After we'd finished eating lunch, had cleaned up afterward and put everything away, the doorbell rang. It was a little before 2:00 and the boys were playing video games in the family room and hadn't heard a car pull in the driveway. Curious, they came out to see who was there when I answered the door.
"Welcome, and come inside," I greeted our guests. As they walked into the foyer, I heard Benny and Joshie gasp in surprise.
"Hey, what are you doin' here?" Benny finally wondered aloud.
"We came for your birthday party, silly," one of the girls answered. This caused Benny to look at me with his mouth hanging open.
"But we already had my party."
"That was the family party, but now we're going to have a party with your friends. We decided to do the same thing Joshie's dads did for his birthday and invited your entire class to join us today."
"Really? So they're all gonna be here?"
"Yes! They've all replied that they are coming."
"I can't believe it. I'm having another birthday party."
"Yes. We told you we liked to make a big deal out of birthdays."
Benny merely looked up at me and grinned. "Yeah, I guess you do."
Once all of the kids had arrived, we told them we were going to start out playing games. Before we did, however, I told our guests that they could strip down to their swimsuits, because some water was going to be involved in the activities. The invitations had advised them to wear their swimsuits under their clothes and we were very fortunate that it was a wonderfully warm and sunny spring day.
"Are we goin' to the Boys & Girls Club?" Benny wondered after I'd said this.
"No, but some of the games involve water, so I want you three to go upstairs and change into your swimsuits too."
As they raced upstairs to change, Noah left to spend time with his friend, Adam, since he didn't want to hang around with so many younger kids. He also knew that his brother would be too busy to miss him, so he didn't feel badly about leaving.
Once everyone was appropriately attired, we took them outside and got started. Dion had offered to play 'Simon Says' with them, similar to what he'd done at Joshie's party, but the kids were prepared for him this time. Other than those who hadn't attended the other party, only a few of them fell for Dion's outrageous antics, although they all had fun laughing at those who did.
While Dion had been doing that, Brandon, Trey, and I went inside and were busily filling balloons with water for the next activity. First, we were going to have a balloon toss and catch, similar to what we'd done with the eggs at Joshie's party. Once we were ready, we had everyone choose a partner, and then we handed out the balloons to one person in each pair, but we hadn't given the command to toss them yet when one of the balloons unexpectedly broke.
"Oh, that was a bad break. I guess you'll have to sit out now," I said, teasing the person it had happened to.
"Please let us play. One of my fingernails popped it while I was holding it, but I didn't mean to do that," the girl explained. "I'm sorry."
"No, there's nothing to be sorry about and I was only joking. Here's another balloon so you can play."
Several other balloons burst on the first toss, after either being dropped or squeezed too tightly by the person catching it, so those groups had to wait until we had a winner. As soon as one team was victorious, we passed out new balloons to each pair and played again, and then we did it one additional time before we were ready to move on to the next activity.
As we were finishing up the final balloon toss, Brandon, Dion, Trey, Dad, and Pop came out of the house carrying additional laundry baskets filled with balloons. Now, we were ready for the next activity.
After they'd placed the laundry baskets in several different spots around the yard, I announced that we were going to have a water balloon fight. I then advised the kids there were more balloons in the laundry baskets for them to use, and then I yelled 'go'. The kids quickly raced to the various baskets, fetched a balloon, and threw it at one of the other children. After doing this for a few minutes, they quietly hatched another plan and attacked Brandon, Dion, and me next, getting us soaking wet as well.
In hindsight, we probably should have expected something like this would happen and dressed accordingly, but we hadn't. We were so focused on making sure we had everything we needed for these activities that we hadn't thought ahead. It wouldn't be a mistake we'd repeat at future parties.
Trey was smarter, or maybe just luckier, than the rest of us, because he'd gone back inside to get things ready for when we had the cake and ice cream, so he wasn't involved. Dad and Pop had gone inside with Trey after helping to bring out the water balloons, because they'd told us that they'd done their birthday party duties when we were younger. They reasoned it was now our turn to do it for our sons, and we couldn't argue with them. However, we did notice them watching us out the window and laughing hysterically when we became the primary targets of the water balloons.
Since the kids were already wet, we told them they could go in the pool next, before we went back inside. This caused our three to look at us with surprised expressions on their faces.
"Hey, when did you get the pool ready?" Joshie wanted to know.
"Grandpa Josh and Grandpa Jake did it while the rest of us were swimming at the Boys & Girls Club last time. They knew it would take a few days before the pool would be ready for us to use after it was filled, because the chemicals need time to become effective. That's why we didn't tell you, because we didn't want you teasing to use the pool before it was safe."
"You guys are really sneaky," Benny announced, holding up his fist and shaking it at us.
"Yeah, they are," Ryan agreed with a grin, "but I like these kinds of surprises."
While we'd been talking, Trey had brought out another laundry basket, but this one was full of towels for the kids to use once they got out of the pool. Since Brandon, Dion, and I were already wet from being pelted with the water balloons, we each grabbed a towel and attempted to dry off as well.
While the kids were in the pool, a couple of them came over to chat with me. It was the two I'd confronted at Joshie's party about teasing Benny, along with a boy I didn't recognize.
"We just wanted to thank you for inviting us today, but we also wanted to tell you that we aren't picking on Benny any more. We even play with him and Joshie on the playground and we like both of them a lot."
"Thank you, and I'm very glad to hear that."
"And I'm sorry about doing that too," the other boy added. "I wasn't at Joshie's party, but these guys told me what you said. I like Benny now and I'll never do that again."
"I'm glad to hear that as well, and I hope you boys all have a good time while you're here today."
"Yeah, the birthday parties you guys have are really fun. This one is a little different than Joshie's party, but I'm still having a blast."
"I think that's why everyone is here this time," the other boy offered. "They heard what a great time we had at Joshie's party and wanted to come to this one too. I think they also came here for the Haunted House at Halloween."
"That's what I like to hear. We do these things so you kids will have plenty of good memories when you get older."
"My parents have taken me to the Haunted House every year since I was three or four," the new boy stated. "I really love coming here and going through it, because you have stuff that still scares me a little."
"Not too badly I hope, but I'm glad you enjoy it."
I thought it was nice that they had come over to speak with me, but I was even more pleased to hear that they were getting along with Benny now. I already knew they were no longer picking on him, but I didn't realize they were playing with him at school and even liked Benny now. That made me feel really good.
After the kids were ready to get out of the pool, we had them dry off before heading inside to have cake and ice cream. Benny was in awe that there was another birthday cake for him, and he listened to the kids sing 'Happy Birthday' before blowing out the candles for the second time this week. Once everyone had finished their treats, we let Benny open his gifts from his friends.
Since the kids knew Joshie had a PS4 and he and Benny played it quite often, a couple of groups gave Benny a new game for it. Another group gave him a remote controlled 'Wonder Chopper Stunt Drone' that he could fly outside, while the final group gave him a '14-in-1 Solar Robot'. He could use that last gift to make 14 different robots that could either travel over land or through water. We felt those gifts would keep him very busy in the future.
Benny thanked each group as he opened their gift, and then he showed his classmates what we'd given him too, as he thanked us all again. A short time after we'd finished up inside, some of the parents began arriving to collect their children. A few of the boys stated their parents wouldn't be coming for awhile and wanted to know if they could use the pool again. After thinking it over, I agreed and went with them as a precaution. Before we headed outside, I told the others to let me know when the boys' parents arrived, because I didn't want to hold them up. It worked out fine, though, because I got to observe Benny having a good time with the stragglers as they played games in the pool.
Once the last of the kids had rounded up his belongings and departed, Benny came over and wrapped his arms around Brandon and me and gave us a hug. "The party was really great. Thanks for doin' that for me."
"It was our pleasure, and it was nice to see you having a good time with the others, even the boys who'd been picking on you when you first came here."
"Yeah, we're all friends now."
"So I've heard, and that's wonderful. I'm glad it all worked out."
Benny and Joshie then went to check out the various gifts Benny had received, while the rest of us took care of the mess. Brandon and Trey cleaned up inside, which included the things we'd used for the cake and ice cream, and the wrapping paper Benny had torn off his gifts. While they were doing that, Dion helped me pick up the clutter outdoors. First, we tossed the used towels in one of the laundry baskets and I carried it inside, while Dion took the basket with the remaining clean towels and followed me. Then, we went out and picked up the 'popped' balloons off the lawn and tossed them into another empty laundry basket. After we had taken everything inside, I started a load of towels in the washing machine so we'd have them to use later.
When Noah returned, he came to ask me a question. "So how'd the party go?"
"It went really well and I think everyone had a good time, especially Benny. He got some nice gifts too."
"Why don't you go ask him? I'm sure he'll show you."
Noah went to find Benny and was intrigued when he saw the Solar Power Robot. He even offered to help Benny build the various models, which Benny happily agreed to do. They spent the rest of the night playing with that particular device.
After we got home from church on Sunday, the boys changed quickly and took Benny's 'stunt drone' outside to see how it worked. Benny asked Noah to help him with that too, which Noah was happy to do, and then Benny let each of the others fly it for awhile as well, but only after he'd taken his turn. Following that, Benny and Noah began messing around with the Solar Powered Robot again, as the other two watched. It seemed that Benny's birthday presents were going to keep each of them busy for awhile.
The following week started out fairly uneventful, at least until Wednesday. That happened to be my birthday, and I had no idea what to expect. Oh, I knew Brandon would probably have a family party for me after dinner, but other than that I wasn't sure what was going to happen. However, I should have known better and been prepared.
The moment I came downstairs that morning, Dad greeted me warmly and announced that he'd made a special breakfast. "I've got everything ready so I can make you waffles topped with blueberries and whipped cream for your birthday breakfast, so go sit down at the table and I'll bring them right out."
I did as he'd instructed, and while I was waiting the boys showed up and began wishing me a Happy Birthday, along with giving me a hug. Then, as I was eating they all sang to me as well.
When I got to work, I immediately spotted a banner hanging over the reception area wishing me a Happy Birthday. I was a little surprised, because I couldn't remember ever telling them about my birthday, but I guess they must have had their own sources. After I got back from having lunch with Brandon, they had a small cake waiting for me in the break room.
As I'd expected, we had cake and ice cream after dinner too, as everyone sang to me again. Afterwards, I opened my presents and thanked everyone, before spending the rest of the night with Brandon and the boys. They all wanted to watch TV with me, so I agreed and we all crammed onto the sofa together. Brandon sat on my right and Noah on my left, while Benny sat on Noah's lap, Joshie did the same with Brandon, and Ryan sat on my lap.
During the middle of one of the shows my cell phone rang, so I fumbled to get it out of my pocket while Noah muted the volume on the TV. Fortunately, I was able to reach it before the call went to my voice mail. "Hello."
"Happy Birthday, Dad!" Elliot greeted me. I had a feeling he'd be calling, since he'd called Brandon on his birthday too.
"Thank you, son, and how are you doing? Your school year must be coming to an end."
"It is. I took my last final today, so I just have to pack up before I can get out of here. I'll be home sometime this weekend."
"That's great and I look forward to seeing you again. Is there anyone else you wish to speak with?"
"Nah, just tell them I said hi and that I'll see them in a few days. I've still got a lot to do before I can leave this joint."
"Ok, then attend to what you have to accomplish first and we'll see you this weekend."
The boys were a little bummed out that they didn't get to speak with Elliot, but at the same time they were eager to get back to the program we'd been watching. Besides, they would only have to wait a few more days before they'd be able to speak with him in person.
After the program ended and we'd put the boys to bed, Brandon and I turned in too. As soon as we got to our bedroom, we spent the first few minutes planning our weekend alone.
"I promised we'd do this and the Memorial Day weekend would be the best time for us to get away," I began. "Tell your staff not to schedule any appointments for Friday afternoon or Saturday morning that weekend, and then we'll be able to leave right after lunch on Friday. Dad, Dion, and Trey have agreed to take care of the boys while we're gone, so we won't have to come back until Monday night."
"Oh, I like that idea. So where are we going?"
"It's a surprise, but you'll enjoy going there."
Brandon feigned a slight pout before giving me a hug, and then we hurriedly began removing each other's clothing so we could make love before falling asleep. It had been a truly wonderful birthday.
The following evening the boys received the phone calls they'd been waiting for. Each of them found out they had made a team and were told when they'd be practicing. Of course, Benny and Joshie were on the same team, while Ryan discovered that he and Owen would be playing on different teams. He was slightly disappointed that they wouldn't be together, as he'd hoped, but they were both happy that they'd been chosen.
This meant the coming weekend was going to be a little more hectic than usual, since their teams would be having their first practices on Saturday. When the time came, we made sure to get them there on time and even stuck around to watch them run through the drills. It was just basic fielding and batting practice for the most part, as the coaches evaluated their performance and made their initial determinations about who would be best at each position. This was merely the start of a long summer for us, although the boys had a couple more weeks left before their school year came to an end.
When we returned to the house after the last practice, we discovered Elliot's car in the driveway. Until now I wasn't sure if he'd be arriving today or tomorrow, since he wasn't very specific the last time we spoke, and that's why I hadn't left him a note. When we entered the house, his greeting wasn't quite what we expected.
"Geez, I was beginning to think that no one wanted me to come home."
"Sorry, we just weren't sure when you'd be getting here and we had other commitments. These three are all playing baseball this summer and they had their first practice today, so we all went to watch."
"So my new little brothers are jocks too? I knew Noah and Joshie were, but Benny and Ryan too?"
"I'm not a jock yet, but my coach told us all to get one and start wearing it for support," Ryan shot back, since he didn't quite understand Elliot's comment. His statement, however, caused the rest of us to snicker.
"Yeah, you do that. By the way, I'm your brother Elliot and it's nice to finally meet you. At least you're cute like me, and not ugly like our brother the troll." He then playfully punched Noah in the arm.
"Thanks, but Noah's not ugly either. I think we have a really nice looking family."
"Thanks, little bro," Noah chimed in. "Elliot may look ok on the outside, but he's rotten to the core on the inside. Just ask Benny about the prank Elliot pulled on him when he came home for Thanksgiving." This caused Ryan to stare at Benny, waiting for him to say something.
"Elliot made me think I'd caused his head to fall off. He used a doll's head to fool me, so watch out for him, but Uncle Ricky is just as bad."
"You haven't met him yet," Noah added, "but we'll point him out to you when he's here so you can watch out for him too. They both like to pull pranks on people."
"Hey, you guys pulled a prank on me too, and even helped to pull a prank on Uncle Ricky."
"Yeah, but we only did it to get even," Benny chirped. "We just do it after someone plays a prank on us."
"They're usually good natured pranks," I clarified so Ryan didn't become too scared about the prospect. "We do our best to keep things under control, so you don't have to become too concerned about it."
"I hope not, but I'll be ready."
The entire family spent the next couple of hours together getting reacquainted, and then I told everyone to get cleaned up and changed, because I was taking them all out to dinner. It would be Brandon's and my way to welcome Elliot back from college, as well as having our first family dinner together, since it would be the first time Ryan had been with us too.
After having a lovely meal together, I found out later that Ryan asked Elliot a question after we'd arrived back at the house and they were getting ready for bed. "Noah told me that you used to do stuff with him, so would you do it with me too?"
"What kind of stuff are you talking about?"
"You know, like sucking each other off."
Elliot merely stared at him and was speechless for a few seconds, since he didn't know how to respond. Eventually, he decided on what he was going to say and began to speak. "I'm not sure what Noah told you, but whatever happened was just between the two of us."
"Noah only told me because we did that for a while too, but then Noah didn't want to do it any more. I was hoping we could do that now, cuz I really enjoyed it."
"Look, I'm surprised Noah did anything like that with you, since I know he's not gay, but I can't do anything like that with you."
"But you did it with Noah. He told me."
"If we did anything, we would have both been under eighteen at the time, so we probably weren't breaking any laws. However, I'm older now, so I could get into big trouble doing those things with anyone your age. I'm sorry, but I just can't help you out."
"But we're brothers and I won't tell no one. Please?"
"If you want, I'll talk to our dads about this and see what they have to say. They'll know what I should or shouldn't do."
"They knew I was doin' it with Noah and didn't care, at least until Noah didn't want to do it no more."
"Still, I want to see what they have to say first."
"K, but I really hope you'll do it with me."
When Elliot explained this to Brandon and me, we told him he'd done the right thing and we didn't think it would be a good idea for him to do it with Ryan either.
"I was surprised when he asked me, because I remember you told me he'd been raped before he came here and was worried about living with gays. Didn't you also say that he got upset when he saw Benny and Joshie naked and didn't want others to see him naked either?"
"Yes, but he's changed a lot since then."
"Yeah, I guess so."
"At first he was hesitant about changing with the rest of us when we went to the Boys & Girls Club to swim, but he doesn't have that problem any longer."
"This is a little more than just changing together."
"I know, and I'll admit that I was really surprised when I found out that he and Noah had been fooling around. First of all, I didn't think Noah would be interested, but then I was surprised that Ryan was willing to do it too, especially considering how he acted when he first got here. I guess he must have really enjoyed it, because now he seems kind of addicted to it."
"Then you'd better warn him about just doing it with anyone."
"I have. I know Ryan's a typical, horny teen right now, but I've told him that he'll have to take care of his own needs. I also explained that it would be very risky for him to let others know he might be interested in doing those things with them, because they might turn on him."
"I hope he listens to you then."
Over the next couple of weeks we made certain the boys kept up with their schoolwork while still attending their practices, but their first games weren't going to be held until the final week of school. That would make it tough on all of us, but even more so for the boys, especially Ryan. He would be having final exams in many of his classes, while the younger boys would have it slightly easier, but it would still be a challenge.
Ryan's team played their game first, and Ryan was out in right field. That was usually the position the coach put his poorest or least experienced player, but at least Ryan was playing and starting. There were three other boys on the bench who were obviously less skilled than Ryan, so I was fairly certain that he wasn't about to complain.
I was nervous as I watched him running back and forth on the outfield grass, and worried that he'd mess up, but he played fairly well. He caught one fly ball after making a rather lengthy run to get to it, and he also chased down a couple of balls that weren't hit high enough for him to reach before they hit the ground. Once he fielded the baseball, he threw it to the cutoff man and prevented the runner or runners from advancing, just like he'd been taught to do.
Ryan also made solid contact with his bat on each of his plate appearances, although he didn't get a hit. In his first at bat he lined out to the second baseman, and then he grounded out to the shortstop on his next trip to the batter's box. I thought he'd proven himself, though, so I imagined he would be getting more playing time in future games.
Dad, Pop, Noah, Brandon, and I told him that we thought he'd played well, because we'd all attended his game. Benny and Joshie's team had practice that night, so Dion and Trey took them so we could go to Ryan's game. Ryan seemed pleased with his performance as well, and his team managed to win by a run.
"Thanks, Grandpa Josh. I wouldn't have done that good if you hadn't worked with me."
"You're welcome, but I'm sure your coach had a lot to do with it as well."
"Yeah, but I wouldn't have even been on the team if you hadn't helped me." It was nice to hear him being so grateful.
Two nights later, Benny and Joshie had their first game, so we all went to watch them too. Joshie played second base, while Benny was out in left field, and they both did quite well. Joshie made a few good fielding plays and had two hits, while Benny caught a couple of fly balls and got a hit. Their team also won, so the baseball season was off to a good start and all three boys were happy.
"Joshie's better than me, but I still had fun."
"That's what really counts," I replied.
"Yeah, that and winning," Joshie added with a grin.