I have always been fascinated with this era, so that kind of spurred on this particular story. It has a different flavor than most of my other Moonlight fan-fics, but hopefully the writing will speak for itself. Enjoy and please, if you enjoy it, leave me a lovely comment.
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A G O N Y
Water was dripping at the eaves, a solitary, lonely sound against the darkness that surrounded the small room, with its meager furniture and the single candle almost burnt out on the bedside table. The figure that resided on the narrow cot was quiet, almost death-like in his poise, staring at the ceiling in kind of a hypnotic trance that soon caused him to shudder involuntarily and turn over. The room was filled with shadows of a dark variety, sinister in the way they curled against the corners and spread long tendrils across the roof, but they did not seem to bother the occupant of the small set of rooms above the street just left of the tavern. He had been there only a few days, coming and going without much notoriety, only the lady of the house looking after him rather strangely, for he seemed to have no interest either in the noise and confusion of the boisterous pup, nor of the questionable women who frequented the surrounding streets. He looked at them no more than askance, his interest elsewhere, for he was preoccupied. He did not drink, nor demand meals as her other tenants did, but seemed to come and go at odd hours, rather pale and gaunt by most appearances and decidedly unfavorable toward sunlight.
If she had not known better, the landlady would have said that he was hiding from the world, or that he was a laudanum addict, for she had had tenants of that sort before -- with dark circles underneath their eyes, unflinching, violent acts of temperament, and often vanishing for hours, even days, at a time. But no, this one remained much to himself and quiet, observant, curious about London and the winding streets. He was not poor but did not spend lightly, for while his rooms were bare and provincial, he often took a hansom cab and once she had found a scrap of paper from the Opera in one of his cloak pockets. It had fallen to the floor with a name scribbled on it, no more than a careless turn of the pen, a woman's name. It had interested her at the time, for she had not seen him with female callers. Just the one man, who came only twice, the second time being evicted with some force through the narrow doorway at the top of the stairs. He had been a most peculiar man, a sinister man, with one blackened eye that saw nothing, and a cruel turn to his mouth. She had not seen him since, or anyone calling for her tenant, though she listened for the sound of the bell or the light, indiscernible tread of his footstep on the stairs.
No one knew why he had come to London, a place that had held refuge for him in the past, and in many ways, Josef did not know himself, only that the charm of New York had faded into the cobbled streets of a different world, one he sought to escape as Victorian ideals took root in America. Josef had every respect for her as a nation, and for the magnificent cities that had seen so much, but something had drawn him to the land of his origins, and the same stretch of lonely street where he had died. It was such a significant thing, death, for a mortal, but not so for a vampire. Death came and went with the wind, to humans and immortals alike, in infrequent bouts of melancholy or disinterest, through violence or chance, Fate spinning the woven wheel and casting its threads about the room, allowing some to survive and others to perish; sometimes it used individuals, and sometimes it was merely chance -- but it was here that he had died. Many years ago, on his way home after a late night at his studies.
The wind had been brisk and cold for September, and the side streets were solitary, for no one wanted to be out at this ungodly hour. Josef had carried a case beneath one arm with important documents in it, barely old enough to knot his cravat and consider himself reasonably successful in some small venture in the business world. He had been consumed with other thoughts, more profitable thoughts, than the darkness that surrounded him, but all at once as he crossed the square he had become aware of it, aware of the cold and the impending scent of rain, of his loneliness in the yawning emptiness that hastened on his heels, and increased his pace.
She had emerged from the shadows, no more than a slender golden whisper against the night, and he had caught sight of her across the distance, beautiful in what remained of the moonlight. Something warned him to stay away, to turn and run, but he could not; it was as if that invisible thread pulled in the hand of Fate drew him toward her. She was not one of the prostitutes that frequented the area and attempted to entice him with red lips and promises of exquisite sins, but nor was she a lady -- she was something else entirely, something sensual and alluring, something powerful… and evil. He could feel it radiating from her, from the icy hand that reached forward to take his, from the magnificent eyes that would not allow him to turn away. "Come," she had said, and without knowing why, he had followed her into the shadows-- the shadows where he would die. It was not swift nor did he sense it coming, but she had drawn him against her, passing her tongue over his lips and whispering to him meaningless nothings. He had not resisted, nor responded, helpless as she brushed him up against the alley wall and pressed her lips to his throat.
The pain had been immense but somehow also satisfying, but it was the blood that passed between them that he remembered most; it was as if he could feel it draining away, by no natural phenomenon or even the slash of a knife, but being pulled from his veins by the creature that rendered him helpless. At some point, he realized what was happening and struggled, but she was much stronger than him, holding onto him fiercely, as if her life depended on it, sliding them both to the ground as his legs gave out from beneath him. Lola had never told him if it was an accident, if she had meant to take as much as she did. She would not tell him anything, not of herself or what he was to become. Just that when she had pulled away from him, the last bit of life was leaving his slender form, the pages from his valise scattered the length of the ally, his hand white in the moonlight as it rested at his side.
Licking the blood off her fingertips, Lola had looked at him then, as if seeing him for the first time, and a change had come over her features, softening as she brushed the hair out of his face. "My poor darling," she murmured, "I will make it well again," and those two sharp teeth, so beautiful and yet so dangerous, had sunk into her wrist, drawing a drop of blood that sprang to the surface of her translucent skin and shimmered there like a precious nectar. She reached out to him and tilted her arm up, so that the blood dropped onto his parted lips, open as he gasped his final breath.
Death was not a pleasant experience, nor anything he desired to encounter ever again. There was nothing romantic about it, no final accumulation of thoughts or wishes, nothing but a blind, numbing pain that spread through him like fire licking at his veins and rendered him motionless. A stiffening of muscles, a tightening that faded into unconsciousness; but it was rebirth that was the most remarkable, a delicate transition of colors and sounds shifting into perspective. The ability to hear distinct sounds at a great distance, a sharpening of the senses, and most of all, a weightlessness, a fearlessness… and a hunger, so violent and vicious that it could not be denied. It was memories of this that haunted him, that caused him to remember, that had brought him back to this eerie place. Josef recalled the eerie moment of transition between death and un-life, the slow but gradual knowledge of whom and what he was, the realization that his heart no longer beat in his chest.
It had been well over two hundred years since that monumental night, two hundred and some odd years of madness and docility, of unforgivable actions and recompense, of pleasant encounters and unforgettably horrific ones. The first twenty years of his life as an immortal had been the most memorable, as he had cut a swath through London with the assistance of Lola, discovering that his sadistic side was matched only by her own, but with age he had grown docile, wealthy, content in his power and authority, certain that no one would ever shake him up again. And then he had met Coraline. Beautiful, dark, evasive, she had been merely a face among the crowd, one of many who turned out to listen to Lincoln's speeches, but there had been something about her that he disliked. Instantly, they had been suspicious of one another, aware of each other's presence but unforgiving of it, a kind of curiously sinister courtship that lent more to snarls and warnings than trysts and kisses.
He had not seen her in twenty years, not since that fateful night when Lincoln had been assassinated; and that was the first and last time he had ever seen her beautiful face tear-stained, nor pale with shock. Coraline, the woman whose presence in France had begun the Revolution, whose family had managed to escape the lethal business of Madame Guillotine, had seen a bullet fly through the air at a short distance, and strike a mortal in the back of the head -- and had cried. It was curious to him, unfathomable, for Coraline had no conscience otherwise. She was a product of her spoiled, aristocratic upbringing and her heartlessness had inspired him on numerous occasions… but that had touched her profoundly, had touched everyone; lives had been transformed that day, as a nation reeled with shock and then slipped into profound mourning. No, he had not seen her since … but he knew she was in London. He could sense her, even caught her scent once or twice on his infrequent outings. He had known it was her even before encountering her brother, Lance. One of the ancient vampires, he was powerful and dangerous, and had liked Josef immediately, but their equal ambitions did not intermingle well, and Josef had sent him on his way, reassuring him that he had no plans to remain in London beyond the spring.
"See that you don't," Lance had told him, with a curious kind of uncertainty in his voice. He had lingered on the threshold for a moment and then vanished down the stairs, his presence of immense curiosity to the landlady, but Josef had ignored her inquisitive glance as he had shut the door. It was more than two weeks later and he had told her nothing, nor entertained anyone else. Staring at the darkening shadows creeping in as the tallow in the candle melted into a discontented puddle, Josef compelled movement from his limbs, rising and drawing on his cloak, before he put out the light. His eyes adjusted to the darkness and he had no difficulty in making his way down the narrow staircase and out the front door, aware that his landlady had fallen asleep before the fire with a bottle of brandy, as she often did in the early evening. The hour was moderately late and only individuals with nefarious intentions were afoot--tipsy lords returning from the tavern, working girls in search of a copper penny, and the occasional addict or wayward husband resenting the fact that they would soon have to return home and face the recriminating, accusing glares of their wives. He cared about none of them, and they failed to acknowledge him as he passed among them, encountering the odd man every few streets, but mostly finding nothing but darkness.
Her slender form was concealed in the mouth of an alley, for she had been waiting for him. Reddish brown hair gleamed around a pretty face set with a natural pout as his footsteps came nearer. She drew a shawl around her shoulders and held her breath until she saw it was him; then he heard the pounding of her heart subside just enough to reassure him that she was relieved at his presence, and her hoarse voice summoned him into the darkness. Mary was quite an accommodating little creature, and it was fortunate he had found her. She was a working girl with no experience, for it had been her first night on the street when Josef had discovered the pleasures of the lower district. He had sensed her about it immediately, her innocence, and her virtue. She had no alternative, she said, it was this or to be cast out on the street. She had been terrified of him, but willing to do anything he required -- but his needs were different from most men, far less degrading but equally as intrusive. She had been shocked the first time, and a little astounded the second, but now was accustomed to it, relieved, even, for he paid her well enough that she did not have to resort to the tactics of her friends to earn enough to keep her in reasonable standing.
When they asked her, she told them that she was the solitary companion of a single, demanding client, which was true in some respects, who would not allow her to see anyone else. They accepted it with understanding and envy, never noticing how she wore a slender black ribbon at her neck, to conceal the puncture marks that caressed her pale skin. Josef had learned many things in his two hundred years, mainly how to make it as least painful as possible, even pleasurable in some respect. Mary was waiting for him, slightly frustrated that he was late, for being alone in the alley frightened her. There was nervousness about her this evening, an increase of her pulse, a tightening of her fingers as she drew her shawl even tighter about her slender shoulders. "There is a bad omen tonight," she said, shuddering, for she was a superstitious sort.
Pulling him into the darkness and fumbling at her throat for the ribbon, Mary quieted as he untied it for her, feeling safe in his presence. That was an unusual thing; he had never experienced it before. Most humans, even those who delighted in being fed on, rarely felt entirely at ease in the presence of vampires. Josef had not intended to find her, or to make use of her, but had been drawn to her, much like he had been drawn to this eerie place, his motives uncertain and his instincts flaring. He felt no guilt in it, for he knew he was protecting her from far worse things, and rested his head against hers as they listened to the silence, broken only on occasion by the distant sounds of a passing hansom cab. Her face turned from his and she melted into his arms as he caressed her throat with his lips, careful as he sank his teeth into her. There was, as always, a slight intake of her breath before she relaxed, her heart beating against his chest, slowing beneath the hypnotic lull of his presence.
Blood: it was intense and meaningful, powerful and dangerous, addictive and something he could not resist as it passed over his tongue, a rich, sensual blood far too strong and poignant to come out of a mere girl such as this, an innocent girl of country bearings and a naive understanding of the world. "What are you?" she had asked him once, and he had smiled at her mysteriously. "Nothing," he had replied; "something you need not understand," and astoundingly, she had listened to him and never asked again, had never looked at him darkly, nor resented his role in her life, only been grateful for it, for somehow she knew he would never harm her. She was content in his arms, trusting, her form growing quite still as he pulled away from her, feeling warm because of her blood as it chased away the chill in his veins. With what strength remained, she whispered, "You are always so warm, after," and he answered, "Because you have given it to me, because you have shared it with me, a taste of the light."
"The light," she repeated tiredly, and smiled at him. Mary rested her head against his shoulder, growing sleepy with the hour and her loss of blood. Now was when he would walk her home, to the decrepit boarding house where she roomed with one of the other girls. Her friend would look at him curiously when he came into the lamplight, unaccustomed to such gentlemanly behavior as to not leave her in an alley somewhere. There were many questions, even dangerous ones, and yet he could not help wanting to watch over her, wanting to make certain nothing harmed her. But tonight was different. Tonight, something was wrong. He sensed it on the wind, an eerie kind of foreboding that made their footsteps echo all the more menacingly on the cobbles, and his senses to tense as he prepared for the unknown. His arm around Mary, he looked piercingly into the darkness and then lifted his nose, breathing in the night air.
It was there, faint whiff of something foul and odorous, a scent that caused him to shudder and draw the pale figure nearer to his side as he hastened their pace. Even in her lethargy, Mary sensed his urgency and did not drag her feet, blinking away the weariness as they traveled the labyrinth of allies that eventually led them to the ramshackle boarding house where she shared a room with another girl. The woman opened the door when she saw them coming and her slender frame was outlined in a shimmering thread of light that cast a sickly hue against the pavement, her hair wild about her shoulders and the strap of her gown loose against her bare shoulder. "Thought it was the man who was supposed to be tired at the end of it," she said with a leering smile, and Josef passed her without a glance, depositing Mary on the bed. His presence dwarfed the tiny room with its worn furniture and the meager fire flickering in the hearth.
He bent over her a moment and when he stood up several golden coins had been pressed into her fist. Mary smiled up at him and reached after him limply as he went, dropping back into the pillows with a sigh that indicated she would sleep tonight and be recovered by the morning, as she often was, for he never took more than he needed. Her companion followed him to the door and he paused on the threshold, a magnificent sight in his black attire, his golden head turned in the direction of that foul scent, wafting toward him with menace. Josef knew the taste of it well, for it meant a vampire much older than himself was abroad tonight. The woman came after him curiously and he turned into the room again, saying, "Both of you should stay in tonight."
"Is that so, mister?" she replied arrogantly, but her cockiness faded when she saw the anger that flashed through his eyes; there was a hint of whiteness to them that frightened her, and a flash of white teeth that she felt confident must have been the alcohol in her veins, for they looked almost fang-like in the shadows. "Do as I tell you," he snarled, and passed out into the night. She closed the door behind him and latched it with trembling fingers, turning to look at the pale figure asleep on the bed. Mary was none the worse for wear, but her companion would never have risked it, not with a man such as that. She could not be certain what it was, but there was something infinitely terrifying about him.