Note: This story is a continuation of the Chris & Joe stories here in the Nifty Archive. This is also a reworking of the original, as published in early 1998.
We got a LOT of mail from people all over the world who liked both Christopher (the first story Joe published) and this continuation as well. We have decided to add more detail about us and to answer everyone's questions, many that there are. We hope this is as good a story as Chris & Joe.
As this is being reworked (May 1999), Joe is in the hospital trying desperately to recover from injuries from a second car accident. He's been there since late March 1998. One would think that one horrific accident in a lifetime was more than sufficient, but stupidity still rules the road. We will tell more about that in another chapter.
I don't know if Joe will appreciate this, but I wish to dedicate this and Joe's other stories to Chris. His memory is strong within Joe, and he has become a real part of me because I know Joe still finds life without Chris to be quite a challenge. God bless you, Chris, for all that you did to enrich my buddy's life ... and mine as well. I will meet you some day.
He has dark hair that is neatly trimmed. He is trim and in great physical shape. He is cute, slightly cocky, and he became a good friend over several month's time. The kid made my heart pound. The kid made my dick hard. If I closed my eyes, his image would pop into my memory and my hand would automatically reach into my jeans to take hold of my erection. Thinking about him would make it happen so fast that it constantly amazed me. And he didn't know he did it to me. Rule #1 -- straight guys are off limits, especially straight guys who are eight years younger than I am. But he was as close to anyone of helping me to break my rule. I liked everything about the man. He has a kind and honest face and he is kind and honest too.
I sometimes judge people by how they speak of their family. I have great respect for my three siblings and my parents. Andrew is an only child because his little brother died, when Andrew was 14, at the age of 10. He had a rare cancer that took him quickly. Kevin would be 22 this year. Andrew said he envied me having a brother and two sisters to grow up with. He spoke well of his parents too. They treated him well, he says. He called them once a week in Pennsylvania. It turns out they lived about 40 minutes from where I settled down. Nothing speaks of insincerity. He's no goodie two shoes either, but he is the proverbial good kid.
We worked together on a project. I am a programmer and I was in need of a technical writer and trainer for my project. One person would suffice if he or she were the right person, otherwise I'd have to contract two people. A friend told me about Andrew, so I called him to see if he would contract with me. Our interview was more like a chat between old friends. He was interested in the work that I was doing. He showed me some past projects he'd done and impressed me thoroughly. He didn't put on airs or feed me bullshit.
He said he was just finishing up a contract and would be ready to help me with mine in a week. He called me a few days later to see if he could come in for a half day to get familiar with the specs. I hadn't expected to see him until the following Monday.
We worked hard, sometimes 14 hours a day. He didn't complain or nag or moan and groan at the schedule. He fully enjoyed the work he did and our end-users liked him. It was easy for me to do my job because I had complete faith in him.
He was, like me, a basketball fanatic, so we played on the basketball court at my complex a couple times a week or at the gym on a team on Friday mornings. We spent our lunch hours and a couple of hours on Saturdays working out at a local gym. We went out to movies on occasion to see the adventure stuff that his girlfriend didn't like. We walked in charity events like Walk America. We cycled with mountain bikes on some of the rough terrain in his neighborhood. When we were at work, we worked hard. When we were away from work, we never thought about it or talked about it.
I had to go into the Financial District one morning for a meeting on the contract. I asked Andrew if he would like to go with me. I knew I couldn't do this trip alone. I hadn't been in the city proper since our accident, even though it remained my favorite city to be in. We got in town early by train and had coffee at a small shop in the Financial District. The meeting went well and we looked likely to be getting a second contract. It was 1:30 by the time we were done. Neither of us had to be home at any particular time.
"Let's take a walk over to the Common. It's been awhile since I've been there," I said.
We walked all over the Common and then over into the Public Garden. Andrew looked at me a couple of times and finally spoke.
"You're really quiet. You okay?"
"Yeah, I guess. This is a hard place to walk through. There are a million memories here, with an old friend. I wanted to see if I could do this without feeling that I wanted to run away screaming like a mad man."
"I don't know yet. I feel and urge to run, but to be true to the memory, I need to stay and look at everything."
"Can I help?"
"Yes, but not today. I'll share with you in time."
"When you trust me?"
"I trust you now, my friend, in every way. You proved yourself to me a long time ago. But this takes time and I haven't let it be a priority."
"I understand more than you think, Joe. I've felt before that something was missing for you. I didn't know what ... or who. But I know. Please talk to me."
He motioned to an empty bench, beneath a shady tree. I hesitated. He stood and looked at me, watching my eyes, not flinching while I stood uncertain. I nodded.
"His name was Chris," I started.
Andrew listened as I told of my buddy in college, how we eventually fell in love, of our times together, and how he died. He nodded or shook his head, asked questions along the way, and listened with interest and concern. When I was done, we sat in silence for a few moments.
"I'm glad you trust me enough to tell me. Thank you, Joe. I see why you miss him. I feel sad for you. What you told me stays between just you and me."
"You're okay with knowing I'm gay? That I loved a man?"
"I'm okay with knowing that you love a man, Joe, with all your heart. Chris was obviously very special to you. What's wrong with loving someone? I love a woman and you don't hold it against me."
"But loving the opposite sex is acceptable. A man loving a man is not."
"To some, but who cares what someone else thinks. It's what's in here that counts."
He touched my heart lightly, making his point clear.
I couldn't speak because there was a lump in my throat. I nodded. He didn't say any more, didn't have to. I just hoped that he wouldn't want to leave our contract because of what he knew about me. He answered that fear.
"Joe? We'll be all right. I like you and what you've done for me. Please don't think this will change us, at least not for the worse. Okay?"
"Thanks, Andrew. That's good to know."
He was right, too. In general I did not tell the world I was gay. It's no one's business. My friends don't share details of their sex lives with me, except those who brag and are full of shit. There was no reason, really, to tell Andrew either. If anything, I ran a risk of losing a good working partner. But it was a feeling that finally said it would be okay to share my secret, to put Chris higher up in my life again instead of burying him away in sadness. Andrew and I worked as well together as before. He wanted my trust and my friendship, and was not afraid to say so.
He did treat me a little differently though, out in our social life, knowing what he knew about Chris. He was having a hard time with me having such a loss, so whenever he wanted to talk, I was okay to. No question, however intimate, was off base with him. He was curious and trying to appreciate what he had, so he wanted to make sure he was doing things the right way with his life. I was his gauge. He was becoming a better friend, and letting me be his friend too, by opening me up and sharing things that he knew were on my mind. He knew I didn't share them with anyone else. I didn't necessarily play the straight man in public, but I did not share in the sexual innuendoes and bravado that the other guys were a part of. I liked an off-color joke as well as the next guy, but sometimes, as my grandfather used to say, enough is too much. There was a time and place for everything, but at work, I was working and trying to keep my own company afloat.
We spent more time in Boston, sometimes with his girlfriend joining us, sometimes just the two of us. When we were three, we would go to shows and movies and out to dinner. When we were just two, we would go to all the places that Chris and I hung out in, like Harvard Square, the Common and the Public Garden, Back Bay, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, and along the Charles River. He knew I liked Boston a lot and thought that it was unfair that I was depriving myself of the cool places. Sometimes it was very hard to go to a place that was special to Chris and me. It was okay with him if I couldn't, or didn't want to on any particular trip. He guided me there another time, carefully and with understanding that it hurt. He was right that if I went there with him, it would be different than when I was there with Chris. Andrew had common sense and a good heart. He's what a friend is supposed to be.
One afternoon, on a Sunday, we were sitting and reading the Boston Globe beside the Charles River, opposite MIT. The day was bright and sunny, very few clouds, a mild breeze, and low humidity. In our book, this was a #10 day. I eventually dozed off, surrounded by peace and quiet. Next thing I knew, Chris was sitting beside me on the grass, chatting away like we always did, never running out of things to talk about. I was talking back to him, as usual. The conversation seemed to be hours long.
"Joe? Come on buddy, snap out of it. Joe?"
I awoke with a start, tears running down my cheeks. I was confused where I was. I sat up and looked around, lost and confused. My eyes darted all over. Hadn't Chris just been here?
"Are you okay, Joe? I'm sorry man, Chris isn't here. It's me, Andrew."
He must have thought I was nuts. I had to get my bearings. I saw Cambridge stretched out before us, just as it had been moments ago in my dream. There were even sailboats on the river, and wind surfers. I had seen them too. The only thing that was different, at all, was that Chris was sitting beside me, not Andrew. I was shaking.
Andrew moved beside me and put his arm around my shoulder.
"You were dreaming of Chris, friend. I'm sorry it's me here instead. I wish it were your Chris, like it used to be. I don't know what to do for you."
"I'm okay, man. Just disoriented for a couple seconds. It's okay that you're here. I'm glad you are."
"You miss him so much."
"Yeah. But you're my buddy. I'm okay."
Overall, it had been a good afternoon. I headed to my apartment on the South Shore as Andrew headed to the Western suburbs. He called me when he got home to make sure all was well.
"It is, man. Thank you. I hope I didn't freak you out."
"No, man, you couldn't. I don't know what it's like to feel what you do, but I'm here whenever you need a friend. I'm glad you are mine, too. It feels good. Now I understand how you and Chris grew to be so close so fast. You're so warm and so open, it can't be helped. Even my longest friend doesn't give me what you do. You're amazing."
We talked a couple more minutes. I sat down and turned on television. I don't think I saw what was playing. I just saw Andrew. There is nothing like the comfort of a strong friend. I felt good, relieved in the friendship that we shared. Times change, and not always for the worse.
It was almost September, only a day or two away. I finished up my development on the project and returned to PA through the fall and winter. I had a project waiting for me when I arrived, having worked out the details over the phone over the past week. Andrew went to work on a project at AT&T. It was a firm six-month commitment. I wanted to come back to Boston in the spring. We would work together again. I looked forward to it, too.
In PA I worked and played basketball. I had made a few good acquaintances there, but no real friends. My older sister and her family were there, which is one of the reasons I moved. I lived a half-hour from them. We saw each other once a week minimum and sometimes I stayed overnight on a weekend. Sometimes she was more like a mother than a sister, even though she was only 18 months older than me.
And there was no one like Andrew. There could have been, eventually, but I had no desire to be with someone. Men who wanted to be with me flattered me, but the feeling wasn't mutual.
I woke up in the middle of the night one night in a cold sweat. Outside the wind was blowing terribly so I knew it was me that was hot, not the weather. It took me a moment to remember that it was November. I had not yet turned on my heat. I had gas heat, included in my rent, but the afternoon sun always warmed my apartment enough this time of year that I still did not need any more.
My left leg ached so miserably that it practically screamed at me. We were having a long stretch of rain and cold weather. The two combined to make me ache badly. But the ache in my leg was more than just an ache. It burned like fire. I could feel the heat rising out of it while I ran my hand over my knee and onto my shin. It burned me, and in me. I could not keep my hand on my skin. Hmmm, like Chris' chest did before we knew he had Hodgkin's Disease.
"See your doctor."
"What? Who's there?"
It was a disembodied voice. Where the hell did that come from?
"See your doctor."
"No! I'm fine."
What the hell was I, some shaman who could predict illness? Bullshit.
"Just leave me alone!"
But I knew it wasn't going to. The feeling of fire was identical to what I had felt with Chris. I had little real doubt as to what the fire came from. I would call my family doctor later this morning for a checkup. I was due anyway for a good physical. I turned my head to the right and looked at my alarm clock. It was 3:17 a.m. I lay and stared at the ceiling until my alarm went off at 6:00.
I made coffee and took a shower while it brewed. I buttered a hot English muffin and went out to the balcony. The air was chilly but I was still hot. I had a fever of 101 when I checked it.
In my doctor's office, his nurse took my vitals and some notes. The doctor poked and prodded and almost made me jump off the table when he pressed on my knee. He sent me down the hall to X-ray. I was in his waiting room again for fifteen minutes while the film was developed. His nurse came back to get me again. The film was up on his light box when I went into the exam room. I saw a dark spot at my knee that didn't look like other X-rays I remembered seeing in the past. We talked about it and he wanted to send me to a specialist for a biopsy and bone scan. He said it could be nothing or it could be something.
"It's something. Something is wrong, Joe. You need to be ready."
I waited two days before the phone rang.
"Joe, this is Dr. Smith's office. Can you come in this afternoon?"
"Yes. What time?"
"He'd like to see you first thing after lunch."
"Okay, I'll be in at 1:00 if that's okay."
Dr. Smith looked at me. He was curious. I was too relaxed, too ... something.
"Do you know what I'm about to tell you?"
"Yes. No, not specifically, but you're going to tell me the dark spot is a cancer of some sort."
"Osteosarcoma, Joe. Bone cancer."
I spaced out while he told me about treatment protocol and radiation and possibly chemotherapy or even surgery. I filed the information away but I didn't listen to it all, consciously. What I would need to know later was being filed away as if you were saving a file to your hard drive.
"I know Joe. Call Andrew. He can help you. I can too, willingly, but talk to Andrew. He wants you to trust him in every way."
I knew that Chris was not blowing me off. If I wanted him to help me still, he'd guide me along. But he was exactly right. I needed to talk to Andrew"
Andrew answered on the second ring. It was 8:30 Wednesday night and I knew he would be home studying for a class he was taking.
"Hi man. Am I interrupting?"
"Joe! No way. Glad you called because I was sitting there wondering how you are doing. You're on my call list for tomorrow if I hadn't heard from you by then."
"I got some news to share, though not entirely pleasant. You okay to talk?"
"Yeah. Tell me what's on your mind."
"I got news this afternoon that I have something wrong with my leg. I woke up feeling pretty lousy a couple nights ago."
"Gee Joe, what it is? Do you know yet?"
"Yeah. It's bone cancer, Andrew."
"Joe, what can I do for you man? Can I come down to see you?"
Wow. 'Joe, what can I do for you man? Can I come down to see you?'. Not 'Oh I'm sorry Joe' or 'What bad luck Joe' or 'That's awful Joe, too bad.' I heard his words and they warmed me up right away.
"Would you like to?"
"Yes man, I would. I can come Friday unless you want me there sooner."
I closed my eyes and smiled.
"Andrew, you are a true friend. No, I can wait until Friday. I'm okay but I would love to be with you this weekend. Is that okay with ..."
"She won't mind. She's got a baby shower to go to on Saturday anyway. I think she'd be happy to know I'm with you under the circumstances. Joe, you make me feel good that you called."
"Bud, you make me double pleased that I called. My little voice told me to."
"He's still watching out for you, Joe."
"He told me that you'd want to help me."
"I do, Joe."
"Andrew, you're too good. Where did you come from anyway? I think they'd better look around in Heaven because I think one of their angels is AWOL." I chuckled.
"I think you're looking too high, man. It's not Heaven you should be looking in."
"Aww, Andrew, give yourself credit man. Tell me that it's not a man with a good heart who says what you did instead of 'I'm sorry' or 'That's too bad'. Your words betray who you really are my friend.
"I care about you, Joe. You shouldn't have to be alone when you hear news like that. I can't do much, but you can talk to me. Maybe we'll do a little research on the Internet to see what treatment routines are out there. If you know something, maybe it won't bother you so much."
"Thank you, my friend. Don't worry in the meantime. I'm okay, but I wanted to tell you right away about today. I'm glad you're coming this weekend.
"It'll be nice to see you. Call if you need anything."
"Good night, man. Thank you."
"You're welcome, Joe. Be good. See you."
I sat on the sofa for awhile, feeling my dick get hard. I couldn't talk myself out of lusting for Andrew. He was amazing, in every way. He didn't feed me sympathy and useless phrases. 'Joe, what can I do for you man? Can I come down to see you?' That's a friend talking to me. We'd met about two years ago and he was just getting better. And I was just getting harder.
I lay back on the sofa and took off my shirt. I unzipped my jeans and peeled them open, taking my erection in my hand. I stroked up and down my seven inch shaft, pulling my foreskin over the head and then all the way back, settling into a smooth rhythm that made my balls tingle. Andrew's face was what I saw as I closed my eyes. His smile made me harder and I stroked a little faster. I saw him dressed in a T-shirt and blue jeans with a slight bulge in his crotch. I wondered how hung he was.
With that thought I shot my load onto my stomach and chest. I was breathing heavily as I put my head back down. I used my fingers to pick up my hot juice and to deliver it to my mouth. I licked my fingers clean, went back for more, and cleaned myself up while swallowing my cream. I smiled as I dozed off for an hour.
When I woke up, I was tired enough to go to bed. I slept peacefully. My doctor told me today that I had bone cancer. My best friend told me today that he cared about me. One would push the other aside, and I would let it.
I was getting home from work on Friday about 4:45. As I headed to the lobby door I heard a horn toot. I looked back and waved at Andrew as he pulled into the space beside mine.
"Good timing, man. Glad to see you made it okay."
"Good to be here, Joe. I left Boston a little early because of bad weather coming in tonight. I didn't want to get stuck."
"Come on in, bud. We'll order Chinese take-out if you're up for it."
"Yeah, man. My favorite. Can I call my mom to let her know I'm in?"
"Yeah. Use the phone in the bedroom so you can have privacy."
"Nah man, I don't need privacy. It's just mom."
A half-hour later we picked up the take-out and sat at the dining room table. It was too cold by now to sit outside. I got up and turned the stereo on. Andrew and I also had common taste in music, settling for classic rock and sometimes the newer pop music. I sat back down and put some shrimp fried rice on my plate, next to cashew chicken. I had to be in the right mood for the hotter stuff but Andrew dove right in to the hot & spicy. If I looked close enough I could almost see him sweating.
We talked about what lead me to going to my doctor.
"It's a good thing you didn't ignore it man. I hate to ask, but is it growing?"
"Yeah, it is. I start a course of radiation this week to see if we can shrink the tumor. It's underneath my kneecap and extends down into my shin a bit. I don't think I would have ignored it for long. I know my body well enough to hear the signals. And besides, it hurt me way too much to ignore it.
"Like I said, I care about you. Friends don't say that to each other often enough. If all I can do is talk to you for now, I hope it's enough."
"It is my friend. It's more than enough. I'm kinda scared of this. I have to think back to what it was like for Chris. He hated knowing there was cancer in his body. Now I know why. The pain is incredible."
We moved to the living room, full from dinner.
"What's it feel like?"
"Here, see if you feel anything."
I took his hand and put it on my knee. He held it there for a moment, then moved down to my shin a ways. He went back to my knee and frowned. He held on to my right knee, and frowned again.
"It's hot on your left side, distinctly different than your right side. No wonder it woke you up. Do you want a cold wash cloth to put on it to cool it down?"
"No, I've tried it and it doesn't work. Neither does an ice pack. I guess that's the difference between a basic injury and having cancer inside."
"I'm scared Joe. I know I shouldn't say that, but touching the cancer made it very real for me. I don't ..."
"I'm scared too man. Doing this alone would be too hard. I don't want anything from you but you being near. Whatever needs to be done, I think we can do it. Admitting you're scared is okay with me. I don't know any more than you do at the moment."
"I understand, Joe. I don't want to let you down. We've got a good friendship going. Can you believe it's two years since we met?"
"No, man, I can't. There were three very tough years before that. I like that we've had a good friendship. Please know, man, that I want to keep it that way. If this is too hard on you, now or in the future, talk to me and tell me. I don't want to push you away from me."
"It'll be okay. You won't push me away, and I wouldn't go anyway. You need me. And I think I need you, too. No one's done for me what you have. I'm making more money now than I thought I would. I like the work you bring me. I'd like to be here for anything, because that's what a friend is. Even if I'm afraid."
We sat and listened to music for awhile, not talking much. We went through my CD collection when the radio station did one of their classic CD sets. I wasn't up on the Stones, much, so we decided to play DJ ourselves. We put together two Billy Joel's, two Elton Johns, a Heart, and a Boz Scaggs set and had about 5 1/2 hours of uninterrupted music. At 2:00 we decided we were tired. The music ran out and we were all talked out.
Andrew used the guest bathroom while I used mine. I was slipping my jeans and jockeys off when he poked his head in. I put on my gym shorts, which was my standard sleep ware.
"Joe, can I, uh, bunk with you tonight?"
"Sure you can. You feeling funky?"
"Yeah I am. Don't know why. I think I'd just feel better if I didn't sleep alone."
"I haven't slept with anyone for a long time. I think I'd like you being beside me. I'll try to keep my hands off you," I kidded, with a wide grin.
"Don't do that, man. Hold me. It would feel good."
Andrew was right. It did feel good. There was no sex, or even sense of it. My mind might not have let it happen because Chris was still there. But to hold my friend felt good and it helped me to sleep soundly.
We talked the next week twice after he went home again on Monday. Sleeping with him hadn't changed anything, except that he knew the trust had increased that much more. The friendship, too, was stepped up a notch. It took me only until Saturday morning to tell him I cared about him too. I didn't say so just because he had told me. I said so because he knew what it meant to be a friend to me.
I kept him up to date with my treatment routine. He knew I was alone during the week when I was sick. He wished he could come and stay with me longer, but he did come for Thanksgiving. We had dinner at his folk's house. I tried to eat and not insult his mom, but she understood that my appetite was a battle. Andrew worried about me because I had lost 17 pounds from the time I was diagnosed to the holiday. We spent the weekend trying to find a happy medium between eating nothing and eating something good for me. Milkshakes were the prime treasure, so Andrew went to his mom's basement and brought some fresh fruit -- strawberries and peaches -- that she had canned during the fall. He shared with me and we laughed a lot. At night he held me close and made sure the pain was bearable.
At Christmas he came back again, for a week of vacation. He had been wasted between work, school, and studying for two finals. He was like me, a B student who had to work hard to stay a B student. Andrew was no dummy. But things did not always come naturally. Friendship did, and that's what counted for me.
For a week we skied when the snow was good enough. We ate out as he continued to play mother hen to my appetite. I was down 7 more pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was evident I was not winning yet against the cancer. He kissed my cheek at night before we went to bed. He held me, wrapping his strong arms around my back and letting me nuzzle into his neck. I put my hand on his chest, over his heart. He didn't mind that I touched him.
My buddy Andrew -- he had graduated from friend to true buddy that week. Buddy was twice as good, minimum, as friend. He wasn't afraid of anything any more. He saw me taking little from him, and maybe giving him a sense of his life. He said he'd no longer be content with living day to day. Knowing Chris was killed in an instant and knowing that it took almost no time for me to have cancer -- he told me life was too good to waste. He wanted to live. I told him I did too and that I wanted him to help me do it the right way.