Title: Heart's Price
This is the last part! Here's hoping someone out there liked it!
It was dark outside when Frank awoke for the third time, though somehow he could tell that another day had passed. The windows to the bedroom had been thrown open, allowing the cool night breeze to clear the stuffiness from the room. Frank kept his eyes closed for a moment, momentarily stunned by everything he could sense without even opening his eyes. He knew that someone had bathed him while he slept…he could smell the faint traces of shampoo from his own hair, and soap on his skin. A scent in the air that made his mind scream Julian lingered, telling him that the Ventrue had been in the room very recently. He could also tell that he was not alone. There was a wild scent in the air, swirling with the scent of gardenias and roses that rode on the night air. Somehow, it was a familiar scent, something that screamed familiarity on more than one level.
It was only when Frank had decided to open his eyes and find out who his visitor was, that something wholly disturbing dawned on him. He wasn’t breathing. Not once since he had awoken had his chest expanded or contracted, nor had his lungs screamed for air. Sitting bolt upright, Frank unconsciously sucked in a breath, squeezing his eyes shut again as he listened for his own heartbeat. Instead, he heard only silence.
“Relax, Frank,” a familiar voice said, and Frank blinked, staring in surprise at the young man leaning against an open window frame.
“Cash?” Frank muttered in surprise, raising himself slowly, gingerly up on the pillows. He hadn’t seen the Gangrel Primogen since the conclave meeting about the rogue Kindred.
“How are you feeling?” Cash asked, walking over to sit in chair that had been left by the bed. Frank paused to shift the sheet up over his hips, somewhat self-conscious about his state of undress.
“Better,” he said, and it was true. Though his neck still throbbed painfully, and his body ached all over, the pain had all but disappeared. Aside from his neck, the only major complaint he had was the bizarre, twisting ache in his stomach. In a way, it reminded him of the severe hunger that struck when he obsessed over a case…often going days without eating a real meal. Frank jerked at the realization. It was hunger…just not the kind he was used to…not the kind that he even wanted to ponder satisfying.
“Good to hear. It’s all downhill from here on out, buddy,” Cash said, smiling in that familiar way that had always intrigued Frank. He knew nothing of the Gangrel’s history, but that smile, tinged with sadness, had always made him wonder. Though Frank had no idea how old Cash was, his young appearance gave the impression of youthful innocence…but that smile alone destroyed the image.
“I don’t know about that,” Frank finally replied, giving a half-smile that no doubt spoke of his own inner demons. Cash’s slight nod confirmed that the Gangrel understood perfectly.
“Julian wanted to be here when you woke again, but he had to leave for a bit to help with damage control. He was going to pick up some of your things too. Considering everything, it probably wouldn’t be wise to head back to your place for a while,” Cash said carefully, gauging Frank’s reaction.
But Frank only shrugged. His house was only a place he went to sleep. It hadn’t been a home for a long time. Truth be told, he didn’t want to be alone there anytime soon anyway.
Frank stared down at his lap, where his hands were worrying at the burgundy sheets. The more time went by, the more aware he was of how…wrong his body felt. He couldn’t even really explain it…just that everything felt different, wrong…alien. His limbs no longer felt like his own; even listening to himself speak he felt like he was standing on the outside, observing himself. There was no longer any warmth in his body. His skin felt the same temperature as the sheets and the air. Sound, smell, taste, feel…everything was amplified, more acute. And there was a humming recognition in the back of his head whenever he looked at Cash or caught his scent. It was only when he inhaled Julian’s lingering scent again that he recognized the difference between the two, equally familiar scents. Cash was Gangrel…and so now was Frank. Though Julian’s scent screamed love and passion, protectiveness and strength…Cash’s screamed of family. Kin.
“What…” Frank paused to clear a sudden lump in his throat, “What…ah…happens now?”
“Once you have healed enough, Julian and I will help you learn how to survive as Kindred. I imagine Sonny will want to help as well. He’s been asking after you constantly, by the way. I’ll also teach you what it means to be Gangrel,” Cash said, then stopped himself before he could elaborate. There would be time enough for teaching later…now was a time for healing.
Touching his neck gingerly, Frank winced, recognizing the scent of his own blood faintly in the air. Though his neck was no longer completely immobile, it still sent shivers of pain and a disturbing weakness down his arm when he tried to turn his head more than an inch or so to the left. Still fingering the gauze, Frank turned his eyes to Cash, who was watching him expectantly.
“I was wondering…why haven’t I healed yet? I thought Kindred healed quickly,” Frank asked. After all, he had seen Julian heal bullet wounds…surely his own injuries were no worse than that?
“Your circumstances are unusual, Frank. For one, you very nearly died before the Change could take you. Blood loss severely limits our healing. And then…Frank, that was one hell of a wound. To be honest, it would have killed many a Kindred. It was only Daedalus’ alchemy that gave you enough strength to make it. He kept you strong enough for the Gangrel blood to change you, and for Julian to feed you to speed your healing. Aside from your neck, though, you look a hell of a lot better than when Cameron found you,” Cash said, motioning for Frank to take stock of himself.
“I don’t know how much you remember, but you were all slashed up and bruised from that bitch, too,” Cash said, his eyes darkening with anger. Frank turned his eyes back to his self-inspection, gaping when he realized Cash was right. Only a few faint white scars littered his torso, and not a single bruise remained.
“At least that part’s pretty cool, huh?” Cash teased, reminding Frank briefly of the giddy man he’d found at the Haven only a week ago, drunk, and mooning over his beloved Sasha. Thankfully, the club had been free of any Brujah that night.
“Yeah,” Frank said, fingering a long, white scar below his ribs, “I guess that part is pretty cool.” He couldn’t help but linger, though, on all the other things that weren’t.
He was saved from pondering them by the sound of the door opening, and two very familiar figures striding in. The first was Julian, a small knapsack held in one hand. Behind him came Sonny, and he was grinning like an absolute fool.
“Good, you’re awake! I was hoping you would be,” Julian said, leaning down for a quick, promising kiss before settling on the bed beside him. Sonny pulled another chair up beside the bed, and sat beside Cash, still watching him with that silly grin.
“Hey, Sonny. Hope they haven’t been given you too much hell at the station since I’ve been gone,” Frank said.
“No, things are always quiet when you’re gone,” Sonny teased. “It’s good to see you, Frank. You have no idea how worried we all were. But as stubborn as you are, I should have known you’d pull through,” he said, his grin turned briefly somber.
“Yeah, well…I’ve got unfinished business,” Frank muttered, his eyes flicking to Julian briefly. The man smiled in reply, and his eyes held promises that the man no doubt would have made good on if they had been alone.
“Look…Frank…I’m sorry about what happened to you. We all assumed that eventually Julian or Lillie would have Embraced you…never that something like this would happen. I’d…hoped that it would have been your choice. Not…” Sonny trailed off, shifting uncomfortably.
“Don’t worry about it,” Frank said, waving off his concern. “I’m not saying I’m happy about what happened…hell no…but you’ve got nothing to apologize for. What’s done is done, and I’ve got no choice but to deal with it,” Frank said, then added with a feral grin, “’course, seeing that bitch who bit be burn would help.”
“No worries about that,” Sonny laughed. “Everybody is combing the city for Katerina…even the Brujah, believe it or not. Although, I think they’re more concerned about the prestige of finding the rogue than they are out of good feelings for you.”
“No surprise there,” Frank said, and then winced, wrapping an arm about his waist as the unfamiliar ache in his gut worsened briefly. Sonny turned to Julian briefly in concern, but the Prince shook his head subtly. Now was not the time to talk about the hunger. That was a conversation that called for patience and privacy.
“Well, I’m due on duty soon. I just stopped by to see how you were doing. You keep out of trouble, okay?” the Ventrue chided, and Frank grinned, shooing him away with one hand.
“I’m a big boy, Sonny. Now go catch the bad guys. Somebody’s got to keep them under control while I’m out,” Frank said with a cocky grin.
“Take care, Frank,” Sonny said, before slipping out the door. At a pointed look from Julian, Cash followed suit, but not before waggling an eyebrow at the two suggestively.
“Well, at least we’re keeping them entertained,” Julian commented dryly. Frank smiled and grabbed the other man’s hand deliberately. His smile was cut off as he winced, curling over his stomach again.
“Damn…that’s getting annoying,” he said. Julian let out a long sigh and squeezed his hand briefly.
“That’s your body telling you it needs blood, Frank. Normally it would not be so uncomfortable, but because of your injuries it is harder on you,” Julian said gently, unsure of how Frank would react. But Frank’s expression only darkened, his brows knitting and his mouth turning down stubbornly.
“And what happens if I don’t drink any?” Frank growled, arms crossed over his chest. By the tensing of his muscles, Julian could tell that the hunger gnawed at him. Most of the time the hunger wasn’t too different from that experienced by a human…only it was more of an emptiness inside and less of a growling want. But when a Kindred was injured or starved…it turned into an aching, powerful want that, eventually, drove to Kindred to find blood however it could, or killed them.
“If you do not drink blood, your Beast shall make you seek it, or you will die,” Julian said plainly. Frank’s expression softened, but not by much.
“I figured as much,” Frank mumbled.
“Here, let me slide behind you,” Julian said, then, kicking off his shoes and tossing his coat aside, crawled behind Frank on the bed. He pulled the smaller man back against his chest, pausing for a moment to relish in his scent…different now, wilder, but still the same Frank Kahonek.
With on quick slash, Julian opened the vein on his left wrist, holding the appendage up to Frank in offering. Frank jerked back against him, his nostrils flaring widely and his eyes wide. Julian was patient. He held his arm steady, waiting.
Frank was instantly fixated on the blood. His pupils dilated, his nerves quivering as the blood-scent flooded his nose. Two voices were screaming in his head…one was demanding that he take what was so freely offered. The other cringed back like a kicked dog…unwilling to sacrifice what humanity he had left.
The first voice won.
Frank’s mouth darted forward, and he didn’t even notice as his eyes flared silvery-green, and teeth, suddenly sharp, deepened the gash on Julian’s arm. The instant the blood touched his tongue, he was beyond caring about the sensations or images that flooded across their connection. Something inside him, like a great jungle cat lying in wait, surged to the front of his brain; and it only cared about the blood.
Julian brushed the hair back from Frank’s eyes, watching detachedly as Frank suckled at his wrist. His eyes burned for a moment, threatening tears, when he saw the unnatural color of the man’s eyes. He’d never wanted Frank to have to deal with the Beast. It pained him to see the man he loved overtaken…that sharp, stubborn mind drowned by primal need.
Forcing himself to look away, Julian tried to think of the few positives of the situation. Frank would no longer be in danger from those who disagreed with Julian’s oath to protect him…at least as far as the Masquerade was concerned. Also, Julian wouldn’t have to worry about Frank’s fragile human body catching an unlucky bullet one day. And…Julian smiled slightly at another thought. He’d thought to make Frank a Ventrue one day, but now he realized that Frank wouldn’t have fit in well with his clan. Frank was much too stubborn, passionate, hot-heated, and independent for the Ventrue…but, Julian realized, he was tailor made for the Gangrel. In fact, Julian doubted he’d have to worry about Frank’s personality changing much at all. That thought, at least, brought peace of mind.
And both of them could use as much of that as they could get.
The night air was perfect, Frank thought, as he stood by the window. He felt better than he had in days. Except for a lingering soreness at his neck, where a small gauze pad had replaced the full neck wrapping, he was good as new. Well…new, at least. The ‘good’ part was still up for debate. Reaching a hand up to his throat, Frank fingered the thick, twisted scars there. Earlier, when Daedalus had removed the wrappings, he had allowed Frank to peer at the damage.
Katerina had made a royal mess of him. Almost the entire left side of neck was a mass of scar tissue, stiff and unfamiliar beneath his fingers. And, as Frank had feared, the blood-sucking bitch had done permanent damage to the tendons. He’d never be able to turn his head more than a fraction to the left again. The damage had been too severe by the time his body had begun to change for it to heal entirely. Frank was especially bitter about that. He didn’t like the idea of being…damaged in any way. He didn’t think it would be cause for discharge from the department…but he would forever be stuck with the reminder of the attack.
Frank turned reluctantly from the window and paced slowly across the room, brain railing at his confinement. Though he was mostly recovered, both Daedalus and Julian had insisted he take it easy for at least another night. They’d promised him free reign of the mansion the following day, and Frank used that promise to keep his restlessness in check. He’d never been a man for idleness, and it chafed at him to be stuck in Julian’s bedroom, especially while most of the clans were still combing the streets for Katerina. Though logically he knew there wasn’t much he could do (after all, since his ‘education’ hadn’t begun yet, he’d most likely just make a fool of himself), he chafed at being left behind. He was an officer of the law…he should be out there doing his job, not sitting on a bed with thousand-dollar sheets, being waited on hand and foot.
Growling, Frank whirled on the spot, and froze when he saw the window.
Katerina Novolski stood in the frame, the bright outside garden light illuminating her wild hair, giving her the appearance of a banshee. She wore the same tattered clothes as before, still stained with dried blood. With a jerk, Frank realized a lot of it was probably his. His face, however, nearly froze the blood in his veins. Her face was contorted in a vicious grin, eyes burning brightly in her shadowed face.
“I’ve been calling you, you know,” she purred, the words garbled by the oversized fangs crowding her lips. “But your Prince’s pet Nosferatu…he has blocked my call. But no matter,” she said, gliding toward him across the floor. Frank stepped back, eyes darting frantically about the room for a weapon. But there was nothing…nothing that would stop a crazed vampire, anyway.
“Come, my childe,” she purred, one grotesque, gore covered hand extended in invitation. Frank curled his lip, sneering.
“Fuck no,” he replied. Katerina frowned, and her brows furrowed in concentration.
“Come,” she hissed again, only this time, it was more than words. It felt as if an invisible cord had sprung to life between them. However, unlike the link he shared with Julian, or even the one with Cash, this one sang with anger and hatred. It burned like a hook had been sunk into the back of his brain, pulling insistently toward the crazed vampiress. Frank staggered, curling his hands into fists as he fought against his own body. His muscles spasmed, fighting against his will to answer her call. She was his sire…and she possessed a connection to him unlike any other. The thought filled him with rage, and his eyes swirled with color.
“Come get me, bitch,” Frank growled.
Katerina shrieked in rage, her body coiling in fury. Baring her teeth like a wild animal, she leapt at him, claws stretched toward his throat. Frank met her halfway. His greater weight carried him to the ground on top of her, but he didn’t stay there for long. Her face twisted horribly, fur spreading up her cheeks and down her neck as she clawed at him. Frank was barely able to keep her claws away from his neck. He didn’t want to find out what would happen if he was damaged further, so soon after healing from her last attack. Frank’s years of training had kicked in an instant, and he fought to subdue her, to get at least one of her flailing arms pinned to the ground. But she was slippery as an eel, twisting her body in ways that no human assailant was capable of. His frustration distracted him, and in an instant she turned the tables.
His skull slammed against the floor as she flipped him over, instantly leaping to crouch on his chest, her bare feet digging into his thighs. She screamed in his face, her eyes filled with a madness that Frank had very rarely seen in his life…and never face to face. Frank had a vague sense of her claws sweeping for his chest before her weight abruptly disappeared, and a furious and very male yell was echoing in his ears.
Rolling to his feet, Frank stared in shocked relief at the scene unfolding. Cash and Daedalus stood by the open doors, their eyes fixed. And Julian…he stood above Katerina, one foot planted firmly at her neck.
“He’s mine! Mine!” she hissed past the weight on her throat. “I made him! He lived! He’s MINE!” she thrashed and clawed, but even her formidable strength was no match for the weight of Julian’s cold rage. His eyes were solid silver as he stared down at her, completely empty of mercy or human feeling.
“No, he’s not,” Julian said simply. Then, he held out a hand toward Cash, never letting his eyes leave the woman for a second. Cash leapt forward, pulling a long, wooden spike from inside his coat. Julian took it in his fist and, with one, deliberate stroke, drove it into the screaming Gangrel’s heart. She froze in an instant, flailing arms dropping to the floor like a puppet with its strings cut.
“He’s mine,” he said firmly as he stepped back, the silver of his eyes beginning to fade back to deepest brown.
Frank stepped up beside him and wrapped an arm around his waist. Julian’s body was still taut with rage, but most of his fury had been spent.
“You’re all right?” Julian asked, finally turning from the body at his feet.
“Yeah. Barely a scratch,” Frank assured. And at that, Julian’s body relaxed, and he wrapped his arm around Frank’s shoulders in a return gesture.
“How did you know?” Frank asked.
“You and I share a connection as well, Frank. I could feel your fear when she arrived, and I came as soon as I could.”
“A connection? I thought that was just a side-effect from sharing blood.”
“When you let me taste you, Frank, I showed you my heart, let you feel all that I am. And when you fed from me, the connection I started was forged anew. Right now it is still young…but in time, you will always be able to feel me, and I you,” Julian said, and Frank felt a familiar warmth in his heart at the words. He very much liked the idea of the connection, the closeness to another person. He realized then, in looking at Julian’s relieved face, and those of Cash and Daedalus, that he would need never fear being alone.
He was no longer a man caught between two worlds, stuck on the outside looking in. Now…he belonged, and that thought, despite all the trials he knew still awaited him, gave him hope.
Katerina was dragged out into the sunlight the next morning. Frank stood with Julian to watch, and gained a strange sort of satisfaction from the sight. In a way, his lack of empathy disturbed him. It struck him then that he was changing in ways beyond the physical. Would he have reveled in Katerina’s death had he still been human? Maybe, maybe not. He’d never know the answer to that now.
Afterward Daedalus had removed the last of the bandages, and pronounced Frank fit. Once the Nosferatu had taken his leave, Julian pulled Frank down to sit on the bed beside him. Frank closed his eyes as the older Kindred gently touched the scars on his neck, exploring every knot and whorl of flesh as if committing it to memory. His feather-light touch ignited little ripples of pleasure that went straight to Frank’s groin, and he leaned into the touch despite himself. Even when the fingers stilled, though, he kept his eyes closed, unwilling to risk seeing disgust in his lover’s gaze. The warm, gentle press of lips on his own shocked his eyes open, before they sank closed again, this time in pleasure.
When Julian pulled back, he was smirking.
“Whatever you are worried about, stop it,” Julian said firmly.
“Sorry,” Frank muttered, quirking his lips in a half-smile. He should have realized he had nothing to worry about. After all they’d been through…what were a few scars?
“How are you going to explain this to your coworkers?” Julian asked, his fingertips making the sensitive scar tissue tingle again. Frank reached up and covered Julian’s hand with his own, feeling the ruined flesh for himself. Because of the impossibility of hiding the scarring, they had decided that Frank would be out on medical leave for a while, due to injuries suffered during his brief ‘kidnapping.’
“Oh, I thought maybe I’d call it a lion taming accident,” Frank mused, then, in seeing a hint of silver swirling in Julian’s brown eyes, added, “Or maybe wolf, hmm?”
“I’m sure whatever Daedalus comes up with to explain your neighbor’s deaths will help us decide,” Julian said, “At the very least, this will give us time to teach you how to live as Kindred, and for me to teach you…other things, as well,” Julian purred, leaning close so that his breath tickled Frank’s ear.
Laughing, Frank grabbed the larger man by the lapels and yanked him down onto the bed. “Other things? Somehow that doesn’t sound like the usual curriculum,” Frank said, trapping the other man by curling one of his legs over Julian’s.
“Haven’t you realized yet, that when it comes to you, nothing ever goes by the rules?” Julian said, propping himself up over Frank’s chest.
“Well then…bring it on,” Frank said with his trademark lopsided grin. Julian smirked, and leant to capture the grin in a hungry kiss. He didn’t plan on letting a moment of Frank’s ‘medical leave’ go to waste. After all…there was plenty of teaching to be done, and he had a very eager student.