Please send all comments to Julie Beamer

Some people have wondered whether Caitlin would ever remember the events in Manzanita. This is my version >:). Julie Disclaimer: The following story is based on the world of "Kindred: The Embraced" created and owned by Spelling Entertainment and White Wolf and their corporate parts. The story is mine, but I'm borrowing their characters for our own private amusement. --------------------

"...Perchance to dream"

a Kindred story by Julie Beamer

Part 1 It was an hour before dawn and the Luna compound was still. Even the street was quiet and the birds had not yet begun to sing. A woman's scream echoed through the mansion. Cash burst through Julian's bedroom door, gun raised and ready. In the dim light, he could see Julian sitting up in bed with Caitlin sobbing in his arms, trying to comfort her. Julian looked up at his bodyguard. "It's alright, Cash. She just had a nightmare." Cash relaxed and tucked his gun into his waistband. Then he saw Julian glance slightly at his disheveled appearance and realized his presence required some kind of explanation. He was supposed to be off duty. "I, er, was just checking the house and heard her scream." Julian tried not to smile at his bodyguard. Sasha's room was at the end of the hall, just a short sprint away. "I understand," was all he said. After Cash left the room, Julian settled back against the pillows with Caitlin's trembling form in his arms. "What was this one about," he asked gently, knowing she could never, would never, remember the details. He had seen to that in Manzanita. "We were...attacked...and you were...dying. I don't remember anything else -- I just know you were dying and there was nothing I could do." Julian was startled. This was more than she had ever remembered before. But he hid his unease from Caitlin as he kissed her again. "It was just a dream," he murmured to comfort her. "Just a shadow." "But it's happening more and more." "It isn't real," he repeated. "I'm here and nothing is wrong." Caitlin nestled against her lover and let his gentle caresses and kisses calm her fears. It was only a dream, nothing to be afraid of. * * * Hours later, Caitlin woke feeling completely disoriented. Only Julian's presence beside her assured her of where she was. His bedroom was still unfamiliar to her -- she had only slept at the mansion once before, after their trip to Manzanita, weeks ago. *Archon*. The name still reverberated through her mind. The last time she had slept in this room was the day after Archon had died. Julian hadn't named his friend whose death had left him despondent and depressed, but somehow Caitlin *knew* it was Archon. Archon. Julian's Sire. She shook her head to clear it and groped for her watch by the bed. The windows were so heavily curtained she had no way of knowing by the morning light. Eight-thirty?! The time surprised her, especially since Julian was still fast asleep (when he slept at her house he was up and out of there by dawn). She carefully moved from the cavernous bed with its ornately carved headboard, wrapping his silk dressing gown around her. She found a cellular phone on the desk across the room and went into the large bathroom so the call wouldn't wake Julian. She sat on the edge of the black marble bathtub and dialed the number of her office. Her assistant answered. "Hi, it's Caitlin. I won't be in until about 10:00, 10:30 today. Check my schedule and rearrange anything there. Okay, that's fine. I'll see you later. Bye." She stared at her reflection in the mirror. Dark circles under her eyes -- well, makeup could hide that. But she couldn't hide from the horror of her dreams. Caitlin turned on the taps and splashed cold water on her face before going back to the bedroom for her clothes. She had just finished dressing when she heard a movement from the bed. "' Morning," Julian held out his hands to her. Caitlin took them and perched on the side of the bed. "Come back to bed," he coaxed. "I have to go to work. At your newspaper," she added at his sly grin. "Well, I had other work in mind. But if you insist..." "I do. We can't have everyone at the paper guessing about us." Actually, Julian had no doubt that the majority of the newspaper's employees knew of the affair between the beautiful City Editor and their Publisher. But he let Caitlin keep her illusions. "I'll call you later tonight then," was all he said as he kissed her hand goodbye. * * * Caitlin went home to shower and change before going in to the office. Traffic delayed her arrival until just before the scheduled reporters meeting. In spite of the rushed feeling she had (or perhaps because of it) the meeting began well. After a while, Caitlin forgot her horrifying nightmares and gave herself up to the job she enjoyed so much. She loved it in spite of the fact she didn't get to personally cover as many stories as she wanted. This was partly due to the demands of being the City Editor and partly because she was spending more and more time with Julian. One of the reporters was telling her about the story she was working on. "...and so I said, it was like a wolf in sheep's clothing." Caitlin started to laugh -- She was back in the woods. Night had fallen. A gray wolf jumped out towards her and turned into -- Julian! She shook her head, trying to dispel the vision. She didn't realize she had gone deathly pale. "Caitlin, are you okay?" The reporter, Mai Soong, was concerned about the editor. It looked like she was going to pass out any minute. "Yes, I'm ... no, I'm not," Caitlin admitted weakly. "I'm sorry about cutting this short, but I'm going to have to go home." Caitlin barely heard the sympathetic murmurs as she bolted back to her office, shutting the door and blinds from prying eyes. She tried to control her labored breathing and couldn't. She was in a dark wood. Three men with knives, one holding a knife to her throat. Telling her to call Julian... She couldn't stop shaking. Now the dreams were crowding her waking hours as well. * * * Later in the afternoon, Julian called Caitlin at her office. "I'm sorry, Mr. Luna," her assistant replied. "Miss Byrne went home sick earlier today." "I see," Julian replied calmly. "I'll just speak to her tomorrow. Thank you." He thought about calling Caitlin at home and then used the house intercom instead. "Jordan? Have the car brought around front, please." * * * Caitlin opened the door when Julian knocked. She looked pale and ill. "Caitlin? They told me at the paper you went home sick..." Caitlin burst into tears. Julian shut the door behind him and guided her to the couch. "I don't know what's happening," she sobbed as Julian held her. "It's the same dreams, over and over. People in the woods with knives, you getting stabbed, lying on the floor dying..." Julian held her close and said nothing. Caitlin closed her eyes. She was starting to feel better, calmer. She always felt calmer when Julian was near her. Must be some sort of protective presence he generated, she thought, and was glad for a chance to pull herself together. She hated crying, and hated hysterics even more. "Maybe I need professional help," she murmured. Julian dried her tears with his linen handkerchief. "Do you really think that's necessary?" "I can't go on like this. Something's going to give. Like today. I had one of my dreams *during the meeting with my reporters*. I was awake, but I couldn't keep it out of my mind." "All right," he said. "I know someone; she's very good. If you'd like to see her, I could set it up tomorrow." "Thanks." With her head on Julian's shoulder, Caitlin couldn't see the concerned expression on his face. Protecting her now was going to be even harder. Part 2 The next day Caitlin drove to one of the high priced office buildings not far from the newspaper. The psychiatrist Julian had arranged for her to see was both well known and expensive. Caitlin sat in the small waiting room in Dr. Elizabeth Allen's office suite, completely unaware of Julian's presence in the doctor's inner office. * * * He had just finished sketching out the events for the doctor. If she was surprised, she gave no sign. Dr. Allen said, "You are my Prince as well as my Sire. What do you wish me to do?" "Try to help her find another reason for these nightmares. But I want to know how bad the problem is. I may have to take -- other action." Dr. Allen didn't ask for an explanation. What they were going to do was highly unethical in the mortal world. But she was Kindred first and knew where her duty lay. "If you'd like to listen," she offered. "You should be able to hear clearly from the anteroom." She indicated a small door near her desk. Julian nodded and disappeared into the next room. A few minutes later, Caitlin entered the office. She was happy to see it wasn't what she thought of as a stereotypical psychiatrist's office. There was a couch, but it was against the wall, like in any executive office. Dr Allen herself was something of a surprise. No older than mid-thirties, she was attractive and elegantly dressed. But she radiated professionalism. Caitlin liked and trusted her immediately. She took a seat in one of the leather chairs in front of the ebony desk, facing Dr. Allen. "So, Miss Byrne," Dr. Allen began. "I understand you've been having some troubling dreams?" "Yes," Caitlin stumbled finding words, but with a little prompting from the doctor, the story came out. Dr. Allen was surprised only by how closely Caitlin's version of the events mirrored Julian's. No fear of denial here. That could work to the Kindred's advantage. "So these nightmares began after the trip you took to Manzanita?" "Yes." "You mentioned there were difficulties with Mr. Luna clearing his schedule. Do you think he wanted to go?" "I don't think he did. I -- well, I sort of gave him an ultimatum," Caitlin admitted. "And he was very uncomfortable the whole trip up there. I thought it was because his bodyguards weren't with us, but there was something else." "Did anything happen during the weekend?" "Not really. I got sick and Julian took me home on Sunday; but... but that's when the nightmares started. I even had one that weekend. I don't remember what it was about, but I really went through the wringer in it." "Do you think maybe the nightmares began then because you pushed him into going with you?" That was weak, Dr. Allen thought, but she might accept it. "What, you think, maybe I feel guilty about making him come with me?" Dr. Allen smiled. "Why don't you tell me." Caitlin sighed. "What really upsets me is when we got back, he found out a friend of his had died while he was gone. And he wouldn't tell me anything about it." "Dreams are frequently a way for our mind to deal with events and emotions that we refuse to acknowledge otherwise. From what you've told me, do you think it's a possibility that your problems in your relationship with Mr. Luna are, in fact, the source for these dreams?" "It's possible." "Good," Dr. Allen beamed. "I think we're making excellent progress. I would recommend that you discuss your relationship with Mr. Luna openly and honestly. If you find after that the dreams continuing, we can certainly continue meeting." That would give Julian an opportunity to deal with the situation as he wished. Caitlin seemed relieved and happier as she left the office. Dr. Allen's smile slipped when Julian re-entered the room. "You do a good job." "Thank you," she acknowledged. "But you've got problems." "How bad?" She chose her words carefully. "When Dominate is used repeatedly, against the will of the subject, or used to override a long term memory, there is risk that the mind will refuse to accept the command to forget. The events are stored away. In most cases, the subject has no further contact with the Kindred and the memory disintegrates over time. In Miss Byrne's case, she is with you often enough for her mind to -- know -- it's forgotten something. The fact that she is a reporter, with a natural bent for investigating and digging up facts doesn't help either." "What is the danger?" "If you do nothing, there is the danger that she could, knowingly or unknowingly, endanger the Masquerade. These memories are bubbling up outside of her control." "And if I try to push the memories further back?" Dr. Allen was forced to tell him the truth. "You could endanger her mental state. A complete collapse would not be uncommon." * * * Julian was silent during the drive back to the mansion, pondering his options, liking none of them. He was surprised to see the car of Laurence Day, one of the Ventrue officers of the bank the Clan owned, parked out front. Laurence rose when Julian entered the study. A typical Ventrue, he acknowledged the position of the Prince. Physically, Laurence was about Julian's height, but heavier set. His graying hair betrayed his age at the time of his Embrace. In actual years, he was slightly younger than his late friend Archon. "I'm sorry, Laurence, that you had to wait...," Julian began. Laurence waved his hand to indicate the time was not an issue. "I should be the one to apologize for bothering you, but I heard some news I thought you should know at once." He waited a moment. "The Ventrue and Brujah Justicars are coming to San Francisco." When it rains, it pours, Julian thought sourly. "Why? To investigate Archon's death? What's done is done. Whatever they decide, Archon is still dead." "True," Laurence replied. "Like you, I grieve his murder. Do not forget, I accompanied Archon here from Mexico when he chose to resign his office and retire to the wilds of the country." Back when I was still Lorenzo Diaz, he thought. When this was still home. "And then gold was discovered and turned a village into a city with a Kindred population also pouring in," Julian finished. He smiled suddenly. "I came then myself." Laurence smiled automatically, but his reminiscences were not the same as Julian's. He remembered and longed for the time when California was part of Mexico. When Archon owned a large chunk of the Napa Valley. When the land was peaceful and quiet. Before the gold was discovered and destroyed everything. Only Archon wanting him to stay had kept Laurence in the country after the discovery, even convincing him to Anglicize his name to avoid the anti-Mexican feeling that developed in the wake of the discovery. Practically overnight, San Francisco became a city. As Julian had said, the Kindred poured in with the rest of humanity. Archon felt he had to claim the new city for the Ventrue. He set up the banks and established his control, often through bloody battles Julian had helped fight and win. Laurence had been allowed to run the banks in peace. He still did. But it wasn't the same now. However, the past was past and the present was cascading down on top of them. "I think the visit is being arranged by the Justicar himself," Laurence said. "Archon was, after all, originally his Archon. He probably wants to make sure he truly cannot avenge Archon's death. And the Brujah Justicar is coming with him so there is no charges of Vendetta." Julian nodded. "Well, at least they won't stay long." He continued to speak with Laurence about bank issues and other concerns of the Ventrue clan. And then he was alone. But not for long. Cash strode into the library with a lopsided grin. "A run on the bank?" he teased. Julian looked up. Sometimes Cash would come out with comments his Sire, Stevie Ray, would have uttered. Julian still missed the easy camaraderie with his late bodyguard. "Nothing so easy to fix," he replied. "The Ventrue and Brujah Justicars are coming." Cash let out a slow whistle. There wasn't a Prince anywhere that welcomed a visit from the Justicars. They were too powerful. "Any chance we'll get justice?" Julian smiled slightly at the "we". The Gangrel's blood hatred of the Brujah was the only reason for such inclusiveness. "I doubt it," he replied. "I murdered a dozen innocent Kindred on Archon's orders. It's a fact. I can't hide from it." "Do you think Cameron's behind it?" "What, you mean I'm the actual target? You've been hanging around me too much. That thought was almost Machiavellian. No, the Ventrue Justicar requested the visit. Archon had been his Archon in Mexico. He's just checking to see whether there's anything he can do. But there isn't." "Too bad." Julian agreed with that sentiment. *** Part 3 Julian received official notification of the Justicars upcoming visit the next day. He was bound to call a meeting of the Primogens to announce it. Representing the Ventrue was the new Primogen, Alec Tremaine. He sat at Julian's right hand in Archon's place. It was an appointment as subtle as a sledgehammer, Cameron thought sourly. Tremaine was also a Childe of Archon's. With both the Prince and Primogen the Get of the late former Prince, his influence would still be felt at the Conclave. Tremaine would be even more supportive of Julian than Archon had been, Cameron mused. For rumor had it (and Cameron had no doubt the rumors were true) that Archon and Tremaine had fought over the latter's marriage with the Kinfolk sister of the local Garou leader. Julian had put his foot down in the Clan and overrode the opinion of their powerful Sire, allowing the marriage and protecting his Brood sibling from the fallout within the Ventrue Clan. Tremaine owed Julian -- big time. No, Cameron thought glumly, Eddie Fiori had had it easy in the Conclave. Tremaine would be a formidable force to deal with. Like Julian, Alec Tremaine looked no more than mid-thirties. He was taller than Julian, with blond hair and gray eyes. A longtime power at the Ventrue owned bank, he was no political lightweight and had survived two decades under Sabbat rule in New York. The Conclave was shocked by the news of the Justicar's visit, but Julian didn't let his own feelings show. He could have been announcing the visit of a garden club. "I appreciate everyone's feelings," Julian said. "But their main purpose apparently is to investigate Archon's death and the events that lead up to it." He looked right at Cameron and Cameron stared back. Cameron knew he had no way to drag Julian down with this -- Archon had confessed all to Daedalus, including Julian's own innocence of the charge of Vendetta, since he had believed himself to be executing Kindred murderers. The Nosferatu would be believed over anyone else. No, there was no way he could use the visit to his own advantage. He would have to wait. * * * Julian went to Caitlin's house for a late supper that night. He knew what he was going to do and prayed his courage wouldn't fail him. After supper, they sat on the couch, Caitlin happily cuddled in Julian's arms. It was now or never. "Caitlin," Julian began. "Some time ago you said you didn't want to be protected from the truth. That you wanted to know everything, regardless of what the truth was." "Yes," she said slowly. "You also said once," he continued. "That my world frightened you. It should. You could get killed just by being near me." "Your friend that died..." "He was murdered," Julian broke in. "Because you were in Manzanita with me?" "I might have been able to stop it. Or I might have died, too. But the fact is you've become a target because you're close to me. I don't know if I can ask you to take that risk." "Ask me," Caitlin replied. "Don't make the decision for me. I love you. I couldn't imagine my life without you now. If my choice is to have a safe life without you, or a dangerous one with you, then I'll accept the danger." Julian nodded gravely. "Those dreams you've been having. What if I told you they weren't dreams at all?" Caitlin looked up at him. "What do you mean?" "I'll show you." And he passed his hand in front of her face. Then the memories came flooding back. Not dreams -- memories. The attack in the graveyard, hiding Julian in the cabin, Sorrel, Sorrel's death, feeding Julian -- feeding Julian her blood. She gasped in shock as she remembered all the events in Manzanita. "You're a vampire!" Julian nodded, for once not correcting the term. "How could you do that to me?" Caitlin's voice shook. "Make me forget everything that happened? You had no right." "I wanted to keep you alive." "Why couldn't you trust me? I hid you, I gave you my blood..." "It had nothing to do with trusting *you*," Julian wanted to make that quite clear. "But one slip on your part could destroy us all. Humans would kill us if they knew we were here. We are protected only by our ability to move undetected among you. That is the Masquerade." Caitlin got off the couch and began to pace. "So why are you letting me know now?" "Pushing the memories into your sub-conscience was causing you pain. The doctor thought it might even lead to a total mental collapse. I couldn't do that to you." "Thanks," Caitlin replied wryly. "So now what do we do?" "I don't know," Julian responded. "I've broken the Masquerade with you. Anyone who threatens the Masquerade is killed, regardless of who they are. I won't be able to protect you. I may not be able to protect myself. I couldn't protect Alexandra when they felt she was a threat to the Masquerade." "The woman that jumped off the bridge? She was pushed?" "No," Julian replied. "Her throat was slit to weaken her. She jumped trying to get into the water and out of the sun, to protect herself. She didn't make it and burned to death." Caitlin closed her eyes and shuddered. "Changed your mind about me *not* being a monster?" Julian asked gently. "No!" Caitlin's response was vehement. "You're the same man I fell in love with. I couldn't hurt you and I'd never betray you." "I believe you. But others of my kind may not. We were almost destroyed during the Inquisition. Those memories run deep in my kind." Caitlin pondered the question for a moment. "Why can't we just pretend I don't know?" Julian smiled. It seemed so simple to her. "I mean it," she pressed. "Do you all read minds? How could any one else know I know?" Julian thought about it. Technically, they couldn't actually read minds, although they could force people to speak the truth. "Pretend" that she didn't know. It was so simple. Too simple. Easy. It could work. Julian stood up and held her close. "If we're caught...," he began. "We won't be," Caitlin answered. "I know you love me. But do you trust me?" He smiled. "Yes." * * * Julian had wanted to stay with Caitlin, but there was too much to do with the Justicars visit less than 24 hours away. He drove back home feeling relieved about Caitlin, and yet, there was this nagging feeling that something else was wrong. There was a message waiting for him in the library. It had been hand delivered. Julian read the contents with some surprise. Well, if that's how he wants it, Julian thought. * * * The area was deserted when Julian arrived, alone as the note requested. It had been difficult to ditch Cash, but at the end he conceded to the Prince with bad grace. Julian knew he shouldn't overrule him so much when it came to his personal safety, but he never really liked having bodyguards with him constantly. Only Stevie had ever stood up to him. "Tough. You're Prince now and it's my job to stay with you whether you like it or not," Stevie had said. It was a sentence Cash had yet to learn. Julian heard a step behind him and he turned. "It that you -- ." He never saw what hit him. * * * Julian came to slowly. The air was close and when he tried to raise his head, he bumped it on something soft. There was no light and his arms were held tight against his body. He struggled to control his own horror. He was in a coffin. He had been buried alive. * * * Part 4 It didn't take long for Julian's absence to be noted. At first, his household tried to hide it from the other Primogen while Cash and his Gangrels searched. But they couldn't keep it up for long, and they knew it. It was Daedalus that suggested Alec Tremaine be brought in immediately. As the Primogen of the Ventrue, he could keep the Justicars busy while they looked for Julian. Lillie wasn't told Julian was missing, but they did try to find out if he had told her about any secret meetings. He hadn't and they were at a dead end. * * * The Gangrels found the Mercedes by the waterfront. Cash slammed his fist on the hood in temper. *Damn him*, he thought furiously. Damn him for going off alone. He knew the risks involved. It didn't help any that his own conscience pricked him. Stevie Ray would never have allowed Julian to go off on his own. Cash had backed down repeatedly. Well, that would change as soon as they found Julian. He wouldn't allow himself to say *if* they found him. * * * Julian forced himself not to try to fight his way out. Frenzy wouldn't help him. One thing being Enforcer for over 130 years had taught him was don't panic in an emergency. The lack of oxygen couldn't hurt him, although it was very claustrophobic and breathing was something of a habit with him. The main thing was to get a message out to someone. Anyone. * * * Sasha went home early with a headache. Well, not so much a headache, a pressure, a -- a *feeling*. Something was wrong. Something was wrong with Julian. She fainted when she was told at the mansion that Julian had disappeared. * * * Lillie sat in the bar after closing, sipping champagne and going over the night's receipts. She kept thinking of Julian. She hadn't liked how Tremaine had questioned her. Something was up, but no one was telling. She forced herself to concentrate on the receipts. But it was hard. * * * Dawn was just peaking through the blinds of a white framed house in the city. But the owner was once again in the grip of a nightmare. The graveyard in Manzanita. Julian Luna's tombstone. But the date of death no longer read 1899. There was no date of death. She began digging and crying hysterically. She came across a box with glass lid. Inside was Julian. He was alive and struggling to get out. She raised her arm to smash the glass -- Caitlin woke with a start. Dreams again. And they seemed even more real. * * * Caitlin spent the morning getting the run-around from the guards that answered the phone at Julian's compound. Finally, she gave up and drove to the mansion. She was eerily reminded of the night Archon was killed. The guards were extremely alert and cautious. Something had definitely happened. Caitlin had no doubts now that Julian was in trouble. Caitlin had a hard time getting in the house. The guards were insistent -- Mr. Luna was away on business and no one else was home. She was just about to lose her temper when she saw the shadow of a figure on the stairs. Sasha! Julian had told her about Sasha. She could be trusted. Caitlin pushed past the guards and called up the stairs. "Sasha, please," she begged. "Julian's missing, isn't he? I think I know where he is. But we don't have much time." Sasha stared down from the landing for a minute and then galloped down the stairs. She dragged Caitlin into the next room. "Tell me what you know." * * * A short time later the black Mercedes sped out of the city. Cash was driving. Sasha insisted on bringing Julian's bodyguard. Caitlin didn't object. She knew the young man's loyalty was to Julian. Caitlin tried not to shudder when they passed the welcome sign for Manzanita. She had unknowingly taken Julian to the scene of his worst nightmare. If she were right, his memories of the place wouldn't improve. The old graveyard was empty of cars when they arrived. Caitlin led the way to Julian's false grave, breaking into a run when she saw the newly turned earth. There were shovels nearby and the three quickly began unearthing the coffin. When the grave was cleared, Cash jumped down and forced the coffin lid open. The fresh air hit Julian like a bucket of cold water. He gasped as Cash pulled him from the coffin and out of the grave. Julian had obviously been weakened by the ordeal. He felt the setting sun begin to burn into him as Cash and Caitlin supported him back to the car. Caitlin got in the back seat with him while Cash and Sasha returned to fill in the grave. There must be no signs that Julian had been rescued. They soon were back in the car and Cash got them back on the road to San Francisco. He kept looked back at Julian, who was barely conscious. Cash realized Caitlin knew what they were, but he didn't know how to say what Julian really needed. Caitlin met Cash's glance in the mirror as she held Julian against her. "I know what he needs," she said. "Do you have a knife?" Cash looked at Sasha, who nodded. "There's no need," Sasha replied. "Give me your arm." Caitlin extended her arm and winced as Sasha cut deeply into her. The blood flowed immediately and Caitlin quickly brought her wrist to Julian's mouth. As at the cabin, instinct guided Julian to drink. He held her arm securely as he fed. "Watch them," Cash told Sasha. "If she passes out, take her arm away from him. He may not know when to stop." A short time later Caitlin subsided unconscious against the back seat. Sasha reached back and removed her arm from Julian's grasp. He did not resist. They continued to drive, without speaking. There was nothing to say. Julian came to when they reached the city. At first he seemed disoriented, then he tasted the blood in his mouth and realized what had happened. "Not again." He realized where he was and with whom. "What's been going on?" "The Justicars are here and the meeting is at seven," Cash replied and then smiled. "We'll make it." * * * Cash pulled into the drive of the mansion. Julian had completely recovered from his ordeal and carried Caitlin inside the house. Typically, he began directing people nonstop. "Sasha, you stay with Caitlin. She's safest here. Cash, Jordan, you'll come with me." He quickly went to his room, changed his dirty clothes and came galloping back down the stairs. "What about the Brujah?" Cash asked. "You're not going to let them..." "It wasn't the Brujah who grabbed me," Julian replied. "Let's go." * * * In the upstairs rooms of the Haven, all the assembled Kindred heard the ticking of the clock on the wall. Julian was late. The two Justicars glanced at each other. Much as the San Francisco Kindred tried to cover it up, the young Prince was nowhere to be found. This didn't bode well for anyone. Suddenly the polished double doors opened and Julian nonchalantly entered the meeting room, closely followed by Cash. "Please forgive me for being late," he said with a slight smile as he took his seat. "I was tied up." * * * The Justicars didn't take long in their decision. The evidence was sadly clear. The former Prince of San Francisco, known as Archon, had abused his power in carrying out a vendetta against the Brujah of Manzanita, and thus, his death would not be avenged by the Conclave of the Camerilla. The present Prince of San Francisco had merely carried out the orders of his Prince and Sire at the time and there was no evidence to show he knew the deaths ordered were not justified. Therefore, Julian Luna, Prince of San Francisco, was absolved from guilt under Kindred Law. It was the judgement that Julian expected, but he was still saddened to hear it. After the meeting, Cash took Julian aside. "You said it wasn't the Brujah that grabbed you. But, but we found the car by the waterfront. Brujah territory." "Of course," Julian conceded. "That's what everyone was supposed to think. But I'll take care of it tonight." Julian looked at the younger Kindred, expectantly. "Also," Cash stumbled. "I wanted to let you know...about Caitlin. I know it's against the rules, but...well, she's brave and...after what she did, anything else wouldn't be right. Your life is your business and she's a part of your life. I won't say anything. Neither will Sasha. Your secret's safe." For once, Julian was speechless. * * * Julian called back to the mansion. Finding Caitlin fully recovered, he gave orders for her to be returned home. He would have gone himself, but he had another more pressing errand. At the bank. Julian had wanted to go alone, but this time Cash refused to leave him. However, he agreed to remain in the next room. He's becoming as annoying as Stevie, Julian thought. There was still a light under the door of Laurence Day's office. Julian entered without knocking. "Hello, Laurence." The older Ventrue looked up, unsurprised. "Hello, Julian. I heard you made it to the meeting. I waited here. I was expecting you." Julian regarded Laurence regretfully. "Why? That's all I want to know." Laurence shrugged. "I meant no harm to come to you. But if you had mysteriously disappeared, and your car found in Brujah territory, I thought the Brujah might be viewed as responsible. Cameron would be punished and then I would have gone to get you. I wasn't planning to leave you there. It was the only way I could think of to get Archon some justice. I owed him that." "Ingenious," Julian intoned sadly. "But intolerable." His voice was firm. Laurence nodded. "I understand," was all he said. * * * Julian returned home and received a phone call there later. Laurence had committed suicide with a phosphorus gun. He had thoughtfully provided a note that was a lie from beginning to end, but he at least provided a plausible explanation for his action. Julian called for his car. He would go to Caitlin's and spend the morning in her arms. He would be safe there. THE END