I wish that I could blame it all on John, on his murderous rampage. I wish that was all that destroyed us.
John ran, of course, and left a void between the four of us. We were angry, betrayed; we had that right. We had let him in, trusted him with our lives, our love, our bodies... everything. And he tore that trust to pieces.
Worst than that, he made us afraid of each other. Afraid of ourselves. If John, my gentle, loving John, could become a killer, if he could do those awful things, then what were the rest of us capable of? Would we eventually allow our disregard for society, for rules and law to overtake us? How far would we go?
The tension was worst between James and Nikola. Nikola, of course, was the natural killer, but strong enough to deny those impulses. But he was also the most driven among us, the most innovative and idealistic. If any of us were going to take over the world, and could, it was him. I didn't help any; I was so withdrawn, so angry with John, that he must have felt like he had lost me. He left for America again and didn't speak to any of us for almost a decade.
Once Nikola had left, I think Nigel felt displaced. He wasn't exactly attached to any one of us in particular, but rather the group as a whole. The more it dissolved, the less he felt like he belonged. He faded off into a life of crime; helped James and I here and there, but for the most part I didn't see him.
Then it was just James and I, working tirelessly towards no firmly realized goal. I'll admit, though, that it was, at times, difficult to work with him. I tried to remain distant, tried to move on past the relationship we once had and onto a new, more professional one. James, however, preferred the past.
I wish that were it. I wish I could say the Five dissolved simply because of time, changing interests, friends drifting apart. But that could never have been enough to destroy twelve years of such an intense friendship. What destroyed us was Adam.
Well not Adam, himself. Not his actions, nor his insanity, nor our summons to stop him. Once again, it was us, our arrogance.
We had an option- our work, or our friend. For Adam's life, Nigel's indiscretions would be overlooked, Nikola would be free to do any research he so desired, John would be granted amnesty, and James and I would have the money to fund our research. Our goals, our dreams, our greatness, all for the life of one man, one dangerous man. It seemed, at the time, reasonable. More than that, it seemed desirable. And that's what propelled us through London, through the empire and across Europe. It's what compelled my trigger finger, what ended it all. Adam's life, for our work, was worth it, we told ourselves over and over again.
That night, after I watched Adam fall to his death, we sat very much as we did in the spring of '87. It was 1901, however, and autumn, and we sat mostly quiet, drinking scotch and bourbon and wine but not in celebration. This time, I sat on the sofa with James and rested my head against his shoulder, kept my bare feet tucked under me. Nikola sat, perched on the arm, nursing the last of his second bottle of wine. I think he was hoping that if he drank enough fast enough, he might feel something. The way he kept unnaturally silent, I don't think that he ever did. Nigel couldn't keep still; he kept pacing by the fire and behind the sofa, making several trips to fill his glass. John, out of respect I suppose, remained standing in the far corner.
The first kiss was between James and me. I had been playing with his hair, as I used to do, while my cheek rested against his chest and I watched the fire. I hadn't spoken in a long time, despite the levity of the conversations. James, having noticed this, raised my chin, bringing my eyes level with his. I tried to smile at him, reassure him that someday I would be able to live with myself. He kissed me, gently, stroking my jaw. His fingers were splayed against my back. I gasped, very softly, not quite prepared for the action. We hadn't kissed in nearly a decade, not since shortly after John's departure.
The room went still. The fire cracked. The cushions shifted and wood creaked and material brushed against more material, and then Nikola was holding me from behind, his hands brushing my hair out of his way and his lips kissing my neck. Its familiarity was comforting and I relaxed into their touch, sighed as Nikola bit my neck and James kissed my cheek and smiled when Nikola's hand reached around me to take James'.
Vaguely, from where I remember John was standing, I heard Nigel say something along the lines of, "Looks like we're missin' out on all the fun, eh old boy?" I didn't look over to them, but I heard everything in John's sigh. He was watching with longing; there was a desire deep somewhere within him to erase all his mistakes. I like to imagine that he looked down into his scotch as he said, "I don't think I'm welcomed to join." James kissed my ear; Nikola reached around to start unbuttoning my blouse; from the corner, Nigel said, "You are tonight, mate," and then pulled John by the lapels down to kiss him.
By the time they joined us, Nikola had stripped away my jacket and blouse and over-corset, and my skirt as well. I had turned to kiss him; my hands were playing in his hair and James' hands were pulling away the remaining layers of undergarments to stroke my thighs. I heard John perch on the edge of the sofa and take James' face in his hands and kiss him. I felt one of his hands leave me, likely placed somewhere on John, holding him, touching him, trying to forget.
Nikola's hands replaced James'. He stroked the insides of my thighs through thin cotton as his tongue played against mine. Nigel pulled off his coat and cravat and boats and squeezed himself behind Nikola, holding him and kissing his neck and ear. It distracted Nikola- it always did. I watched with a soft smile as he titled his face away from mine, towards Nigel. His mouth had fallen open and his eyes closed and he breathed a sigh. I unbuttoned his shirt and vest and forced it all over his shoulders. From behind, Nigel's hands helped me remove it. I ran my nails down his chest and he moaned, so I did again. I pulled at the waistband of his trousers, but my hands were shaking by then. Nikola kept kissing me until I could hardly breathe and I couldn't focus on clothing any longer.
Then James had returned to undressing me. He pulled the last of the strings and urged my hands to raise as he pulled everything over my head, so I was left in nothing but pantaloons. Those I yanked off myself, annoyed with restrictions and feel of it. I turned to James as I threw the material off to the side; he was already mostly naked, save his pants. He sat with his back against the sofa and John was next to him, on his knees, facing the rest of us. John, too, was equally as undressed. I just looked at him for a few moments, suddenly unsure of what to do.
But then he smiled. Not the cruel, twisted smirk that I had come to associate with him, but one from his younger, gentler nature, the John I remembered. He leaned over James and captured my lips with him. I let him kiss me but didn't at first lean into the act. Forgive and forget, right? Acts like his could never be forgotten and, I had thought, that I could never forgive him. But that night, we were all killers. We were all above the law, above reproach, above morals and gods and humanity. That night, a small part of me forgave him and I kissed with all the passion and love and hate and grief I felt in that moment.
We rearranged shortly after that, so John had taken James' place and I sat, straddling his now bare legs. He was kissing me and stroking my arms and breasts, being gentle, like he always was with me. He guided me over him and I hissed in pleasure and pain. I was panting slightly against his neck, gripping his shoulders and trying to adjust to the feel of him, the pleasure of it, the intimacy, the feel of his skin against mine.
Even through that, I could hear the deep, resonating growl that could only belong to Nikola. In the corner of my sight, I could see him, lean body stretched out lazily next to John and me. James and Nigel had relieved him of his trousers and pants, leaving him naked and hard. He was looking John and I, clearly uncomfortable with the way we had paired off. I reached out to stroke his face; then I pulled him to me, kissing him as I rocked against John beneath me. The same hand trailed down his chest; I stroked him, slowly and lightly, keeping pace with my movements against John. I alternated between kissing Nikola and kissing John; both of my boys, when their lips were unoccupied, took to kissing my neck and breasts. Nikola, as he always liked to do, played with my hair as he kissed me.
Near us, I could hear James panting and Nigel sighing. I knew they were facing each other, James taking Nigel and Nigel biting his lip.
I gripped Nikola a little tighter and sped up my pace. Nikola groaned and rested his forehead against John's shoulder for a moment before he kissed again until I was breathless.
Nikola was first. I felt him tensing; he clung to my leg and the sofa and threw his head back, eyes shut tightly. He let out a breathless sigh as semen covered my hand.
John was next. He quickened quite suddenly after Nikola was finished. His movements became less refined and graceful as they dissolved into a desperate need for release.
I was last. John shuddered under me and kissed me hard and Nikola sucked my breast and stroked my neck. I dug my nails into John's and Nikola's shoulders and pulled my lips from John's as I tried to suck in air between tremors.
I slipped off John's lap and huddled in between the two men. My head laid against Nikola's shoulder, his hand rested on my thigh and I threaded our fingers together. John kissed my shoulder and cuddled closer to me, wrapping an arm around my waist and placed my hand over his. We sat together like that, catching our breaths and letting our hearts slow, as we listened to our friends until they too eventually succumbed.
We used to be foolish enough to think that we'd be honoured for our achievements; that we'd be praised and love for it all, no matter the means we took. Remember that city we were hoping for?
In the end, when the Five are all gone, and the Sanctuary system falls to dust, and there's nothing left to praise, they'll say it's all our fault. All of it. Adam and so much more. Our mistakes and failures and overwrought ambition will be all that's remembered.