Geoffrey never thought he'd miss London, what with all its noise, and sickness, and death, and fucking landlords, but here he was, sitting in a small dark pub somewhere far enough into the country he had to adjust his hearing to understand what people were saying to him, and realizing the air tasted too good. Officially, he didn't have any business here, he was just one of the many who had returned from the war and was trying to find their way; unofficially, some folks called Priwen when it became known vampires were lurking in the neighborhood.
And indeed they were. Stupid young beasts, high on blood and weak prey. Killing them should have been easy, but of course they had an alpha and that one definitely came from London and had experience fighting Priwen, and so the hunt stretched for six long days and nights. They tracked the pack deep into the woods down to some old hut that had cellar thrice as big as the hut itself. Geoffrey gave the order to burn it only after his men checked the surrounding area and assured him there was too much moisture in the plants for them to catch fire. And even if they did, they would have had enough time to put it out. Priwen was summoned here to kill leeches, not cause wildfires. Skals burst out of the burning hovel, shrieking and howling like the beasts they were, immediately lashing out at mortals. The first attack was fierce, but Geoffrey's men were ready for it; they danced around the impromptu battlefield, covering each other and drawing the attention of the leeches to different sides. The leader of the pack had one of the most annoying powers Skals showed in London: he could blink-jump like some damned Ekon. Geoffrey immediately joined the fray.
In the end, using some of the tactics they perfected during the epidemic, they killed all of the beasts. Sly as they were, humans were smarter. And the hunt itself was exhilarating. Geoffrey knew it was dangerous to crave that thrill, he knew it got good hunters killed, but he couldn't help himself. After the epidemic and the cleaning after it, the beasts became too easy to kill. And he wanted a challenge.
On the upside, he didn't have to endure those strange fucking nightmares that pestered him in London. Finally he could get some sleep without fear of waking up from the feeling of fangs plunging into his neck. Or the inner side of his thigh, as it started to happen almost every night by the time he received word of vampires in this region. Shuddering at the memory, Geoffrey finished his drink and stood up with a sigh. Priwen's work here was done, now all they—he—had left to do was go speak with leaders of this town and secure some sort of a reward. After all, they did call Priwen here of their own volition, not waiting to hear from the county town.
It's so dark he can't see a single thing, he can't hear anything nor can he smell even a whiff of the familiar aroma of the hospital. He's alone.
After the town with the pack of Skals they went north, reaching Birmingham in six days (and the road was awful, by God, it was as if the war happened not on the continent but right here). They exchanged messages over the wire with other groups, and, using the fact some of them were near their present location, Geoffrey proposed a meeting in a safe-house Priwen owned here. One of the groups designated to Northern England was already there when they'd made it to the warehouse. And, later in the evening, Willow and his team joined them, as well as North and Coleman. Archer was among them, too, fresh cut on her forehead still red and angry, her hair unexpectedly short. Her gaze was as heated as Geoffrey had remembered. It was good to see them all in good health; and judging by the way Archer interacted with her men, he chose right to make her Captain after Diego died.
Among all their hunting and endless vigilance against the beasts it was too easy to forget the reason they were living a life like that; and these meetings of brothers helped them all, even those who didn't like to acknowledge it. Geoffrey tried not to, when he was younger. Now he only smiled and sniped back when one of his men would drag him into some story or other, often of their stupid mistakes in the field. Those who had families didn't like speaking of them too much, but when they did it was heartwarming and sad and goddammit Geoffrey fought an urge to kick them out of the Guard and send home to be beside their loved ones. These meetings were places of light, memories and laughter. And, of course, a perfect opportunity to talk about things they could not convey through metaphors and code they had to use with telegraphs and telephones. These were never perfectly safe.
It was no surprise beasts spawned all over the isles during the time Priwen was tied cleaning London, and if they had still had the same amount of men and equipment they had two years before, they would have been in some deep, deep shit. Fortunately, the Guard, too, had grown in numbers, even after Geoffrey released half of it. Thanks to that, they now enjoyed so many resources it became a completely different problem to manage them, especially compared to when there was just enough for a company several times smaller. Geoffrey had spent most of the second day of their stay in Birmingham discussing with his Captains their routes and how to get weapons where they needed them under the increasingly watchful eye of the coppers and the gangs, which were not happy at all to see a group of unfamiliar armed men on their turf. Perhaps, it was the hardest thing to dance around, those gangs with their wars. Coppers they could bribe, these close-knit groups? Well. They still had to perfect logistics and he hoped as hell the people he assigned to it wouldn't disappoint; he was a hunter, dammit, not a businessman.
Geoffrey had some reservations about whether or not he and Archer would have any problems working together after their… time of shared weakness, but, as it turned out, she was coping better than him. Mainly because she clearly knew perfectly well what she wanted and how to get it, be it vengeance for her killed sister, knowledge about how to stake a leech, or the best way to make Geoffrey forget everything except her for some time.
The problem was, every time he thought about taking her somewhere private, a low dark voice growled inside his head, sitting in a far corner of his mind where his nightmares lived. He knew this voice, he hated it, he loved it. He heard it so much in his dreams, sometimes Geoffrey thought he heard it even while being awake; and the idea scared him, making him angry and bitter, eager to hurt something. Taking Archer to bed in this state? Hell no, she deserved better than this.
After spending three days in Birmingham, they had splitted up again; Spencer, now leading the group Geoffrey was part of during the hunt for the pack, took his team back south to relay orders to operatives there, while Archer and North led their teams to investigate rumours spreading around Wye Valley. Willow and Coleman, with their new routes, went east, soon to split up, too. Geoffrey himself went back to London, alone. His Captains were against leaving him without any backup, but he was adamant on not taking anyone with him. The road was calm enough, and if some thug wanted to try his luck with him, Geoffrey would easily take care of him. Anyway, he didn't make unnecessary stops along the way; he was on a time limit now, and even if he wanted to, he didn't have the right to be late.
He not only needed to check on the numerous reports undoubtedly waiting for him at headquarters, but he also had to watch one Sean Hampton, a Skal with Blood of Hate boiling deep inside him, waiting for a chance to unleash another epidemic unto London. Geoffrey made a promise he'd give Reid time, and that time was coming to an end. With no remedy in sight, as it seemed. And thatwas another reason he had to return to London.
If his math and assumptions were correct, only about two weeks remained til the point of no return. Geoffrey didn't like the idea of killing a man that was so obviously kind and wished only good for his flock, but the alternative was even worse. Much, much worse.
The closer he got to London, the louder and more vivid the nightmares became. Geoffrey even entertained an idea to come talk to Reid (more like growl at him) and demand he stopped this madness, but then he'd have to explain what he was talking about, and wouldn't that be uncomfortable in the extreme. Still, he was coming to a point where even coming to the damned leech with this desperate plea for help started to look like a quite possible and viable solution. Ugh. Sometimes he really, really hated his life.
London was well on its way to healing, no more leeches openly wandering the streets at night, only gangs and other poor souls in a desperate need of one or the other. The reports were slightly more optimistic now, when it became known for a fact that almost every last Ekon left (more like fled ) the city, only those of Askalon and the quietest ones remaining. It wasn't even that surprising, what with Reid behaving like the powerful and very territorial vampire he was, tearing to shreds those foolish enough to hunt on his grounds.
Of course, as soon as his thoughts strayed to this bloody leech, there came the memories of their huntings together, those after the epidemic and when Geoffrey decided he did not want him dead. Well, not yet. He knew it was dangerous to let the leech live and gain experience and risk becoming bloodthirsty monster with every passing night, but… Damn. If he ignored his mad nightmares, Reid was a damn good doctor who actually helped people in need of a medical attention without asking anything in return. And, as unwilling as Geoffrey was to admit it, the leech was hell of a fighter. Every time they had run into danger Reid rushed forward, shadow-jumping right to the enemy and landing the first blow before it had any time to realize they were even there. No matter what weapon he used, be it sword or claws, it always, always ended with him biting deeply at the beast's neck and finishing it in seconds.
Geoffrey couldn't not compare this performance with their fight at Pembroke. He remembered how Reid danced around him, around the lights and the crossbow bolts, not even once using this scary and deadly pool of shadows that, during one of their hunts, grabbed a Vulkod and broke it with a sickeningly wet crunch, impaling it right through the stomach. Smaller powers Priwen had learn to cope with, but this? This was on a whole new level of bad. And Reid commanded it with a simple wave of a hand, albeit not more than once per fight. One time was more than enough.
What bothered Geoffrey even more was Reid's unwillingness to hurt him too badly, even at the cost of suffering some pretty serious damage, as he demonstrated at the hospital. Why did Reid insist on being good? Why didn't he go through with the idea of turning Geoffrey when he won their fight? How on Earth didn't he see what he was doing to him? And why the hell the nightmares wouldn't stop plaguing his mind?
So many questions, so little answers. At least, not ones that could soothe this itch of doubt and suspicions scratching from the inside of Geoffrey's head.
The smoke is thick, it's clogging his throat, makes it hard to breathe. He coughs, tries to look around, to understand where the hell he is. Nothing. Something burns nearby, and the taste clings to his tongue, bitter and heavy, seeping into him. Flashes of light blind him for a moment, disorienting in their intensity. He falls to his knees and only now sees his burning hands.
The heat and the pain hit him like a train, quick and merciless, going right through him, deep, deep, deep down. He tries to scream, but cannot even open his mouth.
Firm grip on his chin breaks skin a little, and to save what he can he goes with it, rising his head and looking at himself. The shock yanks him away.
By the time he finally noticed he was awake, he managed to get out of the bed and grab his revolver from its perch nearby, one moment away from cocking it, ready to fire. Memories and visions loud in his head, smashing into each other, mixing and making it hard to think. During all of his numerous nightmares he never saw through Reid's eyes. Never. They always interacted, yes, but this?
Shuddering at the phantom pain of burning alive, Geoffrey took a tentative breath, half-expecting his throat to scratch. Nothing. Just a little dryness caused by the nerves. Bright flame of anger burst to life in his chest. Oh he was done with it. The imaginary sex may have been good, the games of hide-and-seek making his otherwise bleak real huntings more fun, but he never asked for a firsthand experience of what UV felt like for a vampire.
And the fact that he could not possibly know how it felt only strengthened his conviction that Reid was intentionally doing something to him. Maybe if he ignored all the sexual ones and concentrated on the pain and the blood, he'd be able to keep his obsession out of the way during their conversation. Ugh. Leader of Guard of Priwen comes to a terrifyingly strong Ekon and asks him to stop pestering him with images of hunts, sex and feedings. Yes, it will go totally fine.
This time he remembers he's not supposed to play along and should instead wake the fuck up, but it's hard to concentrate on what's right when Jonathan sits straddling him, his arms wound loosely around Geoffrey's neck, his head thrown back in a gesture of pure pleasure. His pale skin is warm to the touch, yet somehow Geoffrey knows it's not because of someone's blood, but his own heat, transferred through simple physical contact.
He leans forward, tastes Jonathan's skin over his shoulder, his clavicle, his throat. Feeling a husky groan taking form deep inside his chest, Geoffrey playfully bites down, pressing them closer together. Now it's Jonathan's turn to shudder and rake his nails over Geoffrey's shoulders and back. And then he sits up, almost completely sliding off (and Geoffrey has only seconds to digest this fact), and then slams back down. The heat is not there, but the pressure and the feeling…
Cursing, Geoffrey tries to move, but of course the fucking leech wants it to go by his rules; he presses them down to the bed, completely in control of the pace. Growling, Geoffrey bites stronger than before. Immediately fingers intertwine in his hair and pull back, making their eyes meet.
"Careful with those teeth of yours, my dear hunter," Jonathan looks at him with startlingly clear blue eyes, but Geoffrey is intimately familiar with the smile that sits on his obscene lips. It's the same the red-eyed dragon wears every time he thinks of biting him.
Another spike of arousal shoots thought him, and, somehow, Geoffrey is certain Jonathan heard his thoughts. The smile grows wider; Jonathan rides him slowly, so slowly it makes his blood boil, and every time Geoffrey tries to meet his thrusts with his own, the leech fucking stops.
"You bastard," Geoffrey croaks, finally letting himself lie back and submit, his breathing ragged and hard, his pulse loudly thrumming in his ears.
"Oh, but you love it," Jonathan purrs and leans down, laves at his chest with the flat of his tongue, nipping along the way. It should be cold, but he's warm from their contact already, and every touch is like barrage of sparks eating at his nerves, leaving him bare and high on the sensations.
Witty remark dies somewhere before it makes to his lips, so instead Geoffrey grabs Jonathan's thighs so tight he'd have left bruises on a human and, slowly, intentionally, lets his nails run over the pale flesh, leaving angry red lines in their wake. Jonathan takes a shuddering breath and gasps, arching his back. Then, he looks at Geoffrey with dark eyes and finally starts moving.
They don't last long after that.
First thing he did after he finally reached headquarters was gather equipment, listen to his Captains on the status of the city, and then head out by himself. To get the feel of it.
Now that the supernatural death was not waiting behind every corner it was… too easy to navigate. His senses, honed in the hunts, alerted him to the presence of any human that got too close for his paranoia to stay calm. Geoffrey barely stopped himself when an idea of playing with a copper patrol sprang to his mind. No, he was a responsible leader of an organisation that protected humanity, he would not behave like a fucking child.
Nevertheless, it was good to see London healed. It was a tangible proof he did right.
Tracking Reid down became slightly harder now that he'd opened his own private practice (because of course he still performed night surgeries at Pembroke on top of his house calls), but even Geoffrey could see he'd blossomed in this freedom. A powerful leech, roaming the streets at night under the premise of helping others. Damn but this cover would have been perfect for a beast out for blood.
Geoffrey was insane to believe him and let him live, even if Reid indeed seemed to be a doctor first and foremost.
Familiar anger raised its ugly head; anger at himself and at Reid, at the world as a whole. Geoffrey tried to distract himself from it, but with little success, so it was not a surprise that when he'd finally found the leech in the middle of Whitechapel he was not in a good mood.
"Reid," he almost grabbed him by the shoulder, but then remembered he wasn't dealing with a normal human being. So instead Geoffrey stopped right in front of him, blocking his way.
"McCullum," the leech actually sounded exasperated, the bastard. His hair was uncharacteristically messy, pale eyes a little haunted by something. His clothes, on the other hand, were immaculate as ever. "I have three more calls, then we will talk. And we need to, so please don't storm off and make me hunt for you." The urgency in his voice was so prominent Geoffrey almost believed him. He scowled.
"Oh, now you want to talk? Got some confessions to make, blood drinker?"
Reid looked at him incredulously. "Are you trying to shame me, or are you simply happy to see me, Geoffrey?"
A burst of ticklish sensation in his stomach almost made him jump. A jumble of nerves and emotions refused to lie still in their boxes. "Don't be daft, leech. What's going on?"
"In short, Sean told me about a spike in disappearances and strange deaths in the East End, I went to look and found a lair of a cult," Reid's voice dropped so low Geoffrey barely made the words out. If only he leaned a little closer… but no. "They used some sort of fire magic and I wasn't able to kill them all."
Cold shower of shock silenced any and every thought for a moment. Reid was strong enough to deal with whatever was causing a fucking epidemic of leeches, was strong and scary as seven hells all wrapped in one neat little package, and he couldn't kill the cultists?
"What the fuck?"
"Quite. Would you wait for me in my office? I'll finish my business quicker if I move over the rooftops, and believe me when I say these three poor souls would not live through the night without their medicine. Time is of the essence."
Over the rooftops? Dammit, he'd have to remind the boys to look up. "Wait a second, I'm not-"
"Geoffrey, I'll be done in twenty minutes, maybe thirty. If you tag along, it'll stretch into hours, because my patients are spread out throughout the city. Please. I have yet to betray your trust. Believe me." Reid didn't use any of his mesmerism, Geoffrey was sure of it. Then why did he have to fight so much against this urge to give in?
"If you're not there in half and hour, I'll return your name to the killing list."
"Now that's the Geoffrey I remember," with a small smile exclaimed Reid, stepping back. Only now Geoffrey suddenly realized how close they were standing to each other all this time. Heat blossomed deep inside. He smothered it. "Tell Christine I have invited you and she'll let you in." After that, Reid turned and walked briskly into a dark alley and with a familiar whoosh disappeared into the inky shadows. Something moved over the roof, but Geoffrey wasn't quick enough to look at it properly.
Great, now he had even more evidence Reid was becoming too strong for Priwen to handle comfortably; obviously, he'd learned to traverse London with speed no car could match on these roads. And that's in addition to the strengths he had already. If- when it was time to kill him, it would be a fucking disaster.
Geoffrey sighed. He should talk with his Captains already, tell them he'd gotten compromised. Maybe they would want a new leader after that, and it would be impossible to blame them. Geoffrey from before the epidemic would've never even considered letting any leech live, and now he was consciously stalling killing a damn Skal and allowing a powerful Ekon to roam London streets unsupervised. He'd gone mad, hadn't he. Those bloody nightmares undid him. Shaking his head, he shoved it all out of his way; he'd check on Reid's progress and be on his way.
By the time Geoffrey returned to Reid's office (that wasn't located in any fancy part of town; it was not that far from Pembroke, actually) fifteen minutes went by already. Christine, a nurse with a serious gaze and wrinkles in the corners of her eyes from too much smiling, simply nodded and stepped back from the door when Geoffrey relayed leech's word. She left him to wait in what was clearly main working room. He didn't sit down, instead paced around, stauchingly ignoring the leather armchairs arranged before the fireplace and the sofa under some landscape painting. On the other side of the room there were worktables with various glass cabinets lining the wall. It was strangely familiar, and Geoffrey would've gotten very nervous if there was a carpet in front of a fireplace. There wasn't.
The clock was ticking so loudly it was impossible not to be aware of it even without the ultimatum Geoffrey had made to Reid. Two minutes and thirteen seconds later the door opened and closed, its lock slid back into its place with a click. Three seconds after that Reid was in the same room with him. Geoffrey didn't think it would affect him in any considerable way after all these months, and yet he immediately had to fight the familiar battle of 'don't-let-this-fucking-leech-know-you-want-to-fuck-him-and-let-him-fuck-you'. Dammit, he thought he was well beyond this already. The urge to punch a wall was almost too strong to resist.
"Tell me what the hell is going on," the growl was evident in his tone, and Geoffrey didn't have the mental power to even try to contain it. Blood was slowly beginning to boil. Memories of nightmares and dreams flashed behind his eyelids, bright and too real for his own comfort. It didn't help any that for the last several months his dreamstook place mainly in such rooms, not in Pembroke or some back alley.
"Around a month ago people started disappearing, predominantly those no-one would miss and search for. In the poorer districts, of course," Reid sounded sincerely bitter about that fact. With a sigh, he turned one of the armchairs around to face Geoffrey and fell into it. He rubbed at his temple, as if fending off a headache. Did leeches even had those still? "Sean told me about it two weeks ago. Perhaps he'd hoped it was some human serial killer, it's the only way I can explain this delay. In my investigation I determined only the fact that there indeed is a supernatural cult working in London right now and that they are very, very strong. I confess, I went after the scent without any preparations and barely got out alive."
"What, and they didn't pursue you?" Geoffrey stopped behind the second chair and leaned on its back. Now that he calmed down a little, he could tell Reid was alarmed and tired. And too pale; was he always this pale? When was the last time he fed? Geoffrey wasn't even surprised this thought didn't elicit a violent negative reaction he had every time he imagined some beast sucking anyone's blood.
The leech smiled sheepishly, showing his teeth. "Well. Those that did go after me I've killed, yes. Men and women with ash-grey skin, thin and obviously malnourished. They used… magic, Geoffrey. And not something I've seen before; they attacked with fire. They burned themselves as much as they tried to burn me," he shuddered, his gaze growing distant and hazy.
"Great, another kind of monsters lurking in the sewers," Reid didn't correct him, and of course, where else would such a disease take root? "How many were there?"
Jonathan snapped out of his thoughts. "More than twenty, not counting those I took care of. Each and every one has fire, though I suspect their proficiency with it varies. If we're lucky, it varies quite drastically, but the fire is in each one of them."
And that meant more than half of Priwen's tactics went right out of the window. "What about sunlight? Garlic? Crosses? Orichalcum? Silver? A shotgun shot at the head?"
"That is where you come in. I'm afraid I won't be able to deal with this threat on my own. Not as quickly as it should be dealt with. So, I ask for your help, yours and your men." Reid leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, and right now, with his hair disheveled and his gaze so open and intent—right now he looked so much like Jonathan from his latest dreams Geoffrey cursed under his breath and lowered his head, raking a hand through his hair and scratching at the scalp a little, anything to help him drag his mind away from the dreams and concentrate on the real. Various thoughts churned inside his head, lust mixing with apprehension and cold plans and what-ifs.
"I never thought I'd see the day when Priwen would officially help a leech in anything," he grumbled under his breath, not really saying it to Reid but rather to himself, aghast he was actually doing it. Maybe he should've listened to Gordon and went to check his head back in January. "My God, this is seriously fucked up. Alright. I'll give the order, but most of my men are too far away, so we're stuck with the crew based in London and one or two teams that would get here in less than four days. Roughly the same amount of souls on both sides," this could go very, very badly very fast. Geoffrey looked up at Reid again; he couldn't shake off the feeling he was looking at Jonathan. Fuck. "Will you be able to capture one of the cultists? I want to run some tests while we wait for the Guard." Even the expression in his eyes was the same. Oh, he was fucked, wasn't he.
"Yes." A shudder slithered down Geoffrey's spine and coiled in the stomach before he made himself remember Reid was answering his question, not his thoughts.
"Good. Now, how is the Sad Saint doing? Do I have to prepare for the worst?"
The leech sat straighter, confident smile curling his lips again. "I'm close to a breakthrough, actually. If all goes according to plan, I'll finish the serum by the end of the week." That deep, warm voice literally dripped with a mixture of playful 'I dare you' and haughty 'I'm the best and you know it'.
"Careful, leech. Don't get cocky," Geoffrey couldn't help but drawl, falling for the familiar tone and reacting like he would in a dream, not like he should've done in reality. "Cocky gets you killed."
Reid arched an eyebrow, smile changing into something other. Another familiar shape, too. "Oh? Is that so, vampire hunter?" his voice dropped into lower register, sending another wave of shivers down Geoffrey's spine. Was he sleeping, or was he awake? It was too much like the beginning of one of his dreams.
Huffing out a breath, he grasped the back of the armchair and concentrated on his knuckles for a second or two. Remembering at last that this was, indeed, real. And he should hate the leech, yet he didn't. He couldn't even play it anymore when one little detail was enough to send him into this strange state of irreality with his dream-self getting control over his words. No, this couldn't go on like this. He needed to know.
"There is one more thing I wanted to talk to you about," Geoffrey looked at Reid, intent on tracking his every reaction. "Do you know anything about the nightmares? I'm talking to a leech right now, not a doctor. So. What did you do to me, Reid?" The last sentence he growled out, barely holding back the emotions swirling inside.
"What… exactly… are you talking about?" Jonathan- the leech carefully stood up, as if afraid to scare him off with a sudden movement, and watched him, clearly agitated. He was thinking about something. Was Geoffrey right in his suspicions after all?
"I'm talking about how since our fight at Pembroke I was plagued by vivid nightmares of blood and gore with you as my enemy in each and every one of them," all of the anger, all of the bottled up rage and guilt and shame were screaming to break free, scratching from the inside. His vision started to get red around the edges; it did that every time he completely lost control over his shit. The armchair creaked weakly under his fingers.
"Geoffrey, I…" Reid's voice actually broke , and he had to cough to clear his throat. "I had no idea you were seeing them too. I didn't know." Bloody flashes of memories raced before his eyes, making him grimace. The leech jerked and made a step forward, then froze on the spot, arms outstretched forward as if wanting to grab. His eyes went huge and round. "Wait. But you are still human, how can this be? It should not have been possible!"
"The only type of mental link I know of ties together a Childe and their Creator, there is no way it could manifest in a human," Geoffrey saw it when Reid turned to his red vision. It made the leech look hungry. "And you are human, even if you have wonderfully potent shields against mesmerising. I think they've actually grown stronger. Geoffrey, I… I don't know what happened. Are we talking about the same nightmares?" Reid stepped closer; instincts screamed at Geoffrey to move back, while long suppressed desires urged him to move forward. He stood frozen to the floor.
"Of fucking course we are, leech," he hissed. "I have never had those before, and you are always in one of them! And they bloody stop only when I'm far away from London. Fix it, Reid," too agitated to stand still, Geoffrey couldn't risk letting the leech out of sight. His hands trembled a little.
"And are those truly nightmares?" Reid- Jonathan was so close now it was a simple matter of outstretching a hand to touch him; he was frowning, undoubtedly checking all the facts in his mind.
"They were," gruffly admitted Geoffrey, locking his eyes with Jonathan's. The desire to hit him and kiss him was so loud it even silenced the anger. The pull towards the m- the leech was like a real physical thing. "Then they've changed. If you see them as I see them, you know how." And… there. The moment an understanding dawned on Reid. Clearly shocked, he staggered back, but quickly regained his balance. His hand went through the hair seemingly on its own accord, making it stand up on end like a crow's nest.
By God, he really was connected to the leech. And it started during their fight at Pembroke. And, judging by Reid's reaction, he was not aware of this link they've somehow shared. Yes, Ekons were exceptional liars, but Geoffrey was pretty confident this one wasn't trying to play him. Was Reid as much a victim of this as he was? Suddenly, all of the tension left him, leaving him lightheaded and tired. Geoffrey barely made it around the armchair, falling into it with a sigh. Dammit but it was soft.
Their positions now reversed, Geoffrey was truly mad to consider himself safe, yet, somehow, he did. If the leech tried to kill him right now, he'd be too slow to defend himself. Reid hadn't moved an inch, just… stared at the far wall, his brows drawn together. The silence that stretched between them was unexpectedly comfortable; it reminded Geoffrey of those from the dreams, the only difference being the sex before it, or, rather, lack thereof. And then a hot realisation pierced right through him; oh shit. The heat immediately pooled in his stomach, waking up everything. He didn't even shift in his seat this much, yet he almost instantly felt the attention of the leech snap to him. The pulse in his ears grew faster and stronger.
"Don't you dare," Geoffrey growled, meeting Reid's eyes again.
It was a mistake.
Memories poured between them, and it didn't matter that everything happened in the dreams, not now, when they had both realised those dreams were shared in every way possible. There was… so much. One moment, Jonathan was several steps away, the next, he materialised in a puff of smoke and shadows right in front of Geoffrey, leaning in, caging him with his hands on his shoulders. Bright blue eyes burned with every emotion and desire Geoffrey had ever seen in them in the dreams. Breath caught in his chest.
"All this time…" Jonathan murmured, touching their foreheads together. Geoffrey tried to push him off, but ended up grabbing his coat and the bloody red tie that he wanted to jank off from the very first time he saw it.
"You drive me fucking insane, leech," he already knew what those lips would taste like, all he had to do was lean forward and angle his face just right. "I just wanted it to stop," his voice went hoarse and low. Another shudder tore through him.
Jonathan closed his eyes for a moment, as if in pain.
It was not pain.
"Oh, I drive you insane?" one of the cold hands went around Geoffrey's throat, not squeezing, just lying there, feeling his jumping pulse. When he tried to gain some space by pushing the armchair back ( fuck but he needed space to breathe, it must not continue, dammit, what was he doing ), Jonathan actually growled and clambered atop him, straddling him, caging him. The heat of another body was absent, as expected, but the pressure and the knowledge who was sitting in his lap made Geoffrey stop breathing for a moment. He couldn't resist for much longer, the need to touch was overwhelming. His nails started to ache from the force he was clutching the armrests with. "Geoffrey, before the dreams started, I didn't even think of looking at men," low, dark baritone reverberated in his chest, puffs of air tickling his ear as the leech spoke. Geoffrey froze, hands going lax. "You, my dear hunter, and your fantasies, have planted a true obsession in me. I've simply returned the favor," cold lips pressed to his neck, sending shivers and fire down his spine.
Cursing under his breath, Geoffrey took hold of Jonathan's hair and pulled back, making the leech either lean back or break any illusion of good will. He went with the pull. Their eyes met. Cold fingers under his chin grasped a little tighter, not yet obstructing the airflow. Any words Geoffrey wanted to say died before ever getting out; with a groan, he lurched forward and kissed the bastard, licking and nipping and drowning in the exact same taste he knew from the dreams. And maybe he was so desperate to get to the skin he'd torn off several buttons, so what of it; this was madness and he was insane and out of control.
Jonathan hissed at the first touch, arching his back and pressing closer, kissing so eagerly that Geoffrey almost felt the fire burning inside him, too. It was surprising and not, the way Geoffrey knew where to apply pressure and how to scratch and squeeze to make Reid laugh hoarsely and groan in this wonderfully low voice of his, dripping with pleasure.
"Oh, I can play this game, too," it was all the warning Geoffrey got before Jonathan grabbed him by the hair and made him throw his head back, leaving his throat open. His neckerchief fell to the floor a couple of seconds later, and Geoffrey couldn't make up his mind whether he was afraid the leech would bite him, or was he anticipating it. Wanting it.
He shuddered, eyes falling shut. Cool fingers on his chin started to warm up.
"Look at me, Geoffrey. Look at what we've done to each other," Reid was… he really, really looked insane in that moment, bright blue irises flashing with desire, barely-there blush high on his pale cheeks giving him a feverish look, his hairdo completely destroyed.
Obscene lips just begged to be kissed, and Geoffrey couldn't tear his eyes away. "It was you who started it," he managed to croak out.
Reid slowly smiled, his tongue a startling flash of pink when he licked his lips. This leech would be the end of him. "Let's save the accusations for later, shall we?"
He didn't bite. Well, not like Geoffrey feared he would. Jonathan bit like a human, careful not to break skin, but strong enough for Geoffrey to feel it, feel the sharpness of Reid's fangs and his own helplessness.
"You… bastard," Geoffrey gasped, barely keeping himself from coming then and there. His skin felt two sizes too small, hot and alive with lightnings of sensations, sharp and piercing. What was worse, he didn't really have any space to move in; Jonathan got him totally at his mercy.
Was it all some elaborate plan to get him here? If Reid really wanted to kill him, he'd had the opportunity as far back as Pembroke; it was unnecessary to go to such lengths. Right?
The hand that was holding him under the chin now gently cupped his right cheek. "You are clearly thinking too much, my dear hunter."
"You don't say, blood drinker," hissing, Geoffrey kissed him. Feeling cool hands slide under his shirt, he shifted around, helped getting the fabric out of the way.
After that, it all blurred together, as if he really was dreaming. But he wasn't. He kissed Jonathan and let him kiss back, he groaned when barely warm fingers closed around his cock, holding so tight it was just this side of perfect. When had they moved from the armchair and onto the sofa, he couldn't say; perhaps, it was at the same time when they've gotten rid of their cloaks and weapons. The leather was cool and smooth to the touch, it was perfect to fall onto. Reid remained upright, just standing there and watching Geoffrey get comfortable and open his trousers.
"Oh no, you're not hanging back now," Geoffrey grabbed him by the belt and pulled towards himself. Jonathan complied, smiling like a cat that got a juicy little bird all for itself.
"I was not; I was merely drinking in the view," playful was good on him, it did things to Geoffrey's insides. And, somehow, even when Jonathan ended up straddling him again, it didn't feel as much like a cage as it did when they were in the armchair.
"You know what they say about too much drinking and not enough eating," if anything, Jonathan's lips tasted even better. Groaning into the play of tongues and teeth, Geoffrey grinded into the tightness between them, feeling…
He had to make sure; he groped Reid's cock and couldn't feel any hardness at all. Was the leech playing him after all?
"What the hell?" tearing away from the kiss, Geoffrey only had a moment to see a flash of something on Reid's face before he swallowed and squeezed his eyes shut for a second.
"Ah, that… alas, I don't have enough blood in me to… maintain an erection," Jonathan swallowed and licked his lips, bright eyes hungry with desire. Any remaining anger melted into heat under this gaze. "This does not impede my pleasure in any way," he shuddered when Geoffrey run his hands up his sides and down the pale back, feeling muscles shifting under the skin. "I'd say it's even sharper."
"You sure you won't suck me dry in the process?"
At that, Jonathan actually growled and, cupping his face with both hands, looked him straight in the eyes, serious as ever, pleasure glimmering only deep, deep down.
"I will not," the heat and intensity in his voice was something Geoffrey was more used to hearing in the middle of a hunt, not with their hands down each other's trousers.
"Good," Geoffrey couldn't help but smile. Then he tugged at Jonathan, making him lie down on the sofa and, for a change, ending up on top. They had to wriggle around to make it comfortable, but they did (Geoffrey's shirt was lost in the process, but who's counting), and finally he was able to touch anywhere he wanted.
Jonathan had the audacity to laugh hoarsely, leaning into the caresses like a cat, pale and beautiful in the golden light of the lamps. By the time Geoffrey laid a first kiss under his navel, Jonathan was clutching at his hair with one hand, while holding onto the armrest with the other. It certainly was a first time Geoffrey had a lover who couldn't get hard, but this proved as nothing else could that Reid didn't drink blood lately. Also, his reactions were very familiar otherwise, so Geoffre wasn't going on complete nothing; he knew when he was doing something right or when he had to use more force. Jonathan's cock was soft and delicate and even the lightest of touch was making him groan. It was fascinating to watch, and when Geoffrey licked the now-warm skin, Jonathan actually cursed.
"I know you're a tease, but this is just cruel, Geoffrey," he moaned, kicking him a little. Geoffrey used it to yank the trousers lower and catch Reid's legs under him, then returned to his exploration.
It was just like giving a head, only he had to be even more mindful of his strength. Feeling the tug at his hair sharpen, Geoffrey groaned but remained in place, fondling and carefully scratching his teeth over the tender flesh. Jonathan was shaking and couldn't lie still, and at every surge Geoffrey felt contentment and, hell, pride swell in his chest. Because it was he who managed to turn collected Doctor Reid into this hot mess of pleasured moans and desperate little pleas. A whole-body shudder rushed through him; Geoffrey jerked back and caught the moment Jonathan came, his back arching and body locking in a blissful moment of white.
Geoffrey actually felt the echoes, they clashed into him, flaring up his own arousal, and if he weren't sitting already, he wouldn't have managed to stay upright. His harsh breathing hitched when he pressed a hand to his painfully hard cock, his head spinning from the smell and the sting of hair pulled too strongly.
"Geoffrey," it wasn't a growl, it was this delicious mix of raw desire and hoarse pleasure that made his toes curl. He lifted his head, looked into Jonathan's eyes. "Come."
It was a simple command. It was easy to obey. Shuddering, he pressed his forehead to Jonathan's hip, drunk on the smell and the pleasure, the orgasm swiping him right off his metaphorical feet.
When he returned from the high, Geoffrey got intently aware of the fact they were lying half-naked on a sofa in Reid's office and anyone could walk right in. Well, anyone Reid's nurse allowed. A nurse who undoubtedly heard much of what was going on in here. But what irked Geoffrey was the fact that he didn't really mind it. He went through denial long ago. Now he just had to decide what it all meant to him… not right now, obviously, but sometime soon.
Disentangling himself from Jonathan was another problem altogether, and unexpectedly hard one at that. It wasn't like the leech was trying to hold him or anything, no, Geoffrey had to fight his own urge to lie down and bask in the afterglow. It was so wrong on so many levels, yet it felt so right, just remaining there, enjoying the company. He sat up.
"You've never did that before," Jonathan said, propping himself up on one elbow, his tone light and sated, eyes half-closed. For a brief moment Geoffrey thought he saw a glimmer of red instead of blue, but it was gone in an instant. He ignored it.
"You've never given me the opportunity," he intoned in kind, sighing and letting his head rest on the back of the sofa. The sex would never solve their problems, but it was a wonderful feeling, finally getting rid of this huge uncertainty. And scratching the itch for real. Like a ton of bricks just crumbled away, really.
"If this is the result, then surely I must give you more," Reid wasn't in any hurry to get up.
But was it really a good thing that Jonathan felt the same way he did? Maybe if in the reality he recoiled in disgust, it would've helped Geoffrey fight his damned obsession and straighten his priorities. Or maybe it would've only made things worse; he'd never know now. The question was, would he still be the vampire hunter after this? Oh, well, no amount of mindblowing sex would keep him from killing leeches, that was a given. He just had to pray to God Reid remained this humanist he claimed to be, or else he was screwed , and not in any good way. Because, if he was completely honest with himself, he wouldn't see it coming. And even scarier was the possibility he wouldn't even care when- if it turned out Reid was this red-eyed bastard from his darker nightmares. Thoughts went on and on, circling about the same thing, eating away the relaxation bit by bit. They sat there in silence for some time, the clock ticking loudly from its place on the wall over the door.
"So, this link… it's permanent, isn't it?"
"If it's like what I think it is, then yes."
"But you didn't give me your blood."
"No. Yet, something clearly happened during our fight." Jonathan sat up, nudged him softly with a knee. "We will get to the bottom of this, my dear hunter."
Geoffrey halfheartedly kicked back. "I've told you not to call me that." Reid only chuckled at this weak rebuke.
After they'd cleaned up and made themselves presentable again (why was he not surprised Reid had a spare change of clothes in his office?), they discussed plans of catching the fire beasts, and when Geoffrey returned to Priwen headquarters he even had a solid timeframe to go on. Woodbirch was the first of the Captains Geoffrey told about the cult and the source of the information; so it was him who had the pleasure of sending out messages to all nearby teams, last known location of which was less than a week from London. There wasn't many of them, only four, five if he counted one with seven days of travel.
His men were not happy, as was expected, but they, albeit grudgingly, understood that an enemy of my enemy was a friend, even if only temporarily. The cage was ready by the next evening, so when Reid came with a cultist hanging limply over his shoulder, they hadn't wasted any time locking it up. Thankfully, the leech got scarce soon after the cultist was secured, avoiding some pretty uncomfortable questions from the hunters.
For starters, Geoffrey didn't tell him the whereabouts of the Guard's headquarters, Reid knew it already; he said he stumbled upon it by accident when he was trying to get to his next patient quicker by cutting through the warehouses. Then, there was the problem of how the hell did he even manage to make Geoffrey listen to him. But that one was more dangerous to Geoffrey himself. After all, he was in bed with the enemy. Literally. Right now, all he got was puzzled glances from his Captains, so it would wait. If this business was short enough- ugh, lying to his own men. Disgusting. Still, it was a problem for another day, so Geoffrey concentrated on learning as much as possible about the weaknesses of the new foe they were facing.
Garlic and plants didn't do anything, but when the cultist called for its fire, chaplain McCail was able to suppress it just like any other unnatural beast they were used to facing. Sunlight hurt it, too. Blades and bullets dipped in orichalcum powder burned the grey skin like acid, while incendiary rounds made even less damage than normal ones.
Good, he was starting to come up with a plan.
He's in the dream, he can feel it in his bones. It's also obvious by the fact he's in that warm room again, with wooden panels all over the walls and a carpet lying too close to the fireplace. Jonathan, clothed in only shirt and trousers, is sitting in his usual chair, a cigarette in the long pale fingers, thin stripe of smoke snaking up to the ceiling. Geoffrey's without his trench coat, too.
Well, they're not having sex already, so that's good. Right?
His fingertips itch with the desire to touch. He balls his hands into fists and sits down into the chair opposite the first one, angled to face the fire too. He looks at Jonathan.
"We're both here, aren't we?"
"Now, yes. It appears, the usual plot was already in motion when I… woke up. And then so did you."
"So how is it even possible?"
"I don't know, Geoffrey. Have you looked in the books Priwen has yet?"
It is strange, just sitting there and talking instead of all the other glorious things they could be doing right now. "I've looked through them enough times by now to know there's nothing in them about these fire beasts. If Priwen knew about them, Carl would've told me."
Jonathan leans forward. "Then I have a favour to ask. Please go speak with Usher Talltree."
"Ushe- Are you serious? He is on our killing list, Jonathan!" Geoffrey barely keeps himself from jumping out of the chair.
"What it would look like if I come strolling to his lair? Oh, I'm sure he'll be happy to see a man who wants him dead on his doorstep. Why don't you go instead, hmm?"
"If you just want to talk, he'll know it. He… knows things, things no-one should know, things no-one but me witnessed. He can help."
"Last time we met, he'd set up a small shop in the catacombs under the Temple Church. It didn't look like he frequented the place, but if he's there when you get there, then at least he's ready to listen," Jonathan hastily blurts it all out as if afraid Geoffrey would shut him up, cigarette thrown into the ashtray, half-burned and forgotten. "Please, Geoffrey. At least think about it."
Something crashed loudly in the yard, jerking him awake. He was by the window in an instant, looking for the source of the sound. McCail's cursing was hard to miss; nothing too serious or urgent, judging by his tone. The chaplain would sort it out without any outside help.
The sun was already climbing down the sky to the jagged line of rooftops, so Geoffrey decided he might just as well go dig through the paperwork and lessen the pile a bit.
Fight singing in his veins, he jumps at the leech that's clearly weakened by the UV-lamps and a stake to its leg. The strike is true, he can feel it even before steel makes contact with the beast's flesh. Blood spurts everywhere and he barely has time to shield his face. With a hiss Reid jumps back and back, cursing and taking out another one of his syringes.
The bittersweet aftertaste of the King's blood makes Geoffrey bare his teeth in a predatory grin.
Tapping knuckles on the door. With a start, Geoffrey straightened up. He was sitting at his desk, or, rather, dozing over the various reports, hunched over. And now his neck was throbbing with a dull pain. Dammit.
"Sir, Willow's group answered the call, their ETA is two and a half days," one of the younger ones, yet already close to getting his own hunting team. Second of Woodbirch's men. Pete Rowburn.
"Good. Others?" quick thinker, rarely repeats a mistake twice.
"Still waiting on their answer. Our team should be ready by this evening, Captain Vasco's men are busy transporting the ammunition." And perfectly capable of keeping a secret. Before, it wasn't that obvious, but now that Geoffrey thought about it, wasn't Rowburn's score of dead leeches much lower than that of the others? He should order another background check on him. And some of the others.
It was just… something felt off. As if Geoffrey couldn't sense in him what he could in his other men.
He nodded. "Go."
It was going to be a busy couple of days and nights. Groaning, he straightened up and went to get a cup of coffee and something to eat. They had some coats cured with chemicals for fireproofing, but with the cultists they needed more, and quickly. Geoffrey was not going to let his men go into cramped space against the fire beasts without any protection.
How fortunate he knew just the man for the task, one of those who left Priwen and went into engineering.
Hope, bitterness, pain. He's sick.
"Máthair! Ní hea!"
Pain. Fire, shouts.
God knew he didn't want to be here. He despised what the Brotherhood stood for, yet he couldn't come up with anything better. If Talltree really knew anything about the cultists that would help his men live through the encounter, Geoffrey had no right to ignore this opportunity.
The catacombs were dull, dark and cold. How the hell a human could work in such conditions? His boots clicked on the flagstones, and with the poor lighting he had to watch very carefully where he was going. Steps, more steps. And… there. An orange gleam of fire on the old walls and floor. A heavy curtain was hanging in the doorway. Geoffrey thought about stopping and listening in, but then decided against it.
The room looked as one would expect a tomb look like, just with more things here and there. And it was cold in here, despite the curtain's attempt at keeping the warmth inside; the stones sucked it all up, constantly demanding more heat without ever really warming up. The same problem of every catacomb Geoffrey had the dubious pleasure of visiting.
A simple wooden table stood near the farthest wall, a man in a violet turban sitting behind it, several lamps and candles basking everything in a warm light. Dark fingers skillfully gathered the cards, shuffling the deck and glancing at this one or that. Dark face was impossible to read, eyes cold and distant behind the glasses.
"Ah. I was starting to wonder when you'd stop by, McCullum. A Knight of Swords and a Reversed Chariot were clear enough you wanted a meeting," his voice immediately rubbed at Geoffrey the wrong way. He had to consciously suppress the urge to growl and go for the gun.
He moved closer, but not too close.
"How are you adapting to the change? It was quite the shock, I imagine," the know-it-all was glaringly clear in Talltree's voice, his haughty confidence made Geoffrey clench his teeth.
"What. Are you talking about?" he so, so wanted to add 'leech', but he didn't know for sure, and he was not going to declare to the Primate of the Saint Paul his inability to discern his nature.
"But you did drink King Arthur's blood, did you not?" Talltree's hands flew over the tabletop, shuffling the cards, laying them down in some intricate order. "Oh. Interesting. And I see our mutual acquaintance had finally helped you soften your views."
Reid had better have warned him of this insufferable man and his manner of speaking in fucking riddles. Geoffrey would make him regret this.
"Reid told me about the cult of beasts with ashen skin and some kind of fire magic at their disposal. Do you know anything about them?"
"Hmm. Your brutish methods are finally proving to be inadequate and you swallow your pride and come to me for information? I never thought I'd see the day."
"By God, if you don't answer the fucking question-!" His tone rising, Geoffrey took one step forward, preparing to unsheathe his sword.
"They eat, and they eat, then they burn, then die," Talltree said flippantly, shuffling his blasted cards again. Did he have a deathwish? "I know nothing that would help you in your current endeavor. Say, my dear not brother, have you noticed it yet?"
Oh he was so definitely killing this man!
"But the change, of course!" finally Talltree stopped playing with the cards and looked up at him, dark eyes like two drops of the abyss, full of secrets and lies. "It's in the blood. It's all there."
Geoffrey's patience snapped. In the next several seconds he was either committing violence or getting the hell out of this dungeon. "Yes, I see now coming here was a mistake."
"Think what you will, I have only played my part."
He contemplated for a second pulling out his revolver and ending this madness right here and now. But then, he did come here under the white flag of information gathering, did he not? Still, the idea was so tempting.
Growling under his breath, Geoffrey turned around on his heels and stormed out of the catacombs. After roaming the streets for some time and cooling down, he realised the night was just only starting and he didn't have much to do before the scouts returned with reports, and that would happen closer to sunrise. Not wanting to waste a perfectly good opportunity, Geoffrey went to see Hampton for himself.
Admittedly, he should've done it as soon as he came to London, but Reid got in his way and… things happened. Did he even have any right to lead the Guard of Priwen after what had happened between him and Jonathan? He was sleeping with the enemy, after all, and not just fantasizing in his dreams. Maybe he really should consider his successor.
Growling under his breath, Geoffrey bottled those thoughts until a later time and concentrated on his surroundings. Hampton was outside, speaking softly with the Paxton sisters, and the moment Geoffrey went through the gate, the Skal immediately turned his head towards him. The little man was as soft-spoken as always, although Geoffrey could see the hunger lurking beneath quite clearly. Giselle Paxton was even more protective of the Saint than before, grumbling about nosy coppers and stupid gangs and insufferable bastards that refused to leave them alone, not letting Geoffrey out of sight as long as he remained in the asylum's vicinity.
Time was running out. Geoffrey knew it, Sean knew it. Yet he didn't even feel angry at him, he smiled and thanked him for helping to find jobs for some of his flock. Why did God curse this man so? Geoffrey was certain that when the time came to kill Sean Hampton, it would not be an easy task.
"Reid, you're a fucking bastard!" immediately honing in on his location in the dark hallway, Geoffrey jumps at him and grabs him by the lapels of his coat, pushes into the wall.
In a blink, red eyes change into icy blue. "Wha-"
Growling, Geoffrey shakes him, once. "You should've told me Talltree was so impossible to interact with!"
"Oh, so you've met him. How did it go?"
"How did- Reid, do I look like it fucking went well?!" realising he's going to either hit the bastard or kiss him, Geoffrey jerks away and kicks a wall instead. Dull pain sluggishly slosh up his arm, not even close to the real sensation. "The insufferable charlatan kept asking about the change and babbling about blood instead of giving any straight answers!"
"Blood?" Reid freezes in place, struck by a realisation. "Of course!"
And then, of course, Geoffrey woke up. And he couldn't really be angry at the fact, because he himself had set the alarm. Still. Why did the dreams had the tendency to start and end so abruptly? Wasn't time in them going roughly at the same speed as in the real world?
Ugh, if someone told him half a year ago he'd be seriously thinking about this stuff (and, well, that he'd voluntarily fuck a leech), he would've kicked them in the guts and sent on a patrol to Southwark.
With a sigh he stood up and, stretching a little to get rid of the stiffness, prepared for the evening ahead. When he went outside his room, he could already hear car engines in the yard and the voices of his men. It seemed Willow had finally come. Good, now the odds were starting to look more promising. It was a relief, really. The more prepared they became, the more chances of survival they had.
He even managed to get some paperwork done by the time scouts started to trickle into his office with a huge pile of bad news. As it turned out, after Reid discovered their lair the cultists did a smart thing and moved it somewhere else. Presumably deeper into the old tunnels, but it was totally possible they had moved into one of the abandoned warehouses in the docks or anywhere on the outskirts of London, really. Though other scouts reported no suspicious activities anywhere above ground, so that was something.
"Damn it," hitting the table with a fist, Geoffrey hissed and started changing plans. It seemed the cult was aware of its surroundings and acted accordingly. Priwen would have to be ready to move out in a half an hour to catch them, preferably even less, considering they wouldn't be able to move in cars with the noise alerting everyone in the vicinity.
"It's like we're back in November," Lawrence grumbled, rubbing at his forehead.
"Don't tell me," Geoffrey remembered it too clearly: so many vampire sightings men had to pull double shifts to cover them all and constantly be on their guard walking deserted streets, every night new bodies to be found.
"I'd say it's good to be back, except it is not," Jake sighed. "I'll go with the scouts, if you don't mind. Maybe we'll find something during the day."
"Go, Willow. Take all the men you need. Vasco, make sure every last one fireproof coat is distributed."
"Will do," the man nodded. "And about those chemicals Luke have acquired…"
Willow left soon after that, not one to hang around and discuss stuff when he could be on the streets. Geoffrey found himself more envious of this freedom every time Jake did something like that, because he was the same; but, being the leader here, he was stuck with improvising plans and worrying about logistics and morale. Granted, for either of those he had men he could delegate the work to (which he did quite often, thank you very much, he was not an idiot), but there were times when his presence was required. Like when there was a strange and dangerous cult somewhere in London, smart to move and with enough knowledge to do so under their noses. There even was a high possibility those bastards had spies in their midst. As if Brotherhood's weren't enough.
In the end, they were doomed to sit on their arses until a scout stumbled upon those madmen and reported back. Dammit Geoffrey hated this sort of waiting. But, at the very least, they managed to talk about the Guard and its needs before he kicked everyone out with an intention to go down himself, mingle with his people.
Something tugged weakly in the back of his head, like a puff of breath in the darkness of a winter night. Stopping in the middle of a stride, he waved his men ahead as Lawrence looked back at him, and returned into the office as if he'd forgotten something. He felt… what?
Standing in the middle of the room, Geoffrey slowly scanned it, looking for the thing that had alerted him. It almost felt like his guts were trying to tell him something, only this time the pull came from… deeper? Higher? His fingers started to itch, a familiar song of eagerness and aggression waking up in his veins.
And then a shadow moved behind the window. Knuckles tapped lightly at the glass.
What the fuck?
Moving closer, Geoffrey realised it was Reid out there, hanging on God knew what beside a window at a second floor. He was even impishly smiling, the bastard! Geoffrey seriously considered leaving him to find another way into the building, but then the risk of being seen jumped skywards.
He growled, but opened the window frame. Jonathan instantly shadow-jumped inside and closed the door. At the same time, Geoffrey became extremely aware of the fact that the walls were so thin anyone could hear them talk if they were close enough.
"What the hell are you doing here?" he hissed after closing the window and moved to stand near the table, crossing his arms over the chest.
"Good evening to you too, Geoffrey," Jonathan quirked his eyebrow and curiously looked around, as if it wasn't him who barged in here, risking more than his own life doing that. "Nice to know you don't actually live in the room you work in. As to the abruptness of my visit, well. During our last conversation I've remembered the vial of blood Talltree gave me, and I'm sure you have no interest in the scientific terms, so, long story short, I don't think it's a blood of an Ekon like I believed previously, but rather something else. If it weren't for several obvious vampire tells, I'd have said it was human. Something in-between the species, perhaps. And it made me wonder, which leads to me being here. I'd like to take a sample of your blood for analysis, if you don't mind." Reid talked with a noticeable air of almost childish excitement around him, and in that moment Geoffrey could easily imagine him young and eager to learn, gesticulating wildly during heated discussions.
And then he processed what the leech had actually said. Something in-between human and vampire? Geoffrey shuddered at the image of this… half-beast his mind readily painted for him. He thought about declining and kicking Reid out, but, well, he was curious. After all, there must've been something in it for Talltree to mention it so blatantly. Or maybe the insufferable man was just sending them on a wild goose chase.
Grinding his teeth, Geoffrey took a deep breath and met Jonathan's piercing eyes. "How much do you need?"
The leech seemed to calm down from whatever had energised him so, now he felt more like the serious vampire Geoffrey was used to facing. "Not much," Jonathan took a syringe out from somewhere inside his coat; maybe there were special loops sewn in strategic places, like Geoffrey had done for a couple of stakes. "It'll be quick. Please, bare your left forearm."
It was, indeed, quick. And silent. Also, eerie, because even Geoffrey could smell the blood, and he never considered it a good idea to bleed in front of an Ekon, yet here he was, voluntarily giving it to one, not fighting even a tiny bit. How low he'd fallen. When Jonathan started to pull the needle out, he slowly leaned closer to the puncture and, looking straight into Geoffrey's eyes, closed his mouth over the red dot as soon as the syringe was out of the way. The shock of coolness where should've been warmth went hand in hand with the sharp spike of arousal, making Geoffrey clench his teeth and swallow a groan. Jonathan squeezed his eyes shut and purred, licking over and around the little wound in a search for more blood. Gasping, Geoffrey caught his hair and pulled. He intended only to get the vampire off his arm, but somehow ended up pressed against his table with a mouth on his own, licking and nipping and breathing harshly.
With a pained moan Jonathan moved away and looked at Geoffrey through half-lidded eyes. "You make me want things," he whispered and licked his lips.
Geoffrey smiled crookedly, allowing himself to revel in the fact that he actually could grind his groin against Jonathan's and not fear getting caught by the leech. He was already caught. "You know as well as I do we can't do anything right now."
Jonathan hummed, smiling and pressing their foreheads together for a second before stepping back. He checked the syringe (it was, strangely enough, intact, despite them getting lost in the moment), then, his surroundings.
"Thank you, Geoffrey."
"Oh, get out already, you idiot."
He's lying on a bed, propped up on his elbows so that he can see down his torso. It's dark in here but he has no trouble watching Jonathan settle between his legs, smile slowly and lean lower, his disheveled hair hiding his eyes. Then comes the not-pain and pleasure of the bite, and Geoffrey moans, barely keeping himself from falling back. Jonathan looks up at him, pale between his thighs, crimson eyes flashing with desire, lips red with blood. Geoffrey should be afraid, he should've never agreed to this, still, instead of fear he feels pure elation and pleasure so strong it's a wonder he haven't come yet. His head's spinning when he leans forward to kiss Jonathan.
It wasn't even that surprising that everything went to hell the moment Geoffrey got comfortable with the idea that he had a good grasp on what had been going on, despite some minor setbacks. It started with a scout reporting about fire breaking out in the Faubourg district, continued with sightings of Skals and fucking Vulkods (in what hole had they been hiding?) along the riverbank and, as a cherry on top, operatives of the Saint Paul swarmed Southwark. Well, of course Geoffrey grew curious as to what would make their secretive counterparts move in such a blatant way, so he'd sent some of his best men with orders to watch and return with a report.
What he'd got in return was a fucking red flare in the middle of a peaceful London night, alerting all the coppers in the city and bringing back some shitty memories from the war. Moving a group of men, armed to the teeth, through the streets got more complicated than it should've been, but they managed. Mainly by splitting up; Geoffrey ended up in a company of Woodbirch's men, chaplains McCail and Veresk among them.
The flare had been long dead by the time they finally reached their destination. After crossing the river they'd mainly oriented by the general direction and barely-there flashes of fire, but when the blood showed up, the task became infinitely easier.
Sickeningly sweet smell of roasted human flesh was so strong near the warehouses, mixing with the sweetness of decay and rot, that several of his men vomited on the spot. Geoffrey was one half-step away from joining them, but the feeling of danger, this gut-wrenching and heavy knowing the battle was imminent helped him concentrate on what was important. The street was littered with corpses, all charred and black, some still crackling, heat making the air above them tremble. Some of them still had their badges on them. Others… possibly civilians, maybe even Brotherhood people, most likely a mix of the two. By God, it was as bad as walking into a Skal lair. Or worse; yes, definitely worse. Swathes of black on the cobblestones seemed random at a first glance, but the longer Geoffrey looked at them, the more confident he became those were actually traces of a fight. With someone able to shadow-jump, most likely. Or move very fast.
"Boss!" one of the gunners gestured at a broken wall, half of it covered in soot, the ragged hole opening into the complete darkness of the warehouse.
Geoffrey tried to listen for anything coming from the inside. Nothing. The doors were shut tight, but not for long; one carefully aimed shot at the lock took care of that problem. A small team of four circled around for another way in. Geoffrey gave them a minute, then ordered an attack. Several torches flew in through both the hole and the door, skidding on the floor and giving them light to see; the first to come inside were heavily protected gas-shooters, armed now with sawed-off shotguns. The whistles from nearing copper patrols grew stronger, giving them a hard deadline to work with.
Cursing under his breath, he joined his men in the warehouse. The insides were… devastated; crates turned into splinters, torn chains lying around, wood smoldering here and there, the structure itself moaning from the damage it suffered. And in the middle of it all, completely broken, as if chewed by a bear, lay a feminine corpse, its clothes dark with grime and blood. The wound on her neck, a characteristic mark of a hungry vampire.
"Fuck." Was it Jonathan who fought her? It didn't look like it had gone very well for the leech. By God, it was only one fire beast. "There's a leech, probably wounded, be careful. Look around, I want to know what the hell was so important here."
In the limited time that they had, they couldn't find anything, and then the police was all over the place. The lookouts barely managed to remain undetected and warn the others; they'd lost the opportunity. Dammit. Geoffrey could only hope it all was just a distraction and the real shit was about to hit the fan somewhere else, because coppers would not take kindly to anyone trespassing such a gruesome crime scene before they managed to find the culprits and lock them up. No Priwen will go near that part of town even during day hours, Geoffrey would make sure of that; but all that was for later. Now?
Now he was too busy circling around a Vulkod and quickly assessing possible ways of finishing the second one, already injured with a well placed shotgun shot. For fuck's sake, it was late spring already; Skals, crawling out of nowhere, he could understand, they were small and quick to breed, like rats, but Vulkods? Granted, only two of them, but even one alive Vulkod was one too many. It felt like last autumn alright, dammit.
By the time they'd finally managed to kill all the beasts, several of his men got injured. Nothing too serious, but one definitely needed stitching, and Geoffrey couldn't berate McCail for this, because if he didn't get between the Vulkod and the gunner when he did, the man would've been gutted.
And then someone noticed orange light flashing with irregular intervals from inside a maintenance tunnel; they became brighter with each strike. It was no great mystery that something was getting closer to the exit, so Geoffrey ordered an ambush. There weren't too many places to hide, but a good old half a circle of death was nothing to be trifled with, especially with several gunners taking position on high ground and chaplains ready to incapacitate any beast.
The moment Geoffrey saw a gray figure in tattered clothes jumping, back first, onto the street and sending a careful burst of flames into the tunnel, he let the orichalcum grenade fly. With a thunk it landed right beneath the cultist's feet, and it jerked, looking down. It didn't have time to do more, as the gray cloud of agonising hell engulfed it. It was just as well, because not two seconds later four Skals suddenly joined the fray, running right into the cloud. The cultist tried to get out and burn the nearest man, but between chaplains and gunners it was easy to hold it in place for a shotgun shot. The Skals, on the other hand, proved to be a problem, for they showed the same amount of teamwork as that group Geoffrey had hunted down with Spencer. Maybe even more. They were not simply reacting to the danger like beasts.
Clearly tagging McCail as the easiest prey, Skals tried to jump him from several directions, moving between the guards and scrambling their lines of fire. Geoffrey moved even before he formed a conscious thought, covering the chaplain's back just in time to catch claws on his sword and get a nice close view of the leech's deformed face and hatred in its orange-red eyes. Baring his own teeth in a snarl, Geoffrey deflected and blocked, using his longer reach to its fullest potential and luring the beast to try and change the fight to a shorter distance. A wooden stake through its heart was clearly a surprise, the sharp wail earsplitting in its intensity, disorienting those closest to the leech.
"Back, demon!" McCail hollered, and a moment later, the remaining Skals screamed in agony.
Gunshots, hoarse wails, men calling to each other, sharp smell of gunpowder and the battle loud, burning deep in his guts, giving this unmistakable feeling of clarity and strength. And then it ended. Too soon.
To the East, they could hear distant shots, distorted by the streets. "It seems Vasco is too busy to join us after all," Woodbirch commented, frowning. "Coppers aren't gonna be happy."
Geoffrey snorted. "Nothing new here," he turned to the men and looked them up. "Secure the site. Medic, you have five minutes to patch McCail up. McCail, shut the fuck up and let the man do his job. Everyone, check your ammunition and get ready, we're going in. Is there anyone who's familiar with this part of tunnels?" seeing shaking head, he sighed. Oh, well, he didn't really think he'd get so lucky, but it was worth trying.
The trail of soot on the walls and floors was telling enough, so they made good progress, stopping only to check the side tunnels. Some of the doors were torn from their hinges, clear signs of fighting in this room and that corridor. Twenty minutes in, they had their second date with a cultist; this one went harder than the previous one, mainly because of the small space to move in, but by the end of it they'd worked out a strategy. Which they honed not five minutes later, walking into some kind of an outpost with two fire beasts. Despite fireproofed clothes, some of the coats were starting to smoulder, and breathing after too many fires was a task in an of itself. They had to backtrack and wait for the fumes to disperse before going any further; alas, gas masks were harder to come by than a barrel of chemicals, and majority of the guards didn't have any protection except their own wet scarves.
When the tunnel took a sharp dive, it became even worse: walls old and crumbling, floor littered with debris and fallen bricks, no light sources. They had trained for this scenario, yes, but that was with Skals as potential enemies, not freaks with fire at their disposal. Geoffrey liked Priwen's monopoly on using that primitive yet efficient instrument, and it even felt somewhat like the cultists stole it from them. Bastards.
Anyway, why the hell did they even come to London from whatever dark corner they were hiding in?
At the end of the downward tunnel was an intersection with seven different paths, and with no way of telling which one was the right one they had to spend precious time on scouting. The men started to get restless, and Geoffrey understood why, but they had little choice at the moment and it was all he could tell them. He didn't; they knew it already, they weren't idiots. Well, maybe except for that rookie who managed to fall and hit his head in the middle of an empty corridor. But the boy was hell of a shot, so Geoffrey was not going to kick him out.
After a short discussion, they decided to go into the fourth on the left. And, after what seemed like an eternity, a light breeze touched their faces and torches, just like the scout described. Not fresh air per se, but… fresher. And with more moisture to it, so there was definitely more space ahead. Of course they went quicker, with less caution, eager to get out of the damned tunnels. They should've known better.
The moment first three men stepped onto the terrace, fire suddenly erupted all around them, bright, orange and hurting everyone's eyes after the semi-darkness they walked in. Shots followed, screams, bellows. They poured from the tunnel right through the flames, barely having time to look and find the blasted beasts. Shouting in rage, Geoffrey dived for the nearest grey figure, almost cutting its outstretched arms in one swipe of his sword. With a shriek, it recoiled just in time. The wall of fire went down a little, and it took no genius to notice the correlation. The pause was just enough for chaplain Veresk to jump through. He didn't even look around, he just screamed a short verse from the Bible and slammed his staff into the floor.
The fires went out, blown away by his faith, even some of the beasts staggered back. Using their moment of weakness, guards did just like they were trained to do with a disoriented leech; they went for the killing blows. Some landed, others didn't, the fact was: Priwen regained control over the battle. And Geoffrey was right in the middle of it, parrying, swinging, jumping away and towards, helping his heavy-weights to keep the front line. He reveled in it; in the acrid smell of beasts' blood, in the clashing noise, the screams and the wails and victorious cries, in the knowledge his men were beside him, ready to cover if he ever stumbled.
When the fight ended, four of the guards remained on the floor. Twelve more were injured, three of them with heavy burns. The high flooded away, leaving behind a bitter taste in his mouth. They had killed… seven.
"Dammit," he hated losing men. He hated even more the fact they had to leave them here; and the chances were good that by the time they returned the bodies would disappear. But they could not afford to lose even more mobility tagging corpses along nor could they send the wounded back up.
He gave his men a little time to say their goodbyes, medic patching up what he could. And then? Down into the rabbit hole they went.
By the time they had finally returned above ground, the sun was already peaking above the roofline, and Geoffrey and his men were absolutely exhausted. After that abysmal ambush they had lost only one more soul, but three more got serious burns, including Geoffrey himself. His right eye wouldn't fully open, his eyebrow and half his hair was gone (although his haircut remained mostly intact), and his fucking ear pulsated with the pain. It almost felt like the heat from the fire got caught under his skin and was trying to crawl out.
Managing the streets was difficult, the road to safety long and fucking coppers why is there always so many of them. Geoffrey even considered leaving the heavily wounded at the nearest hospital, but then trashed the idea. Too many questions, too much attention. Those who lived nearby took the opportunity to go home, taking the weakest with them and the most visible weapons. After that, moving in smaller groups and going in what seemed like circled, but they managed to get to their base.
The ruckus that rose after that undoubtedly made more than half of them remembering especially bad nights during the epidemic when everything seemed so worthless and futile, and only their cause had helped them to push through. Gordon cussed and cursed and ordered the field medics into helping him tend to all these 'stupid idiots'. The salve wasn't really doing anything, the pain still there and blazing, the bandages irritating and obstructing his view, but only a suicidal one would argue when Gordon was in that kind of mood.
God, Geoffrey hated being burned. It was even worse than having been shot to his guts.
All in all, the results of yesterday's raid were awful, the only explanation being that they had fought the beasts for the first time. When he gathered the Captains to talk strategy, they all had something to say, even Vasco who's group got jumped by the fire beasts near one of the old factories.
Geoffrey felt the hate himself and saw the same fire in everyone's eyes. Tomorrow, they will obliterate the cursed fire beasts.
He thought at least in the dreamscape the burn would not bother him, but bloody hell it's here and it burns. Cursing loudly, Geoffrey hits the wall with a fist, barely holding back an impulse to press his hand to the wound.
"What- Oh," Jonathan looks up from his armchair, dark circles under his eyes, face paler than usual. "I see Priwen, too, didn't get away unscathed."
"What happened to you?" walking closer, Geoffrey wants to lean down and brush the hair away from Jonathan's forehead; he holds back. Instead, he falls into the second chair, nice and safe distance between the two of them, the carpet under their feel still too close to the open fire. Memories about what came to be on it flutter inside his head like butterflies.
"I've bitten one during our fight. It did not agree with me, to put it mildly," Jonathan winces and rubbs a hand over his sternum. "It was like drinking unadulterated acid."
"Bloody hell," Geoffrey winces in sympathy, imagining the burn from his head eating at his throat and insides.
"Yes," carefully, so very carefully Jonathan leans forward, his movements giving away how tender he still feels. He looks closely at Geoffrey's wound. "I see the first signs of regeneration already. Luckily, it seems there's no lingering magic in it; it should heal just like any other serious burn. What have you found?"
When Geoffrey goes over the sewer shitshow again, the memories don't flash like they did during the debriefing with his Captains. Just the hate blazes brighter. Jonathan listens with singular attention, not making too many comments, but asking many questions. As Geoffrey describes Priwen's new strategy against the cultists, Jonathan sits up straight.
"I'm going with you this time. Now that you know the layout and go in small teams, it would be easier to hunt together, like before."
"I'm not an idiot to turn your offer down, but are you going to heal in time?"
Jonathan smiles, showing his teeth. "If I'm not well when I wake up, there are always more rats."
For the next raid, they had to mix people up because of the oh so sudden addition of an unlikely ally and because of the last night's deaths. Woodbirch and Willow were the loudest in their protests against Geoffrey swapping a chaplain for a leech, and it almost deteriorated into a fight. Almost, because Geoffrey was fucking done with this shit and maybe he shouldn't have shouted at them with such vehemence, but bloody hell half of his head was hurting like a bitch and he was not in a good mood. His team ended up with only four men, himself and Jonathan included, but it was fine; after all, the leech with his speed and style of fighting would readily count as three men, maybe even five.
Geoffrey was not happy with the idea, but he remembered all too clearly the night before and tonight would be even harder, so… so he took a flask with another drop of king Arthur's blood, carefully prepared and blessed, just like the first time. Chaplain Veresk looked at him with something akin to hurt and desperation when he did this, and yeah, by Talltree's comments (and, of course, by the fact that it was an Ekon's blood) it was easy to deduce that whoever drank it would either die after its effects weared off or turn into an Ekon themselves; Veresk wasn't there when Geoffrey used it for the first time, he didn't really believe Geoffrey would be fine. Truth be told, Geoffrey himself wasn't that confident either, but if it helped him get his men in and out of the cult's lair alive, then it would be worth it. After all, if something were to happen to him after drinking this blood, it would've happened long ago at Pembroke.
This time, they took the cars; now that they knew where to go, it was simply so much faster. The trek underground suspiciously silent at first, soon devolved into a series of short fights all the way through. The fire beasts tried traps and ambushes, but now that his men knew what they were dealing with, it was so much easier. Especially now that they moved in smaller and more mobile groups. And with Jonathan at his side.
Oh, the leech was devastating; he danced and shadow-jumped and taunted and slashed with his sword, and even with him saving his strength for future fights, he went through the beasts like a vicious monster he was. His strikes were angry and fast, and it was clear Jonathan intended on inflicting as much pain and suffering on the cultists as possible after his close acquaintance with their blood. Geoffrey understood that, but he also knew it was a short way to getting hurt; of course, considering who Jonathan was, Geoffrey wasn't too much concerned when the leech caught a blow in the last ambush. Jonathan grumbled about ruining another perfectly good coat, making everyone present roll their eyes.
Geoffrey snorted: "You know, you could've worn something more suited for rummaging in the sewers instead of that, and this whole circus could've been avoided," his voice low, he stopped at the end of a tunnel and looked at the group of cultists some distance ahead. Were they… performing a ritual?
"And look like a vagabond? No, thank you," Jonathan hissed under his breath, a familiar sign he activated his regeneration. "Hm… that doesn't look good at all."
"No shit, Sherlock."
They were standing in the mouth of a rough old tunnel, before them a wide, dark space with columns made of small bricks and arches between them keeping the ceiling from collapsing. In the middle of it all, in a circle of crumbled columns stood some sort of black rock with sharp edges, its height twice as big as a human's. Something… glowed inside. Or maybe it was just a reflection from the numerous torches and the cultists themselves, waving and chanting to a disturbing and eerie tone, echoes flowing into the cavern and, distorted, returning to this unnatural rock. How did it even get here? There were no holes in the ceiling that Geoffrey could see.
With a sigh, he took out the flask. The sooner he started, the sooner the fight would end.
"Wait, is that-"
"It is," Geoffrey looked at Jonathan as he uncorked it and gulped the contents down. The effects were immediate , and dammit he could get used to this feeling of fire and power coursing through his veins. By God, it was only just one diluted drop.
A shiver slithered down his spine, the burn on his head starting to itch, already halfway to being healed.
"Whoa," one of his men noticed the effects, too.
"Alright," Geoffrey turned and looked at all the teams that made it through this tunnel. Others should have made it to adjoining sides already. Some got burned, others were getting tired already, but each and every one of them had the fire in their eyes that told Geoffrey one simple thing: they will do their best to kill the bloody beasts. And what more could he ask of them? "Let's save London once more, yeah?" His grin was mirrored by others, predatory and eager.
Jonathan chuckled, and Geoffrey's gaze snapped to him. And oh God he could've kissed the man right then and there, he was like an embodiment of a hunter, all lean muscles, hawkish face and a smile that meant nothing good for his enemies. If only they were alone… Jonathan's smile warmed a little and he inclined his head, looked at Geoffrey with the unmistakable expression of eager want and heated promises, and then turned forward and unsheathed his sword.
They went forward, other hunters spreading behind them and taking their positions for good lines of fire. Jonathan attacked first, dragging the pool of shadows under the cultists and letting the eldritch force loose, the black spears exploding right into the ritual. Fire beasts screamed in fury and pain.
Good, the bastards deserved everything they were going to get.
The first wave staggered to a halt when several of the cultists joined their forces and produced dozens of fiery creatures, sick imitations of wild animals, disfigured in this way or that. After that… well, Geoffrey was relatively confident about the teams with chaplains and orichalcum grenades at their disposal, but his own team? He actually had to leave the pair with Vasco's group before heading out to the front, where Jonathan was fighting several cultists at once, actively using his leech magic with every opportunity that presented itself. By the time Geoffrey joined the fray, Jonathan actually killed one of them. And although they had hunted together, it was the first time he and the leech were on the same side when the strength of king Arthur's blood coursed through Geoffrey's veins, and it was wonderfully, deliciously exhilarating, to be able to keep up with Reid's speed and actually land meaningful strikes in-between his attacks.
While the guards took care of the beasts and their ugly pets, the two of them danced with those who were too quick for mere mortals. They all used the black boulder as cover, although when Geoffrey pressed a hand to it to steady himself, he got burned; and he was now completely sure that there was something inside of it, pulsating with reddish glow. And with each fire beast's death, with each sharp wail it grew brighter.
Geoffrey didn't know whether Jonathan was aware of that fact or not, so he took it upon himself to regularly check on the boulder. Well, every time he had a moment or two between ducking from a fireball and slashing at cultist's feet or arms with his sword. Still, he was not prepared enough to what happened the moment Jonathan decapitated another vaguely female gray figure that was wearing some sort of orange gown. The one that Geoffrey was fighting at the time suddenly jumped back, scream of pure hatred almost like a physical blow, making Geoffrey stagger back, disoriented.
The cultist snatched up from the floor a thin triangular piece of the black standing stone, shaped like a fucking knife, then the beast actually laughed, the sound piercing and hysterical, and stabbed itself right under the sternum, perfectly aiming at its heart. The orange flame engulfed it, then darkened, then jumped onto the black stone and Geoffrey only had time to cry out for Jonathan when the standing stone exploded.
Bright fire ate everything, the force of the blast shoving him to the floor and back. He expected agony flaring up any moment now, because he was standing right next to it dammit, it would be a fucking miracle if he didn't die from the burns and the broken bones.
Except… there was no pain, no signals that half of his body acquired a crispy crust. But there was a weight pressing him to the floor. When Geoffrey tried to move, someone groaned above him, and he heard this voice enough times to distinguish between groans of pleasure and of blinding pain. This one was of the second sort.
Jonathan had shielded him from the explosion, taking the brunt of it. And considering it was fire, this damage wouldn't heal unless he had blood.
"Jonathan?" taking the grunt as a sign the leech heard him, Geoffrey tried to remain as still as he could. "Do you have any of your blood syringes left?"
"No," came a hoarse whisper.
The second Geoffrey let himself hope that this explosion was the worst of it, an ear-splitting shriek announced another cultist was alive and angry and ready to kill. By God, it was as if the destiny was playing a stupid fucking game with him.
Shots echoed through the cavern, ricochet drowning in his men's shouts. At least they were alive and kicking. Another shriek, then - strange warping sound, like the air was being sucked out of an enclosed space. Next moment, a boom and alarmed shouts from far behind, more shots, grenades. Cries of pain. And in that moment Geoffrey understood with perfect clarity that the Guard of Priwen alone won't be enough to stop this beast, not without serious preparations and UV-lamps that they did not have at their disposal. If only they were closer to the surface and their cars…
"Fuck," the math was simple, really. Without Jonathan at his full strength, they were royally screwed. Oh, what a bloody idiot he was, dragging his men here, hoping they'd win. Of course the damned cultists had an ace up their sleeve.
Apprehension and fear for his men mixed with the memories from the dreams, heating and freezing his blood at the same time. If his hand trembled when he tore off his neckerchief, there was nobody to witness it; the hunters were too busy staying alive and trying to kill the cultist, and Jonathan was lying on top of him and keeping his eyes shut, not breathing at all.
"Jonathan," no reaction. "Jonathan, dammit, wake up!" Geoffrey hissed, already feeling extremely exposed with his bare neck. But. Wasn't that the point?
Pale piercing eyes, cold and sharp like two ice crystals, looked at him; think lips tugged back in a silent snarl, showing fully extended fangs. Geoffrey saw a spark of surprise in those eyes when Jonathan noticed there was nothing protecting his throat. Reid sharply breathed in, his gaze immediately glued to the vein.
"Yeah," gulping down the hoarseness, Geoffrey let his head fall back down onto the floor. The sound of fighting jumped around with the cultist, the sharp orders from Captains barely audible over the constant rain of shots and battle cries. "God, I never thought I'd say this." There was hope the king's blood would help him regenerate; then there was understanding that with this kind of damage Reid might need a little too much to heal properly. "You must drink from me, Jonathan." He could feel the leech crawling upwards, silent and predatory. Although his face was cold and distant, there still was this barely noticeable feeling of worry coming off of him that let Geoffrey hope it wouldn't be his last and stupidest of mistakes. "And save my men after that, eh. That's a fucking order, leech."
Tearing pain of the bite, soon washed away by this not cold coldness. Reid sucked his blood so quickly Geoffrey's head was spinning more and more, the ringing in his ears drowning out everything that wasn't his fluttering and uneven pulse. Growing weaker and slower with each beat. Then, darkness.
Pain. Why would he do this to them?!
"Nach bhfuil níos mó, le do thoil, a athair!"
Warping, blurry sounds, flaring red in the night. It was cold, but now he can barely breathe, the air is so hot. He's thirsty.
Shouts. Screams. Shots, light from the pistols and booming, shotguns. The floor is shuddering. He's shuddering. The pain blossoms in his chest, he can't breathe, he's-
He's floating on something soft.
"Bloody hell, Geoffrey, don't you fucking dare dying on me now!" a man growled somewhere beside him, the sound muffled.
Geoffrey scowled, and the pain flared up his spine and behind his eyes, sending him back under.
He's hot. He's so hot. He tries to get rid of everything, but the vines slither along his arms and legs, binding him to the earth and immobilising him. He's cursing and thrashing, but no use.
He's melting, seeping into the earth beneath.
He's standing on top of the hill, looking down the green valley, the slope a shocking blanket of colors, the smell of flowers intoxicating and fresh and sweet. He can hear the planes high in the sky, the too familiar sound he learned to fear and hate in the same measure.
The valley burns. Trenches worm through it, ugly brown mounds and sharp barbed wire over the broken earth.
The old road under his feet is grown over with weeds and moss, the fence crumbled down, only the piles of roughly cut stones now marking the path here and there. The air is cool and wet, the hills around covered in dense vegetation, giving home to everyone who needs it. If he goes to the top of the slope, he'd see the little old town, small houses huddling together around several streets. The feeling of home is so strong he shudders and takes a deep breath in an attempt to steady himself. He smells rain.
Shocking cold. Sharp inhale. Warm flesh.
Coppery taste in his mouth. His body aches.
Sharp sting over his right cheek.
Had someone just… slapped him?
Slowly, reluctantly, he returned into his body, his limbs so weak he could barely move them. Opening his eyes, Geoffrey realised he was looking at the familiar ceiling in the Guard of Priwen's impromptu infirmary.
Oh, so Jonathan didn't kill him after all. Good.
"You're a bloody idiot, Geoffrey," Gordon growled, leaning over and checking his eyes. He looked… wrecked; dark circles under his eyes, a beard covering half of his face. "And it's bloody time you returned to the land of the living."
Geoffrey managed a bark of laughter. "It's good to see your ugly mug, too, doc."
When he opened his mouth to ask for water, Gordon actually threatened him with a finger. "And if you say some shit about telling you what had happened during your vacation right this instant, I'll slap you again."
"That, I can do," nodding and smiling into his beard, doc went for a jug.
It was good to be back.
By the time Gordon stopped henning over him and let him leave the infirmary, Geoffrey was ready to howl at the moon and run over the ceiling. It felt like a whole eternity went by, even if it was only three days of 'rest, dammit, give your body time to heal, you idiot'. Also, it was a total informational blackout; doc didn't allow anyone inside if he thought they would tell Geoffrey something that would make him worry. What was worse, Jonathan went with Gordon's prescription of rest and declined to tell him anything other than the general 'everyone got out, we had to do several surgeries but all is good now'. Bastard.
The first night, Geoffrey wasn't sure, but now, looking Jonathan over, he is confident it's not just a trick of light. Jonathan really looks… better. Healthier, even, not so pale anymore.
Geoffrey smiles crookedly. "It seems my blood did you more good than I thought it could." He expects some witty remark in return, instead what he gets is Jonathan tensing up and guiltily looking away.
Well, that's not ominous at all.
Immediately sensing trouble, Geoffrey thinks of coming closer and looming over Jonathan, demanding answers; instead, he takes position behind his armchair and leanes at it a little. Maybe a bit too obvious about his defensive stance, but it helps him remain calm for longer. "What did you do?"
"You were the first human being I drank from in almost half a year. Second human in my entire life as an Ekon. Your blood…" Jonathan visibly shudders at the memory, exhaling, and only after that he meets Geoffrey's eyes. The emotions swirling there send shivers down Geoffrey's spine. He never even thought about that side of things. Oh, he's such an idiot! "It was… hard to pull away when every fiber of my being only begged for more, the taste rich and heady on my tongue. And I… took too much." Geoffrey breathes in, ready to curse, only a second later remembering that he's alive and still human and there's actually nothing he can curse Jonathan about. Not now, at least.
Jonathan nods, understanding the impulse. "I stopped only because the last of the cultists was wreaking havoc among your men, and the noise snapped me back to reality." Standing up, Jonathan slowly moves towards him, stopping only when his legs press into the front of the armchair. His face is a picture of past fear and pain, and by God, Geoffrey can actually feel this turmoil through their link. He wants to kick himself for being this stupid. Now that he knows Jonathan's desperately clinging to his humanity, he understands how much more dangerous it was to give his blood under so uncontrollable conditions.
But what choice did he have? Either that risk, or a lot of good men dying in that damned dungeon. It seemed, he was lucky.
"Please, don't be so stupid again, Geoffrey. The mere idea that I could've killed you tore a hole through me in those seconds that it took me to check on your health," Jonathan's voice drops, becomes hoarse and clogged with agony.
"But I'm alright," it's an alien feeling, this… sorrow for causing Jonathan's suffering, and Geoffrey isn't sure what to do with it.
"Yes, now. But then... " Jonathan laughs sharply, almost brokenly, as if he really still can't believe his own luck, "somehow, there was enough blood of a king left inside you to pull you from the edge. And after the fight, I barely managed to talk your men into checking your pulse before killing me."
Geoffrey snorts. "If you're still walking, then clearly I didn't teach them well enough." Walking around the armchair, he gently shoves Jonathan into sitting down in it, and then climbs onto his lap. It's not nearly as comfortable as it could've been, but it's easy to cup Jonathan's face with both hands, and that's what matters. "You did the right thing, Jonathan, and don't you fucking dare tormenting yourself with various what-ifs, you understand?"
It's good to see a fond smile tugging at his lips. Then the smile turns into more of a smirk. "A vampire hunter praising a vampire for drinking his blood and almost killing him, calling it 'the right thing to do'. I never thought I'd see the day."
"Oh shut up, you," feeling warmth creeping up his neck, Geoffrey scowls and moves to stand up, but hands on his thighs stop him and press him back to the leech. His legs are starting to complain and he says as much, trying to untangle himself.
A short burst of shadows later they are lying on the carpet, Geoffrey on his back and Jonathan atop him, right between his legs. Heat immediately pools inside his stomach, quickening his pulse. Smiling, Geoffrey lets his hands roam over Jonathan's sides and back, making short work of the shirt's buttons in the process.
"Are you done with your guilt trip?" Jonathan's skin is almost warm to the touch, and it's… Geoffrey knows it's his own blood inside the leech, but the fact doesn't scare him at all. Doesn't even disgust or unnerve him. He's...
"Well," voice low and smooth once more, Jonathan leans lower, small smile tugging at the corner of his seductive lips. "Considering that you're alive and well, I think it is, indeed, counterproductive. We can do much more useful things."
"Oh, useful things, hmm? So that's how sex is called now?" he can't help this playful lilt to his voice and there is no doubt he has a shiteating grin right now. He grinds their crotches together, already feeling a bulge under these fancy trousers Jonathan always appears in.
A snort melts into a groan; their foreheads press together. "Not only sex, but I must admit it's one of them, yes."
When their lips finally meet, it's soft and careful and warm, and Geoffrey doesn't feel any need to rush things, they just… explore, their breaths mixing together, hands sliding over skin, slowly peeling clothes off. Jonathan sits up and, watching Geoffrey's reaction, shrugs off his shirt and with a flick of a hand sends it somewhere. Pale skin golden in the firelight, movements graceful and oh so intentful as Jonathan smiles and arches into Geoffrey's touch, throwing his head back. Geoffrey can't say whether Jonathan was always so sensual, he only knows that he is like that in their dreams. And in the company of this extremely dangerous predator he feels so fucking safe it's almost painful, really.
It's heady how much he can do to Jonathan, how much trust he is given. How much he trusts himself. Somewhere deep inside his mind there's still this tiny voice screaming at him he must not believe this leech and must stop this madness immediately, but it's weak compared to the warmth he feels right now. Oh he's an idiot alright, but he's willing to risk it.
Sitting up, he pulls Jonathan into a kiss by the nape of his neck, moaning softly when fingers scratch lightly at his back. The heat of arousal that spikes in their wake is like a grenade going off, washing right through him. And he wants more.
He tries to pull Jonathan under him, but they end up rolling over the carpet and barely avoiding catching fire. It might have been dangerous, they will never know. Finally ending up straddling Jonathan, Geoffrey smiles; oh, he is so looking forward to wrecking the leech.
Waking up, he had to spend good several minutes on disentangling reality from dreams; it was harder than he thought, especially now that he knew those dreams weren't, exactly, dreams. Even his body ached from the things they did in there, and of course he was in quite a good mood when he finally made himself presentable and went downstairs.
The sun outside was painting the sky dirty red, brownish fumes masking what could've been a nice sunset, and perhaps he should've noticed it as a sign it, undoubtedly, was.
All of his good mood vanished the moment he started reading reports. For God's sake, Priwen's hunt of the cultists looked like a bloody Great Hunt, with the same amount of casualties and even more exposure to the police. Yes, his Captains did a great job with the shitty hand they were dealt after the fight underground, but dammit it was bad. Only after the other two teams finally joined their efforts the results started to move out of the orange zone. Still, there were so many wounded they had to dedicate a full team to help the medics. Geoffrey even felt a little guilty because the King's blood healed his own burn while many of his men had to suffer; alas, it was too poisonous to use on them.
Also, somehow, Jonathan managed to endear himself to Gordon after doing surgeries together. Maybe it was something to do with them both being doctors and speaking the same doublespeak, who knew. The leech actually became a semi permanent fixture in their infirmary, coming by every night to check on his patients. Seeing this, Geoffrey simply had to wonder: had Jonathan gone insane, too? Because right now Gordon was the only one in the whole of Priwen who didn't hiss at the leech; even those who Jonathan had literally pulled out from the death's clutches were barely keeping themselves from spewing profanities at the beast. Every time Jonathan visited them, Geoffrey had to be very, very careful; and these lies left a bitter taste in his mouth, reminding him of the fact he'd have to chose sooner or later. There was no way the Guard of Priwen would tolerate cooperation with a leech for long.
He wasn't careful enough. Or maybe Gordon simply knew him too well. One evening, he cornered him and, between calling him different names and angrily hissing what he thought about Geoffrey's sanity, doc made him talk. If it were any other human, Geoffrey would've clammed up, but dammit, Gordon was as close to a family as Geoffrey had ever had in his conscious years. Even Carl was more of a teacher and role model, not father; he was not good at making one feel family, but he was hell of a leader, inspiring a sense of belonging in every last man under his command.
At the beginning, Geoffrey planned on telling Gordon only about the strange link between him and Jonathan, but, as it was always the case with this grumpy old man, he spilled almost everything in the end. His fears, his doubts, his feelings, for fuck's sake. For as much as Gordon loved making his dislike known to everyone around him, he was hell of a listener. And he even managed to curse both Geoffrey and Jonathan while at the same time making it clear he was on Geoffrey's side and ready to help with this mess. And it was liberating to finally have someone to talk to about this madness, it didn't even feel like he was betraying Jonathan's trust. Oh, look at him, worrying he had hurt a leech.
But it wasn't any leech, was it? Jonathan was… different.
They talked deep into the night, into the early morning hours, even. This talk didn't magically make Geoffrey at ease, but his thoughts became more quiet. Now that Gordon would watch him for more drastic changes, and, if need be, alert him about those, he was more confident he would not go completely insane.
Dreams are… confusing. They experiment and try to change them, only ending up with a bunch of scattered scenes from all over their memories. From France to Ireland to England, from childhood to most recent ones. Jonathan doesn't seem too affected by this caleidoscope, but Geoffrey sometimes almost gets sick. He wakes up more than once because of it.
This is how he sees Jonathan's fight with the cultists. It's so fast no human eye would have been able to see, yet Geoffrey sees everything. He feels what Jonathan had felt, his anger, desperation, sorrow, rage at the beast born from stone and flames.
The images don't flow for long; they melt into another scene, of dark walls and grid on the floor, of a being born from blood and hate. Geoffrey actually holds his breath when he understands who it is. Morrigan. And her power is… swallowing, Geoffrey can only watch newborn Ekon try to keep up with the ancient being, Jonathan's movements still having this awkward feeling of incomplete confidence in his strength and speed, yet quickly losing it as the fight goes on.
Time doesn't have any meaning any more, the whole of Jonathan's being concentrated on winning. He rips through the small blood creatures like a knife through paper, ripping their throats out and hurriedly gulping down the blood, soon after using almost all of it on healing his wounds and sending pools of shadows against the main beast.
When the fight ends, it's as much a surprise for Geoffrey as it was for Jonathan; Morrigan just laughing, flowing up with the blood all around her.
"Do you trust me?"
Scowling, Geoffrey watched as Jonathan filled a syringe with something pale and pinkish. "I don't like where this is going, blood drinker."
Jonathan actually flashed him a crooked smile. "You know I want to heal Sean."
"Yeah, and I gave you enough time to do that," Geoffrey retorted.
"Well, about that…" the leech turned around to face him, tucking away the syringe into one of his breast pockets. Seeing resolve in those pale eyes, readiness to protect and even hope mixed with pain (feeling echoes of it all), Geoffrey suddenly knew.
Truth be told, he wasn't really surprised by this turn of events. He didn't even want to fight Jonathan on this, because somewhere during the previous months Sean Hampton had grown on him. A dangerous Skal had grown on him, for God's sake.
"You want me to give you another three months," it wasn't a question, it was a statement.
"Yes. Although I'll administer the serum tonight, I'll still need time to monitor his condition. And, of course, we need to be sure his thirst won't surface again."
Geoffrey sighed. "Well, it seems that, as you upheld your end of the deal and created a cure for the Sad Saint, I don't have to kill him tonight. Let's go get it over with, I've too much work to do."
He made a mistake. He let himself trust a leech.
It was going to be the end of him.
The scene of Jonathan kneeling before Sean, who sat on a chair, drinking from the Ekon's wrist, still burns bright before Geoffrey's eye, and he's not surprised when it finds its way into their dreams. Well, his dreams at first, but then Jonathan senses the memorie, too, and… Geoffrey doesn't know how, exactly, it's possible, but in their dreamscape he more often than not can feel his own fangs, now.
It reminds him of those darker nightmares so clearly even his paranoia raises its head 'what if it was all a terrible lie '. It's disturbing, it's disgusting, it's vile and dirty, yet even if the thirst is not there, the fangs are. And fuck but Jonathan can't think straight every time Geoffrey playfully bites him, and now? Now it's even better. And, aside from having the bittersweet aftertaste in his mouth even after waking up, he's growing used to the strange addition to his teeth in some dreams.
That one time he, fueled by desire and curiosity, sank his fangs into Jonathan's throat and drank? They both came so quickly and intensely Geoffrey truly is afraid to repeat it, because this feeling of euphoria was too strong even in the dreamscape, he can't imagine how good it must feel in the real world.
If vampires feel this after drinking blood, it's no surprise they're all bloodlusting monsters.
After that, he learns to control his appearance in the dreams and gets rid of any unnatural additions; he likes his human form better anyway.
By the time the wounded got back to their feet, the Guard of Priwen had already hunted down any stray fire beasts that were stupid enough to linger after the demise of their leaders, as well as restocked ammunition, repelled attacks from several gangs and managed to lure out one of Ascalon's and quietly kill it without leaving any clues behind. Now that London wasn't a fucking battlefield anymore, they couldn't afford going openly on the streets, but that was a challenge they were eager to face.
Only one thing disturbed him. When he staked the Ekon from behind, the pale bastard jerked and went for his magic and Geoffrey actually felt the blood obeying the beast's will and gather into a shield even before it glowed red. But even this… strange sense moved to the back of his head when Geoffrey looked down at the dead Ekon, a puddle of its dark blood sluggishly growing on the cobblestones, and found an itching urge to lick the red off his sword, wondering silently whether he'd feel the same spark he felt after drinking king Arthur's blood.
Rage flared deep in his stomach, angry and seething. Wanting to fuck a leech was one thing, but this? By God, he was more insane than he thought.