Out Of The Past

Chapter 27

I was led to the car, and proceeded to buckle Randy into his car seat, on my side, while Eric locked the other two into theirs, on his side, before I took my place up front, with Eric.

Eric drove us out of the park, where I had set up shop, and headed out towards what must be his house, and I marveled once again, at how beautiful it was out here.

"You're good with them." Eric suddenly said, as we drove along, causing me to look over at him, before saying, "I love kids." which earned a grunt, but nothing else, from him.

We rode the rest of the way in companionable silence, as I thought about the last little while, and last night. 

These kids were getting to me, and I didn't quite understand how. I had been so determined not to get close again, but in just a few short minutes, last night, they had succeeded in destroying most of what I thought I had built up, to protect me, and today they were rapidly tearing down my remaining walls.

I knew I couldn't have them, or be a part of their lives. I would be leaving soon, but damn they were so sweet, and cuddly, and somehow my heart had been captured by the little rugrats, and I didn't know what I was going to do about it.

Eric soon turned off the main highway, onto a narrow lane, leading back a good distance away from the road, and eventually went around a curve, amongst a veritable forest of trees, coming out onto a drive in front of a large house, where he brought the vehicle to a stop.

It was truly beautiful, both the house and the surroundings, I thought, as I opened my door, and promptly went to the back door, without thinking about it, to release Randy, who held out his arms, and without thinking, I took him up and held him close to me, as he snuggled into my shoulder, as I glanced up to see Eric watching me carefully.

I just looked back at him, and he proceeded to release the other two.

Danny crawled over and wanted my other side, while Kevin took one look at us, and proceeded to latch onto daddy.

With that, Eric led us up, and to his door, which to my surprise, was unlocked, as he just turned the doorknob and walked in calling back,

"Welcome to our home," as he went through the door.

"Thank you." I told him, which earned another look, before he led me into what was obviously the living room.

He had a beautiful house, inside as well. All soft and warm colors, with brown and rich leather, appointing the room. 

"You guys want down now?" I asked the bundles in my arms, as I stopped in the center of the room, but received identical "uh uhs" from them, so shrugged and sat down on the sofa, where Kevin, who had wiggled down, promptly came over and took up position with the other two, leaving me with three bundles cuddling into me, while I just stroked their backs softly.

I noticed Eric standing there, looking at me, shaking his head, with a bemused expression on his face, and hoped he didn't think I was being inappropriately familiar with his children, but as if he could sense my unease, he smiled and said,

"Well it looks like they're occupied for the time being, so I am going to start dinner." 

"Give me a second, and I'll come help." I told him, but he laughed softly, before saying, "that's ok, somehow I don't think you're going anywhere for a while," and walked off as I just sat back and held them to me.

Truth be told, I didn't want to go anywhere. I was quite happy just sitting there, and holding onto them, as I rested my cheek on Kevin's head.

I don't know how long I sat there, before it really started to hit me, as these three brought back such bittersweet memories of the ones I left behind.

They weren't David and Jimmy, but they were so much like them, in some ways, that it was like having my heart torn out all over again, and I knew it would happen again, all too soon, for real.

I had put everything in a neat and tidy compartment, so I could go on with life, such as it was, yet here was the compartment being torn brutally open, and exposed yet again, and it hurt, oh did it hurt.

I hadn't realized that Eric had returned, until I heard a soft gentle voice asking, "you want to talk about it?" not prying, but offering unspoken sympathy, as I looked up to find him standing there looking at me, with a sad look on his face, and then realizing that I had tears running down my face.

I quickly looked at the three in my arms, as Eric said, "They're out." and I breathed a sigh of relief, as I returned my gaze back to him.

"I had two nephews, two nephews that I helped raise, especially after their father died. I loved them with all my heart, but the mother met someone else, someone who didn't much care for me. The short version is, I was invited out of their lives, permanently, and I miss them." I told him.

"I miss them, a lot, and these guys have brought back....they've made me...." but I stopped for a moment, trying to regain my composure, before continuing, "they've reopened old wounds, that weren't really healed." I finished, probably somewhat bitterly, as he watched me quietly.

He didn't say anything for a moment or two, but then he said, "they have a way of doing that, and healing you, if you give them a chance." he said, and there was so much unsaid in his voice, that it caused my breath to catch in my throat, as he continued to look at me.

"I can't, not again." I told him softly, with the pain filling my voice.

"I think it's too late." he replied, just as softly, as a sob escaped my throat, and I looked down at them once again, briefly.

He was right, it was too late.

I was shaking my head, as he continued, "My wife died and I thought my world died with her. I wanted to die, even with them here; she was everything to me, my sun and moon, the stars in the heavens. My whole life was her. After...after she died, I sank into a despair that was hard to describe, but it was total. I didn't want to live any longer. I didn't care about anything except the enormous pain that I was filled with," he told me, pausing for a few moments.

"To this day, I will swear on anything anyone likes, that I felt, that I FELT it, the moment she went, and it ripped a hole in me that I can't begin to describe. The boys were simply a chore to be dealt with, as little as possible, and I certainly did that. I foisted them off on whoever was feeling sympathy for me, on a given day, and really convinced myself that I didn't care anymore, about them, or anything." he told me, still in that soft voice, which was now in the past, and not with me any longer.

"But you see, what I didn't take into account, was the power of a child's love. Three children, as a matter of fact. They wouldn't give up on me, not for one instant. It was almost frightening to see the way they behaved, but they never gave up, and just loved me. No matter how hard I tried to push them away, they stuck in there, and loved me. Finally one day, I was sitting about where you are, and they came up to me, and I told them to go play somewhere, and they just looked at each other and before I knew it they were in my lap and hugging me, much like they are doing to you now, and like you I just sat there, until at some point, all the memories came flooding back, all the good times, all the love, all the hope and joy, and just like you, I found myself coming out of it with tears running down my face, only they were awake for me, and were looking at me. Just staring at me, in a way that is hard to describe, but they had an intensity in them, that was unbelievable. Before I knew it, I was crying like a baby, with great racking sobs, shaking my body, and they just held me Mike, they just held me, and when it was all over, they said the simplest and most powerful words in the human language, 'I love you, Daddy', and I realized that through it all, I loved them too, but was afraid to anymore, after losing Melissa."

"After that day, they started filling the hole, and they have become my life, as much as Melissa had been." he told me.

"Yesterday, I thought they were going to lose their father too, and it filled me with such agony, knowing they wouldn't understand my leaving them, because Mike, I know Jeremy told you they don't take to strangers very well, but it's more than that. It may be unhealthy for them, hell even for all of us, but we're a team, and while they tolerate others, and even love them somewhat, like Jeremy and his wife, they don't give themselves fully to anyone. They are like any kids, in liking hugs from people they trust, but they don't do what they've done with you." he told me, as I thought about it.

I didn't know what to say to that, and remained quiet, as he continued.

"They will get a hug, maybe even sit for a bit, but they don't just move into a person's lap, or fall asleep, being held by anyone, anyone except me, and now you." he told me, as I started to protest, but he quickly held up his hand and went on.

"I, frankly, didn't believe Jeremy when he told me about you and what happened last night, at least not until today, when I saw it with my own eyes. They don't do what they have done with you. The way they have been with you, is the way they act with me, Mike, do you understand what I'm saying? They have attached themselves to you, and I don't understand it, but they've done it, and that is something so special, that I can't begin to explain it to you. You're the first person since Melissa, that they have behaved this way with." he told me. 

"I'm not quite sure what to say, Eric. I'm honored they trust me that much, but I never meant to intrude in your family...." I tried to explain to him, but he quickly cut me off, as he said, chuckling.

"Intrude? You don't get it Mike; they decided this, not you. If they didn't want you, then you wouldn't have been able to 'intrude' as you put it. Believe me when I say, that more than one person has decided that they are going to 'help' the boys, and 'be there' for them. Trust me when I say, they're not and never were allowed to be. I don't know why, but they've adopted you into the family, Mike, and I hope you can deal with that." he told me, as I sat there with my mouth open in shock.

This couldn't be happening, was all I could think of, as I watched Eric suddenly get up, and walk out, saying "got to check dinner, it should be almost ready," leaving me there alone, with my thoughts.

That was, until I noticed a pair of eyes, looking intently at me, and I smiled, saying, "well hello there, little one," which got a smile as he said, "Why are you sad?"

I sucked in a breath, as his little hand came up and wiped at the tear tracks on my face, not realizing that it showed so plainly.

"I was just thinking about something is all." I told him softly, as he continued to look at me, cocking his head slightly, as if considering something, then telling me, "stop thinking about it, we won't leave you, ever," and then suddenly crawling off my lap, and saying "I gotta go pee pee." and scampering off out of the room, as I sat there in shock, with my mouth open.

How the hell had he known that?

"Dinner's ready." I heard, and glanced up to find Eric standing there looking at me. "Where's Randy?" he asked.

"Umm...he said he had to use the restroom." I told him, as the object of the question came running back into the room. "Daaady," he said, as he ran up to Eric, and jumped causing Eric to reach out and catch him, swinging a giggling little boy around, before placing him on his hip, and giving him a kiss. 

The commotion of it all had woken the other two boys up, and now they looked blearily around, before setting their sights on their dad, and with them giving me a quick kiss were off.

I watched the events unfold in an almost orchestrated fashion, as the two boys headed for Eric, and Randy wiggled down, just as Danny and Kevin arrived, to take his place, but what surprised me was Randy turning and coming back to my lap, and snuggling in close.

I can't begin to describe the feelings flowing through me, as I stood up, with him in my arms, and gave him a gentle kiss on the top of his head, which earned me a beatific smile from his little face, and I realized it had brought one to mine as well, as I followed the other three into the dining room, and our dinner.

It had been a long time, too long a time.

We had a pleasant meal together, and I helped cut up some of the food for the little ones, and it was almost like having a family again, as I listened to the childish chatter, coming from the three of them. I knew I spent most of the meal with a silly smile on my face from it all, just enjoying myself, partaking of something that I had deeply missed. 

They say the little things are what's important in life, and they're more right than they can possibly know, as something as simple as a meal with three little boys, became the absolute most important thing in the entire universe to me, that night, as strange as it may sound. 

As the night progressed, we just were. That's the best description of the evening. We talked sometimes, and did other things, but mostly we just sat with each other, and were. There was a feeling of rightness to it, and peace that filled me, and had been absent for over a year now. 

I always seemed to have at least one child in contact with me, as if they could sense the need within me, and it was a wondrous feeling that I cherished, as I knew it wouldn't last long.

Finally the night had progressed to the point the boys started yawning, and I said "well, maybe you should get me home so they can get to bed," which got dirty looks from the boys who already considered the word sleep to be a bad word, but Eric surprised me by saying, "we've got a couple of guest rooms here, why don't you stay the night, I'm sure the boys would love it," which got a resounding response from the boys in question, as I lost a little more of my hearing



"Yeah, please!"

"Please stay, please!" came from three voices, all filled with entreaty, and the looks on their faces would put puppies out of business, if you could market them. 

"Just say yes." Eric said, chuckling, as I mumbled "Yes," obviously outvoted, not that I really minded all that much. 

This response elicited more damage to my hearing, but was made up for by a bunch of little boy hugs, and wet kisses, which left me in heaven, as I hugged them to me.

Eric soon began chasing the sleepy angels off to bed, and after giving me copious amounts of good night hugs and kisses, finally succeeded in getting them out of the one room and heading reluctantly towards their rooms, leaving me with a smile on my face.

I was sitting there thinking about how wonderful an evening it had been, when one of the little angels came streaking into the room stark naked, and jumped up into my lap, wrapping his arms around me, as he said, "Mike you gots to come tuck us in, you gots to," in an excited voice, as I said ,"I would love to little one," and got up with him, walking towards where his bedroom must be, with the occasional directions from him, eventually leading me to it. 

I was surprised to find the other two, in the same bed, but didn't think anything of it, as I carried him over to them, and placed him next to his brothers.

"There you are you little devil" Eric said, and I glanced back to find him standing in the doorway.

"He got you eh?" he asked, chuckling.

"Yeah someone wants to be tucked in." I said, with a smile on my face.

"I got these two in bed and looked around and he was gone." he said, with mock anger in his voice, which got some sweet boy giggles, from the culprits involved. 

"Well, I suppose I better get tucking then," I said, as I bent down, and planted a quick kiss on Randy's cheek, but he surprised me by wrapping his arms around me, giving me a huge 4 year old hug, which I gladly returned, before kissing him again, and getting a wet boy smooch back from his grinning face, as I laid him back on the bed, and said my age old ritual of "sleep tight and don't let the bed bugs bite." reaching out unnoticed, and tickling his ribs, sending him into a fit of giggles, as I repeated the kisses and yes the big hugs, with the other two and they got the bed bugs as well. 

It was as I was finishing, and about to stand up, that something strange occurred. The boys suddenly sat upright enough to look at one another and did so for a moment, before smiles came across each of their faces, while I stared at the odd display, and then Kevin said, "I love you Uncle Mike." followed by "I love you too Uncle Mike," and "Me too Uncle Mike, I love you too from the others."

I heard a gasp from close by, but at the moment I was simply overwhelmed with emotion, and the feelings coursing through me.

I tried to speak, to say something to the three little faces, staring up at me, staring at me intently, but I found a lump in my throat, that was preventing speech. So much was going through me, but one overwhelming thing I realized, was that I loved them as well, and somehow managed to gasp out "I love you too, little ones, I love you too," but it was too much for me and I quickly got up and fled the room, going back out into the living room, and sitting on the couch, in shock.

No, I couldn't let this happen, not again, I wouldn't. 

I couldn't take it again; not again, it would kill me this time.

No angel would be able to save the day this time. 

"Are you ok?" I heard a voice ask quietly, and looked up to find Eric once again looking at me, with sympathy in his face and voice. 

It was too much to deal with right now, as I said coldly

"Could you show me where I'll be sleeping please" I just couldn't deal with this. 

He didn't seem to take offense, just looked at me and said, "sure come on" and led me to a guest room, complete with its own bath. 

As I entered, he remained by the door, and said softly, after I entered, "It'll be alright Mike, you'll see," as he gently shut the door behind him, as I softly whispered, 

"No it won't Eric, no it won't" in infinite sadness. It'll never be alright again.

I just sat down, and felt the tears come, that I had been holding back, trying not to think about anything, right now until finally I dragged my clothes off, and crawled into bed, with the tears still flowing, as I drifted off into restless slumber, with images of five children bouncing around in my head, thinking how could it ever be alright, how do you stop loving someone, and knowing that was the problem, you can't.

At some point, my dreams quieted, and the rest of the night was one of sweet dreams, and peaceful sleep, until I woke up that is.

I couldn't tell you what it was that woke me, but I came slowly awake, feeling the most incredible sense of peace and contentment that I had felt in a long time, as I realized I was surrounded by warmth, and slowly opened my eyes to find three faces looking down at me, with smiles, and that those faces were attached to the bodies which were wrapped around me providing the warmth I had been feeling.

I just smiled back at them, as they kissed me, and I returned the kisses wrapping my arms around them, and hugging them to me, happy again finally, until I heard

"Well what have we here?" from Eric, standing in the doorway looking at us.

I smiled and started to say "my morning greeting par...." but trailed off, as I realized something, 

I slept naked.

Apparently the children did too, from what I could feel,

I was in bed naked with three naked children, and their father was standing a few feet away. 

This was not good.

I know my expression by this point must have conveyed my horror, at the situation, but surprisingly the trinity giggled and Eric asked "what's wrong, Mike?" 

"Aahh....well...aahh...I really....ah oh shit...." I sputtered, as Kevin said "he's worried bout his pee pee" causing me to choke and I could feel my face turning red, as I stared at Eric, while the three brats giggled.

Then I jumped straight up, as I felt a hand wrap around my very hard organ, and Kevin said, "His pee pee is real big daddy, just like yours." 

Eric looked at me, and then back at Kevin, before saying "what have I told you about touching someone, without asking them first?" which surprisingly got a contrite "swarry" to both Eric and me, as he released me.

"I'm so sorry, Eric, I never...I mean...." I started to say, when Eric interrupted me, and said, "Sorry for what?" 

I hung my head and then raised it saying "Eric, I don't know how they got in here, and I swear I wouldn't have allowed it if I had been awake, but..." I was trying to tell him but once again he interrupted me. 

"Mike, they came in during the night, and wanted to sleep with you, it means you're really one of the family now." he told me, grinning at my obvious discomfort.

He apparently didn't quite understand, as I tried again.

"Eric I don't sleep with any clothes on." I told him, finally, but was sent into shock as he said, 


"Umm, well, apparently they didn't last night either." I told him.

"Oh that's what you're worried about." he said, chuckling, "I thought they made you squirt or something, and you were freaked out by It." he went on to say, as I choked once again.

"Mike, don't be. They never do, and neither do I." he told me referring to pajamas. 

I took a deep breath, and told him, "We need to talk, now." which caused him to look at me for a minute, before saying,

"Alright guys, out for a few minutes." he told them. 

"But dad we want a shower" Randy whined.

"Well, you can get one in a bit, but not now, out." Eric told them, as they scowled at him.

"We wet the bed" Kevin said to me, and I realized after all this time, that he was right; they sure had, as I became aware of the moisture beneath me.

I just looked at him, and said, "Well that's ok, a little pee never hurt anyone." which got some boy giggles, as they bent down and smothered me in kisses. 

Kevin whispered; "Its reaaaaaly big." giggling as Randy said "its ok." and then they were all scrambling out from beneath the covers, and running out of the room, leaving me with my face once again bright red and my mouth open.

Eric looked at me before saying, "I'm sorry if they made you uncomfortable, by coming in with you." 

"No, no it's not that, Eric. I loved waking up to them being here, its just well..." I said and then stopped.

How do you tell someone that you have been accused of child molestation, when that someone is the father of three boys you were just in bed with naked, one of whom was holding your very hard penis.

He was continuing to look at me, and he wasn't saying anything, as I took a deep breath and continued. 

"Eric, you need to know that I was charged with child molestation, a little over a year ago." I told him, holding my breath, and watching his reaction carefully.

What was to my surprise was that he didn't have one. 

He simply stared at me, before finally asking, "would you ever hurt a child, Mike?" and I started to say something then stopped and simply said "No," as he nodded his head.

"I didn't think so. I just don't see you ever harming a child. Also if you were capable of it, the trinity never would have spoken to you, much less slept with you last night." he told me, dead seriousness in his face and voice.

"I can't explain it, but those kids know a person better than I'll ever be able to, with all my experience and training. They vouched for you, and more, the minute they crawled into your lap in Jeremy's office."


"No butts, Mike, they decided, not you, just like I told you last night. I don't know what it is, but I feel a connection to you as well, you're part of the family, Mike forever, even if you decide to leave, which is something I hope you won't do." he said, leaving me sitting there stunned.

"Eric, I...I don't know what to say." I finally got out, this was just too much.

"Mike, I can't explain why, but I trust you with them, but don't be surprised if they check you out. It's not sexual or anything, just curiosity, but I'm sure they will sooner or later, and you don't have to worry about me getting angry; or anything, I know you won't hurt them." he told me, as I just sat there.

Stunned, somehow didn't begin to describe where I was at right at this particular moment.

"I don't know Eric, I just don't know. I want it so badly but I'm...I'm afraid of losing it again." I softly whispered, as I felt myself feeling hope, for the first time in a long, long time. 

He was just looking at me, and I finally said, "I'm scared" as he came over and sat down on the bed beside me. 

"Don't be." he said, softly, and took me in his arms hugging me to him, and caressing my back.

It felt so good to be held in his arms, as I wrapped mine around him. 

It didn't matter that he was a man it just felt so right to me.

"Oh God," I gasped, as he said softly, "you don't have to be afraid anymore," to me, causing a sob to escape my throat.

Everything I had pushed back last night was threatening to break through now, and I desperately tried to hold back, but then I felt three naked little bodies, squirming to get into our hug, as Eric and I pulled back slightly, from each other and I turned tear filled eyes towards them, as they crawled into our laps

Once they got settled into our arms, they looked up at me, and just looked, as Randy reached out and wiped the tear stains from my face, on one side and Danny did it on the other, while Kevin said, "don't be sad, it's alright now."

The faith of a child, three children, broke the dam, as pain I hadn't even acknowledged having still inside of me, began to leave, in great racking sobs, to the voices of four people telling me that everything was ok now, and that I was loved.

I was loved and I was scared, because more importantly, I was loving someone again, three, no make that four someone's, as I realized that I loved Eric as well, as well as the little ones. 

Then I heard one of them say, "Don't be scared, Uncle Mike, we won't leave you, ever." and I knew that once again it was Randy, only this time the others added their voices too.

"We love you Uncle Mike, and we'll always be here," and 

"We won't leave, and daddy won't neither." the smallest one ended, as I just cried with everything that I had lost, and more importantly what I was beginning to believe I had found again.

A family to love, and one which would love me, but most important of all, one which would never leave me, ever.

As I cried, the impetus of it changed from one of pain and fear, to one of joy and love, as they filled the empty places within me, and eventually it eased, as I looked up and saw them looking back at me, only now I could smile softly, as I said, 

"Thank you, little ones." 

"It's ok now." they said, more in affirmation than reassurance this time, as I smiled bigger and said, "Yeah, I really think it is," before I took all four of them back into my arms, hugging them tightly to me, until a small voice said, "uncle Mike, we can't breathe," which caused me to let out a little laugh, and loosen my hold on them, as they giggled with their pretty eyes shining lovingly at me.

The moment was broken by Danny's voice saying, "can we take a shower now, I smell like pee pee." which got all of us laughing, as Eric said, "Sure guys, have fun, just leave some of the water in the shower for a change." which earned him a glare along with giggles, as the boys scrambled off my lap and stood there.

"Well go on," Eric said, shooing them out as Randy said, "We wanna take a shower with Uncle Mike." 

"Don't you think you should ask Uncle Mike?" Eric said which caused 3 sets of eyes to swivel to me, with the puppy dog look, again accompanied by "pleases" from all of them. 

"Well guys, I don't...." I started to say when Eric, who still had his arm around me, gave me a squeeze, and said "its ok Mike, really," as I looked deeply into his eyes, and saw the trust and more importantly acceptance, residing in his gaze.

"Ok, if you're sure." I said, still a little hesitant because I was fairly sure at least one of the boys would be trying to satisfy his curiosity, during this shower.

"Yeah, Mike, I'm sure, very sure." he told me, while never breaking his gaze from mine, as I nodded, and said, "ok, and thanks Eric, thanks," meaning far more than just the shower.

It was his turn to nod, as he pulled me to him, one more time. In a tight hug, which I returned and then stood up, as I, without thinking, pushed the covers back and stood up.

I didn't remember my state of dress, until three little boys and their giggling, reminded me abruptly, at which point I felt the red come back to my face, as Eric just laughed, and took a good look at little Mike, who was still standing up and saying hello to the world. 

I started to cover myself, but then let my hands drop back to my side, as I shrugged my shoulders, figuring they'd see it all soon enough anyway, and Eric already had, so what was the point.

It didn't stop the kids from giggling some more, so I told them, "Well, if you little giggling machines can stop long enough, let's go get our shower." which I was soon to find out didn't really apply to them, as they just giggled more than they were as they followed me to the shower.

That experience was one which I'll never forget. 

Every touch, every caress, which took place, was filled with such love and tenderness, as to be almost indescribable.

I had bathed my nephews a million times, but it was never like this, although there had always been love in it.

This was something special, and that shower was what really made me part of the family, I will always believe, as I washed them, and they just as tenderly washed me.

They were three and four years old, but they were slow and gentle, and it was if they knew somehow, just how special this event was for all of us.

Don't get me wrong, it started out being pure boy, as we all got in the shower, and I felt an odd sensation on my leg only to look down and find someone watering me in addition to the water from the shower head.

As I looked on, and my mouth gaped open, the giggles started all over again, and the other two decided to help their brother, and soon there were four kids having a water fight of a different kind, in the gigantic shower, as we all laughed.

By the time it was over, they had discovered, or possibly rediscovered, that adults had more in them, since they were so much bigger, but they didn't care, and we had a wonderful time.

It did get serious, and as I said the time was extremely special, as they washed me, from head to foot, slowly and deliberately, and of course, like I thought, all three managed to more than satisfy their curiosity, before we left the shower that morning.

Afterwards, we got out and I quickly dried myself, and then took my time drying each of them, making them giggle, as I ruffled their silky hair back and forth, and outright laugh when I got to their armpits and tummies, finally taking a brush to all of our hair, before they ran out giggling, only to come back and grab me, pulling me along with them.

I called a halt, long enough to pull my pants on, and then was dragged out to the dining room, where Eric was setting pancakes and bacon with eggs over easy on their individual platters, in the center of the table being dressed in shorts and not much else.

It was a very nice breakfast, and just eating together, seemed so wonderful a thing to me, that it's very hard to describe, but after the shower and now this breakfast, I felt....I felt at home.

Finally I felt at home.

I kept getting smiles from the boys, and that truly warmed my heart, as their affection was so obviously genuine, and special to me, and as we finished eating, they all got up and came around to give me syrupy kisses, which I didn't mind in the least, before running off to play. 

I smiled after the last of them left, and just sat there staring after where Kevin had disappeared to, when suddenly he reappeared and ran up to me, throwing his arms around me as he said, "I love you Uncle Mike." and as quickly as he came, he was running off, as I replied, "I love you too." 

As I sat there, Eric asked, "You think you might like Montana?" 

I just looked at him, and he went on. "We can always use some more deputies," giving me a gentle smile, as he said it.

"I think I might like that a lot, a whole lot." I said, smiling back at him, because I knew that not only did it feel like home, now it was home, as I heard all around me a series of childish giggles. 

I was finally home.