Dear readers, this update is unforgivably late. Those of you that know me know that a LOT has happened and I just did not have time to sit down and do this story justice but finally I have a moment and I hope to post chapters regularly like I used to now :D Thank you to all the people that have been reviewing, it always brightens my day to see the little email in my inbox :D *lots of love to you all* elly


29

BEAUTIFUL DISASTER

Gregory was shaking his head.

"No, Nikola – this – this is madness..." he whispered, watching in horror as Nikola expertly pierced the vial with the syringe, drawing the dark blood up into the shaft. The liquid looked sinister, swirling around in its transparent prison. "She will never forgive me."

Nikola held it aloft – examining his death with a kind of morbid curiosity. A deep shiver ran down his back and over his skin as the storm over the mountains stirred. It was growing closer. With every stream of light that ripped through the sky, Nikola lost a measure of control.

He held out the needle to Gregory with a pleading look in his near-black eyes.

"If you please," was all Nikola said, as if he were simply offering Gregory a seat. The only thing that betrayed Nikola's resolve was the slight shake of his hand as the needle passed between them.

. . .

"You look like you've seen a ghost..." the old man drawled, as Charles Fort collapsed back in his chair looking pale.

Charles stared blankly at the wall in front. The boy he'd seen – it was – he was barely alive. This shell of a creature was now under his charge and the thought despaired him. Nigel Griffin, whatever he had been before, was long gone – transformed into a monstrosity of the human form.

"Mind your own matters..." Charles snapped back at the old man, with uncharacteristic scorn. What was he supposed to do with impossible tasks? The only thing he could do – he would write to Milka.

. . .

Helen rolled over, woken early from sleep. Her room was dark and the sky beyond the window flickering with stars. It was late – that much she could tell by the heaviness of her limbs as she climbed from bed and crossed the cool room. There was a bright beam of light slicing through the night, coming from the room next to hers – Nikola's room.

"Miss Tesla?" she asked softly, when she saw Milka in the hallway, lingering by the ajar door.

Milka turned at once, lifting a hand to hush Helen.

"What's going on?" Helen inquired, quietly this time, as she moved over to the other woman. She could hear Nikola and her father talking softly in the room but could not understand what they were saying.

"I do not know..." Milka whispered – her voice heavily accented, returning to her position by the door. "Your father looks like he is about to administer an injection of some form to Nikola. I did not know that he was ill."

The rose oil? Helen thought, moving to peer over her shoulder into the room. What she saw made her breath catch. It was not rose oil – it was deeper than that – more horrifying.

"Good God," Helen whispered. "Is that blood?"

. . .

Inside the room, Gregory held the needle to the light, tapping it several times so that a full drop of red fell to the floor – shattering over the ground.

"Before I..." Gregory trailed off briefly. "Nikola, I am sorry for this," his voice lowered into something that was barely a whisper. "I only wish that I could help you instead of this. You are a good man," he finished, pressing the sharp tip of the needle to Nikola's skin. "What do I tell Helen?"

Nikola was quiet for a moment.

"Tell her – tell her that I do not regret it, and that this was my choice." He did not wish to see her carry any blame at all. "And tell her..." his voice caught as images of his life back at Oxford flickered by – stark against reality; Helen lifting her head with a faint smile over her lips – an open window with a storm and her leaning on his shoulder – the nights that dragged to morning without either of them noticing – her fiery voice rising above the lecture bringing a smirk of amusement to his lips.

"Tell her I apologise for leaving her experiment early..." he settled on. It felt – apt. She would understand.

Gregory nodded, albeit reluctantly.

"If you are ready then," he said, brushing his thumb over the glass syringe. Just as he pierced Nikola's skin, the door flew open, slamming against the wall with such force one of its hinges snapped off.

Milka stormed through the room, striking at Gregory's hand – knocking the needle free. It tumbled through the air, almost surreal in its slow spiral down before it powderised on the floor leaving nothing but a dark stain on the wood.

The two men stood in shock for a moment, their eyes lifting to the livid young woman whose dark hair and wide blue eyes were made her look every inch as threatening as a vampire.

Helen still lingered in the door, not quite understanding what had very nearly transpired. Nikola saw her there, dressed in only the fine cotton nightie – pale in the evening light. Instantly he felt his stomach clench as his body fought the change. The room was getting brighter as his eyes darkened and expanded. The urge was simply too strong, he would kill her if he stayed.

He broke away from Gregory and Milka, rushing past Helen and out along the hallway – taking the corner straight to the front door which he threw open. Nikola landed in the freshly fallen snow, willing each of his laboured steps to flee.

Helen instinctively followed, vanishing from the room in an instant.

"Helen!" he father screamed out, trying to go after her but the small Serbian girl pushed back against his chest.

"You knew!" she hissed, unable to believe that their house guest had nearly killed Nikola. "He is my brother!"

Helen could see Nikola not far ahead, trudging slowly through the snow until he stumbled – crawled a little way, and then willed himself back to his feet.

"Nikola..." she whispered, following him – gaining ground quickly. When she reached him, Helen instinctively took hold of his shoulders, trying to stop his progress. "Nikola stop – just stop!" she pleaded, slipping in front of him, ignoring the freezing cold air.

What she found made her hesitate. She had seen Nikola morph before – even under the effects of the rose oil he would sometimes start to turn but this – this was different. There was something distinctly wild and ancient about the look in his eyes. It was as if she was not looking at Nikola at all, but some creature that had crawled its way back from the edges of the world.

"N-Nikola..." she whispered, reminding herself firmly that despite appearances this was Nikola.

"Helen," he growled, trying to carefully bat away her hands with his while they were still human. "You must let me go – I cannot stay here, you must let me go..." he kept pleading.

Part of him wanted her blood – wanted to kill her and the other to protect her – it was simply tearing him apart.

"You cannot be here," he said, his voice barely human – his body constantly fighting the change eating away his humanity. "You do not understand Helen – I want – it wants to kill you and now I cannot be killed. I must leave this place at once and never return."

Helen was shaking her head, not believing his words.

"Don't do this, Nikola. You need me. I need you..." This was her fault. She had brought this upon the five of them. What had started as an innocent curiosity had mutated into something destructive. Nigel was gone, James spent more and more time away and John was oddly silent – distant – and something in that disturbed her. It was a cruel twist of fate that she was the only one to resist the effects of the experiment.

"No..." he exhaled sadly, pushing her away more forcibly – or trying to. Every time he attempted to move from her he found her hands clutched back at his jacket, refusing to let him leave. "Stop this, Helen. Go back to the hou-"

Nikola was silenced as Helen dragged him into her arms, her freezing hands tangled in his coat.

"If you kill me, you kill me... Either we both die or neither of us."

She had realised that it was her blood that would kill him – it must be for she remembered the prick in her arm that night on the couch and the crimson needle about to break Nikola's skin. There was something in her blood that fought against the Source Blood, that rejected it. To inject or ingest it would surely start a fatal war within Nikola's body – a sure way to kill the unkillable.

It was too late to do anything about Helen's choice. Nikola could feel the sweep of coldness through him as he started to change. He accepted her embrace, holding onto her tightly as his eyes darkened and the evening brightened into a glistening – snow choked landscape with the lightening flashing over the ground, reflected like the watery sunset on the ocean - the dying embers of the world.

"...Helen..." he whispered, closing his black eyes and burying his head dangerously against the warm skin of her neck.

She felt him settle there, closer to her than he had ever been. He smelled of the pine forest behind them, of snow and of science. There was a faint tingle of electricity through him as if he were borrowing some of it from the storm rumbling over the mountains.

How had she never noticed before – never realised what must have been so plain to see? She loved him and yet, she had destroyed him.

"...Nikola..." she murmured in return, feeling the inevitable change in his body as the vampire in him surfaced.

Nikola changed. His skin paled to rival the snow, nails grew and heart rate slowed. The smell of blood, Helen's, tainted the air whilst that irrepressible hunger inside of him tried to claw its way to the surface.

No... he insisted to himself. Gregory's words came back to him. He was not just the by-product of Helen's experiment – vampirism was in his soul, in his blood – part of his heritage. He could control it – quiet it. The vampires of ancient times were not simply blood-hungry animals, they had built up civilisation around them therefore reason told him that he could control this – he would.

There was a long moment of silence with two figures standing still against the night.

"Is that still you?" a quiet voice against Nikola's shoulder asked. They have been there many minutes but neither of them had moved.

"Yes..." he replied firmly, in defiance of the transformation. His voice was low and crackled, almost inhumane but he was still Nikola Tesla.

"Oh thank god..." Helen pulled back enough to see him. Gracious... it didn't look like him but-

Helen flinched, not sure why at first. There was a fluttering in her stomach – something not quite right as if she were nauseous. At the sight of Nikola's dark vampire eyes and sharp row of teeth, a foreign sensation came over Helen and a frightening realisation that was not her own.

She wanted him dead.

Before she could recoil in horror at the thought, Helen had withdrawn the small knife she kept on herself at all times for protection.

. . .

Gregory and Milka were still in Nikola's room. The young lady, who it turned out could be as fierce as any Cabal, had Gregory backed against the window, thoroughly dressing him down about attempting to kill her brother. So far she'd had nearly every secret from the man – the five, the blood – she'd blinked a little at the first mention of 'vampire' but was willing to accept that there were a lot of things about the world she did not know. If her love for Charles Fort had taught her anything, it was that the world was vast and its secrets deep.

"And that is the best that you could come up with – your genius solution – allowing my brother to murder himself for the sake of your daughter? After everything that this family has done for you..." Milka had her sharp finger pressed into Gregory's chest. "I should throw you out of my house, Dr Magnus! Out into the freezing snow-"

Milka briefly paused her tirade to look out the window where she saw the unexpected sight of two figures locked in an embrace, illuminated by the soft light of the house. She wasn't sure what to make of the gesture, Gregory turning his head cautiously to see what had taken Milka's attention.

They both watched on first in confusion, then in horror as Helen appeared to stab something suddenly into Nikola, who arched and recoiled away from her – lifting his clawed hands as if to beg her to stop only for Helen to attack him again, the impact sending them both writhing into the snow.

Gregory swore sharply, pushing away from Milka and rushing through the house. This is exactly what he had been afraid of...

"Helen...!" he shouted, running as best he could through the thick, soft snow. Gregory saw the blood first – the snow around them was covered in dark streaks and drops as was Helen's nightie.

It was all Nikola's. Afraid of hurting her with his sharp claws – Nikola could do little to defend himself against Helen's attacks except to plead and whisper her name, trying to drag her out of whatever force had a hold of her.

Gregory grabbed his daughter firmly and pulled her off Nikola, the force of it making them both fall back.

"Get him inside!" Gregory screamed at Milka, who had followed him out. "Take him back to his room – quickly!" They had to separate them – as fast as possible.

Milka was in shock at the sight of her brother as a vampire – claws and teeth and – god those eyes didn't even look human any more. He was still her brother though, and he needed her so Milka scooped him out of the snow with more strength than most gave her credit for and took him back into the house.

Helen continued to struggle in Gregory's arms. It took him all his skill to relieve her of the knife – throwing it somewhere out into the snow where it could do no further harm.

"Sh..." he whispered, hand resting on her head to calm her. "It's over – it's over..."

. . .

Nikola and Helen were locked in separate rooms.

Helen – unharmed but terribly shaken was wrapped in blankets staring blankly at the cup of tea before her. Nikola was laid down on the bed in his room with Milka cleaning and bandaging the multiple knife wounds that Helen had left. They were starting to close up already but Milka was determined to fuss. He was still a vampire – and every now and then Milka would pause – eyeing the long claws or glancing at his inhumane face.

"I know about the experiment," she said quietly, securing one of the bandages. Milka had that same scornful tone that their mother used to use. "Why...?" she asked sharply, unable to understand what would possess her brother to do such a thing to himself.

It was a good question – and its answer deceptively simple.

Nikola lifted his hand to her cheek, saw his long claws and immediately lowered it.

"Curiosity..." he replied softly.

That only earned him an even darker look from Milka who may have tied that last bandage just a bit too tight.

. . .

James Watson found himself strolling through the British Museum with the other gentleman and ladies, wandering by the daunting array of exhibits with the crowds. He was not here to sight-see though.

His gaze picked through the bustling crowd, searching for the tall, slender form of Sherlock Holmes. The man was late – an irritating habit that he seemed to have, indeed sometimes he did not show at all if something else had taken his fancy during the day.

When Sherlock Holmes did finally arrive, he looked decidedly worse for wear. His general scruffiness was accentuated by a significant amount of dust that made it look as if he'd been crawling about somewhere that he shouldn't – cobwebs collected on his shoulder and a dark grease stain on his neck. Added to that was the notable absence of his cane and pipe.

"Busy day...?" James tried very hard not to berate the tardy detective – too much...

Sherlock seemed oblivious to his lateness and instead started strolling about the museum, leaning in curiously to various glass cases – always inspecting, always moving. He was nauseating to watch.

"Your friend is here," Sherlock muttered absently, tapping a stone idol with his long finger.

James was silent for a moment in mild shock.

"Nigel is here..." he repeated the man's words. "How do you know?"

"I have been following those 'Cabal' men of yours – did a bit of checking with some of my associates. The man we followed here on the first day and who has made several return visits is Professor Samuel Griffin – Nigel Griffin's father."

"Nigel's father is Cabal..." James whispered, horrified. The link was implied if not obvious even if Sherlock made no sound of confirmation.

"The 'Cabal' as you call it, is well hidden under layers of legitimate businesses. 'Empire Cotton' is one such business that Professor Griffin is a Company Director of... These people, whoever they are, have been around for a very long time..."

The manner in which Sherlock drawled those last few words beckoned Watson to follow him – the air suddenly thick with intrigue as Sherlock slinked away. James, knowing that it was better not to question the man when he was in one of his moods, allowed himself to be led through the various exhibits, weaving their way between the banks of gentlemen peering through glass enclosures at the curiosities of past worlds and times that seemed more like a dream to Victorian England.

James Watson's mind was elsewhere... Nigel's father was Cabal. Surely – logically – that made Nigel Cabal as well. Had they been betrayed by the very person they'd trusted their secrets to? He'd always been a quiet man. Too quiet. God, how could he not have seen it? Was that why he kept a diary – scrawl down their lives and hand them over to the Cabal...

It was clear that Sherlock knew exactly where he was going, quickly making use of an unassuming staff door to slip out of the fray and into the quieter world of the museum's inner sanctum.

"...Holmes..." James started to question, as it became clear that they were definitely out of place. One of the interns paused to look at them, unsure whether to stop them or not. Sherlock merely silenced James with a raised hand and beckoned him to continue following.

If James had tried this himself, he most certainly would have been stopped – but there was something in the airs and manners of Sherlock that allowed him to wander through untouched by the world through a seemingly endless array of settings without disruption.

It was only when they descended another flight of stone stairs and picked their way through a lock that Sherlock started to sneak. He was frightfully good at it too – near vanishing into the semi-darkness like a nocturnal predator.

"This way..." Sherlock said, voice low as he tapped the door with his shoe, opening it to a cold rush of stale air.

It took James a moment to realise that they had entered the first layer of the museum vaults. Lining the walls of the dusty room were items that were awaiting their display. Crates and boxes of artefacts were all decorated with hand tied labels determining their exhibit, contents and origin. Most obvious amongst the collection were the half-lion, half-winged creatures of the Babylonian statues that used to decorate the walls of Babylon. James took a moment to linger in front of the giant things – his skin chilling at the sinister expressions carved into the solid sandstone.

"Come along, Watson," Sherlock hit the other man sharply behind the knees with a stick he'd stolen from along the walls. Gentle persuasion had never been a talent of Sherlock's.

They were in the first of many rooms – each harder to break into than the next. With each door they penetrated – the collection of the museum's treasures thickened. When they were in the fifth room, the air was well and truly laden with the dust of the ancient world. The blank eyes of stuffed creatures peered back at the gentlemen progressing through the room whilst the unopened crates, piled high on top of each other, were like a forest around them.

"Gracious..." James breathed. The museum above was impressive – but seeing the unprocessed mass of history all compressed here together was breathtaking.

Sherlock had far more interest in the coffin-like crate ahead – the one with its lid missing and the edges where it had been, broken and splintered as if it had been attacked by a crowbar and left open and empty in the corner of the room.

"What is this?" James asked, coming to stand behind the empty crate. It looked – unassuming except for its obvious lack of occupation and identification label.

"Your friend," Sherlock began, "Griffin – he was in this crate not three days ago."

"...he's dead?" James stared down at the empty coffin. For all the anger and suspicion he had directed at Nigel – to think him dead...

"No," Sherlock replied simply, after a moment. He had deliberately delayed his response in order to examine James's reaction. "I do not believe that he is."

God – then what on earth was he doing in a coffin? James mused sombrely.

James made a more careful inspection of the crate. There were no obvious signs that Nigel was injured – no blood or damage inflicted on the box from the inside.

"His father – Professor Griffin, is a regular guest of the museum and patron – though, despite his ongoing funding of this institution, he has never shown much of a personal interest and yet he is here every afternoon at four."

Why would the Cabal help to fund the museum? They didn't strike James as the philanthropic types.

"You think that Nigel is here, with his father?" replied James, not sure what to think anymore.

Sherlock simply nodded.

"This – Cabal – formally the Ba'altic Resistance – I have taken the opportunity to do a little digging. Now, I admit that anthropology is and was never a strength of mine but I think you may find this of use to you."

At that, Sherlock left the crate and continued through the room.

. . .

"Were you the only one that changed?" Professor Griffin sat forward to lean on the desk in one of the private rooms of the museum. The air was claustrophobic with the high backed chairs barely able to fit inside where several people were pressed against each other – observing the pair at the desk.

Nigel – barely lucid, pulled a blanket tighter around his naked form.

"What?" he answered weakly, his body starved of food and sunlight. He had been submitted to an endless amount of tests – some of them he was conscious for – some of them not. He had lost all track of time and days.

Professor Griffin slammed his frail fist down hard on the table to snap his son to attention.

The experiment – Helen's house – the vampire blood.

"No..." he replied groggily. There was a cocktail of drugs running through his system, making the world blur in and out of focus.

Griffin was taking notes, scratching down things whenever Nigel spoke. The quill may as well have been a knife for all the damage that it would do.

"Druitt, Tesla, Watson – Magnus – " Griffin trailed their names of – the last with considerable distaste. They had not been able to find Gregory Magnus or his daughter since that evening in the alley. They needed that blood sample. "What became of them?"

"I – I don't know..."

"When Bill found you – you had been attacked by – a creature," Griffin snarled. "Was it one of them?"

Nigel nodded – face contorted and then he tried to shake his head in denial though it was too late.

Griffin ran through the names again before he got a response – his son hesitated at the sound of Tesla's name. Of course, the foreigner.

The questioning continued in this manner for many hours. By the time that Professor Griffin had finished with his son he had learnt one very important thing; the reaction that Gregory's daughter had had to the serum had been unique... She was a natural rejection of the Abnormal blood – a – a cure, perhaps. He needed to find Gregory's daughter in order to save his son from the sickening bastardisation of nature that he had become.

. . .

"Not demons of the underworld," Sherlock corrected, as James read aloud from one of the research journals they had pulled out of a box of archives. There were dozens of notebooks in the box at their feet – a collection of hand written journals from various scientists, historians and explorers throughout history. Some of them were contemporary – others were copies made of ancient scrolls appearing in their original Greek and Latin forms which James had no trouble browsing over.

"No, these were 'travesties of the human form'. I believe you call them Abnormals – mutations from the norm – nature's experiments." Sherlock presented one of the journals to Watson to have a closer look at the sketches.

"The ancient Cabal captured and killed these creatures?" James flicked through the pages.

"You are playing with a very large cat, Watson – are you sure that you wish to continue this?"

"Do I have a choice?" he replied, hand going to his hip in thought. They won't stop hunting us – not after what we did. We're too valuable to them. Goddammit!" he growled, kicking the empty box in fury.

. . .

Nikola soon learned that his vampire formed could not hold him indefinitely – it was like it needed to rest and so, come the morning – he awoke to himself again – his claws replaced with human hands.

"Helen..." he groaned, remembering the bloodshed in the snow. He went to sit up but his sister's hand on his chest pushed him firmly down. "Milka... let me go," he pleaded softly.

Milka shook her head firmly.

"You nearly killed each other last night – you will stay where you are," she snapped, still clearly upset by the turn of events. "Miss Magnus was unharmed but her father does not think that it is a good idea for you to see her." Ever.

After a few minutes argument, Nikola managed to sit up, pulling his shirt away from his chest and examining the bandages that had been wrapped around him. Through protest, he unwound them, finding his skin smooth and unmarked beneath.

"God..." Milka whispered. There was no way that he could heal like that – the stab wounds had been deep and messy. "The Magnus's will be leaving this afternoon," she said simply. "You cannot both stay here or one of you will end up dead. That much is abundantly clear."

Nikola shook his head firmly.

"She cannot go home, Milka. The Cabal are waiting at her door. That is why we are here – she has nowhere else to go."

"And what happens tonight, Nikola? Will you try and kill her again? Will she try and kill you...? We cannot live like this."

"No," Nikola agreed. It was far too dangerous. "I will go..."

. . .

Later that afternoon, Nikola's bags were loaded into a waiting carriage. He lingered by the house, pacing through the snow with the sound of his sister and Gregory arguing in the background.

Idly, he wandered off the path and onto the snow covered grass, wandering along the side of the building until he came upon Helen's frost covered window. He could just see through it to where she was sitting at his desk, her head between her hands.

Nikola knocked softly on the glass to catch her attention.

She looked up at once, pushing her chair back and hurrying to the window. They could not talk to each other through the thick, frosted window but Nikola pressed his hand against the cold glass – a silent apology as his clear, blue eyes looked sadly upon her.

Helen's hand rested against the glass, mimicking his – feeling some flicker of warmth there.

Their worlds had been separated by something more cruel than a layer of glass – something the departing winter could not amend.