Hits since 2014





This book is dedicated to the following people:

To my kids Bryan and Camaya, who were patient
with my writing time.

To Shelley Sutherland (and the Bakery bunch) - Because without you, I wouldn't be here today. Thanks for taking that chance in supporting me. You don't realize how much it really meant to me.

Nancy Hayden - Girl, you are the best and I can't
tell you how much I appreciate all the work you've
done for me. I couldn't have a better editor if I tried.

To the 1st gal I ever really loved.
You made life a beautiful song,
Thanks for being there and teaching me that
love comes in many forms.





















About the Author:

Sylvia lives in Halifax NS and has 2 kids at home who are her world.  She's an avid writer and loves most forms of art and does much of her own illustrations for her book when needed.

Sylvia enjoys being outside, working on computers and is an altruistic supporter in her community and wishes more people would help those in need. She's written several stories over the years, and more poetry than she can remember. Several were published through the many schools she's attended over the years.

Sylvia is a FIRM supporter to the LGBTQ community and for all they stand for.  

Steppin' Out
The Beginning Years

Chapter 1 – In the Beginning

He cowered as the fists hit him repeatedly; he could hear the jeers of "FAG!" being screamed at him while fists and feet struck him repeatedly. He wished he would just die... No one would come down here... No one would hear his screams... He gave up, knowing being as small as he was, he had NO chance.

The last thing he remembered hearing was someone screaming, whether it was his own voice or someone else. It wasn't something he would know till he came to again. The blackness enveloped him like a blanket and all the pain went away.

Aikrii dreamed of the past, the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of his uncle, the physical abuse at the hands of his dad, who beat him once he found out his son, was gay. His mother, Marie tried to stop her husband’s abuse and protected her son. Although a bit too late, at least it was something; they both got away.

Aikrii was living on the edge wondering who would hurt him next, or if he'd cross paths with his violent father. He remembered his mother’s words;

"I'll always love you not matter what. Who you are or who you’ll become, regardless what anyone thinks. You will also find love for yourself." He was depressed a lot and finding "someone" wasn't in his agenda at the moment.

He stirred and felt the throbbing in his head, and groaned. He lifted his hand which felt like a brick was tied to it; to feel the lump he was sure he had on his noggin. He felt warmth on his arm that restrained him from moving. He tried to speak but couldn't. The soothing voice he heard wasn't one he recognized but it did stir emotions of the school where he was just beaten at, he panicked.

"Hey! Hey!" He heard.

Then a warmth covered him, restraining him lightly... Aikrii paused...someone was hugging him? He tried to open his eyes... The small slit he was able to wedge open through the bruising, was just enough for him to notice he was in a hospital. He was safe! He turned his head to see the arms that were holding him from moving. The violet eyes and red hair who he seen next to him, startled him but yet was a welcoming surprise. It was Mani, one of the senior high students he knew of. He was also one of the top martial arts students for their school. Mani pulled back and spoke.

"I didn't want you to hurt yourself any worse than those damn kids did." Mani brushed a strand of Aikrii's brown hair from off his face and continued to speak.

"I walked in on them beating you," he sighed "I put the run to them and had the school call the police; all eight of them are being charged. They nearly killed you." he said with dread and concern in his voice. Aikrii was shocked to hear him say that and in the manner, he said it. He tried to talk but couldn't, his throat hurt... he moaned and grunted...trying to get Mani's attention.

Mani knew what he wanted; he slowly raised the head of the bed so Aikrii could see and then passed him a note pad and a pen.
Aikrii wrote.

‘You saved me?’

Mani nodded his head. "Most know who I am, and they ran away pretty fast. The cocky ones, who thought they could take me on, learned the hard way." He looked at the floor.

"I despise bashers, and unfortunately the two I hurt saving you, will only be keener on beating on anyone who's not like them."

Aikrii wrote again; ‘Mirror please.’

Mani looked at him and said... "Ummm, I don't think that's a good idea Aikrii, you’re a sight for sore eyes..."

Aikrii growled and poked the page with his pen sharply... Mani got the point and realized this little fella won't back down till he gets what he wants. So he fetched the mirror.

He was thinking; ‘I lived. I am still here...why?’  He looked in the mirror that Mani passed him and then a tear escaped his swollen eyes. His face was so badly beaten the only eye he could see out of looked like a big red marshmallow. The other eye was so black it looked like someone painted his face. He had a large cut above his eyebrow, and he could see the stitches that had been put there. He put the mirror down slowly and picked up his pen and pad again and wrote one word.


Mani sadly looked at him.

"What? Why did they beat you? Why did I save you? Why did you live?"

‘All’ he wrote.

"I can only assume why they beat you. Its called ignorance and intolerance. Some don’t understand we're born this way, it's not a choice like everyone always seems to think."

Mani paused, placed his hand on Aikrii's arm and took a deep breath and continued.

"Why did I save you?  It's what I had to do out of respect of any fellow human being. It was the right thing to do." "Everyone." he stressed, "deserves respect no matter what, even people like you and I."

"Why did you live? I have no idea; maybe this is what destiny has planned for you. All you have to do now is decide what to do with the second chance you've been given."

Aikrii was stunned to hear the words, "Like you and I." He always pegged Mani as a "Jock." Boy, was he ever wrong. He just realized he judged him the same way the boys had judged him. He felt ashamed for being like that. He reached out and touched Mani's arm and then wrote again.

‘Thank you.’

The attempted smile was something that seemed to make Mani realize he found the one person he wanted to make smile even more. Aikrii's heart found the peace it had been seeking for a long time. Aikrii then fell asleep. Mani rested his hand on Aikrii's arm and very tentatively and gently stroked his head, humming to him, watching the badly beaten boy sleep.

Aikrii's mom, Marie, walked in on the tender scene and slowly backed away allowing Mani to his own accord. Her son was sleeping, she'll come back, she thought, but Mani noticed her.

"Hello Mrs. Oratii." He said as he stood, extending his hand to shake hers.

"Hi, I didn't mean to disturb you." she said.

"By all means, think nothing of it; he is after all your son first." Mani said with a smile. She smiled widely and took his hand then shook it before she hugged him fiercely.

"Thank you! The police told me you saved my boy." she said pulling back and smiling at Mani.

Mani blushed and scratched his head. “Umm, I was only doing what was right ma’am."

"You're not only handsome, you're modest too!" Marie said as she touched his face and gave him a pinch, "You're a hero in my eyes. My son has been abused enough." She looked down at her son's sleeping form and kissed his forehead gently.

"Even his own father beat him for who he is." A tear escaped her eye as she brushed the hair from his face; she continued "Parents don't beat their kids for being normal but some do when they are not what is considered the norm, where is the humanity in that?" the words rang true and with the sadness of a million spilled tears.

"Mrs. Oratii," Mani said softly, "You'll not need to worry about your Aikrii again. He will be well protected now that he knows he's got a second chance. I think he will be a lot tougher, not only mentally but physically. I’ll see to it."

Marie looked at Mani and smiled again and without a word kissed his cheek and walked from the room. For the first time in a long time Mani felt more than mere acceptance and from the woman who made him blush not only once but twice. He knew he'd see her more often and looked forward to it. He looked down at the still sleeping Aikrii and then paged a nurse.

The hospital was patient with Aikrii over the next two weeks as he healed. Mani never left his side and got pardoned from classes but continued to do his class homework and studies as needed and encouraged Aikrii to do the same. Aikrii was more than happy to have something to do since he wasn't permitted to roam since he had a severe head injury. Only when Mani was around and pushed him in a wheelchair was he permitted to go anywhere. Over the two weeks in the hospitals care had brought Aikrii closer to Mani, something he never expected to happen. He was happier for it. He even seemed to thrive and heal faster as well.

His doctors told him within a few weeks he'd be up and out of the hospital if he kept up the wonderful recovery. This enlightened Aikrii's spirits. He smiled a full smile and it made Mani's heart not only melt but ache too. Mani knew he'd be out of here soon and on his own. It made Mani wonder if he had a chance to keep him close after Aikrii was free of his hovering. His answer came that evening.

Aikrii knew Mani was crashed in the uncomfortable hospital cot next to his own bed, despite feeling safe, it hadn’t fended the nightmares from coming. Those terrifying memories; one of his uncle forcing himself upon him, the searing pain as well as betrayal. The sting of the cane from his father's harsh blows and the cries of "Fucking little faggot!"

"Die you useless little bastard!" Ringing in his ear. He whimpered and cried out in his sleep. However, his bad dreams subsided as he felt warmth envelope him. Unlike the darkness he was so use to, suffocating him; this felt good. He saw violet eyes and a subtle flash of red, followed by a smile. Arms were opened for him, welcoming him. He slid right into the awaiting arms, snuggled right in the safe sensation lulling him back to comforting dreams.

Mani had heard his cries and knew Aikrii was having bad dreams. He got out of the cot and noticed Aikrii thrashing. He crawled into the hospital bed with Aikrii and wrapped his arms around him with the heavy blanket he had with him. Aikrii calmed, he murmured soothing tones and caressed Aikrii's head. He was soothed and calmed once again. He looked down at him and felt his heart melt; he finally knew where he wanted to be. He knew his heart would break if Aikrii turned away from him now; he'd grown attached in the last two weeks. Aikrii started to cry in his sleep; Mani shushed him and stroked his head again. Aikrii awoke startled. He felt the warmth and wondered why it was there. That's when he realized there was a body next to him, he looked up and seen Mani. He smiled and snuggled in again. He murmured,

"Thank you."

Mani looked down at him and spoke in a hushed tone.

"Anytime... anytime." He lightly kissed his forehead and smiled.

Aikrii smiled back, he was accepted here and there wasn't anywhere else he wanted to be. He reached up and touched Mani's face and then slid his fingers into his hair and then down around his neck. Sliding himself up to eye level to Mani he looked into violet eyes and softly spoke,

"I mean it, thanks for accepting me. For being here, for understanding. For everything." Staring at Mani; his eyes held all his feelings, and Mani could see them all now. He felt he had gone on a trip to the moon and back in Aikrii's eyes.

He never thought Aikrii felt the same till that moment, when Aikrii's actions spoke louder than words. He slowly leaned forward, pulling Mani's head down towards him. What possessed him to do this on his own was beyond him. He was never the one to initiate anything being as shy as he was, but this felt so right. The kiss itself was heart stopping, breathtaking and caused Aikrii's heart to burst with a flood of emotions.

Mani on the other hand was so enthralled, shocked, happy all rolled in one. He encouraged Aikrii to continue. The kiss deepened, and their breaths grew heavy. Aikrii felt Mani's fingers in his hair and nipped his lip in excitement. Mani chuckled before pulling back.

"Oh! I'm sorry if I hurt you." Aikrii stammered, dropping his eyes to Mani's chest.

"Not at all!" He said chuckling and raising Aikrii's face to his. "I'm just thrilled to see you being so free, lively and well, happy. It's nice to know I wasn't the only one getting attached."

Aikrii blushed and stammered. "I-I'm not usually this...ummm... at all."

"Doesn't matter," Mani said with a smile in his heart and a grin on his face. "Man, you’re cute when you blush!"

Aikrii laughed loudly and then yawned..."I-I'm getting tired again."

He pulled Aikrii forward and kissed him again on the forehead and snuggled in, both fading into a blissful sleep. That's how the morning shift nurse found them, curled up together with Mani wrapped around Aikrii like a security blanket.

Smiling, she pulled the curtain around them, so they could have some privacy. She contacted Aikrii's doctor and asked when he was allowed to go home, she figured the couple would enjoy some alone time outside of hospital walls. The two men were discharged that day, hands clutched together, both Steppin' out into the sunlight to face the world together. Mani wrapped his arm around Aikrii's shoulder as they walked to the car lot.

Chapter 2 – Baby Steps

"Car's this way," he said pointing in the general direction of the Dixon Hospital parking lot.

"You have a car!?" Aikrii said with awe.

Mani threw back his head roaring with laughter "Yes my dear, I do."

The sleek Mustang was quite a shock to Aikrii; he figured Mani for a Volvo kind of guy and said it out loud...

Mani hooted again he was so thrilled at Aikrii's openness. He one armed hugged him again swiftly planting a kiss on the side of his head and kept walking with his arm over his shoulder to the cars door. Aikrii was totally overwhelmed with the flooding of emotions he was experiencing which caused him to giggle, just as Mani slid into the driver’s seat.

"What's so funny?" Mani asked puzzled.

"EVERYTHING!" Aikrii squealed with laughter, gasping before continuing. "I SOOO have to be dreaming; I mean this is totally fucked! I almost died; I get rescued by some Jackie Chan type hero. I'm whisked away in an amazing car, Damn it someone pinch me so I can make sure this is in fact reality!"

Mani stared in total shock at the young teen next to him. "You're really not use to this are you?" he said with a sad tone in his voice as he reached over and touched Aikrii's cheek.

"No." Aikrii muttered and slouched, his head looking at his worn boots.

"Well let’s get things started then and prove to you your not dreaming" Said Mani before he soundly pinched Aikrii's ear, with a small chuckle he watched the boy jump and yelp.

"What the hell!?" he shouted and looked at Mani totally confused.

"You said pinch me...only doing as requested" Mani said as he turned the key in the ignition and backed out of the parking spot.

"Now that that parts over lets continue; that is IF you’re sure you're not dreaming now." He looked at Aikrii and smiled.

Aikrii relaxed then burst with laughter and they took off for Mani's apartment in Clayton Park, the posh part of downtown Halifax.

Aikrii couldn't believe his eyes as he walked into the Acadia Palace apartment complex. He wolf whistled.

"WHAT! You live here!?" Aikrii said in total amazement. "How in the world can you afford such a beautiful place not even to mention by yourself?"

Mani looked at the young man before him and was stunned to see the sheer awe, amazement and the obvious beauty this young fella saw around him. He was happy to see him smile.

"Do you remember the schools international championships we had for our Tai-kwon-do tournament?" he asked Aikrii.

"I won a lot of money and a sporting contract from that competition. I put it aside for my own business. I'm a photographer. I own my own studio. It’s right next door."

"Do I ever! You kicked ass that day! You were freaking AMAZING!" He said with a gleam of sheer pride in his eyes.

"You own your own studio? Care to show me?" Seeing that pride in his eyes made Mani very happy. After they entered his unit, he walked over to Aikrii and put his arm over his shoulder then walked him to the balcony. He opened the door and showed him the view; he got the response he expected, a gasp of sheer delight.

"Your comment about me being totally amazing when I did that fight kinda makes me feel just like you did the very moment you seen the view from here...I hope you get that."

Aikrii looked at the beautiful violet eyes smiling at him. He nodded his head yes. He realized he made Mani feel good about himself as much as Mani made him feel good too. He blushed and that was all that needed to happen. Mani loved it when he blushed, it made Aikrii seem so innocent and sweet. His blushing hugged Mani's heart making him feel warm inside. Both hands came to Aikrii's face cradling his cheeks in his hands, Mani kissed him swiftly.

Aikrii knew it was coming as soon as his cheeks turned red he knew, he melted. He slid his arms around Mani's waist, one sneaking to his pants pocket, pulling him closer. He felt his arousal; the heat resonating from them both would cause a round of forest fires easily.

Mani picked Aikrii up by his hips. Aikrii's response was to snake his legs around Mani's waist. Mani walked back inside, over to the big couch in the middle of the living room, caressing and kissing Aikrii the whole way. He was boiling now and stumbling. Aikrii was getting more demanding and Mani was over joyed at his eagerness.

Mani had to slow down as not to drop Aikrii, he did after all JUST get out of the hospital and he didn't want to see him hurt again. Aikrii groaned in disappointment when Mani broke contact with his lips.

"Shhh." Mani said to the pouting lips "I don't want to drop you silly."

Aikrii decided to get Mani to jump and bit him on the neck, instead the response was a yelp and a giggle and a good firm butt squeeze.

Sitting down Mani relaxed with Aikrii straddled over his lap. Letting Aikrii lead, Mani went with the flow. Aikrii was overly excited and in his zealous rushing and euphoric state. He ripped Mani's buttons clear from his shirt, his lips finding his mid-drift and licking his way to his neck, making Mani squirm. Aikrii grabbed Mani's wrists as he arched against him, panting and groaning, he moaned;


Aikrii was grinning from ear to ear; he was so sure that Mani was reaching near climatic release. He reached down for his belt, and that's when Mani stopped him. Nearly breathless and gasping; with utter restraint he said,

"Not yet my young stud muffin. Not yet." Smiling and sweating he kissed the shocked and puzzled face of his new boyfriend. Aikrii pulled back...

"Awe please?" Aikrii said with hurt in his voice.

"Out of respect for you." was the only words he muttered. He wrapped his arms around Aikrii who was shocked to hear that...The only one who ever really respected him was his mom and he never really counted that for much, but this was totally new to him. It made him feel ... weird.

The leather couch's upholstered surface vibrated in response to Mani's side way sliding with Aikrii wrapped in his arms. Aikrii's rested his cheek against Mani's bare chest. He took a deep breath, taking in the smell of polo cologne, he relaxed, and realized his rushing wasn't something Mani would take advantage of. He was glad someone respected him enough to make him slow down. They fell asleep in each other’s arms.

It was about 9 pm when the phones shrill and continuous ringing brought them both back to the waking world. Mani reached over Aikrii’s head to the table at the side of his couch. He fumbled for the phone, not wanting to break the warmth he had with Aikrii, who was still cuddled against him.

"Umm..he-hello..?" Mani mumbled sleepily.

"Oh! Sorry Mani honey! I didn't mean to wake you." he recognized Marie's voice immediately. He smiled as he looked down to the brown head nestled against his chest.

"It's quite OK Marie; do you want to talk to Aikrii?"

"Oh, he's there? I just got off work and didn't know for sure what had happened; the hospital said he'd been discharged." The sound of relief in her voice made Mani feel guilty for not calling her sooner.

"He's safe and sound here, sleeping away. My sincere apologies for not calling you sooner. I can wake him, if you want." He said with a smile as Aikrii moaned and rolled over and pushed his bottom against Mani's groin.

"I trust you to keep him safe Mani. Tell him to call me in the morning, if he's not back to class. OK? My love to you both." with that, she hung up.

He had grown to adore Aikrii's mom and learned a lot about Aikrii's harsh past. He also understood why Aikrii had given up so easily when the gang of teens were beating on him. The memory of the beating, flooding back to him like it was yesterday.

He knew of Aikrii, from school. The meek computer whiz kid, who had invented a special program that could help some of the schools disabled students, do school work more effectively. He had admired him from afar. He hadn't been aware that Aikrii was like him; it was only during the beating that he found out.

He had heard the jeers of "FAG!", being screamed from the schools mud room that wasn't used as often as it use to be. It was also one area that didn't have the walking campus police frequent for security. Good thing it did have cameras which caught the whole thing, unwatched mind you.

Mani had gone down to see what was going on; hearing the blows landing on a small body. He recognized immediately, it was Aikrii. Mani remembered screaming, "NO Stop!" on top of his lungs. He remembered seeing four of the boys running. He knew who they were; he also noticed one of the boys who was actually a part of the gay community, in among the boys doing harm to Aikrii. He clued in at that moment that, that particular assailant, hadn't outed himself to the rest of the "posse" who was wailing on poor Aikrii.

Two of the bigger boys who were in grade eleven and didn't know who Mani was, tried to attack him with severe consequences. The first fella got a round house kick to his face and lost five teeth, as he fell to the floor out cold. The second fella got a kick to the ribs and then his feet swiped from under him; hitting the floor with a sickening whack. Striking the concrete at that height, at that speed, caused his jaw to shatter. Mani screamed once more, the last two kids ran faster than the first four, screaming he was going to kill them. By then others had poured down the stairs to see the fight.

They stopped the last two who tried to run. The police had shown; along with the principal. Mani was at Aikrii's side by then and was cradling his head, crying and talking to him. He remembered breaking down right there; screaming at the two boys who were still there from the beating. One, he had sparred with during his matches.

"I pinned you when we practiced for the school tournaments. Does that make you a fag because I touched you?!" he yelled. "WELL DOES IT?!" the boy who was now cuffed, cringed and turned away from his former sparring and class mate.

"WHY do people always assume anyone who is gay is a bad person who needs to be killed off like some rabid animal?" One of the girls in the crowd stepped forward and walked over to Mani; she put her hand on his arm and passed him a sweater to cover his friend.

"You were very brave to stick up for your friend. I don't think any less of you; gay or not." she said with a frown on her face, while she looked over Aikrii and took his vitals. She backed away when the paramedics showed. She told them his heart rate and other vital stats and let them take him in the stretcher. Mani didn't want to see him go; he was pretty upset, but the one person who was there to help, held onto his shirt as they loaded Aikrii into the ambulance.

"Come on, we'll go to the hospital to see him. OK?" Cleo was the girl who’d helped that day. The one person who stepped forward and without prejudice, did what was right.

"I have to get money for the bus." she had said.

"I have a car." he said "We can drive."

"Are you sure?" she asked, looking at the now slowly calming Mani.

"Yeah; I have to stop at the police station anyway on the way there." he said, dreading the thought.

"Yeah I heard about that part." she said, cringing at the thoughts of what he would have to endure for hurting the two boys who had hurt his friend. "If it's any help, I can tell them what I saw."

"I think the police will be interviewing anyone who was present. I'm sure this isn't the end of this whole ordeal."

Mani had been right, for the two weeks while Aikrii was recovering the police had interviewed about 30 students, not including the eight boys who were mainly being charged with attempted murder. If it hadn't been for the video surveillance tapes; Mani would probably also have been serving time in the near future, but the tape showed he only responded when he was being attacked; done out of self defense. The police spoke to Mani one on one on three separate occasions. They were trying to get all of the events that happened. They wanted a solid case against the eight teens involved and the prosecutors were going for adult court.

Mani knew tomorrow morning would be a brand new start for Aikrii. Where it would go from there was up to both of them. Hopefully with their parents support as well. Together they could make things better, not only for each other but others in their community. Mani looked down onto the silky brown head nestled against his chest.

Shifting he managed to maneuver Aikrii into his arms. Being as light as he was, Mani managed to get him to bed without waking him. He laid him down on the king sized bed and covered him with the white duvet.

Mani wandered out to his kitchen and looked into his fridge for something to eat, but the fridge's contents were sparse. Looking at the clock he noticed it wasn't that late.

"Ummm..." he murmured to himself "Food, a growing boy needs food..."

He headed out the door, leaving a note on the fridge, "Gone to get grub, back in a few." He even drew a little heart on the note, smiling and whistling, he headed to Sobeys; their local grocery store.

Chapter 3 – Security

He yawned and stretched, he could smell polo, musk and a clean smell of fresh linens. He looked around and mused, Ummm...must be Mani's room.’ He got up and went to the bathroom and used the facilities. He looked to the back of the toilet tank and noticed his own toiletries bag was on the back of it. Reaching for it, he rummaged around and found his toothbrush. His mouth felt like a tar pit. He brushed his teeth, and then looked into the cabinet. He saw Mani's polo cologne and a few other odds and ends, but he noticed a full space below totally cleared out, except for one thing, a note that said: For your stuff if you want. Aikrii's heart skipped a beat he felt wanted and it was so new to him. Smiling, he placed his toothbrush on his designated shelf and then the rest of his stuff.

He wandered into the kitchen, passing the burgundy leather sofa. Flash backs made him blush and groan, at the pressure he had building in his groin. He looked around and noticed it was really quite. Where was Mani? The note on the fridge answered his question. He wandered back to the sofa and spotted the TV. Now that he was rested, he really didn't need sleep now... he looked at the clock.

"Oh shit!" he said out loud, "MOM!" reaching for the phone he dialed her number and let the phone ring. She answered at the fourth ring.

"Mom, I'm SO sorry!" he stammered rapidly. "I totally forgot to give you a call and then I flaked out on Mani who's gone to get food for us."

He heard her chuckle and was a bit confused. "Mom?"

This was unusual for her; she was always so overprotective of him since his dad left.

"Hunny; it's quite OK; I know where you’re at. I was talking to your darling earlier."

Blushing he responded like a typical embarrassed teen. "Mom, come on now...darling? OI!" rolling his eyes, he flopped onto the couch.

"Don't flop dear. I'm sure Mani's wonderful sofa won't stand up to the rough and tumble nature you're so use to dishing out."

Aikrii let out a strangled squawk... "WAIT! WHAT? You've been here?!"

"Most certainly." she replied calmly. "I'm sorry baby but I had to make sure you were going to be safe. He knows a lot about you and he really cares about you. I just wanted to make sure you were going to a safe place that's all."

"Mom, he saved my life. How much more safe can he possibly be?" He asked her, confused and shocked at the same time.

"Can't be too sure about my baby." she said; then she dropped the bomb.

"I had to for a good reason." she said, the inflection of her voice was enough to make the hair on Aikrii’s neck, stand on end.

He knew immediately what she was going to say... "NO! No... no." he said, "Not him… He can't be!"

“I'm sorry sweetie; they let him out last night.” She sobbed. "I was hoping they wouldn't parole him but he's served his time."

He knew this day would come; it's been nearly a year. The courts only gave his dad a year for smacking him around. Something Aikrii found appalling but, the law was the law. He only had to serve two thirds of his sentence and he's done that already. He said his goodbyes to his mom and told her he'd call tomorrow to let her know what was going on.

He leaned forward on the sofa, taking his head in his hands, and sobbed. Mani walked in at that moment, and was totally overwhelmed by the sheer feeling of dread; he had wash over him, seeing Aikrii crying. He put down the bags of groceries at the door and walked to him; kneeled down in front of Aikrii, pulling his hand from his wet face. Aikrii being embarrassed, turned from Mani, but he refused to let him hide.

He placed his hand on the side of Aikrii's face and turned him towards him. Looking into his eyes, searching for what was wrong. His eyes asked the question he wanted to know... He got the answer he wasn't quite expecting. Aikrii sobbed "They let him out last night…"

He slumped onto Mani's shoulder sobbing and shaking like a leaf. The realization dawned on Mani, ‘Damn it!’ he thought. He knew the story about Aikrii's dad and what he had done and he also knew the man was vindictive, not to mention what he was capable of. He put his hands on Aikrii's shoulders and gave a slight push to bring him face to face. The words he set forth to Aikrii were serious and honest and the scariest he had ever said to anyone.

"Aikrii, listen to me OK... I really care about what happens to you, and I'll be here if you need me. So for now, if you want you can stay here but I have to warn you, I'm not always home. School and studio take up a lot of my time, along with the lessons I give to some of the kids from our local boys and girls club. If you can handle being here sometimes by yourself then you can stay." He searched Aikrii's eyes to see what he'd say.

"I think my mom already knew you'd say this to me, didn't she?" he mumbled.

Mani cringed and thought ‘Damn!’ again.

Mani looked at Aikrii; he ran his hands through Aikrii's hair, stopping by his ears. Cradling his cheeks in his hands. He looked deep in Aikrii's eyes and Aikrii saw the tears forming in Mani's eyes. He gasped, and raised his hand to his mouth, it then dawned on him.

"You knew this would happen! My mom and you planned this, didn't you?" he said.

"I won't lie to you Aikrii, I offered. As soon as your mom mentioned that his release date was coming. I just didn't expect it so soon. I invited her over here to see the place, so she knew you had a safe place to go. I care too damn much to know you could be put at risk. At least when we're at the school, we're together and you're safer with me there.”

“When we come here, you're in a secured building. No one can get in and the studio is just next door. I don't want to see you hurt or scared, understand? Neither does your mom, that's why we planned this. I adore your mom as much as I adore you. Accept the fact that we're only looking out for your best interests, OK!"

Aikrii flung himself forward into Mani's arms and hugged him so fiercely he was nearly bowled over. Catching his balance, he slowly stood up with Aikrii still dangling from his neck.

"I take it your happy with the arrangements?" He was holding onto Aikrii's waist as he manoeuvred himself back to the couch. He picked Aikrii up like he was a doll and sat down, placing Aikrii in his lap in the process. Aikrii looked up at him; still scared, a bit sad, but happy to know he had a safe place to go.

"Very!" he said firmly. He laid his head against Mani's chest and sighed.

The wonderful warm yet tightening in his chest made him feel so light headed and he started to sing, which actually threw Mani off guard. He was very surprised to hear Aikrii sing. He had a good voice too.

Mani listened to him sing the Aerosmith song, ‘I don’t want to miss a thing’ and relaxed while Aikrii softly sang the tune that he had in his heart. He looked up to Mani and continued to sing. Mani felt like he was being serenaded and actually blushed so hard he thought his cheeks were going to burn. Aikrii placed his hand on Mani's chest as he moved into the 2nd chorus.

When he got to the line … “I kiss your eyes, and thank God we're together" Aikrii kissed Mani's eyelids and backed up and still continued to sing. It was Mani’s turn to blush. He continued to listen to Aikrii; he picked up Mani's hand into his own and placed them on his own chest where Mani could feel his heat beat.

He kept singing, staring at Mani intentionally. Mani's heart had this over whelming need to love this young man. It wanted to spill forth, but too much too fast may scare Aikrii. He wanted to take things slowly. He caressed Mani's cheek with a single finger so gently it made Mani shiver and then smile.

He nestled down into Mani's arms with his hands against Mani's chest, and continued with the rest of the song. He sighed lightly, leaning against Mani’s warm cotton covered chest. He felt it in his heart. Aikrii knew what was there but thought better about blurting it out. It would be stupid, he thought. Mani finally spoke against the quiet of the night and silence around them.

"I have food. Are you hungry?"

Aikrii giggled, it was the last thing on his mind at that very moment, hungry yes...very hungry; just not for food. He sat up and looked at Mani and winked...Mani got the drift and ruffled his hair...

"Calm down now there Casanova. You'll get that hunger satisfied soon enough, you’re just gonna have to wait. For now real sustenance is in order, come!" he ordered, picking up Aikrii and placing him on the floor.

"Aww... I was comfy!"

"Hun, it's after ten in the evening, I have classes in the morning and so do you. We need food and sleep."

Mani pulled on a reluctant Aikrii's hand and marched to the kitchen with the two bags of groceries he had picked up on his way and started to go through what he had purchased.

"I wasn't too sure what you liked so I picked up a bunch of different things. I hope there's something here you like."

Aikrii saw the can of ravioli and pointed, "I'll eat that since its quick, no need to cook something big." he said.

Mani passed him the can of ravioli and asked "You sure? I don't mind. We could always cook together." He said winking. Now that comment got Aikrii's attention. He chuckled and lightly tossed back the very words he heard only moments before.

"Come on now, easy dear, you'll get that hunger satisfied soon enough. You’re just gonna have to wait for now."

Mani chuckled and tossed the dish towel he had in his hands at Aikrii. Aikrii ducked and stuck out his tongue, and skipped out of the room with his ravioli and a fork.

Mani peeked around the corner "You're not going to heat that up?" he asked sort of confused.

"Nope." he replied pulling, the tab on the can and proceeded to lick the lid slowly, teasing Mani to no extent.

Mani groaned, not at the obvious wanton display of sexual tension but at the thought of eating cold ravioli. He shivered and went back to the kitchen counter where he was making a ham sandwich.

When he was done, he went to the couch where Aikrii was stuffing his face. He made a face and asked "How in the world can you eat that cold?"

"Lots of experience of having to." he said. Stressing the “having to” part and making finger quotes in the air.

Mani cocked his head sideways looking at the precious face he saw before him. One so young who's had it way too tough.

"Why?" he asked,

"Cause mom worked nights and when my dad was around he was usually to damn drunk to cook. He'd probably would have killed us first." he said with an air of honesty that burned Mani.

"Damn!" he said.

"What?" Aikrii asked looking at him.

"Must have been really tough growing up that way huh?"

Aikrii sighed, "Yeah," he muttered. His face brightened though as he continued, "I did love going to my gram’s though." Smiling, he told Mani of the horses his grandparents had on their ranch.

"Why didn't your mom send you to stay with them?" Mani asked.

"I love my Nan and Pops, but mom only has me now to help out at home so I asked her to stay. I didn't want to be sent away." he said, "Besides if I had gone, I'd have never met you."

"You may have never gotten hurt by them assholes either." Mani said the memories of the beating are still fresh and raw on his soul, remembering Aikrii’s sweet face all battered.

"It's a price I had to pay, to get the bit of wonderful you've brought to me." He said. The young adult that was hiding in him was made apparent at that moment.

"Mature way of thinking." Mani responded smiling.

"OK, time for bed." he said picking up his plate and bringing it to the kitchen.

"Weird," Aikrii said

"What is?" Mani asked.

"I'll be sixteen in less than four days and I'm still being told time for bed." He smiled. His cocky little smile turned into an evil little grin.

Mani's eyes widened at the few ideas he thought Aikrii was thinking about. Aikrii slouched and walked, creeping towards Mani who started to giggle, turned to watch Aikrii "stalk him."

"What are you doing?" he asked with laughter tinkling in his voice.

"Playing." Aikrii said innocently.

Mani swung around to continue to his room that's when Aikrii pounced, right on Mani's back.

"Giddy up!" he said, and licked Mani's ear.

Mani let out a hearty chuckle and walked with Aikrii on his back to his... no their room.

Sliding off of his back, Aikrii flipped off his socks and tossed his shirt into the hamper to the side of the wall shelf. Shucking his jeans but leaving his boxers on, he picked his jeans up and put them over the chair and crawled under the duvet. He took a deep breath.

"Now I know why I slept so well. It smells like you."

Mani smiled crookedly at the comment. Mani crawled in beside him. Aikrii nestled in beside him and rest his head on Mani's shoulder. They both listened to the traffic on the road below and the pigeons on the roof. Aikrii relaxed as Mani stroked his hair. Mani asked;

"Are you going to go to class tomorrow or do you need more time to rest?"

There was no answer; Aikrii had fallen asleep on Mani's chest. Mani smiled at the beautiful face he had fallen in love with. He kissed his forehead, reached over and flicked out the light. Snuggled down and slept soundly for the first time in nearly two weeks.

Chapter 4 – Starting Over

At nearly sixteen, his old life had ended and a new Aikrii emerged. He dreamed, but this time they weren't so bad. He knew Mani was beside him, protecting him. His father’s face loomed with the harsh words he recalled hearing time and time again, but this time they didn't sting. This time he couldn't hear them and he smiled. He reached for Mani's hand in his dream and walked forward, fingers interlaced towards his father’s image. It made his father’s image scream so hard it shattered into a million pieces. He saw what was beyond the intolerance, a rainbow. He smiled in his sleep and snuggled in deeper. He finally understood why the rainbow was used now, as a symbol of peace.

He heard the alarm clock scream. The dream ended, but he didn't want to move. He snuggled against the warm body under his side. His wiggling caused Mani's arm to wrap tighter around his waist, as he shifted to turn off the alarm clock. Aikrii groaned at the disturbance and then blushed. He could feel Mani was stiff from sleep. Aikrii; being playful looked under the duvet and commented.

"My, my; aren't we eager to be up and at 'em this morningÉ" he pulled the sheets over his head and kissed Mani's belly with an eyebrow waggle. Mani squealed and jumped.

"Damn it Aikrii your lips are FREEZING!" He grabbed Aikrii's shoulders under the blanket and scooched him up to bring him to eye level. He was now on Mani’s belly.

"Are you going to class today?" Mani asked.

Bummer thing to ask when Aikrii was having fun. "Yes" he replied, then went back to burrowing like a rabbit under the blanket.

"Ook..." Mani jumped at the nip on his side from Aikrii's sharp teeth, and sucked in sharply when Aikrii nibbled lightly on one of his nipples. Groaning he had to move, he knew if he stayed there he'd jump Aikrii and now just wasn't the time.

"Ki!" Mani said firmly.

Aikrii poked his head up from under the sheet... "Huh? You talking to me?"

"Yes" Mani said with a grin, then continued "As much as I'd love to lay here playing with you and enjoying some good ol’ fun, we both have to get ready for class, we’ve got a long day ahead of us."

Aikrii nodded his head, sat up and straddled over Mani, running his hands down his belly making him shiver. Grinning evilly down at Mani he said,

"So you'd love to play with me huh?"

Mani gulped, he knew full well Aikrii was shy but he wasn't being so shy now. He shook his head yes. He couldn't lie to him and his body was giving him away anyway.

Aikrii kissed his neck, then down his chest, and then slid off of him. He grabbed his hand and pulled.

"Come on then, I think I tortured you enough to keep you wanting to set aside some play time now."

He winked and grinned then skipped off to the bathroom leaving Mani standing there dumb founded he looked down to the floor only to be greeted by a full saluting soldier instead.

He groaned. Man it was getting hard to hold back. He wanted him so bad!

He heard the water run in the sink in the bathroom and Aikrii poked his head out of the bathroom, with nothing but a toothbrush hanging from his mouth and his boxers hanging from his finger.

"Where's the hamper? I have to change into something clean. Oh and where are my clothes?" He was grinning from ear to ear; Mani's jaw was on the floor. Oh my god he was beautiful. It was more than he could bear. Dark and sleek, like a native warrior. Stammering, he responded.

"Ha-Ham-Hamper is behind the door; here." He reached for Aikrii's shorts and put them in the hamper, taking a deep controlled breath he commented with his eyes averted."You can borrow something of mine till we get your stuff."

Aikrii grinned knowing damn well the effect he was having on Mani and was happy to know it to. He felt good about the courage he had been mustering up.

Walking over to Mani with a minty fresh breath and naked as the day he was born, he ran fingers down his chest and said with a grin "Wanna pick something out for me?"

Mani couldn't speak he just gulped and nodded his head. He had to give his head a shake; his brain was all fuzzy. He went to the dresser at the opposite side of the room, and grabbed a new pack of boxers he has still wrapped up tossing them to Aikrii.

"First things first Ki. I can't let you go commando all day so there you can have these." Aikrii heard the nickname again and smiled. "Ki?" he asked.

"Yeah, umm if you don't like it, I'll stop calling you that." Mani said while rummaging through his closet for a few shirts and some pants. He poked his head out and showed two brown toned shirts, one dark chocolate and one light like rust. "Which one?" he asked. Aikrii pointed to the dark chocolate one, knowing the rust one would look nicer with Mani's red hair.

"I like it actually." he said.

Mani, half paying attention as his mind was elsewhere, replied with, "What? The shirt or the nickname?"

"The nickname" Aikrii said laughing, "Why Ki though?" He asked curiously.

Mani stood up with two pairs of jeans under his arm, walked over to his bed, flopped down on the end and looked at Aikrii. To hell with it. If it sounded sappy, he was just going to say it;

"I’ve come to see you as my missing Ki. You know like the key to ones heart." he said blushing as he passed him a pair of jeans.

Aikrii stood there; staring at Mani who was blushing like a fire was under his butt. He knew it was a hard thing for Mani to say. He could just tell, but he also knew it was out of sheer fear that he stammered, blushed and hesitated when telling him. That fear of rejection was always there looming.

"Oh my God! That's the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me!" Aikrii walked over to Mani, better dressed than he was five minutes ago. Standing in front of him, he looked down at him sitting on the end of the bed and just blurted out what needed to be said.

"I am going to be honest here. I think you're scared I'm going to laugh or reject the feelings you display, but you don't need to be scared around me or for me. It's because of you I'm becoming a new person. I'm braver and stronger now and if I'm your key, you’re my heart and together, we'll be one." He searched the violet eyes that were staring at him.

The tingle of happiness that flowed into Mani after hearing those words come from Aikrii's lips, well, it was a sweet delight. He leaned forward and hugged him around his hips and then stood, sliding up Aikrii's torso at the same time. Now, looking down into his beautiful green eyes he responded with a startling confession to Aikrii.

"Now I know why I've loved you from afar for so long. You’re wise beyond your years and never really gave up looking for your place in this big old world. Yes, I'm your heart, and we will work as one. You and I together, proving nothing can stop us." Mani then kissed Aikrii so gently, like a butterfly on the end of a flower, it was delicate and sweet. Aikrii sighed. He had been told he was loved; by someone other than his mother. That realization was amazing! He lingered enjoying the warmth of Mani's lips. Mani pulled back.

"If I say something that ever scares you or leaves you questioning what I mean, please ask even if you think it's stupid. Hearing you speak as wisely as you do for your young age, makes me realize I don't need to take baby steps with you. I’m certain you can handle what comes our way, and together; as a team we can manage, right?"

Aikrii nodded his head and smiled and whispered, "Always." He was still excited over hearing the words "...Now I know why I've loved you from afar for so long." and since he promised to ask if something was confusing, he asked right then and there;

"You loved me from afar?" with a smile on his face.

Mani blushed again; he ran his hand through his hair. "Yes. Since the day I realized who you were in my geeky little world actually. I'm surprised you're not up to a grade 12 level yet considering your smarts. I heard about you when the faculty announced the program you created for the schools special needs students."

Aikrii smiled and then started to talk about his reasons why he did what he did "My pops and Nan needed help. Pops is handicapped now, he can't see too well but still loves to ride. He's got friends who go with him but everyday things at home like paying bills were getting harder and harder. That's why I created the reader program and voice activated programs as well."

Mani was impressed; the necessity out of helping his family is what brought about the specialized programs he had made.

"You realize you can get that stuff specially patented, right?"

"Oh indeed, I'm actually waiting on that now. As for the comment you made about me not being in grade twelve," He hesitated and scratched his head and grinned awkwardly.

"I'm actually not in school per say at all. I am only taking upgrading right now, as I fell off in history and I needed the extra credits to complete my courses."

Mani looked confused. Aikrii picked up his kit bag and then walked out to the living room with Mani behind him.

"What do you mean upgrading?" Mani asked.

"Well like I said, I fell behind in classes, during the making of one of my programs, I lost interest in history and it went to the way side. French also got a shit kicking too, and I need it more now than ever. I can speak it but not too well. I lost those credits due to my lack of effort.

My professor told me in order to complete the credits I had received through the courses that I was taking before; I had to come back here and finish my missing credits off. Grade eleven History and French"

Mani stopped and looked. Then asked the one question that was nagging him, "What courses?"

Aikrii looked at Mani and said, "Umm, you're always pointing out how young I am so this may come to a shock to you to know, I'm in my 2nd year of programming studies over at St Stephen's University."

Mani wasn't shocked; he was floored and the look on his face proved it. "Hot damn!" he hooted. "Not only was I blessed with a cute guy, he's got friggin brains too! SWEET!"

Aikrii laughed, "So I got the brains, you got the brawn." and he winked. "I wonder why mom didn't tell you this."

"I think we each have both, it's just going to take a bit to get the brawn out of you. I don't know why, maybe she thought you should tell me." He took Aikrii's hand and they headed to the door.

"OK babe. Time to face the world." he said with a hint of laughter as they went down to the car port.

They pulled into the school parking lot and Aikrii was shocked to see a huge banner saying welcome back over the front door. No one really knew when he was coming back. He had a feeling that Mani had something to do with this. He noticed more as he continued towards his high school. There were 100's of students rallying around. Many had pickets that had slogans on them like, "Pride rules." and "Acceptance, not intolerance." There was a girl with bright purple hair passing out friendship bracelets that were rainbow colored. When she seen Mani's car, she rushed right over.

"Mani! Mani!" She squealed. She gave him a hug and a peck on the cheek and turned him around, swept her hand across the schools lawn, "So what’cha think?...hmmm?"

"FREAKING amazing!" He said gleaming.

"Ki, come here hun!" Mani said with a huge grin and then placed his arm over Aikrii's shoulder.

"Because of what happened; what you see before you is now a movement we're causing this school to notice."

Aikrii was still speechless. Five boys he knew, one who was the brother of the boy who beat him had signs that said, "Gay and damn proud of it..." He was pointing and squeaking in utter shock. He finally managed to squeak out "They outed themselves, Here?!"

Cleo laughed, and stuffed out her hand in greeting "Hey Aikrii, welcome back! I'm Cleo. I helped your boyfriend here after you were hurt." She shook his hand and then kissed his cheek.

"You're one mighty lucky fella. I know a few guys who are quite jealous you landed him." she giggled, referring to Mani.

Aikrii turned and looked at the girl dumbfounded. "HUH!?" He looked at Mani. Mani was laughing at the confused state he could see that Aikrii was obviously in.

"About twenty percent of the schools population here Aikrii, identify in the LGBTQ community. With Cleo's help we started a movement that allows them to be free of hiding, in the process a few of the guys I already knew who were out, kinda got wind about my interest in you. Some are sad to see my status go from single to taken."

Aikrii blushed and stepped closer to Mani, "So I could kiss you here, right now and not have to worry someone will try to kick my head in; again?"

"By all means." Mani said and winked spurring him on with the dare he insinuated. So being the new Aikrii he was; he did. The funniest thing happened while they got lost in each other’s arms and lips... students started clapping. Smiling, and giggling they both heard the whistles and claps all around them. Finally! Acceptance! They both knew not everyone would but this was a start.

Smiling Aikrii backed away from Mani and took his hand, "Come on, let’s go." They walked into the school hand in hand. Cleo was behind them as Nye crept in the group too on his way to class, asking if Cleo could introduce him to her other friend she didn't stop talking about. He wanted to know who his big brother was dating.

"I always seem to be the last to know these things” He whined..."Mom and dad just said he wouldn't be at his apartment much in the last two weeks so I couldn't go over as often."

Cleo whispered "Oh hun stop being a big baby!, I'm sure your brother will introduce you to his new love as soon as he's got time, right now give the poor bugger some space!"

Nye was a bit set back. His brother usually never kept to himself so much, but lately with all that had happened at the school, he noticed Mani was more reserved.

‘Maybe it's just me.’ he thought. He also realized there was a fella he knew from his chemistry class who had been interested in Mani he was going to have to let down...that is if he didn't already know.

Mani saw his baby bro out of the corner of his eye and turned, grappled onto the young small green haired head and noogied him. "AGKK!" He squawked "MANI! Bug off!" His big bro was laughing like mad. Aikrii seen the green haired boy before. He’d been with Mani at a lot of the competitions he was in; in the past. Mani stopped, let the kid loose from the headlock he had him in and introduced his baby brother.

"Ki, this green haired little twerp is my baby bro, Nye...Nye this is my boyfriend, Aikrii."

The word boyfriend flowed so easily from his lips, it seemed so natural and he didn't blush anymore but he did look at Aikrii with hunger in his eyes and it made Aikrii shiver with delight.

"Nice to meet you," Nye said, sticking out a hand while pushing his bro back into Cleo. "HEY! Nye, be good!" Cleo said shooting him a dirty look. He grinned at her and continued to chat to Aikrii.

"So you’re the fella everyone's been taking about?" smiling he threw his arm over Aikrii's shoulder, who found it quite strange to have happen but he let things be.

“I suppose so." he said not knowing where the convo was going.

"Well I guess this means you’re part of my family now. You best get ready to meet mom and dad. You'll love them!" With a pat on the back he looked at his bro and said,

"Cleo and I better get a wedding invitation!"

Aikrii's jaw dropped he was totally floored. He didn't expect to have this happen, let alone have Mani's brother accept him so easily. WOW! He laughed and looked at Mani and with a bit of cocky pride said in jest, "I suppose we could swing one more, what do ya think dear?"


"I think we'll manage; besides I'm sure mom would kick my ass if I didn't invite the whole family." All four of them giggled and hooted at the concept of Mani's mom kicking their butts.

"If she can get her foot that high." Nye squawked out between gasping laughs.

"We should really go to see my parents tonight if you want, Aikrii." Mani said to him still chuckling, “You would really adore my mom, your mom reminds me of mine, actually.”

"Sure." he was thrilled to be included.

"Well OK. That's settled. We best get to class. I can just see Mr. Dagon's temple vein popping now if I'm late again." Aikrii said. He kissed Mani's cheek, "Till later." he murmured. Turning away, he headed to his home room.

"Meet me at the car when class is done." Mani shouted back.

"OK!" He smiled thinking about what the rest of the day may hold.

Chapter 5 – Surprises

He walked into class and Mr. Dagon was standing by the board waiting for the kids to settle but as soon as Aikrii walked in everyone started hooting, whistling and chanting his name. He jumped and backed against the board. He looked at Mr. Dagon who was cheering right along with the rest of the students. He was still flabbergasted when the class calmed some and Mr. Dagon spoke.

"Aikrii; in light to everything that's happened, we’re so very happy to have you back in class. The students have taken it upon themselves with the board’s approval, to create an anti-bashing campaign. Intolerance won’t be tolerated here anymore. So as part of a special treat we have; as a whole class; decided to let today be a free day, but there's also more to come."

Aikrii was stunned, a whole day of nothing? He was still stunned when he realized it wasn't so much as of nothing as it was something more. There was an assembly planned. There was a cake in the back of the class with welcome back Aikrii on it. It was his favorite kind too so he KNEW his mom had something to do with it, since she was only a few who knew he loved maple walnut. When the kids in his class had their fill, his teacher instructed them to head to the gymnasium. They all filed out and stopped in front of the doors.  He stopped and told them to wait, slipping in, he disappeared.

"What’s going on?" Aikrii asked, a bit overwhelmed with everything. Cleo popped into the mess of everything and giggled, "You'll see" she said smiling mysteriously.

Mr. Dagon popped his head out and instructed them to join them, but Cleo covered Aikrii's eyes.

"Huh! Hey!" He wanted to see what was going on.

"Hold your horses silly," She muttered "You're as bad as your boyfriend, no patience!"

Aikrii was lead to wherever it was they were going but had no clue where, since he couldn't see a thing. He could feel the presence of many eyes staring at him. There was an aura of warmth all around him. He could feel it to his very bones and the anticipation was killing him.

His eyes were uncovered and standing before him was a whole bleacher full of students. All of them dressed in different brightly colored shirts. Each one representing one color out of the rainbow that represented the LGBTQ community.

They were all organized by color on the bleacher making a huge rainbow across it, Aikrii gasped. In the middle of the fray was a podium. There were police officers, his mom, the principal, Mani and a few other people he didn't recognize; some he did. One was Sefron from the band Flatline whom he heard sing at a school function last year. He was seated in the front of this fantastic mess and everything started.

Sefron got up, walked over to the side of the stage and his band started up. Freedom started and he recognized it as one of the most frequently played pride songs done by George Michaels. It was one of his top favorite songs and he smiled. He listened as the rainbow of students sang. He joined in while sitting there, grinning the whole time. He noticed Mani was watching him from the crowd on the stage. When the song ended the principal got up and addressed the assembly of students around him.

"It's my great pleasure to announce that today is a history making moment for our school. Even though this day was brought about because of one of the worse events any school could have had happen. We're happy to see the young man who was at the center of it all sitting in front of us, happy, healthy and smiling. Without him and his fellow classmates, friends and others you see before you; today wouldn't be possible."

The principal pointed to Aikrii, and continued;

"Because of the abuses you've been a part of and the fact that our eyes here were closed to the possibilities of the damaging effects of intolerance that some can hold towards the LGBTQ community, we learned a lesson, and unfortunately; at your expense. So in order to prove our school is willing to stop the intolerance and say thanks to you for being so brave and strong, we are dedicating this day every year to you, in your honor."

A banner fell from the ceiling; the students looked up as the principal continued.

"Today at Joseph Walker High from this day forward will be known as Aikrii's Day. This will be a day where kids of all races, religions; regardless of gender, age, or orientation to be free to be themselves. This day will also give freedom to those who wish not to participate; a choice from joining in on the festivities. There will also be more counselling and security added in order to protect more students."

Aikrii looked at the banner; it had his name on it and a line of silhouetted kids hand in hand over a rainbow. Each one was a different color each one had something different about them. He was so awed at the sheer vastness of it all. He was so happy. A lone tear escaped from his eye as he tried to hold back the feeling that welled up inside. Mani was there in a heartbeat at his side, smiling at him.

Aikrii was smiling as more tears started to fall and spoke "They did this all...because of me?"

"Yes, and you deserve it all too." Mani said holding his hand; he took Aikrii to the stage and showed him a seat. He then took the podium, and started to speak.

"Fellow classmates, I am sure know who I am." A round of ‘yes’ rang through the gyms surroundings. "I knew of Aikrii when he was featured through the faculty for creating special software for the handicapped students here at Joseph Walker. I was thrilled to see someone other than a football player getting recognized for their hard work." Jokingly, he mentioned "Not that playing football isn't hard to do. I know I couldn't do it." Laughing, he continued.

"Either way, I knew who he was. Little did I know just how impressive this fine fellow was. Many probably don't know that during his programming stages he let some of his studies go in order to help others. If he would have had the time to keep both going he would have graduated at fourteen.”

There were murmurs of impressiveness throughout the room, Mani continued his speech.

"He unfortunately didn't get full credits, but not without due cause, because of his granddads needs, he put his family first. He had focused his time instead to create a special program for those who couldn’t see; like his grandfather; to assist him, in turn that program will now be used to free many of the visually challenged in our community who need help. Now if one small 14 year old boy, at that time, could do this, I'm sure our community can learn tolerance for a wonderful soon to be 16 year old young man. Who I might add has a gift of knowledge in his noggin. He should be allowed to give freely to his fellow students. Without fear of retribution; because of a preference he has. Here's hoping his last year here will be a better one, he will be continuing onto his 3rd year of University, come this September."

There was a murmur of

‘University? Oh my!’

That's when Aikrii's Professor, Liam MacDonald from the St Stephen's University, walked on to the stage taking Mani's spot. Mani sat down beside him and took his hand and listened to Aikrii's professor.

"He was a mere boy of 14 when I met him. So small I thought that the school that had referred him to me had been mistaken, but I still took an interest in what he had done so l listened to what had to be said."

He pushed his glasses up on his face and read on.

"Aikrii was an impressive boy with high hopes and dreams only some of us ever manage to obtain. He nearly lost those chances due to a few who had no idea their actions would be the worse in the history of our local schools. It saddened me to hear of his attack. Our faculty put aside funds in his name in hopes of a speedy recovery."

Liam looked over at Aikrii and smiled "Aikrii, my dear young man, I know you’re lacking two credits but you'll get those soon enough. With all that's happened and in light of all the hard work you've done and the overwhelming support you've received, we've decided that the funds we raised will go towards your last two years at St. Stephens University. So you can finish your scholarship free of charge."

Aikrii was flabbergasted. His eyes widened, and he was once again a blubbering mess. He walked up to Liam and shook his hand then hugged him. "Thank you! You don't know what all of this means to me. I'm so overwhelmed" he hiccupped.

Mani stood by him while Liam spoke.

"You've gone through a lot. It's the least we could do." Aikrii smiled, and said thanks once again.

The band played again. ‘I will survive’ was being belted out by a girl on stage that Aikrii didn't know, but her vocals were pretty good. Cleo was singing to the words and Nye was clapping. Mani and Aikrii were both happy and enjoying the assembly.

The assembly dispersed and everyone left; heading to lockers and other places. Nye and Cleo along with Sefron met up with Mani and Aikrii.

Walking to their lockers, Nye asked his big brother.

"So are you for sure coming to see mom and dad; tonight?"

Mani looked at Aikrii who shook his head yes. Mani simply said "Yes. Tell mom to set an extra plate."

Nye said fine, punched his bros arm and took off up the hall laughing with Cleo in tow who waved to them both. Sefron was beside them and shook Aikrii's hand, welcoming him back to the school. Then he had to load his equipment for his next gig, he thanked Mani and left.

Aikrii asked Mani, "Do you know him? I've heard his music before. He's good."

"Actually I know his sister Chev. She's one of my students in my Tai-kwon-do classes." he said

"Oh, OK. Cool!" Aikrii was in such a good mood, "So where to first?" he asked

"Home. I have to go pick up a few things before we go out to my parents." They walked to the car and the drive home was a peaceful event.

Chapter 6 – Growing

The two day visit with Mani's parents had been an eye opener. He learned that Mani's parents were the most understanding people he ever had the fine chance of meeting. Being able to be so laid back with them was as natural as talking to his mom and the dad he wished he had. Nye was a hoot. Since Mani had moved out he sort of took over Mani's old room with his computer stuff and music equipment. With his dog Flip at his feet, Nye had tunes pumping like mad and his parents just boogied along with it all. Aikrii was impressed when he heard Mani's dad belting out the words to a Nickelback song like it was something you'd hear from 1978. He smiled at it all. There was lots of love here and he felt blessed to be a part of it.

The bed in Mani's old room was small but it was good enough for the night they stayed. The night they were to head home, they were all enjoying plans for a party at Mani's and were curled up together in the den watching a movie. Mani's dad, Danny brought in a blanket for them.

"It's chilly tonight. I'm sure this will help some. I'm going to go down and light the fire. When are you two heading home?" he asked Mani, "You know you can always stay another night."

"Thanks dad." Mani said "We'll be heading out around nine. I have classes tomorrow and I have a photo shoot at 5. I want to get other things done for the rest of the week, besides I have a birthday present I have to get someone tonight." while he mentioned the present he looked over to a slouched Aikrii who was laying snuggled between his legs engrossed in the movie.

"Huh?" he said looking at Mani, he had no idea what had been said.

Mani laughed. "It's OK dear, watch the movie."

He looked back up at his dad, "Why don't you pop over to the house tomorrow? It’s Aikrii's birthday and I would love it if you stopped by."

"Sure. Want me to get your mother to whip up a cake?" He smiled knowing how much of a sweet tooth Mani had.

"Cake?!" Aikrii perked up at that and looked around. "Where?" He was smiling at Mani and his dad.

"Man, you have a one track mind there." Mani laughed hauling the sheet over Aikrii's head.

Aikrii popped his head out and blatantly blurted out; much to his own embarrassment "Keep doing that and my one track mind will find another track to play on!" He then remembered where he was and turned so red he ducked back under the blanket, butting poor Mani in the stomach with his head causing him to curl in reaction. Once again if they could see him, Aikrii went redder than before, since the reaction Mani had and where he was laying at, caused him to get a face full of Mani's lower extremities. He groaned in defeat.

"Ohhh damn it!"

Half sitting with a blanket over his head Aikrii sat there mumbling to himself. "Why is it I always mess up? Stupid, stupid Aikrii! Be an ass now..."

Mani and his dad both roared in laughter. His dad vacated the den while Mani took the blanket off of Aikrii's head.

"You’re far from stupid." He said as he tugged on Aikrii's arm to get him to slide closer to him.

"I can't believe I blurted that out, and with your dad here! My God! Talk about a total dork moment! I must have sounded like a deprived pervert!” He said in exasperation and throwing his hands up.

Mani laughed. He looked at Aikrii. "Dad thought you were adorable. You know he says you remind him of his baby brother."

"I remind him of your uncle..ummm...Eww?" He made a face.

Mani looked at Aikrii again and snorted trying to stifle the loud laugh he almost let out. Then in a serious but playful tone to he continued.

"I never knew my uncle. He died when he and my dad were teens. Dad says you remind him of his little bro because of your fun nature. Your honest, innocence and energy. Dad thinks if his brother had lived I'd more than likely would have been a lot like him too; with his influences. Dale was a good guy according to dad; it's just too bad he died so young."

"How did he pass?" Aikrii asked out of sheer curiosity.

Mani lowered his head.

"Back in the early 50's homosexuality was even less tolerated than it is now. He; like you; was beaten only he wasn't so lucky. He was killed and no one ever paid for the damage they did to my dad's family."

Aikrii was shocked. History had repeated itself in a semi similar way with Mani as did with his dad's own family. It was odd how fate had a way of bringing people together.

"Man, I'm so sorry to hear that Mani. I guess it would have been tough."

"It's how things happened back then. Now a day’s there’s a lot more understanding, more tolerance and acceptance. It's a shame some had to go in the name of free choices, but every war has its victims, and sadly we’re included."

Aikrii looked at Mani and was so thankful to know he was there to make Mani smile instead of sitting there reminiscing of what could have been.

The movie ended and Aikrii got up and stretched his legs. Mani still sitting on the couch hugged him from behind. Being the smart ass that Aikrii had hiding in his funny nature he bonked Mani in the nose, with his ass. He got a good nip in the butt cheek for it too. He yelped and then turned around and tackled Mani laughing like crazy, spilling popcorn all over the floor.

Both of them sprawled out on the couch. A tangled mess of legs and arms, wrestling and laughing. Mani's mom, Alice walked in. She tisked them for the mess all over the floor while they laid there a jumbled mess. Aikrii grinned and snickered and then with brazen tenacity and moving like lightning; flipped over and had Mani pinned. He started to tickle him Mani squirmed and tried to catch his breath.

"Right at his hips on his sides is where he's most ticklish." Mani's mom put in while she continued picking up like this was a normal play fight she seen her boys do before.

"MOM! Don't encourage him!" Mani gasped between squeals and wiggles as he tried to get Aikrii's hands. All the wiggling he was doing was causing some friction and he assumed Aikrii could feel the results of his playful banter.

His mom just chuckled and left the two to their play as she walked out. Aikrii's eyebrows did their evil little "I know." dance and he continued to tickle Mani making him squirm more. Through the laughter and play Aikrii got a bit over zealous and forgot where he was. Leaning down with Mani's arms pinned at the wrists he kissed him with the fierceness of a starving man.

He wanted him so badly! Groaning and trying his damnedest to not give in; Mani got swept up in the moment also forgetting where they were. Aikrii wasn't holding his wrists anymore they had snaked around his neck bringing him closer. Heat they created together dizzied their senses made them slick and left them panting for more. The harsh words "Get a room!" was enough to make them crash.

Mani grabbed a pillow and threw it with all of his might at his baby brother. "GET OUT!" he yelled.

Aikrii shrank against Mani's chest. He felt so foolish. Panting and still warm from their playing he mumbled, "Sorry..."

Mani only hugged him harder and stroked the top of his head. "No. I'm sorry. I should have known he'd come in and ruin it. I shouldn't have lost my head there either; keeping us both in check is harder than I thought."

"In check?" Aikrii asked.

Mani put his eyes down, "Yes, in check. You’re still only fifteen Aikrii." looking at his watch he continued "Legally and technically; I have ten more hours to wait. I intend to TRY and keep it that way; for both our sakes." He looked back at Aikrii and ran his hand along his cheeks and through his hair, "Understand it's nothing to do with you personally. It's the morals I was brought up with, and respect is one of them."

"But we can still...umm…play?" Aikrii asked with childlike eagerness.

Mani chuckled then the laughter grew as he hauled Aikrii down to him he growled "Bring it on, babe!"

He kissed him, throwing him off balance flipped over and had Aikrii pinned. He nibbled his ear and licked down his neck.

Aikrii squealed and panted "Oh my God!'

Arching, he pressed against Mani's straddled hips. Mani was totally aware of his arousal. Grinning he got off and said "OK, time to go home."

"Aww damn it Mani! You left me hanging!" Aikrii pouted crossing his arms.

Mani went over grabbed his hand, pulling him to his feet. Kissed his cheek quickly and whispered "We can play; undisturbed; at home."

Aikrii's eyes widened. The promises of some release there, he scurried to get his jacket.

They both left happy and with a round of hugs and promises of visits tomorrow afternoon for Aikrii's sixteenth birthday celebration, they left Mani's parents home.

Chapter 7 – A love like none before

The hour drive home from Mani's parents was a fairly quiet one to some degree. Mani listened to the disk his brother Nye had made him while Aikrii sang to the tunes, making funny dirty notions to some of the lyrics in the songs. This was making Mani laugh repeatedly.

"Hey, want a coffee?" He asked as they pulled into downtown Halifax. Aikrii looked around debating, "Sure" he said "How about from Jay’s?"

"OK." Mani manoeuvred the Mustang into Jay’s parking lot and stepped out of the car. He went to Aikrii's door and opened it for him taking his hand as he stepped from the car.

"I'm gonna start feeling like some pampered little prince at this rate." he said laughing as they strolled arm and arm into the coffee shop.

They found a corner booth and waited for the waitress to show. When she did they ordered their drinks and asked for some apple pie as well.

"What do you want for your birthday? Turning sixteen is suppose to be a big deal, was for me." He looked at Aikrii and smiled waiting to see what he was going to say.

"Family and friends around me." he said. "That's a starter, and maybe some new clothes."

"Fair enough." Mani said, "I think we can swing that."

Aikrii looked at Mani and said "OK. You know my birthday is on April 15th, when's yours?"

"Mani smiled, "A ways away yet. Mine passed already, on the fourteenth of February."

Aikrii was grinning like crazy now. It made Mani wonder just what that wonderful little head had flying through it.

"Penny for your thoughts?"

Aikrii looked up and said, "A Valentine’s boy. You really are my heart. You even have the red hair to boot." He reached up and touched his hair. Mani caught his hand. He smiled, love flowing from every pore of his body. He found it so hard to contain himself even in public. They finished their drinks and pie in record time. Aikrii could feel the tension in the air and it wasn’t all that bad. He chuckled to himself as Mani grabbed his wallet and left twenty bucks on the table and walked out with Aikrii in tow, who was totally amused at the urgency in Mani's need to leave.

"What’s wrong?" He asked; a cocky grin painted his face.

"Not a thing." Mani said looking back at him grinning just as widely.

The drive to the apartment from New Glasgow was a slow and impatient one for Mani. He was so frustrated he could scream...Instead he turned up the tunes on the CD player and stomped on the car floor making everything vibrate.

Aikrii was chuckling inside at the frazzled mess he could feel vibrating from Mani. He knew he was frustrated he could see it in his hands. His knuckles all white with tension as he gripped the steering wheel of the car. Aikrii decided to go with the flow. He wasn't stupid. He realized Mani wasn't mad, just sexually frustrated. Grinning he started to sing on top of his lungs.

It had been nearly two and a half hours since they had left Mani's parents home and they were still stuck in traffic. They managed to get to the apartment and Mani hadn't wrapped the car around anything nor did he jump Aikrii in the car either; much to his disappointment.

Giving the town a porn show would have been a highlight to any young guy’s dreams. Chuckling he sauntered into the apartment and looked back at Mani who looked a mess with his hair all sweaty and messed up.

"Take your coat?" He asked slowly sliding it from Mani's shoulders, lightly breathing on his neck as he did so. He watched the red hair stand on end near the nape of his neck, skin prickling with goose bumps. He watched Mani shiver. Grinning, he put Mani's jacket on a hook and walked to the fridge, bringing back two Pepsi for them to drink. He took Mani's and rubbed it across his tight belly moaning about how warm the apartment was, and how cooling the can was. He batted his eyes in a mock of innocents and asked if he could open a window. Mani bit his lip as he opened the soft drink, looking at the clock on the wall, quarter to twelve.

"Sure, open a window if you want." Mani put down his drink and escaped to the bathroom. He splashed cold water on his face, trying to keep his wits about himself and mumbling to himself;

"Keep yer pants on man. Still need to go slow, he's still just a kid...rational thinking Mani old boy." He shook his head. He slapped the sink, who the hell was he fooling?

"Ah fuck it!" He opened the door only to be greeted by Aikrii who was now shirtless.

Mani sported an evil grin. Shocked to see Mani have the look of the proverbial cat that swallowed the canary; Aikrii let out an "Eep," Shortly followed by a slight jump.

Mani growled softly looking at him with the hunger of a starving tiger on the prowl. Aikrii's eyes opened wide with awe, he knew what was coming next. Him if he had his way. He laughed in his head and decided to play with the stalker in front of him.

Aikrii took off through the apartment like a flash laughing. Mani was in for a challenge and if this was how Aikrii wanted things then that was fine with Mani. He enjoyed a good game of tag anyway.

Aikrii looked at the clock it was already past twelve. He knew that's what Mani was waiting for. He slipped into the kitchen and grabbed the bow he had found on Friday and quickly slipped past Mani who was in the spare room looking for him. He shucked his drawers and crawled into their bed and stretched out. He put the bow on his belly and waited.

Mani walked back into their room confused on where Aikrii could have gotten too. It was the sight of him laying there grinning like a Cheshire cat from ear to ear with nothing but a bow on his belly that made him groan. He climbed on to the bed crawled over Aikrii, straddling his naked body.

"You’re wearing too many clothing for this ride, please get off and try again." Aikrii said like a robot trying hard to stifle a giggle with no luck.

Mani looked down at Aikrii he licked his lips and smiled "You’re more entertaining than a PlayStation 3" He latched onto him and slyly smiled, "See joystick and all!"

Aikrii sucked in a deep breath. Having his hands around him was pure delight. He panted and arched encouraging Mani to play some more.

Mani leaned forward, and let Aikrii's manhood slid against his covered body. Aikrii moaned, and tried pulling at his shirt to get it off. Mani helped him. He wanted to feel his skin next to his own. Aikrii nipped and kissed any skin he could get his lips on while Mani lost his shirt.

Exposing his nipples to the cool air in the room made them pucker which only encouraged Aikrii to play with them. Mani sucked in sharply and moaned. He latched onto Aikrii's manhood again stroking him in a gentle rhythm causing Aikrii to pant more and more wiggling in anticipation. Mani slid sideways off of the bed but not loosing contact and lost his drawers on the floor with the rest of the clothing that had kept him confined.

He hastily returned to the bed and struggled to get the duvet around them both while keeping Aikrii entertained. Mani was excited and trying so hard to maintain some self control. He slid down and kissed his neck working his way down towards his belly stopping to nip lick or kiss some part of the dark tanned skin on Aikrii's sexy body. He took Aikrii into his mouth and savored him like a lolly pop. Aikrii gasped in sheer pleasure and arched gripping the sheets around him Mani chuckled with his mouth full and smiled too.

He continued to please Aikrii in a way Aikrii would never forget. Getting a steady rhythm going and urging Aikrii on; he brought Aikrii to an earth shattering climax. He yelled out Mani's name as he brinked over the top and shuddered as he came. He convulsed and collapsed; Mani gently licked and kissed his way back to Aikrii's lips. Mani's kisses only encouraged him to get aroused again. "Wow, frisky aren't we." Mani said as he watched Aikrii grow with enthusiasm again within minutes.

Aikrii got brave and rolled on his side looking at Mani and kissed him. Shoved against his shoulder and flipped him on his back. He straddled him. Now it was his turn to bring Mani to his peak and he knew just how he planned on doing that.

Mani watched his eyes as he straddled over his belly. He ran his hands down his sides and then to the front of his belly to the tuft of hair that nestled above his arousal. He continued to stroke his skin and Aikrii reached down to stroke him. He fumbled some as he grabbed a small container of lube he’d put under his pillow when he hid in the room.  

Mani gritted his teeth, trying to hold his resolve he could feel his hot little finger wrapped around him and shifted trying to give him easier access. Aikrii delightfully slicked Mani down and moved over him. He lowered himself over him slowly; taking him into his own body, gasping as he filled him. He was so big! Whimpering at the satisfaction of getting him totally in place he leaned forward gasping, and rocking.

Giving the rhythmic sensations Mani was feeling ten times the rippling effects. Mani panted and held his hips trying to slow Aikrii down he didn't want to go off like a cap gun. Aikrii looked down into his violet eyes and knew the effect he was having on Mani, he leaned forward, and whispered,

"I love you." and kissed his temple and then rocked to a faster rhythm, catching Mani off guard and overwhelmed him with the mind blowing sensations he was causing. Mani couldn't hold back gripping his hips he pulled down as he arched up both let out a joyous climatic yell. Mani hit his crest and rocked with Aikrii still on top.  They both collapsed into each other’s arms. Out of breath yet sated; they relaxed.

"I love you too Ki." Mani said stroking the sweaty head of Aikrii. "Happy Birthday darlin.'" He kissed him again. Aikrii was so happy. He had what he ever wanted; he finally got to experience the wanted unforced pleasures of loving someone. It seemed to push all the bad that had ever happened away. He felt this was a night he would treasure and cherish for a long time too. Mani encouraged Aikrii to get up and go to the shower with him. The warm water slid over them both. Mani scrubbed Aikrii's back and let him relax against him as they swayed in the shower, listening to the radio he had in the room playing one of the many CD's that Nye had created. A ‘Savage Garden’ song was playing; ‘I knew I loved you’ Mani kissed his neck and got a now obviously mellowed Aikrii out of the shower. He towel dried him off as well as himself. He picked Aikrii up and brought him back to their bed.

Laying Aikrii down, and tucking him in he slid in beside him. He reached over and flicked the light out. Aikrii snuggled into Mani's side; in turn Mani wrapped a protective arm around him thinking to himself he will never allow anyone to hurt him again if he could help it.

They both drifted off to sleep oblivious, to the world playing out below them, on a street where one drunk man scours the streets for the child he now called a poor excuse for a son, vowing to get back at the fruity little bastard that had put him in jail for eight months. Phillip seethed in a drunken rage; he knew he'd have his day.

Chapter 8 – Calm before the storm

Ki awoke still warm, but alone. In a half groggy state he fumbled with pillows and sheets to see if Mani hadn't just gotten up to use the bathroom. Mani wasn't anywhere to be seen, but he could smell coffee and toast. His stomach growled in protest, it wanted food now. Like the sleek lithe god that Mani viewed him as, he stretched and groaned. He didn't want to get up but he also wanted to see Mani as well. It seemed no sooner did he think about him he was there, materializing into the room with a tray of food and a grin a mile wide.

Mani saw the young man laying on his sheets with only his lower half covered, his slightly muscled mid torso rippling as he watched his stretch. For one of slight stature Mani could see potential in the dark completed body before him. He mused over teaching him some self defense classes, one way to bring out the "brawn" he had mentioned before to Aikrii. Mani smiled waiting for Ki to notice his presence.

"Morning sleepy head." he said when they made eye contact. "I had to get up; I have classes to teach soon. You looked so peaceful I couldn't wake you."

Reaching for the tray Mani had brought to him he asked, "What time is it?"

"Nine-ish, why?"

"Oh just curious. I recall your mom saying lunch time they'd be here. Figured this place could use a good going over and maybe I could watch your class before I do that." He said with a sheepish grin while scratching his mussed brown mop.

"Sure! Come watch" Mani was pleased to hear that Aikrii was showing an interest in what he was doing.

"As for the apartment getting cleaned; don't worry about it. Cleo comes over. She does tons of odd jobs and cleaning here is one of them, not like it really needs it but..." He trailed off smiling.

Aikrii chuckled, he knew, now that there were things here that would tend to get left undone due to pleasurable distractions. Remembering them wonderful distractions made him smile again and ultimately disclosing his wantonness thoughts. Mani chuckled once he realized why Aikrii's face turned a wonderful shade of red.

"You need food if you’re going to keep your strength up my dear." He said giving his thigh a playful squeeze. "All the exercise you seem to be so eager to do will go unrewarded if you just pass out on me."

Aikrii damn nearly choked on those words trying to stifle back his laughter. Mani slapped his back helping him regain his breath and composure. Eager to start his day he stuffed a slice of toast in his mouth and crawled over the sheets towards Mani who chuckled.

"I'm seriously going to have to put a leash on you to get you to behave aren't I?" Mani stated backing off as Aikrii growled while chewing on the piece of toast he had in his mouth and grinning at the same time.

Mani threw back his head laughing to heartily. He tossed a housecoat at Aikrii which landed on his cute growling head, leaving only his sleek buttocks showing. Mani laughed even harder and headed out of the room calling back, "Come on Don Juan. We have a long fun day planned."

Aikrii shoved off the robe, sending it sliding to his knees to puddle into the rest of the beds duvet covers. Yelling to the now closed door;

"Hey, I'm an Italian lover not a Spanish fool!"

He slid off the bed and walked his nude behind to the closet. Delving through the mass of designer and labeled clothing Mani was well known for, he found a nice outfit that suited his tastes. He got dressed. He picked up his breakfast tray and walked to the kitchen, whistling a tune.

Mani was surprised when he returned from the buildings laundry facilities to see Aikrii doing dishes. Mani was also impressed at the clothing he had picked from his array of mismatched clothing for himself as well.

Dressed in a pair of nice chocolate brown cargo pants and a light weight deep forest green sweater with the white shirt collar peeking out from under it. He looked older than his sixteen years.

His hair was nicely brushed back from his face showing his green eyes. The sweaters coloring making his eyes seem darker than normal. Mani smiled, leaning against the door frame just looking at him.

Aikrii looked up to see him studying him. He blushed and smiled drying his hands. He walked over to Mani who reached for him, taking him by the waist and wrapping his arms around him. Swaying Mani, looked down at him and beamed.

"I really have to either draw you one of these days or get a camera on you. You're just so damn cute!" His crooked grin said it all. Aikrii still not quite used to the attention blushed again, this time so hard it reached his ears. Mani noticed. Instantaneously, the reaction he was causing to Aikrii, there was a buzz from the lobby intercom.

Mani sighed, "Well work calls, coming over?" he asked, looking at the still red Aikrii.

"Yes." He said.

Taking his hand Mani scooped up his keys and hit the buzzer talking into the intercom. "Yeah! Who is it?"

"It's me!" A familiar voice called back over the cracking system. Mani reached up and flicked on a screen that showed the lower lobby. Standing in between the security doors was Cleo. He hit the release button that buzzed Cleo into the building. Cleo disappeared from the screens view.

"Wow," Aikrii said, "You said this place was secured. Nice to see the cameras"

"It helps." Mani said. "Now Cleo is coming to clean up a bit but we have to go get the do-jang ready OK? Then I have something for you."

Aikrii was fine with what Mani had planned he just wanted to stick close to him. Following him to the door, he watched as he let Cleo in.

He was pleased to see the young girl he got to meet a few times in the last few weeks. He had learned in the last few days, Cleo was not only a student of Mani's but his baby brother Nye's girlfriend. Cleo smiled at Aikrii and then whistled an approving whistle. "Man you look hot!" she said making him spin around to see the whole effect the outfit he was wearing did for him. Aikrii wasn't use to this kind of attention; he was blushing and feeling like an idiot.

"Ummm...thanks, they aren't mine, I borrowed them from Mani" he said hesitating.

"Well you picked out some nice threads. I know Mani's wardrobe is in a serious need of over hauling." It was Mani's turn to blush, scratching his head and looking at Aikrii, he explained what she had meant by her comment, even though it wasn't really needed.

"I was a fashion don't. I hired Cleo to clean here and she noticed the mess I use to have for clothes. When she realized I was gay, I swear to God she got more excited than a school girl with a crush." His crooked grin of confusion held his attention, and brought about a question.

"Why in the world does a school girl get excited over a gay guy who has no fashion sense?" Cleo blurted out the very thing Ki was thinking.

Ki giggled, "Damn you're good! Get out my head!"

Cleo bowed, "It's my job" she said, as she slung her arm across Mani’s shoulder looking up at him with a smug grin.

"He was hopeless. Wearing plaids, like my grandpa, bland colors that did nothing for his complexion; not to mention that gorgeous mop on his head. I had to do a complete overhaul and take him shopping. He still needs to add to his ensemble. Now that you’re here, we'll have to go out again; soon!" She said while elbowing him in the ribs, making Mani double over from the ever so slight blow to his abs. She giggled at his melodramatic reaction.

"So, birthday boy," She flung her arm over his shoulder, and walked with him away from the door, towards the living room. He looked back at Mani who was grinning.

"What’s the plan for today?"

Aikrii mumbled "Nothing much."

Cleo was taken aback, "Nothing much!? MANI!" she scowled at the red headed man trying to make a break for the kitchen to hide.

"Hey! It was his idea!" Mani said holding up his hands in surrender.

Cleo looked at Aikrii "You’re turning sixteen and you’re going to do nothing? Oh. Well, we can't have this..." she crossed her arms and tapped her toes, brainstorming. The buzzer from down stairs rang again. Mani went and let who ever the other girl was who announced her presence, in the building.

"Look Cleo, I don't know about you, but classes are starting in fifteen minutes. So you can either do a quick clean sweep now, and mull over nonexistent plans for a party or you can do classes and think about this later. Right now I have a job to do so come on." Mani scooped up a large box that was sitting by the front door. He scooted a reluctant Cleo out of his apartment, and as he passed Aikrii who followed, he handed him the box, which had some weight to it. He closed his apartment door, crossed the hall to another unit. He inserted his key into the door and opened it with a smile.

This was Aikrii's first time in Mani's studio. The place was HUGE! It was divided into two sections. One end had a white walled area, with a large mirror on the wall from floor to ceiling. Cleo hurried off to a room to the right of the mirrored wall. Mani pointed, that those were the dressing rooms; he directed him to the one on the left and told him to put on what was in the box. Aikrii did as he was told. Coming out, he looked at his slender frame in the looming mirror. He was shocked to see how dark his skin was compared to the white outfit he was now wearing. When he looked for Mani, he was even more shocked.

Standing before him, in a red V neck Tai-Kwan Do instructor’s uniform, was the love of his life. The outfit made him look so menacing, yet hot! He grinned; he was looking forward to this.

The class started out with Mani introducing him to everyone. Aikrii then learned that the studio where Mani taught his students was called a Do-Jang even though half of it was for his classes and the other half was his photo studio. He was then shown the basics, Chon-Ji Tul for beginners, with Mani walking him through all the steps. He was also informed of Hosinsul, the self defense part of the class.

He was told he would have to practice a lot in order to be fluid in his movements. He thought this place was pretty amazing. The warm ups were easy enough and he got to watch a few of Mani's students in action.

Cleo and Chev were both amazing fighters. He was impressed at how they were able to defend themselves without really hurting anyone. Mani called it the circular technique and it looked so smooth. He informed Aikrii it would take him a lot of practice and a lot of work to get to that stage. Cleo was part of his class now, for the last year and she was still learning. He enjoyed himself during the class; even if he got a few smacks. Learning would help him defend himself later if he needed to and this was a good way to learn. In an environment where he trusted the instructor.

Mani was pleased to see Aikrii enjoying himself throughout the classes and even Cleo had noticed his cheerful nature. When the class dispersed, only Mani, Cleo, Aikrii and Chev were left. Chev and Aikrii spoke briefly before Cleo popped in and asked if Chev could call their brother.

"What for?" she asked.

"I want to borrow something from him" she giggled, "There's a birthday boy here who needs some good tunes."

Chev looked over at Aikrii and shook her head yes to Cleo's request; they both ran off to the phone. Mani looked over to Aikrii.

"So I see you're enjoying yourself."

"Oh most definitely!" he exclaimed grinning "So what’s next?" he asked with the air of joy still in his voice.

"How about some shopping?" He asked Aikrii.

An eyebrow shot up in a questioning look, "Shopping? What for?"

"Clothes silly; and some food for everyone. I only got a few things the last time I was out and we're running low."

"Everyone? Who's all coming anyway?" Aikrii wanted to know.

"Well my parents. I assume Nye and Cleo will pop over since Nye doesn't go anywhere without her. Did you invite your mom?"

Aikrii slapped his forehead. How utterly dumb of him. Again he was off track. The response Mani seen was enough to tell him he was glad he called Marie and told her what was going on. The quickly planed surprise party was going off without a hitch. He smiled at the thought of Aikrii's reaction. He looked at him and shrugged his shoulders.

"Don't worry about it, we have plenty of time. You can call her when we get home OK?" Mani put his arm over his shoulder, "Besides it's been a distracting last few days."

Everyone got changed back into their street clothes.  Cleo got the spare apartment keys from Aikrii, since he was going to be with Mani shopping. She told Mani she'd get the apartment spotless before they got back. He chuckled knowingly.

"I'm sure you will." He gently led Aikrii to the car port and they headed off.

"I thought you were a fashion disaster?" Aikrii asked, quoting Cleo's earlier remarks about Mani's ability to accessorize male attire properly.

"I maybe, but it's apparent you're not." He said as he ran his finger down the white color of the shirt that peeked from under the hunter green sweater Aikrii was wearing.

"I'm sure you'll manage to get something outstanding to wear. Hell, if I get my way, I'll get you to start buying my outfits. I'm an artist. I have an eye for things but clothes aren't my cup of tea."

Aikrii chortled at the honest comment. Mani was right. When it came to fashion sense, Mani had a nice wardrobe but his coordinating skills lacked severely. They pulled into the mall parking lot. Taking the ticket from the parking meter, Mani placed it in his upper breast pocket, took Aikrii's hand and they walked into the mall. Aikrii had been here a few times but the place had changed since last time he was here. Looking around, he saw Jump Street and pulled Mani in the direction of the clothing shop. The sales guy on counter was Josh from Aikrii's programming courses over at St. Stephens.

"Oh my God! If it isn't the Italian stallion himself!" Josh crooned walking over to Aikrii winking at him and fussing over his clothing. Aikrii knew Josh well. He was after all one of the first people Aikrii trusted and had come out to first. Josh had encouraged him to be more open but it wasn't the best time back then, with his dad drinking. It was Josh's showing up at his house that had gotten Aikrii beaten so badly by his dad. However; he never blamed Josh for what had happened. His dad just knew who Josh was and he had this nasty outlook on gay guys. Aikrii gleamed and gave the playful feint feminine Josh a slug in the arm "Come on now, stop the fussing!" he laughed.

Josh jumped "Oh my! You brute." he playfully slapped Aikrii and asked him how he was doing.

Aikrii grinned like the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland; proudly introduced Mani to Josh. Josh being the girly guy he was, squealed like a teen girl with a crush on a rock star. Giggling at his reaction, Aikrii joked "Gee Josh, don't wet your panties!"

"But he's famous around here, and such a cutie." He said in a loud whisper. Over hearing Aikrii's friend’s statement it was now Mani's turn to blush. "En chante!" Josh said curtsying in front of Mani while holding his offered hand for a hand shake.

"Well Aikrii your friend here is sure enthusiastic." He said. Ki grinned, "You wanted to know why I dress so well, here's my reason. Mani this is Josh, one of the first people I ever outed myself to. He's a good friend and damn good at dressing up people regardless of who they are.

"Oh, do I get a new mannequin to play with?" Josh asked holding his hands under his chin grinning like a child eager to find out if he got what he wanted for Christmas.

As much as Aikrii was enjoying the enthusiasm of his friend, he had to disappoint him. "Sorry not today, but soon. Right now I'm trying to get a few new pieces of clothing. I'm staying at Mani's and I need new duds. I'm looking for something comfortable and sturdy. I'll also need something dressy for my presentation to the International Institute for the Blind, for the programming software I am almost done. You wouldn't believe how far I got behind since all the excitement around me in the last few weeks."

"Oh! Don't I know about the excitement. Chet is all mopey since he heard your wonderful man there was no longer single." Josh went on about "You should see him. He's like a dog that's been drowned. Serves the bitch right too, considering he just uses people." Aikrii was stunned to hear Josh talk about his former roommate that way but also remembered the nasty falling out that they had awhile back.

Josh continued to fill him in on the scuttlebutt and gossip on who was seeing who. He hauled down a very nice casual suit from one of the wall displays and with a flourish that only a true queen could muster. he presented it to Aikrii. The chocolate brown suit with the deep yellow-orange dress shirt looked wonderful. He placed it in front of him and turned to show Mani who was admiring him with hunger in his eyes.

"Yum!" Josh said taking the words right out of Mani's head. "Simply delicious!" Aikrii's heart laughter vibrated through the store. Some of the other customers looked back. One woman whispered to her friend, "Damn he's HOT!" The second lady she was with, giggled. Mani smiled. He was one lucky guy and he knew it. He looked at his watch, two hours to kill. He watched as Aikrii tried on three other outfits. Mani gave his approval on all of them as he looked smashing in all. Aikrii hauled out his wallet and asked Mani.

"OK, which one is the promised present? I'll pay for the rest." he said.

"Oh no you don't!" Mani said pushing his wallet back at him as he passed his credit card to the cashier."This is my gift to you. Enjoy it!"

"B-bu-but it's way too much!" he protested.

"Your total is two hundred, twenty seven dollars and thirteen cents" Josh said ringing up the clothes then looked at Aikrii.

"Hunnie, if you got a man who wants to spoil ya, don't fight it; you won't win!"

Mani playfully stuck out his tongue at Aikrii, "So there! Even your friend says to enjoy it."

Aikrii glared at Josh, "You're not suppose to encourage him ya know."

"Just doin' my part for them cute buns! Besides, you deserve it. You got one of the best guys in the school. Better you than some bitch. I say, you go girl!"

With that, he bagged Aikrii's new clothing passed him his stuff and shooed him and Mani out of the shop. “Bring his hot bod back soon. So I can dress him up, like the doll he is!” referring to Mani, as he blew kisses to as they left.

Chapter 9 – Celebration

Aikrii laughed at the silliness of it all. Mani leaned towards Ki.

"Damn Ki. I wanted you so bad back there. That suit made you look as editable as chocolate"...he murmured. His warm breath tingling along Aikrii's neck. Aikrii turned very red and stumbled at the weakness that reached his legs. Mani reached out steadying him. Mani's deep throaty laugh sent shivers through Aikrii's whole body, he blushed.

"OK, where to now?" he asked barely above a whisper.

"Food." Mani said with an obvious hungry growl in his voice. Aikrii knew he wasn't hungry for food. He shivered in anticipation knowing tonight would be a great opportunity to learn a bit more about what pleased Mani. They pulled into Sobey’s, but Mani didn't move right away.

"Somethin' wrong?" Ki asked him laying a hand on his arm.

"Just a bit...ummm..." he trailed off. Ki looked confused and worried. Mani seen the worried look in his eyes, "Don't worry, I'm just a bit sexcited" he said, a bit exasperated. He looked down at his feet. Aikrii burst out laughing so loudly the pigeons outside of the car took flight. Mani was having issues 'containing his desires' where it concerned Aikrii. He just needed a moment to gain his composure.

"It's kinda not funny." Mani said moping "I want time alone with you but today is just so busy. Can't even go back to the apartment with Cleo and Nye there."

He shifted in the leather seat causing it to protest. Aikrii grinned, he knew where they could go and no one would be there. He looked at Mani and said a simple address. Mani gave him quizzical glance.

"Trust me; just drive." Aikrii said with a wink. Fifteen minutes later, he pulled up in front of the small light blue house. Aikrii jumped from the car faster than Mani could move. He rushed over to Mani's door. Aikrii took his hand as he shoved the door shut seeing the glimmer of hope in his eyes.

"Where are we?" He asked.

Aikrii pulled out a key. "My place." he said beaming.

"Oh my gosh!" he just realized "I've never been here before."

He looked around at the modest small house. It was nice enough. It did need some work but it was a house, with the picket fence and all. Aikrii pulled on his hand and took him through the dwelling. Mani barely had time to look around when he was standing in from of a bedroom door that had posters of George Michael on it and one of Enrique Iglesias. Mani chuckled, a typical teen’s door. One more meant for a teen girl but still typical. Aikrii pushed open the door and flicked on the light. The room flooded with a subtle golden glow.

Mani was impressed to see how many books lined one whole wall of his room. A lot were programming books. His computer was silent in the corner and his closet was still opened from when he had been home 3 weeks prior. Aikrii shoved the closet door shut and was pleased to see his room was still the same inviting comfy place to be. Now, to christen it. He reached for Mani's arm pulling him forward, snaked his arms around his waist and kissed him hungrily. Mani had no time to react before he realized they were in Aikrii's double bed.

Aikrii's actions made Mani's head swim. He was lost in a sea of wonderful sensations and he wanted to stay swimming there. Even though Mani was the older of the two, he tend to let Aikrii take control of things, knowing that it made Aikrii feel more self-assured. In doing so Mani was teaching Aikrii that he could be a confident and successful lover with a bit of guidance.

Aikrii licked his neck and nibbled; panting. His hot breath spreading down his damp skin, making Mani squirm in anticipation. He so wanted to be inside Aikrii. Filling him, feeling his tightness around him. He bucked and arched. Aikrii let out a deep throat chuckle. He pinned Mani's wrists and ground his arousal against Mani's own excited state.

"Ahh...Oh, God! oh!... Aikrii! PLEASE!"

He was aching so badly he could barely contain himself. Aikrii grinned evilly and looked down at Mani, kissed his nose and slid off. He reached for Mani's trousers and ever so painfully, slowly unzipped the zipper. Mani felt like it was taking forever. Gasping once, Aikrii flipped the button and grasped his hips sliding off his boxers and pants in one swift movement. He then proceeded to flick off each button on Mani's shirt. Exposing his dampened skin to the chilled air his nipples tightened into tiny pink beads. Aikrii took in a sharp deep breath at the wondrous site of the fine male specimen under his hands. He was such a handsome man to Aikrii's eyes. His lightly tanned smooth as milk skin, red sprinkle of hair, tight muscles and washboard tummy made Aikrii swoon.

"Yum!" he murmured. Mani blushed from head to toe. He was so pleased with Aikrii's remarks, but he was also having trouble keeping his own wits and resolve about him. It was then that Aikrii surprised him by nipping his nipple, as he straddled over his belly once again gripping his wrists, pinning him down. He could feel that Aikrii had also stripped. His damp skin slick against his own. Aikrii slid slowly down to Mani's pleasure and playfully ran his tongue across the tip making his manhood jump like it had a life of its own. Mani squealed


Aikrii now had Mani's arms pinned at his sides, still not letting him to touch. Not that Mani really couldn't stop him, but it was nice to see he was trying his hardest to let Aikrii have his own moment. Aikrii licked again, round and round getting the tip slick and wet. Mani groaned, whimpered and convulsed at each revolution made.

Aikrii took him into his mouth, ever so slightly, running his teeth along it for added effect. He let go of Mani's wrists and Mani gripped his shoulders tightly, arching and panting. Aikrii slid forward and settled himself over Mani's now slick wet desire. Bringing Mani to the utopia plateau that he had him at was an accomplishment Aikrii was thrilled to have done on his own. He continued, still trying to keep his self at a steady un-rushed pace. Now filled with the joy of the man he loved, he rocked gently, kissing Mani's neck and looking him in the eyes. Mani kept looking up into the beautiful green eyes above him, enjoying the loving rippling effects he was giving him. His eyes rolled back in sheer pleasure as he felt the first wave of release. He gripped Aikrii's hips as he bucked and arched.

"Ahh! Oh God! Aikrii Yesss!"

He cried out in his frenzied state of pleasure through gritted teeth. He was panting so hard now and he was wet all over; perspiring like mad. Aikrii sat up straight over the spent Mani with the cockiest grin ever. He reached back and stroked his inner thigh. Mani jumped in shock and squealed as well. Grabbing Aikrii's wrists to stop the torture he was creating.

"God damn it, come here!" he said roughly.

He pulled him forward breaking one contact with Aikrii, only to cause another by crushing his lips under his own. Aikrii was laughing through the kiss at his response. Mani got more demanding and flipped Aikrii over. Aikrii looked up smiled and said;

"Tease me. Please me." Then he giggled. Mani growled and nipped his neck. Aikrii scrunched up, and chuckled harder as Mani took over and let his own body take in Aikrii's sweetness. Mani wasn't as gentle or slow. He was lost and Aikrii knew it, but he didn't care he was enjoying the frenzied love making and the total loss of self control he was able to put Mani in. He gripped his hips, squeezing. Mani leaned forward and put his face in towards Aikrii's neck, taking in the aroma of his body; slick with sweat, cologne and the bed sheets. He gripped his bottom as he rocked to the rhythm of Aikrii's rapid heart rate. Aikrii pushed up gripping Mani's hips tightly, moaning his elation upon his release.

"Oooh, shit Maniii! Yes! Yes!" he whimpered, panting harder as the pace quickened; "Oh god... YES! Ahhh!"

He bucked and squirmed, gripping the sheets around him as he arched. The explosion was so intense his legs were left a quivering mess.

"HOLY shit!" he exclaimed breathless. Wrapping his arms around a now exhausted Mani "Damn you are utterly amazing!" he said thrilled and still panting.

Mani grinned, "See you're not the only one who can rock worlds." He rolled off of Aikrii and snuggled in beside him.

"So you satisfied yet?" Ki asked his now seemingly contented boyfriend. Mani flipped over onto his side and propped his head on his hand tracing his finger down Aikrii's pecks.

"Never, never... You're too hot to ignore."

Aikrii rolled over sideways and propped himself up as well, looking at Mani reaching over and brushing a red lock over his ear. "I can say the same thing." His crooked grin spread up one side of his face, right to his eyes. Sliding his hand into Mani's hair he pulled him forward and kissed him again.

After a quick shower. A hasty remake of his bed. Aikrii stuffed a duffel bag with some clothing, grabbed a picture off the mantel of his mom and himself and started writing a note. Mani looked around; noticed a picture of a rather good looking tall dark man in a suit. He looked a lot like Aikrii, just a bit heavier and with less hair.

"This your dad?" he asked pointing to the picture.

"Yep" he looks different now though. "That's when he was more successful and not such a drunk. Last I seen of him he was bigger and scruffier looking."

Mani put the picture down. "Your mom obviously still loves him."

"As she should." Aikrii said. "He is after all her first love and my dad; he's just lost."

Mani was staring in awe at the young man before him and is wise thoughts about his dad. "Your wisdom is still so utterly amazing. You know that, right?"

Aikrii smiled "Maybe my dad will learn that one of these days too." He said with a sheepish grin.

They left Aikrii's home and headed once again to Sobeys. "OK let's try this again." Mani said smiling.

They picked up enough groceries to feed an army. They headed back to their apartment. When they got there Mani asked Aikrii to stick with the groceries while he got some help from Cleo and Nye. When he came back down the elevator there was no Nye or Cleo to speak of.

"Where are they?" Aikrii questioned.

"Don't have a clue" Mani said, loading the small buggy cart he had brought back down with him. "This will get them all up stairs don't worry."

They both headed up the elevator. Mani towing the cart, he handed Aikrii the keys to the apartment.

He nearly jumped straight out of his trousers at the energetic shouts of "SURPRISE! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"

"Oh my gosh! I thought we were just going to have family." He gasped. He looked back at a gleaming Mani, "You did this?"

"Yes, along with your mom, Cleo, Nye and a few others."

Without hesitation, he kissed and hugged him tightly right in front of everyone. He grinned, beaming so happy how things were. His fairy tale was finally coming true. A wolf whistle brought them back to the fray watching them. Everyone started clapping and patting Aikrii and Mani on their backs. The food was taken and ushered away by their friends and the festivities started.

The music started and everyone started to chat at once. Mani's landlady was even there and a few of Aikrii's friends, including Josh.

"This is one hopping party darlin'." Josh said as he sipped his rum and coke.

Aikrii smiled. "This has been one of the best days of my life Josh. I found the guy of my dreams. I have a fairy tale only dreams are made of and I feel like I'm in heaven." He sighed a great sigh of satisfaction.

Josh looked at him and smiled patting his arm and spoke "Sometimes life has a nicer way of paying you back for all the crap it puts you through first. I'm happy for you. You deserve it."

"Thanks" Aikrii clinked his Pepsi against Josh's drink and then headed over to Mani; slid his arm around his waist and leaned against him while others around them talked sang, and enjoyed themselves.

Chapter 10 – Tragedy

Nine months had passed since the beating. Aikrii got his last two credits from high school and restarted his courses for his third year studies at St. Stephens. Mani's studio took off and he was teaching more now that the Halifax semi finals were coming and a lot of his beginners; Aikrii included, were competing in their first matches. Nye and Cleo were getting closer as well. Cleo's mom had a bout with cancer and was still hospitalized so she was at Mani's place more with Nye then at home. She tried to avoid the sadness at home by giving her Stepdad, who wasn’t always so nice to her, more space. He had enough going on but then again it wasn't like she was totally missed anyway.

Mani closed his cell and looked pissed. "For fuck sakes!" he jammed his cell into his pocket. Nye peeked around the corner of the studio.

"What's wrong?"

"Damn courts rescheduled...AGAIN!" he slapped his fist on the desk."Why the hell can't the damn justice system work better?"

"It would be too easy if they did." Nye said.

Mani ran his hand through his red hair mussing it.

"Almost." He said. Nye was half distracted, smiling and looking over his shoulder at the beautiful girl he loved, kick ass.

She has been to the practice sessions everyday now for the last six weeks straight. After nearly two years of training her she was getting closer to her blue belt. Mani got up and looked out of the photo studio's door to the dojang floor. He tossed his arm over his baby brother's shoulder. His brother was gleaming as he watched Cleo spar with an opponent.

"I really think she's going to clean up at the competition," Mani said.

"Her and Chev; I think." Nye said in agreement still watching with admiration.

"You got a hell of a girl there bro. Just watch out for that first blow to your heart it maybe a doozie." Mani put in.

"I was already hit bro, and I got plans on enjoying what ever she dishes out in a few years time." He said grinning. Nye looked at his brother. "I plan on marrying that girl one of these days; mark my words."

Mani smiled at his brother’s comment. He knew how determined his baby brother could be; believed he'd do it too. He looked over again, spotted his camera and got an idea.

"Hey watch the phones OK? I have a five o'clock appointment and I need to make sure they don't think I forgot them. So if they call or show up tell them I will be with them shortly. Alright?"

"Aye aye, captain!" Nye said saluting to his brother.

"I want to get a few pictures of the students who are here. I have to get change too though. Be back soon."

He grabbed his camera and his instructor's uniform and headed to the changing room. Ten minutes later he was taking shots of some of the parents with their kids. Some were of a few students sparring. He also got a few pictures of Cleo and Chev together. Asking one of his student's parents if they could take a picture, he got Chev and Cleo along with himself together for a photo. He figured Cleo and Chev would be his star pupils at the competition, so might as well get a picture now. All of his students were having fun with the pictures being taken. Not long after Mani finished up and his students started to head out, his baby brother bellowed from Mani's office, "Yo! Bro! Phone!"

Mani said he goodbyes to his remaining students and parents; pardoned himself and went to answer the call waiting for him.


"Ahhh." The deep voice on the other end said. "I so needed to hear your voice."

"Hi hun," Mani beamed "How's it going in Ottawa?"

"Presentations went down without a hitch." His voice expressed his joy over the potential investors for the products he'd created.

"When do you find out who's investing?" Mani asks him.

"I could be receiving bids in as little as twenty four hours." Aikrii said "But I'm not sure I'll accept anything as of yet. I want to make sure the software is running at its best."

Mani shook his head in agreement although Aikrii couldn't see. He knew Ki was doing what was best.

"I miss you." Mani said softly. He propped his head on his hand and looked over that his picture of them on his desk. "I miss you too. I can't wait to get home." Aikrii's voice held a twinge of sadness in it but it was because he was so far away. His flight home wasn't for another two days but he'd be home in time for the tournament.

"How are things down there?" he asked trying to keep a positive tone.

"Great actually. I did some random shots of some of the students who were practicing here today. I'll email a few to you if you want to see them." He turned to his computer grabbed his camera and started to upload the images from his camera to his computer. As he did this, Aikrii spoke of who was attending the programming convention and how he got excited over the opportunity to meet one of the head CEO's to the newest computer operating systems, Nessix's; Troy MacKinnon. Mani was impressed. That was a big deal considering he was the current top computer operations software supplier in the world. Aikrii received the email on his portable system and he opened the first picture, which was of Mani, Chev and Cleo.

"Oh..." he said softly. “Oh, hun nice picture. You look so good to these eyes." Aikrii reached for the picture on his screen and outlined Mani's jaw in the picture. Damn he missed him. He sighed. "I wish I was there with you."

Mani could hear the longing in his voice. He was definitely looking forward to his return. Their convo wrapped up. At least in two days he'd see him again but that also didn't leave much alone time for them, since the competition was the next day.

"WHAT!" he was absolutely devastated when he got the news. "Oh just bloody wonderful." He raked his fingers through his brown hair; his head was ready to explode from frustration and the nagging headache that was coming on. He left the airports customer service desk. The storm outside was really putting a damper on his plans and most of all he may end up missing his first tournament.

"Man this sucks." he thought, "Now what do I do?" He called Mani's cell but all he got was a busy signal. "Damn it." He leaned forward and placed his hands on his head, looking at the floor. He tried to brainstorm but the weather outside made his brain freeze up. He started to go through his address book on his phone.

"Attention all passengers. Flight 221 to Halifax, Nova Scotia is now delayed till 10 pm. Sorry for the inconvenience and thanks for flying with Air Canada." The speaker announced the disappointing news. Aikrii groaned, looking at his watch he realized he had four hours to now kill.

"Well might as well do some shopping for Mani's birthday while I'm here." He got up and left the terminal and headed into the snow.

"I called three times Mani. I can't get through. It keeps saying that the service is out of order." Mani's mom frowned and put down the phone.

Nye popped into the room. "He'll call just give him time!"

Mani gave his baby brother a dirty look. "If he was able to call he'd have done it by now but I'm sure if the services are out then he can't."
He was so depressed. He had called the airport asking when the flight was suppose to be in, only to learn that there was a delay due to a storm in Ottawa.

Nye looked at his brother. He was just as frustrated too. He knew the team would have difficulties getting high scores if they were missing a team member, but his brother didn't have to snap at him. It wasn't his fault the damn airport was holding back flights. Tossing the phone to his brother, he stomped off across the studio to his girlfriend. His pride needed some loving to fix up his hurt. He got to her and she was kicking pads one of the other students was holding.

"Babe, break?" he asked making puppy eyes at her.

Cleo stopped. "Uh oh...Someone has put a pout on that face. Did big bro get on your case again?"

"Not really, he's all snappy and pissy because of the storm in Ottawa. The airports are delaying flights." he ran his arms around her waist and nibbled on her neck and sucked up a deep breath of her sweet smell. "He snapped at me and it's not my fault they are delayed...right? It's not like I can go POOF here he is." he pouted.

Cleo looked up at him "Aww baby, he's missing him...wouldn't you feel the same way if it was me?"

"Well of course, but it still doesn't give him the right to take his frustrations out on me." He really looked hurt over the whole thing and well being Cleo she just couldn't let anyone hurt her baby. She grabbed a fist full of his hair pulled his head back ever so gently and then kissed him; hard. He loved it when she got forceful like that and he got excited every time she did. "I'll fix this in two minutes" she nipped his ear lobe, sending shivers through him; then sauntered away.

She walked up to Mani and hugged him. He smiled and said "Thank you."

She sat beside him and looked at him. "Now sweet cheeks, your turn to do me a favor." she said, "I'm learning to control my temper; the least you can do is say you're sorry to Nye."

Mani looked at her and gave a quizzical look. She sighed; apparently he had no idea why she was telling him this.

"You snapped at your brother when you were speaking and all for something he has no control over. It's not like he can make things any different" she tried to look in his eyes as he lowered his head.

"Ah dammit..." He was so miserable. "I just want him home Cleo. I hate not having him around. It's killing me." Mani looked like he was going to break down and cry right there.

Cleo reached over and hugged him again, "It's OK, but you should still say you're sorry."

"You're right." he got up and looked back. "Good job on not ripping off my head by the way." As he headed off to say his apologies he heard Cleo say, "Anytime."

When he found the gift; he was wishing he were home; snuggled with Mani in front of the TV watching a good movie. The weather was crappy but at least the mall was warm. His eye was caught by the display case contents. A flash of white gold; he stopped and looked closer. It was perfect. Silver in color, each linking band of precious metal was just what he wanted to see on Mani. He entered the jewelry store to find out some more info about the piece he saw. When he left he was contented that Mani would love his present when he'd give it to him. He headed back to the airport with a more of a positive outlook. By the time his flight was actually able to taxi out of Ottawa’s International Airport, it was well after two a.m. Aikrii watched as the lights dissipated in the distance aching to be home. He drifted into a restless sleep, his phone, in his brief case, off...

"Ok I don't know what to do. I've called the airport they said all flights were either delayed, redirected or passengers were put up in a hotel."

Mani paced the floor frantic. Worried and in serious need of more coffee to keep him awake.

"No, I don't know where he is, that's why I'm calling you to check the GPS in his phone. I want to know if he's in the air or still on the ground!"The one sided convo kept it's frantic pace up while Mani's dad passed him another cup of coffee and patted his worried son on his back."Oh great! ...Thanks..." He frowned looked at the phone he was holding in his hand; then turned it off and set it down. Sighing loudly in defeat.

His dad looked at him with eyebrows raised, "So..?"

"They don't know where he's at. His cell is off." Mani flopped on the leather sofa about ready to burst into tears. His coffee sloshed out of its cup, landing on the floor. Marie, who was also there, rushed over and cleaned up the mess and then patted Mani's cheek,

"Sweetie, he'll be home soon, just you wait and see. I know he's OK... He's possibly as frazzled as you, but my boy will be here to make you smile again mighty soon. A mama knows these things." She smiled, stood up and headed off to the kitchen. Mani's mom, Alice, was nodding in agreement to Marie's comment and added "She's right you know."

"We have a competition starting in eight hours, and he's still not here. If he's still in Ottawa, he won't make it. If he's in the air he's likely going to be too exhausted to participate, and I don't want him to hurt himself. You all know how he's always trying to please everyone."

Marie looked at Mani and spoke up, "Mani, you my dear man worry too much. You're going to make yourself mighty sick doing that. I'm sure my Aikrii will know what's best for him and him alone. If he didn't, he wouldn't be with you right?"

He was shocked to hear her speak like that but she was right.

"OK now off to bed, we all need sleep." She shooed everyone off to their respective rooms at Mani’s place. Mani's parents were in the spare room next to his own. Nye in his room on the cot and Aikrii's mom said she'd stay up and doze in the lazy boy chair, if she heard any news she'd wake Mani.

He walked to his room, his brother already curled up on his cot gabbing on his cell to Cleo. "I love you too baby. Yes; you'll kick ass tomorrow. Sweet dreams, goodnight."

He closed his phone and looked at his brother who was holding the picture of him and Aikrii at his sixteenth birthday party.

"Sleep Mani, the Do-Jang needs you tomorrow to you know."

Mani shook his head yes and put the pic beside his bed on the nightstand table. He crawled onto his bed and stretched out still fully clothed, laid back, staring at the ceiling. He fell asleep. It was just after 6 am when the phone rang. Marie was awake. She picked up the phone at the first ring, and she had a looming fear of dread when she lifted the receiver to her ear.

"Hello?" She said into the receiver.

Is Mr. Mani Tskii there please?" The official voice said. "He's sleeping at the moment, is there a message?"

"Can you please inform Mr. Tskii that there's been an accident and the family of Chev Nairs would like for him to call them immediately. They are at the Halifax Infirmary."

Marie was relieved to hear it wasn't her son that was in trouble but still distraught over this bit of news.

"Thanks Ma'am. I'll pass it on to him as soon as possible." Marie said then returned the receiver to the base, just as Mani walked out of his room.

"I have some bad news," Marie said. Mani's eyes went wide; he was terrified on what he would hear next, when he heard keys in the door.

Aikrii, worn and tired, looking like something the dog dragged in, walked through the door. He was the best looking thing Mani's sore tired eyes could see. He grabbed Aikrii and hugged him so hard, Aikrii thought he would break a rib.

"WHOA! Big fella!" He said laughing, "I missed you too; but let me get in the door."

Mani kissed his forehead his cheeks and squeezed him again saying over and over again. "Damn I missed you, and I'm so glad you're home."

Most of the apartment dwellers were already awake and in the living room when Marie cleared her voice to get Mani's attention.

"Mani, there's still some bad news." He stopped and looked at her confused. "How can there be, he's home!"

"It's not Aikrii, hun. Its Chev Nairs’ family. They want you to call them at the Halifax Infirmary. I was told there's been an accident."

If Mani could have gotten any whiter, it was at that very moment. "Oh God no!" He rushed to the phone and punched in the number to the front desk of the hospital and made his inquires on the family. James; Chev and Sefron's dad came on the phone.

"God James, I just got the message what's wrong?" He could hear the grown man crying on the other end. "It's Chev." He sobbed loudly. "Sh-she's gone!" He hears the phone exchange hands as the man wailed louder. Sefron's voice was the next that Mani heard.

"Mani. Sis was killed! Drunk driver hit her as she was heading home from her boyfriends. She was two blocks from home." The anguish in Sefron's voice was more than Mani could bear. He was so devastated.

"Oh God Sefron, I'm so sorry! If there's anything you need, let me know."

"Yes, uh- huh." Mani paused, listening to Sefron’s request. "Will do, hang in there." he said, then hung up the phone.

The room had enough tension you could cut it with a knife. Mani told everyone of Chev's passing. Nye who had been walking out of Mani's room stopped dead in his tracks.

"Oh no!" Total and complete shock covering his face. His chest tightened, "Cleo! I have to call Cleo..."

"Ummm," Aikrii poked into the distraught fray of bodies. "Mani, maybe we should cancel the competition in light of the news we've just received."

Mani was sitting on the couch when Aikrii sat next to him. Mani fiercely hugged his boyfriend looked at him and said "I still thank God it wasn't you, but no we can't cancel now."

Aikrii was shocked to hear that. "But why?"

"Because it's not something Chev would have done." He simply said.

Nye was speaking with Cleo as he walked around his phone, resonated the wails of a young girl who lost one of her best friends in the whole world. She asked if she could come over. Mani told his brother to tell her yes. Today was going to be a hell of a day and all of them needed the support of each other.

The competition center was packed when Mani's team entered; those who had already heard of the tragedy gave their condolences to the team. Mani contacted an official and told them of the lost member. He was informed that if they had a student to stand in for her that could do two rounds then they could continue. He informed his team of the changes and Cleo stood up. She spoke. "She was my best friend in the whole world; I think if anyone should fight in her place it should be me." Mani looked down at the saddened but sincere girl with the purple hair and oddest colored orange eyes.

He put his hand on her shoulder and said. "You can fight in her place but remember this; you're not perfect and no one here expects you to be. She knew that too and was still your friend anyway. So if you think you have to call it quits, no one here will think any less of you." He looked at his team as they all murmured their agreements.

Cleo had a tear in her eye and looked at Mani and said, "Thanks. I'll do my best, but it won't be for the team sir but for the memory of Chev."

"Do what you think you need to do OK?" Mani hugged the girl and then got his members up to warm up.

The speaker in the area crackled. "First up, Halifax’s East side Do-Jang, teams, Tigers and Cranes, with instructors Tskii and Master Chan."

Mani looked around, it was now or never. Neil was his first student on the floor. They did their customary bows and the competition started. By the time Cleo got to the floor though, she was a different person. She was focused and determined.

"Char-yot" she stood at attention as the ref got them ready "kyong-re" she bowed; then assumed her stance. "Say Jak!" the ref yelled initiating the start of the sparring. Her opponent struck first but being as good as she was; she blocked his blow with ease. Then lightening fast, she had him down on the mat in 3 hits. The ref yelled, "Go mon!" she backed off, stopping as told. The ref pointed to her side as he rewarded the earned point. Her opponent got up and commented.

"Wow, you're good."

Panting from the exertion she eyed him and said, "I have to be; but thanks." Two rounds later, with her rate at two to one, she won her first series of matches and was placed to continue into the next level.

Aikrii made his way to the mat for his division rounds for the yellow belts. He was very nervous as it was his very first time fighting even if it was only the Regional Division Competition. He wanted to do well. Mani was there on the sidelines, watching.

His opponent was a flyweight like him but he was still scared. He took a deep breath and chanted to himself. "He'll still care whether I win or lose."

His opponent bowed. He did likewise, and his belly flopped from tiredness and nerves.

Aikrii's nerves played a role in his first pin.

He was on the mat under his opponent in about five moves. He was disappointed but he still got up, brushed himself off and continued for his next two rounds. He ranked third in line over all and he was in the final picks for the last rounds, he was very pleased with himself. Never in a million years did he think he'd ever be able to get this far nor the confidence to defend himself.

The last and final rounds for the Regional Division’s Competitions left Cleo nearly exhausted but she was determined. Her wrist hurt from the last rounds and it was swelling.

She was icing it when Mani checked on her.

"I'll be OK." she said when he gave her a disappointing glare at the purple mark he saw.

"Cleo, you do not need to be the hero" he said, "I'm going to pull you, it's too much."

"Mani if you're my friend you'll let me do this."

"I am your friend. I'm looking out for you." He said "But I'm also an instructor here first." He got up from the bench and looked down. "If it's any worse in an hour; you're not fighting."

Cleo panicked. She had to finish, it was for Chev. She didn't want it to be all for nothing. She searched the crowd for the one face she knew could help.

About an hour had passed since the beginner’s rounds had been completed. Aikrii was beaming, his last rounds got him ranked as a silver standing for the fly weights. He was jumping around all excited. He ran to Mani who managed to catch his flying hug.

He was cheered by the rest of his team.

"See I told you, you could do it." Mani lowered him to the floor. Others patted his back and congratulated him. "I have to go check Cleo on OK? I'll be back soon." He ruffed his hair. "When this is all said and done, we'll celebrate OK?" He then headed off to the second circle, where the blue belts were getting ready for their finals. He checked in on Cleo. When she showed him her wrist it looked OK, in fact it looked like it was getting normal again although it was still swollen. He went to reach for it, she pulled back. She said it was fine and wanted to get going.

"OK, I have no issues. What did the officials say?"

"Just to ice it." which was in fact the truth but she still didn't look him in the eyes when she told him this.

"Well Alright." Mani stood behind her, rubbed her shoulders as she jostled herself back and forth, hyping herself up for her last match. He gave her an encouraging jostle before she headed to the floor. He told her. "Do your best; it's all anyone expects."

She nodded her head and went to the floor to compete in her friends place.

"Say Jak!" The ref backed away after signaling to start. She usually waited for her opponent to attack first but this time, as if she was Chev, she did the opposite and was off like an arrow and got a quick flying hit to her opponent's chest. She was down in one shot. Her teammates cheered loudly when the ref stepped in and yelled, "Go mon!" and pointed to her,  rewarding her the point. Cleo waited to see if her opponent would get up. She did. Again, the ref signaled the start of the fight and they were both off. She was kicked twice; her swollen wrist taking the brunt of the two hits as she blocked them. Doing a low leg sweep she tried to throw her opponent off and succeeded with the sweep, but as her opponent jumped to avoid the sweep, she inadvertently left her stomach opened to an attack. With no thought to her injured wrist, she reacted automatically and nailed her opponent with a full forced blow to the gut. There was a sickening crunch that vibrated through her whole body as her wrist broke. She screamed out as her opponent landed on the floor in a doubled over ball.

She grabbed her wrist with her uninjured hand, only to have the makeup she had Nye help her apply rub off on her hand. Her opponent was as stubborn as she was. Injured, she was still moving and wished to continue. Cleo was gritting her teeth through the pain, her head swimming. Two times her opponent went down; two times she was awarded the points. She had to win. Driving herself, she continued. Her opponent knowing she was injured, tried to take advantage of the situation and immediately aimed for her injury, but being prepared, Cleo raised her right leg up mid level, using it to block herself. It was a wise move on her part as the other girl landed a blow to her kneecap. There was a very loud sickening crack which even the audience heard and they all cringed at the sound. Cleo though, didn't feel a thing. She reacted now. Down went the right leg, no longer needed as a block but now as a swivel point. Round she went up went her left leg as she spun backwards. TWACK! Connection. Her heel hit a shoulder and her opponent went down screaming. "Go Mon!" the ref screamed. It was over. The point was awarded to Cleo. The ref went to her to raise her arm in victory. It was the last thing she remembered as pain shot through her and she passed out.

"But you deceived me!" she could hear the words being yelled. Then she noticed paramedics were taking care of her and wrapping her now badly busted wrist. "Look; it was her choice!" She heard Nye’s stress. "All I did was what she asked. I helped her!"

Nye was standing over her. She reacted by reaching up with her good hand and tried to touch his face. He took her hand and looked down at her; smiling in relief to see her awake.

"You were amazing!" he said softly over the hubbub around them "You won! Gold too. But, Mani's pissed we tricked him."

She frowned. Again she did her best but someone was still pissed over her actions. She started to cry; then her ever familiar temper flew off. She yelled at Mani, who was still ranting over Nye's deception.

"Shut the hell up will you!" She screamed at him, sitting up and pushing off the paramedic, who was trying to finish the sling for her arm.

"Where the hell do you get off blaming him for something I choose to do?" she asked him.

"He..." he pointed to his baby brother "knew what you were doing and covered things up. He should have told me instead." Mani seethed. He hated being deceived or lied to.

"He did what he did because he respects my choices and my abilities to judge how far I can push myself."

“You put yourself at risk." Mani threw back at her.

"Don't you think after all the medical training I've had over the last three years; I don't know what I am capable of doing, even with an injury?" She waited to see what he would say. When he didn't respond, she continued "You're over reacting. I did what had to be done to finish the tournament." she looked at him again waiting for a response and once again she got none.

"Hey!" she interjected "I won us gold! For our team! Doesn't that count for something?"

Mani was too pissed to continue with the conversation, "You were foolish and reckless!" he gruffly replied as he walked away. Nye looked down at her, "He'll cool off. He's just worried."

"Yeah I know." she replied. She still cried though knowing again she let someone else she cared about down. It didn't seem to matter what she did. If it wasn't at home, it was now with her friends.

The papers the next morning had two articles. One on Chev's death and the other on the Do-Jang's wins. "Winning two out of the five possible metal standings for their division. It was a bittersweet win considering the team's loss." Mani quoted from the paper. Aikrii looked over his own pages of the paper. He was still sad about Chev's death.

"Did Nye call back yet?" He asked.

"No, and right now I don't care to speak to him. What he did was wrong." Mani said frustrated.

"Hun, what did he do that was so terribly wrong?" He looked at his boyfriend but continued before he got an answer "He did what the love of his life requested. She wanted help...would you turn down helping the one you loved?"

Mani looked back at the one he did love and thought.

No" he answered. "But it also doesn't mean I'd be reckless either." he paused "He put her in danger by going with her plan. You just don't go covering an injury like that with make-up just so you can go on. It only prolongs the injury."

"He proved he'd do anything to help because he loves her and because he trusts her. She didn't cheat to get her win. She just suffered instead. She made a sacrifice out of love and needed to prove herself. What part of that is so hard to understand?"

Mani raked his hands through his hair. "None I suppose, but it was still foolish and she's suspended till I decide otherwise."

"Suit yourself; I agree it was foolish. I never said I didn't agree on that part, BUT" he stressed, "If you think punishing her for trying to do the right thing, then by all means do so. However, I think her injury is punishment enough for making the decision she did. Your choice to punish her also won't stop her from making the same decisions again if she needs to."

"Touché!" Mani said. Aikrii grinned. Ahhh, point made. Score one for him; he won that round he thought. "Gee I best call Nye and let him know everything will be OK." he chuckled to himself as he got up and went over to Mani and wrapped his arms around his waist.

"You know you're proud of her and how much she sacrificed to be her best, so let it be."

Mani groaned, "Yeah; you're right...again."

Aikrii laughed, kissed his cheek and then smiled. Now that was the Mani he knew.

Chapter 11 – Confrontation

Aikrii’s father, Phillip, slinked out of the much hated building. He looked around glad to be free once again to continue his search. He was getting closer and now he knew exactly where he was going to be. Off in the distance, he spotted the bridge, a church steeple and a few dozen auto shops. He headed towards the bridge with only one thing on his mind.

The minister was still talking to the friends and family of Chev Nairs. Her mom, Susan was being held by her dad, James, who was still in a state of shock. Sefron was sitting with his friends and a few of his band mates. He was watching the funeral officiating with a numb heart. His baby sister was gone and now he had lost one of the few people that mattered the most to him. She had been his rock when he was having a tough time. His sister, though younger, was always the wise one and helped him along when he needed guidance.

She was also the one who had informed him about the bands lead singer’s issue with drugs. She helped him write three of his songs and she was the one who introduced him to Cleo, who had introduced him to more new faces then he'd ever had the pleasure to meet. He never was one to make many friends, now he had many.

He sighed; he was feeling so cold inside. He had to get more info to on the accident. He had been told the driver who had hit her wasn't considered legally drunk. When they arrested him, due to the laws, he was allowed to refuse the breathalyser testing for up to four hours before he had to take it, or be charged with refusal and impaired driving. Apparently he managed to nail the near four hour mark and passed the test, making it hard for them to charge him with her death till they had more proof from witnesses at the accident scene. Eyewitnesses were the one thing the authorities were lacking.

He reached over and squeezed Cleo's hand who had laid it on his knee trying to get his attention. Everyone was heading out from the funeral and moving out to her grave site. He sighed, placing his head in his hands. He took a deep breath before getting up to follow the crowd. God so help him to be strong, he thought. Not only for him and his family but for the man who killed his baby sis. All he wanted to do now was make him pay for what he did.

Mani and Aikrii were leaving the church steps when Aikrii spotted him. He gasped and gripped Mani's arm so hard Mani thought he was going to break it.

"What's wrong?" he looked in the direction Aikrii was staring at, frozen solid in place. Then they noticed something else. A very pissed Sefron marching towards the same direction Aikrii was staring. Sefron grabbed a tall brutish dark haired man who had been walking up the churches parking lot.

"What's fucking going on Aikrii?" Mani said panicking.

"That's my dad!" he said, still frozen.

"How does Sefron know him?" he was confused and looked over at Aikrii.

"He doesn't." he said confused then it clicked and he gasped, "Oh God, Mani let's go!"

He grabbed Mani's hand and dragged him towards the ensuing scuffle in the parking lot.

"You bastard you killed her! You fucking killed my baby sister and you have the nerve to show up here?! I'll kill you!" Sefron hauled back to nail the man but Aikrii stepped in between them and stopped Sefron.

"No! He's my dad!" He yelled, praying Sefron wouldn't hit him. Sefron released the man he so hated.

Phillip snarled, "I don't need no faggot fighting my battles!"

Aikrii stared at his dad and was disgusted at what the man had become. "First of all! I am YOUR son! Whether you like it or not! Blood is thicker than water dad! So get over it!"

Phillip made a swing for his son's head, however; Aikrii’s training clicked in like an automatic switch. He ducked low and leg swept his dad; knocking him off balance. Before Phillip could hit the asphalt of the parking lot, his son had him by his jacket. He was dangling mere inches from the ground.

"I'm not scared of you anymore dad. You can't hurt me anymore either." He said giving the dangling man a shake. "I have people who do love me no matter what!"

Aikrii easily lifted the scruffy ill tempered man he called his father to his unsteady feet.

Phillip spit on the boys' shirt and muttered. "You're not my son. My son would be normal not some fucking flaming queer." He jeered his face all ugly with hate. "People like you should all be shot, the whole lot of ya."

"Just like your brother?" Mani and Aikrii heard Marie who had shown, speak up. Phillip was shocked to see his wife, let alone have her speak of his twin brother, Francis.

"You leave him out of this!" Phillip hissed, as he stood up. Now outraged at the mentioning of the brother, who had not only hurt him when he was a child, but his own disowned son as well. "That thing wasn't my brother!" He screamed trying once again to hit Aikrii. He lost it; his rage taking over.

Aikrii wasn't trained to fight in this manner, so he just used what he had been taught. Low duck, from a swing. Left leg extended, right leg under him, knee bent. Attackers exposed belly. One! Two! Rapid succession with a closed fist to gut. Pull back; lean to side as his attacker landed face first on the pavement, clutching his stomach. Aikrii straightened up; unscathed. Mani staring in astonishment at what had just played out before his eyes. He rushed to Aikrii's side taking his hand so he knew he had someone at his side to help if he so choose to ask for it.

"You’ve  already ruined your own life dad, you will not ruin mine as well." He straightened his jacket "I'm still your son, whether you like it or not and I will still love you as my dad but I've lost all my respect for you. Hate is a nasty thing and so is intolerance." He looked down at the man who had rolled over on his back. He had so much hate in his face, so much disdain for all that was around him, he wasn't the man Aikrii had grown up respecting as his dad. The man he knew got lost years ago with the first bottle of alcohol he had picked up after losing his job.

The police had shown by then and arrested Phillip again, only this time for causing a disturbance and then asked Aikrii if he wanted to press charges. Aikrii said no it was just a waste of time as far as he was concerned. He held his mom's hand as she cried and watched her husband get placed in the back seat of a cruiser.

Sefron walked up to them and spoke. "I'm sorry Marie. When I seen him all I wanted to do was kill him. I just wanted to hurt him so bad. I know my beating him won't get back my sister, but I sure wanted to make him pay."

"He still got beaten though." she said, placing a hand on Sefron's face giving a sad smile, "By his own hate. For the demons he holds."

She sighed, dropping her hand "He just doesn't understand that sometimes life doesn’t give you a choice on the way one is born, like being born black or white, it's not something you can convert." She felt so defeated. “It shouldn’t matter who you love. I still love him, even if he’s on a bad path.”

Mani and Aikrii went on either side of Marie and each wrapped an arm around her shoulder and then Sefron joined too. All four walking back to the remaining funeral procession. James was happy to see his son join them. They sat up front. Sefron noticing all the peach, white and pink flowers all around him. All were Chev's favorite colors of roses and carnations. The minister continued and the funeral went on without anymore troubles. The family, each, tossed a rose on her coffin, saying their good-byes.

James and Susan also laid a teddy she used to have as a baby on her coffin and sadly walked off. The somber moment leaving everyone feeling like the world just wouldn't go on.


Phillip was booked and put into a cell with three others; he was more angry now than he ever had been. The boy had beaten him, where did he learn to do that?

He let the comments his son had said float through his head. He hated everything that was happening. He bellowed a curse on top of his lungs. His fellow cellmates looked over at him and jeered, they could have fun with the well dressed bum. Phillip never knew what hit him, and it was over in an instant.

The next morning Aikrii was sleeping when he heard the phone ring. Not wanting to move or get up he just groaned. He didn't have to move though, Mani had been right there watching him sleep. He had been sketching him and was disappointed that the phone had waken his sleeping beauty. Mani picked up the phone. More bad news. It was Marie, she was frantic. She wanted to pass on news to Aikrii, it was about his dad.

Aikrii opened a sleepy eye looking at Mani who was frowning.

"Uh huh" he paused, noticing Aikrii was awake. He passed the picture he had been working on to Aikrii and continued talking to Marie motioning to Aikrii to shh.

Ki looked at the picture and was stunned to see what was there. It was awesome. He never realized just how much of a good artist Mani was. Mani was talking low tones on the phone when Aikrii realized something was up. He called over to him, "Hey, what's going on?"

Mani hesitated, then passed him the phone. Aikrii could hear his mom on the other end of the phone in a state of distraught. "Mom! What's wrong?!"

She started to tell Aikrii about what had happened to his dad while he was being detained at the precinct; the fight that had happened and the injuries he had sustained from the beating he had received from the other inmates being contained with him. Aikrii didn't know what to think at first, till his mother told him.

"He might die Aikrii, because of all his drinking; his liver was damaged and with this beating, it only made the damage worse. The Dr’s are saying he’s in need of surgery." Aikrii was shocked to hear this.

"Oh my!" He got pale; considering how dark his complexion was, Mani knew it was very serious to see such a dramatic change.

He got up frantically, leaving the sheets in a disheveled mess on the bed. He passed Mani back his drawing. Mani followed the nude body heading to the closet. Listening intently to the one sided convo knowing most of what was already being repeated. Aikrii grabbed a pair of boxers and his blue jeans, stuffing both on in a hurry.

"Yeah, I can be there." he paused listening "Uh huh...ummm no. Yes, OK, I love you too mom." He hung up not looking at Mani, tossed the phone and then rummaged for a shirt from his own kit bag of clothing, which still remained stuffed at the bottom of their closet. He hauled out a wrinkled white shirt and hastily stuffed himself into it. He ran his hands through his hair and turned around to be greeted by a confused Mani, who was holding the pad that contained the picture he had been working on.

"I have to go." he said to Mani

Mani knew Aikrii's dad was injured but he didn't understand where he was going, so he asked. "Where?"

"To the hospital, mom wants me to see him and I can't turn my back on him Mani, even after all he put me through." His eyes held so much sadness knowing his dad could die.

"You mean even after what he put everyone through, don't you?" Mani said. Aikrii thought he knew where this was going and really didn't want any part of it.

"Mani, understand this; regardless of his stupidity, his dangerous actions, and his hate for me because of whom I've become." he paused and then moved on "Regardless of who he's hurt, he's my dad first. Always was, always will be and that won't change, no matter what." he looked up with tears in his eyes.

"If you can't understand that then I guess you're not the person I thought you were either. Since you're still judging him the same way he judges, with a closed mind."

Mani was angry, shocked, and most of all hurt at the words that spilled from Aikrii’s mouth. All of them feeling like burning water, searing his heart in a painful grip. He sighed and watched the love of his life walk out the door of their apartment, not knowing where the turn of events would take them next. When the door clicked shut, he looked down at the picture in his hand and then cried.

He entered the room; looking at the man he called his father. He was hooked up to a respirator and iv tubes. His heart beat registering on a monitor, slowly beating. It was the first time Aikrii had really looked at his dad without him seeing him like the drunk he was so use to seeing the last few years.

He sat beside his bed. He knew his dad was sedated but it didn't matter. He would still be there for his dad even if hated him. A nurse walked in and he started asking questions on his dad's condition and what could be done to help. She explained some of the info she knew but told him it was best to speak to the physician who was taking care of his dad's needs. He got up and followed her to the nurses' station and waited for the doctor after she had paged him. When the doctor showed, Aikrii was surprised to see Chev's mom.

"Susan, why are you here?"

"I have to do my job Aikrii. It's the only way to keep me sane." She replied flipping through a chart. "Why are you here?"

"I need information on what I can do for my dad." he said. She knew the man he spoke of was the man who very likely killed her daughter, but she also had standards as a doctor and understood why Aikrii was there.

She took him to her office to explain what was required in regards to the liver surgery his father needed. She explained how things would be done. Aikrii had to be one hundred percent sure he wanted to help, since the surgery that his dad had to endure could be potentially life threatening due to a transplant rejection. Aikrii knew he wanted to help in any way he could. She handed him a form to fill out. He looked at it, stood up and shook her hand.

"Thank you." he said

"No Aikrii, thank you for showing me even a man, like him, regardless of all the injustices he's done to those around him, he's still is loved and tolerated." She sighed and looked at him "You’re an amazing son,  he's lucky to have you. It's just too bad he's too damn blind to see that. I hope this step you're taking to help him isn't thrown into your face later."

Aikrii nodded his thanks and left the office to fill out the forms. Hours later when he finished talking to the hospitals shrink he realized all he had been trying was in vain. He’d been informed; that because he wasn’t legal age, and his mother hadn’t consented, he couldn’t make that decision on his own. He left frustrated, saddened and with no direction to turn.

Cleo and Nye were only at Mani's place no more than an hour when Mani got the call from Susan. He asked what was going on, as Aikrii seemed really upset. She explained what happened and what Aikrii was trying to do, only to have him leave her office again, saying something about losing again. Mani had no idea what was going on and asked Susan if he was still at the hospital. She said she wasn't sure and said she could have him paged. While he was on hold, he got Nye to use his cell to try and call Aikrii on his. "Ring, ring..." five times he allowed it to do its double ring. Nye got nothing. He shook his head at Mani, who was once again speaking to Susan. She said he wasn't in the hospital any longer.

Mani looked at his baby bro and his girlfriend and said, "Stay here, if he calls, call me and tell me where he's at. I have something to do." He rushed out of the apartment grabbing his keys and jacket.

Susan took the forms from him. Another potential living donor, only this one is over eighteen and healthy. She looked over at Mani and asked "Are you sure you want to do this?"

"Susan, it's his dad. Aikrii's crying out for help in the only way he knows how. If this is what I have to do to help him help his dad then so be it. I love him too much to see him hurting like this."

"But this is dangerous. Aikrii could end up losing you both!" she said with all the seriousness she could muster. Frankly, she could care less about Phillip, but as a doctor she had her duties to stick to first and foremost. She did care for Aikrii and Mani and they were the last people she wanted to see hurt.

"I trust you to not let that happen Susan" he said kissing her cheek as he walked out of her office, leaving here standing there stunned.

She decided if this was how things were going to be then she had some quick changes she had to make and fast. She got on the phone and started making some serious inquiries on how to get the required info, surgeons and teams set up so she could get things moving. This was going to be one challenge she wouldn't pass up.

Marie was at Mani's apartment when he came back for the fifth time that day. He had been out looking for Aikrii. It had been three days he had no idea where he was and he was so desperate to find him. He flopped onto the couch exhausted, scared and sad. He started to cry into his hands. Marie rushed to his side and hugged the young man who sobbed like a boy who lost his best friend. "Shhh, Shh baby he'll come home soon." she said not believing even her own words.

"You make a horrible liar Marie." he hiccupped. Wiping his tears, pulled back, and looked up at the wonderful Italian lady before him. She was so much like his mother.

"But I still love you for trying." She smiled sadly and touched his face and said, "He'll come to his senses sweetie; he just needs time to think."

"Marie, the boy is a freaking genius. How hard is it for him to think about how much we all love him? He should know we'd be looking for him. I want him here to, so I can tell him what I plan on doing for him, for you, for us!" He shuddered in while breathing, trying to control the tears from reaching his eyes. She hugged him again. "It'll work out baby. I know it in my heart."

Josh was astonished at how much weight Aikrii had put on in nearly a year.

"Good God darlin'. You're a sight for sore eyes." He said to his pal when he had shown up on his doorstep, four days ago. Aikrii didn't tell him much, just said he needed a place to think and asked if he could stay.

"You're more than welcome to hang out if you want." he said with unanswered questions flying across his face faster than the local subway.

"I don't want to get into it." Aikrii said. The look of sadness staining his face, literally made Josh's own heart feel like it was breaking.

"Ok baby boy. I won't pry but if you need ears to listen, I have two. Pull on one; I'll lean your way." He said patting his friends shoulder.

Aikrii woke up on the fourth day of being at Josh's and decided it was time to call his mom. When he rang at the house, there was no answer. Still depressed, he closed his phone and sighed. Raking his fingers through his hair, he crawled off the couch which was painfully uncomfortable to sleep on and headed to the small bathroom. He had just finished using the facilities when he heard Josh fly frantically through the door of his place, panting and all excited.

Aikrii poked his head out of the bathroom, and saw that Nye was with him. "SHIT!" he thought, just what he didn't need, a baby brother to poke where he had no business to be.

"Aikrii get your God damn ass out here right now!" Nye yelled. Aikrii was shocked. Nye never spoke to him like that before. He sauntered around the corner like he was a cool cat without a care in the world. He looked down at Nye as if he was a mere annoying child. Nye looked at him and did what any baby brother would do, took a tantrum. He soundly stomped on Aikrii's foot and yelled "Don't be a fucking ass!"

Aikrii was thrown off guard at his reaction and hopped around holding his foot. He certainly wasn't expecting that. "This facade doesn't work on me, so stop with the act. You're coming with me NOW!" He grabbed Aikrii's arm and tugged.

"WHOA squirt!" He said in a raised tone and with a touch of annoyance, "Who died and made you boss?"

Josh just watched what was playing out before him and interjected to the scene with his own comments;

"Mani could if you're not there for him."

Those words were enough to make Aikrii drop to the floor like all the life had been drained from him. "What do you mean!? What's wrong!?" he asked terrified of the answer to come.

"He's trying to save your selfish father’s life, you foolish little ass! Now get up and let's go! I'll explain on the way." Nye grabbed him more forcefully, yanked him to his feet and started to head out the door.

"Nye, I'll call you later!" Josh yelled. Aikrii still confused, followed Nye down to the waiting car. Sefron was behind the wheel. "For a famous little fella you're some friggin hard to track down." He said as Aikrii buckled into the seat. He hesitated in mid buckle while looking at Sefron and asked, "Famous?" Nye, who was now in the back seat, passed him a newspaper from that very day. On the front page is a picture of him and Mani. Under it, the caption says,

"Boy genius missing as father lies dying in hospital." He started to read the story and was surprised to hear people call him famous, even in the paper. There was a public plea for information on Aikrii's whereabouts. 'Anyone having information on this young man is urged to contact Halifax Police so he can return home as soon as possible, as his partner is being hospitalized in preparation to help save his very father’s life.' The paper continued by quoting Mani. 'In the words of Mani Tskii;'

"Just tell him I still love him. My Ki; we beat as one." Aikrii slowly laid the paper into his lap and swayed with the car as it veered in and out of traffic. He was nearly as white as a sheet, after reading the news.

"Oh shit. What have I done?"

Chapter 12- Second Chance

Mani was scared. He was alone. He was being wheeled down the corridor to his room. In another ten minutes he would be in saving the life of a man who despised everything he stood for. He missed Aikrii. The nurse propped his head up with a few pillows and then called for his doctor.

Susan walked in about five minutes later. We're just about ready for you Mani. I was wondering if there's anything you want me to have passed on to anyone, information wise.

"Just tell Ki," he paused choking back his tears, "Tell him I still love him. He may feel like only one person in this world but he means the world to this one person."

Susan understood and took his hand, "This will go just fine and everything will be OK. Wait and see" She smiled, believing that once the surgery was over things would get some what back to normal.

Almost an hour passed by the time they made it to the VG. Aikrii was still so sunned. He moved like a robot on auto. If it wasn't for Nye, he'd be totally lost. They made it to the hospital and he was directed to where Mani's room was located. When he got there, Mani wasn't in his room. The nurse came in and Aikrii stopped her and asked where he was.

"Oh, Mr Tskii is in surgery now. He'll be out in about 6-8 hours. It's about the standard time wise unless there's complications." she said. "Oh, if you're looking for where he will come out, he's on the fourth floor. You're allowed to wait there for when he comes out of surgery for recovery. His doctor will come out to once she knows you're there; to fill you in on details; as things progress."

Aikrii was so heartbroken. He wasn't there when Mani went in. He was all alone! Aikrii felt like a total ass; because of him the one person he loved more than his mom was risking his life for someone who hated them both. He sobbed.

"I can't believe went and done this, he didn't have to be a hero."

Nye looked at Aikrii, "Damn, now don't those words hit home."

Aikrii was confused on why Nye said that. Nye looked at Aikrii and said, "What you just said, it was what he said to Cleo during her match. I told him regardless of what he thought of her choices." he paused for a minute to reflect. "I did what I had to do to help her. Looking at this situation, I think this is his way of helping you."

"By risking his life?" Aikrii was still in shock over it all.

They made it up to the recovery waiting area and informed the receptionist that they were there. It wasn't long before Susan had sent out an intern to inform them that things were progressing smoothly and at the rate things were going, they'd be ready to start removing the donor section of his liver very soon.

Aikrii was scared and blurted out, "Ask Susan if I can come in, please. I'll sit by his head and not bother anyone. I just want to be there!"

The nurse looked at him. "I'm terribly sorry." she said with regret, "We don't allow that Mr. Oratii."

He sighed, raked his hair and paced the waiting area. "Oh God, why did this have to happen?" He was so frustrated.

The nurse walked over to him and reassured him everything would be OK. “If you need to walk, pray or anything, there’s a chapel downstairs and you can take a pager with you so you don’t have to worry. There’s also a coffee shop and cafeteria, if you feel the need.”

He looked over at Nye and Sefron. They shook their heads yes. They didn't need to wait here for hours on end when a nurse could page them and they could be back within twenty minutes.

Sefron asked the nurse to notify Susan when things were progressing and if she wants to send a report, if she could page them twenty minutes prior, so they could be out in the waiting room when she came out. The nurse said it could be feasible but it was best to stick close since complications are always possible.

They agreed to stick close and would return frequently. Aikrii headed to the lobby with his friends. He was shivering and felt weak. The thought of losing Mani were the scariest thing he could conceive. Just being away for the last four days had been hard enough.

Sefron walked ahead of them both when he piped up to Nye, "Where's Cleo?"

"She's over at Mani's, helping Marie get ready for his return. It's going to be about a week before Mani get's out but once he's home, he's going to need help."

Aikrii stopped.

"How long did he have this planned?"

"He didn't." Nye said "He got a call from Susan, who told him what you tried to do for your dad."

"But it takes WEEKS to get this done!" Aikrii said stomping his foot.

“Aikrii. If a family member is in urgent need and you're on a donor list already, have all your priors lined up and pass a few tests like Mani did, then they can get special emergency surgeries done quickly." He looked over at Aikrii; he had no idea that Mani was already a donor. He always thought they refused anyone who was gay unless it was immediate family.

"With Susan's help, they got things set up within three days. Mani was determined to do this and Marie was beside herself when she found out what he was willing to do, to keep you and to help her. She tried to get him to reconsider."

Aikrii was overwhelmed with what was going on.

"I think we need to go get my mom and Mani needs his family here. Sefron, go pick up Cleo and my mom; here's the keys. Nye, call your parents, tell them to get here. I want him to know we're all here for him when he gets out. I need to make things right."

Surgery took six hours and it went very well. Mani was in recovery and was still on a respirator, still sleeping from the anesthetic. Aikrii stroked his head and spoke to him, putting his head by his arm, breathing him in. Touching, everything to make sure he was still truly there. He asked the nurse how long before he would come out of the sedation.

She said "He was awake once already. He can hear you. He just might not be able to move or talk yet that's all. The meds can make a patient quite groggy."

He was pleased to hear this. Susan came in to let Aikrii know his dad was now in surgery, getting the donated liver piece transplanted and things were going smoothly so far.

"We can take Mani off of the respirator really soon OK? Once we do this, we can transfer him to his room." She smiled and headed back into the OR with the rest of the team, who were still working on his father.

It was getting dark when Mani was transferred to his room. The nurse had paged Nye, who had the pager at the time. They all showed within minutes of each other. Sefron was with Marie, Cleo and Nye were with his parents, who drove them. Mani was awake but still very groggy. The nurses told them two at a time. Mani's parents went in first. They spent about fifteen minutes in the room. They came out and told the rest he was talking, just not quickly. Sometimes he drifted in and out since the meds were still wearing off.

Nye and Cleo went next. When Cleo came out, she was chuckling.

Aikrii asked "Why are you laughing?"

"He doesn't know that you're here." She said smiling. "He said he thought he could hear you talking to him, telling him you were sorry." she grinned.

"He's going to be surprised to see you."

Aikrii was surprised to hear that Mani had heard him when he was in recovery. Marie went in next, without letting the cat out of the bag. She encouraged Mani to take a few sips of water and chat more. He was beginning to be more coherent. She was pleased.

Sefron went in next to say his hello’s and told him everything was OK at home. Susan's intern came in to check on him while Sefron was there and said, "Your partner was a wreck when you were in surgery. Poor boy wanted to come right in."

Mani was shocked to hear this. He looked at Sefron, "He's here?" He whispered.

Sefron smiled, got up and left... Mani was confused and a bit heartbroken too. Just what the hell was going on?

Aikrii stepped into the room and walked up to the curtain. Not knowing what would happen when he pulled it back or what he'd see. He just knew that the love of his life was on the other side. He pulled back the curtain, Mani had his eyes closed but opened them when he heard the curtain thinking, it was just another nurse in to check on him.

His heart registered a quick jump on the monitor, whether out of excitement or surprise, Mani was so happy to see him. He smiled and reached out to Aikrii. Aikrii sat on the side of his bed and without a word just held his hand and let him relax. Mani started to stroke his thumb on the inside of Aikrii's hand. Aikrii looked up at him to see two wonderful violet eyes staring intently at him.

"I never said for you to let him die or to stop loving him; so you never had to leave." He said, finishing off the argument that had caused Aikrii to walk out in the first place.

"Touché!" He said to Mani, giving his hand a firm squeeze. He then kissed his finger tips and smiled like an idiot. He was just happy to see him still in good spirits.

"I still love you Ki, no matter what. Win or lose. You're my Ki. I'm your heart. Together we beat as one. Never forget that." Aikrii had a tear sliding down his cheek as he said this. He loved this man more than anyone could possibly imagine. Mani reached up and wiped the tear. He smiled weakly and grasped Aikrii's hand again. He fell asleep holding his hand.

Aikrii left the room to ask the nurse for the cots they provide for those who stayed the night with their loved ones. Everyone asked him what happened. He looked around. He was surprised to see how interested everyone was in knowing what was going on.

He smiled. "Mamma, he still loves me as much as you do, if not more." he said chuckling. The rest of his pals sighed a huge sigh of relief. Marie giggled, "I don't think that's possible, but; I'll let him have that much this time."

The cot arrived and was set up in Mani's room. The smell of the room reminded him of his own time spent in the hospital. The memories had faded, but were not easily forgotten. His mom walked back into the room.

"Papa is out of surgery baby." She looked to see what he was going to say.

"OK. I'll be right out. I want to see him."

They both went to the recovery room; his mom first. When she came out she was still smiling. He was kind of surprised at that.

He entered and saw that his father still had his breathing tube in but he had his eyes open.

He walked up to the man, who not only tried to kill him once but twice and said, "Hi."

His father showed no emotion.

"I just wanted to tell you that Mani; my boyfriend; was the one who donated the piece of liver that saved your life."

He continued, even thought there was still no emotion or repose from his dad.

"Now, whether you like it or not, a gay man has been part of your life; other than Uncle Francis or me."

His father still didn't budge.

"So long dad. Have a good life or whatever you mange to make of it." with that, he walked out of the room that held the man he once used to respect.

Aikrii grew that night. The man he loved, risked his life to give him his dad back. A man who hated them both because of their lifestyle. He grew emotional. Learning to accept things in two lights and ask before reacting. He became a man. He felt stronger and walked taller, as he returned to his boyfriends ward.

Chapter 13 – Huh?   

"Will you PLEASE stop hovering?" Mani said

It had been over 3 weeks since the surgery and Aikrii hadn't gone too far from Mani. If he wasn't around, someone else was. It was driving Mani insane. All this fuss for nothing. You swear to God he had crapped out gold, the way they were all over him. He pouted when he saw the look his mom gave him. The "Hairy eyeball", as he called it.

Mani's dad was there too and just chuckled, "I think our boy is getting better." he said grinning.

"I wasn't sick in the first place. I am in recovery." he said in the ‘like hello; you're a dumbass’ voice he used as a preteen. This prompted Aikrii to fuss more. "Aww, I think he's over tired. He's getting cranky. Maybe we should get stuff ready for him to take a nap."

Mani screamed "AGGRR!"

He threw the heavy green and burgundy sheets off his legs and got out of bed. Aikrii panicked. It was too soon, he needed rest. Aikrii grabbed his arm, trying to restrain him from going any further. Mani looked at him and very politely and sarcastically said,

"If you love me hun, let me go pee before I let it run down my leg."

Aikrii was shocked and let him go. Mani was totally off; it was fairly unlike him to be so...touchy. He left their room and flopped out on the couch he had been sleeping on over the last two weeks. Mani's parents joined him in the living room.

"He'll come around Aikrii, just wait and give him time." Dan looked at his watch, "Hun, it's time. We have to head out. I have to get ready for my meeting." Alice nodded her head and smiled, kissing Aikrii on his cheek and giving him a gentle squeeze. "Call if you need us, OK?"

"I will mom, don't worry." He said to her. He liked calling her mom. It was easy since her and Marie were so similar and even the two women agreed on that observation made of them. It was uncanny some days how they seemed to think for and with each other.

Mani's parents left. He poked his head from around the corner. Aikrii seeing him, got up immediately thinking he needed something or help.

"Do you want help?"

"Noooo." he said, he blushed instead.

Aikrii was puzzled. What was wrong? He put his hand on Mani's head to feel if he was getting a temperature.

Mani reached up to his extended arm that was feeling his head and pulled it down, but not out of protest to his hovering. He slid his hand up Aikrii's arm, sending tickling sensations. He missed having this kind of attention from Aikrii who was more intent on his recovery. He felt fine. He was more interested in pleasures of another kind and maybe with some encouragement... maybe he would to.

The hairs on Aikrii's arm stood on end of their own accord, reacting to the sensory stimulus that Mani was creating with his fingers. He looked at Mani who didn't look ill but flushed. Mani's arm snaked around his waist and pulled Aikrii in towards him. He said, "I'm hot hunny, but not with that kind of fever," as he pulled him forward and kissed him with so much hunger it even jolted him to his toes, making them curl.

Aikrii was worried yet swimming in the hunger of his demanding kiss. He didn't want Mani to hurt himself but good Lord, this felt good. It had been too long. Aikrii got lost and gave in to the pleasures Mani was creating, moaning in joy. Mani knew he had won over his resolve. Taking over; he nipped across his lips and plunged his tongue deep into his mouth, colliding with another eager participant; lifting his head only as often as they needed to breathe. With ragged gasps, Mani kneaded Aikrii’s bottom, encouraging Aikrii to grind against him, rubbing his own excitement hard against him in turn. Aikrii broke the contact which made Mani groan.

He didn't want to stop. Aikrii, panting and hair all mussed, gulped and gasped out, "You're not better yet. We should wait." He was still aroused though. The hunger in Mani's kiss that time was so full of heat, he thought he was going to melt; his legs felt like rubber and were barely holding him straight now as it was.

Mani ignored his protests and grunted out, "If I wanted a nurse maid darlin', I'd have bought you a dress." With that he pushed him on to the couch and straddled him, grinding his arousal against him suggestively. He looked down into his boyfriend’s sexy green eyes, which were searching his own violet ones, questioning...

"I'll be OK." Mani said, reassuring him. He stroked Aikrii's cheek then butterfly stroked his lips with his own. Tenderly at first, each time progressively getting more demanding, both working into a heated frenzy. Aikrii was lost again but this time he didn't want it to end and he wasn't about to fight it either. Mani had him half naked in an instant and Aikrii didn't know how it had happened. Giggling at Mani's swiftness he ran his hands over his own arousal and smacked Mani's hands away when he tried to touch. Mani was too damn frustrated to play games, he'd been cooped in a hospital for over a week and two weeks of hovering, yet nothing more than a peck here and there. Aikrii was too scared he was going to break him. This made him crack from sexual tension that had been building up for far too long. He growled fiercely and demanded satisfaction.

Aikrii was concerned for the first time about how rough he was going to be, not for his sake but for Mani’s since he was still recovering. "Easy big boy," he muttered to Mani, "Don't go hurting yourself."

Mani only half heeded his warning, grabbed some lotion from the side table drawer. He made short work getting ready and nearly effortlessly slid himself home ,making Aikrii not only yelp in a bit of pain but in pleasure too. He didn't waste any time. Gripping his hips, he thrusted himself home, making Aikrii whimper and wail in ecstasy. He knew his pain was soon forgotten when Mani heard him say, "Ohhh...harder..." He did so. Thrusting, faster and faster. He was feeling the wondrous sensations; he reached for Aikrii's arousal and stroked him as he rode. Both sensations caused a multi effect on both of them, simultaneously they reached their peaks. Mani gripping Aikrii's hips, tightly pulling him hard against his body. Aikrii bucked from his own explosion. His juices actually reaching his own chin. Mani happily licked him clean, savoring his warm salty taste; this only caused Aikrii to get aroused again.

"See what happens when we neglect each other’s needs?" Mani said grinning.

"Yeah, you threaten to dress me in drag then have your way with me..." There was a long pause then a big smile from Aikrii.

"That was fun. Wanna do it again?!" Aikrii asked playfully.

Mani roared with laughter, now this was much better.

Mani never felt better. His love making for most of that day proved to Aikrii he was more than able to handle things. They snuggled in each other's arms for most of the day, with the burgundy and green sheets strewn around them. They had made it to their room for the second and third rounds of play. Aikrii was still smiling. Mani fell asleep, spent after finally getting his fill. Aikrii slipped from the bed and went to the washroom. When he returns, he's surprised to see Mani is awake again.

"You OK?" he asked him.

"Never felt better actually." Mani said stretching, showing off his well muscled torso. Aikrii still couldn't believe how he still reacts to seeing him in all his wondrous glory.

"We should go out this week" Aikrii said out of the blue.

"What, on a date?" Mani asked.

"Yeah! Sure, why not?" He was grinning, "Did you forget what happens in the next few days?"

"Ummm... I haven't the foggiest." Mani said looking at Aikrii, who was just standing there grinning and still nude. "But with you standing there like the Michelangelo statue of David, it's kind of distracting to even think of anything but ravishing you over again."

Aikrii contemplated that option but decided three rounds were more than enough for one evening of fun. He walked over to Mani, "You goose. You forgot your own birthday?"

Mani slapped his forehead "Oh shit, I did!" he grinned sheepishly, "See I told you, you were distracting!"

Aikrii chuckled. He crawled back into bed next to Mani, snuggled against his side and smiled, yawned and repeated, "We should go out this week."

Mani looked down at Aikrii, he figured he had really worn him out; he on the other hand, was full of energy. Too much after nearly a month of resting. Aikrii drifted off to sleep with Mani watching him. Little did Aikrii know, Mani had plans for his handsome sleeping prince in the near future, he just hoped things kept going for the better.

Aikrii woke up the next morning and he found Mani gone. He was confused on where he could have gotten to, till he heard the music from next door. He made himself a coffee and pondered. He knew Mani had scheduled a photo session prior to his surgery. He was just surprised he had one going on. He was going to head over, but the phone rang.

Picking it up, he answered, "Hello?"

"Good day sir. Is Mr. Oratii in at the moment?" The somewhat familiar voice asked.

"Speaking." Aikrii said.

He was puzzled; he recognized the voice but couldn't put a name to it.

"Hey there. Aikrii right?" Mr. cheerful asked "It's Troy MacKinnon, from Nessix."

Aikrii nearly choked on his coffee when the caller identified himself. 'Oh my God', he thought 'A personal call!'

He cleared his throat.

"Yes, it's Aikrii. What can I do for you?" he said trying his damnedest to sound like an adult, even though his knees were weak. He sat at his kitchen table so as not to ungracefully meet the floor.  

Mr. MacKinnon chuckled, "Relax Aikrii." he said, "I'm calling to check in on our newest team member."

Aikrii did choke that time. Coffee went flying across the table and the couch. He sputtered, "HUH? Team member?"

Troy laughed a hearty chuckle and said, "Yes. Your agents and lawyers went through the paper work, checked all offers and decided; what my team through Nessix is offering is your best bet. Hence the call."

Aikrii was still stunned, "Holy shit!" he blurted "Oh man, sorry...I'm still freaking here..."

Troy laughed again, "No need to apologise. I remember my first time being picked up by a programming team, I damn nearly choked on my retainer."

Now it was Aikrii's turn to laugh.

"So." Troy asked "How are you and yours? And how would you two like to come to Ottawa to view the business and check around the office where you'll be working?"

"Oh wow! I'd love to come down, but unfortunately I don't think my partner can travel. He only had surgery about a month ago." Aikrii ran a nervous hand through his hair.

"Well how about this," Troy offered, "You call me Troy and not Mr..." he laughed. "And how about we send the private jet. If your partner needs any specialized items let us know prior and we'll provide it for your trip."

Aikrii was still flabbergasted. "Sure, I'll need a number where I can reach someone to provide that info though, who do I call? Your secretary?"

Troy shot off a number to him and said "That's my cell, call direct OK?"

Aikrii didn't know what to think, "Wow, thanks. I’m going to let Mani know right now."

"Take care Aikrii. We'll see you when you can come down.

Aikrii set the phone back into the charger, shaking full of excitement. He picked the phone back up, calling Susan to find out if Mani could travel.

Susan informed him he should be able to.

It only takes 4-5 weeks to heal. He could even go back to work.

"Oh, he's already back doing photo shoots now. I think being cooped up had him going loco." Aikrii said chuckling. "Thanks for the info Susan, I think I have an idea even better than what I had planned."

He put down his phone, only to pick it back up yet again. His brain working overtime on a plan he had. Dialing the number to his agent, who was monitoring his product offers and accounts. His finical adviser was the one who actually answered the phone.

"Hey Ben," Aikrii said cheerfully "How are you?"

Ben was thrilled "AIKRII! My boy! Your voice is a sound for sore ears! Congrats!"

"Thanks, I just got the call from Mr. MacKinnon." He was so happy.

Ben asked him "Did he tell you what their company offered for your name and product as an exclusive Nessix product?"

"No." he said rather confused, "Should have he?"

Ben laughed "Well not really but I figured he may."

"It will be listed in the financial records though." Aikrii stated "So it's not really a big deal is it?"

Ben was shocked to hear this young man say this now considering he was quite well off.

"Aikrii, records or not, we still like to announce thinks like this, simple reason. Sounds bites and quotes for the press, from the creator."

Aikrii was thrown off balance. Press? Wow!

"OK so how much?" he waited for the answer.

A shuffling of papers came across the line and then Ben continued. "You better sit down for this one OK?"

Aikrii was still not getting why Ben seemed to be all excited over a simple bid for a company product.

"Winning bid from Nessix Corporation, exclusive rights to product and creator (with amended release from contact clause), for a total sum of a half billion (or $500 million) for a legal term of twenty five years, unless removal comes under amended release clause." he read from the paper.

The phone slipped from his hand and clattered to the floor.

"Hello? Hello? Aikrii?"

He sat down right there on the spot. He was floored beyond belief. Snapping out of it somewhat but still semi dazed, he picked up the phone.

"Ye-Yeah I'm still here."

"So what do you think?" Ben asked him.

"I think I best make sure my partner has a doctor on hand when I tell him how much I got offered!" he heard a room full of people laugh.

"Oh is the team there now?" he waited for a reply. "Yes along with two press team members who just happened to be lucky enough to be here when you called."

Aikrii couldn't believe it, he was now well off. He could give his mom anything she could ever want. He thanked Ben, asked that it be kept hushed and explained a plan he had. Then after all of that he asked about how he could access funds for purchases. Since he was now financially stable, he needed to make sure he had cash on him when he needed it and with what he had planned, he would need some. He was provided with his financial info and told that if he went to the local bank and spoke to the director there, they could hook him up with an unrestricted credit card. All he'd have to do is send in the bill monthly to the company who would pay it in full each month.

Aikrii was thrilled. He called his mom and told her to come over to the apartment. He called Nye told him about a planned party. When questioned, he just said to show and that was it. He in turn, helped call the others. By the time they were done they had about 60 people. His family and others they knew were on their way. He also called the press and offered for them to be present for clips etc. He called for special security through an agency one of his buddies worked for. He called for a few caterers and then called Josh, asked if he'd like to make a grand in a night by hosting for him. Josh was stunned.

"My gosh baby where did you get that kind of stash?"

"Well if you say yes, you'll be one of the first few to know when I announce it. So please; say yes, make some cash and possibly more in the future." Aikrii said smiling while writing info on a page, waiting for his reply.

"Oh. OK, you have peaked my interest. What do I need to work?"

"Nothing from your closet. Go here to get your uniform for the night. OK?" He gave an address and then said his good-byes.

Mani came over from the studio, he was loaded with his camera and a few rolls of film. "I have to go get a few of these developed, want to come for the drive?"

"I wish I could dear but I have plans to make." Aikrii said. "How long will you be out?" looking at Mani who was confused.

Mani mumbled "About two hours, why?"

"Cause I need to give enough time for you to get ready before our guests start to show." he said nonchalantly.

Mani looked and with bewilderment in his voice asked, "We have guests coming here? Tonight? Why?"

"Yes." Aikrii said, still writing stuff down. He was trying his hardest to not bust with the news. "I feel like celebrating."

"Aww shit, Aikrii the place looks a mess!" he wailed.

"BUZZ!" On cue, the front door buzzer went off. Mani walked to the door, punched the intercom and asked, "Yeah who is it?"

"Carrie's Careful Cleaners!" Said the voice. Mani hit the monitor to see a figure with a ton of cleaning supplies with her on the screen. Mani looked over at Aikrii. OK, now he thought, 'What the hell is going on?'

He never had much time to think about it though. He had a new session soon and he needed to get the pictures he had; developed. Aikrii would fill him in when he got back. He gave Aikrii a peck on the cheek and headed off. "We'll talk when I get back." He said as he left.

Aikrii just grinned. The cleaners came in and started while he worked. The lady who operated the service only asked a few questions about preferences and then got to work. She was quite the worker. An hour later, he thanked her for such an excellent job on such last minute notice and gave her cheque. She packed up her stuff and headed out.

Aikrii turned the monitor for the front doors on, watching to see her leave. She stopped in the lobby waiting for her drive to come get her. She opened the cheque Aikrii gave her and squealed in delight at the figure she saw. He had given her three hundred dollars for a job that only requires a payment of eighty. He stood in his apartment chuckling over her delight on the monitor. He turned it off.

A few hours later, Mani showed back up. His second client was waiting for him at the studio, chatting to Aikrii like an old pal. Mani was surprised to see Aikrii being so easy with everyone since he was usually quite reserved, unless it was with people he knew.

"When you're done dear," Aikrii said to him "Pop over to the apartment quick, I have your suit all ready. We'll need to bustle before guests arrive." Mani stopped fussing with his camera and did a double take at his beau...

"Did you say suit?" his eyes widened in surprise.

"Yes dear." Aikrii was playing coy.

Mani was getting annoyed now... "What the hell is going on?" he asked

"Well...if you do what I ask you to do; you'll find out and it will be worth your while too." Aikrii tapped his nose lightly, winked and started for their apartment.

OK, thought Mani. What the hell has he planned? "It's not some surprise party is it?"

"Well, if you know there's a party, it's not much of a surprise now is it?" he said chuckling, "No; it's not, but I would love it if you were here when things start."

"Ok, I'll be about forty five minutes. OK?" he walked to his studio’s stage with his client following close behind him and started to work.

Aikrii had to get a move on. He hurried to the apartment, walked to the spare room and looked around. All the staff were using this room for their necessary changes, item pickups etc... The kitchen was fancily blocked off with dividers that had decorations and designs from China all over them. The midpoint in the living room and the kitchen had a table set up with a buffet of food all over it. The buzzer rang. He checked the front monitor and saw it was his security. He let them in and waited for them to show at the door. When they got there, he passed the three burly guys clip boards with a list of guests.

"First things first, if they are not on the list, I MAY have over looked them but I'm sure I got everyone listed. My partner’s brother will be helping you for a bit, so you will know who should be here and who aren't. Also, trust me when I say you cannot miss Cleo and Nye; both have the funkiest hair do's you'll ever see OK?" The big guys chuckled at Aikrii and even harder when they saw a picture of the two teens.

"No boss, we won’t miss em."

"Anyone not on the list and Nye or Cleo doesn’t know them, page me. I'll see if I want them here or not. I'll show you where to stand with them so I can see who it is."

The security guards were fine with the arrangements and got themselves set up. The main lobby doors were watched by one guard, the floor was watched by another and the apartment was watched by the last. Aikrii was ready for the guests.

Mani left his studio and headed to the apartment and was greeted but a huge thug. "Name." he said.

"Excuse me?!" Mani said, "This is MY apartment, who the hell are you?"

"Hired by Mr Oratii. You must be Mani?" The thug with arms the size of trees asked. Mani fumed, he was so pissed now. Just what the hell was going on anyway?

He walked into his apartment after the security guard cleared him. "AIKRII!" he bellowed. Then he stopped dead in his tracks. There were tons of people around already. Most in white uniforms scurrying around with food. There was a table in the middle of his floor by the kitchen with so much food on it; it could feed a third world village for a year!

Aikrii smiling, popped his head around the corner, Josh was with him.

"Come on boyfriend, we have some dressing up to do." Josh said joyously, in his fake French accent as he got his chance to "Play dress up." with Mani. Mani let out an "Eep!", as he was grabbed and hauled down the hall to their room.

Aikrii was giggling. "OK Josh, don't molest the poor guy. Leave some for me!"

Mani went six shades of red at that comment. He got madder and started to wiggle, "Jesus Mani, take a chill pill would ya! Stand still!" Josh said taking his queenie pose.

Aikrii giggle. He kissed Mani and said "Baby, be good  this one time, for me, OK? PLEASE...just get dressed. Josh will help and he won't eat you..." he was going to say alive, but Josh interjected before he had that chance.

"Not unless asked or paid to, and baby he's paying me well!" he was being the perverted little fart that he was.

Aikrii lightly slapped Josh. "Jesus Josh, he's petrified enough. Don't scare the pants off of him!"

Josh frowned, "Damn, you’re no fun! How am I supposed to dress him if he leaves his pants on?"

Aikrii gave Josh a dirty look, "You know damn well what you’re supposed to do. Now please; do your job; or I'll kick your ass. I can now, ya know." he said giving an evil grin...

"You wouldn't!" he said pulling a drama queen scared stance.

"I can always let the cat outta the bag to Dante." Aikrii said doing his infamous "I know." eyebrow wiggle.

Josh let out a girly squeal and then pushed a now more confused Mani towards the bathroom with a hand full of clothes. “Get dressed.” He told him and stood by the door whistling.

Aikrii waved and left them to their own accord. He knew using Dante as a wild card would work. Odd thing is Dante already knew about Josh's crush, the feeling was mutual. Now all Aikrii had to do when he had time, was get them together for more than the thirty seconds they usually had through the halls at school. His next party would be a perfect place for that he thought already planning things for that encounter.

Marie was astounded to see so many people. The press was there, Mani was beside Aikrii. "Tell me what's going on will you?" He hissed, not liking people traipsing through his immaculate apartment.

Aikrii leaned over, and like a smartass licked the tip of his nose, which shocked the hell out of Mani; "What the fuck was that for?!" He squawked, rubbing the wetness off his nose.

"To help get your mind off of what's going on." he said grinning then winked. Mani followed him while he was walking and greeting his guests.

Sefron's band was set up in the living room by the balcony; the door was opened to let out the heat that was being created by so many bodies in the apartment. None of the neighbours would be disturbed. Aikrii invited all who lived around, most of them attended, which thrilled him. He also provided accommodations at the Westin hotel for those who wished to stay overnight. Mani gripped Aikrii's arm like it was a life line. Aikrii was waiting for one main guest. He knew he was on his way, he heard the chopper before he seen it.

It landed on the roof of the apartment building. Staff working at the party had been directed to greet the special party member. When Troy walked through the door, people gasped. Everyone knew who he was. The murmurs went through the crowd like fire. Troy walked up to Aikrii and smiled, greeting him and taking his hand in a hearty friendly hand shake. A friendly pat on the shoulder and he stood beside him smiling to everyone who was ogling him. Aikrii was thrilled and motioned for the band to stop. Troy dinged his wine glass to get everyone's attention. Aikrii had a sparkling cider drink, swirling it slowly. Grinning fiercely, it made Mani wild with frustration, wondering what the hell Troy MacKinnon was doing in his apartment. Aikrii threw him off guard whispering in his ear, "Listen my sweets." he murmured.

"I'd like to make a toast to this fine young man here," he paused and turned in Aikrii's direction.

"Mr. Aikrii Oratii," he said "Without him, many disabled members of society wouldn't have easily obtainable and helpful programs to help make their lives easier."

He watched the crowd, waiting for the suspension to build, "Now I know your all here probably wondering why you were invited and more stunned to see me show. Well I am here to announce to you, our fine press affiliates and many others, especially Aikrii's family, that Nessix has welcomed Mr. Oratii to join our family, as an exclusive programmer for our newest line of user friendly software, many which help the disabled and others, for everyday use." There were a few murmurs all around as the excitement built up.

He reached over and gripped Mani's hand and whispered, "Hold on baby, the next bit is a doozie!" He knew what was coming but Mani was stressed to the hilt.

Troy continued, "We offered Mr. Oratii to stay with our company for a term of twenty five years, at a cool half a billion, with other benefits included."

Mani turned sheet white in three seconds and started to shake. The whole room gasped. Then the media went nuts! Aikrii was not only famous, he was now Halifax's youngest multi millionaire at just about 17 years of age. Aikrii's mom joined her son, she was crying.

"Mamma, why are you crying? This should be a happy occasion." He said wiping her tears "It's all I ever wanted for you." She replied.

"I cry because I am so proud of you. You’re my little Kiki but all grown now. I am happy to see you have made a good thing for yourself."

She hugged him. Mani was still white as a sheet as he watched things play out before him, still holding Aikrii's hand. He gave his head a shake then tugged on Aikrii's hand.

Aikrii looked over, "Oh hi! Welcome back, I was wondering when you'd return." Aikrii said jokingly.

"I never left." Mani said growling, now wasn't the time to be teased. He pulled Aikrii away from the crowd into their room.

"You couldn't tell me this before these people got here?" he asked when they entered the room. "I looked like an idiot!" His words had little impact on Aikrii; he thought his baby looked delicious in his black pin striped suit.

Aikrii smiled, "You looked fantastic!" he leaned in and kissed Mani, once again throwing him off kilter.

Mani pulled back breaking contact. "I was so shocked, I stood there like a stone statue." he said with a frown. People got pictures of me looking like that!"

"So?" Aikrii said, "If anyone asks tell them the truth. You didn't know, I planned this as a surprise for you anyway.

He edged closer to him smiling up, "Come on, say you're happy about this!" he slipped his arms around his waist, touched his forehead to his and rubbed his nose against Mani's.

"Come on, smile damn it!" he jokingly grinned.

Mani couldn't stay mad. It wasn't something he was expecting, but he was ecstatic. Mani smiled at his boyfriend; he kissed him back for the earlier kiss and answered grinning.

"Happy; yes. Very happy! Shocked; most definitely! So much so, I thought my heart stopped.  I had to actually force myself to breath!" Aikrii thought that was rather funny.

"Well babe, you’re gonna have to get use to the shocks and heart stoppers, now that things are going to be more carefree for us. We can do a lot of things that will wow us."

He paused "We're going to the head office in Ottawa in a week's time by the way, all expenses paid."

Mani's jaw dropped. "A trip too? Damn!" He then proceeded to giggle, "You remember your pampered prince comment you made to me back when we first met?"

"Yeah." Aikrii said "Why?"

"Well now, it can be true!" Mani said smiling.

"For both of us." Aikrii said ginning, then he bowed to Mani and said, "Your majesty!"

"Umm, I think you're doing that wrong." Mani said.

"Huh?! How?" Aikrii asked, a little puzzled.

"YOU'RE the prince, not me, you goose!" Mani said.

Aikrii blushed, "How about we take turns?" They laughed at and with a joyous "Whoop!" He kissed Mani's lips then skipped out of the room into the throng of bodies in the middle of their living room.

Mani was ecstatic, his baby got his contract. He smiled, happy for him. Aikrii came back to him with a box. The band stopped playing and the room got quite again. Aikrii stood in front of Mani and presented him with a long dark purple box, then spoke;

"In lieu of everything that's happened and with Mani's birthday only a week away, I am presenting him with his Valentines and birthday present rolled into one, a bit early. I figured this was the best time to present it to him. With our loved ones around us, and the rest as well."

Mani took the box. Looking down at the long slender velvet case.

"What's this?"

"Open it silly and find out." Aikrii said smiling.

Mani opened the case. There sitting nestled in around orange satin, was the most beautiful men’s bracelet he'd seen in a long time. Instead of the standard flat face plate for a name there was a handmade plate in the shape of a long flat key.

"Read the inscription" he said looking at Mani's face for a reaction.

On the front was inscribed, "I'm your Ki. You’re my heart. Together we beat as one." He read out loud. There was a round of awe's from many of the ladies.

Mani looked at the key and stroked the bracelet with his finger tips. He was speechless. He reached over, hugged Aikrii as hard as he could without breaking him and kissed him soundly. They hardly heard the whir of the cameras and the aws from around them. Aikrii and Mani were both deliriously happy.

Mani pulled back and smiled, "It's one of the best things you've ever given me and I'll treasure it forever." He said and kissed him again.

Chapter 14 – Changes

The story of Aikrii's amazing job offer was all over the news. In the two days leading to Mani's birthday, he had done six or seven interviews with the press and news broadcasters. The last session with the Ottawa news station OTV, was a special one for when they landed there. Aikrii was excited because he received an invitation to a ball for him and Mani to attend.

"It's so freaking cool!" Aikrii said. He was grinning like mad while he hauled out suits from their ever growing wardrobe. Mani was just relaxing on the end of their bed, watching the ever so excited Aikrii fly through the outfits, shirts and two piece suits they owned.

He had a charcoal grey one, held against Mani's chest and then a dark red shirt. Aikrii tilted his head and hummed, tossed the shirt and switched to a deep green shirt and looked again. Mani chuckled while he became Aikrii's mannequin.

"Shit, I think the red looks better." he walked back over to the chair where the red shirt had landed, picked it up and brought it back to Mani.

"OK; now for a tie." He said, Mani groaned, he hated ties.

Aikrii picked up the dark green tie that matched his eyes and gave it to Mani. "That's your outfit completed and here's mine." He said as he showed Mani his matching charcoal suit, but his shirt was royal purple with a deep red tie.

Mani looked and he started to grin, "You know we're going to look like a bunch of color coordinated queens." He was imitating Josh to a tee.

Aikrii laughed and said "Say that five times fast!" then he threw his head back and laughed harder.

Both of them were enjoying their fun time. Mani looked at Aikrii whose eyes seemed to sparkle. He got up and walked over to him.

"You're such a breath of fresh air. You know that?" he said running his hand down Aikrii's cheek.

Aikrii grinned. "Now where did that come from all of a sudden?" he asked.

"Nowhere" Mani said. “I just feel so lucky to have gotten to know you; you could have picked anyone."

Aikrii tilted his head and smiled at Mani, "But I'm glad I stuck with you. You make everything seem worthwhile. The support you've given me has been amazing."

Mani grinned; he was glad that's how Aikrii felt. Hearing it though made his heart sing. He took Aikrii's hand and gave it a tug.

"I have something to show you," he said. Aikrii followed and was surprised to see that Mani led him from the apartment to the studio across the hall.

When they made it to Mani's office, he was surprised to see a canvas propped on an easel. He couldn't see what was painted on it as it was facing the other way.

"You've been painting?" Aikrii asked. He knew Mani drew and took photos but he never realized that he painted as well.

"Yep." he said beaming, "And that's the surprise. I finished earlier today when you were doing one of your interviews."

Aikrii was curious now. Mani took the canvas and took it off the easel; staring at the image he had painted. He looked up at Aikrii and flashed a stunning smile.

"I think you'll like this; at least I hope you do." he slowly turned it around "I call it, 'My Sleeping Prince'."

Aikrii was stunned to see his sleeping form projected back at him in such clarity, it was like a picture taken in time.

"Oh! I remember when you were doing the line art for this." he said excited, goose bumps danced along his arms. "Damn this is freaking good!" He looked up at Mani, he had a tear in his eye.

"I love it!" he whispered.

Mani was surprised how much emotion Aikrii was showing over a painting. Although; he himself put all his love into that picture. Mani placed the image back on the easel. Aikrii hugged him fiercely as soon as he set the painting down. Mani looked down at his head and hugged him back.

"I'm glad you like it, I'm going to hang it in the studio waiting area."

Aikrii was stunned... "Oh my! Really?"

"Yep! This way when I'm doing a shoot or even just sitting at my desk I can see your peaceful face. My sleeping prince."

Aikrii giggled. A sleeping prince. He found the notion so amusing, but realized Mani only called him that because he loved him so much.

Mani looked down at the obviously pondering Aikrii, "Penny for your thoughts." he smiled at the green sparking eyes that looked up at him.

"I was thinking how lucky I was to love someone as great as you." Mani was touched. He leaned in as Aikrii raised his face to meet him. Kissing they melted into each other.

Valentine's day was a crisp, cold and beautiful day. A perfect day for Mani to celebrate his nineteenth birthday and what a better way than with the handsome man he adored and a great ball that Nessix was holding. The chopper landed neatly in the field. Aikrii jumped from the passenger pit and reached his hand up for Mani who was still thrilled at the ride. He had been in a plane before but not a helicopter. He reached down to his prince's awaiting outstretched hand and jumped down. He smiled, warped his arm over Aikrii's shoulder and both ducking, they headed for the large building ahead of them. Once they were far enough away from the chopper they stood. At least now they could hear each other.

"Wow that was an amazing ride." Mani was thrilled. He gave Aikrii's shoulder a squeeze.

Looking around he noticed that it was starting to snow lightly. They both looked up watching the flakes. Aikrii shivered, his jacket was opened and the cold seeped in.

"Come on, I need to warm up." he said. Mani looked down at him winked and said,

"Ummm, I think I can arrange that."

There in the middle of the snow, a very happy Mani looked down slightly to his wonderful boyfriend,  reached for his cheeks with both warm hands and kissed him soundly; making Aikrii's heart race and it definitely raised his temperature.

"You've made me one of the happiest guys on earth. You know that right?" He said smiling down at Aikrii's sated grin and dreamy look in his eyes.

"Uh-huh" he sighed, still grinning, "I'll make you happier." He said winking as they started to walk to the building again. Mani blushed a very deep red right there.

Good thing when they walked into the building, his red cheeks could be blamed on the cold air.

"Aikrii! Mani!" They heard Troy's booming voice across the lobby of the building, they had been ushered to enter. Both men smiled and shook hands. Troy looked at Mani and wished him a happy birthday and told them to head off to the ball room. They reached the top of the stairs and were greeted by the door man, who asked them to wait at the door till their introduction was done. Mani and Aikrii waited then heard the doorman announce their arrival.

"Mr. Aikrii Oratii and his escort, Mr. Mani Tskii." They were ushered in and Aikrii and Mani were stunned to see how beautiful the ballroom was set up. Red, white, pink, silver and gold all over the place. Heart shaped balloons with white streamers, gold and silver glitter and pink roses. They walked down the ballroom stairs together, arm in arm. A spot light was on them till they reached the bottom where they were greeted with a great surprise. Standing there, with Troy, who had slipped in through the back entrance, all of Mani and Aikrii's friends including Cleo, Nye and Sefron. They were all holding a gift for Mani and all excited!

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" They all cheered together, and clapped for Mani who was blushing to beat the band.

"Oh my God." He chuckled, "How did you all get here?"

"Troy flew us in!" Sefron volunteered the answer he wanted.

"Oh WOW!" Aikrii was tickled.

Troy chuckled, "Glad you’re happy about it." he said. "Now on with the ball. Enjoy the fun and be prepared of more to come." with that, Troy whisked off to do whatever it was a multi billionaire did.

The ball was fast paced, entertaining and above all, fun. Aikrii and Mani had a blast dancing and mingling. They even got Aikrii with Sefron up on the stage singing! It was a hoot. Aikrii was at the punch bowl watching Mani mingle with their friends and talking to Troy when he was approached;

He was tall, blonde and very French. "Bonsoir" he said. Aikrii was shocked at the smooth voice beside him. He didn't even notice the guy approach him, he was so quiet. It put Aikrii on edge but out of politeness, he said hello back.

"I am Jacques." he said in broken English, "Pardon my English, I am; they say...awful." He smiled.

Aikrii laughed at his comment. He looked at Jacques and said "I speak French as well but, un peu seulement." He threw in his Fringlish mix and Jacques laughed at his comment.

"Ainsi je ne serai pas totalement perdu?" In English, Aikrii understood his comment to be "So, I won't be totally lost?"

Aikrii chuckled and shook his head then extended his hand, "I'm Aikrii. I will be working here soon." He gave his introduction in English and some in French.

Jacques told him he knew who he was and was impressed that he was such an open guy with everyone here at the ball. Aikrii didn't understand why he said that and asked "What do you mean?"

"Well, like me; you’re very open about your orientation, most hide."

He smiled at Aikrii who was shocked that the well dressed guy, whom he barely knew, was telling him he was gay too.

Jacques laughed as the shock registered on Aikrii's face quite clearly. He commented again in broken English "You be surprised, I am speaking of this?"

Aikrii blushed since he clued in that his shock was written all over his face like a newspaper ad. Aikrii being the reserved but fun person he'd grown to be shot back;

"Well it's not everyday people meet a bunch of openly gay guys who aren't afraid to show their affection towards their better half in public, let alone speak about it to a perfect stranger."

Jacques laughed a hearty laugh and then said "Touché!"

"I think we will be good friends when you work ‘ere." he said throwing an arm over Aikrii's shoulder. Aikrii liked this guy, he was funny, though if not a tad overly friendly.

Mani looked over to see Aikrii laughing with some tall blonde guy. As he walked over towards them, he could hear them both speaking in broken French and English. He heard the comment about good friends from the French guy, but it was when he seen the blonde fella sling his arm over Aikrii, that made Mani's heart feel like it was being crushed in his chest. This guy was hitting on his man! The nerve! Mani approached the pair. Aikrii spotted Mani and he grinned, "Hey Mani meet Jacques. He works here." The older guy still had his arm over him and it irritated Mani more.

Jacques reached out his hand to shake Mani's but it wasn't taken. Instead he just said hi and grabbed Aikrii's hand and pulled, taking him out from under Jacques arm and he said loud enough to Mani, so Jacques could hear, "Come on, Sefron and you HAVE to sing again!"

As they walked away Jacques chuckled and said in broken French and English. "Au revoir monsieur Oratii; till we meet again."

Mani looked back and glared at the older man. His jealously evident to the man; even if it wasn't to him quite yet.

"You know he was hitting on you, right?" Mani asked Aikrii as soon as they were out of earshot. Aikrii was shocked. Mani was jealous and it was obvious. He grinned, looked at Mani and stroked his cheek and kissed him.

"It doesn't matter even if he was." Aikrii said.

"What?!" Mani was slightly confused.

Aikrii sighed looked at Mani and said "It really doesn't matter if he was trying to hit on me or not." he looked at Mani and continued "I love you. OK,  and regardless of who makes passes at me, I will not be paying attention to them."

Mani smiled, Aikrii grinned "Do you want to know why?" he asked.

"Why?" Mani asked taking his arm and snuggling in as they walked up to the stage where Sefron was waiting.

Aikrii stopped and looked at him, "Because you were here first. Because you saved me. Because you're my heart and I can't live without one."

Mani sighed. This contented his rambling mind for now. Aikrii was insecure about his past at one time. For Mani his insecurities laid in their future together. He only realized this recently, mostly because he didn't want Aikrii thinking he was only with him because he was well off and stable. Aikrii's statement about being first was nice to hear but the not being able to live without a heart, that got him. Mani however would continue to worry; and only because he loved him so damn much.

Aikrii hugged Mani tightly before going up on stage to sing with Sefron, who was still trying to find a replacement singer for his band.

Aikrii got on stage and grabbed the mic, looked out at the crowd of workers, visitors and guests who were enjoying the festivities of the Nessix Valentine's ball. Then he spoke to Sefron who shook his head yes and they started to play.

Aikrii stood and spoke, "To my heart on his special day, let's give this song a beat and take it away. Love you tons hun, happy birthday."

He started to sing to Mani. Staring at him intently he belted out the Bryan Adams tune, 'Everything I do'. The crowd ate it up; everyone loved it when Aikrii sang. Sefron thought he was amazing too...for a geek.

Jacques on the other hand, watched him intently from across the room. This boy was amazing, not only was he an apparent whiz kid from what he learned over the last week but he also learned he was talented in singing as well. He had to get to know him better; this boy could be his ticket to the top since Aikrii was already up there.

Jacques wanted fame too but being the meek accounts receiving clerk wasn't enough for him. If it meant trying to steal away one innocent boy’s heart then so be it. Jacques enjoyed a good challenge, not to mention the possibility of fresh meat.


Chapter 15 – Spoiled

Aikrii and Mani pulled up to the fourth place the real estate agent had listed. The log styled home was small in stature but double the size of their current apartment. Situated at the edge of the beach, Aikrii was thrilled at what he saw, he grabbed Mani's hand eagerly and nearly dragged him to the door, giddy like a child on Christmas day.

The agent opened the door and let them walk into the foyer, Mani gasped. The place was beautiful. The front foyer alone was huge and it had a single starting staircase but it split into two sides as it went up, one going to either side, left and right. They were led though the majestic home, absorbing the wondrous view. The lower floor had a huge kitchen and a very large sunk in dining room and a smaller den off to the right side of the foyer door.

Upstairs was just as beautiful, if not more so, since looking over the banister one could see down onto the semi circled foyer, down onto the white marble floors. The second floor had three main rooms right along the railing area and another to the left hand side. The main one being the master room, which contained a very large wide-open picture window to the left that met another one in the corner, making one side of the room like a half glass cube. The middle room was the master bathroom and it was also amazing with black marble floors and a shower stall, and all also done in the black marble and full rippled glass. The tub was Jacuzzi styled and had many jets in it. Aikrii groaned just imagining a relaxing time in that tub. The whole back wall where the tub was, floor to ceiling windows. They were informed that the windows in the bathroom were adjustable privy windows; where, with a turn of a knob, one could turn it so the windows couldn't be seen into, a very nice privacy feature if they ever heard of one. The next room on the main drag was to the right of the bathroom and it was a simple room but with more ceiling to floor windows, also with the privacy option.

The last room to be viewed was the guest room, which contained its own mini bathroom. It too had the cubed window feature where the two sets of windows met in the corner.

"And if you look out the window to the right side of the house, you can see Nessix tower." The agent said.

Aikrii looked up at Mani, "It's up to you. What you want me to do?" He smiled "We can offer on this place or keep looking."

Aikrii and Mani had to find a second residence due to Aikrii's job. If it was a small apartment or condo, Aikrii would mainly use the place between commutes to and from work, since Aikrii's job wouldn't need him there twenty-four seven. Though there would be a week here and there where he would have to be in Ottawa but if Mani wanted, he could move his studio and Do-Jang to Ottawa and they could get a house instead. Which would make it a bit easier on both of them but Aikrii wanted Mani to choose and he would go with that.

Mani had planned on relocating his business as soon as he could anyway; he just never expected it to happen so soon. He didn't want to do it on Aikrii's expense either and he told him as much as well. Aikrii insisted that Mani could choose and he would go with what Mani needed, just so things could be comfortable for them both.

Aikrii really had no ties to Halifax except his mom and few friends, which whom he could fly out at anytime for a visit.

"How about we keep looking and pick later." He said smiling at Aikrii. He was happy that Aikrii wanted to keep him happy but he wouldn't take advantage either. Aikrii gave him a knowing look.

"Hun, I'm young, not naive." he paused, "I know you’re thinking again and if your train of thought is heading down that track of worry, you best take a detour."

His hands went on his hips, giving that queen in charge look, his eyebrows scrunched and he looked frustrated.

"OK, OK, you know how much I worry." Mani walked forward, wrapped his arms around Aikrii's waist and pouted.

"OK no fair, no puppy dog eyes either!" Aikrii said not moving, looking at Mani almost directly in the eyes.

Aikrii had grown in more ways than one in the last year, not just mentally but physically as well.

Mani played hard ball and used his sneak attack. Leaned his head touching Aikrii's forehead and kissed his nose. Aikrii's green eyes registered surprise and then laughter as it bubbled forth, Mani grinned.

"I worry because I care about you." he said,

"I'm a big boy now; thanks to you and believe it or not, my dad." Aikrii said. He paused, pondered and then continued, "I need you to hold my hand and walk with me as I make my own way. I don't need you to lead me. I have to make my own mistakes in life but if I have you at my side, so I have a shoulder to lean on, then it's a good thing."

Mani was impressed, he listened as Aikrii continued,

"I don't think loving you and giving you what you need is a mistake, so just walk with me and enjoy what we have together."

Listening to Aikrii talk made Mani's heartache with the admiration and love he held for Aikrii.

"I'll try my best but I will always worry." He said. "It's my nature hun. You'll have to get used to that part."

Aikrii grinned, he was happy and Mani was content as well.

"So what do you think of this place?" He said looking around and then back at Mani.

"You know what," he whispered, "I could see us living here easily enough. I'd just have to figure out what to do with the Dojang and the studio."

Mani took his hand and looked out the side window in the kitchen and looked up.

"At least I would know that you were close by instead of miles away. I'd worry less I think."

Aikrii looked over to Mani who still had a dreamy look in his eyes. He reached over with his left hand and caught Mani's waist and tucked him close to his, leaning his head against Mani's shoulder. He grinned as Mani reached for his hand that was holding his waist. He felt fingers intertwine into his own.

The quiet in the home was peaceful; Aikrii felt her presents before he heard her.

"Mr. Oratii, shall we move on to the next place?" He didn't move from the spot Mani and he were standing.

"No." Aikrii said "This is the one we want." He waited till she was beside them. Mani still didn't move but Aikrii could hear his breathing and noticed the sigh of relief.

"We don't need any other residences but we will require a large place for a dual business." He informed her, snuggling Mani in closer who was quite ready to protest, and he knew it too.

"How large?" she asked him, noticing how large Mani's eyes got when he had mentioned the business. "About five thousand square feet" he said off the top of his head.

Mani started, "Bu...But that's too big!" Aikrii growled, gave Mani a jostle to keep him quiet, then continued speaking to the real estate agent.

"It has to have a dividing wall and a minimum of two entrances."

"I think I just may have just the place for you." She replied.

She hauled out her laptop computer, placed it on the table that was in the home and plugged it in; while it booted up she spoke.

"The virtual tour is amazing. This place is conveniently located a block away from Nessix and is just about five thousand square feet, not right on the nose but quite close." She said as she clicked on a buildings picture. She walked them through a virtual tour of a building she spoke of. They both saw what she was speaking of. The front had two separate entrances and was quite large. When she went through one door they noticed as she moved the camera around, that there was an inner entrance in the middle retaining wall to the complex that would go over to the next space in the building, something Mani would need. One area of the room, at the far end, Mani automatically deemed the photography studio it had a huge wall which had hundreds of holes, perfect for hanging images and artwork from. Aikrii was impressed with the place and from the look on Mani's face, he was too. "We'd have to renovate though, it's too much." Mani commented.

"We'll take it!" Aikrii said then looked at Mani and said, "Don't you worry about the renovations, we'll deal with it. All you have to do is give Hazel your notice on the apartment and the studio OK? Then we can get things moving here."

Mani was still dumbfounded but excited at the same time. He smiled, shook his head yes and hugged Aikrii.

Aikrii smiled at him. The real estate agent walked out of the room while she spoke to Aikrii's financial broker and banker to finalize things, along with his lawyer to place his bid on both places.

"I'm happy to give you what you need to make you happy and to help you prosper." He said facing Mani, hugging him around the waist. Mani leaned in his head against Aikrii's.

"I love you, ya silly lug." he smiled.

"I know you do." Aikrii kissed him "That's why I plan on spoiling you."

February 20th...Oops The planned move didn't go as smoothly as they had hoped it would. Nye was extremely depressed and he begged his brother not to move. Mani looked at his baby brother and told him "I'm sorry bro but I gotta go. I can't leave Aikrii's side; he needs me as much as I need him. Hell some days I think I need him more."

Nye pouted. It had been two days, but on the twenty second Nye got permission to move in with Mani and Aikrii. The scary part of it all; Cleo ran away from home and landed on Aikrii and Mani's door step. No one had heard anything much about Cleo's mom in a long time and when she told them she had died back in January, they were all shocked.

"How the hell did no one ever tell us?!" Mani asked her.

"You had other things to worry about Mani." Cleo sobbed "I had my own things to deal with. I thought I could be a big girl and do it on my own. I guess I couldn't, but I also can't live with my step-dad and he told me to get out; so I left."

Mani looked at Aikrii, then Nye, "Call mom; I have to talk to Cleo's dad." Cleo protested "No! He won't talk to you. He's been nasty as hell the last month. You'll be lucky to get him to grunt let alone speak to you." Cleo said with fear in her eyes, holding on to Mani's arm.

Nye took the house phone so Mani flipped opened his cell phone and dialed Cleo's phone number. Her step-dad answered.

"Hi, Mr. Inochie," Mani started "I'm calling on the behalf of Cleo, your daughter." He waited for a response but got nothing except a grunt, as Cleo said he would do.

"I just want to make sure you’re adamant on Cleo's removal of self from your home, as we may have a placement for her and will be needing information on you personally, as she will have to gather maintenance from you, as per the legal courses required by social services."

That got his attention, "Look, that ungrateful freakish brat isn't even my real kid! You tell her to get the hell out of my affairs. She won't get a fucking cent from me." with that, he slammed the phone in Mani's ear.

Mani looked at Cleo with a tear in his eye as he hugged her. Cleo was shocked to see that kind of response from Mani. She hugged him back. "You can stay with us." he said "I'm sure Aikrii won't mind, but..." he stressed "You have to go back to school, just in Ottawa that's all."

She let a huge sigh of relief out looked at Nye, who was on the phone telling his mom what was going on. Mani took the phone from him,

"Mom, can Nye stay with us?" he waited to get a response, "Yes."

Nye was biting his lips to see what was going to be said, he was only getting one side of the convo after all.

"I can't see there being a problem, we have a big place and I know Aikrii won't mind."

Aikrii was watching things unfold; he didn't mind that Mani had main control over things at the moment. It was Mani he wanted to keep happy. He liked everyone, so to him, it was already OK. He would have offered on his own anyway.

"OK. Yes mom, we all love you very much, but I think it's for the best. He will come home often, we'll make sure of it, or you can visit." He paused before saying "Yes mom, I love you too."

He put the cordless back down on its receiver, "Well it's official; we're all roomies." everyone whooped. Nye piped up.

"All we need now is Sefron" then he laughed, joking about the comment.

Mani's eyes were the next to shoot up when he heard Aikrii say, "Then call him, tell him we have the room and ask him if he wants to follow us."

Even Nye and Cleo stopped in their tracks. Aikrii was and had been so quiet just watching. Then they all started to roar with laughter, and then they all hugged him, ruffling his hair for being such a great sport over it all.

"Hey this won't be a free ride all." He said trying to sound more like an adult. "Cleo you and Nye have to finish school. Sefron will be helping Mani with renovations and running the businesses when he's not doing a gig." He continued with the list of things that had crossed his mind. "After school, Nye, you will be helping your brother. Cleo, you will be responsible for the house, sound fair?"

They all stopped. "So no rent?" Cleo asked.

"As long as you keep to your set chore and follow reasonable and flexible rules, I have no problems with you all staying, but I don't want free loaders. Mani always insistent on not 'using' so no one else will either. If you choose to work outside of the house as well then this is fine by me as well."

"SWEET!" They all yelled. Mani grabbed the phone, called Sefron who was thrilled at the offer and accepted wholeheartedly."

February 28th...Hair pulling ensued.

The truck was late. Not even ten days had passed since Aikrii and Mani had given Hazel their land lady their notice. They paid for rent till April anyway and started to move early to the vacant home they'd chosen. Even though they had till the fourteenth of March to move, Mani had an urgency to get settled. Aikrii wanted to get started without the mess of a move under him as well. Nye was leaning against the building and tapping his foot to music on his MP3 player and grinning. Cleo was pacing, waiting for the truck. Sefron; he was driving with the truck driver, so they had no idea why they were late in the first place.

"Hey! There it is!" Cleo shouted and pointed as they seen it come around the corner.

It pulled up to the curb and stopped. Sefron jumped out of the cab and slapped Mani on the shoulder and grinned.

"Sorry dude. Driver can't speak a lick of English. I had a hard time getting him to understand directions."

Mani was not impressed when he heard this, "Oh great! What does he speak?"

"French!" Cleo shouted out, then went back to speaking to the driver.

"Least we have someone here who understands him." Mani said, rolling his eyes.

"Hey! Aikrii pouted, "I'd understand him, probably not as well as Cleo; but I would!"

Sefron and Mani laughed at Aikrii's failed attempt of puppy dog eyes.

Cleo rambled instructions off very quickly to the driver about the move in French, so it would be clear on where everything was going. She watched him write stuff down and then she gave him Nye's Cell phone number, so if he needed help, he could call her. Things got loaded quickly. Hazel came out a few times and gave a sad look, each time, mentioning how much she would miss them both.

Aikrii gave her a huge hug before the last of the furniture was moved.

"We'll miss you to Hazel." He looked down smiled and then said "You were one of the nicest landladies we've ever had."

When she left Mani looked at Aikrii, "She was the only landlady we had." They both giggled.

"I was trying to make her feel better." Aikrii said between chuckles. He threw his arm over his boyfriends shoulder and then looked at the truck with all their stuff in it.

"Ready for our new adventure?" he asked him. "I'd follow you to the moon and back hun." Mani said smiling. They headed back up to their old apartment to make sure nothing was missed, locked up and turned in the keys.

Nye, Cleo and Sefron were still down in the lobby waiting when for them. .

"Come on guys, time to go." Like a posse, they all headed to the mustang parked on the street. Aikrii and Mani arms over each other's shoulder and grinning. Nye and Cleo holding each other's hand while Cleo sort of danced and laughing at Sefron, who was bopping to Nye's tunes on his MP3. They were all ready for a new life and what better way than with people they all knew and loved.


Chapter 16 – New Beginnings

The building was huge to Aikrii's eyes, even after being here for the fifth time; he still managed to get lost. The move had gone without a hitch. Things were being unpacked and rearranged by Cleo and a few helpers that had been hired to organize the place. Aikrii gave her the house credit card so she could get things they'd need along with food, with the firm stipulation of no unneeded items.

Mani was with Sefron just a block away from where Aikrii was working and knew renovations were going along as planned for Mani's business.

Aikrii turned the unknown corner on whatever floor he was currently on and banged into Jacques. Ahh, he thought a familiar face.

"Hey!" He said to Jacques in a cheery voice.

"Mon du!" Jacques said in surprise, "You are a sight for my eyes. Nice to see your smile again!" he said in broken English.

Aikrii though his broken English was kind of funny but his French was no better. His new auto translation device he had planned, would help fix those language barriers in the near future.

He grinned at Jacques, "I'm lost again. Care to direct this poor sap to his office?" he asked Jacques in broken French.

"Ahh, Mai qui." he replied and threw his arm over Aikrii's shoulder, walking with him. Aikrii remembered Mani's concerns about Jacques from before but he felt that even though Mani was a bit on edge on this fella, he figured Jacques was only happy to have someone else to chat to, since it seemed he was nearly always alone whenever he seen him.

Jacques was a happy fella at that very moment. Seeing the new kid was a great start to his day. He mustered a silent whoop and then managed to casually but quickly, throw a reassuring arm over Aikrii's shoulder. He knew he wanted this kid, in more ways than one. How he was going to go about it was another ordeal all together, but he had to make sure there wasn't any repercussions for trying either. He managed to get Aikrii back to his office, looked around whistling and being coy with Aikrii, gaining his trust was the very first thing he had to do.

"Wow, you're a big one here no?" he said

"Yes. A program and utilities developer." Aikrii said blushing at the admiration he saw in Jacques face.

"Much young, yes?" Jacques said looking at Aikrii, making the motion for a child sized person.

"Umm, well I'm over seventeen." he said laughing. "I'll be eighteen come April" he said grinning.

"Ahh, still one of young brilliance." He mustered as clearly as he could. "but you be a good one for Mr. MacKinnon to hire, yes?"

"I hope so." Aikrii said sitting at his desk, hauling out his paperwork he had to get started on. "Thanks for helping me get back here, I hope this lost in a maze feeling will hopefully go away soon."

Jacques laughed, "Anytime you wander to my area, you only need asking of me for help." He said, walking from Aikrii's office waving good bye, trying his damnedest to be nonchalant.

He walked out gritting his teeth, grinning and breathing in deep. He could feel heat rushing to his groin. He marched quickly to the bathroom.

He relaxed in a stall after relieving his tension, using a mental picture of Aikrii as his visual aid. He needed to find a way to get this kid to trust him more. Maybe a suggestion to the big boss man about using one of Aikrii’s programs or devices to help teach English to more of the French speaking employees. He thought this would be a good way to get where he wanted to be, in Aikrii’s pants.

"Hunny I'm home!" He yelled as he walked into the apparently organized home. He'd always wanted to do that. Amused at the thought; Aikrii looked around, it was so quiet.

It was Cleo who poked her head around the corner from the dining room and kitchen area before he realized anyone was home.

"Hey, how was work?" she asked.

"Great." He said "I got lost but the guy I met from the Valentine's party, Jacques, helped me out. He's such a chipper fella, makes me wonder why he doesn't seem to have many friends at work."

Cleo pondered this, "Well maybe Mani's reaction to him was justified and may explain why he's always alone."

"Oh good Lord. Mani told you about that?" He asked, slapping his forehead and groaning.

"Yep," she said laughing, "He's always worried and I am his sounding board. You got to realize Aikrii, he loves you so much and the fear of losing you is a big deal to him. Having a guy hit on you as openly as that Jacques dude was during that party, was quite rattling to him. It could be a possibility that that's why he doesn't have friends at work; because he's too forward or maybe he harasses people."

Aikrii stopped to think about Cleo's words and then said "Well, whether he's like that or not I can't judge the man without getting to know him on my own. It's one thing I told Mani, but I have to make my own mistakes, and well right now I think it would be a mistake to brush off someone who's been so helpful. I can't be scared of everyone. I rather not burn bridges before I cross them, if you know what I mean."

Cleo smiled and nodded, "You're like me in a lot of ways. Give everyone a chance, where it goes from there is up to the person your associating with. Just be careful Aikrii. You're sweet and have been hurt enough."

Aikrii grinned, "Don't worry about me, I think I can handle this. Besides, I really think Mani has him pegged wrong."

The evening went slowly as he watched Cleo and her helpers continuing to unpack boxes. He helped out where he was needed but they mainly kept things organized which was good, since he wasn't great at doing the moving thing.

He walked into the den and noticed the leather sofa was centered nicely, but it was huge and much too big for the den. He called out to Cleo. She showed pretty quickly. "How about we move this out of here and turn this into a spare room instead, for when my mom visits?"

"OK. Then what do we do about the other spaces?" she asked.

Aikrii looked around. The kitchen and dining room were attached. The kitchen was huge, so they could put a table in there so he said "Alright; this is what we will do. The dining room will be made into the main living room. You can get an area rug for the floor so it doesn't scratch the wood." He watched her absorb what he was saying, then continued to walk around, to point things out. "The kitchen; put in a glass table, a heavy one and make sure the chairs have cushions on the seats, I hate hard seats."

Cleo grinned, "So should I also buy a spare bed too?"

"Oh gosh! Yes!" he said, and then pondered, "but a modest, reserved one; so it can be for any guest, not just my mom. I really don't wish to offend anyone when they visit by putting them in a room that’s unsuitably decorated." He mentally chuckled at the thought of Mani's dad in a flowered room.

Cleo laughed as well, when he told her what he was thinking about. "Yeah OK, you got a point there." She grabbed a pen and a piece of paper and jotted down some ideas.

Both Cleo and Aikrii turned when they heard a commotion from the front foyer. They both headed to the door to see Mani and Sefron with a pile of wallpaper patterns, carpet samples and tons of paint chip swatches. The books had fallen to the floor and Sefron had been hit by many of them, was hopping around, while holding a foot. Mani was laughing as hard as anything at Sefron's antics and had actually fallen over with another pile of books in his lap. Cleo and Aikrii watched this for a minute and both interjected through the giggles and foot hopping.

"Need help you two?"

They stopped in their tracks and giggles, then shook their heads and started to laugh again.

Aikrii walked over to Mani, reached out a hand and helped him to his feet, hugged him tightly and kissed him soundly, "I missed you today."

Mani was happy to hear this but in his giggle fit, he asked "Don't you miss me every day?"

Aikrii smiled and nodded yes. He let Mani go so he could help  gather up the sample books. "What's all of this?" he asked.

Sefron was the one who threw in his own info on that part.

"I called around looking for an interior decorator, found a few but they wanted well over twenty grand to redo the office. I thought; to hell with that; we got to figure this out on our own. So, I got all these books so we could decide on things for the two studios."

Aikrii looked at Mani, "Hun, why didn't you ask me. I can get you the help you want and it will make him all the more happy to get a free trip, a place to flop, some fun teasing you and a possible hook, up if I do this right." He beamed as he remembered Josh's admiration for Mani but knew of his crush on Dante and this would be a perfect way to get them both together.

Mani looked at Aikrii confused, not knowing who he was referring to at that moment.

"My mannequin ring a bell?" he asked Mani.

Mani gasped "Oh! You mean Josh? God! How in the hell will you get Dante here then? Hmmm?" he inquired as Aikrii grinned.

"Ahh leave that to me, I have my ways." he winked as he headed to the phone.

Sefron was confused and asked what the hell just happened. Cleo filled him in on Aikrii's friend Josh, his infatuation for a former school pal, named Dante and how both of them liked the other but neither of them had the guts to ask, as they were a bit scared of rejection. Aikrii had always planned to get them together; he thought they'd make a perfect couple.

Twenty minutes later; plans were set into motion.

"Hey! Dante," Aikrii yelled into the phone over Dante's music blaring in the background. Dante was surprised to hear his voice."How would you like to hang out with us and a fancy home for a week?"

"Does it play music?" Dante asked being sarcastic as usual.

"HAHAHA." Aikrii laughed, "Nope; but I can get ya all the tunes you can possibly need. I'm looking for someone to help with a few house warming party plans and some interior decorating, wanna help?"

"Yeah sure, why not...who's all gonna be there?" he asked kinda sounding a tad blue and curious.

"Well for starters, Cleo, Mani, Sefron, Nye and myself. I'll probably invite a few from school too. Josh will be here along with a few of his friends. Probably about a dozen or so of my co workers how's that?" He asked, making sure Josh was mentioned near to last.

"Damn." Dante said sounding more perked than before."Ummm, sounds like a hopping possibility for a good party. How do I get there?" he asked.

"I'll fly you out. Equipment and all, but you’re gonna have to help Josh with decorating, if you don't mind working with him. My own work will have me tied up a lot."

"Sure Aikrii!" He said sounding more excited now.

"Great, I have a few other calls to make. I'll get my agent to call, to give you your flight info."

With that he hung up, wrote info down then made another few calls, everything was a go. When he was done he looked at Mani and said, "There ya go one more call and you'll have a bomb decorating crew and a hopping studio with Dante's help.”

Mani grinned like a goof; gave Aikrii a crushing hug and whooped dancing around the foyer with him laughing.

Cleo watched his behavior, which was sort of unusual for Mani; he was usually reserved, nine times out of ten.

She started to giggle.

"OK guys. You all have to come with me now. I have to show you your rooms. The crew and I got them all done in the last few hours. So no more hotel stays while the decorators do their work."

She had all the doors closed to each of the rooms.  She walked with them, to each room. Mani and Aikrii's room was first, she took them to the door.

"Here you go. I hope you like what I did." she said with a grin.

She opened the door and watched the two guys gasp, Aikrii squealed with joy. In the middle of the room was their queen sized bed, done up in the Green and burgundy sheet set they always had. The rest of the room was done with burgundy, green and black.

The bed had a black frame and was draped with green and burgundy sheer fabric. Under the bed, was a black and burgundy variegated plush carpet. There were two black night stands, one on each side with matching green lamps.

There was a very large dresser on one side, done in black and burgundy stain, making it look older than it actually was. Beside it, was their wardrobe from the old place. There were plants all around the room as well. The bedroom windows were draped in dark hunter green curtains which were obviously very heavy. Aikrii spun around, looking at the room and sucked in a deep breath. The fragrance of raspberries and peaches overcame the room; it gave him a sense of pleasure. “Ohhh…I could end up loving this room the most.” He said just as he stopped spinning in from of Mani. He gave him a wink and chuckled.  

"OK guys, hormones in check please." Cleo said shooting them a cocky grin, knowing where they were going. "This isn't the time to bring up your deviously delicious thoughts about ravishing each other, OK?" They both roared with laughter, since it was exactly where they were aiming.

Aikrii poked Mani, "Later then...say, nine-ish?

He was being a wise ass and Mani fell into step, "Sure, consider it a reservation then."

"Oh good Lord guys!" Cleo groaned rolling her eyes. "Thanks for the mental picture, I really needed that! OI!" She walked out of the room with them, giggling their assess off.

"Now Sefron; your room is next." The second room next to the main bathroom was Sefron's and it was done in reds. It had some awesome art on the walls of band players and singers. The bed was done with a silver and grey comforter. The dresser was grey and black, similar to how Mani and Aikrii's was done, but shorter in stature. Even a nice stereo system was set up for him. Sefron also noticed his electric guitar was also placed in the corner of his room with a new amp. He gleamed right away, like a child on Christmas morning and started playing.

"So..?" Cleo asked.

"Oh, my, fucking, God!" Sefron said whooping. He twanged his guitar and let out a neat "wahahaha," then he made it 'scream.'

Cleo giggled, "I take it, you like what you see?" she said smiling.

"Like it? I love it!" he said looking around his new room "This is better than I ever expected." He went over to Aikrii and gave him a crushing hug, then the same to Cleo and then to Mani.

"Guys, you just made my freaking year with this." he said beaming.

Aikrii and Mani smiled as they seen Sefron, who had a really tough year smile as much as he was. It was nice to see.

"Nye, this is our room." Cleo said as she opened the door to the guest room, he was stunned. It was done in bright colors; green, purple, orange and blue, yellow and then some. The bed was kitty cornered between the large windows and was sitting on a multi colored area rug that screamed at ones senses. There was bean bag chairs in one corner, along with Nye's computer and sound system. Their bed itself was huge and done with a bright orange comforter with  funky purple, green and yellow swirls all over it looked like a fireworks display. The pillows looked like hands, lips and pairs of shorts. It was a fun room. The area by the bathroom door was an arcade game, which Nye looked at and roared when he realized it was Q-bert, a game he loved but hadn't played since he was ten.

He walked up to Cleo, and hugged her so hard she thought he was gonna make her pop from her shirt.

"Hun, you’re gonna make me fall out and give everyone a good show. Let’s save the crushing for later." she giggled.

Mani and Aikrii looked at each other and at the same time, asked the exact same question.

"Cleo, where are you sleeping?"

"Here, where else?" She said with a puzzled look on her face. Aikrii walked up to her and whispered in her ear. She blushed and looked at him, "You're serious aren't' you?"

"Umm, yeah, better safe than sorry, if you know what I mean."

Sefron, watched and then chuckled. He knew what was going on now and being as blunt as he was, he said, "Girl are you on the pill? Cause we don't need no babies here just yet"

Cleo turned red again and slapped Sefron on the arm, "That's none of your business really, but yes!"

"Owe!" he said, rubbing the sore spot. "Common! We're only looking out for you, don't take a hairy."

She muttered sorry and slunk off to the bathroom to hide. Nye glanced at the bathroom door then back at Mani and Aikrii,

"Bro, we haven't umm...ever done anything yet." He said so low Mani had to lean in to really hear him.

"I wasn't planning on it either, but it looks like she wanted to be safe. More than I can say for myself, I wasn't even thinking about that at all"

"Guess it's a good thing she was then." Mani said smiling and ribbing his baby bro.

"Umm, yeah I guess, but it will still be awhile yet. I think I can crash beside her without eating her up." he said chuckling.

All three guys laughed just as she walked out and she turned beat red again. She turned around, went back into the bathroom and they all giggled again, as Nye went to the door to get her attention.

The rest headed downstairs. It was supper time and Aikrii had someone catering tonight since he had so much to plan for the housewarming party and other things.

Chapter 17 – Again

Mani awoke around three-ish to giggles and all around merriment coming from down the hall. It was quiet, but still auditable. He rolled over groaning. Aikrii stirred beside him, his eyes fluttering groggily opened.

"Something wrong?" he asked him.

"No" he said smiling "Nothing your groggy butt needs to worry about." he said, reaching for him and snuggling in close. Aikrii breathed deep, taking in Mani's scent. The smell of polo drowning his senses. He hummed in satisfaction, closing his eyes against Mani's chest, as he snaked an arm around his waist. Mani breathed deep, as he ran his hand through Aikrii's hair.

"I think it's time for a cut," Aikrii murmured in his sleepy state.

Mani stopped stroking his head, "You’re gonna cut your hair?" he asked with a bit of shock.

"Uhh, been thinking about it." he admitted, shifting. He was more awake now. He ran his hand across Mani's belly, making his muscles tighten, as the motion tickled him.

"Why?" He asked as his curiosity peaked. He shifted sideways as he looked at Aikrii who was now staring at him.

"To look more professional, I guess. I don't want to be the baby face at work." He said while nuzzling his face against Mani's chest; breathing deep and pulling his body against him. "Some may not take me seriously enough if I look like some punk ass kid."

Mani chuckled, "I like your thinking but, if people can't appreciate your intellect regardless of your hair style then they are morons."

"It's alright hun." Aikrii said kissing his neck, getting Mani distracted and excited, "I think it's time for a small change anyway. Might as well be the hair."

Mani groaned, looked at him and kissed his forehead, "OK," he smiled "Now on with your distraction. I was rather enjoying that."

Aikrii shot off his wicked little grin, happy to oblige in an indulging part of their three a.m. wake up call and for one who only recently awoke, he was full of energy now.

He slipped under the sheets with amusement guiding his play. He used his fingertips, running them down Mani's belly, making his stomach muscles tighten again. It really tickled but he tried to hold back the laughter. He felt Aikrii's hair brush against him next; his long hair would be gone. He would miss that.

Aikrii found what he was looking for. Mani was ready to be played with and Aikrii was eager to have some fun. It had been awhile since they got to spend any time together. Work had kept him super busy.

He flicked his tongue out, touching the tip of Mani's excitement, making him jump and suck in a deep breath between clenched teeth. He wrapped his eager fingers around him, heat resonating into his hand, he stroked; ever so slowly, Mani squirmed. Aikrii grinned, licking the tip again, teasing him; he continued his torment for about five minutes before he took him fully into his hot excited mouth, nearly swallowing him whole. Mani bucked, almost gagging Aikrii but Aikrii didn't care. He kept his own rhythm up while Mani thrusted his way to his own excited peak. Mani held onto his shoulders, arching and moaning in sheer pleasure.

"Oh! Oooh, God! Aikriiii..." he gasped out, as he climaxed pulling his hair. Aikrii suckled eagerly wanting to get every last drop of him. Mani thought he was done but then he could feel feather kisses up his inner thigh. Being so sensitive afterwards, it caused him to quiver till he was aroused again. Aikrii chuckled as he realized what he was doing to his boyfriend.

He slipped out from under the blanket and looked at him, "You tired? Or would you like to continue the featured presentation?"

He smirked waiting for a response. Mani, being silly, grabbed him quickly flipping him over and sitting on him. He was energized now. He wanted to play. A three a.m. session was a rarity, so he wasn't that tired now.

Aikrii squealed as Mani flipped him over. He was sitting on his chest. His joyous member sitting erect on his chest only a tongue flick away. Aikrii got daring and stuck out his tongue just barley touching the tip on Mani. Mani jumped not expecting him to be able to make contact he pulled back.

"Uh uh...nope, it's my turn now darlin." he said, holding his arms and nipping slowly down his neck, causing Aikrii to whimper with want. He squirmed; he was hungry to feel Mani around him. Mani obliged on his own time, lubing up first. Slowly he started teasing Aikrii, pushing down on him then backing off. Aikrii squirmed and got his arms loose and grabbed Mani's hips, pulling him down to his hard pulsing member. Mani gasped, relaxed; he then tightened around Aikrii who in turn moaned in satisfaction at feeling him. Aikrii thrusted upwards making Mani groan and throw his head back. He gripped Aikrii's shoulders and rocked with the motion Aikrii was causing. The rippling effects were amazing. They could still make fireworks happen each and every time they got intimate. Their tempo quickened, the rhythm got faster, Aikrii tried to hold on but happily lost it.

"Oh...fuck!" Aikrii strangled out through gritted teeth; hauling Mani down hard on to him. He came so hard he thought he was going to pass out.

Mani's fingers dug hard into Aikrii's shoulders. He quivered as he felt the warmth seep into him. Aikrii was still moving in a rapid rhythm, still with his own motion. Mani leaned forward, his head against Aikrii's sweaty chest, and panted out "Ooh, oh, my God!"

Aikrii was still moving in him, in & out, in & out. The stroking of his prostate left Mani quivering and shaking. He couldn't keep up with Aikrii this time, he was trying his damnedest to hold on, even with the excited sensations he was feeling, he couldn't. He clenched on one end and let loose a second time, leaving a wet trail across Aikrii's belly, much to Aikrii's delight. Aikrii grinned at him, kissed his forehead when he leaned forward and slipped out of him, as he snuggled against his chest.

"Now that was a nice change" Aikrii said chuckling, wiping himself off and then snuggling against Mani, who was now obviously delirious with sated satisfaction from their romp.

"I'd say. Damn it's been a bit. Maybe we need to do these three a.m. calls more often since work keeps us both so busy.

Aikrii chuckled, and hugged him tight, "Don't worry sexy, things will settle soon." He kissed Mani's chest, sighed and slowly drifted off to sleep in Mani's arms. Both were now content.

Sefron pulled the pillow back off his head...All was quiet now. 'Thank fuck.' He groaned, rolled over and slowly went back to sleep, alone... What the hell was he going to do in a house with two couples in it? Good God he had to get laid and soon.

From a distance he watched, every day for the last month. He would leave things here and there to get his chance to spend time with Aikrii, who was getting freer with him; friendlier. Jacques watched him walk up the hall. He hesitated, checking his watch, then grabbed his phone to dial out. Jacques wondered who he was calling. Aikrii looked more sophisticated since he got his hair cut and older, which turned Jacques on even more than he already was. He continued to nonchalantly watch Aikrii out of the corner of his eye.

Aikrii finished his call and stopped at Jacques door.

"Hey," He waved to him and Jacques smiled. His persistence was slowly paying off. Hopefully soon he wouldn't have to rely on imagination and a bathroom stall.

"Good morning" he said to Aikrii "How be things? I've not seen you around much" he said in his usual broken English.

"Been busy. I got a request this month to come up with a new device and I was told you suggested something... it’s similar to something I was already working on. I was wondering if I could ask you what you're looking to get from a device like that. It’s a great suggestion, I already had one planned, but I’m aiming for feedback right now."

Jacques had to contain himself. At first, he was shocked and worried but he didn't let it register on his face. He didn’t want to give anything away, not till he know what he needed to know first.

"I don't understand." he said, "Get? As in?"

"What would be the benefits you see, as a person in general, for a device such as the one you suggested?" Aikrii asked him, smiling again. He did after all like the idea and it would work with many different languages and translations. He already had a sketch done for an ear piece styled one.

"I see umm, advances? Maybe for those who are in need of help in understanding another language, when they cannot understand others around them?"

He said hoping it was what Aikrii was looking for.

"How would you go about setting something like this up, so it's easy to use?" Aikrii asked as he sat in Jacques guest seat.

Jacques relaxed, OK this was good. Aikrii was looking for info based solely on a possible programmable device, so he was in the clear. He decided to go with the flow, he could drag this out if he did it right.

Jacques chuckled, and responded in his usual broken English, "A programmed device that could be carried as an 'auto' translator would be good. So one speaks and it comes out translated to the user. Maybe through an ear piece or like a digital recorder one could hold. Even if it's a rough translation, it's still better than not understanding." he said. "N'est pas?"

"Qui!" Aikrii said, his delight dancing along his face. "Now, since I think all should have an equal opportunity and you suggested it, I would like collaborations. I need one more member who is bi-lingual, so all of us can try this. This is, if it will not interfere with your own work."

Jacques beamed, "I shall request time to be helpful as you need my presence." he said "I am much happy to help and it excites me to be part of a project by such a great programmer." He said. His comment was actually honest and sincere.

Aikrii was happy to see someone else was glad to have him around, even if it meant working on a simple project as this one.

He looked at Jacques, "Welcome aboard. You'll be happy to know that Troy already knows I was going to ask you for help. I will just inform him when you're working with me. Your job will still be here, since your time needed for this project will be limited, but one on one with designated vocals."

Jacques grinned again, stood and took Aikrii's hand shaking it and saying thank you. Aikrii headed off to his own office and took his messages from his secretary.

He made a request for a second translator and left the search up to her to complete. He informed her if she needed to, she could call to ask about candidates, but they had to be within the company. Aikrii contacted Troy letting him know what was going on with the newest project and told him that Jacques took to the idea like duck to water.

"I think he's eager to make a friend since he's been quite a loaner since he's been working here." Troy said "I'm glad you're a friend he's chosen. At least now he won't feel left out of any of the projects that take place here."

Aikrii was thrilled to know others took to him, it meant he was likable It was one thing he use to always thrive for; well actually crave but not so much now since he had Mani, at least he had more friends now.

He let Troy know about what would be needed, the programming that would be involved and his ideas on a prototype. It would take about three months to complete and asked if a designer was available. He was told when he got that far, to contact him and someone would be assigned to work with him, hopefully making the future program portable and easy to use. Aikrii suggested the two options, an ear piece or recorder device and Tory was thrilled by the concepts.

Each week, he worked on the new program for the device. Time progressed, although slow. It was something Aikrii was enjoying. Aikrii programmed during the days while at work and in the evenings, if he worked later, he either had Jacques or the English translator, Collin, in with him recording voice over's or translations from one of them the previous night. Most of the time it was Jacques doing the French side. Collin would translate roughly fifty six thousand different words to English. They tried to muster up other words they should add, since there is differences in how many words are really in existence, variables and other factors. Doing all the English words would make over seven hundred and fifty thousand and that would take too long, since most words aren't even used anymore. For now, the focus was on French and English for the prototype.

Jacques was tired and he was getting bored. He noticed the next sections of words and went through the list. Aikrii was rubbing his head while pondering over the coding and recording for the next set of words. He started the program, letting it run. Jacques looked over his shoulder and asked, "You are confused, n'est pas?"

Aikrii looked up, "Not really, just tired. It's taking longer than I expected, that's all." Jacques looked down at his screen and since he was learning the words slowly in English, he was getting better. He was also picking up on coding jargon as well. He reached over Aikrii's shoulder, brushing him ever so slightly and pointed to the screen, "Is this not error is spelling?" He asked, pointing to marline a word referring to rope. Aikrii was a bit over tired so he ignored the brush and looked. "Not really, it can be spelled with or without the E" he said, leaning back in his chair bumping Jacques in the process. His hand gripped the first thing it could to prevent a fall, landing in Aikrii's lap.

He had been hoping for an opportunity like this. The perfect timing made his 'innocent' lap-landing look so good, he had to keep going. He pushed off of Aikrii's lap and turned red; mainly out of frustration, not embarrassment. He held his ground and played along, "Damn, I..I..I'm sorry." he stuttered intentionally.

Aikrii was embarrassed too looked over at Jacques, who was redder than a beet. "No problem." Aikrii said trying to shrug it off. Jacques sat down next to him in the second seat and put his head down. Aikrii looked at him, "You OK?" He asked him, putting his hand on his shoulder.

Jacques jerked and looked up, he decided to go for it; he leaned in towards Aikrii and said, "Je suis juste ainsi fusterated tous que je veux faire doit vous embrasser." and he did. Aikrii's shock at the comment of him saying he just had to kiss him, was over thrown at the action of him actually following through. He squeaked and backed away. Jacques looked at him and waited. Aikrii stopped and thought before he continued.

"Jacques, I've learned to like you as a person and this just puts a kink into things. Please, I think it's time to go home."

Aikrii was trying his damnedest to be nice about things. He was confused on what just happened but he was also thinking of Mani first most and how his heart would break if he ever found out this happened.

"I can't." Jacques said with a frown, "Pas encore." Him saying 'not yet' made Aikrii stiffen, he was somewhat worried what he would do next. Jacques looked down at the young man who was the peak of all his desires and leaned in towards him and spoke. "Je vous ai voulu du jour un et ą temps je gagnerai

l'one-way ou des autres, je suis sūr que votre Mani précieux se demandera pourquoi vous travaillez tard."

Aikrii didn't understand all of the comment but he did get the idle threat about Mani wondering about his late working hours. He looked at Jacques, fear in his eyes and he backed away. Jacques grinned he knew he had him right where he wanted him, he touched his face but Aikrii shrank back from him. Jacques grinned again and walked out of the office.

Aikrii's heart was beating a thousand miles a minute, he was scared shitless. What the hell was he going to do? He had a deadline to meet, and now this had to happen. Jacques was right; Mani would wonder why he was working so late. So even telling him was out of the question. He put his head into his hands, worry eating at his heart. He loved Mani so much he couldn't hurt him. Aikrii looked at the screen of his computer and noticed the program was still running, he shut it off. Sighed and then resolved, right there and then, not to tell Mani what had happened tonight. He just didn't have it in him to break Mani's heart over something so trivial.

So for nearly two more weeks, he endured Jacques off handed advances, scared yet too damn stubborn to give into Jacques threats. Aikrii focused on the job first and foremost. He had to deal with Jacques delicately, keeping him as far at bay as he could. It wasn’t an easy battle. Those around Aikrii started to notice the stress it was causing him.

Collin received most of the recordings and was going through them, slowly re-recording each section in English, his job was simple enough and it was paying extra on top of what he already did for Nessix. This week though, as he walked in, he noticed things were off with Aikrii more than usual, who seemed to be on edge. He looked over at the young fella whom he got to know better as the weeks went on. He liked him as a person, well rounded and easy going. He even learned about his boyfriend, which Collin thought was OK, so long as no one hit on him.

"Hey boss." he said making Aikrii jump in his seat, as he was going over the recordings. Aikrii took off the one-piece headphone set.

"Everything OK? You seem a bit off, something wrong with the program?"

"No. Nothing is wrong with the program," he said sighing and rubbing his hand through his now short hair. "Just frustrated over a translation." he said.

Let me hear it, I'll tell you what it means. Aikrii, not knowing that his whole mishap with Jacques had been recorded and because he was so stressed over things, he wasn't paying full attention to the recordings he was listening to. He passed the earphones over to Collin who listened to the recording. His eyes widened. He looked at Aikrii and frowned.

"Umm, I'm not so sure you'll want to use that for your translations Aikrii." Collin was a bit concerned, since he could hear Jacques voice clearly, making what seemed to him to be a threatening statement. He looked at Aikrii and asked again out of genuine concern, "Are you sure you're OK?"

Aikrii looked, rubbed his head again, "Yeah" he said "Nothing I can't handle." Tonight would be another long night and he really didn't want to be cooped up with Jacques again. "Will you be in tonight for translations?" he asked Collin.

"Not too sure as of yet, probably not since Jenny wants to go out." He smiled.

"Umm, alright." Aikrii said not sounding too enthusiastic, "Maybe tomorrow then?" he looked up at Collin who was now standing by his office door. Collin looked back at his boss, a bit worried but eager to get going, he wanted to start his weekend. He nodded and walked out of the office.

Aikrii groaned. Ran his hand through his hair again, making it a total mess. He just wanted to scream.

Mani looked around his Studio. It was now completed and he was thrilled. Sefron was just finishing up with a customer and Mani hauled out the painting he had done of Aikrii and hung it neatly on the wall of his office. He had noticed Aikrii was stressed lately and figured it had to do with the new program for the device he was working on, it had been nearly five weeks since it was brought about. He knew Aikrii had a few more months left to go before his project was done. Mani looked at his watch; it was going on ten in the evening. The Nessix building was only a block away but knew he had a lot of work to finish. The business phone rang.

"Pic it Prints" He said into the phone. The voice on the other end made Mani smile for a second, then frown a bit. He murmured his uh-huh's and hung up.

"Hey Sefron, I'm gonna go over to see Aikrii. Close up in a few, I'll see you at home." Mani grabbed his keys and headed out to his car.

Collin hung up his phone, he hoped he did the right thing; he figured Aikrii could use the help. He looked at Jenny and kissed her, said thanks and they walked back into the Nessix building together.

Mani got off the elevator then slowly and quietly, walked to his boyfriend's office, his heart beating so loudly he was sure it could be heard. It was fairly quiet, till he heard low voices coming from Aikrii's office.

"I tell you now Aikrii, you will not win. Your Mani friend will be mad. You have not told of your time here with me. I know of this; I watch you."

Mani peeked in by Aikrii's door and noticed that Jacques had Aikrii pinned against the bookshelf. His blood boiled as he watched Jacques push himself against Aikrii.

"We're here to do a damn job, Jacques, not for you to dry hump my fucking leg you son of a bi..." Jacques grabbed his face and pulled it towards him, kissing him fiercely; Aikrii struggled and pushed him away.

"Fuck off!" He spat out at him. Aikrii wiped his mouth off. "I only keep this to myself to protect Mani; his heart would die if he knew the abuse you put me through."

Mani walked into the room just behind Jacques; Aikrii was shocked to see him and it must have registered on his face as Jacques slowly turned around to be greeted by Mani who was obviously pissed.

He growled at the tall blonde "You son of a bitch, what do you’re doing to my boyfriend?"

"Enjoying him." The nasty blonde, said sneering at the red head in front of him. He lunged, just as Collin walked in the room. The distraction wasn't good since Mani actually was caught off guard and got nailed in the face. Mani staggered, gained his balance and stopped, still glaring. Aikrii yelled, "Stop!"

Mani looked over at Aikrii; he was hurting, he could see it. He looked at Jacques; he still hadn't hit the man yet. Collin spoke.

"I knew this was bad. Jacques, back off now. I've call the cops!"

"Back off you fucking ass." Jacques sneered, "I have much to win here."

Aikrii stepped in and stopped them both. "What the fuck do you have to win?" he said yelling at Jacques, "My friendship? You lost that with the first threat. I don't trust you anymore, you use to have it, hope it was worth it!" He glared at the French man, "I was just a conquest to you. A free ride to the top. You're a despicable man Jacques!"

Jacques made one of the biggest mistakes he could have ever made. He was able to push Aikrii around only because he used verbal threats and manipulation, but once he swung at him it was a different story. Aikrii went into training mode almost instantly and ducked, he punched the older man, he fell to the floor in a heap.

He walked over to Mani and he laid his head on his shoulder and sobbed.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner. I was scared and worried. I was concerned for my job and for your own feelings being hurt." He looked at Mani who was hurt but relieved that Aikrii was alright.

"It's all over now."

Collin passed Aikrii a tape with a piece of paper wrapped around it,

"What's this?" he asked.

"Remember when I told you that that one part you were confused over translation wise, and I said it wasn't a good idea to use." He paused for a response.

"Yes" Aikrii said, a bit confused.

"Well apparently, each time you were working on pieces you had the program running and it recorded everything you said or did. The piece on your recording,” He said, referring to the tape. “Is a clear copy of Jacques voice making his fist comment to you and then the threat. It can be used in court, since he knew he was working, where info was being recorded."

Jacques cursed under his breath from the floor, slamming it with his fist. Aikrii looked down at him. He took Mani's hand and walked out of his office as the police walked in. Jacques was arrested for assault. Aikrii, one more time, endured police questioning, only this time he didn't end up in the hospital. Mani took him home; he was very quiet on the drive there. He watched as Aikrii slunk off to their room. Sefron walked around the corner from the dining room to see Aikrii disappear and Mani watched him go.

"What's wrong?" Sefron asked.

"Aikrii was assaulted again." Mani said looking at Sefron, "but this time it was sexually and at work!"

Sefron's jaw dropped, he looked up the stairs, back to Mani and asked, "Now what?"

"I don't know." Mani said, "I know he's been assaulted in this manner before but he's nearing eighteen now. I have no idea what I need to do to help him heal."

Sefron looked at Mani and said, "Call my mom, she may have some ideas on what to do."

Mani looked at Sefron and shook his head yes. It probably would be for the best. He thanked him then headed off to their room, hoping to help Aikrii to feel better and to try to get him to talk. Being as quiet as he was since he walked in on the mess that had unfolded at Aikrii's office, kind of made him concerned for Aikrii’s well-being.

Chapter 18 – Remembering

Because of the past issues he'd endured, the abuse and more, he had decided to take advantage of the mental health clinic his job offered with Sue's encouragement. He was doing alright, but he still had moments where he didn't feel adequate enough for anyone. He walked into the office with Mani, holding onto his hand. The councillor that Susan had referred them to, was sitting in his chair writing. He motioned for Aikrii and Mani to sit. He finished his idle scribble and then looked up, closing the file he was working on.

"So you’re Mr. Oratii?" he said looking at another file.

"Yes." Aikrii mumbled. "I chose to get some help, but I don't want to be here either."

"You're here Mr. Oratii because you have been assaulted not once but on several occasions, and also because you are looking for help or answers? Your partner feels it's putting a strain on you and is worried. Is this not so, Mr. Tskii?" he inquired, looking over at Mani.

"Indeed." Mani whispered "He gets too quiet, withdrawn and I'm worried; some days, beyond worried. I tried talking to him when he's like this, but he usually won't say anything."

Aikrii looked at Mani, he felt bad, he really did. He wanted to let things go and talk but he felt the urge to keep it bottled, a defense mechanism he learned as a child.

He knew Mani didn't blame him, he had told him so many times. Aikrii believed him; he just didn't believe that he, himself, deserved the understanding. There had to be something wrong with him, why else would he always end up being a target. Even with the training Mani gave him, he had no confidence in himself as a strong physical person. He only had the mental strength and even that dwindled from time to time.

Mani squatted in front of Aikrii. He held his cheeks in his hands and kissed him on his head. "I am here if you need me, but I shall leave, so you can relax." he said looking into his worried sad green eyes. "All you have to do is ask for me."

Mani got up and walked out of the room. It was the most difficult thing he had to do.

Dr. Sung looked at the young man before him, a mere child of seventeen in his old eyes, though his records showed he was going to be eighteen in a few weeks.

"Mr. Oratii." He said looking at the boy smiling, "Tell me about yourself."

Aikrii looked at the older guy, he could make this hard on himself or easy. He did choose to be here, so he figured, he's here now, might as well get shit off his chest. There's no harm in it and it's what this guy gets paid for, not like any of it can be released without his consent and this guy was a stranger so he had no idea who Aikrii was as a social person, just what was on the papers in his file.

"Well you already know the basics from my file, so I guess this will be some what of an easy meeting." he paused looking at the older man and continued. "I'm not actually an easy person to get to know. I usually; for the most part; keep to myself. I have a low self esteem, but I know I'm smart; however, I always question my physical abilities, even though I have my boyfriends help."

"Why do you keep to yourself?" Mr. Sung asked him, tapping his pen against his lips.

"Best way to stay invisible, less chance of getting hurt when no one notices you." Aikrii answered truthfully.

Dr. Sung wrote down on his pad, then looked at Aikrii again. "You said you're not easy to get to know, yet many know who you are. Why did you say this?"

"I'm not an easy person to get to know; even Mani doesn't know everything about my past. It terrifies me to even remember half of it. I could just imagine the pain in Mani's eyes, if he listened to my past history." Aikrii said. Choking back tears that threatened to slip past his lids, he took a deep breath and waited for more questions.

"Do you think he's weak?" he asked Aikrii, waiting to see his response.

"Good gosh no!" Aikrii said with conviction, "He's the strongest person other than my mom that I know."

"Does your mother know of all the past abuses in detail?" he asked.

"Yes, unfortunately I had to tell her all of it and I watched her get sick from it too." he said with a frown as he lowered his head.

"You're ashamed you were abused and had to tell your mother?" Dr. Sung stated more as a question then a statement.

"I am ashamed I wasn't strong enough to stop it. I was supposed to be the man of the house, but I wasn't." he said running his hands through his hair.

"You were but a mere child, what would you have done any differently to stop what had happened? You would have still had to tell your mother would you not?"

Aikrii stopped and thought, Dr. Sung was right. As a child, he couldn't have done anything really much different to stop what his uncle had done to him. Mani did all he could to teach Aikrii to be stronger physically, in their nearly three years together. He couldn't do anymore than what was physically possible in that short time and when it came to his job, it was as important to him as much as Mani's welfare emotionally was, since he knew Mani worried so badly. Then he came to a simple realization.

"Oh God, I never realized till now that I was hurting just by not telling him and leaving him worrying all this time." Aikrii groaned leaning back against the leather sofa.

Dr. Sung continued on with Aikrii and within an hour, he had pretty much opened up. Aikrii had cried a few times but managed to hang in with the courage he knew came from someone who taught him he was strong. His boyfriend. He eventually called for Mani to come in on the session with them.

Dr. Sung informed Mani that the information he was about to hear was based solely on the request of the patient. Legally he wasn't allowed to release any information to outside sources without his consent and any conversation in the office was strictly confidential. Mani understood. He sat beside Aikrii who seemed to be in better spirits. He looked at him and smiled. Aikrii leaned to him and hugged him, stuffing his face into his shoulder.

"Thanks for encouraging me to do this. I think I really needed it." he said muffled by the fabric.

Mani pulled Aikrii from his shoulder and looked at him. "I pushed because I was getting sick with worry. I just want you happy, like before."

Aikrii swallowed hard and looked at him, "Well before I can be that happy person again, I guess I should let you know that there is more that will make you sad. This is hard for me but, I think you need to understand what happened to me as a child and why I am the way I am." He waited for Mani to say something.

"I'm here to listen." Mani said. "I know I can't fix what happened in the past, but no matter what, sad or not, I have two shoulders I am happy to provide to you to lean and cry on. I only hope you will do the same for me."

Aikrii took a deep breath, and started to tell Mani his story about his uncle Francis, who had abused him.

He was only six when it started, gradually. First it was just his uncle, who wasn't that much older than he, was exposing himself to Aikrii. Francis being fifteen at the time knew he was in the wrong but continued to do so anyway. By the time Aikrii was nine, Francis had been forcing him to perform oral sex on him on a regular basis. By the time Aikrii was thirteen, he knew he was gay. He then forced Aikrii for his first time to have sex. He was nowhere near gentle.

For a full year, the forced sex was something Aikrii endured on a daily basis, for fear of having his uncle hurt him in other ways, like telling his parents. When Aikrii's dad found out what had been happening and learned of Aikrii's orientation he blamed his brother and beat him for abusing his son. Then he beat Aikrii out of frustration and intolerance for the same reason his brother did to his own boy on a regular basis.

Aikrii was always told he was made wrong; he was a waste of skin. His dad told him to die on many occasions. After a while, Aikrii thought his dad was right and began to cold burn himself, using ice cubes. He'd get as many as he could and stand on them or hold them in his hands, till his skin got burnt from the cold. His mom started to question his skin conditions and many times he was brought to the doctors who told her it was mild frostbite which; didn't make sense to her. She started to get concerned, so Aikrii found other ways to 'feel'. He was so indulged with his programming that he wouldn’t sleep for days, and then would crash for days. He was becoming obsessed. Though it was a benefit for him to program, it caused his school studies to suffer. So when Aikrii's mom realized what was going on, she got him out of the home and left her husband so she could help her son. It was none too soon either.

Aikrii was only days away from killing himself; he even had a plan as well. It was never followed though. Aikrii told it all to Mani, in great detail. Dr. Sung watched, asked some questions and wrote. Mani sat, listened and cried with Aikrii and hugged him when he needed it.

The healing process was going to be long and hard and they both knew it. Mani and Aikrii's first session with Dr. Sung ended after five hours of talking. Aikrii felt ten times lighter. Mani felt like a load had been lifted from his worried shoulders. Aikrii shook Dr. Sung's hand and then made his second appointment. Mani took his hand as they left the office. That day Mani and Aikrii became a closer couple. One, who with help; communicated better than most married couples.

It was a step in the right direction for both of them. Mani stopped outside of the car, on Aikrii's side; took Aikrii's face into his warm hands and soundly kissed him right there on the street for anyone to see, then pulled back and said "I love you, no matter what; don't you ever forget that."

Nearly a year later:

She cringed, he hit her again and she cried. She heard him say something but she didn't understand his words. She was scared, she clutched her purse, he yanked on it, trying to take it from her. She screamed...she saw him raise his hand to hit her again. She closed her eyes; flinching, waiting for the blow. It never came. She heard a sickening thud and peeked to see a flash of purple and white. The guy, who was hurting her, went flying. He hit a bunch of garbage cans and lay slumped there, dazed for a minute, before getting up and running off scared.

She opened her eyes all the way and looked around. Her eyes settled on a figure in a white parka with purple hair. She rubbed her eyes thinking she was seeing things. The purple haired person turned around. It was a girl! Mardi was stunned. There in front of her was a real life girl who had hair like a cartoon!

She gawked; she had orange eyes too. She jumped when she spoke.

"Are you hurt?" Cleo asked the dark girl, who was cowering in the alley. She walked over to her and held out a hand to the small girl.

Mardi shook her head yes, barley able to contain her composure, not wanting to speak for the fear of breaking down. She stood with help and took a deep breath. She looked down at her knees and saw blood. She immediately fainted.

"Oh Jesus!" Cleo grabbed for the girl before she hit the ground, and scooped the tiny body into her arms. She definitely wasn't dressed for this kind of weather. Cleo could actually feel the cold from the girl's body seeping through her parka. She looked down at the girl and patted her face trying to rouse her. It didn't work.

She opened her jacket and tucked Mardi against her, trying to warm her. She half stumbled with the girl to the road and hailed a cab. She got her to the house and brought her to the guest room and laid her down on the bed. Cleo scurried off to find blankets and other things to help the girl.

Sefron hear the door open, he had been playing his guitar when he heard it. He flicked off the amp and headed for the door. He looked over the railing and noticed Cleo was racing back and forth to the guest room. OK; he wondered ‘what the hell did she do now?’

He walked down the stairs slowly; he wanted to see what she was up to but not to startle her. He got closer to the guest room, when she popped out and noticed him. She shut the door quickly. He assumed she had a stray in there.

"OK. I thought Aikrii said no pets." Sefron said grinning since he knew Cleo's habits.

"It's not a pet." Cleo said as she blocked the door.

Sefron wasn't impressed; he scooted her out of the way and opened the door. There lying on Aikrii's Guest room bed was a raven beauty. Sefron’s instant attraction to her; damn nearly made him die from shock. It was unreal. The poor girl was no bigger than a minute. She had cuts and scrapes all over her body. He walked over to her, very concerned about her condition.

"God! Cleo, get a few towels." He looked her over, her injuries prominent. He went into protection mode. She brought back a few towels and a face cloth in a bowl. He started to clean her wounds off, very gently.

They must have stung a great deal as it brought her to; slowly but moaning in pain. He placed a hand around her tiny one. His hand was so pale compared to hers. He picked up her hand and breathed on it, trying to warm her. Cleo brought back two blankets warmed in the dryer and covered her slight frame.

"Wh..Where am I? "The young girl asked her accent thick. Her eyes fluttered as she woke. Sefron's eyes bugged out; be still his heart! My God! Intense Aquamarine eyes looked at him. She was a beauty. Sefron spoke to her,

"You're safe now. Cleo brought you to our home. What's your name?"

She looked around the room which was small but pretty. It was done in greens, one of her many favorite colors. She looked at the silver haired man in front of her, he was tall and gangly but cute as a button. She loved his eyes; they were the deepest blue she hadn’t seen in a long time, another favorite color of hers.

She looked around again and spotted the purple haired girl who saved her. "Come here please." she said to Cleo. Cleo walked up to her, the girl reached for her hair.

"Fascinating." She smiled. "I'm Mardi Vikree." She looked at the orange eyes staring back. "When I first saw you, I thought I was dreaming and a cartoon saved me."

Sefron chuckled a hearty chuckle, Cleo even giggled. "Why do you laugh?" Mardi asked puzzled. "It was your hair that was confusing, it's wild and outrageous and I like it."

Sefron smiled; "You think ours is outrageous, wait till you meet Nye." He winked at Cleo who giggled again. Mardi looked more confused. "Who are you?" she asked.

"Oh my bad" Cleo said, dropping the towel she was holding on the dresser and going to the girl, extending a hand to her, "I'm Cleo, that's Sefron." she pointed to him. "Nye is my boyfriend and there's two others living here too. Aikrii and Mani, they are also a couple." She stressed this so the girl wasn't confused later when she did meet everyone, assuming she stuck around.

"Oh sweet!" Mardi said. "A whole family of toons" she giggled.

Sefron raised an eyebrow looking at her confused. "How old are you?" he asked her.

"Twenty-one. Why?" she said. She sat up and fished out an id card and passed it to him.

"Oh my, you’re only a year younger than I am," he said grinning. "I actually thought you were younger because you keep mentioning cartoons and you're so damn tiny!"

"Oh, ummm it's a joke." She turned red, and that's pretty hard for a mix Japhindi girl to do. "I guess my lack of English culture and familiarity is truly showing aren't they. I got used twice and nearly killed and I can't tell a joke to save myself." she sighed and ran her hand through her short pitch-black hair, wincing. "Damn another cut?" She looked at the dried blood that had come off onto her damp hand.

Cleo passed her a cloth.

"If you can stand without trouble; we have a shower you can use. So you can clean up."

Sefron waited to see what she was going to say.

Mardi got up out of the bed she had be lying in. She was wobbly but Sefron was right there to catch her if she needed it.

She leaned her slight frame against his towering mass. He barley felt her weight. When she stumbled for the second time, he scooped her up like a child and carried her. Cleo grabbed a chair and they took it to the guest bathroom. Cleo showed her what to do using the chair, so she could sit without falling in the shower and still get cleaned up.

"Call if you need help. We'll be here if you need us." She placed a large over-sized towel into the shower stall with her, so should she have any issues at least she wouldn't be baring it all to strangers. Mardi thanked her. Sefron stayed right outside of the bathroom door. Cleo grinned at him like an idiot.

They both heard the water start. Cleo turned on her stereo, down low, but it must have been enough for Mardi to hear over the shower. They both could hear her humming.

"Well she remembers the tune to a song; so she can't have amnesia now can she?" Sefron said trying to be nonchalant.

Cleo laughed, "I seriously think you got the hots for her, you horn dog. Poor injured girl drops in and you’re eating her alive with your eyes."

Sefron turned the same shade of red as the tips on his hair. He scratched the back of his head. Then shot out,

"Hell. Girl, it's been forever since I've had fun. Kind of sucks too, when I got two couples going at it at all hours of the night for the last year. I’ve been sandwiched between them both, giggling their assess off and moaning."

It was Cleo's turn to turn bright red. She gasped for air and sputtered. "I can't believe you said that!" she huffed crossing her arms.

"No, I can't forget this evening or your face as you were leaving

But I guess that's just the way this story goes, you always smile...

But in your eyes your sorrow shows, yes it shows."

They both stopped when they started to hear a beautiful voice clear and loud. "Damn, Cleo I thought the radio was down? How am I to hear her if she falls?" he marched over and turned it off but the voice was still loud and clear.

"I can’t live, if living is without you

I can't live. I can't give anymore!

Can't live, if living is without you

Can't give, I can't give anymore!"

"Oh my god, it's her singing!" Cleo said; hands flying to her face in surprise.

They could hear her singing, Mardi had a voice on her like an angel. It sent shivers right up Sefron's spine and right into his chest and groin as well. Cleo got goose bumps. He looked at the closed door in awe.

"Damn, I think you found me my singer," he said as he grinned and looked at her. They both continued to listen to her sing; awestruck.

"WOW!" Cleo said.

"I'd say wow!" both Cleo and Sefron jumped. There in the door of Cleo and Nye's room, was Mani and Nye; both were looking at bathroom door, wondering who had that beautiful voice.

Nye grinned and kissed his girl. "Who's the goddess with the pipes?" he asked her.

"Sefron's newest pursuit." she said giggling, as he shot her a nasty stare for the comment. If looks could kill, she'd have been severely impaled.

"She's someone Cleo rescued today apparently...but I don't know the whole story yet. She never told me anything." he looked at her.

Mani was interested now. He looked at her and said,


"She was getting mugged. What else was I suppose to do? I kicked buddies ass. I'm sure I broke his arm, but he ran off before I could check. She fainted when she seen her own blood, but I think the two knocks to her head he gave her; resulted in a concussion. I couldn't wake her, she was so small. I got worried; I panicked and brought her here."

Cleo had a half scared look in her eyes, thinking she'd be in shit for helping in the manner she did.

"Bravo." Mani said grinning. "Glad you put your anger to GOOD use." he smiled.

Nye was surprised "Damn girl, you're a hero."

They all noticed how quiet it had gotten. Sefron knocked on the door to the bathroom, "You OK in there?" There was no sound.

"Oh shit!" he said. He opened the door and sure enough there she was sitting on the floor, wrapped in the humongous towel, crying softly. She didn't say a word and didn't need to. He was drawn to her and he had no idea why. He just couldn't shake that tingling feeling off.

He went to her and instinctively wrapped a protective arm around her fragile frame. He didn't know what it was; he just had to help her. He picked her up in his arms. She stuffed her face into his shirt and sobbed. He walked her out of the guest bathroom and took her to his room, the others watched as he passed by. He sat on his bed and just held her. She fell asleep in his arms. He moved to get her into his bed and tucked in. He pulled back the sheets and laid her down. The towel shifting exposing the soft round mounds of her breasts. He groaned but continued to cover her over. He walked
back to the hall, although a bit stiffer. The rest were there looking inquisitively at him.

"She's sleeping. I suggest we let Miss Mardi get some rest. It will most likely make her feel better tomorrow." he walked down the stairs really slowly.

Mani looked at Nye and Cleo. OK this was awkward.

"What's with him?" he asked

"I don't know. He got all papa bear like when he realized I had her here." Cleo said, "Right protective, it was odd and really weird to see."

"Instant attraction. I believe from my courses, it’s called Wounded Bird Syndrome." Nye blurted, "It's not uncommon and found in those who have suffered from a post traumatic stressor, or a tragic loss. Some tend to project or reflect on another. With Sefron, he's trying to protect her because he's still got that 'brother' sense about him. She's tiny like Chev was, but she's not his sister so there's an attraction to protect her like any animal may try to protect their young."

He was using his physiology course from school, how much of it was correct was beyond Mani, but it sort of made sense to him.

"What a way for an attraction to happen though." Cleo said kind of confused over it all.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with it. Sometimes, it's what makes that attraction to another the strongest there is." Nye smiled, "Take Mani and Aikrii for instances; he fell for Aikrii and it was when he was trying to protect him. Try to break them up, I bet you it's impossible."

Mani grinned, he knew they were a strong couple. They had endured a lot and never gave up on each other either. He looked at his baby brother, smiled again and ruffled his green hair.

"Come on, let’s go downstairs and check in on ol' lover boy. He's probably got a wounded pride since we keep teasing him."

"She sings like an angel Aikrii. I had goose bumps and I could feel my own heart jumping so hard, I thought it was gonna fall right out!"

Sefron never got sappy. Aikrii was amazed at this. He listened as Sefron told him what was going on in the house. He could feel the excitement as soon as he walked in.

"Damn, sounds like you had an exciting day." He smiled at his gangly friend.

Sefron was walking around the room in a trance like euphoric state. He could hear the music and her voice play over and over in his head.

Mani walked into the living room. He looked at Sefron, chuckled and walked over to Aikrii, he hugged him. "Did he tell you what happened?"

"Yes, actually he did and it sounds like someone is utterly smitten and he hardly knows her." Aikrii watched over Mani's shoulder as Sefron disappeared.

"He's gone." Aikrii said to Mani pulling back looking at him. "So how did she get here?"

Mani filled Aikrii in on the sparse details he knew and they left it at that. He semi scooted him to the couch and flicked on the TV to CSI and snuggled with him, relaxing to their favorite show. Both of them had been drained from the day they had and the extra excitement was what depleted them the most. Both of them fell asleep in each other's arms watching TV.

When Cleo found them this way she didn't have the heart to wake them but she did get a picture. She flicked off the TV and called it an evening. Taking Nye's hand after locking up, they went off to bed. When they topped the stairs they could see Sefron had passed out too. His door was still wide opened. He watched his new charge sleep, until he passed out himself, sitting up in the chair.

She had been breathing soundly. There were a few times she cried out in her sleep, but he quickly calmed her by placing his hand on her arm. He went back to sleep leaning over the bed.

It was still dark outside when she awoke to silver strands with deep red ends entwined in her hand. His hair was like silk. She looked over at him; he was half on the bed; head and upper torso. The rest sat in what looked like was an uncomfortable chair. She realized he'd been there for a bit. Worried about her, and watching over her. She was moved by the gesture. She closed her eyes and stroked his head. He stirred, murmuring in his sleep, she smiled. He was cute. Sefron, if she remembered right. His name was of a spice, she mentally chuckled, and as she looked at him she thought he looked spicy too.

His eyes popped opened to see aquamarine ones looking back at him. She smiled still stroking his head. He slowly sat up grimacing at the pain in his back.

He stretched, and then looked at her. "Are you feeling any better?" he asked.

She shook her head yes. "Are you? You look uncomfortable," she stated barely audible.

"I'm fine. I was more worried about you. You showed up here with Cleo; cut up and out cold. Then you broke down in the bathroom and passed out again."

He placed his hand on her head to check her temperature. She was still cold to the touch.

"How long were you outside anyway?"

She looked at him; she felt she could trust him. Trust him to not hurt her.

"Two days." she said not looking at him directly. "But it's my own fault."

He looked at her. OK, so she was beating herself up for something she either did or didn't do. He spoke again. "Why didn't you ask someone for help?"

He sighed and continued "and what happened that you had no place to go?"

She took a really deep breath and quickly babbled her story as fast as she could, he could ask questions later. If she didn't do this quick, she'd break down.

"I left my parents three months ago hoping to break from their traditions. I was young and scared but seemed to manage with a few friends for a few weeks. Then one of them got mugged and killed, it scared me. We had all our money stolen. The two of us that were, got and shared a small room. The she found a boyfriend who tried to assault me." She paused, took another deep breath and then delved back into her story.

"I left and do not want to go back. I am still scared. My parents wanted me to stay home and marry some idiot they have me betrothed to. My Japanese heritage and Hindu background seems to haunt me and I refuse to do what my parents ask of me; so I balked their traditions, swore I'd make something of myself and left. I got mugged too and it was Cleo who saved me. I was terrified; I thought I was going to die.  This city has no remorse for those who are down on their luck."

She was shaking now and Sefron went to her. He didn't know if she'd let him, but he slid beside her and he held her very carefully, not to scare or hurt her more than she obviously was.

"I think my heritage should have been my calling first, but my parents never took that part up. I was secluded because of them. I have no idea what this world is about and it terrifies me. Maybe they were right. I should have stayed home. They would taunt me now if I returned. I'm too proud to go back."

She looked up at him with sad eyes, tears were threatening to spill pass them.

Those aquamarine eyes should never cry’, he thought. ‘OK, where the hell did that come from?’ He wondered. He absently minded stroked her cheek, brushing the tears that started to fall away.

"It’s alright now. You're safe here." He smiled, and for some reason her fears melted. She snuggled down into his warm arms and started to sing in a low quiet tone. He assumed singing made her comfortable, so he just listened without a word. He was content just to hold her. Surprisingly, they both fell back to sleep. When she awoke again, she was still wrapped in his arms. They were both sprawled sideways on his bed. She carefully slid from his arms and went to the bathroom. He made her feel safe, yet she knew nothing of him. She used the facilities and washed her face. An angry bruise from the mugger was under her cheek bone. Even darker than her skin, it flared with a nasty blueness. She flinched when she poked around it checking the damage.

"You really shouldn't do that, it'll only hurt worse" she heard his husky voice. He startled her, she squealed and jumped. He went to her immediately and apologised.

"Shit, I'm sorry!" He put an arm over her shoulder. "I didn't mean to creep up on you. Are you OK?"

"You keep asking me that. I'm starting to feel like glass around you. I'm fine. I'll live thanks to you and Cleo."

Sefron reached above her to the medicine cabinet and grabbed some pain meds and passed her two tablets.

She took them when he told her, "They're Tylenol for pain." She was glad for that but she was now starving. Even though it was still dark out, she needed food.

"I'm famished," she said.

"We have plenty." He took her hand and walked with her to the kitchen. When he turned the light on, they had not realized Aikrii and Mani were on the couch. The shock of the light coming on, woke them up.

"Aggg!" Aikrii said groaning and stretching, in turn knocking poor Mani off the couch.

"Jesus! Who turned on the light?" Mani said looking over the couch, towards the kitchen.

Sefron was standing there with a grin on his face at the two fellas, who were a mess and still in their work clothes.

"Fell asleep watching CSI again guys?" He chuckled. Mardi looked over at the two guys. Aikrii got up; reached out for Mani and pulled him to his feet.

Mani got up too fast and stumbled, clocking poor Aikrii.

"OK sexy, if ya wanted a hug, you coulda asked." He giggled he was in a good mood for a five am wake up call. He grabbed Mani and hugged him.

Mani ‘girly slapped’ him on the chest, took his hand and hauled their ass back to their bedroom. Aikrii giggled and yelled out "Night, or morning either way. Later!"