Also a gentle reminder that this is some raw and unedited material--and I think this section includes a chunk that I was just too lazy to write to begin with, so yeah--so if you feel free to tell me what you think, but please be kind.
The days spent with Jason began to bleed together. He and Vitas settled into an easy routine, and even though they spent most of their time in Jason’s flat—where, despite his father’s orders to not worry about work, Jason had set up a temporary office and spent most of the day making phone calls and answering emails—Vitas wasn’t getting too restless. Jason was good looking and smart and funny. He could be a little touchy, sure, especially when Vitas brought up his uncle, and they bickered some (which Vitas, who was never one to back away from a fight no matter what form it took, enjoyed) and so long as the bickering didn’t turn into anything more heated, Jason seemed to enjoy it. By and large, Jason was excellent company.
Vitas spent most of his time lounging around Jason’s spacious flat and making headway on the large stack of paperwork he’d accumulated recently. No one ever mentioned this, but most of working for the Covenant and MI6 was paperwork and it was boring and it was tedious, but since he was spending most of his time inside anyway, it wasn’t like he had anything else to do.
Twice a day, he took Jason’s dog to the park across the street for some exercise otherwise the dog would end up chewing on everything in the flat and try to dig holes in the carpet. Jason normally took the dog out running himself, he said, but even though he was getting stronger every day, he wasn’t up to the physical stress of twice-daily three mile runs. And Vitas was happy to do it. He’d never considered himself much of a pet person, but he liked Zeus. The dog was energetic and was a good companion for Jason. It was a little illogical to keep a dog like a border collie in a flat in the middle of London, considering they were such high-energy pets, and when Vitas had mentioned this to Jason, Jason laughed.
“When I told my mum I was getting a dog,” he had said, “she wanted me to get one of those whimpy little lap dogs. You know, the kind of dog that has a name like a cockapoo. The sort of dog that rich girls carry around in their bags, you know?”
“What’d you tell her?”
An almost devilish grin had crossed Jason’s face. “I told her I was gay, not a girl.”
Their days together were comfortable and routine. Jason spent the business day doing business. As he started to get stronger, he paced around the flat as he talked on the phone or would spend an hour or two in the evening making an elaborate dinner. (“I like to cook,” he told Vitas one night. “It just never seems worth the effort if I’m the only one going to enjoy the meal.”) Vitas caught himself watching Jason a lot. He wasn’t sure if it was professional concern—making sure the fool didn’t over-exert himself—or if it was something else. In the evenings, they passed the time together watching crap television programs and talking and occasionally playing a game of chess (which both of them were equally wretched at). Vitas got time off twice a week when Jason would go back to the hospital for physical therapy. (Even Mrs. Sharpe had to admit that the odds that her son would be attacked in a hospital were less than slim.) Vitas tried to spend that time with Spence, who was still treating him frostily, but since Spence worked most afternoons, it was hard to meet up with him. At the very least, Vitas tried to stop by the building where Spence worked, just to see him, just to make sure that things were okay, just to apologize one more time that his schedule was so abhorrent at the moment.
On the days in which Jason did have physical therapy—which he describe as an unholy form of legally sanctioned torture—he usually spent the rest of the day on the couch, his body too worn out to do much else. On those nights, Vitas took care of dinner and would turn on some boring documentary that Jason claimed to like even though he invariably fell asleep in the middle. When Jason did sleep, it was usually uneasy and plagued with nightmares, which Vitas could only figure stemmed from his attack. But other than the dreams and the occasional haunted expression that crossed his face, Jason never mentioned the men who attacked him—not even when he complained about the various bruises and healing wounds.
Vitas had to respect a man who could suffer that sort of brutality and just keep moving forward like that.
Vitas kept up-to-date with his sister and his uncle, who was leading the task force to track down the men, this Freedom Coalition, to try to resolve matters before any more blood was spilt. It was slow going. The Coalition obviously didn’t want to deal with the Covenant, but they didn’t exactly have a choice at this point. The Covenant would track them down regardless. Jason’s parents checked in with him daily, checking up on him and making sure that he was safe.
Despite the fact that Vitas was still annoyed with Mr. Sharpe for not supporting his son’s lifestyle choices, he had to admit it was clear the man did care about his son…he just didn’t necessarily know how to show it.
Three weeks after Jason’s attack, Vitas got the call from Uncle Flynn to tell him that they had tracked down the Coalition and set up a meeting to “discuss” matters. Flynn wanted Vitas there “just in case.” Flynn said he expected everything to go according to plan—especially since Verity would be there to keep everyone’s emotions in check—but Flynn wasn’t the sort of man who liked to take risks.
“So much for everything going according to plan,” Vitas said. It was just him, Flynn, and Verity in the office. The Coalition thugs had already cleared out. After Benjamin had been shot and they had the promise that they’d still get their money, they had been willing to let everything else drop.
“I didn’t see this coming,” Flynn said. Now that it was just family, the shock he was feeling was beginning to show. “I knew it was going to get violent. I anticipated that. But I had no idea that this would happen. I didn’t know a man would die.”
“It’s not your fault, Uncle Flynn,” Verity said. “No one was supposed to be armed.”
Vitas didn’t need his sister’s empathetic gift to know that his uncle felt guilt for how this whole mess had been handled. The man was blessed with second sight, but not even he could see the outcome of everything.
Flynn sighed. “I know it’s not. It’s just a shame to see someone’s life ended so abruptly.”
Better Benjamin than anyone else, Vitas thought though he knew better than to say that out loud. This entire mess had been caused by Benjamin’s gambling problem. Benjamin had been the one foolish enough to get into things better left alone, and Benjamin’s foolishness had already caused his family enough pain. At least now they had a guarantee that this whole mess was over.
“I can tell the Sharpes what happened,” Verity said. “I can at least soften the blow for them.”
“I can tell Jase,” Vitas said. “I’ve got to get my stuff from his flat anyway.”
A flicker of a smile on her face. “Jase now, is it?”
“Just how close have you two been getting?” She was trying not to giggle now, which he was grateful for. It was better for her to be cheerful than depressed. “Should I tell Spence? Should he be worried?”
“You don’t even like Spencer.”
“But I’ve spent my whole life picking up the pieces of the hearts you break—”
“Vitas, Verity,” Flynn said. His voice was more exasperated than frustrated. “Is now really the time?”
“She started it,” Vitas muttered.
She flashed a grin at him. “Finished it, too.”
Flynn just shook his head. “The pair of you haven’t changed from the time you were five,” he said. “But if you could tell the Sharpes what happened, that would be a huge help.”
They departed and Vitas spent the tube ride back to South Kensington trying to figure out how he was going to tell Jason that his uncle died. Maybe he should have just let Verity take care of it, because she was much better at handling matters like this than he was. But Verity would try to soften the blow of her words with her gift, and as an empath himself Jason would recognize that and most likely resent it. Besides, Vitas knew Jason. It was impossible not to know someone after spending almost every waking minute together for three weeks.
But that didn’t mean he knew how to handle this any better. He’d delivered bad news to people before. It happened. It was a part of his job. But he knew Jason personally, and he knew that Jason did care about his uncle (despite the trouble the man had caused). It would hurt Jason to hear what happened, and Vitas couldn’t quite shake the instinct to protect Jason from any kind of pain. It was a foolish instinct, really. Jason was a grown man, and there was no way that Vitas could protect him from every little thing.
He would just have to be straight with Jason. Explain what happened without beating around the bush. Jason was a bloke. He’d appreciate just being told instead of all the hand-holding and crap a girl would try.
When he reached Jason’s flat, he just let himself in. It seemed silly to knock when he’d practically been living here for three weeks. Zeus greeted him as soon as he walked in and Vitas crouched down to give the dog a proper greeting. Jason was pacing around the front room. He had his phone braced between his shoulder and the side of his head because he liked to use his hands when he talked, even if the other person couldn’t see him. He smiled for Vitas and gave him a small wave. He pointed at the phone and mouthed the word “business” before slipping into another room.
Not that Vitas expected it to be anything else. Unless he was on the phone with his parents, the only calls Jason seemed to make were for business. Which, as Vitas thought about it now, troubled him a little. He was about to deliver some crushing news and Vitas didn’t have the slightest idea whether or not Jason had any sort of support network to turn to, any friends he could go out with and get drunk with. Jason was a remarkable bloke—smart, funny, friendly. He should have plenty of friends. But he worked too much and too hard. He didn’t leave himself much time for a social life and Vitas suspected that he was probably too tired most days when he got home from work to have a social life anyway.
At least he’d have Zeus for comfort…not that a dog was that much of a comfort.
A moment later, Jason returned and he smiled against at Vitas. Jason was looking much better these days. The bruises on his face were barely noticeable anymore and the stitches had been removed earlier in the week. The sleeves of his Oxford shirt were rolled up, and Vitas could only make out the faintest of marks from where Jason’s hands had been bound together.
“How’d it go?” Jason asked.
“Well,” Vitas said slowly, “you won’t have to worry about those Coalition thugs coming after you or your family anymore.”
Jason’s smile lit up his whole face. Vitas felt a stab of guilt, knowing he was about to crush that happiness.
And apparently, Jason felt the same stab of guilt to. His expression immediately sobered. “What? What is it? What happened?”
“There…was a bit of an altercation,” Vitas said. “Things got violent, and one of the Coalition thugs had a gun on him. He shot your uncle.”
Jason sat down on the couch. He was slack-mouthed with shock. “Is he…is he going to be okay?”
Oh, why hadn’t he let Verity take care of this? He couldn’t bear to look at the expression on Jason’s face. “I’m afraid not,” he said. “He’s, er, he’s already dead.”
“Oh,” Jason said.
Vitas watched Jason for a moment, neither of them saying anything, but he could see the emotions play themselves out across Jason’s face. His hands were shaking. He bit his lips and took several deep breaths. Tears welled in his eyes, but he brushed them aside so quickly Vitas thought that maybe he imagined the tears. Jason rubbed the back of his neck and looked up at Vitas. “Was it…did he…did he suffer at all?”
Zeus walked over and rested his head on Jason’s knee. Jason buried his hands in the fur.
“No, he was killed instantly,” Vitas said. “He didn’t suffer at all.”
“Good. That’s good.” Jason flopped back against the couch, tilted his head back to look at the ceiling. He rubbed his hands over his face. “It’s…Hell, I didn’t think this would end this way.”
His hands fell to his side and Vitas stood still, not sure what he was supposed to do.
“It’s just Benjamin was always fond of me, you know?” When Jason spoke, he sounded far away. “Even after my bleeding cousin outed me to the whole family.”
“Your cousin outed you?”
“To my family and to everyone we went to school together with. Obnoxious little prick. Of course, it helps that now he’s got chlamydia because he’s just so straight he can’t keep his hands off women…even if they are prostitutes.”
That startled a laugh of Vitas and he saw a hint of a smile on Jason’s face, but his expression sobered again almost instantly.
“Do you want me to call anyone for you?” Vitas asked. “Family? Friends?”
Jason shook his head. “There’s not really anyone you can call,” he said. “It’s…it’s fine though.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah,” Jason said. He dragged his hand through his hair. “Vitas?”
“Do you…do you maybe want to get a drink or something?”
Vitas winced. He had been a little worried about something like this. That spending so much time together might accidentally give Jason the wrong impression. “You know I’m seeing someone, Jase.”
“I…Yeah, I know that. But I didn’t….That’s not what I…” Jason took a deep breath and looked up at Vitas. “Look, my uncle just died, and I could really use a friend right now.”
The vulnerability in Jason’s expression was downright heart-wrenching. How could he possibly deny him? “Of course,” Vitas said. “Grab your coat and your shoes. I know a pub just around the corner.”