New Kingdom: Australian Court Ch. 01byMicKay©
Thanks to TaFace for editing grammar and spelling. Special thanks to Willie for noting the differences between American English and Australian English. I need to pay more attention to those Outback Steakhouse commercials - "how to speak Australian." smiles....
Speeding across the dark skies, Alex glanced at the other passengers but focused intently on his special guest. He and his men were returning to Australia after assisting the leaders of the New Kingdom in battle against their greatest adversary. Although they had been victorious, the allies had learned of yet another enemy. One that had been created for the sole purpose of destroying the New Kingdom. One that had been created just like Joshua, who sat silently staring into the dark skies.
When Gabriel had requested the favor, Alex readily invited Joshua to accompany them. But now, he wondered what lay behind Joshua's intentions for this trip. He had appeared genuinely distressed to leave Nola but had he agreed to the separation too quickly. Maybe he was just afraid of his old man. Hell, what person would be stupid enough to cross Gabriel Philandros?
And yet, Joshua intrigued him. He had barely eaten his dinner and had declined the liquid refreshment stored on the jet for vampire guests. Joshua nervously looked up and listened intently whenever someone would exit the cockpit. He had inquired about radio contact until Alex explained that their stealth flight would not allow communication. He had appeared relieved to learn this. Strange behavior for a love sick pup.
Thinking about the object of Joshua's affection summoned the image of another's face to mind. Alex looked out the window but the dark night served as a blank canvas to hold her face. She was beautiful, a fact no one could deny. But the attraction was deeper than a mere appreciation for those big dark eyes and perfect pink lips. It was something in the way her voice trembled when she said "thank you." It was the way he felt the low currents of electricity when she was near.
"I've lost my mind," he reprimanded himself. "Now I'm getting a buzz from just thinking about her."
Unable to relax, Alex turned in his seat to find Joshua staring at him. Quickly, the boy dropped his eyes trying to look away but not before Alex had seen his face. Although no sound had been heard, Joshua had been moving his lips as though he was talking.
"Hey, man," Alex said. "You ok?"
"You've been quiet. Missing your girl?"
"No. I mean yeah. Yeah, sure, I miss her."
"Is something wrong?" Alex asked moving across the aisle from Josh.
"What? No. Why? What makes you think something is wrong?"
"Mixed signals. You seem nervous but you're the only kid I know who usually has grace under pressure."
"You think I'm a kid," Joshua said quietly.
"I think you look about ten years younger than me although there's more than thirty years difference between us."
"It's weird, you know. One day, your mom is buying your clothes and telling you that your human body needs vegetables but then the next day ...."
"You're fighting the devil himself," Alex finished. "Which I've been meaning to ask...How many times have you been in hand to hand combat?"
"Counting the time I tried to protect Emma, twice. And neither was very smooth."
"When was that?"
Joshua thought about that day at the maze and laughed out loud. "Maybe a couple of weeks ago. I was much smaller but still ... I'm the same guy."
"How does that work?" Alex asked motioning to Joshua. "You look older than when I met you just a few days ago."
"I'm not sure," Joshua answered avoiding Alex gaze. "We are the first of our kind."
"Do you mind if I ask about that? Cause I'm interested in ... well, it's interesting how you were made."
"Test tube babies. That's what Abby calls us. She has always appreciated this life we have," Josh replied quietly.
"I appreciate the life our parents gave us. No matter how much we frustrate him, Dad has always made us his first priority. Apparently, he immediately laid claim to us when we were found at the hospital."
"Does he get pissed at you?" Alex asked with a laugh. "I can't imagine surviving a battle against him."
"No," Joshua answered quietly. "At least not yet."
"You'll see her soon mate."
"I know," he quickly answered and then turned to Alex. "What? Who? Who do you mean?"
"Your girl," Alex replied and then paused as Josh squirmed in his seat. "Hey, is something going on?"
"You'd tell me?"
"If I could. Did you have other questions about us?
Not missing Joshua's swift maneuvering of the subject, Alex sat back and contemplated his next question. He liked this guy. Joshua had proved to be loyal to his family and would be a great friend. Still, Alex needed to know.
"Are you a vampire?" he asked bluntly.
"No. At least, not yet."
"Not yet? How can you be created by seven vampires and not be one yourself?"
"I was created with the egg of a human female fertilized by the DNA of six men. What they are is what I will become."
"But in the maze," Alex said with confusion. "You said that you had the blood of all seven brothers."
"I do. Now." When he saw the confusion on Alex face, Josh shook his head and laughed. "How convenient it must be for human children to have a mother and a father. No explanations. No extraordinary developments."
"Sorry. I'm just confused."
"Abby found out and tried to explain it to me. To tell the truth, I don't think my parents wanted us to know and I still didn't care enough to ask. But according to Abs, we were created and then basically existed to produce a blood that would be toxic to other vampires. When Dad found us, he and Mom were mated but something had delayed her change. He had drained her blood and fed her his but she was stuck in the transition. Not vampire but definitely not human."
"Is that how you are now? In transition?"
"Not exactly like her but I guess it's similar. Anyway, she had fed from Dad so she had his blood. When he brought us to the American Court, she fed us and gave us the part of him we were missing."
"When you say 'we' you are referring to just you and Abigail," Alex stated. "What about this other guy? The one the Panthralges called his son?"
"He must be missing the part from my dad. I wonder if that will help us..."
"Help us with what? I'm sure he's none of our concern. Not with your dad on the job."
Joshua looked at Alex and opened his mouth to say something. Suddenly his snapped his jaws shut and turned to look out the window. Sensing an internal conflict within his friend, Alex tried to return the conversation to their previous subject.
"So your mum basically saved your life?"
"Yeah," Joshua answered turning to face Alex. "The things that Panthralges said..."
"Forget about it," Alex interrupted. "It's the oldest trick to get a bloke off his game. "
"I miss her," Josh said quietly. "Is that weird?"
"Which her are we talking about?"
"My mom," he answered. "She always worries about us. She will be scared. Dad will be angry."
"Oh, nothing. We've never been separated."
"But she has Abigail," Alex countered. "And why would Gabriel be pissed? He sent you on this trip."
"Yeah, that's what he thinks. God, when he finds out the truth ..." Joshua stopped and added with a grin, "I hope Mom comes with him."
"You really miss her."
"Oh yeah but she's also the only one who can talk to him when he's angry."
"Doesn't she get angry?"
"You know, I never considered that," Joshua said with a nervous laugh.
Alex sat back wondering why his friend was so anxious in regard to Gabriel. He had watched the father and son interact several times during his visit and had never witnessed any signs of conflict between the two. Even when Lola had been found hiding in Joshua's room, Gabriel had been quiet and somewhat disappointed.
Alex could hardly disagree with the man. Bringing a human to secluded area crawling with vampires had not been a smart move on the boy's part. While Alex was a trained warrior, Lola was viewed as nothing more than a tasty morsel. Joshua will understand that one day. When his transition was complete.
Closing his eyes, Alex tried to avoid the memory of that beautiful face continually haunting him. Joshua would change and so would she. And when she did, she would become that creature he hated so much. She would be a vampire.
Antony walked around the makeshift bed never leaving his mate more than a few feet away. If he was this anxious after a few hours, he wondered if he could survive the next three days. He constantly touched her face, looked at her body and marveled at the true beauty her transformation unveiled. Each strand of hair glistened in the sun as threads of gold. Her face was calm with no signs of worry or insecurity marring her brow. Although he had mostly refrained from jostling her during her rest, he had not been able to resist those red lips. Forming a natural pout, they had begged for attention. He had not disappointed.
Letting his gaze travel over her body, he gently traced the path following his eyes. The ivory skin was flawless, soft and radiant. He placed his hand between her breasts to feel the heartbeat that reassured him of their eternal love. As their hearts raced together in perfect precision, he finally understood what his brothers had always known. One heart beat for two.
How he could have thought he had found this with another amazed him even now. The memory of acknowledging Elise as his mate now continually mocked him. They had found an easy understanding with each other. She had forgiven his indiscretions with the condition that he allowed hers. So many years wasted in a hedonistic life. If Gabriel could change then he could too.
Thinking of his siblings reminded Antony of their sudden departure. He hesitated about communicating with them only because he had wanted to keep everything and everyone outside of this time with his mate. Walking away from the bed, he turned toward the water and opened his mind to his brothers.
"Edward," he said. "Any news?"
"Not yet," Edward quickly answered. "God I hope Conlaoch can find her. Gabriel is about to tear this plane apart. If we land and she's not there...."
"So Conlaoch knows. What happens to Alex? He's a hell of ally and a better warrior. Better than most vampires but he won't stand a chance against Gabriel."
"That's why we all came. Between the four of us, we might be able to keep him from killing the man until we know what really happened."
"I doubt it," Antony replied with a silent chuckle. "My money is on the general."
"Yeah," Edward finally said. "Mine too."
"Is this a joke to you?"
"No, Gabriel, it's no joke," Edward replied. "I just hope you give them a chance to explain. He may not be involved."
"Then how did she get past the guards and onto the jet?" Gabriel demanded with a growl. "She could not master this plan alone?"
"How do you know that?" Iona asked. "If she wants something bad enough, who's to say that she's not smart enough to manipulate the situation?"
"Why would you say that?" Gabriel demanded as he stood to his feet. "Have you been sharing some of your old tricks with my daughter, Lia?"
"What the fuck?" Edward exclaimed as he too stood. "Gabriel, you're crossing a line brother."
"Gabe," Alena said quietly placing her hand on his arm. "Walk to the suite with me. Please?
Staring at his mate for a few seconds, he dropped his head and began to follow her away from the others. Before he reached the door, he turned back and stared at Edward for a second and then cleared his throat.
"Iona," he finally said. "I apologize for what I said. I'm just ...."
"Being a father," she finished for him. "You're forgiven." After Gabriel had shut the door between them, she added, "God help that human if he has laid a hand on the general's daughter."
Once they were alone, Alena pushed her mate into a large chair. Instead of crawling onto his lap, she remained standing in front of him staring into his eyes. After a few moments, she bent over and softly kissed his lips. When he failed to respond to her touch, she straightened and stared at him again.
"Are you going to tell me?" she finally demanded.
"Tell you what?"
"Why you are so disturbed?" she explained. "I mean, I'm worried about her safety but her brother is with them. He will let us know as soon as she walks off that plane. You ..." she added pointed directly to him, "are worried about something else."
"This is so difficult," he finally said. "Making mistakes. Learning from mistakes. Making the same fucking mistakes."
"What mistakes, Gabriel? You've never made mistakes with her."
"Not her. You," he said combing his hands through his hair in frustration. "I always fail you."
Now she climbed into his lap pulling his arms around her so she could snuggle close. She reached to his mind to find the source of his frustration but was greeted with an impenetrable wall. Placing both hands on the sides of his face, she looked in his eyes.
"Gabe, tell me," she gently demanded. "Explain it to me."
"What are your first memories?" he asked. "What's the earliest event you remember?"
"Just tell me."
"Uh, ok. Being human. It gets a little fuzzy but I remember when you left," she said pausing when he dropped his head.
"Tony died. Lia left. But then you came back and everything was perfect again."
"Don't you see?" he asked. "When I left, when I couldn't protect you, when you were not under my care, everything fell apart and you keep it with you now. It stays between us."
"I don't mean for it to stay between us."
"You shouldn't remember," he said. "It wasn't Iona that got mad when I called her Lia. It was Edward. She doesn't remember."
"No. No, baby. I'm the one who should apologize. I'm sorry that I left you. You would never have this pain haunting you."
"Gabe," she said with a quiver in her voice. "You couldn't have saved Tony. You couldn't have saved Lia."
"Yes I could have. They would have been safe under my care."
Suddenly Alena leaped off his lap. She began pacing the confined quarters and she struggled to digest the information Gabriel had just shared.
"Then why didn't you?" she simply asked with no accusation in her tone. "Why didn't you save them?"
"It was against their will," he answered. "I came to your house and spoke with Tony. He was ready to die and had no desire to live. Lia was living her choices."
"Why didn't you force them?"
"No matter how much I loved you, I couldn't do that. Now, we carry it with us."
"No," she said firmly. "You respected their will and made the right decision. I think I was overcome with pain. When Lia left, it was all I had. This thing between us," she said motioning between them, "is my fault."
"Then we share the burden."
"What does any of this have to do with Abigail?"
"She's chosen to leave my care," he answered quietly. "She can be hurt."
"By who? By this boy? The Panthralges said he hadn't grown very big. How can he hurt her?"
"Then he has guards or powerful caretakers but remember, he's created equal to our children."
"And he would be able to find her," she said with understanding.
"I'm afraid," he said standing to his feet, "that he may have already."
"We should be landing soon," Alex announced to his young companion. "Are you sure you don't need anything? Food? Blood?"
"I'm fine, thanks," Joshua answered. "You confuse me on that."
"You seem comfortable with the vampire lifestyle but then you seem to, I don't know, resent it too."
"Ha! That just about sums it up. I guess you could say that I have the best of a life that I chose with a certain amount of reluctance."
"You choose to live with vampires and also hunt them," Joshua stated.
"It's a little more than that," Alex responded staring at the dawning skies. "I guess you could say that I really didn't have a choice. I just accepted the inevitable."
Joshua remained quiet as Alex continued staring out the window. Just when he thought the conversation had died, Alex turned in his seat and leaned forward.
"Life is so precious," he said. "These TV shows with Mum, Dad, and kids aren't anywhere near reality. But some of us, like you and me, have it a little different than everyone else. My life has been compromised with a vampire because he and I love the same woman. My mother."
"Isn't she a vampire?"
"Yeah," Alex answered. "A choice that I made for her. You see, she was just a kid when she had a kid. I never knew my dad but she was enough. She loved life and lived for fun. She followed rock bands while they were on tour and hooked up with members every now and then. About twenty-five years ago, we had hitched a ride to this huge outdoor arena."
"She took you with her?"
"Oh yeah," he answered with a smile, "I was about seven years old and she was twenty-two, just a kid but that kind of life makes you older. Someone told her that she could drop me off somewhere, some place that would take care of me, but she refused, said nobody would love me like she did. And she did. We might have slept in some shelters and had to steal our dinner but she was there. Always hiding me from the crowd."
"I guess you didn't have friends?"
"Nah, but I had her. Not a lifestyle I'd chose for a kid but ...anyway, she kept me safe. So we arrived at this arena and man there were tens of thousands of people there. Rich, poor, white, black, young, old, you name it. So she tucks me away between some band equipment and boxes where I can see everything but no one sees me. I noticed this guy, big bugger, walk in with his posse. Struth, he looked mean. Anyway, one of his blokes grabs at my mum."
"This big arse mongrel grabs the guy around the neck with one hand and says something like, 'you know I don't allow this.' He then helps my mum up and tells her to take herself and her son home. He said something like it wasn't safe for our kind. I could tell that my mum was shocked that this guy knew about me. Anyway, she gets up and starts dragging me through the crowd. I'm thinking she's pissed at me because she's crying so I start crying."
"Did people ask what happened?"
"Shit, those people were either high, drunk, or just didn't care. Anyway, we get outside of the gates and there's the bastard who had grabbed my mum. Before we can run, he pushes me down and drags her away. So here I am, a little kid, crying, who has now lost his mum to this thing. For a minute I panicked," he said and then quit talking.
"I've wondered how different everything would be if I hadn't lost that minute," he mumbled and then finally added, "but I did. So I stood there looking around and knew that I would never just luck up and find her. Then, it was just strange, I felt him. Not her. Him. So I walked toward him. Several hundred feet in the trees, he was there with my mum. What was left of her. In less than a couple of minutes, he had managed to ...."
"You don't have to tell me," Joshua offered when Alex quit talking.
"So I grabbed a fallen branch. Fairly pathetic but it was there. When I approached, he turned and I saw what he was."
"Covered in my mother's blood. He hissed at me but didn't stop what he was doing to her. She opened her eyes and saw me and started crying. He began laughing. Laughing at her. She had suffered his abuse but started crying when she thought I was in danger. And he was laughing at her. Somehow, I managed to grab another branch and hit him until he fell away from my mum. He jumped up to rush me but I used those two sticks and impaled him against a tree."