Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tic-
Albert found himself gazing down at the gold metal that rested in his palm once again. Studying the depressed details and caressing his thumb over the damage slowly. Really should get this repaired, he mused. But yet there was something personal and intimate about the dints he had done to the elegant watch. He couldn't find it with in him to part with it long enough to get it fixed. It would have eaten him up inside to not have the trinket close at heart. I'm coming, Edmond. He whispered gently to the watch in his mind, watching the second hand tick by slowly. Suddenly, a voice boomed through the air and Albert clicked the watch shut and tucked it safely into his shirt pocket.
The voice droned on about their destination, and their landings time. All things Albert was far too familiar with. He slide his eyes close, blocking out the warnings about staying seated during the landing and to avoid various other hazards one would have to be brainless to try do in a moving shuttle. He breathed out a sigh, his mind drifting off towards his dream yet again. He was still captivated by the eerie reality the dream had possessed-- and yet he was starting to doubt now. But doubt himself as he might, there was no way he could live with himself if he didn't go back to at least check. The disappointment would be crushing-- and embarrassing to say the least. Wounds were just starting to close over from that event, and he had a feeling that he would be ripping of the band aid to a flow of emotions.
Despite those who held strong opinions of him, Albert had found himself steadily getting better with not being as emotional. Yet, that wasn't always a good thing. But it was apart of grief; a part of his grieving process. He had studied them, vaguely remembering the stages people could go through. Was this is all a denial to the death around him? Was this all his subconscious way of easing him through the cycle of loss and regret? Half of him wanted to take a return flight back as soon as he landed. But, then where would he go? Being the well educated son of a man who had turned his power on his own people was not one something could add on their resume. He shook off the feeling of dread for now, and emerged from the depth of his mind to focus his gaze towards one of the windows several seats over.
A woman sat there, gazing out the very same window and lost in her own thoughts. Albert studied the gentle flow of her hair, lightly curled and yet not too bouncy. The soft details of her face that made it near impossible to tell her age. She turned suddenly, as if drawn to the fact she was being watching and levelled golden and red onto his blue ones. His stomach churned, and he looked away in shock to stare at the back of the head rest in front of him. His fingers curling around the arm rest of his chair till his knuckles were a ghostly white. His mind whirled with frantic thoughts, half of them not coming together to form any real train of thought. The other half swarmed of panic and disbelief, causing his skin to drop in pallor and his heart to thud faster deep with in his chest. He heard someone talking to him-- asking him if he was alright perhaps. But he only allowed him self to glance back towards the women with both bravery and cowardliness in his movements. Confused green eyes met his gaze now, and the woman was blinking at his odd behaviour.
After the shuttle had landed, one Albert Morcerf-- now, referring to himself as Albert Herrens(1) could be found doubled over the sink in the men's bathroom. Water dripped from his hair where he had forcefully thrown it in an attempt to cool himself down. His fingers were clenching the white porcelain below him, chest heaving slowly with breaths that threatened to explode back into another anxiety attack. A hand on his back startled him, and he glanced up into the mirror in front of him to meet a familiar face.
"Baptistin!" Albert exclaimed shakily, gladly grasping hold of the distraction to keep himself from his thoughts. "Ah-- Sorry, I was suppos' to meet you outside."
"No problem...." There was a pause. "Ya alright? Y' don't look so hot kid." Baptistin voiced, seeming to wave off the apology as he studied Albert with concern. The younger male merely shrugged his shoulders, and reached behind him to turn off the tap that was spilling water away down the drain. Baptistin didn't comment how much that hand trembled. He also didn't need to speak about how tattered the young man looked, seeming to understand on a silent rule that it was not to be talked about. He doubted the other would have taken his advice anyway. Baptistin knew after all, how much Albert had lost at the hands of his old master.
"I'm fine." Albert voiced, offering a smile to the older man whilst hoping it didn't seem as weary as he truly felt. "Thank you for coming on such short notice."
"The princess had a few things she wished to get settled in Paris, your contacting her spurred a few things to mind for her." Baptistin voiced, unconvinced about the ex-viscounts claim of health but allowed it to slide for now.
"How convenient." Albert murmured with a nod of his head, before leaning down to retrieve his jacket and luggage from the floor where he had set them. Baptistin merely shook his head and held the door for the younger man as they exited. Their walk was a quiet one, silence drawing between them as they exited the crowded shuttle port. Albert cast a single glance at the fact Baptistin seemed to have no luggage with him but asked not on the topic. His curious nature had been doused someone in the last few weeks. Things he had once found so enticing now held little meaning to him.
"The princess is secured us two rooms at the Crique de Trésor." Baptistin voiced, while lifting a hand to capture the attention of a Taxi. "If you've not made reservations elsewhere, that is." He questioned, flickering his eyes from his task towards his silent companion.
"That's fine." Albert murmured, sparing the counts old right hand a reassuring glance and a thankful smile that didn't reach his eyes. Albert was personally tired of the old grandeur of the first 15 years of his life, and had more recently stayed in questionable housing conditions. None of this he spoke however, but found a new seed of horror growing in his stomach. Why had had contacted Haidee again? A mask was slipped over the dulling sensation of dread and he allowed himself to slide back into a familiar happiness that had pleased others to see him in. He started talking then, rushing forward with talk about what he had seen in New York while visiting Eugenie. Baptistin seemed to take his bait, for those studying eyes lightened as they finally caught themselves a cab.
The day had been lost in travel, and a familiar moon had lifted to settle into the sky. The night brought with it a cool drawl of autumn's breath stirred through open curtains, and leaking into a dimly lit room. The hotel was most certainly one of the better, higher up the chain in a circle of five star establishments offering nothing but the most lavish best to those with the money to afford their accommodations. Albert had found it all quite overwhelming, and retreated into his room with a tight throat. A quivering hold threatened to release his single luggage bag to the floor in a careless heap. He managed to reach the foot of his bed before this however, the dull thud sounding through out the chilly room with a hollow 'thud'. A second muffled thump followed soon after, but it was from the dead weight of a young man as he sunk to his knees beside the battered suitcase.
This was too much for him, too much and far too soon. He had not been expected the thrust into society this soon. It was not intentional he reasoned as his fingers dug into the plush carpet under his palms. Haidee had only been trying to do him a favour-- the girl had no idea what all of this would remind him of. He clenched his teeth against the sob that threatened to spill over his body. Tears stung in the corners of his eyes-- tears he refused to shed. He couldn't do this now, he was back in Paris for a reason and it wasn't self pity. Heavy fingers pulled forth something from his pocket, something that glimmered softly in the dim light with a golden hue. A soft ticking filling the air around him, almost seeming to offer him a strange reassurance. Like an old friend, its consistency had a calming effect on Albert. Shaking fingers ghosted over the intricate details, absorbing the strength offered to him by the emotionless object. He took a moment to steady himself to his feet with the aid of one elegant bed post, the watch clenched gingerly in his other hand.
Albert considered later, seconds later actually, that he should have careful how he handled the damaged watch. For the sharp shards of glass that still littered its inside were only all too pleased to dig into his palm. He did not however, drop the watch when he realized what the stinging was. He tossed the watch to his other hand once he was stable enough to stand straight and surveyed the damage with a frown. His blood had smeared over the arrows and numbers and he sighed. It was a painful remembrance from the blood he had to clear off of it before, when he had stolen it from the counts inner pocket. Fitting, he thought as he stumbled towards the bathroom. That we should both bleed over your gift to me. He mused to himself, unconsciously talking to the count as if he were standing right beside him.
The bathroom was blindingly white, so much so that Albert drew back with a hiss when he needed to turn the light on. He took a moment to adjust to the level of light before he stepped into the pristine room. It had a light scent of roses that made his nose itch and yet he could not identify where it came from. Giving up on the search, he lead himself to the sink and set the watch down. He finally allowed himself to examine in his hand in the clear light and grimaced at the rivers that tickled down his fingers. The hand was numb now, and he groaned slightly as he glanced back at the droplets of blood that showed his path to the bathroom. Well, there goes Haidee's damage deposit. He thought with a dry sarcasm before searching for a first aid kit.
Minutes later found small pieces of glass resting on the bottom of the sink along with the bloodied tips of silver tweezers. Albert himself however, was sitting on the edge of the tub waving said injured hand in the air, a bottle of peroxide being given a dirty look where he had left it. He forgot how much that stuff stung; highly educated, but prone to silly, stupid, and careless actions. Yep, that was Albert. Said man waited for the piercing pain jabbing up into his arm to tame down before he picked up the strips of bandage he had found. Taking in a breath and holding it, he set about wrapping the gauze around the wound before he ended up with an infection of some sort. Tying the ends and admiring his awkward and unperfected technique he gave a soft laugh. It looked ridiculous, but it would do the trick for now. Pulling himself to his feet, he seemed to have forgotten about the pocket watch that had caused his dilemma until he started to clean up. On washing off the blood from the tweezers and chucking them in the garbage-- doubting the next occupant of the room would want to use them again-- he paused. Blue eyes strayed over the golden watch that was left open on the vanity. Ticking faithfully into the air where he had left it, blood staining the white counter under the watch where he had dropped it in a hurry. With everything washed, and the majority of the supplies returned to their correct locations Albert approached the cause of his trouble.
He gingerly whipped away the blood from the edges of the golden trinket but paused as he thought about how to clean in the inside. The counts blood hadn't managed to get inside of it the first time he needed to clean blood off of it. As the count had died with the watch shut. Albert however had his hand practically shoved inside of it like a nit-wit. Sighing, he turned the watch around and stared. He found he was doing that a lot lately, finding things freakily out of place and giving him odd reminders. Reminders.
There was no blood with in the pocket watch. No crimson smears over the numbers or arrows at all. It looked as it had all but twenty minutes ago before Albert had cut himself on it. Swallowing with an eerie chill sliding down his back, he closed the pocket watch with a 'click'. Albert wasn't sure /what/ to think of it, so, logically he didn't. He just pocket the watch and fled the room. He had to see Baptistint-- now. He forgot about the bloody trail he had created to the bathroom-- there would be time to clean that up later after all. Right? Right.
Finding Baptistin's room was relatively easy, considering their rooms were across the hall from each others. The man himself however, proved to be a considerable task when the soft knock to the door gave no indication that the man was there. Albert's lips twitched into an exasperated expression, and he fled back into his room in order to scribble a note for the other man. He had taken considerable time traveling from New York to Paris, and if by some grace of god, the man was alive all this time could be eating away at his life. Locating a cheaply made notepad with the hotels name in the corner, and an equally shoddy pen with the same name on its side he jotted down a short message explaining he was going to check by the estate now. Nothing could be harmed for starting early after all he reasoned with himself before he headed out of the room.
Soft voices stilled his movements however, and he nearly pulled the door open on hearing Baptistins voice-- Where had that man been!? It was the other voice that made him freeze in his tracts and swallow slowly.
"I told you to open the door..." A deeper voice muffled, that took Albert a moment to identify as Bertuccio's.
"...and how would you explain /both/ of us being here?" Baptistin questioned, earning a grunt of agreement from the larger of the two.
"Tell him the truth? I don't like this as it is..." Bertuccio murmured, and Albert's brow furrowed as they chuckled.
"Well, it is the princess's orders... We did lots for Edmond we didn't like." Baptistin replied, and by now Albert had gathered the bravery to ease himself up on his toes to gaze through the peep-hole. He studied the larger men with a frown and the note in his hand crumbled in rage. Something was going on here-- and he didn't like the looks of it.
"Tru-- Did you hear that?" Bertuccio's eyes screwed towards Albert's door, and Albert jumped back as if he had been caught. His breath caught in his throat as he listened to them with out his visual aid.
"Yeah-- hey, go back inside. I'll check his room." Baptistin voiced in a whisper that Albert had barely caught.
Shit. Albert shoved his note into his pocket, and fled back from the door. The blood on the carpet was the least of his worries now it seemed. With a held breath he stepped back beside the door, and waiting till a knock was heard. He allowed his eyes to slide closed as he heard Baptistin call out his name, and then a flare of anger doubled in side of him when he heard the knock click open. If Baptistin had a key to his room, things were defiantly not going as planned. He was nearly resigned to step out and show himself until he noticed the door open into his room. With said door hiding him from sight. Albert would have laughed at the irony, if he hadn't been trying not to be found that is.
Guilt tugged at his conscious as he watched Baptistin caught sight of the blood stained carpet and take off towards the bathroom calling out his name again. However, as the door to his room clicked shut Albert wouldn't get to see Baptistin's face at finding he had been roused. Instead, he took off down the hallway in spring, injured hand held tightly to his chest. Sure, he felt bad ditching his 'guards'-- but something's were better left alone. He was one of those things right now.
Raged fueled steps deposited of him into an elevator, that held only a well dressed maid resting against an empty trolley. He bowed his head politely to her, and pressed the main button for the lobby at seeing she was heading one down into the basement.
"You alright, hun?" She inquired, gesturing towards his awkwardly wrapped hand.
"Oh, yes. Just a silly accident. I'm fine." Albert voiced, trying to hide the fact his breath was still puffy from running.
"Hnnn, kay." She replied, taking interest in studying her nails. The rest of the decent was in a silence even more awkward then the wrap job Albert had managed on his hand. It was no loss to the young man when the door dinged open and he fled into the lobby in a casual walk. He pained on a pleasant expression-- thankful for his previous experience in wearing that mask. A greeting was given to the clerk as he passed the desk-- who gave him an odd look. Albert decided not to dissect that look expression and took his freedom as he escaped the hotel on foot, and allowed himself to vanish into the colourful night.
The night was true to the chill it had place in his room. The wind was sharp against his body with an odd familiarity as he stepped in and out of the lights and darkness. He knew these streets and with that knowledge he had a considerable edge against his followers. Of course the two would follow him, he reasoned as he glanced over his shoulder warily. He had just slipped out from under their noses after leaving his blood all over the room. It was only a matter of time, if it had not happened already, that the two would trace him to the ruined estate. In such a case he would have to get there head of time and be ready for them.
Being ready was not something Albert was known for being good at. He always preferred to rush off into things—example, he was now wandering through Paris in the dead of the night trying to save the man that had nearly ended his own life. Albert could have laughed at this, but the buildings that gleamed at him from the dimness of the street lights seemed to prefer their silence. He paused then, hesitating in the shadows as he listened to the night. Paris had never been this quiet in the night before, never. People had always managed to rise up parties and high society events well into the early morning hours. It was barely ten o'clock, and the city was already comatose. He swallowed slowly. Paris had changed since last summer. In a mere few weeks everything had changed in his own life as well. With a sigh that barely reached his own ears he pulled his jacket tighter around his frame and crossed the road.
The silence seemed to make Albert a lot more conscious of himself, when he was are of it. He shifted the fall of his foot steps, and lurked closer to the buildings as if trying to vanish inside one of them. With the echo of his own steps muffled with his altered swagger he grew slightly less nervous. He was slight less anxious, but no completely calm of course. Albert allowed his thoughts to wander to what may await him when he reached the estate. He had visited briefly when they had spent the better part of a whole day searching through rubble to find his father's body. He could still remember the shock on faces when he had inquired about Edmond first, and his father second. But the shake of the workers head indicated that nothing had been found. People seemed to believe the fact that perhaps the demon that had possessed the man had caused the spontaneous vanish of his corpse.
Albert had never really questioned the information—anything was possible after all. The demon had allowed Edmond to withstand swords to the abdomen multiple times. The young man still found guilt however, that his mere touch had melted such a beast away. For with out the demon, he had died. Simply vanished and leaving only haunted memories behind. Such haunted memories; memories that rose up sharply in the depth of his skull as he found himself following an old path to the Count's estate.
He paused before the large structure situated so calmly in the downtown core. Many buildings around it had fallen in ruin, while the majority of the part of the estate above ground had remained standing. Sure, the roof was half missing and the windows had been boarded up—but it was still standing to say the least. The inside however, was in ruins. Albert did not take the doors he faced however, a thoughtful glance tossed over his shoulder before he slipped around the side of the house and ventured along its most lateral side. Finger tips brushing over the cracked stones as he went. The dirt here muffled his steps even better then the cement of the road out side.
Blue eyes caught little of the dim light from the street, and only the moon showed his way now; moon light that faded now and again with the passing of a few small clouds. Sheltered from the wind in the ally between the estate and the house flanking it on its right he paused to listen once again. Seconds slide by before he reasoned that he must have arrived here first with his head start. He dropped to the ground on his knees, careless to the muck that stained his knees as he pressed against one of the old boards over a particularly awkward hole in the wall. The hole it turned out was actually a large crack; one that ran down the building and in to the depth of the darkness below. Albert set the board aside, and wiggled his lower half into the small crevice. Turning halfway in, he gripped the sides of the crack and eased his body down until his feet met with a dull 'thud' onto a solid surface. He tested the 'floors' strength for a moment before he pulled the board in after him, conveniently dragging it along the ground to settle the rocks and dirt he had displaced on kneeling. He left the board cracked slightly, shining a beam of light down in the darkness.
Albert's hands dug into his pocket, pulling forward a strange cube shape. He rubbed it between his hands for a moment as if warming the object up. He held it out next, letting the oddly detailed cube rest in his palm. A light flickered on its surface before a soft trill was heard from the box and it lit up. Glowing ruins covered its surface, and a beam of light radiated from lens on its front. It placed itself just above Albert's right shoulder, seeming to hover there and face in the direction Albert did. As the young man looked downward, the mean beam of light followed the path of his eyes and illuminated the area. The light glinted off of surfaces in the distance and Albert swallowed. Well, here we go. He thought bravely, before turning to descend down the makeshift stair case. As that room that had decided down into the heart of the estate was submerged under god knows how many meters of water. Metallic staging had been rigged up along the interior of the building when the crews had been searching for bodies. It had been left however, purchased and included with the estate to who ever purchased it next and wished to renovate the damage. No one had placed an offer on the building, and Albert highly doubted anyone would anytime soon.
The staging creaked softly under his weight, and the darkness before him showed nothing but the fallen details of a golden hallway and the distant view of a world submerged in water. Albert grew steadily more nervous the deeper he went, wondering now if vandals had gotten into the place or if there could be any wild animals. He laughed gently in the darkness at that—the two were one in the same in Paris.
Shortly after this thought—as if karma was acting fast against him—the world got suddenly much moister. A dull 'sloosh' sounded in to the air as Albert's foot sunk down into ankle high water. The youth paused, a small noise of displeasure in the back of his throat as he looked down to noticed the water level was significantly higher then it had been the last time he was here. Tide must be in. He mused, allowing his other foot to join its twin in the water. He stepped towards the edge of the staging, fingers gripping the chain railing as he glanced out over the water trying to peer into the darkness with the help of his floating light. "Brighter." He murmured, hearing a soft whirl from the machine before the light concentrated and the beam widened, seeming to illuminate half of the darkness in one flash of power. Albert frowned over the ruin and destruction before him. Nothing could have survived here, he thought dimly glancing down at his feet still resting in the water.
He had a predicament now. The brunette hadn't quite thought a head of time as to /how/ he would cross the water. The dock that had been fashioned was probably submerged in water, and Albert had come too far and waited all to long to give up on his quest now. He took a moment to think, shifting back and forth on his wet feet before a thought came to him. He glanced back down at his feet and grinned. The water wasn't cold; really, it was just a nice temperature. Albert assumed being this deep in the ground kept away the autumn's chilly wind. The water would surely freeze in the dead of winter, but for now it was still relatively warm.
Minutes later found the ex-viscount half naked, his clothing folded into semi-neat piles on an upper landing to keep the water from reaching them. His blue eyes held such a childish light to them as he eased himself out into water. The cube at his shoulder seeming to detect the water and emitted an almost whimper like sound. "Come on you." He voiced to the light that finally whirled and hovered after him but refused to touch the water. It instead hovered above his head. Albert took a breath before he pushed himself off using the ledge behind him and headed towards the largest mound of rubble in the center of the ruins.
The swim was significantly longer then Albert would have estimated and he found his mind wandering. Sharks. There had been sharks here, hadn't there. A nervous glance was tossed back over his shoulder towards the staging. Yep. He was passed the midway point. Might as well continue, with or with out the sharks. Puffing out his cheeks in discontentment he surged forward—admittedly awkward with a wounded hand that was unable to cup and push the water aside. Try not to think about the sharks. He thought, remembering his first visit to the Count's estate and that damn costume he had let Peppo talk him into. At least Edmond had seemed to like it, or perhaps he was just being polite? He would have snorted, if he wasn't breathing heavily for air.
Well, Edmond had pulled him from these waters and he hadn't seen a shark in them since that day. Perhaps they had been an illusion. That was all quite possible. Everything he had known about the Count had really been an illusion. Albert thought over that was a saddened memory. He found something else to worry over however, when he reached the edge of the 'island' he had been swimming for. Not a moment too soon, he mused as he reached out to malformed pieces of gold and rock, clawing at them fruitlessly before he found a hold and pulled himself upwards. He scrambled awkwardly up the wall of boulders, the bandages on his hand quickly becoming soiled and dirtied as he climbed. The pressure of climbing caused the wounds under this the bandages to open and he hissed softly as the hand sent shivers of pain up his arm again.
He reached the top of the wall with relief despite the small cuts having applied themselves to his smooth skin whilst he climbed— as he was not the most graceful being. Grace came however from the hand that reached out towards him, steady and calm in the darkness. With that innocence that not even grief or death could rid him of Albert extended his 'good' hand towards the offered grasp. As someone pulled him upwards onto free land Albert tilted his head to catch sight of the being. The machine at his crown that hovered to light his way slide its rays over the person that was all too familiar. Blue eyes widened with sudden shock that mirrored the cry on Albert's lips. He stumbled backwards onto the frail edge of the cliff that he had just scaled.
A loud 'SPLOOSH' echoed through the cavern as two bodies contacted the murky depths, followed by several smaller 'plops' at the rocks that had let go under their feet. A mechanical cube was left hovering the water frantically whirling as it tried to locate its master. Its light piercing down into the water as it circled above like a bird of prey seeking its dinner.
(1)- Anyone know if Herrens was exactly what Albert wrote as is last name in the last episode when he sign off the Morcerf Estate? I tried to make out the writing, but I wasn't too sure if I got it right.
Yush, a cliff-hanger. Who could Albert's helping hand be~? Defiantly longer then I thought it was going to be, but I'm sure you guys enjoyed it. Also, I've meaning to mention that I'm bound to make some silly typos and grammatical errors, most of my stuff I only get to type up after hours of university work and I'm pretty tired by then. Makes for alot of errors on my part. Anything you see out of place just give a mention about it in your review and I'll fix it up! But so you know I'm Canadian, so do keep in mind that USA, British, and Canada spell certain words different.
To my review(s)-
I had no intention of out doing you, ThroughtheShadows, I merely had some plot bunnies in my head that needing some soothing. Yes, Haydee(Haidee?) wasn't too excited. I'd imagine she's trying to deal with the Count's 'death', and it would have made her a little bitter to have Albert acting so… childish? To her eyes anyway, she's just trying to move on. You'll see more of her in a chapter or two.