All Mali had ever done as a baby was poop and cry. Boring.
The beautiful lady was clapping her hands to catch everyone's attention. Mali was done signing the paper, finally. The lady spoke.
"As Priestess of this temple, I now solemnly declare before the Goddess and these people assembled here that Jax Falconer has asked for and been given legal and spiritual parenthood over these children, Able and Mali. From this day forward, they will be known publicly as Able and Mali Falconer, of the House of Falconer. They will share equally in the rights, privileges and responsibilities of that House, along with their father. Let the Goddess' will be unquestioned."
Everyone started cheering and clapping. Mom was even crying. Then Jax kneeled down, and held out his hand for a solemn handshake. Able responded, trying to keep his grip firm and manly.
"I am so honored to have you for my son," Jax said quietly. "Thank you, Able, for accepting me."
"I'm just doing it for mom and Mali," Able said gruffly. His eyes felt all weird and watery, and his nose was starting to run. For one horrible minute he thought he might start crying. But before that could happen, Jax nodded knowingly.
"I know that," he replied. "You and I have the same job, taking care of them. Good thing we know how to work together."
"Yup," Able said thankfully. He and Jax were the men of the family now. It was a good thing they could work together. Mali was flinging herself into Jax's arms, and then mom was kneeling beside him, hugging him close. It felt pretty good, Able thought. He liked being a family.
Jax set Mali down, and she tugged on Able's sleeve.
"It wasn't a stupid wish, you know," she said smugly. He looked down at her blankly.
"What are you talking about?" he asked in confusion, looking around to see if anyone had heard her.
No one seemed to have noticed.
"To wish that we had a daddy," Mali said, rolling her eyes impatiently. "Remember, I wished that we had a daddy, and now we have one. What do you think I should wish for next?"
"You just got lucky," Able snorted. "Wishes aren't real."
"Really?" Mali said. "Well, then I'm going to make another wish, just to prove that you're wrong. I wish that you'll meet a girl and fall in love and get all silly. Then you won't be able to make fun of me any more.
I'll make fun of you!"
"Mali, that's just stupid," he said.
"We'll see," Mali said smugly. She turned away from him as Aunt Calla swept her up in a hug. Silly girl.
"Able, I want you to come and meet your new cousins," Jax said, pulling him through the crowd. After several moments they broke through the mass of people, and came face to face with a group of five children. They eyed him curiously. They all shared similar features, dark black hair, bright green eyes.
"These are my sister's children," Jax said. "Devon, Julian, Marcus, Luke and Anita, the baby of the family. We call her Nini."
Nini stepped forward, and Able's jaw dropped. She was the prettiest little girl he'd ever seen in his life, and he had the sudden urge to reach forward and pull one of her long, black braids. The largest of the boys, Julian, seemed to read his mind. He stepped forward protectively.
"You can play with us if you like," he said. "But you have to be nice to Nini, or we'll get you."
"You have to be nice to my sister, too," Able said, bristling. Nini laughed, breaking the tension. She stepped forward, put both hands on Able's shoulders and stood on her tiptoes, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek.
"I like you, Able," she said brightly. "We're going to have a lot of fun together."
He couldn't help himself. He didn't think at all, he just reached up and pulled one of those braids as hard as he could. She screeched in protest, and he took off running, dodging through the crowd. All four of those boys would be on him in seconds, and he was pretty sure he was gonna die.
It had been worth it, though. That Nini was pretty cute…