Chapter 1: For the Sad Saint
Jonathan wasn’t unnerved very often. He was a doctor with the steadiest of hands and mind, and was never frightened by the mythological beings he seemed to run into most nights. But there was something altogether unnerving about Sean Hampton. His utter disregard for things that normal people would consider rather a big deal, like consuming flesh. Of course, Jonathan had resolved that issue and now the young Ekon was back to serving his night shelter as he always.
“If I believed in such a thing, I would say it was destiny for you to serve these people.”
“God’s will must out,” Sean nodded agreeably. If Jonathan ever commented on his lack of belief, Sean staunchly ignored it. He had already said that Jonathan had plenty of time to come around, and God was ever-forgiving.
“Well, I am glad to see how far this shelter has come. You have worked your own sort of miracle, Sean.”
The younger Ekon chuckled. “I am glad to hear you say it. Sometimes I still worry you come to remove me from this world when you step in the door.” Jonathan’s heart clenched at the thought, and his face must have reflected it. “No, do not feel guilty, doctor. I know you harbor no ill intentions. On that note, how are your patients?”
Jonathan sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Pembroke was a disaster zone for awhile. People on the streets at dawn, demanding answers, and neither Swansea or I were able to appear and calm them down. We have managed to clean the place up, and thank God for that, because it was practically a contaminated zone. Most patients were healed and able to leave. There are some there that are only there because of their mental health -- I like to think myself a patient man, Sean, but Thomas Elwood’s only sickness is his stubbornness and I find myself ready to kick him out.”
Sean contemplated that for a long while, having already heard Jonathan’s tirade on Elwood once before. “He is scared of himself.”
“If it were only taking up a bed, I would mind less, but he must be hurting his family. They do not know he is there, and I am sworn not to tell them.”
“But here we are, talking about it.”
“You swore your own oath of secrecy, did you not, Sean?”
He smiled. “No, I do not give confession. I just talk to people.”
“Talk to. . .Sean, you are a genius. I have tried everything I could, would you try and talk to him? It was something I wanted to talk to you about, anyway. Religious service, for the patients. . .”
Sean’s smile spread into a grin. “Doctor, it would be my absolute pleasure. God truly did lead you to me, and I am ever thankful. The night is young, if you would like to go now.”
They stopped into the pub to greet Sabrina and Tom, then made their way to the hospital. As they were approaching, Jonathan froze as he heard the sound of a blade, now all too familiar. He put his own hand on his dagger. “Fear not, for I am with you,” quoted Sean, lightly touching the crucifix around his neck. Jonathan had almost forgotten his Childe’s inability to be hurt by the symbols. He crossed himself and before Jonathan could protest, asked loudly, “Who is there?”
Jonathan’s palm connected to his face in exasperation and he pulled his weapon as there was a final sound of something he thought might be a staking, when around the corner emerged the Priwen leader himself, Geoffery McCullum.
Jonathan sucked in a breath and positioned himself in front of Sean. “Good evening,” he said with a tight smile. “We were just going.”
“I smell another leech, Doctor. Have you been busy after all?”
Sean lightly put a hand on Jonathan’s shoulder and pushed. He let himself be moved until they were side by side, but the doctor warned the hunter with his gaze not to harm Sean. “There is terrible animosity here, I sense, but there is no need to worry over myself. As Jonathan said, we were just going to the hospital where I am to give a service for the patients. I had been far too inconsiderate, and had not thought that they would be unable to go to their churches.”
McCullum’s face almost made Jonathan laugh. Almost. “What in the hell game are you playing? Holy shit, you’re wearing the cross. How is that possible, leech?”
McCullum was technically demanding an answer from Reid, but Sean answered anyway. “Curse not when you speak of our Lord, if you please. Anything is possible with God.”
The hunter rounded on Reid after the reply with a fierce glare, getting up in his face. “Swansea I can let slide, beast. But a man of faith? That’s sick, even for a monster.”
“You don’t know the story, McCullum. Sean might be willing to talk, after the service, if you must know it.”
Sean’s tone was amused when he spoke. “Two hunters, both thinking they have the right to decide my fate on their judgement alone. As I submitted to Jonathan, so will I to you if I must, Mr. McCullum.”
Jonathan herded Sean more quickly to Pembroke, where he gathered anyone interested into the foyer and used the desk as an altar for a makeshift service. He then herded McCullum into his rooms before the man could make a scene. “What the fuck, Reid? Whose office is this, anyway?”
“Mine, McCullum. It isn’t in the best shape, but please take a seat.” To keep himself from pacing, he watered his fern slowly.
“What are you playing at?”
“What do you even mean?” Jonathan asked with a sigh. He was tired and this was going to be a long conversation.
“You’ve made two vampires, haven’t you?”
“Yes, Sean is my progeny. He had been turned into a Skal. His willpower was strong enough he kept his mind. . .mostly. He was resistant to the idea of being turned into a vampire.” Jonathan let out a laugh. “He said it would be awkward.”
McCullum was surprised into a snort of laughter as well. “No shit.”
“It was that, or let the man called the Sad Saint be lost to the madness, corrupted. That or kill him outright. Sean didn’t want that either.”
“No one wants to die.”
“You’d be surprised,” Jonathan said quietly. He thought first of Elizabeth, feeding off those who wished for their pain to end. Thought of himself, pulling the trigger of a gun aimed at his heart.
There was a long pause as McCullum studied his face. He wondered what the hunter was looking for. Finally he wrenched his gaze away and said, “So you turned him. And, what? I’m to believe none of you hunt mortals? That’s four innocent vampires now, or so you want me to believe, doctor.”
“Lady Ashbury did indeed drink from mortals, once. She has long since stopped. Sean ate the flesh of a man when lost as a Skal. I was abandoned by my Maker, and --” he choked, unable to talk about Mary, not to this man. He took a shuddering breath and continued, “and Edgar started this whole mess. So no, McCullum, I don’t want you think we’re innocent. As you said, no one wants to die.” His words were punctuated by a somewhat twisted smile.
More silence pervaded the room. “I can’t believe you have a fuckin’ houseplant.”
Some tension in him snapped at the outlandish statement and Jonathan dissolved into laughter, somewhat hysterical. “You’ll really get a kick out of this, then. I named her Lisa.” The look on his face made him laugh harder.
A rap on the door startled them both, and Jonathan opened the door to reveal Carol and Rufus. “Come in, come in. What brings you here at this hour? Aren’t you supposed to be asleep?”
Jonathan put a warning finger to his lips directed at McCullum, hoping the hunter wasn’t vindictive enough to screw him over like this.
“You can’t say anything when you’re only awake at this hour, Dr. Reid.” Rufus countered.
“Also, we are adults you know,” Carol said gently.
“Ha! Depending on the day I’ll give that to young Mr. Kingsbury. You don’t get the same status yet. Trust me, you don’t want it.” She gave a very ladylike ‘humph’ and crossed her arms.
“Now that I’ve estranged my dear Carol and it is far too late for propriety, can I introduce Mr. McCullum, my. . .guest. McCullum, this is Rufus and Carol.”
He looked askance at Jonathan, but played along. “Pleasure,” he drawled.
“Now, what are you here for? Not just to visit me.”
“Why not? You visit us often enough. It would be rude not to return the favor,” Carol replied.
“Carol, it would bring my heart nothing but joy if you came to visit, but you know I am out most nights. So, let's hear it.” Carol looked at Rufus and then at McCullum pointedly. Jonathan nodded. Anything said, McCullum could hear. It couldn’t make him hate Jonathan any more.
“It’s been a few nights since you visited. Your mother is real concerned you’d disappeared again,” Rufus revealed. “And we can’t convince her to leave well enough alone, us and Avery are taking shifts to make sure she doesn’t wander outside.”
“Avery?” His voice held warning.
“We tried to tell him to get his rest, Dr. Reid, honest. Please don’t be angry, we’re sorry.”
Jonathan put a hand out and Carol came over, he pulled her lightly into a hug. “I am not angry with either of you, Carol. You both did everything perfectly. I’m only concerned. Come, we’ll leave now for the manor and I’ll see what I can do.”
McCullum started in the corner. “We ain’t done talking yet -- Reid.” The hunter stumbled over what to call him, making Jonathan smirk. But he really didn’t have time for this.
“Then by all means, come along,” he replied sarcastically.
The three left the room, and Jonathan was surprised to hear the hunter was actually following at a few paces back. “He’s strange,” Carol whispered, and Jonathan barked out laughter.
“He’s kind of familiar, actually. Like he could live on the Docks.”
“You know, Rufus, I’m not sure where he lives. I suppose it is possible.”
Carol and Rufus chatted amiably with Jonathan on the way back, he could sense McCullum eavesdropping, but ignored it for the most part. “How is everyone in West End, then? Should I make more rounds here?”
“Nah, everyone is doing fine. Thanks again for the cold medicine. It tasted awful, though.”
“As it should. Medicine is a delicate thing, you wouldn’t want kids drinking it like a snack,” he said earnestly.
“Still,” Rufus wrinkled his nose. “For adults, then?”
He smirked. “I’ll see what I can do. You try not to get sick and have to worry about it.”
Carol spoke up. “Dr. Reid, you could talk to Clarence. . .” she trailed off and fidgeted. He waited patiently for her to collect her thoughts. She’d been doing much better with her confidence, but some things were still tough for her. Rufus seemed to help, nodding in agreement. “Mr. Crossley is nice most of the time, but sometimes he will really go on and on about vampires this, and vampires that. . .it was funny at first, but now he’s really serious.”
“Carol’s right. I know you think the whole idea of superstition is stupid, and I agree. Obviously he can’t find something that doesn’t exist, but I’m worried he might stumble onto gang territory.”
McCullum tripped behind them. Clearly, he hadn’t known the kids didn’t know Jonathan was a vampire. Rufus narrowed his eyes. “He’s not in a gang, is he? Are you in trouble? I can go back to the Docks and put a word in --” he whispered.
“No, Rufus, he is most certainly not. And thank you for your concern, but please never put yourself in harm’s way for me.” Jonathan responded in as low a voice as possible.
“I was starving out there, sir. Don’t think I don’t know I’m a charity case. I can repay you.”
“Is that how you see it?” Jonathan asked sadly.
Rufus scowled. “Isn’t it?”
“Just because I’m helping you financially does not mean I do not care about you. Besides,” he darted his eyes to Carol, whose dress was worth a good month’s wages. He looked back and nodded.
“Oh. I think I get it. I -- thanks, Dr. Reid.”
“Carol, I think I will talk to Clarence. Perhaps tomorrow night, since my friend here is persistent.”
They were at the manor door. Rufus ran ahead, calling back he would let Avery know. “I should stop by mother’s. I tore a dress playing yesterday, she said she would darn it for me. I can pick it up.”
“I’ll wait outside for you.”
“I--” she began to protest, but knew a lost cause when she saw one. She nodded quickly and scampered into her mother’s shop. Jonathan hovered anxiously by the door.
“Why do you look like you’re about to fight a pack of ancient vampires? I have so many questions for you now, leech.”
“Can’t wait,” he snapped, not taking his eyes off the door. He took a deep breath and faded his world to gray. Carolyn and Carol must be talking. . .they were downstairs. . . he waited on baited breath. Carol climbed the stairs. Carolyn followed. It could just be to see her off at the door. He caught a glimpse of movement, she was opening the door on this floor, and --
Jonathan hissed animalistically at the same time Carol cried out in pain and darted outside wide-eyed. Carolyn stood glaring daggers at the trio. Jonathan began taking large strides towards the girl, coat whipping behind him, and Carol came to meet him.
Around this time McCullum realized the girl was bleeding.
Chapter 2: Storytelling
McCullum grills Jonathan. Unfortunately for the hunter, not literally.
The ensuing conversation is almost civilized.
Thought I could squeeze this chapter out tonight since I had left you on a bit of a cliffhanger C:
Our favorite stubborn boys back at it again.
Everything happened in a flash. Carolyn was looking mutinous, unable to leave the house to chase down Carol and unsure why, but knowing Jonathan had something to do with it. “Get back here, Carol, let me get a bandage.”
Jonathan growled low in his throat and reached out towards her, but a knife to his throat stopped him in time. McCullum stood off to the side, arm outstretched to stop him. The hunter was at too awkward of an angle to actually be able to stop Jonathan from doing anything, but the surprise broke through his rage and he took a step back instinctually.
Geoffrey slid in front of Jonathan -- turned his back on him. That was startling enough he took another step back, and wheeled around to face Carol, carefully schooling his expression. She had retreated a safe distance from the scene. “I’m. . .I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to cause trouble.”
Jonathan had to take a few breaths before being able to reply totally calmly. As he did, guilt seeped into him for not immediately taking care of Carol’s wound. “Not your fault, Carol.” He pulled out his extensive first aid kit, selecting antiseptic and bandages. “Please, let me bind that for you.”
“It’s just a scratch, hardly bleeding at all anymore,” she protested, but let him bind the wound all the same.
The hunter had said something to Carolyn, but Jonathan hadn’t registered it. The loud slamming of the door did register, though, and he straightened up and positioned himself in front of Carol slightly. He looked furious. “What--”
Jonathan cut him off sharply. “Go home, Geoffrey. This is a family matter and you’re not welcome. Carol needs to rest her arm,” he said deliberately, lest he forget who was listening. The hunter still had his knife out, it glinted as he flipped it in his fingers.
“I’m watching you, Reid. You won’t have a moment when I’m not.”
McCullum made a noise of fury, and stalked off into the night. Jonathan sagged a little. The adrenaline was wearing off. Thankfully her wound was bound, and the smell of blood dampened. There was never a risk of him hurting anyone in his household, his family. It would be despicable to think about drinking from them, the disgust of the thought overwhelmed any thirst he had. Yet, on that note, he should spend some time with his family and hunt some Skals himself, or else some rats.
He could tell Carol was dying to ask some questions of her own, but stayed silent. He was grateful for that, he wasn’t sure what he would say about the man, or his own behavior. He’d never acted that way around them before, and hoped he wouldn’t have to again. It reminded him far too much of the Great War.
After reassuring his mother, he spent as much time as he could before realizing the sun was closer to rising than he thought. He left quickly, finding some rats on the way back to the hospital, and fell asleep.
Vampires, while sleeping, were out cold. Vampire heartbeats were naturally slow, their only real job circulating blood. He had theories about the necessity for his diet, but no time to look into them; perhaps he would after finding the cure for Elizabeth. During sleep they were even slower, pumping only when it was needed, and then not very strongly. Most humans would assume it was not pumping at all. It meant all his senses were shut down. He wouldn’t wake even if someone dumped cold water on him. Not until next sundown. It was frightening to think about, him being in such a vulnerable spot. Not only for himself, but for anyone who might need him and find him unavailable. Him and Swansea, both.
Hence his next plan of action. But for this night, he would go have a chat with Clarence. And then Geoffrey, it seemed.
Or at least, that was his plan, until he awoke and Geoffrey was sitting at his workbench, examining tools. “What in God’s name are you doing here, man?”
McCullum leapt to his feet. He recovered himself and sneered. “I thought you gentlemen liked when a man was a self starter.”
“Why did you refrain from slicing my head off as I slept? I would not have noticed, as I’m sure you’re aware,” he asked bluntly.
The hunter thinned his lips. “I couldn’t very well get answers out of you then, now could I? And ask you about what all these are.”
He lifted the pile of correspondence between himself and Elizabeth. “Why, Geoffrey, they are letters. Has no one written to you?” He asked scathingly. Then he contemplated, and asked more gently, “Can you read?”
“Of course I can fucking read!” McCullum slammed his fist down on the table. Jonathan put his hands up in defense.
“Not everyone can. Carol is just now finishing up teaching Rufus, and the boy thought you looked like you might be from the docks, like him.”
“We aren’t talking about him right now. We’re talking about how you let a carrier for a fucking epidemic go roaming around the world unsupervised.”
“I had things to do here. Children to look after. My Maker abandoned me, I wouldn’t let the same happen to Edgar and Sean. Lady Ashbury sends me her finds, I analyze them. She sends me materials I cannot get here. And she has amassed quite a fortune in her unlife.”
“And what? You’ve been sitting with a thumb up your ass?”
Jonathan snorted. “No, I awoke to an epidemic in my city and was the only one who could cure it. I was quite busy trying not to get killed by your men.”
McCullum stared blankly at him. “How old are you, leech?”
He counted back and winced slightly. “Thirty-three.”
“There’s no way you’re a goddamn newborn.”
“My Maker was an ancient vampire. Apparently I was afforded an advantage.”
McCullum laughed and paced in a circle. “This whole time I was trying to figure out where you came from, and you’re still warm from the grave.”
Jonathan shuddered at the memory, of standing up and slipping on a mass of corpses. . . “Do let’s not talk about that, please.”
“Fine. Back to the fact another epidemic could be started.”
“It won’t. She is being extremely careful. She has never Sired a Childe, and she is not drinking from humans whilst she is away.”
“You say. She says. Vampires don’t just walk away from blood. Accidents can happen.”
“We can’t live our lives on the assumption something bad will happen one day, perhaps.”
“What if it did? What if you were starving, something kept you busy for a long time. You go out to be the cur you are and feast on rats. And then you smell blood, a lot of it. A shooting or stabbing. Maybe multiple.”
“McCullum. . .” he raked a hand through his hair and stood up. He began the process of getting ready for the night, putting on real clothes while he thought. “Did you hear about the Dispensary in Whitechapel?”
“Skals almost got to the place, I heard. The nurse was alive, though. Someone told her something that made her leave for the night -- let me guess, you said something to her?”
“Yes, but that isn’t the important part. When I walked into that room to confront her there was a woman on the operating table with half her insides on the outside, not to mention all the patients in a small house with no ventilation that were bleeding.”
McCullum made a noise of outrage. “So? What happened? You were able to walk away?”
“I was able to help operate. And no, McCullum, before you fly into a rage, it wasn’t simple. It was excruciating, actually. I couldn’t see, not normally. All I saw was gray shapes, and the blood. So much blood.” He shook his head before turning back to the hunter. “I’m from a powerful Maker. Most Ekons couldn’t do it. It's not something I am or am not proud of, it just is fact. Lady Ashbury’s Maker is perhaps only one step below my own in terms of power. She’ll be just fine.”
“Why bother with the storytelling to say that?”
Jonathan’s thin thread of patience snapped. “I am trying to find a way to get it through to you that we are on the same side.” He yelled. “Jesus, McCullum.”
“Sorry if my whole life has been spent with leeches proving you wrong.”
Jonathan, despite his irritation, was a very curious man who had many questions of his own. “Your whole life?” He tried for sarcasm when adding, “I hear Paris is lovely this time of year, you should consider a vacation.”
“Yeah, I’m a dedicated man, Reid. So watch your back. If I hear someone so much as sneezes where your lover is, I’ll kill you both.”
“She is not my lover,” he clarified. “And thank you for calling my by a name, McCullum.”
“Furthermore, thank you for not revealing anything to my family. Though you do owe Carol an apology. She is a skittish girl.”
“The lass is abused,” the hunter replied bluntly. “And you let it happen.”
Guilt stabbed at his heart. McCullum continued, “What? Nothing to say to defend that?”
“No. I. . .can mesmerize people, to an extent. I will not allow Carolyn to forcibly keep Carol inside. But I have not practiced this skill. . .I am not a neurosurgeon, I do not know how this act affects brain waves. Telling her not to act is different than forbidding a future action -- or so a journal I read states. There is no precedent here in mortal medicine. I fear driving her insane.”
“So? What the hell? The woman deserves nothing. That’s forfeit when you hurt your kid.”
Jonathan looked up and nodded. “I do agree with you. Perhaps I gained something from Sean, or perhaps I am still exhausted from the war. . .it is far closer to me, for I died there. I couldn’t bear that burden. Call me weak for it.”
“An invitation? I thought you wanted to be friends, leech.”
“I don’t know, McCullum.” He sighed. “I’m tired. I need to go talk some sense into the man who used to be my best friend before the war.”
The hunter barked a laugh. “The one who is ‘crazy enough’ to think vampires exist? Can’t imagine why you aren’t friends now.” The air quotes he used made Jonathan smile.
“Because he refuses to let go of his place in the front. At least I was a medic. It doesn’t matter. You’re like him. I’m an enemy in the war he chose to fight.” Jonathan sat heavily on the bed. “Go home, McCullum. Finish off the mad Skals. You’ve got to be nearly done.”
“There are always more.”
He didn’t know how to explain Old Bridget would take of them, so he stayed silent. After a pause, McCullum shifted, rubbed the back of his neck, and announced, “I’ll go talk to Clarence. I know what to say. I’m fighting the same war, right?”
“You don’t have to do that, Geoffrey.”
“It would be my pleasure, Jonathan.”
He turned on his heel and strode out the door. Jonathan watched until his heartbeat was out of the building and away, and then stood up. He had a night free to work, finally. And he knew just where to do it.
Rufus and Avery were fast asleep in their own beds when he came home. His mother and Carol sat on the divan, talking about the novel they had just read. It seemed they started something of a book club. He was able to write a lengthy letter to Elizabeth and mail it off, detailing his increasingly busy life. He was able to pull the grate over the fire, and turn off the lights, and carry his mother and Carol to their beds, fast asleep. He slipped out of the house feeling far more content than last night.
And the next, he was able to initiate his plan.
Chapter 3: Simplicity
Albert and Harry are two perfectly healthy young boys and heaven knows Pembroke needs more of those.
Johnny knows it too.
Feat. McCullum unlocking Jonathan's backstory lv. 2.
Jonathan hasn't thought about McCullum's backstory, /but i have/
Jonathan liked to initiate conversation with young Albert Palmer by calling him ‘my boy.’ It annoyed the boy to no end to be reminded of his youth, something he saw as just one more weakness. Albert was no innocent, poised and ready to join a gang and ‘prove himself.’
Was it sad that Jonathan was hoping if he chose to join a gang it would be Priwen? At least then he would be safe from the other members. McCullum could watch him. That had been his best bet before, but now. . . well, Edgar and he had decided there were some staff at Pembroke that needed to be put on early retirement. He was no longer willing to put up with extortion in his hospital, nor would he force the elderly doctors to work themselves to death.
Hence the need for new staff. And Edgar had a lot of time on his hands, now that the epidemic was over. He was a good doctor. Good enough to train up a young man who wanted to prove himself to help around a hospital. Perhaps even pick up enough of the skill to distribute medicine, rather than steal it from his father.
“Good evening, my boy.”
“I’m not your boy, damnit. I don’t care if you are a doctor, I’m sick of you treating me like nothing.”
“And calling you my boy somehow insults you?”
“You know what you’re doing!”
He paused. “I think that youth should be cherished. It goes by quickly.”
“Look around, doctor. What am I supposed to be doing? I’m making a name for myself the way I know how. You don’t have to shove your big nose into it.”
Ouch, low blow. “What if another job came along?”
“What, strolls right into Whitechapel? Drives in a fancy new car right up to my doorstep? You’ve cured this place of disease -- and I’m not ungrateful for that -- but it’s still Whitechapel.”
“What about it?” That journalist had written up an article on all the changes at Pembroke. Jonathan pulled the clipped page from his pocket and handed it over. “So? What’s all this?” he said, after he had taken the time to scour over it.
“You know what I’m getting at. Come back to Pembroke. You’ll work directly under Dr. Edgar Swansea himself. The nurses will tell you what to do, but you will only answer to him.”
The boy took a step backwards. “You have to be joking,” he countered. He’d lost his glare, Jonathan noticed, his pale face even paler than usual. It was too young of a face to be drawn with exhaustion like that. It looked like -- well, it seemed like Jonathan wouldn’t be getting away from memories of the war anytime soon.
“I am completely serious.”
“Then you’re insane. I’m not a doctor. I don’t know anything about all that! They would think I was a mental patient there if I tried!”
“Calm down, my. . .Albert. I wouldn’t be so cruel,” he said with a small chuckle. “You’ll mostly be doing labor. There is a lot that needs to be put back into order, after the havoc the epidemic reached. You’re strong enough.”
Albert kicked a stone on the ground. “Better than the docks.” He shrugged harshly.
“Much. Not to mention if you do become interested in the work, you could not find a better place to start.”
“It ain’t. . . it can’t be that simple.”
“It may sound simple, but you might change your mind when you see the task list you will have.”
Albert made a noise somewhere between rage and fear. He supposed it was sudden, it was not often an opportunity presented itself in Whitechapel. Jonathan continued on, hoping to quell the fear of the unknown. “Your father is currently unemployed. Would he be willing to join us, too?”
Albert scowled. “No. If there was a chance we could have moved, I wouldn’t be here right now. I dunno why he wants us to rot here.”
Jonathan frowned. “Albert, your father is not a good man nor a gentleman. But he does care for you. I have talked to him enough to know that he would never wish to see you fail the way he thinks he has.”
“He has,” Albert countered forcefully, but looked confused.
“You might find it obnoxious, but might I speculate something?”
“You are afraid of success. You are thinking about turning down my offer because at least if you fail here you know you didn’t fail when you were actually given a shot for once. But you need not be. Even if you were unsuited for Pembroke for any reason, there is much you could do to be a help. Ambulance driving, grounds maintenance, supply runs, repair work -- none of it easy or glamorous, but all of it work that helps save lives in the end.”
The boy wiped sweaty palms on his pants. “You’d pay me?”
“Well, Dr. Swansea would pay you, but yes, you would have an income.”
“I could still live here?”
“Of course, I fear I am the only employee who tends to sleep in their office.”
“You really. . .you need a lot of help, then? The grounds thing, you need someone to garden?”
Somewhat dumbfounded, Jonathan asked, “You would like to garden?”
Albert scoffed. “Hell no. I mean, no sir. You know the Petersons?”
“Joe and his son Harry, yes. I have spoken to them.”
“You talked to Harry? He was outside?” Albert seemed excited by this notion.
“Sadly, no. He seems reluctant to leave. I convinced him to enter, he was ill.”
“He is no longer sick, though there seems to be a problem there that you are aware of.”
“Y-yeah. We grew up together, went to school for all that was worth. He’s miserable. Won’t leave the house, I haven’t heard from him in months. Kind of thought the epidemic might have gotten him.”
“No, he is safe.”
Albert scuffed at the ground with his shoes. They were wearing thin around the toe, it must be a habit when the boy was thinking. “You think you might have a place for him? If you’re desperate enough to ask me --”
“I must interrupt to correct you. I came to you first.”
Albert’s head shot up to look him in the eyes, shivering slightly. It was an unnerving sight. He wondered what most people thought of them, but they rarely commented. “Well, anyway. He might want to go. Or he wouldn’t want to go, but it would be good for him, wouldn’t it? As a doctor you know that, right?”
“Yes, it would be quite healthful for him to get out, and the work would be good exercise.”
“You could tell him that. If he talks to you.”
“I think he already is aware of that. Why don’t you see if you can talk to him? I will notify Pembroke, and if one or both of you want to come, there will be instructions ready for you.”
“I’ll go right now.” He turned and began heading towards the Peterson’s house. He hesitated and turned back, but Jonathan only nodded and lifted a hand in acknowledgement.
From there, Jonathan went to visit Camellia. The woman was with Hsiao Shun, and they seemed to be exchanging words in sign language fluidly. He watched their conversation from afar before announcing his presence. It seemed to be quite functional. He wondered why there was such a debate over it in the medical community when it made Camellia seem to happy to be using it. He scuffed his shoe as he approached and they dropped their hands.
“Good evening, doctor. Making rounds?”
“Not quite, Miss Shun. I was hoping Camellia here had flowers for sale?” He asked, looking her way. She nodded and went to retrieve some. “I am on my way to the graveyard. Would you like me to bring a flower or message to your husband’s grave?”
“Oh, no thank you doctor. I greatly appreciate your kindness, but I make it there when I can. I keep busy here, though. Maybe one day I will run you out of your position, doctor!”
He laughed at her statement. “And I would be pleased to relinquish it to one so determined.”
“Even if that one is a woman?”
“Most certainly. I have seen the help you give these people, and hope to see it continue. Maybe in Pembroke, now that the epidemic is contained? And if you could drag Nurse Crane back where she belongs, I would be in your debt.”
“An interesting proposition, doctor. I do like the idea of you being in my debt,” she teased.
“Perhaps I spoke to hastily, I did not realize you would be so vicious.”
Camellia returned with a wide array to choose from, and he chose a good group of white flowers. Nodding his goodbyes, he made his way up to the graveyard. It was almost strange to walk through the streets in full color, not needing to keep a hyper focus on his vampiric senses lest he be ambushed by Skals or Priwen members.
He did see a Priwen patrol near the graveyard, but was able to avoid them, leaving them only to wonder if they’d heard a person or a stray animal. The graveyard itself looked nicer now too, now that Skals weren’t tearing their way through it. It seemed someone had lay new grass, perhaps the church. Mary’s grave looked properly regal now, the nightmare of their fight a thing of the past. The cross she had used as a weapon against him was reattached to its own grave, bound in purple cloth to hide the break.
He took a deep breath, and sat down at the grave. “I am a man of science, my beloved sister. Nor were you religious, although you said all the right words to mother and father. I thought before that was all there is to the spiritual, empty gestures and words to comfort those unable to cope. But now -- even without the pain of those symbols, for I am sure there is a scientific reason -- now, I understand more. It seems for all my learning I was unwilling to listen to anyone tell me what I didn’t want to hear. Confirmation bias, it’s called, but that isn’t the point. The point is, I’m glad you forgave me, sister. I still don’t think there is a Heaven, but rest assured it is like you are looking down on me, nonetheless.”
Having finished his rambling, he left his flowers on the grave and sat a few minutes longer, letting himself be lost in thought about the cure for Ashbury. He had ideas. He thought he might be going about this the wrong way by starting with the serum he made to finish the Morrigan off. If the problem was in her blood, it would make sense to simply. . .replace the blood. A blood transfusion given faster than the diseased blood cells could reproduce, it would need to be aided by a serum of some sort, of course. And it was risky altogether, nothing of this quantity had been done, it was incredibly dangerous, would kill a mortal outright immediately. And as creatures of blood, it was especially particular --
“My men said they thought they heard a leech here. Thought I’d come looking. Of course it had to be you.” Geoffrey McCullum announced his presence.
“I can oblige if you’re looking for someone to attack you.” Jonathan replied in a drawl, standing up slowly. The perks of vampirism meant he didn’t have to stretch out afterwards, his blood moved more organically through him. No limbs fell asleep, nothing cramped. Just smoothly getting up and waiting for a reply. He supposed it must look like something from the valley of the uncanny to others.
Geoffrey narrowed his eyes. “Don’t threaten me, leech.”
“Do you think I was serious? You do need a vacation.”
The hunter stepped closer, looking around them like he was searching for something. “You’re always acting so fuckin’ suspicious. What are you doing sitting in the middle of the graveyard?”
“Necromancy,” Jonathan deadpanned. “What do you think?” The hunter spotted the flowers and walked over to look at the grave. He read it carefully, Jonathan watching his expression. It wasn’t exactly soft, but it wasn’t his usual glare.
“I forgot you haven’t been around for a long time. Your sister, then? Or a wife?”
“No, she was my sister. We were twins.”
“How did she die?”
The question was asked out of concern, Jonathan knew, but he still sneered, instantly on guard. “What do you want to know for?”
The hunter thinned his lips. “Because I’m not a total asshole, Reid. My men die too, and it doesn’t get any easier.”
Jonathan’s shoulders slumped. “No. It doesn’t. Maybe I should tell you. I deserve it.”
“What, you had a hand in it? I’ll make you a promise then, leech, if you trust my word.”
The Ekon pondered this. “I do. You are honorable, there is no doubt about that.”
“Tell me how she died and I promise not to threaten you even a little about it.”
That startled a laugh out of Jonathan. “You can make jokes? I wasn’t sure. Fine then.” The mood around them darkened. “I awoke as a newborn Ekon surrounded by a pile of bodies. I was in one of the mass graves. There was only one person close by, I scrambled out of the pile to get to it. I had no conscious thought. If I had I would never --” Jonathan choked.
McCullum’s jaw was working as he struggled not to react, the Ekon knew. “I, well. You can guess. Hunters chased me until I lost them in an abandoned home. If it helps, I put a bullet in my heart,” he laughed humorlessly. “But I woke up again. She came back as a vampire. I’m not sure. . .I don’t know how. I gave her no blood to drink. But back she came, and tried to kill me, right here where we stand. She finally forgave me before I put her to rest.”
“Holy fucking shit, Reid.”
Jonathan levelled his gaze at the man. “Well?” he asked, after a time had passed with only their breathing to fill it.
The hunter shook his head. “I have no f’ing clue.”
“That’s reassuring. I thought I was the only one. Are you certain you are not going to shoot me? Your bullets had far more success than my own.”
“You won in the end,” he said distractedly. “I made a promise to you, Reid. But, all fun and games aside, I think it’s your turn to go now.”
Jonathan knew good advice when he heard it, even if it was from the hunter, so he turned and left quickly. That was unsettling. He had been prepared for a fight, looking forward to it, even. And why was that? He was always the first one to not want anything to do with fighting Priwen, why did he all but pick a fight with its leader?
Without hardly noticing it, his feet took him to Sean Hampton. “What are you thinking about, my child?”
Jonathan ignored the many levels of irony in that question. “Mary forgave me before she died. Why can I not let it rest?”
“Come now, Jonathan. You know men’s hearts. If you were trying to find out that answer from someone else, what would you say?”
“If I haven’t forgiven myself by now, what else can I do? Must I have this guilt for all eternity?”
“No, child, because this earth will come to an end, and we will all be absolved of our guilt. But you are looking for a shorter term answer, I think,” he said with a smile. “You are looking for an action to take that will erase your guilt. Sins cannot be paid off with money or any one deed. Nor will you replace Mary with another. But you find new things that become more important than the guilt.” He spread his arms. “I have my shelter, and my flock within it. Our good friend, I could even say my brother, Dr. Swansea, has his hospital as his kingdom, and you say he is becoming a much better ruler.”
“Yes,” Jonathan said in relief. “He has been quite busy reasserting his reign.”
“And you seem to be carving out your own place. How are Carol and Rufus?”
Jonathan couldn’t help but smile at that. “Wonderful. They terrorize all West End together, and take their jobs seriously. The manor is something to be proud of now that there are people to fill it.”
“And you should be one of them. Go home, Jonathan, and take a look around.”
Jonathan went home and took a look around. It was deep into the night and everyone was asleep, so he walked carefully through the rooms. Avery’s choice of roost, the sitting room, had embers popping occasionally in the grate, and a cup of tea sitting cold by the chair. The day’s paper was discarded aside, he smirked at the idea of whatever trouble caused the man to get up so fast. The halls were used more now, the rug a bit dusty. But it smelled like the fresh flowers cut and put in vases, likely Carol’s doing. Mary’s room still had a flower lying in front of it, but it was fresh instead of the crumbling thing he had last seen. His own room was kept prepared for him, and he took a moment to lay down on his bed, looking up at the familiar patterns drawn on the ceiling.
“Jonathan? Is that you?”
“Yes, mother, I’m here,” Jonathan said softly. “And you should be asleep.”
His mother chuckled. “You should respect your elders. Besides, you will be glad I was wandering. The children decided to bake today and left a wonderful loaf of apple bread in the kitchen for you.”
“That’s wonderful. I will make sure to take it on my way out.” He could always give it to the nurses, they needed a pick-me-up. Or McCullum. The humor must have reflected on his face.
“It is good to see you smiling. Sometimes I wondered if you ever would once your father left.”
“I did not mean to worry you, mother.”
“Ah, that is a mother’s job. Now I have two more to worry about and I would have it no other way.”
He laughed at that. “I cannot tell you how much it pleases me to hear that.”
“You are such a good man, providing for your old mother. Well, I think I will go to bed, now that I know you are safe and sound.”
“Sleep well, Johnny.”
He waited until it was likely she was asleep, though it was close to sunrise, and took the loaf of bread on the way out. It was quickly gone to the eager fingers of nurses who hadn’t had a proper meal in hours.
He lay in bed before dawn rose and he fell asleep, feeling for the first time since he awoke as an Ekon like he might be making a life for himself, rather than desperately trying to catch up.
Chapter 4: Safe Travels
Albert and Harry join the crew of Johnny's recruits (read: family) and those darn vampire hunters are back at it again.
Man, I can hardly get around a small town without Google Maps let alone London.
Sorry for the wait, all~
To his great surprise, the next few nights were relaxing and uneventful. He worked at Pembroke -- actually drawing comments of surprise from the doctors and nurses who had thought he only made rounds anymore. Swansea was sitting at the reception desk, actually in use now, looking as smug as a king on a throne perched on his wheeled chair.
“Jonathan! It is a wonderful night, is it not?”
“It is,” Jonathan agreed honestly.
Edgar leapt to his feet, his old excitement shining through. Jonathan smiled to see this part of his character able to come out freely. He recalled their first meeting, when the doctor had -- quite rightly -- held a crucifix up to him in defense. “Come along, Jonathan, do keep up.”
Edgar was leading him somewhere, it seemed. They walked through the newly cleaned halls of Pembroke. “We just about have everything put to order. It still needs a good scrubbing, but there are no longer mysterious stains on the walls. Look, the beds are actually all in order. You know, Jonathan, I think we really both got so caught up in the epidemic we neglected our duties here. Not that we had much of a choice, of course,” he chuckled.
Jonathan shook his head bemusedly. He couldn’t understand how quickly Edgar had bounced back from everything that had happened to them. “Well, Jonathan, don’t let me do all the talking. How is our fine Lady Ashbury doing? I see the mailman with the letters, you know.”
“And I’m glad you are keeping a close eye on things. She is doing well, still traveling.” Edgar didn’t know about her being a carrier, and he wasn’t keen on sharing, so he carefully added, “The epidemic sparked an interest in medicine, she is sending me correspondence about her research.”
“Ah! How good to hear! I think -- ah, hello boys. Are you both well?”
Looking up from his surveying the hospital, he saw Albert with Harry somewhat behind him, looking every now and again at the door as if considering whether or not to bolt. Jonathan smiled. “Good evening, Albert, Harry. It is good to see you both here. Edgar, meet Albert and Harry, boys, this is Dr. Edgar Swansea. I met these two on my rounds, and think they are just the kind of workers that Pembroke could use right now. As you just mentioned, the place needs a good scrubbing.”
Albert seemed to be looking around in badly hidden awe, while Harry was looking a little queasy. Jonathan spoke up to bail him out. “And the outside is still a mess of tents and debris, if there is a volunteer to work outside?” Harry nodded immediately.
“Hrm, this is rather unusual, but what about Pembroke is ever completely normal? I see no reason not to employ you two, if Dr. Reid has put in his good word. You are rightly impressed by the hospital, young Albert, shall I show you around and introduce you to the nurses while Jonathan gets Harry settled?”
“Yeah! I mean, yes, sir, thank you.” Albert replied. Harry nodded again, and the pairs seperated.
“I am very pleased you decided to join us, Mr. Peterson.”
Harry looked somewhere over Jonathan’s shoulder as he answered. “I honestly wasn’t sure if I should come. I don’t really see the point. If people come here to die why does it have to look nice?”
“Harry. I have lost patients in my day. I took that burden on when I became a surgeon. However, it is by far the rarer thing than a patient making a full recovery. The epidemic. . . was like nothing else that has happened for a very long time. That is not the norm.”
The boy shrugged. “I hope not.”
“I cannot reassure you except to say that you will just have to see for yourself. That is your decision to make, Harry.”
“I’ll stay, I don’t want to worry Al again.”
“And I’m glad to hear it. But it takes more than staying. You’ve got to actually look around. It was Sean Hampton that taught me that.”
“The Sad Saint?” Jonathan nodded in agreement. “Sometimes I thought he was just a rumor.”
“No, he’s quite real, and just as profound as people make him out to be. It’s almost unnerving, really,” Jonathan said with a smile. Harry tentatively smiled back.
“Yeah, I think I get that.”
They reached the front of the hospital, and Harry looked a little intimidated by the line of tents. Some were in various states of abandonment, now that the hospital was more usable, and it was even more of a mess than when everything was being used. “There is no hurry, so long as you are getting something done. And there are plenty of people around to ask for help.”
Harry nodded quickly. “Okay. I can do that.”
“Most certainly. Why don’t I introduce you to everyone here?”
Whatever their temperment, the doctors and nurses were thrilled to have some extra help, and Harry seemed to respond well to them. Jonathan pointed out the way out of the hospital district, and down to where the sewers were from above. Oswald and Newton were there, watching the water and talking. Pointing at them he gave Harry their names. “They were in the war, same as most of us, it seems. It changed us all in different ways, and here’s as good a place as any to find some peace. I’m convincing Oswald slowly to come get checked out in the hospital.”
Harry held his elbows and watched the pair for a moment. “I wouldn’t want to be a patient if I didn’t have to be either.”
“As a doctor, it pains me to hear that every time. We are here to help.”
Harry made eye contact for a second before his gaze darted away again. “I believe you when you say that, but only because Al does. Maybe it was the epidemic.”
Jonathan sighed. “That I can believe.” They watched a moment longer as they walked back along the wall, and their change in position revealed they were holding hands. Jonathan smiled. “Well, some good things come out of dark times. Bonds are formed,” he said, nodding to them. Harry turned back to look at them and his jaw dropped when he saw Newton lean in and kiss Oswald. The boy looked up at Jonathan, as if waiting for a response.
He only smiled at continued his tour. By the time they were back at the front doors, Harry seemed to be over his concern. “Well, Mr. Peterson, I believe it is time to turn you loose.”
“Thank you, Dr. Reid.”
As Harry was walking out, looking at the floor instead of in front of him, he bumped into Rufus who was looking at Carol instead of in front of him. Harry stammered an apology, and Jonathan could sense the blush as he darted away. He laughed as the pair approached him.
“Is he alright?” Carol asked in concern.
“Oh yes, just overwhelmed at the moment. Everything is alright. And before we get carried away, might I just say your apple bread was delicious.”
The pair grinned.
Albert and Swansea returned just as they were finishing up their conversation, so introductions were made and information swapped before they all went their separate ways for the night. It was time for him to hunt and feed. He found a forgotten part of town, somewhere life had fled and would remain empty until London rebuilt itself from the epidemic. Rats here were plentiful and less skittish, simple for a vampire to catch.
“Pathetic. Look at this leech. What, couldn’t fight a human so you went after vermin like yourself?”
“Hey, is that cannibalism?”
Jonathan looked around and surveyed the environment. The two Priwen guards had been in a room above him, perhaps off duty for the night, and Jonathan hadn’t really been looking. They weren’t in any uniform, but both had a gun in their hands aimed right at him. They fired, one after the other.
Jonathan dodged left, then leapt up to the bannister in a move that seemed like teleportation to mortal eyes. He thought fast -- pushing them from the bannister would likely kill them. He instead dodged another bullet and the fourth grazed his arm, tearing at his jacket. He took a threatening step towards them, both of them making quick moves away of their own, but he feinted into the house they had been occupying and slammed the door, locking it.
He spun around. “James?” she heard a woman’s voice ask, and he held a finger to his lips as a woman rounded the corner. She gasped and turned and ran down the hall. He relaxed a fraction as he stalked across the room to the window -- and should not have because her bullet caught him in the leg. He yelled in pain, but managed to open the window and jump out before the woman could take another shot. He heard the door being opened and voices yelling before he was out of earshot.
He was just finished binding his leg and was settled at his desk for the evening, glad that he had managed to feed before the events, when in walked McCullum like he owned the place. “Really not in the mood, Geoffrey. Your men certainly are well armed.”
The hunter’s gaze darted down to Jonathan’s leg, where the pants were rolled to his knee to allow for the wrap. “Word travels fast. My men managed to shoot you twice. Wouldn’t have thought it was you, since I pride myself on being a damn finer sight than them at shooting.”
“Your overly large ego can remain intact. You men missed skin. Your man’s wife did not,” he said grimly.
McCullum boggled at him and then began to cackle. “You’re shitting me, Reid.”
“I am so pleased you find this situation laughable. I, for one, had plans tonight.”
McCullum rolled his eyes and drawled, “What, someone has the sniffles?”
Jonathan may have recently had a bullet in his leg, but he did not take kindly to being mocked. He surged to his feet. “How dare you make light of my profession so soon after someone who got ‘the sniffles’ would have feared for their life? Do you know the fear I saw in people’s eyes -- in mother’s and children’s and husband’s eyes -- when they came to me anxious at the first sign of a cough?” He hadn’t realized he had advanced on the hunter until the latter had his knife out to remind him. He growled in annoyance and turned again, sitting heavily back down. “You do manage to piss me off, McCullum.”
“It’s mutual. But--” McCullum pointed at him with his knife, glinting in the lighting, “You also saved my ass.”
“What, letting you go? That was never a debt to be paid. If you think of it that way, then consider the graveyard making it even.”
“Don’t worry your pretty head, there are no debts between us. What I mean is the whole thing. The skals, and the epidemic, and whatever you did to shut up that fancy club uptown.”
Jonathan tilted his head at the last. “That must be Edgar’s doing.”
“I count that as your doing too, then.”
Jonathan ran a hand through his hair. “What are you getting at?”
“It’s not that I owe you.” McCullum snapped his knife shut and sheathed it, “But you should be free to move in case whatever new surprise London has to offer rears its three heads, or whatever. The men by now know of you, you have a folder with a pretty good sketch. I’ll give the order for them to stand down if they see you. Saves you and them a bullet to the leg.”
Jonathan eyed him with slight wariness. “I must admit confusion. This implies trust.”
“I don’t see how. Like I said before, I’m watching you. Come on, you saw how fast I found you and I can’t even sniff out a blood trail.”
“It isn’t hard to guess I would go to a hospital after taking a bullet,” he shot back, but then sighed. “I understand. Thank you, McCullum. I can’t imagine the conversation you have will be a fun one, and you don’t have to do it. So I appreciate it.”
“Don’t mention it. Seriously, I don’t like to think about what I’m doing for a vampire. I’m leaving. Oh, and, uh. . . how’s that girl of yours?” He indicated something that took Jonathan to recognize as being Carol’s height.
“Carol? Daughter of Carolyn, as you might have assumed. Her and Rufus were not in good places, and my father’s manor -- mother’s now, I suppose -- needed a great deal of help. She is doing well. They have both been trying to bake as of late and are quite successful.”
“Oh, you took them in. I thought they might’ve been yours.”
“Mine? No, no. They are grown for all I treat them like children.”
“Good, good,” he said awkwardly. It was almost endearing.
They both stood up out of unspoken agreement, though Jonathan didn’t see McCullum to the door. “Well, alright then. Maybe I won’t have to see your face again for awhile.”
“You know it’s irresistible,” Jonathan said with a grin.
“It’s fuckin’ uncanny is what it is,” McCullum muttered, slamming the door behind him.
Chapter 5: Fever Dreams
Geoffrey gets sick. Naturally it couldn't just be the common cold. Jonathan isn't one to leave a man behind, even if he doesn't really like the guy.
Really, he doesn't like the guy. He's serious.
Welcome ladies and gents to part 5 of watching these two losers realize they might not hate one another
Jonathan found he quite enjoyed not being chased around the city anytime someone caught a glimpse of him. He was cautious for the first week, inching in the shadows past the Priwen members. But that turned out to be a bad idea, since most of the Guard were trained to shoot first and ask questions later. Which was fair enough, really, but it soon turned out to be a better idea to approach with his hands up.
It was humorous, really, how they stared at him silently, not knowing what to do with him. Then a few weeks in, when each new rotation had seen him a few times, it just because routine. He would nod to them politely as he went on his rounds, and sometimes they would even nod back.
It was right around a month later that one of the Guard spoke up when he nodded at them. “Excuse me, Dr. Reid?”
The three others who were with him shut him up in a cacophonous flurry of protest. “Ah, yes? Can I help you?” Jonathan asked.
“Say. . .say I’ve got a friend what’s sick.”
“Shut the hell up, Charles, you don’t have to bring the leech into this,” he caught another whisper with his enhanced hearing.
“And why shouldn’t I? He’s better that someone off the street,” the man, Charles, replied.
Charles turned back to Jonathan. The others didn’t put up more protest, which made the doctor assume it must be fairly serious. “He’s got like the cold, really, but he’s got a fever and its been like this a few days, he don’t seem to be getting better. We went to the dispensary, but that lady wasn’t there.”
“Ah, Nurse Crane did indeed return to Pembroke a week ago. Hsaio Shun has been keeping an eye on the area.”
“Right, we talked to her, said she wasn’t sure though and to go to Pembroke.”
Jonathan furrowed his brow, “Go on. . .”
“Well, you work there an’ he didn’t want a leech being his doctor, but. . .”
“He needs to be seen. I see.”
“Right, an’ I’m sure Pembroke is a nice place and all but you’re the best, see, and we want the best doctor.”
“That’s very flattering, but --”
“And it has to do with a leech attack.”
Jonathan nodded slowly. “I see. So you, Charles, would like to see your friend treated by an Ekon so that the secret is kept.”
“Yeah, that too. But I figure you’ve got experience with vampire stuff. . .”
“I certainly do, at that,” he replied dryly. “Could you take me to your friend?”
Another flurry of protest and debate among the hunters, before they finally let Charles have his say. “Yes. But we want to blindfold you.”
Jonathan valiantly resisted laughing at them. He didn’t need to see to sense exactly where they were going. And he didn’t trust a random group of Priwen not to lure him into a trap. If it were a trap, it was the perfect one for him. He wouldn’t let someone suffer out of fear for his own life. He nodded at the group, and removed his roll of bandages from his doctor’s case.
He stayed very still as they tightly tied the bandages around his eyes. He let his vampiric senses reach out, making sure there was no group of hunters hiding around a corner. A hunter prodded him with his gun -- “Kindly unload that if you’re going to be using it like a cattle prod” -- and they were off.
Just when he was about to accuse them of simply trying to get him lost by how much backtracking they seemed to be doing, one of the hunters sawed through the blindfold with his knife, Jonathan trying very hard not to throw him like a ragdoll. He was in front of a stairwell, and there was one person in the building it opened into above him. He looked around, he could smell that they were somewhere near the water, but in London that was vague. The hunters had done fairly well as disorienting him. He would be able to follow their trail back far enough to locate this place again, though. He kept that tidbit to himself and began up the stairs.
“Uh, don’t say that we sent you.”
Jonathan nodded. The scent inside was familiar, but something was wrong with it. Tainted with fever and some kind of sickness. He would have to analyze the blood to figure it out.
He opened the door. It was pitch black inside, he flicked on the lights and elicited a growl from the man laying on a bed in the back left corner, rolled away and under a sheet. It seemed like they had brought equipment in for a doctor, instruments were laying at random by someone who didn’t know what they were looking at on the vanity table. Luckily, it seemed with his own stock and these things he would be able to do his work here.
He approached the hunter. The scent was familiar, in fact -- “McCullum?”
The man turned and saw Jonathan. He immediately threw the sheet off and jumped to his feet, but couldn’t stay there for long. The hunter collapsed back into sitting on the bed. “What. The fuck. Are you doing here,” McCullum breathed out.
“You’re in bad shape. Why didn’t you come to Pembroke? You know when I’m asleep, you could have just waited for me again.” He ignored the question, but luckily McCullum didn’t seem to notice.
“I don’t want your help, Reid! Leave me the hell alone.”
Jonathan instead reached out and put the back of his wrist on the man’s forehead. He’d had to adjust for his naturally lower vampiric temperature, but was still adept at guessing temperature without a thermometer. McCullum reached up and grabbed his arm, weakly trying to throw him off. “Hush and let me work. What caused this? Your blood smells wrong.”
“Oh good, maybe you’ll leave me alone now.”
It didn’t quite make sense as a comeback, but he didn’t remark on it. “What have you eaten and drank today?”
McCullum was quiet. “It’s. . .Monday, right? I had some stuff. I’m not hungry.”
It was Tuesday night, and ‘some stuff’ wasn’t promising. “You need to drink water, dehydration is the fastest way to compromise yourself when you have a fever.”
“Com-pro-mise. Fancy ass doctor. That’s your way of being too nice to say kill, right Reid? You won’t get rid of me that easily.”
“McCullum,” he said more forcefully. “Your pride will not allow you to survive blood poisoning and a fever.” He quickly found water in the room, and handed it to the hunter. “Drink it.”
Perhaps to prove a point, McCullum growled and downed the whole bottle at once, then tossed it at Jonathan. “Thank you, McCullum.”
“You sound so honest. ‘Thanks, vampire hunter, for drinking some water so you can probably try to kill me some other time, and kill lots of other vampires,’ McCullum slurred.
It was probably bad that Jonathan was relieved that McCullum was so out of it, but he had to take a blood sample. He prepped a needle surreptitiously. “Well, whose fault is it if you try to kill me?”
“Mine, Reid, mine. I’ve been doing it a long-ass time, though. Sometimes I think its pretty fucked of me to make an exception for you if I didn’t for my own brother.”
The hunter was speaking conversationally, obviously unaware of what he was actually saying. Jonathan sucked in a breath. “Your brother was a vampire?”
“Mm-hmm. Dad was too. Eldrich killed dad, then we killed Ian. Which was pretty fucked up too, right? That he had me kill Ian? I dunno, it worked well. I’m a good hunter for it, but damn.”
“That is. . .unimaginably harsh. I am sorry, Geoffrey.”
Jonathan approached slowly, needle out of sight behind his back. “Your teacher, Eldritch. Is he still alive?”
Geoffrey snorted. “You ask stupid questions sometimes, Reid.”
Jonathan took that to mean no, he was killed by a vampire. He pulled the needle out and tugged the sleeve of Geoffrey’s shirt up. “This will be quick, but might pinch a bit.”
“What are you gonna --” Jonathan inserted the needle into the vein of his inner elbow. Geoffrey was dehydrated, making them slightly smaller, but he was able to find a place that didn’t hurt the man much and take a sample quickly. “What was that?”
The hunter sounded more alert now. “Just for running a test. I see your guard brought you food, you need to eat it.”
“Go away. I want to sleep.”
“You can sleep after you eat this.”
The bowl of porridge was room temperature and slightly lumpy, but the hunter didn’t seem to notice as he angrily shovelled food down. Jonathan twitched and resisted the urge to tell him to eat slower and sip water between bites, he knew he was lucky enough to get the hunter in so manageable a mood. Almost immediately after finishing the man just lay down and rolled over. “Go away.”
Jonathan didn’t, but the hunter was too far gone to notice. He analyzed the blood and hoped his suspicions were wrong. If the taint in his blood was from a Skal. . .
It was. From an open wound a tiny amount of the Skal’s tainted blood, along with some of the toxic poison it spewed, had found its way into Geoffrey’s bloodstream. His own blood was fighting it off, but had caused a fever to try and burn it out. Unfortunately, the Skal blood was resistant to the high temperature, and all it was doing was making things worse, compromising the immune system and making the Skal’s blood work faster at tainting other cells.
Damn McCullum for letting it get this far. If he had come to Jonathan when he noticed something strange, he probably could have purged it with regular medicine. And McCullum wasn’t currently strong enough to try a blood transfusion and then kill it off from there. He raked a hand through his hair. One of his serums, maybe, boosted in strength? That would give him more strength, but introducing new blood was still risky -- unless.
King Arthur’s blood. Where was that being kept? There was a door behind this room, and Jonathan began snooping around. It took two hours, but he found it hidden in a small lockbox that was bolted to the floor, the key also hidden carefully.
When he emerged victorious, closing the door with a light click behind him, he was surprised to see McCullum sitting up and watching him warily. “I didn’t dream the whole thing then?”
Jonathan couldn’t help but smirk and ask, “Do you dream about me often?” The hunter only glared at him. His smirk turned into a softer, genuine smile. “I’m glad you are feeling better. You were very out of it. I was able to figure out the cause of you illness.”
The hunter looked at Reid. “Am I going to become one of them?”
“Do not lie to me, Reid.”
“I’m not lying. There is no way you can be turned into a Skal by the quality or amount of blood that entered your bloodstream. It is instead acting as a poison, which your body is trying to purge. However, being an unfamiliar material, it is failing.”
McCullum relaxed somewhat. “I’ll die, then?”
Jonathan took a quick step forward and grasped McCullum’s shoulder, faster than a human could. “I will not let you die, Geoffrey.”
“Why not, Jonathan? It’s a good a time as any. I’m worthless now, anyway. No need for me to train people when London is getting safer. The Guard can sustain themselves.”
“When the epidemic was over, I didn’t just die, McCullum. Even though I’m as worthless in this world as you are, by your logic.”
“You’re a doctor. You help people.”
“As do you. We both do our part to keep people safe in London. Just because what we fight isn’t world-threatening anymore doesn’t change that.”
"We also hate each other," the hunter pointed out. "I was delirious when I told you that shit. I'm still out of it. This doesn't change anything."
"If I truly hated you, I would have killed you at Pembroke. And I have a feeling the same could be said for you."
There was a long pause, but Geoffery said nothing one way or the other.
McCullum looked away. “I don’t know, Reid. You still have a job. You have to cure that redhead leech. You’ve got people to watch out for.”
“Who do you think led me to you if not the people that look up to you, that you have to keep charge of? The man that led me here called you a friend. And for what it’s worth, you do have me, who also thinks of you as such.”
McCullum laughed. “That’s so rich. Whatever. How do you plan on keeping me alive?” Jonathan held up the vial. “I wish I was more pissed that you found that. You think that’ll work?”
“It is far more pure and carries with it far more power than the blood of a tainted Skal. It should purify your blood. It might, however, be dangerous. You should have come to me sooner and this would have been a simple matter.”
“Wasn’t high on my list of priorities,” McCullum said with a shrug. “Rolled over to die like a dog instead. You can call me pathetic, Reid.”
Jonathan shook his head and looked at McCullum a long moment until the hunter looked down. “When I woke up as an Ekon and killed my sister, I ran away. Then I laid down, put a gun to my chest, and pulled the trigger. When I didn’t die I instead found something to live for. You’ll do the same.”
McCullum chuckled darkly. “Two peas in a fucking pod, then. You and Mary, Ian and I, and now here we are.”
“Now here we are.” Jonathan repeated softly. “But you have your guard. And I have a family.”
“The epidemic is over.”
“London is safe, and repairing itself quickly.”
“That Crosby guy is getting over himself, his wife is talking some sense into him. They were thinking about moving.”
“I’m glad their love pulled through. New love is blooming too. They don’t think I’ve noticed, but Harry and Rufus are making eyes at one another.”
“Your kid and one of the ones you dragged into the hospital business, right? I thought your girl liked Rufus.”
“Carol seems to be determined to become a nurse before finding romance, it seems.”
“Daddy’s girl. How quaint.”
“I think it’s wonderful.”
He said it in something like a challenge, and McCullum met his gaze again. “Yeah. Guess so. Stick that needle in me if you plan on it, Reid, I feel like shit.”
Jonathan smiled. “Thank you for trusting me with this, Geoffrey.”
“You don’t give people much of a choice,” he muttered, and Jonathan inserted the needle into the same arm he took the sample from. “Took my blood without even a by-your-leave.”
“Now that’s quaint,” Jonathan said with a grin. “I could take you dinner to make up for it. There’s the most interesting restaurant in the West End.”
McCullum stammered a little and Jonathan pulled the needle out. “You don’t even eat.”
“You could be dessert.”
McCullum flushed. “What the fuck, Reid. Now’s not the time for your weird shit.”
Jonathan sobered up quickly. “That’s true. How are you feeling?”
“Like I’m on fire. But that’s normal for this.”
“Tell me if there is even the slightest change. I will observe what I can, as well.”
“It would be easier for you if I was bleeding, wouldn’t it?”
“Yes. But this arrangement is fine.”
“You said you’d keep me alive, Jonathan.” The hunter pulled out his knife -- he was unsurprised the hunter was armed, even now -- and quickly sliced his arm, a small red line down the pale skin.
Jonathan hissed lightly. “You didn’t have to hurt yourself.”
The scent of McCullum’s blood filled his head. The base scent was attractive enough, but the power of King Arthur’s blood was heady, producing almost the same effect as taking a shot of hard alcohol. He wondered if that was what McCullum felt, but amplified. He tried very hard not to show any reaction in particular. “To be perfectly honest, I can’t feel a thing except what Arthur’s blood makes me feel.”
“Is that a positive experience?” The question tipped out of his mouth before he could hold it back.
“Yeah. It’s the best feeling in the world. It’s probably good there wasn’t much of it.”
“There’s none of it now.”
“You used it all?” McCullum yelled. The hunter went through a volley of anger, surprise, and slight fear.
“You don’t seem to realize you used most of it trying to kill me at Pembroke.”
The hunter shivered slightly. “Are you feeling cold?” Jonathan questioned. He carefully wiped away the blood that was drying slightly on McCullum’s arm and gently pulled the ends of the wound, more blood flowing easily. He had thought Arthur’s blood might have been wearing off, but as he examined the scent fear welled up in him. It was doing its job well and then some, seeming to be attaching itself to most of McCullum’s blood cells. It was his best guess without examining the sample properly, but that was time he didn’t have.
He couldn’t be cold. His fever was actually gaining in temperature, which must be causing the feeling of getting cold. The hunter swayed a little in his seat. Jonathan thrust more water into his hands and he drank it unquestioningly. “I’m going to sleep.”
“Don’t!” Jonathan said, but McCullum tipped backwards anyway, passing out once more.
Chapter 6: Midnight Talks
McCullum is feeling better and by that I mean he is staunchly ignoring any Feelings he shared. Jonathan is very tired and has lots of Feelings of his own.
When McCullum fell back onto the bed Jonathan forced himself to think only as a logical doctor. He stripped McCullum down to pants and socks and threw them in a pile with the top sheet of the bed on the ground. With a fever, any amount of increased air flow would be helpful. He should find a cold compress for the man’s chest and neck. In the meantime he opened a window to let in a breeze.
His sharp nails sliced through the sheet enough to soak it with water and lay it across the man’s overheated forehead. Jonathan quickly opened the door and slipped outside. He then leapt down from the stairwell and landed back on the ground. He flared out his senses, retracing his steps to where the men from earlier in the night were. London was quickly reaching its chilliest, and there was a slight fog across the ground from the water, but he was walking towards the town, and it began to peter out. He sensed the men before he heard voices and with a deep breath resurfaced into normal sight.
There was no time for pretenses now. “Charles. Your boss is reacting negatively to the treatment given. I need something frozen back at the room, now. You,” he pointed at another man, “I need broth. Nothing solid, just something with a flavor for him to drink when he wakes up. And you,” he pointed at the third, “Water. I’ll meet you back at the room.”
“You --” Charles began, but the others must have cut him off because he was already heading back to the room. He watched McCullum, but there were no changes in either his blood or his fever, so he had to wait.
When the men arrived, he quickly shooed them back out and locked the door, the last thing he needed was another scent distracting him from his calculations. He shouldn’t have expected a proper ice pack, but he frowned at the bags of frozen vegetables before sighing and wrapping them in yet more sheet so as not to give the hunter ice burn, placing them under the back of his neck and on his forehead. The food he set aside, it would be cold before the man woke up.
Hours passed. Jonathan would occasionally retest blood samples. Arthur’s blood burned out the tainted Skal blood within two hours, but then the fight was back to square one, as Arthur’s blood still detected a threat. Jonathan took to looking out the window over the cityscape. It wasn’t the best view, but its high location let him catch a glimpse of the rising sun. He beat back his own biological tiredness, he could stay up a few hours longer easily enough.
He was still looking out the window as the sun was rising, colors playing across rooftops. It was beginning to get uncomfortably warm, but was definitely keeping him awake, so he kept looking out. “Jonathan Reid, what the fuck are you doing? Close the bloody window,” McCullum said. Or rather, tried to. His voice was incredibly hoarse.
Jonathan spun around with a smile. “McCullum! Certainly.” He slipped the window shut and curtains closed, eyes adjusting to the lamplight as quickly as a cat’s. The hunter sat up with a groan and flipped the ice pack so the colder side was on his forehead. “How are you feeling?” he asked as he thrust a glass of water into the man’s other hand.
“Like throwing up.”
“That is, actually, a positive.”
The hunter took a small sip of water. “This helps.”
“Good, drink it slowly. You have little enough in your stomach I would hate for you to lose more. How is the temperature?”
“A little chilly since you saw fit to strip me down, Reid.”
Jonathan ducked his head, which wasn’t the best plan since he caught a glimpse at the hunter’s admittedly impressive chest. He turned around and busied himself with the equipment. “Next time I’ll just let you sweat it out, then.”
McCullum snorted. “No you wouldn’t.”
“No, I wouldn’t.”
“Bleeding heart,” McCullum accused. Or at least, he thought it was an accusation. It sounded almost fond. “I suppose I’m in your debt for real, now.”
“Stop that! You’re not in my debt for me doing my job. Or for helping a friend.”
“Are we? Friends?”
Jonathan looked back at him and shrugged. McCullum made no move to respond, but did try to stand up. “What are you doing?” Jonathan said, quickly moving to his side.
“Walking around for the first time in. . . it’s Monday?”
“It’s Tuesday. Technically, it’s Wednesday.”
“Shit. Three days, then. Nothing destroyed the city while I was out?”
“I went on a murderous rampage, does that count?” Jonathan deadpanned.
“Just because I’m sick doesn’t mean I won’t gut you.”
Jonathan chuckled. “I know, McCullum. You’ll have your strength back in no time at all, once you get another night’s rest and eat something. Speaking of, drink that when you’re not nauseated.”
“Another day’s rest, more like. I’m pretty much as nocturnal as you are now, Reid.”
“Call me Jonathan.”
“Then call me Geoffrey. You’ve seen me nearly dead and shirtless and spewing nonsense, so it can’t get any worse than that.”
“It wasn’t nonsense, Geoffrey.”
The light mood returned to a more sober level and the hunter looked at Jonathan. “It's in the past. It doesn’t bother me anymore.”
“Yes it does, and that’s a good thing. It makes you --” he cut himself off with a laugh. “Well. I hear time heals all wounds, but I’ll have to get back to you on that one myself.”
McCullum laughed at that himself. “What’s the use of having a leech as a friend if it can’t give advice, hm?” Jonathan’s smile in response was bright as the sun which would be rising over the buildings by now. “Jesus, you can’t make that less. . .toothy?”
Something about McCullum was always like a challenge, so he instead lifted his top lip more to reveal the fangs which were poking out more fully. The hunter scoffed. Jonathan returned his smile to a normal, non-revealing one. “I would bid you adieu Geoffrey, but it seems I am in a predicament.”
“The predicament where you were staring into the sun? Scared the shit out of me, Reid, what were you playing at?”
“Ah. . . I enjoyed the sunrise a great deal, before. Usually I am asleep now before it rises, so I took the opportunity.”
Geoffrey was worried for him? That was interesting. He’d thought even if friends, the hunter wouldn’t particularly care what happened to him. He tilted his head in contemplation looking at
“Let me get this straight. You’re a leech who routinely doesn’t feed until you absolutely have to --” Jonathan went to cut him off. “-- no, let me finish. Who doesn’t feed even until full. Leeches get more bloodthirsty when exposed to blood, especially powerful blood, like say King Arthur’s. They also get more thirsty when being weakened or in pain, such as by the sun. This doesn’t sound good to me, Reid. I like you, but I don’t know if I want to be in a room alone with you at the moment.”
Jonathan took a long breath. Once it was pointed out to him, he realized how correct the hunter was. Geoffrey's blood, now stabilized, was quite the temptation. He shrugged sharply. “You’re safe with me, Geoffrey. I wouldn’t say that if it wasn’t true. Are you wrong. . .not entirely. I don’t put anyone in danger by starving myself to a foolish point. If you would allow it, I will sleep in the next room and then leave when I awaken.”
Geoffrey sighed, more of a huff. “Don’t be stupid. Take the bed. I’m going to go talk to my Guard, I’ve been out long enough. Who ratted on me, anyway? You didn’t just stumble upon me.”
“No, but I promised I would keep it a secret. They were worried you would be angry with them, I believe.”
“Pissed. But not that much. I’ll go talk to ‘em. And no, Jonathan, it isn’t because I think you’ll eat me, so stop giving me those doe eyes. Am I cleared, doctor?”
“For walking, not fighting. And you need to sleep more.”
“Yes, mother. You’ve torn up my hideout enough, you’ll find anything else you need.”
Chapter 7: Battle
Being a powerful vampire with powerful vampires for Progeny attracts trouble, and just because the epidemic is over it doesn't mean there won't be any heading Jonathan's way.
Hello friends!! It's been a busy week for me. I'm married, for one, which is absolutely wonderful in every way. I'm /very/ sunburned from the beach, which is less wonderful. And me being happy is good for you guys because I'm releasing two chapters at once! Win-win!
This part of the story will be wrapping up once in a chapter or three, which means the boys might actually realize they work stupidly well together and do something about it. I'll still keep any pairings in a separate work within this series, so my apologies if the timeline gets a little wonky, I'll do my best to make it flow.
Jonathan didn’t actually see the hunter for another week, when Geoffrey entered his office at Pembroke so suddenly that Jonathan left a long scribble on the letter he was writing Lady Ashbury, who was now in Greece. A scathing greeting almost escaped him before he saw the hunter’s face and stood so fast his chair tipped over. “What’s wrong?” The hunter took a deep breath, he seemed winded. “That fucking club. One of them is on some kind of rampage. He’s heading this direction, I came to cut him off. Your help would be appreciated.”
That sounded. . .dangerous, to say the least. “One of the Ascalon Club?” Jonathan demanded. “Your men are fighting him?”
The hunter’s lips thinned. “It isn’t looking good.”
“Damn,” Jonathan cursed, quickly swinging on his thick coat that concealed two pistols inside it and his stock of bullets. “Let’s go.”
“Take the lead. I lost his trail when I overtook him.”
Jonathan let his vision fade into the colorless, searching for a trace. There was blood -- a lot of blood -- not far from them.”
“He’s coming this way,” Jonathan said in detached curiosity, and mostly to himself, “Perhaps something Edgar did earlier gave him a target even in his state of bloodlust.” He jumped out the window without any warning, the hunter cursing behind him. He began moving quickly towards the scene, Geoffrey somewhere behind.
The club member was inside a building, and Jonathan opened the old door so forcefully the wood cracked. The smell of blood immediately assaulted him, more blood than when he assisted Nurse Crane with the surgery, more blood than was lost in any of his previous fights. He instinctively switched to breathing through his mouth to try and quell the way it made something coil tight in his chest, demanding it’s share, but he had a moment of dizziness before it settled.
The room was a shambles. It seemed the Guard had set a trap, an ambush, but something had gone wrong. There were a handful of corpses around the room, and gorging himself on one of them was a member of club Jonathan recognized, but whose name he couldn’t place. Disgust warred with hunger as he watched the vampire hold the limp body, making him growl softly. The vampire looked up. Blood dripped from his mouth and stained his shirt, his eyes were glassy and wild. Something, certainly, was wrong with him. Jonathan didn’t have time to figure out what.
Perhaps in defence of his kills, the vampire leapt at him. He was caught midair with most of the capacity of Jonathan’s gun, falling heavily to the ground. Jonathan darted over, faster than could be seen. This fight needed to end quickly. Jonathan had fed the night before, but this vampire was gorged and already powerful. He didn’t stand a chance in a fight of endurance. He wondered, quickly, if he had lost Geoffrey in the streets. He hadn’t intended to originally, but he now hoped he had. It was not a scene the hunter needed to see.
Jonathan grabbed the vampire by the hair and jerked upwards, intending to slice his throat cleanly, but the vampire had only been pretending to be unconscious. Before he could react, he had thrown Jonathan to the ground.
Roll, get up. Jonathan panted from the effort of throwing the powerful vampire, still trying to drag him down by the coat. He had to shimmy out of it or end up on his back -- effectively losing his other gun.
Jonathan summoned the shadows around him, piercing the other, but pain didn’t seem to register. He had to leap away, the rapid use of two of his powers making the scent of blood in the room all the more distracting. He looked around, he had to get out of here before he became part of the problem. There were stairs, he took them up and out the fire escape down the back, the vampire following now that he had been declared a threat.
Jonathan spun around and clawed at the vampire, but was off balance, and the other’s teeth sunk into Jonathan’s shoulder, making him scream in the sharp, blinding pain it caused. In his instinctual fear he ripped the vampire away, taking a piece of his flesh with him. He was able to get the advantage with a sharp kick to the knee, the vampire going down hard and Jonathan following with his claws.
The flurry continued, animalistic and bloody. The vampire was after his blood, now, and succeeded in biting him, forcing him to retreat back, and finally up against a wall. He took rapid inventory of his surroundings. He was in a fenced-in yard, brick walls high around them. It was seemingly deserted, anyone nearby would have fled at the scene. There was a gate on the far side of the grass but he was wary to unleash the vampire on the streets of London.
He looked back to his left. In the doorway was Geoffrey, looking far more grim than he had ever seen. He held up his own gun, took aim, and fired. Most bullets landed in the vampire, one an inch above his head that shattered a piece of the wall. The vampire spun around, now severely hampered even with his inability to feel pain.
Geoffrey advanced, letting the vampire lunge but using the leverage to his advantage and slamming it to the ground, getting a stake in its heart and its head off its shoulders with only a few scratches. Bleeding scratches.
Jonathan laughed to himself, somewhat hysterically. Not long ago Geoffrey thought he was going to kill a girl he loved because she had a small cut in her arm, and now the hunter was approaching him when all three were doused in some degree of blood. Cautiously, but that was probably due to the laughing. He zeroed in on the flowing blood of the hunter but managed to say breathlessly, “In my defense, I haven’t been practicing my skills.” He slumped back against the wall.
“Stupid fucking leech. Why didn’t you wait?”
“Didn’t want you to have to see me fight like that. Or your men like that. Thought I could end it quickly. I could have --” his explanation was cut off by a long animal hiss as Geoffrey pulled out a bottle and dumped it on the wound on his shoulder. The sharp smell was some kind of alcohol to disinfect, and was enough of a distraction for him to pull his eyes up to meet the hunter’s. He flinched slightly, just enough to make Jonathan realize that his own thirst likely made his eyes red, and his blood loss made his supernaturally pale face all the more dramatic. He slid his eyes shut and leaned back against the wall. “Sorry.”
It was Geoffrey’s turn to bark out a surprised laugh. “Leave it to you to go try and save the day and then apologize for it. You need to get back to the hospital. None of your things are here, are they?”
“No. Left them behind.”
“Right. Get up, then.” The hunter helped drag Jonathan to his feet, but it wasn’t until they were already in the threshold did he realize they should have gone the longer way around when all the blood made Jonathan sway slightly, his grip far too tight on the hunter. “Fuck. Alright, let’s go. Pick up the pace. Shit. What will make me less likely to die right now?”
Despite the haze, the words registered as he was being pulled through the room. “I will not--”
“I know. It’s an expression, Jesus Christ. Sounded a little more present, though. Who were you writing to before I showed up?”
This time the words took a minute longer since there was no panic in them, but he thought for a long moment. “Lady Ashbury. Getting closer to figuring out a piece of the puzzle.”
“You’ve already got an idea for that?”
“Thought maybe blood transfusion. But too risky. When you got sick though I wondered. . .if I could recreate the effects of Arthur’s blood.”
“How the hell do you plan on that?”
“Don’t know. She’s looking around.”
Jonathan found himself outside, far enough from the room that the cold outside air registered and he was able to take a few breaths. Geoffrey’s blood was still far too tempting, but he could at least help the hunter more by walking on his own two feet without being dragged around. “I left my jacket,” he said when the thought materialized.
“I’m not going back for your ugly coat.”
“Excuse me, it was a very fashionable coat.”
“Maybe in West End, but it looks stupid everywhere else. Anyone around can tell you’re rich and gullible.”
“‘M not rich anymore.”
“You’ve got a manor.”
“A little rich. Not really rich. Gotta work.”
“God fuckin’ forbid. I’ve worked since I was a kid.”
“You need a vacation. I hear Greece is nice right now.”
“I’m not going to Greece. Neither are you if you don’t hurry it up.”
They staggered on until they reached the bend to Pembroke. “Can you get up into your room without everyone seeing?”
He squinted at the balcony. “Yessir.”
“Do it. I’ll meet you there.”
The hunter began inside, which vaguely made Jonathan pleased at the implied trust. He was still too out of it to really tell. He leapt to the balcony, and landed on the ground, laying there in a sprawl of limbs until footsteps approached and Geoffrey went into a tirade again.
He went in and out of consciousness while Geoffrey patched him up, finally fading out entirely when he was no longer being jostled around.
Chapter 8: Epilogue
Everything is back to normal, or as normal as London will get for awhile.
Woohoo! Alright, my summer is dwindling to a close so I'll be wrapping this up for now. I'd like to do more one-shots in the future, but wanted this to be marked complete. Technically, this chapter occurs after What We Crave in the Dark, but if explicit things or Jonathan/Geoffrey isn't your thing, this should only be a little jarring with the time skip.
Farewell for now my lovelies!
A few weeks later Jonathan and Geoffrey sat in companionable silence at Reid manor. Silence was relative, of course, since Rufus and Carol had Harry and Albert over for a visit and they were in the process of destroying the house. “You thinkin’ about my offer, Reid?”
Jonathan rolled his eyes and said, “You know I’m going to say yes. I’m not letting you go to some unfamiliar city and get eaten by something.”
“No, only you’re allowed to do that,” Geoffrey said with a grin. Jonathan sighed heavily and stood up. McCullum shoved his last bite of food in his mouth. “Shut it, you snob,” he mumbled through his food at Jonathan’s expression.
Things were nearly back to normal in London. Priwen was taking care of any rogue Skals so Geoffrey was expanding his horizons. Jonathan was making headway on getting the hunter to take a break, he was certain.
His progeny were adjusting well. Sean was as aloof as ever, but seemed quite content. Edgar was Edgar, always hedging whenever Jonathan asked exactly what he was up to, but Jonathan’s questioning of citizens when he made his rounds never turned anything untowards up.
Pembroke was running strong again, and Carol was making good on her intentions to become a nurse, practically attaching herself at the hip to Nurse Crane, who bore it with a smile. Carol also thought she was being very subtle with Harry Peterson, but vampires had a bit of an advantage in that field.
Rufus also thought he was being very subtle with Albert, but Al hadn’t gotten the message and seemed to be flaunting it at every opportunity. The boy had stopped being such a delinquent with Rufus acting as his conscience, and Jonathan was just glad to see them all happy. Ah, young love.
The unlikely pair of Jonathan and Geoffrey made their way back to Pembroke, where Jonathan was storing their suitcases. “Now that you’ve eaten me out of house and home, would you like to make yourself useful and find a map?” Geoffrey smacked him in the back of the head with a map, making him laugh. “Fine, fine. I’m going to say goodbye to Edgar. Maybe have someone keep an eye on him.”
Geoffrey nodded his agreement, then grinned. “I could just threaten to stake him if he misbehaves. He still makes me antsy, you know.”
“Edgar? He’s quite innocent. Now.”
“Yeah, but gives me the willies. Maybe it’s the glasses.”
Jonathan snorted in amusement as he meandered over to Edgar’s room. Perhaps he could work on his mental communication while he was away? That would give the other doctor pause before getting too into his experiments. Or. . .perhaps he could divert Edgar by letting him in on the progress with Lady Ashbury?
Whichever way, he was content to leave London for the first time since his awakening. With McCullum by his side, it didn’t even feel like he was going off to war again.