In My Life (I Love You More)
August 1, 2018
Paul Narita applauded with a brilliant smile on his handsome face. He cupped both hands around his mouth and let out an extra loud catcall when his father, John Black, appeared.
John held a champagne glass in one hand, Marlena Evans' hand in the other. He twirled Marlena to the middle of the room.
Their closest friends and family joined them in celebrating their engagement. John and Marlena rented a private room in Salem's newest upscale restaurant for an intimate gathering. Their actual wedding was still a few weeks away.
"I'd like to thank everyone for joining us tonight," John proclaimed.
The crowd cheered while Paul wrapped an arm around his boyfriend, Sonny Kiriakis.
Sonny smiled at Paul and grabbed two champagne flutes from a passing waitress.
"I know I speak for myself and Marlena when I say our wedding has been a long time coming."
Paul heard Belle let out a loud shriek of agreement.
"Tonight, we're surrounded by our wonderful friends and beautiful family."
Paul looked at the other occupants at his table. So many siblings and stepsiblings he never knew existed until a few short years ago when he came to Salem.
His half-brother Brady Black and wife Madison James. His half-sister Belle Black and husband Shawn Brady. His stepbrother Eric Brady and girlfriend Nicole Walker. Carrie Brady and husband Austin Reed, who Paul didn't think were related to either John or Marlena but arrived from Switzerland the other day for the occasion. And his stepsister Sami Brady and husband EJ DiMera.
He even had nieces and a nephew sitting one table away.
So many people Paul would never have known if he hadn't injured his shoulder. If he hadn't come to a Podunk town where he could recover in peace. He wouldn't have met his family, his father. He wouldn't have reconnected with Sonny.
Paul could have lived without all the drama with Sonny and Sonny's on-again-off-again boyfriend Brian. But that didn't matter, he and Sonny were together again and this time it would last.
Paul was almost certain of it. Whatever little insecurities he developed watching Sonny with Brian would heal in time.
Either way, Paul couldn't believe all this was waiting for him in Salem. A father, a large family, a place to belong. Even with the insanity of Salem and his family, it was worth it.
Paul couldn't imagine how things could get any better.
"I love you," John gazed at Marlena with stars in his eyes. The luminous smile on her face said more than ever she felt the same way.
"I agonized over a present that would show you just how much love I had. I thought of diamonds and jewels but none of them would ever be as beautiful as you."
Marlena let out a bark of laughter but never stopped smiling.
"After all these years, I know you better than anyone. And as much as you'd enjoy rings or bracelets, you'd prefer something from the heart."
John put down his champagne glass. He put his arm around Marlena's waist and turned her toward the entrance to their private room.
"After thinking long and hard about what would make you happiest, I knew exactly what to do. I'd give you something you've loved before you ever even saw his face. Something you've wanted back in Salem for years. Something you tided yourself over all this time with visits and European vacations. Something you play word games with every day even though you've never won a single round. Something with pictures splattered over every inch of your office."
Marlena's face went from quizzical to elated, looking every which way.
"Nonstop from Zurich, your pride and joy," John imitated a drumroll, "William Robert Horton."
Paul wasn't sure whose scream was louder, Marlena's or Sami's. Either way, he didn't get a good look at what happened next. Every person at the table but him and Sonny jumped to their feet. Crowding around Marlena and an outline of a male body.
"Do you know who that is?" Sonny leaned over to ask Paul. He almost had to yell, the volume in the room skyrocketed.
"Sami's oldest," Paul said. "I've never met him but Marlena and Sami have pictures of him everywhere."
None of the pictures either had were current, though. Most showed a cherub-faced infant or a bright-eyed preteen. There were a few of a teenager just shy of manhood. But none that prepared Paul for Will as a grown man, live and in person.
Paul gestured with his head toward his migrated family.
Paul pushed and elbowed his way through the group, something he grew accustomed to in all situations with them. When he got to the front, he had the perfect view of Marlena's face and Will's back. He watched Marlena press her face in the neck of a surprisingly tall young man. Her arms squeezing him tight.
Paul couldn't hear everything they said as everyone else was too loud. But he heard a few snippets.
"I missed you."
"I can't believe you're here."
He's certain he even heard the phrase, "my favorite grandchild" thrown around.
The rest of his family watched the two with fond looks on their faces. All except for Sami who screeched at Austin and Carrie, "how could you keep this a secret from me?"
Paul kept an eye on Will. He looked at the short dirty-blond hair in front of him. Looked at the way Will hunched over to hug Marlena and squeezed her just as hard as Marlena squeezed him. Looked at the way his dark blue shirt framed Will's unexpectedly wide shoulders and trim waist.
Paul definitely noticed the way Will's pants clung to him like a second skin. That when he hunched over to hug Marlena, his back curved, butt popping out.
Paul jostled to the left when an elbow hit his side, Sonny's.
When Paul glanced at him, Sonny had an indifferent expression on his face, eyes on Marlena and Will.
"Oh my goodness," Marlena finally pulled away from Will, wiping tears from her eyes. "I still can't believe this. I can't believe you're here."
Will didn't get the chance to reply. His mother threw herself at him, nearly toppling him to the ground with the force of her hug.
Sami threw her hands on Will's face, squeezing his cheeks and murmuring nonsense.
"Moooom," Will whined with a laugh.
It was a nice laugh, Paul thought.
He didn't get the chance to meet Will for almost an hour. After Sami, came Will's siblings, Johnny and Allie. The two clung to Will, barely letting anyone near him.
Paul watched Will stick his hand out for EJ to shake. Only for EJ to knock it aside when he pulled Will into a hug nearly as tight as Sami and Marlena's.
Lucas fought his way through the crowd, seizing Will in his own tight grip. Holding him for a good five minutes before he let go.
Next, Eric squeezed Will hard, lifting him off his feet. When he let go, he slapped the back of Will's head with a loud, "you couldn't send a text and let me know you were coming?"
After, Brady kissed the top of Will's head before pulling him into a headlock and giving him a noogie.
Belle, much like Sami, squeezed Will's cheeks, murmuring about how much Will had grown.
Paul stifled a laugh when Will said, "you saw me a year ago."
"You've grown since then."
Other friends and family approached Will, monopolizing his time. Still, Paul couldn't pull his eyes away. He didn't even notice when his father approached him.
John clasped Paul's shoulder, laughing when Paul jumped.
"I think she liked my gift," John said, tilting his head toward a radiant Marlena.
"You think?" Paul laughed. "If she didn't already agree to marry you, she would now."
"Wait, have you met Will yet?" John asked. He looked between Paul and Sonny. "No? Well, come on, Sami can stop hogging him."
John pushed Sami aside, shooing the kids away to the other side of the room where there was cake.
"Will, come here a second, kiddo."
"Sure thing, Grandpa."
John threw an arm around Will, turning him to face Paul and Sonny.
"Will, this is my son Paul. Paul, this is Will."
Paul got a good glimpse of dark blond fringe highlighting extremely blue eyes. Dark brows, pink lips, and a smattering of five o'clock shadow.
Will met Paul's eyes with a wide grin that brightened his whole face.
"Hi," Will greeted. He swept his eyes up Paul's form before biting his lower lip.
"Hi," Paul parroted back, voice lower than normal.
Everyone else around them fell away, including John and Sonny. All Paul saw was Will and his blue eyes and his white smile and the dip in his collarbone.
"Nice to meet you," Will purred, eyes twinkling.
Oh, no. He's hot.