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            The Guardian

Installment 22


by Erastes
Copyright 2015 by Erastes
Chapter 43 – Ethan's Big Day. 

When I got up Sunday morning, I woke Tyler and Dylan and asked them to keep an eye on the younger boys for me, while I went out to run some errands.  I told them to let the boys sleep and then I'd fix all of them breakfast when I returned.  Once they agreed, I handed them a couple of bags of balloons and pulled two dishes out of the cupboard.  I then asked the pair to blow up the first bag of balloons so they were about the same size as the 8-inch (20 cm) plate I'd set on the counter.  I also asked them to blow up the bag of smaller balloons until they were about the size of the 6-inch (15 cm) plate.   I then left two laundry baskets for them to use, one for each size balloon.   

Once they had everything they would need, I drove over and picked up the passenger van I'd reserved.  After I had that, I drove over to the grocery store to get Ethan's birthday cake and the ice cream, along with a few other items.  As soon as I had everything I needed, I returned to the house and carried my purchases inside.  Dylan and Tyler rushed over to help and advised me the balloons were all ready for later. 

The younger boys were also awake by the time I got back, so I immediately went to the kitchen and set about making breakfast.  I prepared scrambled eggs, home fries, bacon and sausage links again, since the boys seemed to enjoy it so much the previous morning.  While I was doing that, Dylan and Tyler made and buttered a stack of toast and then we all sat down to eat, but not until we sang Happy Birthday to Ethan.  After that, the boys happily stuffed themselves, since I told them this meal would have to last for a while, because we'd be having a late lunch with Ethan's party guests. 

I had put on the invitations that Ethan's teammates could start showing any time from noon to one, since I didn't want to put any pressure on the parents that were taking their sons to church first.  Once the others started to arrive, I had Ethan and Andrew take the boys to the family room, so they could leave their bathing suits and towels there, because we wouldn't be needing them for a while. 

One of the mothers dropped off Ethan's gift from the team when she left her son off.  She informed me that Sally had suggested they all chip in so they'd be able to buy something Ethan would really enjoy, rather than each of them getting him something inexpensive.  I guess she had taken her cue from what Cherie had done with Marcus' team and the gift's they'd bought him.  The woman also told me that two of the other mothers had suggested this particular item, because their sons each had one and loved it, so they felt Ethan would too.  I thanked her and took the package, knowing this one item had probably cost a considerable amount of money. 

A short time later, after most of the boys had showed up, I had Ethan and Andrew lead them out to the backyard, because I planned to have them play some games first.  While Ethan and his teammates were going out the back door, I asked Dylan and Tyler if they would mind staying inside and answering the door for any late comers, since not all of the boys had arrived yet.  They said they didn't mind, especially after I'd explained the first couple of games were geared toward 5 to 7-year-olds and they might think them childish.  I also felt it would be inappropriate for the older boys to play, because their size would give them an unfair advantage in some of the games.  I then told them they could help me make sure the boys were doing things properly once they'd joined us, as well as helping me to keep things running smoothly.

When I got outside, I pulled Justin and Marcus aside and told them much the same thing as I'd told the older pair, but I offered to let them participate in the games, once they heard what we were going to do.  I also told them they'd just have to take it easy on the younger boys if they decided to join in.  They assured me they would, so I went to get things started. 

"Hi, guys.  I'm glad to see you all made it," I began, after I called for their attention.  "I've decided to start out by having you play some games.  I'm not sure if you'll be familiar with all of them, but I think you'll find them to be fun.  The first couple are games my grandparents taught my cousins and me to play when we were your age and we always enjoyed the time we spent playing them. 

"To get set up for the first game, I want you all to sit down in a huge circle.  There's plenty of room for you to do this, but leave at least a shoe length between you and the person on either side, and I want all of you to sit facing the center of the circle.  Justin and Marcus, I think you boys can join in this too, if you want." 

They did, so I watched as the boys formed the circle, except for Ethan, whom I held back.  I then made sure the boys had spaced themselves correctly and moved them slightly when I thought they were too close or too far apart.  Once they were set, I began to explain the game. 

"The first game is called 'Duck, Duck, Goose'," I informed them.  "You might have played it at school or camp, but let me go over the rules with you, in case some of you have never played this before.  I will select someone to be 'It' to start and that person will walk behind you and touch each of you on the head lightly as he goes by.  He will say 'Duck' to as many people as he wants, but when he says 'Goose' that person is to jump up and chase the person that is 'It' around the circle.  The 'Goose' will try to catch him before he gets all the way around the circle and is able to sit down where the 'Goose' had been sitting.  If the 'Goose' catches him, then the same person will be 'It' again.  If not, the 'Goose' becomes 'It'.  I'll demonstrate how this works, but please don't run too hard after me, because I'm a very slow old man.' 

All of the boys giggled when I said this and then I started going around touching heads and saying 'Duck'.  After doing that to about ten boys, I tapped Justin on the head, said 'Goose' and then immediately raced off.  It was close, but I beat Justin back to his spot.  Once I was sure everyone had the idea, I gave them one final direction. 

"For today, once you've had a turn being 'It' or the 'Goose', I want you to stay standing in your spot until everyone gets a turn.  The person who is 'It' will only say 'Goose' to a person that is sitting down.  Does that sound fair?"  I looked around and they were all nodding their heads in agreement.  "In that case, I'm going to make Ethan 'It' first, since it's his birthday party.  As soon as I see everyone is seated and facing the center of the circle I'll let him get started." 

Even though this was a very simple game, the boys seemed to have a great time playing it.  They were very competitive and tried their hardest to catch whoever was 'It', but there were some comical moments too.  One happened when the 'Goose' lost his footing on the grass and took a tumble.  It was obvious the boy hadn't hurt himself in the fall, because he got up quickly and continued the game, but this time as 'It'.  Another happened when the 'It' was busy looking back to see if the 'Goose' was getting close and missed his spot.  He ended up running around the circle twice, but he still beat the 'Goose'.

Once everyone had a chance to go, I asked if anyone had not had a chance to be 'It' and saw a couple of hands go up.  Those boys had caught the person who was 'It' before he reached the spot where he'd been sitting, so I gave them a chance to be 'It' now.  I had everyone else sit down again and picked one of the boys that hadn't been 'It' and let him take his turn.  I did that until everyone had a chance to be 'It'.

"Are you ready for another game?" I asked, once the last boy had his turn. 

"Yes!" they all screamed, as I watched their smiling faces staring at me. 

"Great!  This next game is called 'Red Rover' and we'll need to pick two teams to do this," I announced.  "I'll ask Ethan and Andrew to choose the teams and you are to get behind them when they call your name." 

I then called Ethan, Andrew, Justin and Marcus over to speak with them privately.  Once I asked Justin and Marcus if they wanted to play and they agreed they did, I then told Ethan and Andrew to leave them as the last ones picked, so their friends wouldn't be chosen last.  The boys all seemed fine with this idea and we quickly picked teams. 

"Ok, this is how the game is played," I began, once the teams had been chosen.  "First each team will form a straight line facing the other team."  I then showed each team where to line up.  "Now, you will hold hands with the person on either side of you, which means the boys on the two ends of each line will only be holding one boy's hand.  When we're ready to start, I will point at a person on one of the teams and he will say, 'Red Rover, Red Rover send...' and then he'll say the name of someone on the other team followed by 'on over'.  For example, if I wanted to chose Ethan, I'd say, 'Red Rover, Red Rover send Ethan on over.' 

"Now, the person who has just been called on will run at the other team's line.  He is going to attempt to crash through those of you holding hands and try to make you lose your grip.  If he is successful at doing that and breaks through your line, he will then be allowed to go back and join his team again.  If you capture him and don't let him get through, then he has to stay with the team that just caught him.  The idea is not to let the other team know where you're going to try to get through the line until the last second.  You do this by aiming at one spot and then veering off so you can hit another spot instead.  Or, you might just go straight where you were heading in the first place, since the other team will be expecting you to veer off.  I'll demonstrate, but I'll do it easy.  Ethan, call me out." 

"Red Rover, Red Rover send Uncle Blake on over," he shouted with a grin. 

I headed toward another pair of boys near him, but then veered course so I went through Ethan and one of the boys he was holding hands with.  The other boy was surprised and let go, so I got through easily, but now they had seen how it was done. 

"Any questions?" I asked after the demonstration was over. 

"No!" they all screamed back, so I pointed at the first boy to call someone out. 

I made certain every boy had a turn to both call someone out, as well as an opportunity to try to crash through the other team's line.  As soon as everyone had their turn, I then declared the team with the most boys the winner.  Once again, it seemed as if the boys had fun playing this game and I was mildly amazed by how competitive they were.  They not only did their best to break through the other team's line when they were called out, but the line being attacked was just as determined to prevent anyone from getting through.  Luckily, no one got hurt in the process. 

"Ok, this time everyone get in front of me and then spread out so you can see what I'm doing," I began.  "This next game is 'Simon Says' and Dylan, Tyler, Justin and Marcus you can all play too or you can help me catch the ones that mess up.  It's your choice."

I was mildly surprised to see all four of the boys decide to play, so I did my best to trick them too. 

"If you haven't played this before, here's how it works," I began.  "I will tell you to do all types of things and I will do them at the same time.  The thing is, you can only do it if I say 'Simon Says' first.  If you do it and I haven't said 'Simon Says' first, then you're out and you'll have to sit down on the ground until we have a winner.  Any questions?"

"No!" the boys chorused in reply. 

"Hand on ears!" I shouted, as I jerked my hands up to my ears.  Several boys did it too, so they had to sit down. 

"Simon Says touch you nose, Simon says hands on hips, Simon says hop up and down, stop!"  I had rattled this all off very quickly, so quite a few stopped when I said that, so they had to sit down as well.  When I was down to three boys, I got them all to mess up at the same time, on about the sixth command in a series, so they all had to sit down too and there was no winner.  The boys wanted to try again, so we played another round. 

The boys actually begged me to play a third round of 'Simon Says', so I gave in, but I pulled Dylan and Tyler out of the group first and sent them inside to get the two laundry baskets with the balloons in them.  Once we'd finished the final game of 'Simon Says', I explained the next game to them, which was a race. 

"This is a balloon race," I began.  "All of you line up here beside me in a straight line."  They all did as I instructed.  "Dylan and Tyler, will you go down about twenty yards (18.25 m) and stand on either side of the yard to mark off the finish line.  You two will determine who wins." 

Dylan and Tyler liked the idea of being my judges and hurried down to form the finish line.  While they were doing that, I passed out one of the 6-inch (15 cm) balloons to each boy. 

"When we're ready to race, you will place the balloon between your knees or even slightly higher," I announced, as some of the boys stared at me in disbelief and others giggled.  "It is up to you to keep the balloon between your legs the entire time, until you cross the finish line.  If you lose the balloon, then you have to stop, pick it up and go back to where you dropped it before you can continue.  The first boy to make it to the finish line with his balloon still between his knees wins." 

"What if the balloon breaks?" one of the boys asked. 

"You can either stop racing or come get a new balloon from me and start over," I replied.  "I have a few extras, just in case that happens." 

I told Justin and Marcus they could do this too, but they couldn't be declared the winner.  They didn't mind and just wanted to give it a try, so I happily gave them a balloon too.  Once each of the boys was set, I hollered 'go' and they took off.  Quite a few of them lost the balloon in the first few steps, while others did a little better.  Once our winner was declared, the boys wanted to do it again, so I had them all line up to start a new race.  This time they did a little better and didn't lose the balloons quite as easily, but when we had a winner they begged to do it again.  I told them I'd let them do it once more, but then it would be time for the next race.  Once they ran this again, I announced what we were going to do next.  

"This race requires partners, so I want you to pair up," I advised them.  "There's an even number, so everyone will be able to play.  Justin and Marcus, you can pair up with each other, but you can't win.  Only Ethan or his teammates can win." 

They had no problem with this either, because they just wanted to give it a try.  Once everyone had a partner, I handed each pair an 8-inch (20 cm) balloon. 

"This time, you are to going to place the balloon between your heads and race with the balloon in that position," I explained.  "You can only use your head to hold it in place and hands aren't allowed, except to place the balloon there to start.  If you drop or lose the balloon, your team will have to stop, pick the balloon up and go back to where you lost it before starting over.  If you break your balloon, you're out of this race.  We'll do this more than once if you want, but just try to do your best."

Once again I got them lined up and yelled 'go'.  They took off with varying degrees of success.  A couple of teams tried to pin the balloon between their heads with a little too much pressure and the balloon popped.  When that happened, the boys' heads smacked together and they stood on the lawn rubbing their boo-boos while the others continued on.  Once we had a winner, the boys wanted to do it a second and third time too, but then I had to stop them. 

"Now it's time to go put on your swimsuits, so we can head over to the Aquatic Center," I announced.  "Ethan and Andrew can show you where to change and the rest of my group can do it up in their bedrooms." 

The kids all headed inside and I followed them, but only after I'd picked up the two laundry baskets with the left over balloons and carried them into the house.  I placed the baskets in the laundry room and was heading toward the stairs when I heard Ethan call me. 

"Uncle Blake, comere," he whined, so I followed his voice toward the family room. 

When I walked in, my eyes nearly popped out of my head.  Ethan and his teammates were all standing there with their little penises on display for all to see.  Some were completely naked, while others had their swimsuits either on one leg or partially pulled up both legs.

"Jamie and Evan think there's something wrong with their pee-pees, because they don't look like the rest of our pee-pees," he announced. 

I looked at Jamie and Evan and quickly realized what the problem was.  Neither boy had been circumcised, while the rest of the boys were.  I knew I was going to have to explain this to them, but I'd have to do it very carefully. 

"Guys, I'd be willing to tell you about the differences, but I'm not sure your moms and dads would want me to do that," I began.  "I'm sure many of your parents would rather explain it to you at home." 

"You won't tell, will you?" Andrew chirped while looking at his teammates, since he was used to keeping some of the things that happened at our house a secret. 

As soon as he said this, each of the boys agreed with him and they all promised, in their own way, that they wouldn't tell their parents what I told them.  They also made it clear that they wanted to know why there was a difference too.  After asking them a few questions to make sure they understood why they would need not to say anything about this, I finally agreed to give them the information they desired. 

"When you were born, all of your pee-pees, or penises, looked like Jamie and Evan's," I began. 

When I said this, the other boys began to creep closer so they could see better.  As they were doing this, I noticed their little penises bouncing around as they moved toward us.  I was also slightly amazed by how open and unconcerned they were about doing this.  I guess they didn't mind showing their penises off, as long as they got to see everyone else's too.

"In fact, if Jamie and Evan can slide the extra skin back, you'll be able to see what I mean," I continued, once they were all ready. 

I didn't want to touch either boy's penis, just in case something was said later, so I held up my finger and made like I was sliding the foreskin back to give them the idea of what I was asking them to do.  Jamie's foreskin was too tight to allow this to happen, but Evan was able to do it.  When his little head popped through the foreskin, the other boys quickly began to understand. 

"You all had the extra skin covering the end of your penis when you were born, but most of your parents had it removed for a number of different reasons," I explained.  "Your penises are all basically the same, except most of you no longer have the extra skin that covers the head." 

"Whew!  I thought something was wrong with mine," Evan sighed.  "I thought maybe something was growing on it and I'd have to get it cut off." 

"No, you're fine, Evan," I assured him.  "It's just that your parents wanted to leave you the way you were born." 

"I'm glad you told us that," Jamie added.  "I thought there was something wrong with mine too, but why couldn't I do like Evan did?" 

"It's just that you're foreskin is much tighter, so you'll just need to stretch it out a little at a time until you can do it like Evan did.  Just grab the loose skin at the tip and pull it gently apart and stretch it out in different directions from time to time," I offered and demonstrated in the air as I explained what I meant.  "If you keep doing that, then eventually you should be able to do the same thing Evan just did."  Jamie then attempted to do what I'd just told him and asked if he was doing it right.  After I said he was, he smiled at me. 

"Ok.  I was worried about that too," he confirmed, with a look of relief showing on his face. 

"You'll be fine and I'm glad I could help," I replied.  "Now, all of you finish getting into your swimsuits and then put something on your feet too.  When you're ready, grab your towels and I'll get you situated in the van, so I can take you to the Aquatic Center.  I've just got to go up to my room and change first." 

As I went upstairs to my bedroom, I concluded that I probably should have figured Ethan might try to do something like that.  It should have dawned on me that he wouldn't pass up a chance to see all of his teammates naked, but I'm sure Andrew had some input in that direction too.  None of the other boys seemed upset that it had happened and perhaps they even enjoyed it too, since it gave them an opportunity to check out all of the different penises as well.  I think Jamie and Evan were definitely glad it had happened, because now they knew what to say if anyone else ever asked them about the difference again. 

"What took you so long?" the other boys asked when I arrived upstairs, so I explained what had just taken place, as I started to change. 

"He did that and didn't tell us what he was going to do?" Marcus whined, since he hadn't gotten to see the other boys naked. 

"I'm not sure if he planned it that way, but he had them all put on their swimsuits in the family room," I explained.  "That way he got to see all of them without anything on.  Andrew liked the idea and thought it was neat too."  

"I bet, but we wanted to see them all naked too," Marcus pouted, before he suddenly got an idea.  "Grab your clothes, Justin.  We're gonna take them down to the family room and leave them there, so we can change with the other boys when we get back." 

Justin's face lit up when Marcus suggested this and I didn't have a problem with them doing it either.  In fact, I'm pretty sure Ethan's teammates might like seeing that pair naked as well. 

Once I'd finished changing and all of the boys were ready, I led them out to the van, got them situated and then drove over to the Bethesda Park Aquatic Center.  The entire facility was located indoors, so the weather was never an issue.  Part of the waterslide went outdoors, but only a closed section of tube at that point, so people or animals couldn't get in and out of the building that way. 

The boys all wanted to go down the rather lengthy waterslide several times first, before they decided to try out some of the other options at the park.  There was also a leisure pool and a water play structure, which was a plastic version of something you might find at a playground for kids to play on.  It had a slide, various chutes and several other devices, but the entire structure was located out in the shallow water. 

In addition to those things, there was also a ceiling spray that you could walk through, like a gentle rain, and there were an assortment of tumble buckets too.  Those were buckets that hung high over head and continually filled up with water.  Once they were full, they would tip over and dump the water on those below.  There was also a vortex that would pull the individuals along in the water and the boys had a great time at each of these different areas. 

At one point, Evan come over, grabbed my hand and started pulling me forward.  "Comere," he urged as he did this. 

He then dragged me to a spot under the tumble buckets and laughed hysterically when they tipped over and dropped large quantities of water on my head. 

Different boys also asked me to go down the waterslide with them, so they could sit between my legs as we slid down.  I saw a few of them were also asking Tyler and Dylan to do this with them too.  I wasn't sure if they felt better with one of the older boys or me accompanying them or if they were just trying to make us feel like part of the group too.  Either way, I enjoyed doing it with them and I'm sure the other pair did too. 

We stayed at the Aquatic Center for a couple of hours before I told them it was time to go back to the house.  After I made sure we'd rounded everyone up and I'd counted noses, I told them to use their towel to dry off and then wrap it around their waists so they'd sit on it on the way back.  Even though the seats in the van were vinyl, I felt it would limit the mess, but it might also keep their legs from getting burnt if the sun had been shining in on where they would be sitting. 

Before I got into the driver's seat, I grabbed my cell phone and called to order the pizzas.  I figured we'd be back before they got there and then I could feed the hungry troops.  I was sure they'd worked up an appetite with the games and the workout at the Aquatic Center, so I wanted them to have something solid in their stomachs first, before giving them the cake and ice cream. 

When we got to the house, I suggested they all change out of their swimsuits and put on what they were wearing when they'd first arrived.  Marcus and Justin eagerly followed them into the family room and I knew they were anxious to check out the others, as well as being able to show off their slightly larger penises.  I stayed for a short time to make sure there were no problems and then I went to get ready for the next thing on the agenda. 

After reaching the kitchen, I dragged out the paper plates and bags of chips for them to have with the pizza, while Dylan and Tyler organized the drinks and plastic cups.  Once the pizzas arrived, I called the boys into the dining room and had them get in a line.  As they walked up, I asked them if they wanted cheese, sausage or pepperoni pizza, and put the requested slice on their plate.  I also told them to grab some chips too and then tell Dylan or Tyler what they wanted to drink.  The older boys would pour it for them and then they could take everything out to the backyard to eat. 

I told the boys to keep their plates and cups when they were done, since the plates were heavy duty and would work for the cake and ice cream too.  They could also get a refill on the drink and pizza too, if they wanted more.  When they were done, we went back into the dining room and I brought in the cake.  It had a single candle on it, a large '7'.  As far as I knew, Ethan was the oldest in this group, since his birthday was shortly after the league cutoff date. 

I lit the candle, led the boys in singing Happy Birthday to Ethan and then had him blow the candle out.  After that, I helped him cut the cake and gave him the first piece.  Afterward, he walked over to where Dylan and Tyler were waiting, because I'd put them in charge of giving the boys a scoop of ice cream of their choice and pouring the drinks.   

Once Ethan finished eating, I had him open his presents, starting with the one from his team.  When he unwrapped it, he discovered they'd given him a 'LeapFrog LeapPad Ultra XDi Kids' Learning Tablet Starter Kit'.  As soon as he saw what it was, Wyatt and Jordan eagerly informed him about it, since they each had one too.  They all seemed excited about this particular item, but I had to stop them so Ethan could open his other gifts too. 

I had him open the gift from Marcus and Tyler next.  They had found a 'Maisto Remote Control Rock Crawler' online and had me order it for them.  It was a remote control car with a heavy-duty suspension and oversized wheels so it could run over rough terrain, like the backyard.  This way Ethan wouldn't only be able to use it on the driveway and sidewalk, or be tempted to try it in the street. 

I was about to give him my gift, but Justin and Dylan announced they had their gift for him next.  This surprised me, because I didn't know they had brought anything like that with them.  I guess Dylan or Justin must have carried it in his bat pack, along with his clothes.  I soon discovered they had given him two new video games they could all play together. 

Before I handed him my gift, I reminded Ethan that he'd already received his cleats, bat and the bat pack as early birthday gifts, but I had something else for him too.  It was a new baseball glove, one Tyler and I had spotted him admiring the last time we went to the sporting goods store.  Tyler had reminded me about it and pointed out that Ethan's old glove was good enough for this year, but he'd need a better one before next year.  This way Ethan could slowly break the glove in for next season, when he would move up to the 'coach pitch' league for 7 to 9-year-olds. 

Ethan was thrilled with everything he got and thanked everyone for them before he took his remote control vehicle outside to try it out.  Tyler had put the batteries in it for him and then Ethan's teammates went with him.  I had to call them back inside one at a time so they could grab their swimsuits and towels when their parents arrived to pick them up.  Each boy assured me that he'd had a great time and their parents thanked me as well.  They were a nice group of boys and they all got along really well, so I had been glad to do it. 

Once the last of the boys left, Ethan ran up to me and gave me a hug.  "I had a super time and that was a great birthday party," he confessed. 

"I'm glad you enjoyed it, but I noticed part of your great time was due to your sneakiness," I teased. 

"What do you mean?" he shot back, not catching on to what I was getting at. 

"Getting all of your friends naked so you could see their penises," I announced and Ethan smiled and blushed slightly. 

"Yeah, that was great!" Andrew agreed, while sporting a huge grin. 

"You could have told us you were going to do that," Justin complained.  "We would have changed in there with you, but I'm glad Uncle Blake told us what you did, so we could take our clothes down and change with you when we got back."  Marcus was nodding his head in agreement. 

"Sorry, I didn't think of it in time," Ethan apologized.  "Me and Andrew had put our stuff in there earlier, because we weren't sure where we were going to change and we were hoping to see some of them naked.  Then, when we were all in the family room together, I just decided to change there and hoped they would do it too.  When Andrew did the same thing, some of the other guys did it with us, so it worked out and we got to see them all without anything on.  I just forgot you might want to see them like that too." 

"Ok, you're forgiven this time," Marcus agreed.  "Just don't do it again." 

"I won't," Ethan concurred, smiling. 

"We've got to be careful though," I added, tongue-in-cheek, but the boys didn't know that.  "Since all of you managed to get your teammates naked at your birthday parties, we're liable to get known as the nude birthday club."  The boys all giggled after I said this.   

It was getting late, so I had Andrew, Justin and Dylan grab their gear so I could drive them home.  I dropped Andrew off first and stopped to chat with Sally briefly, as she asked Andrew if he'd had a good time.

"Yes.  It was really fun and we did a bunch of fun stuff at Ethan's birthday party!" he enthusiastically replied.  I guess that answered her question. 

I also stopped to chat briefly with Don and Cherie when I dropped their sons off and they basically wanted to know if things had gone smoothly.  I assured them it had and the boys were a great help with the younger ones.  I also thanked them for sending a gift with Justin and Dylan. 

"It was entirely their idea, although we would have chosen something if they hadn't," Don pointed out.  "Not only did they insist we get him something, but they picked it out too." 

"It was really nice, although expensive, and I know all of the boys will enjoy playing both games against each other," I confirmed. 

"That's probably why they picked those out," Cherie teased.  "I should have figured it was so they could play them too." 

"It's possible, but they have a good heart and I know they meant well," I assured her. 

I then drove the van over to the rental place and dropped it off next.  I made sure I locked it up and placed the keys in the drop box first, before we loaded into the car.  Once my boys were all buckled up, I drove home so I could spend a quiet night with them. 

"You were right," Ethan told me once we were alone.  "I did have as much fun at my party as Marcus and Tyler had at theirs.  My friends had fun playing the games and I think they liked seeing each other pee-pees too." 

"I'm glad they enjoyed the games," I stated, relieved.  "I wasn't sure if they would like the first set we played, since you kids are more into electronic games instead." 

"No, they were fun too," Ethan confirmed.  "All of my friends told me that in the van and at the other place." 

"Then I'm happy too," I agreed.  "Now, tomorrow is your true birthday, so what do you want for breakfast.  I'll make it for you before I leave for work." 

"Ummm, how about French toast?" Ethan asked hesitantly. 

"If that is what you want," I replied.  "I'll just go to the kitchen and check to make sure I have everything I'll need to fix it." 

"Ok," Ethan agreed, as I went to check it out.  I found everything that was required, so I didn't have to run to the store. 

As we were eating dinner, Ethan asked me another question.  "Can I sleep with you tonight, Uncle Blake?" 

"Sure, that will be fine with me," I agreed. 

"Me too?" Marcus followed. 

"That's up to Ethan, since he asked first and it's his birthday," I replied, as I looked over at Ethan. 

"Yeah, he can, but he has to sleep on the other side," Ethan confirmed, while looking at Marcus.  Marcus nodded his head to seal the deal. 

I looked over at Tyler to see how he was reacting to this, but he didn't seem to have a problem with it.  It was probably due to the fact that he and Dylan had slept with me for the past two nights.

After I showered with the younger pair, I noticed Ethan appeared as if something was bothering him, so I decided to ask him when we got to his room.  "What's wrong, kiddo?  I thought you had a good time today." 

"I did, but I missed my mommy and daddy too," he added, while glancing at my face.  "They were at all my other birthday parties, so it didn't seem right that they weren't there today." 

"They might not have been with you in person," I offered, while staring into his eyes, "but I'm sure they were both looking down at you from heaven.  I'm positive they were both thrilled that you were having such a good time too." 

"Really?  You think so?" he asked, as he glanced up at me hopefully. 

"Yep, I sure do," I replied, as he suddenly began to smile again. 

"Good!  I feel better now," he confessed, as he started to put on his pajamas. 

I decided to go to bed early too, since the little ones wanted to sleep with me.  I cuddled with them the same way I had with Tyler and Dylan, although they didn't wrap their arms and legs over me as the other pair liked to do, but we all slept just as well.  



            The Guardian

by Erastes
Copyright 2015 by Erastes
Chapter 44 – What Goes Up Must Come Down. 

Monday morning, I woke up with Ethan and Marcus still wrapped in my arms and sleeping peacefully.  I did my best to get up without waking them, but to no avail.  I told them they could go back to sleep until I finished fixing things for breakfast, but they didn't want to.  Instead, they said they wanted to go down to the kitchen with me while I did everything and then we could eat together before I left for work.  Since that was what they wanted to do, I told them to go wake up Tyler and see if he wanted to join us, because I didn't want him to feel left out, unless it was his choice.  When the younger boys went to do that, I headed downstairs to begin preparing things to make Ethan's birthday breakfast. 

A short time later all three boys came wandering into the kitchen as I was preparing the French toast.  After saying good morning to Tyler, I advised all three that they could go back to sleep after they ate, seeing they didn't have to go over to the Riordans until later.  They said they'd see how they felt after they were full, so I gave each of them a couple of slices of French toast and then we sat down together to eat. 

As the boys were busy taking turns adding maple syrup to their breakfast, I wished Ethan a happy birthday again.  I also got up from time to time and made extra slices of French toast to fill the boys up and then I went upstairs to get ready for work.  When I came downstairs a few minutes later, I kissed each one goodbye and told them to have a good day, before I headed outside to hop in the car. 

The day passed by quickly and I was looking forward to taking Ethan out for his birthday dinner.  He chose to go to O'Charley's again, since he said he thought he should, since he played on their baseball team.  That was fine with me, because I thought we should patronize the team sponsors too. 

The boys had now each celebrated their birthdays for this year, so we were set until Christmas.  I didn't want to think about that just yet though, because it was only early June, but I couldn't help but wonder how the boys were going to react to their first Christmas without their parents, since the last two birthdays had caused some uncomfortable feelings.  Although they had been holding up fairly well for the most part, Christmas was a special time of year and it would happen just a month before the first anniversary of their parents' deaths.  I decided I should prepare for the worst, just in case their emotional response was more severe than I anticipated. 

Getting back to the present, I mentally prepared myself for the start of another hectic week, because each evening was going to be filled with a combination of practices and games.  With help from Cherie and Don though, I knew we'd be able to get the boys where they needed to be, but I was particularly looking forward to Friday night.  Even though the boys had stayed with us the previous weekend and they all had practices scheduled for that evening, they and their friends were all going to be staying at our house afterward.  I couldn't wait to see what Dylan and Tyler might cook up, because whatever they might try, I knew they wouldn't disappoint me.  In addition to my belief that they would attempt to find a way to get me to mess around with them again, I was also looking forward to just cuddling with the pair as we slept. 

When Friday finally arrived, I hurried home and made sure each of the boys were fed and ready to go.  Since all of them had a practice, Don took Marcus and Justin, while Cherie took Tyler and Dylan, so it left me free to take Ethan to his practice.  As soon as I parked the car, Andrew raced over to greet Ethan, but he was also there to make sure I remembered he was staying over tonight.  Once I confirmed I hadn't forgotten, he and Ethan rushed off to be with their team. 

I had been sitting in the bleachers watching the practice and chatting with Sally for some time when my cell phone rang.  I was somewhat surprised, because I wasn't expecting any calls, but I quickly saw it was from Cherie. 

"Your husband is going to get suspicious that you're calling me like this," I teased as I answered the phone. 

"Blake, you've got to get over here to Tyler's practice as quickly as you can," she stated and I could hear the panic in her voice.  "Tyler collapsed and we've called 911.  An ambulance is on the way, but you need to get over here now." 

"I'll be there as quickly as I can," I responded as I ended the call. 

I hurriedly explained the situation to Sally and told her I had to leave.  She said she'd take Ethan home with her if I didn't get back before then and she'd call me later to find out how things were going.  I thanked her and raced to the car.  Then, I sped away from there and drove to the field where Tyler's team was practicing. 

As soon as I arrived, I saw the emergency vehicles and spotted a handful of people frantically working on Tyler.  I immediately dashed over to where this was taking place, as all kinds of horrible thoughts began to race through my mind.  I needed to find out what was up, but Cherie intercepted me before I reached the EMTs.  She felt it would be best if she warned me about what had happened first. 

"They are saying Tyler was shot!" she began, with a look of absolute horror etched upon her face.  "None of us heard the sound of a gunshot, but they claim a bullet struck him in the chest." 

As soon as I heard that, I pushed past Cherie and rushed over to where the EMTs were working on Tyler.  I immediately made my way up to the nearest one and let him know who I was.  I noticed two of the other EMTs were giving Tyler CPR, while a third was just finishing attaching an IV to his arm.  They were almost ready to lift him onto a stretcher and place him in the ambulance when the EMT I had spoken to asked if I wanted to go with them.  I inquired where they were taking Tyler and he told me, so I said I'd meet them there instead.  I didn't want to leave my car so far away from where Tyler and I were going to be, in case I needed it later. 

Cherie had been listening in on our conversation and told me she'd call and inform Don about what happened and they'd take Marcus home with them, so I wouldn't have to worry.  I thanked her for doing that and then sprinted across the field to get to my car.  The ambulance was just pulling onto the street as I started the engine, so I decided to follow them to the hospital.    

As I drove behind the ambulance, my mind was grappling with a vast array of questions.  Who in the world would have possibly shot Tyler?  Was it a personal attack, a random act or merely an accident?  If no one at the practice field had heard a gunshot, did the shooter use a silencer or had the sound been masked by other noises?  I was still frantically going over those various queries in my mind when we arrived at the ER and I watched the ambulance pull up to the restricted entrance.  Since I knew I couldn't go there, I quickly veered off and headed into the visitor's parking lot.  Once I'd pulled into a space and shut off the engine, I jumped out of the driver's seat and raced inside. 

"My nephew was just brought in with a gunshot wound.  Where have they taken him and can I be with him?" I demanded, when I reached the counter. 

"He's been taken directly to the operating room for emergency surgery," she informed me.  "Since you can't be with him until the doctors have finished stabilizing him and treated his injuries, will you please be kind enough to answer a few questions for me?"  I nodded my head, but I wasn't really in the mood to do this. 

"Will you please give me his parents' information and tell me how I can reach them?" she asked next. 

"They were killed in an automobile accident in January and I'm his legal guardian," I answered. 

"I'm so sorry," she apologized.  "In that case, I'll need some information from you.  We'll have more than enough time to do this before your nephew's operation is completed and he's been moved out of the recovery area and into a private room." 

She then asked me a bunch of personal questions about Tyler before taking down our insurance information.  Once she finished typing it all into the computer, she looked up at me again and spoke.

"I'll direct you to the waiting area for the operating rooms, but it will probably be quite a while before he is taken to a room and you can be with him." 

"That's fine, but I need to be close to where he is.  I want to see if anyone else in that area can tell me how he's doing," I replied, and I think she could tell I was extremely concerned about him. 

She then gave me the directions I would need to find my way there and I hurriedly set off for O.R. waiting room.  As soon as I arrived, I checked to see if anyone at the nurse's station could give me any further information about Tyler's condition, but they didn't know anything more either.  Mildly frustrated, I went into the waiting area and sat down, but my butt had barely touched the seat before I nervously jumped up again and started pacing back and forth. 

I don't know how long I continued doing that, but it seemed like forever.  I even went over to the nurse's station a couple more times to inquire if they had heard anything else about Tyler's situation, but they still didn't have any more information to share with me.  I felt as if I'd been there for an eternity when a doctor in scrubs finally entered the waiting room. 

"Are you here with the young boy that was brought in with a gunshot wound?" he asked, since he didn't know much about Tyler or myself. 

"Yes, the boy's name is Tyler Weaver and I'm his legal guardian, Blake Hunter," I explained.  "How is he?" 

"I'm Dr. Flatow and he's doing as well as can be expected at this point.  He's a very lucky young man," the doctor replied. 

"Lucky?  How the hell can he be lucky if he just got shot?" I blurted out, mildly confused by his statement. 

"He was lucky that the path the bullet took did a minimal amount of damage to his body," Dr. Flatow explained.  "The projectile entered between two of his ribs, about here," he informed me, as he pointed out the area on his own body," but it didn't shatter either rib.  It also missed nearly all of his vital organs, including his heart and all major arteries, although it perforated his left lung.  The bullet then lodged in the muscles in his back, which prevented it from doing any further damage.  This was also very fortuitous, because he could have been paralyzed or even died if the bullet had struck his spinal column or ricocheted off a bone and deflected into another area."  

"So will he recover and when can I see him?" I wanted to know, as soon as the doctor had finished speaking. 

"He's been given a couple of transfusions to replace the blood he lost and we've administered antibiotics to help guard against infection," the doctor replied.  "I was the one who performed the surgery and I stitched up the holes in his lung.  I also repaired the other internal damage that I discovered and extracted the bullet, before I sutured the incision and entrance wound in his chest.  He is in the recovery area right now and will probably remain there for several more hours, because we'll need to make sure he comes out from under the anesthesia without any complications before he's moved.  Since this was a traumatic injury, it will probably take even longer than that before he fully regains consciousness and you'll be able to speak with him." 

"But will he be alright?" I wanted to know. 

"As I said, it was a traumatic injury to his body, but he stands a good chance of recovering completely, baring any unforeseen complications or other serious setbacks," the doctor confirmed.  "It will obviously take some time for him to heal, but I feel fairly confident he will recover and be back to normal in a matter of months.  There is no telling precisely how long it will take though, since it depends on how his body reacts to both the surgery and the medications we're giving him." 

I was somewhat relieved to hear this, because I knew Tyler was a healthy kid and his body should respond well to everything.  However, I continued to listen to the doctor's explanation.    

"Since I'll need to monitor his progress, it will be necessary for him to remain in the hospital for a minimum of a few more days," Dr. Flatow continued.  "Then, after he has finally been released from here, it will be imperative that he takes it easy for a while longer, so his various injuries have the time they'll need to finish the healing process completely.  Even though he will be at home during this time, he will still be required to remain in bed during the early stages of his recovery, with some minor exceptions.  He will be allowed to get up to use the toilet when necessary, but it would be best if you restricted his movements as much as possible until I advise you otherwise."  

"Will he have any restrictions after that, once he's healed?" I pressed, since I was concerned that Tyler would no longer be permitted to get involved in any strenuous activities.  "He is very active in sports and I would really hate to see that end for him, because he enjoys participating so much." 

"Although he'll have those restrictions while his body is healing itself, once he's been released from care he should be able to return to doing everything he had been involved in before this happened," the doctor assured me.  "It may take a few months before he reaches that point, but once he has been cleared by me, he shouldn't have any further restrictions." 

I thanked him for the good news and then settled in to wait until I could be with Tyler.  A short time later, I left the waiting area for a few minutes, so I could call Sally and the Cochrans to let them know how things stood.  After explaining what the doctor had told me about Tyler's injuries, I informed them I would call again later, once he'd regained consciousness and I'd had a chance to speak with him. 

Sally and Cherie each assured me they would take care of Ethan and Marcus tonight, so I wouldn't have to worry about them, but they admitted both boys had reacted hysterically when they first heard about what had happened.  I hoped the information I just gave them would help calm the boys down and make each one feel a little better.  I then thanked both Cherie and Sally for doing this for me and said I would talk to them again later. 

I had been sitting in the waiting room for about a half hour when a man in a suit unexpectedly strolled in.  He spotted me sitting alone and began walking in my direction, so I watched nervously as he approached. 

"Are you the father of the boy who was shot at the park, a Tyler Weaver?" he asked after glancing down at the notepad he carried with him. 

"I'm his guardian.  His parents are deceased," I replied, while wondering if this guy was a cop, a reporter or someone from the hospital administrative staff.  "I'm Blake Hunter." 

"I'm Detective Dan Jackson and I've been sent here to ask you a few questions," he continued as he flashed the badge he had attached to his belt, which answered my previous unasked question.  "Has Tyler been having problems with anyone recently?"

"As far as I know, he's never had a problem with anyone," I answered.  "He's a great kid and well liked." 

"I was told you weren't present when this happened," Detective Jackson added.  "Can you tell me where you were at the time?" 

"Yes, I happened to be with Tyler's youngest brother at his practice," I replied, as I wondered why he had asked me this question.  "One of Tyler's teammate's mother took him to his practice for me, along with her son, since Tyler and his brothers all had practices at the same time.  Her husband took Tyler's next younger brother to his practice, along with his other son, while I took the youngest boy to his practice."

"And did anyone see you at this practice?" he followed, which made me even more nervous. 

"Yes, Coach Rich Lucas and one of the other parents, Sally Prescott," I confirmed.  "I was chatting with her when I received the phone call about what had happened." 

I then gave Detective Jackson some other information about that pair, including the phone numbers he could reach each of them at, because I had a feeling he was definitely going to check out my alibi.  Although I couldn't believe he was actually considering the idea that I may have had something to do with Tyler being shot, I tried not to be offended, but it wasn't easy.  As he wrote the information I gave him down in his notepad, I kept telling myself that he was only doing his job. 

Once he'd looked at his notes again and made certain he hadn't forgotten anything, he went out to the nurse's station to see if he could get an update on Tyler's condition.  As he left the waiting room, I sat down again and shook my head in amazement that he was going to check me out for this.  Of course, I understood it was something he had to do, since all too often these types of crimes are committed by those closest to the victim, especially when it concerned a minor.  However, it didn't make the idea of my involvement any less offensive or unnerving to me. 

After I calmed down a bit, I resumed my vigil and wondered how long it would be before I'd be allowed to see Tyler.  I left the waiting room only briefly to walk down the corridor and use either the coffee machine or toilet from time to time.  Since I didn't know how long I'd be there before I'd finally get to see Tyler, I felt the caffeine in the coffee would help me stay awake until it happened.  Unfortunately, it would also increase the number of trips I'd have to make to relieve myself of it again later.  After sitting around for hours, Dr. Flatow finally appeared again and approached me. 

"Tyler has been moved out of the recovery area and is being taken to a room," he informed me.  "His vital signs are very good, but he will most likely be sleeping when you get there.  He may come to from time to time, but please don't attempt to wake him or try to keep him awake.  Allow him to sleep as much as he wants, because his body will do most of its healing while he's asleep and inactive.  He will be in room 242 and you can go there now." 

Dr. Flatow then gave me directions on how to get to the room, so I thanked him and took off to see my boy.  I hesitated briefly when I reached that location, so I could take a few seconds to prepare myself for what awaited me inside.  When I felt I was ready, I opened the door and walked into the room. 

Tyler was laying on the bed and I was momentarily stunned by the vast array of tubes and wires that were connecting him to various devices.  He had a fairly large tube in his mouth that was attached to a machine which was obviously helping him to breath.  There was another, smaller tube running between a needle sticking in Tyler's arm and going to an IV bag that was dangling from a metal pole.  I assumed there was an additional tube attached to a catheter in his penis and fastened to another bag that collected his urine. 

In addition to the tubes, there were several wires attached to his skin in various places and connected to a machine that was monitoring his vital signs.  Those readings were displayed in green on a monitor that was located on the opposite side of his bed, so the doctor and nurses could observe them at any time. 

As I drew closer, I began to visually examine Tyler's motionless body.  While I was doing this, my mind was flooded with images that were drastically juxtaposed to what I was currently seeing.  Looking at his tightly closed eyelids, I longed to see the playful and glowing aura that his hazel colored eyes normally projected whenever he was with me.  Glancing at his face, I was hoping to see it radiating with the love we each felt for one another, but it remained expressionless.   Even the smile that usually covered his face was gone.  He often used it to conceal whatever devious plan he was hatching to convince me to let him share my bed or do something sexual with him.  In its place was the emotionless mask of someone unconscious and struggling to survive. 

As my eyes wander lower, I saw his slender, muscular chest was almost completely wrapped in bandages and the sheet had been folded neatly above those wondrous boy parts I had become so familiar with.  My heart ached as I considered each of these conflicting and disturbing images, and it caused me to wonder if Tyler was going to fully recover. 

Although I hoped the doctor's assessment of the situation was correct, I still questioned if I would ever see those wonderful qualities in him again or if a bullet had forever changed all of that.  Would I be able to enjoy his boyish enthusiasm and devilish hijinks as I had in the past or would they be lost in the tragic aftermath?  This sudden doubt caused my knees to buckle slightly and I nearly collapsed, but I was able to maintain my balance long enough to stagger over to the chair located next to the bed.  After I sat down and regained my composure, I watched Tyler for a few more minutes and then suddenly felt compelled to do something that was completely foreign to me since I was a kid.  I prayed. 

"God, I know you haven't heard from me since I was a child and I'm not even sure I still believe in you any longer, but I'm taking this chance for Tyler's sake, not mine," I began, while keeping my voice low.  "If you ever do anything for us, just help Tyler get better so he can continue to be the same wonderful boy that I've grown to love.  Please, God, don't take him away from me.  Ok, maybe this is partially for me as well, but he has come to mean so much to me and I love him deeply.  I'm not sure if I will be able to handle it if this were to change.  I promise that if you help him get better then I will do everything in my power to take care of him and keep him safe.  I'll do whatever I can to ensure that he is happy and I will help him have the best life possible.  Please, God, just give me back the same wonderful boy that he was before this happened." 

After saying this little 'prayer', I rested my head against the metal side-rail that was there to keep Tyler from falling out of bed.  My eyes were closed and I was thinking about what I was going to do once he got better, in order to keep my part of the bargain.  After a while, I sat up, leaned back in the chair and settled in for what I believed might be a very long wait.  I must have drifted off to sleep at some point, but I awoke when I felt something touch my body.  I instantly opened my eyes hoping for the best, but unfortunately it was only one of the nurse's covering me with a blanket. 

After I thanked her for her concern, I asked if there had been any change in Tyler's condition.  She told me he was still the same, but appeared to be doing well under the circumstances.  After she left the room, I just stared at Tyler for a few more minutes, before I dozed off once again. 

The next time I awoke, it was because I felt someone kiss me on the forehead.  When I opened my eyes, I was surprised to see Marcus standing there.  He looked as if he hadn't slept very well and it was easy to see he was a very scared little boy.

"Wow, I didn't expect to see you here.  What time is it anyway?" I asked trying to lighten the mood as I tossed off the blanket and sat up in the chair.  I then pulled Marcus onto my lap and wrapped him up in a big hug, hoping it might help to make him feel better. 

"It's a little after 9:00," Cherie advised me and I suddenly realized she was there as well.  "Are you ok?  You look almost as bad as Tyler."

"It was a rough night, but I'll be fine," I assured her, as I looked at Marcus again and noticed he was glancing at the bed.  I felt his grip on my arm tighten and a could see his face beginning to contort, which let me know he was about to burst into tears.  I quickly pulled him closer and hugged him against my chest, just as the dam burst.   I let him get it out of his system for a couple of minutes, before he began to settle down. 

"Is he going to die?" he asked, in between sobs. 

"No, Marcus.  That's not going to happen," I offered, trying to reassure him.  Before I had a chance to continue though, Marcus spoke again. 

"Is he gonna get better then?"  His chest was still heaving, but he was starting to calm down even more. 

"Yes, the doctor said there wasn't as much damage as there might have been, so Tyler will be just fine," I confirmed, while looking Marcus directly in the eyes. 

"Then why isn't he awake?" Marcus challenged, as he gave me a questioning look. 

"It's because of the drugs they're giving him to reduce his pain and help him sleep," I answered.  "The doctor says the body does most of its healing while it's resting, so that's what Tyler's body is doing now." 

"So Tyler's just sleeping and that's helping him get better then?" Marcus followed, trying to make sure he understood. 

"Yes, that's exactly what's happening," I agreed, as the tension in Marcus' body begin to diminish slightly.  "I'm still a little surprised to see you here this early though," I added, trying to distract him slightly. 

"Oh!  Aunt Cherie brought me here so we could get the house key from you," Marcus answered, suddenly remembering why they had come in the first place.  "Me and Ethan need to get our uniforms and put them on, unless you'll let us stay here with you and Tyler." 

"No, you both should go play in your games," I replied. 

"But I'd rather be here with Tyler!" Marcus shot back and I was afraid he might burst into tears again. 

"There's nothing you can do here for your brother and your teammates are counting on you to play in the game," I replied.  "You really shouldn't let them down.  You can come back here afterward and stay for a while if you want, but I'll stay with Tyler and keep him company until he's conscious and doing better.  You just try to have fun and I wish both of you good luck with your games.  I'm just sorry that I won't be there to see you or Ethan play this time." 

"It's ok.  We understand that Tyler needs you more right now," he countered.

As Marcus finished speaking, I looked up and glanced at Cherie.  She had continued to stand in the background and hadn't said anything since she'd told me the time, so I assumed she was just giving us a chance to speak alone. 

"Cherie, thanks for bringing him here," I said, as I reached into my pocket to get the requested key.  "I guess I should have thought about giving this to you earlier," I added, as I handed it to her. 

"You had much more important things on your mind at the time," she offered, and then she held my hand after taking the key.  "I've talked to Sally and she's going to meet us at your place so Ethan and Marcus can change.  We'll drop by here after their games so you can see both boys again and they can spend some time with you and their brother."  She then grabbed something off the bed-stand that had been setting off to one side and then turned back toward me. 

"I picked this up for you on the way here," she stated, as she handed me a bag from a fast food place, along with a cup of coffee.  "It's just a couple of breakfast sandwiches, but I thought you might need something." 

"Thanks, Cherie.  That was very thoughtful of you," I responded as I took the items from her.  "Let me give you some money for this." 

"It's not necessary," she quickly stated, although I didn't want her paying for this too. 

"I want to thank you, Don and Sally for covering for me and for doing all these other things as well," I added, since I sincerely appreciated what they were doing. 

"It definitely hasn't been a problem and I think it even helped us some too," she replied.  "Dylan's been a basket case since this happened and I think it helped that we let him sleep with both Marcus and Justin last night.  I felt it would be good for all of them." 

"Yeah, it was," Marcus interjected, while nodding his head at the same time. 

"Dylan wanted to come with us this morning, but I wouldn't let him.  I knew he'd want to stay once he got here and I didn't want to have to fight with him about that," she confessed.  "The battle I just had with him at home was bad enough.  I'm not sure if he's going to be able to play in his game either.  He's just so worried about Tyler that I'm afraid he won't be able to focus on anything else." 

"Well you tell him Tyler would want him to play and do well," I offered.  "I doubt Tyler will be able to finish the remainder of the season, so tell Dylan he'll have to cover and do well for both of them." 

"I'll tell him that, but I'm not sure what kind of an impact it will have," she agreed.  "Sally and I will bring the other two by just as soon as we can, but Andrew wants Ethan to stay with them instead of coming with us.  That's fine with me and I understand why Ethan and Andrew prefer to do it that way, since they feel so close to one another.  Be prepared though, because I plan on letting Dylan and Justin come with us when we return." 

"Thanks, Cherie, and that will be fine.  I'm not sure if Tyler will be awake when you get here, but I know just being able to see him will probably make your two feel a little better too, so they're more than welcome to join us," I confirmed, feeling grateful that we had such good friends. 

"I'll bring you something to eat too, but would you like me to pick up a change of clothes for you as well?" she followed. 

"That might be a good idea," I agreed.  "I can change and wash up in the restroom.  Marcus, will you pick out a pair of slacks, a polo shirt and some underwear for me?  Oh and throw my deodorant in with those things too." 

"Ok, Uncle Blake," Marcus replied.  "I can do that."

I then kissed Marcus on the forehead and they left the room.  As soon as they had gone, I turned to see if there had been any change in Tyler's condition.  Since there didn't appear to be any noticeable improvement, I sat down in the chair again and began eating the food Cherie had just given me.  It felt good to be able to put something in my stomach, seeing I hadn't had any dinner the previous night.  The coffee was much better than what came out of the machine I'd been getting it from too. so that was a pleasant change as well. 

About an hour later, Detective Jackson showed up again, but I wasn't sure if he had dropped by to give me some updated news or if he was here to ask more questions.  I got up and greeted him just the same, as he walked up to me. 

"How's he doing?" Detective Jackson asked, looking concerned. 

"About the same, but the doctor says he should recover," I answered.  "Thanks for asking." 

"I came by to share some information I discovered," he stated next.  "After I got back to the station, I started going through the day's reports to see if anyone had reported hearing gunfire in the area.  I found one report from a location near the ball field and that's how I figured out what happened." 

"Are you telling me this wasn't someone shooting specifically at Tyler?" I blurted out.  Although I was shocked, I was also grateful that whoever did this wouldn't be trying again later. 

"I am.  It was just an unfortunate accident due to carelessness," the detective replied.  "The report I read stated that a guy was trying to carjack a woman a couple of blocks away from where Tyler was at the time.  A bystander saw what was going down and fired a warning shot over the head of the carjacker, who then took off.  Although he was trying to help the woman, the guy acted foolishly in the way he did it.  The carjacker would probably have taken off if the person had yelled at him and then showed his gun, but he fired it too.  Why don't people realize the bullet is going to eventually land somewhere and it's not always going to end up harmlessly hitting a building, tree or the dirt?" 

"Yes, especially in such a heavily populated area," I agreed.  "So he was definitely the one that did this?" 

"Yes.  I had been given the slug the doctor had taken out of your nephew and we compared it to a test bullet that we fired from the suspect's gun," Detective Jackson informed me.  "Ballistics confirmed it was a perfect match."

"So what's going to happen now?" I followed, as I wondered what they were going to do to the guy that was responsible. 

"The man that fired the shot has been arrested and charged with reckless endangerment and carrying a firearm without a permit," Detective Jackson stated.  "I know it probably doesn't sound like much to you, but it's all we could come up with." 

"I understand and that's fine," I confirmed.  "I'm just grateful the result of his 'good deed' wasn't more severe."

"Yes, that was fortunate and I'm glad it wasn't any worse than this too," Detective Jackson agreed. 

I then thanked him for the information and for stopping by to share it with me in person.  It was nice that he didn't just call on the phone to deliver this message. 



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I wish to extend my thanks to Donny for editing these chapters for me and offering his suggestions. 


E-mail responses to the stories, story suggestions, or other 'constructive' comments or advice may be sent to:  ErastesTouch@aol.com  - but please put the story title in the subject line, so it doesn't get deleted as junk mail. 


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Although the boys in these stories sometimes have unprotected sex, I strongly urge all of you out there to be smart and protect yourselves from various sexually transmitted diseases by using taking appropriate precautions before engaging in sex.