It has been a mere two days since the whole Praxian brain spider affair, and Will had thought Magnus had been cheerfully off-hand about the fact that there was a visitor in the Sanctuary, especially so soon afterwards. Fresh from overseeing the transfer of a crate of something smelly and bad-tempered, he hadn't had time to make more than a token bewildered noise before she was sending him down to find the woman. The icing on the cake had been Tesla appearing out of a side corridor, grumbling about 'ungrateful whelps' – which probably meant that Henry had ejected him from the lab again. Will had rather been hoping that the vampire had left, but it doesn't seem that they are that lucky. He's still trying to tune out the bitching about a world that doesn't understand true genius, when he opens the door to the library.
So, the first time Nikola sees her is from behind. It is a very nice behind, rounding out a set of jeans, halfway up a library ladder. And then there are the boots, little pointy high-heeled boots of a type that bring back a sudden memory of Oxford, when such items would peep daintily out from under layers of petticoats and skirts, rather than blue denim. Not at all suitable footwear for clambering around up on high...
Kat Donovan is peering at the shelves, and somewhat distracted by the sheer number of goodies on display, when she hears the library doors open. She turns with a smile, expecting Helen, and catches sight instead of two men, one stocky and casual, the other slim and suited. One of them must be Dr Zimmerman. In the interests of making a good first impression, she should probably forgo coveting what looks like the unexpurgated travel journals of Sir Richard Burton, and climb down to be polite.
Between one step down and the next, somehow, her foot skids back off the rung. And then, a pair of surprisingly strong hands grip her waist. She squeaks, tries to regain her balance, even if dignity is a lost cause, and looks round and down. It's the one in the suit. She has a glimpse of blue eyes in a thin face.
Nikola gives her his most trustworthy smile, and takes in the rest of her. Dark hair in a high ponytail, a delightful blush as she realises that he still has his hands on her hips...
"Um, you can let go now, thank you."
...And an English accent. He relinquishes his hold, but continues to hover solicitously as she backs down the ladder.
Will, arriving at a slower, more human pace, harbours dark suspicions. At least the poor girl isn't wearing a top with zip fasteners, or anything. He glares at Tesla, who blandly ignores him.
Kat, on solid ground, turns and gets a better look at her rescuer. Intense blue eyes, the narrow face mobile and intelligent, his general air of suave, rakish charm enhanced by a toothy smile. Wow.
"Nikola Tesla." He offers a hand.
It is obvious that she knows who he is. Her eyes turn out to be a clear hazel-green when they open wide.
"The...Oh, my god, I never expected..." Catches herself up, and tries to retrieve her hand. "Sorry, you'd think I'd be a little more blasé, by now."
Nikola's smile widens, and he practically purrs at her.
"But meeting me should always be a thrill."
Her eyes narrow again.
"Oh, believe me, that wasn't on a par with my fangirl meltdown over poor James." She says, blithely. Nikola looks briefly pouty, and then catches the twitch at the corner of her mouth. The minx. Well, this could be fun.
James – must be James Watson. And it makes some things a lot clearer, Will knew that she must have had some experience with the abnormal world, because Helen wouldn't leave just anybody alone in the library. But Tesla's momentary look of petulance... he gives a small snort, and Kat grins outright, eyes him.
"Um, so you're not really Victor Frankenstein, or something?"
Will laughs, offers his own hand.
"No, just plain Will Zimmerman, normal human."
"Katherine Donovan. Call me Kat."
Will is revising his first impression of her age upwards - she's older than she looks, but not in the way Helen is, simply a woman to whom life and genetics have been kind. Minimal makeup, no jewellery, comfortable in her skin, and confident in her abilities. Without the heels, she'd probably tuck nicely under Tesla's chin. (Worryingly, the vampire looks like he might quite enjoy that scenario.)
"Dr Magnus sent me down, asked if you would care to join her for tea in her office."
"Ooh, thank you, I never refuse a cuppa." Gives a self-deprecating shrug. "Living the cliché."
"I think Magnus sees it as upholding a standard. Shall we?"
If Will is hoping that the invitation will get rid of Tesla, he's to be disappointed. The vampire ambles along with them in perfect confidence, moving ahead to open the door.
In fact, Tesla had had every intention of leaving, possibly after lifting a couple of choice bottles from the cellar. Cat-like curiosity and a finely developed sense of mischief have now intervened. There are a limited number of people who know both who and what he is, and he likes to know of them in turn. Particularly if they are shapely little creatures in heels. And William clearly wants him to go away, which is always a good reason not to.
"So, are you joining us from the UK branch?"
She turns readily enough back to him, whilst Will silently mouths "us?" incredulously over her head.
"No, I'm here from the Bancroft Foundation..." In response to his quizzical smile. "It's an archive of teratological manuscripts."
"Teratological, in the medical sense?"
"As in the mythological sense. A discourse on prodigies and marvels. It's a small, private collection devoted to folklore, myths and the supernatural. Not quite on the scale of the library here, though." Palpable envy. Nikola understands; he covets the books, too. "I'm the research end of the job. Some chap gets labelled as the Doric equivalent of Raoul Duke, I try to work out if he stumbled across a harpy colony, that sort of thing."
"So, what, you chase abnormals on paper?" Will asks.
"Safer than being in the field. Unless you run across a sentient copy of the Necronomicon, or something." Kat says, cheerfully. "Though, you know, I do have a theory that Irem was actually a vampire stronghold."
"You're interested in vampires?" Tesla interjects.
"I've done a little research on the origins of the vampire myth."
He gives a tight little smile, tolerant amusement.
"Well, I'd be happy to help correct any misapprehensions you may have..."
She looks directly at him, and he's abruptly aware of a mind, a sharp and vivid personality, behind those eyes.
"If you are serious about that, I'd be very interested. I've translated some fragments from Tjenu that I think are contemporaneous with the rise of Kalmin, but I'd value a second opinion."
She smirks back at him.
"You didn't think I meant that filthy human propaganda, did you? Really, Dr Tesla."
Long dark hair and a crisp British accent were always going to grab his attention, and flirting with an attractive woman is a reflex. But when the woman in question turns out to be smart, and sharp-tongued, with a dry sense of humour and a naughty grin – it stops being automatic. And she's interested in vampires. Frankly, the vampire is interested right back.
"Please, call me Nikola." This smile is less predatory, though somehow still dangerous, in a quite different way. "I'm hoping we shall be friends."
Will watches in horrified amusement. The chances of Tesla disappearing back to his shady activities seem to be diminishing rapidly.
"Don't you have to get back to SCIU...'Nicky'?"
Nikola winces, and looks reproachful.
"I save you from a psychotic computer virus, and you want to throw me out? Base ingratitude."
"You work for SCIU?" She gives him a look of deep confusion. "Aren't they the black hats here?"
"A temporary collaboration – I'm the inside man..."
"He's also robbing them blind to fund his own research." Will says, dryly.
"Ah, a standard government contractor." Unfazed, Kat gives him a small salute. "Fill your boots."
"Oh, I like her." The delighted beam is not guaranteed to instil confidence; Will is still twitching as he follows them into Helen's office.
"Ah, good, you found each other. Oh, and Nikola." Helen had rather hoped that Nikola had gone on his way again by now.
"I had a slight ladder malfunction in the library, but luckily Dr Tesla caught me." She settles onto a couch. "I was half wondering if you'd booby-trapped the place so I wouldn't nick the good stuff."
"Well, I never did get that first edition Jules Verne back." Helen grouses, without heat.
"James always maintained that was his to begin with."
This is obviously an old and well-worn argument, by the way they laugh. It just cements Will's theory that he is probably the one in the room with the least experience of the abnormal world, after all, especially when the Big Guy's arrival with the tea tray elicits nothing more than a slight widening of her eyes, before she smiles and thanks him for the proffered cup. Helen sips her own tea.
"I didn't intend for you to start work immediately on your arrival, you know."
"There was a large room with a lot of books in it. Some things are inevitable. It's like I'm magnetically drawn to...are you okay?"
Will wipes coffee off his chin.
Tesla doesn't even pretend not to look amused.