Lincoln, The Family I Never Expected

Lincoln-24, Breakthrough

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Don't forget to read the author notes at the end of this installment!!
!!Author's Notes!!
I highly recommend reading the books in parts. Read part 1 and take a break. Then read part 2 and take a break... you get what I am saying. The chapter is broken up, to be stopping points. However, if you want to read all the way through, go for it!! Also look for a link at the end of the chapter for my recent author interview by comicality. I was asked 10 brief questions, and it gives some background to the story. The link will be at the end of the chapter. 
!!Author's Notes!!


Installment 24 (Breakthrough)

Part - 1

Tuesday, March 29, 2016.
I woke up around 6:45 and went for a morning shower. I wanted to get a good start, especially since I was calling Debra and Thomas today. I'm praying we finally catch them slipping because our time is running low. April 8th is when they are eligible for a second attempt to pass the home inspection. Which means, we are ten days away from finding out the results. Ten days... yes, you heard correctly. Ten days to figure out a strategy, ten days to catch them slipping, ten days till I know if I'm heading to court or not. Regardless of the outcome, I feel a legal battle will likely occur even if we have evidence that supports terrible intentions. I don't see Debra and Thomas giving up without a fight, which brought all these negative scenarios that played in my head as I was showering. Ya know, what if I lost Jacob... how would I explain it to his brothers? How do they even trust me after that? If I can't keep my promise to keep them safe. I don't see how will they ever trust me if Jacob is taken. Hell, if I were them, I wouldn't believe anything I said if I couldn't keep Jacob safe. However, failure isn't an option, and I sure don't plan on it. So I guess I better start thinking positive, right? Nothing good comes from negative expectations, so as I finished my shower, I tried to think positive. 
Once I was dried and dressed, I snuck out of my room as I didn't want to wake Ryker. Even though I have questions for him, I still wanted him to sleep an extra 20-30 minutes. After leaving my room, I made my way downstairs where Rita was already in the kitchen. 
"Morning," Rita started. 
"Morning," I said as I took a seat at the end of the table. 
"Yes please!" 
"Coming right up," Rita stated. 
"So we have ten days." 
"Ten days," I spoke.
"Umm, ten days... I'm confused." 
"Ten days until we find out if Jacob's grandparents pass the home test." 
"No sir," Rita said as she brought over the coffee. "It's been that quick already?" 
"I know... I'm meeting with my legal team today." 
"Can I help in any way?" 
"I might need you to pick up Clayton, but I'm not sure yet." 
"Let me know, okay?" Rita answered.
"Yeah," I said as I took a sip of coffee. "Oh, umm so I found out about Ryker's bad dreams last night... and umm, well..." 
"It's not pleasant." 
"Oh dear... what's it about?" 
"Well... he saw his mother, his dead mother. He saw all the blood." 
"I think he... he went upstairs after they broke into his house. He keeps on seeing his mother in his dreams." 
"Oh my..." Rita sighed, "that poor child." 
"I know." 
"Has he told you anything else?" 
"No," I answered. "I haven't asked Ryker any more questions yet. I talked to him just as he was getting ready for bed. Once I found out what it was, I didn't want to pester him with questions. Didn't want to force him to talk about it, not before bed." 
"I don't blame you, but are you going to?" 
"Yeah, of course. Hopefully after school." 
"Okay... well let me know, and you should probably notify Kelly... I mean whoever his caseworker is now." 
"Will do," I replied. 
"Garret?" Yelled a voice from upstairs. "Can... can you come upstairs?" 
"Yes?" I said as I stood up and made my way to the steps. "Morning buddy."
"Ma... Morning," Lincoln stuttered as he rubbed his eyes and stood at the top of the steps in his birthday suit. 
"What's up?" I asked as I reached Lincoln to give him a hug. 
"I uhh... wet the bed again." 
"Another bad dream?" I inquired as we let go of one another. 
"Yeah," Lincoln answered as he dropped his head in disappointment. "I'm sorry." 
"No big deal," I replied and wrapped my arm around his shoulders. As we walked to his room, I tried to lighten the mood, "we might need to limit your beverage intake before bed, what do you think?" 
"Yeah," Lincoln whispered. 
"Hey," I said and gave him a half hug. "It's okay, accidents happen." 
"I... I know." 
"Alright, well umm... go wash up, put some underwear on, and come down for breakfast." 
"Can I wear my robe instead?" 
"Of course," I chuckled as I began stripping the bed of the sheets. 
"Okay," Lincoln said and quickly wrapped his arms around my waist. "Love you." 
"Love you too," I answered and kissed the top of his head. "Now get a move on!" 
"Okay," Lincoln replied and went for his bathroom. Once I got his sheets off, I flipped his mattress and took the wet linens downstairs to the laundry room. After that, I went back upstairs to wake the boys for breakfast. We all met at the kitchen with Clayton arriving last. 
"Morning grumpy pants!" I joked as he rubbed his eyes.
"Nothing bud," I chuckled as I lifted him onto my lap. "So everyone ready for school, it's the final week before spring break!" 
"Spring break?" Lincoln inquired. 
"Yup, you guys don't have school all next week!" 
"No way!" Ryker commented. 
"Serious?" Jacob asked.
"Yeah I'm serious," I laughed. 
"What are we gonna do all week?" Lincoln questioned. "Can we have sleepovers?"
"We will see, bud." 
"Okay, boys," Rita stated as she brought over 4 glasses, "breakfast will be ready soon!" 
"Why do you call us bud?" Clayton spoke to me.
"What do you mean," I answered. 
"You're always calling us bud or like buddy!" 
"You not like it?" I asked.
"Yes... wait, no... I don't know how to answer that... but you call everbody bud," Clayton replied as he mispronounced everybody. 
"Okay? Umm, it's just a nickname," I said as I wasn't sure where this was going.
"I wanna different nickname, like a special one." 
"Any Ideas?" 
"Umm... I don't know," giggled Clayton.
"I like when you call me bud or buddy," Lincoln interrupted. "It's like... like you are my dad but also my best friend, and... and I don't know, I like it!" 
"I like when Rita calls me sugar," Ryker laughed. 
"She calls everyone sugar," Jacob added. 
"That's right, sugar, because you four are all so sweet!" Rita said as she brought over the milk and orange juice. 
"Thanks, Rita," I returned, "so you want a different nickname, Clay?" 
"Hmm, what's your favorite animal?" I inquired. 
"A umm... umm... A bear!" 
"Alright lil bear, jump off my lap! Breakfast is coming!"
"Wait wait... Is that my new nickname?" 
"Umm," I chuckled, "sure." 
"Yes!" Clayton said and kissed my cheek before jumping down.
"Does anyone else want one?" 
"No, I like bud too," Ryker spoke.
"Umm..." Jacob pondered, "not really." 
"Alright," I said as Rita brought over the food.
"What about a nickname for you Garret?" Lincoln inquired.
"You guys got any in mind?" 
"No," giggled Lincoln.
"What about... umm... like, daddy?" Ryker spoke.
"Yeah, can we call you dad?" Clayton added. 
"Umm," I said and gave a quick look to Rita before I spoke to the boys. "You know boys, I would be honored to have that title. And truly, I can't wait for the day, that you guys can call me dad if that's what you really want. Ya know, umm... I would love to call each of you my sons, and I do plan on doing that one day. Which means I would have to legally adopt you all and you would take my last name." 
"Can we do that?" Jacob inquired. 
"Yes! Just not for a few more months," I stated. "But I would feel better if you guys didn't call me dad yet, even though I really want that! We just uhh... need to wait a little while." 
"But why?" Ryker asked. 
"Well, technically I'm not your dad at the moment." 
"Yes you are," Lincoln said. "More of a dad than we ever had." 
"Yeah," Jacob added. 
"I know," I said to the boys. The real challenge was not getting hopes up, especially with how the future could go. I didn't want Jacob to start calling me dad, and then have him taken away. Plus with Thomas and Debra's threats to take them all away, it just wasn't worth it. "Boys I really need you to understand that I love you so much, and the day I can be your legal father, will be the happiest day of my life. But we should hold off on calling me dad, okay?" 
"Fine," Lincoln commented. 
"What does adopt mean?" Clayton asked. 
"Well, basically I would be your true legal guardian, which means I would be fully responsible for you guys. You would be allowed to take my last name if you wanted to do so. I could legally claim you guys as my sons, and no one could deny it or take you away from me. Unless I was doing something to harm you or put you in danger. Which I would never do. So really you would be my sons, and I would be your father." 
"What about everyone else?" Jacob asked.
"What do you mean?" 
"Like Christian and LJ?" 
"Instead of being foster cousins, they would be just cousins. It would be like you were born into our family." 
"But... but it already feels like that," Ryker said. 
"Good! Adopting would only make it official!" 
"Okay!" spoke Ryker. "I like that."
"Any other questions?" I asked. 
"Can we have a sleepover on Friday?" Ryker inquired. 
"Yeah!" Lincoln said. 
"Who do you have in mind?"
"Logan and Dylan?" Ryker spoke.
"And Max," added Lincoln. "Maybe Christian too? Or Devin and Carter?"
"We have our first soccer games this Saturday." 
"So, I don't play," Lincoln interrupted.
"Before you cut me off," I replied and gave a stare to Lincoln. "I was going to say let's save the sleepover for Saturday. That way we can bring Dylan, Max, and Logan home after the game." 
"Oh. Okay!" 
"Epic!" Ryker added. 
"Can Adam sleepover?" Jacob inquired. "He's like... like my best friend." 
"Umm... yeah we can ask Adam's parents if he is allowed. They might say no because you guys are still pretty young." 
"What about George?" 
"We will see," I laughed. "Now come on boys, eat your breakfast! Don't want to be late for school." 
"Do we have to go," moaned Jacob.
"Yes," I chuckled. The rest of the morning moved pretty quick. After breakfast, the boys went upstairs to get ready. I picked out Clayton's outfit, then went and checked on the rest of the boys. As I walked into Ryker's room, I saw him slipping into his underwear. Similar to Lincoln, Ryker is a gorgeous boy. I always say Lincoln and Ryker are boy Adonises, and they blew me away. Ryker's body was pure perfection from head to toe. His skinny frame had some defined muscle, but overall he was flat chested and stomached, the only curve to him is his round bubble butt. From his looks to his personality, he is a perfect boy in my eyes. 
"Ryker," I said as I knocked on the door. 
"Yeah?" He replied as he parted his blond hair out of his eyes. 
"Just wanted to let you know, that we are going to have a little chat about your dream, okay? Either after school or tomorrow." 
"Do we have to?" Ryker said as he grabbed for a pair of skinny jeans. 
"Yes we do," I said. "Might be able to help you with them." 
Ryker took a deep breath, "fine." 
"Alright," I answered and went to walk out his door. 
"Garret? Which shirt should I wear?" 
"Umm, it's a little chilly, I would suggest a hoodie or something." 
"But what about shirts?" 
"Let's go with, uhh," I said as I dug through his wardrobe. "This one." 
"Okay!" Ryker replied and gave me a quick hug. "Love you." 
"Love you too, don't forget your hoodie too. The grey one would go well with the shirt." 
"Okay," Ryker responded, and I left for the kitchen. The rest of the morning went quick, I dropped the boys off and then went home to check my email and touch base with Rita. On my way home, I received a call from the marina, and they confirmed that the boat was ready to be picked up. But once I got off the phone with the people from the marina, I arrived at my house. I had maybe an hour before meeting Jordan and the rest of my legal team, so I talked to Rita about getting Clayton from school. Before long it was time to go, and I jumped in the S63.
As I drove to meet my legal team, I made a few more calls. First, to Laura who didn't answer, so I left a voice message. One to Keith, to go over our next steps for us. We talked about filling positions and hiring a COO (Chief Operating Officer), which is Kelly, but also a CFO (Chief Financial Officer), a CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), and a CLO (Chief Legal Officer). Now all these people will report to Kelly but also Keith and I. Kelly will be busy handling all the operations and checking in on supervisors. So to limit the stress on her, Keith and I are splitting the role of CEO (Chief Executive Officer). We didn't plan on this from the beginning as we wanted Kelly to run everything, but we also realized that it's too much for one person. Plus we want Kelly's time devoted to making sure supervisors are acting right and to make sure the children are properly taken care of. Anyhow, after my conversation with Keith, I called my mother for a quick talk that lasted 10 minutes until I arrived at my destination. 
Once I parked the car, I walked into the building and was greeted by Jordan. 
"Hey, you! Any plans for the weekend?" I said as I went in to give her a hug.
"Oh, umm sorry not at work, don't want my office to suspect anything, even though we are just like talking." 
"Oh yeah... umm yeah, I didn't even think of that. I'm sorry, just happy to see you." 
"Oh no, it's okay!" Jordan replied. 
"Yeah, so any plans for Friday night?" 
"Umm," Jordan said as we walked to the conference room. "Not that I know of, why?" 
"Depending if I can get someone to watch the kids, I'd love to take you out for dinner!" 
"Even if you can't get someone, I wouldn't mind getting to know them more and spending time with you." 
"Yeah," Jordan said as we were getting close to the room. "I had a lot of fun last time." 
"Okay," I replied, and we reached the door. Being the gentleman I am... I opened the door and let her enter first. 
"Mr. Hamel, a pleasure to see you again," said one man as I entered. 
"Likewise," I responded and shut the door. "So, did everyone enjoy the holidays?" 
"Holidays?" Joked one guy, "I don't think we know what those are anymore." 
"What about you?" Inquired another.
"Umm," I began as I took a seat. "Was pretty good, the boys and I went down to Pittsburgh. It was their first family holiday with us, so it was special. I think everyone had a nice time." 
"Well that's nice," Jordan answered.
"Yeah!" I stated as I wanted to move on from the small talk. "So we got 10 days till the next house inspection." 
"Okay, so what do we have planned? I mean what happens if they pass?" 
"Yeah," spoke one of my advisors. "So here's what will likely happen. They pass the inspection next Friday and then it's up to Jacob's caseworker to decide if she wants to place him in the care of the grandparents." 
"Right..." I said as I wasn't sure if that was the actual process. 
"From there, we have two scenarios in play. The first one is not favorable, not at all because it will make our path to keeping Jacob almost impossible. If the CPS worker does place Jacob in the grandparents care, we start to go on the offensive side and sue whomever we need to sue, to have a chance to keep Jacob. We likely won't win the case. However, the longer we draw the court battle out, the better chance we have to catch them slipping."
"So basically we are fucked if this one happens?" I said, "we've had all this time, and that's what we got?" 
"Mr. Hamel, we don't have many options. We don't have proof of a bribe, we don't have any evidence of misdoings. The only thing we got... is CPS's support, which in this scenario we wouldn't have. However, If we do have CPS's support, it will go a long way in drawing out the hearing. But our hands are tied, we need to catch them slipping up. It's the best shot we got." 
"We are sorry," added another new guy. "When we mean our hands are tied, they are tied. I do have hope that a judge would rule in our favor if the judge heard the things Thomas has said, but once again, there is nothing illegal about what he has stated. It's opinion based, which isn't against the law."
"And what's scenario two?" I inquired as I wanted to move on from the first one. 
"Well, this one is more favorable, still not great unless we catch Thomas and Debra slipping up. I also believe this is more likely to happen, but we are preparing for both, okay?" 
"Okay, so what's two?" I asked.
"Regardless if they pass the home inspection, Jacob's caseworker denies access to the grandparents. Now we aren't sure if Thomas and Debra have a legal team like you, but they will likely take the state to court. This puts us on a defensive track of not attacking Thomas and Debra and more so countering what they have to say. You know, proving we are the better home, and stating the grandparents haven't been in Jacob's life. Basically showing how evil they truly can be. Unfortunately, they've got the blood connection, and a lot of judges will put a family member with family." 
"Uh huh." 
"However," he continued, "we still want to catch them slipping up. If we can prove, they are in it for the money. We got them, it'll be a simple win." 
"Correct," Jordan stated. "10 days is not a ton of time... we know that, but it's enough. I'm confident we will win, just need to talk with CPS to find out their plans." 
"When will that happen?" I inquired.
"Talking to CPS? Soon," Jordan assured me. "Probably right after you leave." 
"I'd like to sit in, hell maybe I will even call Laura." 
"If that's what you want, that's okay." 
"Yeah," I said. "So, should we give our favorite couple a call?" 
"Yes," chuckled Jordan, "believe it's my phones turn. Maybe it will bring some good luck." 
"Alright, let's get it set up," I stated, as she took out her phone. Once everything was hooked up and set, I dialed Thomas's number. Just like before, a wave of nervousness rushed into my stomach. So much pressure on these calls, I mean we could bury them in their own stupidity if played right. Honestly, besides keeping Jacob, watching this hateful bigot fail, would bring so much joy to me. However, I couldn't think about that, as I had to focus since the dial tone began to ring. After 3 rings, someone answered the phone. 
"Hello?" Spoke Thomas. 
"Thomas, it's Garret Hamel, how are you today." 
"Why the hell you calling from a PA number?"
"That's really not important."
"Yeah well let me get Debra." 
"Aww... she limiting your phone privileges?" I asked. 
"You heard me, now look I wanted to ask you a few questions." 
"Alright?" Thomas returned with a hint of skepticism. 
"When's the last time you saw Jacob?" 
"I couldn't even tell you." 
"Then why the hell do you want him?" 
"You know why." 
"No I don't, I really do not understand, but I would love to know."
"Thomas... give me that phone," I heard as Debra started to speak. "Hello... hello, who is this?"
"It's Garret Hamel." 
"Oh Garret, I thought you've given up, we haven't heard from you in a while." 
"Well, I've been busy you know, with the holidays. I spent most of my time with the boys in Pittsburgh with their grandparents," I said. 
"Jacob should have been with us, his real grandparents." 
"That's funny," I chuckled. "You may be his birth grandparents.... but you will never be his real grandparents. You don't care for his well being, you don't want what's best for him, you don't even like him. The only reason you want him, is for personal gains." 
"Oh, dear that's not true." 
"Yeah, do you even know how old he is or his middle name?" 
"Yes," Debra quickly fired back. 
"Yeah, you sure?" 
"Listen... I don't need to be questioned by you," Debra started. "April 8th, Jacob will be in our custody." 
"I wouldn't be so sure of that." 
"I would, we just got off the phone with Laura. We are all scheduled for the home inspection." 
"Uh huh," I answered. "Do you know how much effort it takes to raise a child?" 
"One that doesn't end up being involved with criminal activity?" I questioned. 
And stumped Debra, as she didn't reply to my comment.
"How about schools? Have you looked into that? Have you considered doctors, dentists, therapists for him? Oh, what sports will you enroll him in? Have you ever considered how much time it will take to raise him, I mean you're getting up there in age, it might be difficult for Thomas and you soon." 
"Oh hush up Garret. We don't need any of that, Jacob will be homeschooled." 
"By who?"
"By Thomas and I." 
"Seriously? And when do you plan on starting that." 
"After our vacation." 
"Our victory vacation, that's what Thomas is calling it. After getting Jacob, we are heading out west for a while." 
"What? To where?" 
"That is none of your business." 
"It is damn well my business, as long as Jacob is in my custody, it is my business."
"Well that won't be for long, now will it?" Debra added. 
"You know, I'm going to ask you the same question I asked Thomas before you interrupted our conversation." 
"And that is?" 
"Why do you want him?" 
"Because it's what is best for him."  
"How?" I asked. 
"Two loving role models to watch out for him, we are his family, and we know what's best."
"So you know what's best for a boy, that you've barely met? Taking away excellent educational opportunities is what's best? Taking Jacob away from his brothers, is what's best? Taking away a safe environment, where he doesn't feel threatened or not afraid of those that live in the same house, is what's best? I don't think you got a fucking clue to what's best for Jacob." 
"I don't have to explain my thoughts and actions to you,1 Garret. Not now, nor ever, you understand? Now, can I do anything else for you today?" 
"I'd like to speak to Thomas." 
"No," Debra said. 
"Any reason why?" 
"No, and I don't need one. Enjoy your last few days with Jacob, Mr. Hamel. I look forward to taking him off your hands." 
"Debra?" I stated. 
"Fuck! She hung up," I said as I exhaled a deep breath. "Get Laura Deon on the phone, we need to speak to her immediately." 
"On it," one of my advisors announced. 
"Here you go," I said as I handed Jordan her phone. 
"We've still got time," Jordan stated. 
"Yeah, but Debra isn't slipping up, we need Thomas on the phone."
"We've known this though," stated another guy. "We need to stop wasting our time with Debra and start planning our strategy for court." 
"We need to know CPS's plans before we get started." 
"Why not be prepared for both scenarios?" I asked.
"We will," Jordan assured. "But knowing what CPS is thinking, will help."
"Phone is ringing," said the advisor. 
"I'll talk to her," I stated. 
"Thanks," I replied as I grabbed the phone and turned it on speaker. No less then 15 seconds later, Laura answered. 
"Hey, Laura." 
"Umm may I ask who is speaking?" 
"Oh, it's Garret Hamel." 
"Did you get a new phone number?" 
"No no... I'm using my legal team's  phone." 
"Oh," Laura said, "what can I do for you." 
"Well April 8th is approaching quick, and I want to know what your plans are." 
"Okay, so I just got off the phone with them like an hour ago. They no longer want to do a trial run, and just want full custody of Jacob. Meaning, after the home inspection, and if they pass, we will do a deep background check. This is the next step in the process but was delayed due to the home inspection failure. Then I will decide if they are fit to take in Jacob." 
"Okay, so what's the timeline?" 
"I can guarantee you that April 8th will not be your last day with him, more so around April 14th-15th." 
"Do you think you will place him in their care?" I inquired.
"I do not give away information like that Garret, but I will say this. I do not like them nor their character. From my experiences with them, nothing good has come of it, and I will take that into heavy consideration." 
"So you would put your support behind me?" 
"I cannot tell you any more than I have already said! Just be ready for a court battle, that's all I'm saying." 
"Uh huh, well can you tell me anything else you talked about with them?" 
"They inquired about the other three boys. They tried to petition the idea that Jacob's brothers should come live with them too. But don't worry, I quickly shut that idea down as well as told them it won't ever happen. For one, they don't have the blood connection with the other three, so that route would fail. Two, Thomas and Debra barely have enough room for Jacob, let alone three more. And finally, they don't have the financial income to support all of them. So I can promise you, that Lincoln, Ryker, and Clayton are going nowhere unless you want them to. We are very pleased with how you have handled the boys and support. Keeping Jacob with you is a top priority as well, so don't think we are taking this lightly." 
"Umm yeah, well thank you. I know we've had our differences here, but it means a lot knowing you believe in me." 
"You deserve it, Garret." 
"Thanks," I said, "so I just got off the phone with Debra myself, and I wanted to tell you something that I found interesting." 
"You know they plan on going for a vacation if they get Jacob. Out West somewhere, and they also plan to homeschool him, with Thomas or Debra teaching him." 
"I did not know of that." 
"I just find it a bit odd, but uhh... that's about all that came from our conversation." 
"I'll be sure to ask what their plans are for schooling, although homeschooling isn't against the law, so they could just want to teach him, themselves." 
"I know, just wanted to inform you." 
"Well I appreciate it, and while I have you on the phone, this week or earlier next week, I will be stopping by to check in with the boys, make sure they are alright." 
"Sounds good, just let me know when." 
"I'll send you a text or call when I am 30 minutes out; otherwise I can't really tell you the day. The check-ups are supposed to be unannounced."
"Okay," I replied. "I understand, looking forward to it." 
"Alrighty then, take care," Laura stated and hung up. 
"Well then," I said as I put the phone on the desk. "Does that help us?" 
"We can work with that," said an advisor.
"I agree," Jordan chimed in. 
"Alright then, anything else we need to address?" I asked. 
"Do we want to try a few more times. You know, calling with Thomas or Debra?" Jordan inquired. 
"Yes," spoke another advisor.
"When?" I asked. 
"I want to try something different, where you aren't needed. No offense sir, but you haven't had much luck. Let one of us take a shot at talking. Maybe hearing from your legal team will put some fear into them." 
"Uh huh," I returned as I was thinking about the idea. 
"That's a good change," added Jordan. "I think we should give it a try, maybe on, let's see here...  Thursday. Garret, one of us will update you on the phone call, or we could even have a copy of the recording sent to you. Just to keep you in the loop." 
"Umm... yeah alright, uhh let's give a try." 
"Sounds good," Jordan said 
"Okay, are we done today?" 
"I believe so," Jordan added, "I'll walk you out." 
"Okay," I replied as I stood up. "Good job everyone, let's keep at it." 
"We will be in contact," spoke an advisor as I walked out with Jordan. 
"You okay?" Jordan asked as she shut the door. 
"Umm... yeah," I lied, as I was a bit depressed. 
"Umm okay, well I'm about to go out for my lunch break, would you uhh... want to join me?" 
"Would love too, where at?" 
"Just follow my car, it'll be a surprise. I'm buying," Jordan stated as she gave me a cheeky look. 
"Oh no, I got it." 
"Just cause you've got money, doesn't mean you need to pay for everything. Plus, I'm ordering for us, I hope you like high-quality street food." 
"I do, but I'm paying!" 
"No you aren't," she chuckled as we exited the building. 
"We will see about that," I laughed. 
"Yes we will, follow me," Jordan commanded as we went to our cars. Once I started the engine, I backed out and pulled behind Jordan. She proceeded to lead me on a 15-minute drive, to a bunch of food trucks. I mean they had trucks on trucks carrying seafood, Mexican, Italian, BBQ, Korean, classic American, almost all food genres. I was surprised I never heard of this place, but I was excited to try it. So I parked next to Jordan and hopped out of the car. Jordan already had the Korean food truck in her sight, and I followed her lead. She ordered two different dishes, and I tried to pay for it, but I think she knew the owner of the truck. Needless to say, my money was no good here. 
After getting our food, we went over to an open bench and enjoyed each other's company. It was basically our second date, and it was a good one. However, it was short lived as she had to get back to work and I needed to get home. As we said our goodbyes, I sneaked a quick kiss, and the said I would text her about plans for Friday.
All in all, it was a fun and unexpected date, but it was time to head home. From this point, the day went pretty quick. When I arrived,  Rita had just brought Clayton home from school. We went into our daily routine of doing whatever homework he has and then went into the family room for a quick nap. I loved this part of the day, it was when I had one on one time with Clayton. We always cuddled on the couch, and he would fall asleep with his head resting on my arm. For me, some days I fell asleep and other days I didn't, but it was so enjoyable to be close to Clayton. 
After the nap, it was time to pick up the three others. I was anxious to pick them up, more so to talk to Ryker. I've got so many questions to ask him, but I guess it also relies on how much he wants to tell me. Or a better question is to when he wants to. He didn't sound too keen when I brought it up this morning. So when we got home, I let the boys relax for a few minutes. Next came their homework, which was about an hour, and before I knew it. It was time to get ready for soccer, which meant I missed my opportunity. I still had tonight and tomorrow to talk to him so, I wasn't too concerned. With the boys ready, Ryker, Jacob, and Clayton hopped in the GLS. Lincoln was staying home with Rita, as I think they were making dinner together. 
Once we arrived at the fields, I let the boys go to their coaches, and I went to talk to Todd and Gina. Since we were all here, I asked both of them about the sleepover on Saturday. Both were okay with the idea, and the plan went like this. After the game, I was taking Ryker, Dylan, Logan, Jacob, and Clayton back to my home. Lincoln, which I have to run by him, stays and watches Max play his game. Once Max's game is finished, Todd would bring Lincoln and Max back to my place. Now I wasn't sure if Lincoln wanted to invite Devin and Carter, but I was leaving that up to him. The practices were just about finishing up; actually, Clayton was already sitting in my lap as his practice finished earlier than his brothers.
"You have fun, Lil bear?" I said as I playfully poked his ribs. 
"Yeah!" Clayton giggled as he snuggled his body into my chest. "I like that nickname."
"That's good," I laughed " but, boy, you need a shower!"
"It's okay... You liking soccer?" 
"Yeah, but I like hockey better."
"That's okay, but we can't play hockey right now!" 
"I know," Clayton responded and looked up at me. 
"Love you, Clay," I spoke and kissed his forehead. 
"Love you too!" He giggled. 
"Looks like Jacob just finished practice," I said. 
"Yeah," Clayton answered, but I was distracted as my phone started to ring. I checked the caller ID to see Berry calling. 
"Hey Clay, I have to take this phone call real quick, okay? Just stay right there," I commanded as I sat Clayton on the bleachers and walked about ten feet away and answered the phone, "hello?" 
"Garret, you available to talk?" Berry spoke. 
"Umm briefly, why?" 
"I mean face to face, I need to tell you some stuff, best be said in person." 
"Umm... umm, I am at the soccer fields for the boys' practice, how urgent is this?" 
"I'm in the city, driving out to you, so I won't be able to meet for 45 minutes. That work for you?" 
"Umm... yeah," I answered. 
"Good, I'll cya in 45. Let's meet at the usual spot." 
"Alright, see you then," I said and hung up. I quickly dialed Rita and updated her on the plans. Bless her heart, because she was able to stay and watch the boys as I went to meet Berry. After, my brief conversation with Rita, I went back to Clayton where Jacob joined us. Another 10 minutes passed,  and Ryker had finally finished his practice too. We quickly made our way to the vehicle and took off for home. On our way, we stopped for fast food. By the time we arrived, I barely stepped into the house before I was back in the car. My mind raced with thoughts, but I didn't want to speculate, so I tried to ease my mind with some music until we met. Once I parked, I jumped out and went into the restaurant where Berry was waiting. 
"How's it going," I said as I took a seat at the table. 
"Hey, first let me apologize for doing this so late in the evening, but I felt  its important and you should know." 
"Know what?" 
"Well hold on, what I am going to tell you, is off the records. Which means we can't use it to testify against anyone, we can't bring it up, and we probably shouldn't tell many people. I haven't even told Rory yet, not sure if I am." 
"Okay?" I spoke with a hint of confusion. 
"Alright alright, so everything is off the record because I went down into the city and talked with someone. The only way I could convince him was to promise nothing would come back to this said person. It took me a while, but let's just say we are making a deal. It's something that I don't usually do, but with this case, the pieces aren't lining up." 
"Who'd you talk to? And what's the deal?" 
"That's not important, what is important is we have an idea  of what Gabriel's proof  was and what Frank said to his Son." 
"No shit. Is it reliable information?" 
"Let's just say its a first-hand account of that night." 
"Wow," I said. 
"Oh and before I tell you that, I also know that Frank stole drugs not money, it may not seem like a big deal, but it is." 
"How so?" I questioned. 
"Moving that much drugs either by selling or distributing, is damn near impossible."
"If I recall, I first thought drugs were stolen, or I mean that's what I heard, don't know how it changed to money." 
"Well, umm here's the good, not the so good part... if it was money, it would be almost impossible to trace or retrieve if it wasn't found by now. But since it's drugs, some people might be interested in getting their investments back." 
"Look what I am saying is be careful, they are still looking for the drugs that were stolen." 
"Who the fuck is they?" 
"Do I really need to answer that?" Berry answered. 
"No, look I'm... sorry, I'm just confused. Are you saying that my boys or I could be in danger?" 
"No, not to my knowledge. Just if you know anything, I would suggest telling Rory or me." 
"I have no clue where the damn drugs could be." 
"Alright," Berry said. 
"Man, you're fucking scaring me, like what is this. And what is this deal you made?" 
"Look all I am saying is they are interested in recouping some of their losses." 
"I don't get what that means... are you telling me I need to be careful, like my name or one of the boys' names is on a list to... to... to investigate? Like what the fuck are you trying to tell me." 
"Garret, look, I was simply trying to get any information out of you. If you knew anything about the stolen drugs, it would be helpful. I'm not saying you or your foster kids are at risk. I don't believe they even know who you are. Now look I didn't think that information would freak you out, or I wouldn't have said shit to you. I wanted to discuss more important topics." 
"I'm sorry, you just freaked me out. Ya know, when someone tells you to be careful, I don't take that lightly. Usually, that means there is danger around. But what the hell is this deal, you made?" 
"You're not gonna let that go, are you?" 
"No," I quickly fired back. 
"Look, you can't tell Rory, but if we have knowledge of the stolen property, they want it back. The deal was they tell me about Gabriel, and I'll tell them anything I know or hear about the drugs. That's why I asked you because if you knew, it would be helpful." 
"And they trusted you? Just flat out told you everything that was asked?"
"I'm no cop, what they told me stays between you and me. Well, at least most of it. Look, I know it's not the most ethical approach, but what else do we got? You wanted the best P.I. sometimes to get information, you need to understand who and what the other party wants. In this case, they want what is theirs. 
"As long as my boys are safe," I returned.
"Like I've said, I don't believe you, your boys, or anyone you know is in danger... okay?" 
"Alright alright, uhh... let's talk about what you wanted to tell me." 
"Good," Berry said "your boy, Lincoln, apparently was a fuck up. Those were the words Frank was screaming at him. I'm paraphrasing a little as was the source, but it went something like, 'you idiot, you ruined everything. No good for nothing faggot.' A few 'you're worthless' remarks and 'you should die like your mother' comments. Then came few kicks to the face and gut along with some more insults. This guy thought the boy was dead so I would bet that Lincoln was unconscious at the time. I'm not sure what you can take away from this, but I clearly see a deep plan behind Frank and Gabriel. I'm not sure if we will ever figure it out either. Oh, and confirmed for the second time... they left the house because they thought they heard the police coming. So not only did Antonio state that as did this guy." 
"And you know, for a fact, that this guy has reliable information?" 
"Wow," I said in somewhat disbelief. 
"Umm Lincoln... suffers severe PTSD attacks, from that night. He hasn't gotten much better either. I know he relives the rape, but I don't know if he knows or has any idea that his father beat the shit out of him after. Umm, I guess my only question is how did frank break free again? Wasn't he being held down or something?" 
"I didn't get into that, I don't know." 
"It's not that important, I mean... I just can't believe the father." 
"Well, hopefully, you find something useful out of that." 
"Yeah," I replied and took a deep breath. "And what is Gabriel's proof?" 
"Now see, this is interesting, and I will have to tell Rory about it. But apparently, he was with some friends eating at a restaurant. They claim he had a picture to support it and but now no one has a clue of where the picture went." 
"Like on his phone?" 
"I don't know, all they said was he had proof, that he wasn't anywhere near Frank. Now, this guy also said that Gabriel was shocked when he heard about Frank stealing the drugs. Even mad at Frank, so they didn't suspect they were working together, until after that night of the 23rd." 
"That just seems stupid, a picture that disappeared?" 
"Hey, I'm just telling you what I was told."
"No no, it's just not adding up to me, like at all."
"It's just a few more pieces, Garret, just a matter of time before we start piecing it together." 
"I know, you've said that before. I'm just trying to make sense of it." 
"I understand," Berry said. 
"Yeah," I said as I exhaled a deep breath. "Just need some time to think. Umm... thanks for the info about Lincoln, it might be helpful." 
"Just doing what you're paying me to do." 
"Well I appreciate it, and I must be going home. It's almost 8:30, need to get the boys in bed." 
"Alright now," Berry stated. "We'll be in touch." 
"Sounds good," I replied and stood up. I made my way to the car and jumped in. Once I started for home, this new information raced circles in my head. I wanted to ask Lincoln if he remembered his father beating him, but I wanted to wait until tomorrow when Ruth could be here. I also wanted to talk to Ryker, but it was too late to bring up his dream. So really, this night was done. 
I pulled into my garage around 9 and walked inside to the kitchen. Rita was waiting to leave, and I thanked her for staying. Before Rita went home, she told me all the boys were bathed besides Lincoln, who apparently wanted to wait for me. They also had a snack, so they are upstairs playing a few video games. I thanked her again, then went upstairs to my room where I got changed into comfortable clothing. At this point, I was so tired, that the night flew by. Around 10ish, I put Ryker, Jacob, and Clayton to bed. Then around 10:30, after Lincoln's shower, I tucked him in and gave a goodnight kiss. By 11:00, I was laying in my bed, praying that the boys slept through the night. However, my prayers were not answered as Ryker came into my room shortly after. He crawled his way over to me and turned on his side, where his butt and back faced me. I let him lay his head on my arm, which allowed me to rub his stomach and chest as he tried to fall asleep. Within a matter of minutes, he was out, and I soon followed. 

 Part - 2
 Two paths in front of me, one that is visibly better than the other. One was darker and less favorable. I couldn't quite comprehend what this piercing noise was that hailed from the dark path, but the level kept increasing and increasing. The sound was laughter mixed with fear and screams. I was intrigued by it; I wanted to know what the noise was, so I took one step forward, my heart beating like a drum as sweat filled my palms. I took another step forward and another step. I started to notice someone sitting in front of me, I took another step, and the person looked at me. 
I took another step down the path, and bags of money were burning as they zoomed by my head. Images of drugs, blood, and sounds of cries echoed around me. I took another step, and he was staring me right in the eyes. It was Lincoln, definitely Lincoln and he looked in pain. I began running, as objects flew by my head. Sounds of crying and crashing noises rang throughout my ear. I was 10 feet to reaching Lincoln, and I was stopped dead in my tracks. I couldn't move forward, like a damn invisible wall held me back, and I saw some other figure heading his way. I couldn't tell who it was, but it looked to be an adult. The person started sprinting towards Lincoln. I took another step, trying to move forward. I made another small leap and extended out my hand as the figure was closing in on us. Lincoln managed to grab my fingertips, then my hand, then my arm as I pulled him closer to me. With each passing second, the guy closed in on us. I gave one last pull, and whatever was holding us back, broke, and Lincoln came flying into my lap. I wanted to cry tears of joy as I cradled Lincoln. However, I heard a sweet, little voice bellow my name. As I looked in that direction, I saw Clayton waving to Lincoln and I, before screaming for help.  I got up to move, but couldn't. Clayton screamed for help again, but I couldn't even respond. I tried to crawl for him, but couldn't. Clayton kept getting further and further as he screams kept getting louder and louder.
And I shot out of bed like a cannon, taking in deep breaths. Thank heavens Ryker had shifted, our I would have flung him across the room. This damn dream is gonna kill me. I haven't had it in a while, but it felt so fucking real. To try and forget about the nightmare, I jumped out of bed to check on the boys before heading downstairs for a glass of water. It's 4:15 in the morning, and 10 minutes after that dream, my heart is still pounding. I don't know what it is, but I can't comprehend what the dreams meant, hell I can't even remember half of what happened. I just know I wake up in a panic, searching for air. It's terrible, I don't know how to describe it. But as I controlled myself, I went back upstairs and tried to go back to sleep. 
Around 6:30, I was woken once again, but this time it wasn't so bad. Clayton had jumped up on my bed and wanted to cuddle. His nickname should be cuddle bug instead of Lil Bear. He just loved to be close and loved to be loved, if that makes sense. After he dozed off for a little, I managed to slip away from the bed and went downstairs. Then around 7:30, all the boys were downstairs eating breakfast. Once everyone was finished, they went upstairs to get ready. 
This Wednesday was starting out normal, which felt like a blessing. No PTSD attacks, no bad dreams, just a plain old boring morning. Around 8:30 we were out the door and heading to school. On the way, I told Lincoln to ask his friends if they wanted to stay over on Saturday because we had Dylan Logan and Max spending the night already. I figure two more wouldn't be much more, right? Anyway, I dropped them off and then went to pick up the boat from the marina. I am planning on putting her in the water, but I'm racing against the weather. The next few days are supposed to be chilly and rainy, which is never a good mixture for boating. However, Friday looked to be a perfect day to start the boating season. It's supposed to be a high of 65F (19C) and sunny. So I would preferably get the boat in the water today before the rain and not worry about it on Friday. 
Arriving at the marina, I hooked up the trailer and went home. The plan was to lower the boat lift into the water so I could dock. Then take the boat down to the ramp with Rita. Have me launch it, and then have Rita's responsible for driving back the car and empty trailer. We have done this before so, but poor Rita is always nervous about driving the SUV with a 28ft trailer behind her. However, she does an excellent job, and it's only 4-mile drive.
When everything was all said and done with, the boat was docked, and Rita was baking cookies. It's never a long process, and we completed it in about an hour. My next step was taking the trailer back to the marina, which didn't take long, and I was back home.
"Thanks again Rita," I said as I shut the door to the garage. 
"Oh, no problem. So," Rita paused. "Who's going to notice first?" 
"That's a good question." 
"I know who I got my money on."
"And that is?" I chuckled.
"Jacob, that boy is so observant." 
"That's a wise choice.... but I'm going with Ryker. He usually does his homework at the table facing the lake." 
"What's the bet gonna be then?" Rita inquired. 
"The bet... hmm?" 
"If I win... you have to babysit the boys on Friday night."
"Okay, and if I win, I get Friday off!" 
"Deal," I laughed. "Is it wrong we are betting on this?" 
"Umm," Rita thought for a second. "Nah!" 
"What about if Lincoln or Clayton notice it first?" 
"Then the game is off." 
"Okay... oh and no hints, you can't say anything that remotely hints the boat is in." 
"I know I know," I laughed. "I would never cheat." 
"Uh huh." 
"Watch, they aren't going to see it for weeks." 
"Wouldn't that be funny." 
"Would save me some gas money, that boat eats through a tank in one day." 
"Oh stop your complaining! You and I both know, that this summer you and the boys will be on that boat for hours. You'll have to drag them off of it, and I'll bet any money you're going to love every second of it." 
"You're not wrong. I can't wait to take the boys out and teach them water sports." 
"I know you too well," Rita laughed. 
"Hey you know we will need a spotter, so you'll be joining us." 
"Huh?" Rita replied quickly. 
"That's right, a legal spotter needs to be 10 years or older whenever you are doing watersports, so it looks like you'll be in the boat too!" 
"What about Lincoln, he is 11."
"What about when he wants to do watersports?"
"We will see about that," Rita chuckled. 
"Yeah," I laughed. 
"Anything I can do for you?" Rita said, changing the conversation. "Coffee, water?" 
"No, I'm actually heading to the office to check some email." 
"Okay," Rita said. 
At this point, the day flew by. Clayton was home and then soon were the rest of the boys. Then I was heading to take Lincoln to therapy. On the way to see Ruth, we chatted until we arrived at her office. 
"Hello guys," Ruth said as she let us in. 
"Hi," Lincoln and I replied. 
"How have you two been? How was Easter?" 
"Good," Lincoln replied. 
"Well, rough... I mean, I guess challenging is a better term to describe it." I said, "it was the boy's first time away from me. I had to go to Chicago for a few days." 
"Oh," Ruth answered as we all sat down. "Lincoln, you want to talk about that?" 
"Umm no, not really." 
"I don't know." 
"Were you worried or scared?" 
"Yeah," Lincoln replied.
"Which one?" Ruth continued 
"I don't know.... both I guess." 
"What were you worried about?" 
"Umm... that, that I wouldn't ever see Garret again or something would happen to him." 
"Okay," Ruth said as she started to write down notes. " We aren't wasting any time today, are we? I like it, let's keep it going."
"I guess," Lincoln responded.
"I think we had some separation anxiety issues," I added. 
"I just didn't want anything bad to happen to you," Lincoln stated. 
"Why?" Ruth questioned. 
"Because... because, I don't know." Lincoln stuttered, "I... I don't want to lose Garret. He is like... like everything to me. And if something happens to him, what happens to my brothers and me?" 
"Buddy, I'm not going anywhere." 
"You don't know, stuff happens." 
"But it didn't, and we are still here together!" 
"I know, I just don't like when you leave." 
"Why?" Asked Ruth. 
"Because I miss him and love him." 
"Okay.. are you more scared of losing Garret or afraid of what would happen to you?" 
"Umm," Lincoln pondered. "Both because losing Garret means something would happen to my brothers and me. So... so, I'm more scared of losing Garret because it's like... like perfect with him." 
"Alright, well let's talk about this a little bit later," Ruth said. "Now how have..." 
"I'm sorry to interrupt Ruth, but I recently learned something new about Lincoln. And umm, I thought it would be best to ask him with you around. I'm not sure if it's going to help us or not. But I think it's important." 
"What is it?" Lincoln asked as he sat up from my lap. 
"Well buddy, is there something you aren't telling Ruth and me about your PTSD attacks? You know something that happens after you... were umm raped?" 
"No... no why?" 
"Hmm," I said. "Alright well, I'm not sure if it means anything to you, but after you fell unconscious, you were beaten... by Frank. He used some derogatory language and insults. Then uhh, beat you some more. Do... do you recall anything like that?" 
"No," Lincoln said and looked to the ground. "The last thing I remember from him is being called a faggot." 
"Okay," I said as I took a deep breath. 
"Now wait a second," Ruth said. "Do you know the derogatory remarks?" 
"I have a general idea of what was said." 
"I think it would be a good idea to share. Lincoln may not remember it, but maybe it brings up issues before the accident." 
"Okay," I replied. "Lincoln, you okay with this?" 
"Umm yeah," Lincoln stated and looked to the ground. 
"You sure buddy?" 
"Yes," Lincoln said as it looked like he was starting to cry. 
"Al... alright, umm I believe he called you worthless, a umm faggot, that you ruin everything and... and... you should have died." 
Lincoln did nothing but shake his head.
"Lincoln?" Ruth asked.
"Have you heard these comments before?" 
"Not... not the last one." 
"How does it make you feel." 
"Umm... angry, sad... I, I don't know. Frank was never nice to me, like ever."
"What about your mother?" Ruth said changing the topic. "We hadn't spoken about her much." 
"Yeah," Lincoln replied. 
"How do you feel about her?" 
"I miss her," Lincoln stated. "She was nicer than my dad... I mean Frank. But.. but, she didn't care what Frank did. She would just try to make me feel better." 
"Uh huh," Ruth spoke. "You know, it's okay to miss them Lincoln. Especially your mother, do Garret and you ever talk about them? Like what are some of the fun things you and your mom did?" 
"She liked to read poetry to us," Lincoln said as he wiped his eyes. "She read a poem to us like ever night." 
"Okay, what else?" 
"Umm... I don't know. We never really did much. She was always just around." 
"Alright," Ruth said. "I want to change topics again and concentrate on..." 
"Wait," Lincoln said, "I umm been writing in my journal for the goodbye ritual thing. Garret heard some of it, but I have more now. Would you umm want to hear it?" 
"Absolutely!" Ruth said as she closed her notebook. 
"It's a poem." 
"Yeah," Lincoln said as he dug through his book bag. 
"You carry your journal to school?" I asked. 
"Always.... you ready?" 
"Yup," Ruth and I said. 
"Okay," Lincoln answered and then cleared his throat. 
Why me?
Why do I have to
Feel this pain
Please stop the PAIN
But I know it won't
I’m doing it for them
I want them to be safe
I want them to live
I want them to be happy
Their smiles are what
Keep me going
I want to feel
A real smile on my face
A way out is what we need
To be away
From the hell
That we call home
We found a way
I’m happy but it's still there
The pain is there
In my mind
But I’m finally happy
I feel the real smile 
That's it, but I think I'm almost done."
"That's... that's really good, Lincoln. I think it really captures your feelings." 
"Yes!" Ruth commented as she opened her notebook again. "It was excellent. Do you have an ending planned?" 
"Well good! I believe we are a few sessions away from having our goodbye ritual!" 
"Okay," Lincoln answered as he put away his journal.
"Now how have the PTSD attacks been?" 
"Not good," Lincoln stated. "It keeps happening." 
"Has it gotten better? Like easier?" 
"Umm, I don't know. I don't think it happens as much." 
"Like," Lincoln spoke. "It's easier to deal with it because Garret is around." 
"What about when I wasn't there, and grandma helped you out?" I asked. 
"It was weird, like... not the same, I guess." 
"Okay," Ruth said. "Is it still triggered when you think of Frank?" 
"Well, I think with time that will start to go away. To be honest Lincoln, I think you are making progress. I know the goal is to have no PTSD attacks and live without worrying about them. I know we haven't reached that goal, but we are making progress. We went from having what, 2-3 attacks a day, down to 1... sometimes none?" 
"So I think you are getting better, and that's something to be proud about." 
"I never thought of that," Lincoln added as he perked himself up. 
"You know I'm always proud of you too," I said and kissed his head. 
"I know," Lincoln replied and gave me a hug. 
"Alright, let's talk about your relaxation methods," Ruth stated. From this point, therapy went quick. We were probably in there for another 30 minutes, before we left her office. Once we arrived home, dinner was ready. Rita was serving baked chicken breast with broccoli and potato salad. As usual, it was delicious, and we had no leftovers. 
After dinner, the boys were free to do what they wanted. I meanwhile wanted to chat with Ryker, but I thought I would spend one on one time with him first. So I asked if he wanted to go downstairs and workout. Luckily. It didn't take much convincing, and I told him to meet me downstairs after we both got changed.
10 minutes later, I heard footsteps coming down the stairs, only to see Ryker turn the corner wearing his red headband, red athletic shorts, and red shoes.  The kid was cracking me up, his confidence level was through the roof.
"Mr. Red... no shirt today?" I asked as he came over and gave me a hug. 
"Mr. Red? Oh, I get it," Ryker giggled. "Nope, I want to get shredded, I need to see my muscles when I am lifting." 
"Oh," I laughed. "I don't see much muscle?" 
"How about now?" He asked as he let go of the hug and flexed. 
"I'm joking," I said. "Come on, let's get you shredded, bud."
"Okay!" Ryker giggled as we went to the basement. 
"So how was school?" I asked. 
"Oh, I need to give you a note, Mr. Green, wants to meet you or something?" 
"You get in trouble?" 
"No... I don't think so," Ryker returned. 
"Well go get the note, I'll set everything up, okay?" 
"It's all the way upstairs." 
"I'll time ya," I added. 
"But... but." 
"3 seconds already passed," 
"Fine!" Ryker said and sprinted up the steps. It took him about two minutes to come back down and hand me the paper. "Here." 
"Thanks, get started on the treadmill," I directed as I opened the note. As Ryker said, it was indeed for a parent-teacher conference. Although he wasn't in trouble, it was to discuss the educational path for Ryker. 
"What's it say?" 
"That I have a parent-teacher conference with Mr. Green. I get to learn all about how you act when in school," I said as I jumped on the treadmill next to Ryker. 
"Okay," Ryker commented. 
"Yeah, will call tomorrow and set a time up." 
"Okay," Ryker said again. 
"Alright... kick up the speed," I commanded. The whole workout lasted between 30 to 45 minutes. We covered cardio and lifted light weights. For Ryker, it was more about getting in the habit of working out, more so than lifting heavy weights. I find it good that at his age, he still has an interest in working out and keeping in shape instead of playing video games. 
"I'm sore," Ryker laughed as he shut off the lights.
"Same," I said as I took a seat on the couch. "Hey buddy, come sit down." 
"Are we gonna talk about what I think we are talking about?" 
"Umm, yes?" I replied as I was confused about his statement.
"Do we have to?" 
"Yes," I spoke as Ryker took a seat next to me. "I think you want to stop having these scary dreams, right? I can help you, I just need to know a few things. Ya know when I was your age and I had a scary dream. I would always crawl into Uncle Lucas's bed. He would usually get mad at me for waking him up, but he always listened. I always felt better when I told someone. It made it seem not as scary. Usually, I didn't have them anymore either." 
"What I am trying to say, but failing miserably, is that talking about what scares you will help you overcome it. Talking about what you saw, is really important bud. It'll help you, I promise." 
"And I want to help you kick the scary dream's ass, that it's scared of you and won't ever come back!" I said and tickled his exposed ribs. 
"Okay," Ryker giggled. 
"Plus, I get to spend more time talking to you! I can't beat that!" 
"Love you," Ryker said as he snuggled against my body. 
"Love you too," I replied as I wrapped my arm around him.
"I know." 
"Good... so last time we talked about this, you said you went upstairs, right? 
"And you went upstairs, why?" 
"To see what was happening. Like, Lincoln never came back and I wanted to see if he was okay." 
"How long did you wait to go upstairs?" 
"I don't know. I went up after I stopped hearing noises... I think. Well not right away, but like a little bit. I'm not really sure." 
"Alright, do you remember what you saw when you opened the basement door?" 
"Well yeah,"  Ryker said as he began to nervously shift. 
"Can you tell me about it?" I asked as I began to scratch his left thigh. 
"Umm... I umm, opened the door and saw mommy on the ground. I... I didn't really know what to do," Ryker said as he started to tear up. "I knew something was wrong because she... she wasn't like moving." 
"I know buddy," I said. 
"She just laid there... I called her name, but she wasn't listening." 
"I'm so sorry you had to go through that." 
"She wasn't moving... she... she didn't even look like mommy anymore," Ryker said as he cried. "wh... why didn't she look mommy?"
"It's okay," I quickly replied. "It's okay." 
"She... she," he tried to say but couldn't form a sentence. 
"Let it out kiddo, I'm here for you. I'm not going anywhere either," I assured him as I rubbed his legs to comfort Ryker. After a few minutes of crying, we were able to get Ryker calmed down enough to talk. 
"You know, I'm so proud of you for opening up buddy. I know this isn't easy, and I know it's not fun, but you're doing a really good job." 
"Thanks," Ryker responded and wiped his eyes. 
"So umm did you see anything else?" 
"Just a lot of blood... like a lot." Ryker stuttered
"So you didn't see Lincoln?" 
"No," Ryker replied and looked down at his fingers. "I didn't know where he was... I thought he was never comin' back." 
"Did you walk around?" 
"No, I... I went back downstairs. I thought people were coming back to look for us." 
"Why would you think that?" 
"I saw someone walk past the window, and... and they knocked on the door." 
"Wait what... what do you mean?" I inquired.
"I don't know," Ryker said as he was getting nervous again. 
"No no no, you're doing a great job. I'm just trying to figure everything out, kiddo." 
"Who knocked?"
"The person knocked on the door and said they were police, but he didn't look like policeman... so I... I went back downstairs with Jacob and Clayton." 
"Did this person enter your house?"
"Yeah... I think... I don't know, I heard noises upstairs, like... like someone closing doors, like really loud." 
"Are you sure?" 
"Yeah, he kept yelling bad words too." 
"It was a guy's voice?" 
"Do you know what the person looked like?" 
"No, not really. He was wearing a hat with a C on it." 
"Okay okay okay... so let me get this straight. You and your brothers are rushed to the basement and you here all kinds of noise, right? Then Lincoln goes upstairs to check, but he doesn't come back downstairs. After a while, all the noise stops, and you go upstairs to check everything out. You see your mom, but no Lincoln and you don't look around the house, right? Next, you see someone pass by your window and knock on your door. You get scared and go back downstairs before the guy enters your home."
"Okay... now, why would you move spots, like why did you climb under the deck?
"I don't know, I... I hid under the deck a lot and... and no one really found me there. So... so I thought it was better." 
"Did the person ever come downstairs?" 
"I don't know... I thought I heard the door open, but I don't know." 
"That's alright," I said and kissed his forehead. "You're doing awesome buddy." 
"Yeah," Ryker said as he wrapped his arm around my stomach and rested his head on my chest. 
"When did you decide to move under the deck?" 
"After I thought I heard the door open..." 
"Hmm... you sure you don't remember what he looked like?" 
"No! I'm sorry." 
"It's okay... umm, well kiddo," I responded as I tried to tie what he told me to helping Ryker with his dreams. "I know that this is difficult to talk about, but do you see that in the bad dream you have?" 
"See what?" 
"Well, everything... do you go back downstairs in your dream?" 
"No, I... I just see mommy, and I wake up." 
"You miss her?" I asked as I rubbed his thigh again. 
"You know, It's okay if you do." 
"Really?" Ryker answered. 
"Of course it is. Absolutely nothing wrong with missing her." 
"Yeah," Ryker said as he played with my shirt. 
"I don't know that much about her, but you are always welcome to talk about your mother with me." 
"You wouldn't get mad?" 
"She used to read to us... I miss that." 
"So I've heard," I chuckled. "I'll tell ya what, since you're not the only one who misses being read too... before bed, we will sit down and read a book. All of us!" 
"Can I pick the book?" 
"We will vote on one together, sound good?" 
"Yeah," Ryker commented. 
"Sounds like a plan to me," I said and playfully tickled his ribs. 
"Thanks for talking with me." 
"Before we go, I got two more things to say, okay?"
"This dream you're having will go away, I promise you. It might not happen immediately, but whatever happens in the dream, will never happen to you or your brothers. You said something about a car accident where we all disappear, right? Well, I got some news for you, it will take more than a stinkin' car accident to get rid of me! But I think the hardest part is seeing your mother, and I can't comprehend what that feels like. However, what happened to her won't happen to you, son. You are safe... I just want you to know that I am here for you. I will always be here for you, and I will always love you. You are an amazing boy Ryker, I'm so happy I get to go through life with you kiddo." 
"Thanks," Ryker said as he gave me a big hug. 
"Now come on, let's go get showered and ready for bed." 
"Can I shower with you?" 
"Umm," I replied. "If you want to." 
"I do," Ryker giggled. 
"Alright then," I said as I stood up. "Jump on my back, I'll carry you up." 
"Better hold on, cowboy," I commanded and started to jump up and down before going into a light jog. What I heard was laughter coming from Ryker as we climbed the steps and eventually made it to the top floor. Once there, I set him down on his own two feet. Then went and checked on all the boys. It was a bit early to start our nightly routine, so I went downstairs to see Rita off before returning to the top floor. 
I told the boys to start getting ready for a shower or bath, which turned into everyone wanting to shower in the master bathroom. With 5 people, it was a bit chaotic. However, we still had room to maneuver as the boys were goofing around and laughing as we got clean. 
After the shower, the boys were dried off and ready for PJs or lack of PJs for some. We all crowded into the bed where I had Lincoln and Ryker to my left. Then I had Clayton beside me and Jacob on that outside of Clayton. I also let the boys pick between two books. Now, these weren't picture books, but appropriate to read to them. Option one is, 'the library Card' by Jerry Spinelli and option two is 'Big Nate' by Lincoln Pierce. Needless to say, we went with option two because of the author's name and because it had a funny cover page. 
So as the boys cuddled and squeezed into the center of the bed, I began reading chapter 1. After 1, the boys and I laughed so hard, that we had to read chapter 2 before going to sleep. I was loving this book, but the boys enjoyed it too. I even got extra hugs as chapter 2 came to an end. Needless to say, I think we added a new addition to our nightly routine. 
Once the book was put away, everyone was so comfortable, that we slept in my bed. We stayed up to chat, which was funny because the boys faded one at a time into a deep slumber. It was like a competition to stay awake. Lincoln was last to fall asleep, and I gave him a kiss on the forehead before trying to fall asleep myself.

 Part - 3
Thursday morning started off as a dark and rainy day. Unfortunately, it wasn't supposed to clear up and only worsen. It was a slow morning for us, I will contribute that to the weather. All the boys were terrible trying to wake up. It was like the blanket was attached to their bodies. None of them wanted to eat breakfast and go to school.  As soon as I had one up and moving, the other's had fallen back asleep. It was like a never-ending cycle. 
Since it was a rough morning, we were a tad bit late leaving for school. I actually dropped them off 15 minutes after they were supposed to be present. Since Ryker's teacher wanted a parent-teacher conference, I was quickly able to schedule it for next Tuesday during the day. Even though it was spring break for the students, the teachers still needed to come in, so it was perfect.
With that out of the way, I went home and waited to hear from Jordan. They were calling Thomas and Debra today, so I was anxious for the feedback. However, the first call I received that morning, wasn't from them, but instead Berry and Rory. They wanted to meet for a late lunch today. Apparently, Rory found something from the phone records and thought it was important to tell me. I'm not sure why we couldn't say it over the phone, but I didn't have anything planned, so I agreed. 
Shortly after my call with Berry and Rory, I received word from my legal team. Similar to attempts, they were unsuccessful. They didn't even get Thomas or Debra to answer the phone this time around. Which was a letdown, but at the same time I wasn't expecting positive results. 
At this point of the day, I was actually bored. It was raining outside, the kids weren't home, and I had nowhere to be. For the first time in while... I was bored and to be honest, I didn't know what to do. Sure I could call some people to pass the time, but that would only hold me over for so long. Although I did call the contractor and tell him we were open next week to redesign the boy's room. He said he would need to know the colors and plans by Monday. With my call out of the way, I went for some personal time.
After having that alone time, I was really bored until I went and picked Clayton up. When Clayton jumped into the car, he was in a happy and cheerful mood which always put a smile on my face. 
"Hey Lil Bear," I said 
"Hi, Garret!" he responded as he threw his bookbag on the seat next to him. 
"How was your day?"
"Fun... we learned about different animals." 
"Oh yeah... did find anything out about bears?" I laughed. 
"No, I wish.  We learned about stupid desert animals," Clayton replied with his cute high pitched voice.
"Sounds like it could have been interesting. What were some of the animals?
"Umm like a fox or something... it was so cute and small. Oh and zebras and snakes and umm... lions."
"Awesome, which was your favorite?" 
"umm... umm... an armadildo cause they roll into little cute balls."
"A what?" I said. 
"An armadildo!" Clayton replied in the same cute high pitched voice.
"I'm sorry, buddy," I responded as I wasn't trying to laugh in his face. I had to be sure he was announcing it the way I thought, so I asked, "could you say it one more time?"
"An ARM-A-DILDO!" Clayton stated which cause me to lose it. I mean I couldn't contain myself, I almost had to pull off to the side of the road to get a grip. "Why are you laughing?"
"Its nothing," I spoke as I tried to regain my composure, but nothing was working. 
"What is so funny?"
"You are."
"Just because you make me laugh."
"Oh," Clayton answered.
"Okay, Lil Bear, it's pronounced armadillo... Arm-a-dil-lo." 
"What was I sayin?"
"Not that," I laughed. "Try to say it correct this time."
"Arm-a-dil-lo?" he pronounced it slow.
"There ya go, just a bit quicker and you got it."
"Perfect!" I answered as I wiped a tear from my eye. "What else did you learn today?"
"Umm..." Clayton went on to tell me about his day. Our joyous car ride had to come to an end as we reached home. I walked him inside and set Clayton up to do his work. After, I was out the door to go meet Berry and Rory. We didn't go to our usual spot, so instead, we met at an upper scale Chinese buffet.
"So, how are we today?" I asked as I sat down with my first plate of food. 
"Good good," Rory replied as he took a seat too. "I've got some interesting news for you." 
"I'm intrigued, does Berry know yet?" 
"Yeah... we have an idea on how we want to approach it too." 
"Well, I'm all ears?" I said.
"Before you tell him," Berry said before Rory was about to speak. "Garret, You should know that nothing is certain." 
"What do you mean?" 
"I'm just saying that what you are about to hear is good news, but we will need to follow up on it. Don't get your hopes too high." 
"Good point," Rory said. "Nothing is for certain. Like it could be nothing, nothing at all."
"Yeah... of course," I responded. 
"Alright, so... with the leftover phone number we had. I was able to track the cell signal to a geographical location. The person only checked the phone twice for a short period, so I wasn't able to call them. However, both times they turned the phone on, were within the same cell tower. We have a 3-mile radius from that cell tower, where the phone was tracked. Within the 3 miles are 17 homes and 1 general store. Moreover, we are still looking for a needle in a haystack, but our haystack just got a hell of a lot smaller." 
"That's awesome!" I said.
"We thought so too, we still need a few pieces to fall into line, but it's working out." 
"What's the next step?" 
"We start narrowing down houses and people," Berry said. 
"How do you do that?" I inquired. 
"Well, Rory and I will be checking out the area over the weekend, seeing if we hear anything or notice anything." 
"Damn... we really are searching for a needle in a haystack." 
"But that haystack got smaller," Rory stated. 
"That it did," Berry said. 
"This is outstanding guys, and I'm impressed. But If I'm speaking truthfully. I was hoping for... more of a breakthrough, like... 'hey we know who the cell phone belongs too' but this is better than nothing." 
"Garret this is a breakthrough, the phone showed up twice... within the same geographical area." 
"What's the time in between when they checked the phone?" 
"About 3 hours." 
"Do we believe this is where they live... within the 3-mile radius?" 
"Where is it?" I inquired. 
"South of Columbus, I'd say an hour and a half away from the city... give or take 30 minutes." 
"Hmm," I said... "oh shit... I got something for you guys too." 
"Let's hear it," Rory stated. 
"So the second oldest is named Ryker. He's been having these bad dreams for some time, and it's been affecting his sleep. So, you know, I thought I would talk to him and see if I could help. Needless to say, I found out the dream, which in his defense, would scare the shit out of me too. But I learned that he actually went upstairs to check out what was happening. Long story short, he ran back downstairs because he saw someone walking past the windows and then knocked on the door, claiming to be police. Ryker told me that the guy did not look like a normal police officer, so he was scared. Moreover, this person entered the house and was searching for stuff." 
"Hmm... It would be impossible to be a police officer, I was first on the scene," Rory answered. "I mean unless an officer is my department is corrupt or something. I just don't see it that way though, I don't see any of our officers doing this or being associated with it." 
"Nor do I," Berry said. "Does your boy know what he looked like? Any facial features? Clothes? Anything will help." 
"No, he was too scared and went back downstairs before he could get a good look. Although he said that the person was a male and wore a hat with a C on it though." 
"You said a C?" Berry said as he grabbed for his notepad. 
"Alright... anything else?" 
"No," I answered. 
"Well it's better than nothing, and it gives us something to watch out for." 
"Yeah," I said. "So when should I hear from you guys again?" 
"Not sure, but we will keep you updated," Berry answered. 
"Alright... I'll tell you guys if I find out anything too." 
"Please do, anything will help," Rory stated. 
"Yeah... so, you guys hockey fans?" I asked as I started making small talked with them
"Me? No, I'm more of an Ohio State Football guy," Berry said.
"Not big into sports," Rory answered. All of us went for another plate of food, and we chatted the whole time. Finding out more about Berry and Rory was interesting. Usually, we talked about the case I have them working on, so it was a nice change to talk about something else. After we stuffed our bellies, we departed ways. 
On my way home, I called Jordan. We planned on spending time at my house, especially since I didn't get a babysitter. I still had the bet with Rita, as none of the boys noticed the boat yet. Regardless of the outcome, I wasn't going to have her babysit. Which meant more time with the boys and Jordan, however, she seemed excited. Especially since I told her, we would be on the boat for most it. I was planning on taking the boys out first to drain some energy and then when Jordan came over, we would drive the boat down to a small restaurant that was on the water. Would be about a 20-minute boat ride at cruising speed. We could get there faster, but no point. Anyway, Jordan was all for it, and I was excited too. 
Once I got home, I talked with Clayton for a good while about his room. He wanted to go with a Columbus Bluejackets (CBJ) bedroom, so we went online for ideas. We saw a really cool CBJ bedspread as well as a fathead sticker that would go on his wall. We also found some hockey stick shelves that would look cool. And to top off the shopping cart, we added a CBJ flag, that could be draped from the ceiling. It was an excellent way to kill some time, but also could check Clayton's room off the list. Would be interesting to see the other three's ideas. 
After a while, it was time to get Lincoln, Ryker, and Jacob. Since we had hockey lessons tonight, it was a dash back home. While driving, I found out that both Devin and Carter are spending the night on Saturday, meaning a packed house. Once home, we had to feed the boys earlier than we usually do and also start homework. Often times, they don't finish the homework before leaving for hockey lessons. This meant it was a bear to get them to focus once we got back. But it's whatever, hockey lessons always drained their energy levels, and they have fun, so it is a win-win. 
Rita had made spaghetti with meatballs and garlic bread, which always smelled amazing. Plus it was a favorite meal for the boys too. Once everyone was finished eating, it was time to head to the rink. 
Eric greeted us as we arrived and we started getting the skates on the boys. They took the ice, and I went to the bleachers to watch. I was always fascinated to see the progress they've made. 
Lincoln... ahh well, let's just say skating isn't his strong suit. After multiple lessons, he has improved, but he can't seem to find his balance. And stopping is a problem, a big problem for him. I believe the wall is his technique to stop. 
Ryker's abilities are getting better each time. He is getting faster it seems and more comfortable on skates. He isn't the best out of the brothers, but he is probably on the same skill level as Jacob. 
Jacob looks sturdy out there on the ice like he wouldn't be knocked down too easily. That being said, he does take a few tumbles while trying to turn. However, he is still learning and improving with each new session. 
Clayton is miles above his brothers. I don't know what it is, but the kid's got skills. He hasn't mastered the forward crossover, which is used to gain speed on curves, but he is at least trying too. It's difficult for him at his age, but he is way ahead of any other brother out there. 
With hockey lessons over, we loaded back into the Mercedes and headed home. Once we got back, the boys had some homework to finish before getting into the nightly routine. I decided this was my chance for a peaceful shower, while the boys did their work. I slipped away and went for the master bathroom. Just as I had undressed, someone knocked on the door. 
"Yes?" I replied. 
"Can I come in?" Lincoln asked. 
"Umm sure," I replied as I grabbed for my robe. 
"Can I umm, take a shower too?" 
"What's wrong with your shower?" I laughed
"Just want to spend time with you," Lincoln replied as he looked to the ground. 
"We could spend time together, you know... after I take a shower." 
"Umm yeah... I... I guess." 
"Okay," Lincoln responded in a dull tone and began to walk out.
"Lincoln, did you finish your homework?" 
"All of it?" 
I took a deep breath, "fine bud, we can shower together." 
"Yeah," I said as I made my way to the shower. 
"Okay," Lincoln replied as he started to strip naked. It didn't take long for him to be nude as he proudly displayed his flaccid cock. 
"You're a goof," I laughed. "You don't care if I see you naked at all, do you?" 
"No, I wish I could be naked all the time. But we always got people over and stuff." 
"Yeah, we do have a busy house," I chuckled as I turned the water on. 
"Plus you've already like washed me and seen me naked a hundred times." 
"That is true." 
"And it feels normal, like... like I don't need to hide nothing from you. I know you don't care if I got nothing on." 
"At least you're easy on the eyes," I laughed.
"What's that mean?" 
"It means you have good looks." 
"You're silly," Lincoln commented. 
"Yeah yeah." 
"Can I ask you something?" 
"Umm, actually never mind," Lincoln answered as we stepped into the shower. 
"You sure?" 
"I'll ask later." 
"So how was your day?" I asked as Lincoln took a seat on the shower bench. 
"Good," Lincoln quickly replied as he fiddled with his soft cock. 
"You excited for your sleepover?" I inquired as I stepped under the stream. 
"Yeah," Lincoln responded in the same dull tone. 
"Everything alright?" 
"Uh huh." 
"Something's on your mind, come on... slide over," I directed. "So what's up, what did you want to ask me?" 
"It's nothing, really." 
"Okay... how many more times do I have to ask, for you to tell me what's going on?" 
"10 billion.! 
"Alright... you asked for this." I declared as I started to rattle off questions, "what's up! What's up? What's going on? What did you want to ask me? What's up? What did you want to know? What's going on? What do you want to talk about? You wanna ask yet? Lincoln, don't make me go to a billion, because I will. So what's up? You can ask me anything, you know that too. What did you want to ask? What...." 
"Okay fine," Lincoln said looking up at me. "You said you were.... umm gay at one point like you had a boyfriend." 
"Yes," I replied in an off tone because I wasn't expecting this question. 
"What made you feel that way? Like at my age did you think boys were cute and stuff?" 
"Oh... umm yeah, I did. I definitely checked boys out more than girls. Well maybe I was a little older than you, but yes." 
"What did it feel like?" 
"What do you mean?" 
"To be gay? Like how did you know you liked boys?" Lincoln asked. 
"Oh... that's difficult to answer... I guess I was intrigued by the same gender. I started to know, when I would be looking at boys when I saw one on TV or at the park, I always judged to see if they were cute. I wanted to know more about them and see who they were. I found myself doing that more with boys than girls and I started to realize I was attracted to boys. It's sort of what started my first relationship. Jonah was my best friend, so I knew him really well... but I started looking at him differently, as did he with me. I found him attractive and long story short we started dating." 
"Yeah, what about you?" 
"Umm I don't know, I look at boys in class a lot and during lunch. I guess... I guess I just like looking at boys and wondering what they umm... what they 'look like.'"
"I think I get what you're saying."
"And I like, I don't know... I like talking to boys more too. " 
"Yeah well I did that too, so it's okay," I said as I stood up. 
"If you wouldn't have moved away, would you still be with Jonah, or gay?" 
"You know last time we had this conversation, I wondered that too. It's hard to say, maybe I wouldn't have experimented with females and found out I like them more. Or maybe I still would have. It's impossible to tell! I know I liked Jonah a lot, I mean he was my best friend, and we happened to be dating. We told each other everything, and he was pretty special to me."
"Yeah," Lincoln answered in a dull tone. "Umm, how do you know if a person is gay? Or umm like... likes you?" 
"That's another difficult one bud, and to be honest, it's hard to say, especially at your age." 
"You think Eric is gay?" 
"Eric?" I asked. "Oh, you mean hockey, Eric?" 
"Sorry kiddo, I don't think. Plus he is too old for you anyway. So even if he were gay, I'd half to say no to you dating him." 
"He is so hot though." 
"Oh buddy," I laughed. 
"What? He is." 
"Yeah, he is a good looking young adult. But." 
"But he is too old... I know you don't need to repeat yourself," Lincoln said.
"Good, when the time is right, you should look for people your own age." 
"How do you know if someone is gay though." 
"I already told you it's difficult. I will say that most boys experiment somehow or someway with the same gender at least once in their life." 
"What do you mean, experiment?" 
"You know, like kiss and stuff." 
"That's it?" 
"No that's not it. You remember what I said last time we had this conversation?" 
"Umm no... well maybe... Yeah?" 
"Can you remind me?"
"To not worry about it and to be a kid." 
"Bingo! We got a winner," I said as I started to wash my body. 
"When are you gonna tell me stuff though?" 
"When you aren't in 5th grade for one.... two, when I feel you are old enough. Three, when the time is right." 
"Fine," Lincoln said as he stood up to start washing off. "Does experiment mean playin' with your penis?" 
"What do you know about that?" 
"Nothing really, few kids in my old neighborhood talked about it." 
"Did they ever ask you to try it?" 
"Yeah, but I never did nothing. I was too scared of getting caught." 
"Probably for the best," I added. "But bud, you got to trust me. I promise that when I feel the time is right, which is apparently sooner than I thought. That I will tell you everything, you want to know. You can ask me any question, and I will be an open book for you to learn. But just enjoy being a kid, at least for the rest of 5th grade and the summer!" 
"You promise?" 
"I promise, as long as you promise to be a kid. Okay?" 
"Alright," Lincoln answered. 
"Good, now let's finish up this shower." 
"I umm got one more, umm question." 
"Go for it." 
"If... if you were my age, would... would you find me cute?" 
"100 percent yes. You are incredibly handsome, cute, whatever term you want to describe. If I were your age again, I would have a hard time not looking at you." 
"You mean it?" Lincoln blushed. 
"Absolutely, you're a gorgeous kid. Them boys will be all over you when they find out you're gay. " 
"Thanks!" Lincoln said as he turned around sporting a half erection. 
"Just speaking the truth." 
"You know.... you're awesome," Lincoln asked as he gave me a hug. 
"Yeah... l got a pretty awesome kid too," I responded and kissed the top of his head. 
"You're welcome," I replied and rubbed his bare back. "Let's finish up." 
"Okay," Lincoln answered and went back to washing himself. After our shower, the night flew by. I had to bathe Clayton while the other two took showers in their own rooms. Clayton was always easy to clean, so it went quick. Afterward, we read two more chapters of our book, and then it was time for bed. 
This night, everyone was sleeping in their own rooms, or so I hoped. One by one, I tucked each of the boys in and turned out the light in the rooms. I went back downstairs, to check email and make sure everything was locked up. After, I made it to my bedroom, where I fell asleep without any other body in my bed. Let's just hope I woke up that way!

 Part - 4
 Friday, April 1st, 2016 or also known as April Fool's Day. 
Waking up, I almost forgot it was April Fool's, but when I went to the kitchen, Rita reminded me. We wanted to brainstorm a harmless and straightforward prank to pull on the boys before they woke up. We came up with all sorts of ideas, but they sounded too mean to attempt. So their first April Fool's day would be a peaceful one, at least at our house. 
Around 7:30 I went upstairs to wake everybody up. Thankfully it was easier this morning than yesterday. One by one, they slipped on their robes and made it to the kitchen table. Last up was Clayton, who I carried downstairs.
"Morning Mister Clay," Rita said as Clayton and I joined the others at the table. 
"Hi," Clayton replied as he held onto me and rested his head on my chest.
"Come on, Lil bear... you got a seat over there." 
"You're so warm though." 
"And so are you," I laughed. "But come on."
"Everyone okay with cereal?" Rita asked. 
"Yeah," came from a few voices.
"Good, wasn't offering much else." 
"So," I said as I lifted Clayton off of me. "Last day before spring break,  and you guys get a full week off." 
"I need a break," Ryker remarked. "School is hard." 
"It's so boring," added Lincoln. 
"Oh come on boys, you get to see all your friends and learn new stuff," I said. 
"Is that the boat?" Jacob asked which caused everybody to look at him.
"Where?" Lincoln inquired
"There," Jacob pointed and then looked at me. "Is it?"
"I don't see nothing," Clayton claimed as the boys rushed to the window to get a better look.
"Cause you're too short," Ryker laughed.
"No, no I'm not." 
"okay... midget."
"You... you... you're mean."
"At least I'm not short."
"Ryker," I said.
"It is the boat!" Jacob interrupted which halted Ryker and Clayton's argument.
"About time one of you noticed! It's been there since Wednesday!" 
"Nut uh," Jacob said. 
"Yes it has, Rita and I put the boat in before it started raining." 
"Why didn't you tell us?" Lincoln asked as they all retook a seat.
"Because it hasn't been good weather to take the boat out, and I wanted to see how observant you guys are.... clearly you're not very observant at all!" 
"Nut uh," Jacob giggled. "I noticed it." 
"After 2 days!" 
"So, still counts!" 
"Can we go for a boat ride?" Ryker asked. 
"Yeah!" Agreed Lincoln.
"After school, we can! I'm planning on taking you guys out for a good while to show you around the lake." 
"Can we fish?" Jacob asked.
"Yeah fishing!" Clayton added. 
"Not this time, but we will go out for a boat ride. I'll show you guys around. Oh, before I forget, Jordan is coming over tonight. All of us are riding down in the boat to a restaurant on the lake... so after school, we will spend a good amount of time out on the water... sound good?" 
"Does Jordan have to come?" Lincoln inquired as Rita brought over the cereal.
"I like Jordan," Clayton said. "She's nice." 
"Same," spoke Jacob. 
"I just want it to be us on the boat," Lincoln said. 
"And it will be... for the majority of the afternoon, it will be just us!" 
"Can we go swimming off the boat?" Ryker inquired. 
"The water is gonna be icy cold." 
"Oh... wait... wait, we got wetsuits! Yeah wetsuits, won't that help?" 
"It will." 
"Can we go swimming, please?" 
"We will see," I said as I poured cereal into my bowl and then Clayton's. "Do you guys even know how to swim?" 
"Yeah," Lincoln answered.
"Duh," Ryker replied.
"Jacob?" I inquired.
"No," he quietly stated. 
"Lil bear? What about you?" 
"I can do the doggie paddle," Clayton answered as he made the motion with his hands.
"Well that's good," I laughed. "But that's not swimming. It doesn't matter anyway, you guys have to wear life jackets. They will keep you afloat." 
"Do I have to use one.  I can swim really good at a pool." Ryker asked. 
"Swimming in a pool is way different than swimming in a lake. Especially with cold water," I lectured as I poured milk into mine and Clayton's bowl. "You are in a big open space that is affected by the wind which forms waves and currents. It's not like jumping off the dock, and your feet touch the bottom. However, if you are wearing a life jacket, you will be fine! The life jacket will keep you upright, and above the waterline, so you won't need to panic. You just need to trust the lifejacket!" 
"This sounds epic!" Ryker said 
"What if I don't wanna swim," Jacob asked. 
"Then you wait in the boat with me! I'm not jumping in that water! Not yet at least." 
"Chicken," Lincoln called out. 
"Yeah yeah... Eat your cereal, and hush it," I joked which caused Lincoln to laugh. I got asked a few more questions before the boys had finished their breakfast and then went upstairs to get ready. Jacob was the last done, and on his way back from putting the dish away, he came over and asked,
"Garret? Can you teach me to swim?" 
"Of course, but not out on the lake. When the pool opens up, we will have a go... alright?" 
"But what if I want to jump off the boat?" 
"You'll have a life jacket on."
"Do they really work?" 
"Yes," I chuckled. "You just have to trust it... I'll tell you what, come this afternoon if you aren't sure you want to swim. We will bring the wetsuit on the boat, and if you change your mind, you can change on the boat ." 
"I like that." 
"Alright good!" I said as I gave him a hug, "now go upstairs and get changed. Can't be late two days in a row." 
"Okay, love you., 
"Love you too," I replied then lightly patted his bum as he walked off. "Hurry up."
"Garret?" Rita remarked as I started to clean up my bowl. 
"Don't you say it..." 
"Guess what?" 
"Don't you dare say it," I laughed. 
"I won!" 
"You had to say it," I said as I put away my dishes. 
"I won... I won... I won!" Rita chuckled, "told you Jacob would see it first." 
"Yeah yeah... you get the rest of the day off." 
"No, it's okay, just knowing I won, is good enough for me." 
"Uh huh," I said as I started to leave the kitchen. "I'm picking a wild card next time, like the neighbor or something... I might have better luck." 
"Not a chance!" Rita called out, as I was at the steps. 
"Yeah yeah," I replied and went to my room to get changed for the day. 
The boys were ready to go, and we left around 8:40. Before I knew it, I was returning to pick Clayton up from school. He was extremely excited about the boat, so excited that he and I went down to the lake, just to sit in it. That of course called for me to uncover it, which was going to happen anyway, so it wasn't a big deal. Once I put the cover in one of the storage compartments, I hopped off to pick Clayton up. The jump from the dock to the boat was too risky, mainly because the boat was on the lift in the air. Once Clayton was in, he immediately went to the captain's chairs. It was so adorable to see him in that captain's seat. He had the biggest smile on his face, and we weren't even moving or in the water. I quickly snapped a photo of him on my phone and then explained what each button did. Being the 5-year old that he is, he was fixated on the damn red button, which was of course... the horn. Every time he pushed it, he giggled his little butt off. To save my insanity, I moved him away from the captain's chair and showed him elsewhere on the boat.
After 45 minutes down by the water, we returned to the house for a nap. Clayton had other ideas, like wanting to put his wetsuit on and jumping in the lake. Thankfully, he calmed down enough where we could lay down and try to take a nap. It wasn't easy, but he eventually fell asleep. While Clayton was sleeping, I slipped away back to the boat. I brought towels and blankets with me this time though. I've learned it's always a good idea to have 4-5 blankets on board at all times and extra towels. Especially at the beginning of boat season since this is super early, for me, but weather can change, and temperatures drop very quickly. So having blankets is a must, hell we would probably use them tonight. I stored them in watertight compartments on the boat. My next step was to place extra life jackets in case of emergency. By law, you need a life jacket for every passenger on your vessel. So I always had extra stored somewhere. Also by law, at least in Ohio, anyone less than 10 years of age are required to wear a life jacket, while on a boat. So that means only Lincoln would not be able to wear one. However, with it being his first time, I planned on him having his on. 
After I prepped the boat, I went back to the house and relaxed before going to get the boys. I watched ESPN until I had to leave, but as I was leaving, I got the 30-minute text from Laura. She was already on her way over here, which meant she would be here just when the boys and I got back. I'm confident that they wouldn't be too happy, but nothing we could do. 
Once I picked them up, I told them Laura was coming. First, they responded with groans and whys because it delayed our boating time, but it quickly shifted to 'is she taking us away?? After some reassurance that nothing bad was coming from the conversation, they relaxed some. Moreover, that's something I realized the boys needed a lot. I understand that a lot of children need reassurance, but all the boys were on a new level. I guess I get it too, I'm sure if I went through what they did, I would be the same way. However, I wondered if they had broken promises and commitment issues from their parents which also might impact their thinking. It was something I had to consider too when speaking to them.
Upon arrival, we had 5 minutes to ourselves before Laura showed up at the door. Initial feedback was positive, she was pleased to see the boys all looking healthy and happy. After doing small inspections around the house, she went into the office and conducted one-on-one interviews with the boys. Each one lasted about 15 minutes or so, and after one was done, I sent him upstairs to get their wetsuit on. Lincoln was the last one to be interviewed, and once he was finished, I sent him upstairs too. I guess I was next on plate, as Laura wanted to ask me a few questions with regards to still wanting to be a foster parent, adoption ideas and the process, and overall happiness level. I answered all of them and then received more positive feedback from Laura as we walked to her car. To say she was pleased, would be an understatement, which hopefully helps when or if a court battle begins. 
Anyway, back inside the house, Clayton came running down the steps as he was the first one dressed. He had the wetsuit on but not zipped up. 
"Can you help?" Clayton asked.
"Yup, turn around," I answered and fixed the zipper. "No underwear, huh?" As I caught a glimpse of his cute little cheeks.
"No, I'm nakey," Clayton giggled. 
"That's okay," I laughed. "But go get sweatpants and a hoodie, just in case you want to take off the wetsuit." 
"Okay," Clayton replied. 
"That goes for all you boys," I yelled up. "Make sure you bring sweatpants and a hoodie, okay?" 
"I don't know if I'm swimming," Jacob responded. 
"That's okay! Just bring your wetsuit like we talked about and then wear sweatpants and a hoodie. It's chillier than I expected." I returned. The temperature didn't get as high as I would have liked today, but we were still heading out. It was still sunny which was good, but it only hit 61F (16C) degree, and that was 2pm. As of now, it's 57F (14C) outside and dropping down to 48F (9C) at night. So it was going to be a chilly one, but that's why we have wetsuits, blankets, and a heater. 
"Okay... should I wear underwear too?" 
"That's up to you," I laughed. 
"I'm not," Lincoln yelled from his room. 
"Neither am I," called Ryker. 
"Looks like we got a bunch of commandos then," I chuckled at my own joke from the bottom of the steps. 
"I'm... I'm not gonna wear underwear," Jacob told everybody. 
"Alright buddy," I said as I left the bottom of the steps and went into the kitchen. "Rita, when they get down here, would you mind taking a picture of all of us?
"Thanks, do you want to come out with us?" 
"Oh no... you know I don't like things that go fast." 
"I know," I laughed. "Just thought I would ask." 
"Well thank you... oh, I put towels on the table outside, make sure you take them down." 
"Thanks," I said and took a seat. After 5 minutes the boy's had made it down here. Lincoln needed help getting zipped up, as did Ryker. However, Ryker went for the 'cool look'  during the picture and had the wetsuit rolled down to his waist. That quickly changed when we took a step outside and he decided the 'cool look' wasn't worth being cold. 
We took one final photo before grabbing our towels and heading down to the dock. 
"Hey boys," I said as we got down to the waterfront. "You can't get in that boat without a lifejacket on, okay? So hand me your stuff, and I'll go set it in the boat. You guys grab a life jacket and stand by the dock." 
"Okay," they all agreed. Clayton needed help putting his on, but after everyone was ready, we loaded in. 
"This is epic!" Ryker said as he bounced around, moving from seat to seat. 
"Can we sit up front?" Lincoln asked. 
"Of course," I answered. "It'll be cold though."
"I don't care." 
"I'm sitting up front too," claimed Clayton. 
"You guys all can, there is plenty of room," I said. 
"I want to sit back here with you," Ryker stated. 
"You can be DJ then," I said as I started to lower the boat. Everything was automatic, all I had to do was push a button on a remote control, and the boat lowered until it was sitting in the water. 
"This is so epic," Ryker giggled! 
"Jacob, everything okay?" 
"Yeah," he said as he was sitting behind the driver's seat. 
"Pretty quiet back there," I replied as I turned around and tousled his hair. "You're alright kiddo, nothing to be scared of." 
"You wanna start the boat?" I asked. 
"Can I?" 
"Yup, turn this key right here," I instructed. "And Ryker take the phone and pick a song. Should start playing through the speakers." 
"Okay," they both stated. 
"Turn this?" Jacob asked. 
"Yessir," I responded and watched him start the boat. "Good job buddy... everyone ready?" 
"Yes!" Lincoln and Clayton both said. 
"Wait, I gotta pick a song." 
"Hurry up," I joked. 
"Got it!" Ryker claimed, and the music started coming through the speakers. 
"Uptown Funk?" I laughed. 
"Alright," I answered and started to back out of the lift. 
"Where we going on the lake?" Lincoln asked. 
"Just driving around for a little. Sound good?" 
"Okay," Lincoln responded, and I turned the music up as we started to go forward. I took it slow at first and let the boys get used to the boat. They were so excited, especially Ryker. He was moving from seat to seat as well as running back to the phone to change the music. Lincoln was just happy upfront with Clayton. It was actually pretty cute as he had Clayton sitting on his lap and they pointed at houses or waved to people on shore. Jacob, on the other hand, was just taking everything in. He wasn't showing much emotion as he just sat behind me and looked around. 
"You wanna come sit on my lap?" I asked Jacob.
"Umm... okay." 
"You don't have to," I said. 
"I want to." 
"Alright," I said as Jacob stood up and plopped down on my lap. 
"Aww buddy, you're freezing." 
"I know," Jacob said as he shivered. 
"Maybe no underwear wasn't a good idea," I joked as I poked him underneath the life jacket. 
"I'm not cold there!"
"Phew... I was worried!"
Which caused Jacob to giggle, "my hands are cold." 
"Let me feel."
"Oh my gosh boy," I joked. "They might fall off, they are so cold." 
Which got Jacob laughing, "You're Silly." 
"eh... maybe a little."
"A lot," Jacob commented as he was started to relax. He got more comfortable and rested his back against me. "Love you."
"Love you too," I replied and kissed his cheek. "Your face cold too?"
"Well, we will get you warm, don't worry," I said as I pulled his hood over his head and started to rub his small frame to warm him up.
"I'm going up front now" Ryker chimed in.
"Thanks for letting me know, you can take the phone too. Let your brothers pick some music." 
"Okay," Ryker said as he joined his brothers. 
"You wanna drive the boat?" I asked Jacob. 
"Will I break it?" 
"No!" I laughed. "You won't." 
"Yeah, I wanna drive then."
"She's all yours," I said. 
"Okay," Jacob laughed and put his hands on the wheel. We were going about 7 mph, so we weren't in any danger, plus no one else,  besides us were out on the water. Jacob controlled the steering while I managed the throttle. The others found out that Jacob was driving, as we were doing small circles in the middle of the lake. Once they figured it out, they all wanted turns driving around. 
After that was all said and done, it was time to pick up the speed, and I spoke to the boys, "alright guys, we are gonna go fast... you can sit up front, but you have to hold on... okay? But I'm warning you, it's gonna be cold. Like really cold up there." 
"I'm sitting behind Garret," Jacob claimed. 
"Front," yelled Lincoln. 
"Can I drive again?" Clayton asked. 
"Maybe later kiddo," I chuckled, "but have a seat over there, and hold on. I don't want you in the front yet." 
"Sit next to me Clay!" Ryker suggested as he patted the seat next to him. 
"Yeah go join Ryker!" 
"I don't wanna be the only person up front," Lincoln stated as he walked back through. 
"Boys... just find a seat!" 
"Ready," Lincoln said as he finally sat down.
"Alright," I stated and started to accelerate. As the speeds increased, so did the laughter from the boys. We had music blasting, we were going fast, and we were having fun... nothing really beats that. I didn't want to push the boat that hard, but we got up to 35mph, which on the water feels pretty quick. Although we could push 45mph, 35 felt fast and cold enough. After cursing around for a few minutes I slowed down then went to a little inlet cove where it was deep enough to jump in and have fun, but also shallow enough where nothing could go terribly wrong without me noticing. We were in about 7-8 feet of water, so it was plenty deep enough for the boys. 
"Are we swimming?" Ryker eagerly asked. 
"Yup! Now you're free to jump in behind the boat." 
"Let's do it!" Ryker said. 
"There no fishies around, right?" Clayton asked as he stood up and made his way to the back of the boat.
"Yes, they are around... but the fish won't come near you. They are too scared of you bud." 
"What about sharks?" Ryker said as a joke to tease his brother. 
"I saw one in here the other day," Lincoln joined in. 
"Nut uh," Clayton responded. 
"I heard they like to eat little boys like you," Lincoln added. 
"Bud, they are just joking." 
"Jake, you coming?" Ryker asked as he now stood on the back seats. 
"Come on," Lincoln encouraged. 
"Boys, he can make a decision on his own. Worry about yourselves." 
"Okay... you ready Ryker?" Lincoln asked. 
"On three... 1..." 
"3!" I yelled and pushed them off the back of the boat, which caused Clayton and Jacob to laugh. Both of them popped out of the water giggling too.
"That was mean," Ryker spoke.
"Sorry boys, I saw an opportunity and had to pounce on it. How's the water?" 
"My feet are cold, but everything else is warm." Lincoln said, "my face is a little cold too." 
"Same," agreed Ryker. 
"Alright Clayton, you ready to go?" I asked. 
"Alright... you jump off the swim platform on the back of the boat," 
"Okay!" He said as he walked to the swim platform. 
"Lincoln... Ryker, you watch out for him." 
"Come on Clay, jump right here," Lincoln said. 
"Okay!" Clayton replied and had no problem jumping towards his brother. Similar to Ryker and Lincoln, Clayton plopped back up to the surface giggling his butt off. From here, the boys were in and out of the water. They were having fun jumping off the boat and doing tricks. I didn't realize how athletic Ryker truly was. I mean he was doing flips, gainers, and all types of spins. Lincoln was too, but he didn't look as graceful. Clayton, well he was just happy jumping off the boat. As the others continued to swim, I shifted my focus to Jacob. 
"You wanna give it a go?" I asked. 
"I don't know." 
"Buddy, I promise you'll have fun. And if you don't, you only have to do it once." 
"I guess," Jacob said as he stood up and started to take his life jacket off. 
"Alright, let's get into the wetsuit," I said as I began to take off his hoodie. While I went for his wetsuit, he stripped his sweatpants. 
"Feels weird being naked out here," Jacob giggled as he fiddled with his exposed tool member.
"I bet," I laughed as I grabbed his wetsuit and started to help into it. "Don't think anyone can see you though." 
"Good," Jacob answered as he put his feet into the pant legs. 
"Yeah! Now go ahead and pull this up. Then put your arms through these holes." 
"Alright, turn around, and I'll zip it up," I commanded.
"Here's your lift jacket bud." 
"Thanks," Jacob stated and slipped it on.
"Jakes coming in," Ryker said aloud. 
"It's not that bad," Lincoln added, "come on." 
"Jump in!" Yelled Clayton 
"You want to jump in? Or who's you rather have me lower you in, so you know the life jacket works." 
"Umm lower me in please." 
"Alright, come down to the swim platform then," I instructed. "Now I'm gonna grab you by the shoulders of the life jacket and lift you in. All you have to do is relax and feel the life jacket working." 
"Okay," Jacob said with a hint of nervousness. 
"Ready? 1... 2... and 3," I spoke as I put him into the water. He did pretty well too, however, the water came up higher than he expected, which caused him to freak out a little. But after he realized he was floating, an enormous smile appeared on his face. 
"It works!" 
"I told you, buddy," I laughed. 
"Can... can I jump off the boat now?" 
"Yup," I said as I maneuvered away from the stern of the boat so the boys could climb in and out. 
"Come on Jake," Ryker encouraged as he got out too. After a few jumps from the boat, Jacob was feeling so much more comfortable, and the boys began having more fun. They played king of the ship which was basically pushing each other off of the swim platform. Lincoln was easily winning with his bigger body frame, so I stepped in a few times to push him in. 
We were having so much fun that I forgot to check the time. It was 6:10 and Jordan was arriving at 6:45 We had dinner 7:20 which meant the boys needed to get back to the house and showered.
"Alright fellas, it's time to go," I hollered. 
"Can we stay longer," Lincoln called. 
"Nope, come on. Out of the wetsuits too... you'll be too cold when we start moving," I said as I grabbed for the towels. 
"Fine," they all sighed. 
"Boys... we will have so many more days like this, don't worry." 
"It's just so much fun," Ryker said as he was the first one out. 
"You three stay in the water until I tell ya... as soon as the wetsuit comes off, you'll be freezing." 
"I'll be last," Lincoln called which started an argument between the brothers. 
I let them argue so I could tend to Ryker, "alright kiddo, life jacket off.... ready to be unzipped?" 
"You're good," I said as I got a towel ready. "Can take it off." 
"Whoa, it's... it's freezing," Ryker said and stepped out. 
"Here," I replied and wrapped his naked body in a towel. "Go sit under the blanket, it has the heat blowing under it. Then let the blanket fill with warm air." 
"Wh... what... do, do you mean." Ryker stuttered as he was shivering. 
"Here," I said as I guided him underneath the blanket and covered his body. "Just sit still you'll get warm." 
"Next," I hollered as I picked up Ryker's wetsuit and moved it out of the way. Clayton was next, and when he was undressed, I threw him under the blanket with Ryker. Jacob was after Clayton and squeezed into the blanket too. It was cute to see the brothers all bundled together. Lincoln was last, and as he stripped naked, he didn't think it was that cold, so he dried off and threw his sweatpants and hoodie on. The next step was to get all the boys dressed, but they didn't want to move away from the heat. They were completely fine just sitting under the blanket all naked. However, they needed to wear life jackets, so they had to get up anyway. Once everyone was dressed, I handed the boys dry lift jackets, and we were heading for home. 
We docked around 6:30, and I had the boys take all the wet gear up to the house. As they walked up, I quickly went to drying the seats and making sure the boat was completely dry, minus the floor. That took about ten minutes so, by the time I made it to the house, Jordan had arrived. 
"You must be Rita," Jordan said as Rita answered the door. 
"And you must be Jordan! Sorry, I didn't introduce myself last time, I was exhausted." 
"Oh that's okay," I heard Jordan say. 
"Please come in, I think Garret is in the laundry room." 
"Be out in a second," I hollered, as I put the wet towels into the drier. 
"And the boys went running upstairs to shower. They've been out in the boat all afternoon." 
"Sounds like fun," Jordan commented. 
"Hey," I said as I walked out.
"Hey, sorry I'm a bit early." 
"It's okay, I just need to run upstairs and get changed really quick. You mind staying down with Rita?" I asked as I gave her a hug and kissed her cheek 
"Absolutely not, take your time." 
"Thanks," I answered and made my way to the steps. 
"So," I heard Jordan start the conversation, but didn't catch the last part. As I made my way to my bathroom, I heard the water running. Apparently, they all wanted to use the big shower, which of course would delay the process. After the boys were showered, I sent them to get dressed and told them to put on warm clothes. 
By the end of it, we were running behind schedule and opted to take the car instead. It may seem boring, but it was the better option. Plus the place was on the water so we would at least have a good view. The place was packed, so it was good that we drove down anyway. They might have given the reservation away if we hadn't. 
We got our table, and the boys started an onslaught of telling Jordan everything we did today. Clayton and Jacob were chatting her ear off about the boat, as was Ryker, but he was more focused on his first soccer game tomorrow. Lincoln was quiet, even when Jordan engaged in conversation, he wasn't saying much. I knew why too, but it was almost to the point of being rude, and that was unacceptable. I would definitely need to address his actions at one point in the near future. The good part was Jordan noticed and backed off, so she wouldn't bug him. Besides some rudeness from Lincoln, dinner went exceptionally well. The food, service, and company made it a memorable night. 
Once I paid the check, we went back to the house. It was late, around 9ish, I let the boys have some free time before bed, which gave Jordan and I some peace and quietness. 
We decided to use our time to go to the lake. 
"So," she said as we stepped out of the house. "What's the trick?" 
"The trick?" 
"To getting Lincoln to talk." 
"Oh yeah... I'm sorry about that." 
"No it's okay, I get it," Jordan stated. "At least I think I do." 
"Doesn't make up for him being rude." 
"He wasn't rude. He did answer all my questions, even if they were one-word replies," laughed Jordan. "It's okay."
"Well, that's not acceptable on my standards. I understand him being umm... skeptical, I guess that's a good term for it, but he shouldn't be rude." 
"Garret, it's okay, I totally get it. He's just worried about losing you." 
"Yeah, and I am going to be honest with you Jordan because I don't want to mislead you. But... I really like you... like a lot. You're so much fun to be around. You are tremendous with the boys, and just a great person... However, I don't think I can fully commit my time to you at this point in my life, I mean if we are gonna try to date... it'll be at a slow pace, which sucks, but.." 
"Garret," Jordan said cutting me off. "I know this, and if you think I haven't fully weighed my options, you don't know me. I wanna take thing slow to... I have my career that's finally rolling, and I have personal goals. I also realized that I couldn't barge my way into your life. I'm okay with taking our relationship slow, it doesn't bother me. It actually... actually comforting to me. I want to know you and the boys more before heavily committing to a relationship, and it's slowly happening." 
"I'm glad to hear you say that," I responded as we made it to the dock.
"Whoa," Jordan stated, "look how amazing the sky is... I've never seen so many stars." 
"I know... it's one of my favorite things to do during the summer. Ya know, just come down here and relax... it's beautiful, just like you." 
"Oh aren't you smooth," Jordan answered as she turned in my direction. 
"I can be," I said before we locked lips and had a deep passionate kiss.
"Yes you can," Jordan laughed as we broke away from one another. We sat down by the dock for 15 minutes before heading back up. 
"So what are your plans for the weekend?" I asked. 
"Going out with a girlfriend of mine for brunch tomorrow, and I'm pretty free after that. What about you?" 
"Soccer games tomorrow, and the boys have a sleepover tomorrow too. Then it's spring break this upcoming week, so the boys have no school." 
"Oh that should be fun," Jordan laughed. 
"It should be." 
"Alright, well I have to go," Jordan said as we made our way to the front door.
"Thanks for coming out tonight." 
"No thank you for the wonderful night. I had so much fun" Jordan answered, and we kissed again.
"Eww gross," Ryker laughed as he was coming down the steps. 
"Bye, Jordan," I chuckled, "a certain someone might have to run away soon." 
"Have fun," she laughed as she walked to her car. 
"Garret and Jordan sitting in the tree," 
"Don't you spell it, "I joked. 
"That's it," I replied and started to chase Ryker around the house. He was giggling the whole time until I caught him. His giggling turned to full-blown hysterical laughter as I tickled the boy. He couldn't escape, and I let him have it. By the end of it, he was panting for air. 
But he managed to say, "S-S-I-N-G... finished." 
"You dork," I laughed as I sat up. "Come on kiddo, it's time for bed. You got your first game tomorrow." 
"I'm so ready," stated Ryker. 
"I know you are! How many goals you going to score?" I asked as I picked my angel boy up from the ground.
"I wanna see 12 then, set the standard high!" I joked as I carried him upstairs. 
"Love you," Ryker stated and kissed my cheek. 
"Love you too." 
"You're the best." 
"I know I am." 
"Can I sleep in your room tonight?" 
"Why don't we try your bed," I suggested. 
"Alright," I said as we made it to his room. "Go pee and get ready for bed, I'll tuck you in after I say goodnight to everybody else." 
"Okay," Ryker answered as I set him to the floor. I went to Clayton's room first, and he was already asleep. He must have been so tired because he fell asleep with the clothes he wore to dinner. I got him changed down to his shirt and underwear and then tucked him under the cover. I kissed his forehead before making my way to Jacob's room. Similar to Clayton he must have been exhausted since he was already laying down in bed. He wasn't asleep yet, but after scratching his head, Jacob was out. 
Returning to Ryker's room, he was already under the covers and ready for bed. Which made it easy for me. Once Ryker was down, I went to Lincoln's room. 
"Hey, time for bed bud." 
"I'm not tired," Lincoln said. 
"How? You were so active today." 
"I don't know." 
I thought about bringing up dinner but didn't want to get into an argument tonight. 
"Well, what are you gonna do then?" 
"I don't know," responded Lincoln. 
"You want to watch a movie in my room?" I asked hoping he would fall asleep. I knew he was tired and wouldn't last long once we laid down. I also wished the idea of a movie with me would snap him out of the grumpy mood he was in.
"Umm yeah, okay." 
"Sounds good, give me 10 minutes. I need to use the bathroom." 
"Okay," Lincoln replied and I left for my room. Once I used the bathroom, I got into my comfy clothes. Shortly after, Lincoln walked in naked and climbed into bed. He scooted over and cuddled against me. Lincoln was on his side and laying his head on my chest. This gave me the opportunity to scratch his back, butt, and outside thighs, which would usually put him to sleep. We found a movie on through our TV provider and started to watch it.
Like I predicted, Lincoln was asleep within 45 minutes of watching the movie. It took longer than I expected but it beat staying up and watching the whole 2 hours. After another 15 minutes of the film and I knew for sure he was out for good, I shut off the movie. I slowly moved Lincoln off my body, and I went downstairs to do a quick check on the doors. 
Upon returning, Ryker had met me in the hallway and said he had another bad dream and wanted to sleep with me. I agreed, and we crawled into bed with Lincoln on one half of the bed and Ryker cuddling against me. In a short matter of time, he was asleep and so was I. 
To Be Continued...

Author Notes:

Poem Author: Garret D.M.

!!!CHECK OUT Imagine Magazine by Comicality. Great person to know and a wonderful idea he has started that is released once a month. Imagine hosts stories, author interviews, cool articles, life tips, and much more that are geared towards the LBGTQ community. I had the opportunity to be interviewed by comicality, which you can check out here --> I am featured in volume 40 addition, and I highly recommend checking out the site!!!
Thank you for reading and following the story! Always enjoy hearing from readers!
Third and final, the destinations, streets, events, and locations are made up. I use Columbus as a nearby city, but I'm unaware if the addresses listed are real or not. All scores and games are made up in my head. However, most teams are real.