The kids ran to the table where Laura Spencer Collins had just carefully places a tray of hot chocolates. Smiling at her grandchildren as Aiden, Charlotte, and Rocco swarmed the table, her expression turned puzzled as she noticed a fourth child hesitating a few steps behind before his brother and cousins pulled him into their mix.
Laura was still concerned about Jake's hesitation and stepped away from the table to quietly ask her husband if he had noticed.
"Did you happen to notice Jake hesitating before joining the group at the table?" asked Laura, keeping her eyes on the kids as she spoke in a hushed tone.
Kevin replied thoughtfully "I did, but I'm not sure it was to protect himself from the jostling. Did you see something else?"
Laura sighed softly. "I have often worried that Jake feels excluded because we are not biologically or legally related, that he feels somehow that makes him less dear to me."
"Cameron is also not related to you, but he adores and respects you as his Grandma Laura" points out Kevin.
Another sigh. "Yes, but Cameron was partially raised by Lucky and views him ..." her voice trails off . "He sees Lucky as a parental figure, if not necessarily his father, even though Lucky did start the adoption process."
She shook her head "I'm so happy Cameron was able to let me continue being part of his life. He's my eldest grandchild, adoption or not, and I've adored him since we first met."
"But Jake is a little different, " she added. "He has grandmothers - Audrey and Monica who also adore and love him. I'm more of an extra grandmother or another distant relative and while I love him fiercely, I cannot step on their toes. It is a fine line to walk."
Kevin looked at her thoughtfully "Well, in the law's eyes, you are Elizabeth's cousin and Jake's by extension through your own adoptive father, Rick."
He took Laura by the shoulders and said "But that's not quite the same thing is it? You do have two things even more powerful in common with Jake - you grew up in a somewhat fractured family, but found love and built strong healthy relationships with Amy and your younger adoptive brothers, Rick and Mike."
"That's true," acknowledged Laura, eyes glistening as she thought of her beloved departed sister, Amy. "What is the other powerful thing I have in common with Jake?"
Kevin looked gently into her eyes, stroking her hand as he says softly "You were also held captive by Helena and returned from the dead."
As Laura gasped, Kevin quickly continues "I'm not suggesting your swap stories with a child, but it is possible that Jake could use a Grandma who understands intimately this experience that he might feel also sets him apart from his brothers and cousins, the thing that makes him an outsider - returning from the dead."
"Are you suggesting I share my story with Jake? Isn't that going to retraumatize him and possibly make him feel I can't keep him safe when he's staying with us?" asks Laura thoughtfully.
"Or Jake will see how you've built a happy, meaningful life after going through that terrible ordeal and you've embraced the good that came from it - Nicholas and now Spencer." replied Kevin. "If you could grow up to be the Mayor of Port Charles, anything is possible for Jake."
"I know you think we aren't doing enough to discuss and process Jake's kidnapping" says Laura, putting up her hand to halt his objection. " You are right that we should talk about it more openly as a family, especially after Franco has sort of disappeared, too. I'll ask Elizabeth if we can work out a plan."
"Jake is already talking about it" came a voice from the nearby sofa as Cameron rose to join his grandparents. "He was just starting to feel safe with Jason's return and Drew being his uncle instead of his father, when Drew disappears over the ocean and then Franco disappears, claiming to be Drew. That's a lot of Dad issues for any kid to handle."
He pauses to take a deep breath.
"Grandma you should know," says Cameron "Jake adores you, but he does feel like he is the strange one in the family. The kidnapping, the father switch, being part of the richest family in town which Aidan and I are not, it is a lot. It might help him if he realized you have had some similar types of experiences in ways that Gran Audrey and Dr. Quartermaine have not."
He continues "I mean, it is true that we are all pretty unusual. My father died in the arms of my mother's best friend before I was born after a shootout with the police. Aidan was considered Uncle Nicholas' kid for a long time. Rocco was kidnapped before he was born by Dr. Britch. Aunt Lulu didn't even know Charlotte existed for years. And Spencer was raised by Josslyn's father when he was a baby," Cameron counts off the distinctions on his fingers with a somewhat bemused expression.
Laura raised an eyebrow at the reference to Britt, but decided to let it go given the intense nature of the topic. "So we all have twisted family stories and, yes, it is weird that your Grandma is your second cousin ..." Laura says.
"First cousin once removed" corrected Kevin before trailing off when he realized Laura and Cameron were both rolling their eyes.
"Cameron," said Laura "What do you think would help Jake feel more confident being part of the Webber-Spencer-Collins family as well as being a Morgan and a Quartermaine?"
"For starters, I think Dr. Quartermaine should remember that Jake might feel guilty about being part of such a rich family while his brother are not. I'm fine with it, but it might be nice if Aiden was included in the Q sleepovers with Danny, Scout, and Leo. And if we didn't call her Dr. Quartermaine while Jake calls her Grandma Monica. Leo calls her Aunt Monica so maybe Aiden could do that, too?"
Laura smiles at her thoughtful grandson, "I'm sure Monica would not object to adding Aiden to her famous sleepovers anymore than Aidan would object to having access to Olivia and her kitchen. If that makes Jake happy, I'm sure Monica will agree."
She puts her arms around Cameron and says "I also think Monica will appreciate that you came up with the idea and want you to participate occasionally, to encourage Aidan and Jake. You also have quite a few step-relationships with the Quartermaines so Aunt Monica seems right."
Kevin can't help but interject "More right than Granny Tracy?" before putting up both hands to signal surrender.
Cameron takes a deep breath "Grandma, you and Jake have that kidnapping thing in common but you also have in common that you don't talk about it. Not that you should mention it every single day, but sometimes we seem to pretend none of these really terrible things happened and it is bound to come back to haunt us. You and Jake didn't ask to be kidnapped. It wasn't your fault so why should you have to keep that secret all to yourself? I was kidnapped by Shiloh and something awful happened to Franco when he rescued me. I have to live with that, but you and Mom and Kevin keep telling me it wasn't my fault. Maybe Jake and you need to practice what you preach."
On that note, Cameron slunk away to join the cookies and hot chocolate group.
Laura tapped her chin lightly as she considered his words.
"You know ..." she said as she turned to look at her husband. "All of my grandchilden are survivors and brave, courageous, creative kids who will grow up to be strong adults. I think it is time I have a chat with Elizabeth to set up some time for us to talk with Jake about the things we have in common, including" deep breath" being kidnapped and being part of an extended family"
Kevin nods, "Sounds like a good start. And you know I will be as involved as you want."
"Oh, I think we need to make that clear right now," says Laura as she moves toward the kids. "This family is probably getting to the point of too much sugar so I think it time for an announcement and a family toast"
She puts an arm around Jake and picks up a mug of hot chocolate "Your Grandpa Kevin and I love each of you very much. We chose each other and he chose to be a grandfather to each of you. I think Grandpas Sonny, Mike, and Luke would be thrilled to know you have another person who loves and care for you right here in Port Charles. To Grandpa Kevin, the perfect addition to our family."