The characters in the following story, with a few exceptions, are owned by Spelling Television Inc. [A subsidiary of Spelling Entertainment Group Inc.]. Vampire: The Masquerade is owned by Mark Rein*Hagan/White Wolf Publishing. My use is in no way a challenge to their copyrights. Jeffrey and Lion the cat appear courtesy of Kelly Schweighauser as does the character concept of a Blood Doll, upon which I've based Joscelyn Dey. Alec Tremaine, Ventrue Primogen appears courtesy of Julie Beamer. This piece is not for profit and is entirely fictional. (No, I do not believe that Kindred really exist.) The story and events are mine. Small references here and there are made to characters or situations in Kelly Schweighauser's "Kindred: the Embraced Fiction, which can be found at:

http://hometown.aol.com/KindredToo/index.html

 

Note: This story will make more sense if you've already ready my previous story, "BLOOD RELATIVE," and any of the stories written by Julie Beamer that feature Alec Tremaine, in particular, "LINE OF COMMUNICATION."

Please send any comments about my story, with the title heading in the subject line, to: caldora@hotmail.com

Begun August 21, 2000

Completed August 20, 2000

Substantially Revised and Rewritten August 28, 2000

Finished August 31, 2000

 

An After Word

A "Kindred: the Embraced Story"

By Jenny Hagiwara

 

 

PROLOGUE

 

- April 1998 -

Caitlin closed her eyes and automatically braced herself as the late afternoon flight 4703 from San Francisco International took off, cursing Julian Luna inwardly all the way until the plane leveled out. Caitlin opened her eyes and stared out the bright oval window beside her, the plane was soaring through the clouds now. And as she stared at the misty scene outside, her own eyes began to blind her with tears. As if she hadn't shed enough of them lately! She angrily fumbled in her purse for a tissue. She found a bag of kitty treats instead. She opened it and took out a few. Smiling, she spoke gently to the scared creature huddled in the carry-on beneath the chair in front of her. Caitlin slipped the treats in through slits of the plastic cage. Then she had sat back up with a sigh, thankful that the flight was empty enough so that the two seats next to hers were vacant.

Caitlin sighed again. There had been tears and arguments, she didn't understand why he… she couldn't even bring herself to even think his name, or ever say it again… she didn't understand why he had changed. It was all so very confusing, once upon a time before last Thanksgiving he had been holding her in his arms, telling her he very much wanted in her in his life - and oh all was bliss - a bliss that had lasted precious little time… as the new year had approached, it was as though he had begun to reconsidered and deeply regret his words. Even when she had assured him that she could accept him, accept what he was, it had only seemed to make him grow sadder, and finally more distant. Before all too long he had coldly begun to remind her what that life with him would really be like.

 

 

- December 1997 through February 1998 -

It had started off with little things. Lion would have to go if they stayed together. Caitlin had immediately put her foot down on that - as he had expected her to - and the tiniest bit of friction - she would never know how carefully he had planned it - arose in their relationship. Then larger issues began to arise… marriage, children. It wasn't that Caitlin minded being single, she was satisfied with her life, and loved her work. But eventually, sometime along the way, it would be nice to marry the man she loved and raise children. But every discussion with him ended the same way. He would state, though not unkindly, which was probably the hardest to swallow, that marriage and children, these were "things" that his lifestyle could never permit. And the sharp image came often to her of holding a tiny, tiny baby, wrapped in a mound of covers, tucked safely in her arms - and then the horrible memory of the nurse nurse who had come to take her baby away forever. Of course, Caitlin hadn't ever known it was a memory that Julian had deliberately caused to emerge from her past.

Finally Caitlin realized that their options to be together were fast narrowing. He told her that he could no longer afford to see her if she remained human, it constituted a grave violation of the "Masquerade," and not even was he immune in his position as Prince. She would have to be Embraced… as mortals who could not be made to forget were either Embraced… or killed. What would her life be like as one of San Francisco's Undead? That thought had garnered Caitlin a fair share of sleepless nights. Julian himself seemed touchy on the subject, his own agitation increasing the more Caitlin considered life as a Kindred. For nearly a month Caitlin would toss and turn restlessly until one uneasy night, she awoke abruptly with the strange feeling that someone was in her bedroom. A chilly winter draft blew and she realized that one of the double French doors of her bedroom, which led to her backyard was slightly ajar. She had frowned and when she stood to close it, an idea struck.

She swiftly dressed and drove herself over to the Times building. There, she found herself drawn toward the archives sections… but she knew what it was she wanted to look up. And she easily found what she had been looking for, press coverage of Nick Starkweather, the infamous "Nightstalker," who had been discovered already dead in Lillie's club by Detective Kohanek. Caitlin stared at the black and white photos, thumbing through each gruesome picture of Starkweather's victims in their various death poses as though compelled. Actually, she had been compelled - Julian had planted that thought in her mind.

Caitlin read and then reread the articles on Starkweather. She recognized him now for what he truly had been, a Vampire - a Vampire who had brutally drained the blood from his Prey, leaving them with just enough to die a painful death of torture at his hands. Caitlin shuddered and hastily put back everything back where it belonged. Instead of going home, she drove to The Haven where she suspected she would find her lover. The club was crowded but she found Julian sitting at his usual booth, alone. He seemed surprised to see, her there but ushered Caitlin up into Lillie's private office above so they could speak. They sat together on one of her fine settees.

Before he could say anything, Caitlin had managed a wan smile. "Julian, I've been doing some… interesting… reading. Do… do you remember the Night Stalker?"

Julian had frowned. "What's this all about, Caitlin?"

"He was a… he was Kindred, wasn't he?"

Julian nodded solemnly. "Yes."

"He was found beheaded right here in The Haven. Julian… did you have anything to do with that?"

He hadn't even flinched. "Everything. Mine was the ritual blade that ended his life."

Caitlin put her hand over her mouth, aghast, not quite sure what to say.

He had placed a hand on her arm and said firmly, "It's my job, Caitlin. As Prince I have to take care of those Kindred who have lost their ability to reason."

"I see…" Caitlin's skin was pale white.

And from then on Julian had begun to lie, appallingly lie, to the woman he loved most. He was a consummate actor, of course… his long years of experience in preserving the Masquerade served as a well-oiled machine. Therefore, Caitlin never knew how Julian's duplicity pained him, or how much of his soul it caused him, to emit the lies that would sever her from him.

"I'm not sure that you do see," Julian had said. "Caitlin, not many minds can withstand the… horror of the Embrace. Fortunately we can usually stop these… 'mistakes,' before innocent lives are destroyed. I've had to kill more newly made Kindred than I can count." He looked grim.

Caitlin shifted away from him, staring at her lover in alarm. How could this man… this tender, sweet man who had taught her to trust again… How could he admit to such a thing? She was amazed at her ability to sound so remarkably calm, that there was no quiver in her voice when she spoke.

"How many… don't survive being Embraced?"

He shifted uncomfortably and wouldn't meet her gaze.

"Julian!" she insisted. "I have to know! If I'm ever to consider being like you--"

"Perhaps you shouldn't, Caitlin." He looked back at her with such pain in his eyes. "I don't want to lose you to insanity… to watch you perhaps destroy an innocent life and then have to destroy you myself."

Caitlin was shaking her head frantically, as if that in itself were enough to deny his words. "No--no, you don't know that it would be like that, Julian--"

"Don't I?" he had interrupted softly. He took her hand in his. "Caitlin, I've lost more Childer through failed Embraces than I have living ones." Lie after lie…

Caitlin's mind searched frantically for some rock, some ray of hope to cling to. "Then someone else could--"

"I wouldn't permit it," he flat out declared, dropping her hand. Then his tone softened. "You'd be no better off with another Kindred performing the Embrace than you would with me - in fact you'd be worse off. I, at least, love you…"

"I can't believe I'm hearing this," Caitlin had said faintly. She was pale white and shivering. He removed his suit jacket and wrapped it around her, rubbing her arms gently. Caitlin managed to clear her throat. "Then if what you're saying is true… why would anyone - why would anyone in their right mind even consider--" she broke off, shaking her head. "Why did you, Julian?"

He had given her a wry smile. "It's like you say, Caitlin. Why would anyone in their right mind become Kindred? The truth is, many Kindred aren't. Immortality - the desire to live forever - is a powerful lure…" He sighed heavily.

Caitlin drew a sharp breath. "Is… is that why you--" But she stopped herself in response to a sad shake from his head.

"No," he had smiled ruefully. Then told her the first real truth of the night. "At the time I was Embraced I had nothing left to live for."

Caitlin shut her eyes. Nothing seemed to make sense anymore. His world didn't make sense anymore - not that it ever had. Her head hurt, the hours of lost sleep were catching up in a jumbled rush. She pressed the heels of her palms into her eyes. "Oh, Julian!" she had exclaimed. "How long can we go on like this?" But he had no answers, only his presence to comfort her…

 

- Early March 1998 -

Caitlin never knew that it was only a pure stroke of luck for Julian that Ryan Parker had arrived from the East. Ryan was an old college friend of Caitlin's, had been co-editor of their school paper and back then had even tried to interest her in a love relationship, which she kept withdrawing from for fear of intimacy, not for lack of interest. Ryan Parker was a handsome man, in a very WASPish way. His hair was light brown hair and short, but it ruffled when the wind blew - quite unlike Julian's slicked back style. He had blue eyes that bespoke sincerity and an equally genuine smile. Ryan was publisher of Montpelier's successful paper, The Montpelier Herald. Cancer had claimed the life of his wife a few years ago; however the happiness of their union had produced an utterly charming and adorable three-year old, Mindy, with long caramel color hair who had her father's ready smile. Caitlin was quite taken with her.

Ryan was considering a move back to California and wanted to bring his daughter along for a fortnight's vacation. He had decided to look Caitlin up, and found that she was delighted to see him. Over the next few days she had had a delightful time showing Ryan her favorite city sites. These had been the first sunny days for her in a long time. Julian hadn't failed to notice her joy and when he had questioned her about it, a gleam of interest had shown in his own eye. Although he and Caitlin had already planned on a date together that night, he insisted that Ryan come as well. He had said it would be interesting for him to get the perspective on publishing a newspaper out East for a smaller readership.

In a move that surprised Caitlin, he invited Ryan to go on an outing to the San Francisco zoo with his daughter, Mindy, along with Caitlin and himself. Julian smiled and winked at Caitlin, then told Ryan that the best way for Mindy to get a taste of living in the city would be to take his little daughter to the places she would most want to see. Ryan had laughed and replied Caitlin was lucky, Julian would make a great father. Caitlin had felt a knot contract like a physical blow in her stomach and had quickly excused herself for the Ladies' Room. As she refreshed her make-up, Caitlin was well aware her lover could never be a father, or at least, not in the same way that Ryan could… that Ryan was.

Had Caitlin remained behind, she would have witnessed a most unusual conversation. Julian had caught Ryan's attention, Dominating it in fact. Julian thoroughly interrogated the mortal and discovered many things that pleased him. Ryan was from a wealthy family with an upper-class upbringing, and was financially independent and stable. Besides which, he had had a happy childhood, and had treated his first wife like an angel the short year they had been married. His high moral standards easily placed him on par with Frank Kohanek. And, most significant of all, Julian had probed deeply and discovered in him a slight school-boy crush on Caitlin, since seeing her again in California. It had proved enough to work with.

The next day, Caitlin had taken the time off work so they could all enjoy the trip to the zoo, and she truly did enjoyed herself. She and Mindy had gotten along famously from the start. Caitlin bought them both a bag of peanuts to feed the elephants, which cause Mindy to squeal in delight each time one reached out its long trunk and picked up the peanut either she or Caitlin had tossed. Later when Mindy's little feet had grown too tired for walking, it was, to Caitlin's surprised pleasure, her, that Mindy wanted to be carried by. During quieter moment when they were in the darkened Snake and Reptile house, Caitlin and Ryan, chatting contentedly together, never noticed when Julian had pulled the small child aside. Nor had they realized just how intently Julian had been observing the youngster when Mindy had pointed to small family - a man and woman pushing a stroller - and tugged at her father's hand, saying, "That baby has a mommy. Why can't I have a mommy, too?"

Now, by the Brazilian Boa Constructor display, Julian ruthlessly quenched any guilt for interfering in Mindy Parker's life. He crouched down and placed a hand over her heart and waited to catch the sound of her heartbeat. He then spoke directly into her eyes. "Do you liked Caitlin, Mindy?"

The girl had nodded solemnly. Julian smiled.

"Caitlin would be a very good mommy, don't you thing so?" … don't you think so… don't you think so… The words droned their way into the three-year-old's mind.

She gave another solemn nod.

"I think so, too," Julian confided. …think so too… think so too… "Listen very carefully, Mindy."

The girl had stood on her tip-toes.

"Good," Julian said. "The next time you feel like you want a mommy, you will remember Caitlin, and tell your daddy that she would be a very good mommy. But you won't remember that I told you to do this. Can you do all that for me, Mindy?"

When Mindy nodded a final time, Julian released his Mesmerizing hold on her mind and none too soon, since Ryan was now calling out for her, a note of concern in his voice.

"Here, Daddy!" Mindy piped up and ran back over to hug her father's legs. Julian heard the sound of Caitlin's pleasant laughter. Like a man following the path to his own execution, he went over to rejoin the trio.

At the end of the day, Caitlin had taken Mindy over to a food stand to buy her the cotton candy that she had been begging for all day - which is how she came to miss Julian's second, unusual conversation with Ryan. Julian had instantly and almost ruthlessly snared the mortal's mind, filling it with favorable thoughts of Caitlin Bryne, thoughts of sunshine and happiness, thoughts mingled with amorous intentions. That had been easier for Julian to do than he had thought it would be - these were his own thoughts that he was putting into the mortal man's head. When Caitlin and Mindy had approached, Mindy's face and hands already sticky with blue fluffs, both men had turned to her with the same ready smile.

By the time Ryan and Mindy had left San Francisco, Ryan was convinced that he had discovered a special woman with whom he wanted very much to share his life… found her in the arms of another man, that is. Perhaps it was best that he had decided against the move to California. Ryan Everett Parker was too well-breed for jealousy, but he couldn't help feeling that Julian Luna was the luckiest man in the world.

As for Caitlin, ever since Ryan's renewed arrival in her life, thanks to Julian's skillful Domination, thoughts of family kept pouring in although she tried her best to let work occupy her attention. What would it feel like to hear a little person call her "Mommy?" Misappropriated city election funds by the current Mayor required coverage. How would it feel to actually grow old with the same man who shared your bed? The Mayor's charity ball was a disaster. What would it be like to live a normal, human life with a normal, human man? The Mayor's press conference was days away. But as her thoughts continued, the handsome, human man with whom she envisioned happily strolling through the park on brisk, sunny autumn afternoons - there was no autumn in California - watching their children (their children?) running ahead, throwing sticks for the dog to retrieve, shrieking with laughter and throwing it again each time the faithful Golden Retriever did so… and suddenly listening to her own happy shriek as her male companion scooped a bundle of colorful fallen leaves and threw them at her, laughing as she chased after the man ahead with her own pile of leaves, noticing as the wind ruffled his sleek, black hair - or was it short and light brown? Who cared about the Mayor…

Sometimes, when she was supposed to be reviewing the next day's layout, Caitlin imagined herself and the man helping their children build the world's largest snowman in the front yard - it never snowed in her front yard - she and the man rolled and rolled and rolled a large round ball of snow, then they staggered under the combined white of a second ball, heaving it atop the first mound, and as they both stood face-to-face, leaning against it, laughing and trying hard to catch their breaths, Caitlin couldn't help noticing just how blue and warm his eyes were, how congenial his smile was… and then the oldest of the children proudly held her contribution, the snowman's head, she was a girl who smiled like the man, a girl with red ear muffs and long caramel colored hair…

And with a guilty start, the day finally came when Caitlin knew that the man she had been imagining with herself, wasn't Julian -- it was Ryan Parker. (Julian had just been about to give up hope.) Caitlin and Ryan had already been emailing each other on a friendly regular basis since his March visit. Neither had any clue that these emails were in fact monitored by Julian himself to check how their relationship was progressing. And neither realized how it both tormented and oddly comforted him to see the two of them drawing closer, closer… just as he had planned.

 

"A penny for your thoughts," he had said to her one day, pressing a coin into her gloved hand. Caitlin had been out in her back yard weeding when she heard his limousine pull up in her driveway. It was broad daylight and she noticed he was wearing dark sunglasses. She looked away, the sun felt so good, so refreshing on her skin - how could she ever imagine it as an enemy, burning and singing her?

He had knelt carefully onto the ground next to her. Her hair was done up in a careless bun and blonde locks tumbled here and there. He held one and let it slide slowly through his fingers. Caitlin didn't know the other reason for his dark glasses - they served to hide his tears.

Caitlin sighed and sat back on her heels, removing her gardening gloves. "Julian, I love you but I just c-can't go through with… I don't want to…" and covered her face with her hands.

"I know," he said gently, catching her into his embrace. "I know, Caitlin," he repeated, remorsefully. He held her close, so close, a moment before letting her go, leaving her feeling empty inside.

"I've come to bring you something, Caitlin." He held out a flat envelope.

"What's this?" she asked, curious.

"Your answer," he had said in a strange voice. The first was the print out of an email sent to Julian by Ryan, thanking him for his generosity and hospitality while he had been in San Francisco. She read through that part impatiently, she had already received a similar one herself after his departure, albeit more personalized. But what she read next made the world around her come crashing to a halt. Ryan had written that, yes, in regards to Julian's inquiry if Caitlin truly wanted to come out to Vermont, her editorial skill would be very much welcomed at the Herald. In fact, the timing was right. Ryan was currently looking for a new city editor.

Caitlin dropped the print out, underneath it was an airline ticket with her name on it - destination, Vermont. Hot tears welled up in her eyes and her hands shook so much that Julian covered them with his own.

"It's the only way, Caitlin. I can't condemn you to my dark world, anymore than you could live in it. Go, Caitlin, for both our sakes, leave." His voice sounded very raspy there at the end and Caitlin herself felt numb inside. In a sudden swoop, he had gathered her in his arms and pressing his mouth close to her ear, said quietly, "I'll always love you, Caitlin. But if you don't wish to be Embraced, then you must leave… you must leave - it's the only way I can protect you."

"You want me to go?" Caitlin had felt a stab of betrayal at his words that hurt like nothing else.

His laughter was bitter and caused her heart to ache. "Never! But I'd rather know you're alive - than dead because of me."

Caitlin held him all the tighter. "There is no one else, Julian! You're the one I want. Can't you see that? After all we've been through…"

"No!" His reply was swift, forceful, and loud - wounding her to the core. "Don't you think I've thought this through a million times already? Died a million regrets? And said a thousand curses? I'd sooner give up Blood than give up you." Caitlin let out a muffled cry at this. He waited a moment and then continued. "But I can't deny what I am, no more than I could force you to be what you are not. Caitlin, you are one of the most human…" and here his voice broke, "…of persons that I know. It's what I treasure in you. It's what I'll always treasure in you."

And he held her as her sobbing began, letting Caitlin cling to him as long as she needed, unaware that he had needed it to. At last he had then pulled back just enough to kiss her tenderly, preparing to preparing to Mesmerize her for the final time. Julian had made certain to use his dark handkerchief to brush away his own red tears that had formed in his eyes, before removing his glasses. She didn't know that Kindred cried with their own Blood and there was nothing to be gained in letting her know now.

Staring deep into Caitlin's own teary, brown ones, Julian had summoned forth depths of reserves courage he hadn't thought he could and whispered, "Leave, my love, go far away from here… Find a new life, a new love, a new home… And always pretend my kind never existed. Never speak of us. Never write of us. And if you can, try to forget about us." And then he had he kissed both her eyes, just as he had so long ago when he had had to cause her to forget the things she'd seen and heard in Manzanita.

Wavering on semi-consciousness, Julian had let go of her so swiftly that she tumbled downward. Caitlin's last memory of him was watching his back as he stepped into the dark interior of his waiting limousine. She gasped, and as the limousine began to reverse course down her driveway, she had whirled about, sending her backdoor flying open as she ran for her bedroom. She threw herself on her bed and cried for what seemed like hours, knowing that it was finally over between them.

 

 

- April 1998 -

Caitlin accepted some orange juice as the flight attendant made her rounds. She finished it all in three swallows, reflecting that in the end, it had been remarkably easy for her to pack up her whole life and move to a state she had never been before… She had half-way hoped that Julian would be there to see her off, but he hadn't shown up. However, she knew Ryan and Mindy would be waiting to meet her at the arrival gate. She concentrated on that thought, and to her wonder the comfort it brought became a warmth that slowly began to seep itself through to her heart. Ryan. How good it would be to see him again…

Caitlin reflected that it was April now, and time for the beginning miracles of spring to work their magic, time for nature's rebirth to spread multitudes of beautiful flowers, every one of them requiring the sun for their continued growth and nourishment. Caitlin turned her head to look out the oval window again. They were flying high above the clouds and the sunlight that reflected off of them was blinding, but it made her smile, and she wondered if she should not pity those Kindred beings who did not - could not - live or work or play under the sun's fair, yellow rays. And to her pleasant surprise, Caitlin realized how truly glad she was not to be one of them.

 

 

EPILOGUE

Julian set down the phone and looked up at the sound the door opening. He was interested to see his Thrall and descendant Joscelyn slip into his study on her own volition. She quietly closed the door and leaned back against it. Her usual tactic was to avoid him, to appear only when asked… and repeatedly at that, even when it was Julian himself who did the asking. He had discovered that, even Blood Bound, her kind was apparently immune to the subtler, gentler persuasions of Dominant, which would have worked on any other Kindred or Kine. Rather than force the issue, Julian patiently tolerated her insolent behavior.

However, as a Ventrue, he was no stranger to Thralls - he knew that kindness reinforced by physical gestures of affection served to strengthen Regancy. And due to the strange workings of fate, he was not only Regnant, but had also become the legal guardian of his seventeen year old 'niece' until she reached the age of twenty-one. Therefore, Julian made certain to seek out Joscelyn on a regular basis, usually timing it so that he stopped by her room to say goodnight as she was getting ready for to bed, whereupon he headed over to The Haven to hold court.

Occasionally the Prince would ask Jeffrey to have her brought before him. At first the Ventrue butler had been amazed at the various places Joscelyn found on the premises to sequester herself with her school books, but more recently he informed Julian that he had begun to suspect Sasha was aiding Joscelyn in withdrawing herself from the butler's watchful eye. And in return Jeffrey doubted whether Sasha actually made it in before dawn on the days that Joscelyn assured him that she had.

Joscelyn cleared her throat uncertainly, and spoke up from across the room. "You did the right thing to break up with her."

Julian sighed, "I assume you mean Caitlin."

Her flight to Vermont just left five minutes ago. But then, Julian now surmised Joscelyn must have known that or else she wouldn't have chosen this moment to come visit. Sonny had just phoned to tell Julian that Caitlin had safely boarded. Julian had had he Childe trail Caitlin to the airport as a precaution. In case she changed her mind about leaving San Francisco, Julian had wanted someone to intercept her, who could… convince… her to get on that plane. Julian knew that he could never have done it himself. Sending Caitlin out of his life was the hardest, most painful thing that he ever done. It was like the time he had been forced to call the Blood Hunt on Alexandra… when was that? Over a year ago now?

He rubbed at his forehead tiredly. The weight of that decision still remained a boulder on his shoulders. If only there had been some other way… But the Primogen had ruled against his Childe and he had been forced to utter the words that still haunted his worst days.

"I declare a blood hunt for Alexandra Serris for breaking the commandment of our Masquerade. She will be hunted down and destroyed, her blood used to strengthen us…" And one by one the Primogen had each kissed his ring, sealing his decree and Alexandra's doomed fate, as they departed. Only this time it was cold words coupled with lies and Domination to the finest degree, which had cast out the woman he loved.

"Uncle Julian, stop it," pleaded Joscelyn suddenly, crossing the room to stand before him. "You have no idea how awful your mood is affecting me!" She covered both her ears. "The sadness I get from you is like a drowning man! It's stifling! And it's been like that for weeks now - you made midterms unbearable - and today has been the worst of all!" She closed her eyes tightly, as if to physically block out his grief, but her slender frame began to shake, as watery tears began to form in the corners of her eyes.

Julian was momentarily taken back. In the midst of his own disquieting sorrows, he had foolishly disregarded the simplicity with which Joscelyn could pick up on the emotions of Kindred, and even more so with him because of the link that had been forged between them the Blood Bond he had enforced upon her. Julian concentrated a moment on that link and instantly felt drenched in a cold shower of heavy emotional despair as his own pain spring back to him from her.

Julian stood up and took hold of Joscelyn's arms and pulled them down, then as she opened her eyes he led her across the study to one of the two, identical black leather couches by the mantel. They sat down together and he put an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. "I'm sorry," Julian said, kissing her head. "It wasn't very inconsiderate of me to overlook how all this would affect you, too."

Joscelyn gave an unhappy laugh as Julian rang a hand through her lengthening dark, bobbed hair. He knew she was trying to grow it out, having been inspired by her cousin Sasha's long curls. Joscelyn's hair now brushed her shoulders, still curving neatly under. As he smoothed her hair, Joscelyn relaxed and nestled closer. She told her uncle, "Well, I think it's good that the two of you broke up. It means that Caitlin's still human. That's the most important thing, isn't it?"

Yes, reflected Julian, that's the way Joscelyn would see it. Her kind was bent on eradicating - cleansing - the earth from what they perceived to be undead vermin in human guise, i.e., the Kindred. However, Joscelyn was held in check from performing this task owning to her Blood Bond with Julian, or so he sincerely hoped…

"In this case, I happen to agree with you," Julian said. He had to smile some at the comical sight of Joscelyn pushing him away so that she could stare into his face in amazement. "You can close your jaw now, Joscelyn," he teased softly, then continued seriously, "Caitlin would have hated the life of a Kindred… stealing blood to survive… avoiding the day. She would have ended up despising me for sentencing her to such an existence." Just like Alexandra had, he added to himself.

Then he glanced down at his niece in surprise as he felt an unexpected pang of guilt emanate from her. "What is it?" he asked.

"Nothing," Joscelyn coughed, distinctly not looking at him.

Julian felt a heavier wave a guilt echo through their bond. "It doesn't feel that way," he observed, tugging at hair.

Joscelyn blew out a deep breath. "Do you always have to know what's going through my head?" she asked in annoyance.

Julian chuckled. "Works both ways," he said. But that wasn't entirely truthful. Being Joscelyn's Regnant gave Julian an edge that other Kindred didn't have around Joscelyn. With careful concentration, he had the ability to shield those emotions he would rather not read, and was also able to gain some insight into her own feelings that she wanted hidden. Julian only wished that he could decipher her thoughts in the same way, but those he could only guess based on what he emotionally discerned, which given the myriad of complex feelings that flickered through her at any given time, could be a number of different things.

Julian keenly understood that Joscelyn's very nature as a Blood Doll would always cause her to harbor malicious thoughts against Kindred. These thoughts continually warred with a coercive, counterfeit desire to not act upon them - a desire he had placed in her. Therefore, any strong sensation of guilt, such as what he felt now from her, ought not to be overlooked.

Joscelyn's familiar scowl was reappearing, the one that she had unconsciously come to acquire in presence of Kindred, now that Julian had forbidden her to Charm any of them. Julian also recognized it was also a defensive reaction, her attempt to shut others out. He sighed inwardly. Julian doubted that Thralls kept by other Princes were as vexatious to control… However, he also knew that these other Princes also lacked the advantages that an Enthralled Blood Doll presented - advantages that were becoming increasingly apparent the more he understood Joscelyn's unique abilities and nature… Advantages that were all the more his, and his alone, since the standard Kindred practice was to destroy Blood Dolls the moment a Prince uncovered one in his or her Domain.

Julian knew that he could Dominate Joscelyn into reveal her troubling thoughts… and the little trust that existed between the two of them would evaporate like the morning mist. He chose instead to reach over and brush Joscelyn's her cheek with the back of a finger. At the same time he projected his own feelings of paternal love for her through their link, feelings which were heightened by the physical contact of his hand against her skin.

Although Joscelyn batted his hand away, she softened to reluctantly confess, "I was thinking that part of me is glad that Caitlin's gone… and I don't mean just because she's safe from Kindred. I'm glad now that I'm not all alone in having lost the person… the people, I love most."

"Your family," answered Julian, comprehension dawning.

"I know it was last semester but it sometimes I wake up and it still feels like yesterday that they were killed in the crash."

Julian nodded and kissed the top of her head.

"I was so angry… I just couldn't help it. I was so angry all the time."

In fact, at the time of her family's sudden and senseless deaths, Joscelyn had been filled with such strong ire that she had managed to break the Blood Bond. It was raw grief and anger over their wrongful deaths - they had been killed by a drunk driver - that provided the emotional strength to break the artificial closeness Julian's Vitae had captured her with.

Julian had been forced to execute the Blood Bond quickly again, fearing that his young descendant would turn murderous in her grief and rage - lashing out at the quickest and most convenient thing at hand - the Kindred - whom she already hated with the inherent passion of her kind. Already she had nearly Charmed Sasha into taking her blood, when Julian had sensed the severed bond, and come upon them in hallway just in time. What pained him the most about the incident was Joscelyn's screaming confession after the first time that he had forced his Ventrue Vitae down her throat, that he was doing the wrong thing. She hadn't wanted him to Bond her again. She'd wanted him to have killed her instead. Her grief was to the extreme that she wanted only to die and join the rest of her family. Apparently she thought that if Julian knew she had Charmed his Kindred bodyguard, he would extinguish her for it.

Sasha had heard her cousin yell everything, as she'd been listening outside Joscelyn's specially locked and guarded door. She'd been so upset by what she heard, that upon emerging from the room of hysterical niece, he had had to confront another. Fortunately, it turned out that Sasha had only wanted to help. Her own family had been killed in a car accident when she was a child and Sasha thought she understood exactly what her cousin was going through. Sasha just didn't understand why her uncle was being so stodgy about not letting her in to comfort Joscelyn… Julian had flatly refused to admit anyone to Joscelyn's room until the Blood Bond had been reestablished.

However, getting Joscelyn to take his Vitae was a difficult trial that proved especially tiresome since, as he had previously discovered, it took twice as much Kindred Vitae to Bond a Blood Doll than it than a regular mortal or another Kindred - six doses instead of three. He had had to Hunt each successive night. On the positive side, Julian supposed he need never fear her growing addicted on Kindred blood - her inherent distaste for it, both literal and figurative, prevented that. And so Julian had struggled through six separate, highly tumultuous occasions in imparting his Vitae. Only the last session had been the least chaotic, although that wasn't saying much…

 

 

 

- Late November 1997 -

Julian had entered the marbled foyer of his mansion. Jeffrey was immediately there to greet him and remove his long black overcoat. "Any calls, Jeffrey?" Julian asked.

"Did you win this time, Julian?" replied his butler with a slight smile.

Julian scowled. "No need to be inquisitive. Were there any calls while I was with Daedalus?"

"Ah. Meaning that you've lost again. Perhaps you'd care to review game strategies with me later?"

Julian was about to make a cross retort when a image of darkness filtered through his mind. He saw himself in full grip of the Beast, eyes gleaming an eerie pale green, snarling, fangs fully extended. He cringed as he clearly watched himself lunge for his young prey, claws outstretched.

Pushing past the surprised Jeffrey, he ran up the curved stairway in Celerity that defied human sight. Julian tried to get to Joscelyn in time but he knew even as he heard his niece scream that it was already far too late. Veering off to the right on the mansion's top floor, he sucked in his breath watching himself Drain his niece dry in terrifying Frenzy.

"Open her door!" Julian commanded. Two guards had been temporarily assigned to the hallway outside of Joscelyn's bedroom until the second Blood Bond was complete. Quickly complying, they then stepped aside as Julian barged through the arched doorway, slamming the door shut behind him. He heard the various locks and bolts being redone.

Under the flowery canopy of her bed, Julian beheld his niece thrash and scream - and then wake herself up with screaming. Instantly the Bestial image of himself faltered in Julian's mind as her nightmare was ending.

"NO!" she continued to yell at the unreal attacker - him, of course - who still haunted her sleep-addled memory. "I don't want to be Embraced! I hate you! I'll kill you!"

"Joscelyn!" Julian cried, latching onto her arms (no easy feat, as a Blood Doll she was stronger than she looked) trying to sooth her fears, to help vanquish the last threads of her nightmare. "Joscelyn, no one's going to hurt you. It was only a dream - a dream." Julian pulled her against him while he sat on the side of her bed, holding her tight while the last of her shudders wound down. "Shh," he said. "Relax. So young and yet so many worries…"

In another moment Julian would have to inflict the last dose of his Vitae on her. Jeffrey had once tried to combining Julian's Vitae with food, but with the unerring accuracy of a bloodhound, Joscelyn had detected it, and threw the plate at the butler in a fit of ire.

Images of her family's gray tombstones in Manzanita came faintly into his mind. Julian knew she was thinking about their deaths again. "Oh, Joscelyn…" he breathed. Julian felt so totally inadequate to respond, just as he had when Sasha's parents had been killed in the car accident that had nearly claimed her life as well. Only Joscelyn's family hadn't been killed by vengeful Brujah, instead it was a drunk driver that had struck their car. The bodies of Joscelyn's parents and brother had been terribly mangled.

Now the sudden image of pouring rain rested upon him and Julian found himself standing drenched in his black overcoat, in the midst of the cold winter's night when he had laid his Sire's ashes to rest in the old section of Manzanita's small cemetery. Involuntarily, he held Joscelyn tighter to him, just as he had held Archon's urn to himself before reluctantly relinquishing it to the satiny depths of the gilded coffin below, consigning his Sire to a watery grave.

"It was raining," Joscelyn whispered to him. "Do you remember? It was raining then."

Julian momentarily startled, then realized that his niece was referring to the day in early November when they had buried her own family. Yes, it had been raining that morning, misting really, but he supposed she remembered it as rain. It had also rained the afternoon when he had buried his Childe, Eric and said good-bye to Eric's two small human children.

Joscelyn touched his cheek with her fingers. Julian stared at the wet redness on her fingers and realized that he, too, had been crying. He tried to smile at her. "There's been a lot of sadness in this family," he said softly. Then before she could prevent it he snagged her wrist and held it.

"Joscelyn," he began.

She looked puzzled, then her eyes narrowed upon realizing his intent. "No!"

Julian was equally firm. "You don't have any choice in this matter, Joscelyn. It's the price for living here in my Domain and under my protection."

"I don't need your protection!"

"You do. The other Primogen know what you are. They tolerate your presence because they know I am your Regnant. You know this, Joscelyn," he insisted.

"But it's not fair!" She tried to tug her arm away but Julian held fast. "Why can't you just let me be?" Joscelyn cried bitterly.

"You know why," Julian told her, his expression permitting no give.

Her face a conflict of raw emotion, she finally subsided. Julian waited a moment, then carefully let go of her hand. He extended the underside of his wrist and brought up his other thumbnail to slice it neatly open. The next thing he knew, the wind was knocked out of him, his stomach folded in a sore ache and his niece was scrambling to get of the bed, hampered by the myriad covers that she had tangled herself in upon waking and by her own long nightgown. With some amazement Julian realized that she had actually punched him in the stomach - that his Thrall had actually struck him! The Blood Bond had most definitely not yet fully been re-established.

As Joscelyn's bare feet reached the floor, Julian grabbed her using his Celerity coupled with an intense ferocity that caused her both to panic and scream.

"I won't! I WON'T!" she yelled at the top of her lungs.

Julian managed to pull her back onto his lap, enfolding her in his arms. "Yes, you will," he told her more roughly than he had planned.

"I hate you! I loathe you!" Joscelyn raged, trying to push him away. "Do you know how much I do!"

"I think I have a pretty good idea," Julian said, more calmly, as he finally managed to grab her arms in such a way that he had her temporarily immobilized. "Fortunately, that feeling is not mutual."

Joscelyn stopped her struggles and stared at him stonily. "Why? Do you think saying that will make me feel any better? Or make me love you more than I'm already compelled to?"

With effort, Julian made sure that he shielded any negative emotion from her. Then he purposely opened his mind to her, looking directly at her. "Joscelyn, I have loved you ever since you were a little child. Nothing will ever change that. I realize that circumstances have inevitably altered the nature of our relationship. But as for my love for you, that has remained unchanged. You are my great-great-granddaughter and a very welcome member of my family."

"But I don't want a great-great-grandfather!" she cried out suddenly. "I don't want you at all! I want my dad, and my mom! I want my family back. I don't want you - I want them!"

That was painful, but understandable. Julian drew her close and let her hot tears fall on his expensive and very new designer jacket from Paris that Jeffrey had only just presented him that evening. If it wasn't salvageable, he could always buy another one. When Joscelyn had calmed down, Julian thought to ask, "Your dream - the nightmare you had… Are you afraid that I'll Embrace you?"

Joscelyn wouldn't meet his gaze.

"You needn't fear that," Julian insisted. "I would never permit that to happen against your will."

Joscelyn looked at him skeptically. "What about Sasha?"

Julian favored his niece with a light-hearted smile. "I seriously doubt Cameron would let you in his Clan. He's been wary of you ever since you nearly Charmed him into taking your blood your second night in California."

Good, he'd made Joscelyn smile. It would have to be now. Julian made a neat cut on his wrist and presented it to his niece.

Joscelyn first shot him a long, dirty look, then bent her head down again over the cut he had made for her. These were the only real times that Julian experienced any degree of closeness with her, when he gave… forced her to take his Vitae. It was because of those times that he realized how emotionally complicated as well as intellectually complex his young niece truly was.

As Joscelyn began to drink from him, Julian drew a slow breath. A warm, exhilarating fire reached out from deep himself, enveloping first himself before racing through the wide open link that he now shared with his niece. The sensation of being Drained was pleasurable, giddying, wonderful… He allowed his paternal feelings of love to connect with her - realized afresh her hurt at the loss of her own family - the depth of abandonment she felt, all the more acute for years of education that had taken her from them prematurely. Julian pushed down a wave of regret; he shouldered that blame for placing her in an elite boarding school when she was just eight. He knew how much she desired his closeness yet was afraid to ask. He knew how she valued his approval. So Julian poured his love into her with every drop of his blood.

The bond between them cemented fast, fueled with the draughts of his Vitae, of his own vital life, that Julian supplied, intertwining their two spirits. Julian could feel Joscelyn finally capitulate and respond to the strength of his will, bending hers to match his even - fostering an unnatural imbalance which kept her dependent on him - ordering her thoughts to please his - wanting the things that he wanted, loathing the things that he loathed… He could sense it. The Bond was complete again.

Afterward, Joscelyn had said testily, "So I suppose this makes me your slave again?"

Julian gave a smile. "But no longer my prisoner. I'll see that your guards and the extra locks are removed. You can have free access to the Mansion and outer premises again."

"What about all the classes I've missed? The funeral and all this has put me two weeks behind."

"I've personally spoken with each one of your professors, they are willing to grant you extensions and you can take your final exams during winter break, if you need to."

"You talked to my professors. You - not Jeffrey?"

Julian gave a slight smile. "Yes, me. I do have some vested interest in seeing you succeed, Joscelyn. And I know how seriously you take your academics."

Joscelyn had quickly looked away but not before he'd seen the wetness in her eyes. He reached over and smoothed her hair. "Why don't you try to sleep now?" he suggested. "If you want, I'll stay here for a while."

"Thank you, I don't need a babysitter." Having said this Joscelyn turned over. But when had Julian stood up, she quickly looked back at him. "What if I have another nightmare?" she asked.

"I don't think you will this time."

"I… when I thought you were attacking me, I hated you. I really wanted you to die," Joscelyn admitted guiltily.

"It was only a dream, Joscelyn," he had said. "Only a dream."

 

 

- April 1998 -

"Have you ever been that angry because someone died?" Joscelyn asked Julian suddenly. "Like how I was angry at you back then?" She shifted position on the black couch next to him and cleared her throat. "I said some pretty terrible things to you at the time…" A flame of compunction erupted from her, which subsided as Julian gently tucked a lock of hair behind her ear.

"I've never been that angry with you," Julian answered, "if that's what you mean…" knowing perfectly well that it was. But he studied her a moment, considering. Then he acknowledged, "But I do understand loss, Joscelyn. The worst moment of my life was when Evelyn… your great-great grandmother died. I was so sick with grief I didn't know how to handle it, and ended up drinking a great deal. In the end all I wanted to do was destroy myself - to take my own life. And I nearly did."

"What happened? What stopped you?"

"I met Archon."

"Oh." Then, Joscelyn added, "Emily Davenport was sent to eradicate him, you know."

Julian looked at her curiously. "How do you know about Emily?"

"The Voice that Summoned me here to cleanse San Francisco told me. It told me to succeed where Emily Davenport had failed."

Joscelyn had told him about this Voice before, a Voice that only her kind could hear. As far as Joscelyn understood it, some only heard the Voice at when it first Summoned them - and they learned difference between the living and the undead parody of Life that had to be remove like a cancerous substance from this earth. Others of her kind heard it more often, and were Summoned to various places in need of cleansing. More often than not, these coincided with Sabbat infested areas. But Julian was disturbed - this was the first time he had heard Joscelyn make mention of Emily Davenport.

"Why haven't you told me this before?" he demanded.

Joscelyn gave an innocent shrug. "I'd forgotten about Emily until you mentioned Archon's name. So much has happened since I've been here, Berkeley's been pretty demanding, and then my family's death - and I never counted on the Blood Bond actually working, so I guess I've been rather lax in my goal. You know the one… cleansing San Francisco of all Kindred. That goal was the most important thing in my mind at first, and second my degree, too." She made a face. "You've really interfered with my neat plans."

Julian gave her a sideways glance. "I should hope so." Then he added, "You once said that you'd be the only one 'Summoned' to San Francisco. As long as you're here, there will be no others."

Joscelyn nodded. "It's like I told you. We're territorial." Joscelyn slyly smiled up at him. "And here you thought this was your Domain…"

Julian raised a eyebrow at her, but a knock at the door interrupted them and Jeffrey bowed his head in. "Alec Tremaine to see you, sir," he said formally. Jeffrey then stood aside for the taller man to enter, and then left.

"Alec!" Julian arose genuinely glad to see his Brood-brother, stepping around the sofa. "You're up early! What brings you here before sunset?"

"I understand that Caitlin's plane left a bit ago."

The smile slide from Julian's face. "Yes." And the raw ache which was the void of Caitlin's permanent departure from his life re-lit itself.

With a slight frown, Alec crossed the room to stand before Julian and placed a hand on his shoulder. "You did the right thing, Julian," he said firmly. "Not one of the Primogen in the Conclave would have supported your marrying a mortal. It's best that they believe you never revealed our existence to her - that she left you for another man…" He broke off seeing the renewed pain in Julian's face. "Ryan Parker is a good match for her, Julian. You've said so yourself. If things go the way you hope, then--"

Julian shrugged off Alec's friendly grip. "Does that matter anymore," he said tonelessly. "All that matters is that she got away from me… safely."

"It matters," said Alec pragmatically. "It matters. You want her to be happy, don't you?"

Julian turned on his friend. "Do you have any idea how this is killing me, Alec?" he asked fiercely. "Knowing I'll never see the woman I love again? --That I was very the instrument who pushed her into Parker's arms?"

Alec stood looking at him evenly, with patient concern. He spoke calmly, "I won't tell you that this is for the best, only because you already know that."

"I do," Julian responded miserably, walking away. "And it's selfish for me to want to keep her by side just to keep me happy…" He was striding across to open a well-concealed cupboard. "Can I get you anything, Alec-- Joscelyn!" he suddenly thundered, causing the teenager in question to startle. She pretended valiantly that nothing was amiss - and was trying hard not to giggle, Alec noted.

"Joscelyn, do you think this is funny? Replacing my best port with pink lemonade!" Julian thundered.

Alec tried hard to disguise a grin of his own. "Outrageous," he dead-panned, giving Joscelyn a big wink. She fought to keep from complete collapse into giggles.

"Alec, do you really think she needs encouraging?" Julian glowered.

"Peace, my Prince," said Alec, holding up a hand. "Julian, you keep your niece far too caged for fear she'll Charm the whole city from under your feet. Why don't you let me and Kristina take Joscelyn out tonight? Even if she wanted to Charm me, she couldn't fool Kristina." Alec turned to Joscelyn. "Well, how about it, like a break school tonight?"

At the end of last semester, Joscelyn's anxiety had been running high as her Final Exams had approached. On one occasion when Alec had come over to discuss Clan business his Prince, Julian had been held up on a call with Maria, the Ventrue Prince of Sacramento. By the time he had gotten to Alec, he had found him in the Conclave Room with Joscelyn, quizzing her and helping her to review her notes. As Julian surreptitiously observed them from the overhead balcony, Julian was pleased to note that Joscelyn barely evidenced the typical revulsion toward Alec that she innately did toward Kindred, the noticeable exception being Sasha, and when she seemed to feel like it, Julian himself.

Later, when Julian had stopped by Joscelyn's bedroom to wish her good night, he discovered that Alec's name had been ceremoniously calligraphied to the 'Kindred-I-Like' list, which Joscelyn had kept permanently taped on the outside of her bedroom door - a list which previously had only listed one name, Sasha's. A list, Joscelyn did not hesitate to point out, for which Julian did not qualify. It was only a minor annoyance that Sasha had developed the habit of prompting Joscelyn to enumerate those reasons whenever Julian was in earshot… predictably on the days when he had had to ground the errant Brujah fledgling. It was somewhat more annoying when Julian would catch others of his household staff pausing to listen as well.

Joscelyn's eyes now shown with the prospect of a few hours free from her Uncle's compound, she was usually not allowed to leave. School related activities were the major exception, during which she was always accompanied by one of Julian's most trusted staff. Jeffrey had quietly made arrangements with Berkeley's administration right from the start, stressing that Joscelyn's relationship to Mr. Luna required that she be accompanied by a bodyguard at all times.

"Honestly, she'll be fine - I'll be fine," said Alec. He beckoned for Joscelyn to come over to him.

Julian frowned for a moment. Then he nodded. "All right then - but Joscelyn you're to do exactly what Alec and Kristina say… no Charming allowed and don't even think of running off."

"I won't Charm anyone if they don't take me into a place where there's a lot of Kindred - if that happens I refuse to be held accountable…" Joscelyn replied stiffly. Meaning her natural instincts to eliminate the Kindred 'infestation' would kick in and she would begin one by one by setting the Kindred against another.

Alec grinned. "Oh, I think it's safe to say that you won't be in a roomful of Kindred. The place I have in mind happens to be frequented by Garou…"

"Oh, wow… Garou!" Joscelyn's eyes danced with delight.

"Alec," Julian called. "I don't think that's such a good--"

"Don't worry, Julian, we'll have her back by midnight before she turns into a pumpkin…" The Ventrue Primogen was already steering Joscelyn out of Julian's study, escorting her with long, sweeping strides while she peppered him with questions about Garou.

Julian sighed. Then, on an after thought poured himself a glass of the pink lemonade. He had just resettled himself at his desk, already thinking dark thoughts of a life without Caitlin, when another knock sounded at the door. "Detective Kohanek," announced Jeffrey, showing the human in.

Julian was surprised and didn't bother to hide it. "Frank," he said. "What are you doing here?"

Frank grinned and pushed back his hair. "Oh, that's a fine way to greet a guy. Whatever happened to… 'Frank, great to see ya, pull up a chair… have a drink.'" Frank sauntered over and set himself down in the chair before Julian's desk. "So what're you drinking, anyway?" he added, suspiciously.

Julian gave a rueful smile. "Lemonade."

"You're kidding me?" Frank leaned over and took the proffered port glass from Julian's hand. He tipped it back and drank. "Okay, so you're not kidding me. --I won't even ask why…" he said, returning the glass to Julian.

"How can I help you, Frank?" Julian asked.

Frank shifted uncomfortably. "Lillie gave me an ultimatum last night. Frankly, I'm surprised she didn't do it sooner. She said she was tired of my indecision…"

Julian had a feeling he knew what decision Frank was referring to; but he said nothing, sipping his lemonade out of habit, then making a face at it each time he did.

"I don't want to lose her. So I asked her for five more years or so as a human - I told her I didn't want to have to look this young for the rest of my life. She agreed and said something I didn't quite get about fine wines improving with age and a shame Archon had never realized that."

Julian gave a dour look. Lillie Langtry knew very well that the Ventrue Prince had only just turned twenty-seven when Archon had Embraced him.

"So, uh, given my future plans," Frank continued, uncomfortably. "I thought it… I'd better let you know that… uh, that…" Frank couldn't quite bring himself to say it.

"You want to be Embraced," supplied Julian.

"Yeah, Embraced. But the thing I'm worried about is that I won't be able to keep being a cop." He looked Julian right in the eye. "Julian, solving crimes, helping the innocent… that's what my life's all about."

"Sonny's a cop," Julian pointed out. "A Kindred cop. Frank, you don't have to change your life ambitions just because you're Embraced. You might have to alter the manner you go about getting them, though."

Frank nodded slowly. "Guess that makes sense," he said. "There's only one other problem."

"What's that?"

"How am I gonna get Embraced?"

"How-- oh, you mean by whom?"

Frank nodded slowly. "I mean, Lillie's out, because she said her Toreador blood would drive me crazy - not artistic enough. Sonny's out because he's my partner and you don't mess with a relationship like that…"

Julian was very keen to ask why not, but let Frank continue.

"And the thing is, I don't want any strange Kindred Embracing me, so… uh…" Frank looked very uncomfortable now, loosening his collar and trying to seem casual.

He means me! thought Julian with certain surprise. "Frank… I would be honored to be your Sire…" and despite all his age and garnered wisdom, Julian found himself at a loss for further words.

"I should probably warn you," Frank hedged. "I probably won't make life easy for you. Like, I'm still not sure I agree with this whole 'Kindred Law' business."

Julian smiled. "I'll expect the worse. Don't disappoint me."

"Right then," said Frank, standing up brusquely, all business-like now. He started toward the door, then turned back to Julian. "See you in five years, pal," he grinned. Another few steps more and he was gone.

Julian tipped his head and drained the last of the lemonade. He replaced the glass carefully on his desk then reached out to twirl the antique globe that sat on its upper left corner. Gazing at the continents flying by - was that Vermont he had spotted? And Spain - Archon's true home flashed by him several times as well, all in one hazy blur.

And so, the Prince thought, life goes on... It goes on…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and it did.