A.N.: Thank you for reading, I consider this story a sort of 'spring thing'. Meaning the month of change and these are major changes. Thank you for reading, and reviewing.

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It turns out that Rocky was missing from school for 3 days, which gave Colt time to do a little reading, not only that, he also had time to do some serious thinking about what he intends to do about Paula and Lissa, and the whole situation of losing one in place of another. Ridiculous as it sounds he truly does view them as 2 different people. On the one hand one girl is one way, and the other another. Its very confusing to the point of being almost overbearing to process. How can it be so hard. Rocky and Tum Tum had no problem with choosing; they picked Paula, as they should have. It isn't fair to have her living a double life because of something he'd helped to do. But for him, its not so simple. Lissa... or Paula... These thoughts kept him up at night. They kept him in constant distraction while he did his lessons at school. He didn't even have a good night out with his friends because he kept spacing out from the real world and going into deep thought about his past. All these thoughts on top of finding a way to accept that his brother is gay. But he'd seen something in that book of Rocky's Basements. He'd seen himself, he'd seen his brothers, he'd even seen Paula. He wasn't sure if it were true or not, but he was sure that the other story was Robbie. Each one was deep, each one human to a scary degree. He honestly didn't know that his brother thought so deeply about all of them that he could capture moments without so much as using them or the direct situation. Incredible. Rocky would be a great author someday, if he chose to leave the love of being a detective.

Colt was full to bursting when Rocky walked into their shared dorm, his books he'd been studying from are abandoned and nearly toppled to the floor in his standing; Rocky looked like he'd been dragged to Hell and back again as he dropped his bag to the floor by the door like it had simply fallen away, and if he hadn't opened his fingers it surely would have taken his tired arm with it to the wooden floor. Rocky barely made it to the thing before he'd collapsed onto his bed, ready to let sleep take control of him.

"Rocky!" Colt said loud enough to cause his brother to groan before covering his ears. "Sorry. But, Rocky... are you up?"

He couldn't tell. Rocky's head is turned in the opposite direction facing the wall where the window is. His body limp and still. This wasn't how it was supposed to go. Rocky would come in, and they'd get to talking, and everything would be cool. Then he'd leave and go sort the mess with Paula out. He'd made his decision ages ago, but he had yet to tell her about it. She must think he's just ditched the whole idea and chooses neither She nor Lissa.

"Rocky, come on. You have to stay up long enough to listen to me." Getting up from his bed, he walks around to the other side of Rocky's to see that his brother had infact fallen asleep. Great. "You can sleep later, okay? But wake up for now and listen to me."

He was like a child that was just recently introduced to a factory of sugar and everywhere you looked there was a free sample of the white addiction, and after such a large consumption Rocky was ready to crash. Feeling the violent shake that his brother is giving him, Rocky swats the assalt away before opening his eyes and sitting up.

"Okay, okay. But talk fast," He rubs his eyes. "I'm tired."

"I know." Colt waved the words away before taking a seat beside Rocky. "Listen, I wanted to tell you that I won't get on you anymore about being gay. Its your life, you live it how you want to, you can even talk about who you're with around me or to me... just don't bring up sex and I'm cool with anything."

Cocking a brow at his brother, Rocky blinked in a drowsy thought. "Great. Now let me sleep."

"But listen, I read your book and I thought it was wonderful!" He pats his brother on the shoulder. "The way you wrote these little stories about all of us... it was pretty cool, but sad too. When I read about Eric Winters I thought that it was stupid the way he never even gave sweets a chance, and then he made such a big deal out of it once he'd tried it. But reading it again, I realized that you were sort of talking about yourself through this character."

Rocky seemed more alert as he listened to his brother explain what he was talking about. He himself knew, he wrote it after all. But to have Colt read it and get it, that was something else entirely. Not even Tum Tum got it, but he said it was a good read and he liked all the weird tales told.

"Eric, you, hated sweets... never tried 'em, but knew he didn't like it. But one day he went to grab for his usual chicken pot pie from the freezer section of the store without realizing that they'd put in a new item and that his pies were the row over. So he'd grabbed three regular pies and one sweet pie. At the register he'd paid for it and brought it home and only then does he notice that he made a mistake." Colt begins to figit with either excitement that he understood, or a bit of creeping discomfort from understanding. "He sits on it, because why throw it away it'd be a waste of money. And one day he felt adventurous and decided to bake it, and after one bite he fell in love. It became his secret purchase, not that anyone was noticing him too much anyway, but he loved the pie in that way and after a year he wondered about other pies and sweets but," He shrugged right then. "he wasn't sure if he was ready to try any other one- not so much as a different flavor from that beloved mixed berry he had picked up. He was afraid that maybe he'd liked sweets all the time and he only needed that accident to happen to tell him that. But Eric wanted it to be fate, to be special. So he remained afraid to try anything else but he'd always wondered..."

"Wow. You really do understand the underlying meaning."

"Rocky, Robbie was mixed berry pie for you. I get that now."

"Yeah, but do you also get my dilema? You can't label me gay if I'm not even labeling myself that way. Its unfair."

"But, how do you know that you aren't if you're too afraid to try?" Placing a reassuring hand on his brother's shoulder, Colt says in a serious tone. "Rocky, eventually mom and dad will let it go that you've made a choice to be gay. I have, if that's what you want... if that's who you are... I can't tell you to be anyone else. Not for me. I love you bro', and snapping at you and taking your happiness wouldn't put much stock behind that, would it?"

"No. It wouldn't." Rocky offered his brother a thoughtful smile. "I'm too afraid to try. I don't want Robbie to just be the stepping stone of a lifestyle I've decided to take up. Secretly, it feels like being gay would mean that Maria has won. She made me fearful of women and I've never even really tried to get that part of myself back."

"See. You just have to try... that's all it is. If I've learned anything from the life I've led its that you can't be afraid to get to know yourself. No matter who you turn out to be."

Rocky shrugged. He felt uncomfortable and wanted to change subjects. He actually still wanted only to sleep but Colt is so amped up to talk, it would be rude to just nod off on him. "So, have you sorted things out with Paula?"

"Yes, and no." He said not missing the fact that his brother was dropping the subject of his own sexuality. He hadn't meant for the conversation to turn uncomfortable like that. How the hell was he supposed to grow with his brother and the rest of his family, and friends if everyone still felt edgy about talking around him? "I've decided that I want her, I want to get to know the new Paula."

"But?"

"No but, I just haven't told her yet because I'm afraid that she'll revert back to clamming up around me."

"Now who's afraid?"

"Hey, at least your problem is simple to solve- in a sense. But with me... I'm just nervous I'll fuck things up and lose her all over again. And this time, niether of us will recover. Its like your story about Koji Minamino, the guy who lived a still life- and how could he not, he was a statue that came to life. He would remember all the familiar faces, but fearing change he never ventured out in the world other than the park, and outsiders venturing in he would scare them away." Colt shrugged. "That's me. I know it is."

"I think you're giving yourself too much of a beating. Just get out there and try. If my story taught anything its that. Paula isn't that fragile girl anymore." Rocky can feel his eyes closing. He knew they must have been acting on their own accord because Colt sighed heavily in frustration before getting up from the bed.

"Maybe I am. But rightly so. ...You know what, you sleep. I'm gonna go talk to her."

"Don't stay over too late, you know you have an exam tomorrow in three classes."

"Yeah yeah," He waved it off as he grabbed the door knob. "For you to be missing for three days, you sure are in the know about everything that's going on."

"Gee, I wonder how." Just by glancing at the window, does the curtains pull apart by Rocky's command.

Smiling, Colt shakes his head. "Right. How could I forget about that." Laughing, he says over his shoulder. "See you tomorrow."

Rocky, already settled in the bed only mumbled something incoherant before dozing off.

Colt felt his nerves prickle the minute the dorm room door closed behind him. Damn it if he isn't a fool. But what he'd said to Rocky woke something up in him, and he has to do it before he loses his nerve. It could blow up in his face, or be a blessing in disguise. But his own stupidity and haste will win him something in the end.

Paige could hardly contain her cheers and laughter while she and Tum Tum shuffled about their living room as she went over the steps of the two new dances she and the rest of the girls had to learn. Sometimes, when she practiced at home a lot, he would watch the routine being done over and over and thus would learn them himself. And being completely in touch with his fun side Tum Tum would get up and dance with her, and she loved it. Her boyfriend had skills. If they ever needed a replacement she was sure he would be a great stand-in. ...As long as no one dances with him but herself.

"Okay, I'm beat. Let's take a break." Paige grabbed her hand towel that she's been whiping sweat on since a nice little line decided to trickle down her cheek. Flopping down on the couch, she picks up the remote control aiming it at the television. "I wonder if Hell's Kitchen is gonna be new tonight, I hate when they" Her brown gaze follows her boyfriend as he ventures into their bedroom, all the while still speaking, then returns. "show reruns with no real reason other than they think there's some sort of important holiday going on."

"Tell me about it."

"There's a way to insure your future, become a better chef and be a cheftestant on H.K."

Tum Tum sat down with an exhausted, phew! Releasing an eased breath, he looks at his adorable girlfriend with an easy smile on his face.

Tonight is the night. He had it all planned out. He'd get on one knee and ask her, wait for the answer then present the ring. The ring he's had hidden away for months, the ring that's kept them from eating decent square meals though they both have jobs- 2 for himself! And, to be honest, Paige doesn't get paid much as a dancer, regardless the show being a hit sensation and on television. That's the life of a back up dancer, though. The only time she gets a boost in her check is when she's asked to sing one of the songs. Candlelight, romantic words, a meal, maybe wine, although where would they get the wine? Hmm? But, that's not them, it never could be. Having already removed the ring from the box, he took her hand into his and waited for her to identify the item that stood between them before bonding them closer together.

It took a moment, and she'd even lifted their finger entanlged hands off the couch to give them a shake which rattled the item around. Smiling, she lowered their hands back to the couch and played coy.

"Uh-huh." Tum Tum said in a sly way. "How long have you known about it?"

"Mmm, almost two weeks."

"And how did you find it?"

"Oh, we always flip the mattress at our home- every two weeks." She shrugged. "It just kind of popped out at me."

Tum Tum laughed at that. He should have known the bed was a bad place to hide the thing. "Well, what d'ya say then?"

"Tch. Stupid, you know my answer... But," She said this with a raised finger from her free-hand. "I still get to call you boyfriend."

Snickering, Tum Tum shook his head in disbelief. "How 'bout you call me Michael?"

"Hmm, it doesn't have that nice ring to it."

"And neither will 'boyfriend' once we're married."

"Says you. I think its nice."

"Oh yeah, I can hear the minister now. "Do you Paige take Boyfriend to be your lawfully wedded husband", laaame."

That seemed to be funny as the girl roared with laughter. "Okay... Michael." Releasing his hand, she plucks the ring from the couch cushions before it slid between them. "If that is your wish, I'm happy to oblidge."

"Huh... so that's all it took? I should have married you sooner."

"Oh shut up! You love boyfriend and you know it." She popped him over the head with a throw pillow.

"Hey, hey I'm a ninja, you know. So if I kick your butt I can really kick it."

"Same with me, being a dancer, only I'll kick your butt with style." She sticks her tongue out.

"Oh yeah?"

Tum Tum pounced on the girl and she erupted into a fit of giggles under his tickling fingers, and the feather kisses to her neck which made her laugh as well. He didn't let up even when she'd finally managed to get out a clear enough "stop". Pulling her up to sit, he stopped his assalt and just looked at her. His fingers brushed the bangs from her face.

"I love you, you know that?"

"I do."

Nodding, he leans forward to give her a hug and he whispers into her ear. "And you can still call me boyfriend whenever you want." Moving back he grabbed the ring from her and slipped it onto its rightful finger on her left hand.

"Thanks." She admired the ring with out guilt now, not that she'd ever held guilt over looking at the not-so-secret item. But now it felt real. Official.

"I'm gonna call my mom and dad and make sure that put together a huge dinner with your parents, that way we can tell them the great news. I'll say its because I got into cooking school."

"Awesome idea."

"I thought so." He rest himself on the back of the couch, his soul full of joy and feasting like a king on it.

Paige looked at her love for one moment more before straightening herself on the couch to face the television. All the fond memories they've made together run through her mind. They grew up together, fought for fun and for real, they know the ins and outs of getting on one anothers nerves but always come back for more of it. She's been completely disgusting around him, and he never says eeuw in sincerity. And its the same for him and his little quirks of burping or farting in airspace. They're gonna make it. Nothing in this world showed evidence of otherwise.

Colt didn't realize how nervous he had gotten until the building came into view. His legs stiffened a bit, keeping him from walking across the street from the bus stop. His hands shook anxiously when he let himself into the building. She knows he's coming, the door is electronic, you have to have a resident buzz you up. He hasn't seen her or spoken to her since that day in the park and he's lost his cool in the meantime. He thought it would be easy. He thought he'd go up to her and just tell her what was on his mind. But in reality, it wasn't the case. How can someone who's so much weaker than him physically, emotionally, and verbally hold so much power over him? She always has. She attracted his free spirit when they were kids by saying nothing at all. And when she spoke it was never of anything important, or significant, or life altering. It was simple conversation. If between them there had to be a dominant, it should easily be him. But it isn't, and it never could be. No wonder Rocky is so skittish around women. It isn't just because of what that woman had done to him, or his new curiousities. But the sheer fact that he has long since learned of how strong women truly are. Their not emotional wrecks. They're not unpredictable because they do tell you how they feel, they don't hold it in. And it makes them damn strong, because women have accepted being human. They don't walk around like Heman, stomping any emotion into the ground as if it were an insignificant piece of dust. They face that they feel something even if on the outside it appears that its blowing them apart. They're taking it, they releasing it. They are living it. As a man never could. Birth. Loss. Life. They get all of that, they own it. So when they love, its deeply and truly. And this is what he's hurt, because in a sense he'd meant to hurt her in that way. He wanted to her to strengthen up and learn to live life as a man would, because then maybe she wouldn't be so fragile. But it turns out that He is the fragile one, and She is the one who's strong.

All this roiled in his stomach and made him feel sick. Sick when he'd gotten on the elevator and was brought to her floor. Sick when he walked down the hall and saw said door is cracked for him to enter. Sick when he walked inside and saw this strong woman looking through her mail as if nothing had ever happened. As if nothing had ever gone on between them, or in her life. She'd even smiled a greeting to him when he walked over.

"I'm looking over bills. If I'm gonna change jobs, I need to be sure I can afford to first."

Colt studied her for a moment. And after throwing him a curious glance, she returned to what she'd been doing.

"I thought about what you've said, and... you're right. I need to be more accepting, and I definitely need to grow with everyone. I don't wanna be left behind... I don't wanna be Koji Minamino, who decided that being a statue was much better than being alive and accepting changes in the world because its not something that he's used to."

That did earn him a strange look. She must not have read Rocky's book then. Taking her hands into his own, Colt stroked the back of her hand with his thumb. For a long while they sat in silence. Paula looking at their clasped hands, and Colt looking at her. He actually felt tears prickling his eyes before his mouth parted to speak again.

"I want you, Paula." He said very softly. "I want you. When I thought about which girl I couldn't live without... I instantly thought about you. And not because you haven't been in my life for so long..." He trailed as he himself wondered where the comment had come from.

Probably his old self making logic of why he would want to take at least one step back in his life. Or is it really stepping back? He isn't sure. He's not good at analyzing himself, he never was. That's why she, Rocky, and Tum Tum, grandpa, and definitely his parents all try to push him along. They don't think that he can do it. He the most independent. He the most self sufficiant. He who loves life and grabs it by the horns with no hesitation... but he... he gives up whenever things get tough. He proves it to himself a little too much. He'd given up on his relationship with Paula, due to fear of change. He'd given up on getting off Synder's ship when the solid iron door refused to budge and none of the windows had a loose latch. Always the one for the simple solution. That's him.

"I'm not afraid of myself anymore. I'm not afraid of you either... I want all of you." He cups her chin to raise her gaze to meet his. "All of it. But you have to accept me as well. I'm gonna love you, and I'm gonna fuck you over more than anyone else you never know, or ever will meet. But we have to know that about each other and I think we do."

"Colt," She started to say but he cut her off.

"No. Please listen. ...I love you. I've loved you since the first day you bumped into my family. I don't know why, but it was strong, and scary, and exciting... It was fucked up to want you. It was fucked up to cast you away when you weren't up to par. But fear is the only emotion that outweighs love, at least for me. But can you live with that? Not only was I asked to choose between you and Lissa but, you had to have asked yourself if you could stand being with me? When I'm good, when I'm a fucking mess... Can you take that?"

Paula blinked in confusion. What on earth was Colt talking about? He sounded insane really. Like they've been an item and he's... "Colt, why are you talking like we're gonna spend the rest of our lives together?"

"Because I'd like to. Come on, what d'ya say? Things can't get any worse than they already were. I'm changing, just like you. I wanna prove it to you everyday that I'm growing, I wanna fuck up and make mistakes and know that it won't mean shit but an arguement... not an end. And I want you to fuck up to because I need to learn how to handle it... I need all of this and I want all of it. ...And I want it with you."

Paula blinked. Comepletely stupified of what to say. She's never heard anything like that before. But what he said next, slapped her clean in the face.

"Paula, Kitturah, Jasmin Neil... Will you marry me?"

Paula sat in silence, feeling the grip of her hands shake as nerves owned Colt's attempted cool demeanor. He didn't expect her smile, he didn't expect her to snicker as lowly as she had. She looked maniacal, like she were about to slug him. Colt honestly thought that that was going to happen and his face braced for impact, with a visible wince.

"I'm going to fuck up. I have left over anger that boils in me sometimes. I throw things, I curse... but I'm better- stronger. But I'm fucked up, too. Can you take that? Can you hold onto me when I'm cursing you, and wishing you'd just go the hell away?"

Colt, despite the seriousness smiled. And was surprised when she'd smiled as well.

"I mean, I might wanna deck you with a vase... do you really think your ninja reflexes are that sharp you'd duck in time?"

"I know they are, but I won't duck. Be mad at me, you're owed a couple puck shots."

Paula nodded to that. She definitely was owed some shots at him. But when her smile faded she shook her head thoughtfully. "We're so stupid."

"Aren't we?"

"Yes, we are. I hate to wonder which of us is the worst of the two, but between us things should work out ok." Taking her hands back and setting them down on her lap, she nods. "Yes, I'll marry you."

Colt laughed in what he knew were hysterics, more so when he'd jerked her up from the couch to spin her lifted body around and around the room. But she pushed away from him, standing on her own two feet, readjusting her clothes.

"No need for that, come on. Let's celebrate." He stands up, taking her hand into his.

Groaning loudly, she stands. "How did I know this was just a ploy to get me into bed."

"Well, you've just answered your question as to which of us is less stupid." Turning around, he cupped her face giving her a deep kiss. "Besides, I don't wanna sleep with you just yet... I wanna cuddle and read to you. I know this great little book titled Basements, I just know you're gonna love it."

He walked them into the bedroom, returning to the living room to grab Rocky's book from the bookshelf after it was pointed out to him.

6 days later the Douglas family, the Dos Santos family, and Mrs. Shimoto Paula's mother and Victor her step father, are gathered at the Douglas house having dinner together. It was something of a get together to end all get togethers. You would never normally see Mrs. Shimoto because the woman is a doctor and the only way to see her is by coming in for heart surgery. But she got time off for this, any request from her daughter she'd be there for. They were all buzzing with conversation having either never met one another, or from having not seen each other in some time. The McRae's had been the last to show up since they had to drive in from the airport, and the Ballerini's, with Arc, came before them. This was the most the family had ever been over to the Douglas' home, and they sort of secretly hoped there would be more visits. In all honesty they may not have any real family ties beyond Ben, Colt's true father, but they feel close to the family regardless.

2 tables have been set up to accomadate them all, parents and children seated and talking like equals rather than as titles. It wasn't until dessert was served that Tum Tum and Colt stood up in sync of each other and tapped their wine glasses with the handle of their knife.

"I have something to say," The two say also in sync before shooting one another a curious look.

"Colt, I think that my news is a little more important than yours." His little brother says in a sudden show of his true age. Tum Tum could be forever stubborn when it came to things that he wanted to say or do, and someone was holding him up.

"But I also have something to say, and I definitely think that my news trumphs yours."

"Says you."

"Yeah says me, twirp."

"Wanna make a bet?" Tum Tum set his glass down. "We can ninja battle for who gets to speak first."

"Battle all you want, I'm just gonna say it- I.."

"No! No!" Tum crosses the room to where his brother is to slap a hand over his mouth.

Rocky rolled his eyes and shook his head in embarrassment. He was almost kind of glad he didn't have anyone that he's romantically connected to. Otherwise he'd be explaining to that person that, secretly, he's adopted. Lie as it might be, wouldn't you say the same when you're little brother is trying to shove a roasted slice of squash up your other brother's nose? But its sort of nice to see some normalcy going on again.

"Boys, boys." Mori interrupted. "Why not play jenken to see who goes first."

Tum and Colt pause when hearing the sensible voice of their grandfather. Looking at one another, the two nod in agreement that a game of rock, paper, scissors would do.

"One, two, three, shoot!"

"Victory!" Tum Tum cheered, both fist raised in the air. "Mom, dad, grandpa and brozus. Guess who's getting married?"

"How did you know?" Colt asked sitting down, while feeling the soars of being a loser sting his butt.

"What do you mean?" Tum asked, fist still in the air from his personal victory.

"Well, how did you know I was getting married?"

Jessica's eyes bugged out of her head. "You're getting married?"

"To who?" Sam asked. "Who'd you get pregnant?"

Colt's folded in on himself from the verbal punch in the gut. But Paula's laugh inflated him back to sitting up straight.

"No one, Mr. Douglas, and he's marrying me. We're engaged."

"Oh honey," Jodi got up from her seat to hug her daughter. Victor followed.

"Umm, hellooo, my big news. Not Colt's." Tum Tum tried to cut through the noise.

"When did it happen." Jessica asked grabbing Paula's left hand to see the ring. "Where's your ring?"

"Oh, he didn't pick one out. But I don't need a ring."

"Every woman needs a diamond, dear." Jessica pulled Paula from her seat. "We should go to the jewelers and pick one out right now. Come on Jamie, you come with us."

"Can you imagine, grandchildren?" Jodi beamed.

"Hello! Mom? Dad?" Tum tum looked to his father who is patting Colt on the back, congratulating him on making amends with the girl after so long. Telling his son how this made him a man. How he has responsibilities now.

Rocky pats his little brother on the back. "Congratulations Tum, you too Paige."

"Thanks, Rock'."

"Was it romantic like you'd hoped it would be?" Rocky asked Paige.

"It was more romantic than I hoped it would be," She held out her hand. "And I got this fat rock."

"Very cool."

As if the moment had come back to her, jacket on, and at the door, Jessica turned and asked when the room was silenced enough. "Michael? Tum Tum, honey, what was your news?"

"Umm," Looking at Colt who seemed so pumped right now, Tum Tum shook his head. "I got into culinary school."

"How wonderful!" Jessica said, not sparing any honest enthusiasm. "Next family dinner we have, its all yours to cook."

Laughing, Tum tum nods. "Thank you. Now you girls get out of her, go get a ring. And congratulations, sis'." He says to Paula before the girl got shoved out the front door with the crowd.

"Thank you, Tum. We'll be back soon."

"You'd better go with them, son. Or you'll be paying for that ring the rest of your life." Sam mentioned.

"Yikes, good point." Getting out of his seat he heads out the door.

Rocky smiled as he listened to the chattering women's noise dying down in their exit. Married, huh? That would be something. He wondered a bit what made Colt decide to take that route. Love? Guilt? He hoped for love. Because in all honesty he felt that the two loved each other. That's why they remain so fucked up when it comes to the other person. Toxic love is dangerous, but it can be good too. The good that other couples strive for. The good that truthfully, would keep them together for a long time. And, touching the anchor pendant that hangs always around his neck, he smiled knowing about his own toxic love. And that no matter what choice he makes, they will also be together forever.

THE END