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Age Of Aquarius - Book 2
Ministries of Change - Chapter 5
The burnt and broken shell loomed before Mike like the carcass of a once great beast. The building had been his home for four years. Aching in ways he had never thought possible, Mike stepped around the warning tape and moved into the remains of his home. The emptiness was so consuming that he couldn't even muster tears. So much of his innocence had been lost in the last year. This place had been a refuge; now it was gone. Violated; Mike shuddered as he felt it grip his gut. The sanctity of the place had been raped and the body killed; Mike knew it all too well. He had been there; the difference was he'd been brought back.
Fingers slid between his and gripped his hand tenderly. The connection was enough to bring him to himself; out of the darkness that threatened to shut him down again. Mike wasn't crying; Jase was doing it for him. They didn't need to say anything. His love had faced the same horror not two weeks before. They had been able to intervene and everything had not been lost. Provence was too far away for intervention.
Jase's heart ached as he held Mike's hand. Mike had suffered in ways no one ever should have; most of the suffering had been directly or indirectly the result of Jase coming back into his life. Guilt was an evil creature that drained joy and life from those who were its victims. Jase was more than victimized by it; it was one of his most regular clients. He may have left the streets and stopped selling his body, but Jase felt every bit the whore; now his clients were dark emotions and nightmares; he was a damn good fuck.
Don't do that, Jase, please. Jase jerked himself from his thoughts as he felt Mike brushing into him. I need you with me, not regretting us, please.
Jase squeezed his hand. I'm sorry, Mike. I just can't help it; it all feels like my fault.
Mike pulled Jase around; tears finally flooding his eyes. "I love you so much; please, stop."
Clutching to each other, they let the tears fall. There had been so much pain, so much death. Their world was falling apart. As they stood in the ashen remains of another lost part of their lives, Jase knew differently. Their world wasn't falling apart; it was being torn down. Brick by brick, person by person their world was being dismantled by someone or something. That knowledge began to burn at the base of Jase's stomach; he knew, one day, it would turn him into an inferno that nothing could stop.
"Too many funerals," Jase mumbled to himself as he stirred some cream into his coffee. He'd become so accustomed to using magick that he felt like he had his hands tied. The Castanio's were perfect in-laws; loving, attentive and honest. The fact that his father-in-law was also the president of TMC was a bonus.
"Did you make enough for two?" Mrs. Castanio's voice pulled Jase out of his thoughts.
"A whole pot." He nodded to the coffee maker and meandered to the kitchen table.
Michelle poured herself a mug and settled down into the chair across from Jase. "You're up early."
Shrugging, Jase sipped his coffee. "Having a hard time sleeping a full night." He looked across the table. "What's your excuse?"
She laughed. "Vincent's snoring. When times get stressful he snores like a full forest of lumberjacks."
Jase looked down. "You must have had very little sleep for the past year."
She set down her mug. "Jason Steward, you can just call off this pity party of yours, no one is coming to it."
"You blame yourself for everything, and you always think the worst of your actions. Do you think so little of Michael that you believe he would love someone as horrible as you're convinced you are?"
That hurt. Jase cringed under her gaze. "No."
"Then get over it." She picked up her mug and sipped her coffee angrily. "You did not make my son gay. You did not ruin his life or ours. You have not destroyed TMC, caused the economic slump or brought about the bombing of the towers. You are not the harbinger of death." She stopped and took another sip. "Have I covered them all or have I missed a few of your self-proclaimed titles and sins?"
Looking away, Jase let a tear slip down his cheek. "Sometimes I think Mike would be better off if I'd never come back."
"You should stop thinking that." Jase looked up as Vincent wandered into the kitchen. He leaned over and kissed Michelle's cheek. "I rolled over and found a cold spot in the bed."
She smiled. "Well, since you're up, I think we have a minor crisis brewing. Pull up a chair and let's get it worked out."
Vincent grunted and claimed his own mug of coffee. After sitting, he looked at Jase. "I'm surprised Mike hasn't come searching for you."
Jase shrugged. "Mira's with him. I'll know when they start missing me."
Vincent frowned at Michelle. "I'm not sure I like the sound of that."
"You wouldn't like a lot of things about us. Some things are better left alone." Jase looked back out the window and sipped his coffee.
"Like it or not, I want to know."
Jase grumbled bitterly. "I already corrupted your son and took him out of Provence. Just use your imagination; I'm sure you won't be able to get anywhere close to how far it's gone."
Jase jumped as Vincent's mug slammed on the table. "I have NEVER accused you of 'corrupting' my son. I wasn't happy with the reality of your relationship; I reacted in ways I regret; I've tried to be as accepting and understanding as I could. Now stop fucking with me and just tell me what's going on!"
"Vincent!" Michelle was horrified at her husband's choice of words.
Jase set his mug down. "You have no clue what you're asking."
"No, I don't, and that frightens me more than anything else. I know something more was going on back when your father died. I couldn't explain it, but I could feel it. Something more is going on now, we both know it, and I don't like living in the dark."
"Fine." Jase lifted his hands. "This is what's going on." He gestured at the air above the table, "Accendo!" Mage light flared and filled the kitchen with silvery-white luminance.
"Mother of God," Michelle crossed herself.
"We aren't normal, and it's not a gay thing. Mike, Mira, me; we're all magick-borne. Witches, sorcerers, mages, whatever you want to call us." Angry tears dripped down Jase's face. "What's going on is that someone has decided anyone like us has to die. They've been hunting down anyone with magick and killing them. Chloe, George, and Mr. Wong were all their victims." Jase could feel his frustration boiling. "I'm not some overly dramatic fag. I deal with things that most people only see in movies; and to be honest, the movies are pretty tame in comparison."
Jase let the light wink out as he felt his anger ebb. "We're fighting to stay alive, and we don't even know who wants us dead."
Vincent stared at Jase. "Mike can do that?"
Jase shrugged. "Our talents are different. I can do the 'dramatic' flashy stuff. Mike's powers are more subtle." Jase smiled as his love for Mike warmed him. "He really can heal with a touch; it is the most miraculous thing you've ever seen."
They sat in silence for a few minutes as Vincent processed what Jase had said. "George, he would have been George Martin of Magitech?"
Jase nodded. "That's why they were attacked. Someone came in, killed everyone, normal and magick-borne, and left." Jase frowned. "The killers aren't some horrible evil or creatures from beyond, they're people with guns."
Vincent dropped his head into his hands. "Ok. We've established that things are a lot stranger than I'd have come up with." He took a deep breath. "Why is Mira sleeping with Mike?"
Jase shrugged. "She sleeps with us whether physically in the bed or not. We finally just decided it was easier to all be in the same room."
Michelle looked at Jase, confused. "I don't understand."
"Remember how Mike and I would sit and play for hours without saying anything?"
She smiled at the memory. "I sometimes worried that the two of you were autistic or something."
"We weren't speaking, but we were talking." He gauged her reaction. "We've been able to communicate that way since we were kids. Mira does too." Jase sighed. "When Mike was attacked and went into coma, she spent so much time trying to bring him back that she bonded with him like she had with me, and like I had with Mike. Sometimes we have a hard time keeping our thoughts private because the bond is so all-inclusive. She's been 'with us' since Mike came out of coma." Jase finally shrugged. "We don't even know where it's going. All we know is when we're together, we feel safe. I don't know if it's 'wrong' or what. All I know is 'that is the way it is'. Good or bad, for better or for worse, we're bound."
Jase sat and waited for their reactions. Vincent stared at his coffee and Michelle was thoughtful. Finally she simply smiled and shrugged. "Well, at least I've got a shot at grandchildren now."
"Michelle!" It was Vincent's turn to be shocked.
"Oh, Vincent, lighten up. We know more than a few couples who bring home a third to spice up their sex lives. We don't condemn them for what is a far more shallow and sinful act than three people in love. I'd already adopted the girl as a daughter anyways. Now I know she won't be leaving the family for someone else."
Jase marveled at Mrs. Castanio. She had accepted her son's relationship to him without putting up a fight. She had made it possible for Jase to be with Mike after they had been separated by the restraining order. Her ability to love unconditionally was something Jase would always admire. "You're the greatest, Michelle."
She smiled at him fondly. "I think you've been a part of this family long enough to call me 'Mom'."
Vincent just shook his head and kissed his wife again. "You aren't going to let me be incensed are you?"
"No. You have more important things to do than waste time taking positions you know you will lose."
Sighing, Vincent sipped his coffee. His lips curled into an ironic smile. "Isn't love grand?"
Jase and Michelle laughed. "Yes!"
They had stayed in Provence for a week, and Mira was anxious to be back in the City. She worried about Morg and Terry constantly. She was also incredibly uncomfortable staying at the Castanio's. Neither she nor Mike had been overly pleased with Jase revealing their relationships and natures to Mike's parents. She knew, in the long run, it was for the best. Still, the pressure of Michelle's hopeful, happy looks were too much for Mira and she was relieved to be away from them.
Mira had been quiet the entire flight back. Her thoughts were occupied with what her role was in their relationship and with worries about the future.
You ok? Mike asked as they descended the steps from the plane to the tarmac.
Mira sighed. Yeah. I love your mom, Mike, but I was beginning to feel like I was expected to suddenly produce babies or something.
Mike smirked. "That's an idea."
She glared at him. "Excuse me, Mr. Castanio, but I haven't even had a honeymoon night yet. Not to mention: no one asked me if I wanted to have kids."
Jase caught the tail end of her declaration. "I hadn't thought about that." He looked back at Mike and Mira. "It never occurred to me I'd ever have kids."
Mira threw her hands up in the air. "Men!" She stopped them and settled her hands on her hips. "Ok, let's be perfectly clear on this. I haven't had sex with Mike, ever, and the last time I had sex with you was so long ago it might as well not count." She let a smile grace her lips as she watched them squirm. "You two had better come up with something a hell of a lot better than 'hey Mira, want to fuck' as incentive."
Mike looked down, appropriately shame faced. Jase, on the other hand, grinned like a Cheshire Cat. "Are you actually going to make us wait till we can find a church that will let us have a three way commitment ceremony? Hell, Mira, even the Mormons wouldn't do it... they only let men have multiple wives; women can't have multiple husbands."
Mira maintained her poise, though she wanted to laugh. "No, I don't need a chapel and flowers. You guys did that, and I think I'll skip. I've never been a conventional girl anyway." She slid back between them and slipped an arm around each of their waists. "I just don't want to be the third wheel. I love you guys, but I deserve a little romance and attention too."
She could feel the connection buzzing between Mike and Jase. She was definitely being excluded. "Hey, that's rude!"
Mike smiled and Jase returned it. "Flowers?"
They nodded in unison. "We can do this."
Mira realized she had just unleashed two of the world's hottest men on a mission of seduction. She wasn't sure she'd survive it; but at least she'd die happy. They were still silently laying plans as they pulled into the space in front of Morg's.
Terry was looking over the plans he had printed out from the wide format inkjet that had been recovered from Magitech. Most of the salvageable equipment had been transferred to the town home while the supplies had been put into storage in Outon. Morg was shaking her head.
"So anyone who comes in with a 'wireless whatever' will be able to access everything?"
"Not, everything, but they can access the internet; and if they subscribe to it, our information system."
"And you want to open space between the café and the sanctum."
"That's the idea." He pulled out additional printouts of conceptual designs from Magitech. "In addition to the rare books and specialty items the shop has been known for, we'd also offer totally custom systems, tailored for each customer. I'm talking down to case design and peripherals."
Jase smiled. "I want my black marble laptop with the embossed magic circle and touch screen."
Morg smiled fondly as her children came in. "You certainly don't want much."
Mike laughed. "Wait till you get my order. I've got some very specific needs as a Doctor of Oriental Medicine."
Mira smirked. "Pearlescent violet, ergonomic case, tablet pc with the write-on screen and one hell of a voice recognition system."
Terry held up his hands and laughed. "Ok, ok. I'll get to them as soon as -someone- teaches me transmutation. That's the only way I'm going to get this stuff done in a timely fashion."
Morg frowned. "Transmutation is an advanced magic. You will be lucky to be to that by this time next year."
Terry sighed. "I guess these designs will have to wait then."
Jase laughed. "Oh, so the fact that 'I' can do it doesn't count for much. I see this is going to be one hell of a partnership!"
Terry looked back at his designs. "Sorry, Jase."
Jase blinked. "Hey, I was joking Terry."
Sighing, Terry slid the designs back in the folder. "I know, but you're right. I never had to -cooperate- with George. We just synced. This is going to be pretty tough to get used to."
Morg rested her hand on Terry's arm. "Time, patience and understanding; you will recover and grow, Terry. Trust that you have family here who will support you in that."
Terry smiled. He had tears I his eyes but he didn't want to break down again. "Thanks for having faith in me."
Jase hoped Phil's project would come to a favorable conclusion soon. They needed something to smile about.
Terry stared at the markings on the wall between the café and the store. He was amazed at how fast the building permits and contractors had been arranged. He and George had struggled every time they had tried to make a change or improvement with Magitech. He envied how Jase and Mira could manage everything so smoothly.
Hearing the chimes of the street-front door opening, Terry turned and leaned over the railing. A man in his early to mid forties entered carrying a portfolio. Another of the contractors, Terry thought as he put on a pleasant face. "Hello," Terry smiled as he moved to the stairs, "may I help you?"
"I'm looking for a Terry Martin?"
Terry wasn't sure, but the man looked nervous. "In the flesh; actually fully clothed but that doesn't sound as interesting." Terry grinned as he stepped around the boxes and extended his hand. The man accepted his hand in a firm, warm grip, and studied Terry for a moment. He was taller than Terry by several inches and more solidly built.
Terry looked back and stopped cold. He was looking into George's eyes. The world began to swim as he staggered back. He was saved from hitting the floor by two strong, warm arms that cradled him tenderly. After a few moments of panic, his breathing calmed and he was able to look back into those eyes. They were just like George's, but older and sadder.
"That wasn't what I'd expected for a first meeting," the stranger chuckled as he helped Terry to the floor. He knelt down and studied the young man as Terry gathered his wits about him.
"I'm sorry, for a moment I thought you were someone else," Terry mumbled, looking at the floor.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and couldn't ignore how gently it rested there. "Terry, look at me." He did. "I don't know if you're interested, but I was contacted by a Philip Mason a week ago."
Terry knew Phil. In addition to being Jase's Grandfather he was also Jase's attorney. He swallowed. "Oh, right. You must be here about the partnership agreements."
The man frowned. "No. I'm here to find my son."
Terry's mouth went dry. He looked at the man again. Terry and George had been fraternal twins. George's physical appearance had taken after their father's and Terry's was similar to their mother's. Terry blinked through the tears that filled his eyes. "Dad?"
David Martin stroked his son's cheek, his heart breaking at the pain he saw. "I'm so sorry, Terry."
Jerking back, Terry glared at the man. "What? Sorry you abandoned us? Sorry you left us in the social system after Mom tried to kill us? Sorry we lived every day knowing you didn't love us?"
David's eyes flooded. "I always loved you."
Terry didn't even realize he was yelling. "You're lying! You never sent cards. You never called. You didn't even try!"
David's pain gave way to anger and his voice rose to match Terry's. "You have NO idea how hard I tried! The whole fucking state refused to acknowledge me as human, let alone as having any rights to my children! I spent years fighting the courts. They all sided with your Mother and wouldn't give me anything! I was just the deviant, monstrous, evil faggot who would corrupt any child he touched!"
The door opened and another man, a few years younger than David, stepped cautiously in. "David, is everything ok?" His concern was evident in his voice.
David dropped his head. "Yeah, Chris; we're just taking a few moments clearing the air."
Terry blinked in shock.
Chris shifted nervously and moved to go back out. "Ok, I'll just wait in the car."
"No!" Terry put his hand out and felt the power rush past before he could stop it. The door slammed shut, startling both the men. Terry stuttered and looked back at his father. "You're gay?"
David took a deep breath and prepared for the worst. He knew Sharon's views on homosexuality and he was certain she had worked to instill it into their sons. "Yes, Terry, I am."
Terry started crying again. Leaning in, he wrapped his arms around his father and held on. "So were we," his voice was practically a whisper.
David pulled him in and hugged his child, crying at the pain in the young man's voice. "Oh god, I didn't know." They stayed there, kneeling on the floor in each other's arms, crying.
Chris watched from the door; his own eyes moist with tears. He had been beside David for all the battles for his children. He had watched the man he loved lose hope a little more with each defeat, until it had all but vanished. He prayed that God would give the men a chance to find the love they had missed out on for so many those years.
Watching the storefront at a discrete distance, Mira wiped away a tear and smiled at Jase. "You're amazing, you know that?"
"Yeah; that's what you and Mike keep telling me."
She slid her arm around his waist and gave him a squeeze. "We're right."
Jase sighed. He couldn't resist the love that lit her eyes when Mira said that. He brushed an errant lock from her face and cupped his hand lightly behind her neck. "I know." They kissed lightly and Mira's heart burned with the power of that simple act. Jase pulled back and smiled. "I've still got a long shopping list to complete. Where do you want me to drop you off?"
Mira laughed. "You two aren't going to give me a chance are you?"
He shook his head with a grin. "Nope. No woman will every feel more loved by the time we're done with you."
Mira hugged him tight and tried to keep from crying. "No woman ever has."