Title: Heart's Price
Series: Kindred: the Embraced
Pairing: slash, FH/JL
Summary: A few months after Archon's death, San Francisco is hit with a series of brutal murders…bodies are found with their blood drained and throats torn out. Frank Kahonek is on the case; but he has problems of his own, such as the Kindred who don't appreciate his new relationship with Julian Luna.
NOTE: Fair warning, probably kinda fluffy and out of character in parts. I had no beta reader to tame me! I also wrote this VERY quickly, so I've no doubt there are mistakes. Please let me know if you find any, or have suggestions on how to improve this piece. I honestly have no idea where this story came from...it just...came.
Disclaimer: Kindred: The Embraced is property of White Wolf, John Leekly, Artisan Entertainment, and a whole horde of people who'll never read this nor care.
The diner was quiet so late at night, with only a few regular customers strewn about, quietly sipping coffee to get them through the rest of the night. Frank Kahonek had secluded himself in a corner booth, staring past his reflection in the window to the traffic flowing quietly down the street. Even San Francisco slowed down for the night, eventually. Idly swirling his lukewarm coffee, Frank sighed, wondering again why he'd bothered to leave his house at all that night.
He supposed it had become a habit over the past several weeks. The Nighthawk diner had been his favorite haunt once upon a time. When he wasn't at work, or with Alexandra, he'd been at the diner, going over case details or just relaxing and enjoying a little alone time. Now though…he hadn't been to the diner in weeks. In fact, the only reason he'd come tonight was because he'd panicked when he'd left his house earlier and found himself driving to the Haven for the fourth time that week. It bothered him more than he would admit that he'd begun spending so much time with the vampires. What bothered him even more was the fact that he'd begun to think of some of them as friends. Cash, Lillie, hell, practically all the Gangrel…Julian…. Scowling at his own reflection, Frank took a long, angry swig of his coffee. He didn't want to think about Julian…his feelings were too…complicated on that subject.
Sighing, he turned his gaze out the window again. The fact was, he hadn't been able to face the idea of walking into the Haven again…seeing all the familiar faces which, over time, had transformed from bitter snarls to calm acceptance and even friendly smiles. Even the Brujah didn't care that he came anymore. Some of the younger Brujah had even taken to waving at him when they saw him on the street. Without even realizing it, Frank had become a permanent fixture among the vampires. He'd been…accepted. Twitching at the thought and the unbidden warm feelings it evoked, Frank clutched his empty mug. How had it happened? He remembered very clearly the fear and hatred he'd felt for the Kindred after Alexandra's death. Hell, it hadn't been but a few months ago that Julian had warned him against ever trying to hunt them. Not that he'd ever even considered the idea, of course. He hadn't hated the Kindred…just those responsible for Alexandra's death, and the frequent cover-ups that irked him to no end. How then had he gone from a barely tolerated obligation of Julian's…to an ally? A friend? Confidant? Hell, he'd driven Cash home only just last week when the Gangrel had gotten utterly shit-faced drunk. Allies didn't do that…but friends did. Friends. Huh.
"I was wondering where you'd gotten off to when I didn't see you at the Haven tonight," a familiar voice said, and Frank turned, only half surprised, to see Julian standing by his booth. Unexpectedly, a shiver vibrated down Frank's spine, leaving his chest tight and his face feeling flush. It had been a feeling he'd begun to associate only with the Prince, as of late. Julian's dark eyes were fixed on him; patient, expectant.
"Just felt a little overwhelmed. Thought a change of scenery might help." Julian took his words as invitation enough, and slid into the seat opposite, dropping his folded jacket on the seat beside him. Tonight he wore a deep blue silk shirt, the top few buttons casually undone. Frank shivered again, forcing his eyes away from the Prince's broad chest and the traitorous way his body had recently begun to react to the man. Man, he reminded himself. Julian is a man. Men aren't supposed to make you react that way. Shifting uncomfortably, he raised his eyes to the Prince's dark gaze, aware that it was only slightly easier than staring at his chest.
"You haven't…regretted our association, Frank? I have come to cherish you as a friend and ally…I would never want you to feel uncomfortable," Julian said, the slight crinkles at the corners of his eyes betraying his concern.
"Oh, no…not at all. To be honest, I haven't been happier in a long time," Frank said, only just realizing it as the truth as he spoke. "It's just…I'm having trouble sorting it all out in my head. For god's sakes, man…I thought you were a sadistic super-mobster just a few months ago, secretly pulling the strings of every crime-syndicate known to man. And now…hell, you're the closest friend I've got. And the Kindred…I don't even know when I stopped thinking of you guys as monsters and started thinking of you as people. Peculiar people, yeah…but people all the same." Frank sighed, staring into his empty coffee mug to hide his embarrassment.
Julian smiled, seeming to relax at Frank's explanation. "I'm glad, Frank. And you should know, you're not the only one who's undergone a shift in perspective. Many of the Kindred who hated and resented you on principle now speak of you fondly. Even Daedalus considers you an honorary member of the Kindred."
"Really. Now I'm flattered," Frank said, shaking his head with a wry smile. Daedalus was notorious for his practicality and stringent following of the laws. For him to accept a human…well, that was practically a glowing recommendation!
"He is fond of you, you know. His only quarrel with you has been because of the Masquerade. I think he has finally come to realize you have no intention of bringing harm to us, and that your word is true." Julian smiled fondly, and Frank realized that Julian, too, was admitting to something unspoken. Suddenly feeling restless, Frank began fishing for his wallet.
"Hey…uh…you wanna go for a walk or something?" he asked, not daring to look at Julian lest he see amusement in those eyes.
"A walk would be most welcome," he said, and reached for his own coat.
After throwing a few bills on the table for the coffee, Frank followed Julian out into the cool night air. Raking a hand back through his hair, which had begun to grow long in the past months, he veered to the left, where the sidewalk meandered toward the distant shore and the smell of sea. The Kindred matched his pace, his long coat making him appear as a tall shadow in the night. Frank risked a glance at the man's face, but Julian's eyes were focused ahead, a small, content smile on his lips.
"So…um…was there anything you needed to discuss with me? I mean, you did come looking for me after all," Frank said. Julian quirked a smile and glanced his way briefly.
"Not necessarily. I was merely…concerned when I didn't see you. You've become somewhat of a regular at the Haven. I wanted to be sure that nothing had happened to you. Though you may no longer have Eddie Fiori to worry about, there are still those who would be pleased to see you dead. Traditionalists who would see the Masquerade protected, childer who resent your perceived status with the Primogen of the clans…." Julian sighed, and Frank suddenly felt a stab of guilt for worrying the man.
"My…perceived status?" Frank queried softly. He hadn't been aware he had any status, perceived or otherwise. After all, he wasn't Kindred.
"Yes. Haven't you noticed the company you keep, Frank? I, Prince of this city, count you as one of my dearest friends. The Primogens of the Ventrue, Toreador, and Gangrel clans also count you as a close friend, and to the Nosferatu you are a trusted ally. There are hundreds of us in this city; Frank…you have met but a precious few. You, a mortal, share bonds with the most powerful Kindred in this city, while many Kindred clamor at our doors for even a few minutes attention. Is it not expected, then, that there would be enmity aroused?" Julian said, and there was a tight quality to his voice that Frank didn't know how to interpret.
"I guess there would be, when you put it like that," Frank said quietly. He'd never thought of it that way before.
"I…admit that I fear for you, Frank. You know I do my best to protect you, because of my oath to Alexandra, and because I care for you as well. However, I cannot be everywhere. I cannot see the future, or into the minds of other Kindred. I fear that, one day, an embittered soul will seek to harm you, and I will be unable to save you. Because of this, I often wonder if I should keep you at a distance. I could protect you from afar just as easily, and you would be safe from those who would harm you for associating with me," Julian paused and came to a stop. Frank stopped beside him, turning to face his companion. "I have thought about it, but found myself too weak to do so. I value you too much to keep you away, though it puts you in danger."
Frank found himself caught by the Kindred's eyes, shocked by the open warmth he saw there. Julian's hand rose to Frank's cheek, thumb ghosting over his cheekbone. Though the hand was cool, Frank felt his skin heat with the flush in his cheeks, chest tightening and spine tingling with the unfamiliar, yet not unwelcome closeness.
"I would Embrace you to keep you safe, to keep you with me…but that is one crime I would not commit unless you asked me to," Julian's voice was soft, almost hypnotic. Somehow, the distance between them had disappeared. Frank could feel the Kindred's cool breath against his face; feel the fabric of his coat against his hands. His left hand somehow found its way to Julian's hip, settling there as if the feel of smooth silk and hard muscle was not unfamiliar beneath his palm. He didn't feel nervous as he sensed Julian leaning closer, but rather turned his head up to meet the taller man.
Lips met gently at first…a touch of ice and fire, then more passionately as the familiar tingle raced down Frank's spine, chased by a trail of fire that pulled his entire body taut. His other arm curled about Julian's back as the taller man slid his own fingers back through Frank's hair, the cool skin a pleasing shock to the heat that flared in his skin. Panting, Frank pulled away for a second, only to meet Julian's mouth in a second, lip bruising kiss. Briefly, Frank felt the hard press of sharp teeth against his lips, but the sensation was gone in an instant, replaced by the insistent pressure of Julian's lips on his own, stealing every conscious thought from his brain.
Abruptly, Julian broke the kiss, resting his forehead against Frank's as they panted, Julian's hands resting lightly on his shoulders, both holding him and keeping him away. Blinking rapidly, Frank stared, transfixed, at the silver that swirled in the Kindred's eyes, and the long, deadly teeth that had invaded the mouth he'd so recently been kissing.
"Julian?" he asked, shocked at the breathless quality of his own voice.
"If…I don't stop now, I won't be able to," Julian said, pulling back enough to look Frank in the eyes. "I ache to taste you…but not now, not like this. I want you to enjoy it as much as me…if…you wish, that is," Julian trailed off, his eyes flickering uncertainly.
Frank sucked in a shuddering breath, licking his tender lips. Never before had he even considered being with a man…kissing one…dating one. But his body hummed in pleasure, and he realized he'd been attracted to Julian for weeks now. The way his spine tingled, his skin flushed, his groin throbbed whenever Julian smiled or brushed against him. Looking up into the anxious dark eyes, Frank knew that he was lost. There was no decision to be made…man or no, he'd fallen in love with Julian long before he'd realized it. Smirking, Frank closed the distance between them and stole the Kindred's lips in a gentle kiss.
"Just try to keep me away," Frank said. Julian's eyes, warm brown again, filled with pleasure. His smile, fangs and all, was enough to make Frank's heart skip a beat.
"So you're sure? This doesn't bother you, being with another man? Let alone a Kindred?" Julian persisted.
"I'll admit I never once thought of being with a man before, but…I can't think of a single reason why it should matter. I've fallen hard and fast for you, so much so that even I don't understand it. And in case you've forgotten…you're not the first Kindred I've kissed, you know."
Julian's cheeks flushed lightly, a testament that he'd fed well earlier, and he tugged Frank against his chest, long arms curled around his back beneath the leather jacket. Frank reciprocated happily, fingers caressing the smooth silk of Julian's shirt.
"I…apologize. It has been a long time since I have felt this way for anyone. That it should be you is…. I was afraid you had no such inclinations for me. I am glad to be proven wrong."
Frank smirked. "Well, get used to it buddy." Julian laughed, turning them back toward the distant diner.
"I have a feeling that everything with you is an adventure, Frank Kahonek. Do you do nothing by halves?"
"Nope. With me it's all or nothing, whether its police work or…ah…other stuff," Frank stuttered, blushing despite himself. It was Julian's turn to smirk as he draped one arm over the smaller man's shoulders, unwilling to break contact as they walked.
"All or nothing," Julian mused, expression suddenly somber. I hope it is enough, he thought. This would not be…easy for the others to accept. It had taken so long for them to accept the detective as an ally. But for them to accept him as their Prince's lover…that could prove to be another battle entirely.