The Lost Years: Dirty Secrets by Djinn

Christine searched her closet for something dark and conservative enough for a watcher funeral. She didn't have much to choose from: a couple of slinky dark dresses, her uniforms, and all her comfortable clothes for patrolling.

She pushed the clothes around, as if she'd suddenly come up with something in tweed.

Nothing. There was nothing she could wear to Emma's funeral. Why hadn't she stopped on the way home and bought something? Now it was too late.

She felt tears threaten. They came at the oddest moments. She knew that was how grief operated. She'd never allowed herself to experience it before. Always ran from it. Ran or killed things. Now she wasn't running, and there was a dearth of things to kill. Having an army of slayers around had seriously decimated the local vampire population.

She sat on her bed. Tried to think of someone who was her size who might be able to loan her a dress. Even just a dark skirt.

She felt a tingling and backed up quickly as a portal formed in her bedroom. LaVelle stepped out. She did not look happy.

"I thought you'd be by earlier to bitch me out," Christine said, turning back to her closet.

"I would have been, if I could have gotten the portal to bring me here. It would go anywhere else."

"Guess The Powers That Be didn't want you yelling at me." Christine gave up on the closet, sat down on the bed.

"Could you get dressed? I don't need to see you half-naked."

Christine looked down. She was in her underwear. "Well, I would get dressed. But I don't have anything to wear." She rubbed at her head. She was getting a headache. LaVelle wasn't helping.

LaVelle glanced at the closet. "I see clothes in there. Put some on."

"Look," Christine said. "I'm sorry about hijacking the portal. I really am. But I was trying to save a friend." She decided not to tell LaVelle that her friend was either her watcher or a vampire who used to be the worst kind of watcher. LaVelle was not big on watchers.

"Did you save your friend?"

Christine shook her head. Emma was dead, and it was too long a story to explain about David. "Her funeral is today. I don't have any clothes for a funeral. I'm a slayer, and I don't have any clothes for a funeral." She felt the tears again. Wiped at her eyes angrily. "That must seem pretty funny to you."

"It does seem a bit odd." LaVelle got up and gingerly reached into the closet. "This is a mess."

"And I bet your closet is neat with all the right things in it. Lined up by color."

"And fabric."

She looked at LaVelle, who shrugged and said, "I can't help it that I'm organized."

"Where I'm from we call that anal."

"Whatever."

Christine crossed her arms and tried not to pay attention to how time was ticking away. Jim would be here soon. They could not be late to this funeral. Everyone would be staring at her anyway. Even if she was perfect, they'd find some fault with her. The watchers. The other slayers. The people she'd left behind.

No one would be on her side. No one but Jim.

She sighed. Closed her eyes.

LaVelle stared at her for a moment. Then she said, "Okay. I'm very angry about what you did. And later, we're going to have a discussion about the proper use of our portals." She sighed. "But right now I'm going to go get you something to wear. And you had better not ruin it."

Christine looked up at her. "You're going to do what?"

LaVelle was already calling the portal. "Tell anyone I did this and I'll deny it." She disappeared into the portal, and it winked out. A few minutes later, she was back. She handed Christine a black dress and jacket. "I assume you have shoes?"

Christine slipped the dress on. It wasn't a perfect fit. LaVelle was bigger in the hips, smaller in the bust. But it would do. The jacket hid a multitude of sins.

She turned away. Why did any little kindness make her cry? She felt LaVelle touch her back.

"You okay?"

She nodded. "Thank you."

"I'm still going to yell at you."

"And I'm still going to piss you off."

LaVelle laughed. "No doubt." She rubbed her ring. "Don't wreck that."

Christine turned. Smiled. "No way this is your favorite. I know you pulled out something you don't like that well."

LaVelle grinned. "It's possible. Try to not be late." She stepped into the portal. "Is that annoying Kirk man going to be with you?"

She nodded.

LaVelle nodded. "Good. Lean on him. Sometimes you have to let other people be strong."

"Do you ever do that?"

LaVelle shook her head. "But it's still good advice."

Christine laughed. "I'll try not to wreck the dress."

"Just don't get into any fights. And don't eat anything. Or drink. In fact, don't even breathe."

"Right."

The portal disappeared before LaVelle could change her mind about the loan.

Christine touched the fabric, smoothed it down. It might not be one of LaVelle's favorites, but it was a really nice dress. She dug out her most conservative shoes and slipped them on. Hurrying to make up for lost time, she put her hair up, went easy on the makeup, and was ready for Jim when he buzzed from the entrance. She grabbed a bag and rushed out.

He smiled when he saw her. "That's a new look for you."

"It's not mine." She hugged him. "I didn't have anything. LaVelle loaned it to me."

"LaVelle? Slayer? Dark? Doesn't like you? That LaVelle? She loaned you a dress?"

Christine nodded.

"I'll never get women."

She laughed. "It's okay. You get me. That's enough."

He smiled, took her hand as they walked to the transporter station.

She glanced over at him, noticed the dark suit. She'd never seen him in it. "You look handsome."

He smiled. "I didn't have anything to wear either. But I went shopping."

"Always prepared."

He nodded. "You've had a lot on your mind." He leaned in, seemed to be studying her eyes. "Have you been crying?"

She nodded. "I went back to Emma's house. I wanted something of hers, maybe her walking stick. Or some tweed."

He smiled.

"But it was all gone. Kevin had packed it all up. Shipped it back to the mother country, I guess."

Jim squeezed her hand. "I'm sorry."

She just nodded. Damn tears.

He sighed. "I know it doesn't help, but you had her love. And that's inside you. Kevin can never pack that up and send it away."

She leaned into him, nestling her head against him for a moment. "You're so smart."

His arm went around her. "It's just the truth. She loved you enough to die for you. And to die with you. I think she would have run from anyone else. I think that's what Kevin meant. He loved her, but she wouldn't have stayed with him. Only you."

She smiled. For the rest of the walk, she worked on getting control of her chaotic emotions. By the time they materialized in the London transporter station, she felt more in control.

She suspected that Jim was shoring her up somehow.

"Magic?" she whispered.

"Hmm?"

"Did you do magic just then. For me?"

He frowned. "What are you talking about?"

"To make me stronger?"

He shook his head. "You don't need me for that."

She smiled. "Then I think I may have stolen some of your calm."

He laughed. "Take whatever you need. It's yours. You know that."

She nodded, looked away. If only other things were as freely available as his magic.

"Is that the church?" he asked softly.

An army of tweed stood outside. "How can you tell?" She smiled at him.

He grinned back at her and she was grateful he'd insisted on coming with her.

"Lots of slayers," he said.

She was surprised at the number. They seemed to part as she and Jim walked up. She saw Lynda look over at her. Her expression was unreadable. Then she nodded.

Christine nodded back. She followed Jim into the church.

On the left side were watchers. More watchers than she'd ever seen in one place. No slayers sat there. On the right side, she saw slayers and watchers sitting together. She looked back for Lynda, but the slayer had disappeared into the crowd.

Jim rested his hand on her lower back, and she leaned into him for a moment. "Take a deep breath and let's go," he said.

"I can't take a deep breath, this dress is too tight." She led him up the far right aisle. "May fortune favor the foolish."

He smiled. "That's my line."

She found an empty pew near the middle of the church and sat down. He followed her.

More watchers came in, some stared at her. No one sat next to her. In fact, no one sat near her. She could see Jim's jaw tighten. She touched his hand, shook her head. And shrugged. He still looked angry.

She saw movement out of the corner of her eye and turned as someone stepped into her pew from the center aisle.

"Is this seat taken?" Peter Wyndam-Pryce asked as he sat down.

"No." She smiled up at him gratefully. "I didn't think you'd be here."

"I'm not sure I'm supposed to be. But I thought it would be a good experience for Indusa." He leaned back as his slayer leaned forward. "Christine Chapel meet Indusa Kimani."

Christine held her hand out. "Hello."

The girl took her hand and stared at her in awe. She looked up at Peter. "It's true. What you said."

"Yes, you can get to be very old if you're careful," Peter said.

Christine heard Jim chuckle. She elbowed him. He rubbed his mouth, trying to hide the smile.

Peter winked at Christine as the young slayer continued to stare at her. He nodded to Jim. "Captain."

"It's Admiral now," Christine whispered.

"Oh, well, congratulations."

Jim nodded.

"Where's Spock?"

She took a deep breath.

"Oh my. Not the question to ask apparently. Well, forget I asked it."

She smiled tightly. "If only it were that easy." She looked over at Jim.

He took a deep breath too. Smiled at her. Sadly.

She heard harsh footsteps on the wooden floors of the church coming toward them, and turned out of reflex. She wasn't the only one who turned--a lot of the watchers seemed to be very interested in what was going on in their little section of the church.

Lynda led a small group of slayers toward her. She seemed to be stepping down quite hard. Christine suddenly realized that the girl wanted everyone to look at her. She felt a surge of anger. Emma didn't need this kind of behavior.

Lynda stopped at the pew behind Christine. She stepped in, then leaned down and put her arms around Christine's shoulders, kissing her on the cheek. "I'm sorry for your loss," she whispered. Then she slid all the way in to the inside.

The next slayer leaned down, hugged her. "I lost my watcher last year. I know what you're going through." She moved away.

The girls, ten of them in all, all hugged her, each saying something sweet, then sitting down behind her.

Christine felt her control slipping, reached for Jim's hand. He caught hers and she felt support flooding into her. And control coming back.

She looked over at Lynda. The girl was staring out at the other watchers, as if daring them to start something. Then she looked over at Christine, her eyes perfectly calm, and she motioned for Christine to turn around.

"What's going on," Jim whispered in her ear.

She made a helpless gesture.

He squeezed her hand, leaned in again and said, "I think they call them minders over here. Bodyguards. Emotional ones maybe?" He shrugged.

It was as good an explanation as any.

The service was short and didn't seem to capture Emma at all. It was cold. Nothing like the woman Christine had known. The watchers filed up to the front to view the casket, then trooped out. None of them looked at Christine.

Jim was squeezing her hand a little too hard. She shook her hand a little under his, and he shot her a look full of remorse and anger. Anger at these cold, cold people.

She noticed that some of the watchers had stayed behind. One of them got up and walked past the casket, to the podium. He smiled at those who remained. "Emma helped me. I want to tell you how."

The watchers who were still sitting nodded. Nobody got up to leave.

Christine looked behind her. The slayers were still there.

To her surprise, she realized Kevin was sitting in the back of the church, listening to the man talk about how Emma had helped him through the death of his slayer. The man sat down and another watcher got up. The woman told a similar story. Then a slayer got up, talked about how Emma had helped her find the strength to go back to slaying after nearly being killed in a nightmare battle.

Christine smiled. This was the Emma she remembered.

She pushed herself up, walked to the podium. "Emma didn't save me." She smiled. Took a deep breath, fought for the control to say what she wanted to say. "Emma helped me save myself. That was her gift. To see where we were broken and help us find the way to put it all back together. She was brilliant."

She took a deep breath.

"And she was my friend. I loved her." She tried to say more, but she couldn't. Tears were threatening and her mouth was trembling. She looked out. No one was frowning at her. She saw someone nod, another person smile. "I loved her."

Then she walked back to her seat. Jim scooted over to make room, put his arm around her. She felt one of the slayers touch her back gently.

A few more people got up. Kevin didn't get up. But he didn't leave either. Not until it was over.

The slayers behind her got up. Lynda leaned down as she passed her. "I need to speak with you after the burial."

Christine nodded.

They followed the rest out to the graveyard. So many headstones. All watchers?

"Do they bury slayers here?" she asked Peter.

"Sometimes. If they have no family." He looked down at Indusa, who didn't seem to want to move very far from his side. "Most of the time not." He touched his slayer's shoulder.

Christine smiled. He was a good watcher. Indusa was in excellent hands.

The burial was nearly as quick as the service. She looked for Lynda but didn't see her so she and Jim wandered around the gravestones. So much history.

"She's there," Jim said softly.

Lynda stood at the edge of the graveyard, near a tree.

They walked over to her. When they got there, she was kneeling down, digging a small hole in the dirt, near the tree roots.

Lynda reached into her pocket and handed Christine a container. Then she stood up. "There's no stone for David. There was no service. He'll be forgotten." She turned to Christine. "Or he would have been...if he hadn't made certain arrangements."

Christine frowned. "I don't understand."

"He'd made provisions. If he didn't check in with a certain code on a regular basis with a certain set of people, then a lot of rather damming information he'd collected would be sent to some of us." She looked up at Christine. "Some of us approaching the age of eighteen, for example."

Christine started to smile. "I take it you didn't like what you read?"

"Not one bit." Lynda smiled grimly. "There's more information coming. All the time. More things that he's bringing to light. Terrible things." Lynda sighed. "He was on our side, and we tried to kill him."

"He was on our side, and I did kill him."

"We saw how it happened. Kevin recorded it."

Christine looked at her in horror. "What?"

"He had surveillance in the warehouse." Lynda smiled. It was not a nice expression. "Until today, I was his favorite slayer. I had access to those recordings. I made copies, passed them around. It's really quite touching. He died for you. You cried for him. David's becoming a sort of legend...and so are you."

"Good. For him, I mean. He wasn't just evil. He wasn't just a vampire to be dusted and forgotten. We should remember him."

"He wouldn't want to be there." Lynda gestured to the row of white headstones. "But here. To the side. Watching them. I think he'd like that, don't you?"

Christine nodded.

"Kevin kept his ashes. He said it was out of sentiment. I don't know if I believe that anymore."

"Who can tell with Kevin?" Christine shrugged, opened the container. "In any case, his remains don't belong with Kevin. David would have hated that." She knelt down, poured out the dust, filling the hole.

Lynda spread the dirt back over it and tamped it down. "Rest in peace, David Wharton."

They all stood silently for a moment, then Jim asked Lynda, "What are you going to do?"

She shrugged. "Not trust Kevin when my birthday rolls around, that's for sure." She touched Christine on the arm. "I'm sorry about Emma. I didn't know her that well. But I liked what I saw."

Christine touched her hand. "Thanks."

"If you need us. We're here." Lynda looked across the cemetery. Her expression froze.

Christine followed her gaze. Kevin was staring at them. "And if you need me, you just call. I'll be on the Enterprise. But I can get help for you."

"I'll be okay. I'm a slayer." Lynda smiled cockily at her. "Grandma."

Christine rolled her eyes.

Lynda walked off, directly toward Kevin. He stood his ground.

"What do you think is going to happen?" Jim asked her.

Christine shook her head. "I think Kevin might be facing a coup d'etat if he's not careful." She laughed. "And not a moment too soon." She looked down at the new grave they'd made. "I don't understand why David didn't send me the information."

"Did he know you were leaving?"

"Probably. He knew everything." She shook her head. "But I promised him."

"And you'll keep that promise. Later. Besides, you're looking out for some other slayers."

"One of whom will want this dress back." Christine took the hand he offered. "Let's go home."

"Yeah."

They walked out of the cemetery and down to the transporter station.

She didn't look back.

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

Kirk saw Nogura come into the cafeteria. He made a beeline for his table.

"Have you seen Lori?"

"No, sir."

Nogura's expression was stormy--a tornado barely held under control. "Jim, this is important. If you've seen her, I need to know where and when."

Kirk could feel the other man's energy buffeting him. But it didn't seem like an attack, more like Nogura was having trouble controlling himself. "I haven't seen her, sir."

Nogura shook his head tightly. "If you see her, you comm me. Got that?"

"Got it." Kirk kept his expression bland. The dutiful subordinate.

Nogura suddenly slammed his hands down on the table. Kirk's tray jumped and several people around them turned to look. They saw it was the admiral and quickly turned away. Nogura's temper was legendary.

He leaned in. "Jim. This is no game. If you see her--"

"--I'll tell you. I heard you the first time." Kirk clamped down on his own energy, trying to only project a reassuringly neutrality.

Nogura straightened up. He seemed about to say something else but instead turned and strode out.

Kirk took a deep breath and tried to go back to eating, suddenly not very hungry.

"Is this seat taken, sir?" a young lieutenant asked.

"Go ahead." Kirk gave him a distant smile, not in the mood to talk.

"I have a message for you, Admiral." The lieutenant barely moved his mouth, was hunched over his lunch tray.

"A message?"

"From a certain person whose name we don't want to say because of another person whose name we also don't want to say."

"Well, that narrows it down," Kirk said with a grim smile. "This first person...I take it she's not eager to be found by the second?"

"Yes, sir. That's correct."

"And you would be?"

"Her cousin, sir."

"Ah." Another one. Kirk reached out with his magic, felt the crackle snap as the hair on the back of his neck went up. Were there any normal people left in Starfleet?

"She needs to talk to you and the slayer. She said the slayer would know where."

"When?" Kirk looked around the cafeteria. No one seemed to be paying attention to them.

"After you're off work. Don't draw attention to yourself by leaving now. He'll be watching." The lieutenant smiled. "She said he won't notice if you're with the slayer. He expects that."

Kirk rolled his eyes. "You can tell her we'll be there." He pushed his chair back. "I hope she's in a safe place."

"She is, sir. But it might not be safe much longer. It's important that you and the slayer come tonight."

"We'll be there." He got up, took his tray to the recycler and went back to his office. He had plenty of work to do--not much of it interesting, but at least it consumed time. At the end of the day, he walked down to Starfleet Medical, found Chris in her office.

"Jim." She smiled, but the expression barely moved her lips, did not make it anywhere near her eyes.

"What's wrong?"

"I lost a patient today." She stood up. "He was a technician performing a routine diagnostic on a comm unit when it overloaded somehow." She turned, sighed. "It's a given it'll be dangerous out in space, but no one expects to die performing everyday maintenance down here."

"I'm sorry."

"I know. As a slayer, I see death all the time. Take it for granted almost. But as a doctor, it's still a blow."

He smiled gently. "And your first one as a doctor. He was _your_ patient."

She nodded. "I know he won't be my last. I'll just have to not let it get to me." She leaned against her desk. "What are you doing here?"

"A mutual acquaintance of ours needs help."

She mouthed "Lori," and he nodded.

"Trouble with someone high up?"

He nodded again. "Let's go find her."

"Did she say where?"

"I was told you'd know where."

She nodded. "Ah. When?"

"Now, would be good."

"Let's go."

He followed her out. They didn't talk until they were off the Starfleet grounds.

"He was looking for her today," he said.

"Something's changed?"

"I'd say so."

Chris nodded, not talking again for a while, until she said, "There it is," and pointed down to the restaurant Uhura had shown them. That day seemed so long ago. But it hadn't been.

He watched Chris as she hurried ahead of him. He'd gotten so used to having her with him, enjoying the occasional lunches, the more frequent dinners. Just spending time with her--in the cemetery, in one of their apartments, it didn't matter. Just enjoying being with her.

That would be over soon.

He clamped down on the emotion that ran over him. It did no good to give in to this sadness. She needed to go. It would be good for her.

She turned back to look at him. "You okay?"

He smiled, wondered if she had sensed the downward dive his thoughts had taken. "Yeah."

She touched his hand as she pulled the door to the restaurant open. "Show no fear."

"Werewolf heaven?"

She nodded, then they were inside and he could feel at once that the place was shielded. Heavily so. The crackle of energy of the outside world faded away. He'd come to take that energy for granted, felt uneasy now, unnerved by its absence.

A group of men by the bar turned to watch them as Chris walked to a staircase. They didn't challenge them but they never took their eyes off them. Kirk didn't look away from them either. He thought he saw one of the men lift his lip in a snarl. He decided not to return the expression.

"Jim," Chris said.

He turned to look at her.

"I didn't mean you should challenge them all."

"Oh." He shrugged. "You'll protect me." He looked back over his shoulder.

"The bartender already doesn't like me. Let's not add you to his list of people to eat for dinner at the next full moon."

"Well, at least we'll go out together."

She smiled at that, and he grinned.

"You're incorrigible," she said.

He laughed, but as they pushed open the door to the lower level and walked into the room, his smile faded.

Lori sat slumped at a table, a young man rubbing her shoulders. She looked gray, and had terrible circles under her eyes, and over them too, in the deep hollows underneath her eyebrow. Her lips were dry, chapped, as if she'd been wandering in the desert for days. And her eyes were dull, the whites almost yellow.

Christine said, "Oh my god."

Lori held up a hand. "There's nothing you can do for me. Not as a doctor anyway. This is magic, not illness."" She motioned the young man away, gestured for them to sit.

"Nogura's doing this to you?" Kirk asked. But he knew the answer.

She nodded. "I started not feeling well yesterday morning. I just thought it was some kind of virus. But then when I woke up this morning and looked in the mirror...I knew." She swallowed, convulsively. Hands shaking, she reached for a glass of water and took a sip. She choked.

Chris touched her gently on the back. "It's okay. He can't get you in here, right?"

"I can't stay here forever. He'll figure it out. Or someone will tell him about this place." She grabbed Chris's hand. "Please. I don't know how he found out what I was doing, but he did. We"--she gestured to all those in the room--"have to get out of here. You know what he's like." She turned to Kirk. "You do, Jim. You know how he is."

He nodded helplessly, looked over at Chris. She looked trapped.

"It's not something she can hand over to you, Lori. No matter how much she might want to."

She turned to Chris. "But you can ask? You can ask whoever it is that does make those decisions? You can find out. Please? I need to get there. Now." She sobbed, seemed very small and very far from the cocky woman he was used to dealing with.

Kirk leaned in. "You can't go back to Command. He's looking for you. And he's not happy."

She looked down. "I know. He can't feel me, can't find my energy while I'm here. It must be driving him crazy." She sounded as if that was a good thing.

He didn't blame her.

"He'll never give up. I can't go back out there." She looked up at them, her eyes pleading with them to help her.

"You had to know the risks," he said softly. "When you decided to act on your own."

Lori met his eyes, her expression was dazed. "I knew. But in an impersonal way. It was a game. Now, it's not. Now, I'm scared." She turned to Chris. "Please. Help me. Help us all."

"Can we help the ones in the pens?"

Lori nodded. "We'll figure out a way to get them out. If I just know that there's a place for us. A safe place. Finally."

She looked around the room. The others were nodding. They looked scared too. Scared and concerned for Lori.

Kirk frowned. "What are the pens?"

"You don't want to know," Lori said, putting her hand over his. "It's horrible."

Chris nodded. "It's what I couldn't tell you about."

He could see that they still weren't going to tell him. "Okay."

"I can't just sit and do nothing any longer," Lori said. "I'm the alpha. I have no choice. I have to lead them. Out of here. Away from him. To safety. To freedom."

Chris still looked trapped. "I'll see what I can do."

"When?"

"Soon."

Lori tried to stand up but didn't have the strength.

The young man rushed to her, pushing her gently back into the chair. He looked at Chris. "Soon might not be fast enough."

"Tonight," Lori said, reaching out and grabbing Chris's hand again. "Please do it tonight. Before he finds us. Before he kills us."

"I'll try." Chris gently pulled her hand away and stood up.

Kirk sighed, staring at Lori. "Stay here. Rest."

She nodded, leaned back as if everything was normal, but he could tell by the way she was sitting that she was not all right.

She was a hell of long way from all right.

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

Christine barreled out of the restaurant, could feel Jim close behind her.

"Chris. You need to calm down."

"You don't know what's at stake." She spun on him.

"How can I? Neither of you have told me a thing." He touched her arm. "And you don't have to now. But just calm down and think rationally before you go charging off."

She sighed. He was right. She took a deep breath, then another.

"Better?"

She nodded.

"You hate to see suffering. I understand that. But she's safe for now. What are you going to do?"

"I need to talk to LaVelle. I can't just hand over the keys to Kirsu." She fiddled with the necklace.

He gently pulled her hand away. She realized what she had been doing and made a face.

"No harm, no foul." He grinned. "Just looks a bit odd, playing with nothing." He started off, heading for the waterfront. "I presume we're bound for Tolvar's?"

"Yes."

He reached down for her hand, squeezed it gently. "We can't give in to emotion. Not where he's concerned. He'll read us too easily if we don't keep our cool. Okay?"

She nodded. "You're better at that then I am. I tend to prefer opening a can of whup ass to keeping my cool."

He laughed. "I haven't heard that expression for years."

She smiled. Looked down at their joined hands and sighed. Soon this would be over. This touching, the sharing. Too soon.

"Chris. Ow."

She realized she was squeezing his hand really hard. She let go.

He laughed ruefully as he rubbed at his hand. At her guilty look, he said, "No broken bones. Don't worry." He grinned. "But now I know how poor Carol felt."

She laughed. "She had it coming."

"I'm not sure she did. I make her nervous and angry. Just seeing me now seems to set her off."

"Well, she needs to get over it." She didn't want to talk about Carol. She hadn't liked the way the other woman had looked at Jim. Yes, Carol been mad once Christine had appeared. But before? The look she'd seen on Carol's face hadn't looked like anger, so much as interest, and Christine had felt a brief moment of panic--the woman had a history with Jim that she could never share. When Christine had gone in all macho slayer and terrorized Carol and her hand, she'd been acting more territorial than Jim seemed to realize.

Which was fine with her. He didn't need to know. She pushed Carol Marcus out of her mind and hurried through the small crowd to Tolvar's booth.

It hadn't been easy telling him of Emma's sickness, but he'd nodded sadly, as if he had known it all along. And maybe he had, being psychic or so his sign claimed. He had spent a great deal of time with Emma during her last weeks, and it had been clear that he cared for her deeply.

He looked up as they walked up. "Christine." He smiled at Kirk. "And Admiral."

"It's just Jim here."

Tolvar looked pleased. "Jim."

Christine smiled. "I need to make a call again if you don't mind."

He dug into his pocket, tossed her the keys. "Take your time." He gestured for Jim to sit. "I'll tell your fortune."

Jim shook his head. "Thanks but no."

"You don't want to know what your future holds?"

Jim looked positively mournful as he said, "No."

Tolvar shrugged. "Suit yourself."

Christine headed for the storeroom, opening the door and locking it behind her. The portal was getting easier to call. She'd had no trouble with it the last time, when she'd taken LaVelle's dress back.

The brightness of the Kirsu sun was a shock after the cool darkness of San Francisco. Two slayers were sitting on the steps talking when Christine stepped out of the portal. One of them ran inside, came back out followed by LaVelle.

"I need to talk to you," Christine said.

"Well, come in then."

Christine shook her head. "Can we walk? I need to talk to you alone."

LaVelle walked over to her. "All right."

They moved away from the house. The day...or night--Christine wasn't completely sure what time it was in Kirsu--was warm with a light breeze.

"Is it always like this? Pleasant. Sunny."

LaVelle nodded.

"How big is Kirsu?"

"Why? Are you thinking of relocating?"

Christine shot her a look. "No, I want to put in vacation rentals."

LaVelle didn't laugh.

"I know some people who need to get off Earth."

"What kind of people?"

"Well, they're humans," Christine said. "Most of the time."

"And what are they the rest of the time?"

"Werewolves." Christine turned to see LaVelle's expression.

It was not a agreeable one.

"How many of these mostly human people are you talking about?"

Christine swallowed. "I'm not entirely sure. I think it would be much like with you and the slayers. When a new one was found..."

"So potentially a lot."

Christine nodded. '"Yes. A lot." She held out a hand to stop LaVelle's answer. "But they won't change into werewolves here. They'd be human the entire time."

LaVelle shook her head. "Why do they need to come here? Can't they find somebody else's dimension?"

"Why should they? If it's a whole dimension, surely there's room to share?"

LaVelle took Christine by the arm and turned her. "What do you see?"

Christine studied the landscape in front of her. "The house. The sky. Grass." She sniffed. "I can smell the sea."

"Yes. I can too. I've never seen it." She pulled Christine back around. "Run with me."

She took off, heading away from the house, loping easily through the grass, her long strides eating up ground. Christine followed her, her boots not the best for running but serviceable. It felt great to open up, to try to catch LaVelle. They ran for a long time.

LaVelle turned her around. "What do you see?"

The house was still in sight. As big as when they'd started running.

"We don't understand it yet," LaVelle said softly. "We think that it opens up. That the more space we need, the more we get. But at the same time there is no space. We can run and run...all day, if we want. And when we turn around, the house will always be there."

"I didn't know."

LaVelle laughed. "Neither did we. We'd been fighting Anacost. For as long as I can remember, that was our life. We didn't have time to worry about how much space there was here or what Kirsu was really like. Now, we do. And a lot of us have gone exploring. But we never seem to get very far."

Christine looked down.

"I can't tell you that we'll live cheek to jowl with a bunch of werewolves when I'm not even sure yet that there's room for all of us. We're crowded in, Christine. We're going to try to build some new houses. Explore this place--if that's possible."

Christine looked around. "You've never seen the sea?"

"No. The smell's there. Sometimes so strong it makes me crazy with the need to find it. To see the water again, to splash in it, maybe swim. But I can't get to it." LaVelle sighed. "I'm sorry I can't tell you yes."

"Well, not yet is better than no."

"I think that might depend on your perspective." LaVelle sat down on a large rock, her back to the house. "And from the sound of it, these people you know are in a rush to get here?"

Christine sighed. How was she going to tell Lori that she'd have to wait? "You're not wrong." She sat down in the grass. "They'll just have to wait. Or find another solution to their problem."

LaVelle studied her. "I thought you'd argue with me."

Christine shook her head. "Your way of illustrating the problem was quite dramatic. This world may be smaller than any of us realize."

"I know. It scares me."

Christine looked at her, startled to hear LaVelle admit that.

The other slayer met her gaze. "Before we met Anacost for the last time, it was starting to get crowded. But then we lost so many in that battle and it bought us time." She looked down. "There's water here to drink, and we grow some food. But we bring most of it in, even after all these years. Marion and I provision the others. We leave and go to worlds where no one questions who we are. Hit their markets. Shop."

"I wondered where you got the clothes. That was a nice dress."

LaVelle nodded. Then she looked at Christine guiltily. "Haven't you wondered where we got the money?" She made a face. "We relieve not-so- nice people of their wealth."

"You steal it?"

"They stole it first. Or made it through doing bad things." LaVelle smiled, as if mocking her own simplistic terms.

"You have to survive. It's not like the watchers pay us." Christine shook her head, remembering David's words on that score.

"No, it's not." LaVelle sighed. "And we'll need even more if we have to start looking for another home for most of the girls. I'm afraid that Kirsu may turn out to be only a place to rest in between dying and starting a new life. Or a place to launch the next battle from. There will no doubt be someone who rises to take Anacost's place."

"Do you want me to keep an eye out for a nice place?"

LaVelle shot her a confused look. "We don't want to go back to Earth."

Christine shook her head. "I mean a nice planet. I'm shipping out again. On the Enterprise. The ship I was on before."

"Is the annoying Kirk man going with you?"

Christine laughed. "Most people just call him Admiral. Or Jim." She looked down. Sighed. "And no. He's not coming."

"So the other one will be there? Spock?"

"No. He's gone. For good."

LaVelle shot her an amazed look. "You mean you're going on your own? No man?"

Christine made an exasperated sound. "I spent many years of my first tour on the Enterprise alone. Without a man."

"No, you didn't. You were looking for that watcher of yours. You may not have been with him, but you were still tied to him."

Christine sighed. "Someone far cleverer than you already covered this ground." She felt a pang, sent a silent apology to Emma for speaking so cavalierly of her.

"Right. And besides. What do I care? We're not friends." LaVelle laughed.

"We're not, are we?"

LaVelle shook her head.

"Do you think we could be?" Christine smiled. "You did loan me your dress."

"And had it fumigated when you brought it back."

"Right." Christine smiled. "It doesn't matter if we're friends or not. We're of an age. And we're slayers. That's all that matters." She pushed herself to her feet. "I'll show myself out."

LaVelle didn't say anything. Just sat on her rock, staring out to the distant, possibly unreachable, sea.

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

Kirk was running out of things to talk about with Tolvar. They could only go on about what a great guy Weasel was for so long. He looked over at the storeroom, wondered what was keeping Chris.

"She's fine." Tolvar seemed to read his mind. "Inter-dimensional calls can be a bit tricky."

"I know." Kirk felt restless and began to pace. He was full of pent-up energy that was just itching to go somewhere, preferably in Nogura's direction to make the man pay. It had been a shock to see Lori in such a bad state. A shock...and sobering. She was so strong--stronger than he was by a long shot. If she couldn't keep Nogura's magic away, what chance did he stand if his boss ever decided to go after him for real and not just with a little coercion spell?

Tolvar looked up from the table. "You sure you don't want your fortune read?"

"I'm sure."

"Then sit down. You're making me nervous. And I doubt I'll get any other customers tonight."

Kirk sat, but the restlessness persisted. He jiggled his leg, the vibration making everything on Tolvar's little table shake.

"Anxious?" Tolvar asked.

"Antsy."

"Ah." He smiled.

"What?"

"Well, it's just semantics, isn't it?" Tolvar smiled again. "Antsy being less pejorative than anxious. Less unmanly?"

Kirk shrugged. "Words are tricky."

"Yes, they are." Tolvar didn't press any further. A few moments later, he asked, "You went to Emma's funeral?"

"Yeah."

"Was it nice?" Tolvar made a face. "Well, it was a watcher event, so nice probably doesn't apply. Did they honor her?"

"Some did." Kirk shook his head.

"They were not welcoming to you?"

Kirk laughed bitterly. "Let's just say that Chris isn't one of the finalists in the slayer popularity contest."

"No. I don't imagine she is. It's one of the reasons I like her so much." Tolvar sat back. "Isn't her energy remarkable?"

Kirk could feel his eyebrows heading skyward.

Tolvar laughed. "Oh, I didn't mean it that way. I've only tasted it from a distance."

Kirk grinned, a little sheepishly. "Oh."

"You, on the other hand..."

Kirk shot him a look.

Tolvar held up a hand. "I know, I know. I'm a terrible gossip."

He seemed about to say more, but the door to the storeroom opened, and Chris came out. She did not look happy.

"Not a pleasant call?" Tolvar asked.

"Not the result I'd hoped for." She didn't look like she was relishing telling Lori.

Kirk got up. "We should go?"

She nodded, tossed the key back to Tolvar. "Thanks. I hate to abuse your hospitality and run but..."

He nodded. Waved them away. "Go. You're in a hurry, I can tell."

She walked quickly away from the pier, not talking for a few minutes. Finally, she turned to him. "As dimensions go, Kirsu may not be much of one. It's possible it's too small to support even the slayers."

He took that in. "How long before LaVelle knows more?"

Chris just shook her head.

He rubbed at his eyes. "Lori needs our help now."

"I know that, Jim. But Kirsu isn't the way. There must be another answer."

They walked in silence, then he had a thought, touched her arm to get her to slow down. "Didn't Weasel say the motel was a dimensional way station?"

She began to smile. "I think he did."

"Then maybe he can help?"

She nodded, looking a bit happier. "Maybe he can."

The restaurant came into sight. There were, if possible, even more werewolves crowding in. Kirk could feel the strangeness of being in such a shielded place warring with the overwhelming energy of that many werewolves so close to him. His body went into high alert.

Chris headed downstairs and he followed her.

Lori was still at the table, slumped over it. If anything, she looked grayer. She looked up at them, her expression one of cautious hope. "Well?"

Chris looked down.

One of the men at her table slammed his hand down. "Did you even try? Or don't we matter to you?"

Chris looked up, her eyes full of regret. "You do matter. But Kirsu isn't what you think. It's limited. Possibly incredibly so. Until the slayers can survey it, see how much room there is..."

"And how long will that take?" Lori asked. Her voice was low, angry.

"I don't know. But long enough to make it no longer an option."

"Then what? We just sit here and wait for Nogura to find us?"

"We have another idea," Kirk said softly. All eyes turned to him. "We need to check it out first. But if we could get you to another dimension...?"

Lori closed her eyes. Shaking her head, she said, "You don't know what you're saying. We don't know what kind of dimension we might end up in. It might be a worse hell than this...than the pens."

"That's why we have to check it out," Chris said.

"We're nearly out of time," Lori said. "We can't afford to waste what's left." She forced herself to her feet. "I need to talk to the slayers in Kirsu."

"That's impossible," Chris said.

Lori walked toward her; every step seemed an enormous effort. "I must talk to them. If they see, if they understand...just get me there, and I'll do the rest."

She was standing very close--too close--to Chris. Her eyes were wild, frantic.

"No. I'm sorry." Chris stood her ground, didn't budge.

A surge of anger flitted across Lori's face, then she clamped down on it. "Of course. You have to protect them. You're a slayer...one of them." She turned away, walked back to the table as if she was a hundred years old. "Go away then. You can't help us."

"Let us check out this other solution," Chris said. "Please."

"Fine. If it makes you feel better, go ahead." Lori's voice left no doubt that she didn't feel any better for the suggestion.

"I'm sorry." Chris shook her head. "I wanted it to work out for you."

"I'm sorry too, Christine." Lori held her eyes, there seemed to be something dark in her expression. Then it was gone. She sighed and looked away. "I'm tired. Go away."

A low growl started in the room; it became louder as more voices took it up.

Chris motioned for him to go; she took the rear, following him up the stairs.

The upstairs room was filled with the sound of growling too. The low tone seemed to pass right through his bones, straight into his heart and stomach and soul.

He and Chris had failed them, the growl seemed to say. They had failed them utterly.

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

Christine slowed once they were well clear of the restaurant and all those accusing faces. She wasn't in any rush to hear Weasel tell them he couldn't help--bad news seemed to be the only thing they were getting.

She looked over at Jim. He looked as dejected as she felt. And he didn't even know the full story. It was just so much in his nature to help, to want to make a difference. Even for a bunch of werewolves.

He glanced at her, gave her a sad smile. She reached out, and he took her hand.

"Maybe Weasel will have better news than LaVelle did," she said, trying to sound hopeful. Although Lori hadn't seemed very thrilled with their alternate solution.

"Maybe," he said softly.

They passed the cemetery and she looked through the iron fence, remembering all the times she'd patrolled it with David shadowing her. She missed him. She'd been willing to destroy him, but she still missed him.

Jim squeezed her hand. She smiled, looked over at him. His own smile was sad. He knew. He always seemed to know what she was thinking.

"Help. Please help."

Christine whirled, pulling Jim with her. A young woman was running out of the bushes from the center of the cemetery.

"Please wait," she said, running straight for them.

Christine and Jim both hurried to meet her.

"Oh my god. It was horrible. It was clawing itself out of the ground...out of a grave." She sobbed, short of breath and obviously scared out of her wits. She looked at Christine. "Its face was all--"

"--Bumpy?" Christine was surprised there were any vampires left in San Francisco. She turned to Jim. "Go on. I'll catch up."

"Be careful," he said.

"You too." She turned back to the woman. "Where was the grave?"

The woman pointed back the way she had come. "Near the big mausoleum. Just behind it. I was cutting through the cemetery on my way home. It knocks ten minutes off my walk."

"Don't do it again." Christine studied the woman, remembering how David had met her the first time in much this way, pretending to be there innocently. She drew out her cross, held it against the woman's arm.

The woman stared down at the cross. "Is that to bless me or something?"

"Something like that. Now go, get out of here. And don't cut through the cemeteries, okay?"

"Not a problem." The woman looked at her curiously. "But what are you going to do?"

"What I always do." Christine laughed bitterly. "Don't worry. Just get home safe." She turned away from the woman, headed into the heart of the cemetery.

She reached the mausoleum quickly, walked around but didn't see any disturbed graves. She started another pass, figured she must have missed it.

As she came around the back of the mausoleum, she heard a strange pop, then felt a sting in her neck. She reached down, felt cold metal, and pulled out a dart. She stared at it, confused. "What the hell?"

She turned. Too fast, much too fast. She nearly fell as her head started to spin. She felt her legs begin to tremble, her arms tingled, as if they'd fallen asleep.

And it was hard to breathe.

"I'm sorry." Lori walked out of the bushes.

She looked different somehow, but Christine was having trouble focusing on her.

Lori moved closer, held up a small weapon. "Don't try to fight it, Christine. You can't. It's a very fast-acting nerve agent. It's paralyzing but not fatal. You'll lose control of your limbs soon, so you might want to sit down before you fall down."

Christine could feel her legs about to give out. She sat, heavily and gracelessly. She tried to catch herself with her arms, felt the muscles screaming as they gave out and she fell to her side in the grass. "Why?"

Lori walked over to her. "I don't have any choice anymore. I was hoping you could get me Kirsu. But you didn't come through." She knelt down, stroked Christine's hair. "I wish it didn't have to be this way. I do like you."

"Be what way?" Christine couldn't move but she could still talk...with effort. "Jim...Jim's going to get help for you. We'll find another way. Whatever you think you're doing, you don't need to."

Lori leaned down, sniffed along her neck. "I would have liked to have gotten to know you better." She laid her lips on Christine's neck, not a kiss as much as a nuzzle. One animal to another.

Or predator to prey? Christine tried to move. Couldn't. "I don't understand."

"I know." Lori drew away. "I need Kirsu. Another dimension just won't work for me. And I'm out of time. You let me down, Christine. I was counting on you, and you didn't deliver. Now, I have to look out for my people. I don't have a choice."

"So you kill me?"

"Not me. Him." Lori moved Christine's head so she could see the vampire moving across the lawn.

"Where...there was no grave."

"No. There wasn't. She was one of mine, dear." Lori stood up. "I made a deal with this nice vampire. He's going to kill you slowly so the slayers in Kirsu will have plenty of notice that you need help. I expect them to come rushing in very soon."

Christine felt her stomach sink. "Lori, no. It won't work. Not if you're here."

"Oh, I plan to hide. And once they're busy with you, I can borrow their means of travel and go to Kirsu. Once I'm there, I can bring my own to join me. I'm out of other options, Christine. One way or another, you'll deliver Kirsu to me."

Christine waited, but Lori seemed to have moved away. Then she heard her footsteps on the path.

"Slowly." Lori's voice was neutral, as if she was ordering a junior officer to take a reading or run a diagnostic. "Remember, she can't fight you."

"She's really a slayer?"

"You're not seeing her at her best. Believe me, if she was feeling better, she'd kick your ass."

Christine tried to send a silent message to LaVelle, and to Marion. Don't come. It's a trap.

The vampire picked her up; she hung helplessly from his grip. He tightened his hold on her neck, cutting off her air. She tried to kick; her legs didn't even move.

He laughed and punched her in the stomach hard. Her middle erupted in pain. She tried to punch him back, couldn't get her arm to even twitch, much less strike.

He kicked her away from him, and she landed on a gravestone, her back wrenching. He stalked over and dragged her off the marker, shaking her as he pulled her up.

"If it were going to be quick, I'd rip your throat out here and now." He opened his mouth, horrible teeth coming closer and closer. "But she said to make it slow. So your neck is off limits." He bit down hard on her shoulder, tearing away a chunk of skin. Then he drank.

Pain shot through her. This was nothing like David's bite.

She heard a whimper, realized it was coming from her.

This was how she would die?

"What the hell is going on?" The voice was commanding, but she couldn't place it.

The vampire looked irritated that anyone would interrupt his fun. He turned, and she could see who was standing on the walk watching them.

Nogura.

He lifted his hand, muttered something, and the vampire's shirt caught on fire. He let go of Christine and dropped to the ground, rolling, putting out the flames. She landed on her side, tried to crawl, couldn't even inch away.

She heard Nogura murmur something, and she suddenly felt as if she was in an isolation tank. The air felt funny, and the normal sounds of the night seemed muffled. And when the vampire reached for her, his hand was repelled, as if by a forcefield.

"Lori," Nogura said loudly. "I know you're here."

There was no answer.

"She has darts," Christine managed to say.

"It doesn't matter." He walked over to her.

She heard the vampire charge, could only see his feet as he ran past her. There was a moment's struggle, then she heard a scream and the familiar sound of an undead body turning to dust.

Nogura knelt down next to her. "She was trying to call the slayers, wasn't she?"

Christine didn't answer. Hoped he'd think she was out of strength.

"It was a good idea. Except for the fact that they aren't here." He muttered something that sounded like Latin, and the air returned to normal around her.

She tried to take a deep breath, felt as if her lungs were tightening up.

"If I have an emergency medkit beamed to me, can I reverse the drug's effects?"

"I don't think so. But a toxicology kit might work."

She heard him open his communicator, there was the whine of connection and then he was ordering both kits from someone named Ellie. He left the communicator open, set it down just to his side.

"Why are you helping me?"

"Why wouldn't I help you?" He pulled her shirt away from her torn shoulder. "This has to hurt."

She didn't answer.

"I know you don't trust me, Lieutenant." He set his hand over her torn skin.

If she could have pulled away from him, she would have. But she was frozen, at his mercy. As long as he didn't touch the necklace, she'd be okay. Fortunately it was hanging down, away from the shoulder that had been bitten, away from him.

"Just relax. I'm not going to hurt you." He pressed down.

She felt as if he'd shot her full of anesthetic, the pain fled under his touch. "What are you doing?"

"Fixing your shoulder. You're bleeding badly."

"Why?"

"Why am I helping you?"

She tried to nod, couldn't. "Yes."

"Starfleet's made an investment in you, Doctor. It wouldn't do to let you die before we get any value back. And I could hardly let you bleed to death out here." He let go of her shoulder. "There, that's better."

His communicator beeped, and then the medkits materialized next to it. She saw him open one, his large hands digging through the kit. "What am I looking for?"

She tried to think. Lori had said nerve agent. "Load the hypospray with the canister that has orange stripes on the casing."

He did it. "On the neck?"

"No," she said quickly, afraid again for the necklace. "My arm."

He pulled her sleeve up, injected her, then put the hypo back in the bag.

A wave of pain roared up her spine. She'd hit the gravestone at an odd angle, and so hard. Could her back be broken? She couldn't afford to let Nogura check her out with the scanner. Not while she had the necklace on. She could scan herself once her arms and legs were working again.

The pain came again. There were other meds in the kit. It would be easy to tell him which one to load up, easy for him to give her some relief. But an analgesic might mask the feelings of the nerve agent rubbing off. And she had to keep her head around him--drugged she'd be far more vulnerable to his magic.

She was a slayer. She'd heal fast. She could live with the pain.

"How long will it take to wear off?" Nogura asked.

"I don't know if it even will work."

"If it doesn't, we'll have to get you back to Starfleet Medical. I'd rather it worked."

"Hate to take time from the hunt?" She wasn't sure why she was baiting him. Maybe it was because she was feeling helpless--it made her damned cranky.

"Actually, I think it's time you and I and Jim talked. And he'll listen to me better if you're along. And I'm a bit old to be carrying women through the streets of our fair city."

"You don't have to carry me. Or are you out of transporter credits?"

He laughed. It was a surprisingly normal laugh. "No. I just prefer to leave no trace of where we're going. I assume Jim is with his sensei?"

She decided not to answer.

He sat down next to her. "Do you have any idea where Lori went?"

She stayed silent.

"She tried to kill you. Why are you protecting her?"

"She's desperate."

"Yes. I imagine she is." His voice dropped dangerously. "Where is she, Lieutenant Chapel?"

"I wouldn't know, sir."

He sighed. "This is why the three of us need to talk."

"Talk won't change anything." She groaned as her back spasmed again.

"You are in pain." He reached for her.

"Don't touch me."

He pulled his hand back.

She felt her legs begin to tingle, tried to move her foot and was gratified when it jerked just slightly. She reached with her hand, felt a finger move.

"It's working?" he asked. He actually sounded relieved.

"Seems to be."

"Then we wait until you can walk again." He settled down next to her. "Have you ever heard the story of Sachiko Nogura, Lieutenant?"

She nodded, was surprised when her head actually moved a tiny bit.

"It's an interesting tale even the second time. And maybe you heard a different version? I'll tell you mine while we wait."

Christine felt her hand twitch, moved her thumb and wiggled her fingers. She wasn't going to die. Or be paralyzed forever. She closed her eyes, waiting for her body to come back to life.

And as she did, her body's resurrection was accompanied by the curious sound of an Admiral recounting slayer lore. His version wasn't all that different than the story Emma had told her.

She wished her watcher were here now. Not this Admiral she would never, ever trust.

Even if he had just saved her life.

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

Kirk tried to concentrate on creating fire, tried to become one with the element. It wasn't working. "Why are we doing this?"

"Because we are waiting for your slayer to get here." Weasel gave him a sharp look. "This is to distract you. Now, pay attention."

Kirk stared at his hand, saw fire begin to grow, forming a glowing sphere just inches from his skin. Then his eyes were drawn again to the entrance. Where the hell was Chris?

"Will you stop looking at the door? We can go out and look for her if you're that worried." Weasel swatted the small fireball out of Kirk's hand. It exploded as it fell to the ground. "Mac, you are really off your game."

"Something's wrong." Kirk sat down in the chair, then immediately felt guilty. What if Chris was hurt? Why the hell was he sitting down? He pushed himself back up. "I've got to go find her."

He headed for the door, then backed up as Nogura suddenly pushed it open.

Weasel's head shot up. "Heihachiro. I don't recall inviting you here."

"I don't need an invitation. I'm not a vampire. Did you really think a Caverimics Shield would keep me out? I'm surprised at you, Nathan."

Kirk looked at Weasel and mouthed, "Nathan?"

Weasel scowled. Deeply.

Nogura held up a hand. "Oh, I'm sorry. Were you still going by that rodent name? What was it? Muskrat? Opossum?"

"Weasel."

"Of course. How apt." Nogura leaned against the doorframe. "We need to talk, Jim."

"We have nothing to talk about."

"Yes, I figured you'd feel that way. That's why I brought her with me." He reached back, pulled Chris into view.

Her shirt was torn and covered with blood. She was walking under her own power, but she seemed shaky.

"What have you done?" Kirk stalked forward, not sure exactly what he was going to do but ready to do it with everything he had.

Chris stepped between them. "Jim. He didn't do anything."

Nogura coughed softly.

"Well"--she sighed--"actually, he saved my life."

"_He_ did?"

She nodded, then groaned and reached out for the doorjamb as if to steady herself. "Can I sit down, please?"

Kirk pushed Nogura away from her, then helped her to a chair.

"I'm okay, nothing broken. Just badly bruised," she whispered as she touched her neck, just a fleeting dip of her fingers.

He frowned. Had Nogura noticed the necklace?

"All okay," she said again, smiling.

He could feel his expression clear. "I'm glad to hear it." He smiled, knew the look was full of worry.

She sighed as she sat. "God, I'm tired."

He knelt down, peeled her shirt back where it was torn, expecting to see a nasty wound. Her skin was unmarked.

"You can thank me for that, Jim," Nogura said softly.

Chris nodded.

Kirk looked over at him. "What is this? Some kind of game? Put her in danger, then be the hero so we trust you?"

She touched his shoulder. "Not him. Lori did this." She held his eyes, nodded slowly. "She thought she could call the Kirsu slayers if she put me in danger. She's desperate."

"You're sugarcoating it, Doctor. Put you in danger? You were well on your way to being dead." Nogura moved into the room, studying everything. "Quite the place you've got here, Nathan."

"Yeah, well, it's home."

Nogura chuckled. It was a nasty sound. "Whether you like it or not."

Weasel didn't say anything, but his face tightened.

Nogura put his hands behind his back, turned to face them all. "We have a problem, people."

"You have a problem," Kirk said.

"Lori is a problem for all of us. I don't understand what she wants with Kirsu. Not that it wasn't a good idea, original thinking on her part." He seemed to ignore the twin glares Kirk and Chris sent him. "But if she'd been doing it for me...for us, then she'd have come out when I called." He shook his head.

Chris leaned forward. "You really don't get it? Whose fault do you think it is that she wants Kirsu so bad?"

Nogura looked at her quizzically.

"I've seen what you've done to her. To her kind. I've been there." She pointed her finger at him, as if with it, she could make her words stronger, her emotions more clear.

They were very clear already. To Kirk anyway.

"Been where?" Nogura asked.

"The pens."

All expression faded from his face. "The what?"

"The pens. The pens under your beautiful house and your pristine fields of irises...and wolfsbane. The pens where you torture werewolves. Where you kill innocent people."

He walked over to her, stared down at her as if she were delusional. "My family's methods may be harsh at times, but they've been proven over the centuries. And I don't kill innocent people."

"You killed Carl," Kirk shot out and immediately wished he hadn't.

Nogura turned to him. "Yes. I did. I had to."

"Why?"

"He was working for the enemy, Jim. He was working for the Romulans. Their program is quite advanced. Psychic observation, a breeding program to increase magical potential, perfecting methods of telepathic invasion. You name it, they're studying it--hell, they're doing it. And he was helping them."

"Carl?" Jim knew his look was full of disgusted shock. "Carl Richter was never working for them. He was onto you and your hunt for Kirsu, and you killed him for it. Because he got too close."

"My god, Jim, he was my friend. Our friend. You know how highly I thought of him. It killed me when Lori found proof that he--" Nogura's face went white, and he closed his eyes. "When Lori found proof." He opened his eyes, looked at Kirk. "It was good evidence. Rock solid. I demanded that. He was...he was my friend."

"You're saying Lori's to blame," Chris said, her voice full of scorn.

Nogura turned to her. He seemed not to have heard the scorn, only the words. "Yes, that's it. So much that's gone wrong lately. I didn't see it. I didn't want to see it. I trusted her."

"Why were you looking for her earlier if you trusted her?" Kirk shook his head. Too much didn't hold water. He glanced at Chris. She didn't look convinced either.

"Because she's been missing. I was worried. I thought something had happened to her. I thought the Romulans--"

"--Enough with the damned Romulans. They aren't a threat." Kirk wanted to punch Nogura, make him pay for what he'd done. Carl had died--been murdered...because of this man's obsession with the Romulans.

"If Lori wants to get away from you, it's entirely understandable." Chris shot him a look filled with loathing.

"Did Lori take you to the pens?"

She didn't want to answer; Kirk could see it in her face.

"Of course she did." Nogura began to pace. "What is she playing at?" He pulled out a communicator, spoke softly but never stopped pacing. "I need a flitter. Yes, at my coordinates. Come at once. There'll be three of us." He closed the communicator. "You need to see the pens again. You need to see them through new eyes."

"I saw them fine the first time."

"No, you saw what she wanted you to see." Nogura smiled. "Did she show you mainly women? Girls? With no choice in the matter?"

Chris glared at him.

"She did. She knew you'd resonate with that. Your dislike of the watcher- slayer system is well known to us. She just cast me in the role of watcher for you, didn't she?"

Kirk moved closer to Chris. "She knows what she saw."

"Trompe L'Oeil. I'm sure you know the reference? When the eye is tricked, the brain does not question." He knelt down, seemed to be putting himself at Chris's mercy--although with the non-violence spell in place, neither of them was in any danger.

"I know what I saw," she said, but this time she didn't sound convinced.

"Look again. With new knowledge." Nogura's eyes were steely. He pushed himself up. "The flitter should be here soon. We should go."

Kirk looked at Chris. "We don't have to. If you don't feel up to it."

She pushed herself out of the chair. "I want to believe her." She shot a look at Nogura. "I want to not believe him." She shook her head. "But the way she told the vampire to kill me. It was cold, Jim. So cold." She seemed to be realizing something, looked up at him, her eyes filled with anger. "And she looked just fine. Not haggard, or sick. She wasn't being poisoned. That was for our benefit." She turned to Nogura. "A glamour, to make us think she was in danger. Because you weren't attacking her, were you?"

"No. I told you; I was looking for her."

"Let's go," Chris said, sounding utterly exhausted. She pushed past Nogura, headed up the stairs.

Nogura started to go, but Kirk grabbed his arm. Nogura looked down at it, then back up at Kirk. "Jim, if you aren't careful--"

"--I talk now, not you." He moved closer. "If you've hurt her in any way, I swear I'll kill you."

"I saved her. What part of that is so difficult for you to understand?" Nogura seemed to stand straighter. The boss. His boss. "Now, take your hand off me before I get very, very angry."

Kirk let him go.

Nogura turned and strode out.

Kirk looked at Weasel. "You never said you knew him."

"You never asked." Weasel shrugged. "The magical community's a small one. And Nogura's a powerful man."

"And an evil one."

"He's driven. He's focused. And he can do evil things. But I'm not wholly certain he's evil." Weasel sighed. "Jim, I know it's hard to accept, but not everything is black or white."

"He killed my friend."

"And there'll be consequences for that. Cosmic...karmic consequences." Weasel shook his head. "It's just...I'm not in much of a position to judge him. Because he's not the one being punished by The Powers, now is he?" Before Kirk could answer, Weasel pushed him toward the door. "You better catch up. Christine needs you. She's very weak."

There were a hundred things Kirk wanted to ask him, and there was no time. He hurried out the door and up the stairs to where Nogura waited for him. Chris was already sitting in the back, her head tilted back, eyes closed. He crawled into the back with her. She moved, leaning her head against his shoulder. He put his arm around her.

"Touching," Nogura said, as he climbed into the front and closed the door.

It was the only thing any of them said during the entire trip.

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

Christine felt Jim's arm tighten around her, didn't tell him how much he was hurting her back. She shifted slightly, trying to get comfortable, and a sharp pain shot up her spine.

She didn't realize she'd moaned until Jim said softly, "Can I help?"

She shook her head quickly, didn't want to draw attention to how much pain she was in.

"I helped Emma."

She opened her eyes. He was staring at her with such tender concern.

She smiled, a small, pained smile. "You never told me that."

"I just thought of it. I didn't set out to help her; it was sort of by accident. I felt so bad for her. Maybe I can help you too?" He pushed her slightly forward, let his hand drop down her back. "Is it here?"

Somehow his hand went right to where she'd connected with the stone. She imagined she had a huge bruise blossoming as the blood pooled underneath her skin. "It's a shooting pain, radiating out from there."

They were talking so low the words were barely more than breath. She saw Nogura lean back, as if he were trying to hear them.

Leave us alone, she wanted to yell at him. But she didn't.

Finally Nogura started talking to the driver; his words didn't carry into the back.

Jim pressed his hand down on her back, moving it gently. "I can feel it," he whispered. "The pain is right here."

He pushed down a little harder and she flinched. Then the pain receded, as if pushed behind a wall. It wasn't gone, but it hurt so much less that she almost cried out in relief.

She looked up at him.

"Better?" he asked.

She nodded. Smiled at him. What was she going to do without him? Soon she'd be leaving Earth, leaving him. So soon. Too soon.

He seemed to feel what she was thinking. "No more patrols. No more hurt backs."

"No more you," she whispered.

He swallowed hard, nodded. "I know."

She felt tears, knew she was weak and that the weakness was making her overly emotional. She nestled back against him, felt him pull her closer. She closed her eyes again. Let go and drifted, hovering somewhere just north of sleep.

She felt the flitter slow, then land. Opening her eyes, she saw that they had arrived at Nogura's. Taking a deep breath, she followed Jim out of the flitter.

Jim stood staring at the iris fields.

Nogura followed his gaze. "They bother you. Why?"

"I sensed them. From Carl's body. That day in your office. They were a clue...a link. To you."

"Ah."

Jim turned to him, his expression angry again. "That day in your office you tried to force me to do what you wanted. I know about the spell."

Nogura shrugged. "I was only nudging you toward what you already want." He gestured toward her. "A woman who loves you--who you obviously care for. Your son in your life. Was my spell so heinous?"

"Free will. It's crucial."

"If you say so."

"How could you kill him?" Jim's lips snapped tightly together.

Nogura seemed to sigh. "Carl _was_ my friend."

Christine laughed bitterly. When Nogura turned to look at her, she said, "I hope to god that I'm never one of your friends."

He did not react, just stared at her coldly.

She held her ground. She wasn't the bad guy. "I thought we were here to see the pens," she finally said, tiring of their stare down.

"Of course." He motioned them toward the stable.

She followed him, Jim trailing behind. She knew he'd taken flank so he could watch out for her, loved him for it. They walked down the stairs and went through the metal door. The pens looked just the same.

She heard Jim gasp. The enormity, the sheer scale. "What is this place for?"

"It's where we teach werewolves to control the change," Nogura said. "We use a form of conditioning built from pain and reward. We've been very successful with it."

"Define success?" Christine saw the little girl that had been haunting her thoughts, hurried down the stairs toward her.

She was still in the same pen. As Christine got closer, the child charged at her, growling even though she was in human form.

"Honey, it's okay."

The girl lunged at her hand. Only slayer reflexes--and she barely had those tonight--allowed her to get her hand out of the cage before the girl bit her. The child threw herself against the bars over and over.

Christine backed up several steps.

"We found her in Estonia. An orphaned werewolf. Apparently raised by some Criagan demons. Have you ever come up against one of those?"

Christine nodded. It had been a long time ago. But she would never forget how vicious the thing had been.

"She's completely unsocialized. Has no human speech, but is fluent in Criagan and a few other demon languages. She's quite dangerous, because as you know, it only takes one bite. We kept her muzzled for the first six months. This is, believe it or not, an improvement."

"I saw one of your people torturing her."

"The cattle prod is, at times, the only thing that gets through to them. And when they're in wolf form, it doesn't hurt them as much as you might think."

"She wasn't in wolf form."

"Well, she's barely human even when she's not." He watched the little girl sadly. "She may be unreachable. This may be as good as it gets."

"And then what? You kill her? Like you did that woman?"

Nogura turned to her. "What woman?" He seemed genuinely confused.

Christine led them to the pen that had held the woman. She pointed to the window. Past it was the other pen. "You had a man there--a new arrival who had been uncooperative. The woman was here. You had pumped her full of aconite so she couldn't change. You were going to let him change and kill her. Then you were going to show him the recordings of what he'd done to her. You'd keep showing them until he gave in, until he let you train him. But the woman...you killed her. Because she wasn't good enough at controlling the change."

"That's quite a story." He turned, motioned to a woman in a gray coat. "Tsuya, who was in this pen during the last full moon?"

"The Larssons."

"Ah. Of course. They're still here?"

She nodded. "Ilka's upstairs."

"Have her come down."

The woman turned away. Nogura led them through the facility, explaining the technique, how the werewolves were taught to resist the change. It was harsh. Cruel even. Pain was an effective means of breaking through, of forcing control.

"I've heard of another way," Christine said, remembering what Emma had said. "Herbs, meditation."

"The Osbourne method?" Nogura sneered. "Their control is not perfect. Heavy emotion gets through too easily because the control is voluntary. My way conditions the response. It becomes instinctual, habit. Not a choice. Just the way it is."

"A nice argument for pain," Christine said.

"I don't enjoy inflicting pain."

"Right. Tell me, Admiral, how many times have you picked up that cattle prod?"

"That's not the issue."

"I think it is."

"Sir?" A soft voice sounded behind them. "You wanted to see me?"

Christine turned, and gasped. It was the woman Lori had said was to be killed. She looked very much alive.

She looked at Christine curiously. Smiled at her, but her smile died when Christine didn't react. "Did I do something wrong?"

"No, Ilka. You did not. Please tell my visitors why you were in the pen, and why Ulf was in the adjoining one?"

She smiled. "I'm learning to perfect my control. Even if my husband changes, I need to be able to resist."

"Perfect it?" Jim asked softly. "You're not good enough?"

She shook her head. "If it were just me...but I'm going to get pregnant."

"My god," Christine made an incredulous sound and turned on Nogura. "So they have to prove themselves worthy to be part of your breeding program?"

"My what?"

The woman was staring at Christine like she'd lost her mind. "I can't afford to endanger the baby." She looked at Nogura, as if wondering why she had to talk to these particular guests.

He grimaced at her. "Explain it to them."

"Ulf and I want to have a baby. It will be difficult to not change during the pregnancy--the hormones...they make it very hard to resist. And aconite--wolfsbane--will harm the baby. So I must get better at controlling it. Without any help. We're working on that now."

"I don't understand. Will changing harm the baby?" Jim asked.

Ilka nodded. "Some of us are born werewolves. It's because our mothers changed while carrying us. If the mother can resist, the baby will be free of the curse. It's what we all hope for." She laughed. "Those of us who like the modern ways, anyway."

Nogura looked at her. "What do you mean by that?"

She looked suddenly nervous. "I just mean, I'd rather be human than the wolf."

"No," Nogura moved closer. "You meant something else. What?"

Ilka's cheeks flushed; she took a step back. "There's a movement among some of us. A reversion to the wolf side. Primitive. Not under control."

"Who leads it?"

She looked down.

His hand jerked out, wrenched her head back up. "Who?"

Christine pulled his hand away. "Lori said she was alpha."

Ilka laughed, her eyes darting to Nogura as if afraid he'd be offended at her laughter. "She's not my alpha. I like being human. I want my baby to be free of this."

"Alpha." Nogura turned away. "Alpha?" He ran his hand through his hair, hard, almost spastically. "I took her in. I taught her everything she knows about magic. I treated her like a younger sister. She wanted for nothing. And this is how she repays me?"

He turned on Ilka. "What is she planning?"

"I don't know." Ilka looked at Christine, as if asking her to intervene again. She must have seen something less than helpful in Christine's face. "They keep talking about this place where we would be free of the change. And from where we'd also be able to launch an attack." She held her hand up, as if afraid Nogura might hit her. "It's crazy talk. We laugh at them. There's no such place. And why attack? I'm glad I can control this."

"Where do they meet?"

"Ulf and I aren't part of it. They only tell the ones who are loyal where the safe place is."

"I know where it is," Christine said. She looked at Jim. He nodded.

"I'll take you there," she said, as she started up the stairs.

Nogura and Jim followed her up. She tried to not look like she was struggling to get back up the stairs.

How much blood had she lost?

She felt a hand on her back. "Lieutenant."

She turned.

Nogura shook his head. "You are too tired to go in there. You will get hurt. I will take my own reinforcements." He turned to Jim. "I'll have the driver take you back to town. Or to Starfleet Medical if you think that is necessary."

"I don't need a hospital," Christine said. "And I'm fine."

Jim shook his head. When she started to protest, he said, "Chris. No."

"Jim, I can do this."

"You may not need a doctor, but he is right. You're too weak. We'll be no good to him."

She was about to shoot back an angry retort but he just shook his head, a knowing smile on his face. She sighed. They both knew it was an admission of defeat.

Jim turned to Nogura and told him where the restaurant was, how many werewolves they'd seen there. He explained about the shielding. She'd felt none of the things he was describing.

"If she's smart, she'll move them. And Lori is nothing if not smart." Nogura spoke for a moment to his driver, then strode off. Four of the hooded figures that Christine had seen before appeared from out of the bushes. They followed Nogura to a larger flitter, climbed in. The flitter took off, heading back to town very fast.

"I wouldn't want to be Lori right now," she said.

Jim watched the flitter go. "No. Me neither."

She went to crawl into the back of the flitter but he stopped her. "Take the front," he said, as he slid into the back. "It's easier to get out of."

She smiled at him, settled in. She was asleep before the flitter was airborne.

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

"Sir? Where to?" The driver looked back at Kirk.

He gave him his address. Chris could stay with him. He wouldn't put it past Lori to try to kill her again. It had been a clever idea and, but for Nogura, it might have worked.

He was still hazy on the details. Chris would have to tell him.

The flitter landed gently in front of his building. Chris woke on her own, got out stiffly. She looked at him curiously.

"You're staying here. Safer."

"Oh. Okay."

He wasn't sure she cared; she just looked so terribly tired.

John was on duty. He already had the door open for them. "Good night, sir, ma'am."

Kirk wondered if the elevator would ever come. He punched the call button again.

She touched his arm. "Jim. I'm okay. I'm just a little banged up. And you were right. I'm so tired."

He led her onto the elevator. "I know. I want to get you safely to bed."

She laughed huskily, but without her normal energy. "Sure. I've been waiting months to hear those words, and you pick tonight?"

He laughed, but he wasn't sure it was very convincing.

They walked down the hall quietly, both aware of how late it was. He palmed open the door, then turned on the lights. He could feel the wards-- he hadn't even been aware he'd put them on the place when he first moved in. That seemed like so long ago. He sent out his magic, strengthening them. He would keep Chris safe.

She was heading for the couch but he turned her. "The bed."

"With you." She didn't make it a question.

He decided not to argue about it. "Yes, with me."

"Mmmm." She smiled, but it was a sleepy smile.

He went into the closet, found a t-shirt and handed it to her. Then he slid her uniform top off of her, staying behind her. The skin on her back was scraped badly, and there was a bump around which a huge bruise was already forming. "Oh, Chris. What happened?"

"She shot me with a dart filled with some kind of nerve agent. I couldn't move. I couldn't fight. He threw me onto a gravestone. It hurt. A lot." Her voice fell, became very small. "I thought I was going to die, Jim. I would have died...except he came along."

"Put the t-shirt on," he whispered, waiting until she'd done it to nudge her toward the bed. "Does it still hurt?"

"It does. But not as bad. I heal fast. You know that."

"I can still help."

She looked over her shoulder at him. "That'd be nice." She crawled onto the bed and lay down on her stomach.

He pulled the t-shirt back up and began to work on her back, trying to help her, wanting to ease her pain more than anything. She groaned slightly, but in a good way. He was helping.

"Thanks," she said, turning over.

He pulled off her boots, then his own, and climbed into bed. He rolled to his side, watching her as she lay staring at the ceiling.

"Were you scared?" He leaned in; their faces were very close.

She looked relieved that he had asked her. "Yes." Then she smiled, turning her head slightly to look at him. "But mostly I was pissed. He was a nothing vampire. I couldn't believe I was gonna get taken out by him."

He laughed.

"And I think she knew that. I think she enjoyed having this nobody vampire be the one to kill me. Damn werewolf bitch."

"That's not much of an insult in her case, is it?" he asked.

"Probably not."

He laughed again, just a soft chuckle. Mostly out of relief. That she was okay. That his boss, while an obsessive, dangerous, megalomaniac, was probably not evil incarnate. He had saved Chris. Kirk would always be grateful.

"What are you thinking?" Her eyes were so soft, half closed. Her voice was low and a bit hoarse.

"How empty my life would be if anything happened to you."

She stared up at him. Then she reached for him, pulling him down.

He was kissing her before he could think better of it. Kissing her and gently rubbing her arm, afraid to lean too much, that he'd be too heavy and hurt her.

He knew he should stop the kiss. Knew he should pull away. It took him a long time to do so. "Chris," he said, shaking his head.

She gave him a guilty smile. "I'm weak and hurt. I have no self-control tonight."

"No?"

"No."

She pulled him down to her again, but he resisted and she didn't try to force it.

"Hold me?" she said softly.

He gathered her up in his arms, relishing the feel of her against him, her warmth, and the way her hand snaked slowly around his waist.

What would he have done if she had died?

What was he going to do once she shipped out?

He sighed.

"What?"

He shook his head.

She sighed then.

Would she find someone else? Some other man to love her. To hold her like this.

Kirk thought he would hate that man.

He wasn't sure if he didn't hate himself right now.

He sighed, louder this time. And longer.

She started to move away. "I'm sorry. I'll go sleep on the couch."

He held her, careful not to hurt her. "It's okay." He let go of her. "Unless you want to sleep on the couch. Do you?"

She shook her head.

"Then sleep here. I'm fine. It's just been a weird night."

She nodded.

"I think a visit to our friends Chekov and Sulu is in order."

She looked up at him, her eyebrows providing the question.

He smiled. "Silver bullets. I have guns that can fire them; we just have to make some bullets." He felt better already. They had a plan. Plans were good.

"Do we need that if the werewolves are in human form?"

"I don't know. I guess Nogura would know."

"I guess so." She snuggled closer. "I still don't trust him. He's not going to give up on Kirsu. Ever. He's obsessed with those Romulans."

"I know."

But Nogura had still saved Chris. That made him all right in Kirk's book.

"Doesn't it seem like everything's a lie?" She sounded so forlorn.

"I know one thing that isn't a lie." He laid his hand over her heart. "You're not a lie."

She put her hand over his. "I love you. That's not a lie either."

"Chris, I--" He stopped when she put her fingers over his lips.

"I don't expect you to do anything about what I just said. It's just that it's true. And I wanted to say it."

He brushed back her hair, fiercely, almost too hard. She frowned a bit.

He'd never wanted a woman more than he did her. He wondered if she could see that in his eyes, in the way he was touching her.

She smiled ruefully. "You sure you don't want me on the couch?"

He laughed, closed his eyes. "I'm sure."

She moved her hand, found his. Their fingers twined as if that was their natural state. She fell asleep, her breathing changing, becoming more solid, deeper.

When he was sure she was out, he whispered, "I love you too."

FIN