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Surprise Awakening

Julian and Sonny

Julian Luna's nose twitched. Blood: his and someone else's. The smell was so thick he could feel the taste of it as it lay heavily on the back of his throat. No! The taste in his throat was more than just a reflection of a smell. Frank? What the hell is going on? What is Frank's blood doing in my throat?

Keeping his eyes closed and his body still, he focused on the details of the situation he found himself in. No Hunger. Body appears to be intact as well. I'm on my back and – His barely moving hands could feel a sticky substance as he ran them over the floor beneath them.

He could hear the steady beat of a nearby heart -- a human heart. One person – sounds are coming from my right - heartbeat slow, breathing shallow. Hmm, he extended his senses further – Kindred …yes … not too far away but not close enough to be of immediate help. No other humans in close proximity to his present position.

Julian slowly turned his head toward the sound, opening his eyes a slit as he did so. A prone body lay sprawled about two feet away from him. Who? His eyes opened wider and running them along the length of the body he noted height and weight. Brown hair. He gave a tired sigh. Frank! Why are we here in this dismal room?

He groaned. That damned hunter. As he shook his head in disgust, he thought, ignorant too. The stupid idiot didn't even know enough to make sure of me. Frank must have removed the stake when he found me.

Rolling onto his right side, his clothes making ripping noises as he came unstuck from the floor, he stared consideringly at Frank. They were both lying in what appeared to be a large pool of long-dried blood. He's definitely unconscious.

Where the hell is Sonny, he thought impatiently, as he sat up and pushed himself next to Frank. He's supposed to be watching his partner for me. Rolling Frank onto his back, he dragged him to the wall on the side behind the entrance to the room leaving his irritatingly non self-preserving friend lying in a supine position. Julian removed his blood soaked suit coat and stuffed it under Frank's head. There's one ruined suit coat.

Frank's not going to be happy about the loss of his leather jacket either. I've rarely seen him without it, he thought as he rapidly checked the man's body for any sign of injury. The only injury appears to be to his right wrist.

He sighed. Frank. You idiot: You gave me your blood! You almost died your true death when you gave Sonny your blood after those bank robbers blew his chest open during their escape attempt in January. Sonny damn near had to embrace you then. Thank God, you two were separated from the rest of your colleagues in the station when the attempt occurred. I shudder to think of what would have happened if one of your mortal colleagues had noticed what you were doing. Sonny had to use not only his dissembling talents, but he also had to dominate several humans.

Julian stopped. No. That's unfair of me. Knowing you, you'd have tried to find someplace isolated enough so that you could have helped your partner without endangering the Masquerade.

You think Sonny and I haven't noticed that you've started actively protecting the Kindred? You're becoming almost as good as he is at dissembling.

I warned you then of what would happen if you ever again gave either Sonny, or myself, your blood under similar circumstances. I told you that I would take it as your permission to embrace you and I also informed you that I had given Sonny orders to do the same if you tried it again with him. You were also informed that if you wanted an embrace, you only had to ask and I would be pleased to give you one.

He looked at Frank again as he thought grimly, Frank you've been long overdue for an embrace and I'm going to make sure you get one as soon as I'm certain Carlsen: "The Hunter Idiot" isn't around to threaten us.

He stood and walked to the door, noting the institutional gray walls and the concrete floor. Someone is going to have to sand this floor to remove all traces of blood. It's all over. No wonder, except for the residual odor of mildew, that's all I can smell. We also appear to be in some basement and I know it's not mine.

I hear someone walking. Julian's head turned. Yes, there's a heartbeat, but it's too slow to be a human. He faded into the shadows at the side of the doorway and waited. As a dark head peered cautiously into the room, he said conversationally, "Hello, Sonny. Why did you let Frank go off alone to search for me or did he somehow manage to escape you?"

Sonny Touissaint peered cautiously into the last room in the last corridor he had left to search. He was not a happy man. Where was his Sire? Damn that asshole hunter for kidnapping Julian. The clans had been out searching for his Prince and Sire: When they had finally found that idiot Pere Carlsen - and what a name that was – Julian was nowhere to be found. Stubborn bastard: It had taken Daedalus to dominate the creep deeply enough to tell them he'd left Julian staked somewhere in this old asylum. It was at a time like this, Sonny wished his Grandsire Archon was still alive. Carlsen would have been telling Archon everything the former Prince wanted to know within minutes.

For that matter, where was his partner? Frank Kohanek, his human partner had insisted on joining the search. For a man who four years previously had been anxious to hand Julian his head on a platter, figuratively speaking of course, Frank had turned into one of Julian's most loyal allies.

Sonny smirked. His partner was protective of Sonny too, even though he'd realized within the first year after meeting Julian that Sonny was kindred as well.

Foolish human, he thought fondly, and he thinks we don't know. That's why Sonny was so anxious. He had both his Prince-of-the-City Sire and his partner missing. As badly injured as Carlsen had apparently left Julian, there was a good probability that Frank would have taken it upon himself to save Julian, even though he had been warned by Julian, and Sonny himself, never to give either of them blood under circumstances such as these. He never should have let Frank persuade him to allow them to split up when they had started searching their section of this old warren. Frank had been gone for forty-five minutes -- more than enough time to get himself into trouble and Sonny was worried. He hadn't found Julian in any of the corridors or rooms he had searched so far, including most of Frank's. Frank must have found the Prince. No one else had yet found Julian when Sonny had checked in earlier.

Well, Frank has been long overdue for an embrace and at least Julian will be the one doing it. I'd love to have him as a brood brother but I can't see myself as his sire. He's too much of a handful to be my first childe; besides, I very much doubt that he could see me as an authority figure. He trusts me to watch his back, but that's about the only way he trusts me. I don't believe he trusts me enough to follow my orders or, if necessary, to accept my discipline. With me as sire, Julian would still have to deal with him as his Prince. He might as well be Frank's sire.

Sonny started. Hearing Julian's voice to his left, he turned.

"Sire," he cried in relief as he stepped into the room. Taking in the state of the room, his Sire, and glancing to his right, Frank's unconscious body lying against the wall, Sonny thought, Shit! Julian is not going to be happy with me.

"Julian, I'm glad to find you alive and Frank as well. I apologize. I was anxious: No-one had found you. We'd been searching this warren of a place for over six hours and you were still missing. There were several corridors still to search in this section. I let Frank persuade me to let him search separately in order to finish the remaining corridors more quickly."

"And did you also tell him to offer me his aid and more importantly his blood if he found me?" Julian, arms crossed, said with an edge to his voice, as he leaned casually against the wall at his back.

"No, Sire! I ordered him not to. I told him to stay back and call for me on his radio when he found you. I never should have let him loose on his own. I apologize."

Although, looking at the state of this room and my sire, he must have thought there was no time. I hate to agree with him, but I think he was right.

At least, I have an honest childe. He hasn't tried to minimize his fault in this and I do have to admit that Frank can be both persuasive and determined when he wants to be. It's hard enough to protect him when he cooperates and almost impossible when he refuses, at least without either dominating him or locking him up under guard. That is going to change.

Julian said gently, "I realize Frank's a handful at the best of times, but you are supposed to be watching over him for me."

Sonny sighed. I do hate to disappoint him.

"However, Sonny …" Julian gave him a slight smile, "… I can see how, under the circumstances, you weren't quite up to withstanding Frank's persuasiveness. Just don't let your 'brother' get away with anything like this again."

Brother? Sonny felt the tension drain from his body. "You are going to embrace him then," he sighed in relief.

"As soon as I hear Carlsen is no longer an active threat to either the Masquerade or San Francisco's Kindred. Why? Did you doubt that I'd keep my promise?" Julian asked curiously. He's relieved. I hadn't realized Frank had become such a trial to him.

"No, I didn't doubt you …" Sonny replied, "… but I did want to be sure.

He smiled. "We captured that idiot hunter. He's been taken to your cellar. Daedalus took a special interest in him," Sonny said with a sinister grin as he pulled his radio from his pocket. "I'll let the others know that you've been found. Carlsen will be waiting for you when you get back."

"Do you intend to embrace Frank here?" Sonny asked curiously.

"In this room? Julian glanced distastefully around the area. "Not if I can avoid it. Too much blood and too many evil memories for me to want to stay any longer than necessary, much less embrace someone here, but I don't want to wait until I can get him back home. He doesn't need to be awake for this. After all …" Julian commented dryly "… he has given me his permission. This is not a punishment."

Things are going to be traumatic enough for him; he doesn't need to have anticipatory fear added to it. Julian thought as he shifted position and ran his fingers through his blood-stiffened hair.

"Sonny, after you call, I want you to return to the mansion. Make sure Carlsen is safely stowed in one of the cellar cells. Post at least four guards to make sure no one sees him and make sure he doesn't escape!"

"I want that genocidal maniac and child killer there when I get back." Julian whispered chillingly. "We don't know if there were others backing him or if he's a lone maniac."

"I'll also need a change of clothes for Frank and myself."

"Yes, Sire."

Sonny flipped the switch on his radio. "I've found him. I need two changes of clothes here. Yes, my partner needs one too. No, you needn't worry. That problem will be solved by the time our boss gets home. Yes, it will be a relief."

"He also wants at least four guards on our 'guest', including one of yours. Thanks. We're going to need some industrial janitors as well. Yes." Sonny smiled brightly. "We'd like 'your' company for that too. Thanks."

Turning off his radio, he said to Julian, "Daedalus says Cash is on his way. He should be here in about twenty minutes.

"Very good, Sonny. That will be a relief," his sire replied dryly.

Sonny looked more closely at his sire. "Ahhh, Julian? Would you like to get yourself and Frank cleaned up a bit? I passed some rooms where the sinks and faucets still worked. The water's cold, but it will wash the 'grime' away. I'll even sacrifice my undershirt as a washcloth," he offered.

Glancing around the room in distaste, he said, "I can hardly wait until Daedalus' 'janitors' get here to clean up this mess, Julian. I can just see some paint-ball gamers coming here, finding this and calling the cops. Frank's blood, at least might, be recognized in any forensic investigations.

Julian shifted against the wall as he let himself slide down onto a relatively clean spot on the floor. Looking up at his childe, he said, "Sonny, those are all good ideas. Help me get Frank to one of the rooms you've told me about and then find whatever else can be used as a washcloth. Somehow …" he said with a tired grin, "…I doubt that just your undershirt is going to be enough for me, much less both Frank and I.

Sonny grinned back. "Glad to be of service in a good cause," he said walking over to Frank, pulling the man to his feet and settling him over his shoulders. Turning he walked back to Julian.

"Would you like a hand up, Sire?"

Julian reached up and grasped Sonny's arm. "Thank you," he said as he was pulled to his feet. Picking up his abandoned suit coat, he walked out the doorway to find a wall on his left. On his right he saw five or six doors before the corridor met another hall. He turned as he said, "So, Sonny, where to now?"

Moving past his sire, Sonny replied, "Follow me," as he led Julian through the third door on their right. Large sinks, cabinets, work stations. It's a laboratory. Perfect Easing his partner to the floor beside the sink, Sonny started checking cabinets. Several cabinets later, he looked up and waved a handful of threadbare towels. "There's more in here, Julian. Would you like me to start cleaning Frank while you take care of yourself?"

"Do that Sonny."

Julian placed his ruined coat on the counter and removing his shirt, he quickly stripped.

I see my sire's enjoying his cleanup, Sonny thought in amusement as he started relieving Frank of his clothes and placing them on the countertop as well. Neat, economical, no wasted moves; Julian's definitely done this sort of thing before. He was quite the efficient enforcer for Archon.

I don't envy that hunter creep. Carlsen deserves whatever Julian chooses to do with him. I hope he gives him to the Nosferatu as a late night snack!

Damn, this water is cold. Partner, you'd better appreciate this, Sonny thought while wringing the sopping cloth.

Sonny's applying himself diligently. Julian watched as his childe struggled to remove the caked stains from his partner. I'm almost finished here: As soon as I dry off, I'll help him. Cash should be here soon. I hope he didn't get stopped for speeding.

I know Frank likes that leather jacket of his but the 'Nosferatu Industrial Cleaning and Janitorial Service' is getting this one. His clothes are joining mine in the incinerator. I'll buy him a new one.

"Sonny," he said as he knelt and started sponging Frank's hair. "Go meet Cash. I'll finish with Frank."

"As you wish." Sonny grabbed the wet rags and threw them in the sink. "I'll leave a message for the "cleaning crew" as well."

"Good idea. Do it." Julian continued scrubbing as Sonny left.

Frank, you are well and truly out of it. Julian laughed, you're three quarters of the way to an embrace already and I've no intention of letting you pull this crap again. I shudder to think of you as a Torredor. You're volatile enough without Lillie's blood in your veins to encourage that tendency. She wouldn't control you either, he thought grimly. You're no Zane – you wouldn't embrace someone against their will but, with Lillie's tacit encouragement, I could see you choosing to flout any of my laws you happened to disagree with. Even though I've forbidden her to embrace you, I could also see Lillie choosing to do so, if only to test me. He sighed in disgust. That woman's emotions interfere with her ability to know when to not even think of testing me

At last, I thought I'd never get enough of this debris out of your hair. You'll still need a shower when I get you back home, but you're clean enough to be out in public. Here's Sonny now. I probably should ask him if …

While dressing, he paused, looked directly at his childe -- who was attempting to stuff his rag doll of a partner into clothing, and asked seriously, "Do you want to embrace Frank?"

Sonny returned Julian's gaze, as he tried to shove one of his partner's hands though a shirtsleeve, and said firmly, "No! Sire, I like Frank. He's a good partner and I'd love to have him as a 'little brother.' I know he likes me as well. I trust him to watch my back as he trusts me to watch his, but that's all he trusts me to do, Julian," Sonny replied earnestly. "Frank has never quite trusted me since he realized I'd hidden my Kindred identity from him."

"We've also been equal partners for too long. He's too used to ignoring me if he doesn't agree with what I say. To be fair – I do the same with him. He respects me a cop and a friend, but you know that's not enough to get him to take my orders."

"You believe you'd have to fight with him before he'd take you seriously enough to follow your orders." Julian stated flatly. "He does need to follow his Sire's orders. The Kindred world is too dangerous to let an ungovernable childe loose. He could easily meet his Final Death through ignorance, or worse -- he might even break the Masquerade." Julian leaned back against a counter in contemplation.

"Yes. I do. He may not follow your orders, but he's at least used to seeing you give them -- more importantly he's seen people following them. He also knows you enforce your orders. He's seen you do it."

Sonny snorted. "Frank's never followed any order I've ever given him, including the one I just gave him to stand back and call me when he found you. You would have to deal with him as Prince anyway. You'd avoid that as much as possible by being his sire as well. I'm certain he'd rather have his mistakes dealt with by his sire than his Prince," Sonny commented dryly. I know I did.

"I suspect both Frank and I would be much happier as brood brothers. He has been known to occasionally follow my suggestions."

Julian relaxed. I was afraid Sonny would want to embrace Frank himself. I'm glad he realized the unsuitability of it on his own. My childe is no fool.

"I'm glad you realized that Sonny. You make me proud," he said warmly as he finished dressing. Looking around the room, he laughed. "We need to find another room. This one's a mess."

Squatting, he lifted a now fully clothed Frank to his feet and waited for Sonny to rise. "I'm taking your soon-to-be brood brother next door. Come with us."

"Hold him," Julian said as he shoved Frank into Sonny's waiting arms and settled himself against the wall in yet another room.

"At least, this room is only a bit dusty." Smiling, he continued "Have a room prepared for Frank after you return to my home." He held up his arms. "I'll take him now. Thank you." With Frank settled against his shoulder and knee, Julian gave his final instructions to Sonny. "Tell Cash to wait for me. I already know, between the two of you, perimeter and roving patrols are set up."

"Now go …" he encouraged, "… Frank and I will be fine."

He's left. He takes his responsibilities seriously. It's a pleasure to have such a loyal and responsible childe. And you, he gazed with fond exasperation on Frank, are loyal. I'm just going to have to teach you responsibility as well. We'll work on following orders first. Your 'older brother' is going to be helping you as well. You need to learn the rules before you know which ones are amenable to discretion.

Settling Frank more comfortably, Julian tucked the man's head firmly into his shoulder. Wrapping his hand around his soon-to-be-childe's forehead, with a gentle twist he exposed Frank's throat. With his free hand around Frank's torso restraining the man's arms, and his free leg over Kohanek's legs, Julian prepared to embrace his next childe.

Frank, you've already given me most of your blood. This isn't going to take long. I hope you don't fight me over this: You were warned. Julian sank his fangs into Frank's throat. I was right – not much left to drain.

Opening his wrist, he pressed it to Frank's mouth. He's not swallowing. He's trying to spit my blood out. Exasperating, stubborn man! The corners of Julian's mouth rose in amusement. Frank you are going to find that I can easily out stubborn you.

He shifted his childe's body until he was cradling the man's head and shoulders and opened his wrist further. Blood started to drip steadily into Frank's mouth. After a few moments, Julian placed one hand over Kohanek's mouth, pinched Frank's nose shut and started massaging his throat with the other. You are going to swallow this, childe. No is not an acceptable answer. We haven't come this far for me to allow you that option.

"Swallow, Frank," Julian kept repeating calmly, as he continued to massage Frank's throat.

Frank and Julian

Frank Kohanek felt a spicy-sweet, salty liquid fill his mouth. Pursing his lips, and using his tongue, he tried to spit it out. A hand was covering his mouth, and another was massaging his throat, as he heard a voice calmly ordering him to swallow.

Who? Julian? Why am I'm so tired? He tried to turn his head, but the hand over his mouth tightened and he felt his head being pressed firmly into what he supposed was a shoulder. What's going on, he thought blearily? Oh, Shit! He stiffened in indignation. So this is what being embraced is like, Frank's thoughts raced. Julian made good on his threat – not that I thought there was much chance that he wouldn't. Damn that asshole Carlsen for forcing me into this position. Now I know why the Kindred are so adamant about their, no our, masquerade. Stupid hunter. He opened his eyes to find Julian Luna cradling his head and shoulders and Julian's eyes smiling into his.

"Frank …" coaxed Julian, "… Swallow. Yes, it is blood, my blood in fact. Yes, I've just embraced you …" he said calmly, "… and now, I need you to cooperate. So swallow! We'll talk after you feed."

He's determined, Frank realized, while staring back at Julian, and fighting an insane, not to mention contradictory, urge to simply bite the hand over his mouth. Oh my God. He started snickering. I would be biting the hand that's feeding me. Shit, I'd better swallow before I choke. I'm totally out of it. Julian must think I'm an idiot. He's already massaging my throat; I can feel the blood trickling down it. If I don't swallow his blood now, I'll truly die. I don't want that, and since he's gone to this much trouble, I doubt he'll allow me that option. He's got his hand over my mouth and he's pinching my nose shut for God's sake, he thought in embarrassed indignation.

Finally! I have seldom met a more stubborn man; I thought he would never swallow. Julian relaxed against the wall in relief. I don't want to dominate him any more than I need to keep him calm. He snickered. Only Frank would find humor in the thought of biting my hand. He does have a wicked sense of humor. It's one of the things I like about him, but this time, he's using jokes to deny the reality of what's happened to him. Once he has to actually confront his new status, he's not going to be happy, but I did warn him. Julian loosened his hold on Frank as soon as he felt his childe's hands reach up to grasp his wrist and Frank start to drink in earnest. A minute or so later he pulled his wrist away, and said, "Enough, Frank. We need to talk now."

"Yes, Julian," Frank asked innocently, as he tried to wriggle out of Julian's grasp. "What would you like to talk about?"

Don't play innocent with me, childe, Julian thought, as his arms tightened around his childe, and grasping Frank by his upper arms, Julian turned him to rest against the wall behind them.

Frank looked at Julian. His friend, no – now his Sire – was kneeling beside him, pinning his arms to the wall, while continuing to stare firmly into his eyes. I don't think he's going to let me out of this 'talk' that he has planned for 'us', and I know there's going to be a lecture for me in here somewhere.

"Alright, Frank, "Julian said firmly. "Our talk starts now. First, Carlsen has been found. He's been taken to my mansion and I'll deal with him after I'm satisfied that you're all right. Second, you are Kindred now. After the time you almost died when giving Sonny your blood, I warned you that if you ever offered me your blood under similar circumstances, I would take it as your permission for me to embrace you. I did take it so, and you are embraced now – Ventrue Clan. I am your Sire and you are my childe.

Julian watched as all expression left Frank's face and his eyes wandered out of contact with Julian's eyes. Oh, no, you don't, he thought. I'm not letting you avoid me that way. "No, Frank," Julian said evenly, "Keep looking at me. That's right," he encouraged. "Keep your eyes fixed on mine. Good. "Now," he demanded with a snap to his voice. "Tell me -- Why did you do it?"

He's doing that pinning-me-with-his-eyes thing of his. I hate that! It's like he's seeing through to all the thoughts in my brain. I do not want to have to admit, out loud, especially to him, that his life is important to me, because one, he's not the enemy I tried to make him into when we first met, and second, because he does keep this city safe. I saw what happened the one time he left it, and I for damn sure don't want that Brujah, Cameron to take over – even if I did somehow survive the transition. Frank sighed. We're guys! Guys do not share their feelings. Great. Now he's looking amused. I know he's reading my mind.

"Frank, emotions are no more your enemy than I am. I've seen police and firefighters comfort each other after a bad fire or shootout. I've seen Sonny comfort you and for that matter you comfort Sonny. Kindred emotions are even more intense than those of humans."

I know he's loyal to me, he's proven it several times, but he needs to admit it to me before he can fully admit it to himself. Once he brings the thought into the open, he can better control his actions. Loyalty is good, but I want him to learn control. He can't be foolishly risking his life so often

"Real guys can and do talk about emotions. Embarrassment will not kill you, Frank," Julian said patiently. "Now, my childe, tell me why you gave me your blood when you knew that it would result in your embrace."

"After all, Frank," he stated innocently, "if you'd wanted me to embrace you, I did inform you that all you had to do was to ask. I'd have been pleased to grant your request." Julian grinned in amusement at his flustered childe. "So tell me," he prompted.

"You can read my mind," said Frank.

"Yes, when I concentrate, someone is projecting their thoughts, or when I'm sharing my newly embraced childe's mind." Julian's grin broadened. "I'll teach you how to dominate a mind later. I'll also show you how to shield your thoughts, but we'll never be able to totally shield ourselves from each other. Sonny and I can still sense each other, as could my sire, Archon, and I."

Julian's grip on Frank's arms tightened as he lightly shook his newest childe. "Now, stop stalling," he ordered, "and tell me why you felt the need to share your blood with me. There were Kindred close enough to help. I could have held on long enough for them to reach me …" he said, "… and, before you ask, no, I am not going to let this go."

Damn, Frank thought, this is embarrassing, but Julian's not going to back off. Alright, here goes, he took a deep breath and said, "When I reached you, you were surrounded by a pool of blood. Unless Kindred can "top off the tank," it was more than anyone could survive. I presume that Sonny's told you about my little Kindred research project at the library," he said dryly. "The one where I learnt about Kindred and the ways they can be killed. The one after I met Alexandra?"

"Yes, Frank, your brood brother did inform me of your earlier 'studies.' "Top off the tank" indeed. Julian's lips quivered. Frank can come up with some good ones; I've got to share this one with Sonny. We do need to work on his "charming informality" though. He needs to be careful when and where he lets that informality loose. "Now, go on."

I hope he accepts the short and sweet account. "Well, once I found you; and, by the way, it'd been at least twenty minutes since I'd seen the last Kindred; I realized that you were dying and since there wasn't anyone else near enough to help, and I can tell when Kindred are near (and they weren't), and I didn't want you to die." Frank took a deep breath and finished with – "I gave you my blood."

It is fortunate I embraced him. I don't believe anyone human could have said that much without breathing. "Short and succinct," Julian's eyes crinkled in amusement, as his grin broadened even further, much to Frank's dismay. "Nice try, but I want more detail." He paused, and clearly enunciating every word, said, "Why did you feel the need to save me?"

Damn, he's not quitting. "Ok," Frank mumbled rapidly, "You aren't the enemy I tried to make you be when we first met. You do keep the city safe. I saw what happened when you weren't there. I don't want Cameron in charge and," the words tumbled even more rapidly over Frank's tongue, "I don't let friends die if I can do anything to prevent it."

"Thank you, Frank. I think of you as a friend too, and now you're my childe," Julian said, with wry amusement. He paused and then said, "Oh, and by the way, I do see that embarrassment has not cut your life short and; for future reference, mumbling is not going to help you, no matter how rapidly you do it; if for some reason I can't understand what you're saying, I'll just ask you to repeat it until I do."

Damn. Now he's laughing at me. I see I've managed to trip his "humor button." thought Frank.

"Not at you, with you." Julian's eyes danced with amusement, as his lips quivered with suppressed laughter. Frank usually has me and the Kindred providing amusement for him. I think he's a bit perturbed about the role reversal, and I still need to be sure he won't fight me about his embrace, Julian's thoughts sobered.

Now he's looking all serious again, thought Frank. Like he's about to start on that lecture I've been expecting.

"Yes, Frank, it is time for you to receive your lecture from me," Julian said seriously. He paused, as he contemplated Frank's annoyed expression. From what he's told me, and from what I saw in that dismal room, he probably did save my life. I do owe him my acknowledgment for his service. Still, Sonny did order him to stand back and call for help if he found me. I can't let him totally off the hook for disobeying orders -- not if I want him to pay attention to mine.

"Before we start, I would like to thank you for your blood. From what you've just said, you are probably correct. I could easily have died the true death before Kindred aid could have reached me. That said, you were told to stay back and call for help if you found me, and that was the only reason Sonny agreed to let the two of you split up. As a human, I wasn't responsible for your behavior. Now, as the one who embraced you, I am responsible for your behavior." Julian said. "As both your Sire and your Prince, I need your cooperation, and your willingness to accept my authority and to do what I tell you," he said sternly. "That means following my orders. You need to learn more about the Kindred before you're able to fully able to function in our society. Please. Pay attention to what your brother and I tell you. Remember, all Kindred in San Francisco are under my authority and you are Kindred now. May I count on your cooperation?" Julian asked.

Frank looked thoughtfully back at his Sire. "While I didn't really want to be Kindred, certainly not enough to ask you for it," he sighed. "I can't object to it, you did warn me, and, well, nothing you truly want comes without a price. I got what I wanted, so I won't complain about the price," he said firmly. I realize that you and Sonny think I'm a loose cannon, but I am capable of acting like a sane and reasonable human being, just not when I'm emotionally involved." Frank gave Julian a sheepish grin. "In case you hadn't noticed, I'm also not very comfortable with authority, especially when it's applied arbitrarily, I disagree with the orders, and/or people are in danger."

He disagrees with the orders or he doesn't trust the person giving them. I'm glad Sonny wanted me to be the one to embrace Frank. He knew his partner would be a handful. Frank's not for the first time sire - his authority issues run too deep. I suspect that trust and respect would go a long way toward resolving those issues, at least on an individual basis. I agree with Sonny's assessment. I know Frank likes my eldest 'son', but I'm not sure if he trusts him completely. When Frank first found out about us, I ordered Sonny to hide his Kindred existence from him, and when Frank finally realized that Sonny was not only Kindred, but also my childe, he lost a great deal of trust in his partner. He does appear to trust me; he's not fighting me as much as I feared he might. I'm certain he respects me more than he does Sonny. Julian thought with a grin. He's brought enough errant Kindred to my attention over the years, and he knows what I could, and would, do to him if I had to.

"Do you trust me Frank?" Julian asked.

Oh, now he brings out the big guns, thought Frank wryly. What's next -- Declarations of eternal brotherhood?

"Actually," Julian smirked, as he said innocently, "according to human custom we are blood brothers – we did share blood. However, according to Kindred law, it makes me your sire, and I still need to know if you trust me. So, tell me Frank. We're sitting here until you do," he said dispassionately. "I can easily out stubborn you."

Frank sighed, and he claims that I'm stubborn. "Yes, I trust you, Julian."

"Thank you Frank. Then please trust me enough to believe that my instructions are meant for your benefit."

"This is about me following orders, isn't it?" Frank asked, with another sigh.

That's the sound of resignation I hear, thought Julian with satisfaction. "Yes, I do want you to follow my orders, especially when I actually give them to you. I also want you to follow the orders of those others I tell you to. I'll wait till later to tell him Sonny's one of them. As my childe, your failure to follow my orders will reflect badly on me," he said seriously, "For the present, until I release you, I control you. Think of Kindred childehood as the equivalent of human minority – only for a shorter length of time."

"Remember the rights of a Roman Pater Familias? I have those over you now until I release you; in other words, declare you a Kindred adult able to fend for himself. To do that, you need to satisfy me that you can hunt safely on your own, and that you know, and are willing to follow, enough Kindred law and lore that you won't get yourself, or the Kindred into trouble."

Julian's gaze sharpened as he stated, firmly, clearly and distinctly, "I am not having another Childe of mine risk, or heaven forbid, break the Masquerade. I will not permit another Alexandra."

"You are not stupid, and I know that you are capable of learning quickly. To make this work, I need to be able to trust you to follow my orders, and I suspect the key to that is for you to trust me. You've admitted that you do. Which is more than Alexandra did. I can best protect my childer when they trust me enough to let me do so. I will never harm mine so long as I can avoid it. He needs to learn and follow Kindred law. "So, do you trust me enough that I can trust you?"

He really does know how to crank up the emotional volume. "Julian, I don't know if I can kill to keep the masquerade. I admit that you've kept things peaceful and Kindred aren't breaking major human laws or at least have been much more discrete since Fiori died. I certainly know you've taken care of the ones who have. I've no problem with you dealing with Kindred, it's just the poor human bastards who stumble into your Kindred world who worry me."

Well, I knew he chafed at the penalties for the breaking of the Masquerade, but I doubt that his convictions are as set as he believes them to be. Let's see how he answers this--"Frank, do you think that Carlsen should live?"

"No," Frank snapped.

That was short, straight and from the heart, Julian thought, as he leaned back on his heels and said. "He's human, my childe. You have no qualms about my judgment in his case? And Frank …" he said quietly, "… it's now your Kindred world as well."

Now, an extremely dirty look he's giving me. I'm sure my childe finds it most effective when confronting the criminals he deals with, Julian thought in amusement.

"He's a menace. He tried to kill you and he did kill the Prince of Seattle, plus all those albino kids." Frank spit out the words in fury. "The only thing different about those kids was that they had absolutely no melanin. White hair, white skin, red eyes, they burnt at the slightest hint of sun. Ipso Facto for this creep, they must have been "turned" – and by the "Prince of the City at that. They were growing normally. The last one was six months old for crying out loud. What kind of monster kills a baby? The kid couldn't even move by himself. His mother was giving him his bottle as the fool came in to destroy the "evil vampire childe."

"Then he went after you 'cuz you must have been the one to "make" the kid, you being the Prince of the City and all, and by the way, how did he find that little "tidbit" out, and even more: How did he find out the identities of the other four Princes in his little reign of inquisitorial terror?"

"I could imagine one leak in one city … but five separate leaks? Where did the man get his information? Is there a listing for "reclusive businessmen under the yellow pages? Are there really five (or more) separate people willing to break the Masquerade with this level of enthusiasm? I thought Kindred were afraid of fire – not that they played with it." Frank snorted in disgust. "I know you well enough by now to know that, not only would you not "turn" a child, but that I don't even want to know what you'd do to someone who did. I don't expect that the other Princes would feel that much differently."

" It's the normal people who run into 'our' Kindred world who I worry about." Frank said quietly.

"I worry about them too, Frank, but I worry even more about the masquerade. Our lives are as precious as anyone else's life," Julian said seriously. "If humans find out about us, we will die and so will many humans. Yes, there will be some who will want to live and let live, but there will be many more who will not only do their best to kill us – they will use our existence to justify their murder of those humans who are inconvenient and/or whose death would bring profit to them."

"We'd also be overrun with potential "recruits": There would be many would see the power and the long life, and try to force their way into our ranks. Can you imagine the lawsuits for discrimination in refusing to allow someone the embrace? Princes would have to justify every decision, both for and against. Imagine the liability if someone like Starkweather slipped through again. Do you believe we'd still be able to police our own—can you imagine someone like Starkweather in the human criminal justice system? The only way to contain him was to give him final death. How likely is that with the present system? He would have broken out long before his trial," he said dryly.

"Remember too, that we can wipe human's memories. The ones who are able to resist that are few and far between. If a Kindred kills a human without at least trying to wipe their memories, he, or she, will have to deal with me. If they can't wipe the human's memory, then they need to bring the human to me, and I'll decide. I kept you alive," Julian said quietly.

"Julian. You told me in Alexandra's garden -- You were protecting me because you'd promised her that you would."

"You were harassing me before the two of you got together," Julian replied. "That's why I had Sonny watching and doing his best to distract you. I do prefer to distract, rather than kill, Frank. My promise to Alexandra is an important reason why you lived, but it was not the only reason, at least until she broke the Masquerade when she told you about the Kindred."

"Although, I will admit you've never made protecting you easy," Julian commented dryly. "I'm not going to kill someone simply because they annoy me; if that were true, Eddie Fiori would have been gone long before you started investigating him, probably even before you were born."

"As for Carlsen's sources of information," He paused as a wicked smile appeared on his face. "I and the other Princes involved are working on that. We've set our agents out to investigate, much as your police departments deal with similar 'human' crimes. And yes …" he said dryly "… Sonny is one of them. I will let you participate I release you. So -- I suggest you consider your desire to participate in the investigationas an incentive to learn what I have to teach you as rapidly as possible, including how to follow orders."

"Now, unless you have more questions, I'll ask you again: Do you trust me enough that I can depend on you to learn what I tell you to, including following any orders I may give? Can I trust you to not fight me? A yes, or no will do, Frank."

I suppose the last four years have been leading up to this, but I know that I can't back out of this once I agree. Still, I'm Kindred now, I couldn't back out anyway and I don't mind following Julian. He's a good tactician - he does generally manage to make the best decisions possible, under the circumstances available. "Yes." Frank took a deep breath and said, "Sire." I just know Sonny's going to be one of "those others" whose orders he wants me to follow.

I hope he comes up with something to placate the serial killer task force that descended on San Francisco. They're really going to be unhappy if they think 'Mr. Creepy Hunter' has escaped them. More to the point, the general public's going to be looking over their shoulders for years until they know he's no longer a concern. Julian can't hand him over to the Feds: I doubt anyone could wipe all knowledge of Kindred existence from him. Besides, he's ours to deal with.


Well, that 'Sire' didn't kill him either. "Thank you, Frank." Julian said with a smile as he released his childe's arms and stood, pulling Frank to his feet as well. We need to get you to a place where you can safely rest before you start going through the Change."

"Change, Julian?" No one's ever told me about the after embrace details before. Actually they never described embrace details either. Can we say "important safety tips" here? "What's going to happen to me?"

"It's when your body changes from human to kindred. Your internal organs shut down. People experience cramps and nausea. You either, feel as if your blood were boiling in your veins or that you're freezing from the inside out."

"In other words, somewhere between a bad case of food-poisoning, and some super flu," Frank drawled.

"That about covers it, Frank," Julian said sympathetically. "It should be several hours before it starts; you need to rest now. I'm taking you to my home."

"As for what's going to happen to you," Julian said with a sardonic gleam in his eye. "You're going to learn what it means to be Kindred, Ventrue, and a Childe of the Prince of the City. Once you've gone through the change, I'll teach you to hunt. After that, we'll work on the rest of your Kindred 'education.'" Smiling broadly, Julian threw his arm over Frank's shoulders.

"When I sent Sonny back to my house, I told him to have a room prepared for you. Think of it as your home for the next few weeks."

Once my business with this 'hunter' is finished, I'll join you, and don't worry: The Feds can have what's left after the Nosferatu finish with him." He then steered Frank through the dusty piles of medical equipment scattered amongst the corridors and rooms of the old asylum. As they drove off in the waiting car, Julian thought to himself,

"Julian, what happened to my jacket?"