This is a sexually explicit story (at times) involving homosexuality. By continuing to read, you affirm under penalties of perjury that you are not a minor or in the company of a minor and are entitled to have access to this story.
The following is a fictitious story with no real basis or credibility. It is solely for the enjoyment of the reader. It's all just fun. It does not imply anything about the sexual preferences or lifestyle of Justin Timberlake or any other celebrity mentioned in the story.
Lance quietly left, Justin watching Michael remove the bandages wrapped around his head.
He pulled them off, Justin remaining quiet.
Michael removed them all, then the gauze pads over his eyes.
Justin looked in surprise seeing his eyelids no longer so black.
They now looked only bruised.
"Can you get me a change of clothes, love? I want to be presentable. Something black."
Justin nodded, not sure what was going on.
He got up, walking over to their closet.
He pulled out a black silk shirt and a pair of black dockers.
He turned to go back to the bed, stopping in shock.
The clothes fell out of his hands.
Michael was standing up, his body fully erect.
He wore only boxers, Justin seeing his chest and legs unscarred.
Justin was beside him in a flash, Michael smiling.
"My legs have become seaworthy. I can walk again."
Justin teared up, wrapping his arms around his husband.
"Oh, Michael! I'm so happy!"
"I'm still blind, Justin. But I can walk and I can talk. Where are my clothes, Jus?"
Justin reluctantly released him, walking over and picking up the clothes, then returning to Michael to help him get dressed.
Lance walked back into the room, just after Michael was fully dressed.
He stopped in his tracks, staring at a standing Michael.
"Oh my God!" he stuttered, Michael smiling at him.
"You have the glasses, my friend?"
Lance looked at Justin, seeing his face covered in tears.
He walked up to Michael, putting the pair of sunglasses into his hand.
Michael smiled, putting them on.
Lance stared at his bruised eyes, watching them disappear behind the dark shades.
"Let's go to breakfast, I'm famished." Michael smiled, taking Justin's arm in his.
"Lead the way, Timby. I have a story to tell all of you."
Everyone sat quietly eating their breakfast, the mood around the table somber and quiet.
Their thoughts were on Michael.
Zach sat picking at his food, Christina quietly watching him.
"He'll be okay, Zach." she softly said, Zach looking up at her.
"It's times like this I feel so helpless. Not being able to help him. I'm a doctor and I can't fix what's wrong with him." Zach said, Vicky putting her arm around him.
"Michael loves you for trying, Zach." she said, smiling at him.
Zach smiled back, feeling everyone's smiling gazes.
"Papa be okays." Shauna said, chewing on a piece of toast in Josh's lap.
"Wight! He be fine." Darian said smiling, a hashbrown disappearing into his mouth, he sitting in Alberto's lap.
Everyone smiled at the little ones, seeing their innocent smiles.
"Yes, I will."
Everyone's eyes flew to the doorway, Michael standing there quietly, Justin's arm in his.
Lance stood beside them, his arm also around Michael.
"Oh my God!" Zach said, standing up.
Everyone was on their feet, Justin and Lance slowly leading Michael to the table.
They all surrounded him, their hands going to his head and shoulders.
Lynn was in tears, her arms going around him gently.
"You're alright, Michael! Thank God!" she said, kissing his cheek.
Michael smiled, sensing all those now surrounding him, and their love.
He felt two small sets of arms hugging his legs,
He smiled, leaning down, Darian going into his arms.
Shauna climbed into Justin's lowered arms, the two little ones smiling widely.
"Welcome back, Papa. We missed you." Shauna said, Michael feeling her kiss upon his cheek.
Darian kissed him as well, snuggling into the crook of his arm.
"It's good to be back, my angels. Thank you, all of you, for loving me and worrying. I'm fine. And I'm back."
Paulo kissed Michael's cheek, as did his three loved ones.
Michael felt his grandfather's arms going around him, Alberto kissing his cheek, his golden eyes full of tears.
"Welcome back, my grandson. It's so good seeing you walking and healed."
Michael smiled, Justin taking his hand.
"My legs are healed, as is my body, Grandfather. But my eyes still lay in darkness."
Alberto's face changed, a small look of sorrow upon it.
"Don't worry, Poppa. It is as it is. And I know why. Please everyone, return to your dining. I'm hungry also. Let's feast upon my grandfather's fare."
Alberto smiled, guiding Michael gently to the seat beside him.
Everyone quietly stared at Michael, seeing the dark glasses he wore, knowing his blindness was still there.
"It's alright, everyone. I will see what must be seen. I saw that last night."
"What happened, Mico? What happened when I touched you?" Josh said, Lance now sitting beside him, Noah in his lap.
The little boy looked around, his eyes taking in all his family.
"The water of the blue eyed Lion only flows for singular reasons. It flowed yesterday for only Noah."
Noah smiled, Darian smiling at him from across the table in Justin's lap.
"What is it, Michael? Is it like the fountain at Lourdes? A miraculous cure?" Randall said, looking at the little smiling boy.
"Raphael and Adrian called it the Water of God's Love. It is the liquid of God's tears. It is goodness at its best. It healed Noah's vision. For in him God finds total goodness."
Noah smiled at his uncle, Lance and Josh in tears.
"Raphael? You mean Adrian's youngest son?" Paulo said, staring in awed fascination at his cousin.
Michael sighed, Alberto's hand laying upon his.
"The Water of God's Love is goodness in essence. It flows from God's own soul. He chooses who shall reap from its soothing love. Noah, our special angel, benefitted yesterday from God's love."
"Why did it hurt you, Michael? We all saw your eyes turn red, as if you were bathed in evil." Joey said, looking at his friend with deep concern.
"The water benefits goodness, not evil. My damaged eyes were the result of evil. The bomb was planted with evil intentions, my injures the direct result of evil. That's why my eyes turned red. They are infected with evil."
Alberto squeezed his hand, Justin's arm now around his shoulder again.
"Do not worry, it is only my eyes that are blanketed in evil. My soul, my heart and my love remain intact and forever giving."
Everyone relaxed, hearing Michael's soothing voice.
"I felt the water you dumped on me Chris, it shocked the evil, stopping it in its tracks. That was the chance that was needed. I was ripped away in an instant."
"We heard your words of anguish, Michael. We heard you screaming that you were flying down the path. What did you mean by that?" Emile said, staring quietly at him.
"In the briefest of moments, the force of God entered me, sending me from all of you. I was thrown down the path of life. In essence, I was thrown through time. Backwards, literally. That's what frightened me, I was falling backwards in time, into the past. The past of the Tavarro dynasty."
All the Tavarro men around the large table moved closer, listening intently.
"I landed in a surprising moment of the past. And I believe for a very important reason."
"Where did you land, Michael?" Lance said, Josh's hand in his, Noah in Josh's lap smiling at Michael.
"I went to the Room of Life. To that hidden room on the day that Adrian finished it."
"What or where is that room, Michael? You mentioned it before." Antonio said, looking at his grandfather.
"The Room of Life lays somewhere around here, Tio. It lays in the heart of Adrian's home. For I saw Adrian standing in it, joined by his wife and their son, Raphael. And in the center of that room lies a marble altar, words of deep love written upon it. I now know what that room is. What it must be."
"What is it, Michael?" Justin softly said, looking at his Mico.
"That, one day, shall be known. Right now, it's not important. Even Adrian didn't know what he was building. He was only asked to build it."
"By God?" Doris said, watching him quietly.
"Yes, Doris. Adrian was a faithful servant of God."
Everyone looked around at each other, remaining quiet.
"The day Adrian finished that room was a day of deep sorrow for the Tavarro clan. It was the day of Artanga's funeral. A week after he'd passed into the light. Adrian was lost in his sorrow for his greatest friend. He found solace in working nonstop on the marble altar."
Alberto let go of Michael's hand, looking at his grandsons Antonio and Nicholas.
"Yes, the first leader of the Aurelian Order. Artanga Rostin. He must have been a great man?"
"He was, Grandfather. He and Adrian were both men of honor, faith and love. Artanga began the Stavros Dynasty, forever entwined with the Tavarros. Both men began my lineage. Began my destiny. But they were not the key ingredient to my fate. To my destiny. Someone else was."
"Who, Michael?" Vicky said, Chris quietly looking at her.
"A child of love, a child of heart. Raphael Artanga Tavarro, Adrian's youngest son."
Everyone looked surprised, Michael folding his hands in front of him.
Justin had just finished feeding him the last of his breakfast.
"His loving brothers and sister called him The Rat, after his initials. And also because he could burrow into the most uncanny places. His curiosity was contagious."
Michael's hand went to the chain now hanging around his neck.
Everyone noticed it, knowing it hadn't been there before.
Michael rubbed the blue stone hanging there, a smile of calmness coming across his face.
"Breakfast is finished, Grandfather. How about we all adjourn to the south veranda? I'd like to bask in the warmth of the Spanish sun. And I'd like to tell all of you the story of Raphael."
"Alright, Michael." Alberto smiled, everyone getting up.
Justin and Alberto both took one of Michael's arms, the two men guiding him out of the dining room
The whole group lounged around the terrace, relaxing in the overstuffed chairs.
Michael sat with Justin on a settee, Alberto in his rocking chair beside them.
The warmth of the early morning sunlight sank into Michael's tired bones.
"Such warmth. One doesn't realize it until one can't see it. The senses heighten in all ways." Michael quietly said.
Lonnie gently handed him a cup of coffee, Michael taking a small sip, setting it down on the table in front of him.
Lonnie smiled setting the pot down on the table, sitting down beside Rachel.
"Thanks, Lon. Alright where was I?"
"You were going to tell us the tale of Raphael, Adrian's son." Marco said, Emile cuddling with him.
"Ah, yes. The Rat."
Justin quietly smiled, sensing a calm happiness in Michael.
"I sensed something right away listening to Adrian in the Room of Life. Something bothered me. He called his wife Sophia. In the tale I'd heard earlier by Adrian himself, she'd been called Sonia. That puzzled me for a moment. I later found the answer."
"What was the answer, Michael?" Vicky said, she and Chris sitting in a lounge chair.
"Her full name was Sophia Sonista Cardova. Adrian called her Sonia when they were just beginning their love. It graduated to Sophia when they were united as a family of love."
Alberto lifted his head looking at his grandson.
"Cardova? That was my Marisa's family name."
Michael smiled, patting his grandfather's hand, which was holding his.
"Yes, Poppa. The blending of the dynasties. And that family name one day will lighten your heart again."
Alberto's brow furrowed, not understanding Michael.
"You talk in riddles, my son."
Michael smiled, chuckling.
"I take after my ancestors."
Everyone smiled, Michael's head moving around.
"When Adrian and Sophia left the Room of Life, sealing it up after them, I sat down on the marble altar reading again the words carved there by Adrian's hand. The light in the room started dimming, the air slowly evaporating. I wondered why I remained there. A short time later, before the room totally succumbed to darkness I found out why."
Justin snuggled against the couch, sensing Michael was about to narrate a tale of magic.
Michael touched the stone around his neck, the blueness seeming to glow.
"A bright light illuminated my eyes, and I felt myself being pulled into time again. This time backwards for only the briefest of moments. For I'd only gone back two weeks. Back to a moment of destiny. To the moment of Raphael's destiny."
Michael looked up, his rich calm voice casting its spell.
The Trek of Raphael
Raphael opened his eyes, two green orbs of sunshine smiling down at him.
"Morning, Rat! The day is wasting!"
Raphael smiled widely, staring into the smiling face of Tasha.
His sister smiled widely, hugging him gently, laying on top of him actually.
The two youngsters had been inseparable all their young lives.
Twins usually are.
"Morning, Tasha. You're up early."
She smiled, sitting up.
"Today may be the day, Rat! Today Artanga hopefully returns. Father and Mama are so joyous! The house is filled with happiness! And Stavros is beside himself with happiness!"
Raphael grinned happily.
Stavros was Raphael's idol.
The older man, albeit only twenty nine, was a constant influence on Raphael's life.
He had take the younger boy under his wing, becoming even closer to him than his own brothers.
Raphael smiled, stretching and rising out of his bed.
Tasha smiled, seeing his near nakedness, he only wearing light underwear.
Her twin brother was growing into a strong young man.
The years of toiling on the farm had made his body solid and muscular, just like all their brothers and father.
Tasha was herself a radiant beauty, her mother's looks captured in the next generation.
Raphael pulled his pants on, grabbing his shirt.
"Come on, Tasha. Let's find Stavros. I want to bask in his happiness."
She smiled, following her brother out of the room.
They found Stavros in the kitchen, helping Sophia lay out the food.
The room was alive with the bustling morning excitement.
Their father sat in his chair, drinking a hot cup of tea.
Three of their brothers sat around the table with their father.
"Morning my beams of bright sunshine! The day is at hand!" Adrian said, smiling at his youngest.
Raphael beamed, hugging his father, then his mother.
His brothers all tussled his hair, Raphael smiling widely.
Argos, Carlos and Bethius, the oldest boys were in their own homes, having married and set up their own lives.
Mason, Thadius and Tomas were all in their early twenties, still living at home.
Raphael and Natasha had been a late surprise on the family, both little ones' hearts full of all their love.
At seventeen you couldn't call them children anymore, but to all those here they were the innocents.
Stavros sat down beside Raphael, grinning at the young man.
His eyes also fell upon Tasha, she smiling at him tenderly.
"Why is it that the brightest rays of sunshine rise the latest?" Stavros laughed, handing Raphael the plate of sausages.
Everyone could see the happiness on Stavros' face.
Today was a day of deep happiness for him.
The father he'd only seen on three occasions might finally be coming home.
Adrian smiled at him, his own heart filled with happiness.
"Your father will find his son now a man. You truly are a man of exceptional greatness. As is your father."
Stavros smiled, his Greek features standing out.
He'd acquired the beauty of his mother, and the handsome features of his father.
They all began eating breakfast, the room suddenly silencing.
They had all heard the galloping footsteps of a horse.
Adrian smiled, looking at Stavros.
"Your father never was an early riser. It cannot be him." Adrian laughed, knowing in his heart it was his old friend galloping into their courtyard.
Stavros stood, Adrian standing as well.
"Go to him in love, son." Adrian smiled, Stavros rushing out of the room.
All the Tavarros followed, all their faces smiling.
In the main courtyard, a solitary sight of deep love welcomed all their eyes a few moments later.
Two men stood together, joined in an embrace of deep love.
Artanga, the returning vanquisher of evil, was being held by his now taller son.
Adrian looked on, his eyes full of deeply flowing tears.
Then Adrian realized that Artanga was being held up by Stavros.
He flew from the steps, at his friend's side in a moment.
"You're ill, my dear old friend?" he said, his arm going around his friend.
"I think I am almost at the end, Adrian, my dear friend of honor." he said softly.
Stavros' face was covered in tears.
"Let's get him inside, Stavros." Adrian said gently, the two men walking the soldier into the house.
Everyone followed, deep looks of concern on their faces.
Artanga slowly sat down on a sofa, Stavros by his side.
"You need rest, father. It must have been a hard journey for you. We weren't expecting you until later this week."
Artanga smiled, his old leather-worn fingers rubbing his son's cheek.
"I had to see my son. I needed to see his mother's eyes."
Stavros stared at the man beside him, lost in the greatness he saw in those old tired eyes.
For some reason, Stavros felt he had to let his father know his feelings.
"I love you, Father. It is good to see you home."
Artanga smiled, looking towards his old friend.
"I have no home, Stavros. I have wandered through life fighting for goodness."
"Now you can rest, soldier of greatness." Adrian smiled.
"He is dead, Adrian. I slew him for his crimes. The beast is dead."
Adrian lowered his head, nodding quietly.
All those in the room knew of who Artanga spoke.
"Gaius Dracarius died a sniveling coward. I took great joy in extinguishing that flame of evil." Artanga said, standing up, looking at all the Tavarros and his son.
He pulled something out of his tunic's pocket, throwing it on the floor in front of Adrian.
It landed at his feet.
A gold ring, emblazoned with a red ruby stone.
The ring of Gaius' father.
"Burn it in the fires of hell, Adrian! My Aurelia's soul and my own can now rest!" Artanga said, staggering, then falling forward.
Adrian grabbed him, taking his old friend into his arms.
"Open the bedroom door, Stavros." Adrian said, picking up his friend, carrying him out of the room.
Everyone followed, except Thadius.
Thadius bent down, picking up the ring that had lain discarded on the floor.
He stared at it in his hands, seeing a faint glow in the redness.
He smiled, slipping it into his pocket.
Artanga Rostin, the soldier of goodness, died two days later.
Stavros, his son, held him in his arms as he passed into the light.
The two had talked long and with much love over those two days, their love cemented at the end.
Adrian and his old friend had parted with much joined love.
But it tore at Adrian's soul to lose such a loving friend.
He'd promised him at the end to bury him beside his wife.
Adrian had re-interred Aurelia in the new stone church that bore her name in the village below.
It was a church of immense beauty and faith.
And Adrian would see it as their last resting place.
The ring of Gaius had mysteriously disappeared on the day of Artanga's arrival.
The day after Artanga's death it would show itself again.
For the family was at odds with one of their own.
Thadius had suddenly become a brooding monster.
He and his brothers argued at the slightest things.
And Raphael felt the brunt of his anger on the morning of Artanga's death.
At breakfast that morning, Raphael had accidently spilled the jam pot on Thadius' hand.
Thadius had risen up, picked up a wooden-handled broom and had begun hitting Raphael with it, his family looking on in horror.
Mason and Adrian had pulled him off the young man before he'd really hurt Raphael.
Thadius had stormed out of the house, a raging bundle of anger.
Sophia had calmed Raphael, the young man in tears at his brother's anger.
Adrian couldn't understand what was wrong with his loving son.
The next day he would see all too clearly his son's true self."
Michael paused, taking another drink of his coffee.
"The ring's evil was infecting Thadius, wasn't it?" Marco said, looking at Michael.
"Yes, Marco. It was possessing him. That ring has been a harbinger of doom for all who ever wore it. Our uncle now wears it."
Justin looked around at everyone, seeing them all on the edge of their seats.
He himself was lost in all that Michael had told them.
"Continue, my love." Justin said, Michael kissing his cheek.
His calm voice began again.
"Stavros was inconsolable.
His father had died upon his return to him.
The son had thought he'd have more time.
But life sometimes steals the time from us.
Adrian felt the deep loss in his own heart.
For almost thirty years, Artanga had wandered the world, fighting the good fight.
And here at the end of his life, he had run out of time.
Artanga had died from a wound he'd sustained in his final fight with Gaius Dracarius.
A knife wound from one of Gaius' poisoned knives.
Adrian had found them in Artanga's saddlebags.
He wondered how the man had survived to reach the Tavarro lands.
He sensed Artanga's need for his son had driven him forward.
His need to find that love again.
Adrian had stopped the poison, and cleansed the wound, as he had done with Aurelia.
But as with such evil, he was too late to save him.
So Artanga had slipped away to rejoin his love.
To be with his wife forever.
Adrian had cried genuine tears of love as his best friend passed on.
And Sophia had held both men, comforting their aching hearts.
The home took on a deep sadness of loss.
Natasha had been a rock for Stavros, her kind gentle touches soothing his hurting soul.
Sophia saw the love the two shared easily, remaining quiet.
Grief has a way of destroying barriers in one's heart.
Adrian summoned the village stone workers, the tomb for Artanga begun.
He would lie beside Aurelia under the statue of her loving self.
It was all he could give his friend as a final tribute.
The next day was a day of even greater pain.
It began as always with a breakfast of love.
Thadius didn't join them, the young man still stewing in his room.
Adrian and Sophia had both tried talking to him, the young man remaining distant and uncaring.
Their other loving child–Raphael–was lost himself in sadness.
He couldn't understand why his brother had suddenly turned on him.
After breakfast Raphael begged off work, Sophia and Adrian understanding.
The other five sons left with their parents, helping Adrian on the stone room he'd been working on for almost a year.
Sophia and her sons saw it as therapeutic for Adrian.
Idle hands would only make his mind dwell upon the sadness of their loss.
When they'd all left, Raphael took it upon himself to talk to his brother.
He had to find out why Thadius was angry with him.
A young heart of courage walked into a room of evil.
Raphael tapped on the door, hearing no reply.
Suddenly the door flung open, Thadius standing there, his torso shirtless.
"What do you want, rat?"
"I need to talk to you, Thad."
Thadius walked away from him, sitting down on his bed, not looking at him.
Raphael walked into the room.
He looked at his older brother, the twenty three year old now a man.
His body was a classic sculpture of male power.
Smooth, tight and flowing with muscular grace.
"What are you looking at?"
Raphael lowered his eyes.
"What's wrong, Thad? Why did you try to hurt me?"
Than's eyes glared at him.
Then a smile formed on his face.
"Come here, Rat."
Raphael felt a sense of meanness in that voice, but reluctantly went forward, wanting to please his brother.
He sat down beside him, Thadius' arm going around his waist, the young man leaning against him.
"Did mother send you in here?"
"No, Thad. She has gone with father and our brothers to the room."
Thadius smirked, staring at him.
"You're becoming quite the man aren't you, Rat? So masculine and strong. Such a beauty."
Raphael felt uncomfortable in the way Thadius was now staring at him.
Within a heartbeat, Thadius pulled Raphael to him, kissing him deeply.
Raphael was shocked, pulling away from his brother's advances.
"What are you doing, Thad??!! Stop that, please!" he said, moving away from him in fear.
Thadius glared at him, then charged at him.
His fist hit Raphael in the face, the young man staggering to his knees.
Thadius slammed the door closed, picking up his brother, throwing him on the bed.
"I am your brother, and I shall have you. Now take it like a man, and give in to your master."
Raphael stared in fear, seeing Thadius' golden eyes glowing red.
Thadius began ripping at his clothes, ripping them off Raphael's smaller body.
Raphael fought and cried, no match for the larger man's strength.
Thadius kept hitting him, then rolled his body over, pulling his pants down.
Raphael sobbed, knowing what his brother was planning on doing.
He fought, his brother forcing his legs apart.
Raphael felt something against his ass, terror filling his heart.
Then he felt immense pain, the young man screaming.
He only screamed for a moment, the pain suddenly stopping.
Above him, a fist had connected with Thadius' face.
The man fell backwards onto his own ass, staring up at Stavros.
The Greek had heard his brother's sobbing, rushing into the room, Tasha behind him, at the moment of Thadius' final act.
Tasha was on the bed, taking her brother into her arms, a nearly naked Raphael sobbing against her.
"You bastard! You fucking bastard! Trying to rape your own brother!" Stavros screamed, Thadius on his feet in a rush.
The two men glared at each other.
Stavros saw the redness of Thadius' eyes, seeing the evil living there.
And he also saw the ring on Thadius' finger.
The missing ring of Gaius' evil.
"It's taken you! The ring has taken you! Remove it and return to us Thad!!" the man gently said, slowly moving toward him.
'You fools! Don't you see the greatness of me?? How truly great I am??"
Raphael and Tasha saw the lost look in their brother's face, knowing he'd been taken from their goodness.
Raphael saw Thadius' hand move, a knife coming out from the bag behind him laying on the dresser.
The saddlebag containing the Dracarian knives.
Thadius lunged forward, right at Stavros.
Raphael flew upwards, leaving Tasha's loving embrace, standing between the two.
The knife embedded in his chest, Tasha screaming.
Stavros felt Raphael's weight against him, the boy sagging into his arms.
Thadius was on the move, rushing past both of them and out the open door.
Raphael fell to the floor, darkness overpowering him.
For two days, Adrian and Sophia sat beside their youngest son's bed, watching the boy slip into death.
Thadius had disappeared, his favorite horse gone with him.
They'd all learned of the ring's reappearance and how it had taken their loving Thad.
The whole family surrounded the silent bed of Raphael.
Stavros remained by his brother's side, lost in the grief that strangled his heart.
His father was gone, and his loving Raphael was slipping away.
"Does our family now wash away in evil and sorrow?" he softly cried, Tasha by his side.
"No, Stavros. God loves us all. I have faith in his love always." Adrian said, his eyes full of tears.
"Your son lies near death, murdered by his own brother! That brother runs with evil in his heart! The Dracarian evil is unleashed again, this time in a Tavarro son! God shuns our house and our lives are forfeit!" Stavros sobbed, all the Tavarros equally crying.
"No, Stavros. Our Raphael shall live. I feel it in my heart. I feel my brother's joined soul with me." Natasha said, everyone looking at her.
"The Water of God's Love shall heal him. From her eyes his life shall be reborn. The cross waits for him."
"What did you say, Tasha?" Stavros said, his arm now around her.
She looked at him, then around at everyone.
"I didn't say anything." she softly said, everyone looking confused.
A knock came to the door, Mason opening the bedroom's door.
Linden Patheos, the overseer, stood in the doorway.
"Your lordship! News from the church, sire! Her statue weeps!" he said in wonder, staring at Adrian and the young man laying in the bed.
Everyone looked stunned, staring at the man.
"What are you talking of, Linden?" Stavros said, now standing.
"It's the statue of her ladyship, sir. The one standing in her church. It is shedding wet tears. The priest is here."
Adrian stood, looking at his daughter.
"From her eyes his life shall be reborn." he softly said.
Adrian looked down at his son, the whiteness of his dying eyes looking back.
Adrian leaned down, taking his son into his arms.
"Come, my family. We walk to her loving tears. She shall heal our Raphael."
They were all in tears, Stavros helping Adrian carry the young man.
They entered the church, looking up at the starry sky above them, the church roof open.
The priest led their way, Adrian and Stavros walking with Raphael in their arms.
They walked up the aisle turning to the right, looking upon the statue of Aurelia.
In front of the statue, a hole was opened in the floor.
Stavros stared at the hole, knowing it was where his father would finally rest.
Everyone else's eyes were upon the statue.
Sophia walked forward, seeing the glistening tears running down the face of the statue.
"It does weep. She weeps for a lost soul of love."
Adrian and Stavros gently laid Raphael down on the ceramic floor, Adrian standing again.
He walked forward, stepping up on a stool provided by his son Bethius.
His fingers reached up and rubbed the wetness, Adrian feeling a jolt of energy flow through him.
He almost fell off the stool, Bethius and Carlos steadying him.
Their father stepped down, kneeling to his fallen son's side.
"Raphael, my loving child. I give you this gift in her and God's name. Take all of its love, my child."
Adrian laid his wet hands upon his son's chest, where the wound of evil lay.
The effect was instantaneous.
Raphael gasped, his whole body trembling, a blue light radiating off his skin.
Adrian was in tears, knowing what that was a sign of.
Raphael's golden eyes opened, looking up at his father's tearing face.
"Father? I am back? I had such dreams of darkness." he softly said, his head moving around.
The priest, who was looking on, sank to his knees and clasped his hands in the air, praying up to God.
Stavros sank to his knees taking the boy's hand in his.
"God is just. God is loving. I dedicate my life to his love."
"As do I, my love." Tasha said, Adrian looking in his daughter's loving eyes.
He saw who those loving eyes were looking upon, his wife taking his own hand.
"Love is love, my husband. They have known each other since childhood." Sophia said softly, Adrian nodding quietly, looking at his daughter and the young Greek.
His adopted son.
"Are you alright, Raphael?" Adrian said, again focusing on his son, his hand going to his cheek.
"I am so tired, Father. I have walked forever."
The priest arose, looking down at the young man.
"The sainted miracle of St. Aurelia! She is a daughter of God!" he said, looking up at the statue, gasping.
Everyone rose up, looking upwards.
The statue was dry, no water evident anywhere.
The miraculous elixir was gone.
"The water is gone. Why? It could have done such good." Argos, the eldest son said, his mother putting her hand on his shoulder.
"It has done good, my first child. The good it was meant to do. Our last child, our Raphael, walks on this earth again. God has done that for a reason."
"Come, Argos. Let us carry our Raphael home." Adrian said, his son helping him lift the youth with tender care.
Raphael weakly smiled, closing his eyes.
Michael stopped, his left hand resting upon the stone hanging around his neck, the golden cross gleaming beside it.
"And so Raphael was given a great gift by the Water of God's Love. As our Noah has been." Michael said, the little boy climbing up into his lap, having climbed off Lance's.
"Me felt good water, Unky. It felt great!"
Michael smiled, the little boy's hand going to the blue stone around his neck.
"Giffy for Waffyel?"
Everyone looked shocked, Michael smiling quietly.
"Yes, Noah Daniel. How did you know that?"
Noah smiled, a smile of breathtaking beauty.
"Me just knows. Me tinks me sees before. Darry wears same one, Shauny toos. Me sees lots wearings it."
"Yes, my child. It is the Stone of Faith. Every Tavarro child is given one on their sixteenth birthday. A sign of adulthood, a symbol of faith. I wear one myself. It marks us all as the chosen." Alberto said, looking at the child.
Antonio pulled his out, Paulo showing his as well.
"Michael, you said a long time ago that you gave Justin your father's stone because you could not wear it." Marco said, looking at his cousin.
"Yes, Marco. I cannot wear my father's stone. But this stone I must wear."
"Why, my love? What makes it different?"
Michael touched the stone, Noah's fingers on it as well.
"Because dis stone wuv." Noah smiled, his hand rubbing Michael's damp cheek.
"Yes, Noah. Little angel of visual light. This stone is love. This stone is Raphael's original love. I have to wear it until I can return it to him."
"Return it to him? Raphael is dead now, Mikey. That happened thousands of years ago." Chris said, Joey rolling his eyes.
Michael nodded quietly, sighing deeply.
"Therein lies the rub, Chris. What Raphael is has never died."
Everyone looked confused, Justin's arm going around his man again.
"What do you mean, Mico? We'll be quiet, please tell us."
Michael smiled, kissing Justin's turned cheek.
"Your wanting to know fills my heart with joy. Alright, everyone. I shall continue."
Everyone quieted down, Lonnie quietly refilling Michael's coffee cup, Michael thanking him and taking another sip.
He set the cup down, his head raising as if he was looking up to the upstairs windows.
"The day I opened my eyes in the Room of Life, Adrian laid this stone on the altar in its center."
"I thought it was Raphael's?" Chris said, Joey slapping his shoulder, glaring at him, Chris sticking his tongue out.
Michael smiled, hearing the sounds.
"Give him one for me, Joey. Chris my friend, Raphael gave the stone to Adrian on the day of Artanga's funeral. As a gift of love for his father having healed him. Adrian laid it in the Room of Life for another reason."
"What reason, my love?"
"He left it there for me. For he knew I was coming for it."
Everyone gasped, Michael looking around, hearing their surprise.
"Do not be shocked by that. You only have to walk off this terrace and walk to the pool to see Adrian's knowledge of my coming."
All their eyes turned towards the pool, only the arm and sword on the top of the statue visible.
"I have been destined to appear, since the days of Adrian. And there's a singular reason behind that. And Raphael is the key."
Michael smiled, reaching out for Justin's hand, Justin taking it.
"The next part of this tale is a tale of faithful light. I think you'll be amazed by the faith of Raphael, in regards to his father."
Everyone smiled, Michael continuing the story.
"I should begin this part of the story with a moment of joy. Stavros and Natasha were married a year after Stavros buried his father, on Tasha's and Raphael's eighteenth birthday.
They, and everyone around them, saw the deep love between the two young lovers. Adrian agreed wholeheartedly to this union, knowing his daughter's happiness lay in their adopted son's eyes.
The next year saw a rebirth of the family's joyous heart. Grandkids came for the two loving Tavarros, all their married sons and daughter having children.
The only tragic news of that year was the revealing of Thadius' death.
The young man had been thrown from a balcony in Madrid, falling to his death, caught in a compromising position with young boys, all under ten.
He'd become a murderous, depraved monster, his treachery and debauchery revealed to Adrian when his solicitors returned bearing the news for the country's capital.
Adrian and Raphael made the trip to Madrid, to bring their lost soul home.
They unearthed him in a barren piece of land, allotted out for beggars.
They took him home, burying him in the family plot, Adrian giving the last rites to his lost son.
"Sleep in peace, lost soul of our love. May you return to God's embrace. I and your family fault you not for walking the path of evil. That lays at the heart of our destiny. The Dracarian Order."
The ring was gone from Thadius' finger, its whereabouts unknown.
Adrian knew in his heart another demon would spawn, to lead the charge again.
As it would continue all through the ages.
The call of evil to fight goodness.
The day after Thadius' interment, Raphael walked into his father's study.
"Yes, my son?"
"I need to talk to you, father."
Adrian smiled, sitting down in a soft overstuffed settee, Raphael sitting beside him, his head going to his father's shoulder.
At eighteen, Raphael was a mirror image of a young Adrian.
Breathtakingly beautiful and kindhearted.
"I am troubled by dreams, Father."
"Dreams, my son?"
"Yes, I see a path of light, and I am walking it. At the end is something wonderful. In the light, I see a sign of greatness, a sign of God's love."
Adrian quietly listened to his son's moving words.
"It is something dear to your heart, Father. Something you've carried with you all your life. I think God is asking me to retrieve it. To bring it to you."
"For what reason, Raphael?"
"To ready for him, Father. For he that you've carved in stone and written in our hearts. The Messenger. He is real, Father. And I am going to do what is asked of me. I have to leave our family, Father."
Adrian stood up, looking towards the stone lions of the newly finished fireplace.
"God is taking you from me. A test of my faith in you returning to me."
Raphael stood up, taking his father in his arms.
"I love you, Father. For you I do this. For only you. And for the faith of our family. Trust in me and in him delivering me safely back to you."
Adrian teared up, his wife walking into the room.
"The time has come, I sense. The final dove is breaking through the clouds. Our little bird of love is about to fly."
Raphael walked up to his mother, taking her in his arms.
"I must, Momma. For his faith and for my own peace."
She nodded, kissing his cheek.
"Then we shall see you off in style, wandering angel."
Raphael smiled, walking out of the room, his parents wrapped in his arms.
The next morning, the whole Tavarro clan stood at the gates of the Villa Tavarro.
Adrian and Raphael stood in the center of all of them.
"I wish I could give you your Stone of Faith, my child."
Raphael smiled, nodding in silence to his tearing father.
"I have the faith of God and of my loving family in my heart. That is all the faith I need. I shall return Father. I shall prevail. The time runs short, I must do what has been asked of me."
Adrian nodded, feeling a sense of finality in Raphael's words.
"Live in happiness my son, carry our love in your heart."
The young man smiled, his mother and all his family hugging him goodbye.
Tasha was sobbing, refusing to let her twin go.
"Don't leave, Raphael! Stay with my heart!"
The young man kissed her lips, smiling at her.
"Your heart and soul is a part of me always, Tasha. But we both know they belong now to another."
Stavros smiled, seeing the man's love for his wife.
Stavros and Raphael looked at each other, Raphael with a tearful smile on his face.
"You fill my heart with love, brother. For you shall always be that to me. Have a wonderful life, soul of love. We'll all await your return."
Raphael smiled, picking up his bags, climbing into the carriage awaiting him.
He turned, looking at his family as he began his Trek of Faith.
Five hard, tough and deeply moving years later, Raphael walked down the path of his dreams.
I will not speak of what happened through those five years, only to say that Raphael was tested by his faith continually.
But it never faltered.
The purpose of this pilgrimage was in his heart.
He'd walked for months in this whole area, searching in vain for something lost through time.
But in his heart he knew that somehow God would lead him to his faith.
A young street beggar told him on a dark rainy night of seeing such a thing with flowers wrapped around it.
The shopkeeper kept the artifact there because the flowers always grew so heartily off of it.
The heart of Raphael quickened.
"Can you show me where? I must know!"
The beggar stared at the younger man.
"What could you possibly want with that? You should be marching across the lands in the army."
"I am not a soldier. But my father was. I fight a different foe now. I fight evil in the hearts of men."
The beggar looked quietly at him.
"I'll lead you there once this damn rain lets up."
As if by chance, the rain immediately stopped.
Raphael stood up, his tired body aching.
"No time like the present."
He smiled at the beggar, placing coins in his hand.
"For you, my friend. For guiding me on a path of life."
The beggar smiled, placing the coins back into Raphael's hand.
"Take this back, my friend. I see God's light in your golden eyes. I cannot take payment for his work."
Raphael smiled, the man guiding him through the rougher areas of the old city.
They walked in the darkness, the man finally stopping.
"There, my young friend. There it lies, at the end of the lane. I shall watch from here."
Raphael nodded, walking down the darkened street.
At the end, he saw a butcher shop, smelling the scent of old meat.
What drew his eyes was what stood in front of it on its left side.
A sheet of flowering plants.
Raphael walked up to the shopfront, staring at the floral display.
He stared at the stark beauty of the hidden treasure before him, a tear running down his cheek.
The moon snaked out of the clouds above him, moonlight filtering down onto the street.
The image before him took on a beauty of love.
The beggar stood at the end of the street, watching the young man kneel in the dirty streets.
The next morning, Raphael returned to the shop with his new friend, conferring with the owner, a large swarthy man named Hagus.
The man was reluctant to part with his ornamental display of flowers.
"Never have flowers bloomed in my shop's window like this. It is an attractive enticement to draw in customers. I should most hate to lose it." the man said, picking flowers off of it.
"I understand that. But does a meat shop need to be floral? You could sell more with a window full of meat products."
"I have tried that, to no avail. The flowers add beauty to the dankness of my trade."
Raphael nodded, sensing in the man a caring soul.
"May I be truthful with you?"
The man folded his burly arms, staring intently at the young man.
"To you, this is just timbers and floral beauty. To me, this represents my faith."
The man looked surprised, looking at the wooden structure again.
"You are a follower of the prophets?" the man said, looking around his shop.
Raphael smiled, bowing his head.
"I am a Christian, Hagus."
The man lowered his arms, checking out into the street.
"It takes great courage–or deep foolishness–to admit that in public, son."
"I have deep faith in my Lord keeping me safe, Hagus."
The man nodded, looking at the young man again.
"Alright, you may have it. But only if you replace it with another floral display equal or greater in beauty."
Raphael smiled, looking at his friend.
"Do you know of a carpenter close? I shall make it more beautiful than the gardens of Bethulas."
Within a week, Raphael had created a display of untold beauty.
Hagus was deeply moved at the beauty and natural look of the front of the shop.
A small garden, floral displays and a water fountain created a vision of serenity in the closed-in darkness of the neighborhood.
And Hagus saw the effect it was having on walking patrons.
He and Raphael parted with a deep respect for each other.
With Raphael went the treasure of his faith.
It took Raphael another two months to return to Spain.
That trip was one of enlightening happiness.
His new beggar friend returned with him, giving into the greatness he felt from this man of faith.
He divulged his name as Arturo Gathon, of Italian descent.
He had told Raphael that he wanted to make sure the young man returned in safety.
Raphael knew it was because the man had been taken in by the faith of God.
The two became good friends on that trip home.
Arturo, in his heart, was coming to love this young man.
The beggar cast off his apprehensions, becoming enthralled by Raphael's faith.
The two reached a mutual respect for each other.
So, two months later, Raphael rode a covered wagon through his old home town, driving it towards the Villa.
His new friend sat by his side, the man greatly improved in appearance and mood.
Within minutes, and after many gazing looks from staring individuals, Raphael reached the gates of the Villa Tavarro.
"Welcome to my home, Arturo."
The man looked around as they rode through the gateway, awed by the beauty of the flourishing landscape.
"An immense farm. Your father must be very good with his hands." his friend said, Raphael smiling.
They rode forward, the wagon pulling up into the courtyard.
A man walked out of the garden gateway, bowing to them both as they stepped down.
"Señor Tavarro! At last you has come home!" the man said, bowing to him, Raphael smiling at his old friend.
"Yes, I am home, Linden. Where is everyone?"
The overseer smiled, turning back to the garden.
"It is the day of the Feast, Raphael. The family is celebrating in the main garden."
Raphael smiled, realizing the date.
"Wonderful, my friend! Give me and Arturo a hand. I want to set something up."
Linden nodded, heading towards the wagon with Raphael.
Adrian stood at the head of his family's table, in the south garden.
He smiled at all who sat around him.
His ever increasing family.
Tasha, Stavros and their three sons.
His other sons and all their increasing families.
His wife Sophia smiled up at him, looking into his golden eyes of love.
"Today is a day of rejoicing. Of giving thanks to God and his faith in our devotion. We are so blessed with love and faith, with goodness and joy. Praise be to God for loving all of us."
"Praise be to God." everyone said, smiling at their patriarch.
"The family is all here, all of us together bound by our love for each other. Only one remains missing. Our dearest Raphael. Somewhere in this big world he walks alone. But in his heart, his family's love walks with him. I miss you my son. Be loved in your heart by all of us." Adrian said, tears falling down his weathered cheeks.
All eyes were now not upon him but upon a young man of deep beauty that had walked up toward them behind their father.
Tasha and Stavros were staring at him, their eyes full of falling tears.
"My heart has always been filled with all of your love, Father."
Adrian turned slowly around at hearing the voice, staring at his lost son.
"Yes, Father. I have come home."
Adrian sobbed, as did his wife, Raphael falling into their arms.
The young man was surrounded by his family, hugs and sobbing voices filling the afternoon sunshine.
Arturo Gathon stood a few feet away, wiping his tearing eyes at the touching scene.
Stavros and Tasha had Raphael in their arms, Tasha crying against her brother.
"My Raphael, my sweet brother! Home at last! Home at last!"
Raphael smiled, looking down at the small child in her arms.
"This is one of your nephews, our little Raphael." she smiled, Stavros beaming at his son.
Raphael teared up, taking the small child out of her arms, holding him gently.
"Hello, Raphael. I am your Uncle Raphael."
The little child smiled widely, his little hand going to Raphael's cheek.
"It's so good to be home." he smiled, all his family smiling back at him.
Raphael turned, smiling at Arturo.
"This is my friend, Arturo Gathon." he said, the man bowing to Adrian and Sophia.
"Your son is a man of greatness and giving heart. I am honored to meet his family." the man said, Adrian smiling at him.
"Welcome to the Villa Tavarro, kind sire. You are welcomed into our hearts as a friend of Raphael's."
Raphael smiled, looking into his father's golden eyes.
"On this day, the day of the Feast, I honor you my father. I have something for you."
Adrian smiled, taking his son's hands in his.
"You have given me the greatest gift, my son. You have returned to my heart."
Raphael smiled, kissing his father's cheeks.
"I have something better, Father. Come, come everyone. I want to show you."
Everyone smiled, following the obviously excited Raphael and Arturo down the garden path towards the main courtyard.
Raphael stopped at the entrance to the courtyard, looking into his father's eyes.
Raphael's own eyes were full of tears, his voice filled with emotion.
"For you, my Father. For you and for our family, I went on a trek of faith. To find the binding artifact of our faith in God. I give this to you and to our family, my Father. It shall be a sign to the world of our faith in him."
Adrian felt a greatness of faith and joy in Raphael's heart.
They all walked out into the courtyard, all of them stopping in silence.
Adrian stared at what stood in the center of the yard.
No flowers adorned the artifact now, Raphael having removed them.
A wooden cross stood there, alone in its nakedness.
Adrian walked forward, his family remaining still.
He walked up to it.
He looked up at it, seeing the darkness of the wood, seeing the marks of truth upon it.
"It cannot be!" he softly said, his hand gently laying against it.
He felt an instant recognition, an instant energy flow through him.
He fell to his knees, bowing his head in deep love.
"The cross of our Lord! The cross of truth!" he said, all his family kneeling behind him.
"Praise be to you, our Lord! Praise be to this symbol of our devotion!"
Michael moved his head around, feeling all the eyes of his family upon him.
He also felt the shock in all of them.
Father Nico rose up, staring at his cousin.
"It cannot be, Michael! That is impossible!"
Michael rose up, standing in front of all of them.
The final truth was about to begin.
"Yes, children of Tavarro. The wooden cross hanging on the wall of St. Aurelia's is the True Cross."
End of Chapter 172
How's that for a surprise?
Did you clue into it early?
Raphael has his father's faith, in God and in family.
What does Michael mean in all this?
What has Raphael, a man from another time, have to do with him?
What is the purpose of the stone he now wears?
Read on, so much more drama ahead, the end in sight.
I have my own Michael that bears listening to.
My editor reprimands me on my atrocious spelling, but his heart guides me through this.