You know the one thing I love about writer's block? When it breaks! As always, comments, questions and feedback are welcome to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org .
In chapter 23, Jerry is found severely beaten in an alley, for which Aaron is arrested. He's later set free because of statements from his Commander, First Sergeant, Supervisor and co-workers which all attest to the fact that he was at work when the attack was presumed to have happened. Aaron didn't do it. Meanwhile, Jerry, having been kicked out of the Navy and sent home, pays a visit to Justin and Alison, trying to convince them that Aaron was the one who assaulted him. They don't buy it.
Aaron gets an early birthday present – tickets to a Kyle Matthews concert at Nighttown Waikiki. While there he runs into someone he thought he'd never see again. Now on to chapter 24...
Tears started flowing down Aaron's cheeks as he looked up into the one pair of eyes he never thought he'd ever see again – Clark's. He slowly rose from his chair then suddenly threw himself into Clark's arms. "Oh, my God, Clark. I never expected to ever see you again. What are you doing here, of all places?"
After a long moment, Clark broke the hug. "I'm here on my honeymoon. Aaron, this is my husband Danny. Danny, this is Aaron."
They shook hands. "So you're the famous Aaron. I've heard a lot about you. I understand you and Clark were basically the backbone of the Fire Department at Nellis."
"And these are my best friends Cameron and Mitch." They all shook hands. "Are you a Firefighter also?" Aaron inquired looking around for Iukekini who had gone to get them something to drink.
"No. I'm an X-Ray technician. I met Clark when he brought in an accident victim. I happened to be doing portable X-rays in the Cedars-Sinai Hospital E.R. when they came in."
Iukekini walked up and handed Aaron his drink. "Iukekini, I'd like you to meet an old friend of mine from Nellis Air Force Base. Iukekini, Clark. Clark, Iukekini. This is his husband Danny." The three men shook hands and exchanged pleasantries.
"Old friend huh. I thought he was your ex-boyfriend." Iukekini replied with a twinge of jealousy and anger. Aaron shot him an angry `don't-even-go-there' look.
"Yes, he was. Actually he was my first boyfriend, but I already told you all about that, and the fact that he was the one who taught me everything I know about candle making."
"Clark's been trying to get me into it, but I'm not an Arts and Crafts kind of guy." Danny replied, sensing the sudden tension in the air. "I'm more of a video games person."
"I couldn't tell you when the last time I used my Wii. In fact, I think somewhere along the line I gave it away. Never really used it much since I left home." A sad note crept into his voice at the loss of yet another treasured thing lost – the hours he spent playing video games with his brother.
Clark, noticing the sadness in Aaron's voice, quickly changed the subject. "So how did you two meet?"
"I met Iukekini at this awesome place called Candle Crafts. You wouldn't believe this place. It has a retail store where you can buy pre-made candles or the supplies to make them yourself, and they even have a huge studio where you can make them right there. They have an in-house certified instructor that teaches classes as well." Aaron carefully left out the fact that he was the instructor. "We were both there one night and he was having a problem and I helped him out." He looked at Iukekini momentarily then took his hand. "The rest, as they say, is history." He leaned over and gave him a quick kiss.
"We also worked together to have joint training exercises between our two fire departments to get to know how each other's departments operate, and also how to deal with fighter jet crashes should, God forbid, one happen off-base." Iukekini added sullenly.
"That's great!" Clark replied enthusiastically, choosing to ignore the tone of Iukekini's voice. "I can't tell you how happy I am that you guys are together, and I'd love to see this candle place you mentioned. What was its name again?"
"Candle Crafts. I have an idea. I'm off tomorrow, so why don't we take you guys over there sometime tomorrow. The place is awesome."
"Aaron, I'm on duty tomorrow." Iukekini replied, not exactly comfortable with spending time with Aaron's ex.
Cameron leaned over and whispered something in Mitch's ear, who stood up. "Guys, Cameron isn't feeling very well, all of a sudden, so I'm going to take her home."
"Are you okay?" Aaron asked.
"Yeah, it's just – you know – that albatross that comes around once a month." Aaron winced at that. They all bid each other goodnight and Mitch and Cameron left, commenting between themselves on what an ass Iukekini was being and how he was getting himself into a shit storm with Aaron.
"We don't have anything planned for tomorrow. We've already done most of the touristy things. We can wait until you get off duty, then Clark and I will treat you guys to dinner." Danny said, noticing Iukekini's reluctance.
Iukekini glanced at Aaron for a moment, seeing a `we-will-talk-about-this-later' expression on his face before responding, "Sure, sounds good. How about we meet you guys here around six?"
"Perfect. We'll be here." Clark replied, a little too quickly and happily for Iukekini's liking.
"Well, if you guys will excuse us, I have to be up early tomorrow. I'm doing a ten-hour shift tomorrow." He stood and flicked his eyes to Aaron who stood as well. "It was great meeting you guys and we'll see you tomorrow." He grabbed Aaron's hand and practically dragged him out the door.
Aaron cast them an apologetic look over his shoulder. Iukekini, you'd better have a damned fucking good reason for treating them like that! He fumed.
"Wow! It looks like someone has a little jealousy issue going on." Danny noted.
"Yeah, and I wouldn't want to be in his shoes when they get home. What about you, honey? Are you okay with all of this?"
"Why wouldn't I be? I love you and I know you love me, and yes, I know you still have some feelings for him, but I also know you would never act on them. From everything you've told me about the two of you, you guys had a very intense relationship and you can't leave a relationship like that without still retaining some feelings for your ex." Danny responded frankly.
"Are you worried that seeing him again might make me want to rebuild that relationship or cheat on you with him?"
"Not in the least. You've told me that one of the biggest things the two of you have in common is your strict belief in monogamy. I trust you, you big ape. I've seen you glancing at other guys, just like you've seen me do the same. It's only natural. You've never even taken a second look at any other guys, so again I say I trust you."
"I'm glad. I love and trust you too." Clark pulled him in for a deep, passionate kiss. "You want to go back to our hotel so I can show you how much I love you?"
"Beat you there!" Danny was out the door in a shot, giggling, with Clark, who was laughing his ass off, followed close behind.
As soon as the door was closed Aaron whirled on Iukekini. "Do you want to explain to me what the fuck was that all about?" He demanded, his eyes flashing in anger. "Way to spoil the evening, asshole!"
"Sorry to have spoiled your evening. I thought it was our evening. At least it was until your ex showed up with his latest boy toy!"
"Boy toy?" Aaron asked, his voice suggesting that Iukekini watches what he says. "Are you inferring that I was his boy toy?"
Aaron stood up, not quite believing what he was hearing, but very upset over Iukekini's insinuation. "Is that what you think of me? Is that all I am to you, a fucking boy toy?" He grabbed his keys and headed towards the door. "Man I thought I knew you, but obviously I don't. Think about this. Clark taught me all that I know about candle making. If it hadn't been for him, there. would. be. no. us." He opened the door and was about to step through it when Iukekini stood up.
"Where are you going?" he demanded.
"Anywhere but here."
"Oh, going to see your old boyfriend?" He sneered.
"I hadn't planned on it, but now that you put the thought in my head, I might just do that. Someone needs to apologize to him and Danny for you being such an ass!" He walked out, slamming the door behind him. What the FUCK is up his ass? Aaron pondered as he got into his car. I probably should go see Clark and Danny to apologize, but I don't know where they're staying. Oh, well, I can tell them tomorrow when we meet up at the club to go over to Candle Crafts. Without any conscious thought he got into his car and drove over to Cameron and Mitch's.
Snuggled on the couch in front of a movie with a big dish of popcorn, Cameron and Mitch where startled to hear a knock on the door. Glancing at his watch Mitch said, "I wonder who that could be at this time of night."
Cameron was quick to reply "Ten to one it's Aaron, upset over Iukekini showing his ass at the club tonight."
"Yeah, what was up with that?" Mitch asked as he went to the door and opened it. Sure enough, Aaron was there. "Come on in, bud. What's up?"
"I'm sorry to barge in on you guys at this time of night, especially without calling first, but I just really need someone to talk to. If this is a bad time I can come back tomorrow." He turned towards the door.
"Like fucking hell you are. Sit your ass down!" Cameron ordered to which Aaron quickly obeyed. "What's wrong?"
Aaron was silent for a moment, sitting with his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. He looked up with tears in his eyes. "First I need to apologize to you for Iukekini's behavior tonight. He was totally out of line."
"You don't need to apologize for him, Aaron. If any apologies are due, he needs to apologize to Clark and Danny." Cameron reassured him as she sat on the arm of the chair and put her arm around him, rubbing his back up and down. Mitch took up residence on the other arm of the chair and put his arm around Aaron's shoulders.
"I just don't understand what's going on with him. Why is he acting this way, and is he going to be this way every time I run into an old friend? I'm not sure if I can deal with that. I'm not sure I want to. Actually, I am sure. I don't want to deal with him acting like an ass every time I run into someone I know."
"I have a suspicion. I bet he's jealous." Mitch replied thoughtfully.
"He has absolutely no reason to be. Yes, I still love Clark and always will to some extent, but he's happily married and there's no way in hell I would go after him, even if I was single."
Everyone was quiet for a moment before Cameron spoke up. "Aaron, you told me that your sex life with Clark was really intense. Does he know that?"
"Are you kidding? No way can I tell him that. He'd really go off the deep end." Aaron exclaimed.
"Clark and I are both versatile. Iukekini is strictly a bottom. There are times I really miss being topped. If I were to tell Iukekini this, all hell would break loose."
"Aaron, are you happy with Iukekini?"
"I was, but now I'm not so sure. I really don't know what to do."
"I have a suggestion. Do nothing right now. Go home and get a good night's sleep. Then tomorrow talk to him. Find out why he's acting the way he is. Maybe he's scared of losing you."
"Hmm. I hadn't thought of that." He yawned. "You're right about the sleep, though. Thanks guys for listening. Have a good night." He accepted hugs from both Cameron and Mitch then headed back to base. Tomorrow he was going to show Clark and Danny Candle Crafts and he was really excited about it.
The next day as he drove to meet Clark and Danny at the parking lot of Nighttown Waikiki, his mind was in total turmoil. What can I say to them to make up for the way Iukekini treated them? What am I going to do if he pulls the same shit when we all meet up for dinner this evening? Is this an isolated incident or is this something I'm going to have to deal with every time I run into an old friend? Man this sucks big time!
He got out of his car and apprehensively walked over to where Clark and Danny were waiting. Holding his arms out in an open gesture, he began to apologize. "Guys, I'm really sorry for the way that Iukekini acted. He was way out of line and believe me, I let him have it with both barrels."
"No worries." Danny replied.
Clark's response was "yeah, what was that all about?"
"I wish I knew. I've never seen him act like that before. Wherever it came from, it can go back and take him with it."
"Aaron, are you telling me that you're breaking up with him over it?"
"I don't know. I have a lot of thinking to do."
"Think long and hard about it before you make that decision. He's probably scared that you'll try to get back together with me."
"You know as well as I do that that's not going to happen."
"I know it, and you know it, but does he know it?"
"He should. I mean, we've talked about it. I have no secrets."
"Well, like I said, think long and hard before you make any decisions you might regret. Anyways, let's head out. I'm dying to see this place." They all hopped into Aaron's car and headed out to Candle Crafts. As they pulled into the parking lot, Clark's mouth dropped open in awe of the size of the place.
Aaron grinned, noting his reaction, which was very similar to his own when he first saw the place. "It's like the TARDIS – it's bigger on the inside." He joked.
A cheerful voice greeted them as they walked through the door. "Hi, Aaron. What brings you here today?"
"Hey Tonya. Tonya, this is Clark and his husband Danny. Clark taught me everything I know about Candle making. Guys, this is Tonya. She's one of the supervisors here."
"Nice to meet you gentlemen. So Clark, you taught Aaron everything he knows? I didn't think there was anyone who knew more than he does. Glad I was wrong."
Clark blushed and gave Tonya an embarrassed grin. "Nice to meet you too, Tonya," a sentiment that was quickly echoed by Danny.
"Clark and Danny are here on their honeymoon and I wanted to show them around. We were stationed together in Las Vegas. He's also a Firefighter and Danny is an X-ray tech." Aaron was so excited to show them around that he missed the sadness that showed in Clark's face briefly.
"Well, I don't think there's anyone outside the staff that knows their way around this place better than you do. Have fun." She replied, laughing.
"Thanks, Tonya. Okay, obviously, this is where you check out. Over here is the retail store." He led them into the store. "The thing I like about this store is that all the candles are grouped by fragrance, not by type, and everything is sealed so that the fragrances don't mix. This way when you smell a candle" he grabbed a display jar candle and pulled the lid off "you only smell the candle, not everything around you."
"This is pretty cool." Danny said. "I hate going into Yankee Candle. I get a headache just from walking through the door from all the scents. It's overwhelming."
"Same here. Anyway, over here is where you can buy supplies to make candles yourself. It's pretty cheap."
"Cool. What are these for?" Clark asked, indicating the tickets next to each item.
"Ah, yes, the tickets. Come with me." He led them out of the store, greeting the sales associate who had just come out of the stockroom, stopping in front of the studio doors. "Tonya, do you have any fifty-five gallon drums? I think I'm going to need one, possible two." He snickered.
"I'll see if I can find one." Tonya snickered back, catching his meaning.
"What do you need those for?" Clark queried.
"To catch all of your drool." Aaron replied cheekily as he yanked the door to the studio open.
"Oh. My. God. This place is..." Clark was totally stunned by what he saw.
"I know, right? Each table has everything you need, including wicks in bulk. Over here are all of the molds." Aaron pointed to the wall where all of the molds were stored.
Aaron returned the greetings from some of the customers as he explained "the way it works is that there is a usage fee of twenty dollars per hour. What you do is go into the store and get whatever supplies you need. For each item you take, you take a corresponding ticket. You take everything to the front counter where they will assign you a table. They will punch a ticket with the time you arrived and put it, along with all of the tickets from the store into a box for the table. Each table as its own box. Once you are done, the usage ticket gets time stamped again and everything gets scanned into the computer so you're only paying once, and if there are any supplies you don't use, such as a block of wax, you simply return it and you don't get charged for it. What supplies you do use are fifteen-percent off the regular price."
"That's amazing. I love that."
"There's even a classroom back there. Let me see if it's open. They walked to the back and Aaron tried to door, only to find it locked. "Sometimes it sticks." He blocked the door with his body so nobody could see him unlock it. He pulled it open and ushered everyone inside.
"This is like a miniature version of out there." Danny observed. He looked at Clark who was standing there with his mouth hanging open, staring at the wall.
"What the fuck? How..."
"The owner is a certified master instructor and she was able to get me certified. As you have probably no doubt guessed, I'm the instructor."
Clark grabbed him into a bear hug. "Aaron I'm so proud of you."
"Thanks, but I couldn't have done it without you. I wasn't kidding when I told Tonya you taught me everything I know."
Seeing the door to the classroom open and knowing that nothing was scheduled for the day, Grace walked in. "Aaron? Hi. What brings you here today?
"Hi, Grace. Grace, I'd like you meet Clark and Danny. They're here on their honeymoon and I wanted to show them the place. Clark, Danny, this is Grace. She owns the place."
"Nice to meet you Grace." Clark and Danny chorused.
"My pleasure." She turned to Aaron. "Is this who I think it is?" She asked, indicating Clark.
Aaron grinned broadly. "Yes it is."
She pulled Clark into a huge hug. "It's so great to meet you. I owe you a debt of gratitude that I'll never be able to repay." A couple of tears slowly fell as she released him. "Aaron has been a godsend. He's made a dream of mine come true. I've always wanted to have classes, but I never had the time. Aaron's been awesome. Since he started teaching the classes and helping customers in the studio we've had a dramatic increase in business.
"That's awesome to hear. You know, I've never seen a place like this before. I love it. I wish there was a place like this back home."
"You know" Danny chimed in, "with your vet benefits you might be able to get a loan to start a shop."
"You know, I probably could. I would love to run a place exactly like this." Clark turned to Grace. "Grace, would you be willing to let me open up a Candle Crafts store in San Diego?"
"Hmm. It's certainly something we can talk about. I would not be opposed to the idea. In fact, I really like it. We will definitely talk more about this."
"Wait a minute." Aaron interrupted, confused. "What about your firefighting? The last time we talked you were going for your Search and Rescue certification." This time Aaron couldn't miss the look of overwhelming sadness that crossed Clark's face. A lone tear escaped his right eye. "Clark? What is it? What's wrong?" He turned a bewildered look towards Danny, who refused to make eye contact.
In a very quiet voice, almost a whisper, Clark slowly responded. "I'm no longer a Firefighter. I can't do it anymore."
"Oh, my god, Clark. What happened?"
It was very evident that Clark was struggling to hold himself together. "It was my first actual S&R call. The building we were in suddenly exploded and I was thrown through a wall, breaking my back. I have two titanium rods holding my spine together. I can't do any heavy lifting, carrying, climbing or anything like that." This admission caused the floodgates to open.
Aaron quickly pulled him into a hug and tried to offer him comfort. Like Aaron, firefighting meant more to Clark than anything, save Danny. He couldn't even begin to understand what was going through Clark's mind at the moment. He had no idea what he would do if he couldn't be a Firefighter any more. He had no clue as to what to say, so he just held him and let him cry. Unfortunately, Iukekini chose to walk in at that moment.
"WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?" he yelled.
Aaron shot him a dirty look. "It's called comforting an old friend to can no longer do the job that meant the most to him. How would you feel if you got hurt and couldn't fight fires anymore?"
"I wouldn't be trying to jump my ex, that's for sure." He retorted angrily.
"What in hell is your problem?"
"My problem is you being all over your ex."
"I'm not all over my ex. He's going through a tough time right now and all I'm doing is showing him a little compassion. It wouldn't hurt you to do the same, asshole."
"You're calling me an asshole? Let me tell you something right here, right now. You have a choice to make. It's either him or me."
"Let me tell you something right here, right now, Iukekini. I would do nothing to interfere with Clark and Danny's relationship. You know that as well as I do. So in terms of your ultimatum, I choose neither of you. There's no way in hell I'm going to stick around and worry about you turning into a fucking asswipe every time I run into an old friend. I think it's time we went our separate ways."
"You're not serious." Iukekini replied with a twinge of fear in his voice.
"I'm completely serious."
"Please baby, don't do this. Please."
"You're leaving me no other choice. I will not have you treating my friends like this. I don't treat your friends this way. Bottom line, we're done. Now, unless you have business here at the store, don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out." Aaron turned away from Iukekini and showed Clark and Danny into his office where he closed the door. Crestfallen, Iukekini left, getting into his car and driving off, with no thought as to where he was going.
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