Copyright 2002 by

This is a fictional story of holiday giving 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.


Stocking Stuffer Part 9 December 29th

Before I could even start to say anything, Scotty flew across the room and hugged us both and then Gene was there and we were all telling Stephy that we loved him and he was safe and nothing he could say would make us hate him. We must have stayed in the group hug for a good half hour before Gene and I realized that both boys had cried themselves to sleep in each others arms.

With a common understanding, Gene and I carried our respective boys into the bedroom and tucked them in together. As we returned to the kitchen, I managed to blurt out. "I remember the dog. This was just a few months ago and I remember I thought, 'Good, Stevie will have a playmate!' How could I be so stupid about what was going on right next door. How could I?" and I ended up blubbering and crying on Gene's shoulder.

I stood there and Gene comforted me until I had my emotions somewhat under control. We refilled our own hot chocolate mugs and sat just looking at each other for a while. Neither of us knew what to say to the horrific images that Stephy's story had burned into our memories. Finally, I sighed and went to look at my angel, Gene followed. The boys were together in the middle of the bed, hugging tightly to each other, yet peacefully asleep. We could see from their faces they were not fighting evil wizards or demons at the moment.

"Go to bed," Gene said hugging my shoulder and pushing me gently toward the bed. "I'll come pick up Scotty in the morning and we can see what we need to do then. If he wakes and needs me, I can be here in 10 minutes. He's never slept anywhere but with me since he came to me."

"You can stay too." I said.

"No, I think this may be a step for him too. I'd like to see if he can gain a little more confidence and independence from this. Good night." and he turned and left the house.

I undressed and finished in the bathroom and as I crawled into bed, Stephy scooted across and took his normal sleep position. I watched amazed as Scotty scooted right behind him and spooned up against my boy. As I drifted to sleep I praised heaven for the two angels who had seen me through this nightmare.

Nature called all to quickly in the morning. I eased out from under my boy and marveled at the two of them entwined, yet separate, before heading first to the bathroom and then to the coffee pot. Getting a cup down me, I began to revive a little and put the used cocoa mugs in the dishwasher. I decided on comfort food for breakfast and got out the makings for good old bacon and eggs.

Just as the bacon was beginning to fill the house with its aroma I was rewarded with my secret hope. Stephy came stumbling out of the bedroom following his nose and his morning stiffie, but leading an equally zombied Scotty by the hand.

As he wrapped his ams around me he mumbled, "Love you, Nick."

I knelt and scooped them both into an embrace and hugged them, kissing first my boy's sleepy head and then his friend's. "Love you too, Stephy. And you too, Scotty. Run to the bathroom and then come to breakfast."

"'K," he mumbled, and lead Scotty away. I didn't know when Scotty had gotten out of his clothes, Gene had put him down dressed except for shoes last night, but here they both were, naked as jay's and waving their pee boners before them as they groped through the morning fog for the bathroom. Soon I heard splashing water and then giggles and then more splashing as they washed up and came awake. I rolled my eyes at what was probably going to be a wet and sloppy bathroom!

Just as I began the eggs they came in much more of this world. In fact, they were wrapped together in Stephy's bears and as they sat in one chair you would almost think it was a Siamese twin act. Four visible feet, two visible arms and heads, one bear wrapped body. I placed hot cocoa in front of each little face, and the remaining hands appeared and as they savored the aroma and warmth, they didn't seem to care the blanket dropped from their shoulders.

Getting a few sips down, Scotty was just asking, "Where's Gene," when the doorbell rang.

"That's him now," I brightly replied. "You had a sleep over and he's come for breakfast. Go let him in."

I watched as realization, then panic, then stoic concentration, then a huge grin crossed Scotty's face. "Really?" he asked in an awed tone, and then he was literally streaking for the front door.

He came back carried like the conquering hero in Gene's arms, wrapped in his ducks. Gene plopped him down in the chair next to Stephy and then tousled my boy's hair. "Glad to see you up and at 'em this fine morning. Morning Nick, that bacon smells delicious! When do we eat."

"Yeah, when do we eat?" came the Greek chorus of treble voices behind him.

"Now!" I laughed and put a big bowl of scrambled eggs, the bacon and toast on the table. Except for noises like the dinosaurs must have made feasting on fresh kill, we were silent through the inhalation therapy session. Then sated, we all pushed the plates away and then died laughing as a burp the size of his body erupted from little Scotty.

"Well done, Scotty. A truly good breakfast deserves an historic belch." Gene said and he let one rip too. Well you can imagine what permission on bodily noises does to a couple of preteens. We were all rolling as a fit of real and manufactured belching hit the kitchen.

Finally, clutching his sides, Gene demanded, "Stop! Stop! Stop! I'm going to wet myself if you guys don't quit!"

Well, that went over like a ton of bricks!

Both boys just gasped and I saw Stephy actually blanch. Then in the space of a heart beat, he took a deep breath, glanced at me and then looked directly at Gene and with an evil little grin said, "Dare you!"

"Way to go Steph!" shrieked Scotty and was all over him in a high fiving victory dance. Gene ran laughing from the room, presumably for the bathroom, and I thanked God for another demon vanquished as I knelt and joined the boys in their celebration.

"Okay, boys, back to the video games," Gene said returning.

We watched them both scamper from the kitchen and when we looked into the study they were playing against each other in what appeared to be a cutthroat battle of some kind of shot 'em up.

"I'll never understand that stuff," I sighed.

Gene smiled and said, "Yeah, but the real battles you seem to be a pro at! Now, I have to work this afternoon and evening and I was wondering if...."

"Of course, he's always welcome here. You both are." I interjected.

"Well, let me see if I can get him away from the tube and see what he says. I thought maybe as a New Years Eve present we could take them to Lord of the Rings tomorrow. How's that sound?"

"Fabulous," I replied.

"Scotty!" Gene barked.

Scotty's head came up and he looked at his Dad and jumped up. Rushing over he circled his fathers waist and looked up expectantly. Gene laughed to me, "Sorry if that scared you. When he's in those games you practically have to hit him over the head to wake him up!" Then he led Scotty to the kitchen. I stood in the door way as they sat with Scotty in his lap.

"Scotty, I'm so proud of you. You really helped make Steph feel safe."

"He needed me, Dad," Scotty replied and then with a little more awe in his voice, "He needed ME!"

"Yes, he did Son and you did a wonderful job. Now, I have to go to work. Can you stay here with Nick and Steph? I think you'll have more fun playing with Steph here than just sitting at home."

"Well," I saw Scotty gulp, "I did sleep over, and he is my friend and I know Nick loves us both. I think I can stay here. When will you be back?"

"I'll be off at seven and should be here by eight. You and Steph can watch TV or do whatever, you'll mind Nick though, right?"

"Yes, Dad"

"Good, then head back in there and play." and he gave Scotty's butt a little swat more as propulsion, I think, than anything else.

"'K," he said and raced away.

"This is a real turning point for him, too. Thank you, Nick. I think asking us to stay yesterday and listening to Steph's story may be helping my baby heal some wounds too."

Turning to the study, Gene clapped his hands once loudly and both boys looked up. "Bye guys, see you tonight."

"Wait," Scotty squealed and I saw Gene's face start to fall. Then Scotty jumped up and ran over and hugged Gene's waist once and then he just stuck out his arm and looked up at his father.

Gene's grin was immense and he knelt to his boy and carefully took the offered arm and touched the watch, quietly setting the alarm to what I knew must be tonight's curfew. As he stood and tousled his boy's hair, he reached in his coat pocket and drew out a DVD. Tossing it to me, he smiled and said, "Happy Hobbiting!" and out the door he went.

The boys played video games until they were hungry again and then sat in the kitchen and watched or helped set the table as I made the requested grilled cheese sandwiches. From somewhere Stephy found three little candles and added them to his sprig of evergreen for a centerpiece. They each devoured two sandwiches and I realized we'd need more bread before long.

After cleaning up, I surprised them with the DVD and they both started in my lap as we watched Bilbo's party and the forming of the Fellowship, but as the story progressed they gravitated to the floor, closer and closer to the action. They weren't as rambunctious as they had been with Harry Potter, but they were no less attentive and when the movie was done, there was shrieking and hollering and dancing around for the forces of good. There was a mad dash for the bathroom and then we had to watch every special feature and extra on the DVD. They even talked me into firing up my computer for the first time in days and we surfed the Lord of the Rings web site. Among many oohs and ahhs, there were repeated comments of 'I wish we could see The Two Towers.' Since it was never asked as a direct question, I let it pass, thinking a Dad must have some surprises up his sleeve. Goodness knows, my boy seemed to have his share!

Stephy popped first and said he was hungry and "Could we have pancakes for supper?"

"Sure," I replied, "but remember when we had French toast? How'd you like to go next door and have Belgium Waffles? They're a variation on pancakes."

"We can't go next door," he whispered having clearly had the wind knocked out of his sails. "There's no food there."

"Oh sweetie," I cried, "I didn't mean that next door, I meant the country next door to France. Belgium for the waffles. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you."

"'K," he ventured, but stuck to my side like glue while I got the waffle iron out and everything ready. Scotty was concerned, but kept drawing Steph out as he set the table and watched me cook. I had Steph mixing the batter and pouring the waffles in the iron, and as we finished eating, he was his sparkly, bubbly self again. Needless to say, Belgium was as much a hit as France, but what wouldn't be drowned in powdered sugar and dripping with pure maple syrup.

All the DVD features and web surfing had made supper fairly late and I noticed at about 7:15 Scotty first looked at his watch. I could see that as time passed he was getting more nervous and while I tried to keep him distracted, by 7:45 even Steph noticed his tenseness.

"Its Okay," he hugged his friend. "He'll be back any minute. Did you see, Nick even made him a waffle!" and he actually dragged Scotty over to the counter to look at the one in the oven staying warm.

Five more minutes and Scotty was really antsy. He kept getting up and taking a step toward the door and then sitting back down. Just as I was sure he was going to plop himself on the floor in front of the door, he ran into the bedroom and ran back holding his ducks. He went back to the chair, but I could see the floor and door were calling loudly to him. At 7:55 it seemed to grab him completely and he had just gotten up and taken one step forward when Gene knocked and then opened to door. Scotty flew to him and I noticed that Gene was ready and willing to snatch him up in a big embrace.

Acting like this was an everyday event, Gene breezily carried Scotty in and started talking to Steph and me. "Hey guys, did ya' miss me? I'm starving, I'd be foolish if I thought you left me anything though. Look at that pile of destroyed dishes heading for the machine!"

"No!," Scotty cried out. "Nick made you one special and we didn't eat it or nothing!"

Gene unceremoniously dumped his boy in a chair and went to the sink, washed up and then plopped down in the chair beside him and growled, "Well, where is it? Or do I have to eat an appetizer of little boy meat first!" and he dove in for a tickle and nibble fest.

"Okay, Okay, break it up here, there'll be no boy biting at this table. One waffle with the works, coming right up," I jumped in in my best waitress style and placed the brimming plate in front of Gene.

"Hey, no fair, where's mine," Stephy whined.

Scotty jumped right in with, "Yeah, I'm starving too!"

I rolled my eyes and said, "Heaven help me, my house is invaded by bottomless pits disguised as boys!" but I surprised them both by opening the waffle iron and producing a perfect waffle which I split down the middle on two more plates and then just laughed as I watched them inhale it.

Between the snarls and snaps of the feeding lions, the boys did a data dump to Gene telling him all about the DVD and world of Middle Earth. I was surprised that they had absorbed so much, neither of them even knew there was a book, let alone four books. But they did a credible job of telling the story and then dragged Gene into the study to see the goriest bits from the special features and the movie scenes. I didn't know you could jump between scenes, but our little monsters were all over that remote like it had been genetically programmed into their fingers.

About 9:30 Gene announced it was time for them to leave and as if on cue, both boys were beside us with their best puppy dog faces on. Scotty started, "Uh, Dad, Nick, we had such fun today, can, uh, maybe, uh,"

"Go on!" Stephy poked him.

"Uh, can Steph come over to our house tomorrow. We'd be good. I'd show him my new movie camera and the movies I made on the computer and we could play and stuff."

"Yeah," Steph directed to me, "Can I? We'd both be real good!"

I looked at Gene and frowned a little, he hemmed and hawed and then started, "Well, I don't know, I don't think it would be a good idea..."

Man he was good, they were both totally hooked and started to begin the whining when he continued.

"No, not a good idea at all, for you to come over before 9 am. I think any earlier than that and we'd have real problems."

"But, Dad," Scotty was in mid whine when he heard what Gene had said. He looked at Stephy and said, almost in awe, "Wait, he said YES, he said Yes! You get to come over!"

"Whoopee!" they both shouted and started dancing around.

Trying to get them settled down again and getting Scotty dressed and ready to go almost made the joke a backfire. I still had a lot to learn about 'winding up the clock' right before bedtime! Finally, Gene and Scotty were gone, Stephy and I had cleaned up the kitchen and we were cuddling in the chair enjoying the fire when Stephy asked, "Did I really hear angels?"

"Oh yes, babe," and I scooted him off me and turned on the CD player, "They were here, singing just for you." We cuddled back together and fell asleep listening to the angels.

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