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Age Of Aquarius - Book 1
Harmonic Dissonance - Chapter 6
Jase stood at the foot of the bed with tears running down his face. This was the first time in nearly three weeks he had been able to see Mike. The restraining order he'd received from Mike's parents had made sure of that. Mira was sitting beside Mike talking conversationally about what was going on. Jase marveled at Mira. When he had received the restraining order Jase had given up hope. They knew that a regular hospital wouldn't be able to help Mike. Mira had simply told Jase that the order said nothing about her and she'd make sure nothing would stop her from helping Mike. According to the nurses, she had been beside Mike a few hours every day just talking to him. No one could figure out how she got in and were even more mystified that she hadn't been kept out. The comments had simply been that she was "meant to be there."
Mike's coma hadn't changed. Mr. Wong was certain there was nothing magickally or medically wrong. Mike just didn't want to return. Mira kept trying to reach Mike every day and the strain was showing. She hardly slept more than a few hours each night and she had been back to Morg's twice to get books or instructions on dream working, mind magics and reclaiming spirits.
It had been evident the first day she had visited she would have to figure out how to be near the monitoring equipment without causing it to go nuts. Morg had contacted the specialists who had set up her computer, Magic-Tech Services, and the owners had flown out to work with Mira. They finally came up with a solution of a set of portable dampeners that she could put near or on the equipment. Even so, Jase wasn't taking any chances and stayed at the far end of the room.
Jase pulled up a chair at the end of the bed and sank into it. The strain of the past few weeks had worn him to a bundle of raw nerves. He rested his face in his hands and pondered over how his life had changed.
Jase's magic wove the bedroom wall back together as he struggled not to think about Mike. Mr. Wong had spent most of the morning trying to ascertain Mike's condition. With reluctance Mr. Wong had contacted the hospital and had transferred Mike to their care. They had discussed "the story" they would present to anyone asking what had happened. Jase still felt sick. He was pulled from his internal reflections by a disturbance in the living room.
"Who the hell are you?" The man's voice was deep and hauntingly familiar to Jase.
Mira put her hands on her hips and glared. "I should be asking that question! Who do you think you are just barging into someone's apartment?"
Jase stepped out of the bedroom and sighed. Could this possibly get any worse? "Calm down, Mira. That is Mike's father." Jase drew in his strength and extended his hand in greeting. "Hello, Mr. Castanio. I had hoped to meet with you before this."
Vincent Castanio's brows furrowed and he ignored Jase's hand. "What are you doing here?"
Jase dropped his hand and move a little distance away. "Mike had invited us to stay with him instead of going to a hotel."
"What the hell is wrong with your own house? It's not like the place doesn't have room."
Jase frowned. "I have no desire to stay there. That was my father's home. I gave it up when I left and I certainly don't want it now. The Manor will go on the market as soon as I have the time to list it."
"I don't know what you've done to my son, Jason Steward. Less than one week with you back and not only has he been arrested but he's in the fucking hospital! You are no longer welcome here, get out!"
Mira's temper flared. "Jase hasn't done anything to Mike! He'd never do anything to him, you arrogant..."
Jase tried to restrain her but she was over the top. Her voice was reaching into the upper levels of emotional distress. "How can you just come in here and start bossing people around like you own the place?"
"This is my son's apartment. I will decide what and who is best for my son!" Vincent Castanio rose to his full height and towered over Mira. "I don't know you from Adam! Mike has never mentioned you. Back down, girl!"
The argument escalated into verbal abuses that Jase preferred to forget. Mr. Castanio's face had turned four shades of crimson and Mira's voice had risen to the sound of nails across a blackboard by the time Jase could take no more. He collapsed on the couch and wept into his hands. The screaming came to a sudden end as a calm, quiet voice cut through the chaos like a sword.
"I believe the decision of who will stay and go is mine to make, Mr. Castanio." Mr. Wong stood quietly at the door.
Vincent spun on the old man. His rage was flaring. "This is MY SON'S APARTMENT!"
"No, it is mine."
"Michael lives in this apartment as my apprentice and the privilege will be extended to him if he chooses to start his practice in this clinic. He, however, does not rent this space." Mr. Wong looked at Jase and Mira. "I decide who may reside here. They are my guests, and until your son contradicts me, they will remain guests."
Vincent Castanio balled his hands into fists at his side and spun on Jase. "I may not be able to force you out of here, but I can keep you away from Michael. Don't go near him or I'll have you arrested!" He turned and tried to exit past Mr. Wong. The smaller man simply held his ground with his hand extended.
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"The key your son provided you. Your privilege of use has been revoked. You may either give me the key or you will find it will not work in our locks within the hour."
Vincent swore and threw the key at Mr. Wong's feet. "Take your damn key, Wong! A lot of good your 'medicine' did for my son! Let real doctors clean up your mess. You're a fucking fraud."
Mr. Wong stood aside without a word and let Vincent Castanio storm out. He held out his hand and the key lighted to his palm. "I will see you through this, young ones. Do not let the ignorant turn you from the true path." He turned and left Mira and Jase stunned and feeling totally lost.
It was the next morning at the hospital when Jase was served with the restraining orders. Detective Johnson handed them to him and then escorted Jase from the wing. "You seem to have an interesting effect on people, Mr. Steward."
"I'm a charmer, that's for sure."
"Two people lapse into coma's in two days and the only connection is they spend time with you."
Jase didn't look at the detective but he realized he would probably be seeing a lot of the man. "I hear we've had five automobile accidents that have been quite serious in the last few days, Mr. Johnson."
Jase looked at him, his eyes unreadable. "Are you going to be blaming me for those also? I'm certain I was on or near those roads at some point."
"It was just an observation, Mr. Steward."
Jase looked at the restraining orders and frowned. "I hope I won't need medical attention while this is in effect."
Johnson raised an eyebrow. "Why is that?"
"The judge, in his infinite wisdom, has prevented me from coming within 150 feet of Mike's room."
Jase pointed above the entrance. "The hospital is only five stories and Mike's room is three to the right. This order effectively means I can't be brought into the emergency room without resulting in a jail stay." Jase looked right into Johnson's eyes and pushed with his will. The Detective Johnson stepped back. He wasn't sure what had happened but he'd felt like someone had just punched him between the eyes. "Nice to know the law is so thoughtful as to assure my own death in the event I'm injured. I'm sure Mr. Castanio should be pleased."
It took Jase over a week to bring himself to return to TMC. Phil had spent most of the intervening time fielding calls from the board members and company lawyers. Decisions could not be put off any longer. Jase had reluctantly agreed to assume his role as Chairman. The board meeting had been brief. Jase had decided he didn't care about playing the politics and simply told the board he was taking control. The objections had been loud and egos had flared, but there really wasn't anything they could do about it. Assuring the cooperation of Phil's choice for President proved a bit more difficult.
Now that the board meetings were over, Jase stood in his office and looked at Vincent Castanio's stone face. "I apologize for not having this meeting earlier, Mr. Castanio. I believe we both have had other matters to deal with."
"Yes, we have." Vincent didn't give any hint of his feelings in his voice. The man had been a corporate power player for too long to slip now.
Jase sighed. "TMC has a problem, Mr. Castanio. Without the right person at the helm, TMC is floundering."
"Has the board come to a decision, Mr. Steward?"
Jase frowned. "'I' came to a decision, Mr. Castanio. You should know that I hold controlling interest in TMC and I am Chairman of the Board. In the end, my decisions are all that matter."
Vincent Castanio rose. "Then I suppose I will pack my things."
Jase's heart sank. He held his face impassive. "Are you intending to resign?"
Vincent looked back at the youth. "I presumed you were giving me notice."
Jase took a deep breath. "No, Mr. Castanio, I'm offering you a promotion."
That Jase would offer him a promotion had been the last thought on Vincent's mind. He had expected Jase to respond to him as his father would have. He sat back down and looked at Jase skeptically. "A promotion, Mr. Steward?"
Jase sighed and walked to the window. He looked out but his eyes were filled with memories. He tried to keep his voice level. "I spent half my time after school in your home, Mr. Castanio. Most of my happiest memories were spent there. You used to call me, Jason." Jase paused and took a breath. "I know you blame me for Mike's condition and I'm not going to argue with you about it. I'm also not going to make a decision that could damage TMC out of spite or anger." Jase turned and looked directly at Vincent. "I want you to be the President of TMC. There is no one in upper management with more experience or knowledge of our operations. I can't think of anyone else I could trust in this position."
Vincent Castanio looked at the young man before him. He had always thought Jason Steward to be a spoiled, self-centered brat. He had learned enough from Jason's father to know that the two had fallen out over something about 'what Jason was.' He suspected he knew why, but he wanted to be sure. "I have a question of a personal nature, Mr. Steward."
Jase sat down. "Go ahead, ask."
"Are you gay?"
Jase paused only for a moment then nodded. "Yes. Will that be an issue against my offer, Mr. Castanio?"
Vincent shook his head. "No. I try to keep personal and professional lives separate." He stood up. "I will need some time to consider your offer."
"I've delayed in this decision too long as is. Can you have an answer to me by the end of the week?"
Vincent nodded and moved to the door. He looked back before turning the knob. "Do you love my son?"
How Jase kept his voice from cracking he wasn't sure. "Yes, I do."
Though Jase had received Mr. Castanio's acceptance of the position the following day, the next week had been a limbo to him. Phil had tracked down the identity of the investigator who had obtained the evidence of Jase's past. 'Talking' to the PI had been the only time of release Jase had had for his anger and frustration.
Joe Yeasmon had a respectable office in one of the better business districts of the City. Jase had arrived shortly before 5pm cloaked in a spell of obscuring he had convinced Morg to cast upon him. Jase was comfortable with the knowledge that even if the security cameras had recorded his entry, he would simply be an unrecognizable blur. Jase waited patiently till Yeasmon's secretary left for the night. Yeasmon was working late on another case. How Jase was able to keep from bursting into the office he wasn't sure. He waited till past 6:30pm when the building felt mostly empty. He looked at the door to the inner office and quietly pushed his will against it. "Patefacio."
Joe Yeasmon looked up in surprise as his door opened with no one on the other side. He grabbed for his gun as a blurring of shadows came through the door. "What the fuck?"
Jase's eyes flicked to the pistol. "Adhaero." He smiled viciously as Joe found the gun stuck to the desk and his hand stuck uselessly to the pistol grip.
"Who the hell are you?"
Jase ignored him and walked slowly about the office, staying close to the walls and radiating as much magic as he could. He smiled as the smell of melting plastic came to his nose and he could make out the sound of softly squealing listening devices. He made the circuit twice, ignoring Joe's cursing. He finally stopped and looked into the detective's eyes. "Hi, Joe. You've been a very bad boy."
Joe shuddered as he saw a white flame illuminating Jase's eyes. "What do you want?"
"Restitution." Jase let loose. He would look back on what he did that evening with shame and more than a little regret, but at the time it felt really good. Jase left with names of contacts, public clerks who could be bought and the location of every known copy of his records. He realized he would not be sleeping for a few days.
The numerous flights between the city and Provence over the last couple days had nearly flayed Jase's nerves. He sat in Mike's kitchen, sipping on some hot cocoa, when the knock had come at the door. He was surprised to see Mrs. Castanio on the other side of the door.
"Hello, Jason. May I come in?" She looked tired and her eyes were tinged with red. She also looked immensely sad.
Jase nodded and let her in. She looked about as Jase moved into the kitchen. "I have some hot chocolate on. Would you like a cup?"
She smiled. "That would be wonderful." She saw his mug at the table. "I used to give you and Michael hot chocolate to get you to bed before test days."
Jase smiled. "I tried to remember your recipe after I left. It always calms my nerves when I can't sleep."
She took the cup and sat down at the table. "Jason?"
Jase sat down and looked at the woman who'd been a mother to him after his own had died. "Yes, ma'am?"
"Do you really love, Michael?"
Jase nodded. All he could do was think about Mike since the restraining order. He realized that as long as Mike was in Provence, Jase wouldn't be able to leave. "Yes, ma'am. I love him desperately."
She touched the tear that was creeping down Jase's cheek. "You were like two peas in a pod since moment you met." She sighed. "I assume Michael feels the same way."
Jase shrugged and looked into his chocolate. "I don't know what he feels, Mrs. Castanio. He said he did before all this happened."
She lifted his chin. "If he said it, then he does. Michael has never told a lie in his life." She took a sip from her chocolate and smiled. "You remembered the recipe fairly well. I think you use a different chocolate."
Jase smirked. "I couldn't remember the brand you used so I experimented till I found something I liked."
She took another sip and set her cup down. "It isn't what I use, but I think I like your choice better." Jase stood up as she did. She shouldered her purse and then pulled Jase's face down and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "You're a good boy, Jason. Don't give up on Michael or on us. We had been hoping for grandchildren."
Jase had tears running down his face. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Castanio."
She patted him on the cheek. "No need to be. You can just be sure to make Michael happy and that will be good enough for me."
The next morning Vincent Castanio met Jase to go over preparations for his assumption of the role of President. As they finished with the details, Vincent looked over at Jase. "Michelle had a long talk with me last night."
Jase looked up. Mr. Castanio hadn't mentioned Mike or anything personal since he had accepted Jase's offer. "I hope nothing is wrong."
Vincent frowned. He still didn't like the idea but he had to concede that Jason Steward had not grown into a bad man. The boy was green and had a lot to learn, but he also tried to do what was right. "I have asked my lawyers to lift the restraining order against you. The paperwork should be through this afternoon."
Jase sat down in shock.
"I don't like it and I won't say I can accept it. But Michelle believes Michael loves you and by keeping you away I am hurting Michael's chance at recovery." He closed his briefcase and stood. "If you hurt him, I'll kill you."
Jase nodded. He couldn't trust his voice and he couldn't stop the tears that ran down his face. After a few moments he looked up. "Thank you."
Vincent Castanio left the office and Jase waited nervously for a call from Phil.
Mira stroked Jase's hair and leaned close. "Wake up, Jase."
Jase looked up. He had fallen asleep sitting at the foot of Mike's bed. He stretched and saw darkness outside the window. "How long was I out?"
"Five hours. They've come through once already warning that visiting hours are over."
Jase stood and looked at Mike longingly. Mira put her hand on Jase's arm and squeezed. "The dampeners are still up there. Just suck your aura in, Jase, and get up there. We've got a few minutes before they chase us out."
Jase moved up to Mike's side and took his hand. Just the warmth of his hand had Jase's heart doing back flips. How can I love you so much? He bent down and brushed his lips against Mike's. "I'm waiting for you Mike. Don't be gone as long as I was, we aren't scared boys any more."
Jase moved away and Mira tucked the dampeners into her purse. As they left Mike's room Jase looked down the hall and made a decision. "We've got a stop to make."
Mira cocked her head and raise an eyebrow. "Oh?"
"A certain board member needs to wake up."
Mira frowned. "You know he will remember everything."
Jase squeeze her hand. "I know a certain woman who's got this knack for inducing forgetfulness."
Mira smiled. "Oh, really? And how do you plan to convince her to help?"
Mira swooned. "Oh, Mr. Steward you know the way to a girl's heart!"
Jase laughed. "Tired of health food too?"
She just turned and pulled him towards their objective. "I'm starving. Let's get this over with."
Detective Johnson was waiting outside of Mike's room when Jase and Mira arrived. Jase sighed and nodded for Mira to go on ahead. "Good morning, Detective Johnson. What plague have I visited upon Provence now?"
Johnson chuckled. "None that I have heard of." He pushed himself away from the wall and approached Jase. "Care to take a walk, Mr. Steward?"
"Not particularly." Jase frowned. "Should I?"
Johnson shrugged. "Possibly. I've come across some curious facts about your friend's victim."
Jase's curiosity was peeked and he turned. "Where are we walking to?"
Johnson started down the hall. "Just walking." Jase took up step beside the detective and they wandered. "Mr. Horan woke this morning."
"I'm please to hear it. I had not received word." Johnson looked at him skeptically but didn't comment. "You mentioned you learned something interesting about the man who attacked Mira?" Jase steered away from saying anything about Mike.
Johnson nodded. "We finally got some identification on the man. No criminal record."
"So, this was his first attack?"
"No, actually he was prone to violence." Jase looked at Johnson, clearly not knowing what the detective meant. "He was delusional and had been institutionalized for years. Until a few weeks ago he had been a patient at Saint Brigid's." When it was obvious the name had no meaning for Jase, Johnson continued. "What I find curious is that one of the trusts in your estate makes regular payments to Saint Brigid's."
Jase stopped up short. "My estate does what?"
Johnson frowned. "You should keep better track of your money, Mr. Steward." He looked at Jase's face for a few moments and was certain that Jase had no knowledge of anything he was talking about. Damn, dead end. He knew in his gut that there was a connection, but if the kid wasn't aware of it, Jason Steward could be burned for something he didn't do. "I'd go over things with a fine tooth comb if I were you, Mr. Steward." He excused himself and left Jase wondering what was going on.
Jase had Mike's hand in his but Jase's attention was deep within. Mike, please come back. He felt Mira put her hands over his. Jase, you've been trying for hours. You need to take a break.
They felt the connection snap into place the moment her thoughts mingled with Jase's. Jase's palm tingled and he felt Mike squeeze his hand. As they looked up, Mike's open eyes greeted theirs. Mike's mouth was too dry for him to talk, but his thoughts said what his voice couldn't. I love you. Jase started crying. Mike's eyes flicked to Mira. You too, you stubborn bitch. Mira grinned from ear to ear.
It was a couple days before Mike was cleared to leave the hospital. The afternoon Mike woke up was a blur of doctors, friends and family. Mrs. Castanio had hugged Jase with abandon. She had hugged Mira as well, practically adopting the girl by the time she was through. Jase worried about Mike's parents mentioning their son's relationship with him, but the topic never came up.
As Mira drove them from the hospital, Jase looked at Mike and sighed. "Mike, I think I did something you won't be happy about."
Mike smiled. "You decided to turn straight?"
Mira laughed. "Not likely! If I couldn't do it, no woman can!"
Jase shot her an evil glare but Mike took Jase's hand. "I nearly killed you less than a month ago and you're worried about what you've done?"
"That wasn't you."
Mike looked away. "I'm not so sure."
Jase pulled Mike's face to him and kissed him tenderly. Mike's eyes misted but Jase didn't let go. "I've been there Mike. I know that fear. It wasn't you."
Mike shuddered but he pulled himself back up and gave Jase a wobbly smile. "So, what did you do to get even with me for trying to kill you?"
Jase bit back a nasty comment and looked down. "I outed you to your parents."
Mike smiled and brought Jase's chin back up. "Mom mentioned that she hoped I would consider a surrogate mother. It didn't take me long to figure out what she was talking about."
"You aren't mad?"
Mike laughed. "At least I didn't have to see my father's face when he found out. He's so happy I'm ok; I think he'd forgive me for just about anything."
Jase snuggled against Mike and sighed. He didn't care what he'd have to do; nothing was going to separate them again. Mike kissed him on the head and looked out the window. "I remember something about that night I think you should know."
Jase stiffened. He'd wanted to forget the whole thing but he knew neither of them ever would. He sat up and looked at Mike. "You don't have to tell me anything, Mike."
Mike shook his head. "I think this is important."
Mira pulled into the parking spot behind the market and turned off the motor. "You want me to hear this?"
"Yeah, Mira." Mike took a breath and closed his eyes. He tried to bring up the images of that night. He really didn't want to remember but he knew, like Jase, he would be haunted by it for the rest of his life. "I don't know what it was thinking from moment to moment. It's more like general impressions of strong emotions or powerful images." Jase and Mira nodded. "But I do know why he wanted to kill Jase on his mother's grave." He looked in Jase's eyes. "The plot is empty and he planned to put Jase there in her place."