Short Stories

The Bodyguard

The meeting had just broken up with everyone heading to their offices to begin working on the tasks which had been assigned to them.  Alexander briefly went to his office to check his email one last time before heading home for the night.  Closing the lid of his laptop, he locked his office door on the way out.  His administrative assistant yelled over at him, "Good night, Sir."

"Goodnight Adair.  Have a pleasant evening."

"Thank you, Sir."

The new administrative person also yelled over, "Good night, Sir."

Alex stopped.  He sighed, turned and faced the two people.  Adair was smirking as he made eye contact with her.  She was a wonderful lady, a 45-year-old African American with a degree in Journalism and a Master's in Public Affairs.  Adair had been with the family business for many, many years and was as loyal to Alex as anyone could ever hope to be in a lifetime.  But she kept him on his toes as well.

"Adair, for someone who has so many degrees and such a high intellect, it's 'Alex'… not Sir!"

"You have been telling me that for more than a couple of decades."

"Then it should have sunk in by now… and what's worse is now you are teaching the newbies to say it."

"Not saying I did, not saying I didn't…"

Alex looked to the young man who looked like he wasn't sure how he should be reacting to the words his new boss was saying.  "You're Freddie, right?"

"Yes Sir," the young man replied.  Freddie was Caucasian but with an attractive olive colour skin.  At 25, this was his first job since graduating with a Master's Degree in Economics.  He was starting in the admin team to begin learning how the business ran from the inside out.

"Freddie, Adair is one of the most important people in this business.  She has my confidence in the control of hundreds of employees and millions of dollars in each section of the groups which make up this company.  She speaks with the authority of the President/Owner on just about everything."  He paused for effect.  "Except this one thing… Freddie, despite what she tells you, told you, or will tell you, my name is Alex."

"Yes sir."

"You're not getting it."

Freddie took a deep breath, "If I didn't call someone 'sir', my father used to give me a lickin' so bad that I couldn't sit for a week.  It's a sign of respect and acknowledgement to someone's status."

Adair was still smirking as she said, "I know his dad and I believe it."

Alex thought for a moment before he said, "Send a memo to both of your dads requesting both of you get a lickin' for not following my directions to call me Alex."

Freddie looked terrified but Adair smirked as she replied, "I'll get on that right away, Sir.  Right up there with my final report on how to reverse the Climate Change problem while also closing the ozone hole above the arctic."

Alex looked up at the ceiling and sighed before looking back at her.  "I'm not going to win with you, am I?"

"Nope."

He turned to Freddie.  "Freddie, don't believe everything she says.  Adair is evil."  Alex began to walk away towards the elevator as he spelled out over his shoulder, "EEEEEEE-V-I-LLLLLLLLL."

"Don't forget to push 'down' on the elevator panel to call it to this floor."

"I did that once in ten years…"

"If you did it once, you can do it twice…"

The elevator opened and Alex immediately stepped into it.  The cleaning staff were already at work.  One of them was present in the elevator as he stepped in.  Alex took the corn straw broom out of the staff member's hands to wave it at Adair.  "I told you no more parking your vehicle in the building.  Use the employee parking lot like the rest of us!"

Adair gave him the finger as the doors closed.

Freddie moved over to her desk.  "Aren't you afraid of getting fired for giving him the finger?"

She looked horrified at the young man, "Hell no! This is mild… I mooned him last week.  And Freddie, don't you try that.  Your ass is so small no one would ever notice, even if you did give him the full moon."

"It's perky, not small."

"Six of one, half dozen of another."


Alexander William Ancienne, or Alex to his close friends, looks to be young at 28-30, but in reality, he was 35 years old, 6' and 195 lbs with dark hair which he kept long on the top and shorter on the sides.  The slight natural curls in his hair gave his brown eyes both a cute-while-mischievous look.  Alex's skin tone was as if he had a tan all year round which highlighted his stubble style beard and moustache.

Alexander's home was in the rural area just outside of the city, in a heavily wooded lot, backed onto a trough, ravine, or valley depending upon which professional was applying the label to it.  The house was highly green efficient, fully off-grid for power, water, and heat.  The building was a log cabin, well insulated with a secure foundation.  In the front and to the west of the cabin was a small lake which he stocked with rainbow trout.  The building blended in very well with the rural, undeveloped area.  It was very efficient and safe to be inside.  There was a beautiful front entry, living room with fireplace, dining room, kitchen, and a master bedroom and bathroom on the main floor.  On the second floor were four bedrooms, each with a bath.  It even had a third floor of sorts, with a loft on one end of the house and a turret on the other end.  Out the back was a large glass arboretum full of plants, a stone deck and a sunken hot tub.  The basement was a storage area, theatre, pantry for food (and pet food) storage.  He also had a small workshop area down there where he did some woodworking and carving.  Alexander made hand-carved ducks to scale, with many of them being given to the Wildlife Association to auction off or use as prizes for their various draws throughout the year.

Cabin

A few years ago, Alexander had been involved in what is called a near-miss involving a hunter.  A stray bullet had come through the window in his bedroom, lodging itself deeply in a log which made up his bedroom wall.  The men had been jack lighting across the valley, shooting at deer, but missed with one of their shots.  Alex had rolled out of bed, grabbed his varmint hunting rifle, specifically a Remington R-15 .223 Predator Rifle with 3-9 scope to return a couple of shots towards the hunters.  He took out a single headlight on each of the two pick-up trucks, causing the men to take off in a hurry.  He never saw them again nor did the police ever come to the house to investigate the shots he had taken at them.  If they had, he would have pointed out the 'No Hunting' and 'No Trespassing' signs posted all along the road on his property.  The area was cold in the winter so he knew double or even triple-pane glass would be best for the huge windows across the front of the house, so he went to the maximum after the incident.  Alex installed double pane ballistic glass to prevent hail damage, rocks from winds, lawnmower debris and stray bullets in all the windows.

Alex drove up the laneway, hitting the button to open the garage door to park his SUV inside.  Two large male Malamute dogs, standing 30 inches tall, 125-135 lbs each exploded out of the bush line towards the Explorer at a full run.  Another set of eyes in the shadows were also following the Explorer as it approached the garage.  A large cat weighing 40 lbs, 41" long, 25" at her shoulders was laying low on the flat roof over the open garage door.  As Alex drove in, he heard the gentle thump of the large cat landing on the roof of the vehicle to catch a ride inside.

Frick & Frack

The dogs' names were Frick and Frack because they always did everything together, including getting into mischief or trouble.  Anyone who has been in a paramilitary organization has probably heard their Drill Corporals or Sergeant Major yelling at a couple of recruits or trainees as 'Frick and Frack' as they were about to get into shit for doing something stupid.  What a lot of people didn't know is that Frick and Frack were the stage names for a pair of Swiss skaters.  Their comedy act became famous in 1936 as part of the 'Ice Follies', running for almost 50 years.  The team lasted so long it became synonymous with two people who get along very well, work together great, or are never far apart.  In this case, the two dogs had all three of those qualities as well as the additional quality of always getting into trouble together.  The dogs were brothers.  Alex had rescued them from the city pound as puppies one day.  He had been in town doing some errands when he was suddenly drawn to the SPCA.  It was if he was meant to be there that day to rescue the two puppies.  He even walked through the front door and directly to the cage where they were being held.  That day a bond formed between the three of them, a strong bond which remains today.

Jazmin

The cat's name was Jazmin, Jazz or Jazzy, depending upon the mood she or Alex was in.  Jazz was an unusual acquisition as her mother was living in the valley behind where the house was built.  They saw each other off in the distance but the lynx never bothered Alex and Alex respected the lynx.  Over time, the lynx even appeared to accept Alex as she walked through the yard on her hunting excursions.  Alex didn't know there were kittens out there until after a local farmer had taken a shot at the mom as she was hunting in the field.  Alex had been in the backyard enjoying the evening when he heard the echo of a cat crying somewhere up the valley.  He had followed it, finding two lynx kittens.  One was dead, the other was hungry and near death.  He nursed her back to health and Jazz adopted Alex as her mother.  She wouldn't leave, choosing to stay with Alex as she grew stronger and older.  Despite the size of the dogs, Jazz runs the house.  The three of them get along very well, when they aren't antagonizing each other for fun, shits and giggles.

As Alex was getting out of the SUV, Jazz slid down the windshield to the hood.  "I thought we had talked about you jumping on the Explorer, Jazzy.  You're denting the roof."  The cat padded over to Alex, looking him eye to eye while standing on the hood.  She head-butted him playfully as she began to purr.  He scratched her fluffy head.  "Yeah, yeah I know.  You're cute.  Stop jumping onto the roof, please."  Jazz jumped down, strutted across the garage and sat by the door to stare at the doorknob.  "Just a minute Jazz. Where are the boys…"  He didn't get to finish as Frick and Frack ran in through the open door to greet their human friend.  They both sat in front of him, wagging their tails until he reached over to hug and scratch the head of both of them.  Jazz yowled from the door as if she was saying "Hurry up, human! You are delaying my grand entrance into my house for my dinner to be served."

The interior of the home matched the exterior, log cabin style of course.  There were logs exposed in parts of the roof which Jazz could walk along.  There were even a couple in a corner up high where she had made a nest to sleep at times.  It wasn't unusual to look up and see Jazz flopped over a log beam, all four feet hanging down, head stretched and sound asleep.  It amazed Alex at how she could sleep like that, or even how she could run along the logs so quickly.  She could bounce from log to log with the grace of a ballerina, yet knock furniture flying when she was chasing the volleyball Alex gave her as a toy.  After everyone was fed, Frick and Frack laid on the tiled floor on a thick throw rug while Jazz was up on one of the beams, as usual, snoring after her meal.

Alex went into his den, sat behind his desk and began reading a couple of the online newspapers to which he subscribed.  Approximately thirty minutes later, Frick padded his way into the den.  Using his nose under the arm of the office chair, he quickly got his master's attention by poking him in the ribs.

"Ok, ok.  I get the hint, Frick.  It's walk time."  Alex reached over and rubbed the dog's head. "Thanks for caring that I get enough exercise.  Now, if only you could do the dishes and housework, you'd be a perfect husband."  Once Alex began walking out of the den and into the hallway, Frack joined him.  "You send your brother to get me?" he asked the big dog.  Frack gave a little bark followed by a short whine as he wagged his tail enthusiastically.  As Alex went through the living room, he called out, "Jazz, are you coming with us for a walk?"  He looked up and the large cat was looking back at him with the arrogance, disinterest, and contempt only a cat can give a person.  Alex put his shoes on, grabbed a light jacket for the evening temperature, and began heading out the door after letting Frick and Frack out first.  Without warning, he was body-checked off his feet as Jazz came barreling through the doorway.

"I thought cats were supposed to be graceful?" he stated as he regained his balance enough to close the door.  "Does this mean you will be gracing us with your presence tonight?"  Jazz ran after the two dogs, bounced onto Frick while smacking Frack on the ass with her huge paw.  The cat took off running, the dogs barking as they chased her.  "She's full of piss and vinegar tonight," Alex said aloud to no one in particular.  He walked down the laneway, approximately half a mile long before meeting up with the grid road.  His house did have a big lawn area around it and along the lakeshore but it was more practical as a fire break as opposed to only aesthetics.  Alex's property was mostly still natural.  His house was on the south side of the property with a laneway approximately a half-mile up.  The east side of the lane was still dense forest with a quarter of a mile from the grid forest on the west side as well.  There was a wide fast-flowing creek, or a small river which entered and exited the lake on Alex's land.  The area south of it was still trees and the area north to the cabin lawn.

The main grid road intersected with the highway a mile to the west while the other end led through Crown land for a few miles before it became farmland for wheat or pasture for cattle.  He had his land well posted for no hunting or trespassing.  He did give permission to a few people who he knew were responsible hunters and wouldn't just take the head or horns after shooting, leaving all the meat and hide behind to spoil.  Frick and Frack were crisscrossing the road in front of Alex as he walked, following the scent of every animal who had previously crossed from one side to the other.  Deer, elk and moose were all common in this area as well as being a hazard on the roadway at night to an inexperienced driver.  The movement of the long grasses in the ditch along the side of the road gave an indication where Jazzy was.  A mouse ran out of the grass and onto the road, immediately finding itself pounced upon by Jazz.  He watched the big cat play with the poor tiny mouse, throwing it into the air, letting it almost escape, then using her paw to pin it to the ground.  After a couple of minutes, he continued on his walk with the dogs.  "Cats are truly evil the way they play with their prey," Alex thought to himself.  "The term cat-and-mouse really doesn't give it an accurate description."

He turned in time to see Jazz throw the mouse up into the air to catch it in her mouth.  In one swallow, the mouse was gone.  Jazz ran up next to him, brushing up against him.  He reached down, scratched the cat's head which caused her to purr gently.  A moment later she was gone, antagonizing the dogs again.  Forty-five minutes later, he was back at the front door to his house, ready for a cup of tea before going to bed.  Frick and Frack headed right over to the kitchen, followed by Jazz.  They all were sitting pretty in front of the cabinet which held the cat and dog treats.  The two dogs got a large doggie treat each while Jazz got a medium-sized one.  She had learned the hard way to take her treat and head to her perch on the log where her brothers were unable to steal it from her before she could eat it.  Alex made a cup of tea, turned the TV on, and sat in his favourite chair.  At this time of night, he either watched Adult Swim or some comedy show if Star Trek reruns weren't on while he finished his tea, crawling into bed after.  Throughout the night, the two dogs would spend some of the time sleeping on the foot of Alex's bed, on the doggie beds in his bedroom staring out the front windows, or on the rug in the living room.  Jazz spent a fair amount of time sleeping on Alex's bed or up in the rafters.  Alex complained that she snored and hogged the pillows, but she was too big to move so he tolerated it.  He didn't mind it in the winter as she was warm to snuggle with.

Just before going to bed, Alex began to feel 'funny'.  It wasn't an unknown sensation to him, but it was always unwelcome.  Unfortunately, it had begun to happen more often in the last while.  The sudden feeling of loneliness combined with a profound sadness and began to build up within him.  He went to the kitchen, poured some of the cold tea into a glass, looked around on the refrigerator to find the damned pills the doctor had given him.  Of the three bottles, he took two pills of the one prescription knowing that it would act fairly quickly to lower his anxiety level.  After taking them, he headed out into the living room to look out the huge windows.  It usually helped him when he sat in his chair, stared into the forest while listening to the sounds of the insects, night birds, and other such animals in the area.  It was the sound of the loons on the lake which he loved most of all.  Their call spoke to him as it echoed through the night; he related to the solemnity of their voices.  Tonight wasn't bad for Alex.  Frick and Frack had found him, laying down at his feet.  This was something they did regularly when he was having an episode.  Even Jazz was not far, moving to a log above her human friend where she could watch him carefully.  The medication took effect quickly by making him drowsy while hopefully giving him a good night's rest as well.  He stood, moved to the bedroom, stripped his clothes off, and crawled into bed.  The three animals joined him on the king-sized bed, guarding their master from whatever could threaten him during the night.  The three animals would be insurmountable should a physical threat ever appear towards Alex, they were just unable to help control the things in their friend's mind.  Alex quickly fell off to sleep with Frick backed up against his back and Frack facing him with his front paws covering Alex's hands. 


The next morning, Alex went into the office only to find sticky tags all over his computer screen.  He didn't like voice mail, refusing to even listen to it.  Sitting behind his desk with a fresh cup of coffee, he began to pluck them off, one at a time, to both read and to establish a priority of call back list.  Most he crumpled up then tossed towards the garbage can nearby.  Usually within 10 minutes of coming to work there were as many crumpled sticky tags around the garbage can as there were inside of it.

The Ancienne Group of Companies, or more commonly called AWA Group, was a conglomerate of companies from diversified fields.  It had started with his great-great-grandfather who started a shipping company with a few privateers delivering valuable cargos.  His great-grandfather expanded the shipping company while also moving into railways and real estate.  Alex's grandfather diversified, even more, when opportunity presented itself both during the second world war and throughout the post-war years by bringing both trucking and construction under the company banner.  Alex's father concentrated on consolidating and reorganizing the business structure when his untimely death occurred.  Both his father and mother died tragically while on a ski vacation.  The cabin they were renting had a faulty exhaust pipe on the furnace and gas stove which caused carbon monoxide to build up, killing them in their sleep.  To make matters worse, both the smoke and CO detectors had been turned off by the lodge owner because they both kept going off.  He never looked to see what the problem was, just stopped the alarms.  By the time Alex's anger had settled down, the AWA Group of Companies had added a large ski resort to their holdings.  Fortunately, he never did send a fleet of D-9's to level the entire property as he had promised.

Stepping in to run the companies had been a bit of a challenge at first for Alex, but it was also something he had been groomed to do since he was a young man.  When he was young, his mother kept saying that Alex would be the President of the companies one day, be married to a beautiful woman, and have a few children.  Although Alex never said it, he didn't like any of those lifetime objectives.  As he became older, his mother joyfully changed her statement to 'husband' as opposed to wife.  Actually, he didn't want to get married, have kids or run the company but that was a battle for another day… one which unfortunately would never arrive.  Alex was 35 years old with an MBA and Bachelor of Commerce to his name, a moderate house, three pets, and a multibillion-dollar business empire.

Just before lunchtime, Adair came into Alex's office with a big carry bag and lattes in a cardboard carry for two people.  He looked up from his desk as she used her foot to close the door.

Raising his eyebrow, "I take it you're telling me we have a lunch date today?"

"Amazing.  What gave you the hint?"

As he stood to join Adair at the table and chairs off to the side of his office, Alex replied, "My ESP told me."

"I left a sticky note for you."

"Adair, the computer still looks like it was attacked by a porcupine overnight with quills or notes sticking out all over the place."

"If somebody would use voice mail it would be easier."

"Somebody doesn't like voice mail."

"Somebody is stuck in the 1900's"

"Somebody signs your paycheck."

"Somebody forgot I have a bunch with his signature on them in the safe for use when he's being stubborn."

"And somebody else probably changed the combination again so I can't get them back."

"Somebody is still stuck in the 1800's"

"Somebody is wondering why you are kept around here tormenting him?"

"Because I get somebody lunch."

"Speaking of… what's for lunch."

"Ceasar salad and pita's with teriyaki chicken."

"You didn't put any of that vegetable crap in it did you?"

"You need your vegetables to be healthy."

"If I wanted vegetables, I would get them."

"You need vegetables and if you don't eat them, you can't have dessert."

"What's for dessert and I'll decide if I want to eat the vegetables."

"A big slice of Nanaimo bar."

"That's not fair having my favourite."

"It's the only way to get you to eat properly."

"I don't like to eat the same stuff my food eats."

"Huh?"

"My rare steak comes from a cow that eats vegetables."

"In that case I will give your desert to Freddie.  He's too skinny."

Alex stuck his lips out in a pout, "I'll be good Adair.  I'll eat the vegetables."

"And you will like them."

He forced a big, fake smile with his teeth clenched as he replied, "And I will like them."

Adair reached over to pat Alex on the head, "Good boy."

"Careful or I will mark my territory all over your desk."

She reached over again to tuck a napkin into his shirt neckline.  "Don't talk with your mouth full, Alex."

"Yes mother."

Adair made sure Alex had his salad and pita bread, then opened his latte for him, placing it near his plate of salad.  "So, when are you going to start dating again?"

Alex didn't even miss a beat as he swallowed.  In a high-pitched tone typical of a sarcastic answer, he said, "So, when are you going to start dating again?"

"Mind your attitude, mister.  I love you like a den mother and I'm not afraid to cuff you up the side of the head or take a round out of you."

"Sorry mom."

Adair smacked him on the side of his head, then pointed her index finger right at his nose.  "Don't you test me, little man.  I was not kidding when I said I love you like a den mother."

Alex took a deep breath, then put his pita down onto the plate. "I know.  I'm sorry, Adair.  I'm too busy to date."

"Bullshit."

"My virgin ears."

"I highly doubt there is anything on your body which is virgin anymore, Alexander."

"Ok, I might have to agree with that statement but my ears are the closest thing I had to being virgin."

"Answer the question."

"Which one?"

"Alexander William Ancienne, answer the question.  You need someone in your life."

He tightly pursed his lips, then said "I have you, I don't need anyone else."

"Alex, be serious."

" don't know."

"There are a lot of good men out there for you to meet."

"Oh yeah? Then why do I seem to meet the losers and guys who just want me for my money?"

"Keep looking, Alex.  You have too beautiful of a heart to be broken already."

His eyes were suddenly filled with a blank, empty, staring appearance.  "I had a brief episode last night."

Adair gently placed the palm of her hand along the left side of Alex's face as she said, "I figured that as soon as I saw you this morning.  How bad?"

"Not too bad. I managed to control it.  Frick and Frack were with me the whole time.  Even Jazz was patiently waiting for me to regain control."

"You're lucky to have those animals with how much they love you."

"I know." Alex took a deep breath, "They love me unconditionally.  I mean other than needing me to feed them regularly."

"Those three could live without a human feeding them but I don't think they could live without you loving them."

Alex spoke in a whisper, "I wish I could find a human that loyal and loving."

"Are you taking your medications?"

He looked away as he replied slowly, "Most of the time." He said pausing for quite a few seconds between each of his next few sentences.  "Sometimes…"  "Occasionally…"  "As needed…"  "Ok, maybe not enough."

"We've had this discussion before, Alex.  You need to take your medications regularly for them to work properly."

"I know. I don't like pills."

"You gave me your word."

He sighed, "Yes, I did and I'm sorry I didn't do what I promised.  Especially to you."

"Alex, I am sorry that sonofabitch was using you to try and become rich.  I'm sorry about all the other things that happened in your life including the HIV scare he caused.  But, you were so devastated and depressed from everything piling up I needed to intervene to save your life.  The problem is that you start feeling better on the medications and then think you can stop taking them."

Alex was hanging his head, "I know.  But when I feel better, I think I can control it."

"That's the problem.  You're not controlling it… It's the pills helping you feel that way."  She paused while looking at the wall above his head, then looked back down into his eyes.  "I think you need a vacation.  I'll send Freddie along with you to keep you out of trouble."

Alex rolled his eyes as he began to quietly sing, "Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match.  Find me a find, catch me a catch.  Matchmaker, Matchmaker, look through your book, And make me a perfect match."

"You are not too big to go over my knee for a bare-assed lickin' mister."

"Sorry Adair.  I just get tired of everyone trying to set me up."

"So tired you pulled out of everything social after the breakup with Mason what, three years ago? You do nothing now but work and go home."

"You can't get hurt if you don't do anything which exposes you to be used."

She firmly grasped each side of his head between her hands, "Listen here, little man.  Sometimes I'm your big sister and other times I'm your mom.  Right now, I am your mom.  Do you hear me?"

"Yes ma'am."

"I want you to go on vacation, camping, or whatever for a week or two."

"You mean like in a tent?"

"A vacation, in a tent, hotel, I don't care.  Do you want to hike, canoe, jet boat, or something else?"

"Alone?"

Adair shift her eyes to the side and sighed.  "Actually, this is as good of a time to tell as any…"

"Go on…" Alex stated very suspiciously.

"I've hired a personal assistant for you."

Alex stared at Adair. "Are you shitting me?"

"There's a couple of unique situations which have arisen, Alex."

"Unique how?" Alex asked quickly.

Adair sat back in her chair.  "I'll be perfectly blunt.  First, your attacks of panic and depression have been going on too long again, especially because of not taking your medication regularly."

"I'll do better Adair, I promise."

"I believe you… but secondly, something else came up late last week."

"What's that? I haven't heard of anything."

"The police and our security department have been working hard to either rule out or verify the accuracy of the information…  There was a threat made against your life, possibly involving kidnapping."

Alex stopped chewing his food, staring at Adair.  "You mean more serious than the usual run of the mill crazy wacko wingnut fruitcake?"

"It now appears so.  We've had a couple of people monitoring you since last week."

"WHAT!  Monitoring?  That means what?  Following me?"

"Settle down, Alex. I decided to not tell you until we had been given credibility or verified the information.  Our security personnel had you under observation at home.  They called it soft observation where they monitored traffic on the road, and had a drone flying to watch you around the house."

"I am not happy about this, Adair."

"This is not a popularity contest, Alex.  Your parents made me your guardian angel to watch your back and anything else I had to watch to keep you safe.  I take that job very seriously."

Alex let a long breath out, then said "I know you do.  How about if I go up to the family cabin at the lake way up north where we have to fly in."

"If you take Elijah with you."

"Elijah? My personal assistant is named Elijah?"

"Well, you will like him.  The company hired him about a year ago to work in the security department in the main office.  Mostly he's been in the field following up on investigations within the individual companies under our umbrella.  He is a nice guy."

"Fucking great.  A nice guy!" Alex said as he threw his head backwards and rolling his eyes.

"Zip it, Mister.  What I found was a nice man who enjoys the outdoors, has worked for the company since he got out of the military and is very well regarded by our people."

"Wonderful."

"He finished his service as a Military Policeman after serving overseas as a combat medic, special forces…"

"OMG, what the hell do I need someone like that for?"

"Protection Alex, plus he's really into the outdoors."

"Whatever.  With a name like Elijah, he must be a dweeb."

Adair stood with both hands on her hips.  "Alexander William Ancienne! That is not an appropriate comment for you to make."

Alex bit his tongue for a moment, then said "Well? Let's have it… what's he all about?"

"Watch your attitude.  That is twice I have had to use your full name to get your attention.  If you are going to be like this maybe it is time for me to move on in my career instead of looking out for an ungrateful arrogant little prick like your parents wanted me to do."

Alex's face went blank as he heard what was being said to him.  Finally, he said, "I'm sorry, Adair.  That was inappropriate of me to say that.  No excuses but in less than five minutes I've been told I was under surveillance due to death threats or a kidnapping, I now have a personal assistant to look out for me," Alex's face went from blank to sporting a smirk, "and I have to eat vegetables to get my dessert." 

Adair looked at Alex who was giving her big puppy dog eyes.  "That outburst was not the young man I've known for so long and loved.  You need a vacation, your meds, and I need to keep you safe."  She opened her arms for him to move in for a hug.  He did so immediately and returned her hug tightly.

After a moment, Alex said, "Maybe you're right.  I need some time away, a vacation.  Maybe enough time where I'm taking my pills again so I can get my life back on track."

"I pray every night for you to do that.  There is someone out there for you, somewhere."

"I know, I just don't want the rejects circling any more like vultures."  They both sat down again.  "So, mom, when do I get to meet this non-dweeb?"

"Do you want a lickin'?"

"No ma'am," Alex replied with a million-dollar smile.  "But maybe Elijah will be gay and do it for you."

"Alex, I never asked him what his sexuality was.  It was not part of the job description to be gay for babysitting a spoiled brat."

"HEY, I resemble that remark."

Adair grabbed her phone and sent a text message.  A moment later there was a knock at the door.

"Come in!"

Alex almost fell over backwards when a 6'2" stack of muscles walked in through the door.  He was brown-haired, hazel-eyed, solid chested under a tight T-shirt and wearing brown cargo pants with work boots.  His biceps were solid and stretching the arms of his T-shirt.  Alex immediately stared at his nipples prominently standing erect under his shirt.  The man was clean-shaven, had short hair, and was wearing a gold cross on a necklace over top of his T-shirt.

Adair leaned over and whispered, "Breathe Alex, just breathe" then said out loud "This is Elijah."

Alex quickly stood to approach the man.  While moving to shake the man's hand, Alex quickly assumed the role of Corporate Boss again.  "Pleasure to meet you, Elijah.  My admin was just filling me in on your being hired and why it was necessary."

"Thank you, sir, and a pleasure to meet you as well."

"I guess we will be able to get to know each other while you follow me around to keep me out of trouble."

Elijah's face was unemotional as he said, "Mrs. Nightingale explained that would be a challenge."

Adair smirked as Alex exhaled in a huff.  "What else has she told you?"

"That you wouldn't want me around, and that I only take directions from her regardless of what you say."

"You do realize who owns everything and employs Mrs. Nightingale, don't you?"

"Absolutely."

"Does that change your mind at all?"

"Mr.  Ancienne, you need to understand that I have been in combat situations including firefights.  I have pulled wounded men to safety while under fire and done things you couldn't dream of ever doing.  I am not afraid of anything… except Mrs. Nightingale."  Elijah gave a warm smile to Alex, his eyes twinkling, his dimples showing as he said, "You are not scary compared to either her or my ex-wife."

Alex sat stone-faced for a moment, then melted at the look he was getting from the man.  A smile began to creep on his face as Alex answered, "Ok, so I agree with you about how scary Adair is, but that doesn't mean we're going to be friends."

"Mr.  Ancienne, 99% I will just be your assistant and following your every command.  The other 1% of the time you need to basically…"

Adair finished it for him, "shut your mouth, lose the attitude and do exactly as your told."

Elijah raised his hand, extended his thumb and waved it back and forth towards Adair, "What she said.  Because honestly, if I'm telling you to do something, chances are you could be dead if you don't do it."

Alex thought for a moment as he alternated his stare at Elijah and Adair before he finally said, "Alright, you've both impressed on me the seriousness of whatever is going on.  I'll try this for a while until the threat is over."

Adair smiled, "Agreed."

"By the way, please call me Eli.  Only my mother calls me Elijah and that's when I'm in deep shit."

Alex nodded to him, "Ok, if you're Eli, then I'm Alex." He turned to Adair, "Where's my Nanaimo bar?"

Both Eli and Adair said at the same time "Did you eat your vegetables?"

"SHIT!  You really did a thorough briefing, didn't you?"  Alex gave them both an imitation of Yosemite Sam "rackin' frackin' ya long-eared Galoots" as he stuffed a carrot into his mouth to eat.


Eli and Adair were sitting in her office, each with a coffee.

"He's in a conference call for an hour right now" Adair started.  "That actually went much better at lunch than I thought it would."

"I was prepared for the worse.  But, he is feisty, isn't he?"

"Oh yeah, when he's full of energy and feeling good, Alex is a handful of hilarity, unpredictability and a warm, caring, loving person."

"You were going to fill me in on the former boyfriend."

Reaching into her desk she pulled out an envelope, then handed it to Eli.  "First things first, In the envelope is a Centurion American Express Card, and a Luxury-class World Elite Mastercard in your name.  They have unlimited spending but set with a reasonable limit of $100,000 daily each.  There is also a regular Visa Card and Mastercard with your name on it depending upon what you need and where you are using it.  The transactions come through me for bookkeeping."

"Understood."

"In the envelope is also $2,000 in cash, small dominations in used cash.  Also contained is your identification and badge confirming you as a federal railway police officer.  With our interests in the rail systems throughout North America, that Identification gives you the status of a federal police officer in both Canada and the US with the rank of Superintendent."

"I had no clue the railway police had that authority."

"The railway police in Canada are Federally appointed right back to the original train going west.  We have an agreement with the Americans to protect our property down there as well.  Basically, down there we are on the same level as their FBI."

"I'm amazed."

"That also makes your carrying the Sig Sauer P229 Legion Compact in the small of your back perfectly legal."

Eli looked at the lady behind the desk, "You're not as naive as you've been acting."

"I saw it when you bent over slightly to shake Alex's hand.  You should know his father taught him to shoot.  He is quite good with a handgun and incredible with a rifle."

"That's nice to know.  Just so you are aware, that peace officer status probably won't cover a couple of the other weapons I have in my duffle bag or will be taking with us if we go camping."

"Do what you have to do, and we will throw our full Corporate resources behind you.  Do not even hesitate for a moment."

"That's reassuring."

"Now, onto the former boyfriend.  I wouldn't be surprised to find out he's behind the threats being made.  His name is Mason Stonemason and they met at graduate school.  It started good but I personally never liked or trusted Mason.  Over time, he began to never have his wallet when they were on dates or out for drinks.  Then it started with Mason needing some help for groceries, rent, a broken-down car, clothes and so on.  Alex had him move in with him at the apartment he had near the university in response to the pressure Mason was putting on him.  I began to notice that Alex was spending less and less time around his family and here at his workplace.  He wasn't expected to be here every day because he was still in school, but his dad just wanted him to be here and with him at times to learn the business.  He had noticed Alex was drifting away from him and his mother, the more Mason moved into his life.  Mason began controlling Alex's friends, appointments, where he went and who he met with."

Eli's lips were pursed as he shook his head, "I've seen that pattern with a couple of my female friends who were living with their guys.  No matter what gender, that's the beginning of a very controlling and abusive relationship."

"That's good that you have an understanding.  It was after they graduated from university Mason was putting a lot of pressure on Alex to get married.  It was at this time I became quite concerned and assigned a couple of third party investigators to look into Mason's background.  It wasn't long before they found he had already been convicted of false pretences, fraudulent cheques, and bank fraud.  They also began to uncover a series of people he was visiting on the side.  When they gained access to his bank accounts and online storage locations, they quickly began to realize that Mason was blackmailing a couple of people, as well as hooking up with a couple of others."

"I still have contacts to deal effectively and make people disappear.  I have friends with a helicopter and they know how to keep their mouths shut after someone is shoved out the side door over a large body of water."

"I'll keep that in the back of my mind, Eli.  Then the death of his parents occurred at the ski resort and Alex didn't handle it well.  I found out Mason was pushing his insecurities hard during the funeral and the time after for them to get married.  We hadn't had the chance to reveal everything we had on Mason at the time of his parents' death.  Mason had figured this was the time to get his hands on the money so he went all in for the fight.  We're lucky that Mason had no clue what Alex's assets really were, or he might've put even more pressure on.  Alex felt the pressure, but he snapped at Mason.  He snapped over the fact that Mason wanted to be married while Alex was trying to plan his parents' funeral and arrange their affairs.  The same day after the funeral, he told Mason to get his shit out of the apartment and he never wanted to see him again.  Mason retained a lawyer to sue, but our team buried them both in paper.  That's when Mason realized what Alex was in control of.

On the day of the discovery for the civil process, Mason came in with his lawyer and Alex came in with six lawyers.  Shortly after, he told Alex that he had been exposed to HIV through an extra-relationship activity which just came up in tests.  It was a desperate attempt to get Alex back into his life and bond through a mutual crisis.  That's when Alex reacted the opposite way to what Mason expected.  Alex withdrew into himself to the point I took him to a mental health facility for help.  He stayed for two weeks and came back out as the young man I love.  The problem is with him taking his medication regularly and getting him back out in public to have some fun, meet people, but most importantly for him to feel safe.  I have no doubt he will be able to get off the medication one day, under the care of his doctor.  But not right now."

"I'll do my best to keep him safe."

"I know you will, but he will challenge you, not because he's a bad person, but because he's lost right now.  When he buries himself in work, he becomes someone else in a world he can control.  That's safe for him and why he stays there."

"These pets of his…"

"They will sense you're safe right away.  The two dogs have the potential to be vicious, but they are truly loving animals.  It's Jazz who is suspicious of everyone and fiercely protective of Alex.  I just wouldn't want to test any of them by hurting Alex in front of them."

"Jazz is the lynx?"

"Yup."

"A real lynx?"

"Right down to the huge paws to run across the top of the snow."

"I can hardly wait to meet them."

"You pass with them and Alex will accept your presence even more." Adair looked up at the phone on her desk, then said, "His conference call just ended so he will probably want to go home right away.  Did you bring your suitcase?"

"I have a duffle bag in the corner."

The door to Alex's office opened and he strolled in imitating Ricky Ricardo.  "Oh Lucy, where are you?  Take me home, Lucy."

Adair smirked, "Did I ever tell you that he loves old TV shows, movies and cartoons?"

Eli smiled as he looked over at Alex, "Dudley do-right?" 

"The original cartoon of course with Bill Scott as the voice."

"Rick and Morty?"

"Damn right and followed by Archer."

Eli countered with "Fractured Fairy Tales with Edward Everett Horton."

Alex squinted his eyes at Eli as he said, "F-Troop with Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch."

"Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea…"

Alex cut him off "…the TV show with Richard Basehart as opposed to the movie."

"Pinky and the Brain.  Are you pondering what I'm pondering?"

"Uh, I think so, Brain, but where will we find a duck and a hose at this hour?"

Adair shook her head, "God save me.  There's two of them now."  She stood and began pushing them out of the office, "Alex, take Eli out to the house and try not to feed him to Frick, Frack, or Jazz please?"

Alex raised both hands in the position of surrender, "I'll try not to, but they run the house."


Eli drove the SUV into the garage slowly, and as usual the roof bowed under the weight of something dropping onto it.

"Well, my little girl is getting her ride into the garage."

"That was her?" asked Eli.  "Where did she come from?"

"The roof of the garage, this is all a game to her."

Eli parked the vehicle, took a deep breath and opened the door to step out.  As he did a very deep, resonating growl from the roof of the SUV was heard.  Immediately, the two large dogs entered the garage, adding their growls to Jazz's.  He looked at the three animals, all with their teeth bared.  They were growling, but obviously looking him over as opposed to attacking.

"Frick, Frack… friend," Alex said as he came around the front of the SUV.  The dogs immediately stopped their growling at the sound of their master's voice.  Alex moved to stand next to Eli, grasped his hand gently and extended it to the two dogs.  "Friend."

"They understand?"

"Well, I look at this way.  If I yelled help right now they would shred you without batting an eye.  They have seemed to always accept whoever I introduced to them as a friend."  Alex reached over and rubbed the neck of the dog on the left, "This is Frick, the lighter coloured one of the two.  That's Frack with the darker fur around his face."

"Ok, I think I got that straight."  A growl on the roof behind them reminded Eli the Lynx was right behind him.

Alex turned to extend his arms.  Immediately Jazz walked into his arms to be held.  She was still staring at Eli as Alex introduced her.  "Jasmine, my lady, this is Eli, my bodyguard and a new friend."

Slowly Eli reached to her head, allowing her to sniff it.  Finally the cat looked at Alex for a long moment, and then at Eli before giving him a low volume 'meow'.  "She's so soft," as he scratched under the big cat's ear.

"I'm impressed, that's the quickest anyone has ever touched Jazz before." Just then the cat gave a loud, long, drawn-out meow to Alex.  "And that's her telling me to quit stalling because she's hungry."  Jazz dropped out of his arms, bounced over to the porch door and promptly sat down waiting for Alex to open it for her.  "Let's get them fed, find something to eat for ourselves and then go for my evening walk."


While the two men talked and prepared their meal, Jazz was on her usual spot on the logs above the kitchen.  Her eyes never closed, watching every move Eli made.

"She doesn't miss much, does she?"

"No, she doesn't.  All three of them are more than just pets - they're my friends."  Eli squatted down to scratch Frick's head.  Frack immediately moved in to get some attention as well.  "You've obviously won these two over."

"They're wonderful animals.  Their eyes are so full of life, but even more full of love and loyalty when they look at you."

"You're an animal lover."

"Very much so.  I owe my life to a service dog who tripped a landmine to save me."  Alex stopped scraping the dishes for the dishwasher to turn and stare at Eli.

"I was in combat in Afghanistan.  My squad was moving through some rough terrain on trails in the dark when Aero, our bomb dog, began to get uneasy.  That indicated something was wrong around us.  There were a couple of shots fired from the dark and we began moving down the trail to get to cover.  She growled, ran by me, and just as she tripped the wire she turned to look at me to make sure I was safe.  After we secured the area, I carried her body back to base where she was transported back home to be buried with the other members of the battalion.  Aero was my friend and saved my life."  Eli used the back of his hand to wipe his eyes, "I still miss her to this day.  I think you and I have the same opinion of humans, that we'd rather have the friendship, love and loyalty of pets."

Alex continued to look at Eli, then finally said, "Maybe we will get along after all."  Alex stared off into the distance for a moment.  "They stood by me… during the loss of my parents… and then my boyfriend manipulating me.  They never did like him, but they tolerated him because it was what I wanted.  I should've listened to them…"

Eli watched Alex closely as he continued to stare blankly into the living room.  Finally, he gently grasped the man's shoulder to provide some comfort.  Eli was assessing Alex from head to toe visually, looking for any clues which would assist in a medical diagnosis for what was happening.  Tears began to leak from Alex's eyes just before Frick and Frack moved quickly to sit at their master's feet, pushing against his legs.  Alex's hollow stare was broken a moment later, bending to pet his two friends.

"Alex, you were about to have a problem, weren't you?"

"There's no sense in lying to you about this.  Yes, I was borderline, but I didn't go over the edge this time."

"Amazing how your dogs knew you were in trouble and responded to be with you."

"They are my friends with their love for me surpassed only by my love for them."  Alex kneeled to embrace Frick and Frack.  They both responded by licking their master's face.

"They would be essential to come with us on the trip, wouldn't they?"

Over his shoulder Alex said, "All three come with me."  He turned back to petting his dogs then added, "They are my family and I don't leave family behind."

Eli was stunned at the use of that phrase about not leaving family behind.  "Alex, that is one of the clearest messages you've sent me and I support you 110%.  I have never left family behind.  They have always come out and back home with me."

Alex stood, turned and faced Eli.  "I truly believe your words."

The two men finished the dishes up, then started to go for a walk.  This time, Jazz body checked Eli out of the way as she ran through the door.  Alex laughed at the expression on Eli's face as the big cat knocked him off his feet.  Both of the men watched Jazz bounce out onto the lawn, turn to face them while lowering her head with her stubby tail flipping back and forth.

Eli was chuckling.  "She is a handful, isn't she?  Quite the character."

"Watch this," Alex responded as he threw himself onto the ground to wrestle with Jazzy.  Eli smiled as the man wrestled with the big cat.  More importantly, she was gently toying with him in return.  Frick and Frack moved into the fight, nipping at Alex's shoes and butt.  Alex stood up finally and yelled, "Squirrel!  Go get him!  Get the squirrel!"  That caused the two dogs to immediately run in the direction their master had pointed.  Jazz was sitting on the ground giving Alex the look which said clearly, 'Really? Like I'm not that stupid like dogs or humans.'  Eli was laughing at the big cat's attitude, as well as the relationship Alex has with his animals.  Alex took Eli along the laneway out of the cabin area and onto the grid roads.  Eli was very subtle as he scanned everywhere they were walking.  He had seen the property by drone camera quite a bit on the weekend which gave him a definite advantage in knowing the general layout.

"It's beautiful out here.  Do you ever think of just saying 'fuck it' and living out here full time?"

"In all honesty Eli, if I had a husband it would be a serious consideration."  Alex stood still in the middle of the road.  He turned to Eli, "They did tell you I was gay, right?  My use of the word husband wasn't distressing, was it?"

Eli smirked and chuckled, "Yes they told me.  I will protect you with my life, even taking a bullet for you if I have to.  Maybe I will even be fortunate enough to earn your friendship someday."

Alex stared at him for a moment.  "I'm beginning to think that could be a possibility… someday.  You're still a dweeb."

"Adair told me that you had called me a dweeb."

Alex put his hands on his hips, "Oh yeah?  So what do you think of that, Mr. Muscleman?"

Eli stared at Alex for a few seconds, reached over, firmly grasped his boss, tossed him easily onto his shoulder like a bag of grain.  "I think little guys should be careful what they say."

"Put me down you DWEEB!" Alex said with laughter.

It didn't go unnoticed by Eli that all three of the animals had come closer when he threw Alex on his shoulder but were still giving him lots of space.  They were neither crowding nor aggressive towards him, which meant they already were trusting of his presence to a point.  Eli smacked Alex's ass a couple of times.  "Stop squirming little guy."

"Do that again, harder, faster."

Eli began to laugh.  "She told me you also wanted me to spank you."

"I really have to talk to Adair about her mouth."

Eli smacked each of Alex's butt cheeks.  "You be nice to that lady."

"Keep doing that.  God, that feels good."

Immediately Eli provided a few more playful swats to his ass.

"I'm gonna need a smoke soon if you keep that up."

Eli repositioned Alex so that he was being held across both of his shoulders as if he was a yoke on an oxen.  "You know I could help you get a little less wiggly and more solid."

"Wiggly, you bastard?  No one has ever called me wiggly before."

"Did I hurt the anti-dweeb's itty bitty ego?"

Alex smiled as he struggled. "You really are a bastard!"

Eli set Alex back onto the ground on his feet.  He brushed imaginary dirt off the man's shoulders, straightened his jacket, spun him around, then swatted him on the ass one more time.  "There you go little guy.  All ready to go somewhere important."

"Bastard."

The two men finished their walk, headed back to the cabin and began to settle in for the night.  Alex took Eli on a tour of the cabin, both inside and outside.  Eli grabbed the bedroom across from Alex, in case of problems.  Alex was sitting on the edge of the bed watching as Eli unpacked his clothing, followed by the hard-sided Plano and Pelican cases.  Eli was surprised when Alex correctly identified the MP-5, AR-15 and the handguns.  He handed the young man the Smith and Wesson 10mm, which Alex promptly accepted.  He checked to ensure it was clear, removed the clip, cycled it a couple of times then loaded the clip with ammo.  He slammed the clip back into place, locked the safety in place, handed the weapon back to Eli.

"You're good.  Tomorrow, some practice shooting?"

"Would love it.  It's been a long time since I did that.  The last time was years ago with… dad."

"Then we'll do it.  Adair said you were very good with guns.  What have you got?"

Alex led him into the study, opened a cabinet and pointed at a dozen high powered rifles.  The one which caught Eli's eye was the Mini-14.  "That is an incredible weapon, Alex.  Light, powerful and deadly accurate."

"That's my favourite one.  The varmint rifle there is my next favourite.  It has deadly range with very little drop on the projectile for a 1,000 yards."

"You know, I'm going to have to tell Adair you aren't the nerd I thought you were going to be."

Alex chuckled, "I'll have to admit to her that you aren't as big of a dweeb as I expected."

Once Eli got everything put away, the two men sat down in the living room in front of a fire that had been started.  Alex had Archer on TV for them to watch.  Eli had Alex show him where the medications he should've been taking were located.  A quick count showed that he had been taking less than previously admitting.

"Is this all the medications you've been prescribed, Alex?"

"Yes sir" Alex replied with a smirk.

"So you are supposed to be taking two red ones and one orange at night along with the white rectangular one three times a day, or as required.  A white round pill in the morning."

"I'm thankful you have all that education to sort out how many pills I have to take."

"You really don't like medications, do you?"

Alex twisted in his seat to look at Eli, "No, I don't.  Never have and never will."

"Alex, the quicker we get you stabilized on these and working with you to control your episodes, the quicker we get orders to start reducing them until you're off them altogether."

"You make it sound easy."

"Bullshit, it's not easy.  That's just the facts, ma'am."

Alex's eyes squinted at Eli.  "You do realize that's not really the line?  Jack Webb, or Sgt. Joe Friday, used to say things like 'All we know are the facts ma'am', but never said, 'Just the facts ma'am.'"

Eli smirked back at Alex, "You know you really are a devoted old TV show nut and a lot brighter than you look."

Alex's voice shot to the high end of the music scale as he almost yelled, "EXCUSE ME?!"

"I said you're a lot brighter than you look," Eli repeated with a big smile.

"You are such a bastard!!" Alex replied in a fake huff as he sat back in his chair with arms crossed.

Eli got up, went to the kitchen to return with a glass of water.  He had arranged the medication in the lid of one of the drugs to make it easier to give them to Alex.  He picked up the lid and approached Alex with both.  "It's medication time."

"I don't want to.  You said I'm ugly."

"No, I just said you are brighter than you look.  A cute little guy like you should take that as a compliment."

"You think I'm cute?"

"Sure I do as would just about anyone else who met you.  Now, take your pills or I will give them to you as an enema."

Alex put the pills into his mouth followed by some water from the glass.  "Enema, eh?"

"Yup, fleet style."

Alex suddenly looked disgusted.  "No thanks."

"Alex, what happens when you have an episode so I know what to do?"

"That's a fair question, but it's hard to answer.  I'll be thinking of something or having a memory of good times with my parents or even something else.  It's when my mind wanders, or I'm going to sleep.  It's like a deep pit suddenly opens and I fall into it.  I feel profound sadness, anger, despair, helplessness and hopelessness.  Emotionally, it just overruns me like a tidal wave and I usually crumple into a ball.  Lots of times I'm on the couch, on the floor somewhere, or even in bed.  I can only describe it as incredible sadness to the point that I begin crying uncontrollably."

"Thank you.  That helps me a lot to understand what will be going on inside of you while I'm trying to help you from the outside.  You do realize the medications would've been helping to control the frequency, duration and depth of these episodes, so the sooner we get you back up to therapeutic level, the better it will be for you."

Alex, sadly, looked down at the floor.  "I know.  I hate pills and keep thinking that I could do it myself without them." 

"That's not uncommon with a lot of people, Alex.  It takes a brave man to stand up and say, 'I need help' and then follow through with it."

"You've seen it before?"

Eli looked away from Alex for a moment, then replied, "Yes, I've seen it a few times as a medic and military policeman.  But, I went through it myself at one point."

That got Alex's attention causing him to snap his head to look directly at Eli.  "They worked for you?"

"They worked for me, then I got off them after I had learned how to handle them with therapy and have been doing fine since.  They help to slow things down, get things in perspective, and get some good sleep so you can make good choices.  Think of life as a roller coaster.  There are a ton of ups and downs on the tracks but what these pills do is make the hills not as high and lows not as deep so they are workable for you.  The pills can't remove the hills, valleys or twists life will throw at you, but they will put you in a position to begin learning how to control them and regain your life."

Alex was in deep thought for a moment, then said, "Ok, you win.  That actually made sense.  I'll take my pills regularly, but I want to get off them one day."

"The doctor, you, and I will all work towards that, little guy."

"Little guy?  Someday I'll prove you wrong," Alex said with laughter as he grabbed his crotch.

"TMI, little guy."

Frick stood up from his spot on the floor, stretched and moved to the back door.  He sat and looked at Eli.  "You want to go out to do your business?  Better take your other half with you too."  As Eli was walking towards the door, Frack joined them.  A large cat dropped from the rafter onto the kitchen counter wanting to go out as well.  Eli was surprised by the cat hitting the counter.  "Shit!"

Alex began laughing.  "Oh, the big bad army guy was startled by a little kitty."

Eli opened the door, letting them out into the darkness.  "You guys don't get lost now."  Frick and Frack jumped from the inside to the outside followed by Jazz who strutted like a movie star out the door.  That ended when Frick turned and snapped his teeth at her ass.  The fight was on.  Eli started laughing, closed the door, then turned to Alex.  "They really are characters, aren't they?"

"They've helped me a lot."

"Do you want a snack or anything while I'm in the kitchen?"

Alex's first thought was, 'Yeah, a naked Elijah pounding my ass on the floor in front of the fireplace.'  Instead, he responded with, "No, but thanks for asking."

"How long will they stay out?"

"They won't go far.  The dogs will come back in so they can sleep near me.  Jazz, I'm never sure with her.  When it's warm or nice out, she comes and goes as she pleases."

Eli turned off the lights in the kitchen, seated himself in a chair near Alex with a glass of water.  "What's on?"

"Star Trek, TOS.  It's the episode with the Horta on Janus 6."

"You mean Episode 25 of season 1 called 'The Devil in the Dark.'  The reason I like that episode is it was my former mother-in-law who played the Horta without any makeup.  She got the part on both size and looks."

Alex smirked, "Ouch!"  Eli smiled at him.  "I thought bodyguards were all knuckle draggers who still lived in the trees as gorillas."  Before Eli could say anything, Alex added, "Ok, you look brighter than I thought you would."

"It's better to be swinging in the trees with the rest of the apes than to be in the hole that you're digging."

Eli heard Alex mumbling "smart assed bastard" under his breath as he settled back into his chair.

They watched the end of the TV show, let the animals in and headed to their bedrooms after Eli checked the entire house as well as the doors and windows.  Frick and Frack followed him on a quick circuit around the outside of the house while Alex was getting ready for bed.  Alex had taken his shirt off inside, then realized the curtains were still open.  He closed them but not before Eli had a good look at his boss's build.  'Not bad,' he thought to himself as he finished the round.  As soon as he went in, the two dogs both had a drink of water then ran into Alex's room.  Eli could hear them both jumping up onto the bed, and then settling down quickly.  Leaving his bedroom door open, he got ready then slipped into his bed as well.  "I'm sleeping with weapons again.  I thought I had put all this behind me."  It was then he realized that Jazz was on the end of his bed, settling down for sleep.  "Man, I didn't even hear or feel her get on the bed.  She is good."


In the morning, the two-headed into work.  Eli chuckled at how much Alex was not a morning person which earned him being called a bastard about a dozen times until they got into the office.  Alex went into his office while Eli sat with Adair.

"How did it go with him?  Have you earned your pay already?"

"In all honesty, not too bad.  He was trying to be a pain, but he's really small-time compared to what I've gone through."

"That's good to hear."

"The animals have accepted me already.  Jazz slept on my bed."

That got Adair's attention.  Her eyebrows raised significantly as she said, "Jazz?"

"Yup.  She's a big snuggle bunny.  Sometime during the night she moved up, stretched out, and was back to back with me on the bed."

Adair shook her head.  "I have never heard of Jazz accepting someone let alone trusting someone this quick before."

"Even the dogs.  Last night I picked the little guy up and was carrying him over my shoulder, smacking his ass, with him calling me a bastard and they all just watched from a distance."

Adair began to laugh, "I think he's met his match, if not more, with you."

Suddenly, the phone rang on Adair's desk.  As she picked it up, both could hear Alex's voice.  "Stop talking about me, you two."

Adair rolled her eyes as she replied into the mouthpiece, "Eli, did I ever tell you that the Earth doesn't rotate around the sun.  It rotates around Alex because he is the centre of the universe."  She listened to something else then handed the phone to Eli.

"I can't call Adair names but you're a bastard for talking about me."  There was a pause, then he continued, "So get us each a cup of coffee and come in here so I can at least defend myself."

"Little wiggly nerds don't scare me."  Adair almost fell backwards out of her chair as she was laughing so loud.

"This is an official pronouncement announcing an official meeting of the dweebs and nerds.  Get in here with coffee!" followed by a click as he hung up.  Adair was still laughing as she poured coffee for each, enjoying that her boss sounded like a new man already.

Before lunch, Adair had confirmed the flight arrangements for Alex, Eli, and the animals in a floatplane up to the lodge.  The lodge was a large building that was full of tourists this time of the year but the family had their cabin a distance away from the lodge.  The main business of the lodge was trophy-sized lake trout and northern pike plus numerous other large types of fish in the lake to catch.  Generally, it was more men than women who used to come up for the fishing but that had changed over the past few years.  Many brought their wives with them now and many of them enjoyed fishing too.

 

It was a large lodge with hotel-like rooms as well as a series of smaller cabins around the main lodge if people wished to live on their own.  The lodge also owned six houseboats for people to rent and travel around on the lake by themselves.  The only access during the spring, summer and fall was by floatplane.  There was an ice road put through during the winter but it was mainly for the locals to drive out of the lodge to the northern town of 6,000 people 450 km south.  The ice fishing during the winter was fantastic as well.

The lodge was open all year round but was dependant upon these two forms of access.  Two families lived up at the lodge year-round and were the primary caretakers and keepers.  They also employed numerous local indigenous people as guides for the fishing boats, and in the operation of the lodge, ranging from cooks to cleaning staff.  Alex quietly owned the lodge but left it in the hands of the custodians to operate.  He took a percentage of the profits, leaving most of it in the hands of all the people doing the work.

The family cabin was built on a small 3-acre island with a single lane bridge that accommodated their SUV and quads during the summer or snowmobiles during the winter.

"Adair, we're going to go out to the gun range behind the house this afternoon.  Macho man wants to see how well I shoot."  Adair rolled her eyes at Alex using the term macho man.

"Well Alex, you have a meeting with the real estate and construction divisions in an hour.  Another meeting in two days would be the trucking division.  That would be the managers from the expedited team fleet, lease-ops, owner-ops, company driver division, P&D as well as the Sea-can Rail division.  We'll use the big conference room for that meeting on the third floor tomorrow."

Alex was very serious as he replied quickly, "Is this the meeting regarding the pay rates, benefits and new vehicles we're bringing online?"

"Yes, as per the package you approved two weeks ago."

"I think they will be quite happy with it compared to the other companies in the industry."

"After that meeting, everything else can be rescheduled.  You guys would be able to go from here to the airbase at the river to jump on your plane."

"Does that mean I can bring the kids up to the office until we're ready to go?"

"Yes you can, or we can just leave them at the house, then run home to load the vehicle and go straight to the river airbase to get on the plane," suggested Adair.

"I like plan B," Alex said after a moment's thought.

Eli was nodding his head as well, "I do too.  The extra care for your animals here would increase your exposure to uncontrolled potential events."

Alex shook like he had been chilled. "Oh man, Eli.  When you used all those big words… wow… it such an effect on me."

"Nerd."

"Bastard."

Adair was shaking her head. "I see you two are getting along fine."

The rest of the day went quickly.  The meeting was interesting to Eli as he sat in on it, 'taking notes' on behalf of the President.  On the way back to Alex's house, they stopped to fit a couple of suits for Eli.  The tailor knew Alex quite well and would have them ready in an hour.  The two men went for a leisurely lunch, picked up the suits and headed home.

It turned out that Alex was above average on his Mini 14 and the other rifles.  He also did quite well with the handguns.  The MP5 was a challenge for Alex, but by the end of the afternoon he could effectively use it if it was required.  He also did quite well handling the IWI US Galil ACE® Rifle in .308 calibre.

While they were preparing supper an unknown vehicle drove into the yard.  Two males dressed in hunting clothing stayed in the vehicle mainly because Frick and Frack were barking, baring their teeth, and showing a very high level of aggression.  Eli went out cautiously to speak with them.  The driver was asking about permission to do some spotting on the land for the hunting season this fall.  The passenger wasn't interested in the conversation, he was systematically looking at everything in the yard.

Two things came to Eli's mind as the truck left the yard after he denied them permission (based on animal-friendly and vegetarian beliefs towards hunting).  The first was that both had obviously just purchased all of their hunting clothing as it still had the packaging folds and creases on it.  The second thing was that Eli never introduced himself but the driver called him Alexander once during their conversation.  The land is registered to a holding company under the AWA Group of Companies which was called A790178SK.  Neither of those things were mentioned to Alex upon his return to the kitchen.  Eli had also noticed that Frick and Frack never left their protective positions while the vehicle was in the yard, but when he called to them to follow him back to the house, they both did so with no hesitation.

Alex followed his daily routine of going for a walk with the animals.  Tonight Jazz stayed snoozing on one of the beams above the living room, not interested in a walk.  The two men walked south of the laneway, the dogs out looking for anything to chase and following scent trails as usual.  Eli was also scanning the road carefully, looking for vehicle traffic treads and trails left by a vehicle pulling over.  He found a few indications of a vehicle that had pulled to the side of the road and stopped.  At one location there was an indication of footprints in the dirt as well as a wet spot on the ground, most likely where one of them had stepped out to take a piss.  Alex was still quite energized from the day's activities which Eli used to his advantage to cover as much distance as possible.  After completing the walk south of the laneway, they went north for quite a distance as well.  Once again, Eli noticed some unusual spots where a vehicle with the same tire treads as the spots on the south had stopped.  He suspected the two men behind the unusual tracks.  Eli was keeping in mind they could've been quite innocent and out spotting animals, too.

Eli approached Alex, "Here're your meds, Alex."

Alex took them followed by a drink of water.  He then turned and opened his mouth towards Eli.  "See, they're gone."

"Do you know your whole face disappears when you open your mouth like that?"

"So… last night I was ugly and now I have a big mouth?" Alex replied with a fake huff.

With an evil smirk, Eli answered, "Is that a rhetorical question or do you expect an actual answer?"

"Oh, you are such a smart ass."

"We're quite the pair.  I'm the smart ass and we've agreed you're the cute ass.  Just a pair of assess."  Eli chuckled as he turned to head into the kitchen.  "You better add drama queen to that too."

"Oh, so now not only am I ugly with a big mouth, I'm window dressing too.  I'll have a glass of lemonade while you're in there."

"Ok, I'll bring it out to you, seeing you have that large piano tied to your ass."

In a snarky voice, Alex repeated what Eli had said.  "I'll bring it out to you seeing you have that large piano tied to your ass.  Bastard!"

Eli made it worse by laughing at Alex's behaviour.  "Do you want some cheese with that wine, little man?"

"What?  I haven't got any wine.  Oh shit, you are such a bastard!"

Eli popped his head over the counter which separated the kitchen from the living room.  In a voice similar to the one Alex had used, "I haven't got any wine.  DOH!"

"Less talk, more lemonade."

Eli walked in with it, placing it on the table next to Alex.  He also put a few crackers down with a big slice of cheese.  "This is good for you to have a snack like this Alex.  We'll get some digestive cookies shopping tomorrow and you'll like them more."

"With chocolate coating on one side?"

"Maybe a few, just for you."

"Thanks, pop."

The two men sat and watched Archer followed by the news.  Alex was getting tired from the medications, so he headed off to bed.  Eli let all the animals back into the house.  Before they headed off to their places for the night, Eli gave them each a milk bone as a treat.

Alex stumbled into the kitchen just wearing his boxer briefs.  "I forgot to let… never mind.  Thank you, Eli.  Goodnight."

Eli looked at his boss, studying his body in the limited light.  When he turned, Alex scratched his tight little ass absent-mindedly as he turned the corner into the hallway.  Eli thought to himself, "What a nice-looking man who is smart and with a complete heart of gold."


In the morning Alex jumped behind the wheel of the SUV, with Eli in the passenger side.  Eli was carrying a small backpack which he placed between his feet.  They hadn't spoken much while getting ready for work other than Alex uttering the word 'coffee' the first time he came into the kitchen.  Eli had been up first, put on the coffee and made some toast for himself.  Alex woke up to the smell of the pot of coffee Eli brewed, and homed in on it like a guided missile.  After stealing and shoving Eli's toast into his mouth, Alex went to his room for a shower and to get dressed.

On the way into the office, Alex drove through the downtown, past the office building.

"Alex, this isn't the way into the office.  Are you lost this morning or where are we going?"

"Well I can't have my personal assistant looking like he shops at second-hand stores or digging out of the Kidney Donation Clothing Bins in mall parking lots."

"I do not dress like that," Eli stated rather sharply.

Alex sucked a breath in, then let it out.  "I apologize Eli, that was meant to be funny."  He slowly turned to look at Eli in the seat next to him.  What he saw was a smirk on Eli's face.  He realized he'd been had.  "Bastard," he said which immediately got a laugh from Eli.  Alex turned into an angled parking spot in front of the tailors, bumping off the curb.  "Dammit."

"Can I drive home?"

"NO, I do it all the time with this vehicle.  It's got a short front end and I misjudge the curb."

"Uh-huh."

"Shut up and get out of the vehicle."

Alex led Eli into the suit store, immediately having an older man approach them.  In a very cultured English voice he said, "Mr. Ancienne, it a pleasure to see you here today.  I noticed that the engineers haven't fixed that anomaly on the curb yet, sir."  

Alex looked directly at Eli, "See?  This man knows it isn't my fault that curb was constructed improperly."  Eli rolled his eyes.  The two men embraced cordially.  Alex stood back, "Mr. Ross, this is Elijah who requires some clothing for working as my personal assistant."

Eli extended his hand, "Mr. Ross, it's a pleasure to meet you.  Alex has spoken highly of you and anyone who can tolerate him must be the best tailor in town."

Mr. Ross grasped Eli's hand firmly.  "Speaking honestly, Mr. Ancienne is quite refreshing compared to some of the clients who I must deal with."  That got a chuckle from Eli.

"Mr. Ross, I would appreciate it if you would call me Eli."

The older gentleman smiled as he replied, "Well then, I would appreciate it if you called me Les."

"Deal."

Alex looked a little indagate as he said, "Mr. Ross, I have been telling you for years to call me Alex but you still call me Mr. Ancienne.  You meet him once and no problem for you two to call each other by first names."

Les stood up straight, his face showing no emotion as he replied, "You are absolutely correct, Mr. Ancienne."  Turning to Eli, he asked, "What are your favourite colours?"

Alex sputtered, "'You are absolutely correct, Mr. Ancienne' is all you have to say?"

Les's face changed slowly to a smug smirk.  "It really creases your paper that I won't call you by your Christian name, doesn't it?"

"I just don't understand."

"It's easy, sir.  I'm surprised you don't understand."

"Please explain it to me."

"I have called you Mr. Ancienne since you got your first suit with your father.  As you became a teenager, and then an adult, I continued to tailor your clothing but have always called you Mr. Ancienne because it is the proper thing to do.  But as you became more than just a customer I continued to do it."

"Why?"

A big smile now exploded on Les's face.  "Because it gets under your skin every time I don't call you by your first name.  Plus, a wonderful lady explained it drove you nuts."  Alex stood with his mouth open while Eli began to roar with laughter.

Alex shook his head and muttered, "I should've known Adair was involved somehow."

Les waggled his finger at Alex, "You be good to that lady."

Eli leaned towards Les, "He's scared of her."

"I'm scared of her," replied Les.

Finally Alex smiled, "I am going to have Walmart labels sewn into all my jackets."

Les rolled his eyes, the looked at Eli, "He once brought in a pair of denim jeans in which he had tried to shorten them himself.  The cuffs were different heights, thread obvious all over and enough of it to spin into a rope.  So if he is going to have those labels sewn into his jackets, you will have to do it."

Alex was speechless for a moment, then looked at Eli, "You bring this out in people.  This man has been the ultimate gentleman for 30 years and within minutes of meeting, he's talking just like you."

Les leaned over towards Eli, "Ask him about the crotch padding."

Alex turned absolutely red in colour.  "I thought you'd forgotten about that."

"Crotch padding?"  Eli asked innocently.

"In high school, I wanted some padding sewn into my pants.  It was no different than a girl stuffing her bra with Kleenex."

"Did you do it?"  asked Eli.

"Of course I did," Les replied melodically.  "I actually did two pairs of pants."

Alex cut him off, "He gave me one pair to try on, and when I did it looked like a boa constrictor under the jeans all the way down to my knee."  Again Eli started to laugh, but was joined by Les this time.  "Yeah yeah, very funny.  The second pair he had done a very nice job with the padding and added some to the seat of the pants as well."

"The young Mr. Ancienne had a rather flat ass in those days," Les quickly mumbled to Eli.

After the laughter died off, Alex explained, "Mr. Ross taught me that day that every person needs to accept who and what they are, and how they are built.  He described it to me this way: if you put 100 pounds of makeup on a monkey it will still be a monkey, but falsely advertising with makeup.  As people get to know each other, and the enhancements are discovered it leaves the question of what other lies have been told."

Eli looked at Les, "Great tailor and counsellor on top of it."

Alex quickly added, "Mr. Ross and I had many conversations about life while being fitted for clothing.  He was the one who I told that I was gay for the first time."

Les's eyes were watering as he asked, "Do you remember my answer?"

Alex had watery eyes as well.  "You told me that I was as God made me, and he doesn't make mistakes."

Les embraced Alex, "We talked a couple of times, and I supported him when he wanted to tell his dad.  He did it here in the shop."

Alex chuckled, "I'll never forget Dad's answer.  You could've told me at home, or at a burger joint.  This suit I didn't need is going to cost a fortune just so you could tell me you were gay."

"Alex, your dad sounds like he was a wonderful man.  I wish I'd known him."

"He was a wonderful man."

Les added, "I truly miss both your mother and father.  Your father was an incredible man only surpassed by your mother."  Alex hugged Les once again, his eyes closed.  A moment later, Les said, "Alright, let's get you outfitted.  Alex, any requests?"

"I'm telling Adair you called me Alex."

"I'll tell her about the padding."

"…Ok, you win.  I won't say a thing."

"Alex, in chess we call that checkmate."

"Ok, here is an impossible mission for you.  Make Elijah look good in a suit."

Eli smiled, "Bastard."

For the next hour, Les dragged Eli all over the store to find the colours which were best suited with his hair, eyes, and muscular build.  Alex was wandering through the store, finally sitting down in the back of the shop where the coffee was.  There were two seamstresses working at sewing machines, and Alex drank coffee while gossiping with the two older ladies.

Les had a suit jacket on Eli and was marking it as he spoke.  "Eli, this style of suit is a power suit."

"Power suit?"

"Let me give you a bit of a sociology lesson.  Businesses tell their employees to wear 'professional' attire which depends upon the type of work, environment and image they wish to present.  Would you agree with that so far?"

"Yes, of course."

"I take it by your build that you workout at a gym somewhere.  If you recall in high school all the way up to your gym workouts people are prohibited from working out in 'distracting' gear.  Now, distracting gear in a school is defined much differently than in a gym."

"Absolutely."

"Schools go even further than non-distracting clothing to be worn.  They expect their students to dress in clothes that conform to the sex they were assigned at birth.  We both know there is a lot of debate over this very point."

"I agree there is a lot of debate, but where is this leading?"

"In all these examples, the institution enforcing the dress code has made a value judgment about which sorts of clothes and behaviours are appropriate, and which are not.  These judgements based on their values may create an oppressive and discriminatory framework that can marginalize certain groups.  That's the overt part of the clothing."

"Interesting, you've given me food for thought."

"So, would you agree that clothing is not as obvious as you thought it was?"

"Yes, yes I would."

"Now, you asked why this was considered a power suit."

"Yes, I did."

"This one has a subtle pattern in it which emphasizes your broad shoulders, tall stature and narrow waist.  This suit emphasizes the air of authority about you."

"How does that work?"

"I'm going to guess you were military?"

"Yes, I was."

"When you were in boot camp, who was more intimidating.  A corporal or Lieutenant?"

"The officer of course."

"Why?"

"Because of the shoulder boards, rank pins, subtle differences to uniform."

"Exactly.  People respond to the non-verbal communication given to them by clothing.  It's the first thing many people note and base their assumptions on."

"So different types, cuts, patterns, and colours of suits and clothing…"

"…are one form of very important communication you have at your disposal, depending upon the situation.  What about if you go to a construction site and you wear a suit."

"There would be a huge barrier set up."

"Absolutely, and it was done without saying a word.  Now.  More subtle, you go in tailored jeans and expensive brand name shirt and shoes?"

Eli thought for a moment, then said, "You would look like you're trying to fit in but flaunting your status."

"It's very possible that's how people would see it.  Now, how about new brand name jeans, creased, but they hang off you like a clothesline?"

"That look would look contrived.  Are you sure you're just a tailor?"

"What about jeans so tight the lines of your underwear show through.  We used to call that VPL or visible panty lines."

"It's a distraction.  People will be looking at the lines and not hearing what you say."

Having finished marking the suit Les stood up.  He walked around Eli slowly, double-checking all the marks.  "Eli, will you be wearing a gun under your jacket?"

Eli's head snapped to look at Les directly.  "Gun?  How would you know if I wear a gun or not?"

Les moved to the front of the man, lifted the left side of the jacket and pointed to barely noticeable fray marks on the polo shirt was wearing.  After pointing out the first set, he pointed to the same types of fray marks on the shirt, but close to the hip.  "The leather belt at this location has distress marks from something being in place on it.  The top is slightly flared away from your hip.  Those things tell me you wear a gun."  

All Eli could say was, "Are you sure you're just a tailor?"

Without even looking over his shoulder, Les continued, "I suspect you're not wearing it at the moment but It's in that backpack you keep within arms reach at all times.  It's something you picked up and carried with you every time we've moved through the store, constantly checking it with your eyes.  By the way, it has a very subtle but distinct sound of a clunk every time you put it down."

Again, all Eli could say was, "Are you sure you're just a tailor?"

"That's all Alex knows me as.  But, we all have a past which in many ways shapes our future."  As Les finished modifying the jacket slightly, he said, "I've given you enough material to allow you to carry up to a 10mm, on each side under your arm."

"How would you know what size a 10mm semi-automatic would be?"

Les helped Eli to take the jacket off.  "A couple of years in the Anti-terrorism Group back home might've had something to do with it."

Eli smiled, "That would explain a lot.  Interesting, Les.  All of what we've talked about today I found to be quite interesting.  I appreciate the conversation."

Les stood back, stared straight into Eli's eyes and said, "You will do well working with Alex."  Les hesitated, then said, "You have a very strong presence, Eli.  It's subdued, but it's in the background ready to come out like a lion attacking.  I sense you're a person of strong morals, loyalty, and integrity.  You carry yourself in such a way to blend in, with, or behind Alex, but can unfold yourself to take command.  I also sense you are a good man."  

Eli gave a sideways look to Les as he said, "Seems to me I'm being checked out by Adair and now you."

"I won't lie.  You passed with both of us.  We are very loyal to Alex."

"I've noticed that, and I appreciate it myself."

"So, I need a couple of days for the suits.  I can bundle up the rest of the clothes, and the minor alterations to the jeans and casual pants I can have ready in a couple of hours.  It'll work out if you two went for a casual lunch."

Alex's voice was heard clearly as he walked up the aisle from the office, "Are you done trying to make this guy look better?"

Les chuckled, "Just mention food or words like lunch and Alex will appear out thin air."

Alex moved directly in front of Eli, "Did Adair set you up with credit cards?"

"Yes, she did."

"Good, take me for lunch."

"Ok, we can go for lunch.  Where would you like to go?"

"There's an old English Pub style place around the block, we can walk to it."

"Have you been there before?"

"Many times.  Fantastic food at lunch."

"What's it called?"

"The Pig'n'Whistle."

"Sounds interesting," Eli replied with rolling eyes.

Before leaving the clothing store, Eli went to the washroom.  Taking the gun out of his backpack, he attached the holster to his belt.  His light jacket covered it very well.


The two men wandered down the street, Alex stopping at nearly every store to look at the display in front windows.  There were clothing stores, boutiques, shoe stores, a camera store, a computer store and even a large coffee shop on the corner.  The Pig'n'Whistle was about four stores from the corner and beginning to fill with the lunch crowd from all the professional buildings around it.  Alex and Eli joined a short line at the door.  Waiting for a table.  It must've been the manager who appeared, shook Alex's hand and said loudly "Your reserved table is awaiting you" before escorting them into the restaurant.  Once they were seated in a quiet area near the back, the seater got the attention of a server to attend to them.

A good looking young man who fit the typical looks of a college fraternity boy quickly approached them.  As he placed menus in front of each of them, the young man said "Hi, I'm Joey.  I'll be your server today.  What would you guys like to drink?"

Alex looked at the cute young man with a smile, "You're new, Joey."

"Yes sir.  I've only been here since last month."

Alex extended his hand, "I'm Alex, and this is Eli."

Joey shook both hands, "I'm so happy to meet you two.  Now, can I get you something to drink?"

Alex immediately answered, "I'll have a Columbian fine ground in a press."

Eli smirked, then looked at the young man "I'll have iced tea, no ice."

"Any particular type of iced tea, sir?"

"Nope.  Just iced tea."

"I'll be right back with your drinks," Joey said as he quickly disappeared.  Alex was obviously watching the young man as he disappeared into the service area.

"You think he's cute," Eli said quietly.

Alex turned slightly, "Any gay guy with a heartbeat would think he's cute, Eli."  Alex let out a long breath as he mumbled, "What an ass."

Eli chuckled, "Me or him?"

"Both in very unique ways," Alex answered with a smirk on his face.  "His is the good type."

Changing the subject, Eli asked "What's good to eat here?"  as he opened the menu.  "Not a lot of choice on the lunch menu."

"It's geared to quick to prepare and eat meals for the work crowd.  They do have a popular smorgasbord on the side over there," replied Alex.  "It has a lot of salads for those who eat vegetables as well as a good selection of real food."

"You really don't like vegetables."

Alex closed his menu, placed it on the table, put both hands on top of it then interwound his fingers.  "Vegetables are my nemesis, but it's not as bad as Adair makes out."

"I'll keep that in mind.  What are you having?"

"I'm going to do the smorgasbord."

"I guess I will, too."  As Eli was answering Alex, he noticed a middle-aged man blocking Joey's path, trying to talk to him.  Joey was obviously getting frustrated and upset at his attempts.  Trying to get away from the man, Joey dropped his tray which had the coffee and iced tea he was bringing for Alex and himself.  Eli stood up, moving to help Joey clean up.

"You ok, Joey?"  asked Eli as he bent over to help pick up the smashed glass.

Joey was flustered, "I'm so sorry this happened."

"That man was pretty aggressively trying to get into your face.  Can I ask why?"

Joey shook his head no.  "It's alright.  I can take care of it."

Eli gently put a hand on Joey's shoulder, "Joey, I'm not naive in any way.  Please, let me help."

The last of the glass on the tray, Joey looked at him, "I'll go get your drinks right away."

Eli returned to his table as another staff member brought a mop for the liquid on the floor.

Alex looked at Eli, "What was that all about?  I missed it."

"If I was a suspicious person, I would suspect that he was hitting on young Joey and being rebuffed."

Joey came to the table, placing the drinks on the table.  "Have you two decided what to have for lunch?"

With a very professional look on his face, Eli asked quietly "Joey, what's up with the older guy?"

"It's ok.  I can handle it" Joey replied with a bit a frustration in his voice.

Eli reached into his back pocket to retrieve a leather folder.  He slipped it onto the table, opening it to show Joey a gold police shield.  As soon as the expression on Joey's face showed Eli he had seen the badge, he closed the wallet and returned it to his pocket.  "So, what's up with the older guy?"

"He's been in a few times now and keeps asking me out on a date.  I have a boyfriend, and I'm not interested but he won't give up."

Alex looked at the young man, the colour draining from his face.  Eli then said, "Joey, it's not about if you have a boyfriend or not.  If it's no, it's no.  That's the problem."

Joey was surprised at Eli's words, "No does mean no, sir, but he doesn't seem to know that."

"Then he needs to learn it," replied Eli with a very calm voice.  "Joey, we're both going to have the smorgasbord."

"Wonderful.  Please, help yourself when you're ready.  Thank you for your concern but I'll handle it."

Eli smirked as he looked directly at Alex, "No problem Joey."  The young man quickly moved away to service another table of customers.  "Alex, I'm going over to have a chat with that man.  When he turns to look at you snap photo's with your phone."

"Ok," Alex said with hesitation.

Eli stood, walked calmly over to where the man was sitting with someone else.  He stood behind an empty chair, obviously calmly speaking to the previously aggressive man.  The man's face was turning deep red and his answers to Eli were obviously becoming very short and argumentative.  Eli said something, turned and pointed to Alex.  The seated men both looked towards Alex as he was snapping photos.  The man's previously red face suddenly went pale.  Eli spoke for a couple of moments, until the man's head hung down, obviously admitting defeat.  Eli spoke for a moment more, before extending his hand to the man.  Reluctantly, the man and his companion both shook Eli's hand.  As Eli was walking back to the table, the two men got up and headed to the point of sale.  Eli sat down with Alex.

"Well Alex, are we ready to fill our plates with vegetables and salad."

"What did you do?"

"I was honest with him, and told him the way things would be."

"And that was…"

"Well, he had a business card on the table when I approached him.  He's a real estate salesman, both of them were.  So, I mentioned what he had been doing to my cousin Joey…"

"Cousin?"

"We're all cousins to each other if you look at creationism as a fact."

"You're definitely a smart ass, with a heavy emphasis on smart."

"Well, at least you left my ass out of it this time."

"Not going to touch that with a ten-foot pole."

"Thank you for that," Eli laughed in reply.

"Finish the story."

"So, when I pointed at you taking their photo I was explaining how I would personally pay for a billboard right next to his real estate company's billboards except mine would have the pictures just taken and a caption about being a predator and sexually harassing a young gay man for a date at his place of employment.  That's when he went pale.  He gave me his word that he will never return here."

"You are nasty, aren't you?"

"Who me?  I'm just a nice guy," Eli replied with a big smile.  Suddenly, his face went blank except for his eyes becoming very menacing in their appearance as they fixed on Alex.  "Except if you are doing something wrong or going after someone I am protecting."

A shiver went up Alex's spine involuntarily as he saw how serious Eli was.  "I believe you, Eli.  Now, let's eat."

The two men quickly went through the smorgasbord, both of them loading their plates.  Alex whined when Eli put some salad on his plate.  When Eli mentioned becoming jiggly, Alex called him a bastard.

They had just finished their meal when the man who had seated them approached the table.  "Sir, I noticed you had a few words with another guest.  With the nervousness and speed he wanted to pay his bill, I'm assuming you said something about his conduct towards your server."

It was Alex who spoke first.  "I didn't have a problem with it, Matt."

"I didn't think you would, sir.  I would like to thank you both for your actions in such a low keyed and respectful way."

Eli looked at Alex, "I'm guessing by your statement that there is more here than your just being a customer."

"I liked the place so much, I bought the company.  Actually, there are 6 of them in three cities now."  Alex turned to Matt, "By any chance did you copy all the times this man has been a problem from the camera logs?"

"Of course, including today."

"Excellent.  By the way, Eli is in the security department so if you have problems in the future, do not hesitate to contact him."  Alex leaned forward, "Please call him.  He doesn't do dick all and he's on the payroll."

Eli smiled, then shocked Matt when he said, "Bastard."

Eli paid for the meal, leaving a generous tip for Joey.  They picked up the clothing which had been adjusted already, the rest would be available late tomorrow afternoon.  They returned to the office with Adair catching Alex as soon as he came for messages, signatures on letters, and files to read.  Eli waved at Alex being dragged into his office by holding his hand up to shoulder height, then waved just his fingers up and down.  Alex used one finger to signify his answer back.

Eli was driving into the garage as the usual thump was heard on the roof of the SUV.  He pulled in, parked, and opened the driver's door.  A large furry paw came out of nowhere, slapping the side of his head.

"Jesus Alex, what the hell was that?!" Eli exclaimed as he leaned away from the door.

Alex was laughing hard as he said, "She wants to play.  Smack her paw a few times."

"I saw stars from that whack she gave me."

"That's just a playful slap.  I'm amazed that she wants to play with you within such a short time of knowing you."

Eli looked towards the doorframe of the SUV only to see two paws gripping the roof of the SUV with a large furry head between them.  "Jesus!" exclaimed Eli once again.  Alex was laughing so hard he couldn't breathe.  Eli reached up and tentatively batted the back of one large paw.  It released the roof, and batted him back.  He slapped the other paw, which netted the same result.  Suddenly, both paws and Jaz's head disappeared.  As Eli leaned slowly towards the doorway, one paw came shooting back into the cab slapping at him.  It just missed batting his head for a second time.  Eli slapped the back of the paw a few times and it was swinging trying to catch him.  The paw disappeared from sight once again.  This time, Jaz slid down the windshield and onto the hood.  Her eyes never left Eli as she sat there, looking pretty.  "What is she doing now?"

"She wants you to carry her into the house."

"That cat wants to be carried?"

"She loves it and to be honest, I'm the only one who she has ever let do it.  I told you she has trust issues but she has really taken to you.  By the way, if she starts to use her claws just tell 'no claws'."

"No claws?  Those things could slice me to shreds."

"Yes, she could.  But she won't because she likes you."

Eli slowly got out of the SUV, closed the door, then moved towards the hood where Jazzy was sitting pretty.  Eli stood in front of her and extended his arms.  Gently, she put her paws on each side of Eli's head, the climbed onto him.  He used his arms to hold the big cat up.  Jazz repositioned herself so her head was on Eli's shoulder.

"She really is large, isn't she?"

"My little Jazz is a snuggle bunny and she really has taken to you.  I'm amazed."

"She's purring now."

"Her eyes are closed, too" replied Alex as he came around to her.  Gently, he reached up and scratched the side of her head.  "You are such a big suck-up, Jazzy."

"I can't get over how soft she is Alex.  Just like a big fluffy teddy bear."

"Well, let's go inside and get her fed."  At that moment the two dogs came running into the garage from wherever they had been.  They were both yipping at Alex and Eli, causing Jazz to tense her muscles significantly.  Eli quickly moved to the door and through it as soon as Alex opened it.  He went through the hallway and into the kitchen, leaning over the counter where Jazz could get off him gently.  She realized it and let him go, sitting pretty on the counter.

Eli scratched her head as he said, "Who is a good kitty?"

Alex called out 'supper time' and in one leap, Jazz was gone to the other side of the kitchen for her kibble and raw pork.  "Ok, we got them fed, let's get supper on the go for us."

The two men worked together to prepare supper, and clean up afterwards.  It took a few moments of organization, but the two men decided to go for an evening walk.  All someone had to say was 'walk' and that caused Frick and Frack to start running in circles.  Alex couldn't get the door open fast enough for the two dogs trying to get outside.  Once outside, they immediately began to bark and chase the birds which had been on the front lawn looking for a snack.  Jazz didn't even need to be asked, she followed Alex and Eli out the door.  She was acting quite reserved until the opportunity presented itself to jump on her brother Frack's back.  The fight was on as Frick and Frack chased her across the lawn, and up a tree.  It appeared she was sticking her tongue out at them.

Eli was laughing, "She is really quite the animal.  All three of them are wonderful, Alex."

Alex smiled, "I love them all so much.  They are my friends."

Frick and Frack went running by the two men, being chased by Jazz this time.

"She's incredible.  I would've never thought an animal like her could be like this."

"As a kitten, she stayed with me all the time.  I used to take her into the office so I could bottle feed her regularly.  Even Adair would take turns to feed her.  She would play, chasing paper wads, jumping in the trash cans, attacking feet, climbing into boxes, all the things a regular kitten would do.  Except Jazz grew rapidly.  We hung some string from the ceiling tiles which kept her amused for hours.  When tired, she would either sleep in my bottom desk drawer or on a blanket under Adair's desk."

"Amazing," Eli observed.

The two men walked in silence for a couple of moments until they noticed the long grass in the ditch moving quite violently.  Suddenly, Jazz could be seen above the grass then landing on her target.  One of the dogs yipped when she pounced on him then ran away.  The grass movement showed the dog obviously chasing her.

Alex was laughing, "They really enjoy terrorizing each other, don't they?"

"They live for it."

The two men continued their walk, Eli picking up sticks to throw for Frick and Frack to chase.  Both the dogs enjoyed running, fetching the stick and bringing it back to Alex or Eli.  Jazz was off in the bush hunting for a snack, but she would be seen along on the edge of the road every once in a while.  She would look directly at Alex and Eli, then disappear into the bush again.

An hour later, they all returned to the cabin.  Alex went for a shower, returning to the family room in running shorts and a sweatshirt.  The two men watched TV together, Jazz sitting on the couch with Alex, her head on his leg.  He was stroking the back of her head gently and being rewarded with a very contented purring.  Alex took his medication after Eli gave him a few chocolate-covered wafers as a reward.  The animals all went outside for a while, then came back inside and ready for bed.  The two dogs followed Alex to bed, while Jazz beat Eli to his.


With Eli now being seen as administrative assistant to the President, he wore one of the suits they purchased two days ago.  That also made it easier to hide a couple of weapons and clips on his person without others seeing them.  The meeting in the morning was concerning for Eli.  Numerous people were coming into the room, all to hear Alex introduce their pay packages for the next year in the trucking division.  Most of the people who came in for the meeting were obviously truck drivers wearing the corporate golf shirt provided to all drivers.  Eli didn't agree with some of the things they were bringing up at the meeting, but it quickly became obvious to him that these men were honest, passionate and hard-working men.

Eli considered a couple of the managers to be distasteful, but they seemed to really know their business.  Most of the people in the meeting Eli didn't perceive a threat from, except for two of the people who identified themselves as Owner and Lease-op Representatives.  Both were very challenging in the way they spoke to Alex, as if they were pushing his buttons on purpose.  Alex seemed to know them fairly well but was at times exasperated by their attitude.  The two of them had made a few comments about the President's new 'Boy Toy' in the suit.  Normally, Eli wouldn't even react to comments such as those.  This time it really bothered him not so much what they had said about himself, but what they thought of Alex.

The opportunity afforded itself shortly after the meeting broke up.  A light lunch had been brought in for everyone to eat while informally networking.  Eli had asked the two gentlemen to step out with him for a few moments.  A few moments later, the two gentlemen returned to the gathering.  They both made their way to speak with Alex, apologizing for their comments and conduct during the meeting before leaving quickly.  Eli was now standing in the back of the room scanning everyone as they ate.  Alex slowly worked his way back, standing next to the bigger man.

"Did you have anything to do with the sudden attitude change for the better with those two?"

"Which two?"

"The two who just left."

"I don't recall."

"Was it my imagination that they both had the beginning of swollen faces, especially around the eyes and nose?"

Eli shifted his hands behind his back, rocking back and forth on his feet, ball to heel, ball to heel, as he answered, "It's always a possibility."

"Ok, so what do you think happened?"

"Actually, now that I think of it, they were lucky I was there.  They had slipped on some water left on the floor by a sloppy person washing their hands.  As a former Medic, I was able to help both of them to their feet after they had slipped, check them over for injuries and make sure everything was alright."

Alex was watching everyone making their way through the food lines, then said, "So that's what happened?"

"To the best of my recollection."

"You're going to stick that explanation?"

"Cross my heart."

"Let me see your knuckles, are they swollen or covered in abrasions?"

"Just from using the punching bag at the gym.  I bare-knuckle everything."

Alex mumbled, "I like everything bare, too."  He turned his head towards Eli before speaking under his breath.  "So, is my new boy-toy hungry?  Shall we get some food?"

"Would it be embarrassing to my boss if I threw him onto my shoulder and then proceeded to smack his little ass here in the conference room?"

Alex smiled, "You've noticed I had a small ass.  There's hope yet, eh?"  He immediately moved to the food service area and began filling his plate.  Eli followed behind him, filling his plate as well as placing some extra vegetables on Alex's.  In the flash of an eye, Eli dropped an ice cube down the back of Alex's shirt.  Adair was already sitting at a table with spaces for the two of them, watching them from her seat.  Eli sat down first, followed by Alex.

"Dweeb."

"Nerd."

Adair lost it in laughter.


Alex had cleaned up some final paperwork in his office for an hour after lunch.  Eli had run to his apartment to get some additional clothing for the trip up north.  With Adair out front, there was no fear for any harm to happen to Alex while he was in the office.  In reality any person making aggressive moves toward Alex should be fearful of what Adair was capable of doing to protect him.  Alex was almost finished with the paperwork when Adair came in, pulled one of the chairs from the front of the desk around to the side and sat in it.  She stared at him for a long moment.

Alex looked at her.  "You have something to say?"

"How are you and Eli getting along?"

"Quite well considering he is a jock, cop, and worst of all a dweeb."

"Answer the question."

Alex sat back in his chair, turning it on its swivel to face her.  "He's alright Adair.  It's sort of unnerving how I feel so comfortable with him being around and being involved in my life this quickly."

"How is it at home?"

"He's taken control of my medications, and I've been forthcoming with answers to any of his questions about what's been happening to me.  I can't believe I actually trust someone this fast to answer him at all, let alone truthfully."

"What do you think of him?"

"He's gorgeous.  But, I also like him a lot, Adair.  He's interesting, smart and a lot of fun."

She laughed while shaking her head. "Yeah, I noticed he's gorgeous, too.  But what do you think of him?  Can you survive up north with him for some time?"

"I'm sure I can.  I can't say it enough that I've never had this type of chemistry with someone this fast before.  But, when he's near me, I honestly feel safe."  Alex let out a long sigh, "I just wish he was gay and possibly interested in me."

"I never asked him what his sexuality was, it wasn't important."

"When we were watching Star Trek he mentioned his ex-mother-in-law and his ex-wife when we were talking yesterday, so he was married."

"Well, I'm sorry about that Alex but I picked the best I could to keep you safe.  The biggest factor was that I had to find someone you couldn't boss around."

"I am the boss."

"And you were heading for trouble again by not taking your medications.  Combine that with these threats on your life, you needed someone who wouldn't tolerate your crap when the shit hits the fan."

Alex fidgeted with his fingernails and a couple of hang-nails for a long moment.  When he looked up at Adair he had watery eyes.  "I really like having him around.  I've been so lonely, for so long…"

Adair reached out, embracing him tightly.  Rubbing his back she said, "I know you have, baby.  We're working together to get you healthy again so we can find you someone to be with that doesn't come off of Squirt, Jack'd, or Grindr.  You deserve someone, son."

"It's been a long time since I heard someone call me that…"

"It's because I love you like one, Alex.  You know that."

He took a deep breath, wiped his eyes, then said, "I know.  I love you like a mom, older sister or whatever you want me to call you.  Thank you for being there when I need you."

"Now, let's get the desk cleared and you ready to go home.  The flight is in the morning so you need to pack and get groceries.  Don't forget the vegetables or the pet food." Alex rolled his eyes at the mention of vegetables which caused Adair to slap his leg above the knee.  She pointed a finger at him.  "Don't you roll those beautiful eyes at me or I'll slap the side of your head so hard they will fly out their sockets and hit the wall."

He smiled his killer smile at her.  "Yes, mother.  I'll get vegetables and even eat them, just for you."

"Good boy.  Now let's get you ready to go with Eli as soon as he gets back."


The two men were at the second grocery store to pick up supplies.  The first one was a warehouse-style store where Eli pushed a flat trolley through the store as Alex piled things on it.  It was Alex's idea to make sure lots of food was available not only for this trip but for future trips.  The groceries, mostly in case lots, plastic tubs, pails, or repacked into boxes were all piled into the back of the SUV.  Alex drove to a large grocery store next.  Alex headed right over to the meat department, looking at the steaks and ribs.

"Alex, after loading up here we need to get some vegetables and fresh fruit."

The only response Eli got from Alex was "whatever" after he stuck his tongue out at him.

Eli gently put his arm around Alex's waist, making sure he had his fingers lightly touching the spot which would cause him to scream in laughter.  "You were saying?"

"…You do not play fair."

An older lady with a smaller shopping cart walking nearby grumbled under her breath, "Disgusting."

Eli quickly looked at her, "What's disgusting, ma'am?"

"Two men hugging like that."

"Two men hugging like what?"

She pointed at them, "Like that.  In public."

Eli turned his head towards Alex, "Alex, she doesn't approve of two brothers showing affection in public."

She looked surprised.  "You're brothers?"

"You heard me.  What if I was to tell you I'm a veteran and this is the first time I've gone shopping with Alex since I got home."

"Then I would understand.  Two brothers can show affection in public."

"Two brothers can, but two men can't."  The woman said nothing in reply.  Eli smirked as he kissed Alex on the forehead, "Well ma'am, if he's not good enough for his brother, he's not good enough for a stranger.  You know what they say, incest is best!"  The woman's face turned from a bright red to a very pale colour as the blood drained from it in shock.  Within seconds, she quickly pushed her cart away from the two men.

Alex watched her leave, then looked at Eli.  "You really are an asshole, but I like it."

"Now, keep in mind Alex that nothing I spoke was a lie."

"I'm not your brother."

"Think hard, nerd.  What I said was a general statement that she doesn't approve of two brothers showing affection in public.  I didn't say…"

"that we were actually brothers.  Your entire exchange with her was ambiguous, wasn't it?"

"Absolutely.  It's a skill.  Let's head over to the fresh fruits and vegetable sections, and a stop along the cookie aisle for some with chocolate on them."

That got Alex's attention, "Three rows over, halfway down on the right side."

"You know where the cookies are?"

"I may've been here a few times and bought them once or twice."


As soon as they got back to the house, Alex and Eli packed all the non-perishable items into Rubbermaid tubs.  This was the easiest way to move supplies on and off the floatplane.  The most difficult part of packing the food was the help they were getting from the three animals.  They wanted to inspect each item being placed into the tubs, but it was only Jazz who would grab something when backs were turned away for a couple of seconds.  She didn't damage it, or even try to eat it.  It was just a game with her as she always ran away.  Alex had left the dog and cat kibble in the back of the SUV to be packed in the garage.  He knew from experience that it would take one swipe from Jazz's paw to slice the bag from end to the other and all three would eat it.  The fresh vegetables and meats would be packed in the morning into coolers Alex had been storing in the basement.

As usual, the two men and the dogs went for a long walk.  Alex and Eli chatted most of the time as if they had been buddies for years.

Back in the cabin, Alex crossed his arms, tucked his chin down to his chest and said, "You can't make me take them."

"You're going to do this, are you?"

"You can't make me."

Eli moved towards Alex who had curled up into a fetal position on the couch.  He thought for a moment, then dragged a finger down Alex's side.  He was obviously ticklish as Alex squirmed aggressively, trying to escape.  It didn't happen.  Eli caught him easily, pulled him in towards his body, then began the tickle assault on Alex's ribs.

"THAT'S NOT FAIR!!!" he yelled loudly while laughing.

Eli pushed him onto his back on the couch, then moved in for the kill using both hands.

"NOOOOOOOTTTT FAIR!!!"

"Are you going to take the pills?"

"NO!"  Eli smiled as renewed his tickling efforts.  "NOOOOOOOOO!"

Eli intensified his tickling, "Give up before you wet your pants."

"I'll TAAAAAKEEEE THEEEEEMMMM."

Eli didn't stop his tickling.  "I don't believe you."

"PPPPLLLLLEASE."

"Please what?"

Between fits of laughter, "TAAKKKKE DEM."

Eli stopped his tickling but held Alex in place on the couch.  "Ok, you said you would take them."

Alex relaxed, flopping back onto the couch, giving Eli the message with his hand to give him the pills.  He took them as soon as they were in his hand.  A moment later, he stood up and announced, "I'm going to take a shower before bed tonight."

"Have fun.  I'm going to watch the news then crawl into bed."

"Goodnight," replied Alex as he headed into his bedroom and the ensuite bathroom.  He tore his clothing off, threw it into the basket, turned on the water and jumped in.

Obviously, Alex wasn't used to closing doors so Eli heard the water start-up in the shower.  It was a couple of moments later that he heard the unmistakable sounds of pleasure one would make if they were jerking off in the shower.  Eli smirked as he thought that wasn't a bad idea.  He turned off the TV, headed into his room and jumped in the shower himself.


Floatplane

The twin otter made a perfect landing on the lake.  The weather was clear, a light wind, with no chop on the lake to speak of at all.  The plane taxied over to the dock, then cut power.  The caretaker, Jake Anderson, was there at the dock with the Argo.  As soon as the doors opened, Frick and Frack jumped out onto the dock almost knocking Jake into the lake as they ran for the first tree they could find.

Jake looked in the back, "Where's my little Jazzy?"

Alex laughed, "She's still sleeping on the luggage."

Jake chuckled and then did a perfect imitation of another lynx talking and calling.  Jazz bounced to the door, looked at Jake and jumped into his arms.  "There she is!  Oh my, you've been gaining weight there little girl."  Jazz was too busy rubbing her head against her long lost friend's face to even respond.

Eli was chuckling.  "She really is affectionate, isn't she?"

"We were up here one time when she was young and Jake helped her with a leg injury she got.  Jazz has never forgotten that act of kindness."

Jake was staring at Eli for a moment before he asked, "And who would you be?" as he saw the handgun in a small holster under his arm.

Eli stepped onto the dock, extending his hand to Jake, "I'm Alex's personal assistant, and member of the security department."  He immediately put a light jacket on to cover the gun.

"So Adair wasn't kidding me about you and the threat to Alex?"

"Not at all.  I'm here to keep the little guy safe."

Jake sized Eli up and down.  "I was in the army, engineering and artillery.  If you need help, I'm here."

"I appreciate it.  There should be no one else that knows we're up here at all.  But, there are always information leaks.  Would you tell me if there are any sudden changes in who books into the lodge while we're here?  Especially if it's someone you've never had here before.  I really don't think it will be a problem, but you never know."

Alex tossed a bag out of the plane onto the dock.  "Jake, especially if Mason…"

He was cut off by Jake angrily stating, "I would shoot the plane down that brought that sonofabitch up here before it could even make a landing."

Eli's head snapped back.  "Well, I guess we are all on the same page here."

"Is that asshole involved?"

"We're not sure," Alex answered honestly.  "Let us know especially if he tries to come up though."

"Will do boss."  As Jake was speaking, a suburban pulled up to the end of the dock.  Jake's wife, Amanda, stepped out.  Frick and Frack ran right to her in greeting.  As they were loading the suburban with their supplies, a heavyset man quickly approached them from around the vehicle.

"Hey, how come he has dogs here and we were told that guests in the lodge weren't allowed pets?"  Just then Jazz lifted her head from Jake's chest to stare at the newcomer.  "Jesus Christ, is that a lynx?"

Alex moved to take Jazz from Jake.  Now free of the large cat, Jake moved in between the guest and Alex quickly.  "It's very simple, Mr. Rutherford, this man is not a guest of the lodge.  He has a privately owned cabin near here and he just uses our dock for landing."

"Is that a lynx?"

Eli stepped forward now. "You're mistaken.  That is a Maine Coon cat."

"I still don't think it's right that he can have…"

Jake held his hand up.  "The rules of the lodge do not apply to this man because his cabin is private and completely separate from the lodge and he pays to use this dock.  We guarantee him no hassles from our guests.  The plane is here right now if you wish to leave.  I would hate to have you here so upset, you wouldn't enjoy it at all."

Mr. Rutherford had trouble getting words out his mouth for a moment, then said, "No, we'll stay.  I guess because he's not a guest, that makes a difference."

Eli very sarcastically said under his breath, "Very decent of you."  Mr. Rutherford was already quickly moving off and didn't hear what he had said.

Alex was smiling at Eli.  "You're not just a dweeb, you're a sarcastic dweeb."

"Nerd."

Jake was chuckling as he said, "Ok, before this name-calling gets really ugly, let's get you over to the cabin."


Frick and Frack were already outside the cabin patrolling and marking their territory in the area.  Jazz was up in the rafters, wide awake, washing herself without any dignity to anyone witnessing her.  She had gone off chasing a bunny as soon they pulled up to the cabin.  Eli was surprised at how fast she killed and ate the rabbit, then sat to groom herself to make sure that no blood remained on her fur.  They had toured the cabin checking everything since Alex's last visit.  Jake was in the house checking on the water pump system, heat, and electricity every couple of days.  Break and enters by humans is fairly rare this far north but wolverines and bears will break in if they smell food.  The ground floor windows were all safety glass and securely shuttered when the cabin was empty.  The shutters were very standard for the cabins on the lakes up here.  Eli was amazed at how it was self-sufficient in solar energy and geothermal heating.  There was even a redwood soaking hot tub on the enclosed deck which Jake had obviously filled before they got here.

The kitchen was beautiful, with both a wood stove as well as an electric one.  After Jake left, getting everything put away, cooking, and then cleaning up after supper, the two men sat on the deck overlooking the lake with a glass of wine.

"And I thought your cabin at home was perfect.  Here we don't even have any other people for miles."

"My parents and I spent a lot of time up here.  Grandpa and Grandma, when they were alive, were here all the time too.  Mason didn't like it up here and only spent a couple of nights in the cabin.  Otherwise, this place has a lot of memories…"

After a moment of silence, Eli said, "Alex, when someone you love becomes a memory, those memories become treasures."  Alex continued to look out over the lake, deep in thought as Eli continued.  "My father once told me that he had no clue that we were making memories together.  We were just having fun.  You're not alone, Alex.  I miss my parents, too."

Alex turned his head to look at Eli, "Thank you for saying that."

"Any time.  How do you feel about going for a walk?  Show me around.  We can stick to the road today and go back towards the lodge."

"Let's walk up the road.  It's along the shore of the lake anyways."  Alex turned to look at Eli, hesitating before he spoke.  "Are you always going to wear those guns?"

"Do they make you nervous, Alex?"

"In some ways… in other ways they make me feel safe.  I don't know what to think about them."

"Well, I will always be wearing the handguns, but I'll try to keep them covered up better for you.  You know, out of sight out of mind."

"It's just… I know it's your job to have them, but with you here, it's like two friends on vacation.  When I see the guns, I remember it's me up here with a bodyguard."  Alex looked away for a moment, then said, "Let's go."

The two men went inside, told the animals it was walk time which got an immediate reaction of energy from the dogs.  Jazz was snoozing on the rafter after chasing and consuming the bunny, and just ignored them all.  Eli quickly went to his room, pulled an MP5 out with a couple of extra clips, slung it over his back on a strap.  He then pulled a light jacket on over it.  When he turned, Eli was surprised to see Alex standing in the doorway of his room.

"Really?  A machine gun?  What are you expecting up here, Russian air troops?"

"Well, I don't know.  What is there for wild animals up here?"

"They aren't armed if that's what you mean."

"Alex, you would be an horsedoover to one of those animals like a bear."

Alex looked at Eli confused, repeating "horsedoover" over several times before the light came on.  "You are such a heathen, dweeb.  It's not horsedoovers… it's hors d'oeuvres."

Eli had a crooked smirk on his face as he replied, "Whatever.  Let's go.  If you get eaten by a bear, Adair will kick my ass."  He locked his arm under Alex's while quickly moving him to the front door.  They went through it and he asked, "Have you got your keys to lock the front door while we're gone?"

Alex stopped short, patted his pockets, turned and started into the cabin, "They are on the table…oh shit."  He turned around to find Eli laughing at him.  "Asshole."

"I thought I was a dweeb."

"You've been promoted above dweeb… you're now an asshole."  Alex's eyes suddenly lit up, which scared Eli.  He approached the big man and locked elbows with him.  "I've always wanted to do this."

"I ask this with fear in my voice, what have you always wanted to do?"

"Keep pace with me."  Alex took a step, hesitated, and then took another.  "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!"  He took another step, then said it again.  Soon enough, the two men were skipping over the bridge singing the line from The Wizard of Oz repeatedly.


Frick and Frack were running through the forest chasing spruce grouse, birds, rabbits, squirrels, and whatever else they came across.  The two dogs were in their glory creating havoc by chasing the animals and barking freely.

Alex and Eli were standing nearby on the edge of the lake.  It was evening now.  The wind had dropped to nonexistent and the water was as flat as glass.  The sounds of loons calling was heard in the distance echoing around the lake.

They had walked a couple of miles along the road when Alex stopped at a section of the sandy beach.  Along the shore itself were numerous round and flat rocks which he began to pick up to throw across the lake top making sure to avoid the ducks around the lake.  He was actually quite good at skipping the stones, beating Eli badly when he joined him in throwing the rocks.  The two men sat on a log together, staring out over the lake, both in deep thought and in silence only broken by the call of the loons as the ducks were settling down for the night.

"Eli, we've never talked about you, and you seem to know everything about me."

"What would you like to know?  You can ask anything except about my service overseas.  There are things I still wrestle with and there are some things if I told you about them, they might upset even an intelligent man like you."

Alex focused his eyes on Eli, then realized this man was more complex than he was giving him credit for.  "How did you come to join the armed forces? Did you do it right after high school?"

"I was a member of the army cadets when I was younger, then joined the reserves when I got older.  I was able to do my university at the Royal Military College and my summers were spent training and on maneuvers.  I had graduated from a small town out west and married my high school sweetheart after graduating as a fresh new lieutenant."

Eli turned.  "Please, if you ever say that word, it is not the pig English the Americans speak.  The rank is pronounced LEF-TENANT, the proper way."

Alex smiled a warm smile back at him.  "Yes sir!  LEF-TENANT!"

"I then completed the special unit training as soon as I graduated from university as an engineer with an affinity for explosive demolition.  Unfortunately, my wife didn't like going overseas for my posting like all the other military wives did.  We were assigned housing according to rank, marriage and if kids were involved, or we could rent a nice little house off base, too.  We had been drifting apart already when I think about it now.  She stayed in the city, with her new friends while I was overseas in Germany, Britain, then a couple of places in Africa as an adviser I can't divulge.

I got promoted to Captain and then volunteered for combat medic training.  That was probably the most interesting course I've ever had in my life.  Between the combat medic and hospital training, I would be classified somewhere between an advanced care nurse and a resident.  My wife wouldn't come overseas to visit, making me always come home to her with lots of notice as she told me that she was working in advertising, with lots of travel and long hours.  I was at home with her during the medical training and things were strained between us.

Just after I got my orders to go over to Afghanistan on a strike team, she served me with divorce papers.  She was in advertising, and had met herself a lawyer to live with.  She left everything in the apartment except some personal items, wanted nothing from me and moved in with him.  Although she was wanting the divorce on irreconcilable differences, it was she who was having the affair, not me.  The divorce became formal with no contest while I was overseas, and the new boyfriend paid for the proceedings to get it done, as I hadn't contested the process.

After I got back, I spent some time recovering and then joined the military police for a while before I ended my service to take a job in your company with a couple of friends of mine.  I had no clue I'd be babysitting you."  Both chuckled nervously, "Something which did surprise me was a letter she mailed to me one day while I was overseas.  She tried to explain I was away too much, I was her way out of a small town, and she wanted more from life including a large family."

Eli took a couple of deep breaths, then continued, "She also provided me with a couple of bank account numbers where she had stored the money which I had been sending her.  She told me that she had been living with Greg for quite a while and didn't feel right about using the money."

"Interesting that she had those values," Alex said carefully.

"I agree.  She had put the money away and made some good investments, so I have a good start on an old-age retirement fund with a couple of hundred thousand.  I had been having some difficulties with our relationship after going overseas as well.  I had many questions that I wanted to resolve but after she served me with the papers, they became moot.  A couple of the main questions I have since come to terms with.  I have no clue where she is today, what she's up to, or how she is doing.  I have no interest in her at all, but I do respect her for making the divorce quick and what she did with the money as well."

Eli let a long breath out before he said, "I did love her, or so I thought.  I think it was for the best anyways."

"Have you dated since?"

"To be honest, no.  I haven't seriously dated or had a relationship."  A large smirk appeared on Eli's face as he said, "But a few non-serious dates in bars have happened.  Do you want to hear about those?"

"Absolutely not.  I don't want to hear about anything your dates and one night stands or hookups."

"Are you sure you don't want to hear about the dates?"

"Positive.  Thank you for sharing your story with me, except for that last horrible vision."

"It actually felt good.  I mean, you actually asked about me and listened when I spoke, as if you were interested.  Before you say anything, let me finish.  You're not like a few others in the company who I've had to deal with.  I know Adair was joking when she said you thought the planet and universe revolved around you, but those guys really thought it did around them.  I feel comfortable with you, like we've known each other for a long time.  You're just one of the guys.  For a rich bastard, you are more like someone like me with both feet on the ground and not an arrogant prick."

Alex laughed, "For someone born on the other side of the tracks, I was thinking the same things about you.  My grandfather and parents tried very hard to teach me I was not better than anyone else because of money or family."  Both men chuckled, then Alex asked, "Eli, why would someone want to kill me?"

"Generally speaking, you have something others want: money and power."

"That's all?"

"Well, if you want to look at the technical side of it.  Murder is motived by financial greed, sexual lust, the pursuit of power, some psychological illness, and some accidental or friendly-fire type deaths.  Quite often with the criminal element you may find two or more of these motivators blended."

"It sounds so clinical, almost simple."

"Violence exists in the animal world, of course, but on a far different scale.  You saw what little Jazz did to that bunny, but carnivores kill for food.  One of the courses I took was taught by R. Douglas Fields, author of Why We Snap.  It explained that humans kill family members, children, parents, spouses, brothers and sisters, cousins and in-laws.  We kill strangers.  We kill people who are different from us, in appearance, beliefs, race, and social status.  We kill ourselves in suicide.  We kill for advantage and revenge.  We kill for entertainment as in the Roman Coliseum.   We kill by drive-by shootings, bullfights, hunting and fishing, and even roadkill in an instantaneous reflex for sport, intentionally swerving to hit the animal.  We kill friends, rivals, coworkers, and classmates.  Children kill children, in school and on the playground.  Grandparents, parents, fathers, mothers… all kill and all of them are the targets of killing…" 

"Do you have any clue who wants to kill me?"

"At the point where my investigation was turned over to the police and other security personnel in our office, I wasn't getting any definite leads to anything.  On top of everything I've said, there is no way to account for the mentally ill."

Alex sat quietly to consider all the information Eli had given him to a question which he thought had been a simple one.  Finally, Alex spoke while staring out over the lake, "There is obviously a lot more depth to you than just being a former member of the armed forces."

Eli was also staring blankly out over the lake at setting sun as he replied, "We all have our pasts, good and bad.  There are times I think about what would've happened in my life if I had taken one of the other options I'd disregarded at the various times.  To bring myself back to reality, I seem to have some sort of internal clock which goes off after 15-20 minutes of this type of deep thinking."

"Internal clock?"

Eli spoke slowly at first, "Yeah… an internal clock."

Alex turned to look at him, "Now you have my interest."

"Well, my internal clock likes to use music to wake me up."

"Which song?"

Eli hesitated before answering, "The Jeopardy final answer theme."

Alex's head twisted at an angle in deep thought, "OMG, the timing for the contestants to write their final answer."

Eli stood up, used his hands to slap the dirt off his butt from where he was sitting, then replied, "Yes it is, and it becomes an earwig.  The only one worse for being an earwig would be the Oscar Meyer Wiener song."

Alex looked at Eli, his eyes were alive and rolling around in their sockets as a sign the man was actively thinking about something.  Without warning, he jumped to his feet and began to run at Eli with saying, "You bastard!  All I can think about is Oscar Meyer right now!"

Eli began running backward to avoid capture as he smiled and taunting, "Are you sure it's about Oscar Meyer or is it really about Oscar Meyer's wiener?"  Alex poured on the speed but couldn't catch up to Eli.  He waited for Alex to join him after his boss had quit running.

The only thing Alex had to say was, "Bastard!"  The dogs had thought it was fun to run with the two men, but they didn't stop and soon disappeared around the curve.  The two men chit chatted as they walked briskly for the next 35 mins back to the cabin.  The two dogs would join them, take off into the bush chasing something, hide in the long grasses in wait to play-attack the two men and walked alongside them at between attacks.

As they came closer to the cabin, Eli realized they were being stalked by something in the bushes.  "I suspect there is a certain big kitty cat stalking us as a game from the bushes on the right."

Alex focused his sight on the bushes.  "I can't see her," he replied quietly.

"She's in her natural habitat, Alex.  You asked me about why people kill?  We look at Jazz while she does this with a smile on our faces.  She is practising her hunting skills by stalking us, learning how to hunt for food."

"I'd never thought of it that way."

"All cats do it, dogs too.  But cats are more serious than dogs when they do it."  The two men walked by where Eli suspected Jazz was hiding.  Immediately after they passed, the large lynx bounded out of the bushes directly for them.  She body-checked Alex to the side before jumping into Eli's waiting arms.  He looked into her eyes.  "Quite the entrance, fuzzy one," as she rubbed her head against his chest.

"She is really taken with you," Alex replied laughing.

"I've never had anything this big jump into my arms before," Eli replied with a chuckle.

"Don't tempt me," Alex mumbled.

"Sorry Alex, I didn't catch that."

"Nothing, just mumbling that my pet kitty likes you more than me."

"She set her standards higher."

"You are such a bastard."

Back at the cabin, the two men made some Jasmine tea, taking it upstairs to the enclosed porch.  At this latitude and time of the year, the sun never sets.  It sinks to the horizon about 11:00 pm, travels along the horizon until 4:00 am, then starts it climb back up again.  It never gets fully dark, and that takes some time to get used to.  In the winter, it's the exact opposite, the sky will start to brighten somewhat and then start dimming again: the sun never comes up.

They had been sitting for a few moments when Eli went downstairs to retrieve the teapot as well as Alex's medication.  After topping off Alex's tea, he handed him the pills.  Alex gave him a dirty look for a split second, then the look of acceptance as he took them.

"My father and I would sit out here watching the sunset.  Mom would be with us sometimes or she would be reading one of the books she had picked up from the library in the city."

"The library?"

"Absolutely.  She supported the library as a volunteer and financially.  Mom signed out books like everyone else, even paying late return fines when she forgot about them."  Alex suddenly became very silent on the couch with tears beginning to roll down his cheeks.

Eli quickly moved next to Alex on the couch, put his arm over his boss's shoulder and pulled him towards him firmly.  Alex reached to grasp around Eli's body a couple times but pulled back each time.  Finally, Eli used his free hand to grasp Alex's arm, holding it tight to his body.  Alex quickly wrapped both arms around Eli followed by sobbing uncontrollably.  Eli sat, holding the man until he quit crying, speaking softly to him, rubbing his back in circles.

After 20 minutes, Eli realized Alex had fallen asleep.  He looked for a blanket to cover him up and noticed that Frick and Frack were sitting at their feet.  He hadn't noticed them arrive while he was comforting Alex, but they obviously trusted him fully with their master.  Considering he had taken his medication, Eli figured Alex was probably going to sleep through the night.

Something Alex didn't realize was that Eli had spoken with Alex's doctor before they left to renew the prescription for the duration of the trip.  The doctor had been concerned about Alex and was overjoyed to know both Eli's medical background and that he would be with his patient constantly to monitor both the medications and his well being.  The doctor had increased the strength of the three medications to get them stabilized in the bloodstream a little quicker and to give Alex a deeper sleep at night.

Eli stood, turned and gently picked Alex up in his arms in a cradle carry.  Alex put one arm around Eli's neck, then snuggled his head on Eli's neck.  He carried him into Alex's bedroom, laying him on his bed.  Alex was groggy by now, but with some help he took his shirt off, followed by his pants.  Eli looked at his boss laying on the bed wearing only a pair of Sax no-fly boxers.  Other than the night he stumbled into the kitchen in just his boxer briefs, this was the first time he'd seen Alex close up without a shirt.  Eli was very surprised at how solid Alex appeared to be.  Alex's chest hair was sparse but trimmed down to his defined treasure trail.  The colour of his body hair was perfect for the slight olive-toned skin Alex had.  Something else he noticed was that the Sax boxers were quite full in the pouch.  Quickly, Eli pulled the blankets over Alex's form, tucking his friend into bed.  Frick and Frack both jumped up onto the bed at his feet.  They were facing the door from each side, protecting their master while he slept.  Both looked at Eli, gave him a low pitched whine, then settled down for sleep.

Eli looked at the two dogs.  "Thanks guys.  We're all here to keep him safe."  As Eli was leaving the bedroom, he realized that Jazz was now up on the log over Alex's bed.  She locked eyes with Eli, sending him the message that she understood what he'd done.  She gently closed her eyes to settle down for sleep.  Eli wandered through the cabin securing the doors and windows on the main floor before he went to bed as well.  He was surprised a few minutes later when Jazz very quietly joined him on his bed.  He reached over, gave her head a scratch until she began to purr, then fell asleep listening to it.


Eli had the coffee brewing and was digging breakfast out of the refrigerator when Alex quietly came into the kitchen wearing a white fluffy housecoat.

"Good morning."

"Good morning, Alex.  How are you feeling this morning?"

"Considering I had an episode last night, I'm feeling quite well."  Something which surprised Eli was after Alex had poured himself some coffee, he took his morning dose of medications on his own.  "I wasn't trampled, so I take it the kids are outside?"

Eli chuckled, "They've been out raising hell for a while."

Alex moved closer to Eli.  "Thank you."

"For what?"

"For helping me last night and putting me to bed like the gentleman you truly are."

Eli turned towards him, "Alex, not only did I do what was expected of me as your employee, but I was also looking out for my friend."

Alex blushed a bit, then moved to embrace Eli.  "It's been a long time since I've had a friend."

"In all honesty, I could say the same thing," Eli said as he embraced Alex back.  They separated after a moment to resume cooking breakfast, except together this time.


The breakfast dishes washed and put away, the two men were enjoying another cup of coffee together at the table.

"Alex, this cabin is huge.  What's upstairs?"

Alex took a sip of his coffee.  "The second floor here and at home have sort of been my nemesis in life."

"How's that?"

"My parents had their bedroom, walk-in closets and bathroom up there.  They didn't use the master bedrooms in either place, leaving those for my grandparents.  I still find it difficult to look into the rooms without thinking about them.  Even though my favourite rooms growing up were the two 3rd floor rooms, I don't go up there much just because I have to pass through the second floor."

Eli took a drink from his coffee mug.  "That's very understandable when you've lost someone like your parents.  Your reaction could also be considered normal."

"I have gone into the room at rare times, sat in one of the chairs and just talked to them.  I know that sounds nuts to you."

"Not at all.  I believe very strongly that those who have left us behind physically are never that far from us in spirit form."

Alex looked surprised.  "Are you serious?  You really believe that?"

"Absolutely.  I truly believe that death just becomes another form of life.  But, that should be a debate for another day.  Question for you?  Have you removed your parent's clothing, etc?"

"Yes, Jake did it for me.  Very thorough job, too.  Left the pictures and important items, but their clothes, shoes, and personal things he boxed up and took to the town food bank.  They handle clothing and other items as well."

"So is it the furniture bothering you now?"

"Furniture?"

"Well, that was your mom and dad's bed.  Is it awkward for you or someone else to sleep in the bed now?"

"Yes."

"Maybe what we can do is change the furniture in both the house and here at the cabin to help you feel better."

Alex thought for a couple of moments before answering, "I think I would like that.  Could we pick out the furniture together?"

"Absolutely.  So should I make arrangements with Jake to deal with the furniture here and I'll do it at home?"

"Yes."

"Do you have a problem with the furniture being used at the lodge if that's what he decides?"

"I don't want to know.  Just deal with it."

"Done deal, Alex."

"Thank you."

"For what?"

"Helping me to move foreword in life."

"No problem buddy.  But, I want more money."

"You are such a bastard."

Using the satellite link, Alex was online with the computer.  He wasn't checking his email, he was furniture shopping.  Eli had changed into shorts and a t-shirt and gone out to the dock.  He laid down his towel, removed his shirt and was laying on his back in the sun.  Not far away, Jazz was flopped on her side enjoying the heat of the sun as well.  After spending time on the computer, Alex looked out the cabin window towards the dock, smiling at the sight of a near-naked Eli in the sun.


That evening, after the two men had cleaned up supper later that same day and gone for their walk together, they decided it would be a good night to get into the soaking tub.  Alex brought two towels along with a bottle of wine.  There were glasses already there in a cupboard in the shelving unit.  He was pouring the wine when Eli came onto the deck.

Going over to the soaking tub, he put his hand into it.  "That's a nice temperature.  I haven't been in one of these since Japan.  The only thing missing is the bath attendants to massage your back and wash you down after."

"You ask nice, I might be convinced."

"Well, hold that thought little guy."  Eli walked towards a deck chair, took his robe off, tossing it over the chair back.  Alex gasped as he realized Eli was naked.  This was the first time Alex had seen Eli nude, and he just about passed out.  The man was solid muscle, but not bulky.  At 6'2", he had broad shoulders and a narrow waist on top of solid legs.  His chest hair was trimmed, but not thick as it formed a perfect T from his nipples down to his trimmed pubic hair.  He was uncut, 4" long, thick, hanging over two large balls.  The brown hair on his chest, treasure trail, and pubic area were only slightly darker than the hair on his head.  He was still wearing the simple gold necklace with a gold cross around his neck, accenting the colour of his skin.  When he turned to mount the stairs, Alex almost began to drool over Eli's tight muscular buttocks.  Eli turned his head, and spoke over his shoulder.  "You coming or what?"

Alex's head was spinning, and he almost replied 'closer than you think.'  He took his robe off to reveal he was wearing a tight but small bathing suit.

Eli smiled as he was lowering himself into the water slowly, "Sorry boss.  These Japanese tubs are always done naked so I didn't even think of anything different.  I could put a suit on if you feel…"

Alex cut him off by blurting, "Don't you dare!"  He then choked as he said "No, it's fine" as he took the skimpy suit off.  This was the first time he was naked in front of Eli.  Alex's black chest hair was sparse but trimmed down to his defined treasure trail.  The colour of his body hair was perfect for the slight olive tone which Alex had.  Alex was no slouch in the muscle department either.  He was very trimmed and solid, not bulky.  He didn't have a defined six-pack, but his abdomen was in good shape.  Alex's shoulders were naturally broad, and a defined chest and proportionate waist all highlighted his package as it was revealed while removing the swimsuit.  Alex was cut, approximately 4", thick, hanging down over two egg-sized balls low in the scrotal sac.  It wasn't very often that Alex felt awkward, but in this moment, he did.  He had been caught off guard by Eli and that rattled him.

"Are you coming up?  The water is great."

"Uh, yeah."  He quickly moved up the stairs, and into the water.  Alex felt his cock getting hard from thinking about Eli's body.

"We forgot the glasses of wine."  Eli stood up, stepped out of the tub to grab the glasses, then returned to the water.  Both when he got out of the tub and then back into it, his crotch was at Alex's eye level.  He handed one glass to Alex, then gestured for a toast.  "To friendship."

Alex replied "To friendship" as he tried to hide his hardening cock behind one hand.

Eli leaned over to the control panel and turned on the circulating pump.  A soaking tub like this didn't have the jets like a hot tub.  What it had was a couple of circulating pumps that moved the water, allowing the person to gently soak and relax in the very warm water.  Alex felt better now that the water was moving and hard to see into it.  He was thinking of ugly old nuns, dead bodies, dirty diapers, and vegetables along with anything which would sidetrack his libido.

"This feels good Alex, and the wine is very nice, too."

Alex took a deep swallow of his wine.  "Yes, it is a nice wine."

"You ok?"

"Yes, I'm good.  I'm sorry.  I'll be honest with you, Eli."  He looked at the water for a moment, then continued.  "I didn't think you would feel comfortable getting into the tub with a naked gay guy so I put my suit on.  You really caught me off guard by your being naked."

"I'm sorry.  We're both guys here and adults plus I'm used to being naked around all kinds of guys from my days in the military.  I should apologize to you as I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable."

Alex smirked, "No worries.  To be even more honest, I think I now have my jack off fantasies for the next few months."

"You bastard."

"Dweeb."

The two men sat in the tub for approximately 25 minutes.  During that time, they drank the bottle of wine, watched shooting stars, discussed the northern lights overhead as well as numerous other harmless topics.  When they got out of the tub, the combination of the wine and hot water made them a little unsteady on their feet for a couple of moments.  After drying off, both put their robes back on.  They sat side by side on the couch staring out over the lake.

Alex sighed.  Eli heard it clearly.  "What's wrong buddy?"

He twisted on the couch to face Eli.  "The time we've been spending together at the house and up here has been wonderful."  Eli noticed Alex's eyes were getting watery.  "But I know it will come to an end, Eli.  When the threats to my life are over, you'll go back to your department to work and I'll carry on being the president of the company."

Eli reached out to him, pulling Alex towards his shoulder.  Alex laid his head on Eli's shoulder, snuggling in as he felt a strong arm go in behind him, reaching around him firmly.  "I feel safe right now, safer than I've felt in a long time.  Happier, too."  There was a pause for a long moment, then he finished.  "But I accept that happiness is fleeting so I'll run with it until it's over."

"Alex, I am your friend and that will never change."

"Thank you."

"What would make you happy?"  Eli let the question hang for a couple of minutes before he asked again, "If you had one wish Alex, what would it be."

"That's not fair."  Alex sat up straight on the couch.  "Don't ask the question if you really don't want an answer which will embarrass you."

"There's nothing you could say which would embarrass me."

"If you really want to know, my wish would be that you would be interested in me as a boyfriend.  There, I said it."  Alex started to stand up, but Eli pulled him back down to the couch.

Gently, Eli reached a finger out to touch Alex's face.  He applied slight pressure to turn the man's face towards his.  "Why don't you ask me if I'm interested?"

"But you're not gay?"

"…and you would know this how?  Did you ask or just assume?"

Alex couldn't even get words out his mouth, he was just making sounds.  Eli leaned forward, gently kissing Alex, then pulling him in tightly to his body.  A moment later, he let Alex sit back.

"You remember I said I had a few issues to resolve with my ex-wife, but that ended with the divorce?"

"Yes, I do recall that."

"I had accepted the fact that I was living a lie while I was overseas.  She didn't want kids, she didn't want a lot of sex from me, eventually she didn't want me either.  I knew I didn't want her either.  The few dates in the bar were guys, Alex."

Alex didn't know what to say.

"I hoped nothing would develop between us Alex, I really did.  It's messy to have someone like you involved with an employee, you don't need the hassle.  I really hoped you were a total asshole, not someone I would fall in love with."

Alex's eyes were watering again. "Fall in love with me?"

"Yes.  Fall in love with you."  Eli leaned forward, kissing Alex gently once again.  "I fell in love with you faster and deeper than I ever thought was possible.  Are you going to fire me now?'

"Not a chance.  We'll figure this out because I really wanted you to be a total asshole, too.  My problem is that I fell in love with you on the second day."  Alex leaned forward to kiss Eli, then firmly hugged him.

A moment later, Eli said, "Alex, if you invite me, I'll join you in bed, not for sex, but for us to cuddle each other as we fall asleep."

Alex smiled at the thought.

"After you take your pills."

"Shit."

"Alex, don't you see how they are helping you?"

"I do.  I hate to admit it, but I am beginning to feel better than I have in a long time.  Plus, I feel safe with you."  It only took a few minutes for the two men to let the dogs back in, make sure Jazz was ok, use the bathroom and get Alex's medications into him.

Alex went up one side of the bed as Eli went up the other.  Eli took his robe off, tossing it over the nearby chair.  After pulling the cover's down, he started to get into the bed.  He hadn't realized Alex had already beaten him into bed, moved to the centre and was encouraging him by saying, "Hurry up."  Eli chuckled as he got into bed, moved to the centre, immediately spooning behind Alex.  They kissed a beautiful, long kiss that reflected respect and love as opposed to lust.  Alex snuggled into Eli, then let out a long sigh as he felt the strong arms moving to wrap around him.

"What's wrong, Alex?"

"For the first time in a long time, absolutely nothing.  I just feel safe and secure, and now even loved in your arms."

"I need to say that it feels right to me, too."

"You know I could've delayed or skipped my medication tonight if you'd wanted to partake in some adult recreation."

"No, you couldn't have.  First of all, you need it and you are finally getting them to work for you again.  Secondly, we have been building a friendship which is an important part of a successful relationship.  Finally, I need your heart, spirit, and soul.  Anyone can have sex or fuck without meaning.  People in love share an intimate act.  The body will be there when it's time.  When we finally make love, it will be love and not just sex."

Alex had a few tears escape from his eyes.

"Alex, what's wrong?"

"I've never had anyone want to make love to me.  It's always been just sex or a fuck."

"Then you have something to look forward to.  Now, go to sleep, Alex."  Alex snuggled down into Eli as tightly as he could.  It didn't take long before he fell asleep, content with life for a change.  Eli was falling asleep as well, thinking about how lucky he'd been to meet Alex as he felt Frick and Frack climb onto the end of the bed.  From the sounds above him in the rafters, he knew where Jazz was as well.  "Goodnight, kids."


At 5:00 am, Eli was abruptly awakened by a large furry paw tapping his head.  Tapping?  In reality, it was more like being gently slapped with a large furry 2x4.  He opened his eyes to see Jazz sitting next to him on the bed, poking him with her paw.

"That's her hint that she either wants to be fed or go out," Alex stated with a smile.  Eli turned to look at the man next to him in the bed.  He didn't have any time to say anything when the paw was placed on the side of his face.  If a regular cat was doing this, it's paw wouldn't even cover a typical person's cheek.  In the case of Jazz, her paw covered the side of Eli's head.

Eli tried to say something but all that came out was something which sounded like "Seasurkat."

Alex began laughing.  "I got news for you.  She's not just my cat any more… it's a package deal."

"Shikrushingmayfath."

"Come on Jazzy, breakfast time," Alex said as he rolled out of bed.  He put his housecoat on but not before bending over and giving Eli a beautiful view of the two white globes of his perfect ass.  Jazz knew exactly what had been said.  She turned and bounced off the bed.  Unfortunately, one of the bounces was on Eli's groin area.  The immediate reaction was to grab his cock for protection while rolling into a fetal position as he called out, "SHIT!"

Alex was laughing so hard he couldn't breathe.  "Welcome to the world of pets, Eli."

"Pets?  Most pets are normal-sized, not supersized like yours are.  I think she broke my pelvis."

"You're lucky if that's all she broke down there."

"Don't even joke about that, you bastard."

"Dweeb."

Eli heard some shuffling around in the kitchen, the door opening followed by a couple of tin bowls hitting the patio stones out the back door.  A moment later Alex jumped back into bed, quickly snuggling up to Eli.  The cold feet found their way to wrap themselves around Eli's warm legs.

"Ugh! Your feet are cold!" complained Eli while chuckling.

"So warm them up."

"I was just thinking about a cup of coffee."

"Let's just stay here for a while and snuggle."

Eli smiled as he pulled Alex tighter to his body.  "I like that idea."  Eli kissed Alex, chewing on his lower lip lightly.

"OMG, Eli.  You make my body tingle doing that."

Eli wrapped his arms around Alex tightly, pulling him into his chest.  Alex adjusted his head, so it was under Eli's chin and against his chest.  "You just snuggle in there, little guy.  You're safe here with me."

Alex brought his arms in tight to his body, "I feel safer than I have for a long time, Eli.  In fact, I really feel like I matter to someone."

"I really, really, really wished you had been a total asshole, Alex.  But with our chemistry… I never meant to fall in love with you, but I have."

"I wanted to hate you because I don't like to have personal assistants, let alone a bodyguard.  I wanted you to be such a jerk so I could fire you and go back to my life.  When you walked into the room, I admit it was lust.  Twenty-four hours later, it was a love I had no clue how to deal with."

Eli gently kissed to the top of Alex's head, "Let's do something neither one of us do very often, sleep in a little longer, together."

"Well, the kids have food and they're outside so they can play without us."  Alex wanted more to happen but began to settle down quickly in Eli's arms.  It only took a few moments, before both were sound asleep once again as they listened to each other's rhythmic breathing.


Eli crawled out of bed carefully, put on a housecoat, then headed into the kitchen.  He started the coffee and started rummaging through the fridge for breakfast.  He knew Alex was trying to sneak up behind him while he was bent over with his head in the fridge.  Without even looking, Eli handed a package of bacon backwards, "Instead of just staring at my ass under the housecoat, take this and get a frying pan."

"That's not very romantic."

Eli stood up, closed the fridge door, turned, moved quickly behind Alex.  He grabbed him by the waist to spin him around so they were looking eye to eye.  Eli smirked as he kissed Alex passionately, with his tongue first probing then wrestling with Alex's.  Placing his hands on both sides of his head, he began to gently massage Alex's neck.  Breaking contact with the lips, Eli began to kiss along Alex's right jawline to his neck as his other hand gently massaged, twisted and stretched the left ear lobe.  Alex began to respond immediately, lifting his chin, closing his eyes and breathing in short gasps.  Eli began to gently kiss down Alex's neck while his hands slowly exposed the naked chest under the bathrobe.  The solid olive coloured chest had sparse hairs around the quarter-sized areolas.  Both of his nipples were hard as Eli began to lick the first one while using his other hand to gently manipulate the other.  While he used his teeth to pull at one of the nipples, his thumb and index finger began to gently roll the other one.  As the pressure on his nipples increased, Alex gasped a deep breath as he put his arms behind him on the edge of the counter to support him sitting upright.

Eli continued to open Alex's robe until it just barely contained the hard cock behind it.  He continued to kiss, lick and nibble on Alex's chest and nipples.  In a quick movement, Eli picked Alex up by the waist to place him seated onto the edge of the kitchen island.  Alex responded by placing his hands on each side of Eli's shoulders.  Using his hands, Eli separated Alex's knees while opening the final part of the robe to expose the rigid member.  Using his hand, he grasped the back of Alex's head to bring it forward for an urgent kiss.  Alex responded passively, if not cooperatively, allowing Eli to do whatever he wanted to his body.  He had already decided that whatever Eli wanted to do to him was ok by him if it meant these sensations would continue.

Eli gently pushed Alex onto his back, fully exposing his hard, dripping objective.  The purple diamond-shaped head was standing proud on a thick six-inch length of shaft.  As Eli grasped it, he found the girth to be thick.  Eli placed his hands on the inside of Alex's knees to steady them as he began to kiss his way up the inside of the thighs.  Alex was physically squirming between gasps and squeals.

Eli began to move closer to the pelvis, now using his hands to lightly brush, rub or massage the insides of Alex's thighs.  He was playing with the sparse hairs which increased in proximity to the groin.  Although sparse, they still acted as a trail to follow for the pot of gold.  Alex had one hand-rolled up as a fist partially in his mouth as he whimpered and cooed.  He was chewing on those knuckles as he was bombarded with sensations long forgotten.

Eli gently pulled Alex's waist to the edge of the counter, spreading his legs.  The precum was pouring out of Alex's member, inviting to be licked just like an ice cream cone.  Eli extended his tongue to the base of Alex's shaft, dragging it up and over the head.  Alex moaned loudly in response.  Taking the head into his mouth, he began to swirl his tongue around it, tasting the fresh nectar which was still leaking out.  Alex reached down, grasping Eli's head between his hands.  If Alex had been watching Eli's face, he would've seen a smirk as he opened his mouth to engulf the cock all the way down to the pubic hairs.

"Oh, God!" Alex blurted out loudly as he squirmed on the counter.

As Eli bobbed his head up and down the hard shaft, he suspected Alex would be on a hair-trigger this time.  He was correct.  It was not a moment later Alex yelled, "I'M CUMMING!"  He sat up, grabbing Eli's head as the fluids within him quickly exited into Eli's mouth.  Eli managed to keep up with the copious amount of warm, sweet/savoury cum as he swallowed.  He continued to milk Alex's cock, gently squeezing every drop of the cum out of it he could get.  Alex began to squirm indicating that it was becoming too sensitive for Eli to continue sucking on it.  He let it drop from his mouth as Alex flopped backwards onto the countertop.  Eli leaned over the prostrate Alex, kissing him gently.  Alex's eyes opened, focusing on the man who just finished giving him the most incredible blow job sex he'd ever had.

Eli smirked, then said, "Now that you've had some romance, is it good enough for you to take the bacon and get a frying pan.  I'm starving."

Alex sat upright, confused.  It took a moment for what had just been said to him to make sense.  "What?  Bacon?  You still want breakfast?"

"I'm hungry and haven't eaten since last night."

"But, you just…"

"Did something for someone I love, asking nothing in return except for his help make breakfast."

Alex stared at Eli for a long moment before he finally grabbed him into a tight hug.  Through tears of joy he managed to say, "Where the hell have you been all my life?"


After telling Frick and Frack to stay at the house, the two men jumped on the Argo for the trip over to the lodge.  Alex had called Jake to book a boat for the day for fishing.  Jake set them up with a 16' aluminum boat with a 25 Yamaha outboard motor, along with all the fishing rods, tackle boxes, and nets.  His wife had also sent a cooler along which contained coffee, water, snacks and even a large lunch.  The lake was almost perfect for travel today.  It was sunny, around 24°C, with a light westerly breeze just enough to keep the sandflies and no-see-ums away.  Alex was at the stern operating the motor while Eli was sitting in the bow watching the shoreline pass by.

"Will the gun you're wearing pull you down in the water if we flip?" asked Alex with some concern.

"It's ok.  I'll just hold onto you.  Wood floats."

"Excuse me?" Alex replied with feigned indignance.

"Wooden head, and popping a woody, you'll float good for a little guy."

"Dweeb."

Eli smirked.  "Where are all the great fishing spots up here?"

"We're going out along the east side shoreline which makes a peninsula in the lake near the area we call the flats.  The point is all fine sand with Jack pines all over it.  The sand creates a beautiful beach, shallow water and it extends out quite a ways.  But, there's a quick drop off where the big fish hide down in the cooler water.  They come up to feed on the smaller fish and minnows along the edge of the sandbank.  My grandfather loved this spot."

"This whole area is beautiful.  The water is so clear I can see to the bottom of the lake in this area."

"This area is around 20-30 feet in depth with a sandy bottom.  There's a channel over there which drops to 150' or more in places."

"I can see the outlines of the fish down below in the water."

"Absolutely.  You can see the fish as a shape or as a shadow as it moves, but it's not in focus enough to window shop.  The problem is you can't tell how deep that fish is."

Eli chuckled.

"I find it so relaxing up here and it's always been like that for me and my family.  When I was young, I would spend most of my summer up here with my parents or my grandparents."  Eli watched Alex closely for a reaction to the memories.  A smile formed on Alex's face as he said, "I'm very glad to be sharing this time with you."

Eli returned the smile.  "I'm happy about it as well."

Travelling in silence as opposed to speaking loudly over the motor, the two men faced forward, looking out over the bow as the boat travelled across the lake to the peninsula.  Twenty minutes later they arrived at the spot Alex had been looking for.  As the wind was gentle, the drift of the boat would be fairly minimal at the moment.  In simpler terms, that meant they probably wouldn't need to set an anchor while they were fishing.

"So what's in here?" asked Eli.

"Northern Pike, Lake Trout, Walleye, Arctic Graylings.  It's not unusual for 20lb Lake Trout to be caught with them being all the way up to 50 or 60lbs.  The Northern Pike over 50" are not uncommon.  Down south, they are much smaller, and we call them slough sharks there.  Northern Pike are actually related to the shark family and have been known to take a bite at men that are skinny dipping."

Eli unconsciously used his hands to protect his groin area, then finally said, "Bullshit!" when he saw Alex's eyes twinkling.  The two men set the bait on the barbless hooks and began fishing.  They were sitting on the second and third bench seats within the boat, facing each other.

Alex had been deep in thought for a few moments before finally commenting, "Eli, I can't tell you how much I'm beginning to appreciate and even rely on you.  Wherever Adair found you, I'm glad she did."

Eli stared out over the water as he quickly replied, "Alex, shut up or you'll scare the fish away."

In response, Alex's head almost snapped off his neck as he quickly twisted around to look at Eli.  What he saw was Eli's eyes twinkling along with a beautiful smile looking back at him.  "You are such a bastard."

Eli leaned forward to Alex, kissing him.  "Got ya."

Alex sighed as Eli's lips made gentle contact with his.  "I'm afraid."

"Afraid?"

Alex looked into Eli's eyes as he said, "Afraid this is a dream and I'm going to wake up with none of it real.  I am hoping we're real."

Eli's face went blank for a moment before he said, "I have my fears, too, Alex."  He took a deep breath, then continued, "I have to be honest that I have a deep fear that I'm just the most convenient person available for someone of your social status."

Alex listened, showing no reaction on his face as Eli spoke with carefully chosen words.  "Is there something I've done to lead you to believe that?"

Eli shook his head to emphasize his response.  "No, absolutely nothing.  I guess I'm just thinking about your upbringing, education and social status.  You are such a beautiful man inside and outside.  You're very complex yet so naive in many ways.  Me, I'm just a guy who was in the military to escape the poverty and life of a small town.  You were born and bred to be with more than someone like me."

Alex sat quietly for a moment before replying.  "After everything you've said I would like to give you a very simple and easily understood answer to your concerns."  Eli looked straight into Alex's eyes in anticipation of his reply.  Alex didn't hesitate any further.  "Are you out of your fucking mind?  I have never in my life felt so happy with someone before.  I truly believe you are what I've been searching for to have in my life.  I fought it at first, but I'm in love with you."

Eli's eyes moistened as he replied, "I know you are what I've always searched for in my life, and I'm in love with you.  But is it appropriate?"

Alex took Eli's hands into his, "Appropriate?  I fell in love with you, and you fell in love with me.  Fuck the rest of them.  As long as we're happy, it doesn't matter."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive." Eli reached, pulling Alex into him tightly, urgently kissing.

It was then that two graylings took the bait on the fishing lines.  Both Eli and Alex fought with the fish to get them into the boat.  They would be classified as small for this lake at 35 cm each, but perfect to cook up right away for lunch.  They headed to the shore, beaching the boat.  It didn't take long to get a fire started or to find the cook set included in the kit supplied by the lodge.  Eli was quite good at filleting fish but was blown away at how fast Alex did his.  He was sitting on the rock, tapping his feet in anticipation for Eli to finish.

"Any time now, you can finish up."

"Piss off.  I'm more careful than you."

"Ha, careful?  You missed a bone there."

"Don't you have anything else to be doing?"

"Not at all.  I'm enjoying this."

Eli pulled a section of the guts out of the pile with the knife, catapulting it directly onto Alex's face with a splat.

"You bastard!" Alex screamed as he grabbed the fish head to throw at Eli, but he immediately saw Eli with his phone out taking pictures of the guts on Alex's face.

"These are for Adair."

"Oh no you don't, you dweeb," Alex said as he attacked Eli.  The two men were laughing as they rolled around on the sand in one direction, then the other.  Finally, Eli pinned Alex to the ground by his wrists.  "I'm a prisoner now.  Are you going to force yourself on me?  Are you going to take advantage of me?"

Eli looked into the man's eyes, then leaned down to kiss him gently.  "Later tonight at the cabin."

"Promise?"

"I promise."  He hesitated for a moment, then said, "Alex, I've really fallen in love with you."

Alex smiled up at the man, through watery eyes he replied, "Does that mean we're boyfriends?"

"I haven't said this to anyone before and honestly mean it as much as I do right now.  I love you."

Alex had tears rolling down the side of his face as he looked at Eli.  "I didn't think I would ever find anyone who could say those words to me and mean it.  I love you, too."

Eli stood, immediately pulling Alex to his feet and into his embrace.  The two men stood silently, holding each other tightly.  Eli's mouth covered Alex's, their tongue's dancing as they probed each other's mouths.  It was the most inopportune time for it to happen, but Eli's satellite phone rang.  There was only one person who had the phone number so Eli answered it immediately.  He spoke with Adair for a couple of moments, then hung up.

Eli simply said, "We need to make a decision, Alex."  He then explained what Adair had told him.


The bomb had been left at the front doors into the AWA Head office.  It blew at 8:15 am, shattering glass as well as blowing the door frames out of the wall.  It was a miracle that only a few people had been injured by the flying glass.  No one had sustained serious injuries or died.  Adair called Alex and Eli on the sat phone to bring them up to speed.  Alex ordered that a special plane be dispatched to bring them back ASAP so they could deal with the growing problem directly.  Shortly after, Adair called back to confirm the arrival of a plane an hour before the scheduled run for the guests.

He and Alex called Jake to bring him up to speed on what was going on.

They ran back to the cabin in the Argo, packed up just in time for the suburban to arrive.  The animals jumped in, followed by Eli and Alex.  At the dock, some guests had already begun moving their luggage to the end of the dock for boarding the plane.  It looked like the guest who complained about Alex's pets had his whole family there and ready to be first on the plane.  Just as they arrived, the floatplane had landed on the lake and was taxiing towards the dock.  Eli brought an extra pelican case with him.  When they met with Jake, Eli gave him the pelican case which contained a 10mm handgun along with a 9mm handgun, and an MP5 along with ammunition for all three.

Jake jumped out of the suburban first, calling out to the people waiting.  "That's not your plane.  Could you move your luggage, please?"

The man was quite indignant, but with obvious sarcasm, asked, "Just how many planes are you expecting today?"  Jake was quickly walking up the dock with some luggage when the man noticed the gun on his hip.  "Is that a gun?"

"Yes, it is.  Now move your luggage, please."

Eli started up the dock with luggage, a handgun on his hip and the MP5 in the ready carry position on his chest.

The man was getting upset.  "What the hell is going on here?"

Eli stopped, leaned right in face to face with the man and then said, "You need to shut the fuck up and do as you're told.  Your plane us due in an hour.  Now, get your damn family and luggage off the dock before I throw both you and it into the lake."

There was something about the way Eli spoke that caused the man to move quickly, doing exactly what he'd been told.  The plane pulled up to the dock, still idling.  Eli immediately opened the back door before it pulled alongside the dock, carefully moving inside with the MP5 in both hands.  A few moments later, he came out again, gave a signal to Alex who ran to the plane.  The animals followed him into the plane.  Jake tossed the luggage in, then pushed the plane away from the dock.  Eli kept the back door open with him hanging out with the gun ready until they started their take-off.  He closed the door, secured it and the plane departed.  The plane had never shut off the engine, perfectly executing a quick departure.

The man stood there watching and asked Jake, "What the hell was that all about?"

"That young man is a businessman and someone tried to blow up his office building yesterday with threats to kill him.  The man with him is a police officer as a bodyguard, and that's why I'm armed right now as well.  To protect him."

"Who could get him up here?"

"You never know.  People we don't know or on their first trip here," replied Jake as he stared at the man.  Jake also decided this man would never be allowed to book into the lodge again.


The next morning, Eli and Alex were entering the front doors of the AWA Head office through a crowd of reporters which had gathered.  The company had brought extra security personnel in from the field to not only raise the security level around Alex but to ensure the head office building was secured.  Eli wasn't sure why the media was at the front door this morning as the bombing had occurred two days ago.  It didn't make sense that so many had been alerted and collected this morning.  As they approached the front doors, one of the photographers stepped directly into their path.  Eli had seen this man's picture many times despite the stubble, different hairstyle and ball cap he was wearing.

Alex had recognized him a split second before Eli.  "Mason!"

The smile on Mason's face would send a chill up and down the spine of even the most hardened vet.  Eli was no exception.  The difference was that Eli recognized the smile.  He knew exactly what was going to happen next.

As Mason raised the handgun, Eli didn't hesitate as he physically body checked Alex to safety, placing himself into the line of fire.  The handgun fired five times before one of the other security persons shot Mason in the chest.  He was dead before his body hit the ground.

The security team tried to pull Alex inside the building for his safety but he fought them with an inner physical strength they never expected from someone his size.  Alex pushed his way over to the crowd, forcing his way into the centre.  He looked down at the ground where people were trying to control the blood pouring out of Eli before it added to the pools already collecting on the sidewalk.

Eli looked up to see Alex.  With great difficulty he said, "Safe?"

"Yes.  Mason's dead."  Alex used his hands to futilely cover a couple of the wounds on Eli's chest, trying to stop the blood from escaping.  It was becoming difficult for him to see as Alex's eyes were pouring tears at the sight in front of him.

As his eyes began to gloss over, Eli stared at Alex.  Slowly, Eli said "n..er..d."

Alex sat back on his heels, staring at his boyfriend.  He immediately replied "dweeb."  It was at that moment Alex collapsed into a heap, unconscious.


Adair was sitting in a chair reading a book in Alex's hospital room.  It had been five days since the shooting, all of which Alex had spent under heavy sedation.  After he collapsed, he had been pulled into the building until the scene was under control.  The first ambulance showed up to treat Eli.  The second ambulance transported Alex.  In the hospital, Alex had been in a catatonic state, failing to respond to any stimuli whatsoever.  When he did come out of the catatonic state, he was violent and fighting anyone who tried to stop him from getting to Eli.  He wouldn't listen to anyone, although in his state, it was also possible that he wasn't understanding anything being said to him.  The best thing to do was to medicate him until they could get him under control.  Today was the first day the doctors were once again trying to reduce the medications so they could begin working with him.

"Water?" was the first word out of Alex's mouth as he became conscious.

Adair put her book down, quickly hitting the call button before helping him to take a few sips of water from the bedside water container.  "Slowly, Alex, slowly.  You haven't had anything to eat for a few days."  The bed immediately moved as Frick and Frack jumped up onto it from each side.  They began to lick Alex's face enthusiastically.

Alex hugged Frick's thick neck with one arm while he used his other hand to rub Frack's head.  "Oh my, guys, I'm so happy to see you."

"They've been with you for the past 5 days, never leaving your room except for trips outside."

"You two are so loyal to me."

A nurse came into the room quickly, completing an assessment while obtaining his vitals.  Alex responded to her questions slowly but appropriately, giving both the nurse and Adair hope that he was back in control of his emotions.

They both sat in silence for a few long moments until Alex finally said, "I take it everything I remember wasn't just a terrible dream?"

Adair wasn't sure how to answer his question due to his psychological fragility.  She was very happy when the voice behind the curtain in the other bed spoke up.  "I sure as hell wish it was just a dream."

Alex's eyes almost popped out his head as he recognized the voice.  He stared at Adair who quickly stood up, then pulled the curtain back to reveal Eli in the next bed.  He had monitors and IV's, along with numerous other tubes, sticking out his body, but he was alive.  At the foot of his bed was a large cat, obviously happy to see Alex as she bounced over to him.  "Oh Jazzy, you're here too."  Alex tried to move towards Eli but Adair used the palm of her hand to keep him in bed.

"You stay still.  I'll move the bed closer."

"But I want…"

"Shut up and do as you are told or they will poke your ass again with so many drugs that you will be out for another week.  We need you awake for your boyfriend."  Alex quit struggling, lying on the bed.  She pushed the bed over after lowering the sides on both Alex's and Eli's beds.  As soon as the bed's touched, Alex moved to the edge of his bed, grasping Eli's hand while placing his head on his boyfriend's upper arm.  Jazz moved back to the foot of Eli's bed, then settled down again with her big eyes watching the two men.

"Oh God, I thought you were dead."

Slowly, Eli grasped Alex's hand with his own.  "That… makes… two of us."

Adair cut them off.  "Both of you are weak, so I'll explain."  Alex stared at her as she began.  "The explosion which went off at the office was to draw you back into the building from wherever you had gone to stay safe.  On the morning of the shooting, Mason had phoned the media outlets advising them you would be at the front of the office building around 8:00 am to make a statement including the name of the bomber.  That drew them all in and accounted for their aggressiveness that morning.  To add to the confusion, Mason pulled the fire alarm which allowed him to mix in with the crowd wearing a tacky disguise.  The opportunity arose and he pulled his gun and shot at Alex.  Eli pushed you out of the way on time, but he was shot three times out of five shots."

Alex's face was blank as he was listening to Adair.  "The police kicked his apartment door in and found the bomb-making supplies, weapons, and crack pipes.  Mason had gotten pulled into the drug world and from what they could figure, he owed a lot of money to some very dangerous people.  The most interesting thing they found was a shrine built to Alex in the spare bedroom.  Thousands of pictures, items of clothing, hair, news articles and generally anything that had Alex's name in or on it."

"Obviously, he had gone over the deep end," Eli remarked.

Adair scoffed, "That's what the police figure as well."

Alex was looking at Eli, "I thought when you promised me you would take a bullet for me, it was strictly an expression, a metaphor…"  Tears began to roll out of Alex's eyes as he finished.  "I really didn't think you would prove it to me."

Eli smirked, "I'm a man of my word.  Having said that, Alex, I love you.  Now, get your shit together so they will quit poking your cute little ass full of drugs.  It's too beautiful for that to happen."

Alex blushed as he looked at Eli.  Gently he sat up, moved over to Eli, then gently kissed him on the lips.  "I love you, too.  Now, get better.  I need you, Eli."

"Now, aren't you both lucky I hired a personal assistant and bodyguard for the president of the company?"

"He's still a dweeb," Alex remarked with his face glowing.

"He's still a nerd," Eli added with beautiful sparkling eyes and a big smile.