Author's Note: Well, this may come as no surprise, but hey, it took me a long time to update… huh XD Anyway, this is where it starts to pick up for you guys, I hope. Here's hopin' you like it :) One line of this — he knows which one — can be credited to Marcus Lazarus; he inspired its inclusion some time ago.
Any and all readers who had my name on their MSN contact list, please delete/block it. I can no longer be reached via MSN, sadly. Contact me freely through any of Yahoo Messenger, AIM or email. Thanks.
And now, the new part of Ghosts of Old…
In the darkness, head bowed over with messy auburn hair tumbling around a crinkled skirt and scuffed boots, Mina Harker breathed heavily. Around her feet, blood was dotted, but over in the corner, a mouse poked miserably out of its hole, petrified but instinctively curious. Was the horrible monster really gone? Or was it all a façade to lure the animal into a false sense of security?
Mina whimpered quietly, feeling where the cuts on her arms and hands had healed. She had tried to attack and kill the mouse, but something had stopped her. She hadn't been able to do it. Some ridiculous need to stop and leave the rodent had hit her, and instead she had flung herself away, finding her nails clawing at her own flesh, as if she could feed in this self-damaging manner.
Which, of course, was a foolish notion. A vampire could not feed on its own blood… even a half-vampire such as Wilhelmina Harker.
Her sense of hearing had become muffled; she could hear very little outside of the room in which she had been imprisoned, tortured and cornered by her own hunger.
Driven mad by her own nature…
The cab trundled along, apparently as fast as the horses could go, with the League and their one 'passenger' inside, proverbially biting at their own nails and glancing impatiently out the windows to see if their destination was yet in sight. Each time, they were disappointed, and many times, their cockney thief leaned out of the window precariously to call hasty encouragement to their driver… who apparently didn't see the point in reckless urgency.
Never in his long years spent in London, rooting around in its many dark corners and alleys, had Skinner seen a driver so apparently concerned with his horses' well-being. Most of the cab drivers would sooner whip their animals into an early grave rather than unsettle or anger any customers they might gain. A new horse could easily be purchased in the markets; customers of good stature and wealth were hard to come by in his day and age, with many people of standing hiring private services. Drivers were out to impress, not just exercise an animal they could easily and heartlessly cast aside and replace in the space of a weekend with a good bargain and keen, practised haggling.
"Bloody idiot," he grumbled, pulling himself back in the window and dropping into his seat beside Jekyll. "You'd think he'd never been in a rush in his life."
"We told him it was urgent," the doctor reminded them, as if this would solve everything.
"Clearly," Nemo argued calmly, but with an underlying sense of irritation, "he paid very little attention to our desires."
In her seat beside the captain, Becky Thatcher fidgeted, and looked out of the window with concerned blue eyes, biting at her bottom lip in a fretting manner. Skinner watched her, toyed with his trilby, and then sighed loudly, slouching into his seat while Jekyll drummed his fingers on the seat of the cab's interior.
Bloody cab drivers…
Heart racing in his chest, Tom carefully wandered the seemingly never-ending corridor, pockets of light provided by ominous lamps turned down low. They cast long shadows over his face, his breathing the only sound to accompany his quiet footsteps. He had been working himself up to this moment so much since Mina had been taken, that now it was upon him, he doubted his skill… he doubted his own ability to overcome an immortal, as any man would. How could he defeat an immortal?
I'm an idiot.
And then he saw it. Up ahead, like a beacon, was a slither of light; a telltale doorway, with its barricade open just slightly as if to beckon him forward teasingly… almost cruelly. Tom hesitated, swallowing the sudden dryness in his throat. Hands clutched at the rifle he still held without reason — he had to reload, and the weapon could bring no harm to Dorian Gray as it was — and with so much force that the barrel creaked; his knuckles whitened.
Get a grip…
Tom Sawyer knew, that if he didn't move in that moment, he would never go through with it. If he didn't command his feet to carry him forward, they would only take him back.
Setting his jaw grimly, and lifting his chin as if it would help, he stepped forward… hesitantly and slowly at first, but with increasing 'confidence' and determination. By the time he reached the door itself, his heart was pounding like a drum.
Brown eyes turned to the origin of the creak, and a smirk broke out across the timeless, flawless features of Dorian Gray. He watched the figure enter, and couldn't hold back his own laughter.
"I was expecting the ape," he taunted, seeing the cold hatred in Sawyer's eyes. It was a sharp contrast to the innocent hair and light eyes normally filled with infuriating inquisitiveness and mischief. "Instead," he continued in an icy tone, turning his body to face this apparent challenger, "they send the ant."
Tom Sawyer's features hardened. Anger flashed in his eyes at the insult, and Dorian only smiled; a wide, smug expression. How did this child hope to overcome the task set before him?
"Let her go…" Sawyer practically growled, a clear command if ever the immortal had heard one. It didn't sit well with him, and only tested his nerves.
One immaculate brow rose. "That sounded like an order," he murmured in a calculative manner. After letting a brief silence hover between them, he replied properly, "I will do nothing of the sort." Smiling once again, like a predator who had already cornered and crippled his prey, he persisted, "You may recall her handing herself over to me willingly." His smirk became wicked, and increasingly arrogant. "She is mine."
"No she is not," Sawyer snarled in retaliation, and Dorian watched the boy's chest rise and fall with increasing fervour. He was succeeding in grating on the child's nerves… an early and hasty attack would seal his fate. "She doesn't belong to you."
"And so you are here to save her?" Dorian laughed; a loud and mocking sound that echoed around the vast parlour. "You poor, deluded child…"
Sawyer's jaw was set so firmly, the immortal thought he would hear a crack any minute. He looked to the rifle in the American's hands. "Your silly guns can do me no harm, Agent Sawyer." He said the title derisively. "You already know that much. Why waste your time?"
To his — hidden — surprise, Sawyer, without glancing to his 'prized' rifle, tossed it aside. It clattered loudly in the otherwise silent room, the noise of a grand clock the only other disturbance. Everything fell still.
"Hmm," Dorian murmured curiously. He had to admit, the child had him intrigued now, if not a little disappointed and sympathetic. It would be too easy to cut the boy down. "So what now…?"
"Now?" Tom repeated in a low, disgusted tone as he looked upon the features of a man who had caused so much evil and pain. "Now, I kill you."
A long, heavy silence filled the room, with only the spy's heavy, deep breathing to fill it. It was almost choking, the quiet… it closed in around him, as if threatening to cut off his air and corner him.
When Dorian Gray spoke, it was almost impatiently that he did so. His words were clipped, and precise, with the same arrogance and superiority that had always been there, from the moment they had met; they had clashed instantly, Tom remembered. His eyes bore into the American, but he did not waver; he remained firm, standing his ground.
"You fool… I am impervious to harm." His hand gripped tighter around the pommel of his cane, fingers wrapping specifically around the silver grip of what was really a sword in an immaculate scabbard in disguise.
Expression quietly confident, he lifted a hand. It was with a subtle degree of satisfaction that he saw the immortal tense just the tiniest fraction; almost unperceivable. Reaching to the very top of his back with his right hand, he wrapped his palm around the solid, reassuring grip that had been hidden from Gray's view since the spy had stepped into the room. He was fairly certain the immortal wouldn't have anticipated what would happen next.
In one clean, definite motion, he pulled the sword free from its scabbard, the slightest whisper of steel against its case the only sound in the room, before it caught the light, being brought down in front of Tom's body. Its razor edge glinted in the lamplight, catching across his defiant, determined features. His other hand closed around the grip below the first, for extra support of the weight; extra balance.
Dorian Gray lifted one eyebrow, eyes dropping from Tom's face to the sword, and back up again.
Slowly but surely, Tom's mouth turned up at one corner into his trademark smirk.
A sneer swept over Gray's face for just a flicker of an instant, and he lifted his nose higher into the air, arrogance radiating from him like a bad smell.
The room descended into a long, unbearable silence once more, weighing down on the two men in the room, one with weapon drawn and the other seconds away from mirroring his opponent. Even Tom's breathing had levelled out, as if simply drawing the sword had given him that extra boost of confidence he had needed. Everything was still, as if frozen in time…
And then, quite as suddenly as it had fallen, it was shattered. As if on some unspoken cue, the two charged. A clear ringing of metal announced the whipping out of Dorian's cane-sword, and as he closed the distance on the immortal, Tom swung the sword back and round. Quite without intending to do so, the immortal mimicked, but his motions were more graceful and artistic; like a deadly dancer's.
The force with which the two swords collided was enough to send a very real tremor through the American's body, making him grit his teeth in resolve as the two blades sang against one another, each driven by a very different but seemingly equal strength. Dorian Gray's face was a mask of disgust; Tom Sawyer's one of fortitude and hatred.
Hearing the awful, grating scrape of one blade against the other, Tom felt Gray's sword push down… getting closer. It may have been a narrower weapon, but it was by no means weaker. The expertise of the wielder didn't hurt its precision either.
Growling as he moved, a low and almost guttural sound of determination, Tom risked his balance in order to swing up one solid boot, slamming it into one of Dorian Gray's thighs. The force of the kick flung the immortal back. With a ringing sound, the blades disconnected, and Tom regained his balance, breathing heavy once more as his heart thundered behind his ribcage.
Eyes fixing on his opponent, seeing the rage and disbelief wash over the perfect features, he waited, and calculated. Still holding the sword in two hands, he rocked it to his right; his dominant side. Waiting only until the immortal had collected himself and focused his anger, Tom moved again, knowing he had only hesitated for some foolish, ingrained sense of chivalry and honour. If he truly intended to finish Gray, he knew he had to silence those traits, if only for the duration of the fight.
Swinging the sword around and towards the immortal's shoulder, he yelled, cursing inwardly when the other man's weapon leapt nimbly in to intercept, clanging against his larger blade. It ricocheted, but he quickly persisted, arching it up and across toward the other fighter's midsection. Again, Gray blocked, and with exasperating ease and elegance. Risking a glance at Gray's face only made his frustration worse.
The immortal looked bored.
And Tom let that fuel his actions.
He turned his entire body to give the next swing of the sword extra power, aiming right for Dorian Gray's smug head.
Gray bent his entire torso over easily, having no need to use his sword to deflect, which left it open for a return strike.
Tom Sawyer felt the stinging bite of the blade in his side, and gave a yelp, stumbling back and balancing the weight of the sword in his right hand. His left went to his body, above his hip, coming away from the rip in his clothing red at the fingers.
Dorian had landed the first strike; drawn the first blood.
"I really do pity you," he sighed, admiring the slightly stained edge of his blade as if it were nothing new to him. "All this effort, and for nothing." His eyes turned fully on Tom, and he read the silent taunt with ease; 'I'm toying with you'…
Grimacing irately, he ignored the discomfort, and squared his shoulders again, taking hold of the weapon with both hands again. He balanced his body weight quickly, and the two circled one another. Tom held the sword low, ready to cleave it through the air at a moment's notice, recalling all of Nemo's tips and lessons in the centre of his mind, where he could easily access them; he saved the very forefront of his attention and focus for the battle at hand. He needed to be alert if he was going to avoid anything worse than a gash in his side.
They rushed at each other once more.
Dorian quickly went into a flurry of motion, if only curious to test Sawyer's movement, balance and ability to carry the blade. He would have been impressed if he believed it was truly possible to be impressed by anything the American could do. He knew instantly where the young man had learned the tricks; Captain Nemo was quite the dab-hand with a blade himself.
But what the Indian had no doubt spent decades perfecting, along with Dorian himself, the American had rushed into a few days' practise and routine. His movements weren't precise or automatic. He could see in the youthful eyes that he was focusing all too much on what to do next with the blade and he turned and twisted it, having to shift his body to keep upright from the force of the immortal's strikes and parries as well as keep himself from hitting any of the furniture.
If only to add insult to the injury, Dorian delivered a sharp thrust at Sawyer's shoulder, which the American awkwardly twisted to block, before the immortal quickly recovered and struck at him again. Using the flat of his blade for extra power, he successfully shoved Sawyer back, taking sadistic, somewhat-childish satisfaction in how the agent stumbled over a low table he hadn't worked around.
Dorian chuckled mockingly, shaking his head as Sawyer gathered himself back to his feet. No amount of training could mask the bruising his pride had just taken, and the immortal was all too amused by that; he could see it in the eyes. He had spent countless years learning exactly how to read eyes… they could give away the tiniest things, but were usually the best way to judge an opponent.
Tucking his left arm behind his back for poise and practicality as Sawyer rushed at him again, they went into another rapid exchange of thrusts and blocks. Sawyer wasn't parrying nearly enough; if he would only strive to use a block as a carry-through into a blow, he might actually have half a chance.
Not that he would walk out of this room again, Dorian knew. There was no way the boy could defeat him, and it was actually rather pitiful that the American couldn't see that for himself.
Or perhaps he could, and he was simply a glutton for punishment.
"Do you think that League of Tom's are really not coming?" Huck called to Joe over the sound of gunfire tearing into their cover behind the sturdy, overturned table.
"They'd be here by now!" Joe replied briskly, grimacing at the deafening crack of bullets slamming into the wood with so much force that it shook their hiding place like an earthquake.
"Well, they didn't know we were comin'," the shorter agent argued, gripping his rifle as if it would solve all his problems, the foremost of which happened to be the assaulting gunmen raining down on them through their projectiles. "Maybe it's just takin' 'em a while."
Joe turned light, wide eyes on his companion; his impromptu partner. "Huck," he called over the noise, "they're not comin'."
Huck frowned, more irritated by Joe's apparent pessimism than the notion of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen not showing. He listened for any breaks in the firing, counting as many rounds as he could, before he realised he would have to — once again — throw caution to the wind. Swinging his body up and around, he let off three rapid shots at the gunmen, hearing rather than seeing two bullets drive their targets down and out of action. The third merely clipped the intended man, but didn't take him out of the running. Huck ducked back behind their cover just seconds before it was riddled with gunfire. He dropped lower to the ground as the very edge of the table was torn away by the bullets, showering him with splinters and fragments. He cursed under his breath, glancing to a very stern-looking Joe.
They're comin'… they have to be.
Wincing, Tom staggered back, panting in as much of a controlled manner as he could manage, eyes turned fiercely on Dorian Gray as the man paced predatorily back and forth in front of his unexpected challenger. His shoulders ached from the swinging of the sword, and his ribs burned with the exertion. He felt overheated beneath his duster, and his holsters felt too heavy at his sides. His left Colt kept catching on the gash Gray had rewarded him, causing him to grimace in discomfort and only provide the immortal with a reason to smile.
Knowing he couldn't show any signs of weakness or submission — not that he could really suppress most of the physical signs — he pulled himself together again, and surged forward anew, aiming a stab at Gray's chest. Gray turned his body, pivoting it like a cap on a bottle, and granted Tom with a solid crack against the back of his skull with the pommel of his sword. He gasped, stumbling forward and almost dropping his weapon, lifting his hand to check he wasn't bleeding. It throbbed something fierce, but a second, brisk check with his fingertips reassured him; Gray hadn't broken the skin. He had just taunted again, as if he saw no real point in the fight at all, but simply sought entertainment at Tom's expense.
Newly irritated by the blow, Tom gave his head a swift shake to clear any lingering grogginess from the strike, before lashing out again. The blades tolled against one another painfully, causing the American's ears to ring with each new collision, and he could feel Gray applying just that little bit more pressure behind each hit.
Strike after strike after strike, Tom gritted his teeth, trying to get the advantage, before he felt the back of Gray's free hand across his face with blinding force. It threw him to the side, and turned him enough for the immortal to slash his blade across the spy's back, drawing a yell out of him. Tom's knees wavered, and he fell halfway to the floor, using one hand to keep himself from collapse as the hot ache rushed across his injured back. He could feel the blood trickle from the wound, and he winced heavily, setting his jaw and squeezing his eyes shut as he gathered himself, before he could rise again.
Behind him, Gray paced, waiting and watching for his prey to get to his feet. Tom knew why he wasn't dead already… Gray was playing with him.
And if he played his cards right, Tom could use that to his advantage.
Taking a deep breath that carried only the slightest of shakes, he forced himself to his feet, grimacing at the burning, stinging sensation in his back. He rolled his shoulders experimentally, and let out the breath slowly. He met Gray's dark, cunning gaze, and waited.
Before too long, the immortal came forward. Tom waited still, even as Gray closed the distance, coming closer and closer with each passing heartbeat. His mind seemed to clear, and Nemo's teachings washed to the front of his brain; clear and crisp… perfectly vivid and within his reach.
Just as Gray swung at the American, the younger man ducked down, and twisted; any pain from his slashed back and gashed side was ignored as, with perfect clarity and decisiveness, he swung up, and cleaved the sword around. Honour and chivalry be damned; Gray had his back turned, having not yet twisted to intercept.
There was a sickening crunch and brief squelch that filled the air, before something sailed to the floor. Even as Tom recovered from the force of his swing, he turned his eyes, and saw the head hit the ground. Panting deeply, he glanced to the body, which slumped to its knees against a pristine sofa, cane-sword dropping from partly-relaxed fingers.
Eyes falling once again to the head, he stared, as if in disbelief. Had he done it?
Was Gray dead…?
To Be Continued…