“For feck’s sake Reid, where the feck do ye’ think you’re going? How can ye’ even think of leaving again?”
Geoffrey was seething; pacing back and forth across the short stretch of floorboards in Jonathan’s office. How the tall bastard managed to squeeze his lanky frame in the little box room was beyond him.
Before his sire came along, the hunter had been more used to the pampered pricks of the Ascalon Club, lording it over London as if they owned the city. He was pretty sure their motto translated to something along the lines of ‘Why have a house when a mansion will do?’.
Originally, he had thought Reid would be just another one of their members, especially when his agents in the field reported several late-night visits to their ‘secret headquarters’. Instead the man had been about as predictable as the English weather, and just as bloody exasperating.
Jonathan barely glanced at his frustrated progeny as he continued methodically packing his equipment and meagre possessions into his old travelling trunk. Geoffrey had spent the better part of two hours ranting and railing at him for his decision to leave London.
“I’m sorry McCullum but we have already discussed this. The pandemic is merely controlled and not eradicated. I may be undead but I am still a doctor and moreover I have promised Elizabeth that I will put a permanent end to it. I cannot risk another outbreak, and so must seclude myself to test and study the disease.”
The bond between them was oddly active tonight, with tensions and emotions running hot and raw. Jonathan had been away for some time whilst on the trail of Elizabeth, and had grown used to the absence of the other’s presence in his head. In those last bloody nights before his encounter with the ‘Red Queen’, Jonathan had taken comfort it the newly forged connection between them; the strength of his progeny flowing through him, as his flowed through the hunter - a bizarrely gratifying feedback loop.
He had expected it to stay with him, even as the smoke of industrial London gave way to the beautiful heathlands of Scotland, with their hills and glens shining magnificently in the moonlight. He found himself disappointed then when it grew strained, the invisible threads between them stretching taut and fraying with every mile he drove away.
He had thought Geoffrey would be glad to be rid of him; their interactions still barbed and tense in the run up to his departure. Jonathan had hoped their relationship would improve some after his impromptu peek into the hunter’s sexual psyche, but alas it had merely made things worse. He hadn’t mentioned the experience for fear of driving an even greater wedge between them, but even so McCullum had expended a lot of energy avoiding him, and try as he might, the doctor had been unable to locate his childe before leaving.
He had only been gone for around a month, having tracked Elizabeth and her maker down, and had learnt so much more about the disease; this so-called ‘blood of hate’. It pained him to see his friend so resigned to her fate, and he had only just been able to convince the elder Ekon to abandon her ideas of premature immolation. He hadn’t exactly been a shining example of abstinence having fed on dozens of Skals, Ekons, Priwen and even his poor Mary in the extremely short period of his rebirth. He and Elizabeth had become fast friends though in the short time they had known each other, and she was willing to give him a single, hopeful chance at curing the disease before she took matters into her own hands.
He had spent a fortnight researching William Marshall’s memoirs, as well as some of the other extracts the old knight had gathered before his incarceration. Most had been unhelpful; mired in mythology and folklore with a considerable lack of medical fact or reason to support it. The ‘Red Queen’ may truly be some sort of ancient goddess, but her power was in the plague, and plague is, after all, just another form of disease. Jonathan had managed to best her in good old-fashioned mortal combat, but his mind was as sharp as his eye-teeth, and he’d be damned if he’d let this go. He would eradicate her violent legacy and render her powerless in the face of modern medicine.
The doctor had hoped that some ancient pearls of Ekon wisdom could be found in the dusty tomes, but all-in-all the texts were hard going and full of confusing ‘sanguine’ metaphors. At the very least they had cemented the idea that the key to overcoming the sickness would be found by studying the blood.
With a plan beginning to take form, Jonathan had sat down with Elizabeth one last time to ensure she wouldn’t do anything rash whilst he returned to London to collect his things. She had promised to wait for him, and would forego contact with any other person, human or Ekon, until they had purified her blood. The doctor had embraced her a final time, before venturing out to meet the lights of the capital once more, the comfort of civilisation lending strength to his convictions.
Reid had to confess that between the reunion with Elizabeth, and the revelations experienced at the hand of her maker, he had found very little time to think about his young progeny. As soon as he entered the city though, the full force of the bond hit him, so strong it was almost dizzying. Flashes of melancholic blue split with red, red, red anger, giving way to green; relief so strong that it almost drowned out everything else. Jonathan had thought he couldn’t possibly be correct, that the powerful emotional response was not from Geoffrey, that he had somehow misinterpreted the situation.
He was unsure of how to react then when the hunter flitted in through the balcony entrance of his old room at Pembroke, eyes wide with a warring mixture of hope, disbelief and fury. He looked… good, for the most part, though McCullum’s skin was deathly pale; his eyes dimmer than when they had last met, and Reid realised that his progeny had not fed in some time. Geoffrey gaped a moment, lips pursed and mouth twitching as if he couldn’t decide what to say. Their connection thumped dangerously in his head, more feelings than words.
“Anger, Relief, Hatred, Hope, Betrayal, Comfort, Pain, Anticipation, Hunger, Desire, Shame.”
They flowed through him like a tidal wave of colour and sensation. The energy of it was all-encompassing and it was hard to differentiate who to attribute each to, looping round and round between sire and childe. He couldn’t speak for the multitude of stimuli, though his progeny seemed less affected, stalking forward and finally breaking the silence.
“What the hell do you think ye’re doing back here leech?! London not good enough for a ‘doctor’ of your calibre? I’m assuming ye’ stopped the bloody ‘disaster’ ye’ wer’ railing on about then? Would have been nice to know, but I guess the Champion of London had elsewhere to be?”
Jonathan couldn’t help wincing as the other man jabbed him in the chest with a sharp talon. He’d never seen the hunter so angry, fangs extended and eyes flashing. Geoffrey could certainly be intimidating when he wanted to be.
“For feck’s sake, ye’ couldn’t even be bothered to find me. Why would ye’ when you had ye’r tragic vampire bride to get back to! Jesus, Mary and Joseph Jonathan, ye’ had me actin’ the maggot all over London trying to work out if ye’d been killed. I could feel this connection between us getting weaker and weaker. I thought ye’ might be dying in a gutter somewhere!”
The doctor drew a breath, ready to respond, but Geoffrey cut him off with a sharp glare, practically snarling at him before he could get a word out.
“Ye’ know I even went to the feckin’ Ascalon Club. Can ye’ imagine the reaction I got from those self-important cunts? Oh they found it feckin’ hilarious by the way; Geoffrey McCullum, scourge of the leeches turned bloodsucker and abandoned by his maker. Had to kill three of the bastards before they took me seriously and told me where ye’d gone off galivanting - By the way, I’m not welcome back there any time soon, not that it makes much difference I suppose.”
Sighing, Jonathan moved forward, ushering his progeny towards the two small armchairs near the desk, slightly dusty with disuse. Grudgingly the other man sat, crossing his arms and slouching in mild rebellion whilst his maker sat opposite him.
“Geoffrey I know you’re frustrated and you have every right to be, but I didn’t just leave for a jolly holiday. I was able to stop the ‘Disaster’ from taking hold, but I couldn’t destroy it, only return it to hibernation. You must understand that I have learnt so much more about the way of things in my time away. I would not have left London, left you, if it wasn’t for a reason of great importance.”
McCullum grimaced, his demeanour unconvinced.
“It’s within me to believe you Reid but you have to understand the chaos you left behind. The streets were running red with blood, the scent so thick it was driving me crazy. Between my boys and the leftovers from this whole catastrophe, I can’t even describe it, I don’t want to describe it.”
He was angry again, bolts of red fury surging across the bond.
“Innocent people died and where were ye’? They needed you, I needed you! They said ye’ were London’s Champion Jonathan, but ye’ weren’t there to face the final battle. Surely if this thing has truly gone into hibernation it could have waited a couple of weeks at least?”
The hunter’s eyes narrowed as he assessed his maker, calculating.
“Ah but that wasn’t all of it was it? Look me in the eye Jonathan and tell me that ye’ weren’t desperate to go after that red-headed floozy of yours?”
The elder Ekon growled low in his throat, the vibration echoing across the small space, making his progeny shiver.
“You go too far McCullum. Elizabeth is my friend and if it weren’t for you and your followers’ ‘great hunt’ she might have stayed in London long enough for me to sort things out. As it was, she felt betrayed and frightened, so I can’t really blame her for going. In addition, she might be the key to overcoming the plague, so no, I feel no guilt at all for being desperate to chase after her. In fact, I intend to go back there as soon as possible to begin searching for a proper cure.”
Geoffrey looked like he’d been slapped. It took only seconds for him to react, surging up as the argument escalated further. The doctor sighed, rising from his seat and walking to the old travelling trunk as his progeny continued to rant in the background.
Reid frowned as the hunter turned away from him, shoulders tense and head tilted up towards the ceiling as if searching for the right words. Jonathan had finished packing and now felt raw and out of his depth, their connection pulling on the canvas of his mind as deep, desolate blue wound its way through. Unsure of what else to do he reached out to place what he hoped would be a comforting hand on his progeny’s shoulders. His childe immediately shrugged it off though, turning to face his maker once more, eyes like steel but tinged with such despondence it was heart-breaking.
“Jesus Reid, does the fact that ye’ made me into this bloodsucking thing mean so little to you? You did this to me, and I couldn’t even find it in my heart to hate ye’ for it. I’m… not adapting too well if ye’ know what I mean. I don’t know if I can carry on like this. It’s only been a few weeks and I’m so, so alone.”
Jonathan couldn’t help himself then, surging forward to embrace the younger Ekon. He was gentle, treating him as if he were a wounded animal. His progeny struggled a moment, but eventually gave in, releasing a shuddering breath as the weight of the last few weeks fully descended.
McCullum looked up at him, eyes wide and looking more vulnerable than his maker had ever seen him. Jonathan was unused to seeing him so brittle, his emotional walls crumbling before his very eyes. Gone was the seething nightwalker from a few minutes before, gone was the proud hunter he’d left behind in London. In his place was something far more fragile; beautiful but ultimately fractured. He just hoped that the damage was repairable.
“I am sorry to have caused you so much distress in my absence, there is still much to discuss but first, when was the last time you fed?”
Geoffrey’s face grew pinched for a moment, an initial twinge of his usual stubbornness rising to the surface. It relaxed a moment later though as if accepting Reid’s concern.
“Not for a while; a week, maybe two. I’d been using the leftover Skal population to sate this ungodly hunger, but whatever you did seems to have worked. There are hardly any of the feral beasts left now. I should be pleased but my god it’s made things so difficult. I had to leave the guard; the temptation was just too much, even for me. They were the closest thing I’ve had to a family since mine were killed.”
The guilt Jonathan felt was staggering. He had unintentionally caused the other so much misery, and for what? So that Geoffrey could be taught a lesson in humility? He pressed a cool hand to his childe’s cheek.
“Right well, one thing at a time I suppose.”
He pushed McCullum back lightly, giving himself some space as he removed his shirt and cravat. His childe looked unsure, his gaze tense.
“What are ye’ doing Jonathan?”
The doctor flexed his fingers, allowing the black talons to grow sharp a moment before slicing a ragged gash at the base of his throat.
“I’ve caused a great deal of misery for you Geoffrey, so the least I can do is help you with the thirst.”
He beckoned his progeny forward, his childe’s eyes fixed firmly upon the open wound, eyes dilated with need.
“Are you waiting for an invitation hunter? Quickly now before it heals.”
Without further fanfare Geoffrey rushed forwards, wrapping his arms around Jonathan as if he were a long absent lover, his face pressed hard into the juncture between his maker’s jaw and collarbone. It was almost animalistic, the man’s tongue lapping heavily at the torn flesh, moaning with relief as the relentless thirst began to abate.
It was painful but oddly satisfying as his progeny drank from him. The gash throbbed, dull and achy as McCullum worried it, but he felt the green of relief and vibrant gold sparks of pleasure play across his mind as if experiencing the sensations himself. The injury was healing fast, but the other Ekon hurriedly sank sharp teeth back into the wound, keeping it open as the blood flowed between them.
An eternity passed between them, Jonathan relishing the intimate act of feeding his progeny. He was almost disappointed when the fangs retreated, tongue lapping cat-like over the hurt, soothing and maddening all at once. Geoffrey leaned back, eyes still dilated as he panted lightly, breath cool and coppery on his sire’s face. The doctor saw a few scant droplets of his own blood around his childe’s mouth and couldn’t help it as his tongue swept over his lower lip.
Without warning, McCullum surged forward, lips colliding with Jonathan’s in a brutal kiss. Head spinning, Reid was unable, unwilling, to resist as he allowed the other man entry into his mouth, tasting himself and the hunter all at once. The feeling was electric, bright and burning down to his very soul as the link between them grew so, so strong. It felt good, and right, and golden, and green, as if enacting some sort of ritual between sire and childe.
Geoffrey pressed harder against him, almost as if he wanted to share the same skin. Jonathan stumbled back, falling atop the bed as his progeny followed, pressing down on him to resume the conquest of his mouth. It felt so good, and the elder Ekon allowed himself to give in to it, two sets of clothes torn apart by sharp talons, rutting, scratching, biting, soothing, stroking; it all passed in the blink of an eye and eternity before both were lying exhausted and spent.
Few words had been spoken during the act, and Jonathan was unsure of how to go about breaking the silence. Their mating had been wonderful, but it didn’t change the fact that he had to leave before dawn came in a few hours. He still had so much work to do if he were to destroy the ‘Red Queen’ permanently. Then and only then could he focus on this new fragile thing which had blossomed between them.
Taking a deep breath, Jonathan turned to try and explain it to his progeny but was faced with a man looking more at peace than he had ever seen him. Long lashes spread across cheeks flushed pale and pink with the blood of his maker. His childe was snoring lightly against the pillow, hair mussed and lips swollen. Reid’s brain told him to wake Geoffrey and tell him all the things that had to be said, but his heart wouldn’t allow him to destroy the small moment of comfort they had created together.
Slipping silently from the bed, Jonathan re-dressed, glancing occasionally at the sleeping hunter. He had managed to remove the trunk and place it in the boot of the car below, before slipping back into the room one last time. Standing above Geoffrey he still couldn’t bring himself to disturb the other’s rest, but he couldn’t leave it like this. McCullum would probably hate him afterwards, but it was the least he could do to leave a note for his new lover.
Geoffrey woke a few minutes after the sun had set. He couldn’t remember the last time he had rested so well, warmed and sated by the blood he so desperately needed. Reaching for his maker, he was left disappointed as his fingers met only with a cool impression in the mattress.
Raising himself up on one elbow he realised that Jonathan was absent, having apparently woken before him. Stretching lightly his hand touched briefly on a scrap of paper, tucked gently beneath the pillow next to him. Face scrunched up in confusion, he skimmed the words, written neatly in a familiar cursive scrawl. Once he had finished, the muscles in his fist tensed uncontrollably, crumpling the fine note paper into a ball.
Heartbroken and betrayed by his maker, Geoffrey began building his walls anew.