Skip - Part 53
When the air turned colder, we all picked up the dinner dishes and brought them inside. Fred rinsed everything and put it in the dishwasher. We went to the den in the basement and surfed the four major cable movie channels. We all agreed upon "The Legend of Bagger Vance" a Will Smith/Matt Damon pic.
Later that evening, at home, we three showered together, needing only a light wash. As promised, I carried Skip up to Patrick's room for tonight. I tucked Patrick into his side of the bed, and then kissed them both. He took my hand for a moment and then looked up into my eyes.
Before he let me leave he said "Tell me about Vincent? Please?"
Patrick's request took me by surprise.
"What about Vincent? You know I made love to him."
"Yeah. How ... how was it? His ... his death?"
I looked at the comforter beside me. I couldn't even look at Skip.
"I know it's hard, Aaron. I knew him long enough to care about him. What did you feel? From when the call came in."
"I don't think I can do this."
He waited. I had no faith that I could give him the peace that he wanted. He wanted to know how to die, when (never IF) his time came. I looked at Skip. He looked at me, no sign of help for me on his face.
"How do you feel when you're station gets sent out?"
"A lot of it is automatic reflex," I said, "because of training. We can't feel panic every time there's a fire or an accident."
"Arriving at an accident scene must be different than arriving at a fire."
"Only because it's a different set of duties to do. First thing is to account for everyone involved in an accident and find out their status."
"If they're alive?"
"Keep 'em that way."
"Sometimes you can't," he said quietly.
He sat up and pulled me into his arms. He turned me around, putting my back against his chest. He took off my shirt. Skip slid his left hand into my right hand. I knew he felt my emotions. Patrick put his hand over my heart. He knew he was upsetting me, but his need was bigger than mine. He kissed the side of my head. Skip held my hand tighter. He could bear it okay. Patrick wanted me to tell him about that night. He would not settle for a watered down version. A tear rolled down my cheek.
"When we got to the scene, we saw the two cars t-boned. I didn't recognize Paul's car. I don't know why. Not important enough of a detail at the time maybe. I saw Vincent right away. My first thought was that he had died a few minutes ago, as the cars came together. My crewmate, Dillon, said he had a pulse. He saw my face go to ghost. It took two firefighters a few minutes to get his door open after the cars were separated.
"I don't know anything about the person who hit the boy's car-gender, age, injuries ... anything, except that he or she survived. A policeman friend said it looked like black ice caused the crash, not speed. The speedometer of the other car was locked at 26 miles per hour, less than the speed limit. Both cars hit each other, quite forcefully. Paul's car slid around in an arc. The other car hit Paul's bumper and spun it toward the on-coming car, not away."
I paused. I know that Patrick didn't want the science of the crash. He wanted the humanity of it.
"We got him out of the car after putting him a backboard and collar. He opened his eyes and saw me. I got the feeling later, back at the station, that I was the last person he wanted to see. He was in pain so I started an IV flow to ease that. His face calmed."
"How come ... " he started to say, his voice cracking. "How come his injuries ... ?"
"Part of Paul's car. Part of the frame broke and hit Vincent in the chest. Probably both in motion, despite Vincent's seatbelt.
Patrick wrapped both arms around me this time, letting go of Skip. I couldn't see their faces and didn't want to. Skip could see only part of mine. I moved my hand in his, interlocking our fingers.
"When I opened his jacket, I knew immediately why his face showed such terrible pain. The trauma in his chest was extreme. The metal frame had pierced his skin, near his heart."
My throat went so tight that I felt paralyzed. The hardest part wasn't nearly over. I had to take my fears off myself and merge them with Patrick's fears. I could not be unfeeling because I was a man with great feelings. My friend wanted to know about life, and life after.
"Dillon and I worked on Vincent's chest. I wanted to know the condition of his heart. I leaned in and told Vincent that I was going to do my best, asking him to be strong. He nodded. Dillon ventilated Vincent, keeping him calm and breathing. His blood pressure bottomed out so I had to stop my exploration and get it right again. I don't remember, but I think I kissed him on his cheek. His eyes were closed and I wanted him to know we were there. Dillon wasn't into giving up, and he finally got that Vincent was a friend. I told him Vincent was more than a friend, between a brother and a lover. Dillon did not judge me. He had seen my heart on our EMS runs before.
"I could see V's heart. I could see it working. I also saw a gash that made me swallow and then choke. When I caught my breath, I pointed it out to Dillon. It was bleeding. We really had to get him stable so we could move him, but he was anything but stable. I walked a fine line that night, Patrick, honest to God. Friend and love of my heart. I had made love to him and he made love to me. You know the story by now."
I was staring at the ceiling, focused, reliving that night, for the millionth time seeing what I was doing and finding out what I didn't do right. My training did not cover saving the life of a young man I loved so dearly.
"I tried hard to treat Vincent like I would treat anyone. No panic. I had a lot of skills and I could do a lot of things. I couldn't keep him breathing, but Dillon could. He cut a trach hole in V's throat. We could do that easily. The pain level of that was low. It was more beneficial than painful. Vincent wasn't feeling much anyway, good or bad. Being able to breathe took away any panic left in him. He didn't fight us. It was easier to let us work.
"I heard two ambulances pull away. Paul was in one of them. I didn't know until later what was really going through his mind. All he wanted was his bud to be okay.
"It looked like he would be okay, but not without a fight. I heard another ambulance pull in. At the point that I thought he was stable, he flat lined. We couldn't defibrillate him because of the tear. I massaged his heart with my fingers. It pumped on its own for a few beats and then stopped again. Nothing would have helped. The tear in his heart ... "
I choked up again. "I couldn't do anything for him. I lay down and hugged him, whispering into his ear, making sure that he knew he was loved forever and that we'd walk in the world for him. I kissed his lips ... and said goodbye."
Patrick held me closer. Skip had been working his way closer to hold me. He finally did.
"I love you ... Aaron. You're ... a strong man."
"I went to the ambulance and took out a stretcher. Dillon helped me but I told him to leave me with Vincent. He understood. I picked V up and put him on the stretcher. I folded his arms onto his chest and held them. I kissed his forehead and told him I loved him. He knew without me telling him. I was part of him like I'm part of you. He still lives inside of me too, like you always will."
He nodded. His eyes were sad.
"Come downstairs and sleep with us, love. If you have a bad dream, both of us should be with you."
"No. Skip and I will be okay. You told me the truth, Aaron. It's slightly better than I imagined. I'm not afraid because V wasn't. What fear I have of dying is tempered. Love me anyway?"
"I do. Love? Are you okay?"
"Not yet," Skip said. "You don't want to ... sleep alone, do you?"
"Yeah. I'm okay. I'll sleep. Come wake me up in the morning. Skip will need to pee when you wake up."
"Me too, so I'll remember."
I kissed them both softly on their lips. Patrick started to speak. I knew he was going to tell me he was sorry for needing to hear. "Sshhhh my bro. Hold Skip tight." He nodded. I pulled the covers over them and turned off the light. I sat on the stairs, out of sight, until I heard their breathing tell me they were asleep.
I put my socks, sneakers, and a shirt on, and then put on my windbreaker. I took a slice of bread and wrapped it in a napkin. I locked the door as I stepped out into the quiet night. I turned left and walked past the next set of buildings in our condo development. I walked for five minutes out to the pond that was part of our property and sat down. A duck swam over near me, gliding back and forth.
"You left out something," he said to me, quietly.
"I know. No one needs to know."
"I love you, Aaron. Just like you love me."
I sat alone and cried, hugging my knees to my chest. The duck climbed out of the water and sat down beside me. She often does. I gave her the slice of bread in small pieces. She waited until I had fed her and then settled down. No one would believe she sat against my leg, her head tucked under her wing. I lay back slowly so as not to disturb her.
It was past 3:00 a.m. when I quietly entered our condo. I toed off my Nikes. I went upstairs quietly and listened at the door. I didn't hear anything. Uh oh. I went downstairs. I heard their slow but steady breathing. Busted! I took off my windbreaker, shirt, jeans, and socks. The nightlight revealed that Patrick was on the left side of the bed, Skip wrapped up in his arms. I saw the glint of Skip's open eye in the dim light. I went over to him and knelt down.
"I'm okay," I said quietly. I kissed him softly. I turned and went out to the sofa. I fell asleep easily enough.
At dawn, I heard a soft set of footsteps. I kept my eyes closed. Skip's wonderful lips kissed my wonderful lips. I smiled but did not open my eyes. Patrick's beautiful lips kissed my wonderful lips. I opened my eyes to see very sad eyes.
"I love you, bro. I'm so sorry about ... "
I pulled him to me and kissed him deeply. "I love you enough to feel all that you feel, bro. I went down by the pond to cry it out. Now I'm okay again."
He was at a loss. I pulled him down on top of me.
"I need what you need. Please?"
He looked over at Skip. "You don't need ... my permission."
I reached down and stroked him to full hardness. When he was ready, he entered me and made slow sweet love to me. He started to look over at Skip again but I held his head and made me look into my eyes.
"Only you, bud, and only me."
For almost a half hour, he made those words his own. When he came inside of me, he kissed me sweetly.
"For you my bud. Keep it safe," he said.
We got partially dressed again and took Skip to the kitchen. Patrick had already taken him to pee when they woke up.
"Waffles? With strawberries?"
"Yeah. Whipped cream?" Patrick asked me.
I checked the fridge. We had whipping cream. We had a multi-purpose griddle/waffle maker/grill for making an interesting breakfast seven days a week. I whipped up the cream.
"Bacon?" I asked.
"Yeah. I'll pour the OJ and milk."
"Kiss your buddy over there. Then hold him. I can manage."
Patrick did kiss Skip and held him close. Skip put his head on Patrick's shoulder. A tear ran down Patrick's cheek.
"I'm going to miss you two."
"We'll see you soon, love. You can come here anytime you want, not just summer. Anytime. We can see you in DC too. I'm going to ask Andy Jr. to take care of you too. He's only 10, going on 30. Sweet kid with a heart bigger than mine."
"You love 25 or more guys with every breath and every heartbeat. Occasionally one is more special than the other, but we're all special in your heart."
I know. He was right, but for now, and for a long time to come, Patrick was going to have my focus. The other boys would expect that. We decided to go for a walk in the park near us that I liked best. Early May was rising, warm air was circulating, birds were in abundance, and the sky was nearly cloudless. We sat amongst the pine trees, a bit hidden away from neighborhood eyes. Skip and I took turns kissing our young friend, giving him a feeling to hold on to on his trip back to Boston and maybe until we saw each other again. Graduation was in three weeks. Patrick would settle down with the boys to finish classes and then to study in groups. He would be able to think about something besides too many white blood cells polluting his bone marrow and blood.
We put Patrick on the 4:40 p.m. train. He had enough hugs and smooches to get him back to school. He would be in Boston in just under three hours, and back at BC an hour later. When he got back to his dorm, Sam was alone, waiting for him. He called Skip and me to tell us he was home okay. He will be seeing Andrew on Tuesday.
We heard from Megan and Mark from Atlanta, just back from a week with Claire and Andrew in DC. He said the high point of the trip was Andy Jr. They played either basketball or soccer every day after school and then Andy taught the couple how to roller blade. Once he accomplished that, they played street hockey. Mark said that when they got into bed each night, they slept like the dead. We three will be going to Atlanta, as usual, for a week after Labor Day. Megan wasn't sure we wanted to be in the house with a newborn. We assured her we lived to be 2:00 a.m. bottle feeders and daddies.
Our mail brought a large mailing tube, addressed from Toronto, with Will and Michael's return address. I sat on the sofa beside Skip as I opened it up. I withdrew a large 4' x 4' sheet of paper, drawing tablet quality, thicker than regular paper. Staring out at us were the faces of every winter vacation traveler to the inns, in pencil and ink, drawn by Will. It was drawn as if he had copied it in intricate detail for a photograph. He had even included his own wonderful face. I had seen him drawing almost every day but he wouldn't give us a look.
I eventually called the boys at school and told them what I got. I said I'd send it along to them so they could see.
"You don't need to," said Billy. "Will sent us a copy as well. I don't think it's a photocopy. I think he made two."
Sweet Will would have done so. The boys were really pleased to have such a beautiful piece of art. They had already put it in a large frame and hung it in the common room. I too went out the next day to buy a frame. I hung it in our living room, taking a lighthouse sketch that I had down off the wall, moving it to the spare bedroom upstairs. Skip asked me where I put it. He said it should go in the den instead where more people would see it. Fred saw the art piece on Monday when he came to our place. I took it to work that day to show Patricia and my mates. My workmates had not seen the BC boys who I talked about so much.
Each day was little different as we entered May. I worked. Fred took care of Skip and worked harder than I ever could. He brought Skip to GE every Wednesday for lunch to help break up the week. After work, we watered the trees and flowers in our corner of the condo. Vincent Dogwood was budding and would bloom in a couple more weeks. Kate P. (purple) Lilac and Bradley W. (white) Lilac were half opened. I sat in front of them each night after watering them.
"His name would ... be Bradley. I'm a little ... surprised."
"I love my brother. He just doesn't love me."
I left it at that. I loved, and was loved equally, by many. Except one. I'm still his brother.
It came time to head for Boston for our boys' graduation. I put our large duffel bag in the back with Skip's wheelchair. I set him in the front passenger seat and buckled him in. The New Haven city garage guys who modified Skip's SUV had also modified the seatbelt. It crossed over him like the seatbelts of a driver in a racing car.
"Don't let that give you ... ideas bro. I love my truck."
"You love me more," I said with a sly grin.
I gave him eyes and I gave him a sweet kiss.
"You ARE my Aaron."
I finished the unfinished sentence in my mind-'and your truck is your truck.'
He looked at me out of the corner of his eye and then looked forward.
We were in Boston by 9:30 the day before graduation. Some of the boys were sleeping in. That was about to change. I found Jerry and Henry sound asleep. I knelt beside Jerry and kissed him awake, whispering into his ear so he would not be startled. He smiled but kept his eyes closed. I kissed him again sweetly. I told him I love him. He got out of bed and we both went over to Henry. I kissed Henry on one cheek while Jerry kissed him on the other. Then I kissed his lips while Jerry kissed his forehead. Henry smiled. I tickled him, knowing he was one of only two boys who were ticklish. I lay on top of him and covered his face in kisses. Jerry grabbed his towel and headed for the shower.
When Henry and I came out of his room, I found Ste and Billy back in their beds. Hmmm. I walked past each room. They were all in bed again. The only other pair who was really still in bed was Greg and Brian. I went to them first and did what I had done with Jerry and Henry.
"Man, what a great way to wake up," said Greg. "We should have taught each other this."
"Never too late, love. We can do it during our summer weekend."
They too headed for the shower after giving me kisses and hugs in return. Since the rest of the boys were 'sleeping', I had to go room to room to kiss them awake like sleeping beauties. Sigh. Such a hard life I live. Skip was in bed with Billy, stripped down to his t-shirt and boxer briefs.
"You guys chill. I'll save you til last."
Ste got out of his bed and got into bed with Skip and Billy. This was not easy since the boys all had twin beds. They barely squeezed together with all three of them on their sides.
Not a surprise to me, Kenny and Jake were in bed together, snuggling, looking like angels. Kenny was more convincing than Jake, who had a bit of a grin on his sweet devilish face. I gave them equally sweet kisses, meaning it of course because I did love them dearly. They opened their eyes and looked into mine.
"I love you guys. I guess you all going back to bed for kisses means we've been away too long."
"Nah, we just like your idea," said Kenny. "Henry and Jerry must have gotten the best treat since they were really asleep."
"What, you weren't really asleep? Just now? Harrumph."
"Nah, we was only foolin'," said Jake. He pulled me down again for another kiss. I looked into both pairs of eyes.
"I love you two, very much. You okay with that?"
"Oh yeah," they said together.
I left them to either keep snuggling or to get up. Next, I found Jeremy and Paul together as well. No surprise there since Jeremy and his twin brother often are instigators of new ideas or proven ways of causing trouble. Or just getting something going. They were convincingly asleep, so I whispered to them before kissing them softly. They smiled and snuggled closer, Jeremy behind Paul. Paul was still very special to the boys. I agreed with that. He had told me he was sorry he had killed Vincent. His nightmares often found him in Jeremy's arms, with two other boys sharing his and Jeremy's room. Paul didn't mope. He just knew that he was a part of Vincent's death. That sentiment is all the other boys would allow him to feel. It was true, but he was not the cause of Vincent's death.
"Good morning my mates. I love you Paul. I dunno though, the jury is still out on your bud there."
Jeremy pouted. I decided against giving him eyes that would overrule his pout. I gave him a soft and sweet kiss instead, putting my right hand on his cheek. They made room for me and I lay down in front of Paul. If I was six inches wide, I would be amazed. They were both slim, like their mates, but not skinny, and certainly not Aaron-style scrawny. Paul touched my cheek and looked inside of me. I wondered what he saw.
"I'm okay, love," I told him.
"I know. Me too. It's a little hard though. Our buddy should be with us."
"Isn't he?" I said, a bit of a challenge in my voice.
"Yeah, but not ... you know," he said sadly.
"I do know."
I kissed his bare chest, right over his heart.
"He's in there," I said. "Hold him tightly every day. He earned that."
Paul teared up, as did Jeremy. I wiped their tears away gently, kissing their cheeks where the tears had been.
"I have an idea," I said. "At one of our meals today, let's all order what would be V's favorite meal. Maybe that's a little stupid, but I've had his favorite meal on occasion just to feel like he's with me."
"Not stupid at all," Paul said. "Western omelet, wheat toast with jelly, hash browns, a side of bacon, OJ, and milk. I like it all. Nice because we can eat it any time of day."
I looked around at the other guys.
"Totally agree. I don't think any of the guys who ate already had much yet. We like to eat together. David eats early because of his blood sugar."
"He's diabetic?" I said. This is something I didn't know.
My boys will always amaze me. David was very healthy, so I know he managed it well. Good for him.
"Carry on, Aaron," said Jeremy. "The other guys are waiting for you."
I gave them each one more soft kiss and went across the hall. Ste had come in to join Jessie. Jessie slept alone most of the time but when he wanted a mate, he had any one of twelve others to hold on. They weren't pretending to be asleep. They were sitting on the floor between the beds, Jessie holding on to Ste. I got down between Ste's legs, put my legs over theirs, and hugged them both as one. I kissed Ste softly, like I always do for our boys. He smiled at me and returned my kiss. I pushed Jessie's hair off his forehead and kissed it first. Then I gave him a sweet kiss, just a bit more intimate than a soft kiss, but still no tongue. I wouldn't do that to my boys. I disagreed with the prevailing thought that an intimate kiss had to be opened mouth, a tongue thrust inside. Everything had a time and place. A soft kiss, a sweet kiss-both intimate within degrees, and special. My boys knew this.
We sat together for a few more minutes, enjoying our hugs and quiet moments. We didn't have to talk much to appreciate each other. Finally, Jessie said that I was needed next door. After two forehead kisses for my boys, I got up. They left Jessie's room with me and went to the common room down the hall.
Matt and David were last but not least of course. David was wrapped around Matt. They had both dozed while waiting for me. I quietly got down on my knee in front of Matt. I kissed him first, softly and teasingly. He opened his eyes after a moment and kissed me less than teasingly.
"I hope you save some of that for your Marc," I said.
"I always do. He knows you're the only other man in my life. No jealousy there. He'll be here today."
Nice. I hadn't seen Marc in a long while. "Tim too?" I asked, referring to Henry's love.
"Yeah. They're driving from Maine together."
"What a busy day tomorrow. You guys ready for it?"
"Four years together?" said Matt. "Yeah, especially after all the finals. We're gonna make you proud, love."
"I've been proud of you all since the first time we met, Matt. It's not grades that do that. It's your hearts for each other."
"We also have a bit of a surprise for you," said David. "But that's for later. Kiss me now."
I did kiss him, and quite sincerely as ever. Matt put his hand beside my ear and kissed me once more.
I watched as they got dressed again. I gave them both a warm hug, holding on for a moment. July seemed like a thousand years away but it would be awesome when we were together again.
We settled into the common room, all hugging each other tightly, sitting close together in the large room. We would all sleep here tonight in sleeping bags. They boys had done it every few weeks to keep the strong ties amongst them. No matter where then ended up after getting their final degrees, these boys would always love each other deeply.
I presented the idea of us all making one meal today to be V's favorite. No one hesitated. Some looked like it had never occurred to them. I told them that I had run it past Paul and Jeremy first for fear it sounded lame.
"Aaron with a lame idea," said Billy, pretending to be in deep thought. "That's not gonna happen."
"I'm not overly biased," said Henry. "It's a typical great Aaron inspiration. I'm up for it. How about the diner for lunch?"
"How about you guys who ate already?"
"Cereal for me, at 7:00," said Greg. "David came with me since we're early birds."
"Lunch!" said the guys together. "No worries Aaron," said Greg.
"By the way, Aaron and Skip," said Jeremy, "we're all coming back in the fall. Jake and I were going to get our masters at Cornell, but we can't. We thought we wanted to be closer to our families, but the family here is just as good."
"I'm coming back too," said David. "Same reason."
He was giving up a University of Pennsylvania set of credentials. He chose his buddies over an Ivy League education. The education is something that an employer would find valuable. Friendship was more valuable to David. He was not worried about a future career.
"Sweet. Distance doesn't matter though. Eventually you guys will live apart. You'll all be together though, no matter what."
They nodded. We decided, since it was a rainy day, to stay where we were until lunch. Those who hadn't eaten yet shared apples or pears. Not much junk food to be found in this dorm. Chocolate ruled, of course. We made more plans for summer, knowing that our four-day weekend in July was good, but another long weekend would be even better. They all wanted to come to Skip and me. We would be glad to have them. We even planned a bit more than usual to include a day trip to New York City. Some of the guys have never been. Skip and I will scheme to make it even more special once we get home. Like Broadway special. He knew what I was thinking of course and winked at me. He was in Matt's arms, holding on to Matt's hands.
Sam and Patrick came in a while later, arm-in-arm with Kirk and Alex. I told them to go to two bedrooms of their choice so that I could give them the same treatment I had given all the other boys. They took off down the hall, stripping out of shirts, jeans, socks, and sneakers. I found Sam and Patrick in David and Matt's room. They were 'sound asleep', quite convincingly, though in separate beds. I went to Sam first, down on one knee, whispering into his ear so as not to wake him up by startling him. He giggled and then got serious again. He fluttered his eyes open as if he had been sleeping all night. I kissed him, giving him a bit of tongue because we had been intimate in our past. It was a light touch though, and he returned it that way in kind. I gave him a hug and told him, quite sincerely, that I loved him very much. He winked and then motioned for me to go 'wake up' Patrick.
I turned and took two steps in my squatted position to reach Patrick. I brushed his hair out of his eyes, kissed his forehead gently, put my right hand on his cheek, and kissed him so lovingly that we both almost cried for real.
"Good morning mate," he said to me, blue eyes shining brightly. "Sure do love to be woken up this way."
I got into bed with him for a moment. I looked back at Sam to make sure I was not offending him. He got out of David's bed and kissed my cheek, leaving us alone, closing the door. He probably told Alex and Kirk that I'd be along in a few minutes.
"Can I have some of this?" he asked, touching me.
He kept it up until I was hard. No way to refuse him. I had not been inside him when he was at our place a few weeks ago, except one time. I had wanted Patrick and Skip to be special for each other, probably the only time I was concerned about our age difference. He waited. I slipped off my jeans and socks, entering him slowly. I had his leukemia in my mind, hoping not to make him bleed. I used a good amount of spit to lube up. We made sweet love together for a while. I gave a moment's thought to Alex and Kirk waiting for me. But I didn't want to rush with Patrick. I figured that the boys would know what we were up to and would not be insulted. That Patrick was special to us all said we did not have to worry about hurt feelings and stupid stuff.
When I finally did come inside of Patrick, he kissed me softly.
"I love you bro," he said quietly. "Sorry for ... "
"Sshhhh. Back up."
"I love you."
"I'm honored by your love. I hope it's always with you, and not just my satisfied dick."
"Your dick is a means to an end. It's not unimportant and I like it a lot. But you and me together are more important."
"Nice. You are my bud, and I think about you every day."
"I know. I feel it, weird as that sounds."
"Ask Skip if that's weird. He does it better than anyone I know, but he's not the only one. It's how we love each other. I want you to be well, and with us for a long time."
"I am. I will be."
I believed him. Patrick is no liar, any more than I am.
"Go to our buds. Make them special too."
I kissed him once more and then got dressed. I found Alex and Kirk in Jake and Kenny's room. They were holding each other, talking quietly. I gave them a moment to assume the snuggling position in Kenny's bed and to 'fall asleep' so I could wake them. They too were convincing. I spoke to them softly, telling them how I really feel about them. I kissed each boy 'awake'. They each kissed me in kind, pulling me onto the bed.
"Did you help Patrick?" Kirk asked me.
I nodded. "Sorry for taking so long."
"Don't be. We welcome quiet time with each other. I have to think back to how we were with Sam, hassling Billy."
"No need to be sorry either. You know now that we can love and care for each other. It's a better life than you had before. I hope."
"By far," said Alex. "The guys love us too. We may be in different dorms, but that's the only thing that separates us, and only at bedtime during the week. We're here on the weekends."
"How about after graduation?"
"We're getting our master's here as well. Like the boys say, we're not ready to be apart indefinitely yet. We're all brothers who need to be close by. I was going to England but here is better."
"Really? England would be such an awesome experience," I said.
"Here is where we belong. England will be there someday. I need my brothers until I'm more mature."
"Seems you're plenty mature this very moment."
"More like soda-pop mature. I want to be wine mature."
I smiled. I understood. It's why we loved all our boys. Turning hate (or stupid shit) into love and comfort was a healthy achievement for these BC boys. I understood perfectly what Alex was saying.
Back in the common room, we all sat close again. Sam came to me and sat with his back to my chest. I wrapped my arms around him and kissed his neck. Patrick was holding on to Jessie. Their need wasn't necessarily in common, but they both missed something. Patrick was missing his good health. Jessie was missing his roommate and friend. It had to be hard, even 15 months after the fact. He did not mope either, but he loved and needed the comfort of his mates.
Around 12:30, we walked across campus and got onto an outbound Green Line train. We were going only a few stops, so we'd walk from there. When we ordered, Lydia smiled. "He'd love that you know," she said. She got us. The boys were here a couple of times a month, always when Lydia was here. This is the first time they all ordered the same breakfast. I liked her a lot. She also knew where the check was to go. The boys stopped arguing long ago about me paying for our meals off campus. Skip actually paid for half of those meals by giving me a check each month. He, in turn, finally got me to actually cash or to deposit the checks. I'm not hung up on money. Billy and the boys always each chipped in a buck or so for tip.
When our meals arrived, we raised our OJ glasses in a silent toast to Vincent. We did not need awkward words to show how much we missed him and how much he's still a part of our lives. Our short-order chef came out of the kitchen to see why he was making 19 identical breakfasts.
"I guess I really did know," said Joey as he walked up to our table. "Nice of you boys to have a heart for your bud."
"Vincent is only in a different place than we are, for now," said Jessie. I was glad for his truth.
"I'm going to miss you boys. I loved cooking for you."
"We got a surprise for you Joey," said Ste.
"You're gonna let me add on to my house? You're moving in?"
"Next best thing. We're all coming back in August. Two more years."
"Be still my loving heart. Aww boys, you made my day. Lydia! Did you hear?"
"I already knew, except for a few. All coming back?" she said with a raised eyebrow.
"Yup. Sorry to put such an awful burden on you."
She squealed in delight. She went around the table and hugged us all in fierce hugs.
"Wait, you didn't flunk out did you?" she asked.
"Nope. 3.8 to 4.0 GPA's all around. You don't want dummies for sons do you?"
"Well, that gives me two more years to find a way to adopt you all. Skip, can you talk these guys into that?"
"Nope. You after ... Aaron and ... me Lydia."
"Aww put away that face," said Jerry. "You know we'll always love you. Who couldn't?"
She smiled and went back to work. Joey had to return to the kitchen. Most of the crowd was loyal customers of these two. Family was large and who cared if it was all by blood.
When we finished our truly great meal, I poked my head into the kitchen to thank Joey. He came out and told the BC boys that their first meal in August or September was on him. No empty promise from this kind-hearted man. The boys were happy and they promised to come, but he and Lydia would have to eat with them too. Both said they would do so, gladly.
We got on the T again and headed to Park Street Station. From there we walked up over Beacon Hill and went to Jillian's place. She was serving her lunch crowd. The BC boys all went into say hi and to say they'd be back in September, a pleasant surprise to her. Skip and I were on the street outside when Jillian's husband Jimmy came by. We told him we were giving the boys their time to say goodbye to Jills for the summer. He got down on both knees in front of Skip and reached to shake hands. As with Brent, Skip instructed Jimmy to meet him half way. Jimmy was very pleased to see Skip able to move his arms and hand in friendship. He gave Skip a fine hug. We told him that we too would be back in the fall. The boys came out. Jills came out behind them and gave Skip and me hugs too.
"You shoulda come in. I've missed you too you know."
"Nah, it's the boys day since they're leaving for home tomorrow after graduation. We'll be back. You know we're okay."
"I love your email messages, guys. Keep 'em coming. I love your name showing up in my inbox."
"We will Jills. They boys will see you before we do, but we'll be back."
We said our goodbyes and then went to visit the couple who had bought the condo that Skip and I lived in during our Boston years. We had asked the real estate agent, a friend of Claire and Andrew's, to see if the new owners would correspond with us. The young couple did so on a regular basis, keeping us up on local news. Billy joined us this time. The other guys wanted to stay outside so as not to invade the couple's space.
"Aww, so nice to see you three," said Jen, showing us inside. "Or at least you two and ... Skip's butt?"
I had Skip thrown over my shoulder again. Husband Kevin was behind her, knowing that we were coming. He laughed at us.
I so missed this beautiful space. It was 'only' a studio but it was a place full of memories. I sat Skip on their sofa. Jen sat beside him and gave him a hug and a kiss. Kevin got down on his knee and shook Skip's hand just the way he knew Skip wanted. The couple worked at MGH, both physical therapists. Jim was very pleased at Skip's progress. They asked us to stay for a while for a light lunch. We begged off saying that we had a large crowd of restless boys outside waiting for us. Jen peeked out the window. She knew they would be our BC boys. She headed for the door.
"Be right back," she said, sweeping out the door.
A minute later, the boys all came in behind Jen. She hugged every one of them. She knew they too had spent time in our place and would like to revisit. Kevin shook their hands as they introduced themselves to the couple. Light lunch became wine, cheese, and fruit. Yanni music once again filled the space. I had left the couple new CDs as a welcome gift-two of my favorite Yanni CDs and my favorite Enya CD. A glance at their music collection told me they approved of our gift. Their Yanni and Enya collection matched my own.
At the end of two hours, we left the couple to enjoy the rest of their day in peace. We moved on to the Common, meeting up with our former basketball buddies as planned. Tony, Eric, Jim, Mark, and Jon weren't playing ball yet. Since we had bought about two teams worth of boys to play, we got a spirited game going.
"If you DARE sink a three-point shot," Tony said, "I will kick your scrawny ass from here to the Public Garden and back!"
I sunk a three-point shot and then presented my ass to him. He pushed my t-shirt up a bit and lowered my jeans a bit. He kissed my ass.
"Kiss .. kick. I couldn't make up my mind," he said in concession.
The five good friends had mended the broken relationship amongst them after two of the guys decided that Tony being gay was too much for them to handle. It was not an overnight mending, but they all worked hard to show that Tony was as fine a man as they all were and that gay was at the bottom of a long list of things that made Tony the man that he is.
"Your words, Aaron and Billy, and good ones at that," said Erik. "Tony's mate is a good man too. He's out of town for another graduation."
Jon took Skip out of his wheelchair a couple of times, helping Skip to make some shots of his own. This made Skip giggle like a little kid. The boys had not seen Skip since the accident. They each got down to his level and gave him a warm hug. It just amazed me that everyone naturally got on their knees or squatted beside him, no exceptions amongst anyone we had ever met. They did not feel pity for Skip because they knew he was in good hands.
"When you're in town again, come see us," Jon said.
The boys all rented a large house out beyond Cambridge. We hadn't been there yet but I knew the neighborhood was making a comeback. With these five plus Tony's mate sharing it, it was already a better neighborhood.
The sun was behind some dark clouds with more rain threatening, so we decided to say goodbye for now. Tony was in school at Bunker Hill Community College, working on a degree after getting his high school equivalent. Skip had pushed hard to get Tony into a place in his life where he'd be happy.
Some of the boy's parents had started to arrive. We made it back to school in time to escort Kenny's parents in grand style up to the common room. They laughed at the timing of our arrival and theirs. They laughed harder as the twin brothers picked Skip up and carried him over their shoulders. I had caught a quick eye signal between the two of them before Skip was whisked away. I knelt down quickly and scooped Kenny up onto my shoulders. He wrapped his legs behind my back and held my hands.
Over the next two hours, all the boy's parents arrived. Vincent's parents had arrived right after Kenny's parents. I don't know how it would be tomorrow, but for tonight, they were very happy to be among their favorite guys. Betsy and JD arrived in due time. Kathryn and Aaron-not-Langille hugged David right away and then made a beeline to Skip and me. They had last seen Skip at their place in Stonington CT before I had come home from DC. David called Sam to tell him his parents (meaning Sam's parents-by-love) had arrived. Sam came running through the door, leaping into Aaron-not-Langille's arms. We all wondered about Sam's blood parents. A knock on the door later in the evening brought the answer. Sam's two brothers and sister arrived. Obviously, Sam was extremely happy about that. They stood together and hugged for a while, teary-eyed, before Sam made introductions. They had already met David and David's folks last summer.
The common room had rarely seen such a crowd. Patrick, Alex, and Kirk's folks would be in the boy's dorm with them, but we would all be together later in the evening. Every boy's parent had contributed money to Sam in his need, and had continued the fund for Will and Michael. They said that if our Canadian neighbors could come to Sam's rescue, the border between our two countries could be made more transparent by helping Will and Michael. There was enough money in their fund to send them through their planned four years of college and two more beyond that.
We spent the rest of the evening, until nearly 11:30 p.m., in the common room, all getting reacquainted. In the case of Skip and me, acquainted. We were very happy to put names and faces together.
There was a group breakfast planned for the morning, honoring the graduates and their parents. After the breakfast and a time to get into caps and gowns, the processional began.
Like the "Missing Man" military formation that fighter jets do during flyovers, there was a seat for Vincent in the group of BC boys. They were seated by the school within the college that they belonged to. Vincent was in the College of Arts and Sciences, like Billy, the twins, and Paul. Vincent's empty seat was between Billy and Paul, but Vincent's spirit was there as surely as his body should have been. Vincent's classmates outside of his dorm understood and welcomed the sentiment.
There was great pride between Skip and me. All 'our' boys graduated with honors. We had raised them well, said their parents. We confessed to giving them only our hearts. The folks disagreed. We would discuss this at another time. Probably not. I had made my point. The best gift you can give to another is your heart.
The guys all packed up cars, trucks, or vans. Parents gave us all time to say 'see you soon', which would be about seven weeks from now. Truthfully, it seemed like forever. We'd been apart longer, but they would all be scattered from upstate New York to the upper coast of Maine. I had to remember my thoughts about distance not making a difference. We'd call and send email. Patrick, of course, would be the focus of the communications. We all met Nick today as well. He was more clone than slightly older brother to Patrick.
"Aaron? Can I have a moment?" he asked me. "Skip too?"
We moved away from the other boys. Patrick looked over and winked at me. I winked back. We both knelt beside Skip. He took Skip's hand, brushing hair away from my bud's eyes. He left his hand on Skip's cheek for a few moments.
"Aaron and Skip. You both just break my heart. I thought I loved my brother best, but you two are why Patrick is going to live a very long time."
"No, please don't ... " I started to say.
"Hear me out, please? Pat and I have no secrets. He told me ahead of time that he wanted you both to make love to him. I had to think about it for a couple of days to understand it. I did understand why-because he thought that he might die without ... without you to take alone with him. He loves you both, for different reasons. Being in Boston with you, Aaron, only added to the big heart my bro has. Skip? You hate this, but he's sad for your circumstance. I am too, truthfully. I want to keep my research going to help spinal injury patients like you. You shouldn't have to live in a wheelchair for the rest of your life."
"I can," Skip said gently. "I have Aaron, Billy, and ... every boy here to give me a ... great life. This is a way to get around ... nothing more."
"I know. Still, I have a plan. Well, right now it's more wishful thinking."
"Thanks for thinking about my peers."
"Anyway, most of all, I'm glad you love my bro. I do too, of course. I'm glad you made love to him. I don't think it's weird for him to ask. He was scared. He's a lot better. The fact that he made high honors here speaks volumes for him and you all."
"If he asks again, please know you should do whatever you think is in his best interests. I can't make love to him. Not because I think it's wrong. I hold him and we do kiss a fair amount. I couldn't do him justice though, not like you can. I can't explain it better than that."
"You don't have to," said Skip.
He gave Skip a hug. Nick and I stood and hugged too. He whispered in my ear. I smiled and answered his question. "No bud. He's not going to die."
"I know about 'Aaron's Truth'. You won't say anything you don't believe. You don't lie."
"No bud. I don't."
"Thanks for that. We'll be okay in DC."
"Come to the summer picnic too?"
"You got it. Pat already asked me."
"We fool around with each other," I said, without thinking much about it.
"No you don't, Aaron. You make special things happen with friends you love dearly. Nothing wrong with that."
"Come on. Give your bud a hug. We've got a long ride home."
I did hug Patrick. I told him I love him and I will think about him daily. He said the same, and promised the same. No sadness in our boys going home. They'd been without their families for months, so it was all good.
After graduation, we stayed two more days in Boston to catch up with our Boston mates. We spent time with Jillian and Jimmy at the crack of dawn at her place, the basketball boys on the Common after that, Edward and Nate plus mate Bryan from Harvard, also about to graduate, and Marissa and Jimmy. We all gathered in Cambridge at Marissa and Jimmy's place for a buffet dinner. They had gotten married since we saw them and they were four months pregnant. Jimmy was beside himself in joy.
Around this large table in a medium-sized space were Jillian and Jimmy; Marissa and her Jimmy; Edward and Kathryn; Nate and his Bryan; Tony, Eric, Jim, Mark, Jon; newer member of this crew Jon DeLuca, the young man beaten by his supposed friends; our Boston policeman friend Jordan (who watched over the basketball five-some as well as young Jon) and wife, Jenn; Skip and me. The world is all about connections. Young Jon wanted to play ball with the Celtics one day, so Jordan had taken him under his wing and taught him more than the basics of ball. He then connected him with the boys on the Common each Saturday and/or Sunday.
After I got a plate together for Skip and me, I got the raised eyebrow from Kathryn.
"Marissa isn't the only one eating for two," I said in my defense.
This group had not even thought about how Skip eats. Kathryn blushed and apologized.
"Nah, no worries."
I sat near the head of the table with Skip. I fed him with my right hand while I ate with my left. The crew couldn't help but watch.
"Bryan, wanna help Skip with his iced tea?" I asked, motioning to Skip's tall glass.
"Sure," he said, a little uncomfortable. He put the straw in Skip's mouth. Skip winked at him as he took a long drink. He sat back again and Bryan put the iced tea on the table again.
"Thanks bud," said Skip.
After a while, Bryan offered Skip another drink. Skip was ready for it and Bryan's timing was perfect.
"See?" Skip said. "No big ... deal."
"Yeah. Cool. Bigger deal for you because you have to depend on us."
"That's not a ... bad thing love."
Bryan nodded. He looked around the table. Nate kissed him on his cheek and whispered into his ear. Bryan giggled.
When we were done with our meal, we took a break before having dessert. Jimmy and Marissa wouldn't let us help clear the table, but she would let me help make coffee and tea. Edward picked Skip up from his chair at the table and carried him to the loveseat, sitting him down in the middle, hugging him and talking to him quietly. The rest of us sat in chairs and on the floor.
It was nice to be with all our 'second' mates again. Tony and his basketball mates often met up with Nate, Bryan, and Edward on the Common to play ball. The trio helped Tony study for his GED and pass it easily with confidence. Tony is no dummy and nobody's fool. He hated high school because he was bored. He thought his real challenges were on the streets of Boston. The Cambridge trio challenged him more and pushed him to find his place. He fought them for all the wrong reasons and they fought him for all the right reasons. They met somewhere in the middle and then the trio won out. Skip and I were not the only guys who knew how to love and care about our friends. They 'blamed' this on us but we wanted no part of them giving us credit for knowing how to love someone. If they didn't already have it within them, I couldn't teach it.
At the end of the evening, which was not too fast but just right, we helped our hosts finish the cleanup and put the large tables back in storage in the basement of their apartment building. We returned for hugs and 'see you soons'. Skip and I were staying the night with Nate and Edward at Harvard. Bryan, not a student, would stay with another friend of the boys down the hall. We could then say that we had attended an Ivy League university. No one had to know that it was for only one night. It wasn't resume fodder, but it was bragging rights without a true lie.
We left Skip's truck with Marissa and Jimmy since there was only limited parking at Harvard for guests. I held my love in the backseat. We weren't going to do much more than shower briefly and then climb into bed. Edward asked, a bit shyly, if he could hold Skip overnight.
"Of course," said Skip. "I'd like ... that."
It took a bit of doing because there were no benches to seat our bud on. Edward held Skip up while I washed him. Another dorm mate came in when we were about half done.
"Hi guys. You must be Aaron and Skip. That's a bit kinky, even for Harvard," he said smiling.
"Just a helping hand for our disabled bud here. Skip's quadriplegic."
The young man's face changed in an instant. "Sorry to hear that. I didn't mean to be so flippant."
"Nah," said Skip. "And besides ... what's wrong with ... kinky showering?" He smiled his disarming smile.
The young man laughed heartily and went on with brushing his teeth. We would be done in a couple more minutes. Edward sat Skip on the sink counter and dried off our bud. He helped Skip brush his teeth as well. That reminded me that our six-month dental check up was coming up. So was the first year anniversary of Skip's accident. I wonder how he felt about that. I watched the two of them interact. I honestly don't think Skip was into the anniversary crap, except for when we fell in love.
I washed quickly so the other guys could shower and get to bed too. Wrapped in towels, we went back down the hall. The spaces here were smaller than at BC since Harvard was so much older-1636 versus 1863. I translated 'smaller' to 'cozier', good for all of us holding on to each other.
Nate got into his bed and wrapped his arms around me as I lay down. Edward easily got Skip comfortable.
"Lights out guys?" Nate said.
"Yup. Night guys," said Edward.
Nate shut off the light between their beds. I held his arms, turned my head, and told him I love him.
"Love you too bro," he whispered in my ear.
Next thing I knew, a bit of daylight was peeking through the edge of the window shades. I picked my watch up from the nightstand. 6:15 a.m. Nowhere near ready to get up yet so I lay still. Skip and Edward were both sleeping though I heard Skip stir a while later.
I carefully withdrew from Nate's embrace and covered him up again. He woke, sorta.
"Back in a couple minutes," I told him. "We both need a pee run."
I reluctantly moved Edward's arm from Skip, carefully. He was still sleeping soundly when I put Skip back in bed with him and didn't rouse until I put his arm back around Skip.
"Sshhhh, go back to sleep love."
I kissed him on his forehead. He hugged Skip again and went back to sleep. Nate was sleeping as well. I blew a kiss to Skip and we both dozed off again. When I felt Nate stir an hour later, I turned to face him.
"Want some help with this?" I asked him.
He raised his head to see what Skip thought. Skip didn't think anything because he and Edward were still walking around dreamland. I kissed Nate softly on his lips.
"Skip won't mind because you're one of our boys."
"In that case, let me help you with yours too."
Of course I was hard. A fine young man in my arms? No brainer. He and I got into our familiar favorite number. He tasted so good. We took our time but after twenty minutes, I couldn't hold off any longer. I pulled my dick out of his mouth a bit so he wouldn't choke on my cum. He and I unloaded at the same time. He obviously was due for a little intimate time. He turned around again, head beside mine. He kissed me and smiled.
"Thanks love. Nice," he said.
I turned to check on our boys. Seems like Nate and I were not the only ones in need this morning. Edward and Skip were off in their own little happy place. Nate and I lay there and watched them. Edward stopped sucking Skip suddenly and then raised his head. Nate and I gave him a thumbs up and he grinned a cheesy grin. He went back to his happy place without difficulty.
When he and Skip were done, he lay on top of Skip for a moment and covered Skip's face in sweet kisses, finishing up with a long deep kiss on his lips. They lay together for a few more minutes. Nate and I got up to get dressed. Edward dressed Skip and then himself. We went for breakfast and then the guys took us to pick up our truck.
We made Fairfield in a bit over three hours, arriving before 2:00 p.m. I was ready for a nap. Skip agreed, so I lay him on the sofa, lay in front of him, and then snuggled up against him, facing him.
He was quiet but his eyes were not.
"What are you thinking?"
"How much I ... love you."
"Really. Tell me more."
"My Aaron." He kissed me sweetly. "As much as I ... love our boys, you're my ... heart more."
"I think I like that, but not too much. We love our boys."
"I have a hard question ... to ask you."
"I know. How many do you feel?"
"Oh. Crap," I said, quite sadly I'm sure.
"What," he said looking into my eyes, not really a question.
"I know of three."
We were talking about new tumors.
Patrick, as planned moved into an apartment in Bethesda, Maryland with his brother Nick. I didn't want to go to DC. Andrew should give his attention to Patrick. I had something in mind and would need Andrew's buy in. I talked to Patricia at work the next day.
"I'm sick again," I said. "Pretty badly."
She sat down beside me on her sofa. We never talked across her desk.
"You're making tumors again."
I nodded. "Four. I knew of three, but Skip worked his magic to show me where they all are. They're in a line up against my spinal cord. I called Andrew last night. I'm not going to DC. I want another project off-site, preferably long-term. Six months if you can manage it. Philly. Andrew and Brian, my neurologist, will arrange treatments for me at UPenn. I need a life though. Can't fight without a life to live. Being away from Skip is going to suck so bad but he needs care too. He and I talked all night about all of this."
"Speaking of Skip."
"Billy's with us all summer as usual. We'd like to have Fred for the summer though because Billy's going back to Yale for his job. He asked and they said yes without hesitation. Skip will go to Boston when school starts again and live in an apartment near campus with Billy and two of the other boys. They're working out the details."
"I'll assume that Skip and Fred are good to go then. I'll call the Philly regional manager. He's as nice as guy as Mike in Atlanta. Your current project, by the way, was going to end up in Philly anyway. Sooner than later will be just fine by them. You're not to work on your chemo day and the day after."
"Half a day the day of chemo. I can manage one day off. Any more and ... "
"You always argue with me."
"I know. I love you though. Ten minutes, remember? If I can come home on weekends, I will, but I dunno yet. It's only a three-hour trip by car. Three to four hours by train."
"Apartment or hotel."
"Apartment, like Atlanta. I will commit to six months if that's necessary. By month four I'll know if I need a year."
"I'm so sorry, Aaron. I really am."
"Nah. You already know I'm a tumor factory. I'll know more once I get there. I need an MRI, which Yale-New Haven can do. I'll ask Andrew."
"Should we tell your team today?"
"Yeah. Sooner the better."
She called the crew in. I filled them in. I did it more with work in mind, relating to the project. I explained that my cancer was back and needed to be off-site for a few months. Some of the team would be traveling here and there anyway as we implemented the project in each regional office. Brent had already told me he'd be going to Philly. Alfie had his sights on Atlanta.
I sent an email to Jeff and Matt, the two GE guys I had met last year at Amtrak's 30th Street Station. We had been keeping in touch. Jeff had married his childhood sweetheart a couple of weeks ago. Matt was marrying his college sweetheart next Spring. Both the guys were childhood friends and joined at the hip. Two boys with amazing heart. They knew about Skip's accident and our time in Atlanta. They had been two more of the amazing voices who cheered Skip on.
They replied and said the same thing, no surprise there-"Call us when you get settled."
Matt said I should consider staying at his apartment instead of being alone. He has two bedrooms and two baths. I took him up on the offer right away and then told Patricia to nix the apartment plan. That also meant that I could go down sooner, instead of waiting until July 1, a month away. The sooner I got meds into those tumors, the better.
On Wednesday, I packed my bags. I had a flashback to packing for Atlanta almost exactly a year ago. Another summer away from home. Another summer without the long weekend picnic at the lake. Maybe. I had already sent an email to all our buds, having to break it up into two mailings. My email account at home let me email up to 50 at a time without being flagged as a spammer.
On Friday, I kissed Billy goodbye, again. He went to work as usual. The ten-minute thing was no longer just my deal. He had made love to me in the hours before the sun rose. Skip had made love to me after that, still early. I had put my seed into both of them last night, telling them I'd rather have theirs in the morning. I got down on my knee in front of Skip and held on tightly.
"I don't want to go."
"Come home soon. You ... know I love you."
"I do. I love you too mate."
My ride was here. I left my car at the side of the driveway, out of the way of Skip's truck and Billy's car. Patricia was to drive me to the Metro North commuter train station in Fairfield. I'd arrive at Grand Central later in the morning and then walk across town to Penn Station for my trip to Philly. Amtrak took about an hour and a half.
Another summer away from home. Another summer without the long weekend picnic at the lake. Maybe. It was important for our morale, mine included.
Weeks without my Billy. Weeks without my Skip, and he his Aaron.
Patricia held my hand in the parking lot while we awaited the arrival of my southbound train.
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