Copyright 2003 by

This is a fictional story of loving between friends, young and old. If you don't like friendship, don't read it. If you don't like love, I'm sorry for you. If you are not old enough to legally read this, find your friend and have him read it to you.

Thanks to all who have written with their kind words. Stephy, Scotty, Mikey and Tommy are a part of my life that I am so proud to share. Undying thanks to Mal and Beachkid for continuing to challange me to try and write my best.


Stocking Stuffer - Spring Break Part 12

I thought how I could hold him like this forever. How I could feel the warmth and love and sweet concern come pouring into my chest. He kissed me on the cheek, then kissed me on the ear and then whispered, "I love you, Nick."

I managed to choke out, "Love you too, Steph!" in reply.


Looking over Stephy's shoulder I saw Tommy once again climb aboard his boat and with a perfect imitation of a bosun's whistle, he called his crew aboard. Stephy's head swung round and before he'd even got the range he launched himself from my arms and at the Hobie Cat.

I watched the three boys careen across the sand and I marveled at the amount of shear physical contact they managed in a dash of less than fifty yards. There was poking and pushing and shoving all seeming to center on who would arrive first. Then as they arrived, there was hugging, back slapping and general giggling touches as they strained for Tommy's attention and approval. It was amazing to watch them finish the little shore side lesson. Not one foot was still, not one hand could help but touch the boat or boy beside.

Brian was at the boat's twin prows and as Tommy finished up his spiel Brian lifted the boat and rocked it back and toward the waters. Tommy leaped off the trampoline and over Mikey's head and with squeals and shouts he threw each boy up on the boat. Leaping back aboard himself he grabbed the tiller and standing there as Brian hopped aboard he performed some arcane captain's rite and the boat slowly turned aside, the sail began to catch the wind and Tommy must have ordered the crew to salute the retreating shore because they turned in unison and waved and shouted out their joy.

Gene and I waved back and stepped a little to each side as WKE joined us in our salute. Then Gene reached in the cooler and handed us each a beer. We plopped down in the lounging chairs and watched our boys sailing gently across the lake.

We sat and watched pretty much in silence until WKE sighed and said, "Nick I hate to leave, but we should go back and mingle some in the exhibits."

I growled my thoughts, but knew he was right and pulled myself out of the chair. "Okay, but no tie!"

He laughed in reply, "No, no tie!"

As we turned back to the hotel I clapped him on the back, he didn't shy away. "Well Mr. WKE! This is the best day of work I think I've ever had!"

"I'd almost forgotten we did work!" he replied. "I think this is the best day of my life!"

As we walked I thought about him and about what my relationship with him had been. I'd given him the title Wonder Kid Editor in a wryly sarcastic sense when we were first introduced. He was replacing my longtime editor who, while not a friend, I had been comfortable with. He was so young! He was so damnably eager! He was such a cheeky little sod! He'd had the gall to suggest I might be getting out of touch with my audience. He'd even suggested he send me that research package. Then when it had arrived and I was such a total and complete idiot and klutz, my name for him had gone from sarcastic to sardonic. I had dreaded his calls, I had in fact gotten the answering machine so I wouldn't have to talk to him unawares.

Then that fateful day, that snowy, blizzardy day, that night when Santa was not expected to come, but he had already arrived. My Stephy changed my mind. It wasn't anything that WKE or I had done. It was the sudden injection of a little bundle of freezing fire who, once thawed out, first melted down my heart, then burned out and up the cynicism of my life.

WKE was a Wonder indeed. He had pegged my weakness to the tee and although his remedy of video immersion would have never worked with me, the opportunity it gave to me to watch and love and hold my Steph was priceless.

Just as I started to speak, he stopped and turned and looked at me. "You know, you'll probably hate me for this," he started, "but I've been a devoted fan of your books since I was in Jr. High."

"Oh Gawd!" I groaned, you make me feel a thousand!"

"No, really, I found your very first book the year I was 14. David and Jimmy just grabbed me into the page. I ran with them, I laughed with them, I even cried with them when the dog was killed. I'd never read a book that did that to me. It made me want more and more. I talked to our school librarian and she took me to some other authors, their stories were good and I was truly reading hooked, but you were the best, you are the best. You've inspired me through High School and College. When I got the job with this House, I vowed I'd meet you. Then I got the chance of a lifetime, the chance of my career, the chance of royally screwing up. I convinced them that you could even be a greater draw to the House than you were right then. I convinced them to let me be your editor, oops I mean Edilator! No; No," he waved away my protest, "I've wanted so to find you, to be near you, to be liked by you."

"Geesh!" I stupidly replied. "I'm just a dumb writer!"

"No!" he hissed, "You are not! Look at you with Steph! You drip goodness and love. You are his savior, he told me so! I look at you two and I'm jealous! Jealous that I never had a man to love like he loves you. Jealous that I wasn't loved like you love him. Jealous that he can read your book before I get a peak! I watch you look at him and I'm frightened! Frightened I'm not capable of pouring out the kind of love I see you pour. Frightened that I might do something wrong and you won't let me stay around to stand around and just pick up some of the spare joy and pleasure. I see you and Gene and Brian and I'm awed! Awed that three such gentle men could have such a friendship as I've seen. Awed that you would let me share in just the tiniest bit of your family time. Awed that I could be treated as a friend."

"You are a friend." I pronounced. "You want to know why? Besides the fact that you have shown your friendship many ways, Steph tells us you are a friend. Steph tells us you are good and kind and to be trusted. We trust you because of that. In fact I think we even trust you with Tommy, given that."

"Oh my God!" he groaned and actually staggered against and then into a chair. "I dared to hope today. I thought I'd die last night when I first saw him. It was like that bolt of lightning they always talk about. Then today before breakfast when he had come into my shower I thought I'd scream! My God, I wanted to wash him. I wanted to kiss him. I wanted so to love him, but you were right across the hall! I ran and left him standing there. Then just now, with Brian smiling at us both I thought I could just slap some suntan oil on him, but I couldn't. I couldn't not touch him, I couldn't stop touching him, I couldn't think beyond the frightening joy I got in each caress. Then when he took my hand and we walked out on the sand, he hugged me and just stood there looking at me like Steph looks at you. I was putty, I am putty. I'll never be the same."

"I don't know what to say," I ventured. "He looks at you like he's been hit by a truck. He's got it bad and although he's grown, he's just a boy. Love him right and love him strong. I think Brian watches like the nervous Dad. Tommy is growing and needs to make his choice. Stephy tells us you are right. Hug Brian tonight and let him know you love Tommy. I think it will be alright."

We sat in silence for a while and then reaching out I took his hand and lead him back to the suites. This time I managed to master the doors and shoving him inside, I made him dress in casual clothes and we headed back to the exhibit floor.

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