Jhondie

"It's too big" I protested.

"No it's not!" Justin immediately replied.

"I'm telling you, it's going to get all ripped up back there!"

"Maybe if you'd move to the left a little! Or lift up some. Try that."

I tried and groaned in despair. "It's not going to fit!" I reiterated. "And don't give me that look! It was Newton that decided that two objects cannot be in the same place at the same time. If it's too big to squeeze in there, then it's too big."

Justin let out a growl. "It's halfway there. The rest should fit. I swear I'm about to bring out some kind of lubricant."

I wrinkled my nose. "That wouldn't ever come out of the fabric. And people are going to start wondering what we are doing in the hall in a minute."

That got a laugh out of Justin. He had no reason to say anything. He was the one that was supposed to measure the couch and see if it would fit in the door of his new apartment. I was the one that was going to help him get it in there. I was doing my part. It wasn't hard to see where the failure had occurred.

There was a bend in the couch and that was the problem. The curve made it a little wider and the couch just was not going to fit. I would have been laughing at him, but the problem was that he got the couch that I liked the best and not the one he was leaning towards, so it was almost my fault. We had been having so much fun shopping in the last two weeks to get everything he needed for his new place. And by fun, I mean him standing looking around looking bored as hell while I spent lots of his money. He didn't mind though really. He wanted me to get things that I liked too. The reasoning was that I was going to be over there all of the time so I should like what I was going to see.

What neither of us was saying was that I should be getting stuff since it was my place too. I wanted it to be. I knew that Justin wanted me to move in with him, but I just couldn't. Kayla had decided that being grounded was no reason to not go out with some.well, I would call it a mutant, but that's giving mutants a bad name and tried to sneak out. If it wasn't for the mutant she was living with that doesn't sleep and can hear her window opening at one in the morning, then she would have gotten out. Things were getting bad and I didn't want to leave Mom without a live-in ally. But I did want to move in with Justin. At least I would be able to spend the night sometimes. That was such a sweet thought. I couldn't wait to be able to go to bed with him and know that we weren't on a time limit for when a parent or sibling was going to come home. I wanted to be there when he woke up and be able to have a quiet dinner together between crises. I would give the situation at home some time to get better and then I was so going to be sending out change of address cards. He and I belonged together and there wasn't a soul that could deny that at this point.

It took another twenty minutes of pushing and pulling and at least one good round of cursing but we finally got the stupid couch in the living room. With no small amount of conceit, I can say that my choice was stunning in there. There was still some unpacking to do and the second bedroom to convert into a computer/work room, but the place was coming together nicely. The bedroom was set up (and yes, the new king-sized bed had been broken in properly) and the kitchen and now with the couch, the living room was officially usable. I looked over at the dining room table and had to hold back a laugh. For some reason, I was getting the urge for a peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich.

We fell onto the couch, too tired to even think about christening it to the new place. Justin had started looking for an apartment right after he got back from Seattle and stumbled onto this one. It wasn't as huge as some of the places that he had looked at, but it was a good location and had a great view of the city. There was one that Justin had thought about getting rather then this, but that was just because the irony was too funny. It was Brent Lake's place, the first real crime boss that we had exposed and whom ended up slightly dead because of it. Justin thought about it, but decided that it was a bit much to try and keep from snickering every time he walked through his front door. This apartment had two bedrooms and bathrooms, a nice kitchen and dining room and a rather large living room. And there was a large balcony that seemed to beg for a comfy chair that we could cuddle up in and watch the sun set over the city. Maybe romance isn't the best deciding factor in an apartment, but it worked for us. I certainly couldn't wait for that first night with me and him and a bottle of champagne with the sunset.

"So," I teased, "when is the investment broker going to start calling you and freaking out over all of this?" He was really starting to get irritated at these people calling him all the time and basically trying to let him know that they were in charge of the money and he should be glad they were doling it out to him. Justin was looking at it as a tool that can be used to help him in his goals, not something that should be sitting in a bank account somewhere and moldering.

He grinned. "Most of them are getting fired Monday."

My jaw dropped. "Going to hide it all under the mattress?"

Justin laughed. "I wouldn't want it to get stained," he teased. I blushed. "Actually," he continued, "remember Armani?"

I rolled my eyes. "He's rather hard to forget. At least he learned to stop grabbing my butt." It cost him two broken fingers and a cracked shin, but he finally got the message.

"Well," Justin explained, "the guy is actually a financial genius. Last week I had to get some information from him and he mentioned this thing that was going to happen. All the people I had said that this other stuff was going down and I was absolutely crazy for trying it but I took the risk and ended up making almost fifty grand off of it."

I blinked. "You do realize that the guy is only marginally sane don't you?"

"That's the beauty of it!" he replied. "See, he just wants someone to tell him how brilliant he is and how much they couldn't live without him. It makes him feel better. He also took a lower commission rate."

I sighed. "We are going to be hard pressed to find an informant to fill his shoes."

Justin shrugged. "Saving the world one person at a time, remember?"

I leaned up and kissed him. "Could you possibly get any more perfect?" I asked.

He smiled softly. "I'll remind you of that next time I fold the towels 'incorrectly'."

I playfully punched him. "I meant here," I said, lightly touching his chest over his heart. "There are so few people in the world with truly good hearts. I'm lucky to have one of them with me."

"I know the feeling," he replied, fingers caressing my face. Whoever was interrupting this moment by knocking on the door was going to be in a world of hurt.

Except for the fact that it was Justin's father so beating him senseless and tossing him off of the balcony would not be the nicest thing I could do. So maybe it was a good thing that we weren't in the process of removing clothing when he knocked twice and then came in. I liked Mr. Carter and all and I knew that he knew we were intimately involved but I was not going to put it on display. I just made a mental note to have a chain put on the front door just in case for later.

"I brought the rest of your stuff from the house," he said brightly. There were a few boxes up in the attic that were old mementos and the like that were Justin's and Mr. Carter was looking forward to freeing up some space up there. There was something about reclaiming the attic or basement space that really made parents rather blissful. I wasn't sure what it was. Must happen when you have a kid. Still very weird though.

He held out a package delivery envelope. "And Steiner overnighted this to you."

Justin took it, looking obviously confused. "There can't possibly another piece of paperwork he wants me to sign," he muttered, opening it. He pulled out a videotape and a note. He opened the note and read it aloud. "I've been debating on if I should send this to you or not, but all things considering, I think you should see it. I'm sure that you've heard about what your associate here is doing and I believe that this is related."

This was very odd. Actually, we hadn't heard from the boss since we got back to LA. Justin had found some stuff pertaining to a case we were working on and all we got back was a curt message that seemed automated. It just said that EO was unavailable and would contact us when he was back. We had been told before that he was busy and wouldn't be able to get back to us for a few days. But it was always personal.obviously written by him. This time.it was like the whole Informant Net was on hold for some reason.

Justin put the tape in the VCR and we both watch what appeared to be a newscast. Part of it was footage shot by one of Seattle's oh-so-lovely hover drones. Two guys in a car were ambushed and got shot and a kid got nabbed. That was pretty sensational even for Seattle, but it wasn't explaining why Justin paled as the drone did a close up on the man lying in the street. The newscast then went on to say that the unidentified survivor of the incident was taken to the hospital, but in an odd twist of fate, there was a gas leak and several rooms, including his were destroyed when it ignited. There was no word yet on if he was still in the room as a witness did say that she believed she saw him being removed moments before the explosion. And then it went on to weather.

Justin rewound the tape and paused it on the close up. "Do you know him?" I asked when he didn't say anything. His Dad was looking at him as well, concern etched on his face.

Justin's eyes didn't leave the screen. "That's the informant that gave me the CD about BioTech," he finally said. I blinked and looked back at the figure lying on the pavement. He was just a regular guy. Cute for an older guy, but regular nonetheless. It's easy to forget how dangerous this line of work is when you don't have a partner like me with you.

"He's like you?" Mr. Carter asked unsteadily. "Part of the Informant Net?" Justin nodded, watching the footage again in slow motion.

"But we're a lot different," I said quickly. We were because I would never have gotten caught in that trap. I was trained to spot an ambush and even if they got lucky, the informant's partner was shot immediately and appeared to have been killed. That would not have happened with me and with only three men on the hit squad; they would have been toast against me alone. With Justin to back me, I wouldn't have broken a sweat.

I had Mr. Carter's attention. "We just get stuff for him," I explained. "We don't transport it or get stuff from him to give to other people. We're kind of at the top of the food chain here in LA. We only give things directly to the boss." I thought about that for a second. Injured informant and suddenly Eye's Only was unavailable.

"Justin," I said, getting his attention from the TV for a moment. "You don't think that's *him* do you?

He thought about it and then shook his head. "I doubt that he would risk being with me of all people because of the possibility of me recognizing him when he gave me that CD. But I think he's unavailable because that guy does know who he is and if the bad guys got him, he could give away that identity. How much you want to bet that Eye's Only was the one that took him from the hospital? Probably has him stashed somewhere so that he can recuperate."

That sounded plausible enough. "Do you think this has anything to do with the CEO of BioTech?" Mr. Carter asked. For someone that was new to the world of conspiracies and cloak and dagger, he was picking up on making connections rather well. Justin must have gotten it from his side.

"All we've heard was that it was a heart attack," I replied. "Besides, Eye's Only isn't in the business of getting revenge for his informants. He just makes sure the whole truth comes out." We had heard that Brinks had been found dead in a hotel room above this little jazz club from an apparent heart attack. The tabloid report said that he had been up there with a singer from the club and the girl said that he had grabbed his chest and then collapsed when she was giving him a "private performance". Whatever else there was to the story, nobody would ever know. I was just glad to hear that he had gotten what he deserved.

I looked back at the TV. "This won't happen to us," I said firmly. Justin took my hand.

Mr. Carter shook his head slowly. "He probably said that more than once as well."

"There's a difference," I replied softly. "You can't kill what you can't catch."

Maybe I said that too intensely. Mr. Carter certainly couldn't respond to it. But it was the truth. I was living proof of it. Mr. Carter said something about wanting to get the stuff from the car and headed out downstairs. I think he needed a minute alone to try and come to grips with the fact that his son was in a dangerous line of work but he wasn't going to get out of it. This was still hard on him to accept. I didn't think that he would ever really accept it, even when Justin started publishing under his own name. Justin didn't back down from a challenge. That was something his father had instilled in him and maybe now Mr. Carter was starting to regret that.

I squeezed Justin's hand when his dad left. "This won't happen to us," I repeated.

He looked at me. "It's not me I'm worried about. You never asked to get involved with this. If anything, I blackmailed you into it. I can't keep asking you to risk yourself like this."

I smiled. "That's why I do it. Because you don't ask me to. I'm in this because I want to be. I know I can't go on forever, but I'll know when that point comes. But for now, you and I are partners in this no matter what. So don't even think you're getting rid of me."

He looked so sad for a moment. "This isn't your fight. You never wanted to be part of it. It was wrong of me to make you get involved."

I took his face in my hands, our eyes locking. "I'm only going to say this once," I said intensely. I knew what I wanted to say and I didn't think I could get it out more than once without breaking down. "When this all started I was just a selfish kid whose top priority was me. You have made me confront a lot of my own personal demons along the way and the one thing I know for sure is that there are a lot of things that I've done in this life that I need to make up for. This helps in some way. I'm in it because I want to be. And all this tape does is strengthen my resolve. I won't tell Eye's Only what I really am. He'll never know about Manticore and what they did. But the evil that they did is going to end up helping make the world better through me. So maybe I'm still being selfish, but *I* need to know that. The darkness they put into me can be changed into something good. If it wasn't for this, I don't know if I would have ever known that for sure. I would have always been afraid to really trust myself because I didn't know if I would revert to that darkness."

I sniffed, trying not to start crying. "What you blackmailed me into was learning that I can really live and be happy. So don't you dare try to walk away from anything. Because trust me, there is no place on this planet you can hide from me."

Justin didn't say anything, just pulled me into his arms and we held each other tightly. We were so much more than the sum of our parts when we were together. If my life had to end, then as long as we were together for a space of time, how could I complain? I had something that some people would spend a lifetime searching for. Too much of a risk being this close to someone, Zack would say, but what incredible thing in life came with a guarantee? I would rather take the risk and reap the rewards than to do something that would really be just pretending to live.

Justin caressed my cheek. "How did I manage to get through the first twenty years of my life without you?" he asked softly.

"We were always in each other's hearts," I replied. "We just followed out hearts back to each other."

He leaned down and kissed me then, every bit of the love he had for me making the moment stand still in time. Loving someone meant letting them have control over a part of your life. I wasn't scared of that anymore. I wasn't afraid of how much he could hurt me. We were young. In love. Together in all things. And so the path we were on was a dangerous one. I could handle that. As long as we were willing to stand together, there was nothing that could separate us. And that was all the guarantee I needed.

THE END