Sunday, February 19, 2017
This story was jointly written by Dizzy and Zillah of Zillah’s Reading Corner”.
Title: RE: Chronic Illness
Characters: Quint/Theo; Jerome/Saul
Series: TLR Seminar Series
Subject: Chronic illness
My name is Saul and I was the one who had posted on the Brat's Community Forum about chronic illnesses. Thank you for posting your email so that we could talk about this.
I thought I would give you a bit of background. I often give seminars on discipline relationships. One of my recent seminars was about the care and comfort of a brat who is ill. A member of the community emailed me and asked me about chronic illnesses.
I think there would be similarities, but I also think that there would be differences. Any help you could give me on this topic would be greatly appreciated.
Subject: Chronic illness
Seminars on discipline relationships, huh? Like teaching Tops how to Top and Brats how to Brat? I’d pay just to watch the second one, actually. “Now when you want to kick your tantrum up a notch, there’s nothing like a good slammed door. Allow me to demonstrate….”
Only joking. I’m sure they’re nothing like that, and I’m sorry if I offended you. It does sound really interesting.
Anyway, I think it’s my husband you want to be talking to. See, I don’t have a chronic illness, yet he’s got lots of experience in taking care of a Brat who does. That probably sounds confusing. No, we’re not in a three-person relationship. The other Brat is a friend of ours. His own Top is away a lot, so my husband sort of… lends a hand, if you’ll forgive the expression, lol. We call it being a foster Top.
So yeah, I can tell you the differences I’ve personally observed between taking care of a Brat with a chronic illness and a ‘regular' sick Brat, or I can just ask him to email you, if you want. If you have specific questions, I can try to answer them. Let me know!
Subject: Re: Chronic illness
Although I am a bit of a sensitive Brat (I tend to get my feelings hurt easily), you didn't offend me by your comment. You'd be surprised at the wide range of Brats I've seen. Or maybe you wouldn't. From what I gather from your email, you have a small community of friends who are in discipline relationships.
If you think your husband would be the person I should talk to, please forward him my emails.
I would like to tell you that if you ever want to email or are in need of another Brat friend, that you have my permission to email me at any time.
Quint and Theo Interlude
“So—No, Jag, leave the trash alone, c’mon, we’re going to the park!—so you know the forum I post on sometimes for, uh, people in relationships like ours?”
Quint glanced sideways at his husband as they continued walking. “Yes?” he asked, hoping this conversation wasn’t about to take a turn for things best not discussed in public. Even using coded language.
“Welllll,” Theo said, “this guy posted a request on there asking for people’s experiences dealing with chronic illness, and I thought since you have a lot of experience now with Seb, and you’re a doctor, you might want to share it."
Shaking his head, Quint replied, “While I appreciate why you’d think of me, you know I don’t have any interest in discussing such things with others, nor do I think Seb would agree to it. I’m sorry, angel.”
Theo bit his lip. “The thing is, though…. I kind of… already volunteered you?”
Quint stopped dead in the middle of the sidewalk. “Theodore–”
“It’s through email, not public posts!” Theo said, turning on the full puppy-dog charm. “You don’t even have to give him your name or Seb’s. He just wants to get some ideas.”
“What will he be doing with these ideas?” Quint asked. “Does he have a chronic illness, or his partner?”
“Um… he’s teaching a seminar for couples?”
Quint Looked at him.
By their feet, Jagger, who knew better than to pull on the leash, began to whine at the lack of movement. They both started walking again, Theo muttering, “I don’t see what the big deal is.”
“Some people,” Quint began patiently, “such as myself, for instance, prefer to keep their personal lives private. I don’t feel comfortable talking about Seb behind his back, either, knowing what I am saying is going to be made public in one form or another.”
“You can ask him,” Theo said, cajoling. “It’s not a privacy violation then, right? And it would help other Br– people. I think he’d like that, if he knew it’s all anonymous. Don’t you share stories about patients with other doctors, without identifying information? To help them improve their treatments? Same thing, only for T–uh, a different role.”
That gave Quint pause for thought. He had learned a lot through caring for Seb. To share that knowledge might improve the life of another Brat, as unappealing as he found the idea of writing to a stranger about it. Finally, he said, “I will consider it if Seb gives his permission, which I will ask him for, not you. Don’t think I don’t know why you waited for us to be out on the street to bring this up, by the way.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about,” Theo said, smiling with victory.
Subject: Chronic Illness
I believe you are acquainted with my husband, Theo. He has given me your email address and persuaded me to assist you in answering any questions you have regarding Brats with chronic illnesses. He also forwarded your earlier email exchange, in which I see he didn’t mention that I am a doctor, as well, although the condition that is my specialty is not the same as the one suffered by my foster Brat.
I am at your disposal for both sides of my experiences, as Top and doctor. I hope, however, you will understand if I feel the need to defer or decline answering certain questions, based on the sensitivity and my paramount duty to protect the Brat under my charge.
Please respond at your convenience with any questions you may have.
I first want to assure you that I'm on the level. I know that on the internet that not everyone is who they say they are. I've exchanged posts on the forum with your husband and that is how we met.
Secondly, I want to also assure you that if you are too busy to engage in a conversation at this time, I will understand. I do know a doctor in the discipline community, but I hesitated to converse with him about this topic as he is so often busy.
Thirdly, and finally, I thought to tell you what I'm needing. I occasionally give seminars, small talks, to a community of men who are in discipline relationships. I've recently completed a "Care and Comfort of a Sick Brat". But as time has gone by and a few things were posted and said to me, I decided that maybe a couple more seminars might be needed on this topic. The one I'm requesting help from you is the Care of a Brat with a Chronic Condition.
I hope that I have reassured you. I was rather vague in this email, so that you may have a small idea of what this is all about. Thank you for your time and I promise you that I will not ask any sensitive questions.
Subject: Re: Chronic Illness
I hope that I did not give the impression of being too busy for you. Although I may sometimes delay my answers, I will always let you know beforehand if I need to do so in order to run it by my foster Brat (let’s call him Kit, for the sake of convenience). Theo told me a bit about what you do, and I was attracted by the idea that this may help others in relationships like ours. I will try to be as cooperative and available to you as I can.
When a Brat has a chronic condition, it affects everything in ways that are difficult to understand until you have lived it. Even more than managing physical health, you must look out for emotional wellbeing—his and your own. The goal is to make life “normal,” but without ignoring the condition. Instead you must treat it as part of that normal life. It’s hard to do even when this goal is clear in your mind. As a Top and as a doctor, I want to make things better. Sometimes that is simply not possible, and I must work to acknowledge it and not let my feelings of helplessness to cause me to worsen the situation.
These are my first, general thoughts. Please let me know if I need to clarify anything.
You gave no impression of being too busy, but I do understand the responsibilities that can take up time of physicians. I will practice patience for your return email. you. There may times I need to converse with my Top that could delay my own response to you.
I find the term you use intriguing: foster Brat. I think in many ways what you do with your Foster Brat is what the community my Top and I belong to do when we interact with each other.
The idea of the seminar was a bright flash of inspiration; however, with your response, I've started forming a plan. I believe this seminar might be tailored to the Tops of the relationship. At a later date, a couples seminar could be held too. As a Top, do you think that would beneficial? To have a seminar just for Tops?
The goal of making life "normal" is what most Tops would want for their Brats. I do believe as well that a Brat would want to be considered normal as well. Would the making life normal include a routine and/or schedule?
As you can see, this seminar is starting to take a vague shape. Your help will enable me to complete an outline of the seminar and then your expertise will help me fill in the gaps.
Thank you for your time and willingness to help me.
Subject: Re: Chronic Illness
The community you are part of must be a special one. Kit is dear to me in ways similar to Theo, and also very, very different.
I think a Tops-only seminar would be incredibly helpful. With such a potentially delicate subject, it could allow the Tops to freely express their feelings without worry of upsetting their partner. I do not think Tops should hide their feelings from their Brats at all, make no mistake, as that can cause further issues. However at times it helps to have it more clear in your own head before revealing it to your Brat, and this is where other Tops could help. I very often talk things through with Kit's Top, when he is able to communicate. I think perhaps you might like to speak with him at some point as well. He is a veteran in these matters, while I am a new recruit.
Along those lines, a Brats-only seminar could also be useful, if you will permit me to suggest it. People with chronic conditions frequently seek out others with the same condition, no matter how rare it may be, to offer a sense of community and true understanding that they cannot get elsewhere. I think for Brats this must be more difficult, as there is a whole aspect of their lives they may not feel comfortable discussing in that setting. Allowing them to connect with each other, without the Tops around, could lead to extraordinary friendships.
You asked about routines and schedules. I think these are important in general for a discipline relationship, though others may have their own, valid ways of doing things. When illness is involved, it allows both caregiver and care-receiver to feel more in control of the situation if the same things tend to happen each day. Kit has a morning routine involving yoga and meditation that is important to his general emotional wellbeing throughout the day. The routines imposed by his illness also permeate his life, but I think it is the ones not directly related to it that help him most.
I'm going to respond to you backward, starting with something you wrote toward the end of your email.
You wrote: Allowing them to connect with each other, without the Tops around, could lead to extraordinary friendships.
I understand what you are saying, and am quite aghast I've not done separate seminars before now. Now that you've brought it up, I do believe that would be beneficial to both the Tops and the Brats. As you said, it could lead to quite extraordinary friendships.
The structure I had been thinking of would have started with routines and schedules. But again, something you wrote has given me a change of heart. I think to begin with the Tops could talk about how they keep from hiding, or withholding information, and how that applies to their own rules that are for the Brats to not withhold. I think a led discussion would help the Tops with communication.
You mention Kit's Top. Have you discussed this with him? Let me make myself more understood, does he know we are conversing? I will think about your suggestion that I might communicate with him at some point. As you are, what you termed, a new recruit, does he have more experience in discipline? I beg your pardon, that was quite forward of me.
Could you give any examples of how to incorporate a need of a chronic illness into the normalcy of life?
My return email is short, but I'd like to think more about the separate seminars. I think that is something I'd like to do, but would like to talk it out with my husband.
Thank you again for helping me with this. You've already brought up topics I'd not thought of previously.
Jerome and Saul interlude
As soon as he was done washing his hands, Saul picked up the air freshener and sprayed it throughout the bathroom. Stress and worry always went straight to his stomach. The only way the stomach problems would end would be for him to talk out his current problem. With that decision made, Saul opened the bathroom door and went to the living room.
Walking into the living room, he saw the look of patience and expectation on Jerome's face. Just that look alone helped ease some of his stress. Jerome knew when he was stressed, Saul couldn't hide, but his Top would wait until he was ready to talk about whatever was bothering him.
"I'm worrying," Saul announced bluntly. "Can I talk it out with you?"
Jerome didn't mention the past thirty years of marriage and how much they'd already talked, he simply said, "Of course."
Saul sat down beside his husband on the couch. Turning his body slightly, he started to ramble. "You know I've been talking to Theo and his Top. Something his Top said got me to thinking."
Jerome frowned. "Did this Top say something to upset you? I can and will talk to him."
Saul smiled at Jerome's calm protectiveness. "No, he's really very nice. He's been very patient and helpful to me. He just mentioned how the Tops can sometimes need support from other Tops and how sometimes they need to figure things out." Saul laughed and then said, "I guess it's out that you Tops don't really read minds."
"Damn! That was such a well kept secret," Jerome joked back.
The bit of laughter helped Saul figure out what he wanted to say. "I think this next seminar should be a Tops only seminar."
Jerome looked thoughtful and then said, "We've never done that before, but I don't know it would be a problem."
"I'm worried the other Brats, the Tops's Brats, might think it was unfair. That they wouldn't be included."
"Yes, I could see how that might cause some hard feelings." Jerome was quiet again. After a few moments, he said, "What if you have another seminar later and it be a Brats only seminar? The topic could be the same, just from the Brats side of life."
"Yes, I'd thought of that, but I still worry that some might think they were being unnecessarily excluded," Saul said.
"What if you talked to them; to the other Brats, and explained why you want to have this series of seminars separately?"
Saul swallowed hard. Jerome never tried to dictate to him how he should feel or dismiss his concerns. Another man might have said "Just tell them why you want to do the seminar separately." But not his husband. Jerome took his worries seriously, no matter how silly they might seem to someone else.
"Not everyone is a friend though. And what others say," Saul bent his head and then said in a very subdued voice, "A voice of discontent can cause a lot of damage. I don't want to lose a friend. There's not much worse than losing someone who didn't die."
Jerome nodded. "That kind of grief is very hard to go through."
With Jerome's understanding and acceptance of his fears, Saul continued, "I don't have a lot of friends there. If one was to turn away from me...." Saul's voice drifted off.
"If a friend did turn away from you, it'd be hard," Jerome finished the sentence. "And there's nothing you or I could do about it. Except-"
After an eternity of waiting, Saul finally lifted his head and met his husband's eyes.
"Except grieve and find a new normal," Jerome said softly.
Saul nodded. "I do think the seminar should be Top only. And so does Theo's Top. So I guess we'll do it that way."
Jerome leaned over and kissed him. "We'll do it together.”
Subject: Re: Chronic Illness
I am glad my suggestion was welcome and brought you new insights. I also think a led discussion would help the Tops. Speaking from personal experience, it is difficult to talk about when you have made a mistake or withheld. Even more so as a Top than as a Brat, I believe. You see, we don’t get as much practice in confessing things. (Please forgive my small attempt at a joke if it offends you.)
Yes, Kit’s Top does know of our correspondence, though not the exact content. I spoke to him about it when I spoke to Kit. I don’t find your question about our levels of experience to be too forward at all. In the number of years practicing discipline, I outrank him by about five. However, I have only known Kit and he for a much shorter period of time, so I referred to him as a veteran in the matter of caring for a Brat with chronic illness.
If you and he do converse at some point, I feel I should warn you now that he is… unique. I don’t say that meaning anything bad. I love him dearly. However, simply put, I can tell from your writing that you and I are quite similar in temperament, while Kit’s Top is quite similar in temperament to Theo, and also rather young. You must assume he’s saying everything in a rather less serious spirit. I would hate for there to be misunderstandings or hurt feelings between you.
Getting back to your second question, regarding needs of a chronic illness and normality: Will it trouble you greatly to wait until I am able to run my response by Kit? Certain details of what I’m thinking are of a sensitive nature and also require disclosing his particular diagnosis, so I would like to confirm he is comfortable with me sharing it.
I'd never thought of what a Top might go through if he's made a mistake or withheld something. I think that's a common mistake some Brats might make-that Tops are infallible. I've lived with my Top long enough to know that yes, Tops do make mistakes. I found your small joke highly amusing. I agree with you that Brats have much more practice in confession!
Thank you for your warning about Kit’s Top. I do have regular contact with young adults. I must admit some of their antics baffle me. And to be perfectly honest as much as they baffle me, I often find myself laughing uproariously at them. Mostly in private though.
Please do run my comments and questions by Kit’s Top. And maybe even the Brats in your life. I typically don't schedule a seminar until I have a full assessment of how it will play out.
I have started my outline for the seminar. I'm going to paste it below. Thank you so much. Just these few correspondences have helped me tremendously.
Seminar: Normalcy and Chronic Illness: A Top's Discussion
1. Welcomes and Introductions
2. What is a Chronic Illness
3. Defining Normalcy
a. What types of discipline used
b. When would discipline not be used
5. Creating an Normal Environment out of an Abnormal Environment.
Thank you, again, for your input.
Subject: Re: Chronic Illness
Thank you for your understanding. I now have the blessing of both Kit and his Top to share with you some examples of incorporating the needs of the illness into normal daily life.
The first that came to mind requires a bit of explanation. Kit has type one diabetes and needs multiple daily injections of insulin (as well as close self-monitoring of his food intake and activity levels) to manage his blood glucose. He uses injection sites on several locations of his body, including his upper buttocks. These injection sites must be avoided when I discipline him, because any increased flow of blood close to the skin’s surface in that area will greatly affect the insulin absorption rate. His Top and I also keep a close watch on him after any physical discipline, as it can change his glucose levels on its own.
Another way Theo and I help to normalize things is by ensuring, when we eat dinner together, that everyone is having basically the same meal, even though in Kit’s case this means both lower carb and vegetarian (the vegetarianism is his personal choice, not related to diabetes). He doesn’t like having attention drawn to his illness, and I know he would feel too different if his menu were completely separate.
Your outline looks very comprehensive. I think it’s important you also have a section for when discipline should not be used. That can be a complex subject all on its own.
Quint (not my birth name, but the one most people do call me by)
A unique nickname that I'm honored to use. Please give my thank you and regards to Kit and his Top for the input.
The information you have shared is fleshing out the outline. I will add nutritional concerns and meals under Creating a Normal Environment in an Abnormal one. This is exactly the type of conversation that I think will be helpful.
You wrote that Kit doesn't like attention drawn to his illness. Is there ever avoidance? I think I need to clarify that question. Is there a time that a Top needs to help his Brat face his illness and whatever limitations that brings?
I fear my response to you is quite abrupt. But you see, I'm very excited about the way this seminar is coming together. I've never before felt so confident about an upcoming event. And that is all due to you and Theo.
Subject: Re: Chronic Illness
You are too generous in giving us credit. The work done on this seminar is entirely your own, but I’m very glad to have played a tiny part. I confess I feel quite curious and invested in how it turns out, and hope you will be comfortable giving me a debriefing, as it were, after the fact.
I shared the paragraph containing your follow-up question with Kit’s Top, as I thought he might have a greater depth of insight. His response—which I present unedited, apart from removing Kit’s true name—follows.
LMAO! You really need help with this? Should I be worried you’re losing your touch? …Okay, if you want.
Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: ALL THE FREAKING TIME. Yeah, we both know [Kit] can treat his diabetes by himself and do a great job of it, and most of the time that’s what he does. But it’s about the fifth thing on his list of priorities, so if any of the supposedly-more-important stuff comes up in conflict with it, he’ll ignore the diabetic stuff and concentrate on the other stuff. Our one and only rule is “health first” for obvious reasons.
There’s also the flip side, though, when he imposes limitations on himself that don’t actually exist and blames the diabetes, and that’s reaaaally tricky to spot. His whole thing with ‘I can’t let people care about me, because I’ll be a burden and hurt them with my illness’? False limitation.
I hope this helps you with your homework. Feel free to plagiarize. 😄
You see what I mean about his personality. In any case, I wanted to share it with you for what he describes as the “flip side.” I am well aware of Kit’s reticence to be cared for, but truthfully had never framed in that way in my head.
I imagine other Brats may very well impose false self-limitations, too, to a greater or lesser degree. If it is very great, it could be mistaken as a play for sympathy or malingering. However, I have come to learn from my experience as a doctor that such behavior is almost always rooted in fear rather than a desire for attention. Perhaps you will have such Brats and Tops in your seminar, and would like to discuss how to best handle this?
Good morning, Quint,
After the seminar has been completed, I will make sure to tell you how it went. I'm very excited about this as I feel it will create friendships and open lines of communication between Tops.
And you say Kit's Top is the one who made the reply? He seems quite....unusual. He seems an exuberant soul. However, as you read his words you can also see the love and protectiveness he has for Kit.
Kit's Top's comments on self imposed limitations is quite interesting to me. Of course we know that Brats and Tops come in all various kinds of personalities, the self disciplining Brat is one that I can definitely relate to. That this type of personality is probably rooted in fear in the Brat who has a chronic condition is very understandable. I have to wonder if there is the opposite? The Brat who refuses to make any limitations on himself as he refuses to allow a condition or illness to make decisions for him.
I think both personalities would be rooted in fear. You ended your last email if I'd like to discuss how to best handle this-yes, please. Have you had any experience with both of the personalities? The self imposing limitations and the refusing to do what is necessary because of the condition.
How would a Top handle each one? The seminar is in the format of discussion, but having this kind of information helps me to guide the seminar.
Quint, I can't thank you and Theo enough for your help. I feel that I'm going to be the most prepared that I've ever been.
Subject: Re: Chronic Illness
I think it’s very likely to create friendships between Tops as well, which is a special and useful thing to have, I can tell you from experience. Speaking of which, yes, Kit’s Top is very exuberant, and has great love for Kit.
With regard to how a Brat might impose or refute limitations, I think it is more of a spectrum. Kit does each, at times, though he does tend towards refuting. Therefore, it’s important for a couple to have strategies for both.
They must set their expectations together, taking into account their own circumstances. What sorts of medical things must be done? In Kit’s case, this would be testing his blood sugar, counting carbs, taking insulin, and treating hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia appropriately.
On the other end of the spectrum, when is the condition not to be used as a reason for not doing something? Or, perhaps some would find it easier to think of it as, what sorts of things that are not related to the illness must also be done? Household chores, rest and relaxation, and the like.
From there, it’s simply a matter of the Top enforcing these expectations in the manner they’ve agreed on, just as any other rule. Of course, other strategies outside of strict enforcement can help. Humor and empathy are important. Kit responds very well to his Top’s sense of humor. It lightens his mood when he is feeling boxed in by his illness.
One other thing with regard to limitations. People—with the very best of intentions—can often impose false limitations on a sick person. I would say it’s of paramount importance to guard against this. It can be incredibly damaging to self-confidence to be treated as less than capable.
Your last email added to bullet points to the outline for this seminar. One is "false limitations". I'm not exactly sure what you mean by that. I'm making assumptions that I'm not positive are accurate. Would you be willing to give some examples? I think that other Tops and Brats might understand more, but as I facilitate this particular seminar, I want to be able to keep the conversation moving forward.
The second item added might be the last item to round out the topic: setting expectations and enforcing them. I do believe that this would end the conversation by allowing the participants to have an objective to leave with. The objective would be to list out the expectations with their partners and then discuss enforcement with them. The Tops in attendance could discuss different expectations to help each other decide what would be best in their own particular situation.
Organization is very important to me and I do believe that with your gracious help, this topic is being outlined in the very best manner.
Subject: Re: Chronic Illness
I hope you’ll forgive the longer-than-normal delay in my reply. I must admit, it wasn’t due to busyness or a need to consult with Kit or his Top. It was because of my own reluctance to disclose to you what I regard as one of the most shameful actions in my life.
You asked for a more specific example of false limitations. There are two types we’ve mentioned: those imposed by the Brat on themselves and those imposed by other people on the Brat. I’ll start with the latter, to get the unpleasantness out of the way.
A while back, Kit had a severe hypoglycemic episode. He passed out due to low blood sugar and required emergency treatment by both myself and paramedics. It was the first time such a thing happened to him, and while I have experienced near-death situations (and, sadly, deaths) with patients, I had never confronted one with a person I love.
I handled it poorly. For about 36 hours afterward, I treated Kit as if he wasn’t capable of taking care of himself or his own illness. I was extremely overprotective, to the point of interferring with an important family trip he’d planned. I should also mention, this very issue of overprotectiveness has been an ongoing pattern in Kit’s life with his family. This is what I mean by false limitations imposed by others.
In this particular case, Kit was understandably angry with me, as well as hurt by my actions, and he temporarily revoked his consent for me to be his foster Top. Until he confronted me about it, I had no idea I was so far out of line. If your seminar does nothing else (and I believe it will do many other great things), I hope it helps some other Top from making the same mistake I did.
Now. With regard to false limitations a Brat imposes on themselves: This could take many forms. I think perhaps of a hypothetical Brat who becomes exhausted easily and so avoids medically-necessary exercise, saying they aren’t able to complete it when in fact it is within their capabilities. Another Brat might be nervous about traveling too far away from a hospital equipped to treat their illness. It could also take more subtle forms, as Kit’s Top mentioned in his email. Not allowing others to get too close for fear of being judged or pitied.
I hope this is helpful. I think your last item, setting expectations, will be a wonderful way to end what is sure to be an enlightening discussion.
Thank you for trusting me with your disclosure. I'm probably over-stepping, but I don't think you should feel shame. As a professor, I tell my students that any mistake they make is never shameful if you learn something from that mistake. You obviously learned something, so no shame should be felt.
We both know that within a discipline relationship, Brats are treated differently than a person in a vanilla relationship. However, as differently as they are treated, they are fully capable adults. This is not me lecturing you, this is me reinforcing what you already know and what Kit reminded you of. I can only believe that you've become a stronger person and Top.
The seminar is on Saturday in two weeks, so this will be the last email. By you telling me of your experience with false limitations, I feel as though I have greater insight to lead the seminar. I would like to email you after the seminar has been completed to tell you how I feel the seminar was received.
I can't thank you or Theo enough for all your help. If there is anyway I can repay you both, please don't hesitate to ask. I feel as though we've become friendly and if you are ever in the Boston area, I would like to take you both out to lunch.
Subject: Re: Chronic Illness
Thank you for your kind words. I have worked on forgiving myself for my mistake, and your very sensible point of view that it should cause no shame if the lesson is learned does help me in that regard.
I look forward to your email after the seminar, and I will certainly take you up on the offer to meet when I am next in Boston (which is, coincidentally, my hometown).
Two weeks after he had last heard from Saul, Quint sat down at the dining table with his laptop and a cup of coffee, opened a blank email, and started typing. He wanted to convey his wishes for good luck to the Brat this morning.
From down the hall, his own Brat appeared, auburn hair in its usual wild, unruly state after a solid night’s sleep. Quint smiled at him, and Theo converted his wide yawn into a smile back as he went into the kitchen to pour himself coffee.
“What are you doing?” he asked, watching Quint over the countertop. “Working on a Saturday?”
“No,” said Quint. “I was writing to Saul. It’s his seminar day, and I know from our correspondence that he was nervous about it.”
“I thought you helped him get over the nervousness,” Theo said.
“I did my best. I just thought he might like knowing we’re thinking of him. Would you like to add anything to it?”
“Sure.” He came around the counter and sat sideways in Quint’s lap, putting his own coffee mug down on the table so he could type. Quint moved it to the placemat, where it wouldn’t leave a ring.
More footsteps sounded. Looking up, Quint saw the subject of so many of the previous emails coming out of his room, rubbing his freckled nose with one hand. Jagger trotted at his heels.
“Good morning, mon chaton,” Quint said. “Finished your meditation?”
Seb nodded, but most of his attention was on Theo. He frowned. “Why’s Theo using your laptop?”
“We’re writing to Saul,” Theo said before Quint could answer. “The guy with the seminar? It’s today.”
“Oh,” said Seb.
Quint, meanwhile, was reading the new words on the screen. His eyebrow went up. “Theodore.”
“He’ll know I’m joking!” Theo said, widening his eyes innocently. “Trust me.”
Quint shook his head, but he couldn’t keep the amused look off his face. “Up,” he said, “so I can finish.”
“Could– could I write something too?” Seb asked. He shifted his weight uncertainly as the other two looked at him in surprise. “I mean, I know he doesn’t actually know me, but he knows ‘Kit’ a little, right?”
“Yes, he does,” Quint said, reflectively. Saul had learned quite a lot about Seb over the letters, without ever learning his name. He’d learned about Quint, too. “Of course you can add something if you wish, mon chaton. Would you like to do it after Theo’s message, or after mine?”
“Yours,” Seb said.
So Quint finished writing before passing the laptop to his foster Brat and going to join his husband in making the three of them breakfast.
Saul rolled out of the soft bed, getting to his feet, he stretched. He always slept so soundly when he and Jerome were at the resort. He didn't know if it was the comfortable bed, the fresh air, or that neither of them had any of their everyday pressures on them. Well, work pressure, Saul corrected. He always tended to worry himself almost ill when he was hosting a seminar. But this time it was different. He felt he was more prepared than he ever had been before. And that was all due to his correspondence with two new friends.
Shuffling his feet into his slippers, Saul wandered into the bathroom. After brushing his teeth, shaving, and the rest of his morning ritual, he went to the small kitchenette in the cabin. He started a pot of coffee brewing and quickly started his laptop. Jerome would waken soon from the scent of the black liquid ambrosia, so Saul wanted to go over his notes one last time.
The first thing he noticed was the alert that he had an email. Clicking on the mail icon, Saul smiled. An email from Quint.
Subject: Re: Chronic Illness
I know you will be busy today, so don’t feel rushed to reply. I simply wanted to say it has been a pleasure to work with you, and while I’m sure you don’t need it, I wish you the very best luck for a successful seminar.
Theo has just woken up and wants to write something as well. Below is his message:
Hi, Saul! Break a leg, and remember, if you ever decide to teach Tantrum-Throwing 101, I am available as an expert consultant with many years’ experience and the worn-out spot in the corner floorboards to prove it. 😉 – Theo
Please forgive him. Kit also wishes to speak with you, so I’ll sign off now, with warm regards,
You know me as Kit. I haven’t read any of the emails between you and Quint, but he’s talked about some of them with me, so I know you understand my situation.
I wanted to say that what you’re doing is important and means a lot to me. My Top and I had to figure this all out on our own. I wish he’d had a seminar to go to, to take some of the pressure off him. I’m so grateful to you for helping other couples like us, and I’m sure everyone who attends your seminar will be grateful, too.
After reading the email, Saul's smile grew. Yes, he thought, today was going to be a good day.