A little while later, Aron declared that he was tired, and headed to his room. Gwendl and Kylan soon followed, a grim look on his face. Soon it was just Adashi and Leshin left in the kitchen, sitting in silence together.
"What are you thinking about?" Leshin asked softly.
Adashi sighed. "I'm just wondering what Silena would think of all this. She always had a better solution than we ever came up with."
Leshin leaned her head on his shoulder.
"I miss her too. But I think she would tell us to do the best we can for these kids. We need to be their parents now."
Adashi smiled. "You'll be good at it."
She lifted her head from his shoulder, narrowing her eyes at him. "You will too. You have the heart for it."
"And you the practicality." He responded, leaning over to kiss her on the lips. She melted into it, and even after it ended, they sat there a moment, foreheads touching. Finally, she smiled and pulled away, standing and stretching.
"Well, my love. I'm going to bed. You should too, you know. Tomorrow, the fun starts."
Adashi shrugged. "I'll be in soon."
"Alright, then." She moved towards the door. "I love you."
He smiled. "I love you too. Sleep well."
After she left, Adashi sat and stared into the smoldering remains of the kitchen fire. So many changes were coming about. Three of the people he loved most were leaving, and he probably wouldn't see them for years. And now his life was to be committed to watching over six orphans in need of care and training. These six just might be the ones Chosen to take the powers offered by the Temples and defend the Galaxy.
If Adashi had anything to say about it, they would do it knowing that they had someone who cared for them.
A small pattering of footsteps sounded behind him, and Adashi turned to see Cayleb standing there, innocent eyes wide.
"What's the matter, Cayleb?" Adashi asked gently.
"Well..." Cayleb's voice was small. "I'm scared of the storm."
"Storm?" With a start Adashi realized that it indeed had started to rain outside, and the occasional rumble of thunder could be heard.
Adashi knew just what Cayleb was feeling. He could well remember wet nights spent huddled in muddy alleys, flinching at every flash of lightning.
"Idam says we can trust you, though he's not sure about the others." Cayleb said, timidly stepping towards Adashi.
Adashi's heart twisted. Cayleb was wholly loyal to Idam, and would never go against anything the older boy said, he was sure.
With a reassuring smile, Adashi walked over to the trembling boy and went down on one knee in front of him, extending his arms to bring him close. At first Cayleb shied away, but then rushed into his embrace, burying his head in Adashi's shoulder as a crash of thunder sounded.
Adashi wrapped his arms around the boy's slight frame. Cayleb was undernourished, as was Idam, along with every other child who lived on the streets.
"I'm glad Idam trusts me." He said reassuringly. "He's taken good care of you, hasn't he?"
Cayleb nodded eagerly, pulling his head back enough to look Adashi in the eyes. "Oh yes. If any other boys tried to steal our food, he always protected me." The boy leaned to whisper into Adashi's ear. "He tries to never fall asleep until I have, but sometimes he gets so tired that I have to put his blanket over him." A small squeak escaped him as another sudden boom shook the walls, and he buried his head once again into Adashi's shoulder.
Gently, Adashi stood, lifting the small boy. "There's no reason to be scared, Cayleb. I'll make sure nothing hurts you, Idam, or the others. But for now, you and me will go sit in the common room until you fall asleep. It's more comfortable in there."
Cayleb nodded. Adashi adjusted his grip to a better position, then headed toward the common room. When they arrived, the two of them sat on one of the big couches together, Cayleb still huddled up to Adashi. It was quieter here, and soon his breathing started to slow. But even after Adashi was sure Cayleb was asleep, he still sat there in the darkness, a million thoughts running through his head.
Three years later
With a sigh, Adashi poured another cup of coffee, adding a moderate amount of milk. He actually had a few moments of silence, while the kids were helping Traythen clean the bedrooms. He took a long sip, then sighed in contentment. Even though Adashi didn't regret staying at the temple, it could still be exhausting.
Leshin seemed to have a unending energy when it came to these six, though. She was the ultimate mother to all of them, even though Idam, Cayleb, and Habata tended to gravitate towards Adashi.
Footsteps in the hall interrupted Adashi's moment of peace, and he turned to see Ambera standing there, her long red hair tied up behind her head.
Adashi sighed. "Yes, Ambera?"
She pouted at him. "Don't worry, I'm supposed to be here. Traythen says that he doesn't need us to clean anymore, and that we should start training with you."
Adashi let out a slow breath. "Where are the others?"
"Already in the classroom."
The classroom was what they called the large room where most of the training happened. It held a full arsenal of practice weapons, along with enough books to fill half a library.
Adashi looked longingly at the coffeepot. He sighed again. "I'm on my way. Make sure you put that cloth where it's supposed to be. Don't leave it in a corner someplace."
Ambera stuck her tongue out at him, then turned and ran towards the classroom. Adashi rolled his eyes, then followed more slowly. It had been an exhausting three years, but seeing the kids grow up was reward enough. They were happy and strong, and always full of energy.
And sass, Adashi reflected with a smile. Not a day went by when one of them decided to be some sort of problem.
Even so, every day Adashi's love for them continued to grow. Life with them definitely made up for him and Leshin not being able to have children of their own.
As he approached the door to the classroom, he could hear the sound of heated discussion, then a crash of books.
"What now?" He muttered, pushing the door open.
It said a lot about his life that what he saw didn't surprise him.
Habata stood with his back to Adashi, staring defiantly at Idam, who stood with hands on hips, looking annoyed. Neither of them noticed Adashi, though he did see Cayleb trying to signal Idam.
Adashi coughed, and Habata's head snapped around.
"What's the matter now?" Adashi said, resigning himself to the torrent of inevitable complaints.
Sure enough, Habata quickly launched into a tirade about how Idam had tried to tell him what to do.
Thinking longingly of the remaining coffee in the kitchen, Adashi resigned himself to another afternoon of chaos.