Skip - Part 28


Skip -- Part 28

Later that evening, Skip helped me walk four steps. It was slow, but it was just wonderful. Truly, even one step on my own would be good enough, but I was not there yet. Tomorrow there would be four more steps. The next two evenings there would be five. Geez, at this rate I could make it from the oversized chair to the bathroom by August.

Sigh. At least my legs did not collapse under me. Skip would not let me fall. He also would not coddle me. I wanted to walk again and he would help make it happen. My legs ached badly when I stood. Skip had once said that pain was a reason to fight and live.

"Aaron, I have a young man for Sam to talk," said a familiar voice from Canada, one the phone. "He needs a friend more than anything."

"Then he'll have one, Joan. What's his name? What does he want to do?"

"His name is Will. He's been kicked out of his home by his parents. Jon and Jeff heard about him at school. He's being bullied quiet terribly, so we've brought him to the inn. We have talked about you and Skip, and your mission, for the past couple of days. He wants to meet you, and eventually to meet Sam. One condition is that he can't fly. He never has flown and does not want to start now."

"How about the train? Can anyone help him get to Montreal?"

"Yes, easily."

"Hold on a moment, I want to see how to get him from Montreal to Boston."

I continued to talk to Joan as I signed on to Amtrak's web site. There was no direct route from Montreal to Boston, but I found an alternative.

"Okay, Montreal to Albany NY, and then Albany to Boston. It'll take about eight hours for the first leg and then six hours to Boston the next day. Can you bring Will onto the extension in the office? I want to run the schedule by him."

Joan talked to Will for a moment. He picked up the extension.

"Hi Aaron. You want to talk about Amtrak?"

"Yeah Will. You okay with traveling by train?"

"I am. What does the schedule look like?"

"9:30 a.m. departure from Montreal, arriving in Albany, New York around 5:45 p.m. You would have to stay overnight in Albany. The trip from Albany to Boston would be from 3:25 p.m. to about 9:15 p.m. Skip and I live in Boston, so we can pick you up at South Station. It's a couple of long travel days for you though."

"It would work. I hope I'm not asking a lot."

"No way, Will. If the schedule is okay by you, I'll book it. I'm online with Amtrak right now, so all I have to do is confirm it."

"I don't have much money," he said sadly.

"You are not to worry about money. I'll pay for this. It's less than $100 one way, so no worries. I'll reserve you a room in Albany, too. The hotel should have a van, so you'll get easily from the train station to the hotel and back. You know about Sam. He will be thrilled to hear about you."

"It's all kind of scary."

He tried not to, but he broke down. Walt was with him. He took the phone from Will. I knew that he would hold him.

"Hey Aaron," said Walt. "Thank you so much for helping Will. You're a treasure, love."

"It's what we do, Walt. Take care of him tonight, huh?"

"We will."

"Joan. I'm confirming Will for the Holiday Inn. It's close to the Amtrak station. I'll call the hotel to make sure there is a van."

"Walt is right, Aaron, you are a treasure."

"Nah, just someone who cares a lot. Hey, you should also know that I got feeling back in my legs. I'm walking about four steps a day right now, and improving every couple of days."

"Outstanding, love. I'm so happy. I'll pass that around to the other innkeepers. They'll be thrilled to hear."

We talked for a few minutes more. I confirmed everything, including the hotel. I gave her the Amtrak and Holiday Inn confirmation numbers and phone numbers. She and Walt can track Will's travel progress.

"Will is set to go on Wednesday. Here's my cell phone number, in case he needs anything along the way. We'll call you when he's ready to head back to you. I'll do the return reservations too."

"Walt and I will give him a spare cell phone as well. He does have a home here, of course, but he needs hope, and quickly. This is all okay by you?"

"Of course. Will's needs come first, so we're ready for him. We've been looking for him for a long time."

"And Sam?"

"Sam is so ready to help someone just like Will. God, Joan, how can people throw away their child? I will never get that. Warn him that I'm a hugger, okay."

"His father is a shit, speaking plainly. His mother is abused. We have already told them that we are going ahead with legal proceedings. Will told us that his father hits his mother, and that will stop or he's going to jail. We want to adopt Will. If they interfere, we'll go to the police because Will has been hit a few times."

"How old is he?"

"Sixteen, a week ago. He's bullied at school too. Or he was until Jon and Jeff stepped in. Will needs a break for once."

"Well, between you and Walt, and us here in Boston, Will is catching two breaks."

"Thank you, Aaron. Bless you, love. I'm pleased."

"Can Will come back to the phone?"

I heard Joan call for Will.

"Hey Aaron. Sorry. I couldn't fight that anymore."

"I know, Will. I'd cry too. Know that you will not ever be hit again by your father. Joan and Walt will make sure your mother is safer too. Sam knows 100% about how you feel. You know he too was thrown out by his parents?"

"Yeah. I'm better off. I know what Mr. and Mrs. W want to do. I hope it happens."

"It will, love. The fact that your father abuses you too is fodder for the police. You truly are better off. Jon and Jeff will love to have a brother. You okay now?"

"Yeah. Jon just came in. I'm in for a big hug."

"Rah! Go collect it then. You'll get one or two thousand here in Boston too. See you Wednesday night."

"Thanks, Aaron. I owe you a lot."

"Nope, not even a little. Will you call me when you get to your hotel Tuesday afternoon?"

"You bet. See you soon."

I said good night to Walt and then to Joan. Skip was holding me from behind, his chair up against my wheelchair.

"You are so cool," he said.

"That goes without saying, but what did I do to deserve recognition?"

"You took a kid that you do not know, booked and paid for Amtrak tickets, reserved his hotel for an overnight, got him transportation, and you are getting him to Boston in three days."

"The kid was thrown away by his parents. Plus he's being hit by his father. That's unacceptable."

"I realize that. But you've already given him $200 worth of love and caring. How long until he realizes that?"

"He already does. A needful kid knows immediately when something, or someone, decent happens to him. He's going to bed tonight with a smile and I bet he sleeps better than he has in months."

"I hope so. My first instinct is to pity him. But that won't happen when we meet him. Do we call Sam to see if he'll come, or do we wait until Will is comfortable?"

"We should give Sam a head's up. Connecticut is less than two hours away if Will wants to meet him."

We called Connecticut. David answered the phone.

"Hello love," he said, "do you miss us?"

"Very much, love, very much. I have news for Sam. Is he there?"

"Yo Sam, pick up the other phone! It's Aaron and Skip."

I heard running and then the second phone in the den being picked up.

"Hey bros, what's new?"

"We just got off the phone with Canada. A young man named Will has been thrown out of his house."

"Bad news, good news. I'm sad for him, but I'm glad for him and me."

"We knew you would feel just that way. He's coming into Boston from Montreal. He'll be here Wednesday night. We wanted to know if you want to meet him or wait a bit until he's talked to us."

"I'd rather wait so he gets comfortable with you. Maybe we can talk one night and let him decide."

"Good, I think it's the way to help him. If he's willing to visit, can we come down for the weekend?"

"Yup. Just let us know. Make Will comfortable first. Since he's traveling, he'll be stressed."

"Cool, bro, we'll talk to you some night soon."

Skip helped me with my walking regimen and then we called it a night. There was a beautiful light breeze coming in the windows. I was asleep well before my mind could start running.

We arrived at South Station just after 8:30. The arrivals and departures board showed that Will's train was on time from Albany, and due in at 9:10 p.m. At 9:20, a tall dark-haired young man, equal to Henry and David in model-quality looks, walked up to Skip and me.

"Aaron? Skip?"

"Hi Will, welcome to Boston. Are you hungry?"

"For a piece of pie and tea. I'm kinda wired."

"Done and done. I know a little place nearby that's just the ticket."

"Speaking of tickets, thank you so much for paying my way. I'd like to pay you back."

"Nope, but we'll discuss `pay it forward' over a cup of tea and your favorite pie."

We went a few blocks and ended up at the grille that I loved. It was half way between South Station and home. The waitress knew Skip and me. She knew that we'd want dessert and tea at this time of night.

"This is our friend Will, from Nova Scotia. Will, this is Barb, sweet lady and pie maker. Name your pleasure."

"Hi Barb, nice to meet you. I would like blueberry pie and Earl Gray tea please."

"A scoop of French Vanilla ice cream, love?" she asked.

Will looked at me. I nodded. "Yes, please."

"No charge for the ice cream. You are very polite and, even better, you haven't called me ma'am yet."

He blushed.

"Make it three, Barb," said Skip. `'Extra calories for our bro here though," he said, pointing toward me.

"Can do. No worries, Aaron. When the tumors are gone, you'll put your weight back on."

After she left to get our tea and pie, Will looked at me, a bit sad.

"You have cancer? Is that why you're in the wheelchair?"

"Yeah. I'm in good hands, and improving."

"Excellent. I'd like to hear more. I'm glad to be here. Have you talked to Sam?"

"Yes. We'll let you settle in and then call him one night. Have you thought about how long you want to stay?"

"A week?"

"It would be our pleasure to accommodate you and to show you the area. We have an open invitation to visit Sam and his family in Connecticut. It will be a couple hours' drive."

"Is he nice?"

"Sam is the best. His father is also a shit, to use Joan's word, and now has a new family. His brother David is also his boyfriend, though boyfriend came first. David's folks brought him into the family with little effort, like Joan and Walt will do for you. Do you have any siblings?"

He shook his head. Barb came with our dessert and tea. We ate for a while. He looked at Skip and then to me.

"I have to say this, so may I speak freely?"

"Every time."

"You and Skip are beautiful. I mean, together. I hope I am as blessed someday. I have a friend at home, but he's not willing to talk to his parents yet. We're not intimate, but ... I will ask for help though, because we belong to each other."

I quoted the Mother Theresa quote "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."

"Skip and I belong to each other, as does one more." I explained about Billy.

"I'm glad for you three. I'm not shocked at all. Jon told me that you said love is not gender. He also said, plainly speaking, to fuck the label. I'm more than a label allows me to be. You are wise beyond your ..."

"Careful, bro, don't take me there," I said, laughing.

He cracked up. "Oops. Not that you're old. Anyway, I know that you taught the boys about self-esteem and I'm learning it too. I have you to thank for that. And you are part of it too, Skip. I've got more to learn, so teach me."

We finished our pie. Skip paid the bill. We three got nice hugs from Barb.

"Is everyone that friendly here?"

"A select few, but you'll meet all the nice ones. Tomorrow you will meet Jillian, who owns a small restaurant, for breakfast or lunch. Then you'll meet Andrew, my oncologist/researcher. I have chemo in the afternoon. You can stay with me for that or we'll find you something else to do."

"I wouldn't mind helping your through chemo. I can see that one would not want to do that alone."

"It's a bit boring. I usually nap through it."

"No worries. I'll go with you."

We arrived back at our apartment.

"I've made room for your clothes in the top drawer of the dresser. A place feels a bit more like home if you don't live out of your bags."

"This feels nicely like home. Your place is quite nice."

He unpacked and then Skip showed Will that the fridge and cabinets were stocked and that he should help himself to anything. He showed him the bathroom and said we'll help him with laundry before he returns home.

"Come on over, Will, and try out what we call the `big boy' chair. It's option number one for sleeping."

Skip demonstrated how using a pillow and the ottoman would allow Will to stretch out. However, when Will lay down, he overhung a good eight inches. He would have to curl up to be comfortable. He tried it out and found it okay.

"Where do you guys sleep? Not here, right?"

Skip opened up the cabinet and pulled down the Murphy bed.

"Wow, that's cool," said Will.

"You can also consider bunking with us. We already know we can accommodate three easily."

"I would like to, Aaron. Last night I did not sleep well. I was antsy about being alone for the first time. I don't snore or toss and turn."

"Then you ahead of both of us," Skip joked. "We're used to holding each other, so the snoring and tossing and turning is minimal. Is that going to bother you, that Aaron holds me or I hold him?"

"No, of course not. I love that you care so much for each other. I'm also honored to be in your life now."

"We can hold you, too, if you want."

"I do. Despite appearances, I'm not overly shy. Can I help you get undressed?"

"Yes. Thanks."

Will took off my Nikes and socks.

"One reason I asked is, with no feeling in your legs, your feet must get cold."

He massaged my feet, which indeed were cold. I felt the warmth of his strong but gentle touch. He did a deep massage, unlike any I've had. Skip watched him, asking questions about technique.

"It's just for blood flow. I had cold feet for a long time until I learned how to do this to myself. Good blood flow means good health overall."

"I take it that you like the sciences?"

"Yeah. Art too, as a hobby. I will have a present for you and Skip later in the week. I want to sketch you separately and together."

"I hope you have a quick pencil, love," said Skip. "Aaron's good for ten minutes a day of idle time."

"We can work on that, too. I like to keep busy. Do you work?"

"Yeah, at Harvard University. I'm mostly into construction."

"May I go with you one day, maybe next week?"

"Surely. I'll save some work for you. If you love art, I assume you're handy?"

"I am. How do you spend your days, Aaron?"

"We plan our day on the fly, so no day looks like the one before. Billy will be here again tomorrow. For tonight, he went out with a couple of friends and he will stay over. He didn't want to crowd you when you arrived."

Will sat on the bed with me and took off my t-shirt and polo shirt. He hesitated a bit when it came to my jeans.

"May I?"

"You may. Fair warning, when I wear jeans ..."

"You go commando. Me too."

He unbuckled my belt and took it off my jeans. He unbuttoned and unzipped my jeans, being careful not to catch my dick in the zipper. I now was naked before him. Skip had taken off his own shirt and t-shirt. Will took off his own as well.

Will looked at me,

"I'd like to kiss you. Uh, you know."

I moved toward him. He met me in the middle and kissed me nicely. He looked at Skip. Skip also moved to meet Will in the middle. Again, Will kissed nicely.

"Thank you for helping me. I'm glad to be here. It's nice to be cared for. My parents ..."

He stopped. I figured that he did not want to talk badly about his folks, even though they treated him badly.

"I have a new home with Mr. and Mrs. W. That's a good step forward. Jon is pleased to know I'll be his brother for life. Jeff, too, is very nice. We need love, Aaron. I'm capable of giving a lot, but I need to take once in a while."

"You will find love in our home, too, Will. If you want to be held, you will be held. If you want to hold, you may hold Skip or me. Billy too, for that matter. We do know how to love sincerely. Like you, we are not shy. Come, love, lay between us. I want you to be safe so you sleep well tonight."

Will, Skip, and I were naked together. He lay to face me, close to me. Skip spooned Will after asking permission. Will kissed each of us once again and then held my hand. Skip and I kissed as well. Will slept all night, quite peacefully. As did my love and I.

Skip got up quietly just before 6:00 a.m. I watched Will to make sure, if he woke, he did not wake confused about where he was. Skip showered, got me up so I could pee, lay me back down, and kissed me. He leaned down and gently kissed Will on his cheek. He watched him for a moment and then kissed him again. Skip's eyes were sad. I winked at him to tell him all would be well again soon.

I went back to sleep until 7:30. When I opened my eyes, Will was looking at me. He smiled.

"You slept well," I said, not a question.

"I did. Your home feels like home, not mine, but a nice one to be in. Thank you again for caring for me."

"It's about all I know how to do, love. Seriously. Billy has 13 dorm mates who I care for and about as well. There is a small circle of others, not in school, but as important to me. I live for each one, as I now live for you. I hate that, like Sam, you were thrown away. I don't know how to overcome that."

"I do. I'm not going to live in the past. My parents have lost a fine son."

His statement was not bragging. It was the truth as he knew it, and he had convinced me as well.

"Good for you, love. You attitude is great to hear. Your wish to go to college will be fulfilled, no matter where you want to go. Trust me when I say you will not have to struggle with anything related to your education."

"I'm worried about that part. Taking money, I mean."

"Sshhhh," I said, touching his lips lightly with my fingers. "I started a fund for Sam, because he would have had to quit school otherwise. The boys at school talked to their parents. Each set of parents make contributions for Sam. Andrew, who you will meet today, got his crew in Washington D.C. to start a fund for the next boy, who is now you. His crew raised money, and then Andrew matched it dollar for dollar, for over $18,000. The crew's family has started making monthly or quarterly donations into your fund. I can tell you that the fund will have over $100,000 in it by the end of the year."

"Holy crap!"

"This is what our brand of love does, bro. You, and those specifically like you in the future, will not be needful. This will continue until parents stop throwing away their children."

"But ..."

"Sshhhh," I said gently. "You will not be needful any longer. You will have new parents, better than your biological parents. Skip and I met Joan and Walt this past Christmas when we went skiing inn to inn. They accept that Jon and Jeff are in love, and feel thankful for you. Sam will bless you as well."

"And you, more than any other. Is there enough money for another, for more than just me?"

"It will depend on your needs first. Whatever you need, you will have. But we take care of today first. Here is something for you to know, daily. Listen closely."

He nodded.

"The future isn't where my life is. It's in the moments I'm in."

He repeated the words softly to himself, getting them right. He smiled at me.

"Who is the author of that?"

"Me. When I was 16, living on my folks dairy farm in New Hampshire."

He repeated the words again until they were not just words.

"Wow. Nice. That's profound for 16, no insult intended."

"So I'm told. Those words have helped me through great loss."

I told Will about my past. A tear fell down his cheek. I reached up with my thumb and brushed it aside.

"I don't live in the past for very long, love. I'm okay. More than okay, because I experience great love."

He was staring at my side. He pushed the blanket aside so he could see more.

"Geez, Aaron, that scar is almost a foot long!"

"That one is where Billy's kidney was put in."

"Billy donated a kidney for you? I guess I could imagine doing that for someone, but it would take a lot of thought."

"He knew I would die otherwise."

"But we have two kidneys."

"I had only one. Cancer took away my first one. Even now, I'm still rejecting Billy's kidney. There are not guarantees in much, except how we will love you."

I rolled over and showed him an equal scar on my other side.

"There are more, but ..."

"Show me. Please."

I lay on my stomach. He surveyed my back. It looked like I had been carved up like a turkey.

"Cancer? Tumors?"


"There are five scars back here. Will there be more surgeries?"

"We don't know yet. Not in my immediate future anyway."

He leaned down to kiss the scars. He looked at my eyes. He turned me so he could see the scar from Billy's kidney. He kissed it.

"Bless Billy. And you, Aaron."

He kissed me lightly on my lips. He held my head gently and kissed me again.

"I hope that's okay. To kiss you, I mean."

"A kiss says you care. I won't turn away from them, Will."

"Do you want to shower? I can help."

"Yeah. I've got safety bars that help but I can't wash myself if I hold on to them."

"You do know about the whole burden argument, don't you?"

"Are you sure you're only 16?"

"I used to spend a lot of time alone. I've had time to think about who I am, and who I want to be. I've not been cared for in my past. I ... " he choked up.

I reached out and touched his cheek.

"... I know that I need to care about people anyway."

He sobbed quietly. I pulled him to me, brushing his hair out of his eyes.

"You do. You'll get it back, love, every bit of it."

He nodded. "I know. You've proven that."

He got out of bed. I moved to the side and he picked me up. He adjusted the water temperature and then helped me stand. He washed me head to toes, set me on the toilet, and then showered. I toweled myself dry in the meantime. He shaved me as he shaved himself.

"I repeat, are you sure you're only 16?"

He cleaned up our faces, smiled at me, and kissed my forehead.

"Yeah. Wise beyond my years. This is easy because I know what I'd want someone to do for me."

"I bet your mate will love you all your life."

"Let's hope," he said sadly.

"Why so sad, love?"

"You have Skip and Billy, which I find amazing and wonderful. Jon has Jeff, and they're both cool. I don't have anyone. My friend is a friend, but we're cautious. We know kids get beat up."

"I know, and that's part of our mission, to stop that crap," I said, sincerely. "When you meet someone and start getting serious, just be who you are and take care of him like you are caring for me. It's no more complicated than that."

Will carried me back to my bed. He took his clothes for the day out of the top drawer.

"Which drawer are yours in?"

"Polo shirt and shorts are in the next one down. Whatever is on top is good."

He brought out a teal polo shirt and khaki shorts.

"Socks are in the third draw. T-shirts and boxers are in the fourth drawer. Skip's and mine are interchangeable, so there is no `mine'."

He came over to hand me my clothes. I put on what I could and then he helped me with socks and my Nike sneakers. He dressed in a t-shirt from his high school and Puma shorts and sneakers. No socks.

"Where to from here?"

"Over to my computer. I'll check email."

When I was done, he took me to the oversized chair, settling in beside me.

"How did you meet Skip?"

"We worked together. It took a few months before we got serious, though we lusted each other before we loved."

"How much do you lust him now?"

"One percent. It's our standard running joke, even though we do say that the love overrules the lust. He told me once that if we never fucked again, he'd love me as much. It was at a time when I was deathly ill."

"You've been through a lot, but you don't act that way."

"I have love and good fortune most every day. Pity sucks. I won't give it, much, and I won't take it."

"Do you pity me?"

"Yes, but only a little. I can't imagine what it's like to be thrown out of your own home."

"Traumatic at first. I slept in an alley for a few nights until Jon came along. I looked and smelled pretty bad, I guess. I had only a few clothes that I could grab quickly. My father gave me five minutes to grab what I could and then locked the door behind me. My mother stood in the window and watched me walk away. I knew she would not come out onto the porch and call after me."

"You said father and mother, not mom and dad."

"There is a difference."

"I know. A sixteen year old boy should not know that, though."

He shrugged. "In the moments I'm in, I have you."

"Lucky us."

"It's not luck. I don't believe in it. Or coincidences either. If you had not gone skiing last Christmas, I would not be here right now, so it's been a series of connections. Those I believe in."

"Sixteen? Really?"

"Really. Sit there. I want to do something."

He got up and went to his dresser drawer, coming out with a large sketchpad. He made our bed, pushed the mattress frame up, and closed the doors. He took the ottoman away a couple of feet and then sat on it. He looked at me for a couple of minutes and then he looked at his pad, sketching in pencil and ink for a good twenty minutes without looking up or talking. He was in a zone that was quite intense. I can imagine that he went there often, for his own sanity. He looked at me and then back at his drawing. He did a bit of cleanup. He smiled very slightly at himself. If I had not been watching him intently, I would have missed it. It was not vanity. It was satisfaction. He handed me his sketchpad.

"Oh my, Will. This is better than a photograph."

His drawing of me looked as if he photocopied my face onto paper. It was so stunning I could not speak. I looked at him, just plainly floored.

"Flip back to the beginning," he told me.

"My beagle, Snoopy."

I smiled at Snoopy. I could almost pet him.

"Jon and Jeff," I said, on the next page. "Have they seen this?"

"Yeah. Keep going."

"Joan and Walt," I said.

"No one else has seen that yet. I drew it at the hotel in Albany."

"Do you have the photo?"

"No. From memory."

"You are very talented, Will. These are outstanding."

"I paint too. All mediums."

"Is this what you want to study in college?"

"No. Well, maybe as a minor. I'd like to study the sciences. I need to narrow down my choices, but I like them all."

"How are your grades in school?"

"Mostly A's and a few B's. I like school a lot."

"Good for you. I know you get hassled there, but obviously you're above that. Is the stress less at your new place?"

"Yeah. I've been under self-inflicted stress for a year or more. I did not want to tell my parents I'm gay, but my mother knew something was up. I figured she'd eventually understand if we talked it out."

"When did you tell them?"

"Two weeks ago."

He shrugged again, looking at me. I hugged him to me.

"I don't do labels. Except maybe asshole, though rarely. The first time I did was for Sam's father. Your parents really are young enough to understand gay-by-stupid-label. I hate labels. As you said, you're more than a label allows you to be. If anything, I'm bi, but I hate that as much, so I'm sexual."

"I'm not even sexual yet, because I've never been with anyone. I just know that boys are way more attractive to me than girls are. I like girls, but not to take to bed."

"When you do have your first time, go with him to get tested for HIV or anything that puts either of you at risk. If you're eager to have sex ..."

"... use a condom," he said.

I nodded.

"I'm not there yet. I'm not going to have sex just to have sex. Yes, I really am 16."

I smiled.

"And I'm from Earth."

I laughed aloud.

"I'm beginning to love you, bro," I said.

"What took you so long? I decided that I love you when you booked my train tickets and hotel. If that's not love, that's an intense like. Seriously, Aaron, it's easy to love you. I do love you."

"I love you back, Will. I have to admit it comes from pity somewhat, but I'm going to get over that soon enough. I have a strong desire to care about you and care for you. Within that is wanting to keep you safe from harm. That's love, in my book."

Will hugged me close and I hugged him back. He smiled at me then kissed my forehead.

Billy arrived in time to take us out to lunch. I had to eat light because of chemo, therefore we will go to Jillian's place. I introduced the boys first.

"Is there room in the chair for me?" Billy asked.

Will moved closer to me and Billy lay behind him, giving him a nice hug to welcome him home. I showed Billy my picture.

"Holy moly Will, you did that?"

"In twenty minutes or so," I said.

"Will you draw me later?"

"Yeah, Billy. I'd love to. You have an awesome face."

"Okay Will, you can officially have anything you want."

"Looks like I'm just fine right now. All is right with my world."

"Mine too, bro," said Billy as he held on to Will. We waited until the end of a Yanni CD, which Will was really loving, before we went to lunch.

"Jillian, this is Will. He's from Nova Scotia, here to get some love back in his life."

Jillian understood what that meant.

"Welcome Will. You are in great hands then. These two, and about a dozen more, know just how to take care of you."

"It's nice to meet you Jillian. Aaron told me a little bit about you."

"Tomato basil for you, Aaron, with a little arsenic. Will, what would you like, love?"

"Grilled cheese with tomato and bacon, please. A cup of soup too."

"And fine manners. Just don't call me ma'am, okay?"

"Okay. Barb said that last night too. You got a good 20 years left until anyone should call you ma'am."

"I love you, Will. Can I adopt you?"

"Someone beat you to it, but I'll be around for a week anyway."

"And for you, love?" she said to Billy.

"Ham and Swiss, soup as well."

"I have a raspberry torte to send home with you boys. I made it last night for you."

"Nice," we said together.

"We'll pick it up on the return trip. I have chemo after we leave here."

We had a good lunch. Jimmy came in and joined us for a while. He was making a food delivery for Jills. I showed off and stood up for him, just because I could. He was pleased.

At the hospital, I introduced Will to Andrew.

"Hello Will. Welcome to Boston. I'm a bit sad at your circumstance, but Aaron has said that adversity brings opportunity. You're okay mate?"

"I am, Andrew. Thank you. Aaron sure is wise, huh?"

"Beyond his years."


We then disappeared for a half hour while he injected my tumors. He used the imaging device once again to get around the swelling. Billy had an idea what went on back here but did not want to be present. Neither did I. I zoned out best I could.

Once he was done, we joined the boys. Will showed Andrew a picture of himself.

"Aaron was just telling me about your artistic ability. You saw my features for what, three or four minutes? Could you take a year or two off my forehead? Creative license and all."

Will did a bit better than that. He kissed Andrew's forehead. Andrew was pleased.

He hooked me up to the IV tubes and then I settled onto the lounge chair. Billy handed the blanket to Will, who covered me up and then lay behind me. I went into my secondary zone while the boys kept each other company for two hours.

Before we left, Andrew gave Will a fine hug. It was Will's turn to be pleased.

"Will I see you again?" Andrew asked.

"Some time, yes. I've thought about spending the week, but you never know."

We stopped at Jillian's for the dessert after leaving MGH. She gave us more of her tomato basil soup as well, including enough for Skip. We got home just as Skip arrived. He hugged Billy and me, and then hugged Will nicely.

"I missed you guys today. Did you have a decent day?"

"Nothing exciting, I said, but decent enough. Since it's nice, we should go down to the Common. We'll wait until you shower."

While Skip was showering, Will again took his sketchpad and went to work. He had looked Billy's facial structure over for a couple of minutes. Again, he drew silently, listening to Enya this time, but not looking up until near the end. After a few more minutes, he handed the pad to Billy.

Billy smiled wider than I'd ever seen him.

"I'm speechless, love. You are well beyond any artist twice you age."

Will also showed Billy and Skip his drawing of Snoopy, and then Jon and Jeff, and then Joan and Walt, and Andrew's. Finally, he showed him my picture.

"Wow, just outstanding. These are your new family?" asked Billy.

"Yeah. Aaron and Skip have met them already, at Christmas. Jon brought me home after finding me in an alley."

"You're in good hands, then, aren't you?" asked Billy.

"I am. There as well as here."

I needed another pee break and then some Tylenol for my headache. It came on quicker than usual. I hoped that was not going to make for a bad night. Skip helped me pee, and then brought me water and meds. He dressed and we headed out to the Common. We decided to get movie tickets for "Titanic", the movie everyone was talking about. After the movie, which was incredibly good, we went for ice cream and then took our time walking home.

"You're hurting, aren't you Aaron," Will said as he looked at me.

I could not lie because I knew he saw it in my eyes. When I hurt, my eyes tell all.

"Yes, but it's usual. By morning, I'll be fine. No worries, bro."

We had some tea and dessert, watched TV for a couple of hours, and then settled in for the night. Will and I took the oversized chair overnight. He knew he could help me through the night just fine. We were as comfortable as we would be in bed, which Skip and Billy knew. They did not worry about us. I kissed Will lightly on his lips as we said good night. He returned the kiss.

"Wake me up if you are sick, please?"

"Okay love, but I'm fine. If you hold me, I'll stay that way."

He did, as did I.

We heard Skip get up at 6:00, like clockwork, without an alarm. His internal clock was as accurate as any Swiss timepiece.

"Sorry guys, didn't mean to wake you," he said.

"You didn't," said Will. "I think we both slept good," he said, looking at me.

"I did. So you feel at home?"

"Yeah. You need to pee?"

"I do."

Will brought me to the bathroom while Skip showered. He held me just right.

"Well, I guess I don't have to worry about my bud all day. You're cool, Will. Thanks for caring."

"I told Aaron I do what I would want someone to do for me. That makes it easy."

"Do you want to shower while I'm here, bro?" he asked me.


"You guys want me to leave?" asked Will.

"Nope. We're fine. You can help Aaron dry off and then hop in yourself if you want."

Skip washed me up, passed me to Will, who dried me off, and then he replaced Skip in the shower. I shaved while Skip did. He cleaned up any fuzz that I missed. We three vacated the bathroom and Billy did his routine. I made English muffins with egg, cheese, and Canadian bacon while the guys ate cereal. My stomach was a bit rough, so I took flat ginger ale instead.

"What the plan today for you three?"

"We'll show Will the new office," said Billy. "Maybe we'll play ball at the Common. Oh, don't forget we got tickets for a ballgame tonight."

Will looked at Billy and raised his eyebrows.


"Sox vs. Yankees at Fenway."

"Way cool! I promise not to cheer for the Yankees ... too loudly."

He gave us a cheesy grin. He went to the dresser and pulled out his Yankees t-shirt and baseball cap.

"Boo hiss. Traitor!"

"I'm not a follower, bros. Live with it."

"Okay okay, we can live with you being a traitor in our own backyard. Even better that you have your own mind. I do like that."

He gave me a hug. "But I'll follow you the rest of the time, bro. You won't let me down."

"Never. I'd rather you put a bullet through my head. I haven't told you I love you yet, so I love you."

"I love you too, Aaron. You too, guys. You're aces."

"We love you back, bro," said Billy. "Thanks for coming to stay with us. How long are you staying?"

"I was thinking about a week. I'd like to stay longer ... two weeks instead?"

"As long as you want, love," said Skip. "You can stay for the rest of the summer if you want. Our home is yours, and we'd like you to come back to visit on holidays too."

"I would love to. Mr. and Mrs. W said I'd feel right at home with you all. They were right. I don't have a job at home, and home isn't home anyway. No insult intended to my new family. I don't want to be underfoot yet at the inn."

"Oh love, you would not be," I said. "Joan and Walt are going to go ahead with adopting you. That's love even greater than we have. Don't ever feel that you are not wanted in that wonderful household, because you are."

He nodded. He did understand, but he had time on his hands and needed to use it. We would help him do so. Boston did have stuff to offer over sleepy little Nova Scotia. However, at times, I would take Nova Scotia over anything.

"When you're ready to go home, you tell us. Until then, we care for you, and about you too."

"Thanks Billy. That's nice. I'm not much of a planner, but I will give you a head's up when I'm ready to go home. It's two days by train. I'm afraid to fly. I think the train is also way cheaper, and I liked it."

"I'm with you, love," I said. "I've flown a lot on business, but the train has its own flavor. I'm paying your way, so don't worry about anything, okay?"

He nodded again. Will is a good kid. Having him here for the rest of summer, if he wants, will be great. That gives us about five weeks. Seeing him go home again will be harder, but at least he will be going to a much better home."

Skip left for work, giving Will a hug that would get him easily through the day. Will held on to Skip for a long moment. He kissed Skip's forehead, and Skip returned it.

We three got dressed and went out to do errands, picked up groceries, returned home to put things away, and decided to spend the day in Cambridge. We brought a soccer ball and a basketball with us in case an urge to play hits.

Billy and Will bragged about their soccer skills and then both put their money where their mouth was. That ball did not get a rest for almost two hours. Even then, the boys could not break their ties. Billy and Will both shot and scored over a dozen points. I was considering sending them to the World Cup to show the pros how it's done. As I've said before, no large salaries and no endorsements. They played with heart. There is eight years between them, and it did not show. Billy kept up with Will the whole time. Age just was not part of any equation with us. And if anyone thinks I was left out of the madness, *I* was the reason that it was madness. The ground was dry and packed, so I got out there too, and I managed to use my sport racer to make `kicks'. Depending on what goal I was at, I was the assisting goal. Obviously there was not enough power in my legs to kick and score on my own. Maybe I'd go to World Cup with them anywhere. So there.

Will did not look at, nor see, my disability. He saw me as one who lives in the moments, fiercely. I am not one for the sidelines, and it did help that there was some feeling in my legs. That gave me one thing—hope.

"You, my new friend Aaron, are truly impressive."

"Uh uh, stop. I am one of three. If I'm impressive, Billy and you are just as impressive, and a bit more because I see your style and your heart."

"Billy, is he always this way?"

"Yup, he is Will. Aaron *hates* being put above or before anyone else. I also agree that you are very impressive in your own right."

"What do you guys want to do next?" I asked.

"Play HORSE," said Will.

"Okay, but I do have to warn you that I stand tall, even sitting on my scrawny ass."

"Do you want a handicap?" he said, cheesy grin and all.

"Yeah. To give you three points up front. You'll need them."

He made the typical teen boy face that says `I'll whip your ass just for the fun of it'. If he was going to, he had to earn it. "Okay old man, go for it. Age before beauty."

"Pearls before swine," I said as I put a three-point shot into the basket while the thought about that. Technically, there are no three-point shots in HORSE, but our rules said we could do anything we damn well pleased.

Billy stepped up next and made the same shot. Will stepped up and made the shot ... over his shoulder, facing away from the basket.

"Um, can I have my handicap back?" I asked.

"Nope, but it's your turn."

Sigh. Never give a 16 year old a handicap, and never brag in front of one.

I looked at the basket for a moment, getting my bearings. I turned in my wheelchair, keeping in mind where I was. I threw the ball up and behind me. I heard it bounce on the rim. Aw crud.

"Hey, for and old man, you're pretty amazing. I don't know if I can do another backward shot."

Apparently, I had made the shot. I looked at Billy.

"That was sweet `old man'," he said to me.

Billy shot next, but not over his shoulder. He did a spectacular layup instead. Will followed his lead and made the same shot.

"Duh," is all I said.

"Get ready love."

Before I knew it, both boys picked me up and twisted me a bit, putting me in the same position they had been in for their layups. When I could reach up with my arm, I did one as well, and it went in.

"Great shot, bro," said Will. "Now that's teamwork. I dunno about you two, but I'm beat. Let's quit and get the H out of here, before any of us gets an H."

We went to lunch and settled for summer fruit salads. I laughed aloud suddenly, thinking about them getting me into layup position. I looked at them and said, "That was sweet, back there. I love you two."

"That was sweet. Billy and I did an eye-thing so we knew we'd pull that on you. You're quick for a geezer."

I laughed harder. Geezer. Ho ho, he was too much.

"Oh yeah, and I love you too, Aaron. You know a good time. I'm glad I'm staying longer than a week."

We had enough for one day, so we headed for home. I did some homework for my summer class. Will sat in the oversize chair to sketch.

"Uh uh, no peeking," he said when Billy tried to see.

Billy got into a new beanbag chair that we had bought just before Will arrived. He read his new Tom Clancy novel. Seating was short with all of us home, so we bought two beanbags. There were often more than two or three of us at home.

At 4:00, I had enough of homework and decided to make us an antipasto plate for dinner. We would invariably eat something at the game tonight.

The only thing that freaked Will a bit was the large population of Boston. His hometown in Nova Scotia was a few thousand, so several HUNDRED thousand was a lot to take in. I understood that. I had worked in New York City, with several MILLION people, though my hometown was just around 2,000 in size. It was overwhelming to feel a crush of people all the time. Will was good at staying close, and we would not lose him in the crowd. I gave him his ticket out of my wallet, so if anything happened, he could make his way to his seat and find us.

By the time we got home after 11:00 we were all hoarse from yelling and screaming. The Yankees blew away the Red Sox, so at least our visitor had a ball. We were stuffed and wiped out. Will and I stripped down to boxers. Billy thought about climbing into bed with Skip, but offered Will his place instead. Will thought about it for a moment and then climbed in beside Skip.

"Do you want me to hold you," Skip asked Will.

Will reached for Skip and held him instead. The boys kissed warmly and went to sleep very soon after. Billy slid easily inside of me in the big boy chair. We pulled a sheet over us so we would not be overly obvious. Once he came inside of me, we too fell asleep.

We slept in until about 7:30 on Saturday morning. While the boys showered, I put the makings of a beef stew in the crock pot. We looked in the weekend section of yesterday's Globe to come up with ideas of things to do today. We chose two, the Museum of Science and then the Prudential Center or Hancock Tower, depending on Will's height likes or dislikes. The Pru was more closed in, so height would not bother him too much. He loved the style of the Hancock Tower, which he had seen all over Boston and Cambridge.

We spent three hours at each place, all three places, having a light lunch so we could have a good dinner. Back at home, Will napped briefly while I finished off dinner. He was so sweet to watch while he dozed. He could easily be on GQ with David and Henry. Skip went over to kiss him awake when dinner was ready. There were no leftovers of stew with four of us all going back for seconds. Will was a sensible eater, but not a picky one.

"Most teens are so picky with food. You're not, or so it seems."

"I'm not, especially with homemade meals. I think it would be insulting not to eat what is put on the table. I haven't found much that I don't like. Mrs. W is a great cook."

"We got chocolate cake for dessert. Since you made all gone, twice, you may have a slice or three," I said.

"Yum! I love chocolate anything."

After we had tea and cake, we settled into a movie on TV for the evening. Man, the days moved fast when we were so busy. I made a phone call to see if we could get a young friend into the city for a day or two this week. He said yes. He would come on Monday, and we'd pick him up at North Station as usual.

We also talked to Sam and said we'd like to visit for a three day weekend, starting on Friday. Skip would work a half day on Friday and we've drive the couple of hours to Connecticut after he got home. Billy's car was sitting in Andrew and Clair's guest parking spot at their condo.

Michael was on the 10:20 a.m. train into North Station. He worked extra hours last week so he could take off the next two days. I told him I could help make up any shortfall if he wanted to see us but would not get paid for a day off.

"Michael, our new friend Will, from Nova Scotia. Will, this is Michael. You two should get along just fine. You have a lot in common."

The boys shook hands, but then Michael pulled Will into a hug. It had registered to him that Will and he are both going to be taken care of by Sam's Fund.

"Aww, Will, I've got mixed feelings about you. I know what Sam's Fund is for. You got thrown out of your home."

"I got thrown out of my house, not home, Michael. I'm being adopted, so I'm okay. How about you?"

"Home is home for me. I want to go to college, too, but it will be tough to afford it. My cancer treatments took a lot of my Dad's savings. Aaron and Skip have offered to make up for that. Sam wants to do it instead."

"What are you thinking about for a major?"

"Biology or similar, for obvious reasons. Cancer sucks, so being a researcher is what I want. What's your interest?"

"One of the sciences as well, and art, which might be a strange combination. I don't know where yet. It would be cheaper for me to stay in Canada, but I dunno. I am loving Boston. Maybe we could go together."

"I would like that a lot. Let's work on finding a school together, and narrow down our interests. I don't know if Americans can go to school in Canada though. When we get back to the guy's apartment, I'll give you all my info."

"Awesome. I'm psyched. Sam says I can go to any college I want. People are really generous. We won't have to worry about that."

We walked back to my place. Michael pushed me along when I got tired of pushing myself. Will threw me over his shoulder when we got in front of my building. He moved quickly, often surprising me with his strength and his decision-making process. He did not hem and haw about anything. Michael put his clothes in the dresser drawer with Will's. Now that was sweet.

Rain was clearing up, so we planned an afternoon out at the Charlestown Navy Yard and then the waterfront area back in Boston. This gave Skip and me an idea, so we left the boys for a few minutes. We went to Subway for lunch and then took Will and Michael to a department store. Skip, Billy, and I each bought Will and Michael their choice of warm-up gear, including t-shirts, shorts, warm-up jacket, pants and socks. They would join us at the gym in town later, and whenever Michael was in town. Will had a work-out place he wanted to join at home with Jon.

The boys wanted to go back to my place.

"Just the two of us, for a while, you know," said Michael.

"Yeah, I want to help Michael out. You understand, right?"

"No worries, bros," said Skip, handing Will his key. "We've got stuff to do, so you take good care of Michael. We'll see you for dinner."

The boys were happy as could be. Michael was a year older than Will, so they fit so nice together. Will loved the idea of being able to help out Michael. They had spent a fair amount of time talking quietly, so it was not hard to figure out. Will was horny and Michael was needful. We three guys were not going to help with that unless he asked us, so this was one reason I had called Michael.

We gave the boys all afternoon, arriving with pizza at dinner time.

"Okay loves?" Billy asked, poking his head in our front door.

"Oh yeah, more than okay," said Michael. "Come on in guys, this is your home. Thanks for calling me, Aaron. Good plan."

"There are more and more reasons that I love you, Aaron. Asking Michael to come to be with me, this way, is obvious, and obviously just like you. Thanks, bro. I really do love you."

I blushed. I hated being so easy to figure out, but I also had no secrets. Michael has a girlfriend but they're on shaky ground because of his cancer. She's deciding to be a little shallow, so until she makes up her mind about Michael, Michael is needful. The needful do not stay that way for long when Aaron is in the house. Bringing these two together makes sense. Straight and gay don't exist in my house either. I do not know how far the boys went, nor do I care. If they held each other, that's perfect. If Will helped Michael get off, that's nice, and necessary. If they made love, good for them. I hope the boys will be good for each other for a very long time to come. My instincts told me I will get my wish. There is a picture of Michael on the ottoman, in Will's sketchpad.

To help answer Michael's question about going to college in Canada, I sat with him and Will at my PC. I went out to various Canadian colleges and poked around about info for international students. It would be easy. Michael would apply to the city and province where the college was located for immigration status. Quebec province and Ontario province were the two that Michael and Will would consider. The exchange of US money vs. Canadian money is easy. I had done it often as a younger man because my hometown is at the Canadian border. Going to Quebec province was as easy as going to Boston from New Hampshire, except for an international border crossing.

Will could apply for a student visa in Canada, also an easy thing to do. His worries would be minimal. They discussed two years in the US and two in Canada, or vice versa. I liked the idea of the boys having a complete experience.

When Will returned to Canada, he would start gathering college catalogs with his help of his high school. Michael would gather catalogs from Massachusetts, for now, colleges. Doing research on the Internet would be my job. I would make a spreadsheet for the boys listing names, places, and all costs, broken down by tuition, room and board, and all other.

We would give a copy of the final choices to Sam and he would take care of funding the boy's education. Michael called his dad after dinner to give him a head's up that he wanted to consider school in Canada. Dad was agreeable to many of Michael's wishes, as was his mom. They had no problem with that. Michael told them it might be because of a boy. Dad said they would talk about that as well, but that Michael would not be denied. He had earned his parents love because of his cancer. Michael was not going to milk that, and had no need to. His folks are down to earth and sensible. If Michael liked a boy, then that was Michael's business. His parents found Sam's parents to be stupid and cruel.

Michael asked Skip if he would carry me to the roof-top deck so Michael and I could be alone for a bit. Skip happily did so, and then left. Michael hugged me tightly.

"Thank you for making me, me, bro. I can say anything to my parents, as long as it's honest. They won't give me grief about wanting to go to college with Will, even in Canada."

"Nice. I know your parents are open-minded. They do care a lot about you, and not just because you were so sick."

"I know. I love my parents so much."

"Respect them always love. It really wears on me when I hear a kid say `my old man this, and my old lady that. Most parents deserve better than that. `Cept Will's parents."

By the way, in case you're curious, we made love. I was able to enter Will because he was so patient with me. I got as hard as I did before my surgery. He loved me as well. I liked it. Well, I loved it. I never thought I'd want someone like Will. I mean, another boy. He kissed my scars and he was so cool about my one testicle. I did warn him ahead of time. He said he did not care if I have just one testicle. He wanted to love me for me. This really could go somewhere, if we both let it."

"Only you two should decide that. Billy and Skip said something, and David said the same thing to his folks. They said they would love each other even if their parents disapproved. Neither set of parents did, for the reason you said, because it was honest talk."

"I want to talk him into following his dream of art too. Arts and science go together, and he's amazing. Did you see what he drew?"

"I did. He got every subtle nuance of you. He showed you his other drawings?"

"Yeah. I laughed at Snoopy. I want to meet his new parents too. If you go to Canada again this year, can I go, so I can stay with them?"

"You bet, love. You've made up your mind about him, haven't you?"

"Yeah. Mostly."

"I'm glad. But you need to talk as honestly to Lauren."

"I already did. I called her. You'll see it on your phone bill. I told her the real deal and she understands. I don't want to break up with her, but I did tell her that I have very strong feelings for another boy. I also told her I think she is seeing someone else. She is. Whatever is going to happen is going to be okay with both of us."

"You have had a very full afternoon, love."

"Yeah. I'm tired. Hold me?"

I did, and he napped easily. I kissed him on his lips just before he fell asleep. He smiled at me. He lay his head on my lap and put his baseball cap down over his eyes a bit. I put one hand on his chest and held his hand with my other. I did not nap because I liked looking at my young man.

Will joined me in a while. We sat quietly. He took off his shirt and showed me a pendant that he wears. I had noticed it before. It is half a heart, in silver. He motions to Michael. I raise Michael's shirt, curious. Michael also wears a silver half-heart. Thinking about it, I know I've seen it in the past as well.

"Can I assume that they fit together?" I asked Will.

"Yes. Are Michael and me meant to be, Aaron? Is Michael my heart mate?"

"I don't believe in coincidences, love. I do, mostly, believe in `all things for a reason'. You love Michael?"

"I don't know if it's love, yet. You should know that we had sex together."

"Michael told me. He says that you made love."

Will thought about it. "There's a difference. I do see that. We were very gentle to each other. I came inside of him, and he came inside of me. I'm not sure about that part."

"First, you're right, there is a difference. Love overrules sex, bro. Your life together, or with someone else, will be better when you see that. As for coming inside of Michael, does he have anything to worry about?"

"No. Until today I was a virgin. He told me he is too, that he wasn't ready for sex with his girlfriend."

"No worries, then, but do be cautious if you decide to have sex with another boy."

"There is another boy, but ... Look at him, Aaron. How could I want another boy? His one testicle did not faze me for an instant. I even put it in my mouth. He cried when I did."

"Like Skip and me. So I understand that. I do approve of you loving Michael, as if that matters."

"It does. I respect you, Aaron."

"Talk honestly, always. If you ever do love someone else, it's possible to be three, like Skip and Billy and me. But don't ever hurt Michael, okay? He's hurt more than enough with cancer. He should always feel love, and he deserves honesty, no matter what."

He needed to hear that. He agreed with what I said. It is a good thing for a boy to love a boy. Love is not gender. It's of the heart, and no one can reasonably argue that the heart is a bad thing to follow.

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