[Castlevania x CAOS]  A Date with the Queen (Lucifer x Hector) (1)

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandoms: Netflix’s Castlevania, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (CAOS)

Rating: Mature

Pairing(s): Lucifer Morningstar/Satan x Hector, slight Sabrina Morningstar/Caliban

Genres: Fanfiction, slash, AU, crossover

Characters: Lucifer Morningstar, Hector, Sabrina Morningstar, Caliban

Warnings: some strong language, sexual content, spoilers of season 3 of Castlevania and CAOS

Preview:

“Your punishment,” the Dark Lord said, “is to join me for a bath. After that, you will put on some nice clothes and go on a date with my daughter.”

At the Dark Lord’s request, Hector went on a date with Sabrina.

Sequel to A Deal with the Devil. Self-indulgent fic.


Hector was pretty confident that by now he had already gotten used to many, if not all, of the Dark Lord’s antics.

Anal. Oral. Asphyxiation. Object insertion. Double penetration. Deprivation of one sense or all. Voyeurism. Bondage. Pain kinks. Domination and submission. Knife play. Blood play. Bestiality. That one time the Dark Lord, in his Baphomet form, took him in a circle drawn in blood while his worshippers knelt around and sang the Satanic hymn. By the time he was done with him, Hector had been so lost in euphoria that he deemed all those gawkers around him no different than the unmoving idols in the Church of Night. That one time the Dark Lord allowed him to sit on his laps and proceeded to ravish him right on his throne of skulls for any wandering demon’s eyes to feast on. By the time he finished, Hector clung to the Dark Lord’s neck with trembling arms while he was carried back to his bedchamber, same as when he had been brought out.

The demons of all Nine Realms called Lilith “Lucifer’s Whore” to demean her; however, few, if any, knew the truth it was actually his “Pet” that had been warming his bed, literally and figuratively, since he signed away his soul to the Ruler of Hell. Truth be told, while Hector wasn’t keen on any boorish demon learning of his status, he wasn’t ashamed if any of them did, either. It had been his choice — the wisest he’d made in a midst of wrong decisions which had plagued his relatively short life, and shame became irrelevant when he’d had hundreds of years to make peace with it, get accustomed to it. Now if any wretched soul felt the urge to degrade him because of his servitude to the Dark Lord, Hector would simply smile, take a step back and watch them being rendered to ash faster than he could sing “Hail Satan.” It wasn’t his dignity that was the Dark Lord’s concern — Hector had no hallucination about being regarded as anything more than a pampered pet; it was just Lucifer did not take too kindly to any nosing into his private affairs. In that aspect, he considered the Dark Lord a far better master than Lenore had ever been. Lenore who had never wasted a chance to remind any breathing thing in the vicinity that he was her property, who must have been convinced that constantly stomping his last shred of dignity enhanced her ownership over him. How he loathed her for that.

Another sharp thrust into him scattered his stray thoughts as if to remind him that musing about his former tormentor while having his current master inside him was a grievous sin. His breath hitched and Hector had to bite his lower lip to prevent a sound from escaping his mouth. Not a sound, he reminded himself, repeated it like a mantra in his head; he was to stay mute throughout whatever being done to him. Hector prided himself on his tolerance, having gained ample experience in his service to the Dark Lord, but tonight it seemed particularly difficult with his punishing thrusts. He couldn’t help but wonder if he had somehow enraged him, like greeting his daughter — the newly crowned Queen of Hell no less — in a sorry underdressed state, or failing to give him a proper welcome when he returned. Hector squashed these thoughts as soon as they took shape in his head; the Dark Lord was magnanimous and so far he had been mostly lenient with Hector, even during his first days. Forgetting to add “Dark Lord” to his sentences, for example. Letting his mouth run off when he wasn’t supposed to. Allowing his sarcasm to get the better of him. A litany of fumbling mistakes which would have guaranteed a couple cracked bones if he had been under the Styrian sisters’ reign had only earned him a proverbial slap on the wrist and a literal roll in the sheets. It would be uncharacteristic of him to punish Hector for matters he had little control over.

“You seem distracted,” Lucifer whispered into the crook of his neck, the timbre of his voice vibrating through his skin and tendons. “Care to share what is on your mind?” A thrust of his hips for punctuation. Hector munched his lips, goosebumps raising on his sweaty skin, glistening in the light of a dozen candles. “Ah, right.” Lucifer smiled devilishly, tapping his forefinger at Hector’s parted lips. “Not a sound. I almost forgot.”

Hector pouted at him and took his finger into his mouth. He sucked lightly at the tip, then swept his tongue along its length, tasting salt and fire and smoke, and scraped his teeth against the deceptively thin skin. The Dark Lord had the hands of a pianist, with long, lean fingers he could use to either snap Hector’s neck like a small twig or drive him to the edge of the precipice, and tip him over to plunge headfirst into the sea of pleasure, occasionally both at the same time. He imagined biting down on the digit, severing skin and sinews from bone. Would he get mad and punish him, Hector wondered. Would he get even harder and his thrusts grew even stronger, faster?

Hector had no chance of putting his theory to test because the Dark Lord removed his finger from his mouth with a knowing smile. Grabbing Hector’s pelvis with both hands, blunt nails marking his skin with pink welts, he pushed into him before lifting him up so that Hector sat astride his laps, their joined flesh not once getting disconnected. The new position allowed the Dark Lord to penetrate even deeper into him, and Hector had to put his arms on his shoulders for support. As a surge of pleasure shot up his spine, he sucked in a cold breath, feeling warmth pooling around the rims of his eyes, which turned into tears to roll down his cheeks.

“Are you crying, Child?” the Dark Lord asked, peppering open-mouthed kisses on his throat and the hollow between his clavicles. “Are they tears of joy or of pain? Both?”

His teeth found a spot on his Adam’s apple and began to worry the delicate skin there. The sudden pain nearly caused him to let out a gasp. Hector shook his head to shake away his tears and muffled his gasps, moans and any traitorous sound threatening to escape his lips by clamping his teeth down the side of the Dark Lord’s neck, dangerously close to his carotid artery if he were human. Was this how vampires chow down their food? He smiled against hot skin to feel the mighty Dark Lord flinch, the motion all but imperceptible if they were not glued together chest-to-chest. There would be Hell to pay but for now, Hector could not help a sense of triumph expanding in his chest.

“That was a risky move, Child,” the Dark Lord commented, running his fingers through sweat-damped silver hair and messaging Hector’s scalp like he often did outside fornication. Nevertheless, Hector could feel a sliver of pressure pressing down his scalp and a light sting at his roots, producing sparks behind his closed eyelids, when the Dark Lord twisted his strands. Unsure if he should interpret this gesture as a teasing or a warning, Hector chose to play the stubborn pet and bit harder into unyielding flesh.

That turned out to be a wise move on his part because the next thing he knew was a chilling hand wrapping around his cock. Coldness was the last thing Hector would associate with the Dark Lord, who had Hellfire running in his veins, but how else was he supposed to explain this sensation enveloping his most sensitive part? Cold fingers as if they had been dipped in ice stroke his shaft a few times before coming to rest at the base, squeezing it. Inside him the Dark Lord’s flesh remained a hot pillar as he resumed his pace, his hand never leaving Hector’s hair. Caught between two extremes, Hector started to lose bits and bits of himself in the onslaught of pleasure, until he had one foot over the thin line separating his body and his climax. One nudge and he would tip over. Just one… and yet it didn’t come.

“Are you close?” he heard the Dark Lord ask. Eyes shut and teeth gritting, he grudging nodded.

“Look at me,” he ordered, and Hector had no choice but to force his eyes open. His heart almost leapt to his throat at the sight of Hellfire raging in the Dark Lord’s pupils. It was not the first time Hector had seen fire in his eyes; however, like every other time, the fire reached into his soul and shook him to the core. He supposed it was because it was the same fire which had burnt countless unfortunate souls to cinder.

“You know you will not come until I give you permission. Now, open your pretty mouth and let me hear you beg.”

His thumb caressed the seam of Hector’s lips. In reply Hector mouthed a “no”.

“No?” the Dark Lord laughed. “Perhaps I should not have indulged you too much. You and Sabrina, obstinate and spoiled little children who just will not listen to me. I only have myself to blame.”

Hector swallowed a choked cry when his world turned upside down for a split second and he was flipped onto his stomach. His hips were raised by strong cold hands, which held fast onto them as the Dark Lord forsook his finesse and started pounding into him with something akin to brutality. There were surely some hideous bruises on his hips and elsewhere afterwards but Hector couldn’t bring himself to care. The Dark Lord would take care of them, take care of him; he always did. He bit into his knuckles to forbid any sound. He felt the Dark Lord’s taut abdominals at the small of his back and his fiery breath at the nape of his neck, which turned cool on his sweat-soaked, feverish skin.

“Come for me, Child.”

Right after he heard his order, there was a wet lick at the shell of his ear. Hector’s eyes widened and a cry tore itself out of his tight lips as he came, spilling his seed over his stomach and the mattress while fresh tears wetted the sides of his face. With a satisfied smile clinging to the corners of his mouth, the Dark Lord leaned down to lap at his tears with a forked tongue, long and serpentine and the very reason for his coming undone. When he finally came, hot lava erupting inside Hector, he bit the flesh at his nape and Hector, basked in the glow of his aftermath, was mildly surprised that he felt no pain, only a spike of ecstasy.

The Dark Lord turned him around and immediately Hector nestled against his body, leeching off infernal heat from his skin.

“You almost won, until a snake’s tongue proved to be your downfall. Alas, human after all.” The Dark Lord chuckled.

“I lost,” Hector admitted — when had he ever won? Drowsiness weighed down his eyelids and it took all his will to keep his eyes open because he knew he shouldn’t fall asleep without the Dark Lord’s permission. “What is my punishment?”

“You almost sound eager to receive your punishment even though you have no idea what it is. It could be something so horrible you will regret you have not asked what it is first.”

He simply couldn’t say he was eager to get it over with so he could sleep, could he? Anyway Hector was convinced the Dark Lord might have already plucked it from his mind. “I’m exhausted and sleep is very tempting right now.” He opted for honesty.

The Dark Lord smiled and ruffled his hair. “You sleep too much. Sloth is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, you know.”

Hector craned his neck to look at him with widened eyes. “But you have not once chastised me for it.”

“I have not, although I would like you to be a little more active. Get out of this chamber and get some sunlight, for example. Did you not love the Sun when you were mortal?”

Hector’s face sported a comically incredulous look. “Sunlight?” he echoed. “The Sun in Hell?”

“That is why you should get out more. As for your ‘punishment’…”

The Dark Lord snapped his fingers. At his beckon, several figures in black materialized, forming a line against the wall. Hector blinked and squinted his eyes at them, who were clad in black robes that covered their entire bodies save their pallid faces with their eyes and mouths crudely sewn shut. Although theirs was a grotesque sight, he knew these Hell Servants to be the most benign demons in Hell, whose sole purpose was to cater to the Dark Lord’s personal needs. This was not the first time Hector had seen them in this chamber. Wordlessly the Hell Servants pulled a huge clawfoot bathtub out of thin air and began filling it with steaming water from decorated vessels that had also appeared out of nowhere. A sweet perfumed waft tickled his nostrils.

“Your punishment,” the Dark Lord said, “is to join me for a bath. After that, you will put on some nice clothes and go on a date with my daughter.”

Hector stared owlishly at him, his mouth parted but no word was formed. He was certain he had no trouble with hearing, but it seemed just now his sense had played trick on him. Go on a date with his daughter, the one and only Queen of Hell, the Dark Lord could not be serious, right?

“Now now, stop gawking at me as if I have grown another head, Child,” the Dark Lord chided, not harshly. “I ask you to go on a date with Sabrina but it is not romantic in nature. Remember that I asked you to befriend her when I brought her here?”

Hector blinked as realization started dawning on him. “Why? I’m grateful that you thought highly of me, Dark Lord, but I’m not exactly a good candidate to offer companionship and friendship to a young maiden.”

Not to mention his awful experiences with the opposite sex, but Hector trusted the Dark Lord had already known.

“The best candidate I can think of in the entire Pandemonium. Your humanity is just what she needs, given she is half-mortal. As I have told her, a human connection will likely benefit both of you, or do you doubt my judgment?”

“I do not dare, Dark Lord” was his quick reply, and Hector was rewarded with a soft kiss on his lips, which startled him. The Dark Lord might bed him on a nightly basis but a kiss on the lips was something he had to earn, a reward given when Hector pleased him. “Very good, Child,” the Dark Lord said. Another peck because he was in a generous mood. “Let us bathe and then we shall pick a proper outfit for you. I cannot tolerate your looking sloppy in front of my dear daughter.”

TBC


There I go again with self-indulgent fics. This one is a direct sequel to my other Lucifer/Hector fic (strange pair, I know). This story wasn’t planned but after A Deal with the Devil was posted and received some positive comments on AO3, an idea came and it’d be a waste to let it go so.

 [Castlevania x CAOS]  A Deal with the Devil (Lucifer x Hector)

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandoms: Netflix’s Castlevania, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (CAOS)

Rating: Mature

Pairing(s): Lucifer Morningstar/Satan x Hector

Genres: Fanfiction, slash, AU, crossover

Characters: Sabrina Morningstar, Lucifer Morningstar, Hector, Lenore

Warnings: some strong language, sexual content, sexual abuse/physical abuse, rape/non-con elements, spoilers of season 3 of Castlevania and CAOS

Preview:

“You still have a lot to learn, my dear daughter,” Lucifer said. “Burning is the last option when you brand a human’s soul as yours, and frankly I find it quite a waste. Let it be today’s lesson for you as a ruler of Hell.”

Lucifer taught Sabrina a lesson in striking bargains with mortals.


Sabrina exhaled a lengthy sigh of relief to be out of her unholy regalia and into her casual clothes. Really, she swore Lilith had been secretly harboring a grudge and tried to murder her when the demoness tied her corset. The wig had been extra-heavy and the collar extra-tight, and it had taken all Sabrina’s strength to last through her coronation without embarrassing herself — and Dear Old Daddy — in front of the entire Pandemonium. She sure hoped she wouldn’t have to wear the full costume, complete with makeup, while dealing with everyday business in Hell. If she did, either she would lose it or she would rebel.

“If you are bothered by the costume, rest assured.” Sabrina heard Lucifer’s voice behind her and turned around to see her dad. It was still awkward as hell (pun intended) to refer to the Dark Lord as her dad, although she believed she was getting used to it by the day. “As Queen, you can wear whatever you want and no wretched soul would be foolish enough to comment on your choice of attire.”

“That’s reassuring… Dad.”

Lucifer tutted. “Now now, what did I say about how you would address me in front of the court?”

“Sorry… my King.”

“You can call me ‘Dad’ in private, which is where we are heading. Come, I have something to show you, or rather… someone.”

Her curiosity piqued, Sabrina stepped forward to stand next to her dad. A ring of fire engulfed them and a second later, Sabrina was greeted with the sight of a lavish chamber. No, ‘lavish’ wasn’t the appropriate adjective for it. She silently gasped at the sheer opulence this chamber unabashedly boasted. It was nothing she’d seen before and so awed was she that she was in the firm belief her vocabulary was never enough to do it justice. Gold was its main color, which spoke clearly of its owner. Sabrina turned to Lucifer with a flabbergasted look.

“This is my private chamber and you will have a similar one,” Lucifer said, walking leisurely to the four-poster bed, which seemed to be the only object of a different color than gold, in the center of the vast space. “If you want any specific detail or decoration, tell your handmaidens and they will take care of it.”

“I have handmaidens?” Sabrina asked, mildly distracted by the intricate carvings along the walls. They appeared to be telling a story. Biblical perhaps?

“Every Queen has handmaidens. You can have as many as you want. You can pick them yourself if you do wish.”

Sabrina shrugged, hoping whoever her handmaidens were, they would not try to murder her with corsets and wigs like Lilith had.

As they approached the gargantuan bed, Sabrina couldn’t help rolling her eyes. The bed wasn’t empty, nor was it made. Half-buried under the crimson velvet sheet, with his shoulders and smooth back exposed to any eyes, was a man who couldn’t be much older than Sabrina herself, if his looks were to be trusted. The newly crowned Queen of Hell felt heat blooming on her cheeks as she realized the young man, seemingly in deep slumber, was likely naked and the crumpled sheet coming up to his slender waist was the sole preservation of his modesty. She was extremely grateful for the fabric and the angle in which he was lying so that nothing below his waist was visible; otherwise she wasn’t sure how to properly react to a naked, beautiful young man on her father’s bed. Yes, he was beautiful, that much she could tell by studying his face; not good-looking or handsome like the boys she had acquainted, but beautiful in a mystical way. She guessed it was because of his hair like silver-spun making a stark contrast with his olive skin; such combination wasn’t common amongst humans as far as she could tell, provided he was one. He did look like one, though.

Lucifer saw the blush dusting her cheeks and smirked. The Dark Lord threaded his fingers in silver locks, messaging the young man’s scalp with a tenderness Sabrina was surprised her father was capable of. The young man stirred and slowly blinked open his eyes, once again having Sabrina bewitched by their stunning color of turquoise. “D-Dark Lord?” he stuttered and immediately sat up. The sheet pooled around his waist, and Sabrina’s eyes were treated to a full view of his chest. However, the blush quickly receded from her face when her gaze landed on the scars peppering his torso. Some of them were short while others long and jagged, but they all disturbingly resembled claw marks. Distaste filled her guts at the thought that her father might have been their author. Meanwhile the young man’s expressive eyes also found her and the confusion in them mirrored her own.

“Hector, I would like you to meet my daughter, Sabrina Morningstar, Queen of Hell,” Lucifer said.

Hector stared at her for a second before bowing his head as deeply as his posture allowed. “Forgive me, Your Grace,” he said. “If I had known you were coming, I would have prepared and better presented myself. I beg for your forgiveness.”

“Erm… it’s alright,” Sabrina replied, baffled by the unfamiliar title — another item in the long list of what she would have to get accustomed to. “I didn’t know I would be coming here either.” She threw an accusing look at her father and received a smirk in return. “Please, just Sabrina is fine. You’re Hector, right?”

“I wouldn’t dare, Your Grace.”

“Do as she insists, Hector. She is not at all used to formalities. She would appreciate it if you address her by her name; it gives her some semblance of her mortal life, am I right, Daughter?”

Hector’s eyes flickered between Lucifer and Sabrina. Sabrina nodded and held out her hand. He blinked at it before taking it with hesitation. His palm was warm and callused, indicating he had held a tool before. She wondered what his profession had been before he ended up in her father’s bed. Oh hell, back, back, she barked at herself. She didn’t want to chase that thought right now.

“Now that Sabrina has settled in Hell, I hope you two will maintain an amicable atmosphere, perhaps even befriending each other.”

“I will try my best, Dark Lord,” Hector said with another bow. “I hope Her Gra—Sabrina doesn’t find me a terrible bore.”

Sabrina honestly didn’t know how to respond to that. Fortunately she didn’t have to because Lucifer was busy running his hand through Hector’s hair again. She found it mildly disturbing, for it looked like her father was petting the young man. “My daughter and I have some business to discuss. You can go back to sleep and continue your dream, Child. I will come back to you later.”

Sabrina raised her brows at Lucifer’s pet name but neither he nor Hector paid her any attention. “Yes, Dark Lord,” Hector answered demurely and after one last glance at Sabrina, he lied back down and closed his eyes. In a matter of seconds, he appeared to be in deep slumber, same as when they entered the chamber.

Weird. Was he that exhausted? Again, she shouldn’t be surprised because it was her dad.

She really needed to steer away from that line of thinking.

“That was awkward,” Sabrina said once they were out of the chamber. “Never have I thought I would meet your… paramour.” Sabrina made a face. “Is that who he is?”

“You have already met — and may I add — plotted with Lilith.”

“Not when she was on your bed and practically naked.”

Her words coerced a small chuckle out of Lucifer.

“Does Lilith know him? Where was he when you were—”

“Imprisoned by my daughter in the flesh Acheron?” Lucifer cut her, unmaliciously. “No, Lilith has not met him. Hector has never been keen on making acquaintances since he arrived at Hell, quite content with his self-confinement in my bedchamber, and I have not felt the need to make him. He had been sleeping through my temporary dethronement.”

“Sleeping? He only woke up just now?”

“Hector likes to wander through dreams, like a young, adventurous boy. It is unnecessary to deny him that small luxury.”

“That sounds… lonely,” Sabrina commented. “Why did you bring me to see him? It’s not because you want us to be buddies or something, right, because that’d be a whole new level of awkwardness.”

“Sabrina, now that you are ruling Hell beside me, there are matters you have to learn, such as the art of striking bargains.”

“Somehow that sounds quite ominous to me.”

“As Queen of Hell, you are able to give out favors to individuals. In return, you demand something from them that is due to be collected at the time of their death. That ‘something’ is, as you can already guess, is their soul.”

Sabrina wrinkled her nose. “You mean, like Jimmy Platt’s case? Urg, why would I want someone’s soul just so it can burn in Hell?”

Lucifer smiled and stroked her hair, which prompted her to duck but thankfully she was able to act against her instinct. It seemed an innocent enough gesture between father and daughter and it would be unreasonable to deny him, especially when she had already made peace with her parentage. “You still have a lot to learn, my dear daughter,” Lucifer said. “Burning is the last option when you brand a human’s soul as yours, and frankly I find it quite a waste. Let it be today’s lesson for you as a ruler of Hell.”

Fire circled around the pair of father and daughter. When it died out, Sabrina found that they were in a room. Her eyes scanned the surroundings and she came to a conclusion that although it in no way held a candle to Lucifer’s bedchamber, it was quite luxurious in its own right, with intricately carved furniture made of dark wood and a couple items for decoration. There was a gilded vanity in a corner, piled up with various colorful vials and several brushes. Two things stood out in her mind: one, it was a bedroom and two, it wasn’t modern, at least not in her era.

A wanton moan entered her hearing and captured her attention, prompting Sabrina to turn her head to its source. She soon came to sorely regret her action because the scene had her drop her jaws on the carpeted floor.

“Unholy hell, Dad,” Sabrina exclaimed, not bothering to watch her volume; Lucifer would take care of that. “I’m sixteen and you brought me here to watch people having sex!”

Having sex, that was exactly what the two people on the bed were doing, and she wasn’t too innocent to even feign ignorance. That didn’t mean she wanted to play a peeping tom; her dad, though, had another idea in mind.

“You are sixteen and also the Queen of Hell,” Lucifer calmly reminded her, his gaze on the figures on the bed and his expression bordering on boredom. “Surely a little coital display is not too much for you.”

“Doesn’t mean I need to be privy to people’s private lives.”

“You do. It provides context for our lesson today.”

Sabrina shot him a dirty look. She wanted to get the hell out of here, she really did; still, at the same time, her curiosity was piqued. This was the first time she’d had some sort of father-daughter bonding with the Dark Lord — quality time, as they said — and Lucifer seemed to be earnest in passing on whatever infernal knowledge he possessed to her. She’d be damned if she said she wasn’t the least interested.

With a resigned sigh, Sabrina returned to her front seat of this adult-oriented show. She was mildly grateful for the position of the two individuals in the throes of passion: while the man was naked, the woman on top of him was almost fully clothed, and her flowing gown covered the more R-rated aspect of their coupling. She was perturbed, however, by the cuffs tying the man’s hands to the bed posts and the leather cord held firmly in the woman’s petit hand. It was winding around the man’s throat in a way that didn’t seem comfortable, or safe for that matter.

Then Sabrina caught sight of familiar-looking silver hair and she dared came closer for a better look. Her mouth opened in a gape.

Hector. The young man she had only met some minutes ago. She turned to her dad with bewilderment written all over her face, and Lucifer just wordlessly motioned her to continue watching.

“You feel so good,” the redhead above Hector threw her head back and moaned, her cheeks flushed. “You are so good. You’re such a good puppy.” As if to punctuate her sentence, she tightened the leather cord, causing Hector to choke. Sabrina took in a deep breath when she realized his expression was not that of rapture but of pain. His hands balled into fists, his knuckles bone-white.

“Then what does that makes you, Lenore, you who are fucking a dog?” Hector rasped.

It was not his coarse language but rather his acid tone that startled her. Bitterness. Helplessness. Hatred. For both the woman and himself. Sabrina could see those in vivid colors in the haze above them, probably a new power her status allowed her. She wanted to avert her eyes.

She heard a slap, followed by Lenore’s voice. “Talking back is not cute. How many times have I told you? But you never learn, do you? What a terrible, terrible puppy.”

When Sabrina looked at his face, she found three bleeding scratches across his left cheek. The scars littering his torso began to make a lot more sense.

She closed her eyes and wished this perverse show soon came to an end.

When Sabrina opened her eyes, Hector had been untied from the bed posts. He had not dressed and the sheet was pooling around his waist. There were angry scratches on his collarbones and shoulders as well as blooming bruises and chafes around his wrists. His hand was rubbing idle circles on the skin of his throat, where the impression of the leather cord was still much visible.

Lenore had been immaculately dressed. Tossing her hair over her shoulders, she leaned over and kissed his marred cheek, then proceeded to run her tongue over the scratches. “Can’t have this pretty face scarred, can we?” she chirped, looking content like a cat with her cream.

Hector wiped his cheek — completely healed and smooth — with a hand and made no response. Unoffended by his silence, Lenore pecked his lips and fingered the chafed wounds on his wrists, almost caring in her action had she not been their cause in the first place. “You wouldn’t have these if you hadn’t struggled so much,” she cooed in his ear. “I prefer you somewhat feisty, though. Spices things up a bit.” She nibbled his lobe with the pointy ends of her teeth, smiling sweetly at his immediate full-body shiver. “Pets with a bite are more fun while the toothless are just a bore.”

Hector regarded her coolly, his mouth pressed in a straight line. “Oh come on,” Lenore said. “Being sulky doesn’t become you. What would you want for dinner? They have fresh venison today in the kitchen, and I’ll make sure you’ll have some nice juicy steak. Medium-rare?”

When it was clear she wouldn’t coerce any words out of his lips, Lenore just patted his cheek and turned on her heels. “Be sure to get some sleep, Hector. You look a little wilted.” With that she exited the scene.

Left alone, Hector stayed absolutely still. His head hang low, his face hidden by his curtain of hair. His fingers curled around the sheet.

“Is he alright?” Sabrina said with a frown. A sudden, inexplicable urge to wrap her arms around his frame overwhelmed her.

“Just watch.”

Sabrina humphed and shifted on her feet, impatience tugging at her insides while Hector remained in that statue-esque state for what seemed like forever. When he finally moved, his movement was sluggish and clumsy as though he had lost his balance and the floor was spinning under his soles. The sheet slid from his body and Sabrina turned her gaze sideway, watching him stepping to the wardrobe from the corner of her eye. To her utter dismay, it wasn’t clothes he took out but a gleaming blade after a few seconds rummaging the bottom of the wardrobe. Her breath hitched, her mind rushing to the worst possible scenario that Hector was going to end his life right in front of her eyes. That was how he had ended up in Hell, wasn’t it? Fortunately it wasn’t the case as he only plopped down on the floor, the blade secured in his left hand. In one swift motion he ran his right palm across the edge of the blade. His face expressionless, Hector squeezed the blood from his fresh cut and began to draw on the surface. Sabrina’s breath hitched as familiar sigils manifested and the angel witch was coming to realize just what Hector was doing.

“He’s summoning something,” Sabrina said. Lucifer raised a fine eyebrow, challenging her to be more specific in her conclusion. “No, it’s not ‘something’. He’s summoning you!”

“Top marks, Daughter.”

“How did he learn the ritual?”

Lucifer shrugged. “Some ancient tomes, probably. Some occultists selling magic tricks for coins in darkened corners. In the end, the ritual matters not because it is the heart’s desire that calls out to me, not some mortal conventions.”

Sure enough, the blood sigils started glowing, illuminating Hector’s eerily calm face with a red hue. His chest heaving, he traced the tendrils of smoke slithering like vipers on the floor. There were three knocks on the opposite wall and once the last knock ended, the wall warped and soundlessly split open. Hooves made heavy sounds on marble.

“Not a very charming visage, Dad,” Sabrina commented on Lucifer’s horned form.

“The boy was not the least intimidated by my form, and from that moment I started to find him intriguing.”

Sabrina snorted, recalling where being ‘intriguing’ had gotten Hector.

Indeed, he lifted his head and fixed Satan the same cool stare he had given the redhead Lenore. “So the Devil does exist,” Hector said, flat-toned. “Nice to know I didn’t shed my blood to summon a genie.”

“Sadly I have but one wish to grant, and it does not come free.”

Hector glanced at his lacerated palm before replying, “The price is my soul, I wager?”

Satan nodded. “Indeed. Once I give you what you desire, you are branded as mine. I will collect you at the time of your death.”

“Fair enough.”

“What do you desire, Child?”

“Liberty,” he replied at once, holding up his left hand, “from this slave ring.”

His words drew Sabrina’s attention to the band of red and black threads on his ring finger. She could sense traces of magic emitting from it. “Hector was a slave?” she asked incredulously.

Lucifer gestured to the space around them. “A prized pet,” he said. “A sad little bird in a gilded cage.”

Sabrina recalled the redhead woman, and everything started to click.

“You would trade your soul’s eternal freedom for one in this transient existence?” Satan asked.

“Not for freedom,” Hector said. “For vengeance.”

Sabrina felt her heartbeats speed up at Hector’s curt words. No, it wasn’t his words that affected her; it was the intensity underlying them that ran a chill along her spine. She could practically see his hatred condensed in a cloud hovering above his head.

“Very well, Child, you shall have it.”

Satan took Hector’s hand into his and for a moment, the gesture looked like a loose handshake. “This shall hurt,” the Dark Lord warned, milliseconds before his claws impaled Hector’s hand. The young man let out a sharp cry as his entire arm and shoulder convulsed. Sabrina watched intently. It looked like his skin was simultaneously punctured with hundreds little holes, from which blood spurted out and ran in rivulets down the length of his arm to be absorbed into Satan’s hand where it came into contact with Hector’s. The Dark Lord’s eyes became two orbs of fire and mist escaped his parted mouth. Hector’s face twisted and a blood-curling howl tore its way out of his throat.

Then, silence.

Hector’s body sagged and his hand slipped from Satan’s grip to land on the cold marble surface in a thud. His breaths coming in quick, heavy pants, he all but curled up in the fetal position, clutching his left hand to his chest. Tracks of tear gleamed faintly on his tanned face.

“Pain counters pain,” Satan said above him. “This is the only way.”

Sabrina looked at Lucifer and somehow doubt filled her.

Hector took the ring off and dropped it on the floor. “Thank you,” he muttered, putting his shaky hands down in order to lift himself up into a sitting posture. It took him a few tries to succeed. His back leaned against the foot of the bed and he breathed a sigh. “Thank you,” he repeated, clearer this time.

“No need to thank me, Child, though I appreciate the sentiment. Still, since you were willing to pay the ultimate price, I wonder why you did not ask for something more than just nullifying that ring. Unmeasurable powers, perhaps?”

Hector’s lips curved upward in a weary smile as he lifted his right hand. Out of nowhere blue flame flared up in his palm and quickly spread, making a torch out of his hand and at the same time, sending tingles along Sabrina’s witchy nerves. A small crease found its way in between her brows with the unexpected revelation: Hector, fragile-looking and tormented Hector, turned out to be user of a particular dark art, one with a distinct infernal flavor.

He closed his fist and the flame extinguished, leaving his skin perfectly unscathed. “It is my power they want, and those vampires have ruined me for it,” he said. “It is what I’m going to use to destroy them. I even have the perfect strengthener for it.”

Satan hooked a claw under his chin and lifted his face so that Hector had to look straight into his hellish pupils. Hector’s own pupils dilated, the muscles in his neck strained and his Adam’s apple bobbed as though he was swallowing his nerves. “Very well, Child. I shall watch over you until we meet again.”

The room and its furniture blurred and their surroundings started to shift.

“I didn’t notice he was a warlock,” Sabrina said. “He…” felt human was what she was going to say. It also felt wrong somehow.

“Did you?” Lucifer asked. “To say he was a warlock is not entirely true, so it is understandable that you could not sense magic from him until he used it.”

“What was he then?”

“Hector belonged to a rare species of dark art practitioners called ‘Devil Forgemasters’. They are by and large extinct now.”

“Does he still have that power or did you take it from him?”

Lucifer feigned a hurt look, which didn’t suit him at all and so he dropped it. “Why would you think I took away his magic?”

Sabrina shrugged. “Seems like something you would do. That means he still has it?”

“He has not touched it for a long time; it seems superfluous to call upon Hell creatures when he is already in Hell.”

“He can do that?”

“You will see.”

Lucifer led her through a door.

It was on fire, the scene they just entered. Through the raging fire, Sabrina could make out the vague outline of an oval room. It was quite large but sparsely furnished, and the only furniture that stood out was a huge round table in the center, surrounded by a few tall-backed chairs. On one of the chairs was the redhead Lenore, although she wasn’t immaculately groomed as she had been when Sabrina last saw her. Her hair was wild and it appeared a few locks had been crudely torn from her scalp, resulting in bloody trails on her face, once angelic but now distorted in horror and agony as she was pinned to the chair by clawed hands on her slender shoulders. Her hands were splayed on the table and each finger was nailed to the oaken surface like a grotesque specimen in a display case. Despite her earlier impression of Lenore, Sabrina’s stomach churned at the redhead’s gruesome state.

“Please,” she begged, tear stains further smudging her makeup. “Please, it doesn’t have to be like this, Hector. We don’t have to be like this. Let me out and I can fix you and we’ll leave this place behind. We can start anew, don’t you want that?”

“Actually, I don’t want to start anew, Lenore,”

Hector replied from the opposite chair. There was a light tremor in his voice, like he was struggling to form verbal words. “I want everything to end here. You, me, them,” with a hand drenched in blood, he made vague gestures to the floor, “all go up in the pretty flame.”

Sabrina briefly scanned the floor and frowned at the three humanoid scorched marks.

“You’re insane, Hector,” Lenore hissed, baring her fangs and attempting to break free. Her skin sizzled where she was nailed. Hector weakly snapped his fingers and the clawed hands tightened their hold.

“The vampire does have a point.”

Sabrina heard a raspy voice and turned around to see her father. No, not her father who had brought her here and was now watching the scene with his hands behind his back, but the Dark Lord in his Baphomet form.

“So you’ve come to collect me,” Hector said with a smile. He raised both his hands, blood-soaked and shaking. “Right on time. I am ready.”

“Who are you talking to, Hector?”

He turned to her with a finger on his lips. “Be quiet, Lenore. The real people are talking.” One of the clawed hands moved to Lenore’s throat and crushed her windpipe.

Satan’s claw poked the wound on Hector’s abdomen, eliciting a hiss from him. “Your term can be extended, Child, if you are willing to sacrifice an innocent soul.” He leered at Lenore. “She will not do, but any innocent soul you send my way will earn you an additional seven years, which technically allows you to live to the ripe old age.”

“Really, Dad? You’re tempting him to commit murders to live on?” Sabrina said.

“It is called fair trade, Daughter. He needs to be informed of all the terms and conditions, as well as the fine print. You will do so when you are dealing with an individual of interest.”

Sabrina’s expression hardened. Although she considered herself to be pro-life, if Hector agreed to her father’s condition, any slivers of compassion and respect she’d had for him would completely evaporate.

Hector laughed and then grimaced as his laughter seemed to burst open his wound. Blood seeped from the corners of his lips, darkening the gray fabric of his shirt. “There’s hardly any innocent soul anymore,” he rasped.

“Only because you have not looked.”

Hector shook his head. “Take me, Satan. I’m tired of this pain.”

“Very well.”

Hector turned back for one last look at Lenore, whose eyes had rolled to the back of her head, before closing his eyes.

Satan’s arm reached for him and lifted his soul from his battered body. He looked so small, so vulnerable in the Dark Lord’s arms, like a slumbering babe in his parent’s embrace. Fire swirled around them in a whirlwind as the same time real fire began to lick the table.

The scene morphed into familiar landscape. Hell sweet Hell, Sabrina thought.

“Where shall I burn?” Hector asked, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hands once Satan allowed him to stand on his own. He kicked idly at the fire pebble near his boots.

“Who said anything about burning?”

Hector’s head perked slightly at the voice. “Drown? Drawn and quartered? Eaten by rats or thrown into a pit of venomous snakes?”

“Your imagination is quite amusing, Child, but none of the above applies.”

A hand on his shoulder startled him. Hector turned around and came face to face with the Dark Lord’s angelic form — the Harbinger of Light, Lucifer.

Mouth agape, Hector stared dumbly at Lucifer, whose lips were curling into a half-smile. “You look—”

“As I always did, before He took it from me. Does it lighten your heart when your Master looks more of an angel than the Devil?”

“I—I don’t…” Hector stuttered, probably still reeling from the revelation.

Lucifer lifted Hector’s chin with a finger, same as when he had sealed the deal with the human, only this time the risk of his claw ripping thin human skin was absent. In a blink, they were in Lucifer’s bedchamber.

Sabrina had an inkling which direction this was going.

Lucifer had shifted to stand behind Hector. His arm wrapping around the young man’s chest pulled him flushed against his front. “Our deal is that you exchanged your soul for liberty,” Lucifer whispered into his ear. “Do you know what it means?”

Hector shivered against the Dark Lord’s form. “It means I am yours,” he said, resigned. “All of me, for eternity.”

“Not what you imagined? Are you regretting now?”

“I imagined fire and brimstone and relentless, perpetual pain,” Hector said. “But I have no regret because it was my choice. First one I got to make in a long while.”

“Smart child.”

“Do I have to wear a collar?”

Hector’s hand instinctively shot to his throat at the last word and his shoulders grew taut. It would take some time, if ever, before his ghosts began to fade. Sabrina felt sorry for him.

Lucifer chuckled darkly. “Unless you want to. Collars, cuffs, chains, you name it, you get it; in the end, it is your words that bind you to me rather than any physical or magical restraints.”

“That is… a relief,” Hector mumbled with a small smile.

“You seem more disturbed by a mere collar than an eternity of servitude to the literal Devil.”

“I knew what I signed up for. I asked for it so now I’m in no place to complain.”

“Your frankness is quite refreshing,” Lucifer said. “Remember, from now on you belong to me, and you will act according to my will, never against it.”

“Yes.”

“Yes, Dark Lord, which is how you will address me.”

Lucifer’s arm around his torso loosened and he turned Hector so that they were facing each other. He placed both hands on the young man’s shoulders and Hector slowly sank to his knees. “Yes, Dark Lord,” he said, head bent and eyes shut like in a prayer, and kissed the Dark Lord’s hoof.

They were back in Lucifer’s chamber. The Dark Lord sat down on the downy mattress, crossing his legs. His fingers tangled in silver hair, working out a few knots with rare, uncharacteristic patience and tenderness. Sabrina was taken by surprise to feel an odd tug in her guts. It was rather unpleasant to see her dad give his attention to someone else rather than his only child, and for hundreds of years to top. His ministrations caused Hector to stir and let out little soft noises but otherwise he did not wake.

“Jealous?” Lucifer asked, smirking at her.

Sabrina crossed her arms and couldn’t help a petulant pout. “I suppose the lesson is over. Can I leave now so that you can…” she trailed off, gesturing between her dad and Hector. Hell, what was this young man to her? Some sort of stepdad, like Lilith was some sort of a bitter, reluctant and awkward stepmom to her? The thought raised goosebumps on her skin.

Lucifer was sporting an amused look as if he could read her mind. Perhaps he could. Sabrina projected her frustration louder. “Not so hurried, Daughter. Perhaps you could share with me what merits you have gathered from today’s lesson.”

“Uhm… slavery is bad, I guess. Oh dear, what happened between you and Hector wasn’t slavery, was it?”

“You could ask him yourself,” Lucifer suggested. “Perhaps not right now but some time later. Take him out for a walk, for instance. Sit down for tea or show him how his former tormentors are faring in Hell.”

“If I didn’t know better, I’d think you are encouraging us to interact. It’s almost like you want us to be friends, weird as it sounds.”

“I want you to establish a connection.”

“What ‘connection’, Dad?”

“A human connection will benefit both of you. Hector has not got any before you, and here, in Hell, you are not likely to get any beside him.”

“That’s actually… thoughtful, Dad. I’ll think about it. I do have several questions about his ability as a — what you called it — Devil Forgemaster.”

“I am certain he would love to talk about it. Now, before you go, I want you to remember how powerful and binding words are in striking a bargain, and how you can use them to get what you want.”

“Yes, I think I’ve seen how that works,” Sabrina said, glancing at the sleeping form on the bed.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Go ahead.”

“Did you want Hector? I mean, did you decide on the spot that you wanted his soul when he summoned you?”

“I would not have answered if I had had no interest.”

“Why? It’s not like you needed a human to be your cupbearer or something.”

Lucifer arched an eyebrow at her question, then laughed. “Why?” he echoed. “Is ‘want’ not sufficient enough a reason? As the Devil, to not act on my desires would sully my name. I would urge you to do the same, my Queen.”

An idea hit her, and she couldn’t help a smile creeping up her lips. “I think I got it, sort of. You don’t mind if I go put it into practice, do you?”

There was that knowing smirk as if he could read her again. Surprisingly she wasn’t much bothered by it as she should be. “Why would I?” he said.

“See you, Dad.”

Fire responded to her summon eagerly — definitely a perk of her new position. It danced around her body as Sabrina focused on her destination.

The Ninth Ring of Hell, where a certain someone was trapped in stone and would likely be interested in striking a deal with the new Queen of Hell.

End


Writing this story reminds me of a crossover between Fox’s X-Men Cinematic Universe and Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles I once wrote a few years ago, which is far weirder than a crossover between two of Netflix’s fantasy shows.

This is me attempting to give poor, poor Hector a chance for payback after what Lenore did to him in the third season. If he has to be a pet, why not be a pet to the Devil, who doesn’t collar him with a slave ring, trick him or hurt him, physically and mentally, who actually indulges him and takes care of him in his strange Devilish way?

[Dịch] Nếu em có trái tim (Cherik)

Disclaimer: Nhân vật thuộc quyền sở hữu của những người đã tạo ra họ

Tên gốc: If I Had a Heart

Link: https://joel7th.wordpress.com/2019/12/21/cherik-if-i-had-a-heart/

Thể loại: BL, fanfiction, alternate universe

Fandoms: X-Men: Movieverse, Alien: Covenant

Rating: Teen và lớn hơn

Pairings: Cherik – Erik Lehnsherr x Charles Xavier; Dalter – David x Walter

Thể loại: Fanfiction, slash, alternate universe

Nhân vật: Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto), Charles Xavier (Giáo sư X), David 8, Walter

Cảnh báo: có thể hơi máu me một chút (chỉ một chút thôi, thật sự)

Tóm tắt: Charles đưa cho Erik trái tim.


If I had a heart I could love you

If I had a voice I would sing

After the night when I wake up

I’ll see what tomorrow brings

Nếu em có trái tim em có thể yêu chàng

Nếu em có giọng nói em sẽ hát

Sau đêm tối khi em thức dậy

Em sẽ xem những gì ngày mai mang đến

(Fever Ray If I Had a Heart)


Cánh cổng dày nhích ra từng phân, rên rỉ như mụ già đương hấp hối, khi Charles nghiến ra từng chữ thay vì niệm câu chú như bình thường. Giọng hắn khàn đục như những bánh răng trong bộ máy của cánh cổng, quá hạn tra dầu đã lâu, mỗi từ có cảm giác như bị nhai nát rồi nhổ ra. Hầu như chẳng có chút thanh nhã nào trong cách hắn hạ lệnh cho cánh cổng mở ra và Charles không nhịn được một nụ cười cay đắng nhanh chóng biến thành biểu cảm méo mó khi hắn hồi tưởng lời khen Erik dành cho khả năng niệm chú của mình trong lần đầu gặp gỡ, tưởng như đã hàng thế kỷ trước và thật sự đúng là như vậy. Lúc đầu hắn đã tưởng vị thần kia mai mỉa hắn bởi vì sao lại không chứ, Charles bất quá chỉ là một tiểu thần chào đời chưa lâu, nhưng rồi sự thành khẩn từng cơn từng cơn đánh vào thần trí hắn khi hắn tiếp nhận sự cho phép từ Erik để ‘đọc’ ngài. Hắn rã rời, cả thể xác lẫn tâm hồn, và sự thanh nhã đã xuống tận đáy danh sách ưu tiên. Bao nhiêu năm cam tâm tình nguyện giam cầm thần tính trong thân xác phàm nhân đã gây hại không ít cho hắn, và để được gì chứ? Không gì cả. Hắn trở về tay trắng hệt như lúc ra đi. Cảm giác thất bại xuyên sâu trong lòng như lưỡi dao bằng hắc diệu thạch, hắn ôm ngực, khom người, áp bàn tay đẫm mồ hôi vào bề mặt gồ ghề của cánh cửa làm điểm tựa. Trong một lúc thế giới xung quanh chết lặng, chỉ hai thứ còn sống: cơn nhức nhối sau xương sườn và tiếng tim đập liên hồi inh tai nhức óc. Hắn thở hổn hển rồi phải tự nhắc mình việc đó là thừa thãi — thở là một trong nhiều thói quen phàm nhân hắn đã tiếp nhận để hoàn chỉnh vỏ bọc và nó còn vương lại cả khi lớp da con người đã bị trút bỏ.

Trái tim hò hét và cố gắng giành lấy tự do khi chủ nhân của nó ở gần, Charles nghĩ, xoa bóp vùng ngực qua lớp vải áo thấm ẩm như thể an ủi khối thịt chừng đã phát triển tâm trí của riêng mình bên trong lồng ngực. Hắn thành công, như bao lần trước đó, và nó bớt giống một nắm đấm rắn rỏi đập thình thình vào màng nhĩ, thúc giục máu huyết chạy rần rần trong mạch. Trái tim không yên lặng — không bao giờ yên lặng — nhưng tiếng kêu gào của nó đã giảm xuống thành tiếng lầm bầm, và điều này hắn chịu được. Charles đứng thẳng người, không bỏ qua tập hợp những vết trầy, vết mẻ hắn không nhớ có nhìn thấy trên bề mặt cánh cổng lần cuối hắn đóng lại. Một số trông khá mới còn số khác có vẻ lâu như chính thời điểm hắn ra đi, nhưng tất cả đều không giống bào mòn, sứt mẻ thông thường. Ruột gan hắn vặn xoắn cùng nỗi lo không đúng lúc khi hắn hạ lệnh cho cánh cổng đóng lại bằng câu chú niệm ngược rồi bước vội vào trong cấu trúc như hang động.

Charles cảm nhận được chúng trước khi ánh mắt quét đến chúng, hai khối lập phương phát sáng như đôi ngọn hải đăng trong hư vô mờ nhạt, cạnh sắc như lưỡi lam. Tâm trí con người, nơi hắn đã ngụp lặn trong suốt những thế kỷ qua không có hình dạng cố định và chúng tự do nhào nặn thành mọi hình dạng, mọi kích cỡ để chứa suy nghĩ hiện thời, và theo những gì hắn học được từ con người, một vài trong số họ nghĩ rất lớn. Tuy nhiên, hai đứa nhỏ này không phải con người, bất kể vẻ ngoài của chúng dễ dàng qua mắt người phàm lẫn một số tiểu thần ít ỏi kinh nghiệm. Chúng là những tạo vật quý giá của Charles và những vị thần đồng lứa không ai không biết hắn là kẻ truy cầu đến tận cùng sự hoàn mỹ.

Hắn vươn những cánh tay trong đầu và phẩy nhẹ lên bề mặt láng như gương của hai khối lập phương thay cho lời chào. Hai khối lập phương gợn sóng, tỏa ra sự đề phòng và chỉ một giây sau, hắn đối mặt với mũi nhọn của một cặp kiếm. Charles cười mệt mỏi, hài lòng với phản ứng nhanh nhạy của chúng; hắn biết mình đã dạy bảo chúng đủ tốt để giao lại nơi này cùng người duy nhất ở đây cho chúng trong lúc hắn vắng mặt. Có vẻ như chúng không làm hắn thất vọng.

Hắn vươn tay, dùng đầu ngón tay miết nhẹ lưỡi sắc của hai thanh kiếm, không e ngại sẽ bị cắt trúng. “Lâu quá rồi nhỉ,” hắn nói. “Xin chào, David, Walter.”

Hai thanh kiếm run rẩy rồi tan đi và hắn lại đối diện với hai khối lập phương hoàn hảo. “Chủ nhân Charles, chào mừng ngài trở về.” Hắn nghe được trong tai hai giọng nói đồng thanh trong khi đảo mắt nhìn quanh không gian hình vòm, hít thở bầu không khí quen thuộc đã bị thời gian ít nhiều làm cho xa lạ. Một mùi hương trong trẻo đượm hơi sương gọi lên nỗi hoài niệm nhói đau. Nhà, giọng nói trong đầu hắn thì thào, hổn hển và phấn khởi. Không phải chốn dung thân hắn đã xây dựng bằng sự vụng về của kẻ nhập môn trong những năm đầu đời để có nơi trở về hay căn chòi đơn sơ hắn đã sống trong thân phận con người, mà là nhà bằng mọi nghĩa.

Và nhà là nơi trái tim ở.

Hiện tại Charles đang nhìn trái tim của mình, được tựa vào lưng ghế cao đóng từ gỗ hồng sắc, những ngón tay dài, khẳng khiu buông lỏng và đặt trên tay dựa dát vàng. Mắt ngài đang mở, các màu sắc trong chúng chuyển động như chất lỏng và không ngừng biến đổi cùng ánh sáng và góc độ, chúng đang nhìn thẳng đến hướng Charles.

Trái tim sau xương sườn Charles yên lặng, yên lặng đến nỗi nó dường như không tồn tại trong khi chỉ vừa nãy còn là một thứ hoang dại không ngơi nghỉ. Hắn dường như không cảm thấy mạch đập.

Charles rút ngắn khoảng cách giữa họ bằng ba bước dài đến khi hắn thấy bóng mình phản chiếu trong đôi mắt như thủy tinh không chớp — luôn nhìn nhưng không bao giờ thấy, và tình trạng đó đã kéo dài hàng thế kỷ. Hắn cố nén cảm giác chìm xuống trong ngực và bưng lấy khuôn mặt bằng hai tay, say sưa thoáng chốc trong tiếng ngân của mạch sống dưới làn da mịn màng, ấm áp. Erik của hắn, vẫn mạnh mẽ bất kể tháng năm biến động. Mãi đến khi nút cột trong lòng hắn được một luồng thanh thản tháo bỏ Charles mới nhận ra lo lắng của mình vô lý đến nhường nào: bất kể tình trạng hiện tại, Erik vẫn là một vị thần đáng nể sở hữu sức mạnh vượt xa sức mạnh của Charles, và trên thế gian chỉ có vài thế lực có thể gây nguy hiểm cho ngài. Ngón tay cái của hắn miết theo đường xương quai hàm nổi bật, không thấy dấu vết của râu; hai đứa sinh đôi đã làm rất tốt việc chăm chút ngoại hình cho ngài. “Tôi đã về rồi, Erik,” hắn thầm thì, đưa mặt lại càng lúc càng gần đến khi môi hắn và môi Erik chỉ cách một sợi tóc. “Tôi nhớ ngài đến mức tôi nghĩ mình đã phát điên.”

Lời thú nhận chuyển thành môi hắn ấn nhẹ lên môi Erik. Nụ hôn luôn trong sáng lúc bắt đầu — luôn luôn là vậy, khúc dạo đầu ngắn ngủi trước khi phần nguyên thủy trong họ tiến lên kiểm soát — cho đến khi sự hoà trộn giữa khát khao và ham muốn, bọc lại trong tấm nhung tuyệt vọng, bùng lên. Hắn hé miệng, đầu lưỡi lần theo viền môi Erik trong nỗ lực vô vọng thắp lại ngọn lửa từ tro tàn trong khi hắn thả tự do cho tâm trí đuổi theo bóng ma của những lần va chạm cuồng nhiệt xưa kia. Hơi ẩm đọng ở khoé mắt khi cánh cửa kiềm chế ký ức được phép mở ra trong thoáng chốc.

Mọi hành động của hắn đều được sự thụ động đáp lại và mặc dù bản thân đã lường trước điều này, Charles không kiềm được hít sâu một hơi khi giữa ngực chợt đau nhói. Với hiện thực tàn nhẫn đè nặng lên hai vai, hắn lùa những ký ức cùng Erik vào một góc an toàn trong đầu và kéo bản thân về thực tại để sau cùng đã nhận biết sự hiện diện của hai kẻ đứng hai bên ghế Erik.

“Hai ngươi làm tốt lắm,” Charles khen ngợi, nhìn qua hai khuôn mặt giống hệt nhau và bị xao nhãng thoáng chốc bởi những màu sắc không ngừng luân chuyển trong mắt chúng khi chúng đứng hướng mặt về phía ánh sáng, được ánh sáng làm nổi bật những đường nét sắc xảo trên khuôn mặt, đặc biệt là quai hàm như được đẽo gọt. Charles đã tỉ mỉ tái hiện từng nét và nỗ lực hắn bỏ ra thấy rõ trong sự giống nhau kỳ dị khi chúng đứng cạnh Erik, đôi lúc còn tạo cảm giác rờn rợn chính người tạo ra chúng là Charles cũng không miễn nhiễm. Hắn thường tự hỏi Erik sẽ nói gì khi ngài thức dậy và phát hiện Charles đã tạo một cặp homunculus phỏng theo hình dạng của ngài. Hắn hy vọng Erik chỉ cho là một trong những nét lập dị của Charles chứ không nghĩ hắn cố tình tìm vật thay thế.

“Cảm ơn, chủ nhân,” cả hai cùng nói, đồng loạt cúi người bốn mươi lăm độ.

“Những vết trầy, vết mẻ trên cánh cửa,” Charles nói, ra hiệu về hướng lối vào, “có nhiều cuộc tấn công không?”

“Có một số cuộc nhưng chưa kẻ nào phá được cánh cổng.” Kẻ có mái tóc vàng trả lời trong khi người anh em sinh đôi tóc nâu của gã im lặng, mắt nhìn người sáng tạo ra chúng và có vẻ hoàn toàn hài lòng với việc để người anh nói thay cho cả hai. Charles không định sẵn tính cách hay tật cụ thể trong đầu khi tạo ra chúng và hắn thậm chí còn ngạc nhiên — nhưng không kinh sợ — khi biết chúng có khả năng phát triển. Cho những tạo vật của mình tự do ý chí có lẽ là điều không nên — Erik chắc chắn không tán thành — nhưng Charles chưa bao giờ là kẻ giam hãm bản thân trong lối nghĩ thông thường và hắn thấy không hại gì khi để chúng tự quyết kẻ nào sẽ là giọng nói của cả hai hay liệu một gã muốn trông khác biệt hẳn với anh em của mình bằng cách sở hữu một mái tóc vàng.

Ánh mắt Charles đi một đường từ cổ Walter xuống vai và tập trung vào một bộ phận bị thiếu. “Tay ngươi, Walter,” hắn nhíu mày, ra lệnh gã đưa cổ tay phải lên để hắn quan sát kỹ hơn. Qua những mô đã cứng lại và đoạn xương nham nhở thòi ra cổ tay cụt ngủn Charles có thể đoán đó không phải một vết cắt gọn gàng, cũng không quá mới.

“Có một kẻ có khả năng xuyên qua vật thể, kể cả những vật được thần chú bảo vệ. Tôi phạm sai lầm và hắn đã tiến đến quá gần. Tôi xin lỗi,” Walter nói bằng giọng trầm hơn giọng David — một điểm nữa để phân biệt hai đứa. “David đã vá tôi lại.”

Charles cau mày trước tác phẩm của David, cho thấy rõ gã đã dùng biện pháp đốt để cầm máu, và lắc đầu. “Hiển nhiên trị thương không phải thế mạnh của gã rồi. Lúc đó ngươi có đau không?”

David liếc vội qua khuôn mặt dửng dưng của người anh em khi Walter đáp, “Không đau lắm. Thật ra anh tôi đã khá lên nhiều trong khi ngài đi vắng.”

Charles khịt mũi. Với giọng đều đều như đang tường thuật và khuôn mặt tỉnh bơ đó, khó mà biết được Walter đang bênh vực hay chế nhạo anh trai gã, có khi là cả hai vì khiếu hài hước hiếm hoi của thằng bé này thường khô như ngói. Charles càng buồn cười hơn với vẻ mặt bị phản bội mà David kín đáo trưng ra.

“Giữ yên nào,” Charles yêu cầu, nhẹ nhàng đỡ lấy cổ tay Walter bằng hai tay. Những từ ngữ thuộc một ngôn ngữ thất truyền tuôn ra và đông lại khi hắn niệm bằng giọng vững vàng, trôi chảy và chúng trở thành sợi ánh sáng xanh dương cuốn quanh cổ tay cụt. Mắt Walter mở to còn David nhảy chân sáo đến cạnh em gã, khuôn mặt sáng bừng và những đường nét sắc xảo đều tan chảy thành vẻ mặt tò mò con trẻ hầu như không giấu diếm. Ngày lúc này hắn không giống bản sao của một vị thần lâu năm mà giống một chú cún phấn khích, vì lẽ đó Charles đã cố gắng không đay nghiến từng âm tiết.

Tay hắn còn lưu lại ngay cả khi thần chú đã hoàn thành, những ngón tay biếng nhác vuốt ve mu bàn tay Walter thêm vài giây trước khi hắn vỗ nhẹ một cái rồi thả tay gã.

“Thế nào?” Charles hỏi mặc dù biết thừa công trình của hắn là hoàn hảo. Chẳng phải tâm trí hắn đã ghi nhớ cấu trúc xương và bề mặt da của nó như chính tay mình hay sao?

Walter co bóp bàn tay vừa hồi phục với niềm thán phục không nói thành lời nhưng hiển hiện rõ trong nếp nhăn nhỏ giữa hai hàng lông mày khi gã quan sát từng ngón. Kế bên hắn David đang mang biểu cảm kinh ngạc.

“Cảm giác rất tốt. Cảm ơn ngài, thưa ngài Charles,” Walter nói, cúi mình.

“Thế thì tốt. Giờ ta cần hai ngươi giúp ta một việc.” Hắn nhìn sang David. “David, ngoan ngoãn lấy những con dao ra giúp ta, được không?”

Đá cẩm thạch khiến hắn thấy lạnh lưng, nhất là khi đang ở trần. Charles quay đầu sang một bên và nhìn thấy Erik nằm trên phiến đá tương tự đặt song song với phiến của hắn. Giống như Charles, ngài ở trần, câm lặng nhìn lên trần hình vòm. Charles nhắm mắt để tránh cho mình cảm giác ngắt véo đến từ biểu cảm con rối kia bởi vì bất kể Charles thuyết phục bản thân bao nhiêu chăng nữa, hắn vẫn không thể quen với nó.

David đã mang ra những con dao được bọc trong tấm da dê, gỡ dây buộc và xếp từng con trên phiến đá. Những con dao bằng hắc diệu thạch đen bóng có thể lướt qua da thịt thần linh như dao nung đỏ xuyên qua bơ. Đứng lừng lững bên cạnh Charles, David cầm một con dao trong tay, thuần thục như bác sĩ phẫu thuật trong khi em gã thực hiện động tác tương tự. Ánh sáng phản chiếu trên cạnh sắc rồi bị thu vào tập hợp màu sắc trong mắt gã. “Ngài sẵn sàng chưa, thưa ngài Charles?” gã hỏi với vẻ mặt bình lặng, mọi dấu vết phấn khích ban nãy đã biến sạch.

Charles gật đầu nhẹ. “Nhớ truyền lời ta lại cho ngài ấy. Ta có thể tin cậy ngươi với việc này, phải không?”

“Dĩ nhiên, thưa chủ nhân.”

“Tốt,” hắn nói, vỗ nhẹ cẳng tay để trần của David vì gã đã xắn tay áo lên. “Bắt đầu thôi.”

Charles không thấy đau kể cả khi hắn cảm nhận rõ ràng mũi dao lún vào ngực. Những ký hiệu ma thuật khắc dọc thân bảo đảm rằng nó có thể cắt bén ngọt nhưng không bao giờ gây đau. Quai hàm thả lỏng và môi hé, hắn quan sát với cảm giác siêu thực trái tim vay mượn được nhấc khỏi lồng ngực mở toang, mỗi nhịp đập hoang dại được tiếp sức bởi nỗi hân hoan tự do khiến máu bắn ra đôi bàn tay đang nâng nó bằng niềm tôn kính, đến khi những giọt hồng ngọt lớn rỉ qua kẽ giữa những ngón tay nhợt nhạt thon dài. Hắn thấy mình nhẹ như cọng lông vũ và trống rỗng như thể mọi thứ bên trong đã hoá lỏng và đang nhỏ xuống nền nhà như nước từ một chiếc vại nứt. Hắn thấy mình đếm những tiếng lộp độp để níu giữ sự thanh tỉnh đang trượt dần dần. Khuôn mặt David — hay Walter nhỉ — xuất hiện trong tầm nhìn lốm đốm của Charles, môi gã mấp máy nhưng tai Charles đã nhét đầy bông gòn, cả miệng cũng vậy khi hắn thử đáp lời. Tấm bịt mắt hạ xuống mí mắt như đeo chì, triệu hồi màn đêm không thể tránh khỏi đến nuốt chửng thần trí hắn.

Khuôn mặt của chính mình không phải thứ đầu tiên hắn mong thấy khi mở mắt, thật sự mở mắt, và nhìn thấy.

Từ giây phút trần hình vòm hiện lên rõ nét trong tầm mắt, hắn đã hồi hộp đếm từng giây chờ được thấy cảnh tượng khiến tim hắn nhói đau khi đôi mắt xanh sáng rực nhìn xuống hắn. Nếu có thể cử động thì hắn đã làm rồi, nhưng tứ chi cứng ngắc do lâu rồi không vận động và phải mất ít thời gian mới đánh thức được chúng. Trong lúc đó, hắn đành chịu nằm trên phiến đá lạnh, chịu đựng tiếng tim đập thình thình trong tai. Đó là lúc hắn nhận ra mình có tim, rằng trái tim đã trở về để lấp đầy khoảng trống trong ngực hắn.

Điều đó có nghĩa là…

Huyết áp hắn tăng vọt rồi đột ngột chùng xuống khi khuôn mặt của chính hắn thay vì khuôn mặt Charles hiện ra. Khuôn mặt của chính hắn với mái tóc vàng được chải chuốt kỹ lưỡng mà hắn ngay lập tức căm ghét theo một cách không thể lý giải bởi mối ác cảm ăn sâu bén rễ đối với một nữ thần có thân hình kim cương theo nghĩa đen.

“Chủ nhân Erik, chào mừng ngài trở lại.”

Hắn thấy gã phân thân tóc vàng kia mở miệng nhưng lại nghe được hai giọng nói. Nghiêng đầu, Erik chỉ ngạc nhiên đôi chút khi nhìn thấy một tên nữa, lần này là một gã tóc nâu sẫm mang vẻ mặt ít biểu cảm hơn. “Các ngươi có bao nhiêu người?” hắn hỏi.

“Chỉ có hai chúng tôi thôi,” gã tóc vàng đáp. “Tôi là David còn cậu ta là Walter. Xin phép cho chúng tôi hỗ trợ ngài.”

Erik từ chối bàn tay David bằng cách tự mình ngồi dậy. Trái tim đã trở lại đúng vị trí, bơm sự sống suốt dọc cơ thể, Erik bắt đầu cảm thấy sức mạnh đổ đầy tứ chi. Chừng chút nữa thôi hắn có thể chạy hay thậm chí phóng lên bầu trời.

Cuối cùng hắn đã thấy Charles. Đang nằm trên chiếc giường bằng đá cẩm thạch cứng lạnh và trông như thể hoà vào chất đá bởi làn da trắng bệch, mắt cậu nhắm nghiền và lồng ngực phẳng lặng.

Tim hắn ngừng đập trước cảnh tượng ám ảnh của Người Đẹp Say Ngủ, đang chịu lời nguyền cần nhiều hơn một nụ hôn bằng tình yêu đích thực để phá giải, và trong một lúc lâu, hắn cảm thấy như ngực mình lại trống rỗng. Đầu gối run rẩy, hắn trượt xuống khỏi phiến đá và lẽ ra đã ngã sấp nếu không nhờ phản xạ nhanh nhẹn của David. Lần này Erik chấp nhận để gã giúp bước vài bước đến bên Charles.

Má Charles mát lạnh dưới lòng bàn tay hắn nhưng Erik cảm nhận được tiếng vọng của sức mạnh chảy dưới làn da cậu. Nó ngâm nga với hắn khi hắn kêu gọi bằng sức mạnh của mình trong khi thần trí Charles là một khoảng trống câm lặng.

“Charles tạo ra hai ngươi.”

“Vâng, ngài Charles tạo ra chúng tôi để chăm sóc nơi này,” gã tóc vàng — David — trả lời.

“Và cả ta nữa nhỉ? Nghe rất giống cậu ta,” Erik cười khan, tuy nhiên trong câu thứ hai hắn nói ẩn chứa tình thương mến. Charles có lần từng đùa về việc tạo những ‘đứa trẻ’, và Erik không nên ngạc nhiên khi những ‘đứa trẻ’ đó hoá ra được tạo theo hình mẫu của hắn. Có lẽ Charles đã quên câu khen thoáng qua đó nhưng Erik thì nhớ như in tim mình đập rộn ràng thế khi gã thần non trẻ kia nói hắn “đẹp”. Cùng thời khắc đó hắn đi đến kết luận Charles chính là tử huyệt của hắn.

“Ngài Charles có tin nhắn dành cho ngài,” David nói, trao đổi ánh mắt mới gã em sinh đôi trước khi Erik nghe thấy giọng Charles phát ra từ miệng gã. “Tôi xin lỗi, Erik, tôi lại làm ngài thất vọng rồi.”

Erik thở ra một hơi nhẹ. “Ta hiểu rồi,” hắn nói, chẳng hướng đến ai cụ thể. Lẽ ra hắn nên nhìn thấy trước kết quả này khi cảm thấy nhịp đập đầu tiên từ tim trong hàng thế kỷ.

Có khi như thế là tốt nhất, hắn nghĩ. Đáng lẽ hắn nên là người đuổi theo Vua Bóng Đêm để lấy lại trái tim của Charles ngay cả khi thực thể tàn ác đó lẩn khuất trong thần trí con người và sức mạnh của Charles dường như phù hợp hơn với nhiệm vụ đó. Tuy nhiên, săn đuổi là chuyên môn của Erik trong khi Charles thiên về sáng tạo và chữa trị, hắn có hàng trăm phương pháp lôi con mồi ra khỏi hang ổ, dù về mặt tâm thần hay vật chất. Nhưng rồi ý nghĩ rằng Charles, một vị thần trẻ tràn đầy sức sống, trở thành xác sống đã giết hắn, và hắn ấn tim mình vào ngực Charles nhanh hơn hắn kịp nghĩ. Đó là một sai lầm ích kỷ đã khiến cả hai tốn mất mấy trăm năm.

Lần này sẽ không thế nữa, Erik quyết định.

“David và — Walter, phải không?”

“Vâng, ngài Erik?” Hai giọng nói, một lời đáp.

Hắn đứng dậy không cần giúp đỡ và động tác mang nhiều sự tao nhã hơn lúc trước — nhờ đầu gối vững chãi. Hắn càng cảm kích hơn với sự thật rằng mọi thứ kim loại quanh đó reo hò cuồng nhiệt khi hắn ngập ngừng vươn sức mạnh ra.

“Ta cần hai ngươi làm cho Charles việc hai ngươi từng làm cho ta.”

Hầu như chẳng có chút thanh nhã nào trong cách hắn hạ lệnh cho cánh cổng mở ra, và thành thực mà nói thì Erik không quan tâm đến thanh nhã gì cả. Thanh nhã là lĩnh vực của Charles trong khi Erik ưu tiên hiệu quả và hoàn thành việc cần làm, bất kể cái giá phải trả. Hắn khép mắt, cảm nhận khung kim loại của chiếc ghế Charles ngồi và qua đó, cảm nhận hình dáng và hơi ấm từ cơ thể Charles. Từ lúc thức dậy hắn chưa từng cảm nhận môi Charles. Không, điều đó dành cho ngày hắn trở về, mang theo đầu của Vua Bóng Đêm và trái tim của người hắn yêu.

Không gì sách được sức mạnh của tình yêu và hận thù tạo động lực cho một người, và hắn có cả hai trong trái tim già cỗi của mình.

Kết thúc


Tớ đã muốn viết một câu chuyện mà trong đó Charles trao cho Erik trái tim của mình, nghĩa bóng lẫn nghĩa đen. Hơn nữa, còn là Charles tự tay móc tim mình ra khỏi ngực rồi đặt vào khoảng trống trong ngực Erik nữa cơ. Chẳng rõ lý do vì sao nữa, chỉ muốn viết vậy thôi. Zigzag một hồi thì fic này ra đời và đúng là có chi tiết Charles đưa trái tim cho Erik thật, nhưng trái tim đó vốn thuộc về Erik, còn trái tim của Charles đã bị Shadow King cướp/trộm mất. Vì tớ cực thích cặp người máy David và Walter (đều do Mike Cá Mập đóng) trong Alien: Covenant nên tớ cố gắng đưa cả hai vào fic.

Đây là video chính thức của bài If I Had a Heart. Tớ không khuyến khích xem lúc 12 giờ đêm đâu nhé.

[Dịch] I Wanna Live, Not Just Survive Tonight (Fassavoy)

Tên gốc: I Wanna Live, Not Just Survive Tonight

Tác giả: enby0angel

Nguồn: https://archiveofourown.org/works/12463926

Ngôn ngữ: tiếng Anh

Người dịch: Joel Freak

Thể loại: BL, fanfiction, crossover

Fandoms: Assassin’s Creed (2016), Wanted (2008)

Pairing: Fassavoy – Callum “Cal” Lynch x Wesley Gibson

Rating: Teen và lớn hơn

Nhân vật: Callum “Cal” Lynch, Aguilar de Nerha, Wesley Gibson

Tóm tắt:

Tuy nhiên, điều nổi bật nhất mà hắn nhớ được là đôi mắt xanh lấp lánh như thể chúng chứa đựng sao trời, cách mà chúng ánh với sự thích thú và bừng sáng xuyên bóng đêm.

**Chú ý: Bản dịch đã có sự cho phép của tác giả

IMG_2720

——–******——–

Hiệu Ứng Tràn. Đó là cách Sofia gọi nó – những ảo giác và mộng mị xuất hiện sau lần đầu hắn dùng cỗ máy Animus, những hình ảnh của Aguilar de Nerha và những giấc mơ về cuộc đời của ông. Hắn chật vật điều khiển và đè nén chúng trong một khoảng thời gian dài, nhưng có vẻ cuối cùng hắn đã phần nào có được chút kiểm soát. Ít nhất, hắn bắt đầu quen với chúng. Những cơn đau đầu không còn tệ như trước nữa.

Khi những ảo ảnh đặc biệt này mới xuất hiện, chúng đều là những cái nhìn thoáng qua trong khi mơ. Nhưng sau một thời gian, hắn dần nhận ra một số cảm xúc lạ lẫm, những cảm xúc chỉ có thể thuộc về Aguilar. Bây giờ hắn đã quen với giận dữ, hận thù và mất mát, nhưng những cảm xúc khác bắt đầu trồi lên – chúng mới mẻ và lạ lùng, hắn chỉ có thể nói như vậy.

Rất nhanh, những giấc mơ cho thấy hình ảnh thoáng qua của tấm vải trắng, và Callum gần như cảm nhận được nó khi hắn nhớ được Aguilar lướt bàn tay trên tấm vải. Hắn nhớ được mái tóc màu sẫm, rất mềm mại dưới đầu ngón tay khi Aguilar nhớ được đã từng luồn ngón tay vào mái tóc đó trong bóng tối và sự tĩnh mịch của màn đêm. Tuy nhiên, điều nổi bật nhất mà hắn nhớ được là đôi mắt xanh lấp lánh như thể chúng chứa đựng sao trời, cách mà chúng ánh lên với sự thích thú và bừng sáng xuyên bóng đêm. Chúng mang màu sắc của bầu trời mùa hạ, và Aguilar nhớ được ông đã không đủ vốn từ để diễn tả trọn vẹn chúng.

Và bởi vì Aguilar nhớ được đôi mắt đó, Callum cũng nhớ được.

Callum không biết đôi mắt, mái tóc, tấm vải thuộc về ai; hắn không chắc mình muốn tìm hiểu. Dù Callum đã quá quen ứng phó với chết chóc và mất mát nhưng hắn không thể rũ bỏ những cảm giác và xúc cảm đi cùng giấc mơ về đôi mắt xanh. Hắn chưa từng cảm thấy như vậy, và hắn không nghĩ ra từ nào – tiếng Anh hay tiếng Tây Ban Nha – chỉ để thử miêu tả.

Đó là… khao khát, gần như thế; nỗi khao khát được thấy lại đôi mắt ấy, để chúng xoa dịu hắn, để chúng nhìn thấu hắn.

Tỉnh dậy từ một giấc mơ, toát mồ hôi và thở hồng hộc, làn da râm ran, Callum nhận thức rõ ràng cảm xúc mà hắn đang trải qua mãnh liệt tại giây phút này là gì – yêu. Aguilar de Nerha đã yêu người mắt xanh bí ẩn này, và Callum chẳng biết gì về người đó cả.

Thật bực mình.

Những giấc mộng ngắn tiếp tục và một đêm nọ, Callum – đúng hơn là Aguilar – nghe thấy người mắt xanh cười. Tiếng cười rất đẹp, trong trẻo như chuông ngân nhà thờ. Callum tỉnh giấc cùng cảm giác trái tim sắp xông khỏi lồng ngực, và suy nghĩ đầu tiên hiện lên trong hắn là, “Hoá ra Aguilar đã yêu một người đàn ông.”

Những giấc mơ bắt đầu tràn vào tầm nhìn khi hắn không ngủ. Hắn sẽ thấy bóng vải trắng toát lướt qua tầm mắt và khi ngoảnh lại hắn sẽ chẳng thấy ai. Thỉnh thoảng hắn cam đoan mình cảm thấy bàn tay lạ, mát lạnh rà trên da khi hắn nằm trên chiếc giường bẩn thỉu trong một nhà trọ ven đường, chờ giấc ngủ đến chiếm lấy mình. Hắn cảm thấy hơi thở ấm áp phật vào tai khi đứng nhìn thành phố chuyển động xung quanh. Một lần Callum suýt thấy được gương mặt người đó. Hắn đang đứng một mình trên nóc một toà nhà chọc trời, quan sát những ánh đèn của thành phố và lắng nghe tiếng rì rầm của xe cộ bên dưới; quan sát nhưng không bị quan sát. Hắn vừa bước một bước lại gần mép của toà nhà thì một giọng trong trẻo nói tiếng Tây Ban Nha thanh nhã cất lên, “Cẩn thận đấy, hỡi người em yêu.”

Hắn quay ngoắt lại, lưỡi dao gắn trên cánh tay bắn ra, rồi hắn đông cứng trước một ảo ảnh. Đó là chàng trai choàng tấm vải trắng, đứng cách hắn hơn một mét. Hắn nhớ ra từng thấy màu xanh ngây ngất trong mắt chàng trai nhưng những đường nét trên gương mặt cậu biến mất khỏi ký ức hắn cùng với ảo ảnh. Callum thả lỏng, rút lưỡi dao lại dưới tay áo. Hắn nghe máu mình đập thình thịch trong tai. Điều khiến Callum ngạc nhiên nhất là hắn không thấy giận chàng trai vì đã lén tiếp cận hắn hay khiến hắn bối rối. Dường như hắn đã quen với cảm giác đó và hắn nhận ra mình không hề thấy phiền lòng.

Rất nhanh Callum hầu như không thể nghĩ đến việc gì khác ngoài chàng trai ám ảnh những giấc mơ của hắn. Khi không di chuyển Quả Táo từ nơi trú ẩn này sang nơi trú ẩn khác, hắn cố gắng vẽ cậu. Hắn không đếm nổi mình đã vẽ đôi mắt bao nhiêu lần nhưng lại không thể nhớ ra phần còn lại của gương mặt. Có lần hắn đã tức giận đến mức ném cây bút trong tay về phía đối diện của căn phòng. Hắn nghe thấy nó đập mạnh vào tường và gãy đôi.

Làm thế nào cuộc sống của hắn trở thành thế này? Hắn dành ra nhiều ngày cố gắng chạm đến những ký ức thậm chí không thuộc về hắn và cố nhớ ra diện mạo của chàng trai. Cậu ta đã chết được 500 năm rồi, hắn còn quan tâm làm gì? Thế nhưng…

Thế nhưng hắn quan tâm. Hắn quan tâm vì hắn không thể tống khứ đứa con trai chết tiệt đó ra khỏi đầu dẫu cố gắng thế nào. Bất cứ khi nào hắn chịu tổn thương, chàng trai đó đều ở bên hắn cùng giọng nói nhẹ nhàng và ngôn từ xoa dịu. Callum ghét cái cách hắn bắt đầu tiếp nhận những ảo ảnh, thậm chí còn ham muốn chúng. Sao Rikkin không để hắn chết cho rồi, chết tiệt?

“Chúng ta không bị thời gian chi phối, tình yêu của em ạ,” chàng trai nói và bao phủ bàn tay của Callum – của Aguilar – bằng tay của mình. “Chúng ta còn cả cuộc đời ở phía trước, cả vĩnh hằng. Em trải qua từng ngày chờ đợi chàng quay về với em. Em có thể chờ thêm một chút nữa, thân yêu của em.”

“Tại sao?” Callum thì thầm. “Cậu vẫn còn chờ sao? Cậu là ai?”

“Em thuộc về chàng. Em thuộc về chàng và chàng thuộc về em. Chỉ điều đó là quan trọng thôi.”

Callum lắc đầu. Điều này chẳng có nghĩa lý gì cả – nhưng mà từ trước đến giờ, có phần nào trong cuộc đời hắn có nghĩa lý gì đâu? Hắn thở dài. Chàng trai nhẹ nhàng ngâm nga một khúc hát ru, dần dần chuyển qua hát khẽ, và Callum thấy mình chìm vào giấc ngủ. Đêm đó, hắn nằm mộng thấy chàng trai nói với mình, “Hứa với em rằng chàng sẽ lành lặn trở về bên em.”

Hắn nhớ được một giọng chỉ có thể là của Aguilar từ miệng mình đáp lại, “Ta là một Sát Thủ. Lũ Dòng Đền khốn nạn sẽ không bao giờ ngăn được ta trở về bên em, hỡi tình yêu của ta.”

Từ lâu Callum đã bắt đầu trông đợi những điều không ngờ đến, đặc biệt là những điều liên quan đến ảo ảnh của chàng trai mắt xanh luôn ở bên hắn bất kể hắn đi đâu, tuy nhiên, tình cờ gặp được một sát thủ siêu nhân không phải chuyện hắn giải thích được.

Hắn đang ở Đông Moravia, Quả Táo được giữ an toàn trong chiếc túi khoác qua vai khi hắn len lỏi qua các con phố. Cách đây không xa có một tu viện; chắc hắn sẽ an toàn ở đó trong một thời gian.

Hắn bước vào toà nhà cũ, đầu cúi thấp, mũ trùm đầu che kín nửa khuôn mặt và một tay thường trực ở trên chiếc túi. Hắn đi qua vài người nhưng không ai quá chú ý đến hắn bởi vì với họ, hắn chỉ là một kẻ lang thang tìm chỗ trú qua đêm. Dù vậy, Callum biết mình đang bị theo dõi. Hắn nhìn quanh, vờ tỏ ra hứng thú với kiến trúc của toà nhà nhưng không thấy ai để ý đến mình. Hắn cúi thấp đầu như cũ và tiếp tục bước đi.

Hắn dừng lại. Ai đó đang ngâm nga và Callum nhận ra khúc ca đó, giọng hát đó ở bất cứ đâu. Đó là khúc hát ru tiếng Tây Ban Nha chàng trai mắt xanh thỉnh thoảng hát, khúc hát luôn luôn giúp hắn bình tâm. Do đó, mặc kệ đó là quyết định không sáng suốt chút nào, hắn đi theo tiếng ngâm nga.

Hắn im lặng dừng trước lối vào một căn phòng đầy những sợi dệt. Có người đang đứng tựa vào một thứ trông giống như chiếc khung cửi khổng lồ, và đây chắc chắn là người đó ngâm nga. Người đó ngừng lại và Callum cúi xuống sau lối vào, tránh khỏi tầm mắt người đó. Tuy nhiên, hắn không rời đi – hắn đã trải qua quá lâu mà không có được lời giải về thân phận của chàng trai mắt xanh, và chắc chắn đây là một nơi tốt để bắt đầu hơn là ra đi tay trắng. Giọng nói của cả hai giống hệt nhau. Người đó – nam giới – lại bắt đầu ngâm nga, và Callum quá tập trung vào giọng của cậu ta đến mức gần như không nghe thấy có kẻ lén lút tiến đến sau lưng.

Callum quay ngoắt lại và thấy một họng súng chĩa về phía mình, và hắn hất mạnh tay kẻ tấn công khi súng nổ. Viên đạn khiến trần nhà rạn nứt và Callum bị một cú đá nhắm chuẩn vào bụng ném văng ra. Hắn thành công lăn người lại và trở về tư thế cúi mình, nhưng kẻ tấn công lần nữa chĩa súng vào hắn và hắn thấy được ngón tay kẻ đó đang siết dần cò súng và cơ hội duy nhất hắn có là cố gắng cản nó nhưng hắn có thời gian để—

Hắn quăng mình sang một bên và phát súng đó quá to nên chắc chắn không thể là một khẩu súng duy nhất. Callum lần nữa xoay người và trông thấy người khi nãy đứng bên cạnh khung cửi hiện tại đang đứng trong hành lang với khẩu súng trong tay và chiếc khăn quàng quấn quanh đầu, che khuất tóc và nửa khuôn mặt dưới khỏi tầm nhìn.

Nhưng mắt cậu ta… trời đất quỷ thần, đó là chàng trai mắt xanh.

Chàng trai điềm tĩnh, trầm lặng, tràn đầy yêu thương có đôi mắt xanh, luôn khoác một tấm vải trắng mềm mại thường ám ảnh giấc mơ của hắn hiện tại vẫn còn sống và khỏe mạnh. Cậu đang mặc một chiếc áo khoác da màu nâu và cầm trong tay một khẩu súng.

Quỷ tha mà bắt gì thế này?

“Tôi không biết anh là ai,” kẻ tấn công Callum hầm hừ, giọng nói có vẻ là nữ, “nhưng chuyện này không liên quan đến anh. Đứng ngoài cuộc đi.”

“Tôi cũng không biết cô là ai,” người mắt xanh đáp, giọng nói khàn và mang đậm chất Mỹ khiến Callum ngạc nhiên, “và thành thật là tôi đếch quan tâm. Cút ngay.”

“Hắn có thứ tôi muốn.”

“Tôi. Không. Quan. Tâm.”

“Nếu anh hạ súng xuống, tôi sẽ để anh sống.”

Người mắt xanh cười lớn. “Cô thật tình không biết tôi là ai, đúng không?” Cậu ta dường như thả lỏng. “Tôi không biết cô là ai nhưng tôi biết cô là. Bọn Dòng Đền các người nghĩ các người thật cao quý và có toàn quyền chi phối kẻ khác. Biết gì không, đồ ngu, không có chuyện đó đâu. Và trước khi cô mở miệng hỏi thì trả lời luôn, tôi không thuộc hội Brotherhood sang chảnh với chữ ‘b’ viết hoa.”

Người phụ nữ cứng người, Callum chứng kiến bàn tay cầm súng của cô ta run lên nhè nhẹ. “Anh thuộc hội Fraternity. Hội Sát Thủ Fraternity.”

Mắt-Xanh nghiêng đầu, ánh mắt lấp lánh niềm vui thú. “Cô không nghĩ chúng tôi bỏ qua chuyện này chứ?”

Người phụ nữ siết chặt súng, nỗ lực ngăn bàn tay run rẩy hiện lên rõ rệt trong động tác. “Anh có thể tiếp tục giữ vị thế trung lập. Đứng ngoài cuộc đi.”

Mắt-Xanh nhướng một hàng lông mày. “Đây là nơi khai sinh hội Fraternity. Cô đang đứng trên lãnh địa của tôi.”

Tất cả diễn ra chỉ trong nửa giây: người phụ nữ nheo mắt và ngón tay cô ta siết cò nhưng Mắt-Xanh cũng hành động tương tự. Hai viên đạn xoáy trong không khí và đâm thẳng vào nhau khiến cả hai đều vỡ tan. Trước khi người phụ nữ kịp hiểu chuyện gì đã xảy ra và bóp cò lần nữa, Mắt-Xanh đã tặng cho cô ta một viên đạn vào chính giữa hai mắt. Cô ta ngã ngửa, đôi mắt mở trừng trừng nhưng không thấy được gì nữa, máu đỏ thẫm tụ thành vũng quanh đầu như một vầng hào quang chết chóc rồi tràn vào các vết nứt gồ ghề trên sàn, lan ra như mạng nhện. Trong khi tất cả những việc này diễn ra, Callum vẫn đang quỳ trong tư thế kỳ dị trên sàn, không chắc bản thân nên làm gì cho phải.

Hắn rời mắt khỏi người phụ nữ đã chết và phát hiện Mắt-Xanh đang nhìn mình với một sự chăm chú đáng sợ. Nó khiến hắn rợn gáy. Đôi mắt giống hệt, không nghi ngờ gì, nhưng chủ nhân của chúng đã thay đổi, bị năm tháng nhào nặn thành một người hoàn toàn khác biệt.

Chàng trai ôn hoà, dịu dàng và tràn đầy yêu thương mà Aguilar de Nerha đã say đắm không còn, và Callum chẳng biết lúc này hắn đang nhìn ai nữa.

“Bọn Dòng Đền chết tiệt.” Giọng nói của Mắt-Xanh kéo hắn ra khỏi dòng suy nghĩ. Đôi mắt cậu không hề rời hắn, kể cả khi cậu giắt khẩu súng vào lưng quần jean. “Chúng toàn xía vào chuyện của người khác nhỉ?”

“Phải,” Callum thấy mình đáp lại. “Chúng là như vậy.”

“Cô ta không làm anh bị thương, phải không?” Đôi mắt rà soát hắn từ trên xuống dưới xem có thương tích nào không.

Trừ vài vết trầy trên bàn tay khi hắn ngã xuống sàn – và mấy vết thương cũ, tất nhiên – Callum không cảm thấy bị đau chỗ nào. “Không,” hắn đáp lời thanh niên và cậu gật đầu. Mắt-Xanh bước tới trước vài bước và chìa tay ra. Callum không chần chừ nắm lấy và để cậu kéo mình đứng lên, một điều bản thân hắn rất bất ngờ. Từ lúc nào hắn không đề phòng người lạ vậy kìa?

Nhưng kẻ dị thường mắt xanh này đâu hẳn là người lạ, phải không? Nhắc tới mới nói, những lời tiếp theo phát ra từ miệng Mắt-Xanh khiến hắn choáng váng.

“Lẽ ra tôi sẽ nói thật mừng khi gặp lại anh nhưng anh không phải anh ấy, đúng không?”

Callum chớp mắt – thanh niên vẫn chưa buông tay hắn. “Không,” hắn nói, giọng run rẩy. “Tôi không phải.”

Mắt-Xanh thở dài, nhìn xuống đất. “Vậy là Aguilar thật sự đã biến mất, phải không?” Đây không phải câu hỏi.

Callum gật đầu. “Phải.”

Mắt-Xanh lần nữa ngước lên nhìn hắn và nhướng một hàng lông mày. “Nếu anh không phải anh ấy, vậy anh là ai?” cậu hỏi.

“Callum. Callum Lynch.” Callum không nỡ rút tay về, còn Mắt-Xanh không có vẻ gì nao núng vì hành vi của hắn cả.

“Rất vui được gặp anh, Callum Lynch,” thanh niên nói, nụ cười hiện rõ trong giọng nói. Sau cùng cậu đã rút tay – Callum không hề lập tức nuối tiếc sự tiếp xúc, chắc chắn là không – và ra dấu về hướng căn phòng mình vừa bước ra. “Mời anh.” Callum nhìn lại người phụ nữ nằm chết trên sàn. “Đừng lo về cô ta,” Mắt-Xanh nói, nhanh chóng bắt được suy nghĩ của Callum, “đội vệ sinh sẽ đến ngay. Rất nhanh thôi sẽ giống như cô ta chưa từng ở đây.”

Callum không có lựa chọn nào khác ngoài quay đi và bước vào, Mắt-Xanh theo sau hắn. Ở trong phòng, bị hàng ngàn sợi dệt và âm thanh đều đều của con thoi di chuyển qua lại bao vây, hắn không thể nhịn được nữa, hắn phải hỏi, “Cậu là ai?”

Mắt-Xanh ngừng bước, Callum xoay người và lại thấy ánh mắt chăm chú nhìn mình. Mắt-Xanh giơ tay và tháo chiếc khăn quàng xuống khỏi tóc và mặt mình – sau một thời gian dài, Callum cuối cùng đã biết diện mạo của chàng trai mắt xanh, và nó khiến hắn ngây ngẩn.

“Chàng quá khen em rồi, tình yêu của em à.”

“Có lẽ, nhưng ta chỉ nói sự thật.”

“Wesley Gibson,” Mắt Xanh – bây giờ mang tên Wesley – nói. “Anh là hậu nhân của Aguilar phải không?”

“Sao cậu—”

Wesley giơ một tay, ngắt lời hắn. “Tôi biết tên anh. Tôi biết anh là Sát Thủ của hội Brotherhood, tôi biết anh đang giấu gì trong cái túi kia và tôi biết ả Dòng Đền đến để đoạt nó. Tôi biết Sát Thủ của hội Brotherhood là hậu nhân của Sát Thủ đời trước, nhờ vào ADN vòng xoắn ba mà các người đều có.”

Callum nhướng mày. “Tôi không biết cậu là ai,” hắn chỉ ra. “Tất cả những gì tôi biết là tên cậu và cậu đến từ một thứ gọi là hội Sát Thủ Fraternity.”

Wesley nhếch mép rất khẽ. “Anh không biết hội Fraternity à?” Đôi chút hổ thẹn, Callum lắc đầu. Wesley cười toét miệng, đút hai tay vào túi áo khoác. “Lịch sử dài lắm nhưng anh chỉ cần biết là trong khi anh có ký ức của tổ tiên anh thì tất cả ký ức của tôi đều thuộc về tôi. Chúng thuộc về tôi ở tiền kiếp.”

“Tiền…” Giọng Callum nhỏ dần. “Giống đầu thai chuyển kiếp?”

“Chính xác là giống đầu thai chuyển kiếp,” Wesley gật đầu. “Con người trước đây và con người hiện tại của tôi không có quan hệ máu mủ, theo tôi biết là vậy – hồi thế kỷ 15 họ không có thói quen giữ nhiều hồ sơ ghi chép cho lắm. Thời đó chủ yếu chỉ có chiến tranh và hành hình thôi.”

Callum phì cười. “Tin tôi đi, tôi biết đấy,” hắn nói, một nụ cười dần hiện lên khuôn mặt.

Wesley cười tủm tỉm. “Đầu thai chuyển kiếp là độc chiêu của hội Fraternity, tôi nghĩ thế, giống như ký ức di truyền là độc chiêu của hội Brotherhood. Mỗi hội đều có một danh sách tiêu chuẩn anh cần đánh dấu vào trước khi trở thành sát thủ.”

Callum gật đầu nhưng tâm trí của hắn phần lớn đều tập trung vào việc cố ghi nhớ những đường nét trên gương mặt Wesley. Cậu là một chàng trai đẹp – hắn hoàn toàn có thể hiểu tại sao Aguilar tha thiết với cậu đến vậy.

Nhưng Callum không phải Aguilar de Nerha. Hắn là một con người độc lập với mục tiêu và suy nghĩ của riêng mình, và Wesley hiện tại cũng đã khác. Cả hai đều rất khác với đôi tình nhân bị cấm đoán thuộc thế kỷ 15.

“Tôi chưa bao giờ biết cậu trông ra sao,” hắn thì thầm trước khi kịp ngăn mình lại.

Wesley hơi nghiêng đầu, im lặng yêu cầu hắn nói rõ hơn. “Ký ức di truyền, Hiệu Ứng Tràn, nó gây ra ảo giác; những giấc mơ và hình ảnh thuộc về ký ức của tổ tiên tôi, của Aguilar,” hắn giải thích. Rất nhiều ký ức là về cậu. Hoặc là chàng trai kia, tôi chắc vậy.”

Đôi mắt quá-xanh của Wesley lấp lánh sự tò mò gần giống như trêu đùa. Cố gắng không đỏ mặt, Callum tiếp tục, “nhưng tôi chưa bao giờ thấy mặt cậu, lúc nào cũng chỉ là mắt cậu thôi.”

Nụ cười trên môi Wesley phai nhạt, gương mặt cậu không mang biểu cảm gì và gần như không đọc được. “Với tôi cũng vậy,” cậu thừa nhận, tránh nhìn Callum. “Bất cứ khi nào những ký ức cũ về Aguilar ghé thăm, tôi không bao giờ thấy được mặt anh ấy, mặt anh. Lúc nào cũng mờ mờ. Bực thấy mẹ.”

Wesley bắt gặp ánh mắt hắn lần nữa, và trong mắt cậu có thứ gì đó lạ lẫm – đau đớn? Mất mát? Tuyệt vọng? “Anh nhìn giống anh ấy,” Wesley thấp giọng. “Hai người giống nhau thấy mẹ.”

“Cậu và cậu ấy cũng thế.”

“Đôi mắt chàng chứa đựng cả dải ngân hà. Chúng mang trong mình những vì sao.”

“Nếu đúng là vậy thì mắt em mang trong mình bầu trời mùa hạ, tình yêu của ta ạ.”

Wesley cười toét miệng rồi lắc đầu và nhìn xuống. Trông cậu có một chút ngượng nghịu, cả hai vai cũng hơi rụt lại. Callum không nghĩ ra nên nói gì, vì thế hắn nhìn quanh căn phòng. “Nơi này là gì?” hắn hỏi.

Wesley ngước nhìn hắn, khuôn mặt mang vẻ cảm kích vì hắn chuyển chủ đề. Cậu đứng thẳng người, duỗi hai vai và Callum cảm thấy sự tự tin dễ dàng lần nữa đong đầy con người cậu. “Nào,” cậu nói. “Tôi đưa anh đi tham quan một vòng.”

Callum cười, ung dung bước cạnh Wesley.

Sau ngày đó là hết lần đầu tiên này nối tiếp lần đầu tiên khác.

Lần đầu tiên Callum cứu mạng Wesley là khi cả hai bị thành viên hội Dòng Đền hợp tác với phản đồ của hội Fraternity tấn công (Wesley đã giải thích toàn bộ chuyện về Sloan với nỗi bực tức thấy rõ). Callum đã kịp chặt đứt viên đạn làm đôi trước khi nó bắn trúng Wesley.

Lần đầu tiên họ hôn nhau là khi vừa thoát chết trong gang tấc, một tình huống cả hai đều ghét phải nhắc đến một thời gian dài sau đó. Họ đều đứng dậy, cả người dính đầy máu và bụi đất, quần áo rách rưới và bẩn thỉu, và nhìn vào mắt nhau. Họ không biết người nào bắt đầu và cũng chẳng quan tâm đến điều đó, họ gặp nhau ở khoảng giữa trong sự mê loạn của nỗi tuyệt vọng và niềm khuây khỏa khi thoát khỏi cái chết. Họ gắn lấy nhau như nam châm và giữ nguyên tư thế đó như thể họ là nguồn ôxy của nhau.

Lần đầu tiên họ chung giường diễn ra cùng ngày với nụ hôn. Sau khi xử lý vết thương cho nhau, Wesley đã hôn Callum, một tay đặt lên gáy hắn để giữ lấy hắn. Tất nhiên Callum không cần thuyết phục vì những nụ hôn của Wesley đủ say đắm rồi. Lần đầu tiên của họ gấp gáp và tham lam, cả hai không muốn gì hơn ngoài phác họa cơ thể của nhau. Lần thứ hai rất khác biệt – chậm rãi, dịu dàng, là mọi thứ lần đầu không có, và thật tuyệt vời. Sau đó, họ cùng nhau chìm vào giấc ngủ lần đầu tiên, và có một đêm ngon giấc mà cả hai đều không có trong suốt nhiều năm qua.

Callum có nhiều kẻ thù, Wesley cũng vậy. Họ không thể cùng xuất hiện quá nhiều lần ở nơi công cộng bởi vì lúc nào cả hai cũng bị theo dõi. Callum chưa bao giờ có một cuộc sống bình thường, tẻ nhạt, nhưng hắn thấy bản thân ham muốn những niềm vui đơn giản như hôn Wesley ở nơi công cộng, hẹn hò ở quán cà phê, cùng đi dạo dưới ánh đèn của thành phố về đêm. Hắn rất hiếm khi có được những điều đó nhưng Wesley xứng đáng.

Callum và Wesley không phải đôi tình nhân bí mật của thế kỷ 15, nhưng họ là đôi tình nhân bí mật của thế kỷ 21.

Lần đầu tiên Callum ngỏ lời yêu Wesley là vào nửa đêm, trong sự im lặng của căn phòng tại khách sạn bên đường họ trọ lại. Wesley đang lướt bàn tay trên ngực hắn, và Callum không kiềm được những từ ngữ thoát ra miệng. Wesley hôn hắn trước khi hắn phát hoảng quá độ, và lặp lại lời hắn. (“May mà tôi cũng yêu anh đấy, đồ chết bầm ạ.”). Dù trước đây họ đều chưa từng thật lòng yêu một người, nhưng cả hai sẵn sàng cùng nhau tìm hiểu.

Hết


Bạn Joel dịch fic này làm món quà tặng chính mình, và thật may là hoàn thành kịp thời hạn.

Tựa fic là một câu trong bài Angel with a Shotgun (The Cab); bạn Joel để nguyên tiếng Anh, không dịch sang tiếng Việt. Bạn có thể nghe bài hát trong vid dưới đây.

Nhân tiện, đây là vid Brandon (Shame) x Wesley (Wanted).

Bạn giữ nguyên BrotherhoodFraternity, không dịch, bởi vì ‘brotherhood’ và ‘fraternity’ đồng nghĩa; dịch ra tiếng Việt sẽ khó phân biệt (lại một điểm chung nữa giữa Cal và Wesley).

Ngẫm lại thì hai thanh niên này có nhiều điểm chung đến kỳ lạ!

Người ta (cụ thể là kiếp trước của bạn Wes) có “terms of endearment”, thanh niên Wesley có “terms of revilement”. Wesley mà chửi với tần suất như trong phim chắc bạn Joel mệt mỏi.

[Desus] Immortal

Part II of When There Were Me & You

*Crossover with The Physician / Der Medicus (2013)

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Photos not mine, but the edit is
He was, to put it simple, an immortal man.

He was immortal not in the sense of going on for century after century without going old and dying – that was vampirism, and a vampire was the last thing he would use to draw an analogy. As a matter of fact, he similar to a mortal man in that he was born, he grew up and grew old, wrinkled and ailed, until he ultimately died. And then, the cycle repeated: his undying soul regained a newborn flesh and began anew. No matter how many lifetimes he’d gone through, his appearance, as well as his core personality, remained unchanging, and he was in full awareness of his past lives. That was what drew a clear distinction between his immortality and reincarnation, a notion proposed by many religions and faiths. He didn’t commit himself to any religions though – it was difficult to be preached and convinced about the greatness of the Almighty, about Heaven and Hell, about sins and the Judgment when an existence as abnormal as his was permitted. Still, godless as he was, and would remain to be, he believed in the omnipotent, all-knowing yet unseen force that governed everything – from the smallest grain of sand in the dessert to the constellations in the black velvet sky. He believed it had created what he was, and lodged him into this life for a reason as unfathomable as its being, but there was a reason alright, there had to be. Nothing happened without a reason and believing so had kept his sanity intact and kept him going. He refused to think that his existence was meant solely to exemplify a natural loophole.

He had gone through many lifetimes under many names, so many that he could never remember them all.

Some were more memorable than others.

In that life time he was christened Rob Cole and given an uncanny gift to ‘see’ death approaching a person. But he hadn’t realized he possessed such talent until he witnessed his mother succumb to the side sickness while being utterly helpless to do the smallest thing to help her. In hindsight, it was the exact moment that had outlined his destiny as Rob Cole – to become the one to try and hinder the cold, clammy hand of death brushing over a person’s eyes. But of course, he hadn’t had a slightest idea this lifetime’s purpose either until well later in his life; back then he was but a nine-year-old brat who had just lost his entire family in one day – his mum gone and his younger siblings taken away – and was desperately trying to find a new one in the vagabond barber.

It took the barber’s going blind for Rob Cole to see being a barber was simply never good enough to help the people in need of treatment; had it been, he wouldn’t have witnessed a plethora of deaths on his way across the country, and just about as many lives handicapped.

From the Jews he heard about Ibn Sina, the greatest healer the world had ever seen and his palaces residing amongst the ocean of golden sand, where he healed as well as passing the sacred art of healing onto his students. That was where he would go, Rob decided on the spot, with an unwavering resolution that surprised even himself, much less his aging barber. There was no way he could explain it to the old man, same as he couldn’t give a plausible explanation for his gift to see death approaching; he just knew it was embossed in his fate as Robert Cole and he had to fulfill it.

So, to the east he went. He landed on foreign land and was greeted with both hostility and hospitality. He arrived at Isfahan with nothing but the tattered and besmirched clothes on his sunburnt back and pleas ready on his chapped, cracked lips. He met the great Ibn Sina and got admitted to his madrassa in a favorable twist of fate. There he learned, he loved, and he lost. Tears were shed and wiped, heart broken and mended, wounds opened and sewn, and years later, he found his way home, to England.

His wise teacher, the great Ibn Sina, had once said that he was to live a long life so that he could save as many people as possible. Long did he live and many a life had he saved, but also as many he had failed. Death saddened him a great deal when it took someone from him – his next-door neighbor, his trusted friend, even his beautiful, devoted wife – but it no longer devastated him; Hakim Robert Cole had come to make peace with death and consider it an old friend.

There was one death that stayed with him till his own. There was a war going on, and his hospital, situated somewhere on the border, was filled with casualties. He did not discriminate between ally and foe and treated every man brought in with equal dedication. Some he had succeeded in snatching from Death’s hand whilst some he had not. The blank space behind his hospital quickly became a makeshift graveyard where unmarked graves kept sprouting up like mushrooms after a rain.

He couldn’t tell at first if the man that had just been carried in was an ally or enemy – his outfit was covered in blood, both his own and not. The only thing he was able to tell was the man was probably an archer, judging by how his hand was tightly clutching his bow even when it was already broken. Rob examined the man and as he did, a grim sense washed over him. With the excessive amount of blood he had lost and the fatal wound that ran from his left shoulder to his chest, almost splitting him in half, one should wonder how he was even breathing. Time stood completely still for a second, and the veil of reality dispersed so that Rob could glimpse into the truth of existence. It was his gift, no longer seen as a curse, telling him that death was near. He heaved a sign and took the dying man’s hand in his, trying to offer him as much comfort as he could.

When he looked into the man’s eyes, he felt a spark that shot through his entire body, making him shudder, his hairs standing on end. Centuries later he would have described it as a jolt of high-voltage electricity. It was brief but it was shocking, and he had never felt something like this before, not in this lifetime or previous others. His eyes were fixed on the dying man’s face, which, although distorted in agony, gave off a sense of peace. He felt the blood-slicked fingers weakly squeezing back. No words were exchanged as Rob held his gaze, staying absolutely still until the archer’s last breath died out.

Another unmarked mound in the graveyard. Rob buried his bow with him and visited him every day for the rest of his life.

He hadn’t known the archer’s name.

He had lived long enough to know a spark like that didn’t come once in a while; in fact it was so rare that one needed to go through several lifetimes before it happened. Therefore he decided to keep this little, precious trinket in his consciousness, where he had constructed as a chamber to store the experiences he wanted to take to his next life. For an immortal man, his mind capacity was not indefinite, and there was a limit to what his chamber could hold before it burst, blowing his mind to smithereens. There was no telling what would become of him if that happened, and he dreaded imagining the possibilities. Thus he had to choose carefully, and laid the rest of his memories down the dark, boundless basement beneath. And this spark, as well as the brief memory of the archer, definitely deserved a spot.

In this life he was named Paul Rovia, but all who knew him called him ‘Jesus’. He found that quite an irony because he was pretty sure he had met the real Savior in one of his lifetimes. Couldn’t remember the details though; two millennia was a long time. He had even lost count of his lifetimes.

This could be his last, he mused absent-mindedly on a slow, lazy and rare afternoon he had claimed for himself, because one day you woke up from your sweet dream and the apocalypse had stomped your doors.

The dead walked the earth like the living, hunting them, devouring them, adding them to the ever-growing army of dead. He had witnessed myriads of bizarrities over the centuries but never something like this. The people whom he had known, who had addressed him by the Jesus moniker, fell one by one before his eyes, rose and had to be put down by the edge of his knives. In this life, death was not an old friend but a constant threat, a scythe dangling above their heads, eager to strike.

This could be the end of the world, as well as the end of him. He was strangely peaceful about that; if this fallen-apart world was the one to greet him the next time he opened his newborn eyes, then he’d rather not be born at all.

Sometimes he entertained the thought about how it would be if he had Rob Cole’s medical skills integrated into this lifetime. Outdated by roughly a thousand years but still be useful due to the shortage of doctors. Nevertheless, even without the skills he could have had, he was still a valuable asset to the new community he had short of settled in. Short of because despite how much he tried, he didn’t feel belonged here. Not sure if he would ever. It was ironic to think about since Rob Cole, in spite of his stark differences in religion and practices, had fitted in with Jewish lifestyle during his years at Isfahan in a way Paul Rovia couldn’t with his community of similar beliefs – always feeing like an outsider hovering at the periphery. Still he managed his task well, venturing outside the gate, sometimes for days, endangering himself to scavenge for whatever supplies his people needed. He went on his own, partly because running without having to look after anyone was faster and partly because he saw himself as expendable. If he were lost out there, while his community would be one scout short, no-one would bear the baggage of grief.

At least he hoped so. Grief could be a crippling hindrance to survival, which should be anyone’s number-one priority in this crapsack world.

Whenever he thought about his inability to form a connection to anyone, he was reminded of the spark he had felt a millennium ago, happened only once. It had warmed his heart in those lonely nights where the ailing campfire had failed. It always astounded him how something that had lasted for only a briefest moment could withstand the mercilessness of time and still felt so fresh, so new, like a thousand years was only a couple of hours ago. Sometimes he thought he could feel the texture of the archer’s skin, callous and slicked with blood. It was a shame he had never gotten to know his name.

“… This is Daryl Dixon.”

He had already turned on his heels but when he heard that name, some mysterious force had him whip his body around to do a double take. Curious perhaps? His gaze landed on the quieter man of the pair, the one who was standing nearer to him with a gun trained at his face.

For the first time in a thousand years he had felt the spark again, running along his spine like electric current. He shivered despite his thick trench coat, gloves and boots.

Daryl Dixon was a perfect stranger to Paul Rovia, a man Paul had met only today. Yet he had seen this face on a man centuries ago, in an English hospital situated on the border. He had buried that same man under an unmarked grave that only he could discern from numerous others as he paid it a visit every day till the last day of his life.

What was originally a spark had become wildfire. It was consuming him and he had not felt so alive for so long.

Nothing happened without a reason, he believed.

Daryl Dixon. In this life his name was Daryl Dixon. He made sure to remember that name.

He spread his arms, flashing the pair – but mostly Daryl – his smile.

“Paul Rovia, but my friends used to call me Jesus. Your pick.”

End

Inspired to write this after watching The Physician, a movie starring Tom Payne as Rob Cole, a Christian young man who crosses the ocean and faces numerous adversities in order to study the art of healing. It’s an inspiring movie which I’d recommend to anyone. Plus, Tom is extremely adorable as Rob Cole.

[Trilijah] Untitled 02

02

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Elijah Mikaelson (The Originals) & Darren (Wasted on the Young)

Continuing after Offer

“It… It can’t be…” Zack squeezed out a few words with great difficulty, half due to his throat being caught in an absurdly strong hand and half due to the horror of seeing a living dead person.

“Life’s full of surprises, isn’t it?” Darren stated, monotonously. Glowing electrically in the dim light of the garage, Darren’s blue eyes drilled into Zack’s face, drinking in the fear that etched into his enlarged pupils, his hollow cheeks and his mouth slightly agape.

Even his perspiration stank of dread. Darren could smell it.

When Elijah – hid former history teacher had insisted on first name basis on day one of Darren’s life as a vampire – proposed to take him to New Orleans, Darren agreed without a thought. There was nothing left for him in this town but the grotesque shadows of his ex-life. Still, before their scheduled departure, he had to collect one item from his old dwelling. He couldn’t bear to let it fall into a fate it never deserved – discarded in some trash heap and crushed into thousands plastic pieces.

With his newfound abilities, Darren found it easy as cake to jump through the high gate and bypass the surveillance cameras. He crushed them nonetheless, heeding Elijah’s instructions for avoiding unnecessary complications.

He saw feeble light emitting from the garage, where he found Zack alone and drinking to the brink of wasted. It was rare to see him without his sidekicks and in such pathetic state. Darren guessed although he had survived thanks to his devoted sycophants, at the same time he had lost a fair number of them. Brook and Jonathan, for instance.

“In another reality I should be lying in the morgue at the moment but instead here I am. You want to know why?”

“What are you? A ghost? Zombie”

Darren’s gaze landed on the artery on Zack’s neck, bulging and prominent due to the force of Darren’s hold. The fluid inside was rushing and it was as if the vampire in him had injected itself into the vein and was swimming along the bloodstream. His gums itched, were tore open and he didn’t need a reflective surface to check for the characteristic gray veins gathering around his sockets.

“You tell me,” Darren said in icy sultriness, deliberately baring the best, or worst, truth of his existence.

And he drank his step-brother’s terror as though he did Zack’s blood.

The thirst felt like sandpaper rubbing his throat. The pain of a newborn he suffered so often.

Darren supposed he could kill Zack at this very moment, ripping out his head or heart with his bare hands, making a genuine horror show for the cops to discover. The idea swung back and forth in his mind like a pendulum, and each time it returned to the murder point, his fingers unconsciously tightened. Zack gagged, clawing at his forearm with desperate and futile strength.

With a sigh only his mind could hear, Darren loosened his grip, causing Zack to flop down on the sofa, boneless and empty as though a sack in which all the rice had flooded out. In the end his rationality had won over his instinct, fueled by the hunger to sink his fangs into Zack’s vein. Zack was the way he was simply because everyone around kind of let him. If Darren wanted vengeance, he might just kill the whole school, teachers and students, and even such a large-scale massacre was pointless since neither Xandrie could come back to life nor Darren could return to the high school boy he used to be.

Darren leaned in, almost pressing Zack fast against the leather sofa. He locked gaze with Zack’s, his blue, glowing eyes dilating as he pronounced each word as clearly as he could with the thirst clawing inside him. “I won’t kill you – I had no such intention when I came here – but that doesn’t mean I will leave you without a parting gift, my brother…”

Compulsion was a curious thing. Elijah had praised him for having a decent command of it in a matter of hours after his transformation.

Now it was his intended means to exact vengeance.

They came searching for Zack since he hadn’t shown up at school nor at the swimming club for days and when they entered the house, they found him alone in the dark basement, dehydrated and malnourished, with dazed eyes and mouth that wouldn’t stop murmuring gibberish.

There was only one word they could make out: Darren.

“I am surprised that you didn’t kill him,” Elijah said after doing a quick scan of his newest protégé and finding him free of blood…

…and in dire need of some, so he gave him a blood bag. O negative and freshly out of the hospital, thus compensating enough for warm fluid from the vein.

Darren gave a small nod in gratitude before he ripped the seal and gulped down the content. Elijah sure knew how needy infant vampires were. “I came to retrieve my thing. It wasn’t in my plan to murder him,” Darren said once his throat no longer felt like being rubbed by sandpaper, reaching into his pocket and took out a carefully wrapped CD.

A tiny smile crept up Elijah’s lips when he turned to the chauffeur, who had been compelled to stay deaf and mute to the two vampires’ exchanged words, and told him to ignite the engine.

“We’re still a little early for schedule. Is there any particular place to which you want to pay a visit?”

“Yes,” he answered after a pause, somewhat hesitantly. “Could we stop at the cemetery?”

End

[Trilijah] Untitled 01

01

Joel Goran (Saving Hope) & Darren (Wasted on the Young)

Set after Xandrie’s suicide (Wasted on the Young)

The first time Joel Goran saw that kid, it was at his hospital. Joel had just finished a real nasty case and was on his way for some refreshment when he spotted a boy sitting alone on one of the scattered benches along the hallway. His uniform all crumpled, his face bruised and his right hand basically smashed, he was waiting to be admitted in with his head hung low and his eyes staring blankly into the wall in front.

Maybe it was the boy’s lonesome state, maybe it was the subtle yet blatant hints of a huge mess he had gotten himself into, or maybe Joel Goran was generally a nice guy, Joel found himself buying an extra juice box and approached the boy.

Up close, the boy’s eyes were really large, giving him a child-like look. The irises were a striking blue, made all the more prominent by the red rims around his eyes.

Strangely enough, there were no visible tear stains on his face.

“Hey,” he called out.

Joel’s voice pulled the kid out of his trance and he lifted his head to eye the stranger speaking to him.

“I’m Joel Goran. Orthopedic doctor here,” Joel greeted, holding out the juice box.

The boy appeared somewhat hesitant to receive Joel’s treat. Stranger-danger or simply unaccustomed to kindness?

“Thank you,” he muttered, hoarsely. “I’m Darren.”

Since he had some difficulty attaching the straw to the box with only one hand, Joel offered to aid him. More hesitance. Joel just shrugged.

Darren finished it in a long gulp.

“You alone, Darren?”

“My friend’s filling up the forms,” replied Darren, his voice no longer raw but still quivering. So were his shoulders. He clenched the fist of his good hand so hard that the juice box was reduced to half its original size and his knuckles all went snow-white.

How small and helpless he looked.

“Hey, easy, easy! Are you all right?”

Something in this high schooler spelt a profound sadness that was injected into Joel’s veins like a drug so strong that it gathered heat at the corner of his eyes. “Are you in pain?” he asked out of concern, putting his hand on Darren in an act of reassurance.

And somehow that small act flipped a switch inside Darren, for he burst into tears the next moment. His good hand clung to the front of Joel’s surgical gown as he pressed his face into the doctor’s firm shoulders.

It was awkward, Joel knew, as he had never encountered such a situation before, nor had he been well trained to deal with it. Couldn’t say it did not catch him off guard.

Perhaps it was just a hunch, but Joel could clearly tell Darren wasn’t crying out of pains. Well, not the physical ones – wounds big and small littered on his face which could be treated with prescribed medicine – anyway.

The doctor Joel might not know what to do in this circumstance but the human Joel did. So he acted on his humane instinct, wrapping his arm around Darren’s small form.

“There, there,” he cooed, giving Darren gentle pats on the back. Worked every time with his child patients. “It’s alright. Just let it out and you’ll be fine.”

He dared not ask the kid what had happened, fearing he would carelessly probe into a purulent wound and worsen it.

Darren’s cry softened, turning into sobs, and sobs eventually ceased. When he looked up to Joel, his face was the very definition of ‘mess.’

Joel left and came back with some wet tissues for Darren to clean up.

He wished to stay with him a little longer, but by the time Darren had finished wiping his tears and snots, Madeleine’s red head poked from behind the door and called Darren in.

“Take care of him,” Joel mouthed to Madeleine before leaving himself. Summoned by the siren reverberating around the hall.

Work heaped upon work and Joel mostly forgot about the kid named Darren. By the time he did, it was already 3 in the morning. Darren must have gone home long ago.

Joel wondered what the boy’s parents would say about his injuries. Or worse, what they wouldn’t say. No matter how he looked, Darren fitted the image of a child neglected to a T.

Some time passed and when Joel saw Darren again, it was in a small black-and-white photo on the third page of that day’s newspaper. What he learned about the kid weighed heavily on his heart and mind for longer than he would wish.

The brief title read: “High schooler’s Firearm Suicide.”

End

[TVD] How the Trouble in Mystic Falls Could Be Solved in One Episode

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandom: The Originals, The Vampire Diaries

Rating: K+

Pairing: None

Genres: fanfiction, alternate universe, humor, crack, crossover

Characters: Freya Mikaelson, Elijah Mikaelson, Klaus Mikaelson, Damon Salvatore, Stefan Salvatore, Caroline Forbes, Bonnie Bennett, Matt Donovan and others

Summary: Exactly what it says on the title: How the trouble in Mystic Falls could be solved in one episode: by inviting the Original family back to Mystic Falls.

——

The Mystic Falls gang and Lily’s Heretics squared off in the middle of the street, every nerve painfully strained and ready for the grand final battle to the death.

Then, a crunching sound broke the condensed silence, and a head rolled on the asphalt street, trailing a blaze of fresh blood behind. While the Mystic Falls gang stared wide-eyed at the head, minds temporarily blank, another body hit the ground with a dull thud.

Two bodies, one headless and the other with a crimson gaping hole in her chest.

Lily screamed as if only now did she notice the two fallen ones were her precious Heretic vampires. And while she screamed, the rest of her unholy ‘family’ burst into flame.

They didn’t even have a chance to utter a sound: the flames had ravaged their flesh like a ravenous beast and reduced the rest to charcoal…

… and burnt out even the charcoal.

The flames were crueler than the sun. At least the sun left behind the bodies while the flames consumed everything they could: where the vampires had been standing were sizzling puddles that emitted a smell so foul most of those present couldn’t help covering their nostrils.

“Gross…” Caroline muttered as she turned to Bonnie, who hadn’t looked this appalled since Silas. “What has done this?”

“Why you…” Lily hissed, bearing her fangs, and sprang to the three newly arrived figures, who no doubt had just wiped out her family in a blink. Fearing more her life and less for his own, Enzo didn’t miss a note to follow her.

“Wait!” Both Salvatores shouted at the top of their undead lungs. “That’s our mother. Please don’t hurt her, Klaus!”

“And he’s my friend, Elijah!” Damon quickly added. “Please!”

“Since when you two got to give us orders?” Klaus smirked and tightened his vice-like grip around Lily’s throat, causing her eyes to roll at the back of her head. It appeared as though her head would be torn from her neck if he used just one more fraction of his Hybrid strength.

“Because… because…” Stefan stammered, “Caroline, please talk to him!”

Caroline’s expression was an odd crossbreed between her distress caused by Klaus’s return and her furious desire to rip Stefan apart.

His smirk deepening, Klaus exchanged a quick look with Elijah, who was keeping Enzo’s feet dangling a few inched from the ground. “What do you think, brother?”

“I think, brother, is to have our sister decide. She is, after all, the winner of our bet.”

The Mystic Falls gang couldn’t help widening their eyes upon hearing the word “sister.” They weren’t even aware of the third figure’s presence until the two Originals’ mention, as she was towered completely by her brothers. Now that was where their confusion began. Though they hadn’t seen her for a while, they all remembered clearly that Rebekah Mikaelson was a little… taller.

“I’d rather you two not kill them,” a female voice said, and it was obviously not Rebekah’s. “Because if you did, you two would have more kills than I, and I would lose.”

“Fine,” Klaus muttered, rather exasperated, “as you wish, dear sister.”

Elijah merely smiled as he snapped Enzo’s neck. While he expected his brother her to do the same, Klaus had another idea.

“Be a good girl and sit still with your mouth sewn shut,” Klaus compelled her and released her neck. With dazed eyes and mouth hanging open, Lily fell on her bottom.

“Ah, not vervained. A bunch of careless idiots.” His sharp eyes swept across all the faces present. “Mystic Falls has truly gone out of shape since we left, hasn’t it, brother?”

The gang gulped. Since the Originals left, they had gotten rid off their habit to digest vervain.

“It wasn’t good to begin with,” Elijah mock-sighed. “Now it’s gone down the slope.”

“What the hell are you doing here?” It was Damon that had enough audacity to raise their collective question while the rest of them were too on guard to open their mouths. That Lily’s Heretic squad had been entirely wiped out wasn’t assuring at all; it was merely a case of “kill a demon today, face the devil tomorrow.”

None of them had forgotten how long their celebration of the Originals’ departure had lasted.

“Have the two of you already drunk New Orleans dry?” Stefan added, his courage inspired by his brother.

“On the contrary,” replied Klaus, “New Orleans is thriving as we speak. We left its comfortable embrace to show our long-lost eldest sister our settled land, unaware that it has been infested with filthy vermin strutting the streets as if they owned the place.”

“Long-lost eldest sister?” Caroline moved her lower jaw with great difficulty – she had a distinct impression that it could fall off any moment. Her eyes bored into the slender woman, who didn’t look much older than she was, and certainly too young to be older than the two Originals.

“May I present our sister, Freya Mikaelson.”

“But… you’re a witch,” Bonnie said, heavy incredulity lacing her tone. How a witch could live for over a millennium was beyond her. An idea flashed her mind, dauntingly unfavorable. “Are you a Heretic?”

Freya looked doubtful. “I am a witch,” she confirmed, even-toned, and turned to her brothers. “What is a Heretic?”

“I believe she means this… rubbish, vampires that were able to practice witchcraft,” said Elijah, idly poking the headless body with the tip of his designer shoe. “Let me assure you, Mystic Falls residents, our sister is a pure witch. What you are witnessing is only magic.”

“Great, a magical Barbie Klaus,” Damon blurted out before Stefan had had any chance to cover his big mouth.

A wry sound echoed and instantly Damon collapsed, his head lolled to the side.

The rest of the gang stared at Damon, then at the three Mikaelsons. They were sure as hell neither Klaus nor Elijah had moved an inch. That left only Freya, who had lifted two of her fingers.

“Breaking a neck with a snap of fingers… can you do that, Bonnie?” Caroline whispered.

A bead of sweat rolled down Bonnie’s chin. “Not as quick and effortless as she could.”

“This is trouble,” Caroline mumbled.

“Now,” said Freya, stepping up on her knee-length black leather boots and aimed with a smile to kill, “I have a question that needs answering. Which of you killed my brothers Finn and Kol?”

The gang glanced at one another warily, their expressions speaking a common thought, “We’re in deep trouble.”

“I like the other sister much better,” Matt concluded.

End. Maybe?

Just-for-fun non-canonical crack. Please don’t take it too seriously.

[Fanfic] Why Won’t You Die? (7)

Disclaimer : Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandoms : Dracula (2013), Penny Dreadful (2014)

Rating : M

Pairing : Dracula/Alexander Grayson x Dorian Gray

Genres : fanfiction, crossover, humor, probably a little OOC

Characters : Dracula/Alexander Grayson, Dorian Gray, Renfield, original character

Warnings: gore

Summary : It was pretty simple: Dracula’s habitual feeding was seen by a mortal young man (a very handsome one but it was not the matter!), so in order to protect his secrets, naturally the monarch of vampires had to kill him. Then, for some mysterious reason, the same young man showed up at his demonstration ball, alive, well and would very much like to remind the vampire how he had mercilessly ‘broken’ his heart only nights before.

VII.   Blood Sport

Why wont you die 7

“You don’t really have to do this,” said Jonathan with an expression that was an odd crossbreed between amusement, concern and a little remorse.

“Clarify ‘this’,” Dorian replied, covering his mouth for yet another yawn.

This had been his eighth since he sat down at the breakfast table in the middle of his spacious gallery, basked in the grace of the early sunshine.

“It means you can go back to your bed and sleep the day away. I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself.”

“I’d like to think that I’m not such a terrible host, especially since this is my first time being a morning one.”

“You don’t usually ask your ‘guests’ to join you at breakfast?”

“Firstly, I don’t invite many to stay the night.”

Jonathan blushed slightly. “Oh.”

“Secondly, those who stay are welcome to my table. Though most of them prefer to stay in bed, clothed or unclothed, till sunset. Once in a blue moon there comes one that rises so early in the morning.”

He reached for his cup, filled with steaming coffee, for a sip in a flimsy hope of warding off his morning drowsiness, which he had not experienced for a while. In his open bed robe with his hair desperately crying for the comb, the Dorian at the moment was a pale shadow to the effulgence of his scintillating and seductive person last evening. To put it short, he resembled a big version of a grumpy cat who just had his favorite sweet cream robbed away.

Sat opposite from Dorian was Jonathan, who was also a contrast of his doleful and drunken self last evening. He had had a change of clothes, his old, shabby ones discarded in favor of those Raziel had prepared for him, nothing but the latest fashion. Although he had yet to shave, his hair had been neatly combed and he looked a hundredfold better than before. He had finished his breakfast, typically English, and was sipping his favorite Earl Grey while Dorian was poking at his barely touched food with his silverware, his morning appetite amounting to that of a full-bellied python ready for a long, lazy hibernation.

How the two of them made a delightfully amusing picture of a morning lard and a night owl.

“I used to think that you might be a vampire in our earlier phase of acquaintance,” said Jonathan with a sheepish smile, “the creature made popular by those penny dreadful novels, you know.”

Dorian managed to stop poking his poor shepherd’s pie long enough to arch a comical eyebrow. “Did I look pale, dress in drags and have foul breath?”

Jonathan laughed. “You dressed fabulously, smelled and looked nicer than numerous women I’d known. Unfortunately, you always seemed to appear after sunset, which prompted me to some wild assumptions.”

“When did you stop thinking I was?”

“Once or twice I spotted you walking in broad daylight. Then I learned from your butler that you were a human cat…” Glancing at Dorian’s slovenly self (which was still more unfairly desirable than some at their best), he quickly added, “… and still are.”

“The world needs to know that there exist people who enjoy the moon and stars more than the sun.”

“The early bird catches the worms, there’s a saying.”

“Many birds don’t eat worms,” Dorian rebuked. “Nor do they prey in the morning.”

“Whatever you say,” Jonathan said, trying his best not to choke on his tea with laughter. “By the way, you are insulting Raziel’s superb culinary skills if you keep harassing that poor pie. The fillings have spilt out!”

“I’m torturing it, in case you ask.”

Shaking his head, Jonathan reached for Dorian’s silverware, to which the latter made no protest. After cutting the pie into bite-sized portions, he forked one and brought it to Dorian’s lips.

“Huhm?” he encouraged the young man.

Looking dubiously at the piece for a good thirty seconds as if being fed was an alien concept to him, Dorian finally opened his mouth. With not much enthusiasm he chewed a few times before swallowing.

“He is rather displeased with me.”

“Who? Raziel? He doesn’t look angry with his default poker face.”

“This,” Dorian explained, pointing at the remains of the former scrumptious pie on his plate, “is his way of giving me a piece of his mind. He knows well that I loathe shepherd’s pies.”

“Don’t you usually have breakfast?”

“He also knows that you are definitely an early riser. If you rise, I will rise and join you at breakfast.”

Jonathan looked baffled. “I don’t remember ever telling him!”

“Razz has a way of knowing many things, light, dark and something in between. Don’t let his exemplary butler manner deceive you.”

“I thought you were strange but your butler is even stranger!”

Dorian shrugged. “He’s the least strange from where he came.”

“And where is that place?”

“A tribe at the edge of the world.”

“Forget that I asked,” Jonathan sighed. “But at least there’s the blueberry tart you like, isn’t it?”

He forked a piece of the dessert and fed Dorian.

“A dash of romance spices things up, but here’s my advice of the day: do best not to let yourself fall in love with me, Jonathan.”

He savored the indulgent sweetness melting on his taste buds while Jonathan carefully carved the tart as he had done the shepherd’s pie. “You’re awfully blunt in the morning, don’t you know? Where have all the flirt and tease in the evening gone?”

“To bed,” Dorian replied baldly, and opened his mouth for another feeding.

“Worry not,” Jonathan assured him. “I have no intention of falling in love in the near future, especially with a man whose age almost doubles mine.”

“Good for you then. Love, as far as I am concerned, is the most grievous folly a human can commit.”

A look of hurt flashed Jonathan’s eyes but he soon had it buried beneath a layer of benign smile.

“Last time I came to this place, I didn’t see something of such a scale,” Jonathan remarked.

“The painting of the black rider, you mean?”

“That’s right. When I first saw it, I thought it looked similar. Then I remember seeing a very similar depiction in the form of a bronze statue.”

“Oh?”

“At the manor of my latest interviewee, Mr. Alexander Grayson…”

Dorian’s sleep-laden eyes cleared up upon the mention of the name.

“I guess you must have at least heard of him. You were at his demonstration ball after all.”

“Mr. Grayson and I,” said Dorian, chuckling “can’t say we are good friends but we have a sort of… special connection. What do you make of him?”

“He has good looks and refined taste, definitely very far from the noveau-rich Yankee image some people have constructed. He seems more… European to me. No, not British or French, perhaps someone from Eastern Europe, who fancies the old ways.”

“Apart from his accent, he isn’t very American,” Dorian agreed.

“He’s very arrogant, egotistic, full of himself and a potential alcoholic from what I observed–”

Dorian’s soft laughter interrupted him. “Whiskey, I bet?”

Realization dawned on Jonathan’s face as he put two and two together. “Isn’t he the ‘friend’ you mentioned last night?”

“He is.”

“London is really small, isn’t it?” Jonathan shook his head in amusement. “The day before his assistant came to offer me a job. According to him I should quit being a reporter living on meager salary to become a member of his enterprise.”

“Best suggestion of the week, I dare say. And your reply?”

“I wasn’t in any shape to make such a major decision, so I asked him to give me some time. What do you think?”

“Haven’t you already made up your mind?”

“Sometimes I wonder if you can truly read minds, Dorian.”

Filling his bone china cup with steaming coffee and taking a sip, Dorian said, “Only when someone opens themself to me.”

At cue on Dorian’s suggestion, Jonathan’s mind summoned a series of last night’s passion, flooding his mind with obscene images of himself coming undone under Dorian’s sinister skills, pleasure moans and the euphoric scent of incense burning. The current state of the Dorian in front of him, robe open to expose milky skin peppered with little hickeys, was not any help.

“Please don’t drip blood onto the carpet. Razz won’t be very please.”

Dorian did not miss a chance to tease him. Jonathan felt justified to give him a scornful look, which, coupled with his flushed face, only served to amuse the bratty man further.

“Anyway,” Dorian said after he was done laughing and Jonathan was done blushing, “since you have made up your mind about working for Mr. Grayson, I believe that you have the right to know of this little truth: your employer-to-be, Mr. Alexander Grayson, is less human than he looks.”

Jonathan was puzzled. “Less human?”

“How old do you think he is?”

“Late twenties to early thirties?”

“I wager his true age is much older because, well, he doesn’t age. He never suffers any kinds of disease and most importantly, he lives not on bread and meat but on the blood of living humans,” Dorian stressed, “which is the sole point that differs him from me.”

Jonathan’s expression was a mixed between shock, bewilderment and disbelief as a result of this newfound and may not be so delightful knowledge. It took him sometime to fully digest what he had heard and initiated a respond of sort. “A vampire is what you mean?”

“Full marks,” Dorian praised, giving a mock applause. “Also, you recovered quicker than when you learned of what I am. I’m so proud.”

“Since you, who are anything but human, are here, that vampires exist may not be so inconceivable. Perhaps there’s a God after all, and everything in the Bible is true.”

“Having regret already?”

Jonathan shook his head. “Not really. Because even if there were a God, He probably doesn’t care about the likes of me.”

“… and me, Mr. Grayson and who knows how many bizarrities out there, parading in London streets,” said Dorian, raising his cup. “It’s a pity Razz strictly refuses to serve wine in the morning.”

Jonathan clinked his cup with Dorian’s and smiled. “Tea and coffee are fine by me, as I intended to pay a visit to Carfax Manor.”

“Something tells me that he wouldn’t mind too much if you are a little tipsy.”

“You’re a bad influence, Dorian,” said Jonathan. “Truthfully, do you think I should be worrying for my little life, knowing my future employer has a taste for my veins?”

“Well, the bright side is he will certainly pay better than you current miser of a boss.”

“He did promise a satisfying salary and better housing plan. Provided he didn’t make me his tea snack first.”

“As far as I know, he doesn’t make it his habit to dine on his employees – I doubt that his assistant is unaware of his eating habits. Strangers in dark alleyways mostly.”

“Mostly?” Jonathan echoed incredulously.

“The minority being those who crossed him, so try your best not to get on his less pleasant side.”

“You sound as though you know a great deal about Mr. Grayson. When did you learn that he is what you said he is? I can’t imagine he sat down at the tea table and just poured his heart out to you.”

At that question Dorian burst into laughter. “Dear Jonathan, you are talking to someone who has crossed him… and not only once.”

Jonathan had only met Alexander Grayson, his soon-to-be employer, twice and his impression of the man was a combination of awe, envy, admiration and now fear, thanks to Dorian’s thoughtful revelation. Grayson was an attractive specimen in every sense possible: his charms came not from his looks alone, which no doubt played a huge role in his magnetism, but they were also forged by the cunningness of his mind, his domineering presence and his unwavering confidence to the point of arrogance, which Jonathan had found rather vexatious at first. His approach differed greatly from Dorian’s: while the latter opted for subtleness, taking his time to coil around his target the way a serpent would, the former went for a direct strike of a wolf. A typical alpha male. It was either with him or against him, there was no middle ground.

For all the impressions Jonathan had about Alexander Grayson, he was struck speechless to see the man in such a state: his skin was cadaverous, his pale blue eyes having lost color and sunken in their sockets and although he was dressed neatly in his fashionable tailored outfit, he did not look half the man Jonathan had interviewed merely a week ago. When he emerged from the mountains of papers on his desk to give Jonathan a handshake, his hand was cold and rigid as ice. Jonathan shuddered.

“Are you unwell, Mr. Grayson?” he might have asked out of concern for his boss, had he not already learned the truth about Alexander Grayson’s nature. The words had already formed on his tongue but he held them back, being well aware of the sole reason for Grayson to look like a walking dead. Chill crept up Jonathan’s spine and he was rightfully justified to feel protective of his jugular veins. Dorian’s assurance that Grayson did not have a habit of dining on his employees was not very assuring when he was facing Grayson in the man’s study chamber, all by himself (Mr. Renfield ‘kindly’ left them alone to discuss their business). He came up with a multitude of scenarios in which the hungry vampire would assault him and how his body, drained to the last drop, would be disposed of.

“So,” Grayson started, saving Jonathan from his macabre imaginations, “since you’ve come here, I trust you have made up your mind about my offer.”

Grayson’s voice was hoarse, like a person having a bad case of sore throat, but otherwise calm as he reached for his whiskey bottle out of habit and poured himself a glass. “Would you like some tea and snacks?” he offered.

“Ah, a glass would be fine,” replied Jonathan. Drinking early was not his habit; nonetheless he needed some liquor to strengthen his nerves while holding a conversation with a starving vampire.

Grayson’s face expressed some surprise but he did not voice it. He poured another glass for Jonathan and refilled his own.

“For our auspicious cooperation,” Grayson exclaimed. They toasted and each brought his drink to his lips.

Having had fine whiskey before, this time Jonathan did not choke. He took a medium sip, sloshing the liquid in his mouth a few times to enjoy the delightful burn, and swallowed.

“What caused you to change your mind, about drinking when the sun is still out, I mean?”

Jonathan smiled, feeling somewhat braver with the injection of alcohol into his bloodstream. “A rather close friend of mine was kind enough to instruct me on the matter of abandoning some superfluous restrictions.”

Grayson’s eyebrows went up just a little. “Oh? I suppose the same friend encouraged you to make up your mind quick. Pardon me, I heard from my assistance that you were somewhat hesitant when he told you my offer.”

“You could say so,” Jonathan agreed.

“I’m in debt to this friend of yours for a valuable employee, aren’t I? Is there any chance I could meet him, or her, to express my gratitude?”

“My friend attended your demonstration ball and was very impressed, he told me. You probably wouldn’t remember him as there were many guests there. After all he missed the chance to praise your company’s invention in person, having to depart early before the night concluded.”

The last two sentences were a blatant lie. Since Dorian had told him there was a “special connection” between them, it was unlikely that Grayson did not remember Dorian. But probing into the vampire’s secrets was not a wise idea for someone who still valued their veins like Jonathan.

He found small relief that Grayson did not advance further into the subject.

“When will you be able to start?”

“I wrote my resignation letter and sent it before I came here.”

“Perfect! Because I have an assignment for you right now, Harker.”

“I guess I can start calling you ‘sir’. What would my assignment be, sir?”

“You can call me Alexander,” Grayson stressed, “and I will address you as Harker, if that’s fine by you.”

“Of course.”

“Good. Here’s your first task.”

Alexander walked to his cluttered desk and took a brown envelope, which he handed to Jonathan. Looking at the way he walked, nothing alike to the firm strides he had taken in their interview, the former reporter had a distinct impression that a strong wind could easily knock him down or even sweep him away. Being famished could have a devastating effect on a bloodsucker. Duly noted.

The enveloped contained two photographs and a small brass key. Putting the key on the table, Jonathan studied the photos, and recognized one face at first look. He had seen it just last night, amidst the liquored-scented air and the provocative music sung by the scantily clad singer. The other was also no stranger to him,

“Stephen Laurent and Lord Thomas Ravenport?”

“Yes, I want information about them, the kind of which I think you’re already familiar.”

Jonathan looked somewhat offended. “So, that means my first task is acting as a spy?”

“It’s ‘assigning my employees tasks which suit their specialty’.”

“What’s the difference?”

“The difference is you have the right to decline and walk out of the door,” said Grayson, squinting his eyes. Their icy gaze sent a chill down Jonathan’s spine. He fought not to visibly squirm on his chair.

Do I really have a choice, the former reporter asked himself.

“You will have the result in a day.”

“That’s what I want to hear.” Satisfied, Grayson clasped his hands and smiled, showing more of his teeth than he was aware. Jonathan had to reach for his glass and downed the content when he spotted some longer-than-usual incisors. It was not hard to visualize what Grayson could do with them. Urgh. For a moment he resented Dorian for telling him this humongous secret; had he not known, he would not worry that he would be sent to an early grave with a heart attack.

“Well then,” at least he could manage his voice, “I think I should be off with my task. What’s this key for?”

“I did promise a better housing plan, didn’t I? Welcome to your new residence, Mr. Harker.”

Renfield had a distinct impression that Jonathan Harker was fleeing when he watched the young man’s tall figure hurrying out of the gate. He heaved a sigh. Harker could not be blamed for feeling threatened though; even Renfield himself, with more than a decade living together with Grayson and having seen his bests and his worsts, failed to suppress a shudder to see Grayson’s hungry eyes unconsciously descend on his neck.

He entered the study chamber to find an exhausted Grayson face down flat on his desk. Worn out by immense workload and having tried to keep a normal pretense with Jonathan Harker, no doubt.

“Sir,” he said, “you’re strongly advised to go out and hunt tonight.” Before you lose control and eat the whole household. “The young Harker was positively frightened by your haggard state.”

“Blame that goddamned Val Helsing,” Grayson muttered, pushing himself up on his elbows with much difficult. “I told you he enjoys sticking his needles in me for the sake of my suffering. Why else in the name of seven hells must he take a gallon of my blood every time he’s ‘out of samples’? Is he planning to water his plant with it?”

Renfield recalled the joyous tune the doctor had been humming out loud as he made his way out of the manor and silently agreed that his employer had a valid point.

“So you’ve assigned Harker with the task?”

“Yes, let’s see how he performs.”

Renfield rolled up his sleeve and was about to reach for the letter opener but Grayson halted him. “Don’t!”

“A little blood will ease some of your pain till the night falls, sir,” Renfield insisted. What else were friends for?

“It won’t be enough. Only by draining one human may the thirst be soothed. Furthermore, I won’t be able to restrain myself from killing you.”

“Right, sir,” Renfield said and put his sleeve down. This was precisely the reason for Renfield to stay with this vampire for all these years. Grayson was undoubtedly a vicious monster but to those few he considered ‘friends’, he was the most loyal Renfield had ever known – one of his few redeeming qualities.

“Harker is different,” Grayson remarked.

“He looks far better than the last time I met him, surely. Last time he looked a bit of a beggar.”

Needless to say, Renfield’s impression of the young reporter had not been very good. Not one to judge a book by its cover, however, looking at the Harker of that time, Renfield could not have helped a thought that his boss’s judgment of character had been erred. Fortunately, Harker had pulled himself out of whatever temporary crisis he had had and cleaned up nicely.

“No, it’s not only that. The ‘air’ about him has changed and…”

“And?”

Grayson’s sheet-white face sported a scowl. “And he has the same scent as Dorian Gray’s, which is annoying and distracting.”

It was either Grayson was under hunger-induced hallucinations or his boss was obsessed with Dorian Gray, or the worst scenario, both. Whatever it was, Renfield could guarantee it was not something to celebrate.

Lady Weatherby stepped down the coach an extremely refined lady in her teal dress and her golden hair done in an elaborate style. She wore her bold makeup as usual, something a Victorian lady was encouraged not to do often, and carried herself with a domineering air as usual.

“Good evening, my lady,” Dorian greeted and kissed her gloved hand.

“Good evening, Mr. Gray,” she said, her gaze sultry on Dorian. “You look very handsome tonight.”

“And you, ravishing as I’ve always known you to be, my lady.” To return the favor, he gave her an appreciative look, his eyes subtly lingering on her curvaceous form proudly accentuated by her attire. With her high-collar, long-sleeved dress that reached her ankles, she gave off a nun-like solemnity; however, the manner in which the fabric clung on her body like a second skin spoke the exact opposite.

“Jayne, when we are alone.”

Dorian smiled, catching the hint. “Dorian.”

“So, Dorian, what shall we do tonight?”

“I imagine we could go to an opera house and watch Hamlet or Othello, or some Shakespearean play they have for tonight, but that would not be very exciting, wouldn’t it?”

Jayne’s laughter rang softly. “Ah yes, I have to admit that although I fervently adore Shakespeare, there is not a play of his that I have not already seen. Like you said, theatres rarely dare risk innovations with these classics. No Shakespeare, please. What else do you have in store for our evening?”

“Indeed I have one particular place in mind where I would very wish to accompany you,” he said. “Though I am afraid that where we are about to go is not exactly legal.”

“No real fun is exactly legal, or moral, Dorian, according to the church. Fortunately I am not very religious.”

“Nor am I. Shall we go then?”

The doorman peered at them, a pair of exquisitely dressed man and woman, through the iron-barred window on the door with a note of curiosity – a pair like this he did not get to see very often. Though the woman was a stranger but the man’s was the face that he recognized at first glance – no one would forget such a visage once seen. He lifted the heavy metal latch, opened the door and ushered them in, scanning the surroundings for some seconds before sealing the entrance away.

A conventional brick house on the outside, it was a different world inside, and under. They followed the doorman’s steps down a wooden flight of stairs to a large underground cellar, indistinct noises growing louder and louder as they advanced to its bowel. The stairs ended on a gritty ground and they were instantly, unceremoniously welcomed by the incessant clamor of its dwellers. The air was choked with an overwhelming mix of cigarette and stale beer, and the confined space resembled a cauldron boiling with all the heat radiating from its excited ingredients, clothed in all manners of attire: some of them were hot-blooded sailors, streaks of salt still not dry from the creases of their worn out clothes, while the others toiling workers, with dirt-caked nails on hands that clutched the wooden rails. Few of the more wealthy-looking ones particularly stood out amongst the sea of colors and manners. Nonetheless, despite how much their fabric cost or how many pounds they had in their pockets, they were united in their zeal for the sport going on inside the centre ring, around which they had formed a tight-knit circle. The gas light glared down on the shining beads of sweat on flushed faces. It seemed a game has just ended and now they were all glowing with its aftermath.

“Not a charming place, isn’t it?” Dorian asked the lady by his side, who had taken the liberty to link her arm with his.

“Not very far from my imagination of the fabled rat-baiting pit,” replied Jayne, whose sharp eyes were scanning around the place, dissecting it like a knife. “Won’t you introduce me to the rules? It appears to me the men are having much fun.”

“But of course. We are here solely for the game after all. Please.”

Securing a place in the circle was easy done than said, because some of the men had left for a drink in the shabby bar at the corner while some of them actually stepped back to make place for the dressy couple. Their eyes were magnetized to lady Weatherby, ogling her as if she were a rare species on display. She probably was, considering it was tacitly an all-male place where the least they expected was to see a female, let alone one of high birth. The jealous contempt was palpable in the way they eyed the ‘boy’ accompanying her. A pretty face, no more.

“I can feel the hostility thick like a cake,” Dorian whispered, smiling.

“Afraid that you may fail to be my knight in shining armor already?”

“Very much so. Especially when I am not wearing any shining armor, only a coat and shirt.”

Their flirting might continue but for a loud gong sound that reverberated around the mud and brick walls. The men once again gathered around the ring.

“A new round has begun,” Dorian explained, pointing at the dog that was brought out on the tattooed arms of a man, “and here comes our champion of the night. Flash Jack, and just as the name suggests, he is lightning-quick.”

Jayne scrutinized the terrier, with its rather small build and shaggy hair, and did not hide her doubts. “Against what is he going fight? He might be fast but at the end of the day it is always strength that wins.”

“He is not going to fight, Jayne, he is going to kill. Have a look.”

When the crowd had almost reached its previous capacity, there came another gong. A flood of rats were unleashed into the confinement of the ring, each of which fattened by the filth in London’s trenches. The foul odor from their matted fur caused Jayne Weatherby to knit her eyebrows and took out her perfumed handkerchief. The offending smell, however, did not deter the men around; in fact, they even shouted in excitement when some of the bolder and stronger creatures began climbing on the wooden barriers that enclosed the ring. Their attempted were timely nipped by a few kicks that sent them back to the heap they belonged.

“Brutes,” muttered Jayne with disdain lacing in the smirk that formed at the corner of her lips.

“The gentleman’s blood sport,” Dorian said.

The short, thin man carrying a wad of paper and a pencil in his hands came to Dorian’s beckon.

“We shall bet on how many ‘victims’ will not escape our champion’s paws?”

“Yes and no. We shall bet on how many unfortunate souls will perish under Flash Jack’s fangs.” Taking a brief pause, he added, “In a specific time: one minute and a half, no more, no less.”

Jayne arched an eyebrow. “It is more challenging than I have given it credit for. Provided no one could come up with the right number, it would be the house that won?”

“The closet number would win, naturally. Now, would you like to try a guess, Jayne?”

“I am hardly ever in Lady Luck’s favour so I would rather you made the bet, Dorian.”

A mischievous gleam reflected in Dorian’s as he kissed the lady’s hand. “As a matter of fact, I am feeling very lucky tonight. If we win, it’s yours. If not, it’s mine, how does that sound?”

“Now it is a different bet altogether, isn’t it?”

“Ninety-seven, please” Dorian told the bucked-toothed man, who scribbled the number on a leaf of yellow paper and hurried to a black board. He stuck the paper on it with a rusty pin, amongst its various siblings.

“In one minute and a half?” asked Jayne.

“He is not the champion for nothing.”

Three gongs signaled that Flash Jack’s keeper should undo his collar him and release the champion to his battleground. As if spotting his mortal enemy, the dog dived into the swarm of black furs and scuttling legs and had his first kill within seconds. He impaled his victim between his ragged, yellow teeth, grinding down on the tiny bag of flesh and bones. With the red wet on his muzzle and spotting his coat, Flash Jack shook his head, borrowing the momentum to fling the bloody carcass into the air and went for the second, the third. The panicked squeaks of the rats and the crunching noises were drowned in the wild cheering of the audience. The blood splattering the wooden barriers and the stench of innards accompanied the hill that was vastly built only served to amplify their shouting.

“Thirty-five!”

“Forty-six!”

“Come on Jack!”

“Fifty!”

Amidst the frenzy, Dorian and Jayne Weatherby remained calm as a pair of specter haunting the ‘arena’.

“Why a dog?” Jayne raised a question. “Shouldn’t it be those vermin’s nemesis, the cat?”

“Because cats are terribly lazy creatures,” Dorian elucidated. “They kill slowly, which is a major drawback for this game; they savor their victims’ suffering – for it is more often than not a game to them – and when the fun dries out, it is very difficult to make them obey. Dogs, on the contrary, tend to do most things with a grim sense of duty and efficiency. When they are taught to kill, they will kill until there is nothing left.”

Perhaps finding his analogy amusing, Jayne Weatherby burst into gleeful laughter, the first in the night after her multifarious polite ones. “I wonder if you have many dogs and cats as home, for it appears you are a virtuoso in analysing canine and feline behaviours.”

“As my butler has kindly told me many a time, the only pet in the household is myself.”

“It must be hard for your butler.”

“I couldn’t imagine how a hopeless being such as myself would have survived without him.” Dorian shrugged.

“Ninety-four!”

While the pair were confiding to each other in whispers, the audience had unceremoniously begun chanting.

“Ninety-five!”

“Ninety-six!”

“Ninety-seven!”

The clear, booming voice of the gong emerged above all the din. The final number was nailed on the board, written in blood-red ink: 97.

Jayne Weatherby’s triumphant smile was mirrored on Dorian’s face.

“Lady Luck is clearly on our side tonight,” Dorian said. “Shall we celebrate with a toast, Jayne?”

“With the flat beer sold here? Charming.”

“Actually, they do keep some finer liquor for patrons who can afford it. I shall see what we can have.”

With Dorian gone, Jayne stood alone at the edge of the ring, watching the ring men hastily sweep out the dead bodies for another round, leaving behind fetid crimson trails to dry on their own. The night was still young after all and she doubted if it was the concluding game of the day. Nonetheless, it was probably Flash Jack’s ending-day task; he had been taken away by the same tattooed man in the same manner he had been brought out, albeit in bloody fur and a tooth minus. The rats had not been entirely livestock for him to slaughter; they had fought back, tooth for tooth, with all the strength the mass of their body allowed, coupled with a desperate instinct to survive: they bit and clawed with viciousness rivaled that of their killer. Cornered animals were the most dangerous, she mused. For each fallen by Jack’s jaws, there was a small price on him and by the end of his ‘career’, how many teeth would he be able to keep so that he would not starve to death?

“Men and their bloody foolish sport,” Jayne mumbled.

“Oi, isn’t it rude to leave the lady here all by herself?”

A raucous voice entered Jayne’s ears and a hand was placed on her shoulder at the same time.

“None of your business,” Jayne said coolly.

When she turned around she was greeted with the sight of a burly man. Square-jawed and hawk-nosed, his face would not be very memorable if it was not for a centipede-like scar that ran from his forehead down to his stubbly chin. His visage aside, his worn sailor outfit and his alcoholic breath, combined with his coarse hand on Jayne’s shoulder did very little to earn the lady’s favor. Behind him stood three other similarly clothed men, all looking at their supposed ‘leader’ with awe and anticipation.

Buffoons, she thought with disdain.

“Oh, it’s every man’s business to see a lady so unattended. Where’s that fop from earlier? Did he ditch you after he lost the bet?”

Jayne’s pale eyes traveled past the drunkard, his friends and some curious men to land on Dorian, who had returned with their drinks. She raised an eyebrow in question and Dorian’s lips curved ever slightly. In his faint smile lied the implication that he would not interfere more than the small crowd gathering around them. Jayne smirked.

“On the count of three, withdraw your hand or you’ll lose it,” Jayne purred. “One.”

The drunkard’s boisterous laughter was joined by his friends’.

“Two.”

“M’lady, I’m too willing to pay the price.”

“Three.”

The man’s grinning face crumpled with a sudden introduction of pain. His eyes traveled down the length of his arm until he found the lady’s nimble fingers closed around his wrist as if the vine intertwining a thick trunk. Yet somehow the vine had managed to snap the trunk in half. She graced him with a cold smile that did not reach her pale eyes and before he could truly register just what sort of trouble he had gotten himself into, he was flat on a ground with the heal of a boot hovering above his Adam’s apple. He had absolutely no idea what and how she had done it and, God, he had not even felt it. To think that a lean, delicate-looking woman could move so fast and strike with such strength! The excruciating pain from his wrist and his fear caused him to uncontrollably soil his clothes.

The gathering men laughed and shouted like they were watching a better game than the rat baiting.

Her gaze bored into the sweaty faces that were the man’s friends. “Take your friend or suffer his fate,” she deadpanned.

At least they were sober enough to heed her warning.

Once the sailors had scurried away, the crowd quickly dismissed.

Dorian approached her with two glasses of brown-gold liquid in his hand. “Ten-year-old brandy,” he said, handing her a glass, “to the champion.”

Jayne lifted the glass to her nose and softly inhaled. Nodding, she took a small sip. “Ten years indeed.”

“I’m glad to know that I haven’t been fooled by the bartender,” Dorian said, exhaling a mock sigh of relief. “Brandy really isn’t my expertise.”

“Then why chose brandy?”

“I am adapting to my company.”

Jayne smiled wryly. “Last time it was Mr. Grayson, wasn’t it?”

Dorian did not deny. “Indeed.”

“Standing by while a lady is being disrespected,” she dawdled, her green eyes looking straight into his, the color of which was akin to the half-full liquid in her glass, “isn’t the most chivalrous act I have seen in a gentleman.”

“Aiding a lady in need is chivalrous – a gentleman’s first lesson. But interfering when she is entirely capable of dealing with it is plain rude in my opinion.” He twirled his glass just a little, and took a small sip. “And I would rather be unchivalrous than rude.”

“Seeing that I was ‘entirely capable of dealing with it’, you decided to just enjoy the show?”

“I prefer ‘admire’,” he corrected, clinking his glass with hers.

“Oh?”

“I always feel that women are so suppressed by men that they hardly ever realize the strength they have, the strength which is more than enough to put a man in his right place. But you, Jayne, I could tell you always have the ability to give a man what he deserves…”

He finished the rest of the sentence in a whisper, “… and the courage to actualize it.”

“Sadly,” said Jayne, “our society does not encourage a woman to do so.”

“The grievous defection in our culture and belief, which I believe can be improved by learning from our neighbor. The Celt, for instance, sang legends of their female warriors.”

“Like Scáthach, the mentor of Cú Chulainn?”

“You have read about her?”

“A poem here, a prose there,” Jayne replied. “Moreover, there is a little of Celtic bloodline in my family, so I am not unfamiliar with Irish folklores.”

“That explains so well your strength and courage.”

He leaned in, invading her space so that his face was merely inches from hers. His eyes traveled from her high eyebrows, gradually slithering to the straight bridge of her nose, her powdered cheeks, and finally lingered at her rogue lips. He made no attempt to veil his smoldering gaze; he would rather she felt the heat on her skin.

“Despite your honeyed tongue, you do realize that your action is blatant disrespectful to a lady, don’t you, Dorian?”

Contrast to what was expected of a high-class lady, she took a step forward, forcing him to back down instead if he did not wish to tumble. Her gloved hand fingered his clavicle, characteristically left open by his unbuttoned shirt.

“Yes, and I do realize that the lady is absolutely able to put me in my place. The question is, would she?”

“Find out.”

She tugged at his shirt collar and pulled him into an encounter of lips, where she sought dominance at the very first contact. Her teeth grazed his lower lips, nibbling on the tender flesh while he responded to her ministrations with a reserved gentleness that was foreign to her expectation, even to himself. She was patient at first, waiting for his sign to advance to further intimacy, but he clung onto his coyness and her patience evaporated fast. She nicked him with her teeth, drawing only a drop of blood before she withdrew.

Jayne was well aware the men were raising their eyebrows, some even staring at them, eyes as wide as goose eggs. Unashamed, she smirked at them, the color of her lips vivid with Dorian’s blood.

“Made quite a spectacle, didn’t we?” Dorian said, tending to his wound the way a cat did.

“Your timing to be a gentleman is the worst, Dorian. I can not say I am very impressed.”

“The vulgarity of this place shames your noble air, Jayne.”

Jayne Weatherby cast a glance around the place. A smile hovering in her lips, she nodded. “Do you propose we change the location? Somewhere more refined and quieter, like… your house or mine?”

The glint that flashed Dorian’s eyes suggested this one sentence was all he had been waiting for. Jayne had been right in assuming Dorian Gray could not be as pure as his face suggested. After all the events tonight, she was eager to know just how impure he really was. She had a hunch that she was going to enjoy it.

… Unless Dorian chose this crucial moment to act a half-wit. Which he did.

The light in his eyes dimmed all of sudden, a forlorn look looming over his face. “What a terrible shame!” he exclaimed ruefully. “For I have just remembered that I’m having some private business to attend tonight. I hope you could pardon me this one time, my lady.”

“I sincerely wish for your forgiveness and hope to make amends,” said Dorian, kissing Jayne Weatherby’s hand.

“We shall see about that.” A speck of rogue in his cheek and the door was closed, the coach wheeling off. Horseshoes on the cobbled street made steady wry sounds.

As soon as her coach had gone out of sight, Dorian’s cordial smile morphed into a smirk as he wiped the smudge off his skin. The tint of anger had been palpable in her cool eyes and it was precisely the result Dorian had anticipated. Jayne was a woman who was unrepenting in wanting what she wanted and was quite forceful in her approach, if their first and second meetings had had anything to tell. That contributed a sizeable portion of her allure that had drawn Dorian to her; the way in which she asserted herself, full of confidence and perhaps arrogance, so unlike the majority of women he had known, thrilled his bone of adventure – to win her was his ultimate goal, a challenge among countless challenges he set up for himself to divert his ennui, even momentarily. It was plain to see Jayne was fond of his looks (who wasn’t?); discretion was but nonexistent in her piercing eyes that screamed a desire to divest him of his clothes with each meaningful gaze. Dorian was no stranger to that sort of gaze – he felt it every now and then when passing a crowd: lustful desires hidden behind sighs and whispers. Yet Jayne was clearly set apart from those women whose hearts had grown fonder with his enchanted face over the years. She was much like himself: what she desired she would make it hers as all cost, but once she actually possessed it, and played with it, she would grow bored quicker than it had taken her to grow fanciful and discard it within a heartbeat. Dorian Gray or not, it was merely a new plaything she wanted to try her hands on – give in to her and the game was over in a night or two, a week at best. Love and romance seemed cheap and impertinent in the endless pursuits of passions, who was he to deny?

There was something else beside his desire to continue the game with Jayne Weatherby that had caused him to disappoint her. It came in the form of a haunting voice that normally would not converse with him nor him with it unless they were alone and within the safe vicinity of his sleeping chamber.

“What is it?” Dorian asked with a touch of annoyance once he was standing alone before an alleyway.

“It’s something you may be interested to know,” the voice chuckled, “your bloodsucker is very near.”

“How can you tell?”

Soon as the words left his lips, Dorian realized the redundancy of his question. If the voice had a solid, visible form, he imagined it would shake its head while laughing.

The voice hinted how amused it was with Dorian. “Come on, sweet child, you’re much brighter than to ask this dumb query.”

“The blood link.”

“Exactly. Want me to teach you how to track him?”

“I don’t recall being a blood hound,” Dorian scoffed. “Why should I find him?”

“Frankly I cannot answer that. I don’t recall being someone who hung his picture in the middle of the gallery and stared at it all day long as if he had nothing better to do.”

“Supposed I were that ‘someone’, to whom I owed this out-of-the-blue parental affection?”

“Out-of-the-blue parental responsibility.”

Dorian snorted. “What’s the price?”

“My service is provided free of charge,” the voice answered. “You and your bloodsucker provide quite an entertainment. Lighten up this dull existence, especially it is I who had nothing better to do than watching you. Now, intrigued or not?”

“Tell me.”

“Clear your mind of any unrelated thoughts, namely the voluptuous lady you disappointed.”

“You have taken an interest in her?”

“In her flesh,” the voice corrected. “Imagine how delectable it will taste with all its sins. Quite the she-devil despite her ‘noble air’.”

“Look who’s talking.”

“Direct your thought to him and allow the blood to guide you.”

Dorian closed his eyelids and thought of his dream of the blood-soaked battlefield, where he saw Grayson on his majestic black horse, a lance that impaled the enemy’s head in his hand. The dragon’s ruby eyes shining brighter than the inferno around adorning his helmet, he looked like one of the Four Horsemen as he and his soldiers cut through the land, leaving corpse upon corpse in their wake. Dorian loved seeing him like that, all cordial smiles and hollow pleasantries washed away in the carnage that he had caused, and reveled in it. An embodiment of destruction, domination and death that attracted the particular spot in Dorian that yearned for all of them like a moth craving the flame. As his thought took shape and roamed, all noises around him faded until they became mute. It was as if he had pressed a seashell tightly to his ears, and the only sound he was able to catch was the rushing of his own blood in his veins. Yet he instantly knew it was not his blood that he was hearing, it was Grayson’s, and it lit a spark in his chest.

“Easy, isn’t it? Allow it guide you, sweet child,” the voice encouraged.

But he was no longer listening to it, enticed by the low, humming rhythm that only he could hear, and indeed, he allowed it to orchestrate his feet further and further into the alleyway. Every turn he took was purely instinctive, every step unplanned. The gaslight behind the sturdy opaque glass did little to ward off the darkness that was consuming him. Not a place for a person of his class to carelessly, defenselessly wandered, where cutthroats lurking in every turn could slash his throat quicker than a heartbeat. The last time he had ventured into such a place, Dorian vaguely recalled, he had gone home with a hole in his chest and his heart in his pocket, courtesy of a certain sharp-featured vampire. Still, given another chance, he would not have thought twice about it, as he did not now, led by the peculiar song the devil had taught him to open his senses and listen.

“You there!”

There was a voice calling for him from behind, followed by footsteps approaching fast. He heard all of them, and he heard none of them at the same time. In his ears, they sounded distant, intelligible sounds that were far too insignificant as compared to the ensorcelling melody he pursued. He paid no mind to them, his steady pace showing no sight of faltering. It was crystal-clear now, which meant the source was very near.

It took a hard slam to the damp brick wall and a punch in the guts to break Dorian out of his trance. Low groans came from the back of his throat, not because of the unexpected introduction of pain; he was so close to his pursuit, just a few steps more.

Came into his sight was a magnified face that was for the most part forgettable save for a scar resembling a big centipede crawling from his temple to his chin. Dorian remembered him as the drunken sailor who had gotten bested by Jayne Weatherby in the rat-baiting pit earlier. Over his shoulders, bulging beneath sailor outfit, were another three men. Dorian recognized them too, three acolytes that had scurried off, intimidated by the lady’s display of power.

His untimely smile earned him another punch in the stomach, which would cause him to bend over if he was not pressed firmly against the wall. That was painful, he thought, and strangely refreshing. He had not felt pain for a while; when Grayson ripped out his heart, it had been too quick to feel anything. Pain, like cheese, needed time to ripe.

“I see you still have got a lot of spirit after the earlier incident,” Dorian smiled. “Is your hand still hurt?”

The sailor growled, his nostrils flaring like an angry buffalo. His breath hovering over Dorian’s nose stank of stale beer. No wonder why he had enraged the lady so.

His hand was big as his size suggested, and Dorian could feel the roughness of his skin through the delicate fabric of his shirt. His fingers, short and thick like a mini-baton, with nails cracked and caked with dirt, tightened around Dorian’s throat, causing him a few chokes with the lack of air. The man’s red-rimmed eyes bore into Dorian’s face as he spit out each word, “Don’t act so cocky when the bitch isn’t here to protect your foppish arse, pup.”

“What if I do?”

Dorian’s defiance and lack of fear caused a few sniggers among the three other men, which was silenced as soon as the big man turned to glare at them. Reaching into his trouser pocket, he pulled out a knife, whose edge, as opposed to its loutish owner, was thin like a blade of grass and polished to shine like a silver mirror. Far a lovelier sight than its wielder ever was, Dorian mused, even when it licked a sharp line across his cheek. Exquisite! He did not feel a sliver of pain, only a ghost of touch on his flesh. Wet, hot beads oozed from the fresh cut, rolling along the curve of his cheek bone down to his throat and were swallowed up by his pristine white collar. For a rude hand that knew little more than rough cords, the result was extraordinary.

The man may have mistaken Dorian’s enlarged pupils and panting for horror, because his smirk evolved into a feral grin so wide it threatened to split his square face in half. He applied more pressure in his grip and was satisfied to see the young man squirm in his hand. The blade’s tip nicked a spot of flawless skin as he pointed it to Dorian’s throat.

“Scared, huh? What’s good for the likes of you but a pretty face?”

“Impeccable fashion sense, for one, and good manners,” Dorian smiled, leering towards the three men behind. “And the likes of you?”

The blade pressed just a tad deeper into his throat, and his white color was dyed crimson.

“You look down on us, fine, but can you do so with a face looking no better than a fishnet?” the man sneered. “Or better still…”

The blade traveled from his neck to his face again. “… I should just cut off this pretty nose, or these lips…. Bet the ladies love them. Then shove them down your throat, maybe?”

“Oh, that would be something of a novelty.”

“Are you deaf or naturally dumb?” the man roared. “I’m telling you that I can make you one hell of a freak show!”

“My deepest apologies, should I appear to be scared? All right, what do you want with me?”

“That bitch insulted me, injured me! I want compensation or else–”

“Or else you’ll mutilate me,” Dorian finished for him. “So all of these threats come down to a couple of pounds. I suppose I can afford being a little philanthropic, but I’m afraid dead men don’t have much use for money.”

“What the hell are you babbling about?”

The seam of his lips moved to form a perfect mocking arch and yet no words came out. Dorian’s eyes looked past the men to see an approaching figure. His body, which was not large to begin with, swayed ever slightly beneath his long coat, projecting an impression of frailty. His shadow trailed a long, grotesque shape into the darkness behind him, where the gas light failed to reach, and merged with it. His face was mostly hidden under the shadow, leaving only a pair of shining eyes.

Red. The same color smeared on Dorian’s face.

He heard the rushing sound in his ears again, loud and clear for a split second, and then faded. The world fell into stillness…

… temporarily.

Screams escaped a man’s throat when gleaming incisors descended on its jugular vein. Caged in the newly arrived monster’s arms, the body thrashed about in vain struggle, before all movements abruptly ceased with a sound. Like a twig broken in two, low and short and yet none of the men missed it. In their ears it sounded like thunder, loud and clear and bearing the messenger of death. They watched with unmoving eyes the monster lifted his head from their friend’s neck, all bloody and torn apart. The body fell to the ground with a thud and the monster’s red eyes glazed over them. Spitting out the blood in his mouth, he flashed in front of the other two faster than they could blink. Two snapping sounds, two more bodies joined their unfortunate friend.

The last man, who had been pressing Dorian to the wall, did not have time to attempt escape. He did not have time to even think about it, with the sensation of ice-cold fingers transferring from his scalp to his entire body, carrying with it a fear he had never known. Then he heard that snapping death knell and like a switch being turned off, his consciousness shut down.

Dorian looked down on the corpse at his feet with an expression that was almost pity. He swatted beside it and mumbled as though the dead man could hear his voice, “I did tell you dead men didn’t have much use for money, didn’t I?”

He lifted his head and saw a familiar handsome face. Alexander Grayson. Or should Dracula be more fitting?

“Good evening, Mr. Grayson. What a surprise pleasure to see you here,” Dorian greeted. He stood up and leaned on the wall, one arm clutching his stomach. It felt uncomfortable where the sailor had hit. When it came to physical pains, he preferred cuts than punches and kicks – there was always an elegant intoxication in the cutting open skin with a blade as compared to the crudeness of a fist. Fists left bruises, purple, blue and yellow and not one color stood a chance against the absolute beauty of crimson. Nature must have thought of it when deciding the fountain of Man’s life should flow in the vividness of red.

Dorian’s gaze flickered between the cadavers and the bloodsucker’s face, illuminated by the dusky gas light under which he was standing. He could not help a frown with what he was seeing: he was certain the last time he had seen Alexander Grayson, he had been… livelier. His skin took a pallid tone, his face gaunt and his eyes sank deep into their sockets.

“I find the trend discerning that my friends appear in worse shape than I last saw them. Are you all right, Mr. Grayson?”

Grayson did not answer. He stood motionlessly as if a statue, his eyes looking at Dorian but did not seem to see him.

“Honestly I did expect more dramatic deaths than neck snapping when I saw you. Pardon me for asking but are you on some sort of diet?”

Nudging the body nearest to his feet, Dorian continued, “This one, for instance, had robust physique and should have proven a satisfied meal.”

“Mud blood,” Grayson opened his mouth at last, his voice ragged and receding towards the end of the spectrum to be considered human, “dirtied with alcohol and diseases. Reeked of consumption…”

He stalked closer to Dorian. “…Gonorrhea. Syphilis.”

Dorian made a small disgusted sound. “You can smell that from their bodies?”

“Beside…” Grayson was face-to-face to Dorian, his body slightly pressing into Dorian’s. “Why settle for crap when there’s a delicacy right here?”

Without so much as a warning, he licked the cut on Dorian’s cheek.

The first contact had Dorian shuddered. It was cold and dry and nothing like any experience he had had prior Grayson. He would rejoice and call it a novelty in another situation, when he was not pressed by a body colder than the corpses littered around into a hard, filthy wall – his predilection for cleanliness played a major role in hindering his enjoyment. Not only were his looks strange, Grayson’s behaviors were extremely bizarre tonight. If Dorian’s memory served right, the vampire had shied from Dorian’s offer, willing to put himself under agonizing restraint instead of taking even a tiny sip. What was he doing now? Lapping at Dorian’s wound and making a trail from his cheek, down his chin and settling at his neck, where he showed no hesitation to sink his fangs into the flesh.

Pain, there was always pain when the skin was torn open but it was ephemeral and easily vanquished by the pleasure that did not lose a second to take its place. Grayson’s fangs were arguably sharper than the knife, thus making the bloody job quicker and more pleasurable. For a vampire who looked as if he had been starving for ages, Grayson was oddly taking his time with this ‘delicacy’ as he put it. Dorian felt his thought becoming soluble and drifting away with each languid draw. It was different than the last times the vampire had feasted on him – last times Grayson had been crossed and his drinking had been tainted with more than just a dash of vengeance. But this time fury was absent in his fangs – he bit, he drank, long and hard, yet he seemed to express a certain degree of appreciation in every drop passing through his throat. With Grayson’s lips planting kisses on his sensitive nerves, Dorian would certainly not complain.

“Sir.”

Dorian thought he was hearing his butler’s stern voice. No. He was not thinking. He was hearing Razz’s voice as if the man was standing a few feet from him, arms crossed and sloe eyes silently judging the way he always did every time his deviant master walked through the door. He had no idea how on earth he could hear his butler’s voice, half-wrapped in a swoon caused by Grayson’s fangs, but he was hearing it. “Mr. Grayson!” he called out to the vampire.

Grayson apparently did not hear him.

“Mr. Grayson!” Another plea went unnoticed. Dorian writhed underneath the bloodsucker’s body that was flush against him. “Alexander!”

“Sir,” Razz’s voice called again.

A snarl was Grayson’s respond to Dorian’s struggle. He effortlessly caught the younger man’s hand and slammed it against the wall, eliciting a sharp hiss from Dorian.

The next thing he saw was the handle of a knife sticking out of Grayson’s shoulder.

Grayson’s eyes were quickly drained off crimson as he first stared at Dorian and then the knife. “Dorian Gray?” he asked, as though only now did he realize where he was and whom he was with. Snapped out of his bloodlust and recovering from it, Dorian came to a conclusion with an inward sigh. But time was not what Grayson was allowed, because right after he came to himself, he… passed out.

Dorian had half a heart to fall down with Grayson’s weight in his arms. A physically strong man was not what he described himself; now with half of his blood running in the bloodsucker’s veins and the aftermath of Grayson’s euphoric bite, he thought he would be excused for being weak.

Fortunately, Raziel was strong despite his lithe figure, and he supported both Dorian and Grayson with ease.

“Having a rough night, sir?”

“I thought I was hallucinating when I heard your voice, Razz,” said Dorian. “Why are you here?”

“It’s Wednesday, sir.”

“Ah, visiting Divina, right.”

“And on my way home,” Raziel said, glancing around at the bodies. “Why are you here, sir, in the company of an unconscious vampire and a few dead men?”

“On my way home,” Dorian replied. “These brutes picked some troubles with me and Mr. Grayson, let’s say, rescued me from them.”

Raziel’s expression spoke of incredulity but like he did most matters regarding Dorian, the butler kept his doubt to himself.

“Was this even necessary?”

“He was getting rough, sir, and I, fearing for my master’s well-being, had to act. There was a knife on the ground, which came in handy. I believe a stab in the shoulder wouldn’t kill him, no?”

“I don’t suppose it would. Though I imagine Mr. Grayson will not be very pleased when he comes about with a mysterious knife wound.”

Raziel’s eyebrows arched. “He didn’t pass out from shock or pain, did he?”

“Hopefully not,” replied Dorian. “His appearance suggested he was famished, and like last time, my blood mysteriously rendered him unconscious.”

“From underfed to overfed, how inconvenient. What to do with him then? Leave him here?”

“No, Razz,” Dorian objected, frowning. “I could give him a ride home. Get me a coach, if you please.”

Renfield was enjoying his nighttime reading by the fireplace when the doorbell rang. He immediately thought of his vampire employer – who would pay a visit at this time? It was odd, since Grayson normally would neither ring the bell nor return before all the servants had gone to bed. Feeding was a time-consuming activity and Grayson just happened to be very choosy about his ‘food’ – one of his royal traces, no doubt. Besides, scaring his servants with his blood-soaked clothes never made it to his agenda; he understood how difficult it was to hire servants that were loyal and not privy into their master’s business.

So naturally Renfield felt his heartbeat syncing with his steps as he all but dropped his book on the chaise lounge and rushed to the gate with the maximum speed his body allowed. His expression hopped from relieved to troubled faster than a blink. The good news was Grayson came home remotely ‘clean’: his clothes neat, his hair mostly in place and there was no spot of blood on his face. Even better, he was not trying to dip his head into the fountain like the majority of the times he returned home stone-drunk, which had occurred with alarming frequency lately. The bad news was, well, he did not appear to be aware of neither his surroundings nor his state, unconscious and being carried by a tall man who sported a look that pronounced he was not enjoying his assigned task one bit. And worse, there was a pale-looking Dorian, who was presenting his ever-present smile despite a bleeding cut on his cheek and a hideous bite mark on his neck.

“Are you all right, Mr. Gray?” asked Renfield.

“Please don’t trouble yourself. It’s only a scratch.”

Said the chap who was wearing a bloody shirt. Literally, a bloody shirt. Renfield’s eyebrows shot up to his forehead. Was Dorian Gray even noticing that he was bleeding? Or did he lose so much blood that he was now hallucinating?

“Mr. Renfield, this is my friend, Raziel.”

Raziel gave a small nod as he transferred Grayson to Renfield’s arms.

“Mr. Renfield?”

“Yes, Mr. Gray?” Renfield replied. For goodness’s sake if they were going to keep this façade of not knowing what Grayson truly was…

“Please pass on my gratitude to Mr. Grayson for saving me tonight,” Dorian said.

“He did?”

“He did and that is why I would like to invite him to my house so I can better express how grateful I am. I will send the official invitation in the morning…”

“I will, thank you, Mr. Gray.”

“… and my sincerest apologies for… that.”

“That was… me,” spoke Raziel for the first time since entering.

Only now did Renfield notice a knife handle sticking out of Grayson’s shoulder, which was oddly… understandable since Grayson had a tendency to get violent when he was hungry. When he left Carfax Manor, he had been starving. It must have been a rough night, which Renfield was sure he would want his boss’s side of the story in detail.

“Goodnight, Mr. Renfield.”

“Goodnight, Mr. Gray, and Mr. Raziel.”

“Another fine piece goes to waste,” Raziel lamented as he helped Dorian out of his bloody shirt. “The third time of the month, sir?”

“One time I dressed for the occasion and yet the feeding didn’t happen. My luck sure loves pulling pranks on me.”

“So, how did it happen?”

Raziel’s long fingers touched Dorian’s skin, examining his naked torso.

“Money, of course,” Dorian said, wincing slightly when Raziel’s fingers touched a bruise. “Since I looked positively a defenseless fop who was foolish enough to wander into the dark–”

“You are a defenseless fop who is foolish enough to wander into the dark.”

“…who was following a vampire’s steps,” Dorian concluded with a shrug. “Like most thugs, they went with the old, cliché threat of cutting off my nose and lips if I hadn’t give them money.”

“That would have been unsightly,” Raziel commented. He was wiping the cut on Dorian’s cheek with a warm cloth. The blood left a stark crimson line on the white material. “So Mr. Vampire-who-dressed-nice came to the damsel in distress’s rescue?”

Dorian laughed, “Mr. Grayson – Alexander Grayson is the name he chooses in this place and time. I suppose he was just wandering around in search for a meal. It’s a shame none of these sailors proved to be nutritious.”

“He was well compensated any–” Raziel’s speech was halted abruptly. A deep crease appeared between his dark eyebrows, his piercing eyes squinting. “Where’s one of your rings, sir?”

“Oh?” Dorian let out a small sound of surprise when he lifted his left hand and found that there were only two silver rings left while there used to be three. “It must have been lost somewhere.”

“My mother’s spell requires three rings. Without one–”

“I know, Razz,” Dorian spoke grimly. “I still can handle it. Don’t trouble yourself.”

Dorian was bare, and so was the life-sized canvass in front of him, the crimson velvet cover stripped and laid to the side. The dark bruises on his torso and bite wound on his neck began fading until his skin was flawlessly pale again. He knew where they had gone – beneath the many layers of fancy clothes to cover a rotten, empty shell.

Now, the slash on his cheek. Still bleeding even after hours.

“What a shame,” the voice said, “to mar this perfection.”

“Fix it,” he said. Almost an order.

“Such tone. Is this how you thank me for teaching you the earlier trick?”

The monster on the canvass moved in front of Dorian’s eyes, slowly bringing its hand to his face. Ghostly fingers caressed Dorian’s skin. Clammy. Cold. Dorian had not experienced this sensation for such a long time he almost forgot how he loathed it. A sudden pain caused him to cry out in pain.

There was blood on the monster’s nails. Blood on his nails too.

“Don’t get angry at me. I was merely flexing my fossilized muscles. Remember the once-upon-a-time when there was none of those freaky rings? Oh, how I miss being able to roam freely, without restraint.”

“Don’t get so cocky just because one ring was lost,” Dorian hissed.

Awry laughter. “I don’t. I merely rejoice with this beautiful and unforeseen twist.”

A line cut across the monster’s cheek in exchange for Dorian’s face being restored to its former beauty.

He pulled the cover on the frame, disgusted by its sight; still there was nothing he could do to silence the voice in his ears. “Preserve your remaining rings, sweet child, otherwise it would mean more liberty for me,” it taunted, “and less for you.”

For once it did not punctuate the sentence with a hollow laugh; the silence afterwards was more maddening than ever.

(Cont)

Note:

Took me forever to finish this chapter. It kept getting longer and longer. Still, it’s much shorter than my original idea for this chapter, and very different also. In the end I had to cut the remaining part and saved it for later chapters. Anyway, I prefer this couple to advance slowly, no need to rush.

[Fanfic] Why Won’t You Die? (6)

Disclaimer : Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandoms : Dracula (2013), Penny Dreadful (2014)

Rating : M

Pairing : Dracula/Alexander Grayson x Dorian Gray

Genres : fanfiction, crossover, humor, probably a little OOC

Characters : Dracula/Alexander Grayson, Dorian Gray, Renfield, original character

Warnings: gore

Summary : It was pretty simple: Dracula’s habitual feeding was seen by a mortal young man (a very handsome one but it was not the matter!), so in order to protect his secrets, naturally the monarch of vampires had to kill him. Then, for some mysterious reason, the same young man showed up at his demonstration ball, alive, well and would very much like to remind the vampire how he had mercilessly ‘broken’ his heart only nights before.

VI.   Monster of a Skin

The soil beneath his soles was bleeding: such was Dorian’s initial impression.

His first steps sank in the earth and he had thought, with mild frustration, that it had been raining and now the mud would ruin his shoes and dirtied the hems of his trousers – he loathed raining and what came with it: the stickiness of wet clothes to damp skin, the stench of putrefied cadavers inhumed in the earth, the sordid mud. But a sweep of his eyes across the place had proven otherwise: it was parched where it was not soggy and judging by a single skeleton of a tree from afar he could deduce it had not rained for weeks, if not months. He squatted down and inspected the soil with his hand. The smudges of crimson on his fingertips felt so strangely warm that he almost felt the life in it. “Odd,” he voiced his thought with fascination, that what soaked the earth was not water but rather a thicker liquid, one whose vivid color was a perfect match to the carnage around him.

To say it was carnage was an understatement: the scene was an attempt to adapt John Martin’s Pandemonium into reality, with fire raging where blood had not soaked. Dorian considered himself fortunate to be wearing only a thin shirt and light trousers, otherwise the heat would be unbearable. There was an arm near his feet, still clad in gauntlet and clutching a nicked blade. He nudged it with the tip of his shoe – mildly disinterested because it was merely a severed arm, nothing special – before sending it to join a cluttered heap of limbs and heads nearby with a well-aimed kick. His puerility had surfaced again, Dorian smiled to himself as he visualized his stoic-faced butler crossing his arms and shaking his head in a show of disappointment. The carnage did little to faze him; in fact his interest grew as he traced the path of blood and dismembered bodies to the distant noises, having to sidestep now and then due to a pool of blood or a patch of flame. Men screaming, he could make out, horse neighing, and metal clashing. The acrid smell of smoke mixed with the stinks of blood and innards permeated every particle of breathing air. Not a very charming combination. It dawned on him that a war was going on ahead and were he another man, he would know better than to advance. Nonetheless, Dorian Gray was not one to be daunted by the prospect of war and death. Nor was he one to resist the allure of new adventures. Mundane questions as why and how he ended up on this battlefield did not matter to him; the only thing reeling in his mind was the excitement at what he would be able to achieve. His heart raced, his pale cheeks flushed, and his smile widened.

Though he was not an ardent student of history, he was able to tell from the armors and weapon on the corpses paving the path that they were not of the nineteenth century, and much less England. They could have belonged to a much longer period, where men had relied on swords and shields to win the wars instead of guns and bullets. That knowledge should have baffled him, for he had crossed not only the boundaries of lands – from his peaceful bed chamber in the South Bank of London to an unidentified war zone – but also the flow of time; instead he remained calmly thrilled. Not many things could cause harms to him, and even if they did, he was confident there was no flesh wound unfixable. That ‘Dorian Gray’ could never be destroyed was the top point of their contract.

It might not be very sensible to ask a dying man about the location and age but Dorian did not have much choice in the matter. The more he followed the noises to their source, the more cadavers piled up. He mentally thanked his Lady Luck for encountering one soldier that had yet to join his fellows. He was mortally wounded, his innards spilling out of his stomach, and death was only a matter of time. Another man might want to sooth the dying soldier with comfort words, or end his suffering with the tip of a knife; Dorian did neither. In a careful, polite tone he asked the man where they were and possibly what period they were in. Perhaps it was pain or the terror of Death’s approaching scythe that rendered his sight and speech useless, for the only response Dorian got was eyes staring blankly into his face and incoherent groans from the depth of the soldier’s throat. “Silly of me to ask,” Dorian mumbled and stood up, leaving the hopeless soldier to his dying process.

Noises grew louder as he closed the distance to the heart of the battlefield. The earth beneath him gave off low grumbles. His steps faltered then halted, and Dorian stood still, absorbing the tremors that ran along his body through his soles. So this was how an earthquake supposed to feel? The culprits of the tremors soon showed themselves in the forms of riders on thundering hooves, each of them clad in black armor, whose metallic luster had been dulled by the sand and blood. Dorian saw them gallop through the land, annihilating any soldiers they saw breathing. Even the fallen, dying ones were not speared from their swords and lances, polished with the red of blood to shine in the glaring sun. The winds caused by their horses hit Dorian’s face hotly with the distinct reek of gore.

The cruelty of the victors, Dorian thought, unafraid. He stood on his spot, mildly curious as to what the black riders would do to him, who neither wore any armor nor carried any sort of weapon. A defenseless lamb waiting for a pack of predators that he was, they might kill him on the spot, as they seemed to have been slaughtering any living thing standing in their path. Or they could capture him, take him to the higher authority, who would probably have him tortured for suspicion of being a spy, before having him executed. Countless times he had watched this scenario in the plays but never once had he been able to live it – too unwilling to leave his luxurious nest in London to venture in warzones around the world. That would be a very interesting experience indeed.

For all his speculations he managed to brainstorm in a short time, none of them actually happened when the troop of black riders approached him. None of them riders, all wearing helmets that hid away their faces, leaving only a tiny hint of their eyes through the visors, spared a glance at him as they rode past. A soldier was impaled and fell right next to him, courtesy of one of the ubiquitously helmeted men, yet here Dorian stood with his head held high and his back straight, yet ignored and unharmed. The first rider passed him, his ignorance copied in the second, the third, and soon Dorian lost count of how many whose eyes had bestowed invisibility on him. Trying to keep track with this massive number had a similarly distinct effect as contemplating the motion of a disc on the gramophone: you could easily make out every line at first, but soon the disc started spinning around its axis, all you could see was an obscure recurring motion of black.

When he gave up on his hope of getting the riders’ attention, one of them, the rider at the end of the troop, halted in front of him. One glance and Dorian was fairly certain this rider was of a higher position than the rest, possibly the general: his helmet was shaped like a two-horned dragon head, whose eyes were two gleaming rubies. Dorian felt himself unintentionally drawn to their smoldering gaze, which was a peculiar contrast to the icy ones behind the visor. Pale blue, he remarked, and they flooded him with an overwhelming sense of uncanny familiarity. He could have seen them recently, and found them enticing, for such eyes would not be forgettable. His lips unconsciously formed a smile to see the rider flicked open his visor.

“Mr. Grayson?” The surprise in Dorian’s query was genuine. He certainly had not foreseen turn of seeing an acquainted face in this stranger land, much less on this battlefield. No wonder he had a feeling that he knew those eyes.

It was hard to read Grayson’s motifs with only his eyes. For a moment Dorian was convinced that the American also recognized him because his eyes squinted with a flash of anger. Grayson was rightfully angry with him though, considering the little ‘gift’ Dorian had prepared for him the last time they met at Divina’s theatre. The tip of his sword touched the bare skin on Dorian’s clavicles, slowing carving a line up his throat, more a tease than a threat. Wetness seeped into his collar. Dorian hissed as a sharp pleasure ran along his spine. He was not ashamed to admit that the cold tongue of a blade never failed to turn him on.

Then his budding pleasure was brutally nipped when Grayson swung his arm.

Dorian was jolted awake. The palm of his hand was slick with sweats when he brought a hand to his neck, the pulses racing beneath the skin. They had been all so real: the feeling of steel colliding with the bone of his neck, the pain… the fear.

The laughter in his ears was most nerve-grazing.

“Finally there is something that could give you a fright,” the voice mocked. “Think of this as a reference the next time you get plagued with the silly idea of trying the guillotine. Trust me, it’s far nastier than a mere sword.”

“Very bloody funny,” Dorian hissed.

“Oh, don’t be so quick to chastise me. It wasn’t my doing at all.”

“Whose then?”

The voice gave a wry laugh. “You had better ask the face you saw in your dream. That vampire of yours, this was entirely his doing, though I doubt he was even aware of it.”

Dorian found his eyebrows knitted. “Blood drinkers have the capability to penetrate and manipulate an individual’s dream?”

“Not this one I can assure you.”

“Aren’t you contradicting yourself?”

“I am not. This dream was his, not yours. Since you were merely sharing it, you were subject to whatever scenario his mind had built.”

“How is it possible?”

“The blood opens a pathway to the soul, Dorian. When you and he exchanged blood, what was shared wasn’t only the fluid in your veins.”

Dorian let out an exasperated huff. “Can’t you do anything about this?”

“Last time you dragged him into your dream, and tormented him I dare add, I didn’t hear you complain–”

Dorian sniggered. “My dream, you say?”

“Ours, then. And yes, I can. It’s relatively easy, with our blood in him. But don’t you like it? It would definitely make you and him… more intimate,” the voice laughed.

“Soon he will learn of you.”

“That’s rather the point, isn’t it? All secrets are made to be exposed.”

“What if he cannot take it?”

“Would you rather he could?” The voice took an amusing tone. “You are very fond of him I can see.”

“Monsters of a skin, you mean?” A smirk graced Dorian’s lips. “Yes, I’m fond of him enough to not want the taste of his flesh in my mouth,” he said, and rose from his bed.

He heard the voice chuckling in his ears, yet decided he had had his last words with it today.

He met Raziel midway on the stairs.

“Sir, the art dealer has arrived,” the butler announced. “He said he has a new painting for you that you would definitely be interested.”

“Oh, what the date is it?”

“The seventeenth of the month, as usual, sir. He is having tea in the gallery.”

“All right, I’ll come and see if he can surprise me this time. He hasn’t procured anything remotely good for the past two months.”

Raziel’s dark eyes did a thorough scan of his master’s state: hair tousled, eyes heavy with sleep, feet bare and wearing nothing except a silk bed robe that did a mediocre job of covering his smooth, milky chest and part of his thighs. “Would you prefer to change first, sir?”

“Is something wrong with the way I dress?”

A master’s attire would be a butler’s top concern, and this held true to the Gray household’s butler: it ranked at the top of Raziel’s list, provided you read it upside down: the man would not bat an eye if one day his master decided to stroll around baring his sculpted body for all to see. Years of cohabitating with this strange master had molded Raziel into a stranger but otherwise ideal butler to cope with Dorian’s unusual behaviors.

“Nothing, sir, nothing at all,” Raziel replied with a smile. And perfect for price negotiation should the need arise if he might add.

Several streets away, the servants of Carfaz Manor had a reason to smile, too: their handsome master had risen early today and remained in an ebullient mood since.

Renfield’s both eyebrows went up his forehead to watch a beaming Grayson in going around the house. When he passed Ella, the young redheaded maid that excelled in the baking of the apple crumbs Renfield so loved, he kissed her lightly on the cheeks and complimented her lovely hairpin, which prompted Renfield to seriously roll his eyes. Combining Grayson’s nocturnal activities and bitter grudge with the sun, it was rare to see him up so early in the morning, and in pleasant mood no less. Was this a foreshadowing of some bad omen to come?

“You are in a jolly mood today, sir.”

“I am, Renfield,” said Grayson as he flopped down on the sofa, next to his assistant. One of his arms draped around Renfield’s shoulder while the other extended toward the table for the bottle of whiskey.

“What could bring about this miracle of your getting up early, sir?”

“A good sleep and a better dream did the trick, Renfield. You should try sometimes.”

A dubious look clouded on Renfield’s face. A ‘good’ dream was, in Grayson’s dictionary, reliving his glorious old days, which never failed to involve a copious amount of blood flowing, countless heads spiked, limbs torn and, let us not forget the best part: impaling – he was not nicknamed ‘Vlad The Impaler’ for nothing.

“What was your ‘better’ dream, sir?”

“What I usually dream about,” Grayson replied, shrugging, “plus a small bonus…”

He downed his glass of whiskey, filled it and continued, “…in the form of an annoying, undying pest.”

The decoding process inside Renfield’s brain began to operate. Sometimes his boss just loved speaking in codes. Must have been an old habit.

“You mean Dorian Gray? That half-man, half-snake thing again?”

“He looked human,” Grayson chuckled, “in fact he looked like a lost lamb amidst the battlefield, waiting to be slaughtered. Can you imagine?”

“No, sir,” Renfield replied frankly, “I’ve only met him once. What happened next?”

Grayson laughed. “He seemed to recognize me as I him.”

“And?”

“Made shorter by a head a few seconds later. I have to admit it felt extremely good.”

Renfield mentally sighed. “It’s good that you had your ‘payback’, sir. Since you are in an excellent mood this morning, don’t let me ruin it by a small reminder: Dr. Van Helsing sent a message that he was in need of a few samples of your blood…”

The smile on Grayson’s face disappeared quicker than Renfield’s blink. “Goddamn it!” he muttered. “Did he say he had made any progress on the serum?”

“No sir, he only told me that he had run out of blood samples and he would pay a visit tonight to collect some.”

By the time Renfield finished his sentence, a black cloud had formed at the top of Grayson’s head.

At the age of thirty-eight, Alphonse Beauchene was a flamboyant man who had a questionable fashion style. Who with a decent common sense would wear a garish red jacket with an emerald shirt and a fuchsia cravat, not to mention a thick, white wig that was a century out-of-date? One look at the man and Dorian was struck with watering eyes and a headache. Still, in spite of his horrendous clothing choice and an occasional tendency for drama, the man had a keen eye for paintings – it was fair to say all his artistic sense was on his trade, thus leaving not a tiny bit for his own person. That was the reason which kept Dorian in a long-term business with the art dealer despite all he wanted at times was to have Raziel kicked the man out of his house.

Alphonse Beauchene put down his cup of tea instantly and rose from his chair, from which he strode across the gallery to shake Dorian’s hand when he descended the stairs. “It has been a long time, Monsieur Gray. How I miss this magnificent gallery of yours,” he exclaimed. “Yet certainly not as much as I do your marvelous visage.” His hand prolonged the touch longer than a courteous, normal handshake required, much to Dorian’s distaste.

“It’s been exactly a month, Mr. Beauchene,” Dorian felt the need to remind him. More urgent was his desire to retract his hand from Alphonse’s powdered vice-like grip. For a man whose profession was art trading, the man sure had unusually strong fingers and Dorian’s effort proved to be in vain.

“It feels like a century for me!”

“Oh, really? Seems to me it was just yesterday.”

This was where Raziel’s virtues as a devoted butler shone: he came to his master’s rescue with a tray of full of beautifully decorated sweet treats.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, sir, Mr. Beauchene,” he said, his best butler-smile on display as he subtlety stepped in between Dorian and Alphonse and successfully broke the prolonging handshake that had morphed into something else.

“Please, have a taste at these freshly baked snacks. I don’t mean to boast but my butler Raziel makes the best desserts in the South Bank. My personal favorite is this blueberry tart.”

“Oh, Monsieur  Gray, you shouldn’t indulge my taste buds like this.”

If there was only one thing that could distract Alphonse from his “object of worship” (in his own words), that was the variety of sweet treats Raziel offered. And so Dorian was rescued and retreated to his chair, which was strategically half a gallery away from the pseudo-Frenchman.

While Alphonse was having difficulty picking which to consume first, Raziel discreetly handed his master a handkerchief. Really, did he always have to powder his hands every bloody minute, thought Dorian with annoyance.

“So, Monsieur Gray,” said the art trader after he had happily ingested his necessary sugar intake to last him a day, “shall we begin our business?”

“Of course, Mr. Beauchene.” What else are you here for? “What did you bring this time?”

“I consider myself extremely fortunate to have got my hands on this valuable rare piece. When I unveiled the cover, its sheer magnificence took my breath away and I immediately thought that only you, Monsieur Gray, should be its owner.”

Dorian cocked an eyebrow. “Well, why not bring the precious jewel in? I’m prepared to be dazzled.”

Alphonse Beauchene stood up and clapped his hands, the sounds giving a cue for two young men to carry a huge frame in. It would occupy half a wall if it was to be hung.

“The size is certainly impressive,” Raziel passed a comment. Inside his head calculations of the estimated price were already being made. Alphonse Beauchene was not a man who would charge a feeble sum for something of this scale. Nevertheless, Raziel had a grip of the man’s lethal weakness, having done countless price negotiations with him throughout the years. The manner in which his master dressed today would no doubt play to their advantage – as a matter of fact, he had caught Beauchene stealing glances up and down Dorian’s bare skin.

“Not only is its size awe-inspiring, this painting also has historical values,” explained Alphonse as he sought to take off the thick covering.

“Oh? Do enlighten me then.”

“It is said to have been a personal possession of a royalty. The Prince of Wallachia around the fifteenth century. He had a whole legend surrounding him. A very intriguing figure, terrifying even, if I’m allowed to speak my voice. Ah, found it. The securing of such a piece has to be very careful, hence quite tricky to unbind.” Alphonse undid a number of knots and finally freed the painting from its velvet coat.

Dorian’s half-lidded eyes brightened up instantly as soon as he caught sight of the canvas. True to what the art dealer said, it was a magnificent piece that was excellently preserved. Time had not faded the pigments and the scene depicted looked as realistic as seen from the window. His eyes not leaving the subject of the painting, Dorian left his chair and erased the distance in a few strides, until he was close enough to appear he could step into the painted scene any minute. He lifted up his hand as if wanting to touch the canvas – to see if it was real or not – and aborted his attempt in fear that he might cause some damage to it with his thoughtless act.

“It’s a little stretching to call this a portrait if a pair of eyes is the only part of the face seeable,” Raziel remarked.

“Surely it was a little odd,” Alphonse agreed. “But judging by the fact that it was the ruler’s favorite item that was rumored to be hung on the wall of his keep, this is probably due to his preference.”

The centre of the painting as well as Dorian’s attention was a black rider on the back of a majestic black horse, with his hand holding a lance whose tip had embedded into a man’s severed head. Gruesome as it might appear to a number of people, to others who were enchanted by and celebrated the unusual like Dorian, it held an undeniable appeal. Particularly captivating were the jewel eyes of the elaborately crafted dragon helmet: the red was done was done with such flawless skills that they possessed the smoldering look of the true inferno, which was portrayed in the background in staggering realism.

“Ah, the dragon’s eyes. It seems you are quite taken by them, Monsieur Gray. I myself was mesmerized by them the first time I saw them, and that says something because I’m quite the hard-hearted man, as you know.”

“I’m taken by both pairs of eyes, actually, man’s and beast’s. Do you happen to know why it is a dragon? Was it a sigil?”

“It wasn’t. Since his father gained the name ‘Dracul’ – meaning ‘Dragon’ – when he joined a sacred order, the monarch himself was alternatively known as ‘Son of Dragon’, or Dracula. Does it ring a familiar bell to you, Monsieur Gray?”

A smile crept up Dorian’s lips. “Yes, I do believe I know a thing or two about this Prince of Wallachia. Though I think I can learn more from your rich resources, Mr. Beauchene.”

“I have to admit that I am no expert when it comes to history,” Alphonse said, taking a sip from his cup. “But he inspired me to conduct some research into Romanian history. Apparently our friend had quite a reputation shrouding him. He had, how to put it, a peculiar fixation of impaling his enemies, hence his morbid nickname ‘Vlad The Impaler’. His enemies, the Turks, feared him as though he was devil-incarnate while the folks rumored that he was plagued with a diabolical taste for human blood–”

Dorian laughed softly. “Perhaps it still holds true today.”

“I don’t quite get what you mean, Monsieur Gray, but yes, historians’ views on him are mixed between positive and negative: was he a revered national hero or was he a mad tyrant?”

“What was his end?”

“That’s another mystery to add to the bulk. Local legends recorded that he was sealed away in an iron tomb so that he could never drink a drop or mortal blood again. Absurd, isn’t it?”

“Did he suffer any sort of facial disfigurement?” Raziel raised a question. “Since he wore a mask in his own portrait.”

“A helmet, actually,” Dorian corrected. “I believe in some occasions people wear masks not due to their… less attractive appearance but because the beauty of their faces would not do well in inspiring fear in their enemies’ hearts.”

“I couldn’t say it better myself. As a matter of fact his was known to be a charming visage.”

“Handsome even,” Dorian concluded. “That goes without saying, this painting is a must-have for me.”

“Excellent, Monsieur Gray,” exclaimed Alphonse with an enthusiastic flair. “Now, about the price, we can have a long discussion about it…”

Dorian stood up, stretched gracefully, and made a handshake with Alphonse Beauchene so brief that the man had not had the time to notice. Putting on his sweetest smile, Dorian said, “Pardon me, Mr. Beauchene, but I have an appointment which is scheduled in an hour and I’m afraid I have to go and prepare. Would you mind if I left the business to my trusted friend Raziel?”

He winked at his butler and headed for the flight of stairs, completely and deliberately ignorant of the man’s pout.

“With pleasure, sir,” replied Raziel, who turned to the art trader wearing his best business face. “I’m inclined to believe if we settle this quickly, there’s still some time for a quick trip to the bank.”

It was not every evening when Dorian went out the streets without a particular destination in mind and literally ran into an acquaintance. Well, his couch did, to be exact. He was allowing his mind to drift along the thoughts about his early dream, his newly acquired painting and its subject, Dracula or Alexander Grayson as he the name he preferred to go by in this land and age, when the coach was forced to an abrupt halt. He heard Gilbert’s voice chastising some man, who was probably the cause of this disturbance. He had been wandering in the street with no regard to traffic and vehicles it appeared.

“Keep going, Gilbert. Never mind him,” he called out to his chauffeur through the opened window. Then he saw the possible culprit’s face and immediately stepped out, motioning Gilbert to pull the coach to the side of the street.

“Jonathan?”

The man reacted to his first name being called and lifted his head. It was a young man, taller than Dorian and looked to be in the same age. Despite his lanky limbs, unkempt hair and beard and sort of shabby clothes, he was quite a good-looking chap.

He would do well with some proper grooming, Dorian mused. As a matter of fact, the last time Dorian saw him, the man had been in a much neater state.

“Well, didn’t you look sharper the last time we met?”

A whiff of alcohol pervaded his scent. “You have been drinking?” he asked.

“Yes, but not enough to achieve my desired result,” Jonathan’s voice was clear when he answered. Though his breath smelled of alcohol, his eyes had yet to lose their focus. “And I’m officially penniless until payday.”

There was no hiding his depression with his untidy condition and downcast eyes, not to mention the yearning to drown himself in spirits. Dorian frowned. To see someone whom he was fond of in misery was not his usual idea of enjoying the evening.

“Wouldn’t Miss Murray approve of your inebriation?”

“She… wouldn’t mind,” he spoke sotto voce.

So she was the problem, eh, nothing new, Dorian concluded. Of all his time knowing Jonathan Harker, he also learnt of the man’s habit: that two-thirds of the times Jonathan got very depressed and started begging for alcohol, it was due to a certain lady named Mina Murray. If he got any more transparent, Dorian was afraid he would not need any clothes.

Lucky for Jonathan (or unlucky, depending on whose perspective), he had run into Dorian Gray. Though they were not exactly the best of friends, Dorian was not the kind to abandon Jonathan to wallow in his sorrow alone and rode off to enjoy his night, say, a jolly little visit to Divina’s jolly little theatre for example. So he grabbed the man by his arm and not-so-subtly nudged him to get into the coach. “Come. If you truly want to get intoxicated, at least do it with better-quality liquor, which I happen to know where to get.”

And judging by how the young reporter was remarkably unhesitant in accepting Dorian’s ambiguous offer, it was easy to tell this was no way their first time.

It was Jonathan that the waiting boy saw first due to his height. Since his clothes were less than impressive to the boy, whose job revolved around judging patrons based on their garments, he would have closed the small iron window right on Jonathan’s face if had he not spotted the other patron, dressed in much costlier fabric than plain cotton, stepping out from behind the reporter’s shadow. The small window was closed, not for the sake of dismissing them but rather for opening the grand door. Head held low in a bow, the waiting boy received both of them to the world inside.

“Not very welcomed here, am I?” asked Jonathan as he was led by Dorian’s arm through a dark cyclical corridor to the brighter world beyond.

“You do realize that you are not in your best shape, don’t you, Jonathan? A few hours’ grooming and newer clothes and you would be their most wanted patron.”

“Like you?” His lips moved just a little, forming a smirk. “I have a feeling that neither this place nor what we are going to do is exactly legal.”

“Pray tell, what are we going to do?” Dorian chuckled.

“Frankly, I don’t know. I merely want to get horribly drunk.”

The corridor led to a vast space filled with music and the decadent scent of expensive cigarette and first-class wine. Men made up the majority of the patrons, forming small groups and whispering to one another in low voices, though occasionally women in revealing gowns could be spotted, swirling their glasses of expensive champagne in their jeweled hands. Jonathan could not help lingering his eyes on the singer: she who was parading around on the elevated stage in the middle of the room in nothing but a skimpy black cloth to cover her lower region and a huge, white snake wrapping around her neck and shoulders. To match her ‘costume’, she was wearing a stylized snake mask that hid most of her face save a pair of sinful rogue lips. Her golden hair cascaded down the length of her back, occasionally revealing a tattoo on her skin. He shuddered with the thought of the pain she had gone through to achieve such an elaborate design.

A turn of his head found him a smiling Dorian. “Your first time seeing that?”

“Ah…yes…”

“Do you fancy a closer look? Exotica doesn’t mind as long as we buy her charmer an expensive drink.”

“I–It’s not necessary,” Jonathan stammered. “What?”

“The python on the singer’s shoulders, is she not what you’re curious about? She’s the brightest star of this place. Many have paid handsomely just to see her.”

“That is not a snake?”

“No, a python from the deep jungle of the African continent. She’s particularly invaluable because her skin is pure white and her eyes red like fire. The rumors say she is one in a million,” Dorian elucidated, patting him on the shoulder. “You don’t have to be shy about your curiosity. Nothing is unpermitted in this place.”

“What is this place?”

Dorian’s reply was a meaningful wink. “Why don’t you see for yourself?”

Light got weaker as they ventured deeper into the heart of the place. They reached a table in a corner, where they were allowed both a decent view of the stage and a certain degree of privacy. A boy appeared by the table, silent as a spectre.

“Which would you like to have?” Dorian asked Jonathan, who had some difficulty adjusting to his plush seat.

“Anything will do, really.”

“My friend isn’t in an upbeat mood tonight, so could you please bring us something that might help him lift it up? Nothing’s sort of the best, if you will.”

The boy seemed to be adequately equipped to deal with abstract demands like Dorian’s, for he noiselessly disappeared to wherever he came out without asking another word.

“I can see you’re a regular patron. The waiter didn’t have to ask for clarification.”

“That is how he, as well as his fellows, is trained to serve here. Furthermore, most of the guests could not care less about what is brought onto their table as long as it isn’t cheap swill. And no, I only come to this place when I’m in special company.”

The deliberate stress heated up Jonathan’s cheeks, chilled by the autumnal winds. He turned his head sideway as a self-conscious act to hide his face from Dorian, even when he doubted his friend could pay attention to his color in this dim light. Fortunately he did not have to maintain his awkward position for long because the boy had brought out their drinks, which were a variety of bottles whose brands Jonathan could barely recognize.

“So this is their idea of catering to their customers’ demands,” he said incredulously.

“You can’t begrudge them for trying to boost their business. Like I said, most of the patrons do not mind what their money will bring to their tables.”

“Not a place for those who mind, isn’t it?”

Dorian tilted his head and laughed. “Whiskey?” He poured two glasses, giving Jonathan one.

“I recall whiskey wasn’t to your liking before. You prefer the flaming taste of absinthe.”

“If it is absinthe, I have plenty at home, and of finer quality. But whiskey happens to be a friend of mine’s favorite, so I guess I can get accustomed to it.”

“Interestingly, the last man I interviewed happens to be a potential alcoholic whose favorite is whiskey.”

“Perhaps they are one person, who knows. Now, let’s raise a toast for our possible mutual acquaintance.”

Their glasses clinked and a moment of silence spread between the men, each attending to their drink.

The first sip was bitter and burning in Jonathan’s mouth, since strong whiskey was not something his meager budget could afford very often and the cheap alcohols at the pub were often too diluted that he could barely notice that he was not drinking plain water. His eyebrows knitted together and tears pricked at his eyes. Even after he had swallowed it down – a ball of flame rolling down his throat – the inside of his mouth still felt on fire with the taste. He cast a discreet glance at Dorian, who also had his first sip and maintained his normal, relaxed expression; in fact he looked as though he was merely sipping tea. Jonathan grabbed his glass and tried to quench fire with fire. The second nearly made him choke but he managed not to spill it. The third was an improvement and he was able to taste its other flavors besides bitterness. He reached for the bottle, poured himself a glass and had his fourth and his fifth. He began to enjoy it more and more and before long, Jonathan had finished half the bottle while his friend had barely half way through his second glass.

He reclined in his seat, feeling his strained muscles relax. The whiskey in his bloodstream started to take effect and he had a distinct sensation that his weight became less and less and he was floating, his body supported by water. He had had only the chance to swim in the ocean once, when he was a small boy in primary school, yet that tiny memory stayed within him till today. The singer’s voice sounded distant, and only now did he pay attention to what she was singing. It was a mellow song and the lyrics entered his ears like the waves gentle crashing upon the shore.

“I fantasize that I

Am covered by another skin, living another life

To be someone else

Someone better, who suffers not this plight

Of meaningless existence, and dreaded subsistence

Someone like you

Beautiful, wise , and free

Envy me not, you say, look me over closely

Soon you’ll see

That I’m not your sage

Trapped I too am

In my soul cage…”

Something stirred in Jonathan, a tingling in his heart as if the song had brushed its hand on a secret part that even he himself was unaware. Whatever it was, it was magnified when he looked to his left and saw that Dorian had also reclined on his seat. The glass stayed half-full in his right hand while the other hand pillowed his head. There was a distant look in his drooped amber eyes – drunk he did not appear, but rather vacant, his soul having disengaged from his body, attracted by an otherworldly realm beyond this reality. Perhaps it was the song, perhaps it was the whiskey, but Jonathan found himself unable to take his eyes off his friend’s face and the more he looked, the stronger the heat built in his stomach.

He was not sure whether it was in his favor.

“Trapped we all are,” Dorian’s whisper penetrated his hazed mind, starling him. The amber-colored eyes’ sudden focus on him caused Jonathan to blush furiously with the embarrassing thought that he had been caught in his improper act.

Dorian did not let it show in his expression whether he was aware of Jonathan’s staring at his face. “Aren’t we?” he asked.

“Yes,” Jonathan agreed. “Nevertheless, some cages happen to offer more freedom than others.”

He steered his gaze away from Dorian’s lips, which had regained its ever-knowing, mysterious phantom of a smile. Such was one characteristic of Dorian that Jonathan was not fanciful of. It seemed to hold a grievous implication that he always knew what stream of thought was going on in people’s heads and exulted as no one could do the same to his own, impeccably veiled behind his mild manners and charms. None would find comfort in the knowledge that theirs barest secrets were unwrapped and read like a book. Jonathan wondered, with mild disturbance, how much Dorian had learned of his inner turmoil. He tried to turn his attention to the stage.

The singer had begun another song, one which was complimented by her serpentine twists of her body. Her audience was enthralled, and the wad of bills tucked at the thin cord around her hip thickened. Jonathan, on the other hand, found it distasteful. This song, though lacked the sophistication that touched beyond the listeners’ senses of its predecessor, was sensual and provocative in the way that aroused male desires. The hour was getting late and more and more restrictions had been lifted. As a matter of fact, Jonathan’s eyes caught sights of a few couples who had already engaged in intimacy regardless of their publicly. The heat in his stomach grew, and spread to his facial skin, for the couples he was staring at were invariably made up of two males. To his shock, there were familiar faces amongst them, who Jonathan happened to know due to his line of profession. He could not imagine their upper-class families would endure their scandalous affairs.

“You are staring again, Jonathan.” Dorian’s calm voice brought his eyes away from the couples. “I can see you are quite confused. Does this display of male affection make you uncomfortable?”

Jonathan understood what his friend was hinting at. “It’s not necessarily so. I am merely surprised… to see some of the well-known figures from prestigious families.”

And truth be told, Jonathan was not disgusted by what he saw. His career as a reporter allowed him the knowledge that this sort of relationship between men, and sometimes women, existed persistently despise how the churches and social moralists tried to imbue people with a belief that it was immoral. The one sin that had invoked God’s wrath on Sodom and Gomorrah. A Catholic by his parents’ will rather than his own, Jonathan never truly absorbed the religious doctrine preached by the priests throughout his childhood to adulthood. He considered it a small miracle that he himself was generally godless considering his father and mother were devoted worshippers. In fact, he had developed a recent grudge for those sermons, as they forced the men and women involved to tuck away their true nature, which had consequently led to his current depression.

“I myself have never seen it as a shameful act which must be hidden at all cost,” Dorian opined. “Whoever a man takes as his lover should be his own concern, not anyone else’s, and certainly neither the authority’s nor the church’s.”

“All the time we’ve been acquainted, I’ve known you to be godless.”

“Christianity fascinates me with its many illustrious rituals and ceremonies, but to let my existence be dictated by some priests’ preaching…”

Jonathan nodded.

“However, there’re always people who have immense need for discretion – too many things to lose – and places such as this club gives them a chance to be true to who they are.”

“Or be someone else,” Jonathan said, smiling his first smile in the evening. “And you, Dorian, don’t have many to lose?”

“There’s a slight difference between myself and my ‘fellows’: what I deem essential I will certainly acquire it and keep it…”

“Until you get bored with it, that is.”

“My dear Jonathan, that’s how we became friends.”

“Was it the reason why you brought me here?”

For a moment Dorian’s widened eyes expressed genuine surprise. It did not last very long and he soon regained his usual relaxed state. “I brought you here because you said you wanted to drink.”

“Not because you wanted me to be someone else for the night?”

Dorian smiled. “You surprise me, Jonathan, as you prove to be extremely sharp for someone who has already downed a bottle of whiskey. And to answer you, yes, if that is what you want.”

Jonathan shook his head ruefully. “You’re wrong. I’m already drunk, very drunk and achingly curious about… that.”

Dorian followed his gaze to a far corner, where two men in expensive suits were lost in their own world of each other and of affectionate gestures that bordered between obscene and desperation. The curve of his lips evolved into something darker than his usual suave smile. He put a hand on Jonathan’s shoulder, his fingers gleefully playing with a few long strands of the man’s hair. “If you are certain about what you want, of course I’m happy to oblige.”

“Do I look like someone who has something to lose?”

Then his lips were on Dorian, leaving him no time to decipher what the reporter meant. The scent of whiskey lingered in their breaths, the taste of whiskey was strong on their lips as they simply pressed their mouths together, giving each other time to adjust to the feelings of another being. Unlike Dorian, who had abundant experience with a same-sex partner, Jonathan was an absolute fledging in this field. All of his experience was with Mina, and even in their most yearning moment, their passion had never crossed the sacred line of ‘chaste’. It did not help that it was a male Jonathan was kissing at the moment. Unsure of how to proceed from the touching of lips, he remained passive, waiting for his experienced partner to pick up from there.

It was outright disrespect to laugh during a kiss so Dorian tried his best to limit his laugh to giggles as his hand at Jonathan’s shoulder traveled to his neck, messaging the nape of his head while his tongue ran leisurely along the seams of Jonathan’s lips. Jonathan reacted with a shudder, being caught off-guard by the sinuous wetness, but he soon learned the rules of the game. In his own, sort of clumsy way he sought to catch Dorian’s tongue with his own and when he failed, obviously, he tried to mimic Dorian’s technique with rhythmless swipes on Dorian’s lips. That Jonathan was a quick learner was the thought in Dorian’s mind and as a reward for his bright ‘pupil’, he opened his mouth, allowing Jonathan entrance. His tongue also ceased its half-teasing, half-taunting patterns and became heuristic, encouraging Jonathan to discover what served to his pleasure while subtly providing guidance.

It seemed to take forever until they broke the kiss. Even then, a silvery string of saliva still connected their lips, glistening with the excessive amount of moisture. With one last peck on Jonathan’s lips, Dorian severed their string before reaching for his glass of whiskey and downed the content in one gulp.

“It… it isn’t so bad…”

“… as you imagined?” Dorian took the liberty to fill in his unfinished sentence. “Male on female, male on male or female on female, when you bring them all down to the most basic principal of pleasure-seeking, you’ll soon find that the lover’s gender matters very little in achieving your climax, as long as you truly put your mind into the process.”

“It’s very… enlightening, is all I can say,” Jonathan admitted. “Before, I wasn’t very convincing that it could pleasurable between, you know, same-sex lovers. I thought it would be painful.”

“Sometimes there is pain, as pain is inevitable in every aspect of human life. Still, I can assure you that pleasure outweighs pain. If it had not been gratifying, they would not have continued it to present time. One simply has to dig into history to learn that this kind of affair is not yesterday-born.”

Jonathan’s lips moved but no word came out. He was hesitant – like he was battling with himself for an important decision – before he finally spoke, “May I ask you another favor?”

“I am listening.”

“The pleasure that you talked about, I want to… achieve it.”

Dorian’s eyebrows raised up and he scrutinized the other man with part-disbelief, part-curiosity. Jonathan seemed certainly odd tonight: first he had expressed his desire to drown himself in alcohol and now he was asking for copulation. It was even more bizarre since the last time Dorian had made subtle flirtations at him, he had been met with avoidance, not outright rejection – such had never happened to him – but the smallest degree of uncertainty and hesitance had been more than enough for Dorian to abort his attempt. He had long come to accept that a majority of human were not very open to new experiences and sensations when it came to the bedding art, especially with the churches preaching about the false accusations that being liberated in their sexuality and desires equated to siding with the devil. Dorian bet that not one of them truly understood what it meant to side with the devil.

“You know very well that I never say ‘no’,” Dorian said. “Though I’m concerned about Miss Murray. It is not in my habit to destroy a well-established relationship.”

He did not foresee the pain that suddenly surfaced from the depth of Jonathan’s eyes. He had been hiding it rather well, only having slipped a tiny hint of it when Dorian raised the name ‘Mina Murray’. “Miss Murray and I, we… were already the past. I happened to overhear Miss Westenra confess her affection to her…”

Dorian needed not him to tell the rest of the tragic story. With this revelation Jonathan’s bizarre behaviors tonight had vastly made sense.

To offer consolidation in empty clichés like “I’m sorry” or “She shouldn’t have done that to you” was beyond Dorian’s ability; he could be many things but never a hypocrite who spoke what he did not believe to be true – whatever between those two ladies was none of his concern. Instead, he stood up and took Jonathan’s hand in his.

“It has been a lovely evening,” he commented, “though I believe it’s high time we went home…”

The reporter’s red-rimmed eyes projected a crestfallen look.

“… your home or mine, it’s up to you.”

A cocked eyebrow and an incredulous look were Raziel’s respond upon seeing Dorian step through the door, closely followed by a timid and quiet Jonathan Harker. Truthfully, he was accustomed to his master’s bringing men and women home (and what proceeded thereafter); however, it never occurred to him that one day Jonathan Harker’s would be included in the faces Dorian had invited to spend the night at his manor. He knew the young man to be loving and faithful to the beautiful and virtuous Miss Murray – right on track to engagement and marriage – so the least he expected was for that same man to fall to his master’s seduction. On the contrary, he had not the slightest doubt upon Dorian’s skills: when he wanted to seriously pursue someone, he never failed, and he had shown recurring interest in the reporter from the day they met. The matter was, how long would it be before Dorian became bored with his shiny new toy? He hated to think of this promising young man as a ‘toy’ though that was the way with his master: he could not help but become bored with a partner over the course of time – it was in his nature, and when he did, a broken heart ensued.

Raziel nevertheless did not voice his thought; all he did was a slight bow upon receiving Dorian’s request for a change of clothes and a breakfast the morning after. One swift glance at Harker’s outfit was all the butler needed to tell for whom his master’s order was intended: Dorian was nothing sort of a gracious host, even for his one-night passions.

“He doesn’t approve, does he, of my being here?” Jonathan asked once he sat down on the massive four-poster bed that might be larger than his own room at his flat. His hands clasped tightly together and settled on his thighs, a habit he often unconsciously performed when nervous. His heart was tattooing on his rib cage and he felt very much like a virgin on her first night with her lawfully wedded husband, pathetic and ridiculous as it sounded. This was not far from the truth: Jonathan Harker, in his twenty-three years of life, had never truly tasted the forbidden fruit. Now he was about to have his first bite, albeit with a young, attractive male, a notion which had crossed his mind only once and once only, more than six years ago when said young male gave subtle hints that he had been keen not only on Jonathan’s bright mind but also his body. The lanky-limbed, awkward adolescent Jonathan of that time who had literally run away from Dorian probably could never have thought that one day he himself would be the one to initiate sexual advance.

“Razz doesn’t approve most of the things I do. Perhaps he is thinking that I’ve seduced you for my vile desire…”

The color found its way back on Jonathan’s cheeks again, thanks to Dorian’s words.

“… which may not necessarily be untrue.”

Standing, Dorian’s figure was a looming shadow over Jonathan. He rested his hand on his soon-to-be lover’s shoulder and started messaging his taut muscles through the layers of clothes.

“Try to relax,” Dorian reminded him. “If you are too tense, I’m afraid it won’t do us any good, especially when…”

“When?”

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry. There is something we need to discuss before we start–”

Jonathan’s shoulders instantly tensed.

“Would you prefer to lead or would you allow me to offer you what I am capable of giving? Either is fine by me.”

Jonathan blinked, trying to decipher Dorian’s questions. When he grasped an understanding of his offer, his face looked as if it could drip blood.

“You do know a thing or two about this, I suppose?”

“I do,” he mumbled, causing Dorian to strain his ears in order to listen to him. He did, via a lewd book with crude illustrations he had picked up out of silly curiosity. “But it… isn’t much, so I’d rather you….”

Dorian could not help a frown looking at his face. “There is nothing guilty about exploring one’s desires, Jonathan. Still, if you had even the slightest regret, I would stop here and call it a night.”

“No,” Jonathan hastily protested, “please… proceed.”

Dorian’s smile pronounced his satisfaction as he leaned in for a quick brush of his lips against on Jonathan’s, promising but not giving. Not yet. “Perhaps it is a silly habit, but I really need to hear your consent. Now, tell me, what do you want, Jonathan?”

Jonathan might not know whether Dorian truly cared about consent or he was deliberately being a cruel tease; he was only certain that Dorian would not take a step further if all he could do was mumbling. Thus he gathered his courage and spoke in a clear, audible voice, “I would very much like your assistance in this… affair, please.”

“You and your reporter’s love for euphemism,” Dorian laughed. “A simple ‘fuck me’ would do, you know.”

Jonathan looked baffled by his out-of-the-blue vulgarity. More hearty laughter followed and Dorian was straddling Jonathan’s thighs, his deft hands undoing the buttons of Jonathan’s old shirt.

“Since you ask so nicely,” he said, and kissed Jonathan.

Cont

Much tease and no smut, sorry, since this is not the main pairing, I think I’ll leave the smut to your imagination.

The chapter’s title is derived from the proverb “Birds of a feather flock together”.

Next chapter will get back to dear Drakie (Dracula), I promise.