The Giving Tree

(Ooc- good lord its been a hot minute. We all got busy. To scoot things along, I'm summarizing tbe next two days of the trip so we can dive into the dramatic meat of it.)

That night after dinner, a few early Christmas gifts were passed out by Casper. Each of the "kids" received their very own Nintendo Switch along with a copy of Mario Kart and a gift card to get another game when they got home. Once all five of them were set up, the boys gathered around on the couch and raced round after round late into the night. The down spirits were lifted by the simple competition and fun, even if only for awhile. It was well past midnight when they disconnected and headed for bed one by one, Dillon, Theo, and Elias being the last to head to their room.

The three cuddled up together, still playing, Dillon insisting the other two could sleep while they demanded to stay up with him.

~

They all rose late the next day, but enjoyed breakfast for lunch before Cain joined the trio to resume building the snow fort.

That night after another, slightly more grand dinner, Casper gave a few a scare by coming in from the back with an axe over his shoulder.

Every year, Casper took Dillon and Quinn out to look for a tree to cut down. This year, Cain, Theo, and Elias joined them. Everybody got a turn at swinging the axe at the towering pine tree they chose, and before long, the monster came crashing down. Rather than dragging the ton of lumber, Casper simply used his little magic tricks to pop it into place in the huge room at the lodge.

The rest of the night was spent decorating the tree. Once the soft lights were plugged in and the ornaments could sparkle, it proved a beautiful sight.

The last tradition for that day was to take a picture in front of the tree. All nine of them gathered around and squeezed in for it. It would be printed on canvas and framed before they left at the end of the trip. It would be the tenth to be hung in the hall.

~

A few more hours of Mario Kart (less than the previous night) and everybody was in bed. Every light except those on the tree was out. Only one person wasn't in their room.

Casper knew Dillon had to be struggling as he did every year with the long hours awake alone at night, but it seemed they were less this year. He had not one, but two loving people to try and stay up with him.

The part that mattered at the moment was that Dillon was in bed; not out on the couch watching movies quietly while he snacked on cannibal jerky trying not to feel awful about himself. The main room, where anyone could see everything, was empty.

Casper quietly knocked on Simon and Caroline's door. Simon wasn't long to answer. He'd been up logging the vital readings from Dillon's watch, doing his best to predict how long Dillon had. Whenever Caroline asked about it, Simon simply called it work.

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