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Chapter 81 – Samuel Patrick Corgan

 

“What’s up Ron,” Tom asked with concern.

 

“Much as I hate to say it, I don’t think this is gonna work out, guys,” Ron replied nervously.

 

“What do you mean?  You’ve been great,” I replied.

 

“Yeah, I thought everything was goin’ real cool, too.  Until this morning, anyway.”

 

“What happened, then, that’s changed your mind,” Tom asked.

 

“Well, I was doin’ laundry and I had to go into Joey, Alex, and Logan’s room to get their dirty clothes.  I know you warned me ‘bout doin’ that, Max, but I really wanted to get it all done this morning so I could have the afternoon to deal with my shoppin’.  So, I knocked on the door since it was closed, and one of ‘em said to come on in, so I did.  Let me tell ya, I shoulda listened to Max and stayed the hell outta there.”

 

“Oh, c’mon Ron, it couldn’t have been that bad,” I interrupted.  “Big deal, you caught them have havin’ a little bit of fun.  You said it yourself, it wouldn’t be the first time.”

 

“Well, yeah, but I never expected to have the reaction I had today.”

 

“And what was that?” Tom queried.

 

“As soon as I saw all six of them little horndogs enjoying each other the way they were and caught whiff of the raw sex that was happening right in front of me, I popped a boner faster than a Ferrari can hit a hundred.”  Tom and I both snickered at Ron’s discomfort before he could continue. 

 

“I swear, guys, I’ve never thought about kids like that before and I don’t know what the hell happened.  It was all I could do to not jump on the damn bed and join them.”

 

“Tell us you didn’t,” Tom muttered.

 

“No way, man.  Like I said when we talked originally, I ain’t into little kids, but goddam, those little buggers got me all hot and bothered.”

 

“What did you do,” I asked calmly.

 

“I grabbed their shit and got the hell outta there as quick as I could.  I wasn’t gonna tempt fate.  Then, I went and sorted all their shit with the other stuff I already had, trying to think about somethin’ else, anything else, really, and will myself soft again.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t workin’ worth a crap, so I went to my room and pummeled my cock ‘til I had the come of my life, all while images of the six of ‘em flashed through my mind.  If shit like that keeps happenin’ to me, I’m not sure I can trust myself to just walk away next time.  And I don’t want you guys thinkin’ you can’t trust me, either.”

 

I put a hand on Ron’s shoulder to try and calm him down a bit before addressing his concern.  “Listen, Ron, you did the right thing going to your room and dealing with the problem there.  And trust me, you aren’t the only one in the house that gets turned on by those boys and their, uh, antics.”  Ron lifted his head and a look of surprise filled his face.  “Yes, they have the same effect on us, too, so we know all too well what you’re experiencing.”

 

“So, what do you do?”

 

“We go to our room and have some of the hottest, rawest, hangin’ from the ceiling fan kind of sex either of us has ever had,” Tom answered with a cheesy grin.

 

“Well, that’s cool for you guys, but then, you’ve got each other, don’t you?  All I got is my hands.  And I don’t care what you do, that just ain’t the same thing, is it?”

 

“Sounds to me like someone needs to get laid,” Tom laughed.

 

“I won’t argue that point with ya, man,” Ron agreed.  “And way more than I ever thought I did,” he added with a nervous laugh.

 

“Maybe I should call Rich and see if he can come out tomorrow,” I mused.

 

“Out, in, don’t matter at this point, Max,” Ron laughed again.  “I’ll take it any way I can get it.”

 

“We’ll see what we can do to help you out, buddy,” I said.  “Look, we gotta get our shower and get ready for our meeting with Ryan.  You gonna be okay?”

 

“Yeah, I think so.  I just wanted to let you guys know what happened.  I really don’t want to lose this job ‘cause I love it here.”

 

“You’re safe, Ron.” Tom said.  “You ever have a problem, let us know and we’ll deal with it, okay?”

 

“Well, now that you mention it, there is one more thing I could sure use your help with,” Ron answered seriously.

 

“Yeah, what’s that?” I asked.

 

“You two need to talk to those rugrats about the proper use of toilet paper.  I’ve used more bleach on their underwear in the last couple of weeks than I’ve used in the last year on my own stuff.”  After the seriousness of the previous subject, Tom and I couldn’t help but laugh at the sudden change of topic.  “It’s not funny, guys.  I don’t know how they can stand bein’ around themselves.”

 

“We’ll see what we can to make your life easier, Ron.  Can we get our shower now?”

 

“Yeah, go ahead.  Thanks for listenin’ to me, guys.”

 

“No worries.  Oh, by the way, you’ll need to pull on some shorts, at least, in a bit, too,” Tom reminded him.  “For a while, anyway.  Once Ryan leaves, we can all get comfortable, again.”

 

“I figured as much.  ‘Other people rule’, right?” Ron chuckled.

 

“Exactly.  Thanks, Ron.”

 

With our conversation over, Tom and I retreated to our room and hopped in the shower.  As we washed off the remnants of the pool still clinging to our bodies, I asked, “So, what, if anything, do you think we should do about Ron’s little problem?  Or should we just leave it up to him to resolve on his own?”

 

“I’m not sure, babe.  Besides talking to Rich, I don’t know what else we could do.”

 

“I had an idea, but I’m not sure you’ll like it.”

 

“Is this one of those brilliant flashes you’re always so proud of?” Tom asked with more than a hint sarcasm.

 

“I’ll let you be the judge of that,” I replied.  “You remember how Joey and Alex begged us for something special?  Do you think they’d be interested in …?”

 

“What!?” Tom squawked in surprise.  “You can’t be serious.”

 

“Never mind, shitty thought.  Forget I ever brought it up.”

 

“Damn right it is!” Tom insisted.  “How the hell could you ever think it was a possibility?”

 

“Like I said, just forget it.”

 

“Besides, those two would chew Ron up and spit him right back out.  There’s no way in hell he could take them on and survive it,” Tom laughed.

 

“You’re not wrong about that,” I agreed, joining his laughter.

 

“Let’s see how things work out with Rich before contemplating any other routes of relief.”

 

“Yeah, okay.”

 

With our shower completed, we pulled on shorts and t-shirts and left the bedroom to rejoin the rest of the family.  Much to our surprise, Rick, Eric and Josh had arrived and they were chatting up a storm in the living room with the boys.  We couldn’t believe how anyone could make sense out of the multiple conversations taking place simultaneously, but that didn’t stop us from joining the confusion. 

 

“Hey, Rick,” I greeted.  “Glad you could bring Eric over to sit in on our meeting.”

 

“No problem.  I know he wants to see what Ryan’s come up with and hear a bit about how he did it.”

 

“Are you gonna hang around, too?” Tom asked.

 

“Yeah, I want to talk to Ryan about our new house, too.  I figure once he’s done working on yours, he better get started on ours.”

 

“Sounds like a good idea,” I agreed.  “We think we’ve found the best sites for both our places.  We’ll show you and Ryan a satellite view of the property and you can decide if the spots we selected are good with you and your boys.”

 

“Perfect.  I’m really looking forward to this, guys, and I can’t thank you enough for the job offer.”

 

“We are, too,” I agreed.  I quickly surveyed the rest of the crowd and found Eric talking with Logan and Alex about our new houses while T.J., Mike and Andy were engrossed in their own conversation on the same subject.  As for Joey and Josh, they were sitting on the hearth, arms around each other’s shoulders and foreheads touching as they were deeply involved in their own whispered discussion.  I silently directed Tom and Rick’s attention to the young couple, and both were soon sporting wide grins of understanding.

 

“Those two are so cute together,” Rick muttered quietly.

 

“Yeah, I’m glad they found each other.  It’s so hard for young gay kids to find someone they care about like that, especially since most are terrified to be true to themselves out of the fear of being bullied by the other kids they know.”

 

“At least they seem to be on the same wavelength in their feelings for each other,” Tom commented.

 

We continued to visit while we waited for Ryan to arrive for our meeting.  Just about five, Ron finally joined us, and he was quickly introduced to Rick and his boys.  Ryan arrived at twenty after five and the drive sensor chimed to let us know he was here.  While Tom and Eric headed to the kitchen to get drinks for us, I met Ryan at the front door.

 

“Good afternoon, Ryan,” I greeted him as he stepped inside.  “How’re you this afternoon.”

 

“Can’t complain, Max, not that anyone listens when I do,” he answered with a chortle.  “You ready to see the latest and greatest?”

 

“You bet, let’s head for the dining room.  Tom and Eric will have drinks for us.”  The two of us made our way across the house, leaving Rick and Ron to supervise the boys for a while.  Joining Tom and Eric, we all took our seats at the table as Ryan unrolled a thick set of plans and spread them across the table.  The color rendering of the front of the house on the cover page caught all our eyes.

 

“Wow!  That’s freakin’ cool lookin’,” Eric exclaimed.

 

“Thanks, Eric.  I’m glad you like it.  I’m wondering what Max and Tom think about it, though.”

 

“Looks perfect to me,” I replied.

 

“Me too,” Tom added.

 

“Well, let’s take a look at the plan itself and see if you like what I’ve done on the inside.”  Ryan flipped the cover page over, bypassing the elevations and what looked like a foundation plan and floor system layout to reveal the actual floor plan to us.  On our first glance, it appeared to be just what we’d requested, including the modification of converting the boys’ bedrooms into a single large bunkroom with a large bathroom area for them all to share.

 

At the very west end of the new building would be our private four-car garage that connected to the house with a covered walkway.  The kitchen had been expanded to hold two of every major appliance including oversized Sub-Zero refrigerators and a residential-sized icemaker.  Space had also been left in the pantry to accommodate two large upright freezers.  Our end of the house had its own utility room with space for two washers, two dryers, a large mop sink, and the unit for the central vacuum system.  Closer to the front of the house was our bedroom with my study across the hall, and Tom and Dylan’s new office was located at the end of the wing with a small parking lot for their clients’ use.  Ron’s bedroom and bathroom were tucked behind the kitchen between the pantry and utility rooms and the boys’ bunkroom.  Each of the bedrooms had its own private outside deck area nestled in the twenty-foot gap between the garage and the house.

 

The central living room and entry were easily twice the size of the area we had now, and the dining room was also larger to make room for the enormous table needed to seat up to twenty-four people at one time.  The whole exterior wall of the living and dining rooms was comprised of series of glass wall panels that could all be moved from the center of the space to the ends, allowing us to open the entire area to the great outdoors.  The fireplace was now located between the living and dining areas and was surrounded by glass so the fire could be seen and enjoyed from all four sides.

 

As you moved to the opposite end of the house, a six-foot wide hallway split the three bedrooms on either side.  Each bedroom was large enough to accept two queen-size beds and had its own bathroom containing dual showers and sinks.  Ryan explained that would allow each of the room’s occupants to take showers at the same time without having to share.  The width of the central hallway was set to allow easy passage of a multitude of people in both directions and it ended at a set of double doors leading to the gymnasium. 

 

While slightly smaller than your average school gym due to the lack of bleachers for spectators and a stage for theatrical productions, it still contained a full-sized basketball court with the options of installing the appropriate net to allow for volleyball, badminton or tennis to be played in the same area.  Boys’ and girls’ locker rooms were at the north end of the gym on each side of a hallway leading to the covered swimming pool.  The pool itself was three times bigger than our current pool and included a diving board at the twelve-foot deep end.  A large workout room with an assortment of equipment was also located at the north end of the gym, along with a second utility room containing two more washers and dryers to handle the towels from pool and locker rooms along with the bedding from the six bedrooms.  Also located in the utility room were the filters and pumps for the pool.

 

In the center of the gym’s east wall was another set of double doors that granted access to the four-car garage on this end of the home.  That garage would be used by Ken, Jason and any other people we had working with us.  The entire south-facing roof areas of the two garages and central part of the house would be covered with a new style of solar energy shingles that should make the house practically self-sufficient.  The batteries for that system would be located in the north end of the garage by the gym.  Ryan told us there had been vast improvements over the past few years to the solar energy shingle and they were much more efficient and cost effective than they had been even ten years ago.  He also planned to supplement that solar power generation with a separate windmill generator behind the house and hidden among the trees.

 

Heating for all the rooms in the house would be provided by a radiant floor system with thermostats in each room so the temperature could be set as each desired.  The gym, workout room and locker rooms would all be heated by a standard forced-air furnace located in the gym’s utility room.  While not the most efficient of methods, Ryan felt the glass wall on the south end of the gym would provide the majority of the heat in the space during the winter months.  Plus, that wall had the added benefit of being fully opened up when it was warm outside, just like the glass wall in the house.  All the rooms would also be wired to accommodate multiple TV and network jacks to handle everyone’s needs.

 

Ryan pointedly held off describing the most amazing feature of our new home.

 

“Okay, we’ve been over everything.  What do you guys think?” he asked.

 

“I think it looks great,” Eric enthused.  “I just wish I could live in it,” he quickly added with a laugh.

 

“Max, Tom, your thoughts?”

 

“Looks you hit all the checkboxes on my list, Ryan,” Tom commented.

 

“What you’ve got here looks just fine, Ryan, but you’ve completely left out the theater,” I complained.  “I thought it was gonna be off the living room where the pool is now.

 

“Oh, yeah, he did,” Tom agreed.  “How the hell’d I miss that?”

 

“ ‘Cause all you were worried about was your flippin’ workout room,” I joked while punching him in the shoulder.  “Once you saw that, you didn’t care ‘bout anything else.”

 

“Fair point, babe,” Tom laughed.  He turned back to Ryan and asked the obvious question, “Okay, where’d you hide it?”

 

“In plain sight, of course,” Ryan answered with a crooked smirk as he flipped to the next page of the plan.  “See, it’s right there, just where you expected it to be.”

 

“But why wasn’t it on the other page with the rest of the house,” I asked in confusion.  “I mean, it looks like a completely separate room.  How the hell are we supposed to get to it?”

 

“Piece of cake, Max.  Let’s backtrack a second.”  He flipped the plan back to the main house and began his explanation.  “You see this empty spot along the exterior wall behind the fireplace right here?” he asked while pointing to the area on the page.  After Eric, Tom and I nodded, he continued.  “Well, that’s between the glass walls of the living and dining rooms, right?”  We all nodded again.  “There’s an opening in the wall here that leads to a ramp to take you down to the theater.”  The three of us gawked in surprise as Ryan flipped the page back to the home theater.

 

“The theater’s underground?” I asked in amazement.  “Why?”

 

“Partially, yes.  When we talked the first time a couple of weeks ago, you expressed concern about losing all the glass up here, but you decided you were okay with that so the theater could be located at the center of the house.  Well, I took your concern to heart and decided to sink the theater into the ground eight feet and about twenty feet away from the house.  That lets you keep the glass walls in the living and dining rooms, leaves plenty of room outside for either a deck or patio between the house and the theater and allows for the theater to be darker since it’s mostly underground.  With the ten-foot tall walls in the theater, we’ll have some small windows above ground level along the side walls of the room that can be easily covered with automatic blinds.  There will also be stairs and exit doors at the end of the theater away from the house in case of a fire or other emergency.”

 

“But won’t having the roof for the room jutting up out of the ground be ugly as hell?” Tom asked.

 

“It would be, I guess, if it weren’t going to be made of pre-stressed concrete slabs and covered with grass and flowers.  From the house or deck, it’ll look just like a garden on a small hill.”

 

“My god, Ryan, that’s a beautiful idea.  I would never have thought about sinking the room like that.  Or covering the roof in plants.”

 

“Yeah, I know.  That’s why you’re paying me the big bucks,” Ryan laughed and the three of us joined him.  “So, comments or questions.”

 

“I can’t think of anything right now,” Tom answered.  “I love what you’ve come up with and can’t wait to get moved into it.”

 

“Max?” Ryan prodded.

 

“The only thing that’s come up since we originally talked that I can think of is this, we don’t want anyone to be able to see inside the house, gym or pool from the outside, so we need some kind of reflective finish on all the glass.”

 

“That’s an easy thing to include in the project specs.  Can I ask why you want to go to that added expense?  While it’s done on office buildings all the time, you rarely see it on a residence.”

 

“Well, to be honest with you, Ryan, we live a nudist lifestyle.  And while we’ve not had a problem before, we have a couple of projects coming up that will probably increase the levels of interest and scrutiny our family will be subjected to.”

 

“Like what?” Ryan asked with confusion in his voice.

 

“I’m guessing John has told you who I am?” I asked.  After a simple nod of acknowledgement from Ryan, I continued.  “Okay, here’s the scoop.  I talked to someone a few weeks ago about turning my books into movies and after we agreed to the basics on that project, he told us he also wants to make a TV series based on my life.  While both projects will be a good thing for us, we’re concerned about maintaining a respectable amount of privacy while we’re at home.  In light of that, we want the reflective finish to prevent anyone from being able to get pictures or video of us when we’re here.”

 

“No problem, Max.  I can understand that, and I’ll make sure to include that demand in our instructions for bidders.  Of course, we’ll leave out the explanation you just gave me out of those instructions,” he added with a chuckle.  “Anything else?”

 

“There are only two other questions I can think of at this moment.  First, do you have an estimated cost, and second, when can John get started?”

 

After a quick laugh at my anxiousness, Ryan replied, “Well, the final cost will, of course, vary depending on the fixtures and finishes you select for the flooring, faucets, countertops, that kind of thing.  A rough estimate of the basic framing, wiring, plumbing and drywall is in the neighborhood of, say, three and a half to four million.  As for John, he can get started any time he wants.  The first thing he’ll have to do is see the site you select and get the land cleared.  Once that’s done, he’ll be ready to start digging the hole for the crawlspace.”

 

“The price is about what I expected, so no big deal there.  Does John know where we stand with the plan?”

 

“Yep, I talked to him on Wednesday and e-mailed him what I had at that time so he’d be mentally prepared for the work ahead.  He’s anxious to get started and it’s my understanding he’s already lining up the plumber, electrician and mechanical subs he wants to use.”

 

“Excellent.  I knew he wouldn’t waste any time.”

 

“ ‘Scuse me, Ryan,” Tom interrupted, “what are those other plans you brought with you.  Are those extra copies of our house?”

 

“Nope,” he replied with a grin.  “I brought those to show Eric.”

 

“What!?” the teenager exclaimed in surprise.

 

“Well, I thought you’d like to see what a real finished blueprint looks like.”  Ryan moved our plan out of the way, then grabbed the two rolls at the end of the table and spread them out on the table with a flourish.  “Go ahead, Eric, take a gander at those and tell me what you see.”

 

Eric slowly flipped through the pages of the first plan, moving through the four elevations, then the foundation and floor framing plans, before finally pausing on the floorplan of the house.  After just a few seconds, he looked up to Ryan in shock.  He quickly swapped to the second plan and started flipping through it before settling in on the floorplan for that home.

 

“Th-the-these are the p-plans I dr-drew, aren’t they?” Eric stuttered.  After a quick nod from Ryan, Eric yelled, “Dad, get in here!”  A visibly concerned Rick soon joined us in the dining room and a look of confusion mixed with concern filled his face.

 

“What’s up, son?”

 

“Look at these two plans, Dad.  These are the ones I drew and gave to Ryan.”

 

Rick took a few moments to look at both before saying, “Wow, this is really cool, Eric.”  He then turned his attention to Ryan and added, “You didn’t have to do this.”

 

“Yeah, I know,” Ryan agreed.  “But I wanted to.  I wanted Eric to see what a finished blueprint of his rough sketches would look like.”

 

“But why?” Rick asked.

 

“Well, if he truly wants to become an architect, he should see what he’s getting into and some of the process of what we do.  Like I told Eric the night he gave me his drawings, we wouldn’t have to change much, and I was right.  One of my draftsmen took his sketches and created these.  Sure, he fudged some of the room sizes a bit to make everything work out, but they’re really close to what Eric gave me.”

 

“Wow!” Eric enthused.  “I can’t believe you did this.  What do you think, Dad?”

 

“I think both plans are really nice, Eric, but I think I like this second one better.”

 

“Why’s that?” Eric queried with sincere interest.

 

“Well, I really like this large central area that combines the kitchen, dining and great rooms.  That would make entertaining guests while also fixing a meal a lot easier.  The deck off the back would be a great place to relax at the end of a long day, especially with the right view.  The garage is large enough to include a workbench and small shop area, too.  But what I like the most is that my bedroom’s a little farther away from yours and Josh’s so I can’t hear that noise you two call music when you crank up the tunes.”

 

Eric whipped his head around in surprise so fast I thought it might spin right off his shoulders.  He gawked at his dad for a bit before muttering, “You can’t be serious.  Can you?”

 

“As a heart attack, buddy.  I think we’re looking at our new home.” 

 

Eric jumped out of his chair and wrapped Rick in a smothering hug, muttering, “Thanks, Dad,” to the overwhelmed man.

 

“Hey, I told you and your brother I wanted your input on our new place and I was dead serious.  You can’t have much more input than creating the plan for it, can you?”  Eric was sobbing happily into Rick’s shoulder as they held each other tightly.  As the two finally started to break up, Rick whispered, “I love you, son and I’ll be proud to live in your house.”

 

“I love you, too, Dad,” Eric whispered back before wiping his eyes on his shirt.  He then bounded around the table to wrap Ryan in a hug and thanking him for taking his rough sketch and running with it.

 

“I was happy to do it, buddy,” Ryan replied.  “I think you’ve got a great career ahead of you.  After you graduate from college and are ready to do your apprenticeship, there’s an empty stool with your name on it waiting for you at my drafting table.”  That comment only deepened Eric’s emotional reaction and he quickly disappeared down the hallway towards the theater to find a private spot until he could reclaim his calmness.

 

Rick took the chair Eric had vacated and asked, “So, what happens next?”

 

“Well, we need to review these with a fine-tooth comb just to make sure we haven’t missed anything.  I’d like you guys to spend some time doing the same thing and make any notes about changes you’d like made before we finalize it all.  If you have time to do that now, that’d be great.”

 

“Consider it done, Ryan,” I responded.

 

Ryan continued after my interruption.  “Great, then we can incorporate those mods at the same time we do our review.  Once the plans are finalized and you’ve signed off on them, they’ll have to be submitted to the county for their review and approval process.  It will take a week or two to deal with those idiots, but there’s no bypassing them.  I figure it should take at least that long to clear the building sites of the trees necessary, anyway, so we won’t really be losing any time.”

 

“Let me get some paper from my office and we’ll make our notes right now.”  I disappeared to my study, pulled some paper from the shelf behind my desk, grabbed the satellite picture of the property off the desk and headed back to the dining room.  When I returned, I found Eric had also rejoined us and he and Rick were already going over the plan for their home.  I took my chair next to Tom and after sliding pen and paper to Rick, we dove into our own review.

 

During the process, all of us were asking Ryan questions about various details and adding to our lists as he answered every query we posited.  Among the items on our list were bronze-toned quartz countertops in all the bathrooms and kitchen, a brushed-nickel finish on all the fixtures, along with maple cabinets, six-panel oak doors and oak flooring for every room except the bathrooms where we wanted vinyl flooring to minimize possible damages from water.  I also requested all the doors be changed to a minimum of three feet in width to make sure we wouldn’t have any accessibility problems if a kid we took in was in a wheelchair.  The pantry, utility rooms, workout room and locker rooms would all be outfitted with motion activated light switches so the lights would only be on when those spaces were in use.

 

Rick and Eric’s list was similar to ours except most of the finishes they selected were made of more economical materials.  I was a bit surprised that he would go that route and asked him about it.

 

“Rick, it seems to me you’re going awfully cheap on some of that stuff.  You’re gonna be living in this house for a long time, we hope.  You should dress it up a little and go with some better-quality materials so they’ll last for years.”

 

“I’d love to, Max, but I simply can’t afford that.  We won’t get near enough out of our current house to be able to pay for the new one.  And if I’m gonna have to take out a mortgage, I need to make sure I can afford the payments.”

 

“Don’t worry about that.  You get whatever you want.  We’re paying for the place, anyway.”

 

“I can’t let you do that,” Rick protested vehemently.

 

“Rick, listen to me closely.  Perhaps we weren’t clear with our intentions, but I think you misunderstood our offer when we asked if you wanted to move onto the property with us.  We’re paying for your new home.  Whether it’s you and your boys living in it or someone else, we need it done so whoever we hire to handle our medical needs is close by.  It’s just your lucky day we asked you to fill that position.”  The befuddled man almost fell out of his chair in shock on hearing my announcement, but Eric grabbed his dad and held him in place before he could hit the floor.

 

When Rick finally recovered from my news, he replied, “I … I don’t know what to say, Max.  Thanks doesn’t seem to be nearly enough for what you guys are doing for us.”

 

“There’s nothing to say, Rick,” Tom offered.  “We’ll be glad to have you here.”

 

“I don’t want you two to take this the wrong way, but I’m happy T.J. got hurt in the pool that night and I was on duty when the call came in.  The changes in our lives since we met have been mind-boggling.”

 

“That’s what friends and family are all about, buddy,” I assured Rick while patting him on the shoulder.

 

Our meeting continued for a few more minutes before we handed our lists of changes to Ryan.  With assurances from him that all the modifications would be done by next Friday, I laid out the satellite photo of the property so we could select the building sites.  While Ryan thought the area east of the storage building would be the perfect location for our new home, our explanation of why we couldn’t build there was met with skepticism.  He finally realized we were deadly serious and reluctantly agreed that sites north of the current house and storage building would work out just as well. 

 

The driveway to our new home would extend straight north from our current one and Rick’s drive would turn north at the storage building.  That spacing would leave a section of trees about a hundred foot wide between us.  A new path would be cut through the trees in between our two homes to facilitate easy access to both residences with the driveways connecting us to what would become our parents’ home.  With all that settled, we broke up, Rick and Eric returning to the living room with their arms around each other.  Tom and I stayed behind to walk Ryan out.

 

As we reached the front door, I said, “Ryan, we really want to thank you for jumping on this project so quickly.  We’re anxious to get started with helping other kids.”

 

“No problems, guys.  I’ll get the final plans to you and John next Friday.  Once you’ve signed off on them, I’ll forward them to the county for their review and stamp of approval.  You may want to let John know where we’re gonna be building so he can get someone out here to start clearing trees.”

 

“I’ll take care of that tomorrow so he might be able to get them started Monday.”

 

“Sounds like a plan to me,” Ryan agreed as he turned towards the porch.

 

“You sure you don’t want to stay for supper?” Tom asked.

 

“No, thanks for the offer, though.  Hope you guys all have a great weekend.”

 

“Thanks, Ryan.  You, too,” Tom replied as Ryan crossed the porch and settled into his car before pulling away.

 

As we joined the rest of the family in the living room, I asked, “Are you and the boys joining us for supper, Rick?”

 

“Sure, why not?” Rick responded.  “Saves me from havin’ to think of somethin’ to cook when we get home,” he added with a laugh.

 

“Since the other dude’s finally gone, does that mean we can lose our clothes, now?” Josh asked.

 

“If it’s cool with Tom and Max, I don’t see why not,” Rick replied, looking to us for confirmation.

 

“Sounds good to us, too, Josh,” I agreed.  “Everyone get comfortable and we’ll figure out supper.”

 

All the boys jumped from their seats and disappeared down the hallway to their rooms, peeling their shirts off along the way.  Rick, Tom and I adjourned to our room to do the same and Rick was following the example set by the youngsters, pulling his shirt over his head as soon we turned into the hallway just off the kitchen.  No sooner had we stepped through the doorway into our room than Rick was kicking off his shoes and dropping his shorts to the floor, shuffling his feet in order to avoid tripping due to the useless cloth now tangled around his ankles.

 

“Somebody looks like they’re a little eager,” I cracked as Rick finally stopped moving and stepped out of his shorts before bending over to pick them up from the floor.

 

“Well yeah, I guess so.  Let me tell you somethin’, guys.  I know it’s only been a few weeks since we came over for a swim that night, but I’ve become so used to not wearin’ clothes most of the time that I absolutely hate leavin’ the house.”

 

“We’re with ya on that, Rick,” Tom laughed.  “That’s why I suggested we hire Ron to come in and help with the cookin’, cleanin’ and shoppin’.  Now he has to go out for supplies and not us.”  I smacked my honey on the back of his head for claiming my idea as his own again and Rick laughed out loud at my actions.

 

“Whoa, do I need to call the cops for a domestic violence incident?” Rick asked.

 

“Nah, with his hard head, he probably didn’t even feel that love tap,” I chuckled.

 

With the three of us comfortable, we headed for the kitchen to see what Ron had in mind for supper.  We found him busy as ever, working on grilling some hamburgers and brats.  At the other end of the counter, the fryer was busy with crisping up some French fries for the crew.

 

“Smells good in here Ron,” Tom commented.  “Can we help with anything?”

 

“Nope, I got a handle on it,” Ron replied.

 

“Why are you still wearing your shorts?” I asked with curiosity.  “That have anything to do with our chat earlier?”

 

“Maybe a little bit,” Ron confessed.  “Until I can get better control over things, I think I’ll stay covered.”

 

“What’s his problem, guys?” Rick asked.

 

“He walked in on the boys havin’ some fun this mornin’ and didn’t like how his body reacted to what was happenin’,” Tom answered.  “Not that a loose-fitting pair of shorts like he’s got on now will hide anything.”

 

“I got more than just shorts on,” Ron muttered with discomfort.

 

“And it sounds like that strap’s cuttin’ you a bit too tight in the just the wrong place,” Rick chuckled.  “Get over it, already, Ron.  You think you’re the only dude to get turned on by our boys screwin’ around with each other?”

 

“Well, no, I guess not, but I still don’t like it much.”

 

“Hell, it happens to me every time I catch Josh and Eric, and I’m as straight as you can get.  But like any other dude who’s got a pulse, I can’t help but bone up when I see sex happenin’, even when it’s my boys.  Oh, and you should talk to Eric about the jock strap thing.  He can tell you from personal experience that it’s a damn lousy idea, can’t he Max?”

 

“Yep.  We cured him of that bad habit, though.”

 

“Sure as hell did,” Rick agreed.  “Now, when he gets a boner that won’t go away, he goes to his room and cranks one out.  Or he has Josh do it for him, one way or another.”

 

“Like I told Max and Tom earlier, that’s not an option for me.  I just can’t take advantage of the boys that way.  It wouldn’t be right.”

 

“Your loss, buddy” Rick opined.  “Guess you’ll just have to suffer the consequences.”

 

“Yeah, don’t remind me.  Well, the food’s about ready.”

 

“Good thing, man, we’re gettin’ hungry,” Tom retorted.

 

“Where’s the rugrats?” Ron asked.

 

“Good question,” I answered.  “I’ll go let ‘em know supper’s about ready.”  I headed across the house and on entering the twins’ and Logan’s room, I found all the boys enjoying an eight-way circle jerk in the middle of the bed.  Jesus, Ron was right earlier when he said it was hotter than hell in the room.  “C’mon guys, we’re about ready to eat and you need to set the table.”

 

“We’re tryin’, Dad,” Joey groaned in delight.

 

“I can see that, trust me.”

 

Alex opened his eyes and after seeing I was hard, giggled, “Yeah, he sure can.” 

 

I quickly turned around and left them alone, saying, “Make sure everyone washes their hands before joining us in the dining room.  And don’t take too long in there or your food will get cold.”

 

“All right, Dad, we’re right behind you,” T.J. grunted.

 

When I returned to the kitchen, I was still seeing those eight kids working each other over in my mind and the continuing visions had done nothing to resolve the problem I had.  If anything, they’d made the situation even more difficult to get under control.  When I rounded the corner from the dining room into the kitchen, Tom gawked at me in surprise.

 

“They’re at it again?” he asked.

 

“Gee, great bit of detecting there, Sherlock,” I cracked.  “What tipped you off?”

 

“Uh, that,” Tom laughed as he pointed to my crotch.

 

“What can I say?” I offered in way of the lamest excuse ever.

 

The boys soon joined us, and they got busy with setting the table for our meal.  While I hoped they’d all washed their hands as I’d requested, it was obvious none of them had reached their desired goal as they proudly paraded around the room with their stiff members on full display and bouncing freely with every movement.  It was quite the show to behold and I could see Tom and Rick were enjoying it just as much as I was.  At one point, I saw Ron turn his back to us and he used his hand to make a minor adjustment to ease the embarrassing discomfort he was fighting.

 

“I saw that, Ron,” T.J. teased the flushed young man.

 

“Yeah, whatchu hidin’ over there, Skinny?” Logan yelled.

 

“Nothin’, ya nosy brat,” Ron vented.

 

“C’mon, dude, take those stinkin’ shorts off and join the crowd,” Joey chided.

 

“I don’t think so, buddy,” Ron retorted.

 

“Why not?” Josh pushed.  “All of us got boners, even the old farts.  Geez, you’re as afraid of somebody else seein’ your stiff dick as Eric used to be.  Why you hidin’ yours?”

 

“Just because!” Ron yelled.  “Now, sit your butts down and eat.  And get those wieners outta my face.”

 

That was the absolute last thing Ron should have said to this group of munchkins.  The extremely excited eight formed a line between Ron and the table, wrapped their arms around each other’s shoulders and proceeded to wiggle their hips back and forth.  The resulting display of all eight young peckers dancing wildly was a sight to behold.  From Andy’s two-inch stiff cocklet, head still concealed inside his foreskin, all the way up to Eric’s bouncing five-inch almost adult cock with the smattering of hair above it, none of us could peel our eyes away from the spectacle, including Ron.

 

When the lineup finally disbanded amid gales of laughter thirty seconds later, Eric stepped over to Ron, wrapped an arm around his shoulder and whispered, “Loosen up and enjoy yourself, dude.”

 

“But I’m stiff as a board,” Ron protested quietly.

 

“So what?  You afraid we’re all bigger than you or somethin’?” Eric giggled.

 

“Hell no,” Ron retorted.

 

“Then lose the shorts and jock, and hand ‘em over.”

 

“How do you know I’m wearin’ a jock?” Ron asked in surprise.

 

“ ‘Cause if you weren’t, your shorts would look like a twelve-person tent right now.” 

 

I could only imagine the tug-of-war Ron was having in his mind at the moment, but he finally gave in to the pressure from the thirteen-year-old still hanging on to him and he reached down to the waistband of his shorts.  While Josh was thrumming a drumroll on the table with his dancing fingers, Ron slowly slipped his thumbs inside the elastic and pushed his shorts and jock strap to the floor.  The boys all gave a little cheer or whistle of support as Ron stepped out of his discarded garments, picked them up from the floor and handed them to Eric.

 

“Way to be a man, dude,” Eric congratulated the flustered young man.  “Now, let’s eat.”

 

Still somewhat flushed with embarrassment, Ron started moving all the food to the table.  As he took care of that, Rick and Eric had a hushed conversation before we all took our seats at the table and dug into our dinner.  Quiet slowly descended on us as we stuffed ourselves with hamburgers, bratwurst, chips, and coleslaw.  The quiet allowed me to review in my mind what I’d witnessed pass between Rick and Eric.  The look of surprise on Eric’s face intrigued me, but I couldn’t imagine what Rick had said to elicit such a response.  That look was slowly replaced by a devious grin that split the lower half of Eric’s face and a quick nod of agreement soon followed.  I had no clue what the two were cooking up, but I was pretty sure we’d find out before the night was over.

 

When everyone had reached their fill, the boys got busy with cleaning off the table and loading our dishes into the dishwasher.  After they had finished their part of the cleanup, Ron kicked them all out of the kitchen and took over to finish the task.

 

As the eight wild ones returned to the dining room, Eric asked, “Hey, Dad, can we stay for a while longer and go for a swim?”

 

“Fine with me if it’s okay with Max and Tom.”

 

The teenager shot me a quick look and I responded with, “We’ve been in the pool once already today, but I suppose another dunk wouldn’t hurt us any.  It might even help wear our boys out a bit more so they can get a good night’s sleep.”  With agreement from all, we grabbed our towels and headed outside.  Tom led the parade to the pool while I stopped briefly in the kitchen. 

 

“Hey, Ron, you doin’ okay with things?”

 

“Yeah, I guess,” he muttered.  “Didn’t much appreciate that punk pushing me to strip off, though.”

 

“He’s a good kid, Ron, give ‘im a break, okay?  Besides, he had a point, hiding problems never resolves them.  It might actually make them worse.”

 

“Whatever, Max.”

 

“Well, look, we’re gonna hit the pool again.  You’re welcome to join us, and I hope you do.  But, I’ll understand if you decide not to.”

 

“We’ll see,” Ron retorted with just a tinge of anger.

 

I almost told Ron he needed to calm down, but I know all too well that usually doesn’t work, so I kept my mouth shut and turned to join the rest of the family in the pool.  While I hoped Ron would join us soon, I wasn’t going to hold my breath waiting for him.  As it turned out, I ended up having to hold my breath anyway, but for an entirely different reason.  As soon as I was in the water, I was mugged by all eight munchkins.  I can usually hold my own okay against our six, but with Eric and Josh included in tonight’s attack, I didn’t stand a chance.  After kissing the bottom of the pool, the herd finally relented and I was allowed to resurface, gasping for a breath of fresh air as soon as my head broke free of the water.

 

“Y’all tryin’ to kill me?” I asked when I finally recovered from their attack.

 

“Sorry, Dad,” T.J. apologized.  “We got a little carried away.”

 

“I’ll let it slide this time, ya rugrats, but let’s calm things down a bit, okay?”

 

“We gotcha, Dad,” Alex replied.

 

“Mike, this might be a good time for your class,” I suggested as I turned and headed for the corner where Rick and Tom were relaxing and laughing their asses off.  As I floated away from the rowdy bunch, I heard Mike yell, ‘All right ya bozos, grab the edge of pool and start kickin’.’

 

As I drew closer to the pair in the corner, I commented, “Geez, those guys are wound for sound tonight.”

 

“Tell us about it,” Tom replied as I settled in.  “They pulled the same dirty trick on the two of us.”

 

“Yeah, sorry, guys,” Rick said softly.  “It’s all Eric and Josh’s fault.  They’re both excited as hell to be movin’ into a new place next door to you.  I guess that’s rubbin’ off on your crew.”

 

“No worries, Rick,” I laughed.  “But trust us, they don’t need any help to get like that.”

 

“Where’s Ron?” Tom asked.

 

“Still dealin’ with the kitchen.  I hope he’ll be out soon.”

 

“You think he may not?” Rick queried.

 

“Well, he’s a bit ticked at Eric right now, so who knows?”

 

“ ‘Bout what?” Rick asked with concern.

 

“Well, Ron has been really upset today about his reaction to catchin’ our boys in the act.  And Eric didn’t help things much the way he basically forced Ron to get undressed.”

 

“Oh, shit,” Rick muttered.

 

“What?” Tom asked.

 

“Hang on guys, be right back.”  On that note, Rick moved to the middle of the pool and pulled Eric into another hushed conversation.  The two separated a minute later and when Rick rejoined us, he said, “Okay, disaster averted.”

 

“What the hell was that all about?” Tom asked with concern.

 

“Well, after the whole thing in the kitchen with the boys and their little show that had us all boned up, I had what I thought was a great idea.”

 

“And what was that?” I asked.

 

“After seein’ how bothered Ron was, I kinda suggested to Eric he might want to, uh, show Ron just how much fun he could have if he’d just give it a try.  With a kid, that is.”

 

“Jesus, Rick, what the hell were you thinkin’?” Tom vented.

 

“Well, Eric and Josh have taught me a few things the past several weeks, and even though I consider myself to be your basic straight dude, I’ve enjoyed it.  Quite a bit more than I thought I would, I might add.  And after your little adventure in Chicago, you two know what I’m talkin’ ‘bout.”

 

“Yeah, we do.  Eric said he’d tell you about what happened between us, but he also said he’d make sure you knew it was his idea.”

 

“And he did.  Sure, I was surprised as hell he’d do that with anyone but me or Josh, but what’s the big deal?  I love my boys with all my heart, and I want them to learn all about the infinite varieties of sex available, but I also want them to do it safely, too.  There’s nobody safer to learn from than family, and we consider you guys to be part of our family.  And that includes Ron,” Rick said.  “Ron’s gay and young, Eric’s probably bi and a little bit younger.  I bet both of them love to get their rocks off any way they can.  And trust me, the kid gives as good as he gets.  Who knows, he just might teach ol’ Ron a few new tricks,” Rick added with a chuckle.

 

“Well, I’m glad you called him off,” I muttered.  “I’d hate for Ron to completely freak out and leave us today.”

 

“No sweat, guys.  It seemed the right thing to do under the circumstances.  I also told Eric he needs to apologize to Ron for puttin’ ‘im on the spot like that.  It was kinda funny to us, I guess, but I can see where Ron sure wouldn’t have thought that at all.”

 

“No, I’m sure he didn’t,” I agreed.

 

The three of us continued to chat about various subjects while waiting for Ron to put in his appearance.  The most interesting item discussed, of course, was Sammy and what we were going to do about him.  Interesting to Rick, anyway.  Since we were living with the situation, I have to admit we just hope the issue can be resolved quickly and Sammy will feel like he could finally move on to whatever’s next. 

 

The whole visit from a spirit thing was forcing me to seriously reevaluate some of my beliefs.  Not to the point of believing in and accepting the concepts of heaven and hell, mind you.  Or even coming close to believing that ‘god’, whoever the fuck he’s supposed to be, really exists.  There are way too many horrors in this world that could ever sway my thinking into the belief that an all-knowing, loving and benevolent god who keeps watch over us 24/7 could ever be real.  No, if that sky spook existed, he should be able to stop wars, droughts, famine and a whole host of other problems with a single and simple snap of his fingers.  And yet, we still have those atrocities and more still happening all over the world and he’s not doing a damn thing about any of them.  Hell, he can’t even keep his own priests from raping and abusing kids in ‘his’ fucking church.  So no, no god exists.

 

But, life, death and even the possibility of a life after death, I guess, had become all too real in the past few weeks.  For all of us.  With Charlie’s death, I had come to hope that there might be something more for us after we’ve died, if for no other reason than to bring some comfort to Logan as he dealt with his loss.  And with Sammy reaching out to T.J., I was forced to admit to myself that there must be something more for us beyond life as we know it.  I couldn’t begin to fathom the answers to that riddle, but I was sure I’d find them in due time, hopefully at some point in the very distant future.

 

After forty-five minutes had passed with Ron still not joining us, we decided to call it a night.  We climbed from the pool, and headed for our towels, the boys following along without argument.  As we entered the house, the boys disappeared to get their showers and we offered Rick the use of our shower while we set up an evening snack for the herd.  Ron was nowhere to be seen and we assumed he was in his room.  Whether he was watching TV, reading a book, contemplating his navel or just stewing about his predicament, we hadn’t a clue.

 

The herd started to filter back in and took seats at the dining room table to enjoy their snack of fresh chocolate chip cookies that Ron had baked this afternoon.  Tom and I were going to be really bummed out if Ron decided he couldn’t handle the stress and decided to leave.  Granted, we’d done okay by ourselves before he joined us, but that was before Tom started his new work and I’d started writing a book.  With much of our daily lives taken up by those two things, we didn’t want to think about having to resume all the responsibilities we’d handed off to Ron.  Oh well, there didn’t seem to be much we could do to alleviate the problem, so we’d just have to wait and see what happened.

 

Rick came back from his shower with his clothes in hand and said, “C’mon, boys, we should get home.”

 

“But Dad, I haven’t had a chance to talk to Ron yet,” Eric complained.

 

“Well, take care of it, please.  I don’t want to let that slide.”

 

“Yeah, I’m going,” Eric grumbled as he left his chair.  “Don’t leave without me, old man.”

 

“Not a chance, buddy.  Don’t think Tom and Max are quite ready to add to the headcount ‘round here.”  We both shook our heads in agreement and the remaining boys all cracked up in laughter as Eric plodded slowly across the house and down the hallway to Ron’s room.

 

 

I still wasn’t sure why I was doing this, but Dad insisted on it, so here I am, standing in the hallway outside Ron’s room.  His door was still closed and I briefly thought about just turning around and telling Dad that Ron wouldn’t answer me, but I couldn’t just outright lie to my old man, so I rapped lightly on the wooden slab and softly asked, “Hey Ron, ya got a minute?”

 

“Yeah, I guess.  C’mon in.”  Boy, did he sound grumpy.

 

I slowly opened the door and stepped into his room, closing the door behind me before saying, “I need to say somethin’ to you, man.  Can I sit down?”  After a quick nod from him, I stepped over and sat at the foot of the bed.  I looked directly at Ron’s face and began, “Look, I’m really sorry ‘bout what I did to you in the kitchen.  I know you’re still kinda new to this whole bein’ naked thing, and there might be times when you’re not comfortable strippin’ off.  I was way outta line when I pushed you to get naked, too, and I know I shouldn’t a done that.  I hope you’ll forgive me for bein’ an asshole.”

 

“Thanks, Eric, I really appreciate you sayin’ that.”

 

“It’s just that Dad, Josh and I don’t wear clothes at home, either, so we’re pretty used to it.  I guess I just assumed that after livin’ here the past couple weeks, you shouldn’t have a problem with gettin’ naked, even if you got a boner.  None of us guys give two shits if somebody sees us hard, so I figured you wouldn’t care either.  Obviously, I was wrong and I really fucked up.  I swear, I’ll never do that again.”

 

“Don’t worry about it, buddy.  I overreacted to what happened tonight, but after this morning, I’m really worried ‘bout bein’ able to keep this job.”

 

“What, you mean poppin’ wood after goin’ in the twins’ room when they was all screwin’ ‘round?”

 

“Well, yeah, that’s never happened to me before.  Not around kids, anyways.  And I don’t want it to, either.  That shit ain’t right.”

 

“Well, yes and no, Ron,” I replied.

 

“What do you mean by that, Eric?” Ron asked with surprise.

 

“Well, it’s my feeling that if you force a kid to do somethin’ they don’t wanna do, then yeah, it’s wrong as hell and you deserve to get the shit beat out of ya.  But if the kid wanted to do it with you and nobody was forced to do anything they didn’t wanna do, then what’s the big deal?  See, that’s one of the big rules at my house.  You can do whatever you want with whoever you want as long as everybody agrees to what’s happenin’.”

 

“That might be okay with you guys, but I’m pretty sure Max and Tom wouldn’t much appreciate me chasin’ after their boys.”

 

“Maybe not, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask the question, would it?  I know Joey and Alex would probably be interested.  They’ve both talked about how cute you are.  But ya gotta ask first, okay?  Well, look, we gotta head for home, but I had to tell you I’m sorry for bein’ such a jerk before we go.  And if you ever decide you wanna try out somethin’ with a kid, I’d be up for it.”

 

“I just bet you would, ya little horndog.”

 

“In case you didn’t notice earlier, it ain’t that little, Ron,” I retorted as I stood up and proudly displayed my stiff dick.

 

“No, I guess not,” Ron snickered.  “C’mere, punk.”  I slowly moved closer as Ron crawled off the bed, unsure what he wanted.  When I got close enough, he pulled me into a hug and our hard cocks ground together between us.  “I’ll think about it, okay?” Ron whispered in my ear.

 

“No hard feelings, then?” I asked.

 

“Only two I’m aware of at the moment,” he chuckled.  “Look, maybe next time, okay?”

 

“Sounds like fun, man.  I can’t wait.  You’re a good guy, Ron.  Don’t let them horny little fuckers drive you away.”

 

“I’ll do my best,” he replied with a snicker.  “Now, get outta here before I tie you down to the bed and have my way with you.”

 

“Like you said, maybe next time,” I retorted.  “See ya later, man, be cool.”  On that note, I left a much happier Ron and headed back out so we could go home.

 

 

“There you are,” Rick called out when Eric finally returned.  “Thought I was gonna have to come rescue you from the clutches of a frustrated Ron.”

 

“Not this time, Dad,” Eric replied with a little giggle.  “You guys ready to boogie?”

 

“Just waitin’ on your sorry ass, bro,” Josh retorted.  He then turned to Rick and asked, “Hey, Dad, can Joey spend the night?”

 

“Uh, yeah, as long as it’s okay with his dads.” 

 

Rick turned to us for our reaction and after a quick glance between Tom and I, we simply shrugged our shoulders before Tom said, “Sounds okay to us as long as he’s back home before noon.”

 

“Sweet, Dads, thanks,” Joey squealed in delight.  “I better grab my stuff,” he added as he jumped from his chair and ran to his room.  Once Joey had the few things he needed to spend the night with Josh, that group headed for home with the promise Joey would be back well before our guests arrived tomorrow afternoon.  Surprisingly, Alex was not showing any adverse signs of his brother being away for the night, so he must be getting used to the fact that Joey had someone else in his life.  We then hustled the rest of the herd to bed with our regular rituals before retreating to the living room to read and relax for a bit.

 

Tom picked up his book to start reading while I grabbed the phone to call Rich.

 

“You’ve reached the Weavers, this is Rich,” he greeted me.

 

“Hey, Rich, Max here.  How ya doin?”

 

“Pretty good, Max.  How’s it goin’ with you guys?” he asked.

 

“Just another day in paradise,” I replied with a chuckle.  “I wanted to find out if you had anything planned for tomorrow night.”

 

“Well,” he drawled, “I was contemplatin’ going back to that gay bar in town.  You know, for old times sake,” he laughed.

 

“I thought you gave up on that idea,” I replied with concern.

 

“I did, don’t worry.  Besides, Dad threatened to kick my ass if I ever went back there.  And when he was done with my ass, he was gonna sell my car so I couldn’t go anyway,” he laughed.  “So, what’s up?”

 

“Well, I wanted to see if you’d like to come out for supper and a swim with the boys.  I know T.J. would like it if you could join us.  He’s still worried about you, you know.”

 

“Yeah, I know,” Rich giggled.  “Every time the shrimp sees me in the hall at school, he asks how I’m doin’.  And I always give him the same answer, I’m gettin’ better every day.”

 

“I’m really happy to hear that, Rich.”

 

“No more than I am, believe me.  And yeah, I’d love to come out, thanks for the invite.  What time?”

 

“Good, we’ll look forward to it.  Let’s say we’ll eat about five-thirty and swim after.”

 

“Perfect, man, I’ll be there.”

 

I ended the call and let Tom know we’d be having company tomorrow night.  Since his nose was buried in my third book, I was lucky to get a quick nod and grunt of acknowledgment from him.  I finally picked up the book I was in the middle of and dove into it headfirst.  After the week we’d had, it was nice to be able to just kick back and relax for a bit.  The peace and quiet that had settled over us was abruptly shattered when the quiet was suddenly pierced by blood-curdling screams of terror coming from the far end of the hallway.

 

Tom and I ran down the hall and exploded through the door to see what the hell was going on.  After turning on the lights, we found Mike sitting bolt upright in the middle of the bed, T.J. and Andy standing beside it with looks of intense fear flooding their faces.  Mike’s arms were flailing about wildly and he was kicking his legs like a frenzied salsa dancer.  It looked like he was trying to get away from something that was scaring the life out of him and he kept screaming things like ‘Get away from me’, ‘I swear, I’ll be good’ and ‘No, don’t hit me”.  Tom immediately scooped Mike into his arms as he tried to calm the agitated youngster while I knelt behind T.J. and Andy to hold them.

 

“What’s wrong with Mike,” Andy asked with a tremor of fear.

 

“I don’t know, buddy,” I answered.  “Looks like he’s having a nightmare, though.”

 

“Well, whatever it is, he sure scared the crap outta us,” T.J. breathed.  Mike’s screams had obviously awakened Alex, Logan and Ron as they, too, had joined the confusion and were standing just inside the bedroom door, looks of concern plastered on their faces.

 

Despite being hit repeatedly by Mike, Tom refused to let the whirling dervish go.  If anything, he was holding him even tighter and whispering softly, “You’re okay, buddy.  Calm down and wake up.  You’re safe.  Nobody’s gonna hurt you.”  After several minutes of that, Mike started to relax in Tom’s tight embrace.  When he finally opened his eyes and realized where he was, he melted into Tom and began to cry.

 

“What was that all about?” Tom asked softly.

 

“Just a bad dream, Pops,” Mike sniffled.

 

“Musta been really bad for you to be kickin’ and screamin’ like you were.  Do you remember what scared you?”

 

“Yeah, I’d done somethin’ stupid and was hidin’ in my closet.  My mom and dad had just found me, and they were pissed as hell.  Dad already had his belt out, Mom had the paddle and they was both gonna beat me again.  I was tryin’ to get away from ‘em, but I knew I was trapped.”

 

“You musta been terrified, and I’m really sorry they came back to haunt you,” Tom agreed.  “But you’re safe here, Mike.  Your mom and dad can never hurt you again.”

 

“Thanks, Pops,” Mike whimpered in relief.

 

T.J. and Andy had climbed back on the bed and crawled over to the pair to join in the cuddle fest taking place, whispering their own words of encouragement and support to their brother.  As for me, I could only stand there in stunned silence and disbelief that a nightmare like the one Mike had just experienced could come so long after being removed from his parents and moving in with us.  But then I remembered how long it took me to recall all the horrible shit in my own life, and I completely understood.  You let your guard down for one moment and boom, you’re right back in the middle of it.  I finally jerked myself back to reality and joined the others on the bed.

 

“You’re gonna be just fine, Mike,” I offered weakly.  “You know we’ll protect you and keep you safe.”

 

“Yeah, I know, Dad.”

 

“If you ever decide you want to talk about things, you know we’re here and will help with whatever we can.  We can even call Paul if you want to talk to him about what’s bothering you.”

 

“Naw, you don’t need to do that.  I’ll be fine.”

 

“If you’re sure,” Tom said with concern.

 

“Yeah, I’m sure.  Thanks, guys.”

 

“You ready to get back to sleep?” I asked.

 

“I think so,” Mike muttered.  “Long as T.J. and Andy are here with me, I’ll be okay.”

 

“We ain’t goin’ nowhere, bro,” Andy replied with conviction.

 

“You’re the meat in the middle of the sandwich tonight, dude,” T.J. added.

 

“All three of you are the meat,” Alex stated as he and Logan crossed the room and climbed on the bed.

 

“Yeah, make room for two more, ya bozos,” Logan added.

 

With that, Tom and I extricated ourselves from the hug fest and crawled off the bed.  True to their words, when we pulled the covers over the five munchkins, Mike was between T.J. and Andy and they were both holding him very closely.  Alex and Logan had taken their spots behind T.J. and Andy and were curled up tightly with their bothers.  I’d be surprised if any of them got any real sleep the rest of the night.  With another round of hugs, kisses, love yous and good nights, we turned off the light and closed the door, then returned to the living room.  Ron peeled off into his own room with a good night of his own for us.

 

“Jesus, I wasn’t prepared for that,” Tom muttered as we sank into our chairs.

 

“I’m pretty sure no parent ever is,” I commented.  “I just hope these night terrors don’t become a regular occurrence.”

 

“You never know, do you?” Tom asked.

 

“I guess not, but I’d have thought he’d be past his worries after being here the past couple months.”

 

“Not like you’ve got a lot o’ room to talk there, Max,” Tom muttered.

 

“What’re you talkin’ about?” I asked with concern.

 

“Well, you’ve not been a lot of fun to share a bed with the past month or so.”  I gawked at my human teddy bear before he continued.  “Yeah, you have good and bad nights, too.  Not the screaming and fighting kinda bad nights Mike just had, but you’ve had more than just a few thrashing, twisting, turning kinda nights the past month.  I’m surprised in the mornings when I wake up and I’m not bruised from head to toe after a night of that.  And the worst part of it is that you never seem to remember it.”

 

“Jesus, Tom, I had no clue that was happening.  Why didn’t say you something?”

 

“Well, I knew somethin’ was goin’ on with you, but I also figured if you wanted to talk about it, you’d bring it up on your own.  I know you’re still dealin’ with a lot of crap and I never know if I should bring it up or not.  I don’t want to put any added pressure on you.”

 

“But I can’t talk about what I don’t know about.  I wish you’d said something before now. I’ll be honest, I always feel kinda worn out, but I just assumed that was from tryin ‘to keep up with the boys.  I never realized it was because I wasn’t getting enough good sleep.”

 

“You wanna talk about it now?” Tom asked sheepishly.

 

“I would if I knew what was goin’ on or what to say.  But I’ll make a deal with ya.  Next time I have one of those bad nights, do me a favor and wake me the hell up.  Maybe I’ll be able to remember what’s causing it if I wake up in the middle of one of those episodes.”

 

“You got yourself a deal, babe.”  Ron chose that moment to put in an appearance as he rounded the corner from the hallway and slumped onto the loveseat, bringing our conversation to a quick ending.

 

“What’s up, Ron?” Tom queried the nervous looking young man.

 

“I just wanted to say sorry for being such a pain in the ass jerk today.”

 

“That’s all right, buddy.  We understand.”

 

“No, I really don’t think you do.  Like I told you before, I’ve never been turned on by a kid before today, never even thought it was a possibility.  Yet, here I am, stuck in a house with six horny as fuck boys that are makin’ me think about things I’ve never even thought could happen before this morning.”

 

I looked to Tom and quietly asked, “Do we tell him the full truth?”  He gave me a concerned look for just a moment before giving me a quick nod of agreement.  Turning back to Ron, I continued with, “Listen, Ron, you’ve been here long enough, we should tell you the full truth about us.”

 

“What the hell are you talkin’ about?” Ron asked in confusion.

 

“Well, to be bluntly honest with you, Alex, Joey and T.J. have all been in our bed with us.  And before Logan’s dad died, he asked what it would take to get in bed with us, too.”

 

“Wait,” Tom interrupted.  “Don’t forget about Eric, too.  Oh, and that thing with Brent.”

 

“WHAT!?”

 

“Just listen for minute and we’ll try to explain.  First and foremost, Tom and I truly love each other deeply and we’re going to get married in less than a month.  That said, we love our boys just as much.”

 

“Well, I love the little rugrats, too, but not to the point of hoppin’ into bed with them.  Or them with me for that matter.”

 

“And we’re not saying you should.  But, we all have to acknowledge the fact our boys are very sexual creatures.  And while neither of us expected anything would ever happen between us and them, the few times we’ve allowed it to happen have been wonderful for all of us and we love each other even more because of it,” I explained calmly.

 

Tom continued with, “And even though we let the boys join us in bed and we’ve loved every moment of our time together, it was always on the boys’ terms, not ours.  They led our interactions and told us exactly what we could and could not do with them.”

 

“Uh, you wanna give me a hint what you’re talkin’ about?” Ron begged.

 

“Well, from the very first night they moved in,” I began, “Alex and Joey had been begging us to join them whenever we’d go say our good nights and they were already occupied with each other.  But the two of us needed some time to process their request and decide how to handle it.  The night of their birthday party with our families, we finally relented to their continual pressure and gave them a very special present.  Then the night after the party with their friends from school, they wanted to give each other something extra special for their gift to each other, but were having some minor difficulties, so they came to ask for our help.”

 

“Like what?”

 

“Well, the two buggers wanted to have anal sex, but couldn’t get inside the other,” Tom answered with a chuckle.  “After several attempts and facing utter failure, they begged us to show them how to do it.  Since we were already horny as hell after being around twenty or so very cute and very naked boys all afternoon, we were about to do the deed ourselves, so we had them join us so they could see what they needed to do and how it works.”

 

“So, you basically taught the twins how to fuck each other?” Ron asked in surprise.

 

“Yeah, we did,” I replied.  “And it was one of the hottest nights of sex we’ve ever had.  Watchin’ Alex bury his dick in Joey’s ass for the very first time was hotter than hell.  When we put them back to bed that night, we left our lube in their room so Joey could return the favor in the morning.”

 

“I can’t believe this,” Ron muttered.  “What about T.J.?”

 

“Well,” I began, “Joey and Alex had told T.J. about what happened between the four of us and he wanted to give it a try to see if it was as much fun as the twins said it was.  We’re pretty sure he enjoyed it just as much, if not more than Joey and Alex.  And before you ask, Eric was the same way.  The three of us enjoyed two wonderful nights of sex with each other when we were in Chicago.  Let me tell ya, Ron, that boy tastes just as sweet as he looks.”

 

“And he is one very sweet lookin’ little hottie,” Ron agreed with a grin.

 

“And we know that Joey and Alex have taught Logan to enjoy sex even though Logan says he’s not gay,” Tom continued.  “And he may not be, but he doesn’t let that stop him from enjoying being in bed with the twins.  But here’s the most important thing you need to take out of this conversation; every one of the boys we’ve done something with has specifically asked for it to happen.  We didn’t go to them and ask, we didn’t force them to do anything they didn’t want to do, they took the lead and we abided by their wishes.”

 

“That’s what Eric said,” Ron admitted.  “When he came in my room to apologize before they left, he told me his dad had the rule that any of them could do whatever they wanted with each other as long as they all agreed to it.”

 

“And you need to know that we have the same rule here, Ron.  If the boys ask to get in bed with us, we’re happy to let them.  And we’ll do anything and everything they ask for except for one thing.  No matter how much they beg, plead or cajole us, we will not penetrate them anally with anything more than our finger …  and you won’t either.”

 

“Wait, are you tellin ‘me if they ask me to do that shit with them, I can?  And you won’t turn me into a eunuch before you feed me to the wolves?”

 

Tom and I both chuckled at the question before he answered, “Look, we love the boys and would move heaven and the earth to protect them.  But we’re also smart enough to know that we could never control their sexual impulses and desires, not that we would necessarily want to.  All we ask for is common sense and a bit of self-control.”

 

“Uh, you didn’t really answer my question,” Ron chuckled.

 

“How’s this for an answer, Ron?” I replied.  “If any of the boys comes to you and asks you to indulge them with some sex, yes, you can do so.  But, I swear to you right now, if you ever, and I mean ever, stick your dick where it don’t belong, it’s gonna be time for you to meet not only the wolves, but a pack of very hungry hyenas, too.  Don’t forget, we have a cemetery on the property,” I reminded him with a laugh.

 

“So, let me be clear on this.  If they want me to suck them off, that’s a go.  If they wanna suck me, that’s cool, too.  Circle jerk with any or all of them, a-okay.  They wanna fuck my ass, winner, winner, chicken dinner.  They want me to fuck them, I better run for the fuckin’ hills and never come back.”

 

“Sounds like you understand, buddy,” Tom grinned.

 

“But what about Eric?” Ron persisted.

 

“Eric writes his own rules,” I replied.  “If he’s cool with you fuckin’ him, then that’s his call, not ours.  And since we’ve both been granted that pleasure already, I don’t doubt he’d let you do it, too.”

 

“Holy shit!  You’ve really done it with him?”

 

“Yes, we have.  And it’s an experience you won’t want to pass up if he gives you the opportunity.”

 

“Dammit!  Wish I’d known that a couple hours ago,” Ron moaned.

 

“If he made the offer already, chances are real good you’ll get another shot,” Tom commented.

 

“I sure as hell hope so,” Ron grinned.  “Well, look guys, it’s getting late.  I really appreciate you talkin’ to me.  I’m glad to hear you don’t think I’m some sort of sick pervert for gettin’ turned on by the boys.  Now that I know the full deal, I feel a lot better about myself.  And you can trust me to do the right thing.”  With our conversation seemingly over, we stood to say good night to each other.  As we did, three very erect cocks were freed from their hiding places and placed on full display for us all to see.  “Looks like we could all use a little bit of relief before we turn in,” Ron giggled.

 

“Yeah, we could,” I agreed with a grin as I looked to Tom and raised my eyebrow in question.

 

Tom nodded and suggested, “Would you like a little help tonight, Ron?”  The confused young man gave us a look that said, ‘are you kiddin’?’.  Tom responded to that look with a simple, “Then come with us, buddy.”

 

“Oh, god, I sure hope to,” Ron muttered in disbelief as he fell into step behind us.

 

By the time all our carnal desires had been fulfilled an hour later, we had become intimately familiar with almost every square inch of Ron’s finely-honed body and he with ours.  While none of us expected such a meeting of minds and bodies to become a regular occurrence in our lives, by the time we were done with our shower afterward, we also knew we wouldn’t say no should the opportunity arise in the future.

 

With Tom and I completely exhausted by the events of the day and night, and after Ron had returned to his own bedroom, we quickly fell asleep after sharing our regular hug, kiss and I love you.  We slept soundly until our wakeup call came through the door and jumped on the bed at nine-thirty in the morning.  We were rather rudely informed we were late for breakfast and Joey, Alex and Logan were doing everything they could to push us out of bed and onto the floor.  We got lucky they never combined their efforts on one of us at a time or they would have succeeded.  With assurances from Tom and me that we would join them shortly, the terrible trio hustled their butts out of the bedroom, laughing all the way.

 

After our morning bathroom stop, we finally managed to make our way to the dining room to join the breakfast already in progress.  We settled into our chairs amid a round of greetings from the others already assembled and stuffing their faces with the steak and eggs breakfast Ron had basically promised them.  Our greeting from Ron was a simple ‘mornin’ but it was followed up with a wide grin of deep satisfaction.  Such looks often catch the attention of at least one of the munchkins and this one was not going to be an exception.

 

“You three finally did it, didn’t you?” Joey cracked with a knowing smirk, garnering attention from the others.

 

“I don’t believe that’s any of your business, young man,” Tom retorted.

 

“Oh, c’mon, Pops,” Alex continued.  “Don’t lie to us.  You know we know the truth,” he added with his own gleeful smirk.

 

“That may be, Alex, but you also know we don’t discuss these things while we’re eating,” I reminded the nosy young rugrat.

 

“The important thing is did y’all agree to it and have fun?” T.J. asked.

 

“Well, if you must know, the answers are yes and yes,” I responded.

 

“Good for you guys,” Logan commented.  “Did Skinny pass the test?  And does that mean we get him next?”

 

“Holy crap, guys,” Ron groaned.  “is that the only thing you think about?” he asked.

 

“Well, not the only thing, Ron, but more than most other things, for sure,” Alex giggled.

 

“Lord, give me strength,” Ron murmured quietly.

 

Before the conversation went completely off the rails, I said, “By the way, Rich is coming over tonight for supper and a swim.”

 

“Cool,” T.J. enthused.  “I’ve been hopin’ he’d be able to sometime soon.”

 

“Well, I’d hoped to have him out before now, but it was difficult to arrange these past couple of weeks with everything we’ve had to deal with.”

 

“Sorry, Dads,” Logan muttered.  “I never meant to be a problem,” he added sadly.

 

“You’re fine, buddy,” Tom replied.

 

“But, before Rich gets here, Judge Corgan is coming out about two this afternoon, and he’s bringing his dad with him so he can see their family cemetery.  And you’ll have to be dressed while they’re here.  Especially if you want to join us on the walk.”

 

“Cool!” T.J. crowed.  “I hope they know more about Sammy.”

 

“We hope so, too,” Tom replied.  “We’d like to get this situation dealt with and done.”

 

“Sammy would, too, Pops,” Alex retorted.

 

“Yeah, he’s tired of hangin’ ‘round all this time,” Joey agreed.

 

“Still, it’ll be nice to not have to worry about him any longer,” Tom muttered with resignation.

 

Since the boys had gotten a head start on their breakfast, they were done well before Tom and I were, and they started cleaning up their dishes and loading the dishwasher.  Once they were done with their things, they adjourned to the theater with the disc for Real Steel, one of their favorite movies.  I assumed it was one of their favorites because they all thought Dakota Goyo was cuter than hell when the movie was made.

 

With the sensational six-pack out of earshot, Ron finally commented, “I really want to thank you guys for last night.  That was truly one of the hottest nights I’ve ever had in my life.”

 

“Don’t get too used to it, Ron,” Tom replied.  “We generally prefer it to be just the two of us.”

 

“But we kinda felt guilty for what you were dealin’ with yesterday and wanted to make up for it.”

 

“No worries.  While I enjoyed it a lot, I really don’t want to come between you two.” 

 

Tom and I shot Ron a strange look before we cracked up laughing and I retorted, “Didn’t seem to bother you a bit last night, buddy.”  Finally realizing the unintentional pun he’d tossed out like a hand grenade with its pin already pulled, Ron joined us in our mirth.

 

“You know what I meant.  Jesus, you two are as bad as the boys,” he flustered.

 

“Yeah, we do.  Just the way you said it was funny,” I replied.  “That was a great breakfast, by the way.  Don’t think I’ve ever had steak and eggs before, but I’d be willing to make a habit out of it,” I added with a chuckle.

 

“Yeah, I just bet you would,” Ron retorted.  “Tell ya what, you start doin’ the cookin’ again and you’re welcome to have it as often as you like.”

 

“You want any help cleaning up,” Tom asked.

 

“Naw, I got it, guys.  You go relax and get ready for your guests.”

 

That was all we needed to hear to make a hasty exit from the dining room and head to the living room to read for a while.  Lunch today was a simple affair with Ron fixing grilled ham and cheese along with the obligatory tomato soup.  The boys would have probably strung him up by his gonads if he’d forgotten the soup.  Once our midday meal was completed and the cleanup finished, everyone retreated to their rooms to get dressed for our afternoon visitors.  When the drive sensor announced their arrival at ten after two, Joey and Alex charged across the entry to greet Judge Corgan and his dad.

 

“Hi, Mr. Corgan,” Alex greeted the pair when he opened the door.

 

“It’s good to see you again,” Joey added.

 

“It’s good to see the two of you again, also,” David replied as he and his father stepped inside.  “How are you guys doing?”

 

“We’re great,” Joey answered.

 

“How ‘bout you?” Alex added.

 

“I’m doing just fine, thanks for asking.  I’d like you to meet my dad, Gabriel.  Dad, these two fine young lads are Joey and Alex Allison.”

 

“Nuh-uh,” Joey disagreed.  “Our last name’s Sanders-Wright.”

 

“My most humble apologies Joey and Alex Sanders-Wright,” David replied with a grin.

 

“It’s nice to meet you, boys,” Gabriel replied.

 

“Well, c’mon in.  Our dads and brothers are waiting over there,” Alex commented while pointing in our direction.

 

We watched the foursome cross the entry and as they drew closer, we all stood up to greet and shake hands with our guests.  After David had introduced his dad to everyone, he knelt in front of Logan and offered, “I was so sorry to hear about your father’s death, Logan, and what you went through with your uncle.  You’ll be happy to hear that your uncle’s guardianship of you has been revoked and …”  Tom and I quickly caught David’s attention and waved him off before he could say anything more since we hadn’t yet told Logan about our petition to adopt him.  We watched him as understanding took root and he smoothly continued, “I hope you’re okay staying here until we can settle a few things.”

 

“Thanks, Mr. Corgan.  I never wanted to live with that scumbag loser anyway.  I just hope I get to stay here with my new dads and brothers.”

 

“Well, we’ll have to wait and see what the future holds for you, won’t we?” David offered.

 

“Yeah, I guess so,” Logan agreed with a hint of sadness.

 

“Well, are we ready to take a walk?” David asked as he stood back up and looked to Tom and me.

 

“Um, not quite yet,” I answered.  “We’d like to talk to you and your dad before we do that.”

 

“About what?” Gabriel asked.

 

“First, let’s have a seat.  This may make take more than just a few minutes to fully explain.”  Everyone settled in and got comfortable before I continued.  “We’d like to know whatever you can tell us about Samuel.”

 

“All I know about him is he’s one of the people buried in the cemetery,” David offered.  He turned to his dad and asked, “You know anything about him, Dad?”

 

A look of sadness took over Gabriel before he solemnly answered, “Yes, poor Samuel is a sad chapter in our family’s history, I’m afraid.  But, I’m rather curious as to why you would be asking about him in particular?”

 

“T.J., I think we’ll let you take over from here,” I said softly while turning to face him.

 

“Yeah, all right, Dad,” he replied before facing David and Gabriel to begin his story.  “We went out to see your cemetery the day after Logan’s dad died.  While we were out there, I, uh, felt somethin’ that scared the cra…, um, heck outta me, somethin’ I ain’t never felt before.  Since then, I’ve had several weird dreams and in one of ‘em, I dreamt I was walkin’ through the woods when Sammy grabbed my wrist, pulled me off the trail and deeper into the trees.”  Shock registered on David and his dad’s faces before T.J. carried on.

 

“Then, yesterday, all of us went for a walk on the same trail and when we reached the point where Sammy had pulled me off the trail, we followed along in the direction he’d taken me.  We ended up in this clearing out there with a single giant tree growin’ right smack in the middle of it.  Joey, Alex and me got close enough to touch the tree, and when we did, we could see Sammy hangin’ from a big branch way off the ground.  Then, we watched as his spirit left his body when he finally died and he kinda floated down to the ground.  That’s when the three of us huddled around him and he told us what had happened to him.”

 

David interrupted T.J.’s account with, “Well, the story I’ve heard since I was your ages was that Samuel was always a strange kid, preferring to be by himself most of the time.  He’d spend most of his time wandering the woods all alone, going back to the cabin only when it was time to eat.  The family always assumed he was a victim of depression for some unknown reason and that’s why he ended up hanging himself.  From what I’ve heard, his body wasn’t found for several days after that happened and he was buried soon after he was found.”

 

“Well, whoever told you that story was either lyin’ through their teeth or didn’t know the truth,” T.J. objected.

 

“How could you possibly know anything about what happened back then,” a flabbergasted David asked.

 

“Like I said, Sammy told me.  And Joey and Alex, too.”

 

“But how could he could do that?” Gabriel begged.  “He’s been dead over a hundred years.”

 

“The three of us have some weird brain thing where we can read minds and stuff like that,” T.J. replied.  “And Sammy told us all about it when we surrounded his spirit at the base of the tree.”  David and Gabriel looked to Joey and Alex who nodded their heads in confirmation of what T.J. had said.

 

“Well, I know you two have a very strong twin link after that day in my courtroom.  I never realized it went way beyond that,” David muttered.

 

“So, what did Samuel tell you three,” Gabriel asked with interest.

 

“That he didn’t hang himself,” T.J. replied.  “He was killed by a man named Bo Sheppard.  We watched as the man kicked a chair out from under Sammy, then stood there and did nothin’ but laugh as he let Sammy die.”

 

“Oh, my God!” Gabriel exclaimed as he covered his mouth with his hands.  “I know that name.”

 

“Sammy said you probably would,” Alex offered.

 

David looked at his dad in surprise and asked, “What do you know about this Bo person?”

 

“Again, from the stories passed down through the family, he was a bad man.  He showed up in Berlin in the late 1800s and caused nothin’ but trouble for a long time.  The rumor at the time was that he was a former slave hunter for some rich plantation owner down in Louisiana or Mississippi somewhere.  Since it was well after the Civil War had ended and slavery had been abolished, nobody put much stock in those rumors.”

 

“But they were right,” Joey interjected.

 

“What else did Samuel say?” Gabriel asked.

 

“He told us his momma, Lucinda, was the daughter of an escaped slave.  His grandma, Malissa, had run away in the middle of the night after her owner had raped her and she made her way north.  It took her months to get here, but she finally settled into a tiny cabin on the edge of town where she’d mostly be left alone.  After she had her baby, she started doin’ some work for the townsfolks like cookin’ and cleanin’, takin’ her baby daughter with her.  It wasn’t until the baby was a little older that folks started to realize her skin color was a lot lighter than her mom’s, so they all knew the girl’s daddy had to be a white man.

 

“When Lucinda grew up, she fell in love with a man named Lonnie and they got married.  Sammy was their son and he was born about a year after they got married.  His skin was even lighter than his momma’s, but not light enough to not realize he was at least part black.  That was the main reason Sammy kept to himself, he knew he was different and wouldn’t be accepted by the white folk in town.  None of the other kids from the area wanted to be ‘round him since his skin was darker than theirs.  There was still a lot hate for black folks, even ‘round here. 

 

“Well, this Bo guy had finally tracked down Sammy’s grandma and he lynched her for runnin’ away.  It didn’t make no difference to him that the war was over and she was a free woman.  He was followin’ his boss’s orders when he killed her.  And since his boss was of the mind that Malissa was still his property, any of her children were his property, too.  So, Bo hung around until he found out ‘bout Sammy and he lynched him, too.

 

“It took Bo a few more years to get Sammy’s momma, Lucinda, but he finally did.  It took longer to get her ‘cause she rarely left Lonnie’s side after what happened to Sammy.  But, he hung her up just like he did to Sammy and Malissa.  He didn’t care that Lucinda and Sammy were his boss’s daughter and grandson, just that they was supposedly his boss’s property.  Lonnie killed himself shortly after that happened ‘cause he couldn’t deal with losin’ both his wife and son.  So, that’s the story he told us.  Sammy wanted us to make sure you knew the truth about what happened to your family.  He even knew you’d be comin’ out today and that’s why he told us everything.”  Alex and Joey were nodding their heads in unison to back up T.J.’s narrative.

 

“I never knew or even heard any hint of that story until just his moment,” Gabriel wept.  “How could anybody ever be so evil or cruel to do such things?”

 

“It was a different time, Dad,” David replied.

 

“Evil is evil, son, no matter when it happens.”  Gabriel turned his attention back to T.J. and asked, “May I ask why you keep calling him Sammy instead of Samuel?”

 

“ ‘Cause that’s what he likes,” T.J. answered bluntly.

 

“And I suppose he told you that, too.”

 

“Well, more or less, yeah.  The first time I felt his presence was the day we saw the cemetery.  Even though he scared the bejeebers outta me, I felt that come through.  Besides, while he may be well over a hundred years old, he’s still a pissed off fourteen-year-old kid and he likes the name Sammy a lot more than Samuel.  Does the rest of the story he told us make any sense to you?”

 

“Yes, it does,” Gabriel answered.  “The names you gave us just now are correct.  At least they are from my recollection of our family tree.  I believe Lonnie was my grandfather’s brother, so that would make him my great or great-great-uncle or something like that, I think.  I never knew that Malissa was an escaped slave, though.  That’s a very interesting bit of news to add to our family’s history and it makes a lot of sense of why Lonnie settled on this property away from other people.”  Gabriel looked back to me and asked, “Can you take us to the tree where Samuel died, please?  I feel like I need to see it.”

 

“Sure,” I answered.  “It’s not very easy to get to, but if you’re up for the challenge, we’ll get you there.”

 

“Then let’s get movin’.  I still want to see the cemetery, too.”

 

With that statement, we all left our chairs and headed for the front door.  T.J. took the lead, again, with Joey and Alex right behind him, and the trio set a quick pace.  When we reached the point on the trail where we needed to head north, they had waited for everyone to catch up before diving headfirst into the trees.  Once we had regrouped, however, T.J. started blazing the trail that would lead us to Sammy’s tree.  When we broke out into the clearing, David and Gabriel both gasped in surprise at the size of the giant oak that filled the space.

 

“My Lord, that thing’s a monster,” David muttered.

 

“Wasn’t near that big in 1892,” T.J. replied flatly.

 

“Is Samuel here now?” Gabriel asked.

 

“Nope, he’s waitin’ for us in the cemetery.”

 

“Do you think we’ll be able to see him,” David queried.

 

“Depends on if he lets you.  That’s all up to him.”  T.J., Alex and Joey spent the next five minutes explaining again what they’d seen and felt during our last visit to this place, including identifying the branch the rope went over and the spot where Bo stood and watched Sammy die.

 

When they ran out of things to share, David looked to me and said, “It seems rather odd that this tree is surrounded by this little clearing.  Especially when you consider how dense the surrounding woods are.  Did you clear this spot yourself, Max?”

 

“Dad didn’t do this,” Alex answered.

 

“No, this is all Sammy’s doing,” Joey added.

 

“You can’t be serious,” Gabriel retorted.

 

“We sure are, Mr. Corgan,” T.J. responded.  “Sammy knew that someday he’d finally find someone who could hear him, someone to tell his story to and he’s kept this space cleared out since he died so it would be easier to locate.”

 

“Unbelievable,” Gabriel muttered.  David and Gabriel then walked all the way around the clearing, gazing up at the tree at the center while the rest of us stood still and waited for them to rejoin us.  When they completed their circle, Gabriel said, “Thanks for bringing us here.  It really means a lot to me to know the true story and see where Samuel died.  I think I’m ready to see the cemetery now.”

 

“Well, let’s move on, then,” I said as I turned to head back the way we came in.

 

“Dad!” T.J. called out, bringing me to a halt.  “Why you goin’ that way?  It’ll be a lot shorter to go the other way.”

 

“But T.J., we don’t know how far it is to the cleared area around the storage building.”

 

“I do,” T.J. retorted.  “It’s only about twenty-five or thirty feet through the trees.”

 

“How could you possibly know that?” Tom asked.

 

“Easy, Sammy showed me last time we were here.”

 

“And we’re supposed to trust him,” Tom scoffed.

 

“Why wouldn’t we?” Alex asked.

 

“Yeah, he ain’t done nothin’ wrong,” Joey said.

 

That was all it took for T.J. to make his way to the north side of the clearing and disappear into the trees again, Joey and Alex on his heels.  The rest of us followed the threesome again and in just a few short minutes, broke out of the trees just east of the storage building.  The trio continued to lead the way, aiming directly for the trail that leads to the cemetery.  Five minutes later, we stood outside the gate and I pulled the key from my pocket to unlock it.  After opening the gate, I stood to the side so David and Gabriel could go in first.

 

T.J. abruptly blocked their way and said, “Uh, hang on a sec.  I need to go in by myself first.”

 

“Why?  Is Samuel here?  Right now?” Gabriel asked.

 

“Uh, yeah, and believe it or not, he’s a little scared with all of us bein’ here.”  While we were all surprised at T.J.’s announcement, we waited patiently outside the gate while he threaded his way through the tombstones to stand next to Sammy’s grave.  We watched slack-jawed as he appeared to be having a conversation with the air around him.  I finally pulled my head out of my ass and extracted my phone from my pocket so I could record whatever might happen next.  After several minutes of us shivering in discomfort, T.J. finally turned to us and said, “Okay, Mr. Corgan, Sammy says you can come in now.”

 

“Uh, which one,” David asked.

 

“Both of you, of course.  And you better hurry ‘cause Sammy says he won’t hang around much longer.”  The father and son quickly stepped through the gate, followed the same path T.J. had taken and soon joined him at Sammy’s grave.  We watched in awe as a hazy figure slowly took form next to T.J.  We didn’t know what to expect when we left house an hour ago, but to see Sammy suddenly materialize from nothing was a shock to all of us.  Mike and Andy huddled next to Tom and me while the twins and Logan stood right in front of us, arms wrapped tightly around each other’s shoulders.

 

As we gawked at the amazing scene taking place before us, T.J. was apparently relaying what Sammy was saying to him on to David and Gabriel, and they were replying directly to the shimmering figure.  Several minutes had passed when T.J. suddenly turned and pulled Sammy’s translucent form into a hug.  When the two separated, Sammy gave a quick hug to both David and Gabriel before turning around and silently gliding through the fence and into the trees surrounding the cemetery, where he gradually disappeared from our vision.

 

After David and Gabriel had shared a hug with T.J., the munchkin finally called out, “Okay, you all can come in now.”  We joined the trio hovering around Sammy’s grave, still a bit unsure of what had just happened even though we witnessed the whole thing with our own eyes.

 

“That was freakin’ cool, dude,” Joey gushed with excitement as he hugged T.J.

 

“What’s it like to get hugged by a spirit,” Alex quizzed his younger brother as the two shared a high five.

 

“Pretty cool,” T.J. grinned happily.

 

“Is he gone for good?” Andy asked with a bit of a begging tone to his voice.

 

“Yeah, I think so.  He was really happy to meet some of his family and finally be able tell them his story.  Now that he’s been able to do that, he’s gonna go look for Lonnie, Lucinda and Malissa.”

 

We stood in silence for a few moments, just gazing at the stone that marked Sammy’s grave.  Though we knew it would be receiving an addition soon, the stone was currently engraved with:

 

Samuel Patrick Corgan

October 12, 1877 – January 17, 1892

Beloved Son

 

“Oh crap,” I muttered quietly.  “I never paid attention to this before now, but Sammy and I share the same birthdate.  Talk about your coincidences.”

 

“That’s not a coincidence, Dad.  That was Karma bringin’ you and Sammy together.  He knew that even if you couldn’t hear him, you’d have kids someday who would.”

 

“Gee, thanks for tellin’ me that, T.J.  I always thought I bought this property because it was my choice.”

 

“Nope, wasn’t a choice at all.  You were meant to buy it and there was nothin’ you coulda done to get out of it, either,” T.J. answered with a giggle.  I felt a little shudder of trepidation run down my back on hearing that bit of news, but I also finally understood why I fell in love with the property long before I ever saw it.  It was Sammy connecting with me and I silently thanked him for having the faith in me to help him complete his journey.  If it hadn’t been for his guidance, I wouldn’t be here now with my soon-to-be husband and sons, and poor Sammy would still be wandering the woods on his own, waiting for someone to come along and set him free from whatever had shackled him to this place.

 

“What do you and your dad think, David?” Tom asked.

 

“This has been the most amazing day of my life,” Gabriel muttered.

 

“Mine, too.  If I hadn’t been here to see this happen myself, I don’t think I’d have believed it when Dad told me about it.”

 

“I know I wouldn’t have believed it if you came to me with some cockamamie ghost story,” Gabriel chuckled.  “I have some work cut out for me as I update the family tree with Sammy’s story and let other members of the family know about our experience today.  God knows they’ll all think I’ve lost a few more of those loose screws they keep goin’ on about and want to put me in a facility for the mentally deranged.”

 

“Well, if they don’t believe you, you can just show them the video I recorded of the whole thing,” I offered.  “Hopefully, that’ll be enough to keep the hounds at bay.”

 

“That just might do the trick, Max.  Thanks for the offer of backup.  Oh, and before you do it, Sammy told us about his request to have ‘Free at Last’ added to his gravestone.  I’ll make arrangements first thing Monday morning for that to happen so you don’t have to deal with it.”

 

“I’m happy to take care of it, Gabriel.”

 

“Don’t you dare.  Sammy is my family and it’s my responsibility to take care of him now.  You’ve already done more than anyone should ever expect by taking care of the rest of the cemetery.  It’s my turn to step up and do something for them.”

 

“If you say, so, I’ll let you take it from here.” 

 

“Good.  I won’t have it any other way.  Now, that we’ve solved that little mystery and said goodbye to Sammy, I’d like to see the rest of the cemetery.”  On that note, we broke up our little group and allowed David to lead his dad around.  The boys had migrated to a corner and they were pumping T.J. for details about his encounter with Sammy.  He was only too happy to share as many details as he could.  As for Tom and me, we were just happy that Sammy’s time with our family had seemingly come to a peaceful end.

 

After half an hour of walking around the cemetery with his dad taking pictures of every marker with a real camera, David finally said, “Well, I think we’re done here, guys.  We can’t thank you enough for letting us come out today and be part of the wonderous events taking place out here.”

 

“We’re glad you could be here, too.  It seems rather fitting that you should be here to see Sammy off on his way to whatever’s next for him.”

 

We stepped out of the cemetery and while I took a moment to close and lock the gate behind us, Gabriel knelt in front of T.J. and said, “Young man, you have given me the greatest gift I never knew I wanted.  Having Sammy tell us his story so we can fix a glaring error in our family’s history is absolutely wonderful.”

 

“I’m just glad Dad gets to adopt me.  If he hadn’t been allowed to do that, I’da never met Sammy.”  T.J. lowered his voice to a whisper before adding with a giggle, “I just hope no more spooks or spirits find me.”

 

“I bet not,” Gabriel laughed loudly.  He then leaned in and gave T.J. a hug and kissed the top of his head before standing back up and saying, “C’mon, David, we’ve got to get back and help Margie with dinner.”  With that, Gabriel grabbed T.J.’s hand and the two led the way back to the house.

 

On reaching the house, both David and Gabriel refused our offers of a drink before they left, insisting on getting home as soon as possible.  After sharing a complete round of hugs with the boys and handshakes with Tom and me, the two departed and left us to relax for a while before Rich arrived in a little over an hour.  Before I settled in with the rest of the crew, I decided to take a few minutes and e-mail the video I’d recorded at the cemetery to David.

 

“Hey, bubba, do you know David’s home e-mail address?” I asked.

 

“Yeah, why?”

 

“I want to send the video to him.  Come on,” I prodded him as I turned and headed for my study.

 

Tom dutifully followed along and after entering my study, I connected my phone to the computer and settled in my chair.  I quickly located the video file and dragged it onto my desktop.  Before creating the e-mail, we decided to watch it ourselves, just to make sure I’d captured everything.  I clicked the file and the video player opened.  What we saw stunned both of us. 

 

Or, to be more accurate, what we didn’t see.  While T.J., David and Gabriel were in full view on the screen, there was no hint whatsoever of Sammy being there with them.  It was obvious the trio was involved in a conversation of some kind, but they appeared to be talking to thin air.  And since we were so far away from them, we couldn’t hear their voices, just the whisper of the breeze meandering through the trees surrounding us.  When their chat ended, we watched in disbelief as all three appeared to hug someone who didn’t exist.  With the hugs over, all three turned to the north and T.J. gave a little wave to the trees.

 

At that point, T.J. turned back to us and called out, “Okay, you all can come in now.”  The video ended abruptly, and Tom and I sat and just stared at the blank screen for a moment.

 

Tom finally broke the unnatural silence that had settled over us when he muttered, “What the fuck, man?”

 

“I don’t know.  I guess Sammy’s a little camera-shy,” I answered with a light-hearted giggle.

 

“That shit’s just too fuckin’ weird.”

 

“No argument from me on that, hon.”

 

“We did see him, didn’t we?” Tom asked warily.

 

“I sure as hell did.  Go get the boys, I want them to see this.”  Tom did as I requested, and we were soon joined by the sensational six-pack.  I turned the screen so they could stand on the other side of the desk where there was more room for them.

 

“What’s up, Dad?” Joey asked.

 

“I thought you guys would like to see the video I recorded at the cemetery,” I answered.

 

“Cool,” T.J. enthused. 

 

Without further delay, I clicked play and stepped around the desk to stand behind the boys with Tom.  They were completely engrossed in the playback and remained silent as it progressed.  Right up to the point where David and Gabriel joined T.J. at Sammy’s grave, that is.  While we all knew that was the moment Sammy allowed himself to be seen, his absence on the video was blindingly obvious.

 

“Wait, where’s Sammy?” T.J. asked with surprise as the video continued.  “He should be there by now.”

 

“I don’t know, son,” I answered.

 

The crew remained silent throughout the rest of the show, only daring to speak when it was over.

 

“That was freakin’ unreal,” Logan commented.

 

“He was there, wasn’t he?” Andy asked.

 

“Sure, he was,” Alex answered.  “We all saw him.  Didn’t we?”  Everybody nodded in agreement that we all had, indeed, actually seen Sammy.

 

“So, where’d he go?” Mike queried.

 

“We don’t know,” Tom replied.

 

“Well, I know he was there!” T.J. said adamantly.  “I freakin’ talked to him.  Hugged him and felt him, too.  I know he was real.”

 

“We all saw him, kiddo, so we don’t doubt him or you one bit.  I just can’t explain why he’s not in the video.”

 

“Oh, man, that just sucks,” Joey groaned.

 

“Why’s that,” I asked.

 

“We coulda gotten rich with a video of a real live spook,” Joey giggled.

 

“Spirit, Joey,” T.J. quietly corrected his brother.

 

“Whatever,” Joey retorted.

 

“Okay, you guys boogie on outta here.  I’m gonna send this to David.”

 

The herd disappeared, talking non-stop about the day’s events and the video they’d just watched.  I settled back in my chair and turned the screen back around so I could get the bizarre movie on its way.

 

“What are you gonna say in your e-mail?” Tom asked.

 

“Not a clue.  Just ‘here it is’, I guess.  What the hell else could I possibly say that would prepare him for what’s there?  Or not there?”

 

“That’ll work, I suppose,” Tom chuckled.

 

I started a new e-mail and after filling in David’s e-mail address supplied by Tom, I attached the video file, then added the simple note, ‘Here’s the video of our visit to the cemetery this afternoon.  Can’t wait to hear what you and your dad think of it.’  With the click of a button, I dispatched the missive into the ether, knowing that we’d eventually hear from David or Gabriel.  That task completed, we retreated to the living room to settle in with the boys until Rich arrived.

 

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