Aaron was crouched down in front of Iukekini's grave. "I forgot to tell you that after you passed I got called back to work. Even though everyone has been really great at the station house, it totally sucks that this is what it took to get recalled. I'd rather you were still here and I get on welfare. Oh, and by the way, the landlord would not let me put the lease in my name so I had to move out of the apartment. It's probably just as well as from what I heard, she practically doubled everyone's rent once their lease was up. The building is practically empty now. Who can afford five-thousand dollars a month plus utilities? I have a shithole apartment now, but at least it's a roof over my head. I quit working at Candle Crafts. I just couldn't handle being there anymore. On a good note, though, Candle Crafts San Diego is a huge success. Grace is already looking to put stores in Las Vegas, Dallas, Chicago and New York City."
He looked up as he heard someone crying a couple of plots over. "I'll be right back, Iukekini. There's a guy crying over there that we've heard singing in the club I think his name is Jay. I'm going to see if I can help him." Aaron stood up and walked over to Jay. He knelt down and placed a hand on Jay's shoulder gently. "Anything I can do to help?" He asked quietly.
Without thinking, Jay grabbed him and just bawled on his shoulder for several minutes before regaining control. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do that."
"It's okay." Aaron looked at the tombstone and realized who he was holding. "You're Jayson, aren't you? I've heard you singing at the club." Jay nodded. "I'm Aaron. Would you like to go get a cup of coffee somewhere?"
"Okay. I know this great little mom-and-pop deli that makes awesome sandwiches and all sorts of other stuff." Jay said.
"Is it far from here? I live close by so I walked."
"It's about three miles inland. I can drive you there, or I can drive you to your place so you can get your car. Better yet, how about we go, get some dinner and take it back to my place. We can relax around the pool. To be honest, I don't really feel like being around a lot of people. Today is my husband's birthday."
"I totally understand. I lost my boyfriend a year ago today, so I don't really want to be around a lot of people either."
"Okay, so if you don't want to be around people, then why did you ask me to go have coffee with you?"
"Because I wanted to meet and talk with you, but I was too nervous to approach you at the club. You've always had a bunch of people around you. I could ask you the same question."
"I was thinking of going back to my place and ordering from the club."
"But the club doesn't deliver."
"They do for me. I'm a very close friend of the owners."
"Okay, that sounds good to me. I love the food there. My car's right over there." They got into Aaron's car and drove to Jay's place. When they reached the gate, Jay excused himself and leaned across Aaron to type in the code to open the gate. He could feel the heat radiating off Aaron's body and shuddered when his hand slipped on the seat, causing him to fall into Aaron, whose lips grazed his cheek. There was no denying the electric current that flowed through his body at that inadvertent touch. He straightened in his seat quickly, apologizing to Aaron. As they pulled up in front of the house, Aaron's mouth dropped open. "You live here?" He managed to get out. Jay silently nodded as he got out of the car. Aaron sat motionless in the car and made no effort to get out. He too had felt electricity run through his body as his lips brushed up against Jay's cheek when Jay accidentally fell into him. There was no denying the attraction he felt towards Jay, an attraction his mind told him would only be one way. There's no way a rich guy like Jayson could possibly be interested in anything a lower-class city Firefighter like you has to offer. Thoughts of self-doubt ran rampantly through his mind.
Seeing that Aaron made no move to get out of the car, Jay walked around to the driver's side. "Aren't you coming in?"
Aaron shook his head sadly, refusing to make eye contact. "I can't. It wouldn't be proper."
Jay looked at him in surprise. "What do you mean, it wouldn't be proper?" He asked, puzzled.
"Jay, you're obviously a rich recording star," Aaron replied sadly. "We live in two different worlds, and there's no room in your world for a dirt-poor city Firefighter like myself.
If Aaron hadn't been so visibly upset and sad, Jay would have laughed. Instead, he went around to the passenger side, climbed back into the car and turned to face him. He took one of Aaron's hands into his own. "Aaron, I'm far from rich. I barely clear fifty-k a year. The house that you see was given to Kyle and me a long time ago." He related the story of how he and Kyle became friends with Tony and Billy while honeymooning, what had happened with the club and how Tony and Billy had signed the "guest cottage" as Tony called it, over to them. "On top of that, what little royalties I receive from the CD go directly into the Kyle Matthew-Williams Foundation. Besides, even if I were rich, I'd still invite you over. You were there to comfort me when I needed a shoulder to cry on, and I thank you for that. Now, let's go order some food and kick back." Jay got out of the car, reluctantly followed by Aaron, still unsure of himself. Jay led him into the expansive kitchen where he got a menu out of the drawer, handing it to Aaron.
"What are you getting?" He asked as he handed the menu back to Jay.
"I'm getting the chicken fingers with barbeque sauce and a chef salad with house dressing. They make a balsamic vinaigrette dressing that's to die for."
"That sounds good. I think I'll have that instead of the mahi-mahi."
Just as Jay picked up the phone, Tommy walked in. Seeing the menu in Jay's hand he asked: "You ordering from the club?"
"Yeah, you want anything?"
"Yeah, can you order me shrimp scampi?"
"Sure," Jay called their order in, just as Tommy turned to introduce himself to the newcomer in their midst.
"Hi, I'm….Aaron? What brings you here?"
"Hi, Tommy. I met up with Jay at the cemetery and he invited me over."
Jay looked back and forth between the two men. "You two know each other?"
"Yeah, Tommy helped me out tremendously when my boyfriend died in a water-skiing accident, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to meet you. I want to volunteer at the Foundation. I'm not sure what I can do, but I'll do anything. I'll even scrub the toilets with a toothbrush if need be. I just want to give something back."
"Let's go out and sit by the pool while we wait for our food."
The three men gathered around the pool. Aaron wondered what Tommy was doing there. "What time is Andy getting home?" Jay asked.
"He won't be coming home until the morning. He's pulling a double. Why?"
"I was just thinking the four of us could rent a Netflix movie or throw some darts or maybe play a game or two."
"I'm up for it. What about you, Aaron?"
"I wouldn't want to intrude on your evening."
"You're not. We love having people over."
"Yeah, Tommy and his husband live here too."
"To tell you the truth, I'm kind of tired of going to work then going home and sitting around doing nothing until it gets to the point where I go out to the club and get drunk off my ass just for something to do, and no, I don't drink and drive. I take a cab home."
"Good, then it's settled. You're spending the evening with us. If you want, you can even crash here. We have more than enough room." The doorbell rang signaling the arrival of their food.
"Aaron, there's water, lemonade, and soda in the refrigerator. Go help yourself to whatever you want to drink. If you want something stronger, there's beer and stuff in the rec room downstairs, which is the first door on the left down the hallway."
"Thanks. I think I'll take you up on the lemonade offer, if you don't mind."
"Of course not."
The dinner as great, and the conversation flowed easily between the three men. Jay found himself totally at ease with Aaron, and Aaron was finally able to let his guard down and totally relax and have fun. Shortly the conversation turned to the Foundation.
"A year ago, my boyfriend was out with friends waterskiing. He was skiing about two hundred feet behind the boat when a bunch of drunk college kids in a speedboat cut across his tow line. He was doing one of his favorite stunts where the tow line was tied around his waist and he was holding his arms above his head." A couple of tears escaped and started rolling down his cheeks. "I told him a hundred times that one day that stunt would land him in the hospital. Anyway, the rope snagged on the speedboat and before he could get it untied from around him he was dragged underwater and pulled into the propellers. One of the blades sliced through his chest, cutting his heart in half. He...he…he died instantly. I miss him so much." He broke down in sobs.
Without even thinking about it Jay moved over to him, pulled him close and held him as he sobbed. Jay suddenly realized how good it felt to have someone in his arms. It surprised him how automatically he moved in to comfort the crying man and how fiercely he wanted to protect him. Startled by the intensity of his sudden need to comfort and protect Aaron, he started to question himself. What's happening to me? Why am I doing this? Get a grip, Jayson. Even though his mind was telling him to let go, his heart was telling him that he was doing the right thing. Eventually, the tears stopped flowing.
"I'm sorry, Jay. I didn't mean to break down like that." Aaron, you need to go, now, so you don't embarrass yourself more than you already have!"
"Don't worry about it, buddy. This makes us even."
"Thanks." He gave Jay a smile that made Jay's heart skip a beat. He sniffled and sighed deeply. "Anyway, before I turned into a pathetic blubbering idiot, I was explaining how much Tommy and the Foundation helped me deal with Iukekini's death. I want to give something back to the Foundation, but I don't know what I can do. I'm barely making ends meet as it is, so I can't do much financially, but I'm willing to do whatever I can."
"So what can you do, what are your skills?"
Aaron was silent for a few minutes while the thought about it. It was difficult to concentrate on the question at hand because his mind kept wandering back to how good it felt to be held in Jay's arms. "Well, I'm a pretty good organizer, and I'm good with computers. I could maybe do administrative stuff, typing, filing, answering phones.
"We could definitely use the help around the main office. Too bad you don't have any legal skills. We could really use a lawyer. We have a couple of Paralegals that volunteer, but there are some things they just can't do."
"Well, Iukekini's brother Kimo is a lawyer. Let me talk to him and see if he'd be willing to help out."
"There's just one problem. We won't be able to pay him very much and we wouldn't be able to pay you. Every nickel we take in goes right to operating expenses. Being a 501c3 non-profit organization, our finances are under constant scrutiny. At this point in time, nobody gets paid except for the professional staff. Everyone else, including the Executive Director, by his choice, is a volunteer."
"That's not a problem for me. I want to volunteer. I'll talk to Kimo. I'm sure he'd be willing to help, considering how much you guys helped me. I'm still considered to be part of the family." He said as a huge yawn ambushed him, followed shortly with another. "Sorry, guys, it's been a long hard day. I should get going. I really had a great time tonight and I appreciate it more than you can imagine. It was so good to be able to go somewhere and have a great meal and a good time without getting drunk off my ass." He yawned again.
"How far do you have to go to get home?"
"About a half-hour drive from here," Aaron responded, yawning yet a fourth time.
"Do you have anywhere you have to be tomorrow?"
"No. I work ten-hour shifts, four-on, three-off. Today was my first day off."
"Good. You're too tired to drive home. I don't want to take a chance of you falling asleep behind the wheel. You're staying here tonight."
"I can't. It would be too much of an imposition." Another huge yawn ambushed his protest.
"No, it wouldn't. This place has ten bedrooms. We keep the guest rooms ready at all times for overnight visitors. Believe me, you're not imposing. I'd rather you stay here tonight than take any chances. Your family has already lost Iukekini, and I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure they don't lose you as well." Jay's eyes flashed with a ferocity that surprised Tommy. He decided a good sit-down talk with Jay was in order.
Aaron threw his hands up in a gesture of surrender. "Okay, okay, you win, but tomorrow I'm taking you guys out for breakfast as a thank you."
"Ah, excuse me, but didn't you say earlier that you're barely making ends meet? If that's true, and I have no reason to doubt your word, then the last thing you need to do is spend your money foolishly when we have a fully stocked refrigerator and pantry. If you insist on paying us back for letting you stay here tonight, and we're not letting you stay, we're just not letting you leave tonight, you can make breakfast. Deal?" Tommy spoke in the most authoritative voice he could muster.
"Deal." Aaron meekly agreed, hiding his reluctance. He really needed to get away from Jay. Something was happening between the two of them and it confused and scared the shit out of him. Maybe I can get another appointment to talk with Tommy and see if he can help me figure things out.
Jay led him up to one of the guest rooms and showed him where the bathroom and everything was. "If you need anything, I'm right across the hall." He pulled Aaron into a hug. "Thank you for today." He whispered into Aaron's ear. He pulled back slightly and looked into Aaron's eyes. Without realizing what was happening, Jay tilted his head upward slightly and pressed his lips lightly against Aaron's. As the realization of what he was doing hit him, he quickly pulled away, panic in his eyes. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done that. I don't know what came over me especially today of all days."
"It's okay, Jay. I think we both needed that contact."
Jay felt an unwelcomed stirring between his legs. "Perhaps you're right. Good night, Aaron. Sleep well."
"Good night, Jay, and thanks again for letting me stay." He closed the door, undressed and slid into the incredibly comfortable bed. He was out cold before his head even hit the pillow.
The next morning Jay wandered into the kitchen, feeling better than he had in a long time. "Wow. It smells wonderful in here."
"How do you guys do this? Do you normally wait until everyone is up to eat or do you eat whenever?"
"We normally eat whenever we get up," Tommy answered with a yawn, coming into the kitchen. "Something smells fantabulous." He looked around but didn't see any food or plates on the table. He reached over to the coffee pot, but it was empty and clean.
"Gentlemen, breakfast is waiting for you by the pool," Aaron said as he bowed, moving his arm in a sweeping gesture toward the pool. Jay and Tommy stopped short as they took in the sight of the patio table covered with a tablecloth, four covered plates and two insulated carafes of coffee.
"Wow, this looks really nice," Jay commented. His sentiments were repeated by Tommy as they sat down. Aaron reached into the outdoor refrigerator and pulled out pineapple juice, orange juice, and milk. Andy joined them and introductions were made. Once the four men were seated, juices and coffee poured, the covers were removed from the plates. There were omelets, bacon, sausage and Belgium waffles all of which smelled heavenly.
Jay immediately took a bite of the omelet and though he'd died and gone to heaven. "This omelet is unbelievable. What kind is it?"
"It's called a pizza omelet. It's basically an omelet with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, green pepper and cheese covered with pizza sauce."
"You guys need to try this. It's awesome."
"After I finish attacking this awesome Belgium waffle. I've never tasted anything like it. It's indescribable." Andy said.
"It's nothing really. I just mixed cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, maple syrup and chocolate chips into the batter."
"This entire breakfast is awesomely awesome bab-buddy." Jay quickly corrected himself.
"It's the least I can do for you letting me stay here last night. I was so tired I don't even remember my head hitting the pillow. I most likely would have fallen asleep on the drive home so I basically owe you my life."
Jay patted his stomach. "Believe me any debt has been paid in full." He said as the doorbell rang. He went to the door and returned with Tony and Billy in tow. They were introduced to Aaron who regarded them in total shock. He had been nervous around Jay initially, thinking he was rich despite his assurances to the contrary, but Tony was a legendary multi-billionaire.
Aaron nervously began to gather up the now empty plates and silverware. "Are you gentlemen hungry? I could make you some breakfast."
"That would be great, but you don't have to go through all that trouble. We'll get something later."
"It's no trouble at all." He practically ran into the kitchen and quickly made bacon, sausage and two more pizza omelets which took up the last of the eggs, so he was unable to make any more waffles. He would go shopping later to replace all of the ingredients he had used. Ten minutes later, he brought the food out to Tony and Billy then retreated back to the kitchen to clean up, allowing the five men to discuss their business in private.
"HEY AARON, CAN YOU COME OUT HERE, PLEASE?" Jay yelled a few minutes later.
Aaron appeared, wiping his hands on a dish towel. "Can I get you guys something else?"
"Yeah, you can stop playing waiter and join us," Jay answered.
"I thought you guys had some business to discuss."
"We did and we're done."
"Actually, we're not quite finished," Tony said. "I'd like to know more about these fabulous omelets."
"They're just your ordinary, run-of-the-mill pizza omelets."
"Ordinary run-of-the-mill pizza omelets? I've never heard of them before."
"Really? Basically, you make an omelet with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, green peppers and cheese then cover it with pizza sauce."
"Where'd you learn to cook like this bab-Aaron?" Jay winced at his second slip of the tongue that morning. Tommy and Andy exchanged questioning looks.
"At the firehouse. One of the guys that works on my shift was culinary-trained, and I've always liked to cook, so he taught me a few things."
"Well, thank you for the fabulous breakfast, Aaron, and it was really nice to meet you, but Billy and I have to get to the club. See you guys later, and tonight is not on the house. I promise you."
"Thanks, Tony. That means a lot to us." Andy joined in the conversation for the first time. "If you guys will excuse me, I need to get some sleep."
"I should get going as well. I'm sure you guys have things to do, and I need to shower, shave and get some clean clothes on. How do I get out?"
"There's a button inside the gate that will open it, but before you go, thank you so much for the fantastic breakfast. It was absolutely out of this world. If you're not doing anything, why don't you come back over? We had nothing planned other than hitting the beach. We could hang out at the beach then all do something together once Andy wakes up."
"It's a Saturday. The beaches will be jam-packed."
Jay stood up and motioned with his finger for Aaron to follow him. He led him through a small gate in the backyard, and around some trees to reveal one of the most beautiful white sand beaches Aaron had ever seen. "It doesn't look too crowded to me."
Aaron took in the breathtaking view in silence. He finally shook his head. "But it will be later on."
"No, it won't. It's a private beach. So, go home, get cleaned up, grab your swim trunks and a change of clothes and come back over for the day." Jay told him as he led him back to the house.
"If you're sure you want me to."
"Yes, I'm sure. If I wasn't sure, I wouldn't have said anything." Jay led him out. "See you soon." He gave him a quick hug and sent him off with a wave before returning inside to clean up the kitchen, only to find it spotless. He unloaded the dishwasher, whistling as he did so, which caused Tommy to raise an eyebrow at him as he entered the kitchen to get some water.
"I see somebody is in a good mood."
"Yeah, I guess I am. I had a great time last night and really slept well."
"Gee, it couldn't have anything to do with that hot and spicy Latino that just left, could it?
"No" Jay lied. He couldn't get his mind off Aaron. "I just had a really good time last night. I think the sleeping was due to the fact that I was back in my own bed. It still felt empty, though."
Tommy laid his hand on Jay's shoulder. "I know, buddy, I know. Ready to hit the beach?"
"Not yet. I want to wait for Aaron. He's coming back over."
Mmm-hmmm Tommy said to himself. You've fallen for him, Jay. You need to realize that and accept the fact that it's time to move on. You've mourned for Kyle long enough. It's time to get on with your life. Kyle would want you to. He told Jay in his mind, not quite ready to speak the words out loud. "Okay. I guess I can wait and go with you guys, unless you'd rather be alone…" he teased.
"Fuck you, asshole" Jay growled, causing Tommy to burst out laughing, which in turn made him laugh. "Shithead! I'm going to go get cleaned up and dressed."
"Go make yourself all nice and pretty for Aaron." Tommy teased Jay again, this time getting flipped off. He laughed and went outside for his turn at cleaning the pool. "Make sure you wear your skimpiest SPEEDOS. If he sees that hot body of yours in them you might get him hot and bothered enough to get lucky tonight!" He yelled from the outside, out of range of anything Jay could throw at him. There is definitely a mutual attraction there. How do I make Jay realize that it's okay to let go of Kyle and be with Aaron? I wonder if Aaron is feeling the same reluctance and feelings of betraying his dead boyfriend. What was his name, Ioni....Iuani….Iukekini….that's it, Iukekini. I wonder if Aaron is feeling that he's betraying Iukekini. I know Jay's in love with him because he's looking at him the same way that he looked at Kyle, and Aaron's looking at him the exact same way. It bothers me to see two extremely lonely people who are so obviously in love with each other that even a blind person could see it tiptoeing around each other like they are, but what can I do? I guess I just have to let nature take its course.