December 1 2021(Wednesday)

Teddy's bark woke me up and a moment later I heard the door. I glanced at the time wondering who would be knocking on my door in the middle of the night. By the time I got to the door my dog was sitting there patiently, tail wagging which meant it was someone he knew. Checking the peep hole I confirmed it was the Ealas before quickly opening the door. The moment it was open Tristian flew into my arms. His slender body was shaking so I held him tightly and asked with concern, "What is it? What happened?" I was very concerned with how my lover looked. His hair and clothes were a mess and it looked like there was blood.

Jessica didn't come in but she answered my question, "Trist and Rayne were kidnapped. Rayne's at the hospital still, I have to go back but I trust you'll take good care of my little brother for me, Brett?"

"Of course!" I was horrified, kidnapped? When the hell had that happened? Jessica turned and left so I wouldn't get the answers from her. I closed the door then just held my sweet, young man tightly until he seemed to calm a bit. "Is there anything I can do for you, Tristian?" I asked gently. I wanted to know what had happened but comforting my lover was my top priority.

"A shower..." he answered shakily, "Please can I have a shower and get changed?"

"Of course," I told him quickly, keeping a comforting arm around him as I guided him to the bathroom. As he took his clothes off gingerly I started the water running, got him a fresh towel and one of my T-shirts for him to change into afterwards. There was no chance of any of my pants fitting his slender frame. When I came back he was already under the water, I watched him for a moment but then left, thinking he might want some privacy. Teddy however refused to leave the room, sitting on guard by the door. I think he sensed something was wrong and that we needed to protect the gentle redhead.

Leaving them both I headed to the kitchen and started making some tea. I wondered if I should get out something for Tristian to eat. I had no idea if he'd be hungry, I also wasn't sure I had anything in my house he would consider 'food'. In the end I cut up some fruit and added some nuts to the plate.

When he finally came out he looked a little better, certainly cleaner. He'd tied his damp hair back loosely and I had to stop myself from smiling at how adorable he looked in my shirt. When I walked over to him however all thoughts of smiling left as I noticed the bruises on the pale skin which was showing. I reached out a hand to cup his face, stroking his cheek tenderly, "What did they do to you, love?"

He shivered and moved into my arms again, holding on to me tightly. "They hurt him, Brett… They hurt Rayne and it was all my fault. I kept telling them I didn't know anything but they wouldn't listen! They just kept hurting him," he told me desperately before bursting into tears. I picked him up and carried him to the couch. Sitting with his slender body on my lap I held him tightly. Teddy came over and jumped up on the couch next to us, resting his head on Tristian's legs.

Eventually he calmed and at first I thought he'd fallen asleep but then he spoke softly, "They took us when we were walking to lunch. They thought I worked for ES… They took us to a warehouse… Rayne was so quiet. I was terrified and kept telling them I didn't work for ES but he didn't say anything, he didn't even look scared..." Tristian took a shaky breath, "They didn't hurt me, well only where they held me but at the time I didn't really feel it. It was Rayne they hurt. They thought I would tell them what they wanted quicker that way… but I didn't know anything..."

"Shh… Its ok," I stroked his hair, "You're safe now, Tristian."

"I… I don't understand why they did it… How they could do it. How could they hurt him like that?" he said uncertainly.

"I don't know, love," I felt a bit useless, I just had to hope holding him and talking to him was helping, "Is Rayne ok?"

"I hope so… What if he hates me?"

"Why would he hate you?" I asked with surprise.

"Because… it was my fault. It was my fault we were taken and it was my fault they hurt him..." he trailed off and started to cry softly again. I felt so bad for him.

"I'm sure he won't, Tristian. It wasn't your fault, it was the fault of the bastards who took you. You didn't hurt Rayne, they did. It wasn't your fault," I told him firmly. When he calmed again I eased him off my lap, "I'll get you a cup of tea."

When I came back with fresh tea and the plate of food Tristian was stroking Teddy's fur and looking a little better. He took the tea gratefully and curled up next to me the moment I sat back down. I put my arm around him carefully, pleased he obviously didn't have a problem with physical contact after his ordeal. I was still in a bit of shock about the fact he had been taken and I hadn't known but I was very glad he was safe and with me now.

"Can I stay here, Brett?" he asked me softly after a few minutes.

"Of course! I'm pretty sure your sister meant for you to stay here tonight and I'm certainly not letting you go anywhere," I assured him quickly.

"No… I mean longer than tonight," he corrected softly, a little shyly, "I want to move in with you..."

"Oh!" I couldn't help the grin that surfaced, "I'd like that very much, Tristian." I stroked his hair affectionately, "Though you've just been through a lot so I won't hold you to it if you change your mind."

"I won't," he told me confidently, "I'd made up my mind before."

"Well ok then," I chuckled and kissed his cheek, "That's settled then."

December 1 2021(Wednesday)

I drove us home from the hospital, both of us exhausted and looking forward to a shower and some sleep. It had been a long night and morning. We'd been allowed to stay at the hospital with Rayne, dozing in the chairs but it hadn't been comfortable nor very restful. He'd woken up for a bit in the morning and talked to Mischa about what had happened to him. I'd left the room while they talked as Rayne hadn't seemed to want to talk with me there. I supposed I couldn't blame him although I was a little disappointed.

"Are you going to tell him Bryant came to see him?" I asked more out of a desire to stay awake than anything else. The CEO had turned up in the morning after Rayne had fallen back asleep. He hadn't actually gone in, just stayed near the door and spoke to Mischa for a few minutes. For a moment the elegant blond man had even looked like he was crying.

"No. Evan won't be with him publicly, which isn't good enough. Its better Rayne doesn't know he was there at all," Mischa answered sadly.

"He cares about Rayne though?"

"In his own way I suppose he does," my lover shrugged, "I think he also feels guilty about what happened. Rayne was hurt because of ES."

"Oh, I hadn't really thought about that," I admitted. Mischa made no response to that and we drove in silence for awhile. I noticed him get out his phone and look at it for awhile, he then put it away with a sigh. "What is it, sweetie?" I asked gently, feeling he wanted to say something but needed pushing.

"Lavari and Brichese's phones have been disconnected," he told me softly.

"Oh. Are you surprised?"

"No, I guess not…" he sighed.

I sighed in return, "I can't slap you while I'm driving, sweetie. So just talk already."

"I feel guilty," he hesitated, "And disappointed I guess. I liked Val."

"Yeah, I know. I liked him too," I admitted, "Do you think that's what he was really like? His personality, I mean. He was pretty different last night."

"I don't know," he thought about it, "I don't think he was pretending. He was too genuine and had a child-like enthusiasm about him at times. When he went out with me that Saturday there were times he was so shy and excited about things, I don't think you can fake that."

"So you think he was so serious and assertive last night because he was doing his real job?" I asked curiously.

"I think so. He seemed to change after the detective left. He seemed… upset after what I said," Mischa said regretfully.

"Yeah. I think he's pretty soft emotionally," I commented, "I think that's why Deangelo always seemed so protective of him."

"So I feel guilty… I shouldn't have judged him so harshly," he sighed and ran a hand through his hair, "After Rayne told me what they did… I hate admitting this but I'm glad they are dead, that they won't hurt anyone again."

"Hmm," I wouldn't say I wasn't surprised, "And you're disappointed?"

Mischa blushed and admitted very quietly, "Because I liked him and wanted to have him as a friend. Finding out he was someone I couldn't be friends with… I guess that was part of why I was so harsh on him. I thought it would hurt less. Now I just feel like I was a jerk to someone who was nice to me and I'll never get to see him again and apologise."

"I'm sorry, sweetie," I reached across and patted his leg, "I wish things were different."

"Yeah," he sighed then added glibly, "Not to mention I'm a staff member down again no-ow!" he winced and rubbed his leg where I'd pinched him, "Hey!"

"Don't try and be cool with me, Mikel Siren. I know how upset you are, don't fob that off," I told him sternly.

"So I'm just meant to mope all day?" he asked with a touch of annoyance.

"Not all day but at least for another hour or so," I told him with a smile.

"Fine, fine," he sighed and looked out the window. It wasn't that I wanted him to be sad I just needed him to deal with how he was feeling. Sometimes my beautiful man was useless.

When we entered the apartment I nearly jumped out of my skin. "Fucking hell!" I exclaimed putting a hand to my heart. I glared at our two uninvited guests, "How did you get in here?"

Deangelo was sitting at the kitchen table, dressed very much as he'd been the night before though he looked more relaxed and offered Mischa and I a brash smile. Val sat cross-legged on one of the kitchen stools at the counter his head resting on his hand. He was dressed very casually in jeans and a T-shirt and looked bored. It was Val who answered me. "Magic," he told me simply.

I sighed, "Right, well I suppose since you are here do you want a cup of tea? Or coke, Val?"

"Yes, please," Val answered, perking up a little.

"Tea for me," Deangelo put in, "We would have helped ourselves but that seemed rude."

"But breaking into our apartment is perfectly polite?" Mischa questioned wryly as I got drinks for our 'guests'.

"Well we haven't actually broken anything," Deangelo pointed out the technicality but I wasn't sure Mischa was convinced. I knew however my lover would be pleased at having the opportunity to set at least one thing right.

Mischa walked over to Val, "I'm sorry."

"Oh?" Val seemed uncertain.

My lover took a deep breath then gave a better apology, "I'm sorry I was so harsh on you, Val. I know you were just doing what you had to. You aren't a monster and I'm sorry if you thought that was what I thought of you."

Val smiled shyly, still a little uncertain, "Oh… I'm glad, Mikel. I don't want you to hate me..."

"I certainly don't hate you, Val," Mischa assured him before moving forward to give the purple-haired man a hug. At least that was what he tried to do but Val slipped quickly off the stool and stepped back out of reach.

"What are you doing?" Val asked, startled.

"Ah… I was going to give you a hug," my lover answered in puzzlement.

"Oh," Val relaxed a little but stayed out of reach, "No thanks… I'm not really a… hugging person."

"Oh, ok," Mischa still seemed puzzled and he glanced at me. I could only offer him a shrug, a bit surprised myself. With his personality I would have thought Val would be a very affectionate and touchy person.

"Well I'm glad that is sorted," Deangelo commented gruffly, "I was worried you were still going to be a jerk, Mikel. Now we are all friends how about we all sit down, there is something we need to discuss."

"So you're the one in charge today?" I asked the big man with a smile as I passed him his tea.

"Maybe," he winked. When we were all seated at the table he began, "Now as you know there are people who can manipulate essence. People like Bryant and the two of you to a much lesser degree. I'm one of those people and there are many others working for our employers. What you probably don't know is there are also people like Val. I believe you and Bryant thought he had a talent for essence?"

"Yeah," Mischa seemed puzzled and glanced at Val, "He must though, he did so well with sensing it in the training program..."

"There are certain bloodlines which very occasionally produce someone who doesn't have a talent for manipulating essence but they have the ability to bond with it. Val is one of those people. When he was old enough people like me pushed essence inside of him to bond it with him. Its because of this that he can sense essence, its also why he is so fast. There are other benefits but we can't discus them with you." Deangelo explained.

"Doesn't it hurt you?" Mischa asked Val with concern, "There is a little bit in my arm and it is a huge pain but it sounds like there is a lot more in you."

Val shrugged, "It does sometimes but that is what Dee is for. He settles it back down if its hurting. Aside from that my body can handle being bonded with essence, yours can't. You are from one of the bloodlines which is probably why it hasn't killed you yet but you were never meant to have essence in you."

"I'm concerned about the way you said 'yet'," I put in, concerned about my lover.

"Which is why we are here," Deangelo told me patiently, "The essence needs to be removed from your arm or in the next few years it will kill you in a very unpleasant way."

"I'm hoping you are going to tell me there is a way to remove it?" Mischa asked as he fiddled absently with the bracelet covering the scarring.

"Because its a small amount I can take it from you, if you want?" Val offered.

"No, I'd rather die horribly in a few years," my lover responded sarcastically.

I slapped him upside the head, "Be nice, they are helping you."

"Yeah sorry," Mischa rubbed the back of his head, "Its just been a stressful couple of days."

"We understand, Mikel. Its a lot to take in," Deangelo said then added with a grin, "And believe."

"Yeah, it is all a bit… different," Mischa concurred before turning to Val with a serious expression, "If you can remove it, Val, I'd be grateful."

"Ok, good," Val smiled, "There are just a few things you need to know first. There are things you'll lose when the essence is removed."

"You'll age again, of course," Deangelo put in, taking over, "You won't be as fast and you'll get out of breath quicker. The essence has probably enhanced a lot of things in your life that you won't have realised. You'll be able to get sick again too and you won't be able to eat as much without gaining weight."

"Is that why you eat such a ridiculous amount?" I asked Val, "Because of the essence in you?"


"It takes a lot of energy to keep the essence bonded properly," Deangelo explained for his friend.

"I don't know… that sounds like I'm giving up a lot," Mischa mused.

"Oh no, you'll have to be a normal human like the rest of us," I drawled before ordering Val, "Get it over with before he finds more to complain about."

"Ok," Val shrugged and put one hand on my lover's shoulder, he then put his other hand on Mischa's face before leaning in for a kiss. It was quick and chaste but I was rather surprised Val was happy to kiss Mischa on the mouth but wouldn't accept a hug. When it was done, Val let go and leaned back in his chair like nothing strange had happened.

Deangelo however looked ropeable. He stood and glared down at his friend, "What the hell was that?!"

"Ah… I removed the essence..." Val answered, clearly confused about why Deangelo was angry. I looked to Mischa and noticed he did look different, a little more tired and he actually had a few streaks of grey in his hair now. Would his hair change back to black? I was pulled from my thoughts however by the big man's angry words.

"And that was the best way you could think of to do it? To kiss him? Damn it, Val, he's your cousin and you just kiss him like its nothing?" Deangelo spat out furiously but then froze as he noticed the horrified expression on his beautiful friend's face.

"My cousin?" Mischa asked in surprise.

Val stood and to all of our surprise shoved Deangelo in the chest hard enough that the big man stumbled back to land on the floor. "Why would you say that!" Val said, voice filled with hurt and despair.

"Valdis Siren?… Uncle Piers' youngest son?" Mischa mused, studying Val closely, "Your hair used to be brown… but you had the same freckle on your cheek. I remember my dad showing me a photo of you when I was a teenager… I thought you were so pretty… Shit… It really is you."

"No… I…." Val didn't seem to know what to say and he looked very upset, tears building in his pretty grey eyes.

"Why are you so upset?" Mischa asked as he stood and moved closer to his cousin, "Why didn't you tell me?" he then smiled wryly, "Being my cousin isn't so terrible is it?"

"Its not that..." Val managed to say eventually, "It makes this harder… I can't see you again, Mikel, we can't speak again after I leave today."

"What? Why the hell not?" Mischa demanded.

"I'm not allowed to have family… I'm not allowed to be close to anyone who doesn't work for the… organisation," he replied softly, wiping his tears with his gloved hands, "Its why I didn't want you to know…"

"That is crazy! They can't tell you who to care about, they can't tell you who you can have relationships with," Mischa said with annoyance.

"Actually they can," Deangelo said sadly as he picked himself up off the floor, "As unfair as it is they have their reasons." He then turned to Val, tone very apologetic, "I'm so sorry, Val, I wasn't thinking."

The effeminate man didn't acknowledge his friend's apology, he just looked aside and crossed his arms across his thin chest. He really looked like he needed a hug but I had a feeling he wasn't going to let anyone get near him.

"This is fucked," Mischa stated, he then grabbed his cousin's arm and pulled him outside into the garden to talk in private.

"Well..." I turned to Deangelo and he just shrugged. "I'm making another cup of tea, do you want one?" I offered.

"Yes, please," he sat back down looking regretful.

When I had fresh tea for both of us I sat down opposite the big man, "So… that was a pretty chaste kiss to go ape-shit over."

Deangelo looked uncomfortable, "They are cousins, it was inappropriate."

"I don't think so. I've seen family members kiss like that before, just a little peck, its not a big deal," I retorted logically, "He's never kissed you though, has he? Not even like that."

"Of course not!" he growled out defensively, "He's a man."

"Oh..." I smiled, "So you're not gay."

"Of course I'm bloody well not," Deangelo glanced at the others outside, clearly hoping they'd be done soon so he didn't have to talk to me.

"Fair enough," I put up my hands in defeat, "Sorry, I wasn't trying to offend you. Though I mean your couldn't really blame a guy whose never been attracted to another guy for finding Val attractive. He does pretty much look like a woman, a fucking gorgeous woman at that."

"Do you not shut up?" Deangelo ground out.

"Sometimes," I grinned, "I just think it would be a shame to miss out on someone great because you won't bend a little."

"You don't know what you are talking about."

I shrugged, "Maybe but I'm pretty sure I know jealousy when I see it, I've been that enough myself to know. You know he loves you, don't you?"

"Just what the hell makes you think that?" he asked me testily.

"He told me. I mean it wasn't like he just up and blurted it out but it was after you yelled at him in the change room and he was crying. I figured it out and asked and he couldn't say no."

"He was crying?" Deangelo looked guilty, anger at me forgotten. He sighed and rubbed his forehead, "Enough, Eala, stay out of it."

"Whatever," I shrugged, I figured I'd done my part. I just hoped he told Val how he felt before hurting the gorgeous man further with his jealously and insecurity.

When Mischa and Val came back in they were both a lot calmer and seemed at peace with things. Our two surprise guests then said goodbye and went on their way. I wanted to ask Mischa what they talked about but he looked worn out and I suddenly felt my exhaustion too. By mutual silent agreement we had a shower together then went to bed, falling asleep within minutes. It had been a very long 24 hours.

December 2 2021(Thursday)

I took a couple of hours off work in the morning to pick up my brother so we could both go and visit Rayne. For some reason he seemed reluctant. He hardly spoke the whole trip from Brett's house to the hospital although he did tell me he was moving in with Brett. I was happy for him and hoped it worked out, they certainly seemed good together. When we got to the hospital I had to tell him we were there a couple of times before he noticed and got out of the car.

When we got into the air-conditioned building I pulled him aside, "Ok, what is wrong, little brother?"

"What if he hates me, Jessie?" Tristian asked worriedly.

"What? Why the fuck would he hate you?" I asked in surprise.

"Because it was my fault, Jessie. It was my fault he was hurt… everything they did," he answered miserably, tears threatening.

"You idiot," I said affectionately, pulling him into a hug, "It wasn't your fault."

"It was… I-"

I cut him off by grabbing his hand and pulling him quickly down the corridor, heading to Rayne's room. "Obviously you'll just have to hear it from Rayne."

"But Jessie!" he protested, trying to get his hand out of my grip. Luckily it wasn't too far to Rayne's room. I shoved my brother into the room and stood behind to block any retreat. Tristian stood there uncertainly as his battered friend offered him a small smile.

"Hey Trist," Rayne said softly as he put the magazine he'd been flicking through down. He then held one thin hand out to his friend, "You look upset, are you ok?"

Tristian took the last couple of steps to the bed slowly and cautiously took Rayne's hand but he managed a smile when the teenager used their linked hands to pull him closer. "I'm so sorry, Rayne," Tristian apologised ashamedly.

"What? What for?" Rayne was genuinely puzzled, "What did you do?"

"It was all my fault! It was my fault they hurt you… Everything..."

"Seriously?" Rayne pulled Tristian forward with surprising strength to hug him, "Don't think stupid shit like that, Trist! It was not your fault, none of it. It was those greedy dickheads and they've gotten what they deserved. Don't be upset. Be happy we are both safe now and those fuckers are dead."

I smiled and shook my head. I really liked Rayne and was glad to see he was still so full of spirit. I sat down in the chair and flicked though one of Rayne's magazines while Trist sat on the bed and talked with his friend. They chatted quietly, at peace now everything was clear between them though I still worried Tristian was hanging onto some of his guilt.

After we'd been there half an hour or so I was surprised when Mischa came in. "Shouldn't you be at work?" I asked, giving him a quick greeting hug.

"Meh. I've worked enough extra hours covering for other people they can cover for me for once," he shrugged before pulling a chair next to the opposite side of the bed to Tristian and sitting down. "How are you feeling?" he asked his brother.

"Better than yesterday," Rayne answered reaching out to hold his brother's hand, "They said they might let me come home this afternoon after a few more checks."

"Good," Mischa smiled, "You'll feel better once you are home."

"Yeah, it was ok when I was really tired but now I'm just bored," Rayne agreed, he hesitated a moment looking serious, "While you guys are all here… There's something I wanted to tell you."

"Oh?" Mischa looked a little concerned.

"I'm sorry, Mischa, I know you pulled strings to get me that apprenticeship but I don't want to do it any more," the teenager admitted softly.

"That's ok, Rayne," Mischa squeezed his brother's hand gently, "Do you want to take some time off? You could travel a bit if you wanted."

"No. Ah, actually… I want to go to Uni," Rayne said to our surprise.

"Oh, ok. Why?" his brother asked curiously.

"I want to be a doctor," he admitted, "I've already applied for the right course at a good Uni so I can do it… I just, I don't know, I think I'd like to do it..."

"Ah-huh," Mischa seemed uncertain about what to say, "Well I guess if that's what you want. You don't have to make your mind up right now though, you can think about it, at least for a few days."

"I will but I won't change my mind," Rayne stated though I was a little doubtful. Why was he suddenly giving up his dream of being a pastry chef? Was it all because of the kidnapping or was there something else? I'd talk to him about it once he was home and things had calmed down. I thought being a doctor was a much better choice for him but he needed to do it for the right reasons or he'd only regret it.

That night Mischa and I sat in the garden sipping good wine. Rayne had been allowed to come home but he'd been tired and had gone to bed not long after dinner. I was tired but not ready to sleep. We'd pulled the cushions off the chairs and sat on the ground so we could sit close and cuddle. It was a nice night, warm but not too hot and the smell of Mischa's garden was very pleasant. I stroked my fingers through his hair and even in the dark I could tell there was more grey in it.

"Is it wrong to be a little happy that you'll age with me now?" I asked.

"No, I don't think so," he replied offering me a smile, "I think it will be nice… To grow old with you."

"You plan on staying with me that long?"

"Ah-huh," he kissed me sweetly then rested his head on my shoulder, "I think you might be stuck with me now."

"I certainly hope so," I resumed stroking his hair, it was still ridiculously soft and I was glad that hadn't changed.


"Yes, love?" I tensed a little, his tone had been quite serious.

"We haven't been together that long..." he commented.

"Yeah, I guess not though it sure as shit feels like a long time. In a good way I mean," I shrugged feeling a little awkward.

"A lot has happened in the past few months, for me certainly and I've really appreciated your support," he smiled at me in a very beautiful way, "I'm not sure how I would have dealt with everything without you."

"I'm glad I've been able to be there for you, Mischa. I feel pretty fucking close to you," I grinned, "Closer than I've ever felt to anyone before."

"I'm glad you think so," he told me earnestly, "Because there is something important I need to ask you."

"Oh?" I was a little worried, was something wrong? He looked happy but he was also sounding very grave so I was sure it really was something important. My mind flashed to when we'd been on holiday for Rayne's birthday and kids had been mentioned. He wasn't going to ask if I wanted to have kids was he? I wasn't sure I could do that, even for him. All my thought processes halted abruptly as he took out a small box from his pocket.

"Jessica Eala," he opened it up to offer me the ring, "Will you marry me?"

My mouth dropped open, it was a fucking gorgeous ring with a very big diamond in it. Though I'm not sure why I would have expected differently, money wasn't important to him… but apparently I was. "Are you fucking serious?" I asked when I could find my voice.

"No," he rolled his eyes at me, "I went and bought a stupidly priced engagement ring to-"

I cut him off with a kiss, several kisses actually. When I was finally ready to let him breathe I answered, "Yes I'll marry you, you beautiful, little smart-arse."

I'd never been so happy in my life. Sure some crazy shit had happened since I'd started my job at ES but a hell of a lot of good things had happened too. The biggest was meeting Mischa that first day. When I'd first seen him in the elevator that day I had never thought we would be together like this now. I knew we would still have problems, I was sure I'd still get jealous at times and I was sure he'd still work too much but I knew he was who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. It felt amazing that he felt the same. And my sister was going to have a total fit when she saw the ring! Life was good.


Thanks to everyone whose taken the time to leave a review!

I'm working on a side story about Val and Deangelo and will be starting to post it shortly. I hope everyone who enjoyed this story will check it out.