Bonds of Brotherhood

by Hunter Woods

Chapter 17

"It's alright my little snuggle bug. Just be yourself with Ezra's cousins. I'm hoping you can keep their spirits up tonight, alright? They already love you so just be there for them if they need someone." I suggested to him as he nodded his head before bounding upstairs to find the two brothers with his small duffle bag in tow.

Heading over towards Ezra and Brendan we took a seat on the couch. Brendan was full of questions, and I listened on as Ezra explained to his friend how his grandfather had told them in the early morning hours to get their things together and walk over here. As I listened I could only imagine how rough that walk would have been for the boys. It wasn't only because of the distance and the weather, but also because of the uncertainty surrounding the circumstances.

"He's been sick for many years now Brendan, but he kept it hidden. I only knew because he wanted me to be prepared just in case, but as time went on it never crossed my mind…you know that…um…it could really happen." Ezra explained to me and Brendan as I leaned in and held his hand in mine. "I'm so relieved though that he found someone for us because I know he has been worried about it now for a very long time." He finished off as he smiled tenderly at me, and stroked my cheeks affectionately.

"Geeze you two go get a room already." Brendan whispered looking around and chuckling before he backpedaled a bit. "Oh, I'm sorry Ezra, I…I."

Ezra just smiled at his friend. "It's alright Brendan. I think I've cried enough for one day, and I'm exhausted. Considering everything, it was actually not as bad as I would have thought. I miss my grandfather, but because of your family Jackson it has been much easier to get through it. I'm just sorry it put a strain on your special day Jackson." He told me sincerely as he squeezed my hand.

"No Ezra, don't ever think that because you and your cousins mean more to me than any medal or trophies." I told him sincerely as he smiled gently while looking deeply into my eyes.

"You have no idea how much that means to us Jackson." He nodded his head deep in thought before looking back at me. "Why don't we head up to the room? It's pretty late anyway." He grunted as he got up. "Where are your parents Jackson? I want to say goodnight to them and thank them." He asked me as I walked with him over to my parent's room.

They had already said goodnight to the smaller boys, but had left us alone and went to their room. "Mom…dad?" I asked knocking on their bedroom door.

"Yes sweetie." My mom called out as I opened the door. "I just wanted to say goodnight, and so did Ezra and Brendan." I told them as I slipped inside their room giving them a hug and kiss.

Mom was in her nightgown and my dad in a pair of shorts and t-shirt. "Thanks for everything Mr. and Mrs. Elborn. I…I don't know what we would have done without you today. I know the boys appreciate it as well; especially, Tyler." Ezra told them as he gave them a big hug and sincere smile.

"Why Tyler?" My dad asked curiously concerned now about the smaller boy as he gave Ezra a big firm hug before releasing him.

"Oh…um…it's just kind of hard for him you know. I mean…um…he was so young when his mother died, but old enough to understand. Now with grandfather…it'll just be tough for him I think. He doesn't show it because he feels responsible for Zachary, but he's still so young, and I'm worried about it." He admitted to my dad feeling a bit awkward that he had confided this to my parents. "Maybe I shouldn't have said anything about it, and it could be nothing." He amended as he started to get up before my father grabbed his hand so that Ezra would look at him.

"No Ezra, don't ever feel bad about being concerned for you cousins. I'm glad you told us this so that we can keep an eye out for it. We want to be sure to be there for him if it becomes too much for him to handle. Also, it will help us to diffuse any issues ahead of time, and maybe ease things for him a bit." My dad reached out, and rubbed the boy's arm and shoulder affectionately.

Ezra just nodded his head, and leaned in giving him another hug. "Thank you so much for everything. I'm glad my grandfather chose your family."

"Oh Ezra my boy there is no need for thanks. That's what friends are for, and hopefully family very soon. I heard back from the lawyer a little while ago, which I hadn't expected so soon, but needless to say he was shocked to hear about your grandfather considering they had been in constant contact lately. He says we can get most everything squared away this upcoming week with the judge and everything…that is if it is also what you boys want. You will have to think this through Ezra, and I know it is a lot, but there is some time here because if anything happens it won't be for several days, alright?" My father told Ezra as the boy nodded his head.

"Yeah, I understand Mr. Elborn." Ezra responded pausing for a moment before shaking his head. "But believe me grandfather always knew what he was doing, and to tell you the truth I also believe this is the best place for us…that is if you will have three more boys just like that in your family. Maybe it is you and Mrs. Elborn who needs to take time to think this through instead of us." Ezra pointed out catching my parents by surprise at his maturity.

My father nodded his head giving the point to Ezra. "I also heard from the tribal council, and we will be getting together with them this week as well. I know it sounds like things are going really fast, but I think it might just be best for your little cousins." My father smiled encouragingly at the older boy who just nodded his head agreeing as we talked for a few more minutes before heading upstairs.

"I'm going to check up on the boys." I told Ezra and Brendan as they nodded their heads.

"I'll go with you." Ezra yawned making me yawn in turn while Brendan just giggled calling us a bunch of pansies who have to go to bed like a bunch of babies.

"No, that's alright." I told Ezra as I leaned in, and wrapped my arms around him gently giving him a kiss on the lips as he smiled appreciatively. "You've had a long day, and I'll be sure to tuck them in for you." I smiled at him reassuringly as he yawned once more and nodded his head in agreement.

Walking over to the extra bedroom I could hear the boys talking with the television playing in the background. I knocked on the door and peaked inside. All three boys were snuggled up together in bed with Zachary drowsing between Marco and Tyler. They looked just oh so adorably sweet all bundled up together like that as I sat down on the bed next to Marco.

"Hey guys we are heading to bed, and maybe you guys should too." I told them as I gave each of them a light kiss on the forehead.

"Yeah, your right." Tyler yawned smiling at me when I kissed him tenderly on the tip of his nose making him giggle. "Jackson, are we really going to live here for real now?" He asked me getting serious.

"Well, I think that's the way it looks right now." I told him as I sat back down on the bed this time next to him. "I mean it is what your grandfather wanted, and my parents would love to have you stay with us, me too. But I have to be honest, things have to be worked out first…you know legally." I told the boy who just scrunched up his eyebrows. "Also, that is if you boys want to stay with us too." I added thinking he was kind of hesitating about the whole thing because he just wasn't sure about the situation.

"Oh no Jackson I think that we would be fine with it and all. I know grandfather wanted us to stay with you guys, but I was just wondering if we all want it, including grandfather, why would the law get involved. They shouldn't have a say in what we all decide." He told me so sure of himself.

"Well, I'm sure they just want to make sure that it really is true because they don't want you boys going to just anyone you know. That is why your grandfather did what he did by making it all legal and approved in case something happened to him. Now we just have to go through the process of making it completely official. I'm sure there won't be any issues, but everyone just wants to make absolutely sure that everything is as it should be." I reassured the smaller boy who thought about it for a moment then nodded his head.

"I guess that makes sense." He finally admitted as I pulled up the blanket around him, and tucked him in giving him a quick peck once more for good measure before getting up.

Turning off the television set, and turning off the light, I turned back towards them while I was in the doorway. "If you guys need anything we are just in the next room." I told them before closing the door halfway, and making my way into my own room.

Both Ezra and Brendan were already in bed when I peeled off my clothes, and slipped in next to Ezra. His body felt warm, soft, and cozy as he turned towards me and smiled scooting in closer to me while we both just wrapped our arms around each other tenderly. Feeling his naked skin next to mine felt so natural to me, and I just couldn't imagine not having that in my life anymore. He smelled so wonderful, and felt soft and gentle as he leaned in giving me a tender kiss. "I love you." He whispered in my ear as I laid my head on his chest running my fingers gently over his small nickel sized nipples making him quiver excitedly.

"I love you too." I whispered back as our naked bodies seemed to mold together into one. There was nothing sexual about it, just mutual support and warmth.

With each intake of air I breathed his heady boy scent inside of me, which made me feel safe and secure in his arms. His limbs and body wrapped around me acted like a shield of protection as his warm embrace reached out nurturing me with a sense of tenderness and affection. I could hear the slow rhythmic beating of his heart, which slowly lulled me to sleep as my mind drifted off slowly. It had been a long and stressful day, and my mind and body needed to recuperate as the tension slowly eased away from me.

A short while later in the stillness of night something seemed to nag at the back of my consciousness as I detected some movement by my bedroom door. I was too tired to try doing anything about it so just let it be until I felt the bed moving around before a familiar scent and warmth cuddled up to me wrapping their little arms around my small frame.

Slowly unwinding myself from Ezra I turned around, and noticed Marco had decided to join us. "What are you doing snuggle bug?" I asked as he yawned sleepily.

"I couldn't sleep." He whispered as he burrowed up under my arms and closer to my body.

Laughing silently to myself, I just softly stroked his smooth skin and held on to him until he fell asleep. Lifting up the blanket I noticed he was naked as always, and was sporting an erection, which seemed to slowly deflate now that he was asleep, and I was no longer running my hands across his smooth skin. It never ceased to amaze me how quickly he always fell asleep when he cuddled up with me. Not able to control myself I reached down and slowly stroked his now small short stubby fleshy flaccidness bringing it back to life before once again releasing him. There was just something about Marco that made me want to hold him in my arms, and love every square inch of him. My feelings for this little spit fire of a boy ran deep, and in many ways it felt similar to the feelings I had for Ezra. Shaking my head sadly, I gently pushed my little snuggle bug on to his back, and crawled out of bed. I slid my legs back into my underwear, and made my way over to the other room to check up on the two other boys.

When I snuck a look into the bedroom I could see the two brothers huddled up together tightly in the middle of the bed. Zachary was sleeping peacefully, but when Tyler heard my movement by the doorway, he looked over towards me as he wiped his face that looked kind of damp. My heart broke for the boy as I made my way over towards the bed, and sat down next to him.

"Hey Tyler, why are you still up?" I asked him gently.

His eyes welled up as he just shook his head. "I just can't sleep is all." He whispered. "And Marco left to go sleep with you guys." He added.

"Yeah I know." I shook my head sadly at him. "Don't worry it's nothing you did because he really likes you guys. It's just whenever he sleeps over here, or I'm at a sleepover with Brendan, he can't get to sleep without crawling into bed with us. Don't ask me why because he sleeps just fine otherwise, but always seems to have to sleep with us or he is tossing and turning all night long." I chuckled at the smaller boy rubbing his cheek gently with the back of my hand.

"Oh, that's cool I guess. Well at least now I know I didn't hurt his feelings or anything." The boy whispered softly so as not to wake up his little brother.

"How would you have hurt his feelings?" I asked him curiously, and noticed him blushing so knew Marco had probably instigated something sexual. "Don't tell me he ended up wanting to go to bed naked?" I asked him as he nodded his head and giggled.

"Yeah, but it really didn't bother me because at home we sleep naked together in bed too, but it's just we both ended up…you know…our diddle's getting all hard like when he sort of scooted in next to me. He wanted to see mine, but I didn't let him because…well you know…because it kind of curves and all." He whispered to me a bit shy about it even though I already knew all about it.

"Well I wouldn't worry about it too much because his feelings weren't hurt. I just think he couldn't get any sleep. How about you, do you think you can sleep now?" I asked him shoving a loose strand of hair from his forehead.

The boy just shrugged his shoulders in a non-committal kind of way. "I see, how about if I just crawl in bed with you, and keep you company for a while?" I asked him as he looked over towards me hesitantly at first, and then started to think seriously about it. "I just cuddled up with Marco, and he's fast asleep now." I continued.

"R…really. I mean he didn't mind cuddling up with you?" He asked me smiling sheepishly now as he lifted up the covers, and I slid in next to him.

"No, of course not because he's like one of my bestest little buds and all." I whispered to him as I wrapped my left arm under his head, and he scooted closer to me. "I have a pet name for him and everything. I bet if you ask him nicely he just might tell you what it is since you two are becoming such fast friends, and are about the same age. We don't tell the others what it is because he is kind of shy about it. But if you are really sneaky about it he just might tell you." We both giggled together.

"So what's my little pet name then?" He asked curiously.

"Hmmm that's a very good question, how about 'Boo bear,' yeah that sounds good." I whispered to him as he played it in his mind and just giggled.

"That's just silly." He responded starting to laugh harder as he thought about it some more.

"Yeah, that's the whole point my little Boo Bear." I gave him a quick tickle as he flinched and giggled some more. "So?" I asked him

"I like it." He conceded as we both fell silent, and he just looked at me seemingly feeling all better.

He was lying on his back and I was lying on my left side facing him as I gently ran my fingers over his forehead. Tyler smiled at me as I slowly stroked his cheeks, and leaned in giving him a light kiss on his forehead. He seemed to enjoy just being held like this in a gentle way. Slowly my right hand traced down to his chest as I ran my fingers lightly over his skin. He shivered a bit, and moaned contentedly as he looked into my eyes.

"That feels nice." He whispered as he momentarily closed his eyes pulling down the covers exposing his stomach and chest to me. "I like how that feels." He quivered as the palm of my hand slowly danced gently downwards across his skin before coming back up to his chest.

Using my pointing finger I traced it around his dime sized perked up nipples slowly before wandering back down to his stomach, and tracing around his small little belly button. He giggled a little at the tickling sensation, and I saw the blanket covering his crotch area start to rise upwards indicating he was now sporting an erection. He looked down at himself, and then over towards me blushing, but I didn't say anything as my fingers continued to flicker across his stomach. I paused a moment to shove down the blanket further, and then looked up at him while his eyes just focused on my fingers. He didn't protest so I slowly traced along the length of his waistband feeling goose bumps start to form along his skin.

Even in the dim lighting of the room I could tell he was wearing a pair of red and yellow Transformer cartooned pajamas. At the moment there was a nice sized tenting going on inside of them as his erect penis seemed to twitch around a bit making the cottony fabric of his pajama's move around. Slipping my hand just beneath his waistband I once more looked into his eyes, but he still didn't object so I reached inside further until I found what I was looking for.

Tyler gasped, and his legs twitched reflexively as my fingers wrapped around his thin two and three quarter inch stifling hot erection. "Oooooh," he moaned trying to recover from the initial intensity of my gentle touch.

Slowly I started to skin his erection as his tight foreskin slipped over his slicked up glans. Leaning down I kissed him gently on the lips as his eyes fluttered closed. I knew he was feeling all sorts of tingling sensations so I released him for a moment as he seemed to whimper in protest. Removing my hand from beneath his pajamas I hooked my thumbs in the boy's waistband, and tugged on them gently. He instinctively lifted up his hips, and I pulled them downwards.

His banana curved penis twitched around wildly as I slipped off his pajama bottoms from his legs, and dropped them on the floor. He was now completely exposed to me as he spread apart his legs slightly in a begging kind of way. He was looking at me intently as I once more leaned in, and kissed him lightly on his quivering lips, and heard him whimper. His mouth twitched spasmodically for a moment before he kissed me back. He was breathing in and out heavily now waiting expectantly as I once more wrapped my fingers lightly around his erection, and slowly eased back his foreskin for the second time since it had slipped over his glans when I released him a few moments ago.

It was strange feeling a curved penis like this in my hands, but it was almost familiar in a way as well. Not as hard as mine or as straight, but still somehow just known in a type of comfortable way. He looked to be about the same size as me in the penis department, so I suppose that is what it could be. My hands slowly began to masturbate him as he moaned, yet kept a watchful eye towards what I was doing to him. His penis seemed to swelter and fatten up a little more as I continued to slide his skin back and forth over his dampened glans.

"Has anyone ever done this to you?" I whispered as he just shook his head no, and gasped out for air while his chest heaved up and down radically. "How about you…I mean, have you ever done this to yourself?" I asked him as he once more shook his head no, and seemed to quiver spasmodically for a moment.

My hands started to pump his hard curved erection even more, and I couldn't help but be fascinated watching that wet little acorn of his slithering in and out from beneath its sheath. There was just something so mesmerizing about a boy's foreskin covered penis when it went to work like this. I loved how his erection felt in my hands because the curvature of it was unique, and I began to wonder what it would feel like in my mouth. At this thought I sort of berated myself because this isn't why I was doing this to him.

If there was one thing I knew for sure, after a good jack off session at night I always could sleep like a baby. "Oh….oh….I…I gotta pee." Tyler croaked out his chest heaving, and his body writhing around beneath my hands as if he was trying to squirm away, but couldn't bring himself to do it because he was just feeling too damn good. I knew he was close so I just increased the tempo and grip of my plunging fist feeling the bottom of my hand slapping up against his soft bare pubic mound. I was pumping his stiff fleshy curvature so radically that I could feel the bed shaking around. Reaching over with my other hand I gently squeezed his olive sized testicles rolling them around in my fingers when all of a sudden his body seemed to buck upwards, and he grunted and moaned.

"Oh…Oh…umph…umph…umph." He gasped out trying to remain quiet so we wouldn't wake up his little brother, but it was too late because the small boy had turned over just in time to watch his older brother in the most heightened state of euphoria as his body was seized in the throes of dry orgasmic bliss.

While the youngest brother's eyes got big as saucers, my hands kept pumping his older brother as his body continued to contort, and his penis twitched around in my finger wildly. It was strange, but when his balls contracted upwards for the briefest of moments his penis seemed to stretch out straighter before curving back up like a banana again. It was way awesome watching his penis twitch around like that, and straightening up before curving again, while his olive sized testicles lurched upwards in his tight skinned boy pouch.

With one last grunt and lurch he collapsed back on to his mattress totally spent. "W…what happened to me?" He whispered as sweat dripped from his body, and he yawned in exhaustion.

Without a word or care in the world Zachary just snuggled back up to his older brother and yawned. For a second Tyler flinched and looked up at me in a kind of panic, but when he noticed his little brother had fallen back to sleep, immediately relaxed again and yawned once more.

"Never mind for now. We will talk about this later in private." I whispered back as I released him and watched his curved hard penis soften up, and his glans disappear beneath the covering of his foreskin.

Pulling the blanket back over him and Zachary, I gently rubbed his forehead while he just moaned softly. "Thanks for being so nice Jackson," was all he managed to get out before fading away to sleep.

Staying with him for a bit longer to make sure he was fast asleep I crawled out from beside him, and slipped quietly into my own room. Settling back in next to Ezra, the boy stirred for a moment, and opened his eyes dreamily at me.

"Where'd you go?" He asked me yawning and looking at my nightstand for the time. "Shit, it's still late." He groaned as he wrapped his limbs and body around me yearning for my soft familiar warmth.

"Just checking up on your brothers is all. Tyler couldn't sleep." I told him as he yawned again, and looked concerned towards me with a look of concern, before he noticed Marco sleeping next to me shaking his head knowingly.

"Yeah, I was worried about that with Tyler. I guess it really is going to be the toughest on him. I was hoping the past regarding his mom wouldn't be an issue, but I guess with what happened with grandfather now he is going to have a rough time of it. I should maybe go talk to him." He stated tiredly as he moaned getting ready to hop up out of bed despite how tired and worn out he was from the day's events.

"No Ezra, don't worry he's already asleep." I told him yawning as well having a hard time staying awake, and softly stroking Ezra's naked back sliding my fingers over his fleshy globes enjoying the feel of him being so close to me.

"How'd you manage to do that?" He asked me allowing us to snuggle up closer.

"I just jacked him off is all." I responded as I chuckled.

"You what?" He asked me seriously pausing for a moment before laughing as well. "Damn, you're such a pervert, but I guess he isn't all that much younger when Brendan and I began to experiment around

"Please don't be mad Ezra, but he was crying and I know after a good jacking session at night I always fall right to sleep." I told him honestly.

"I'm not mad at you Jackson, but geeze I've never really thought about it like that…you know as a means to get someone to go to asleep." He laughed softly. "But seriously, he didn't mind you…um…well touching him like that?" He asked continuing to chuckle. "I mean he's kind of shy because…well of his penis being all curved and stuff." He giggled.

"Really…it's strange because he mentioned it was Zachary who was shy because of the whole thing regarding his foreskin not retracting. But back to your question…no, he didn't seem to mind, but I think it was his first orgasm and all. He seemed surprised when it happened, and asked me what it was, but he was fading fast so I just told him we'd talk about it in private later. Damn, that was so fucking awesome feeling that curved hard thing of his in my hand." I admitted to him.

"Hmmm, even better than mine?" He asked jokingly.

"Of course not Ezra, no more than how Brendan's feels better to you than mine does you silly ninny." I teased him as we both just giggled. "Nothing is better than yours. Damn, what a horny pair the two of us make together." I sighed contentedly as I breathed him in. "Nothing can ever replace how it feels when I'm with you Ezra. You are the only one I ever feel so passionately in love with, no one else." I told him as my mind for some reason flittered over towards Marco making me wonder now how true and accurate that statement really was at the moment. I mean I haven't made love to Marco, so couldn't be absolutely sure, and I guess in some ways I was afraid to pursue that issue any further because of how I felt about the younger boy. Ezra just looked at me smiling knowing exactly what I was talking about.

No one's ever made me feel so alive and complete like Ezra, I told myself once more as I smiled back at him. "Yes, and you are the only one who has ever made me feel so utterly and hopelessly in love too." He giggled knowingly.

We each had such deep feelings for one another that somehow we both felt certain aspects of our sexual play were something special just for the two of us alone, and to share only with each other. Of course we have both given the other person permission to fool around, and help our friends out, but we each had sort of set the boundaries for what we would and would not allow others to do to us ever sense we made things official between the two of us.

"Ezra?"

"Hmmm?" My love responded as he seemed to breathe me in deeply making me smile.

"Tyler told me about Zachary, you know his foreskin. We are going to have to talk to dad about it here soon so that we can get him help. I think we should take care of it before he gets older. I don't know that much about these things, but the older he gets the more embarrassed he will be about it, what do you think?" I asked him seriously.

"Yeah, I suppose, but it's kind of expensive going to the doctor and all, not to mention it being embarrassing…you know…I mean to have to talk about it with your dad and all. Do you…um…think…um maybe you can be with me when I talk to him about it." He raised the issue to me.

"Shit Ezra…how the hell am I going to explain to him how I know?" I asked him seriously as he just shrugged his shoulders.

"You'll figure something out." He told me as I just looked at him and moaned giving in to him.

There's nothing I wouldn't do for Ezra and he knew it. "Alright, maybe it won't be a big issue and we will be able to go to the hospital on base. I'm sure if everything is taken care of with all the legal issues, and my folks become legal guardians, then my dad can claim them as dependents, and they will have all the privileges and benefits of military dependents, which means medical as well."

Ezra leaned in and kissed me tenderly in appreciation. He was the most important person to me in the whole world besides my parents, and he made me just want to wrap myself inside of him. We continued to whisper back and forth with one another for a while longer before falling silent and fading off to sleep.

Soft gray light filtered through the balcony sliding door spilling into my room causing those little dust specks to float around in the air when you looked at the lighting from a certain angle. Bodies seemed to be piled up all around me as I slowly untangled myself from Ezra, and then Marco. Both boys stirred a little and moaned, but went right back to sleep cuddling up with each other now that I wasn't there as I walked into my bathroom and took my morning piss. I knew it was still early, but in light of the situation I pretty much figured my parents were probably up as well.

Slipping into a pair of navy blue C9 Champion mesh shorts without bothering to put on underwear because of the mesh material inside of them, and then putting on a matching colored C9 endurance Tee, I slowly crept out of the room and down the hall to check up on the other two boys. Peeking inside they were huddled together in the middle of the bed in the same position I had left them in last night. My heart broke for those two little guys, and how innocent they were when asleep.

Making my way downstairs I could detect the strong smell of coffee wafting its way up the stairs before I even heard my parents chattering away quietly. Walking into the kitchen both of my parents were sitting casually on the little bar area that separated the kitchen from the dining room sipping on cups of coffee.

"Hey sweetie," my mom greeted me when I walked over giving her a hug while she kissed me on the cheek. "Why are you up so early?" She asked me as I took a seat on one of the empty spots.

Yawning still trying to wake up I just shrugged my shoulders. "I figured you guys would be up by now, and I couldn't sleep any more." I told them honestly. "So what's up?" I asked them knowing they must have been talking about Ezra and the boys.

"Nothing we were just talking about me giving up my office so Ezra can have a room. We can't shove all three boys into one room." My father pointed out.

"Yeah but dad, this means more time at work and less time at home if you have to give up your office over here. I like you being home more now, and I'd hate to see that. Why not just let Ezra stay in my room. I mean it's huge anyway so I don't mind." I told them honestly. "Also with Christmas coming up I figured instead of getting me so much stuff like you always do maybe you can just cut back so we can have stuff for the boys. I'd rather they get presents since they are still so young. Also, maybe instead of getting me stuff on my birthday the following week, you can just use that money for the boys too so that they can really have a nice Christmas. I was just figuring that instead of gifts for me, maybe we could have a BBQ outside with just a few of my friends if the weather is nice enough." I told them seriously as they seemed to smile at me affectionately.

"Sweetie, that is so nice of you to do that for the boys." My mom complimented me. "We also thought about you sharing your room Jackson, but didn't think it was fair for you to give up your own space." My mom told me honestly. "Besides, your father giving up his office wouldn't be for long. We are planning on having an addition added down here next to our bedroom, but we just have to wait until summer because we just can't afford it right now with everything else that is going on. We decided instead of co-signing a loan for Cooper's mom that we would just loan her the money because the interest the bank is asking is way too much, and we are afraid it would put the family too deep in debt. So instead we are going to cash in some of our investments, and loan them the money. This means we have to hold off until summer before we build." My mom pointed out, and then flinched in surprise when another voice entered its way into our conversation.

"Good morning, and what's with all this having to wait until summer to build?" the new voice greeted us all.

It was Ezra, and none of us had seen him walking up to us. My mom glanced at the boy, and almost choked on her coffee with my father just chuckling and rolling his eyes. Ezra wasn't wearing much, and had come down in just his boxer briefs, which fit him snuggly and didn't keep much hidden, as the only clothing keeping him covered. I had a feeling my mom should thank her lucky stars because I got the impression that at his house the boys walked around naked all the time. At least he had the decency of putting on his underwear.

"Oh, good morning son." My dad greeted the older boy. "We were just discussing my office. We are going to build one off our bedroom, but we have to wait until sometime next summer for now. In the meantime I'll clear out the other room so that you can have your own space."

"You're giving up your office?" The boy asked my dad as he nodded.

"Yes, I won't be without one for long, just for a while." My father responded as Ezra just shook his head.

"Please don't do that Mr. Elborn. Not for me…I mean, my cousins and I share a room about the same size as what they are staying in now, and it is just fine for us. Please, we don't want to create any more problems for your family." He told my father genuinely concerned that building an extra office would cost too much money.

My father looked over towards my mother, and motioned for Ezra to take a seat. "Listen Ezra; don't ever feel burdened with finances. We are very careful with our money, and know what we can and can't afford as a family. So don't worry so much. You and your cousins are not a burden to our family, but a blessing." My father assured the boy. "Now, since you don't want the extra room, then I guess we will take up Jackson's offer, and put you with him. Is that satisfactory to you?" He asked the boy who nodded his head, and smiled at me appreciatively. "Good that is settled for now, but we are still going to build an office down here for me, and we will figure out what to do later then about the extra room. Maybe by that time you will want your own room, if not maybe one of the boys then since their current room is kind of small and the one you two are in is so large."

"Mr. Elborn?"

"Yeah?"

"Um…do you think it would be alright to go to our place? I mean…we have to see to our horses and some…other stuff." He looked down fiddling with his fingers a bit nervously.

"Are you sure you boys are ready for that?" My mom spoke up a bit concerned leaning over putting her arm around the boy comfortingly.

Nodding his head, Ezra looked into my mom's eyes. "Yeah, the boys love their horses, and will be concerned over them. They ride to school and back every day, and on the weekend take them so they can help take care of our small herd."

Reaching over and patting Ezra's arm reassuringly my father looked at him gently. "Yeah, I suppose they would be anxious then for the horses, and to tell you the truth it might be a good idea to head over to your house so we can pick up some more of your belongings." My father interjected looking at my mom reassuringly while he sat back, and looked as if he was contemplating over some additional things. "Ezra, we need to make plans for the horses, school, the herd, and property. Your grandfather wanted us to sell the property, well the small ranch and not your sacred grounds. He also wanted us to sell all the stock and other animals, and use it for your boy's education or any other needs we see fit." My dad sighed and looked at Ezra for a reaction, but the boy looked resigned and understood.

"Sounds like grandpa. He wouldn't want us to be a financial burden." The boy admitted.

"Well, like I told you Ezra, financially we are stable, even with three more being added to the family. We are by no means rich or anything, but we've been saving for years so we could buy this house, and with my retirement pay plus my new nice paying job we are doing just fine. So, that being said I think it is important for us to hang on your boys' home instead of selling it, but living over here with us will changed things for you boys as well. We will have to figure things out as we go along like what to do with your herd. Since you boys will be living here you won't be able to take care of them. Also, what about the boys' school. They go on the reservation right? I mean will it be too much of a disturbance to their routine if they go to school here in town?" My father asked Ezra who just shrugged his shoulders.

"They'll be fine with whatever makes it easier for you Mr. Elborn." Ezra responded.

Sighing, my father shook his head. "Ezra, please listen to me. We want your honest opinion because we want to do what is best for you boys. Of course if we have to drive them everyday to their school it will be a bit of an inconvenience, but nothing we can't handle. So, tell me about their school?" My father told Ezra in a meaningful yet tender manner.

My friend nodded his head. "It would be tough for them, not only that, but not being able to ride their horses. I don't know what we are going to do about the horses, but we can't leave them here and we can't leave them at our place. So I don't know what to do about that. You might have to sell them with the herd if we are going to stay here." He told my father sadly.

"Well, we don't have to decide that yet, and I'm sure we can work something out so they don't have to sell them. Maybe a boarding place for horses, and the boys can take out their horses whenever they want." My father assured him.

We continued to talk about all sorts of things. It was just boggling to the mind what all needs to be done in a situation like this. There were some tough topics, but Ezra held up like a true champ. I guess he understood that some of these things taken care of now would be helpful towards his younger cousins.

After a while the next ones to join us were Tyler and Zachary. The older boy had slipped back into his pajama bottoms, and when he entered the room he glanced over towards me with a big smile and just blushed. I knew what he was thinking about, and noticed a slight tenting of his pajamas before he quickly took a seat trying to hide it. Zachary took a seat at the table next to his older brother, and was wearing a tiny pair of white fruit of the looms batman briefs. Along the buttocks area was a batman scene in mostly shades of red. The trim along his leg openings, fly opening, and waist band were red. Plastered on the front of the briefs was a small batman logo trying to cover up his small little bulge. He was just so adorably cute and my own little soldier twitched between my legs as it recognized something kind of sweet and innocent.

Looking at my mom I had to smile seeing her try to stay in control with all of the half naked boys sitting around as if there was nothing too it. Chuckling, my father gave my mom a kiss on the cheeks, and whispered in her ear trying to be quiet, but it was just too funny for him.

"I think you are just going to have to get used to it sweetheart." He chuckled in her ear as she just gave him a look, shook her head, smiled sheepishly, and smacked him on his arm.

Getting up she walked over to Zachary, kneeled down in front of him, and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Did you sleep well sweetie?" She asked the boy who gave her a smile and leaned in giving her a hug. It was so sweet and tender, and had caught my mom off guard because he gave it freely, but she returned the boy's hug before holding him out at arms length.

"Yes, I slept really good Mrs. Elborn the smaller boy whispered softly and blushing.

"That's nice sweetie." My mom gave the boy another quick hug before walking over towards Tyler giving him a swift hug and kiss on his forehead. "How about you Sweetie, did you sleep good too?" She asked him the same question.

Shaking his head he just smiled at her warmly. "Not really…I mean not at first. I wasn't feeling too good so couldn't get to sleep." He told her yawning behind his hand.

"I'm sorry Tyler; you should have said something so we could have helped you." My mom replied.

"Oh…no that's alright Mrs. Elborn. Jackson came in to check up on me and…um…he sort of…um…well he made me feel much better." The boy told my mom sheepishly shooting me off a glance as he tried not to giggle.

Ezra on the other hand hiccupped loudly in surprise as he set his juice back down on the counter. My mom glanced over towards me, and I just blushed embarrassed by the implication Tyler had made as the boy now held his hand in front of his mouth trying not to giggle.

"Oh Jackson sweetie, there's nothing to be embarrassed about. I think that was so nice of you, and I'm so proud of you. I'm sure Tyler really appreciated your help, and I'm sure he wouldn't mind you helping him out again, isn't that right Tyler?" My mom asked catching the younger boy by surprise, and who now looked at me first before back over towards my mother.

"I…um…I…yeah that would be really nice." He told my mom now as he looked at me, and blushed profusely while Ezra just couldn't contain himself anymore as he started laughing his ass off with me busting up right along with him. Before long even Tyler was giggling, and looking at me knowingly.

My mom just stared at us wondering what was so funny, but sighed in exasperation. "Boys!" My mom exclaimed vexed. "I just don't get them. Even after all these years helping to raise my younger brothers, and then Jackson. I still don't get them." She grumped, and got up looking at my dad who just shrugged his shoulders at a complete loss as well.

My mom shook her head exasperated and walked into the kitchen to start breakfast. Of course the Cuconato brothers were still fast asleep, but once the smell of bacon wafted upstairs they made their entrance with their stomachs grumbling. Before long my mom was surrounded by half naked boys in various states of dress, or rather the lack thereof, making a rousing commotion as we all goofed around during breakfast.

After breakfast we all got cleaned up, cleaned out the SUV, dropped off the Cuconato boys at home, and made our way over towards the Kostalini clan's home. Watching the landscape fly by in my window, it amazed me at the distance the boys had to trudge through yesterday in order to get to our house. I asked Ezra about it, and he just shrugged his shoulders saying it wasn't all that bad because they had taken the trails leading into town instead of the long way on the roads.

As we were pulling up the long dirt road to their house we noticed a beat up truck parked out in front of the barn. "It's the Acoya family's truck that live on the small ranch next to ours. Tyler and Zachary meet up with their son, Thomas, up the trail a bit, and they ride their horses to school together. They are really good neighbors to have. My grandfather hires on Mr. Acoya to help out during the high season with our small herd of animals." Ezra remarked in an offhand way as we pulled up to the house and got out.

As we were stepping out of our SUV, a large muscular built man came walking out of the barn with a boy who looked to be about ten years old or so. "Hello, I'm Jeff Elborn and this is my wife Nancy," my father began as the man hesitated a moment until he saw the Kostalini boys, and returned the greeting to my father. "The boys are staying with us, but we came by because they needed to check up on the horses, and also to pick up a few things they will need." My father explained as the two men shook hands.

"Oh, I see, well I'm Thomas Sr. and this is my boy Thomas or Tommy." The man replied in a very friendly manner. "Yes, Tommy mentioned that we needed to come over to check on the horses because we weren't sure…um…you know because of what all has happened. We didn't know how long it would take for you to be able to come over. Mr. Kostalini has always been kind to our family, so we wanted to be sure the animals are well taken care of for the boys." He told my father.

Ezra introduced Tommy to me and we bumped knuckles. Just like the Kostalini boys, Tommy had long hair that gleamed blackly, and was tied into a long braid that hung down to the middle of his back. He was a couple of inches taller than Tyler with a stocky body and a round like small pudgy face. The boy wasn't fat or anything; he just had a very wide body build to him, and looked like a solid kind of build, as if he was just waiting to sprout up in height. After the introductions the boys disappeared inside the house while Tommy and I waited next to our parents. We didn't want to intrude on the boys' privacy.

"Ezra told us in the car that you help at times during the season with the herd, and we really appreciate you coming over to look after the horses." My father tried to make idle conversation with Mr. Acoya.

The man nodded and looked sad. "Yes, Mr. Kostalini has been very kind over the years with our family helping out when he could. Money is very tight these days, and the extra income helped us out. Of course, it would have been more work for the boys, but they would have been able to handle things just fine on their own. I think the old man wanted to help us out financially without any shame or guilt on my part." The man replied nodding his head fondly at the memory of his neighbor, and appreciative in the way the old man had allowed him to maintain his dignity.

"I see." My father stated deep in thought. "We are going to have to sell the herd because if the boys stay with us I'm not so sure how much time they would be able to devote to that kind of responsibility. It would be different if they still live here and all, but it would be just too much for us to ask of them. Their grandfather wanted me to sell the property here and everything for the boys' education, and to defray any costs to me, but my wife and I feel it is important for them to have this home in the future. So, we will sell the herd, but keep the property for the boys. I take it you wouldn't be interested in purchasing the herd yourself?" My father asked as he looked off into the distance enjoying the lay of the land.

The man looked at my father, and just shook his head sadly. "If only I could, but we can't afford it, and the bank wouldn't even give us a loan for that kind of investment. Our land isn't as big so couldn't support that size of a herd anyway, but it would have been nice to have a small herd to supplement our income." He replied sadly having to refuse my father's offer.

The other man seemed impressed that we would be willing to hang on to the land for the boys, and to offer the herd to him. Most people would probably sell everything off for the money. He understood why we had to sell off the stock, but seemed impressed we would save the land and property for the boys' future. We all just sort of remained quiet for a time enjoying the day. It was still cold today, well for Texas standards, but at least it wasn't raining anymore.

The way my father was deep in thought I knew he was trying to work something out so just remained quiet even though I wanted to talk with Tommy some more. Mr. Acoya didn't seem the least bit concerned over the extended silence, and seemed to be a man who enjoyed the stillness anyway so remained quiet as well. My mom had sort of wandered off to the side looking concerned in her motherly way, and taking glances at the house.

Finally my father broke the silence. "Mr. Acoya, I was just thinking about something, and figured you may just be able to help us out with some of our issues if you are willing that is." My father turned towards the man who just nodded his head waiting for my father to continue. "Anyway, we aren't going to pull Tyler and Zachary from school over here so we have to drive them up. However, Ezra tells me they would just be crushed if they couldn't ride their horses. I have to find a place to board the horses because I refuse to sell them since the boys love them so much. Anyway, I was hoping you could board the horses over at your place if you have the room. Of course we would pay you the standard going rate for boarding the horses. Is that something you would be interested in?" My father asked the man.

Mr. Acoya looked a bit stunned at the offer. He could use the money, but he also didn't want to take advantage of the situation, and would have been more than happy to house the horses at just the cost for feed.

"Of course we will help out Mr. Elborn, but you don't have to pay so much like a boarding place for the horses. That could get expensive." The man pointed out.

"Listen, you would be doing us a big favor, and it is only fair to pay you for that care. We would feel better knowing the horses were in good hands. Besides, this way we can drop off the boys at your place every day for school, and they can still ride their horses. So do we have a deal?" My father asked holding out his hand.

"Yes, of course you have a deal." The man responded nodding his head. "And thank you very much because we sure can use the extra money. Things would have been very tight indeed around our place this year." Mr. Acoya admitted.

"Good then." My father smiled satisfied. "This is a win-win situation for both of us. Now, about the herd," my father continued as he pulled out his wallet, and handed over the man a business card. "This is the lawyer taking care of the boys' estate. I've decided not to sell the herd; rather I think we should make a deal with you. I propose that we form a partnership with you to take care of the herd. We can even increase its size if we use your land as well. If you are willing, I think this could be profitable for the Kostalini boys, along for your family as well. The boys will help out when they can, and aren't in school. I think their grandfather would want them understanding what hard work is all about, and it will help them keep connected with the land. I am hoping they will go to college and be successful in whatever they wish, but at least the land will always be here for them. So, is this something that would be agreeable to you?" My father dropped the bombshell to Mr. Acoya who just took a step back completely stunned.

"I…I don't know what to say Mr. Elborn. I mean, I told you that no bank will loan me the money for a herd, and to tell you the truth I don't think they would loan me any money to form this partnership." He told my dad honestly.

"Who said anything about money? We don't want money Mr. Acoya, what we want is someone's experience to help keep this herd thriving and profitable. Talk to the lawyer, and you guys hash out what would be fair to everyone. I will let him know that I want all of us to profit from this transaction equally. You will have ownership over the herd along with the boys. Once again a win-win situation for everyone concerned. Do you not agree?" My father asked the man who nodded his head.

"Of course, it's just I hadn't ever thought something like this would have ever been possible for my family. Of course I agree to the terms, and will work with the lawyer in this regard. I hate dealing with lawyers, but if Mr. Kostalini trusted this man so will I." He stated shaking my father's hand sealing the deal.

All in all this had been a good day for Mr. Acoya, and also for my parents. It was a couple of more things they didn't have to worry about, and it also helped out another family. In addition it had surely shored up our family's relationship to this part of the community. I felt Mr. Kostalini would have been proud of how my father had handled things with the Acoya family. It was obvious that the boys' grandfather had helped the family over the years, and now we were able to continue in this vein.

Tommy had remained quiet listening intently at what was unfolding, and now walked over to his father and hugged him smiling. "You will be sure to take care of your friend's horses as if they were your very own." Mr. Acoya smiled at his son.

"Yeah dad it's cool. I'm so glad that Tyler and Zachary will still be going to school with me." The boy smiled happily.

"That's good, but I will also need your help with the herd if we are going to make things successful for all of us. We have a lot of responsibility now, but it is an opportunity of a lifetime for us too Tommy because it will also be your future. I want you to be able to go to college and make something of your life. The Elborn's have just given us this opportunity so we will have to work very hard to make sure we don't fail.

"Yes dad, I understand. At least I will still get to see Ezra, Tyler, and Zachary. Mr. Elborn stated he wants them to work the land with us. I think we can do this dad, and I'm just so happy how everything has worked out." The boy stated as he remained by his father's side as they smiled appreciatively at us.

My mom came back over looking at my dad a little worried. "Jeff, maybe we should go inside to make sure the boys are alright…you know." She told my dad who nodded, and motioned for the Acoya's to follow us into the house.

There were some things piled up by the door already that the boys were thinking of taking with them. "Tyler…Zachary, I told you we can always come back, and Mr. and Mrs. Elborn just wants us to bring what we need for now. I promise we will come again, and pick up everything else alright." We heard Ezra tell his cousins as they came out from the back rooms with another armload of stuff.

"Hey boys, do you need any help?" My mom asked.

"No maam," Tyler shook his head. "I think this is all for now. It's just mostly clothes and stuff, along with a few of our favorite things. We will come back won't we?" Tyler asked as he bit his nails nervously.

"Oh, of course we are going to come back sweetie." My mom assured the boys. "We just want you to get things that you need for right now. Sometime this week we will make arrangements to bring a big truck or trailer so you can take whatever else you will need. I promise at that time you can load everything else that you want…alright?" My mom told the boys as Tyler ran into her arms just as Ezra came out carrying a small load as well.

"Thank you Mrs. Elborn…thank you so much." Tyler told her sincerely as he released her looking towards his stuff trying to decide what to take with him for now.

We started loading up the SUV when another truck pulling a trailer came rattling down the dirt road. It was another old beat up truck, and I was wondering if that is the only vehicle in these parts. As the truck approached I tried to make out the driver, and he looked a bit familiar as he stopped in an out of the way spot.

"Two Dogs," Ezra gasped finally recognizing who it was, and walked over towards the other man giving him a warm welcome. "What are you…I mean…we weren't expecting you for another few days just before Christmas." Ezra told the man genuinely surprised.

"I know, but when I heard about your grandfather I loaded up that no good for nothing horse of mine, and came right over." He stated genuinely.

"You brought your horse?" I asked Two Dogs excitedly heading towards the trailer.

"Jackson be careful he bites you know…oh, who am I kidding. That boy is the only one that ornery beast listens to anyway." He mumbled as he helped me unload the horse from the trailer.

As soon as the horse was free from his confines he came trotting over to me, and nuzzled me affectionately looking around my pockets. "I'm sorry, but I don't have any apples with me." I apologized to the horse.

"Oh I know." Tyler piped up disappearing into the house for a moment before running up towards me carrying something in his hands.

The horse saw the boy approaching and got a bit riled up as he reared his head threateningly towards the boy. "Whoa hold on there a minute." I shouted getting in front of the horse who immediately calmed down. "That's no way to treat a friend." I admonished the horse who just shook his mane and lowered his head. "After all he was bringing you a treat." I continued to berate the horse who seemed to wilt even more.

"That's alright Jackson. Two Dogs horse never really liked me. My horse and him don't get along so well." He whispered to me handing over a few carrots.

"Oh, I didn't know that Tyler." I apologized to the boy who just shrugged. "You should be ashamed of yourself." I turned admonishing the horse. "You are going to have to learn to behave yourself and get along. I won't tolerate any spoiled bratty behavior from you." I continued to admonish the horse. "Now here, see Tyler wants to make friends with you, and brought you a treat." I continued to talk to the horse who just shook his mane at me after he sniffed the carrot.

"Geeze, grandfather was right. He really does have a gift with horses." Tyler whispered to his friend Tommy who just nodded his head in agreement while my mom just stared wide eyed at me in disbelief that I was seemingly talking to a horse who for all intense purposes appeared to understand me.

Two Dogs on the other hand looked totally disgusted at his horse as he mumbled. "You ingrate of a horse…I ought to sell you to a glue factory, and it would serve you right." The man stated wagging his finger at his horse who just turned his back side to the man and let one rip, which made everyone bust up in laughter.

"Hey, stop that." I told the horse trying hard not to laugh, but just couldn't pull it off. "Do you want this or not?" I asked still laughing as the horse turned his head to me, looked at Tyler, and then sniffed the carrot as he seemed to shake his head. "What's wrong with the carrot? Don't you like them?" I asked the horse who didn't seem to commit one way or the other.

"Maybe he's never had a carrot?" Tommy interjected.

"Really, are you serious?" I asked the horse who just looked at me. "Well how do you know you won't like it unless you try it?" I admonished the horse who leaned in, and took a sniff before taking a tentative bite.

The horse seemed to chew around a bit, and then leaned in for a bigger piece. "See, now I want you to go over to Tyler and apologize to him." I stated forcefully as the horse looked at me and then the boy. "Go on." I told him as the horse walked over to Tyler so that the boy could pat his neck.

"Thanks. Maybe we can be better friends?" Tyler asked as he stepped away so that the horse can come back over, and get his second piece of carrot from me.

"Good, I'm glad you made up with Tyler, now go on over to the barn so we can finish up." I commanded as the horse wandered away from us.

"Damn, if I hadn't seen it with my very own eyes." Mr. Acoya stated shaking his head. "And of all the horses, the most stubborn headed one of them all." He continued looking over towards Two Dogs.

"Yeah, well evidently the boys pointed out kindly to me that my damn horse doesn't speak any Indian, as I was told. Who would have thought all these years that the damn horse refuses to learn Kickapoouian. Stubborn little mule headed…good for nothing horse." Two Dogs grumped as we all just sort of chuckled.

We all stepped back inside the small home, and started to mill around for a moment when Two Dogs spoke up again. "So, is it time for you boys?" He asked them sincerely as my mom and dad sort of looked questioningly towards Ezra who looked at Two Dogs, and nodded his head sadly.

"Yes, I think it is time. I know we should have already done this, but grandfather sent us over to the Elborn's, and they just didn't know. Besides, it wouldn't have been proper to ask them Two Dogs, so do not be mad at them." He stated as he walked out the room, and into one of the back rooms.

A few moments later Ezra came back out carrying his grandfather's cedar box, and set it down on the dining room table. Taking off the lid he removed an old looking kind of knife that didn't look anything at all like the ones I had ever seen before, except maybe like on the history channel. It took me a few moments to make out what it was, and then I remembered reading something about it that was similar. Mr. Kostalini's knife was made from obsidian, a volcanic type of glass rock that cooled down rapidly forming it into a glass like substance. In the past Native Americans made hunting tools with them such as knives, spears, and arrowheads. It took someone with great skill to make these tools using a technique called hand knapping. Most obsidian rocks are black in coloration, but they can be found in different colors, and can even be transparent. The one Ezra held looked to have transparency to it along with some mahogany like coloration interspersed throughout the blade, which was seated in some sort of bone, which I assumed was probably from a buffalo.

Walking over to Two Dogs, the boy handed him the knife then sat down with his two cousins. I glanced over towards Tommy, and noticed the boy looking up at his father questioningly who thought for a moment before nodding his head in ascent.

"Yes, it is fine Tommy if this is what you want. Mr. Kostalini is not from our tribe, but he was almost like your elder anyway who took you under his wing, and taught you many things concerning our traditions and ways. He was a wise man, and I think you do him honor." Mr. Acoya said to his son as he walked the boy over towards the Kostalini boys and Two Dogs.

Ezra looked at Two Dogs who didn't say or do anything. Looking back over towards Tommy, Ezra thought for a moment, and then smiled at the younger boy motioning for him to take a seat next to Zachary. Tommy grabbed a chair, and sat down.

My mom started to open her mouth to ask a question, but I squeezed her hand looking at her, and just shook my head. She was nervous, and my dad picked up on it so just stepped closer to her for reassurance. She looked at my dad who just shrugged his shoulders, and turned his attention back to Two Dogs who seemed to be doing something to all of the boys' braids.

While Two Dogs worked on the braids my mom's attention was drawn to the cedar box and their contents. My mom just couldn't seem to control herself as her curiosity got the better of her so she reached out to inspect some of the nice beaded items in the box. Before she could touch anything I grabbed her hand, and hissed in a quiet voice. "Watch, but don't touch anything."

"Jackson," she whispered reproachfully, and fell silent when Two Dogs began to sing. She started to reach over to replace the lid, and I grabbed her wrist again and shook my head. "Don't touch anything just watch." I hissed at her quietly, and under my breath. I could tell she was upset and was going to scold me when my father wrapped his arm around her, and whispered into her ear. I noticed her settling down a bit, but she still gave me a stern look as if to say this isn't over with young man. I sighed shaking my head, but continue to watch Two Dogs with the boys.

My mom is also watching, and seems a bit concerned because of the knife Two Dogs is holding and waving around in front of the children faces. I could tell it is making her nervous, but my father continued holding her so she just remains silent. Two Dogs continued to sing a song, which had a soft but mournful sound to it. Of course we couldn't understand what he was singing because it was in his traditional language.

All of a sudden Two Dogs grabbed Ezra's pony tail, and in a smooth motion cuts it off handing it over to him. The boy looks up at Two Dogs, and with his eyes welling up with wetness nods his head, but doesn't say a word. My mother starts to speak up to protest, but I shoot her a nasty look, something she's never seen on me before, and it shocks her so much she is speechless. Three more times Two Dogs performs the same ceremony on the other remaining boys. Tyler first, followed by Zachary, and finally Tommy who sits there bravely as his pony tail is cut off for a surrogate grandfather and elder.

Then silence falls in the room as he hands back the knife to Ezra and nods his head. The older boy just stands up, and looks at the man giving him a week smile before thanking him. Ezra then consoles his two younger cousins with Tommy's help while Two Dogs walks back over to us.

"For an entire year they will wear their hair short in mourning and respect for their elder, their grandfather. It is your responsibility to see to it that they receive a regular haircut until they once again are allowed to grow their hair." He stated grimly pointedly looking towards my mother.

"You must set aside your ways, and allow the boys to grow into their culture. You will disrespect their grandfather's wishes if you continue to disregard and disrespect our culture." He stated pointedly towards my mother who was just baffled by the man's boldness, but didn't say anything.

Ezra noticed the exchange and walked up to me smiling warmly. "Thank you Jackson for remembering. It was my fault that I did not warn your family not to touch my grandfather's sacred items. Please forgive Jackson and Two Dogs Mrs. Elborn, but it is not permitted for others to touch these sacred items including the box. It is our way, and I should have warned you." The boy told my parents.

Turning to Two Dogs Ezra spoke up as he stood tall and proud in front of the larger man. "Two Dogs, you will never speak to my new parents in this manner. You disrespect my grandfather's wishes in this matter. It was his wish we be raised by them, and they have been kind to me and my cousins. They have been respectful of our ways. My grandfather told me it was our responsibility to teach them, but this cannot be achieved if you in turn disrespect them." He finished looking sternly at Two Dogs who started to say something, and then looked our way before back to Ezra, and nodded his head in accord.

"Yes, of course Ezra you are correct. The fault is mine as well and I'm sorry." He apologized before turning to my mother, and doing the same with her.

Nodding his head appreciatively Ezra spoke to Two Dogs in their language. The man nodded his head as Ezra disappeared for a moment carrying with him a similar but smaller box. I recognized it from when we went up to the mountain when he had prayed all those months ago. When we first…fell for one another…when his grandfather was still alive, and told him to go pray.

We watched in silence as he opened up the lid setting it down next to his grandfather's box, and set aside some items before finding what he was looking for. Silently he pulled out a beaded necklace looking at it fondly. I heard him whispering a few words as if in prayer before turning towards me, and placing it around my neck.

"My brother," he smiled at me warmly using the term I had yearned to hear for many years. "Thank you for being my friend when I treated you like my enemy, thank you for accepting me, and bonding as my brother." He whispered as he hugged me tightly to him.

Blushing with embarrassment I just smiled warmly at him when we pulled apart, and then looked closer at the necklace. It was definitely hand made, and appeared very old in some respects. There definitely was a feeling of history to it as I looked over thanking Ezra.

Two Dogs spoke up, and nodded his head towards me as Ezra returned the nod indicating he understood before he started to explain things to me. "Jackson this necklace has a personal meaning to me." Ezra whispered as he reached out and fondly took the necklace, which was still around my neck, in his hand. "Each bead represents some event in my life that grandfather gave me from his own beaded necklace over the years. The claw at the end was from the cougar I killed because it was menacing our herd, and needed to be brought down before it hurt someone in the community besides just animals. I must have been nine years old back then, and my grandfather and I spent several days tracking the cougar before I finally killed it. We used all the parts of the animal for some of our sacred ceremonies making sure its death was not in vane. We honor all living things, but sometimes we have to do what is best for the community. It was a transition period in my life, one that leaves behind my childish ways, and starts me on the path towards manhood."

"Thank you Ezra, I will always cherish this gift." I told him honestly as I wiped away the tears, and smiled fondly at the older boy.

"No Jackson, it is not necessary. You are my brother now; we are to be a family. It was my grandfather's wish, and I thank you and your parents for allowing me and my cousins to become a part of your family. You honor my grandfather's wish, and it is something we will always cherish in our lives." Ezra responded as he walked back over towards the contents of his grandfather's box.

Looking through his grandfather's items and saying a prayer over a couple of objects, he turned and walked over to his two little cousins. Handing each one of them something for them to hold, he knelt down and took them in his arms hugging them tightly to him. "You must promise me Zachary and Tyler that you will always remember this moment. These people are worthy because they honor our grandfather and our traditions. As they respect us we in turn will honor them." He finished up as he wiped away the moisture that had formed around their beautiful dark eyes. "There will be no more tears shed for grandfather today, he would not have wanted this; instead, we will show our joy for our new family." He told the two younger boys who seemed to smile hesitantly at Ezra before perking up at his words.

Standing up he nudged the boys forward towards my parents. Zachary stopped in front of my mom reaching out hesitantly before taking her hand in his own, and then slipping something over her wrist. Tyler did the same thing with my father. My parents smiled warmly at the boys realizing something special was happening, but didn't know what else to do as they just looked at what had been placed on to their wrists.

They admired the intricately worked silver bracelets with turquoise nuggets and red polished coral that the boys had given them. "My grandfather made these for my parents," Ezra whispered appreciatively admiring how they looked on my parents.

"Oh Ezra, they are beautiful, but we can't take something that had belonged to your parents. It is something you should pass on to your own children some day." My mother whispered as tears threatened to overwhelm her at such a beautiful gift that Ezra and the boys had given up for them.

Ezra just shook his head. "You don't understand. Grandfather made them for my new parents Mrs. Elborn. He made them for you and Mr. Elborn specifically. At the time I didn't understand. Last week he had shown them to me, and told me it was for you, and that I would know when it was time to gift them to you. Now I know why, and in his own manner it was a way that he could leave it up to me whether or not I accepted you two as our new parents. By giving you the bracelets I accept you as my new family…my cousins accept you as their new mother and father." He told them seriously.

My parents just looked at him, and then the two boys completely baffled. "H…how would he even know…I mean Ezra how could he know we would even take you in much less that…well it would be his time so soon." My father asked completely taken aback by what had just transpired. "Don't get me wrong Ezra we welcome you and your cousins into our lives, and are honored you specifically trust us, but it is almost too much for us to understand how your grandfather could have known all of this." My father stated shaking his head in thought.

"He just knew is all Mr. Elborn. Like you told me last night, I think he started planning for it that very first day when we came over Mr. Elborn. He knew you and your wife had wanted more children, and that you had been willing to adopt at some point. He also knew the sacrifices you had made in your decision not to adopt since it wouldn't be fair to the children because of your commitment to the military at the time." Ezra pointed out as he smiled down at little Zachary and ruffled the boy's sheered off locks.

It got somber in the room, and I noticed Ezra's shoulders slump forward as he sighed sadly. "My grandfather's been ill for many years now, and knew it was almost time for him to cross the river to the other side with his ancestors. These things had worried him for a very long time until he met you, and then he was able to live out the rest of his days in peace. When he met your family he knew he had found a home for us." Ezra told my father as if it were as simple as that.

As I looked on I couldn't help but notice that Ezra had somehow grown into a young man. He was still a kid, but he conducted himself in a manner which would have made his grandfather very proud. When the time came, Ezra had stepped up to the challenge that no young boy should ever have to go through. I know my father will make sure he is able to remain a kid, but today, in this moment of time, Ezra became a man. Tomorrow he can once more become the boy he is and deserves to be.

While Ezra and the boys chatted with my parents telling them about the silver bracelets Two Dogs approached me and smiled as he placed his hands on my shoulders. "Thank you Jackson for being there for Ezra and the boys. I knew this day was coming, and I am very proud of how you have handled yourself. When we last parted ways, I had asked you to be there for him when the time came, and you have proved yourself worthy to be called Ezra's brother." Two Dogs commented as he removed one of his own silver bracelets with turquoise and red coral, and placed it on my wrist without saying another word. I knew no words of thanks were necessary because it was his way of showing me that he welcomed me into the boys' lives.

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