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Age Of Aquarius - Book 2
Ministries of Change - Chapter 6
Terry smiled at his father as everyone laughed. Mike was wiping tears from his eyes as his head bobbed against Jase's thigh. Mira, wrapped in Jase's arms on the love seat, shook her head in delight while Jase tried to calm his mirth.
"I can't believe you told them that," Chris grumbled at David as he tried not to blush.
David gave his mate an affectionate smile. "Come on, babe; it was classic."
Grinning, Chris reached down and kissed David's hair. "Yeah, it was."
Terry felt a moment of jealousy and regret as he watched his dad and Chris. His eyes blurred with memories of George. George had been so much like their father. The similarities were both comforting and painful. The soft caress of a thought jolted him from his memories. He'd have been a great Dad. It wasn't Terry's thought. He swallowed and looked around nervously. No one else had heard it. Standing, Terry escaped to the kitchen.
David watched Terry go and looked over at Terry's friends. "Did I say something wrong?"
Jase frowned. "No, I think that was something else." He kissed Mira on the head as he got up and tapped Mike on the shoulder. "Cuddle with the faerie queen for a little while, stud. I'll go see what's up."
"You sure? I could check on him, Jase." Mira's concern and caring gaze made Jase smile.
"Yeah, I'll bring back some more salsa and chips too." Smirking, he gave their guests an accusatory look. "Some people seem to think there's an unlimited supply in the pantry."
Chris laughed. "The price of playing host." He lifted his nose and waved. "Fetch us our food, boy."
"Hey," Mike warned as he slid in behind Mira, "That's my husband you're calling 'boy'."
Jase laughed as he stepped out of the room. "Trust him, Chris, he knows I'm all 'man'." He could feel Mike blushing from the other side of the wall.
Terry was standing with his forehead pressed against the cabinets. Jase came in softly and put his hand at the back of Terry's neck. "You ok?"
Terry nodded, but his trembling said otherwise.
"Talk to me, Terry. You're scared shitless."
Terry looked at Jase and tried to find the will to tell him. "I think I'm going insane."
Jase blinked. "Why?"
Terry whimpered as he sank to the floor. Jase knelt and held him protectively. "I keep hearing him..."
"Who?" Jase suspected, but he needed Terry to say it.
"George." He looked back at Jase. "Whenever I least expect it, I hear him make a comment or tell me something."
Stroking Terry's hair, Jase leaned in to press his forehead against Terry's. "Do you trust me?"
"Yes," Terry sniffled.
Jase stroked Terry's hair and let the magic weave between them. After several minutes of holding Terry gently, Jase smiled and sent his thoughts. Hi George.
David was laughing as Jase came back with the chips and dip. "So, Mike, how did you 'come out'?" Jase nearly dropped the bowls as he choked. Chris made it to the dip before it could spill. David frowned. "Uh, bad question?"
Setting the bowl down, Jase moved to sit beside the loveseat. He closed his eyes and tried to push away the emotions as Mike stroked his cheek.
"No, just an emotional one." Mike smiled at David sincerely. "For these two anyways, I wasn't really involved."
David and Chris blinked.
Mira hugged Mike's other arm tighter to her. "Last year Mike was attacked and was hospitalized in a coma for about three weeks."
"Oh shit." Chris slid down beside David and took his hand. The idea of someone he loved being attacked made his stomach churn.
Mike laughed, though there wasn't much mirth in it. "My Dad stormed into my apartment afterwards and found these two staying there. One thing led to another, and he found out." Kissing Mira's hair, Mike smiled. "In a way I was lucky. I didn't have to face 'coming out' because my parents were so happy when I woke up that they would forgive just about anything." He stroked Jase's cheek lovingly. "These two did what they usually do; they took the burden on themselves."
Chris looked at them with a smile. "Do you mind if I ask you something personal?"
The three of them connected for a moment and shrugged in unison. Jase spoke. "Not really; what do you want to know?"
"Are you three," Chris struggled to find a word that fit, "together?"
Mike started chuckling, Mira rolled her eyes and Jase just smirked. "Yeah; we even make gay men do double takes."
David frowned. "Not to change the subject, but how's Terry?"
"Doing ok," Terry said as he came into the room. He sat down on the other side of David from Chris and gave his father a hug. "Thanks, Dad."
David's eyes moistened and he kissed Terry's hair. "You don't know how much that means, Terry."
Terry blinked. "What means?"
"To have you call me 'Dad'."
Terry smiled and leaned back in. "Yeah, I do." He felt the tingling again and he tried not to tremble. Don't leave out Chris, Terry. That's cruel. George had always been the people person. Terry looked up and extended his hand. "Hey, 'dad-in-law', this is a group hug moment."
Chris choked. He'd known there would be a time of isolation if David ever reconnected with his boys. It had still hurt when he felt left out. He smiled at Terry and leaned in for the hug. "You turned out pretty good, Terry."
Terry smiled. "Dad's genetics won out, even if I didn't get the good looks." His smile wavered, but he felt the warmth of George's support, and he lifted his chin. "You'd have loved George."
David stiffened. He had cried out his grief when he'd learned of George's death the week before, but the regret of all the missed years held tightly to his heart. "Some day you'll have to help us to know him, Terry." He pressed his cheek to his son's head and sighed. "Someday."
David and Chris had stayed the week. Their visit had made a world of difference to Terry. Jase smiled at his friend as they looked over the design concepts for the new lower level. "Have you come up with a name yet?"
Terry shrugged. "I was thinking of something similar to the original name. Maybe update it a bit. 'Cognitions'?"
Jase let the name roll around in his head. Sipping his latte, he smiled. "That sounds like a great name; a name updated for the 21st century."
Laughing, Terry grinned conspiratorially. "Actually, it was George's idea. I'm terrible at names."
Jase smirked. "So we still have the dynamic duo, huh?"
Terry blinked back the tears. "Yeah, I guess in a way we do."
Jase's phone broke the moment, and he lifted it to his ear. "Jason Steward-Castanio."
"Jase, it's Mike."
Smiling, Jase purred. "Hey babe, what's up?"
"I have to work late. Can you get our seats for tonight? Mira can go directly from the university."
Frowning, Jase looked at the wall clock. "I thought you made sure you'd be clear."
"I did, but I just got a walk in who needs me. I'll go straight there when I'm done, promise."
"Ok, do I need to call Mira?"
"No, my screw up; I'll take the heat. See you tonight."
"Love you, too."
Terry cocked his head. "How are the phones working?"
Sighing, Jase set his phone back on the table. "Fine; I just wish mine would ring with something other than bad news."
Terry smirked. "You're married to a doctor, Jase."
"I know, I know. Some times I think I need to get sick or hurt to get some of his undivided attention."
Shaking his head, Terry picked up his coffee. "Appreciate what you have, Jase."
He smiled sadly at Terry. "I know, T. I do; believe me. I wouldn't give it up for the world."
Patrick looked up from his spot near the stage. He'd arrived early to get a good seat for the Emerald Isle performance. He knew he wouldn't be able to stay for the whole thing. There were tasks to be done before his master would give him what he needed. He could feel the longing already. Patrick wasn't stupid; he knew that something about his master's kiss was addictive. It might have been magickal or it might have been chemical, but the fact was Patrick had to have his fix every day or the withdrawals would start. The problem was he'd never been able to last the withdrawals. He'd tried; he'd tried so many times. The addiction was too strong.
There were some advantages to the change. Though the sun hurt his eyes and his skin was more prone to burning, he also never had to worry about being a victim again. It was true that he was a slave, but of the possible masters he could have had, Arthur was by far one of the least horrific. Patrick would have liked to have said he enjoyed his servitude; he wanted to believe that the pleasure Arthur could provide him was real; it wasn't, he knew it, and in a way it made him feel more the victim than he'd been before.
One of the benefits of his new "life" was that he was no longer ignorant of the beings that preyed upon the weak. He was one of them now; but he resisted the need. He wasn't adverse to a little bite or two during a sex romp, but the daily need for blood was a pain. He also hated the fact that those he fed upon became as addicted to his attentions as he was to Arthur's. However, those weren't his thoughts as he became aware of the arrival of someone he hadn't seen in over a year. The blond man; one he had even been intimate with a few times, settled down at the bar and ordered a drink. He looked good; he looked happy. He looked like he had escaped the streets that Patrick had yet to escape.
Jase sat in O'Neal's eyeing the clock. He knew Mike would be running late, but Mira was seldom late. He sighed, and sipped his coke absently. It was still early for a decent crowd. It took him a few moments to notice the man studying him from a further down the bar. Cute, nice eyes, good hair... Jase paused and smiled at himself, Bad Jase, bad Jase.
He was in the midst of reprimanding himself when a warm voice shook him from his internal dialogue. "Is this seat taken?"
Jase blinked. The man had moved from his spot and was next to him. "Not as yet." Smiling, Jase caught himself taking inventory again. He really wasn't interested, but old habits died hard.
The man sat down and extended his hand. "I'm Gabriel." His smile lit his face to something of an almost angelic beauty.
Appropriate name, Jase thought as he took his hand. "Jase."
Gabriel nodded, "A pleasure." He took another sip of his drink and raised an eyebrow. "Alone?"
Jase lifted his hand, displaying his ring, and smiled. "Nope, I'm just waiting for my better half."
"That's cool," he took another sip, "married long?"
"Little over eight months." His smile warmed as he thought of Mike.
Gabriel laughed. "Ah, still in the honeymoon period."
Jase grinned. "Oh yeah, had a few bumps, but that's nothing unusual." He looked back at the guy. "You?"
"Nah, too devoted to my work to have time for anyone." A little frown blemished Gabriel's face briefly before he sipped again and smiled. "Occupational hazards of being in demand."
Jase laughed. "Yeah, I bet." He looked at Gabriel again. Damn he's cute. Jase could feel himself warming to the man. His mind wandered over the texture of his hair and what his skin would taste like. Jase flinched back as he realized he'd been leaning in. "Uh, I think I need to get some air." Am I sweating? "Is it hot in here to you?"
Gabriel studied his face. "No, but you are looking a bit flush. You ok?"
Frowning, Jase stood up unsteadily. "I'm not sure." What the fuck's wrong with me? He felt Gabriel's hand grab his arm as he wobbled.
His voice was low in Jase's ear. "Do you want the bathroom or air?"
Jase tried to focus on that idea. He didn't feel nauseous. "Air," he mumbled.
Patrick watched the scene from his spot near the stage. Something was wrong; and "Gabriel" had caused it. A normal person would not have seen the man's actions, but Patrick wasn't a normal person. He'd watched as the guy had dipped his finger, unnoticed by Jase, into his glass and back out. It wasn't but a few minutes later that Jase was reacting as if he were drugged. Patrick knew the signs; he'd done enough of them himself to be quite familiar with how people reacted. He rose, a dark anger growing within him. Jase had been his saviour; he had been the one light in the darkness of his life on the street. Someone was going to hurt him, or use him, and Patrick was going to be sure that didn't happen.
It took Jase a few moments to focus on the cool feel of the November air. His hands and cheek were against the frosty brick of the alley wall. All of his sensations were swirling together. He felt warmth behind him, pressing against him, as a low voice spoke to him. "I'm sorry; may God have mercy on your soul." Jase's eyes went wide and his body stiffened as he felt a blade slide into his back.
Mira frowned as Mike came up the steps. The wrecker towing his jeep had disappeared around the curb by the time he made it inside. "What happened?"
Mike shrugged, frustrated. "I have no clue. The jeep was purring this morning and this afternoon it was as sick as a mixed-drink drunk."
"Why didn't you have Jase pick you up?"
Mike blinked. "I called him; he said to just come home, and he'd pick up dinner."
"That doesn't make any sense," Mira's brows furrowed, "he left me a message on my cell saying you were working late and he'd pick me up."
"I never said I was working late; my last appointment was 4pm."
"That's nuts Mike; I know I got the message correctly." Mira grabbed her coat. "Where were we supposed to be going tonight?"
Mike pulled his coat off the hook. "O'Neal's. Emerald Isle is playing there tonight."
Mira smiled. "Really? That was the surprise?"
Grinning Mike gave her a quick kiss. "Yeah; Jase said they were your favorite local band."
Pulling on her coat, Mira opened the door. "Let's head down to O'Neal's. Maybe we got our messages confused."
They were pulling onto the skyway as Mike hung up his phone. "Voicemail; he must have left his phone in the car again."
Mira smirked. "None of us are used to having high-tech gadgets. Terry has really been pumping out the items for us while the shop is being remodeled."
"So how do we contact him if he isn't there?"
Rolling her eyes, Mira tapped Mike's temple. "Earth to Mike: you're a telepath. Just focus on Jase and make the connection."
Mike's cheeks flushed. "I've been able to do that even a shorter time than we've had cell phones Mira; I just don't think of myself as being stronger than you at that."
"We each got boosted by Jase's mom, Mike. If you were driving I'd just project there and talk to him." She tapped the steering wheel with her palm. "But you're not, so it's your show."
Mike closed his eyes and relaxed. He let his thoughts reach out. It took a couple minutes to find Jase, and even then contact was tenuous at best. Mike frowned. "Something doesn't feel right; his thoughts are all blurred or something."
Pain lanced through her before she could respond. Mira was aware that Mike had doubled over as she gripped the steering wheel in agony. It felt like something was being rammed through her from just above her right hip to her ribs. She was able to refocus in time to see the barrels that protect the off ramps from impacts.
Jase was sinking to his knees. He couldn't focus enough to make the magick flow. I don't want to die.
He felt a calm chill run through him as Mary's voice filled his head. I'm here, Jase. I won't let them have you.
He felt himself lurch; the pain from where the knife had been was a tearing agony as his body twisted; his hand rose. Gabriel was behind him; blood dripped from the hunting knife in his hand. Jase couldn't do anything; he could feel Mary's frustration as well. She could not make his arms respond any more easily than he could.
Suddenly, Gabriel flew away from him. A man was there, moving like a blur. Gabriel was hoisted into the air as if he were nothing but a rag doll. Jase was losing focus, but he heard the inhuman voice that spat at his attacker before the man's throat was ripped out. "Pray for your own soul; he is under my protection."
Jase's perceptions vanished as his body began to feel cold.
Patrick tossed aside the gurgling corpse like a handful of rags. He'd been so angry that he'd almost made the mistake of drinking the man's death blood. He hadn't. He killed him with his fangs and claws but didn't drink of his final essence. Pat shuddered at how tempting it had been. He was still an embrio; a vampyr in mid-change. For nine months he'd been able to resist the urge to taste death blood. He'd only fed on victims who were willing, and never so much as to endanger them. He didn't want to finish the change; he didn't want to become a creature of the night. It was getting more difficult; but Arthur helped. Having embrios as servants was useful for a master; embrios could go out during the day and could pass as human.
Patrick knelt down beside Jase's crumpled body. He stroked his friend's forehead. There was blood pooling on the ground and Jase was turning cold. He didn't know what to do. He heard Jase talking, softly; his voice had an unearthly quality to it. It was as if there were two people talking at once. "Take us above; if you are still a friend, take us from here."
The urgency and determination of the voice compelled Patrick to move. Jase had saved him; he'd protected him and made his life bearable. He would not leave him to die.
Mike listened to his heart beating as he opened his eyes. They were upside down, and there was broken glass everywhere. He could hear sirens in the distance. Mira was gasping for breath. "Oh Jesus, Mike. What was that?"
Mike tried to focus on what he'd felt. His eyes welled with tears. "Dear God, Mira, it was Jase." His power exploded from him, shattering the seatbelt and blowing the passenger door off the mustang. "We've got to get to him."
Mira struggled with her seatbelt. "How? We're upside down on an exit ramp; the car is totaled; and police will be here in a few minutes."
Lifting her with his will, Mike released the seatbelt. "I don't know." They climbed out of the passenger side and brushed off the glass as the first cop car came into view. "How are we going to explain this?"
Mira shrugged. "Doesn't matter, they'll believe anything we tell them."
Grinning, Mike nodded. "Yeah, I forgot about that."
It took them an hour to finish the accident reports, get a wrecker on the scene and be cleared by the paramedics. Mike was amazed at how Mira could keep so many spells weaving simultaneously as she had to add new police and emergency response teams to the mix. If it hadn't been for her magick, they would have been there for hours.
As they approached O'Neal's, the traffic came to a stand still. The taxi driver cursed. "Damn, there's something going on up ahead. Emergency vehicles."
Mira pushed open the door. "Pay him, Mike. We can walk!" She was already running by the time Mike got out his wallet. They arrived at the crime scene tape that extended from the alley beside O'Neal's.
The policeman waved them away. "Please stand back. Investigation in progress."
"Can't say, miss; please keep back from the tape." He frowned at them sternly.
A man near them with a camera snuffed. "Pricks." Nodding over to the ambulance, he frowned. "They just took some blonde guy out. Maybe alive, maybe not; the alley is a blood bath.
Mira's face went pale. "I still can't feel him, Mike."
Mike nodded. "I know." He looked around and nodded to the end of the block. "Over there."
Mira followed him into the far alley. She would know if Jase was dead, but she couldn't feel him at all. Looking around, she lifted her hands. "Faeries and spirits, air and light, seek our my heart and find my love tonight." A spark of faerie light winked into existence above her hands, hovered a moment and then shot upward and over the roof.
"Up there?" Mike frowned and looked at the fire escape.
"That's where it went, Mike."
Nodding, he wrapped his arm about her. "Hold on." He focused as she wrapped her arms about his neck. They floated to the roof in a few brief seconds, landing lightly over the knee wall. The will-o-wisp danced at the far end of the rooftops near the alley where the body had been taken from.
Their dash across the roofs, consisting of climbing and leaping the knee walls, took only a few breaths. Below the dancing light, Jase lay on his back. He was completely still, eyes closed and his fingers were pressed against his side. His clothing was dark with blood, but no blood had spread to the rooftop.
Mira wavered as she felt a pressure against her forehead. She had felt something similar the last time Mary had warned her of danger. Carefully, she opened her awareness. The spiritual energies in the area flowed like a soft silver mist as Mira took in what her mage sight could perceive. Sitting beside Jase, her hands over his, was Mary Steward. "What are you doing?"
Keeping him alive. Mine was never the magick of life, Miranda. The best I could do was move him to stasis till help arrived. She smiled fondly at Mira. The madness that Mira remembered was not there; there was only complete devotion in her unliving eyes. Now that you are here, Michael will need to help him quickly. He is at the door, and I will not be able to keep him back much longer.
Mike frowned as Mira talked to the air. "Who are you talking to?"
Mary's eyes flicked to Mike in concern. He will not believe I am here to help. I hurt him too badly to ever garner his trust, Miranda. Tell him anything but that I am here.
"A guardian spirit. Jase must have summoned it before he passed out." It wasn't, technically, a lie. Mira didn't like it, but Mary was right. Mira could feel Jase dwindling as she looked at him. It felt like her own life was ebbing away with his. Her eyes flooded and her voice cracked. "He's almost dead, Mike. You've got to do something."
Mike knelt beside Jase. Mary's unseen hands pulled away as Mike brought his over Jase's. He could feel the wound without seeing it. Jase had been cut from just above his right hip nearly to his backbone under the ribs. His intestines and a kidney had been ruptured. Even if he'd been tended to immediately by a doctor, he would never have survived. Fighting back the tears, Mike sent his power in. The warmth of his chi filled Jase's body and the wounds closed. The toxins dissolved, not only from the wounds, but from chemicals that Mike could sense as well. Energy became blood; which flowed through Jase's veins.
Jase gasped, his eyes flying open as he convulsed from the roof. Mike got his hand behind Jase's head before it could hit down again. "Jase, be still; we're here."
He was cold. Jase couldn't stop the trembling as his body began to respond to how long he'd been in the night air. He wrapped his arms around Mike and clung to him as the memory of what happened came back. "Oh, Gods..." His eyes clenched shut against the tears.
After a few minutes, Jase's shaking ceased and he released his hold on Mike. He met Mike's tear filled eyes with a smile. "I suppose we're even. This time you brought me back."
Mike choked and hugged Jase tighter. He had refused to feel anything from the moment of the auto accident. The idea that they'd lost Jase had been too horrible to consider. But they had nearly lost Jase; someone had tried to murder him. After a minute of reassuring himself that Jase would be all right, Mike stood.
Jase gave Mira a sheepish grin as he got unsteadily to his feet. "Am I going to get a hug or are you pissed I almost left you alone with the Italian Stallion?"
Mira clung to him as he folded his arms around her. "Jerk." She cried into his shoulder as he kissed her hair.
Mike moved in behind Jase and wrapped his arms around both of them. They simply stood on the roof in the cold, holding each other. It was well past when the police had packed up and left the scene before they made their way carefully back to the street.
Mira bit her lower lip as they got to the corner. "My car's trashed, Jase."
Nodding, Mike put his hand on Mira's shoulder and squeezed. "When you got stabbed, we were caught off guard."
Jase cringed. "Where were you?"
"The skyway, near Exit 12."
Shrugging, Jase turned. "Only a car. You guys are all that matter." He inclined his head down the street. "I'm parked a couple blocks down."
They walked in silence to the Mercedes. Mira blinked as she saw Mary sitting on the bumper. The ghost looked concerned and eyed the car with loathing. She rose, flowing through the metal as if it were air, and her hand made a motion near the ignition. The car exploded in an eruption of flame. Glass and metal blew in all directions by the force of the bomb.
They had been blown to the ground by the blast. Mira trembled from more than the shock of the explosion. Mary had saved them. As they pulled themselves together and got off the sidewalk, Jase shuddered. "That must have been for if I survived."
Mike clenched his jaw in frustration. "Who the fuck is doing this?"
Jase shuddered. "I don't know; but I know who saved me."
Mira blinked. "You mean you didn't get away on your own?"
"No." Jase closed his eyes and worked with the memories that Mary had left in him from the time he passed out till the time Mike and Mira had arrived. "An old friend did, and I think he may need our help."