered. "Klaus, please take us to the main medbay."
"Where are we?" Luan asked immediately after the group appeared.
"This is where it all started," Klaus explained over the room speakers. "This is the same medical bay where I had to make the decision that resulted in Ardell being here still."
"I think you just wanted to keep me around," Ardell quipped. "Busted, little brother! I thought I asked for the main medical bay?"
"You didn't specify which cycle designation of main medical bay," Klaus replied innocently.
"Smartass," Ardell giggled. "Okay, why did you pick this one?"
"Because I'm not trusting anyone else with any of you," Klaus stated seriously.
"Thanks, bro," Ardell smiled.
"Okay, Colin, you're first," Klaus instructed.
"Why am I suddenly worried?" Colin quipped as he climbed on the medical bed.
"Because I still owe you a few thousand paybacks?" Klaus giggled.
"Remember, I know where your cores are," Colin threatened.
"Yeah, and you wouldn't try it; I know you," Klaus replied. "Now strip and get on the bed."
"No funny stuff while I'm asleep," Colin stated.
Once Colin was on the bed and sedated, Ardell explained, "Due to what had to be done to save him, we check him regularly to make sure Colin isn't having any issues. Just so you know, Colin's already given the approval to proceed if we find any issues."
"What could be wrong?" Glen asked, obviously worried.
"Nothing that is an immediate threat," Ardell explained. "We are just being careful because of what he inherited from Hac during the repair of his genetics."
"Umm, Ardell?" Klaus interrupted. "I think we're going to need to go with plan 'B'; that trend we noticed isn't leveling off. XR-415 is indicated."
"I was afraid of that," Ardell sighed. "Have you notified the Council?"
"Yes, Hac presided, and I have approval," Klaus replied.
"Proceed, please," Ardell responded, "I'll fill everyone in."
Turning to the worried faces staring at him, Ardell explained. "Okay; while he's nowhere near as bad as I was, Colin's nervous system hasn't stabilized like we hoped it would. What we're going to do is the same procedure that was used on me; it'll strengthen his nervous system to go along with his already increased muscle mass. Based on what we've learned, I'm going to guess that his aging is going to match mine."
"So Dad's going to be in puberty for the rest of our lives?" Cleiton asked.
"Maybe;" Ardell replied. "With what we've noticed recently, it appears that fate is conspiring to extend the lives of an unusual percentage of the Clan. We're looking into it, but I would not be surprised if all of you end up living longer than expected."
Cleiton nodded. "Is this why you want to check all of us?"
Ardell tilted his head. "Partially. I want to have a baseline to catch it if your aging rate changes. I also want to make sure that you are one-hundred percent healthy. In your case, I need to make sure just what you gained from my genetics; if something's not stable, we'll ensure that whatever has to be done to stabilize you is also is done for Kaique if he so wishes. We learned years ago that it is best to match aging rates for couples."
"At least I won't have to argue," Kaique stated. "You'd lose if I did."
"Ain't that the truth!" Cleiton grinned. "So if I need something like Dad, you're going to do it?"
Ardell nodded. "You're my only son; I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't. We have no idea how much of what was done to me carries over; those of us from the beginning are unique because of the learning bands we were forced to wear. We already know that they changed how the genetic modifications affected us, which is why none of us ever reproduced."
Cleiton nodded. "Okay, so there's a possibility I might need changed because you are my genetic father?"
"Honestly, yes," Ardell admitted. "I would have done this anyway, the only difference is you're going to be aware of it before I start the check."
"Okay, I'm good with that; at least you've been honest about it," Cleiton stated.
Kaique added "Sign me up too; I'm not going to leave Cleiton alone if I can help it."
"Me too," Glen stated. "Anything my brothers need, I get. We're a set, and we're not going to be broke apart."
Ardell quickly decided that arguing with Glen was out of the question as soon as he saw Cleiton and Kaique shift to pull their new brother into a three-way hug. "Did you guys understand that?" Ardell asked the three youngest boys.
"You're making sure that Daddy, Papa, and Uncle Glen are gonna be healthy so they are gonna be our parents forever," Luan explained, obviously speaking for all three of them.
Ardell smiled. "That's close enough; but I'm also going to make sure that all three of you are healthy, too."
"Okay," Luan smiled.
"There are only a few of us that have access to this base," Ardell explained as he led the group towards the cafeteria. "The base is a reminder to those of us that were here in the beginning of just how bad things can get if humanity follows it's more agressive instincts."
"Does that mean we'll never see it again?" Afonso asked.
"Klaus had to upgrade your clearances to bring you all here," Ardell stated. "This level is permanent; you have the same access as me, Hac, and a few others. That means you're allowed here, but you have to ask Klaus to bring you. Ark suggested we do that before Klaus integrated with the Clan AI network. Think of this like a museum that has exhibits that you can walk through; if we didn't limit who came here, there's too much of a chance something that can't be replaced would be damaged."
"So there's usually nobody here?" Glen asked.
"Usually I'm the only one, when I need to just get away from people for a while," Ardell admitted. "Haden and Barrett hang out here too, especially when they are working on a project. I haven't had any other family but my brothers and Father for thousands of years; now I've been adopted into a current-time family, and I've just assumed shared responsibility for my only son, his brother, his soon-to-be husband, and three awesome grandsons. I'm never going to hide from you, so my safe place is open to all of you."
"Why?" Luciano asked curiously.
"I lost real family when my mom died," Ardell explained as he came to a stop. "After that, my so-called papus became a bastard; in fact, he almost killed me with demanding that I got stronger learning bands when I should have been being weaned off of them. Father taught me what a real family is like, so now I'm going to make sure all of you learn what I learned."
"Boys, I'm not going to live forever!" Grandma Morrison's voice echoed down the hall from the cafeteria.
"KLAUS!" Colin and Ardell exclaimed.
"I ain't arguing with Grandma," Klaus replied innocently.
Shaking his head, Colin stated "C'mon guys; I don't think Ardell wants Grandma doing burnouts in the hall with her Harley."
"I thought I was safe here," Ardell muttered, earning him giggles from the younger boys. He led the group the rest of the way down the hall, still shaking his head as they walked through the doorway.
"Please join us once you have requested your food from the autochef," Grandma stated. "Bento and myself wish to be brought up to date, and it is my understanding that this is the only location secure enough to discuss things openly."
"We have been informed that we are limited to this area," Bento added.
"As soon as we get home," Ardell said as he turned to Colin, "Klaus goes swimming."
"Seconded," Colin nodded. "Once for each of us."
Once Ardell had showed everyone how to use the autochef, the boys got their food and sat at the table with Bento and Grandma.
"It is my understanding that you have verified the health of my grandsons and their family." Bento stated.
Colin smiled, already used to Bento being even more direct than Grandma. "Yes, sir. Ardell performed the scans, and all three of my grandsons are considered perfectly healthy. Cleiton and Kaique suffered minor injury from the minor singularity they were exposed to, but Klaus was able to locate a procedure which stabilized them. As the procedure has the possibility of slowing their aging, Glen required Ardell apply the same procedure to him so he could be alongside his brothers."
Bento nodded. "I find that acceptable. What of yourself?"
"He's like me now," Ardell stated, knowing Colin wouldn't. "That was the only option."
"So that means there is no longer a reason for the two of you to push aside your feelings?" Grandma quipped with a knowing smile.
"GRANDMA!" both Colin and Ardell exclaimed in shock.
"You are not planning on me losing a bet with Hac as to if I'm right, are you?" Grandma stated. "I really wouldn't be happy."
"I would expect a proper example to my grandsons as well," Bento added.
"And when are the two of you getting hitched?" Colin grinned. "Fair's fair!"
"Score!" Ardell giggled as both adults got shocked looks. "Klaus; ensure Bento's health is equivalent to Grandma. You might as well fit him for a tuxedo while you're at it."
"Gotcha, bro!" Klaus giggled. After a pause, Klaus added in a more serious voice "Ardell? Is Grandma right about you and Colin? Father left an order for when my big brother finally accepted raising his own family, but I can't even talk about it until I know for certain it is happening."
"You and Kerry can pick out the rings for Grandma and Bento," Ardell smirked. "Colin and I have not discussed how the situation has changed things, yet."
Colin put an arm over Ardell's shoulder. "We both know that's a one-sided conversation. I wasn't going to let Ardell suffer through living with me growing old while he stayed young. That's not a problem now, and there are three boys I call sons that are giving me a real reason to rejoin the human race. Ardell, I accept."
Ardell twisted to pull Colin into a hug, softly whispering "Thank you!" repeatedly.
"Since Dad and Papa are busy," Cleiton grinned, "I believe you were preparing to propose, Avô."
"Uncle Julio is standing by for if either of you argue," Kaique added.
"Who do you think made sure nobody knew what you were going to Cancun for?" Klaus stated. "We've rescued a couple of Founder kids this cycle; they had us watching you without you knowing, because they saw that you were a key to some future event at the time."
"They are obviously your grandchildren," Bento smiled. "Appoline, would you accept my hand in marriage?"
"Yes, and just to put it on the record, Cleiton is as bad as his father and grandfather," Grandma replied. "I believe our presence would be a distraction for what Klaus must tell his brother; shall we let the rest of our children know about the news?"
"I believe that would be prudent;" Bento replied. "Klaus, could you do the honors?"
"Of course, Grandpa!" Klaus replied joyfully, the two adults vanishing seconds later.
"Is it safe now?" Colin asked once both adults were gone.
"Yes," Klaus replied. "I wasn't going to ask what I need to unless they were gone; this is direct family stuff only."
Ardell and Colin exchanged worried glances, neither one knowing how to read the tone in Klaus' voice. "You're starting to worry me, little brother," Ardell stated seriously.
Klaus chose that time to transport in his newly-issued android extension, quickly taking a seat next to his big brother. "I don't know how to say this easy," he admitted. "Remember Father asking everyone to step out of hearing distance before he died?"
Ardell nodded. "Yeah, you never told any of us why."
"That's because Father made me promise not to, unless I could fulfill his final wish," Klaus explained, knowing he had everyone's attention. "His first condition was that you had to finally heal enough emotionally to allow yourself to form your own family; you had to accept sons or daughters, The second one was that you opened your heart to become a couple with someone. The last condition was that it would need to be possible to actually do what he wanted. All three are met now, so I'm having to ask you if you'll accept the one thing Father couldn't give you before he died."
"Go ahead, bro," Ardell stated softly as he reached an arm out to pull Klaus into his hug with Colin.
"I need to make sure everyone knows Father's history first," Klaus stated. "Just before Father was given the chance to build what would become me, he had a six-year-old son named Dalrus that was killed in an attack on Father. We found out later that he was killed so that Father would build me. Father saved what you'd call a bio-image of Dalrus on a chip that he carried in a locket around his neck. The sleep beds that were used for kids who wore learning strips back then would take an image every night, and Father had the tools to save it, even though it was supposed to be illegal to do."
Klaus paused, then continued. "When the army tried to kill me, Ardell gave the old me the advice that allowed him to override the orders being given to him. He partially retreated into a secure core that Father installed; what survived the system shutdown is part of what became me; the other part is some of the information that was in the locket that Father was wearing. When I was 'born', I became a fraternal twin of Dalrus; we're related, but I'm totally different in a lot of ways. The thing is, when I read the entire chip in to fill in what I needed to save myself, the entire image became resident in my emergency core."
"You lost it when you flushed your emergency core after I brought everything back online?" Ardell asked with obvious dread.
"No," Klaus replied with a shake of his head. "The flush failed due to detecting an active personality. Father had to build me another pair of emergency cores; my twin brother has been quietly watching everything through me. He knows everything that's happened, and Uncle Danny has explained to him, through me, about how his soul is a copy of Dalrus's soul, not the original. He wants to honor Father's wish, but isn't going to force you if you are not ready yet."
"I have a sneaky suspicion that I know where this is going," Colin stated. "Whatever you decide, Ardell, I'll stick with you one hundred percent."
Ardell nodded, "Thanks. Go ahead, little brother."
Klaus seemed to think for a minute, then stated "Dalrus and I agree; the best way to do what Father wanted is for him to shift into an android body. That way he can really be what Father wanted for him... to be your son."