"It's most likely nothing, Bran. Raab's liver probably just had a stroke or something." Glomb grinned and gave DiCo's shoulder a thump.
Brandon smiled, weakly. Raab hadn't been feeling well for weeks now, and it just wasn't normal. He was always tired, weak, and he hadn't had a drink in days. It was serious this time; it had to be. Ryan, Glomb, Bam, Rake, Novak and Brandon all sat around in the uncomfortable chairs, talking quietly. Bran's stomach was doing back flips and everyone was doing their best to calm him down and put him at ease.
Sarabeth is scared to death,
To hear what the doctor will say,
She hasn't been well,
Since the day that she fell,
And the bruise, just won't go away.
So she sits and she waits with her mother and dad,
Flips through an old magazine,
Till a the nurse with a smile,
Stands at the door,
And says will you please come with me
At long last, the doctor's head poked outside the door, and motioned for Brandon to come into the room. With one last pat on the shoulder and another nervous glance, he stood up and walked into the room to be with Raab. He sat down in a rock-solid plastic chair beside the equally hard bed covered in a thin layer of white paper. Raab was staring at the floor and he was trembling a little. It was all Brandon could do not to run to him and hold him in his arms. The doctor sighed, rubbed the bridge of his nose as he began to speak.
"Mr. DiCamillo," the doctor paused and took a deep breath before walking over to Raab. He lifted the edge of Raab's shirt and pointed to a deep purple mark. "Do you see this bruise?"
"Are you saying I beat him?" Brandon asked seriously as Raab smiled for a second, but it quickly disappeared.
"Mr. DiCamillo, how much do you know about blood cells?"
"A little bit, from high school, I guess; and call me Brandon."
"Alright Brandon, Chris' bone marrow is producing abnormal white blood cells that do not function properly. Eventually, these cells start to crowd out the normal white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets."
"I don't think I get it. Is that really serious?" Brandon's brow crumpled, trying to make sense of what the doctor just told him.
"It's quite serious Brandon." The doctor paused again. "It's called Leukemia."
As the doctor spoke, DiCo's eyes welled up with tears and he buried his head in his hands. Raab jumped off of the bed to hold him as he sobbed.
Sarabeth is scared to death,
Cause the doctor just told her the news,
Between the red cells and white,
Something's not right,
But we're gonna take care of you.
Six chances in ten it won't come
With the therapy were gonna try,
It's just been approved,
It's the strongest there is,
I think we caught it in time.
The doctor quietly exited the room to leave the men alone. Raab had started crying at this point, and Brandon clung to him as tight as he could.
"I love you." Raab whispered softly into DiCo's ear.
They both stood up and wiped each other's tears, which was pointless as they were still crying and walked out of the room, Brandon's arm wrapped protectively around Raab's waist. As they walked into the waiting room, everyone stood up, and seeing the tears on the faces of their friends immediately ran over to hug them.
"What's wrong?" Novak asked.
The innocent question sent Brandon into hysterics; his whole body quaked with sobs as he was wrapped into Ryan's protective arms and pulled into a chair. Raab quickly rushed over and cradled him. As Brandon kept sobbing, Raab calmly explained what was going on.
"You have what?" Bam asked, taken aback.
"Jesus Christ." Ryan muttered, sitting beside Brandon.
Bam pulled Raab into a crushing hug, telling him that it was going to be ok while everyone else just stood around, teary-eyed, heartbroken and in shock.
None of them really remembered how they had all gotten back to the castle, but there they were, all sitting around the dining room table in silence. At long last, everyone left Brandon and Raab alone in the large room and went off to do their own thing. Brandon stared at a knot in the wood of one of the table legs while Raab stared at him.
"Bran?" Raab whispered.
"C'mon, we're going upstairs."
Raab stood up, took Brandon's hand and led him up the stairs to the room they shared. They sat on the bed; neither of them spoke for a few minutes until Raab broke the silence.
"Bran, it's going to be fine."
"What if…it's not…?" Brandon trailed off.
"But what if it is and we're worrying over nothing?" Raab smiled, but it quickly faded when he saw the tears fall from Brandon's eyes.
"It's not NOTHING, Chris."
"I didn't mean it like THAT. Bran, positive thinking is all I've got going for myself right now."
"What, I don't count anymore?" The corner of Brandon's lips turned upwards slightly.
"I saw that you little shit." Raab smiled and shifted himself so that he was sitting in Brandon's lap.
"I love you."
"I love you too, Bran." Raab whispered into Brandon's ear, wrapping him up in a hug.
Sarah Beth closes her eyes
She dreams she's dancing
Around and around without any cares
And her very first love is holding her close
And the soft wind is blowing her hair
The weeks went by and long nights spent at the hospital were nothing unusual to the men anymore. Raab wasn't doing well, but he wasn't doing horrible, either. The nausea was tolerable, the fatigue was a downer, but they learned to deal with it. The only thing that really got Raab down, was that his precious, soft blonde hair was now gone. His child-like face no longer hid behind the wispy locks, but was usually shaded by a ball cap or beanie.
"Bran?" Raab awoke to a sharp pain in his left arm
"Aha, you're awake. Took you long enough. C'mon babe, we're gonna be late." Brandon tossed a pair of jeans and a t-shirt at him.
"My arm hurts pretty fucking bad." Raab sat up, rubbing it gently.
"Sorry, didn't mean to hit you THAT hard."
"You're such an ass." Brandon tilted Raab's chin, kissing him softly.
"I'll live." Raab smiled sadly as he slid his jeans on.
The trip to the hospital was always tense and nerve-wracking, but lately Bran had just been turning on the radio and singing along with the songs that he clearly didn't know the words to. It made Raab laugh, and that's what was important to him. They arrived at the hospital and they went to their usual chairs in the usual waiting room, to hear the same doctor in his usual voice telling them everything looked well.
"Mister Raab, how are we feeling today?" The doctor spoke cheerily as Brandon muttered the same words under his breath.
"Pretty good, I guess. Be right back." Raab kissed Brandon's forehead as he walked into an examining room, leaving Brandon to fend for himself.
"Hey, DiCo!" Brandon turned around to see Ryan walking towards him.
"Dude, what are you doing here?"
"Angie sprained her ankle pretty bad, just getting it checked out. Where's Rabbie?"
Brandon pointed to the door Raab had disappeared behind and smiled.
"I haven't seen you guys in awhile. How's he doing?" Ryan asked, his voice filled with concern.
"Well, he still gets sick a lot, he's still tired all the time and sometimes he just stares in the mirror petting his head. He misses that hair more than the drinking, I think." Brandon smiled as Ryan laughed.
"You should get him a toupee or something."
"I'll get him a really good one…make him look like Pedro Sanchez." Brandon smiled as Ryan burst out laughing.
As they were laughing, Raab came out of the room and gave Brandon the most perplexed look he could muster.
"Hey Ry, what's up?"
"Raabie! Hey man!" Ryan stood up and swung him around in the air. "Angie messed up her ankle, and I saw DiCo and we just started talking about toupee's and Pedro Sanchez."
"Sounds…fun…" Raab trailed off, raising his eyebrow at Bran.
"Well Dunn, we hate to leave you, but we gotta get going." Raab smiled and gave Ryan a hug. "Come visit sometime, stop being so…married."
"I'll do my best. See you guys!"
They all waved goodbye as Bran and Raab walked outside and loaded themselves into the car. They made small talk. Raab didn't seem very interested in the conversation, but Brandon didn't press the issue. The arrived at the castle and Raab immediately went upstairs to take a nap while Brandon went to find April to see if any housework needed to be done.
April was collecting laundry upstairs, as usual. The day some of those men did their own laundry was the day hell froze over…or the Penguins won the Stanley Cup, the same year the Pirates won the World Series, which was just as likely. She passed by Brandon and Raab's room and poked her head in, only to find Raab sitting on the edge of the bed, his head in his hands, sobbing. She immediately dropped her basket of dirty clothing and ran in the room to bind Raab in a hug.
Sarabeth is scared to death
As she sits holding her mom
Cause it would be a mistake
For someone to take
A girl with no hair to the prom
For, just this morning right there on her pillow
Was the cruelest of any surprise
And she cried when she gathered it all in her hands
The proof that she couldn't deny
"Chris, sweetie, it's ok. Come on, stop crying." April rubbed his back.
"Don't be sorry! My god Chris. What's wrong sweetie?"
"Nothing, it's stupid." Raab sniffled.
"Honey, I'm sure it's not stupid. Now what is it?"
Raab pulled the beanie off of his head and rubbed his hand over it.
"Oh Chris…" April held him tightly.
"I seriously miss my hair. I have cancer and I don't give a shit, all I care about is my stupid hair. I'm pathetic."
"Oh you are not. You're just going through a really rough time sweetie. Hey, look at Brandon, at least your will grow back!" April joked.
Raab laughed and hugged April back, thanking her as she left the room. Raab stared into the mirror and smiled. April was right. It was just hair, but it hurt so much.
"Raabie?" Brandon knocked softly on the door, poking his head around it.
"I'm just going to grab some bread and shit. Want anything?"
"No thanks, I'm good."
Bran walked into the room, gave his boyfriend a quick kiss then headed off to the store. Raab lay down, shut his eyes and went to sleep.
Sarabeth closes her eyes
And she dreams she's dancing
Around and around without any cares
And her very first love was holding her close
And the soft wind is blowing her hair
Raab woke up to Rake staring at him.
"JESUS CHRIST! What are you doing?!" Raab jumped and almost rolled out of the bed.
"Sorry, didn't mean to scare you. C'mon downstairs, Ape made supper for everyone." Rake patted him on the shoulder then made his way out of the room.
Raab lugged himself out of the bed and went downstairs to find Rake, Novak, Bam, Ryan & Angie, Phil, Don Vito, Jess, Kelly & Ava and Glomb all sitting around the table. After the hello's, hugs and 'You look Great!'s, he took a seat beside Jess.
"Where's Bran?" Raab asked.
Everyone looked around, realized that Brandon wasn't there and just shrugged.
"I'll call him." Bam pulled his Blackberry out of his pocket and started scrolling through his phone book to find DiCo's cell number.
"SORRY, didn't mean to be late. Hey Jess, Kelly, Angie, Dunn how's it goin'?" Brandon bustled in the door, patting shoulders and pausing to give Ava a quick kiss on the forehead.
Brandon took a seat beside Raab, who he promptly kissed on the cheek. April came through the wide arch doorway, carrying massive trays off food which earned a loud round of applause from her relatives and children and one loud wail from her Granddaughter, which was quickly silenced by Jess cradling her in his arms.
The food was delicious, the company was rare and everyone had an amazing time. After supper they all filed into the living room, leaving the dishes for later. A few conversations broke out, mostly about how big Ava had gotten and how cute she was. Bam was lying on the floor making faces at her just to hear her giggle and smile. Raab's attention was focused on Brandon, who was talking to Novak about the return of NHL hockey. They bickered without being serious about who they thought would win this year. Brandon still stuck with the pathetic Calgary Flames while Novak decided that the Flyers were due for a win.
"Dude, Philly couldn't win if they had Gretzky coaching, with Crosby, Naslund and Bertuzzi in their starting lineup."
"So you're telling me that it's going to be Vancouver and Phoenix in the top two slots?" Novak raised an eyebrow.
"Well, maybe not Phoenix, but Vancouver has a shot this year."
"You're kidding me, right? What about your precious Flamers."
"They're the FLAMES, and as much as I think they're going to win, they won't, they suck." Brandon smirked while Novak laughed at him.
Raab joined in with Novak's laughter, but was distracted when he looked over at Brandon. He noticed that DiCo had been wearing that stupid ball cap and his oversized grey hoodie ever since supper. Raab shrugged and leaned against his shoulder, which was greeted with a protective arm being wrapped around his shoulders.
The conversations bounced from hockey and Ava to cars and video cameras, to Angie's ankle and Rake's new shoes. Everyone was talking amongst themselves when Raab had had enough with DiCo's stupid yellow hat. He grabbed it by the bill and flipped it off of his head. As soon as he did, his jaw dropped, April gasped and Rake tripped over the couch.
"What the hell did you do?" Bam asked him.
Brandon shrugged and looked over at Raab whose eyes were quickly filling with tears. April got up out of her seat to give Bran and Raab a hug and everyone followed suit. Raab's sobbed into Brandon's sweater while April cried onto Raab's head.
Its quarter to seven
That boys at the door
And her daddy ushers him in
And when he takes off his cap
They all start to cry
Cause this mornin where his hair had been
Softly she touches just skin
"So why'd you do it Bran?"
"Why did you shave your head?"
Brandon didn't say anything. Instead, he turned to his loved, tilted his chin and kissed him gently.
And they go dancin
Around and around without any cares
And her very first true love is holding her close
And for a moment she isn't scared