Linc threw back the shot of Tequila and slammed the glass back on the bar, signaling to the bartender for another. She refilled the shot glass and raised a curious eyebrow at him. Linc gave her a smile and a silent salute with the glass before he drank. He closed his eyes and felt the liquid burn down his throat. The burn was nothing compared to his own heat, but at least it numbed the pain a bit. He’d left part of himself back home with Dawn, Michael and Kali, but at least he was keeping them safe. That was the important thing.
Fully aware that it was probably a really bad idea to get rip roaring drunk and lose control of himself, Linc left money on the bar for the drinks he’d had and slid off his stool. He left the bar, stepping out into the cold night air and headed for his car.
He found a beautiful brunette lounging against his hood, dressed in leather pants and a red tank top, tight enough that they should be illegal.
“Dangerous, to touch a man’s car, you know,” he said and she arched an eyebrow.
“Whatcha gonna do about it?” she challenged and Linc heaved a tired sigh.
“Why are you here, Faith?” he asked and his sister hopped off the hood of the car and stalked toward him.
“I’m here to drag your ass back home to your family,” she told him and Linc shook his head.
“You know, your boyfriend and his damn locator spells are a pain in the ass sometimes,” Linc muttered, then sighed. “I can’t go back, Faith. It’s too dangerous.”
“Doesn’t have to be. You know Dawn, Sam and Michael were working with Willow on a solution,” Faith said.
“It doesn’t matter. I’m losing control. I can’t take the chance.”
“What chance? That you might hurt someone? Dammit, Linc I take that chance every day,” she said and his brow furrowed.
“Why? Because you’re strong? Not quite the same, Faith. Accidentally hitting someone too hard isn’t like accidentally burning them alive just because you had a bad dream.”
“There’s that,” she agreed. “I could hit someone hard enough to do permanent brain damage and that would suck. But that’s not what I meant.”
“What then?” he asked and she gave him a level stare.
“Lets go somewhere else and I’ll tell you,” she finally said.
“Fine. I’ve got a room a few blocks over,” he told her and Faith walked around the car, swinging a leg over the motorcycle he hadn’t seen at first. He recognized it, the one she kept in the garage at Slayer Central. No wonder she’d caught up to him so fast.
“I’ll follow you,” she said and Linc gave a resigned sigh, getting into the Mustang and starting the engine.
Following Linc through the dark streets, Faith gritted her teeth to keep her temper under control. The whole ride to get here she’d been wired, furious and scared of what she was going to find. Envisioning blood, a shotgun or razors or, hell, even a fire, she’d ridden as fast as she could while still keeping both tires on the pavement. Instead she’d found him tossing back shots of Jose Cuervo in a hole in the wall bar. This fear, this clenching in her chest, she didn’t like it. She’d felt it only a few times before, for Sam and Dean, Dawn and Kali, when she thought she was going to lose them. She hadn’t realized that Linc and Michael had come to mean this much to her.
Her brothers. The men she’d adopted and made into her family. The pain, the fear, it was just another side effect of not being alone in this world. It sucked.
Linc’s motel was nothing special, just a little hole in the wall. He’d thrown his bag on the dresser when he’d checked in that evening and the room was hot, stuffy and smelled like stale air. He shoved open the two windows when they walked in and Faith sat on the end of the bed, waiting for him. He pulled the chair away from the small table and sat backward on it, facing her.
“Okay, we’re somewhere else. Now tell me what you meant.”
“Once upon a time, I wasn’t such a nice girl,” Faith said, leaning back on her elbows on the bed. Linc snorted and she gave him a dirty look. “You wanna hear this or not?”
“Sorry, go ahead,” he apologized, his lips still twitching from her ‘nice girl’ remark.
“Anyway, I got a little mixed up when I was younger, did some bad things for some bad people, then I did them just because I liked them,” she said, watching as Linc’s face sobered. “I killed for those people, just because they told me to. I tortured people… and I enjoyed it. The Council wanted to put me down. Buffy came to kill me. It was Angel that changed it all. He helped me… come back to myself, kept me alive. I went to jail, did some time, then helped close the Hellmouth in Sunnydale. You know, redemption stuff. Giles and Willow cleared my name with the law. My record is still out there, but they aren’t looking for me or anything.” She paused, watching him take it all in, fighting to keep her own voice steady.
“I’m not that girl anymore, but she’s still in here,” she said, tapping her temple. “I hear her sometimes, in a fight and she’s helpful, then. Ruthless. But sometimes I hear her when I shouldn’t. When I’m sparring with Sam or Dean, or even you. Sometimes she whispers in the bedroom, even and every day, I have to wonder if that will be the day her whispers will be too much, if that will be the day I can’t keep her buried any longer and she’ll come out and hurt someone I care about. So you see, you’re not the only one that lives with something dark inside them, something scary.”
“And how do you live with that? With the idea that you might hurt one of them?” he asked, finally, his voice unsteady.
“One of you, Linc. You’re on that list too, you know.”
“What if I can’t keep it under control? What if I hurt someone or if I can’t stop?” Linc asked and she understood what he was asking.
“If you get out of control, I’ll stop you, Linc. You know I will,” she promised.
“I’m afraid,” he said, quietly and she knew how much it took for him to admit it.
“Good. So am I,” she told him. “But you’re my brother and we have responsibilities waiting for us back home.”
They spent the night at the motel. Faith found some cheesy horror flick on the T.V. and they laid on the bed, their heads at the wrong end, watching bad acting and worse special effects until they fell asleep. It was just after daylight that they woke up and got on the road. Faith stayed close to Linc on the road, just behind him as they drove the hundred and some odd miles back to Cleveland. She hadn’t told him about the spell, that Dawn and Willow had worked out a way to help him. He couldn’t just go back because he knew it would be okay. He had to go back willing to fight. She wasn’t sure exactly how she knew that, it was probably something she absorbed from Sam or Giles or something. Just another side effect, she supposed.
Dawn was waiting for them when they pulled into the garage. Faith had texted her a half hour before, when they stopped at a gas station and let her know they’d be home shortly. Linc got out of the Mustang and she had to force herself to stay where she was, not to run to him. Gripping the hand rail on the steps, she waited until he made his way to her.
“I’m sorry,” he said, quietly and she stepped forward. He pulled her in and heard her sigh, sounding relieved.
“Don’t you ever leave us like that again, Lincoln,” she said and her voice was shaky.
“I promise,” he said, stroking her hair. “Where’s Kali?”
“She’s inside with Michael, waiting for you,” Dawn told him, stepping back and pulling herself together. He put an arm around her shoulders and they walked inside, Faith bringing up the rear and closing the door behind them.
They found Michael and Kali in the library with Dean and Sam, obviously waiting for them. Michael stood up when his brother walked in the room and the relief was evident in his eyes.
“Look, sweetheart, Daddy’s back,” he said, as Linc approached. Linc reached out and took the baby, bringing her to his shoulder and holding her close. Kali snuffled against his neck, resting her head on his shoulder and Linc smiled. He’d missed their daughter in the short time he’d been gone. Raising his eyes, he met her other Daddy’s gaze. Michael swore they were going to confuse her, calling them both Daddy without any difference between the two of them, but Dawn refused to change it. They were both her daddy and that was that. As with most things regarding Kali, both Michael and Linc had bowed to her wishes.
“Did you tell him?” Sam asked and Linc turned to where they were standing, Sam sitting at the desk, Dean leaning back against it with his arms crossed.
“Tell me what?”
“We found it, the spell to help you,” Dawn said and Linc stared at her.
“Yeah, seriously,” she said, with a smile.
“How? What do I have to do?”
“We have to transfer some of that power out of you and into me,” Michael told him.
“And what will that do to you, Michael?” Linc asked, sharply, his eyes narrowing. Much as he wanted help, he wasn’t willing to let Michael sacrifice himself to do it.
“It’ll give me power, Linc. We don’t know what kind, but I’ll be okay. It won’t be like with you, it won’t be the full dose. It’ll only be half of what went into you. It will sort of balance out between the two of us,” Michael explained and Linc closed his eyes.
“You’re all sure? Willow’s sure? This isn’t going to repeat itself with Michael?” he asked everyone, eyes still shut.
“We’re sure, Linc,” Sam said and Linc nodded, once.
“Okay. Let’s do this.”
As far as magic went, the spell was pretty mild, at least to the onlooker. There were no flashes of light or big bangs. Just an almost invisible silver mist that rose from Linc’s chest and settled onto, into Michael’s. Both men gasped, fighting for breath, as if someone had knocked the wind out of them, but it was over quickly and they sat up from where Dawn had made them lay on the carpet.
“Did it work?” Dean asked, standing near the window, far from the action because he was holding Kali. He’d gotten strangely comfortable with holding the baby in the last few months and he didn’t even really think about it anymore, just settled her against his shoulder with the ease born of practice.
“It worked, I can feel it,” Michael said, rubbing his chest with his palm. He smeared the symbol Dawn had painted on him with ashes and Faith tossed him a towel from the cupboard where they kept the magic supplies. They kept a whole shelf of cleaning supplies in the library, having learned the hard way that magic was messy. She tossed a second one to Linc, who caught it and wiped away the symbols on his own chest.
“He’s right, I feel it too,” Linc agreed, getting to his feet.
Dawn came forward and reached out, laying her hand on his chest.
“You’re still running hot,” she said, “but not nearly as hot as before.”
“Willow said his base temperature will most likely always run about ten degrees higher than the rest of us,” Sam reminded her and Dawn nodded. Willow had done a lot of research on pyrokinetics for them over the last few months.
“So when will we know what kind of power Michael has?” Faith asked and Sam shook his head.
“No telling. It’ll manifest itself eventually,” Sam said.
“I’ll be sticking around the house until we know. Nothing to do now but wait,” Michael said, reaching out for the glass of water sitting on the desk. His hand closed around the glass and there was a sharp cracking sound. Everyone of them stared as the water in the glass froze solid.
Willow told them that it wasn’t uncommon for siblings to have opposite powers, latent or not. It was sort of like two sides of a coin. They had a certain set of DNA and that DNA would naturally carry a certain type of power. Siblings would then share the different facets of it. She made it sound scientific instead of mystical and even Dean agreed that it made sense once they thought about it.
Linc’s bad dream revisited them the night after they did the spell and Dawn woke when his temperature rose, alarmed. She pressed herself tight against him and waited, biting her lip, but he never got more than a few degrees warmer than usual. Eventually, he’d relaxed and his body had cooled. In the morning he told them that he’d finally been able to take control of the dream, save Kali and put out the fire. It didn’t take a psychiatrist to figure out that the fire in the dream was a metaphor for the fire inside Linc.
While Linc’s body ran hot, Michael’s base temperature had dropped so that his skin was always cool to the touch. Dawn and Faith agreed that he felt like a vampire and while he hated the comparison, they were right.
Michael learned his power the same way he learned everything, quickly and thoroughly. He could use it at will within a few weeks and had learned a few neat tricks by the time Kali was six months old.
As their lives fell back into a normal pattern, Linc and Michael started hunting with Dean, Sam and Faith again. Dawn went out every so often, leaving Kali with Andrew, who turned out to be a surprisingly competent babysitter, but mostly she stayed close to home. She returned to manning the computer, the phones and running the websites, coordinating hunts and helping out various people with research and information. She also spent a lot of time reading up on genetics.
When Willow had explained about Michael and Linc’s power, about the DNA link between them, it had gotten Dawn thinking. She hadn’t said anything out loud to anyone else yet. She wasn’t ready to share her thoughts, to deal with the consequences. So she sat alone at the computer, reading about recessive and dominant genes and looked over every so often and Kali, sleeping in her playpen beside the desk. Her daughter looked sweet, innocent and helpless now, but Dawn had to wonder what was going to happen when she got older and the power she carried in her DNA came to life.