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 again for the wonderful messages of support. As I expected, the email bombs have increased, but never fear, Steph is safe!


Stocking Stuffer Part 14 Spring Break Part 4

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.


For an out of shape, overweight grandfatherly aged father, an Olympic sprinter couldn't have beaten me to Steph. Gene's a little younger, a lot lighter and in much better shape, but Dick Butkus would have been tossed precipitously aside. I didn't know much about Brian, but he was in the lead all the way.

Strangely, now things went into normal time for me, or maybe even double time. I saw Steph blanch, loose his grin and turn towards me with a completely bewildered look on his face. I saw Scotty start to cry and drop his tray and begin to run toward Gene. I saw some idiot push Mike because he was in the way to the ketchup stand and I saw Tommy rise up like my feared dragon and first seemingly fly over and whack that idiot away from Mike and then swoop down and gathering Mike within the folds of his almost winged arms, circle the splattered trays of food and then arrive at Steph's table at the same time Brian did. Suddenly every man had his boy safely embraced, and one boy had an extra.

There was chaos all around. The BK manager had come out to "get those kids," but when he saw first the mess and then the combined anger on our three father faces, he quickly turned back to the kitchen calling for some poor teenager "hurry up and get out there and clean that up!"

People were both repelled by the commotion and drawn to it. Some were quickly getting out of the line, walking away and even leaving uneaten food on tables in their hurry to be gone. Others were starting to crowd around to see the accident, I heard one oaf ask if there was "any blood, was somebody shot?" They were so intent on witnessing a spectacle they were actually walking in the food spread all over the floor. Suddenly, mercifully, a woman slipped in the pop and ice and screamed as she ended butt first in two Double Whopper meals. Everybody intent on watching turned quickly to this new spectacle because this lady was loud and screaming. Our boys were by now whimpering and shivering, bad enough for me, but not nearly interesting enough for the ghouls.

Somewhere in the back of my brain it registered that Mike wasn't screaming and fighting this dragon who had swooped out of nowhere and scooped him up. In fact looking across the table at Brian holding Tommy and Tommy holding Mike it seemed the youngest boy was trying to actually climb inside Tommy he was hugging him so close and so tight. Both Tommy and Mike were crying and I could see that Brian was befuddled, but desperately holding his boy.

Soon enough the screaming lady was winched out of the pickles and lettuce, her dress would probably never be her way again I wryly thought. The hapless teenage lackey was sweeping, then mopping the mess up, giving me a shy grin when he motioned he needed to do under our table.

Smiling back I lifted Steph and nudged Gene. We took our boys and started back toward the tables at Gloria Jean's. Brian seemed on autopilot, but followed the lead dog, so to speak, and got Tommy to lift Mike and with his arms around their shoulders he steered them after us.

The Gloria Jean's manager saw us coming and quickly arranged two tables together. With a concerned look she raised an eyebrow of a question. "There was an accident down in the food court," I advised. "Nobody's hurt, but everybody got pretty scared. Could we get three coffees and four Cokes?" I asked.

I know they don't do table service, but she was back in just a few minutes with my order and waved away my attempt to get money out of a pocket. I smiled, Stephy peeked between my arms and gave her a radiant smile and a weak, "Thanks." I think she either started to cry or got sand in her eye right then, I'm not sure which.

Scotty was beginning to peek out of Gene's shirt and he gave a shy grin at Steph. Steph grinned back and I could feel at least half the tension drain from his body. Gene must have felt the same because I could see, hear and feel the sigh of relief he gave. We both looked across the table at Mike locked in Tommy's embrace and Tommy snuggling into Brian's shoulder. Brian managed an eyebrow shrug and a weak grin of his own.

We stayed like that, a weird Rockwellesque family tableau in the new American institution of general merchandise, for a good 20 minutes. Gene and I sipping coffee, Scotty and Steph venturing out of our almost marsupial embrace to sip their Cokes. Brian holding Tommy, Tommy holding Mike.

When Brian reached out and took a sip of coffee another barrier of tension left the table and I could see even Tommy relax a little. Mike was still almost comatose in his arms. Steph could feel it too and looking first at Scotty and then up at me he gave me a wide eyed innocent look and asked, "Can we get some ice cream now?"

I almost choked! The little scamp had a plan to get his boy and he was going to carry it out! Nevermind the catastrophe at BK, he felt the hook was set and he was going to reel it in. I must admit I decided then and there I didn't need to listen to that message again. My Tiger had the concept AND the details down cold!

I looked at Gene and Scotty must have goosed him or something because he suddenly popped out, "Yeah, Chocolate would be great! They'll give you a carrier thingie and you can bring us all some."

Looking across the table, Brian smiled and Tommy nodded and released Mike enough to signal two with his fingers.

Steph was beaming as we got a carrier full of cones and headed back to Gloria Jean's, but the scamp wasn't done yet. Once again he was hedging his bet and made me stop and buy a half dozen chocolate chip cookies at the Cookie Factory.

Back at the table we placed the cones in the center and Steph doled out the cookies like a general placing his troops on the battle field. One to Steph, one to Scotty, one to Tommy, one to Gene, one to Brian and one just out of reach, but clearly in sight of Mike. Then the cones were passed around and Brian tried to give one to Mike but he just burrowed deeper into Tommy's chest. Tommy took his and without letting go of his little limpet he finished it about as fast as Steph's disappeared. I couldn't be sure, but I swear Mike's eyes were flickering all around the table watching every move and every bite. Suddenly Steph's plan was a complete success, Mike's little right hand snaked out a little toward the cookie. Finding it was just out of reach, he looked up at Tommy and whispered, "Can I have the cookie Tommy?"

My brain exploded in two directions. I was so proud and so amazed at Steph's unerring instincts; I was flabbergasted that Mike knew Tommy's name. Never in the entire debacle had it been said.

Brian missed it, but I think Gene knew something was up, he gave me a quick raised eyebrow, but all I could do was return one in kind.

As the cookie slowly disappeared into the little bundle of terror in Tommy's lap we could see the tension beginning to drain away. Sure, he was still a scared little boy, but what little boy can hold terror when a chocolate chip cookie is wending down the gullet and a chocolate ice cream cone is sitting, no, melting not two feet away. Soon he looked up and pointed to the cone. Tommy reached across and gave it too him, but with his body made it clear that Mike had to sit up a little and at least balance on his knee instead of being plastered to his chest. Mike did sit up and while eating the ice cream he managed a shy grin at Scotty and then a bigger smile at Steph. When he looked at me we locked eyes like yesterday, but today the terror was gone and I could almost feel his mind say, "Thanks Mister!" Thank God it wasn't followed by a quick disappearance.

Finishing the cone, we all were surprised and then delighted when Mike suddenly squirmed and turned into Tommy's chest and let fly with a little belch! How appropriate, bodily functions once again to the rescue of pre-teen boys. Soon everyone was in giggles.

Brian started to say something, but Tommy quickly cut him off and looking round the table he nodded to each one of us and said our names. Starting with Steph he worked around until he was looking right at Brian. "Dad," he said and I could see Brian swell with pride, "This is my little brother Mickey," and he held Mike out from his chest and faced him around the room. What a bombshell! I could see Brian was stunned. Steph and Scotty could care less about what we thought and both said, "Cool!" at the same time. Once again we had thumb licking and pinky hooking and "Jinx!" shouted across the table. Mike was grinning at them ear to ear.

To Brian's enduring credit, he got past the shock quickly and sticking out a hand to Mike he said, "Well, welcome Mike, welcome home!" and when Mike shyly stuck out his hand to shake, Brian pulled him into an embrace and all three of them were hugging and the crying was starting again. It was way different this time. This time I knew that Tommy's might be dragon tears, but they were the tears of an avenging dragon rescuing the waif, not trying to destroy him.

Stephy looked up at me through his own renewed hug and whined, "Dad, we didn't get to eat! I'm hungry!"

So much for the emotions of the moment. Scotty began squirming in Gene's lap and pretty soon the two of them were in perfect sync. "Donatello's!" they cried together and this time there was high fiving amidst the pinky hooking.

Remind me to talk to my accountant about food charges as a business expense!


I hope you enjoy Steph and Nick's story. Let me know what you'd like to see when they visit the Mouse House!

Lot's of Stephy's school mates are at

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