Disclaimer: I do NOT own these characters. They are the property of their creators. This is for entertainment purposes only. No infringement intended.
A/N: This is the sequel to 'Captivated'. To any that have not read that – you probably will want to read that story first. I warn we have some angst here. The heir is about to be born at the same time a marriage seeks to be dissolved. This chapter will set the stage for what's to follow. Trust me again as we take this journey. You know I only give them happy endings. How we get there is another matter. Those who so fervently supported the first story – thank you once again. I hope you enjoy this new adventure – angst and all.
***One Year Later***
Justin laughed as he watched Daphne squirming on the long sofa, her nose scrunched up in annoyance. "You are just too cute, Daph. Fat and pregnant. Who knew something so petite could get so huge!"
"Funny, best friend. Yeah, about that. What kind of friend are you? I'm having this baby for you... and yet you mock me." She leaned her head back, her eyes fluttering closed. "I wish I would just have this baby already. My back hurts, I can barely stand, not to mention I can't even see my belly anymore."
He gave her a close scrutiny, a bland expression on his face. Shaking his head, Justin told her, "Trust me, Daph, you still have a belly."
Her head popped forward, eyes widening angrily. She reached for the nearest object she could find, which sadly wasn't anything more substantial than a rectangular sofa cushion. Moving as much as she could, she began hitting Justin on the side of his head with it. "You are such a jerk! How could a King fall in love with you?"
A husky chuckle followed. "I ask myself that every day."
Daphne blushed. "Your Highness, uhhhh you'll forgive me if I don't rise or kneel..."
A stern look followed. "We've had this discussion, Daphne. You are the mother of my unborn child... the future ruler of Brakania. In private you are to address me by name, whichever you find more comfortable for you – Brian or Brahim."
"King Bossy comes to mind too..." Justin boldly proclaimed with a playful smirk, yet with a faraway look in his eyes.
Brian's eyes slid to his rebellious husband. "I am still half-American. I remember quaint little sayings quite well. One comes instantly to mind. How's this for one? Payback's a bitch!"
Daphne gasped as she looked from one to the other. They sparred back and forth so often. Sometimes she didn't know how to take them. Swallowing nervously, Daphne spoke, "I'm sure he didn't mean anything, ermmmm Brian."
"Oh he meant it. I'll deal with his ass shortly..." Brian returned, moving his reprimanding glare from his husband to glance fondly at the young woman that was weeks from giving birth.
Justin rose to his feet, walking lazily over to his husband, his arms wrapping instantly around his neck, his fingers sifting into his hair, before he pulled anxious lips down to meet his own. He moved his mouth ardently beneath the man he adored more than his own life. Brian and his love for him had become his reality. There wasn't anything he wouldn't do for this man. His tongue met the one that sought to engage his in battle, both of them always the victor in this war. How could anything else hold true? When locked in each other's arms, the rest of the world ceased to exist. Already they had each become oblivious to Daphne's presence, fortunately for them, she had become more than accustomed to their ways... and continuously melted at the love clearly viewed between the two very different men.
Finally, Daphne cleared her throat, always reaching the point where she felt she was being intrusive... even when in her own home. "You know this house has plenty of spare rooms... should the two of you need to make use of them."
Brian chuckled lustfully; the temptation to be reckless and neglect his duty never more present. Pulling back with great reluctance, Brian admitted, "I like this friend of yours. I think we'll have to keep her."
Daphne beamed at Brian's praise. "Hmmm. We'll have to see."
Justin pouted as he clearly read the regret in Brian's eyes. His husband didn't come here for a prolonged visit. Sometimes he thought he knew him better than he knew himself. He always anticipated his every action. At times it pissed off Brian enormously. This time he hoped he was wrong... but he couldn't shake off his feeling of unease. "You're not staying, are you?"
"Sadly, I can't. There is turmoil in my lands. I need to travel through each region and address it. I'll probably be gone a few days." Brian didn't tell Justin the reason for the turmoil... nor did he think it necessary. Justin was so very intuitive. They had known this would be their reality when they had married, at least for the first few years. After that it was his hope it would settle down. Brian hoped it wasn't only wishful thinking. For now, all he cared about was protecting his lands, his loyal subjects... and most of all – his family.
"Can I come with you?" Justin asked, for some reason not wanting this separation. He wasn't sure why... he just didn't want to say goodbye to him right now.
Brian frowned, wishing he could take Justin with him... but knowing that was the last thing that should be done for a number of reasons. Primarily, Brian worried about Justin's safety. Then, there was the fact of how close Daphne was to delivery. She wasn't due for two more weeks yet... but this close anything could happen. "I'd like that... but with Daphne is so close to delivering, I'd feel better if you stayed close to home. I know Grandfather would too."
Daphne frowned as she watched the scene play out between her two most favorite men. Something was off with Justin. She had felt it when he'd first arrived, but she hadn't pushed for answers. Before her pregnancy and all the hormonal changes, she would have realized it much quicker. She knew Justin so well. Hiding anything from her had always been next to impossible. Justin was scared... and he was hiding it behind a brave front. Brian knew Justin too. If the King wasn't distracted by his present duty, she knew he would have seen it too. Now, she needed to find out what troubled her dear friend, in the hopes that she could help him through it.
"Okay," Justin agreed grudgingly. "It sounds like you could be gone for awhile... and I wouldn't want to leave Daphne alone."
Immediately bristling at that, Daphne grumbled, "I can take care of myself, not that I am ever alone with this monstrous staff you have fussing over me."
Brian ignored the comment about being able to take care of herself. He didn't have the time now to argue. All that mattered was that his loved ones were safe. Brian took a reflective moment realizing the thought of 'loved ones' hadn't induced shudders in him. He had definitely come a long way... and it was all due to this amazing little blond. There was no way he could envision life without him – now or ever. "I don't have time to argue with either of you. I need to go... and you Daphne, you must remember that you are soon to deliver the King's son. Your safety and comfort is all that should concern you."
"Better not argue with him, Daph. He knows everything..." Justin muttered sarcastically, still angry that Brian wouldn't let him come with him... despite knowing his husband was right – as always.
Brian grasped Justin's chin tightly in his hand, his eyes boring deeply into the blue ones that enchanted him. "Are you going to say goodbye to me with only harsh words... especially after that kiss?"
Justin lowered his eyes guiltily. "No. Never. I just don't want you to leave."
"Nor do I... but this is my duty." Brian pierced Justin with a razor sharp gaze. "I want you to promise me that you'll stay on the palace grounds. Don't attempt to follow me no matter what you might hear."
Swallowing tremulously, Justin whispered brokenly, "This trip is dangerous... isn't it?"
"It's time to be realistic, Justin. Every time I leave the security of these grounds there is great danger. It's my life. I will be surrounded by guards the entire time. I don't want you to worry about me. You need to take my place in making sure that Daphne is getting all that she needs... and there is Grandfather-"
"What about him?" Justin asked worriedly.
"I had to make him promise not to follow me. I know he will keep to his word... but he will be distraught until I return." Brian sighed deeply thinking of his beloved grandfather, knowing how much this killed him not to be at his side. "I need you to look out for him. Promise me, Justin."
Nodding, knowing he had no other choice, Justin agreed. "Of course I will. You know how much I love him."
"It's settled then." Brian kissed his husband one last time, his lips moving over Justin's almost feverishly for a brief moment before he pulled free... eyes drinking him in before he forced himself to turn on his heels. Brian walked out as quickly as he'd entered, not looking back... knowing to do so would make it much harder on both of them.
Justin watched as Brian left, tears rolling down his cheeks, unaware of the heartrending sobs that were now breaking his friend's heart.
Daphne frowned, moving forward on the couch to stand, wanting to go to him more than anything. She hated her limitations... despite how much she loved the reason for them. Slowly standing to her feet, she moved towards him, her hand reaching out to touch his back. "Justin? It's only for a few days. I know he'll be back."
"Oh I know he will. Brian is a fighter. He'll know what to do. Brian always knows what to do..." Justin replied, his voice aching and lost.
"Then why are you so sad?" Daphne asked, continuing to be filled with confusion.
"I was hoping to delay this longer... but I guess fate is giving me this opportunity." Justin stared blankly ahead, tears continuing to swim in his eyes. He had just wanted more time. Always more time. That was the one thing he didn't have.
Daphne looked at Justin uncertainly, not liking how this conversation was going – at all. "Opportunity for what?"
"I've known for weeks now that I needed to leave Brakania... and-" Justin's voice cracked completely as he finished, "Brian."
"But why?" Daphne gasped, her eyes widening as she took in the seriousness and dismay on her friend's face. "You love him... and this child you both want so badly is about to be born. Why would you leave him, Justin? Why?"
Sobs began to wrack Justin's body. "Don't you get it, Daph? I have to leave. His country is in chaos right now because of our marriage. I can fix everything just by leaving."
Daphne's hand reached out to grasp his arm tightly. "You can't do this, Justin! It's insane! This won't solve anything. Whether you're here or not, Brian will still be gay. He is King. I know he will find a way to restore total peace to this country. You have to trust him and give him time."
"That's just the thing, Daphne. I don't have time. If I don't leave, these groups that are forming against him will act."
"Have they threatened him? Because, let me tell you this, Justin... Brian knows how to take care of himself and the people he loves!"
A sad smile touched Justin's lips. "No, they haven't threatened him. Realistically they know he is a great King... and that killing him would result in destroying this country. They only want me gone. The threats were extended to Brian's grandfather." Justin looked at Daphne hesitantly, before he continued, "And... the future King."
"My child has been threatened?" Daphne demanded, her face instantly contorting in anger. "You should have told Brian! He would know what to do. We have to contact him, Justin. Now!"
"It's too late. Brian's gone. And... I have a deadline."
"Deadline?" Daphne's voice was a hollow whisper.
A grim nodding of the head followed. "I have until the baby is born to be gone from Brian's life. If I am not, they will strike out against Salah. After he is dead, they will move against Brian's child." Justin looked at his friend bleakly, knowing this would be their final goodbye. "I won't be the cause of this civil unrest among Brian's beloved people. I can solve this... and I will. I am leaving Brakania forever – and it will be tonight."