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.

I'm so honored you've read my story and sent such kind messages. Steph's classmates have been visited over 1000 times in two days and that's amazing too. Please enjoy the story and help a boy if you get a chance.


Stocking Stuffer Part 13 Spring Break Part 3

As I waved to Scotty I glanced at 'the boy' and we made instant eye contact, even across 50 yards of tables, people eating and the hubbub of the food court I knew we made eye contact. I knew he remembered me and I knew he was scared and helpless.

All three boys turned and ran back to the arcade and disappeared once more into it's darkened maw. I was so afraid I'd just witnessed the sending of a sacrifice into the dim dragon's cave that I was almost sick to my stomach. I practically crushed Gene's hand which I was inexplicably holding again.

"Its all right, they know him, they are friends. It'll be okay!" I heard Gene tell me.

It had to be all right. That was my Stephy, that was my boy, that was my life walking into that cave.


Gene and I just sat there watching the arcade entrance, Gene squeezing my hand, me crushing his. I suddenly realized that he had as much at risk as I did. That was his Scotty, his boy, his life going into that cave too. I groaned with the thought that we had asked them to do this. We had asked them to troll for boys in the mall. We had filled their pockets with money and their brains with the idea of food as bait and we had sent them to do this. I wondered if Fagen had ever had this doubt, or if my scruples were too little, too late. God I hoped there was no Bill Sikes inside that arcade.

Suddenly Steph and Scotty were blasting out the door and across the food court to our table.

"Did you see him? Did you see him leave?" Stephy practically screamed at me.

As I shook my head no, he turned to Scotty and pronounced, "See I knew it. I knew he found a place in there to hide!"

Then they were a whirlwind of questions and comments.

"He's nice."

"He's scared."

"Did you see we bought him supper?"

"It was the cookie that got him!"

"Yeah, we moved from game to game always putting that cookie up where he could see it and he started following us!"

"Then I dropped a dollar and he 'found' it for me and we started talking."

"Yeah. Pretty soon he HAD to ask if we were going to eat that cookie!"

"Did you see how hungry he was? Wow, you even fed him yesterday!"

"He sure was scared when Scotty ran over to Gene."

"Yeah, I thought he was going to wet himself when I got back!" Scotty blanched and looked at Stephy.

Steph just kept right on going, "I told him Gene was Scotty's dad. Then when you looked at him he kind of squeaked!"

"Yeah, it was like "Who's that!" and I told him you were Steph's dad. He said, "Oh, he's nice!""

"Then it was like, "I got to go guys, bye!" but before he disappeared I told him we'd see him tomorrow!"

"Yeah and he said okay and then he was just gone!"

"You think he's a wizard?" Scotty asked Steph wide-eyed at the idea.

"No, he's just a scared boy." Steph intoned.

They both looked from Gene to me and back again and then simultaneously they said, "Yeah, he's real scared."

Then with some secret ritual of licking thumbs and hooking little fingers they shouted, "Jinx!" and began to dissolve into giggles.

I don't know who was more relieved, them to have found him and succeeded or Gene and I to have them back in our arms. I swore I'd kick myself a hundred times before I'd do something like this again, but I knew we'd all be back tomorrow.

It was barely 7 o'clock and Gene had to get back to the store. I suggested we three go to the movies and meet Gene after work and the boys hooted and hollered all the way down to the theater. I can't remember what we saw, I was so grateful to be cuddling both my detective boys. I do remember they ate a whole farm of popcorn!

We meet Gene at 9:15 and I think Scotty was out like a light in his arms at 9:17. Steph wasn't far behind, because when we got home I had a bundle of dead-to-the-world boy to carry inside. It was so normal now, so wonderful now, so natural now to roll him into bed, undress him and then finish my own ablutions and crawl in the other side. His radar was as strong as ever and I was hardly covered when he slid towards me like a nail to the magnet. He was draped across my chest in his favorite position without even a stir of being awakened.


Saturday morning I had the bacon going and was just finishing my first cup of coffee when Steph's little arms twined around my body.

"Love you Nick. That's smells so good!"

"Love you too Steph. Go chop that wood and then see if your nose can lead you back here!" I laughed.

"Mphhhh," he replied, but followed his little woody to the bathroom when it led him there. Soon I heard splashing and a little squeal which I knew meant the water he'd splashed on his face was colder than he expected.

Soon he was back twined around my waist again and I had to pry him off when I placed the overflowing plate of bacon and eggs in front of him. He worked his nose like a rabbit for a full minute and then gave a huge sigh and demolished what must have been a couple of thousand calories of bacon, eggs, toast and cocoa in about half that time.

I watched and chuckled at my smelly boy and his eating machine of a stomach. He looked up at me and grinned and swiped my last piece of bacon. Stuffing it in his mouth before I could even protest.

"Message light's blinking," he announced as I tried to formulate a protest to the bacon raid.

"Oh," I sagely replied. "I didn't notice. Guess we better check it."

I actually heard him say, "Duh!" as I walked across and retrieved the handset. Pushing the correct buttons in the incorrect sequence the machine told me, quite rudely I thought, "That was an invalid entry. Please enter your password followed by pound."

"Gi'me that," he huffed and I gladly relinquished control of technology to the younger generation. Soon we were hearing my Wonder Kid Editor leaving me a crisp message concerning airline tickets, hotel arrangements, scheduled appointments and a cheery Goodbye!

"To delete this message press four, to save it press nine." Steph was looking across at me with his finger hovering above the center of the keypad.

"Save it, Save it!" I cried. "I didn't get any of that."

"Message deleted," the machine pronounced.

"No!" I groaned and sank into the chair.

"Message will be resaved for fourteen days," the machine pleasantly advised and Steph was all giggles and hoots as he hung up the handset.

"Got'cha Nick!" he was hooting. "I'll teach you to tell me to go chop wood! I didn't know what you meant 'til I had to sit down to pee! Man it was real hard this morning."

He was suddenly in my lap, kissing my face and hugging my neck and asking, "What's this trip all about? Who was that? Why you going to Orlando? Hey, ORLANDO! Isn't that, YES, YES, IT IS, IT IS, IT IS! Can I go? Please? PLEASE? PPLLEEAASSEEEEE?"

I had to practically tie him down to get him to quit bouncing around. I finally dredged from my foggy brain that my book was to be released in two weeks. I explained to him it was a book release party and I was expected to sign the book, do some radio shows and a reading. YES, it was in Orlando, YES it was at THAT PLACE, YES he could go, I couldn't leave him alone could I, there might be another snow storm! He might find somebody else he could shovel snow for who he would like better!

"Hey, I'd never find anybody better than you!" he cried. "I wouldn't even try, I'd starve first!" and then realizing how close this was to reality, we both stopped dead and he flew into my arms. For some reason I knew I might have gone too far. I carried him to the bedroom, grabbed the bear and snowflake blanket and returned to the den where I wrapped us both up and held him, quietly cooing into his hair. He didn't really cry, but he did sniffle a time or two and then he was crushing my rib cage with his hugs and hitting me on the shoulder, but gently, saying, "That's not nice. You almost scared me. I love you too much to even go look for someone else."

"Tiger, I love you so much you'll never even have to think about finding someone else. I'll never leave you."

Then between a sniffle and a hug, "Are we really going to Disney World?"

"Yes, Son, we really are."

"Cool," he said with not the least bit of overexcitement, but in a way that told me he was way over the top.


We cuddled and snuggled for about an hour and then Steph began to stir. Looking up at me he said, "It'll be so cool! I have to tell Scotty! Hey, we better get ready! We need to meet them at the mall at 11."

The next few minutes were a flurry of putting on clothes, cleaning up breakfast and checking that all the different stashes of money in his pockets were replenished. Once again I felt a little like Fagen preparing the tomato for the mob so the other little pickpockets could work unhindered. Once again, sensing my mood, Steph took my face in his hands and stared me down as he told me, "We have to do this. He's real scared and he needs real help! That's all I know, but WE HAVE TO DO THIS."

"You're right Tiger, I know that, but it scares me too."

"Don't be scared," he admonished. "Scotty's there and he'll never let anything like that happen around him again!"

I didn't know if I should be reassured or petrified! What did Steph and Scotty talk about that would generate that kind of vehemence, that kind of assurance and that kind of chilling statement, 'anything like that happen around him again.' What was a twelve year old and an eleven year old doing saving the planet, or at least this boy. What was an old, tired, scared man like me doing asking them to. What had I done in my life that warranted this bounteous reward of love, friendship and now courage that Steph offered me unconditionally.


We arrived at the mall and met Gene and Scotty at Gloria Jean's around the corner from the food court. Gene wasn't working, but the boys had decided they'd try to get Mike to first join them for lunch and then maybe join them for ice cream when Gene and I 'showed up!' Steph was hedging his bet though, he wanted another cookie to start things off.

Before we could begin our days detecting though Steph blurted out the entire telephone message to Scotty and Gene. Why had I made him save it? He knew the flight numbers, the days and times, the hotel arrangements and even the signing and reading schedule! I couldn't believe it. I chose not to believe it. I would listen to the message and write everything down, I was sure he was wrong on the details, if not the concepts.

Gene listened and then cleared his throat and tentatively asked, "Uh, Nick?"

"Yes?" I idiotically answered.

"Well, uh, Nick?" Gene stupidly replied.

Steph had had enough. Poking Gene and then me he blurted out, "Geesh! You guys sound like a bad movie! What is it?" and he glared at Gene.

"Well, school has Spring Break the week right after your trip. Do you suppose Scotty and I could tag along? And do you suppose we could all stay the whole week?"

Scotty's jaw actually dropped open. Steph was on his knees on the chair with his hands already extended in the air just waiting to shout. "Tell him YES, NICK TELL HIM YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

"Oh, well sure, yes, Well Yes! That would be a lot of fun!" I finally stammered out.

Steph actually launched himself out of the chair somehow and came down to earth about 20 feet away! He was dancing and singing and hopping and he grabbed Scotty and soon they were both hooting and hollering. The Gloria Jean's manager actually came out to see what the hubbub was about and when I calmly replied, "We're going to Disney World," I thought the entire group of people at the tables cheered and hollered, "All right!"

One young college aged guy actually jumped up and stripped off his shirt and went sliding on his knees toward the boys yelling, "They're going to Disney World!"

Geesh! I thought to myself, what's the big deal, it's just some Mouse house with a roller coaster or two! Geesh!!!! I found out later how little you know when you come to fatherhood so late and have an instant teeny bopper son!

Gathering our flibbertigibbet boys together, we headed for the Cookie Factory and bought our three for the price of two. I swear two of them were gone before I'd paid for them. Separating here, the boys visibly gathered up their courage and their less hyper behavior and hand in hand first marched then skipped off to the arcade. I swear I could hear that dragon growl as they entered.

As Gene and I continued to sip our coffee and sit across the food court watching the doorway, we first were silent. Then I began to tell the tale of our visit to KB yesterday. Gene commented on how the boys looked so strong and brave skipping off like that and we shared some stories of both the strength we'd seen and the fears glimpsed just below the surface. We agreed, these boys were meant for each other as much as they were meant for us.

Suddenly Scotty came flying out of the arcade and looked like a heat seeking missile headed straight for Gene. When he arrived, he was out of breath, but announced, "He's there, he ate the cookie, we're playing games, I told them I had to pee, bye, I got to go back," and he was gone.

Gene gave a whistle and I choked out "Amazing!"

An eon of fifteen minutes later, all three boys appeared in the doorway, Gene and I quickly turned to face away from them, Gene in his coffee, me in my book. I don't know what happened between that moment and when they came in sight getting in line at BK, but they were all holding hands and Mike didn't have that hunted look about him as we stared at the backs of their heads.

I jumped about a foot and Gene spilled his coffee when a hand was placed on each of our shoulders and Brian slipped into the chair between us.

"God, give me a heart attack!" Gene complained.

"Geesh!" was all I could get out.

As we turned our attention back to the boys we saw they each had a tray, so the ordering and payment had been complete. Steph was halfway to a table and Scotty and Mike were stopping to get straws and ketchup. Then Scotty turned and was halfway to the table.

I couldn't believe it, but the whole thing was happening in slow motion. It was just like in the parking lot on that fateful dog day and I couldn't get the hairs on the back of my neck to lay down. I knew the dragon was flying around somewhere. He'd missed his sacrificial snack and he was pissed. I could feel it.

Then I watched as Tommy appeared from nowhere and came up behind Steph and put his hands on his shoulders like Brian had just done me. Steph started, but seeing it was Tommy he instantly relaxed and got a big grin on his face. Just then Mike turned from the napkins and taking two steps toward the table he looked up and saw Tommy looming over Steph and grasping his shoulders. Now things really slowed down and across the entire crowded food court I could hear every breath, every word that our four boys said.

Mike started like a rabbit and actually dropped his tray with a giant clatter and then froze solid, petrified and did in fact squeak.

Steph turned and grinning, looked at him and said, "Hey Mike, this is ... "

Tommy jumped around the table and was at Scotty's side and then he was on his knees and let out a keening wail of "Oh, God, NO!"

Scotty looked at us and screamed, "DAD!"

All three of us were racing across the room and to hell with anyone or anything that got in the way.


I hope you enjoy Steph and Nick's story. Let me know if you'd like to read more ...

There are some more of Stephy's school mates are at be sure and check the second page.

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