Sei smiled and inclined his head. "Heika. After what happened to Keelan, I knew it wouldn't be long until you arrived. You were so intent on getting to your brother's side, you didn't even see me last night."
Kendrick shook his head. Was Fate rewarding him for keeping Caiden away by putting the only other man in the world he trusted at his side? "I never thought I'd see you again. What happened? Why are you here?"
Sei steered him back into his chair. "My old Master is gone, and I was banished by his family. I drifted for a long time before I found myself here in Lycaonia." Sei walked around the table until he was standing behind Meryn. "Fate brought me to this little one, and I serve her now. She calls me Ryuu."
Kendrick stared and couldn't stop the laughter if he tried. "Ryuu? How'd that happen?"
Sei turned his head but not before he caught the tinge of pink. "A simple mistake on my part. Denka was the first one to call me Ryuu, and I find that I prefer it."
Kendrick shook his head as he smiled. He knew he must look out of his mind to those around the table but didn't care. He had his oldest friend back, exactly when he needed him the most. "Then that's what I'll call you as well. Damn if it isn't good to see you! If only Keelan--" Kendrick stopped himself. Reality slapped him in the face. "Look at me, laughing, when my own brother is upstairs practically dead." He buried his face in his hands, elbows on the table.
"I don't think Keelan is the type of asshole that would begrudge you being happy because you have met up with an old friend," Meryn stated matter-of-factly.
Kendrick looked up and glanced around the table. Heads were nodding and he saw only smiles, not looks of disgust.
"Heika, your brother is simply sleeping. It is our duty to live our lives in such a way that we do not bring sadness to this home. When he wakes up, he will want to be told of glad tidings, not of how we blamed ourselves," Ryuu said kindly.
"So am I just supposed to pretend that nothing is wrong?"
"Be happy," the child responded.
"Exactly, Pumpkin Dumpling!" Rheia said, tickling the girl. She looked at him. "This is my daughter, Penny Carmichael. She's also no stranger to pain and loss. I became her mother after her parents were killed."
Kendrick looked at the small girl with her bright green eyes and brown curls. She reminded him of Amelia as a child. "So, just be happy?"
She nodded. "If I'm sad, Momma in heaven will be sad, too. So I'm happy."
Kendrick sat back and blinked. It was so simple, and because it was so simple, it was that profound. He couldn't change what had happened, and being sad wouldn't bring Keelan back. If he gave in to his anger and frustration and acted like a jerk, he would only end up hurting the ones that Keelan had given his life to protect.
"Okay little one, I'll try it your way, though I may need some help remembering to be happy," Kendrick said.
Penny nodded, her curls bouncing. "I'll help. I am a good helper; Papa says so. I even help train the men." She beamed proudly.
Kendrick raised an eyebrow at Aiden and then Colton. They just nodded and laughed.
Colton tickled his daughter until she squealed. "Though she cheats sometimes."
Kendrick turned to Amelia. "Reminds me of another little girl who used to torment unit warriors for fun."
She glared at him. "I didn't torment them."
Kendrick snorted. "If you didn't torment them, why did they nickname you the Little Terrorist?"
Darian turned quickly in his chair. "Ha! I didn't even have to call Caiden to figure out your nickname."
"Athair!" Amelia groaned.
Kendrick smirked and picked up his cup. He looked into it and turned to Ryuu.
"Cafe mocha, I remembered that you like sweet things," Ryuu replied.
Kendrick took a sip and practically shuddered. It was nectar in a cup disguised as coffee. "Gods in heaven!"
Meryn whimpered and pouted, her lower lip sticking out. "I want some."
"Denka, you know you can't have any caffeine," Ryuu gently reminded her.
"Can't she have chocolate?" Kendrick asked.
Ryuu shook his head. "No, she's off chocolate and coffee."
Kendrick winced in sympathy. He looked at Meryn. "I'm so very sorry."
"Finally someone who understands!" Meryn pointed in his direction.
Kendrick closed his eyes and took another sip and simply let it trickle down his throat. Sighing happily, he opened his eyes and looked at his old friend. "If I was slightly more attracted to men, I'd trade sexual favors for coffee like this every morning."
Around the table, the men began to choke. Kendrick hid a smile. He could tell a lot about a man in the moments when he reacted to discomfort. Kendrick looked around the table. Aiden and Colton, the two youngest, were blushing, yet their faces didn't show any judgement, just shock. Gavriel rolled his eyes and winked, acknowledging the test, and Darian grinned at him. Those two were the oldest among the four; of course they wouldn't be perturbed by casual references to homosexuality.
"What's sexual favors?" Penny asked.
Kendrick turned to the little girl. "Sexual favors are when--"
"Stop!" Amelia stood, her hands out in front of her. "No Athair. Just no. She's too young."
Kendrick frowned. Was she? "She can't be that much younger than you were when I explained human reproduction."
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