DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Twentieth Century Fox, Mutant Enemy, Paramount Studios, Inc and Viacom. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2006 by Djinn. This story is Rated R.
Out of Control
Slayer Turned #3
The light in the basement apartment's little window burned low, and Emma eyed it from the street, feeling strangely unwilling to go inside. She'd been hunting all night--the need for blood was not the thing calling her away.
She sighed, impatience filling her. She was the psychologist; she should be able to figure out whatever was bothering her.
Christine and Jim were no doubt inside. They would welcome her, and she could lose herself in their strong arms and questing mouths. There was no reason not to go in.
Except... She turned around, scanning the darkness. Watcher training coupled with vampire senses told her that something was out there. Something dangerous. She slipped into the shadows and climbed to the roof to get a better view. Nothing unusual, just the normal passersby, people socializing or hurrying home from Starfleet or--
Starfleet. That officer who wasn't hurrying. An officer who was Vulcan and stiffer than any Vulcan she'd ever seen. The way a Vulcan might look if he'd just spent a great deal of time at Gol.
She hopped down, landing heavily but feeling no pain, nothing but the exhilaration of her own strength as her feet hit the pavement. Had she wanted this? Had she set up her slayer? Made Christine take the decision away and turn her so that Emma could have what she wanted--to go on living. Without pain. And with Christine?
After what had happened with Laura and David, Emma knew she'd closed down, kept her heart safe from any kinds of entanglements. Kevin had known it, too. Maybe he'd sent her to Christine because he'd known any slayer who could anger him as much as Christine did, might find a way to reach Emma, too?
And Christine had reached her. And now she was doing more. Although, it was best not to overanalyze her relationship with Christine and Jim.
Emma circled around, coming up behind Spock. "Excuse me?" She put on her best brogue.
He whirled. Damn--she'd moved too quietly. He was a Vulcan; he could possibly hear as well as she could. No normal heavy-worlder would have stepped as lightly as she just had. No normal Earther, either.
Spock looked like he was reaching for something, and Emma had a feeling she knew what it was. Pointy. Made of wood. "Which one of them are you looking for?" she asked. "Or is it both?"
He stopped his movement, studied her with a detachment that left her--a creature of the night--feeling exposed.
"Who are you?" His voice was raspy, as if he hadn't used it in a while.
She pondered his question. Who was she? A watcher? A counselor? A vampire? She settled for: "A friend of theirs."
"In the past, they did not have vampires as friends."
"Unless you count Spike," she said softly, and saw his detachment fade and give way to something darker. So Gol hadn't purged him of _every_ emotion, apparently.
They stood staring at each other, and she decided to let him make the next move. She'd never tried to outwait a Vulcan; his next move was forever in coming. Finally, he said, "I must speak with Admiral Kirk."
"My reasons are none of your concern."
She thought of how Jim had made love to her a few hours ago, while Christine smiled lazily from the other side of the bed. "You're wrong. They are very much my concern." She met his gaze frankly, wondering what, if anything, he could read in her words.
If anything he saw bothered him, he gave no sign. "I must see him immediately." He looked toward their apartment. "Information on this place was surprisingly easy to come by once I found the right people." He put a spin on the word that told her he'd been querying things that weren't technically people. "You three are not popular." He raised an eyebrow, the icy detachment back in place.
"You knew I was with them?" He'd been playing with her?
"I know what the three of you are, as well."
She didn't know if he meant lovers or vampires. She didn't ask him to clarify.
He turned from her, started to walk toward their apartment, and she caught up with him in two steps, gripping his arm tightly.
"I'll get them."
"I will go inside." He pulled out of her grip. Easily.
Spock began to move again, so she grabbed him by the collar and sleeve, and heaved him down the street as she took off toward the apartment. "Don't be naked," she muttered as she flung open the door.
They weren't naked, and they were on their feet fast and headed toward her.
"Emma?" Christine said. "What is it?" She stopped dead; Jim did, too, looking just as stunned.
"Fascinating," Spock said, his voice loaded with judgment all the more annoying for his lack of emotion.
"He wants to speak with you, Jim." Emma kept her voice as emotionless as Spock's. Two could play this goddamned game.
Christine didn't move, seemed to be keeping Jim behind her. Emma remembered the fight Christine had described, how she'd had to stop Spock from staking Spike.
Jim put a gentle hand on Christine's shoulder--a move both territorial and practical--and eased her aside. "Let's see what my good friend wants, shall we, darling?"
Emma felt a pang. She wasn't in love with Jim, but it hurt to hear him call Christine that. And it shouldn't hurt. She'd known they were in love when they'd pulled her into their passion. But she didn't know what she was to them now. A love, too? A convenience? A little spice on the side? A burden?
And why did it also hurt that, while they were very busy trying to shield each other from Spock, neither one seemed terribly concerned with shielding her.
Then again, why should they be? Spock didn't know her--didn't hate her. And, looking at the ice in the Vulcan's eyes, Emma was heartily glad of that. Of course, he'd no doubt transfer his enmity to her soon enough. If only for tossing him onto the pavement.
Jim moved closer to Spock, a strange smile on his face. Emma decided it was a mixture of hurt and some degree of true happiness at seeing his friend. He hadn't talked about Spock to her; she'd learned what she knew of their relationship from Christine.
"Admiral Kirk." Spock took a step back.
"Retreat, Spock? We've only just started this little reunion."
Spock did not reply, but also did not step back again as Jim moved forward.
"I wish I could say you were looking well, Spock. But you seem a little off."
"As you seem paler than I remember, Admiral."
Something flashed on Jim's face; Emma thought it was pain.
"You used to call me Jim."
"You were human then."
"And so were you. Half, as I recall."
Christine stood silently, watching the two of them with a look that seemed to bespeak a guilty conscience--Emma supposed that wasn't out of line. If Christine hadn't run from them after the Gotterdammerung, none of this would probably have happened.
But Christine had run, and it had happened. This was what life was. Or un-life, anyway.
"Did you come just to spar?" Emma asked, stepping forward, joining the group.
"I came to warn the Admiral of something--something I thought he would have the means to help me study."
"The Presence?" Jim asked.
Emma looked at Christine, who shrugged.
"You have sensed it, too?" Spock asked.
"Big. Purposeful. Inhuman. Yes, I've sensed it."
"And you have made Starfleet Command aware of it."
Jim looked a little guilty. "That hasn't been my priority, no."
"And learning which blood type you prefer was?" Spock's icy veneer cracked; the sarcasm seemed to come from somewhere deep within him.
"A-Positive is my favorite." Jim crossed his arms over his chest. "You're the psychic; you tell Command about the big bad."
"I am not in favor with those in a position to listen."
"And you think I am?" But Jim looked thoughtful, and Emma remembered the encounter he'd had with the werewolf who worked for Nogura.
Spock shook his head. "Does the possibility of a new intelligence--an intelligence so vast it can call across the galaxy--not interest you?"
"What do you expect me to do about it, Spock? Last time I checked, Starfleet worked during daylight hours, too. Besides which, I don't have a ship, nor a chance of getting one. So why come to me?"
"I did not know what you had become."
"How did you find out?" Christine asked, her voice surprisingly gentle.
The look he turned on her was thoughtful. "I tried the places I knew you should be. When you were not there, and no one at Starfleet Command seemed to know what had happened to you, I widened the net." He included them all in a rather disdainful look. "I was not aware how unsavory certain residents of this city are."
"You said we weren't popular with them, though," Emma said.
"It is the reason I chose to talk to Admiral Kirk rather than stake him."
"I'm standing right here, Spock. And I doubt Chris would let that happen."
Again, no mention of Emma.
But then Jim glanced at her and grinned. "Not to mention my secret weapon over there." Emma saw Christine nod, her smile untroubled, and forced herself to quit questioning what was.
Jim turned back to Spock. "And I might have a thing or two to say about you staking me, as well. I don't need to hide between these two, strong as they may be." He smiled a little dangerously. "I'd love to prove that to you. Old. Friend."
Spock's lips tightened slightly, but he didn't move.
"Guess you better go home to Gol," Christine said, her tone a bit mocking.
"I left Gol. My return would not be welcomed."
Jim almost smiled. "You left Gol. To come see me?"
"I left Gol because this Presence calls to me as the Kohlinahr never did. You, Admiral, seemed my best chance of finding it."
"Before it found us?" Jim looked a little worried. Then he seemed to throw that emotion off. "You sure you didn't just flunk out for sending us those comms? Hateful doesn't begin to describe them."
"As your betrayal was extreme..." Spock took a deep breath, seemed to gather himself. "This Presence distracts me from you or anything else. Therefore, I seek it."
"Same old Spock. Nothing like a cause to get lost in."
Spock ignored him. He looked around at all of them. "What my sources could not tell me was which of you turned the others."
No one answered; Emma smiled at the sudden feeling of solidarity. She wasn't in love with being undead, but she'd damn well stick with her own.
Then Christine said into the silence, "I did it. I turned them both."
"Chris." Jim's voice was sharp.
"No. Let him know. What difference does it make?" Christine moved closer to Spock. "I looked around and picked the people I loved the most." Her words were hard, brutal.
"Christine..." Emma shook her head.
"It's okay, Emma. Poor Spock's just probably wondering if he's next on the list. I wanted to set his mind at ease." She turned back to Spock. "You're in no danger, lover."
Jim took a deep breath. "Spock, this has been swell. Really. Catching up and all..." His voice dropped. "Now, leave."
"Nogura needs to know what we know."
"Nogura and I aren't speaking these days. He likes his Admirals breathing--unless it's his doing that they aren't." Jim glanced at Christine. "There's nothing I can do."
Spock only stared at him.
"I mean it, Spock."
"If you change your mind, I will be at the Vulcan Embassy." He turned and walked away quickly.
Jim went back into the apartment, while Christine stood staring after Spock.
"Because our lives weren't complicated enough," Emma muttered as she went inside.
Christine didn't follow her for several minutes. And when she did come in, both she and Jim were very quiet for the rest of the night.
The moon was hanging full and heavy over the city. Christine stalked the alleys and back streets with Jim. Even this sordid part of San Francisco, which most people probably assumed didn't exist, was quiet. As if the moon--or maybe just the two of them--had everything spooked.
"Nothing to kill," she muttered.
Jim glanced at her. "You used to correct me when I used that word. Hunt--isn't that what you said we do?"
"I was in a better mood then."
She glared at him, realized he wasn't joking. "Yes."
"Because the image of you happy isn't one I associate with our new state of being."
"Are you happy?"
"Well, I was miserable before. So that's not a fair question." He pulled her close as they walked. "Is it regret?"
He knew her so well. Then again, this wasn't exactly a new theme.
She tried to explain. "Watching you and Spock tonight..."
"I know. But he won't let go of his anger and--"
"No, Jim. I'm not sorry for that. And that's not what I mean. If I hadn't turned you, you could have gone with him. You could have gotten your ship back from Nogura, and that breach in your friendship with Spock could have been mended."
"Did Spock strike you as a man wanting to rebuild a friendship? Because to me, he just seemed like a man on a mission. I was his best chance for success, is all."
She could hear the hurt in his voice. "Maybe I should be sorry I ran from him after that battle. If I hadn't..."
He stopped walking, turned and yanked her close. "This is our life, Chris." He kissed her ferociously, then forced her chin up so she had to look at the sky. "This is what we have. The moon. The dark. And each other. Our little family with Emma. Doing the right that we still can. It's not a life we can back away from and start over. Not a one of us."
"Because I did this. I made us like this."
He sighed--a slow, drawn-out affair.
"Just say it," she said.
"I've never seen anyone with the capacity to wallow that you have."
"Like you weren't wallowing at that desk?"
"I was brooding." He grinned at her, and she could feel herself responding.
She couldn't imagine not having him with her. "What if I'd just run off with David? Taken on the watchers and then left?"
"I would have followed you. I would have found you." He nuzzled her neck, then bit down with excruciating slowness. Pain popped along the path of his teeth, then she felt the bliss of his sucking. He didn't take much, lifted his face to hers and let her lick the blood from his lips. There was more smeared there than usual, and she knew he'd done that for her. So they'd have this to share.
How could she not have him? "If there were a way to change back...?"
"Are you sure? Maybe Weasel...?"
He looked down, and she realized he must have already asked.
"Oh," she said.
He met her eyes, shaking his head. "I didn't ask him to look. He did it on his own."
She could tell by his voice, by the earnestness of his face, that he wasn't lying. "And there's nothing?"
"Nothing. He found reference to a spell that can bring a dead vampire back as a human. But the spell has been lost for centuries."
"If we could find it though...?"
"Sweetheart, this was in the same book that talked about two vampires having a mortal child. I think as credible sources go..."
She sighed. "Emma's probably looked, too."
"Do you think so?"
She shot him a confused look.
"She's taken to the life rather well," he said.
"To the life, to our bed. Emma's a survivor--except when she's giving up."
"Maybe you should look at what she did--what she led you to do to her--as her way of surviving."
They'd been over this. Christine knew he was right. God, she did love to wallow, didn't she?
She pulled him close, kissing him hard, biting down on his tongue, welcoming the slow stream of blood. He always tasted so good. Strong and magical. Emma didn't taste that way. Neither had David. Even Christine's own blood, tasted secondhand off one of their lips, didn't seem so sweetly powerful.
"I love you," she said as she drew away. She stroked his cheek for a moment, then pointed him in the direction of Weasel's. "There's nothing to hunt tonight. Go learn stuff."
He smiled, a boyish look full of anticipation. "We're working on water spells. Weasel was pretty impressed with what I've been doing with fire. Said I should move on to the other elements."
She smiled. "Don't come home all drenched."
"I'll dry off before I leave." He gave her a quick kiss. "Go back to Emma."
"I will. If she's back." Emma had left them in bed, gone off on her own. She did that. Didn't always tell them where she'd be or when she'd be back. But Emma had been on her own for so long. She probably just needed some "me" time.
Jim looked concerned, as if he wasn't willing to leave Christine alone.
"Go on, Jim. I'll be fine." She pushed him gently.
With a last glance at her, he headed away, and she set out for home, her route taking her near the cemetery where she'd first met David. What would David be like if they could resurrect him? Disturbed, still? Filled with hate and anger over Laura? Would it be any better to be a human than a vampire in that case?
She decided to walk through the cemetery, reliving memories until she heard footsteps behind her. Whoever it was seemed to be trying to walk at the same pace, disguising that they were there. Christine scented the air; the powerful, warm blood-smell of a human wafted to her.
Turning, she saw a girl, no more than sixteen. Petite and blonde, she'd have looked more like a student if she hadn't been staring so intently at Christine. The girl had her hand pushed deep into her pocket--no doubt touching comfort in the form of sharpened wood.
"Go home," Christine said loudly. "I'm not your enemy."
"You're a vampire, aren't you?"
"Got me there." Christine was horrified to feel something rise inside her--she wanted to fight this slayer? Did she want to kill her, too?
As the girl began to move closer, Christine held up her hand. "Hold tight, youngster. I've got a bit of a dilemma I need to work out."
"What?" But the slayer stopped.
Christine scented again. She could read both fear and excitement from the girl. She could smell the strong pull of blood--slayer blood--but she didn't feel irresistibly drawn to it, despite being hungry.
"Are we going to fight or not?"
"I don't think so--"
Another vamp leapt from the bushes, his powerful bulk knocking the girl down as he crashed on top of her.
"Hey!" Christine moved to them in a rush.
"Grab your own dinner, babe. This one's mine."
"Like hell she is." Christine kicked him away from the girl, feeling the lust for a fight finally being answered. Maybe she was just antsy? Spock being here and all, and no good slays recently.
"I said she's mine." The vamp punched Christine hard, forcing her back.
She let him think he had the upper hand, waited until they neared a tree with several low-lying branches and finally let loose. Giving in to her urge to pummel something repeatedly, she knocked him down and followed him to the ground, punching his face viciously. When he kicked up, she let the motion carry her away until she found her feet and met him with a flying kick as he rose. Two more kicks and he flew back into one of the spear-like branches.
As he stared down a the branch that had plunged him, he said, "What the f--"
Then he was dust.
Christine heard movement, whirled and saw the slayer fling her stake at her. It was an excellent throw, but Chapel moved--slayer reflexes combining with vampire speed to let her slide out of the way and snatch the stake from the air.
She tossed it back to the girl. "Tremendous form. Next time don't make so damn much noise getting up."
The slayer stared down at her stake, then back up at Christine. "But...but you're a vampire."
"We've established that." Christine turned her back on the girl, continuing on her way. Her senses were on high alert as she listened for the sound of wood leaving flesh if the slayer tried again.
But instead she heard pounding feet and a, "Wait up."
She turned. The girl was running toward her; she jammed the stake back into her pocket before she got to Christine.
"Why did you do that? Give me tips? Throw my stake back?"
"Because I have no instinct for self preservation?"
The girl laughed. "No, you sounded like you cared. Like you had a stake in this." She grinned, an open, easy expression. "No pun intended."
"I've killed vamps. Lots of them. They didn't help out during the process."
"Maybe I'm retarded? That could be why all the other vamps hate me."
"Actually, I think it's 'cause you're slaying them." The girl studied her. "They probably do hate you, don't they?"
"You were a slayer, weren't you?" The girl looked confused. "My watcher told me that slayers being turned was just an old wives' tail that vampires use to make us more afraid."
"Your watcher's full of shit."
"So, you really are a slayer turned to a vampire?"
Christine sighed. What was the use of hiding this? "I really am."
"Don't you want to feed?"
"On you, you mean?"
The girl nodded.
"Weird." She touched Christine's arm quickly. "Yep. Vamp temp."
"I can see you'll be a scientist when you grow up."
"Is that what you are?"
"That's what I was." Although she still could be one. Labs didn't have to come with windows. Hell, she could build a lab in their apartment--barring the fact it was too small for the three of them, much less the three of them and a makeshift lab. "I was a doctor. Just graduated from med school." That night came rushing back. That night that changed everything.
"You're Chapel, aren't you?"
She knew she looked startled. "Who told you about Chapel?"
"Some of the older girls got this weird comm from an ex-watcher named David Wharton. He said if the notes were being read, that he'd been killed. He said if he wasn't around, that we should find a slayer called Christine Chapel."
Christine smiled. How like David to make sure he'd get his revenge on the watchers--dead or alive.
"He said you'd protect us from the nasty stuff he claimed the watchers would do to us. Especially when we turn eighteen."
Christine frowned. "What happens then?"
"He called it the Cruciamentum. Some kind of test, where we're made helpless and locked in with a vampire? If we survive, we pass. If not..."
"Oh, god." Christine sat down on the nearest bench.
"You didn't know?"
Christine shook her head, reliving that time in the sewers. Roger had done that to her? He'd made her sick and then locked her in with a monster? Damn the watchers. Damn them all.
The slayer studied her. "This David guy forgot to mention you were a vampire."
"Did he remember to mention he was one, too?"
The slayer frowned. "No, he left that part out."
"He must have made the comm before he turned me."
"He was your sire?"
"Okay. Weird, again." The girl went back to studying her. "I remember hearing about you through the slayer grapevine. Weren't you Starfleet?"
"And you're not now?"
"Do I look Fleet to you?" Christine changed into vamp face.
"Does it hurt to do that?"
"No." Christine changed back to human and laughed. "You're a weird girl, yourself, you know?"
"My watcher used to say that."
"Your watcher shouldn't say that. He--"
"She should be protecting you, not telling you crap like that."
"Yeah, well, she must have read a different watcher-slayer relations book than you did." The slayer looked around. "Hey! We're just going in circles."
"Do you think I want you knowing where I'm headed?"
"Well, I sort of hoped you'd be distracted enough by my winsome ways to show me your nest." The girl ripped out her stake.
Christine glared at her, turning it up to the look she had to use on Jim and Emma, until the girl put the stake away.
"You're no fun at all, Christine."
"Uh, huh." Christine started walking back toward the entrance. "What's your name, kiddo?"
"You like hot chocolate, Ashley?"
"Yeah, I guess."
"Come on, then. My treat."
"And I thought this couldn't get any weirder." The girl looked up at her. "Did you really think my form was good?"
"It was excellent. We can talk about it over cocoa."
The girl beamed.
Christine thought David would have approved.
Kirk watched as Weasel slowly brought the air spell into life. Concentrating, Kirk felt out with his mind and will and whatever else went into magic, to figure out how Weasel was causing a mini tornado to appear in the workroom.
Gradually, he saw strands of magic making the air spin and dance. He began to weave the air in front of him the same way. As he built his own mini twister, Weasel let his die down.
Kirk grinned as he worked. Magic was suddenly so much easier. Maybe those filters he'd lost when Chris had turned him, had also acted as a bit of a barrier to mastering things magical. Now, his twister lifted as he willed it, dropped back down to the floor just as fast.
"Let it go, Mac."
Kirk willed it to disintegrate, and air suddenly whipped by him, causing the things on the shelves behind him to blow around.
"Slowly. Crap, have I taught you nothing?"
"Sorry." Kirk could feel energy snapping through him, and he grounded and let the power flow into the Earth.
"Well, good to see you remember some things." Weasel sat down, studying him.
"Someone was asking about you."
"Tall guy? Pointy ears? Cold as ice?"
"Uh, no. This was a woman. And as far from cold as you can get."
Kirk stared at him. "A fire demon? Name of Alma."
"Right in one, Mac."
"What the hell did she want?"
"Dunno. And I didn't ask on account of me saying I didn't know you." He crossed one leg over the other. "She didn't seem overjoyed to be looking for you."
"We were involved. Before Chris." Before Chris and Emma. Christ, how complicated had his life gotten?
"Well, I pretty much figured she wasn't a creditor." Weasel winked at him. "She's at the Sanctuary, in case you were wondering what area of town to avoid--or seek out."
The Sanctuary was on the other side of town. It catered to demons, mainly. Good and bad. Kirk wondered where Alma fell out as far as he was concerned. A fire demon was normally bad news to a vamp.
"Can we go over that water spell again?" Kirk asked.
Weasel chuckled. "Earth smothers fire, too."
"Yeah, I'll perfect them both." He began to build the water spell. "You're sure she didn't say what she wanted?"
"Shut up and concentrate. I've told you all I know."
Kirk shut up and concentrated, running through both the water and earth spells. Weasel was nodding off when he finally quit. He covered his teacher up with a quilt and headed home.
He half expected Alma to pop out at him with every step. "This is ridiculous," he muttered and ducked into an alley, centering and remembering Alma--her smell, the touch of her. He sent out feelers, questing for her energy.
There. He smiled and followed the feeling just far enough to tell she was near the Sanctuary, if not actually in it. He cut the chase off before she'd notice him seeking her. What could she want with him now? She'd left without a backwards glance. Until he knew why she was in town, he didn't want to worry Chris--but should he warn her? What if Alma meant her harm?
He hurried back to the apartment, found Emma there, but not Chris.
"Hi." Emma's smile was shy, as if she was having trouble figuring out how to deal with him when they weren't in bed with Chris.
He knew the feeling. "Hi." The apartment felt smaller, now that she was with them. He sat on the bed.
"This is odd, isn't it?" she asked.
"Life took a turn down Odd Street when Chris became a slayer again back on the Enterprise. This thing between all of us is just...awkward."
"Awkward. Yes, that's a good word for it." She stood up, walking over to him, studying him as if he was a specimen in a lab.
"What are you doing?"
"Trying to decide if you're my type."
"I'm not." He was suddenly sure of it.
"And I'm not yours, either." She sat down, her shoulder brushing his. "So, we're not attracted to each other?"
"Right." He was acutely conscious of the way she was pressing against him.
"Right." She let out a ragged breath. Then she turned and kissed him.
He kissed her back.
The door opened as they were pulling away.
"Hi, guys," Chris said, smiling at them both. "I met the cutest little slayer tonight." She turned to look at them and frowned. "Don't let me stop you." Peeling off her shirt, she said, "Ugh, I need a shower." Then she disappeared into the bathroom.
Kirk looked at Emma. "Uhhhh..."
She began to laugh, her eyes twinkling in a way that charmed him. He leaned in and kissed her. It was a gentle kiss, sweet and low pressure, and she ran her fingers through his hair as he pulled her closer.
He heard the shower go on, pulled away from Emma slowly.
She touched his cheek. "Let's wait for her, shall we?"
"Yes, let's wait for her." He touched her hair, combing it with his fingers, then moving up to her scalp, massaging deeply.
Emma sighed in contentment. "Was it a mistake to start this thing between the three of us?"
"Oh, probably." He heard the door open, smiled at Chris. "Hurry up. We're getting tired of waiting."
"Who said you had to wait."
"No one." He let go of Emma's hair.
"We just wanted to," Emma said softly.
Chris crawled into bed, pulling them to her. "My dearests."
She kept them busy for a very long time.
He ended up in the middle, the women cuddled against his sides. "Alma's here."
"In town?" At his nod, Chris asked, "Looking for you?"
Emma shifted. "Who's Alma?"
He said, "My ex," at the same time as Chris said, "A fire demon."
"Oh. My." Emma began to laugh. "When it rains..."
"Funny." Chris propped herself up to meet his eyes. "What does she want?"
"Do we know where she is?"
"I said we, not you."
"You're not finding out until I figure out how I want to handle this."
Chris pouted, then fell back onto the mattress. "Can I go back and play with my fun new friend and just forget Alma's here?"
"Were you serious about meeting a slayer?" Emma asked.
"Yes. Seems our David had a dead man's trigger on a notification comm. The older girls were not thrilled to hear about the Cruciamentum." She looked sternly at Emma. "I wasn't exactly thrilled to find out that way, either."
"Oh, god. He didn't tell them?"
"Emma, you can't possibly support this barbarism?"
"Of course I don't, but this could bring down chaos on us all." She sounded very much like a watcher.
"You're not part of that 'us,' anymore," Kirk said gently.
"David told them to look for me. That I'd help them," Chris said.
Kirk frowned. Just what they needed. More company. "And this girl was seeking you out?"
"Well, no. She started out wanting to stake me. But once we worked that out, we had a lovely talk."
Emma sighed again.
"She has a crappy watcher."
"You can't be sure of that," Emma said.
"I can, too. She told me; I trust her." Chris snuggled in close. "She's sweet. I think I'll keep her."
Kirk met Emma's eyes, which seemed to be saying, "Don't encourage her."
He decided keeping his mouth shut was definitely the thing to do.
Spock awoke to the sound of voices speaking Vulcan and the distant sense of the Presence, whatever it was. Jim had felt it, too, yet he had offered no help. A wave of anger coursed through Spock. Anger that months at Gol, enduring the most rigid of the Vulcan mental disciplines, had not been able to burn out. At least, the anger was in control now. Thanks to Gol, he could pretend he did not feel the rage, but it was still there. Anger at Jim and particularly at Christine.
She had allowed herself to be turned. She had subsequently turned two others. She and her offspring should be slain. Spock should have started the process last night with the heavy-worlder who had been Christine's watcher, according to one of his disreputable sources.
But he had not been able to draw his stake, and he feared that his hesitation had been because, in some strange way, the woman had reminded him of himself. She had been so willing to protect the others, so willing to become like the others despite the training she'd no doubt undergone. She should have shunned Christine if she could not destroy her, should have exposed her to the Council, not allowed Christine to woo her to this new path.
A soft knock on his door interrupted his reverie.
His mother peeked in. "Spock, are you all right? It is very late in the afternoon for you to still be in bed."
He was keeping vampire hours. At least until he was certain Jim could not help him in his quest to get to the Presence.
"I am fine, Mother." It was the answer she wanted, meaningless as humans said it because they used it no matter how they really felt. But it appeased her, and she left him in peace.
In peace--Spock had not felt peace since he'd bonded with Christine. She had been his, and, for that brief time, he had not been alone. It was the aloneness of the Presence that drew him to seek it out. The overwhelming sense of a need for completeness. He did not understand the entity's vastness, but this one thing came through: it was alone.
It sought; Spock sought. And the voice across the light years was cold and dispassionate in its need. No bruised and bloody vampire lay beneath its fists. No strong, and ultimately unstable, woman lay near it in bed. No friend for whom it would have died kept this woman from it--then kept her for himself.
No, the Presence knew none of this. It sought perfection, Spock thought. The perfection of intellect, of logic. And Spock thought that if he found it, he could find oblivion by drowning in the all of things. A surrender to perfect thought.
Spock forced himself out of bed, showered, and dressed in clothes that would not confine him as his robes would if he needed to fight. It would be dark soon.
He sat with his mother for a time, eating a light meal although he had no taste for it. But strength was essential. As much as Jim and Christine looked like the people he knew, he must never forget what they had become.
He left the embassy as darkness fell, making his way across the city. He sensed something following him and stopped, turning. There was nothing, yet he still felt a prickling along his spine. He had learned not to ignore that feeling while he was with Christine. Her world contained many dangers that could lurk in the darkness and never betray themselves until it was too late.
He moved on, came to a cemetery and saw a young woman hurrying in. Farther down the path, he saw Christine, wearing a smile clearly intended to mesmerize the girl who ran toward her.
He must not allow this. Christine must not be allowed to pervert innocence.
He drew his stake, and slipped into the bushes, hoping to work his way close enough to be able to surprise Christine. Her instincts would no doubt be as keen, if not more acute, than when she'd been a slayer.
He heard a growl behind him and slowly turned. Something large and furry and very vicious looking advanced on him, forcing him toward where Christine sat with the girl. Spock broke through the bushes, walking backwards, trying to keep an eye on both Christine and this new creature.
"Spock?" Christine sounded annoyed, and her reaction sent a wave of new anger roaring through him.
The creature seemed to sense Spock's rage, and leapt at him, knocking him to the ground, teeth dangerously close to Spock's neck. Rank spittle dropped on his face as the fangs moved closer.
Suddenly, the creature flew off him, and Christine was hauling Spock to his feet. Her face had changed to a vampire's visage, and something about the way she advanced on the snarling creature reminded Spock of T'Pau, cowing his father and the Council and everyone who'd ever tried to defy her.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Christine kicked the thing into a tree, reached out and wrenched it around, so its face went into the trunk. It scrambled madly as it reared back, thick claws making the bark fly. She held it with one hand, jammed her other into the back of its head and shoved. The thing's face hit the tree so hard that Spock almost winced in reaction.
"Check him for bites," Christine yelled to the girl. She seemed to notice Spock drawing back. "She's a slayer, not a vampire."
"I'm Ashley," the girl said, as she began to check his skin and robe. "And you are...?"
"Uncertain why you are doing this." He pulled away.
She jerked him back. "That's a werewolf. If it bit you, you'll turn into a werewolf at the next full moon. And you might not even know you are one, so we have to check for bites." She finished her inspection, called out to Christine, "He's clean."
Christine threw the werewolf away from her. It transformed into a human male--a naked human male--and rubbed his face where she had smashed him into the tree. "Ow. Bitch."
Christine smiled at the term, and Spock realized that, given the context, it might not be an insult.
The werewolf did not seem the least concerned with his nakedness. "I'm just trying to protect you. My alpha told me to."
The man nodded, then he pointed to Spock. "He was going to stake you."
"I knew he was there."
Spock could not tell if she was lying.
The werewolf apparently thought he could. "Sure, you did."
Christine stalked to him and knocked him flat with a backhand delivered with utter dispassion. "Your alpha is my beta. That makes me your uber alpha, which should make you a smart whelp who doesn't talk back. Got it?"
The man nodded quickly.
"Get out of here."
The man hurried away, but Spock caught the glance he threw back at Christine. He expected the werewolf to view her with rage over her treatment of him. Instead he saw devotion--slavish devotion. Spock decided he might need to enhance his knowledge of pack dynamics.
"She's so tough," Ashley said, with what sounded like approval. "Who are you, anyway?"
"This is my..." Christine frowned as she walked back to them. "I guess he's my ex-husband." She raised an eyebrow at him.
He did not return the gesture. "That is an accurate description."
"I did hear you sneaking up on us, for whatever it's worth."
"Of course." He was still unsure if she was telling the truth.
She eyed the stake in his hand. "You were planning on sticking that in me?"
Ashley giggled, and Spock thought Christine was making her language deliberately provocative.
"I believed you were going to feed on this child."
"Ewww. And not a child." Ashley glared at him.
"I had not intended to divert into this cemetery. I was on my way to locate Admiral Ciani. I thought she might assist me with Nogura, since Admiral Kirk will not."
"Who's Kirk?" Ashley asked.
"My current boyfriend."
"This just gets better and better. And Ciani is...?"
"That werewolf's alpha."
Spock could feel his eyebrow going up.
"Good luck with her, Spock." Christine put her hand on Ashley's shoulder. "Let me show you the throw I learned from Spike."
Christine was teaching this slayer? And had she brought up Spike deliberately? Spock felt off balance as he left the cemetery. He decided to wait until the moon wasn't full before approaching Admiral Ciani.
Christine kept looking back even though every one of her slayer and vampire senses told her Spock wasn't following. The protectiveness she'd felt as she'd thrown the werewolf off him had surprised her. It hadn't been love, exactly, that had made her do it. It had been more a surge of possessiveness. In some fundamental way, she considered him hers.
Just as Jim was hers, and Emma was hers. She'd even asked Emma if she could keep Ashley. Had she always viewed the world in terms of possession?
"So...you were married to the Vulcan guy?" Ashley asked.
"In a manner of speaking."
"But you're not, anymore?"
"It's a long, complicated story."
"You fell in love with someone else? This Kirk guy?"
"You aren't in love with him?"
"Oh, no, I am. It's just...that's not why Spock and I fell apart." She shot Ashley a stern look before the girl could worm Spike's involvement in all this out of her. "I didn't come here to tell you my life story."
"Then tell me your death story." Ashley's voice was low.
"You don't want to hear it."
Ashley looked away. "Yeah, I do."
"No." Christine studied her. "What?"
"I've thought of it. Sometimes." Ashley kicked at the grass as she walked. "When things got really bad. I'd think how much worse could it be to be a vampire? And how much nicer to not have to care." She looked up at Christine. "But you care. So I guess that part's bull, huh?"
Christine laughed softly.
"Every slayer wants to hear about death stories, though, Christine. That's what my watcher told me once. That we're creatures of death. That we deal it and ultimately we're fascinated by it."
"Because it will come for us all sooner rather than later?"
"I really don't like your watcher. She shouldn't be encouraging you in this kind of morbid thought."
"Right, because slayers are such a happy-go-lucky bunch, normally." Ashley skipped a little ahead, then turned, walking backwards, watching Christine. "So, were you overpowered by David?"
"You let him do this to you?"
"It's complicated." It was easier than saying the truth--that she'd been weak.
"You say that about everything." Ashley frowned. "Is it just complicated when it's your fault?"
"Don't be so damn perceptive."
Ashley laughed. "Okay, then. Tell me about Spike. He's a legend, you know?"
"Yes, I know."
"Did you love him?"
"He saved me."
"That's not really an answer, is it?"
Christine sighed. "No, it's not. I loved him; I wasn't in love with him."
"God, story of his life or what?" Ashley turned around and fell back into step with Christine. "So, if David really wanted to help us, how could he do this to you? Seems sort of contradictory as messages go."
"I think he thought he was helping me. I know he thought I could help him in his fight against the watchers and what they're doing to the slayers."
"How did he die?"
Christine looked down. "Dusted." It was the safe answer.
Ashley clearly didn't like safe answers. "Who dusted him?"
"I did," Christine mumbled.
"What was that? I thought for a moment you said you did?" The girl studied her. "So, now I've got two contradictory messages. Great."
"He was going to kill Jim." She saw Ashley's eyes narrow in confusion. "The Kirk guy."
"Oh. Okay. And him you really are in love with?"
"All right, then." They walked in silence for a bit. "Christine, why did you protect me last night from that other vamp?"
"Because I'm still a slayer."
"I'm not sure the Council would agree."
Ashley was the mistress of understatement. The Council not only wouldn't agree; they'd probably send a special hit squad just to take her down. She could imagine Kevin Silver drawing back the crossbow bolt that would send her to Hell--or wherever weak-willed slayers-turned-vampires went. Was there a special Hell just for her?
Or was it hubris and self-involvement to think that way? Just more wallowing?
"Do you think you're still a slayer? Do you think a vampire can be a slayer?" Ashley's voice was challenging, as if she was trying to push Christine a little. She stopped walking, stood in front of her, feet planted.
"I saved you, so I must think that." Christine eyed the girl, noticing how she hadn't let her guard down. Good--she'd stay alive longer.
"You could have saved me because he was horning in on your prey."
"Well, since you're not lying bloodless on the ground..." Christine moved in. "Shut up for a second and let me show you this move. It's great, especially if you're smaller than your average opponent." She put Ashley into the pose of the aggressor, hands on either side of Christine's neck.
"This doesn't involve a head butt, does it?"
Christine laughed. "Nope." She leaned forward as if she was going to try to heft Ashley over her head, and felt the girl automatically compensate. That was the mistake; as Ashley leaned back, Christine kicked out, hooking the girl's leg and using her backward momentum to knock her off balance to the side. As Ashley fell, Christine grabbed the girl's hand and whirled, pulling her around so she fell face down. Christine landed on her back, Ashley' arm held high and tight in a painful hold.
"Okay. Wait a minute." Ashley tried to move, couldn't. "That's too easy."
"It'll be even easier for you being so small. It's all about leverage and balance." Christine poked her finger into Ashley's back. "If I had a stake, you'd be dust."
"Actually, I'd just be dead. Human, still." Ashley wriggled under her. "Can I try?"
Christine got up. "No stakes."
"I've had a dozen opportunities to stake you, Christine. If I wanted to kill you, you'd be dead by now."
"Works both ways, little sister." As Ashley moved toward her, Chapel kicked out again, knocking her on her butt. "Never, ever, let your guard down. I'm an evil fiend, remember?"
"What happened to the 'I still want to be part of the slayer club'?"
"Oh, I still do." Christine moved into the position she'd had Ashley take. "Remember, part of this is about acting. I already know I'm bigger and stronger. Convince me to open myself up. "
She felt the girl lean forward, instinctively leaned back and didn't try to stop her attempt to counterbalance. Ashley kicked her leg out from under her, following her down, landing on her hard, her knee in Christine's back, her hand wrenching Christine's arm up painfully.
She leaned down, her voice cocky in Christine's ear. "Never, ever let your gua--"
Christine head-butted her and, when the girl fell off her, rolled away.
"Goddamn it." Blood was streaming from Ashley's nose. "I think you broke it."
"You'll heal fast, you big baby." Christine could smell the blood, felt her face change in response.
Ashley sat perfectly still, her t-shirt becoming a canvas of red polka dots from the blood dripping down onto it.
Christine forced her face back to normal, before tearing off some of Ashley's shirt, trying not to notice how the girl shrank back. She showed her how to hold the biggest rag to her nose, where to put pressure. Then she tore a smaller piece up for the girl to jam under her upper lip. "Pressure points. It'll help stop the bleeding."
"You really are a doctor."
"I really was." She met Ashley's eyes. "No, I am. I still help people."
"Yeah, sure. When you're not lying about head butts." She pulled the rag away from her nose; no more blood flowed. "Did you want to bite me just then?"
Christine wanted to lie. With everything in her, she wanted to lie. She didn't. "Yes. I'm a vampire. Part of me may always want to bite you."
Ashley looked down. "And I'm a slayer. Part of me may always want you to."
Christine grabbed her by the arms, shook her hard. "Don't say that. Don't ever say that."
"You wanted it--you must have."
"You're not me. Don't be like me."
"Why not? You're the best of both worlds, aren't you?"
"No, I'm the worst." She looked down.
"So you're lecturing me on choices?" Ashley's voice was hard.
Sighing, Christine got up and started to walk away.
"Where are you going?"
"Away from you. That's healthier, I think. Maybe for both of us."
"I don't think it is." Ashley said. "You know things I should know. Like that throw. And other stuff." There was an odd note of desperation in the girl's voice.
Christine turned to look at her. This slayer had popped up out of nowhere. Just like David had, only Christine wouldn't fall for that again. This was no vampire pretending to be human. This was a human. One who smelled like fear and neediness and a little bit of panic.
Christine walked slowly back to her. "You're not from around here, are you?"
Ashley pushed herself to her feet. "I am. Sort of. I have an aunt who lives across town."
"Where is your watcher, Ashley?"
"Who cares? She's a horrible watcher."
"Where is she?"
Ashley's voice was very small. "She's dead."
The girl laughed bitterly. "I wish. I'd have understood that." She kicked at the grass again. "Try a hundred proof rock-gut. Try drinking until you can't see, until you fall asleep and drown in vomit you probably didn't even know you'd thrown up." She looked at Christine, her young eyes merciless. "I found her. And she knew I would. It was training time."
"It was because of me."
"You don't know that."
"I do. They keep journals, these watchers. They all keep journals. And I read hers." Ashley looked down. "She said we were all demon spawn. She said in one entry that she thought I'd died on patrol, that she was sorry when I showed back up." Ashley was breathing hard, as if she'd been running. "She hated me. She hated everything about me."
She sank to the grass; Christine settled next to her, trying to give her some support.
"I started to do really bad in school. Got into fights and stuff. I don't know, I guess the demon came out. She was right about that maybe?" She took a deep breath. "My parents sent me to my aunt. So we could all have a little break." She smiled tightly. "The Council said they'd send a new watcher. Yay."
"This one might be different."
"Might not. Why do I need a new watcher? I have you. You can teach me so much more than some old watcher can." Her eyes shone, and Christine didn't like the look on Ashley's face. It looked too much like hero worship.
"You have to care about staying alive, Ashley. About being with people who make you feel good about yourself. About being in the sun."
"But you can't be in the sun. And I like being with you."
Christine laughed tightly. "But that's not because I'm me. That's because I'm a vampire, and you want to live on the edge, don't you?"
"Maybe. But what slayer doesn't? We have such a short time to live; we have to get it all in fast." She smiled, a little cruelly. "Unless, that is, we're really good at running away."
Christine bit back a reply.
"Truth hurts, doesn't it?"
"Where are you getting all this 'truth,' Ashley?"
"The girls who got David's message, some of them went looking for stuff about you. We're all hooked up, comm wise. The watchers don't know it, though."
"The slayer grapevine, you mentioned?"
"And you've updated them on my new status, I take it? How daylight challenged I am now?"
"No. I haven't."
Ashley swallowed. "Because some of them wouldn't understand. Because I don't want to put you in danger." She shrugged. "If any of them take David's advice and come looking for you, they'll figure it out soon enough."
"He really wasn't thinking this through." Had he made her his heir in this vendetta before or after he'd gotten to know her?
Christine heard a buzzing noise, realized it was a personal comm unit. Ashley grinned at her and held the unit close to her ear. "Hello?" She listened for a minute then said, "I'm a little busy right now, Billy."
Billy must not have liked that answer, because Ashley rolled her eyes and mimicked him ranting at her.
"I'll comm you in a bit. Yes, I'm coming home soon. I've got to go." She looked down, mumbled, "I love you, too." Then she cut the connection and made a face. "My boyfriend. Back home."
"Boyfriends. The source of all strife," Christine said with a smile, but she wasn't actually kidding. "It's late. You should go."
"I patrol here, now. You can find me any night."
Ashley slapped her gently on the arm. "Buck up, Chapel. I didn't mean to depress you with my tale of woe." She grinned, and Christine wondered how she could be so upbeat. Was it natural strength, or was she just a damned fine actress?
Ashley hugged her quickly. "I'll see you around."
"See you." Christine trailed her until she was clear of the cemetery, then turned to her own hunting.
And as she hunted, everywhere that Ashley had touched her felt warm and strong.
Emma stalked next to Jim, hunting through the alleys. Christine had abandoned them again for her little slayer. Emma had thought Christine would grow tired of the girl, but she kept going back.
Jim sighed in frustration. "Nothing to hunt." He glanced at her. "I'm going to the motel."
She nodded, leaving him to go to his magic teacher, finding her own way back to the cemetery. She moved through the bushes, making no sound as she passed the very stupid humans who were out for a nighttime stroll. They were safe, though, despite their lackadaisical approach to personal safety, because Christine was patrolling with her toy slayer.
Emma heard them coming and froze, blending into the trees.
"Was it weird becoming a vampire?" the young slayer asked Christine.
"From a medical perspective, it was fascinating."
The girl laughed. "But from a human, bleeding-out perspective?"
"It was a little weird." There was enormous affection for the girl in Christine's voice.
Emma thought of Laura. The girl that lit David's life up and then left him reeling when she proved inadequate to fight, to stay alive. Emma had lost both of them the night Laura died. Only, David had come back. Full of hate for all things watcher, including her. But full of love--or some twisted version of it--for all the slayers, and one in particular.
It gave Emma a nasty surge of pleasure that David had been staked by the very slayer he'd turned. Christine had never loved him, despite being fascinated by him. Despite giving in to him that one vital time.
The voices of Christine and the slayer grew distant, and Emma resumed her hunt. Two young men hurried past her. They were fresh scrubbed and clean cut. Probably late getting back to the Academy.
Another man was following them, but he saw her and veered in her direction. "You're out late," he said.
And she made herself sound the slightest bit tipsy. "Yes, I'm afraid I'm a little lost." It was an admission that never failed to reveal a person's true character.
"Where are you headed?"
"It's this way." He took her arm, led her the wrong way, toward alleys she'd killed in before.
"Are you sure? My husband will be worried. We're just wed, you see. On our honeymoon, and I'm supposed to meet him."
She could smell the rush of pleasure he got at the idea of killing a new bride. She'd thought he'd enjoy that.
"This doesn't look like the wharf," she said as he gripped her arm tighter.
"No." She tried to sound frightened--his pleasure would season his blood.
"I think you've been a very bad girl," he said, suddenly throwing her back against the wall.
"No," she whimpered. The last human she'd killed had whimpered in just that way.
"I'm going to punish you, but I want you to help me. I want you to confess your sins. Every single one of them." He hit a button on a bracelet he wore, and a high-pitched whine told Emma that he'd engaged a dampening field. A useful thing. With a thing like that, one could linger over a kill.
He touched her hair, then pulled, her head slamming into the brick. "Let's start with your sexual sins, all right, sweetheart?"
"I'm sleeping with a man and a woman, neither of whom is really in love with me."
He blinked. Obviously, actual confessions weren't what his victims usually started with.
"But enough about me. Let's hear yours." She moved, twisted, and grabbed, and suddenly it was his head slamming into the wall. "And I want you to know I'm a trained counselor. I'm very good at listening. And you can't shock me."
His knee went up as his head butted her nose. He punched, and she didn't fight, landing heavily on her backside. She could see he was debating whether to make her pay or get the hell out of there. Prudence won out, and he ran.
She was up and on him in less than five steps. He screamed, but no lights came on, no one yelled at them to shut up. As she ripped the bracelet off him and put it on her own wrist, she let her face change, then she bit him on the neck, only taking a little.
She thought he saw the truth in her eyes, that death was inevitable.
"Please make it quick."
"Would you have made it quick for me?" She pushed him to his knees. "Confess. Bare your soul. I promise not to judge." She stroked his cheek, working her way back to his ear. She pushed just below it with her finger, hard enough that her nail broke skin. She licked the blood off slowly as he moaned. "Let's start with your childhood. Tell me about your mother, why don't you?"
She had more than enough for her diagnosis by the time she finished him off. Maybe someday she'd write a paper.
"So, Mister Spock, Admiral Ciani tells me you have news of a presence you think Starfleet Command should be aware of?"
"That is correct, sir." Spock glanced at Admiral Ciani, wondering how the petite woman had come to be the leader of a pack of werewolves. He also wondered if Admiral Nogura knew what she was.
"She also said you've approached Admiral Kirk with this."
Spock hid his surprise. He had said nothing to Admiral Ciani about Jim. "It was my understanding that Admiral Kirk was listed as missing."
Nogura smiled very slowly. "I'm always amazed at how smoothly Vulcans lie." He looked over at Ciani. "Don't you agree, my dear?"
Her laugh was sweet and girlish. The look she threw Spock was not.
Nogura leaned forward. "Both Jim and Doctor Chapel are on emergency leave. It's...personal, so I thought it best not to note that in the general logs. But I have always known where they were."
"He sees, sir." Again the not-very-nice look from Ciani.
"But does he understand?" Nogura got up, walked to his very large windows. "I expect them back any day now."
"You do?" Spock let an eyebrow go up.
"Oh, yes. You see, I don't let limitations get in the way."
"Limitations? Such as, for instance, an inability to carry out one's duty in direct sunlight?"
"Precisely what I mean." Nogura slapped the windowsill. "You never know what might turn up to change things." He looked at the sky. "You want me to send you up there, don't you, Mister Spock? Despite the fact that you've resigned from Starfleet? You want me to give you a ship and send you out to meet your precious entity."
"And what, pray tell, do you hope to accomplish once you find it?"
"I anticipate establishing first contact with the Presence."
"Bullshit!" Nogura turned. "You want to meld with the damn thing and find the bliss you didn't achieve at Gol." He smiled, a smile that held no warmth. "Your bliss is your business, but don't expect me to pony up a ship to help you out."
"This Presence is vast, Admiral. So vast it--"
"Yes, I know. It's vast and it's lonely." He smiled the mean smile again at Spock's surprise, then waved at Ciani. "Explain it to him, Lori."
She got up and walked over to a long, narrow table covered with what looked like antiquities. Pulling a scroll out, she walked back to him. "We've recently come into possession of this. It's very old. Not very well known. It contains a prophecy that says a huge power, full of longing, will appear in the Eastern skies. That it will join with its creator while those who brought the creator to it escape destruction, along with every living thing on the planet--and presumably others. The ancients could be so limited in their interpretations."
She moved closer, let him see the writing.
"I do not recognize it," he said.
"Yes. Ah." She pointed at one word in the midst of many others. "The one who brings all this to pass, who delivers the creator, is named in this. Right here. It does not, I'm afraid, say Spock."
"Can you guess who it does say, Spock?" Nogura grinned at him. It was a caricature of Jim's smile.
"Admiral Kirk? But he is a..."
"Vampire. Undead. Sucking corpse with delusions of grandeur?" Nogura laughed. "All of the above. And yet, very useful to us. As are you. You're named as the one who will stand at his side during all this."
Ciani put the scroll back on the table. "Why else do you think you were drawn back to Earth? A place with such terrible memories for you? It's preordained. Your role in this, Jim's role in this. All of it." She leaned down. "Even though you hate him, you must do this with him."
"I do not hate him."
"Oh, come now, Spock," Nogura said gently. "You're among friends. He stole your woman from you, didn't he? He's probably making love to her right now. He's had her over and over."
Spock frowned. "Do you wish me to work with him or are you trying to anger me into staking him?"
Nogura laughed, and this time it sounded genuine. "Well, that's a good question." He glanced at Ciani. "See what I get for screwing around with people for fun?"
"Vulcans are perceptive," she said.
"Indeed." Nogura walked over to the low table near Spock. He touched one of the irises that had been set in a simple arrangement with three others of varying height. The iris he touched wilted and then dried out before Spock's eyes.
"Our world," Nogura said softly, "is not quite what it should be. Something's wrong. You feel it; I feel it. You can damn well bet Jim feels it."
Spock swallowed. He did feel it. When he'd left Gol, he'd felt a sense of inevitability at his decision to abandon the Kohlinahr. But he'd also felt as if the move had been premature.
Ciani got up and walked to the window, staring up at the sky. "The scroll lays out what will happen. And, even though the players are all here, they're not quite in position, yet."
Nogura smiled. "We need old friends for that. Jim's and mine."
Ciani grinned at him. "Irony that it is."
"Yes. Irony that it is." Nogura went to his desk. "Mister Spock, don't wander too far, all right? We'll be in touch when the pieces are all in order."
"In touch for what?"
"Why, for you to go out and meet the entity, of course. I'm going to give you what you want--just in my way, not yours."
Spock nodded and left, lost in thought as he walked the halls of Starfleet Command again. He'd achieved what he wanted. Why did it feel as if he'd lost?
Kirk saw Alma leave the Sanctuary and followed her, keeping to the shadows, where streetlights wouldn't illuminate him. Alma shone, her body seeming to glow from deep inside her. With his vampire senses, he'd never mistake her as anything but what she was: a creature of fire. He felt a frisson of fear, his body's way of reminding him he was vulnerable--extremely vulnerable--to this woman's innate powers.
She slowed, seemed to be deciding which way to go. He slid farther back into the shrubbery, but it couldn’t stop him from sensing her power streaming toward him.
The vampire in him wanted to run. The man who had been this woman's lover wanted to recapture the remembered passion. He did neither, just stayed where he was, silent and still.
She continued on her way, and he heaved a sigh of relief. He considered giving up and going home, and putting the most powerful wards he could create on the apartment. But he needed to find out what she wanted; he owed that to Chris and to Emma. He stared down the hill after Alma.
He whirled, startled to see Uhura, knowing someone that familiar should not have been able to sneak up on him.
"You're alive!" She hugged him fiercely, then let him go just as quickly. "Or maybe not." Her face fell, and fear showed.
"It's okay, Nyota."
"No, sir. I really don't think it is."
She held up a cross, and he snarled, drawing back, hating that the symbol, which meant so little to him, had this power over vampires.
"Ny, Chris and I...we don't hunt innocent people. We stick to criminals. Bad, bad people."
"You brought Christine into this?" She sounded very disappointed in him.
Uhura seemed to understand immediately. "Oh. She did this to you."
"She was having a really bad day."
To his surprise, she laughed. Then she seemed to force her expression into sterner lines. "Now, cut that out." She waved the cross at him, causing him to flinch back.
"If I promise not to bite you, will you put that damn thing away?"
"Fine." He turned away from her, following the sense of Alma since she was no longer in view.
"Are we tailing someone?" Uhura asked, cross still at the ready as she caught up with him.
"We are not doing anything." He shot her his best "captain's not amused" look.
It didn't faze her, and she fell into step with him. "So you and Christine are together?"
"And she's okay?"
"Okay, then, I'm really mad at her."
"I'll be sure to mention that."
"Friends don't just take off and forget to tell each other things like, say, they've become a little sharper in the tooth."
"I'm sure she meant to tell you."
"Uh huh. Just like she told me the last time she took off and left Spock and all of us behind." She stopped him, pointed down to the piers. "Not to change the subject, but is that who we're following?"
Alma was standing, arms crossed over her chest, staring directly at them.
"Because if you're going for a surprise, it's a bust, sir."
"Thank you, Ny, for that valuable insight. You can go now."
"Tell Christine to come see me. I'll meet her outside a church or something."
He grinned at her expression. "Unless you've suddenly gone evil, you have nothing to fear from Christine."
Her expression changed slightly.
She didn't answer.
She took a deep breath. "There were times I was afraid of her even when she wasn't a vampire. Or maybe just afraid for her."
He understood that sentiment; he was still afraid for her.
"Go, Ny. I'll have her get in touch with you."
"You better." Uhura stashed the cross, then pulled him into a hug, kissing his cheek as she let him go. "I miss you two so damn much. You couldn't have sent word you were okay?"
"I'm sorry." And strictly speaking, they weren't okay.
"All right. I'm leaving." With a last smile, she left him alone to face Alma.
He walked down the hill slowly. Alma seemed to gleam like a wood stove with a roaring fire within. Could no one else see what he could?
"Jim." Her voice was cold.
"Alma." He let his voice go cold, too.
He shrugged. How could he explain this to her? How would she ever understand?
"It was Christine, wasn't it?" The fire inside her seemed to flare. "I told you she was trouble."
"But do you care?" She studied him. "You're her lover now, aren't you?"
She took a deep breath; as she breathed in, the fire seemed to grow stronger.
"I love her, Alma."
"Wonderful." She shook her head. "You thought you loved me once, too."
"I did. But not the same way." He could tell that his words registered in her like little knives. "I'm not saying that to hurt you. I just want you to understand."
"I understand." She turned away. "I understand perfectly."
"Why are you here?"
She stared at him, as if he was very, very stupid. "We shared something, Jim. Even once I left you, I could still feel you inside me. Part of my fire was yours. And then...everything changed. I couldn't feel you anymore on the inside. And on the outside, I could feel something like you, but other. Undead. I was afraid of what I'd find. But I couldn't believe that after fighting Anacost, you'd give in so easily. Even to her."
"You weren't there. You don't know how it was."
"So I can't judge you? I'm sorry. I don't accept that."
"She didn't want to turn me. She wanted me to stake her."
"Well, why didn't you?" Again the fire inside her flared, and he felt her magic licking out to him like little tongues of flame. It didn't feel like her old fire. It was less controlled and darker.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
"You think your damn slayer was the only one affected by the destruction of my Orb? I was supposed to keep it safe, but I let her destroy it. And now I pay the price. I have to see you like this. I have to know that you're with her, of all people. And I have to feel what she must have felt, when she ran. This despair. So strong it makes me want to run screaming and never stop." Alma was shaking, and fire leaked out from her fingers.
He drew back. "Did you feel this way when you were with me?"
"No. I think our magic together kept it away. Or maybe being with you was where I was supposed to be. Where I could make up for what I'd let happen. I don't know." She reached for him, hungry flame trying to race her to his flesh.
He drew back even more. "I can't."
"Do you want to?"
He could see in her eyes that she needed the lie. But he couldn't give it to her. "No. I don't want to. I have her now. I'm with Chris."
"But how long will she be with you? I can't imagine this change has made her any more stable."
He looked away, thinking about how he'd brought Emma into the mix--all to keep Chris's tendency toward despair in check.
"She was teetering before, Jim. Now? She'll take a big, beautiful swan dive right into the pit. And she'll drag you with her." She turned to go.
"You never answered my question. Why are you here?"
She didn't turn, spoke so softly he could barely hear her. "To save you."
And then she was gone, a trail of flame marking her progress as she hurried away. He stared after her a long time before heading home.
Christine lay sheltered between Emma and Jim, their hands running over her, occasionally running over each other. She felt a sense of peace flood through her and stopped their hands, pressing their flesh into hers.
"Don't leave me," she whispered.
Jim's report of his encounter with Alma hadn't done wonders for her self-esteem, and she had a feeling he'd edited out the most anti-Chris parts.
Emma snuggled in, kissing her. "You know we won't. We joined you in this life, didn't we?"
"I didn't give you a choice, Emma."
"No, darling. I didn't give you a choice." The truth Christine had always suspected hung heavily in the air around them. "I don't regret it," Emma murmured.
"No?" Jim's voice was a little off.
"Then why don't you ever hunt with us, anymore?"
"I hunt with you."
"Never for long. You say there's nothing to hunt and leave."
"No, I don't."
Christine knew why. "It's because we enjoy it too much. And she hates to watch."
"Oh." Jim's hand tightened on hers.
"That's not it." Emma snuggled closer. "That's not it at all."
Jim rose up on his elbow, so he could see her better. "Why, then?"
"I don't hunt with you because I enjoy it too much." She buried her face in Christine's neck, biting softly, taking only a small amount of blood.
"How much is too much?" Jim asked, a worried sound in his voice.
"You two play little crusader games, but you make the kill quickly. You terrify your prey, but you don't make them suffer as they die."
"And you do?" Christine asked.
Emma fiddled with the bracelet she'd taken to wearing. "Have you ever watched a cat play with a mouse?"
There was a very long silence.
"But not innocents? You don't do that to innocents?" Jim pulled Emma away from Christine so she had to look at him. "Right?"
"Of course not to innocents." She sounded deeply offended.
"Well, we are vampires. We're bound to act out." He sighed and lay back down.
"Are we regressing?" Christine asked, giving voice to what they probably were all wondering.
"I don't know," Emma said. And if she didn't know, they were all screwed. Emma was their insight woman--the counselor who could spin heads. Christine suddenly had a vision of just how a cat might play with a mouse.
Jim ran his hand over Christine's stomach, let it slide onto Emma's waist. "We are what we are."
"How very existential." Emma smirked.
"You know what I mean. We can't keep striving for ideals that don't apply. That we do any good at all is probably amazing."
"That is true," Emma said. She sounded like she was in the mood to be convinced.
Christine studied Jim. "Do you still long for space?"
"No. I miss it, naturally. But no, not long for."
"As a counselor, I have to say you are utterly unconvincing, my dear." Emma laughed softly. "Would you go back up there if you could?"
"He would," Christine said softly. "He belongs there."
"I don't belong there, anymore. Let's drop it, all right?"
They dropped it.
"So what do you think Alma will do?" Emma asked, breaking a silence that had become a little uncomfortable.
"I don't know."
"She doesn't like me, Jim," Christine said. "And she's going to blame me."
"I won't let her hurt you." Jim kissed her gently.
"Neither will I," Emma whispered in her ear.
Christine sighed, feeling cherished but also very vulnerable. She'd never been on Alma's list of favorite people. And the woman had magic. Fire magic. Jim could maybe protect them from it, but she and Emma were helpless against it without him. "How hard is it to learn magic?"
"We have our magic, already, Christine," Emma said gently. "Healing--helping others, knowing what they need--is our magic."
"Damn," Christine said, and she stared at the ceiling, trying to forget that there was a fire demon out there who really didn't like her.
"Mac, remember that spell I told you about? The one to bring back a vampire?"
"Into human form?" Kirk was trying to meld his little tornado with water to create a water spout. So far it wasn't working very well.
"That's the one." Weasel added his energy to Kirk's. "Try it this way."
Suddenly, the two elements began to cooperate. Kirk analyzed what his teacher was doing, smiled as he saw how simple it was. Magic usually was like that. Once you quit trying to force it and got out of your own way, it often came together with embarrassing ease.
"So, anyway, I may have a lead on the spell. A collector on Rigel X died, and he had some very interesting stuff in his collection including what looks to be a legitimate scroll of the Words of Anatole, which are supposed to contain that spell, Mac. I bought three trunk's worth of this guy's stuff. It'll be here soon."
"Great." Kirk tried mixing water and air again on his own. Voila: perfect water spout.
"Mac, this could give you your life back."
"Who said I wanted it back?" But he had a sudden image of the Enterprise, the view from his chair, the soft, powerful rumble under his feet.
"I know you. And..." Weasel sighed. "I may have glossed over how well I knew Nogura."
Kirk turned to look at him.
"Well, he and I go way back. I don't mean as buddies; we hate each other. But we're two powerful sorcerers and, at times, have to work together."
"Count me out. He killed my friend. Or have you forgotten?"
"We think he killed your friend. We don't have proof."
Kirk turned away.
"Jim." Weasel touched his arm. "Something's coming. You can feel it. Spock can, too. You think Nogura and I can't tell it's on its way?"
"What do you think I'm going to do about it?"
"What you're supposed to do." Weasel sat down heavily, letting out a huge sigh. "Nogura thinks somewhere along the line we took a wrong turn. The universe isn't the way it's supposed to be. And somehow, you're the key."
Kirk looked down. Something did feel off, had for a long time. Ever since that night in the park, when he'd seen Christine slay Wharton, when he'd let her turn him.
"Mac, what if I told you that the fate of our universe may rest with you? And that we'll need you alive to do what you need to do?"
"I'd ask if I could have some of the very nice drugs you're taking."
"Nogura has a scroll. You're named in it."
Kirk turned back to look at him. "I'm named in it? For real?"
"For real. And the spell, when I get it--"
"It's an old goddamned spell. It could be a joke. It could be missing something vital. You want me to let you slay me so you can 'try' to bring me back?"
"I'm not the only one who will try. Nogura tracked down your fiery lady friend. She's got some powerful mojo on her, let me tell you. Between the three of us."
"Nogura. We need him for this, too."
Weasel looked down. "I'm not sure. It probably could be done with two. But he wants in and if we don't let him and he interfered with the work, it could be disastrous."
"Why does he care?"
"I think he believes he can harness the power of the entity for his own use."
"Is that possible?" Kirk frowned, imagining Nogura with that much power at his command.
"I don't think so. But he'll probably try anyway."
Kirk sat down on the nearest stool. "What happens if I don't do this?"
"I think...I think it's the end of everything."
Kirk laughed. Even dead and living off blood, the fate of the universe still rested on him? He felt something lift inside him, realized he'd shed his ability to ignore things, his ability to pretend not to care. He did care. Life did still matter to him.
He could save the day. Just give him a ship and point him in the right direction.
"I have to think about it."
But it was a lie. He didn't have to think about it; he just had to figure out how to tell Chris what he was going to do. Because, despite his promise--in the most basic way possible--he was going to leave her.
"You okay?" Christine asked, leaning down to caress Jim as he sat on the bed, wrapping her arms around him tightly.
"You're so quiet."
"Just thinking." He pulled her into his lap, kissed her soundly.
She kissed him back, heard footsteps, then felt Emma's hand on her hair.
"I'm going to see Tolvar," Emma said.
Jim pulled away from Christine. "Trouble?"
"No. Why? Are you expecting some?"
He made a face. "Typical headshrinker, turning the question back on me."
She laughed. "Guilty as charged." She kissed them both, then left.
Christine drew Jim down, wanting to have him to herself. He didn't seem to mind, was very busy doing all the things she loved best.
"You're being awfully generous."
He grinned. "I love you. I want you to feel good." He moved faster. "I want to feel good, too."
She threw her head back, loving his strength, how much they could both take. The sex was savage, but it touched something deep within her.
"I love you," she murmured.
"Chris." He kissed her very gently. "You own my heart, you know that, right?"
She kissed him back the same way. "Just as you own mine."
They lay quietly for a long time, then she pulled away. "I'm going to go patrol."
He laughed softly. "With your pet slayer?"
"She'd dust you if she heard you calling her that. But yes, with Ashley."
"You really like this girl?"
"I do. And she needs me. It's nice to be needed."
"I need you. Emma needs you."
"Not the same. And you know it."
"I know. Go have fun, then."
She kissed him again and got up to dress. He had his eyes closed when she passed him, but he opened them, was staring at her strangely.
He shook his head. "Go on. You're wasting moonlight." He grinned. His normal, beautiful grin.
"Copy that, sir." She hurried out, made very good time to the cemetery.
Ashley was sitting on a bench, staring at the sky, her legs tucked up underneath her. As Christine sat down next to her, she whispered, "How did you know you were ready to die?"
Christine realized the girl was crying. "What happened?"
Ashley shook her head, as if it would take too long to explain.
"Ashley, what's happened?"
"You remember Billy?"
Ashley nodded, cuddling into her. Christine pulled her close.
"He broke up with me. He's in love with someone else." She started to cry. "The only person who really loved me, and he doesn't want to be with me anymore."
"That's not true. I love you."
"Then make me like you. I want it to stop."
"The pain doesn't stop when you become a vampire. In some ways, it gets worse."
"I don't care. I'm tired of this. No matter what I do, nothing comes out right."
She fidgeted in Christine's arms, then the strong smell of fresh, hot blood assailed Christine. She pulled away, saw that Ashley held a knife, that she'd sliced into her wrist--the right way if you wanted to die.
"Don't turn me, then. Just let me die."
"I can't let you die."
"Then help me!" Ashley looked panic stricken, she shoved her bleeding wrist to Christine's mouth.
Christine felt her face change, tried to stop the transformation and couldn't. Ashley pressed her flesh to Christine's lips; warm, slayer-rich blood flowed over them.
She drank. For one moment, Christine drank. Then she pushed the girl's wrist away, ripping at her own shirt to make a bandage.
"Stop it, Christine. I want you to drain me."
"Shut up." She tightened the bandage, dragged the girl to her feet. "He's not worth this. Nothing is worth this."
Ashley managed to dig in her heels as Christine tried to pull her in the direction of the nearest emergency medical facility.
"Ashley, I won't let you die."
"Then turn me. I want to be like you."
"No, you don't." Christine felt her face go back to normal. "You never want to be like me."
Suddenly, she heard clapping from behind her. Heard a familiar voice say, "Bravo, pet."
She turned, saw Spike standing in the trees. He grinned at her, a look full of approval.
"I'd say she passed, Spike," Ashley said, catching the regenerator he tossed her. She looked at Christine. "It felt good when you fed. Now I understand why people don't fight harder. And why some freaks even pay to have it done."
"You all right, love?" Spike moved closer to Christine. "You look a little the worse for wear."
Ashley studied her, all traces of the teenager suddenly gone, and Christine realized she was probably much older than she looked.
"You're Billy," she said to Spike.
"I am. And I'm not her fella, if that's what you're thinking."
"That's not what I'm thinking." She struck him hard, knocking him away from her. "This was a test? You two were testing me?"
"'Fraid so," Ashley said with a grin. "No hard feelings, 'kay?" She stuck her hand out as if to shake.
Christine knocked her halfway across the grass.
"Hey!" The girl was up and at her, fists and legs flying hard and fast.
But not as hard and fast as Christine's. She soon had Ashley pinned.
Ashley stared up at her, not struggling, and no remorse in her eyes. "I played you, Christine. Did you really fall for my hero-worship routine? Do you think I'd worship a loser like you?"
Christine grabbed Ashley by the throat. One good twist and the taunting voice would be silenced forever.
One. Good. Twist.
She let go of Ashley, pushing herself to her feet, taking a step, then another. The third step took her into a grave marker, and she tripped, landing heavily. Tears blinded her, and she could barely make out Spike crouching down in front of her.
"Shhh, pet. It's okay now. No more tests."
Strong, warm arms surrounded her. "I'm sorry, Christine. We had to know. Hunger and compassion was one thing to triumph over, anger was another."
"You passed, love. You passed." Spike sounded very relieved.
"Because I've been a vampire too long to not know that most of us turn out bad. Turn out evil. I love you, but I had to make sure you could be trusted."
"So you recruited her?"
"She freelances with Angel Investigations." He smiled gently. "I knew you wouldn't be able to resist a kid. A baby sister, as it were."
Ashley let go of her, said gently, "You're not a loser."
Christine wiped at her eyes. "Yes, I am. Weak. A coward. Even if I passed, I know you think that. Both of you." Christine felt exhausted, as if she was human again and had pulled triple shifts in sickbay.
"I have to go." She touched Ashley's golden hair. "I wanted to believe you needed me."
"I'll have to ask my counselor what that says about me." She laughed, and the sound was slightly hysterical. Maybe she wouldn't tell Emma. Maybe she wouldn't say anything about this to anyone. She turned, could tell that both Spike and Ashley were moving toward her. "Don't."
They kept coming.
Her face changed, and she roared in a way she never had before. They both stopped.
"Don't come near me. Don't touch me." She growled as she backed away. "I never want to see either of you again."
"Damn your test, Spike. And damn you." She hurried off, trying not to cry, pushing the hurt down behind a veneer of not caring.
Jim was still in bed when she came in. She undressed slowly, desperately needing the solace of lying next to him.
"I need to tell you something."
She turned slowly. One look at his face told her she wasn't going to like what he had to say. "What is it?"
"Remember that spell Weasel mentioned?"
She shook her head, but she did remember it. The spell that would restore a dead vampire's humanity.
"Weasel thought it was lost."
She buried her head in the pillow between them. "But it's not?"
"Not anymore." He seemed to see her shut down even more, said quickly, "This has to do with the Presence Spock felt. I'm needed. The human me is needed."
"Weasel can do the spell?"
He nodded, then looked down.
"All by himself?"
There was silence.
"Alma, too. And probably Nogura."
"I'm needed, Chris."
And the fact that she needed him didn't matter?
She pushed herself off the bed.
She held up a hand; he didn't try to stop her as she walked out of the apartment. She wandered the town, passing the piers but not turning in, even though part of her was crying for the comfort Emma could bring.
She walked more, never stopping, and finally found herself near the Vulcan Embassy. She stared up at it, wondering what Spock was doing. Did he know that Jim was trying to get back to him?
"Chris." She heard footsteps, and then Jim's arms slipped around her, pulling her away from the gates. "I'm not leaving you."
"Yes, you are." She turned, pressing herself against him.
"No, love. No." He kissed her fiercely. "If it works for me, then we'll do you next. The way Weasel explained it, he can't do more than one vampire at a time. And it will take time between spells."
"And while I'm waiting, you'll go find this Presence?"
"How convenient this timing is."
"Don't." He pulled her into the shadows of a neighboring house, thrust her up against a wall. "Don't act like I'm deserting you." He took her fiercely. Vampire style. Something he'd never do once he was human again.
"You can have Alma again once you're human."
"Chris, I don't want Alma."
"Maybe you should? Maybe I'll just drag you down, no matter what life I'm living?" She clung to him, riding him until they both found completion.
"Stop crying, Chris. It'll be okay. You'll see."
She stroked his hair. "We'll see the sun again?"
"Yes, we'll see the sun again. Together." He kissed her so sweetly she knew he meant it.
She just had a very hard time believing it.
Spock took a seat in Nogura's office, curious as to why he had been called back. Admiral Ciani sat down next to him. Four other chairs had been placed around the room, three together and one away, near the window.
Spock was surprised to see Alma enter and take the seat by the window. She gave him a friendly smile. "Hello. It's good to see you again."
He nodded. Unsure if he felt the same way. This demon was tied up in everything he'd lost. He knew it was illogical to blame her, yet he did. Her and her orb.
Spock glanced at Ciani, who smiled slightly and said, "This should be fun."
Jim walked in next, followed by Christine and a man Spock had never seen.
Nogura followed before introductions could be made. "Well," he said, with a triumphant grin, "look at us all here in one room. Making nice like big boys and girls."
Christine looked down; she seemed unusually subdued.
"Let's not waste time," Nogura said. "We have something headed our way, and the right man for the job is currently indisposed."
Spock saw Jim take Christine's hand in his and squeeze it.
"Now, thanks to the work of others in this room"--Nogura shot the stranger a look Spock couldn't read--"this indisposition doesn't have to be a permanent condition."
Spock frowned slightly, not understanding what was going on, but feeling sure everyone else did by the looks on their faces.
Nogura turned to Alma. "You'll assist us, of course?"
Alma nodded but didn't look at Jim or Christine.
"You, too, old friend?" Nogura asked the stranger, putting a sarcastic spin on the world "friend."
"If Jim wants this, I'll help."
"Yes. Does Jim want this?" Nogura looked at the man in question.
Jim nodded, and Christine looked away. Spock realized that she didn't want this. And the fact that Jim did was hurting her.
The idea of her hurting made Spock feel...good.
"Then we go tomorrow," Nogura said, rubbing his hands together. "We'll have to do it at your motel by default, I guess."
The stranger nodded.
"Yes. Very inconvenient but necessary." Nogura turned to Jim. "I'll make your death as painless as possible."
"No. You won't." He looked at Christine. "Chris will."
They'd obviously discussed this, because she nodded, not looking at anyone, staring down at her hand clasped in Jim's.
Spock felt emotions buffeting him from deep inside the place he'd try to purge at Gol. He still felt satisfaction that she was hurting, but he also felt some form of compassion. And hurt. Hurt that she loved Jim this much, when she didn't appear to love Spock anymore at all.
He was also still very confused. She was going to kill Jim?
Nogura smiled at Spock. "This must be quite the puzzle for you. Trust me when I say you'll soon have your old friend back."
Spock did not correct him, even if Jim also looked uncomfortable with the word "friend" being used to apply to the two of them.
Nogura nodded to Ciani. "Please show our guests out, Lori."
Spock followed the others out. Alma slipped past them and hurried away, but Jim turned to him.
"So," he said, "you're getting what you wanted. A ride out to the big unknown thing."
"I appear to be lacking some fundamental information."
The stranger nodded. "It's simple. You need Jim alive, and there's a spell that can restore a vampire's humanity."
"A dead vampire's humanity," Christine said softly.
"And you will kill him?" Spock asked.
She nodded, meeting his eyes.
"And if the spell does not work?"
"Then I stay dead, and one of you better have strong words for whoever screwed up the spell." Jim grinned.
"Don't. Don't joke." Christine stalked away.
"You are leaving her?" Spock asked.
"Not quite," the stranger said. "By the time you return, I'll be ready to do the spell on her."
"Magic works on its own timetable. Some of the elements of the spell need to refresh after the drain Jim's transformation will put on them. Not to mention the strain on those of us doing the spell." He glanced at Jim. "But we'll change her. These two will be together."
Jim nodded. "She's my life, Spock."
"Yes, she was once mine, as well." Spock met his angry look with a bland one. At least the others did not have to know he was feeling as much as he was. "And my presence at this resurrection is required why?"
Jim looked uncomfortable. "No one is quite sure what shape I'll come back in. I may need some help remembering things."
"The quickest trip down memory lane that I know of. Will you be able to do that?"
The thought of melding with Jim left Spock uneasy, so he thought of the Presence, of the unfeeling beauty of its call.
"Yes," he said. "I will be able to do that."
The torches in Weasel's workroom reminded Christine of the torches on the field of Sekanik on Vega Hydra, of that night she'd lost everything to the Gotterdammerung and Alma's cursed orb. As she took her place in front of Jim, she swallowed hard.
There was something horribly fitting about the memory of Vega Hydra overlaying on what she was about to do. She'd almost staked Jim then, when he'd been under Anacost's thrall. She'd been prepared to kill him.
Now...now, she could barely lift the stake.
He met her eyes, love shining out of his. A sad, desperate love that had taken possession of him as they'd walked home last night, as he'd made love to her and Emma.
Emma, who had looked at her with such pity as Christine had shoved her stake into her pocket and followed him out of the door. Emma, who would be her only solace once Jim was gone, and maybe even once he got back. Emma, who was not here, but should be, if only because Christine needed someone on her side.
"I may not remember you at first," Jim had told her as they'd walked to the motel.
"I'll always love you," he said now.
Which was truth? Both? Neither?
"If you can't do it, let one of us. We're losing precious time." Alma said it gently, but Christine imagined there was a fierce satisfaction under the words. Alma believed Jim would be okay. Especially, once he was away from Christine.
"Chris, if you can't, it's all right." Jim nodded, his look tender.
"I can." She raised the stake.
He closed his eyes, and she brought the stake down, saying, "I love you," as she struck. The stake plunged into him, and she let it go.
Jim's eyes flashed open, he touched her hand, said, "I love y--"
He was dust.
Christine felt as if the ground tilted suddenly to the left, and she nearly fell, but strong arms caught her.
"It'll be all right," Weasel murmured. "We'll get him back."
She'd forgotten about Weasel, that he might be on her side.
"And so it begins," Nogura said, turning to the empty cage behind him. He nodded at Lori, and she snapped her fingers.
Five men--werewolves, no doubt--came down the stairs, each leading a vampire. There were four females and one male, and they all acted dazed. Christine realized they were under some kind of spell that kept them docile. They were chained to the cage, equally spaced, in roughly the shape of a pentagram, she realized. Then she looked at the floor, where she thought she saw the ghostly image of a pentagram painted on it, matching the vampire's positions.
Christine had noticed a downturn in the vampire population but had thought that Spike and Ashley had cleaned up on their way out of town. Now, she realized it must have been Nogura. Preparing for this.
She glanced at Weasel. He must have told Nogura what was needed. She backed away from him.
"Toots?" Weasel frowned, as he pulled on a black robe. "Christine?"
"Go do your spell." She looked down. "It better work," she said under her breath, and saw both Lori and Spock look at her. But Weasel didn't appear to hear her; he went on about his business, pulling the scroll out and approaching the cage as Nogura and Alma pulled on brown monk's robes and started to chant something low and eerie.
The vampires suddenly woke from their stupors. They began to struggle, to growl. They were terrified, Christine realized. Did the spell need that?
Weasel nodded at the other two, and together they said, "We have prepared a holy place in the darkness and anointed it with oil. We have taken the blood of the living and gathered together the living dead."
Christine realized she could smell blood--human blood--from somewhere in the room. And oils. Exotic, mystical-smelling oils.
Weasel opened the scroll. "As it was written, they shall prepare the way and the very gates of hell shall open."
Nogura and Alma walked around the vampires as Weasel spoke, swinging incense censers. The vampires panicked, but they could not break the chains holding them to the cage.
"That which is above shall tremble," Weasel read, "for that which is below shall arise. And the world shall know the beast, and the beast shall know the world."
What in god's name were they bringing back? What did any of this have to do with Jim? Christine had a sudden urge to stop the ritual, but she couldn't bring herself to move. What if this worked and Jim was restored? How could she stop that?
She closed her eyes, heard Weasel say, "Five are without breath," then the other two stopped walking. She opened her eyes, saw that Nogura and Alma stood shoulder to shoulder, holding the chains of the censor taut in front of them. They answered, "Yet they live."
Weasel stopped in front of the male vampire. "Five are without time."
The other two said, "Yet they live."
He stopped in front of one of the females. "Five are without soul."
"Yet they live."
He moved again. "Five are without sun."
"Yet they live."
"Five are dead."
"Yet they live."
Weasel switched to Latin, speaking it so quickly and with such a strange accent that Christine could not make it out. Except something about dead and alive. That was good, wasn't it? Jim alive. Once dead.
A rumbling started; the vampires looked around them, going unnaturally still. Weasel yelled, one word, three times, then two more. And the vampires collapsed into dust, their remains blowing as if caught in a whirlwind, going faster and faster around the cage. The dust was suddenly sucked into the cage, and a bright light came out, knocking everyone away. Weasel took the brunt of it, was carried hard into Christine, who caught him and held him as they were blown back into the wall.
There was only silence in the room. And then a quiet, whimpering started from inside the cage.
Christine started toward it, was gripped by a hand that burned. She started to fight off Alma's grip, but the demon revved up the heat.
"Not now. You'll only confuse him."
"He needs me." She tried to pull away again. "He loves me."
"Fight me, and I will make sure there is nothing of you left to love. And you know I can." Alma's hands were melting the fabric of Christine's shirt into her arm.
She stopped struggling.
Ciani shot her what almost looked like a pitying look. "The rest is up to us now. You've done your part." Her gaze included Alma and Weasel in the ranks of those who were no longer necessary.
Nogura had already called down the werewolves, was moving up the stairs behind them and the cage. Lori hurried to join them.
Weasel stood tall as they left, but as soon as they were gone, he staggered. Christine caught him and helped him to a seat.
Alma seemed weak, too. Christine fingered her burned skin and let the demon find a chair on her own.
"He'll be where he belongs, and you know it." Alma sat gingerly. "In space."
Christine didn't answer, could only think about what it had felt like to sink her stake into the heart of the man she loved. "We don't know if that was him in there." But even as she said it, she caught a whiff of him. The beloved scent--only afraid, now. And changed. Not just from vampire to human. Maybe even more fundamentally. What if this Jim didn't love her?
Alma got up and walked slowly to the staircase, then she turned and stared at Christine.
"I'm just imagining the woman you once were. The one who would have staked Jim rather than let Anacost have him. That woman would never have turned him."
"That woman died destroying your orb."
"I think it's a shame that's not literally true. Imagine how different all our lives would have been if you'd just had the grace to perish in that battle." Before Christine could answer, Alma turned and walked up the stairs.
Christine looked at Weasel. "Is she wrong?"
"Mac loves you. Hold onto that."
"You didn't answer my question." She turned, studying the things in his workroom. Things she didn't understand, even though this was her world. Things Jim did understand, even though this wasn't his world. "It would have been better; she's not wrong."
"Maybe not. But that doesn't mean she's right about everything. I like you, Christine. And if you were someone who should have died, I don't think I would. So there's something in you worth saving. Worth living for." He touched her shoulder. "The spell worked. We'll do it again soon. And you'll be breathing air again and getting a suntan." He rubbed his back. "I've just got to prepare for that recoil."
She watched him put things away, moved to help him. "What if he doesn't love me now?"
"He loved you in bumpy face, he'll love you any old way, toots." He took her by the arms, pointed her toward the stairs. "Go home. Rest. Don't obsess over this."
She nodded and walked out of his workroom, each step up the stairs a battle won. She opened the door of the room, saw Emma waiting for her.
Christine shrugged. "He's alive. I have no idea what else he is." She started to cry.
Emma wrapped her in strong arms, her cool lips soothing away the tears. "Come, my dearest. Let's go home." And she led Christine back to the apartment.
An apartment that was only half a home now that Jim wasn't in it.
Spock sat on a stool far from the cage and watched Ciani as she murmured to the man inside. Periodically, he would fling himself against the bars, growling, and she would back up a bit. Then she would start again. Spock wondered if she was intoning some kind of spell. He couldn't make out many words--a few Latin phrases and what sounded like "Kirsu." He was unsure what that was, although it seemed to jar a memory.
She finally backed away, taking a chair near Spock's stool.
"Are you sure that is Jim?"
"It's Jim." She sounded a little angry.
"Is he sane?"
"Too early to tell." She smiled at him, the expression mean. "Unless you'd like to go meld with him and find out?"
The man in the cage snarled.
"I believe a meld would be premature."
"Coward." Her lip pulled up, and he could imagine it as a wolfish sneer.
"You do not care for me, do you, Admiral?"
She seemed surprised at the question. He realized she had thought he would not notice her expression, or perhaps she was not even aware she had made it.
"I am upset that this spell was required, Commander Spock."
His title, restored after the spell worked, sounded odd. It was the life he'd given up surrounding him again, suffocating him. Then he realized he actually was having difficulty breathing.
He glanced at Ciani. Her eyes had gone black, and she was staring at him intently. He told himself to relax, that she could not be affecting his body's autonomic responses. But it only became harder to breathe.
Ciani leaned closer. "Jim is important to me. So is Christine. They have something I want very badly. Walk carefully around them, Commander." Her eyes faded to brown, and he could breathe again.
"What would Admiral Nogura think of your behavior?"
She smiled, an utterly fearless smile. "The admiral is well aware of my actions. His interest in Jim and Jim's woman mirror my own."
Spock knew she'd chosen to phrase it that way to anger him.
"Why am I here if you dislike and distrust me to such an extent?"
"Because the prophecy said you must be."
The growling from the cage grew louder, then it abruptly stopped.
"Chris?" It was Jim's voice. Lost and small, but unmistakably his voice--calling for the woman who had been Spock's wife.
Anger boiled up inside Spock, and he let the pressure off slowly, as if he were one of his mother's tea kettles.
"Chris?" Jim's voice was stronger.
Ciani moved to the cage. "She's not here right now, Jim. There's something you have to do on your ship, and then you can see her again."
"My ship?" Jim's voice rose at the end. A note of surprise. Of joy.
"Yes, your ship, Jim. Do you remember what you have to do?"
There was a long silence, then Jim moved into the light, parts of him showing through the barred windows set into the sturdy wooden cage. He was naked, covered with sweat, and shivering. But he looked at Ciani and then he turned to meet Spock's eyes. There was confusion in his expression.
"Jim, do you remember?" Ciani asked gently.
"Stop that thing that's coming. Turn Chris back." He looked at Ciani, grabbed her fingers where they rested on a bar. His eyes flickered to Spock, then away. "He hates me. Don't make me go with him."
He sounded like a child, like Spock's young human cousins had sounded when his mother and aunt had left him alone with them as a babysitter.
"It's all right, Jim. He won't hurt you." She stroked his fingers with her free hand. "You're all right. I'll take care of you."
"Take care of Chris."
"Chris is fine."
"Make sure?" He sounded panicked, and Spock wondered what he thought might happen to Christine.
Ciani nodded. "I will."
Jim yawned, then he shuddered again. Ciani reached behind her, snagging a blanket and some clothes. She opened a small door in the cage, pushed them through. "Here."
He dressed, hiding himself in the dark.
"Now, rest," she said, and Spock heard the sounds of rustling as if Jim was bedding down. Then there was only silence, followed by the deep breathing of exhausted sleep from inside the cage.
"Next time he wakes up, explain the mission to him. Keep at it till he's his old self." She got up.
"You are not staying?"
She shook her head. "I have a promise to keep, but I'll be back." She smiled at the cage, but it was a smile Spock could not read. Then she was gone, and he settled in to wait for Jim to wake up.
Christine and Emma sat on the hillside overlooking Nogura's house. They moved closer, but Christine was afraid to get too close to the gates. She remembered that the mages, or whatever she'd seen that night Jim had brought her to the party for Carl, had patrolled the gate area.
"You two are broadcasting for all you're worth," a sultry voice said in her ear.
Christine didn't stop to think; she launched herself at Lori, throwing her back into the bushes, trying to make her stop--laughing?
"God almighty, Chapel. You have to take the prize as the overreaction queen." Lori rolled gracefully away, her wolf evident in the way she crawled over to Emma, sitting next to her. "You must have your work cut out for you. I assume you're still her watcher?" She sniffed and then grinned. "Watcher. Teacher. Lover. My, my, does Jim know?"
"Yes," Emma said before Christine could tell Lori where to shove the question.
"And he's okay with it?" Her eyebrows went way up. "Oh, he's more than okay. He's a participant, isn't he?" She crossed her arms over her chest. "Well, I'm very put out. He turned down my offer of three in bed."
"And he'd do it again," Christine muttered. Then she forced herself to look Lori square in the face. "Is Jim all right?"
"Took you long enough to ask that." Lori leaned up against her. "His first coherent thoughts were of you, darling."
Christine glanced at her, sure she was bring mocked.
Holding a hand up, Lori looked serious for once. "His first word was Chris." Her seriousness melted, the mocking back. "I just assumed he meant you."
"He meant her," Emma said evenly, as if trying to dissolve some of the tension that had risen.
"So, see. Nothing to worry about."
"How is he, really?" Emma asked.
"I think he'll be fine. Not right at this minute, but it shouldn't take him long to come around. Jim's a survivor. Very resilient. He'd make a fascinating case study--you know he survived Kodos's massacre, right?" Lori studied Emma. "Does it bother you that he didn't call out your name? I believe that would bother me. A lot."
Emma gave her the look of a shrink who knows she's being played with by a patient. But Christine suddenly wondered: did Emma mind? Was Emma in love with Jim? Or was she just fond of the sex and of the man, too? Fond, but not in love.
"You probably shouldn't be out here," Lori said, looking at them both. "In fact, I'd lay low if I were you. That fire demon is not a fan of yours, Christine. And, for what it's worth, I don't think she's quite stable." She smiled at Emma. "I'm an armchair psychologist. Have to be, being alpha and all. There's a lot of responsibility that comes with that role. At any rate, I'd love to hear your professional opinion of Christine's rival."
"Christine has no rival. Not where Jim's concerned." Emma said it immediately, as if she did not have to think about it.
"Why do you care about all this?" Christine asked Lori.
"You have something we need, remember?"
"If I ever had it, I lost it when I was turned."
"Well, then you can find it again--when you're turned back." Lori looked at Emma. "Tell me, Emma, do you want to be turned back?" She leaned in, as if what she had to say was confidential, but Christine could hear every word. She knew Lori was aware that she could. "The scroll said that the spell would put you back exactly as you were. So...if you were sick..."
Emma looked away.
Lori smiled. "I'm thinking the communal bed will not be so communal when your two lovers aren't undead, anymore."
"Stop it." Christine took Emma's arm. "We'll deal with that when we get to it."
"Hey, look on the bright side," Lori said as she rose gracefully. "Maybe Jim and Spock will fail, this Presence will kill us all, and Emma won't have to watch the two people she loves most turn their backs on her."
Christine eyed Lori. The woman had lost all trace of the submissiveness she'd shown when Christine and Jim had first been turned.
Lori met her eyes; she seemed to know what Christine was thinking. "Tables are turned, sweetheart. Now, you need me. So you play real nice with the big bad wolf, and I won't accidentally misplace the changing spell."
"Bitch," Emma said.
"Good call," Lori said with a grin. Then she slipped away into the woods.
"What now?" Emma asked.
"We go home. We lay low." Christine rose, pulled her up and held her close. "I love you, Emma. I won't lose you. We'll figure our way as we go, I promise."
Emma nodded, but she didn't look convinced.
Emma woke to the smell of smoke. Fire was licking the walls of one corner of their apartment.
"Christine. Wake up!"
Christine jerked awake. "Oh, shit."
They grabbed the blanket off the bed, beat out the flames as best they could, then waited to see if the fire would start anywhere else.
Emma examined the rocking chair--her favorite piece of furniture--and the space around it. The chair was blackened and still smoked a little. The walls, despite having had flames crawling all over them, was untouched. "This isn't normal fire."
"Magic. She's playing with us." Christine eyed the light that spilled around the curtains.
Emma followed her gaze. Daylight. Not the time to run out of the apartment, but they might have no choice if Alma set more of their place on fire. "She hates you that much?"
"Or she loves Jim that much." Christine began to dig out boxes the previous resident had piled in one corner and they'd never bothered to throw out. "Guess the bitch-demon doesn't know all, eh?" The last box moved revealed a door.
Emma smiled. "The sewers?" The she realized Christine was paler than normal. "Oh."
"There's no way she knows that about me. I'm willing to bet she doesn't know this place came with its own escape hatch, either. So let's take advantage of all that ignorance and get the hell out of here."
"And go where?"
"Weasel's. He can protect us until Jim gets back." Not _if_ he came back. Christine never said if, but Emma knew she was afraid that Jim wouldn't come back from this mission. Or worse, that he would, but wouldn't want them, anymore.
"Emma," Christine was pulling some things together. "Grab what you need and let's go."
What she needed? Emma didn't need anything except blood to drink and Christine.
And not Jim? As she grabbed her stuff, Emma realized that, while she did miss Jim, she was all right without him. She wasn't sure she'd be all right without Christine.
Christine hovered at the door to the sewers.
"Do you want me to go first?" Emma asked.
"Needs must when the fire-demon drives." Christine grinned bravely, but she closed her eyes before crawling through the door.
Emma followed her and, once she was through the opening, she found she could stand. She pulled Christine to her feet. "You okay?"
Christine opened her eyes slowly. Emma saw raw panic, and then Christine seemed to fight the feeling down by will alone.
"Beats being set on fire," Christine said, and set out at an ambitiously brisk pace.
"Do you have any idea where you're going?"
"I have an excellent sense of direction. We just head north and then west."
North was no problem. They made good time. But when they turned to head west, they ran into a nest of vamps.
"Well, well, well," a tall redhead walked toward them. "Why do I think you really didn't mean to run into us, Slayer?"
The other vamps--eight, in all--fanned out, encircling them.
"Well, you're right. I really didn't. But let's just call it a draw, okay? We go our way; you go yours."
"And why would we do that?"
"Because I've had a bad week," Christine said.
The redhead smirked. "You're having an even worse one. I don't see a stake." Her face changed, and she moved closer to Christine.
"I don't need a stake." Christine's face didn't change, and she moved so fast, Emma almost couldn’t track her hand as she drew it back, then, holding her fingers out straight, shoved them like a knife through the woman's throat. She twisted her hand, pulled out a rather large piece of what had to be the vampire's spinal column.
The vampire's head fell forward, and Christine punched out again, knocking her skull back, tearing the skin. As the head separated from the body, the vampire collapsed into dust.
Christine looked at the others. "Now. Who else wants to discuss my bad week?" She looked ready for a fight--a large and dusty one.
The other vampires fled.
Emma swallowed. "I didn't know you could do that."
"Neither did I. But all this extra strength better be good for something." Her smile was grim. "Let's go."
After a few false starts, they came up in a shadowed alley behind the motel and followed the shade into Weasel's reception.
He barely looked at them. "Let me guess, you came for the ambiance?"
"And for the smoke-free rooms," Emma said.
He grinned at her, the look lighting up his face. "Never piss off a fire demon."
"Now you tell me." Christine paced the little office.
"He's fine, toots."
"You know that I hate that name." She stopped pacing, stared over the counter at him. "Do you know he's fine or do you just hope he's fine?"
"I know. Just got this message earlier today, was gonna bring it by once the sun went down." He pushed over a portable comm unit. Jim's face was frozen on the screen, and Christine hit play. He came to life, and Emma imagined that Christine's heart almost started beating again at the sight of him.
"Weasel," Jim said, "Get this message to Chris. Tell her I'm fine. Tell her I love her." He frowned, then smiled. "Hell, give the damn comm unit to her, and I'll tell her myself."
Christine smiled and ran her finger over his face.
"I'll be home soon," he said. "I love you."
Emma turned away.
"Why don't you take that down to room sixteen, Christine?" Weasel said. "Play it a few hundred times?"
She nodded, didn't wait for Emma as she took the key to the room and hurried off down a shadowed walkway.
Once she was gone, Weasel smiled sadly at Emma. "You're in a strange position, aren't you?"
She raised an eyebrow; had Jim told him?
He sat on the counter. "I don't have to be psychic to read pain. And confusion. I'm a good listener."
She sat down in one of the chairs in the shade, but didn't know what to say.
"Of course, to be a good listener, I gotta have someone who actually talks."
She smiled. "He loves her. She loves him. It's quite simple. And quite lovely."
"I'd agree with that assessment." He sighed. "So what's wrong with this picture?" He held up a finger. "Jim." Another finger went up. "Christine." Then a third finger joined them. "You."
She looked down. "There's a reason it's called a third wheel."
"There's also a reason it's called a menage a trois. Three's sort of assumed, but it doesn't automatically mean bad. But maybe for you it does? Do you think you're in the way?"
"Did you hear my name mentioned in that comm?"
"Nope. Sure didn't."
"Well, there you have it." She stretched, as if she didn't care.
"Do you love them?"
She nodded. In all the world, they were the only things she did love.
"Do you think they love you?"
She nodded. "But not the way they love each other." She indulged herself, took a breath she did not need and let it out in a long sigh. "It doesn't matter. They'll be human soon. And I won't." At his look, she shook her head. "I can't go back to being sick. Being made alive again, only so I can die? I don't want that."
"No." She nodded. The future suddenly seemed clear. "Once you do the spell to make her human again--once I know she's all right--I'm going to leave them."
"Where will you go?"
"London, probably. Finish what David started, but in my own way. Not his." She nodded. Yes, that was a good plan. Jim and Christine would be fine without her.
And she'd survive without them.
The halls of Uhura's apartment seemed unnaturally bright after the gloom of their basement and the subdued lighting at Weasel's. Christine hurried along, hoping not to run into anyone she knew. She rounded a corner, saw Uhura's door and pushed the chime.
The door slid open; Uhura stood on her side of it, staring at Christine thoughtfully.
"Can I come in?" Christine asked.
They stood and stared at each other some more.
"You were the one who wanted us to talk, Ny."
"Yes, I was. And we can talk out here. You on that side, me on this one."
"You wanted to help Jim follow someone, but you won't even invite me in?"
"Him, I trust."
The words hurt; Christine thought Ny intended them to.
"I can explain."
"Yes, please explain how this happened. Because the last time I saw you was at your graduation. What should have been the happiest night of your life."
Uhura folded her arms over her chest. "So what the hell happened?"
"It was Jim...I mean he and I...I wanted, but he wouldn't."
"You mean to tell me this was over a guy?" Uhura's eyebrow lifted slowly.
"Not any guy. It was Jim. And I just gave--" She looked down.
"You gave up. Just say it."
"I gave up," Christine mumbled.
"I am so angry at you right now."
Christine turned to go.
"That's right. Run away again."
Christine stopped, slowly turning to look at Uhura. "What do you want from me?"
"I want my friend back. The nice, solid one."
"The one who wasn't a slayer?"
Uhura looked away. "Maybe."
"That Christine never existed. She was just a role I played."
Uhura looked stung. "Are you saying being my friend was just an act?"
"Of course not." Christine stared at her helplessly; words were not working well. "I miss you, Ny."
Uhura just nodded, but her grim look softened somewhat.
"I messed up."
"That's the understatement of the year." Uhura's expression changed again, anger sparking. "And you took him with you. How could you?"
"He wanted me to."
Uhura shook her head, but Christine noticed that, despite her disgusted look, her friend didn't contradict her.
"Look, you'll be up on the Enterprise soon, Ny. And so will he. I--I gave him back to you."
"Meaning he's human again. They won't let me see him, but he is human. And he'll be on the Enterprise again. He and Spock both."
"I don't understand."
"I know. But it's true. He's alive." There was a long uncomfortable silence. "I still slay things," Christine finally said, trying to find something to break the chill.
"No, nuns and candy stripers. Of course, evil things."
"Do you want a commendation? Maybe a parade in your honor?"
"No. But it should count for something. Shouldn't it?"
When Uhura didn't answer, Christine asked, "When did you get to be so unforgiving?"
"Maybe when you disappeared again. I thought you were dead, and I couldn't help you. And now it turns out it's worse. Because you took someone else with you, too."
Christine decided this was not the time to bring up Emma. "He's human again, Ny."
"I heard you the first time. And if it's true, why do I have such a hard time believing it was in any way your idea?"
Christine felt the sting but bit back her anger. "It's been swell, Ny. Catching up like this. The warmth--it's overwhelming. I can see why we're such solid friends." She thought this time she stung Uhura. "I do miss you, Ny."
"I miss you, too." Uhura hit a button, and the door slid shut between them.
"Good luck out there," Christine said to the closed door. Then she turned and fled from the too-bright building, only relaxing once she was safely back in the shadows.
Kirk stared out the viewscreen. There was nothing left of V'ger, Decker, or Ilia. Just the familiar expanse of open space. His space, on his ship.
With his friend by his side.
"We did it," he murmured to Spock.
"Yes. We did." Spock smiled. A true, happy smile. No trace of what they'd been through in it. No sign of the anger and betrayal.
But Kirk had a feeling they were still there. Lurking. Waiting for the post-V'ger-meld euphoria to wear off--and one woman to bring them all screaming back.
"I think V'ger understands now, Jim. The joy of union." He met Kirk's eyes. "The pain of loss. All of that is there for him in Decker. More than knowledge. It understands feelings."
This simple feeling. Wasn't that how Spock put it? Their friendship. Spock wanted it back. Kirk did, too. But not if it meant giving up Chris.
He turned to look around the bridge. Most of the crew didn't know he'd been a vampire or what he'd done to survive. Only Uhura and Spock. And Bones, too, because Uhura had told him. But he'd been off planet, and somehow, not seeing it with his own eyes, McCoy didn't seem as bothered.
Kirk scented the air as if he still was a vampire, but he could no longer smell their blood. Although Anacost's legacy still lingered. He'd been bitten before he was turned. So that was restored, too. He still had vampire blood in him, even if it was dilute.
He still, in some ways, probably craved the night. He knew he still craved Chris.
But he was human again. And sadly lacking in the magic department.
"It will come back," Lori had told him. "It's not gone, just sleeping, because of the trauma of death and rebirth."
It had probably been a good thing that it wasn't working. Who knew how V'ger would have reacted if he'd tried something magical on it?
"Are you all right," Spock asked softly.
Kirk met his eyes. "Let's walk." He moved to the doors, calling out, "Mister Sulu, you have the con."
Spock followed him onto the lift. "You wish to discuss Christine?"
"No flies on you." Horrible expression. Flies for a dead man. Kirk had died twice--both times by Chris's hand.
"I...I still have feelings for her, Jim."
Great. "Well, I think it goes without saying that I also have feelings for her. Strong feelings."
"She loves you." Spock sounded morose.
"Yes. She does." Kirk thought of Emma. How the hell were they going to factor her into the equation? Chris would be okay--she'd still have her slayer strength after the spell--but would he survive sex with Emma if he was only mortal? The love bites alone...
"Christine will choose you. I will have to come to terms with that." Spock sighed. Loudly. "You stole her from me in so many ways, Jim. If you had just told me where she was."
Kirk felt frustration fill him, turned, and snapped. "She was on Earth, Spock. Studying goddamned medicine. How hard did you look for her?"
Spock looked stunned. "Are you saying I did not wish to find her?" By his tone, it was clear that this would be a stupid thing to say.
"Of course not." Although Kirk thought he probably was. Since being a vampire, he felt as if his ability for self-deception had fallen away from him. He'd seen what he was, couldn't hide from it. And he saw others more clearly, too. He'd run into Chris at Starfleet Medical, for Christ's sake. She hadn't been hiding. And later, she and Spike had been out walking. In the open. Not hunting or patrolling. Just out for a stroll. "Maybe you simply weren't meant to find her, Spock."
"Or maybe Christine stayed well out of my probable path when she knew I was on Earth."
"That's certainly a possibility." Kirk suddenly felt tired. Bone weary. In a way he'd never felt as a vampire.
In many ways, life had been simpler when he hadn't been living. Nothing had to make sense. Nothing had to be noble. Not when he'd been a creature of the night. Any way he found to rise above his base desires was commendable.
"What will you do next?" Spock asked.
"I'm going to go home, watch them change Chris back to human, and past that, I haven't thought."
"Decker is gone; the ship is yours again."
"Only if Nogura says it is."
"Why would he not? You have done everything he asked. At great personal peril."
"Not quite." Kirk dropped his voice. "Do you remember those other slayers from that special place who fought with Chris?"
"He's very interested in them. In where they live. We haven't been exactly forthcoming with info."
"Ah." Spock smiled. "Even as vampires, you kept their secret?"
"That is commendable."
Kirk put his hand on Spock's arm, felt answering warmth. He'd gotten so used to cool flesh. Spock felt as if he was burning up, even through his uniform sleeve. But it felt familiar. It felt good. "I've missed you, Spock."
"I have missed you as well." Spock sighed again. "Life will be very confusing for the foreseeable future."
"Still the master of understatement, old friend."
They walked on, two old friends, who might or might not find their way back to that friendship.
At least Kirk knew they both wanted to try.
Christine paced the confines of room sixteen. Jim was due any moment. She wished he would have just beamed into the room, but Weasel had warned that the magical wards might play havoc with the transporters. Since she wanted Jim and not a big pile of goo to show up, she'd wait a few more minutes.
"Stop pacing," Emma said.
The door opened, and she saw his grin, and launched herself at him, causing him to crash into the door frame. She heard the pained rush of air, heard a worse sound--ribs cracking.
"Jim. Oh god. I'm sorry."
Emma dug in Christine's bag, handed her the regenerator. She had a strange look on her face, but not one of surprise at what had just happened. "Welcome home, Jim."
"Thanks?" He grinned at them both gamely. The grin became more real as the regenerator did its work.
"I'm so sorry," Christine said as she turned the little instrument off.
"It's okay. Enjoy the extra power while you can." He winked at her.
"Are you sure they're ready to do the spell again?"
"Nogura says 'Why wait?'"
"What does Alma say?" Christine tried to fight off a mean look.
He glanced around the motel room. "I assume you're not staying here because you like the turn-down service?"
Emma laughed, but Christine didn't view any of this as very funny.
"Alma got a bit testy with us," Emma said. "Fires were breaking out. It was spoiling the mood..."
Christine looked over at her, trying to read her expression as she made light of Alma's attack. Before she could say anything, there was a knock on the door, then Weasel stuck his head in.
"Nogura's on his way." He shut the door and left them alone.
Kirk nodded, his grin untroubled. "Soon, Chris. Very soon." Then he looked over at Emma, including her in the grin. "We can do you next."
"I don't want to go back," she whispered.
Christine had known this was coming. Had suspected Emma would prefer un-life to certain, painful death. "It's okay. We can still be together."
Kirk grinned, a naughty, if slightly nervous, expression. "As long as the regenerator holds out."
Emma smiled, but it was an expression that did not make it to her eyes. "Let's just get through tonight, okay?"
"Okay," Jim said with a smile.
He kissed them both tenderly, then pulled away. "The future awaits," he said, leading them to the door and down through the edges of the dying daylight to Weasel's workroom.
Lori arrived first. She looked around at them and smiled, her smile becoming brighter when it rested on Kirk. "The returning hero." He tried, but could find no trace of mockery in her voice or her eyes.
Nogura came in a moment later, werewolf lackeys carrying the cage and leading five vampires--one woman and four men this time.
"Where's Alma?" Kirk asked.
"Given her harassment of your women, Jim, I thought it best to leave her out."
"But you need three," Emma said. Kirk assumed Chris had described the ritual to her.
Lori frowned. "She doesn't need to be here."
Christine smiled grimly. "Oh, yes, she does. I'm the one dying, this time. And I'll have who I damn well want at my death and rebirth ceremony." She looked over at Kirk. "Are you up to doing the spell?"
He could feel power tingling inside him--probably from being back in his old classroom--but he wasn't anywhere near full strength. He shook his head.
"Oh, not to worry," Nogura said. "We have Lori. She's more than powerful enough for this."
Lori smiled at them and nodded.
"We just have one little thing to settle before we start," Nogura said, sitting down and playing with the scroll that contained the spell. "Can you guess what it is?"
Kirk forced himself not to look at Chris as he shrugged.
"Kirsu." Lori walked over to Chris. "How was your reunion? Hearty, I imagine."
She looked at him, at his ribs, and he could feel them aching slightly, as if she was pushing in on the healing bones. He didn't even try to fight back.
"Magic still on the fritz? Too bad, lover." She walked back to Nogura's side.
Nogura nodded, tapping his knee with the scroll. "So...if you want her to be transf--"
Suddenly, Kirk felt the wards around the room heat up, like someone had set fire to the inside of a spider web, the flames starting to lick outward. He could sense Weasel opening the room to Alma before she did any more damage.
"I don't like being left out," she said as she stomped down the stairs.
"There may be nothing to be left out of," Nogura said. "Not unless Jim or Christine would like to tell us how to find Kirsu."
"That's only a legend," Alma said, and Kirk saw Chris look at her in not-quite-suppressed surprise. Alma knew of Kirsu, if not how to get there.
"Maybe so. We need to know everything about it, legend or no."
"Or what?" Alma was studying Chris.
"Or she stays a vampire and her relationship with Jimbo here won't have the staying power of a fruit fly." Nogura grinned meanly.
"We don't know anything," Chris said. "Don't do this."
Nogura shrugged. "In time, you'll come around. Possibly even tonight, once you realize what you're giving up, so I'll leave the cage and the vampires." He held up the scroll. "But I'll be taking this."
He got halfway up the stairs with it before it burst into flame. Kirk felt a sense of inevitability as he turned to Alma.
She shrugged. Her eyes dead.
Nogura pressed his burned hand to his stomach. "Well, so much for happily ever after." He shot Kirk a "them's the breaks" look, then nodded to Lori, who followed him out. They left the cage and the vampires.
"Tell me you memorized the spell," Kirk said to Weasel.
"I did. Of course, I did. But you need the scroll to be present. It's part of the spell, not just a record of the words."
Alma smiled. "Then you can't do the spell?"
Kirk noticed how she didn't say "we." He didn't like it.
"I can't do the spell now. But I've got a lead on another scroll. I was worried about Nogura pulling something like this."
"You've thought of everything." Alma smiled, the beautifully sad smile that had first won Kirk's heart. Then her expression changed. "Except you've lost sight of the fact that Christine's not worth all this effort. She's no good for you, Jim. She'll drag you down."
Kirk felt magic flare around him--hot, dreadfully hot, fire energy. "Chris!" he yelled, but Alma had already launched her attack. It flew like a missile, guided fire heading straight for Chris's chest. She stood in the fire's path, a look of despair on her face. She didn't try to move as time seemed to slip into slow motion.
"Chris!" Kirk yelled again, sure that the next thing he saw would be her going up in flames.
But suddenly she was flung aside, and the fire-missile buried itself into Emma's body. She screamed for a long moment, as her clothing and hair burst into flame.
Then she was gone.
Chris roared. There was fear and pain and utter rage in the sound.
"You see," Alma said, as she stared at Chris, hate blazing out of her eyes. "Everything you touch, you destroy. I told him that, but he wouldn't listen. He had to have you."
Chris looked ready to launch herself at Alma. "Murderer."
"Consider it a mercy killing."
Weasel edged closer to Kirk. "Water spout, Mac." Kirk felt his teacher's energy mixing with his own. Kirk dug down, found magic inside him, no longer hiding, ready to answer him now that every cell in his body was screaming with the need to protect Chris. The water and wind built inside his mind and Weasel's. And when Weasel whispered, "Now," Kirk imagined the watery tornado flying straight and true at Alma, dousing her power.
It flew, materializing as he and Weasel gave it form. Alma saw it coming and tried to block it with a huge blast of fire.
It barely wobbled.
She screamed as the water covered her like plastoskin over a wound. And, as she tried to break free, Chris was on her. Her hands on Alma's skull and neck. There was a horrible crack, and Alma stopped moving. Chris let go, and Alma slid to the ground, lifeless eyes staring at the ceiling.
Chris stood, shaking, looking at Alma, then over where Emma had burned up. Her eyes met Kirk's, and she sank down on the ground next to Alma.
"Chris." He approached her carefully, hated that he even had to think about how strong she was, or what she might do to him.
"She was right, Jim. You should have listened to her when she first warned you about me. I do destroy everything I touch."
"No." He brushed her hair back, helped her up. "I love you. I will always love you."
He drew her away, taking her upstairs to their room, lying with her on a bed that had never been his to share with her or Emma.
Emma. He let out a ragged breath, again saw her push Chris out of the way, her body going up in flames.
That horrible scream--he would hear it in his dreams. He would think of Emma, and he'd know Alma had meant for Chris to be the one who'd felt that torment.
How had everything become so twisted?
"What are we going to do?" Chris sounded lost.
"We wait for Weasel to track down another scroll. He will, Chris. I know he will." He kissed her again. "Then we change you, too."
"There's only two of you."
"We'll wing it. We're strong enough." He had felt that when they'd built the water spout. As if nothing was impossible for them to do. As if no one could have stood in their way. Not even Nogura.
"Okay," she said, but she was crying.
He held her, but, for the first time since she had turned him, she didn't even seem to know he was there.
Spock waited for Jim to finish his tasks at Starfleet Command, then walked with him back to the motel Jim's friend ran. "Why is he called Weasel?"
Jim pursed his lips. "I'm not actually sure. He has a thing about names. Calls me 'Mac' and Chris 'Toots.' I can't wait to hear what he comes up with for you."
Weasel was sitting out front, his chair tilted back against the wall. "You bringing home strays now, Mac?"
Spock stared at him, unsure what to say.
"Well, get a load of Mister Happy."
"Questioned answered," Jim said with a grin. He turned to Weasel. "Any word on the scroll?"
"Should be here tomorrow." Weasel nodded back toward the room. "She's not doing so good."
Spock saw Jim frown. His friend had not wanted to tell him what had happened, why Christine was still a vampire. He imagined Alma trying to kill Christine, superimposed his memories of standing over Spike, ready to stake him. Love inspired such horrible brutality. And Alma had, to some extent, been in the same emotional state Spock had been. Alone, missing the one she loved. And then to find out he was with someone else, that he did not want to come back to her. Spock didn't condone what Alma had done, but he understood it. She had just been trying to protect what was hers. So often love boiled down to possession.
"She'll be fine once the scroll gets here." Jim motioned for Spock to follow him, led him around the corner. "She's...you know how dark her moods can get."
Jim looked up. "Spock, I'm sorry. This is--I shouldn't be making you listen to this. Our problems aren't yours."
"You are my friend. She...I am unsure what she is, but she is important to me. I make your problems mine. Willingly."
"Thank you," Jim said, clasping his shoulder hard. "I wish I could help her."
"Perhaps if I talked to her. Provide some closure that does not involve someone trying to kill her?"
Jim thought about it. "Maybe that would help. Let me go get her." He walked down to one of the rooms, opened the door and disappeared inside.
A moment later, Christine came out. "Spock." There was no emotion in her voice. Nothing in her expression to indicate if she was happy or not to see him.
"Christine." He wanted to call her "wife." But he'd dissolved that himself, when he'd thought he was dying. "Perhaps we could walk?"
"Jim says you experience emotions again."
"I feel much more now than I did before. Because of the meld with V'ger."
"I still felt things even after Gol. Especially for you."
"I'm sorry. You're just another person I hurt."
He glanced over at her. She did not breathe. It was an odd thing to miss: the steady in and out of her breath. But he did. He'd often lain awake, not needing as much sleep as she had, but content to just hold her, to listen to her breathe in and out.
"I'm sorry, Spock. For all the things I did wrong. For all the ways I hurt you and everyone else."
He stopped her, a hand on her arm. Her skin was distressingly cool. "And I am sorry for what happened to your friend."
"She died for me. It should have been me burning up, not her."
"Perhaps dying for you was the only decision she could make?"
"Like ripping a bond to shreds?"
"Yes, exactly like that. Both of us wanted you to go on." He gave in to an impulse and brushed her dark hair off her face. She leaned into his hand, and he felt a rush of the old tenderness for her. Even now. Even after all the hurt, he still wanted to protect her. "I still love you."
She stared at him, her eyes full of something he finally identified as discomfort.
"But you do not want to hear that, it seems."
"You went away, Spock. There was a part of me that still loved you. But after what you did to Spike. After those messages you sent to Jim and me." She pulled away from him. "I love Jim."
"Can a vampire love?"
She blinked, clearly not expecting those words. He was a little surprised by them himself.
"Yes. Yes, we can." There was no hesitation on the "we." She was what she was: a vampire. Even if she would very soon be human again.
He nodded, accepting her answer. "You will join us on the ship." It was not a question, because Jim had already shared his plans, probably to prepare Spock for the worst. It still surprised Spock that Nogura, after denying Jim the spell, would give him the ship. But Jim had earned it back. He had stopped V'ger, had saved them all. Or maybe there was something on that scroll Nogura had in his office. Maybe Jim was named more than once, and Nogura couldn't afford not to give him the ship?
"It's what Jim wants," she said.
"What do you want?"
She looked at him warily.
"I am serious. What do you wish for the future to bring?"
"A chance to make amends." She looked down. "If I can."
"I am sure you can."
"I wish I was sure." She smiled at him, the closest thing to a real smile she'd given him. "And I want to spend my future with Jim."
Spock looked down. "Of course."
"I'm sorry. Do you wish I'd said I wanted to spend it with you?"
He met her eyes. "Yes."
His honesty seemed to disarm her. She closed her eyes and said softly, "If I'd never run..."
"Yes, if you had never run."
She opened her eyes, and he saw pain--and some kind of grim acceptance. "But I did run. I did, and this is what followed that action. This is what is."
Spock nodded. No matter how much he might wish things had turned out differently, this was what was.
Christine smiled in anticipation as Weasel opened the package containing the scroll. She glanced at Jim, and he grinned at her, the light bright in his eyes. Weasel drew the scroll out, a big smile lighting his face--a smile that faded the longer he handled the scroll.
It's a fake, isn't it?" She laughed, could feel hysteria bubbling up.
"Chris." Jim tried to hold her, but she threw him away from her.
Hard. Much too hard. Something cracked. Another broken bone? Just like she'd hurt him last night when they'd made love.
Turning, she ran from him, up the stairs, into the night, making impossible speed as she called upon slayer and vampire powers to carry her far, far away.
She found the bench she'd sat on with Emma as they'd watched the sunset, after Emma had told her of the origins of Kirsu.
Should she have given up the slayers to Nogura when she had the chance? Only Alma still would have destroyed the scroll. Or would Nogura have protected it better if they'd given him what he wanted? Or would he have cared about her at all if she no longer held secrets he wanted to know?
It was impossible to know. She'd done what she'd done. And now the consequences must be borne.
If she closed her eyes, she could remember watching the sunset, what it looked like as the fiery disk that was her enemy now, fell into the sea. She'd been holding Emma's hand--her warm hand, not her cool one. It was symmetry that she would watch the sunrise from here, too. And when the sun burned her to a crisp, the way Alma's fire should have, then Emma--and maybe Alma, too--would be waiting to escort her to Hell.
She sat motionless, no breath, no heartbeat, still as a statue, staring out at the moonlit sea. Then she heard familiar footsteps.
Jim sat down next to her.
"How did you find me?" This wasn't his place. This was her place. And Emma's.
"I can feel you. I can still feel you."
She felt his words like arrows to her heart. Each one should turn her into dust, but they didn't. What would life have been like if she'd loved this man just a little less?
"What are you doing, Chris?"
"You know what I'm doing."
"Yes, I know what you're doing." He took her hand, his touch so warm. She could feel his pulse, it was fast now. Worried for her. "Don't do this. Live. Live for me."
"This isn't life, Jim. This isn't even close."
"Yes, it is. It's our life, Chris. The one we made, and all right, it's not nice. But it's ours. You can't throw it away."
"You'd be so much better off if I'd never been in your life."
He squeezed her hand so hard it almost hurt. "That's bullshit. You know where I was. At that damned desk. What if I were still there? My friend dead but no idea why. No magic in my life. No slayer to rescue. To love." He turned to her, his eyes wild. "Don't tell me that loving you didn't save me. Because it did."
She started to cry. "I love you so."
"Then don't do this."
She brushed his hair back, kissing his face. "Stay with me?"
"Forever. You know that."
"No. Just until sunrise."
He shook his head. "Forever, Chris. I'll stay with you forever."
She pulled away, jerking her hand from his grasp. "Stop it. You know what I want. If you can't stay with me, then go now."
"I'm not going anywhere." He leaned back. "You never told me what happened to Ashley. Where is she?"
She felt hurt flood her. Ashley. The little slayer who'd needed her. What a damn joke.
"Spike called for you, Chris. He was worried. Just had a feeling. I know that feeling. I feel it, too." He put his arm around her, pulled her to him, and she let her head nestle against his shoulder. It felt too good to fight. "He told me about the test."
"I passed. Yay me." She turned and buried her face in his neck, crying over the little girl she was going to save, over the vampire she loved who'd thought it necessary to test her.
Kirk pulled her closer, so her mouth rested over his jugular. She tensed, and felt his hand on the back of her head, holding her close. She could feel the beat of his heart, smell the warm tang of his blood. She felt her face start to change and just barely stopped it.
"I've called Spock. The ship is his--unless Nogura gives it to someone else."
"Spock doesn't support my choice, but he understands it."
"It was always a choice, Chris, you never took anything away from me. I chose you and whatever life I had to lead to be with you. And I'll always make that choice because you're my world, and you're slipping away, and I'm going to save you the only way I can."
"Weasel will keep looking for the spell. And when he finds it, he'll turn us both back. He's strong enough to do it. And I'll help him do you. I'll be so strong by then, too. My magic won't leave me a second time, I know it."
He yanked her face up, kissed her the way he used to, savagely, as if he was already a vampire again. "It's not just for you, Chris. You think I don't miss what we had? The strength? The power? No need to do the right thing, but we did it anyway. No need to rise above, but we chose to. I don't fear it. I welcome it. I'll become human again when it's time. But not without you."
She pulled away, tears making it hard to see. For a moment, she was back in the cemetery, David's mouth at her neck. In her mind's eye, he asked her to choose, and she didn't choose him. She chose to fight. That Chapel limped off. To where, Christine didn't know. All she knew was that she didn't make that choice. That Chapel was the Christine who chose selflessly. Who didn't just take what she wanted.
She should try to be more like that Chapel.
She pushed Jim away, got up.
He yanked her back, only he hadn't gotten up from the bench. He was holding her with magic?
She stared at him, tried to speak but her voice wouldn't work. She fought for control, finally said, "Your ship. You have it back. It's worth more than me. Take it. Run."
"I don't run, remember?" He smiled, and she felt shivers wherever his magic touched her.
"You stay human, then, and I'll stay by your side. And we'll wait for Weasel to find--"
"You're lying. I can tell." The magical arms didn't feel very good all of a sudden. "I've done what I was supposed to do. I saved the world. Hooray for the great James T. Kirk. And now I want what I want. I want to come home. And home, my great, terrible love, is you." He got up, the magic easing up the closer he came.
He was giving her a choice. Of course, he'd do that.
He pulled her to him, caressing her hair as he settled her face near his neck and breathed, "Do it."
Desire coursed through her. For him. For his blood. For sharing her nights with him, not just a sunrise that only one of them would see all the way through.
Her face changed, and she sobbed. She should be better, but she wasn't better: she was the selfish one.
His hand tightened, he jammed her face against his neck. "Do it. Now."
She did it; she bit down and heard him sigh as she began to drink. He caressed her as she drained him. His blood filled her, took away her pain, even if it could do nothing for the guilt.
But this was who she was. She was weak.
She was in love.
Maybe she was evil.
His heart slowed dangerously, and she ripped open her own neck and let him feed from the hot, hearty blood. He sucked hard, his teeth biting into her torn skin, his tongue making her shiver. His hands moved on her body with more vigor as he grew stronger.
He pulled away, his eyes closing. And as he sagged, she picked him up and carried him back to the motel.
Weasel was waiting; he opened the door and let her into their room.
"Do you disapprove?"
"It's what he wanted." His voice made it clear he heartily disapproved.
"I need to hunt. He'll need to feed as soon as he wakes up."
"Lovely life you lead." He walked away. Then he turned back. "Been reports of a rapist over near the Tenderloin. A real animal, from all accounts."
He nodded and walked away.
She didn't find the rapist, but she found a man about to beat up the teenage boy who'd thought he was going to service him. She left the kid crying, took the man back to the motel. She and Jim could hunt for the rapist later.
She sat on the bed, watching Jim sleep. He didn't breathe; his heart didn't beat. It was glorious and troubling. She felt guilt war with joy that he was back with her.
He opened his eyes. Smiled at her. "Chris," he said, as he reached for her.
"You need to feed."
"Later," he said, kissing her, his cool flesh matching her own.
"I love you, Jim." She smiled as he bit down and fed from her. She let him nearly drain her, then reached for the man she'd brought for him, and bit into him, feeding herself as Jim drank and drank from her.
When he pulled away, his face was a vampire's again. His eyes glowed yellow, and blood dripped from his fangs. He grinned, said, "Honey, I'm home," and pushed the corpse off the bed before ripping her clothes off and taking her violently.
She felt guilt hide in the face of overpowering desire. Regret gave way to a love that would have its way no matter what. This was the life she'd made.
This was what was.
Guilt and regret would no doubt come back. But for now, they could wait.