Skip - Part 12


Skip – Part 12

It was hard to take that Billy did not know me. I had been one of his lovers, for over a year. We had done millions of things together. I had been with him when he was attacked. I had stayed with him every other night in ICU. I had loved him endlessly. It had not helped. He looked at me somewhat fearfully. I looked at him sadly.

He had trouble with names of newly acquired therapists or doctors as well. They said it was common. Easy for them to say—they were short-term people just passing through. The words did not make me feel better. I was not a short-term person. I was not just passing through.

The folks went back to New Hampshire. The hospital crew needed to do their thing, and the folks were needed at home. They asked me to go back with them. I was still doing chemo. I told them I had a plan.

I kept my distance. It would scare Billy for me to push myself upon him. I wish someone had told me, or I had researched, that such a thing could happen. The last time I saw him was at a distance. Skip looked at me from across the room. He motioned for me to come over. I shook my head.

I turned around and walked away from MGH, alone. I walked on the streets of Boston's West End area. This had been home, but there was little comfort in that. Even my nice apartment was empty and lifeless. Billy and Skip were not here, and maybe will not be for a long time. I could not stay here, so I made a phone call. He and I talked for ten minutes.

"Come and be close to Billy," he said. "We need each other right now."

To be close to Billy, I went back to where his best recent memories were—at school.

Ste and Kenny met me at the T station when I arrived. We walked toward campus and their dorm.

"Hello, love. Nice to see you. No change in our bro?"

"Not yet. I'm sad, though. I should feel good that he's making steady progress, even if it's painfully slow. But I . . ."

"You're in love with him," Kenny said. "You figured that the love would shine through. I would hope for the same thing, Aaron. For now you have us, and we're blessed to have you."

"Be happy for the steady progress, even if it's painfully slow," said Ste. "You're in his heart somewhere. He just has to find you."

"It could take a while. Maybe never."

"Maybe in a few days, or a couple of weeks," said Ste. "I know you're sad, love. You have a right to be. I am too, a little. Look around to see where you are. This is a place of faith."

Ste took my duffle from me. I also handed Kenny his duffle and freshly laundered clothes. "Thanks for those, Kenny."

"Hey, there's a new polo shirt in here. You must have . . ."

"Nope. It's yours. No good deed goes unrewarded. Clothes from The Gap fit me best, so I hope it works for you."

"Oh yeah, I love The Gap. Nice shade of green. Well done, Aaron."

We arrived at the dorm in about 10 minutes. I was going to stay for the week, giving Billy time to become acclimated. I wanted only one thing to happen this week—to get a phone call.

Everyone was in the common room, studying or talking, when we arrived.

"Welcome home, Aaron, at least for the week," Paul said, coming over to me. I'm sorry that Billy doesn't know who you are. Not even a little something?"

"Nope. Not a glimmer. So much for love surviving anything."

"Love does. Where's the positive Aaron that we know and love?" said Jake. His twin brother, Jeremy, made space for me on the sofa.

"In a dark place," I admitted.

"Then come into the light of your friends," said Paul.

He was the young man who stood in the doorway on my first visit, leading the guys to say my mantra. He got down on his knees and hugged me tight. He planted a kiss on my forehead.

"Unpleasant things are not to be done alone," said Jeremy, who was Paul's roommate. "That includes chemo. One of us will go with you on Thursday."

"Please, no. It takes two hours for my treatment, and two hours or more of travel time. You can't skip classes for me."

"Duh," said Kenny. "We can and will."

I growled. Thirteen men growled back, harder. Oy.

Jeremy turned toward me, taking me from Paul's arms and into his. He too hugged me close, and kissed my forehead.

David came over and pulled me to my feet. He too kissed my forehead, and then pulled me into his arms.

"All I know is you came on a moment's notice for Billy after his seizure in the library," he said. "You are selfless. You don't ask for anything in return, so we're giving. All of us. I can speak for us, because we talked about it this morning."

Every guy in the room came and stood close, touching me, holding me, comforting me, and bringing me out of the dark place, into their light. Those on the inside, close to me said comforting words, and kissed me sincerely. Each would step back, allowing a roommate or a buddy to share hugs, comfort, and a kiss. They all then stood in a tight circle, embracing me, and each other. Ste was brought into the inner ring. He kissed my forehead and then my cheek.

"You came to be with friends for the week," said Henry. "Billy can't give you love in return for everything you've given him, yet. He will, though, Aaron. He'll give you everything back that you've lost. Even though we have classes, someone will be with you all day, unless you want quiet time."

I shook my head. "No quiet time. Or very little. When you study, I'll read. I want to eat with someone. That will be a battle in itself because my appetite is gone. Whatever it's going to take to get me through at least the next seven day, you should do. Don't settle for me arguing, either."

"Everyone in this room loves you, Aaron. No exceptions. Am I right, guys?" asked Ste.

"Yeah!" rose out of thirteen voices. I was hugged closer, not that that was possible.

"We're not going to take your mind off Billy," Paul said, "just make it easier on you this week."

"Are you going to get updates from Skip?"

"No. I want him to concentrate on his brother. I told him there is only one call he needs to make. I'll call him next week when I get home."

"That bites. Don't you want to know what's going on?" asked Vincent.

I shook my head.

"Aww, Aaron," Ste said, picking my head up with his fingers.

"Okay, bud. Then the week is about you. We'll wait for news, too. We'll just know that Skip and Billy are reconnecting. Billy has a long healing path to walk," said Jessie, Vincent's roommate.

"Alright, guys, I can handle that. However, since I'm the old man here, you're my boys, and you need to get your homework done. I have books to read. And miles to go before I sleep."

"Okay, Mr. Frost", said David. "We'll make you proud of your boys. A's all around, at least in the humanities."

I put my full attention on my book. Well, in theory. I thought about Billy only two or three bazillions times an hour. The boys were better at concentration than I was. After a couple of hours and only a dozen pages glossed over in my current novel, I closed it and closed my eyes.

A moment later, there was a quiet whisper in my ear. I opened my eyes and nodded to Henry. Henry made my heart skip a beat occasionally. Billy said the same thing. He was a beautiful young man without being a pretty boy. Henry had a boyfriend. Lucky boyfriend.

--- --- ---
Henry had come out to the boys the first night in the dorm, last August. He said he is gay, that he did not lust after other boys except one, and that he would not ever apologize for who he is. "Y'all can like me, or not."

This prompted David to introduce his roommate, Matt. Matt went over and hugged Henry.

"You just made my life so much easier. I'm gay. I'd like to know if any of you are going to find it uncomfortable. I too have a boyfriend, of two years. I would prefer to be liked, but . . ."

"I'm cool with you both," said Ste. "You won't hate me because I'm straight, will you?"

The guys laughed, and promised not to. The rest of the guys all told the guys not to worry.

Billy then spoke up. "I don't like labels, guys. But, like my bros here, I am very much in love with another man. He almost died from cancer a few months ago; I almost lost my best friend. I dropped out of Syracuse to be with him through it. If I'm gay, okay, but it's not who I am inside."

"No labels from me, Billy. For you either, Henry. Matt. Anyone else?" asked Vincent.

Everyone shook his head.

"Buddies it is," said Paul. "That's about the only label I'll ever accept."
--- --- ---

Henry and I went to his room and then to mine, got our jackets, and then headed downstairs and out into a light snowfall. Campus was quiet in the early dusk. We went to a private place, sat on a bench, and continued talking.

"I can't see the future, Aaron, but there is no way, with how you love Billy, that you're not buried in his heart. He can't see you yet. The blurry vision speaks of more than just his eyesight."

"I wish I could think that, too, Henry. My heart hurts too much."

"I know, bud. It's okay." He reached over and put his hand on my heart. "Despite what we may all think, you really are human. You don't want to be put on a pedestal, but we might have problems with keeping you on our level. You're not, you know. You're a step above any one of us, even though we thirteen are all good men."

"I'm just a man, Henry."


"Yes. So are you. That brings me `down' to your level. Or puts me back where I belong."

He sighed. "Well, if I have to be your equal, I'd rather it be that you raise me up."

"We're equal, bud. Pure and simple. I'll bring you into my heart." I kissed his lips lightly. "Okay?"

He nodded, and then kissed me too. "Okay."

We got up and continued walking. Henry knew something I did not, the geography of the campus. He walked me past the beautiful old stone buildings, built starting in the early 1860's. Uplights and spotlights made them shine tonight.

The rest of the gang of thirteen caught up to us within the hour. We went to the main cafeteria. I paid for my meal myself, after telling the guys not to worry about that this week. I knew what they paid for room and board, and I was not going to be a burden on finances.

I woke up in the middle of the night, startled. "Aarg!"

"It's okay, Aaron. You're with me," Ste said, pulling me closer to him, kissing my forehead.

He turned on the light. The alarm clock read 2:45 a.m.

"Damn. I woke you. I'm sorry Ste," I said.

There was a light knock on the door. None of the guys, I had discovered, closed their doors overnight, leaving them ajar. David poked his head in.

"Can I come in?" he asked.

"Yeah. Close the door a bit more so we won't wake up anyone," said Ste.

"Were you up? Or did I wake you?"

"I heard you cry out. Billy's on my mind, so I'm not sleeping very well."

He had not sat down before there was another knock on the door. Matt poked his head in. Matt and David are roommates. They are closest to our room.

"Same for me. Can I join you?"

"Yeah. You guys want Aaron's bed?"

"No, I want Aaron, since I'm awake," said David. "Trade. You can go back to sleep."

David lay facing me while Ste got into Billy's bed. Matt settled down with him, held him. Before long, they were both asleep again.

"This is what we do when anyone has a bad night, for any reason. We don't close and lock our doors because the door to the common entry is locked. I'm still tired, and you probably are, too. No more nightmares tonight, love. Sleep."

I did. David did as well. In the darkness, I held him. I felt a kiss on my cheek. I went to sleep, more deeply, more peacefully.

There were only two hours a day when all thirteen boys were in classes at the same time. I spent those two hours a day in the library. I walked around, knowing Billy's style, seeing if I could figure out where he would sit to study quietly. I found a cubby near a window. I looked all around me. I settled in. I read five chapters of my Dean Koontz novel, something I could not do yesterday.

"Yup, you're in love with Billy alright," said a voice from beside me.

I looked up. Ste came around the cubby. He leaned in and kissed my forehead.

"And how have I proved that," pretty sure, but not absolutely.

"At this hour of the day, this is Billy's place. We always know where to find him before dinner."

"I'm a little surprised. I looked around, but . . ."

"You nailed it. You do know him well," said Paul, walking over to join us. "I watched you come in as I was leaving. I was late for class, but I was curious. I walked away, smiling. You are indeed impressive, Aaron."

I touched the desk. Billy was here. I ran my hand around the edges of the walls. Paul knew what I was thinking.

"He's okay, bud. This is just another connection that proves it. How else were you led to Billy's space? After all, this library is huge."

I nodded. Thank you, God, for bringing me one step closer to Billy yet again.

"Dinner in a while. I have to study a bit," said Ste.

"Me too," said Paul. "Okay with that?"

"Oh yeah. I'm reading."

The boys settled down nearby, in their usual study places.

Dinner was always a treat. Food choices were many. I ate from the pasta bar tonight.

I was invited to any on-campus event. I won't say who did it or how, well, because I don't know, but I happened to possess a college ID, with appropriate semester sticker. It was on Billy's pillow (or my pillow) one afternoon. Ste pleaded ignorance, which made sense because he was with me when we got home. The background in my photo was a bit blurred because it was not official, but nobody noticed as long as he or she did not look too closely. The photo was one that one of the guys had taken of me.

Later in the evening, the guys all gathered in Ste's and my room. The guys all wanted a piece of me, as it were. One of the guys would sit against the wall on Billy's bed. I then sat between his legs and he would wrap his arms around my chest, holding me close. This, of course, was great for me because I got their friendship, unashamedly. I was good for them, because I was the man Billy was in love with, and therefore a part of Billy. Nobody fought over me, and no one was possessive. Each night one guy had a turn. We all knew I was going to be here for more than just seven days. I had nowhere to go. Everyone, including me, was just fine with that.

I had to do chemo on Thursday. Paul came with me. There was a new rule that could not be broken; unpleasant things were not to be done alone. Michael was on the premises for a checkup. He gave me a beautiful hug. I introduced him to Paul.

"You okay, Michael?"

"I am, Aaron. How are Billy and Skip?"

I told Michael about Billy's surgery, and the aftermath.

"No worries, Aaron. He's in here, right?" he said, touching my heart.

I nodded. He gave me a hug and had to go.

In Andrew's office, I introduced Paul to the staff and finally to Andrew.

"I'm so pleased you found a way to stay busy while Billy's heals. I wish I could tell you news, but I don't know either. I know Skip is here every day because I see him at a distance most days."

"Paul, you can take a seat next to your bud here. It'll take me a minute to hook Aaron up to the IV. It's a two-hour process. He might sleep. I'll get him a blanket in a minute. Chemo makes him cold."

In a few minutes, I was hooked up and covered up. Paul watched my meds flow into my PICC line. He looked at me sadly. A tear ran down his cheek. He wiped it away quickly.

"Sorry, Aaron. This just seems cruel."

"It's okay, love. This is why I live."

He nodded. He took my hand, kissed the back of it, and put it over his heart. He moved closer. He put his feet up on a table. As usual, I dozed off, because it was easier to get through chemo. Paul was right; this was cruel.

When we got back to campus, I begged off dinner, wanting to sit in our room.

"Nope," said Greg. "You need to eat. Some soup or a broth."

"I'll throw up. I don't want to do that around here."

"You think no one has ever thrown up in the bathroom?" asked Greg.

"When you do, we'll take care of you," said Brian, Greg's roommate. "We knew everything we were taking on when we asked you to come here, Aaron. We already said it's all about you."

"We care about you, Aaron," said Jessie, walking in with Vincent, his roommate.

"Sitting in your room alone? Nope. We don't do it, so you can't either," said Jeremy, coming in with his twin brother, Jake.

"I know, guys, but you don't know what the evening is going to hold."

"I do," said David. "You're probably developing a headache right now. By midnight, it'll be pretty bad. I can tell you have a fever just by looking at you. You're queasy, but not nauseous yet. Your vision isn't clear. You feel very cold. How am I doing so far?"

"Nailed it."

"I know," he said, a shy smile on his lips.


He came over to me and hugged me. He kissed my cheek. "I'm a three year survivor. Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma."

The guys closest to him patted him on his back and hugged him. "Go, bro. Show us the way," Matt said to him.

"So, love," David said, "Let's go get dinner. Dry heaves suck worse than having something to puke up."

I could not fight with that. Dry heaves were horrible. We walked across campus. The moon was out. The landscape had four inches of fresh snow. Tonight was the first clear night since I got here. The moon reflecting on the reservoir was stunning. We could see the lit skyscrapers of Boston, about ten miles away.

At first I moved my spoon around in my soup.

"Eat, bud. Please?" said Jerry.

I two cups of tomato soup with oyster crackers. I had half a chocolate cupcake for dessert. I gave the other half to Brian. I would pay dearly for it later, but at least not with dry heaves. The guys smiled at me, glad that I accepted their kindness. Conversation was animated. We laughed at each other's food antics. Plates were shared. I was given half a vanilla cupcake by Kenny while he stuffed the other half into his mouth. He squished the frosting between his lips and then sucked it in. We laughed at him. Brian put a small bowl of soft-serve ice cream between us and gave me a spoon. We ate from the bowl together. Jake and Jeremy shared a slice of apple pie. I had found the trick to telling them apart. Jeremy's eyes are a brilliant blue, while Jake's were more pale blue, but just as beautiful. They tried to fool me on occasion, but failed. "Older and wiser, guys. Older and wiser."

As we walked back to the dorm after dinner, David came up beside me. He slid his hand into mine, intertwining our fingers, putting my hand in his jacket pocket with his. He kissed my cheek. Paul was behind us. He knew what David had done, so he hugged David and me closer together. I returned David's kiss. Kisses were never given one way. A kiss said, `I care for you, a lot.'

I continued to read Dean Koontz while the guys studied. David brought me a flat ginger ale. He knew about that too, as a stomach remedy. But the inevitable happened late in the evening. I dropped my book suddenly and took off down the hall. I barely made it to the toilet, throwing up violently. I choked and then puked again. Someone was down on his knees beside me, holding my head. He flushed the toilet.

"Can I have a cold washcloth, Paul? Thanks bud."

A moment later, I heard the water being run in the sink. I puked once more. The cold cloth was drawn across my mouth and chin, cleaning me up. He flushed again. He, whoever he was, folded it and wiped my forehead with it. A moment later, it was being rinsed out.

"Once more will do, bud," said the voice, which I finally recognized as Vincent.

He wiped my face again. He laid it across the back of my neck. We waited a few minutes. Once he knew I was done throwing up, he brought me to my feet. Vincent picked me up, holding my back in one strong arm and my legs in the other. Paul took my boots off on the way down the hall. Vincent laid me on Billy's bed. He took my jeans off. Then he lay down on his side beside me, facing me. He kissed my cheek. I was on the outside of the bed, in case I had to run again.

"I get the first watch, love. Someone will come in to relieve me in a few hours. Your only job is to sleep."

"Thank you," I said weakly. "I'm sorry."

"Nothing to be sorry about, ever. I love you, Aaron." He kissed my forehead. "Sleep."

I did.

In the morning, when I awoke, Jessie was sleeping beside me. I lay still. I did not witness the changing of the guard. I can picture Vincent silently getting off the bed and Jessie replacing him, climbing over me stealthily.

David brought me another flat ginger ale when I was awake. I sipped it throughout the morning. While the guys went to class, I went to the common room. Henry and Jerry walked me to the library around 10:00.

"We'll come and get you for lunch, bud. Think salad, not hamburger."

"Oof," I said, crossing my eyes, making a fake barfing noise. They smiled at me.

I thought about Billy as I sat in `his space'. `I love you, Billy. You don't have to know it, yet, but I just do.'

It turns out that I said the words aloud, not just in my thoughts. A head popped up over the cubby on the other side of me.

"Um, hi. Sorry. I heard what you said. No, no, don't be embarrassed. I'm Mark, one of Billy's classmates. I live on the floor below the guys. I know that Billy had surgery. He doesn't remember you?"

I shook my head slightly, sad again.

"I'm sorry, Aaron. It's nice to meet you. What can I do for you?"

I loved the question phrased that way. Not `can I do something for you', which gave the option of being declined. You cannot answer `nothing' to `What can I do for you?' It deserves a proper response.

"Pray for Billy. Care what he cares about."

"He cares about you."

I looked at him, not expecting it. I just nodded. "Want to join the guys and me for lunch later?"

"Sure. Thanks. Back to work."

He sat back down. I did not know it yet, but someone else heard me talk to Billy aloud. He looked slyly at the buddy sitting beside him. They raised their eyebrows at each other, smiling. (Note: this is speculation and imagination, based on a future event. Skip is the `psychic' one, not me.)

I spent as much time each day as I could in his space, including his regular hours in the evening. It belonged to others as well, of course, but this was our only link. How dumb. But comforting anyway. It is all I had. The afternoon just flew by. I was more than half way through my novel. It was unusual for me to read a novel so quickly.

I was lost in thought when Henry and Jerry came to get me for dinner.

"Earth to Aaron," Henry said.

"I'm working on astral projection. Trying to peek in on Billy. It needs work," I said.

"If anyone can astral project, it's you," smiled Jerry. "Are you okay?"

I nodded, standing up and putting on my jacket. We walked to the dining hall.

"I hope someday that I find love as rich as yours and Billy's and Skip's. It's killing you to wait for Billy, but I would still take the chance on loving someone."

"I know, Henry. Anyone who thinks love is easy is delusional. You understand more than most about Billy and me, so I know you'll love sincerely. If you want to love richly, do it."

"What advice do you have for a straight guy?" Greg said, smiling.

"If you want to love richly, do it," I said, smiling back at him. "Love isn't gender. Love is love."

"I'm on my way. My girlfriend thinks I'm already there. She knows about you guys. She's also glad that we all care about each other so much. Our own little fraternity. She's spreading the word about Billy, and people like him, to her sorority. And the world goes on."

"I just wish mine would go forward a little faster."

"It will, Aaron. You got us to love you, even after Billy comes back to you," said Kenny.

"I do love you, Aaron. Thank you for loving Billy. And Skip too. I understand now," said Jake as we sat down to dinner.

"To our bro, Aaron," said Henry, raising his milk carton.

"To our bro, Aaron," said all, raising various drinks.

"And to our friendship, guys. Here's to you all," I said, raising my soda.

"Cheers," said all.

"Do you want some quiet time, for a while? You know," said Ste.

I guess my bulge was a little pronounced.

"Truthfully, yes. I don't do well with blue balls."

He nodded and closed the door as he left me alone. I took one of Billy's shirts out of his closet. I sniffed it to get his scent inside of me. I lay on Billy's bed. I took off my boots and socks, shirt, and t-shirt. Just jeans once again. I unbuttoned and unzipped my jeans. My semi-hard cock lay across my leg. I picked it up and stroked it to full hardness. I closed my eyes, thinking about, surprisingly, Skip.

He must be exhausted. He loves Billy with all his heart. I pictured Skip holding Billy in the night, kissing him and telling him about his life. Skip would kiss Billy gently on the lips. He would hold him close. Billy would know that Skip's love was the most important thing in the world. He would know that he would soon be well again.

I stroked steadily, up and down my shaft. My balls were a little tender since I had not touched them all week. I played with one ball the way I would play with Skip's ball. I imagined leaning down into his crotch, smelling his sex, licking his ball and bringing it into my mouth. I would roll it around in my mouth and lick the underside of his ball sac. I went further down and licked his tight pucker. I could slide my cock into it, getting into a smooth rhythm, feeling him squeezing down on my hardness, moaning softly, and pulling my cum out of my balls.

I shot my load in six hard ribbons of cum. The first landed on my chin. I licked it up while I continued to shoot up to my chest and then onto my stomach. I took my fingers and picked up my cum, putting it onto my tongue, tasting the salty sweetness. I cleaned up and put a sweatshirt on. I padded barefoot out to the common room.

Matt motioned me over to his chair, a bit bigger than the rest. He and I fit in it together comfortably. He held on to me.

"Feel better?" he whispered in my ear.

"Yeah. You know how it is. No more blue balls."

"I do. You do know that a closed door remains closed, right? Nobody butts in."

I nodded. I guessed that none of the boys had to hide away in the bathroom or jack off in the shower.

Week two with the boys began with a walk around the campus with David, Brian, and Jessie. We were the early birds who did not sleep in. I had waited for them in the common room.

The boys were glad to know I was not leaving today. When everybody was up, we went out to a restaurant closer to Boston for breakfast. We took over the whole back room. By the time we were finished, we knew there would be no need for lunch.

"Hmmm," said Vincent. "The waitress didn't bring our check." He made a motion to get her attention.

"No check," I said. "It's paid."

"You didn't go to the men's room, did you?" asked Ste.

"Yes, but I left my debit card at the checkout on the way in and picked it up on the way out. I know our waitress enough that I can do that."

"But, $100 or better . . ." said Ste.

"You guys deserve a treat. This is what a big brother does."

"Thanks, then, bro. I appreciate it," he said.

"Thanks, Aaron," rang through the boys.

We rode the T to Boston, transferred at Park Street Station, rode to Charles St, and then I told the guys I would show them where I lived. We filled my living area pretty well.

I pulled down the Murphy bed so we all had places to sit. A couple of the guys sat on the floor. David sat behind me and then moved close, holding on to me. He put his chin on my shoulder. I turned and smiled at him. David had become one of my favorite boys. The other guys knew that—warriors in battle always have a special comradery. However, it was easy not to play favorites among the rest, because they were all damn good young men.

"Is it okay, that I hold you?" he asked a bit shyly. "I just want . . ."

"More than okay, love. This is what we do in my home. We hold on, like we do in your home."

"I haven't said it to you, by myself, but I love you Aaron. You should know that."

He kissed my cheek. He held me so I was not sad. Indeed, I was a little sad. David holding me was almost as good as Billy holding me. He knew that. It was okay. Holding on was important to all of us.

The guys formed seven `couples', holding on. We listened to Yanni's magic, setting a mood of profound placement in this world. These friendships, barely one year old, would last for years. My friendship with them was a mere few weeks old, but it was deep, and it was so nice to have. Any one of them knew that they could touch my shoulder, hug me, hold me, kiss me, and care for me. I cared about them, equally.

I cried quietly. They all knew. But David held me anyway, letting me get it out. He put his lips into my neck and kissed me. Each guy in turn came over and kissed my cheek, looking into my sad eyes, holding on to my shoulder, giving me strength. Before they pulled away from me, I kissed each cheek, and hugged them. It did not mean nothing; it meant everything, to each of us. Mother Teresa would be proud. We belonged to each other.

We stayed at my place all afternoon. The sun began to set. It took an hour to get back to campus. We continued to hold each other in the common room. It was late before we wanted to break up and go to bed. We would be tired in the morning. Nobody cared. Life was good. Every day that we spent together would be better.

They would not let me go home to wait for Billy, alone. One boy per night held me in his arms, as David had done in my apartment, as we sat together. Nobody held me better than any other did. They held me with love, caring, and concern. They had said last week that this was all about me, and they were men of their words.

It was beginning to look like I would finish out the school year with the boys. I voiced my concern, again, three weeks into this venture, that I was such a distraction around here.

"Nope, not even close," said Jeremy and Jake, sitting on either side of me on the sofa.

"But I'm so restless," I said.

"So you're going to walk away from us, leave us here alone, go home, and mope around your apartment, nice as it is, alone?" said Brian.

I did not say anything. I was thinking.

"Think about this, then, bud. You leaving us alone is as bad as Billy leaving us. It would hurt," said David. "The guys know you and I have a special connection because of cancer. I like you here. Strike that. I love you here."


"Because we're not complete with you gone. Even when Billy comes back, and you are gone, we'll be down one man. Be honest. Where have you put us, all of us?"

I thought for a moment. I raised my sweatshirt. "Right here," I said, putting my hand over my heart.

"Where do you think every one of us has put you?"

I shrugged. "How can you? I'm not Billy."

"We don't want you to be Billy. You are Aaron," Paul said, as if it was meaningful.

Big deal, I thought. I shrugged again.

"Why are you putting yourself down, bud?" asked Ste.

"I'm afraid," I admitted. "I'm not good enough for Billy to remember. It's killing me," and I broke down.

Jake and Jeremy both put their arms around me, embracing me tightly. Nobody said anything. I was not known to be a moody guy. But Billy lost me. Worse, by far, I lost him.

Instead of trying to convince me I was being stupid, the guys let my mood come and go. I was being stupid. The guys had already shown that they loved me. It was almost good enough. I wasn't their Billy, and they weren't mine. I lay in the arms of Jake and Jeremy, twin brothers. The mood had to pass before I could feel better. A chemo day made my mood twice as sullen. I tried to be okay, but I was not.

"You have a right to be sad, bud," said Jeremy. "We love you anyway, and will, no matter what."

I put his hands around my stomach, and held them.

When I dozed off, too sad to do anything for myself, the boys started talking quietly. They decided to settle in with me for the night. It was not even talked about amongst themselves, verbally anyway. They just knew what to do. No one went to their room to sleep, though they each went and got pillows and any available sleeping bags. Paul also brought Jake and Jeremy's pillows to them.

Sleeping bags were laid out on the common room floor. The twins, without waking me, gently lay me in the middle of six sleeping bags. Ste changed out my blue jeans for my sweats. Jake lay in front of me, facing me. Jeremy lay behind him, spooning him. Henry lay behind me, spooning me. The boys continued lying down behind each other, spooning each other, lined up on either side of me. Every boy held a friend, who held another, who held me. I slept so peacefully and so deeply that I had no dreams of Billy that night. I did need that. It was healthy to find relief, even for one night. I owed these boys more than they knew, and I would pay them back, all thirteen of them.

We woke on Saturday morning. I was not the first awake. When I looked around, I saw what the boys had done last night. We stayed quiet until everyone woke, though it did not take long, maybe twenty minutes from first boy to last.

"Unbelievable," I said, smiling. I started laughing, like I had not laughed in months.

I got up on my knees. I leaned in and I kissed Jake, then Jeremy, then Paul, on down that line, but not on the cheek or forehead. I planted a kiss on each of their lips. No tongues or anything gross, just nice kisses. They kissed me without shame. At the end of the line, I turned around. I started with Henry, who had been behind me. I got a little bit on tongue from him, which made me smile and then laugh again. The guys knew what he did. I went down the line, ending with Ste.

"Best til last, love," I whispered in his ear. He smiled.

Jake pulled me back to the middle. The guys all sat up and adjusted themselves so that their legs were around other's legs, putting us in a very tight circle, arms across each other's shoulders. Vincent was sitting in front of me this time.

"You, love, are, as Billy told us, a special somebody. You're not Billy; you're Aaron. In our eyes, being Aaron is a strikingly beautiful thing to us. We don't want you to be Billy because we want our Billy back. At the same time, we do not want to lose you. You're our friend, but better even than that. When your Billy finds you again, we'll miss you very much, because we know you'll go away from us and make sweet love to him. He'll be so blessed. You do see that we are as blessed, don't you?"

"I do. I'm going away only long enough to pull Billy back to us all. Yes, I will make sweet love to Billy. He needs to know what we had, so we keep it no matter what. I don't know if I should say this. But I'll come back to you, too. I have to wonder if he knows any of you either."

"I thought about that, too," said David. "I feel what you feel only in the sense that I want Billy to know me, and the rest of us. We're going to take a group picture of us today, so you can see how Billy is. If he doesn't know you, I bet he doesn't know us, today anyway. When he finds you, we all pray that he finds us, too."

"Oh guys, I'm so sorry. I was sad for me, but I never thought he wouldn't know you either. I have a thought though. Weird to think this way, but I think part of his mind will need to adjust to him being `gay', excuse the label, but maybe that's part of his trauma. Skip is his brother, which is why he knows him, even though he too is intimate with Billy. Maybe Billy doesn't know that yet."

"Do you think Skip will tell Billy?"

"Yes. I hope so anyway. I think it's important Billy knows that, and has Skip sexually again. He clung very closely to Skip because of his cancer. That's where the love and eventually the sex came from. Doesn't that freak any of you out? Incest?"

"No," said Ste. "Because we know Billy."

"He told us what you just said, about clinging to Skip through the cancer," said David. Brothers usually have a special something. Jake, Jeremy?"

"Yeah, of course," said Jeremy. "The guys just took it one small step further. Who cares? Would I ever make love to Jake? Sure, if he asked. Maybe even if he didn't ask. I love Jake."

Jake nodded to Jeremy. There were a lot of things that went unspoken between them just now.

"But you're friends with Billy too, much more than sexual. You're blessed to have both."

"Yeah. Love overrules sex. I dunno, now I'm confused. I'm sorry, bros, I didn't think about Billy not knowing you either. I hate being sad; it makes me close in around myself. You don't deserve that."

"Friendship is one thing, bud, but love is another. You have no reason to apologize," said Ste. "We pretty much agreed that if he knows anyone, it might be me because we're roommates. But, I don't think so any more. I think we are all strangers to him if you are. You've known him longer and much deeper."

"Then, my loves, it's no longer `all about me'. It's all about all of us. I like the idea of a group pic. It can also be a teaching tool to probe his memories. We should send it to Skip. He'll know what to do."

"Agreed. And since it's now `all about us', I want another kiss," said Kenny.

I leaned past three guys in our tight circle and gave him a kiss, and a little more. He giggled. We all sat and held each other, contemplating our relationship with Billy. I prayed, for their sakes, that Billy had not lost them, too.

"Anyone hungry?" I asked.

"Only for affection," said Jeremy.

"Works for me. I wonder if we would win an award for biggest group hug."

We all laughed. "Guinness, here we come," said Jerry. We laughed again, and hugged each other more. It's about all of us.

We eventually untangled ourselves. We went back to our rooms, dressed, and headed out for a late breakfast. When we got back, we showered, six at a time as the bathroom allowed. We spent the afternoon around campus, or doing papers; whatever needed to be done.

On Tuesday, Ste asked me if I wanted quiet time again. It was a rainy day and we were mellow, hanging close to our rooms.

"I dunno. I hate jacking off alone. It's not fun anymore. Spoiled, I guess."

"Been there, done that. Spoiled is good, by the way," he said.

"I hope this doesn't embarrass you, but Billy says you guys aren't shy about jacking off together when you're alone."

"I'm not embarrassed. I don't find it a big deal, just a necessary one sometimes. The other guys do it, too, in private I mean. Would you join me?"

"Yeah. I would."

We took off our shirts, t-shirts, and socks. He knew about `jeans only' because of Billy.

"You gonna take Billy's . . ." he started to say.

"No. Can I lie beside you?"

"Yeah, of course."

I lay beside Ste. He let me lay up against him; not that had much room anyway. I needed him close to me, and he was okay with that.

"We're okay? You and me?" he asked, to be sure.

"We're okay, bud. You and me."

We were already semi-hard, so it took little effort to get hard. We both wrapped our left hands around our balls and the base of our cocks. I was just a bit thicker than Ste, but the same length. Ste was cut. I was not. He needed lube.

"In your drawer?" I asked.

He nodded. I reached into his drawer and pulled up a small bottle of Wet.

"May I?" I asked.

"Of course."

I poured some into my right hand and then wrapped my hand around Ste's cock. I added a little more. I sat up on my left arm, sliding my hand up and down his shaft. He put his right hand on my shoulder. I leaned in to give him a somewhat respectable kiss, no tongue of course. I stroked his cock the way I would stroke my own, up and down, paying attention to his head. At the base of his cock, I massaged his balls and pressed into that pleasure place between his balls and hole. He moaned and smiled at me.

"Okay bud?"

"Yeah, just right," he said. "Nice. You okay?"

"I'm just fine. I've done this once or twice," I said, smiling.

"I'm a bit jealous, truthfully," he said, and then blushed.

"Don't be. We will have time to do this again, okay?"

He nodded.

"Do you think Billy would . . ." he said.

"Yeah, I do."

I started doing this with a buddy in early high school. Having a jack off buddy is fairly socially acceptable. It would not have stopped me from doing it if it was not.

We looked at each other as I stroked his cock. Being young and horny made it easy. It usually takes me about twenty minutes to get off when I go it alone. We weren't in a hurry, so I took my time. I was semi-hard, but I would get hard again shortly. I wondered if any other roomies were paired up. Probably. Boys jack off. It's what we do.

In a few more minutes, Ste's breathing changed. I decided to edge him. I brought him up a bit more, and then I backed him off. I waited. He looked at me.

"Trust me."

He nodded. I wrapped my hand tighter around his cock and stroked longer, from head to base and back. He got close again. I backed off, barely touching his cock. I kept this up for as long as I could. Finally he had had enough.

He bucked his hips and then shot a large ribbon of cum on the down stroke. It hit his chin. The next two shots landed on his hairless chest. The remaining three landed on his stomach. I left my hand wrapped around his cock until it was soft.

"That's called edging, by the way," I said. "Makes for a better load."

"I'll remember that. That was my best yet."

"Towel?" I asked.

"Nope. I don't like to waste this stuff." He cleaned himself up, swallowing his own cum.

"Me too. I've heard my friend's moms go nuts about finding dried cum in the sheets. I learned long ago to get rid of the evidence."

I was hard without touching myself. Yes, yes, he turned me on when I made him come. He'd turn you on, too, so get over it. Boys jack off, alone or together, and it's not all just mechanical. I know.

"Let's trade places. I'm right-handed too," he said. "Lube or no lube?"

"No lube. I don't want to waste yours."

"Don't be silly."

He poured some Wet and lubed up my cock the way I had done his. His hand felt really nice. I knew it would. I put my right hand on his neck, moving down to his naked butt a few times. Holes were off limits in `polite company', so I did not even consider it.

He pulled my foreskin over the head of my cock. It wasn't 100% loose, like some, because of the way I jack off. But he could close it over my cock head. It slid back naturally, exposing my piss slit. He did that a few times, smiling.

"Not used to foreskin?"

"Nope. It doesn't hurt?"

"Heck no."

Ste continued to stroke my dick. He too paid attention to the head of my cock and especially my tender spot beneath my balls. He, like me, looked at my eyes while he played with me. I nodded, so he gave me a kiss. I was feeling so good. I too moaned. He decided to see if edging worked on me like on him. He brought me to the edge, backed off expertly, waited, and started again, slowly, pushing me close, and then backing off. I lasted a bit longer than he had, but I too eventually had enough.

He picked up the rhythm of his stroking. It took a few more minutes to get me close. When he knew I was, he held my cock tightly and gave me long strokes.

"I'm coming, love," I said, and then let out a moan.

The first ribbon of cum landed in my open mouth. Shot number two went on my chin. Three, four, and five landed on my chest. Six and seven landed on my stomach, and the rest dribbled out of my cock into my pubes. He kept stroking until I was drained.

I ate my own cum, as usual. He watched me. I gave him a little taste.

"Definitely don't waste the good stuff," I told him.

"You in a hurry to go anywhere," he asked.

"Nope. It's nice just being nearly naked with you. You okay?"

"I'm great. Can I hold you?"

"Let's hold each other. You like it too, right?"

He nodded. We hugged each other close, face to face, and cock to cock for that matter. It was just right. We did not nap, but we did slowly come down from our orgasms. Later, in the common room, I would say that almost all of us, maybe all of us, were as mellow as the weather. Even if not everyone jacked off, together or alone, I guessed that everyone napped together.

I had it pretty great here. But, I was missing only one thing—a phone call.

The phone call came. I was still on campus, in Billy's spot, in the library, when it came, at the end of my fourth full week with the boys, in mid-April.

David had taken the call in the common room. He ran like the wind to get me.

"Skip called. You gotta go."

"Huh, what?" I said, looking up from my book.

"Go. MGH." He gave me a location.

I was off. I grabbed only my jacket.

"I'll be back whenever."


I ran. I could have run all the way to Boston. I made it only as far as the T, of course, and had to ride for almost an hour to Park Street station. I ran up over Beacon Hill and down winding streets instead of transferring to the Red Line. I could see the taller structures of MGH, but I was still not there. I finally got to Cambridge Street. I ran to MGH, into the main lobby, through twisting corridors to the location David had given me. I took the stairs, not waiting for the elevator. I felt like a headless chicken, running around madly. Where was Skip? He should meet me. This place is too big.

The stairs went on forever. What was I going to find? Damn, where in the hell was Skip? What happened to Billy? Dead? Oh God, not that. Where the fuck was Skip?!

He had been sitting there, waiting for me. He saw me as I threw the stairway door open. His face brightened a million degrees, and he smiled up at me. My Billy smiled at me. I fell to my knees, exhausted, in front of him. I cried so hard. He took my head in his hands and kissed me full on the lips. There was applause behind Billy, across the room.

"Hello, my Aaron. What took you so long?" he said, smiling.

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