Written by LJ
This story is dedicated to my husband for his battle against, and subsequent victory over Lymphoma.
Dominic smiled as he watched his two Brats lying on the floor in front of him, enjoying ‘Lampoon’s’ Christmas movie with Chevy Chase. It was Christmas Eve, and he was mellowing with the assistance of a snifter of expensive brandy.
His thoughts took him back to a time several months ago that marked the beginning of a very intense and difficult period for them as a threesome.
This past March after a severe winter storm, his partners had been on snow removal duty and Jayden had sprained his back. Or so it was thought at the time.
Jayden spent many a sleepless night in pain as the pressure in his back continued to increase. His once robust appetite dwindled until eating became a chore rather than something to look forward to. To make matters worse, Slade thought his younger partner was faking as a medical solution proved hard to pin down.
By the start of June, after numerous doctor visits and x-rays, it was finally concluded that something more serious was amiss and Dominic became aggressive in demanding extra wide-ranging searches be conducted to find out what was wrong. As a physician and surgeon, he found the waiting frustrating. As a partner and lover, he found it unbearable.
Additional blood tests led to further analysis when cancer was suspected.
Next step took place almost immediately with Jayden being seen by Dr. Peter Barker, a surgeon. A biopsy performed on the lymph node in Jayden’s left groin a week later, determined that Jayden indeed had non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and it had by this time progressed to Stage IV. The definitive diagnosis was made on the fourth of July, Jayden’s twenty-seventh birthday.
Dominic had at first been concerned with his youngest partner’s non-participation in the conversation that had taken place in the doctor’s office, but soon discovered Jayden’s preference was to leave it up to his Top to take care of things. Once again, Dominic had been humbled by the amount of trust his two lovers had in his ability to meet their needs.
It was on the way home that Jayden’s quietly spoken request just about broke Dominic’s heart. Tears still had a tendency to form whenever he thought about it.
“Will you and Slay take care of each other for me when I’m gone?” had been the softly murmured words.
With his eyes watering, Dominic’s chest constricted and his breathing became laboured. He reached over to take Jayden’s hand and squeezed it. Fighting to get his emotions under control, it was several moments before Dominic could speak. “You’re not going anywhere, my love,” he huskily assured the younger man before lifting the hand in his and lovingly kissing the back of it.
To say the three men had been thrown by the suspected, and then confirmed, diagnosis would be an understatement at best. Each time there was a new development they’d discuss the issue in depth and spend a lot of time on the internet researching the subject. The first time the ‘C’ word had been mentioned almost took Slade and Jayden’s breaths away. Dominic saw the fear in their eyes as the worst case scenarios came to mind. Neither of his partners had any firsthand experience with the disease and it proved a difficult task keeping them focused on the more optimistic prospects.
Jayden eventually accepted it as what must be, must be. But Slade wasn’t able to be as philosophical about it all. The thought of possibly losing the treasured companion of his youth and now cherished lover was more than he could deal with and he often walked out on their conversations only to return ashamed and apologetic.
Dominic merely held them a little closer and promised they’d get through this as life-partners and as part of a great team made up of themselves and reliable medical personnel.
Dr. Richard McNeill, Jayden’s newly acquired oncologist, insisted on a bone marrow aspiration. Throughout the rather uncomfortable procedure, Jayden merely closed his eyes and held tightly to Dominic’s hand. He barely drew a breath until it was over.
Slade spent the entire time anxiously walking the halls. He was unable to stay in the room with his partners; unable to see his lover in pain.
Fortunately, the examination of the bone marrow showed that the marrow had not been affected by the lymphoma. Tests also showed his spleen had not been affected.
Less than three weeks after cancer was suspected, Jayden’s chemotherapy began. It was the day after the bone marrow biopsy when Dr. McNeill determined the need for six treatments three weeks apart, followed by radiation. The number of those treatments would be determined by another doctor. The team was growing.
The morning of Jayden’s first chemo was arduous to say the least. A two-hour orientation of what his ‘cocktail’ would consist of, the possible side-effects and methods of dealing with them had Jayden’s head spinning. That had been immediately followed by a PET-scan. This day’s culmination of medical tests led to what Dr. McNeill referred to as a start-point. Jayden’s road to recovery was about to begin.
Although Slade had attended some of the doctor visits, he’d used work as an excuse to stay away from the hospital this day and would continue to do so on other days involving the chemo therapy. Dominic arranged his schedule to always be in attendance during these sessions.
It was just after lunch, when Jayden and Dominic entered the chemo treatment room for the first half of his initial treatment. Patients were seated in numerous recliners with IV tubes attached to various areas of their bodies. Nurses quietly went about administering medication and providing encouragement or information as needed. The room was bright and sunny with a wonderful air of serenity.
Jayden walked as if in a daze over to the chair designated as his for the afternoon. With little to-do, a twenty-gauge cannula was inserted into his forearm just above the wrist for the meds to be delivered intravenously.
Dominic watched his youngest Brat with love and understanding as the shutters slowly came down. Jayden was beginning to handle today’s overwhelming events in the only way he felt capable of. He was shutting everything out and letting his Top converse with the nursing staff.
At one point in time, Dominic left his partner alone while he went to the washroom. It was the only event that Jayden clued into and one that would never be repeated. Jayden panicked when he realized Dominic was no longer by his side. Fortunately he calmed immediately upon the older man’s return.
Four hours later, Dominic and Jayden walked out of the hospital. They had to return the next morning for the second phase of this session. Jayden remained quiet the entire trip home which included a stop-off at the pharmacy where Dominic went in to have prescriptions filled while his partner stayed in the car.
Jayden was sitting at the kitchen table toying with the food in front of him when Slade came in from his day’s work.
The first thing Slade noticed was the cannula in his fellow-Brat’s arm. “What the hell is he still wearing that for?” he loudly demanded, startling both his partners by the fierceness in his voice.
Jayden’s body sagged back in his chair as tears stung his eyes and he hastened to hide his arm under the table.
Dominic sternly signalled for Slade to exercise care in how he was speaking. “The nurse thought it would be easier to leave it in place rather than re-insert it tomorrow, Slade,” the older man calmly explained, trying to keep his disapproval from showing. “Only four of the five bags of Jayden’s cocktail were infused today. The final bag, Rituxan, will take another four hours to infuse and that is what made it necessary to wait another day.” He nodded his head in Jayden’s direction and was pleased to see Slade go over and hug the other man, apologizing at the same time.
“No appetite again, huh buddy?” Slade made an effort to tone down some. He sighed and shook his head at the reoccurring problem. Then he sat down next to his partner and tried to tease him into a better frame of mind. “From the looks of all those little bottles on the counter, one would think we were planning to open our own drugstore.” The comment only earned a slight snicker. Turning serious, Slade firmly suggested, “I think it’s time to inform Mom and Dad about what’s been going on, Jay-Jay. I know you don’t want them to know but they’re bound to find out eventually and they’ll be hurt that we kept it from them.”
Not getting a response, Slade stood up and announced, “I’ve got a phone call to make.” He received a nod of concord from Dominic.
“I’ve your supper ready, Slade, for when you’re done,” Dominic called out. “Try to eat a few more bites, Jayden. I know you’re very tired and probably just want to go to bed, but you need the nourishment. You’ve already lost more weight than you can afford to.”
“Not hungry,” Jayden mumbled, dropping his fork and pushing his plate away. “I wish Slay wasn’t calling our parents.”
“He’s right though, sweetheart. They deserve to know.”
“Will they become part of the team?”
“I imagine they’ll want to be,” Dominic assured him, setting Slade’s meal on the table.
“Hmm, this looks good,” Slade enthused, sitting down again. “Mom and Dad will be over shortly, Jay. Mom’s bringing you something to eat. It’s an old favourite,” he garbled through a mouthful of food.
‘Good luck with that.’ Dominic grinned, keeping his thoughts to himself as he placed a couple of pills and a glass of water in front of Jayden. “Take these, love?”
Screwing up his face, Jayden questioned, “What are these for?”
“Hopefully to prevent nausea caused by the chemo,” Dominic patiently answered, shaking his head at the exhaustion revealed by his youngest Brat’s countenance.
“But I’m not even feeling sick,” the tired man protested.
“They’re precautionary, Jayden.” Dominic insisted by pushing the pills closer to his youngest Brat’s hand. The message was clear and reluctantly obeyed after only a moment’s hesitation.
Slade grimaced when Jayden’s arm once again came into view. This time he kept silent as he finished eating, got up and carried his plate, cutlery and glass over to the sink.
Dominic was wiping off the counter while Slade was putting the last of the dishes away when company arrived.
As was usually the case, Cecil and Ester made a fuss over the two young men they had raised as their own. But their pleasant chatter came to a sudden stop when they spotted the cannula.
Dominic found it heart-wrenching to watch the display of emotions crossing their elderly faces. They turned questioning eyes in his direction. It took a while to explain the entire situation and answer their many queries. They seemed to grasp at his assurances that all was expected to end well, desperately wanting them to be true.
Meanwhile, much to Dominic’s surprise, Jayden had eaten the three small containers of food his mother had brought him. Even though Dominic was at a loss as to just what it was his partner was eating, he thought it best to wait until the old folk left before asking about it.
Although not as happy upon leaving as they had been when they arrived, Cecil and Ester did a good job holding it together as they said their goodbyes. They extracted promises to be kept informed so they could be available to help as much as possible.
“So what was in those little microwaveable bowls?” Dominic inquired when his partners joined him in the living room after seeing their parents out.
Slade and Jayden glared at one another, each wanting the other to answer.
Jayden looked away as his cheeks reddened; his discomfort obvious.
“Ya may as well tell him, Jay-Jay, and get it over with. He’s gonna know sooner or later.” Slade sat down on the sofa next to his older partner and waited.
The younger man’s agitated fidgeting was an indication of his heightening embarrassment. “It’s baby food,” he mumbled, staring at the floor.
“It comes in those small jars you get at the grocery store,” Slade offered as if Dominic wasn’t aware of its’ existence. “Jay likes the cereal too. It’s called Pablum and he prefers the oatmeal kind.”
“Ah-ha,” Dominic nodded his understanding as he reached out, grabbed Jayden’s wrist and tugged until Jayden was sitting on his lap. “Comfort food, right? But only in exceptional situations.”
“I guess, ‘cause I haven’t had any in years,” Jayden admitted, hiding his face against Dominic’s shoulder.
“It’s all right, sweetheart. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. We all need something at a time when life seems to be beating us up. Now that I know what works, I’ll see to it that we keep a few bottles in the back of the pantry. Just for emergencies, mind you.” Dominic smiled when he felt the head on his shoulder nodding an agreement.
“I remember a fellow intern who had a special ‘comfort’ item. It was a large pacifier. His girlfriend would purchase them for him. God only knows where she found them adult size but she did. He went through a lot of them. Once during a particular arduous series of exams he got down to his last one and by the time new ones arrived, he’d chewed that thing until it was nothing more than a mangled mess of soggy plastic.” Dominic’s story had them all laughing.
“That’s not really true, is it?” Jayden asked.
“It sure is,” Dominic insisted. “Cross my heart.” He gently pushed Jayden back a bit so he had enough room to move his fingers across his chest.
With the awkwardness of the confession over with, Jayden relaxed and cuddled into his Top’s arms. A loud yawn had Dominic declaring it was time they called it a day. They had another busy day ahead of them tomorrow.
The first three treatments went off without a hitch. Jayden seemed to tolerate the meds wonderfully and did not suffer from the many side effects that often plaque patients undergoing chemotherapy. There was no nausea or vomiting and his appetite actually increased in spite of the metallic taste the medicine left in his mouth. In all likelihood it was due to the Prednisone being prescribed for three days following each treatment. The pain in his back diminished significantly; enough so that he had his first good night’s sleep in months, right after the initial infusion. By the second, he was completely pain free. He slowly began to regain the weight he’d lost, but eventually showed signs of hair loss and decided to take matter into his own hands by completely shaving his head.
Slade unwaveringly did the same to show his support. Skyy and Aaron, who were working for Slade in Jayden’s absence, immediately followed suit. Dusty was also quick to jump on the band wagon.
‘Cute!’ Dominic thought, ‘five bald Brats running around.’
It was after the third treatment that a problem raised a serious concern. Jayden’s white blood cells were not rejuvenating rapidly enough. Dr. McNeill elected to use Neupogen as a support medication to stimulate the production of the depleted cells.
Each morning after breakfast for the five days following chemotherapy, Dominic would administer the injection. Special care had to be maintained both in the handling of the medication itself and the administering of it. Jayden would watch the procedure with interest, having learned to just go with the flow of things. Slade, however, made a hasty escape using work as an excuse.
“I’m glad you’re able to give me this much hands-on care, Dom. I wish you were able to do more, but I understand you not being able to take care of your own partners,” Jayden once commented during the first rounds of injections.
Another PET-scan was performed after the sixth treatment and when going over the results with Dr. McNeill, Jayden finally ventured forth and asked the question playing heavily on his mind.
“How do you know if all this is working?” He clutched at Dominic’s hand, understandably apprehensive about the impending reply.
The doctor smiled and happily announced, “Oh it worked all right. You are in remission.”
Dominic heard the catch in Jayden’s breath mere seconds before he heard the soft weeping of relief. He closed his eyes, willing the tears prickling behind his eyelids to abate while offering up a silent prayer of thanks to the powers that be. Then he rubbed his left hand soothingly over his partner’s back while holding out his right hand to the doctor. “Thank you, Richard,” he whispered brokenly. He was unable to say more. It was only the first week of November, scarcely under four months since Jayden’s initial chemo treatment.
On the way home, Jayden called Slade to tell him the news. He put his cell on speaker. Slade immediately told his two employees who were justifiably ecstatic. So much so that their whoops and hollers of joy were loud enough to almost rattle the car windows.
“Can we drop by my parents, Dom?” Jayden requested, snapping shut his cell.
“Of course; they’re part of the team, right?”
Jayden delivered the welcoming news to his parents and they were overjoyed to the point of tears. Dominic stood back and fondly watched as they showered their son with hugs, kisses and pats on the back while dampening the front of his shirt. Naturally the two men were then held hostage until they’d had coffee and a large slice of Ester’s homemade apple pie.
Although family and friends alike were thrilled by the update, it unfortunately led to trouble for at least one young man.
Dominic was reading in his study when he heard the back door open and then softly shut a couple of moments later. Putting aside his book, he waited until a foot landed on the bottom step leading up to the master bedroom where Jayden was soundly sleeping.
“Slade,” he called and rolled his eyes when he detected a low groan. His oldest Brat had a lot to answer for.
A guilty young man appeared in the doorway, sheepishly hanging his head. “You didn’t have to wait up for me, Dom.”
“Really now? And just how did you figure we’d discuss your adventures this evening had I gone to bed?”
“Dusty, Skyy, Aaron and I went out after work to raise a little hell in order to celebrate Jay’s remission. We were getting ready to leave when I bumped into some old friends of Jayden’s and mine. I decided to stay and visit with them awhile. It took longer to explain why I was now bald and bring them up to date on what’s been happening than I meant it to. Sorry, I hadn’t planned on being so late.”
Dominic took in the slightly blurred speech and the glazed over eyes. “And you didn’t plan to smoke up either, did you?” He watched as the other man uneasily shuffled from one foot to the other. “Look at me, Slade. Not the wisest celebration choice, was it?”
“It was unplanned, but I couldn’t refuse.” Slade drew in a deep breath and attempted to square his shoulders as he manfully owned up to his indiscretion. “Guess I didn’t want to. I’ll get the paddle,” he offered as he walked over to the desk and pulled the wooden implement out of the bottom drawer.
The expected punishment was generously applied, once again affirming the rule that non-prescribed drugs had no part in their lives.
In the dimly lit room, two men lay curled up on the leather sofa. One was cooing words of love and forgiveness while the other worked at getting his crying under control.
“Here you go, love.” Dominic pressed a clean handkerchief into Slade’s hand and waited patiently for his Brat to open up and start talking. His patience was rewarded a few minutes later.
“I thought he was faking. I didn’t believe there was something wrong, especially when the doctor couldn’t find anything,” Slade sadly confessed, his voice so low it was hardly discernible. “I was really nasty to him; probably more times than I care to recount.”
“If I remember correctly, you were punished on a few of those times,” Dominic reminded him.
“Humph,” Slade scoffed. “I think I deserved far more than a couple of spankings and some crappy lines to write.”
“But that is never for you to decide, is it?”
“No,” was the mumbled reply.
“Were you thinking of forcing my hand when you smoked up tonight, Slade”
“I don’t recall thinking of anything at the time, Dom. But I do remember deliberately silencing the little warning voice in the back of my mind.” Several minutes of silence followed that statement. Then a sincere yearning was forlornly expressed. “I wish I knew of some way to make it up to Jay-Jay.”
“Would you be willing to listen to a suggestion or two from me, pet?”
“Sure!” Slade actually perked up at the offer.
“I think it would be nice for us to celebrate Jayden’s progression together as the threesome we are.”
“Anything special in mind?”
“Well, Jayden’s been talking about David Copperfield’s appearance that’s to take place the end of next week. He’d really like to attend. I thought if you’d spring for the tickets, I’d take care of the hotel, meals and traveling expenses. What do you think?”
“I’m game!” Slade was beginning to get excited. “But can we get tickets this late?”
“It is. I’ve already taken care of everything; did it online. You can reimburse me for your part later.”
“It’s a deal. What else can I do? You hinted at more than one thing.”
“Jayden and I met with Dr. Marcus Lowe this morning. He’s a specialist in radiology.”
“A new member for the team?”
“Exactly. He explained the pros and cons for radiation treatments.”
“But if Jay is in remission, why radiation?”
“Another precautionary measure to make sure all malignant cells get eliminated; insurance of a sort. Jayden’s treatments begin in one month’s time and he will have twenty of them. The last one should take place sometime the beginning of the New Year. He has to be at the hospital every day except weekends and holidays, and I think you should take him.”
“Will there be needles involved?” Slade sounded a little dubious of the proposal.
“No, there will be no needles,” Dominic made no attempt at keeping the amusement out of his voice. “There will however be a weekly review consisting mostly of checking his weight and vital signs. You can take mental notes and report back to me.”
“Good; about the needles that is,” Slade breathed a sigh of relief. “Will Jay want me to go into the treatment room with him?”
“Probably, but you’ll not be allowed to accompany him. You’ll stay in the waiting room. Believe me, you’ll soon see it comes by its’ name honestly.”
“So I better take along things to keep us entertained.”
“I would,” Dominic agreed with a soft chuckle. “Now there’s one more important need for you to fill. You may have noticed Jayden’s lapses in memory lately.”
“Yeah, and I guess it’s why you’ve been somewhat lenient with his med routine.”
“I hope never to punish either of you for something you have no control over, sweetheart.” Dominic lightly kissed Slade’s forehead before continuing. “Listen up. Jayden has to have a special pill an hour before each radiology treatment. I would like you to take on that responsibility. It is to protect his stomach from the radiation.”
“One pill one hour before each treatment, huh? I can do that. I’ll make sure he doesn’t miss a single dose. Honest,” Slade ardently vowed. He glanced up at his Top. Although pleased with the plans they were making, there was a trace of sadness in his eyes that Dominic easily picked up on.
“What’s wrong, love?”
“Right from the start, Jayden and I truly wanted the type of relationship you were offering us. I still regret it taking us so long to just let go and make is possible for you to take charge. We spent five years making us all miserable at times and almost lost you in the process.”
“We’ve dealt with this, Slade. It’s behind us now. You are a very independent man and Jayden was more than content to let you lead. Although you wanted my help and guidance, you also saw it as a weakness. It took you a long time to figure out just how much strength it actually took to let someone else take over certain areas of your life, regardless of how badly you wanted or needed it. We’re okay now, so stop dwelling on it.”
Slade smiled at the reassurance in his lover’s comments. “I love you, Dom,” was his heartfelt whispered declaration.
“And I you, my darling.”
Slade had kept his promise. The number of trips to the hospital was dwindling with only half a dozen left and not a single pill had been missed. The prognosis was excellent due to Jayden’s youth and previous state of health. All three of them were looking forward to a new year with optimism and joy.
Dominic was pulled from his musings by the sounds of giggling and noticed the movie had ended. He grinned at the antics of his beloved Brats.
Jayden was spooned against Slade who was nibbling at his ears, causing him to squeal with laughter. Slade’s hand reached around and slipped into the front of Jayden’s sweat pants. His fondling of the treasure he found there had his younger partner squirming with delight.
“If you boys can wait for a few moments, we could be doing this together in the comfort of our big bed,” Dominic remarked. “Of course, if you’d rather do it on your own….” He chuckled when the two men on the floor turned to face him, checking to see if he was serious.
Getting to his feet, Slade offered a hand to Jayden and pulled him upward. “Let’s help lock up for the night, Jay-Jay. Here you shut the DVD off.” He tossed over the remote and headed for the kitchen.
Dominic watched his Brats scrambling and slowly downed the last of his brandy. Setting the empty snifter on the table, he stood up and made his way towards the stairs. He laughed when he got to the master bedroom before them and heard their demands to know where he was.
“Up here, my slow-pokes,” he called out as he swiftly undressed.
Slade and Jayden took the stairs two at a time. They stopped at the bedroom door and paused to appreciate the sight of their naked lover stretched out on the bed. Then they began stripping as fast as they could, leaving clothing to fall where it may.
“I thought you might have changed your minds,” Dominic teased seconds before two eager Brats pounced.