The next several days followed pretty much the same pattern, with Ryan sitting with one or both of us whenever we joined the boys in the family room. He also made sure we tucked him in bed when we went up to say goodnight, and that seemed to become a very special time for him as well. We enjoyed doing those things with him, and now we were getting ready to spend another weekend together.
Brandon and I were busy doing our chores while Benny, Joshie, and Wyatt watched their Saturday morning shows on TV. Ryan decided to join them too, since Noah wasn't home, because we'd allowed him to spend Friday night with his friend, Adam, and didn't expect him back until noon. Since no one was currently bothering us, we got quite a bit done, as Brandon finished cleaning the downstairs while I completed several loads of laundry. There was still more left to do, but only a third of what was there when I started.
When the boys came out to join us for lunch, including Noah, since he came home about a half hour before we sat down to eat, they began to tease us to do something. "Can we go swimming again?" they wanted to know. "We don't want to sit home all weekend."
"Sure, I don't see why not," I agreed.
I checked with the others and they all wanted to go too, so we were soon getting our things together to leave. After packing up our gear, we loaded into the vehicles and headed out for the Boys & Girls Club. When we got to the locker room, Ryan basically did the same as he'd done before, still acting bashful about anyone else seeing him naked. It was ok, though, since he wasn't making a big deal about doing this.
When we went out to the pool there were several others there already, so it looked as if we wouldn't be able to toss the boys into the air today. They obviously figured this out too, because they were a little grumpy at first, but then they gradually began to behave like they normally would.
About forty minutes later I noticed that all of the other people had left, but I wasn't sure if it was due to our presence or if they had merely tired themselves out while completing their workout. Unnoticed by the boys, I slipped over to chat with the lifeguard, but before I was able to utter a word, he merely smiled, winked, and nodded his head to let me know the answer to my unspoken question. He had apparently anticipated what I was going to ask.
Since I had his approval, I went back to tell the others, which immediately perked up the boys. However, Jake didn't look nearly as pleased, because he'd been swimming laps and appeared to be pretty tired.
"You can sit this one out and we'll take care of the boys," I told him.
"No, I'll toss each of them once, but that's it. I haven't got enough strength left to do more than that today."
"Ok, as long as you're sure." He nodded and we began tossing the boys into the air and letting them drop into the water.
After about fifteen minutes, Brandon and I were tired too, so we told the boys that was all we would do for today. They seemed slightly disappointed, but took the news in stride, happy that they'd been able to do it at all.
When we went into the locker room, Ryan wrapped his towel around his waist as he went with us to the shower. He also faced away from us most of the time, but he wasn't quite as careful this time and occasionally turned in our direction. He seemed to be getting a little better each time we did this, so Benny might get a chance to go skinny dipping this summer after all.
After dinner, we went in to watch a couple of shows with the boys, and Ryan sat between us again, while Benny sat on Brandon's lap and Joshie did the same with Trey, since Wyatt was on Dion's lap this time. I was feeling like I was missing out, since no one was on my lap, so I put my arm around Ryan again and he slowly leaned against me.
When the last show ended, we sent the boys upstairs to get ready for bed. Before he left Ryan asked another question. "Are you gonna come up and tuck me in again?"
"Of course, if you want us too," I agreed.
"Yeah, I do."
"Then we'll be up in a few minutes."
We gave the boys time to brush their teeth first, since they'd all showered earlier, before we went upstairs to tuck them in. We tucked Benny and Joshie in first, said goodnight to Noah, and then headed over to Ryan's room. He was standing beside the bed in his underwear, apparently waiting for one of us to pull his bedding back so he could get into bed.
After Brandon did that for him, Ryan smiled, climbed onto the mattress, laid down, and then waited to be covered up. After Brandon did that too, we each kissed him on the forehead and wished him pleasant dreams before leaving the room.
"Night, Dads, and thanks."
"You're welcome, son," we replied.
When Brandon and I went to bed later, we talked a little more about the changes in Ryan. "Damn, after first being leery about whether this was going to work out, I'm starting to feel really good about taking him in," Brandon said.
"Yes, I agree. Maybe his initial reaction had more to do with getting beat up and raped, rather than how he really felt deep down. I suppose having those things happen to you could make you bitter and a lot more cautious about getting close to others, at least temporarily, but he seems to be changing his tune a bit now. I think he liked going swimming with us earlier and then sitting with us tonight, but he seems to be fond of us tucking him in as well."
"It certainly seems that way, and I'm glad he's starting to loosen up a bit."
"Yes, me too."
On Sunday, Jake got up early so he'd be ready to go pick Dad up at the airport. We asked if he wanted one of us to ride along with him, since it was a boring trip, but he said he'd be fine. We interpreted that to mean that he wanted some alone time with Dad first, before he brought him home.
Since Brandon had finished his chores already, he spent time with the boys while I finished doing the laundry. When I finally joined them, the boys were all excited about Grandpa Josh coming home, even Ryan. It seemed the others had been telling him stories about the grandfather he hadn't met yet, so he was anxious to finally meet him. Brandon and I were very happy to see that.
When Dad and Pop arrived home later, we all rushed out to welcome him back. "I'm happy to see you all again," Dad said as we approached, "but I want to meet my new grandson first."
We were a little surprised by this, but then again Dad often did things we didn't expect. However, it made a major impression on Ryan, because he had a huge grin on his face as he moved ahead of us and walked toward Grandpa Josh. "Hi, I'm Ryan," he said as he reached his hand out to shake.
Dad totally ignored the offered appendage and wrapped him up in a bear hug instead. "I'm very glad to meet you and welcome to the family. I hope you like being here with us."
"Yeah, I do," Ryan replied as he hugged his grandfather back.
Dad then made as big a fuss over Joshie, Benny, and Wyatt too, but he was a little more subdued when he greeted Noah. He told Noah he realized he was a man now and would probably prefer to be treated as such, which made Noah grin before Dad wrapped him up in a hug anyway.
We went into the family room so we could chat. We began to pepper Dad with questions about Shannon and how he was doing, but after a few minutes he said that was enough, because he had questions of his own.
"Jake told me a little about you on the way here, but now I want you to tell me about yourself," he said, looking at Ryan. "How old are you, what types of things do you like, what do you think of school, and anything else you want to tell me?"
Ryan was temporarily stunned by Dad's direct approach, but after he started talking it didn't seem as if he was going to stop. He told Dad all about himself, including what he thought when he first came here to live and some of the changes he'd made since he'd been with us. Dad listened to him very attentively, nodding and grunting in response, as well as smiling at Ryan in a very reassuring manner. When Ryan finished, Dad looked at him and spoke.
"Thank you very much for sharing all of that information with me, and I hope we become really close. I'm close with all my grandsons, as they might have told you, so I expect the same to happen with us. I'll be home a lot more than your dads or uncles, since I'm retired, so plan on spending some time with me too."
"Ok, I think I'd like that."
Dad got off to a much better start with Ryan than we had, but I assumed most of that was due to the changes in Ryan since he'd first arrived. He was a lot more open, and much less defensive than when he'd first showed up, so Dad had an advantage we hadn't had.
Later, we had a big family dinner and as we sat down to eat, Dad had something else to say to us. "You don't know how much I've missed things like this. It was nice being with Nick and Shannon, and I really enjoyed it when Jake was there too, but I really love being home with the family. It's the simple things like this, the family dinners and the special times together that I appreciate the most, and I've really missed being here with all of you."
"We missed you too, Papa," Joshie quickly added, since he was probably the one closest to his grandfather. They'd spent untold hours together since he was born and they'd done a great many things together, including Dad working with him on sports.
The rest of us then offered our own comments, basically saying the same things, because we were all glad he was back too. He took a big load off our shoulders with everything he did around the house, but he was also there for the boys when we weren't home. He definitely played a big part in all of our lives.
When the meal ended, Dion, Trey, Brandon, and I went in to watch TV with the boys, but Dad and Pop said they wouldn't be joining us. They explained they were tired and going to turn in, but we suspected that they were planning to get reacquainted, rather than immediately going to sleep.
After watching a couple of shows with the boys, we sent them up to get ready for bed. Brandon went with Benny and Joshie this time, and I waited for them to finish before I went up to tuck them in. When we finished with the younger pair, we went upstairs to say goodnight to the other two.
When we got to Ryan's room, we were surprised to find his door open, but even more surprised to see he was naked. When he saw us standing in the doorway, he looked up and spoke.
"Hi, Dads. Are you coming up to tuck me in?"
"Yes, unless you've changed your mind," Brandon replied. I think we were both waiting for him to realize he had nothing on and then panic.
"Nope. I like when you do that."
He then walked over to the dresser, grabbed a pair of briefs out of the drawer, and then casually put them on. Obviously, he was aware that he'd had nothing on when we got there, but it didn't appear to bother him this time. Was this merely a momentary lapse, or was he starting to feel more comfortable being around us and becoming less paranoid?
We then performed our normal routine, but this time I pulled back the bedding, let him climb into bed, and then covered him up. Brandon and I then kissed him on the forehead and wished him sweet dreams before turning off the light and closing the door behind us.
"Do you think he realized what just happened?" Brandon wondered as we were going downstairs.
"It would seem so, since he went to get his underwear and put them on with us standing there."
"I was totally amazed, but pleased. I just hope he doesn't realize what he did later and then freak out."
"Me too, so I'm crossing my fingers."
The work and school week started out well, as Dad resumed his normal duties. The laundry was all caught up, so he didn't have as much to do the first day, but he had his own things to take care of after being away for so long.
He chatted with the boys when they first got home, and Joshie made him promise that he'd work with Benny and him with their sports as soon as the weather improved. Ryan immediately asked what sports they were talking about, and after they told him he asked if he could do it with them too. Dad told us later that Ryan said he had wanted to play sports, but he was never allowed to since some of the leagues charged a fee to join and he didn't have a way to get back and forth. Dad then told him he was more than welcome to do it with them, and that we'd take care of the fees and transportation if they joined a league later.
Dad already had dinner planned and started by the time Trey got home, so when Trey saw this he told Dad that he wanted to help out as much as possible in the future. He told Dad that he shouldn't have to do all the cooking from now on and they could share the duties. Dad said it wasn't necessary, but he'd appreciate the help if that's what he wanted to do, and Trey assured him it was.
That night after dinner, Joshie, Benny, and Ryan asked Dad to go with them to the family room quickly. They wanted to show him how Benny and Ryan were doing on the video games before the rest of us got there to watch TV. What we didn't know was that Jake had asked the boys to do this so he could speak to the rest of us privately.
"I want to hold a welcome home party for your dad on Sunday, so I'm hoping Dion and Trey will help me call those living in the area to join us. It will be too short of a notice for those living out of town and too much of a hassle for them as well, so we'll just invite those who live close by."
"Sure, we'll do that," Dion agreed.
"And what do you plan to have at this party?" Trey followed.
"I thought I'd order pizza, and a cake for later."
"Ok, then I'll fix a potato salad to go with it," Trey offered.
"And I'll fix a macaroni salad," Brandon chipped in.
"And I'll order and pick up the cake," I agreed.
"And I guess I'll make most of the calls," Dion added.
"That would help greatly, and I'll take your father out somewhere on Saturday so you can do that without him seeing what you two are cooking up," Jake concluded. It now looked as if everything was arranged so we could pull this off.
Pop went in with us when we joined Dad and the boys to watch TV. Dad and Pop sat in the recliners, so Dion plopped down in the rocking chair this time. Trey had stayed behind because he had papers to correct, which he was doing at the dining room table, so the rest of us got comfortable and ready to enjoy the show.
I think we were all surprised when Joshie went over and sat on his Papa's lap this time, which proved just how much he had missed him. Benny then came over and sat on my lap, and Ryan sat between us again, so I wrapped my arm around his shoulder and held him close too, as Noah took a seat on my other side. Dad looked over and smiled at us, since he saw how close Ryan and Benny were to us already.
When we went upstairs to tuck them in later, this time Ryan had his underwear on when we got to his room. He was still waiting for us to tuck him in, though, which we were happy to do. We thought he might say something about being naked the previous night, but it was never mentioned. We weren't sure if this meant it was something he wanted to forget, or if he just didn't have a problem that it had happened.
After kissing him on the forehead and wishing him sweet dreams, we went downstairs to spend some time with Dad. "I see both boys have obviously bonded with you," he said as we began our conversation.
"I believe Benny bonded with Joshie first and then transferred it over to us too," I replied, "but Ryan was a little tougher. This sudden change only happened recently, and I'm not sure if you've been told about his background."
"Jake filled me in about most of it, but I'd be happy to get your take on it too." Brandon and I then filled him in about everything we knew about Ryan's past. When we finished, Dad looked at us and grinned.
"I'm glad I asked you to do that, because you told me some things Jake had either forgotten or didn't know. You also gave me a slightly different perspective on some of the facts that Jake had mentioned. From what you told me, it seems like everything is going well."
"For the most part, and we're encouraged about the changes we've seen in him lately, but I'm not ready to declare this a total success just yet," I replied. "We're both hoping he won't regress, but after what he's been through, who knows what might set him off and cause him to revert back to his old ways."
"Let's pray that doesn't happen. So what else have I missed out on while I've been away?"
"Not much. Other than getting our two new sons and then adjusting to one another, everything else has been pretty much the same. I think you saw at Christmas that Benny seems to be particularly fond of Frankie, seeing he was one of the troopers that rescued him. In that same light, Ryan seems to like Little Ricky in much the same way, since he was instrumental in bringing Ryan here to live with us."
"I'm glad there are others in the family that those two seem close to as well."
"And they both get along great with Dion and Trey too, because we've all been doing a lot with each other."
"That's great, and it appears that I'm going to be involved with them as well, since Joshie wants me to help them all with their athletic goals."
"Yes." Dad proceeded to tell us in about his conversation with the boys after they'd arrived home from school on Monday.
We were a little surprised when we first learned about this, because, other than swimming, Ryan hadn't shown any particular interest in sports. This was good to know, though, and something else that would help him bond with Joshie, Benny, as well as with Dad.
Tuesday went much the same as Monday, but when I got an opportunity to get Dad alone later, I asked a favor of him. He already knew that the next day was Brandon's thirty-first birthday when I asked if he would pick up the cake that I'd ordered from the bakery, so I wouldn't have to do it after work. He said he'd be happy too, which left one less thing for me to worry about.
When we woke up Wednesday morning, I immediately wished Brandon a Happy Birthday and gave him a very passionate kiss. When we got downstairs, Dad and Pop wished him the same and then Dad announced he'd fixed a very special breakfast for the occasion. He then made each of us pancakes, topped with strawberries and whipped cream, which was much more elaborate than when we fixed them.
When the others joined us a few minutes later, they all wished Brandon a Happy Birthday too, and Noah, Benny, Ryan, and Joshie each gave him a kiss on the cheek too. From the look on his face, I'd say that had made Brandon's day.
We drove into work a short time later, and at lunch Brandon told me his receptionist, hygienist, and assistant had all wished him a Happy Birthday too. Then, on the way home he told me they had a small cake waiting for him when he got back from having lunch with me.
When we got home, the boys came running out to greet us and asked if we'd spend some time with them in the family room. We thought they were doing this because it was Brandon's birthday, so we told them we would join them after we'd changed. We first headed to our room, but said hello to Dad and Trey before we went upstairs. They were fixing dinner in the kitchen and merely waved and said 'hi' in return.
After we'd put on more casual attire, we joined the boys in the family room. They asked Brandon what he wanted to do, seeing it was his birthday, and he replied that he was just happy spending time with them. I sat in the rocking chair so the boys could all sit with Brandon on the sofa, and I thought it was really nice of them to be doing this.
Rather than watching Nickelodeon or the Disney channel, the boys found a movie they thought Brandon would like. Then, Benny and Ryan sat on either side of him, as Joshie sat on the other side of Benny and Noah sat beside Ryan. It appeared that Joshie was willing to take a backseat to the others, so to speak, seeing Brandon was their dad, and Noah gave the younger boys priority.
When we were called out to dinner, we discovered another reason the boys had asked us to join them. Dad had made a banner wishing Brandon a Happy Birthday and had hung it on the wall, with a helium filled birthday balloon on either side of it.
"You didn't have to go to all this trouble," Brandon said when he saw what Dad had done.
"I might not have had to, but I wanted to. So sit down and enjoy." Brandon grinned and shook his head slightly as he took his seat.
After we finished eating, Dad brought the cake in and lit the candles on top, a big '3' and a '1'. Then we sang Happy Birthday to Brandon next, before enjoying the cake and ice cream.
We were just about to leave the table when Brandon's cell phone rang. "Hello!"
"Happy Birthday, Dad!" came the voice on the other end. It was Elliot.
"Thank you, and I'm surprised that you remembered."
"Hey, I don't forget the birthdays of the people I love!"
"Thank you, and I appreciate that."
They spoke for another couple of minutes, before Brandon offered to let the rest of us speak to Elliot too. Although we'd told him about Ryan before, the two had never had a chance to talk and become acquainted, so Brandon handed the phone to Ryan next.
"So you're my new little brother, huh?"
"Yeah, I guess so. Everyone's told me about you and I can't wait to meet you."
"I can't wait to meet you either, but I'll be here until May. I hope they haven't told you any bad stuff about me."
"Maybe a little, but most of it's been good." I think we were all wondering if Ryan was just trying to get a rise out of Elliot by that comment, but Elliot didn't bite.
"Don't believe them and you can make up your own mind when I get home."
After Elliot and Ryan finished their conversation, everyone else got a chance to chat with him for a couple of minutes too. They all wanted to say hello and ask how he was doing, before we finally ended the call.
I waited until we went to bed before I gave Brandon my card. When he opened it he nearly let the certificate fall out that I'd placed inside. "What's this?" he wanted to know.
"Read it and you'll find out." It was my gift to him, a promise to take him away for a romantic weekend, just the two of us, as soon as we could arrange our schedules so we could get away.
"Oh, I think I'm going to like this," he stated with a sexy grin, before running his tongue seductively across his lips.
"Then you're probably going to love this next present even more," I stated, as I began to undress.
"You've got that right," he said as he began to do the same, but I stopped him.
"No, hun, tonight I get to do that for you."
Brandon and I then made love before going to sleep, and I did my best to show him how much I truly loved him. We'd been together since we were teens and I loved him as much today as when we first met. I hoped we would always be together and I still looked forward to the day that we finally, and officially, could get married.