CH 6: Would you like some coffee in your cream?

Coffee turned out to be two steaming paper cups filled to the brim with some over-priced caffeinated elixir and a bench in front of Clarion's apartment building. The warmth of the coffee managed to take the chill off of the evening. In the past ten minutes, Yoshi sat mesmerized as she listened to the blonde prattle on animatedly about her job at the modern museum of art. So far neither woman seemed ready to make comment on what had brought them together thus far. Yoshi watched the small woman at her side with selfish amusement as she flung her hands wildly about and contorted her face to describe her boss. Yoshi was barely paying attention except that she was enjoying watching and listening to the young woman talk. It felt good to the quiet woman to simply just be able to listen and moreover to participate. She couldn't help but laugh where Clarion threw in one liners, and moan and groan when prompted.

Yoshi was smiling crookedly at one of Clarion's comments when she finally added to the conversation. "Are you ever going to drink that?" Yoshi nodded towards the cup in Clarion's hand.

The blonde smiled. "Guess I got carried away, huh?" A small blush rose to her cheeks. Yoshi could only break into a lopsided grin as a reply. Clarion smiled to herself and sighed inwardly as she pushed a lock of hair behind her right ear. She looked down into her coffee for a moment and then took a healthy cup of the still warm liquid. Clarion didn't look up from her coffee cup when she spoke again. "So can you explain all of this to me?"

Yoshi stopped the raising of her cup and brought her head back down. She set her jaw and glanced at the woman who was still contemplating the cream in her coffee. The dark woman was unsure as to what Clarion knew or at least what she thought she knew, and in 800 years she had learned not to volunteer information. "What do you expect me to be able to tell you?"

Clarion's sharp laughter filled the space between the two women, as she cut wide green eyes at the tall woman. "If I'm not mistaken, isn't it your job to know about these kind of things." The dark woman shrugged broad shoulders and sipped from her coffee. Clarion let out a snort of laughter to herself. "Are you denying the job or you just like to walk around with swords and daggers?" No reply. The tall woman's obvious ability to change moods was beginning to grate on Clarion. "Okay. How about this." Clarion sat her cup on the ground and turned sideways so that she was facing Yoshi. She raised a blonde eyebrow and pursed pink lips moist with gloss. "For the last three months I have been attacked, followed, watched by Vampires. The undead. Blood-sucking night stalkers." On the inside, Clarion was cringing at the names that were said to often refer to her as well. "And since you, are so obviously a Vampire Hunter I'm thinking that you might be able to tell me why I'm so popular." She stared hard at Yoshi as the sting of sarcasm at up her words.

Yoshi was stuck and she knew it. She took the time to gather herself as she placed her own cup on the bench and leaned forward resting her elbows on her knees and clasping her hands together. She was unsure of what to say and what not to say. But, at the same time, the woman next to her seemed to know a lot, especially for someone who claimed they had no clue why they were being hunted. The contradictions swirled in Yoshi's mind taking up space in the areas that weren't wrapped up in the fact that she was fiercely attracted to the woman next to her. Clarion's voice broke her thought process.

"You formulating an answer or are we being a stoic warrior?" Clarion fought the smirk that was ready to form on her lips as the dark woman turned towards her with an eyebrow raised high. Clarion awaited some gruff response, but Yoshi surprised both women by smiling. "There you go blinding me again." Clarion smiled fully. Yoshi laughed and sat up straight. Clarion could tell the woman was willing away the faint blush that was threatening to overtake her cheekbones.

"I don't really know what to tell you. I don't know very much right now, but I do know that you're in trouble."

"Well no crap." She swatted Yoshi lightly on the shoulder. "Am I the flavor of the month or something? If so, I'm cutting my hair, dying it, and moving to another country." She let out a huff of air.

Full lips curved into a smirk and then she turned serious. "They'd find you."

The hairs on the back of Clarion's neck bristled at the timbre of Yoshi's voice. "I don't think I warrant hopping continents."

Yoshi released a breath before speaking. "Clarion, do you know what the Daywalker is?"

Being born a Vampire gave Clarion the luxury of having a heart that beat, so she wasn't used to having it stop. As the question breathed life into Clarion's psyche she made a decision in a fraction of a second. She simply focused a slightly awed stare on Yoshi's lips and waited for the woman to take the bait.

Yoshi bit. The tall woman arched an eyebrow and stared back at the blonde, who was looking at her like she was a four course meal. "Problem, Clarion?" ‘Maybe she did know what was going on.'

Clarion shook her head and ran a hand through her hair, not breaking her gaze. "Not that I'm vain, but I just really like the way my name sounds when you say it."

Yoshi stared at the ground, she hadn't been expecting that answer, nor the flip-flops that her stomach was making as the small woman openly gazed at her. " does that mean you know what I'm talking about?" Yoshi was clueless as to what to say to her comment, so she just ignored it.

Clarion let out a light laugh. "What that means, is that you can't take a compliment." She smiled and released her gaze on the nervous woman. "As to what the Daywalker is--no." ‘It's not like she asked me who the Daywalker was, right, technically it's not that bad of lie..and technically I'm jackass.' "What's that got to do with anything?"

Yoshi nodded. "Well, when I figure that out, I think I'll be able to tell you about your unwelcome visitors." Yoshi fidgeted with her hands. "How come you know so much?"

Clarion smiled. "Not that a lady isn't entitled to her secrets," she wiggled blonde brows ",but the museum business does have it's advantages. Actually, I think I have a few pieces that you would be extremely interested in." She looked over at the tall woman and watched as she glanced at her watch. "Need to leave?"

Yoshi gave a small nod. "I'm afraid so." She darted her eyes across the ground.

Clarion reached out and patted Yoshi's thigh. "Let's just say you're hurrying off to your second job." Yoshi shrugged nervously and stood up. Clarion craned her neck up and regarded the tall woman. "Will you tell me how you got this gig?"

Yoshi gave Clarion a crooked grin and looked at her watch again. "I don't think I have the time." ‘800 years takes a little more than conversation over coffee.'

Clarion grinned and stood up. "Then we'll make some time. How much do you think we'll need?" She grinned innocently at the slightly squirming woman.

Yoshi clasped her hands behind her back and looked everywhere but down at the green-eyed woman smiling at her. ‘A lifetime that you don't have to give.' she wanted to say. Full lips curved into a smile. "Is this the part where I'm supposed to ask you out to dinner?"

Clarion threw her head back in honest laughter. "You catch on quick." They started walking towards the entrance of her building.

"I guess I need to meet you here as well, since I can't seem to leave you by yourself for more than five minutes."

Clarion shrugged playfully. "What can I say, I'm a glutton for punishment. A beacon for trouble if you will."

Yoshi raised a sculpted eyebrow and grinned at the small woman, quickly getting into the game. "Guess I'll be keeping me eye on you then."

Clarion only grinned as she thought, ‘eyes, lips, hands, teeth, tongue, whatever.' "This may turn into a 24/7 relationship."

Yoshi stopped at the door. "Are you really worth all that?"

Clarion fought a laugh. "I'll leave that in your capable hands."

Clarion's words suddenly seemed serious to Yoshi and surprisingly the sentiment warmed her insides. She found herself humbled in the presence of the small woman before her and she knew that this was far beyond merely protecting the innocent. Yoshi kept her hands clasped behind her back as she bowed her head slightly at the woman's words. "I thank you for thinking me capable."

Clarion could only smile as she watched emotion run through the tall woman. As she listened to her speak with quiet respect, Clarion felt extremely awful for having lied. But wasn't this survival? She knew she probably wouldn't stay alive without the Hunter and more than likely she would die at her hand. Even in her gregarious nature, Clarion found herself at a loss for words in acknowledging the woman's honesty. She could only move forward and stand on her tip-toes as she placed a chaste kiss on an olive-hued cheek. She stepped back. "Pick me up at work tomorrow?"

The tall woman was in a heated haze. She wasn't sure if it was the last remnants of coffee, the blush creeping its way into her face, or the warm shock of perfect lips pressed to her skin. She managed to nod at Clarion's question and then watched the blonde enter the lobby of the building and disappear among the banks of elevators.

Yoshi turned up the collar on her leather coat and pushed her hands into her pockets as she began her walk back to the store. She decided that she would go home for an hour or so and do some reading and write some letters. As she made the trip from the store to the warehouse that housed her home, Yoshima Miakoda made the decision to go home to pray. She would pull out her Gi, polish her blade, light her candles and incense, and bring out her chimes. She would not pray for forgiveness or for strength. This night she would pray for herself and for a certain green-eyed blonde. She prayed that she would uphold her oath and mostly she prayed that she would not fail

* * *


CH 7: Let he who is without dog shit on his shoe, take the first step on the white rug

Clarion was in the lab when Yoshi showed up at her office door the next day, so it was Riley that greeted the tentative woman. Yoshi stood in the doorway of Clarion's office looking down at the slim man who did a complete 360 in a chair to face her. He curved thin lips into a smile as he looked up at the blue eyed woman in the leather jacket.

He cocked his head to the side as he took in her features and spoke. "Have a seat won't you?" He arched a brow as he recognized the tall woman from the store the other day. Yoshi bowed her head slightly and then took a seat in front of the desk.

Riley plastered a smug look on his face as he rested his elbows on the desk and leaned in. "So, I take it you're here to see Clarion?"

Yoshi could tell he was fighting the urge to break into a full smile, but at the same time he was definitely sizing up her worth. She only nodded in reply. Riley sucked his teeth and let his lips give way to a smirk. "Not much of a talker I see, can't imagine what she sees in you then."

His comment did a good job of getting Yoshi's attention. She sat up straight in the chair. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Riley only raised an eyebrow in triumph instead of smiling. "Oh nothing. You just seem a little introverted for the likes of Claire that's all. But hey, everybody's entitled to trying something a little new."

Yoshi nodded. "Glad you approve then."

"And I'm glad you can form a sentence."

The dark woman had half a mind to reach across the table and begin plucking the vital organs out of Riley's body with tweezers, but she was aware that he was simply being protective of the blonde, and she couldn't deny him that duty. Instead of maiming him, she gave him a lopsided grin and nodded her head in concession. Riley relaxed back in the chair steepling his fingers and briefly reveled in his small victory. "So what's your name?"

"Yoshima Miakoda."

Riley smiled. "Ahh, Japanese." He looked up at the ceiling. "Means, you're clever and deep of thought."

"Very good. Do you study Japanese culture?"

Riley was about to make up some swift lie, but he was interrupted by the sweet drawl of Clarion's voice. "No, but I have."

Both Yoshi and Riley turned towards the doorway to find Clarion's small frame occupying the space. She wore a small grin on her face as she raked her eyes over Yoshi and Riley. Riley immediately hopped up from his seat behind Clarion's desk and seated himself on the edge of the desk. Clarion only smiled as she moved past them both and dropped a handful of brushes on her side table. She walked around her desk and plopped down into the soft cushions of leather, stretching her legs out before her.

She focused her eyes on Yoshi. "Riley been in here interrogating you?"

Yoshi shook her head as Riley piped up with an answer. "No such thing my dear. Simply shooting the breeze."

Clarion let out a snort of laughter. "I'm sure that wasn't all you were shooting Ri." The lanky man only shrugged his shoulders and rolled his eyes for his reply.

Yoshi let out a chuckle. "He was only being a friend."

Clarion kept her eyes locked on Yoshi. "Yeah I bet." She shot a glance at the smug looking Riley and shook her head. "Anyway, I'm about ready to go, so Riley you can say your good-byes."

Riley mumbled something unintelligible but he got up off of the desk all the same. Clarion stood with him as she watched him walk to the door. Riley stopped at the doorway and turned his attention towards Yoshi. "It was nice to meet you Yoshima. Take care of my girl." Riley smiled. Yoshi bowed her head in agreement and watched as Clarion walked out of the door with Riley. Even though she was equipped with hearing that would allow her to hear the conversation outside the doorway, she was polite and focused her attention on the painting that hung on the far wall.

Clarion helped Riley put on his jacket as they walked down the hallway. "Thanks a lot Dad." The two shared a smile.

Riley shrugged. "Hey I'm just making sure tall dark and I only speak in Haikus, is safe."

Clarion shook with laughter. "I'll have to count the syllables next time she talks."

Riley waved a hand through the air. "Sure thing. So, what are you guys up to tonight?"

Clarion couldn't help but smile. "Just a little dinner."

Riley wiggled slim eyebrows. "Un huh. A little dinner you say." They shared mischievous smiles. "Are you taking her out, or our you going to show off all those hours of watching the Food Network."

Clarion held in a laugh. "Well," she raised her brows, "Bobby Flay made this kick ass Paella on Martha Stewart the other day. I think I can do it."

Riley let out a whoop and swatted Clarion on the shoulder. "Oh my, I saw that. I say go for it. If you filch it, you can just make some calamari and lobster tails." They clasped hands and shared a smile.

"Hey look, I'll let you know how it turns out."

"No shit Sherlock." Riley leaned in, gave Clarion a kiss on the lips, and then turned to walk down the hallway.

Clarion held the smile to her face as she watched Riley walk away and exit into the stairwell. She smoothed down the blouse she was wearing, drew in a breath of air, and walked back towards her office. Not surprisingly the tall woman hadn't moved from the chair she was sitting. She turned deep blue eyes on Clarion as she entered the office and then stood up from the chair. Clarion smiled. "You ready to go Stretch?" Yoshi nodded in reply. As Clarion retrieved her coat from the hook on the wall she spoke. "So, you feel like a home cooked meal or you want to go out?"

Yoshi shrugged her shoulders. "Do I have to cook?"

Clarion turned around to face the tall woman and grinned. "Can't cook?" Clarion's voice rang out with disbelief.

"On the contrary, I've got a few cooking skills." ‘I hope I can do a little more than boil water after 800 years.'.

Clarion raised a blonde brow at the grinning woman and walked past her out of the door. "Well then I guess we'll just be putting those cooking skills to the test."

Yoshi joined her as they walked side by side down the hallway. "How so?"

"How do you feel about Paella?"

Blue eyes looked up in consideration. "It's never rubbed me the wrong way." Clarion smiled. "Is it spicy?"

Clarion's smile got even wider as they entered the stairwell. "No other way to make it ch¾ r."

The two women continued the journey to Clarion's car in mutual silence, both trying not to make a big deal out of the fact that they were searching the parking garage for unwanted visitors. Aimless chit-chat about work occupied the drive to Clarion's apartment complex and the ride in the elevator up 17 floors.



It wasn't until Yoshi found herself standing in front of Clarion's doorway did she feel her throat close up on her. Her feet seemed to be welded to the ground as she waited for the small woman to unlock the door. Yoshima Miakoda was nervous. She was so nervous she was practically giddy. Granted this wasn't like random one-night stands or strategic sex, but she remembered how to do date. She kept trying to tell herself that she had done this before, and she had….eight decades ago. In her head she was running through several katas when Clarion finally opened the door to her apartment.

Clarion turned her head and looked up at the blankly staring woman and held in her smile. "You coming or you want to eat dinner out here?"

Yoshi snapped out of her trance with a jerk and gave a crooked smile as she ducked her head and followed the woman into her apartment. Even though she could make out the furniture pretty well, she decided to stay put until Clarion turned on all the lights. She listened as the woman moved swiftly through the apartment with quick ease, and then suddenly there was illumination.

Almost a millennium of life had afforded Yoshi with vast amounts of knowledge. She had pretty much seen everything under the sun and met just about every person and thing ever deemed possible. Indeed, it was true that mortal human beings never ceased to amaze her, even if they were predictable as a calendar. In almost a thousand years of life, Yoshi had the opportunity to even meet her match every couple of decades or so. In a blur of motion her mind thumbed through battle fields were she stood victorious only to collapse to the ground in exhaustion and triumph. She remembered every fatal wound, every glancing blow, and every near miss. She could count the number of times she had been outsmarted on one hand and the number of times she had been lied to without her knowledge only took up three digits. A feeling of hesitation and confusion that was becoming all too familiar to the dark woman welled up in her gut once again as she took in the décor of Clarion's home. Sure it could all be a coincidence she told herself as she strolled about the living room. It could all be fated too or just a sadistic joke enacted by one of her ancestors. Whatever the case, for the first time in a long time, Yoshima was confused. More than that, she found that she could decipher no out to this situation nor could she decipher the smiling blonde that watched her take in the furnishings of her home.

As Yoshi took a seat on what appeared to be an authentic 18th century maroon recamÍ er she got the distinct feeling that she was in over her head. Worse than that however, the thing that brought a wisp of a smile to her face, was that she didn't care. Yoshi heard Clarion call out to her as she shrugged out of her jacket and focused her attention on the three paintings on the far wall. Clarion called out from the kitchen to her. "Wine?" Yoshi barely whispered a reply of yes as she gazed at the paintings on the wall with a raised brow.

Clarion heard the woman's faint reply even in the distance and reminded herself that she probably shouldn't do that as she poured out a healthy glass of Merlot. She poured one for herself and joined Yoshi in the living room. Yoshi didn't look up as she retrieved the glass from Clarion's hand. Clarion smiled into her glass as she walked to the entertainment center that housed her CD changer and drank deeply from her glass. She pressed the shuffle button and then turned to her visitor. "So, are you going to ask?"

Yoshi looked back at Clarion as if she wasn't speaking. Finally, the words registered and Yoshi broke into a small grin. "You knew that I would eventually." Clarion shrugged and rolled her eyes playfully. "Are they real?" Yoshi practically whispered her question, only to have her musings swallowed up by the sound of a lone trumpet.

Clarion let out a light laugh and sipped from her glass. "If I tell you that they are just really good replicas will you leave it at that?"

Yoshi cocked a brow as she stared smugly at the blonde across the room. "I've seen a enough Mon¾ ts, Rembrants,..and I believe that's Boucher's ‘Love Letter; to know the real thing." She shrugged her shoulders at Clarion's expressionless face. "But perhaps you're just that good and I'm underestimating your skills." Clarion's lithe frame rumbled with throaty laughter. Yoshi looked at her with interest. "What?"

"Nothing, I've just got a really good comeback for that."

"Oh." Yoshi felt like there was something else she should say, but she was still getting accustomed to the mind and word games that Clarion seemed fond of.

Clarion smirked sensing the woman's discomfort. "Don't worry Yoshi, there won't be a quiz."

Yoshi laughed at her own antics. "But you will avoid the question?"

Blonde brows raised. "I wasn't aware there was a question and just for your information I tend to reveal things over dinner." She walked past the still seated woman into the kitchen. "So, suit up, wash your hands, and then once you've got your hands shoved up a chicken we can talk about my artwork and other things that catch your eye." Clarion knew that Yoshi was staring hard at the paintings. But the charcoal drawings that gave life to some of Clarion's kindred, as well as the bookshelf loaded with Vampire lore, and the fact that nothing in Clarion's home appeared to be from the last century, were no doubt giving the blue-eyed woman something to think about. Admittedly, she felt bad about lying, but Clarion gave a sultry wink to the dark woman seated in her living room and decided if she couldn't talk her way out of this one, she was going to have to pull a rabbit out of her hat; so to speak.


In between cracking the claws on Lobsters, searing squid, and cleaning up the saffron rice that boiled over--Yoshi made the mistake of ignoring the inkling in her stomach. She would later rationalize that it wasn't as if she was getting major warning bells, but at the same time, all was not well and she knew it. Perhaps it had simply been too long, and enough attention had not been paid. Whatever the case, Yoshi threw good sense to the wind and ignored the fact that everything about Clarion screamed out that she knew way more about what was going on than she was saying. As they talked over their meal Yoshi allowed herself to buy the explanation that Clarion's forays as curator at small museums in Russia, Romania, and Greece accounted for all the Vampire lore. Yoshi allowed herself to believe that Clarion was merely following the swings of pop culture. Yoshi didn't always like to admit it, but hey Anne Rice did write a good book or two and even she couldn't deny Mr. Stoker his talent for storytelling.

As they ate dinner and laughed about inconsequential things and Clarion's adventures with Marianna, Yoshi would stealthily cut her eyes about the room and make mental notes of her surroundings. Later as Yoshi waited for coffee to brew she stood in front of the bookcase as she sipped on her fourth glass of wine and perused the titles openly. For a moment, she thought Clarion might have the books she got from Gregor. Yoshi could hear Clarion shuffling around in the kitchen, turning on the dishwasher and giving the counter a final wipe, as she stood at the bookcase trying to clear her mind. She turned towards the kitchen and brazenly took in the frame of the woman who had promptly shoved her out of the kitchen only moments before. Even if Yoshi no longer had a word for it, it was clear to her that this was no longer about simple protection. She was extremely attracted to Clarion, and so much so, that she was willing to ignore the obvious signs that the blonde was lying to her. Yoshi rationalized that she was just scared, and after all who wouldn't be. For someone who studied the lore of Vampires and Hunters alike, the reticent woman was sure that it came as quite a surprise to the blonde to find that those things actually existed.

* * *

CH 8: Out of the frying pan, into the fire

The soothing falsetto of Chet Baker filtered through Clarion's apartment as the two women sat on the floor of her living room enjoying each other's company. Once Clarion was settled on the floor she drank deeply of her wineglass and realized that she hadn't nearly enough wine to feel as giddy as she did. In truth, it had more to do with the glimpses of deep blue eyes she'd catch looking at her, when she was trying to steal her own looks at the dark woman at her side. The blonde smothered a giggle as she cleared her throat and rested one arm on the couch so that she could prop her head up. The women were enjoying a comfortable silence until Yoshi finally broke into self-conscious grin and leaned back on the couch. Clarion mirrored her grin and then spoke.

"Two questions?" Yoshi raised an eyebrow. "Yoshima Miakoda. That's awfully Japanese, and well.." ,Clarion cocked her head to the side as she let her eyes openly wander over the sculpted frame of Yoshi ",you don't really strike me as Japanese." Yoshi gave Clarion a crooked smile for a response. Clarion smiled widely in return and then sat her glass down on the nearby coffee table. Green eyes flashed with mischief as Clarion rose to her knees and scooted closer to Yoshi. Blue eyes followed the smirking blonde and grew large as she felt small hands bury themselves in her hair.

"All though," Clarion continued as she drew up long tresses of midnight black hair into a ponytail, while smoothing the remaining portion down. Clarion bit her lip as she felt a shiver run through her forearm as her ears picked up the quickening pace of Yoshi's heartbeat. Clarion held the ponytail in one small fist and leaned back to admire her cosmetic wonder. "If you wear your hair like this you kind of have this Shogun, Samurai thing going." The two women shared a smile and then Clarion finally let go of her handful of hair as she found herself smoothing down non-existent tendrils of Yoshi's hair, for no other reason than for contact. Clarion let out a nervous laugh and sat back down, picking up her wineglass, and drinking from it. Yoshi looked down into the pattern of the Oriental rug at her feet, in order to ignore Clarion's eyes and shake loose the thought that she had indeed worn her hair like that for the first 50 years of her life. She ran a hand through her hair, instantly missing the soft pressure of Clarion's fingers.

Finally, Clarion broke through the sexual tension with a light huff of air. Yoshi looked up and they locked eyes for a brief moment. "So, do I get a story for the name or would you like to move on to question two?"

Yoshi shrugged her shoulders in a nonchalant manner. "Well, since I can usually only do one thing at a time, I'll answer one and then we can try another." She hit Clarion with a little smirk, that the tall woman had probably forgotten looked extremely sexy on her.

Whether Yoshi was aware of her sex appeal or not, Clarion saw the opening and decided to up the ante just for the hell of it. She ran a pink tongue across her top teeth and grinned. "I find it hard to believe that you can only do one thing at a time. I mean, you strike me as a very precise and focused woman, one who could no doubt divide her attentions and still be completely efficient." Clarion let a wisp of a smile cross her face before she took a sip of her wine.

Yoshi raised smooth black brows and was just about to break into some factual explanation of how she was actually joking, when she caught a glimpse of green eyes that seemed to be boring into her flesh. Yoshi shifted as she felt heat rise in her cheeks not so much in response to Clarion's words, but the forceful pull in her stomach that had nothing to do with pain. Yoshi let out a weak laugh and drained the rest of her wine as she tousled her hair.

Clarion decided to back off as she stood up and held her hand out. Only the waning sounds of a trumpet in the background filled the room as Yoshi looked up at the proffered hand in confusion and anxiety. Clarion knew it would be rude to laugh so she just shook her head and wiggled her fingers. "Hey Samurai, let me get your glass." Yoshi managed to raise an eyebrow at the name, but her mind couldn't quite focus on anything she wanted to say. The blonde winked playfully and smiled down at Yoshi, which elicited a slight grin from the nervous woman as she held out the glass in relief. "I think you need something with a little kick there pahtna.'" The soft Louisiana accent did nothing to ease the rising sensations in Yoshi's stomach. She watched Clarion glide out of the living room and mumbled to herself when she was out of ear shot, "You have no idea."

Clarion almost dropped the tumbler in her hand as Yoshi's words floated past her ears. She almost called out a reply, but then realized rather quickly that it would be rather hard to explain how she heard what she heard. As Clarion swirled the glass with Cointreneau, she lifted the remote and changed the CD from across the room. She watched as a dark head lifted and began to bob her head in appreciation. Clarion almost lost it when she heard a soft alto singing along with Stevie Ray Vaughn. She left her hand in the ice tray longer than necessary and then snuck a quick swig of Whiskey to calm her hormones. She finished fixing the cocktails with renewed vigor and gave her self a gruff chastising before she moved back into the living room. Okay, Clarion Giselle get it together ch¾ r. Sure she's drop dead gorgeous, even adorably cute and sexy when she's nervous. And, so what, that she seems to enjoy a little Stevie Ray. Under normal circumstances, we'd be having hot monkey sex and I'd be pledging her my life, alas this is not normal. She finds out I'm a Vamp and then she'll pull my lungs out through my nose, not to mention beating me senseless for lying and slightly using her. Clarion shook her shoulders in disgust and then stood up straight. She stole a sip of her own drink and walked back into the living feeling slightly better about herself as she thought to herself, perhaps in another lifetime this will all work out.

* * *

CH 9: Practiced Introduction

As Clarion neared the dark woman with drinks in hand, she almost didn't want to disturb her as she was giving an impromptu air guitar concert to no one in particular. She held in a laugh as she spoke. "I've got a guitar in the back if you want something a little more tangible to play with." Yoshi grimaced and let out an embarrassed laugh.

Yoshi shook dark locks of hair and shrugged. "What do you have there?" She nodded towards the glasses.

An impish smile spread across the fair face of Clarion as she knelt down on the carpet extending a hand forward. When Yoshi relieved her of one of the glasses, Clarion touched a hand to her chest before she spoke. "Now wait I have to explain this properly complete with accent."

At that Yoshi sniffed the cocktail and cocked an eyebrow. "Please do."

Clarion beamed. "Hoo yah!" She laid on her accent thickly much to Yoshi's delight. "Naw dis here iz a Cajun de-light."

Yoshi laughed. "A what?"

"Cajun, pronounced, Kay- J¾ an."

"Kay…J¾ an."

Clarion nodded. "Qui." They both laughed out loud. "Seriously, this is called a Sazer« c cocktail, a little flavor from New Orleans." She pronounced the name of the city as one word.

Yoshi smiled and shook her head. "Does anyone pronounce New Orleans the same way?"

Clarion settled in her spot and shook her head. "Depends on where you're from. Yankees like to say New Orleans, heavy on the ‘leans'. French provincial pronounce it like the French city. And most people from the city itself say Naw'lins."

"One word, huh?"

"Yup. Now are you going to drink that or keep talking?" Her tone was just a tad sharp, but the puckish gleam in her eye took all the heat out of her demand.

"Pushy aren't we? You still didn't tell me what's in it."

Clarion rolled green eyes playfully. "What do you smell?"

Yoshi let out a "ha". "That's what I'm afraid of."

Clarion swatted her on the shoulder and smiled as the solid woman feigned pain. "If you must know, just a little Rye Whisky, sugar cubes, and some bitters."

Yoshi smirked as she sniffed her glass again. "A little Whiskey you say." A skeptical eyebrow reached for the sky.

Clarion smiled wickedly and held out her glass. "A toast."

"To what?"

Clarion smiled as if she was about to say something lurid, but then she softened her features and spoke sincerely. "To saving my life…twice."

Yoshi bowed her head in agreement. "It was my pleasure."

Clarion grinned. "I thought it was a job?"

Yoshi glanced around the room and then settled her gaze back on Clarion. "I could have said that, but I thought you might appreciate the pleasure of it more."

Clarion drew in a surprised breath of air. "Touch¾ . I knew it, that shy stuff is all an act."

Yoshi couldn't fight the smile that graced her lips. She glanced at the floor and then back up. "Oh my, I'm afraid you've found me out." She touched a hand to her forehead. "I'm so ashamed."

Clarion shook her head. "Nothing but a drama queen." They shared wide smiles and touched glasses. Yoshi looked down suspiciously at her drink and grinned. "Just drink it." Clarion ordered and sucked her teeth playfully.

"Bottoms up."

They tossed their heads back in unison and sipped at the amber fluid. Clarion was the first to come up for air as she let out a "hoo yah!" Yoshi shook her head as the liquid burned its way down her chest. She looked into the slightly glazed eyes of Clarion and grinned. "Hoo yah indeed. Is this stuff legal?"

Clarion laughed as she took a more reserved sip and then placed her tumbler on the table. "Depends on where your from."

Both women laughed out loud as Yoshi replied, "I figured as much." Before another lull of silence clouded both their minds Clarion hopped up and turned up the volume on the stereo. When she sat back down Yoshi was beaming. "I was just going to ask you to do that."

"Figured. So, are you going to tell me the origin of your name, as well as how you got into your rather interesting profession." Clarion wiggled her eyebrows as she finished her sentence.

Yoshi let out a soft sigh as she sat back against the couch, stretching out long legs, and placing the tumbler on the floor. If Clarion hadn't been waiting for an answer she would have lost herself in the journey up the dark denim that covered Yoshi's legs. Yoshi caught the blondes gaze and held in her smile. "I'll tell you about the name, but as far as the uh, profession, I'll tell… but only if you tell me more about the paintings."

"Ahh. I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you." Clarion barely managed to keep a straight face as she spoke the words.

The tall woman picked up her drink before she taught Clarion a lesson in the art of deadpan. Yoshi took a small sip of her drink and looked straight at Clarion as she asked, "Painfully slow or quick and sweet?"

This time Clarion too felt the sweet burn of the alcohol as it traveled in haste down her throat. She let out a laugh to fight the flush that was hurrying to her cheeks. "Remind me to never fix you this drink again."

Yoshi arched an eyebrow. "Now, I find it hard to believe that you can dish it out, but can't take it."

The women exchanged smiles. "Oh contraire, mon fr¾ r. I just wasn't expecting it."

"You must always be prepared for the battle, in all its forms." Yoshi looked to the balcony wistfully.

"That seems like good advice, your father give that to you?"

Blue eyes focused on green as Yoshi nodded. "Can we go outside?" Clarion smiled and they both stood. Clarion smiled inwardly as she fumbled slightly with the lock on the door and then they stepped out into the brisk fall air. Seventeen floors up gave Clarion an excellent vista of the city. A blanket of stars shone bright against the crisp midnight blue of the sky, accented by a wisp of a crescent moon. Clarion welcomed the warmth of the alcohol this time as she leaned on the railing. Yoshi leaned down on the railing, resting on her forearms as she held onto her glass and stared down into the busy city street. Clarion stood in her respective corner and gazed at the stoic woman with concern and awe. As much as she wanted to speak, she opted to let the tall woman take her time. Selfishly, she hoped that Yoshi would give her the same respect when the time came. Clarion sighed audibly as she reconciled for nearly the 100th time that the truth would eventually come out and all of this would simply be what it was: a perfect moment and nothing more.

Yoshi turned at the sound of Clarion's breath. "I'm sorry, I'm supposed to be answering a question aren't I?"

Clarion grimaced. "No I apologize, I think I got lost in my own thoughts there for a minute."

Yoshi grinned and stood up to her full height and then leaned back against the railing. "What were you thinking about?" Her voice held the faintest amount of mischief in it.

Blonde brows lifted . "Honestly, um, ‘let the good times roll.'"

The corner of Yoshi's lip curled up with a smile. "Let the good times roll?"

Clarion shrugged. "Don't ask."

"Sure. Anyway, uh, my name. Honestly, since we're being honest, that's my name…sort of."

"Ooh, an alias."

"I was born in Egypt."

"Egyptian? Hmm, that explains the coloring."

"It does?"

"Not dark enough to be Greek, all though you've got that olive thing going there." Clarion cocked her head to one side as she continued her assessment. "Not fair enough to be mulatto and not orange enough to be a girl from Long Island back from vacation."

Yoshi frowned. "Orange?"

Clarion rolled her eyes and walked towards the corner where Yoshi stood. "This chick I worked with once, I swear she was orange. She had just come back from spring break or winter vacation or something and I swear this broad was orange. And I could do nothing but think about the fact that it was painfully obvious that she hadn't gone anywhere except to Nordstrom to go get a ‘tan in a bottle'. I mean what is that?"

Blue eyes grew bright with humor. "Adorable."

Clarion lost her next thought as the word filled her ears loudly. "What's adorable?"

Yoshi stood up ramrod straight and almost dropped her glass. "Did I say that out loud?"

Clarion couldn't help but laugh at the look of surprise and confusion that played across high cheek bones and full lips. "It's called inner monologue Yoshi. I know, because I've gotten into a few barroom brawls on the account that I don't have any."

Clarion's easy tone relieved the stress building in Yoshi's chest. "Barroom brawls, eh?"

Clarion shrugged. "C'mon Stretch, I'm freezing. And yes, I know it may look like I lead a charmed life, but I do have a few dark alleys and such." Clarion linked arms with Yoshi as they turned towards the sliding door. "We'll eat some Tiramasu, have a snifter of Cognac, and you can tell me how a little girl from Egypt wound up a Samurai."

Yoshi let out a laugh as she was led back into the apartment. Clarion closed the screen door as Yoshi took a seat on the couch. She looked up as Clarion walked to the stereo and changed the track. "I thought we liked that?"

"Don't worry, I missed my song that's all. Hey if you're really into Mr. Vaughn I've got loads of stuff that you'd love to hear."

Yoshi followed Clarion with her eyes as she walked into the kitchen. "So do I really look like a Samurai?"

Laughter rang out from the kitchen. "Well you do carry that big sword." Clarion walked into the living and sat down a huge slice of cake and two empty snifters. She walked to her bar on the other side of the room and unwittingly gave Yoshi a pleasing view as she bent over to retrieve a bottle of Cognac.

Yoshi averted blue eyes to admired the art work on the walls as she felt a pulling in her stomach that was becoming all too familiar to her in Clarion's presence. Yoshi finally made a comment when Clarion made her way back to the couch and sat down on the other end. "You know, I could just be a Civil War re-enactor."

Clarion looked puzzled for a moment. "They used swords in the Civil War?"

Yoshi couldn't tell if the blonde was joking or not so she opted to only smile. "Haven't you ever seen General Lee with his sword."

"Ooh sorry, I was busy with other things that century." Clarion bit her tongue as the comment came out, hoping that the sarcasm won out over her quick answer.

Yoshi only raised a brow, not that she wasn't intrigued by Clarion's quick comeback. "So, what were you doing that century?"

Clarion chose not to turn in the direction of the blue eyes that she could feel moving over her features. Instead, she removed the cork in the Cognac and moved the glasses within her reach. "I'll have you know that while I don't remember much of that lifetime, I hear it was completely exciting." She took Yoshi's laughter as belief in her answer.

"Were you working in a distillery because that's a mighty old bottle of Cognac." Yoshi reached out and drew a tapered finger down the bottle.

Clarion passed Yoshi a sweet glance and then turned back to pouring the drinks. "It was a gift from a friend. Apparently, 1827 was a good year." She handed Yoshi a snifter and both women sat in mutual silence as they swirled the dark fluid in their glasses. Neither one privy to the others thoughts that both took them to 1827. While Yoshi was thwarting slave traders on the high seas, Clarion was increasing her art collection in a less than noble way, but equally gratifying.

Each woman was drawn from her thoughts as a familiar riff poured out from the speakers garnering their attention. Instinctively they turned towards one another and smiled.

"So what's your real name?"

"Talon Subira." She offered without hesitation.

Clarion contemplated the ceiling as she rolled the name around her tongue for a moment and then smiled. "Patience."

Yoshi was sincerely impressed. "Very good. Have you studied a lot of languages?"

"Not really, I'm just chock full of useless information."

Yoshi raised her glass. "Then how about we toast to your impending success on the game show circuit."

Clarion beamed and raised her glass. "How'd you know? All my friends think its such a useless dream." They tapped glasses and ingested the 173 year old alcohol accented with a slow burn that complimented the soulful wailing of a Southern white boy singing his heart out about a crack in the sky.

Clarion sat her snifter down and crossed her legs as she leaned back into the corner of the couch and looked at Yoshi with questions obviously brimming in malachite colored eyes. "So how does a Talon become a Yoshima?"

The woman in question too leaned back into the couch and rested her ankle on her knee. "Let's just say that while I was conceived in love, my existence was detrimental to a few peoples health including my own." Clarion took a sip of her drink in order to silence her thought of saying, "I know the feeling." Yoshi shrugged her shoulders. "Anyhow, my mother gave me away to a childless Japanese couple and I stayed with them until they died and then I was taken in by a friend of the family. He was a very traditional man with very traditional rules."

Clarion crinkled her nose. "I sense there's more to that comment."

Yoshi rolled her eyes and said with a shake of disbelief, "I don't believe I'm telling you this."

Clarion sat forward and patted Yoshi's ankle. "I'm easy to talk to, what can I say. Now finish, I'm all intrigued."

Yoshi smiled and drew her lips to a thin line. "Well, quiet as it's kept… I'm a man." It took every ounce of discipline Yoshi had not to burst into laughter as she watched a stream of Cognac spray onto the floor. Clarion leaned forward as Yoshi lightly pounded her back, allowing the young woman to finish her coughing fit. Wide green eyes turned towards Yoshi and the dark woman couldn't help but laugh. She leaned back into the couch and picked up her drink as she mentally patted herself on the back for making Clarion uncomfortable. "You okay there Clarion?"

Green eyes pinpointed their jade glare at a smirking Yoshi as Clarion gathered herself and sat back. "That was cruel and unusual, you know."

Yoshi fought a smile. "Depends on where you're from."

Clarion let out a light laugh and raised her glass in defeat. "Touché, pussycat. I'll give you two points for that, but remember something, I don't fight fair and I rarely lose." Green and blue eyes locked in sexually charged tug of war for a moment that was only broken by a change in songs.

"Seriously though, I was raised a boy, but trust me it couldn't be helped. It just made things easier."

"I bet."

"Can I ask you a question?"

"If it's about the painting-

"No, no, I've given up on that….for now." Clarion grinned. "Clearly, you seem well versed on an interesting number of things and I feel safe in assuming that growing up in Louisiana has its advantages, so I'm wondering how much of the stuff you read you believe?"

Clarion wasn't really sure how to take the question as she glanced at the woman seated across from her. Sure she knew she could bring a spectacular evening to an end with the truth or she could just dance around it like she had been all night, and pray that her wit and Southern charm kept Yoshi just out of reach of the truth. "Are you asking me if I believed in Vampires before I met one or if I believe in all the stories that surround Vampires?" Yoshi only deepened her look into Clarion's eyes in lieu of answering. "You're assumptions are correct, I was exposed to a lot of things out in the Bayou. I've seen and even done some weird shit, stuff that is illegal in at least 45 states and three continents." Her comment garnered a snicker from Yoshi. "I think I know a lot about you, if that's what you're asking. I mean, I know a lot about what you do. I know you hunt Vampires and you protect the innocents. I know Hunters have existed for, well for an awfully long time. I'm not sure about initiations or rites or even how you become a Hunter." Clarion changed her tone as Yoshi allowed herself to be carried into her voice. She grinned as she leaned in towards the tall woman and decided to press her luck just a touch more. "I've heard stories that say you're immortal, impervious to pain, and all that. But, as sure as I can see the glaze of alcohol in your eyes, I get that feeling that you're just as human as I am."

Clarion's words hung between them for a small eternity and served as an invisible magnet; that was doing the job of drawing the women closer together. Yoshi let the word human echo in her head before she spoke. "Am I human?"

Clarion let the warm haze of alcohol speak for her instead of using her better judgement. She shook her head before she replied. "I don't really care, but if you leave here tonight without me getting a taste of your lips, you'll wish you weren't."

This time Yoshi let the blush come as she broke her stare with Clarion and took a sip of her drink. "I can't refuse that can I?"

Clarion grinned ferally as she blindly sat her glass down on the table. "Not unless you wanna' sleep with the fishes."

Yoshi shrugged . "As long as I don't die of want."

The tall woman barely had time to sit her glass down before Clarion moved in a rush of motion that seemed all too fast, only to place a slow kiss on full lips. Yoshi closed her eyes to the sensations that ran freely in her stomach and nestled in her groin. She pulled the supple blonde in close and deepened their kiss, as small hands anchored themselves in her hair. Yoshi released an unabashed moan that was echoed by Clarion, as her mouth was invaded by a small wet tongue.

Clarion had only wanted a taste. She only wanted to kiss her and be done with it, but even in more than 200 years of life she still hadn't grasped the concept that things never go as planned. She got an inkling that she was going too far as she felt strong arms wrap around her waist and began a smooth descent that ended in the feel of firm hands grasping her buttocks and pulling her in close. The alarms in her head even went off as she pressed her tongue into the warm confines of Yoshi's mouth. But, the sirens in her mind didn't start wailing until she raised up on her knees and straddled the quiet woman with the commanding hands.

Even if better sense told her to back off when Yoshi's lips left hers, the subsequent feel of soft lips being pressed into the flesh of her throat made her lose all rational thought for a spell. Clarion let out a sound that was more a growl than a moan as she dug her fingers hard into dark tresses urging Yoshi's exploration. Finally, Clarion did get Yoshi to pull away, but it was only to claim her lips once more.

As for the dark warrior beneath the softly grinding hips of Clarion, she knew she had lost this fight four nights ago in the park. She had never lied to herself and she wasn't feeling too well about starting now. Even though she wanted nothing more than to take Clarion where they sat, she knew it would compromise everything she needed to accomplish. In truth, she wasn't exactly sure what the hell she was trying to accomplish, but she knew it involved the woman above her, that was devouring her with sheer will alone. When Yoshi raised her own hips to meet the subtle yet vigorous pace of Clarion's hips, the dark woman knew they had to stop. Yoshi knew what she wanted and whom she wanted, but not knowing why Clarion was being targeted was ultimately more important than rabid sex; no matter how much she wanted it. As Yoshi began to pull away from Clarion, she soothed herself with the thought that when the time was right, it would be extremely good, highly worth the wait, and it would definitely last all night long.

Clarion sat back as Yoshi began to pull back. She removed her hands from a cocoon of black hair and rested them on broad shoulders as both women caught their breath. "Don't worry, I've got an oxygen tank in the back." Yoshi let out a breathy laugh and crisp blue eyes locked with hazy green. Clarion let a small grin settle on her face as she caught the sobering look in blue eyes. She let out an almost inaudible sigh and then leaned forward so that her forehead touched Yoshi's. Besides their strained breathing, the only sound in the apartment emanated from the speakers strategically lined throughout the apartment.

Clarion leaned back and let out a chuckle as a mournful riff tore through the room. "Ugh, right now I hate this song."

Yoshi looked up at the woman that still straddled her hips and grinned. "That's why they call it the Blues."

Clarion smiled and lightly drew her index finger across the moist flesh of Yoshi's lips. "One more, and then I have to go take a cold shower." Clarion didn't wait for an answer as she leaned in and took possession of Yoshi's lips once more. If Clarion was trying to release her tension, the kiss they shared only served to create a long evening for the blonde. Clarion tugged lightly on Yoshi's bottom lip as she finally came up for air. She watched as Yoshi slowly opened her eyes and they broke into small giggles.

Yoshi let her giggles subside before she spoke. "Can I join you in the shower?"

Clarion let out a "hoo yah!" as she shook with laughter and removed herself from Yoshi and stood up. With her hands on her hips, she glared without malice at the grinning woman. "You're trying to kill me right?" Yoshi lowered her eyes and stuck out her bottom lip just enough to make her look as innocent as possible. At her shameless display, Clarion let out a loud groan and shook with amusement and frustration. "That's it, get out." She broke into a smile as Yoshi laughed and ran a hand through her hair. "Take your pie and go or I won't be responsible for what happens."

Yoshi stood up and smoothed out her pants. "Oh really now."

Clarion instinctively took a step back, for fear getting too close to the woman in her living room would cause her to strip naked and attack her. "I'm full of food and a little drunk, so I may be liable to lash out at you. Besides the witching hour is upon us."

Yoshi glanced down at her watch and watched as the minute hand settled on the one, reading 12:05. "It is late isn't it?"

Clarion folded her arms across her chest and nodded. "And I'm keeping you."

Yoshi visual searched for her jacket and then focused her eyes back on Clarion. "Somehow, I don't think that work…"

Clarion held up her hands. "Don't say it." She turned to her side and grabbed Yoshi's jacket from the wall hook and handed it to her. Clarion leaned on the wall next to the door as Yoshi put on her coat.

"Um, I had a good time tonight."

"So did I." A moment of silence passed and then they both spoke at the same time. "I'd like-

"Can we-" Yoshi shook her head. "You first."

"I'd like to see you again."

"Well I'm always at the store by twelve and if not you can call me."

"I can?"

"Don't have my number I take it." Clarion shook her head. Yoshi dug into her coat pocket and retrieved a felt tip pen. "Hand." Clarion held out her hand and willed away a shiver as Yoshi reached out and cupped the backside. "I know you haven't done this since grade school probably, but bare with me."

Clarion only laughed as Yoshi took the pen cap off with her teeth and proceeded to write her phone number down on Clarion's palm. "Now don't lose that."

Clarion drew her hand into her body and smiled. "Wouldn't dream of it." She stepped back and opened the front door. "Hey, do I need to give you a lift somewhere?" Yoshi shook her head. "Um, okay, then I'll give you a call or call me or come by or whatever or-"

"Clarion, stop babbling and kiss me once more." Yoshi grinned as Clarion's features flushed red with embarrassment. She waited until the smaller woman looked back up at her and then she leaned in. It was a less ravenous kiss compared to the others they had shared earlier, but somehow even in its soft insistence it was the most passionate and promising of all their kisses. Clarion still had her eyes closed when Yoshi finally pulled away. The tall woman smiled at the blonde and was even so bold as to trace the side of her face with her fingers before stepping back. "Think you can stay out of trouble before we see each other again?" Smoldering green eyes looked around the empty hallway in avoidance. Yoshi shook her head. "Don't answer that. Bon nuit, Clarion."

Clarion bowed her head as she spoke. "Oyasuminasai, Yoshi." Clarion stood at the door and watched until the doors closed on the elevator and carried a grinning Yoshi out of her building.

Clarion closed her front door, walked to her couch, and collapsed on to it with a mind clouded by sexual tension. She sat up with a laugh as she turned up the volume on her stereo and poured herself another drink. She nodded her head in agreement the music as she lit a match and let the sweet smell of Cannabis fill her lungs and her apartment. She spoke out loud after she took a deep drag on her joint. "You are so right Jimmy, I was born under a bad sign." Clarion closed her eyes and laughed at her own thoughts, which mostly included a certain dark haired Hunter. She raised her glass high toasting a dead mans genius and thought not of her transgressions but only of thick hair, deep blue eyes, and the warmth of a certain pair of lips.

* * *

CH 10: Into every life a little rain must fall

Yoshi had seen Clarion for two days straight and the usually unexpressive woman still wore the silliest of grins on her face, that she would immediately drop the moment Nate and Tully walked into the store. The boys would smile at each other and share inside jokes at the older woman's expense, but Yoshi just didn't seem to care. It was going on three in the afternoon when the two boys returned from lunch to be witness to what Nate clearly felt was a sign of the coming apocalypse.

It wasn't as if Yoshi would have heard the bell ring on the doorway since the store shook with heavy percussion that could best be described as Latin. Nate and Tully both wore looks of complete confusion as they crept through the front store room only to come to dead stops as they stood at the entrance to the back room. Tully had all ready forgiven the normally reserved woman for the music since he surmised that it was probably Santana. He whispered to Nate, "She likes guitars, so it's okay?" It was more a question than a statement, but Nate seemed to accept that for the moment. And it wasn't as if they had never heard her sing before. Even though she bitched about it, she was always willing to sing Happy Birthday and other such cheesy songs when the feeling came upon her. But as the two boys stood there with their eyes wide and chins on the floor, the vision before them was beyond all explanation.

They had seen a few demons, read about the mutations of nature, and even seen their share of Vampires in the flesh, but here and now in the back store room was a complete anomaly. Spikes of blue hair seemed to rise higher as Nate watched. "It's a pod person right?" Tully could only shake his head in reply as he watched mesmerized. Both boys agreed that Yoshima was extremely attractive in that, ‘I'll rip your arms off and beat you to death with them if you ever touch me' kind of way. She clearly had the attributes. She had the eyes, the smoldering look, the full lips, the hair (which when worn loose, became THE HAIR), she had the attitude, and she clearly had the body. The thing was, she never displayed it…until now.

Long legs clad in black slacks moved with precision and grace to the beat. Hips that were visibly accentuated due to the low waist of the pants and the fact that when she raised her hands above her head it lifted the hem of the short sleeve shirt. Thick black hair swung in loose curls as she swayed with the music. Neither boy had ever seen this much of her body and they both knew that if they didn't move soon she would probably rip their eyes out of their head. Tully motioned for them to move, and both boys began to step back delicately in order to exit the room, hopefully unnoticed. In retrospect, Tully probably shouldn't have said anything to Nate as they walked backwards, but then again even if she hadn't heard Tully's voice she clearly heard the tumbling of boxes. It all happened in one swift motion as Tully leaned in and whispered to Nate, "I didn't know she knew how to Salsa." Apparently, Nate was too busy following the swirl of Yoshi's hips to reply or to pay attention.

Black hair whipped around and blue eyes blazed as they made contact with the still wide eyes of Nate and Tully. Tully squealed and Nate was all ready crashing into the pile of boxes behind him. Luckily, they were empty so he probably wouldn't have a concussion, all though he would definitely fake it for his safety. A long arm snaked out with speed as Yoshi cut off the stereo and none of them moved. Tully fixed his eyes to the floor and Yoshi rested her eyes on Nate's shoes that protruded from the pile of boxes.

A long span of silence passed in the room as Yoshi slowed her breathing and bit hard on the inside of her lip. She took deep breaths as she willed away the blood that rushed to her face and then spoke in a low alto. "Not a word." Tully looked up, but he didn't dare look her in the eye. "Are those boxes empty?"

At that, Tully turned towards the heap of cardboard boxes that were wearing size 8 1/2 Vans.

Tully bent over, resting his hands on his knees. "You alive in there Nate?" No movement. Yoshi sighed and crossed the floor to the pile mumbling to herself. "Great, the boys come back early, I kill Nate, and now I'm going to be late for my date." Tully held in a smile as her words tickled his ears as he helped Yoshi toss off boxes. Finally, the ruddy cheeks of the pudgy boy were revealed and it was pretty obvious from how tightly he was closing eyes that he was still alive. Yoshi let out a huff of air, stood up to her full height, placing her hands on her hips, and scowled down at the blue headed boy. She practically growled as she spoke. "Get up Nate, you're not dead." Ever so slowly one pale blue eye was revealed as Nate began to open an eye. Yoshi shook her head. "One word about this and you'll be dead." She turned towards Tully with a snap. "You either." Neither boy breathed until Yoshi exited the back office and made her way to the front of the store and out of the front door.

Tully helped Nate to his feet and both boys shared small smiles. Nate opened his mouth to speak and brown eyes went wide. "Don't say it man, she can probably still hear."


Tully covered his friends' mouth as they walked from the back room. "Later. When we are away, out of the city, and she is playing tonsil hockey with blondie. Okay." Nate nodded and Tully released his hand. "For now, let's just make nice and fake like nothing happened, ya dig."

They touched fists. "I'm there with you my brother, I'm there with you."


Thank God D.C. tended to share weather patterns with Maryland or else Yoshi would have been sorry she bolted out of the store without her jacket in the dead of December. Instead, it was a freakishly comfortable 62° and the sun was shining. Yoshi was fuming at her own embarrassment and had briskly strode down Connecticut Avenue, out of Dupont, past the church, and up the hill. If she kept walking she'd end up in the high rent district. She should have known something was about to go very wrong when she found herself standing in line at a Starbucks all too ready to give an order for some prissy concoction that she really didn't want. At the last moment, she turned on her heels more at the urging of her hackles standing on end than the coffee, and she left. She picked up a bottled water form a vendor on the street and started walking back towards the store. By the time she was halfway there, the uneasy feeling had subsided and for a split second she was almost ready to laugh at herself. She'd just go back and tell the boys that she and Clarion had gone out dancing the other night and well, that was all they needed to know.

Six stores away from her own Yoshi stopped to guzzle some water and smile at her own behavior. She closed her eyes as she drank, seemingly soaking up the sun, and let her mind roam over the previous night's festivities. The tall woman couldn't even remember the last time she had gone dancing but she wasn't about to forget last night. She had plans to take Clarion out to her house tonight and possibly let Clarion read through some of Gregor's books just to get her take on it. Not that she expected the blonde to be able to translate the archaic language of the Aramis books, but she might be able to make some sense out of some of the artwork. Yoshi rationalized her inclusion of Clarion in her work on the fact that it was all in an effort to help the woman, and the slightly selfish action of hopefully helping herself to the young blonde as well. Yoshi opened her eyes and shook off her salacious thoughts only to have them replaced by an emotion of extreme anxiety.

She took two swift strides and passed the trees to give her a clear view of the street. Hard blue eyes began to search the street for whatever was tensing her muscles. She turned her head from side to side as she stood in place, oblivious to the people who were stepping around her. Two hundred yards away and on her right, a glint of chrome caught her eye. She took a step forward to the right and a familiar smell made its way to her nostrils: another Hunter was near-by. Yoshi dropped her bottle of water like a reflex and looked back to the left and she saw him. There was no way he saw her on the account that he was running full out down the other side of the street. She searched for runners, but it was only the sound of screeching tires that followed him. Yoshi looked back to the right and the runners she was seeking were on their way.

She took off, eating up the sidewalk with long strides that carried her to the front of her store. She threw open the door causing Tully to hop the counter and reach for the bat, which he immediately dropped seeing Yoshi's harried expression. "Give me the tanto." She held out her hand as she instantly decided that walking out into broad daylight brandishing a 38" katana might not be such a good idea. A small train was formed as Nate tossed the 15" dagger to Tully who tossed it to Yoshi. She blew out of the door in the same frenzy, leaving behind a trail of words that prompted the boys to call the police.

The warrior knew she could do nothing about the speeding car, but she could get to the runners. She knew they were wannabes even without seeing the brands on their arms or the insignias on their earrings. She caught a glimpse of the other Hunter, as she dashed across the street. It was Colin. She growled in frustration as she slid across the hood of a moving car and used the momentum to plow into a leather jacketed young man. Her shoulder slammed into his solarplexus like she was at try-outs for the Redskins. It was only through the mercy of the lack of time that she crushed his windpipe and kept moving. Unfortunately, they were prepared for her just as she was prepared for them. As her fingertips found a weak grip on the collar of one of the wannabes she found herself sailing through the air with the aid of three large bodies. She lost her grip on her tanto as her hand slammed into a trashcan. Her eyes tracked the handle as it landed in the dirt. She reached out for it ignoring the kicks and punches being directed at her body.

She regripped the handle and swung her hand backward making a swift slice through an achilles tendon. A warm spray of blood from the gaping wound egged Yoshima on with a fierce battlelust that was focused on her remaining attackers. What appeared to be erratic waving on Yoshima's part were actually precise choreographed slashes and thrusts. In a matter of moments the only movement that could be seen in her attackers were the involuntary muscle spasms caused by lack of blood and impending death. Yoshi quickly sheathed her blade and placed it in the small of her back as she ran towards Colin. Whatever chance she had of reaching him was taken away in time spent disposing of her three attackers. Yoshi managed to make it 50 yards up the side walk when she watched Colin leap a park car into the street only to be upended by a speeding black Jeep.

At the sound of broken glass and screeching tires, the people on the street all gathered at the sidewalks to gape at the accident. Yoshi used her six-foot frame to her advantage as she plowed through the gathering crowd, all the while keeping her eye on Colin's body as he lay still in the indentation his large frame made in the windshield. Yoshi heard a few awe filled gasps around her as Colin began to move. As Colin lifted his head he caught the blue-eyed gaze of the dark haired woman and managed to get out a nod before his chest exploded.

The crooked smile fell away from Yoshi's face as a blast from a shotgun blew Colin back into the windshield. Yoshi stood her ground as people stumbled past her in a rush to get away from the gun fire. She could only stand and watch, as she watched three gunmen converge on Colin's body firing rounds into his body. When the sidewalk seemed to be clear Yoshi reached behind her back to retrieve her blade, but the whirring blare of sirens stopped her motion. Yoshi watched through slitted eyes as four police cruisers came to screeching halts and the officers piled out of the cars; guns blazing. Whatever gun battle they were prepared for never came. The gunmen did as expected and turned their guns on themselves ending the showdown in the blink of an eye. Yoshi eased back into the confines of an alley as the steady whir of sirens and the even pulse of a helicopter became the only sound on the city street.

Yoshi watched as the color of the different uniforms became too much for her eyes and she simply squared her shoulders and walked across the street. It wasn't as if a six-foot woman splattered in blood and carrying a dagger was normal, but the chaos of the moment was quite perfect for a patient getaway. Tully immediately locked the door and drew the shade behind the woman as she entered the store and headed straight for the back. Neither boy said a word as the dark woman silently changed clothes. When she re-entered the front of the store, she was wiping what blood remained, from her face. She dropped the red stained towel down on the counter and sat down in order to put her shoes on.

Both boys knew better than to question the tall woman, so they merely went back to their tasks, only deviating to turn on the tea pot and sit out a mug for the brooding woman. After twenty minutes and a mug of tea Yoshi spoke. "We need to find out what hospital Colin went to and then we need to get me in." Tully nodded and grabbed his jacket as he walked out of the front door and joined the onlookers on the sidewalk. Nate shoved his hands in his pockets as he waited for her request. "You got your camera Nate?" She didn't wait for a reply. "I need a list of insignias and then I need to find out who those boys belong to."

Nate shook his head and then stopped as he reached the door. In a whisper he asked, "what are you going to do?"

Yoshi kept her eyes affixed to the waterfall in the corner as she spoke in a deep rumble. "I'm going to stay off the street and go find Clarion. Call me when you know something."

The door closed behind Nate and Yoshi slid off the stool, grabbed her long jacket and headed out of the back door. She took to the rooftops as she headed towards the museum. This path kept her off the streets and gave her a chance to firm up her thoughts. Colin was one of three people she had ever considered friends, the other two were dead. She met Colin back in the beginning when she was still in Athens. Even though he was the second oldest Hunter he still looked like a kid, only marred by the faint scar that ran from his right eye curving out to meet the corner of his mouth in an eerie sideways smile. It had been made by the only thing that could harm any Hunter; their own sword. And she had given it to him. That was 50 years ago and that was actually the last time they had seen each other face to face. However, the age of technology had brought them together in the last couple of decades.

It wasn't that she was unused to the presence of other Hunters in her area, but Colin's appearance as well as the circumstances around it spoke to something far larger than missing girls. Colin's presence meant one of two things. Either Colin had found the Daywalker or the Daywalker had been found. Either way both options led to the one man they all searched for: Goethe Alexi Stolova. At nearly 1500 years of age, he was the oldest living Vampire, the most powerful, and searching desperately for a way to become a Master Vampire. There hadn't been a Master Vampire since 89A.D., and as far as Yoshi was concerned there would not be another.

* * *

CH 11: Who are the people in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood...


Clarion almost fell off her chair as Riley came barreling into her office his hands in the air, his face all aglow. "Holy shit girlie, you are so in for it!" Clarion pushed away from her chair with a frown as the excited man plopped down in a chair. He didn't wait for her to ask as he began his rant. "I hate to be the one to say this, but I think your girlfriend just went on a murderous rampage."


Riley gestured wildly with his hands as he spoke. "That's what I said. Turn on the radio, turn on the net, turn the t.v. on, do whatever just get some news." His high pitched orders made Clarion move with a quickness to the radio in her office. She perched on the edge of desk and listened.

"Hi, this is Mike Reader with WBAL and I say again there has been a horrendous display of violence this afternoon in the Nations capitol. So far I've gotten mixed reports as to what actually took place only 20 minutes ago, but all reports share a description of a pedestrian being chased, struck by a car, and then executed by three men, who consequently turned their weapons upon themselves." Clarion shrugged her shoulders and looked at Riley with a frown. He held up his hand and raised his brow expectantly. "Reports also describe a tall dark-haired knife wielding woman who got into a scuffle with four men who are now dead. No one is sure if she was attempting to reach the man struck by the car or if these two incidents are separate or not. At present there are at least seven people dead and…."

Clarion snapped off the radio and turned to a wide eyed Riley with wide green eyes of own. She began running her hands through her hair as she stood and paced the room. "Jesus Christ Riley." Clarion spoke in a breath. "I need a t.v."

Riley stood up. "What for?" He frowned as he touched her shoulder. "Do you need to see if it's her?"

Clarion turned towards Riley and almost laughed. His voice held so much concern it was odd to hear it coming from the usually cynical man. "I just need to see that's all." Clarion was too busy looking for her keys to notice that Riley had stopped moving. She turned towards the door and walked into wall of black. Clarion looked up into cold blue eyes and realized she never wanted to see this woman angry at her. Green eyes held fast to blue and Clarion watched in relief as warmth seemed to seep back into Yoshi's features as Clarion laid a gentle hand on Yoshi's chest. She didn't take her eyes from Yoshi as she spoke to Riley. "Ri give us a minute." She heard the sharp intake of air and spoke before he could say something that she was liable to slap him for. She gritted her teeth as she lowered her voice. "Just do it Riley. Stand outside, I swear it's fine." She waited a heartbeat, still not breaking her gaze with Yoshi. "Please Ri." At the sound of him sucking his teeth, she knew he was agreeing. She didn't have to look to the slender man to see the glare he was giving her tall visitor as he exited the room and slammed the door just for unspoken emphasis.

Yoshi spoke first. "Awfully protective."

A wisp of smile raised Clarion's features. "He's knows I'm prone to trouble." Clarion grinned and raised up to her tiptoes attempting to kiss the dark woman only to be denied as Yoshi stepped back. Clarion frowned and crossed her arms across her chest as she regarded the woman before her.

Yoshi pushed her hands in the pocket of jeans and shook her head. "I'm sorry, I just need a clear head right now."

Clarion smiled fully as she leaned back onto her desk. "I cloud your mind?"

Yoshi looked up from the floor and groaned. "In a good way, I promise."

Clarion decided to leave it at that. "Are you okay and do I get to know what happened?"

Yoshi shrugged leather clad shoulders. "I'm fine and I'm still not sure what happened." Yoshi shook her head and smoothed out her ponytail. "Do you know what wannabes are?"

Clarion took a deep breath and nodded. "Sure, um, they're pretty much Vampire lackeys. Modern-day Renfields. Why?"

"That's who died today."

Clarion creased her brow. "Who was the pedestrian?"

Yoshi looked around before answering. "A friend." They shared a moment of silence.

"A Hunter." It wasn't a question. Yoshi nodded. Clarion stretched out her arms with a snap and then stood. "Okay, so does this have something to do with me?"

"I'm going to find that out."

"Okay." Clarion walked towards Yoshi until she stood in front of her. Clarion reached her hands out and rested them on Yoshi's hips. "You do that and then you come see me." Clarion stepped into Yoshi so that nothing could pass between them.

Yoshi closed her eyes at the exquisite feel of Clarion's body pressed into her. For the briefest moment she thought of scooping the woman up in her arms and fleeing the continent. Yoshi leaned down so that their foreheads touched and then she wrapped her arms around the small blonde and pulled her into an embrace. A perfect fit. The thought came without prompting to the dark warrior and it warmed her insides with its truth. She pulled away as she felt like she was losing control and stepped back, but not releasing Clarion fully. "I'm going to take you home and then I want you to stay put, okay."

Clarion smiled. "Awfully protective."

Yoshi gave her a lopsided grin. "Hey I'm not the beacon."

Clarion giggled and leaned in to give Yoshi a small hug. She nuzzled the woman's chest and pulled away stepping out of her arms. "Damn you smell great." Clarion frowned and shook her head.

Yoshi raised a brow and tugged at her the material of her turtleneck. "I do?"

Clarion waved a hand through the air, not yet aware of the possible impact of her comment. "Whatever. Look, you go take care of your business and Riley will take me home." Yoshi looked over her shoulder and saw two beady hazel eyes boring into her frame. She grimaced and turned back to Clarion. "He's harmless, but he may try to claw your eyes out." The two shared a faint giggle.

"I don't know Clarion, I'd feel-

She cut her off. "And I'd feel better if you go check on your ‘friend'." Clarion gave Yoshi a hard look accented by raised brows.

"Okay, point taken, but I'll be by to see you later."

Clarion smiled widely. "I'm planning on it. Now go before he breaks down the door." Yoshi turned towards the door, stopped, and held up a finger. Clarion grinned as she met the woman at the door and craned her neck up to receive a mind-bending kiss from the tall woman. Clarion barely heard the words "see you later" as she rocked back on her heels in a flustered haze of arousal. Whatever dirty thought she was about to contemplate was completely shattered as Riley burst back into the room complete with slamming the door. Clarion avoided his puffed out cheeks and glaring expression as she walked around her desk and sat down. "We're not talking about it." She didn't look up as she began opening her desk drawers and shuffling papers.

A click of the tongue. "And why not?"

Clarion looked up from her search as she gave Riley a look that made the man take a seat. "Because-- it's long, complicated, and I'm not sure how to explain it." She returned to her search.

Riley sucked his teeth like a spoiled child and rolled his eyes. He then reached into the side pocket of his jacket and pulled out a chrome cigarette case, tossing it to Clarion. She snatched it out of the air. "Are you going to tell me this is a case of mistaken identity or something?"

Clarion looked up from the cigarette she was tapping on the case and smirked. "Ri have I ever lied to you?" It was a welcome change to hear his laugh even if it was indignant. Clarion nodded and lit two cigarettes handing one to a slightly less angry Riley. "Well see, I'm willing to tell the truth here, but it's so convoluted at this point I'm confused."

He didn't say anything for a moment as they both pulled on their cigarettes. He watched the tension release from his friends' face as he leaned forward on the desk. "You in trouble Claire?" He watched as she raked a hand through her straight hair and blew out a funnel of smoke. "Am I to assume she's helping you?"

Clarion sighed. "Sort of. I mean, yes she is. Ugh! It's just complicated, but for all intense purposes yes, she is helping me." She turned sweet green eyes on Riley and batted her lashes.

"What?" His voice held a playful whine of expectation.

She spoke in a mock-whimper. "Will you walk me home?"

Riley smiled at her playful gesture. "As long as you kiss me good night." Clarion smiled. "And by the way, I don't do tongue on the first date." Laughter filled Clarion's office, as the two friends sat, smoked, and talked of other things.

- - - - - - - - -

Clarion's phone rang four times before she picked it up, clearly out of breath. Yoshi smiled in relief as she sat atop the hospital building with her legs dangling over the side.


"Just checking."

Clarion smiled and ran a towel over her damp hair. "I was in the shower."

"Got a hot date or something?"

"Oh yeah, tall, dark, and absolutely delicious."

Yoshi felt the shiver run up her spine as she listened to Clarion lick her lips. "You're a tease."

Clarion let out a laugh. "Do your work and I'll give you a new appreciation of that word."

Yoshi shook her head as a familiar pulling began in her stomach. "You're going to be the death of me."

"Well you do know what it means to ‘die' right?"

"It means something other than die?" A light chuckle crackled through the phone.

"Well Samurai you better figure that out cause that's the password to get in."

Yoshi groaned. "A little help?"

Clarion let out a light chuckle and then drew in a small breath before she spoke. "Heavy heart's lead, melt at mine eyes' red fire, So shall I die by drops of hot desire." Clarion heard the woman on the other end take a deep breath and then she hung up.


Yoshi let out a groan of frustration as she stood and walked towards the steps. "You boys better be ready." she mumbled into the wind. After a change into hospital scrubs Yoshima walked into the two policemen guarded room, belonging to Colin. He waited until she sat down on the bed to open his eyes.

"Top of the evenin' to ya Yosh." A thick Irish accent gave his words a melodic quality. "I'd shake your hand, but I'm afraid I'll damage the wires."

Yoshi grinned. "I think I can live without your touch for one night, you ass."

The sandy haired man smiled. "Love your outfit."

She glanced down at the sea green uniform and shrugged. "It's not my color, but you know I'm a slave to fashion." He winced as he attempted to laugh. Yoshi shook her head and patted his shoulder. "Take it easy you fool, you need to heal first."

"Isn't that what you're here for?"

"Well yes, but it comes at a price."

Colin grinned. "Get to work you shit and I'll start spilling the beans."

Yoshi rubbed her hands together just for the sake of doing it as she stood from the bed and began placing her palms on Colin's feet and working her way up. She closed her eyes to concentrate, but that would not keep her from hearing his story.

Colin closed his eyes as he felt the warm tingles of healing spread through his body. "Did you get the books from Gregor?" Yoshi grunted in reply. "Any luck in translating?"

"Nothing more than what we all ready have. The translations not the problem it's what it means."

"I'll agree there, but I do have a piece of the pie that's makes everything make sense." Yoshi opened her eyes and glanced at the man. "Just keep those hands moving." Yoshi grinned. "Apparently the blood suckers have a few things they've managed to keep hidden, but me and Aswan got them."

"It's a scroll that's older than the Aramis books, but it's gotten lost in a few translations and for good reason. We've always known Daywalkers were useful especially in the early stages, but apparently every now and then one special one comes along."

"How special?" Yoshi laid her hands on Colin's chest and watched him smile in relaxation.

"The Daywalker can kill the Master."

"I kind of figured that part out."

"Well ya smart ass, didja know that the Vamp in question needs the Daywalker to ascend?"

Yoshi creased her brow and stilled her hands for a moment. "No I didn't."

"But the cherry on top, is that the Daywalker can replenish the council."

Yoshi stopped and stepped back. Ice blue eyes bored into dark brown. "Are you sure?"

Colin nodded. "Of all the things I'm sure of that's it. Don't ask me how it's to be done, but the Daywalker can do it. I know you've always thought the Daywalker was something special enough to warrant our study, and clearly you were dead on."

"But I don't understand, how? What's supposed to happen to her?" Wide brown eyes tried to connect with frantic blue. Yoshi walked to the other side of the room and looked out of the window.

"Something you not telling me Yosh?" Colin raised his head as he regarded the woman on the window sill."

"Does the scroll describe the Daywalker?" Her voice was quiet with apprehension at his answer.

"No. That still doesn't answer my question, what do you know?"

Yoshi groaned and then took a seat next to the bed. "For the past three months Vamps in this area have been targeting blonde hair green eyed girls."


"And…and," Yoshi shrugged and then spoke in a blur. "I'm kind of dating a blonde hair green eyed girl." Colin disregarded the pain as he laughed out loud. Yoshi stared at her hands in shame.

"You're dating?"

" I know, I know. My job is to protect not to get involved I -

"You're dating!"

Yoshi snapped her head up and looked at her smirking friend. "What?"

"Yoshi when's the last time you had a date?"

Dark hair spilled over the chair as she leaned back and moaned. "Not you too."

"Hey you can't blame me. I'm just surprised that's all. I mean after-

She held up a hand and frowned. "Don't say that name."

"Wasn't planning on it. But whatever, you found the Daywalker?"

Yoshi pushed away from the bed and cradled her head in her hands. "I hope not, oh for the love of Izanami, I hope not." She looked up from her hands and sighed. "Assuming, and just assuming, I have found the Daywalker what do I do with her?"

Colin shrugged . "Well I know law states you to kill her where she stands, but in this case I think you might want to hold off until we can figure out the ritual or what have you."

"Oh man. Do we kill her, do we hand her over, sacrifice her, or what? What does the scroll say?"

Colin let out a huff of hair. "It says, and I quote, ‘the Hunter is unto the Daywalker as the Daywalker is unto the Hunter. Balance must reign in the houses of East and West for there to be life.' Then it goes into shit about planet alignments, zephyrs, tsunamis, and all this crazy phenomenon. There's some more stuff about purity, truth, virtue, faith and it goes on. The last line repeats the Hunter unto the Daywalker stuff."

Yoshi threw up her hands in frustration. "What the hell does that mean? Do I kill her, does she kill me, we kill each other? Balance, what the…ahh!"

"I've got no clue, but you need to calm yourself or one of us is going to have a heart attack." He waited until her breathing evened. "Now are you going to tell me the whole story."

"Last week I saved a woman. A green eyed blonde haired woman who was being chased through the park near St. Francis. She's been attacked at least five times in the last three months, but she manages to escape." As Yoshi began to speak, her tale became less of an information session for Colin and more of a reality check for herself. "Um, she knows about Hunters, she knows about Vampires. Her book cases are filled with books on folklore from all over the world. Rare books, old books, you name it, she's got it. Nothing in her apartment was made in the last century. She's got a 67' Stingray that looked like it just came off the show room floor." Suddenly Yoshi stood and began to pace about the room. It was clear she was no longer really talking to Colin, but he listened none the less. "All though she does work in a museum which could account for the antiques. She was born in New Orleans, which accounts for, well a lot of stuff, and she has a family that's still alive. She could have had the car restored." Yoshi stopped and stared out of the window again.

"So how do you explain her escapes?"

Yoshi snapped her head around and sat down on the sill. "I mean she's definitely smart and she's clever."

"Is she that strong?"


"Is she strong Yoshima? I don't care how clever or smart you are a Vamp is a Vamp and all the luck in the world won't help you outrun a Vamp or fight one off. You saying she's that good?"

Yoshi shook her head as Colin's words swirled in her head. "I've never seen her fight." Yoshi contemplated the ceiling and then looked back at Colin as he sat up half way and let out a laugh.

"Buggar, she is clever. She's using you chappy." Blue eyes filled with a crisp anger. "No offense, but she is. Think about it. Does she know about all this Master stuff." Yoshi shook her head. "You sure?" She shook her head again and focused her hard glare at Colin's chest. "Well there you go. You're keeping her alive. She's making kissyface with you until she can find out what's going on and then she's going to bolt. Wee clever girl she is, she's got your number."

Colin flinched as Yoshi stood with a growl and punched the wall. "There's an explanation."

Colin couldn't help but let out a disbelieving laughing. "You think all this is coincidence don't you?" He looked at her in confusion.

"She wouldn't do that to me." Yoshi spoke more to herself than Colin.

Colin shook his head as he watched his oldest friend struggle with her emotions and the truth. "When did you lose your faith Yoshima?"

Yoshi turned somber blue eyes on Colin and stopped her pacing at the foot of his bed and leaned down on her arms. She looked him in the eye as she spoke. "I don't think I ever had any." She bowed her head and sighed.

Colin shook his head. "After all this time and you still blame your self for something you had no control over. Her death was not your fault."

Yoshi shook the bed with force. "I watched her die Colin!" Yoshi immediately stepped towards the wall as she mentally chided herself for yelling. A minute passed with no inquiry from the officers and she moved closer to the bed and continued in a gruff whisper. "I could have stopped it."

"You're full of shit Yoshima. She chose and it was her job, you would have done the same. It was what had to be done."

Yoshi shook her head in disgust and hurt as she sat back down in the chair. "So you're saying that I'm supposed to accept all this on faith? Faith in who Colin? In what?" Yoshi quieted and sat back in her chair.

Colin sighed and regarded his friend with sad eyes. "I can't tell you in who or what, but you must have faith Yoshi or you won't make it. Hell, none of us will. If you can't find the faith to believe in something larger than yourself, than lay down your sword now and wait for the rest of us on the other side."

"Don't I believe in something larger than myself all ready? If I didn't, than why do I do this? For what? For whom? I don't have a fan club or a hotline. I live alone in the middle of nowhere with no pets. I go to work everyday to make sure those boys stay out of trouble. And every night I strap on my blade and I go out and protect people that are sometimes more animal than things that hunt them for food and sport. If I didn't believe Colin than why do I do it? Why am I here?"

"Then stop."

Yoshi raised her brow in incredulity. "I can't."

"Why not?"

The red faced woman leaned in to the bed. "Because I have to."

Colin could have left it there, but he pushed again. "Why?"

Yoshi rolled her eyes and punched the bed. "Because it's my duty." Colin allowed her to glare at him until his words finally seeped into her own skull. Yoshi knew Colin was right. She hadn't believed in anything for so long it was a wonder she still did any of this and it was a wonder she hadn't fallen on her own blade out of nihilism. She leaned over in her seat and cupped her face in her hands. Her body shook with quiet convulsions.

Colin gave her moment before he spoke. "Do you care about her?" A tear streaked face looked up at him and she nodded. "Then just ask her. If it's not her great. If it is…then I don't know, but find out." Yoshi wiped her face on her sleeve and nodded as she began to mentally pull herself together. "Hey, look at this way, if I was a Vamp trying to stay alive, I'd go to the one person I'd know that'd keep me alive."

Yoshi released a strangled laugh. "Technically, if it's her I should kill her."

"The best place to hide is in plain sight and right under your nose."

A moment of silence passed between the two and finally Yoshi stood up. "I need to head out."

"Going to find out?"

Yoshi shrugged. "Have to at some point."

Colin grinned. "It's not that you have to Yoshi, you need to. I know you won't admit it, but you need to know, this isn't about obligations." Yoshi did her best to ignore his comment as she walked towards the window and opened it as wide as it would go. "Hey look if you don't want to ask her, in a week the moon will nearly be full, she'll be out. According to the cycle it's been six months she needs to feed soon, so she'll be out an' about. Just go and tap on the shoulder."

Yoshi visibly bristled at the image of Clarion feeding and then as she stepped one leg on the ledge she looked back at Colin. "Question. How do I smell?"

Colin had to stifle his chuckle for fear it would be too loud. "If you must know you stink Yosh."

The dark woman drew her brows together. "Not good huh?"

Colin snorted. "I mean unless you like blood and guts."


Colin raised his eyebrows. "You smell like you've been in a fight, lass." He sat up with concern as Yoshi swayed in the window and then steadied herself. That was one piece of evidence she knew she couldn't deny. "A little faith Yoshima and we'll figure this out." She turned away and disappeared out of the window, but not before she mumbled a "yeah right" loud enough for Colin to hear.

* * *

Part 3

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