Return to the Fold
Jim stood at the beginning of the path, looking up at the house. It hadn't changed very much. Cream paint, with brown trim, flowers dotted along the path and across the front of the house. Inviting, innocuous, safe. But, as most humans did when they came here, Jim would be taking his life in his hands if he rang the bell.
He inhaled, held the breath, and exhaled slowly. Then he walked up the well-manicured path, climbed the porch steps and rang the bell.
"This is my house," was the snarled reply. "You can follow the rules, or-"
"This is bullshit, I didn't even-"
"ENOUGH! Don't push me, Jim!"
"Push you?" Jim cried. "That bastard deserved everything I-"
"You don't have a say!"
"I do! He drove Liz away, he forced her to-"
"Jim, you can't prove any of that," Chris snapped. "Liz was unstable from the beginning! You can't prove he-"
"I'm telling you, I know what happened, why won't you believe me?"
"You're jealous, that's why!"
"Jealous??" Jim shouted. "Dammit, Chris, I thought you were strong enough to handle him, but-"
"You watch your mouth, James," he said, glaring. "I sired him, and-"
"You sired me!" Jim shouted. "And you should never have turned him, he's trouble, I told you that!"
"YOU don't tell me who to turn, or-"
"He's going to destroy the-"
"Dammit, Chris, what the fuck has he done to you? He's convinced you that you can't trust me, but-"
"It's obvious I can't!" Chris shouted. "You're obsessed, you're accusing an innocent man!"
"I said that's enough, Jim!" Chris snapped, his steely eyes on fire. "I've made my decision, and that's the end of it!"
"He's got you brainwashed!" Jim shouted. "You're-"
"Stop it, Jim! You're lying, you'll say anything to try to discredit him! You're jealous, just because you aren't the favorite anymore!"
Jim vaulted, moving so fast he didn't have time to think, and Chris couldn't react. His fist connected with Chris' cheek, and he knew his fate was sealed. He was dead. But he was damned if he'd go down without a fight.
Chris' shock lasted barely a split second, before he glared and launched a full-scale attack. Still, despite Jim's strong will power, the fight could not possibly last long. Jim was strong, but he could never hope to defeat Chris. Still, he tried his damnedest, furious absolutely enraged by Chris' accusation, and by the fact that Chris would trust Gary over him.
He'd been knocked back three times before Nyota and Spock got home. Naturally, they were shocked to see a fight in progress. Jim took advantage of Chris' momentary distraction at their entrance to land another blow. Ny and Spock both gasped. Furious, Chris slammed his fist into Jim full force, this time following him to the wall and punching him again. He heard an alarmed sound from Spock, and a moment later, he was dismayed to see Nyota at his side.
"Stop, Chris, stop!" she cried.
"Stay out of this," Chris shouted.
"Shut your mouth!" Chris growled, dealing another heavy blow to Jim's face.
"No!" Nyota grabbed Chris' arm, trying to keep him from striking Jim again.
He did stop, although it couldn't have been because of her grip she was no match for Chris, either. Chris dropped Jim's collar and gripped Nyota's arm tightly, jerking it off him and holding her hard enough to make her wince. Jim saw movement on his right, but without turning his head, Chris said, "Spock, if you take one more step I'll rip her arm off." Spock stopped, and Chris glared fiercely at Ny. "I told you to stay out of this," he said darkly. "You dare defy me in my own house?"
"Forgive me," she said. "But please don't do this!"
"It's not your concern!"
"Ny," Jim croaked. "Don't get-"
"Shut your mouth," Chris growled again, shooting his free hand out and grasping Jim's neck.
"Please," Nyota cried, panic in her voice. "Please, don't kill him, Babu, please."
Chris froze, and his angry glare softened by a fraction. He'd been touched the first time Ny called him "grandfather", and it must have touched him now. He let her go, glared down at Jim for a moment more, then released him and stood up. Looks were exchanged between Chris and Spock, but the younger vampire took a slow step back to show that he didn't intend to challenge Chris. Jim couldn't blame him. Turned less than eighty years prior, and far from his true home, he was in no position to challenge the Head of his House.
Nyota drew closer to Jim, putting a cool hand on his head, checking his many bruises. There were tears in her eyes, and Jim suddenly regretted his rash outburst. The fear and sadness in her eyes upset him more than his own many bruises and cuts, and the weakness he felt from Chris' retaliation.
"Get up," Chris said.
Jim struggled to his feet, with Nyota's help. Jim stood against the wall and looked Chris in the eye. "I'm right about Gary Mitchell," he said, voice thick and scratchy from where Chris had choked him. "It's not jealousy," Jim continued. "He was a bad choice. You'll find out one day."
Chris' fists clenched. "Get out of my house," he said darkly. "You are Outcast. Get out, and don't come back. Ever."
Nyota gasped again, and her hand tightened on Jim's arm. Jim's jaw clenched and he glanced at her, putting his bloodied hand over hers. "What about Ny and-"
"You're welcome to stay if you want," Chris said to her. "You and yours can remain in the House, and you will be treated no differently. But he is out. If you follow him, you become my enemies."
Ny shook her head. "But-"
"It's your choice," Chris snapped.
Nyota looked at Spock, then at Jim, tears flowing down her face. "Baba, I-"
"Stay," Jim said softly.
"But you're my-"
"I know. That's why I want you to stay. I want you to be safe, and if you stay in the House, you will be."
Nyota gritted her teeth and nodded. Jim squeezed her hand, then released her and stepped forward. He was a little nervous about walking past Chris, but there was no other way to get out of the house. Chris didn't strike again, and Jim walked slowly past him, then past Nyota's companion.
Spock looked at Jim with nearly open worry in his eyes, which was touching. Spock rarely allowed his emotions to show usually only hunting or science talk could get him to let down his guard. Jim gave him a barely perceptible nod, then finished his walk to the door. He stepped outside and shut the door behind him without a backward glance. He wanted to look. Wanted to know what Chris' expression might be, but he couldn't do it. Couldn't see Chris glaring at him again gray eyes smoldering with barely controlled rage.
Jim felt a heavy sense of finality in the final click of the latch. Rage was quickly fading to hurt, but there was nothing he could do. He was Outcast. He'd struck the head of his House, and he was lucky to be alive.
He walked away from the house, fists clenched, the hurt quickly turning back to rage. He wanted to see Gary. Wanted it desperately, so hard he could feel it as vividly as he could feel the bruises and cuts, and the blood trailing down the side of his face. He longed to see Mitchell, so he could beat him to death, rip his heart out, and tear it to shreds.
But it would never happen. With Gary's power, he would be able to feel Jim's wrath from miles away. If he wanted to live, he would never come near Jim again. Jim would be completely robbed of vengeance against Gary for turning Chris against him. That fact burned inside him, but, like the banishment, there was nothing he could do about it. He strode away from the house to begin life on his own.
A man Jim had never seen before came to the door. He was a couple of inches shorter than Jim, stocky, brown hair, large brown eyes. He was dressed in a fine suit, as Jim would expect a member of Chris' House to be, but he hadn't heard about any new additions the last time he spoke to Ny.
The man smiled brightly, then frowned almost immediately. "Oh, you're er good evening."
"Good evening," Jim said. "Is Christopher home?"
The other man was nervous. He glanced behind him. "Er I I'm sorry, sir," he said, addressing Jim respectfully even though he appeared to be about six or seven years older than Jim. He must have been told who Jim was. "This is a bit rude," the man said. "But I I'm new here and I don't know if "
"It's alright, Mr ?"
"Scott, Montgomery Scott, but you can call me Scotty."
"Jim Kirk," Jim said, without extending his hand. To do so would have meant crossing the threshold without an invitation. "Is an older member of the House available?"
Mr. Scott smiled, relieved. "One moment." He left briefly, and came back seconds later with Nyota trailing behind.
She smiled when she saw him. "Jim!"
Nyota ran out and hugged him tightly. "Hi, sweetie," he said, holding her tight.
They broke the embrace, and Ny looked up at him. "What are you doing here?" she asked.
"I want to talk to Chris."
She smiled. "Really?" There was hope in her eyes.
Jim nodded. "May I come in?"
Ny looked nervously toward the house. "He's not here, I'll have to call him back. You can come into the sitting room."
Jim nodded again, and followed Ny back into the house. She gestured to the man who'd first opened the door. "This is Scotty," she said. "Spock and I turned him two weeks ago."
Jim shook his hand. "Pleasure."
"The same," Scotty said, much more at ease now that Nyota was in control of the situation.
Jim followed Nyota to the sitting room, and was shocked to see the old family portrait still hanging above the fireplace. "He kept this here?" Jim asked quietly.
"Yes," Nyota said. "I told you, he loves you, Jim."
"What about Gary?"
Scotty winced and drew in a sharp breath. Nyota shook her head, eyes wide. Jim was stunned. "Out of favor?"
"Beyond," Nota said. "He " She shook her head. "He's Unnamed, so don't mention him when you talk to Chris." Jim nodded, feeling slightly encouraged. That Gary was Unnamed was a good sign. Maybe he'd done something to get himself banished, too something worse than striking his Household leader. "Have a seat," Ny said.
Scotty was still in the room, and he gave Jim a hesitant smile. "Can I get you anything?"
Ny shook her head at him, and Jim said, "No thank you, Scotty."
Scotty looked nervous. "Did I do something wrong?" he asked Ny.
"It's okay," Jim said. "I'm out of favor, and only in the house provisionally. You can't offer me food or drink without Chris' permission."
"Oh," the man said, still looking worried.
"Sorry, Scotty," Nyota said. "I just honestly didn't think you would need to know about that rule for a while. And you. You shock me," she said to Jim. "After we spoke before, I thought it would be decades before you were ready to speak to Chris again if ever."
Jim nodded. "So did I," he said. "But... circumstances may be changing for me soon. I'd rather talk about it after I meet with Chris. Assuming I survive." Not one of them smiled. Everyone knew it wasn't a joke even the newcomer.
Jim turned toward the portrait, still surprised that Chris had kept it up when Jim was out of favor. He considered it a good sign even if he was refused, maybe Chris wouldn't just attack and destroy on sight. Of course, that was really no guarantee. He remembered Chris' fury his hand on Jim's throat. Don't come back here. Ever.
"Maybe you shouldn't be here when he comes," Jim said.
"He'll find out I let you in," Nyota said, though she looked mildly worried. "And someone has to stand vigil." Scotty fidgeted nervously.
Suddenly, the sitting room door opened and everyone jumped. Jim sighed with relief a moment later. It was just Spock. He entered the room, and looked at Jim with a moment of complete surprise. Seconds later, his expression was one of mild interest. "It is a pleasure to see you again, Jim," Spock said, as if they'd been apart for a few weeks, instead of thirty-five years.
"Good to see you, too, Spock."
Spock glanced at his wife. "Nyota, have you contacted Christopher yet?"
"Not yet, I was just about to."
Spock nodded. "I will wait with Jim while you make contact. Mr. Scott, please wait out in the hall. If you see any of the others, let them know that access to the parlor is temporarily restricted."
The other two nodded and went to carry out Spock's orders. Affection on Ny's part, and inexperience on Scotty's part would not be excused by Chris. If he came home and there was party-time in the sitting room, everyone would feel his wrath.
Spock took a seat near the door and remained in "vigil" over the Outcast. The two of them sat in companionable silence for several minutes. Jim was surprised by how much he had missed Nyota's chilli-bowl headed companion. There had been tension between them at first, of course. There was always tension between the new love, and the first love a combination of new beau vs. ex, and son-in-law vs. father-in-law.
Nyota and Jim had been platonic for several years before she met Spock, but the tension was still there all the same. But the two of them had formed a truce of sorts fairly quickly. It behooved Spock to be agreeable. Jim had been the favorite of the Head of the House at the time of Spock's change, and Jim had sired the vampire who sired Spock, so he was owed respect. Jim loved Ny, and he wanted her happiness, so he would not have made a fuss over her choice without good reason. But aside from that, they connected on other levels. They both liked science (physics in particular), and they enjoyed the same kind of literature. After a few years, they had become close friends despite their apparent conflicts of personality. He had been surprised by how much he'd missed Spock during his banishment.
"Ny told me about the new addition," Jim said after a while. "Congratulations."
"Thank you," Spock replied. "He is a genius physicist and energy specialist."
"Nice," Jim said. "Any other changes?"
"Nyota told me she made you aware of Hikaru's companion. He has now been a member of the House for approximately thirty years and eight months."
Jim nodded. "I heard Chris wasn't too pleased."
"No, he was not. He nearly killed the boy, but Hikaru and Nyota pleaded on his behalf, and on Hikaru's as well." Jim nodded, remembering what Nyota told him about Chris not wanting to seem unreasonable so soon after Jim's banishment. Spock paused for a moment, then continued. "Your enemy has been declared Unnamed across all the North American Houses, and all the Houses worldwide that claim friendship with ours."
Jim's eyes widened. "Wow!"
Spock glanced toward the door, listening intently before looking back at Jim. "He attempted to take over the House," Spock said.
Jim stared, absolutely stunned. Well. That was definitely worse than striking the Head of Household in a rage. Taking over the House meant killing the Head, and anyone who wouldn't be turned against him. Jim knew that Gary was trouble, but he had no idea he would try something so insane. "Against Chris?" he breathed. "He's allied to over fifty Houses!"
Spock nodded. "We were shocked as well, despite his quickly increasing power, and his occasional conflicts with Christopher."
"Prideful mistakes," he explained. "For example, he insulted the Favorite of the Lester House. Christopher was forced to make a public apology to Gloria and to her daughter."
Jim grimaced. "Ugh, Janice. It's not hard to insult her, she's evil. And she takes everything personally."
Spock gave a slight shrug. "It is simple enough not to engage her at all. But it's my understanding that he sought her out, and proactively antagonized her."
Jim's eyes widened. "Wow. I'm surprised Lester House didn't launch an attack."
"Janice wanted to, but Gloria is more moderate in her thinking, and Christopher was very eloquent."
"We..." Jim frowned. "You were lucky," he corrected.
They were silent for another moment, and then Spock leaned forward slightly. "During the struggle against him, I took his thoughts," he said, referring to the tactile psychic ability that Spock had possessed even before he was turned. "I can tell you what happened from the beginning of his attack, but I must finish before Christopher returns. May I share it with you directly?"
Jim hesitated. He understood the principle, but he wasn't sure how he felt about having someone rooting around in his mind. And he wasn't sure how far he should go while he was still Outcast. "I can share with you, without taking from you," Spock said, guessing at least part of the reason for Jim's reticence. "It will be a brief contact, and should be completed well before Christopher reaches home. I thought you might want to know in detail what happened to the man who betrayed us."
Jim nodded. "I do. Please, share it with me Spock." Spock stood, and approached Jim with one more glance toward the door. When he reached for Jim's face, Jim gripped the arms of his chair tightly, fighting long decades of instincts that screamed never to let anyone so close to him without putting up some kind of defense. Especially someone as strong as Spock.
Seconds later, he felt calm, and his muscles relaxed. Spock touched his face gently, and Jim was suddenly transported out of his own mind, and into the unnervingly vivid memories of another man.
The kid came in first. Gary smiled at him, but the boy knew something was wrong. Of course he did. Gary was on top of the world his powers were ripe. He was stronger than ever before, and he was past hiding. The kid smiled nervously at him. He was still edgy around everyone, even sixteen years after his turning, because he knew he shouldn't exist. But Chris was soft, and had let the boy live. Gary could be kind, too. He would give the boy a chance.
"I'm going to take over, Chekov," he said, without preamble. The boy gasped, and took a step back. "This is going to be my House. If you help me, I'll let you live."
He could hear the boy's panicked thoughts racing. How could he betray Christopher? How could he betray his own sire? Where was Hikaru? He couldn't fight Gary alone, he was too powerful! How could he escape this maniac?
"You can't, Pavel," Gary answered. The boy stared at him in horror and backed away again. No one in the House knew that Gary had become so powerful he could read thoughts without even trying. But they should have known that he would surpass them all. He could feel the emotions of others even before he was turned it was inevitable that he would rise to power. The boy made a move to run away, and Gary stopped him. "Stand still." The boy froze, his panic rising sharply as he realized that he was powerless. "You can't defeat me. None of you can. So you may as well join me and live."
Pavel shook his head, his limbs trembling. "You... you c-can't ask me to betray my-"
"I'm giving you a chance to choose the winning side, boy," Gary said. "You-" He paused and looked up. "Ah, here he is." A moment later, Hikaru came into the parlor from the side door. He froze when he saw the two of them, Pavel frozen and Gary grinning, looking down on the two of them with a gleam in his crystalline eyes. "Now you can have the same opportunity, Hikaru," Gary said.
"What are you doing, Gary?" Hikaru asked, voice guarded.
"I'm showing you what a benevolent Household leader I can be," he said with a smile. Hikaru's face stayed grim, but Gary could feel his fear rising steadily. It invigorated him. Chris was formidable, but half his house was made of fledglings who could be easily controlled. "Join me, Hikaru," he said. "You can keep your little pet with you if you like."
"Never!" Hikaru snapped. "I'd never betray Christopher! And you're a fool to-"
"Ahhh!" Gary smiled at the pained scream from the curly-headed child. The boy clutched his right arm, which Gary had snapped with the power of his own will. Hikaru sucked in a breath, and raced to his lover's side. The boy was still on his feet, because Gary still held him there, and he shuddered from the pain and from his mounting fear.
"Gary, stop this!" Hikaru shouted.
"You can stop it," Gary said. "Either one of you could. Just tell me you're on my side. But remember, I'll know if you're lying." He smiled.
Hikaru's breaths quickened, and Gary could hear his thoughts, scanning the possibilities for attack or escape, and realizing that both were hopeless. Still, he was too blind to see that he must abandon the old-world leader. "I can't say that, Gary," Hikaru said, speaking slowly and steadily. "Let us go, and we'll ask Chris to spare you."
Gary laughed. "Spare me? You don't understand at all, or you won't." He looked at Pavel, and his left arm snapped, bent back at the elbow. The boy screamed in agony, and Hikaru's horror was palpable. "One more chance."
Hikaru broke. Gary felt it heard his mind acquiesce. "Okay," he said breathlessly. "Okay, Gary, just just stop-"
"No!" Pavel cried, through pained gasps. "Don't, Kari, don't make Chris your enemy because of me!"
"Chris will save us," Pavel said firmly. "He's stronger, he is."
"But he may not get here in time, Pasha."
"He's right, Pasha," Gary said with a smile. "He won't get here fast enough to save you."
The boy glared at Gary, his teeth bared, canines fully extended, even though he couldn't hope to fight. Fuck you! The thought came loud and clear to Gary, a direct communication from the boy. "Did you hear that, you filthy traitor?"
Gary growled and bared his own teeth. With a thought, he broke both the boy's legs and let him drop to the floor. There was a dismayed cry from Hikaru, and he dropped to his knees beside the child, avoiding his twisted limbs. The boy tried his best not to make any noise, but he couldn't help groaning from the pain. Pavel's fear grew again. Maybe Chris would be too late after all.
Gary approached them, reveling in the fear he felt from them both. He shoved Hikaru out of the way, and dragged Pavel up by his collar, forcing him to stand on the broken legs. Hikaru jumped to his feet, ready to spring, but Gary stopped him with a look. "Last chance, Hikaru. Will you join me?"
Hikaru looked at the trembling body of the boy he'd brought into the House, and his jaw set, even though Gary could feel his sadness and his terror at the thought of losing Pavel. He looked directly into Gary's eyes. "Never."
Pride and defiance mingled in with Pavel's frightened thoughts, but Gary smiled. "Then you stand right where you are and watch me, Hikaru," he said. Then, knowing that Hikaru wouldn't be able to turn his eyes away, he jerked the boy's head back and clamped down on his neck. Pavel screamed, and Hikaru cried out and tried to move. Gary kept him prisoner, forcing him to watch while he drained the life out of the insolent boy.
~ ~ ~
Gary looked up at the sound of Spock's furious shout. He turned and smiled, his lips rimmed with vivid red. He dropped Pavel to the ground, and the boy lay completely still, his body looking grotesque and misshapen. Spock wanted to look closer, to focus and discover if he was still alive, but now was not the time. He kept his eyes on Gary, blocking his mental assault, and shielding Nyota from his control.
"What the hell do you think you're doing, Gary?" Nyota cried.
"Hi, Nyota," Gary said with false cheer. "Spock. Home so soon? Where's Christopher?"
Spock's shields were strong, and he allowed nothing to pass from himself, or Nyota. "It would be wise for you to leave," Spock said.
Gary just laughed. "Leave my own domain? Not likely. Come on, Spock. Tell me where he is."
"You will learn nothing from me," Spock said.
"Nyota?" Gary stepped toward her, smiling sweetly. Spock could feel his attack, and he strained against the man. "Just tell me where he is, and we can settle everything."
"Fuck off, Gary," she hissed. "You're dead for what you've done, you must know that."
"You'll be the one who's dead, sweetie," he said.
A moment later, the saccharine smile was gone, and Gary snarled and sped toward them. Spock braced himself, but before Gary reached them, Chris appeared, so quickly that Spock with his heightened senses had not seen him approach. He stood in front of Spock and Nyota, rage seething from him so strongly that Spock felt it emanating in waves throughout the room.
Gary stopped short, stunned. He recovered in the next second, but not soon enough to protect himself. Chris dealt him a vicious blow, sending him sprawling back ward. Gary's strength had increased tremendously in a short period of time, and he was on his feet almost instantly. He glared at Christopher, teeth bared in a furious snarl. He used his considerable mental abilities to try to attack Christopher, and to break down his mental barriers. Spock reached out to Christopher, adding his own shields to Christopher's powerful blocks, and Gary's attempt at attack buffeted them without damaging them, like waves crashing against a granite wall.
"I will kill you, Christopher!" Gary shouted, still trying to break them with his mind. "You're going to die, and your House will bow before me!"
Christopher did not waste words on their enemy. He pulled from Spock's strength, directing them both, and began to push back against Gary's attack. Gary was strong, but he staggered back under the onslaught. At the same moment he stumbled, Hikaru vaulted for him, yanking him back and biting him hard on the back of the neck. Gary had forgotten about Hikaru, whom he no doubt considered "weak" because he had no extra sensory perceptions or powers beyond what a normal vampire possessed. In his moment of distraction, Nyota, Spock and Christopher attacked simultaneously. They wrestled him down, striking, breaking bones, biting and ripping at his flesh. Gary struggled fiercely against them, but he was no match for the full strength of the four of them, not even with the continued mental onslaught that he waged at the same time.
After a short time, Spock began to feel the mental attack slipping. He kept his guard up, but Christopher ceased his attack and sat up. "Stop," he said.
Immediately, the others stopped and pulled away. They looked down at the shuddering creature. He was still marginally recognizable, but his body was covered with blood, and his limbs were twisted and bent as Pavel's were. He still breathed in and out, the air whistling through his damaged throat. Christopher glared down at him. "What kind of insanity made you think you could oppose me?" he asked.
Gary moved his head slowly, and looked up at Christopher through reddened eyes. "Please," he whispered. "F-forgive me? Forgive me, Chris, let me..." He coughed, and tears filled his eyes.
Spock could feel waves of psychic energy flowing from Gary, and he continued to guard against them, knowing that the new onslaught was designed to engender sympathy from his attackers. It appeared, however, that Christopher was immune to Gary's suggestive powers. Chris turned to Spock. "You have the power to destroy his mind, don't you," he said softly.
"Yes, sir," Spock said slowly. "In his weakened state, I could do so with minimal damage to myself."
Chris nodded and looked back down at Gary. "Do it."
"No," Gary whispered, shuddering. "No, Chris, please just kill me. Don't-"
"Don't worry," Chris said with a smile. "Spock will leave enough of you conscious so that you'll know what's happening when I rip your heart from your chest."
Spock knelt beside the man he had once shared alliance with. He had long ago reconciled himself to the fact that violence had become part of his nature, despite the cultural norms of his own estranged peoples. Any remaining distaste he felt at the destruction of another man's mind was wiped away by the sight of Pavel's broken body lying still on the floor only a few feet away.
He gripped Mitchell's hair and turned his head forcefully toward him. "Please, Spock." Spock reached for the appropriate connection points, ignoring the plaintive pleas of his enemy, and swept through Gary's mind, gathering what memories were of value, and laying waste to everything else.
As his leader had instructed, he left Gary debilitated, but not completely devoid of cognizance. He broke the connection, and withdrew from the man, standing beside his friends. "It is done, Christopher," he said.
"Can he still hear me?"
"Yes, sir. He can hear and understand everything we say."
"Good." Chris knelt over Gary's shuddering form and stared down into his frightened eyes. "I want you to remember, Gary," he said softly. "You could have lived forever. You could have asked to be released and started your own House wherever you wanted. But instead, you decided to fuck with my family. Now, you're dead, and your very name will be forgotten."
Tears, mingled with blood, welled in Gary's eyes. Christopher slammed his hand into Gary's chest, pushing past flesh and bone with his deadly force. Gary screamed, and Chris made a wrenching motion, then yanked Gary's heart out of his chest. He ripped it in half, while Gary watched with what was left of his conscious mind. Chris released the two halves of Gary's heart, using his power to keep them suspended in the air above Gary's face. Chris stared at them for a few moments, and then suddenly, they burst into flame.
Spock and the other members of the House backed away from the sight, shielding their eyes, and a horrific scream came from Gary. Chris stood still, watching the heart burn without flinching. Gary's scream died away as the flames died down to smoldering embers. When the heart had burned completely, the ashes fluttered down to meet the body that was now merely a shell of fine clothes wrapped around the ashes that had once been Gary Mitchell.
Christopher looked up, and his eyes fell on Pavel. Without a word, he strode to the young man's crumpled frame. Spock and the others followed slowly, concerned for the boy, but afraid to crowd their leader. Chris knelt beside Pavel and eased his hand under the boy's head. Spock was relieved to see that the boy was still breathing, though the movement of his chest was so slight that a human probably would not have been able to detect it.
Hikaru dropped to his knees on the other side of Chekov. He was in obvious distress, fighting tears, but he did not speak or otherwise disturb Christopher.
"Pavel," Chris said, his voice more gentle than it had ever been to the young man. "Look at me, son."
Pavel's eyes fluttered open, and he smiled at Christopher. "I... I knew you would win, sir," he said in a hoarse, barely-audible whisper.
The tears began to fall from Hikaru's eyes. "He tried to make us join him," he said. "Pavel wouldn't wouldn't break. Wouldn't let me, either, he "
Chris nodded, keeping his eyes on Pavel's. "You're a good boy, little one," he said. "I'm sorry he hurt you." Pavel closed his eyes and shook his head. Chris lifted his wrist, and cut a deep line in his own flesh with his teeth. He held his wrist over Pavel's mouth, and let the blood drip onto his lips. Weakly, Pavel licked at the blood, and Chris held his arm closer so that Pavel could latch on properly. Pavel drank deeply, and he slowly began to breathe easier.
Spock watched the two of them, beginning to grow concerned when Chris didn't take his wrist away after several moments. Chris' skin grew paler, and he swayed slightly so slightly that Spock was almost unsure that he'd seen it. "Chris," he said, drawing nearer. Chris ignored him, watching Pavel's face intently. Spock looked at Nyota she looked worried, and shook her head at Spock. "Christopher, you should stop."
"Leave me alone, Spock," he said, his voice sounding groggy.
Now, Hikaru looked worried as well. Pavel did not stop drinking, his instinctive need for nourishment overriding any other concern. Spock crouched nearby and braced himself. He felt a strong connection to Christopher in the wake of the battle, and he sensed Christopher's emotions more clearly than ever before. He felt Christopher's guilt for having brought Gary into the House, and his remorse for indirectly causing Pavel's grievous injuries. But Chris was not thinking logically, and further feeding would result in serious harm to him. Spock felt it his duty to help, despite potential danger to himself. He took hold of Christopher's arm and tugged it forcefully away from Pavel.
Chris snatched his arm back and snarled viciously at Spock. The Vulcan crouched lower, tilting his head so that the side of his neck was exposed. "Forgive me, sir," he said quietly. "But you need rest as well."
"Please, Babu, let us help you," Nyota said, speaking equally softly. Christopher grew calmer, and nodded slowly.
"I'll feed him, Chris," Hikaru said.
Nyota stroked Chris' back, and guided him toward Spock. "I'll set the bones," she said.
Christopher nodded again, and Spock reached hesitantly for their leader. Chris didn't try to stop him, and Spock took his arm and slowly guided him to his feet. "May I help you, sir?" he asked, gesturing toward Christopher's reddened wrist.
Chris looked down, then back to Spock. "Yes," he said, lifting his arm to Spock. Spock took Chris' wounded arm, and gently licked the blood away, sealing the wound as he did so. He felt a sense of pride and affection within him he had never shared such an act with Chris, and he felt honored to have been allowed to help. Chris smiled at him, and Spock realized that he must also be feeling the increased connection due to the after-effects of the battle. "Help me to my bed, Spock," he said, voice sounding tired but controlled. "Then burn the clothes, and disburse the ashes in four different streams. Afterward, I want all the Houses allied to us to know, he is Unnamed, forever."
"It will be done," Spock answered. "Should " He paused, worried that if he continued, he would anger Christopher again. But he felt compelled to speak. "I saw in his mind, that he caused Elizabeth Dehner to kill herself. Should I send any message to-"
"No," Chris said sharply. "Kirk struck me under my own roof! I-"
"Understood, sir," Spock said. He helped Chris up the stairs without further words, and helped him get into the large, plush bed. "Nyota and I will bring you someone tonight, once the ashes have been spread."
Christopher nodded. "Thank you, Spock. And thank you for your help against him." He smiled. "You were a good choice."
Spock lowered his head in thanks, then left his leader alone to rest.
Jim gasped and fell back against the chair. He stared at Spock, trying to process the strong waves of emotions flowing through him - fury, vindication, fear, pride. He couldn't believe what Gary had done no wonder he'd been declared Unnamed throughout most of the world. Sensing things through Gary's eyes had been unsettling to say the least, but seeing the end of the battle through Spock's eyes had been wonderful almost as gratifying as if he'd been there himself to help rip Gary apart.
"Thank you, Spock," he said at last, guessing that Spock would understand his dual gratitude for sharing what had happened, and for trying to bring his case to Chris.
"You are welcome, Jim. I know that you will believe me when I say that I hope everything goes well with your meeting."
Jim smiled at his friend. "So do I, Spock."
Jim waited nearly an hour for Christopher to return. As the time passed, Jim began to feel more nervous. He'd come to the house late, hoping to catch Chris after he'd had a chance to hunt. The longer he waited, the closer it drew to dawn, and the more dangerous it would be for Jim if Chris turned him out of the house. Chris' domain stretched for miles around the house, and it would be difficult for Jim to find lodging here if he was still out of favor at the end of the night.
Finally, the study door opened, and Nyota poked her head in. "He's coming," she said.
Spock and Jim both stood up and waited. If Spock was nervous at all, he didn't show it. He wasn't in as much danger as Jim, of course, but if Chris was angry that Jim had been let in, Spock might be in some trouble.
Jim managed not to jump when the door opened. Chris stepped inside, and Jim took a deep, slow breath. He hadn't seen Chris in over thirty-five years, and now the man stood there in all his beauty and power. Salt-and-pepper hair, handsome features, stone gray eyes that could magnetize even the strongest of wills. Father. Lover. Enemy.
Christopher frowned grimly. Jim swallowed, but stood still. He nodded once, then kept his gaze lowered for a few seconds before looking up again.
Chris glanced at Spock. "Leave us."
Spock left the room with a glance at Jim. The door clicked shut behind Spock, and Jim and Chris were alone. Jim took another deep, steadying breath as Chris walked slowly toward him. He stopped less than a foot from Jim.
"What are you doing in my house?"
"I wanted to apologize to you for... what I did, sir. I want to ask if you would consider allowing me back into the House."
Chris continued to frown at him. He was silent, his eyes hard and cold. "Why now?" he asked at last.
Jim lowered his eyes, and thought for a moment. He was nervous about talking to Chris about Len. It was irrational, he knew. Jim had found Nyota after a long separation from Chris, and Chris had welcomed her into the House without any hesitation. But they had been traveling separately for years at that time, from mutual agreement. They hadn't been separated by a fight, and banishment.
Still, there was no point in trying to come up with another reason that was less likely to make Chris angry. Lying would make him angry, and he was sensitive enough to detect a lie without trying, even from another vampire. Finally, Jim looked up into Chris' eyes again. "I... I found someone." Chris' frown deepened, and Jim felt himself tensing. Chris didn't speak, so Jim continued. "I found him a while ago, but he was too young, and then..." Jim shrugged. "Circumstances weren't right on either side until now. I want to turn him, but I don't want to do it while you and I are at odds."
Chris nodded slightly, but he was still frowning still closed. "Is that the only reason?"
Jim shook his head, looking down again. "I... don't want to be your enemy anymore, Chris," he said softly. "I never wanted it. Even when-" Jim stopped himself before finishing the sentence. He couldn't talk about when Gary had driven a wedge between them not if he wanted to survive this meeting. He was already on thin ice being in the house at all, when he was Outcast. Naming an Unnamed would not be excused. "I just... miss having a family. I miss Ny and Spock, Hikaru, I..." He looked up. "I miss you, Chris. I just... even..." He sighed, trying to get control of his emotions, wishing he couldn't feel his eyes starting to water at the thought of Chris denying him. He looked into Chris' eyes, the cold gray barely showing even a hint of emotion, and he felt his hands clench reflexively. "Even if I can't rejoin the House, I... I don't want to be your enemy anymore. Please."
Chris watched him, his expression still stony. Jim held his gaze for as long as he could, then found he had to lower his eyes to around level with Chris' chin. Jim wasn't sure how long they stood, staring at one another, before finally, Chris spoke. "I'll consider it," he said.
Jim felt immensely relieved, but a moment later, the worry was back. "Thank you, Chris," he said. With a nervous glance toward the window, where the deep night sky was already fading to a navy blue, he asked, "For... for tonight..."
Chris' eyes narrowed. "You can stay here. But DON'T leave this room."
"I understand. Thank you, sir," he said again.
Chris nodded once, then left the room. Jim breathed a sigh of relief. Of course, there was still uncertainty about what his fate would be tomorrow, but he'd come back to the house after Chris told him to stay away forever, and he hadn't been killed. That was certainly a good sign. Not to mention the fact that Jim had been right about the Unnamed in the end, and Chris had found it out the hard way, after one of his own had been hurt.
Jim checked all of the curtains briefly, making sure there were no cracks in the dark, heavy drapes that hung on all of the windows to the outside. Then, he made himself as comfortable as he could on the floor beside the hearth. It was not the best place for a vampire to sleep, but he had been in far worse places, especially over the last few months. He let his eyes drift shut, and thought about one of the nicest places he'd ever slept in a tiny wooden shed on an unwanted property, beneath a soft, well-used sleeping bag that smelled like Leonard McCoy.
It was barely dusk when Jim awoke again. Chris was already in the room, seated in his second-favorite plush arm chair (the first favorite being the one in his private study). Jim stood up quickly, instantly alert. "Good evening, sir," he said.
"Good evening, Jim." Chris was silent again, watching him for several moments. Finally, he said, "What you did was inexcusable." Jim's body tensed, but he kept his eyes on Chris. "But you were right about him," Chris said softly. "You were right, and I was wrong to accuse you of jealousy. I'm sorry, Jim."
Jim actually took a step back, feeling like the wind had been knocked out of him. He was absolutely stunned. He'd hoped for reconciliation at least, and reunion with his family at most, but he had never expected Chris to apologize to him. "I... I don't know what to say, sir."
"You don't have to say anything," Chris said. He stood up and approached Jim slowly, looking him up and down, probably taking in Jim's somewhat shoddy clothes, and probably sensing some of what Jim was feeling. Finally, he looked into Jim's eyes, and his gray eyes were no longer cold and hard as they had been that morning. "I think we've both suffered enough because of him," he said. "Don't you?" Jim nodded, smiling. "Good." He reached out and pulled Jim close, taking his head in one hand and kissing him tenderly. Jim accepted the kiss and returned it, tears coming to his eyes from the familiar, comforting, beautiful feeling. "Welcome back," Chris said, when they finally broke the kiss.
"Thank you, Chris," Jim said, smiling warmly.
"When you're ready, bring this new charge of yours home so I can get a look at him."
Jim's smile broadened. He felt almost giddy from the possibility of going back to find Len, and bringing him into the fold without having any troubles hanging over his head to pass on to the man he loved. He felt giddy just having Chris hold him, and look at him without the rage that had flowed forth at their parting. His smiled widened, and he kissed Chris again. "I will."