I have started a Yahoo! Groups (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/the_long_road_series/) for fans of The Long Road series to chat with each other, chat with me, get news, participate in polls, etc. Membership in this group must be approved (this is done to keep out spammers and spambots). When you click on the Join this Group button, it will ask you why you want to join this group. Just enter Nifty, or whatever you want (I'm the only one who sees this), and as soon as I get the request I'll approve it.
The next morning Aaron knocked on the door to the Station Chief's office. "Chief, have you got a minute?"
"Sure. Come on in. What's on your mind, Aaron?
"Well," he began. God I hope this works! He silently prayed. "Doing the crash training over at Barber's Point got me to thinking."
"You know, I warned you about that." The Chief interrupted, teasingly, causing Aaron to look a little bewildered until he realized that the Chief was just joking.
"I got to thinking that what if, God forbid, a flight control computer malfunction causes an F-16 to crash say, over Diamond Head or The Pass or somewhere else on the island. Would the local fire departments know what to do? Would they know how to handle the hydrazine if the tank should rupture? I know this is the first time this type of joint exercise has happened, but I have a feeling it won't be the last."
"That's a very good question, one that I don't have the answer to. I suspect, however, that you do. I'm willing to bet that you're thinking of having training sessions with the locals."
"That's part of it, but there's more to it than that. We don't know their protocols and they don't know ours. I'm suggesting that we have some joint training exercises to learn how each other operates. In fact, I think it would be a good idea also to have like a picnic or luau or something and invite our local brothers and sisters. You know, get to know them on a personal level, not just a professional level."
The Chief sat back in his chair with a thoughtful look on his face. "Hmm. You might be onto something here. It certainly is a good idea. Do you know any of the locals?"
"I had one in one of my candle-making classes."
"Do you know how to get ahold of him?"
"Probably. I might have his contact information on one of the class registration forms."
"If you do, I want you to get ahold of him and see if he can get you their Battalion Commander's phone number. Get it for me and I'll contact him or her and see what can be arranged. I wouldn't be surprised if they were all for it. Like you said, a crash can happen anywhere and they need to know how to deal with it. They would also need to know how to contact the weapons sections on all of the military installations on the island in case the plane is carrying live armament, and how to tell the difference between live and practice bombs, missiles, et cetera, which I have to admit is something that has not occurred to me before. Let me run this by the brass and see what they have to say. It wouldn't surprise me to find out these scenarios never occurred to them either. Good job, Aaron. This is the type of forward thinking I like to see in a Firefighter. Is there anything else?"
"Nothing I can think of at the moment, Chief, except that any training we provide them would have to, by necessity, include weapons identification training."
"Absolutely. Why don't you write something up along those lines? I have a feeling that, if nothing else, we'll be going forward with the training sessions, and I want you to be prepared for when it happens." The fact that the Chief said `when it happens' and not `if it happens' was not lost on Aaron.
As soon as Aaron went to lunch he got right on the phone to Iukekini. "Baby, it worked. My Chief wants me to get the phone number for your Battalion Commander so he can discuss not only training, but joint training exercises. I also mention having like a picnic or something so we could get to know each other on a personal level."
"What did he say to that?"
"He's in favor of everything. He's going to run it by the brass to see what they have to say."
"That's really awesome Aaron. What did you tell your Chief about how you know me?"
"I told him the truth, that I met you during one of my candle-making classes. I told him I could get your number from the class registration, which is also the truth, because I could get it from there it I didn't already have it."
Iukekini laughed. "That works!"
"I have to get back to work. Will I see you later?"
"I hope so. Why don't you come over as soon as you get off work? I'll grill some steaks if you will make one of your fantastic salads."
"Sure, sounds great to me. I get off at four today so I'll meet you at four-thirty. I'm not working at Candle Crafts so we can spend the whole evening together."
"Awesome. See you later. I love you."
"Love you too. Bye." As soon as he got back to the station house Aaron was informed that the Chief wanted to see him. He knocked on the Chief's door.
"Oh, Aaron. Good. I talked with the brass and they're in favor of the joint training, so as soon as you can get that number for me, I'll contact the HFD Battalion Commander and see if we can get something set up."
"I already have the number, Chief. I went by Candle Crafts on my lunch break and called the guy. Here's the number." He gave the surprised Chief the number.
"That was fast. You must be bucking for NCO of the month!" The Chief joked.
"Just doing what I can to save lives, Chief." No sooner than the words came out of Aaron's mouth the alarm went off. By the time Aaron got back to the station house it was almost five-thirty. He quickly showered and changed, jumped into his car and headed out, calling Iukekini on the way.
"Aaron, where the hell are you? I thought you were going to be here by four-thirty." Iukekini demanded.
"I'm sorry baby. We had a structure fire in base housing, a total loss. Fortunately nobody was home at the time. I'm on my way now. I'll be there in ten minutes."
"Okay, baby. I'll start the charcoals and have a cold beer waiting for you."
"Thanks, baby. I'll need it. I have some good news to share when I get there. See you soon. I love you."
"I love you too, Aalona." Iukekini responded, using the Hawaiian equivalent of Aaron's name.
A few minutes later Aaron joined Iukekini on the balcony of his apartment. After a long hug and passionate kiss, Aaron shared his good news. "The top brass are all in favor of the joint training. He's going to call your Battalion Commander about it."
"That's great news. That'll give us the excuse to hang out together in public without raising any suspicions."
"Something occurred to me on the way over here. We didn't need to go this route, although I think it's a needed thing. Remember where we first met?"
"Yeah, we met at Candle Crafts my first time there...ah, I see what you're getting at. We met under legitimate circumstances that no one can be suspicious of. We struck up a conversation over the candle you had been given with your Firefighter badge number."
"That's true. I had forgotten that it was on my desk that day as an example of one of the many things you can do with candles."
"Tomorrow's Friday. Are you working this weekend?"
"I'm off tomorrow and Saturday, but I have duty on Sunday. What do you want to do?"
"Have you ever been waterskiing?"
"No, I haven't. Always wanted to try it, though."
"I'm going Saturday. You should come along."
Saturday turned out to be a typical beautiful day and Aaron excitedly drove to Iukekini's apartment ready for some fun in the sun. Both men were excited that they figured out how to spend time together openly without any worries. Arriving at the pier where Iukekini's friend Derek, also a Firefighter, had his boat ready for some water sports. Onboard were snacks, water, fruit juices and soda, but no alcohol. Being a very responsible boater, he never allowed alcohol on his boat, not even non-alcoholic beer. If someone wanted alcohol, they had two choices: stay ashore or go without. No arguments, no compromises. Once onboard, Aaron took his shirt and shorts off, leaving himself clad only in a pair of skimpy speedos which showed off his firm, muscular ass and huge package. Iukekini had to will himself not to get hard.
While cruising around the islands, Iukekini taught Aaron the basics of waterskiing, then donned a pair of skis and showed him how to get into the water with the skis on and then the boat took off so Aaron could see how to get up on the skis. After a few minutes Iukekini dropped the tow line and fell back into the water. Then it was Aaron's turn. Being an avid surfer, he had no trouble at all and really enjoyed himself. Since that day, every time Aaron, Iukekini and Derek had a day off and the weather cooperated, they went waterskiing. It wasn't long, though before trouble brewed on the horizon.
Iukekini, one day while waterskiing, decided to show off a little. He told Derek to open the throttle wide once he was up on the skis. Since there weren't a lot of boaters out and Iukekini was an accomplished water-skier, Derek had no problems complying with his wishes. Once he was up on the skis and the throttle was wide open, Iukekini tied the tow line around his waist, raised his hands above his head and let out a long, loud whoop. Aaron looked back and couldn`t believe how reckless Iukekini was being. His anger rose so high he was seeing red. He tapped Derek on the shoulder who, after looking in the rear view mirror and getting pissed, slowed and eventually stopped the boat near Iukekini while Aaron reeled in the tow line. Neither man spoke to him as the got into the boat and they headed back to shore.
After helping Derek clean up and secure the boat, Aaron rounded on Iukekini angrily. "How often to you ski like that?"
Iukekini looked a little stunned, not understanding why Aaron was so angry. "Quite often. It's a lot of fun."
"You know, one of these days you're going to either end up in the hospital or get killed doing that stunt" Aaron said to Iukekini angrily, stalking off. If he only knew how prophetic those words were going to be, he would never have uttered them.
"Aaron, I..." Iukekini said to his retreating back. Aaron just got into his car and drove back to base.
"WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU DOING OUT THERE? DO YOU REALIZE HOW EASYILY YOU COULD HAVE BEEN HURT? AS THE OWNER OF THE BOAT I'M RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERYONE'S SAFETY. AS LONG AS YOU'RE OUT WITH ME YOU WILL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN, OR IT WILL BE THE LAST TIME I TAKE YOU OUT WATERSKIING!" Derek ripped into him. "Get your stuff and I'll drive you home. You better think long and hard about what you're going to say to Aaron. He really loves you and you scared the shit out of him."
Iukekini took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. Lowering his eyes to the ground he said in a quiet voice, "Yeah, I know. I'm sorry. I'll give him some time to cool down then I'll give him a call and see if we can meet and talk it out. I really love him and I don't want to lose him over something like this. I've seen him mad before, but never this mad."
"I think there was more than just anger. I think he might have been hurt a little that you think so little of him and your relationship with him that you'd do something as stupid and dangerous as that."
"You think so?"
"I don't know him that well, but yeah, I do. He's a great guy and I don't want to see anything split you two up." Derek replied, placing his hand on Iukekini's shoulder briefly before they got into the car and headed out.
Aaron looked at the caller ID display on his ringing cell phone and seeing that it was Iukekini, let it go to voicemail. He wasn't ready to deal with him yet. Maybe this would be a good time to go see Mitch. He thought to himself. He missed talking to his best friend. I could talk with him about that stupid-assed stunt Iukekini just pulled. I could tell him it was Cameron that did it. God I hate lying. I had to do so much of it before I came out, and to some extent I still do, switching pronouns and all that shit. I just don't want to do it anymore, but I don't have a choice. God how I wish I could talk with Andrea. I know, if I still have her card I'll give her a call later. Armed with a solution to his dilemma, or at least a way to find a solution, He drove to the hospital to visit Mitch. He walked into the hospital room only to be met by a sleeping Mitch. He decided to wait for him to wake up, so he sat in the chair. With all the sun, exercise and emotional outbursts, it didn't take long for him to fall into a deep sleep.
A short while later Mitch awakens to find Aaron sleeping in the chair next to his hospital bed. He reaches over and places his hand on Aaron's thigh then moved it up his leg, across his crotch, up his abdomen and across his nipples. A strange look of confusion crossed his face briefly just before Aaron woke up and stretched. "Hi, Mitch" he said gently, "how are you feeling today?"
"Happy now that you're here." He reached up and pulled Aaron down to give him a gentle kiss. Again, the look of confusion crossed his face briefly. "Honey, what's wrong?"
Aaron proceeded to tell him about the events of the day, but didn't mention Iukekini's name, just that he was out with friends. "I don't know what to do about it. I mean, I got so mad that he would endanger his life like that, and risk getting the rest of us in trouble."
"You need to talk with him about it, baby. If he did that to you guys, and really enjoyed it like you said, he might do it to others, and one time might end up hurt or worse."
"That's what I told him." Aaron replied as the psychiatrist walked in.
"I'm sorry, but it's time for Mitch's therapy. Would you mind coming back later?"
"Sure no problem. I'll see you later." He gave Mitch a quick kiss and left.
"Okay, Mitch, how's your day going?" Dr. Mahuani asked.
"It's really weird, Doc. When I woke up from a nap, Aaron was here, but he was asleep. I put my hand on his leg then moved it up his body. It felt weird, wrong somehow. When he kissed me, it didn't feel right."
"Why do you think it felt wrong?"
"I don't know. It was almost like kissing my best friend. It shouldn't have felt that way. It should have felt wonderful, but it didn't." He answered in a worried voice. "Could I be falling out of love with him?"
"It's possible. Things like this have been known to happen. Maybe you're starting to remember something from the day of the accident and it's making normal things feel strange. It's been known to happen. Do you remember anything from before the accident?"
Mitch thought hard. "Yes. I remember something happened between me and a friend I who had stayed overnight in my guestroom. I don't remember what happened, but it upset me so much that I needed a drink to settle down. I remember going to a bar and getting a drink. Then I remember waking up here. Could someone have slipped something in my drink?"
"No, there were no illicit substances in your blood, only alcohol. Your blood alcohol level was way, way over the legal limit, 0.23. It's a wonder you were even able to walk out to your truck and drive off. Any ideas as to what happened between you and the friend that stayed with you?"
"Well, I'm sure it will come back to you in time."
"I hope so. It's driving me nuts that I can't remember. One thing I do remember is that I rarely drink, and you can count on one hand the number of times I've been drunk."
"So getting drunk is not normal behavior for you?"
"No. Whatever it is that I can't remember must be really bad. Doc, don't get me wrong, I'm no stranger to alcohol, but I swear I've never, ever been that drunk, and I've never gotten behind the wheel after drinking."
"So what made you do it this time?"
Mitch thought hard for a few minutes. "I'm not sure, but I think I might have seen something that really upset me, but I can't be sure."
"What would upset you that much?"
"I don't know. There's nothing I can think of."
"Something at work or something at home?"
Mitch beat his fists against the side of his head a couple of times in frustration. "WHY CAN'T I REMEMBER?"
Doctor Mahuani grabbed his wrists. "Mitch, I understand you're frustrated. I know I would be in the same situation, but beating yourself up physically is not going to help anything."
He sighed deeply. "I know. It's just so damned frustrating."
"I understand. It will come in time. Don't try to force it. You'll only get more frustrated." As Doctor Mahuani said that, his pager went off. "I'll come back in a little while and we'll talk some more."
Shortly after he left, Aaron returned. "Aaron," Mitch started slowly, "we have to talk."