Chapter III

A/N: Hope everybody is feeling well! The reason I say that is, ironically, this has been a very bad week and anything but conducive to writing. I'm confined to the upstairs of my house most of the time and have been told to keep my legs elevated (and not to walk too much?)! Needless to say, one who is not good at writing at an angle as the laptop rests awkwardly on his knees has a difficult time keeping his legs out of the way while he's typing! Ah well, I suppose it's all worth it and whatnot since I can hardly stand on my legs at all without them collapsing without warning. See? Now you can appreciate how good you have it (snicker). Best wishes to you all as the holiday season approaches! Also, this is the romantic "turning point" of the novel where slash shall officially enter. – Tatsuya

Brandon rummaged through the cabinets as he looked for his special stash of custom black tea. The last thing he could remember drinking was coffee for breakfast the day before. Deep in the back of the cabinet above his refrigerator, Brandon's eyes locked onto an unfamiliar wooden box of tea he had stored long before. Reaching inside, he found that the ladder he was standing on did not have enough height to lend him the boost he needed to reach the package. With a quiet sigh, he climbed back down and checked the heat settings on the five areas of the range. In an effort to impress the boy with his cooking talents, O' Coileáin had set his mind to preparing a wonderful meal for the two of them completely from scratch. Inside a suihanki1 on the northern cooking area, the white rice was almost ready for serving. He jumped back up on the ladder and threw leg onto the top of the refrigerator; now poised as though he would leap into the small opening himself, he set his sights once again on the evasive box. Thinking resourcefully, he reached to the counter below and grabbed a spatula from the tall black canister by the stovetop. Metal slid across the wooden interior and retrieved the tea with ease. Turning slowly around, box and spatula in hand, he stepped carefully down onto the floor before increasing the temperature for the teakettle.

A few moments later, Brandon was surrounded by beeps and whistles as all his cookware alerted him that they had finished cooking their respective shares of the meal. He pulled two large plates from the shelf behind him and placed them on the countertop just as the doorbell rang. He rinsed his hands in hot water and dried them on his apron before making his way to the door. He pressed the small button to reveal a very pleasurable Joey standing outside in the hallway with a bouquet of flowers in his hand. As the door shot open, Joey's serious expression melted away into intense laughter. Suddenly overwhelmed with the resounding echoes, Brandon took the boy by the collar and threw him inside the room with such force that he landed on the carpet by the kitchen area with a crash.

Rutherford rolled over slowly, tears in his eyes from laughing so very hard, "What did you do that for?" His eyes still couldn't focus through the water.

"Ha! I was about to ask you the same question!" Brandon countered with a grin, "Why were you laughing like that anyway?!" He stood looking over the boy while waiting for the response.

"Hehe, well…" he began nervously, "when you opened the door…"

"Out with it!" steel-blue eyes flashed, "What happened when I opened the door?"

"I saw…your apron! I could have died!" Joey blurted out, his voice toppling into wild laughter once more.

"Umm…my apron?" Brandon asked. Then he looked down at the picture on the front, which read, "Chef Cookie!" and featured a turtle dancing around with a long spoon while pointing. At once he grasped why the boy had almost died laughing. "Yeah, yeah, try and keep it together," he said with a snicker.

Joey, slowly gaining control over himself, asked, "Why do you have something that silly in the first place? I mean…wow!" Try as he might he couldn't keep himself from laughing.

Brandon smiled to himself, "Rei." That was the answer; that one simple word said it all. Rei was that kind of person, the category you could label as the "crazy type;" wherever you go, you can always point those people out, always doing something wild and unpredictable just to get a laugh, anyone's laugh. Brandon reached a hand down to Joey and helped him off the floor with a quiet, "sorry about that" implied in the motion.

Green eyes caught steam in the kitchen, "What ya been cooking? I thought you'd just order something like usual." It was chaos and disarray; all the cabinets were open, books were strewn all over the countertop with the utensils, even the lights in the kitchen were fogged over as the hot vapors kissed the ceiling.

O' Coileáin glanced over at him, "I would have, but tonight is a special night." His voice had an almost mystical quality to it, something like a mixture of secret and conspiracy. Joey looked over the boy as he sat down in a chair at the bar, trying to figure it out. He had never seen Brandon like this before, almost fun-loving in a sense. For so long, Brandon had been a sheltering guardian for him, but as the question of love came into the equation, his personality had become even more silenced. Now, as Joey watched him, Brandon almost seemed like a new person, completely liberated from his past. "Hey, Joe," the chef smiled, "why don't you go put your shoes over there by the sofa while I finish putting the rest of this together. It won't be much longer at all."

"All right, kid; by the way, what are we having tonight?" Rutherford asked as he slipped out of the chair and crossed the room to the rug where the taller boy had already parked his pair of tan shoes with white soles. He slid his feet out of the shoes and walked back over to the counter, "I was asking you what you were cooking." Still the boy stood with his back turned as he flipped through pages of the cookbook; only when Joey got closer did her see the small earbuds tucked inside Brandon's ears. With a small sigh, he crept away and, walking into the living room, crashed into the softness of the black sofa against the wall. Joey was resting his eyes when something hard landed on his chest, "Ah! I'm awake!" He slowly opened his eyes to find himself staring down at a steaming plate of ebi de menrui2 and a still smiling Brandon standing over him with a pair of chopsticks. "Wow," Joey sighed over his favorite dish, "You really didn't have to go to all this trouble, even for a special occasion."

Brandon grinned, "It wasn't nearly as much trouble as you're making it out to be. Besides, we never really have to do anything; we do things because we want to." He walked over to his couch of preference opposite the blond, and he stretched out with his own plate on his lap, "Oh, I almost forgot; catch, Joe." A pair of sleeved chopsticks flew into the boy's hand from across the table between them. He then turned to his own plate and pulled a bite of hot shrimp into his mouth. Opposite him, green eyes were fixed on wrapping noodles about the sticks, and the boy laughed quietly to himself at his inability to bring the slippery forms to cooperate. As the two of them enjoyed the meal, the room remained silent.

When the two of them had finished eating, Brandon and Joey tossed the dishes into the washer before heading back into the living room with two cups of black tea. Rutherford caught a slight scent wafting up from his mug, "Wow…it's such a unique aroma."

"So then you approve?" asked the voice on its way from the kitchen, "It's my own special blend, and you're the only one who has ever been offered the chance to taste it. Where I come from, drinking this unique tea signifies a vow of eternal loyalty. Won't you please drink this with me?" His face suddenly grew serious and yet, in some small way, inviting. Joey held the small mug out in front of him as Brandon placed his lips just inside the rim to take a sip of the fragrant mixture; he then pulled the cup back to his own lips and, with a swift gulp, he drained the cup and sealed the bond of loyalty.

Apoapsis

Brandon took the shorter boy by the hand and led him into the large and very bright bedroom, which was located adjacent to the regular living quarters. As he opened the door, Rutherford hurled the unsuspecting O' Coileáin onto the bed; he fell limp onto the bed as an active Joey crawled across the large bed as well, green eyes scanning the boy. "Relax, Brandon," the boy smiled, "This is how we bond where I come from." Brandon's own eyes widened as warm lips latched onto his neck, gently pulling at his tender skin. He could feel deft fingers slinking from his shoulders to his belt, which clanked quietly before slipping entirely from his waist. Joey's heart quickened with the anticipation of unwrapping the special gift that Brandon had been saving for him. He slid a hand down and unbuttoned the metal clasp before unzipping the boy's jeans. As Joey reached inside the crotch of the boy's jeans, he could feel Brandon's erection reaching out to touch his hand. He peeled the denim back and dragged his hand over the olive green cloth inside, tugging at the gray band to reveal the pale skin he had so longed to see. Brandon winced as his cock fell into the hands of a wild Joey. He chuckled, "You're certainly bigger than I thought, kid."

O' Coileáin, who had previously offered no resistance, threw his hands onto the boy's shoulders, "Before you keep going, there's something you need to know about me…" his voice faded as his breath was snatched away by the intense feeling of Joey's tongue stroking his throbbing erection. Inside, Brandon felt excited as the boy's lips closed over his head, the hot tongue swirling around and around. Brandon's thoughts faded into endless bliss, his heart beating ever faster. The blond ran his tongue across the head, drawing a low moan from the boy. Joey let go for a moment and smiled as he tossed the ruffled polo back, a warm tongue searching his belly for the navel and plunging into the newfound dip in the salty skin. He pulled himself upward to let his mouth close over the crater. The boy sat back on the bed gasping at the sensations. Rutherford sat back on his legs as he looked at Brandon's face, the expression beyond explanation. It was as though he had been forced onto a frightening ride he had never wanted to try and found that he was loving every moment of it. The boy on the bed pulled himself to his feet only to be knocked backward again. "Wait a minute, Joe!" O' Coileáin shouted, his voice almost panic-stricken, "We need to talk about this first!" Joey had only one goal in his mind: enjoy the moment. He could hardly contain himself as he uncovered more and more of his precious Brandon. He reached into the restrictive pants and, with a quick snatch, tossed them away from the boy. Joey could feel himself stiffening as he looked upon the soft flesh. Nimble fingers moved slowly down the inner thighs as those leg muscles tightened in response. He smiled into steel-blue eyes as a warm hand reached out to cup the boy's scrotum. In the palm of his right hand, he softly massaged the delicate sac as Brandon collapsed backward onto the bed and let out a deep moan. Brandon could feel the sensations quickening and knew his peak was rapidly approaching. He pulled himself back up to see green eyes wild with passion as the boy's lips wrapped around the aching erection; O' Coileáin could not keep himself under control any longer as Joey sucked him firmly. Joey suddenly let go and looked up at his lover, the boy in obvious shock; then he saw Brandon's legs lock up for an instant just as the boy found his release. The taller boy let out a deep sigh, "Please let that be the end…We really need to stop before this goes too far, Joey."

Green eyes stared back innocently, the boy clearly wanting more, "Stop what? We could have gone so much farther! You can't honestly say you didn't enjoy that…can you?"

Brandon looked away, "It's not that at all. I…I'm just not ready yet." He couldn't explain the mixture of feelings inside of him; he had felt such intense passion before, but now all feeling had faded from him with the exception of his racing heart still pounding in his chest.

Rutherford grinned, "I know you had a good time; I could see it in your eyes. Well the bond is official now; you had your style of ritual just as I had mine." He waited a moment, watching the insecure boy clean the silvery fluid he'd spilled on himself. Brandon stood up and walked across the room headed to the bathroom, wearing only his olive green briefs and a wrinkled peach polo. "It's fine if you're not ready now," Joey reassured him, "We'll go through this together one step at a time. I'll come by tomorrow if you like so we can take it a bit slower." Brandon nodded before stepping into the room and closing the door. Joey turned around and pulled the boy's jeans out of the floor to toss them onto the bed. Then he opened the bedroom door, walked through the living room, passed the kitchen, and left the apartment with a quiet sense of victory about him.

Brandon pulled the shirt over his head and stepped into the shower. As the hot water cascaded over his body, he took great care to wash away the sticky traces of the ritual. "Oh god, what have I done?" he thought as fresh tears slipped down his face, "I've done just what I set out to do, and yet I feel cheated. Is this really what sex is all about? Then again, Rei and I never went far at all. I guess I can still pull it together and get through this with Joey…the only boy I could ever love." He washed the salt from his face and smiled slightly, "I don't know what to do anymore…and strangely, I'm fine without knowing. It's an adventure, just what I've always hoped what happen to me someday. But how will I ever let him know about my background? If I ever let him know, I'd probably lose him. This is exactly what I feared would happen when I was with Rei. I just wish that I could be normal, having nothing to hide from anybody." He leaned his head back and let the soft flow of heat stroke his scalp. Brandon turned the water off and stepped out of the shower, dragging the warm towel over his head. He threw on a pair of flannel pants and climbed into the warmth of the sheets; as his head hit the pillow, he stared at the ceiling while turning over the thoughts of Joey in his mind again and again. Sleep did not visit O' Coileáin that night.

Apoapsis

"I'm leaving early," Joey told Mr. Okami, pulling the apron over his head, "There's something I've got to check out before anything else happens." His boss gave him the all-clear, and the blond took his leave out of the café as soon as he could. With the lights in the hallway already having been turned on for a while, he guessed the time to be around four in the evening, but since he had forgotten to look at the clock prior to leaving, it was all up to chance. He kept pace and made it to the elevator at the end of the corridor. He pressed the button and heard a sound just as it opened.

From the dim interior, a figure stepped forward into the light of the passage. "Yo, Joey!" Renault's voice echoed against the walls. "What a coincidence it is that we, of all people, would meet here and now."

"Yes, I was just thinking the same thing," Joey interrupted sharply, "What brings you to this wing?"

"Oh my, Rutherford, you're as direct as ever!" Onyx smiled lightly, "Well if you must know, I was doing some research on the background of a very interesting person I met now too long ago in the café. That's all." Joey nodded, and Onyx passed him to board the elevator. "And just so you know," the brunet said as the door closed, "he's your current lover."

Joey's jaw dropped at those few whispered words, and he stood as the sliver in the door sealed over the cold expression of the boy inside. "You creep!" he yelled, "What's that supposed to mean, Onyx the conniving?" In a fit of rage, he slammed his fist into the door. Turning around, he could see the storage room signs glowing in the reflections of the mirrors lining the ceilings. He rounded the first corner and entered the room; no one else was waiting for him inside. Reading over the signs above the five sections, he found the list with O' Coileáin scrolling across the screen. Rutherford opened the large black opening underneath, sat down, and sliding over the edge, he slipped down into the deep cavern with all the stored material of the ship.

As the lights activated around the room, he could see everything arranged by alphabetical order around the room. Then his eyes went to a large black trunk in the middle of one of the aisles; as he approached the case, he could see the name Brandon O. scratched into the top. Lifting the large latch on the front, he flipped the top back and found only two small things inside. The first thing he pulled from the trunk was a photograph of two men holding hands over a little boy's head. He studied the photo for a moment before turning to the small brown journal still inside the crate. The cover was similar to leather, small creases had been made in the material. The pages themselves were faded with age, but the handwriting inside was still very much intact. Joey flipped through the book, his fingers tracing the paper edges as he read over what appeared to be all of Brandon's memories put down on paper. Generic statements covered the first three pages, but as he turned to the fourth, he found the single statement, "I can't wait to leave Caeruleus behind and joined the Force." That word echoed through his mind over and over: Caeruleus. It hit him before he had even noticed it; that was the reason Brandon wouldn't delve into the relationship at the very start! He crammed the journal into his back pocket, and stepped onto the platform in the center of the room. When he had risen back up to the storage lobby, he headed out of the room and back to the elevator at the end of the hallway. As he passed through the hallway along the café, the only thing he could think about was getting back to Brandon and letting him know he was fine with the boy's past.

He knocked on O' Coileáin's door, but there was no response. He stood in the hallway for a moment before rapping at the door again. This time, Joey knew there was something amiss; Brandon always answered his door when he came calling. He opened his own door and grabbed the passkey Brandon had given to him so long before. Walking back across the hall, he slipped the key into the slot and quietly slid the door open; everything looked normal at first glance. Joey walked back into the living room and found a bottle of champagne completely empty by Brandon's favorite couch. On the other side of the table, half of a bottle labeled cognac remained, but as Joey tilted the container to taste the drink within, ginger ale touched his tongue.

Immediately he was confused, but as he sat the ale back onto the table, Joey heard a muffled scream in the bedroom. "When you move that way, it's hard to breathe!" Brandon repeated. Rutherford could hear a deeper voice reply, "Just a little longer, O' Coileáin; I need you to bear my child!" He flew into a rage; only one person could know of Brandon's closely guarded secret. He assumed the worst-case scenario and cautiously cracked the door open. His mind was overwhelmed at the very sight from the doorway. Onyx the conniving, was lying naked facedown on top of a nude Brandon, whose own face was pressed into the sheets. His heart broke inside of him as tears came to the boy's eyes when he realized what was happening. He quietly pulled the door closed and left the apartment.

He dashed across the hall, and opening his door, he rushed around his own room to gather everything he could fit into a single suitcase. He pulled the book of photos of Rei off the desk, and throwing them into the suitcase, he fled from the room with renewed resolve. His heart was shattered by that unforgettable and unforgivable sight. He flew down the hallway as fast as he could and dashed to the bay area. Admiral Plutonius and Lieutenant Commander Quirinus were both watching pods taking off from the two stations. "Admiral, I need your help!" Joey called crossing the hangar.

"Rutherford, what a pleasant surprise," the man smiled, "What can I do for you?" His eyes looked over the boy's tearstained face, and he reached out to embrace Joey.

"I need to leave out of here immediately, sir," h explained through gasps of breath, "Something has just come up, and I must find Rei as soon as possible. Please don't deny my request, I beg of you."

The man ran his fingers through Joey's blond hair, "Relax, Joey; it'll be okay. Of course I will help you, and do you know why that is?" The boy looked up to meet his eyes and shook his head. "Because," the admiral grinned, "he would want me to."

Joey looked back at the man in disbelief, "There's a joke! Why would Rei want you to help me?"

Plutonius chuckled, "How else is he ever going to see you again?"

Apoapsis

1 Rice cooker

2 a popular dish of shrimp on noodles