As his father poured two more glasses of scotch, Gabriel looked closely at the folds of skin around his eyes. He wondered, could the burden of keeping secrets age someone beyond their years? Could the weight of a lie somehow alter gravity?
“Gabriel you need to know that what I did, I did out of love. At the time I believed with all my heart that I was doing the right thing. I need you to know that.”
Gabriel sat quietly and waited. He could not promise his father to believe or even understand anything. There had already been too many lies.
“When your brother was killed, I was at a loss,” he continued. “The pain of his death was unbearable but what Lucius had shown me that night, what those demons would do to the Earth, I couldn’t get it out of my head. You do understand that don’t you?”
Gabriel did understand that much. He had seen for himself what the Reapers would do, the bloodshed they would cause.
“Without your brother I didn’t know what would happen to our world Gabriel. If those things were allowed to carry out their plan, we would all die. Chris’ death meant so much more than just a loss for our family, it spelled the loss of our world and everything in it. I couldn’t have that on my conscience son, I was riddled with guilt. I couldn’t stop thinking that perhaps if I had watched the two of you closer that night, maybe if I had gotten there faster…”
For the first time, Gabriel realised that he was not the only one who had been carrying the burden of what happened to Chris. For years he believed it was his fault that his brother was dead. It surprised him to learn that his father had been carrying the same guilt.
“Dad, what did you do?”
His father took a moment. “I don’t know how it happened really. It was almost as though he heard me.”
“As though who heard you? Dad, you’re not making any sense.”
His father had not said the words, but Gabriel already knew what was coming. “Dad, no. You didn’t?”
“It was just in my mind Gabriel. I never actually spoke the words out loud, but then I was out for a walk, just trying to clear my head you see, and there he was.”
Gabriel knew too well how Lucius could just appear out of nowhere. He had done the same thing to him outside Aurora’s farmhouse.
“When I saw him, I fell to my knees and begged him to let me take Chris’ place. I spent my entire life as a soldier, fighting the enemy, protecting our freedoms. How could I just stand by and let our world be decimated? It’s not in my DNA Gabriel.”
Gabriel let the words resonate. Not in his DNA. They all shared the same blood, the same genes. He and Chris had been fourth generation Army. More than that, they all shared the bloodline of the first strigoi. It was their legacy. Their burden to carry.
“But Lucius told me I was too old to be changed, that my vitality had already been spent. He said that even as a strigoi I would not be strong enough to defeat the Army.”
Gabriel nodded and braced himself for what he knew would come next.
“But you were in your prime Gabriel, you shared the same blood as your brother.”
“But I am not Chris,” Gabriel snapped, suddenly furious at his father. “You destroyed my life and for what? I was never a killer, you know that. When I joined the Army, it was only ever to try and please you, to be more like Chris.”
“I know what I did was wrong son but try to understand. What choice did I have? What would you have me do, just stand back knowing without a doubt that we would all perish? To go on each day knowing the entire world would be destroyed?”
Gabriel pounded his fist against the table. “You should have told me. You should have asked me first. Didn’t I have any say in this?”
“Lower your voice, damn it,” his father snapped back. “Your mother doesn’t need this burden. She’s been through enough.”
Gabriel flung himself back into the chair, torn between the desire to punch his father in the face and the need to protect his mother. “Damn you,” he hissed. “You ruined me.”
“I couldn’t tell you Gabriel, you weren’t cut out for dealing with that kind of destiny.”
“And yet you went ahead and gave it to me anyway?”
“I had no choice. I thought as a strigoi you would change. I thought you’d be stronger and with her guidance maybe become the hero we all needed you to be.”
Gabriel’s thoughts shifted back to Aurora. “So you were in this together? She did know all along.”
“No, Aurora knew only that something evil had killed her family. The two of you were supposed to meet but we never thought it would happen the way it did. Even Lucius didn’t foresee the hatred that would consume you. This whole thing has been damned from the beginning.”
Gabriel thought of Aurora and the things he had said to her, the way he had driven her away. She was as innocent as he was in all of this. Now he had lost her.
Gabriel downed the scotch that was in his glass and got to his feet. “I’m leaving.”
“What will you do?”
“Honestly? I have no idea. All I know is that I need to see Aurora.”
But before he reached the door his father spoke again. “Gabriel, there’s something else.”
At his wits end, Gabriel turned and glared at his father. “What else could there possibly be?”
“Please son, sit down.”
Gabriel steeled himself. He had heard enough. He had been through enough. But he was an obedient son, the Army and his father had seen to that. He sat back down in the chair and waited.
“After you were turned, I had Harrison keep watch over you, just to make sure you were alright, but he also did some research.”
“About the history of vampires and demons and how they were linked to our family.”
“So he knew? All along he knew. and he was just playing me? All that talk about stealing organs was just a trick.” Gabriel thought back to their conversation at the bar. It had been a reconnaissance mission, nothing more than a chance for Harrison to feel him out. “Dad, I don’t want to hear any more of this. It’s enough already. You’ve both lied to me, deceived me, I - ”
“I know when they’ll rise.”
Gabriel stopped and stared at his father. “You what?”
“I know when they’ll rise, and Gabriel, we only have 48 hours.”
He could no longer contain himself. “And if I didn’t come by tonight, what? You weren’t going to mention this? You would just let it happen? Even after everything?”
His father slumped in the chair and suddenly looked so tired that Gabriel willed himself to stop shouting. “Look Dad, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to shout but I have to go.”
“I know I’ve messed this all up son, but we figured it out. We know when and we also know where. There’s still a chance Gabriel if you’re willing to try. There’s still a chance to save our world.”
Gabriel closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Tell me.”