Skip - Part 48
"Love me always."
"I dunno bro. If it was anything but that. How oh how will I manage."
"I know. It's such an awful thing for me to burden you with. If it weren't for the challenge, you'd be bored."
"Oh alright. I can love you always. And besides. I got it bad for you."
"Save the good stuff for Annie."
""I do. In all of those wonderful magical moments we're in. But there's no one, in my world, better than you. Annie has no problem with how I love you. You were my first real love."
I could accept that too. Our college friends thought we were secretly doing the nasty away from campus. Jerking off together was not doing the nasty, but jerking off is the only thing we did. It was not until I lost Kate that he ever considered kissing me as if we really were lovers. He knew I had an incredible love, and almost had a son. Coming back to life after that, he also knew, would suck. When I called him to tell him I lusted Skip, he was happy and hopeful. When I called him to tell him I was in love with Skip and Billy, he cried.
We sat together for a while, not talking. We did not have to talk. He could not read me like Skip could, but there were some things he knew that Skip did not.
"I asked Andrew to call me when you're out of surgery," Jason said. "I don't know what day and don't want to. That's probably lame."
"How is that lame?"
"Most friends would want to be with you."
"You wouldn't be with me."
"I won't know if you're two feet away or two miles away."
"I don't want you worrying about me. I already told you I'll need you more after surgery."
"I'll be there when you wake up. That's a promise."
The air had a bite to it. We wrapped ourselves tightly into our jackets. He took my hand again. Jason could care less if someone disapproved. He lived for himself and his family, not some pretentious jerk who knows nothing about why we held hands. I am family, as much of a brother as his own is. I had spent a lot of time with Jason and his family in those eight healing years between Kate's death and meeting Skip. There will come a time, after I am out of the hospital and before I go home to Skip, that he and I will find a secluded spot and jack off together. Actually, we will jack each other off. It is equivalent to the 1% lust Skip, Billy, and I share.
"Come on, let's get you home. Andy will worry."
Jason accepted Claire's dinner invitation. Annie knew he would be home late, so she took the little ones to see Grandma. She wanted, as Jason did, for our first reunion in a long while to be a good one. There was no need to rush home. They had been together for 18 years. Like Skip and me, no jealousy about where we spend our time and who with. She too missed Kate quite badly. We had talked about it.
Andy and Jason play-wrestled on the floor for a while. Jason was either going to key Andy up (and have to spend the night with him) or tire him out so he would sleep all night. Andy finally got the better of Jason-no contest for a 10-year-old vs. a 40-year-old.
After a long leisurely dinner, and after dessert and tea, Jason gave me a warm hug.
"I won't see you again until ... "
"Don't worry about me, huh? You know how things are."
"I'm glad we got to spend today together. My bud Aaron. Finest kind."
Jason was from Maine. 'Finest kind' was equal to 'I love you' for anyone else.
Andy did homework in the den. I sat on the sofa. I was doodling. I made a circle and then wrote Skip and Billy's names in it.
Andy Jr. came out to take a break. He saw what I was doing.
"Shouldn't that be a heart, mate?"
"I used to think so too, Young Lad. Until I met Skip and Billy. Then I began to think about stuff. If you love someone, put their name inside a circle. A heart? Well hearts can break, but a circle goes on forever."
"May I," he asked.
I handed him my doodle pad. He wrote my name and drew a circle around it. He tore out the sheet of paper. He kissed my cheek and went back to the den without saying anything further. Claire stood against the door jam, smiling. I caught her eye and winked. She went back to the kitchen.
Before bedtime, Andy asked me to look over his homework. I made a spelling correction, but the rest of it was good. I knelt beside him as he said his prayers. Andrew and Claire watched from the doorway. He got into bed and I tucked him in. I kissed his cheek.
"Sleep tight, Young Lad. See you in the morning."
"Goodnight mate. I love you."
Awww, I love that. Ten-year-olds do not lie about such things.
I went downstairs for a glass of warm milk before I settled in. Andrew came down shortly after me. He made a cup of tea for himself and for Claire, who came down a few minutes later.
The phone rang. It was almost twenty past nine o'clock. Andrew answered. He looked over at me as he talked. Uh oh. Surgery date. I contemplated my milk. Andrew looked sad. Claire and I reached for each other's hands.
"Okay. We'll see you tomorrow."
"Your latest brain scan showed four tumors."
I rinsed my milk glass out, put it in the dishwasher, and went upstairs. I got into bed, lay on my back, put my hands behind my head, and stared at the ceiling all night. I looked around inside my head. I knew where two of the tumors were because I had seen them in Atlanta. A third one was about six inches away, toward the back of my head. I could not find the fourth one. Unless the third one split in two like the first one.
At 4:00 a.m., Andy Jr. got out of his bed and came into my room. I had turned on my lamp because the dark was getting on my nerves. Andy lay beside me and went right back to sleep. I wrapped my arm around him and kissed his cheek. God love my Young Lad.
Claire got up at 5:30 as usual. She looked in on Andy but found him in my room. She came in to sit beside us. Andy did not get up until 6:30 so she let him be.
"You'll be okay," she said quietly.
I nodded my head. I carefully extracted myself from Andy, got out of bed, and pulled the blanket over him. Claire kissed his forehead. I put on my jeans and a t-shirt. I followed her downstairs. Andrew was right behind us. Andy came down about fifteen minutes later. He took Cheerios out of the pantry and poured some in his bowl, already set at the table. He watched me without saying anything, chewing and swallowing. He moved closer to me.
"I heard," he said. He was swinging his legs under the table.
Claire and Andrew both looked at him. I was not overly surprised. I often sat at the top of the stairs at home after bedtime. You learn a lot by listening, no matter how you listen.
"So what do you think," I asked him.
He looked up at his folks. I looked only at him.
"I dunno, mate."
He finished his cereal, put his bowl in the dishwasher, put the cereal away, and went upstairs to get dressed for school. I told Andrew and Claire about the oppressive darkness overnight, leading to why Andy was in my bed this morning.
"He's not going to worry. He just wants me to know I'm not alone."
"Agreed," said Claire. She was a healer of minds but first she was a mother. "His mind is working but he won't share until he's ready. His love of you is a beautiful thing."
"Andrew?" I asked, more for approval of how I dealt with Andy than anything.
"First of all, I agree with Claire. Andy loves you very deeply. As long as you're okay with him nearby, even overnight, Andy will be nearby."
"Good. I want him to be. You don't think I'm ... "
"Don't finish that thought," Claire said firmly.
I nodded. Of course I would never abuse Andy. Those who abuse kids should be shot in the head.
Claire went upstairs to shower and dress. Andrew had only me as his patient. I wanted to go to NIH with him anyway. He had samples to check on in his lab. I wanted to see his crew again. I showered in the kids' bathroom while Andrew got dressed. I packed my duffel with two changes of t-shirts and shorts. I half expected to be admitted sometime today. I left it in the backseat of Andrew's car for whenever.
Brian Felton, my neurologist, also wanted to see me. He would be involved in my surgery. He and Andrew put my scans up so that I could see the four tumors. I had been right; two tumors divided into four. This time there was no connective tissue between them. They looked like four small hamburger patties. I noted measurements. They were all between six and seven centimeters, about three inches in length.
"Why are they growing so evenly?" I asked.
"Constraints within your noggin," answered Brian. "Pressure, brain mass, etc."
"Double trouble this time," I said, unable to take my eyes off the tumors. "Ibuprofen is beginning to lose its effectiveness. The one here," I said, pointing to the double mass at the back of my head, "burns and throbs."
"It's pressing up against your skull, compressing the nerves. The original tumors have more space, but I'm sure they ache badly."
"Yeah, putting it mildly. Tomorrow? Monday?"
"Monday. We can't work on all four at the same time. We'd leave you ... "
" ... Dumber than a tree stump," I said, not totally in jest.
Andrew touched my shoulder. He knew the history of that phrase.
"No. Two. Like last time. This one," Brian said, pointing to the burning one, "and the first of these two. We'll wait a week like last time before he hit the other two."
"Cutting the bulk of the mass away and then lasering it. We'll have to go deeper this time. Andrew said you mentioned trying to get to the root of it. We thought we had last time, but obviously not."
"If I fall into a coma, let me go."
"Aaron," said Andrew.
"Give me back to Skip and Billy intact or not at all."
Neither Brian nor Andrew said anything.
"I'll sign the paperwork."
Silence. And much unhappiness. Reality really sucked sometimes, but I would not live half a life. Skip, Billy, and I had talked about it. We had all been in either medically induced or trauma-induced comas. We all said we would sign a no-resuscitate order. I was the first to do so, later in the day, in Andrew's office. The order was filed at NIH, transmitted to the rest of NIH, to Yale-New Haven, and onward to other hospitals if we moved. Andrew was my keeper. This was not a decision I wanted my brother to make because it would be emotional (and not in my best interests) versus medical.
"Come on, love. Enough of this. I'm sorry I showed you this."
"Can't fight the enemy if I don't know what it looks like," I said.
Being fearful of it does not make it better. Go boldly, remember?
We went into the oncology research labs. Amanda, as usual, was in DC because Andrew was. She loved Boston, but was glad to be closer to home again. Andrew and Claire had also sold their condo. They put a hefty share of that into Sam's Fund. The rest went into Louisa and Andy's college funds. Our apartment had been turned over to new residents within 10 days of us leaving. I sure missed that place.
We spent the whole morning with Andrew's crew and then went to lunch together. Claire took me home in time to meet Andy and Louisa coming off the bus. They each took my hand as we walked up the block and into the house. I gave Louisa a kiss on her cheek. She gave me sad eyes.
"Uh uh, Sweet Lass, you put those away. You're far too pretty to give me those kind of eyes."
Andy hugged his sister. "He's right, Louie. Daddy's gonna make it right."
"Okay," she said, trying to smile.
"Go change you two. We'll play soccer out back."
Louisa put her arm across Andy's shoulder. She had told Andy that he was her hero for staying with me last time. They did not always get along, of course. Siblings have rivalries, real or imagined. Their fights were minor compared to most. Neither had seen adversity until I came along. I was not going to let either of them feel my pain for long. They both believed in Daddy and his team.
"Uh, Mom, come and kick some Aaron boy-butt," I said, giving her a cheesy grin.
"Smart guy, but that will be a pleasure."
Andy and I set up the goals at opposite sides of the yard. We ran around in the leaves, warming up a bit. Guys against the girls naturally. I knew Louisa was a very good athlete. I had seen her out back practicing field hockey with a few friends. Andy was just naturally good, loving soccer as much as basketball.
As quickly as I could, I took the ball and ran the long way around the yard. Andy knew what to do. He got near the goal and I kicked it to him. He shot for the goal but Claire surprised us by end-running around me and taking control of the ball. 'Way to go, Mom' I said to myself. We gave chase but she was not somebody's kindly old schoolmarm mom. Andy immediately took the ball and ran the entire width of the yard. SCORE! Cute and quick ... my type of athlete.
We kept it up but the girls somehow pulled ahead of us. Claire was amazing and I was quickly learning not to be easy on her.
"Who's winning?" asked Andrew from the deck.
"We are we are," chimed the girls. "Four to two."
"Well that's not gonna happen!" he said.
Andrew came back out a couple minutes later, having changed into his trainers. He joined us as Andy and I ran with the ball. I passed it to him and he passed it to Andy, who scored quickly.
"Uh oh, no nookie for you," I said to Andrew.
"Got that right," said Claire. "How about adults vs. kids?"
"Okay," I said, bringing Andy and Louisa to my side.
"Shoulda known," said Andrew.
"Since when am I an adult?" I asked. "Gotta love me!"
I knocked the ball out of Andrew's hand and shot it to Louisa, who was already half-way across the yard. She and Andy kicked it in together.
"One! It's dinner time," said Louisa. "We're done. So is Aaron," she said, nodding her head to me.
I was bent over, hands on my thighs. My head was pounding.
"Just out of breath," I said, which was half true. I forgot about my eyes.
"Liar," said Andy, coming over to take my arm. "In the house old man!"
I had to smile. "I are a kid!"
"Yeah yeah, tomorrow. March!"
Oy. He put my arm across his shoulder. Louisa stepped in on my other side. I tripped on the first step and went down on one knee. Claire steadied me from the back. The kids sat me at the breakfast table beside the window. Andrew got the ibuprofen, which was out of reach of the kids. I took a glass of water from Andy and took the two caplets.
Claire gave the beef stew in the Crockpot a stir. Andrew gave me a serrated knife and a fresh loaf of bread on a breadboard. I sliced off a half dozen pieces closer to the stew being done. The kids set the table in the dining area. After dinner, Andrew and I cleaned up. No homework tonight since it was Friday, but the kids would do a bit tomorrow and finish it off on Sunday. They both had made the Honor Roll last term. Bright just right, with some nice friendships to round them out. I apparently was off in my own little world, watching them. Claire touched my hand.
"I'm not that sad," I told her. "How could I be with two to love?"
"It doesn't mean you wish things were different."
"Counselor or friend?"
"You tell me," she said.
"More friend than counselor, but counselor too."
She smiled. She could be both as needed. I did not ever believe I know all.
"I still think I'm going to find a son," I said.
"Do you want to?"
I said no more. I decided to take my book and sit in the den. Harry Potter was fighting his own demons in the bowels of Hogwarts. I cheered him on as he cheered me up. With Claire's permission, I gave the first Harry Potter story to Andy. He was totally engaged in the story, wanting more. We three adults (well, I could be one if I put my mind to it), would buy the set to date for the kids and add to it.
I dozed off until Andy came to kiss me goodnight. He and Louisa could stay up an hour later on Friday and Saturday nights assuming chores were done and homework was kept up.
"You ready for bed, mate?"
"I guess I am."
"Sleep in my room?"
"Sure Young Lad. "
He took a bath and then we said our prayers together. I took a shower and then climbed into the spare bed. Andy was already asleep. I read a little more by soft lamp light. Otherwise, my mind would run away again. Later, I felt my book being taken off my chest and a kiss upon my forehead. Whoever tucked me in, sure did love me.
The weekend went by in a blur, with much to do. On Sunday night, I made sure my duffel in Andrew's backseat had all I needed. He got me admitted at 7:00 that evening, twelve hours before surgery. Andy and Louisa had hugged me at home after dinner.
"I love you so much, mate. I guess we can't see you for a few days."
"Come in for a few minutes anyway if Mum or Daddy can bring you. I'll know you're there."
I wiped a tear off each little cheek and kissed his forehead. I gave each a hug.
Back at home, Skip felt me fall into the blackness on Monday morning. He and his dad held on.
At the ten-hour mark, team two stepped in to continue the long days' journey.
A little hand wiggled its way into mine. He lay beside me and hugged me for a few minutes and then whispered into my ear. Later on, an adult hand touched my chest. He or she kissed my forehead. The darkness was stunning.
I was alone when I opened one eye. My other one seemed to be stuck closed. I looked around. There was daylight, but I could not tell which variety, a.m. or p.m. I lay quietly for a while. My closed eye would not unstick. Sigh.
I heard my door open a little more. Donna, my nurse? Andrew? Claire? Oh my, my bestest bud Jason, half of him anyway.
He kicked off his sneakers and got onto my bed with me. He covered me in kisses, looking so sad.
"What ... " I started to say.
I choked. My throat was so sore. Cough. Cough.
He held me up, putting my neck against his shoulder. He took an ice cube piece and dropped it into my mouth. He kissed my cheek.
"Why so sad," I said finally.
"Squeeze my hand."
"No, you didn't."
I frowned. I squeezed again. Yes?
"Your right eye isn't working, right? You were trying to squeeze my hand with your right hand."
"Damage from surgery?"
"Maybe. By the way, today is Friday."
"Not okay. You missed five days."
"Aaron, I'm sad for you. Let me be."
"No. I knew what I was getting into."
"But ... "
"Put a sock in it. Love me."
"I do love you, bro. I need ... "
I reached up and kissed him to shut him up. I gave him eyes and he finally wrapped himself around me.
"Took you long enough," I said, not altogether sarcastically.
"You've been through so much. How can you be so up all the time?"
"Well, your leg, for one thing."
He laughed aloud. He did what Jason always did-moved it closer. I was still trying to embarrass him. I have a proven track record .. of failure.
"Well at least your dick AND your sense of humor is intact."
"Five days plus three more. Hint hint."
He did not joke or blush or anything else except push my gym shorts down. He wrapped his hand around my dick and took care of me just right. I licked up the last of my load and he pulled my shorts back up. He kissed me sweetly and held me again.
"Rest love. I'm here. I'm not going anywhere."
"But ... "
"I'm not going anywhere."
I know, I know. Annie understood. God bless her anyway. And my bud, too. I did not ask if he loved me. I knew. When I stirred in the middle of the night, he whispered to me.
"Mi mejor brote. Te amo tanto. Sueño, bro."
I slept again. I sure knew how to pick 'em. Twenty-two years and seven years. All three very equal in my heart. No one loved me better than any other because being loved is as good as it gets.
Andrew took over for Jason on Sunday night. Jason, as he promised me, would go back to work. Whether or not he would fret over my next surgery was yet to be seen. I asked him not to. Jason had a mind of his own, politely asked or not. I already knew about waiting for a bud to get through surgery. It was both a blessing and a curse.
I was back in surgery by 7:00 a.m. on Monday. The fate of my right eye and arm was unknown, but they had not recovered. We could not wait another week before continuing the attack. Missing eyesight or use of an arm was so minor compared to missing my life. Sigh. Reality really does suck.
"Hello my Aaron," came the sweetest words of the month.
He kissed me deeply. I opened my eyes to see the greatest love of my life. He was wrapped around me, holding tightly, bringing me out of the darkness. I still could not see well, nor could I fully return his hug. I returned his kiss and then turned my head. I kissed my other very sweet boy. He smiled.
"How did you know I was here?"
I leaned over him and kissed yet another sweet prince. He was holding on to Billy.
"Well, at least I know I'm not dead. But I could be dreaming."
"Is this a dream?" said Jason as he kissed me back.
"Dunno. My dreams are often very vivid."
"Well, let's bring you up to speed then. It's Friday morning." Billy stopped.
"Nothing surprises me anymore, love. I can't see out of my right eye though. Same as last week. My arm is dead too."
"For now," came another voice, followed by a kiss on my forehead. "We'll work on that."
I looked up at Andrew. "More please," I said.
He kissed my lips this time.
"Despite what we've done to you, love, your senses are intact, excepting the vision and nerve issues. Knowing who Skip, Billy, Jason, and I are is far above what any of us expected this time."
He stepped back. Claire stepped in and kissed me nicely.
"This is the highlight of my month, love," she said, putting her hands on my boys. "You do know that almost no one else gets away with this?"
"Room for one more?" said a little voice, coming from the end of my bed.
"Oh Young Lad, don't ever ask that. Come on. I'm sooo starved for affection."
Andy giggled as I put my arm around him. He kissed me on my cheek. My starvation took a different turn as my tummy growled.
"As much as I'm loving this, I'm really hungry. Food? Pretty please?"
"Okay. Light fare though," said Andrew.
"Half a tuna salad. Fruit cup. Milk of course."
"Good choices. We'll be back in a while. Don't leave, okay?"
"Speaking of that, when can I?"
"So this is your sweet Young Lad," said Billy. "You have indeed been in good hands."
"You should know something, mate," said Andy. He gave me sad eyes.
"Come on Andy, you know how I feel about sad eyes."
"I know. Can I tell him guys?"
"Of course," said Skip.
"It's the Friday after Thanksgiving. Daddy ... "
"Sshhhh my friend. I don't care about date and time. Look at the job that had to be done. Look around. How can I possibly be unhappy?"
"Two months for all I know. No, love, I don't care. You've been with me, right?"
"And you know I'm in love with Skip and Billy."
"Yeah. I'm glad for that. They're really nice. But I'm sorry for ... "
"Not necessary. Skip doesn't care, so you shouldn't either."
"But I do."
"We'll change ... that Andy. I can move my ... arms enough to do this," said Skip.
He put two arms around Andy and drew him close. Skip kissed Andy's forehead.
"You took care of my ... best friend. You helped Jason too. I don't need ... my legs to love ... our mate."
Andy looked at Skip very thoughtfully. He obviously had something on his mind.
"Yes, Andy. We can still ... make love."
Andy smiled. "Good. Aaron needs so much."
"How do you feel ... about him?"
"Almost like you do."
"Tell him," Skip said.
"I love you mate. Not like ... "
"Uh uh," said Billy.
"Okay. Almost as good as your mates."
"I love you too, Young Lad. You're very special."
"You can't argue that," said Billy. "We know better. You did what we would have done when Aaron was sad the first time he came. You wouldn't let him go. That takes a lot of guts."
"Maybe. But I don't think so. I just knew what Aaron needed."
"And what do I ... need?" asked Skip.
Andy did not think for a moment. He put his arms around Skip.
"Yeah. Just right."
"Got another one inside of you?" asked Billy.
Andy got up on his knees. He made a joke by shaking his arms, working a hug out of them. He threw himself at Billy, who had gotten out of our bed. He hugged Billy while wrapping his legs around Billy's hips. He kissed Billy on his cheek. Billy kissed him back. Billy held Andy as tightly, swinging him around. He set him down beside Jason. Both boys reached for each other. Andy also kissed Jason on his cheek. This was indeed one very fine kid.
"Come on bro, let's go for a walk and leave Skip and Aaron alone. They got catching up to do."
"Okay. We'll go find Daddy."
Andrew came in a few minutes later, put my food on my bedside tray, moved it over us, and left. He had brought a whole sandwich. I fed half of it to Skip.
"It's not turkey with the trimmings, but it'll do," I said.
Skip accepted some of my milk. I kissed away his milk moustache. He smiled at me.
"I've missed you so much ... love. Not reading you was ... awful. Like being ... in space."
"You're here now. Am I okay?"
"Not what I mean."
"We don't know yet. To me, you're perfect."
"Maybe so, but I don't lie."
"Let me count ... the ways."
He kissed my eyes.
"Wow, that's a lot."
"I know. I can't ... count that high ... unless it's for you."
"How have you been?"
"Nuh uh. I'm not here to talk ... about me."
"Inquiring minds and all that," I said.
"Nope. Kiss me."
I did. For a long time. When no one else came back, I helped him out of his t-shirt and jeans. I put the sheet and blanket over both of us, and held him. I tucked him into my neck. He kissed me just before he fell asleep. I would not care if I did not wake up in the morning. Tonight was so special.
Well, I did wake up in the morning. Donna was smiling down on us.
"See why I ... love him?" asked Skip.
"I do. You are meant to be. So beautiful."
"We are," I said. "Meant to be, I mean. He's beautiful in every way possible. Me, not so much."
"Says you," said Donna. "I'm a woman. I *know* beautiful."
I started to protest but Skip kissed me. "Never argue with ... a woman. WE are beautiful."
"Okay. Um, can we get into the bathtub? Both of us?"
"Let me call Andrew. He's on campus this morning. I'd say yes, but I know you can't carry Skip yet."
"Crap. I forgot."
I looked at Skip, sad for that fact above all others.
"None of that," he said to me.
"He'll be over soon. I have a breakfast tray for two outside."
"We're ready," said Skip.
Donna brought in our tray. Cereal, blueberries, milk, OJ, and a corn muffin. Nice. She helped both of us sit upright. My left arm was okay, so I showed her I could feed Skip too. She watched me for a minute to be sure and then cut our muffin in two.
"Andrew should be in soon. Ring if you need me in the meantime."
I fed Skip and me at the same time, like I had done in Atlanta. He moved his arm and took part of the muffin. He broke the half into half again and fed it to me. He took the other half for himself.
"Look at us, love. To-gether we make a whole."
"I guess this is what 'you complete me' means."
I gave Skip some of his OJ. Donna had given us two cartons, but we shared everything. When we were done, we finished off the milk together. Andrew came in just as we finished. He kissed us both good morning.
"You sure you want to try a bath?"
"Yeah. But I don't know about you getting us ready."
"Now stop. I have no problem with helping you both."
"No offense. It's just ... "
He went to draw our bath and then came back. He had closed the door to our room. He got both of us naked. I blushed forty shades of red.
"Aaron, I do know why you want a bath. You really have to trust me."
I looked at him. "This is asking a lot, Andrew."
"No, it's not. Who goes into the tub first?"
"Not this time. You first," said Skip. "Something new."
Andrew proved that it was not asking a lot. He put me on the toilet so I could pee. He checked the water and then lifted me up again, setting me down in the just right water. He went back to Skip. He too set Skip on the toilet. Skip had to do more than pee. When he was done, Andrew wiped Skip's butt as if he had done it from day one. He filled the sink, got a soapy washcloth, and washed Skip's butt as well. Andrew whispered in Skip's ear. Skip nodded. I looked on, speechless, as he prepped Skip for me. Andrew looked over at me. A tear ran down my cheek. Above and beyond. Just an incredibly thoughtful man as I had ever met. He took Skip up in his arms again. He brought Skip to me, set Skip on his knees, held him, and waited for me to be fully hard again. I nodded. He helped ease Skip onto my dick while I held it up.
"It's in," Skip said to Andrew. "Thanks for understanding."
"How's your balance?"
"Shaky because I can't feel my legs. Aaron can't hold me like we're used to."
We both looked at each other. Skip said yes. Andrew held Skip across his back.
"Trust me, love, this is not awkward in the least," Andrew said to me.
I nodded. I began moving my hips up and down. I should have lost my erection but this was so different. Who does this for two lovers? Obviously, Andrew does. I took Skip's very hard cock in my fist. He fucked my fist in rhythm to me fucking him. After a few minutes, it did not feel awkward to me either. I reached up to kiss Skip deeply. Andrew held on. From what I could see, he had no bulge in his jeans. I would not have blamed him if he had. This truly was very sensual and very sexual.
We took our time as if we were alone. Skip focused on me, even with Andrew holding him. Andrew, not unkindly, was an ends to a means. He accepted his role with great dignity. He allowed Skip to kiss him. I wanted to do the same, but I would not ask. Andrew leaned in anyway.
"Thank you. I'm really in awe of you."
"And I for you both. This is a consequence of you wanting me to feel profoundly. You're wrong if you think this is sexual. This, my mates, is so touching. You honor me beyond measure."
"Wiping Skip's butt? Getting him ready? That's just way more than I'd be comfortable in asking."
"All for love. And still far less than you would do."
I could argue, but I chose not to.
"I'm getting close," I said to both.
Andrew held Skip more firmly. I unloaded into him as he shot into the water. Andrew held on with two arms now as Skip's orgasm took over. Skip put his face into Andrew's neck and cried out.
When we started coming down from this intense high, Andrew ran warm water for us again. He took a clean washcloth and washed Skip's face, neck, and back. He then took Skip and set him sideways in the tub, up against the wall. He wrapped Skip's legs Indian-style, allowing him to sit and balance properly. He rinsed Skip's hair with the shower spray, applied shampoo, and washed Skip's hair just the way I do. He did not get shampoo in Skip's eyes. Skip tilted his head back and Andrew put his hand above Skip's eyes as he carefully rinsed out the shampoo. He then continued to bathe Skip as I am sure he had bathed his own children when they were infants. He washed Skip's shoulders, arms, hands, chest, groin, legs, and feet. Then he turned to me.
My head, of course, was still bald and still bandaged. Andrew removed the bandage, but stopped half way when he realized that Skip had not seen my wound.
"S'okay Andrew. I saw it in October, remember? I know it's worse now, but more for Aaron than me."
Andrew continued. He took the washcloth and held it against the dried blood and dead skin. When it was moist enough, he carefully washed thoroughly around my wound. Skip watched, fascinated with the caring that Andrew was giving me. Compared to what he had just done for us both, this was not so amazing. Andrew did, however, bring himself closer into both our hearts than ever before. He washed the rest of my head, face, and neck. I started to help him because I could move my one arm.
"Let me finish. Please?"
"If you're okay."
I sat upright as he washed my back. He came around to my shoulders, arms, chest, belly, groin, legs, and feet. He opened the drain lever to let the water out. He took Skip out first and again set him on the toilet seat. He toweled him dry.
"Sit tight, Aaron. I'm going to get his t-shirt and boxers on. I'll be back for you."
I watched as Andrew put antiperspirant under each of Skip's arms and put his t-shirt on him. He went back into Skip's duffel bag for boxer briefs.
"Jeans?" he asked Skip. "Or sweats?"
"Jeans, but bring our bud back out first."
Andrew toweled me off as well and then sat me on the bed. He helped me into my boxer briefs.
"I want to see how your whole right side is, love. Can you hear from your right ear?"
"Not as much as usual. Was any of this expected?"
"Nerve damage slash tissue damage is always expected. We'll bide our time and see how you heal."
I nodded as he tested how much strength existed in my right arm. Some, but not much. Right leg was weak. He helped me stand up but had to hold on. My leg would not support my weight yet.
"Are you stuck with me for a while?"
Sigh. "Am I a visitor at home for a while?"
"Yes, you are. Billy is going back to school on Sunday. He'll have finals to get ready for soon. Skip and you will be family. Claire and I, and the kids of course, would like you to stay for the holidays. I know you'd rather be home."
"I'd rather be where I'm taken care of properly. It's no secret I can't take care of myself, let alone Skip."
"Canada? Your tradition?"
"The tradition is WINTER in Canada, not just Christmas. Our friends will welcome us whenever we can go."
"What Aaron said ... Andrew."
"In that case, Claire and I will bring Aaron home on Monday. I'm sorry that it's a week later than planned."
"I'm not. So fill me in," I said.
"The surgical team did get to the root of the tumors. It's why your partially paralyzed. They touched very little healthy brain tissue. The tumors are gone and we're certain they won't be back. That's not to say ... "
"Sshhhh. I know."
"You had nearly 30 hours of surgery all told."
"It was a long time ... without you, love," said Skip.
"I'm sorry for that too," said Andrew. "I envy you both that you can read him, Skip. What do you feel, seriously?"
"All of him," said Skip.
"Aww crud," I said.
"Nah. I was afraid ... that I wouldn't. Why do you think ... we came to you?"
He wanted an honest answer, not a smart-ass one.
"Because you thought I might die."
He merely nodded.
Andrew finished dressing Skip. He set him in his wheelchair. He finished dressing me as well. He took a non-sporty wheelchair out of the closet and opened it up, sitting me in it. Skip went ahead, leading the way.
"May we go outside?" Skip asked.
"There's a small amount of ice unless the grounds crew has taken care of it by now. We had a light snow overnight."
"Can you spend time with us? Or are you busy?"
"Too busy for you? No, and I never will be. Seriously, you have to ask?"
"I'll go back for your jackets."
He went to get his as well and then met us outside. The air was crisp and nice. I saw a familiar figure on a curved path. I told Andrew. He knew about the leaf pile incident with Mark and me. Skip wanted to meet this elder man.
"Hello young man. I heard you were back. I'm sorry for that."
"You know Andrew I trust?" I said.
"Then you know I'm okay."
"Not yet. But I'll keep you close in my heart."
"No worries. Uh, I never did ask your name last time."
"I'm Eddie. It's nice to see you again, Aaron, despite the reason."
"Same for me, Eddie. Meet Skip. We're mates."
"A sadder story yet. Hello Skip."
Eddie got down on one knee, taking Skip's shoulder in his large hand.
"No sad stories here ... Eddie. If you can accept that I'm ... Aaron's mate without flinching ... you can understand why."
"I accept a lot of things, son. I have no problems with how people love, as long as they do it sincerely."
"Thanks for that. Our friend who ... you met early last month ... is my physical therapist in ... Atlanta."
"I went home that day and told my wife about you two," he said addressing me. "We had the best laugh in months. Aaron, will you promise me one thing?"
"Get well again. This young man needs you for a special reason."
He stood, came over to me, and got back on his knee.
"Will you do that?"
"I will, Eddie. It's a good promise to make. Can we write to you when we're home again?"
"Yes, we'd love that. Bless you both."
He wrote out his address for us.
"Andrew? Let me know, huh?"
"Sure thing, Eddie. Best to Abby."
Eddie got up to go back to work. Andrew walked around the NIH campus with us, spending as much time with us outside as we wanted. I thrive in the cold, so that was a lot to ask of Andrew. Then I remembered he and Claire are from the UK. He had not grown up basking in sunshine and the tropics.
When we finally went in for lunch, we were chilled enough to want hot soup. Andrew stood with us at the deli counter. We had the choice of chowders. Andrew got us both a bowl of chicken corn chowder and a bowl of minestrone for himself. We waited off to the side while he went to check out. He also brought two slices of Dutch apple pie with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. I fed Skip after he got too tired to lift his arm.
"Is there a gym on the premises?" I asked.
"Across the campus. I'll call over and see if a therapist can work out with you both."
"Sweet," said Skip.
Within a half hour, we met up with Brian, my neurologist. I introduced him to Skip.
"My staff therapist has the day off, but I can work out with you. How do you feel about me starting you off, and then you both helping each other?"
"Just right," I said. "Almost like we're back in Atlanta, minus Mark and Deb."
Brian put me through my paces first since he knew Skip needed 'maintenance PT'.
"We were going to start on Monday anyway. It'll be nice to have a clear idea ahead of time what you need."
"Only one thing-strong enough to go home."
"Did Andrew ask you about staying?"
"Yeah. Through the holidays. Okay by us."
"We don't want to rush this just for the sake of getting you home. I know you'll have been away for over six months, but I know it's very important for you to tend to Skip."
"As important as it gets. He accepts his fate better than me, even now. It'll be easier for me to accept it too if I can give him anything he needs."
"So is this nerve damage?"
"Maybe half. Like Skip, and with your Muscular Dystrophy, the signals coming from your brain die along the way. Some of them will heal because yours are not from gross trauma. That's true only for your eye and your arm. What's done is done as far as your legs are concerned."
"Except for the new weakness?"
"Unknown. I hope we can fix that too, but the MD really is against you."
"Okay. I can live with that."
Brian took me through a half hour of tests, including another EMG and nerve conduction series. I understood every occasional scowl on his face. I had also lost a little ground with my left arm, but percentage-wise, it was only a small loss. MD is degenerative and there is little to be done. I would be happy enough being like I was before the brain tumors. I know Brian would do everything he could, and then a little more. This is what defines dedicated people. Andrew is the only exception-he defines himself. Dedicated does not come close to what the man is.
After Brian worked the numbers from my tests, he started with my right arm. I felt my shoulder (deltoid) muscle flex and then pop. Brian felt it too.
"Ouch," he said. "Did that hurt?"
"No, more like it reset itself. Feels like it did before."
"Can you rotate your arm?"
He put it flat in his hands, my palm facing down. This is the same motion Deb and Mark had Skip do. They placed his arm at his side, palm down. He was to rotate a quarter turn so his wrist was down, his palm facing toward his leg. I felt the muscles contract but I could not move much. A quarter turn was nothing, until you could not do it. It made me appreciate Skip's struggles all over again.
I looked at him. He showed me the motion. I put my concentration on my arm. It took a few minutes, but I finally made the movement.
"Yeah!" said Skip. "Do it again."
The therapist's mantra. Also, the little kid's mantra, accompanied by giggling.
My hand dropped back to its original position on its own accord. I once again made the movement. Brian set my arm on my leg. It felt like it weighed a ton.
"Move me closer?" asked Skip.
Brian brought Skip to my side. Skip reached forward for my hand. He wrapped my hand in his and then raised it up, pulling it forward toward him. I made it as far as his side, above his waist. He put his arm on my side as well. This was stage one of hugging again. I smiled at him. He leaned in and kissed me.
"Nice, guys. A taste of Atlanta?"
"Yeah," said Skip.
We worked for another hour, alternating between Skip and me. Andrew came in to see how we were doing.
"Restless," I said.
"Wow, shocker," he said with a sly smile.
"No offense to Brian, of course. Learning stuff all over again gets tedious. And stinks besides that."
"I know love," said Andrew. "Those crappy memories from your past should be gone for good."
"Yeah, well ... "
Brian and Andrew helped us into our jackets. We took our time getting back to my room. Our caregivers put both of us back in my bed, helping us to hold on to each other. We fell into a nap a short while later. Daylight was fading when I opened my eye. Skip was again watching me sleep.
"Hi love," he said.
He leaned in to kiss me. As much as he could, he moved my hand so it rested on his heart.
"Did you sleep?" I asked.
"A half hour maybe. You slept ... another half hour."
We lay together, not talking much. It was enough to be together. Donna came in with our dinner tray around 5:30. She raised the head of our bed and made sure I was okay to feed us both. While she watched us, she smiled sweetly.
"You two. Impressive comes to mind first, but it's not enough."
"Is it so easy to accept two g ... "
"Don't ask that. Come on, Aaron, you two are the sweetest couple I've ever known. The hell you've seen separately and together makes my head spin. But here you are, taking care of each other. Gay is not what you are. Love incarnate is what you BOTH are. Amanti nell'amore." [Lovers in love.]
"Insieme per sempre," said Skip.
"Forever is a long time," Donna said.
"Not long enough," said Skip without thinking about it.
"I'll leave you alone. Ring if you need anything at all."
I fed Skip a piece of flounder and took one for me. Mashed potato was next, and then a few pieces of green beans with almonds in a light honey sauce. We ordered dinner each morning. I looked at the breakfast choices for tomorrow. We chose pancakes, blueberry syrup, bacon, and milk. I asked Donna if she could write down a whole orange, sliced up. She did.
"Yeah. Sorry, I forgot."
"Want some now as well?"
"Yes, thanks," said Skip.
Donna brought us a large mug of tea. Two cups would just be silly.
I added a packet of sugar and a bit of milk. I took the first sip to make sure it was not too hot.
"Needs another minute."
Skip turned his head to watch me.
"Uh ... "
"Sshhhh. I just like ... looking at you."
I turned on my side, pulling him to me.
"The tea will get cold," he said.
I picked it up, gave him a sip, and took one as well. I held it in my hand. When we drank it all, I put the mug on my bedside tray and then reached for Skip. We kissed and snuggled for a while.
"Can you undress ... us?" he asked.
I managed to strip us down to boxer briefs. He was not hard. Neither was I.
"Nah. This morning was ... beautiful enough."
"I still can't get over what Andrew did for us."
"I can. He always has something ... up his sleeve. Him holding me ... while I came was so nice."
"That was intense. I'm not going to forget that."
"Me either. I'll be ... glad when we can leave here."
"Yeah. Being at their home will be ... cool. Are you bummed?"
"No. Not about anything. Home is where you are, and their home is as good as ours."
"Yeah. You need to ring for ... Donna. You're in pain."
He was right. Donna came in a couple minutes later with ibuprofen and water.
"Skip's rubbing off on you," I told her.
"Maybe, but your eyes always tell on you. I waited to see if the tea would help."
"It helped make us sleepy. We're ready to be tucked in."
She did so, and also kissed us both on our cheeks. She put the bed rails up. She flipped the night light on and closed our door. I knew Donna was a good mom. She had two more kids to care for, in addition to her own. This would be our last night on campus.
Andrew had said we could come home on Monday, but he came to get us on Sunday morning. Andy packed our duffels for us. He knew Skip's clothing because it was all BC gear.
"You're eager to bring us home Young Lad."
"I am. Daddy surprised you, huh?"
"He always does," I said, winking at Andrew.
Andrew set Skip into his wheelchair. Andy helped me into mine and then set my feet on the rests.
"May I push you out, mate?"
He made sure my hands were in my lap comfortably.
"Okay?" Andy asked.
"Just right. Home mate."
Andrew took our duffels while Skip led the way out. We stopped to give our hugs to Donna.
"I'll miss you boys, but don't come back so soon Aaron. Come and see me on your annual neurology visit."
"Count on that. Thank you so much for taking such good care of us."
When we got to Andrew's borrowed SUV, we found Eddie waiting for us.
"Please tell me you don't work on Sunday, Eddie."
"No young man, I don't. I came to see you off."
"Once again, we're half-way home Eddie."
"I'm glad for you both. Come and visit me. My crew and I will take you boys on a complete tour of the grounds."
"Better yet, on the first snowy day, we'll come and make snowmen. I find it tough to stay an adult all year."
"Done deal, son. "
Eddie shook our hands and patted Skip on his shoulder. I know he felt sad for Skip. Skip gave him a practiced thumbs up. It made our elder friend smile.
Half-way home. Nice, but home would be better.
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