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The Cleary's
Part 24

by Emrick

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Copyright on this story text belongs at all times to the original author only, whether stated explicitly in the text or not. The original date of posting to the MMSA was: 27 Feb 2018

Like every other one of his life, it had been a hectic week for Carter.

On top of all the usual dishes, laundry, homework, and what not, his ex-in-laws/the boys’ grandparents, had been in town for a few days. Carter had also spent a few nights running around the mall and various department stores shopping for the boys’ Christmas presents.

His sister had agreed to let him hide everything at her house, and was going to wrap them too. He had just dumped it all off at first, so he had to go over there another evening to sort it all out for her.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Walter had exams the following week, meaning he was too busy studying to do anything else.

Carter didn’t mind that though. It was more important to him that he study than put his laundry away or wash the dishes.

In an attempt to help him out, Carter had been doing his best to keep the younger boys from bothering him too much.

That was easier said than done however.

Norman, being only eight years-old, was understandably excitable with his grandparents visiting and the upcoming holidays, and was bouncing all over the place.

Walter managed to tolerate him, mostly because he was only really had to a couple of hours in the evening.

Eugene on the other hand didn’t have a way to ignore his baby brother. He went to the grade school with him, and saw him at lunch and recess everyday. He also had to spend every afternoon at their grandparents’ house with his younger brother until their dad came to pick them up.

He had turned thirteen in October, and like Carter always knew he would, was by far the moodier of the now two teenaged children he had.

So far, all Carter had done was send him to bed early, and make him do a few extra chores when he got too bad. He knew he couldn’t drag the kid upstairs and spank him every time he acted up, there wouldn’t be any time for anything else if he did.

In an attempt at keeping the peace, Carter had been trying to keep Norman otherwise occupied when he was home. He had enlisted Walter’s help at first but he had obviously not been much help that week, and Carter was running in a hundred different directions.

Meaning there wasn’t anyone to distract Norman when he started to get worked up, and Eugene was snapping at his younger brother more than usual.

If that was all it was, Carter could have probably dealt with it, but Norman had started arguing back with Eugene. They were both standing by the wall on Monday evening when Carter went to pick them up from their grandparents’ house, and he had warned Eugene and Norman that if happened again the two of them would be going to bed with sore bottoms.

So, luckily, they had behaved at their grandparents for the rest of the week, but every evening Carter was treated to a chorus of complaints in the car. Then at home there were arguments about who got control of the TV, whose turn it was to set the table, do the dishes, and whatever else could be turned into an argument. Which, apparently, was absolutely everything.

Carter tried to stop the arguments before they got too far out of hand, but he ended up sending them to bed early a few times, and it seemed like the corner of the kitchen was perpetually filled with one of the boys.

That got them through the week okay, but by the time Friday rolled around, it was clear tensions were running a little high. Carter decided that the laundry, dishes and whatever else could wait for the evening, and instead played cars, army men, Legos, and whatever else the boys wanted to. Then he let them stay up extra late in the hopes that they would sleep through half of Saturday, if he was lucky, and carried them all up to bed when they fell asleep.

It kind of worked, and Norman didn’t come downstairs until a little after nine. Walter got up a bit after that, and commandeered the kitchen table.

Eugene finally dragged himself out of bed just before ten, and grabbed himself a bowl of cereal and went to watch cartoons while he ate.

He had barley sat down when their dad came in carrying a laundry basket. He sat it down in front of the couch and after a quick good morning to Eugene, told Norman, I need you to fold this for me so I can go get the sheets off of the beds.

Norman looked up from race car track with a pained expression and whined, But I’m busy.

Carter didn’t want to start scolding the boys already that early in the morning, and told Norman, Come on Norm, this will only take you a few minutes and you can go right back to playing as soon as you’re done.

Norman still didn’t like the sound of that, and whined again, But Gene isn’t doing anything. Why can’t he fold the laundry?

Carter forgot his plan of not scolding as soon as Norman did, and sternly told him, Gene is still eating breakfast, but that doesn’t matter because I told you to do it. So that is what you are going to do. Whether or not it’s with a sore bottom is up to you.

Yes Dad, Norman replied solemnly, and scooted over to where the laundry basket was.

Eugene had been sitting in the recliner listening to the whole thing, and couldn’t help himself from snorting in amusement when their dad got done telling Norman off. He regretted it when Carter looked at him and in the same stern voice he had just used with Norman said, And you are going to go unload and load the dishwasher as soon as you finish that bowl of cereal.

Yes Dad, Eugene told him immediately. He knew he was already on gotten on his dad’s bad side over the last few days, and wasn’t in any hurry to get him any angrier.

Norman’s, empty cereal bowl was still sat on the floor and Carter grabbed it to take to the kitchen.

He went upstairs and pulled the sheets off of the boys’ beds, and by the time he came back down, Eugene was in the kitchen, slowly pulling dishes out of the dishwasher; knowing the sooner he got done the sooner he would be told to go do something else.

While he was, Carter started the washing machine, and went upstairs to remake all of the boys’ beds and dropped another basket of laundry off in the living room for Norman to fold. Norman of course moaned about how Carter told him he could play, but hopped to it as soon as Carter swatted his bottom.

It was getting close to lunch time by then, so Carter went to the kitchen to throw something together. While he was, Walter brought the study sheet for his American Literature final over, and asked Carter if he could quiz him.

Carter of course obliged, and started asking Walter questions.

For some reason or the other, that seemed to annoy Eugene. He was still at the sink, rinsing dishes as slow as he possibly could, and shot his dad and brother a couple of looks to let them know how he felt.

It wasn’t clear if his dad noticed or not, so he decided to make his displeasure known in a more audible way and threw in a few sighs also.

Carter of course had noticed, he was just trying to keep Eugene from starting whining, and figured if eye rolling and sighing was all Eugene was going to do they were getting off easy.

He couldn’t ignore him any more though after Eugene mumbled Shut up already, just loud enough for Carter to hear him.

Carter gave him a look and said, You know if you worked a little faster you would be done already.

He got another eye roll, and Eugene turned back to the sink while muttering something to himself. Carter didn’t quite hear him, but it was a safe assumption that it wasn’t very nice, so he reached over and swatted Eugene’s bottom rather hard.

Eugene hadn’t been expecting that, and he let an owe escape his mouth. He turned around to face his dad, and to get his butt out of the line of fire, just in case.

That wasn’t necessary since Carter had no intention of swatting him any more. He wasn’t completely finished with Eugene though, and sternly told him, I’m not going to put up with that kind of attitude today, so either be nice or keep your thoughts to yourself.

Yes Dad, Eugene replied.

You’re doing the dishes after lunch too, and if you still don’t straighten up, you can do them for the rest of the weekend, Carter continued.

Yes Dad, Eugene said again.

Then hurry it up, or you’ll still be loading the dishwasher while the rest of us are eating, Carter told him.

Yes Dad. Sorry, Eugene said, and went back to rinsing the dishes in the sink.

Carter watched him for a second just, but once he was certain Eugene wasn’t going to start pouting or something he turned back to the stove.

Eugene was shutting the dishwasher not too much after that, and went back to the living room.

Carter probably would have suggested he find something else to amuse himself if he had noticed, but he was too busy making sure he didn’t burn lunch and asking Walter questions. He was made painfully aware of where Eugene was however when the sounds of Norman and Eugene hollering at each other came out of the living room.

He quickly turned down the stove, and told Walter to hold on a minute, then stormed off in the direction of the living room. He was greeted by his middle and youngest son shouting shut-up, stupid, and various other insults at each other.

They stopped as soon as they saw their Dad come in, and could tell by the look on his face he wasn’t happy with them.

What are you fighting about now, Carter demanded, and just as soon as they had stopped, the two of them all started up again; only this time they were yelling in an attempt to make sure their dad got their version of the story.

Carter listened to them for about ten seconds before he had enough, and told them to stop. They abruptly did, and sat quietly for a second and waited while Carter took a deep breath and as calmly as he could asked Eugene what had happened.

I came in here to watch TV, and I saw that only half the laundry was folded, and Norman and was playing, so I just suggested that he finish before you saw and he got in trouble, and Norman started yelling at me, Eugene told Carter in frustrated way.

Is that what happened, Carter asked Norman.

No, Norman told him while shooting a dirty look at Eugene.

Yes it is, Eugene shot back at him.

No it’s not, Norman told him defensively.

Carter could see another fight getting ready to break out, so he looked at Eugene and told him, You had your turn. I’m talking to your brother now.

But he..., Eugene started to say, but Carter sharply said his name and he flopped down in the recliner.

Carter gave him a look, but then turned his attention back to Norman. Which part of what Eugene said wasn’t true, he asked.

He was mean, and said he was gonna tell on me, Norman told Carter with another dirty look in Eugene’s direction.

And then you yelled at him, Carter asked.

Yes, Norman answered.

And you were playing instead of folding the laundry like I asked, Carter continued.

Norman just nodded his head in response.

Carter looked at the both of them and sighed.

He was pretty certain that Eugene had been a bit rude when he suggested to that he finish folding the laundry, and that Norman might have been a bit more defensive than he realized; especially since they had been at each other’s throats for the last week.

It still didn’t make them fighting with each other less annoying, and Carter sighed again before saying, Okay. Eugene, you’re going to go set the table, and Norman I want the rest of the laundry in that basket folded and all of it put where it belongs. After that both of you are going to go sit quietly in the kitchen until lunch time. Understand?

Yes Dad, both of them said together and Carter told them to get to it before telling them to Get to it, and going back into the kitchen with Eugene trailing behind him.

Walter must have heard Carter, and was gathering up his books.

Carter turned the stove back on while Eugene got the plates and cups out of the cabinets. He was still putting the silverware on when Norman came through the kitchen carrying the basket of laundry upstairs to put away. He was back down shortly with the news that he was finished, and Carter told him to grab a stool at the counter and reminded him that he was supposed to sit quietly.

Eugene joined him as soon as he was done, and after they exchanged a few looks, sat and watched their Dad as he finished dinner.

They straightened up though as Carter told them I don’t care what it is that’s gotten you guys all riled up, but it stops now. Walter needs to study, and I don’t have enough time or energy to keep you from fighting with each other. So either get over it and play nice or stay away from each other.

Sorry Dad, we’ll get along, Eugene told him, and Norman nodded.

Alright, wash up and get back in here for lunch, Carter told them, and after another round of Sorry Dad, they jumped up and scurried upstairs to the bathroom.

Lunch was at least peaceful, and as soon as they were finished eating, Norman, ran off back to the living room and started playing again. Eugene on the other hand sat until everyone else was finished, and then went back to the sink.

He didn’t dawdle over the dishes like he had before, hoping to finish quickly and then go hide upstairs, but it took him a while to figure out how to shove everything into the dishwasher. He was already a little frustrated, but he did his best to suffer in silence so that his dad didn’t decide he needed to be on dish duty for the rest of the weekend, or longer.

Carter of course could tell Eugene wasn’t exactly happy, but he wasn’t really complaining, so he let him go.

Eugene eventually managed to get it all packed in and after letting his dad know he was finished, ran up the steps to his and Norman’s room. Their Uncle Dan had gotten him and erector set for his birthday, but he hadn’t really been able to work on it too much.

The next thing on Carter’s list was vacuuming, and once he was downstairs he went to the living room where the floor was so full of toys he could barely see the carpet. Norman was in there, but was engrossed in something on TV.

Even though he wasn’t playing, Norman still whined when Carter asked him to put his stuff away, but got moving after the look he got. It took a bit, even with Carter’s help, and Carter sent Norman upstairs to put it all away, saying he would make him a snack to keep him occupied while he vacuumed.

That sounded good to Norman and he hurried upstairs. Loaded down with everything he had brought down to play with over the last week.

Eugene was still lying on the floor, trying to figure out the instructions for building a dinosaur, when Norman came in and dropped everything in front of the toy box, then turned to leave. He didn’t make it more than a few steps before Eugene stopped him.

Dad’ll be mad when he finds out you didn’t put that stuff away.

He’ll also be mad when I tell him how big of a mess you made, Norman replied.

Go ahead, you’ll just get in trouble for tattling, Eugene told him in a defensive tone.

Nu huh, you’ll get a spanking, and then I’ll tell everyone at school on Monday, Norman taunted him, trying to get back at Eugene for teasing him earlier.

Eugene of course knew he wouldn’t get in trouble for working in their room, his Dad had checked on him earlier and hadn’t said anything, but as soon as he heard Norman’s threat he couldn’t think of anything else other than how embarrassing it would be if all of his friends knew he still got his bare bottom spanked.

The next thing either of them knew, Eugene was on his feet and had grabbed Norman by the shoulders. He started shaking his younger brother while yelling insults and threatening him.

Norman was a little shocked at first, but managed to free himself from Eugene’s grasp, and started shouting back at Eugene. His yelling was no match for Eugene’s however, so he decided to try something else, and picked up whatever it was that Eugene was building, then slammed it down.

That got Eugene’s attention, and, without a second thought, slugged Norman in arm.

Unfortunately, that was the exact moment Carter had come upstairs to see what all the commotion was about.

Needless to say, he wasn’t thrilled, and before Eugene could do anything else, grabbed him by the arm and pulled him away from his younger brother.

What’s the matter with you? How many times do I have to tell you to be nice to your brother, Carter half shouted at him.

He smashed it, Eugene said with tears of frustration and anger building up in his eyes. I’ve been working on it for over a month, and now it’s broken, he barley got out before he started crying, and buried his head into his dad’s arm.

Carter glanced over at the now demolished dinosaur, and then at Norman.

In the hallway now, Norman! Nose against the wall, Carter told him. Usually he waited until he got the whole story, but Eugene was obviously upset, and he wanted to be able to talk to him in private.

Norman didn’t need to be told twice. He scurried past their dad and Eugene and across the hall where he stood facing the wall where he immediately felt nervous about the trouble he was in, and bad for upsetting Eugene. Sure he had been kind of mean over the last few days, but he still didn’t feel good about making him cry.

Back in the other room, Carter had guided Eugene over to his bed and sat down with Eugene still crying into his shoulder.

It’s okay Gene, just let it all out and we can talk whenever you’re ready, Carter told him.

Eugene nodded in response, and after a few more minutes of tears, had calmed down enough to look at his dad.

You ready to tell me what happened now, Carter asked him.

Eugene nodded again, and used the back of his hand to wipe the tears off his face and leaned into his dad’s side before starting.

Norman dumped everything in front of the toy box, so I told him to pick it up, but then he said he was going to tell on me for making a mess, and that he was going to tell everyone at school that I got spanked for it, he said but had to stop when he teared up again at the mention of Norman’s threat.

Carter wasn’t happy about it either and let out a sigh before asking, And you guys started yelling at each other?

Yeah, Eugene nodded, and hesitantly admitted, I was kind of shaking him too.

Carter sighed again but didn’t say anything, and after a moment, Eugene continued.

Then he threw my dinosaur, and punched him.

There were still a few tears rolling down his face, so Eugene wiped them off and quietly said, Sorry Dad.

I know Eugene, Carter told him, and rubbed his back.

They sat in silence for a moment longer before Carter asked, You know that doesn’t change anything?

Yeah, Eugene told him.

You can’t shake or hit your brother when you get upset with him, Carter told him.

I know Dad, Eugene told him.

And I’m not going to put up with you guys yelling and screaming at each other every time you disagree about something, Carter continued.

I know Dad. I’m sorry, Eugene said again.

Let’s get this over with then. Okay, Carter said.

Eugene nodded again and pushed himself up off of his bed and stood in front of his dad.

As soon as he was, Carter reached out and hooked his thumbs in the sides of Eugene’s sweatpants and boxers and pulled them down to his feet. Eugene knew the drill, and removed his feet from them while Carter got up and went over to the dresser to get the brush out of it.

He sat back down on the bed, and without being told to, Eugene draped himself across his dad’s lap and after he wiggled around for a second, put his hand in the small of his back for his dad to hold.

Carter patted Eugene’s bottom a couple of times with the back of the brush before raising it in the air and landing it on the top part of Eugene’s left bottom cheek, then again and again and again, each time just below where the previous one had landed; working his way down to the base of Eugene’s bottom and then back up again.

Eugene hadn’t every really stopped crying, so it only took a few spanks before the tears were flowing again, and he really started crying when Carter gave him several harder spanks on the lowest part of his left bottom cheek.

Carter moved over to the right after that and gave it the same treatment, and Eugene was on the verge of bawling by the time that side was done.

That didn’t matter to Carter however. Eugene had not only shaken and punched his younger brother, but Carter had already told them off for fighting once that day. So, even though Eugene was crying more than usual by that point, Carter moved back over to the left cheek and started the whole thing over again.

Carter spanked Eugene’s left cheek for a second time, but had to stop and pull Eugene in a little bit better before moving on to the right cheek since he was squirming so much. He decided that two rounds on Eugene’s bottom was probably enough however, and let Eugene calm down some before telling him to get his legs apart.

Eugene really didn’t want to, but he wasn’t in a position to argue, and moved his right foot out, and felt his Dad raise his right knee so that Eugene’s bottom was sticking up even more.

Without warning, the brush landed on Eugene’s left thigh, causing him to cry out.

Carter ignored it though, and continued on until he had spanked both of Eugene’s thighs seven times each. He sat the brush down on the bed as soon as he had finished, and rubbed the back of Eugene’s leg until he had calmed down enough and motioned that he wanted to get up and waited to make sure Eugene wasn’t going to try to reach around and rub his bottom once he was.

I know you weren’t trying to be mean to Norman, and I also know that he got you upset but that is no excuse for you to try and hurt him. You’re his big brother and you’re supposed to look out for him, not beat him up, Carter told Eugene.

I know Dad. I’m sorry, Eugene said through his tears.

And I know that sometimes you get annoyed with him, but you are just going to have to figure out a better way to deal with it other than fighting about everything, Carter continued.

I will Dad, Eugene assured him.

Okay then, get out to the hallway, Carter told him.

It was another thing Eugene didn’t want to do, but his bottom already hurt enough, and he didn’t want to give his dad a reason to spank him any more. So, he hurried out of the room with his dad following right behind him.

Carter steered Eugene to a spot facing the wall next to Norman.

Stay there, hands at your sides, Carter told him, and after Eugene said, okay, Carter grabbed Norman and escorted him into the bedroom.

Carter took a seat on Norman’s bed, but kept Norman standing in front of him so they would be roughly eye level while he talked to him. Norman, on the other hand, took up looking down at his feet, not wanting to look at his dad at the moment.

Eugene told me his side of things, and for the most part it sounds plausible, but I’m going to ask you some questions and you can tell me if it’s true or not, Carter told him.

Norman didn’t really know what plausible meant, but didn’t really think it mattered at the moment, and nodded in response.

Okay, Carter said with a sigh. Did you just drop everything on the floor instead of putting it away?

Yes, sorry, Norman told him.

And when Eugene said you should put it where it belonged did you say you were going to tattle on him, and then tell everyone at school that I gave him a spanking, Carter continued.

Yes, sorry, Norman replied.

And then you started fighting with him, Carter asked.

Yes, but he was shaking me, Norman said in his defense.

I know Eugene already told me that, Carter told him pointedly, and if at all possible Norman looked even sorrier for himself.

Carter wasn’t too worried about that, and continued, And did you purposely smash his things?

Yes, Norman told him quietly.

And is there anything else you think I need to know, Carter asked him.

No Dad, just that I’m really sorry, Norman told him.

Well if that’s it, then is there any reason you don’t deserve a spanking, Carter asked him.

Norman wanted to tell him yes, but didn’t have a good excuse and just shook his head no.

Okay then, Carter told them, and got to work on the button and zipper Norman’s jeans then pushed them and Norman’s underwear down to his feet.

Norman removed them the rest of the way, and as soon as he did, Carter pulled him over his lap. Norman wiggled around for a second, but as soon as he was in the right spot, reached his hand back and Carter grabbed it and pulled it into the small of his back.

Like he always did, Carter tapped Norman’s bottom a couple of times to let him know he was going to get started, and a second later brought his hand down on the top part of Norman’s left bottom cheek, and Norman let out a cry of surprise and pain.

Just like he did with the brush on Eugene’s bottom, Carter spanked Norman’s left bottom cheek up and down and added a couple of extra to the lowest part of his bottom before moving over to the right cheek and doing the same. He repeated the whole process, and by the time he had, Norman was sobbing and his bottom was bright red.

Carter let him calm down for a minute before telling him he needed to get his legs apart.

Norman let out a sob, but he did as he was told, and cried as each of his thighs received five hard spanks.

Carter held him across his lap for a few minutes more, and rubbed the back of his leg until Norman had calmed down and stood him up. He tried to reach his hands around to his bottom, but they were caught and pinned to his sides by his dad.

Carter waited until he was certain he had Norman’s attention and said, You know better than to tattle on anyone, and I never ever want to hear about you doing or threatening to do something just to embarrass one of your brothers, understand?

Yes Daddy, Norman told him with a sniffle.

And you know better than to break someone else’s things, Carter told him.

Norman of course did, and nodded while saying, Yes Daddy.

And I’m fed up with listening to you and Eugene fighting with each other about everything, Carter continued.

I’m sorry Daddy, Norman told him.

Okay, I’m going to let your hands go, but no rubbing yet, Carter told him, and after Norman nodded, Carter released him and called Eugene in as he stood up.

Eugene came in and after taking one look at how miserable he looked, all the anger he had been feeling towards his younger brother disappeared.

This is the last time I’m going to say this guys. You need to learn how to get along or at least find a way to settle stuff that doesn’t involve fighting with each other. Walter is are trying to study, and if I hear one more argument out of you both this weekend I’m getting the bag of organic candy out, and then we’re coming right back up here for a repeat of the spankings you just got. Understand, Carter told them.

We understand Dad, and we promise we’ll behave, Eugene assured him.

Okay then, I think you both have some things you need to tell each other, Carter told them.

Eugene and Norman knew what he meant and quickly exchanged apologies with one another.

As soon as they had, Carter told them, Norman you need to go put your toys were they belong, and you’re going to help Eugene clean up his stuff.

They said okay, but before they could, Carter picked Norman up and wrapped him into a hug. I love you Norm, Carter told him and kissed the top of his head.

Love you too Daddy, Norman assured him and after another kiss, Carter sat him down.

He pulled Eugene into a hug also and said, I love you also, Carter told him, and got a Me too, in return. So, Carter kissed the side of his head and let Eugene go and told the two of them to get dressed and cleaned up.

Neither Eugene nor Norman needed to be told twice, and started rubbing their bottoms while picking up their clothes from the floor.

Carter left them to it, and headed back downstairs. He got a bit of a look from Walter, who had clearly heard his little brother’s getting spanked, and wanted his dad to know just how he felt about it.

Walter always tried to make Carter feel guilty after one of his brother’s got punished though, and he ignored he look he was getting. Instead he asked how Walter was doing, and after Walter said he was fine, Carter went to his room and found a shirt that wasn’t covered in tears and snot.

The boys reappeared from upstairs while Carter was vacuuming the living room, and as promised, he had a snack for them sitting on the cabinet.

The rest of the day was fairly calm, and Walter took a break from studying that evening after dinner, and they all crowded into the living room to watch a movie. Norman fell asleep in Carter’s lap, and after a little while, Eugene passed out on the floor.

Walter helped carry his little brothers upstairs when he decided it was time to turn in, and Carter gladly went to his room and went to sleep.

The next morning he dragged everyone out of bed and to church then back home where after lunch, Walter got his books back out. Eugene and Norman also got their bags out so they could do their homework.

Everyone, at Carter’s suggestion, turned in a bit early that evening. Monday morning was just as crazy as it always was though, and the rest of the day wasn’t much better. The boys at least didn’t fight at all that evening, so there was that, and everyone went to bed without when they were supposed to.

Tuesday morning was more frantic than it usually was, since Carter had somehow managed to misplace the homework he had checked over the night before, Walter was stressing out over a math final, and Eugene ended up with a lap full of scrambled eggs after Norman accidently tipped his plate over.

Work wasn’t any better for Carter, and he didn’t get out of there until late.

He was completely spent by the time he got to his parents’ house and slowly trudged up the steps. Norman was waiting by the door for him, and Carter gave him a hug and kiss hello before telling him to go find his stuff and get Eugene also.

It took a minute or two, but the boys came out of the living room carrying their book bags.

Eugene had something else with him also and excitedly showed Carter the box with the same erector set that Dan had given him, explaining that their grandmother had gotten it for him.

Carter gave him an exasperated look and sternly said, Give it back. You know how I feel about you whining to your grandparents so they’ll get you stuff.

But Dad I... Eugene started to say, but Norman cut him off.

He didn’t Dad. I asked, and promised I’d water take care of the plants in the sun room for Grandma to pay her back, Norman explained with a worried expression, and after a minute quietly said, Sorry Daddy.

No Norm, it’s okay. You don’t have be sorry, Carter assured him.

So I’m not in trouble, Norman asked cautiously.

No, the last thing you’re in right now is trouble, Carter told him, and after kissing him on the top of the head told him to get their shoes on.

He told his parents the usual thank you, and he and the boys went home.

It wasn’t as quiet an evening as the one before had been, and the boys squabbled with each other a little bit about silly things, but for the first time in a while, Carter wasn’t worried about it.

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