Dedicated to all the fans who loved recurring guest starts Paul Wittenburg and Randy Travis.
It was New Years' Eve, and both Wayne and Joey had gone to bed early. Wayne had never been much of a fan of firecrackers, but he was hearing some of the more distant townsfolk shooting some off early, and it was keeping him awake. Trying to ignore the noise wasn't working, so Wayne got out of bed, pulled on a pair of jeans, and walked down the hall to Joey's bedroom.
Finding the door open was nothing new. Every now and then Joey had a nightmare and would quickly come in Wayne's room after waking up from the dream. Leaving the door ajar helped to speed up the process. And of course, being afraid of the dark, Joey always had to sleep with a light on, so seeing the Donald Duck night light shining wasn't a surprise either.
He quietly entered his little brother's room and stood by the bed. The moonlight shone through the window in such a way that Joey's face was bathed in it, and even though he was fast asleep, Joey wore an expression of sadness, and tears had dried on his cheeks.
Serena, Joey's best friend, had died the Sunday before—Christmas Eve—and her funeral had been held at the church a few days after. But Joey was struggling to adjust to life without her and had cried himself to sleep nearly every night since the service.
Wayne looked more closely at his brother. Something didn't look right. As he moved closer to the bed, he stepped on something and looked at the floor to see what it was.
Of course, Wayne thought as he bent down. Mr. Beans.
Serena had given the green teddy bear to Joey a few days before she died, asking him to take good care of the stuffed animal for her. Wayne picked the teddy up off the floor and carefully placed him under the covers next to Joey.
As he straightened to his full height, Wayne looked again at his brother. For so long, he'd resented Joey for being different, had blamed him for needing help with the little things. Not until Wayne had met Monica did he realize that it wasn't Joey's fault; it wasn't anybody's fault. Joey was truly a blessing in disguise. In Joey, God has given Wayne an opportunity to learn how to love someone with numerous imperfections.
Kneeling beside the bed, Wayne gently ran his fingers through Joey's hair as he whispered, "Joey, I know I've already said this, but I'm sorry. I'm sorry for trying to change you, and for not seeing you for the gift you really are. I haven't told you often enough, but you're really special to me, and I love you so much...more than you could ever imagine."
Wayne stood up and turned to go back to bed. He heard a noise behind him, and as he looked over his shoulder, Wayne saw Joey propped up on one elbow and rubbing his eyes.
"Wayne," Joey said around a yawn, "is something wrong?"
"No, Joey, everything's okay. I was just checking to make sure you were all right. Go on back to sleep; I'll see you in the morning."
Wayne watched as Joey lay down again and roll over, clutching Mr. Beans close to his chest. He heard his brother quietly call his name.
"I'm still here, Joey."
There was a pause. "I love you, Wayne."
He'd never realized this before, but there was something about hearing Joey say his name that made Wayne feel...needed. It was a good feeling. He smiled at his little brother. "I love you, too. G'night, Joey."