[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.

White Clothes, Take Warning: Penny Dreadful Season Finale

Warnings: spoilers and episodic rant, as usual

The title is a parody of a TV trope “Red Eyes, Take Warning.”

In a gothic horror series whose setting is in never-have-a-sunny-day London and characters’ wardrobe consisting mainly of dark clothes, when the light is bright and our beloved characters dress in white (all white, no less) you immediately know something’s definitely NOT alright. And indeed, ‘bad’ is a massive understatement.

In Round 1 we have Vanessa VS the Devil aka Lucifer, who just has to possess a ventriloquist doll that looks like Vanessa and speaks with her voice. Really, Lucifer? He’s the Fallen Angel, he’s powerful and he wants to eradicate humankind and God – couldn’t he have chosen a more formidable vessel to speak to his intended? Couldn’t he masquerade as Sir Malcolm or Ethan like he did in season 1? That worked just fine. But no, Luci wants something new because playing the same trick again is lame. So he presented himself in a (clay? Porcelain? Plastic?) doll whose face is smashed by Vanessa (I was very tempted to say “In your face, Luci!”). Guess his ‘bride’ is neither impressed nor pleased seeing him as a dummy, right? Bad choice is just… bad.

Capture

So they engage in a verbal fight – seriously they yell at each other in un-subtitled Verbis Diablo for a few minutes, leaving us totally baffled as to what they are saying – and Vanessa emerges victorious, but that’s only after Lucifer has tempted her with a vision that is basically the ultimate dream of any Vanethan (Vanessa x Ethan) shipper: she is married to Ethan and they live in a luxurious house with two lovely kids all in white – a scene taken right from a fluffy alternate universe fanfiction. So, I’ve finally had the honor to see the renowned ‘Claire Chandler’, the ‘daughter’ of Vanessa and Ethan Vanethan shipper keep ranting about; too bad so far she only exists in a tempted vision Vanessa has promptly rejected. Here the question that concludes season 1 comes around: “Do you want to be normal?” and this time we get to hear Vanessa’s answer.

wrx

Vanessa is very wise to reject Lucifer’s offer, despite how peaceful and loving it may be to her (and to shippers). Sure the Devil can give her a dreamy family like that, no doubt it’s within his power, but there’s no way the Ethan in that vision is the real Ethan: the real Ethan is full of guilt and pain for what he’s done and will probably continue doing every full moon – didn’t he just kill his friend, Sembene? In order for him to become the ‘perfect’ husband in that dream Lucifer has to 1. brainwash him completely or 2. replace him completely. Can Vanessa find peace and happiness with an empty shell like that? Sorry Luci, your ‘bride’ is too smart a woman and your bait only succeeds in catching the Vanethan shippers. Good luck next time!

Vanessa: 10          Lucifer: 0

We have just reveled in Vanessa’s victory and are extremely eager to watch Round 2 – Vanessa VS Evelyn Poole, the witch who has shown her cunningness and viciousness throughout the season, who has been successfully built up to be a formidable foe (forgive the alliteration) for our heroine. Deep down we all knew before it even starts that Evelyn would undoubtedly lose the battle; we only wait for how awesome it would be. But no, Vanessa has just crushed the Devil and she is in need of a break so tada~ here comes Ethan, all furry and bloody (with Sembene’s blood). It’s pretty a curb-stomp battle as Evelyn isn’t able to utter a single word of Verbis Diablo before Ethan claws her throat out. See the fatal weakness of witches? They are fundamentally very powerful; however, their powers come from time-consuming, complicated rituals that never, ever serve well in a one-on-one battle. All it takes is an element of surprise, a traitorous daughter and a really sharp claw and take that, bitch!!

Ethan: 10          Evelyn: 0

Hecate: 10          Evelyn: 0

Round 0.1  –  Sir Malcolm/Victor VS Evelyn’s illusions & Prof. Lyle VS unnamed witch

Meanwhile, the rest of the band are still battling their own demons – Sir Malcolm with his dead family and Victor with his three children and things aren’t faring well for them. While Sir Malcolm has managed to survive the psychological torture almost a day, albeit cornered and trembling, it only takes some minutes for Victor to pull out his syringe, ready for a shot of toxin instead of his usual morphine. This mental battle has proven that Victor is the most mentally weak in the team – probably due to years of morphine abuse – and his mind is very, very fragile. That may serve as an explanation for his later action.

ds

Sir Malcolm/ Victor: 0          Evelyn’s illusions: 10

On the other side of the door, Prof. Lyle surprisingly turns the table with two well-aimed bullets. In defense of the unnamed witch – since many believe that she’s too stupid to keep hissing instead of finishing him off – she probably hasn’t received Evelyn’s direction and hence she’s quite confused as to what to do with him since Lyle is still technically Evelyn’s lackey. Evelyn is one heartless, scary bitchy witch and not every young witch dare challenge her like Hecate.

Lyle: 10          Unnamed witch: 0

Speaking of Hecate, she’s gained a major victory in this season – her ‘mother’ who has been suppressing her is dead and though her sisters are also dead and their castle is burnt to the ground, she’s able to walk away with her mother’s treasured tools. Guess we’ll see more of her in the next season. Sarah Greene is pretty and it’s certainly not a burden to see her face on the screen. I’m curious as to what she’s gonna do next. To Ethan’s rescue??

Before we move on to Round 4, R.I.P. Sembene and Evelyn Poole.

The Devil defeated (for now), the witch coven destroyed, but the night is far from over yet. On one hand we still have The Creature locked behind bars, waiting to be in the limelight of a near-future freak show. But not for long; in this episode we also learn that he’s not only strong (like a bit stronger than an average strong man), he’s super-strong. The Putneys’ nightmare comes to reality when The Creature grips the iron bars and breaks them, then breaks the wife’s neck and the husband’s skull. Cornered animals are dangerous indeed.

The Creature/ John Clare: 10          The Putneys: 0

Am I the only one who feels a tiny bit sorry for Lavinia, who discovers her parents’ corpses and screams. Sure the girl is a bitch in sheep clothing but still…

…On the other hand, while mayhem is going elsewhere in London, in Dorian’s house it’s party time. No, not the kind of all-you-can-fuck orgy he usually hosts, this is an elegant ball for two, with a myriad of candles and some opera (probably Wagner, please excuse my poor knowledge of opera) playing on the gramophone. I have to seriously wonder if the two have just wedded (both wearing white and sporting new hairstyle) and now they are officially man and wife and celebrating.

Unfortunately, their evening is ruined by the presence of an uninvited guest, who’s probably suffering morphine withdrawal, witch’s curse after-effect and holding a fully loaded gun (Ethan forgot to take back the gun, unfortunately). Undaunted by the gun, they taunt him – Lily does most of the job while Dorian’s sheer presence is taunting to Victor, who doesn’t take it too well and ‘bang’, a bullet pierces Lily’s chest, soon followed by another which drills a hole in Dorian’s. Did Victor just do what I think he shouldn’t do? Yes, yes, he did. He just murdered two people, one of whom he claimed to love. Really, Victor? He was overwhelmed by emotions and shot Lily, yeah, but his reason for him shooting Dorian might not be emotional. Dorian discovered his secret, which is resurrecting dead people – any man with a decent IQ could put 2 and 2 together based on what Lily said – and so Victor tries to silence him. In that particular way isn’t he very similar to Dorian?

72

Some people just don’t die when they are killed, said a certain redheaded Seigi no Mikata (Ally of Justice).

Victor’s attempt to kill two immortals isn’t his wisest action of the year: shot through the chest and bleeding, still, Lily and Dorian keep smiling while horror dawns on Victor’s face. I am to believe that if they had chosen to eliminate him right on the spot, Victor wouldn’t have noticed: all his life he has been looking for a way to defeat death, going so far as to reanimating corpses, now he just discovered that someone (Dorian) had long been enjoying immortality without Victor’s grubby hand. Despaired, he seeks release in morphine (let’s hope he still possesses enough sense not to commit suicide) while Dorian and Lily continues their waltz, painting the floor red with their own blood (Just how much blood do they have?).

Dorian & Lily: 10          Victor: 0

Bet the servants wouldn’t be too pleased having to clean up this glorious bloody mess.

01

Maybe it’s a minor detail but it keeps bugging me: doesn’t Dorian’s house have a lock? How come Victor just walked in the gallery like this is some sort of public house anyone can enter? Moreover, doesn’t Dorian have servants? He must have some, right? I can’t imagine him with broom and mop to clean up the mess after his orgy parties? Seems to me his servants just miraculously appear when there’s something needs cleaning and then miraculously disappear? If he does have servants, shouldn’t he be a bit more discreet about his supernatural stuff? I mean, painting the floor with blood is hardly the best way of protecting his secret, isn’t it?

This bloody waltz is one of many reasons I adore Penny Dreadful. It’s macabre and beautiful at the same time – like beauty in death. Vampirism tells us that there is sensuality in blood and the spilling of it, and this is exactly what the scene brings to audience. I once told my friend that Penny Dreadful is not something everyone can digest: to many it’s nauseating with all the bloody, bizarre (amazing) things the crew have come up with, to others it’s an exquisite feast that they can never get enough.

By the way, I’m probably the only one who can still laugh after the screen turns dark. I’ve made myself clear in previous posts that I am never a Vanethan shipper so can’t say I’ll give a damn if this ship goes totally Titanic. At this point I’m not shipping any – let John Logan do the shipping and I’ll just see where those ships are heading – except Victorian (Victor x Dorian), which is kind of crack. One thing I’ve learnt the hard way while swimming in fandoms: canonical ships can go Titanic any minute should the creator feel the urge to break some fragile hearts but crack ships thrive forever; fanfiction writers are generally kinder than writers, that I can be quite sure.

Ethan’s turning himself to the cops and being taken back to America: 10          Vanethan shippers: 0

John Logan and crew: 10          Vanethan shippers: 0

Please tell me I’m not the only Tarot user to use her decks to predict events in TV series. I’m quite lucky to have two decks that indulge me; they answer most of my TV series-related question without (much) complaint. Their predictions about Dorian and Lily’s relationship turned out true so I wasn’t very surprised to see them end up together.

So I’ve asked them a few times who or what Dorian truly is and twice they gave me the ‘Death’ card, which is interesting. Does this indicate he is indeed the fallen Angel of Death who coupled with Lilith? You can almost draw a correlation between Lilith’s story to Penny Dreadful in a way that Lily is Lilith – she was created by God (Victor) because of Adam’s (The Creature) demand – she refused to be the submissive mate and turned to Samael (Dorian) and she gave birth to the vampire race, which is what Lily is intending to do (creating a race of superior dead people). If Dorian were Samael (and I also heard that Samael is another name for Lucifer), then what would be his role in the whole rectangular love drama between Vanessa/Amunet, the two Fallen Angels and Lupus Dei? Would he join the Devil’s force and oppose it? (Samael is evil but considers himself God’s servant).

Or the ‘Death’ card simply indicates his ability to cheat death as well as his fascination with death in the form of Lily? And speaking of death, I still have some hope that Angelique will be joining season 3. At this point I have come to accepted that Angelique is really killed off (my Tarot cards unfortunately agreed) but so far there’s no hint of what happened to her body; personally I don’t think Dorian could have done some grisly act (like he did in the novel and 2009 adaptation) to erase the evidence of his crime. This prompts to a subplot that could happen in season 3: supposed in one way or another Dorian managed to coax either Victor or Lily into resurrecting Angelique. Didn’t Lily say she wanted to create a new race? Let’s start with this beautiful, whole corpse that Dorian is conveniently preserving (there’s some kinds of poison that actually keep the body from decomposing). Once Angelique became a ‘monster’ just like Dorian himself, he wouldn’t have to worry about her divulging his secret. Angelique might experience some shock and denial at first but eventually she would come to accept this state. On the bright side, she would no longer have to concern with how people despise her and hopefully we will see Dorian’s having a harem (and please try to include Victor in that harem).

Excuse me, I have to go and write some fanfictions.

Before we bid this season farewell, here’s a summary of the season finale in songs:

  • The Devil aka Lucifer

Hello, is it me you’re looking for? (Hello – Lionel Richie)

Yeah, looking forward to punching your face. *Vanessa’s line probably*

  • Evelyn’s losing her youth

Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful? (Young and Beautiful – Lana Del Rey)

Sir Malcolm’s a few rooms away, please. And no, he won’t.

  • Ethan’s out!

Who let the dogs out? Woof woof. (Who Let the Dogs out? – Baha Men)

Hecate did.

  • Ethan K.O. Evelyn

xcw

Born to be wild

Born to be wild (Born to be Wild – Steppenwolf)

  • Victor’s being a green-eyed monster – El Tango De… Lily???

uet

Jealousy will drive you… MAD!!!

His eyes upon your face

His hand upon your hand

His lips caress your skin

It’s MORE than I can stand! (El Tango De RoxanneMoulin Rouge OST)

Victor dearest, Dorian probably won’t mind if you want to join.

  • Dorian & Lily’s Dancing with the Blood

sw

Say goodbye, as we dance with the devil tonight.

Don’t you dare look at him in the eye, as we dance with the devil tonight (Dance with the Devil – Breaking Benjamin)

If the Devil looks as good as Dorian, count me in.

  • Victor’s Getting High. Again

9877

All the drugs in this world

Can’t save her him from herself himself (Coma White – Marilyn Manson)

Baby, you’d better not overdose. We Victorian shipper still need you.

  • The Creature’s on board

17

Cold we’re so cold

We are

so cold we’re so cold (Cold – Static X)

  • Ethan’s ‘We walk alone’

97

There’s an ocean between us.

You know where to find me. (Only an Ocean Away – Sarah Brightman)

[Dịch] Like It Rough

Disclaimer : Tui rất muốn sở hữu cả hai nhưng rất tiếc tui không sở hữu ai cả J. Hai quý vị này thuộc về NBC và Showtime.

(Nhưng cái hình minh họa là tui làm J)

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

Rating : M

Pairing : Dracula/Alexander Grayson x Dorian Gray

Genres : fanfiction, crossover, hài, hiện đại, breaking the fourth wall (để cho đơn giản, hãy tưởng Charles Xavier và Erik Lehnsherr cùng ngồi xem X-Men: First Class, breaking the fourth wall chính là vậy đó)

Characters : Dracula/Alexander Grayson – ma cà rồng (chứ không bạn nghĩ là gì?!), Dorian Gray – người bất tử (tui cũng không biết anh này thuộc thể loại gì đâu, biết là bất tử thôi)

Warnings: có nhắc tới BDSM, blood play, knife play… các thế loại. À, thêm ngôn ngữ không đứng đắn nữa – bản Eng đã không đứng đắn rồi nhưng tui nghĩ có thể khiến bản Việt bựa hơn nữa.

Summary : Dorian bị nghiện một bài hát Dracula cực, cực ghét.

Dorian dạo gần đây bị nghiện một bài hát.

Thực ra điều đó cũng không phải vấn đề nghiêm trọng gì cho cam bởi vì Dorian Gray lúc nào chẳng nghiện thứ này hay thứ kia. Ấy, đó là hậu quả của việc thừa mứa ba thứ mà nhân loại khao khát nhất: nhan sắc, tiền tài và sự bất tử. Vì cậu ta chẳng bao giờ phải nỗ lực đạt tới mục tiêu gì cả nên hiển nhiên cậu thường xuyên cảm thấy chán chường với cuộc sống bất tử của mình. Gần như bệnh kinh niên rồi. Luôn luôn tìm kiếm những cảm xúc mới, đó là châm ngôn sống của cậu: những điều mới lạ lôi cuốn cậu, khiến cậu say đắm một thời gian, nhưng đến khi cảm giác mới mẻ qua đi, cậu liền vứt bỏ chúng để truy cầu thứ khác. Vòng tròn cứ vậy lặp lại, chẳng gì tồn tại bên cậu quá lâu.

Chuyện Doria nghiện một bài hát nào đó cũng chẳng phải vấn đề to tát gì với Alexander Grayson, người bất tử cùng chia sẻ căn biệt thự rộng thênh thang, đầy đủ tiện nghi với Dorian Gray. Khác với ‘người bạn cùng nhà’ của mình, Alexander lúc nào cũng có mục tiêu để theo đuổi. Chinh phạt thị trường Châu Á chẳng hạn. Hay ghi tên mình vào danh sách những người giàu nhất thế giới của tạp chí Forbes. Thỉnh thoảng, mục tiêu của anh là sở hữu một series phim truyền hình của riêng mình. Trong bộ phim đó, Dracula là nhân vật chính vừa đẹp trai, vừa hấp dẫn, vây quanh bởi hàng tá người đẹp còn Jonathan Harker là kẻ xấu lúc nào cũng ghen ghét với Dracula. Tất nhiên Alexander sẽ thủ vai chính chứ còn ai khác. Không còn một Dracula già khụ, da trắng bệch, đeo răng nanh nhựa và mặc đồ quái đản mà các nhà làm phim Hollywood trước giờ vẫn khoái đưa lên màn ảnh: đây sẽ là một Dracula của thời đại mới, người sở hữu gu thời trang hoàn hảo và đầu óc của một doanh nhân thành đạt, nhìn xa trông rộng. Tiếc là chẳng hiểu sao dự án phim bị hủy ngay sau khi season 1 kết thúc, vì vậy Alexander lại có thêm mục tiêu mới: hồi sinh series phim để anh có thể tiếp tục sắm vai ‘Alexander Grayson’ (và một phần không nhỏ là vì ai kia rất hâm mộ Katie McGrath*). Nghe Alexander nói xong, Dorian bĩu môi. Con người này đúng là chỉ biết tự làm khó mình. Sao không bỏ tiền mua quách cả đài truyền hình và ê-kíp sản xuất rồi muốn làm bao nhiêu season chẳng được? Alexander cười khẩy. Đấy, thấy bản chất căn bệnh chán chường kinh niên của Dorian chưa?

Quay lại nào. Thực ra Alexander không quan tâm Dorian bị nghiện bài hát chết dẫm nào; vấn đề khiến vị vương công xứ Wallachia một thời phiền não chính là việc anh ghét bài hát chết dẫm đó như anh từng hận Hội Kỵ Sỹ Rồng và những kẻ liên quan đến chúng. Anh có cảm tưởng nếu mình gặp ca sĩ của bài hát đó giữa thanh thiên bạch nhật, anh cũng không ngần ngại bóp chết gã, hoặc ả. Giọng hát nghe không ra là nam nữ – thêm một điểm đáng ghét nữa.

Đây không phải lần đầu Dorian nghiện một thứ gì đó Alexander chán ghét. Vài năm trước, Dorian bị Marilyn Manson hớp hồn và cậu say mê nghe ‘ả’ gào thét (nghĩa đen đấy nhé) từ sáng sớm tới tối mịt, khiến Alexander cũng muốn phát bệnh luôn. Đúng là cô ả xấu xí sở hữu giọng hát gớm ghiếc nhất mà mình rất không hân hạnh biết đến, vị ma cà rồng chúa đã nghĩ, đến khi Dorian nhẹ nhàng chỉnh anh, “Đó là đàn ông. Marilyn Manson là nghệ danh thôi.”

Vậy thì gã đàn ông xấu xí sở hữu giọng hát gớm ghiếc nhất mà mình rất không hân hạnh biết đến. Alexander không thể nào hiểu nổi tại sao một người đàn ông cao trên mét tám lại muốn được gọi bằng một cái tên phụ nữ. Vào thời xưa, khiến vua chúa nhầm lẫn như vậy là một đại tội, đáng bị chém cả nhà. Tên Marilyn Manson đó nên cảm thấy may mắn vì không sinh nhằm vào thời Vlad Tepes tại vị.

Nhưng kể cả khi nghiện Marilyn Manson như vậy, Dorian khi đó cũng không bật nhạc 24 giờ một ngày, bảy ngày trong tuần như bây giờ. Chú ý nhé: ‘bật nhạc’ khác với ‘nghe nhạc’. Dorian khi đó chỉ nghe mấy bài hát gào rú của Marilyn Manson bằng chiếc iPod của mình (dù là cả khi lên giường, mấy lần khiến Alexander tức điên), còn hiện tại cậu đã nâng cơn nghiện của mình lên một tầng cao mới: cậu sắm hẳn một dàn âm thanh nổi để mình có thể “đắm chìm trong đê mê của ca từ và giai điệu” (lời cậu) bất khứ khi nào mình muốn, cũng tức là bất cứ khi nào cậu có mặt ở nhà, cũng tức là bất cứ khi nào Alexander có mặt ở nhà. Alexander cảm thấy lãnh địa của mình bị xâm lăng và kẻ thù này còn tệ hại gấp mấy lần bọn Thổ. Ít nhất bọn Thổ còn biết sợ Alexander và thủ đoạn của anh còn kẻ thù này thì không.

Rồi nó sẽ qua thôi, Alexander tự an ủi bản thân. Dorian có bao giờ dính với một thứ lâu dài đâu. Quá lắm là một tuần, rồi cậu sẽ chán ngấy nó như từng chán ngấy mọi thứ khác (trừ Alexander và cặp răng nanh của anh ra) và chính tay cậu sẽ quăng nó. Alexander chỉ cần nhẫn nhịn chờ đợi. Nhẫn nhịn. Chờ đợi.

Một ngày.

Hai ngày.

Ba ngày.

… Một tuần trôi qua.

Bài hát chết dẫm đó vẫn oanh oang cả biệt thự mỗi khi Dorian có mặt ở nhà. Cậu bật nó khi dùng bữa tối và khi tắm. Quá đáng hơn, cậu còn bật nó khi xem series phim truyền hình của Alexander – tắt âm thanh gốc đi và để bài hát đó thay cho nhạc nền mỗi phân đoạn. “Anh biết không, thân yêu, nhạc phim của anh thật sự chưa đủ kích thích,” Dorian bình luận vào một tối nọ. Đó là một trong những tối Dorian nổi hứng ở nhà nằm ườn trên ghế salon như một con mèo lười siêu bự trong bộ áo ngủ lụa và làm một cuộc marathon bất cứ series phim truyền hình nào có sẵn. “Có khi anh nên cân nhắc chọn bài hát này làm nhạc chủ đạo cho season 2. Đã Dracula một tay ôm Lucy, một tay ôm Mina rồi sao không làm nó sexy hơn một chút? Thêm vào vài cảnh sex bạo hay khỏa thân chẳng hạn. Không thì orgy cũng được. Phim gì đó của Showtime chiếu vào tối Chủ Nhật dựng cảnh đấy tốt lắm. Chắc vậy mà họ có thể làm tiếp season 2, season 3.”

…Trong khi phim anh thì ‘tèo em’ ngay từ season 1, ngụ ý rất rõ ràng.

Cơ bản thì Alexander rất yêu Dorian, thật đấy, nhưng có những lúc anh chỉ muốn bóp cổ cậu ta thôi (từng thử và không may là Dorian thích bị bóp cổ). Đây là một trong những lúc như vậy.

Những lúc khác là khi cậu bật bài hát đó trong khi cả hai đang làm tình, hoặc phang nhau, tùy tâm trạng hôm đó thế nào.

“We can get a little crazy just for fun, just for fun…”

(Mình có thể điên một chút cho vui, cho vui…)

Làm như vụ sex ‘đẫm máu’ của họ chưa đủ điên vậy. Chăn gối và ra trải giường của họ đều một màu đỏ thẫm dù cả hai đều không ưa màu sắc đó là có lý do cả. Một lần khi họ mới dọn về căn biệt thự này và chưa sắm sửa nội thất gì cả, cô giúp việc họ mới thuê đã khóc thét khi tháo ra giường mang giặt và phát hiện những bợt máu loang lổ trên đấy. Alexander phải thôi miên để cô quên đi toàn bộ ‘sự cố’ này trước khi cô bấm máy gọi 911. Cũng ít có mất công lắm. Thậm chí thảm lót nền cũng là màu đỏ vì thỉnh thoảng Dorian nổi hứng thích trên sàn thay vì giường ngủ hay kệ bếp như thường lệ.

 “Wanna wrestle with me baby

Here’s a sneak, little peek

You can dominate the game ‘cause I’m tough

I don’t play around that often

But when I do, I’m a freak

So you’d better believe

I like it rough…”

(Muốn vật lộn với em không cưng

Đây là một gợi ý nhỏ cho anh nè

Anh làm chủ cuộc chơi chỉ vì em dám chịu chơi

Em không ‘xõa’ thường xuyên đâu

Nhưng một khi đã ‘xõa’ rồi thì em là quái vật đấy

Vì vậy anh nên tin rằng

Em thích chơi bạo…)

Alexander chưa bao giờ nghi ngờ việc Dorian là một quái vật, một quái vật xinh đẹp thích sưu tập và treo đầy nhà những bức chân dung người chết có quỷ mới biết cậu tha từ đâu về. Bản thân anh cũng là một quái vật, ít nhất là tới khi Dorian phóng thích phần đó trong anh. Và một điều nữa, tần suất Dorian ‘xõa’ cao hơn nhiều so với tiêu chuẩn được cho là ‘lành mạnh’. Có lần cậu mang về nhà một bộ dao đủ hình dạng, kích cỡ và dụ Alexander chơi trò SM mà thành thật khuyên là bạn chỉ nên thử khi bạn là người bất tử có khả năng hồi phục mọi vết thương. Vậy là đêm ấy Alexander dành một nửa thời gian thử nghiệm từng con dao một trên làn da Dorian (không hối hận tý nào) và nửa còn lại liếm máu từ những ký hiệu cổ anh đã khắc lên thân người tình. Sau đêm ‘đẫm máu’ đó ra trải giường bị họ ném luôn vào lò sưởi.

Sau một tuần làm tình trên nền bài hát đó, Alexander quyết định mình đã chịu đựng đủ. Anh về nhà vào một tối nọ và đi thẳng vào phòng khách. Anh ngắm dàn âm thanh nổi một lúc rồi thản nhiên rút ra vài ngọn giáo đâm xuyên qua nó (đừng hỏi anh tìm mấy ngọn giáo đó ở đâu). Anh mỉm cười, cảm giác thỏa mãn y như xuyên cọc quân thù ngày xưa vinh quang. Anh biết hành vi vừa rồi hoàn toàn vô ích vì sáng hôm sau là Dorian lại rinh về một dàn mới nhưng có một đêm yên tĩnh vẫn còn hơn không.

Không may cho Alexander, anh rất nhanh nhận ra rằng dù không có dàn âm thanh thì bài hát chết bầm đó vẫn có thể tra tấn anh, dù âm thanh có nhỏ hơn một chút vì phát ra từ chiếc Vaio của Dorian.

Shit! Alexander ôm mặt. Làm sao mình có thể quên cái laptop được chứ?

Đỉnh điểm là Dorian đang hát theo và anh thực sự không thể ‘xuyên cọc’ người tình của mình để bắt cậu ta ngậm miệng được.

Phải không nhỉ?

“Push up into my body

Sink your teeth into my flesh…”

(Thúc vào cơ thể em

Cắn ngập răng vào da thịt em…)

Anh đẩy Dorian xuống sàn ngay khi điệp khúc đầu tiên cất lên. Giật vội cà vạt xuống, anh dùng nó trói tay Dorian lại sau lưng. Nhịp đập Dorian reo lên phấn khích dưới đầu ngón tay anh khi Alexander xé nát y phục hàng hiệu trên người họ.

Dorian dừng hát một khi anh ấn vào người cậu và cắn vào động mạch trên đùi cùng một lúc (một phần không nhỏ nhờ vào khả năng của ma cà rồng). Những tiếng rên rỉ thoát ra từ đôi môi cong như cánh cung Cupid của cậu dễ nghe hơn hẳn thứ âm nhạc rẻ tiền kia. Ngón tay cậu luồn vào tóc Alexander, đôi chân dài quấn lấy eo anh, gót chân ấn vào thắt lưng anh. Dorian hầu như không bao giờ nói chuyện khi làm tình nhưng đây là cách cậu nói “nhanh hơn”, “mạnh hơn” và “đừng ngừng lại”. Alexander chiều ý cậu.

Động tác của anh vô thức bắt nhịp với bài hát.

 “Give it till I beg, give me some more

Make me bleed, I like it rough

Like it rough, rough, rough…”

(Cho em đến khi em van xin, cho em nữa đi

Khiến em đổ máu đi, em thích chơi bạo

Thích chơi bạo, thích chơi bạo…)

Cảnh tượng sau những lần làm tình của họ không khác mấy hiện trường án mạng: đồ đạc đổ vỡ và máu văng khắp nơi. Dorian trần trụi nằm sấp trên sàn nhà, duỗi thẳng tứ chi. Alexander áp sát vào người cậu, liếm láp mấy giọt máu vương lại trên lưng cậu. Bài hát vẫn đang bật, tua lại lần thứ n trong đêm.

“Make me bleed, I like it rough

Like it rough, rough, rough…”

(Khiến em đổ máu đi, em thích chơi bạo

Thích chơi bạo, thích chơi bạo…)

Dorian đã lấy lại hơi để hát. Giọng cậu yếu ớt, hổn hển và bị gián đoạn bởi tiếng cười khúc khích xen vào.

“Em biết bài hát này làm anh cáu, đúng không?”

“Tất nhiên,” Dorian đáp đầy tự tin, “vì vậy em mới mở suốt tuần trước đấy. Kết quả thật… phi thường.”

Cậu kéo kéo dây trói trên cổ tay và cân nhắc việc không để những vết bầm bên dưới lành lại.

“Em đúng là đứa bệnh.”

Không rõ vì lời nói của Alexander hay vì cảm giác nhột nhạt trên lưng mà Dorian cười phá lên.

“Lần tới muốn chơi bạo, cứ nói là được,” Alexander chán nản thở dài.

“Nhưng nhìn anh nổi giận thực sự rất kích thích. Thêm lửa vào đam mê. Còn nữa, em rất thích tác phẩm anh tạo ra trong phòng khách. Không hổ danh Vlad Xuyên Cọc.”

“Mai vứt nó đi.”

“Còn khuya.”

Dorian đột nhiên quay lưng về phái Alexander và trước khi anh kịp lên tiếng phản đối thì cậu đã ngủ khì.

Đây cũng là cách cậu nói “miễn bàn luận thêm”.

Tối hôm sau, Alexander về nhà sau một cuộc cãi vã nảy lửa với ban quản trị và đập vào mắt anh là toàn bộ đồ đạc trong nhà đều bị xuyên cọc y hệt dàn âm thanh vắn số hôm qua. Dorian mỉm cười ngồi trên ghế salon. “Em mua được mấy ngọn giáo từ kho đạo cụ. Phim ‘bom xịt’ quá nên họ bán bớt đạo cụ để bù lỗ. Anh có cảm tưởng gì?” Dorian hỏi bằng giọng ngây thơ như thể cậu hoàn toàn không trông thấy đám mây đen sấm chớp đùng đùng lượn lờ trên đầu Alexander.

Thêm nữa, bài hát chết tiệt đó đang mở oang oang trong phòng khách.

“Make me bleed, I like it rough

Like it rough, rough, rough…”

(Khiến em đổ máu đi, em thích chơi bạo

Thích chơi bạo, thích chơi bạo…)

Alexander có cảm tưởng gì á? Alexander muốn giết người thì có.

Hết

*Katie McGrath là chị đóng Lucy trong NBC’s Dracula – bị Dracula biến thành ma cà rồng. Chị cũng đóng Morgana trong Merlin.

Tự dịch từ bản Eng Like It Rough để luyện tập khả năng viết tiếng Việt, và tự thấy quá ba chấm. Nói chung là cũng chém nhiều.

Vụ xỉ vả bài Flesh của Simon Curtis và Marilyn Manson là quan điểm của Alexander/Dracula chứ không phải của tui nhá J. Cá nhân tui thấy thì bài Flesh nên là character’s song của Dorian (có mấy ai lên cơn hứng tình vì bị cắn đứt tai như Dori đâu), cộng thêm vụ “sink your teeth into my flesh” nên càng hợp Alex, vậy là fic này ra đời.

Đây là tương lai hơi xa của một fic khác Why Won’t You Die? cũng ship Dracula x Dorian nhưng lấy bối cảnh Luân Đôn thế kỷ 19.

[Fanfic] Why Won’t You Die? (5)

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.

V.   The World Is a Stage

Why wont you die 5b

 

Alexander was on time, Dorian Gray was early and Lady Weatherby was late as most women should be; a woman would be deemed immodest if she showed up early or on time – as if she was too eager to see the gentleman, or in this case, gentlemen. So Alexander found himself in the company of an ever-beaming Dorian Gray who might or might not know he was tempting a vampire with the melody singing in his veins. He probably knew his effect on his blood-drinking companion because tonight, he had once again left a few top buttons of his wine-colored shirt undone, baring his neck and throat to the chilling bites of the night winds. Alexander briefly wondered if anyone had ever criticized his insensible fashion style.

“It was very rude of me to not say a proper farewell to you the night before,” said Dorian some minutes after Alexander had stepped down his coach. “But judging from your condition, it was probably out of the question.”

Alexander studied Dorian’s youthful face and no matter how he tried, he was unable to decipher the hidden meaning behind this seemingly harmless attempt to start a conversation. Dorian’s facial expressions gave nothing but a courteous politeness, all lips curving and eyes shining. It would be much convenient, he thought, if he were to possess the mind-control ability those dreaded penny dreadful novels so loved to bestow his kind. Never trust a starving pen for anything remotely close to the truth.

Since he was able to read neither the man’s expressions nor mind, he decided to play along.

“It shames me to think how terrible a host I was. I take some pride in my tolerance but that night I obviously underestimated what I took.”

“You shouldn’t have blamed yourself. Some said wine was the greatest gift of God and I believe whoever said it had to be a wise man. What is the meaning of parties and celebrations if we cannot allow ourselves to abandon our normal restraints and get a little carried away?”

“The wisdom of a drunkard is sometimes the greatest of all… yet not the most trusted,” Alexander said with a thin smile. “However, Mr. Gray, the abandonment of restraints can be rather lethal… leads us astray, as I trust you have already had bountiful knowledge.”

“There is a tribe at the edge of the world I once had the pleasure to meet. The people there have a sort of drink they call ‘Demon Kiss’ – roughly translated. It is made from the rarest, most toxic herbs, yet it’s finest champagne to them and they wouldn’t trade it for all the gold of the world. The first time one drinks, it leaves him in bed one day straight, but in the second, the third there will be an improvement. The pleasure it brings is insurmountable, they claim, but only when he can abandon his restraints.”

“Have you tried?”

“I considered myself a fortunate man. Their witch offered me a deal: I gave her what she wanted and she allowed me a taste of their treasured drink. I dare say no wine made from white hands can stand as its equal. It was everything they said and much more; thus I learned from those people that complete abandonment is the key to pleasure.”

“Such an intriguing story. However, I’d like to think both you and I are not discussing wine, but another liquid, much thicker and more intoxicating.”

Realization dawned on Dorian Gray’s face. His smile got wider, sort of like a child discovering a new toy, and the pink on his cheeks was visible even in the gas light. But it was, of course, only possible when you possessed vampire eyes, and were watching attentively… which happened to be exactly what Alexander was doing.

There seemed to be a magnetic field around Dorian Gray which always gravitated his eyes to him wherever they wandered. Alexander found it both fascinating and disturbing at the same time.

“Is it true that blood is like finest wine to your kind – what is the exact term for it? Popular literature tends to call you ‘vampire’ so I wonder if it is the proper name. Do correct me if I am wrong.”

That was certain a question (or two questions, technically) Alexander did not expect coming from Dorian Gray. One moment he was acting as if they were two normal men entirely ignorant of the supernatural activities occurring in this city and the next he was raising curious questions about the taste of blood and calling Alexander a “vampire”. To analyze his motives was almost an impossible task: Dorian Gray was an open book full of alien characters that he would have to spend the next century studying and still might not be able to grasp their meanings.

“Vampires, bloodsuckers, whatever you feel pleased to use – names do not matter. What does, instead, is the essence, which prompts me to raise a question…”

He managed to catch all of Dorian Gray’s attention with his unvoiced question, as the look on his face was trying to say.

“What should I call you, Dorian Gray? You look a beautiful human but we both know you are much more than just meet the eye.”

“Oh, thank you for your kind words,” said Dorian Gray and there was the blush on his cheeks again. Was he able to feign that, too, Alexander wondered.

“I will be very honest – well, I do not know myself. I am flesh and blood but not human, merely masquerading as one, just as you are, Mr. Grayson. I am not as fortunate as you who knows his essence. To put it short, I have no idea what I am.”

Alexander’s gaze focused on the young man’s eyes. “If that is the case, I wonder if you are truly Dorian Gray, the only grandson of Lord Kelso.”

Dorian Gray closed the distance between them, his perpetual smile snubbed out and his face wore a foreign grim look. It seemed as though he wanted to whisper into Alexander’s ears some terrible dark secrets the sharing of which could equate life and death. Nevertheless, stepping closer was the only thing he did. “Have you already the answer?”

Alexander arched an eyebrow.

“The blood opens a pathway to the soul, does it not? You who have penetrated thousands of souls should know it better than I.”

Human souls,” Alexander corrected.

Dorian Gray chuckled. “Nothing but humans?”

“Nothing but humans.”

And some rodents in desperate times but Alexander did not think it was the point Dorian Gray was aiming for.

“Never your own kind?”

“Try eating the flesh on your arm or leg and you’ll understand.”

Laughter was Dorian Gray’s only reply. After a short while, he said, “Oh, I do believe in certain extreme circumstances people have to eat their own flesh to survive. Have you ever had to, Mr. Grayson?”

Not catching Dorian Gray’s flow, Alexander lightly shook his head.

“Anyway, to answer your earlier query, ‘Dorian Gray’ is a name, the same as ‘Alexander Grayson’, simply a role we have to play in order to exist in this world. ‘The world is a stage,’ is it not?”

“Some play their role for a purpose,” said Alexander, his sharp eyes narrowing.

“Some play for convenience,” replied Dorian Gray. His eyes met the vampire’s.

It was as if Alexander was reliving the moment just before his fangs pierced the jasmine-scented skin of Dorian Gray. The fearless defiance. The subtle challenge. The alluring invitation. The temptation. All were rushing in through the amber irises that seemed to be blazing, almost like molten gold. Alexander thought of his dream creature with the same enchanting countenance, the same mesmerizing eyes. A mere flash of image fueled the subdued thirst in his throat, and it burnt. Dorian Gray’s visage was blurry behind a transparent red veil.

“Are you all right, Mr. Grayson?”

Dorian Gray’s voice sounded distant, echoic. The beatings of a nearby heart were thunders in his ears.

“Good Lord, Mr. Grayson, your mask is slipping,” Dorian Gray chuckled to himself as he unfastened his cufflinks and rolled up his sleeve.

“Help yourself, Mr. Grayson.”

It seemed at that moment it was not Dorian Gray but rather the pulse beneath a layer of silky skin that was speaking to him. A free gift offered, seducing Alexander’s nature. But was it really free after all, or a much greater prize was always lurking beneath?

He seized Dorian Gray’s wrist and bought it to his mouth. Out of the corner of his eyes, Dorian Gray’s eyes lit up and the smile hanging on his lips bordered on smugness. So the bait had been caught…

Alexander tongued the skin that covered the pulse, avidly feeling it pacing up with excitement. Eager to be torn open, releasing the warm red juice. He could imagine its screaming for his fangs like a needy whore. He could imagine himself giving in, biting and suckling until the hungry beast inside was satiated. He could also visualize Dorian Gray soft and pliant in his arms like the pretty woman he had preyed. Nevertheless, he sought to make none of them a reality. His teeth grazed the flesh, enough to feel pain but not yet breaking skin. And then still holding the wrist in his hand, he yanked it far from his mouth.

“Don’t try to tempt me,” Alexander spoke to the younger man in a less-than-human voice, with a less-than-human visage.

“Like you’ve said, Mr. Grayson, I do not even try.”

To Alexander’s surprise, Dorian Gray’s free hand crept to his cheek. A thumb pressed to the point of his fangs, nicking itself. He smeared the budding beads on the vampire’s lips.

Alexander instantly let go of Dorian Gray’s hand and pushed him back with such force that the younger man almost toppled over. He willed his teeth back to their normal shape and tore his eyes away from the creamy white skin with a touch of cherry, which was licked clean by Dorian Gray’s tongue.

“I find your self-control prowess truly admirable, Mr. Grayson.”

Alexander fixed his immaculate coat and tie as an act of composing himself. “It would be a shame to ruin such a pretty shirt, don’t you think Mr. Gray?” said Alexander with a sarcastic tone.

Au contraire, Mr. Grayson. This is precisely why I have chosen this particular color to be the trusted confidant of our clandestine affair,” replied Dorian as he was brushing imaginary dust off his outfit. “So that it would not reveal our true colors. And speaking of garments, I believe you do own me a silk scarf and a shirt.”

Alexander did not have a mirror with him to check, but he believed the word to describe his facial expression at the moment would be ‘dumbfounded’. Once again he was needlessly reminded that reading Dorian Gray’s motives was as futile as trying to catch the tail of the wind. His logical patterns were elusive at best and seemed to be zigzagging on a winded path leading nowhere near his true intentions.

“Pardon me, Mr. Gray, but could you elucidate on your newly shifted subject?”

“Oh.” Dorian Gray feigned a surprised look with his large eyes, which, if Alexander did not know better, might have him fooled. “Mr. Renfield must have forgotten my little message. Considering how busy he is, it is entirely understandable.”

Yes, Renfield must have let it slipped his mind; he made a mental note to ask his right-hand man first thing when he returned. “Would you please enlighten me on that subject as to why I own you some pieces of clothing?”

“And I as well,” spoke a third voice that turned both their heads. The flower of the evening had finally appeared, clad in a flowing dress as red as blood and just as revealing as her previous outfit. She regarded the two men with cool, piercing eyes and her painted lips curved into a satisfied smile. She liked the effect she had on men, the looks on their faces when they laid eyes on her as if she were the only woman worth looking in the world. But she felt the greatest pride in their lusts, in the dark lights in their eyes that promised only the darkest thoughts; anything less would only terribly bore her.

Both Alexander Grayson and Dorian Gray had enough experience to give her what she wanted.

“You sure have very light footsteps, my lady,” said Alexander after kissing her hand. “I could barely hear you coming at all.”

Lady Weatherby lifted her other hand for Dorian Gray to kiss. “Oh, Mr. Grayson, you must be accustomed to women stomping in America. No, a true lady would rather hang herself than to hear a gentleman’s complaints about the heaviness of her feet.”

“Then I would rather bite my tongue than voice my complaints about a lady,” replied Dorian Gray.

“Pardon my overhearing but I think I have heard Mr. Grayson say something about ‘owning some pieces of clothing’. Would you please enlighten me on that subject, too, Mr. Gray?” Her eyes gaze swept over Alexander. “Mr. Grayson appears rather serious about it.”

Dorian Gray broke into a peal of laughter.

“I was hoping my lady has not heard it. I am really embarrassed. You see, we were having a conversation and suddenly I was hit with this desire to tease Mr. Grayson, to test if I could deceive him. You did not take my little spontaneous folly too serious, did you, Mr. Grayson?”

Alexander smirked. “I must say you took great effort in delivering it as truthful as possible. I was truly convinced.”

“You see, I have always this bizarre fixation to coax Mr. Grayson into abandoning his gentlemanly manners and giving into…” Dorian Gray made a dramatic gesture with his hand. “… his more primal side, which I happen to adore.”

Alexander tried not to visibly cringe at the last word. “In doing so you also reveal yours,” he replied.

“Isn’t it what the ladies love about us?”

Lady Weatherby broke into hearty chuckles. “My my, aren’t you gentlemen making quite a fascinatingly queer pair? I cannot speak for all the ladies but personally I find your idea very… enticing.”

Alexander’s eyebrows shot up momentarily. Dorian Gray laughed.

“Such an exquisite lexical choice, my lady. A ‘queer’ pair we are indeed, aren’t we, Mr. Grayson?”

If Jayne Weatherby were not here, swear to Lucifer, Alexander would snap Dorian Gray’s neck in half. To hell with his freaky immortality.

Lady Weatherby bit her coral lips, revealing a hint of her pearly white teeth. She stepped up and linked her arms with Dorian Gray and Alexander’s. “Though I love to prolong this discussion, I do believe it is high time we went. The theatre awaits.”

If there was one thing that Renfield hated more than having to drag a slumbering Grayson out of bed, it would be welcoming him home in a state of mess. It took him almost a decade to realize one of his lifetime hobbies was to dress Grayson up, so he was rightfully frustrated when once again he had to incinerate his boss’s blood-soaked clothes in the fireplace. Just to add salt to the injury, Grayson was a bloodsucker with little to none etiquette when indulging in his unvaried diet. What was the point in accumulating wealth if you could not afford one-time outfit, said one careless vampire, to his assistant’s dismay. Much as he hated Grayson’s careless attitude, there was one thing that grated Renfield’s nerve more than welcoming a blood-soaked Grayson: that was welcoming a blood-soaked Grayson with a thunderous black cloud hovering above his head.

Sometimes, Alexander Grayson’s temperament could be worse than London’s weather.

But there was one silver lining in every cloud after all, and that was Grayson not being drunk as a skunk.

Oops, touché.

Grayson stomped into the living room, with the stench of blood violently pervading the air and Renfield secretly crossed himself while counting.

And yet the man never considered himself a devout Christian.

One, the chair flew out of the window. A loud noise that would surely disturb the neighborhood had Grayson not already paid handsomely for their ‘sympathy’.

Two, flied the small table with the flower vase on it. More nerve-wracking noises.

God bless those poor unfortunate souls. Amen.

Grayson strode to the sofa and for once second Renfield almost believed that he would grab it and fling it out of the door. Good thing his boss, though furious, still possessed rather decent sense. He flopped down on the sofa, grabbed the nearer bottle within arm reach – his usual whiskey – uncapped, did not bother with a glass, and continuously poured the liquid down his throat.

Apparently alcohol had a calming effect on the vampire because half-a-bottle later, Grayson’s breathing was even and the murderous light had been subdued in his eyes.

“That old fool Sir Clive’s,” all of sudden Grayson said. The abrupt abortion of silence nearly made Renfield jump out of his skin.

“You mean the blood?”

“Caught him right in front of his home, ripped his head clean off,” spoke Grayson in a serene tone that was usually achieved after an ample amount of whiskey.

“So that was your ‘give him a piece of my mind’?’

“The old pig did insult me under my own roof. That–” Grayson raised his forefinger, “–alone deserved death sentence.”

“Perhaps we should mount a warning sign over the front door,” said Renfield in a mildly sarcastic tone to which Grayson only snorted.

Were Renfield another man he might suffer the same fate as Sir Clive. Yet as they both knew, the vampire monarch was extremely tolerant with his assistant’s sarcasm. He even fancied such a sharp wit and a bold tongue.

“Spare the likes of him no sympathy, dear Renfield, for once you cross them, they won’t hesitate to strike you down like vipers in a pit.”

“Well, the same could be said about you, sir.”

“And that leaves me perfectly fitted to destroy them.” Alexander said. “I would have put down his insults to senile foolishness if he weren’t a high-ranking member of the Order of the Dragon.”

“Pardon me, sir, but shouldn’t his death alert the others?”

“Ah, that is entirely the point, Renfield. I never plan a peaceful demise for them. In the time they await their death they shall suffer from anxieties, paranoia and fears that their enemy is next to them but cannot be seen.”

“In the time they await their death they can also prepare to fight you, sir. Learn and exploit your weaknesses.”

“I hope they do. It would be a bore if they didn’t.”

“Then why were you infuriating, sir? Weren’t you with Dorian Gray tonight?”

Oops. Renfield did not fail to notice the dark fury that crossed Grayson’s countenance upon the mention of the name. So Dorian Gray was the cause of this beastly mood, eh?

“He said that I owned him some pieces of clothing. Do you happen to have any idea about this, Renfield?”

An awkward silence stretched as Renfield raked his memory of a few brief words exchanged between him and Dorian Gray. “… I believe he did leave you a message regarding that matter, sir. Perhaps he was talking about the, you know, bloodstained… Anyway, did you find out anything about this mysterious man?”

“Did and did not,” Grayson gritted through clenched teeth. “Renfield, have you ever had the misfortune of taking a seat on a crate of explosives?”

Renfield was not sure he was following Grayson’s logic here. “… No, sir.”

“Such,” stressed Grayson, a finger raised in the air for dramatic effect, again, “is exactly how sitting next to Dorian Gray is like.”

It dawned on Alexander that Dorian Gray must have orchestrated tonight’s event. He felt that particular hunch even stronger once they stepped into the so-called ‘avant-garde’ theater house Dorian Gray had suggested. The brown-skinned boy in a decent tux bowed deeply to them upon entering, paying much regard to Dorian Gray, who was without doubt a regular patron. The entrance gave an impression that it was a small, crowded place choked with loud noises and penny-worth tobacco – typical of a common theater house; however, inside it was a much larger space, which was divided into the ‘common’ section below and a circular row of private boxes above to serve the more affluent audience. The boy in tux led them up a winded semi-staircase up into one of those boxes, each of which separated from its neighbors by thick velvet curtains that served double purpose as to muffle the noises from below and maintain privacy. The seats were plush and softly perfumed, not one of the costly eau de perfume but still much preferable than the long-withstanding sweat odor Alexander had expected from a theater in this corner of the city; one of the perks of being a vampire was that his sense of smell was extremely keen – a stink that was unpleasant to a human would be agonizing to him. The scent somehow reminded him of his delicious little prey a few nights before, only a few blocks from here. Her blood was a rare type amongst humans, and made a delectable dinner.

The boy showed them their respective seat, with Dorian Gray’s between Lady Weatherby’s and Alexander’s. This further cemented the vampire’s suspicion that Dorian Gray had had a hand in the arrangements, although his motives remained perplexingly vague.

Sitting close, Alexander could hear the blood in Dorian Gray’s veins. It was a steady current, like the ocean waves gently lapping the vessel’s hull on a peaceful day, a rhythm that was both soothing and arousing to a hungry bloodsucker, though more of the latter than the former. It reminded him the ugly truth that he was indeed a hungry bloodsucker – had not have a taste of blood save a few of Renfield’s drops to cure his sunburn the other day. The thirst was always in him, ever restless, yet he had not felt the crave for it, which was usually what motivated him to lurk around the dark shadows of London in search of a fitting prey that could last him until the next one came. Young women were first choice on his menu, followed by young men; the youth in their veins was the finest nourishment to his strength, though their taste was quite unripe. On the other hand, older people might not provide as much strength for him yet they tasted richer, refined like old wines, especially those of ‘blue blood’. He supposed that should he go on a hunt tonight, that Sir Clive who had arrogantly insulted him might prove to be a worthy meal. Or alternatively he could…

He glanced at Dorian Gray’s bare throat, weighing his chance to get a few sips of that sweet toxic nectar. Dorian Gray did not seem to mind, considering that he had obviously offered himself to Alexander.

Oh, the word choice. Lady Weatherby’s earlier remark resurfaced and Alexander mentally grimaced.

On second thought, there was Dorian Gray’s confession that he was not human and the bizarre dream with the bizarre creature and its puzzling riddle. He wondered if all of these had any connection to the frustrating effect he suffered every time he succumbed to the dark invitation of this non-human’s blood.

“Would you care for a drink, my lady, Mr. Grayson?”

Dorian Gray’s soft-spoken voice kindly reminded him that he was not alone in his study chamber, deep in reverie, but in the company of human, and that keeping his own disguise was a crucial matter.

“Brandy for me,” said Lady Weatherby.

“A whiskey, please.”

“Sebastian,” Dorian called the boy waiting docilely in the corner, “be a dear and bring the lady and gentleman their drinks.”

“And you, sir? Absinthe?”

“Ah, not tonight, dear boy. Tonight I’m not intended for the flaming fairy. A Whiskey also, if you will.”

“The first time I saw you, you were drinking absinthe. Where was it, a few blocks from here?”

Alexander threw in a seemingly casual remark, playing along with Dorian Gray’s lies. Up till now he had had many chances to expose Alexander’s unholy nature, yet he had chosen not to. On one hand Alexander could not deny he was grateful; on the other, it only increased the doubt in Alexander – what was Dorian Gray’s reason in covering up a vampire’s secret? Did he intend to use it later? Still, he possessed only one piece of evidence and that one piece had been ruined before it was put to any use. His accusations, if he intended to make any, were only words, and words were winds, easily bought off with money, which Alexander had plenty. He supposed he and Dorian Gray were on equal footing, with each of them knowing the other’s secret; if Dorian Gray wanted to fool around, he did not see why he should not oblige him.

He allowed himself some exultation to see the pair of amber eyes widened.

“So the two of you met in a common pub? I’m intrigued. Would you care to elaborate on it?”

“Yes, my lady,” Alexander replied. “I have an interest in the lives of the common folks, which stems from the time I spent in America, so in my spare time I frequent their places quite often. I myself was rather surprised to find a noble young man such as Mr. Gray share my interest.”

“I’ve always have a fascination in them, much like you Mr. Grayson, though it is because I find their lives exquisitely colorful, a stark contrast to the mundane aristocratic lifestyle that a number of us lead.”

“Even their many a suffering?” Lady Weatherby arched a sharp eyebrow.

“Suffering itself is a beauty.”

“How strange a logic!” exclaimed Lady Weatherby.

“Such can only be said by those who have yet to suffer.”

“So you do not agree with my view, Mr. Grayson? Then you would be so kind to enlighten us?”

“I merely speak from my years of living in The New World. Contrary to common belief, not everything is ‘new’ there. Slavery, for example, is as ancient as mankind. Ask any dark-skinned man if he saw beauty in his sufferings by the hand of his master.”

“Ah, you say ‘if’, Mr. Grayson. The question is, has anyone ever asked him such?”

Dorian Gray locked eyes with him and in a blink Alexander caught the same defiance he had found in those eyes before.

“Gentlemen,” Lady Weatherby called to them once she noticed their tension, “I am afraid suffering, thought-provoking as it is, is not our main subject tonight.”

The boy Sebastian had returned with their respective drinks. Dorian Gray raised his glass. “Indeed, my lady. We have come looking for pleasure, however ephemeral.”

“The world is a stage,” Alexander echoed Dorian Gray’s earlier words, and did not miss the young man’s brief glance at him. He too raised his whiskey, a smile hanging on the corner of his lips.

Lady Weatherby’s eyes moved between the two of them as she took a sip of the burnt gold liquid in her glass.

Alexander’s smile, together with his upbeat mood, did not last long however. They had vanished shortly after the play on the decorated stage began its first act.

The lights were dimmed, the curtains drawn, and the setting of the stage presented to Alexander’s eyes an all-too-familiar sight. It was the scene of a common pub, lamely decorated with numerous risqué pictures of voluptuous women in nothing but their corset, garter belt and lace stockings. Men and women in various fashions filled the space: some were drinking, some shamelessly groping one another and some engaging in a brawl to which nobody cared to put a stop. The indistinguishable chatters on the stage mingled with the noises down the aisles, theatrical smoke with realistic one. The orchestra down the pit was playing some joyous tune. It was merely an everyday scene at any pub in this corner of the street, yet Alexander was struck visibly by it. Had they not just mentioned it only moments ago? He managed well enough to hide the ‘visibly’ part though, with his hands tightly gripping the hardwood arm of his seat. The material groaned as it suffered his supernatural strength but all the sounds easily drowned it out. Beside him, Dorian Gray and Lady Weatherby appeared taken by the scene, paying little attention to him. He preferred them that way.

Still, it was only the beginning.

The orchestra struck a sharp note to attract the audience’s attention to the ‘door’ of the pub being open and from behind the stage stepped out a figure. Loud wolf whistles rose, encouraging even the shyest of men; such was an expected reaction when an actress just made her way to the scene through the back door. Pretty little thing that she was with a foreign pulchritude: honey-colored skin, huge dark eyes and coal-black hair done in an elaborate Parisian fashion – something that required a very deft hand and a generous purse. Although her look went at the opposite end of the Victorian standard spectrum, Alexander found her quite a treat to the eyes, as did the majority of male audience. She would make a very fine woman donning a pretty dress; instead, she waltzed into the pub in a wealthy young man’s clothes, the excessive metal straps on her knee-high leather boots gleaming. Actresses playing men’s roles were quaint yet not non-existence but it did not seem to be what she was doing. She remained a woman still, and reveled in her gender, if her make-up, hairdo and the subtle sway of her hip were any indications, who only had an odd choice of attire many proper ladies would frown deeply upon. Sort of an exotic ‘hybrid’, something between a man and a woman that absorbed the beauties of both. But that alone was not enough to elicit such an excitement from the audience: it was the manner of her dressing that roused the men, sending them into a little frenzy – one-third of the buttons of her white linen shirt were undone, allowing a generous view of her swan neck, her delicately shaped clavicles, and her tantalizing cleavage – wasn’t she blessed to possess a figure many females would kill to have? She appeared unaffected by the lustful gazes and lewd words some of the coarse males were throwing at her, yet the specter of a smile on her full lips gave away a fraction of her otherwise perfect mask – in that particular aspect she so resembled Lady Weatherby, who also took pride in her womanly charms, and a rare breed of women whose company terribly thrilled and made men insecure of their masculinity at the same time. She strode to the furthest table in the corner and settled down to enjoy a glass of the flaming fairy. Green light danced on the silver jewelry adorned her small hands with every gesture.

Something struck Alexander as disturbingly familiar. The way the actress dressed, her silver jewelry, the faintest of smile on her lips, they were all perfect replicas of a certain man he knew. That man who had survived his heart ripping out and was now sitting beside him, courting his hunger with the sweet fragrance of his blood. If someone told him Dorian Gray had had no hand in this, he would not hesitate to tear that fool’s head off his shoulders.

Dorian Gray continued doting on Lady Weatherby, completely oblivious to the dark flame in Alexander’s pale eyes.

The candles were put out and a single pillar of light was focused on the door. Other instruments went mute, allowing only the violin’s shriek to be heard when it was open. On first glance it was a tall, lean man in immaculate dark grey suit that just made his way to the scene. The light followed him as he took off his hat and coat and passed them to the waiter. Below noises rose and once again the vampire monarch had to grip the arm of his chair. Soon as the actor’s hat was off, the actor was revealed to be yet another female dressed in men’s clothes. White as the winter snow was her wavy hair, groomed in the latest men’s style. The curls framed her delicate face, almost as white as her hair and adorned with two amethyst jewels that made her eyes. Hers was a peculiar and rare condition that Alexander had had encountered once or twice during his long life as a vampire. In some places, it was held as an ethereal blessing, a gift from the Almighty while in others, an abomination, a curse that condemned any baby afflicted to a horrid purification ritual that ended in death’s embrace.

Though her visage was new to him, her costume, on the other hand, was well known. Perhaps Renfield even knew better, since it was he that had picked the garments for Alexander, and probably fed them to the flame once they were ruined beyond help.

“I have heard of this bizarre condition but I have never seen it in a person.”

He heard Lady Weatherby talk to Dorian Gray in low voice.

“A uniqueness that only few were blessed with I believe.”

“You sound as if you are envious, Mr. Gray,” she laughed.

“I am.”

“Yes, even a woman such as I am must admit she’s rare gem. Both of them would make fine actresses in gowns, wouldn’t they?”

“Then the peculiarity that formed part of their charm would be lost, don’t you agree, Mr. Grayson?”

He turned to Alexander and winked at him, then promptly returned his attention to the stage, not demanding an answer.

The white girl had settled down at a table near the entrance and was instantly fawned over by the young waiter. Golden-haired, tall and muscular, he charmed the eyes pretty well at first glance. The Adonis in worn white shirt, waistcoat and spotted apron. He appeared to win the white girl’s attention with his easy smiles as they began exchanging meaningful glances while being watched by the dark girl at the opposite corner. She swirled her glass in idle motion, the light radiating from her black eyes rivaling the green liquid. The curves of her lips grew with each minute spent watching the pair.

So, that was how it had begun, Alexander thought with ire. It was not an accident that Dorian Gray had caught him in that alleyway; he had spied on him and followed him – for whatever purpose unclear. The notion fanned his rage, already fueled by the manner with which Dorian Gray had been taunting him, and he struggled with all his self-control forged by centuries of being a ruler to suppress the urge to go on a killing spree.

“Sir, you’re saying that Dorian Gray replicated the event of the night you supposedly ‘killed’ him?” Renfield asked, his black eyes widening with disbelief. “What sort of man in the right mind would go that far to… I can’t fathom his intention.”

“I doubt that whether he is ‘man’ or ‘in the right mind’. Yet he has shown persistent consistency in his effort to aggravate my bloodlust.”

Renfield’s eyes swept over Grayson’s bloody clothes. He could tell Dorian Gray’s attempt had not been unsuccessful.

Alexander, Dorian Gray and Lady Weatherby all had different reactions to the scene on the stage. While Dorian Gray’s expression showed relatively little in change – only his eyes sparkling with a quiet amusement, Lady Weatherby brought her gloved hand to cover her silent, surprised gasp… which might very well be feigned; like Dorian Gray and Alexander, the woman also wore her mask well enough to appear convincing. Contrastingly the vampire monarch regarded the pair on stage with cool eyes. His wrath had gone past the point of exploding, his bloodlust the same; at the moment they were simmering inside, patiently awaiting the right time to be unleashed onto an unfortunate victim. His thought briefly directed to Sir Clive, with his haughty attitude shared among the Order and his insults. In that moment, the old man’s fate was sealed.

The scene changed from the pub to a dark alleyway, where the handsome waiter, apparently seduced by the white-haired girl, allowed his patron to lead him. The dark-haired one, with the curves of her lips evolving to a mischievous smile, followed suit. Some snickers were heard among the audience. Even Lady Weatherby could not fight a few giggles of her own. The next twist of the play had half the crowd gasping while the other half broke into a roar. Under the ghastly light of the lamp the white-haired girl had her handsome companion writhing against the moldy brick wall with a swift, brutal assault of her lips in his own. The accompanying music faded from quick, joyous tune to slow and sensual, and light focused on the couple. Whether she kissed like a bite or she bit like a kiss, there was no way to tell with her predatory viciousness sewing to the seam of her lips as they ran over his mouth, his stubbly chin, the sharp line of his jaw, and then his supple lips once more. She did not kiss the way a gentleman did, if such was her role in this tableau, and much less a woman that she was; she kissed him as though she wanted to devour him whole, as though she was starving for his youthful, succulent flesh. A rivulet of ruby leaked from where they mouths conjoined, rolling along his chin, down his neck and got absorbed into his lapel. He had his arms around her narrow shoulders at first; then his knees went weak and he surrendered himself entirely to her mercy, clinging onto her so that he could maintain the illusion of standing on his own legs, his eyes half-closed. The white-haired girl, despite her physique, supported his weight with ease. Her wandering hands roamed about his form, his back first, and then quickly descending until they rested on his behind. She palmed him through his trousers, eliciting a moan which was quickly swallowed by her. She ground her body flat against him, further cutting off his any chance of escape. Behind a nearby wall the dark-haired girl spied on them.

The audience went temporary mute as if holding their breath when they witnessed the white girl’s hand roughly tipping his head back, exposing his pale throat. Her lips left his, and traveled to their newfound treasure, where her tongue flicked out to caress his Adam’s apple, bobbing frantically with anticipation. She smirked against his sweat-glistened skin before opening her mouth, teasing the audience with a gleam of fangs, and bit down. There were loud gasps down the aisles, mostly female. The young man’s glazed eyes shot open and his body jolted with an abrupt introduction of pain. Sense flooded him and he battled to get rid of her embrace. Her mouth latching on his neck, her amethyst eyes shut; however, she subdued his struggle with little effort, as she had been doing so from the very beginning. Blood from where her lips ravaged his flesh coiled around his throat like necklaces. His limbs’ movements became stagnant, and then ceased altogether, leaving an unresponsive cadaver in her arms. She let go of her victim shortly afterward and stood with her back against the wall, chest heaving heavily as savored the aftertaste of the sanguinary bliss lingering in her mouth. Red drenched her jaw, fastening a freshly picked rose on her breast pocket. A macabre adornment to match her macabre act. Slowly, a smile etched onto her lips; so devious was it that it drew a few sharp intakes of breath from the audience. Some women hid their sight into their companion’s jacket, sobbing, trembling.

It all felt so surreal to Alexander to watch the sequence of actions unfold in front of his eyes. He had never witnessed one of his kind during their feeding – it was a matter of privacy he himself had imposed on his bloody kin and subjects. When in the act, often he was so lost in his ecstasy that the whole world around seemed to fall into a momentary stillness, and the cursed mechanism within his body, fueled with the vigor of new blood, was the only thing that functioned with mad rapidity. Reality was soon reduced to a heightened perception of sounds, scents and motions – to cast aside humanity and experience the world like a pure beast. Hunger, of course, also sensitized his senses but it did so with a pain so great that it rendered everything insignificant save the cries in his veins.

Alexander’s throat constricted, his vision distorted and he was having the strangest hallucination of slipping into somebody else’s skin. It might not be the white girl that had the dark-haired one caged in her arms, it might be him. Similarly, the honey-skinned petit beauty who was staring at her captor with defiant eyes might not be herself either, replaced by Dorian Gray, and the two of them were reenacting their fateful encounter through the two actresses.

A warm hand gently placed on his own pulled Alexander back to his own skin and mind. He stared into the large, pretty eyes of Dorian Gray and his mouth that whispered low to him: “What’s the matter, Mr. Grayson? You seem a little… out of yourself.” His smile, ever amiable, suddenly felt like a thorn pricking Alexander’s flesh. “Nothing,” he replied, sort of grunting.

“What a relief! I was afraid you might miss the upcoming twist.”

Alexander let out an exasperated huff and retracted his hand from Dorian Gray’s when the latter obstinately refused to do so.

Loud cries echoed through the room below him. As Alexander had expected, once the white girl came to a disturbing realization that she was unable to drain this peculiar mortal, she resorted to a more direct extreme means. The prosthetic heart in her blood-soaked hand was still pumping when she ripped it clean from the dark girl’s bosom. Even Alexander, who frequently came into contact with human organs, was amazed at the authenticity of this theatrical trick. It was further proven by the gagging noises and the foul smells of half-digested dinners pervading the air. Not for the weak of stomach, he was amused by the thought of the warning sight upon entrance. Overestimating one’s own ability was a grievous mortal flaw, one he was glad he did not often fall for.

The heart fell on the body on the stage and the white girl, satiated from her double kill, turned on her heels and disappeared from sight. The audience held their breath, waiting for the thick curtain to be drawn. Moments of silence had passed. The curtain stayed still and so did the pair of corpses. Whispers began to rise, louder and louder. “Draw the curtain,” some man yelled, and he was met with agreements. Even Lady Weatherby voiced her curiosity.

“I plead you to be patient, my lady,” said Dorian Gray, putting his hand on her in the shadows, where they probably hoped was out of others’ sight. Watching them somehow proved to be more interesting than a tableau he had already learnt the ending.

Perhaps not the ending.

As soon as a few impatient men and women stood from their seats, the bodies on the stage stirred, drawing their attention. Bizarre was her movement as the dark-haired girl rose, a corpse returning from the dead to deliver one last shock: her kohl-rimmed eyes pierced through the audience while she was holding her heart in her hand. The curtain was drawn and the last glance at the girl showed her heart bumping with fresh blood.

“May I present Miss Divina?”

Dorian Gray had the dark-haired actress by her arm once the play was over, and they gathered in the parlor for a drink. Her coal-black hair was let down in lazy ringlets that fell around her shoulders, laid bare by the magenta dress she was wearing. Around her wrists, her silver bracelet jingled.

“Lady Weatherby, Mr. Grayson, a pleasure to have you here tonight.”

“Charmed,” said Lady Weatherby.

“The pleasure is all mine.” Alexander kissed her hand. “That was quite an extraordinary play. I have to admit I was rather doubtful to receive Mr. Gray’s invitation.”

“Oh, thank you, Mr. Grayson, you are most kind. I was quite sure I would earn the full of Dorian’s wrath should it turn out a flop.”

“Mr. Gray indeed spoke highly of this theater and its plays, and I just saw that he wasn’t exaggerating. I’m mostly impressed by the realistic of the gore.”

“We are fortunate to have an expert in that field, is all.”

“Your accent is rather… exotic. Were you not always here, in London?” asked Lady Weatherby.

“No, my lady, where I came from is far, far away,” said Divina. “As Dorian always says, no matter how many years I live in London, my accent will never go away.”

“I suppose it suits you more than a British accent.”

“As does yours, Mr. Grayson. American isn’t it?”

“As American as God, guns and bourbon, or so they say. Had I had the privilege to meet you a few days earlier, I would have invited you to my demonstration ball. Mr. Gray was very discreet about you. I see he’s the protective kind… or jealous, whichever is entirely justified.”

Divina raised her hand to cover her mouth in a gasp. She turned to Dorian Gray with hurtful, watery eyes. “Did I embarrass you, father? So much that you never mention my name to your friends?”

Both Alexander and Lady Weather could not help raising an eyebrow.

“You see, Miss Divina grew up with me,” Dorian Gray explained, chuckling. “A sweet little sister she is, she never lets down a chance to tease me about our age gap.”

“From what I observe, that gap is not very wide.”

Alexander sniggered at the lady’s comment.

“Appearance can be rather… deceptive, my lady,” Dorian Gray said. “Anyway, it is getting late. I was hoping to introduce Alicia too, where is she?”

“She won’t come out if she hasn’t done cleaning – you know she’s a cleanliness freak. After all she was the one who had blood all over her face while I only got it on my costume.”

“Such an innovative idea to be put on stage. I wonder where you have found the inspiration.”

“Those penny dreadful novels can be a real gold mine, my lady,” Divina replied.

“Perhaps I may try one too. Much as I love to compliment Miss Alicia’s performance, I am afraid it’s high time I returned home.”

“Shall I have the honor to escort you to your manor?” Alexander held out his hand.

“That’s very kind of you, Mr. Grayson, but I have already accepted Mr. Gray’s offer. Shall we depart, Mr. Gray?”

Dorian left Divina to extended his arm for Lady Weatherby. “I hope you won’t find my sweet sister’s company too much of a bore, Mr. Grayson.”

Alexander smirked. “A lovely lady’s company can never be a bore to me. Goodnight my lady, Mr. Gray.”

“The lady Dorian Gray called ‘sister’, is she anything like her brother?”

“So far she appears only a mortal. Charming yes, but nothing more. I left the theater shortly after.”

“And then you caught Sir Clive?”

A look of dubious crossed Renfield’s face. He tried very hard to think otherwise of the blatant truth, and failed: that Sir Clive had met his maker tonight not due to his status in the Order of the Dragon; he had died simply because a certain vampire had been in need of a punching bag.

Blame your luck, old pal.

Thankfully mind reading was not on Grayson’s list of super powers. Renfield was not ready to suffer a decline in salary only because of a thought.

“I can almost imagine Doctor Helsing throwing a tantrum once he pays a visit.”

“To hell with his tantrum,” Grayson grunted. “Actually, Renfield, can I ask you to speak to someone tomorrow?”

“Who, sir?”

“That reporter who wrote down that I was a ‘potential alcoholic’, what’s his name?”

“Jonathan Harker, sir.”

“Yes, I need you to speak to Jonathan Harker on my behalf, that I have an offer for him.”

“Was the play well, sir? Did Divina embarrass you?”

Raziel welcomed him at the door into his mansion, ready to serve.

“You know your little sister, Razz. What could she ever do to go wrong? Though the real gem is Alicia, as always. I wish you could have seen our gentleman vampire’s face when she stepped on the stage.”

“Seems you were having a good time, sir. I am glad to hear that.”

“Anything happened in my absence?”

“You are mostly absent in the evening, sir,” Raziel corrected him. “But indeed there’s one thing: our newly hired servant Jackson has gone missing for a few hours. I’m afraid he has accidentally found…”

The butler gestured to the huge portrait, which they both knew was not a mere picture.

“I’ll check,” said Dorian with a sigh.

Dorian strode past the myriad of mirrors to reach the huge canvass in the oval chamber. He did not fail to notice a few dark spots on the floor, much less a severed arm.

“Curiosity kills a man,” he murmured, undressing the canvass. The hideous creature glared at him with his own eyes, albeit veiny and clouded. A drop of red hung at the corner of wrinkled gray lips.

Dorian touched his own lips and found the same red on his fingers. He withdrawn a handkerchief and hastily wiped away the blood on his mouth as well as the creature’s, huffing with exasperation upon hearing laughter in his ears. “I left a quaint souvenir for you,” it cooed. “Tastes good, doesn’t it?”

The sudden assault of the taste of raw flesh in his mouth almost made him gag.

“But not as good as your bloodsucker.”

He tried his best to ignore the voice and covered the canvass. He all but fled out of the hidden passage once done, the poor victim’s remains dangling from his hand.

“Found poor Jackson,” he told Raziel, casually tossing the dead limb on the dining table and flopping down on the nearest chair.

Raziel’s dark gaze lingered on the ragged bone peaking from the chewed muscles as if finding the whole thing a piece of art to be examined. “Perhaps, sir, the idea of a secret room is that it should be locked.”

Dorian poured himself a glass of champagne, and took a sip. He moved the fine liquid in his mouth, trying to wash away the nauseous aftertaste. “It isn’t locked for a reason, Razz.”

He reached for the limb with his free hand, fingering the gray skin. “If I don’t feed him once in a while, he’ll feed on me.”

Then he flung it into the fireplace.

Cont

Note: Dorian Gray’s painting in this fic has little resemblance to the one just revealed in Penny Dreadful 2×08: Memento Mori; it is entirely my idea.

[Fanfic] Secrets Aren’t Made to Be Known

Disclaimer : Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandom :  Penny Dreadful (2014)

Rating : K

Pairing : sort of Angelique x Dorian Gray

Genres : fanfiction, crack

Characters : Angelique, Dorian Gray

Warning : pure crack

Summary : Angelique discovered Dorian Gray’s secret. Set post-episode 8.

Wagner had stopped long before he stepped into the empty gallery, returning from a lovely evening with the lovely Miss Frankenstein. Silence encased the mansion like a tomb. Angelique was nowhere in sight, but soon as his eyes laid on the exposed hidden passage behind a portrait, he instantly knew where she had gone. He did not know how he should feel – infuriated? Hurt? Betrayed? – yet he understood he had to do something.

He did not enter the secret room instantly – let her contemplate ‘it’ for a little while; he went to his sleeping chamber instead, and rummaged through his drawer until he found what he was looking for: a small vial containing an ambiguous light green liquid. Satisfied, he poured two flutes of champagne and went to find Angelique.

He found her exactly as he had expected: rooting in place in front of his deepest secret, with a look of horror-stricken plastered on her countenance.

“So you’ve discovered my secret?”

It was a rhetorical question actually; the look on her face was enough an answer.

“I suppose every one of us is playing parts – identities other than who we truly are to the world at large. And some are never meant to be… exposed.”

Her gaze shifted between his soft smile and ‘it’, seeking to grasp their connection. “Why… a spider of all animals?”

He chuckled. “Then why Angelique?”

She shook her head.

“It started with a spider,” he said and handed her a flute. “But I suppose it perfectly suits my nature after all.”

“It is a little…” She struggled for the right, less offensive word. “… bizarre.”

He laughed a soft, wry laugh. “Can you accept me as I am? Can you still love me?”

He raised his flute, which she clinked with her own. Angelique smiled, and hesitantly nodded, before she brought the champagne to her rogue lips.

Something was wrong in the taste. She looked at him, an unvoiced question in her dark eyes as she felt her throat constrict. The flute in her hand broke, and Angelique, gasping for air, collapsed.

The scarlet robe spread about her like butterfly wings.

Looking at her body, he smiled. “I think you can…”

He walked to the huge canvass and grabbed the red-and-blue tight suit hanging on the frame. A sense of familiarity washed over him as he caressed the mask. “However, I can’t afford to risk this one secret.”

The first thing Angelique saw when she opened her eyes was a spider on the wall. Rage swelled in her, and she brushed it down the floor and crushed it beneath her foot.

“My my, quite energetic, aren’t you?”

Her ‘Mummy’, a middle-aged, chubby, not very attractive woman, entered her room.

“I woke up in my room and I can’t remember my last week,” said Angelique, huffing in exasperation. “Then this thing appeared and I felt so angry and… God, I don’t know.”

“Take it easy, girl.” Her Mummy patted her head with chubby fingers. “You were sick. You had a fever. But now you are fine.”

“I don’t feel fine at all. It is as if my memory was wiped out.”

“The many nasty things your fever did. You will get better soon.”

Though not entire convinced, Angelique allowed her Mummy to gently push her down the bed.

She spotted another spider on the wall and clenched her feet. Once Mummy was out, it would be dead to her.

She did not question why suddenly she hated spiders so much.

“She remembers not a thing,” Mummy said to the young, beautiful patron who had had Angelique returned.

“Good.”

A thick wad of bills were put into her chubby hands. “For your troubles,” he said.

What troubles, she wondered. Her girl was whole, undamaged, albeit with a little memory loss. But she knew better than to open her mouth and ask.

End

I’m sorry Angelique 😥

In case you don’t know/forget: Reeve Carney played Peter Parker/Spiderman in Broadway’s Spiderman: Turn off the Dark.

So Dorian Gray’s secret is his superhero persona – when he’s not hosting orgy parties or wooing someone, he’s swinging over the tops of the London buildings and shooting sticky spidey webs.

(Angelique was shocked due to how ‘odd’ his spandex suit looked.)

Remember that You Will Die: Penny Dreadful 2×08

Warnings: spoilers and inappropriate comments alerts!!

Sembene being Team Mom is cute *heart-shaped eyes*
I’ve been debating with myself since forever whether to write something for Penny Dreadful Episode 2×08: Memento Mori since I’m too late for an update of my Why Won’t You Die? (a AU fanfic feature Dracula from NBC’s Dracula and Dorian Gray from Penny Dreadful). But finally the side of me that wants to share my thought to whom it may concern won and here’s another rant about this mind-boggling episode.

The title links back to an old tale Evelyn Poole told her witch daughters in 2×01: Fresh Hell. “Look behind you. Remember that you are a man. Remember that you will die.” These lines, delivered in Evelyn’s languid tone, are particular haunting when you recall the fact that the Penny Dreadful cast are about 80% males and if they are some sort of a foreshadow than we should be worried for our characters, even though some of them (most of them actually) are monsters, d-bags or a funny combination of both. Moreover, these lines could be an echo of Game of Throne’s infamous motto: “Valar Morghulis”, translated into English as “All Men Must Die”. Oh well, if that turns out to be the case then the women will run the show (and the world too, if they feel like it), right?

I am probably the only one who doesn’t really mind the absence of Vanessa and Ethan in this episode – they had the last episode dedicated for them, didn’t they? And as I said in my previous post, I don’t ship them despise their blatant, intense chemistry (as some fans claim) so their lack of moments do not pose a problem to my enjoyment. Similarly I am probably the only one who wants to pat Inspector Bartholomew Rusk on the shoulder and tell him “Good job”. In a world full of vampires, witches, devils, monsters and all sorts of crazy things, this man is still able to precisely figures out the culprit behind bizarre murder cases. Even better, he has the guts to track down the murderer and confront him – this takes serious balls because you know, the murderer singlehandedly massacred an entire inn and what could guarantee he wouldn’t rip the one-armed inspector apart? Inspector Rusk should pack up his things and move to a new show, where his investigation skills may sight and there’s less chance he would get killed off in some brutal, magical way.

Anyway, I’m gonna skip past Sir Malcolm’s coming back to his old, angry, d-baggery but cool self (sans the beard), Sembene’s awesome yell of magic and Sir Malcolm’s suicidal brave quest of vengeance on the Satanic coven to talk about three significance revelations in this episode.

I. “Lucifer isn’t the only child.”

ss

Dear Luci isn’t the only fallen angel to be thrown down to Earth (guess we already knew that from the use of “we” in the narrative, eh?) – he has a little brother whose-name-is-not-known-yet-some-fans-insist-it-be-‘Dracula’ (seriously who said anything about Dracula being in this show?). And guess what, the two brothers are competing for the affection of one woman by the name of Vanessa Ives. Sounds familiar to you, this kind of me-and-my-brother-in-love-with-one-girl drama? The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, anyone? Sooooo, after all the mysteries shrouding the artefacts and the “memoir of the Devil”, it turns out to be a love-rectangular (for a lack of better world) that involves Vanessa, Lucifer and his bro, and Lupus Dei aka The Hound/Wolf/Dog of God. You’ve got to be kidding right?

Speaking of Lupus Dei, shouldn’t God send someone with more power down to battle Apocalypse? Someone like Archangel Michael or Gabriel or Raphael. Hello, one Lucifer is bad enough and now he has a brother while we have one Wolf? Ooookay, as a human I serious fear for the fate of humankind in this Penny Dreadful universe.

On a side note, the reference to Lucifer reminds me of the Lucifer that I’ve created first for a series of Mcfassy fanfics but then managed to invade even my original stories too.

(Feel free to unread the above sentence – just me rambling)

II. “Never again will I kneel to any man.”

So, in a span of about ten minutes or more, Lily/Brona goes on a rollercoaster of moods, dragging us pitiful viewers with her. Sure Billie Piper’s delivery of the shattering speech is impressive; still, the fact that Lily goes full-blown take-over-the-world mode isn’t. Talking about women sufferings? Cool and touching. It’s one hell less cool and touching when she offers to take a dozen women for John Clare and “we’ll fuck ‘em together”. Haha, talking like a devout feminist in one minute and the next turning into a misogynist who wants to use women like sex toys. Very funny indeed.

Her rapid changes in moods make me wonder if she’s somehow suffering MPD (multi-personalities disorder).

Capture

She also expresses her desire for a man who’s unlike all other men. Guess who’s that man “unlike all other men” that’s gonna bend his knees for her in the next episode? Someone whose name starts with a ‘D’? The brief sneak speak of what looks like a sex scene has Lily on top of her new lover (perhaps not so new) like they’re reversing the traditional roles of man and woman – it’s strangely reminiscent to an earlier scene in 2×07: Little Scorpion where an anonymous aged man climbed on top of Lily. Let’s hope she won’t feel the urge to strangle her partner afterwards.

III. “I don’t think you can.”

Fan reactions on Tumblr regarding this twist in Dorian’s tale have me puzzled: on one hand there’s fans who are seething about Dorian’s act while on the other hands, others cheer because this is probably the first in-character (with his book counterpart) thing Dorian’s ever done in the entire 16 episodes. Well, if you ask me, I will reply with Dorian’s quote: “I don’t know what I’m feeling.” Part of me likes him to go dark – nobody likes the goody two-shoes, right? Other parts kind of hope Dorian would stay remotely ‘clean’. I know I’ve theorized that he is Devil-incarnation so it looks like I’m contradicting myself here. To elaborate on this contradiction, I’ll say that I find the ‘lazy evil’ kind the most appealing kind of evil – like Dorian will play around and do absolutely nothing and is still evil and scary. Then I’m kindly reminded that Penny Dreadful is not a sitcom so it’s necessary for him to do evil in order to be evil. Got it.

Brief Guide to Dorian’s Behaviors: he’s all sweet and charming until you pry into his secret. Then he’ll give you poisoned champagne while smiling as you fall.

Still, I’m clinging on some hope that Angelique hasn’t died (which is unlikely); Dorian only gives her a brainwashing potion or something similar so that when she’s returned to the brothel, she won’t remember a thing about a man named Dorian Gray or his painting. But that’s just wishful thinking, right?

If it’s proven that Angelique is truly killed off, at least she died a swift, painless and clean death (with a dramatic glass-breaking and a dramatic collapsing to boot) as compared to Basil’s messy death in the novel and in the 2009 adaptation (which I recommend you to watch because of Prince Caspian Ben Barnes). Even I feel the chopping Basil’s body in the 2009 adaptation is a little gratuitous.

(To be fair, Dorian did warn her about the price of knowing his secret.)

Finally, after much waiting, Dorian’s infamous picture is shown. Some love it, praise it while others think it a disappointment. As for me, I have another theory about it which I am going to talk about in this post. The portrait doesn’t look like a painting to me at all; it’s more like prison cell where the deformed ‘creature’ is kept. See the chains? I think they can reveal much about the nature of the picture: the ‘creature’ is supposed to be Dorian Gray’s soul, isn’t it? I think it is; in fact, it is the soul of the true Dorian Gray, the one that was human, while the Dorian Gray we’ve been watching and adoring so far is only inhabiting the body, a ‘body-snatcher’. I personally don’t think the revelations about Lucifer’s brother on earth and Dorian’s portrait in the same episode is a mere coincidence. That the other brother “feeds on the blood of the living by night” may indicate that he is the Original Vampire  – The Great Master that controls all the (not-sparkling) vampires in season 1. But it can be misdirection too. Blood isn’t always necessarily the physical blood in the body – it is also a metaphor of life. What if the brother is some sort of a body-jumper – that he steals a human body he deems suitable and lives inside it until he gets bored and finds another? The body stealing act serves double purposes: one, he can walk under sunlight or into any religious places unharmed and two, he can slip past Vanessa’s radar (if she has any) and get close to her, seducing her to his side. All the while the true soul of the body is trapped inside the painting and has to suffer all the damages he acquires. This could be the case of Dorian Gray, right?

Suddenly the quote Dorian made in 1×06: What Death Can Join Together means a lot more than just a passing remark.

Of course the show can always prove my theory wrong and all I can do in the mean time is wait and maybe pray for Victor’s little life. I did say Victor should get his punishment for all the lies he heaped onto Lily/Brona but I’m never ready for the good, adorkable doctor’s neck to be snapped by his two ‘children’.

#pray-for-Victor#   #and-Dorians-neck-too#   #and for Sir Malcolm#   #pray-for-the-entire-cast-actually#

Love Is in the Air Tonight (or Not): Penny Dreadful 2×06

Warnings: spoilers and inappropriate comments alerts!!

01

… in which Dorian throws a ball on a whim, inviting “anyone who’s everyone” (basically people he slept/ wants to sleep with), Ethan tours a horror museum, Lily gets a chance to meet men other than Victor, Victor gets jealous, Vanessa gets a public panic attack and Ethan wolfs out (again!).

One of my friend said that he didn’t like waiting for one episode a week so he’d rather wait for the entire season to be out and watch. But to me there’s exquisite fun in anticipating for each new episode and guessing what’s gonna happen next. And of course, there’s also the fun in discussing the episode’s details with fellow viewers and hopefully increasing my blog’s traffic with half-assed review (or weekly rant, if you prefer). So here I’m going to express my opinions on episode 2×06: Glorious Horrors.

After a glorious ‘bang night’ in 2×05: Above the Vaulted Sky, the morning after is mostly sweet for the three couples: Lily makes delicious breakfast for Victor and he kisses her right after waking up (never mind morning breath – it’s non-existent in fiction); Evelyn Poole and Sir Malcolm snuggles in bed (but not before our witch lady has stolen some hair from her lover to do some yucky witchy magic tricks later); and Angelique decides to move in with Dorian while the latter casually announces that he’s going to throw a ball for her. Kinda sweet, right, if you ignore all the crazy things that happen at Dorian’s ball. Maybe, just maybe Dorian should be more selective of his guests. But the boy doesn’t really care, does he? I’m inclined to believe that if Lucifer showed up he might not even bat an eye (provided he’s not Lucifer himself).

03

Bits and bobs of the episode…

Like I’ve perhaps a hundred times before that I’m no serious reviewer, I just jot down whatever strikes my mind at the moment. And my post, as the result, can be quite a jumbled mess. Bear with me or click back, OK?

  • “When he found his son dead, I was there. This is not him.”

…And the prize for ‘The Most Sensible Guy in the House’ goes toSembene. So we have Sir Malcolm returning home after a wild night with Madame Kali, humming a joyous tune and giving a lot more shit for the floor carpet than his estranged wife’s gruesome suicide (by the hand of his witch girlfriend, in case you’ve forgotten last episode). Obvious Sir Malcolm’s notoriety for being a prick is serious enough to immediately drown out Ethan’s suspicion that there’s something very wrong with him. While Vanessa’s torn between deciding if Sir Malcolm is a certified d-bag (to be fair, she’s had a lot of his dickiness) or he’s being hexed, Sembene is quick to point out that the man is not being himself because 1. I was with him when his son died and 2. I’ve been living together with him for only-John-Logan-knows-how-long. Kudos for Sembene. Unfortunately, since our man has a dreadful habit of never saying more than 20 words, coupled with a patch-faced man’s untimely visit, the matter of whether Sir Malcolm is hexed or not is postponed to episode 7.

  • “I just needed to finish the story in my own way.”

Always trust a cop to suspect a werewolf as the culprit… Kudos for Inspector Bartholomew Rusk for being genuinely brainy in this bizarre world full of vampires, witches, demons and many things that fall in between. From my experience of years of watching movies and TV series, I’ve come to a conclusion that the police force in most TV series/ movies whose focus is not on the police force is pretty useless (yeah, I’m talking about you, The Originals). But no, not in Penny Dreadful. Inspector Rusk deserves a gold medal for suspecting that Ethan is the culprit behind the massacre at the inn (and a few more before it). It’s refreshing to see that in a bizarre and chaotic setting like Penny Dreadful’s, there’s at least a person who still values law and order.

  • “You tell me, where is He… in this city of perpetual suffering?”

06

If you haven’t taken a liking to the enigmatic villain Evelyn Poole, than again the show and its writers are telling you to like her. Here she shares with Professor Lyle a glimpse of her view on beauty, youth and the price she (all of them witches actually) has to pay to maintain them, which is suspiciously a foreshadowing to Dorian Gray. And of course, she reveals to Lyle, and us viewers, that she was once a believer, until God turned from her (flashback episode, anyone?). I was surprised to find that her view about the All-Mighty shares similarities with mine: if God really exists, where is He when the world suffers? And if He fails his devoted believers, the question is, is He worth worshipping?

  • “I like your flower.”

It’s quite funny to think that fangirls have been shipping Dorian Gray and Victor Frankenstein even before the two have the chance to officially meet. Reeve Carney (Dorian Gray) even joked about the possibility of Victor’s being the next lover on Dorian’s list. So, to satisfy the female audience who likes pretty men on pretty men, the first thing Dorian does after meeting Victor is flirting with the good doctor, who is too social awkward to realize the immortal’s intention. Again, at the ball, Dorian recognizes Victor immediately, before his eyes lay on Victor’s date, which leads to…

  • “Is it not ‘Dorian’?”

05

Seems to me Vanessa may not so nonchalant about her short-lived romance with Dorian as she believes. The same goes for Dorian: just when we all think he has moved on from his breakup with Vanessa in the last season, he shows signs that he’s still upset about the whole first-time-rejection thing. Vanessa, on the other hand, sports a mildly surprised, mildly bitter look upon hearing that Dorian wants her to meet his new girlfriend. Jeez, my suspicious sense is tingling: please DO NOT let it be that Dorian only uses Angelique to make Vanessa jealous and hopefully gets her back. Much as I love seeing Miss Ives and Mr. Gray together, I also adore Dorian x Angelique ship and I do not wish to see it go horribly Titanic.

  • “It seems the world is filled with romance these days.”

04

That could be Vanessa’s summary of the ball in this episode, except that it isn’t the least true. What we viewers are treated instead is a crumbling of romance with special thanks to blatant flirtation, bitter jealousy and possibly domestic abuse. Am I to believe I’m not the only one who puts Dorian’s words that he doesn’t recognize Lily as his trick to find more about her? Vanessa might be excused for not remembering a woman she only met for five minutes but if Dorian does forget a person who coughed up blood all over his face during sex than he must have the memory of a goldfish. Seriously. I’d love to watch him trying to explore and put an end to Victor’s dysfunctional little ‘family’. Someone needs to teach the good doctor that a romance built on lies can never last too long.

07

Also, I find many viewers’ anger towards Dorian somewhat exaggerated. They call him ‘d-bag’ and ‘dick’ for his negligence of Angelique. True, he has forgotten for awhile that this ball he’s hosting is a coming out for her, that he should treat her as the sole center of his attention instead of heaping compliments on Lily. To be honest, I was a bit put back by his behaviors tonight but does he deserve all the chastises? This is a ball that lasts for hours and you can’t expect him to talk and dance with a single woman the entire time! In the bedroom he’s wholly hers; still, outside the bedroom and in a social event no less, it’s courtesy to interact with other people. And flirting is Dorian’s nature (he basically flirts with every good-looking one he meets) so does it make him less in our eyes when he does it with one woman in the entire night? He does dance with Angelique again, doesn’t he?

08

Instead can we talk about how Victor is being a possessive jerk towards Lily, scolding her for ‘embarrassing’ him and because she enjoys Dorian’s company? That’s over the top – another reason for me to despise this ship. There’s a possibility that the only reason Lily falls for him is simply because she has had only two limited choices – between her good-looking ‘cousin’ and the less attractive Creature. His jealousy only further proves his insecurity – that he is afraid to have to compete with other men to win her affection. Let’s face it, Victor, handsome as you are, you’re certainly not the most charming man on Earth. It almost gives me goose bumps to think how Victor will react when Lily does go out with Dorian in the next episode.

Imagine Dorian’s singing Justin Timberlake’s Sexy Back to Victor as I’m typing this entry.

I’m bringing sexy back…

Before ending this weekly rant and going for some Penny Dreadful slash fics, can I just say that the blood rain at the episode’s ending is very well be a metaphor of unexpected period???

09

10

Am I the only one who doesn’t ship Vanethan aka Vanessa x Ethan? Not that I despise them being together or something but I don’t muster enough passion for this ship to board it.

Kudos for Dorian for bringing his old flame, his new flame, his possible flame and his one night stand all together in the same place? We only an Ethan to complete the list.

And Angelique is simply beautiful.

02

[Fanfic] Why Won’t You Die? (4)

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.

IV.   No Fear of the Sun

 

Why wont you die 4

“I really hate this,” muttered Renfield the fifteenth time as he was making his way up the spiraling staircase to Alexander Grayson’s chamber. Of all the unconventional (and more often than not plain crazy) tasks his contract with the vampire lord included, this was the task that he hated with the strongest fervor. Let us hear Renfield explain. So during the party Grayson had scheduled an interview with a reporter by the name Jonathan Harker at 4 o’ clock in the afternoon and it was Renfield’s duty as his assistant that he had to make sure his boss would not miss the appointment. A simple-sounding task that assistants around the world had to do, how difficult could it be? Well, the problem was it was already 3 in the afternoon and Alexander Grayson had not descended the stairs yet. Judging by his condition last night, he would be unlikely to crawl out of his bed unless Renfield came up to drag him out. Seriously, dragging an average-strength drunken human out of bed was terrible enough – you might end up with a few angry punches in the guts. Dragging a super strong drunken vampire out of his bed was a matter of life and death – you might end up with a few angry punches through the guts. Adieu, guts, good to know you, and life too. And now not only did Renfield have to drag a severely drunken vampire out of bed, he also had to get him prepared for an interview, which included washing, grooming (as if that mustache would trim itself!) and properly clothing. Talk about an assistant’s duties. Since that ‘severely drunken vampire’ paid him very well and happened to have saved his life a few times, Renfield guessed he just had to grit his teeth and bore through it.

To be fair, this was not a task Renfield had to carry out very often. As said, Alexander Grayson was only human in appearance and though his usual consumption of heavy alcohol was ten times a beyond-despair alcoholic’s, the chance of him getting drunk was once in a blue moon (that time in New Orleans again). Yet that ‘blue moon’ had already paid a visit twice in the same week, which was both bizarre and extremely annoying. He remembered that Dorian Gray young man and his taunting boyish smile as he had carried an almost passed out Grayson to Renfield. If what Grayson had told him was truth and not some bloodlust-induced hallucination, then this young man was much more than a mere simple-minded pretty face. He might prove to be a serious threat even. Renfield reminded himself to go through the data of this ‘Dorian Gray’ once more to make certain he was not in any way related to the Order of the Dragon. But first thing first…

Panic shot through Renfield like a bullet when he was one step into the chamber and found Grayson sprawling on the floor with his face down – somehow in the night the unyielding and brave caterpillar had managed to break free from his fabric cocoon… Renfield quickly took off his jacket and covered Grayson’s head and rushed to the window. He breathed a lengthy sigh of relief to find the curtains thick enough to prevent any sunlight from entering. He checked again, and thanked God, or The Devil, or whatever above or below that his boss had not been burnt to charcoal yet. Gave him a fright really.

Now to a more challenging part…

“Sir,” he called, “it’s almost time to your interview with Harker.”

Grayson had no response.

He spoke a little louder, with a gentle probe on Grayson’s shoulders.

Grayson stubbornly remained a dead log.

For The Devil’s sake, Renfield hated it; still, the situation left him no choice but to get on with Grayson’s preparation, with Grayson’s being conscious or not, and hoped that the hassles he made would rouse his boss from his slumber. Right now if someone told him a kiss would wake Grayson up, Renfield would not shy from trying it. Fortunately (for Grayson and Renfield himself) our man was never a fan of silly fairy tales.

Alexander was floating in a body of water, which reminded him of a once-upon-a-time memory of a small, lovely spring behind his castle, where he and Ilona usually bathed together in a full moon. He had named it after her while his beautiful wife, laughing gleefully, splashed the silvery water into his face in hope of encouraging (destroying?) his sporadic poetic mood. It did not take long for him to join her little children game and it took even less for them to join each other, submerged in and blessed by the Moon Goddess’s grace.

But this water was not the liquid silver of the Ilona spring; this water was thick and red, a spring from a slender neck he remembered having ripped open. He could not see much through the water and he also realized he was unable to move his limbs. They were there, intact, yet he had no control over them, as though he was inside another body instead of his own, and this body contained him but denied him of any usage. He tried to do something, anything, like willing his incisors to lengthen. No avail.

He had not feel mortal for centuries. He had forgotten how helpless a mortal could be. This was a harsh reminder.

All of sudden he saw a face, gradually coming closer. He recognized it, as he remembered seeing it only hours before, especially its amber-colored eyes and its Cupid’s bow of lips. But he did not recall seeing its pointed teeth, even longer and more animalistic than his own. Nor did he remember a curving red horn protruding from the middle of its forehead. Its amber eyes turned golden and the pupils slit like a cat’s; its tongue flicking against the corner of its mouth was a snake’s.

The creature swarm its way towards him, and embraced his limp body in its scaly arms. Its claws, sharp like razor knives, raked his skin and dug into his flesh. He could not even groan. The torture and humiliation at the hands of the Knights of the Dragon Order revived vividly through this creature’s claws. Currents were rising around him while the water had been perfectly still before; the liquid simmered with increasing heat. Like a witch’s boiling cauldron, he thought, and he whatever miserable ingredient caught in it. The red liquid penetrated his body through his open wounds, running along his veins. Was this how it should feel to be burnt from the inside out? Lips faintly brushed against his own before a grotesque hand clamped over his mouth and lower jaw, tipping his head back and exposing his throat. He was too familiar with this gesture to not realize its purpose. He tried to move his dead limbs in a desperate attempt to break free. “Shush.” A sound was whispered into his ear and the snake tongue licked his Adam’s apple, before the water rushed hotly into his throat. He knew his throat had been ripped open, that he should be chocked with agony, but he was not. Oddly enough, he felt the claws, the tongue, even the phantom of the creature’s breath on his neck; he only did not feel the teeth.

Was he dead already?

He saw light shyly piercing through the thick water and the creature began to swim towards it, taking him in its arms. His instincts flared and once again he fought it, with his dead limbs now vigorously brought back to life. He did not understand, perhaps it was the thick, red water flowing in him. He felt its strength, its energy pumping in his every fiber and he could use it like a well whetted sword in his skillful hand. He grabbed the creature by its shoulders, trying to wrestle free of its grip. Yet even with his new power he was no match for it – his confidence renewed, only to be crushed again as it kept pulling him closer and closer to the source of light he suspected to be the sun. Death, his inevitable fate he could fathom but not the creature’s intention. Why filling him with life and then burning him to crisp?

He closed his eyes and waited to feel the flame once he was out of the water. He saw red behind his eyelids and felt the heat. It was always comfortable in a few seconds first, the sun’s warmth on his skin, before the flame reduced him to blackened flesh and finally ash. His lips tasted salt and the memory of training with his fellow warriors under the scorching summer sun embraced his mind. Back then he could run all day without fearing that he would burst into a living torch. Back then the sun was a friend, annoying at times, but never a deadly enemy.

The creature’s claws shook him out of his reverie, and into new realization: he had not burnt yet! The warmth was on him, comfortable still. He dared to open his eyes and saw the sun glaring behind the creature’s head like a sort of halo. “No fear of the sun,” spoke a deep voice to him, foreign and sinister, a voice he had never heard before. The creature’s lips had not opened once. The face of Dorian Gray broke into an unfamiliar smile when the claws unhooked him. Gravity pulled him down to the water beneath while the creature’s body, naked but covered in vermillion scales from its neck down to the tip of its tail, remained floating.

As he was falling, he failed to question how the creature possessed the body of a giant snake instead of human legs.

He sank into the red water and emerged to the face of his assistant, Renfield.

“Sir, are you all right?” asked Renfield in a worried tone.

Alexander’s wide eyes swept around the room, taking time for the familiarity to sink in his muddled head. This was his bathroom all right, and he was in a bath tub full of lukewarm water scented with lavender oil instead of a body of blood water. Beside him was Renfield, soaked from head to toe.

“Are you all right?” Renfield asked again, wiping the water from his face. His worry increased by the seconds with Grayson’s uncharacteristic silence. His boss had been unconsciously making whimpering sounds and struggling for the last minutes, splashing water all over Renfield. He had jolted up, eyes bloodshot and wide, and the dazed look on his face as though he could not remember his own name was not the least assuring.

“Sir?”

“… I’m fine,” he spoke at last, with voice hoarse and low like a murmur. Renfield had to strain his ears to pick up his words. “I… had a very peculiar dream.”

Having a bad dream, got it. It explained all the groaning and thrashing about. Who said bloodsuckers were not plagued by nightmares?

“You are feeling all right, sir?”

“Headache,” Alexander mumbled, clutching his head with his hands. “The same at before.”

Renfield frowned. “Should I reschedule the interview with Harker?”

“There’s no need. I’m almost sober.” He rubbed his eyes. “What time is it?”

Renfield checked with his pocket watch, which miraculously survived the previous onslaught of water. “Forty-five minutes until he comes, sir.”

Alexander reclined in the bath, laying his head on the marble edge. A few dark strands clung wetly on his smooth forehead. “There’s still some time, right? I’d like to stay in the water for a while.” He exhaled a breath. “Leave me, Renfield, and thank you for what you have done.”

“As you wish, sir.”

Then Alexander was alone in the bathroom. The water was warm, not scathing and thick like his dream. Despite so, when he cupped a handful of water to his face, he briefly imagined it as blood.

It was five to four and Jonathan Harker was sitting in Alexander Grayson’s office. He had showed up at Carfax Manor a little earlier than scheduled – such was his habit as a reporter: to take a little time to examine his interviewee’s place. Many might not notice but Jonathan knew from experience that a person’s office could reveal about its owner’s personality, lifestyle and habits as much as an interview. Grayson’s office was as anyone’s expectation of a rising American industrialist’s should be: filled with objects that exuded luxury – nothing cost less than Jonathan’s monthly income. Nevertheless he had to admit Grayson did have good taste. There was not a sense of ‘nouve rich’ he had overheard people whisper at the ball; everything was elegant and well complimented his office. A nostalgic air of the Middle Ages confined in Victorian walls if he were to express his impression. Jonathan took notice of a bronze statue on the mahogany bookshelf. It was a sculpture of a warrior on a majestic horse holding a long javelin in his hand with a man’s head impaled at its end. Beautiful and detailed as it was, it depicted savage brutality disguised in the name of glory. Jonathan shrugged and jotted down ‘aggressive’ on the page dedicated to Alexander Grayson. He also noticed the amber liquid in the crystal bottle among the glasses. Were they for Grayson’s guests or himself?

At four o’ clock sharp Jonathan heard the door open and Grayson’s assistant came in, announcing the American’s presence. Grayson stepped in, immaculate in light gray suit and matching tie. But Jonathan did not fail to pick up the moisture in his hair, suggesting that he had just gotten out of bath, the faint pink on his cheeks and the red rimming his pale blue eyes. Well, it was not surprising to see him in this state, considering last night had been his debut party and it was impossible for Grayson as the host not to get at least a little intoxicated. He managed enough steadiness and grace in his strides though, Jonathan gave him that.

Grayson’s handshake was cool, firm and brief as if he was afraid the afternoon sunlight peaking through the curtain window would burn his skin. Perhaps that was the way they shook hand in America, what with Americans and their odd customs. Grayson gestured to the chair Jonathan had originally sat sitting while waiting and he himself opted for the opposite chair, which was placed in the shadows. The man seemed to harbor a dislike to sunlight, which might explain the pallor of his face.

He would look fine with a little sun in his skin, thought Jonathan, noiselessly tapping the tip of his pen on the page. He hoped Grayson would not suffer from any ailment due to the lack of sunlight. The effects of such ailment could be quite devastating or so he had heard.

“Do you care for some whiskey, Mr. Harker?” Grayson reached to the low table and poured himself a glass.

“Thank you for your hospitality, Mr. Grayson, but I’d rather stay sober when the sun’s still out.”

“Some tea, then,” said Grayson after a sip. He rang the silver bell beside the crystal bottle, which summoned a freckle-faced young maid. “Miss Elsa’s apple crumbs are worth dying for.”

“Tea would be fine. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.”

“Neither do I. My trusted friend and assistant, Renfield, on the other hand…”

By the time the maid had brought in a small trolley with a pot of steaming tea and some mini-sandwiches, Grayson had already refilled his glass. Jonathan pretended he did not see Grayson smiling at him behind his glass when the reporter’s empty stomach gave a traitorous cry upon the sight of these pretty sandwiches.

“Help yourself, Mr. Harker. I trust you have skipped your lunch due to your hectic schedule.”

Twin blushes made their ways to Jonathan’s cheeks as he reached for the tea and sandwiches.

After one and a half hour of tea, delicious sandwiches, an empty bottle of whiskey and talk about industrialism, evolution, Darwin, emancipation and London weather as compared to America’s (New Orleans’ precisely), Jonathan Harker left Carfax Manor with a couple of first-class tickets to an opera. Grayson, despite his look and the whiskey he had consumed during the interview (which Jonathan did not doubt could send an average man to bed for a day straight), had been quite sober. Therefore, in his notebook, Jonathan had jotted down a long list of adjectives to describe the American industrialist: ‘visionary’, ‘delusional’, ‘egomaniac’, ‘hammy’ (he did not even know what that word was supposed to mean – blame it on the sandwiches), to name a few. And at the end of the list, ‘potential alcoholic’.

Talk about Americans and their bourbon.

But…

As Jonathan fingered the tickets in his hands, he was thinking about a lovely evening with Mina. He considered crossing out the last description.

Alexander sat cross-legged on the floor among various photographs of his guests from last night. He had stripped down to his white linen shirt, waistcoat and trousers. It was torture to wear a full suit in this weather.

“I’ve given Harker the tickets, sir, as you instructed. Pardon me for asking but are you not going to the opera tomorrow night?”

“I have another engagement and you loathe opera so those tickets would be a waste if not given to someone. And Harker was writing in his notebook that I am a ‘potential alcoholic’.” Alexander air-quoted.

Renfield arched an eyebrow comically.

“I read his hand’s movements,” explained Alexander.

“Ah, so they were to grease his palm.”

“Yes, they were.”

Alexander shuffled through the photographs and picked out a handful. Placing them side by side, he turned to Renfield. “The Order of the Dragon, how to describe them?”

Renfield trod carefully to an armchair next to Alexander and sat down, eager for a history lesson.

“Murder, torture, rape, wholesale slaughter – that has been the stock-in-trade of them for over five hundred years. Back in my past, they asserted their will more directly via the cross and the sword. Slaughtering entire villages, branding men and women heretics, burning them on the stakes while they were screaming for a God…”

The image of Ilona in the flame flashed before his eyes. “… who never came.”

“Those atrocious acts are hard to cover in this era,” said Renfield.

“That doesn’t deter the scum from committing them – what happened to Van Helsing’s family is a macabre echo of the past. Though today they have carried out their dirty work via private clubs and boardrooms. Business, politics, and oil have a much bigger impact than simple slaughtering. And the last will be their undoing. They think oil is the future and by controlling it, they have the future in their palms. But…” He raised his forefinger. “… Our wireless, clean and inexpensive energy will drain them off their blood.”

“Yes, I did pay attention to their faces during the demonstration, sir. One of them, this man I believe, was not particularly pleased.”

“He gave me a piece of his mind actually. And I too may give him a piece of my mind, you know, to return the favor.” He held up the picture of a stocky middle-aged man and separated it from the rest. “I might have done so if not for…” he mumbled.

A ray of sunlight penetrated the crack in the curtain and Alexander, as if held under a compelling spell, reached out with his hand. Blisters began to surface before a small flame burst out. Renfield rushed to his side and pulled his hand back to the shadows. The pain began to register and Alexander hissed.

“What on earth are you doing, sir?” Renfield bit his fingers and allowed drops of blood to fall on Alexander’s lips.

Alexander studied the healing of the burn on his hand with curious eyes. “No fear of the sun,” he whispered.

“Sir, what did you just say?”

“I had a strange idea that if I reached out, I would not be burnt.”

“What gave you such an idea?”

“What do you think if I tell you it was a creature in my dream? Half-man, half-snake and with the face of this?”

He reached for the black-and-white photograph of Dorian Gray.

“I think we may have a serious problem, sir. Do you remember last night’s events? It was this Dorian Gray that carried you back to me.”

Alexander let out a sigh. “I drank him to make certain that he wasn’t a ghost. It felt exactly the same as three nights ago. I was quite sure that the blood I took from him was enough to fill two grown men and yet…”

“And yet he was fine, albeit looking only a little pale. Sir, about your instructions to investigate this man…”

“What did you find?”

“Plenty, sir. This Dorian Gray isn’t a man of discretion. Quite the opposite, actually. He is the only grandson of Lord Kelso, a late aristocrat, and thus the sole heir to the massive fortune of the lonely old man. He is quite a talk amongst the upper class, probably thanks to his looks and wealth. A typical young aristocrat like many of his peers as first look. But there are some rumors about him: his notorious hedonistic lifestyle for one and his age, another.”

“His age?”

“They say he came to London at the age of seventeen to inherit his grandfather’s massive fortune. A decade has passed since then.”

Alexander’s eyes squinted – a sign of him being in contemplation – at the picture of Dorian Gray. He asked, after a while, a seemingly irrelevant question. “How old do I look, Renfield?”

“Late twenties, perhaps thirty, sir,” answered Renfield incredulously.

“How old does Dorian Gray look?”

Renfield’s black eyes lit up. “Twenty give or take. Are you suggesting that he is like you, sir?”

Alexander shook his head. “Not like me. That I can be sure – no vampires survive having his heart ripped out. Dorian Gray is something else, something entirely different from what I know. And that is what I would like to find out.”

He stood up with the picture of Dorian Gray and placed it neatly on his desk. “Can you guess who I am to meet tomorrow night, Renfield?”

Dorian Gray’s eyes shot open. He was in his chamber, lying on his four-poster king-sized bed. The sky outside his window had turned a light purple. Someone from his childhood once told him that the sky was a giant pretty egg. He wished that was true. More romantic and less real. He was always fond of things that were unreal.

“Must you be a prick and bugger my pleasure?” said Dorian Gray in annoyance. “It barely got to the fun part.”

He ran his tongue slowly on his lower lip, reminiscing his short-lived pleasant dream before it got rudely interrupted and he himself was flung into another of his restless, mundane ones.

“It’s quite refreshing when you use less formal vocabulary,” a deep voice said, the speaker unseen. “The pleasure of denial, my sweet child. Leaves him puzzling, curious. The art of baiting.”

Dorian gazed at the ceiling, uninterested.

“Want to make a bet with me?”

It was apparently Dorian was paying more attention to the tiny laborious spider on the wall than the voice.

“That he will be drawn to you even if you just sit in your room?”

“Sounds interesting.”

“It is.” The voice barely hid its excitement.

“But I don’t like sitting in my room,” said Dorian, sitting up. Naked, he left the massive bed and made for the door. “And I like your ugly voice less so please kindly shut up.”

Loud music thumping his eardrums, Dorian made his way through the throng of audience to reach the backstage. He was one foot inside when a boy halted him.

“Sir, this place isn’t for the patrons. Please return to your seat,” said a young voice thick with African accent. The face was brown but not uncomely, especially when it was trying so hard to sport a stern look.

Dorian smiled at the boy and purred. “You must be new I assume? What’s your name, lovely thing?”

His smile was even wider as the boy stammered for a proper response. He was quite sure under the dark skin there was a shade of blooming rose.

“Yes, he is new so don’t jest him,” spoke a deep female voice from behind. Keeping his smile, Dorian saw past the boy to spot a tall figure fast approaching. Her hair was as white as silver and cut short in a man’s fashion and her choice of attire would catch anyone with eyes. She was wearing a man’s white shirt, unbuttoned and showing a deadly cleavage, a pair of tight black trousers and knee-high sleek black boots that glorified the graceful lines of her long legs. On her rogue lips, a stark contrast to her pallid skin and striking purple eyes, was lolling a cigarette.

“Long time no see, Alicia,” greeted Dorian.

“Dorian Gray,” she replied in a cool voice. Blowing a circle of smoke, she turned to the boy, patting him on his shoulder. “Sebastian, go fetch Divina. Tell her her ‘sweet daddy’ is paying a visit.”

The boy Sebastian rolled his eyes but did not question his superior. He went back inside.

“Now who is going to take my hat and coat?”

Alicia’s reply was a hard slap on his bottom, causing him to jolt. “Coat hangers over there.” She pointed to the corner with a manicured finger. Hanging his hat and coat, Dorian could only smile and shake his head as he followed her steps into a spacious, furnished chamber at the end of the hall. A four-poster queen size bed covered in magenta satin stood in the middle of the space. On the vanity to the left corner there was a motley array of small trinkets, vials and boxes. The air smelled a mixture of various perfumes; as a result, no scent particularly stood out.

“I’ll leave you and your ‘daughter’ to each other. A warning: Divina’s in very bad mood. You know how she loathes losing your attention.”

“I’m prepared, thank you for your kind consideration.” Dorian made himself comfortable on the huge bed.

With the same grace she had entered, Alicia walked out. Her light footsteps were barely out of Dorian’s hearing range when loud ones rushed in. The door was swung open and hit the wall with a bone-shaking noise.

“Good evening, Divina dear,” said Dorian to a young woman, perhaps in her early twenties.

Divina’s look might not fit in with the Victorian standards that celebrated fair hair and pale skin; however, with tanned complexion and coal-black hair that fell in lazy ringlets around her shoulders she possessed an exotic undeniable charm that immediately attracted the men who were bored with the demure beauties all around them. She was not tall as Alicia but what she seemed to lack in height she compensated in the luscious curves of her breasts and hips, which she certainly knew how to accentuate with a black laced corset. No blouse. Her fashion, like Alicia’s, was to be desired rather than approved, and her temper was neither. She had obsidian eyes that were a tad too large for her small face, making her more of a girl than the fully grown woman she was, and they burnt on Dorian the moment she stomped in.

Mute as a shadow, Divina stalked to him, raised her hand and… slapped him. With her small, gloveless hand she made Dorian blush furiously on one cheek.

“What the fuck have you been doing in the past months?”

“Language, Divina dear,” he chided, not harshly. “You’ve been around too much with those coarse sailors.”

“Don’t try lecturing me, professor. Just because you’re twice my age me doesn’t mean you’re my father,” Divina hissed. “Nor are you my master, whose every beck and call I have to be constantly be at.”

“My apologies,” he said, taking her into his arms and sought to sooth her rage in the way they both knew he did best: he kissed her on the lips, a long, lingering caress that took a passionate, wild turn. Red smeared their lips with the force of their kiss. She missed the chance to bite his tongue when he instinctively withdrew from her.

“I have been preoccupied recently. Is this enough to atone for my negligence?”

She licked her lips in the same manner as a cat’s. “Hardly.”

“Oh well, I guess so.”

He procured a choker from his pocket and clasped it around her swan neck. The drops of sapphire were blue tears on her partly covered breasts. “A quaint souvenir from my travel. I hope you like it.”

“Oh you don’t ‘hope’, Dorian Gray,” she said through chuckles. “You only know.”

“I don’t always know, dear. That is why I have to voice my concern about the little performance I had Razz brought to you on such short notice.”

“It’s a bribe.” Divina fingered the little sapphires. They sure looked like tears, angels’ tears.

“Such as it is.”

“Not to worry, daddy o’. Carrying it on as always. Actually we’ve been a bit short on ideas these days so yours was most welcome. I just wonder…”

She spun on her heels to face him, her taffeta dress swirling around her like a black rose in bloom. “What kind of people to have inspired your lazy ass to do something like this?”

“You will see them tomorrow night, and I may introduce you to them, if you do well, of course, and mind your language.” He touched the tip of her nose with a finger.

“Your high-birth friends, all right.  You will introduce me as what?”

“An intimate friend, a dearest sister.”

Divina pouted with her full lips. “Dull. Spare me the ‘sweet sister’ role.”

She locked her arms around his neck and pressed her body to his. “Why not tell them I am your ‘bastard daughter’ you conceived in a one-night passion? A cliché tragedy between a wealthy man and a country girl that produced an illegitimate child. The man left, the poor girl ended up a street whore and her daughter followed her mother’s step soon afterwards. Poor thing. And there’s more. Never did the child know that one day she would end up on her own father’s bed. Shock them, right?”

Dorian grimaced, shaking his head. “I see why you never do Shakespeare. You would murder him on the very first night.”

“Shakespeare bores me. You, on the other hand…”

She captured his lips with her own and maneuvered him to the bed with the grace of a tigress. Dorian allowed her to straddle him. “You little nymphomaniac,” he said.

“… that you made. Don’t forget to add it to my introduction tomorrow.” She said, and set about to divest him of his many-layered clothes. “Don’t tell me you came to my jolly little theatre not expecting a jolly little ride.”

“I don’t mind, true, but I’m afraid Alicia will not be very pleased.”

Divina’s nimble fingers halted. She groaned, bringing a hand to her forehead. “Oh right, she’s been quite touchy-feely these days.”

“The stoic Alicia?”

“Don’t let her face fool you; she’s quite the opposite. Best not to upset her.”

She quickly climbed off him. “You wait here while I get her.”

Looking at her hurried figure, Dorian could not help a smile. He would wait.

Cont

A little note: Alicia, Divina and Sebastian are my original characters. Alicia is an albino.

I took some details from The Picture of Dorian Gray and the 2009 adaptation for Dorian’s part.

Acceptance and Love: Penny Dreadful 2×05

Warning: spoilers and NSFW screenshots

To summarize Penny Dreadful 2×05: Above the Vaulted Sky in one word: ACCEPTANCE.

(I was going to say ‘sex’ but let’s leave it to later, OK?)

We start with a heart-warming scene where Vanessa, frightened by the witches’ haunting, runs to Ethan’s room and asks to sleep in his bed. You’d be forgiven to think “It’s sexy time!”, considering what the show has presented to us so far (not that I’m complaining); however, our sweet wolf-boy politely tells her to use his bed while he sleeps on the sofa. They exchange a few meaningful lines and one of which is: “Whatever you have done… Whoever you have made yourself… I’m here to accept you.” These lines will find a meaningful echo in the next episode, as revealed in the teaser, Ethan’s werewolf nature will be revealed to his family-of-choice.

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Meanwhile, The Creature’s touching fabricated little story fails miserably to win Brona/Lily’s reanimated heart, which we have already suspected to gravitate towards Victor Frankenstein. Rejected and heartbroken, however it seems his luck hasn’t completely run out yet: in the cholera-infected dark place he meets Vanessa Ives, who has already accepted him as not so different from any other human being (2×02: Verbis Diablo). Being the good-hearted woman that she is, Vanessa consoles him by citing poetry with him (John Clare’s work) and offers to teach him to dance. Sweet and heart-warming, right? Let’s hope they keep it that way: friends who share love for poetry and please do not let The Creature fall for Vanessa. I imagine it would have catastrophic result *sweatdrop*.

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We still have no idea what The Creature is doing here (free soup and friendship with a beautiful woman, anyone?) and Vanessa, shouldn’t you get back to work?

Skipping a failed interrogation by Inspector Bartholomew Rusk and Ethan’s successful tail-cutting, we arrive to some opera theater where Dorian Gray and Angelique are happily on a date. Unfortunately, their jolly evening is ruined by some jerks who just feel the urge to humiliate a couple (too much time on their hand??). Kudos for the writers for giving us both Angelique’s and Dorian’s character development in a single scene: this is the first time we ever see Angelique’s dropping off her confidence, charming self to reveal a more vulnerable one – she endures being shamed without a retort. And Dorian steps up to do the single thing we all hope he will do but do not expect from him: he raises her hand to his lips and kisses it, telling the world that he is proud to have her by his side. Moreover, we see Dorian showing feelings for another person other than himself: he has always had an air of aloofness about him as if he doesn’t give a damn about the world. Now, the anger is palpable in his tone and he would have started a fight right there if Angelique hadn’t hold him back. (Part of me wish Angelique hadn’t so that we could see how our ageless beauty would have fared in a brawl.)

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… Which leads to one of the most beautiful and meaningful dialogues, where Dorian lovingly tells Angelique he likes her for her person, not her sex. It’s still a little early to say if they have fallen in love (at least on Dorian’s side) but in this scene, there is a certain level of affection in Dorian’s words and gestures, which makes the sex scene afterwards much more enjoyable to watch because it’s not casual sex, it’s love-making – the fact that a lot of emotions are involved makes it all the more beautiful and sacred.

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OK, let’s move to the ‘sex’ part as I have mentioned at the beginning.

Josh Hartnett (Ethan Chandler) once joked that season 2 was going to be a ‘bang-fest’ and this is proven in this episode – four relatively sex-free episodes (Angelique’s nude scene doesn’t count as sex, to me at least) and now the creators of the show think it’s high time they dropped the bomb and boy, how it explodes! We find out that stormy nights are always a perfect excuse to get horny – aside from Dorian x Angelique, there’s Sir Malcolm x Evelyn Poole and Brona/Lily x Victor Frankenstein. Here I will divide them into hate and love categories and give my two cents about them.

  • Sir Malcolm x Evelyn Poole
  • Love/Hate? Hate
  • Why? Of all the possible couples in this season this is the one that gives me an icky feeling when mentioned. My own personal shipping code dictates that a couple is only a true couple when there is honest affection, which is nonexistent in this one. From the beginning Evelyn Poole has approached Sir Malcolm with a hidden devious agenda (not so hidden to us viewers) – to seduce him and ‘infiltrate’ Vanessa’s defense. Last time we saw them in episode 2, she has obviously put a hex on him and in this episode, she pricks him with her ring, which is her lethal weapon she used to kill one of the witch (2x01: Fresh Hell) and a few dozen cows (2x03: Nightcomers). Whatever potion/poison she has injected into Sir Malcolm weakens his resistance, heightening his desires (for her). To me it’s dub-con (dubious consent – a usual tag in fanfiction) at best since the man is not in his right mind. The consequence later, I wager, will be rather dreadful.

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  • Brona/Lily x Victor Frankenstein
  • Love/Hate? Hate
  • Why? Like the above couple, this couple is only dub-con at best. From the start it’s problematic and as the series progresses, it only descends down the path of nauseate (for lack of a better word). Let me make this straight that I have no qualms about the incestuous aspect between Lily and Victor (he ‘created’ her so he’s sort of her ‘parent’); what makes me cringe when thinking that they are shippable is that both Victor and The Creature have been filling her up with lies! Well, while The Creature fails (mostly due to his unattractive appearance), Victor wins! That he seems to harbor feelings for her does not make this relationship, built on a mountain of lies, any excusable. I have to seriously wonder when she jumps on his bed and starts touching him, does she have any idea at all about what she is doing, what they are and are not supposed to do considering that they are ‘cousins’ (Victor’s fattest lie). The Creature gets Lily rejection as a ‘punishment’ for his lies, let us wait and see what ‘punishment’ our good doctor will receive.

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  • Dorian Gray x Angelique
  • Love/Hate? Love
  • Why? As I already elaborated above, this is perhaps the only sex in this episode that doesn’t involve deception. Sure both of them are still holding onto their secrets, Angelique with her true name and family before she came to London and Dorian with whatever secret he keeps on his infamous portrait and his immortality, yet there is a fine line between having secrets and deceiving each other. Even the most loving and faithful couple can have one or two things they want to keep for themselves (as long as their secrets do not affect their relationship). It may be a trivial detail that while the first two couples have sex with most of their clothes on (symbolizing the lies in their relationship, anyone?), Angelique and Dorian are entirely free of clothes (symbolizing their genuine feelings). Seems to me at that moment they lay bare for each other to see their emotions and they can be honest to each other despite their secrets.

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By the way, kudos for a very passionate sex scene. *both thumbs up*. And Wagner is Penny Dreadful’s aphrodisiac (confirmed). And putting sex scenes with horror scenes is probably the show’s way of preventing people from fapping over these gorgeous actors and actresses 😈😈😈.