Christmas with Colt

by Rob Warr

Chapter 4

Monday was rainy and dreary, and mom drove us to school so we wouldn't have to get wet waiting for the bus. I felt kind of guilty, knowing other kids had to do just that, and to think that Colt had to walk all the way to school in the rain was even worse. He'd be soaking wet by the time he'd arrived, then I couldn't suppress a giggle as I thought, at least he'll have a shower for once. How awful, I thought then, and I felt even worse.

"What's wrong, brother?" Sammy asked, sensing my mood as usual.

"I was wondering...about Colt. About his having to walk to school in the rain..."

"Oh dear, if only we knew where he lived, we could've picked him up too," mom lamented, "that poor boy, it's cold out as well. I hope he doesn't get sick."

"Yeah, me too," I sighed, then I went back to staring out the window and feeling as glum as the scenery outside.

The rain had let up a bit by the time we arrived, and neither of us got too wet running for the building. We split up at the front door and headed to our lockers with the usual cheery goodbye and fist bump.

I had hoped to catch sight of Colt in the hallway between classes, but unfortunately that was not the case. Then at lunch I buttonholed my friends to find out if they'd seen him, and no one had. Mary said while they only shared the one class after lunch, she usually saw him a couple times during the morning, because their lockers were so close together, but that today she had not seen him even once.

"I wonder if he stayed home cause of the weather," Jake said stabbing whatever it was on his plate and eying it suspiciously, "what is this anyway? Is that an eyeball?" he muttered, causing several boys at the table to break into laughter.

"I didn't answer Jake, but I wondered the same thing, about Colt staying home due to the rain, and the more I thought about that the more sense it made. Why get drenched when you can stay inside where it's nice and dry? Only, where was that place, did it exist, or was he cowering somewhere out in the cold trying to stay warm and dry?

Needless to say I didn't have much appetite after that and wound up throwing away most of my food. I hated doing that, especially having seen hungry folks who would have wolfed down the slop the cafeteria served without blinking an eye.

I excused myself and headed to the bathroom to relieve myself and wash up a little, and suddenly the door flew open, and in came two of the guys I'd played football with the previous year, John Ashley, and Derrick Hines.

"Hey, Caldwell, how's it going?" John said moving up to one of the urinals and unzipping his jeans.

"Okay, I guess, how's football this year?"

"Good, really good. We got a good team this year. You should've gone out, we could've used your legs."

"Legs?" I said, not understanding at first.

"Yeah, those cute girly legs of yours," Derrick laughed rudely as he too unzipped and started pissing.

"Shut up," I said, not in any mood for these idiots' jokes.

"Aww, come on, Caldwell, can't ya take a joke? Everyone's cool with you being a fag. In fact, we could use someone like you in the shower after practice and after the relieve some of the pressure," John laughed.

"Yeah, well I only mate within my own species," I sneered, "and you gorillas don't qualify."

"I bet if you saw it, you'd want it," John laughed, turning slightly to expose his semi-erect cock.

I cried out and turned away quickly, but the image of John's semi-hard cock was still burned into my brain. As far as cocks went, John's was about a 7 on a scale from 1-10, not all that big, not all that fat, but well shaped with a neat circumcision scar, unlike some I'd seen that looked like they'd been butchered. But just because I was gay and curious about other boys didn't mean I had to be someone's personal sex toy.

"Put that thing away, pervert," I scolded, "Geesh, everyone talks about how us gay boys are perverted and disgusting, but it's straight guys like you that are the real perverts. Or...maybe you're not as straight as you want everyone to think you are..." I added with a sneer.

"Shut up, fag boy," John said angrily, "but he did stow his now wilting member as he recoiled from my words, "I have a girlfriend, in case you didn't know..." he sputtered.

"Oh yeah, well...let her relieve you then. By the way, you and your dick-weed friend here, and others like you, are the reason I didn't go out for football this year. I didn't want to be associated with a bunch of homophobic jackasses, some of who are so far back in the closet they will never find their way out."

With that said, I headed to the door, leaving them to deal with the sting of my words. Only then did I realize I could have been in real trouble if those two had reacted to my rejection in a physical way. After all, they were both bigger, burly football players, and there were two of them and only one of me. However, bullying of any sort at our school was strictly prohibited, and anyone who was caught suffered extreme punishment, including expulsion. That, plus the fact that neither boy wanted to get kicked off the football team, which was a big part of their persona, probably saved my bacon. However, I now had at least two enemies that I would have to keep an eye on from now on.

I didn't worry much about John and Derrick though, it was Colt and his situation that occupied my mind the rest of the afternoon, and by the time school was dismissed I was ready to call it a day. Sammy and I met up at the flagpole and I saw mom get into the line of waiting vehicles about five cars back. Fortunately, the rain had stopped, but it was still as cloudy and grey as my mood.

"Come on, Sammy, there's mom," I said gathering up my backpack.

"Hi boys, how was your day?" mom said as we slid into our seats in the SUV.

"Terrible," I muttered, but I didn't explain.

Sammy seemed about to say something, then as if thinking better of it he closed his mouth and just stared at mom, who sort of shrugged.

"Care to talk about it?" mom said, as she slid out of the line of cars and cautiously headed out to the main street.

"Not right now," I sighed, "but I will say this, Colt didn't show up, again, today."

"Oh, oh dear," mom said, "maybe it was because of the rain..."

"Yeah," I muttered, but I had this really, really bad feeling about Colt's absence, and that feeling would soon prove to be right.

Days passed, then a week, still no Colt. We tried everything we could to find out what happened to him or where he could be, but we kept coming up empty handed. Mrs. Sanders, the teacher who had spoken so fondly of him, even tried to help us, but even the school didn't know where Colt was or what had happened to him.

I took it personally, of course. After all, I'd basically given him my heart and I thought he felt the same way about me, then suddenly he was gone, and that heart I had given up so easily was now broken. I wanted to believe he was okay, that nothing bad had happened to him, but the uncertainty was eating me alive.

Even Sammy seemed to have lost some of his zest for life and he spent a lot of time trying to comfort or cheer me up. Dad went into full Ninja mode and was calling in favors all over town trying to find out what he could about Colt and his mom and their situation, but so far he'd come up dry.

The only bright spot was our annual trip to the Children's Hospital, where we visited with the kids and handed out gifts. We didn't buy all the gifts ourselves, of course, but Sammy and I had personally picked out gifts for four of the kids, all boys, but of course mom and dad paid for them.

It was always heartwarming to see the look on the kid's faces when they saw us, especially the younger ones, and especially when Santa handed them their present. Even the youngest kids connected almost immediately with Sammy, who treated them as if they were his own little brothers or sisters.

One boy in particular caught my attention, and I felt myself drawn to him as if I'd known him all my life. He was about my age, but a little taller, slender and pale looking, and I later found out he had cancer. I should have picked up on that right away since he was wearing a stocking cap to cover his bare head. Chemo had caused his hair to fall out and I supposed accounted partly for his pale luster and lethargy.

"Hi," I said once all the kids had their gifts and had settled down.

Sammy was busy with a group of grade-school-aged kids, boys and girls, and was making a big deal of admiring their gifts and talking them up.

"Hey," the boy said, giving me a shy smile.

"I'm Blake," I said offering my fist to bump.

"Sean," he said bumping my fist weakly.

"Stuck here for the holiday, huh?" I said, suddenly feeling very uncomfortable and wishing I had some of Sammy's talent in dealing with people.

He laughed sadly, "If I'm lucky I'll last that long," he said in an emotionless voice.

"Oh, sorry to hear that," I said sincerely, "My folks and I do this every year, help hand out the toys and stuff, but sometimes it's kind of sad when we meet a kid who's really sick or injured."

"Yeah, it sucks," Sean sighed, "but, hey...whatta ya gonna do? It is what it is. I've lived 14 years, I guess that's better than not living at all."

"Hey, you're not done yet," I said, trying to sound upbeat.

"Yeah, it's not much fun though, living like this," he said looking away to hide the tears in his eyes.

I had a few of those myself and I casually wiped them away while he wasn't looking.

"So, do you have any brothers or sisters?" I asked, trying to get both our minds off his condition.

"A little brother, Danny, he's 10. He doesn't understand. He still thinks I can come home and things will be like they used to be, before..."

"I have a little bro too, well, he's not so little. That's him over there with that group of his fans," I chuckled, "That's Sammy, and he's 12."

"Adopted, huh?" Sean said, picking up on our differences immediately.

"Yeah, he was ten when we got him," I laughed then, "that sounds bad, like I'm talking about a dog or something."

Sean actually laughed too, "I bet he's more fun than a dog though."

"He is, he's a good bro. And everyone likes him, you'll have to meet him before we go."

"Sure," Sean said wincing as if in pain.

"You okay?"

"My back is killing me. Too much laying around and not enough exercise. I used to play sports and I was in good, I'm a skinny little weakling."

"I'm sorry," I said, "Hey, want me to rub your back," I offered, not thinking how weird that might sound, or how others might see it.

"You serious?" Sean chuckled.

"Well, sure, if it's not too weird."

Sean shrugged, "Not here, back in my room, okay?"

"Are you sure that's allowed?" I said, having second thoughts about my offer now.

"Who cares, I'm dying, what're they gonna do, shoot me?" he chuckled, and for a moment I saw the boy that Sean must've been before the cancer, before the Chemo, before being handed a death sentence. He was still cute, even in his current state, with dark expressive eyes, and I imagined that at one time he had dark hair, though I could only guess. His cheeks were a bit sunken now, but his lips were still full and red, and even his nose was cute.

"Well, I need to check in with my folks first..." I said, thinking that might cause Sean to change his mind about going to his room.

"Okay, sure...let's go. I can meet your brother too."

So, I introduced Sean to mom and dad, and of course they knew exactly how to deal with him. How to be compassionate without showing too much pity, and how to make him feel as loved as was possible in the brief time they were in his presence.

Sammy was a different matter, however. He seemed to sense immediately that Sean was seriously ill and kept touching his arm as if he somehow possessed a healing touch. Well, maybe he did, who knows, miracles happen, right?

When I told Sammy what we were up to, he asked if he could come along, and I thought that was a great idea, just in case Sean had misread my motives.

Sean's room was a double, and his bed was nearest the window. Since all the kids were in the rec room with Santa at the moment, we were alone, and Sean wasted no time stretching out on his bed face down.

"Are you an expert?" Sean chuckled.

"I'm pretty good, right Sammy?"

"Yeah, his massages are the best," Sammy agreed, "once my back hurt so bad cause I fell out of a tree and Blake fixed me right up."

"Good to know," Sean said, "I'm all yours, Doc, he chuckled, seeming much happier now than before.

I rubbed my hands together to warm them a bit, then began with Sean's shoulders, which were very tense and knotted up, then worked my way down his back, applying mild pressure up and down his spine all the way to the top of his skinny butt.

Sean wore sweat pants and a tee shirt, but both looked a size too big, but I supposed they probably fitted at one time. I could easily feel his vertebrae as I worked my way up and down his spine and he moaned, whether in pleasure or pain I wasn't sure. That was until he finally sighed and said, "Oh my god, your hands feel so good. You could charge for that. I haven't felt this good since...well, forever."

"See, told ya so," Sammy giggled.

"I'm glad it's helping. Want me to do your legs too?" I said as I once again reached the base of his spine.

"Sure, why not? No extra charge, right?"

"Consider it my Christmas gift to you, Sean," I said smiling.

"The best gift I've gotten in a while," he sighed contentedly.

His legs were skinny too, smooth as silk, and with very little muscle definition there. His feet were small for a boy his age and looked skinny as well, but they weren't gross or anything, and I gave them a working over as well, causing even more moans of pleasure.

"Oh, man, no one has ever touched my feet before, but I like it. It's like when you press on them I can feel it all over my body."

"Actually, I read somewhere that there are nerves going to other parts of your body in your feet and that's why a foot rub feels so good. My mom used to rub my feet when I was little and I'd go right to sleep."

"Yeah," Sammy agreed, "she still does mine, but I guess I'll be getting too old for that soon."

"Nah, as long as she'll do it, let her," Sean said softly, "you're only a kid once, and your folks will miss you when you're all grown up."

I couldn't help but think that Sean was actually talking about his own case, but instead of growing up, Sean was dying. I choked back a sob as I thought how sad that would be for his folks, and especially for his little brother.

"Are your folks here tonight?" I asked when I'd composed myself.

"Not yet, they're coming later. They had to work. They're bringing my brother this time. I haven't seen him in a couple days."

"Cool, other foot," I said, laying the first one down, "Glad you're not ticklish, otherwise I might get kicked in the head."

"The way you're touching them, it doesn't feel like a tickle. It just feels good, like the back rub. Thanks, for that, by the way, and...thanks for talking to me. It's been awhile since I've had someone my age to talk to. My roomy is older, like 16, and he's not very friendly."

"Oh, well...his loss."

"Yeah, well, I hate to end this, but I really gotta pee," Sean said at last.

"Sure, no problem, we really need to get back to the rec room and find our folks. We'll probably be leaving soon."

"Wait for me, okay?" Sean said, getting up very slowly and standing beside the bed.

I almost laughed when I saw the tent in Sean's sweat pants, but I don't think he was fully aware of it till Sammy giggled and then looked away.

"Oh, sorry," Sean said trying to adjust himself, "like morning wood, I guess, only evening wood," he laughed.

"No need to apologize," I said, "we're boys too, we understand."

While Sean used the bathroom Sammy and I talked softly and I told him what Sean had told me about his condition.

"I knew it," Sammy said sadly, "he's really sick, but he's so brave. I...I'm not sure I could be that brave."

"You never know till you have to face something like that. Let's just hope and pray we never do."

"Ready?" Sean said joining us then. His tent was gone and he seemed in better spirits than before, possibly due to my back rub.

"How's the back?"

"Fine now, thanks again. You should come more often," he laughed, "maybe you could get paid as a physical therapist or something."

"Nah, I don't need any pay. I'm just happy to help. long will you be here? in the hospital, I mean," I said quickly clarifying what I meant, how long was in the hospital, not how long on this earth.

"Depends, a few more days probably. Not much more they can do at this point, but I already told my folks I want to go home to...umm, you know...when the time comes."

I was speechless then, and my tears threatened to come at any moment. Fortunately, we were met by a man and woman and a young boy as we exited the room, and I knew immediately that this must be Sean's family. His little brother was a miniature version of Sean, and both boys resembled their father, who was a well-built, very handsome man who appeared to be in his early 40s. The mother was very attractive as well, with long dark hair and hazel eyes, but understandably she looked a little sad, no matter how hard she tried to hide it.

"Oh, there you are?" his dad said grinning, "we were afraid you had ran off to join the circus or something.

"Hi, mom, dad," Sean said, his smile lighting up his whole face, but it was his little brother, who suddenly threw himself into Sean's arms, that really delighted him, "Hi slugger, how's things?"

"I miss you sooo much,"the little dark haired boy said.

"I know, I miss you too, Danny," Sean said, sounding near tears, "but don't worry, I'll be home as soon as the warden gives me a pardon," he joked.

Danny giggled, then frowned as he pulled away, "I wish you could be home for Christmas."

"I'm hoping, keep your fingers crossed, okay. If I do okay the next couple days they promise I can go home. Are there any gifts for me under the tree yet, or are we waiting for Santa?"

While Sean and Danny moved aside to get caught up, I took the opportunity to introduce ourselves.

"Oh, so you're part of the group who came to bring gifts to the kids," Sean's mom said, "that is so wonderful. I know it means a lot to the kids here who are away from their families during this time of year."

"Yeah, it's fun watching the look on the little kids' faces," Sammy said grinning.

"Not just the little kids," I added, "even the older kids are happy to know someone cares about them."

"Well, I appreciate the fact that you've taken a special interest in our Sean," the woman said sounding sad, "I guess he told you why he's here, as if you can't guess."

"Well, not everything, but I figured it was pretty serious. He seems calm though, and very brave, I'm not sure I could be that brave," I confessed, echoing Sammy's early sentiments.

"He's always been tough," his dad said, watching his two sons with loving eyes as they wandered down the corridor engaged in an animated discussion, "this has hit him hard, but he's been a trooper the whole time. We're still praying for a miracle," he added, wiping at his eyes.

"We'll pray for him too," I said fighting back some tears of my own, then composing myself, I said, "I'd love for you to meet my folks, if you have time."

"Of course, looks like the boys are busy catching up, so why don't we go do that now," Sean's mom said.

My parents are sort of like Sammy, they make friends easily and they like everyone, and after a few minutes it was as if the four adults had known each other forever. They even talked about our families getting together once Sean was released from the hospital.

After making the introductions, Sammy and I joined Sean and his brother, and not once did we discuss Sean's condition or anything sad. We were just four boys sharing some fun and laughter for a while and when it was time to go, I felt a little sad to leave them.

Our family is one of those huggy, touchy-feely types of families, and of course Sammy and I embraced that stuff as a matter of habit. So, without thinking twice both Sammy and I hugged Sean and Danny goodbye, and to my surprise they seemed just as eager to hug back. I saw tears in Sean's mom's eyes, but she was smiling as she observed us and gave both Sammy and I a quick hug, and whispered 'thank you' in our ear.

I swapped numbers with Sean and we promised to keep in touch, then we said goodbye one last time then left him to visit with his family.

On the way home Sammy and I were quiet, but we had a lot to think about. As I thought about Sean's situation I realized I was indeed a lucky boy, and despite my recent loss of Colt, I still had plenty to be thankful for. I vowed right then and there to make the most of each day and to appreciate the many blessings I had bestowed upon me.

Later, I found out that Sean had indeed made it home for Christmas, and...either due to a miracle or modern medicine, Sean's condition began to improve, and at his last checkup, his doctors found him to be cancer free. I cried when I got the news, and I could hear tears in Sean's voice as well. Unfortunately, Sean and his family lived in another city, and we only got together once after that, but who knew what the future might bring for us?

Even after what had happened with Sean, and my promise to do better, I still had bad days and still mourned Colt's loss. My friends at school tried to comfort me, especially Mary and Jake, but I was one sad, lonely boy sometimes, and I sort of pushed them away. Mary, however, was not one to give up, and one afternoon she showed up at my house unannounced and insisted we were going to the mall.

I protested loudly, but in the end, as always, Mary won out and I found myself side by side in the SUV with her as my mom drove us to the mall. Then, after dropping us off, mom said she had some shopping to do elsewhere and that she would pick us up in about two hours.

"Why are we here?" I whined once we were inside.

The place was decked out for Christmas, of course, just as it had been when Colt and I visited here, but without him by my side the garland and tinsel, the decorated trees, the Christmas carols, and all the rest were just background noise.

"We are here to do some shopping, and to get your mind off Colt for just one day."

"Good luck there," I said, looking around and seeing all the happy people, not to mention a few cute boys, who only reminded me of what I'd lost.

"Blakey," Mary said taking my arm in hers, "I know you love him, and I'm pretty sure he loves you too, but there is no need to destroy your own life because you don't know what's happening in his."

"You don't understand," I said angrily, "he might be hurt, or...or dead for all we know..."

"I don't think so," Mary said, but how she could be so sure of that, I had no clue, "I think...well, I think something has happened that's beyond his control though. Otherwise I don't think he would have left you to worry about him like this."

I sighed, "Like what?" I asked, hoping she had some insight into the situation that made sense for me.

"Like, something to do with his mom. Maybe she made him go somewhere with her or something."

I shrugged, "Like where?"

"I don't know," Mary said sounding frustrated, "anyway, I don't want to talk about Colt anymore today, come on, we're going shopping."

Mary's folks are pretty well off, and even at 14, she has her own debit card and she spent money that day like the balance in her account was the national debt. She bought gifts for her mom, for her dad, for Jake, and for a couple of her gal pals, and I wound up being her pack mule as she continued to add more gifts to my load.

"Geesh, can we at least stop and get something to drink?" I begged after the fifth store.

"Oh, sure. Here, let me help," she said taking the smallest bag as if she was really helping, "I'll even buy. Mom put 500 dollars in my debit account for my Christmas shopping, so the sky is the limit."

"I'll have a martini then," I teased, "I need something to help me relax."

"Ha, funny, how about some lemonade?"

We sat in the food court watching the happy shoppers come and go, and not once did either of us bring up Colt's name. In a way that was a relief, but in another I felt guilty for not thinking about him every minute of every day as I felt I should. I had never felt this way about anyone, and I was pretty sure I was in love, and suddenly the object of my affection was gone, and I felt like I was slowly dying without him.

"Hey, how about I buy you something to cheer you up?" Mary suggested, "call it an early Christmas present, "how about a new video game, or a new shirt,, anything...?"

"Nah, don't waste your money on me, I won't be alive much longer," I grumbled.

"Shut that kind of talk up, mister!" Mary scolded, "you will be fine, you will get past this and find someone new..."

"I don't want someone new, I want Colt," I whined again, boy, whining was becoming my voice of choice lately.

"I know, and there's still a chance you two might reconnect, but all I'm saying is: somehow you will survive this and go on to live a good life."

"Doesn't look that way to me, but okay, if you say so," I conceded, "where to next?" I asked, draining the last of my lemonade and making an annoying slurping noise with my straw.

"The game store, I'm going to buy that game whether you like it or not. If you won't tell me which game, I'll call Sammy, he'll know," she warned, and I just had to laugh. Girls, they sure do know how to get their way.

I did feel some better that evening as Sammy and I sat in the floor playing our new video game, courtesy of Mary and her mom's 500 dollars. Sammy seemed happy that I was in a better mood, and I realized how unfair it was to him, my friends, and my folks that I was being so sad and bringing everyone else down. I vowed to do better, but after all, I was 14 and a slave to my emotions and...hormones.

Christmas was fast approaching, but unlike previous years, this year I found it hard to get into the spirit of things. Fortunately, dad, Sammy, and I had put up the decorations shortly after Thanksgiving, otherwise I might have had a hard time doing my part. Even the live tree, decorated with hundreds of twinkling lights, ornaments, and garland couldn't put me in the mood. I'd always loved the smell of a live tree, the only kind my folks would ever have in our house, and usually the scent alone was enough to have me singing Jingle Bells, but not this year.

As I counted down the days till Christmas on the Advent Calendar, I was reminded not of the joyous approach of that wonderful day, but of Colt and how many days I had been missing him. There was a little chocolate bar beneath each day on the Calendar, and as usual I shared it with Sammy, who always gave me a big hug when I did so.

It was hard to be sad around that little guy, he was so loving and empathetic, and I feared I was ruining the Holiday season for him, and vowed to do better. I might have to fake it a bit, but I was determined not to be such a 'Gloomy Gus' for his sake.

Christmas was on Sunday that year and our last official day of school was Thursday, December 22nd. That week most teachers took it easy on us, but there were always a couple who thought Christmas break was the perfect time to assign some project that would take at least several days to complete. I didn't care, without Colt I had nothing better to do, and even though I sympathized with my fellow classmates, I didn't join in their protests, which at any rate fell on deaf ears.

Wednesday, we had what the school called a 'Holiday' dinner, some kind of processed turkey, yams, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce and a slice of what was purported to be 'pumpkin pie'. It was edible at best, the yams being the best part, the pie passable, and the rest tasteless as usual. However, Jake wolfed his down quickly, then looked around at our trays as if he was looking for more.

"Dang, dude, you swallowed that shit whole," Bill laughed, "want some more turkey clone?" he joked.

"Yeah, if you don't want it," Jake said quickly, pushing his tray over so Bill could unload his previously untouched mystery meat.

"Is everyone going to have a big Christmas dinner?" I asked, wondering about my friends and what their lives were like outside of school.

"Yeah, but my mom always fixes ham for Christmas since we have turkey for Thanksgiving," Jake explained, thus his interest in the 'turkey wanna be' the school was serving.

"We always go to my grandparents," Mary said, "and my aunts and uncles and cousins all come too. It's crazy, but it's fun. There is always a ton of food, least three turkeys," she added gigging Jake in the side, "you should come with me this year," she offered.

"I wish I could, but my rents pretty much insist on a down home family Christmas. My brother is coming home from college and that's cool. I haven't seen him since he left in September."

"We usually go caroling with our church Christmas Eve, then we come home, have hot chocolate and open one gift," Bill said, garnering everyone's attention. He usually wasn't that talkative and I could tell this ritual meant something special to him to have shared it with us.

"That's cool, Bill. Do you stay home Christmas day?"

"Yeah, we sleep late, even my dad," he laughed, "and then we have oatmeal and fruit, and open the rest of the gifts. Afterwards, mom starts dinner, and we usually eat around 2 o'clock. Sometimes neighbors or friends drop in, and if they have kids we hang out in my room or outside if the weather is nice."

"Your Christmas sounds a lot like mine," I said, minus the caroling, but that sounds cool. I think I'd like to do that some time. Maybe I could go with you guys."

"Sure, you and Sammy both," Bill said happily, "if you want to come Saturday night, just let me know. You have my number..."

"I'll talk to my folks and Sammy about it, thanks."

"What about the rest of you guys?" Mary said, noting, as I had, that the other two boys at our table seemed interested in the conversation, but had not said much.

"Uh, well...last year we went out to eat, "Peter said, "mom had to work at the Hospital and didn't have time to fix a dinner at home. I'm not sure about this year," he said blushing.

"Did you have turkey at the restaurant?" Jake asked, eying Mary's tray and her half-eaten turkey surprise.

"Yeah, it was a buffet thing, and they had lots of good stuff. My brother and I had tacos too," he laughed, "on Christmas Day."

"That sounds cool," I said, "what about you, Kenny?"

"Oh, uh, you know? The usual stuff, turkey and mom is a really good cook, know? It's just us two now..." he said blushing.

No, I didn't know that. Boy, sometimes you think you know someone, and then, BAM! you find out you didn't know as much about them as you should.

"Oh," I said, trying to choose my words carefully, "so...umm, do you want to talk about it?"

"Nah, no big deal. My dad split, but mom got him for alimony and child support and she does okay at her job. We're fine," Kenny said staring at his tray.

"Well, if you ever need to talk..." I offered, but he just waved me off.

The conversation lagged after that, though Jake did wind up asking for, and receiving several more portions of the turkey, including half of mine. Boy, that kid could sure put it away.

The rest of the day went by without incident and when I met Sammy by the flagpole he was his usual cheerful self. We talked about the upcoming holiday, and I did my best to sound enthusiastic, even though my heart was still breaking for the loss of Colt.

I knew now what folks meant by closure when they weren't sure if a loved one was dead or living, even if I was pretty sure Colt wasn't dead, I needed to know what had happened to him before I could move on. My thoughts were suddenly interrupted, however, by Sammy, who was excitedly pointing at the sky.

"Look, it's snowing," he said, turning his face to the sky to let the gentle flakes kiss his smooth skin, "we're gonna have a white Christmas after all."

"Oh, is," I said, for the moment joining him in his childish celebration, "maybe we can go sledding if it snows enough..."

"Yeah, and have snowball fights, and build a snowman..." Sammy enthused.

By the time mom arrived, the snow had begun to collect on the grass, though the streets and walks were still clear at the moment. I knew as night fell and the temps dropped, however, that things would change and it would begin to accumulate on those as well, making them slippery and dangerous.

"If it gets too bad," mom said almost as if reading my mind, "you boys can skip school tomorrow. You only have a half-day anyway."

"Awesome," Sammy said, giving me a high-five.

"If, I said," mom reminded him, but I had a feeling mom had already made up her mind. I was sure she'd been following the weather report, as always, and knew pretty much what to expect out of this storm.

"Yes, mom. Can we have hot cocoa when we get home?"

"Yes, son," she said smiling in the rear view mirror, "and I baked some sugar cookies today. I was hoping you boys would help me decorate them, but I think we can spare a few for your snack."

Sammy and I spent an hour or so helping mom decorate the cookies, and to mom's consternation, occasionally licking a bit of sugary frosting off our fingers.

"Oh well," she sighed, "I guess if you boys have any germs, we already have them anyway. Just don't lick the cookies after you finish with them," she added, causing us to laugh.

"When is dad getting home?" I asked, suddenly realizing it was unusual for him to be this late, especially so close to the holiday.

"Oh, well...he had some shopping to do," mom said with a grin, "hopefully, for our gifts."

"Oh, cool. I'm glad I got my shopping all done..." I said, then trailed off as I thought about the gift I'd bought for Colt. I knew it was silly, that I probably would never see him again, but it was if buying the gift would somehow keep my hope alive and maybe bring him back. I just couldn't think of the alternative, that Colt was gone forever, and that little gift under the tree was my way of believing in miracles.

Mom, who understood me better than anyone in the world, stopped what she was doing and came over to hug me from behind. Then bending down she kissed the top of my head, but didn't say a word. It was if she knew what I was thinking and that no words were needed at the moment. She loved me and wanted me to be happy, and I knew this thing with Colt was hard on her too, on dad, and Sammy as well, and sometimes I felt guilty for being so emotionally invested in my own sorrow.

"Thanks, mom," I whispered, "I'm fine," I said touching her hand gently.

Sammy watched us with moist eyes, his empathy shining through as always, and when mom finally moved away, he was up and out of his chair in an instant, hugging me fiercely and planting a soft kiss on my cheek.

I giggled at the butterfly soft kiss and pulled him into my lap and tickled him till he too cried out in glee, "We are going to have so much fun...the snow is piling up outside and by tomorrow we'll have plenty to build our snowman with." I said, trying to lighten the mood and take my own mind off Colt.

"Think dad will help us?" Sammy said as I sat him back down on the floor.

"Oh yes, your father is just a kid inside an adult's body," Mom chuckled, "he'll be out there lobbing snowballs and sledding with you boys. Sometimes I feel like I have three sons, not two."

I smiled, mom was right. Dad was so much fun it was hard to believe sometimes that he was a grownup, but then mom was pretty cool too. What she didn't mention was: that she would probably be right out there with dad, throwing snowballs and having fun with us as well.

We heard the garage door go up about a half hour later, and Sammy and I rushed out to see if dad needed any help with his purchases. Instead of carrying packages in, however, we wound up carrying in sacks of Chinese food he'd picked up on the way home.

"Yaay!" Sammy cheered, "mom said dinner was a surprise, and I love Chinese food."

I laughed, "Go figure," and we all cracked up.

So, while dad took care of his packages, Sammy and I helped mom get the food on the table and drinks poured. By that time dad was ready to join us and we had a very nice dinner. Dad had gotten six extra egg rolls and Sammy and I ate two each, leaving mom and dad one, but they didn't seem to mind.

While Sammy and I cleaned up what little dinner mess we'd made, mom and dad were in their bedroom wrapping the gifts dad had bought. Sammy and I were watching a Christmas movie on TV when they came in, their arms full of beautifully wrapped presents, and began arranging them under the tree.

Sammy hopped up to inspect the new load of loot and gleefully found several with his name on them, as well as several for me. I knew I should have been as happy and enthusiastic as Sammy, and I tried, but what good were all the gifts in the world when my heart was breaking for Colt?

Mom and dad joined us for the rest of the movie, dad next to me, and Sammy half way on mom's lap. Dad seemed especially cuddly that night, slipping his arm around my shoulder and occasionally patting my leg as if to comfort me. I'll admit, I needed some comforting and wound up leaning into him, inhaling his strong masculine fragrance, mixed with the smell of body wash and deodorant.

Around nine, Sammy and I headed off to bed without being told, and I opted to wait till morning to shower. That way if we didn't have to go to school, I could put it off till after we'd played outside in the snow and use it to warm up.

Sammy, however, was a clean freak, and after his shower, he came in all dressed for bed to say goodnight and give me a hug. I was already in bed, and suddenly I found myself turning back the covers and inviting Sammy to lay down beside me. He eagerly slipped into bed, snuggling along my side and delivering a kiss to my cheek with a sigh.

"Want to sleep with me tonight?" I said softly. This wouldn't be the first time we'd shared a bed, but it had been awhile. Back when Sammy had first joined our family he'd occasionally wake after a bad dream, scared and confused, and sometimes I'd lay down with him till he went back to sleep. Often however, I'd fall asleep as well and wind up spending the whole night in his bed.

"Yesss," Sammy said as happy as a bee in clover, "just like old times, huh?" he said grinning.

"Yes, except now it's me who needs his brother to comfort him," I said sadly.

"Aww, sorry," Sammy said hugging me close and planting another kiss on my cheek, "it will be all right, I just know it."

"I hope you're right," I sighed as I settled down to sleep.

Soon, Sammy's soft regular breathing told me he had succumbed to sleep, and I smiled as I kissed the top of his head. His hair always smelt nice, like strawberries, and was so silky soft it made you just want to run your fingers through it all day. I stared down at his face in slumber and my heart swelled with love for my little brother. He was so beautiful, a sleeping angel, and I kissed his cheek as he had kissed mine, then snuggled closer and soon joined him in peaceful slumber.

"I awoke around 7 as usual, but Sammy was already gone. However, I soon figured out where he'd gone to as I heard his piss splashing the toilet in the adjoining bath. I stretched and yawned, then walked over to the window and was pleased to see the snow had continued overnight and there was now a nice thick blanket of white covering everything in sight.

"It snowed, big time," I said to Sammy as he joined me at the window, "I wonder if that's enough to keep us home?"

"I hope so, but even if we have to go, it's only half a day and we have the next ten days off."

"Yeah, I'm gonna go pee, be right back," I said, excusing myself and taking my turn at the toilet.

After washing my hands and face I felt more awake, then grabbing Sammy, I headed downstairs with him in tow.

Both mom and dad were sitting at the dining room table sipping coffee, and when we came in mom gave us a big smile, "In case you're wondering, you're staying home today, wasn't my choice. They just announced on TV that all schools were closed today due to the snow...and since it's only a half-day, there won't be any making up to do."

"Yaah!!" Sammy and I cried excitedly, dancing around and being goofy. So what if I was 14, I could let my inner child out once in a while, right?

"Are you working, dad?" I asked when we'd wound down at last.

"Nope, not till after Christmas. That's one advantage to having your own business, you can make the rules. I gave everyone else the day off too, and nice Christmas bonuses to boot."

"Do you get a bonus?" Sammy asked seriously.

Dad laughed, "Of course, I'm the boss, and I get the biggest bonus of anyone."

"How does oatmeal, waffles, and bacon sound, boys?"

"Great mom!" dad said for all of us, and we all laughed, dad was indeed one of us boys.

After breakfast, Sammy and I donned our seldom worn winter outfits, thermal underwear, long woolen socks, hats, gloves, scarves, and boots, and headed out to play in the snow. Dad said he'd join us soon, but that he had a couple of phone calls to make.

Snow wasn't that rare in our part of the country, but an accumulation of this amount was, and Sammy and I certainly wanted to take advantage of it while we could. However, I needn't have worried, the snow would wind up hanging on well into the new year.

There are about a half dozen other kids living on our block, and unsurprisingly most of them were out as well. It didn't take long for us to gang up, and after choosing sides, we began a snowball war. Naturally Sammy was on my team, and though we got beaten pretty badly, my little brother scored plenty of hits on the enemy.

After the snowball fight, we joined forces and built a snow man, then someone suggested we build a snow fort. Dad showed up about then, and I sure was glad, because with his help we had that snow fort built in no time flat. Of course, what good is a snow fort, if you don't have a war, so we chose up teams again then did rock-paper-scissor to see who defended the fort, and Sammy and I wound up on the attacking team.

Dad stayed neutral, dodging snowballs and pretending to be a medic, offering aid to anyone who got blasted too hard. Dad was so much fun, and all our friends thought so too. However, about ten minutes into the war, mom showed up, dressed for battle, and joined the defending team, forcing dad to join the opposition. It was great fun, and though no one really won, we were all winners because we had so much fun. Even mom had to admit that it was the most fun she'd had in ages.

Eventually, the other kids began to trickle away, one by one, till it was just us left. Cold, hungry, and exhausted, we finally headed inside around noon to get refueled and warm up. With our help, mom fixed grilled cheese sandwiches and heated up a big pan of tomato soup, which really hit the spot on a cold day like this.

Refueled and warmed up, we were tempted to go out again, but dad promised to take us sledding the next day, and we decided we could wait till then to have more snow fun. Instead, we played the new video game Mary had bought us, then watched Christmas movies with our folks till dinner time.

Dinner was homemade pizza, better than any pizza delivery you could find, and there wasn't so much as a crumb left by the time we were done. Sammy and I cleaned up the mess while mom took care of some laundry and dad went to his home office to take care of some last minute business.

"That was fun." Sammy said bumping my hip, "did you see when Marcus got blasted in the nuts?"

I laughed, but I knew how much that hurt, "I bet he's still talking funny. That shit really hurts."

"You said shit," Sammy giggled, then he covered his mouth, "oh, so did I," then we both laughed.

I thought of Colt then, how he'd been surprised by my use of expletives that day at the mall, and once again I felt the pain of his loss all over again. Sammy must've sensed my mood, for he gave me a tender look, then smiled.

"You're thinking about him, aren't you?"

I nodded, no need to deny it, then I explained what had brought up his memory.

"I miss him too," Sammy sighed, "but mostly I'm sad cause you miss him the most."

"I'm sorry, I try not to let it show and ruin things..." I choked out.

"No, bubber, you're not ruining anything. You can be sad, it's okay. I'm sad sometimes too. But when you're sad, if you need to talk to someone, then talk to me, I'm a good listener."

I smiled, "I know, and you're the best little brother in the whole world," I said hugging him gently, "Now, no more sadness, tonight we're gonna have fun, okay?"

"Yeah, okay," Sammy said giving me that killer smile of his, "tonight we watch 'Christmas Story', mom and dad have it all ready to go."

"You'll shoot your eye out," I laughed, quoting that famous line from the movie, and we both laughed.

I always enjoyed our family time together, watching our favorite movies and saying our favorite lines right along with the actors, laughing and cutting up, and generally having a great time. Mom made hot cocoa and we ate some of the cookies Sammy and I had helped to decorate, and for a while I forgot all about Colt and actually enjoyed myself.

However, once the evening was over and it was bedtime, thoughts of Colt drifted into my head once more, and I felt almost guilty for having a good time while he was out there, God only knew where, while I was inside safe and warm and well-fed, surrounded by my loving family.

Sammy came in to say goodnight, and I could tell he was hoping for a repeat of the night before, but I didn't offer, and he didn't beg. I needed some time to myself, time to think and to do what most boys my age did when they needed to relieve some tension. I knew Sammy masturbated as well, for we'd talked about that after dad had 'the talk' with him when he'd turned 11.

I'd had 'the talk' at about that age as well, but fortunately I pretty much knew all about sex and the facts of life by then, having learned from my friends and the internet. Kids today had no excuse to be ignorant when it came to such things, that is: assuming they had access to the internet.

We said our goodnights, exchanged hugs, then Sammy scampered off to his room, much more willingly than I'd thought he might, and I wondered if maybe he had some tension to relieve as well. Did I ever wonder what it would be like to relieve our tension together? Absolutely, and the fact that Sammy wasn't blood kin made it seem even more appealing. However, in the end I decided I liked the relationship we had just the way it was, and didn't want to risk ruining what we had.

As I lay there in bed thinking about Colt that night, a million scenarios running through my mind, all of them bad, I realized I was never going to get to sleep if I didn't do something quick. Lowering my underwear, I handled my penis, trying to get it hard. However, either I was too tired, or too sad, for I finally gave up and just rolled over, pounded the pillow a few times, then sighed deeply and tried to will my mind to go blank.

"Blake...Blake!" a soft voice said urgently as small soft hands shook my shoulders very gently.

"Huh, oh...hey," I said recognizing Sammy's small compact form even in the darkness.

"You were making some funny noises in your sleep," he whispered, "I was afraid you'd wake mom and dad."

"Oh, I umm, I don't remember dreaming anything..." I said, still half asleep and groggy.

"Are you okay?" Sammy said sounding concerned.

"Yeah, fine," I said throwing back the covers, "come on, snuggle with me, then I won't have any more bad dreams, and if I do you'll be here to wake me."

Sammy was all smiles as he piled in beside me, snuggling up to my side and purring contentedly.

"Night little bro," I said, my eyes already drifting closed, "love ya."

"Love you too," Sammy said softly, "sweet dreams..." and that was the last thing I remembered until morning.

As I peeled back the little square on the Advent calendar that morning, I counted the days till Christmas and had a sinking feeling. Two more days, and still no Colt. Even the prospect of going sledding did little to lift my spirits, but I pretended, and after a while I actually started enjoying myself. It's hard to be sad around a bunch of giggling kids having the time of their lives, and I soon got caught up in the moment.

The snow had topped out at just over 4 inches, and it was the perfect type of snow for sledding at the park, which had a fairly steep hill which the kids called 'Titty-twister Hill', because of it's shape. In the summer, kids would climb the hill and fly kites up there, or see who could roll down the grassy incline the fastest. It was sloped on all sides, looking like half a sphere from a distance, thus the name, and could be accessed from all sides. However, the city crews had carved steps into one side of the hill and placed stepping stones there to make climbing easier, and to save the grass, and most everyone used those steps to ascend the hill.

Even though we didn't have snow often enough to warrant real sleds, dad was one of those all or none kind of guys and bought us both sleds a couple years ago. They were actually used, but gently, and were the type you see in movies with the metal rails and wooden body.

Other kids, who used those plastic toboggans, trash can lids, or pieces of cardboard were envious, but if they begged hard enough we'd let most of them have a turn. I'd called Jake and Mary, but neither was available, however once we got there I saw a number of kids I knew from school, and one of Sammy's friends as well.

Sammy, despite being small and not as strong as a lot of the kids, was a real little daredevil, and without hesitation he was on his sled and ready to go as soon as the coast was clear. As soon as he was about a third of the way down I launched myself down the slippery slope and minutes later arrived at the bottom just as Sammy was picking up his sled, ready to head back up for a second run.

"Man, that was fast," I commented, "almost as fast as Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation," I joked, referring to that scene where he sprays some sort of non-stick cooking spray on a toboggan and goes flying down a hill, across a highway, and into a dumpster at a Walmart.

Sammy laughed, "A new land speed record. That was fun, let's go again."

The only problem with sledding is, once you've gone down the hill, you have to walk back up the hill to go again, and as steep as TT Hill was, that meant a good five minutes, and after a while it became very exhausting. But...we were young and full of it, and we must've made that trip at least a dozen times that day.

One interesting thing that happened was, a boy named Evan took a nose dive off his toboggan and got a bloody nose, but he was having so much fun he just wiped the blood off and took his next turn without flinching.

Dad had dropped us off, and despite us begging him to sled with us too, he said he felt out of place with all the young kids there and told me to call him when we were ready to go home. I wondered, was that really the reason, since it had never seemed to bother him before, or was there something else dad was doing that he didn't want us to know about? Or...was he going to take advantage of our absence and make love to mom?

Now, I know most kids my age would say, "Eww...just eww!" but let's face it, Sammy and I had been taught that sex was an expression of love, and I knew mom and dad loved each other very much. Besides, as long as they were still interested in each other that way, the chance of them drifting apart and divorcing, as so many of my friend's parents had (including the former minister of our church), were less likely, which was good news for everyone.

Whatever dad was doing, with or without mom, he was quick to answer when I called him to pick us up. I did notice that his voice seemed a bit more cheery than usual, but I didn't want to dwell on why that might be.

He arrived a few minutes later and when he saw us pulling our sleds behind us, he popped the hatch on the SUV and we loaded them up and quickly climbed in the middle row of seats.

"Did you guys have fun?" dad said as we piled in.

"Yeah, it was awesome, dad," Sammy said excitedly, "but I'm pooped."

Dad laughed, "Blake, what about you? You're being awfully quiet."

"It was great, dad, just tired and cold. We must've walked up the hill a dozen times."

"Yeah, but it's worth the thrill of going down, right?"

"Yeah, that's for sure. I just wish they'd install a ski lift," I joked, and we all laughed.

Mom was waiting for us with hot cocoa with marshmallows, and as soon as we peeled off our winter wear, we were slurping it down. We told mom and dad all about the fun we'd had, about the boy getting the bloody nose, and I sort of expected them to tell us what they'd been up to, but no dice.

"Why don't you boys go take a hot shower and warm up and put on some dry clothes?" mom suggested, "then, if you want, we can watch a movie before dinner."

We didn't have to be told twice, a shower sounded Heavenly, and I couldn't wait to get warmed up. I told Sammy he could go first, then he surprised me by suggesting we shower together to save time.

"Ugh, are you sure. I'm not sure you could handle seeing this fabulous bod up close," I teased, and Sammy just rolled his eyes.

"Really? That's your reason? Like I haven't seen you naked before. What about at the pool and the water park, oh, and that time I had to pee really bad and you were just getting out of the shower?"

"I can stand it if you can," I chuckled, but the truth was, it was actually kind of arousing to think about seeing my little bro naked and up close. Not that I wanted to do more than look, but you know how it is for us gay boys?

"I'll go grab some underwear and meet ya there," Sammy said heading off to his room.

I did the same and was down to my underwear with the water running when Sammy showed up, already naked.

"Whoa," I laughed, "you in a hurry or something?"

"Just figured why not get naked in my room so I could throw my clothes in my hamper."

"The water is warm," I said, turning my eyes from Sammy so as not to appear that I was too interested in his body.

Sammy stepped in, and I followed, pulling the curtain closed, keeping my back to Sammy, who had moved to the far end of the tub. It suddenly occurred to me that Sammy now had a perfect view of my fabulous butt, and I swear I could almost feel his eyes upon me. As a result my cock grew a little and jumped, and I decided I'd be lucky if I didn't wind up with a full-on chubby before we were done.

I quickly washed my hair, then soaped up my front, spending as little time as possible on my dick and balls, not wanting to inflame them anymore than my active imagination had. My thoughts, however, were interrupted by Sammy's soft voice.

"Want me to wash your back?" he said, his voice tentative and a bit shy-sounding.

"Uh, sure," I said handing him the soap, "Down to my butt, I guess..."

He laughed, sounding nervous now, "Don't worry, I won't touch your butt, unless you want me to..."

"What? Oh, you little shit," I said, and he cracked up laughing.

"Why are you so tense?" he said as he ran his soapy hands over my back, "relax, it's just two brothers showering together, right?"

"Uh, yeah, but...well, you know...I guess I tend to get...well, you know, a little...umm, excited, when another boy touches me..."

"Oh, that. No big deal, look, I've got one too," Sammy said, stepping up to the side so I could see his erection.

"Oh, man," I gasped, my eyes glued to his fully erect, uncut penis.

Of course I'd seen it before, but never hard, and I was impressed with the size and girth of it. I loved how his foreskin looked, and had always been a bit envious that he was uncut and I was not. My folks for the most part were apologetic, citing ignorance as the only reason they had had me circumcised, and that later they had regretted it, but to no avail. What's done is done.

"It gets that way a lot," Sammy said resuming his work on my back.

"Yeah, I guess it's not just a gay boy problem," I laughed nervously.

"We don't need to be embarrassed around each other because of boners," Sammy said sensibly, "I know, and you know, that they don't mean we're gonna have sex," he giggled, "it's just...nature."

"Yeah...yeah," I said shaking my head, "you're right. I'm being silly," I said relaxing at last.

"Soooo...want me to wash your butt too, no extra charge?" he giggled.

"Have at it," I said, bending over a bit to give him full access.

To my surprise, he smacked me a good one on the right cheek, then did the same for the left, then proceeded to wash my butt quite thoroughly, including a swipe or two up the crack and across my pucker.

I drew in a breath, but didn't complain, and anyway, it was over in seconds, and though the stimulation had caused my cock to become fully erect, I didn't worry about Sammy seeing it now that he'd shown me his.

"My turn," Sammy said, and as we switched places I noticed him giving my cock a good looking over, "nice," he said simply, then he took his place at the shower head and proceeded to lather up his front.

When it came time to wash his back, I didn't hesitate, taking as much time as he had and giving his cute butt the same treatment as he had mine. Yes, I said his butt was cute. But I could admire it without needing to do more than that.

Our erections actually went down while we were drying, engaged in brother talk, and what fun we'd had that day, and what lay ahead. I'd even forgotten about Colt for the moment, but it would be a temporary reprieve from that pain of missing him.

We watched Christmas Vacation while the roast cooked in the oven, and as if mom had timed it perfectly, the movie ended only minutes before the oven timer went off. We dined on tender roast beef with brown gravy, carrots and potatoes, hot rolls, and for dessert, mom's delicious carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

Life went on, and as Christmas approached without any sign of Colt, I found myself just going through the motions, then Christmas Eve everything changed. Sammy and I had just made our way down the stairs, still rubbing sleep from our eyes when Dad met us at the landing.

"Boys," he said with a look on his face that I couldn't quite read, "come on in and sit down, I have some news to share with you."

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