Martin was feeling fine. Okay, maybe that wasn't entirely accurate. Martin was feeling stronger now that the doctors had hooked him up for a blood transfusion. (There had been quite a flurry of amazement when tests indicated that Danny and Martin were both at barely half the normal blood volume.)
Martin was also feeling a lot of guilt and confusion. That it was Danny's guilt and confusion he was feeling just drove home how much his life had changed in the last few hours. The confusion Martin could understand, after all Danny had been out of it for much of what Elizabeth and her cult had done to him. The guilt on the other hand was actually starting to irritate Martin a bit. The 'blood donation' had been Martin's idea. Harold had tried to warn him that it might be dangerous, but Martin had taken the chance anyway, knowing that Danny was worth the risk. Danny had no reason to feel guilty about anything.
Then there was all of the worry he was feeling, in surprisingly equal parts, from both Jack and his father. Jack was worrying about the fact that Lateesha and Juliet had vanished with one of their cult followers, Cam. Becca's lifeless body had been found by one of the search teams. The preliminary cause of death was being called blood loss, though there had been a suspicious lack of blood where her corpse had been found. That alone was enough to convince Martin that Lateesha was still on the loose. Buck wasn't overwhelmingly concerned though. He was of the opinion that Lateesha, ever the more controlled member of the group, would retreat at least for the time being so she could lick her wounds.
Victor's worry was much more powerful; the crippling sort of fear that only a parent can feel for a child. The crisis was over and Martin was safe, but that didn't seem to alleviate his father's fears nearly as much as it should. That Victor could weather this emotional storm while maintaining his favorite stoic demeanor, floored Martin. He decided right then to grill Buck on those mental shields he'd mentioned earlier. There were some things a child was better off not knowing about their parents.
Martin was propped into a partially upright position on the hospital bed in order to ease some of the pressure on his ribs. Next to him, Danny's bed was laid flat, but that didn't stop Danny from leaning on his elbows and trying to sit up every few minutes. Jack was sitting in a chair next to the bed asking gently worded questions about what Danny could remember of his second kidnapping. Those answers came smoothly enough until they started talking about Elizabeth's dungeon, which according to Jack was actually owned by Lateesha. Danny became decidedly evasive when Jack asked him about what happened in the dungeon. Martin could understand Danny's hesitancy. It wasn't that they didn't trust Jack, but how could they possibly explain what had happened to them without Jack thinking the torture had driven them a little crazy.
Danny was given a short reprieve when a nurse's aide came in with some drinks. Danny, being Danny seized the opportunity to flirt with a pretty woman. Martin was just happy to finally be allowed to drink something besides water. Orange juice had never tasted so good.
'Watching an ass like that move, makes a man happy to be alive.'
Martin choked on his orange juice. He couldn't believe that Danny had just said that while the woman was still in the room.
"Are you okay Martin?" asked Danny, his words were equal parts teasing and concern.
A quick glance around the room showed that everyone else, Jack, Victor and the nurse's aide were all just as focused on Martin, as though they hadn't heard Danny's first comment. It was then that Martin realized Danny hadn't spoken. Martin had heard Danny's thoughts.
Martin cleared his throat, swallowed the rest of his orange juice and said, "I'm fine." Then he looked at Danny sending the message, 'You're projecting your thoughts, Danny.'
For a moment Danny looked confused, but once he saw Martin's eyes flick to the nurse's aide back to him, he realized what it was that had caused Martin to choke on his drink. "I'm so sorry," he started.
"Sorry for what?" asked Jack. There was definitely some byplay going on between Martin and Danny, but damned if he could understand what any of it meant.
Before Danny could explain his apology or Martin could offer an excuse, Buck entered the room, smiling appreciatively as the nurse's aide passed him on her way out. He was using crutches and had a removable brace on his left leg. "I figured I'd check up on you boys now that things have settled a bit." His words were friendly, but his focused gaze on Martin said a bit more. 'Decision time, boys. Are you planning on letting Jack and Victor in on what really happened in that dungeon?' Danny shrugged uncertainly. He trusted Jack, but he wasn't nearly so comfortable baring all to Victor.
Martin could understand Danny's hesitancy, but his recent glimpse into his father's psyche encouraged Martin to try another path. "Dad, I know my recent kidnapping has shaken you a bit more than you're willing to let on. I appreciate how you've been here trying to support me, but right now Danny and I need to talk to Jack about some of the more life altering events that happened while we were being held. You might prefer to leave if you're not ready to hear about it." This was really more his mother's style than his own, offering something of a passive challenge while still giving Victor an out.
Victor realized immediately that his son was handling him. Something that Martin was seldom inclined to do. There was only one thing he could think of that would have Martin acting this way. "This Elizabeth Hastate Bathory, she was more than just some crazy cult leader, she was Kindred wasn't she?"
The slack-jawed look of shock on Jack's face might have been amusing under other circumstances. Martin was too busy understanding the implications of Victor's statement. "You already knew about the Kin?" verified Martin.
"Well sure," volunteered Buck. "Victor here was part of the group that tried to recruit the Seven into working for the government a few years back. We decided to take a better offer."
"So who do you work for?" asked Jack still not believing what he was hearing.
"That's right," remembered Buck as he tried to reach into his pocket around one of his crutches. "I never did get chance to show you these." Buck handed Jack his credentials.
Examining them, the absurdity of the situation finally became too much for Jack. "So you're telling me that you're a vampire Mountie?"
"I'm an acting member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police," admitted Buck. "But as far as I'm aware, vampires don't exist. Kin on the other hand are ordinary folks that happen to have a particular reaction to a certain virus. I don't know all technical details, that's really Nathan's specialty not mine. But I do know that for those with the right DNA the virus triggers a boost to the immune system and even slows the aging process. For a rare few it does even more than that."
"You mean the reason Elizabeth looked so young for her age was that she'd somehow become infected with this virus at some time in the past." Jack was trying to keep an open mind, mainly because Martin and Danny were taking Buck so seriously. Even Victor seemed to be listening to what Buck had to say.
"She was deliberately infected seventeen years ago by a man named William Blake." Buck took a deep breath as he began to explain. "Current Kin law states that no one is to be infected against their wishes or without full disclosure. Most Kin are more than satisfied to have an extra thirty years of good health tacked on to their lives, but once their friends and family pass on they're usually inclined towards joining them. Humans are social creatures after all. Who would want to live forever if it meant living alone? However there is a significant minority of Kin that do keep living for centuries. William Blake was over four hundred years old and very old school. Some journals I discovered indicated that William's preferred method of acquiring help involved targeting Chosen, breaking their will through torture during transformation, when their minds were at the most vulnerable, and then turning them into his slaves. Those that caused problems were usually disposed of, but apparently he didn't dispose of Elizabeth fast enough."
Before Buck could say more there was a knock on the door and a forty something female doctor with short curly brown hair stepped into the room. "My name is Dr. Kaye. Harold Pembroke requested that I consult on your cases." Dr. Kaye turned towards Jack, Victor and Buck. "If you gentlemen don't mind, I need to speak with my patients in private."
Victor started to protest. Martin did a quick mental check with Danny and then assured, "You can speak freely with them here."
The doctor waited for a confirming nod from Danny before she pulled x-rays from an envelope. "The good news, Agent Fitzgerald, is that while you have several rib fractures, all of the ribs are still aligned. Since the dislocation of your thumb has already been taken care of there shouldn't be anything to interfere with your accelerated healing."
"Interfere how?" asked Martin.
"One of the most common mistakes Kin make when injured is assuming that all they have to do is take in a little blood to fix everything. But Kin still heal the same way everybody else does. They just do it a little faster. The accelerated healing doesn't reset bones or reduce dislocations. Nor is it instantaneous. Mr. Willington, if you're not going to use those crutches, would you please sit down? It will likely be two weeks before that broken leg heals completely." Buck had set his crutches aside while he leaned back against the wall. He gave in gracefully, taking a chair at the doctor's firm words.
"You aren't Kin," noted Martin. It was another one of those errant feelings that kept floating through his head.
"Correct," agreed Doctor Kaye. "It's my husband that is Kin, though I have studied with Dr. Nathan Jackson, the leading authority on Kin medicine."
"As part of the Toronto project?" asked Buck.
"Yes, for three years," replied Dr. Kaye.
"Toronto project?" queried Victor. If it had to do with the qualifications of his son's doctor he wanted to know about it.
"It's a program where doctors and scientists learn the ins and outs of Kin medicine, assisting with transformations or exploring the potential applications in standard medicine," explained Dr. Kaye.
"Nathan set it up as an offshoot of our work with the Canadian government," added Buck. "Chris decided several years back, that it was getting too tricky to enforce Kin law without assistance."
"Assistance the American government was quite eager to offer," inserted Victor.
"Well see, that was part of the problem. As soon as you heard what some Kin were capable of you were talking about spy potential and counter-terrorist commandos. We understood where you were coming from but you never seemed to recognize our position. There are about 100,000 Kin scattered all around the world. In theory, the local Regents are responsible for making sure other Kin don't cause problems. Unfortunately, too many solve those problems by simply encouraging the troublemakers to leave their cities. Reckonings are seldom called for anything less than mass murder. The Seven are just about the only authority that's accepted by all of the Regents. We're too busy policing the Kin to worry about anything else," insisted Buck. "The Canadians were happy to let us do our thing and take a few problems off of their hands in the process. Hell we even got dual citizenship out of the deal." Victor just shook his head as if still unable to understand their decision.
Dr. Kaye took the break in the conversation to continue with her consultation. "I've also had a chance to look over your blood work. Danny has clearly completed the transformation. I believe that once his blood volume is back up to normal we'll start to get a better picture of what abilities it might have triggered, though I believe Harold already mentioned amplified strength." Danny nodded a bit nervously. "Martin's transformation is proceeding at a slower rate with the expected elevation in white blood cells. Those will level off within the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours."
"What about reversing the transformation?" asked Danny. "Is that possible?"
"You can't reverse what's been done per se, but if you stop taking in blood to fuel the changes, the activated genes will go dormant and your body will essentially reset itself. You might have a mild headache for a couple days, but nothing worse than that," assured Dr. Kaye. "Though I would advise that you wait until you've fully recovered from your trauma before making any decisions. For now I'm going to recommend that we continue the IVs and transfusions. Assuming we don't run into any unexpected complications I'd be willing to sign you both out in a couple hours."
"Okay," injected Jack. "If I'm understanding this right, people with this Kin virus can heal faster but they still need to receive basic medical care for more serious injuries, like say a stab wound to the neck."
"As I said before," agreed the doctor, "being Kin isn't a miracle cure. If the injury is serious enough for a person to need medical treatment, a Kin will likely need the same. If you don't mind I do need to check on some of my other patients now." Dr. Kaye finished a notation on Martin's chart and then excused herself from the room.
"I know where you're going with this," said Buck. "And if it were any ordinary Kin I might agree, but Lateesha was too powerful to assume she just crawled off to die. Until I see her cold dead corpse, she remains a threat."
"How much of a threat?" asked Danny and Victor at the same time.
"Well, tell me Martin. What would you do to the person that brutally murdered Danny?" posed Buck.
"I'd hunt them down . . ."
"So you could bring them to trial?" Buck queried.
"They'd never make it to trial," Martin vowed vehemently.
"Martin!" Victor was aghast. Surely those words hadn't just come out of the mouth of his idealistic young son. Jack, on the other hand, simply made a mental note to keep Martin away from any cases where Danny was injured.
Danny thought he should probably tell Martin that he didn't have to go to such extremes, but that would be pretty hypocritical considering he felt the same way. He'd been completely out of control after Dornvald shot Martin. He couldn't imagine how something like that would feel now. Martin was the rock that had anchored him against madness, the compass that guided him home. Somehow during the last day Danny's very soul had become irrevocably bound to Martin's. Going on without him wasn't just unacceptable; it was unimaginable.
"That's just the way it is with mental bonds," said Buck reasonably. "I've witnessed enough mental bonds to know that Lateesha is not going to let Elizabeth's death go."
"They had a bond?" Martin was surprised. The relationship between the two women had seemed so bizarre. Sometimes it had seemed like Lateesha was the servant and Elizabeth was the master, other times Lateesha was the indulgent parent and Elizabeth was the child.
"It wasn't very stable," admitted Buck, "but it was there. I think for a long time it kept Elizabeth from acting on her darker impulses. It has only been during the last few years that she escalated from voluntary S&M to wholesale torture. Prior to that Lateesha had always kept Elizabeth in check."
"She started to lose control of Elizabeth," speculated Jack.
"More like she didn't want to control Elizabeth anymore," countered Buck. "Maybe whatever insanity that made Elizabeth what she was had finally poisoned Lateesha too."
Danny was nauseated by that thought. How long had those two women crawled around in his mind while he'd been too helpless to stop them? How much damage had they done to his vulnerable mind? Was he really okay or was his link with Martin just covering the damage? Now that he'd bound Martin to him had he trapped his best friend into a decent into madness?
'Don't go there Danny. You're not insane.'
'How can we know that when I can't remember most of what they did to me?'
'I remember. I watched what they did to you and I watched how you fought them, for every second, with every fiber of your being, until you couldn't fight them anymore. Then you retreated to a place within your own mind where they couldn't reach you. They never broke you Danny. They never had the chance.' For several seconds Danny's fears continued to rail against his trust in his friend. 'Come on Danny don't you think I would have noticed by now if you'd been driven into some homicidal mania?'
'I don't know Martin, you can be pretty dense sometimes.' The teasing retort drew a chuckle from Martin. He knew that Danny's fears hadn't been erased, but they had been pacified, and for the moment that was enough.
"Okay," said Jack. "New rule: no more of the talking to each other without talking, especially when others are involved in the conversation." Yet even as Jack reprimanded his men he was considering how useful this ability could be in situations where it might be too risky to wear a wire.
"I've been trying to get Chris and Vin to stop doing that for one hundred and thirty years and I haven't succeeded yet," commented Buck.
"You're a hundred and thirty years old?" asked Jack, disbelief leaking back into his voice.
"No, one hundred and sixty-five. I was thirty-five when I became Kin with the rest of the Seven," declared Buck.
Before Jack could sputter a retort, Martin instructed, "Tell us about them, the rest of the Seven."
"I should probably explain just how unusual it is for someone to actually be affected by the Kin virus, and I mean by more than just a stomach ache. We're talking maybe one in thirty thousand can be transformed. Those few we call Chosen. I think you can see how unlikely it is for even two unrelated Chosen to be working in the same office. That the two of you were partners and friends before the transformation is fairly astounding."
Danny glanced at Martin. He supposed their mental bond made more sense from that perspective. Maybe they'd even had a bond already forming on some unconscious level before Elizabeth had come along.
Hearing his partners thoughts Martin sent a wave of whole-hearted agreement.
"It was even more unlikely that seven Chosen would just happen to come together to protect an Indian village and then a nearby town, all without ever realizing our connection. Unfortunately someone else did recognize it. The first two of us were transformed against their will just like you Danny. It was ugly but they survived, mostly because Vin did the same thing as Martin here, and forged a mental bond that let Chris maintain his sanity. The rest of us were transformed within the next three years. By then our job protecting the local town had expired. We'd met several other Kin, both good and bad. We'd learned about the Kin laws; that how well they were enforced depended on the whims of the local Regent. Chris decided that making sure Kin didn't pose a threat to the rest of society was too important to be left to a whim. So we started enforcing the law. Pretty soon we were getting letters and telegraphs from Regents all over asking for our help with Kin troublemakers. So that's what we've been doing for the last century." Buck gave the men around him a moment to absorb his story. "Chris Larabee is our leader. He's a powerhouse like Danny who was a hell of a tactician long before he transformed. Vin Tanner is his second in command. Vin's got a mental bond with Chris and he's an empath in his own right. He also just happens to be Martin's great, great, great grandfather on his mother's side. I'm guessing that you inherited his empathic ability." When Martin didn't deny it, Buck continued. "Josiah Sanchez was a missionary's son. He's the most likely to travel to distant locals and usually acts as our negotiator when we need one. Ezra Standish is a former con man that does most of our long-term undercover work. Unfortunately, Lateesha took an immediate dislike to him so I got this assignment instead. Nathan Jackson is a former slave who turned himself into a doctor. JD Dunne is our youngest, literally a perpetual Peter Pan. You'll get to meet them yourself when they get here in a few hours."
"They're coming here? Now?" Martin wasn't sure he was ready for that just yet.
"Them and James Gamble, Regent of New York," said Buck.
"Where was Gamble when this city was under attack by Elizabeth?" demanded Victor.
"He was serving jury duty out west in the Gains Reckoning," explained Buck. "Not that it matters much anymore. Regency goes to the most powerful Kin in the city and right now that's Danny."
"What?" Buck couldn't possibly mean what Danny thought he meant.
"You heard me. You're transformation sealed the deal. You're the ruler of the New York Kin until someone more powerful comes along," insisted Buck.
Danny wasn't even sure he wanted to be Kin and now they were trying to put him in charge. 'What the hell have I gotten us into?'
'Better you than Elizabeth or Lateesha.' With that small thought Martin managed to convince Danny that becoming Regent was the right thing to do.
Juliet carefully helped Lateesha sip blood from a straw. Cam had returned with it from a butcher shop a while back. She would have preferred to strengthen Lateesha with human blood, but Cam had been too helpful to eliminate. Besides, Juliet remembered that Lateesha was picky about which humans she drank from. Juliet was a little worried that Lateesha might get upset when she learned that Juliet had fed her Becca's blood. It was Becca's fault really. Cam had been helpfully following Juliet's commands, using the best of his pre-med education to apply first aid. Becca however had provided nothing beyond the car. All the while yammering about how horrible this was and why hadn't Juliet done something to stop them and why wasn't Juliet doing something to fix Lateesha? So Juliet had done something. She provided warm blood for Lateesha and silenced Becca's questions once and for all.
They weren't in New York anymore. They'd driven south for hours after dumping Becca's body. Juliet was glad Becca was gone. It was hard, so hard trying to think things out; make plans. That was what Elizabeth did, only now there was no more Elizabeth. Juliet couldn't remember the last time she been forced to make decisions. She knew there had been a time before Elizabeth, but trying to remember that only brought pain. Better to think on how Elizabeth took care of her: brushed her hair and gave her food and let her play and told her how precious she was. All Elizabeth had ever asked for in return was Juliet's obedience. It was such a small price to pay for Elizabeth's love. Love that other's had forsaken.
It was Elizabeth's gentle touch that roused Juliet after Buckingham's traitorous attack. She'd untied Juliet's hands before confronting the men. There'd been threats and allegations most of which Juliet hadn't understood. After all, Elizabeth wanted Daniel and Martin to become a part of their family, how could they not want the same? Then the fighting had begun. Buckingham's opening gambit of shooting Elizabeth filled Juliet with rage, but she'd stayed out of the fight for two reasons: First, because Lateesha had immediately stepped in to handle Buckingham. Second, Elizabeth had sent Juliet a mental order not to interfere, and Juliet could never disobey her mistress. Juliet had barely dodged out of the way when Lateesha and Buckingham took their battle back out into the hallway.
Staying in the kitchen near her mistress, Juliet watched as Daniel and Martin tried to flank the bleeding Elizabeth, their knives ready to attack.
"You won't kill me, Daniel. You already belong to me," whispered Elizabeth in a voice that Juliet knew could only speak the truth.
It made no sense when Daniel darted forward, swinging the serrated edge, shouting, "I'm not your possession!"
Elizabeth dodged Daniel's attack but not Martin's from the other side. Now she had a long gash joining her bullet wounds. Juliet for the first time started to fear for Elizabeth's survival. Overwhelmed she'd huddled in a little ball of whimpering her distress. Elizabeth managed to push Martin back into a rolling cart, which gave way beneath his weight allowing both to crash to the ground. Still, it was clear she was weakening. Daniel closed in again but this time Elizabeth didn't just evade his attack. She knocked his blade arm away and then grasped the back of his neck, using the contact to tap into his life force. Juliet saw Daniel's eyes roll back in his head as he struggled against Elizabeth's will; still she sucked the energy from him. "I didn't want to do it this way Daniel, but I won't let you go. I'll see you dead before I give you up."
"Not if I kill you first," warned Martin as he rejoined the fray. His simple bull rush slammed into Elizabeth, forcing her to release Daniel.
Elizabeth tried the same tactic on Martin but somehow he met her stare for stare, blocking her from the precious energy she needed. She let loose a frustrated scream then threw Martin across the room expending most of her remaining strength. Martin crumpled to the ground after hitting the far wall with thunderous force. That should have been it, but somehow when Elizabeth latched on to Daniel the second time, she wasn't able to drain energy from him. Then Elizabeth was falling and dying beneath Daniel's blade.
Juliet crawled from the kitchen overwhelmed with despair. In the hall she saw Lateesha being treated urgently by Cam with Becca hovering near. Somewhere in Juliet's crumbling world an idea formed. She couldn't save Elizabeth, but she could save Lateesha. Commandeering Cam and Becca, they had fled.
Juliet wasn't sure how long it would take for Lateesha to recover, but she hoped it was soon. Then she could stop making the decisions and go back to following a mistress, her new mistress. Maybe if was obedient enough Lateesha would love her the way Elizabeth had. Then they would destroy the ones who had taken Elizabeth from them.
Despite a chilly breeze the sun still warmed Danny's skin, stinging his eyes a bit with its brightness.
"Here, put these on," Martin instructed tossing Danny a pair of sunglasses. "Enjoying the sunshine?"
"I know they told us that most of the legends surrounding vampires didn't apply, but I just needed to be sure," insisted Danny a bit self-consciously.
"Relax, Danny. I get it," assured Martin. "So how is Elena doing?"
"She'd finally given up on going back to work, and was resting when I stopped by," detailed Danny. "What about your Dad? What did he want to talk to you about?"
"Potential career advancement for those with the right sort of abilities," Martin smirked.
"You're not serious," said Danny. When Martin shrugged, Danny shook his head. "Your dad has major issues."
"Yeah, I know," Martin agreed affectionately.
"This doesn't bother you?" Danny was fairly certain that these were the type of 'talks' with Victor that usually sent Martin off into quite the self-righteous snit.
"It's hard to get mad at him when I can feel what an emotional wreck he is about the whole incident," Martin shrugged in bemusement. "Anyway I figure I should save my energy for our meeting with James Gamble and the rest of the Seven. Buck said their plane landed twenty minutes ago."
"Right, because now I'm supposed to assume some sudo-royal position of leadership while you make small talk with your three-times great grandpa," mused Danny.
Martin grinned, clearly having a little too much fun with the situation. "Transformation has certainly made our lives more interesting," he pointed out.
Danny studied the way the rays of sunlight filtered between the city buildings. Beside him he could feel Martin not just leaning against his arm, but also his laughter in Danny's mind and his warmth in Danny's soul. He'd heard people talk about unconditional acceptance before, but he'd never understood what it meant until now. If this kept up Danny could definitely get used to interesting.
'Me too, Danny. Me too.'
Author's Note: Happy Halloween! I hope you've enjoyed this bit of fun. I'd love to hear your thoughts on potential sequels . . . or prequels so please drop me a note.