I don't own them and I'm not making any money.

This story is set approximately five years after Frank's embrace.

Italized comments in the first person are the internal thoughts/mental processes of the character expressing them.

Isolated italized words are just for emphasis.

Kindred Stories: Investigation's End

The Raid

Perching on the fire escape outside Jason Tyler's fourth floor walkup, Frank Kohanek waited for a signal from his partner, brood brother, and San Francisco's Ventrue Primogen, Sonny Toussaint. Tyler, bartender for the Kindred Elysium, the "Haven", had been implicated in the conspiracy surrounding the late and unlamented, mad Kindred hunter and child killer, Pere Carlsen. The investigation was now complete.

Between the Nosferatu and the dedication and commitment on the part of the various Kindred investigators set loose by the Princes of half a hundred North American cities, the instigators and backers of the madman had been found. A cabal of discontented Kindred had been behind Carlsen's reign of terror, and now the Kindred of those cities were left to mend the Masquerade.

So far Kindred of every clan, except that of the Gangrels, had been found to have been involved in the cabal's scheme. Carlsen had not been their only dupe. They'd brought in humans and failed to hide their kindred nature from said humans.

Frank snorted to himself. So much for the Masquerade, he thought in disgust. And not all of the humans had been dupes. He shook his head in disbelief. Amazing what some people could allow themselves to believe.

Frank felt a shiver run through his body as he thought about the cult's philosophy: Kindred who reveled in the thought of humans as cattle to be slaughtered; who were proud to think of themselves as 'vampires.'Kindred who sought to take control of humanity; who wanted to openly rule the humans.

They want to drag the Kindred into war with humanity. A war we couldn't win. They underestimate the humans. Humanity will unite against us as an external threat. After all, what's the easiest way for a tyrant to start a war -to invoke nationalism - to deny the humanity of the 'foe'? It's easy for humans to destroy 'monsters'. Frank had to wince at that last thought. I'm a fine one to talk about 'monsters' after my actions (and diatribes) against Julian, I'm glad he's as patient and forgiving as he is.

I actually shot him afterAlexandra's death - and my anti-kindred rant wasn't pleasant to listen to either. Grief or not, I'm lucky Alexandra exchanged her life for mine or I'd be the one no longer in existence. Her death has finally faded to a distant ache.

I really don't know how he managed to put up with me until he was able to convince me, neither he nor the Kindred were the 'villains' I wanted them to be. Not that some of us can't be villains - look at the Cabal or that jerk Eddie Fiori, but humans have no shortage of their own villains. Hitler and his Nazis or Charles Manson and his groupies are just a few humanity has to lay claim to.

I'm just happy Julian released me in time to participate in almost all of the investigation. I didn't think I'd ever persuade him and my 'brother' that I could and would followSonny's orders, not after my first spectacular failure to do so.

Frank shifted slightly on his perch. Jason Tyler, someone may have told you about the Kindred, but I doubt you have any clue about what you've actually gotten yourself into. Did you think you'd be the Grand Vizier to some Vampire 'King' or did Kamari promise to 'make' you one of them?

You were more likely to be made lunch than to be made Brujah. I thought Cameron was going to frenzy when he heard his clan member's plans. He wasn't thrilled with the prospect of having a drug-dealing pimp like you as part of his clan. You've ruined too many underage lives. Both Julian and Cameron despise you.

I wonder how Lillie missed your extracurricular activities. I know both Julian and Cameron wonder as well.

Cameron, on second impression' has turned out better than he looked at first. In some ways he brings to mind a Brujah version of Julian. He does protect his own and as he told me at our first meeting: "He's neither brutal nor stupid."

Julian still makes a better Prince, but Cameron is a good Primogen for his clan - even if that clan is the Brujah.

He certainly didn't hesitate to take the heads of his clan mates when he found out about their plans. He didn't hesitate to participate in their questioning either. The man supports the Masquerade and he has no patience with those who would try to destroy it, especially those who would join together in conspiracy.

Cameron and Julian do make a good team when they put aside their animosity.

Geez, how long does it take to get everyone assembled? Frank focused his senses and scanned the immediate area. All right! I didn't know we had so many Kindred in the Force. Sonny must have drawn them from all over the city. He concentrated -- every clan except the Nosferatu -- but Daedalus has his Nosferatu guarding the sewers. The Gangrel are guarding the perimeter. The Ventrue and the Brujah will be the shock troops on this mission. Tyler won't escape us.

Glancing around the alleyway, Frank smiled. There's Jensen behind the dumpster. Trust a Brujah to be SWAT. Kimmerman's …, Frank pressed his lips firmly together to stifle the laughter he felt building. … A pregnant, transvestite, homeless wino -- only a Toreador. I must, I must laugh out loud, he thought desperately, firmly turning his head back toward the window

Frank stiffened as he heard Sonny's whisper. He's going through the door now. Tyler better hope Julian decides he wasn't directly involved in the conspiracy. He might survive to be dominated into forgetfulness and given a new and disparate desire to confess all his sins to everyone he sees. That should land him in jail for the next century. A pounding noise echoed from the apartment

"James Tyler! Police! Open the Door."

Damn, Sonny can make an almighty racket when he sets his mind to it. Ah, right on cue. Here comes the little pervert now. Frank backed against the railing. Pulling his body through the window, Lillie's bartender emerged onto the fire escape. Grabbing Tyler, Frank turned him and shoved the man back through the window into Sonny's waiting arms.

"Why Frank …," Sonny said pleasantly. "What a nice present."

With an unpleasant smile on his face, Sonny in turn shoved the quivering human into the waiting arms of Matt Simons. As the Ventrue detective held the now badly frightened man, Sonny stepped up to Tyler and raising the man's head, he stared into Tyler's face.

"But are you a present for me or are you a present for Julian Luna?" He asked as he pensively tapped his lip. "Decisions, decisions. What do you think, partner?" Glancing over his shoulder, Sonny said, "Why don't you join us, Frank."

With an unpleasant grin on his own face, Frank entered the apartment and moved to stand behind Sonny. "I thought you'd never ask, partner." Stepping to one side, Frank placed his index finger to his lips. He tilted his head to the right and gazing thoughtfully at their captive, said, "I don't know. It is your birthday after all, and I haven't given you a present yet. But …," he stared into Tyler's eyes, nasty grin plastered on his face as he said, "… Julian does have a deep hunger for his presence."

Frank's gaze shifted to his partner. "I do so hate to disappoint Mr. Luna." With eyes wide and blinking, Frank said, "Don't you Sonny?"

Sonny Toussaint pressed his lips firmly together and bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. You little shit. You're good. Jamie looks ready to pee his pants. Eew: The three Ventrue exchanged amused glances. Turnabout's fairplay, 'little brother,' Sonny thought as he made a made a point to sigh in disappointment.

"I did so hope you'd give me a nice present this year. A bottle of cheap wine is so boring." Sonny's grin turned diabolic. "I prefer it fresh and hot. Don't you Matt?" Sonny asked the third Ventrue brightly.

"Oh, of course, my friend: Fresh and hot is the best choice." Simons replied with enthusiastic glee. God, these two are a riotAnd this jerk off knows exactly what we're talking about, he thought of the man he held pinned. Julian will turn him into Nosferatu snack food.

Frank smirked. "Sonny, pouting doesn't become you. I'll get you a nice present this year. … I promise." He thought of his brood brother's first childe and, smiling innocently, said, "I know you appreciated that nice paramedic I introduced you to last year."

You little shit. I'm not going to be able to keep a straight face for much longer if you keep this up. Yes, I do appreciate Samuel. Sonny's thoughts turned involuntarily to Samuel Gonzalez. My first childe - no problem to train, helpful, respectful of authority without being obsequious: I couldn't ask for a better first childe. I must remember to tell Frank that he'd make a good Kindred yenta. The expression on his face would be priceless, especially when I tell him everyone needs a hobby. Seriously, he does have a talent for it. He even found a good childe for Daedalus. The Primogen of the Nosferatu liked him before, but my brother won his devotion for that.

Although, I still wonder if you didn't point Sam my way to give me something to occupy myself with once Julian didn't need me to watch you so closely. You've calmed down so much since our sire embraced you five years ago, and you always have been a thoughtful little shit when the mood stuck you.

"You're right, Frank." Sonny said gravely. "Last year's present was exceptional and Mr. Luna does hate to be disappointed. You know how badly he reacts to disappointment, don't you, partner?" Two can play at this game, 'little brother.'

I'm going to start losing it soon, if these two don't stop, Matt Simons, Fraud detective, and Ventrue childe of the late Archon Raine, thought in amusement. God, Julian, my brother, I envy you your childer. They've done well by you. This fool in my arms is about ready to collapse. By the time we get him to you, he'll be pleading to tell you everything he knows.

Ooh, a point for Sonny. Enough fun though, thought Frank. We need to get this creep to Julian before something goes wrong.

"Too true Sonny." Frank shuddered. "I never want to disappoint him again." Thoughtfully tapping his finger against his lip, he smiled brightly. "I know! Part of your present can be this wonderful opportunity to enjoy Mr. Tyler's presence before we have to turn him over to Julian." Frank reached over to place a consoling pat on Sonny's shoulder. "Just think of it as a down payment on this year's present."

It's a good thing Lillie didn't spot this acting talent of theirs before Julian found these two, Matt thought dryly as he was force to bite his lips to contain the snicker he felt coming.

We do need to get 'Mr.' Tyler to Julian's. "I suppose, that will have to do, Frank," sighed Sonny. "'Mr.' Tyler here does have an appointment with Mr. Luna and we wouldn't want him to miss it." Dropping his hands from Jamie Tyler's head and jerking the man forward, Sonny snapped, "Restrain him Matt."

As soon as James Tyler felt the kindred cop behind him reach for his handcuffs, he started struggling and screamed, "But you're cops. You can't do this. You have to take me to the station. It's my rights."

Matt immediately grabbed Jamie's legs as Sonny grabbed the man's shoulders. The pair took the struggling man to the floor, rolled him onto his front, looked up, and simultaneously said, "Frank, you get his hands."

Sighing heavily, Frank asked, "Why is it always me? Well, if I must, I must." He pulled out his handcuffs, grinned, dropped to the floor, and secured the man's wrists. He then turned Tyler's terrified face toward him, leaned closer and whispered coldly, "You know why we're here and you know what law you're subject to." An icy smile gracing his face, Frank continued, "As someone once told me, we're all around you."

Releasing the, by now, hyperventilating human, Frank helped his clan mates pull the struggling former bartender to his feet, pushed the man out the door, and down the stairs into the waiting car. As they left, Frank noted several Gangrel and Ventrue spreading out to make sure nothing of importance would be remembered by any human in this neighborhood.

As he was opening the driver's door, Frank felt a force push him into the opening, leaving him to collapse half in and half out of the car. In a daze, he thought: Those were shots. Are those are the accelerator and brake pedals in front of me? My nose is practically on top of them. Shit, my right arm is pinned beneath me and I don't dare move.

Those were bullets that hit me - not phosphorous shells. No Kindred would bother using bullets against another Kindred. The shooter has to be human. Those bullets obviously hit me.

Now I can't move. I have to play severely injured or dead. I mustn't let a possibly unknowing human realize I'm not human. Damn. Preserving the Masquerade can be a real 'pain.'

Now I know how Julian felt when I shot him eight years ago, at least he didn't have to conceal his Kindred nature from me.

Geez, Kowalski spilled his cola in here. That's the last time I give him a ride home.

Frank's thoughts rambled on. I wonder if this is cosmic payback for my actions in Alexandra's garden.

I'm glad Julian's got a tight hold on his temper.

Blood's flowing out of me. Kohanek concentrate, he ordered himself. Stop that blood flow. Heal those arteries and veins.

He could have ripped me to pieces that night and all he did was snarl that he was the Kindred's "judge, jury and executioner. Julian was vehement and loud, but he never made a physically threatening move toward me.

Frank flinched at the memory. I was the violent one. He just picked himself up, paused to yell at me, and then walked out.

All I want to do now, is attack the idiot who shot me and get back some of the blood I've just lost. At least my arteries, veins and skin have healed. I won't be losing anymore, unless the fool starts shooting again.

He paused to listen. Is that the sound of running feet I hear? Nah, this isn't Chicago. On the other hand there are about a hundred dead cops here, he thought as he stifled a giggle. Nope, we aren't quite dead yet. Just, as Miracle Max put it, "mostly dead."

Frank had to press his lips together - hard - to prevent that pesky giggle from escaping.

Suddenly, he felt hands grab his shoulders. Lifting him out of the car, the hands laid him carefully on the pavement.

As the hands patted his face, Frank heard Sonny say, "You can open your eyes now. We've got the shooter. Thomas and Jerold are hauling her back to Julian. Matt's dragging Tyler along with them. I'm sending a couple of the Brujah with them as well."

Those hands were Sonny's. Frank opened his eyes and groaned. "Don't tell me. They're using the "Electricians R Us" van.

"You guessed it 'little brother.' The Gangrel are collapsing the perimeter. You and I are going to the mansion. Everyone else is staying to "calm the populace."

Send them all into la-la land is more like it thought Frank as he allowed Sonny to pull him to his feet.

It's a good thing I insisted we hunt earlier or he'd be in frenzy by now. I can see traces of the wild in his eyes. I can also see Frank's stopped bleeding but from the amount splattered on the seat and floor of the car, not to mention the pavement and his clothes, he's lost much of his blood

Sonny turned Frank and, closely examining his partner's back, thought, I don't see any exit wounds. Frank's not going to be happy when Daedalus starts fishing those bullets out of him.

He cringed at the memory of some of Daedalus' efforts on his behalf. Fortunately for Frank, Julian was available. Sonny's worst memories were of those times Julian was unavailable, and Archon was left to care for his childe's childer.

Archon took his responsibilities seriously; he did try and he was better than nothing. It was simply unfortunate that I could never warm to my grandsire's personality. Without the fundamental connection of a sire/childe relationship to override our lack affinity, I couldn't summon the trust necessary for Archon to stand as effectively as my Sire,between me and my pain.

Sonny laughed to himself. Presumably, that was why Sonny had been embraced by Julian rather than by Archon. His sire had his own mind. Julian had never been Archon's shadow, but he and Archon had still retained a deep-seated trust in each other.

Wrapping his arm around his partner's shoulders, Sonny steered Frank to the front passenger side, opened the door and gently pushed him onto the seat. "Fasten your seatbelt, Frank," he ordered softly as he shut the door.

Settling against the seat, Frank hissed as he reached for the seat belt. As he fastened the belt, he looked up to see Sonny behind the wheel.

"Sonny, why are you looking at me like you know I'm going to hate what you're going to say?" Frank asked suspiciously.

"That's because you are going to hate what I have to say to you." Sonny replied.

Frank's eyes narrowed. "And why is that, partner?"

Laying his arm over the back of the seat, Sonny shifted his body so he could directly face his sire's youngest childe.

I might as well tell him straight out.

Sonny said simply, "Frank, we need to go to Julian's. I looked at your back before I put you in this car and those bullets did not leave your body. They need to do so. As soon as we get to the mansion, you have an appointment with Daedalus. He'll remove them."

Frank's eyes widened in dismay.

Sonny expects me to just go to Daedalus and let him cut and dig in my body - with sharp objects?

"No, Sonny," Frank burst out. "Are you insane? I've already lost enough of my blood and you want me to let Daedalus make me lose more. I stopped the bleeding. Those bullets can stay right where they are."

He's thinking of running. "Frank!" Sonny snapped as his hand came down and caught Frank's before his partner could release his seatbelt.

"Listen to me, 'little brother," he ordered firmly. "Your body may no longer be human, but your veins and arteries still exist."

Sonny tightened his grip on his partner as he leaned forward to say with deadly intensity, "If any or all of those bullets move, they'll break those veins and arteries open again. You could bleed out, but …," he said as he tried to catch his brother's eyes. "Frank, please do me the honor of looking at me," Sonny snapped. "Thank you," He smiled as Frank's eyes turned to meet his.

"Now, my brother," Sonny continued. "You're more likely to frenzy as your blood levels drop. Especially, when that drop will be like a rock. You frenzy, you lose control. Losing control, you could easily kill. You could break the Masquerade. You break the Masquerade and you force Julian to kill you."

He paused before he asked quietly, "Or do we need to talk to Julian? I can call him if you would like me to."

He's serious, he's determined, he's every inch the Ventrue Primogen, he's right, and I don't want our sire involved. I know what his answer will be. Julian has never failed to emphasize the importance of the Masquerade in every lesson he has ever taught me," Frank thought with a sigh.

The Masquerade is our only protection from humans. I can't break it; he's taught me too well. Julian's also been a good friend and an even better sire. I do not want to disappoint him. That still doesn't mean that I want sharp (or dull) objects cutting into my body.

Frank forced himself to relax and, with a sheepish grin, he asked, "Are you sure my body won't force those bullets out of from me just like it would a splinter?" His shoulders are shaking, his lips are quivering. Sonny's laughing at me.

"I take it that's a no, Sonny," Frank said.

"My, but, that's a sour tone coming out of your mouth, 'little brother.' And, you are correct, bullets will not be pushed out of your body "like a splinter," replied Sonny. "Are you finished panicking now? Will you stay put; can I let go of your arm?"

"Yeah, Sonny, I'm though panicking," Frank sighed as he turned his eyes forward to stare through the windshield. "Let's go before I run screaming off into the night."

"Is that sarcasm I hear, partner?" Sonny said as he put the car in gear and they drove off.

"You'd prefer screaming hysteria," Frank replied dryly, as he glanced briefly at Sonny

I can see his muscles quivering, Sonny thought, as he continued to watch his friend from the corner of his eye. He'll fret himself to his final death before we get there if I don't do something.

"It's not as bad as you think, Frank," Sonny sympathized as he reached out to pat Frank's shoulder. "Trust our sire. Don't fight him."

Trust our sire? What is he talking about? Is Julian going to get the bullets out? I know our sire is talented, and I'm sure he could if he had to, but I really don't think surgery is one of his talents. Julian's talents run more to the psychological. Frank turned a quizzical eye on his brood brother.

"What are you talking about Sonny? Are you saying Julian's a surgeon, or is he just Daedalus' surgical assistant?" Frank asked incredulously.

Frank looks like he's sucked on a lemon. Sonny laughed. He's misunderstood me too.

"No, Frank," Sonny patiently replied, as he continued driving. "Julian will dominate you until you don't know anything else exists. You will feel only his presence." Sonny quickly glanced at his partner. Frank's looking a little better. "You'll be fine," he reassured his reluctant partner. "Relax. Stare out the window, we're almost there."

Finally, he thought a few minutes later, as he again glanced at his partner to see Frank's head resting limply against the window. I'm glad I didn't have to go all I'm-your-primogen on him. I can remember when I did have to drag him to Julian. Thank God, he's finally learned to trust my orders. Sonny laughed softly: And it's only taken five years and Julian's active support for at least the first two of those years.

He smiled, as he thought fondly of some the trials and tribulations he and his partner had gone through over the last few years. Julian kept pushing until he finally got Frank to instinctively accept my judgment as well as Julian's. I hate to disappoint our sire just as much as Frank does. Gaining Frank's trust required that I live up to Julian's confidence in my abilities.

Sonny drove through the gate of the home of San Francisco's Prince, and continued along the drive until he reached the inner courtyard. Parking the car near the entrance to Daedalus' haven, he glanced at Frank. Good. He's out.

In the House of the Prince

Daedalus, Nosferatu Primogen of San Francisco's Kindred, watched patiently as his Prince, and friend, Julian Luna paced impatiently throughout the Nosferatu's haven, turned, and then stalked impatiently toward him. The Ventrue truly are, as Simeon says, "control freaks."

A faint expression of fondness flickered across the Nosferatu's face as he thought of his only surviving childe, and of the one who had pointed him toward the awkward young computer geek. Julian's youngest has a precious talent. Not many Kindred are capable of matching potential childer with Kindred other than themselves. Some Kindred are not even capable of choosing their own childer wisely, Daedalus thought sourly. I'll be interested in seeing who Frank picks for his childer when he gets of an age to do so.

I see Julian's stopped pacing, but he's still radiating energy. His body is quivering with it.

"Julian, calm yourself. Everything is in place for your childe's arrival. He will be fine."

Julian Luna stopped as he looked up in surprise at his Nosferatu friend. "I apologize, Daedalus. I hadn't realized I was being quite so annoying," he said with a rueful grin. Reaching an arm toward his friend, he placed his hand on Daedalus' shoulder and continued, "Your preparations are excellent as always. I am pleased to have you as a part of my domain. From what Matt told me after he delivered Jamie Tyler and his girlfriend to my cells, Frank is not in immediate danger of final death."

Julian's coldest voice echoed with disdain and fury as he said, "My wrath is for James Tyler and his girlfriend. Once Frank's problems have been taken care of ...," he sneered, "… your clan may find itself in possession of not one, but two, entrees."

"The Nosferatu are always grateful for your largess, My Prince." Daedalus said gravely, "I am also happy to offer you my services in regards to the questioning of these two individuals."

A darkly amused Julian thought: I've never ceased to be impressed that Daedalus can say the things he does with such a straight face.

"Your help will be much appreciated, my friend," Julian responded with equal gravity.

"Although, I doubt that appreciation will extend to the subjects of our questioning," Daedalus responded.

"You're wicked," snickered Julian.

"Aren't we both," replied the Nosferatu as they shared smug smiles. He tilted his head to the left and said, "I believe I hear your childer now."

Julian's eyebrows rose and a slight grin appeared on his lips as he said dryly, "Frank can be quite creative in his arguments." His grin grew wider, as he continued, he said, " … especially when he doesn't want to do something."

Frank Kohanek felt a dull ache in his midsection. My head and arms are bouncing. My stomach feels like I'm lying over a fence rail - a big one. What's going on? Is that a shoulder I feel Why am I … His head jerked upright, as he remembered the shooting outside the apartment house. I'm over someone's shoulder. I'm over Sonny's shoulder, Frank thought indignantly

"Sonny, put me down. I can walk. Get me off your shoulder," Frank demanded.

"Stop squirming Frank," Sonny ordered calmly. "We're almost to Daedalus' haven. You were out of it by the time we reached the mansion. It was easier to carry you than wake you." I sure didn't want to have to coax your reluctant ass across the courtyard, down the stairs, and into Daedalus' chambers. It's much easier this way - at least for me, Sonny thought, a smug smile plastered across his face.

He's lucky I'm not still human, were Frank's resentful thoughts. By now, I'd be puking down his back if I were.

"Frank, I know you're thinking about puking on me," Sonny said evenly. "I just want you to remember my taste in clothing before you ruin something you're going to have to replace."

"You would have to wear your 'best' casual clothes tonight, 'big brother,'" Frank replied sourly. "At least let me walk the last few feet," pleaded the uncomfortable Kindred. Great. Here's the stairs now. Wonderful, he's going to just dump me in front of our sire, and the Nosferatu Primogen. How much more embarrassing can he make this for me?

"Nope, Frank. We're already here."

Sonny let Frank slide off his shoulder, and turning him around, said brightly, "Here's our sire now."

Julian's head dipped as he acknowledged the arrival of his childer. "Matt told me you'd been shot," he said, smiling warmly at his youngest, while reaching out to support the man. As Daedalus held a chair ready, the Prince and his eldest 'son' turned as one to deposit Frank in the wing-backed chair.

"There you go, Frank," Julian said briskly. "I need to talk with Sonny and then we'll get started. Putting a reassuring hand on his childe's shoulder, he squeezed it firmly for a moment before turning to Sonny.

Luna motioned for Sonny to follow him up the stairs. He then opened the door and motioned for Sonny to exit first. Closing the door firmly behind them, and catching his childe's eye, Julian quietly asked, "How badly has the Masquerade been compromised by this? Do I need to send more Kindred to that neighborhood?"

Sonny felt the tension, he had been feeling since seeing their carefully planned raid disintegrate into chaos and gunfire, leave his body. Frank may have been shot but I'm glad I don't have to disappoint Julian in this.

He made sure to maintain eye contact with his prince as, he smiled, and said briskly, "The situation is not as bad as it first seemed, sire. It's not a neighborhood where most people care what happens to their neighbors. I expect most of the residents are relieved to have the man gone. We have over a hundred Kindred in the police and most of them were on that raid. We also have all the Gangrels, not guarding you and your home, patrolling the perimeter and the Nosferatu are waiting in reserve, if by any chance someone tries to hide in the sewers."

We have a hard enough time getting any one there to admit a crime occurred; much less admit who did it.

"'Annie Oakley' appears to be Jamie Tyler's cop hating girlfriend. Miss Parmenter has no idea Kindred exist. She just didn't want the "pigs" hauling him off." Sonny's contempt for the woman was obvious as he continued derisively. "She's only human. That stupid female kept screaming, "death to the pigs,' even as she was being shoved into the van. I could hear her for blocks after Thomas and Jerold drove off." He paused, and then said, "I would like to go back, if you don't need me here."

Three out of four childer isn't a bad percentage. I've done well by my 'sons.' All three of my male childer are Kindred any sire could be proud of. Billy may not have been the most articulate or intellectual individual I've ever known, but he was a good driver and he was loyal.

Sonny's loyal, responsible and efficient. Since my sire died, I couldn't ask for a better Ventrue Primogen. I'm proud of him.

And Frank, Julian thought fondly of his newest childe, has justified my faith in him. It took him a while to get used to Kindred authority structures, but he never fought any discipline I ever imposed on him and I've never had to correct him twice for the same offence - he always found a new way to disregard authority. But he hasn't needed to be corrected for anything serious in over three years.

Prince Julian reached out to Sonny and pulling him into an embrace said, "You've done well, Sonny. I'm proud of you." He stepped back and continued to rest his hands on his childe's shoulders. With a warm smile, he held the Ventrue Primogen at arm's length.

"I'd rather you stayed. I could use your help in questioning our prisoners. Cash can finish the cleanup."

He must be pleased. He's giving me more responsibility than a tedious cleanup. "I'd be honored to assist you, Sire."

Sonny has quite the malevolent smile. I've seen the same smile on Frank's face. My childer must find that particular smile quite useful when dealing with their criminals.

He snickered to himself with dark amusement. After Matt's description of their smart ass manic cops routine, I have to see them at work.

Julian nodded in acknowledgment to Sonny's answer.

"Daedalus and I will meet you after we finish with Frank. Don't worry." He ordered. "Daedalus has Simeon to assist him."

"You did a good job getting Frank to me, and keeping him calm enough not to run, I'll continue to keep your brood brother calm. You go see to our 'guests.'"

"Oh, and Sonny," Julian called after his childe, "Thank you for the nice 'present.' I'll try to find you another 'present' to replace this one." He grinned as he saw Sonny lightly smack his head as the Ventrue Primogen walked away

Frank Kohanek was in a sour mood. Daedalus is playing with his potions again. I just know he's going to make me swallow something vile. Look at him and Simeon. I know he needs to teach his chide all that Nosferatu alchemical stuff, but do they need to look so happy, he thought resentfully. Daedalus is probably sharing some secret Nosferatu ingredient to make their potions taste even more like shit than they already do.

Squirming resentfully in his chair, Frank thought, I hope the idiot who shot me is enjoying their stay in the cells of 'Chateau Julian.' He jumped, startled, as he felt a hand squeeze his shoulder and heard a familiar voice chiding him for his paranoia. "Julian?"

Pushing his head against the back of the chair, Frank looked up to find his sire's eyes meeting his own. There was humor in Julian's eyes as he met those of his childe.

"I'm sorry, Julian. I just don't like the idea of sharp, pointy things coming anywhere near my anatomy," Frank mumbled sheepishly.

"I know." Julian gave Frank's shoulder a reassuring pat. "It looks like Daedalus is about ready for you." The grip on Frank's shoulder tightened as Julian watched his childe's nervousness.

I need to distract him. Noticing the empty bottles setting tidily beside Frank's chair, Julian said conversationally, "I see you've had some blood."

Frank's lips moved in a weak attempt at a smile. "Daedalus said I had to 'top off the tank.'"

"Actually," came a voice from the back of the room, "What I said was: You need to do what you refer to as "topping off the tank."

Daedalus appeared beside Frank's chair, glass in hand. Holding the glass out to Frank, he said mildly, "Your vile concoction, childe. I'm afraid I'm all out of my secret 'shit' ingredient, but I did find some boiled skunk. I hope that will do."

An embarrassed Frank slid lower in his chair, as he reached for the glass, and sighed. Damn, I didn't think I'd spoken out loud. I've just insulted a Primogen, and the Nosferatu one at that. The person who's going to be using sharp nasty objects on my body. The man who's going to be trying to help me. Make it right, Kohanek!

Frank focused his attention on the Nosferatu Primogen, and speaking with sincere formality, said, "I apologize for allowing my ill temper to spill over onto you and your childe. What recompense do you require from me?" He quickly swallowed the contents of the glass. Oh, My God. It does taste like boiled skunk. Anyone who says the Nosferatu are humorless has never met one, certainly not Daedalus. He has one of the most subtly, exquisitely, twisted senses of humor I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. I've never been so glad I'm no longer human. If I were, the contents of that glass would be all over Julian's shoes.

Shit, indeed, Frank Kohanek. I find your irreverent comment amusing, but, as I know, Julian has told you; you need to learn when to censor those 'charming' comments of yours

Daedalus is looking smug. He does love to teach manners to the young ones. My youngest still has a 'time and place' problem with his 'charming' informality.

"Apology accepted childe. No recompense is necessary. Just learn to control your sub-vocalizations."

Daedalus then turned his attention to Julian. "I have something to finish before we start. If you would get your childe stripped and over to the table, Simeon will be honored to help you get him on it."

Frank felt cold chills run through his veins as he thought of what would soon be coming. His muscles started to tense - fight or flight. I won't fight and I won't be allowed to flee.

Frank's starting to panic. Julian and Daedalus exchanged glances.

"Go," Julian ordered. "I'll get Frank ready for you." His hand tightening on his childe's shoulder, Julian slipped in front of the man, while simultaneously grasping Frank's other shoulder. Crouching down to eye level, he said quietly, "Frank, look at me."

He's staring at my shoulder. You're quite a stubborn man, Frank Kohanek, but as we've discussed many times before, I can easily out-stubborn you, Julian thought in grim amusement

Things are not as bad as you think they are.

He reached up and tapped Frank's cheek. "Eyes on mine, childe," he whispered. "That's right. You know how to do it. Very good, Frank," Julian encouraged softly, as Frank's eyes finally rose and, turning, met his.

He looks concerned; he's doing that pinning-me-with-his-eyes thing of his again. Strange - It doesn't bother me this time. I actually find it comforting - unlike the thought of Daedalus and his knives.

Julian must think I'm a total wuss. I doubt my bullets went through him eight years ago and I can't imagine him freaking out the way I am. Oh, no! He's looking expectant. I need to say something.

"Frank," Julian ordered softly, "What is the first thing I taught you about a sire's duty to his or her childe?"

"To protect that childe, even from itself, if necessary, until said childe can and will take care of itself," was the promptly whispered reply.

"Good answer." Julian smiled gently. "Trust me. You won't hurt. I won't allow you to feel anything of what is going to happen."

"Is there anything you'd like to ask me now? No? Then, I hope I've sufficiently reassured you," Julian said as he stood and held out his hand to Frank.

He still looks like shit, was Julian's dispassionate assessment, as he wondered if Frank would admit needing to help before, or after, the man fell at his feet. Let's see how he answers this question. "Do you need help to prepare yourself?"

Frank laughed softly, and looking directly at Julian, said, "Only all I can get." That surprised my sire. I'm a lot less stubborn than he believes me to be. Whether he realizes it or not, he and Sonny have managed to soften my 'stubbornness.'

Grasping his sire's extended hand, Frank allowed Julian to pull him to his feet and steer him over to the table, where, with the help Daedalus' childe, Simeon, he was quickly separated from his clothes. Within five minutes, he was lying supine on Daedalus' table.

Julian titled his head toward Simeon, and said, "We're almost ready for your sire, would you find him for me?"

Turning his attention back to his childe, Julian noted Frank's tightly closed eyes. He bowed his head as he stifled a sigh. I taught him better than this. He knows it's much easier to dominate someone when you can make eye contact. Cradling Frank's chin, he gently pulled up and back on his childe's jaw until Frank's face was clearly visible to him, and he could look directly into the man's unopened eyes.

Oh, God. I can feel the burning. I can feel his hands on my face. I can feel his eyes staring at my eyelids now! Frank's lips started to twitch as the ridiculousness of his actions hit him, and he struggled not to laugh. Julian must think I'm an idiot. I know I think I'm an idiot. I'd better do something before he decides to protect me from myself. He took a deep breath

"Julian, I apologize for freaking out on you." He stopped, and then, mumbling rapidly, continued, "and-I-apologize-for-shooting-you."

So that's what has been bothering him. He's had an empathy epiphany. I never blamed him for shooting me. Even as a human, his emotions ran at an almost Kindred level degree of heat.

I'd just ordered the destruction of his lover. Julian smile was sad. She was my love too, but she offered her life for Frank's. If she would have allowed it, I would have saved her. His Ventrue practicality reasserted itself as Julian continued his train of thought: Alexandra knew best. In spite of the fondness I still feel for her, she was a terrible Kindred. She would not control herself and she fought against any external control anyone else tried to impose on her, especially mine. In the end, she realized I could no longer protect her without fatally jeopardizing my own position and authority - possibly even my life.

In many ways, Frank has become her legacy to me. He chuckled fondly. Although, I still haven't succeeded in teaching him that mumbling will get him nowhere.

Leaning over, Julian placed his mouth beside Frank's ear, and whispered, "I forgive you."

He then laughed softly, stood, and ordered, the amusement obvious in his voice, "Now, unless you want to critique Daedalus' techniques, open your eyes and look at me. You know it's the quickest and easiest way for me to dominate you. Julian allowed his eyes to show the warmth and affection he felt for his childe as he used his thumbs to rub soothing patterns along Frank's cheek bones.

Frank felt his body relax as he slowly raised his eye lids to find his sire's eyes meeting his. He doesn't look angry. Hmm, talk about practicing what you preach. I'm sleepy. He's using a lot of the techniques he taught me. When attempting to dominate someone, the more avenues of information coming into a mind the more it's distracted. Engage as many of your subject's senses as possible. The more distracted a mind is, the easier it is to get behind any defenses your subject may have. Touch, hearing and sight - so far he's managed three with me. Those thumbs feel good. He wants me to listen to waves? Sounds like a good idea to me.

Frank let his hearing expand to hear the waves washing against the edge of Julian's property. Julian's voice blended with the sea-song as his eyes expanded to fill Frank's vision. Is that lavender …? Julian and waves … Frank sighed in contentment

Julian allowed an affectionate smile to spread across his face as he continued maintaining a soothing rhythm with both speech and touch.

"Frank. Hear the waves hit the shore. Washing in - washing out. You hear nothing but the waves. You feel nothing but my touch. You see nothing but my eyes. Just you and I are here." Now that is what murmuring is for Frank. It's not for trying to make sure your sire can't understand what you're saying, Julian thought in amusement. I must remember to compliment him on his grasp of what I was doing to him. He's definitely developed a true Ventrue mind. With a mental snicker, he thought: Only Frank would turn his predicament into a study analyzing his own domination.

From the corner of his eye he saw Daedalus blowing gently on a stick of incense. The left side of Julian's lips rose in a lopsided grin, as he said, "Fourth sense, my friend?"

Repressed amusement could be heard in the voice of the Nosferatu Primogen as he looked up, and primly replied, "Your childe has been known to be stubborn, My Prince and you've taught him formidable shielding. Another sense engaged would allow you quicker access to his mind."

Daedalus looked at the now relaxed Kindred lying on his table. "I do believe he has conceded the point to you, Julian," he continued with a dry comment, as he positioned himself beside the table and motioned for his childe to take a position on the opposite side.

Frank Kohanek felt a spicy-sweet liquid filling his mouth. Blood? Julian's blood - what is it doing in my mouth? Oh! I was shot.

He opened his eyes to find Julian cradling his head and shoulders, with Julian's eyes smiling into his. Grasping his sire's wrist, he continued to feed as he lay relaxed against Julian. A few minutes later, his sire pulled his wrist away.

"Enough, Frank," Julian said, as, grasping his childe by the upper arms, he turned Frank to rest against the pillows piled behind them.

After seeing to it that his childe was comfortably settled, Julian swung his legs over the edge of the bed they had been lying on. He then stood, and turned to study Frank for several minutes. Frank looks much better, but Daedalus did agree he could use a few hours of rest.

Speaking briskly, Julian said, "Yes, you're in your old room. Daedalus found five bullets in you. Yes, you're resting here for at least four hours. Yes, your clothes were destroyed, including your leather jacket." He paused for an instant.

He's smirking at me. He knows how much I loved that jacket and he knows how much I loved the jacket before it. You're sure enjoying this, sire and you complain about my wicked sense of humor. I might as well play along.

"Where's my jacket, Julian?" Frank asked plaintively.

Julian's eyes twinkled as the corners of his lips rose and a broad grin spread over his face. "Yes, I'll get you another jacket, just like your last two." Strolling over to the door, Julian leaned against the wall, a lazy smile on his face.

"I'm joining Daedalus and Sonny. You're welcome to join us -- in four hours. We'll be in the cellar. Just follow the sound of the yelling." Julian's left lip rose, turning his lazy grin into a lop-sided smirk. "Matt, told me about the 'Sonny and Frank' show you two put on tonight. In fact …," Julian raised a finger to his lips "… I'm looking forward to a 'command' performance."

Head tilting pensively to one side, the Prince said, "That's an interesting expression on your face, Frank. One eyebrow rose as he continued, "I've always meant to ask you. Do you and Sonny find that expression useful in your police careers?"

Pushing off from the wall, he stood straight, as he asked, "Do you have anything you want to say before I leave you to your rest?"

He definitely has his own wicked sense of humor, Frank thought; returning Julian's smile

"Yes, I do sire." He leaned forward, his expression growing solemn. His eyes widened as he said earnestly, "We have got to stop meeting like this, Julian."

The Prince's lips started to quiver as his shoulders started shaking. "Smart ass: Is there anything else?" He asked, shaking his head in amused exasperation.

Frank leaned back against his pillows. Got him! He needs to laugh more, at least in private. I know I can get him to do it again.

"I didn't know Armani made pajamas," was Frank's innocent reply, as he glanced down at the dark blue nightclothes he was now wearing."

Julian laughed, as he threw up his hands, and said: "Enough, childe! Your new clothes are in your closet. Your new jacket is there as well. I'll see you in four hours."

Exiting the room, Julian turned, pointed an index finger at Frank, and said, "Rest." The door closed behind him as Frank heard his sire's footsteps receding down the hallway.