The Lost Years: Hellspawn by Djinn

Begin part 2 of 2

Lori's office was dark, and her aide looked up as Christine walked toward his desk.

"Admiral Ciani is out."

"Do you know when she'll return?"

"She said she wouldn't be back today." He gave her a polite smile. "Shall I tell her you stopped by, Lieutenant Chapel?"

As she walked back to Starfleet Medical, she frowned. Lori had wanted to see her. She'd made that clear to Uhura. But she hadn't said when or where.

Christine was betting that it wasn't in Command, and sooner was probably better than later. She strolled down to the piers, enjoying the sunshine, trying to work off a strange lingering tension. She hadn't meant to leave her rounds to see Lori, but she'd felt as if she had to. As if she was needed. And it had been clear once she'd seen Jim talking to that woman in the corridors, just who had needed her.

Her reaction to Carol Marcus had been visceral. She'd felt immediately protective of Jim, wanted to stop the woman from hurting him. Of course, Carol probably hadn't realized she was hurting him. She hadn't seen his face the night before, when he'd watched his son from afar, or later when he'd hung back, hadn't followed the two of them to the apartment on the corner.

Christine could tell he was hurting. Had been especially in tune with him last night. It had been such a strange evening. Swinging from the immense high of the erotically charged spell they'd done together to such terrible soul-deep sadness. Hers over the trial the watchers had put her through. His over his son and this woman who seemed to dislike him so.

In a million years, Christine could never fathom disliking Jim Kirk. He was just so...honorable. And sweet. God, he was so sweet.

She sighed. She couldn't let herself dwell on what she wanted or how much she wanted it. She knew what held him back, and she had to respect it.

For now.

And she was going away soon. On the Enterprise. The closer she got to Jim, the less she wanted to take the assignment.

She neared the water, saw the bench she'd shared with Lori, and later with Emma. It was empty. Lori wasn't here.

She turned. Wished she had a werewolf's sense of smell. Even a vampire could scent better than she could. But she had a perfectly good brain and it wouldn't kill her to use it. Where would Lori be?

She turned and headed back toward downtown, back toward the alley she'd found Lori waiting in last time. There was no one in the alley and the door was locked. Surely if Lori was waiting for her, she'd leave it unlocked if not open.

Christine walked back out the other side of the alley, trying to retrace Uhura's steps. Where had the werewolves gone?

Christine turned and looked at the restaurant Uhura had said they'd gone into. It was the odd part of the story, the thing that didn't make sense. She headed across the street and walked into the restaurant.

"We're not serving," a man called out, not even looking up from the game he was playing at the bar.

"I'm meeting a friend."

He turned around, checked her out, his stare raking up and down her body, his eyes narrowing. "Come here."

She took a deep breath, walked over. "Your manners leave something to be desired."

He grabbed her, threw her back against the bar. He moved in, sniffing at her, his mouth close to her ear. "You're not one of us."

"No kidding." She didn't move. "Now get away from me."

"Shouldn't have come in here. Don't belong here." He tightened his hold on her arm.

She kneed him sharply in the groin. As he doubled over, she knocked his head back with her joined fists, followed it up with a punch in the gut. She stepped to the side and he fell to his knees, his head hitting against the bar. She pulled his head back. "Manners. So important. Now, where's Lori?"

"Downstairs." He pointed back toward some stairs, the movement made almost spastic by his pain.

She let his head go and he crumpled into a ball.

"Thank you." She went down the stairs, kicked the door in hard enough to hit anyone who might be on the other side, not hard enough to take it off the hinges.

She heard a muffled groan, and pushed the door harder against the person she'd pinned to the wall. "You wanted to see me?" she asked looking around the room for Lori.

"It took you long enough to get here." Lori glanced up from a table far from the door. She frowned at Christine. "Could you quit beating up the betas? It's beneath you."

Christine let go of the door and a woman edged away from behind it. She slunk past Christine and then hurried over to Lori. Christine saw Lori glare at her as the woman went into another room. Several other people followed her--all werewolves, Christine presumed.

"Come sit." Lori nodded at the men sitting with her and they got up and moved to another table.

Christine sat down. "So you saved my friend."

"I did."

"You also kept her late so she'd be in danger in the first place."

"Yep. Did that too." Lori smiled at her. It was a sexy smile.

Christine looked away. Reminded herself it was a full moon and she wasn't immune to the pheromones floating her way.

Lori reached over and touched her. "Oh my. What have you been doing lately? You positively tingle with magic." She ran her fingers over the back of Christine's hand, making her shiver. "And you're horny as hell."

Christine jerked her hand away. "Let's stick to business."

"I thought we were." Lori laughed. She seemed different. Softer. And lighter.

Christine studied her. Relaxed. Lori seemed relaxed. "What is this place? I mean other than a hangout for the hip if somewhat hairy set?"

Lori laughed again. "I do like you, you know."

Christine shook her head. This woman was dangerous. She had to remember that. She had to not think about how maybe she liked her a little bit too.

"This place is our refuge. Away from him." Lori closed her eyes. "It's safe to say his name here. I just hate to do it. I like to think there's a place he doesn't exist. That he can't find me."

"He's your mentor. He's guided your career. Isn't that true?"

Lori's good mood evaporated. "Yes, it is. But it isn't the whole truth." She pushed away from the table. "I have to show you something."

As Christine stood, Lori closed her eyes, began to mutter something. When she opened her eyes, her irises were solid black. She began to move her hands around Christine's body, as if she was building a bubble around her.

She pulled away, her eyes returning to normal. "Maya, come in here."

The woman who had been behind the door walked in. She looked at Christine and nodded. "Where'd the slayer go?"

Lori smiled. "Where indeed. That's all, Maya."

Maya looked confused, but went back into the other room.

Lori shook her head. "I'm being generous by calling her a beta. She'd be the omega if she weren't my sister." The look Lori threw Maya's way seemed to lack any affection--it was more full of obligation.

"What did you do to me?"

'"It's just a glamour. When anyone looks at you, they'll see someone vaguely familiar. Another wolf, but they won't remember which one if they try to remember. Don't talk until I tell you it's okay. He'll be able to hear us until we're in the pens."

"The pens?"

Lori shot her a look. "Don't talk. And you'll see." She turned and led Christine back up the stairs and out of the restaurant. They walked across the street and in through the front of the building Lori had said was shielded.

They passed through several rooms, before coming to a small hangar where a flitter was waiting. Lori motioned her in and flew them out of the city, heading off in the direction Christine and Jim had taken when they'd gone to Nogura's party.

She looked over at Lori. The woman sat with her jaw set. She glanced over at Christine. There was no smile now, no laugh. This was serious. Dangerous. Christine could feel her slayer senses going on alert. Lori was showing her something important.

And probably not very nice.

They slowed at the gate. Lori waited as someone--or something, Christine wasn't quite sure--in a long hooded robe appeared from out of the bushes and walked around the flitter.

Christine forced herself to sit quietly, as if she'd been there a hundred times. As if she wasn't an interloper.

The hooded figure nodded at Lori. She steered the flitter into a small open area and set it down. Getting out, she moved quickly across the yard and toward a building that looked like a stable.

Christine followed her, then she caught a whiff of a strong fragrance. She turned, saw a field of flowers spread out in front of her. Irises, she realized. Beautiful. But the smell was overpowering. She hadn't realized they could smell so strongly. All the ones she'd seen were odorless. Near the edge of the field, the flowers looked different. Smaller and more of them on the stems. She frowned. Was that wolfsbane?

She looked at Lori, her eyebrows forming the question.

Lori nodded. Then she pointed to the other side of the field. A group of people were harvesting some of the wolfsbane.

Lori motioned for her to follow her. They went through the stable and down some stairs. A huge metal door stood at the bottom. Lori touched it in a strange series of motions, and it opened.

As it shut behind them, Lori said softly. "We can talk now. But try to limit what you say in front of anyone."

"He can't see us here?"

"He wouldn't look here. It's his safest place." Lori's face was hard. Her brown eyes seemed to have turned to some kind of iron.

"You hate him."

Lori smiled bitterly. "You'll understand why in a minute." She led Christine to another door, metal again.

"What are these supposed to keep out?"

"Not out. In." Lori opened the door and motioned her in.

Christine was struck by the noise and the smell. She smelled sweat, the kind of sticky, fear-filled sweat that lingered forever in a place. Moans and odd cries filled the air. She brushed at her arms, suddenly feeling edgy and ready to fight.

"Pheromones," Lori murmured. "Concentrated. Powerful. Makes you want to jump out of your skin, doesn't it?"

Christine nodded.

"Imagine what it does to my kind."

"What is this place?"

"In Japanese it translates as the place of conditioning. We just call it the pens." She stepped forward, walking around a narrow catwalk that ringed the place.

Christine looked down. The room was full of people. Some walking free, some in restraints, others loose but locked in cages.

"All werewolves." Lori stepped close to her. "The ones not roaming free haven't learned to control the change yet." She sighed. "But they will."

Christine watched as a woman in a gray coat walked over to a young man shackled naked to the wall. She held some sort of metal rod, which she poked him with.

Sparks erupted, and he changed immediately, the wolf snarling at the woman. She yelled something at him, and he lunged for her. She stuck him in the gut again, holding the stick against him for a very long time. He finally changed to human, collapsed crying, hanging from the shackles.

"Why?"

"Do you know the story of Sachiko?"

Christine nodded. "She didn't die?"

"Well, she did. Long enough to call the next slayer. Then they took her away. They were sure they could 'fix' her." Lori pulled her farther along the catwalk.

"And they did."

Lori nodded. "A combination of herbs, pain, meditation."

"Magic?"

Lori looked at her sharply. "No, not magic. Most of my kind don't have it. I'm a prodigy of sorts."

"So when he found you--"

"Found me? Do you think he's just rounding up stray werewolves?"

Christine pointed out to the cages. "There are so many here. How else?"

"Open your eyes. We're not foundlings. We're not his charity projects. We're livestock. He breeds us." Lori grabbed her and pulled her harder, hurrying them around the catwalk. "He tries breeding one line to another, coming up with different strains for different tasks. Not all of us make it. Not all of us can control it."

"What happens then?"

Lori pointed down to a cage where a woman was pacing. "She's failed." Lori backed up, leaned against the railing and watched the woman. "I know her. She's a distant cousin of mine. And I can't help her."

"I don't understand. So she can't control it. She can be locked up for the duration. Three days a month, that's all, right?"

Lori nodded. "That's all." She turned to Christine. There were tears in her eyes.

"What will they do with her?"

"They've loaded her up with wolfsbane. The aconite will keep her from changing. But she's frantic with the need to change. You can tell that from here." Lori pushed Christine away, led her down some stairs. "We do get new blood. If Nogura's people find a werewolf, they'll bring him or her to the pens. And they often have to be convinced to work at repressing the change."

She walked over to a pen behind the one that held the woman. A man stood at the small window that separated his cage from the woman's. He talked to her as she paced.

"He's new," Lori said quietly, as if not to disturb him. "They have grown close, sharing pens as they do. Grown close as was the design. Tonight, when he changes, she will not. And they will open the door between them and he will rip her apart. And they will record it, and show it to him over and over. Until he begs to be taught how to resist the change."

Christine stared in horror. "We have to help them."

Lori shook her head. "We can't. Not here, not this way. The whole place is his, ruled by his magic. They don't notice us now, and they don't care that we're here. But if we tried to help, rest assured we'd be stopped."

Christine took a step toward the pen, but Lori touched her hand. "Come away. We can't help."

She followed Lori back up to the catwalk until she saw a woman working with a child. When the little girl screamed, Christine stopped, hands clenching.

"No. Christine. Come away."

Christine turned. One slayer. How much damage could one slayer do here?

Lori's voice was soft in her ear. "You'd be killed before you could free even a handful. I have a plan. And it doesn't require you to die for us. But it does require something from you."

Christine turned to her slowly. "Kirsu?"

Lori nodded. "We must go. Say nothing until we are back in the restaurant."

She led Christine out, locking the doors behind them, climbing the stairs quickly, hurrying to the flitter. Christine wanted to go faster, needed to get far away from the people she had wanted to help but had just walked away from.

Innocents. What had Emma said? They didn't want to be what they were?

The hooded figure seemed to take longer to clear them, it stared at Christine. She looked past it, willing her racing heart to slow, sitting quietly even when it walked toward her side of the flitter. As it reached for the door, she tensed.

"Confusion," Lori murmured. "Fog."

The hooded one stopped. It shook its head, then turned away, waving Lori through the gate.

Christine looked over, saw that Lori was sweating. She'd never seen Lori afraid before. Not like that.

The flight back took no time.

Lori stowed the flitter in the hangar and hurried out of the building and back to the restaurant.

Maya looked up from setting the tables in the main room as they came in.

Lori grabbed Christine's hand and pulled her to the bar. "Get out of here," she ordered her sister.

Maya fled.

"I need a drink." She grabbed a bottle, pulled the stopper out and drank deeply. Then she turned to Christine, put her hands to either side of Christine's head, not touching her but pulling outwards as if ripping away the bubble she'd built. "There. You're you again."

Christine watched the other woman pace. "It tears you up inside."

Lori nodded, not stopping her back and forth movement. "I'm not just a prodigy; I'm alpha. It kills me to go down there, to see what's happening to my family. To others like me."

"And you think Kirsu is your answer? Your promised land?"

"It's daylight there. All the time. And we'd be far from Earth's moon."

"But it might have its own moon. Even in the daylight."

Lori shook her head. "Doesn't matter. We only change with our moon. Earth's. We can feel it even in space, halfway across the quadrant. But in a different dimension, we'd be safe." She took another drink then recapped the bottle and stuck it back on the shelf.

"The slayers are there."

"And they can stay there. We don't want to hurt anyone."

Christine shook her head. "What about Admiral Richter?"

Lori looked down. "I had to. Nogura would have--" She turned away. "I didn't want to hurt him. I tried to get him to leave well enough alone. But he had to question, he had to make a fuss." Lori met her gaze, her own eyes hard. "I have to protect my own. And to do that, I have to maintain Nogura's trust. Carl was a price I had to pay. And I'd do it again."

"I can't give you Kirsu."

Lori nodded. "I know. Right now you believe you can't give it to anyone. But think about it. That's all I'm asking. You know what you've seen. You know he's a monster. He'll use Kirsu for his own power. He's dangerous. Nogura is more a monster than any of my kind."

Christine sighed.

"Just think about it. Please?"

Christine nodded. She was thrown by this new Lori. This slightly- panicked, very serious woman and her very large problem. "I have other things to do right now."

"Give me Kirsu, and we'll take out your vampire. He'll never hurt anyone again."

"Help me take him out when I'm ready to move against him, and I'll think about it."

Lori shook her head. "I took a huge risk last night. If Nogura had noticed what we were doing, then you and I wouldn't be talking. I can't help you again unless I know that we'll have a safe place to run to. Where he can't get us."

"I have to think about it."

"Fine. Think about it." Her angry stare held Christine captive until finally, she looked away.

As Christine walked away, she called out. "And as you think, don't forget that innocent people are dying."

Christine hurried out, nearly running. She didn't slow down until she got close to Starfleet Medical. She had rounds to catch up on.

But she found it difficult to concentrate on her few patients. She kept hearing the screams of one little girl. One little girl who'd never asked to be what she was.

--------------------------

Kirk sat in the resources meeting, trying not to yawn. If he'd known how much of his life was going to be taken up with administrative duties, he might have not rushed so quickly through the ranks. It wasn't helping that he had the nagging feeling that Chris needed him.

When the meeting finally broke up, he grabbed his padds and escaped before one of his colleagues could latch onto him for an after-meeting gab session. Hurrying out of Command and over to Medical, he headed for Chris's office, not even needing to try to feel for her with magic. He just knew she was there.

She was. "Jim." She smiled as he popped his head in.

"You okay?"

She motioned for him to close the door.

He sat down in front of her. "You saw our mutual friend?"

She nodded. "It's bad."

"I know you can't tell me here. But later you can." He touched her hand, was troubled by how shaken she seemed.

She put her other hand over his, holding him tightly. "I don't think I can. I don't think I should. You need to be able to keep working with...you know who...and if I tell you what I saw, I'm not sure that you'll be able to. Or that you won't convince me that we need to do something. Which is clearly not what our mutual friend wants to happen. Yet." She sighed. "And she is our friend. After what I saw, I know who the enemy is."

He frowned. "What you saw obviously is troubling you. I think you need to get it out."

She shook her head. "I'll tell you eventually. But for now, you have to let me hold this close."

"All right. For now." He squeezed her hand. "Can our mutual friend help us with our other little problem?"

"Solutions to our various problems always seem full of conditions." She touched her neck, a seemingly random gesture, unless you knew the necklace was there.

He nodded. "Ah."

"We're on our own with him."

"Not quite." He pulled his hand free and began to call up the program he'd been playing with during the meeting. The other admirals had probably just thought he was running numbers for a pet project. "I've been thinking about what you said. A weapon like a flamethrower only smaller."

"And you came up with something?"

"I did. But I also took the liberty of authorizing phasers for you, and Uhura, and me."

"They won't kill them, you know that."

He nodded, wondered if the Klingon-type disruptor weapons would do better. Could vampire magic stand up to a beam that could tear a body's subatomic structure to pieces? "I know the kill setting won't work, but at close enough range the cutting beam could cut through flesh. Sever a head from a neck?"

"You'd have to be pretty close."

"A last resort possibly, but still better than nothing. I've also been known to take a phaser camping to get a fire started, if the vamp's clothes are flammable...?"

She laughed. "Anything that works?"

"Why not?" He made a few more adjustments to the schematic he'd been working on since she'd told him about her run in with Wharton. "But this is what I'm interested in. We need two things. First, a delivery mechanism that will cut through body armor."

She nodded. "Some kind of armor piercing artillery."

"They used to call them tank-killers. We don't need anything that big, but you get the idea." He walked around, showed her the small handheld weapon. "Secondly, we need fire. Fire that stays where we put it, that burns and burns. Have you ever heard of Napalm?"

She shook her head.

"Basically it was made to keep a liquid incendiary agent burning for long periods where it originally was placed instead of running off. If we could make something like this, something that could be ignited by the initial delivery charge, then the burn might be long enough for the fire to reach critical mass."

"Which on a vampire does not have to be that much." She studied the designs. "Can we make this?"

"We? No. But Chekov's a bit bored these days. And he's security, after all." He grinned. "He's playing around with the designs."

"Did you tell him why?"

"I told him just enough."

"Ah." Chris shook her head. "It's our best shot so far."

He nodded. "Unless I can learn to shoot firebolts out of my fingers."

"How's that coming?"

"It's not. I have another session with Weasel in the morning." He realized he was leaning over her, his hand on her shoulder, his face very close to hers. He slowly straightened up and walked around the desk, putting it safely between them.

She grinned. "Don't run away on my account."

"Prudence dictates--"

"Who the hell is Prudence and how did she get involved in this?"

He laughed. "Speaking of which. You were pretty proprietary back there with Carol."

She looked down, a slight flush on her face. "I know. I'm sorry. I mean, what if she had been someone you were interested in? I had no right to do that."

"Well, your instincts were right. And I didn't mind." He looked down. "I probably should mind, but I didn't."

She leaned forward. "Maybe you don't mind because deep down you think it's how it should be. I mean us...together."

He looked away.

"I'm just saying."

"I know what you're saying. It's not that simple."

"I think it is." She held up her hand as he started to respond. "But, I know you don't. So I'll shut up now." She shot him a sweet, if disappointed, smile.

"You know if I could..."

"I know." She stood up. "I've got a meeting I have to go to. Thank you for coming by. I was...upset."

"I know. I felt it." He shot her a 'don't say a word' look. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Right." They walked out together, and he took his time getting back to Command. His afternoon loomed fairly open, which would give him more time to do boring, mundane tasks. God knew it wasn't always exciting sitting a boring shift on the ship. But at least he'd been out in space, doing something other than voting yea or nay on a funding issue or debating the merits of this or that personnel transfer.

His comm rang. He hit it absently, "Yes, Commander?"

"There's a Lieutenant Chekov here to see you, sir."

Kirk smiled. "Send him in."

"Hello, sir." Chekov smiled; he seemed pleased with himself.

"Well, Pavel, are you going to tell me what you've done that's got you so happy, or are you going to just keep it to yourself all afternoon? And sit."

Chekov took a chair. "I wanted to show you this. I think it would work with a minimum of chemical mixture needed. You did say you want sustained burn in a single point of entry?"

Kirk nodded.

"This should work. My problem was trying to design a combination that would keep the delivery mechanism a manageable size. For some of the mixtures, you'd need so much in the chemical mix that the artillery would have to be shoulder rocket size. Not very inconspicuous and you can't carry extra ammo."

"Gotcha." Kirk looked over the mixture. "How long will it take you to make this?"

"Make it, sir? I thought you just wanted quick designs?"

Kirk laughed. "I may have left out the manufacturing part. Is it something you can do in your spare time?"

Chekov nodded. "But I'm not sure I'm supposed to. Is this an order, sir?"

"No. I can't order you to do this. I just need a favor." He held his hand out for the padd. "Give me the designs. I'll find someone else to make it."

Chekov studied the padd in his hand, then stuck it under his arm. "That's all right, sir. It will be a challenge. It's rare that I get to practice with anything hands on." He leaned forward. "I presume discretion is critical?"

"I'm afraid so."

Chekov grinned. "Then I'll refrain from test firing it on the parade ground."

Kirk laughed. "Good idea." He studied the young man. He seemed more confident, less in need of proving himself. "How go the refits?"

Chekov smiled. "They go well. She's a beautiful ship, sir. You'll hardly recognize her."

Kirk nodded, tried not to let his envy show. "You know Doctor Chapel will be joining you?"

Chekov nodded. "I heard that. It will be just like old times." He seemed to realize what he'd said. "For the junior officers, I mean."

Kirk laughed. "I know what you meant, Pav. Don't worry." He waved him out. "I'm holding you up from your hands-on time."

"Sir, I'll need to requisition some supplies."

Kirk held his hand out for the padd, authorized the expenses to his department's account. If Nogura asked him what he was doing, he'd just tell him he was helping Chris. Let him think that was one of the prices of Kirk's cooperation.

"Have you been up to see her, Pav? The ship?"

Chekov nodded, smiling. "She's beautiful."

"She's always been beautiful."

"Yes, sir." Chekov looked down, then back up. "Is it too late to get her back?"

"Yes, I'm afraid it is." Kirk leaned back, patted the arms of his desk chair. "This is my chair now."

"Aye, sir." Chekov got up. "I'll get right on this."

Kirk smiled, nodded. He watched Chekov walk out. The man had his whole life ahead of him. Years and years left in space. Kirk envied him.

He forced himself to get back to work. He was restless and found it difficult to concentrate. He knew that any kind of distraction would get in the way of the work he'd be doing with Weasel, so he headed down to the gym. He worked out for a while but couldn't muster much enthusiasm for any of his favorite machines.

Bone tired, he finally gave up and headed home. The walk to his apartment seemed unusually long and he decided to skip dinner and fell into bed.

For once, he didn't wake before the alarm; the chirping of it jerked him awake and he struggled out of bed. He still wasn't hungry, felt a bit sick. He made coffee and drank it quickly.

It didn't make him feel any better. In fact, he felt worse. He stumbled into the shower, let the hot water beat down on him.

He closed his eyes, leaned against the wall of his shower and let the shower fall onto his lower back. He flashed back to his conversation with Carol, then to Chris, how close he'd been standing, how good she felt next to him.

So many things in this world that he couldn't have.

Why?

Carol would use her son to get funding. She'd said it. Why did he have to be so honorable? Why shouldn't he use it too?

And Chris? He wanted her. He wasn't sure he'd ever wanted a woman more. If he asked her, she'd bow out of the Enterprise assignment. She'd be with him. She loved him. Nogura could make it happen, and he'd give her a good post, a plum assignment. She'd be with him.

He'd be happy then. He wouldn't be alone.

He wouldn't be lonely. His son. The woman he loved. He could have them. It would be so easy.

He turned off the water, stepped out of the shower, and reached for his towel.

He could have it all.

He stared down at his hands. What was he thinking? His hands began to shake, and he leaned against the wall.

What he wanted didn't matter. He had to stay away from David. Until Carol decided she could share him on her own, not because of some stupid funding.

And Chris wasn't his. She would never be his.

Nausea overwhelmed him, and he barely made it to the toilet in time to throw up over and over again.

He wanted--god help him, so many things he wanted. All within his reach now.

All still lost to him. Just because he could see them didn't mean he could have them.

He glanced at his chrono. Time to go. Long past. How much time had he spent in the shower?

Feeling dizzy and weak, he pulled on his clothes, left the apartment, and headed down the street. He felt dizzy and turned in place, then turned again. He started walking again then realized he was going the wrong direction--away, not toward, Weasel.

He stopped. What the hell was wrong with him?

"Don't you like the scotch?" Nogura's words seemed to haunt him.

He threw up into some bushes.

An early morning jogger stopped. "Do you need help?"

Kirk waved him off. "I'll be fine."

The man shot him a look as if Kirk was some drunk, some derelict. He turned around and ran back the way he'd come.

Kirk closed his eyes. "Weasel. Find Weasel." He didn't open his eyes, just turned slowly until he felt a tug. He kept his eyes nearly closed as he set out in the new direction, walked quickly, not looking up or around-- afraid he'd get himself turned around again. That something was trying to keep him from finding Weasel.

Sweat pouring down his face, he stumbled into the motel room that led to Weasel's workroom.

"About damn time you got here, Mac." Weasel looked up from where he was watching the trivid, his face set in a scowl. Then he hurried over. "Jim. What the hell happened?"

"No...gu...ra." Kirk collapsed, felt Weasel catch him. "Ma...gic."

"No shit, my friend." Weasel eased him onto the bed.

Kirk was distantly aware of Weasel opening the door that led downstairs, of being manhandled down the stairs by the thinner man. As the shields of the room began to close behind them, he started to feel better.

"Okay, let's see what he's done to you." Weasel dropped him into the one soft chair and began to mix up some herbs.

"You called me Jim."

"Yeah. I know. Don't make a big deal of it. Everyone slips up." He grinned at Kirk as he pressed the glass into his hands. "Drink up. It tastes like crap but it'll make you feel better."

"What's your name?"

"No way, Mac." Weasel began to run his hands down Kirk's arm, the same way Nogura had done. Not touching him but still somehow affecting him.

"Please? I won't tell anyone what it is." Kirk shot him his best "I'm dying here" face. In this case, he worried it might be true. If not from whatever Nogura had done to him, then from the god-awful grainy beverage he was trying to suck down. The best he could do was a small sip.

"Don't pull that on me. I've seen it all." Weasel shook his head. "You're one lucky cuss. You know that?" He touched Kirk's forehead, his eyes closing for a moment.

Kirk felt the hot, dizzy feeling recede. "He poisoned me?"

"Sort of. But only because you resisted." Weasel pulled a chair closer and sat watching Kirk. "It was a combination of spell and some kind of decoction. You'd feel fine if you did what he wanted. The more you resist, the worse you feel. Did he give you anything to eat or drink?"

"Scotch. Tasted horrible. I didn't drink much more than a sip." He smiled. "Good thing I didn't."

Weasel nodded. "It's not what saved you, though."

"No?"

"No. The Scotch was just to anchor the spell. The magic that was linked to it is far stronger than whatever he put in the booze." He shook his head as Kirk took another sip of the herbal mix. "Sips do you no good with that. Finish it."

Kirk gagged it down and handed the glass back. He was afraid he'd throw up again, but a moment later he began to feel better. He leaned forward, resting his head on his hands. "What kind of spell?"

"Influence and desire. He make you some kind of offer recently?"

Kirk nodded. "My heart's desire. Or two out of three, anyway." Kirk laughed. Would he have been able to resist if Nogura had thrown in the Enterprise?

"He wasn't counting on you being able to resist him."

Kirk nodded tiredly.

"I doubt he'll try this kind of attack again. But he might go more overt. Throw in the third thing, if it's in his power. Is it?"

"Oh, yes." Kirk laughed, felt slightly giddy. "How come I could resist him?"

"Because you've got the kind of power most sorcerers only dream of, even if you don't know how to use it yet."

"I'm learning," Kirk said quickly.

"Yeah, Mac. Yeah you are." Weasel lifted his head, checked his forehead again. "It also didn't hurt that you've got a crapload of slayer energy inside you. You want to explain that to me?"

"My slayer friend and I did a little spell."

Weasel laughed. "A little spell? This is major tantric energy roaming up your spine, bud. You must be horny as hell. So must she." Weasel leaned in. "Next time release it."

"We can't do that."

Weasel rolled his eyes. "I mean the energy, you numbskull. Ground it. Give it back to the Earth. Haven't I taught you anything?" He narrowed his eyes. "I've never had a slayer that way, most of them are pretty leery of letting down that much, letting someone in to touch the source of them." He began to smirk. "Was it good?"

"Oh my god, yes." Kirk tried not to grin too widely.

"Now, I'm jealous." He stood up. "Work is out. You need to rest for an hour at least."

"I didn't know the Scotch was bad until I drank it, Weasel. Shouldn't I have known?"

The other man sighed. "It was probably shielded. Your boy Nogura is one hell of a powerful mage."

"But you would have known?"

Weasel nodded. "Yeah, I would have. It's not easy. Takes time. You have to look deep. Look with something primitive inside you that knows good and bad from feel and not from being taught."

"I can learn to do that?"

"You already know how. You just don't know it yet." Weasel smiled. "You rest. I'll come wake you when it's time to go."

"Weasel?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks."

The other man nodded. "Don't mention it." He headed up the stairs.

"Aren't you off work?"

Weasel turned to look at him. "Yeah. I'll just be upstairs."

Kirk could feel his eyes closing. "Don't you ever leave the motel?"

"Get some rest, Jim."

It wasn't an answer. Kirk tried to say something else, but a peaceful and softly welcoming blackness claimed him.

------------------------------

Christine walked through the cemetery, sure that David was shadowing her. She turned and scanned the bushes but there was no movement. Nothing to give him away. She wondered if her slayer senses would be more helpful if she actually considered David a threat.

It was dangerous to think of him as more friend than foe. Very dangerous. Yet she was having trouble thinking of him as anything else. He could have killed her more than once. He hadn't. Slayer existence sometimes came down to logic that simple.

On the other hand, he would have hurt Emma the other night if Lori hadn't intervened. That was easy logic too.

Lori. Something caught in Christine's stomach as she thought of the pens. Such horror. She heard a sound from up ahead and forced herself to pay attention. She had horrors far more immediate to deal with.

Christine felt her senses come alive, the hairs on the back of her neck springing up, the nerves in her thighs trembling as she rose a bit on her toes, her stride becoming more feral, less civilized. She was here to kill, to slay. Sometimes it was very elemental. She was jagged, tearing death for things that were already dead.

Two vampires waited for her by a large crypt. They were big...and old. These weren't David's fledglings.

"Slayer," one of them said. His smile was not pleasant.

They knew what she was. It was a relief.

She pulled out her stake, touched her leg where another one was jammed into the side pocket.

"A slayer? Where?" Another vampire stepped out from the inside.

And another. And another. They wore identical jackets. Black leather with a silver half moon design sewn on the arm.

Great. A vampire gang.

A female vampire jumped down from the roof. "She doesn't look like so much, guys. I say we kill her quick and have her as an appetizer." The woman laughed at her, taunted her with a sad face. "Slayer all alone."

"Slayer 'is' all alone, you stupid bint. It's called a verb." David sounded more amused than annoyed. He moved next to Christine. "Hello, love. Sloppy letting me get that close to you."

She glared at him. "I knew you were back there."

"You didn't know that was me just then. I could have been anything."

"You brought your watcher?" One of the male vampires asked. "Ooh. Scary."

David's face changed. "Ooh. Scarier." He grinned at Christine. "These aren't mine, by the way."

"Yeah, I figured that out. Yours don't usually have time to get matching ensembles."

He laughed. "No. They don't." He pulled out a stake. "Shall we?"

"What? No fancy weapon for this?"

He shook his head. "That's your job, my dear. To think of how you'll stop me." He pulled out another stake. "But I did bring extra of the nice pointy sticks." He let them fly, overhand like daggers. They both hit hard, dead center of their targets and two vampires burst into dust.

Christine was impressed. "Nice." She rushed the female, falling easily as the vampire kicked out. Christine's legs whipped out in a simple scissor kick, catching the vampire as she came down from her own missed kick. The female hit the ground and rolled--right into David's waiting stake.

"Nice team we make, Christine."

"Uh huh." She met one of the remaining vampires, blocking his punch, then letting him get a solid hit in. She fell back and he followed her-- obviously thinking she was more stunned than she was. She stumbled once, then again and he moved toward her, defenses down, grinning as if tasting her blood already.

"Idiot," she said, as she slammed the stake home and moved to the last one.

"No, dear. He's mine." David kicked the vampire away from her. He seemed to be toying with the bigger vampire, letting him get close enough to almost land a blow before kicking him away again. "Have you asked yourself why all these old ones are suddenly showing up in San Francisco?"

She stuck her stake in her pocket and sat down on a nearby bench. "Hadn't really thought about it."

"Well, think about it, Christine. Why do vampires show up anywhere?" He let his face go back to human as he punched the roaring vampire away.

"Good reviews on the vampire travel network?"

He shot her a look.

"Fine, David. I give up. Why do they show up anywhere?"

He seemed surprised that she asked, finally dropped his guard and let the vampire rush in close and try to grab him. The only thing the vampire got his hands on was the stake--after David had jammed it into his chest. David was already walking away when he exploded into dust. "You really don't know?"

"Don't know what?"

He sat down at the far end of the bench. "They come for the slayers."

"Plural?"

He nodded.

"I don't understand."

"What kind of reinforcements do you think Silver brought with him? Slayers. Lots of them. Vampires sense them and go crazy. It's an instinctive thing, to go where the slayer is. A death wish of sorts."

"The ancient dance," Christine said softly. It was what Spike had always called it. She looked at David. "Silver brought slayers?"

"Lots of them. Haven't you seen them?"

She shook her head. "I don't believe you."

He shrugged, and looked up, staring at the night sky. "Did your friend tell you about the Cruciamentum?"

"Yes," she said, forcing her voice to stay even.

David looked over at her, surprise on his face. "Did he?" Then he smiled. "He's smarter than I thought."

"He and I don't have secrets."

David made an amused face. "Give it time. You will." He leaned closer. "We were talking about the sewers, Christine."

She jerked up, off the bench and away from him. He followed her, moving in close.

"Don't want to talk about it, eh?"

"Don't need to. I talked to him about it."

"He wasn't there, Christine. I was. Barely older than you were. Horrified by what I saw them do to you."

She made a face, backed off a bit. This time he didn't follow her.

"You couldn't have been that horrified, David. You stayed a watcher until you were turned."

"True. I sublimated that horror. Became something worse in many ways. At least, until Laura--" He turned and walked back to the bench. "How many girls have they murdered that way, Christine? Hundreds? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands?"

She looked down. "It only happens at eighteen?"

"Yes."

She met his gaze, sighed. "How many of us make it to that?"

His smile was sad. "Not many."

She wrapped her arms around her. "I don't understand why you still care about the slayers, but I believe you do. I believe that some of what you say makes sense. I'll help you, and so will Jim. Just stop killing the watchers."

"Why? Because they're innocents?"

"Because I'll have to stop you if you don't. And I don't want to hurt you." She took a step toward him. "Let me help you."

His face was amused. "By all means. Come help me. And get ready for eternal life while you're at it. If you come too close, I'll take it as an invitation for biting, Christine."

She stopped.

He stood. "Soon, you'll have to choose between us. Your handlers--the ones who left you in that sewer. The ones who let you fight alone out here while they huddle inside their houses. Or me. Your ancient enemy. The one who fights beside you."

"Emma fights beside me."

"I don't see her fighting now."

"You think I'd bring her out here if I thought you were anywhere around?"

"She's your watcher. She should want to be here. Or doesn't she care that much about you? You're not her slayer, after all. Not really."

Christine smiled gently. "Like you weren't really Laura's?"

David stood. "I cared for Laura. And I care for you." He turned around. "Where is Emma in all this?" He was shaking his head as he walked away.

Christine watched him go. She stood on the path until he was out of sight then turned and headed for her watcher's townhouse.

She rang the chime but no one answered, so she pushed herself up onto the low brick wall and waited. She felt very exposed sitting in the open, but she was not going to run and hide just because she was a little jittery. She was the slayer--or one of them, at least. What had it been like during the old days, before Buffy, when there had only been one? To be "the" slayer? How terribly isolated had those girls been. How very frightened.

A flitter eased its way down the street, stopping in front of Emma's. Christine pushed herself off the wall as Emma got out.

"Christine?"

Christine saw her watcher touch her coat pocket. Did she think she was in danger? Did she really not trust her? Christine tensed.

Emma shot her an odd look at she pulled out her keycard and passed her, climbing the stairs slowly. "Dear, you seem awfully jumpy." She opened the door and stared down at Christine.

"I want to know about the Cruciamentum."

Emma sighed. "David told you?"

"Actually he told Jim and Jim told me. Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't Roger tell me when I was eighteen and scared out of my mind?" Christine shook her head. "Funny how you've never seemed very eager to examine why I don't patrol in the sewers."

"I'm perfectly aware of why you don't. And I'd say fear of the sewers is a valid response to nearly having died in one." Emma sighed again. "Come in."

When Christine didn't move, Emma started to shut the door.

"Did you ever watch one? Did you ever watch a slayer die?"

"Yes. Once. And I'm on record as condemning it. It's a barbaric practice. I'm not the only one who feels that way."

Christine could feel tears stinging her eyes. She looked away.

"Christine. Please come in."

"I was all alone down there. And I thought I was sick. But there was this terrible vampire that had to be stopped, so I went. Because that's what slayers do. They go. They fight." She looked up at Emma. "They die."

"I know." Emma walked down the stairs, took Christine's arm and steered her into the house. "I know." She shut the door gently and turned around slowly. "Did he hold you? Korby? Did he comfort you? Tell you that you did well?"

"Oh yes. He did all that." Christine wiped at her tears. "He did everything but tell me the truth." She sighed, the sound was ragged. "I needed a vampire to tell me that. Why is that, Emma? Why does he seem to be on the side of the angels on this one?"

"Because he is. It's what drew us together, David and me. One of the things. That we abhorred this practice. That we were working to stop it. And then he was killed. And his voice lost authority. We're still trying, those of us who hate it. Each year there are fewer and fewer watchers willing to put their slayers through this. I swear that's the truth. We'll stop it, eventually. But change takes time, Christine. You know that."

Christine closed her eyes. Felt Emma's hand on her arm, urging her upstairs. She let herself be moved, fell onto the couch, boneless, nerveless. Tired. Confused.

"Are there other slayers here? Did Kevin bring others?"

"What do you mean?"

Christine sat up, her voice harsh. "Other slayers. How hard is that to understand? Instead of me. Because you don't trust me."

"No. No, there are no other slayers here. Why would we bring them? This is watcher business." She sat down next to Christine. "Did David tell you that?"

Christine nodded. "I told him I didn't believe him."

"But you did." Emma leaned her head back, looked over at her. "You seem to believe a great deal that he tells you. I find myself thankful that you're so interested in the admiral or I might be afraid you'd fall for David and all his truths."

"That's not very nice."

"Perhaps not. But it is what I think. You did let him bite you."

"That was different."

"Yes. You were having some sort of difficulty with Jim, weren't you?"

Christine closed her eyes. "You're too good at this Emma. You'll twist anything I say."

"I'm going to ask you something. And I want you to think about it, not dash off some smart answer."

"Ask away."

Emma turned, curling her legs up on the couch so that she was facing Christine. "When did it become your first inclination to reach out--to connect--with your gonads?"

Christine laughed. "Flattering."

"Think about it. And I'm not talking about David anymore. I mean in general."

Christine took a deep breath. "I'm not having sex with Jim."

"I know you're not. It's possibly the first time you haven't jumped into bed with a man."

"Not my choice," Christine muttered.

Emma laughed. "I believe that too."

"You think I'm a bad person?"

"I didn't say that. But Spike. Spock." She touched Christine's arm. "Roger. Your watcher, Christine? Why? He was a father figure."

Christine pulled away. "Spock and Spike weren't."

"No. But all three have something in common. You just haven't seen what it is yet."

"Good in bed?"

"Christine. There may not be many more of these sessions in our future if we don't stop David." At Christine's look, she shook her head. "I'm a realist. Work with me now."

"I told you I won't let him hurt you."

"Work with me. What do they all have in common?"

Christine looked down. The room was silent and she expected Emma to say something, to break the impasse. But her watcher sat silently, her head pressed against the cushion as she watched Christine. She smiled gently at her, then closed her eyes, as if she could wait all night for Christine's answer.

"They saved me."

Emma opened her eyes and smiled. "And in return, you gave them...what?"

Christine looked away.

"Christine? It's not a bad thing. It's just truth. Truth that I don't think you've ever looked at."

"I gave them my body." She turned and stared at Emma. "You're the expert. You tell me why that is."

Emma smiled again. "I think that after Marcus died, you shut down. Buried yourself deep. You set out on revenge, became a wild thing. Killed them all. Right?"

Christine nodded.

"A true child of Faith's line." Emma shook her head. "I know the mystique that slayer holds for you. And I know why. She protected herself the same way by all accounts. Gave her body, but not her heart. Not until she learned how to love. And grew up."

"You think I need to grow up?"

"What do you think?"

Christine shrugged and they fell into another long silence. Then she looked over at Emma. "'I've seen Faith in my dreams. But not lately. She doesn't come anymore."

"Maybe you don't need her to come anymore." Emma shook her head. "After Marcus, you shut down and the only thing you could give was your body. And you gave it with such abandon that you fooled your partners."

"Are you saying I didn't love them?"

"I'm saying you didn't know what love was. You never got the chance to find out what it might be with Marcus. And you never let yourself know what it might be with the others. You were too busy protecting yourself."

"That's bullshit. I loved Spock." Christine pushed herself off the couch. "I bonded with him."

"I know." Emma didn't move, just waited as Christine paced. "And you ran away from him. Not when you thought he had died, but when you knew he hadn't. You ran away from his love, Christine."

"You can't figure out everything like that. There isn't an easy answer for everything."

"Fine, then tell me why haven't you slept with Jim."

"He doesn't want to."

"Yes he does." Emma grinned at her.

"He doesn't think we should."

"So you're his...?"

"Friend. I'm his friend."

Emma nodded. "I see. Would the old Christine have known how to do that? How to just be a friend?" Emma closed her eyes. "Or would she have tried to seduce him by now--maybe even succeeded?"

"You don't make me sound very nice?"

Emma laughed. "At times, you aren't very nice. None of us are." She patted the couch, waited for Christine to sit back down before she asked, "Do you like who you are?"

Christine thought about that. "Yes."

Emma nodded. "I like who you are too." She smiled gently. "Very much."

Christine smiled sadly. "I wish I'd known you when I was eighteen."

"I was just about that age too then."

Christine nodded. Funny how much older Emma seemed. Full of the wisdom that was usually won over time, over years. "I'm glad you pissed off Kevin." She grinned. "I'm glad you had to come help me."

Emma took her hand. "I never have to do anything. Especially stay here. Believe me, part of me would like to run very fast and very far until David is neutralized. But I can't." She squeezed her hand hard. "I stay for you."

"Thank you." Christine squeezed back. "Thank you for staying."

"It's going to get very bad soon. He won't wait forever. You know that. He's been playing with us all. Me most of all by his wooing of you. He wants me to think you might turn on me."

"He knows I won't."

"Not yet. But once he is sure you can't be won, he'll move. And then it will be war. And you'll have to choose sides."

"No I won't. I'm already on your side. You know that. Or you should know that by now. Why don't you know that? Let's examine that. Maybe look at your sex life?" Christine grinned to take out a little of the sting in the words.

Emma smiled. "That vampire trying to kill me was my sex life."

"Oh yeah." Christine shook her head. "Well, let's not go there, then."

"Good idea."

Christine yawned. "I have to get home."

Emma let go of her hand. "You could stay here."

"Do you want me to?"

"Oh, I'm not afraid. I just mean if you're tired. I have extra rooms."

Christine shook her head. "I'm all right. The walk will do me good. I have lots to think about now." She grinned ruefully. "Therapists."

Emma laughed, started to get up but Christine waved her back down.

"I can see myself out." Impulsively, she leaned down and kissed Emma's cheek. "You do good work, you know."

Emma shook her head. "It helps to have such a good patient." She smiled, closed her eyes. "Lock the door on your way out?"

"They can't come in unless you invite them in," Christine said as she walked down the stairs.

"Lock it anyway."

"Sure thing, boss." She closed the door behind her, made sure it had locked before heading home. She took a deep breath of the night air. Her element. The night. It would be strange to be on the ship again. No night. No patrol. No killing.

Strange but good.

She passed a man on a bench. "You must have been bored?"

David just laughed as she walked away.

She turned, continued to walk as she talked. "I'll choose her, David. Go away and let this die now."

"No." He jumped up. "Can I walk you home?"

"No."

"There may be other vampires?"

"No."

"Fine," he said as she walked quickly away.

But she could tell he was behind her, all the way to her place. A menacing presence, protecting her from the other vampires. It was both comforting and deeply disturbing.

FIN