I'm late - I KNOW but I've been ill and then I realised that I would have to start properly researching for this story lol So I come back to you - 5 books later and hope that you enjoy. Thank you everyone for your reviews, I will endeavour to update faster now that I am back home. Also, for those that asked, there will be John/Helen in this story, we're just not there yet.
So much love to everyone - apologies I'm such a slow updater.
Several hours later, Nikola moved through the darkened house, striding silently down the corridor of his childhood as the sky flared outside. Its occasional rumbling sent shivers of electricity down Nikola's spine, forcing his shoulders to shudder in response.
He stepped into the faint glow of the lounge room, averting his eyes to the source of flickering light. A single oil lamp was fading in the corner – its oil run dry leaving an empty vessel and smoking wick about to burn out.
The rest of the household had retired in his absence. Nikola could hear the harmony of sleep around him – the gentle rises and falls of delicate breath accompanied by the deep rumble of Gregory Magnus rising through the walls in waves.
Lurking in the doorway, Nikola could see the back of the leather couch and peeking out from one end, a curtain of golden hair. He closed his eyes, considering the gravity of what he was about to do.
Watson collapsed back into Sherlock Holmes, nearly bringing the wiry man to the ground but Sherlock was stronger than he looked and had braced himself for the sudden weight.
"What in God's name...?" Sherlock uttered, dragging the man out of the crime scene before any evidence fell victim, shocked at two thick streams of hot tears pouring down Watson's cheeks. The man was inconsolable, breaking apart in a most un-gentlemanly manner.
"Decorum, I beg of you," pleaded Sherlock, but his words fell to the ground unheard.
Watson could not speak. He failed to notice that he had been half-led, half-carried to the back of the house and deposited roughly in a chair. He didn't even acknowledge Sherlock Holmes backing away, observing him clinically with his clear, hard eyes better suited to the murderous mysteries of the world. All James Watson could think of was that room and what remained of his lover, Mary Jane Kelly.
James's head rolled back and suddenly he was off the chair, knees hitting the ground sharply as he hurled onto the floor, rasping again and again until his ragged breathing turned back into desperate sobs.
It was just – too monstrous to conceive – he simply could not.
She was peaceful now. Whatever force had taken hold of Helen earlier had dissipated. However, if Gregory was correct – and he had an irritating habit of being so, they would be seeing a lot more of this 'new' Helen.
Nikola didn't want to think about that...
Finally he mustered the courage to open his eyes and sweep around the couch – his fingers running over the cracked leather. Helen was laid uncomfortably between its divided cushions and – Nikola hesitated, he had not expected that – his sister was knelt on the floor beside the bed, also asleep. Milka was just like their mother, a healer of souls.
It did not matter, this had to be done and there was not likely going to be another chance.
Gregory's words weighed heavily on him as Nikola moved up beside Helen's outstretched arm. Her sleeve had been caught and pulled up out of the way leaving an expanse of delicate, bare flesh growing cold as the fire lost its heat. His fingers brushed over the soft surface causing his breath to catch. Nikola's own cold hands seemed to draw warmth from her. It was almost intoxi-no... He lifted the metal needle he had been carrying and steeled himself, bringing its sharp tip to her skin. Nikola placed his other hand over the top to steady the shake of his first.
It had to be done.
So Nikola did it in a fluid movement. The needle slipped through Helen's skin and at once Nikola began to draw a sample of her dark blood up into the syringe. It wasn't long before the vial was full and Nikola withdrew the needle, capping it and stowing it in his large jacket pocket just before she stirred.
He bent down, concealing his purpose for being there by disturbing the blankets covering Helen. She was waking now, her eyes fluttering open and closed thick with sleep. Nikola manoeuvred his arm under her back then his other roughly beneath her knees and suddenly he was lifting her gently from the couch. Instinctively Helen curled into him with a soft murmur – a natural reflex.
"It is beyond my manners to allow you to sleep on the couch," he explained, when she woke enough to eye him questioningly. He felt her arms tighten around his neck as he carried her through the narrow hallway.
Helen mumbled nothing in particular, apparently choosing to slide back into whatever world she had been immersed in. She was sound asleep before he made it into his room.
He settled her on the bed, letting her fumble blindly about for covers and pillows until she stilled and returned to her deep, steady breathing.
Another brief current of white light flitted through the room, streaming in from the large window above his desk. He could see the mountain ranges from here. Often he had sat on his bed and watched the storms roll through like peaceful beasts grazing the sky but it was different now that he could feel them. He had never truly appreciated the frightening power suspended in the air but it was there, tantalisingly close.
His eyes drifted back to her a she shifted, her hair falling across her face, covering it in messy ringlets. Nikola's lip twitched in a half-smile. She was his only friend; he didn't want to live in a world where that wasn't true.
He hadn't realised that she was awake again, quietly watching him as he watched her.
"Yes?" he replied, moving slowly over to her. After a brief hesitation, he dipped his hand down to her face, catching some of her wayward hair and gently lifting it so that he could see her bright blue eyes.
Helen leant onto his hand as it trailed along her face and then unfolded her free arm to catch hold of his sleeve.
"Thank you..." she said quietly. Thank you for taking us to your home, for trusting us with your work – for not hating me for what happened back in Oxford.
Nikola looked at her deeply. It was obvious that sleep had affected her sense of propriety but he could not ignore the truth that mingled with her words – cutting them into his soul.
"Good night, my lady," he stated firmly, escaping her hold as he stood and left. Nikola hurried back to the main room which was now empty, where he reclaimed the lounge and fell asleep as the last life in the lamps expired.
Reality rippled like a strip of muslin on a lady's skirt. Violet and Indigo flashes poisoned the air around John where passing beams of light were captured and split apart. The hairs running down the back of his neck prickled in expectation. He could not stop this – life had been ripped away from him enough times for him to understand that he had to let it happen.
John was seated in his hotel with a book open in his lap. He exhaled as colour filled the room, preparing himself for the torture that would surely follow.
It was swift and brutal, crippling his limbs and thoughts as pain seared through every facet of his being. John's eyes slammed shut in agony as the sensation continued. It was like dying – every time. His consciousness was evaporating – stretched out too thin until it finally breaks.
The book fell to the floor in the empty room – its handwritten pages teased by a current of air that vanishedwith the purple light.
'I followed the last of our party today...' the page read, in Nigel's untidy scrawl. 'Most of the secrets I have learnt were unintentional. James and his lover, whom he visits when he thinks I am asleep – Nikola and his trips to the Hinksey Heights to watch the storms – my father and the many hell houses where he keeps his monsters locked away – but Montague... it was no accident when I glanced over and saw something I fear to even write ... the very world shuddered and in a moment he had vanished more completely than I ever will.'
A few more pages flipped over and then back again, 'I remained there in the street for hours in the rain and wind until I felt the hairs on the back of my neck prick up. It was near eleven when the night was lit once again with muted tones of purple and green and there he appeared. His face was obscured by thick blood. I don't know how or what I shall tell the others – but it is clear now that the vampire blood we injected does more than change our physical bodes – it permeates our mind, taints it and twists it into something that is not us.'
'My pain returned to me and I became visible again – standing naked in the alley way. He saw me – and he knew... he knew...'
Sherlock Holmes guided Watson through the main streets of London as they wove between the swarm of top hats. It was a short walk from Miller's Court to their accommodation but Sherlock decided to draw it out as much as possible, slowing his step as they roamed out of the heavy smog into the commercial district with its marble buildings and iron lamp posts.
"How...?" James choked, as they skirted around London's park. A rush of dead leaves tumbled at their feet. He is still shaking – the image of Mary feeding a pool of rage inside him. "How can someone do that to another human being? Why her... She was -" that summarised her now – she was.
"You knew her..." for once, it didn't take a genius. "You loved her... Who was she?"
James was about to reply when his eyes locked onto a grey-haired figure stepping out of handsome carriage. He knew that man – he had literally run into him the night everyone disappeared, outside Oxford university in the rain.
"Do you believe in co-incidence?" James quickened his step in pursuit. "I don't..."
Ordinarily Sherlock liked to know who they were following and why but he was willing to let Watson have some liberty given the circumstance.
As a pair, they slinked along the streets, never encroaching on the old man as he swung a right past a grand fountain and hauled himself up the marble steps to the front door of the British Museum.
There were tourists and researches everywhere, crowding the lobby as Sherlock and Watson dipped their heads into the foyer – searching for the balding top of the man but he was gone.
The early morning brought with it a light snowfall, one that fell silently against the windows of the cottage. Nikola turned on the couch. It was freezing now that the fires had reduced to ash-laden coals and yellow milieu of candles replaced by the sickly white glow from the sun.
Nikola was only vaguely aware of the crunch of snow beneath the carriage and the quick trample of hooves outside. A moment later a quiet knock at the door finally woke him from sleep. As always his dreams were stained with places he'd never been to and fragments of blood-soaked lives.
Sitting up too fast, Nikola held his head for a moment – wondering why he was awake. The man at the door knocked again and this time Nikola found it within himself to leave the couch and cross the room muttering his disapproval in Serbian.
He unbolted the door and pulled it open.
"...Mr Fort?" Nikola said at length, astonished to find the man from the train standing in his doorway. Charles Font was dressed in heavy, dark furs and carried a bag in either hand. What had been an elegant moustache was now laced with ice from the journey and his cheeks red from the cold. "Whatever brings you here?" and how did you find us?
"Mr Tesla..." Charles nodded politely at the gentleman he'd scarcely met on the train. It was his understanding the Mr Tesla was taken ill for the majority of the trip and he could see evidence of it in his paleness. "I apologise for the earliness of the hour," he began, "but I am in actual fact, unforgivably late."
Late? Nikola mused to himself. He wasn't even invited.
Nikola eyed the man with an air of suspicion.
"Gregory Magnus invited to you...?" Nikola eventually offered as a plausible excuse. It would be unwise to turn away a possible investor.
"Actually," Charles looked very much as if he wanted to come inside out of the cold, but Mr Tesla was standing firmly in front of the door. "My invitation precedes the pleasure of making Gregory's acquaintance..."
"Ch-arles?" a lady's voice behind started in delight.
Nikola glanced over his shoulder to see his sister fully – no – over dressed for the hour of the morning standing behind him.
Charles tilted his head to see around Nikola – an unabashed smile shaking off the cold.
"Miss Tesla..." Charles replied, mimicking her tone.
"I am have been abroad for several months now," Charles had stripped down to the suit he had worn on the train. Milka set a tray of tea in front of him with a warm smile before seating herself on a chair to his right. The two Magnus's and Tesla watched on – Nikola with a piercing look that would have burned a lesser man.
"It took weeks of work, but the Accademia dei Lincei granted me access to their vaults. You have never seen anything like it – thousands upon thousands of prints, Milka, hundreds of volumes of the world's natural history from the Roman era onwards tucked away in bundles. I wanted to look at them all..." he paused to take a sip of his tea.
Milka, it was now clear, was the woman Charles Fort had crossed continents for. He was her contact that had been acquiring rare documents like Dampier's Notes to answer Nikola's questions. It was also plain to see that they were very much in love.
"I wasn't permitted to make copies but I kept diligent notes – everything I could remember." Charles set his tea down and reached into his briefcase, opening its worn leather and fishing out a hefty pile of hand written journals. "Sanguine Vampiris though recorded history..." he said, presenting the notes to Milka.
Charles's eyes wandered over to the figure of Nikola – running up the man's pale features. "Really..." he near-whispered. Here sat before him a remnant of Sanguine Vampiris. Charles ached to see him come alive – reveal the abnormal that ran within their entire family. When he looked at Milka, Charles could see those same, clear eyes – eyes that held all the ancient mysteries of the earth. "Abnormalities," Charles's voice was low in wonder as he spoke to Nikola, "shed light on the true character of the normal..."
Nikola though, remained more concerned about his sister's hand settling on Mr Fort's knee than anything else.
Gregory, sensing trouble, cleared his throat and spoke up.
"I – I remember you mentioning the Cassiano dal Pozzo's Museo Cartaceo ... the 'Paper Museum'," George shuffled forward on his chair. "Their vaults are locked – I have tried myself for many years but my letters remain unreturned – did you...?"
"I enjoy the benefit of contracting to a very persuasive organisation," Charles replied but stopped short of mentioning it by name. He reached once again into his back and this time withdrew a set of heavy paper sheets, tied loosely together. On each one was a detailed collection of ink strokes, illustrating the various terrifying aspects of a vampire. "These are copies," Charles said, "but they are yours – Nikola..." he finished, turning to hand the pile to Nikola as a form of peace offering. "Your sister is very persuasive – I fear that I cannot refuse her anything."
Helen tilted towards Nikola as the papers changed hands.
"Remarkable..." said George. "You cannot know the honour that you show us, Mr Fort, or the profound difference your research will make."
Professor Samuel Griffin easily evaded the crowd in the British Museum as they swelled around the new acquired Greek marbles and instead darted away down one of the unassuming corridors that led to department offices.
He was not pleased. When he lifted one of his wrinkled hands to knock on the door, it was with sharp – unfriendly strikes.
"Is he here?" Griffin growled, leaning heavily on his walking cane as the door opened to reveal a ratty, young man.
"Professor..." the young man nodded in nervous respect. "I regret to inform you that he has not yet arrived..."
"Not – yet – arrived?" Griffin repeated slowly with an air of disbelief. His eyebrows crept up higher with each word. "What exactly is it that he is doing with my money?"
"I – I," the man stuttered, he was only minding the office.
"I am a patient man – but there are limits. Feel free to pass this along," Griffin shifted in the door. "Young Mr Fort will be back in this office by this time next week or we will take our business elsewhere."
John collapsed onto the ground – his knees sinking into the foul smelling mud. He was in a marsh lit by the white glow of the full moon suspended high above, drowning out the stars. John's face crumpled in disgust when he saw the sickening rises over the ground accentuated with spears and arrows.
Hundreds of bodies lay rotting around him. John pushed off the ground, stumbling to his feet. The smell of war was strong but it didn't belong to his time.
The unsheathing of metal behind him, snapped John's head around. Glistening armour on a man's torso twisted and a blade came down on John's face – slicing through his cheek.
John growled in pain, stumbling back before the world tore and vanished and he found himself returned to his hotel room.