This story is a continuation of the story of Kevin Foley, Rick Mashburn, and their "sons," Tim Murphy, Kyle Goodson, and Justin Davis that started in "Tim" and continued in "Justin." It is about gay men and gay boys living and loving together as a family, and it contains descriptions of sex. The sex is never intergenerational. If you are offended by descriptions of gay sex, or if the law in your area forbids you to read them, please exit the story. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy it. I appreciate feedback, and you can send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kyle, Part 1
Brian and I went back to our house after leaving Gene Goodson. Tim, Kyle, and Jason were already there waiting for us, and everybody was eager to see all the new clothes Brian had gotten. It had turned out that he, too, preferred briefs to boxers, so everybody would be the same when we were all just in our underwear.
I made a pot of coffee. Rick and I ordinarily worked out on Monday evenings, but I suspected he'd be coming home straight from the office. I was right.
"Hi, Babe," he said as he came in the back door. He kissed me hello. "Did you and Brian have a good afternoon?"
"Yeah. We got a lot of shopping done in a fairly short time."
"Where are the kids," he asked.
"They're in Brian's room looking at his new stuff," I said.
"Babe, I've been thinking about Brian," Rick started.
"I know what you're going to say," I said.
"You want to ask Tyrone if he can be here permanently, don't you?"
"You're a mind reader," he said. "What do you think?"
"You have to ask?"
"Not really. Should I call him now, you think," he asked.
"Why not? It's after five, though. He might not be in," I said.
"I'll call his cell number."
Rick got Tyrone on the phone and told him what we proposed.
"Are your kidding me," he asked.
"No. Why would we kid you," Rick said. "By the way, we're on speaker, and Kevin's right here with me."
"I figured that. Are any of the kids around?"
"They're in Brian's room looking at his new clothes," Rick said.
"Did you guys take him shopping today," Tyrone asked.
"I did," I said. "Rick was out buying a new car that's big enough for all of us. So now you've got to let him stay, Tyrone."
"Kevin, you and Rick don't really seem to understand. I would kill for ten more families like you guys. You're worried I won't let him stay with you? You just made me about the happiest Children and Family Services supervisor in Florida, boy," Tyrone said.
"Who you calling boy," Rick said, with mock gruffness.
Tyrone started laughing so hard he was actually wheezing. "You're a pure fool, Rick, and I love a pure fool."
We were laughing, too.
"So can we tell Brian he's off the temporary list," Rick asked.
"Why don't you wait a few days to do that, Rick. Maybe talk to him about the idea, you know? I'm sure he'll be happy as a pig in shit to stay there, but let's just make sure. Not that I know what the hell I'm going to do with him if he isn't happy to stay with y'all."
"That's a good idea," I said.
"We'll talk to him about it, Tyrone. We just wanted to make sure there were no obstacles to permanent placement from your end," Rick said.
"Obstacles? Heavens, no. I wish I could set it up for you all to adopt both of them. You guys don't know how much easier you're making my job," Tyrone said.
"Well, we want to thank you for the trust you're showing in us, letting us have those boys. We love 'em, you know," Rick said.
"I know you do, and that's part of why it's so wonderful for them, Rick," he said. "But they also love you two. That's real easy to see. Justin told me the last time I talked to him that he thinks you two are the best people he's ever known in his life. Of course, that's not saying much, coming from him."
"You asshole," Rick said, laughing.
"It takes a fool to know a fool, Rick," he said. They both laughed.
"Listen, Tyrone, would you and your wife ever consider coming over for dinner or something," Rick asked. I had been thinking, too, that we would have fun with them.
"God, Rick, we'd love it, but we're not supposed to do that. We can't socialize, but we're going to be friends, now, you hear me?"
"I hear you. Anyway, just know you have a standing invitation to dinner here any time you're free to accept it," he said.
"Thank you. That means an awful lot to me," Tyrone said.
"We need to let you get going and get some food in our mob," I said.
"So, who's there right now," Tyrone asked.
"Brian, Tim, Kyle, and Jason," I said.
"He's at school. He won't get home until around 7:30. Did you know he's going to take the GED in January and probably start college that same month," I asked.
"No, I didn't. That's wonderful," he said.
"Yeah, we think it's pretty great, too. We're going to have to do something nice to celebrate that," I said.
"We can take 'em on another trip," Rick said.
"Yeah, that's a good idea. I think Jus wants to go back to North Carolina," I said.
"Or we could take 'em to New Orleans. That would be a great trip," Rick said.
"Er, guys, I'm going to hang up now," Tyrone said. "Y'all continue planning your family celebration."
"Oh, sorry, Tyrone," I said. "We will, man. Thanks for everything." Both ends hung up.
"Guys, come on out. Daddy's home," Rick called back to them.
They burst out of Brian's room screaming, "Daddy! Daddy!" Tim and Kyle grabbed Rick around the waist, and the three of them ended up on the floor, laughing and playing, just like little kids would do, only Tim and Kyle were man size.
"Whoa! Guys! Daddy's old and tired," Rick said.
All three of them lay on the floor panting. Rick sat up in a minute. "How was the afternoon, Brian," he asked.
"It was wonderful. Kevin bought me a ton of cool new clothes."
"Rick and I together bought those, Bri," I said. "And the state will give us some money for them, too."
"The whole amount? They didn't do that at the last foster home," he said.
"No, they'll give us about half the money, but you needed that stuff, right? And it all looks great on you," I said.
"He's got some cool shit," Kyle said.
"Yeah, he does," Jason added.
"Good," Rick said. "Is anybody hungry?"
"Yeah. What's on the menu," Kyle asked.
"Weenie-water soup," Rick said.
Tim, Kyle, and Brian laughed their asses off, but Jason and I sat there in silence.
"Is this some Boy Scout bullshit," I asked.
"Yeah," Tim and Kyle said in unison.
"So how do you make it, or dare I ask," I said.
"It's real easy," Rick said. "You fill up a big pot with water. You dump in a package of hot dogs, the cheaper the better. You chop up a cabbage and about ten potatoes. You boil till done. That's weenie-water soup."
"God, that would make a maggot gag," I said.
"Have y'all ever had it," Rick asked.
"No, dumbass. That's a Tenderfoot thing," Kyle said. "Have you had it?"
"No," Rick said. "It sounds pretty good, though, if you like weenies."
"That ain't the kind of weenies they mean, Bubba," Kyle said. Everybody laughed, even Brian, who seemed to be delighted at what was going on.
"What's a Tenderfoot thing," I asked.
"That's when you send the Tenderfoots out to borrow stuff from other troops at big jamborees," Brian said. "It's like an initiation."
"You're a scout," Kyle shouted, his excitement brimming over. "What rank?"
"I was a scout. I was First Class, with just the project to go for Eagle," Brian said.
"Were you kicked out because you're gay," I asked.
"No, I quit after I got kicked out at home. I stayed in the Tampa area in temporary placement for about a month before they sent me to Tallahassee," he said.
"Kyle and I are both Eagles," Tim said. "We'll help you with your project, if you re-join."
Brian's smile almost cracked his skull. "Really?"
"Hell, yeah, Bri," Kyle said. "Man, that would be so awesome. Four gay Eagles out of nine in our troop."
"It would be out of ten, Babe," Tim said. "Are you forgetting me?"
"No, I'm not forgetting you. Scottie quit, remember? I told you that," Kyle said.
"Oh, yeah. I forgot about that. Why'd he quit?"
"He turned eighteen last month, and he's in college. He's been to like three meetings since he graduated. He's got other fish to fry, and he's frying them fish every weekend, as I understand it," Kyle said.
"Frying fish," I asked.
"Fucking pussy," Kyle said in his matter-of-fact manner.
Rick and I both laughed.
"Why is that funny," Jason asked.
"'Fish' is a term a lot of gay guys use for pussy," Rick said. "I think it smells like fish or something. Ask Kevin for verification."
"No, don't ask me, but that's what I've heard, too, Jay," I said. "Besides weenie-water soup, what did y'all tell the Tenderfeet to get?"
"Tenderfoots, not feet," Kyle said. "Only one-legged guys in that brigade."
Rick and Tim and Brian laughed at what Kyle said.
"We sent them after things like skyhooks," Kyle said.
"And tent stretchers," Brian added.
"Moonbeam catchers," Tim said. "That was a good one."
"Yeah, and tree shrinkers," Rick said. "And, of course, a bowl of weenie-water soup. There were a bunch of 'em."
"Yeah," the boys all said together.
"Thinking about weenie-water soup got me pretty hungry," Kyle said. "Can we make some? Or at least order some pizzas?"
"I vote for the pizzas," I said. "I'll order. How many, and what kind?"
"Get five large with plenty of meat," Tim said. "Two thin, three thick."
"Okay," I said. We had the number of a local pizza delivery place programmed into our phone, so I pressed the button and placed our order.
Justin got home right as the pizzas were being delivered. He kissed Jason hello, and Brian's eyes bugged out.
"Ain't you ever seen two people kiss before, little brother," Jus asked Brian. He was in a playful mood, I could tell.
"Yeah, but not two guys," Brian said.
"You're going to see that around here, Bubba," Rick said. "We don't allow making out in public, but what Jus and Jay just did is perfectly all right. You'll get used to it."
"You guys have all been so nice to me, I'm sorry if I embarrassed you, Jus."
"You didn't embarrass me. Did we embarrass you?"
"Maybe a little bit, but I'll get used to it. Who knows, I might even want to have a boyfriend someday. I'd let him kiss me, I guess," Bri said.
"Hell, boy, you'll be begging for it. Get you a big ole stud like Jason here, and you'll be all over his ass," Justin said. "He'll stick his tongue in your mouth and get you all hot and hard..."
"Justin," I said firmly. "Lighten up, Bubba. Cut him some slack, okay?"
"Yeah, but he loved it. Look at his dick," Jus said.
I glanced over, and Brian had an erection. His face was bright scarlet, and he looked down.
"Jus, come give me and Kevin a hand in the kitchen for a minute, would you please," Rick said.
Once we were in the kitchen, Rick said, "Jesus Christ, Jus. What's up, man? You embarrassed the shit out of him with that remark about his dick."
"Sorry. Don't yell at me, man," Jus said.
"I'm not yelling at you. I'm talking in a normal tone of voice, and I'm not angry," Rick said.
"Have you been smoking, Jus," I asked.
"You know I smoke," he said.
"I don't mean cigarettes. I mean weed. Have you been smoking weed?"
"Naw," he said.
"Are you sure," I asked. I tried to see if I could smell it on him, but I couldn't. He was wearing cologne, and that's all I could smell.
"Yeah, I'm sure. Why are y'all down on me?"
"We're not down on you," Rick said. "Twenty minutes ago we were on the phone with Tyrone Williams telling him how proud we are of you. Kevin and I even started talking about how we're going to celebrate when you pass the GED. We love you, Jus, but you can't embarrass Brian like that, okay?"
"I say shit like that to Tim and Kyle all the time," Jus said.
"I know you do, and so do we, but..."
"But he's only been in the house twenty-four hours, buddy," I continued for Rick. "He doesn't really know us yet. In a week or a month you'll be saying that kind of stuff to him, and he'll be saying it back to you, too. But let him settle in, okay?"
"Okay. You're right. That was pretty harsh. I'm sorry."
"Now there's the guy we were bragging about," Rick said, pointing to Justin.
"Am I forgiven," he asked.
"Yeah, dumbass," I said. "Gimme a hug."
"Gimme me one, too," Rick said.
We went back into the den to find Kyle holding forth about kissing.
"The tongue really is the best part," Kyle said as we sat down. "Ain't that right, guys?"
"Are you giving a kissing seminar, Kyle," Rick asked.
"Yeah, and from what I hear, you could use it," Kyle shot back.
"Do you agree with that, Babe," Rick asked me.
"Not at all. He must have been talking to your girlfriend," I said.
"Uggggggghhhhhh," Kyle said.
"Do you have a girlfriend, too, Rick," Brian asked.
"No, baby, I don't have a girlfriend. Just fag-face there. I'm gay," Rick said.
"Well, in that case, I'd have to say that Kevin got you last," Brian said in a matter-of-fact manner.
Everybody but Rick laughed. I knew the only reason he didn't was he was desperately trying to find a come-back, but he was at a loss. After a few moments of searching, Rick's sportsmanship won out.
"You're right, Brian. He got me last. And Kyle's right. The tongue is the best part of kissing," Rick said.
"Unless he bites it, like some sex-crazed beast," Justin said in his usual deadpan manner.
"Hey, you weren't supposed to tell that," Jason said.
"Did you bite his tongue," I asked, laughing.
"Once or twice, maybe a little nip," Jay said. He obviously wasn't embarrassed or reluctant to talk about it.
"Little nip, my ass. He made the fucker bleed," Jus said.
"Well, if you didn't turn me on so damn much, maybe that wouldn't have happened," Jay said. It was his turn to tease.
"That's why he ain't getting my you-know-what," Jus said.
"Yeah, right! Have y'all ever kissed somebody in braces," Jay asked. "I kissed a boy for the first time when I was fourteen, and he and I both had braces. You talk about some bleeding tongues!"
We all laughed.
"I can just see 'em getting their braces caught on one another and having to go to the orthodontist like that," Kyle said. He grabbed Tim's head and pressed their mouths together. Kyle spread his lips back, and Tim did the same, as though they had planned it. "Honest, Doc, we don't know how it happened," Kyle said. "Just get us loose."
Everybody howled with laughter. Brian laughed so hard he had to gulp for air.
"I read on the Internet about a guy shoving a beer bottle up his butt," Tim said. "It went all the way in and got stuck. The guy had to go to the emergency room for them to take it out. I think he won a Darwin Award, or something like that."
"Oh, gross," several of them said at once.
"I saw a movie on the Internet of this boy sucking his own dick," Kyle said. "Our friend Ryan can do that. Can any of y'all?"
Most guys said "no."
"Gross, y'all tried that," Kyle said in mock disgust.
"Yeah, like you haven't tried it," Rick said.
"I was just teasing. It ain't gross, and I have tried it. I touched it with my tongue a couple of times, but it really hurt my back. I need to work on my flexibility skills," Kyle said.
"How do you know Ryan can do it," I asked.
"'Cause I've seen him do it. We both have, haven't we, Babe," Kyle asked Tim. Tim nodded.
"Can he bring himself off doing that," Justin asked.
"He didn't when we saw him do it, but he said he can," Kyle said.
"I've never even tried that," Brian said.
"You ought to, Bubba. It could turn out to be instant boyfriend," Kyle said.
"How did we get talking about sex," Justin asked.
"You started it, dumbass," Kyle said.
"Oh, yeah. I guess I did. By the way, Brian, I'm sorry I embarrassed you before, man. You see how we talk to each other. I just forgot you were a new member of the family. I get hard-ons all the time, and they always point 'em out," Justin said. It was pretty touching the way he was talking to Brian.
"At least he didn't swat it, like he does mine," Kyle said.
"Ouch," Brian said.
"It's okay, Justin," Bri said. "If you guys knew how much fun I'm having just being here with you, listening to you talk so freely, just being yourselves. I've never talked to anybody about stuff like what we've been talking about. I don't have any experience. I really didn't know you got hard when you kissed. I knew about tongue kissing, but sort of in the abstract, you know what I mean?"
"Brian, everybody here was just as much of a virgin at one time as you are," Rick said.
"You still are, aren't you," Kyle teased.
"Go to your room," Rick shot back.
"Oh. Okay." The two of them laughed hysterically at each other. Rick and Little Rick. "Seriously, Bri," Rick continued, "you're young, and you're innocent, and that's a very nice quality, man. Don't let these guys put any pressure on you until you're ready, okay?"
"He's ready," Kyle pronounced.
"How the hell do you know," Rick asked.
Brian spoke up. "Kevin and I talked this morning after everybody left, Rick. I've been thinking about what he told me all day. I've wanted a boyfriend for a long time, but that guy in Tallahassee made me think sex hurt. That it was bad. Kevin explained it, though. And seeing all of you together lets me know that you guys would never hurt each other. I can tell when people care about each other, when they're in love."
The room was quiet for a few seconds as everybody thought about what Brian had said. For a fourteen-year-old, he seemed to understand things beyond his years.
"Brian," Tim said, "Kyle and I have a friend..."
"David!," Kyle said. "Perfect, Babe. Absolutely perfect. He lives in the next block, right next door to me. He's a sophomore, and, God, is he a hunk," Kyle said.
"David the shortstop," I asked.
"Yeah. We were going to fix him up with...." Tim stopped.
"With who, Tim," Jason asked.
"It's not important," Tim said.
"They were probably gonna fix him up with me. Or me up with him, or something like that. But then I met you, snookums," Jus said, and he kissed Jay on the cheek. That was kind of cute.
"Jay, don't think you were the second choice, man," Kyle said. "You live in town, and David lives right next door to me. Please don't think..."
"Kyle, shut the fuck up," Jay said, grinning.
"I just don't want you to think..."
"I said shut up," Jay said.
"Okay. I'll shut up."
"What do you mean by fixing somebody up," Brian asked.
"They basically just mean they'll introduce you to somebody, Bri," I said. "Right, guys?"
"Well, maybe a little more than that," Kyle said. "First, an introduction and maybe lunch at the motel during school lunch for a few day so you can see if you like him. Then maybe a double date, you and Dave, and me and Tim."
"What about us," Justin asked.
"You don't even know David," Tim said.
"Yeah, but maybe I'd like to get to know him," Jus said. Jay elbowed him in the ribs.
"Owww. Never mind."
We all laughed.
"The first time out, a movie and a snack afterwards," Kyle said. "The next time, dinner, movie, arcade. Third time, eat, shoot pool. After that, you're on your own."
"Dave can't drive. He's only fifteen," Tim said.
"Shit, I forgot about that. Well, they can hang out and watch movies or something. Here, my house, your house, David's house. Dave's got a great house to hang out in," Kyle said.
"What if I don't love him," Brian said.
"Bri, you don't have to love somebody romantically to be friends, to go out together," I said. "You do sort of need to enjoy his company, but..."
"And if you don't, we've got plenty more friends where he came from," Kyle said. "Ain't that right, Babe?"
"Oh, yeah," Tim said. "Don't worry about that."
"Gosh, you guys are treating me like your brother," Brian said.
"Well, what the fuck do you think you are," Justin asked.
Brian got big tears in his eyes, and he quickly wiped them away.
"Those are happy tears, aren't they," Rick asked.
"It's okay to cry happy tears, Bri. We do it all the time around here. Sad tears, too, sometimes, right, Kyle." Rick kicked him softly when he said that.
"Yeah, we cry 'em sad, too, sometimes, Brian, but Rick turns sad tears into laughter," Kyle said.
"Do you guys get picked on at school," Brian asked.
"What?! Why should we get picked on," Kyle asked.
"Because you're, you know," Brian said.
"Because we're gay," Kyle asked.
"Yeah," Brian said.
"We really don't," Tim said. "The only ones of our gay friends who get picked on a little bit are Chad and Gage. You remember them from lunch today?"
"Yeah," Brian said.
"They don't so much get picked on as made fun of," Tim said, "but Gage always has a wicked come-back. He always makes it funny."
"Do people think you guys are gay because you hang out with them," Brian asked.
"Some might, but we don't give a shit what they think. They're our friends," Kyle said.
"What would happen if some guys attacked them," Brian asked.
"And we were around? We'd stomp their balls," Kyle said, in a way that sounded like it should have been obvious what they would do.
"So am I going to be safe at school," Brian asked.
"We've got your back in every class, man," Kyle said. "Except first period. Nobody's awake enough before or after that class to do anything. Besides, there hasn't been any gay-bashing there that I know of in the three years I've been going there. And, if somebody beats you up, we'll kill 'em."
"Kyle, don't you think that's a little dramatic," I asked. "You wouldn't really do that, would you?"
"Hunh. I might not kill 'em, but they'd wish they were dead," he said.
I was torn at that moment between pride in our boys for that attitude, on the one hand, and worry about them actually doing it, on the other hand. I would never want Kyle to come after me, that much I knew, but I thought I would probably serve as his second if he ever had to go after someone who hurt one of my boys.
"I hate to break this up, guys, but it's already 10:15. Does anybody have homework that has to be done?"
"Shit, I forgot. I've got a test first period tomorrow," Kyle said. "Good night. No sweet dreams for us for a while, Timmy."
"I've got work to do, too," Tim said. "Let's go."
The boys went to their rooms, and Rick and I turned the lights off and went to ours, too.
Rick and I cuddled into one another.
"Can you believe how well they're getting along," I asked.
"No, I can't. It's wonderful. And Brian's fitting in very nicely," he said.
"I was very proud of Jus tonight, after our little kitchen talk," I said.
"I was, too. I wanted to say something about that to you, though," he said.
"Oh? What's that?"
"Did you really think Jus had been smoking?"
"I don't know. He was just acting strange, I guess."
"Kevin, please don't take what I'm about to say the wrong way, okay?"
I'm sure my body stiffened slightly when he said that, and he picked right up on it.
"See, that's what I meant. Don't do that, okay?"
"Okay. What do you want to tell me," I asked.
"I think maybe sometimes both of us don't give Justin the benefit of the doubt like we do Tim and Kyle. If either one of them had said what he said, you wouldn't have asked them if they had been smoking. Would you?"
I didn't say anything. I knew what he was getting at, and I also knew he was one hundred percent correct. As much as I loved Justin, I still hadn't fully accepted him as one of "us." His background was so different, and his lack of respect when he had first come to us was still in the back of my mind.
"Say something," Rick said.
I hugged him tighter. "You're right. I wouldn't have asked them that," I said.
"You've got to open up your heart all the way for him, Babe," he said.
"I know, and I want to. I try to remember that, but sometimes I don't think. Like tonight."
"He's not middle class, and he probably won't ever be. Let's face it. One of our sons is a redneck."
"There's nothing wrong with him. It's all me," I said.
"It's all us. You and me. I sometimes think about his background, too. I can't imagine how hard it was for him to come into this house, this family. Overnight, almost, he's wearing clothes, he's working. Remember? He hadn't had clothes on for days when we met him. Then we put him in school for the first time in years."
"I know. When you look at it objectively, he's made an unbelievable adjustment. And I do genuinely love him, Rick," I said.
"I know you do. If you didn't, I would never have brought this up," he said.
I was quiet for a few seconds, thinking about what he had said. "What did I ever do to deserve you," I asked, rhetorically.
"Well, one big thing was getting your teeth filed smooth."
It took a second for that to register. Then I started laughing, and he did, too.
"Are you running in the morning," I asked.
"Yeah. I want to try out my NipGuards," he said.
"NipGuards. You haven't seen this because you've been asleep when I've come in, but a couple of times lately my nipples have started bleeding when I ran."
I sat up in bed. "What the fuck are you talking about," I asked. I'm sure I must have sounded frantic. His nipples started bleeding?! What was that all about?!
"Don't get upset. Lay down. It's a very common problems for runners, Babe. It's been kind of chilly early in the morning, so I've worn a tee shirt to run. The shirt gets wet and rubs against the points of my nipples. You know how sensitive they are, anyway. It makes like a little abrasion on my nipples. I don't really notice it too much when I'm concentrating on running, but I do when I finish my run. It doesn't even really hurt, probably because of the endorphins in my system. They burn like fire when I warm down."
"God, almighty. Why didn't you tell me? Have I made it worse by playing with them," I asked.
"Did it look like I was in pain when you were playing with them," he asked. I couldn't really see his face, but I knew he was grinning.
"Now that I think about it, they did feel like they had a little scab or something on them," I said.
"Yeah. I get those now and then."
"What are these things you're talking about," I asked.
"I did a Web search at work for information about bleeding nipples of runners, and I found a site. It was on a running discussion board, and bleeding nipples was one of the topics. I read all the posts, and one guy said he hadn't had the problem since he started using NipGuards. He gave their Web site. I went to it, read some stuff, looked at some pictures. My problem is nothing compared to some of those guys on that Web site. Some of them had blood down to their waists on their shirts. I made an on-line order, and it came in today. By over-night delivery."
"I've never heard of anything like this before," I said.
"I hadn't either, until it happened to me. Let's go to sleep now, okay. We can talk some more about my nipples tomorrow. I love you more than anything. Good night."
"I love you, too. Night, Babe."
I didn't go to sleep instantly, like he did. Instead, I lay there awake for a few minutes, thinking about everything that had happened that day and that night. We hadn't been in bed for more than about twenty minutes, but my love for Rick had taken a giant step forward in that time. I said a prayer to thank God for him and for the boys. Then I drifted off.
I always woke up when Rick's clock went off at five, but I didn't that morning. In fact, it was five minutes after six when I came to. I could hear the boys in the kitchen/den/breakfast room, and I smelled the food they were cooking. I figured Rick and I would have to forgo making love that morning, at least until after the guys got off to school and work, so I got up. I went to the bathroom, pulled on my briefs, and went out into the living area of the house.
The five boys were all up. Justin and Jason were sitting on the sofa, watching the local news on TV, or, at least, staring at it. Brian, Kyle, and Tim were scurrying around the kitchen. Everyone was in just their underwear.
"Good morning," I said to Jus and Jay.
"Morning," they said listlessly.
"There's a lot of activity in the kitchen this morning," I said.
"It's a Boy Scout thing," Jus said. "They're making weenie-water porridge."
I laughed at that line and ruffled his hair. He looked over his shoulder at me and grinned. He loved that kind of physical affection, and I made a mental note to do that more often, after the talk Rick and I had had about him the night before.
"Why don't you guys get a quick shower before breakfast," I said.
"Okay," Jus said. I could tell he was still sleepy, but I knew the shower would wake him up.
"Emphasis on 'quick,' okay," I said.
"Yes, sir," they said in unison.
I went into the kitchen, and we all told one another good morning.
"This really smells great, guys," I said. "Why don't y'all let me finish it up while you get showers."
"We've already had showers," Tim said.
"What time did you guys get up," I asked.
"I woke up when I heard somebody leaving," Brian said. "I thought it was Jason going home to get ready for school, but it wasn't him. I got up and took a shower then."
"It was Rick, Bri," I said. "He runs in the morning."
"He woke us up taking his shower," Kyle said. He was very busy cooking scrambled eggs at that moment.
"Is Rick running," Tim asked.
"Yeah," I said. "He should be home soon, though."
"Are you pissed we did this, Kevin," Kyle asked. "I know what y'all like to do after he runs."
"Not at all, Kyle," I said.
Rick came in just about then, and Justin and Jason came into the breakfast area from their shower at the same time. Rick took off his shirt, which was drenched with sweat. I saw the NipGuards for the first time. He told everybody good morning, and we all said the same to him.
"It's ready," Kyle said. He, Tim, and Brian brought out a huge platter of eggs, a platter of bacon and link sausage, a platter of frozen French toast, and a basket of regular toast. They had a pot of fresh coffee, a carton of milk, a carton of orange juice, cream, sugar, butter, and several jars of jellies and jams. It was quite a breakfast.
"What's that shit on your chest," Kyle asked. We all looked at Rick.
"They're called NipGuards, and they worked." He told the pretty gruesome story about his bleeding nipples, and nobody said anything. I think we were all contemplating the pain he must have endured before he got those things. He took one off and passed it around, at Kyle's request. It was a little square piece of foam, with adhesive on the back of it. It stood out about a quarter of an inch from the base, and it was just enough to keep his shirt from rubbing on his nipple. Kyle stuck it onto the middle of his chest, and we laughed at him.
"Rick, Bubba, why didn't you tell us you were hurting, man," Justin asked.
"It wasn't that bad, Jus. Now it's going to be okay," Rick said.
"Still, we want to know when you hurt, man," Jus said. "Maybe we can make it better, you know?"
Justin was speaking for his brothers right then, and we knew it.
"Thanks, Jus. That means a lot to me, man. It really does," Rick said.