As Jay was driving home from work a few days later his phone rang. He pulled into the nearest parking lot and answered. "Hey, Andy. What's up?"
"Jay, where are you?"
"I'm sitting in the parking lot of a convenience store. Why?"
"I'm here at the hospital. They brought Aaron in about an hour ago. Before you jump to conclusions, he's fine, other than a bump on the head, a couple of small cuts that did not require stitches, a few bruises and a mild concussion. They're keeping him overnight for observation, which is standard procedure when there's a head injury. He's okay, Jay. No broken bones or internal injuries. No loss of memory or anything like that. CT scans and MRI were both normal. You can see him anytime you want to, if you wish."
"You're not keeping anything from me are you?" Jay asked, frightened despite Andy's reassurances.
"You know me better than that." Andy replied, slightly hurt.
"I'm sorry, Andy. It's just that the last phone call I got from the hospital..." His voice trailed off.
"Trust me, Jay, he's fine. They'll most likely let him go home tomorrow."
"Okay. I'm sorry for what I said, Andy. I know you wouldn't lie or keep anything from me. I'll head home, change and come right over."
"Not a problem, bro. See you when you get here."
Forty-five minutes later, Jay walked into the hospital. He shuddered at the memory of the last time he was there, saying goodbye to Kyle. He went up to the medical/surgical ward and approached the nurse's station where Andy was sitting, writing progress notes in a patient's chart. "Hey Andy."
"Hey." He stood up and came from around the desk. "Come with me." He led Jay to a room down the hall and motioned to Jay to wait as he entered the room. "Hey, Aaron, how are you feeling? Up to having a visitor?"
Aaron yawned and stretched. "Not if it's another reporter. I'm no hero. I was just doing my job, nothing more, nothing less."
"Oh, I'm sure you'll want to see this visitor."
Andy left the room and told Jay, "It looks much worse than it really is, trust me. He's fine."
Jay cautiously entered the room, took one look at Aaron and collapsed into a chair crying. He had a bandage wrapped around his head, covering his forehead and another bandage on his cheek with bruises under both eyes. "Jay, I'm okay. Nothing broken, just a couple of cuts and a few bumps and bruises. I'm fine." He held out his arms and Jay rushed into them. They clung to each other tightly for a couple of minutes while Jay bawled on his shoulder then they kissed gently.
"Oh, baby, are you sure you're okay?"
"I'm fine, Jay. It looks much worse than it is." The phone rang and he answered it, listening for a minute before speaking angrily into the phone. "For the millionth time, I'm not a hero and I don't want to be interviewed. I was just doing my job, nothing more. Leave me alone!" He slammed the phone down.
"What was that all about?"
"The press has been hounding me ever since I got here."
"What was all that about being a hero and interviews?"
"My station got called out to a house fire. There was a small child trapped in an upstairs bedroom. I was bringing the child down when the stairs gave way and I fell through. My mask and helmet were pulled off which is how I got the bump on the head, the bruises and the cuts."
"What about the child you rescued?"
"She's fine as far as I know. She was okay when we got her out of the building."
"You rescued a small child from a burning building. That in just about everyone's book makes you a hero, including mine, whether you want to believe it or not."
"If you say so. I was just doing my job."
Jay climbed onto the bed and pulled him close. "Well, I think you're a hero." Jay gave him a tender kiss, then snuggled up to him and they watched TV, holding each other close.
"Attention in the hospital please. Visiting hours are now over. All visitors are requested to leave at this time. Visiting hours are from ten am to eight pm. Thank you."
Jay reluctantly let go of Aaron, giving him a lingering kiss. "Call me tomorrow and I'll come and get you and take you home. I'll see you tomorrow. Sleep well, baby. I love you."
"Okay." Aaron reluctantly agreed. "Good night Jay. See you tomorrow. I love you too." Jay gave him a lingering kiss then left. I can't let him see where I live. He'll dump me for sure when he sees my apartment. Who can I call to pick me up? Nobody at work has ever seen where I live either, nor do I want them to. I couldn't face any of them again if they knew. I guess I could take a cab home. Those thoughts occupied his mind until he fell asleep. The next morning the doctor came in, asked a few questions, poked and prodded then left with a satisfied smile on his face.
Ten minutes later, Andy came in. "Good morning, Aaron. How are you feeling today?"
"Better than I did yesterday."
"Great. I have to change your dressings. I have your discharge paperwork to go over with you and have you sign and then you're out of here." Once the dressings were changed and all of the paperwork discussed and signed, he asked him if Jay was picking him up.
"No, I'm sure he's working. I'll call a cab."
"Sorry my friend no can do. It has to be either a family member or a friend. If you want to hang around I can take you home on my lunch break."
"Thanks, Andy, but I'll give him a ride home." Jay said, entering the room.
"Cool. He's all set to go, once he gets dressed." He told Jay. He directed his next statement to Aaron. "You'll have to leave via wheelchair. It's hospital policy."
Aaron groaned as he went into the bathroom to change. I don't want Jay to see that shithole of an apartment I live in. How am I going to get out of this? When he came back out he asked Jay, "Are you sure you want to do this? Don't you have anything more important you need to do?"
"Yes, I do have something very important to do. I have to take you home so you can get whatever you need to spend the day with me since I've taken the day off."
Shit! I'm not going to be able to get out of this! Oh, well. I guess it's best to get dumped sooner than later. "Okay." He reluctantly agreed. Maybe I can get him to just drop me off and I can meet him at his place. They left the hospital and headed for Aaron's apartment. When Jay saw that they were entering one of the seedier parts of Honolulu, his resolve to help Aaron better his situation strengthened in him. Jay parked behind the strip club and Aaron jumped out and rushed up the outside stairs telling Jay that he'd only be a minute.
After fifteen minutes, Jay started to get concerned. He went up the stairs and knocked on the door. "Aaron?" He called out. When there was no response he slowly opened the door. He was completely shocked at what he saw. While the apartment, if you could call it that, was clean, and tidy, it was extremely small. In the middle of the room was a twin mattress on the floor that took up almost all of the available floor space. There was a small table that barely held a twelve-inch TV in a corner with a set of rabbit ears for an antenna. What passed for the kitchen was a double-burner hot plate, a toaster oven, small sink and a mini refrigerator underneath a single counter with an overhead cabinet. The cabinet contained a single plate, bowl, cup and glass. There was no closet. What few clothes he had were hanging from hooks or stacked in a corner on a small rug. Not wanting to be nosy, but unable to stop himself, he peeked into the refrigerator and the freezer compartment. The refrigerator contained a small carton of milk, a tub of margarine, a half-full jar of grape jelly, a bag of carrot and celery sticks and a carton of eggs. The freezer contained a couple of frozen dinners. There was half a loaf of rye bread and a jar of crunchy peanut butter on the counter. That was all Aaron had in the way of food. Jay took a few pictures with his cell phone and sent them to Tommy and Andy with a text message stating that he wanted Aaron to move in with them. Tommy responded back immediately `He needs to pack his stuff and get the fuck out of there like yesterday! Give me the address and I'll come over and help him move.'
Jay stood there with tears flowing down his cheeks when Aaron came out of the bathroom after taking a quick shower with just a towel around his waist. He swallowed nervously. "Jay, what are you doing here? I didn't want you to see any of this." He said in a quiet voice, ashamed, staring a hole in the floor.
"I got concerned when you didn't come down right away. I knocked, but you didn't answer." Jay started to approach him.
Aaron raised both hands in a defensive gesture. "Don't, Jay. Since you're going to dump my sorry ass, you should do it now." He said, his voice choked with tears and pain etched all over his face.
Jay quickly crossed the distance between them and pulled Aaron into his arms. As he did so, he was able to see into the bathroom, which consisted of a toilet and a shower way too small to accommodate the six-foot-five, two-hundred and twenty-five pound muscular man. There was no sink or mirror for that matter. Aaron had hung a small hand mirror from a hook over the "kitchen" sink in order to shave with. "I'm not going to dump you. Why would you think that? Because of the way you were forced to live? That doesn't matter to me. What matters to me is that I love you and I love being with you. This doesn't change the way I feel about you one bit." He said, tenderly.
Through the tears Aaron managed to get out "Look how I live. You know I'm getting public assistance and food stamps. Why would you want to get involved with a loser like me?"
"Like I just said, I love you and I love being with you. You are an incredibly wonderful, caring, fun-loving person who's an absolute joy to be with. It hurts me to see you living like this. I want you to move in with me."
He pulled away from Jay, flopped down on the mattress and hung his head. "I don't want your pity or to be a charity case."
"You're not getting my pity, only my love, and you are not a charity case to me. You're my future husband." Aaron's head shot up and he looked at Jay, stunned. "Yes, I said it. You're my future husband. I want to spend the rest of my life with you, which means I want us to move in together. If I have to move in here with you I'll sign the house over to Tommy and Andy in a heartbeat and move in with just the clothes on my back, although I think we'd be more comfortable at my place."
"You're not serious."
"I'll show you how serious I am." He flopped down next to Aaron, pulled him into his arms and kissed him passionately. "Now that I have established my motives, when is your lease up?"
"It's a month-to-month lease that automatically renews itself."
"Call your landlord right now and turn in your notice, then get dressed and start packing your stuff. You're moving in with us."
"What about Tommy and Andy? If they saw this and knew about my financial situation they wouldn't want me around."
"They already know." Jay got out his cell and noticed that he had another message. Strange, it didn't even beep. He checked the message. It was from Andy. `Get him the fuck out of that dump now! Give me the address and I'll come over when I get off work in a few minutes and help move his stuff to the house with us where he belongs.' Jay showed Aaron the message, then the one from Tommy earlier. Aaron's eyes flashed with anger. "I know you're pissed at me and you have every right to be. I had no right to violate your privacy like that, but it was the only way I could think of to convince you that we all want you to move in with us, and that we don't care if you have two cents or two million dollars to your name. We love having you around. I love you. Can't you see that?" Jay asked, tears beginning to form in his eyes.
"I love you too, Jay. The truth is I'm scared. What if it doesn't work out?"
"It will work out. Sure, we're going to have arguments, just like any other couple, but we'll work through any problems that arise. Don't you want to be with me?"
"More than anything."
"So get dressed and let's start packing."
"That won't take long. The only thing that belongs to me here is my clothes, food, toiletries and a few odds and ends. Everything else was here when I moved in.
"Do you have anything to pack your clothes in?"
"I have a couple of garbage bags."
"Two garbage bags will pack all of your clothes?"
"All I have for clothes is what you see, with the exception of my firefighter uniforms which I keep in my locker at the firehouse."
"Okay. Why don't you get dressed while I pack up your clothes? You can pack what food you want to take and everything else and we'll be out of here. I'm going to ask you a question, and I want you to be honest with me. How much do you make a month after taxes?"
"After taxes and deductions eight-hundred. My rent and utilities are seven-hundred and fifty a month."
"Well, guess what? Living with us, you'd be able to get off public assistance and food stamps, have your own suite unless you want to stay with me in mine which I hope you will, and you'll only be paying one hundred and twenty-five dollars a month. The rest of the money will be yours to do with as you see fit."
"That wouldn't be fair to you guys."
"Why would it not be fair?"
"Because I'm getting public assistance. If I move into your place, I'll lose everything."
"Baby, if you move into our place, you won't need public assistance and food stamps. Tommy, Andy and I each pay Tony one-hundred and sixty-seven dollars a month for electricity, gas, water, sewer, garbage pick-up, cable, maid service and grocery delivery service. If you were to move in, each of us would pay one-hundred and twenty-five dollars a month, which you would easily be able to afford. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to support yourself again, to be able to go out to Burger King if you wanted to or go see a movie without having to scrimp and save? Wouldn't you like to have a place where you could invite your fellow firefighters over for a cookout and a day at a private beach?"
"That would mean more to me than you could possibly imagine. It would be like a dream come true. I just can't accept the fact that you would want someone around that's been getting public assistance and food stamps. Most people around here consider me lower than scum because of that."
Jay let out an exasperated sigh. He called Tommy. "Hey, it's me. Aaron won't move in with us because, according to him, we won't want him around because he's lower than scum on account of he's been getting public assistance and food stamps."
"Let me talk to him." Tommy ordered.
Jay handed him the phone. "Someone wants to talk to you."
Aaron looked at Jay apprehensively then took the phone. "Hello?"
"Aaron, if you don't pack your stuff and move into our house immediately, Andy and I are going to get directions from Jay, come over there, hog-tie your ass and drag you here if we need to. We don't give a rat's ass that you're getting help from the government. All we care about is that we love you and enjoy having you around. That's all that matters to us. Actually, from what we've seen, you're not living you're merely existing, and that's unacceptable to us. I for one would love to see you return to the life you told me you once had with Iukekini, the same life you could have with Jay. The life we all want for you. You give so much of yourself to others. You work a very stressful job with long, hard hours and you need a place where you can come home to, kick back and relax. You can't relax where you live now. You don't have anyone you can talk to or vent to when you're stressed. It's no wonder you used to go out and get drunk so much. I'm actually surprised that you're not an alcoholic."
"Sometimes I wonder if I am."
"Do you need to get drunk to have a good time? Do you start drinking first thing in the morning and need to drink throughout the day in order to deal with day-to-day life?
"Then you're not an alcoholic, just somebody that needs love and caring people in his life."
"But what about Andy?"
"Somehow I knew you were going to ask that." Andy's voice came on the line. "What Tommy said applies to me as well. Do I need to go back to the hospital, find your address in your medical records and come over there and kick your ass all the way home? Concussion or not, I will."
"You all are serious aren't you? You really want me to move in with you?"
"Yes, we do." All three men chorused.
"Okay, I guess I'm moving then. I just don't know how to thank you guys for this. I can't believe this is happening."
"Aaron needs a hug. I'll talk to you guys when we get home." Jay hung up and pulled the tearful Aaron into his arms. "Believe it, baby. You're life is about to change in a big way. First thing you need to do is call your slum lord and tell him you're outta here. Have you given him next month's rent yet?"
"Good, because after we get you moved in we're going shopping."
"Whatever you want. When was the last time you went shopping just to go shopping?"
"It's been a long time. I could really use some new clothes. The clothes I have now are so old most of them have holes in them."
"Okay, so here's what we're going to do. Pack everything up and when we get home we'll sort through them. Those that you don't want and are still in good condition can be donated to Good Will. The rest can be thrown out. Then we're going to go buy you a complete new wardrobe and by we I mean Tommy, Andy and me. Consider it a moving in present."
"Are you sure you want to do this? You haven't even asked them."
"Believe me they'll jump at the chance. Those two love to go shopping. You know the expression `shop until you drop'?"
"Well they'll shop until we drop."
Aaron laughed as he loaded the last of his belongings into a bag. Tossing the bag over the shoulder he dropped the keys on the counter and walked out the door without looking back. He threw the bag into the trunk of his car. He kissed Jay and said "See you at home. God I love the sound of that."
He dropped to the ground as a rock hit him in the back. "Fucking faggot!" yelled a large thug as he approached Aaron with a club.
"I really don't think you want to do that" Jay warned as he pulled out his ID and cell phone.
"Yeah, what are you going to do about it, faggot?"
Jay unlocked and reached into a locked box in the back of his SUV and pulled out his weapon, pointing it at the man. "Arresting you for assault for starters. Drop the club and lay on the ground, face down." He read the man his Miranda rights as he handcuffed him, pulled him to his feet then used a second set of cuffs to secure him to a nearby fence. "Baby, are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine." Aaron stood up, a little more than slightly shaken.
Jay got out his cell phone and called for the police and the paramedics, which met with protest from Aaron. While waiting for the police to arrive, he retrieved a roll of plastic wrap from his SUV and wrapped the rock up in it, being careful not to touch it. When they arrived, he gave them a rundown on what had transpired. "I read him his rights, but I strongly suggest you read him his rights again in front of witnesses so he can't claim he wasn't Mirandized. This is the rock he hit Mr. Suarez with." He handed over the rock. When the paramedics arrived, he had them check over Aaron. "You're bleeding, baby. You need to be checked out to make sure there are no broken ribs or vertebrae."
Aaron started to protest again but then realized that if he suffered any spinal injury, which might not be felt right away, it could end his career as a firefighter, a job he truly loved. He nodded and allowed the paramedics to backboard him and load him into the ambulance.
"Let me have your keys and I'll have Tommy or Andy drive your car to the house. I'll meet you at the hospital. I love you, baby."
"I love you too." Aaron responded as he handed the keys to Jay who locked the car and followed the ambulance to the hospital.
Once there he called Tommy and filled him in on what happened. Shortly he and Andy arrived and they waited for news. Fortunately, the MRI showed nothing broken nor any damage to Aaron's spine. His injuries were confined to a small cut on his back which was disinfected, stitched and bandaged. He was released into Jay's care. They drove home, stopping by Aaron's to pick up his car.
Later that evening, after moving Aaron's stuff into the house, Jay stood alone on the beach, looking out over the moonlit waters. He looked up into the night sky. "Well, I talked with our kids. They're very happy for me and can't wait to meet Aaron. Thank you, Kyle for sending him to me. I feel like my life is finally back on track. I will always love you and miss you, but I love Aaron with all my heart and I'm finally happy again." He held up both hands and gently removed his wedding ring, placing it in his pocket to be later placed in his safe deposit box. He turned back towards the house only to be startled as he saw Aaron standing there watching him, tears flowing down his cheeks. He held out his arms and Aaron rushed into them. The two men clung to each other for what seemed like hours, but in fact was only a few minutes. As one they turned and walked back to the house, hand-in-hand. The next few days were going to be busy as they were going to make candles as Christmas presents for everyone, then they had to make a couple of trips to the airport to pick up Jay's kids.