The Tenth Boy
Chapter 2: Adapting
It felt strange to Glen, waking up the next morning and not having to get ready for work. He hadn't missed a work day in years, and the temptation to roll over and go back to sleep was almost overwhelming. Still, he knew he would have a lot to do this day. First of all, he would need to find out if ten could eat normal food, or if he'd need baby food, or even a milk diet. He would need clothes, too, and a better sleeping arrangement. On his way down to the kitchen, he stopped to check in on his two sons. Two sons. The thought hadn't really struck home before, but now he got a nice, warm feeling inside his chest. The boys were still asleep, wrapped up in each other's arms. Glen sat down on the bed next to Barry, and gently shook the older boy awake.
"I'm gonna make us some breakfast," he whispered. "When do you have to be in school?"
"Half past nine, so it's no hurry."
"Did you sleep well?"
"Like a rock. He's been dreaming, but that's all." Glen started to get up, but Barry grabbed his hand, pulling him back. "What does he dream of? I mean, if he's got no memories at all?"
"I don't know, son. I just hope he doesn't dream of Doctor Heller. Is he... dry?"
"Yeah, I took him to the bathroom last night, then again a couple of hours ago. Dad, he knows what the toilet's for, it was no problem to make him go. How come?"
"Maybe the memory implants didn't fail completely like the Doctor thought. After all, he can walk without ever learning how to." Patting ten's shoulder, Glen got up. He stopped at the door and turned around. "Let him sleep a couple minutes more, then bring him down for breakfast. I just hope he can eat our food."
"The corner shop's got baby food, want me to run down and get some?"
"Let's try eggs and bacon first. Besides, you need to get ready for school."
"Can't I stay at home, dad? I really wanna help."
"Thanks for offering." Glen smiled warmly. "You're such a kind young man. You can help me out this weekend."
"Okay." Grinning, Barry lay back down. "That didn't work to get out of the school day, did it?"
"Don't try, I know you better than that. I know you really do want to help."
"Yeah. We'll be down in a couple."
Glen had to consciously set his mind to the new routine to cook for three instead of two. He decided to make a couple of sandwiches for ten in case cooked food was too much for the boy, and just as he was finished setting the table he heard the sound of boys' feet coming down the stairs. Barry was ready for school, dressed as usual in jeans and a sweater, his dark blond hair slightly spiked as fashion went. Ten was dressed in one of Barry's too-large t-shirts, which went almost down to his knees. The young boy smiled as he recognised Glen, giggling slightly as Glen kissed them both good morning. All the time, the two boys were holding hands, even as they sat down to eat. Glen sat down on the other side of the clone, who sighed happily as he tousled his fair hair. Ten watched as Barry started eating, then turned to glance at his own plate, where Glen stashed up bacon, eggs and a couple of pancakes, together with a couple of sandwiches. The boy looked at him expectantly, finally releasing Barry's hand to prod curiously at a sandwich. Glen cut off a piece of it and took it on a fork, which he lifted up to ten's face. The boy grinned widely, then opened his mouth so Glen could feed him. Barry laid down his fork and knife and turned his head to watch as ten closed his eyes and began to chew happily.
"Dad, he's so sweet."
"Yeah. So much like a newborn baby. The same complete innocence. That's a deadly charm."
"Because it strikes you down for life. Once you're attached like that to a child, the result is a deep affection that lasts a lifetime."
"Wow. Dad, is that how you feel for me?"
"Yes, Barry. It's a shame that I needed someone like this precious child to come into my life before I could realise I should tell you how much I love you."
"I already know it, dad. I love you, too."
"So you forgive me for not always showing it?"
"Of course. Will you love him as much? I think I will."
"You're ready to be this little guy's dad?"
"Yeah. Or his big brother. Whatever. He's so cute."
"Barry, we can't call him `ten' or `the boy' all his life, he needs a name."
"I know, dad, and I did a web search for baby names last night, before I tucked in. How about Colin?"
"It means child, and that's what he is. And he looks like a Colin."
"Would you like that?" Glen wiped some crumbs from the boy's chin. Ten opened his mouth, ready for more food. "Want to be Colin?"
"I think he wants to be fed," Barry giggled. "I've never seen anyone that hungry."
"Didn't bother to look in a mirror when you were his age, did you?"
"Funny, dad. I've gotta go or I'll miss the train. See you tonight!"
Glen and Colin waved Barry good bye, then returned to the kitchen to finish their meal. A sad look came across the young boy's face as the door closed behind his new big brother, but as Glen started feeding him again, he was soon all smiles and laughter. Luckily, Colin seemed able to eat just about anything Glen put in his mouth; sandwiches, eggs, bacon, sausages, milk and orange juice, it all went down well. Leaning back in his chair, he smiled contentedly and burped loudly, quickly following up with a round of giggles. Glen took a napkin and wiped Colin's messy lips, laughing as the boy pouted his lips like he would get kissed. Colin watched with great interest as Glen started cleaning the dishes, standing right next to him. On a whim, Glen took his hands and let him hold a plate, then helped him rinse it off. It took only a couple of tries, then Colin was able to do it on his own. They quickly cleared things away, then returned to Barry's room. Once again, Glen received looks of quiet contemplation as he rummaged through Barry's drawers and closets looking for clothes that could fit the young boy for the day. To his dismay, it seemed as if his son had already discarded everything that might fit the clone-boy. They tried on a pair of jeans, but they fell off as soon as Colin moved, much to his amusement. Glen decided to wait with the shopping until Barry returned home. In the meantime, he took Colin's measurements, something that quickly turned into a game to the boy. Everywhere Glen touched him seemed to be a ticklish or erotic spot, and before long Colin was as aroused as ever his clone-brothers had been the previous day. Another sign Doctor Heller's conditioning hadn't failed as completely as she had thought. Whether he knew it or not, Colin tried to seduce his adoptive father, doing his best to look sexy. Glen felt very disturbed as he started to discover it was actually working. The innocent lust of the boy began to make him feel aroused. Measurements finally taken, he dressed Colin in the t-shirt again, but this seemed to upset the boy. Giving in, Glen let him remove it.
The rest of the morning they spent watching TV. Glen had no idea there was so much junk being aired during the weekdays, but most of it seemed to amuse Colin, especially programmes with animals in them. Was this another aspect of the failed implants? Glen wondered. Or perhaps a glimpse of the boy he was templated from? He pushed that thought aside. Clones had no memories. Whatever was there came from the good Doctor. Colin insisted on sitting in his lap the whole time. The boy was cuddly, and he hardly ever sat completely still. His hands roamed all over Glen, stroking his arms and hands, caressing his chest and stomach, occasionally kissing his face. Glen stopped him whenever the touches were becoming sexual, but returned the rest of the affection as best he could, to the boy's delight. Memories returned to Glen; memories of another boy, not that much unlike this one. Barry had never been this cuddly, but had nevertheless used to love sitting in his father's lap like this. Tears began to burn in the corners of his eyes as he started to realise just how patient Barry had been all his life. How much time he had spent alone or with baby-sitters because his father worked so hard. It was time to change that. For Barry's sake and for Colin's, but for himself as well.
Barry found his school day impossible to focus on. His mind kept wandering to Colin. To his new little brother. Every time it did, the same image appeared. Deep blue eyes, almost luminescent in their adorable curiosity, and that cute smile. For the first time in his life, he felt that he had touched something inside of himself. Something that must have been there all along, but never before unleashed like that. Love. Was this how his father felt whenever he thought about Barry?
Having learnt very little during the day, Barry said good bye to his friends, then hurried towards the railcar station. Was the train always this slow? Usually, he would read something, or perhaps work on some assignment, but he couldn't concentrate enough today. Eventually, the train stopped at his station, and he broke into a trot. People turned their head as he sped by, ignoring the moving sidewalks to run alongside the street until he turned away from the afternoon rush into the quiet home street. After a couple of apartment houses came the row of villas, and he kept on running until he saw his father's car in the driveway.
Once inside the house, he checked the kitchen first, to find it empty save for the drying dishes from lunch. They were in the living room, snuggled up to each other on the couch. Glen was asleep, but Colin greeted him with a smile that made his heart melt. Gently, he eased the boy out of their father's lap and carried him upstairs, all the while showered with licks and kisses. Soft whimpers of joy added to the illusion that he had just picked up a puppy dog. With Colin seated on his bed, Barry rummaged through one of his closets until he found a box. The younger boy watched him curiously as he dug out a couple of old toys and gave him. He looked at them quizzically, seemingly having no idea what cars and action dolls were for. Barry sat down next to him and went on to show him how to play, but Colin was more interested in getting another hug and a kiss. Giving in, Barry put the toys aside and let him climb his lap. He tried his best to ignore the boy's obvious excitement, and concentrated instead on rubbing his back and kissing his cheek. Colin sighed happily and leaned against his big brother's chest, hugging him tightly. It had been the same last night, and this morning. Colin was so affectionate it was impossible to resist. So why try? They sat there while the minutes ticked away, holding each other like they had done before falling asleep last night. It wasn't until the bed creaked next to him that Barry realised that his father had joined them. Colin let out a happy squeal and wasted no time to include Glen into a group hug. Glen kissed both boys, smiling happily.
"He's really cuddly, isn't he?"
"Yeah. Quite frisky, too." Barry blushed slightly. "Will he ever stop that?"
"I doubt it, but as long as it doesn't get worse we can live with it, right? I mean, does it bother you that he gets... hard... at times?"
"I guess not. It's kind of cute. But dad, why's he still naked? Don't tell me you've been..."
"No! No, of course not!" It was Glen's turn to blush. "I tried to put some clothes on him, but they were too large. And he seems to like the natural way."
"I suppose it really is more comfortable. I remember when I was little."
"Yeah, you used to do that, too." They both laughed. "Barry, I really need to go shopping. Whether he likes it or not, he'll need some clothes if we're ever going to take him anywhere."
"Okay. So I'm the baby-sitter?"
"If you don't mind. He likes watching TV, and he eats like a horse."
"I already know he doesn't like toys. Maybe he's too young."
"Maybe." Glen got up from the bed, but he didn't leave the room. "Keep talking to him, I'm sure he'll learn pretty quick. I taught him how to rinse the dishes in no time."
"I'm glad it's Friday, dad. I really want to spend a lot of time with him."
"Me too. I'm thinking about quitting my job, giving us all more time together. Would you mind that, Barry?"
"Not at all. Don't work for that bitch Heller! She's evil!"
"Maybe not exactly evil, but ruthless. And cold-hearted. I'm sure I can make a living from home, in some way. I've got a few patents stashed away that she doesn't know about, and I could sell them off."
"Dad, can we come with you? When you go shopping, I mean? Colin and I could wait in the car while you buy his clothes."
"Sure. Just give him one of your shirts. It's getting to be chilly at nights."
"I felt that this morning." Barry walked over to his closet, Colin in tow. "Wish they'd turn on the heat in the Bowl soon."
"That's still a month away. We're lucky not to live in the countryside."
"I don't know, dad." He grinned while he pulled a woollen knitted sweater over Colin's head. The boy fussed some, but eventually calmed down when he felt how warm and comfortable he became. "Imagine some great old mansion, just the three of us. Cranking up the heat when winter's about, then snuggle in until spring. It would be a great life."
"Maybe. Are you ready to go?"
The car trip was a lot of fun for them all. Colin stood on his knees next to Barry in the front seat, his eyes wide as if trying to take in the world all at once. Every now and then, something would make him cry out with delight. He was especially happy, Glen noticed, whenever Barry would lay his arm around his neck and point something out. At those times, the young boy would push back against his elder brother, revelling in the touch. Barry didn't seem to mind, either, and Glen felt a twitch of unease. Had they stepped out on thin ice this time? How far could things go before they had gone too far? His mind preoccupied by these thoughts, he steered the car more or less automatically to the parking lot at the shopping centre. It was still an hour left before the shops would start closing and the inevitable night-life would take over. Wishing to be long gone by then, he hurried towards the entrance after giving the worried clone boy a reassuring pat on the shoulder.
The clothes stores showed up a variety of garments, ranging from the cheapest second-hand to the most expensive fashion. Moving images seemed to be all the rage at the moment, and Glen passed by a lot of video shirts and photo jackets, pausing only to grin at one that seemed to display the insides of its wearer. He picked out some plain clothes; underwear, socks, t-shirts, long-sleeves, cotton trousers and a denim jacket, all the while checking with his measurements notes. Smiling to himself, he added a soccer team cap, a smaller version of the well-worn one Barry hardly ever took off during the season. Another stop to pick up shoes, then he was done. Only one more place left to go...
It wasn't long before Colin began to fidget. He had watched, tears in his eyes, how Glen walked off across the parking lot, the boy had started to cry silently once he was out of sight. Nothing Barry said did any good. Colin curled up in his lap and clung on to him as if he was the last of the lifeboats. Feeling so sad on the boy's behalf, Barry tried his best to distract him, pointing out the flashing neon signs and video screens that lit up the centre's walls, or the cars and the people darting to and fro all around them, but nothing seemed to help. In the end, he opened the car door and let them both out, locking it behind them. Colin shivered at his side, but whether it was from the chill evening air or from the overwhelming commotion around them, Barry couldn't tell. Holding the boy close, he steered him across the pavement towards the ice-cream parlour just outside the entrance. He bought them a cup of soft-ice with chocolate sauce, then led the boy to a small patch of grass where they sat down. Colin watched him, as usually with his head slightly tilted in puzzlement and a quizzical look in his sparkling blue eyes. Barry took the spoon and tasted the ice-cream, and at the same time as he licked the spoon clean, smacking his lips, a light of understanding went up inside the boy. Colin let out a wordless little cry and opened his mouth, jiggling impatiently as Barry filled the spoon up again.
Glen felt a cold shiver along his spine when he reached the empty car. Not that he didn't trust Barry to take care of himself, but since it was such a late hour, a number of unpleasant scenarios started to play themselves out inside his head. None of these, however, included being crushed from behind by a pair of thin arms. Barry was just behind the boy, hugging his father a little less violently. Both boys were more or less covered in ice-cream and chocolate, and as Colin pushed himself tightly against Glen, he knew he would get just as messy.
"Sorry, dad," Barry said, grinning sheepishly. "I just couldn't hold him when he saw you."
"Did you get anything in him at all?" They both laughed. Colin had ice-cream on his nose, cheeks, chin and all the way down his sweater. "Or yourself?"
"Well, he liked it so bad he had a hard time waiting for me to feed him. So I guess we ended up a little sticky. I was hoping we'd be back before you."
"It's all right," Glen lied. "Now hop in before the night bugs start coming out."
When they got back home, Barry took the shopping bags inside while Glen picked up the sleeping boy. Colin had curled up in Barry's lap almost before they had started driving, and gone promptly to sleep. They decided to postpone trying on the new clothes until the next day, but they still did manage to wake Colin up long enough to clean him up and make him eat some dinner. Barry put the boy to bed, then returned downstairs. Glen caught him before he turned the TV on.
"Son, we need to talk."
"I had a feeling we would. Things are gonna be a bit different around here, aren't they?"
"That's an understatement." They both laugh, then sat down on the couch. Barry leaned close to his father, and Glen put an arm around his son. "I love you, Barry."
"Love you too, dad. And I love little Colin as well."
"Yeah, me too. Look, you know as well as I do that he's no normal kid."
"Yeah, I know... But he'll learn, won't he? I mean, just because that memory thing didn't work doesn't mean he'll never grow up, right?"
"I hope so. But in the meantime, he's just like a baby. We'll both have to be his teachers."
"In a way. Barry, are you ready for this?" Glen turned to face his son. "I am, but just barely, and I feel like I've forced something upon you."
"No, dad, it's okay. If you'd said anything in advance, maybe I would've objected, but now... I guess I just fell for the little guy."
"He is charming, isn't he?"
The two of them moved closer together, leaning against each other and sharing a warmth Glen felt sure hadn't been there for a long time. True, Colin was a charming boy, and it seemed this charm was contagious. Squeezing his son's shoulder, Glen felt more love for Barry than he had for years, if ever. It was as if he had been asleep, putting his work before everything else, and now Colin had worked as an alarm clock, waking him up. Making him realise just how much he had. How much he had been at danger of losing. After a little while, Glen heard the sound of naked feet coming down the stairs, and they grinned at each other as Colin simply walked up to them, climbed into their laps and went back to sleep. Barry stroked the unruly brown hair, while Glen held onto the slim, naked behind that had materialised in his lap. For a second, the feeling of arousal was back, as he felt the boy's erection poke his stomach, but it was pushed aside by something else. A warmer kind of love. Paternal love. And as Barry took off his shirt and wrapped it around the sleeping boy, Glen realised that the elder boy harboured the very same feelings for their new family member. For the time being, he put aside the talk he knew would have to come. Right now, they didn't need that. Right now, they didn't need anything but each other.
That's it for the second chapter. Maybe a bit mushy, but I like it that way. Sorry for the delay, but I'm just starting to recover from a case of writer's block. It's been a while since it was fun to write, but I'm slowly getting into it again. As usual, thoughts and comments are more than welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org.