Except for Simeon, they aren't mine.

The Traditions aren't mine either; they're Mark Rein-Hagen's.

It's a week and a half since Julian embraced Frank.

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

Isolated italicized words are just for emphasis.

"No, Malcolm! Frank is not ready to be let loose in public, especially among clueless humans."

Julian Luna's eyes shimmered with silver light, as he stared coldly at Malcolm McAlpin, District Attorney for San Francisco. Julian's tone softened. "Mal - you know as well as I do, newly embraced kindred are a danger to themselves as well as any hapless human who they may come across. Our emotions and reactions are so much fiercer than those of humans. It takes time to master those emotions and reactions and the week and a half Frank's been Kindred isn't even laughably close to enough," he said dryly.

"Why does this McMasters want him anyway?" Julian asked dubiously. "I realize Frank and Sonny were members of the task force, but aside from the Kindred aspects, neither of them knows much more than any other member, including the humans." He paused. "Frank can't even be said to be the last to see Carlsen. No one except Kindred knew the maniac was captured at that old asylum." Blowing his out breath, Julian continued impatiently, "No one knew that was where I was rescued either."

Malcolm McAlpin, Ventrue District Attorney of San Francisco, watched as Julian: Childe of his late brood brother, and former Prince of the City, Archon Raine, leaned back in his desk chair, steepled his fingers and peered thoughtfully at his discomfited 'uncle' and subject.

Angus, you young fool. You don't know what position you've put me in, he thought as his own Kindredemotions made themselves known. Your actions could get you killed. You've shown definite promise. You have a good conviction rate and you don't appear to have railroaded anyone - yet. Starting with this fiasco, I may have to start watching you more closely. Julian's right. You don't need Kohanek - not yet anyway. Carlsen's remains, such as the Nosferatu left, have just been found. All you know is that several businessmen and albino children in different cities were kidnapped and/or killed by the …," and Malcolm cringed at the thought, "… 'Vampire killer.' At least, the newspapers had gone with the idea that he was simply "a disturbed individual preying on our irrational fears." Julian does have quite the elegant turn of phrase. Unfortunately, not everyone went along with that explanation. The usual suspects: the tabloids and the weirder denizens of the talk radio circuit are no problem. That FBI agent, however, is a problem, even if his own agency thinks he's five cans shy of a six pack."

McAlpin drew himself up in his chair. That was it! It's that idiot Mulder. He must be the one who's put Angus up to this. Mulderis a walking, talking Masquerade Break waiting to happen. He has too much curiosity, too much intelligence, too much suspicion and too much mistrust. Sighing in annoyance, he continued his train of thought - too much paranoia in general. Compared to Fox Mulder, Kohanek is the epitome of discretion and decorum.

Malcolm's thoughts turned grim. Mulder must have sensed the reality of the paranormal undercurrents in this case. Hell, the atmosphere would have been the perfect mix to feed into the man's fantasies: Too bad for us, that in this case, the fantasies are true. The damn man must be psychic. Mulder was going to get Mal's, hopefully, future childe killed before Mal had even had a chance to broach the subject with Julian. Angus' chances with the present Prince of the City have just dropped to slim and none

He took a deep breath, and looking directly into Julian's eyes, stated formally, "My Prince, I apologize. You are correct. At this stage, your childe is not needed. Unfortunately, it would be counterproductive for me to overrule Angus McMasters at the present time. He's convinced Frank Kohanek is a treasure trove of answers to all the questions in this case. He's also convinced Frank is being hidden from him, which is only convincing my idiot assistant that his convictions are correct." Of course the fact, that your childe is being hidden from him doesn't help. "I've already requested that he back off. That request only convinced him I'm a part of the conspiracy as well." Which I am.

"In other words, he doesn't like being told no." Julian replied. "You do have control over your department, don't you?" the Prince asked, with deceptive politeness.

Shit. He reminds me of Archon when he's in this mood. Angus, I need to pry that obnoxious human away from your ear if I ever hope to have a chance to make you my childe. After we've gotten through this crisis, you and I need to sit down for a little chat -you are about to acquire an actively involved mentor. If you're going to have political ambitions, you need to learn the art of the possible, including when and where to back off.

"My Prince, I believe Fox Mulder, that obnoxiously asinine FBI agent, has decided he's not only found one of his 'X-files,' but that your newest childe is his entrée into 'X-file heaven.' He's using my assistant D.A. to get at Frank. If I try any harder to block Angus, Mulder may go to the Federal Attorney. Fox Mulder has a reputation: the more obstacles are placed in his way - the more determined he is to continue. He's also likely to try something quasi-legal, such as a national security letter, trying to evoke 'national security' or the Patriot Act, or whatever he can think of to just push himself in here."

With a heavy sigh, Mal continued in a troubled tone, "Even if I dominate Angus McMasters into compliance, Mulder would be there to haunt us. Yes, most people think he's an idiot, but if he disappears, or turns up dead someone might think something about the Carlsen investigation deserves 'investigation.' If anything happens to the man, his partner would investigate, and she is taken seriously."

"I'm sorry, Julian. If you order me to, I will force Angus to drop his request for Frank's immediate presence, but I must warn you, My Prince; my own position may be compromised if I am seen to be too close to you."

Julian rose from his chair and walked around his desk. Crossing over to stand by the fireplace, he stood staring into the flames for a few moments before turning to face McAlpin. "Mal," he said with quietly deceptive mildness, meeting the man's eyes, "are you telling me The Masquerade is in danger from these two humans?" With an inquiring lift of his right eyebrow, Julian continued with exquisite politeness, "When and where were you planning to inform me of this threat?"

Mal must want McMasters as his childe. He would never have waited this long before informing me of the situation if he wasn't protecting someone. He has always been loyal: to me, to Archon, and to those he's chosen to make his childer. If he wants to plead for this 'Angus,' I'll listen.

I do understand his point concerning that tiresome Mulder person as well. Prince Walter asked me to watch over him while he was here, but this is ridiculous. This is my domain. I will no longer tolerate the man. If Skinner wants Mulder, he will recall him now and keep him away. I will never allow him to return unless and untilWalter blood bonds him.

Julian moved closer to the, now nervous, Ventrue seated in one of the fireside chairs. "I hope this situation has not gone beyond salvaging?" Pulling a hassock up, Julian seated himself, knee to knee with McAlpin, in order to stare directly into his 'uncle's' face.

Archon taught him well, Malcolm thought with grim trepidation. Julian can be extremely intimidating. I'm older than his sire and Julian still intimidates me. He's stronger than I am as well; I know he can dominate me if he chooses. I've never been enforcer material, unlike Archon and his most favored childe.

Making sure to meet his Prince's eyes, Mal replied, "My Prince, I do not believe The Masquerade is in direct danger, at least not from young McMasters. Even Fox Mulder does not directly threaten us -- yet."

"But you admit they are a potential threat." Julian replied calmly. "You are supposed to notify your Prince of all threats, including those you only believe to be potential" Julian leaned forward and placing his hands on the arms of McAlpin's chair, rose to his feet.

Staring down at the increasingly uncomfortable Ventrue, he said coldly, "I am your Prince. I'll ask you again. Why didn't you tell me of this growing threat?"

He's not going to let this go. Malcolm resigned himself to an unpleasant question and answer session. Why did I ever think he would? It's time to throw myself and Angus on his mercy. He does have a tendency toward mercy for humans.

"I've known there was a problem since Tuesday, Julian," Mal said with a sigh.

"That was resignation I just heard. Maybe now Mal will start giving me some answers. It's good to be the Prince, was Julian's satisfied thought.

"That was two days ago." Julian replied coldly.

"I thought I could handle it, My Prince! Angus is not a threat to The Masquerade! He doesn't even know we exist." Mal protested vehemently. "He only wants Frank Kohanek because he's been told he can't have him. I've told him he can't have Frank. I've told him Kohanek's doctor has said your childe is unable to attend an interview. Hell, he's seen the paperwork."

Julian pushed himself upright, stood, stepped back from the hassock he had been seated on, and again stared at Mal for several minutes. He hasn't said a word about Fox Mulder. I knew it was Angus McMasters he was concerned about. Let's see where his true loyalty lies. I've had him squirming long enough.

"Mal, do you want me to fake Frank's death?" The Prince asked conversationally. "Would your boy be satisfied by that? Frank would need to disappear for the next thirty years or so."

Malcolm McAlpin stared at his Prince in shock. Did I just hear what I just think I heard? Did Julian really offer to fake his child's death rather than allow Kohanek to go out in public? I'm an idiot! Of course, he would. It's his duty to both the humans and the Kindred of this city, as well as to Frank as his sire. Kohanek would be a walking, talking risk to the Masquerade. The childe can hardly have learned to control his hunger yet. At so young a Kindred age, he'd be prone to frenzy. Our emotions are so much more intense than those of humans. He'd never be able to control them on his own. Much as I want Angus McMasters as my childe, I know how aggravating the man can be and from what I remember of Kohanek, Frank's not one to suffer fools gladly. Mal shuddered. It would be a truly disastrous combination. If I let his childe suffer for this, Julian will let Angus live; but he'll never agree his embrace - by me or anyone else. Archon would be proud of you Julian. You're testing me. Yes, you are my Prince. I do support you and The Masquerade.

"Julian. No, that is not necessary. Send Sonny with Frank. I can justify him as Frank's advocate, counselor -- I'll think of something. I'll sit in there myself. I can dominate McMasters if I have to." Mal smiled wryly. "It's not unusual to have an advocate present. I'd also suggest getting Prince Walter to recall Mulder to D.C."

Julian relaxed. He is loyal and his ideas are good as well, but I'm not willing to let him completely off my hook - not just yet. We still have to discuss his potential request for the future embrace of 'Angus' McMasters.

"Good ideas, Mal. Do it. I'll take care of Mulder. He'll be out of my city by tomorrow night," and if I have any persuasive power left, Skinner will have that man blood bonded within three days of his setting foot back in D.C. Leaning against his desk, one well-shod foot tapping rhythmically, he thoughtfully studied the still seated McAlpin. Julian's eyes narrowed as he smiled and said, "We have something else to discuss as well, Mal."

What now? What does he know? He's suspicious. Mal sighed. Shit. He knows. "Yes, Julian?"

"You like 'Angus' don't you?" Julian's voice was cool

He does know. I'd better admit it. Mal sat straighter in his chair as he returned his gaze to his Prince. "Yes, I do like him and yes, I do want to embrace him -- eventually," Mal replied firmly.

Finally -- he's talking. Now we can deal. Julian continued to study his sire's brood brother before calmly stating, "I have no objections to you siring another childe. You've always shown good judgment in your childer. I would, however, like to know more about this McMasters. I do expect you to exert better control over him." Julian's voice grew softer as he continued. "For the present, if you ever believe Angus McMasters is a direct threat to the Masquerade, then you may offer to embrace him. If he agrees, do so. If he does not, you will be the one to dispose of him. He is your responsibility now. His sins are yours. Do you understand me?" Julian's voice had grown colder with every word.

McAlpin's eyes widened, while trying to hide his disbelief, he quickly controlled his expression.

"Thank you, Julian," he replied. Julian's still looking at me with that expectant look of his. Angus and I aren't out of this yet. I wonder what I'll have to promise him for this. "I'll arrange things now if you wish, My Prince," Mal said formally as he rose from his chair.

"Yes, I do wish," was the cool reply. Julian pushed himself away from his desk. "I'm entrusting you with my newly embraced childe, Mal - don't disappoint me." He paused, before coldly eyeing McAlpin and saying, in a tone that would have refrozen a melting Brazilian ice cream cone, "If you ever withhold a threat, potential or otherwise, to The Masquerade, from me again, you will join Archon in Manzanita. Do you understand me?" He smiled pleasantly. "Good. I see you do."

Walking his sire's brood brother to the door, Julian leaned over to whisper in the man's ear, "I would prefer to retain your presence, along with your advice. I will see you again in a week, with all the information you have on Angus McMasters."

"I will guard your childe as my own, Julian." Angus replied as he exited Julian's office. Angus McMasters, you owe me.

Carefully positioning himself so that only his partner, and newly embraced brood brother, Frank Kohanek, could see his face, Sonny Touisaint hissed furiously, "Give me the gun, Frank; and get back in the car."

Frank stared at his partner in shocked amazement. Sonny's furious. I've never seen his eyes turn solid silver before.

"Now, Frank!" Sonny ordered, the fury barely contained. "You promised Julian you'd follow my orders. Now, do so!" He snapped. "You've put the Masquerade at serious risk of compromise! Gun, Now! Good," the furious Ventrue Primogen said, as the gun was slapped into his hand. "Now get to the car and stay there, childe."

Damn, he's furious. Frank walked back to the car, his back stiff. Slamming the door behind himself, he stared out the windshield.

Hearing the driver's door opening, Frank turned to see Sonny throw himself behind the wheel slamming the door closed.

Abruptly turning, Sonny faced Frank and demanded, "What the hell did you think you were doing, Childe?"

"What the hell was I supposed to do, Sonny? He was going to shoot you," Frank responded impatiently.

"Youwere supposed to follow my orders," was Sonny's prompt response. "And those orders were: To stay in the car, and, oh by the way, not jeopardize the Masquerade!"

Frank winced. Sonny's pissed; I've never seen him combine sarcasm and fury before. .

Sonny took a deep breath, as he tried to restrain his fury. Frank is clueless. God! I'm glad Julian was the one who embraced him. My sire's better at this crap than I am. He was the enforcer.

"Frank, I'm Kindred," Sonny said patiently, his tone reflecting his still simmering anger. "I wouldn't have died. The worst that would have happened was that I would have had to give up my Masquerade, but, I doubt even that - None of the bullets were phosphorous, Frank," Toussaint continued dryly. "There were other Kindred here to help conceal anything humans shouldn't see."

Sonny stared with cold concern at Frank, sighing, before continuing the scolding lecture. "You've only been Kindred for a week and a half, Childe," he snarled. "You don't have the control to be in a situation like this yet, and that is why Julian didn't want to you to leave his home without him. You were angry. If I hadn't caught you; you would have drained that man. If Julian had been here, he wouldn't have had to argue you down. As your Sire, he'd have used your mutual link to stop you cold."

Raising a hand in warning, Sonny snapped, as he tuned to face forward, "Not another word, Frank. We're going back to Julian."

Carefully placing a hand on the wheel, Sonny threw the car into gear and drove off.

Julian Luna, Prince of San Francisco's Kindred, looked up as the door to his study opened and saw his eldest living childe push his newest childe through the opening.

Shit. His body tensed, as he thought in alarm: Sonny's furious, Frank's sullen. What has my newest done? I knew I should have faked Frank's death, rather than let him out without me so soon after his embrace. Julian rose, and swiftly moved to join his childer. Meeting Sonny's eyes, he asked, his words clipped, his tone sharp, "What happened, Sonny?"

Sonny's swift reply was equally sharp and clipped. "Frank endangered the Masquerade."

His eyes turning silver, Julian whirled to face Frank, and reaching out, he grabbed the lapels of Frank's suit coat. Yanking the man to him, The Prince of the City picked his youngest up by his lapels, turned, and carrying him to the nearest chair, dropped him into it. Pointing an index finger at Frank in warning, Julian ordered, "Do not move from this chair until I tell you to, Childe." He then turned on his heel. Returning to his eldest, Julian inclined his head as he asked, "What did he do, Sonny?"

"Frank …," Sonny began, leaning against the firmly closed door, "… decided to 'help' me."

With a disgusted sigh, he continued, "On the way back from the McMasters interview, we had to stop for an armed robbery in progress. I ordered Frank to stay in the car, while I went to provide assistance. The robber had me at gun point. Frank saw it. He left the car and shot the robber. He would have attacked and drained the man if I hadn't been able to grab, and stop, him."

"Julian, he scared the shit out of me," Sonny said in despair. "I almost couldn't stop him in time, and it took me several tries to get him to get back into the car."

His foot tapping impatiently, Julian sighed and ran his hand through his hair. "Was the Masquerade actually broken?" He asked calmly, his eyes steady.

"No, Sire. I managed to stop Frank before anything obvious happened. There will be an internal affairs inquiry, but enough Kindred were there to obscure any human memories that needed obscuring. The only good thing to happen was that Lieutenant Kwan was there. He's in definite agreement with having Frank take a leave of absence, preferably at least a two to three month one. He thinks Frank needs to get his head straight."

Sonny glanced at the sullen figure slumped in the chair where Julian had dropped him, before continuing. "And looking at Frank now, Julian, I have to agree with the lieutenant. He does need to get his head straight," Sonny said.

Sonny looks exhausted. He's upset and nervous too. From what he's said, I don't blame him. I didn't think I'd have to officially deal with Frank's faults and flaws quite so soon, Julian thought, anger rising as he glanced grimly toward his youngest childe. It's time for me to protect you from yourself. This will not be a pleasant lesson for either of us.

"I'll take care of it, Sonny," Julian said, his voice briskly reassuring. "You've done well, and don't worry - Your brood brother will survive my wrath. But now, Frank and I need to have an extremely unpleasant discussion."

"I'll leave you to deal with Frank then, Sire," Sonny said as he kissed Julian's ring, and left, the door closing behind him.

You're our Sire's problem now Frank; I don't envy you a bit. Julian can come up with some hard lessons. Our Sire was not happy with you.

Julian walked back to his desk, and leaning against it, one foot crossed over the other, he ran his eyes from the top of Frank's head to the bottom of the man's shoes. While continuing to watch his youngest for several minutes, he studied the man's reactionsFrank's starting to squirm. Good. Julian kept his face expressionless as he waited to see what Frank would do. As Frank's mouth opened to speak, Julian held one finger up in warning. The mouth closed abruptly. So you do have some sense of self-preservation and control, childe. Good.

Damn, he's just staring at me with that penetrating, feral stare of his. Julian's furious too. I can feel his anger. What was I supposed to do - Let Sonny be shot? Frank opened his mouth to speak, quickly closing it as he saw Julian raise a warning finger.

"Alright, childe …," Julian ordered abruptly, "… tell me what happened."

Julian wants to know what happened? I tried to protect my partner - that's what happened. What am I supposed to say? They both know that, and they're still furious with me.

Frank's not going to say anything. He has no idea how close he came to breaking the Masquerade, and he apparently has no idea as to how badly he's betrayed my trust in him. Abruptly standing, and moving directly in front of Frank, Julian bent, leaning on the arms of the man's chair, to stare into his childe's rebellious face. Speaking coldly, taking care to enunciate every word, Julian said, with exquisite politeness, "If you won't speak, I will. Your brother, and Primogen, …" He paused, before continuing sarcastically, "… I do know I've taught you what, and how important, a Primogen is. Yes," he smiled unpleasantly. "I did teach you that, didn't I? And yes, I do require your answer to that question."

Julian waited for Frank's whispered, "Yes, Sire," before continuing his coldly polite diatribe. "Your brood brother told me you disobeyed his direct order. That you shot a human, never mind that he was attacking Sonny. Your brother was perfectly capable of defending himself in that situation. You are barely a week and a half Kindred. You have no idea how to react in a situation like that. Our emotions are volatile enough to control with training and experience. You have precious little of either."

I thought Sonny's eyes were silver. Julian's are even worse. He's furious, and so damned coldly polite, I can feel the emotional frostburn creeping through my mind. He's got me pinned in this chair.

Julian continued his furious scolding, determined to break through what he saw as Frank's willful ignorance. "You almost attacked and drained that man. I don't care if he was attacking Sonny. Do you know what you almost did, Frank?"

Frank Kohanek winced as he found himself unable to look away from his sire's eyes. I'm about to find out. I didn't know sarcasm could be delivered with such exquisite politeness.

I see I'm finally starting to get through to him, Julian thought with cold satisfaction as he tightened his grip on the chair. "What you did is called frenzy, Frank," Julian explained patiently. "Frenzy means you have given into 'the beast,'and I have told you about the Kindred's 'beast.' When humans talk about a 'creature from the id', what they're unknowingly speaking of, is what we call our 'beast.' Just as our emotions are stronger than theirs, so is our id. Our beast is much harder to control than theirs, and much more destructive when unleashed. Kindred who cannot either, control themself, or be controlled, have to be destroyed for the safety of us all. I didn't embrace you, to destroy you, less than two weeks later! Don't force me to do so."

Julian leaned closer, until he and Frank were nose to nose, and whispered, "You almost broke the Masquerade, Frank, and, you betrayed the trust I put in you." Waiting until he saw the realization reflected in Frank's eyes, Julian pushed himself away from the chair and stood back. Frank is turning his anger toward himself. He's starting to realize why Sonny and I are so angry with his actions. Frank, I have a lot more to teach you before this lesson is finished.

That was disappointment I heard in Julian's voice, as well as anger, Frank thought as he slumped in his chair. Damn! He's right! I should be ashamed. What do I do now?

Frank thought for several seconds, before he heard his sire's coolly even voice say, "You talk to me, childe. I would like to hear your version of events, as well as Sonny's." He heard me. I forgot about our link. It's hard to remember to block, especially when I'm upset. He wants me to talk - what can I say? Now that I have time to think about it, and Julian to point it out to me, I can't even justify what I did to myself.

Frank winced as the thought occurred to him; Julian wants me to tell him my reasoning so he can point out the holes in it. AndHis mind tried to shy away from the thought; he's trying to see if I'll take responsibility for my actions. He's just leaning against his desk, staring at me, like I'm a bug pinned to a board.

Swallowing, Frank sat straighter in his chair, and forced himself to meet Julian's eyes, before beginning, speaking in a colorless tone, as he said; "We were driving back here after we left McMaster's office. We stopped at the 7-Eleven for gas. There was a robbery. Sonny told me to call it in, and ordered me to stay in the car, while he dealt with the gunman. Other cops arrived and set up a perimeter. I saw the suspect target Sonny, and-I-left-the-car-and-shot-the-suspect-and-Sonny-had-to-grab-me-before-I-could-attack-the-suspect," Frank rapidly finished his story.

Julian raised one eyebrow, as his foot swung lazily. At least he's doing his best to meet my eyes. He's being honest with me too, but mumbling when he's embarrassed, and/or doesn't want me to understand him is a bad habit and it's not going to work with me. "I'm sorry, childe. I didn't quite catch that last comment of yours. Please repeat it for me, and …" Julian paused, before continuing, his tone glacially polite, "… enunciate clearly."

Shit. He won't let me get away with mumbling. This is embarrassing. I hate even admitting this to myself, much less to Julian. Taking a deep breath, Frank speaking slowly, and with perfect enunciation, said: "I left the car and shot the suspect and Sonny had to grab me before I could attack the suspect and there were humans, besides the suspect, in the immediate area."

Julian worked hard to keep the grim smirk he felt, at the success of his 'persuasive efforts,' off his face. He hated having to admit that. Frank looks miserable. He's embarrassed and ashamed. Good! He should be both. Neither will kill him, and those emotions may well preserve his life. "Thank you, Frank. As I told you after your embrace, mumbling will not help you. I'll simply ask you to repeat yourself."

Pushing himself off his desk, Julian stood, and walked over to stand by Frank. Pulling a nearby hassock over, he sat down to face his childe. As he carefully caught the man's eyes, Julian calmly regained eye contact. "So, Frank," he said casually, voice dispassionately cool, the slight sarcastic tone clearly evident, "You disobeyed Sonny, betrayed my trust in you, and damn near exposed the Masquerade. Is that an accurate summary of what you've just told me?"

The rueful thought crossed Frank's mind. This man has had over a hundred and fifty years to perfect his sarcasm. I foresee a lot of wincing in my immediate future.

"Yes, Sire, Frank replied glumly. "That is an accurate summary. I didn't think, I reacted, and I totally screwed up." Letting his head fall back against the chair, Frank turned his head to stare at the embers still glowing in the fireplace. I feel like that fire - barely glowing. "What happens now?" he asked wearily, as he ran his hand through already disheveled hair.

"What happens now …," Julian replied calmly, standing, and then moving into Frank's line of vision, "… is that I discipline you." Reaching out and grasping Frank's chin, Julian Luna gently turned his childe's face toward his. Once their eyes had met, he continued thoughtfully; his voice soft, the disappointment clearly evident. "It's one of the less pleasant of my duties and obligations, as your sire, and …," he continued, "One of your less pleasant duties and obligations, as my childe, is to accept that discipline."

Julian's mind ran through a checklist. He's stopped fighting, he's started thinking, he's realized he might not always be right, and he's waiting for my judgment. You're doing well, Frank; you're letting me deal with you. Nodding abruptly, Julian dropped his hand, and said, "Very well, Childe, let's go," as he gestured for Frank to precede him."

Arriving outside his bedroom door, Frank noticed the two Kindred guarding it. As he opened his door, and stepped inside, the thought crossed his mind; I feel another wince coming on.

Following his childe through the door, Julian Luna shut it firmly behind them.

Fifteen minutes later, Frank was staring in shock as his sire left, door closed and locked behind him.

I can't believe it! Julian stood there dictating his laws and the Traditions to me. He made me write them down and he expects me to memorize them. He told me writing would help with the memorization. I need at least five copies written before he gets back. And I'm stuck in this room unless, he, personally, comes to get me. He has Kindred stationed outside my door to make sure I stay here He'd just taken away the guards a week ago, after he'd decided I wasn't going to freak over my embrace

Damn, Julian's making it extremely obvious that I've lost his trust. Frank laughed in derision, disgusted with himself. I hate to admit it, but, he's right. I do have a control issue problem. I don't follow orders and I do have to concede; Kindred rules and traditions are unfamiliar to me. It's not as if anyone told me exactly what they were before Julian embraced me.

Frank stopped his pacing, to drop into a chair and bury his face in his hands. He'll be back with a computer as soon as he can get the techs to set up a connection to the department. How thoughtful of my sire. Julian doesn't want me to get 'bored.' I get to write my, and Sonny's reports on my 'leave of absence'. I now owe my 'big brother' and Primogen, two months worth of writing his reports. I hate writingreports. The whole department thinks I'm losing it. Kwan's the one who suggested the leave.

Frank could barely restrain himself from kicking something, preferably, himself. Kindred life is harder than I thought it would be. Restraint appears to be an important survival trait, and restraint has never been one of my virtues. With a humorless laugh, he thought: it's a virtue Julian's determined to teach me. Much as I hate to admit it, I found his explanation of, and about, frenzy chilling. Frank sighed as he pushed his hair away from his face. An uncontrollable Kindred is a danger to the Masquerade and as such is a danger to us all. I do need to learn restraint.

Rising to his feet, Frank snorted as he moved to sit at his desk, staring at the pad of paper lying there as he continued his thoughts. Julian and Sonny are the poster boys for restraint. Sonny was furious, and Julian even more so, but neither of them have harmed me, even though I gave them cause to do so. Sighing deeply, he reached for a pen and started writing. I do trust you Julian. Frank smiled ruefully, and I don't want to see what you'd come up with if I didn't go along with you. I'm embarrassed and uncomfortable enough already.

Frank Kohanek looked up as his door opened, and his sire came through, followed by three Nosferatu carrying computer equipment. Wonderful, he thought sourly. It's the Nosferatu 'Geek Squad.'

Strolling over to the desk, Julian casually picked up the papers his childe was writing. Turning to the Nosferatu, he smiled and said, "Thank you for coming. Set up his computer here."

As Frank rose from his chair, Julian put his hand on his shoulder, and steered his childe to the far side of the room. Seating himself on the bed, Julian motioned for Frank to seat himself as well. As Frank sat, Julian turned to his childe and ordered pleasantly, "Recite 'The Traditions' for me, Frank."

"Thou shalt not reveal thy true nature to those not of the Blood …" Frank promptly began, finishing with, "… only the eldest among thee shall call the Blood Hunt."

Calmly listening to Frank's recitation, Julian gave a judicious nod as his childe finished.

"Excellent, Frank: Now use your own words."

He's determined to make sure I understand as well as memorize this, Frank thought as he opened his mouth and said, "Don't do anything or talk about anything a human couldn't do when humans are around."

"Tend your own garden and don't try to tell others how to tend theirs."

"Don't embrace anyone without the Prince's permission or both of you are probably dead meat."

A faint shadow of embarrassment crossing his face, Frank started to mumble.

"If you embrace someone, they're your childe, and they're supposed to do what you tell them to, until you think they are competent to conduct themselves as an independent Kindred, and until you do; you're responsible for their screw ups."

Julian hid his smile as he nodded for Frank to continue. I'm going to have to have him repeat that last one, was his grimly amused thought. Mumbling is a bad habit and one that I'll never allow to help you, childe.

The Prince settled himself more comfortably as he continued listening, an intent expression on his face, as, from time to time, he nodded pleasantly.

"Don't barge into someone else's place, and when you come to a new city, make sure you go see the Prince of that City to get his or her permission to stay, or pass through, because it's open season on you until the Prince says you can stay."

"And don't kill another Kindred, unless the Prince says you can," Frank finished in a rush.

"Quite descriptive, childe," Julian said dryly. "I see you do understand The Traditions, but …," he paused, before continuing, "… I couldn't quite understand what you were saying a minute ago. Repeat your interpretation of the Third Tradition for me, please. Perhaps if you spoke clearly and distinctly, instead of mumbling, I might be able to better understand you," Julian commented helpfully.

He's not going to let it pass. You're determined to drive home your point, aren't you, Sire. You've got that annoyingly patient look plastered all over your face."

Take a deep breath, Frank …," Julian said patiently, "…and then start talking."

With a deep breath, Frank said, following Julian's directions,"If you embrace someone, they're your childe, and they're supposed to do what you tell them to, until you think they are competent to conduct themself as an independent Kindred, and until you do; you're responsible for their screw ups."

"Thank you, Frank," Julian said with satisfaction. "I'd appreciate it if, in the future, you would speak clearly. As I told you after your embrace, mumbling will do you no good."

Glancing to his right, Julian saw Micah type in a last command, before waving the other Nosferatu away. The Nosferatu Software Engineer approached Julian, bowed and said, "My Prince, your childe's work station is complete. Please do not hesitate to call us if you require any further assistance."

Smiling, Julian thanked the Nosferatu before dismissing him.

As Micah and the other Nosferatu left, Julian stood up, motioning Frank toward the computer resting on the desk. "Everything is set up. I'll bring you blood later. We won't be going hunting tonight. You don't need the excitement."

Before opening the door, Julian turned, and said mildly, cold determination achingly evident in his voice, "If I even think you're thinking of doing anything like this again, I'll lock you in the Prison of Light until you convince me I can trust you again, and …" he paused for several seconds while he stared coldly at Frank, "… it will take me at least two days, before I even consider being satisfied. Do you understand me, Frank?" he asked with chilly curiosity.

"I see you do." Prince Julian smiled as he left, the door closed and locked behind himAs he walked down the hall, he listened to the sounds coming from the room he'd just left, and grinned. Frank really doesn't like writing reports, but I can hear his keyboard clicking. Sonny should be pleased, he could use the break. Julian's grin broadened, and it should keep Frank out of mischief. My, he's not happy with himself.

About two hours before dawn, Julian glanced up from the papers he was working on and thought: I'd better bring Frank his blood. I don't want him overwhelmed by The Hunger. He's already had one near miss today. That's why I didn't want to take him out hunting tonight. In his condition, he's not safe near mortals. Julian smirked. I also need to tell him how overjoyed Sonny was to have his partner take over the report writing duties for the next two months.

Nodding to the Kindred guarding the door, Julian unlocked it and entered his childe's room. An eyebrow rising, the left side of his mouth rose in a lop-sided smirk. Frank's head was pillowed on his keyboard

Ohhh, he's going to be uncomfortable when he wakes up. Young Kindred do need their rest, but I'd better wake him now, Julian thought as he moved to stand behind his resting childe. I see he's finished six reports so far. He is capable of following orders.

Bending over, his mouth next to Frank's ear, Julian ordered sharply, before quickly stepping back, "Frank, recite The Traditions!" With only his eyes giving a slight hint of his amusement, Julian watched impassively as Frank's head jerked upright, and the man's body whirled in the chair, to face him. Interesting, he actually had quite a heartbeat going there, and yet; when he realized it was me, he immediately calmed down. His mouth is opening.

What's that? There's a tickle in my ear. "Aaah," Frank Kohanek bolted upright, eyes glancing wildly around the room. Where, what, who, why? Who yelled in my ear? That sounded like Julian, and why does my cheek feel like it's been engraved?

Abruptly turning, Frank noticed Julian standing behind him, a slight, satisfied glow appearing in his Sire's eyes. You enjoyed that, didn't you, Sire? Frank thought as he relaxed in relief, opened his mouth and started reciting The Traditions, only stopping once, to ask Julian if he wanted to hear Frank's colloquial descriptions. Acknowledging Julian's nod of agreement, Frank continued.

As he finished his recitation, Julian handed him a bottle of blood. Forcing himself to drink slowly, Frank watched as his sire pulled up a chair.

Settling into the chair, Julian leaned back, and gazed over his steepled fingers as he watched Frank. He's controlling his hunger. Good, and that recitation … . He really does have a charming gift for informality. I have to fight hard to keep the amusement from showing on my face when he gives me his own version of The Traditions.

"I see you've managed to get several of Sonny's reports done, Frank," Julian acknowledged. His gaze flickering toward the windows, Julian continued the conversation, "We've just over an hour before daybreak. I want you to practice the mental shielding techniques I've taught you."

Sonny must have told him how much McMasters irritated me. Between that idiot and that even bigger idiot, Fox Mulder, I could barely keep my temper. I know outside emotions were getting through to me. Frank's thoughts stilled. My shielding was in shreds by the time Sonny and I reached the gas station. His eyes closing in realization, Frank's thoughts continued, I was reacting to the ambient emotions.

A brief smile crossing his face, Julian relaxed. I knew Frank was capable of analyzing his reactions when provided with the proper environment and motivation.

A fond smile appeared on Julian Luna's face as, before leaving the room, he turned to see his youngest draped across the bed

I know you think I'm being hard on you and you're right. I am. I don't want to have to choose between your welfare and that of the Kindred. I may be angry with your actions, but I still care for and about you. I'd never have bothered to sire you if I hadn't. You're exhausted now Frank, but your shielding is much better.

Closing the door, Julian nodded to the Kindred standing to either side of it. He focused on the red-headed one, and said, "Sasha, when your relief comes, please come down to my study.

As he walked away, he thought, control is a Kindred survival trait, and one Frank needs to learn.

Julian Luna sat, in his study, in his favorite spot, staring into the flames burning cheerfully in his fireplace. Forehead resting on his right hand, he sat with his legs extended toward the fire's warmth, right arm resting on the arm of the wing back chair he was seated in. Some of the best decisions he had ever made, including the one to lay down his guns after Manzanita, had been thought over before a fire in this very fireplace.

He sighed heavily, as he thought of his newest childe, Frank. I'm going to need Daedalus' help with him. In his present state, Frank's much too dangerous to be allowed in public, even with my presence. The man's emotions were already volatile, becoming Kindred has made them even more intense and harder to control. Adding in my youngest's present inability to properly shield himself from the emotions of others, I can't allow him loose in my City, or even my home, until he learns control. I don't even want to imagine what would happen if he and one of the Brujah should meet. The emotional maelstrom would be catastrophic: Anger feeding off of anger. Cameron would enjoy an opportunity to destroy my childe. Daedalus is a good teacher, and he enjoys teaching the young. He's also an expert in maintaining his shielding at all times. No one gets inside his mind, unless he allows it.

Julian nodded decisively and stood. I'll ask for Daedalus' help in improving Frank's shielding. I do want to take him hunting again as soon as possible. No childe of mine is going to be dependent on bottled blood/

Daedalus, Nosferatu Primogen, straightened as he recognized the footsteps of his friend, and Prince, Julian. Looking up from an alchemical experiment, he saw Julian descending the stairs. As his Prince walked toward him, Daedalus said, "Julian. I am pleased to see you. What brings you here?"

Smiling, Julian acknowledged his friend's greeting, and said, "Daedalus. I have a favor to ask of you."

"Concerning your newest childe, Frank Kohanek?" Daedalus asked calmly, face politely quizzical.

"Yes," was Julian's prompt response. "Frank has problems with his shielding. He's too vulnerable to the ambient emotional atmosphere."

Daedalus nodded. "The 7-Eleven shootout."

Head quickly jerking in agreement, Julian replied, his lips quirked into a rueful smile. "Yes. I'm not excusing his actions, but part of my newest's problem was, and is, fluctuating levels of shielding. He needs repeated shielding drills and I don't have the time to provide him with as many as he needs, as often as he needs them. The Carlsen investigation needs my attention as well, and …" he paused briefly, before continuing, "…I still have my duties as Prince to consider. Carlson had me for two days, and as you know, that left the Kindred in this city in turmoil. Things need to be calmed down."

Annoyance crossing his face, the Prince continued, venting his frustration, "Frank was doing so well, until I let him go to that McMaster's interview! I should have gone with my first impulse, and faked his death," Julian said bitterly. "No Kindred learns to maintain their shielding that quickly, especially in such an emotionally charged atmosphere. He needed me there."

Julian started to pace, stopping occasionally in front of his Nosferatu friend, in order to emphasize his points.

"Actually, I should have just kept him here, even if it meant Frank had to give up his Masquerade before it barely started." If I hear anything more about my childe needing to be 'interviewed': Malcolm McAlpin will be giving Angus McMasters a choice between Embrace and death.

"Julian," Daedalus said, "Calm yourself. I will provide Frank with the shielding drills."

He continued: his voice calm and dignified, as he said, "What would you have had to do to get your childe to cooperate, if you had faked his death? Do you believe the present situation would have been any better? Julian, my friend, you are second-guessing yourself. You do not know the future. Do not second-guess your decisions, when you have made the best ones you can, with the information you have available."

"Much can be forgiven an extremely new childe, placed in an extremely difficult situation, especially if they did not actually break the Masquerade. Frank Kohanek did not break the Masquerade. If the Brujah Primogen should bring anything up in the Conclave, I will support you, as will Cash, and, your other childe, Sonny, so you will have the Gangrel and the Ventrue, along with the Nosferatu. Lily will also support you. She does like Frank, and you know how she protects those she likes."

Sonny Toussaint sat in a comfortable charir, relaxed, sipping a glass of fine Bordeaux, as he listened to his sire speak. This Conclave was a long one but, at least, Cameron had the sense to keep Frank out of it. I may despise the man, but he's not the fool his predecessor, Eddie, was. The Brujah Primogen had to realize he didn't have a chance to call for my brood brother's destruction .No one would support him, especially considering that Frank appears to be taking Julian's lessons to heart.

As Julian finished speaking, Sonny smiled and said dryly, "So, Frank is getting tired of your hospitality?"

Julian's lips rose slowly, until an engaging grin appeared on his face. "It's been seven weeks. Frank is well and truly tired of his room." His grin grew broader as Julian continued, "…He's also extremely tired of writing reports. However, he's also calmer and more responsible. He has proven to me that I can trust him to follow my orders in regard as to where he goes or stays. He's also worked hard on his shielding. Frank's determined not to be blind-sided by the emotional ambient again and he's also determined to regain my trust." He's regained some. I did remove the guards from his door.

"I have enjoyed his work as my 'personal assistant,' Julian. He might not like writing reports, but he is good at it." A smile quivered about Sonny's lips as he said quietly, "I'm proud of him Julian. As long as I've known him, Frank has had trouble exercising restraint when he's emotionally involved." Sonny took another sip of his wine, before leaning forward. Watching his Prince standing casually by the fireplace, he returned Julian's gaze as he thought to himself, and if anyone could teach my 'brother' restraint, it's you sire. Frank is definitely exercising it now. "Much as I've enjoyed having my own 'secretary,' and as angry with his actions as I am, I don't want to take advantage of him. I'm satisfied with the recompense he has already provided. If you don't object, I'll start writing my own reports again. He can have the last week as my gift."

I thought Sonny might offer to relieve Frank. "You still like him then?" Julian teased gently.

"Of course, Sire," Sonny laughed. "He is a likeable little shit, and he is both enthusiastic and loyal." The corners of his eyes crinkled, as he finished with "… and let us not forget: Frank's wicked sense of humor."

Eyes twinkling, Julian replied dryly, "Yes, let us not forget Frank's sense of humor."

His mood shifting, Julian walked over to sit facing Sonny. Leaning back in his chair, he crossed his legs, and studied his eldest living childe thoughtfully.

What's my sire planning now? He's got that thoughtful look on his face again. The look he gets when he's deciding what and how much he should ask of someone.

I'm making Sonny nervous. He knows me too well. Mildly amused, Julian continued with his train of thought. Childe, when have I ever asked you to do something you could not do? I doubt you'll object to what I'm about to ask. With eyes reflecting his amusement, Julian said briskly, "I've no objection to you lessening Frank's workload, and I'm even more certain that your brood brother will have no objection. He will be thrilled to be out of his report writing Purgatory." His voice grew serious, as he said, "I'm also going to release Frank soon: Probably in four to five weeks." Julian then leaned toward Sonny and, with his voice reflecting his concern, asked, "Are you ready to deal with Frank as your partner again?"

Sonny held his glass up to the fire. Leaning back, he studied the flickering patterns made by the firelight reflecting in the remaining wine, and contemplated Julian's announcement.

Prince Julian waited patiently, until, after several minutes, Sonny drained the glass and carefully placing it on a nearby table, said, "Of course, I'll still want him as my partner. I've never doubted his worth as a cop and a partner. As far as I'm concerned, his only problem has been his inability to curb his over-enthusiastic responses and his complete inability to know when to exercise discretion."

One of Sonny's eyebrows rose in a quizzical quirk as he said, "I have no objections to working with Frank, Julian, especially if you believe he's ready. Will he be allowed to work on the Carlsen investigation?" Sonny asked curiously.

Julian stared at a spot on the wall for several minutes, a thoughtful expression on his face, before he replied, "Yes, I think he will; but not actively. I don't want him out interviewing - not humans and not Kindred. He hasn't convinced me he's ready for that yet. Frank can help analyze the data others bring in."

Oooh, Frank's gonna chafe at that. He's never liked desk duty. My 'brother' is not a passive man. A reflective smile hovering on his lips, Sonny's thoughts intermingled with his memories. Julian always has been good at coming up with hard lessons, and even harder tests.

A smile continued to flicker about his lips as Sonny commented, "So Frank just went back to your home because you told him to. His smile broadened as he continued, "I'll have to stop by, and see for myself, on my way home. I need to deliver the get well card from the guys in the department.

An amused smirk appeared on Julian's face as he snickered. "I remember the last 'card' you brought him." He paused. "Have I ever complimented you on your imagination, Sonny?" His smirk broadening into a brilliant grin, Julian said admiringly, "I never would have thought of a mold induced psychiatric disorder as an explanation for Frank's 'erratic' behavior."

Returning Julian's grin with one of his own, Sonny cheerfully replied. "It did look good on his Leave of Absence Request, didn't it, and it's a physical ailment. Frank is not officially labeled as a mental case. He just had the misfortune to spend too long in a mold filled old asylum. Who would have thought he'd prove to be so susceptible to mold spores?" Sonny asked: innocence personified. "It also made a great subject for get well cards. That last card the guys sent was a masterpiece," Sonny said enthusiastically. You should have seen Frank's face when he opened the envelope, and saw the Mushrooms and Fungi of the World card."

He paused to let a look of thoughtful innocence cross his face. Continuing, his eyes danced with delight as he said, "I never knew the Mycological Society put out its own greeting cards. Frank was a good sport about it - after he got over the shock. I can't wait to see his reaction to this one."

My eldest 'son' has a wonderfully twisted sense of humor. I like that in a person. I won't keep you then, Sonny," Julian said as he stood.

Recognizing a dismissal when he heard one, Sonny stood as well. Before reaching the door, he turned as he heard Julian call to him.

"Sonny, I don't want you to tell Frank about his release from his report writing, or, especially, from childehood."

Nodding in acknowledgement, Sonny left.

Frank Kohanek stared in shock at the card his brood brother had handed him.

"I thought the Mushrooms and Fungi of the World card was bad, but …" he laughed helplessly , "…Moldy Old Fart?" His shoulders shook as he held up the card showing an old man dressed in some sort of hunting regalia.

"He looks like one of those "Green Men" that old girlfriend of yours, Patty What's-Her-Name, used to drag in during her 'Celtic' phase. He's got 'shrooms growing from his nose and …," he looked closer, "… from his armpits, and ...," he gasped, snickering madly, "… in other places I won't mention.

I needed this, Frank Kohanek thought, as he sat snickering on the sofa. I hadn't realized how much I missed having family until Julian brought me into his. I do appreciate what he's done for me; even if, Franksighed, he's bound and determined not to let me out of his sight unless I'm in this room. The report writing's a drag too. I don't know when he's going to let me out of this room; much less when he's going to 'release' me from childehood. Still, he did send me back here without him, and he has unlocked my door and removed the guards from outside it. He's been helpful and supportive, patient as well, but he's also a stubborn and determined man, as he has no problem in telling me.

Frank's fretting again; he's got that look on his face, Sonny thought with a certain amount of amused sympathy. Julian's tests for patience and compliance can be particularly trying. Uncrossing his legs, Sonny stood up from his chair and walked over to sit beside his 'brother.' "Frank …," he said patiently, "… Julian is not going to keep you here forever. He does want his childer to be self-sufficient. Right now: He's making sure you are self-sufficient. Julian doesn't want to have to destroy you. He won't let you go until you've satisfied him that he won't have to."

Is he reading my mind? Between Julian's lessons, and his and Daedalus' 'drills', I know my shielding is better than that. Frank frantically checked his shielding, thoughts zipping, tapping against mental barriers. Nope, don't feel any give. How did he know what I was thinking?

"Frank, relax." Sonny snapped in exasperation. "I can tell what you're thinking because I've known you long enough to be able to read your face."

"My face?"

"Yes; Your face, Frank. You get this v-shaped wrinkle right over your nose when you start to fret and you also start rubbing your thumb. The only thing you're likely to be upset about, at the present time, is your release and/or being stuck in this room. Stop being so paranoid!" Sonny chided. "I know you think he's being hard on you. He is, but he could be a lot harder." Sonny shifted his weight, as an expression of embarrassment flitted across his face, before continuing.

"Once upon a time, several decades ago, Julian embraced me. Unfortunately, one of my sisters came to visit not long after he'd released me. Even in the San Francisco of that time, there was still prejudice. Some white asshole, attacked, and raped her. He was going to get away with it. Julian made sure she was properly cared for. Our sire got her into one of the most exclusive clinics in the city. She was very well cared for. Julian also ordered me to leave her rapist alone. The creep was the son of a city councilman; but I couldn't let it go. I damn near shattered the Masquerade getting to him. Julian covered it up, I suspect with Daedalus' help. They've been good friends for as long as I've known our sire. The Nosferatu are good at 'disposing of problems," Sonny said wryly. "Archon was furious."

Seeing the puzzled look on Frank's face, Sonny explained, "Archon was Julian's sire and, at the time, Prince of the City. He could have ordered my destruction, and Julian would have done it. He was Archon's enforcer, but he was also Archon's favorite childe. He begged Archon for my life: said after he'd finished with me, I'd never think about endangering, much less breaking the Masquerade. After Archon agreed to let Julian handle it, our sire took me down to the Prison of Light. I already knew he was furious, and he made sure I knew just how disappointed he was with me."

Frank stared, mouth slightly ajar. Sonny screwed up? Mr. Rectitude actually let his emotions get away from him?

With an impatient laugh, Sonny ordered, "Get that disbelieving look off your face. I'm not the perfect example of Ventrue rectitude. No one is: Not me, not Julian, and certainly not Archon. We're all capable of screwing up. The trick is learning how not to."

"But, back to my story …," he said, as he continued softly"Julian told me he was going to stake me and leave me in the Prison of Light. The next thing I knew, I had a stake though my heart and I was lying on the cellar floor. Julian was sitting beside me holding my shoulder, and telling me he was going to leave me there, but he'd be back every night before the sun rose, and just after it set, to visit, and that, after two weeks, he'd take the stake out. He warned me not to even try to fight the paralysis; that it would only make things worse, and I wouldn't succeed anyway," Sonny whispered in remembered horror, lost in the memories. Our sire 'suggested' I use my time alone to think about what I'd done, why I'd done it, and what I was going to do differently in the future: .. And in case you're wondering, I do hate to have that cold, exquisitely polite, patient fury of his directed at me."

"What happened after that Sonny?" Frank asked, wide-eyed.

"He got up, turned on the lights, and left me there," Sonny said. "He came back before every sunrise and after every sunset, and after two weeks had passed, he took the stake out: Just as he said he would. He fed me his blood and we went to my room, where he held me until I stopped shaking." Sonny continued his matter of fact recitation. "Before leaving, he told me: If I ever came that close to breaking the Masquerade again, he would destroy me. He also told me: If I ever disregarded one of his orders again, he'd make me wish he would destroy me."

Sonny looked at Frank's horrified face and sighed. "My point isn't that our sire is a barbarian. It's that he does care for and protect his childer. His protection may not be pleasant, but it is effective. I wasn't harmed, and you won't be either. It does not last forever. Once he believes you've learned whatever he has to teach; he'll stop, and protecting the Masquerade is the most important lesson he has to teach you."

Five weeks later, Frank sat in Julian's study, watching the cheerfully burning fire, listening to his sire conduct business over the phone. He's going to release me! I didn't think he ever would. It's been five weeks since he told me Sonny had decided to "gift" me with the last week of writing his reports.

Frank looks happy, Julian thought as he glanced up from his phone conversation. I'm giving him his release. That news appears to have soothed his annoyance over the dreaded tailor session. I'm not introducing a childe of mine to the Kindred world without, at least, Armani clothing their body.

Hearing the click of the phone being placed back in its cradle, signaling an end to the conversation, Frank returned his attention to Julian.

Placing the phone back in its cradle, Julian looked over to meet Frank's gaze and smiled. "Tonight I'll introduce you to the Kindred, of this city, as my childe." Continuing, his gaze turned contemplative as he said, "Frank, I'm also allowing you to be a part of the Carlsen investigation." At Frank's obvious excitement, he held up his hand, before continuing, saying dryly, "Before you thank me, for the present, I'm only going to allow you to help with the information analysis." Tone firm, Julian said, "You are not to interview, watch, or shadow anyone - Kindred or Human, until I say you may. Do you understand me, Frank?"

"Yes, I do," Frank replied promptly. Still testing me - aren't you Sire? Frank sighed quietly. "I'll do my best not to disappoint you."

"Do that," Julian smiled. "Now I suggest you get some rest. Come to my study an hour after sundown," he said, as he gestured for Frank to leave.

Acknowledging the dismissal, Frank stood, nodded to his sire, kissed Julian's ring, and left.

Watching the door closing behind his newest 'son,' Julian thought, I'm proud of him. These last twelve weeks he's done everything I've asked of him, and without complaint. If he keeps it up for at least a year, I'll let him participate fully in the investigation. As of now, you're due to be back at work in four days, my childe. You'll find the Internal Affairs investigation to be pro forma. After all,the robber was trying to shoot Sonny; and that's all the humans have to know.

Eyes narrowing: Julian's thoughts turned to more unpleasant considerations. I know Sonny told Frank of the time he almost broke the Masquerade, and yes, if I felt I had to, I would do the same to my youngest. I was terrified. I had to impress the seriousness of what he had done on Sonny. Archon wanted his head, and I can't blame my sire for that.Both of us understood and even Archon sympathized with why he'd done it, but he couldn't be allowed to get away with it. He endangered us all.

If he'd only waited Archon and I were going to handle it. We would have ruined both the son and the father who had permitted his son to become the human animal he was. With the proper persuasion that human beast would have either, spent the rest ofhis miserable life in the worst asylum I could find, or jumped into the Bay.

Instead, I ended up begging my sire for my childe's life. I had to be hard on him: for his sake, for Archon, and for the rest of the Kindred in the City. Sonny never knew it, but I made sure he was never alone. Daedalus and Stevie Ray kept watch when I couldn't be there. I owed them for that for years, but they're good friends. Stevie Ray never collected on his debt; but I hope, through his childe, Cash, I've repaid him. Aside from bringing the man into my household and recognizing him as Primogen of the Gangrels, I gave Cash permission to embrace my great, great grand-daughter.

Julian smiled fondly as he thought of Sasha. Her wild streak makes her a perfect fit for the Gangrel Clan. I'm glad I gave her to Cash and I'm even more glad I wasn't the oblivious fool, my young friend thought I was. Incredulous wonder tinged Julian's laughter. I still have a hard time believing Cash didn't realize, or even notice, I was having him watched. Did he think I was a fool to not see what was happening between the two of them? Cash, you hadn't been Kindred long enough before Stevie Ray died for him to have taught you all that you really needed to be my security chief. But, then, I knew when I brought him home, I'd have to teach Cash most of what he needed. Sasha was a spectacular lesson.We all have cause to be grateful my Ventrue were watching your haven, Cash. Martin and his brood sibs were surprised when they opened the door and my guards and I pushed in behind you. The look of sick surprise on their faces was gratifying and it didn't take that much persuasion to get them to admit Eddie had ordered them to embrace my 'niece.'

Smug satisfaction colored his next thoughts. I finally had the evidence I needed to call a Blood Hunt on Eddie and I made sure I fulfilled the promise I had made to him after I was forced to call the Blood Hunt on Alexandria. Ventrue scheming does have its uses. Julian felt his lips curl upward, until the smile on his face reflected the smug satisfaction he still felt at finally disposing of the critical threat to the Masquerade, and to his rule, that Eddie had posed.

Two years later

Sonny Toussaint sat behind the wheel of the nondescript car, watching his partner walking briskly toward their car. He stiffened. Something's wrong. Frank's uneasy. Sonny carefully studied the area, but was unable to detect anything out of the ordinary. Waiting until his partner had closed the door before speaking, Sonny asked, "What's wrong, Frank?"

"How can you tell if you're just suspicious someone is a passive risk to the Masquerade or if they've actually broken it?" Frank asked abruptly, turning to look at Sonny.

That got his attention, Frank Kohanek thought grimly. Good. Although, any other time that look of wide-eyed shock and the way his head spun around would be incredibly amusing.

"What precisely are you talking about?" Sonny asked seriously. "You know you need to go to Julian with any suspicions you might have."

"Yes, Sonny," Frank replied, equally serious. "I intend to go to Julian as soon as we get off our shift. What I'm not sure about, is if I need to take Simeon with me."

Sonny's eyebrows rose in surprise. Frank's deadly serious. "Your snitch?"

"Yes, Simeon's a good kid. He's also a good computer geek, at least as good as the Nosferatu ones, and he's only had seventeen of his twenty-three years to perfect his talent. He's also curious and way too damn smart for his own good." Frank continued, his tone growing grimmer with each passing sentence. "I went to ask him whether he'd seen any strange web traffic in the local financial markets around the time of the Bartholomew murders.

"… Sonny, he told me about things he had to have gotten from the Nosferatu servers." Frank leaned toward his brood brother, his tone incredulous. "I can't believe it, but, I think the Nosferatu are clueless. As hard as it is to believe… they don't know someone is in their files. I know you and Julian think I'm a little shit, but this kid is a sneaky little shit."

Frank sounds somewhere between impressed and exasperated with this 'kid.' I wonder?"Frank, do you want to embrace Simeon?" Well: That answered that question, Sonny thought, as, in spite of the seriousness of the situation, he dissolved into helpless laughter. Oh, the look on his face: the absolute horror. It's priceless. Scared of having to deal with someone like yourself, are we, Frank?

"No, Sonny!" Frank burst out. "Simeon's smart, and even more important, he's a loner. He doesn't like to be around people. Actually, he just doesn't like crowds. Simeon does okay. when he doesn't have to deal with more than four or five people at a time. Besides, I'm much too young to even think of siring a childe. I'm not a total idiot, Sonny," Frank said, exasperated

Frank's embarrassed. He looks uncomfortable and he's squirming. Now his mouth is opening. I wonder what's going to come out of it.

"I was actually thinking of Daedalus," Frank said, continuing the conversation where he had left off. "For some reason, whenever I look at Simeon, I think of Daedalus. Weird, huh?"

"No, Frank," Sonny replied thoughtfully. "It's not weird, but that's not what is important now. "How sure are you that Simeon's information comes from the Nosferatu? If he's as good as you say he is, he might have simply recreated their data on his own."

"I thought of that Sonny, and that's why I'm not quite sure," Frank said with a sad smile. The kid may only be twenty-three, but he's got one of the strongest minds in the City. I didn't want to start something I might not be able to finish. I doubt I could dominate him quickly enough, and I know I won't be able to make him forget anything. You probably couldn't either. He'd have to be knocked unconcious." Smiling wryly, Frank said, "I need your help whichever way it goes, 'big brother.'

Sonny sighed. "Let's go bring Julian a snitch. "Yeah, Frank, he's going to Julian. You're not that excitable partner. If you're this nervous, there probably is something going on that needs our Prince's direct intervention."

Sonny's taking this seriously. I'm not just imagining things. "There is one more problem Sonny. He has at least three ways out of that lair he calls a home. How are we going to cover them all?"

"We're going to call Daedalus. The Nosferatu Primogen should be one of the first to be notified of what's been going on in his own back servers - don't you think so, 'little brother,' Sonny asked brightly, pulling out his cell phone and punching in a number from memory.

After several minutes of listening to Sonny's one-sided conversation, Frank watched as his brood- brother snapped the phone closed, turned to him, and said "Daedalus will be here soon. Until he gets here, Julian wants us to watch this Simeon of yours.

Sixteen minutes later, Frank felt a breeze beside him, ruffling his hair. Turning to his right he saw Daedalus materialize out of the shadows. With a respectful inclination of his head, Frank acknowledged the arrival of the Nosferatu Primogen.

Julian's childe looks wary. No one wants to look like a fool, childe, but better thatthan to have our existences betrayed to the humans. Daedalus nodded his acknowledgment of the courtesy before he spoke.

"Frank Kohanek, you are a much more than competent empath. You have absorbed all that Julian and I could teach you. If you think something is wrong, then more than likely something is wrong." Once he saw Frank's eyes meet his, Daedalus said calmly, "Now, childe: Why do you believe this 'snitch' of yours has penetrated our network?"

"When I asked him about unusual movements in the local financial markets, he told me about over fifty transactions, all connected to Ventrue owned businesses, including ones I know are connected to Julian. He even knew how they were connected. He knows what businesses, you own, he knows the organizational charts, he knows what's personal and what's clan property. The only thing I'm not sure of, is whether or not he knows what the Kindred are.

Raking his hand through his hair, Frank snorted as he said, "The little idiot certainly knows enough else about us. He knows enough to be wary of Julian."

Daedalus' eyebrows rose slightly. He nodded. "You are correct, Frank Kohanek. Simeon is an imminent danger to the Masquerade. Where is this young man's haven, and where are its entrances and exits?"

Frank pointed to an old machine shop four doors down, on the opposite side of the street, four doors to the left of their present position.

"Sonny's watching the back, but I think there's a least one entrance to the sewers in there." Daedalus is looking smug. He must have brought more of his Nosferatu. I feel shadows moving.

The Nosferatu Primogen spoke softly, confirming Frank's observations"The Nosferatu will guard the sewers and the sides of the buildings. Wait ten minutes, and then enter the young man's dwelling."

Simeon Stefanopolous had lived on the streets for twelve of his twenty-three years of life. A solitary child, he had lost his parents early, and after only three years, he had lost a beloved uncle as well. Unable to tolerate the social service system, he had run away from his eighth foster 'home' in less than two years. Running from his mid-western beginnings, he had reached San Francisco and never looked back.

Uncle Petros made sure I knew how to use a computer. He told me I could learn anything on the 'net. He was right. Simeon smiled - pleased with himself. There's so much education on the internet. Who needs a diploma? I'm better educated than most college graduates. People actually pay me for information.

Simeon smiled as he placed the ten, ten dollar bills Detective Kohanek had given him back in his pocket. Rubbing his aching right leg, he glanced around his well furnished, if somewhat shabby accommodations. It's amazing what people will throw away, and it only takes a little effort to bring it here. The only thing I need to spend money on is food and things for my computer. Books, too, but I can find a lot of them in the better dumpsters. I've got a good place, he thought as he limped over to, yet again, check his security settings. I'm safe from humans here, but am I safe from the Vrykolakas?

Simeon had been feeling hunted for the last hour. Uncle Petros told me of the Vrykolakas. He said they guard their secrets jealously: That, those who attract their attention, if they are ever seen again, have become Vrykolakas. He shivered with dread. Somehow I've attracted their attention. I need to leave, but how can I? Taking another look around the room, he thought, I have everything I need here. Everything I've worked so hard for, and I don't really know the Vrykolakas are after me.

Simeon stood, with pre-packed backpack in hand, gazing around his home, reluctant to leave. Feeling a breeze, he turned awkwardly to see Frank Kohanek standing before him. As he backed rapidly away, he turned to see Detective Kohanek's partner by the back exit. Turning again to his emergency exit, he saw a tall, elegantly dressed bald man with odd earlobes materialize. "Vrykolakas," he gasped. His eyes widened as he turned white with shock and, stumbling back, he felt his world go black.

"Shit!" Frank snapped as he reached for his falling snitch, only to find Daedalus there before him - easing the young man to the floor.

"That answers the question of whether or not he knows about the Kindred," Frank said blankly, as he met the eyes of the Nosferatu Primogen.

Glancing quickly at Frank, Daedalus' eyes reflected his amusement, as he commented sardonically, "That is true, childe."

Is that a proprietary look I see in Daedalus' eye? Frank thought. I hope so. Simeon deserves every chance he can get and Daedalus would be a good sire. From what I can tell, whether he'll admit it or not, Daedalus has been searching for a childe for years.

Handing the backpack to Frank, Daedalus rose to his feet. Nodding to Sonny and Frank, he said, "I'll take young Simeon to your sire."

"We'll meet you there," Sonny replied.

"Sooo … , Do you think he liked him?" Frank asked Sonny as they left.

I'm warm. My leg doesn't hurt. I'm lying on something soft. Where am I? Simeon Stefanopolus tried to breathe slowly, feigning sleep, until he heard a monotone voice say calmly, "We know you are awake, Childe."

Opening his eyes, Simeon saw the bald man he had last seen in his home sitting beside the sofa he was lying on. Standing at the foot of the sofa was another man. One who was watching him out of dark, mismatched eyes that bored into Simeon's own. He looks human, but he isn't: No more than the one sitting beside me is. Simeon's heart beat faster. I've been captured by the Vrykolakas. They won't get my soul, he thought desperately. Barely managing to break the dark-haired man's gaze, Simeon turned his head to look at the less human appearing of the two, only to have his gaze captured, and, this time, held.

He heard a cool baritone voice say, "Daedalus, he appears to have more affinity with you." Simeon then felt the pressure build in his mind.

My, what big teeth he has: Strange -He reminds me of Uncle Petros, thought Simeon, as his mind went fuzzy. The next thing he noticed was that he seemed to be standing outside himself as his mouth opened and he heard himself say, "You're Vrykolakas. You eat people. You're evil!"

Feebly pushing against the pressure in his mind, Simeon thought in despair, Great; antagonize the monsters. I should have paid more attention to Uncle Petros' stories on how to recognize the Vrykolakas. I should have realized Detective Kohanek was one. He fooled me! He was kind and fair - he coaxed me to the free health clinic. I thought he cared about me. How could something evil care about anyone else? Tears seeping from his eyes, Simeon felt his worldview shift like falling sand. Was anything I thought I knew real? A cool hand touched his cheek. Simeon noticed the bald man had reached out to cradle his face. He looks concerned. Why? Monsters don't care about their next meal

"Calm, childe," Daedalus soothed as he brushed Simeon's tears away, "We are not the monsters of your childhood myths. We call ourselves Kindred. We do not have to kill to feed, and we do not kill for pleasure. There have always been outlaws in any community," he continued. "The best way to judge any people is by how well they police their monsters. We do not allow ours to continue to exist, … but we can discuss mythology and politics later, Simeon Stefanopolus."

Simeon found himself telling the bald man everything, from how finding an intriguing reference to what he thought were sewer dwelling dungeon and dragons devotees, had lead him through a maze of information channels to find interlocking financial networks not known by Wall Street, or other more conventional markets, to a faction of the Creative Anachronist types determined to overthrow their Princes and take over the Known World.

After hearing himself describe his childhood, both before, and after, his escape from the foster care system, he saw the bald man's hand pass in front of his face as he heard the man's pleasantly monotonous voice saying, "Sleep childe. We'll talk more of this later."

After carefully placing the head of, what he hoped was, his soon to be childe in a comfortable position, Daedalus pulled a blanket over the young man. Tucking it firmly around Simeon, he looked up to see Julian leaning against the back of the couch studying Daedalus thoughtfully.

"Creative Anachronists? Somehow, I doubt the Society for Creative Anachronism has a personnel problem," Julian said dryly. "The Kindred, however, do have one. He's an interesting young man, isn't he," The Prince of the City said casually, as he glanced down at the young human resting on his couch, " … and extremely useful to the Kindred. You like him, don't you?" Julian asked gently as he watched his friend carefully fussing over the young man they had been questioning."

Motioning to a pair of chairs by his fireplace, Julian indicated for the Nosferatu Primogen to take the chair facing Simeon. Smiling, Julian said, "You can watch him from here, Daedalus. He won't disappear. Come, sit down," Julian encouraged his friend. "We'll share a glass of wine, while we discuss what we have learned."

After giving Simeon a final pat, Daedalus stood, and, walking over to the cheerfully crackling fire, sitting in a chair where he could keep a watchful eye over what he considered to be his charge.

Handing Daedalus a glass of wine, Julian went to sit in a chair facing his friend, and sat, calmly sipping his Bordeaux. After several minutes, he said warmly, "You like him, don't you?"

You are a good and loyal friend, Julian Luna, Daedalus thought in annoyance, as he carefully kept his irritation from showing on his face, but sometimes you can be insufferably smug. Yes, I do want Simeon Stefanopolous as my childe. I do not need hints tossed in my direction. Daedalus nodded in agreement. "Yes, Julian, I do like Simeon Stefanopolous, and yes …,"he continued, "… I do think he would make a good addition to the Nosferatu." A slight hint of excitement was apparent in his voice as the Nosferatu Primogen requested his Prince's permission to embrace the young computer wizard.

Upon receipt of Julian's permission, and his warm congratulations, Daedalus settled into his carefully positioned chair to wait for his prospective childe's return to consciousness.

With legs crossed, and with his arms resting casually on the arms of his chair, Julian sank back into the comfort of his large wing-backed chair. It had been an event-filled and exhausting night - and it wasn't over yet. The computer geek lying on his couch had provided much needed information on what the Kindred Princes of the United States and Canada had started calling, the Carlsen Conspiracy. The Ventrue Prince contemplated the value the addition his childe's snitch would bring to the Kindred and, even more significantly, to Julian's domain.

Julian tilted his head back, resting it against the chair, as he watched his friend watching the young man in question, and smiled to himself. Daedalus has been looking for someone to care for and teach for years. I couldn't allow him to have Abel, but I can allow him this one. Frank was right. They do complement each other. Daedalus can't keep from checking on Simeon, and Simeon needs someone who can not only teach him Kindred ways, but will also teach him restraint. Although I'm grateful for the information he has provided and, hopefully, will provide in the future, Simeon would not be in the predicament he is now in, if he had had the sense to abandon his internet searches once he realized how dangerous they were. I don't care if he didn't realize they were Kindred related. He still had to have realized that, at the least, the financial information he'd found was dangerous. He knew enough to be afraid of me, Julian thought grimly. I hope he chooses to become Kindred. Daedalus would be devastated if Simeon chose death rather than the Embrace. I can't allow that young man to leave here with the capabilities he has.

Daedalus is the only person, beside myself and my late sire, Archon, I trust to be able to handle that little 'information broker' and I don't want to take on another childe so soon. I'm still not finished with Frank. Although, once I hear what Sonny has to say about this night, I suspect Frank will be actively participating in the 'Carlsen investigation' by tomorrow night. My youngest has done well.

Julian let his head fall forward; I can't postpone this talk any longer. Speaking briskly, Julian said, "Daedalus, your future childe is safe. No one, including me, is going to steal him from under your nose. We do have some things we must discuss before your charge awakens." The Prince calmly returned his friend's gaze, and said, "You realize he may not agree to the embrace, and if he does not, then death will be his only other option. I can't allow someone with his capabilities to leave here still human."

The Prince raised a hand as he saw his Primogen about to protest. "I'm sorry Daedalus. I know you want to sire him, and I'm glad to give him to you. I also know that either, you, or I, could dominate him into forgetting what he's learned so far, but he's an exceedingly intelligent, curious, and determined young man with a thirst for knowledge. Unless we destroyed his personality, he would find the information again, and … speaking of our friend's curiosity …" Julian said.

Daedalus, not being a fool, picked up on Julian's intent immediately. "Of course, My Prince …," he replied, making sure his tone reflected the slight hurt he felt at the thought Julian believed he would allow any childe to risk, either itself, or the Kindred.

Damn, I've insulted him and hurt his feelings. That was not my intention! Julian ran his fingers across his face and through his hair.

"I apologize. It was not my intent to imply that you would not protect either a childe or the Masquerade." Julian replied frankly, as he met the eyes of the Nosferatu. "The human's abilities, coupled with his apparently insatiable curiosity and desire to learn anything he can find worry me. He will be a valuable addition to the Clans if he accepts your embrace. He could also be a danger to us unless he has someone to teach him: when, where and how to exercise that curiosity of his." A broad smile appeared on the Prince's face as he continued, "You would be my first choice to sire him, even if you hadn't already asked." Julian's lips twitched. "Simeon also seems to like you better. He certainly responded better to you, than he did to me. I wasn't the one he was pouring his heart out to. Every time I tried to ask a question, that little computer menace of yours looked at me, as if I were his worst nightmare, and then focused even more strongly on you. And all this …," he chuckled, "In spite of his fear of the "Vrykolakas."

"His heart is speeding up. He's starting to awaken." Daedalus said, as he leaned forward in his chair, preparing to rise.

Julian stood, and moving quickly, he reached the Nosferatu before Daedalus could stand. Placing his right hand on his friend's shoulder, The Prince said softly, "Please, stay seated. Your charge is restless, but he won't wake for a few more minutes. We have time for a short consultation on the best way to approach the young man."

Daedalus allowed his stiffening body to relax as he forced himself to settle back into his chair. Returning his Prince's look, and with his voice quivering with suppressed impatience, he asked, "What do you want to discuss, Julian?"

An impetuous Daedalus is never easy to deal with. Letting his sincerity and concern show through the warmth of his eyes and his voice, Julian said: "I want this young man for the Kindred, at least, as much as I want him for you. I have told you before that I consider you to be my closest friend. We need to discuss how to best persuade your charge to accept the Embrace from you." Squeezing his friend's shoulder sympathetically, Julian dropped his hand, and backed up a step to watch Daedalus' reaction to his words.

After first satisfying himself that his prospective childe would remain sleeping for the next several minutes, Daedalus replied thoughtfully. "I would not usurp your duties, My Prince; you should be the one to offer him the choice between death and the embrace. However, if you will allow it, I will tell him of the Kindred." A fleeting expression of relief and joy crossed the Nosferatu Primogen's features as he nodded his thanks to Julian's agreement with his suggestion.

Julian returned the nod and, with an inclination of his head, the Prince signaled his permission for Daedalus to return his attention to his vigil. Wasting no time, the Nosferatu moved swiftly, to sit beside the rapidly awakening Simeon.

As Simeon opened his eyes, he once again saw the bald man sitting beside him. Carefully moving his barely opened eyes, he scanned the room, noting the dark man seated several feet away, sipping what looked like wine, and steadily watching both Simeon and the bald man. What does the dark man find so interesting about me? Simeon wondered. I'm sure I put deodorant on sometime in the recent past. He returned his attention to the bald guy sitting at his side, noticing that the Vrykolakas/Oh, Whatever, was about to speak.

An hour later, he was sitting up and staring at the man/Kindred/whatever - The person he now knew as Daedalus, and the only thing he could think to say was: "So, you're not sewer dwelling Dungeons and Dragons devotees." Oh, God. I sound like an idiot. Simeon sunk lower on Julian's couch as the red crept slowly up his face. These people have existed alongside humans for all of our existence. They've recruited from us. His intellectual curiosity aroused, Simeon wondered where the first Kindred had come from; was he/she/it a mutation from the human norm, or simply another offshoot of homo sapiens. Were there actually three species of 'humans'? Should homo sapiens Kindredensis join homo sapiens neandertalensis and homo sapiens sapiens?

I can understand their fear of discovery. The young 'information broker' cringed as he recalled the stories he had heard his uncle tell of the ways to 'discover' and 'destroy' the Vrykolakas. The Church of Rome had even less pleasant ways than the Orthodox, when it came to dealing with what they thought of as 'vampiresI can understand that different species can have different goals, and different imperatives. I can understand wanting to preserve your life, and the life of your people. I understand duty and obligation as well. Uncle Petros taught me about family and clan, and how both were owed your loyalty and protection.

Simeon's eyes focused on the flickering firelight as his thoughts continued. Daedalus is right. All groups do have their good, bad, and indifferent members. Some of his darker memories surfaced as he remembered his eighth foster 'father' shoving him down the basement steps, leaving him there for several days, his broken right leg curled beneath him. Simeon laughed humorlessly. And my case worker thought I should be 'grateful' I was rescued after only two weeks. I'm still surprised someone even stopped by then - it had been four months since her last 'visit.' By the time they found me, my leg was partially healed. It's never been right since, and I know I'm not alone in 'falling through the cracks.'

His grim thoughts continued. What happened to me, and all the other 'lost children', was only a petty evil of our species compared to Hitler and his genocidal maniacs or to all the other mass murderers throughout human history. Even the 'Inquisition' Daedalus spoke of shows humanity's darker side - most of the people killed were no Kindred, just the unpopular and unprotected.

Simeon considered the contrast between the humans he had dealt with in the years since his uncle's death and the Kindred he was dealing with now. Although there had been kind and decent people in his last fourteen years, most had been indifferent, if not actively cruel. The Kindred he had dealt with so far had only been fair and kind to him. Even when they caught me, I was still cared for. I'm warm and I'm on someone's couch. They haven't hurt me. Simeon sighed as he returned his gaze to Daedalus, and saw the bald man exchanging glances with the dark man. I wonder what they're going to do with me. Closed societies under siege usually co-opt or kill those who discover them and their secrets. These two aren't cruel, but I can easily see either of them doing what they would see as a distasteful duty. The dark man appears to be in charge. Daedalus defers to him. He must be one of those Princes Daedalus spoke of. He's about to speak.

Julian exchanged glances with his friend as they both watched the young man digesting the information he had been given. The Prince sighed, stood, and moved quickly to the sofa where Simeon was sitting. Seating himself on a conveniently placed hassock, Julian thought: This is one of the parts of being Prince I truly hate. This young man is worse than my youngest. Every thought he has is reflected on his face. I do not enjoy presenting people with these options, but it is time to present him with his choices. Julian opened his mouth, and said, "We haven't been introduced. My name is Julian Luna." Seeing the growing horror on Simeon's face, Julian smiled his most unthreatening smile, and speaking gently, said, "I'm not going to eat you, childe, but we do need to talk about your future."

The color drained from Simeon's face, leaving him looking almost as pale as the Nosferatu sitting beside him. His body tensed. As he readied himself for what he knew would be a futile attempt to run from the two Kindred, he felt a hand close on his arm, keeping him firmly in place. Looking up, he saw Daedalus gripping his forearm, while urging him to remain calm.

"Julian is Prince of this City, childe," Daedalus said, his tone both compelling and soothing. The Nosferatu Primogen watched the reactions of what he, by now, considered his childe, anxiously, before continuing. "In spite of what you may have learned, or heard, in your unauthorized forays into our world, he is a fair and just man." His eyes met Julian's for a second, before continuing. "Listen to what he has to say before choosing panic as your option."

Simeon felt the panic and fear receding at the sound of Daedalus' gently chiding words. Taking a deep breath he turned his attention to Julian Luna, to see mild bemusement on the man's face. That glance he shared with Daedalus was one of warmth and affection. They're good friends.

Mildly amused, Julian thought dryly: Wonderful, I'm vouched for by a Nosferatu, and a human relaxes: So much for your perpetual protestations of monsterhood, my friend."Daedalus is correct, Simeon. Please listen to what I have to say before panicking," Prince Julian spoke softly, his tone earnest. With his gentlest smile, Julian continued speaking as, with a wave of his hand, he indicated his friend seated to his right. "You've just been given a condensed history of our kind, and learned why we have to protect ourselves from your kind --humans. He's told you of our Masquerade; he's told you we recruit from among you; now, I'll tell you of the Embrace."

Simeon sat on the couch, eyes blinking slowly, as he listened to the choices Julian Luna was offering him. A pleased smile crossed his face at the thought Daedalus wanted to sire him. Tilting his head, he listened more closely to Julian Luna's words. As the Prince stopped, Simeon turned to the Nosferatu and said, "You really want me? I know I stick my nose in things I shouldn't, and I have a tendency to annoy people with my questions and enthusiasms. My social skills aren't the best either. I'm uncomfortable around groups larger than about four to five people. Oh! And will you teach me alchemy? I've always wanted to do chemistry experiments, but I was afraid I'd blow up the neighborhood," Simeon said, as he looked wistfully at Daedalus.

Julian pressed his lips together, ducked his head, and fought hard to hide his amusement, as he listened to Simeon's oh-so-polite begging. You are going to have fun protecting this one from himself, my friend.

"I take it, that's a yes;" Julian said dryly, as he stood and headed for the door. "I'll leave you two to discuss the details. Welcome to our world, Simeon. I'll be in my library, if you need me, Daedalus."

Sonny Toussaint looked up as his sire entered the library. Julian couldn't keep the smug smile off his face, as he watched a grin slowly spread across his childe's face, after he informed Sonny that Simeon Stefanopolous had accepted Daedalus' offer of the Embrace.

Settling into a pair of chairs by the library fireplace, they watched the flickering flames for several companionable minutes before Sonny spoke.

"Frank will be happy, sire. He does like …, and I quote …, 'the sneaky little shit.'" Sonny said chuckling.

Julian sat, sipping one of his fine Ports while continuing to watch the fire leap and twist, his head resting comfortably against the back of his chair. Swallowing, he lazily turned his head and looked at Sonny. Prince Julian's lips curled upward in a slowly spreading smile as he acknowledged his agreement with Sonny's assessment.

"Your brood brother did well to bring Simeon to my attention. I'm impressed with his insight and judgment."

Taking time for another sip of his wine, Julian's mood turned thoughtful. "Tell me about Frank's comments and reactions," He ordered Sonny. "I find it interesting that he turned to you first."

Sonny rolled his head to the left to meet Julian's gaze. "Yes," he said slowly, sipping from his own glass of Port. "Frank did come to me for my advice, but he was intending to come to you as soon as possible," Sonny hastened to reassure his Prince.

Julian's lips twitched. "I don't doubt it," he said calmly. "It's Frank's trust in your opinion that interests, and impresses, me"

"Frank had already decided to bring his suspicions of Simeon to you," Sonny said briskly. "His only question was, whether or not, to bring Simeon with him. I was handier than his cell phone." Sonny turned his chair to face Julian, his own face reflecting the seriousness in which he meant his next comments to be taken. "Julian, Frank knew something was wrong, but he didn't know how badly. I could tell he didn't want to look like a paranoid idiot, but he didn't want to let a threat get by him either. I'm proud and honored he chose to give me his trust," Sonny said softly.

"I'm pleased as well, Sonny - with both of you," replied Julian. "It's taken the two of us long enough to get him to the point where he trusts and respects any authority but mine, and his own. I'm glad he's chosen to respect yours."

There was the faint shadow of a smile on Sonny's face as he said, "He accepts Daedalus' authority too, but Daedalus is a special case, very few people argue with our Nosferatu Primogen, at least, not without a very compelling reason."

Shifting in his chair, Sonny continued, "Frank's attitude has been changing ever since the last time he 'creatively' interpreted - or was it 'misunderstood', what I'd told him to do." He and Julian shared a fond smile. "Somehow, having to spend a week shadowing me, doing everything I told him to without question, seems to have convinced my brood sib I won't abuse his trust." Sonny laughed. "And we had a wonderful time laying tile in my front foyer."

Identical smirks appeared on their faces with Julian's next comment. "Shadowing you for a week was definitely more to his taste than spending two weeks in the Prison of Light, and then shadowing you for two weeks."

Returning their gaze to the shifting flames, they sat watching the fire for several minutes before Julian spoke again. "You won his trust by not abusing it."

Sonny rolled his head until he was once more looking at Julian, gratified by his sire's praise. His mouth twitched, and his lips curled upward, forming a mischievous grin as, he said, "For a while I was afraid Frank wanted to embrace Simeon. He did sound somewhere between impressed and exasperated when he described the kid."

Julian's right eyebrow rose as he calmly waited for Sonny's punchline. His eldest's grin widened into a smirk as, taking a deep breath, he tried to stave off the snickers he felt rising from his diaphragm.

"Julian …," he gasped, "… You should have seen Frank's face when I asked him if he wanted to embrace Simeon. The look of absolute horror on his face was priceless! And …" he paused for several minutes of helpless laughter, before managing to collect himself enough to continue. "It was so priceless, that, even as serious as the situation was, I couldn't stop laughing then either."

It must have been entertaining, Julian thought, amused, and impressed, with his childe's uncharacteristic display of glee

With a wry grin on his lips, Julian asked: "So, Frank was scared of having to deal with someone like himself?"

"That was my first thought too," Sonny replied, grinning back. "However, Frank did say something else interesting. After he finished being horrified, he told me he wasn't an idiot, and that he knew he was too young a Kindred to sire a childe." Sonny leaned forward. "Frank isn't nearly as impulsive and irresponsible as he sometimes appears. He thinks we see him as an idiot, Julian."

"Well, he's not!" Julian reply was both abrupt and decisive. "He never has been an idiot. He's been impetuous and impatient to an extreme, and he's done some truly idiotic things, but Frank is not an idiot."

With a bemused expression on his face, Prince Julian said, "Even at his worst, he's only acted the fool and the ass." A small smile flickered on his lips as he said, "Well, actually, he has been an ass at times." Julian ran his forefinger along his bottom lip as he thought: … and I believe I've managed to curb that tendency as well as finally managing to engrain, both, restraint and responsibility into the man." Tapping his lip sharply, he abruptly turned to refocus his gaze back to Sonny. "Your 'brother' did well, Sonny." Julian said decisively. "You want me to give him free rein on the Carlsen investigation: He has it."

I've pleased Sonny. Julian stood, and with a warm smile, said, "So have you." Holding out his hand, he pulled Sonny from the chair and into a quick embrace. Stepping back, he said, "Please, send Frank to me once you find him, and I'll give him the good news."

Julian had a contented look on his face as he held his ring hand out to his eldest 'son' and watched him leave after kissing his ring. After refilling his glass with more of his best Port, he returned to his chair by the fire, staring into the flames, while slowly sipping from his glass. Julian looked up only once: When Daedalus briefly stepped into the room, Simeon at his back, to inform his Prince that Julian's study was now free, and that he and Simeon were retiring to his chambers. After once again offering his congratulations to both Daedalus and his still human shadow, Julian watched the Nosferatu Primogen shepherd his soon to be childe out. Sipping more of the fortified wine, he settled down to wait for his youngest 'son' to arrive.

Julian Luna sat behind his desk, feeling depressed and impatient. Damn these accountants. He had been examining the annual reports of several of his businesses. Something is wrong. None of these reports make sense. That's what I get for not having placed Kindred I can trust in the supervisory positions. It's been too many years since I last cleaned house. The human accounting firms no longer remember to be wary of me. He sighed and thought of his most recently embraced childe. I'll have to get Berndt to help straighten out the accounts, and the accountants. He's been Kindred for over twenty years now, and he is an exceptional forensic accountant. It's time he was given supervisory experience.

His mood improving, Julian threw his head against the back of his chair, and laughed. Who would have thought Frank would investigate what he thought was an embezzling accountant and find another childe for me. Berndt was my first childe who actually fit the Ventrue stereotype and he was lucky it was Sonny and Frank who found him. The man's curiosity was in serious need of channeling.

Resting his forefinger on his bottom lip, The Prince of San Francisco considered the idea of co-opting/embracing one or two of the errant accountants. Calling in his secretary, Emma, he ordered her to prepare and collate the information available on all the accountants involved. As she was leaving, after receiving warm praise from Julian for her competence, Emma turned and informed him that his childe, Frank Kohanek, had called to see him and would be arriving shortly.

I wonder what Frank wants? He thought, as he went back to his desk and sat down behind it. About half an hour later, he looked up as he heard Frank entering his study.

"Frank," Julian smiled, as he rose to greet one of his favorite childer. "Have a seat," he said, waving the detective to the sofa, Julian choosing one of the chairs beside it.

For several minutes they talked of the gang problems San Francisco had been having since the 2050s, before Julian said, "Sonny and I spoke earlier this week. He mentioned that you had something to tell me, and now Emma said you'd called to see me. What would you like? You know that you can ask me anything." Julian leaned closer. "I doubt that you would ask me anything I would find too objectionable." Julian said, encouragingly.

Frank's nervous. He looks the way I felt when I asked Evelyn's father for his permission to marry her. His eyebrows rose. His heart started beating. He kept the smile starting to form on his face from becoming wider as he coaxed, "Frank, what do you have to ask me?"

He suspects, Frank thought as he sank lower on the sofa. I never thought I would have so much anxiety asking him for this."I want to embrace my partner, Jason Chang." Frank said in a rush, mumbling the words as rapidly as he could move his tongue. "Jason's a good cop, he's discrete, he's not too disrespectful of authority, we get along well, he's a fantastic investigator, he's loyal, and may I have him, please?" Finishing his breathless request, Frank slumped in relief.

Julian laughed, as he stood, walked to the sideboard, pausing on the way to pat Frank consolingly on the shoulder, and poured two glasses of his best Port. Walking back, he handed one to Frank, and said with a grin, "You've been my childe for over one hundred eighteen years now, and I still haven't managed to convince you mumbling will never work with me?" Still grinning, he returned to his chair, sat down, and ordering warmly, said, "Drink your Port, take a deep breath, and tell me again, Childe."

Frank grinned sheepishly back at Julian as he swallowed several sips of Julian's excellent Port. Taking the deep breath as he had been ordered, Frank said calmly, "I came to ask for your permission to embrace my partner, Jason Chang. I've known him for nine and a half years now, and I believe he would make a good Kindred. He's enthusiastic, loyal, a good cop, and a fantastic investigator." Pausing, he smiled appreciatively with each sip he took, before continuing his recitation of Jason Chang's virtues. "He's discrete, he's much less disrespectful of authority than I ever was, and we get along well. He not only listens to me, but he does what I tell him to. I like him. May I have him, please?"

Tipping the glass upward, Frank swallowed the last of the fortified wine and, carefully placing it on the table beside his chair, he looked up and met his Prince's eyes. I know my shields are excellent, but Julian always has been able to read me, especially when I'm nervous. Attempting to hide my anxiety from him is almost certainly pointless, but I refuse to act like a quivering idiot, either.

Frank's embarrassed. He shouldn't be. Even if I didn't think he was ready to take on the responsibilities of a sire, I wouldn't be angry with him for asking and I would never mock him. He is ready for it. He's been ready for the last forty or fifty years. He knows my laws, and 'The Traditions' well, and he knows what they mean. Julian snickered to himself. He should; I've made him write and recite them often enough. I trust his judgment. He's matched nineteen humans with Kindred sires in the last century. He found Berndt for me.

After making sure Frank's glass was refilled, Julian returned to his chair, sat, crossed his legs relaxed, and said calmly, "I trust you; tell me more about this Jason." After several minutes of listening to his childe singing the praises, and detailing the flaws, of Jason Chang, Julian sat up straight, uncrossed his legs, leaned forward, and asked Frank how much background information he had on his partner.

Frank opened his jacket: the eleventh replacement Julian had bought for his childe since he'd replaced the man's first: and after pulling a large folder from the inside pocket, placed it in Julian's outstretched hand.

Frank sat back as he watched Julian start reading the contents of the opened portfolio, and thought of the last one hundred eighteen years since Julian had embraced him. I still don't know how he managed to put up with me after we first met, and then after Alexandra …: I was even worse. It took him almost two years to convince me he wasn't my enemy and that the Kindred weren't the font of all evil. Julian's a protector and he's a good one. He forced the issue of my embrace to protect me from myself; Even though he's never said anything to me, he must have realized, from almost the first, I did want to be embraced. I really should admit to him that I'm grateful he forced the issue; I'd never have been able to bring myself to ask him for it on my own: Too much pride and too much need for control. A soft laugh came from Frank's mouth.

Julian lifted his head to look at his 'son' with concern. Where is Frank's mind taking him?

Frank smiled at Julian's obvious concern. "I'm fine," he said. Julian nodded, returning his attention to the information in his hands, as Frank returned to his self-deprecating thoughts. Julian tamed me. I'm his second eldest now. He's embraced four more childer since he embraced me, and I'm considered to be one of the calmest and most disciplined.

Frank could hardly believe he was now on his third masquerade. Humans thought he was his own grandchild! His 'grandfather' had retired as a Lieutenant of Detectives, and his 'father' had been a private investigator, and a very handy masquerade that had been for his sire. With Frank available to perform 'discrete' investigations whenever Julian desired, and Sonny's 'son' as head of the Investigative Division of the District Attorney's Office, Julian had quite the pair of highly efficient enforcers. Now I'm on my way back to becoming a lieutenant again - this time in the anti-gang unit. I'm a sergeant, Sonny's the Captain, and most of the detectives in the unit are Kindred. Talk about us being "all around."

Frank felt a tickle by his ear as he heard a voice in that ear gently ordering him to recite 'The Traditions.' Startled, he looked up to see Julian standing beside him. Before Frank could start, Julian shook his head, and said, "Just tell me where your mind was at."

"In the past, Julian: I've been thinking about how much has changed since I first met you. The humans fought a war over rising sea levels and the consequent dwindling fresh water supplies. Fossil fuels are gone. A third of the population of San Francisco is gone too, and the only way this country stays connected is through steam trains and telegraph. The rails and lines are cut at least once a month."

With a humorless laugh, Frank shook his leather clad arm. "This is the eleventh jacket you've replaced for me. No wonder the anti-gang unit is so powerful. We've absorbed major crimes and homicide. We're the biggest unit in the City, and …" Frank paused, looking up at Julian helplessly, "… I'm considered to be one of the most responsible and disciplined Ventrue in the city."

Julian blinked, before giving Frank's shoulder a comforting squeeze. "You're growing up, Frank." He said with amused sympathy. "It's something many humans don't have the time to do."

Grabbing a nearby chair, he seated himself facing Frank. Julian bent his head, catching his childe's eyes; when he raised his head, Frank's eyes followed. "Now …," he said gently, as his lips curled upward and the corners of his eyes crinkled, "… Enough melancholy: The human situation is getting better. At least, they do have minimal electricity, and there is cross-country communication again.

Julian stopped, and simply watched Frank for several minutes before quietly saying, "I do believe you are ready to be a sire, Frank." Setting the portfolio on the floor, he reached out to hold Frank's face between his hands, thumbs resting on his childe's cheekbones. "You've been ready for the last fifty years, and that is my judgment as Prince, Frank …," Julian whispered, the conviction clearly to be heard in his voice. Brushing his thumbs once along the cheekbones of his second eldest living 'son,' Julian dropped his hands and picked up the discarded file. Opening the file, he allowed his obvious affection for Frank to show, and said, "I trust your judgment. This young man looks fine. In fact …" Julian grinned, "… I'm impressed with the research. You've got everything since Jason's birth, in San Diego, here. Simeon's still quite the 'information broker' isn't he? The Prince's eyes twinkled as he watched Frank's lips twitching.

"Amazing how the Nosferatu have managed to keep their computer networks going in spite of the human's communication problems," Julian commented dryly. He's almost there; just a little bit more, and I'll get a laugh or a smile out of him yet. Frank's thinking and worrying too much.

Frank's head fell back against the chair as he laughed. Grinning, he said, "Yes, Sire, I did have Simeon help me. He is the head computer geek after all. It was his turn," Frank said of the complex web of obligations, and favors, between the two friends. "And I think their computer networking has something to do with geothermal energy, or maybe it's powered by alchemy," he continued, a mischievous grin on his face, as he shrugged his shoulders.

Snapping the portfolio closed, Julian laughed, before saying formally, "If he agrees, you have my permission to embrace Jason Chang. I look forward to his presentation." Grabbing Frank's hand, Julian stood, pulling Frank up into a firm embrace. Pride was reflected on his face, as he said, "Congratulations, Frank. Let me know if he agrees."

Accepting Julian's congratulations, Frank tendered his grateful thanks to his Prince, grasped Julian's ring hand, and after kissing the ring on it, he turned to leave. Stopping in the doorway, he turned back, and looking straight into Julian's eyes, said quietly, "I suppose it's time for me to admit this officially. I am grateful you forced the issue." A quick grin crossed his face, as he closed the door behind him.

With an affectionate smile on his face, Julian watched his childe leave, and thought: He is a little shit! An extremely thoughtful little shit, but still a little shit. I'm glad I forced the issue too, and I look forward to watching him deal with his first childe.