Iukekini drove around for what seemed to be hours before he realized that he was at his brother, Kimo’s house. He walked up and knocked on the door, which was almost immediately opened by Kimo, who took one look at him and practically dragged him into the house, hugging him hard. “’Kini, what’s wrong?”
It took several minutes for Iukekini to calm his crying down enough to speak. “Aaron dumped me.”
“His ex is in town on his honeymoon and when I walked into Candle Crafts, Aaron was all over him.”
“He was cheating on you? What a fucking asshole! You’re better off without him.” Kimo responded angrily.
“He claims he was just comforting him, but I’m not sure I believe that. I basically told him it was either his ex or me. He chose his ex then kicked me out of the store.”
“Damn. Are you sure you didn’t misinterpret the situation? Why would Aaron need to comfort his ex?”
“Apparently something happened where he can’t be a Firefighter anymore.”
“Okaaayyyy…so how would you feel if you couldn’t fight fires anymore?”
“I don’t know what I’d do. It’s all I ever wanted to do. I’d probably be devastated.”
“Like Aaron’s ex is?”
Iukekini was silent for a few moments. He dropped his head into his hands. “I’ve been such an ass. Aaron probably was just comforting him. I really, really fucked up. How do I fix this?”
“First, give him a couple of days to settle down then talk to him.”
“I wouldn’t even begin to know what to say.”
“Well,” Kimo, looking him straight in the eyes, “how about starting with 'I'm sorry, I love you and I want to work this out'? You do love him, don’t you?”
Iukekini didn’t even hesitate. “Yes I do, more than anything.”
“Well, you got your work cut out for you. Be honest and sincere. One thing I know about Aaron, he values honesty above anything else.”
“I know.” Iukekini responded quietly. “I just hope he’ll talk to me.”
“Give him a chance to settle down. He’ll be more receptive to what you have to say once he does.” Kimo looked at him closely for a minute. “You know, I think there’s something more going on, something running deeper than anger over Aaron hugging his ex.”
Iukekini sighed deeply then hung his head. “You’re right.” He admitted reluctantly. “I never thought I’d admit to this, but I was jealous.”
“You? Jealous? Why? You’re not the jealous type.” Kimo responded to Iukekini’s admission with wide eyes.
"I know, right? It just...." he trailed off.
"It's just what?" Kimo prompted.
"I don't know. It's just that it drives me crazy that Clark was Aaron's first boyfriend, the first one to hold, kiss and make love to him. I've never been anyone's first."
"I take it that this Clark is the ex that you're having a problem with?"
"Yeah. The real bitch of the matter is that he and his husband are really nice guys. I mean it's hard not to like them."
"Do you know how, where and when Aaron and Clark first met?"
"Yeah. They were both Firefighters at Aaron's first duty station, I think about ten years ago."
"'Kini, you can't hold it against either Aaron or Clark that they met before you and Aaron did. It’s not fair to either of them. Or you."
Iukekini took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. He was silent for a moment before he responded. "You're right, Kimo. I've been a real ass-wipe. I think I have a lot of groveling to do if I want Aaron to take me back, although I wouldn't blame him if he didn't." He said, hanging his head.
"Like I said, give him some time to cool down then call him. You need to be really sure that you want to get back with him. You also need to be straight and up front with him. Tell him how you feel, but most importantly, do it in a calm voice. A few tears can't hurt either." He smirked.
"You're right. Today's Wednesday. If I remember correctly he has tomorrow and Friday off. I'll call him Friday and see if we can meet someplace private." Iukekini stood and pulled Kimo up into a bear hug. "Thanks big brother. I can always count on you to be the voice of reason."
"Any time, little brother. Any time." Iukekini headed home to figure out what to say to Aaron, hoping he'll agree to meet with him.
Meanwhile at Candle Crafts...
"I'm so sorry, Aaron." Clark began, visibly upset. Danny stood beside him, rubbing his shoulders in an attempt to calm his husband. I didn't mean to cause problems between you and Iukekini."
Aaron leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. He rubbed his hands over his face before speaking. "You didn't. That was all him. I've never seen him act like that. It was almost as if he was jealous. If that's the case, it's over between us. I won't have him treating my friends like that, and I don't want to have to watch how I interact with people for fear of him pulling this shit again. But enough about him. Let's talk about you. Isn't there anything the doctors can do for you?"
"No" Clark replied sadly, shaking his head. Danny put his arm around his husband's shoulder, pulling him closer. "If I wanted to and I could find a fire department that would hire me, I could still be a Firefighter, but I would be risking permanent paralysis. If it were just me I'd take the risk, but if I did end up getting paralyzed I would be an unfair burden to Danny, and I just can't, and won't do that to him, not to mention putting my fellow Firefighters at risk."
When Clark paused, Danny seized the opportunity to jump into the conversation. "Honey, I told you that if that happened I'd take care of you and I meant it. I'll stick by you, no matter what. I love you more than I ever thought possible."
"Thank you baby. That means so much to me." Clark said, pulling Danny into a fierce embrace.
"So what will you do now?" Aaron asked, inwardly cringing at hearing Clark call someone else 'baby'. He still had feelings for Clark that would never go away, but he would never act on them, nor would he ever allow them to interfere with his relationships. Some people never completely get over their first love, especially if they gave that person the gift of their virginity, and Aaron, ever the hopeless romantic, was one of them.
"I don't know but I want to talk more with Grace about opening a Candle Crafts back home. You remember my sister Susan?" Aaron nodded. "She finally got her degree in business administration and I bet she'd be willing to help me get started."
"No doubt." Aaron nodded his head. "How much longer are you guys going to be here?"
"Four more days?" Clark replied, looking to Danny who simply nodded.
"Four days." Aaron repeated for confirmation and received an affirmative nod from Clark. "When would be a good time for you to meet with Grace?"
Clark and Danny exchanged looks. Danny shrugged his shoulders as if to say 'it's up to you'. Clark responded "any time that she's available. We've basically done and seen everything we had planned.
Aaron picked up the phone on his desk and presses a couple of buttons. After a short pause he spoke into the receiver. "Grace, when would you be available to talk with Clark and Danny about opening a Candle Crafts on the mainland?" There was a short pause as Grace consulted her calendar. "Tomorrow at eleven?" He repeated aloud. Clark and Danny both agreed. "Tomorrow at eleven is fine with them. Yes, I can be here. I'm off tomorrow until five when I have to be here. What? Grace, you don't have to do that. Yes, I know you're the boss and I know better than to argue with you. Okay, I'll let them know. Bye."
"What are you letting us know?" Danny inquired.
"Grace is taking us to the Surf-N-Turf Palace for lunch tomorrow. Have you guys been there?"
“No, we haven’t. We wanted to check it out, but we couldn’t find it.”
“It’s inside King Kamehameha plaza.”
“Okay, that’s why we couldn’t find it,” Clark replied. “How’s the food there?”
“It’s great, but a little on the expensive side. They have two versions of surf-n-turf, prime rib and lobster tail or filet mignon and mahi mahi.”
“Have you tried them?” Danny asked; his mouth salivating at the thought.
“I tried the filet, but not the prime rib. It’s thirty-five dollars.”
“Wow that is expensive.”
“Yeah, but if it’s half as good as the filet, it’s worth it.”
“Yeah. Anyway, guys, I hate to cut this short but I have to get going. I have to be at work in an hour.” Aaron dropped Clark and Danny back at their car then headed back to base for a shower, shave and change. Just as he finished getting dressed, his cell rang. Glancing at the caller ID he noticed that it was Iukekini calling. Do I answer it or not? I don’t really have anything to say to him. Reluctantly he swiped his finger across the screen to answer. “Hello?”
“Aaron?” Iukekini whispered.
“What do you want?”
“Can we talk?”
“Not now. I’m on my way to work.”
“What about tomorrow?”
“I’m busy all day. Tell you what. Don’t call me, I’ll call you” Aaron replied, hanging up.
Iukekini looked at his phone sadly. Well, I guess that answers that.
The next day Aaron, Clark and Danny met with Grace at the Surf-N-Turf Palace. After their drinks were ordered, Grace pulled a huge file folder out of her bag. She rifled through the papers, selecting one and handing it to Clark. “I think the first step should be getting you certified as a Master Instructor.”
Clark took the paperwork and looked it over. “But how can I? Isn’t there a test or something that I need to take?”
“No, it’s a practical test that would normally be supervised by either Aaron or me. However, since Aaron has told me on more than one occasion that you taught him everything he knows, that’s practical enough for me. Fill that out and I’ll sign off on it. Make sure you put your current home address on it as the certificate and other papers will be snail-mailed to you.”
Clark shot her a stunned look. After a few seconds a tear slowly made its way down his cheek. “Y-y-you’re kidding me, right?”
“No, honey, I’m not. As I told you before, you, however indirectly, helped make a dream of mine come true, a dream that has had a positive impact on Candle Crafts and I’ll forever be grateful to you. This is the very least I can do for you.”
“I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to repay you for this.”
“I’ll tell you how you can repay me. Fill out that paperwork so we can get it sent out.” Grace replied softly.
Their drinks arrived at that point. While everyone was sipping on them, Clark took a couple of minutes to quickly fill out the paperwork, handing it back to Grace.
Aaron spoke up. “Grace, can I do the honors?”
She handed the paperwork to Aaron with a smirk. “It was my intention from the very beginning.” She also handed him a “Candle Crafts” pen.
He looked the paperwork over, finally finding the place to sign his name, which he did with a flourish. Handing everything back to Grace, he stood and pulled Clark into a hug, both men crying tears of joy. “I’m so happy for you. I’m honored to be able to sign off on your certification paperwork. He let go of Clark as soon as he saw the line forming to hug him, first Danny then Grace. They returned to their seats as their salads arrived.
By the time the lunch was over, which Grace insisted on paying for, Clark and Danny had everything they needed to get started, business plans, license applications, list of suppliers, everything. Grace even offered to pay Aaron’s expenses to fly to California and help them get set up. Sometimes it pays to be rich.
At last the time came for Clark and Danny to head back to the mainland. Everyone exchanged phone numbers and email addresses.
While not making any promises, Aaron agreed to visit and help them set up shop, if he could. After a tearful goodbye, he headed out to Candle Crafts for his shift in the studio.
After about an hour, Grace popped into the studio and pulled Aaron aside. “I really like Clark and Danny. What do you think about the whole situation?”
“If anyone can make it a go, Clark can. He’s very passionate about candle making.”
“Yes I can see that. I’d really love to have you go back to the mainland and help them out when the time comes. I’d pay you a full-time salary.”
“I don’t know…” he began temporizing.
“You’re thinking about your situation with Iukekini, aren’t you?” She gently placed a hand on his arm.
“Yeah, I am. He would have a total shit-fit if I went.”
“I thought you broke up with him?”
“I did, but I still love him. I’m not sure I made the right decision.”
“You need to talk to him.”
“I know. I’m just not sure I’d know what to say.”
“You’ll figure it out. Just follow your heart. I’ll see you later.”
“Okay. I’ll let you know what I figure out.”
The next day on his lunch break Aaron got his phone out and dialed. “Iukekini, we need to talk.”
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