The child trembled before him, and Chris glared, completely unmoved. "How old are you?" Chris asked.
The boy looked nervously at Hikaru, then back at Chris. "Eight... eighteen, s-sir," he stammered.
Chris snapped an arm out and gripped the boy's throat tightly. He cried out in shock, partly from pain, Chris knew, and partly because Chris had moved faster than a fledgling vampire's eye could see. He heard Hikaru's shocked protest, and transferred his angry glare to the other young man. "Don't you dare interfere with me, Sulu," he said sharply. "I'll deal with you later." Hikaru looked frantic, scared for his new charge, but knowing he couldn't defy Chris. He stood still, but his eyes pleaded with Chris.
Chris didn't soften even a small fraction. He turned his fierce gaze back on the child. "You listen to me," he said quietly. "If you lie to me again, I will rip your throat out, do you understand me?"
The boy's large, brown eyes widened, and started to fill with tears, and his body shook hard. He nodded, too agitated to speak. Chris loosened his grip so that the boy could talk.
"How old are you?" Chris asked.
"S-seventeen, s-sir," he said, the tears welling and rolling down his cheeks. "But, I'll be eighteen in only t-two weeks, and-" He stopped himself, cringing at Chris' angry glare. "Please, s-sir... it... w-was m-my fault, I l-lied to-"
"Shut your mouth." The boy clamped his chattering teeth together and stopped speaking. His gasping breaths and slight whimpers were the only sound in the room. Chris looked up at Hikaru, who was barely managing to keep from crying himself. "You knew this boy was too young," Chris said. "You knew, but you turned him anyway."
"You should have waited!" Chris snapped. "What's seven or eight years, to eternity, Hikaru? You know the law, but you blatantly defied it."
Hikaru lowered his head. "Yes, sir," he said. "I'm sorry, but he's... he's very-"
"That doesn't matter," Chris said with a scowl. "Your rashness has cost him his life." There were dismayed cries from the boy and from Sulu, as Chris pulled the boy to the back wall of the upstairs study. He pulled the curtains open across the broad sliding glass door, opened it, and tossed the boy out onto the balcony. "You are not allowed in my house, and you may not leave the balcony," he said to the child, then shut and locked the door.
"No!" Hikaru cried. "No, Chris, please, it's not his fault!"
"No, it's not his fault, it's yours," Chris said sternly. He glanced at the boy, who now stood looking in at them – no longer frightened, but obviously confused. All the more proof that he was too damn young. It was clear he didn't realize what it meant yet – standing outside on an uncovered balcony barely an hour before dawn. Chris turned back to Hikaru. "It's your rashness that's done this to him and you know it. I sired you, you should have more sense. That's why you're going to stay here and watch it happen."
"Chris, I..." Hikaru was shaking now, tears streaming down his face, and the boy was starting to look worried. "I know it was wrong, and... I'm sorry, Chris. But, I... he's very smart, and mature, and he-"
"That doesn't matter! If he's so wonderful, then you should have waited for him to grow up! We have laws for a reason, Hikaru. We don't turn people who aren't old enough to understand the decision they're making! They get reckless, and wild, or they turn depressed, either way they become a menace to the people around them, and they resent their sires. You should have waited three years minimum, no matter how mature you think he is! I will not have a Young One associated with my House!"
"Then banish us!" Hikaru cried. "We can-"
"No! You're still of my House, whether you're in favor or not."
"It's done." Chris turned away from Hikaru's horrified expression, and left the room.
He shut his mind against the despairing wail from Hikaru, and went to his own personal study to wait. He sat in his favorite arm chair, his back ramrod straight, feeling furious about Hikaru's foolishness, and equally furious for having been put into this position.
After about thirty minutes spent sitting still, feeling his anger, and repelling any thoughts or feelings from the rest of the house, the door to Chris' study slowly opened. He frowned in the direction of the intruder. It was Nyota. He'd expected Hikaru, and he was surprised to see her. He felt his anger lessen just a little. He liked her, although her presence reminded him every day of Jim. She never questioned Chris about Jim after he left the House, even though Jim had sired her and she loved him deeply. She respected Christopher, and cared very much for him. Still, he knew why she was there, and he had no intention of changing his decision.
She stepped slowly into the study, her expression filled with sadness and concern. Chris frowned at her, knowing that she must feel sorry for the boy. She approached him slowly, then gently put a hand on his shoulder and kissed his cheek. She looked into his eyes, with nothing but sympathy showing in her face. "How are you feeling, Babu?" she asked softly.
Chris felt himself soften again. He was completely surprised that her first concern had been for his feelings, and he gave her a small smile. "Lousy," he said honestly.
She nodded. "I'm so sorry you have to go through this," she said. "May I sit with you?"
Chris nodded, and Nyota knelt beside the large chair, and laid her head on his knee, looking away from him. Chris rested a hand on her head, letting his fingers mingle with her soft brown tresses. In the moment of distraction, he began to feel the fear radiating sharply from the two people in the upstairs room. He sighed heavily. "Do you think I'm a monster, Nyota?" he asked.
She shook her head immediately. "No, Babu. I think you're doing what you feel is right, and I think you've been put into a bad position." Chris stroked her head, relieved to hear her say it and know it was truly how she felt. Especially considering that he had banished her sire less than a year before. "But..." She paused, and Chris waited, willing to let her speak. "I don't think Pavel – that's his name – I don't think he will turn wild."
"How can you say that?"
Nyota paused again, thinking about it. "May I speak to you about him?"
Chris felt himself tensing – he didn't want to know more about the life he had to end. But she was giving him the choice, not even pressuring him by forcing him to see the sympathy in her eyes while she waited for his answer. "Go ahead," he said.
"His name is Pavel Chekov," she said. "He's the only son of a pair of Russian immigrants. He was orphaned five years ago after a car crash, and he's been a ward of the state since then. He's a genius," she said, in a matter-of-fact way. "He jumped grades, tested through courses, and he's already earned a degree in Physics." Chris was surprised by that, but he didn't interrupt her. "He doesn't seem to have any friends except for Hikaru. He's a little bit shy, and a little silly, but he's also very steady and level headed when he needs to be." She stopped speaking for a moment, then sat up and turned to face him. "I think he could be an asset to us," she said.
Chris looked at her without speaking for a few moments, considering her words. "And what about the other Houses?" he asked. "Letting this slide could be seen as a sign that I'm losing my authority. One of my own House strikes me and lives, and hardly a year later, another creates a Young One without my consent?"
Nyota nodded. "It could," she said. "But killing the boy might make you seem overly harsh, too," she said. "You know what people think about the Head of Daystrom House."
Chris tilted his head slightly, conceding the point. Dr. Daystrom was notoriously rigid and strict in his dealings with everyone, including members of his own Household. Even Chris was reluctant to contact him, and Chris was far older and measurably more powerful than Richard.
Instinctively, Chris knew that the sun would be rising in a few minutes, and a decision would have to be made very soon. He kissed Nyota's forehead and smiled at her. "Alright," he said. He stood and helped her to her feet. "If I am getting soft, I think I have you to blame for it."
She smiled at him and shrugged. "If it turns out wrong, I'll take full responsibility."
"I might hold you to that," he said. She smiled, and he returned the smile, but they both knew that he was completely serious.
Chris led Nyota out of the study, and immediately saw Spock standing a few feet away from the door. Spock looked relieved when Nyota walked out behind Chris, unharmed. Chris nodded to him, then made his way back to the main study.
Inside, he had expected to see Hikaru sitting on one side of the glass door, keeping company with the doomed boy on the other side. Instead, the room was empty. Through the broad glass doors, Chris could see Hikaru sitting cross-legged on the balcony, cradling the frightened boy in his arms. Chris could hear the boy, Pavel, telling Hikaru tearfully to please go back inside, while clutching him tightly at the same time.
Chris sighed, feeling a mingling of both pride and annoyance. Hikaru was brave, willing to suffer death with the boy he'd sired, rather than watch him die alone. But Hikaru was Chris' charge, and it felt like an affront for him to dare attempt to take his own life, when that wasn't the punishment Chris had dealt to him. He shook off his offense and approached the door. The sky was growing lighter every moment, and before long the dim light of pre-dawn would be replaced with the bright, deadly morning sunshine.
Hikaru looked up at Chris' approach, his eyes red-ringed and filled with tears. He clutched the boy even more tightly, and looked expectantly at Christopher – possibly worried that Chris might force him to come in and leave the boy outside. Chris slid the door open, and the startled boy turned sharply toward the sound. Chris looked down at them both for a brief moment, but even in the few seconds it had taken to open the door, the sky had visibly brightened.
"Pavel," Christopher said. "Why don't you come inside?"
The boy was stunned, and Hikaru shuddered with relief. He extricated himself from Pavel, pulled the boy to his feet, and moved quickly into the house. Chris shut and locked the door, then pulled the dark, heavy curtains across the glass, blocking out the growing light. A second later, Hikaru threw his arms around Chris and embraced him. "Thank you, Chris," he said fervently.
Chris hugged him back, then pulled away. "You're welcome. And you can thank Nyota, she spoke for the boy."
Hikaru turned and vaulted for Nyota, who hugged him and laughed happily. Spock, standing near, again appeared relieved by the turn of events. He was a ruthless killer on the hunt, but Chris knew he was something of a pacifist at heart. Meanwhile, Pavel stood a few feet from Chris, watching him nervously, looking as if he wanted to speak. Chris looked at him, expression serious, but no longer angry, and the boy took that as some kind of encouragement. He took a step closer to Chris and ducked his head. "I thank you, sir," he said. "I won't make you regret it."
"You damn well better not," he said. "If you do, I'll skin you alive, and you'll wish I'd let you die on that balcony." The boy's eyes grew wide and he started to tremble again. Chris smiled at him. "Welcome to the family."