Nathaniel groaned and whined and pounded his little fists on his mothers legs as she desperately tried to manoeuvre around the tantrum throwing child.
He sat on the floor and crossed his arms angrily and glared at her green and silver socks as she fretted about how long the ham had been in the oven for.
He was still glaring, truly unsatisfied, and truly inconsolable when his unaware father happened to step through the door and accidentally tripped right over him, coffee mug in hand, and hot custard flying everywhere along the kitchen floor, including all over said tantrum throwing child.
"Ah! Hot! Hot! Hot!" he screamed and got up frantically, kicking and screaming.
Brian, Nathaniel's father, stood up hastily and then brushed off his sweater before frustratedly ripping it off him and tossing it into the basket, while Rachel, his mother, ran to finally pay her son some attention.
"Nathaniel! What have I told you about getting under Mommy and Daddy's feet in the kitchen?! Look what you've done now! There's hot, sticky, custard over everything and now I have to work extra hard to clean this all up! Go to your room like your sister and be a good boy! Please!" She cried exasperatedly.
Brian huffed and gently pushed his wife aside, grabbing Nathaniel by the wrist and towing the boy upstairs to his room, Nathaniel fighting and crying and shouting the whole way up.
"It's the same way every Christmas, boy, why can't you just be more like your sister and do what you're told! For crying out loud, we're having company over, so you most certainly cannot act like a wild animal! Now sit down, stop crying and man up or I'm going to tell santa to forget about bringing you anything for christmas, do you hear me?" He scolded his son in a firm voice.
'Tis the season to be jolly, but not necessarily for the Thompson family. Nathaniel threw his annual fit over not getting to open his presents, or knowing what they are, not getting to go to his friend's party, not getting to stay up until twelve at night, not getting what he wanted in general, and above all having to do, and getting things he DIDN'T want, which was according to the nearly six year old boy, the worst thing of all.
Nathaniel stomped the ground and shouted at his father:
"I don't even believe in that old fat guy anyway! If he existed then he wouldn't let me live with stupid people like you who can't even buy me a little brother for Christmas! STUH-OO-PID!" He folded his arms and ran for under his bed and growled angrily.
Losing his patience but not wanting to lash out on Christmas Eve, Brian groaned in frustration before slamming the door to his son's room and then shouting something Nathaniel didn't quite hear to his mother.
Nathaniel stared at the slats of his bed as he always did and grimaced, still displeased with his parents. He sighed and rolled over to stare at his reflection in the all mirror closet doors at his red and most-certainly-not-jolly face.
His best friend Castiel had gotten a little sister, name Cheryl for Christmas. As a matter of fact she had arrived about one week ago, early for him. Castiel seemed to always get what he wanted, which seemed unfair. One day his parents went out shopping to get presents and then all of a sudden his Grandma got a call saying she had been born.
"Stupid Castiel. At least now he has to have stupid sister like me. Amber is so annoying.. believing in santa, and screaming, and crying, and being annoying... a brother would be better."
He sighed again and blew his nose into a pair of shorts that were stuck under the bed with him and then curled up in a ball.
"She's especially stupid since she believes in santa and elves. It's not real, it's just pretend."
He felt his head hurt from all the crying and shouting, and he was slowly beginning to drift off to sleep.
North Pole: Canada
Cotton rushed up the little stairs heading to the second floor of Santa's workshop, the North American Division (N.A.D.) where he worked. He had been on the job now for four Christmases and this would be his fifth. This year he had been promoted from toy making to naughty-list-watch. Every now and again an elf would have his job description changed, so that it never became boring and each elf had a good sense of how to do each job in case one had to fill in.
Cotton was finding that working the naughty-list-watch was rather difficult however since the elves working there happened to always be busier and their job was far from cheery as they were made to distribute letters to children in regards to why they can't receive gifts from Santa that year.
It's a secret between the post office and the elf industry, that only a few parents around the world still knew about, but even with the dwindling numbers of believers getting smaller each generation it was still important to try their hardest to keep their little business alive.
Those gifts you get 'from santa' just might sometimes actually be from him, because some parents can't afford to make christmas happen and need some help. Along with charity, and other programs the N.A.D. of Santa's Workshop made miracles happen each year, but not for those who were naughty.
It isn't easy and some people disagree with their strict criteria, but it was a stubborn tradition that wasn't about to back down.
Cotton was almost out of breath as he reached the second floor and scolded himself for refusing an offer to hire out one of those flying snowflakes. He would have to look into getting one of his own, but he'd have to wait until he was older.
"Excuse me!" He tugged on his boss's big red coat for a moment to grab his attention. A bit startled, St. Nick looked up and around before remembering that his employees were no bigger than about two feet tall on average.
"Ah! Cotton, have you finished the list?" He asked bending down to take the slightly ruffled and unravelled scroll from the little elf.
"Yes sir! It's finally done. We just had to edit the placement of Nathaniel Thompson, of Sweet Amoris. He's gone and thrown his annual tantrum again." Cotton explained grimly.
"Ho, ho... that poor boy. Someday he'll learn to be good, but it'll be too late!" He mused. He hummed over the list, checking it twice, and then with a nod Cotton ws dismissed to go home.
Suddenly, "Just a moment Cotton... before you go I just remembered!"
Cotton spun around and pranced up to his boss expectantly, his hands behind his back and his eyes wide.
"Tije can't do her usual run with Rudolph and Goldie tonight, so we need you to fill in for her. If Goldie can't learn to manage with the sleigh now while she's still new, she may not ever be able to. Please make us proud, won't you Cotton?"
"Yes sir!" he piped up, "What's the job description sir?"
Santa chuckled sadly and said, "Well, it's still the naughty run. You'll be delivering the letters. However, for this little Nathaniel boy, I believe I'm deciding this year to make an exception."
Cotton's eyes widened further and he stared at his boss incredulously...
"Really? May I ask why sir?"
"Yes. I can see the good in this boy, and so can the others but it seems he's feeling a little less than loved. He wanted a little brother for Christmas, because he is lonely." Santa began.
"His sister is too young to understand, and his parents seem tired and don't seem to listen to him, just because he's young. I've seen many cases like this before, and though we can't solve them all, I think this year I'll try to help him out."
He turned to the elf and then in a very serious tone he said, "Now Cotton, we both know we can't give him a brother like he wants for christmas, but what this boy needs is a friend! Not just any friend like the one he has from school, but one who can be a good influence. I am not asking too much, but humour me if you will. See what you can do for him, because perhaps with your kind spirit you may be able to bring out the good in him!"
Cotton now understood the gravity of the situation and feeling just a little proud of his new role he nodded and then was yet again dismissed.
St. Nick turned back to his oatmeal cookies and warm milk and sighed taking a bite.
"That young man will be a very good boy one day, but I fear it may be too late for him to believe in me anymore by that time. this is the least I can do."
Sweet Amoris; 12:00 AM, Midnight
Nathaniel woke up, freezing cold and a bit drowsy. He crawled out from under his bed and clambered clumsily down the stairs to grab a drink of warm water from the sink.
From the window curious blue eyes followed him.
Cotton hummed and studied the young boy. He looked a whole lot like him, but with goldish hazel looking eyes, and through the fog on the glass he could see a tiny scowl on his face.
He instantly felt the lonliness the boy had, and knew of his friend who didn't really seem to be genuine about their friendship, and from what the rest of the files said about him, he just wasn't happy in general.
"well it's time for me to fix that!" he said, getting serious!
with Rudolph and Goldie the two reindeer up on the roof, he flew back up on his brand new 'Snowflake Rider 2000' and then waited for the right time.
He heard the sink running and took this opportunity to carefully, without getting sooty, fitting down the chimney.
to his slighty annoyance, the Thompson family had had their fireplace blocked off with a barricade. Then again, with young kids that was normal.
Using a bit of magic he fit through and then made a run for the Christmas tree.
He was happy to see the tree was not only real, but was humble and small, sitting in a real pretty pot as though ready to plant outside. There surely was a few spots of spilled soil here or there but it was nice.
He was so busy admiring the tree that he didn't even remember his nervousness in regards to the gaping six year old who had just caught him in plain sight.
The only thing running through Nathaniel's mind was how happy he was to see a little blonde boy standing under the tree as if he were a wrapped up ty ready to play with, and have so much fun with, and talk to, and run around the house with, and catch kittens and hide in trees with, and eferything he evr wanted to do..
He giggled and bounced a little bit and that caught the little person's attention. He looked scared at first but Nathaniel was too young of course to instantly take facial cues into account, and then with a silent squeal of delight he ran to the litter blonde person and squeezed him in a huge elf-crushing-hug!
Cotton yelped a little, and tried to wiggle free. He'd had plenty of big hugs before, but this was a little awkward!
"H-Hello!" He timidly began.
Nathaniel started jumping up and down with the small boy in his arms crying out in whispers: "Yay! yay! yay! I've got a little brother! they said they couldn't do it but they were just gonna surprise me!" He let go of the little elf finally and had a good look at him.
"Wow! You look sure are big for a little brother! we're almost the same size!" he marvelled.
Cotton blushed and smiled, happy to know he was almost as tall as a human person, but then remembered that said human person was only six years old. oh, well there went that glory.
"Yes.. um well.. that's kind of.." He began, but to his worry he realised he couldn't find the right words to describe his job position to a small child.
he was able to discuss it with his co-workers, and boss, but how was he meant to make a child understand? This beaming child, who was so excited and happy.
As an elf, he only knew how to bring cheer, so it couldn't be that hard could it be?
"So, what's your name?" Nathaniel began to end the silence.
Sighing with relief cotton replied, "My name is Cotton! And you're name is Nathaniel right?"
He nodded, and then grabbed him by the hand.
"You're going to love it here! It's really boring but because Daddy works all day, and Mom is usually really quiet it means we can do whatever we want, and now I can play with someone who isn't annoying like Amber." he said, beginning to reel off the daily norm of the family,
"My Mom is a teacher, and next year I'm gonna be in first grade. What grade are you in?" He asked...
Cotton had to think about that. Elves didn't have 'school'... they were taught by their parents, and some luckier elves were taught directly from Mrs. Claus, and since Elves grow so slowly, about 10 human years to one elf year approximately, he could very well just outright say "I'm about 126 years old, and i've never been to school before." but that wouldnt wash well with his new 'little brother' job.
"Uh... I.. I don't go to school yet! I'm uh.. I'm six just like you... but I'm still a little brother, we're just the same age..." he said quickly. He tried not to talk like a grownup since that might be a bit weird.
"Oh, really? cool! Maybe you can come to school with me then! School is easy. except for when it's boring."
Nathaniel slowly creaked open his room door and then pulling cotton along, he lifted himself on to his bed with a little stool to step on, and cotton just simply jumped up.
Sitting criss-cross they had a conversation, and eventually Cotton realised that for his age, Nathaniel was really smart.
He liked cats, and wanted one but his mom was allergic, and he also liked eating fish unlike most kids but his dad was allergic to shell fish. He didn't like sweet things, and he and cotton had a little arguement about candycanes before settling it and then the questioned seemed to turn to Cotton.
"I'm done now! What about you? Where do little brothers come from? Mom and daddy won't tell me.." the young boy asked, folding his arms under the blankets.
Cotton blushed and looked up at the ceiling thinking "why me?" for a minute before taking a deep breath and lying the worst lie he'd ever had to tell someone:
"Some little brothers and sisters come from our moms' and dads' but sometimes if they can't do it, santa sends you one for free, just like me...?" he coughed a little and then giggled nervously.
Nathaniel cocked his head and then asked, "But how are they made?"
Cotton groaned a little, but with his little voice it sounded more like a baby piglet squealing and it caused Nathaniel to forget the question and laugh hysterically.
"You're really fun, Cotton. I'm so happy you're my brother now. We're gonna be good friends forever right?" He asked.
Cotton got up from the sheets and sighed. he was finally ready to give his best cover up story. He didn't have it in his heart to tell the truth just yet, but intead gave him a little innocent story which woud probably work.
"Well, Nat, I've been trying to tell you all night but there's something important you should know about little brothers from Santa." he began.
nathaniel nodded and scooted up closer.
"Well, you see because we're from the North Pole, we have to live there or else we get too hot and then disappear! so we can only come and spend time with our Big Brothers on Christmas after their parents have gone to sleep. But if you're very naughty, then you wont be able to see your little brother for santa until the next year. It's complicated..." he said, partially giving up towards the end.
Nathaniel had a bit of a sad look in his eye. He looked at Cotton and then at the window where the stars were still brightly shining. It was probably past midnight now, and now that he knew that Cotton couldn't stay forver, a little pain in his chest began to form.
Sensing a borderline heart break, and unable to bear the thought of this happy boy being sad, Cotton leapt onto him in a huge hug and patted his back saying in a reassuring voice, "Don't be sad though! I'll get to come and see you every year on chrstmas and we can do this all the time! Because I live in the North Pole I'll always get to see you and know what's up. And the other el-kids there can write letters to their big brothers and sisters so that you'll never really feel alone!"
nat looked at him still unsure, "But why can't you stay?" he sniffled.
"Because, since I'm from the North Pole, I'll disappear if I get too hot!" he reminded him.
"But what if you lived in the freezer then?" Nat argued.
Cotton laughed at his silly rebuttal, and then replied, "Then you'd turn me into a snowman and i'd never be able to get out!"
"But then I'll just put you in the fridge and you can eat the food in there if you get hungry!" he continued.
Lost for a reply, Cotton just put his hand on Nathaniel's mouth and sighed, still laughing a little, "You're really funny Nat. I just can't, and the rules are the rules. If you want to see me again next year in person, then try to be good! I'm sure it will work! If you never be bad you won't get in as much trouble, and you'll have much more fun in life. and even if i have to live so far away we can still be friends forever, i promise!" Cotton said.
Feeling better about that, Nathaniel finally resigned and returned the big hug. That morning he woke ne, but a little box with a ribbon was tied on to the christmas tree.
His mom and Dad, Rachel and Brian had no idea who had gotten it for him, but supposed it was just from a distant relative they'd forgotten about.
On the card attatched it said:
To: Nathaniel Thompson
From: Cotton Snowbutton
12-24 Candy Cane Lane, North Pole Canada.
Inside was a little ornament with a little kitty-cat pattern on it, with a glittery picture of what looked like a little anime-Cotton on it, with "Merry Christmas" written on the back.
"Who is it from again?" Amber piped up a little confused, the five year old leaned over to snatch the ornament from her brother's hands.
Nathaniel held it tightly, and instead of yelling at her like he always did, he stopped himself and then said, "It's from a friend of mine. He moved to Canada, you wouldn't know him."
and then when everyone was finally over the little surprise gift, he ran upstairs and placed the precious bauble into a box he had on his bed side. He would definitely learn how to read better, and write a letter to his llittle brother someday.
Ten years later
Nathaniel sleepily awoke and stared at the dull grey cieling. it was still night and he looked out the window at the stars in the sky.
Something about those stars in the sky, the particular way they sparkled and the placement of the shapes in the sky that they made... something felt so familiar about this night.
It was Christmas Eve, or so he thought until he glanced at the digital clock face.
"12:00 AM.. huh.. Merry Christmas." He commented.
He got out of bed and decided to go to the kitchen just across the hallway to the sink for a glass of warm water.
A flash of gold and red through the sky nearly caught his eye but he ignored it.
their new house they had been living in now for the past four years was only single storied and it has no fireplace. it was cold in the kitchen but he didn't mind, through his wooly socks the cold tiles couldn't hurt his feet.
He sighed and glanced out at the living room shortly before walking away.
Suddenly he stopped midstride and had a good long thin about what he had just seen.
he slowly turned around and then to his utmost shock, there, holding his precious ornament from when he was a little boy, was some weird short kid, with blonde hair!!
Who was this kid? Was he lost? was he dreaming?
He snuck up to the living room, and couldn't help but feel terribly nervous and angry that someone was touching his favourite bauble. That bauble and himself had been through good and bad christmases, and somehow no matter what happened it never ever broke, or scratched, or lost its glitter or luster, but he was still very cautious.
on the ornament, the same tag, a whole lot faded with age, hung and said "To: Nathaniel From: Cotton" with a faded out address that no one could make out anymore.
It was from a friend of his who had moved to Canada... or so he had thought it was. He was sure that friend of his had visited him a good few times still up until he began to get older, and more involved with the people around him here in town.
What had happened to that kid...
Nathaniel stared longer at the strange blonde child, and then sighed with relief when he saw his precious ornament placed up back on it's respective branch.
The sigh alerted the little person who spun around. Petrified the little person seemed scared and tried to back away but was glued to the spot.
Feeling guilty for scaring him, nathaniel walked up to him and whispered, "Hey there little guy, are you okay?"
The little blonde gaped at him with wide and disbelieving eyes and he tried to speka, but all that came out was a squeak, similar to the kind a mouse would make.
Nathaniel snorted and laughed, and felt s though this had happened before.
"What's the matter? Are you lost? How did you get in my house?" He continued.
"Uh-Uh... You-" the little boy trembled, seemingly less scared now, and more flustered and confused.
Perhaps he was scaring him with all the questions. the kid looked about 6-7 years od, so he probably didn't even know how he got in.
"Okay, well that's not important, nevermind."
He held out his hand to the boy, crouching down, "My name's nathaniel, what about you?" he smiled warmly.
The boy's eyes brightened at the sound of the name and then suddenly most of the fear was washed from his face. he took a few steps forward and then timidly asked, "You can see me?"
natheniel cocked and eyebrow and then nodded. "yes, actually, I can."
the little blonde suddenly had a look of deep sadness cross his face, a tear rolling down his face, "I.. I thought by now you'd have forgotten all about me..."
He turned to look at the bauble on the tree, "And maybe you have but..."
Nathaniel was confused again. he let his hand drop and he sat on the ground, criss-cross...
"Boss said it would probably be too late for you to see me anymore now that it's been so long.." the boy muttered, almost inaudibly.
"I'm sorry, what do you mean?" nat spoke up again.
the young blonde turned to look at him and then without any further hesitation leapt onto him and hugged hi tightly.
"It's me... cotton! I... I've missed you so much!" he sobbed into nat's pyjama shirt.
Cotton, the elf, couldn't beleive how big and tall his 'big brother' had gotten. now he really WAS big... He almost hadn't recognised him.
He cried a bit and then felt a big pair of arms curl around him and embrace his tiny figure.
Nathaniel sat there dumbfounded as a million and one memories suddenly ccame flooding back to him:
Late nights... cookie eating, ghost stories even though it was christmas time... rides on reindeer... snow flakes with minds of their own...
and Cotton. He remembered now!! He felt just Like Wendy, seeing Peter Pan again for the first time in years...
He was a sympathetic crier and started to tear up as well, partly because cotton was and partly because he was so overjoyed to be reunited with his 'little brother'.