"Benji's fine, ma'am," Benji replied raising his hand as Mrs. Kramer, their new homeroom teacher, started taking attendance.
"Benji, then." She smiled at him and continued.
Benji closed his eyes and tried to block out the all the chatter he was getting from his classmates. His telepathy had become so much stronger over the summer and his dads had spent a lot of time working with him on blocking out the unwanted 'noise' that could distract him. Blocking out a single 'voice' wasn't hard; it was all the static in a room like this that was hard.
It was easier for Alex, of course: everything was easier for Alex. His telekinesis had become stronger over their sixteenth summer as well, but he didn't have to worry about the interference of others messing with his head.
Benji looked over and saw his twin brother flirting with Rebecca Thompson.
"Alexander Martin?" Mrs. Kramer repeated.
"Huh?!" Alex bolted. "Oh! Here!" He grinned. "And it's Alex."
Mrs. Kramer looked between Benji and Alex.
"Oh, shit, here it comes."
"I got it."
Mrs. Kramer thought she was looking at two identical 'Ken dolls' that had been dressed by two very different people. Both boys were very handsome with deep brown eyes and light brown hair. Alex's was cut short and Benji's was almost shoulder length. Both were very tanned and slender, but Alex was definitely the more athletic and muscular. Alex was dressed in black jeans, a t-shirt and sneakers, while Benji was wearing tan slacks, a sky-blue polo shirt and boat shoes.
"Sorry, ma'am. We end up having to explain this to at least one new teacher every year," Benji started to explain.
"You'd think they'd just put a note in the file."
"Would you shut up?"
"Obviously, we're twins," Benji continued. "We were adopted when we were babies. Our dads didn't hyphenate when they were married and when they got us, they decided to give us each one of their last names. Of course, I don't think they realized that we would spend the first day of school every year explaining it to our teachers, but we're used to it by now."
"Well, Benji, we all have our crosses to bear," Mrs. Kramer grinned looking at Alex.
Several of their classmates laughed knowing Alex's reputation as a troublemaker.
Benji noticed Alex's pen start to hover over his notebook.
Benji nodded towards the pen.
The pen dropped.
The only time Alex lost control of his abilities was when he was angry. Unfortunately, Alex had a short fuse and Benji was one of the few people who could keep him from exploding.
"She's just teasing you, you dope."
"I wasn't paying attention."
"Well you need to; if you can't even control it in homeroom do you think Dad's gonna let you play lacrosse?"
"There's still two weeks till tryouts; we'll put in some more practice after I get home from work."
Damon sat at his desk worrying as he did every first day of school since the twins had started developing their powers.
His grandfather had always maintained that the powers and abilities that had passed through generations of Abercrombie men had always been something that had been passed by blood and that the gifts would end with Damon.
Damon was an only child and when he had come out to his mother and grandfather at fifteen his grandfather had believed that there would be no more 'specials' in the Abercrombie family.
Damon had had powers briefly until one night when his powers had nearly killed him and he had lost them. As far as his grandfather was concerned, he never should have had them. The gifts had always skipped a generation and Damon's father had been a telepath, so Damon should have been powerless. Damon's grandfather believed that Damon's son or sons should have been the next generation to have abilities.
Damon and Kai married the summer after they graduated from college. They decided to move from their Midwest home town to Southern California. Damon became a physical therapist and Kai was a musician and composer. They took a year to settle into their new careers and then began talking about adopting.
They wanted to start the process early as they were under the impression that it would be long and tedious and it could take many years before they would be able to bring home a baby.
However, fate interceded.
Their two closest friends from college, Renee and Doug, had also married the summer following graduation and while they had planned to delay becoming parents for a few years, they found themselves pregnant right before their first anniversary. They immediately asked Damon and Kai to be the babies' godparents.
One stormy evening in late August, Damon received a phone call that the babies were on their way and Renee and Doug were on the way to the hospital. Damon and Kai excitedly waited for Doug's call telling them the babies had arrived.
Instead, later that night they received a phone call from a child advocate at the hospital informing them there had been an accident. A driver had run a red light in the storm and hit Doug and Renee head-on. Doug had died instantly. Renee died later that night after giving birth to two healthy baby boys.
Neither Doug, nor Renee had any living family, so their wills stated that they wanted Damon and Kai to raise their children.
Damon and Kai immediately flew back to the Midwest to take care of the babies and the arrangements for their friends.
Two weeks later, Damon and Kai landed at LAX with Benjamin Douglas Abercrombie and Alexander Rene Martin. They had always been honest with the twins about the fact that they were adopted and what had happened to their parents. They always let them know that they had been wanted and loved by all four of their parents and that if their biological parents had lived, Damon and Kai would still have been a part of their lives.
For six years, Damon never gave a thought to the twins receiving the Abercrombie gifts. His grandfather had passed away shortly after he and Kai had married and they had rarely spoken about that aspect of the family since that fateful night years before.
He and Kai were blissfully happy. They had successful careers that allowed them the flexibility to spend time with their family. They had two amazing, loving and wildly energetic sons. Benji was sensitive, sweet and always at peace. He loved without question and trusted wholeheartedly. Alex was sly and so smart. He was always thinking. He was mischievous, but fun-loving.
Then came the night everything changed. He and Kai had gone out for a 'date night' and left the boys in the care of the neighbor's son.
When they returned home and went up to check on them, they found the two sitting in the middle of the room with two soccer balls floating between the two of them. Upon seeing them, Benji turned and greeted them telepathically.
To say he and Kai did not take it 'well' would have been an understatement of epic proportion. Damon chuckled as he remembered almost having to peel Kai off the walls.
Kai had always been fascinated by Damon's powers, but had been deeply scarred by the events that led to Damon losing them. It wasn't until the events of that night that he realized how truly dangerous the abilities could be. Now he saw his sons in possession of those abilities and the very idea terrified him.
The two were up all night. Damon finally convinced Kai that all they could do was work with the twins and help them to adjust to and use their powers. He knew from experience that it would be a disaster if anyone was to find out about the twins' abilities, so the first order of business was making sure they knew to hide their powers.
"I don't understand!!" Kai had ranted. "It was supposed to be blood to blood. Wasn't that what your grandfather said?"
"Actually, weren't you the one who brought up the idea in the first place?"
"That night we went out for my sixteenth birthday and you were quizzing Grandfather," Damon replied. "You said if the powers were a gift from the gods then they should recognize love over blood and any sons we adopted should inherit powers as well."
Luckily, both their jobs were something that could be done from home. With the money that they had been left by Damon's grandfather, they purchased a larger house on a big piece of property out in the country.
They built a large recording studio for Kai on one end of the property and a state-of-the-art physical therapy facility for Damon's practice on the other. That way both dads were always around if the boys needed them.
Farther back from the house they built a large building that the four called 'the playhouse'. Only Damon, Kai, Benji and Alex had access to the playhouse. It was used by the boys to practice with their powers safely from prying eyes.
Even though the boys were now sixteen and juniors in high school, Damon couldn't help but be nervous on the first day of school. They had protected their secret so far and the boys were better at controlling their powers, but like he had, they had gained their powers early. Most Abercrombies got them around the age of sixteen. When he had turned sixteen he had gotten more powers and become more powerful and he was worried the same thing could happen. He was also worried about them being twins as in all his research he had not come across any cases of twins in the family history.
The twins had turned sixteen two weeks ago. Their powers had gotten significantly stronger over the summer, but they had both gotten better at controlling them. So far neither had shown signs of gaining any additional powers or abilities. If Damon was honest, this was what scared him the most. He could cope with the telepathy and telekinesis even if both boys shared those powers, but the thought of either of them developing empathic abilities worried him. He knew what those powers could do to you. Alex could probably cope better with those powers as he was the stronger of the two boys. Benji was more Damon's 'son', sensitive and very in tune with the feelings of others. Damon knew what the empathic powers had done to him and he feared them doing the same thing, or worse, to Benji.
Mrs. Kramer was just finishing passing out class schedules and locker assignments when Ms. Kelley, the guidance counselor came into the room.
"Excuse me," she said to the class as she spoke quietly to Mrs. Kramer.
Mrs. Kramer nodded and turned back to the class.
"Everyone, we have a last minute addition," she announced.
Ms. Kelley went out the door and came back a moment later followed by a young man.
Benji looked up from his seat in the back row and immediately locked eyes with the new boy.
"Eyes back in your head, B."
"Shut up, Alex."
The boy looked right at Benji and smiled shyly. He was about 5'8" and slim. He had pin straight blond, almost white, hair. It hung down his neck and his bangs covered half his emerald-green eyes. His skin was pale, almost translucent. He wore round wire-rimmed glasses. He was dressed 'preppy' in navy-blue slacks, a burgundy polo shirt and brown loafers.
"My God, he even has the same taste in clothes as you."
"A, I'm warning you."
Alex turned and grinned at his brother.
"Do you want a migraine?"
"You need to get laid."
"Everyone, this is Oliver Mills," Ms. Kelley said as she introduced the new boy. "Oliver and his family have just relocated here to California from England. I'm sure you'll all help him to adjust." She scanned the room. "Benji, can I borrow you for a moment?"
"Sure," he replied as he grabbed his bag and walked towards the front of the room.
"Go get him."
Benji gave a little push and Alex felt a slight pain in his temple.
"You've been warned."
Benji walked up to where Ms. Kelley and Oliver were standing. Oliver was still smiling at him. Benji smiled back. Ms. Kelley led them out into the hallway.
"Oliver, this is Benjamin Abercrombie, Benji, this is Oliver."
"Nice to meet you, Oliver," Benji said as he offered his hand.
"You as well, Benji," Oliver replied shaking Benji's hand.
"Benji, when I was setting up Oliver's schedule, I noticed that you and he were in all the same classes, so I thought that you would be a great person to introduce him to," Ms. Kelley explained. "That way you can show him around and he'll know someone. I also found out in talking to Oliver this morning that he was looking for some place to ride in the area and I thought you were still working at the Kennet Stables."
Benji smiled. "I sure am." He looked at Oliver. "My brother is the jock. I get my exercise riding and mucking stalls," he laughed.
"Same here, old man," Oliver grinned.
"Well, I see you two are going to get along just fine," Ms. Kelley said just as the bell rang and the hall filled with kids on the way to their next class.
Kai sat at the piano and played the opening of the new song that he was working on.
Like Damon, he tended to worry a bit on the first day of school, but work always tended to calm him some. He had a recording session coming up with a new young artist being represented by one of his old producers.
When he had first started out after college, he had worked as a studio musician. He was an accomplished pianist, guitarist and percussionist. He played on other artists' recordings to pay the bills, while he worked on writing and producing his own music.
Eventually, he was asked to score an independent film. While the picture had been a dud, the score had been noticed by the right people and soon he was working steadily in movies and television. Over the last decade, he had won several Grammys and after three nominations an Oscar.
Now, writing and scoring his own music, he was branching out into producing, trying to bring new blood into the industry.
Music wasn't work for him, it never had been. He had always loved making music, so being able to make a living doing something that he loved this much and that allowed him so much time for Damon and the boys was a blessing. Damon, of course, had more experience with teaching the twins how to actually deal with their powers. Once they got over the initial awe of being able to move things and speak with their minds they realized that they actually had to learn to control it. Damon was instrumental in teaching them about the ins and outs of their powers.
At first, Kai had felt useless. He began to understand how Damon's mother, Eve, must have felt when Damon developed his powers and his grandfather, Arthur was the one to train him.
Eve had re-married while they were in college and she enjoyed traveling the country with her new husband. Kai would often e-mail her asking advice. She told him that all he could do was be there for the boys and for Damon like she had been for both Damon and his father, Alex, when he was alive. She reminded Kai that he had talents Damon didn't and those talents could help the twins as well.
That spurred Kai into action. He took over a section of the playhouse and began giving the boys music lessons.
He chose instruments that they would enjoy but could also help them with their powers.
Alex became a great drummer. Kai joked that he had always excelled at making noise. But in addition to learning to play the drums, as he gained control over his telekinesis he was able to actually play using his powers.
For Benji, Kai chose the guitar. As a telepath, Benji would sometimes be overwhelmed by others' thoughts and feelings that he couldn't block out. With the guitar, he could 'insulate' himself. He could drift into a corner with his acoustic guitar and play for hours calming himself and often those around him and when the mood struck he would plug in his electric guitar and he and Alex would jam like the second coming of Van Halen.
Kai spent many hours teaching the twins to read and write music as well. They had helped him compose a few pieces earning credits on a couple of film projects, but they preferred to improvise.
Sharing his passion for music with the twins had helped Kai to feel like he was more an equal part of their lives with Damon and that he was helping them to grow and become comfortable with their powers.
Benji led Oliver to an empty table in a relatively quiet corner of the cafeteria. They were carrying trays with their lunch on them.
"Will your brother be joining us?" Oliver asked as he sat down.
"Alex, where are you?"
"On my way."
"I think so."
"I didn't see him in any of our classes."
Benji laughed. "Well, when we when in elementary school, the administrators, in their infinite wisdom thought it best if we were in separate homerooms and classes."
"I don't know. Some bullshit about twins needing to 'socialize' with others and it being easier if we couldn't 'rely' on each other." Benji shook his head. "Then by the time we reached junior high, we just had different interests and stayed in separate classes."
"What he means is, Benji is college bound and Alex is in Special Ed," a red-headed boy laughed as he sat down at the table with Alex and a boy with black hair and hazel eyes.
All the boys laughed.
"Oliver Mills, this is my brother Alex Martin, that's Matt Cooper and the joker is Austin Riggs. Guys, this is Oliver Mills."
"Nice to meet you, Ollie," Austin said.
"Oliver, please," Oliver replied. "It's nice to meet you all as well."
"So, Oliver what brings you to California?" Matt asked.
"My father is an historian and he was offered an opportunity to work on a project at UCLA. It was a dream project for him, so he moved us over here. I wasn't too keen on the idea at first as I had to leave my friends behind, but I must say the weather here beats London any day."
"Do you play sports, Oliver?" Alex asked.
Oliver shook his head. "I played a bit of footie when I was a lad."
"You mean soccer?" Austin asked.
Oliver nodded. "Yes, for us it's football. But, now I don't really play any sports. I do ride, but mainly for leisure."
"Horses?" Alex asked.
"Do you ride, Alex?"
Benji, Matt and Austin laughed when Alex groaned.
"He can ride," Benji explained. "But he doesn't like it. He does it for me."
Alex grinned. "And now he has you, so I don't have to."
"You really don't like riding, Alex?"
"It's not so much that I don't like riding. Horses don't like me."
"A, that's not true."
"Well, his horse doesn't like me."
"That's true," Benji laughed. "I don't know why. She loves everyone, but Alex."
"She's just jealous cuz you love me more than her."
"Do you want to test that theory?"
Matt and Austin laughed having heard this argument many times before.
"So Alex, are you really in the Special Education classes?" Oliver asked with a straight face.
Alex grinned. "No. I just don't like to work as hard as the brainiac here."
"Alex discovered that if he took the mid-level courses he could do easier work and get better grades and have more time for play. My dads thought it was kinda cute when he was ten figuring he would grow out of it...he didn't," Benji explained.
"Meanwhile, Benji is trying to take so many AP classes that when he graduates high school he'll be able to enter college as a senior," Alex countered.
"And do you play sports, Alex?"
"Lacrosse," Alex replied. "Actually, the three of us do. We were JV last year. Hopefully, we'll make varsity this year." He looked at his watch. "Speaking of which, we have a meeting with the coach before next period." The three boys got up from the table. "Nice to meet you, Oliver, I'm sure we'll be seeing more of you."
"I may kill you, A."
"You chaps, as well."
When Alex, Matt and Austin had left, Oliver looked around the cafeteria.
"Those were Alex's friends, where are yours?" he asked.
"Most of my friends are Alex's friends," Benji answered. "I tend to keep more to myself than Alex does. He's the extrovert and I'm the introvert. He's the jock and I'm the scholar and every other cliché you want to think of. Basically, he likes the group thing and I tend to fly solo. When we were kids our dads tried to get us to play soccer: Alex was the star of the team and I was a klutz."
"Did he give you a hard time?"
Benji shook his head. "Not at all. Alex is my best friend. We may threaten each other's lives on a daily basis, but we would lay them down for each other. Even then, he would never pick on me for being the worst player and he would have kicked anyone's ass that did and they all knew it. But, I knew I sucked. No matter how much Alex tried to help me, I just wasn't that coordinated and my heart wasn't in it. I wanted to quit in the worst way, but I didn't want to disappoint my dads or Alex."
"Surely, they would have understood."
"I'm sure they would have, but I was eight years old, what did I know?" Benji replied. "Anyways, my dad is a physical therapist and his practice is located on our property. One day I was stopping by to see him and I met a lady who was a patient of his. Her name was Dale Kennet, she had broken her arm and my dad was helping with some exercises. It turned out that she owned a ranch near our property. We got to talking and by the time my dad called her into his office she had invited me and Alex to the ranch for a riding lesson. After the first one I was hooked. I quit soccer a week later and never looked back. When I was thirteen, my dads bought me my mare Arya; she was only three and Dale helped me to train her. Alex goes out occasionally to ride with me, but I pretty much ride by myself."
"Well, now you have someone to ride with."
Benji smiled. "That will be fun."
"You work there as well."
"Yep," Benji nodded. "Alex thinks I'm nuts. We don't have to work--actually our dads don't really want us to--but I like the work and it's not a big deal. I go after school and clean stalls, groom horses, sometimes I help Dale with training or beginners lessons. It's only a couple hours a day. I spend more time there on weekends."
"Do you compete?"
"No. I think that was part of the reason I sucked at soccer. Alex has the competitor's heart, not me. I just head into the hills and trail ride, or 'hack' as you would say."
Oliver laughed and nodded. "Very good. I prefer a good hack as well. I did some shows as a lad, but it wasn't my cup of tea."
"Did you have your own horse back home?"
"I did," Oliver nodded. "I had a cob gelding; I had the option to bring him over here, but he was over twenty and I didn't think it was right to make him adjust to such a different climate. My father wants me to look for a new horse over here."
"I'm sure we can find one for you," Benji said excitedly. "Dale has several available for sale and lease. She'll want to see you ride. She always wants to make sure she matches the rider and the horse. Some people have a problem with that, but too many people show up and want a horse based on what it looks like and not on how well suited it is to their abilities."
"I agree, I've seen that quite a bit myself."
"Do you want to head over after school?" Benji asked. "I don't know if Dale's going to be around, but I can show you around at least"
"That would be fine, but I would have to stop at home to change."
"Where do you live?"
"That's not far. I can give you a ride there so you can change and then we can go to the ranch. I keep a change of clothes there."
"What about Alex?"
"We ride separately." Benji explained. "We turned sixteen last month and for our birthday our dads let us each pick a new ride. I went for convenience. A Ford F-150 truck. That way I can tow Arya's trailer if I want to trail away from the stables and I can pick up supplies and stuff. My dear brother, went for flash, a Ninja motorcycle. Of course, that meant I had to get my motorcycle license as well."
"Because, Alex has impulse control issues and he doesn't think everything through. He got a motorcycle ignoring the fact that he has a rather, uh, busy social life and his 'dates' sometimes don't like his bike and he has to borrow my truck or one of my dads' cars. Leaving me with the bike."
"So Alex is popular with the girls?" Oliver grinned.
"Uh huh, very," Benji nodded.
While Benji had come out as gay when he was fourteen, he was still a virgin. Alex had lost his virginity to a girl just after his fourteenth birthday and had sex with a boy a couple weeks later. While he liked to call himself 'bi-sexual', Benji called him 'sexual' thinking he would screw a knot hole if it was the right height and tight enough. Benji liked to think he was holding out for love, while Alex was simply after a good time and the easy gratification.
"And you?" Oliver asked.
"Not so much," Benji replied with a nervous grin.
Oliver smiled back. "Just haven't found the right one."