Skip - Part 65


Skip – Part 65

"Even better. But you two settle in at Andrew's. Make sweet love together."

"It's better ... when we're three."

"It's sweet enough as you two."

"No argument," said Skip. "I do love my ... brother."

The two kissed softly. I received equally soft kisses. Three sure is a great number.

"Oh my. What a fine pair you make," she said to Skip and me. I couldn't agree more, of course.

"Are you a couple?"

"What kind of answer will make you not mad at us?"

"An honest one dear, of course. Always be honest."

"For nine and a half years, so far," I said. Skip moved his hand as best he could. I picked it up and held it to my heart.

"Could you come in for a cup of tea?"

Skip and I were in the Georgetown section of Washington, DC. Billy and his medical school prospect mates had come to check out Georgetown University and George Washington University. The day before, we had been at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Mom and Dad were along for the ride, Dad with an eye toward housing and renovation thereof. Billy had saved a lot of money. He refused to let Dad pay for more college than he already had. He insisted that he could work. Skip and I would pay for any mortgage or rent. The issue was not closed, however. Dad said that he could get local contractors through his vast network to help us remodel. We had our eye on neighborhoods, not specific homes yet. We wanted a sense of the locals, so we blended in.

The lady beside us caught my eye even before she had spoken a moment ago.

"I'm Fiona Givens. My husband and I live nearby. He's away on business for the National Institutes of Health."

She had a wonderful lilt to her voice. Irish? Scottish perhaps, like Claire's. Not English like Andrew.

"Hello Mrs. Givens, a pleasure to meet you. My mate is Scott, otherwise known as Skip. I'm Aaron."

"Please call me Fiona. I'm just out for my daily walk. Are you touring, or looking at real estate?"

"A bit of both. Skip's brother and friends are looking at medical schools. We have a good friend at the NIH named Andrew. He's in the oncology research division."

"A Brit, right?"

"Yeah. You know him? Givens sounds familiar to me."

"You know my daughter, Claire."

I raised my eyebrow. "Another of the world's great connections. Your accent is there, but not strongly, for a Scot."

"We spend more time in the States than in the UK. Charlie is a heart specialist."

"Charles Givens. I remember now. He's looking at how neurological illnesses affect the heart. I wonder if it's he that I have an appointment with in the spring."

"Yes, but you'll be meeting him sooner than that, I hope. I hear that you're preparing to move. Billy, yes I know of him as well, would like to work for Andrew."

I continued to hold Skip's hand, though I looked around for unfriendly fire. Billy's attack was fresh in my mind, always. Skip was using his head movements to navigate the sidewalk.

We followed Fiona to a beautiful brownstone at the corner.

"Am I right to assume that our meeting was not a coincidence?"

"Claire called this morning and gave me a clue you would be in Georgetown today. I don't usually believe in coincidence."

"Same for us. Not necessarily that it's a small world, but I do believe in connections. We belong to each other."

"I've read your journals, those that Claire will share. You must be a Brit in your long history."

"Scottish, according to my dad's mother. She traced our family ancestry back over 800 years, from Quebec Province, to Nova Scotia, to Scotland. I'm only second generation American."

I lifted Skip out of his wheelchair, carried him to the kind lady's porch, set him in a chair for a moment, and brought his wheelchair up. I picked him up again and brought him inside, steering his wheels in front of us. Older homes aren't so disabled person accessible. I left his wheels in the mudroom off to the side.

Fiona showed us to the sun room, off the living room. It was quiet and we could see some of the Potomac. I sat Skip where he could enjoy the view.

"I can see why you've been together for so long. You obviously care for your mate. Would you like iced tea?"

"Yes, thank you."

She went to the kitchen. A few minutes later I heard the tea kettle boiling. She reappeared with tall glasses on a tray. I squeezed a slice of lemon into Skip's glass, added it, and then added a small amount of sugar. I knew how he liked it, but I had him do a taste-test to make sure it was right. I put the glass to his lips and tilted it a bit. I was always very conscious of Skip choking. He nodded as best he could. Fiona had a wonderful smile on her face.

"Claire is right. You're not just a couple. You leave the rest of us in the dust."

Skip smiled. "Aaron doesn't ... have to think about ... caring for me. He just does."

"Easy to do," I said. "I just think about what I'd like. He's very forgiving."

"Don't underrate yourself Aaron. Yes I see that it's natural for you, but I also see you don't want to let your friend down. I doubt you ever could."

I shrugged a bit, knowing my own thoughts about how, in many ways, I've let my friend down. It was an opinion of one, but it was mine nonetheless.

Fiona passed me a plate of shortbread cookies. These had a thin layer of chocolate in the middle. A neighbor of mine in Connecticut, the first time I'd lived there, was also English. Her shortbread was from a recipe handed down over generations, with little room for improvement. I gave the first cookie to Skip. He ate half, and then I ate the rest. When I realized what I had done, I blushed.

"Now Aaron, that's perfectly acceptable. Andrew is right that you blush amazingly. Don't stand on formality here. I've known of you for years but you weren't in the area when we were, or you were recovering. We knew we'd meet you eventually. Charlie will be happy to know you're thinking about moving here."

"You must know this neighborhood well. Do you know of any property we should look at?"

"I have two in mind. One needs a good overhaul. You'll find brownstones and Federal style homes in Georgetown. Skip, what are your needs around a home?"

"Nothing special. Dad is a ... contractor with resources. We own a ... three-story condo in ... Connecticut. Aaron and Billy ... make barriers unheard of."

Fiona waited patiently while Skip spoke. She did not attempt to finish his sentences for him. It was uncomfortable for him to speak to someone new.

"Sorry. My ... breathing is ... irregular."

"It's okay love," she said. "Every effort you make on your own is admirable."

He smiled.

"The price will be the bigger issue I'm afraid," I said. "I suspect that Georgetown might be unreachable."

"There are deals to be found, so I'll gladly help. The townhouse I have in mind is on the market for $800,000. Charlie knows the owners, and knows they'll settle for less."

"That's the top of our budget, but acceptable. We're selling our condo, but not at a profit. The young couple buying it is special to us and just starting out themselves. Their mom is my manager at GE."

"Our needs ... overall are few. It'll be okay ... to put most of our income ... into a mortgage."

"I know Billy is studying medicine. How about you two?"

"I'm working on taking a ... no hate program around to ... schools and colleges. You accept us easily. Few do."

Fiona's eyes became a little misty. She dabbed at the corner of her eye.

"Despite your quadriplegia, I know you have to fight for your way. I'm pleased you have a plan, Skip. Let me help with anything along the way. My network of friends is large, and international. Charlie and I have a lifetime of good people to call upon. Aaron, are you a business person?"

"Engineer by trade, but I'm not a great fan of Corporate America. GE has a different take on it than many, but I'd rather consult there while going back to fire school. I'm also a paramedic. I've got a contact in DC from my captain in Connecticut."

"I did know about your GE career, a bit anyway. Claire spoke of a patent you have pending. The third of three I believe."

I nodded. "They'll be more useful as technology advances. Two of them are prototypes and the third is barely off my drafting table. It's been a while since I've been in Connecticut. But it's easier to look forward. I'll stay with GE when they want me. It's time though to be more helpful. Of dozens of runs as a paramedic, I have one failure to my record. I need more success to balance that out."

"Again Aaron, do not underrate yourself. Your heart is in the right place. Your young college friend is at peace. I know he's well placed inside your heart as well. That's not a failure."

I see that Claire had a good relationship with her parents. My life is not a secret anyway, so it didn't amaze me Fiona knew me well.

Our iced tea glasses were empty for a second time. Skip and I were content, and ready to move on in our day.

"Claire has invited me to join you all at dinner. Would you meet me later? We can ride the Metro together."

"We will," said Skip. "We're meeting ... Andrew at NIH ... at 4:00."

"May I show you the townhouse? I have a key. The homeowners are at the Maryland shore this weekend. I have permission to do as I please at their home."

"Yeah. We can tell my dad ... about it. Aaron can ... sketch it out ... at home tonight."

We walked four blocks west and two north, to the edge of the Georgetown University campus. The streets were narrow and the neighborhood very pleasant. Fiona unlocked the door. She took care of Skip's wheelchair while I carried him in my arms. I decided that `like a sack of potatoes' was inappropriate in polite company.

"Your strength is incredible, Aaron," Fiona said to me. "You're no bigger than Skip. I expect the strength is in your heart and not in your arms."

"Aaron is the ... complete package Fiona."

She smiled. "Bless you both. You are indeed a very fine pair. I can see why Claire sheds an occasional tear for you. We don't walk alone though. Shed the blame you feel Aaron. It is indeed misplaced."

I said nothing, mostly because I had a lump in my throat. I kissed my mate on his forehead. He kissed my cheek and smiled. "She's right, love."

We took a tour of the larger-than-life townhome, from its bay-windowed front room with a fireplace to a large dining room and into the kitchen. I put the layout of the home in my mind so I could sketch it later for JD and Betsy. JD would open up the kitchen and dining room, careful to leave the Federal style character of the home intact. The backyard off the kitchen was small. We wouldn't use the driveway for a driveway since we'd have the Metro to get around. Billy had plans on keeping his car and/or Skip's truck at Andrew's. DC, like Boston, was too congested to drive around in.

We walked around the home for over an hour. Skip loved the top floor the best. JD would take the unfinished basement and make it a quiet place for us. There were fireplaces on each floor. I know his stonemason friend would have a field day with those. We kept the BC boys in mind as we walked through the place. We could easily accommodate them if they wanted to be with us. They were worried about the `three day house guest' thing. Skip made sure they knew they were family above all else. They had lived together for six years and then some. No one had any bad habits, or worse habits than any other. We were a finely tuned set of mates, by heart and by our losses.

Skip made excited comments along the way, using his own taste, and imagining what his dad would do. Any home we bought would be a three-way consent. It need not be fancy, but it did have to be home for us and friends who came and went.

"There is another, over near GWU. We should drive though. Are you up to it?"

"Yeah. I don't ... need anything ... special Fiona."

Back at her home, I put Skip in the front seat beside Fiona. I settled into the back, looking at the streets, drive time, route, and differences between the two neighborhoods. Skip moved only his eyes, but he took it all in.

We spent an equal amount of time in the second townhouse. There was nothing, in my mind, to dislike about either. They were similar homes in similar neighborhoods, both close to the universities and the Metro, both easy to accommodate our buds, and both within our budget, even on the high side of it. We had been watching DC and suburbs real estate for a while. Fiona was our biggest help to date.

There was also one more reason to choose in-town DC. Firemen typically have to live in the city in which they serve. I would find out soon about the limitations, depending on what fire company would have me. I had made my applications.

As we walked into the kitchen at Claire's home, Fiona was holding Skip's hand. He was all smiles.

"Your Mum is a ... treasure. We ... found two nice ... choices for town ... homes."

Claire kissed him and her mom. She came beside me and gave me a nice hug.

"Help me picture it," she said.

I grabbed my sketchpad and drew out the layouts, with Fiona and Skip helping me with dimensions. Both were over 3000 square feet from basement to top floor. We added a rough layout for furniture to see what we'd leave for the boys in Connecticut.

Billy joined us an hour later, as dinner was being set out. Claire had kept his in the warming oven. Billy kissed Skip and me on our foreheads and went for his plate. He sat down next to Andy Jr.

"Andy's in motion again," Billy said. "You've probably run a marathon by the part of the week Young Lad."

Andy stopped his `running', moving his legs under the table. I doubted he realized he did it. Jason picked on him the last time. Billy leaned over and ruffled Andy's hair. "Sorry bud. I don't mean to pick on you."

Andy leaned in as Billy hugged him. The two related well together. He had a way of treating the three of us separately and uniquely, but loving each of us as one. Andy made no judgments about us. He knew we three were in love, and hoped to be as special to someone someday.

Louisa was fondest of Skip, by her own admission that she felt bad for him. That would change, slowly, as time went on. It was less pity and more awe, but pity too. Skip talked to her like he would anyone. He could make her laugh. A child's laughter was always the best sound.

Andrew and Claire also loved us separately and uniquely. It was more than we three could do for each other. I too pitied Skip, with an unhealthy dose of guilt thrown in. I was still working on it. I would for a long time. He was okay enough that I loved him fully. So was Billy.

As the next weekend came around, we headed back to Connecticut. When we pulled into the driveway, we parked behind Jake's Saturn. I knew he was coming, but didn't share that with Skip and Billy. Daniel came out and immediately went to Skip's side of the car. He lifted him out, gave him a fine hug and a kiss, and then went up the steps into the living room. Jake came out to help us unload the car. The boys had already done grocery shopping. We had care packages from Claire, Fiona, and Annie (Jason's wife). We had seen Jason and his family on Thursday night. He was still very tender, but doing fine otherwise. He was thrilled at the news that we'd be moving nearby, even if was a few months away.

Summer was gone. The leaves were vibrant shades of red, orange and yellow. I brought wood in and lit a fire. I set Jake on the floor between my legs, facing me. He looked into my eyes for a while. I let him. I wanted to know what he thought. He didn't have to say anything right now though. I liked looking into him just as much, without having to say anything. Billy sat behind his brother and held on, putting his chin on Skip's shoulder to look at me too. Daniel was snuggled up beside them, talking quietly. He looked in my direction for a moment, then put his hand beside his face and whispered in a stage whisper to Billy and Skip.

"You really think Dad will like it?"

Billy cracked up. Daniel was full of it. He knew I needed nothing, but anything I got, I was thankful for.

On Sunday night, when we were alone, I had the eyes of my loves on me. Daniel and Jake had headed back to their in-school home, at Jeff's parents. They called a while ago to say they arrived safely.

"You know, we could watch TV instead of you two staring me down."

"Admiring you, love, like a fine piece ...," Billy said.

"Uh oh," I said, half smiling.

" ... of artwork. You're infinitely better than TV, except maybe for Nova. Nova is good stuff."

I pretended to pout. Actually I was convincing until Skip cracked up. Billy raised Skip's right hand so he could touch my cheek. Skip leaned forward and kissed me.

We talked very little as we spent the evening letting the fire entertain us. Billy eventually sat behind me as Skip fell asleep against my chest. We let him get deeper into sleep before Billy carried him into our room. He quietly undressed him and put him in the middle between us. Billy lay for a few minutes just looking at his brother. A tear ran down his cheek. I reached over and brushed it gently away with my thumb. I pulled Billy to me and kissed him sweetly.

Billy: I do know where Aaron gets his guilt from. If anyone assumes I don't feel it too, they're wrong. Aaron knows the feeling intimately from having lost Kate, but surviving. I feel it from having only a broken leg while Skip's back was broken. That isn't what Aaron means when he says Skip is broken. It's not just his back. It's his whole. Skip will never agree to being broken at all. I don't know if I'd be so brave. I don't think so. I don't feel pity though. The rest of what I feel is hard enough.

In the morning, when I woke early, I rolled Skip onto his side. I wanted to be inside him. This wasn't about sex. This was about us being one so we'd be okay. He was already okay. I needed to be too. I looked over his shoulder to see if I had woken him up. He smiled at me. Brother, friend, lover, heart mate, sounding board, cheerleader. And more. I didn't fuck him, though I moved occasionally just enough to stay hard. I just stayed connected. Aaron was lying on his side, facing Skip. He was sleeping deeply. I wondered what dreams he might have. I'm sure they weren't simple. Aaron is far from a simple man, despite his humble beginnings and his nature.

I woke to find Billy awake and Skip sleeping. I was curious. I reached over Skip to see if Billy was inside of him. He was. He pulled out a bit and let me wrap my hand around his dick. It seems like months since we three were together to make love, and more. Billy reached over and slid his hand inside my boxer briefs. He stroked me until I was fully hard. We shifted Skip carefully and then I went around to lie behind Billy, entering him slowly. I knew why Billy was inside of Skip. I made that my mindset as I lay quietly. The bedside clock read just after 6:00. Billy must have woken extra early. Watching Billy love Skip was the first wonder of the modern world. And the ancient wonders had nothing on the three of us.

I held Billy as he held Skip. It was easy to stay hard inside of him. I briefly recalled not being able to be hard, after too many surgeries. My dick in Billy was still only 1% lust. He turned his head. I looked into those beautiful eyes that said many things. I kissed him for a few minutes, tasting him. Yum. And then some.

"Don't leave ... me out ... guys."

I pulled my lips away from Billy. I leaned over him briefly to kiss our brother. I motioned for Billy to continue making out with Skip. Skip was hard. He telepathized me. (Ooooh baby). I lay in front of him, using our favorite number for inspiration. Billy did his thing while Skip and I did ours. By some magic in the universe, or not, we came at the same time. I swallowed every drop of him and then cleaned him up. He did likewise. Billy was mere seconds behind us. Our version of recycling.

Our day was busy and we had Charlie and Pete coming for dinner. They knew we had some news for them, but not what it was specifically. Patricia and Fred gave only a small hint that they should work on cleaning up their apartment and sorting through things.

"So we know you guys like our condo. Your mom and dad have said a little to you, but we'll fill in the blanks. We're moving on, this time to Washington DC."

I had the attention to this young handsome duo. I loved being the supplier of good news. I also think they knew more than they let on to mom and dad, either set of mom and dad.

"We need to talk about what we're taking with us. And what we're leaving for you two beauties."

They smiled wide, looked at each other, and then hugged.

"You're selling this? To us? We had hoped so, eventually, but this is sooner than expected," said Pete.

"One condition though. Make ... it a home, like ... we have. It's ... more than floors, ... ceilings, and walls."

"Well there's an offer we can't refuse," said Charlie.

Pete picked up the plates and glasses that I was setting out. He took them to the table. Charlie was sitting on a stool beside Skip, holding his hand, with his other arm around his back. Billy set the silverware on the table, looking like a waiter as we worked. He and Pete stood at the end of the counter, waiting for the pork loin to cool down so it could be sliced. I took roasted potatoes out of the oven. Charlie helped Skip put butter and seasonings on them. I took a fruit salad out of the fridge. The choreography in the kitchen against represented out dance through our lives. One thing set other things in motion, one after another. We sat down to dinner. Charlie helped Skip to eat. He took care in helping Skip drink from his wine glass. No one wanted to be responsible for half-drowning our bud at the dinner table.

After dinner we walked through, listening to the boy's wishes on what they'd like to buy with the condo. We told them that most of our newer purchases were made with this condo in mind. They'd be out of place in an older Federal-style townhouse. JD and Betsy were taking care of those details, and we three trusted their judgment over ours. I'm okay with color. Furniture style, not so much.

It was a nice evening, so we went out for a long walk, led by Skip's wishes on where he wanted to go. We chatted briefly with neighbors along the way. Two couples in the development were long-time friends of the boys.

It was after midnight by the time we three settled into bed. Billy fell asleep right away, Skip once again in the middle. Billy snuggled up against Skip. I lay facing them, holding Skip's hands.

"Something on your ... mind love?"

"I wish I had one wish."

"What would ... it be?"

"To have you whole."

"You could wish for ... Kate back. I would, if I ... were you."

"It would make you irrelevant."

"I'm not. You ... know that. You should ... have Kate. She can't ... be replaced ... by me."

"You're not a replacement for Kate. Nor young Andrew either. You are my Skip. I'm blessed that you love me so much. Why and how is magic."

"But ... "

"I would wish you to be whole."

"I am whole. I have you and Billy to love me. I have you and Billy to love. I need nothing more, for the rest of my life."

Skip did not lie. Skip was never insincere.

My heart ached so much that he was broken.

"I'm not broken."

I wouldn't accept that he's not, and he wouldn't accept that he was. Who was right? Probably both of us. Glass half-full, half-empty. A matter of perspective.

"I was awake."

"In your truck. After the bus hit you."

"You amaze me. You ... always know what I'm ... talking about."

"I do a lot of thinking, love. I put me in your place to see why you love me, even after ..."

"Sshhhh. I love you now. I loved you ... before first sight. I'll love ... you until the ... last leaf falls from the ... tree of our lives. And then forever."

I waited for him to speak again. He had things to say.

"I saw Billy like ... he was sleeping. I thought he ... was dead."

He choked up. I kissed his forehead. I didn't interrupt.

"I couldn't ... feel any part of ... me. I was awake ... though. I spoke to ... Billy. He ... didn't answer. People ... were on both ... sides of us. A guy felt ... for Billy's pulse. Then he ... yelled for an ... ambulance. I ... was terrified."

I did not say "I know the feeling." I did know, but it didn't matter.

He tried to move his hand to hold mine. I met him half way. He could accept half way. I put his hand against my cheek, and then kissed his palm.

"I thought only of ... Billy. If I ... was awake, I ... was okay. I ... couldn't move my hand or ... arm to reach him. My ... head hurt bad. I passed out."

"I wish you could feel Billy like you feel me. You would have known that he was okay. You understand about concussions?"

"Yeah. His brain ... moved violently. Like Jello moving, ... but worse."

I nodded.

"I love you ... so much Aaron." He moved his fingers, caressing my cheek. "I am whole. Accept it and ... believe it."

Billy kissed his brother on his cheek. Billy had been awake while Skip was talking. He had put his finger up to his lips. Skip would talk more freely is Billy was asleep. Even when Skip was done, he didn't say anything. He held Skip closer and went to sleep. Skip fell asleep soon after. I lay quietly, wishing my one wish.

The next evening, after dinner, Billy was working on a long list of things he had to do. He sighed heavily.

"If you're going to be a medical student, and eventually a doctor, you're going to have to pace yourself. You can't save everybody."

"Yeah, like when you had to let Vincent go, Aaron. Did you try hard enough?"

Shit. If that's what Billy really felt, and the other BC boys as well, I was living a lie.

I walked away. He followed and tried to stop me. I shook him off and kept walking. Tears streamed down my face. When I looked back a few minutes later, he was standing there still. I kept walking.

I walked to the park where we three had gone before, on peaceful evenings just to hold on and kiss. I thought about finding a different spot to sit down in, but this one was special. I dunno.

Billy only asked a question. It hit a nerve, though.

As soon as I saw that the accident victim was Vincent, my heart stopped. None of my training had prepared me to take care of someone I knew so intimately. If he had scrapes and bruises, I wouldn't think twice. What had happened to him was far worse. My deepest nightmares could not be as bad as seeing a piece of metal from the car piercing his chest. I immediately threw up, dropping to my knees and puking until my stomach was empty. Oh my God, how can I possibly help him? Two of the fire company crew pulled Vincent off the metal. I immediately put my hand into his chest to stem the flow of blood.

I needed my training to help me through this. But I needed my humanity to help Vincent more. I did what I was supposed to be, did what was expected of me. Then I did what was right to do. First bit of reality—he wasn't going to survive this. There was a war going on in my head. Do what my training says. Or make Vincent's last moments of his life mean something. Human beings weren't meant to make such choices, or terrible decisions.

I held my hand in his wound. But that's all I did. I kissed his lips while no one was watching. My partner started an IV flow. I shook my head slightly to him. He nodded and backed away. He went to take care of the living. I shrugged my training self off my shoulders. I moved my humanness into its place.

"Are you comfortable? Can I do anything for you? You're not alone. If nothing else, I can promise you that."

"I wanted to love you longer. I wanted to be special, just one more special someone for you."

"You are. And you will be forever. Love me now, V. I'll love you back."

That's when I lay beside him. There was no way, so far from the trauma center, that he'd be alive more than a few minutes. I increased the IV flow a little more. I didn't want him dying in pain. I made secret promises to him, promises I've never said to anyone else, nor never will. They were personal for Vincent only. Our love was unique. Our love was special in its own way, different from my love for Skip, different from my love for Billy.

"You'll find Kate waiting for you when you get there. You'll know her right away. Take her hand. Hold my son's hand, and walk with them. I'll be along ... in my future, but not now. I have things to do. Do you understand?"


"Do you believe?"


"Let me know you're there. I'll walk in the world for you. Show me the way, please?"

"You know the way. I will be in your heart. It's good enough. I ... love you Aaron. I'll miss you."

"Only for a little while."

"See you."

"Goodbye love. Give my Kate a kiss for me. Hug my little boy."

He nodded. He left me. I let his hand go so Kate could take it. I gave him one final kiss before he kissed Kate for me. He needed two hands to pick up my little boy. All that was left was his body. And my sad heart. But sadness doesn't last forever. We need sadness so we know happiness. One cannot exist without the other.

Back in the present, I was cold. The air had a bite to it.

"Good night love," I whispered to the heavens. I saw a bright star. He'd know I was thinking about him, and that I was troubled. The tear in my eye made the star twinkle. That's what reason said. My heart said something entirely different.

I walked home. My/our special place was still special. But I needed some more time alone. I slept in the den. Billy would have to take care of Skip. I didn't have it in me for now.

Billy: Aaron is a man of depth, truth, sincerity, honor, pain, heartbreak, and rebirth. Did I believe Aaron should have saved Vincent? Yes. Of course. Did I believe Aaron could save Vincent? No. Aaron had shared with all of us BC boys the truth about Vincent's accident and death. We held on tightly to each other as he told us. I held Kenny tightly in my arms as we all wept softly. We wanted to hold Paul, but he was at home with his parents for a while. Gone too soon. It could have been any of us. We lived like any one of us would be gone tomorrow. Aaron is the reason why we were so close. Some people would think that our `play time' was lame, that he shouldn't encourage us to be sexually close. 1%. It was healthy for all of us to be this close. We would stay close. We weren't just dorm mates. And we enjoyed the play time. We had no secrets. We loved each other, and always would. I wish I could take back what I said to Aaron.

It was a careless whisper, Billy would tell me later. The song lyrics go like this: `Time can never mend the careless whispers of a good friend. To the heart and mind ignorance is kind. There's no comfort in the truth, pain is that all you'll find ... `

Later, by many days on a starry evening, Billy came to the backyard. He sat down beside me.

"What I said, Aaron. That was uncalled for. Every one of us knows you didn't kill Vincent. None of us thought that, for even a minute. I'm sorry, love. Please. I was stupid."

"It was only an innocent question, love. The answer is no, I didn't try hard enough. Keeping Vincent alive would have been more cruel. Doing more would have been futile. It would have scared him. Real help was too far away."

"Real help was right where Vincent needed it to be. If you ever have to make a choice about my life, do it as well as you did with Vincent. I trust you with my life, Aaron. And my death."

I took his hand. "I love you in the here and now. In our moments, bro. That's all that I'll ever care about."

"Forgive me. Please?"

"As always, nothing to forgive. We're human after all, maybe superhuman sometimes, but that's thrust upon us. We deal with it."

"I'll take this lesson to medical school with me. Medical ethics class will be a place to share this. We have special knowledge because we train so hard. But you're right love. We're human after all. I'm sad that I upset you."

"Done and done, love. Taking a cue from Skip. Let's go make love to our bro."

We did. We renewed us again, planted the seeds that made us brothers and more.

If we couldn't speak honestly to each other, what was the point? It's important to be reminded of our places, our dreams, destinies, and what lies beyond. I'm into theology, but not so much into church. The church is of man, therefore fallible. Billy and the BC crew had studied at a Jesuit college, learning a trade and learning humanity at the same time, because we had to have both. I had told Andrew long ago that I needed a man with a heart. I found the heart within him. It's THE reason Billy wanted to work with and for Andrew. He knew he'd be a doctor someday, and he knew Andrew had the right balance.

I was there in his life, as Skip was, as someone who suffered yet prevailed. Vincent was the reminder that that is not 100% true. It had taken a great deal of skill and heart to help me live. It took Skip and Billy to make me want to live. Andrew loved that we three loved so closely to perfection, better than even he and Claire. He and Claire never had to fight the way we three did, even for three different reasons. Skip suffered twice. I think he was the strongest of us three. Done and done. That was even better than `the moments we're in' because there was resolution to something very difficult. Skip lived. He would never merely exist. Those that we've touched, and those that we'll touch in the future, should be taught that life is that way. What's wrong with fighting for our lives anyway? If there was no bad, there would be no good. Existing sucks.

I lay awake for a long while after we had made love. I had Billy and Skip's seeds in me. And I had their hearts and minds in love. Nice. With those thoughts, I went to sleep, holding my Billy tightly in my arms so he'd be safe. Skip was forehead to forehead with Billy. I kissed both their cheeks and went into dreamless sleep for a change.

On Monday morning, I was in Patricia's office when the rest of our team came to work. We spent twenty minutes catching up. They knew we were moving to DC at some time in the future, but we worked and played together as if I was home to stay. I was even feeling good enough to rejoin my fire squad. My crew took the news well that I was fine again, but moving out of state. One would follow me to DC. His name is Jon. He was Skip's age and they could easily be blood brothers. He knew only firefighting and patient care.

Jon and I were partners in the ambulance. He did the driving and some of the patient care. I did the patient care at the scene and on the way to the hospital. When we were firemen, I was behind him on the hose every time, or beside him as we went into a home or commercial building. Our crew joked that we were invisibly joined at the hip. They also acknowledge that there was no better pair among them. Jon and I were self-proclaimed brothers, and we even did a blood oath like young friends would do.

He also fell into a tight friendship with Skip and Billy. Their dads were in the same business, and even knew each other from long ago. Yet more connections in our lives. Jon was not surprised that Skip, Billy, and I were mates. He was, in fact, happy for us. When he wasn't working, Jon made sure Skip got out and about. Billy took on his former job at Yale. He would arrive at home a half hour before I went to work each night.

I worked both jobs, GE and the fire company, because I loved working for Patricia and crew, and I wanted to be a well-qualified fire fighter full time in DC. I had to meet requirements well before I arrived in DC. I worked 6:00 to midnight at the firehouse. When I came home Skip was still awake about half the time. As soon as I got into bed, we'd kiss goodnight and then we'd fall asleep. Billy was the first up and awake each morning. We had time to eat breakfast together, usually just cereal and juice, before he went to work. As before, Patricia's husband Fred spent his days with Skip. It was easy for them to fall into the routine.

Fred went home to Patricia. Dinner was always at least half done by the time Billy or I arrived home from work. I ate a little and then showered and changed into my uniform. I gave my mates long kisses. It would be nice to be home, all of together for an extended time for a change. I had considered scrapping my desire to be a firefighter. The boys wouldn't hear of it. They knew I had been an EMT in my small hometown during my high school years and on vacations from college. Helping people is in my blood, and something not to be trifled with, said Skip. We would make the most of the times that we did have together. No one would be wanting for anything. Skip was well cared for, which was the first priority and always would be.

One night when I climbed into our bed after midnight, Skip spoke my name softly. He wanted me to kiss him goodnight. I did, without hesitation. I began to realize that even when he went to bed with Billy around 10:30 that he wouldn't sleep until I came home. Billy's job was physical, therefore his ability to sleep soundly was there. He could come awake in a moment if Skip needed anything. I checked to see if Billy was inside of Skip. He wasn't, so I slid inside of him. There was evidence that Billy and Skip had made love before sleep though.

"Sorry. I'm a ... little greedy," Skip whispered.

"If you need us to make love to you every hour, we'd find a way," I said to him, meaning it.

"Now is good ... enough. I love you ... my Aaron."

I made quiet but sincere love to Skip. I made sure he came when I did. Our pleasure had to be mutual. Skip missed out on so much—too much, as it was. When we were done, I leaned over Skip and kissed Billy softly on his lips. He kissed me back. He told me he loved me and went back to sleep. How long had he been awake? Probably long enough to know that I was at home and Skip was fine. Skip tucked into my neck and slept until 7:30, an hour longer than Billy and me. We two showered together. I smelled coffee in the kitchen, signaling Fred was here.

On Saturday, we three slept in a bit, until 8:00. I would work as usual tonight, but we had ten hours to make love or do errands. We decided that making love was first. Two and a half hours later, we each had come twice, each of us with two seeds to keep us strong and together even when we weren't.

In the kitchen, we ate a light breakfast. Saturdays and Sundays were made for a bigger meal late in the afternoon. It was a bit chilly outside so we decided a beef stew was in order. I sat on a stool at the counter, arms around Skip, while I peeled and sliced up veggies. Billy tended to the stew beef in a large cast iron skillet. He made a roux in a smaller pot. We liked our stew to be between broth and gravy. The roux, made of equal parts butter and flour, was the thickener.

He put the cut up potatoes in a large pot to simmer with the beef. A half hour later, he added the carrots. While it continued to simmer, we held each other and talked about nothing overly important. Jake and Daniel called mid-morning so we each talked to them and got caught up on news.

I diced up an onion and added it to the pot. It needed another hour to be done.

Skip wanted to sit facing me. I knew what he was up to. Billy helped his brother move his hands on my back, checking for heat or coldness in my lower back. He was quiet while he checked me out. Only his face betrayed what he felt.

"Two new tumors ... love. Both hot. Close together."

"You're sure?"


I made a mental note to call a colleague of Andrew's at Yale.

"Can't worry about `em," I said. "Come on loves, let's have dinner."

I had added a bag of frozen peas fifteen minutes before the stew was done. We liked cornbread with our stew. Billy had whipped it up and set it to bake while I was talking to Jake and Daniel.

I served up the stew. Billy fed Skip. The stew beef was perfectly tender, as were the vegetables. Skip watched me while he ate.

"Don't worry, love. Patricia will want to come with me to Yale. I'll be okay."

"Call Andrew," Skip said.

"I will. He's working on shutting down the tumor factory for good. Please don't worry."

"I do. You've ... done your time."

"No rest for the wicked," I said.

"You're not wicked. You're ... ."

"Your Aaron. I will always be."

He cried. Billy brought Skip close to him. I took his hand.

"Because we love so deeply, nothing is going to happen to me, Skip. I promise."

"You can't ... promise that. Look what ... happened to me."

It was the first time Skip had ever said it sadly. `Look what happened to me, even when we loved deeply' he was saying. Skip was a simple man. Things weren't black and white, but they weren't overly complex either. We made life to be good or bad by our choices. We counted on our mates and friends to be there when times were harder.

"I know, love. I see what happened to you every day. It's not something to take for granted. But also trust Andrew and others to be there for me."

He thought about it for a moment. He nodded. "Okay. Sorry."

"The only reason I've lived through all the cancer is because of you two," I said. I looked at both brothers. One beautiful soul between two bodies. How could I die and leave them together when we were always three?

I wiped away a tear that was running down Skip's cheek. His beautiful eyes looked deeply into me. I hugged him, and brought Billy into the hug too. Skip knew himself well. He was good at `done and done' for himself. But not for me. He had a right to worry, of course, but I wish he could relax. Billy wasn't much better about my life either. He couldn't feel my tumors like Skip could, but his heart was always entwined with mine and Skips. Everything we did, we did as three. `All for one, one for all' was lame compared to how we three were. For nine and a half years we loved fiercely. Nine and a half years would be nothing.

I thought back to Billy's question that had upset me. He had felt terrible about it. When I loved Skip, I loved Billy equally. I didn't require thought to do so. The flow of our lives was natural. To be false would be a horrible thing. These two brothers loving each other so deeply was brilliant enough. These two brothers wanting and needing me was beyond my imagination, by light years.

"No need to apologize, love. You know that I'm in good hands. When I'm not in yours, you've a right to be worried. Just don't let it get to you. If I have to go back to NIH, come with me. Everyone there knows who we are, and why we are. We can't be apart any more. It's too hard."

"Yeah. It is."

"I love you, Skip. If you know that, you know enough."

He nodded. Billy kissed his brother's forehead. I kissed them both. We finished dinner. Billy told us to go and sit together while he cleaned up the kitchen.

"The kitchen can wait. Come and let us hold you."

The kitchen and housework will always take a backseat to us. Skip's final reassurance came soon enough, but it required us three to be together, holding on, talking, loving, and being loved. There was enough to go around. I loved that I was one of three. Unconventional? No. Never was. Never will be.

Billy walked away long enough to draw a hot bath for us all. I picked Skip up, set him on our bed, undressed him, and placed him on Billy's hardness. I got naked and joined them. When Billy came, we both made Skip come too. Billy then lifted Skip and put him on my dick. I was odd man out, but only for sexual satisfaction, and the timing thereof. Tomorrow or the next day, Skip and I would come together, and Billy would wait, though only briefly.

We stayed in the tub. I washed Skip's hair while Billy washed his own and washed Skip's back. I washed the rest of Skip while Billy rinsed away the shampoo. I put Skip's hand against my cheek. He couldn't do it himself, but I always knew when he wanted to touch my cheek. It was something simple that said volumes.

I set Skip on the floor in the den, in front of the fireplace. He was okay alone while I turned up the music and then worked with Billy on cleaning up the kitchen, putting the leftovers away, and loading the dishwasher. We stood for a moment and kissed. We saved more for Skip. It was easy to share the attention.

skip: i love waking up a little before my aaron. i can watch him be peaceful. that's not a usual word for aaron. one can't use one word to describe him. i know he dreams about me sometimes. i can feel his thoughts. i'm deciding if it's a blessing or not. he loves billy and me so much. three bodies, one conscience. billy unintentionally hurt aaron recently. i think it was an honest question for someone like billy. how hard does one try to save a patient? aaron should have told his crew mates that treating vincent was too personal. someone else would have taken over. i used to believe that. i don't any more. aaron told us what happened that night, from his professional view, and from his view of vincent as intimate friend. billy says he doesn't want to be in that position.

my mate is so handsome. it's not what attracted me to him, of course. people say he and i together are beautiful. they mean in our looks, but they also see our hearts. aaron loves me just right. he worries. i wish he would let the guilt go. a bus hurt me, not aaron. aaron is a man who will take a spider found in our home outside and let to go. he's like the rest of us with flies though. they're nasty and annoying. a spider just happened to be in the wrong place. same as me and billy that day in new haven. wrong place, wrong time.

billy just kissed me on my neck. he whispered something into my ear. i turn to kiss him back, and to give him a smile. when i smile, he knows i'm all right. i love billy as much as aaron. would billy and me be mates likes this if we'd never met aaron. yes. billy cried when i was sick, laughed when i was okay, held me tightly and wished me to live. i did not want a wife. i wanted billy's heart, and the rest of him. most people don't approve. too bad. it's our lives and we know what we're doing. billy enters me to keep us closer. it would have been awful for him to lose me to cancer. but he wouldn't accept that he could lose me. he got angry at me sometimes. he told me, when i was at my worst, that i wasn't trying hard enough. i wanted peace. billy wanted me to live more, so i lived.

if you're familiar with star wars, you know about `the force'. when aaron was nearby, it was like a disturbance in the force. well, not really a disturbance—more like an echo or even a whisper. i knew he was someone who needed someone. so i asked friend jason if he knew who this guy was. jason filled me in. we talked about aaron for a couple of days. i didn't want to butt in if i had read him wrong. i was convinced that i hadn't. i thought about aaron a lot. his vibe and his innocence, for lack of a better word, kept him on my mind.

i love the day that aaron thought he was weird for staring at me in the van, when i was taking him to his car. i knew of aaron before i met him, because of friend jason. jason said aaron was a man who had suffered too much. he needed to be cared for because he would be alone the rest of his life otherwise. it was friend to friend that i asked aaron to stay over that first friday night. jason said aaron hated going home at the end of a work week and having to fend for himself for two days. he had too much time on his hands.

i talked to billy first. i told him, almost from the beginning, that i wanted us to be three mates, for love, for sex, and for life. billy watched aaron for a couple of days at work. he told me one night that aaron was impressive. he couldn't feel a's heart like i could. i still don't know how i can be so linked to aaron. it defies physics or any other branch of science. twins are known to feel each other. the only real thing we had in common was that we were from new hampshire and that we had a run with cancer. what brought aaron to me? besides jason i mean. i don't know. i just accept that we were meant to be. having billy's blessing was sweet. mom and dad understanding the love of billy and me was one thing. them understanding aaron and us was purely amazing.

billy was close to coming. i always knew because he'd whisper sweetness (not lust) in my ear. right from our first time, he said his seed was to keep us together, whether i had lived or not. he wanted to be part of me forever. it had to be his seed that made it that way. aaron saying the same thing at another time just proved that we belonged to each other. i felt billy's warm load inside of me. it was so good. they both let me decide when i wanted to be sexed. strange word. they loved me 24 hours around the clock. they lusted me 1% of the time. despite what some may think, we were human and needed the physical to enhance the emotional.

aaron was beginning to come out of sleep. i whispered into his ear. he turned away from me, facing the other side of the bed. billy helped me slide inside of aaron. i think if i had not been able to get hard, after the accident i mean, it would have been more devastating. fucking aaron was not what i did. pleasing aaron and pleasing billy, and them doing that in return, was what we did. anybody can fuck. not anybody can love richly, and lust only 1%. we could. that was the magic of us.

Note from Aaron: Skip typed all of the above by himself. He can type, as long as someone puts his fingers on the keyboard. I just copied and pasted his text into this journal. He wanted me to make it proper case, but I told him that our friends (and some of you readers) are used to seeing his words all in lowercase. That's a cue that email is from Skip. He can't manage the shift key and he doesn't want to `shout' by using all upper case.

I learn from Skip every day. He tells me, every day and sometimes a couple of times a day, that he loves me so much. He supports my choices, like wanting to become a full-time firefighter. I think it's fair that we talk about things first. He's wise and strong. I'm either one at times but never both. Not like Skip. He's unique. And mine.

The best news of the month (or year, or two years) came when Jake called me one night. He rarely called in the middle of the week.

"Dad. I'm in remission. No leukemia cells. Healthy white cells. Healthier red cells."

"Hold on, bud. I want our hero to hear that from you too. I'm taking the phone outside to Skip."

I knelt down in front of Skip. He was sitting near the dormant Kate and Bradley lilac bushes. I gave him a huge hug and then told him to listen to something on the phone.

"Okay love, repeat what you said, for Skip."

I saw Skip's face go from mildly perplexed to a broad smile. He laughed out loud. I leaned in and put my arm around him. He listened to Jake for another minute or so.

"For you, little bro. I'm ... so happy. You made ... my day."

He said goodbye. I talked to Jake a couple more minutes. "Way to go, Jake. Love you, bud."

"I love you Daddy."

The best words of the day, always. I owe Jake's life to Skip, 100%. Jake would not be here to call me Daddy unless Skip had found it within to help Jake. It was a common illness that had brought Jake and me together. It was deep love that kept us close. He and Daniel could now move on with no qualms or fears that they'd have to change plans. I told Jake to always move forward. If it had to be a baby step, so be it.

I sent email out to our friends, first to those who were directly involved with Jake's life. It was short but oh so sweet. I made sure they understood they were beautiful heroes to me, to be cherished forever. How else does one thank someone for giving his son life? They held him, they kissed him softly, they cheered him on hourly and daily. There is little in life we do on our own. We can always do great things as a team.

Billy got home from work. He wanted to know immediately what the grin on my face was all about. So I told him. He hugged me close for a few seconds and then he ran outside to hug Skip even longer and better. I watched them through the window. Billy picked Skip up and danced around the yard with him. So sweet. We did know where the credit belonged.

For a minute I daydreamed about the day I met Jake, our first words, my rage at him, the first time he called me Daddy, and Jake wakening from his nightmare of the bone marrow transplant. I never saw him sick like Jeff's mom and dad did, but I knew every time he was sick. I knew his every struggle and his every moment of feeling good.

Billy's soft kiss on my forehead brought me out of my reverie.

"The last obstacle to us moving is now gone, love. We need to make sure Jake and Daniel have a room in our new home that is theirs. We'll have to talk to Dad."

We had seen JD's blueprints for both townhouses. He could make something wonderful of either. He had a better idea. He was going to buy the second townhouse. Billy said that it involved selling other property to come up with the money, but the housing values in New Hampshire hadn't suffered. He'd have enough cash and then some to buy the second townhouse. It meant that each of Billy's med school mates would have a bedroom to themselves, if they wanted one. It would mean a space for Jake and Daniel to call their own when they were in town.

All this was supposed to be a surprise. JD had told Billy he could share the news when he wanted to, but to hold out as long as he could. He was afraid that Skip and I would put up a fight about him selling our townhouses in New Hampshire. We wouldn't. And we didn't. It was a gesture that had JD's touch written all over it. Five bedrooms, and comfortably shared bathrooms, including soaking tubs. Shared space where there would be no fighting over territory. Nothing to induce quarrels. Personally I don't think any of these boys knew how to quarrel.

Billy gave JD a list of the boys joining him in med school—David, Matt (with space for his mate on occasion), Ste, Patrick, and Henry (our favorite MD who could also be a QC model). JD was very impressed that Patrick chose to be a doctor. Then again, Patrick said who better to be a doctor than a patient. I had told each boy to pay heed to what I told Andrew when I first met him—they could be the greatest doctor of all time, but they had to have a heart too. Not pity or anything like that. Just a little bit more than a medical professional. They should think about how they'd want to be treated were roles reversed. And think about Jake as inspiration, because caring was what brought Jake back to his life. Heal the heart, heal the patient. And I did that without seven years of medical school. Of course I didn't count the umpteen thousand scars on my body that told them I knew **exactly** what I was talking about.

Every BC mate had felt the love and grace of Betsy and JD. The boys were a very close-knit group, and each one a very fine person unto himself. Vincent gone made them love and care about (and for) each other all the more. It had been said long ago that they each lived like they would not be together 24 hours from now, whenever now was. So, therefore, JD would make a home and a special place for each boy. Their space would be home for the next seven years. He said it had to be comfortable, changeable on a whim if need be. I can't picture any of the guys being demanding. For one thing, they knew what the life of a med student entailed. Time to sleep would be nice enough. They each knew they were special boys to Billy's parents, even those who had finished their education and were now working. JD's network was vast so he helped when asked—or volunteered at the starting point of a need.

He had instilled that in his sons. It's why Skip and Jake had talked about the bone marrow transplant before talking to me. If Jake hadn't accepted Skip's offer, he would have had to do something else.

skip: my own experience with cancer meant that i knew jake might need something beyond the usual treatments. chemo was making him too sick to think about a better way. so i researched leukemia and found the better way. jake had his dad to love. i had had billy to love, and love me back. billy told me i'd have to go the surgical route. i didn't want to lose a testicle. who would marry a man with one testicle. who would want to try to raise a family. i knew the answer to that early on. i didn't want to marry and raise a family. i wanted to be on my own until i knew where my life was supposed to go. and i loved billy so much. we had cried together and then we both had made me strong. aaron came along a bit over a year later. i knew what my life was to be—aaron's heart mate. had i never met aaron, my life would have been a day-to-day journey without much purpose. billy didn't agree. he saw a heart in me, but one that was pretty scared. beat the cancer, and then make a life. easy to say. seriously, easier to do, but only because jason told me to get to know aaron.

jason did not judge me when i told him billy was special to me. more special than some people would understand. billy wouldn't let me sleep alone at night because night was too hard. he held me close every night. i'd wake up hard and he'd take care of it for me. we started experimenting with things that didn't make me hurt. the best was always a nice kiss before we went to sleep.

"don't die bro. don't leave me alone. i couldn't take it."

"i love you billy. i can't put that into words. they'd be dumb."

"i love you bro. i won't let you die, or not die alone. hold me. if you get scared tonight, wake me up."

i didn't wake billy up very often. just sometimes. he wouldn't be mad. he'd hold me and sing something nice to me, sad love song or something he made up along the way. then we told mom and dad the truth. we had become closer than most brothers ever get to be. they thought about it. i don't think mom liked it. what mom would? dad was not someone who judged anyone else. he had taught billy and me that too.

"we have our strengths. we also have our weaknesses. show your heart, boys, every day. be good to someone. it'll be good for yourself at the same time."

mom knew billy was the reason i lived. he was not the only one. he was the best reason though. i loved my mom. i told her that no matter what i was, i'd always be her son. billy and i could move away if she didn't like that we had to be close. had to be—not just wanted to be. she didn't say anything. she didn't need to. a kiss on my cheek and a hug said it all. moms. go figure.

JD's legacy will live on, far beyond his own life. It had touched many people, professionally and in friendship. He also practiced what he preached. "To thine own self be true. It must follow as the night, the day." He followed it by saying "Thou canst not be false to any man." Hamlet? I dunno. My Shakespeare isn't as good as friend Skip's. (Skip confirmed that it is from Hamlet).

He and Mom stayed with us for a couple of days before they went to DC to check out the townhouses. They were at our condo when I got home from work. I thought about calling my captain at the firehouse to ask for a night off. Neither of the folks would hear of it. They were merely passing through.

Dinner was ready when I got out of the shower and arrived in the kitchen in my uniform. Mom said I was quite handsome. Modesty prevents me from agreeing too quickly. Billy was already helping Skip eat. The folks hadn't witnessed this much, so they were still in awe that Billy ate at the same time he fed Skip. Mom made a comment about it. Billy said it was easy to do it. Just think about how you'd want to be treated if you were in Skip's place. It made Mom sad for a moment. "And no pity," Billy reminded her.

Skip and Billy, sons of Jason Daniel, honorable unto themselves. I guess I could say my parents did okay by me too. And my own brother—we were closer now than ever. We talked a couple of times a week.

As good as our lives were, I still had the enemy of my lifetime living inside of me. As soon as Skip had told me he felt two new tumors, I called Andrew. He had a new formula he wanted to try. He arranged to meet me in New York City.

When I arrived at East 68th Street, give or take a half block, friend Jason was sitting in the lobby with Andrew.

"Just came to check on `my' other kidney. And I missed you, of course."

He gave me a grand hug to show he was sincere. He added a kiss on my forehead. He pulled back, holding me at arm's length, looking a little sad.

"No worries bro. Andrew knows how to take care of the tumor factory. Only two tumors. Mere child's play."

"Not. It still sucks to see you making tumors. Keep it away from my kidney or I'll repossess it."

I wouldn't blame him if he did. Me being well was the only condition imposed on his sacrifice. Jason took my hand as we rode the elevator upstairs. He flinched a moment when Andrew put a needle into each tumor. I didn't watch, as usual. I looked into Jason's eyes and he looked into mine. He kissed my forehead again. I reached up and wiped a tear off his cheek before it fell too far.

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