Title: Mad Jyhad

Author: kirasmommy

Pairing: Robin/?various? (m/m, m/m/m, and m/f sorta {yes I squicked myself})

E-mail: bloodbabe@thefreesite.com

Website: http://www.blooddance.com/KBfan/madjyhad.html (story available in html form here)

Archive: My site, and yes to whoever wants it, just tell me where so I can go visit!

Rating: NC-17

Started Feb. 2002

Finished June 2002

Beta read: Mary Browne

Warnings: AU, SMUT, character age 16(immortal stuck that way), smut, bloodplay, smut, angst, smut, emotional hurt/comfort, smut, death, smut, aw hell just be wary! Slash, of course.

General warning: I just spent over a year writing/reading mostly vampire fiction. For those that don't understand the 'bloodplay' warning...it is a squick alert. Bloodplay also known as bloodsports
involves biting, drinking, cutting and other things with blood in relation with sex. Plus, typical Sire/Childe Dom/sub relationship games.

Disclaimer: I don't own Joss Whedon's vampire lore or Anne Rice's OR White Wolf's or the folklore I threw in to make it more interesting, this is a mixture of all of them; I don't own DC comic's characters. I don't own the words to Taps. I think it is public domain though? I don't make money off of this, it is just for fun. Mentioned comics include: Batman, Nightwing, Robin, Young Justice, JLA, Birds of Prey for the most part.

Summary: AU fic, A monster he is lest a monster he becomes.

Notes: I really do mix the different lore up so if you come across something and think...but...White Wolf? Sorry...don't matter...because I MIXED the lore UP! So even though in White Wolf vamps don't change their faces...the Whedon vamps do...get it? And Gangrels in this 'universe' do embrace certain Gypsies but ONLY if they are sure and for really good reasons. They still dislike Ravnos though. Dance scene in the club Lestat's Asylum inspired by Dae. Though I have tried to keep it different from what she showed me in hers.

Tim may seem out of character at first but it is important to remember he is talking about the past from the pov of sometime in the future. In this universe, Tim Drake and most characters with the exception of Superman have never encountered vampires before. Also written before June issue of Young Justice. Batman's denial of supernatural comes from Issue 55 page 8 of JLA. And I'm not kind to Joker by the end of this. Even though he is one of my favorite characters.

 

Mad Jyhad
By kirasmommy

So this is all confidential, I hope? I mean, what I say here stays here when we leave here? Because what I know and what I have to say isn't for public examination. In fact, if anyone found out that I told you, I could be destroyed. It's bad enough that so many people already know! But I do understand your 'need' to know. It must be so disconcerting to be aware that you are missing an entire day of your life.

Oh yeah, by the way, Mars has always been my favorite planet of all of them. So beautiful, red like blood with sands that dance in the wind… So I always thought you were kind of cool anyway. And I really think it's cool that you talked the rest of the League into allowing only you to investigate all of this. I know that you did it mostly for Batman. But I appreciate it too, because, well, despite everything, I'm not ready for final death. I'm not ready to sing with the stars quite yet.

Are you sure that you are ready to hear all the more 'intimate' details? There's quite a few of them. I mean some of them are a little…uh…yeah, I guess being a telepath and all you have to be sort of all Zen about the whole sex thing, huh?

Well, where to start?

I suppose the best place is as they say the beginning. Or at least near enough to the beginning. If we went all the way to the beginning…well that goes back thousands of years to before the stars began to talk, and you have already said you want to know everything!

You know it is pretty amazing how blind people can be when they want to be, even the most intelligent of men. Take Batman, for example. He is extremely intelligent. Brilliant really! Some even consider him to be a genius. And no, I don't say that because he is my partner, or because I look up to him. I mean yeah, I look up to him in many ways but I'm not saying the nice stuff just because of it. In fact, there are a lot of times I secretly think he needs to be smacked. To be honest, at the time everything started, I was really considering taking it upon myself to do the smacking!

The man is brilliant, yet…

If you were to ask Batman whether or not he believed in the supernatural, he would say no, that there are logical answers for everything. If you asked him if he believed in ghosts, again he would say no.

Then he would pointedly ignore you when you started to list Deadman, Spectre, Secret, or half the a dozen other ghosts that we personally know and deal with on a regular basis.

I mean, he knows. I know that he knows, and you know that he knows. And he knows that I know that he knows. But it is like he only knows when he absolutely needs to know then he purposely puts it out of his mind. Did I lose you? Never mind… I lose everyone at some point.

Some in more permanent ways.

So, when the shit hit the fan this time, he went in to the situation with the idea, 'there is a logical answer for everything.'

Yeah, right! And look at that pig fly!

Personally, I would have settled for a fast retreat and forget about 'getting the bad guys'.

But you know what they say, wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which fills up faster. Looks like my hands are still full.




Batman had told me vampires didn't exist. But then, he doesn't believe in anything he doesn't want to believe in. The man is a master of denial.

But he had explained before we even got there that it was a cult who believed, or rather wanted others to believe, that they were vampires. He said that they had some impressive tricks but that it was tricks nonetheless.

Yeah, tricks all right. In fact, one of the names for it happens to be 'The Dark Trick'. Trick is such a weird word you know? If you say it long enough, it has absolutely no meaning. Tricks really have no meaning anyway. What is a trick really? A deception, a joke, a hoax, it is a fake, a ploy and a trap. You take something with no meaning and try to make it mean something. And therein lies a trap. But why exactly is it called the Dark Trick? Is it because that which is a blessing is actually a curse? Or does the curse disguise a dark blessing? Or the fact that it was all an accident of fate? Or the fact that all of it is just a joke that our ancestors started long ago? Like the Jyhad? The Jyhad is the greatest joke that will never happen and the others have fallen for it hook, line, and sinker while we all laugh and laugh at their expense.

Did I lose you again? Sorry, I tend to ramble once in a while. You'll have to excuse it. I will try to keep it to a minimum. Sometimes my mind wanders and it takes me a few seconds to remember what I was actually thinking about. My mind has a mind of its own.

Where was I? Oh, where it started. Surprisingly, it was in October. There is just something so ironic about that.

There were many early Halloween celebrations. But there was one in particular that seemed to attract a lot of attention every year.

It was a big…party, a frat house party. And it seemed as though everyone had been invited.

The music had played on even as the screams threatened to drown it out. I didn't appreciate the screams then. I didn't hear the natural music that they make. At the time it was just noise, a terrifying and frightening noise that confused the senses.

Streamers and banners lay on the floor as the fight progressed. Decorations were torn down as people ran for their lives. Running on top of those that had fallen, all trying to escape their attackers. I remembered sliding in food that had fallen off a table. I hit my head and reached up to feel it.

Blood poured from the gash and ran down to mix with the fake blood that had splattered the room for the party's theme this year. Classic slasher flicks. Posters adorned all the walls. Scream, Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, various others. I had stopped looking as soon as the fight had started.

I pulled on the table to get up…but I was hit. I fell again, sprawled on the ground. Someone had tackled me. He held me down.

He bit me!

Of course, the mark is extremely faint now, nothing to really show that I had ever been bitten, but I can feel it. Even now, I feel it on my neck, a slight tingle, a vague vibration. A shiver runs through me when someone touches it. A pleasant reminder of what happened that night.

Sorry, didn't mean to zone out on you there. Um, oh yeah, the night I woke up after the attacks.

The first thing I noticed when I finally woke up was the cold. It was so very cold. But I was not shivering. It was just that kind of cold that is just…bone deep. You know? I was so cold I seemed numb. I couldn't really feel my body at first. I couldn't move. I felt drugged. My mind was muddled and I couldn't really think beyond. 'I'm cold, I've been drugged.'

There was only the most vague sense of panic deep inside. It was like I was detached from myself. Like I was sitting outside my body and watching it from far away.

For the most part, I didn't feel anything emotionally or physically. I could feel the cold, yes, I could feel a heaviness in my body but nothing more.

It could have been minutes or it could have been hours that I stayed in that half conscious state. Where nothing seemed real and I was, but wasn't, there. Like the ghost upon the stair, I was and wasn't there…

Slowly, I began to move. Only my fingers at first. I struggled to flex them. Struggled to pry my mouth open and speak. I was so stiff I could faintly hear them creak as they moved slowly. Like rusty hinges.

My chest began to itch and I could not move enough to scratch it. I groaned at one point and the noise frightened me. It was hoarse and scratchy, unearthly as it hit my ears. At first I feared that something was inside with me. Wherever here was that is.

I began to work on moving my eyes. To open them and see where I was. They felt dry and I felt the first spark of real pain. They burned as I tried to force them open. And the more they burned the more that vague sense of panic heightened and I HAD to open my eyes.

I opened my eyes and it was completely black. Completely! I mean there was no source of light.

Where the hell was I?

Where was I?

The dark was oppressive and felt heavy! It was so stuffy and there didn't seem to be any breeze. I had to concentrate and force myself to breathe.

I forced my fingers to move once more and I tried to ignore the cracking sound they made every time they moved. I stroked the material under me with stiff fingers; relishing the soft silky feel and wondering where I would be that would have silk sheets?

It was so hard to think. But it was like moving through molasses on a cold day. I needed to think though. Wasn't that what Batman and Nightwing was always telling me? That my strength lay in intelligence. I needed to reason through this. I needed to remember.

Finally I started to… I remembered fighting those… demon things. They looked human until we had started to fight them and then they changed. I remembered someone shouting the word 'Vampire'!

I blinked away the memory as I tried again to reach up thinking, 'Um, this isn't good!'

It took a lot of effort but I finally got one of my hands to move. It was difficult to control my arm and hand. In the end, it was mostly just me throwing my arm up and touching whatever was over me briefly as it hit. It seemed to feel like the bed, at least what I could feel, maybe a little harder and not as much padding, but still nice and satiny and ruffled.

Then it occurred to me 'Where is my uniform? Where are my shoes?' I attempted to wiggle my toes and heard a loud snap.

Suddenly my body felt like it had been set on fire. Burning pain coursed through my limbs and came to rest in my chest. I shook as the pain wracked my body. I gasped loudly as the agony seemed to go on forever. Electric shocks ran the length of my flesh and seemed to pop within. I felt as though I were being contorted into a pretzel. Tortured by some unseen force. It was a blessing when I finally passed out, no longer able to take the pain.

I woke slowly; the ache was already beginning to fade. I was left again with the cold and slightly numb feeling. Under me my clothing and the bed were soaked with some foul smelling liquid. At first I had feared that I had soiled myself. But the smell wasn't right for that. The smell…was…unique. But I had smelled something similar before. I just couldn't place it, but I was finally able to move easier.

I started to panic a little bit. I was cursing to myself as I tried to wiggle down and crawl out. When I found out I was completely encased I really began to freak out in earnest. It wasn't like when I was stuck in the truck with Cluemaster, at least that was more like being in a cell, this was more like a…coffin.

All I could do was scream, "Where the fuck am I? Where am I? Where am I? WhereamIWhereamIWhereamIwhereamiwhereamiwhereamiwhereami!" in a gravelly and disused voice.

I tried to calm myself. I didn't know how much air I had. I knew I needed to conserve it. It was difficult but I slowed my breathing. The training I had to become Robin had taught me different forms of fighting and by extension meditation, something I didn't have the last time I was trapped in a tight space.

I continued to try and shift the lid but it wouldn't move. I didn't have the strength. I screamed for help but it didn't seem like… it was getting out. You know like when you yell facing a brick wall? It just seems to bounce back at you. You can just tell that it isn't getting out.

I told myself, 'Come on, Tim, calm yourself. Think your way out of here. You are in a box, locked in. Out of uniform. Nope, don't even have my mask. Great, Batman is going to love that. Damn, one crisis at a time.'

Funny how I was in so much trouble and the one thought that really frightened me was how Batman was going to respond to me being unmasked. I think that speaks volumes.

After much fumbling I found nothing in my pockets, hell; I didn't even have a belt. No shoes either. But the clothes did feel familiar. I remember feeling the clothes with my fingertips and finding the little tear around the button second from the bottom. My dress shirt, I had torn it one night as I rushed to get out of it and into uniform. Even in the dark I was positive that they were indeed my clothes.

I pulled at the shirt and it gave way in the back. I was stunned. I mean it was weird and I kept thinking, 'What the fuck? Who cut my clothes? Who would dress me up after cutting up my clothes then put me in a damn box? Who are these psychos?'

After a while it came to me. The whole set up. It made a sort of perverted sense. They had me dressed like a corpse. They sometimes cut the clothing up the back to make it easier to dress the body. I thought, 'This is so stupid! They have got to be kidding me! What are they trying to do? Freak me out? Convince me I'm a vampire? I bet that is what they are doing.'

You know, I ignored a lot that night. I ignored the stiffness in my body; I chalked that up to having lain there for God knows how long. I ignored the prickling itch in my chest and stomach area, the one that was shaped like a Y if I thought about it hard enough. As it was, I told myself that I was having an allergic reaction to whatever my clothes had been washed in. Or perhaps it was an allergic reaction to the liquid I was laying in. Despite the fact that my backside was fine and that was what was lying in the liquid.

Or I thought perhaps that I was just nervous…nervous…that's a good word for how I felt. I even ignored the twinges in some of my bones. The twinges that felt like broken bones feel when they are almost but not quite mended.

I thought I had it all figured out by that time. I thought they had grabbed me and that they were trying to convince me that I had been buried. I bet that in a day or so, they would 'dig me up' and start in on that whole cult bullshit that they had going for them. I hoped Batman would kick their ASS! He never did like it when his partners would get kidnapped. Of course, I figured once he rescued me, I'd be in for it! I'd get the whole "You have to be more careful" lecture. I knew that I deserved it. I had been stupid enough to get caught.

I figured that it would be worth the lectures once he got me out.

It really would have been, if any of it had been true.

Sorry, um…sorry. It's just that sometimes…I really wish…sorry. Just give me a moment. No, I'm fine.

Where was I?

I knew that I would just have to wait it out. He'd be there, anytime now. Anytime. Yep. I was betting that he was fighting them off right then. He had probably called in Nightwing, also. He'd give me his own version of the "be more careful" speech too. I wanted so much to hear it. It was comforting. Nightwing always had a way of bringing it all into perspective.

'Yep, anytime now.' I kept thinking that. I willed myself to relax, reciting Taps to set myself at ease. 'Day is done, gone the sun, from the lake, from the hills, from the sky; All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.'

'Yeah, anytime now… Fading light, dims the sight, and a star gems the sky, gleaming bright. From afar, drawing nigh, falls the night… They'll be here soon…' I fell asleep believing that.




My waking thoughts were, 'Okay, this is not funny! Where the hell are they?'

I had fallen asleep true, I knew I had, and true, I didn't know how much time had passed. But surely they should be have been there by now! Where were they?

When I had woken up the very first time, it seemed to be somewhat comfortable. I mean the padding seemed rather soft, and there was a pillow under my head. But after so many hours, I might as well have been laying on a board!

I started feeling claustrophobic. I was doing my best not to lose it. But it was getting hard. I wanted out! I couldn't breathe! It was getting harder to breathe! I needed out! And as embarrassing as it is to admit I had even started to whimper "I need out! I need outIneedoutIneedoutIneedout!" And I just got louder and louder and it was several minutes before I got a hold of myself.

And when I realized that I was totally losing it again I told myself, 'Whoa! Chill out, Timmy! All you are doing is letting them know they are getting to you! Batman must be having a little difficulty getting to you. That's all. I mean, they were slippery bastards, remember? Just breathe. Breathe slowly. In and out, in and out, that's right. See? There must be plenty of air. I don't feel a draft but, hey, been here a while and still going strong! It's just psychological! I can breathe! See…in and out!'

It is so hard to convey the sense of helplessness I felt. It was frightening. Not being able to see anything, not knowing where I was or if anyone even knew where to find me. Kind of like how Blair Witch Project was only frightening to those that could imagine being lost like that. Ironically, the movie never bothered me…this did!

I was beginning to wonder if maybe no one was coming to my rescue, as impossible as that thought seemed. I had to admit that it was a possibility. That, maybe, they would be too late. I would not be the first Robin to die and the risk had always been real.

How many times did I stare up at Jason Todd's uniform? How many times did I imagine his last moments on Earth? It was because of his death and what it did to Batman that I myself had ended up confronting Nightwing and then Batman. It was because of his death that I became Robin. His death was the first and most important lesson I got as Robin. That anyone, and I do mean anyone, can die and that I was no exception.

Robin was no exception.

Sadly, it also taught me another lesson that Batman and Nightwing had never even realized that I had learned. That I could not always depend on them to save my ass, not that they would ever step back and let me die, just that they would not be able to prevent it. It only takes a second for someone to die. A second for an accident to kill. Just one second to change your life forever.

Forever is a long time. It lasts for an eternity. Can you honestly wrap your mind around the concept? You say forever, you say eternity, but you will never know it. Even those of us with the potential will escape into death before we can live it. To face it, to understand it, is to go mad. My kind understands it.

I had to admit that, perhaps, something had happened to them. That, perhaps, they had died.

I think I started to cry at that point. I was so sad. I missed them. I thought about all the training sessions and they didn't seem so much like training sessions anymore. I heard the jokes between Nightwing and myself. I missed him so much. It hurt. I felt like my world was at an end.

It was quite a while before I could pull myself back together. I think the only reason that I was able to was because good ol'denial had kicked in! They weren't dead. They couldn't be dead; therefore, they just couldn't find me.

So I needed to figure a way out myself, or to at least let someone know where I was. I had already checked for the link to Oracle. Of course there was nothing there. I had also checked with my hands and found nothing that would help me. I did find some stuff under the pillow, but my fingers just told me they were scraps of paper. Squares with a smooth texture, I figured out that they must be some sort of photos but I couldn't see what they were. I stuffed them into my pants pocket so I wouldn't lose them.

You know I actually do have pretty good eyesight now. No glasses for this guy…anymore. But if you have no light source whatsoever, it don't matter how good your eyesight is, you can't see shit!

Sorry about the language. I just realized it's been less than…perfect. You can't see crap…oh, thanks. That's really cool of you. It would help if I could just…not worry about what falls out of my mouth. Or mind as the case may be…I'm getting the impression that you are reading my mind at the same time as I'm telling you this. Probably to get the full picture so to speak. Yeah, thought so…let me apologize in advance for any disturbing imagery.

Anyway, I really, really wanted out. I felt like I was losing my mind. I wanted to look up and see the sky.

When I closed my eyes really tight I could see…stars. That kind of helped, it gave me the illusion for a few minutes. Counting the tiny points of light gave me time to calm myself. I wished I could see the stars. I really did. But I would take the illusion over the complete darkness. At least it gave me something to do.

After a while, I started to kind of talk to them, heh, maybe they could come up with something, huh? I was starting to go a little batty. I even giggled at the thought. Batty, bat, Batman, get it? Never mind. What's that they say about talking to yourself?

Yeah, I was losing it… big time. I didn't even recognize myself anymore. I couldn't think straight and that scared me.

Every once in a while I tried to lift the lid. But it was on tight and I was still feeling weak.

I hoped and prayed he would get there soon, I didn't think I could take too much more. I begged the stars behind my eyes, 'Please, be here soon! Please?'

I think that was the first time that I heard them laugh. And it didn't give me much hope.




It had occurred to me before that they weren't coming. But it got to the point that I figured that maybe I had the wrong end of the stick before. Maybe they weren't dead. Maybe they thought that I was dead.

Nah, they would check! They would know that I wasn't dead. They would exhaust every effort to make sure that I was okay. Even if they suspected that I was dead, they would keep looking until they had found a body!

Then I found myself thinking, 'Oh God, maybe they were dead after all!'

I asked the stars, 'Could that be it?'

It was about that time that I actually heard them say something coherent. {No, they live, fluttering to and fro with no more purpose, living a dream that has turned into a nightmare. Time has fled; Scouts must go to their beds.}

The interesting part is that it didn't occur to me then to wonder about them answering. It felt entirely natural. I was more concerned about 'How long had I been in there? I was so HUNGRY! It hurt! I had never been so hungry in my life! My stomach felt like it was trying to, I don't know, digest itself. It hurt so badly. The fire in my stomach wasn't as bad as the tortured pain I had felt not long after waking the first time but it was a close second.

I asked the stars if they could bring me food. {No, little one. You have to be strong enough to get your own. Or at least get out to find someone to ask. If you wait long enough the wormies will visit…the worms crawl in…the worms crawl out…the worms play…}

I tuned them out. Obviously, they weren't planning on helping me. And their singing sucked. I resolved not to ask them for anything else. In fact, from that point on, every time they spoke I pretended not to hear them.

Yeah, I was pouting and sulking. Childish, I know. But the stars made me mad! They could at least have asked someone to come and help me! So, nope, I told myself that I wasn't going to talk to them at all.

Hours later I was ashamed of myself.

I panicked; I banged on the lid and screamed, begging for them to let me out! To just let me out, I would do anything that they wanted! Anything! I would tell them anything just to please, please, please let me out!

I figured that if the stars refused to listen maybe the ones that actually put me inside the coffin would.

No one answered though. I wondered if maybe they had wandered off and left me there. The stars were strangely quiet at that point. I actually began to miss them. At least they had kept me company. I closed my eyes tightly so I could see them again, if I couldn't hear them, I could at least see them, counting them always calmed me down after a 'panic' attack.

I started thinking though. Where did they get my clothes? Did they break into my house? Did they hurt my dad? It had never occurred to me! My clothes, and there was no doubt that those were my clothes, Tim Drake's clothes not Robin's. Where did they get them?

They had gone to a lot of trouble to convince me that I was dead and buried.

How did they figure out my name? There wasn't anything on my person that would identify me! I mean... even if they had seen my face, how would they know who I was?

I seriously began to freak out again!

"I've got to get out of here!"

I couldn't take it anymore. I reached up and started scratching and clawing. The cloth above me ripped easily but it gave me no satisfaction even as I shredded it with my hands.

Out! I had to get out!

I chanted inside my head, 'Damn them! Damn them all! I will get out! I will!'

I coughed as I hammered at the lid. Something started to fall in…dirt? I tasted dirt in my mouth. I screamed and more fell in my mouth. "Oh God! It is filling…oh God I'm buried alive!"




No.

No. This couldn't be happening. This was a bad, bad, dream. That was all there was to it.

No.

I did not accept anything.

As I looked toward the clear sky I took in a deep breath. I held it then let it out slowly. The stars looked down on me. They seemed to laugh.

Fuck them. It wasn't funny. I still don't see what the hell they thought was so damn funny.

I thought, maybe, it had worked. They had driven me insane. Isn't that what can happen with sensory deprivation? I mean... I wasn't really sitting in a cemetery, was I? No, some bad guy had me somewhere and he had been trying to drive me crazy. That was it. I just had to be strong. I kept telling myself this. I didn't want to believe what my eyes were telling me. It was too much. I just wanted it all to be a bad dream and for none of it to be real.

Why was this happening to me? I just wanted to be home, or be at school, be somewhere safe.

Maybe it was the Joker? I mean this was a pretty…bad…joke.

They had brought him back to Gotham to try his case. He was suing the City of Gotham. Something about his rights, I didn't catch most of it at the time. It was utter bullshit, of course; he was just making trouble! But it earned him a ticket back! Maybe, he did this to me? I thought it was a reasonable possibility. It was better than the alternative!

Because this couldn't be right, this couldn't be real. This kind of thing didn't happen in real life.

I couldn't really be looking at my blood-covered dirt encrusted hands in the moonlight.

They would have hurt! All they felt like was…numb. Cold and numb and tingling like my body did when I first woke up. And if I had really just clawed my way out of a coffin in the middle of a cemetery they would have to hurt because my hands were ragged! I had managed to rip some of my fingernails out…and that would hurt!

The only thing that hurt on me right then was my stomach! I was hungry! It felt like there was a fire lit inside. Like I was some sort of emancipated third world country street urchin who had never had a decent meal in my entire miserable existence!

So this was just not happening. It couldn't be. I was not really there!

Well, I was sure I was someplace, just not there! I was not looking at that headstone. The headstone that could not exist because none of it was true!

The headstone with my full name on it, the headstone with my date of birth, the headstone with a death date.

I did not die, it said, October 17th, 2002! Yeah, that was the date we fought those…people…but I didn't die! Kidnapped, yes! Tortured mentally, hell yeah! But dead? I wouldn't be there, thinking to myself, having that whole, mental conversation going. I think, therefore I am, right? Well, I thought, therefore, I was!

If I was dead, I would feel dead, wouldn't I?

If you go to that cemetery today, you can still read my headstone. I go there once in a while. It reminds me that anything can happen. Keeps me from getting too cocky. But at the time…

I told myself I couldn't be a ghost. Secret was a ghost. She wouldn't have had to claw her way out of anywhere, she could just…and she…

But I couldn't claw my way out of there either because I was not there…

Finally, I thought, 'Oh God, I've gone insane, because no way am I sitting here touching my own headstone.'

The stars were laughing at me again. Back then, I wasn't used to it, now, I just ignore the jerks.




I don't know how long I sat there crying. But I figured, 'Damn it, if I'm going to be insane, I have a right to cry. So fuck those stars laughing at the 'poor widdle boy cwying to hiswelf' Fuck them! Crazy people can do what the hell they want. Right?'

The Arkham Asylum loonies seem to get a lot of mileage out of the whole, 'I'm crazy so I can do what I want' routine.

Not that I don't think they should still be held responsible for their actions. But at the time I wanted…an out…an excuse to just let go and cry without fear. Without the whole, 'I'm a boy and boys don't cry' bullshit.

Eventually, I did stop crying and when I was done I felt a lot more…peaceful. I wasn't happy or anything but the blind panic was gone. I felt drained. Even the hunger seemed to have abated a little bit. I leaned against the grave marker and remembered that I had shoved something in my pocket back in the coffin.

They were definitely photos, of me and my friends from school. It hurts, even now, to think of those pictures. On the back they had written stuff like 'We'll never forget you' and 'love you forever'. It was sweet, actually.

Almost absently I shoved them back into my pants pocket and sat back down. I had no idea what I should do next.

I sensed someone behind me.

It was like, I could almost see them, and I almost expected them to disappear as I turned around. But, nope, they were still there. I…he…was familiar. I remembered him…

"Finally got out, huh?"

He was grinning at me. Seemed to think it was funny as hell. Prick. His hair was so blond it looked silver in the moonlight. How cliché. I found myself rolling my eyes. Even now, it seems so…weird. His clothing was actually quite nice, soft blue jeans with an oversized black sweater. My training took over and I dropped down into a defensive posture.

He laughed at me. I didn't like that. I wanted to…never mind exactly what I wanted to do but as I recognized what I was thinking I thought to myself, "…oh God I have lost it."

I suppose there is no point in saying 'never mind' huh? You could just read it in my mind. And since I gave you permission to beforehand…

I wanted to rip him apart with my bare hands! I wanted to pull each finger off one by one and crunch them with my teeth. I want to…oh God. I thought, 'They'll be locking me up next to Joker soon!'

The desire to hurt and to maim and to even kill was so strong. Only fear kept me from trying anything. Fear of what would happen to me. What if I was caught? What would Batman say? What was I becoming?

"Hungry, little one?" he asked me.

Hungry? That was an understatement. My stomach burned with hunger again. And what the hell? My face was cramping. I wanted it to stop! My stomach and my face! All of it hurt! And I just knew that if I could just give in to those thoughts in my head that it would all be…better.

"That's the spirit, little one! Come here!" He grabbed my hand and pulled me up to him.

What kind of pervert…?

Suddenly, I didn't mind anymore. He was stroking my back gently and nuzzling my neck, I knew it was wrong but it felt so good. Familiar too, like this was what he should have been doing all along. I started to remember as I felt the sharp pain in my neck…

I remembered ALL of that night in October. The night of the frat party that ended in my death.

There was pain! I remembered the pain. Batman was, somewhere, behind me…fighting someone when I was grabbed and held down. I remembered then…the low hiss in my ear as he talked to me. "Beautiful. You are beautiful…just as they promised."

So strange to be called beautiful, handsome yes, but beautiful was such a strange concept. But looking back I can say that he was beautiful. As he drank from me for a second time I continued to remember the first…

I had tried to fight him but he held me so tight that I could feel my ribs begin to crack. I struggled as he began to kiss my neck. One hand holding me around the middle as another grabbed me…there…I whimpered as his hand closed around me, squeezing me. Oh fuck, it had hurt!

I was sure that he was going to try and rape me or something. Ironically, despite what a lot of people think most of the bad guys in Gotham, at least the loonies, they usually don't resort to rape. The Joker has, of course…but most of the others…it isn't their bag of tricks.

Then he had stopped kissing and I felt the pain in my neck as he ripped into it. It had burned then turned icy. With every ragged breath I felt the blood pour out of my throat as he lapped at it quickly, purring as he drank. I couldn't push him off. Slowly, I stopped even trying as a haze fell around me.

His hand found its way into my hair and began to stroke it softly. It was calming and I discovered a lot of what little fear I had at that point fading.

I gasped for breath as he rooted around my throat. My eyes drifting shut as my heart began to skip, pain replaced by pleasure. He pulled me up and rubbed against me. Murmuring against my throat, telling me how much he loved me and wanted me and I began to never want it to end. His hand found its way back down to my now aching…oh God I just wanted him to take me right there! I had never wanted anything like that before in my life.

I needed him. I needed him so badly that I ached in ways I never felt before. I found myself thrusting against him weakly. Begging him in small gasps and whispers to take me, to fuck me. He kissed me and I could taste my own blood upon his lips and I began to moan.

It was all fading away and I was starting to have trouble staying awake. My eyes slid shut and the world began to tilt. He stroked my hair and told me that it was okay. My eyes wouldn't open and I felt thick liquid on my lips. "Drink, little one. Drink while there is still time, and I'll wait for you!"

And he did! Oh, he waited for me! And any anger at him was melted away as he drank from me again. I wrapped my arms around him and hugged him. For the first time in days perhaps, I felt complete joy. I could hear and feel the purring vibration run through him as he drank deeply from my throat. I could feel him pulling and sucking at the blood and my groin began to pulse in tempo with it.

I felt like crying as he pulled away, I could feel the blood slowly oozing from my neck, further ruining clothes already beyond saving.

"It's okay! I've got what you need!" He pulled me close again, pressing my face against his own throat and my face cramped again. The skin felt tight and hot and I felt…frantic. Like I had to do something now!

He pressed me so tightly to him. I opened my mouth and felt…needles grow…no…not needles. I moaned, "…oh…no…oh yes…" as my new teeth tore into him, the taste indescribable.

All that mattered was the taste…all that mattered was this man; I didn't even know his name. His arms closed around me and he held me. Rocking me as I drank and drank forever. Loving him more with every drink. Rubbing against him relishing the friction.

I whined as he pulled my head away.

"Not too much, baby! Just enough to help you through till the real dinner!" he whispered.

His face! It was…it was like it was that night, the demon-y face that had caused the others to yell vampire. It was the most beautiful face I had ever seen. The cramping in my own face didn't seem so bad anymore and I briefly wondered did I look like him? Had I become…like him?

He kissed me. Oh, I had never been kissed like that. The sharp teeth in my mouth sliced his tongue; I could feel the blood dripping into my mouth. I felt a tiny trill of pain and realized that my own tongue had been cut also.

I almost came right then, the feel of our blood mixing as I swallowed. It never occurred to me to wonder about diseases…and I didn't feel like asking…I don't think I honestly would have cared to be truthful.

"Need…to…get you back…to the haven!" he breathed between kisses. "Don't want them to take you!"

"Don't understand!" I gasped as he pulled me up. I had to hold myself just to keep from humping his leg. All I wanted to do was…have him. For him to take me! I needed it like I never needed anything before. What had happened to me? I had never felt like this before. Never wanted anything like this before. I didn't recognize myself.

"I'll explain…later!" He pulled me after him as we ran across the grass dodging headstones. Weaving in and out of the trees. It was almost like flying. In fact, except for the brief times our feet touched the ground to propel us forward, we might as well have been flying.

"Who are you? What is your name?" I asked.

"To you…Sire!"

I wish that I had asked him his real name that night. But you know what they say? If wishes were fishes we could walk to China without ever getting our feet wet.




It didn't matter anymore. The stars could laugh all they wanted to. It didn't matter that I was insane. That some pod person had come and taken over while I had slept. That I had lost my mind. It didn't matter. All that mattered was that Sire was holding my hand and taking me…home? It didn't matter; home was wherever Sire was.

Unfortunately for me, nothing ever goes that smoothly.

I felt them before seeing them. I could feel the hatred. Sire felt them too. He tried to go around them but there were too many of them.

The fight didn't last long. We were outnumbered and while Sire was the most wonderful being in creation, he wasn't trained for fighting.

He pushed me to the side and hissed for me to run. He told me that I was their only chance! To get away! Only chance at what I had no idea, but I did not want to leave him. I hesitated as he tackled the nearest adversary. It snarled and its face changed and I knew that it was indeed like us. Like Sire yet filled with hate, and fully intending on killing us. It pulled out a sword and Sire fell backward.

I felt my heart being ripped out as the sword…as the sword cut his head off. I felt like I would lose my mind all over again as I turned away and ran!

I wanted to die.

I'm not sure what happened next. I know I ran I know I got away, but it was on impulse and instinct alone. Because I 'woke' up in my father's cellar. Without memory of how I got there. All I could do was cry. Sire was gone. And Sire was my world. A world I didn't know I had until it was gone.

All I wanted to do was stop existing.

I felt so lost and alone. I felt more needy than I had ever felt before. I started to get angry with myself. What the hell was wrong with me? When did I get so weak? I pushed myself off the floor wiping at my face. I wasn't going to cry anymore. At least, that's what I told myself before I collapsed back onto the floor and sobbed my heart out.

Sad and depressed I could understand. After my mother died that is when I learned that it really IS natural to cry.

This wasn't natural though. I didn't normally feel this way. I didn't normally feel so dependant on someone, at least not like this. Especially to someone that I didn't even know! It occurred to me that maybe I was made to feel this way. Maybe that is how they kept their…and the words began to appear in my head as the stars began to speak once more this time in a new voice, a voice filled with sadness and grief…what is the word? Childer? Is that a word? Where did that word come from?

Childer in control?

Some sort of mind control? That made sense. Because otherwise they would find themselves killed after turning someone.

I had no doubt what I was anymore. Not if the mirror was any indication. I could see behind me but I couldn't see myself. I didn't care. I didn't care anymore.




All my stuff was down there. Dad sure didn't wait long, did he? All of it was boxed up and packed away, my CDs, my movies, my books, my clothes…all of it. At least, all that I had left, I had sold a lot of my stuff off over the last year or so. To help make ends meet. Trying to be part of the team and help out the family.

Fine, that was fine. I didn't care.

He and I hadn't been seeing eye to eye for a long time. I guess the fact that one, he had shipped my stuff downstairs so quickly and two, that I didn't give a shit about it was symptomatic of our estrangement. Or perhaps we were just bastards cut from the same cloth that felt each was better off without the other. I couldn't tell you. On the other hand, maybe being turned had changed my way of thinking more than I had thought, unshackling me from the conventional way of thinking.

What it comes down to is…I didn't even feel hurt by it.

I felt…nothing.

Detached.

I wondered if I was just in denial myself. Going through the grieving steps. Maybe, I was grieving my own death! I giggled because that was so funny. I heard the stars laughing and I laughed with them.

The sun was out, but they were there…hiding in the sun's rays. I knew better than to go near the sun. I could hear a high whining sound every time I went near the tiny window. It was a warning. Do not touch. Danger…danger, Will Robinson, danger!

I whispered, "Shh!"

I needed to stop laughing someone might hear! That would be no good! Little dead boys don't laugh in dark dingy basements! Well, maybe Stephen King's basement but that was his problem!

Luckily, the faucets down there still worked and I got cleaned up. All my clothes still fit me.

What a stupid thought! Of course they would still fit me! I was dead! I'm never growing again! I wondered if Superboy would be pleased? He wouldn't be the only one still getting carded fifty years from now! I couldn't help but laugh again, imagining it.

And Secret? What would she think? Wow, Young Justice just needed a Witch now and we would be all set! Hmm? Would a Vodoun priestess in training count? We could have ourselves a real Wendy the Werewolf Stalker episode here!

Yeah, I finally realized that I was dead. Tried taking my pulse while I washed my hands. Which had healed quite a while ago. No pulse. No heartbeat. And I tried to hold my breath…discovered after about three minutes that I didn't have to breathe. Held it for ten minutes…or rather just didn't breathe for ten minutes. I had to remind myself to resume breathing. So apparently, breathing was optional. I supposed that could be useful.

What to do now though? I had no interest in seeing dad. Actually, that might have been a bit dangerous. How would he have taken it? What would he have done?

I needed information. That was all there was to it. I needed to know more about my condition. What I could and couldn't do.

I needed to speak to Oracle. I needed a computer!

I needed my uniform.

Lucky for me, I had spares all over the city. I just had to wait for the sun to go away. {Day is done, gone the sun.} So I laid out my old blanket and sat down on it. I listened as the stars twittered on about nothing and the sun hissed at me. Trying to tempt me outside. Taunting me.

My eyes felt so heavy. I couldn't stay awake. Faintly, just under the meaningless sounds of night fighting with day, I heard a faint thud-thud sound. I found myself lulled to sleep. {All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.}




Hands touching me, moving me roughly with little regard, cold, very cold, unable to move. Doctors? Masks looking down on me, eyes bored and uncaring. Droning of voices. Cold metal, lying at an angle, rubber brick under my back. Droning voice continuing. Disinterest.

Hands moving me, pushing, prodding.

Pain, searing, icy, cutting, deep from shoulder to breast bone then down to my pelvic. Unable to scream, unable to move, unable to get away…

Ripping, jerking, pulling, peeling, excruciating, laid bare.

The sound of a saw…

A radio turned on…music…

I woke up to the sound of a drum, a loud drum, beating in a steady rhythm. A steady thud-thud sound that had only been faint in the early morning had grown to a level that seemed to shake the very walls.

Was my dad under attack? Had a war broken out in the days since I was buried? Was my identity common knowledge now and someone coming for vengeance?

I had to know!

I found myself running up the steps praying I would be in time. Only to get to the top and realize that nothing was happening. Nothing was disturbed. Only the sound seemed to exist.

Tracing the sound I discovered that my father and stepmother were sitting peacefully in the sitting room, unaware of anything out of the ordinary.

My stepmother looked terrible. It took a few seconds to realize that she had a picture of me beside her... she was looking at it. She missed me!

I almost smiled. She really liked me. Nice to know that at least someone cared that I had died. My father calmly read the paper.

Shaking my head and I continued to look for the source of the sound.

I really wish I hadn't bothered, because my face cramped up and I knew exactly what I was hearing. I needed to get out of there. Away from their beating hearts. Away from the blood flowing through their veins, calling me, demanding that I drink. Away before I killed them.

As I slammed the door behind me I could hear my father yell, scared and angry. I had to get away from there before the police arrived.

My feet barely touched the ground as I practically flew away from the site.




I was going mad with hunger. I wanted to rip people apart. I wanted to bathe in their blood. I wanted to feast until I heard the beating of their hearts become silent. It was all I could do not to give in.

I found myself in the park. Not a good place to be after dark. Not that it mattered, because apparently, I was now one of the things to fear.

I slowed to a walk trying to figure out where to go, what to do next. That's when I saw the old man. He was lying on a park bench. Nearby was an old weathered shopping cart. It was filled to overflowing with, hell, I'm not even sure what all it was filled with to be honest. There were bags of junk piled upon more junk, all of it covered with scraps of cloth. Ripped and torn toys hung from the handle, tied with bits of string. I found myself creeping closer to him, I wanted to look at him, see him up close.

He wore many layers of old clothing, one on top of the other. But the outer layer was a brown jumpsuit made of some sort of denim material. I'm not sure what it is called; I've seen lots of construction workers wear it though. He seemed warm enough though.

He was filthy and it was difficult to get too close. My nose was more sensitive than it used to be. Gray hair hung around his ancient face, which looked peaceful in sleep.

Would it repulse you to know that I wanted to touch him, to stroke his hair back out of his eyes and take him into my arms? I almost loved him, as my teeth dropped down and the cramping feeling in my face told me that I had once again changed into a monster. His body seemed to pulse with life and I wanted it. All of his pulse points throbbed and called to me, the places where the blood flowed easiest.

I wanted it.

I would have taken his life that night. I don't deny it. But lucky for him I was interrupted before I could move closer.

I sensed hatred nearby, those that killed my Sire. I ran in another direction and found myself near the zoo. A cacophony rose around me. I could hear every individual heartbeat at maximum volume, every moan, every sigh, every growl, every whimper, every whine…every animal in the joint all at once. And it all meant the same thing to me.

Kill.

Having momentarily lost the others I took advantage of the situation.

The hatred surrounded me as I wipe at the blood on my face.

I ran, trying to keep out of sight. I didn't want to be seen by anyone, especially a human. A kid my age? At night? With blood covering him? That would go down REAL well, wouldn't it?

But the pain in my stomach was gone and my face had returned to normal. At least my fingertips told me so.

I circled around and doubled back the way I had come. Relieved when it became apparent that the others had moved on. I zeroed in on one of the many places Batman had set aside for our personal use. I would find my uniform there as well as a place to clean up. I just hoped no one else was around as well. I didn't think I was ready for that yet. I needed…more information.

To be honest, I was not that thrilled with the idea of seeing Oracle.

I opened the security lock under an unassuming statue and let myself into the small trapdoor. Down a dimly lit tunnel, my bare feet made light sounds before I turned into a large room. I sighed in relief. Finally, something…familiar…safe…something I could hold onto.

I never knew that would happen. It had always been Robin was the unreal identity, the fake, and then I would go home to a nice 'normal' life. But now that life was gone and I was left only with Robin.

Would Batman ever really consider having one of the walking undead as a partner? Would he now consider me evil and stake me? Would staking even kill me? Or would he try to save me?

I was not the first dead 'hero'. I was actually in decent company. As I thought about this it occurred to me 'Didn't I hear about a vampire once being a member of the Titans? Or was he just a 'fake' vampire? I wish I knew.'

"Nightwing would know. I am such a dummy! I can contact Nightwing!"

I put my bloodied clothing in a basket and set them on fire. Watching them burn. I heard the same hissing sound the sun gave off earlier. Warning, do not touch…it said. As the fire burned I pulled on my uniform. It was a relief; a second skin and I felt myself begin to relax.

{Fire, friar, fryer…}

I ignored the rambling instead sitting down to watch the fire. The flames flickered and danced and I found myself pulling burnt fingers back.

All that is dangerous to us is attractive. It calls to us, demanding our attention, wanting us to hurt others or ourselves.

Sighing, I sucked on my injured hand as I threw the photos into the blaze. As they burned it felt…like…I was closing a book. Like I had just witnessed an ending to something painful, an end to an old life and the beginning of a new one.

Timothy Drake was dead and I had no idea who I was now, but I knew that I was no longer the same. I was different and I would never be who I was before again.

I pulled my mask down into place and I felt free.

For the first time since my Sire died, things began to feel a little right. I could deal now. I was not as confused once I put the mask on.

Before then I had felt like a little kid. I didn't know what was going on. It was like I was five years old and my parents had left me in the middle of a big and dangerous city by myself. I had been so confused, so unsure of myself. It was frustrating because I usually thought so clearly.

Maybe that was some more of that whole…Sire and Childe thing. Maybe when I died my brain got a little addled and it was the Sire's job to take care of me until I got my bearings back?

Made sense to me. Only my Sire was dead now. But I still wanted and needed my Sire. In a bad way! I hated this feeling of 'dependence'. But I was having trouble fighting it.

The mask helped some. I could reclaim a little of my old self-confidence while I had it on.

I needed to find Nightwing!




Bludhaven.

Didn't seem quite as scary anymore.

I tried to look into his windows without being seen. Needn't have bothered. I could hear the faint beat of his heart.

It wasn't too bad yet. I must have still been full enough from earlier. The sirens I heard earlier as I was leaving Gotham told me that they found the mess I had left behind. I would need a copy of the paper to see what they said, and I made a note to myself to try and get one.

I eased my way to his window. I could hear him moving around. Quietly, almost like a mouse.

Actually, that is so stupid. Mice are really quite loud. Have you ever tried to sleep when a mouse is gnawing on something? It's impossible! They are SO loud! So where exactly did that quiet as a mouse thing come from? That is like saying 'Blind as a bat', bats are not blind. And lemmings don't commit suicide! They got pushed off that cliff! Disney should have been ashamed!

Oh, did I lose the point again? Sorry, oh yeah, right, back to what I was saying. I'll um, just sit back down now.

I tried to open the window and found myself unable to. Locked. Of course it was locked. It was fucking Bludhaven! I wanted to just…break it open…but couldn't bring myself to do it. If I had? That would not go over too well.

Tapping on the window gently got a response. I could barely see him through the curtain, just a vague shape and impression. But sound? I could hear every step he took, every breath.

"Batman?" he whispered.

I heard the unsure quiver in his voice. Had he ever sounded that way when I was alive? Or did I just never 'hear' it before?

I tapped out 'A Shave and a haircut' on the window. I heard the flick of the latch and through the curtain watched him walk away.

"Come in already!" Annoyed. Great, just what I needed, but it sounded like an invite to me!

I slid the window open and slipped in. He had turned to the wall to look at the calendar.

It just then occurred to me that this might be a bad idea.

"Nightwing?" I tried to sound calm. I had hoped to put him at ease.

As he turned around I knew that it hadn't worked. He was not put at ease.

"No!" he said.

I put my hands up and tried to sound…not dangerous…

"Nightwing, its okay! I can explain…sorta…"

He was shaking his head really hard and backing away. At least he wasn't attacking I thought.

I should have learned to keep my mouth shut!

I jumped smoothly over him and it was amazing how easy it all felt. Maybe the breathing optional thing really helped out. I didn't get tired as fast. But he didn't seem like he was going to quit anytime soon, and the last thing I needed was for his neighbors calling the police.

I hit him once in the stomach hard and grabbed him, wrapping my arms around him. He struggled but just like the night I was turned he couldn't escape. I grimaced as a wave of desire flooded through me. Remembering that night, remembering my Sire's teeth in my neck…I shook the thought away.

"Dick!" I gave him a little shake and for a second he stopped cursing me.

"Dick," I said again quieter. "It is me! Tim!"

I secured his arms with one hand and pulled my mask off with the other. He squirmed against me and I tried to think about anything but the feel of his body against mine.

"Tim is dead!" he sneered at me. He was totally pissed off!

"Dick, please, listen to me, all right? Look at me, Look at me!" I tried to pull him closer. "I'm here, Dick! I'm right here! It is…a very screwed up story…but I'm here!"

He went limp in my arms and I'm not sure if he believed me or if he was faking. But just in case I held on as I lowered him to the floor. He was shaking his head again. Denial...

"Dick, I'm really here!" I whispered. "I know, it is hard to believe…but I'm here."

"You can't be! I…We…You were buried! I saw you in the casket!"

I reminded myself to breathe because it was hard to remember as his eyes fill with tears, so beautiful, like crystals as they began to fall. Eyes so blue they reminded me of the sky that I'll never see again, the sky that holds the sun. All I wanted to do right then was gather him up in my arms and never let go. Protect him from all the bad in the world and hide him from sin, even if it was my own sins. Protect him…from me.

I still feel that way.

I held him still with one arm and began to stroke his hair with my free hand. "Shhh…"

It was a few minutes before I realized that I was rocking him gently. Saying nonsense things as he cried. He had buried his head in my shoulder and again I had to control myself before I did something I would later regret. What hell had he been through since that night?

I lifted his head up and looked into his eyes. In many ways we were much closer than Jason and he had been. He had obviously not taken my death well.

"Listen to me, you are right, I was buried…"

He began to struggle a little and I pulled him closer, pulling him to my chest.

"Shhh…it is all right! I'm here now!"

Never did I realize that I would end up comforting him! But it was okay. This wasn't bad. In fact, I needed this. I needed someone else to focus on. It brought back my personal power. Made me feel like a real person again.

"Can you listen to me now?" I asked him.

Dick swallowed as he brought himself back under control. He indicated that he wanted up and I took the chance. I let him go. He stumbled around the room and I realized for the first time what a mess it was in. Not the typical, Dick Grayson is a terrible housekeeper look. No, this was more… Dick Grayson had a psychotic episode and his apartment took the brunt of it.

He gathered himself up before heading toward the couch. I followed silently.

"How?"

Sighing, I sat beside him. "I don't know much about what happened after the…fight. But I know that during it, I was bitten."

Dick nodded and cleared his throat. "You…you…bled to death. Before Batman could work his way to you. He…he didn't find you until the last of the college students had fled. He found you…lying…"

My hands found his and I held them tightly. I raised one hand and briefly brought it up to my lips. I really needed to work on my impulse control. It was all but gone. A big difference from before, when I was so tightly reined. But then… he didn't seem to mind it too much. Perhaps we both needed the comfort.

"What did he do? Does everyone know…that I'm Robin?"

A tiny shake of his head and that odd gulping, like he was swallowing something really bad, "No…no…Batman…stripped you of your uniform and let you be found…as Tim Drake…they think that you sneaked out and went to the college party…"

For a second I wanted to kill Batman. But it was gone in a blink. I would appreciate it if you never told him about it. I think it might strain things a little if he ever knew that I had wanted to strangle him with my bare hands.

"Typical, Tim Drake, juvenile delinquent in training, gets killed while disobeying his father…"

He heard the bitterness in my voice because he was quickly shaking his head. "Tim, it wasn't like that! He…he…he had to…pro-"

I waved him off. "Yeah, I know, got to protect the secret IDs' no matter what! I know the score."

Dick was biting his lip. I could see the questions lurking in his eyes.

"How long have I been gone?" I asked him first.

"About a month…"

Nodding, I tried to smile. It didn't reassure him. "Dick? What do you know about vampires?"

It is amazing. Eyes. They can display so much emotion, say so many things…and what I saw in his eyes…

I reached out and touched his face gently lifting his chin. "Don't cry anymore. It hurts to see you cry."

"You…" He rubbed at his face frantically. "You…um…?"

"Yeah, I woke up…I'm not sure…days ago…at first, I thought…it was a trick…that you and Batman would rescue me…"

He made a sound. A tiny little sound I would never have associated with him, a wounded sound. I squeezed one of his hands. "It is all right."

{All is well, safely rest.}

I felt so much…confidence telling him that. Like I could almost believe it myself. And suddenly I needed him so much. I wanted him so much. I wanted to make him mine and keep him. My gums began to prickle and I turned away. No, I would not do this to him!

As the feeling faded I took a deep breath. Funny how I noticed it more now, now that I didn't need to breathe…I find myself…wanting to…needing to…enjoying it even. Feeling the rush of air as it enters and the sound as it leaves. Tasting the very air! As I was finding out, if I didn't breathe in and out, I couldn't talk.

"I finally got…anxious…enough…that I clawed my way out of my coffin."

The look on Dick's face… suddenly I was no longer comforting him because he had pulled me to him. He was holding me so tight that if I had to breathe there would have been no way in hell I could. He pulled me into his lap and I couldn't understand a word he was saying. It seemed to be a mixture of Rom and babble and all I knew was that his hands were everywhere, in my hair, on my back, on my face. He was crying again.

You ever have one of those moments where things just sort of click? I had one, 'Oh, Rom, vampire…duh!'




Dick calmed down. That was a relief, and it was a further relief that he had taken control of the situation. He left about an hour later, giving me strict orders to stay inside. I was not to leave, answer the phone or otherwise let anyone know that I was there.

And I was more than happy to obey. To bad he couldn't be there…with…me!

He didn't tell me where he was going. I didn't ask.

I did however go through his underwear drawer.

Hey…don't look at me like that…

I took my cape off. There didn't seem to be a point in wearing it. I did put my mask back on. I feel comfortable with it on. Maybe it is psychological. Tim Drake is dead but Robin never dies?

Lying down on Dick's bed, the stars began to murmur. A rising hiss told me that the sun was coming. My eyes started to feel heavy. I felt like I was floating.

Droning voice speaking in a monotone, fading in and out, catching only certain words, "Post-mortem changes are documented as following… body has been refrigerated… rigor mortis…hypostatic lividity…putrefactive changes… Subject injured on the left side of neck below ear. A tearing wound consistent with that made by a large animal, size is…"

The door slammed in the front room and I jumped. Dick's eyes were rimmed with red and I knew he had been crying again. I'm not really sure why, whether it was because I was still dead, because I was actually a vampire, or because he missed me and was glad I was back…I still couldn't tell you.

Lowering my mask I asked. "Are you okay?"

Dick nodded. His voice sounded so rough, almost 'the bat voice'. "I brought you something!"

"Where have you been?"

He brushed the question off with a vague gesture. "You need to feed before you sleep!"

Well, at least he didn't look tearful now. The word cranky came to mind. But you know? He carries cranky very well. Oh yeah, very well. With him, cranky and sexy…very linked. You probably didn't need to know that.

He pulled a red bag out of his coat and I gasped, feeling my teeth drop down and the twinge in my face automatically. My body knew before my mind what was in front of me.

"Where did you get that?" My voice was a growl.

"Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies. The Hunger will be worse for you right now…being a fledgling and all. You need to feed before you sleep and right after you wake up."

Before he was even done talking I had already grabbed the bag.

Sated for the time being I crawled up onto the bed and lay down. I was so tired! And I have to admit I was comfortable. I didn't even bother to turn out the light. And it was then that I realized. No stars, no sun…no hissing…no sounds…it was peaceful.




Lying flat now, head raised, sharp pain behind my head ear to ear, deep searing hot. Jerking, pulling, ripping, exposed. The sound of a saw, loud, piercing, whining. Pain!

Saw turned off, sucking sound, rubbing of coconut halves… Hot!

I jerked awake, breathing heavily before I remembered that I could stop, that it wasn't necessary.

My face cramped and I felt heat. I was on fire. Not literally, of course, but I burned from the inside out! My mouth was full of sharp teeth and I was hungry! I heard Dick before he entered the room and all I wanted to do was…

Then I realized that I heard more than one heartbeat…

As he opened the door he flinched. I felt like he was trying to avoid looking at me. But behind him he dragged something. Suddenly, even with all my hunger…I was at a loss…

Because where in the hell…in the middle of a slummy city like Bludhaven…did he find a baby cow? And how the hell did he get it into his apartment? The thought was mind-boggling. I mean, didn't anyone notice? How did he get it here? On a bus? Definitely not on his motorcycle…did he walk it down the street? How the hell did it get here?

And intelligent being that I have always been, what fell out of my mouth?

"Huh?"

"Food?" He smiled at me and shrugged as he pushed the calf further toward the bathroom. "Eat in here, it won't be as messy to clean up!"

I didn't know what to say. I mean, what do you say when someone you have always looked up to, shoves a small cow at you and basically says 'drink up!'

Oh, I knew what to say!

"Thank you!"




"Strigoii."

"Huh?" Okay, again he surprised me. "What the hell is a Strigoii?"

"Varcolac, Nosferatu, Vampry, Dracul, Nachzerer, Vampire." Dick sat down as I fully entered the room. "And a hundred other words all meaning the same thing…The Kindred."

I was wearing some of his clothes. My 'breakfast' was messy. I was ashamed. But I felt full and warm and in control. Which is more than I could say for how I felt when I woke up. I pulled the shirt tight around me. It was too big but it smelled strongly of him. If I closed my eyes I could imagine his arms around me. The pants were extremely baggy but the belt kept them up and I cuffed them around the ankles.

"The most common image people get is of Count Dracula, based on, supposedly Vlad Tepes, a Romanian prince who, in 1462, prevented the Turks from invading by impaling 20,000 of his enemies on stakes." Dick shook his head. "Rubbish. Vlad Tepes was a hero to the people and some consider him up there with King Arthur. And I don't mean Aquaman! Some believe that he will return and save Romania in its darkest hour."

"I… uh thought that he was like this really cruel guy…"

Dick shrugged, "Depends on who you ask. History is written by the winners…and some may argue that the bomb we dropped in World War II was just as cruel."

He shrugged again and turned back toward me. "Now, on the other hand, there WAS a Dracula until recently. But he wasn't the same man as Tepes. Although, I think he rather enjoyed people thinking he was."

"What happened to him?" I asked.

Dick smirked. "He…out thought himself…and did something really stupid. He found final death in a final act of stupidity. He tried to Embrace, turn, Superman. Vampires really shouldn't try to bite solar batteries. It is highly contraindicated."

"What do I do, Dick?"

"It's going to be okay."

He got that determined look in his eye again, the on the edge look. "First things first. One, we can't tell Batman…at least yet. For one thing we have to come up with a plausible story. Two, no more raiding the zoo…it is all over the papers…"

Yikes, he knew. Guess it wasn't too hard to figure out. He tossed me the paper, the headlines screaming about what I had done.

"Don't worry, they are blaming wild animals." Dick folded his arms across his chest. "Tim? Where is your Sire?"

It hurt. The ache came back so fast… "Beheaded, by rival vampires, at least, I think they were. I mean they were vamps and they went after us..."

"Does your clan know where you are?"

"No, I don't even know where they are, what their names are…nothing. He was… beheaded…almost…immediately."

Dick sighed and ran his hand through his hair, raven black hair that I suddenly wanted to inspect. I wanted to look at each one, count them…feel them…

He had been calling me…I must have zoned out.

"Hey, back with me?"

"Uh, yeah, sorry!"

"We need to introduce you to the Prince of the City. Get 'legal' permission for you to be here!" Dick stood up and started to pace, kicking random objects out of his way. "Honestly? I figure that you were made illegally. Maybe even by a Sabbat. Gotham is pretty much a Sabbat city. We'll have to fudge it anyway. If they figure out that your Sire probably didn't have permission beforehand to turn you, you will be destroyed."

"Prince?" I was so confused. "Destroyed?"

"It is a side of the night that Batman has never recognized as existing. He ignores it."

"That's our Batman…should of called himself Denialman…"

I managed to get a smile out of him and that pleased me. His face lit up.

"Vampires are very much a part of every major city in America and across the world."

He had gone straight into lecture mode. Dick smoothed his hair with one hand and straightened his frayed T-shirt with the other tucking it into his wrinkled blue jeans. With bare feet he paced in front of the couch I sat on as I listened to every word.

"There are different clans of vampires, each one with characteristics inherent to that clan. Malkavian, for example, are filled with madmen. All of them are complete psychos. Toreadors are… the artists of the bunch…obsessed with beauty in its many forms. Sometimes they even patronize young human artists in their zeal for beauty."

I think he caught the look on my face…a clan of madmen? That could be really bad! He halted in mid-step and turned back to me.

"Luckily, the Malks all have enough sense not to turn Joker or any of the other major loonies. The Arkham bunch is crazy enough to upset what is called The Masquerade. The Masquerade is to be upheld above all else. It keeps the humans from ever finding out about and destroying the vampires. Only certain humans are ever allowed to know. I'm one of them. In fact, most gypsies are aware of the Kindred. The Gangrel clan as well as the Ravnos clan is comprised almost entirely of our people. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, as you well know. Though, never ask a Gangrel about any relationship it might have with a Ravnos…it isn't worth the pain."

Made sense I suppose. The more he talked though, the better I felt. It's a shame that no one outside of the Malkavian clan can truly understand; otherwise I may not have felt that much better.

"Gotham's Prince is, ironically, Malkavian, though the Brujah are jockeying for position. The Prince of Gotham is only a figurehead and as a consequence a…joke. There have been mutterings of the Sabbat deciding to make a move soon."

I muttered, "Who knew vampires were so politically oriented? Uh, what the hell are the Camarilla, Sabbat, and all the other stuff?"

"The Prince of a city is the…vampire…ruler I guess you could say. Just so it doesn't throw you, Princes can be male or female. Honestly? Once someone is made a vampire; gender, apparent physical age, or much of anything isn't much of an issue either way. They are no longer human and no longer subject to the same beliefs, thoughts, morals, or values. After they are turned, they are no longer the same. They become creatures that wear a human face but beyond that... They become something…different. Something new, a combination of their old self mixed in with…something…else."

I nodded. "I feel…like…I'm not me anymore. I remember everything about being Tim. But I don't feel or think like Tim anymore."

Dick sat down beside me and touched my shoulder. "Some part of Tim is still there. It is. If it wasn't, I would be dead right now. I look at you…I know that Tim is still inside you. But you are something…new…"

He trailed off and stared at the wall a few seconds before continuing the lecture in a much quieter voice.

"The Prince of Bludhaven is a female. A Brujah vampire. They tend to be rather…bad tempered. It is partially because a Brujah is in control that Bludhaven has become so corrupt. They are very criminal minded. She lets a lot go on that other vampire Princes wouldn't ever allow. Though, to be honest, the reason this is called Bludhaven is because the Ravnos…never mind, I'll explain that later. Maybe. It would be better if we had a Ventrue Prince or even…"

He looked at me and tried to smile. "I know it would seem that the best thing would to get her out of power but it just doesn't work that way."

"I understand." I mean I might not have understood all of it at the time but I got that it wasn't a simple case of beating up the 'bad guy'.

He nodded and kneeled in front of me. I wanted to take him into my arms but understood that would not be the thing to do.

I think I should mention that I know Nightwing is an adult capable of taking care of himself and others. He is a fearless leader and is stronger than many 'powered' superheroes…I know all of this. It still doesn't change the fact that I want to hug him and squeeze him and call him George. It also doesn't change the absolutely mushy feelings I get sometimes and the wish to hold him and cuddle him.

"All vampires are called The Kindred. To become a vampire is to be 'Embraced'. An exchange of blood is necessary. The human has to be near death. I knew you had been killed, that you had bled to death…but I didn't know that a vampire had bitten you and that an exchange had happened. Batman told me it was a cult and that he thought your neck had been…if I had known…I would…have waited for you…to rise. I would have…dug…" He dropped his head forward and sighed.

I grabbed the pillow off the couch and held it across my lap. Something else had decided to rise. I was surprised when I felt his hands on my shoulders. He began to rub them gently and I wanted to lie upon his chest.

Sorry, I did tell you I want to cuddle him.

"There is a riddle, sorta, it is supposed to explain what being a vampire is like. It goes… 'Monsters we are, lest monsters we become.' What that basically means is that vampires MUST commit monstrous acts or they become monsters themselves."

The rubbing became almost hypnotic. It took a lot of concentration not to lose myself. He has the tiniest freckles on his nose, you almost can't see them but they are there. I had to stop myself from counting them.

"The Hunger you feel. It will be with you always and can never be sated. I'm sorry. It is only through feeding that you will be able to control yourself because, if the Hunger is not appeased, it will release The Beast within you. The Beast will direct you to do evil, you will become truly evil…so you have to feed to keep The Beast from breaking free…"

"I'm not evil right now?" I prayed, 'Please say I'm not. I need to hear you say…'

"Tim, everyone is evil. I'm evil, Batman is evil…even Superman…is evil. We all have the capacity to do evil. But we also have the capacity to not act upon it. You can feed on animals. They should be alive…but you can also drink bagged. I wouldn't recommend it if you were trying to pass for human in close circumstances. Warm blood makes you look and feel warm. Cold blood will just make you colder. Some…some vamps…feed on those they consider…evil…"

I shook my head. No, no way…I couldn't. No! If I ever started, I would never quit and to be honest, I doubt I would continue to make any distinction between good and evil.

Besides? Wouldn't my merely feeding, even on another evildoer, be considered evil in and of itself? You know, I give myself a lot of headaches thinking about crap like this!

He smiled again. "I'm glad you feel that way! But you must let me know if you start to feel the Hunger rise. I have to keep you fed! Right now though, you have a lot to learn."




So my proper designation for the time being was Caitiff. Meaning I had no clan of my own. Though I was starting to have my own theories the more he talked about the different clans.

Before his parents died and he ended up with Bruce, Richard John Grayson had a much different life, one that extended beyond that of acrobats. Born to a Romanian Gypsy family that was closely aligned with the Gangrel. Dick could even claim family among the vampire clan. For the last few years he had been in secret contact with those family members as they prepared for something called Gehenna. A sort of Armageddon for vampires. Apparently, some old vampires that helped start the whole clan thing are supposed to come back and eat all of us. Sounded kinda bad to me. Dick wouldn't comment too much on it.

I mean isn't that shitty? I become a vampire? And some ancient bastard is going to eat me? Can't they eat the humans?

Um, okay…maybe that wasn't a good thought. But why are they going to pick on us? I mean aren't we their…kids? They are like really bad parental role models…

Long before the dawn came, Dick slipped out of the apartment again, and when he came back he handed me another bag of blood. I could feel the sun begin to rise and once again he pushed me toward his room. He turned the light off and shut the door leaving me alone.

It was about this point that I realized…there was a problem. He had his windows blacked out against the sunlight. Something all of us in the business tend to do. It was sometimes hard to sleep during the day no matter how long you were up at night, and so with the light off and the door shut…I started to feel it.

I felt trapped. Like before in my coffin. I tried to fight the panic but it got to be too much. And when the moment came where I began to relive clawing my way out…screaming for a release that never came…

The light came on and Dick pulled me out of bed. Holding me close, stroking my hair, asking what was wrong. I was so…embarrassed… as I told him. Told him about the hours, the days spent trapped within the coffin without a light until I finally clawed my way out.

"Would it help if we left the light on? Like yesterday morning?" He stroked my hair back again and gently laid me back on the bed as though I were a tiny child.

So for the first time since I was two years old, I had a nightlight. Or perhaps I should call it a daylight? No, that doesn't seem right…

He shut the door again and left me alone where I preceded to pout. I would much rather have had him sleep beside me than sleep on the couch. But he insisted. At least he was there. I mean he could have gone back to work! Instead he was on extended leave. He said that after I died he took the time off, personal leave. He was in mourning, for me! He missed me!

His ceiling was really…annoying. Lots of cracks in it, and before I realized I was doing it, I was counting them. The stars jeered me, they wanted my attention, they wanted to be counted too, like before, in the coffin. But I needed to count the cracks! The stars were jerks about it. Every time I got to around three hundred and seventy-five, they started counting out of sequence, messing me up!

Finally...

Empty feeling, empty, nothing inside…All the King's horses and all the King's men… Bone replaced, skin pulled back, stitches…

Like a puzzle put back in a box, nothing connected, a mess… sewed up and cleaned. Covered and left, alone in the dark to wait…

New hands…pushed and pulled…taken away…single word penetrating the heavy fog… funeral…

In the evening I woke to a new and weird sound. Squealing? It came to me quickly. Pig. He brought me a pig.

For some reason I thought that was just the sweetest thing! I felt all…mushy inside. I knew I had to be grinning like a moron. I can only imagine what fangs plus demon face plus goofy grin looks like. But Dick didn't seem to mind as he shoved the pig toward me and pointed to the bathroom.

Later, Dick wanted to explain more, he wanted to go over the traditions and the clans again. Explain more about the Camarilla and the Sabbat. But all I could hear were the stars. They were calling me. I wanted to see them. I needed to see them.

Dick started getting upset with me. I didn't want him upset but I couldn't sit still. I wondered if maybe that was how Impulse feels, the need to constantly move. I had been pacing since I came out of the bathroom. Good idea to feed in the tub, less time cleaning up. The night before I had to spend a long time cleaning up the mess. I also felt better since my costume was back. He picked up another of my spares while I slept.

I really needed to go outside. Needed it in a way that it was burning me. I couldn't take the walls closing in on me! I needed to be outside. Outside where it was impossible to feel trapped.

When he finally asked what the hell was wrong with me, I found myself telling him.

"I have to go outside! The stars are calling me. They speak to me all the time but the ceiling muffles them. I need to go outside!" It was only when I stopped speaking that I realized that I had been growling.

He looked so sad. Unsaid, like a faint whisper, the word Malkavian floated through the air.

I knew it but didn't want to believe it. But deep down I knew it was true. My Sire was a Malkavian vampire. Caitiff only because he didn't get me home in time. I can deny it all I want but in the end even I had to realize that my grip on sanity was only maybe slightly more secure than those that haunt Arkham asylum.

He disappeared into his room and came back as Nightwing. For a second I wondered if perhaps my lessons were at an end. That perhaps he was going to end my 'new' life. But, of course, I was wrong. He had not given up on me.

"We could continue on the roof. You will be closer to your stars that way." He smiled at me.

I think he smiled so he wouldn't cry.

He's beautiful when he cries. I wanted to make him cry in loving ways. I wanted to touch him and make him lose himself till tears fell and…I thought to myself, 'I better just go on up to the roof now.'

There was no static up there. The temperature was turning cold but I didn't really feel it. The stars were above me like tiny crystals suspended in midair. As I looked up I automatically started to count them feeling the calm settle. They laughed and welcomed me back.

"There are seven major vampire clans and a bunch of little ones. The Brujah…" His voice was little more than a whisper.

{The brutes…they just can't finish a word… once warrior-poets they are now nothing more than rebels without a clue…they would be fine if they weren't so thick!}

I whispered to the stars to shut up. Not to interrupt Nightwing!

"The Gangrels, the Malkavians, the Nosferatu, the Toreador…"

{The animals, yourself, the almost sane, then Toreador, Matador, ole! Puppets little poppet…Puppets! Pull their strings and watch them dance!}

Nightwing frowned as I giggled.

"Tremere, and the Ventrue…then you have Caitiff, you also have Assamite."

{Heh, he said ass…hehe…The Tremere, D&Ders that have been told their spells are real! But be careful, they are on to us! Venture with the sticks up their ass, they accept as much as Batman does, the 'denial clan'. And from the Caitiff the herald will come…!}

"…Followers of Set, Goivanni…"

{Goivanni, they'll make you an offer you can't refuse…what they paid for we got for free!}

"…and the Ravnos…there are others too but those are the ones that come to mind the quickest. There are many clans…and the Camarilla assumes that everyone belongs in their sect."

{Don't they put Camarilla on some chocolate bars? Deluded, denial, they will wake up some day}

"Robin, this isn't funny!"

"I'm not laughing at you!"

I wasn't. I was laughing at the funny voices that the stars were making.

He took a deep breath and I knew I was not going to like what he said next.

"Tim, maybe, maybe we shouldn't…ever…let Batman know…"

Nightwing sighed and slowly sat down on the ledge. He didn't move as I slid up close to him and wrapped my arms around him, but I could feel him stiffen under my touch. I made him uncomfortable. I knew that but even as I tried to pull away he laid his hand over my arm, holding me in place. Reassuring me that he wasn't rejecting me because of what I had become.

"I'm sorry. I don't mean to be this way." I said putting my chin on his shoulder. "We'll play this any way you want. If you decide that it is best that I never see Batman or any of the others ever again…then I won't…I just hope that you don't…"

"I won't leave you. Especially not like this." Nightwing reassured me.

He tightened his grip on my arm, squeezing it. Closing my eyes tightly I leaned into him, feeling the warmth of his body in front of mine. Inhaling, tasting his scent and listening to his heart beat steadily within his body. All of it more comfort than the sappiest declaration.

Nightwing let go of my arm with a small pat. "Robin?"

He cleared his throat and tried to turn around but I pressed him closer to me, enjoying the feel of his back against my chest. I wanted to hold on to the feeling just a little longer. The feeling of belonging, something that I hadn't really felt, even in life, because no matter how much Batman welcomed me into his world, I still always felt like an outsider looking in. The boy that invited himself to the party, never asked. I always had the sense that he was never truly 'letting me in'. Maybe he wants to protect himself. Protect himself from the hurt.

As for my father? I never did understand his reasons for pushing me away.

Of all the people I ever knew, Nightwing was the only one that came close to welcoming me with open arms.

He killed for me. When he thought that the Joker had killed me, he beat the lunatic until he was dead…he killed for me. At the time, I thought it was more to do with Jason having died; I thought it was the guilt of the Joker escaping in conjunction with how Babs felt with not being there to see it…or that perhaps he was just tired of it all.

Now I know better. He killed for me! My unbeating heart sang as I realized, holding him tightly, I never wanted to let go.

When I was alive I never allowed myself to analyze any of the feelings that I might have had. I protected myself in that instance. I would never have been able to act upon them so I never allowed myself to 'feel' them. But now, I am no longer what I was. Any inhibitions that I had were stripped from me the moment my heart stopped beating…at least…on that front.

The wish to kill…and the fact that I don't isn't so much an inhibition as a question of remaining morality and a sense of wrongness that has only vaguely carried over. I could kill. I want to kill…I chose not to. But I think, as time passed, it became not so much because I personally didn't want to, as much as I know Nightwing doesn't want me to.

"I am learning, Nightwing. I am. I know it don't seem like it, but what you have been saying IS getting through."

I stroked his stomach with one of my hands and he shifted under me. A shudder ran through him. I could smell the change in the air. "Robin, don't…"

"Shh…please don't. It isn't the same. I won't ever age now. Please don't use that against me. And I'm hardly human anymore. You said it yourself! It isn't fair to use human values against someone that isn't human. I have no hope of every changing now. I'm stuck this way. I was reborn into sensations that I cannot even begin to describe to you. A world where you can get drunk on touch alone. A world of color and sound that can enrapture you and drive you mad, and you do both to me. I need to touch you. Please, let me. Let me love you."

He forced me to loosen my grip as he turned in my arms. Loosen them or hurt him and I didn't want to hurt him like that. "Tim, you lost your Sire. You are feeling that loss. I won't pretend to understand everything about the Sire to Childe bond…"

I nodded, unable to look away from his eyes, deep blue, endless, all encompassing. Peering intensely into his soul, willing him to be silent, not to say the words that I did not want to hear. The silence was deafening.

His body relaxed against me as I tightened my arms once more. I willed the silence to last. For just a few minutes more. All I wanted was a few minutes more. I prayed for him not to speak. Not to say anything, just to let me hold him. He sagged against me and I realized that his breathing had slowed. His pupils dilated to the point where the black had overtaken the blue. It was as though he had fallen asleep with his eyes open.

I shook him and he startled. "What?"

"I don't know…" I had no idea what was wrong with him. I ran my hands down his arms checking for darts... perhaps he had been drugged?

"What happened?" Nightwing asked again. He shook himself and blinked slowly.

I was confused and shook my head. "You just stopped talking, it was like, you were passing out on me."

He jerked away from me, stumbling to his feet. I could feel the rage around him. Through the mask I could see the glare. Anger rolled off of him in waves. "You…!"

I shook my head again, standing and taking a step back. "What?"

He brought himself back under control but I could still see the rage flowing through him, like tight red bands of light wrapped around him and flowing toward me. I could feel it in the air around him. Trying to surround me, trying to catch me, choking me with the scent of brimstone…the smell of anger.

"I think it is now time to talk about the…Disciplines." Nightwing said. His hands shook as he ran a hand through his hair.

"Did I do something wrong?" I involuntarily took another step back. Discipline? What kind of discipline do you give a vampire? What did I do wrong to require discipline?

He walked away from me and looked out over the rooftops. As I walked up beside him he took a step back. I felt ashamed. I didn't know what I had done, but apparently it was something bad. He was scared of me. A slightly acidic scent had added to the brimstone in the air.

I tried to stand still, I wanted to go to him and tell him I didn't mean it. But I didn't even know what I had done wrong.

A whisper upon the air and I felt something. Eyes upon us, someone was out there. I turned and looked, trying to find our spy. But it was gone just as quickly as it had appeared. Or maybe not gone, maybe just out of reach. Humans walk by and we can tell, they lean out of their windows, and we know. A jungle of scent, a jungle of easy prey.

I looked over the side of the building. Across the street a window slid shut. I sighed and turned back to Nightwing. Humans snooping around did not concern me. Nightwing was my main concern.

"I'm sorry. I know you didn't do it on purpose." Nightwing said, finally calming down.

"Different Kindred have different inherent abilities. They are called disciplines. They all possess them to a degree but some clans master certain ones. Malkavians can do what is called Dominate. That is what you just did to me. I know you didn't mean to. Not really. It was probably instinct."

"I'm…sorry." I truly was, but at the time I still didn't understand what I had done. I just wanted him to forgive me.

"You possessed my mind. Made me stop saying what you didn't want to hear." His voice was strangled. The acidic smell of fear wafted into the air again causing me to wince.

"I'm really sorry, I'll never do it again! I didn't know I was doing it this time! I just wanted to look into your eyes. To hold you!" I felt miserable. I had meant no harm. I had never intended to make him do anything against his will. That isn't my thing. And lack of standard inhibitions and looser morals or not…it will never be my thing to force someone to be with me.

"I know. I'm not angry." But he was, I could sense it. I could feel it on the air. See it in ways I can never describe. The red bands were still tightly wrapped around him, even if they were no longer reaching out to me. The smell of brimstone came to me every time the wind would gust. He was still angry.

"I'll make you a deal, Nightwing, you don't lie to me and I won't lie to you!" Suddenly, I was angry also. He was trying to lie to me. Sure, it was to keep my feelings from being hurt. But I knew he was lying and that hurt.

"As I was saying, I don't pretend to know everything about the Sire and Childe relationship, but I have heard that it is sometimes, not always… but sometimes… sexual in nature."

I nodded. "Yes. It is. At least for us. He seduced me even as he turned me. And he planned on completing the seduction the night I made my way out of the coffin."

I promised not to lie to him. I wouldn't lie to him. Even if the truth embarrassed us both.

"I think you are…adopting…me as your Sire." Nightwing cleared his throat and folded his arms across his chest. A slight blush stained his cheeks and I could smell the blood, so close to the surface. I wanted to take his face into my hands and breathe deeply. At least I wanted to so long as that nauseating fear scent was gone.

"Perhaps. I feel like I need my Sire. And I want you so bad."

He flinched. The truth was difficult for us both.

"I can't be that for you."

Now it was my turn to flinch.

"Is it because I'm male or because of my…age?" I actually prayed he would say it was because I was male.

He turned away from me and I could feel the lie come. "Don't lie to me. I can tell... it distorts the air around you."

Nightwing turned back to me and I could feel the shock without looking at his face. "You can tell when I…"

"Lie? Yes. Not at first, but now I can. It has been happening slowly, evolving. I know when you are afraid, like you are of me now. I know when you are angry, which is slowly dying down and beginning to fade, and I can tell when you are lying. The air has turned bitter around you; it pollutes your…aura? I don't know what else to call it. But tonight… for the first time… I can actually see it! I can't stand your lies!" I heard the hiss coming from my lips and I scared myself. My anger was consuming. I wanted to let go and let it consume all that was in my path, including him.

I wanted to burn with the anger. Burn him in turn. But in that second as I imagined his twisted and tortured body in my mind… it went away. As angry as I was, I knew that hurting him wasn't an option. It couldn't be an option. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly, turning away from him. I was horrified with myself, the very idea of Nightwing being hurt by me… what had I become?

Clouds had been steadily moving in and I could feel the beginnings of snow form above me. I could see Nightwing's breath as the air turned colder, the temperature steadily dropping. I couldn't see my own. My body is too cold to make the vapor.

"You are…too young." he finally said. "I know…you are the age of consent! But morally…Tim, my job alone puts me in a position where I can't. It is still considered a betrayal of trust…maybe if you were older…"

"I will always be…too young. And as you said, I'm no longer human. Do not dare to judge me by human standards! Since when is a police officer supposed to protect vampires anyway? It isn't fair. If my Sire had not died, I would be with him now. I would be fucking him right now!" My pouting probably didn't help my case.

The harsh word got his attention. Anger again, only now a tinge of something else what was it, guilt? Jealousy? A mixture of both? The sense was too new for me to tell for sure. But thin bands of green wrapped around the red, slipping between and weaving around him.

I could feel the second he relented. His shoulders dropped and he hung his head. "I know."

Walking to him I pulled him back into a hug and laid my head down on his shoulder. "I want you."

"I can't."

I told him. "You are right, I feel…a Sire…connection to you. But I want you regardless. I've wanted you for a long time. I know you can't take me yet, but I'll be ready when you are. For now, let me touch you. Let me feel you in my arms."

I sensed someone nearby again. No threat, human, I could smell the blood. But I didn't see them. I ignored it. Too many humans skulking around the night to take too much notice, too many out and about, going about their mundane business, too many flitting in and out of my personal sphere of influence.

That was careless of me. I had forgotten in the midst of everything what Nightwing had taught me in the beginning. Always pay attention to your surroundings. It was his first lesson when he started my personal training.

"I love you, Nightwing. I'll always love you. I never wanted to think about it before…but it was always there. If you don't want me to be anywhere near the others, they need never know I'm here." His skin was getting colder as the snow began to fall steadily. My lips grazed his cheek. "Just let me be near you." I whispered into his ear. "That is enough… for now."

I could sense the battle within him. His resolve was slowly breaking down and I savored a small victory as his arms closed around me. "No pressure." I whispered. "Just let me, enjoy your warmth, your humanity. Let me enjoy being near me. It is enough for now."

Nightwing's heart was beating hard in his chest and the sound was hypnotic. The blood rushing through smelled wonderful and I wanted to kiss every inch of his body. Love him with my mouth, my hands, my body, and my teeth. All anger was gone… and fear was fading… for the most part all that was in the air was a pleasant bouquet of emotions.

My lips pressed against his cheek gently. "We need to go inside, the stars have hidden from me, they don't like the cold."

Fingers found their way into his hair and I stroked him with a light touch. "I will remain dead, to all…I can exist without them, if I can just be with you."

As we left the roof I heard the human heart beat fade. Whoever it was had wandered off, probably a vagrant, lucky for them, Nightwing helps me control The Beast as much as the feeding does, otherwise, they may have ended up on my menu.

"Nightwing, The Hunger is beginning to…"

"I have something for you in the fridge." he whispered.




The snow fell heavily. The first snowfall of the year. I watched through the window and counted the flakes as they fell. Dick had straightened the apartment and made phone calls. I ignored it all as I stared out of the window. I felt so at peace that when the knock came I jumped. I hadn't felt or sensed anything.

Dick pointed to the bedroom door and I obeyed without question.

I heard him open the front door and the low murmur of voices. A few seconds later he opened the bedroom door and gestured for me to follow. "Come on. I was expecting him."

The man standing in Dick's living room could have been his older brother, or perhaps his uncle. His long hair was pulled into a tangled ponytail hanging down his back almost hiding the tufted ears. A small earring in his left ear glinted in the light. His face was shadowed in stubble but I could still see the same features that made Dick beautiful. Dark blue eyes stared and measured me quietly while clawed fingers flexed against his legs.

His old denim clothing was faded and torn in places but still decent to wear. All in all a very handsome and rugged version of Nightwing, bigger and older but the resemblance was uncanny. I had no doubt in my mind that I was standing in front of another vampire, despite the fact that I could not sense him at all.

The stranger could see the question upon my face. "It is called the discipline of Obfuscate. You become invisible to the senses with the exception of the eyes and ears; there are Ravnos in the area. I didn't want to advertise my presence."

Oh, yeah, Ravnos equals bad. The snarl on his face reminded me of what Dick had said about Gangrels and Ravnos. Definitely bad blood between them, no pun intended.

Something about the Ravnos made me want to laugh. {Deluded,} a whisper from above. {The Ravnos are deluded.} "Ravnos are about as deluded as Malkavians."

The stranger snickered. "That they are!"

Behind him Dick made gestures. Pantomiming removing a mask.

With a half shrug I removed my mask and stood still as he walked around me. Studying me carefully. Trying to decide something. What I had no idea, but he took his time with his perusal.

Finally, with a sigh, he asked Dick, "Richard, does it have obvious dementia?"

"He… and no…not too obvious." Dick said as he looked away. "At least, not at first."

The other man grunted then turned back to me. Reaching out a finger he poked at my chest. "Can you wear other clothes?"

He referred to the costume. It felt comfortable. It was a safety blanket. I fingered my gauntlets and sighed. "Yes, I think so. I haven't been out of them too long but I imagine I could."

"Do you speak to people not there? Can you will yourself to speak in complete and comprehensible sentences? Or do you tend to ramble?"

Could he be any more blunt? I found myself wanting to rip his head off. Literally. I clutched my hand into a fist and concentrated on controlling myself.

"I'm not a good judge of that." I promised I would not lie to Nightwing. And by extension I suppose this counted. Dick turned away from me and sighed. Apparently, it wasn't what he truly wanted to hear.

The older vampire walked over to Dick. "Well? Have ya heard it talking nuts?"

"Him! Once in a while. Nothing too…out there, I think he could pass if he…"

"Keeps his mouth shut?" the other man barked. "Yeah, I suppose he could."

Dick glared at the other man who smirked back.

"Tim, this is…a…relative of mine." Dick did a fair imitation of a growl. The other man did not seem too impressed and looked more amused than intimidated.

"I figured that out." I said. Yeah, I figured that out, one of the Gangrels in the family, one of them that had been visiting the last few years in preparation for Gehenna.

"Tim Drake." I said holding out my hand. For Dick, I would try to get along.

He stared at it for a few seconds before finally reaching out and shaking it…briefly. He pulled his hand back quickly as though I was contagious. Unconsciously, he wiped his hand on his jacket.

"Niculaie." he replied brusquely.

"What exactly is going on?" I asked. I didn't know what was going on, but I didn't like what I had seen so far. The man obviously hated me! What was he doing here? What did he want with ME? Nothing I had come up with so far made me feel at ease.

"Tim, I can't exactly be the one to introduce you to the Prince. I'm still human! I would be dinner before I got a word out!" Nightwing explained.

"It has to be another vampire. And they can't know about your…questionable 'Embrace'. Niculaie will take you to the Prince and introduce you as a Gangrel. He is a respected Elder of the clan and has a place on the council."

"I won't have one if anyone discovers this deception! So you have to act RIGHT! No being nutty while we are there. I'll try to get you in and out as quickly as possible so just keep your mouth shut and act like you have sense!" Niculaie looked skyward. "Why the hell I'm risking my standing with this bullshit…"

I didn't exactly appreciate his attitude. There is very little I wouldn't do for Nightwing, but I was starting to find a limit.

"There is a Malk on the council with me. Calls himself Jolly Jones, stay as far from him as you possible. Malks tend to sense other Malks. They also have an annoying tendency to…know…things. Personally, I tend to keep my distance from you people. But I think we can get through this." Niculaie said.

From that point on he talked only to Dick and ignored me completely, which was just fine with me. Because the longer he talked at me the more I wanted to hit him.

As I wandered to the window I blocked out the sound of their voices and instead listened to the snow. The tiny click as they hit the windowpane, bringing me their own special brand of gossip. The clouds hid the stars but the snow brought their words to me.

They told me big things were going to happen. That there was a purpose to my embrace… I was needed. I was expected. I would know when to act.

The small white flakes had passed through Gotham. They told me the latest news from there. They swirled and danced upon the wind landing with grace and making the world white and pure.

Or rather, covering up the waste and the sin and the ugliness with their beauty. Disguising it. A perfect disguise.

Almost like a vampire, we wear the face of a human to hide the monster within. Because, monsters we are lest monsters we become.




He stayed the night. I didn't have any say in the matter, of course. He was still talking to Dick when the sun had risen, so he was stuck there. At first, I feared that I would have to share the room with him. Luckily, he was no more in favor of that than I was. He chose to stay in the bathroom rather than share a room with a Malk.

Dick said 'good night' to me and shut the door, leaving the light on. He slept as always on the couch.

I felt bad about that. It was his room; he shouldn't have to give it up. Another part of me was annoyed. I wanted him to stay. I wanted him to sleep beside me! Or even…sleep in his bed while I slept in the chair…just to have him near. Of course there was no way he would ever agree to that.

Closing my eyes I heard the snow bid me good sleep, and a promise to see me later in the night. {'Neath the sun, 'neath the stars, 'neath the sky; as we go, this we know…}

Sleeping was peaceful, I dreamed… of snow angels with green hair and igloos on fire. Dancing beneath the stars, skipping over the roof…

I awoke to Niculaie's heavy footsteps and loud laughter. I groaned as I remembered his presence.

We ate in silence…me in the bathroom and Niculaie… wherever…I'm not sure where. He, apparently more experienced with the whole eating thing, was much neater. I still didn't quite understand how livestock could be delivered in the middle of a city…but I was starting to understand that it wasn't unheard of for a vampire to chose animal over human. And there were services that catered to it. Delivering the animals for a price.

The clothes came anonymously; I can only assume that Niculaie had arranged for their delivery. The clothing wasn't new, instead it was second hand. The denim jeans were soft and faded, comfortable just like the shirt. The boots were somewhat stiff but solid. A little over a month ago I would have loved wearing things that comfortable. As it was they made me itch and nervous. I wanted my uniform…I wanted my mask!

It was ironic that my whole time alive as Robin, I knew that someday I would hang up the suit and live a 'normal' life where I would live in my 'normal' identity. And now? Now there would never be a normal life. The suit had become my 'identity'.

Have you ever heard the expression about walking the long mile? I never really got that expression before then…the feeling of dread. The wondering what lies ahead of you. The unknown. I had no idea what to really expect.

The preparation I had gotten consisted of… 'Don't talk unless spoken to.' 'Don't act squirrelly.' 'Don't go near Jolly Jones even if he acts like he wants to talk to you.' 'For God's sake, don't fucking embarrass me!'

So I followed behind Niculaie quietly, trying not to worsen his already foul mood. The snow crunched quietly under our feet as we walked making a pleasant music. Steam came from the sewers weaving intricate patterns in the air before dissipating entirely. The snow only came in flurries and the clouds continued to hide my beloved stars. The snow passed on their endearments and I wandered behind the older vampire in something of a stupor. Unconsciously counting the flakes as they passed before my eyes.

I was only vaguely aware of the sections of town we were crossing. I barely even noticed as we left the area that Nightwing habitually patrolled and entered areas that he rarely gave much thought. I had always assumed it was because he considered those areas safer and…not needing as much protecting.

Shadows passed silently between buildings…the only indication that someone was really there. In my fog-covered mind I slowly understood that I was seeing other vampires. The discipline that covered them from my extra ordinary senses did not apply to my ears and eyes…

Few humans passed us as we walked quickly through the streets of Bludhaven. I suppose that is the real reason that Nightwing didn't bother with that end of town. Not many true humans live in the area.

A low growl from Niculaie brought me out of my quiet reverie. He pulled me to the side and I watched fascinated as his face changed.

Niculaie dragged me down an alley and then over a fence. Then we rounded the building coming out half a block further down than we had started. A detour. I looked up at him and wanted to question.

"Lupines. Gangrels can get along with them for the most part…and they tend to shy away from cities…but the one back there is known for trouble. I could take him…but not with you here…" He sneered at me. "I promised Richard that I would make sure nothing happened to you…"

I nodded as we continued walking briskly through the new snow.

Several minutes later I stood blinking up at the building he had brought me to.

I don't know what I had expected. I really don't. Perhaps some sort of grand court type thing. Some sort of exclusive club, or even a hot nightspot. Someplace where beautiful people with beautiful things gather. Maybe someplace like you may expect Millionaire Bruce Wayne to appear? Or even Jack Drake when he was at his best? I mean think about it, the Prince? Doesn't that call up images of courts and grandeur or some thing like that? Some sort of royalty or rich thing?

That isn't what I got at all.

What I got was a seedy dive in the middle of the worst part of town. It was a bar of all things. The Alley Bi, and inside I couldn't sense much of anyone. For all my extra sense told me there were only one or two people inside. But my ears and eyes told me an entirely different story.

It was a vampire bar.

Smoke rolled through the air, lively, happily spreading across the space. It hummed vibrantly and filled the air with its bitter scent. Music played loudly across the room from a brightly colored machine. Small bubbles fizzed joyfully through fluorescent colored tubes almost in time with the music. Little black buttons beside the names of songs told what you could play if you just put in the correct amount of change.

The walls were covered with old posters, yellowed with age and nicotine. Some proclaiming engagements years in the past, one caught my eye in particular as Niculaie looked up at it and frowned slightly before shaking his head and continuing on past it. It announced proudly…CC Haly & Norton Bros Circus Presents The Flying Graysons…

I gawked at the battered poster that pictured another man that resembled Niculaie and a woman with raven hair both of them swinging from the trapeze as the man held the ankles of a little boy. Dick as a child, Dick, not long before I had met him when I was still little.

Niculaie noticed that I had lagged behind and turned back to me. He grabbed my wrist in a crushing grip and pulled me roughly behind him a few steps as he growled. "The past is the past… we need to let it go! You will learn these things!"

He abruptly released me and continued across the room.

The bartender never batted an eyelash as I walked by him nor did he ever request a picture ID. Glancing down the bar I could see why when I saw a tiny childlike figure drinking from a whiskey bottle and smoking a pack of cigarettes. To the eye, she appeared about nine years old…to my senses…she was a vampire.

Niculaie grabbed my sleeve and pulled me to the back of the bar and through a nondescript door.

"Be quiet!" he hissed at me.

Niculaie pushed me to the back of the room as quickly as possible. I caught glimpses of different vampires as I was hustled out of the way. It was like a cross section of different classes and social groups. A man dressed in an Armani suit. A woman dressed in a beautiful silk dress with jewels that would make Catwoman meow sat next to a rakish looking young man. Another man that looked like your average Joe in any bar any place anywhere. Niculaie with his feral looks sat down next to a monstrously deformed vampire, who in turn sat next to a man wearing a long cape. Various other vampires sat a little further away but I couldn't tell much about them based solely on their looks. But at the head of the table…sat the Prince, a biker bitch from hell.

She lounged on the chair with her leg tossed over the side. Her short blunt fingernails painted with chipped black enamel, her hair pulled back in a simple ponytail. The ripped leather jacket was a size too big and had suspiciously dark stains. Her T-shirt was a size too small and fit snug while her jeans rode low on her hips when she stood long enough to push another vampire down. A glint of metal around her navel attracted my eye. Various other piercings adorned her small body as she leaned forward. Two over her eyebrow, one on her chin and several along one ear and as she spoke I saw the small stud in her mouth.

"Sit the fuck down, asshole!" Her voice was smooth and low as she pushed a vampire at her side. "Let's get this shit over with! Any old fucking shit?"

"Now really! Must we have such language at every meeting?" Mr. Armani Suit asked.

"Shut the fuck up, Ken." she sneered at him.

I tuned them out as they ranted and raged against who should be in control of what neighborhood, and who had been trying to move in on whom. It was a lot like watching any other political body at work, only more cussing and shoving. Then again, who knows what goes on during closed sessions?

Vaguely, I noticed when the noise level indicated a near brawl. I pulled myself out of my haze long enough to watch the Prince jump up and growl at everyone.

"Fuck this! Shut up!" the Prince yelled. With much grumbling they settled down. Mr. Armani Suit checked his watch every few seconds with a sigh.

"You! Stay the fuck out of his district!" She pointed Mr. Rakish.

"And you," She pointed at Niculaie. "Stay the fuck away from his!"

Mr. Rakish, sitting near Miss Silk Dress, smirked at Niculaie as the Prince glared on. "I swear you two are the two biggest assholes this side of Gotham!"

Though I couldn't comment on Mr. Rakish, I had to agree with her assessment of Niculaie. He was definitely an asshole in my book.

She was like a demented foul-mouthed mom trying to sort out her wayward kids. It seemed that only a few of the present vampires even cared about what was going on and most of them sat huddled talking in whispers as they moved on from the issue of Gangrels vs. Ravnos to more mundane issues such as some sort of vampiric population control. The Scourge was supposed to be rounding up illegals.

But a couple of the vampires leaned back in their chairs and ignored all of it. And those two were my 'sponsor', Niculaie, the other sat far away from everyone. He grinned at me and once or twice motioned me forward. I shook my head and he frowned. Niculaie saw the motion and scooted his chair closer. He grabbed my wrist and squeezed…hard.

It finally occurred to me that the one motioning to me was Jolly Jones, the Malkavian representative on the council.

I guess I had expected some…vampiric version of the Joker. But Jolly Jones was the most average man I had ever seen. Slightly overweight but not so much as to be unhealthy, short brown hair, brown eyes, average height, average clothes…average!

{Average is never suspected of anything suspicious, we blend; we fade away and people talk…madmen look like everyone else. Serial killers wear the face of your neighbor. We wear your face…}

The pressure on my wrist was becoming unbearable and I yanked my hand away. Niculaie glared at me. He didn't trust me, didn't trust any Malks. Thought we were all some how in 'league' with each other. I rubbed at my wrist trying to rub away the numb feeling as the bruise faded swiftly.

{Not in league, but strive for common goals…goals they will never recognize or understand. But never assume we are of a piece.}

The stars and snow tend to be muffled inside buildings but that night they sounded clear. I wasn't sure if I still heard the flakes or if the stars spoke directly. They brought me comfort. I wanted so desperately to go outside.

Looking up I noticed that the ceiling was tiled, one…two…three…four…five…six…seven…

I was startled when he pulled me forward. I hadn't been paying attention. Dumb on my part. I found myself suddenly the center of attention.

"This is Timothy, he is of the Gangrel clan, he is new in town and is observing the traditions." Niculaie pushed me forward and I stumbled.

"H-hello!" I half waved.

Jolly Jones grinned at me and chuckled. He began to clap his hands and sing much to the irritation of those around him and much to my own dismay. "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Bat…"

"Shut the fuck up, you stupid lunatic!" the Prince growled. "Can't go a fucking hour without you singing about something stupid!"

"I'm sorry, my dear, I seem to have Bats in my belfry! I've gone quite batty!"

"Remind me why I don't just kill you?" I think she was really annoyed with his antics. Can't say I was too thrilled with them myself, and Niculaie looked like he was about to send all of us to our final deaths.

"And on that note, perhaps this meeting should be adjourned?" Mr. Armani Suit suggested glancing meaningfully at his watch.

"I need a drink! Meeting adjourned!" she yelled, pushing past all of us.

The bruising grip that suddenly appeared on my upper arm stunned me. "We need to talk…"

I looked up into the friendly smile of Jolly Jones. Only, his eyes weren't so friendly. Niculaie pushed Jones back and away from me. "Back off, Malk!"

"Trick or Treat has come around again? We like tricks, and this was a good one. You shall have some pie! Will that be a good treat?" Jones danced around us. "Trick or Treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!"

"Nut!" Niculaie pulled me behind him. "Stay away from us!"

"All jokes aside, we need to talk! You can't keep him from us!" Jones yelled to our retreating backs.

As the door banged behind us I could hear Jones still singing. "Trick or Treat, little Bat, that is where it's at!"

"I told you to stay away from him!" Niculaie fumed as he dragged me down the street.

"I did, he came to me! I didn't say a word to him!"

{Not a word, little bird…how absurd!}

As he dragged me down the street I felt eyes upon me and heard a heartbeat. But when I turned to look, nothing was there, a human in a section of town where only monsters ventured after dark.




I retreated to Dick's bedroom after returning home. I could hear the raised voices in the other room but tried not to listen in. I knew they were talking about me, but I didn't want to know, I didn't want to hear, I didn't want to…be! I just wanted to forget it all.

It was obvious that Niculaie would not believe a word I said due entirely to the fact that I was of the 'tainted' clan.

It wasn't my fault. I did not tell Jolly that I was Malkavian. I did not tell him my connection to Batman and I certainly did not mean for him to mention it in any manner. Some how he just knew.

I sat on the bed still wearing the clothes that Dick had gotten for me. Blue jeans, a denim shirt, and hiking boots. They were comfortable but not my uniform. I found myself wanting more than anything to get out of them. As I shucked off the pants I heard the slight crinkle of paper. Pulling it out I read.

Little Bat,

We seriously need to talk
JJ

I never even noticed him slipping it in my pocket. I threw on the rest of my uniform and stared at the note. What did we need to talk about? Was he going to blackmail me? What did he want?

As Dick slammed the door open I slipped the note into my belt. I figured it would just upset him further.

"He's gone. He's also not too happy with the way things went down. What exactly happened tonight?" Dick sat down on the bed.

"Nothing, at least I did nothing. Somehow, Jolly Jones just knew, he hinted that he knew about Batman. I don't know…"

Dick stood up and started to pace. "They say that sometimes Malkavians know other Malkavians, maybe that was it, or, maybe he doesn't know, from what Nic said it sounded more like he was concentrating on the Bat angle. The Prince of Gotham is a Malkavian, maybe he contacted…"

I nodded, maybe. Not too hard to figure out really, especially if the upper vampire population is as well connected as Dick had hinted at.

A kid my age, as Robin dies in a vampire attack, a vampire attack that the Prince no doubt heard about. Malkavians had attacked the party and there was a casualty. I show up in Bludhaven. Considering it was a mystery how information is passed down the Malkavian clan then…too many questions and not enough answers.

"Tim, I believe you." Dick sighed as he sat back down upon the bed.

Somehow, that made it better. I sat down next to him and reached for his hands. "That's all that really matters to me."

"As much as I wish that was all there was to it. We have a problem here."

He was right, of course.




Remembering back, the rest of the night had been peaceful and when morning had come I had gone to sleep relatively well. Later I had startled in my sleep unable to figure out what had woke me.

Loud voices rose and fell in the next room and in a daze I wondered if perhaps Niculaie had returned.

To be honest, it might have been better if that had been the case.

I pulled myself out of bed and made my way slowly to the door. Behind me I could hear a low hissing coming from the covered window. The sunlight warning me and coaxing me both at the same time, attempting to lure me outside but with the promise of painful death should I obey. The clock confirmed what my senses had already told me. I still had a couple of hours before the sun would be safely down.

With a reluctant look at the bed I turned back toward the door with a sigh. Sleep called out to me but I ignored it. Dreams of petting yellow and black fish had to be left behind as I tried to focus on the argument behind the door.

Shifting completely into a wakeful state I heard the low drums under the drone of the voices. Voices that began to rise again as the tempo of the drums beat out of sync, one beating a wild tempo, one increasing only slightly but still maintaining a steady rhythm.

Bruce was here.

The cold dread washed over me as I thought those words. The mere conflict alone was enough to keep me frozen in place. I wanted to fling the door open and confront him, tell him everything and hope that he had a plan to make it right. I also wanted to hide under the bed and hope he went away!

I heard my name yelled a couple of times and groaned. The question had become do I open the door or wait and delay the inevitable?

I need not have worried about it as the door burst open. I jumped back and landed smoothly on the bed somewhat bouncing as the springs tried to throw me back up into the air.

The small bouncing feeling under my feet slowed to a halt and I was able to concentrate on Bruce. His hand clutched the door handle till his knuckled fingers paled and shook. His simple blue sweatshirt was creased and smudged while his denim jeans were wrinkled and stained. Apparently, he had not dressed up for the occasion and had also not been on patrol.

The shock on his face...

I was afraid to move. Afraid of what his reaction would be once the shock wore off. Would he try to kill me? Would he be angry? What?

I wore my Robin uniform with the mask over my eyes and as Dick slowly moved into the room. He nodded at me while touching his eyes. Carefully, I removed the mask.

As the mask came away Bruce sagged against the wall.

"Tim?" A faint whisper. Startling blue eyes looked from a suddenly too pale face under untidy raven hair. Running from the edge of one eye into the hairline a half healed jagged cut was visible. I was suddenly struck by the thought that Bruce could have really been related to Dick if one went only by appearances.

And tonight…his appearance was shit. I also had the feeling that it was directly related to me. I felt like an utter bastard.

"Yeah, it's me. I'm here." Would that comfort him? I wanted to comfort him. The raw feeling in the pit of my stomach was overwhelming. I wanted to make it better. His eyes, a childlike hope in his eyes, it reached for me, pleading to make it better, haunted. I wanted to take the haunted look out of his eyes and return them to innocence. An innocence I knew he had not felt since he was eight years old.

A wave of heat passed over me and I thought I would fall.

Bruce swept me into a bear hug and held me to his chest. It was my turn to be in shock. Bruce was crying. Bruce never cried. At least I never saw him. Over Bruce's shoulder I could see Dick and the look of jealousy was not to be missed. Nor could the tight green bands surrounding him. Red began to interlace the green as anger glared from his eyes. I wrapped my arms around Bruce gently and wondered if I had done something wrong…again.

After a few seconds I could make out what Bruce was saying.

"…thought you were dead…Jason…all over again…but you are here!" Bruce released me and cupped my face with his hands. Again I wondered if I had done this or if it had just built and finally been released. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Um…"

Dick stepped forward. "We, um…it was undercover stuff…"

Bruce turned on him, face red with anger, his own red bands forming around him, reaching toward Dick. "And you couldn't tell me?"

Dick took in a great gulp of air before he started. "We think someone knows who you are!"

Bruce clutched my arms like a vise but I felt no pain as he turned back and brought me back to his chest. "Who? Why couldn't you still let me know? Through Oracle? Somehow? Some way?"

"It's the vampire cult, Bruce." Dick whispered. "They know entirely too much."

"They know who I am." I said catching Dick's train of thought. I willed Bruce to believe. "They have inducted me into the…the…cult. I'm getting inside information. Finding out how much they know. If I had gone near you it would have tipped my hand."

Bruce sat down in a chair by the table, holding his head in his hands. "They tried to convince you that you were a vampire?"

"Um, yeah, they even gave me something that made me look dead!" I bit my lip chanting mentally 'Please believe!' "They have someone working the morgue from the inside. They treated me after picking my 'body' up."

"Of course! I should have known!" Bruce gasped. "I should have checked…"

Thank God…Denialman strikes again!

"Uh, how did you find out I was here?" I asked.

"Spoiler. She saw you and Dick on the rooftops. She tried to tell me that you two were…" Bruce waved it away while raking a hand through tangled hair. "Never mind, she obviously didn't get the whole story! I mean? Dick wouldn't take you to a bar, either!"

Dick smiled weakly. "Exactly what did she tell you?"

Bruce made a noise and waved again. "Nothing important. She made more of it than it obviously was. Just totally…ridiculous!"

Ah, I think I could imagine. I seemed to remember a few emotional moments on that rooftop.

Bruce was standing again, walking around the room. "We've seen a lot of this vampire cult throughout the years. Slippery devils. I would love to be able to nail them. But what are you doing in Bludhaven?"

"There…are members…here in Bludhaven and they are somehow connected to the ones in Gotham. They brought Tim here. We are trying to figure out the connection." Dick told a grain of truth.

"How much do they know about me?" Bruce ran another hand through his hair. The wild look in his eyes started to tame down, but he reached out and took my hand holding it tightly in his own. Again Dick glared at me. Blaming me? Or jealous? Of which one of us? The smell of anger and jealousy were too close to distinguish. The red and green had merged to a brown color and I was no longer sure of my interpretation.

"Your name." I had no idea if they did or not. I wouldn't doubt it though. I had to wonder though if I wasn't making the situation somehow worse. "My name, my connection to you…they know that we were partners and that you are Batman…beyond that…I'm still investigating."

Okay, that sounded good. The hissing around the room was getting to me. I wanted to sleep; in sleep I could ignore it. It nearly drowned out the two men and I found myself wanting to grab my ears.

Bruce reached out and hugged me once more. I didn't want Bruce to let go. The need to be touched was overpowering. Igniting something deep inside. A craving that was almost primal. Bruce rubbed my wrist gently with his thumb and I could have sworn Dick was growling sub vocally. I wanted to know what it was that was getting to him. Bruce touching me, my letting Bruce touch me, or if he thought I was controlling Bruce?

"Bruce, I can explain it to you in the other room. I think we should let Tim sleep. He has to be up all night every night and I'm sure he's tired."

I recluctantly pulled away from Bruce as Dick led him out.

^*^*^*^*^*^^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^

Evening came too quickly. The yellow and black fish had returned and were trying to save the burning igloos. They wanted to put out the fires; they kept slipping on the ice. Fish don't make very good firemen. But I have to admit that the little dears did their best.

Still tired, I dragged myself out of bed. Dick glared as I left the bedroom and for the first few minutes I tried to ignore it. Finally, I asked. "What?"

"You know damn well what you did!"

"What are you talking about?" I asked. I knew earlier that he was angry. But exactly why was still a mystery. There were three possibilities as far as I knew.

"Bruce doesn't normally act that way!"

I should have known.

I can't put into words how much that hurt. He did not trust me. I felt betrayed even though I had suspected as much. Perhaps betrayed isn't a good word…disappointed might be better.

"I did not dominate him."

Dick's scent made me feel ill. The bitter smell reached for me, wrapped around me and smothered me with its oppression. He didn't believe me. The green and red bands were back and twisted around each other. Were the green ones jealousy? Or were they disgust?

I had to get away, away from his distrust, away from his glare, away from my own feelings. I turned from him and crossed the floor in seconds flying out the window before he could call to me. As my lines connected with the buildings I felt the air rush under me, a comfort, as close to flying as I was ever likely to come.

As I had discovered very few vampires could actually fly, but we could come close, jumping to unnatural heights and running so fast that our feet hardly need to touch the ground.

The sharp cold wind would have taken my breath away had I needed to breathe. I consciously stopped my respiration, no sense in breathing if I didn't have to. There was no one I needed to talk to as I swung through the city, not caring where I was going.

It was a little lonely.

I had patrolled solo many times but this time it was different. Perhaps because I knew the chance of flying by Nightwing was diminishing every day.

I glanced up at the stars and sighed. At least they would never abandon me. Despite the occasional snide remark, they still cared. They twinkled down on me and seemed to be waving. I smiled at them and whispered a soft hello.

I was hardly aware that I was following the same path that Niculaie had recently taken me on. Snow still blanketed the streets and sidewalks below me, perverted now, a parody of what it had been. No longer white and pristine it had been turned into black mush. Tainted, unclean, diseased. It reflected the true Bludhaven. It was a reflection of what I felt inside.

I landed on the roof of the bar. The snow crunched under my feet, untouched by the taint of filth down below on the street. The moon above it sparkled and reflected making the night seem brighter than it had any right to be. Under my feet I could feel the thump of bass as music played inside. The snow glittered like tiny little stars. Changing patterns as I moved my eyes. Beautiful. Too beautiful to look away, I tried to still my movement, so I could pinpoint each little twinkle. So very beautiful…

A crunch of snow under foot startled me. I whirled around and saw nothing. At first…

"You are young yet, control will come."

I turned around again and would have gasped had I not been in shock.

"It is a pleasure to meet you, dear boy."

Jolly Jones, the Malkavian on the Primogen council. He still looked very average. His suit was of a dark brown color, not expensive but not exceedingly cheap. He could have been an average Joe coming off work from some nondescript office somewhere. Getting a drink before heading home.

I turned away lifting my hand to throw my line when he spoke again. "Stay, Timothy, or do you prefer Robin?"

"What do you want?" I asked warily.

Jolly Jones sighed heavily as he came to stand beside me. "What do I want? I want many things…I want a wool sweater that doesn't itch. I want to watch an entire movie at a theater without some snot nosed kid talking through it. I want to get the recipe for the Bloody Marys that they make downstairs. I want to be able to eat solid food. I want many things. But tonight, I want to talk to you!"

Jones leaned against one of the chimneys and drew out a cigarette from his coat pocket. "You smoke?"

"Only in the daytime."

The older vampire laughed. "Don't we all?"

Jones puffed quietly as he looked across the rooftop. "Beautiful, isn't it?"

"Hm." Noncommittal true, but he made me nervous.

"You have to be sure to look away often. You will find yourself entranced otherwise. That can be dangerous." He tapped the cigarette watching as ash flew in the air. "Never know when someone might be waiting for you to be distracted…"

"Is that a threat?"

"No, advice."

As he shifted I turned to face him. "What did you want to talk to me about?"

"This fucked up mess we seem to have gotten ourselves into." Jones tapped more ash onto the pristine snow marring the brilliant beauty. A small hiss escaped as an ember flew off the end and landed.

"And what mess is that?" I was afraid to say anything more. Afraid to ask too many questions, letting him know more than I would gain from him. I knew too well how easy it was to get information and I didn't want to give him any.

"You're a brat, you know that?" He smirked.

My silence wrung a sigh from him as he finally threw the cigarette into the snow. A sharp hiss drew my attention for a second before the sound finally died abruptly. He put his hands into his pockets and turned to face me. "I mean, you brat, that we are both in the shit now! Your fucking Sire fucked up and fucked us by getting fucked up!"

I sneered as he cursed my Sire and considered taking a swing at him. But insanity doesn't equal a death wish and I knew that it would be a bad idea to take on an older vampire at this point.

I chanced a look over the side of the building calculating my chances of jumping off the side without actually breaking something. I may not perceive pain exactly like I used to…but even a vampire can't run on two broken legs.
< BR> "Don't even think about it, kid!" He snickered as he walked back into my line of vision. "You wouldn't get too far. I'm older and faster!"

"What do you want from me?" I backed up a step.

"Ah, see, that's the thing. You were created for a purpose. Your Sire got himself killed before he could present you. Your Sire had permission to create you and the Prince of Gotham has been waiting for you. But since all this shit started…" He sighed heavily and rubbed at his head.

He sighed again. "Niculaie did what he thought was right…I suppose…but the fact that you have been introduced as a Gangrel? This isn't going to be easy. If the Scourge finds out that you are not what you say you are…they will kill you! And now I can't introduce you as anything but a Gangrel! Do you understand?"

"Not really." Why would he want to claim me?

He groaned and beat his head against a chimneystack. "A bat? No, you are a brat! You are a brat!"

"Look, kid! We've got to get this thing back on track! We can't do that without you! You were created to get us out of a bind! But your Sire, he screwed up big time. He was supposed to bring you back to the clan's haven. Then he was going to introduce you to the Prince of Gotham. You were supposed to go about business as usual pretending to still be Robin the Boy Wonder until the Sabbat made their move! Instead, your Sire took off without grabbing you and taking you with him because the 'stars' weren't aligned right or some shit. As a result you were declared dead! No one is going to believe that you were just kidnapped!" Jones paced back and forth across the roof ranting, kicking the snow up into the air with every step. His voice never rose yet it carried a lot of weight.

"Batman does…" I didn't mean to interrupt him. I glanced up at the stars and they twinkled brightly at me, apparently in approval.

He swung back to me and gaped. "He thinks you were?"

"Yeah, I mean my parents know I'm dead and all. Not that I'm a vampire or anything but Batman thinks that I'm working undercover to infiltrate a cult of vampire wannabes."

"You are kidding!" He continued to gape.

I shrugged. "The power of denial can be a wonderful thing."

Jones closed his mouth with an audible click. "That could work…"

"What could work?" I was so tired of being in the dark! I just wanted to know why I was there and what was going on! Couldn't someone clue me into the plot? Maybe hand me a script? No, of course not, that would have been too easy!

"This could work! If Batman believes…"

I leaned against the opposite chimneystack and sighed. With a hand I motioned for him to continue. Above me the stars winked in amusement. I'm glad someone was amused because I sure wasn't!

"You have to get back to being a 'super hero'. You have to act like nothing has happened. Maybe you can tell Batears that the 'cult' wants you to, and you are playing along. The important thing is that you make an appearance in Gotham soon. I'll be there soon myself. My Sire is the Prince of Gotham." He stalked past me.

"What is it that I'm supposed to do? Why was I created?" I finally asked as he passed me for a fifth time.

"The Sabbat intends to take control of Gotham. They plan to use a super criminal. One that was put on the 'don't-you-even-dare-think-it' list. They have Malkavians that are more than willing to do the deed. Malks are just as divided as all the other clans, some side with the Camirilla and some with the Sabbat." He waved it away dismissively.

He stopped in front of me and laid his hands upon my shoulders. "They intend to turn The Joker!"

"The Joker? But he would…"

"Destroy the Masquerade! But The Sabbat doesn't care! They want Gotham and they think that not only can they take it but they also think that, with the Joker's help, they can take over most of the major cities on this coast. Apparently, his little 'Last Laugh' when he thought he was dying impressed them!"

"He would never work for them…he would use them! He's…insane!" I knew Malks were insane but it never occurred to me they could be stupid!

"I never said these guys were smart…"

I jumped. I had not said anything. It was almost like he was reading my mind. "You don't seem too insane, at least, right now. I thought we all were supposed to be…"

"Loony? Raving nutters to the last man? Hmm, we are crazy, all of us. Some of us crazier than others, but crazy doesn't equal stupid as you know. The idiots that intend to turn the Joker not to be counted. Nor does it imply that we all act like clowns…" He smirked. "But it doesn't hurt if others think that we are just harmless idiots…"

"People let their guard down…they don't watch what they say…they underestimate…" I smiled. Yes, I could see where acting the part could be of use.

"To be honest though, most of us don't acknowledge our little…insanities…some try to maintain that they are perfectly sane…" Jones sneered. "But, our insanity is the price we pay for our powers…our abilities that no other clan can claim…"

"I don't know much about Malkavian abilities…I'm being trained by a Gangrel and a Human."

He reached out and squeezed my shoulder again. "Now you are being trained by a Gangrel, a Human, and a Malkavian. But for now, tell no one that we've talked. Go! And make your presence felt in Gotham. Let it slip that you've been out of town but are back now. Act as close to human as you can. It might actually work to our advantage that 'Timothy Drake' was introduced as a Gangrel. Fly little bird, fly away home. My Sire waits for you in Gotham. Go to Lestat's Asylum near the Gotham University campus. There will be a back room much like The Alley Bi's. It is where he holds court."

Nodding, I backed away. "I understand. I will go."

He smiled as he lit another cigarette. "Go! Batears and Nightbird wait for you at home."

Jones snickered as I glared back at him. "Lighten up! Nightwing told Batman that you were meeting your contact. The irony of it all, huh?"

"How did you know…?"

"We pay for our abilities with our sanity, kid. You understand more than you want to admit right now." His smile turned sad as he reached out and patted my shoulder. "Listen to the stars in your head, kid. They don't often lie."

"You hear the stars too?" I asked him in wonder.

He smiled. "We all do…sort of…in some form or another… some of us don't always believe them. Some never hear directly from them and instead have to hear it second hand from another source."

"Like the snow?" I asked.

"Something like that." He giggled.

Slowly, he pulled me to him as he wrapped his arms around me. "You haven't fed tonight. Drink before you go. Let it make you strong…don't worry, a blood bond won't happen from one time."

I didn't want to. At least not at first, but the Hunger was stronger than my sensibilities. Strong arms pulled me up as my own automatically came around his shoulders. In the chill of the night air his arms still held the heat from the bar. I found myself burrowing into his embrace, inhaling his scent as my teeth found the sensitive skin under his ear.

Nipping lightly I shuddered as tiny droplets of blood erupted from the small wounds. Lapping gently I felt him gasp as one of his hands reached up and twisted in my hair. He pushed my back against the chimneystack as I rubbed against his body licking the hollow of his neck.

Clouds crossed the moon and it grew darker as small flakes once more began to ascend whispering words of encouragement to both of us.

His erection ground into my hip as he lowered his mouth to my neck. I heard him faintly murmur, "Lovely, brat!"

With a groan I wrapped my legs around his waist and threw my head back as his teeth pierced my throat. Wave after wave of pleasure filled my head as a nonexistent ocean roared in my ears. His hand still in my hair he pulled my head back as he mouthed the wound causing my own erection to throb in time with the pull at my throat.

His other hand found its way to my ass and squeezed me hard. I jerked against him wanting more friction between us, wanting to feel his body against mine. I heard the moaning as he began to thrust against me before I realized that I was the one making the sound.

"Sweet, brat!" he groaned as he pulled me away from the wall and lowered me to the snow-covered roof. The cold snow penetrated my uniform, chilling me, but I didn't care. The cold did not bother me.

His lips caught mine as I once again wrapped my legs around his waist. My moaning grew louder as his hand found its way inside my uniform. "Beautiful, brat!"

In a haze I heard his words as he began to kiss me in time to the strokes of his hand. Between kisses he hissed out words of affection and appreciation. "Beautiful, lovely, wonderful, sexy, sweet…"

I arched my back, thrusting into his hand as he bit into my neck once more. The bliss of his hand and his mouth upon me nearly drove me over the edge. He pushed me flat against the snow and tilted his own head till my mouth was near his jugular. His free hand once more found my head and pushed me toward his throat.

Sharp teeth sliced through soft skin and an endless loop of pain, pleasure, and bliss began. I lost awareness of where I ended and where he began as we each fed off the other as he continued to thrust against and caress me.

I whimpered as he took his teeth from my throat but sighed as he began to lick the bite, healing it slowly as I continued to drink from him.

Sparks flew before my eyes as my world exploded in pure pleasure, coming in his hand.

Panting, I released my grip and he kneeled above me smiling. "Beautiful brat! I would keep you if I could!"

I smiled as I stood up a little self conscious of the stain on his pants as well as on my uniform. I had not been the only one to reach completion.

"You have to go! Change before you go home. One of your old uniforms is still at the bus station in the locker."

I stared up at him in shock and he smiled before he dropped a light kiss upon my head. "We kept watch for a long time before the final decision was made to turn you."

I nodded and pulled out my line. "I'll go to Gotham soon."

"I will be in Gotham; I will not leave you completely by yourself. I will teach you. You may never be completely mine, but you belong to me in part…I was your Sire's sire. Beautiful brat, look for me at Lestat's Asylum!"

He gave me another peck on the lips before disappearing down the fire escape faster than the human eye could follow.

His words still echoed through my head as I flew through the night first to the bus station then back to Nightwing's apartment.




They were on the roof when I returned, Batman and Nightwing in full uniform. I landed lightly beside them, forcing myself not to look at the snow, to ignore the sparkle and flash and look only at the two men in front of me.

"I just met with one of the leaders."

Nightwing gave me a calculating look. I chose to ignore it and spoke only to Batman. "They want me to return to Gotham immediately. They want me to 'pretend' to be your 'human' partner and to say that I've been out of town…they told me to make up a reason. They want me to continue to be Robin. I think…I'm supposed to spy on you. They will give me further instructions later." I smiled as Batman began to nod. As he began to pace I was reminded of Jolly Jones.

"That might actually be for the best. Too many people are questioning your disappearance. Young Justice in particular. I didn't tell anyone what had happened but Superman suspects something. This will get them all to back down." Batman gave me a rare smile as he came to stand in front of me. "In fact, how about you celebrate your birthday with them?"

"Young Justice didn't want to have anything more to do with me last I heard!" I grimaced. I still resented how they suspected me of keeping files on them. Guilt by association.

"I think with your disappearance they have had a change of heart. They have certainly acted worried the last few weeks. They have been in constant contact with the JLA, looking for information on you. That, in turn, has made certain Justice League members curious." He grimaced.

Nightwing nodded. "The gossip that you have disappeared has also reached as far as the Titans."

"I can understand your continued anger at them but this might be a great way of backing everyone off, plus moving your investigation along. Perhaps you can even repair some bridges?" Batman tilted his head and smiled as he reached out a finger to touch my cheek. Behind him Nightwing shifted and glared, small red and green bands beginning to form. I concentrated, attempting for once to make the auras around people fade.

"My birthday?" I ask choosing to ignore Nightwing; slowly the bands disappeared despite the scent that told me that they were probably still there. I was still angry with him and this little show of his wasn't helping.

"Yes, they may feel like they have an opportunity to get to know the real 'you' if they know it is your birthday. Besides, it isn't everyday you turn seventeen!"

The finger had begun to stroke my face and I leaned into the touch. "You are right. I'll do it!"

Nightwing cleared his throat and Batman abruptly broke his contact. Batman looked startled and turned away but not before I saw the red stain his cheeks.

"I'll get Robin's stuff ready and we will be in Gotham before dawn." Nightwing growled.

Batman looked between us in confusion. "You will be coming, too?"

"Yeah, it's been a while since I've stayed in Gotham and I'm still on leave of absence. I won't be missed."

"Of course!" Batman said faintly. "I'm happy to have you home!"

I began to wonder if maybe I WAS affecting him. I knew I wasn't dominating him but perhaps I was influencing him in another way? I sighed to myself. I needed to talk to either Jolly Jones or God forbid, Niculaie, either one at this point, just so long as it was another vampire.

As Batman jumped from the roof I felt more than saw Nightwing's glare as he said, "Come on!"




"I didn't do anything!" I hissed as we entered the apartment. I was angry, I wanted to rage at him. Make him believe me through force if he would not listen to reason.

"I didn't say a word." Dick's teeth ground together as he spoke. He stormed into the bedroom.

I seethed quietly in a corner as he returned with an overnight bag. "Have you fed this evening?"

I debated telling him the truth. I had promised not to lie…but…was it truly a lie to just…omit the truth? I know there is such a thing as lie by omission but…? I wondered what telling him the truth would truly accomplish. Jones had asked that I didn't tell anyone about the meeting.

I decided maybe I should tell him some of it. The floor became suddenly very interesting as he threw the bag onto the couch. "Yes, I fed."

Nightwing rushed to my side, he grabbed my face and pulled it up. "Where? What did you feed on?"

His eyes studied me as I cleared my throat, feeling the tiny thrill as I remembered Jones' body against mine. My face warmed and I wondered if I could still blush. As he took in the slight difference in costume his eyes darkened.

"What did you do?" he growled.

He had automatically thought the worst and suddenly I didn't want to tell him the truth. None of it.

"Nothing!" I gritted out. "Not what you are thinking anyway!"

"Where did you feed? Where did you go?"

I pushed past him and grabbed the bag from the couch. "Does it matter? It's not like you believe me! You've already made up your mind. You are my judge, jury, and executioner!"

He tried to grab me as I walked back toward the window; the soft snow hit the small window and whispered words of comfort.

"Wait a minute!" he yelled.

"Why should I?" Any guilt that I had about Jones flew out the proverbial window as I rounded on him. How dare he? How dare he not have faith in me? But then a little voice inside pointed out that I've had more than one lapse in judgment lately. I silently ignored it.

"I'm sorry!" Dick was just as angry as I was. "But what am I supposed to think? You leave here angry, without having fed, and come back with a different outfit on and refusing to tell me where you went!"

"I went to the Alley Bi! I got a drink there! There were no humans involved!" I growled at him as I shook off the hand that had found its way onto my arm. I told myself that it wasn't that far from the truth.

"You didn't have any money when you left here…" he said.

"Someone bought me a drink!" A lie, yes, I know. Lies are bad. But the truth was worse. And well? So he didn't exactly 'buy' the drink but he DID offer it!

"Who?" The dark look passed through his eyes again and I wanted to smile. Maybe there was a touch of jealousy there.

I shrugged. "I don't know his name. He was hitting on me. It was no big deal. He bought me a drink, I left…end of story!"

I had graduated to outright lies. I deserved a cookie. Not that I could actually eat one.

"Why did you change your costume then!"

"Because I fell in the slush!" He looked disbelieving and I realized how lame that sounded even to me. "I became entranced while I was out and didn't watch where I was going. I fell!"

That had sounded better and wasn't too far from the truth. I had almost become entranced while on the line. I had nearly fallen.

His face slowly relaxed taking on the sad look that I had seen upon it too many times since he discovered that I was Malkavian. He nodded and turned away. "I understand. We should hurry though. Batman will be waiting."

I nodded. "Then come on, slowpoke!"




We entered through the cave. Batman didn't question it, the answer was obvious, I could not be seen as Timothy Drake anymore and Robin could not be seen entering the Manor.

Deep, deep within the cave I could hear tiny little echoes. I was suddenly disoriented, the sound rose around me and for a few seconds I felt dizzy. Nightwing grabbed my arm and steadied me. I made a conscious effort to block the noise. Nightwing's confused face peered into mine and he whispered. "What's wrong?"

I shook my head and blinked away the small bit of nausea in the pit of my stomach. "Bats…too many bats." I whispered back.

Alfred greeted us as we entered and the tears of joy in his eyes made my heart twist. And for that second I wanted so much to be what I once was. Timothy Drake.

He laid his tray of snacks down on the computer console and hugged me. I smiled up at him and backed away slowly. "I'm so sorry…"

Alfred leveled a stern finger at me, "Just don't ever let it happen again!"

"I'll try not to…I'm sor-…"

Turning from me I saw him wipe his eyes. "Think nothing of it, my dear boy! I'm just so…happy that you are alive!"

"I'm still…"

Alfred waved his hand and smiled again. "Please, no…just eat. You are so thin! Undercover work doesn't lend itself well to good nutrition."

Nodding, I looked down at the tray and lifted one of the cookies. Oatmeal raisin. The smell was…stale. Yet, I knew that they were freshly baked. Nothing less would be good enough for Alfred. I smiled as I lifted it to my lips. I was curious as to whether I could actually eat solid food. I knew I could drink liquids with no ill effect but solid?

Nightwing came forward and caught the butler's attention while I tentatively took a bite. My throat seized up not allowing me to swallow. I took the napkin from the tray and discreetly spit. Apparently, I was on a strictly liquid diet from now on. I could drink blood, I could drink alcohol, hell, I bet I could drink pop…but one of Alfred's mouth watering meals? I was out of luck.

I took a few of the cookies from the platter and walked across the room before quietly throwing them away. I made a show of studying the read out on the monitor before movement caught my eye. I knew he was there but I had not realized that he was watching me. I thought he was still inputting data into the computer.

"Not hungry?" Bruce whispered. His cowl was pulled down around his neck and I realized just how pale and gaunt he appeared. He had lost a lot of weight since my…disappearance.

"Um, no, not really I ate earlier while I was out." He studied me closely and I wondered what changes he could see in me. What could he deduce with that detective mind just by looking at me?

"He would have understood…" Batman started.

I laughed. "Perhaps, but not after badgering me for the next half hour to eat something!"

He smiled. "Of course, you are right. He badgers me nightly."

"Well, in your case, it is justified! You look like hell, Bruce." I said it lightly but I was serious. "You need to take care of yourself."

He looked away with a grimace. "I do take care of myself."

With a sigh I turned back to the monitor. There was no use in arguing with him. There never was. He would believe what he wanted to believe. That was just his way.

"When do you want me to call them?" I asked instead.

"Well, it is nearly dawn now. I would suggest waiting a few hours. About noon should be okay. Since it is the weekend…"

Internally, I winced. Noon, which was the middle of my sleep cycle, and the height of when the sun called me to my death.

Nightwing sidled up beside us. "In the meantime, Tim should probably get some sleep. He's been up all night."

Alfred sniffed delicately. "Indeed! He's still a growing boy! To be honest you should all get some rest."

I cringed at the growing boy comment.




The heavy curtains thankfully blocked out the deadly sun as Alfred came to rouse me from my bed.

I had curled up under the blanket completely encased, my head additionally under the pillow. If I hadn't already known that Alfred would be the one to wake me, I might have given into the temptation to crawl under the bed to sleep. To say that I didn't want to get up would have been an understatement.

Alfred jumped back as I growled from under the covers. "Master Tim?"

His voice brought me back to myself and I consciously returned my features back to human appearance before taking the covers from my head. "Sorry, I had to clear my throat…"

He still appeared flustered as he nodded. "Ah, indeed. Are you falling ill?"

"No."

I was aware of how grumpy I sounded and tried to smile at him. "I'm just tired. Please forgive me."

"Of course Master Tim, I understand entirely!"

Reaching for my uniform I tried to ignore the Hunger building within. I tried to ignore the scent of Alfred's blood. "Is Dick awake yet?"

"Ah, yes, indeed. He said to tell you to come to his room before going down to the cave." Alfred said as he neared the door.

"Okay, thank you. And sorry again…"

"Quite all right. You are very tired. You've had a very trying experience I'm sure. Think nothing of it."

As he closed the door I hung my head. I had actually growled at Alfred! And for a few seconds before I got a grip on myself I had considered…

I shook my head. I didn't even want to contemplate what I had almost done, and to whom. I finished dressing.

In Dick's room he didn't say a word, he only handed me the mug that contained the chilled blood. I opened my mouth to ask him how and where but he pre-empted me by pointing to the small refrigerator along the wall, a relic from his high school and college days. I nodded drinking in silence. I remembered him telling me about it. Apparently, it saved on trips to the kitchen in the dead of night and Alfred had always kept it well stocked until Dick had finally moved away.

Draining my drink I quietly followed him out. From the cold shoulder I was getting I could only assume that Dick was still convinced I was manipulating Bruce. Perhaps even Alfred now.

To be honest I wasn't sure that I some how wasn't! But I wasn't sure what it was exactly that I was doing.

I sighed. It was going to be a long day.




The trip downstairs was… not… fun.

Alfred's continued attempts to make the manor look bright and cheery were hazardous to my continued health. It was like trying to negotiate a maze that was on fire. More than once I had to cover myself with my cape and just hope for the best. Needless to say I was singed more than once.

The cave was a blessing with its soothing darkness as I entered. I concentrated on blocking out the sound of the bats as soon as I entered. It was much like being at a party where dozens of conversations were being spoken loudly and you only wanted to listen to the one in front of you. You just had to block out the others and focus on the person in front of you. In this case the bats were the ones I was choosing to ignore.

Batman waited by the monitor. Behind him I could see Wonder Girl and Superboy. Over their shoulder I could see the others and even Cissie. I was surprised to note that they did look rather anxious.

"Where on Earth have you been?" Well, no one can ever say Wonder Girl wasted time.

"I'm afraid that is confidential."

Wrong answer. Her eyes flashed and I knew that it wasn't what they wanted to hear. I turned to Batman. He gave me that peculiar smile before he turned to the monitor himself. "Robin has been working an undercover investigation. It is ongoing. But he has reached a point where it has become a waiting game."

He took a step back and came to stand behind me. I could feel his presence and felt the delicious warmth. I wondered was I doing something to him? Because at that moment he was definitely doing something to me!

By Nightwing's glare, he believed I was. But if I was, I didn't know how to 'turn it off'.

Secret smiled and floated her way to the front of the group. "Robin, Batman said something about you coming by?"

I nodded. "Yeah, if you all wouldn't mind. It's my birthday in a couple of days and I can't really be with my family…"

"Your birthday!" the girls squealed and I flinched. My hearing was a lot sharper and it cut through my skull. By the look of Superboy, Impulse, and Lil' Lobo, they felt the same way.

"We could have a party!" Cassie and Cissie began to talk rapidly and I smiled without really listening. They would work out the details I would just show up. Typical.

"So would you um…come by…tonight?" Secret asked.

Her face fell as I shook my head. "I would if I could, but I have to meet someone tonight. It's part of my case. But tomorrow night…"

She smiled brilliantly. "Great!"

As the monitor went blank I shook my head. She still liked me. But would she still like me once she discovered what I was?

"You are meeting someone tonight?" Batman asked as I turned around.

"Yes, I have to…report…in. No wires. They will check and they will also jam them."

Batman didn't look sure but Nightwing touched his shoulder. "It's okay, we've been on this for a while. It's safe…for now."

Batman wasn't going to agree. I knew he wasn't. But I wanted him to. I willed that he would understand…that he would let this slip by… I felt something inside shift…

"I suppose…you two…know what you are doing…"

Nightwing frowned and I realized what I had done. But I couldn't find it in myself to feel guilty about it. It was further proof that his attentions were not by domination. I had to actively will things…

"Batman, I'm a little tired. Would you mind if I…?"

He shook himself as he came out of a daze. "Huh, oh, no! Go back to bed, sleep well!"

I could feel Nightwing's gaze as I walked up the steps. I straightened my shoulders and did not look back.




The snow angel had set the igloos on fire and danced for joy as the black and yellow fish ran frantically from the water to the dwellings in an effort to put the fire out. Green hair flew back from a delicate pale face as the angel flew from iced roof to iced roof in a delicate dance. I stroked one glittering fish as it collapsed at my feet. I picked it up and returned it to the sea.

"Tim?"

I felt his presence before I opened my eyes, fish and igloos fading as I woke. "What?"

Nightwing came closer as I sat up. "The sun just set…"

Handing me the mug he sat upon the bed and stared at me. I shook my head as I drank the cold blood down. Cold blood is about the nastiest thing you can drink. Never doubt that. But we could not bring live animals into the manor without Bruce and Alfred suspecting something.

"Dick, I honestly have not been consciously manipulating Bruce or Alfred or anyone…well, except earlier, when I was wanting him to drop the idea of putting a wire on me."

Dick looked down at his hands. "I want to believe you. In fact, I do believe you. But something is going on…"

I interrupted him. "I know…I know. I realize that."

He bit his lip and I think that perhaps he had run out of things to say. I reached out and grabbed one of his hands. "Dick, there is a lot for me to still learn. Tonight, when I go meet the Prince, I plan to do a little investigating…"

"The Prince…"

"I have to, remember? New in the city…The Scourge? I don't need them looking for me and killing me just because I haven't taken the time to introduce myself. I'll be fine!" I smiled at him stroking one of his fingers. "I'll be just fine."

I heard his heartbeat increase and tightened my grip on his hands. "I have to go…"

"Perhaps I could…" he started.

"No, you can't. They would know."

"Do you even know where to go?" He asked.

I found it difficult to look him in the eye as I remembered my last meeting with Jolly Jones. "Yes, I was told while I was at the Alley Bi. I know where to go tonight. Don't worry."

Pulling away from him I heard him sigh and I found my arms wrapping around him kneeling on the bed. "I will be fine, Nightwing, and perhaps I'll even figure out what it is I'm doing wrong."

He tensed in my arms reluctant to give in to my embrace and I placed a light kiss on top of his head. Nightwing shook his head and stood up. "You aren't doing anything…wrong… you are being what you are. I have to remember that. Just like I can't ask a cat to be a dog, I can't ask you to be human for me."

I smiled sadly as I stood up. One of my fingers found his jaw. "That's what I've been saying since the beginning."

Dick shook his head again and pulled out of my reach. "No, I can't ask you to be human but you can't ask me to be anything but human at this point. And I can't bring myself to…I'm sorry."

"Yet." I added. "You can't yet."

"Maybe never. You will always look so very young."

"True, but tomorrow night I will be seventeen in human terms."

He didn't answer as I left the room heading first to the cave and then out through one of the more obscure exits. Behind me as I came out of the egress I could hear the slow steady beat of a heart and knew that Batman had shaken off the compulsion to just let me be. Or more to the point he had given up on the idea of a wire and had settled on tailing me to the meeting.

Pretending not to notice I changed out of my uniform and back into the clothes that Niculaie had brought me the night I met with Bludhaven's Prince. They were still very comfortable but they weren't my uniform. I felt like my skin was crawling. I tucked my uniform into a backpack and hefted it over my shoulder.

Behind me I could still feel him following and I looked around for ways of throwing him off the track without him catching on. I couldn't lead him to the Prince and I couldn't just… not… show up. If I was discovered to be wandering around the city without an introduction then the Prince had the right to send The Scourge after me. The Scourge could drive away or kill any vampire that did not have permission to be in the city.

My mission, as I had come to consider it, depended on me playing the game from both sides. Pretending to investigate the 'vampires' for Batman and also to work for my clan without discovery by anyone. I felt like a double agent or spy. Telling grains of truth in the effort to hide a bigger lie.

I turned in the opposite direction to the one I actually wanted to go in. I had to lead him away without appearing to be leading him away. In fact, I needed to act like I didn't even know he was there. I started heading for the rougher parts of Gotham hoping for a nice crime in progress. It was just my luck that that night happened to be a rare 'quiet' night on the streets of Gotham.

I jumped lightly over debris and rubbish as he danced over the tops of buildings always keeping me in sight.

I kept hoping that he would see something. Some poor human being robbed or mugged that would require his attention long enough for me to use the celerity innate to most vampires. Almost in desperation I took us past Crime Alley.

When the first scream sounded I sighed in relief. I could feel it as he jumped out of range and toward the cry of help. In seconds I had backtracked, once again on my way to the 'meeting'.




I think, even after my experience with the Alley Bi, I was not fully prepared for Lestat's Asylum.

I found the little club not too far from the college campus. I circled it twice before I realized that the club was actually there. From the outside it looked like a warehouse. I didn't even notice the small and poorly painted sign above the upper level windows until I came back on my third circuit around.

The red on black sign had one weak light focused on it on a brick building. Lestat's Asylum was painted in dark red to look like dripping blood.

As I approached the door I could hear the dull thudding of deep bass. Opening the door, I was nearly thrown back by the sheer intense sound of loud music as it beat from the very walls of the building. Strobe lights gave the impression of freeze-framing the patrons as they writhed to the music. Smoke hung in the air giving a dreamy look to the scene.

At the door the bouncer looked me over before motioning me in. An equally appraising look by myself told me that he was another vampire. Something that wasn't true of most of the patrons currently dancing on the floor and drinking at the bar. Their heartbeats beat faster than the tempo of the music playing and I felt myself quicken with want.

Cold blood did not sate the Hunger within and the feel of the heat and the sound of the blood coursing through their veins were driving me wild.

I allowed myself to be pushed and prodded as I crossed the dance floor heading toward the back. Too pale faces smiled at me and motioned to the door almost hidden behind a velvet curtain as I came closer to my destination.

During the flashes of light I could make out the decorations around the room. Red velvet curtains hung on the wall between posters of vampire movies. Interview with the Vampire hung near the bar as a framed Dracula poster sat near a booth. Fake plastic garlic surrounded the room like strange Christmas garland. Waiters dressed like movie vampires as they served drinks to humans and real vampires alike. Fake blood adorned the collars of many of the patrons and occasionally, as I passed them, I could smell a hint of the real thing. I giggled as I saw fake fangs in the mouth of one dancer as he passed me by.

I laughed as I considered that the best way to hide something was often in plain sight.

Before I could leave the dance floor a young woman grabbed me around the waist and pulled me close as she moved to the music. Her body rubbed against mine in a parody of lovemaking as her hair swung behind her. I laid my hand upon her breast as we danced feeling the moist skin and the heart that beat beneath. I pulled her closer still and could hear her rapid breathing as I leaned into her throat. Temptation almost too much to bear and my face began to shift. But before my teeth could drop…I thought of Dick.

I let her go abruptly and shifted away. Her groan of protest was loud enough to rise above the music and I looked at her closer. Pale, much too pale, with dark smudges under her eyes. Blonde, almost white, hair hung below her shoulders in an untidy mess as vacant blue eyes tried in vain to focus on me, and most telling of all… scars upon her neck and recent bruising spoke volumes.

Niculaie had mentioned humans such as these. Those that knew and accepted vampires but were addicted to their bite, addicted to the erotic feel as their blood was drawn while the will was suppressed. I could well understand the addiction as it worked both ways. Blood Dolls. She was a Blood Doll. And she was looking for a fix. I shook my head at her and turned away. I had no use for a vampire groupie. I had no use for throwing away what little humanity remained within me.

I stumbled off the dance floor and moved the curtain to the side as I opened the door. The quiet as the door closed behind me was startling. Only the slight vibration from the bass could be felt or heard.

Jolly Jones smiled at me as I walked closer. A much different set up than I thought it would be. Once again my expectations were nowhere near the reality. Sitting upon the floor on many different colored pillows the different vampires from the different clans sat. Some looked bored but most looked uncomfortable but entirely at home. Jolly Jones and another vampire sat toward the center.

He reminded me of a Greek statue. His eyes were a deep brown but his hair was sun kissed though I suspected that it had been centuries since he had even seen the sun. His skin was like white marble and the muscles were clearly outlined as he lay in what could only be considered as a toga.

He could only be the Prince, a Malkavian ruler of an insane city.

Motioning me closer, he chuckled. "So, little one. New to my fair city?"

{Home, sweet home…} the stars softly sang.

I nodded. "Yes, sorta."

"I heard about you from my sweetling here, he says you are a…Gangrel…no?"

I nodded. "Yes, sir. I am Timothy Drake. And I come to observe the traditions."

"Very good, little one. Come sit beside me and we will finish business, then I can give you some tourism pointers." He smiled at me as the others rolled their eyes, not taking him too seriously.

I sat down gingerly, from behind me I heard the slightly whispered "Good luck, pal. You're gonna need it!"

I relaxed against the large colorful pillows and felt myself wanting to doze off. The air was stagnant and filled with perfumed smoke, which I idly recognized as incense. Beside me, Jolly Jones scooted closer as I found myself lying back farther until I was almost lying down. Through half closed eyes I noticed many of the other vampires also looking as though they were about to pass out and found myself relaxing even more.

Each time I closed my eyes it was a little harder to reopen them until finally they drifted shut and I was reluctant to open them. Dimly, I felt fingers stroking my hair and a soft voice whispered in my ear. "Rest, little brat. None of this is important. We'll wake you when it is time to join the fun."

The wonderful fingers continued to stroke my hair gently as I drifted away from myself as I was warmed and made comfortable and made to feel wanted. Somewhere, high above, hidden by the ceiling, I heard the stars singing, {While the light fades from sight, and the stars gleaming rays softly send, to they hands we our souls, Lord, commend.}




Hours had passed when I felt the tiny shake to my shoulder. "Wake up, little one."

I sat up slowly. I was still sleepy and wanted nothing more than to curl back up on the pillows and go back to sleep. The room wasn't as smoky as it had been and the strong scent had dissipated quite a bit. It was still warm though and the Prince lay near me, smiling.

"Welcome home, little one!" His smile was filled with joy as he looked upon me. He reached out a slim finger and ran it down my jaw. "Welcome home!"

I nodded dumbly still not really awake. "Um…thank you."

"My name is Sabastian and I'm told you know my sweetling, Jolly, quite well." His smirk let me know just how much he knew. I wondered again if the warmth in my face meant that I was blushing.

{A flame, a fire…desire…} They were laughing, giggling as they sang. My face heated up more, if possible.

He laughed as I ducked my head. I think it was quite possible that I still blushed well. Being dead had not stopped my circulation. For a brief moment I wondered how that worked without a heartbeat? "It is a pleasure to meet you."

"The pleasure, little one, is all mine I'm sure!" He crawled toward me and I quickly sobered up. The almost predatory look alerted me that he was not to be taken lightly.

"Relax, little one. I find no pleasure in forcing myself on anyone." He smirked again. "But I must say you have quite a 'presence' unusual in a fledgling. Even with you being a higher generation than most newborns."

"Generation?" I wiped my hands upon my jeans as I felt my skin begin to crawl. I realized that I had been out of my uniform for hours and I felt the beginnings of a panic attack. I tried to focus instead on the Prince and Jones. Both watched me carefully, one the epitome of average, the other the epitome of male beauty.

"Yes, little one. Generations. I am a fourth generation vampire. You are a seventh generation vampire. It is how we measure how far removed we are from Caine. When Caine killed his brother he was cursed…he passed his curse onto 'his children'. We are his children, little one."

I had heard a little bit of the story from Niculaie and Dick before but I must confess that my concentration had been sorely lacking recently. I smiled and nodded as the Prince rambled about curses and antediluvians and jyhads to come. But I stared at his mouth. His voice was soothing and I enjoyed the sound as he spoke, a smoky sound that heightened the senses and awakened and renewed the want inside.

The stars teased me, attempting to make me blush by describing what he could do with his mouth, his lips…

Sabastian's eyes flared and he grinned. "Yes, you have a very strong 'presence'. It runs heavily in our line but I dare say yours may be even stronger than your Sire's was."

"Huh?" Not the most intelligent thing I've ever said but it expressed my thoughts best at the time.

"Presence is another Kindred ability. Not many Malkavians have mastered it but our particular line seems to have an innate ability to use it. Basically, when you walk into a room, everyone wants to bask in your radiance. They want to be near you. I even dare say you are strong enough to inspire love or hate depending on your mood. It can definitely be an advantage, though I would try to learn how to master it if I were you." He smirked as he crawled even closer. "While I can most certainly resist you, not many of the cattle would be able to. That could cause problems."

As his lips touched mine I drew back and questioned him with a look.

"Oh, I said I can resist you, I didn't say I wanted to!" He pulled me closer as he wrapped his arms around my shoulders. "I also dare say that you want this. This feeling of closeness that you denied yourself while you was alive. This closeness that you were denied by others as well."

"There is a difference between this and the 'closeness' that I sought while I was alive." My protest did nothing to stop me from practically climbing into his lap.

"True. But there is a benefit to this type of closeness!" Sabastian said as he held me against his chest.

"Oh? And what is that?" I breathed as he nipped lightly at the edge of my ear.

"Every time you feed from a stronger vampire it can add minutely to your own strength." Jolly Jones sighed behind me, as he pressed close against my back, sandwiching me between them. "And you will need all the strength you can get, little brat."

"As long as a Blood Bond isn't established or as long as you don't go too far and commit Diablerie, there will be no problem." Sabastian whispered in my ear. "Not that you would ever be strong enough to destroy me, little one."

Their hands moved across my body setting each individual nerve on fire leaving me gasping for air that I did not need. I threw my head back as two mouths found either side of my throat. Closing my eyes, I allowed myself to forget who was who as sensation became all, the room spinning deliciously.

Clothes left my body without my ever opening my eyes, lips tracing their path. The silk pillows cushioned us as they explored my body. One holding my hands over my head while the other touched me all over.

Fingers mapped my body, stroking lightly over hard nipples before nipping with sharp teeth. A flick and I felt a drop of liquid as the white flash of fire signaled the cut. I gasped, as he pulled hard at the blood he had just released from my chest.

I pulled my hands out of the other's grasp and tried to sit up. My hands found long hair as he nuzzled my chest and I knew it was the Prince. He purred as I gently pulled and caressed the long strands of silken hair.

Behind me another mouth, belonging only to Jolly Jones himself, traced over what would be my pulse point had I a real pulse. Sharp fangs slit tiny rivers of blood as I moaned with ecstasy. Jones fingers pulled my head back to rest on his shoulder as he lapped at the little pools of blood appearing on my collarbone. Sabastian lifted his head and bid me to open my eyes as he began to rub the blood from my chest all over my body, before licking it with torturous slowness.

"Sweet little fledge. You taste so nice!" Sabastian growled with feral glee. "Ours, all ours…the last of our line thus far. Only we three now exist of our particular coterie. I tire of losing childer."

Jones stroked my hair back as he rubbed his lips across the wound. Lifting his head he whispered. "Perhaps we should keep him after all?"

"Perhaps, sweetling, perhaps, but not till his task is complete. Our adversaries cannot know that we are ready for them. They expect opposition from us. We can't let them know we've already chosen our champion." Sabastian raised himself higher and kissed Jones over my shoulder allowing me to feel their hard bodies against me holding me tightly between them.

Jones' hands reached lower as they kissed and found my backside, stroking it tenderly before grasping the flesh firmly. I moaned into Sabastian's mouth as he pressed a deep kiss catching my tongue and dueling for supremacy. Fingers teased me as Jones once more lightly bit my neck before sucking gently at the small drops of blood. Sabastian's hands found their way down and grasped me firmly even as Jones' pulled me up higher onto my knees and supported me from behind.

My head spun as they worked in tandem reducing me to a quivering moaning mess. Once more I forgot where I ended and they began. Teeth scratched my suddenly overheated skin giving me a false sensation of warmth as rough tongues lapped at the dripping blood. I wanted more I needed more and I groaned loudly as Sabastian pulled me closer suddenly rubbing my body against his as our erections pressed together.

Behind me, Jones rubbed his own erection into the cleft of my ass making me gasp louder and try to push back onto him at the same time as press harder against Sabastian. I was in heaven…I was in hell. Too much and too little and definitely not enough! And just when I thought I couldn't take anymore Sabastian pulled my head to his throat and pressed. Flesh gave way easily to my own sharp teeth.

The world exploded into brilliant light as the blood passed over my tongue. It burned and I could feel its path as it made its way down inside and I scrambled closer, pressing as close as I could, trying to become one with the ancient vampire. My body felt as though it was glowing and I grew lightheaded.

Behind me, Jones growled low in his throat as he peppered light nips down my neck, over my back and continued down my spine. I shivered as I felt him pull my cheeks apart. In front of me Sabastian still held me firmly to his chest while his other hand pulled at my weeping erection.

Fireworks appeared before my eyes as I felt the invasion from behind as fingers sought and found entrance, a few seconds later my world went dark.




I woke a couple of hours later still held between them loosely as they stroked my hair and body.

"You are awake, little one?" Sabastian smiled. "You may no longer be human but you have yet to learn control."

Both vampires laughed softly as I felt my face burn. Jones snickered as he leaned in for a kiss. "Your innocence pleases us, little brat. No embarrassment is necessary."

"Innocence or inexperience?" I smirked. If I was going to be teased I wanted it on my terms.

"Both." Sabastian murmured in my hair as he pulled me closer.

I sighed as they held me. It was nice. But all too soon they pulled away regretfully. "You need to return, little one. The sun will rise soon and the others wait for you."

I pulled on my clothes with distaste. I didn't want to go, but I knew that I had no choice.

Before I left they each gave me one last kiss. Each kiss held a promise for later and I returned it with fervor.

Outside, the cold chilled me, replacing the heat from the club much too quickly, erasing the pleasant memory of their touch. Leaving me with a crushing guilt. I felt like I had cheated on Dick despite the fact that he had not made a commitment to me.

Snow crunched under my feet as I made my way back toward the cave and the wind tossed my hair. Fresh flakes gently made their way from the sky. I slowly became aware of a presence just on the edge of my awareness.

I slowed my pace and looked into a storefront window…waiting. Behind me I heard him land lightly. I saw his reflection in front of me. It was as though I was not even there. I reached toward the window and he moved closer. "What are you doing here, Nightwing?"

"It's almost dawn."

I could see in the window that he was scowling at me. Squaring my shoulders I nodded. "Yes, I know. That is why I was on my way back. I'm smart enough to find shelter before dawn. I haven't burned to final death yet, have I?"

"No." His answer was a growl and I suddenly wondered how long he had been near the club. Looking to the side I was still in view of the front door.

"How long have you been here?"

"Does it matter?" Nightwing crossed his arms.

"I don't know anymore. Does it?" He didn't answer me and I put my hands into my pockets. "Did you bug me?"

When he looked away I had my answer. I had figured that Bruce would try to. I had prepared for that and stopped it. I hadn't figured on Dick…

"Why?"

He turned away and began to walk. I growled and grabbed his arm throwing him against the building. "Why?"

"Because I was stupid enough to worry about you!" Nightwing hissed.

"How much did you hear? How much did you…see?" I wasn't sure what kind of bug he used on me. I tried to listen and discover if I could hear the small whine of the electronic device. Where did he put it on me?

"Enough…enough to know…!" He shoved me backwards and I stumbled as he pushed past me.

I grabbed his arm again and held tightly. He winced and I wondered how much my strength had increased tonight.

"To know what? To know that I'm not going to wait around for you to come to your senses? Because I'm not. I'm not going to wait for you to decide that you can accept me! Enough to know that I have no commitment to you so long as you have no commitment to me? Because that is true, too! So long as you don't want me I can fuck whoever the hell I want! Enough to know that just because you have a problem with the way I look doesn't mean that everyone else will? Because I like being wanted, Nightwing! I like it a lot! And I liked how they made me feel in there! And if they want to do it again, you can bet your ass that so long as things are the way they are right now…I'll be right there, ready and waiting, and enjoying the hell out every second of it as they touch me…"

He tried to yank his arm out of my hand and I released him before he could dislocate something. Nightwing said nothing as he turned from me and took to the rooftops once more. I closed my eyes and tried to center myself. With a sigh I allowed myself to fly over the new snow, allowed the celerity to carry me to my new home before the sun could rise.

I didn't see Dick when I returned to the cave and Bruce only gave me a cursory glance. He smiled and I waved back. Alfred brought me a big breakfast as I settled into my room and I thanked him. After he left the room I threw the food out. I collapsed into the bed grateful for the oblivion.




Alfred woke me before the sun had gone down. I bit my tongue in an effort not to lunge at him. I could smell him before I ever opened my eyes…a smell? A scent? A sense? I don't know how to convey what it is for me. Not any of them yet all of them. And it was almost overwhelming.

I sucked at the small wound. A tiny trickle that did nothing to sate the pain in my chest, the raw need, the Hunger.

He fussed around me bringing me clean clothes and a tray of food. He remarked on how pale and thin I was. The steaming food smelled wonderful…I'm sure. It did nothing for my appetite.

What I wanted was not on a plate.

I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate, to overcome the urge to reach out and grab him. To rend his throat with my teeth and drain him dry.

As the door shut behind him I collapsed back onto the bed in relief.

Minutes later I was knocking on Dick's door wondering if he was going to let me in or not. After several minutes of waiting, knowing that he was in fact just on the other side of the door he opened it.

He thrust the mug into my hands and slammed the door in my face.

With a sigh I drained my cup and took it back to my room to rinse it out. The night was off to a wonderful start.

Bruce waved me over as I walked into the cave. "They have already called once. I think they are anxious. This is good."

I nodded. Good, right. That indicates that the girls at least are going to be hanging on me all night. That was not good in my book. It was going to be a long night and I knew it.

Nightwing came down the staircase slowly refusing to meet my eye. He came to stand beside me without ever having said a word and when Bruce asked him to take me to the Young Justice meeting he merely nodded and turned away. I followed him, just as silently.




I was right. The moment I walked in I was swarmed, shouts of 'Happy Birthday' ringing in my ears. Even Superboy came over to pat me on the back. Secret hovered near the ceiling watching me carefully as I tried to back away from them without looking like I was about to run away.

Their scent was intense, strong, powerful, and all consuming. Anita's aura vibrated with repressed power that spiced the blood scent and I turned away to try and regain control. I stumbled away as Cassie tried to pull me in for a hug.

Superboy turned concerned eyes toward me as he held up a hand. "Wait, guys, I think he's sick or something."

Nightwing, who had until then been silent and standing in the background, came up to my side and pulled me away from the crowd. "He's just been a little under the weather."

I faced Nightwing as I tried to will my features to return to normal. I could feel the telltale cramp between my eyes and the sharp fangs pricked my lips. Nightwing grasped my shoulder squeezing it as slowly I relaxed. Small mugs of blood did nothing to relieve the Hunger I felt. I needed live blood. I needed to hunt in the forest. I missed the days of pigs and cows being home delivered.

Scenes of their broken bodies lying on the floor played in front of my eyes. Destroyed and drained. Blood covering my hands and body as I bathed…

"Are you okay?" Cissie asked.

It was hard for me to think.

"I'm fine. Just under the weather." I answered.

When I turned back I smiled at them but still remained near Nightwing. He was still angry with me but he hadn't abandoned me.

"Aw, that's terrible being sick on your birthday!" Cassie said. It was odd seeing her out of her Wonder Girl costume. They had been eager to give me a 'normal' birthday.

Kon clapped me on the shoulder with a smile. "How's it feel to be seventeen?"

I managed another smile. "The same as being sixteen, I suppose."

Above us Secret sobbed softly, startling us all. I looked up at her and she looked back seconds before covering her face. I groaned. Somehow, she knew.

"Secret? What's wrong?" Bart asked.

She didn't answer as she silently floated out of the room. Behind me Nightwing reached out and touched me on the shoulder. I nodded. "She knows. I need to talk to her."

"Knows what?" Kon asked as I gently pushed past him. As I passed I heard a low seductive hiss, calling me, tempting me. The sun in human form…

"What is going on?" several voices asked as the door shut behind me.

"Secret?" I called out.

I made my way through the house and up the stairs, every few seconds I called out her name. I had already discovered that I could not 'sense' her as I could humans.

Finally, as I neared the attic, she called back to me. "Robin?"

"Secret, where are you?" I finally found her in the last room. "Please don't run from me, I can't hurt you."

Ghostly tears slid down her face as she looked at me sadly. "I know. You can't hurt me. But you can hurt the others."

I nodded. "Yes, but I don't want to. I didn't come here to."

"Are you evil now?" she asked innocently. "I…I…I know that we are all supposed to be a little evil but good, too…but…I never wanted you to be. Are you evil now…all the way…"

I shook my head. "Oh, Secret. I wish it was that simple."

"You are, aren't you?" She started crying in earnest as I came closer.

"Yes, and no…Monsters we are lest monsters we become." The riddle that we all lived by was the only answer I could come up with.

"Will you hurt them? I can't let you hurt them!" she swore.

I shook my head. "No! No, I have no intention of hurting any of them. I think that is why Nightwing is here; he's going to help me stay in control. I have more control around him."

She huddled on the window ledge looking over the enormous yard. "I used to think that I had it worse than all of us. I mean, Superboy would never grow old but at least he had a body."

I sat down next to her and nodded. "True, this is true."

"I wondered... if I was evil. I was afraid that I was evil and the Spectre came to talk to me. He told me that everyone had a little evil in them…" she got a distant look in her eye as she trailed off. When she spoke again it was in a soft faraway voice. "But at least I knew that I had good in me too. Do you have any good left in you?"

"I want to think so." I wonder even now if I really do. I really want to think I do. "I haven't killed…"

In the air around us we could hear the word 'yet'.

The stars tittered and mocked me. {Yet…there's a first time for everything though…}

"I don't want to hurt people." But even as I said it I knew I was lying. I had wanted to hurt people. I wanted to drain Alfred. I wanted to shake Nightwing until he listened to me. I wanted to take Cassie in my arms and enchant her with sweet words and soft caresses before taking her life for my own.

I looked down not wanting to see Secret's eyes. "I don't want to act upon the impulses."

"But they are there? Those impulses?" she asked. Her voice was so tiny. So hurt. I wanted to take that all away. I was half tempted to try…but I knew almost by instinct that my powers would have no effect on her. Just as her powers had instinctively known what I was.

"Yes, they are there. But I can choose to feed on animals or from bags. I don't have to give in to the bloodlust." I reached out and let it hover near her chin.

She blinked up at me and nodded. "I think I understand."

I smiled. "Hey, at least you and Kon aren't alone in the whole…Peter Pan thing anymore. I joined the club!"

Secret grimaced. "Sorry to hear that. It isn't the most fun club in the world to belong to."

Shrugging, I laughed. "Yeah, tell me about it. Add in the fact that I'm no longer even human but people are trying to hold me to human standards…"

"Nightwing…does he…?"

"Yeah he knows, and yeah, he tends to want me to be human. It doesn't work that way though. He logically knows I'm not human but his heart…" I sadly placed my hand over my dead heart. Though it did not beat I still had a sense of pain above it just like I would have if I were still alive.

"It is hard for them to let us go. They either want us to be what we were before or they want us to be complete and total monsters that just happen to be mimicking their loved ones. Something to be rejected and turned away without guilt." She leaned back and if I had not looked closer I would have thought she was against the wall instead of pillowed on air inches from the surface. "It is difficult being something...no one understands."

The moon shone through the window and seemed to halo her as she spoke. She was ethereal, supernatural, beautiful, and I found myself entranced willingly as she continued to speak softly.

"I was in love with you. You were good and pure and wonderful. And I knew I could never have you. I didn't know who you were, you didn't know who I was. It was the perfect fantasy." Her voice trembled as she leaned forward again reaching for my mask.

I raised my hands and removed it for her. "I was never good or pure or wonderful but it is nice that you thought so." I tried to ignore the bitterness in my voice.

"I knew that you would never return my affection. I knew that you were in love with Spoiler…"

I shook my head. "I'm not sure if that was love or not. And now, I don't think I'll ever know. Love for my kind is not the same as love of a human."

"Nor is love of my kind." She agreed. "It almost isn't…the same…I think. It is almost like something new. An obsession with affection, there is no real describing it. We are…forever. Humans are gone so quickly…"

"Yes, yes, that is it. That is it! That is what it is like." I nodded excitedly.

"We have to try to find human words for things that no human will ever understand! And then when they don't understand it is our fault and we are the ones that are wrong…" bitterness was creeping into her own voice.

"You are right I would never have understood before." I smiled edging nearer. "But I do now."

"Are you going to tell the others?" she asked me.

"About me? What I am?"

"Yes! Are you going to tell them?" She nodded.

"I don't know. I'm not supposed to tell anyone. The Masquerade is supposed to be maintained by all of us. We aren't supposed to tell humans ever. On the other hand, it isn't as though anyone here is actually a normal 'human being'. But I think it would end up hurting them more. Then again maybe they would understand." I hadn't made up my mind yet. I didn't know what to do. Silently, I asked the stars but they became silent.

She moved closer till she was nearly hovering over my lap. "I think Superboy should be told. He doesn't let the others know, but he really gets depressed about never aging."

Her eyes sparkled as she leaned nearer and I found myself falling into them. "You should tell him."

"I will." I promised. I could not look away. I needed to look away. Jones had warned me about looking away often. I felt her solidify as she lowered herself onto my lap.

Her weight was slight. She had been tiny in life and she was still tiny, even in death. Her arms encircled my neck and she laid her head on my shoulder with a sigh. I held her tightly to my chest. Her lips were soft, tentative, and gentle. Her hand wound in my hair as she pulled me closer kissing me deeply. Her touch was like a wisp of smoke across my skin, against my mouth.

There was no taste.

It was odd.

She sighed as I kissed her and stroked along her spine. With my free hand I pulled her short hair back.

Many minutes passed before she pulled away with a smile. "There are benefits to neither of us having to breathe."

I laughed. "True. But do you get anything out of the kisses?"

She shook her head. "Not really but your kind tend to be orally fixated from what I understand. It pleases me to please you."

"What do you know…of my kind…?" I asked.

"I've been researching lately. Not only into my own…kind…but other…supernatural…creatures." She smiled. "You would be surprised how much you can discover if you have the right contacts, which I've been exploring. I've met many interesting people lately."

I smiled as she stroked a finger across my mouth and I allowed my fangs to drop into place. She lightly pulled her fingertip across one of the sharp points inducing me to shudder. I moaned as she teased each sharp canine.

"What big teeth you have?" she teased.

I chuckled as she leaned back in for another kiss allowing her tongue to pass harmlessly over the needle sharp fangs. She was in no danger and it felt good to allow myself to let go…and just be what I was. To be what I was with someone that not only cared about me... for me…but someone I happened to trust…completely. I could see where I could have easily have fallen in love with her had I only let myself as a human. I could see where I could fall in love with her even now. But we both knew that we couldn't. It was not the way of my kind to stay with those of her kind for too long. Tonight was about acceptance and companionship. And it was enough.

As she pulled back a second time to allow me to get my bearings I whispered, "What would please you? How can I please you?"

She grinned at me as she turned to straddle my lap. "I've been…exploring…my powers. Learning different things that I'm capable of. Doing research like I said. Especially since talking to Spectre."

I settled my hand upon her thin hips and waited. "Yeah?"

"Yeah!" Her hands came to rest upon my shoulders as she gently began to massage them. "Do you trust me?"

"With my life." I smirked.

After a few seconds she caught the very thin joke as she smacked me on the head. "Do you trust me?"

"Yes, I trust you." I nodded, rubbing her back gently. "Completely."

"I want to try something," she whispered, "but you have to trust me."

I nodded again as she once more became like smoke, rising above me and hovering like the spirit she truly was. Her aura sparkled and she smiled gently as she held her arms up and beckoned to me. "Come to me."

"What?"

"Come to me, trust me. I won't let you come to harm." Her voice was barely above a whisper.

I stood up slowly and walked toward her, preparing to enter the abyss that she protected. Prepared for the disorientation, prepared for the disassociation, for the fear, for…

Warmth?

She was all around me, apart of me, holding me. Touching me inside and out. Completing me, soothing me, making me ache in good ways. Lifting me, pulling me up, embracing me. Every nerve was alive, humming with sensation, with pleasure.

She was inside my head, inside my thoughts. She knew me inside and out. And I in turn knew her, every second of her life, from her birth to her death and beyond. I was with her when she learned to ride her bicycle. I was with her the first time she put nail polish on. I was with her when she got an A on a difficult science project. And I was with her when she died in the bathtub at the hands of her adopted brother.

She saw my loneliness as a small child left to babysitters and staff. She was with me when I first went to the circus and met Dick and his parents. She was with me as I followed and admired Batman and Robin's exploits and she was with me when I pieced together their identity. She was with me the first time I wore the suit. She was with me when I first met Superboy and Impulse…and she was with me when I died at the hands of a vampire.

We shared the confusion of our new existences. Her confusion over what she was, mine as to where I was. I was with her as she escaped her imprisonment and she was with me as I escaped my coffin.

I felt her joy at friendship. She felt my joy of being with Jolly and Sabastian. I felt her fear for my soul and she felt my fear of my insanity.

We rejoiced in our similarities and rejoiced in our strengthened friendship and we even rejoiced in our differences.

We were one. And it felt good.

The room was nonexistent. We were everywhere and nowhere. Somewhere where light was bright but no light existed.

I was blinded by the intensity as wave after wave of pleasure crashed over me. The entire time she murmured to me words of endearment and caring, words of her own unique brand of love. I felt adored, worshiped, cared for. I felt her friendship in a physical way as she spoke within my mind, spoke within my flesh, and spoke within my heart. I could feel her respect as she showed me a reverence no one had ever shown me. There was little in the way of lust as she found her way into every fiber of my being. Only of love. I felt her pulse through my body and was reminded of my dead heart, a heart that she brought back to life, if only temporarily.

This was not the abyss I had expected, an abyss to emptiness preceding hell itself. This was the a byss of her emotions…for me…for all of us. And if I had never been turned I would never have realized the strength of her feelings. I would never have understood. I would have been frightened to find myself the focus of her emotions. Frightened because these feelings that washed over me were not human in origin. There are no human counterparts for them.

Obsession plays only a small role, but a large part in its expression. Domination and possession also, but there is…escape?

I don't know how to describe it. We love and we love completely and when we are with someone they are the focus of our universe.

But… out of sight out of mind. We can let go and move on and if, years later, they come back into our life we can pick the emotion back up as though it was there all along. But we don't…brood…about it. We don't wallow in absence. We can miss someone and wish they were here. We could long for their company. But it isn't in our nature to…despair. We have adapted to the idea of moving on.

You cannot face eternity without that ability.

It is not heartless.

It is survival.

It is a human trait to despair over another. And neither Secret nor I are human any longer.

We knew that we could and would take our pleasure with each other. We could love each other completely in those stolen moments. But we also knew that it was not a declaration of never ending commitment.

Neither of us, a vampire and a wraith, could survive nor deal with that kind of relationship.

Surrounded by her I could scarce make out the room we had started in. For me there were no noises beyond my own moans and her sweet mutterings. I was completely enraptured by her presence. My senses were completely filled with her.

We could have been that way for hours or minutes, I could not tell, but it was with a boneless and sated abandon that she laid me back down upon a nearby chair. My eyes were closed and my body hummed as she withdrew slowly. Faintly I heard a door close behind me and I only vaguely wondered who had been in the room.

I smiled as Secret floated down beside me and solidified her hand to stroke my hair out of my eyes. She smiled sadly and sighed. "I think you need to go talk to Nightwing. He didn't look too happy. He doesn't understand and I think…"

"Shit!" I whispered. "And the night had just started to look up, too…"

I forced my body to move and stood up. "I'll see if I can find him."

She shrugged. "Humans, you just never know what they are thinking sometimes…"

"No doubt! They run hot and cold. I wonder why I'm bothering…" I grumped as I headed toward the door.

"Because he has a nice ass even a wraith can appreciate?" She grinned.

"Oh, yeah! I knew there was a reason!" I smirked as I opened the door.




I found Nightwing in the kitchen with the other members of Young Justice. He stood off in the corner ignoring everyone and everything in the room around him. His arms were crossed and he was glaring at the wall. I approached him only for him to turn away from me. Rather than start a confrontation I turned back to the others.

At the table sat Superboy, Impulse and the others. All shooting tentative looks at Nightwing. As I came into the room they smiled and called out to me and I returned their greetings. "How's the birthday boy doing?" Kon asked.

"Just fine." I said as I came to stand in front of the table.

"What was that all about? Earlier with Secret, I mean?" Cassie asked.

"Oh, just…nothing. We needed to talk. That's all. We worked it out."

Behind me Secret floated in and added. "Everything is just great!"

In the corner, Nightwing snorted. I chose to ignore him and instead sat down next to Superboy. The low hiss caressed the very air around him.

"How has everyone else been?" I asked for lack of anything else to say.

"Same old same old. You know how it is. Save the damsel, save the universe, do your homework, take out the trash!" Cassie laughed.

I laughed weakly. Yeah, I remembered. But there would be no more 'homework' for me. There would be no more school. No more part time normal life. Only a never-ending darkness and blood. "Yeah, I remember."

Nightwing shifted in the corner and I looked over at him. Secret was muttering to him and he was turning away from her. I concentrated and caught the tail end of her words. "…talk to him!"

I shook my head. There was no way she was going to convince him to talk to me.

"Well, what are your plans?" Cissie asked with a blush. "What have you been up to?"

"Ah, good question, although, I can't really answer that, undercover stuff." I cleared my throat and leaned on the table. "Plans? Well? Umm, not many. Just keep working the case and hope for the best, I suppose."

They nodded and smiled and the silence was disconcerting as it stretched beyond comfortable.

Lil'Lobo slammed the refrigerator door and belched. "Damn ya people are borin'! What kinda party's this? No booze, no fraggin' no nuttin! This blows!"

I snickered as I thought about Lestat's Asylum. Lobo would love it. Maybe. Come to think of it. The Alley Bi was probably more up his alley. No pun intended.

The girls turned to Lil'Lobo with a glare. "Things are just…"

"Awkward." I finished for Cissie. "I've been gone for a while and this isn't easy on any of us."

Superboy's eyes shifted and I could smell the guilt coming off of him in waves. Nightwing edged to the door and escaped quietly. For a second I envied him, but I think they would have all noticed if I tried to 'escape'. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Why don't we all just try to put the past behind us?"

Superboy looked up and I smiled at him. "I'm serious. Bygones and everything, I hold no grudges and we all just let this little angst thing go."

"Really?" he asked.

"Really really."

He smiled at me and his eyes lit up. Deep blue eyes the color of the sky after a good rain. Stormy blue I think they would call it, and deep within them there was relief. I nodded. "Why don't we put some music on?"

Cissie jumped up but Impulse beat her to the stereo. I flinched as discordant music filled the air but I still managed a blatantly false smile. "That's better."

Superboy laughed and clapped me on the back. "Nothing but the best for the birthday boy."

Over his head Secret chewed upon her lip and beseeched me with her eyes. She sensed what I could. Every time he said the word birthday…the rank smell of depression would float through the air. I nodded at her. Yes, I would talk to him. Let him know that he wasn't as alone as he thought.




Cissie and Cassie, true to my earlier belief, practically hung on me all evening as we entered the large lobby area. With the exception of Lil'Lobo and Nightwing they all sat close, hanging on my every word. Continuously asking me if I wanted anything. Wanting to bring me more cake that I never ate. Bringing me drinks I never drank.

Meanwhile, I fought off visions of taking the knife from the cake and slitting their skin before licking the blood sweetened by too much sugar. Tasting the cake and soda as I kissed…I shook myself and tried to concentrate on other things.

Lil'Lobo sat in front of the television and ignored all of us while Nightwing sat on the outside porch looking up at the stars. His thermal insulated suit keeping him warm despite the cold. Occasionally, I would glance out of the window to check on him, not that he needed me to.

Secret hovered near the ceiling, silently laughing, as our friends pretty much fawned over me. I knew that I needed to learn to control the 'presence' that radiated from me, but I have to admit that the attention was nice.

Cissie whispered in my ear and I could feel her hot breath. I backed up with a smile and tried to pull the power back in. I didn't have much in the way of morals but even I knew that she was too young to play the game that she was starting, too young for a mortal human to play with a member of the undead society. She was still my friend and I didn't want to end up hurting her.

A vague look crossed her eyes as she looked up at me in confusion. Slowly and with a deep blush she pulled back and sat on the opposite couch. Secret smirked at me above Cissie's head and nodded. Eventually one by one my sudden 'fans' began to pull back and sit farther away.

Lil'Lobo looked back at me over his shoulder. "Bout time!"

I snorted. Lil'Lobo was a kid again but I should have realized that he might have crossed paths with my kind before. There was very little in the universe that he hadn't seen yet. A vampire was pretty low on his list of concerns I imagine.

I found myself staring at the back of his head and wondering if he missed the stars. I missed them. They had been strangely silent that night and I missed their chatter. What would it be like to be able to ride among the stars unfettered? Secret cleared her throat and I yanked my eyes away from our resident bad ass.

I looked at the scattered bottles and plates around him and realized that HE was the one that had finished off everything that they brought me over the course of the evening. He turned to give me a subtle thumb's up and turned back to the television.

What in the beginning of the evening could have been considered an uncomfortable silence was now companionable as we watched videos and chatted quietly. The room was dark except the glow of the television. I heard the door open behind me and felt, rather than saw, Nightwing enter the room and pass us to enter the kitchen. Beside me Superboy quietly ate popcorn as I watched.

His aura was dark and I could literally see the depression that hung at the edges of his being. In front of him a small piece of my birthday cake sat untouched and I watched as Impulse grabbed it and devoured it in seconds.

A youthful face framed by raven hair. He had a nice build, bigger than mine and more muscular. A single gold hoop earring glinted in his left ear as the television flickered between scenes. I found my arm moving to the back of the couch behind him and he turned to me with a raised eyebrow. I pretended to continue watching the television as he scooted a little closer to me.

The low hiss called, taunting me, wanting me to take it. Deadly. The same call that had driven Dracula to his death, perhaps he hadn't been stupid…instead he had been weak, too weak to deny the allure.

Nearby, Secret rolled her eyes amused. I turned my head away from Kon and stuck my tongue out at her. She stifled a laugh turning back to the television.

Carefully, one of my hands found its way to Kon's shoulder, lightly stroking it with just my fingertips. From the corner of my eye I could see him begin to bite his lip. I had never seen him so nervous. I rubbed tiny little circles just barely touching him. He squirmed beside me and I felt a blast of heat from him. The rush of blood as his heart sped up made me slightly dizzy as I began to stroke the length of his shoulder more firmly. I listened as his breathing became more ragged and felt him turn toward me, looking at me. I continued to watch the television but pressed him closer to my side. Hands in his lap, he began to twist his fingers, pulling on each long digit as he began to fidget.

Confusion. He was confused and not in the good let's-go-experiment type of way. I squeezed his shoulder and released him lowering the concentration I had directed at him. Slowly, he began to relax again as his attention refocused on the movie.

I looked over at Secret and she sighed and mouthed the words 'Talk to him…later.'

I nodded. I had promised. I would talk to him. Though sex would have been way easier and more fun…and involved less talking. Damn.




The movie ended and the lights came back on prompting all of us to blink back sudden spots. The tape whirled in the VCR as we all stood up to stretch. Impulse zoomed out of the room and was back in a second with a new drink.

"I liked that!" Cissie chirped while brushing stray popcorn kernels from her lap.

"Really? I thought it was kinda stupid and boring!" Impulse said. He tossed his now empty drink in the nearby trashcan and ran for more chips. "The plot sucked, it may as well have been written by a bored and demented housewife. And soppy…?"

"It was a love story!" Cissie defended as she sat back down on the couch.

"A love story? A twisted love story!" Anita countered grabbing some of the chips from Impulse.

"What should we watch next?" Cassie asked.

Superboy stretched and threw his bag of empty popcorn into the trash. He glanced at me and I could see the red heat creep into his cheeks. He cleared his throat and looked away quickly slipping off into the kitchen.

I ignored them as they all discussed and argued about the movie. Instead, I quietly followed Superboy into the kitchen. Nightwing sat at the table reading a paper and I attempted to smile at him. My smile froze as he folded up his paper and left the room without a word. Shaking my head I turned instead to Kon who had watched silently.

"What is his problem?" Kon asked as he washed his hands at the sink.

"He has a stick up his ass and I haven't figured out yet how to pull it out."

Superboy blinked at me as he processed what I said. "Oh."

He shook his hands and grabbed a dishtowel, thoughtfully drying them as he leaned against the counter.

I sat down at the table and noted the warmth that still clung to the seat. Idly, I picked up Dick's discarded newspaper. On the front page in big headlines read, 'JOKER SUES SYSTEM'.

I scanned through the story and sighed. Joker had found some lawyers who had taken his case against the city of Gotham and the state. He was suing on the basis that they had violated his rights. The case was thin and there was no way he could actually win, but the lawyers had managed to arrange that he be returned to Gotham City for the case from the Slab in Antarctica.

I folded the paper up and tossed it across the table. "How have you been?"

Kon looked up at me and shrugged. "Fine."

He threw the towel onto the counter and folded his arms across his chest.

"Secret has been worried about you." I toyed with a mug that was still filled with what had once been hot chocolate. The marshmallows had long since melted and I looked down into the gooey mess that floated on top.

"She worries about everyone." Kon snorted. "I'm fine, really. Guess I'm just a little down about the whole…birthday and aging thing. That's all."

"Hm." I said noncommittal.

Kon pushed away from the counter and sauntered to the refrigerator. He pulled out two Cokes and tossed me one. I caught it and put it on the table while he tapped the top of his before opening it.

"I mean, I know Secret isn't going to age but…" he began.

"But it is different because no one looks at her and thinks…she's just a kid. After all, she is a ghost?" I finished for him.

"Yeah!" He sat down beside me. "I mean... I'm going to still be carded when I am an old man! How fair is that? How am I going to have a relationship with anyone? Anyone I date will have to worry about being busted for statutory rape!"

I snickered. "In a lot of states the age of consent is sixteen. A lot of people would love to be stuck at sixteen…"

"Not if they actually were!" he growled. He swigged some soda and thumped it down on the table.

Nodding, I agreed. "Yeah, I know. I understand…"

"How can you say that? How can you possibly understand what I'm going through!" he exploded. He stood up and started to pace. "No one knows what it is like…"

"Secret wanted me to explain…" I started.

But he interrupted me. "Secret is a sweet little…ghost…but she still doesn't understand…"

I stood up and grabbed his arm as he passed me. "Kon! Will you please sit down and listen!"

He threw himself down in the chair and glared up at me. I reached out and squeezed his shoulder gently before sitting back down next to him. "Kon. I do understand…"

I shushed him as he once more began to protest. "Listen! Today…was more for you guys…than for me. I have no use for birthdays anymore. Birthdays…celebrate life. They celebrate how long you have lived. They celebrate that you have lived throughout the year and anticipate the coming year. Kind of like saying…congrats you are still alive!"

I swallowed hard as he looked at me in confusion. "Secret wanted me to talk to you because I DO understand. Kon…I…will never age again. I'm stuck at sixteen, too…"

"If this is a joke it isn't funny!" he told me in a tight voice and I could sense the anger beginning to build around him. His eyes narrowed and his face tightened and as he clenched his fists I knew that he was ready to come to blows.

"It isn't a joke, and I'm not trying to be funny." I said seriously. "In October…something happened. I want to tell you Kon. I want to tell you what happened but you have to swear that you will never tell anyone. Can you do that?"

I grabbed his fist and held it in both of mine. I wanted to will him into swearing but knew that he needed to do it of his own accord. I tried to instead concentrate on blanking out my mind. I didn't want to influence him in any way.

He studied me carefully. His stormy blue eyes searched my own blank ones and he seemed to try to discern what I was about to tell him by sight alone. He clasped his free hand on top of my own and he nodded. "I swear. What you tell me will never leave this room. I will never tell anyone. On my honor and on the name that Superman gave me. Kon-el."

I sighed in relief as I released his hands. "I haven't exactly been undercover. Batman thinks I have though. So anything I tell you…you can't let it get back to him."

He gaped at me. "What?"

I waved his question away and took his hands back in mine. "Kon? Do you believe in…vampires?"

He looked surprised, then shocked, finally dread covered his face and he swallowed hard. He looked away from me and seemed to concentrate on some unknown point on the linoleum. "Oh, God…no…please…"

I nodded. "Yeah."

Kon squeezed my hands tightly in his own before one of his hands found its way onto my wrist. He held it taking my pulse for a few minutes before he let it go with a hoarse sob. "Oh Robbie…"

"It isn't so bad…" It sounded lame even to me.

"How did this happen?" He pulled my hands up to his lips and seemed to try to warm them.

"A clan attacked some co-eds during a pre-Halloween party. We were on the scene. It was a set up to draw me out so I could be turned. Ironically…I was the only casualty. Batman doesn't know though!" I warned him. "He thinks it was a kidnapping of a sort. My secret identity has been declared dead and was buried after the funeral. Batman thinks that I was drugged then dug up and taken to their headquarters. He thinks they tried to brainwash me and that I've been working with Nightwing to bring them down…"

Kon nodded. "He would lose it, wouldn't he? If he knew? Superman, he told me that Bats almost lost it when the other Robin died…"

"Yes, and he was well on his way to 'losing' it again before I came back. He thinks that I'm infiltrating the 'vampire cult'."

Kon nodded and his eyes seemed unnaturally bright. They shimmered in the light and he cleared his throat often. Sadness. It has its own distinct scent.

"Don't be sad. It's okay!" I told him. "There is a reason for this to have happened. I'm needed."

I probably sounded so pathetic because he tried to smile at me but it was weak and it didn't reach his eyes.

"Robbie, you're dead. How can that be okay?"

"I'm getting used to it." I smirked. "There's some…advantages I've found…drawbacks, too…but I'm learning. I'll be okay. It will be okay."

He shook his head and the scent of his grief was still strong in the air. I sighed and sat back in my chair.

"How did you discover vampires anyway?" I asked.

"Superman has tangled with some in the past." He continued to squeeze my hands. He would relax his grip then squeeze them. Relax, squeeze, and repeat. It was almost as though he were trying to get my blood to start flowing by sheer force of will.

"Hm, yeah, I heard! Dracula, dumb ass, but what do you expect of someone from the Tremere clan?"

"Clan?"

"Well, there are different types. Each with their own abilities and traits, sometimes with their own agenda." I told him.

"I know that he said their face changed when they would get ready to bite." he hedged.

"That's true of most of the clans…" I nibbled my lip. "Has he ever…fought any…insane vampires?"

"Does your face change?" He looked up at me.

"Yeah."

In a moment of mischievousness I let my fangs drop and felt the small cramp in my face. He gasped and reared back. "Whoa!"

I smoothed my face and felt the fangs disappear with a shrug. "Don't worry I haven't eaten on anything human, just animals and bagged blood. Believe it or not, there is a whole market out there that just caters to the supernatural that need blood to survive."

"Wow, oh, yeah, um no I don't think the vamps he went against were insane. At least not in the lock them up at Arkham way, more in the let's take on Superman way."

"Yeah, that is kinda stupid." I laughed. "No one in his or her right mind takes him on."

"Uh, I think that they used magic." Superboy let go of my hands slowly and picked up his drink.

"Tremere. Yeah, they tend to get power hungry once in a while. They just don't have the finesse that Ventrue have."

"Ventrue?"

I nodded. "Yeah, Ventrue are like the businessmen of the vamp world. Corporate takeovers are more their style. Less bloodshed and more effective, bloodthirsty in their own right though. What they want, they get. And not always legally but it is almost always impossible to prove. They would give Wayne Enterprises and Lexcorp a run for their money if they wanted to. They chose not to though. It might endanger the Masquerade. That is what we call it. The Masquerade keeps humans from knowing we exist."

"They don't sound like a bunch I would want to run into…they sound scarier than the Tremeres you were talking about." Kon laughed. "A bad guy with a business planner is always to be feared."

"We aren't all bad." I frowned. "Most of us just want to get by."

"What clan are you?" Superboy asked.

I closed my eyes and took a purposeful breath. Shame. I felt shame for what I was at that moment. I opened my eyes to find Superboy staring at me and I was forced to look away.

"Robin?" he asked.

"It is okay." I whispered. "I'm just not exactly…proud of what I am."

"Your clan?" he asked. "Why?"

"We are the laughingstocks of the vampire world, and with good reason. There isn't another clan in the Camarilla that wants to deal with us if they can avoid it." I pushed the mug on the table around with my finger. "I even make Nightwing nervous. I take that back…I piss him off and he doesn't understand me. He doesn't trust me."

Superboy laid his hand over my own. "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to."

"Malkavian, Kon. I'm a Malkavian vampire. I think that is the first time I've said it out loud." I sighed. I felt like a large boulder had rolled over on top of me.

"That sounds…um…neat. At least it is a neat name." He tried.

"We are…insane."

He blinked at me and opened his mouth then closed it several times before he finally forced out, "You don't seem insane."

I snorted. "It has been a very difficult evening. It is like playing a part. Everything that comes into my mind I have to weigh whether or not it is appropriate to say or do. It…has been…difficult."

"You can't be yourself in other words?" He asked. "I mean…you can't relax because you are afraid that we'll discover your problems? That we will turn you away?"

I pulled my hand out from under his and turned away. "It wouldn't be the first time I was turned away, Kon."

Silence.

"I'm sorry, you didn't deserve that." I whispered.

"No, you are right. At least about me. I turned you away when you didn't deserve it. I won't make that mistake again. I promise. We…we should tell the others. They won't judge you!"

I turned back to him and the earnestness in his eyes burned me. "Kon…The Masquerade…"

"We can keep secrets! We all can…you know that! Batman never trusted us and I realize that. But you know we can keep your secret. Even Impulse! He has difficulties keeping his own secrets simply because he doesn't see why he needs to keep them!" Superboy pleaded.

I closed my eyes to try and avoid seeing him.

"Robbie…let us help you!"

I felt his hand back on mine and I was undone.

"All right. You win."




I looked out of the window onto the porch. Nightwing stood with his back to the house and Secret hovered in front of him talking quickly and quietly. Her face shone in the moonlight and her eyes sparkled with earnestness. I shook my head and turned back to the others.

Superboy had taken charge and gathered them together to sit around me.

"Robbie has something he needs to tell us. We need to be open minded and understanding. He is our friend and he needs us." Superboy said.

Lil'Lobo rolled his eyes and grabbed another drink. I stifled a grin. He already knew and didn't give a…as he would put it…a frag!

"What's wrong? Robin?" Cassie looked up at me as I came to stand beside Superboy.

"Shouldn't we wait for Secret?" Cissie asked.

"Secret already knows." I said. "She knew the minute I walked in."

Impulse disappeared for a few seconds and came back to sit down beside Cissie. "What's up?"

I rubbed my hands together and composed myself. "I've gone through a lot of changes recently. And I know that I can trust you all to maintain the utmost discretion but I must ask you all…can you keep my secrets?"

"Of course!" Cassie said as others muttered their agreement.

"It is very important, Cassie. Very! If anyone finds out, final death will find me quickly." I sat down in a chair facing them.

My serious tone and serious words had the desired effect and they all paid complete attention.

"We are listening." Cassie said.

"I'm a vampire."

Such simple little words, they sounded so silly. Lil'Lobo shrugged and continued to eat and drink quietly. Bart smiled uncertainly before he began to frown. "You…aren't joking…are you?"

"No, I'm not. I've been dead since October. That is why I disappeared."

They seemed to consider it carefully. Looking at me, studying me. Weighing whether or not I was a threat. In essence, trying to decide what if anything they should do with or to me. Superboy placed his hand upon my shoulder. "He's still our friend. We accepted a ghost in our ranks…we have accepted a Vodoun priestess in training, we have an alien from the stars, a boy from the future, a girl blessed by the Gods, an 'ordinary girl' who despite saying she is no hero continues to hang around, and a clone…do we really have the right to discriminate against him? Just because he lacks a pulse and needs his food really, really raw?"

"It is his food source I'm concerned with!" Cissie gasped.

"Bagged!" I said. "Bagged or animal. I haven't fed from a human."

They began to relax a little and some offered me a tentative smile. Cassie sat up straight and asked me. "So does this mean Batman and Nightwing are both vampires, too?"

I shook my head violently. "No! Nightwing is human. He knows what I am, and he has connections to one of the vampire clans…but he is still human. Batman has no idea what I am at all! And we can't tell him! I wasn't even intending to tell all of you! But first Secret knew, then Lil'Lobo indicated that he knew, and then Secret talked me into telling Superboy…" I sighed. "This night has not turned out anything like I originally planned!"

Cassie nodded as she stood up. "I'm glad you told us. Superboy is right. You are still our friend. We won't abandon you…"

The word 'again' hung in the air and I chose to ignore it. Their lives are too short for me to dwell on the past. She hugged me tightly and I returned the embrace. She was soft and muscular at the same time and the hum of her blood was tantalizing. I broke free quickly before something bad could happen.

Behind me the door opened and Nightwing and Secret entered. She was grinning. "Well?"

"I told them." I said.

"And?" She asked.

"I think…we are all okay?" I half asked.

A couple of giggles behind me relaxed me as I felt Superboy pat me on the arm. "Of course we are all okay!"

Nightwing looked up at me and nodded. "You have good friends."

"I know." I captured his gaze and he looked away first. I looked up at Secret. I wondered what she had talked to him about.

"We need to take off soon." Nightwing said. "I know it isn't really close to dawn yet but we need to get to the cave and let Batman know all is well. We don't want him suspicious."

"True." I rolled my eyes as I pulled my mask from my pocket placing it back over my eyes.

"So? You are officially back on the team?" Secret asked.

I nodded. "As long as you all will have me."

Cassie pulled me back into a hug. "Of course, silly!" Cassie squealed.

I stepped back with a smile. "I'm glad. Life is short."

Superboy looked confused for a few seconds before he caught onto the fact that I wasn't referring to myself…but to them. Secret nodded and smiled sadly at our friends. I wondered how often she had looked at us and felt the melancholy sensation that comes sometimes with being immortal and surrounded by humans. Knowing that their life is but a brief adventure that all too quickly burns out like a flame deprived of oxygen. Knowing that she will still be here when their children will have grown old and died. Knowing that she would be forced to watch them all die one by one and never allowed to completely join them.

Yet afraid that someday we might have to test the theory. Will we go to hell? Will we just…stop existing? Is there a hope at all that we will go to heaven? Perhaps Secret would…but me? Somehow, I doubt it.

Nightwing said his own goodbyes and we both left quietly via the Justice League transporter tubes that deposited us first on the moon for a brief moment then back into the cave. Flash waved to Nightwing in the few seconds that we were there but did not give him time to wave back. Batman turned around in his seat and watched us leave the platform.

He sat in front of the giant computer that connected him not only to the Tower but also to the Justice League computers as well as allowing him access to STAR labs and various other computers around the world, most without their permission. Different monitors sat around him tuned to various different screens while the large one in front of him was curiously blank. He turned back into his seat and typed a few keys before turning back to us.

"Well?" he asked.

I smiled and nodded. "Everything is okay."

"I'm glad. A young man such as yourself needs his friends!" Batman turned back to the computer and Oracle appeared.

I flinched at the words 'young man'.

After a few seconds her 'mechanical' appearance dissolved and Barbara Gordon appeared. "There you are!"

I smiled up at the beautiful red head and bowed. "Of course!"

"Do you have any idea how worried I've been!" she admonished.

I bowed my head and looked appropriately contrite. "I'm sorry."

She turned toward Dick standing beside me and waved her finger at him. "And you! Making me think the worst? I oughta keel haul you!"

"I'm sorry." he echoed looking properly chastised.

"Don't ever let that happen again!" she ranted.

Smirking by the computer, Bruce laughed into his hand as the feisty woman that was once Batgirl read us the riot act.

Speaking of Batgirl, she stood off to one side watching quietly as Spoiler draped herself over one of the chairs. I could not read Batgirl as she carefully composed herself and her emotions. I could hear her quiet heartbeat. I could hear her even breathing. I could tell from a sniff that she was…human. But I could not scent emotion off of her.

On the other hand, Spoiler was angry. She directed a glare at me that could have melted a glacier frozen on Pluto. She looked from Nightwing back to me, and I knew exactly what she was thinking. Her aura was darkened with suspicion. I wondered who she hated most at the moment…me or Nightwing? Me for…betraying her, at least in her eyes, or Nightwing, for being competition, she and I both remember what she had to have seen that night on the rooftop.

Oblivious to it all sat Batman who, I suspected, knew more than he ever let on but had long since decided that if he didn't mention things…then they would not 'exist'.

I had just told my friends in Young Justice the truth about my condition and I could not bring myself to tell Stephanie. I decided right then that anything that Stephanie and I had together could not have been love in any sense of the word.

I had not told Batman but not for the same reasons. I feared what it would do to him if he knew that I had, in fact, died. He had already lost one partner to death and it nearly broke him. What would it do to him if he discovered that he had, technically, lost another one?

Another reason I was reluctant to tell him was that I knew he would feel it necessary to take on every vampire in the world. He would be dead within days. Not to mention that I would be dead within hours of his campaign. I'm pretty sure that would assure my final death. While it was true I was violating The Masquerade by telling the team, they weren't likely to run off and start telling everyone that I was a bloodsucking vampire.

To be honest…I'm not sure that Stephanie wouldn't take it upon herself to destroy me. Batgirl was another unknown. She could go either way. Either not caring a whit or deciding I'm a danger that needed to be removed.

Oracle? I would have to discuss that with Nightwing.

But Batman? I knew that was a bad idea. He would never be able to accept it without wanting to act.

Oracle finished lecturing us and leaned back in her wheelchair to wait for us to reply. The simplest thing for us to both say was a quiet. "Yes, ma'am."

She seemed satisfied with the answer and turned to toward Nightwing. "Will you be stopping by tonight?"

I looked sharply over at Nightwing as he cleared his throat. "Um, yes."

Oracle smiled fondly. "I'll be waiting, Stud Wonder!"

I suddenly wanted to rip Oracle's throat out. Visions of her blood pooling at my feet flashed before my eyes. Her dead glazed eyes staring at nothing as her heart stopped beating as I ripped it out, her throat under my teeth as I drained her viciously.

My fantasy was interrupted by a chuckle across the room.

Stephanie grinned as I glared from behind my mask and Nightwing shifted on his feet looking from Oracle to me. Batman studied us closely before carefully turning away. Only two thoughts flitted through my suddenly red hazed brain. 'Kill her…and…Oh, shit!'

^*^*^*^*^*^^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^

I paced the length of my room from one end to the other. Nightwing had left not even minutes after talking to Oracle. I glanced at the clock and saw that it was only about three in the morning. We hadn't actually stayed at the birthday party long and it was still early at that point, at least for me.

Batman had cast me a wary look before he and the others had taken off for a last patrol. I had begged off citing tiredness, but I was wide-awake.

I walked to the window and looked outside. Gusts of wind tossed powdered snow back into the air and blew it into drifts. The small sparkles danced under the moon and I grasped my upper arms tightly, feeling my fingernails dig into the cold skin.

He had actually gone.

It was all I could do not to follow.

I wanted to find her and twist her little red head off her body. And no! Don't you dare start commenting on pots and gooses and ganders and kettles and all that! On some level I knew that what he was doing was really no different than anything I had done. But on another level I still wanted to show up, break her neck, skin her, and then rub her down with salt.

I heard Alfred pass my room several times before the soft knock came that preceded him opening the door.

"Master Timothy? I thought you would be sleeping! I brought you clean clothes." He put the clothes in the dresser putting aside one set and holding them out to me.

I took them and laid them upon the bed returning instead to the window.

"Master Timothy? What is going on?" he asked, folding his hands in front of him.

"On? Nothing." I said lightly.

"Master Timothy, I may be an old man, and I may not be one of the world's finest detectives. I might not be a part of some…Justice League, or Titans, or Young Justice. But I can tell when something is amiss with my family. And you are as much a part of my family as Master Bruce." He looked at me somberly.

I closed my eyes and threw my head back silently beseeching the stars to tell me what to do. They laughed at me. It was almost a relief since I had thought that perhaps they had forsaken me. {Not forsaken, busy…busy like a bee…buzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, listening to the buzz and making plans…}

The stars fell silent and I opened my eyes to still see Alfred waiting patiently for me to answer.

"What exactly do you want explained?" I asked.

"Why haven't you eaten since your arrival?" he asked me.

"I haven't been hungry?" I asked back.

"Master Timothy, perhaps I should rephrase the question. Why are there packages of blood in Master Dick's refrigerator?" He lifted his eyebrow and leveled a stern look at me.

I groaned. "Because you already know the answer and you want me to confess now?"

He nodded slowly. "I assume that you are the one with the…condition…since you are the one that…disappeared…and Master Dick's appetite has not changed while yours has. Master Timothy, your skin is as pale as the Joker's and cold as ice. Your eyes, the rare moments when you will remove that confounded mask, are no longer blue but a kind of gray silvery color and the one time you removed your gloves your fingernails were like polished glass. Sir, I have to ask, are you…a vampire? I know that such things should not exist but in such a world as the one we live, where men can fly and magic is real, I cannot continue to discount such a possibility! "

I took a few steps to a chair and collapsed into it holding my head. "Oh…no…no…no."

"Master Timothy…" he began.

"If they don't kill me it will be a miracle. Why don't I just take a full page ad out in the New York Times…Timothy Drake A.K.A. Robin, the boy wonder, has become a vampire!" I groaned again.

I closed my eyes and continued to hold my head in my hands. After a few seconds I felt a hand settle on my shoulder. "Master Timothy?"

"Yes?"

"Please explain to me what exactly is going on and how this could have happened?" He settled into a chair next to mine.

Alfred was silent the entire time. He didn't interrupt me with any questions. He just let me speak at my own pace and explain. I told him everything. Well, almost everything. I did manage to edit a lot of it out. I couldn't edit it out for you. Not with you doing the telepathic thing. But what he didn't hear didn't hurt him, you know? But even so I think he still knew. Knew the parts that I had left out, filled in the blanks for himself.

When I was done speaking he remained quiet for a long time. I looked up at him and he regarded me carefully before he finally spoke.

"We need to tell Master Bruce. I agree that it will not be easy but it must be done. He would eventually figure it out and as it stands he will be very angry that he was not told in the beginning though I do understand why you and Master Dick did not. I do not know at this time a good way to cushion the blow for him, so to speak." He folded his hands in his lap and pursed his lips appearing lost in thought.

I shook my head vigorously. "You don't understand. It wasn't just because of Bruce. I mean yeah for the most part it is, but it is also…I'm not supposed to tell anyone about this, and I've already told too many people. If they find out, they will kill me! Final death type kill!"

"Surely…"

"No. See, the thing is I don't think you humans exactly realize how many vampires there are in the world and with the exception of the Sabbat ones, they all adhere to the Masquerade. I have endangered it just by telling you and Young Justice. I know Young Justice will keep my secrets but if Bruce finds out he will try to take them on! He will be dead within days of trying. I will be dead within hours! The Prince likes me but not so much as to endanger all of Kindred society!" I ranted while Alfred remained seated perfectly calm.

"I think you underestimate Master Bruce." He sighed.

"I think you are giving him too much credit. I am dead! I died in front of him. What did he do when I was still buried?" I asked.

Alfred looked down at his hands and cleared his throat. "He went back into a decline, he became reckless…it was like when Jason died."

"What do you think he is going to do if he realizes that I am, in fact, still dead? What do you think he is going to try to do to the ones that put me in this condition? Do you think he won't seek vengeance? His entire life has been dedicated to the pursuit of vengeance! And don't try to deny it!" I shook my finger at him. I felt a little silly lecturing Alfred but I was frightened that he might take it upon himself to inform Bruce of my condition.

"It pains me to admit that you may…you may have a point. But, I still believe that he must be informed in the near future. He needs to understand what is going on and why. If they do manage to turn the Joker…" Alfred stood.

"I know. I know." I stood as well. "Who knew that some day I would have to play bodyguard to the Joker?"

I shook my head as Alfred straightened the line of his jacket.

"Indeed, these are interesting times." Alfred shook his head sadly. "I will leave you to your thoughts."

I nodded my thanks as he closed the door behind him.

I returned to my thoughts. I thought of the many ways I could torture Barbara.




It was an hour later that I heard and felt Dick return to our floor. I found myself at the door straining all of my new senses trying to glean any and all information that I could. I heard him pause at my door then walk on. I only briefly debated whether or not to go to his room.

Nightwing opened his door immediately and frowned as I looked up at him. "Well?" I asked him.

Dick cocked his head to the side and asked. "Well what?"

"How was your date?" I didn't bother to hide the venom in my voice and he gestured me into the room.

"How was your date…Stud Wonder?" Bile dripped off the last two words and he took a step back.

"Why do you care?" he growled at me.

"Just curious." My favorite fantasy of the death of Barbara Gordon played out behind my eyes.

Dick's lips twisted into a dark grin. "It was nice."

He gasped and fell into the wall as I threw myself against him gripping him hard around his throat. Through the red haze that colored my vision I saw him pull at my hands trying to pry them from his windpipe. He gasped, face turning red, unable to speak. I tightened my grip and growled pushing him harder against the wall as I pressed myself against his body. My fangs dropped. His struggles became weaker and weaker and his eyes stared up at me, pleading…

I threw myself backward and stared in horror as he slumped to the floor still looking up at me.

"I'm…I'm…sorry!" I whispered, forcing my face back into human guise. "I'm so sorry!"

He leaned against the wall staring at me and for the first time I could see real fear in them. His throat was already turning a dark color and I could see the marks left from my fingers. I pulled my mask away from my face and threw it across the room. "Dick…please…I'm sorry! I really am!"

He shook his head and edged away from me crawling as I came closer.

"I didn't mean it. I'm sorry! I just…I just…"

I stopped moving toward him and let my hands fall to my sides. "I'll leave. I shouldn't be here. I'm a danger to you and everyone around me."

Nightwing called out to me as I rushed through the door letting it slam behind me. I didn't have too long before dawn and I knew I had to find shelter before then. I ran toward the only other place I had ever felt secure. Lestat's Asylum.




I was half way there before I realized that I could not arrive in my Robin costume. It was easily remedied with a quick smash and grab on the way there. The store's alarm blared in the night as I continued to run toward my Prince and my Sire's Sire.

It was a relief when I saw the nondescript building. Most of the cars that would have been parked nearby had long since departed. Only a couple was still in the parking lot. They had been parked so long that the snow had drifted up the sides covering the door handles.

Knocking on the door I had a moment of fear when I worried whether anyone was indeed still on the premises. The door opened a crack to reveal the bouncer I had seen on my previous visit. He looked me over before opening the door wide enough for me to enter.

"They are in back!" He pointed with his thumb toward the velvet-covered door.

The place looked different in the bright lights. The strobe light had been turned off for the day, the smoky atmosphere had disappeared, no music played and only a few workers moved among the tables cleaning up. Everything gleamed and glittered as everything was meticulously cleaned and put away for the day. I crossed the floor quickly trying to ignore the sound of my boots on the wooden floor.

I pushed the velvet to the side and threw the door open…

Finding myself face to face with Niculaie.

Behind him Jones and Sabastian wore identical expression of irritation. I swallowed hard as I backed up a step. "Sorry, I'll…uh…"

"No, you will come in and close the door." Sabastian smiled wryly. "It is okay. We were just in the middle of a…discussion…with Niculaie."

"Is that what this was called?" Niculaie asked with a raised brow. "Usually if yelling is involved…"

"Niculaie? You are in my city now. We will call it a banana if I want to call it a banana." Sabastian lounged against a pillow. "It is not necessary to involve Timothy in any conflict between ourselves."

"It is about Timothy that…"

"Niculaie." The name was whispered but held all the malice that a curse could.

"What is going on?" I asked as Jones came to stand by me.

"Niculaie heard that you had presented yourself to Sabastian's court. Apparently, he was curious when he heard that you had stayed…after." Jones told me laying a hand upon my shoulder.

"Apparently, Niculaie is nosy." Sabastian added.

"Niculaie was investigating what had happened." Niculaie snarled. "I have family that for some…unfathomable reason…cares for this…thing."

Jones wrapped an arm around my shoulders and pulled me tightly against his chest. "He may care, but he does not understand our ways. I know what family you refer to. And it is because of him that Timothy has returned to us in such a state, I'm sure!"

I looked from one man to another unsure of what was exactly going on. I got the impression that Dick had once again called upon the Gangrel to look after me. "Just…just someone tell me what is going on here!" I yelled.

They all looked at me suddenly and my cheeks burned with their attention. I cleared my throat and tried again. "Why are you here, Niculaie? You don't even like me."

"Dick called me earlier this evening. He told me that you had…met…with these two. In private." His voice lilted on the last word and I caught his true meaning.

"What I do in 'private'," I allowed my own voice to raise on the word, "is of no concern to Nightwing. And…what…he does…in private is no concern of mine." My voice roughed as I said the last part and I felt Jones squeeze me in a one armed hug.

"What is your business with the fledge, Jones?" Niculaie growled, sharp fangs dropped down as he glared.

"He is my childe's childe. When he met final death he became mine." Jones own fangs dropped and his other arm came to wrap around me.

"As Jolly is my childe that makes Timothy of my line!" Sabastian added from his place still reclined on the floor. "And you are a visitor here, Niculaie. Do not forget yourself!"

Niculaie made a visible effort to return his face to human form but continued to glare at all of us.

"Why was he not claimed properly?" Niculaie growled, still eyeing me.

"His Sire was killed the night Timothy rose from his grave. Tyler was destroyed before he could bring Timothy home." Sabastian told him. "We were unsure of where Timothy had gotten off to at first. By the time we had traced him, he was already in Bludhaven."

"By introducing him as a Gangrel, you made it impossible for us to introduce him as anything BUT a Gangrel." Jones groused.

Sabastian held up a finger. "On the other hand it may have worked to our advantage, sweetling."

"What advantage?" Niculaie asked still growling sub vocally. "Who killed his Sire?"

Sabastian and Jones exchanged a heated look in which much was said without a word. I leaned back into Jones and laid my head against his chest. "I think Niculaie can be trusted."

They looked at me and then at Niculaie. "Perhaps."

"Nightwing trusts him." I said.

"Yet, Nightwing does not trust you." Jones whispered in my ear.

"I haven't given him much reason to trust me." I whispered back. "I wouldn't even trust me at this point. In fact, I can't be trusted. That is why I'm here."

Sabastian slowly stood up and crossed to Niculaie. "Can you be trusted?"

Niculaie tensed. "Better than you lot!"

"Sit." Sabastian gestured at the various cushions and pillows on the floor.

Sabastian seemed to melt back into the pillows as though he had never moved. Jones sat down near his Sire and pulled me back into his arms while Niculaie kneeled down with a look of distinct distaste. "Tell me." Niculaie spat.

"Tyler was killed by Sabbat Malkavians. They work for a Sabbat Brujah who wishes to take over Gotham and is connected with a network that wants to eventually take over all the major cities…including Bludhaven…on this coast." Sabastian flexed his fingers before letting them steeple in front of him.

Niculaie blinked with a look of confusion as the aggression that originally adorned his face faded.

"It gets worse. They intend to turn the Joker. They believe that with his help they can attain their goals." Jones said still holding me tightly.

"But…" Niculaie began.

"They are the ones that arranged for his…court case. They used their influence to hire the lawyers and it was they who were able to bring him from Antarctica back to Gotham." Sabastian added. "We have been following their schemes and believe that they will attack and soon turn the Joker."

Niculaie looked at me questioningly.

"Yes, he was turned to help protect the Joker." Sabastian nodded. "Tyler was ordered to turn Timothy. We arranged a Sabbat style attack to draw Batman and Robin out. It worked wonderfully."

"Why turn him at all?" Niculaie asked, looking sick.

"The Joker is a special case; if he is turned it will take a special type of person to fight him. Someone who has fought the Joker before!" Sabastian stated. "Such people do not usually exist among our kind, especially among Malkavians. And other clans never take ours seriously. Besides, this is our problem, and we do have our pride as much as any clan does. This is a serious threat and not to be taken lightly. We weighed this decision very carefully. We needed to turn a hero. Robin turned out to be the best option."

"How? Why not Batman or any of the others in this God forsaken town?" Niculaie asked staring at me.

Sabastian sat up and faced Niculaie. "As I said we weighed our decision carefully. Let me be blunt, child of the Gangrel. Our clan is cursed. It is well known that to be given the Dark Kiss by a member of our clan is to be Embraced by insanity itself! And it was necessary for a Malkavian to face this challenge. If a Malk embraces someone with mental problems then their problems are magnified. Sometimes in unpredictable ways."

"That does not answer my question." Niculaie said.

"To again put it bluntly, most of the 'heroes' in this town are just as nutty as the criminals they fight!" Jones laughed. "With the exception of two…at least…rather they were the least of the nutty."

"Nightwing, who is actually a Bludhaven resident…and Robin. But as we said we investigated. We are well aware that the Gangrel clan has claim on Nightwing." Sabastian nodded toward Niculaie. "I assume you are waiting for him to age a little more?"

I jumped within Jones' arms and looked to Niculaie for a denial.

"Yes, we've been waiting for him to be ready. Not only in seeming age but also in maturity. I'm pleased with his progress. I plan to turn him rather soon." Niculaie actually smiled.

Jones held me tightly, leaning forward to rest his head against mine. "Calm yourself, little brat." he whispered. "Calm!"

"As you can see that left only Robin. Intelligent, strong, courageous, saner than most heroes, and he has fought the Joker on more than one occasion. It was unfortunate that he was so young at his turning but it was unavoidable." Sabastian nodded. "But I do have to admit that there is something alluring about his appearance, innocent, delicious. I don't regret his presence at all."

"Why did you not just kill the Joker yourselves?" Niculaie asked, beginning to relax against the many pillows.

"Even in a maximum security prison he is dangerous. He is much too dangerous to send lower generation vampires after, even higher generation vampires would be hard pressed to face him. Not to mention that such a move would definitely risk the Masquerade." Sabastian lay back down and turned on his side to face Niculaie.

"I can see your…reasoning…I suppose. I guess I even understand why you did what you did." Niculaie nodded. "What is the plan?"

"Robin and other select vampires will basically be playing the Joker's bodyguards. The idea is to try and prevent his turning. Failing that…" Sabastian shrugged.

Niculaie frowned. "Failing that, Robin is to bring him down."

"Yes." Sabastian looked over at me with a smile. "He is beautifully made. He will not fail us."

Niculaie ran a hand through his hair. "I always thought you Malks stood together."

"No more than any other clan. Our clan is no different than any of the others when the division between Sabbat and Camarilla comes into play. We would no more stand with the Sabbat than a Sabbat Gangrel and a Camarilla Gangrel would stand together." Jones said, stroking my hair. I relaxed under his touch and settled for glaring at the Gangrel.

Niculaie studied us closely for a few moments before he looked up at Sabastian. "I'm in."

"In?" the Prince asked, raising an eyebrow.

"I'm in, I want to help. I want to be in on this. The Joker is bad news and having heard about him from Richard I take anything concerning him seriously. I want in on this. Even if that means I have to work with you Malks." Niculaie gestured to all three of us.

"Well…then, I guess you are…In!" Sabastian smiled.

Niculaie rolled his eyes.

The Gangrel turned back to me, "Now, how about you explain what is going on between you and Richard?"

I shook my head. "Nothing. In fact, I said good-bye to him tonight. I…I shouldn't…be around him. I don't intend to ever see him again."

Grave blue eyes regarded me before Niculaie smiled a tight and satisfied smile. "Good, that is as it should be."

I closed my eyes and turned toward Jones' chest, who held me tightly and stroked my back while murmuring words of comfort in my ear.

The pillows shifted beside me and I looked up to see Sabastian had moved beside us. He reached out his hand and stroked the side of my face. "Yes, it is as it should be." he whispered.

I closed my eyes again and snuggled between both Malkavians.

Niculaie grunted his assent. "We will keep the humans out of this from this point on. I'll talk to Richard tonight. I will let him know that Timothy has been returned to his clan where he belongs. There is no more need to involve any of them."

I nodded against Jones chest. "I understand." I whispered.

Niculaie sighed and rolled his eyes. "Humans can't understand anyway. You are better off. Don't take it too hard."

I looked up in time to watch him stand. "I must get to my haven before the dawn fully rises. I will return tonight."

The Prince nodded. "Tonight then. Tonight we set up watch. My sources tell me that the Sabbat are moving into position."

"Hm." Niculaie grunted as the door closed behind him.

"Little one, you will stay here from now on." Sabastian continued to stroke my hair and face. "Your heart hurts for now but it will quickly fade."

"Promise?" I asked.

"We could not survive for centuries at a time if pain did not pass. Time as they say…heals all wounds." Jones whispered into my ear.

Hands lightly stroked my sides as lips found the sensitive spot behind my ear. "You are welcomed and wanted here." Jones continued.

"I'm sorry I ruined everything. I know I was supposed to stay there. I…I attacked Dick tonight." I said, my voice growing husky as the Prince pulled me to my feet. "He…I…I don't know what happened. One moment I was in control and the next I was trying to kill him."

Sabastian pulled me closer and shushed me. "Little one, it is in our nature to be violent. You are very young. Strong yes, but still young, you have much to learn. You want him, and some part of you wants to claim him. Claim him as yours or kill him. It is an instinct that is very hard to deny. Until either Niculaie or yourself claim him or you lose your attraction to him he is truly not safe around you. I had hoped that you could distance yourself from those feelings; I had hoped the attraction wasn't so strong. I was wrong. You will stay here and we will adjust our plans as events unfold."

As he spoke he stroked my hair and my face and I leaned into his caresses.

"But what about Batman? He will come looking for me!" I whispered. "I messed everything up!"

"Do not concern yourself. An answer will be found." The Prince slowly led me to a new door hid behind a bright tapestry. "The sun rises and we must rest."

He unlocked the door and opened it in one smooth motion. Steps led down into darkness and he continued to pull me close behind him. Jones followed us with a smile as he closed the door and flipped the light switch on.

Bright gray concrete patched the sides of the staircase. There were little pieces of concrete and brick that still littered the stairs and a couple of the steps had been completely reduced to rubble. Sabastian gracefully stepped over them without even a downward glance. The walls were uneven and it took me a few minutes to figure out what had happened. It had never occurred to me that the vampire community had to deal with the earthquake the same as any of the other Gotham residents.

At the bottom of the steps Sabastian opened another door and switched off the lights to the steps. As we entered the new room I nearly tripped over some debris in the floor. All around us signs of new construction filled the room. Strong beams held up the ceiling and walls had been completely rebuilt.

I squeezed his hand as I saw the pile of rubble in the corner. "The earthquake…?"

"We were fortunate, little one. The earthquake happened in the middle of the night. We lost very little of our numbers. Most were hunting at the time. Very few of us perished. Many of us escaped into Bludhaven until it was safe to return while others considered it a gift from the gods, hunting with abandon and with no fear of the Masquerade." Sabastian said, leading us into yet another room.

"Did you go to Bludhaven?" I asked.

"No, I stayed here. Much to my sweetling's consternation, he feared for me."

Jones made a small noise behind us, "This place is a mad house at the best of times…"

"Which is why our clan is more than at home here." Sabastian laughed. "But I could not leave anymore than a captain could leave a sinking ship."

"I think…Batman felt a little like that. It's his home…" I shrugged, feeling a little vague.

"As it is now mine. And I protect what is mine." The lights came on and I gasped in surprise. After the destruction in the other room and the staircase I had not imagined that such splendor would exist down there. The room was a little like the room above in that there were no chairs or tables. But from there the differences were staggering. In the center of the room was a round bed only a few inches from the floor, covered in black silk. Pillows filled the room and tapestries hung from every wall, brightly coloring the room and giving the illusion of a bright summer's day. Books lined one wall and a computer sat in one corner. I swallowed a giggle at the sight of an expensive computer system sitting on the floor. Papers were scattered around the bed and a closer look revealed that each newspaper was written in a different language. From a glance I could identify French, German, Russian, Arabic, Japanese, and many others that I could not identify without first having to pick it up.

Expensive antiques lined the floor in a haphazard manner and Jones was careful to step over many of the more delicate ones in his way. Sabastian pulled me into the room completely and led me to the bed. "You will stay here, little one."

Sabastian gently but firmly pushed me into the bed and I looked up to see stars painted on the ceiling above. "Stars…" I whispered.

Sabastian lay down while propping himself up on one arm and looked up with a smile. "Before I was turned I was a sailor. The stars were my friends; if I could see them then I knew where home was. If I were lost they would help me find my way. They became a comfort to me and I would begin to feel lost if I could not see them. After all these centuries I still feel that way."

The Prince reached out a hand and pulled me closer as he shifted around to remove my clothing. Jones pulled off his jacket and began to also undress as he began to speak. "For me, the stars and the moon are an echo of day. I don't miss the sun because I can still look up and see its reflection."

I kicked off my boots with a sigh and climbed between the two vampires. "When I was trapped in my casket I would close my eyes tightly and stars would appear. At some point I guess I started to talk to them. After a while they started talking back to me."

They wrapped their arms around me and held me close between them. "What are they? How do they speak?" I asked in a whisper.

Sabastian quietly laughed. "It is called the Malkavian Madness Network."

Jones turned on his side and faced me completely as a finger traced my spine from behind. "Basically, what you are hearing isn't the stars directly. You are hearing other Malks. We communicate through the Network through different mediums. Sometimes you may hear it as a hallucination like the stars speaking; sometimes you might pick something up during a dream. We sometimes see the past, the present, and if we are lucky… a hint of the future! It isn't easy to communicate through the network."

Sabastian began to rub his hand down my sides. "Often it is cryptic or purely random. One cannot often speak plainly through the network and often the message is…lost in the translation. Sometimes though, the communication isn't intended. Many Malks unintentionally transmit. That can be rather entertaining. But the Network can be used to transmit valuable information but it should be passed along by an older and powerful vampire so that the message is understood."

Jones nodded as he reached out a finger and traced my jaw. "It is why many of the other clans are under the impression that we all stand together in our madness. To an outsider it will appear as hundreds to thousands of Malks just suddenly 'knew' and stood up to accomplish a single objective."

"The Network is how we realized where you had gone and how to find you." Sabastian continued, stroking my bared flesh.

"I and Jolly were able to focus on you and listen in on the human training you." His hands crept around to my front and began to slide down. I writhed as he came nearer to his goal and moaned as Jones added his own hands to the game.

"So…" I gasped. "Were you the ones that were telling me about the different clans…sorta?" I was beginning to find it hard to concentrate.

"Yes, little one." Sabastian nipped my ear. "We've been with you since almost the beginning. Although I imagine the first you heard was of Tyler. Your father in darkness."

I tossed my head back as Sabastian's teeth grazed my neck. "Oh, God!"

Sabastian's hand pumped at my erection while Jones' found its way to my backside. Their arms crossed over my hip and I was pinned by them. Jones' hard erection pressed against my leg while Sabastian's teased me from behind.

Jones tickled my entrance causing me to gasp and he swooped in for a deep kiss that left my lips vibrating with the intensity. I moaned in disappointment as the teasing finger left completely and he snickered. He brought the finger to my lower lip and stroked it gently before he tipped it forward pushing it past my lips into my mouth.

I sucked on the finger bringing a moan to Jones' own lips before I reached out and touched his hairy chest. Soft dark fur coated his body and I found myself petting my way down from his nipples down to his stomach and beyond as I finally touched him. He thrust into my hand as he moved his finger in and out of my mouth in a parody of lovemaking coating it with my saliva.

Behind me Sabastian placed chaste kisses along my neck and shoulders as he continued to stroke the hardness between my legs.

Jones took his finger and lightly tapped the fangs that had dropped down before he pressed me with a hard kiss. I jumped in their arms as the slick finger found it's way back to my backside. I squirmed and gasped in their arms.

"So responsive, little one." Sabastian muttered as he pulled away. I moaned in disappointment as Jones pulled back also.

"Not to worry, little brat." Jones pushed me down onto the bed and moved down my body capturing me with his lips and making me arch off the bed. Teeth grazed skin without piercing as he pulled his head back before plunging back down and swallowing me whole causing a scream to erupt from my mouth.

The finger came back and pressed its way in, I shuddered from the sensations tossing my head back into the pillow with wild abandon. I vaguely felt the bed shift but was unable to open my eyes to follow the movement as tongue and fingers worked me over.

The moan from Jones took me completely by surprise and added to my own pleasure as the vibration stimulated me further. I forced my eyes open to see Sabastian over Jones' shoulder eyes glazed with passion. One hand clutched at Jones' hip and the other was wrapped around him stroking him in time with his thrusts. I found myself moaning with Jones as I was caught up in the erotic sight of Sabastian pounding into the other vampire and also in the sensation of Jones' fingers and mouth on myself. I was caught in torment as I tried to thrust both up into his mouth and back on the invading fingers that sent off sparks behind my eyes every other second.

I wanted it to go on forever. But all too soon it had to end as I could not last and instead came in a gush down Jones' throat. Slowly, he crawled up my body with Sabastian still mounting him and straddled me bending down to kiss me passionately as the other vampire continued to fuck him mercilessly.

Reaching up I stroked his chest and playfully flicked at the hard nipples I found there driving him mad with lust as he leaned in again to kiss me roughly. I laughed as he tossed his head back with a groan as Sabastian cruelly gripped his weeping erection and kept him from coming. He wept with frustration and Sabastian nipped him playfully with a grin.

I carefully scooted down under them until my head was near enough to take him into my own mouth and I licked the pearly drops that appeared. The brown haired vampire whimpered as I used some of the same tricks he had done on me to him. Above us Sabastian grunted and released Jones erection to allow me full access. I fondled his balls as I sucked at him hard imagining that it was blood I was trying to get at. I grasped his thighs to hold him in place as I sucked and I could feel Sabastian's legs that had straddled my chest just behind Jones'.

Jones' fisted the sheets as he came closer and closer to coming and I sucked harder, swirling my tongue around the edge of the tiny hole before dropping it down to lick around the hood. I heard the sheet rip a second before the first jet of thick cream hit the b ack of my throat. Still imagining blood I swallowed deeply over and over again as he began to thrust into my mouth despite the hold I had on his legs. Seconds later Sabastian's own scream added to Jones and they both collapsed to either side of me as we snuggled together falling into deep sleep.




The shower was exquisite. I had fed immediately upon waking. Hot living blood delivered directly to me, the mess cleaned up for me after I was done. It was perfect... it was wonderful…it was not home. Dick wasn't there. It sucked.

I glared at a blank wall and reflected upon my sudden 'misfortune'.

"You are pouting, little one. I know you miss him. But at the moment both of you are better off with space between you. If he could accept you, want you as much as you want him, he would not be in as much danger. Though to be honest he would have always been in SOME danger." Sabastian said as he swept into the room. Silk flew behind him as his robe billowed with his stride. In one smooth move he removed the silk dressing gown and threw it onto the bed revealing the jewel colored clothing beneath.

I looked up in surprise as I noticed that he was not wearing his usual toga but instead a silk shirt of the deepest blue and denim jeans of the same hue. He noticed my surprise and smiled as he handed me a set of clothes for myself. "We are going out in public. We would attract attention dressed as we are most comfortable. More to the point, you would be highly recognized and togas just aren't good stakeout wear."

Dressing in silence I watched as Sabastian shook Jones awake and sent him grumbling into the bathroom to shower and get ready. Sabastian came up behind me as I was pulling on the soft jeans and placed his hands upon my hips. "I'd like to keep you undressed for the rest of eternity, little one." he whispered in my ear the husky sound sending shivers down my spine.

"Keep that up and we will never make it to the stakeout!" I whispered back as he nipped lightly at my ear.

"It is tempting, sweet childe. It is very tempting!" His hand slid forward and grasped my growing erection.

I pushed myself into his hand as he began to stroke me through the denim. I moaned loudly as his mouth found the junction between my neck and shoulder and felt my head fall backward unto his shoulder. "Oh God, Sabastian…"

The snaps of my jeans came away from each other under his fingers and he took me back out of my jeans.

"I just put those on you know…" I breathed as he started to push the jeans down my legs.

"I can't help it if you are so much fun to undress." he said into my hair as he nuzzled me.

"Oh, fuck…we don't have time for this." I whined.

Sabastian laughed softly as he continued to push the material off my legs placing little kisses down my back as he removed the pants. "We'll make time!"

I groaned as he pulled me to the floor among the many pillows that habitually filled his rooms. He pushed me face down onto the ground and nipped at the skin of my buttocks as I began to move against the silken cushions under me. "Sabastian…"

"Beautiful childe. Face of an angel!" he whispered to me as I struggled to contain myself.

Seconds later I felt the wet tongue probe inside and fought to keep from bucking. Sabastian grabbed my hips once more and held me tightly as the tip of his tongue teased the opening into my body. I clutched the silk in my hands as I tried to keep from crying out pulling one of the pillows to my face. As the beautiful and talented tongue forced its way in I shuddered and called out. "Oh God!"

It circled and slipped in only to pull back out and tease me time and time again. "Torture!" I sighed as he nuzzled me and fucked me with his mouth.

"Please! Please!" I begged clawing at the pillows.

He pulled away and I swallowed a frustrated scream. "Please what, little one?"

"Please!" I tossed my head back and he caught my throat in a searing kiss.

"What do you want? Tell me what you want!" he growled, digging his fingernails into the flesh of my hips.

"Fuck me! Please!" I growled back.

He laughed viciously as his tongue once more found its way back to its torture. I wiggled under him, begging him over and over again to take me, to please take me now until tears appeared in my eyes.

When I thought I couldn't take it anymore I felt something longer and firmer probe inside. I gasped and he pulled me into his lap in one smooth motion. Inside a finger moved around curving in different directions driving me wild. "You like that?"

I groaned into his mouth as he suddenly kissed me deeply. Something slick coated his fingers as he added another finger and I found myself pushing backward onto his hand. He stretched me, pushing the fingers inside, flexing them and I became incoherent as a third followed, filling me more than I had ever felt before. Words babbled out of my mouth, "Please, God, Sabastian, fuck me, please, shit, oh fuck!" Nonsense with no meaning flowed out of my mouth as he continued to prepare me with agonizing slowness.

With his other hand he pulled my head back by the hair and mouthed my throat teasing me with sharp fangs that never quite cut into the skin but left trails of heat in their wake.

"Please, fuck me now!" I begged, real tears flowing out of my eyes.

In a violent move he pushed me back onto the floor covering my body with his. "That's what you want, little one?"

"Yes, yes, fuck me now!" I begged wrapping a hand in his long hair. "Now!" I growled into his face.

He laughed uproariously and grabbed my legs in his arms tossing them up. I wrapped them around his chest and felt his erection nudge my neglected hole. I pulled up with my legs raising myself as he pushed forward.

Pain and pleasure coursed through me as he filled me in one smooth motion. Sparks appeared behind my eyes and dazzled me like a million of my beloved stars all singing with pleasure.

I gasped and writhed as he pounded into me finally wrapping his long fingers around my neglected flesh, stroking me in time to his thrusts. "Yes…"

The world faded from view and darkness swam up to meet me as I came into his hand, seconds later I felt the warmth within as he released himself within me.

I heard applause from the doorway dimly. "Bravo! I do hope you two plan on a repeat performance of that!" Jones grinned.

Sabastian rolled off of me and buttoned his fly back up. "If you are good!"

"Oh, I'm very good!" Jones smirked, entering the room fully. "You can count on that. Of course what do you expect? You taught me everything I know!"

Jones captured Sabastian in a tight embrace kissing him hungrily. Breaking away Jones gasped. "What is the plan for tonight?"

"We will meet the others in a location a mile from the prison that they are keeping Joker in. For the most part at this time, we are just watching. Trying to discover how they intend to get a hold of him and hopefully stop them before they can accomplish their task. You are our contingency plan. You are in case we fail to avoid the problem all together. We are also hoping that your expertise will be of help. Not many of us have ever been on a… stakeout as I believe they are called." Sabastian rattled on as he gathered up little items to put into a small backpack while I redressed.

The look of worry upon the older vampire's face was foreign and so unlike any expression I had ever seen upon it. I had seen him amused, annoyed, affectionate, lustful, and content. I had even seen sadness flit across his face. But I had never seen him worried. It made me uneasy. Anything that made a thousand year old vampire nervous couldn't be good.

I smoothed down my own silk shirt and snorted as I realized how close in design it was to Sabastian's own clothing, mine being a dark red. Ruby to his sapphire. My hand paused over the link to Oracle, which I had taken off that morning. Sabastian glanced over at me and looked at the device considering.

"As much as I would like it if we could keep all humans out of this. It does involve humans in general. Part of the reason you were a good pick was because of your abilities, your knowledge, and basically everything about you. That would include your resources as well. I will leave it up to you whether or not you take that link. If you think it could in fact help us…" He waved at it and again the look of worry startled me. I held the link tightly in my hand as I considered his words.

I didn't really want any contact with her. But she did know the Joker; she was almost as obsessed with the villain as Bruce was with crime in general. He had after all paralyzed her from the waist down in his bid to get to Batman. I often wondered if she resented Bruce even a little for it. If perhaps she resented the fact that Bruce's paralysis had only been temporary compared to her own. Cured without much ill effect.

She was a hero in her own right. As the first Batgirl she had been out there fighting crime like any of the rest of us. Now, as Oracle, she had information at her fingertips that had proved invaluable to all us in the past.

I would be a fool to turn my nose up at it. The fact that Sabastian was worried alone was enough to realize that this was definitely not a situation to take lightly.

It wasn't a game. It was just as serious a situation as any of the conflicts I had faced as a human. More serious since I was basically working with amateurs. Amateurs with their own 'powers' true…but amateurs nonetheless. And our adversaries were far more dangerous than your ordinary run of the mill street thug. It was an organization that was apparently bent on taking over and destroying another organization that had been around before anyone had sat down and recorded the Bible on papyrus. The man the Sabbat sought for help had no compunctions about destroying the world on his whim. The combination was beyond bad.

I picked up the link and clipped it on. The connection came to life and I heard her voice. "Hey? People have been looking for you! Let me get your location!"

Hearing the worry in her voice I struggled to remain angry with her. She was the reason I was here and not with the others. No, that wasn't true, she was the catalyst but I was the one at fault. I was the one that couldn't control myself. It wasn't her fault that Dick was in love with her. It was my fault for not being able to let go.

Taking a deep breath I answered. "I'm fine, I'm with friends. I just needed to work out some things. Tell them not to worry."

I could hear a change in the electric whine; I could imagine her using the tracer inside. "At least let me know where you are at so I can tell them!"

"That is not necessary. I'm moving location in the next few minutes anyway." I moved around the room continuing to gather my things together.

I flinched as she gasped. "Robin? Why are you in a bar?"

"It isn't what you are probably thinking. I'm getting ready to leave now. My friends and I were just meeting with some associates here. Kind of a halfway point between places. We are changing location as we speak."

Jones toweled his hair as the three of us moved to the damaged staircase. I fumbled for the switch and turned the light back on.

"I will contact you later. Let the others know that a stakeout is being set up to watch out for the Joker. We think he plans to escape tonight. If I need any help I'll let you know."

I broke the connection but could still hear the tiny whine that allowed me to know that it could flare to life at any second. I only hoped that she would respect my unspoken request for privacy.

"I bet that goes over well." I sighed as I climbed the battered staircase. "She's going to have my head!"

Someone behind me patted my back as I opened the door and stepped through into the meeting room. Niculaie stood waiting for us. "The sun has been down half an hour already!"

The Gangrel pointed to the clock on the wall. "What the hell have you three been up to?"

My face burned with a blush as I remembered just why exactly we were running late. Niculaie noticed and blinked in surprise before clearing his throat and asking. "Are you three always this… sociable?"

We ignored him as we continued to the outer door leading into the club. Niculaie snorted and turned to follow as we passed him. Entering the club we found a group sitting in a corner booth waiting for us.

The club had not opened yet and many of the employees appeared to be setting up for the night. In one corner a young woman sat shifting through CDs and muttering to herself while the bartender looked through the bottles on the shelf behind him and made notes in a ledger. Another young man sat down at the cash register counting the change and marking the different amounts on a piece of paper.

The lights were on and the vampiric illusions that made the place look like something off of a movie set looked fake and dull. But I knew that as soon as the place was ready to open the lights would dim and the fog would roll in, lights would strobe and the music would pound giving the place a heartbeat of its own while people flooded in giving it life.

We approached a large table and stood before a group of five male vampires. Sabastian cleared his throat and waved at Niculaie. "He will be joining us tonight. His name is Niculaie, a Gangrel. This is Timothy…another…Gangrel. Your protégé? Am I correct?"

Sabastian smirked at Niculaie while the Gangrel sneered. "I suppose one could assume as much."

"Wonderful! I'm sure we will all work well together!" Sabastian clapped his hands together delightedly.

"Gangrels? Sabastian! This is our problem! We agreed…" the man nearest us started. His dark red hair glinted in the overhead lights.

Sabastian raised his hand and silenced him. "A situation arose and I needed outside expertise."

"What kind of expertise could they possibly offer us?" a blond man asked sitting farther away. He sneered in our direction as he crossed his arms in a stubborn manner.

Sabastian glowered as he turned toward the man. "Andrew, I think you are forgetting your place…" He lowered his voice and hissed. "Are you actually questioning my orders?"

"No, my Prince. I forgot myself." Andrew looked away and down into his lap, his hands falling to his sides. "I apologize."

"I thought so. Niculaie, Timothy, this is Andrew, Thomas, Jarred, Jonathon, and Samuel. They have been working on our particular…problem. They have been watching the Sabbat and have been reporting back. Anything new to report?"

Andrew stood up and looked at Niculaie and I carefully before proceeding. "They intend to strike tonight. We will have to hurry."

"I thought that we had more time!" The growl that tore from Sabastian's throat startled me. His face morphed and he grabbed Andrew tightly by the neck lifting him a foot off the ground. Andrew scrambled helplessly at the hand around his neck his feet kicking against the air.

Beside me Niculaie smirked. "Well, the ponce has some fire in him after all."

I looked up at the Gangrel in surprise and caught the leer he had cast Sabastian's way. I gaped a second before whispering. "You don't even like Malks!"

"Not as a rule. No." He frowned as he looked down at me. "But as they say…there are exceptions to every rule."

"Which reminds me. You and I need to have a little talk!" Niculaie growled low in his throat. Blue eyes laced with silver stared down at me sparkling with malice. "I talked to Nightwing before coming here."

I felt my stomach drop and was surprised that I could still feel nauseous even as a vampire. I swallowed and closed my eyes. "I have no excuse."

Meanwhile, Sabastian had thrown the blond vampire down onto the table, collapsing it as he fell. The other vampires stood and moved back a respectful distance as the cashier long since finished with counting the till came to clean up the mess silently without comment.

Andrew struggled to his feet avoiding the Prince's irate eyes. "My Prince, I only got word about it tonight before I arrived. The Joker's case will be thrown out of court and he will be sent back to the Slab. They anticipate that this will happen as soon as tomorrow! The Sabbat are being forced to implement their plan tonight or they will lose their opportunity!"

Sabastian turned and stalked away a few feet before turning back. When he turned back he had composed himself and smiled. "This might work. If they only have tonight there is a greater chance we can prevent their plan."

I was vaguely aware of the others walking toward the door. Niculaie grabbed my arm and pulled me close. "I saw the marks on his throat. He told me what you did. What he had said and how you reacted."

Nodding, I tried to look up. Licking my lips I tried to find the words. "I know. I deserve whatever… I have no excuse. I deserve anything you…"

He tightened his grip on my arm and I could feel bruises blossom and fade just as quickly with every movement of his fingers. I swallowed the sound of protest and looked down at the floor unable to look him in the eyes.

"You will not ever go near him again! I will not kill you this time. I suspect that the Prince of this city would order my death if I tried." Niculaie growled. "But, I will gladly risk it if you ever try something like this again!"

"It is no less than I deserve. What I did was unforgivable." I whispered.

"Damn right! He is ours! He is not going to be a Malkavian!" Niculaie narrowed his eyes and scowled.

Confusion danced across my mind. I had no idea what the hell he was talking about.

"I will embrace him myself! And no filthy lunatic is going to…"

I shook my head to clear it. "What?"

I felt like I had lost the plot again. Silently, I asked the stars for their wisdom but they only replied with a laugh. I was beginning to suspect that they laughed when they did not want to admit that they were as lost as I was. On the other hand, perhaps they just thought it was funny as hell.

The pressure on my arm increased and he wrenched it up nearly dislocating it. My bones threatened to break under his grip. "You will not claim him, you will not embrace him. He is promised to the Gangrel clan!"

"I-I wasn't…I mean…" I found myself blinking up at him and ignoring the pain in my arm as it made a sickening cracking sound. Within seconds it had turned numb and began to tingle. Already healing itself from the damage he was inflicting. "What?"

Niculaie abruptly let go of my arm. "What do you mean what?"

"I wasn't trying to claim him!" I shouted. The bartender looked over, bemused, before continuing with his inventory. The cashier had long since finished cleaning away the debris of the table and had begun to clean the counters and dust the different bottles. "I mean, I…well…"

Niculaie gawked at me for a minute before he burst out laughing. He released my arm and I held it with my free hand waiting for it to finish mending. He continued to chuckle at me shaking his head as though I were an amusing toddler who had said something funny.

I quietly seethed until finally I demanded. "What the hell is so funny?"

"You! I forget that you are still a neonate! You handle yourself well enough and project such calm that I forget that you have not been turned all that long ago and still haven't learned all of vampire society." Niculaie laughed again and I felt my cheeks burn. It was true, much of the Kindred ways still confused me and I still had much to learn. Under normal conditions I would learn at my Sire's side. Without my Sire I had been forced to depend on a Human, a Gangrel, and finally and only recently my grand Sire and great grand Sire. But I still hadn't had many days with them to learn much.

I found myself growling and Niculaie laughed even harder. "It isn't funny!"

"It is hilarious! You don't even realize what you did!" Niculaie grabbed my uninjured arm and started dragging me toward the door. "We are falling behind…"

Trying to shrug out of his grasp I discovered that I was trapped until he decided to let go. He was much older than me and even with the tiny additions to my strength by Sabastian and Jones I was still not strong enough to fight against an Elder. Vampires older than three hundred had greater strength than your run of the mill vamp. Though I suspect not as much as a vampire as old as Sabastian. "Just what did I do?"

"Besides scare the hell out of Richard?" Niculaie chuckled, sparing me a glance as he marched us out of the building.

"And myself…" I muttered.

Once outside I saw Sabastian and Jones enter separate cars. I recognized them as the ones that were usually untouched and covered with snow. They had been brushed off and de-iced, exhaust came from the tail pipe in toxic clouds polluting the air and tainting the snow beneath.

Niculaie pointed to the car that we would ride in. It was covered with a tarp and only had a light dusting of snow on it. Obviously it had been parked during that time in which we were 'distracted' making us late. It looked familiar to me and I found myself rushing toward it.

"I borrowed it earlier."

I stopped in my tracks and turned back to him favoring him with a look.

"Does borrow mean we avoid the police or does borrowed mean that we have till tomorrow before the body is found?" I snarled.

Niculaie shrugged and pulled the tarp off causing me to stumble mid-step. "I take it you want to drive?"

My car. Robin's car. My beautiful car that I thought I would never see again. I looked up and Niculaie smirked. "I told you I borrowed it. Didn't say from who!"

Nightwing.

I had never considered what had happened to my car after I died. I caught the keys as Niculaie threw them to me. He rolled the tarp up and threw it haphazardly into the back seat. I fumed as I realized that it would get my seats wet. He slid in the passenger side still laughing at me.

Stroking the steering wheel I took stock. Full tank of gas, the interior was clean, the dials all appeared in working order. It was still in perfect shape. I gripped the steering wheel before releasing it again to touch the dash.

"Well, are you going to fondle it some more or are you going to start the damn thing!"

Glaring at my passenger I turned the engine and soaked in the sight, smell, and feel of my car. MY car! The vibration underneath me thrilled me in a way that was almost reminiscent of sex.

Niculaie put on his seatbelt with a grunt. "Never did like these things."

"Seatbelts?" I asked.

"No. Horseless carriages!"




"So? Are you going to tell me what was so funny?" I asked.

The car slid into traffic like a shark cruising the water. Effortlessly, smooth, a predator among the masses of prey. The lights of the street threatened to dazzle my eyes with their brightness and I had to make the conscious effort to focus on the street.

"You don't even realize what you did." Niculaie was shaking his head again. I smirked as I realized that he was clutching the door handle with a death grip. He really didn't like 'horseless carriages'.

"Apparently not." I mumbled. I looked both ways as I pulled through an intersection following behind the Prince and Jones.

"He told me that he implied that he had been with Oracle. Sexually. He told me that you went psycho on him and attacked him. I saw the marks on his throat, too. You tried to claim him…apparently by instinct…luckily, you got hold of yourself before you could actually bite him and begin the Embrace."

I gripped the steering wheel hard and frowned. "He has nothing else to fear from me. I won't ever go near him again."

"Too right! He belongs to the Gangrel. I won't allow a Malk…" he growled at me.

"I don't want to hurt him! Doesn't it matter that I hurt him?" I screamed.

Niculaie frowned. "He will heal."

"I thought that you would be mad about him being hurt…" I shook my head. The light changed from green to yellow and quickly to red. I stopped and tapped on the steering wheel impatiently while Niculaie turned to look at me.

"Why? He gets hurt every night." Niculaie looked honestly confused.

"I thought you cared for him!" I growled. The wheels squealed as I accelerated.

"Of course I do, he is one of my descendants and will be my childe. Of course I care." Niculaie ran a hand through his hair. "Oh! The…oh…I get it. Neonates are so funny."

He was laughing at me again.

"Stop fucking laughing!" I hissed.

I pulled on the wheel sharply, changing lanes and sliding between two cars causing the one behind me to lay on the horn as I passed inches in front of its bumper. Niculaie gripped his seatbelt and gawked at me. I looked back at him seriously.

Without my mask the menace was unfettered.

He sneered at me seconds before I once more pulled the wheel changing lanes at whiplash speed. Niculaie's sneer fell into a panicked expression as I looked back at him. "Well?" I asked in a calm voice.

"Violence is a way of life for vampires. It is a part of our life… it is how we survive. We are hardwired for it. My problem with what you did isn't that you hurt him, it is that you almost embraced him!"

"I was going to kill him." I whispered.

Niculaie shook his head. "No, not really. Well, yeah he would be dead, but not for long. I'm pretty sure after the initial haze was over you would have turned him. You were jealous and angry."

"I have no right." I turned the wheel of the car and turned onto another street.

"No, you don't. He isn't yours to turn." Niculaie reiterated. He narrowed his eyes at me and stared at me from the far side of the car. His hands clutched the door handle.

"I know that. I don't want to turn him! I don't even want you to turn him! He deserves to live his life! With Oracle…if that makes him happy." I said sadly. I watched the road, the streetlights passing us rapidly, blurring so fast that they looked like one continuous streak of light.

"Can you slow down?" Niculaie whispered.

I didn't answer as I revved the engine higher, pressing the accelerator to the floor.

Niculaie raised an eyebrow, swallowing hard. "What makes you think he would be happy with Oracle?"

"He was with her…" I couldn't finish the sentence before Niculaie was howling with laughter again.

"What?" I yelled jerking the wheel again sending us sliding back into the other lane. Niculaie's jaw snapped shut with an audible click. In the rearview mirror I watched as other cars slowed down and let us pass and gain distance on them, afraid of the reckless driver.

Me.

"He lied! Oh, he went over there! But it was just a visit. Nothing more. Ever since he discovered that he was earmarked for turning he broke off his romantic relationships, he has distanced himself from most of his acquaintances and friends." Niculaie sobered. "He has been preparing himself for the change."

"Why? Why can't he live his life as a human? He should have a family!" I demanded turning another corner so sharply that we ended up on two wheels. I watched as he clawed at the door handle to hold on.

"He doesn't want or plan on having a family! And I made the mistake of waiting on John and I lost him to death!" The Gangrel was completely serious as he held tightly on to the door.

"You were going to turn his father?" I asked, spinning the wheel to turn another corner. The car slid on the ice and I turned the wheel to control the slide. Niculaie gasped and stifled a scream.

"You are fucking nuts!" he growled as the car straightened.

"No shit?" I asked. "What gave it away? Now! Answer the question. You were going to turn his father?"

"Yes, we turn one member every other generation. John died before he could be turned. We generally wait until the next generation has been born but Richard has already declared that he has no intention of starting a family. This particular branch will end with him."

"He might change his mind!" I ground out. "He's still young! Lots of people decide later in life to have children!"

"He's gay!" Niculaie snarled. "It doesn't matter to me one way or the other, preference never mattered when I was fucking alive, much less now. But no children will ever be produced!"

"He's not gay! Bi maybe but…well…Barbara! Starfire! Huntr…" "And see how well those worked out?" Niculaie shook his head. "Denial. He finally came to realize how he truly felt last year. He continued to see Barbara though because it 'was the right thing to do'. But recently he came to the correct conclusion that it was not the right thing to do. In the end he would have only hurt her. They broke up. They are still friends though."

I braked hard and felt the car skid underneath us. I pulled to the side of the road and watched in silence as Sabastian's and Jones' cars continued without us in the far distance. Despite my own reckless driving their speed far outstripped mine.

"Why didn't he tell me?" I whispered, feeling Niculaie's eyes on me. He considered me carefully and I reached for the gearshift again. He jumped and began to talk in a rush.

"Humans tend to have issues. I think his is your age." The older vampire rolled his eyes. "You know humans! He logically knows that you are A, a vampire, and B visual age does not matter in that instance. But his head won't see it. He might just see you as a child still. Adults tend to do that with people they've known since they were young. He's known you since you were very young. He might be having trouble dealing with the fact that you are actually older now. Hell, maybe he just has issues stemming from his own sexuality. He'll eventually get over it. Not that I particularly want him to in this case! I don't want my future childe mixed up with a Malk!"

"Even if I was human, I am above the age of consent. I was when I turned sixteen." I sulked.

"In this state, and many others. But there is that whole moral thing too. You may be of the human age of consent but in his eyes you are far from being an adult. I think he has trouble viewing himself as an adult to be honest." Niculaie looked almost apologetic.

"If we are both not adults in his eyes what is the problem? It should make this a non-issue." I snorted. "It shouldn't be a problem. It shouldn't be an issue!"

"Humans are asinine?" Niculaie shrugged. "I don't know, don't care either. Because it isn't going to happen so forget about it!"

We stared at each other before I looked away. He was right. It wasn't going to happen so it didn't matter. Sighing, I put the car back into gear.

I slowly pulled back into traffic and headed toward the prison. "I know that. I already agreed with that. Obviously for different reasons but we are agreed. I won't go near him anymore. I still don't like this though. I don't like the idea of him being turned."

"I gave him a choice, kid. And he picked. He wants to be with his family. His real family. He's been preparing and learning about the Kindred! It is going to be!" Niculaie clutched the door again as I turned onto the main road.




As I heard the door slam behind me the locking mechanism for the car engaged. I chanced a glance behind me in time to see Niculaie steady himself against the car. He glared back at me and I swallowed the smirk that threatened to break across my face.

We parked the car under a tree insuring that it was hidden from the road. Up the hill I could see the others waiting for us. The hill afforded a good view of the prison and had many trees that would hide a vampire from human vision. Obfuscate would hide us from others. I suspected that the others were chosen not for their loyalty but for their skills.

Above us I could see Andrew looking down at us and wondered if we could in fact trust him. Something about him worried me. It was more than apparent that he did not like us at all.

Sabastian and Jones waited with the others. Andrew snarled as he watched us come up the hill and I growled back. Niculaie grabbed my shoulder and pulled me back. "Now is not the time. Later, if you want…we can still kick his ass."

Giving us an amused smile, Sabastian began to hand out our assignments. "Timothy has the most experience with this kind of thing. You will, in this instance, defer to him. You will obey his will as you would obey mine."

"Why should we…" Andrew sneered. His short blond hair seemed to gleam in the pale light looking almost white. Silver began to creep across his otherwise brown eyes.

"Because I bloody well said so!" Sabastian roared back. He bounded forward wrapping his hand in Andrew's hair and pulling the young vampire's head back. "Do not forget who actually rules here!"

Beside me I felt Niculaie shift and I looked up to see the leer back on his face. Quickly I glanced back at Sabastian as the Prince threatened final death for the young Anarch. His voice low and menacing as he spoke directly into the smaller vampire's face.

Fascinated, I saw the rebellious vampire cowed into submission with a well-placed backhand, and was surprised to feel Niculaie shift again beside me. I gaped in surprise as I realized that the display had…turned Niculaie…on.

As Andrew slowly picked himself off the ground I leaned into Niculaie with a smirk and sang softly, "He's a M~a~a~l~k!"

Niculaie narrowed his eyes at me, pushing me away with one hand and grunted, "Shut up!"

Andrew shuffled slowly toward me and bowed his head once. It would be all the submission I would receive. I sighed as I began to give out their new orders surprised when most of them jumped quickly to whatever task I allotted to them. Mostly the instructions were simply 'watch and report back'. Nothing too difficult, they knew what other vamps looked and felt like and knew what to watch for. Vampires had, under normal circumstances, nothing to do with mortal prisons. Vampire justice was generally swifter, cleaner, and fatal. Final Death was the general punishment given out to any 'law' breaker.

The Prince favored me with a smile as he too left to complete his own task. Niculaie followed in silence as I returned to the car and grabbed equipment to continue setting up surveillance. The snow crunched quietly under our feet as we made our way around the bushes and trees that hid our position. I blinked often reminding myself to constantly move my eyes to avoid the entrancing beauty of the glittering snow. Niculaie had no such problems and merely kicked his way through the snow without any second thoughts. The almost glee he took in despoiling the perfect snow made me want to slap him.

A crackle in my ear alerted me to Oracle's presence and for the first time that night I felt no malice toward her. I closed my eyes and imagined her in her tower sitting in front of her computer. "Yes, Oracle?"

"Location?" the disembodied voice asked. No, hello, no how are you. Just 'Location?' I suspected that she had been around 'The Bat' too long if you ask me. Not that ANY of us would ever admit to picking up his habits, but it does tend to happen. After a while we all start to act a little like him.

"Come on, I know you have it onscreen already!" I sighed heavily.

"Okay, how about this? What exactly is the deal with the Joker? If something is going on I have a right to know!" she huffed. I could almost imagine the irritation on her face, the line of worry between her eyebrows at the thought of the Joker on another rampage.

"I have information that someone is going to attempt to break the Joker out tonight. I'm already on it. No need for back up. I have enough help. But just in case…keep the others on standby."

The line went dead and I wished that I could 'sense' through electronic lines. Unfortunately, my powers did not extend that far. I trusted her to do what I asked if for no other reason than she did take any threat of the Joker seriously.

"I hope you were talking to someone real." Niculaie came up beside me and grabbed one of the bags, hefting it up to his shoulder. He considered me with a critical look.

"Oracle. I kept the link tonight just in case I needed information or on the off chance I DO need more backup." I grabbed the other bag and started back up the hill. "You vamps have a lot of powers and stuff but no practical experience fighting criminals of this type."

"As long as you aren't acting like a loon." he sighed, following me. "Besides, if Richard can do this kind of thing, I don't see why I couldn't. I mean it isn't rocket science! Especially if you Malks can handle it!"

"Niculaie?" I looked back up at him.

"Yeah?"

"You're a prick!"

"No shit? What gave it away?"




"This is boring."

I sighed quietly and tried to ignore the voice beside me. Instead, I continued to stare through the high-powered binoculars that Batman had always favored. While I could easily see from where I was seated, the experimental devices showed me people I couldn't see behind the concrete. Red blurs showed me humans hidden behind the thick walls of the building giving me an edge.

"Nothing is happening!"

I leaned forward on my feet to get a better look off to one side. Quietly, noiselessly, just as Batman and Nightwing had taught me, giving nothing away of my position. Perfectly balanced on a tree limb, feeling very much like my namesake. I felt light, compact, very much like a bird.

"This is a wild goose chase! I knew you Malks were deranged…"

Without thought I was on him pushing him against the main tree trunk, his throat between my hands as I squeezed. He looked up in mild surprise unimpressed. "What?" He raised an eyebrow. "Something I said?"

"Be quiet!" I gritted between clenched teeth. "When on a stakeout people are quiet!"

"This is…" he started.

"How things are done! When you are watching for a criminal act you don't wave a banner screaming 'I'm here! I'm here! Don't let us bother you, we are just trying to catch you in the act!' It doesn't work that way! Just sit down and be quiet!"

I released him and turned back picking the equipment up and tried to center myself. I was a little disturbed that the tiny bit of wrestling had made a physical impact on me. I shifted my erection to a more comfortable position and growled softly to myself. Niculaie was the last person I wanted to get involved with, even if he did look like an older Nightwing.

Behind me I heard him chuckle low in his throat, almost purring. I startled as I felt his hand on my lower back. "What…?" I jerked back to stare at him in disbelief. "You can't be serious!"

"Hey, Boy Wonder? What is going on? What was that noise all about? Nightwing isn't there, is he?" Oracle's voice came through the line. Her voice was filled with surprise. "I thought I heard Nightwing!"

"I'm on a stakeout Oracle, what is it?" I sighed. Didn't anyone remember how stakeouts were supposed to be? Quiet, no talking, serious…no sexy thoughts…just watching out for the bad guys!

"I heard…"

"My partner has never been on a stakeout before. He just happens to sound like Nightwing. It will be fine… I'm fine. Everyone is fine! Robin out." I pulled the connection and heard it go dead as I pulled it from my ear.

"Think that was wise?" Niculaie asked, eyeing the bit of wire clenched in my hand.

"Probably not, but considering that no one here seems to know how to be fucking quiet I think this is the least of my worries tonight!" I snarled at him. I was disconcerted when he grinned back. I quickly turned back to the prison. Hoping that he wasn't thinking what I thought he was thinking and half wondering…what would it be like?




"It will be dawn soon." Niculaie whispered to me. He had finally contented himself with reading a book he found in my car. He lounged on one of the larger branches with his back to the main tree trunk.

"I know." I continued to watch the prison below us. "We'll leave soon enough."

"It isn't too much of a problem for me. The same thing that gave me my claws allows me to meld and rest within the Earth. It's you that will have a problem if we don't leave soon since you aren't really Gangrel."

"Protean, yes I know. Nightwing told me about your shape shifting abilities. Do all Gangrels come with that?" I whispered as I strained to see below. I glanced at my watch to confirm what my gut was telling me.

"To some degree. It is strong in my blood line." Niculaie confirmed.

I hushed him quickly as I saw the van pull up. I recognized it as a Police transport vehicle and relaxed as the officers showed their pass. I focused on the men and recognized them from the newspaper photos as the ones that had escorted him on previous occasions to court. But something didn't seem quite right. Something was off somehow.

"Late night, fellas?" I could hear on the wind. "You look a little ill this morning!"

"Yeah!" The voice that answered was soft, almost weak, and I found myself staring closer, alarms going off almost literally in my head. Dark circles under their eyes and an unnatural paleness, black marks under their ears that were a little darker than mere love bites had a right to be.

"Nic, I think we've got trouble. Go down and alert the others!"

"What? What's going on?"

"Those are either Ghouls or Blood Dolls. Either way, I figure those are Blood Bonded humans down there!" I scrambled for my link with Oracle inserting it in my ear at a dead run down the hill toward the prison.

"Oracle?"

"Right here, Boy Wonder!" She chirped in my ear.

"We've got trouble at the prison. The Police transport vehicle, his guards, they're up to no good! They're the ones breaking him out!"

"On it! I suspected something and I've had the boss man and Nightwing on the line all night. They are near your location now. Batgirl and Nightwing are the closest!"

I had first hit the ground as the truck pulled back into the gate. The guards leveled their guns at me as the men inside the vehicle stared on. I heard the shouts of 'Down on the ground now!' vaguely as I concentrated on the humans behind the wheel projecting the thoughts of 'Go back into the prison' as hard as I could.

Glazed eyes glared back at me and I felt the power slide off of them with no effect. I heard the gunfire fly over my head and ducked in time to miss a bullet to the head. To the side I could see and feel the other vampires trying to get close but as I felt the warmth around me I knew that they would never get close enough. The sun was already rising.

Just as the Sabbat had planned, they knew we would expect other vampires and had not planned on human minions to carry out their plan.

Niculaie shouted at me to come back as I tried to throw myself onto the vehicle that was suddenly barreling at me. With a giant leap I was able to carry myself to the top of the van. Underneath my feet I could hear the Joker yelling in confusion unaware that he was being kidnapped. I tried to claw my way to the doors but they swerved suddenly throwing me off the roof onto the ground.

I felt the first flickers of the flames as the dawn broke over the horizon. Just in time for Nightwing and Batgirl to appear. The van continued on speeding toward the Joker's escape and suddenly it didn't matter anymore as I was consumed by the fire of dawn.

I was engulfed in the flames and fought the instinct to run knowing it would just fan the fire. Rolling on the ground I wished that I were indeed a Gangrel as from far away I watched Niculaie meld quietly into the Earth where she would protect him from the harsh and deadly sun. Surprisingly my only thought on that particular subject was vague relief that he was safe.

Pain filled me and I screamed and screamed. Arching my back when I could no longer force myself to roll. Flames crackled in my ears and became the only sound I could hear above even my own shrieks.

Suddenly, I was wrapped in cloth unable to see as hell continued to break loose around me. People shouted and yelled around me and I fell limp as the flames were smothered.

The Malkavian vampires had fled from the dawn using innate celerity to take them to safety. As I was gently picked up I lost consciousness.




The pain woke me hours later. Searing, scorching, it covered my body. I tried to move and found my arms restrained at my sides. White lightening flared in my wrists as the crackle of paper came to my ears. I opened my eyes but was only able to see the barest hint of blurry shapes. I moaned as I tried to sit forward a little.

"Don't move, Tim."

I heard Dick's voice from somewhere near my head. His voice was rough and low. I parted dry lips to call out to him. "Di…"

"No, don't talk!" I felt the slight pressure of a hand upon my head that quickly disappeared as I winced.

My throat felt as dry as my lips, scratchy, and inflamed. The inside of my mouth felt like it was hanging in strips and I could taste burned meat. My nose was clogged with the scent of charred flesh and it was unsettling to realize that what I smelled, was myself. I shifted and heard the rustle and understood that it was the sound of my skin.

"The…the others…" I whispered trying to blink the blurriness away. I swallowed hard trying to ignore the pain. "Safe?"

"They are fine. The others got to safety before the sun could catch them." Dick's voice told me. I felt his breath on my cheek and shivered.

"Joker?"

"He got away." Dick sighed.

All around me I could hear the sounds of movement. Bats far away called to each other and sent signals that bounced all around me. I could feel the vibrations as they hit my scorched skin and flinched as I tried to block it out. From across the room I heard the sound of footsteps leading away from me, crossing the cavernous room.

"I failed." I gave up on my vision and closed my eyes.

"Master Timothy, you mustn't be so hard on yourself." The footsteps walked quickly to my side and I heard the squeak of a chair from further away.

I struggled to sit up and heard the sound of rustling paper again. "Alfred?"

"You must rest, you were terribly injured!" I heard the click and clang of metal upon metal and the squeak of wheels.

"I can't see…" I whispered.

"Your…eyes…are healing." Alfred swallowed between the words and I wondered exactly how bad I looked.

I stilled completely when I heard the dark voice speak. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I was afraid." I whispered.

"Master Bruce, he is gravely injured, he needs to rest. And it wasn't just he who kept his condition from you but all of us. I fear he is not solely to blame." Alfred's voice sounded remorseful. "He needs time to heal so that he may continue his task."

"Yes, his task. As you both have explained it to me." Batman sounded bitter. "The task that neither of you felt the need to enlighten me about?"

"Yes." Nightwing answered.

"I want to know why?" Batman growled.

"Now is not the time!" Nightwing roared back. "After he has healed then you can get righteous with all of us! But for now, Tim, needs our help!"

Seconds later I heard the door slam.

"Master Timothy, don't stress yourself over Master Bruce's reaction. He feels betrayed but he will understand! He needs time. For now, rest and get well." Seconds later the door closed again this time gently.

"Dick?"

"I'm here!" His voice came near me again. I could almost feel a hand hovering over me.

"I'm sorry that I failed." I whispered.

I felt the pressure on my head again and tried not to move. I didn't want him to remove his hand no matter the pain. I wished that the pain would fade, that he would hold me. I could smell burnt hair as his hand moved away only to flutter back a second later.

"You did not fail. If not for you, the search for them would have started much later. No one would have suspected the guards so quickly. They are the same ones that had been taking him to court all along! This was planned so far in advance…"

"I should have been faster, should of realized sooner." I shook my head. "I would have once, before I died. I made too many mistakes. I was a total amateur out there!"

"Maybe, maybe not."

"No maybe about it, I'm not the same. I've changed. I'm not me anymore."

He removed his hand as I finally flinched under the pain.

"Some things have changed true. But not all." Nightwing's voice came closer to my ear. "You still want to do the right thing. You still want to protect the innocent… You still care…don't you?"

Stiffly, I nodded and tried to look toward him. "I care about you. Always have."

Light fingers danced over my head. "I know. I'm sorry about before. I know…I know things are different for your kind. I know that the old rules don't apply. It is just so hard to let go of… I do care for you, Tim. I really do. And Niculaie, he told me… he told me that I practically goaded you into attacking and claiming me. He said I pretty much put the challenge out."

I licked my lips and felt the flaked skin, tasted the metallic taste of blood. "I'm sorry. I had no right."

"Tim… I think… on some level. I wanted you to. Perhaps, because if you had it would have taken the decision from me and I wouldn't have felt guilty." Nightwing whispered into my ear.

"It still doesn't make what I did right." I insisted.

"And here you think you've changed completely. You sound like Tim to me." He laughed softly, sadly.

"The old Tim wouldn't have had a threesome with two vampires he barely knew." I countered.

Dick cleared his throat. "True, but according to Nic, vampires tend to be very…casual about that kind of thing. Pleasure is as much a part of the way of life as pain and death. Or to use his words, most vamps fuck anything that will stay still long enough to rub up against. He did say though that sometimes, vampires will swear themselves to… only… one person."

I moved my fingers slowly wishing that he would hold my hand. "Niculaie, doesn't want me around you."

"I know, he told me to stay away from you. To stay away from all Malks." Nightwing chuckled. "He's a little bit of a…"

"Bigot?" I supplied.

"I suppose you could call it that." he agreed, finally touching my hand gently.

"He's right you know. You are better off being claimed by a Gangrel than a Malkavian. Being nuts isn't all that it is cracked up to be." I smiled, carefully, feeling my lips stretch painfully.

"How do I look?" I asked swallowing hard, the dry feeling in my throat bringing almost as much pain as the burns.

"You will heal." he whispered. A finger traced my hand carefully.

"How bad?" I asked again.

"Pretty bad. Bruce, Bruce was pretty freaked out when I brought you in. Batgirl figured out what you were beforehand. When she saw you catch on fire she grabbed a body bag from my bike while I tried to put you out. We brought you back to the cave in the body bag."

"I bet that went over well." I snickered.

"Hm. That is one way of putting it." Nightwing said dryly.

"Sorry." I whispered.

"Not your fault. It got worse though when we opened the bag. Do you remember us opening the bag?" he asked.

I shook my head slowly and carefully. "No, I only remember when the dawn broke."

"You fought us when we opened the bag. The screams…were unearthly. Your fangs had dropped and your face had changed. Batman thought we had brought something… well… not you at any rate." Nightwing continued to explain. "Batgirl helped me secure you to the bed. Spoiler, Spoiler freaked out completely once we finally got it through everyone's head that it was you we were trying to tie down. I think Batman pretty much went into shock at that point. Alfred started the blood transfusion once you had passed out again."

"Blood transfusion?"

"It isn't as effective as feeding but I didn't think Batman would appreciate me finding you a victim to feed on in the cave. Though don't think that I didn't consider it!" His tone was self-effacing as he again lightly touched my head. I leaned into the touch.

"Thank you." I smiled.

"Only for you would I consider it." he whispered softly.

My vision was clearing quickly and I could make out his vague shape leaning over me. "So Batman knows now?"

Nightwing nodded. "He suspected something anyway. Though he thought you were either a clone or some sort of look a like."

"A spy?"

Nightwing's shape nodded. "Something like that. Apparently, he got copies of your autopsy report which included pictures."

"Ouch! I bet he was thrilled with those! Where is Batgirl and Spoiler now?"

"Tracking the Police transport vehicle." he answered. "Displeased with all of us or not, Batman hasn't lost sight of the fact that the Joker is dangerous and on the loose."

I stifled a giggle.

"What?" He asked.

"Just thinking that it is okay for Batman to hide things from us but never okay for us to hide from him." I answered.

"This is true. But for now, rest. I will have live prey for you at sunset." He stroked my brow with a finger. "Something big and warm. Live prey will help you heal faster."

I sank into sleep, one hand on mine the other still upon my head.




My dreams were filled with the dancing Snow Angel as sparkling flakes flew down from the sky to decorate the landscape. Spinning round and round celebrating new life. Hair whipping behind as long pale limbs spun in graceful arcs. Smile glittering in the moonlight filled with joy as the dance continued. Jumping over withered husks of the long dead. Tip toeing around corpses. Celebrating their death in exchange for an eternal life. Blood dripped from the angel's mouth and fangs grew as eyes turned silver.

I woke to my own screams as I pulled at the restraints.

"Tim!" Nightwing came into clear focus. "Tim, what is wrong?"

"It is too late, Joker has been turned."

I fought the restraints and managed to break one. Nightwing scrambled to pull the others off. "How do you know?" he asked breathless.

"I saw it in my dreams!" I gasped pulling at the strap still around my wrist. My skin was still blackened and tattered. Blood seeped through open wounds as my skin tore with little effort, as thin as much as it sounded like paper when touched. My hair had apparently grown back while I had slept.

I moved slowly and with difficulty, pain flaring over every inch of my body.

"It was just a dream!" Nightwing placed his hands upon my shoulders as I shook my head frantically.

"No! No! You don't understand! Malkavians have powers that you and the other clans can't understand. We…we…see things. Hear things that no one else can. Sometimes…sometimes, they are of things yet to come. Sometimes, they are of things that have already happened or happening in the present. We hear each other. We can project sometimes on purpose sometimes on accident. The Joker… has been turned. He's…he's committed Diablerie! I saw it!"

Behind Nightwing I could see the others staring in disbelief as Nightwing continued to try and calm me down. "Dreams…"

"My dreams are real. They are real to me! That is enough! We have to stop him!" I pushed against Nightwing and tried to jump to my feet.

Out of the darkness a voice called out. "He tells you the truth!"

Sabastian and Jones walked into the light. Nightwing tensed but did not move as Batman pulled at his belt.

"No! They are friends. Family!" I limped toward them and was surprised to see Niculaie also enter the circle. Behind us Nightwing stepped between Batman and the approaching vampires.

"Richard, maybe, we should listen to the Malks, they seem to be onto something." I could hear the resignation in his voice and smothered the smile that threatened.

"Niculaie? What? What are you doing here?" Nightwing asked as Batman warily edged around us.

"Sabastian…" Niculaie seemed to struggle with words. "I've been helping them, too."

Niculaie shrugged and rolled his eyes. "I was there last night and this morning. I went to ground as you were putting him out."

Nightwing gaped in surprise. "You were? But I thought…"

Niculaie shrugged again and looked away from Nightwing unable to meet his eyes. "I suppose they aren't…too bad…for insane idiots."

Sabastian smirked as he came up beside the Gangrel. He draped an arm around Niculaie's shoulders. "That's not what you called me this afternoon…"

Jones leered as he came up on Niculaie's other side wrapping an arm around his waist. "Yes, I seem to recall a much more affectionate epithet."

Niculaie glared at me as I giggled helplessly. Nightwing opened and closed his mouth several times without sound before finally wringing out, "I don't understand."

I slowly limped back to the confused Titan and carefully placed a hand upon Nightwing's back and stroked softly. "You never have. I don't even understand all of it. But I'm beginning to."

"How is this possible? Who are you?" Batman asked. The dark gravel in his voice would be enough to scare most humans but only brought an amused smile to the vampires' faces.

Niculaie shrugged Sabastian and Jones off and stepped forward. "I am Richard's 12 times great grandfather."

"That…isn't…"

"Possible?" Sabastian turned from grinning at Niculaie to casting a somber gaze at Batman. "You know it is possible. You just don't want it to be possible. Because if it is possible then those autopsy reports you have clenched in your hand are true and Tim is dead."

"He's…"

"Dead. He's dead but still kicking!" Sabastian grinned. "That's my boy!" He held out his arms and gestured for me to come to him.

"You would have to explain why his coffin is, in fact, empty and why you found traces of his dead DNA and embalming fluid in the bottom of the ruined coffin. Yes, we know you checked."

"Who are you?" Batman growled.

"I am the Prince of this city and I guess you could call me Tim's great grand Sire." He placed his arm around my shoulders. "He is also my champion."

"You did this to him?" Batman took a menacing step forward.

"Well, not exactly, but I gave the order." Sabastian said, as Jones stood protectively nearby. Even Niculaie took a step closer to the Prince and me.

"Batman, they aren't the enemy." Nightwing said. "And no matter what you think about Tim being a vampire, it doesn't change the fact that he is and that it can't be helped or changed. It simply is. His only alternative is Final Death, and if that happens, we lose every bit of him. He will truly be gone. I don't want that. I won't let you do that to him. You can't take him away when we just got him back!"

"Right now, we have more pressing concerns. The Joker?" Alfred cleared his throat.

Batman glared at all of us before walking back to the computer. Typing a few keystrokes, maps of the city began popping up on the screen. "Batgirl and Spoiler came back with these possible areas."

On the screen three areas lit up indicating the Sabbat's possible hiding places.

He cast another glare at the vampires surrounding me before looking back at Nightwing. Nightwing slowly walked toward us and came to stand beside me.

"Very well." Batman muttered.

Nearby Alfred nodded at Batman. "It is as I said, Master Bruce."

I wondered what it was that Alfred had told him but I discovered that I would never learn that particular information. Instead, Batman pointed at the different areas. "We will split up into teams. Batgirl and Spoiler will stay here and help coordinate our efforts with Oracle. Robin…"

"I will go with Sabastian and Jones. We have things we need to talk about." I interrupted, heedless of Batman's glare.

"Fine, Nightwing and I will…"

"I'm going to!" Niculaie interrupted. Instead of ignoring the Batman's glare he matched it with passionate intensity forcing Nightwing to step between them in order to break the contact.

"Fine." Batman growled between clenched teeth. He walked away quickly as Alfred calmly led a small goat forward.




"So?" I asked.

"So what?" Sabastian grinned as we climbed into my car.

"Did you have fun with Niculaie?" I smirked.

"I don't think there were any real complaints from any of us." Sabastian kissed my cheek. "I think we managed to surprise him."

"Is that what you wanted to talk to us about, little brat?" Jones asked sitting in the back.

"No, not really. It is about my dream. I've been thinking… it took me a long time to wake and rise. A long time before I was strong enough to break free of my coffin. I'm pretty sure that the Joker has hit the ground running tonight." I looked into the rearview mirror and saw an empty seat but the voice that answered me belied that.

"You had an autopsy and were embalmed. It took awhile for the power that turned you to repair the damage that did. I imagine it hurt, too." Jones answered.

I nodded. "Come to think of it, it did."

"The well…for lack of a better word…magic…that made you had to rebuild you. Autopsies wreak havoc with a fledge's ability to bounce back. Embalming fluid also hinders the process. It had to be expelled before you could rise completely." Sabastian placed a hand on my leg. "That is why Tyler was supposed to take you with him that night. It was to avoid the delay and pain that humans can cause with their needless interventions."

"Embalming fluid! That's what that smell was!" I tsked to myself. I had wondered before what it was.

"Joker didn't have to go through that. He, as you put it, hit the ground running tonight!" Sabastian nodded.

"Do you think he is in any of these areas?" Jones asked me.

"Batgirl and Spoiler are pretty good at what they do. Particularly Batgirl. I trust them." I answered. I turned to Sabastian and asked. "What happened to the others? Andrew and the other four?"

"They have their orders for tonight." Sabastian smiled. "Look behind us."

A nondescript car had pulled into traffic and I recognized it as one I had seen at the club before. "Can Andrew be trusted?"

"Despite the way he has acted he is loyal. He doesn't trust Gangrels, unfortunately. Therefore he is under the impression that you are not to be trusted." Sabastian answered.

We continued in relative silence. In my ear I could hear the occasional crackle reminding me that I was once more connected to the network. Once in a while it would burst into activity allowing me to overhear the other conversations as they happened. A request for current location, a request for information on a building, information on the owner of a car, little things that were normal in the course of an investigation. It brought its own comfort.

Nightwing bantering with Oracle across the line made me smile as they teased each other. The name Hunk Wonder taking on a new meaning in light of what Niculaie had told me.

We pulled in front of the warehouse that we had been assigned and I shuddered. "He was here. I'm positive."

Tiny snowflakes flurried in the air and I was reminded of my dream. The stars wept.

"Are you sure?" Oracle came over the line.

"I'm sure. Don't ask how but I'm positive. We will find the bodies behind the building lying in the snow." I opened my door and stepped out slowly. Sabastian stepped out when the car behind us parked.

I turned to the Prince and shook my head. "You stay here."

He turned brown eyes toward me suddenly shot with veins of silver. "What?"

"If he is still here, he is dangerous. You had me turned to deal with him in the event that he was turned. He's been turned. You are the Prince, you shouldn't even be here!" I told him quietly as the other vampires came to stand by us.

"The Gangrel is right, my lord, you should be back at the club and letting us deal with this." Andrew measured me with a look.

"I'm here now!" Sabastian glared at us.

Jones placed a calming hand on the irate vampire's shoulder. "Sire, please!"

"I…" Sabastian began.

"Please! I would be able to work with much more concentration if I knew you were safe!" I pleaded pulling out my uniform from the trunk. "I need all the concentration I can get."

Faced with all seven of us Sabastian backed down. "Fine, but is there any way I can get hooked into this little batty network you have going?"

I opened my belt and held up a spare wire. "Here it is, try not to irritate the others."

Oracle broke in over the line. "The others are on their way to your location. Nightwing and Batman said not to enter the building until they arrive. Observe and report only!"

Her voice sounded stressed and Sabastian tilted his head as he listened to her voice. "So that's what she sounds like without interference! Hello, little one! Let down your long hair and we will take you from your tower for a celebration later!"

"Ignore him, Oracle!" I laughed. "He's trying to get in your pants!"

Sabastian looked aghast. "My dear Robin, would I do that?"

Andrew and his cronies looked up in shock. "Robin? As in Batman and…"

I nodded, choosing to speak to Sabastian instead. "Yes, you would. Especially if you saw her!"

Over the line I heard Oracle make nervous noises.

"It is okay, Oracle, you would enjoy it but I still don't recommend it. It tends to lead to blood loss." I smirked.

Sabastian shushed me theatrically. "Don't give my secrets away! Unless you want to tell her about the great oral I give!"

I heard a throat clear over the line and realized that Batman and Nightwing could hear the exchange. The shadowed voice of Batman said sternly. "That is inappropriate talk for this line!"

A second later I heard Nightwing ask, "Nic, does he give great oral?"

"Enough!" Batman barked. "We will be at your location in a few minutes. Do NOT enter the building till we get there!"

"Yes, sir!" I replied. I waved a finger at Sabastian. "Don't piss him off!"

"I wasn't trying to piss him off. It isn't my fault that he has a stick up his ass. Maybe if he got a prick up it he wouldn't be so tense!" Sabastian crossed his arms as Jones smirked.

Andrew and the others continued to stare in amazement. Finally, quietly, Andrew whispered, "You aren't Gangrel, are you? You are Tyler's childe?"

I nodded. "But it isn't supposed to be common knowledge."

The blond vampire looked down before finally trying to meet my eyes. "I'm sorry if I offended."

"I'm not worried about it." I said carefully.

"I was one of Tyler's lovers." Andrew swallowed. "We…we thought you had been killed the same night that Tyler died."

"I'm sorry." I told him truthfully. "Though I never really knew him, I have missed him."

Andrew cautiously approached me, lifting his hand to my face. "We don't blame you for his death. What hurt was the idea that he died for nothing. You being here makes it right."

I leaned into his touch. "Thank you. I promise to try to avenge his death."

"Your continued existence already does that." Andrew smiled.

In the distance I could here the distinct roar of Batman's vehicle. "It's almost show time. I doubt that the Joker is still here but I want us all to be careful. He was deadly as a human, he will be much, much worse now."

I looked up at Sabastian and he held up his hands in false submission. "I give, I give, I'll wait out here like a good boy and chat up the nice girl with the mechanical voice."

"Leave her alone, my Prince, she has many knights that would defend her honor." I smiled. "They might not appreciate your attentions."

"No, but she would by the time I showed her what an orally fixated creature of the night can accomplish. I can actually tie a cherry stem into a knot with my tongue." Sabastian flicked his tongue out and wiggled his eyebrows. "I can show you later if you don't believe me."

"Oh, I have no doubt you can. I have a pretty good memory." I leered back.

Over the line I heard Oracle giggle nervously. "Um, guys? You aren't kidding, are you?"

I floundered for a response and finally answered. "Not really. Does it bother you?"

"Whatever floats your boat, Boy Wonder. From what I understand you've been through a lot of changes recently. Even if you hadn't I would figure if you were happy, I'm happy." she told me.

"That means a lot to me, really." I said. "Really."

Batman hurried forward with Nightwing and Niculaie quick on his heels. "Let's go!"

Sabastian climbed back inside my car and waited while we slowly entered the building. It was typical of most of Gotham's abandoned buildings. Dark and forbidding from the outside and pretty well stripped bare on the inside. But we immediately began to see evidence of habitation once we got beyond the first door.

"They've nested here." Andrew said kicking at some clothes.

"Nested?" Batman asked.

"It simply means they've squatted here for a long time. They made it their base of operations. Definitely higher generation vampires probably without much guidance. They tend to be messier as their Sire has little to do with them. They are more minion than childe. Canon fodder for the coming war!" Niculaie answered.

"War?" Batman looked up.

"The Jyhad. Some believe that it is already in progress, others that it is coming, our clan tends to think of it as a joke. Basic ally, it is a great war between all the vampires and is controlled by the oldest and most powerful of our kind. It encompasses the war between the Camarilla, and the Sabbat, and also involves all interclan conflict. If you want to know, truthfully, this mess is a result of the Jyhad in a way. The Sabbat turned the Joker to try and take over, The Camarilla turned me to stop them from accomplishing that." I explained as we walked through the empty den.

Clothes lay in great piles throughout the large room, CD's scattered across the room abandoned and forgotten within the mess left behind. It reminded me of a teenager's room. That is if about ten teenagers shared one room.

"How long has this war been going on?" Batman asked.

"Since about the time vampires came into existence." Andrew answered offhand.

"When did vampires come into existence?" Batman asked quietly.

"Just after Caine killed his brother Abel." Niculaie said. "He was the first vampire. A generation is the measure of a vampire's strength. The higher the generation the further they are removed from Caine, and also the more diluted their blood and the weaker they are."

"What generation are you?" Batman asked carefully looking around for some sign of what had happened and where everyone could have gone.

"I am a fifth generation vampire. Most vampires that people would run across are twelfth or higher." Niculaie answered.

"What is Robin?" Batman looked at me carefully.

"I am a seventh generation vampire that was turned by a sixth generation vampire but has fed on a fifth and fourth generation vampire." I supplied.

Niculaie looked up in surprise. "Sabastian allowed you to feed off of him?"

"Sabastian and Jones both, but they've been careful not to establish a Blood Bond with me." I said. I turned to Batman. "If I drank three times from the same vampire I would give them the power to control me. I would be forced to obey them even against my own will."

Niculaie nodded. "But feeding once or twice allows him to gain a little extra strength and provides a little added protection. It also gives more rights over the receiver."

"Diablerie, though, is a type of cannibalism among our kind. It kills the other vampire and the vampire that commits it goes up a generation closer to Caine if they feed upon one of lower generation." I told Batman as we neared the back of the building. "If my dream is correct…that is exactly what the Joker has done."

Nightwing remained silent as we investigated the building thoroughly. When finally we made our way to the door that led to the outside around back he spoke quietly. "If he has, there is no telling how strong he will eventually grow."

At first we didn't see anything amiss. Just snow and more snow piled in drifts until Jarred called out. "I found them."

His voice was grim and his youthful face looked suddenly ancient under his dark red hair. Andrew came up beside him and sighed. "Tim was right. Diablerie!"

I reached down and brushed the light snow off of the bodies. They looked like ancient mummies, dry, twisted husks buried in the snow. Just as I had seen him in the dream, dancing among the dead as he celebrated a renewed freedom, a freedom that released him from what little humanity he had left.

"What do we do now?" Nightwing groaned softly.

"We wait for the next vision." I whispered.

Batman and Nightwing stared down at me looking extremely unsure of my statement.

"We have one advantage over him at this point." I stood up brushing the snow off of my legs. "He doesn't realize that he is transmitting over the Malkavian Madness Network. And I'm tuned into his channel!"

^*^*^*^*^*^^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^

"He's fed on his Sire and has gone Caitiff." Jones lit a cigarette and took a long drag.

We uncovered several bodies, twisted husks all drained dry and left to be covered by the falling snow. Nightwing looked vaguely ill as he stared at the bodies. Jarred shook his head muttering something about a horrible way to meet final death. Batman was completely impartial as he observed the bodies looking for clues.

"It is what we suspected he would do." Sabastian nodded.

Batman and Nightwing stood off to one side as we spoke quietly among ourselves. Niculaie crossed his arms over his chest and flexed his clawed fingers against his biceps. Andrew kneeled in the snow looking down at the bodies while the other four searched the lair again for any indication of where the other Sabbat cells could be staying.

"He will go to ground before midnight at this rate. If he feeds on anyone else tonight he should bloat and go into a kind of stupor." Niculaie said looking over at the two humans among us. "That might give us a little time to catch up to him."

"He might run to familiar digs." Jones added. "The first night is often confusing to fledges. They tend to run to someplace familiar if they can't be with their Sire."

I nodded. "I ran home after my Sire was killed. I just sorta…woke up…in my father's basement."

"Where would the Joker call home?" Andrew looked up at us.

"Arkham." Batman whispered.


 

Arkham Asylum.

It had been close to being destroyed and rebuilt a dozen of times over. Always with the promise of holding in what society wanted to keep out. Each incarnation holding darker secrets and beings than the one before, each incarnation failing at its one true goal, to harness evil!

We had sent the other vampires home. For all their power they would have proven more of a liability than an asset. It took a lot of persuasion on my and Nightwing's part but finally they returned to their lairs to wait for news. Sabastian carried the direct link to Oracle with him. It was the only way we could convince him to leave.

Niculaie returned to the Prince's haven much to my amusement. Nightwing raised a curious brow at the news, but dismissed it for another time. I suspect that he didn't actually want to think about it…ever.

I stared up at the forbidding building. What separated them from me? A desire to kill? The fact that they were insane? That the line between reality and fantasy blurred?

Wasn't I all those things and more?

The fact that I was a monster?

Certainly monsters lived within the confines of those walls.

What made it all right for me to be allowed to move about and them to be hidden away from all eyes?

Dick would say that it is because I have chosen not to act upon those impulses whereas they have. But what is to say that I would not some day be unable to deny them? What about my Prince and his childer? I was not so naïve to believe that they have never fed upon a living breathing human being.

Did I fall under the same category as an animal and should be exempt from the same morality as humans? If so, what is to stop someone from putting me down like a rabid beast? Shouldn't I be put down?

I kneeled in the snow looking up at the building thinking those thoughts, frightened of the answers that could be attached to the questions I had. Frightened that, in the end, I would be little better than the wretched beings kept in the only place the Joker could call home.

Nightwing placed a hand on my shoulder and squeezed. "Don't let it bother you." he whispered.

Batman looked down at me and tilted his head. "Is there a problem?"

"We didn't tell you about the clans." I swallowed before continuing in a near whisper. "Malkavians are, by their very nature, insane. Even if as a human we were perfectly normal, once embraced we lose our mind."

"You are Malkavian? The same as the Joker?" Batman asked. His voice was as intense as ever and he seemed to be weighing me carefully with his eyes.

"Yes, as is Sabastian and Jones. Niculaie is Gangrel; they are shape shifters." I answered.

Nightwing nodded. "Niculaie is one of my ancestors. Gangrels tend to be loners and most are fierce warriors. They prefer the wilderness and revel in their inner beast. After a Frenzy they can develop animalistic features, that is why Nic has the claws and um…ears."

"But Robin is Malkavian?" Batman asked again.

"Yes." Nightwing answered. "But don't let it... Don't… don't underestimate him. Please?"

Nightwing's hand was still on my shoulder and he squeezed it again. Batman looked from one to the other of us before quietly asking. "What exactly is going on between you two?"

Nightwing shook his head. "I haven't figured that out yet."

I stood up slowly. "It won't affect our performance if that is what you are worried about. If you are worried about my age, don't be. Things changed as soon as I was turned. The magic that keeps me from aging physically automatically matured me to whatever level I would have eventually have achieved naturally. It works that way for all of us, regardless of our sanity level. It is a matter of survival, one of many that we all are gifted with to insure that we can live centuries at a time. It would not do for us to have the minds of children and live as predators."

"In other words, you may look sixteen but you have the same mind you would have at the height of your maturity?" Batman asked.

"Yes, but, to be honest, it is tainted with madness." I nodded. "The stars cry tonight. They cry in fear that I will fail once more."

I saw him take a step back in surprise but could not bring myself to apologize.

"Your stars have nothing to worry about, you won't fail. WE won't fail!" Nightwing told me.

Batman schooled his features carefully and nodded. "We will not fail. The Joker will be stopped."

"The question is... is he even here?" Nightwing asked.

"The dead guard over there by the gate is a pretty good indication that he is." I pointed.

"You can see that far?" Batman asked, bringing out his binoculars.

"Yes. Of course I can."

"I can see where having you around could be a definite asset!" Batman whispered. "What else can you do?"

I smiled as I let the celerity take me down the small hill and jumped lightly over the fence onto the other side of the gate. With a flick of a switch the gate slowly opened. A second later I was back standing beside Batman. "Oh, I can do a few interesting things."


 

 

 

He didn't feed on that guard. He was killed outright." I said as they slipped through the opening. I quietly closed the gate behind them.

"How do you know it was him?" Batman asked.

Shaking my head I opened my mouth and then closed it.

"It is hard for them to explain their abilities in human terms. They see things differently than we do. They see auras and have abilities far out of our spectrum, some that even Meta humans could not comprehend." Nightwing answered for me. "It is difficult for me to understand and I have been studying it for the last few years."

I rushed ahead, looking around briefly before appearing back to their side. "No guards at the door, the alarms have been disarmed."

Batman edged ahead of us taking point despite my protest. The Joker was still his first and foremost enemy, his and only his responsibility.

I listened carefully, stretching my senses beyond, beyond the room, beyond the corridor. Moans lifted slowly around me, the moans of the living and the dead. Wraiths unseen by the human eye called out to me, pleading for oblivion and I wondered if, perhaps, Secret could grant them the release that they begged.

I disregarded the cries of the dead as unimportant as I could not help those already beyond the living world. Instead, I concentrated on the cries of the living, still in torment, still within our world, still within my realm of influence.

They cried out in real and imaginary pain. Blending together as they believed the pain to be real. I felt hate. Powerful hate that permeated the atmosphere and threatened to overwhelm me, hate that was not reflected toward the world but on themselves.

"It is difficult to work out." I whispered. "So much…"

"You can't find him?" Nightwing asked, locating the security office.

"Its like…he's everywhere… and nowhere." I said staring blankly at the wall. Continuing to stretch my senses. "There is danger. The stars…"

Batman sighed and left the security office walking resolutely down the corridor.

Nightwing watched him go quietly before turning to me and whispering, "What do the stars say?"

"You trust them?" I asked.

"I trust you." Nightwing told me.

"Niculaie would call you a fool for doing so. Trusting a rambling Malk?" I smiled.

"I still trust you." Nightwing said, looking first at the door and then at the monitors. "Can you…?"

I nodded. "I can still hack with the best of them. I'll get into their system and see if I can see anything through their monitors."

Tapping at the keys I felt Nightwing's hand back on my shoulder. "Your trust means a lot to me, but I think it is misplaced." I told him.

"Why?" Nightwing asked, leaning over my shoulder to watch the screens.

"I'm too dangerous to be around you. I want you too much. I could hurt you. I almost did, I could do it again." I said, finally gaining control of the security system.

"I don't think so." Nightwing whispered in my ear, still watching the screen.

"Then you are a fool." I whispered back.

"Then I am a fool." he answered back softly. I flinched as I felt the soft kiss to my ear.

"Nightwing?"

Nightwing turned the chair without words and held my face in his hands. The kiss was soft and light. My body tingled as he drew away breathing softly. "I'm sorry for giving you a hard time." he whispered.

"What changed your mind?" I asked, forgetting about the keyboard for a second.

"I almost lost you. I thought I had once… then you came back. This time I could have lost you forever. This time I realized what I could have lost." His finger found my face and traced a path to my jaw. "I'm a little slow on the uptake sometimes."

"No, you are a lot smarter than you give yourself credit for." I shook my head. "I'm dangerous, Nightwing. Too dangerous for you to be around."

"No more dangerous than I will be soon." he whispered.

"Niculaie, he plans to turn you." I nodded. "I have to wonder if that is actually a good idea."

"It probably isn't, but it won't be the worst decision I've ever made." Nightwing shrugged.

"You won't want me after you are turned." I told him. "You will be Gangrel."

"Niculaie has made an exception." Nightwing smirked.

"It is a fling, not a commitment." I shook my head turning back to the keyboard and tapping more commands in lightly.

"I don't have to be…Gangrel." He swallowed.

I gripped the table hard and felt it begin to buckle under my fingers. "You don't know what you ask. I would rather embrace Final Death than take you into this. I've considered asking for it anyway, after the mission is over, I've been thinking about asking for release."

"No!" Nightwing swung the chair back around to face him. "No! You aren't leaving me again!"

"I shouldn't even be here." I told him sadly.

"Yes! Yes, you should." he argued.

"Why?"

"Because you stupid idiot! I love you!" He wrapped his arms around me tightly and brought me close to his chest. "I couldn't bear to lose you again

Laying my head upon his shoulder I felt him begin to relax. "Promise me you won't do anything stupid?" he asked.

"I..." I whispered.

The line crackled in our ear and I heard a melodramatic sigh. "Isn't it sweet?"

"Sabastian? Get off the line! And stop eavesdropping, you perv!" I growled. "Or I'm going to film you and Niculaie and play it at the next Primogen meeting!"

"Promise?" Sabastian giggled.

A quiet tentative voice spoke up. "If you do, can I watch, too?"

"Oracle! You naughty little thing!" I said gleefully.

Nightwing blushed brightly. "Uh, how much have you heard?"

"All of it. I often eavesdrop." Her tone was matter of fact and Nightwing gaped at the wall in surprise.

When silence spread for more than a minute she asked. "What do you expect me to do waiting here for you all to finish the leg work? I get bored too, you know!"

"Don't worry, Oracle, I think I can bring you some nice vamp porn next time I see you." I chirped brightly. "Hey? Is Black Canary there by chance?"

In the background I heard shuffling and smiled brightly at Nightwing. "If I bring you films of Nightwing and I, can I watch you and Black Canary?"

Nightwing's face went redder until even the tips of his ears had turned magenta but he continued to hold his silence.

"And you called Sabastian a perv?" A new voice inquired.

"Of course, Canary! He's the one that showed me the joys of perversion in the first place!" I began to hack into another section of security checking records against the empty cells I had found.

Finally, Nightwing managed to croak. "You aren't filming us!"

"Oh, you rather they watch live? That can be arranged I'm sure!" I nodded agreeably.

Nightwing searched my face a few seconds before a grin began to spread. "You are pulling my leg."

"Yes, at least until I can pull something else. But yes, I'm kidding, I have no intention of either filming us or sharing you."

"Damn and here I was getting excited." Sabastian called out over the line.

"Sabastian? Go blow Niculaie or something! Show him that thing you can do with your tongue!" I sighed.

"I already did!"

"Show him again!" Nightwing growled over the line.

The line clicked and signaled the end of the transmission. I chuckled as Nightwing tried to compose himself. "You do realize that Batman heard every word we all said, don't you?" he asked.

"Yes, but strangely I don't care anymore. He will either deal with it or he won't." I reached up and took his hand. "We have other things to worry about."

"What has happened?" Batman broke in over the line.

"We are missing about twelve different inmates. I'm going through the tapes now…Scarecrow…he was definitely taken by the Joker, I bet the other eleven were too." I switched cameras and hit another button. "Same with Two Face…damn, he's already been turning them."

"Damn it! Do you have any indication where they could be at all?" Batman asked. "I'm searching the different floors. There are a lot of dead, and a lot of injured, but no Joker!"

"He would have taken them somewhere safe! They will rise tonight. They will be helpless until then!" I told him.

"Where though! We have to find them!" Batman growled.

Something prickled at the edges of my consciousness and I found myself tensing. I stood up slowly crossing the floor to the door. Once more reaching out. "Fire, he's set fire to the asylum!"

Seconds later alarms sounded through the night as the smoke finally set them off. "The fire department just got the call. They're on their way with half of GCPD." Oracle said over the connection. "What the hell is going on in there?"

"I'm not sure, but I think the Joker just set Arkham on fire!" I yelled following Nightwing out the door. "They need to hurry! They need to evacuate the asylum and we have a lot of wounded!"

"Where is he? Where would Joker go?" Nightwing grumbled.

"I don't know. I can feel his hate but not where he is!" I answered. Suddenly I felt it. "He's on the roof!"

I felt the wind under my feet as I ran first outside then jumped using the window ledges for stepping-stones. In the distance I heard the sirens approach. Lights flashed marking their progress and I knew they would be there within a couple of minutes.

"Joker!" I yelled.

He stopped in mid-step and turned toward me. He had danced across the rooftop in joyful abandon, close by I could hear the crackle of flames. The fire was on the floor below us. "Joker, where are your childer?"

"My what? You mean my babies?" he asked. His hair streamed behind him as the wind picked it up and tossing it. "I'll never tell you where I hid my babies!"

His prison uniform was torn and ragged. It looked like his last minutes in life had been fought for before he had finally been subdued. Over the drab gray he had thrown on a hospital gown now covered with blood as his hair hung loose around his shoulders. His eyes sparkled like the stars above us and he smiled happily.

"You birds have always been annoying!" he said.

"I know. We just keep coming back, don't we?" I asked, carefully creeping up on him.

"Do you know what has happened to me?" The Joker laughed. "The most wonderful thing happened!"

"I know." I whispered. "I know what happened."

"Do you know? I doubt you truly understand it though!" Joker cackled gaily and began to dance once more. "I wonder what Batman would say if you became one of my babies?"

I didn't move as he came nearer.

"You just have no clue do you?" I asked him.

"Sorry, you have me confused with Riddler!" Joker smirked, grabbing me in his arms.

I smiled back at him laughing.

A small line formed above his eyes as he looked down into my face. "What is so funny? You aren't supposed to be laughing at me!"

"Silly, silly, little neonate!" I whispered with a giggle. "No clue, the stars don't speak to you do they?"

"The stars?" He looked at me in confusion.

"They don't, do they? They remain silent for you. They don't tell you what you need to know. They don't want you to know. They want you to remain in ignorance! They weep that you exist at all!" I sneered.

"What on Earth are you talking about?" Joker asked me.

I laughed at him and took a step back. "Poor you. Too stupid to even realize what you have!"

He growled and his eyes filled with liquid silver. A green haired angel as snow began to flutter down around him. "Beautiful." I breathed.

"What?" He asked, losing his stride.

He blinked down at me, tilting his head in a way that indicated he was beyond confused. "You are supposed to be scared of me!" He pouted as I laughed again.

"Silly, silly, childe. How you must disappoint the Sabbat greatly. All their grand plans and you didn't even stick around long enough for them to explain anything. How long was it before you cannibalized them?" I asked, stepping closer.

"What are you talking about?" he asked, taking a step backward. "Stop! This isn't how it is supposed to be!"

"And how is it supposed to be?" I asked. "Was I supposed to fall down quivering in fear? Or was I supposed to shoot off my mouth a couple of times then you would vamp out and frighten me before feeding and turning me?"

The Joker didn't answer as I began to close in on him. The fire below was burning furiously and would break through the roof soon. I could already see places where the snow was beginning to melt and hear the breaking of glass as inmates tried to escape and firefighters continued to try and rescue them.

"Was that the joke? Turn me and then present me to Batman? I'm afraid that your joke is going to fall a little flat!" I announced.

He roared and tried to grab me. I was behind him before he could blink. "Was there something you wanted?"

His fangs dropped and ridges appeared between his silver eyes. "You aren't funny, brat!"

"Oh really? I thought I was hilarious! But it's true." I said sadly. "You are the funny one here!"

The smoke began to roll into the sky as Joker rushed forwards again this time catching me. I opened my arms and caught him to my chest. "Poor, beautiful, misguided childe." I whispered into his hair as his fangs tore into my throat.

I wrapped one of my hands into his hair allowing him to feed upon me moaning as his tongue probed the wound he made. He groaned as my other hand rubbed his back encouraging him. He pulled back in confusion and stared into my eyes and I smiled back allowing my own fangs to drop. "Sweet childe, you have no idea who I am!" I laughed as his bloodied mouth fell open.

I dived for his throat and ripped it open with sharp fangs pulling his dark evil blood within myself. Holding him tightly in my arms in a parody of intimacy. He struggled against me pushing at my chest with uncertain panic.

I pulled back dripping the monster's blood down the front of my clothing. "Guess who's older?" I giggled as he tried to pull away.

"Where are you going? Didn't you want to teach this little bird a lesson?" I hissed.

He roared in rage again and dived back toward me clamping his teeth to the unblemished side of my neck. The other side had gone numb and I knew it would be healed within minutes. I sighed and leaned into his bite freeing his head and allowing my hand to travel down to the swelling erection that I doubt he noticed he had developed. I rubbed him through the tattered clothing and he jerked back again in surprise.

"This isn't how it is supposed to be!" he whispered.

"Very little ever is!" I whispered back. "That counts as one by the way!"

I tried to pull him back to my throat but he jumped farther back and glared at me before disappearing over the side of the building. I tried to take a step after him but felt the floor begin to buckle. Shouts called through the night as the flames licked my ankles. I made one last desperate jump into the air and over the side.

Landing next to Nightwing he steadied me with a hand. "Where is he?" I asked.

"I don't know! It was like watching Wally…" Nightwing yelled over the noise of the sirens.

"Damn it!" I screamed causing several police officers and medics to turn toward me. Two of the medics gasped at the blood and rushed toward me. I glared back at them sneering. They jumped back as I growled.

"Where is Batman?" I asked suddenly.

"I…" Nightwing started nervously.

"Where is he?" I asked again.

"We don't know... we were hoping he was up there with you." he finished.

Oracle came through the line, "I can't get a trace on him. Either he turned the link completely off or its been destroyed."

"Damn it!" I screamed again.

"Is there a problem here?" The new police commissioner asked. Her blonde hair glinted in the flashing lights.

"Problem? Lady, we have more problems than you can shake a stick at! Damn it!" I yelled. Nightwing tried to grab my shoulder while hushing me. I slipped under his hands and dashed around and over the milling humans.

I could vaguely hear him making apologies for me to the tough female cop. She gawked at me as I came back to Nightwing's side. "He's long gone. Dawn will be here soon, I have to go to ground before it comes, I'm not completely healed from last night!"

She found her voice and asked, "Meta?"

"That sounds good enough..." I murmured as I watched the black and yellow clad firefighters fight the raging inferno. Water melted the snow and turned back into ice just as quickly causing the men to fall and slide. They made me think of fish on land. Black and yellow fish fighting a fire that they could not control.

"He's going to light more fires. He will try to keep us all busy till he goes to ground." I told them.

"How do you know?" Nightwing asked.

"I've seen it. I've seen it already. The stars told me, warned me. They told me in my dreams!" I whispered to him. "He's going to try and set the city ablaze!"

"It's so cold! And there isn't enough flame retardant foam to put out more than..." Nightwing confirmed my fears.

"We need to call in help." I told him.

"Batman…" I heard Oracle start to say.

"Batman isn't here! This city has been put through enough hell! Call in the JLA and Titans! Call Young Justice! Do it now!" I yelled through the link. "Save this town!"

"I need to scout around, then I need to…" I looked back at Nightwing and he nodded.

"Go!" He said.


 

 

I found nothing.

I returned to Lestat's Asylum with my tail between my proverbial legs and slunk in the door after removing my mask to be identified by the bouncer. The staff was cleaning up after what looked like a productive evening of entertaining the local talent.

They waved to me as I walked past them. With much reluctance I pulled back the dark velvet curtain and opened the door. The meeting room was empty and I continued on to the tapestry that hid the other door.

It wasn't until I hit the bottom step that I wondered if I should have even bothered returning at all, but the sun was rising and it drove me to open the door. The stars sang sadly and I whispered my apologies.

I passed the room filled with debris and knocked softly on the door of the Prince's inner sanctum.

Niculaie opened the door. I was taken back to the night I fled Nightwing and discovered the Gangrel upstairs in the meeting room.

"About time you got here!" he growled, pulling me into the room.

"Where the hell have you been?" Niculaie twisted my arm behind me. "Sabastian has been worried sick about you!"

"I turned off the link!" I whimpered as the bone threatened to snap. "I failed…again."

Sabastian rose from the bed and crossed the floor in two long strides. "Nonsense!"

"He's turned twelve inmates and has captured Batman!" I shook as the enormity of the situation came crashing down on me. "If he turns…"

"He won't turn the Batman." Jones shook his head. He walked into the room from the direction of the shower. "He won't do that. It would give the Batman an advantage that the Joker does not want."

"Your friends are all combing the city looking." Sabastian pulled on my hands. "They haven't found him."

I closed my eyes and felt dizzy as my knees threatened to buckle.

"This isn't necessarily bad!" Niculaie commented as Sabastian wrapped his arms around me. "Not finding him also means that they haven't found a body either!"

"That's right, Niculaie! See the good in everything!" Jones jeered. "Can't you see that the poor kid feels like shit?"

I felt another pair of arms go around me and begin to rock me gently. "I screwed up so bad. I haven't been this bad at the job since I first started!"

"You aren't doing badly!" Niculaie said reluctantly. "You are playing the game with a handicap. But you are still playing well. This town could have gone up like Chicago did way back when, what with the abandoned buildings and things the way they are, but you called his firebug tendencies spot on! They stopped most of the fires before they even got going good. That Superman guy has been all over the city putting things to rights and he's looking for your old man, too!"

"He's not my father." I whispered.

"Might as well be. Call him one of your many fathers. You got your biological, a foster father of sorts, that's Bats, you have your Father in Darkness, that was Tyler, and you have us!" Jones patted me on the back. "I'm grand Sire! And Sabastian is your great grand Sire! We have to count for something don't we?"

I smiled a little. "Yeah, I suppose. Though I'm a little grossed out about the whole father son imagery there."

"You'll get over it." Sabastian laughed.

"Now, you should rest, you have a busy night ahead of you. For now, there are three teams of heroes looking after this town." Jones said, steering me toward the bed.

"The Masquerade!" I looked up worried.

"It's okay! The teams with the exception of Young Justice and Superman himself all think that they are looking for a meta'd up version of the Joker. They think someone gave him powers!" Sabastian smiled. "I took care of it with a little help from that sweet little Oracle!"

"I'm scared that somebody will find out…" I started.

"Little one, I have been Prince of this city since around the time it was first founded. I've been alive since long, long before that! Don't you think, after all this time, I know how to cover my tracks with the mortal world?" Sabastian stroked the hair back from my face as I lay down.

"I know…I just…" I was at a loss for words as they began to remove my body armor and uniform.

"Shhh! Sleep, little brat. Someone will keep watch over the link all throughout the day." Jones told me laying a finger against my lips.

Stripped bare of my clothes I surrendered to the softness of the bed and leaned back into the waiting arms of my Prince as he pulled me close to his body and held me. "Sleep for now."

Jones slipped the little wire into his ear and sat down on the floor surrounded by bright pillows. "I'll wake you should any word of Batman or Joker's haven come through."

The brown haired man stifled a yawn and pulled a book out beginning to read. My eyes struggled to stay open for a few seconds before they grew so heavy I couldn't stop them from closing.

I was startled to feel additional arms encircle me, holding me from the other side and I fought to open my eyes and ask Jones what he was doing. I found myself blinking up into Niculaie's eyes. "Go to sleep!" he growled.

Niculaie hugged me harder as Sabastian's hand ghosted over my stomach. "He's right, go to sleep." Sabastian breathed into my ear.

No longer able to keep my eyes open at all, despite the shock, I found myself falling deeper and deeper into sleep, yet very aware of the rough hands that smoothed the hair back from my forehead and the chapped lips that pressed a soft kiss to my brow.


 

 

My Snow Angel danced over the glittering diamond snow before jumping into the air gracefully finally landing lightly on the ground. The angel watched the flames from a distance for a few seconds before spinning around and slowly winding his way back the way he had come. Backtracking.

Down a rabbit hole to fall in a river of mud, crocodiles floated belly up as the angel skipped merrily past them deeper into the earth. Above the igloo burned while the yellow and black fish tired. Flying birds blew on the flames and slowly put them out one by one.

A midnight sun shone under the earth as babies slept peacefully around the Reaper, his black shroud still wrapped tightly around him, his scythe discarded across the room. The angel tied the Reaper up tightly and hung him from the sky to await the moon.


 



I awoke beside Niculaie and Jones, startling them as I flew from the bed toward Sabastian. "Have you heard anything?"

Sabastian shook his head. "Nothing. They are still looking. They evacuated Arkham and put out all the fires though."

"I know where they are!" I pulled my body armor on as I spoke.

I pushed the link into my ear and heard it come to life. "I know where Batman is!"

Oracle asked. "Where? We can have someone there in minutes."

"I'll be there soon. Arkham! The bastard doubled back! Batman was never removed from the asylum, neither were the inmates. They are down deep below it! Joker only left long enough to start the other fires!" I rushed up the stairs even as I spoke, I could feel Jones and Niculaie at my back as I burst out of the nightclub and into the night.

I don't remember too much of the trip back to Arkham. It was like I was just suddenly standing in front of the smoldering ruin of the building. Smoke could be seen rising in different areas and the heat still radiated as a lone fire truck stayed nearby to fight any re-ignitions of the fire. I could smell chemicals wafting from the charred remains and realized that the Joker had to have used some sort of accelerant.

"We can't go in there!" Niculaie prowled as close to the debris as he could.

"They aren't inside. They are under it. All of it, somewhere…" I walked toward the perimeter where the fence stood to keep people in as well as out. Ignoring you and Superman as you dropped out of the sky to assist.

I remember you looked at me with a peculiar look on your face. Like you couldn't figure out what had happened to me. Like you weren't sure I was me at all. You looked sad.

You stayed behind and stared at Niculaie and Jones as Superman approached me. I was still looking for the entrance but I could feel him come nearer. Like the sun rising in the morning his aura hissed and with every step he took toward me I took a step away unwilling to let him too near.

"Oracle said Batman was hidden here?" Superman asked in that kind manner he has, the one that he sometimes uses when he thinks you are wrong but he hopes you are right.

"He is, I just have to find the way in. Joker went down the rabbit hole and went into wonderland!" I searched under the bushes as I spoke.

"You think he has tunnels?" Superman asked me. I looked up in surprise and smiled. It was nice to be understood. I think he thought I was being poetic or something.

"Yes, somewhere deep below all of this!" I nodded.

He seemed to shrug as he lifted himself into the air looking intently around the grounds. When he settled back down beside me, Niculaie and Jones came to stand beside me. You still watched from a distance though. You made me nervous to be honest.

"You're right! There are tunnels all over this place!" Superman whistled quietly. "It's a wonder that they all haven't run off before now."

"We need to find the one that leads to Batman! He's in danger!" I took a step forward before I remembered the feeling of the sun he gave off. Niculaie and Jones even kept their distance.

Nightwing's motorcycle roared as he gunned it through the now open gates to come to a stop a short distance from us. My throat tightened upon seeing him and it was all I could do not to rush forward and sweep him into a hug.

"I came as soon as Oracle called!" he said. Not too far behind him I saw others. Members of the Titans following their leader, they landed nearby quietly and seemed to be awaiting orders.

Nightwing watched me expectantly as he stepped closer. "Where is he?"

"There are tunnels under Arkham." Superman answered, walking along the ground watching it intently. His eyes glowed softly and they moved as though he were reading words upon a page.

"Batman always suspected that!" Nightwing nodded. "Which one leads to him?"

"I don't know, but Batman is in grave danger. The Joker's 'babies' will have woken by now!" I said urgently.

Nightwing ran a hand through his hair. "Oh, God, does Joker intend to feed him to them? Or to turn him?"

"I don't think he will turn him." I shook my head. "But as for a first meal? I don't know."

"What are you guys talking about?" Superman looked up at us.

Nightwing shook his head. "It is too complicated, we need to find him! Before it is too late!"

"This is bad! I've never seen a situation were any of us ever had to rescue Batman!" I heard Arsenal whisper to Tempest.

"Bad doesn't even begin to cover this shit!" I growled as I strode past him toward the building.

Superman raised his head and shook it. He looked directly at you and I could hear a tiny whisper on the wind. It struck me that you two were talking telepathically. I heard you tell him to 'do it'.

"If we can't find the tunnel he used, we will just have to make our own!" Superman jumped into the air and headed over the top of the black building. I could see his eyes glow again and watched him jerk back in the air.

I knew in that moment that Superman could see where Batman was exactly and by the look on his face I became worried by what he may have seen.

Superman rose higher and higher in the air before suddenly plunging headfirst back toward the ground, ramming the earth with the force of dynamite making a new path. The resulting explosion sent debris and dirt high in to the air behind him forcing all of us to take cover.

"Well, that was impressive!" Niculaie crowed, jumping toward the large crater. "It's hot but if we jump toward the middle…"

I nodded and leaped high into the air following Niculaie down. As I dropped down the large hole following the vampire and Superman I heard Arsenal ask… "Why didn't anyone tell us that Robin was meta?"

The drop jarred me as I landed and for a few seconds my bones vibrated with the force of impact. The numb yet tingling feeling along my feet told me that I had cracked some bones and had perhaps actually broken something but I shook it off as I began to heal.

My eyes adjusted to the darkness as I allowed my face to change. My vision was sharper in demonic form than human and I needed the edge that it would give me. Niculaie's face mirroring mine began to race toward the tunnel that Superman was still steadily building in his effort to get to Batman.

Within a few yards Superman found the original tunnel that the Joker had used. He turned toward us and I heard him gasp.

I looked up and shook my head. "We mean no harm. We are here to stop the Joker, to take him down. We are on your side!"

Niculaie nodded and held his hands out. "We are not of the same clan as Dracula. My clan has no interest in the petty bickering and power plays of the others. I am here to aid my comrades. Robin is here to right a wrong. The Joker was never meant to be turned. He was turned by those that would try to take over, Robin is attempting to stop this madness!"

I stepped forward also holding out my hands. "Batman is still my mentor and partner. He knows what I am. I'm only here to help. Please let me help?"

Superman looked from one to the other of us and finally sighed. "If you are here to help then I will not stop you, but if you…"

"I have never fed from a human." I assured him. "Please, we must hurry!"

Superman nodded and continued down the tunnel. An old sewer tunnel that still had water flowing through it. The river that the Joker had crossed in my dream. We hurried down the length only to be stopped by a huge blockage.

"Killer Croc!" I breathed.

He was dead. And had been for a while by the look of it. The flesh burnt by the fire the night before. It appeared that he had been placed as a barrier, a natural wall. Perhaps even as a twisted decoration. Superman winced as he grabbed the charred flesh of the corpse and pulled. Dead eyes stared unseeing as he flopped into the water he once enjoyed so much. I almost felt sorry for him, almost. He had tried to kill me before. It made it hard to completely forgive him his past sins.

Superman wiped his hands on his cape looking at the body with vague distaste before flying through the opening. We followed quickly allowing our celerity to keep pace with him.

We burst into a room that was suddenly too bright for our now sensitive eyes. I blinked in the light trying to adjust. Niculaie jumped forward and met the first newborn vampire.

As my eyes focused I saw the blood dripping from Batman's still form. He was hanging from the ceiling tied to the main light fixture. I listened for a second and heard the faint heartbeat. "Superman! Get Batman out of here now!"

The fledglings jumped up, sluggish, unsure of what to do as Joker hissed in anger. The Mad Hatter bared sharp fangs at me growling in rage and I leaped at him.

Behind me I heard the growls and sounds of battle as Niculaie fought tooth and claw against several opponents at once. I caught sight of Jones a split second before two more Malkavian neonates attacked me.

Above us Superman grabbed Batman and dashed out the entrance as Nightwing rushed in. "So this is where the party is!"

I couldn't answer as I grabbed the Mad Hatter's head in my hands and twisted. I could feel and hear the sharp pop as his neck broke and his body began to go limp. I lowered him gently to the ground before placing my foot on his chest and yanking the lifeless head up sharply.

I heard Nightwing gasp as I threw the now severed head to the side and went on to the next fledge.

Somewhere behind me I could hear the growls and snarls of Niculaie. I felt a spray of blood on the side of my face and turned just in time to watch as he pulled the head off another vampire.

The Joker was yelling and giving orders to his men. But even as he ordered them to 'stop us' to 'kill us' I saw as first Scarecrow and then Two Face slipped through a side tunnel escaping. A glance told me that the rest of us were each fighting two fledges.

The only thing on our side was the fact that Joker had not yet learned the extent of his powers, still a neonate himself and that his fledglings had only just awakened and were still confused. Nightwing was a flurry of kicks and punches trying to stay out of their grip. Flying over their heads with graceful leaps that reminded me of a cat. Niculaie was more like the angry tiger, plowing through his adversaries and ripping them apart with abandon while Jones had brought a sword with him and was attempting to decapitate his 'dance partners'. He wielded the sword with an age-old talent that made me wonder when he had been turned and what he was when he was mortal.

I heard a scream from the entrance as Jones' sword finally swiped in a perfect arc taking off the fledge's head. From too far away I saw Arsenal tackle Jones' sending him flying against a wall giving time for another neonate vampire to flee through an adjacent tunnel.

I screamed, "No!" trying to fall back to their position.

Nightwing jumped over the head of a non-descript mad man that I had not had the 'pleasure' of having fought before. "Arsenal, no!"

"He killed him!" Arsenal shoved his knee into Jones' throat as the elder vampire looked on in amusement. Amusement that only lasted long enough for him to regain his bearings to flip the bowman off into a wall.

"They are already dead!" Nightwing screamed.

"What?" Arsenal stood on shaky legs.

"They're dead!" Nightwing shouted grabbing for one of the young vampires and shoving it toward Niculaie. Arsenal watched in disgust as the older vampire snapped and then ripped the head off of the offending neonate.

Jones recovered his sword and jumped back into the fray.

The Joker screamed in frustration, apoplectic as he finally threw himself into the battle. I rushed forward and met him head on.

"So Batbrat, come to save papabat? He's lost a lot of blood…" the Joker hissed, trying to grapple with me.

The madman's balance was thrown off when instead of pushing him away I pulled him closer. "He'll live. He always does." I whispered in his ear, trying to hold him tightly.

The Joker growled, confusion marring his face, eyes wide as I wrapped my arms around him more firmly. The silver that covered his eyes glinted in the light and I smiled as I subtly tilted my head to the side, blocking out the battle around me.

Baffled, he gently kissed my neck, unsure of my reaction. I ran my hand through his hair softly, urging him on with gentle words, encouraging him to take. He kissed my neck again a look of almost horror in his eyes as I continued to smile, stroking his back and carding a hand through his long green hair. "Silly childe." I whispered.

On the last word I felt his fangs prick my throat and I pressed his head closer. I gasped as he ripped suddenly into the artery, trying to burrow into my skin, crawl within my flesh, become one with me. His hands were everywhere and I responded in kind, moaning softly as I felt my own fangs drop. It was sheer will power to resist drinking from him as he drank from me.

He drew back and looked into my eyes. "I don't understand."

His voice was low and husky. My blood covered his lips and his tongue flicked out, licking his lower lip.

"What don't you understand?" I kept my own voice low as I rubbed his scalp with one gloved hand. "You want me, don't you?"

He nodded then shook his head. An eye twitched as one of his hands touched my face almost reverently. "I don't like guys, no matter what the rumors." His voice shook. "I don't understand!"

I laughed soundlessly. "You want me and that is all that matters, silly childe."

"I'm older than you!" He was unable to look away as I stared relentlessly into his eyes, his voice sounding softer and softer with a faraway quality.

"In mortal years, yes, but we count only the time since we've been embraced. In that, I'm the elder." I chuckled.

He sighed as his eyes began to look dreamy; he slowly lowered his head to my shoulder as I continued to pet his soft hair. "Sleep, childe, sleep." I intoned. "That's two…"

I forgot the action behind us as I continued to lull the Joker, stroking him gently, speaking softly. I began to rock him in my arms, as I began to sing just under my breath. "Day is done, gone the sun, from the lake, from the hills, from the sky; all is well safely rest, God is nigh… Fading light, dims the sight, and a star gems the sky, gleaming bright. From afar, drawing nigh, falls the night… Thanks and…"

It was a shock when suddenly we were knocked to the side and the Joker went flying from my arms to the dirt floor. Nightwing stood between Joker and I as I quickly picked myself up. I watched in dismay as Joker looked up at me in shock and then fear. He dashed out the small tunnel before I could call to him.

I shoved Nightwing against the wall holding him dangling by the throat. "Why did you do that?"

Nightwing gasped and clawed at my hand struggling to breathe.

Niculaie pulled me off of Nightwing with a hiss of disapproval. "Get off of him!"

"The Joker got away!" I growled back.

Arsenal trained a cross bow on me, uncertainty reflected on his face. I eyed the bolt carefully and forced myself to calm down. "Why did you do that?" I asked again.

"He was feeding off of you!" Nightwing rubbed his throat tenderly.

"I had it under control!" I ground out between gritted teeth.

"How many got away?" Jones asked shaking his head.

"Including the Joker?" Niculaie looked back. "Six of them, we managed to kill seven of his brood."

"Not good enough!" I groaned. "We've got to find them!"

Arsenal slowly lowered his weapon and stared at us. "What…is going on here? What are you?"

I chewed on my lip and looked back at Nightwing. "Don't be mad. It's got to be done."

Nightwing looked confused for a few seconds until he realized what I intended to do. I turned back to Arsenal and smiled sweetly. "Arsenal?"

He looked wary as I slowly walked forward. "It is all right. It is all over. The battle is done."

Arsenal looked up at Nightwing, removing his sunglasses. Nightwing offered him a smile. It was a little watery but he tried to look reassuring. "Robin wants to explain."

Taking a few steps closer I looked back into his eyes. Calm, safe, warm, care. Calm, safe, warm, care. I chanted the words mentally as I stared into his bright green eyes. Calm, safe, warm, care. His body began to relax, the tension from the battle visibly fading as first one shoulder then the other lowered into a slump. Calm, safe, warm, care. Calm, safe, warm, care. "Day is done, gone the sun." I whispered. Silently I continued to sing in my mind. [From the lake, from the hills, from the sky; All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.] High above us barely heard the stars continued, {Fading light, dims the sight, And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright. From afar, drawing nigh, falls the night.}

Arsenal slowly tilted his head, "What?" his voice was soft and muted.

"Sun has set, shadows come, Time has fled," I walked closer never looking away from the green eyes that began to sparkle in the overhead light.

"What?"

The question was weaker but all aggression had left his body as he managed to smile. I stood close to him and reached out my hand to touch his arm. "While the light fades from sight, and the stars gleaming rays softly send, to thy hands we our souls, Lord, commend." I breathed.

I carefully breathed slowly taking the air in purposefully then letting it out in a steady stream. His eyes began to droop as his breathing fell in pace with mine.

"All is well. They were dead before you arrived by the Joker's hand. The others escaped, the Joker escaped. You saw nothing unusual." My voice was a monotone, my eyes never leaving his. "Do you understand?"

"Yes." the red head whispered. "I understand."

I smiled and carded a hand through his hair. "Good. We must go back up and they must be tracked down."

"Yes." He nodded.

Taking a step back and breaking eye contact he jerked. "Huh?"

"You…uh…zoned out there, buddy!" Nightwing slapped him on the back. "You okay?"

"I'm fine! Hey, we need to get topside! We've got to find the others!" Arsenal blinked in confusion as he looked back at me. Shaking his head he turned away, "Man, that Joker is a headcase! Killing his own guys?"

With another shake of his head he jumped through the hole.

"I don't necessarily agree with what just happened..." Nightwing sighed following his teammate.


 



"How is he?" I asked Sabastian as I jumped free of the hot debris.

"They took him away earlier. He'll be fine. He may need some blood transfusions but there will be no permanent harm." the Malkavian Prince said watching the commotion around him.

I looked and watched as Nightwing and Arsenal met up with many of the Titan members. Off to the side I saw Superman and you looking back at me. I tried to project a sense of… benevolence. You only raised one beetled brow that seemed to say 'Who do you think you are kidding?'

"How did you get them to let you in?" I asked as Niculaie walked away to talk to Nightwing.

"Oh, I have my ways. Same as you." Sabastian smiled. "There are very few who can resist a suggestion as simple as 'let me pass' from one of my age."

I frowned and looked down. "I failed again."

"The failure was not yours. Jones has already explained that you were interrupted." The look upon Sabastian's face was extremely grave and I watched him look back at you.

"He wonders about us, but he has decided to reserve judgment." Sabastian nodded toward you. "He listens in on us. I debate whether it truly endangers the masquerade. He is not human and the traditions specifically mean 'human'."

"Looking for a loophole?" I smiled.

"Always! I sometimes wonder how many of the insanity impaired started out as lawyers and how many make it into Malkavian ranks?" Sabastian smirked. "He will have questions later and as a telepath we can not dominate his mind as easily as these humans that mill around."

"Is that why you are here?" I looked around at the police and firefighters and notice more than a few clouded eyes.

Sabastian smiled and tilted his head to the side. "Look around you, little one. I'm not alone."

I looked more carefully and finally saw movement bringing the others into my sight. Jarred, Andrew, and the others were using their powers to hide from human detection while implanting suggestions. "Tidying up my mess?" I asked sadly. "Damage control?"

"Not your mess, little one. The Sabbat's!" he answered me.

"They got away, regardless." I bowed my head and sighed. "What next?"

"I'm afraid I have no choice but to call for a Bloodhunt." Sabastian placed his hands upon my shoulders. "I can't wait any longer."

"I failed you." I frowned.

"No, you didn't. Batman is still alive, in this you succeeded." He lifted my chin in his hand and I heard a gasp from Nightwing's group though I could not tell you whom it was from.

"I was made to stop the Joker. I failed in my mission." I whispered as Sabastian lightly stroked my face.

"Perhaps, perhaps not, the fight is not over. And if nothing else, you please me." his voice whispered in my ear.

"We should stop." I sighed. "We are giving Andrew and the others more work."

Sabastian laughed lightly as he drew back. "True."

When I looked back at the Titans they were talking among themselves. Jessie Quick's eyes seemed dazed as she looked blankly at Nightwing. After a few minutes they fanned out and went off in separate directions.

Young Justice landed nearby while the Supercycle roared as Lil'Lobo brought it to a stop. "Robbie!" Superboy called out.

I smiled at Sabastian and rushed off to meet them.

"We just heard the news." Wondergirl jumped from the bike landing next to me.

"Batman has already been rescued but the Joker and about five of his fledglings got away. The Titans and most of the JLA don't know exactly what we are dealing with." I clued them in quickly. "We are trying to keep it that way!"

"What can we do?" Superboy asked.

"Mostly what I need is for you all to run interference." I spoke in a hushed voice that I knew you and Superman could still hear.

"You mean help you keep the Masquerade?" Secret asked. "Keep the other heroes from finding out exactly what we are dealing with yet stop the bad guys?"

I nodded. "The Prince has called a Bloodhunt. It will go out to the Scourge and his elite. As his champion I am also involved. I guess what I really need from the Titans, JLA, and Young Justice is to help keep this city intact while we take him down. The Joker will want to take anyone and everyone out with him. He will scorch a path of misery and destruction on his quest. We can take him down, but we can't protect the people from the damage he will do."

"We can do that!" Superboy said with confidence.

"Thank you!" I sighed in relief.

Secret beamed at me. "You do still have good in you!"

"I don't know if it is good or wanting to save my own ass." I shook my head. "Even if the Prince stood by me at this point if vampires in other cities decided I risked too much they could come after me!"

"We will keep your secrets!" Wondergirl whispered. "No one will know!"

"That is more than I could hope for!" I smiled. "Thank you!"

Within minutes they too had dispersed. "Those are good friends of yours." I heard Sabastian's voice behind me.

"Yes, Are you angry?" I asked.

"No. If the Joker destroys this city I will have no city to rule. If they can keep their own counsel then they are allies we can use. It is not uncommon to have human allies. Just so long as they can be controlled or trusted. The Gangrels have their gypsies, the Venture their business partners, even our kind aren't above using the help of humans. They like you, they want to help you, and I can't see them endangering you if they understand the risks." Sabastian said. He looked back at you and Superman and something passed across your face. Did he talk to you? You don't have to answer.

"We must return to the haven." Jones whispered over Sabastian's shoulder. "We have to coordinate the Bloodhunt."

I looked around the area and not many of the superpowered set were left. Nightwing had returned and walked with Niculaie toward our group. Only Superman and yourself remained and you spoke together without ever saying a word. Humans continued to mill about some with clouded and confused eyes but they all performed their jobs to perfection. I concentrated and heard the new commissioner speaking to a lieutenant. "…attacked by wild animals, possibly those hyenas he always favors…" They turned away and the words were whipped away with the wind until they turned back. "…Nightwing..."

Niculaie growled in irritation as he grabbed my wrist and pulled me behind the others.


 



The club was closed by the time we had returned. No humans remained on the premises and a sign greeted us that simply said, "Closed due to family emergency."

"Well, I suppose it is accurate." I squinted as we walked through the doors.

"Oh, hush!" Sabastian gestured at me.

Behind us the five vampires I had come to know as Sabastian's elite, Niculaie and Nightwing followed.

The vampires cast wary glances at Nightwing as they sat down at the largest of the tables in the club. Niculaie sidled closer, growling sub vocally, warning them away.

"Look we don't have time for a pissing contest, okay?" Jones groaned. "The human is welcome here."

"First a Gangrel, now a human? What next?" Andrew glared at first Jones then Sabastian.

The blow came out of nowhere and threw Andrew backward several feet into the air. "You WILL mind your tongue! One more word and final death will be yours!"

Hunger flared in Niculaie's eyes as he watched Sabastian discipline the young vampire. A look of shock passed Nightwing's face and I wasn't sure if it was over Sabastian's actions or those of Niculaie. The Gangrel had edged closer to the Prince, pulling the Malkavian close with one arm, the purr that issued from his throat seductive. Sabastian leered at the younger vampire over his shoulder before sobering.

"We have a situation on our hands. The Joker is the ultimate wildcard; on more than one occasion he has either tried to destroy this city or indeed the world. He is a threat to the Masquerade…" Sabastian said.

Andrew picked himself up and returned quietly to the table.

Sabastian ignored him as he slipped back into his seat, as did everyone else. Only Nightwing chanced a look at the chagrined vampire. I watched only out of the corner of my eye as Andrew sneered back. Nightwing quickly looked away and wisely took as step nearer to those that would protect him.

"The Scourge has already been informed and given pictures of the Joker and his fledglings." one of the men stated. "We are to meet back with them immediately after leaving here. Also, the Primogen council is demanding a meeting."

"I will give them one…after this issue is resolved." Sabastian sighed.

"Do we have any ideas on how to draw the Joker out?" Jones asked.

I found myself raising my hand as they all looked up in surprise.

"Robin?" Sabastian smiled kindly.

"I'm going to try to call him." My voice wavered and I had to clear it on the last word.

Surprise lit Sabastian's face as he asked. "Do you think you can?"

I shrugged, "I don't know, I might be able to. He's drunk from me on two separate occasions. I was hoping that if he got away I could later call him back to me."

"That was a risk!" Jones raised his voice. "He could have diablerieized you!"

Flinching I ducked my head. "I know."

"He could have killed you!" Nightwing yelled.

"Like that has never been a risk at any other time?" I yelled back. "Hello? This is what I'm here for remember? This is what I do? Take risks? Take the bad guy down? Do we not remember this point?"

Sabastian offered his own glare before hissing. "You are my childer, I have taken you for my own…I will not allow you to die a final death. Do not think that I don't know you intend to ask for release upon completion of this mission. Know now, it will not be granted. To seek your death is selfish."

"It is my death to seek." I whispered.

"You are mine, through blood, through law, through tradition. Your life is for me to decide. I grant you much freedom, but I will not grant you release!" Sabastian's eyes glowed through the silver that had drifted down over his eyes.

His gaze broke my will and I was forced to look down. "As you wish, my Prince."

Jones quietly cleared his throat. "If he can call the Joker…"

Nightwing nodded. "It would make things a lot easier."

Sabastian rolled his eyes. "I didn't say he would not be allowed to call him. Or at least try to call him, only that I would not let him die!"

"We have humans watching for activity throughout the day, it is possible that the Sabbat may try to reinitiate contact with the Joker, they used humans before, they may again." Jarred ventured.

"There are superheroes attempting to keep the chaos to a minimum while we try to regain control." Niculaie said. "Until tonight we will be unable to do much. The sun will be rising soon."

"I should go. I will need to talk to my team." Nightwing tilted his head toward me. I nodded in return and fell in step behind him.

"Is there something you wanted to talk to me about?" I asked him as I closed the door behind us.

False dawn lit the sky and my precious stars were fading quickly. It was strangely tranquil standing next to him. No other humans were within any distance of us and the only other beings were the vampires that still remained in the building.

Nightwing rubbed his arms as small puffs of breath formed in the air. "Yeah, I did want to talk to you, alone."

"We're alone now." I stepped closer.

"The Joker, you…he…" He flushed as he spoke and looked away.

"Oh, that." I grimaced. "A lot of that was an automatic…physical response. Some of it, it was…"

I struggled to come up with an explanation that he would understand.

"I don't feel for him." I began. "Some of it was a way of throwing him off kilter. Some of it was just the biting. It is a sensation that I can never properly explain. A lot of it…I could never describe to you. There is a violence within me that calls to his. It is the same thing that makes Niculaie want Sabastian."

"You're right, I don't exactly understand." Nightwing rubbed his arms again and I wished I could warm him.

"I'm truly sorry." I sighed. "I wish I could help you understand."

One of my hands found its way onto his arm. Lightly stroking it feeling the strong muscles underneath. "I don't like making you…feel this way…"

"What way?" Nightwing asked. "Because I'm not even sure of how I feel."

I closed my eyes as I let the switch inside flick back on for the first time since I consciously turned it off. When I opened them I blinked in surprise. In the past I had seen red and green bands that tightly surrounded him. Red for anger and what I suspected was green jealousy.

He glowed in the fake dawn and had I been breathing he would have taken my breath away. I could not speak and had to remember to breathe so my vocal cords would work. "Beautiful." The word came out strangled and choked as I took a step forward unable to resist.

"What?" He, asked, confused, and a new color wrapped around the three already there.

"Beautiful." I sighed again. "So beautiful."

Green still wrapped around him, glowing brightly, neon in color sparkling, as bright lights seemed to move and bubble within like one of the florescent tubes in the jukebox back at the Alley Bi. But new colors wrapped around him, yellow that seemed to pulsate in time with the flash of the large blue band that wrapped around his middle. And the new color that which I now associated with confusion, a bright purple.

"What do you see?" He, asked, flushing.

"You," I smiled. "Your emotions. Beautiful."

Tentatively, I stroked his arm through the fluxing colors watching in fascination, as my hand seemed to sink into light. "I see confusion, jealousy, and two other emotions I've never seen before…"

"Jealousy?" Nightwing seemed to consider that. "I suppose that is accurate. It would certainly explain the burning desire to stake Jones, Sabastian, you, Joker, and even Niculaie at times."

There was amusement in his words but I could see the seriousness on his face.

"I wasn't trying to make you jealous." I said.

"I know, but…" He looked away then looked back. "I have no right to be jealous."

"You could have that right," I smiled shyly. "There are bonds that can be formed that still allow freewill yet…well…kind of like…"

The heat had returned to my cheeks and I ended up biting my lip.

"Niculaie told me about those. With a human it is like giving an engagement ring…when I'm embraced you could solidify it into more of a…"

"Marriage situation." I nodded.

"That's…that's a big commitment." One of his gloved hands ran through his hair nervously.

"Yes, it is." I nodded again. "And a decision that I can't make for you. You know how I feel about you. You know what I want."

It was his turn to nod. "I know. I've just…never really been all that great at the whole relationship thing."

"Few people, living or dead, are." I shrugged with one shoulder.

He chuckled nervously. "Oh, my God, uh, it just occurred to me, you just proposed!"

"Yep, you don't have to answer tonight though." I traced his jaw with a finger. "I understand that it is a big decision. I also won't hold it against you if you decline."

He licked his lips and looked down at me. "I appreciate that. Uh, you won't…sleep…with any of them tonight? Will you?"

The green bands were growing and reaching out for me.

"No. I won't." I smiled. "I promise."

In amusement I watched as the green strands retreated and thinned. "I love you." I whispered.

"Do you love them?" he asked. His voice was hushed and tight.

"In a way. I love you more… I love you best. I love them different. They are…" I grimaced. "For lack of a better word…they are family."

"That was an image I did not need." He shuddered.

"Sorry." I couldn't help but smirk.

"Oh, yeah, you look sorry!" He playfully swatted at my shoulder.

"I should…go back in…" I took a step away. "Sun is coming soon."

He step forward and leaned in. "Um…this is…awkward."

Giggling, I wrapped an arm around his waist. "You are acting like this was our first date!"

He sniggered. "I suppose this isn't too different than a lot of my dates go. Bad guys usually do come somewhere in the middle."

He lowered his head and our lips met. The blue band that surrounded him grew and encircled both of us. "Beautiful…" I murmured against his lips.

I pulled him closer and he wrapped h is own arms around me. Loving hands stroked the hair on my head as his tongue gently played with mine. He drew back, his eyes dark. "Shame about the sun…" he said vaguely.

I smiled and nodded. "But it does eventually go down. You need to go help your team. Check on Batman. Try to keep damage control…"

Before I could finish my sentence the ground shook with the force of an explosion. In the far distance I could hear the rumble like thunder rolling. Glass tinkled somewhere.

Nightwing looked up and shook his head. "That wasn't another earthquake…"

"No! Explosion! Go!" I pushed him toward the direction the sound came from. "Let me know through Oracle!"

I hissed as the sun finally broke through and retreated into the building slamming the door behind me. There are times that being a vampire really sucks.

Checking the connection in my ear I continued through the club to reach the main meeting room. Niculaie met me. "What the hell just happened?"

I saw Sabastian slip the connection into his own ear and only half listened as he asked Oracle. "What happened?"

Turning back to Niculaie I answered. "I don't know myself but there was some sort of explosion. Nightwing went off to investigate!"

Niculaie leaned in and sniffed delicately a few times before giving me a dirty look. "What else happened out there?"

I shook my head and tried to look innocent. "Nothing. Just talking then the explosion."

We were interrupted as Oracle came across the line. "They blew up one of the sanitation plants!"

"How?" I asked.

"Not sure yet, Superboy is going with some of the Titan's to investigate." Her disembodied voice filled my ear.

"Good! He'll keep things quiet. What about the rest?" I asked.

"Young Justice has managed to make themselves available, in part, in all areas. They have someone helping the remaining JLA members, some helping the police, the fire department, the paramedics and of course the Titans. At least one member is where the main threat of discovery is. Tim, none of us have any desire to out you. You are still too important to us. We care about you. No matter what you are. I'll do my part you can count on me."

"Thank you." I ducked my head unseen by the woman on the other side of the link. "How is Batman?"

"Batman is fine, he's a little quiet, a little subdued according to Alfred but he is fine physically. I think it just finally hit home what all this is about. Just a second…"

The line went dead while Sabastian and I waited for her to return. Around us the others worked with a map and made phone calls. A couple though stared off into empty space and I wondered if perhaps they were contacting others via more… mental ways.

Her voice came back on the line. "Batman's back on the front lines. He's heading to the sanitation district as I speak."

I felt a lead ball drop into my stomach. "Is this a good thing…or a bad thing?"

"Good, he told me to tell you… 'I understand'." she said. "He's not going to endanger you."

"Is he sure he should be just bouncing back into the fray?" Sabastian asked from the corner.

"Yes, it is how he deals with things." Oracle said quietly. "Nightwing will keep an eye on him. He has in the past."

I found myself struggling to keep my eyes open. Jones gently pushed me toward the bedroom down the stairs. "You need sleep, little brat. We have a long day and night ahead of us."

He ran his hand down my back and I felt myself harden. With an apologetic smile I moved away. "I promised Nightwing I wouldn't…"

Jones removed his hand and raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

My face burned and I again ducked my head. "I asked him if he would…"

"Do you really think he is ready for that kind of commitment? He rejected you…"

"He rejected himself. He's still thinking about it." I lowered myself onto the many cushions.

"Niculaie won't be pleased." Jones shook his head.

"Would you be?" I asked sincerely.

Jones sighed and sat down across from me. "I would get over it. But you are still ours. Our family at least, we will always be here for you."

"They are my family, too."

Jones smiled slowly. "I suppose they are at that."


 



Flowers bloomed in the sky as the stars wept in shame. The Snow Angel looked on in joy as the old castles fell to the ground. Flames danced through the streets greeting the young and the old embracing them, kissing them, loving them into death.

Children, tiny miniatures of the inmates that had escaped danced around the green haired angel of death before growing and then flying off in separate directions. Teeth bared clutching the dying to their breast.


 



I woke early before the sun had completely gone down. I was alone. From a distance I could hear the others upstairs. Muted voices whispering above me, their voices seemed subdued and I slowly went up the stairs apprehensive.

As I climbed the steps I placed the connection in my ear and listened as a steady stream of information flitted through the line. Oracle had connected a large number of heroes on one line in an effort to reduce the time it took to convey information. It wasn't an unusual tactic but it was strange to hear the Prince talking to Batman then Wonder Woman as they relayed possible points of attack.

By the time I had entered the meeting room I had discovered that the Joker had managed to detonate several bombs planted throughout the city. The beleaguered heroes were hard pressed to keep up with the massive destruction that seemed to be using an untraceable remote system and at times humans under the influence of an unknown substance.

I came up behind Sabastian and asked, "What are you supposed to be?"

"Um…Batman's…something or another?" Sabastian lifted a brow. "He vouched for me, they went for it. He even let me have a code name. I got to pick it out. Cool, huh?"

"What is your code name?" I asked.

"Dark Trick." He stuck his tongue out a little. "Silly, isn't it?"

"No sillier than some I've heard. Think about it? I'm named after a spring bird! Not to mention some of the stupid things people come up with, not just the heroes, but the villains, too. The Baffler?" I shook my head. "I like your code name. How did you come up with it?"

Sabastian shrugged. "Eh, he and I talked earlier. I told him about some of the more interesting aspects of the Kindred. The Embrace is sometimes called the Dark Trick."

I was surprised. "You two talked? About what?"

Sabastian shook his head. "That's between me and him, little one. He needed…understanding. That's all you need to know. He's quite a man. It is no wonder so many fight for and beside him."

"That must have been some talk!" I blinked.

"Yes, it was." He nodded seriously.

"Any ideas on where he and his fledges went?" I asked coming to the map that Jarred had marked with another pin. "These indicate where explosions have taken place?"

"Yes, he appears to be doing the scorch the earth method. I don't think he has gathered his wits together yet to think out a cohesive plan. I'm sure you recall how confusing it was just after being turned." Sabastian said, pointing to the different pins. "But that will change soon enough. And we can't let him get time to figure things out. Right now, he's lashing out like a child during a temper tantrum."

"Hm, some temper tantrum." I shook my head looking at the map carefully.

"Yes, quite." Sabastian nodded.

I gained Oracle's attention and told her. "He's heading toward the area that hasn't been repaired yet from the earthquake, the ruins. He plans on destroying them. Perhaps to rebuild them, I don't know. But I would have everyone check for big bombs, BIG bombs, make sure none have gone missing."

"Are you sure?"

"I can't explain it. I see…what he wants…what…might happen sometimes."

"Vague enough?" she quipped.

"Could it hurt to check?" I asked.

"No, I can have Flash and Impulse check things out." I heard the request go out and turned back to Sabastian.

"Have you heard from Nightwing?" I asked.

He nodded, "He's catching a little nap. He was dead on his feet."

I groaned. "No dead comments, not tonight."

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"I'm going to try and call him. I'm heading toward the ruins." I turned back for a moment.

"Not without an escort!" Sabastian grabbed my arm hauling me back.

"You can't be serious!"

"You bet your sweet tight ass!" the Prince said.

"Um, could you close the link before you say stuff like that?" Oracle asked with a giggle. "Unless you plan on providing pictures that is!"

I glared at Sabastian who leered into the air. "Only if you ante up pics of you and Black Canary!"

"Dark Trick…you are such a…" a voice said before the line went quiet before Oracle returned laughing. "Sorry about that…Canary…heard you."

"Flash just reported in…you were on the money. Two stolen bombs. Looks like they got in through a tunnel of some sort. The military is sealing it and have set up extra guards all over. Seems that they had never considered that someone would tunnel in."

"I think Joker had something like this planned for years…he's just now getting a chance to act upon it. Those tunnels run all throughout the city. A lot of them are part of the old subway system underneath the current one." Nightwing's sleepy voice broke over the line.

"That's not good." Sabastian shook his head. "Nightwing, Robin intends to go to the ruins, I'm sending Andrew and Jarred with him. Could you meet him there?"

"I'll be there!" the answer was curt and to the point.

It was a surprise to hear Batman break in. "I'll be there also!"




My two shadows followed me all the way to the ruins. The biggest area that had still not been fixed up since the earthquake that had once resulted in Gotham being made into a No Man's Land.

They were silent, never saying a word, simply obeying the Prince without any questions asked. The three of us simply skipping from rooftop to rooftop sometimes skirting a collapsed building before jumping briefly onto another tall structure, never putting down enough weight long enough on any one thing to bring it tumbling down.

Few humans lived in this part of town. Only the homeless, who squatted in condemned buildings, trying to find shelter in the cold. Tiny fires burned in small metal trashcans as they huddled close trying to stay warm. They were ignored as we hurried past looking for only two specific humans.

We found them standing on top of some concrete rubble.

I suspect that Flash had dropped them off and I indicated as much. Nightwing opened his mouth to answer but Batman interrupted him with. "How exactly will you 'call' the Joker?"

"I allowed him to feed from me twice, it gives me…a link to him." I answered carefully watching Nightwing's face. He grimaced and looked away.

"Do you need to prepare? Anything you need beforehand?" Nightwing asked, his voice a little rough. I lifted my concentration and allowed myself to peek at his aura. The green had begun to creep back in.

"I just need to concentrate." I tried to smile.

"Will he obey?" Batman asked.

I shrugged. "He may, or he may not. It depends on him really. I have to convince him that he needs to see me! The fact that I know him fairly well gives me a slight advantage."

Nightwing turned back to me with a glare and I felt my cheeks begin to heat.

"Friendship is not necessary, dire enemies can call each other. It is knowledge, not friendship, that makes it possible. I know him fairly well, it gives me a chance, and the feeding gives me a better chance but he could still refuse. That is why I have to convince him that he needs and wants to see me." I tilted my head apologetically. "I do have to be convincing."

Nightwing nodded reluctantly. "I understand."

Batman looked up and then shot his line across the sky, rising into the night, hiding as best he could among the vagrants in the hopes that they would disguise his attendance. After a second Nightwing followed. I ceased to sense Jarred and Andrew as they used their own powers to disguise themselves supernaturally then hide in the conventional manner.

I walked away, leaving them behind. I had never actually called anyone before. I had used other forms of Presence but never that form. Only the fact that I could feel a tiny sliver, a thread, that connected him to myself allowed me to even entertain the idea that I could call him.

Finding a quiet area I knelt in the snow and looked up at the beautiful sky. The stars winked down on me and I prayed to them for strength. Taking a deep cleansing breath I let it out slowly, closing my eyes.

The cold seeped into my skin numbing me but I did not shiver, my body no longer needs to keep itself warm. The cold wet was a minor discomfort from memory rather than any real need to be warm and dry.

I picked at the thread within my mind, imagining his face, the green eyes that sparkled with malice and hate one minute then mischief the next, the green hair that had grown since his stay in the Slab, hanging down past his shoulders in waves and somehow softening the sharp planes of his angular face. His lips stained ruby and highlighted with lipstick; a fact unknown to most people. An animated mouth that could frown as easily as smile but choosing to always remain turned up. Slim body that hid muscles built by years of lifting weights in institutions, a clever mind that could have solved world problems had it not been bent toward destruction.

The thread widened and inside my mind I could almost see it, a silver line that stretched from me into an all-encompassing darkness. Only on the other side I could feel a tiny little pull, like someone picking it up and holding it.

I concentrated on the feel of skin against my lips, the taste of his blood. The feel of his erection as I touched him, holding him close to my body. Stroking him as he hardened more. Taking my blood…

[what?]

(Come to me…)

[why?]

Instead of answering I sent images of holding him, tilting my head to the side as he fed from me eagerly, blood, lust, sex…

(Come to me…)

[no.]

(Why not?)

[busy.]

(Doing?)

I project the image of pouting. The feeling of disappointment. I feel him picking the line up tightly, pulling it to him harder.

[work.]

(Can I help?)

[do gooder?]

(vampire do gooder?)

[kill us.]

(Threaten territory…share now?)

[no trust.]

(Silly childe!)

Again I tried to project desire through the link.

(Make childer, threatens us, population control, over now. Fuck!)

[blunt.]

(Horny.)

[busy.]

(Help? Finish faster… fuck sooner!)

I try to call up the memory of Sabastian inside me, the sensations as he filled me…I hear him laugh through the mental channel.

[come…to me…]

I smile as I jump to my feet. He didn't heed my call…he had called me. Either way, I now knew where he was.

"Come on out! I have to hurry!" I called out to my watchers.

"It failed?" Batman asked coming out of the shadows.

"Yes, and no. Instead of coming to me, he called me to him. I think he is with the bombs. Setting them. He expects me soon. I have to hurry!"

"How do you know where to go?" Batman asked grabbing my shoulder before I could jump.

"When one is called you are given a sort of mental map of where they are. He wouldn't come to me, but he couldn't pass up the chance to fuck me." I grinned as Batman shifted uncomfortably.

Batman raised his arm to shoot the line and I grabbed his arm. "You can't go!"

"What?" He turned to me; under normal circumstances such a look would have been intimidating.

"Here, you were hidden among the vagrants that hide here in the ruins. Where I am going there are no humans. You would be noticed! He would know it is a set up. I am going to have to go in with just Jarred and Andrew!"

"That is unacceptable!" Batman growled.

"It's going to have to be! Otherwise, we will lose the one chance we have to end this quickly!"

Nightwing watched quietly and I grimaced.

"You trust me, don't you?" I asked Nightwing.

Looking away he bowed his head and I felt my heart begin to sink. Finally he turned back to me and said. "I trust you, I don't trust him!"

"Jarred and Andrew will be there to help me." I reached out a hand and touched Nightwing's face. "He won't win."




The entrance to the tunnel was partially hidden under fallen debris. It led deep underneath a collapsed building. On closer inspection it looked like one of the old subway entrances.

I slipped into the narrow passage and made my way down following the mental call that led me to the Joker.

Behind me, quietly and unseen by the disciplines, Jarred and Andrew followed. I have to admit to being a little impressed by their ability to move with such stealth. It occurred to me that they were a part of Sabastian's elite for a reason. Working directly for him when he did not trust the council or the Scourge to accomplish a set goal. Reports filtered in through my ear of the search for the Joker and his men.

Oracle set up a private link to discuss Kindred business and Sabastian flipped between both smoothly. I berated myself for the fear that he would slip; reminding myself that insanity did not mean he was not intelligent.

I concentrated on the tunnel walls, crumbling in places they had been reinforced with beams and concrete. It had been repaired since the earthquake.

Batman had always had the theory that Joker actually planned several campaigns at a time, starting them and then abandoning them in favor of better tactics. Leaving the deserted strategies to be picked up again at a later date. This one bore all the marks of having been plotted during No Man's Land. His tags adorned the walls, supplies lined the sides, unopened, unneeded by the now undead army.

"Dark Trick reports that three inmates have been…found…" Oracle broke through. "His men…found…their bodies a few minutes ago. Same MO as the ones that died under Arkham."

We had all agreed to allow everyone to believe that Joker was killing his own men. That he had killed the ones under Arkham. Oracle was telling me that the Scourge had found and destroyed three vampires for the Bloodhunt. They would receive an award during the next Primogen council meeting.

I heard sounds from the end of the long tunnel, a low murmur of voices.

"Reports of more explosions…"

I turned Oracle off instead concentrating on the sounds in front of me, mumbling and muttering, indistinct words that I could barely make out.

"Hello?" I called out. Whereas Jarred and Andrew continued to maintain stealth I had gone out of my way to make as much noise as possible.

The insane glint in his eyes did little to reassure me as I came around the corner. "So! Bat boy has become Vampire Bat boy?" He smiled hugely, his trademark when he was alive.

I smirked and rolled my eyes pulling the mask off. "I suppose you could put it that way. Of course I can't actually shape shift. That discipline is a little beyond me."

A look of confusion flitted across his face before being replaced with a leer. "You like discipline?"

I caught his true meaning so you can stop looking at me that way. But I do admit to answering, "You would be surprised at what I like!"

"Oh I always knew something was going on between you bat boys!" He walked closer and as he stepped away from the table I could see the doorway behind him.

"Oh, no, nothing like that, Batman is so 'repressed' that I wonder if he is still a virgin!" I laughed. "No, I've never done nothing with him. Now…others…on the other hand…" I ran a my tongue over my lips.

I tucked the mask into my belt and he blinked at me, realizing that I had iremoved my mask. "No secret IDs?"

"I'm dead!" I laughed again moving closer and undoing the clasp to my cape. "I don't need a secret ID! What would I hide? My crypt?"

"You have a crypt?" he asked a little nervously as I placed a hand on his chest, stroking it gently.

"Not really, I have a grave though. Lucky you! You were turned and woke up immediately. I was turned, had an autopsy, and was embalmed then fucking buried!" I growled and watched him jerk back in surprise. "I woke up in excruciating pain!"

"Sounds rough." He didn't seem to know what else to say. I very well doubt anyone that he thought of as being from the hero set had ever talked to him like that.

"Well, lucky for me…I don't mind it…rough!" I leered back at him and pushed against him.

"You aren't much like you were, are you?" he asked with wonder in his voice.

"Nope, and I suspect that even you find differences between how you were and how you are now." One of my hands tangled in his hair.

"Things are…confusing." His hand wrapped around my waist and held me against him. "I don't understand…this…any of this."

"Yes, it is very confusing at first. Well, it never stops being confusing, you just learn to go with the flow after a while." I giggled and let my other hand wander and listened in satisfaction as he made a delightful squeak.

His fangs dropped and I watched in fascination as his face turned demonic. Moving slowly, I took my hands away and removed my gloves tucking them away like my mask.

The Joker's face was soft and smooth to the touch and his lips parted as I ran a thumb over them. Stroking them as I watched him shudder. "Pretty childe." I whispered.

"Ugly." He shook his head. "Mutilated."

"No, beautiful. Kindred do not see as humans." I dropped my control and allowed myself to see him unfettered. He glowed as though he were bathed in black light. At the center a dark center pulsated. I had never seen such a thing, the result of diablerie he was marked. Marked for destruction.

He frowned and I pulled him closer.

"Have you seen anyone that is ugly or disgusts you? Or do you find it all as fascinating as I do?" I remembered the bum in the park. Even he held beauty.

"The world is ugly." He continued to frown. "It mocks, it hates, it does not deserve to exist!"

"Am I ugly?" I asked curiously. I stared briefly into the room behind him and could make out military insignias. The bombs, he had been arming them.

"I don't know... you confuse me."

"That's okay. I confuse myself." I kissed him.

I think I surprised myself as much as I surprised him. The kiss was ferocious, terrible, and good all at once. I hated myself for wanting more. I hated myself for rubbing against him and enjoying it. It was only thoughts of Nightwing and the hope that he would agree to bond with me that kept me from just giving in and completely enjoying myself.

I tilted my head and gently led his mouth to my throat offering myself to him. Prompting him to bite. I sighed as the teeth slid easily through the skin and moaned when he started to drink. The connection between us strengthened, broadened, and expanded. Images, flashes of insight that disappeared as quickly as I recognized them flitted through my head. A woman, pregnant near birth by the look of it, two caskets, one too tiny…too tiny. Guns, fear, pain, disgust. A hell both of his making and not. Shattering of glass, shattering of a mind. Alone, hatred, lost. Spinning like a compass with no direction, until the Bat, something to focus on, something to blame, something to give meaning.

A child, not a child, but the Bat's child, to make dead, dead like the tiny child that never took a breath. To make the Bat as alone, as hurt. Dismay when a new bird takes its place. Dismay when the Bat is not broken, but actually moves on, dismay when the bird takes flight and soars. Obsession born.

Obsession over me.

And now, he had me.

I began to feel weak and pushed him away. He gasped and collapsed to his knees as I took his face into my hands and kissed his brow. "And that…was three."

"Three?" Bewildered.

"Where are your last two childer?" I demanded.

"Childer?"

"Your…babies! Where are they? What did you send them to do? Three of them were killed just before I got here. You felt them die! Where are the last two?" I gripped his face tightly in my hands and I could see him fighting my command.

"They…are…" He closed his eyes tightly and the struggle to disobey showed on his face.

"Tell me!" I shouted. "Now! I command you!"

Andrew and Jarred stepped from the shadows. Watching me as I interrogated the Joker.

"Two Face…power…" He struggled to keep the words from falling from his lips and I switched the line on and asked Oracle for the private line.

"Two face is at the power plant!" I looked back into Joker's face. "Where is the other?"

I pulled Joker up wrapping my arms firmly around him. "Where is the last one? Where is Harley? Where did you send her?"

I heard the footstep without ever feeling her as she stepped out. "Right here, batboy! What did you do to Mr. J?"

The makeup made her look garish with the fangs and demonic face. She growled low in her throat as Jarred and Andrew dropped into a crouch.

"Your Mr. J. is mine! He gave himself to me freely." I smiled. He fed willingly from me three times; he had created a blood bond giving me complete and total power over him.

"Never!" She screamed leaping forward.

Jarred swung a sword at her as Andrew attempted to knock me out of the way. As I still held onto the Joker he rolled with us.

It was…rather anticlimactic I'm afraid.

Jarred…accidentally cut Joker's head off while trying to swing at Harley. I was lucky that he didn't take my head off with that swing. Sabastian made it a point of lecture for days afterward.

As the Joker's head rolled toward her, she froze looking on with horror, giving Jarred time to cut her head off also.

In the meantime, I was in shock as the connection between the Joker and I was abruptly snapped; leaving me disoriented and confused.

I don't remember much from that point on. I'm told that Andrew carried me back to Sabastian.




I awoke to the most beautiful sight I had ever seen.

Nightwing was sitting beside me looking down into my face, his hand stroking my hair. His mask was off and his gloves lay by his side.

I glanced around and realized that I was lying in Sabastian's bed. His ever-present pillows lay haphazardly around the room and scattered across the bed. Black silk sheets made a watery pattern underneath us in the half-light.

"Hey." he whispered.

"Hey back." I blinked up in surprise. "What happened?"

"Joker's dead, the last of his men are dead. The Malks have effectively wiped clean everyone's memories of the last couple of days. They even managed to get close enough to Superman and J'onn that they were able to suppress if not completely clear their minds. Everything has pretty much been quieted down. The official story stands that Joker busted out, busted out some of his buddies then killed them in a fit of pique. Harley and the Joker died in a fire under the ruins. Very clean, very tidy. Never would have believed it of the Prince of Gotham." Nightwing told me, all the while stroking my hair.

"Sounds like I missed a lot." I tried to sit up but he pushed me back down onto the bed.

"Rest. They said that the Joker's death took a lot out of you." He smoothed my hair again and looked pensively to the side.

"It's not what you think. Not really. I will admit that the bloodletting part was very arousing, the whole act is, but the blood bond we had was one of familiarity and domination, not of affection or love. The one I proposed to you…that IS of affection and love, I would not be able to command you or will you into obedience. If anything you would have the ability to resist me…"

"I'm…I'm not worried about that." Nightwing looked back at me. "I'm a little uncomfortable with the whole sixties free love thing vampires seem to have going on. I'm still human. Maybe I'll understand when I've been turned…"

"The bond would insure that I could and would only be with you. It is a commitment for eternity." I struggled to sit back up and again he placed his hand on my chest.

"I know…I know that. It is a huge commitment. And it is forever. If I were to die…" He gestured helplessly.

"I was already ready for final death. The only thing that really keeps me going is you."

"And that is not right! You should have more keeping you going than just me!" Nightwing jumped up and started to pace, "From a psychological viewpoint alone…"

"Dick!"

He jumped and turned to glare.

"Dick," I said softer, "Are we forgetting something? Psychological viewpoint? Dick, I'm a Malkavian…you are in for a long wait if you are waiting for me to be psychologically sound!"

Dick sat slumped back down onto the bed. "And that's another thing…"

"I'm a Malk, and you will be a Gangrel." I grimaced.

"I could be a…" He hedged.

"No, I won't bring you into the clan even if Sabastian gave permission. This is…no kind of life for you."

"And therein lies the problem…could I handle being with someone with…special problems for all eternity?" Nightwing rubbed his arms.

I felt my heart drop, my un-beating dead heart that had no right to feel that bad. "I had no right to ask." My voice sounded far away to my own ears. Faint and hoarse. "If you ask, I'm sure that someone, perhaps even Sabastian, could clear your mind for you, forget all about me…"

"I don't want to forget all about you!" Nightwing yelled. "I don't want…I don't want you to be gone again!"

I sighed. "Then perhaps I can go to another city. I think Andrew said something about going west…maybe…"

"No!" Nightwing grabbed my shoulders. "Besides, I doubt Sabastian would let you go!"

"True, sounds like the best bet is to wipe your and Batman's memory…Alfred and Oracle's, oh and we should get Spoiler and uh…Batgirl…did Black Canary find out?" I pondered as I went through the list. "Oh yeah, better do all of Young Justice. When I came out…as a vampire that is…I should have just taken out a full-page ad. It would have had the same results."

I knew I was babbling. I was talking to try and stem the hurt. I knew that it wouldn't work out but to actually face it? It was difficult to bear.

He was shaking his head but I continued to ignore it.

"Dick, you should go." I said quietly.

"I don't want to go!" Dick said. Exasperated, he ran a hand through his hair.

"Then, I should."

I stood up on shaky legs and made my way to the doorway. He spun me around before I could open the door and held me against the wall. "That isn't acceptable, either!"

"Well, what is?" I yelled.

The kiss was a shock, unexpected. It was also electrifying. He broke the kiss first and pulled away. He whispered, "I don't want…I want…"

Dick closed his eyes lowering his forehead to mine.

"What do you want?" I asked. "I would give you almost anything. Anything I have, anything I could get for you, anything you asked of me…what do you want?"

"Obsessed?" He laughed nervously.

"Completely, but I've not been allowed to indulge." My hands found their way to his shoulders and I rubbed them. "What do you want?"

"You." Dick whispered. "I want you..."

"But you don't…want me…" I finished for him.

"It is more complicated…"

"Don't! Just…just go. All right?" I pulled away from him in frustration.

He tried to grab me and I slid easily under his arm. "Haven't you ever heard 'don't tease the vampire'? This is falling under the teasing category!"

"I'm not trying to tease you…" he groaned. "Look, I don't know what I want all right? This is a bit confusing for me!"

"And it isn't for me? I'm never sure if what I'm thinking is…right…or just plain fucked up!"

"No, I mean, yes! I mean, I see your point, but I mean…when you were human…at first…or rather not at first, when you started getting older…"

I stared in amazement. He had been reduced to babbling. A historic moment if there ever was one. He snarled as he thumped his head against the wall. "What I mean is, before I knew for sure that I would allow myself to be turned, I thought about you…in an abstract not really wanting to think about thinking about you way!"

"Well, that is…vague…sorta. Surprisingly, I can follow the line of thought." I nodded.

"Which speaks volumes about my mental state!" he groaned. "Anyway…in that vague not thinking, thinking way, I had decided that I was going to…well…wait for you to get old enough."

"But?" I asked.

"Then I decided that I would take Niculaie up on his offer. Gehenna and all…well, you know…"

"Yeah, I get that. The whole family thing too, tradition, I doubt I would have said no either." I nodded.

"So, I didn't want to…get involved with anyone really, I mean beyond companionship, which I found in Babs, but it got too serious…and I didn't feel the same way, not like she deserved! So I thought, okay, just avoid all relationships!" He had begun to pace back and forth and I sat down on the bed to avoid being trod upon.

"I'm following you so far…" I said.

"But now… You are a vampire, and I had given up on the idea of you! But you were turned so YOUNG! And that is hard to wrap my head around, and you're a…"

"Malkavian." I finished for him. "You can't even bring yourself to say the word! Even when you've hinted at me turning you, which, I presume, is because it would take the 'choice' away from you, which would make things easier. But Dick, things are never easy. Even when you are crazy, things don't get easier, just more confusing! And if there was any hope of us being together…you need your choices!"

I sighed deeply. "Not that we could ever be together, I guess. Dick, just go…stop making this harder than it already is."

I turned away from him and lay on the bed, on my side facing the wall. I felt the dip of the bed just seconds before his arm wrapped around me. "I don't want to go…I can't…"

"Don't…"

"Let me finish…I can't let you go. I can't imagine letting you go…I don't want to imagine letting you go. It hurts too much…"

I gasped as I felt the warm lips upon my neck touching the mark left by my Sire. The tingle going straight to my groin and I muffled a groan. "Dick…"

"I love how you say that…I think I would like to hear you say that for all eternity." He sighed in my ear. "One thing about being with a Malk, they have no room to talk when you start to flake out. Are you sure you could put up with someone like me?"

"I know I can…" I turned and wrapped my arms around him.

Lips found lips and we kissed hungrily. He crawled on top of me and seemed to try to climb inside my skin where I would have welcomed him gladly. I felt my uniform loosen and realized that one of his hands had slipped down, busy at work on all the fastenings. Almost frantically he seemed to be trying to remove my clothing. His breathing ragged, warm against my skin as he kissed my mouth, my face, my neck.

Hot skin against me as he barely controlled himself. No words were spoken, no words existed, only something primal, expressed in gasps and groans. And under it all the heat, blinding wonderful heat, that warmed me.

Beautiful sounds, moans, groans filled the air as my fingers danced over his body, mimicking that which I liked best. I pushed him up and over, rolling him onto the bed with me on top and moving down his body as clothing parted under my hands. I ignored the sound of ripping cloth as I tossed the shredded uniform to the side.

Muscles writhed under my tongue as I made my way down his body, exploring, tasting, and loving him.

"Are you sure? Once I do this…" I whispered<,> pushing back up to straddle his chest. He nodded and pulled me back down wrapping his arms around my shoulders.

I kissed him again deeply. I waited until I pulled back before I let the fangs drop and leaned down into his face. "Open your eyes."

I wanted him to see what was coming. To know without a doubt what was about to happen. "I love you, Dick." I purred. My chest vibrated as the rumbling sounded like a giant cat.

"Love you." he panted as I began to kiss his jaw, nipping lightly at the soft flesh under his ear.

My hands slowly stroked his chest as I began to suck hard at the skin bringing blood close to the surface, a dark mark already becoming apparent as I licked and nipped my way further down on his neck.

Dick's hands rubbed my back keeping me close, urging me on when I wanted to hesitate.

Carefully, I sliced the skin over his collarbone, lapping at the blood, barely controlling myself. Hot human blood, I had never tasted it before, to think his would be the only taste I would ever have made the experience even headier.

I pulled away with a growl and tried to regain control of myself. He looked up at me and I saw the lust. Finally, he understood. His hands kneaded the flesh of my arms bring light bruises as he breathed heavily. "Please…more…please…"

Without thought I dived forward taking more, licking and sucking as he panted, mewling noises I had never heard him make before. I felt his heart begin to skip and I pulled myself away in a small panic.

Tears filled his eyes and he smiled as he reached up and touched my face, touched the ridges and the sharp fangs. His voice was shaky as he sighed, "I love you…"

He's so beautiful when he cries.

"Are you okay?" I asked worried. I feared I had gone too far.

He nodded, "I'm fine. Please…"

I smiled and kissed him allowing him to taste his own blood in my mouth before I pulled him up in my arms. Carefully, I licked the wound willing it to close. "Your turn…"

Dick swallowed hard and lay bonelessly in my arms.

"It is okay. I didn't take you over into death. And since I took from you before giving, you won't become a ghoul. This is a shared experience, a special bond built upon ceremony and ritual. This is that engagement ring…" I laughed quietly.

I pulled him up higher till he was level with my own collarbone. "Mark it first, like with a hickey. Just under my ear…then, well, do what I did."

"I…my teeth…" He shook his head.

"You can do it."

Dick began to shake his head but I pushed his head toward my throat. The pressure was gradual, sweet and I felt myself jump as it increased to an exquisite pain. My fingers tangled in his hair, rubbing his scalp as I began to murmur words of encouragement deep in my throat.

His eyes were glazed as he pulled back.

"Next step…" I whispered urging him on.

I felt the teeth worry the skin fearfully. I hummed and laughed. "Don't be afraid!"

Seconds later he bit down, hard! Finally breaking the skin as I moaned against him. "Yes…"

He choked on the taste but I soothed him with soft assurances. "Just a little more…"

Drinking deeply he forced the mouthfuls down before I finally pulled back and kissed him. The connection flared into life, bright and beautiful. Lighting every nerve, making our skin sing. Every touch mirrored and magnified, magnificent, wonderful, fulfilling.

I began to kiss him working my way down, heedless of the blood that still seeped slowly from the wound he had made.

He gasped and jerked as I came in contact with his hardness, swirling my tongue over the slit, teasing the flesh, and gathering the first bitter drops. He fisted the sheets as my hands came to play under him, smoothing down his thighs before coming up to cup him in my hands, gently rolling the hanging flesh as I mouthed and sucked him, finally finding a rhythm, until he threw his head back and he came in a gush. All the sensations mirrored back… I joined him as he come making a mess of the bed underneath us.

Slowly, I licked him clean before crawling back up and laying across his chest looking down into his flushed and sweaty face.

"You know, there are benefits to the practice I've had recently…right?" I teased with a smile.

He nodded, still breathing hard. "I…think…yeah…"

It was my turn to smooth his hair down as he fought to control his breathing. "Well?"

"I think... I could really enjoy an eternity of that!" Dick sighed, wrapping an arm around me and dragging me forward till we were nose to nose.

"Oh, there's more to it than that! We have lots of things to try yet!" I grinned. "That was just a preview really!"

"Oh, I can imagine, actually, um…I've imagined a lot." he admitted with a crooked smile.

"Well, we can try it all." I kissed him gently.


 



It took a few days for all of you to realize that you were missing time. The time that the Malkavians had wiped from your memories, most of you wouldn't have even noticed if it hadn't been for the fact that you and Superman kept comparing notes.

I attribute it to the fact that both of you are strong of mind and the fact that you are such a strong telepath.

Batman, of course, still remembers…most of it. Sabastian did manage to wipe some of the more disturbing aspects, the stuff that Batman wouldn't talk about with us, only with the Prince.

I think that Sabastian is fond of Batman. Jones, too. They don't exactly coddle him but they go out of their way to 'help' him when he wants it. And all the vamps in town know that he is 'hands off'. I think he's been earmarked, to be honest. Whether by Sabastian or Jones I have no idea.

Niculaie visits Gotham often now, Bludhaven is still his home and he comes by the apartment often, but half the time he can be found at Lestat's Asylum. Dick tries not to think about it too hard. I live with Dick now and he will probably be turned soon. We will deal with it when it happens. Niculaie, of course, threatens to cut my head off every visit.

I know that when you all started to first notice, Batman tried to deflect you. I know that caused some tension and I'm sorry. He was just trying to protect me. He just wanted to assure my continued existence. He wasn't trying to…I don't know…what was he accused of again? Hiding things? I know that he has never gotten everyone's trust back, I'm glad that he has yours and that you agreed to be the one to investigate what had happened.

I hope that you will be discreet. He trusts you and that is enough for me.

I am sorry if we offended, if I offended. I hope that you understand why we did what we did. Even the stuff that didn't make complete sense. It is a bit hard for me to make sense of everything myself.

I await your judgment.



 



The beauty of your eyes rivals the stars in the sky. We are free and can fly with no interference. He passed no judgment; he sought only information. He bids us to live in peace.

I'm home. Day is done, gone the sun, all is well, safely rest…




the end