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A Chuisle mo Chroí

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Chapter 1: Bad Beginnings

He was already disturbed by the thick heavy smells of blood and decay in the air as he stepped inside of the warehouse. He swallowed and placed a hand on his rosary. He jumped back in alarm when he saw a corpse impaled on a spike.

“Dear Lord, please give me strength for what I have come to do, and give William Bishop the strength to find the path he needs,” he prayed. His voice, soft and kind with an Irish lilt, wavered a little bit. What had happened to his friend? Had he really done this? Was he capable of such a thing? His behaviour had been getting a lot more aggressive lately, according to what he heard from Tom and Sabrina, but he couldn’t imagine it would have been to this level.

He hesitated and then took a few steps farther inside.

“William?” he called out, “Are you here? It’s me, Sean.”

There was no answer yet. Perhaps he had left. Maybe he had gone to find another victim, or he had gone to seek some kind of help for his behaviour before it got worse.

He briefly wondered if it could get any worse. He had already killed people from the look (and smell) of things. Maybe he could still save him; help him find the light. He hoped that William wasn’t too far gone.

“No one is ever too far gone,” Sean told himself, as he kept moving. He took a deep breath through his mouth, not wanting to acknowledge the awful odours, “William?”

He stepped over to the metal door that led to the big area that was considered the main room of what was deemed William’s place. It was where he slept and kept the minimal amount of possessions that he owned.

He gasped. He was frozen in place at the horrific sight before him as he went past the wire door.

“Oh dear God...” he said. Nausea crept into his body. He felt bile rush to the back of his throat. It took all his effort to keep himself from vomiting.

Corpses. Dozens of them. He had no idea of exactly how many, and he didn’t want to know. They were all in various states of decay. They were either in piles or impaled on many different implements. How long had William been doing this for?

He was caught in a debate with himself. Should he leave? Should he stay?

The clang of the door shutting behind him caught his attention and he spun around. William had clearly made that choice for him. He stood in front of the door. The only other way out was through the water that lapped at the slipway, where boats used to come to take or deliver stock.

William stared at him, shock riddling his face. He was carrying another body over his shoulder. His face, coated with looked like burn marks, was blank. He had no recognition for Sean in his bloodshot eyes. The green in them had paled considerably. A mixed smells of gin and copper adorned his body. His grey hair, mouth, and hands were coated with blood.

Sean forced himself to stay calm. He had to watch how he presented himself in his movements and his speech very carefully. William was most likely volatile and the last thing he needed to do was provoke him.

“William, it’s me. It’s Sean. It’s your friend, Sean Hampton,” Sean said. There was another slight tremble in his voice, “I’m your friend. Remember?”

William was silent for a long time. He then let a wide smile cross across his lips. He dropped the body. It fell to the ground with a heavy thud. Sean tried not to look.

“Mister Hampton!” his slurred voice was filled with delight, “It’s so good to see you. All my other friends have abandoned me. They don’t want anything to do with me.”

“William, what have you been doing?” Sean asked. He backed away slowly, trying to put some space between them. William kept walking towards him, not allowing him that luxury.

“I’ve got this thirst. This need. I need blood, Mister Hampton,” William said, his eyes staring into Sean’s. It was like he was a snake and Sean was a mouse. Anger suddenly flooded into his voice and he pointed at the corpse, “I need to drink blood. This one didn’t quench my thirst. I need more, Mister Hampton!”

How had he ended up addicted to blood? Had a vampire attacked him? Had he somehow ingested their blood by accident? It was rare, but possible, if what Old Bridget had said was true. It wasn’t like she had any reason to lie.

William seemed to be more skal than Ekon, Sean noted, if the condition of his body was anything to go by. Maybe he could take him to Old Bridget somehow. She could teach him that he could feed on the dead and live a non-violent life, like she had done with her other skals.

Sean was snapped out of his thoughts when William suddenly grabbed his shoulders with a firm grip and sniffed at his neck. His nose felt cold as it pressed into his skin. Sean gritted his teeth.

“Not the neck, William, please,” he quickly said. He already had the awful feeling that he couldn’t stop William from drinking his blood, but he could at least make it somewhat safer for himself, “If you really must, take from my arm.”

He pulled his loose sleeve up and held it out. He shook. He hoped that William would go for that instead of his neck. He was silently thankful when his prayers were answered. William bit into the limb, tearing a chunk of skin off with hardly any effort. Sean was unable to stop himself from letting out a pained grunt. But then William latched his mouth over the wound and drank.

After a minute that felt like an hour, William pulled away. Sean let out a breath he didn’t realise he had been holding. William still had some control. It wasn’t too late.

“William. I have to go,” Sean said, as he moved his sleeve back over his arm. He could properly treat the bite when he returned to the shelter and prepared himself to talk to Old Bridget, “I know someone who can help you. I need to let her know about you.”

He started to back away again. Perhaps he could run past William to the door and get out before he could stop him.

“No. You can’t go,” William said, “You’ve only just got here, Mister Hampton. I don’t want to be alone. No one else wants me anymore.”

“I’ll come back, William,” Sean said, “I have all intentions to come back for you. But you need to let me go so I can...”

“LIAR!” William’s rose to a shout in just a second flat. Sean flinched, “You’re going to abandon me. Like everyone else! Everyone has been so mean to me!”

“William. I am going to come back. I want to help you. But you must let me go,” Sean continued to plead. He kept his voice level, despite his heart beating faster with each moment. He could see an opening. He could take his chance. If he could get to the door and shut it behind him first, it would buy him a few seconds at least, "I'm sorry to do this. But please be assured that I won't betray your trust..."

He took his chance to sprint past William. He felt the sailor’s hand brush against his back as he tried to grab him. He placed his hands on the door, but then he felt the bludgeon that William carried slam into the side of his head. It wasn’t too painful, William clearly didn’t want to hurt him. But the assault made him see stars and the force behind the blow caused him to fall off balance.

“I’m sorry, Mister Hampton. I didn’t want to do that. But I don’t want you to leave me,” William said. He wasn’t shouting anymore. He just sounded sad. It was disturbing to see how his emotions could change so drastically in only seconds. William violently took Sean by his arm and pushed him away from the door. Sean couldn’t stop himself from staggering and falling to the ground. He took a set of keys and locked it. Sean’s heart sank. His only way out of here was completely barred, “I don’t want you to leave me like everyone else did.”

Sean wanted to repeat what he had previously stated; that he had every intention to come back. He knew that was useless though. William was refusing to hear it. He pushed a hand towards the ground so he could get up. William sniffed the air and then his eyes snapped back to Sean’s arm. He jumped onto him, knocking the air out of his lungs and pinning him down. He then yanked his Sean’s sleeve back up and bit down into the flesh again, tearing it open like a dog with a piece of meat. He started taking his fill. Agony rushed through Sean. He tried to struggle, but William was too strong.

He started to cry out, but William clapped his palm over his mouth.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2: Itching Hunger

“William. Stop for a while. Pray with me. We can overcome this,” Sean said. He had no idea how much time had passed since he had first come here. He was thirsty, fatigued, and in pain. He found himself repeatedly drifting into slumber, only to reawaken when William bit him. He had started trying his best to stay awake so William couldn’t take him by surprise, “Just like whenever you were fighting the need to drink gin.”

William didn’t say anything. He briefly looked up from Sean’s arm. It was where he had kept taking his blood from. His cold green gaze had nothing behind it. Red dribbled down his chin.

Sean was afraid, as much as he tried to deny that. He was supposed to be strong. He was meant to be the one guiding William to the light. Why was he failing him now?

Every time he tried to mention leaving, William would shut down, completely ignoring what he had to say, or worse, he would get violent. He had learnt by now that he wouldn’t be able to get out while William was there. The man was too fast, and he had started getting a lot more physical.

He had tried to escape yet again, that made the fifth or six (or perhaps seventh, he couldn’t tell anymore) attempt. He had endeavoured to slip away while the man was presumably asleep.

William had woken in an instant, caught up and clasped his hands around his neck. Sean couldn’t pry him off. He struggled to breath and his legs kicked uselessly. His eyes slipped shut and he found himself drifting away into unconsciousness. He slid down the wall behind him when William let go. William was slapping at his face and shaking his shoulder.

“No, Mister Hampton! You’re not going to leave me! Not like everyone else!” he yelled. It was to no avail. Through what sounded like water, Sean heard him screaming and then the slam of metal. He couldn’t find the will to look at what was happening.

 

He opened his eyes.

He could only guess that he had passed out. He was thankful that he was still alive. He had no idea how much time had passed. He had been lying down in the middle of William’s den, dangerously close to a pile of rotting bodies.

The sailor was nowhere to be seen when he awoke. He must have left again. Sean winced, his entire body was hurting.

He quickly inspected himself. There was a clotting cut that ran up his side and some bite marks on his stomach and chest. He found himself grateful that none were on his neck. There were bruises painting his pale skin. Had William gotten scared that he had killed him and attacked him in a fit of frustration, or had William simply been too rough in trying to move him somewhere else after he had lost consciousness? Maybe he just hoped that the pain would rouse him from the oblivion that had claimed him. He had no idea.

Why was William acting like this? This was unlike the skals he knew. He wished one of them was here. He wished Old Bridget was here. She would have surely known what to do. William would have certainly listened to her.

Maybe he could take his chance to escape now that William had left again. William didn’t often lock the door. It usually slipped his mind. Sean used to try and remind him to do it, but it never seemed to stick.

He made himself stand up. His legs wobbled. How much blood had William taken already? He tried not to think about it. If he got out of here, he could get help for both himself and his friend.

He made his way to the metal door. His vision occasionally blurred and he found himself swaying on his feet. He pushed on. He had to return to his flock (were they doing okay without him?) and speak to Old Bridget.

He still held onto the hope that he could help William.

“It’s not too late,” he said to himself, “But I have to go now.”

He felt relief flood into his body when he found that door was unlocked and he was able to pull it open. For once, he thanked the Lord that William had forgotten. It squeaked as it moved, but it seemed that no one was around to hear.

His heart had started to pound faster in his chest as he approached the entranceway he had first come in through. Was he really going to get out? It took some effort, but he managed to force himself into a jog.

His eyes widened and he froze in place when he saw that William was back and stepping in through just as he had almost made it. His clothes and skin had a fresh coat of blood on it. He must have attacked another person. Sean prayed that they will still alive, even though he had the horrible feeling that they weren’t.

Their gazes locked. Time seemed to freeze in that one moment. Sean turned and tried to run. He had to see if the gate behind him would open.

“No...” was all he could say when he realised that it was locked. Could he try to swim from the slipway? He wasn’t a strong swimmer, but it was worth a try. Would William be able to follow him? Had Old Bridget ever told him about how vampires handled large bodies of water? Or was it running water? He couldn’t remember anymore.

If she had, it was like the information had escaped from his mind in his brief fit of panic. Just as William had been about to grab him, he managed to duck under his arm and back into the main room. He dashed as quickly as he could. He found himself slipping on a fresher puddle of blood. He stumbled and almost fell, but he managed to stay on his feet.

He was so close. All he had to do was…

William leapt onto his back. He was too heavy for Sean to keep standing. He was forced onto his hands and knees. William got off and turned Sean so they were facing each other. Sean tried to scurry backwards, but his back hit the metal railing. William crawled towards him like an animal. He then moved Sean’s sleeve.

Sean had to stall. Maybe he could keep him talking. He had first tried to convince him to let him go and that he wouldn’t betray him. William had only told him that he was just so thirsty, like he had never heard him. He tried to ask him to pray with him and that they could overcome this as one, only to be told that he had already ‘had a drink outside’ and that he needed more. His teeth tore at the flesh on Sean’s arm, forcing him to squeak in pain. It never seemed to get any easier.

“Oh dear God. Not again,” he begged, “William, please stop!”

“Just a sip. I promise. You are my dearest friend,” William said, briefly staring up into Sean’s eyes with ones that only showed a disturbing lack of humanity, “My last and dearest friend!”

Sean tried to rear up, to use his weight to throw William off. William held him down with ease. It was taking Sean a lot more effort just to do anything. Blood down his arm, and onto the floor. His vision was blurring. Was he crying? Or was he passing out again?

“William,” he said, “My arm. I can’t feel it.”

It didn’t hurt anymore, but it was numb. It had gone white. He couldn’t move his fingers. He no longer perceived William’s as they held his wrist. He prayed that perhaps William would see reason.

It seemed he wasn’t going to. He didn’t stop. He bit down harder instead, ripping more skin and opening the bite further so that more blood ran out. William licked around it and took every last drop that he could.

“Will you please let go of me?!” Sean begged. His breathing was quickening, and his heart pounded inside of his chest. He tried to get up again. William growled. He wasn’t trying to talk back to him anymore.

“By God, William! I can’t stand it anymore!” he writhed to get up. It seemed like the entire world was hazing around him. He felt as though he was struggling to stay inside of his own body. He reared up. He hardly moved an inch. William grabbed him by his face and slammed the back of his head against the metal railing.

“I could never harm you, Mister Hampton,” William said, when Sean no longer moved. His voice sounded muzzy in Sean’s ears, “You’re my only friend.”

His eyes were shutting. He was almost sure he heard the squeaking of the door as it was pushed open. He told himself not to be stupid. It was just an illusion brought on by the fear and exhaustion he felt.

Blackness was moving up all around him, calling him to it. He forced himself to open his eyes. His vision was swimming and filming with grey. He was almost certain that he could see someone else in the room, slowly walking towards them. He could hardly make out anything of them. Had someone come to stop William too? Or was this just some kind of dream? His eyes closed.

He failed to realise that William had let go of him. His arm dripped more blood onto the floor, leaving a red pool at his side. William let out a shrill scream of what was presumably hunger or rage. It sounded so far away.

Sean started to pray.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: Of Swans and Cranes

“The lord is my shepherd,” Sean said. His voice was barely above a quiet murmur. He didn’t know if he was even speaking. Maybe he was just thinking.

He kept drifting in and out of wakefulness for seconds at a time. He was almost certain that he could feel William’s hands on him again, ready to pin him down and take more blood. He opened his eyes. His vision was still blurry. He could see a figure approaching.

“William, please stop...” he said. He felt so tired. He wanted to move, but none of his body obeyed him. It was too heavy, “Let me go… it’s not too late...”

He shook his head and felt his gaze shift around. It took him a moment to realise that it wasn’t William nearing him. Where was William? Where had he gone? He felt guilt seep into him. His eyes shut again. It was so hard to keep them open. Unconsciousness gripped at him, slowly pulling him down into its depths.

“William was an honourable man. I could have saved him,” Sean didn’t realise that he was still speaking out loud. He was supposed to have helped William. That was why he had come here in the first place.

“Mister Hampton, are you in there?” a voice. It was faint. Maybe he hadn’t heard anything at all.

“I knew him well. Another lost soul. A kindred spirit,” a lump formed in Sean’s throat. He had failed William. He had completely let him down.

“Sir, listen to the sound of my voice,” the stranger spoke up again. It was clearer this time. Was someone really here? He could almost feel the man’s words guiding him back into the real world. It was like a hand pulling him up from under the waves of a deep dark ocean, "I’m… I’m a doctor. You’re suffering from shock.”

He managed to open his eyes briefly. They were still in the factory. His vision was still swimming. He found himself looking into a blue gaze. Concern was behind it. The (rather handsome) man had pale skin, which made his black hair and beard stand out all the more. Sean hadn’t met him before. He surely would have recognised him.

“I must return to my flock, they’ll stray without me,” Sean thought aloud. His eyes drifted shut again.

What seemed like just a second later, he felt himself being lifted off the floor. The man’s grasp was firm and yet gentle. He was so much taller than him. He looped Sean’s arm over his shoulders to better support him, one hand holding onto his to ensure he stayed put. The other rested under his other arm. Sean didn’t resist.

The man who had rescued him seemed to pause, as though unsure of what to do or where to take him. Sean saw the body of William Bishop on the floor then. He was completely motionless. Sean knew that he was dead. He felt that guilt swirl in the pit of his stomach again. It was a horrible reminder that he had failed to help his friend.

He could only hope that God would give him the peace that he couldn’t.

“By George and the Saints!” a different voice called out. The man it belonged to sounded oddly enthusiastic, “You’ve solved the mystery of these terrible murders.”

Sean managed to look, just as his saviour did. His vision wasn’t fuzzing as much as it had been, but the exhaustion still cloaked his mind and body, making it hard to take in what was going on. There was a boat at the slipway. The man who had spoken was driving it.

“Patience, good fellows. I’ve come to offer help,” he continued, “Just give me a moment to secure my boat and we can leave this awful place.”

His rescuer seemed to recognise him. He carefully guided Sean, who managed to make himself walk along with him.

“William was not the evil man that they claimed,” he said, as they moved towards the boat. He didn’t want William’s name to be ruined. It wasn’t what the man deserved, despite what had happened, “He was just taken by the thirst. He needed his drink.”

“This man requires medical attention,” the second man said, as he stood up. His glasses caught the light of the torches, obscuring his eyes from view for the briefest of moments, “We’ll see that he gets to the nearest hospital.”

The first gently unhooked Sean’s arm from his shoulders, before guiding them to take the second’s arms so he could be helped into the boat. They supported him the whole time, not wanting him to fall. What the newer arrival had said suddenly sank in.

“No please,” he protested. He couldn’t go the hospital. He had everyone at the shelter waiting for him. He couldn’t just leave them. Surely he wasn’t that badly hurt, “I must tend to my fold. My flock needs me.”

He tried to get back off the boat, but he was firmly held onto. His strength was quick to leave him again.

“There, sir. Go with the good Doctor Swansea,” his first rescuer said. So he had one name to put to the face now, “He’s resourceful and I’m sure he’ll take good care of you.”

Something in the man’s voice made that last bit of resistance drain out of him. It told him that maybe everything would be all right. He was gently lowered into the bottom of the boat.

“You’d best come as well,” Doctor Swansea said, “The sun is soon to rise and you’ll need a place to rest.”

Sean let his eyes close again. He could let them rest for a little bit. It wouldn’t hurt to allow himself to sleep for a small while, surely. He failed to hear what his rescuer had said. Something about finding out what happened…

He caught snippets of conversation as the boat took them to the Pembroke Hospital. That’s where they were going. Something about a woman. The other doctor was called Doctor Jonathan Reid, a renowned surgeon if Doctor Swansea’s reaction was anything to go by. He sounded happy. Something about myth walking among them, and an offer. He wasn’t really paying much attention. He would have liked to, but that murkiness kept calling for him. He was unable to resist.

He was vaguely aware that the boat had come to a stop. He heard a woman’s voice. It sounded muzzy. But then he heard Swansea. It took a moment for everyone to become clearer again.

“...in the morning,” he finished his sentence. Steps came towards him, “In the meantime...”

Sean felt his arm being taken and he was lifted back onto his feet. He could barely hold himself up but he stayed standing. He briefly lost his focus on the conversation as he put his concentration into getting to what he guessed was a nurse from the clothes she was wearing.

“...good bed for Mister Hampton,” Edgar continued. “Be sure to pay attention to his needs.”

“Of course, Doctor,” she replied.

He managed to step off the boat and onto the ground. He felt Edgar’s hand on his back holding him up until he was safely in the nurse’s hands. She did as Doctor Reid had done in the canning factory, looping one of his arms around her shoulders and hooking one of her own under his other. She turned to walk him to wherever they needed to go, despite seeming to find him a bit too heavy.

It took a lot of effort not to let his legs buckle from under him. He was losing his train of thought again. He could hear Edgar continuing to speak to her. He was starting to sound far away, just like on the boat. He managed to catch that her name was Dorothy.

He was talking about the other doctor. The one who had stopped William. Doctor Reid. He made out that he had just returned from the front, and that he was now joining the staff at Pembroke. He experienced another lapse.

“That is good news indeed, Doctor,” Dorothy was saying when he got back to himself. She then kept moving. He did his best to go along with her. Perhaps it would help him to stay conscious.

Or maybe not. He was suddenly very dizzy again. This time, the blackness seemed to come all too suddenly. He felt the steps rushing up to meet him. He would have hit his head if Dorothy hadn’t been quick to catch him and help him sit on them instead.

“Mister Hampton? Can you hear me?” Dorothy’s voice spoke to him as she cupped his head in her hands. It sounded as though she was speaking through a wall. He wanted to say that he could. But his mouth didn’t want to work.

“Your assistance is required, Doctor Swansea. Immediately!” he heard Dorothy calling out.

He heard Doctor Swansea say something in response. But he had no idea what it was.

 

He found himself staring up at the ceiling of the canning factory. A hand was clasping his arm, someone was leaning down towards it.

His breathing quickened, his heart pounded in his chest, and he immediately struggled. He placed his hand against the aggressor’s chest in an attempt to hold him back, not wanting him to bite again. He couldn’t move him, just like last time.

“William! No! Let go of me!” he begged. He tried to get up, only for a hand to be placed onto his shoulder.

“Mister Hampton, please calm down,” Dorothy’s voice said. It cut through some of the haze. He blinked multiple times, but he was still dizzy, “Mister Hampton. You’re safe. Do you remember? Doctor Reid and Doctor Swansea brought you here. I'm Nurse Crane. You gave us a bit of a fright just now.”

He could see that again now. He wasn’t in the den. He was lying on a bed. He wasn’t surrounded by the smell and sight of fresh blood and rotting corpses. William wasn’t feeding on him.

“Yes, I remember,” he managed to say. He let his hand slowly come back down and placed it on his abdomen.

He was in Pembroke Hospital. He had been saved. He was first relieved, but then the guilt came crashing back. He had been rescued at the cost of William Bishop’s life, and now everyone would view the man as some kind of monster. He had failed to help him.

He still couldn’t get his breathing or heartbeat under control. It once again felt like his soul was trying to tear itself out of his body; that he wasn’t really connected to the world anymore. He glanced down at his bandaged arm. He could see that he was trembling. His eyes started to water. He wiped at them before any tears could fall.

“Oh god, William, I’m sorry...” he said.

“Mister Hampton, none of this was your fault,” Dorothy said. There was compassion in her gaze as she used a rag to clean the bloodstains on his skin, “I can only imagine what an ordeal it was.”

His night asylum came to mind. Was everything there all right? Were they worried about him? Did they need him?

“My flock...” Sean said, “I really need to get back to my flock.”

“I’m sure your flock will be fine, Mister Hampton,” Dorothy said. The rag was stained red by the time she took it away from him again, “I’m going to give you something to help you sleep. Is that all right with you?”

Sean wanted to argue. But he wasn’t sure he had the will to. He only nodded. Maybe he would find that this whole horrible ordeal with William was some kind of nightmare when he woke up; that he had gotten some kind of intense fever and it was causing him to hallucinate everything.

“You’ll feel just a small pinch, all right?” Dorothy warned. It seemed she had been ready to give it to him regardless of his answer.

He nodded again. A few seconds later, he felt the slight pain in his arm. Of course, it was nothing compared to what William had done. He couldn’t help but think back to when he had been helping to tend the gardens at the orphanage when he was ten and accidentally upset a bumblebee. It had stung him, dying in the process.

He had felt so terrible for that little bee.

The medicine acted quickly. Dorothy gently held his hand while it worked. He was glad for that small comfort.

As he felt himself drifting into a kinder and softer sort of sleep, he faintly wondered if he was going to wake up again.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4: Aflutter

Evening was setting in when Sean woke. He was still exhausted. He hadn’t dreamed of anything. He was somewhat glad; he had a feeling that William Bishop would have been haunting his mind if he had, just like an angry spirit that couldn’t move on to God’s domain.

He still didn’t entirely remember the circumstances of his arrival. The things he had heard had faded considerably. Perhaps they would come back in time. He remembered that man though. Doctor Reid. He was unable to forget him. He also remembered Nurse Crane and Doctor Swansea.

He tried to think of what he had said or done. He had the bad feeling that he had said something rude, or even worse.

He placed a hand on his chest. It felt like some part of him was missing on the inside, or that he had been hollowed out somehow, like when he would help carve out squashes for soup. Maybe William was somehow lingering with him after all. He shook his head. It was just because of all the blood he had drank. That was all. Surely...

He felt calmer since the events of the previous night, even though he now had to accept that it had all been real. The injured parts of his body still hurt, but that pain had faded a little. He pulled his sleeve up to check his arm. It was bandaged up. He felt stitches on his side through the shirt he was wearing. He took a deep breath.

It really had all happened. William was gone and he had almost died with him.

He gasped in alarm when he saw a woman standing over him. None of the nurses. She was wearing a patient’s hospital gown. Her black straggly hair hung closely around her pale face as she stared down at him. Her blue eyes were framed with what looked like a faint rash. Nothing like that of a skal’s though.

She shushed him.

“Don’t be alarmed, mortal,” she said, “You do not need to fear me. I do not seek blood from you. I only take the blood of my chosen, and I already know of you, attacked and drained to near-death. Unlike them, I will not kill you. I don’t kill. I was simply curious and wanted to take a closer look at you.”

“I… I suppose I wouldn’t want to die either, not yet,” Sean said. He slowly sat himself up. He felt his vision go black for a moment as a head rush caught him, but he recovered quickly, “My name is Sean Hampton. Who do I have the pleasure of speaking to, ma’am?”

It was probably best to be polite, as unsettled as he was.

“Your name has no meaning to me, but you are clearly a good mortal. A kind one. A well-mannered little insect. It makes a pleasant change,” she replied, “You will do well to remember the name Thelma Howcroft.”

“Mortal?” Sean asked, “Are you saying you’re not a human, Miss Howcroft?”

“If you have to know, I’m a vampire,” Thelma dropped her voice so that it was just a whisper, “This empty coil that I call a body is only sustained by the blood of the living. Yours seems… different. Like it’s...”

“Miss Howcroft. Please go back to your bed. Mister Hampton has been through quite enough without a vampire attacking him too,” the way Dorothy said the word ‘vampire’ suggested that she didn’t believe Thelma’s claims at all.

She laid a hand on Thelma’s shoulder. Thelma glared at her but made no move to do anything physical.

“I will return to my bed, but only because I choose to. Not because you told me,” Thelma then looked back at Sean, “You will forget we had this conversation. You never met me.”

Sean said nothing. Dorothy shook her head and then gave Sean a knowing look.

She came back a few seconds later.

“Sorry about her, Mister Hampton,” Dorothy said. She lowered her voice, “I’m afraid she’s not all there, but she’s quite harmless. Take some advice though. It’s best to just disregard most of the things she says. Do you remember who I am?”

“No harm done,” Sean said, “Honestly. And yes. You’re Nurse Crane. You helped me last night when I was brought in.”

Other than him being startled by waking up with Thelma standing over him, there really hadn’t been any harm done.

“Good,” Dorothy replied, “I’m glad to see that you’re a lot calmer than you were. How are you feeling?”

“I’m still feeling rather exhausted,” Sean admitted, “And slightly sore if I’ll be honest. But I’m sure that will pass.”

She then held out a couple of tablets and a glass of water.

“It’s always good to be positive like that,” Dorothy said, “I was just coming to give you these if you were awake. It’s to help with the pain.”

“Thank you, Nurse Crane,” Sean replied, as he swallowed the pills, “I believe all I need is to do is rest and then I can get back to my flock. I still wish it could have been different with William though. He didn’t deserve such a fate.”

“At this stage, I think it was better him than you, or both of you,” Dorothy said, “Try not to linger on it, Mister Hampton. It won’t do you any good to do that.”

Something in her voice suggested that she didn’t want to hear any more of Sean’s pity for William, or possibly about the sailor in general. Sean took a few more sips of water and then placed the glass down.

“I will try not to,” Sean said. He realised he could hear a familiar voice ranting and complaining. Was that Harriet Jones? He frowned thoughtfully. By contrast, Dorothy’s brow furrowed in what was clearly irritation.

“And so she awakens,” Dorothy said. It was clear she had some choice insults in mind for the old woman, but was making sure not to voice them, “If you’ll excuse me, Mister Hampton. I promise it becomes background noise after a while.”

“Of course,” Sean said. His stomach had started to churn. He swallowed, willing it to settle and keep the water and the pills down, “Thank you, Nurse Crane.”

 

Sean had lost himself in thoughts of his flock. He really wanted to get back to them soon. He kept praying that they were fine. He also prayed that William’s soul was resting in peace. His hand rested on the rosary he wore as he did. The pain in his stomach had managed to subside.

“Good evening, Mister Hampton, how do you feel?” a kind voice spoke to him. He recognised it instantly. He looked up, meeting that warm blue gaze. It was nice to be able to see that, along with his pale skin, and that dark hair and beard, without everything swimming around him.

“Doctor Reid, is it?” Sean asked, “Oh, sir, I must apologise for my behaviour.”

“What do you mean?” Doctor Reid asked.

“I was not myself in the canning factory,” Sean said, “Fear and exhaustion made me say awful things to you, I’m afraid.”

“You remained perfectly nice and polite,” Doctor Reid assured him. He seemed to be so kind. Sean was glad to see him, “A little delirious, perhaps. But who wouldn’t be after enduring an abduction.”

“Thank you, doctor. That’s a relief,” Sean replied. He honestly was grateful to have been able to see Doctor Reid again, “Now all I need to do is rest and return to my flock.”

He still had those who were still alive to think about. He just had to hope that they were coping without him for now. They would surely understand once they knew what happened. He hoped they wouldn’t think badly of William.

“How did you end up in William Bishop’s den?” Doctor Reid asked. There was some sympathy on his face.

“I had received alarming news of his recent behaviour,” Sean said. He had remembered Tom and Sabrina telling him about it. That’s why he had gone to see him, “I went to his place and he refused to let me go.”

“Why did he abduct you?” Jonathan asked. It seemed that he had found that rather unusual.

“William was an alcoholic,” Sean explained, “His addiction suddenly changed to blood. I don’t know why. Just like a patient I met here, this Miss Howcroft.”

The look on Jonathan’s face indicated that he had already heard about her. It seemed he didn’t suspect that Sean knew or thought anything unusual. That was good. He had Old Bridget and the Sewer Skals to think about, and it wouldn’t do to inadvertently reveal their presence. They had faced enough hardships already.

He had to tread carefully on those particular subjects, or perhaps stay away from them entirely.

“You dared to enter this awful place alone?” Doctor Reid said, that lovely smile of his returning. Sean liked seeing it, “You’re a hero, Mister Hampton. Or a fool.”

Sean felt some heat rise to his cold cheeks. He had to admit, it had been very dangerous to have done what he did. If Doctor Reid and Doctor Swansea hadn’t come when they had, he surely would have died. How would his flock cope? What would happen to the night asylum?

He tried not to think about those questions. He was going to be fine. He would be able to go back soon enough.

“I’m just a man trying to help his friends, Doctor Reid,” Sean said. That guilt briefly came back again, at having to think about William and his fate, “William Bishop was a conflicted soul searching for light.”

They had a short conversation, about the East End and the situation in it, what he did for a living, and he even got to talk about Tom from the Turtle. He reassured Doctor Reid that The Wet Boot Boys left him alone due to his nickname.

Sean found himself enjoying it, along with Doctor Reid’s company, even though it was a little bit embarrassing to admit that he had assumed Harriet Jones was dead after revealing that he knew her, and that’s why he had never visited her here. Despite that part, something about Doctor Reid made Sean feel safe.

But then one particular question came up.

“Why didn’t you use your cross against William Bishop?” Doctor Reid asked, “To repel him somehow.”

Sean wondered if it was some kind of trick, to try and make him reveal something that he shouldn’t. Did crosses really repel vampires? He had had no reason to ever try it. The skals he knew would never hurt him.

“That’s a very strange question, doctor...” Sean said. Thinking about it. It really was. Did Doctor Reid know about the existence of vampires? Was he testing him? “A cross is no magical token if that’s what you were trying to say. Not mine anyway.”

He hoped that was an acceptable answer. It was vague enough not to reveal anything he might have known. In fact, it made him seem sceptical, which was better for avoiding any kind of suspicion.

Doctor Reid seemed to believe that, much to his relief.

“How do you feel, Mister Hampton?” he then asked, “Medically speaking, I mean.”

“I feel exhausted,” Sean admitted. He hated to complain, but when it came to health, it was usually better to be honest. Doctor Reid did want to help, “Beyond exhaustion, actually. William drank so much of my blood in his madness, I feel… empty.”

He hesitated on saying that last word, afraid that it sounded like some kind of exaggeration.

“You’re in good hands here,” Doctor Reid said, “Doctor Swansea is well versed in blood transfusion and I’m sure he’ll take the best care of you.”

“Thank you, sir,” Sean replied, managing a small smile, “I believe all I need is rest and then I can go back to the people who need me.”

He was starting to grow a little more confident about that. Doctor Reid then took his leave, explaining that he needed to retrieve some supplies. Sean bid him a polite farewell.

It wasn’t long after that that food was handed out. He didn’t really have any kind of appetite. But he also knew that perhaps trying to get something down would help him get some strength back.

It was strange. It didn’t really taste of anything. It was like he had a bad cold. Still, he ate what he could, which wasn’t much. His stomach felt full after he was only a third way through the meal. Thomas Elwood gladly took what was left. He mentioned having to keep his strength up for his dark mistress and gave Sean a knowing wink.

Sean gazed down at his hands. More specifically at his fingernails. Without even thinking about it, he found himself biting at the skin around them, along with the flesh on top of his knuckles. He chewed and swallowed each piece when he managed to pull them away. His eyes widened and he stopped when he realised he had drawn blood and left himself sore. The flesh was slightly mangled by his assault.

“What am I doing?” he asked himself. A thought then suddenly occurred to him. He tried to wave it away, but it dug its claws into his brain.

I'm turning into a skal.

That other empty feeling didn’t go away. Sleep didn’t come easily either. As well as that notion still plaguing him, he found himself troubled by stomach cramps that tore through his abdomen. He finally found himself utterly fatigued and sinking into a restless slumber just as the sky was starting to get light again.

 

He didn’t remember what he dreamed of. But he shot up into a sitting position. He was coated in a thin layer of sweat and he was hyperventilating. His pulse was a rapid drumming. That awful feeling of his soul trying to escape his body, or that his flesh was too tight, plagued him again.

“God help me...” he said between his panting breaths. He reached up to place his hand on his rosary, hoping it would help to bring him back.

“Mister Hampton?” Doctor Reid’s voice. To Sean, it seemed to be coming through a wall. He felt Doctor Reid take his other hand, “Can you hear me?”

Sean looked up. He desperately sought that blue gaze. It was something real, something that could help pull him out of this state. He nodded.

“Just focus and breathe deeply along with me, like this, in, hold it, and then out,” Doctor Reid demonstrated. Sean made sure to match it as best as he could. It wasn’t long before he felt those awful sensations leave him. It was like they had drained out entirely, “Is that better?”

Sean nodded.

“Thank you, Doctor Reid,” he said, “I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me.”

“There’s no need to apologise,” Doctor Reid replied, giving him a kind smile. Sean was glad. He liked seeing it, “It’s perfectly understandable for you to feel such effects after your ordeal. We’re here to help you.”

“I suppose it is,” Sean agreed. He felt that he should be handling this better, but he didn’t want to contradict Doctor Reid. He briefly thought about asking what he knew about vampires and skals, but decided against it. He instead chose to ask if he would be able to leave soon, but a nurse walked up to them, telling Doctor Reid that Doctor Swansea wished to see him.

He was a little bit sad to see him leave. But he also knew that a doctor’s work was hardly ever done. He simply bid him a polite farewell, as he had done the evening before.

 

Nurse Hawkins frowned as she leaned in close to his face. It was one of thought rather than annoyance.

“Now how did you get this...” she said. She touched the side of his forehead. He winced. It hurt a little bit, “It’s all red, and it looks like it might split. Did you hit your head? Maybe you did it in your sleep?”

Sean shook his head. He had no idea what she was talking about. But it was plausible, given the state he had woken up in earlier. He briefly thought that Doctor Reid would have surely noticed if it was there already. Had it developed after he left? The thought about becoming a skal came back to him. Maybe he really was. He had tried to deny it, but he wasn't sure he could anymore.

“Perhaps,” he said. She then looked at his cheek. She ran her finger down it. It didn’t hurt, but it felt strange. Rough and dry. He could feel her fingers move along the cracks that had formed. He didn’t know how to describe it.

“How do you think you got this?” she asked.

“I, I really don’t know, Nurse Hawkins,” he said, “I’m sorry.”

“Maybe you just had a bad reaction to something here, hopefully,” Nurse Hawkins replied. Her voice sounded somewhat strained, like she was trying to avoid implying anything. She was clearly worried that it was to do with the Spanish flu, “We’ll keep a closer eye on you, just to make make sure it doesn’t develop into anything else.”

“That’s understandable,” Sean said, “Thank you, Nurse Hawkins.”

 

Once again, Sean didn’t eat all of the meal that he had been given. He felt terrible for it, but he couldn’t get more than a few bites down. It was even less than the evening before. The stomach pain came straight away this time. He gritted his teeth.

He then felt his mouth fill with saliva. Sweat soaked onto his upper lip and beard. He felt an awful shortening feeling in his throat.

“Nurse Branagan,” he said, panting, “I think I’m...”

Orange vomit forced itself from his mouth before he could finish. There were red stains inside of the pungent puddle that formed on the floor in front of him. He retched one more time and a second smaller pile joined the first. Luckily, it wasn’t much.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” he said, as Nurse Branagan approached him. Her heartbeat seemed so loud when she placed a sympathetic hand on his shoulder.

“It’s perfectly all right, Mister Hampton, it’s not your fault,” she said, “Let me just get something to help clean this up.”

He rested his suddenly heavy head in his hands. As she walked away, he was almost certain that he heard her quietly say:

“I’m the one who should be sorry.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 5: Unwilling Discharge

They thought he was asleep. He was trying to drift off, but it just wasn’t happening tonight, just like the other couple of times. He was certain that he was becoming nocturnal. His face felt hot and yet his body was cold. Was that another sign of the transformation he was going through?

He was surprised he hadn’t died yet. From what he knew, that was the point of no return (if there even was one) for all vampires. They would pass away as a human, only to regain consciousness hours or days later as an immortal. It was coming though. He knew it was. But when? That was the question that lingered in his mind.

“I don’t think he’s going to make it,” he heard Nurse Hawkins say from slightly down the corridor. He shouldn’t have been able to hear, and yet he did, “First that man beating him and drinking his blood like that, then those sores, and now he’s not keeping anything down. I tried to give him water earlier and it just came back up seconds later. Not to mention his eyes…”

He had to leave here and get to Old Bridget somehow. Would he able to sneak out? Maybe if he somehow left them a note telling them he felt fine and had gone back to his flock, they wouldn’t find that suspicious. He quickly came to the conclusion that they would.

“I don’t think so either,” Dorothy had agreed, “He put up an admirable fight though.”

“Should we move him somewhere farther away from the other patients in this stage? He could be contagious,” Nurse Hawkins continued, “We should have done it earlier.”

“No. Not now. Do it tomorrow. Let him sleep. Let him have some peace. We’ll dispose of the sheets and thoroughly scrub down everything he’s touched later. Other than that, I think we should be ready to take him to Rakesh when the time comes,” Dorothy replied. She kept her voice quiet as well.

“Milton will help me with that,” Nurse Hawkins said, “We should have prepared sooner.”

“I know,” Dorothy agreed.

 

Sean had lost himself in his thoughts and his questions. Hours passed by as he did. What was he going to do? Maybe he could slip away while everyone was asleep. None of the doctors or nurses had come by for a while. He could hear Thomas Elwood snoring and despite her claims of being a vampire, Thelma was out like a light as well.

Perhaps it would be possible for him to sneak out. He could go through a window. Would someone try and come after him if they knew he was gone? Hopefully not.

Maybe he could pretend to be dead somehow. When the sun rose, he would be taken to Rakesh and then he would be able to get out undetected as evening came. It wasn't like he would be guarded too heavily. Who expected a dead man to move?

 

He was brought out of his mind at around three in the morning. Harriet burst out of her room in a surprising display of ferocity. She was covered in blood. Her arms and legs dripped with it. She had torn out chunks of her own hair, leaving the scalp raw.

Sean’s instincts kicked in. His eyes widened as a scent he now knew hit him. She was a skal, or at least turning into one like he was.

She ran down the corridor before he could even think to call out. He got up. Something told him to follow her.

He briefly stopped, stunned as he passed her room and got a glance inside the door. His mouth dropped open at the sight and smell of the fresh blood that coated every wall, the floor, and the broken bed. Not even the ceiling had been left unstained. The scent was so strong that he could taste it in the back of his throat.

He bit at one of his fingertips again, but then made himself stop. He had to focus on finding Harriet. He had failed William. He wasn’t going to let her down as well.

Screams erupted from the downstairs corridors. He knew where he had to go. He ran past patients who were waking up. Others were cowering, clearly frightened. One poor woman was nursing a black eye. A young man had a dislocated arm. Sean wanted to apologise. He wanted to tell them that everything would be all right. He wanted to give them comfort. But he knew that he couldn’t.

He hoped the staff would be able to help them in his stead.

By the time he found Harriet, she was running down the corridor in his direction. Luckily, no one was around to see. She closed the gap between them and raised her left hand, presumably to hit him or push him out of the way. Sean grabbed it, stopping her. She looked at him. Her face became contorted in rage.

She raised her right hand with the intent to either pry him off or to try and smack him, but Sean got there first.

“Harriet! Stop!” he yelled. He hated himself for doing it, but he slapped her. It wasn’t hard, but it got her attention. She stopped, frozen. He couldn’t believe he had done that, and neither could she from the looks of it. But it had made her pause, “Harriet. We have to go!”

She looked ready to kill him. But then a malicious grin crept across her face as she stared into his eyes.

“You’re tainted,” she said with a laugh, “Oh the Sad Saint himself. Tainted by evil! Tainted by the blood! Tainted by her! Oh, she can see you! And she’s laughing with me! Oh, to see a good man take his fall. Something that should never be missed!”

He had no idea what she was talking about.

“Harriet! We have to go! Now!” Sean turned to run, still gripping her by her arm. He was grateful that she didn’t resist. He wouldn’t have known what to do if she had.

He thanked God that they didn’t meet anyone as they left.

 

“Humanity is nothing more than scum. They all have to suffer,” Harriet was rambling as he led her through backyards and narrow streets. Someone was less likely to catch them there, “I am her conduit to punish them all!”

Harriet had shown a surprising display of strength and energy back in the hospital. Now it seemed to be dwindling with each step that she took. He eventually resorted to picking her up and carrying her on his back when her legs gave out. She was much lighter than he had expected. It was like he was moving an empty pillowcase or a rag doll that had yet to be stuffed.

“Let me kill them, Saint. She can kill them for me! Let me satisfy the hate we feel! She’s telling me about all the things she can give me in her sweet whispering voice,” she kept talking as he continued to move.

Sean couldn’t hear anyone. He couldn’t see anyone either. He had no idea who Harriet was talking about. What had happened to her? He always knew that she had been angry and miserable while she had lived on the docks. But he never imagined it would ever come to this scale. She wanted everyone to suffer; for them to be punished and face her wrath.

If he didn't already know that he had to take her to Old Bridget, he would have now.

“I know you feel it too. Give in, Saint, give in to those urges. Give in to that hate that’s buried deep within you,” Harriet said, “Make them all pay for the sins they’ve committed!”

Old Bridget would be able to guide her to the right path better than he could.

“No, Harriet. We’re not hurting anyone else,” he said.

“Oh I already have! That bastard! She killed him for me! From the shadows! She’s inside of me and around me! And she’s in you too!” Harriet said, “We’ll get revenge on the world that hurt us so much!”

“But we’re not going to hurt anyone else,” Sean repeated. He kept running. He winced as he was reminded of the stitches in that cut on his side. They wanted to tear open. He had to be careful.

“Coward! Spineless piece of filth!” she screamed right in his ear, outraged at his response, before she laughed again, “Oh, you’ll give in. You’ll give in soon!”

He briefly felt the urge to yell at her to be quiet. But he told himself not to, wondering where that want had come from in the first place. He felt guilt then. She was most likely in pain, and possibly confused about what was happening to her, just like with William. Old Bridget would be able to help her. He had to keep that in mind.

 

He finally stopped in front of the entranceway. Harriet was still talking, but now it was a quiet incoherent form of babble. He could put up with that.

Two skals suddenly stepped in front of him. They had clearly been acting as the look-out. He recognised them. They were called Arthur and Percy. They were brothers and had been turned around the same time. Judging by their faces, they realised it was someone they knew and trusted too.

“What brings you here, Saint?” Arthur spoke first. There was a slur in his voice. He then sniffed, staring at him like an owl, “Your blood… it’s different.”

“I know, Arthur, there was an… incident,” Sean said, “I need to speak to Old Bridget. It’s important. Is she here?”

“Who is the lady?” Percy asked, “Is she a skal?”

“Her name is Harriet,” Sean said, “Yes, I believe she is, or she’s turning into one… like I am. I need to speak to Old Bridget about her.”

“Wait here,” Arthur instructed. He went through then. Sean started chewing at one of his knuckles without giving it any thought. Percy grabbed his hand and gently pulled it away with the only one he had.

“Don’t,” was all he said. Percy wasn’t a man of many words, “Not good.”

 

“That’s everything that’s been going on, Old Bridget,” Sean explained. The skal elder had listened patiently to his story. The others had gathered around him as well, curious about the events that had occurred, “I was hoping that you would be able to lead her on the right path. I’m not sure I can.”

“I will see what I can do for her, child,” Old Bridget said, “But this is rather odd. I’ve never seen anyone, human, skal, or even Ekon, that is filled with such bile, hatred and anger before.”

Harriet had agreed to stay however, and that was all Sean had been hoping for. He knew Old Bridget would set her on the right path to peace.

“I haven’t either,” Sean said, “I’m changing too. I’ve felt it.”

It seemed a better thing to say than to go into detail about the symptoms he had experienced.

“We can see it, and sense it,” Old Bridget said, “Look for yourself...”

She walked over to an old chest of drawers and took a bejewelled hand mirror from inside of it. It was one of the few possessions she had managed to keep from before she had become a skal. She stepped back to him and then held it up so Sean could see.

It was the first time he had seen his reflection in days. His eyes were the first thing he noticed. They were pale and had taken on a yellowish tint, like that of a dying daffodil. His skin was pallid, and he noticed the sores on his skin. The cracks in his cheeks had grown larger. The mark on his forehead, the one that Nurse Hawkins had pointed out, had split open. It didn’t seem to be bleeding though. That was a small blessing.

“Has death claimed you yet, child?” Old Bridget asked, “I believe I’ve told you how it feels, and how you will know it’s come.”

“No, not yet,” Sean said. She had indeed told him the signs. A blackness that was deeper than normal unconsciousness or sleep. He would lose his sight, and then his ability to hear. The heart would slow down and then come to a firm stop. His lungs would burn as they became paralysed in his chest. He would experience a flash of pain and then all would stop as his brain shut down. Then he would awaken once more after a few hours or days. It would be like no time had passed.

He knew what to expect, and he had stopped fearing it. The transformation was unpleasant and there was an itching hunger in his gut that he was finding harder to ignore, but he just knew that he had to get through it. Perhaps it would be easier once that happened.

He was certain he wouldn’t turn out like William Bishop even when he crossed that final threshold. Sean had his faith to guide him, and a flock to protect.

“You may hide here if you wish,” Old Bridget said. He could see some the other skals looking reluctant about that. They were very discreet and Sean was still an outsider to them, “If you fear the hunters and the mortals.”

“It is a very kind offer, Old Bridget, and I thank you,” Sean said. He had to make sure the Guard of Priwen didn’t see him like this. The ones he had met were amiable to him, even that Geoffrey McCullum, but that was when he had been human, “However, I must return to my flock. They’ve waited for me for long enough.”

“Of course,” Old Bridget replied, “We will do what we can for Harriet Jones. Please take care, Sean.”

The use of his name sent a small chill up his spine.

“I will, Old Bridget,” he said, “Thank you for taking care of Harriet.”

 

He returned to the shelter just as the sun was rising. He was exhausted, so he went to lie down and shut his eyes. One of his knuckles had started bleeding again. He didn’t realise as he took his rosary in his hand.

“God has blessed me with this,” he told himself, “I will do good for those around me with this new immortality. That’s why he chose it for me. Thank you, God. I am always your faithful servant.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 6: House Call

He found himself unable to sleep for the last few days. Violent thoughts and dreadful fantasies had forced their way into his mind. Was this something all the skals went through when they turned? Did they get bombarded with images of hurting or killing the friends they cared about?

He wanted to ask Old Bridget about that, but he had found himself afraid of what her answer might have been. Was Harriet right? Had he been tainted by evil, like she said? No! Of course not. He couldn't be. She had just been caught in the throes of madness and was trying to upset him. Her mind had been twisted by her hatred. He shouldn't take someone who was as insane as her seriously.

It was just something he needed to endure. He could do that. After all, he wasn't William Bishop. He was sure that God wanted him to get through this. Despite that, he briefly wondered if he ever was going to cross that final threshold that was death, and then back into life.

He had also started feeling irritable, even angry at points, which even he felt was rather uncharacteristic of him. The slightest sounds set his teeth on edge.

He had planned to get back to his normal routines as soon as possible, to try and take his mind off those awful sensations that he felt. If he wasn’t feeling feverish, he felt too cold. Some part of his body was always hurting now. He had come to accept it.

However, it was eventually agreed that he needed to rest further. He hated to say it, but he was starting to think it better to stay away from the flock for the time being. Despite his knowledge that skals could feed upon the dead (and finally deciding to partake on some of the flesh from an unfortunate victim of the Spanish flu), he had found himself preoccupied with thoughts of the living.

The hunger and cravings were his burden to bear. He could live with that everlasting need for as long as he existed, even if it was never satisfied. He had to trust God’s judgement. This wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t part of His plan.

As time went on, he found that the strange images his brain forced upon him didn’t scare or upset him anymore. In fact, he had started to almost enjoy them.

He felt a strange feeling of anxiety as he folded some sheets. He scratched at one of his bandaged hands, fighting with the urge to take them off so he could bite at them again, wondering why he felt that way.

 

His answer came a couple of hours later. He had been in his office, trying to plan for the coming weeks. His thoughts felt so jumbled up. If he wasn’t watching the images that were in his mind, then he was distracted by the cravings and questions of what else this transformation would entail. Was he even turning into a skal, or was he becoming something else?

It didn’t matter either way, he suddenly thought. God was clearly setting him on the right path. He just had to have faith. That was all he needed. He didn’t have to question it. He just had to welcome this. That notion gave him some peace.

He was finally finding clarity.

He was brought out of his thoughts when Jonathan walked into his office. He couldn’t help but feel a little bit of joy on seeing him. The knowledge then came, with that scent. Even at the short distance that he stood at, Jonathan, or rather, his blood smelled amazing. He was an Ekon. They were of the same immortality.

“Why the long face, doctor?” he asked, when he saw the expression that Jonathan wore. He looked serious, but it appeared that there was also some form of sorrow behind his eyes.

Jonathan looked at Sean carefully. He examined the marks on his face and the way his hands were bandaged, but he stared mainly into that pale yellow gaze. He was definitely infected like William Bishop, just like Edgar had said. He still seemed somewhat lucid though, despite what he had done. If he hadn’t already been told, he would have found it hard to believe that he had killed Harriet Jones the way he had.

“It looks like we both have changed a lot,” Jonathan said, “I must confess it saddens me, Sean.”

Sean felt another chill run up his spine. Why was Jonathan upset for him? This was a blessing from God. He knew that now. God knew he could handle the cravings and pain in exchange for the immortality he had gotten.

“Put your faith in the Lord, doctor,” Sean replied, “He has a plan for all of us. We may not always see it, but he does.”

Jonathan shook his head slightly.

“Since you left Pembroke, the amount of blood that has been shed...” Jonathan paused briefly, choosing his words, “It’s hard to believe you, Sean.”

“Ask what you will. As the Lord is my shepherd, I will not speak a lie to you,” Sean declared.

“Aren’t you afraid of what you’ve become?” Jonathan asked. He knew if he was still as sane as Sean seemed to be now, he would have been scared of himself.

“We are blessed, doctor. Can’t you see it?” Sean asked. He wanted Jonathan to be able to see from his side, from God’s view, “The Lord has made us able to walk amongst the plague and aid those that need it.”

Jonathan’s brow furrowed.

“Do you think this is a blessing when God’s own house and holy symbols repel you?” Jonathan asked.

Sean placed a hand on his rosary as though to prove a point. He didn’t feel anything, just as he expected.

“If that is your burden, doctor, so be it,” Sean said, “But I do not fear the cross, nor am I forced to take the life of another… my kind doesn’t share your imperfections.”

Despite his confidence, he felt a spike of fear. He wasn’t supposed to talk to an Ekon in such a way. If it was any other Ekon, they would have surely killed him or even worse. If Jonathan was offended or angered by that statement, he made no show of it.

“But you must drink blood now to survive,” Jonathan said.

Sean was surprised. Did Jonathan not know that skals could feed upon flesh? Was he only just recently turned?

“Know not your scripture?” Sean asked, “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day, so sayeth the Lord. I only need to eat flesh. No blood.”

Surely Jonathan would see that he was truly fortunate now. He was briefly glad when Jonathan decided to change the subject.

“Why return here?” Jonathan asked.

“This is my home. These people are my flock,” Sean answered, “You will always find me where I’m needed.”

“Wonders never cease,” Jonathan’s voice had taken on a rather cynical tone, “Skal managing an asylum.”

Sean felt some of that same irritation return. He felt it pulsing through his body. He tried to keep his tone calm, but some of the ire slipped through.

“And what of you?” Sean asked in return, despite that same rush of fear pushing through him, “A vampire doctor? Meals laid out before you, yet you restrain?”

Jonathan was not convinced. He knew he had to get to the main purpose of why he was here, but he had to see if he could somehow bring Sean back to his side; to see reason.

“And what about William Bishop? He tried to take care of you,” he said, “But this hunger, this thirst cannot be restrained.”

Sean felt some of that guilt for William return. He had wanted to help him so badly, and yet both of them had failed in their own goals.

“Alas, poor William. He had a good soul, but was weak in spirit,” Sean replied, “He could not shake the thirst for booze, never mind blood. But have faith. My will is far stronger than his.”

Jonathan decided that this was useless. Sean really believed that he was blessed. It was time to remind him of what he had done already.

“Why did you kill Miss Jones at the Pembroke Hospital?” Jonathan asked.

Sean was shocked. He couldn’t stop himself from sucking in a gasp of air. It hurt for the kind doctor to accuse him of that. The thought of telling him to get out briefly crossed his mind. He resisted it.

“Killed old Harriet? You must be mad, doctor. Why would I do such a thing?” Sean asked.

“So you claim Miss Jones’ death was not by your hand, nor the other incidents at Pembroke?” Jonathan asked.

“Though Harriet was an angry spiteful woman, she was one of God’s creatures,” Sean said, “I have nothing but love for all he has made.”

“But you were close to her?” Jonathan asked, frowning. He still didn’t believe Sean.

“Of course,” Sean replied. He wouldn’t have said he was, but now that they had a kinship in a sense. He couldn’t deny that just because of how she acted, “But she was lost, separated from the fold. She did not see the hand of the divine in my blessed condition.”

Jonathan shook his head. He almost couldn’t believe what he was hearing. This was hardly the man he had met at Pembroke. There was only a shred of the old human Sean left, as far as he was concerned.

“People have been murdered. I’ve seen the blood. I don’t believe you can be trusted,” Jonathan said.

“Have a little faith, doctor,” Sean repeated, “If you will follow, I will guide you to the light.”

“How do you plan to do that?” Jonathan asked.

Sean already had his answer. He could trust Jonathan with this. He was certain. Old Bridget would surely see that she could trust him too.

He reached under his collar and pulled a key off from around his neck. It was one that he kept out of sight from his flock, and for good reason. He held it out.

“Take this key of the old sewers,” he instructed, “The entrance is by the river bank, south from here. There, you will find the proof you need.”

Jonathan stared at it carefully. But then he took it and put it into his pocket. He then looked back up at Sean, locking his blue gaze on his yellow. Despite all else, even after the questions and accusations, Sean could get lost in those eyes.

“Very well,” Jonathan said, “You have definitely intrigued me. I hope you’re right, Sean.”

“I’ll be here when you return,” Sean promised, “If you think I’m still a threat then, well, I’ll surrender myself to your judgement.”

“Duly noted,” Jonathan said, “I will return soon.”

“I look forward to it, doctor,” Sean replied.

When Jonathan left, Sean took some deep breaths, just like he had been instructed back at Pembroke. A slow inhale, hold it, and then let it out. He was suddenly angry and afraid. But he had no idea why. He repeated that until he felt more level-headed. He failed to realise that he had been pulling at the bandages.

“Dear Lord, please let this choice be the right one,” he said. He then headed out as well. Perhaps a better form of prayer would give him further peace of mind.

 

He would give the rest of the body to the Sewer Skals later. It had belonged to a young unnamed man who had died in a street fight close to his shelter. No one had come to claim the corpse, and Old Bridget and her family would need it more than him.

He could take just a small part. That would sustain him. He cut some flesh away from the man’s shoulder. He was completely guided by instinct. It was like he knew what to do without even needing to think. Blood dripped from the wounds and onto his hands. The smell wasn’t as strong as it had been in Harriet’s room, but it still gave him pause.

Some small part of him said he should be disgusted by this. But it was quickly muted by those same cravings and that gnawing in his gut. This was something all the skals did. It was how they lived. There was no shame in needing sustenance.

He brought one strip to his mouth and chewed into it. For a moment, he briefly wished it was squirming in his teeth. He was oblivious to how odd that thought truly wish. He swallowed it down. He wasn’t sated yet, but it was a start.

How odd it was that normal food used to make him feel too full after a few bites. Now he felt nowhere close to satiation with the substance that would keep him alive. If this was what he had to live with, so be it. It was God’s plan.

He took the rest of the flesh to a table, where he had set up a plate and some cutlery. It was a religious ritual. He prayed first. He then grabbed the knife and fork.

 

He had been halfway through the third helping of flesh that he had taken from the corpse when the door that lead directly to the Sewer Skals’ hideout started to open. He had already told himself he would stop after this plate. He was still experiencing thoughts that told him that it would be so much better if it was alive.

He looked up. Even if not for their earlier exchange, the footsteps outside of the door were recognisable to him before the handle was even turned. Jonathan’s blood was instantly caught in his nose. So he had returned. Sean wondered if he had seen the light.

He smiled when he saw Jonathan’s face.

“Welcome back, Doctor Reid,” he called, “Would you like to take Communion with me now?”

Chapter Text

Chapter 7: Judgement

Jonathan’s face wore a mix of concern and mild revulsion.

“Sean?” he asked cautiously as he approached, “Are you eating raw flesh?”

Sean cut another piece off the slab he had taken. He looked at it. There was a faraway look in his eyes as he gazed down at it.

“It is the sacred flesh of the mortal lamb,” Sean said, “Our Lord’s bountiful transmutation for the sustenance of his believers.”

Jonathan slowly pulled over one of the chairs. He watched Sean very carefully, trying to hide any worry in his face. The man’s sanity had taken a nosedive in the couple of hours that he had been gone.

Jonathan could only be thankful that Sean hadn’t attacked anyone alive yet. He couldn’t help but think that it would only be a matter of time.

Sean placed the morsel in the mouth, chewed it, and swallowed as Jonathan sat. Jonathan understood now that skals could feed upon the dead, but seeing him like this, knowing that he wasn't fully turned yet, and that this infection stemmed from something different to what made the Sewer Skals was what gave him the most trepidation.

“Thank you, Lord,” Sean said, “I am your most humble servant.”

“So,” Jonathan started, “True to your word, you waited for my return.”

Sean nodded as he looked at him then. He was almost certain Jonathan would see things from his and God’s point of view now. Surely he would.

“I told you, Doctor Reid,” he replied, “I was a man to be trusted. Did you have words with poor Harriet?”

Jonathan thought. He once again decided to choose his words carefully and slowly work his way to the main subject.

“You make no distinction between living and the skals, do you?” he asked.

“We are God’s children, Doctor Reid,” Sean answered, “One and all, and He’s determined to save us.”

Jonathan had to admit that that indeed sounded like something Sean might have said when he was still human. But he wasn’t convinced. He still felt that perhaps he could get Sean to see reason. The Saint still had some lucidity.

“What will be the result if you continue to assist both skals and the living?” Jonathan asked.

Sean had to forgive him. It wasn’t like the doctor knew of his past.

“For the last decade, that’s what been happening,” he explained, “And they’ve found a better life. What’s to change?”

“You’re forgetting the epidemic,” Jonathan warned, “Things can go south very quickly. I’ve seen it.”

“These are terrible times. Only the pure of heart shall prevail,” Sean said. He knew that now. He was certain of that. Why else would God have allowed him this privilege?

“You’ve turned skal now,” Jonathan said, bringing another flicker of ire through Sean, “Don’t you see the danger to anyone giving you their trust?”

“We are all sinners, awaiting salvation,” Sean answered, the anger quickly gone again, “This is a simple truth, ordained by the Lord Almighty. I am a seeker of His glorious light.”

Jonathan noted that he had contradicted himself in that short space of time. Unless ‘sinners’ could also be ‘pure of heart’ somehow. It was like it made perfect sense only to himself. Jonathan briefly wondered if he would have noticed this happening sooner if he hadn’t been distracted with investigating Dorothy Crane’s blackmail attempts and then coming to that mutual agreement with her.

Would he have been able to stop it before it came to this?

Jonathan decided to try and bring Sean out of some of that agitation he was feeling before moving the topic to something else before bringing up his idea that Harriet needed heavy supervision. He still wasn’t sure if Harriet would obey Old Bridget.

“Does his place belong to you?” he decided to ask, “How can you be so certain that you can keep it open?”

Maybe that kind of question would bring more of the human Sean used to be back out.

“This warehouse was once property of the Dawson family but has been bequeathed to me through donation,” Sean said. He remembered that well.

Jonathan’s eyes widened.

“The Dawsons? The wealthiest family in London?” Jonathan asked, “Have they a clue as to what goes on here?”

“Not at all,” Sean answered. Some amusement seemed to be in his voice, “The donation was made before the war. The building was run down. I never met Aloysius Dawson myself.”

However, from what Sean knew of the man, he was very kind and generous. The thought was a fond one.

“So you have the run of the place and no one’s taken notice?” Jonathan asked. He could see another flicker of annoyance in Sean’s eyes at that question.

“As long as we keep to ourselves, we interest no one,” Sean replied, “This is a haven and I pray it remain so for eons to come.”

Jonathan was quiet for a long time. He knew he would have to bring up Harriet. It had been the original question Sean had asked; whether he had spoken to her.

“Harriet,” he paused, “Miss Jones has been behaving in a most violent manner. She’s going to need special attention.”

He knew had Sean had seen it, but he felt that he needed the reminder.

“That’s precisely the reason I brought her here to meet Old Bridget,” confidence returned to Sean’s voice when he mentioned the skal elder, “She’s the guide Harriet requires.”

“Who is this Old Bridget?” Jonathan asked. He had met her of course. He had saved her and the rest of the Sewer Skals from Fergal's assault. But it still felt that their brief encounter had left him with more questions than answers.

“I don’t know, doctor,” Sean replied sincerely, “She rarely speaks of her past, but I know she has a long one. She’s likely the oldest soul in this city.”

It was a strange thought. Sean had known her for ten years, but he hardly knew anything about her, or who she truly was. One day, she might trust him enough to tell him, but it clearly wasn’t going to be now.

“Harriet is possessed by her hatred,” Jonathan warned, snapping him out of his musings, “You cannot let her roam free. She’s dangerous.”

“She has joined her own kind, doctor,” Sean said, “Old Bridget is a saint to the younger skals, guiding them to salvation and a peaceful existence.”

Jonathan stood up.

“I believe I’ve learned all I need to know,” he said, “I am certain you’ve killed no one.”

Sean felt some semblance of relief. At least Jonathan had seen that. After all, the evidence had been right in front of him.

“But one day, I believe you’ll cross the line,” Jonathan continued, pushing away that feeling and making the ire return.

Sean had an eternity to convince Jonathan that he was right.

“Logic is a false prophet. Faith is the only path to salvation,” Sean said. He had faith in God, just as God had faith in him. Jonathan needed to have the same.

“What do you mean?” Jonathan asked.

Sean up from the table, picking up the candle that had been sitting next to his plate. He approached Jonathan, looking into those blue eyes as he did.

“We have been blessed with God’s eternity,” Sean said, “We are the instruments to His divine will. We shall feed the hungry forever and ever. Amen.”

A worrying thought came to Jonathan’s mind. The man’s sanity seemed to be slipping further and further away. His heart was also beating at an irregular rhythm. Something physical was happening as well. He would have to end this conversation quickly.

“I will strive to emulate your merciful nature, Sean,” Jonathan said, “But it’s a difficult pledge to make.”

Sean stepped nearer, closing the gap between them. The candle illuminated his eyes, bathing them in an orange glow. Jonathan could smell the coppery decaying flesh on his breath.

“Give yourself over to God, Doctor,” Sean said, “Expel your urges and kneel before the Lord in praise.”

Jonathan shook his head. Sean was so far gone. He couldn’t detect any of the human he had met anymore.

“These urges. You know the hunger will never be satisfied,” Jonathan said.

“I’ve come to embrace the everlasting craving. I have sworn to feed only upon the flesh of the dead,” Sean said. Despite the urges to attack and eat the living, he was certain that he could resist them. God trusted him, “It is now my sacrament.”

Jonathan watched as Sean turned away for the moment, as though to address someone who wasn’t there. It was like he was staring at an invisible observer who could only listen.

“’Take, eat; this is my body’, so sayeth the Lord,” Sean said.

Jonathan was silent for what felt like a long time. He remembered the peaceful yet frightened skals he had met. William hadn’t been made like they were, and neither had Sean. He then thought back to what Old Bridget had told him. He had an idea of what to do. He knew he couldn’t leave Sean alone. He had the option to kill him, but he didn’t want to resort to that. Sean had never asked for this change. What Jonathan was thinking of might be worth trying first.

He hoped what the elder skal said had some merit here.

“According to my discoveries...” Jonathan watched Sean’s reaction as the skal walked over to a small closet that had been converted into a makeshift shrine and started to open it, “Vampire blood would enhance your metabolism, perhaps even heal you, if what Old Bridget says is true. I will give you some of mine.”

Sean felt a spark of anxiety push through him. To do that would go against the path that God had set out for him. It would also mean getting close to Jonathan; too close. Honestly, he didn't need to be healed. He was perfectly all right.

“I’d rather not...” he said, hesitantly. He tried not to think about what would be involved. How would he react? What if he somehow lost control of himself once exposed to the Ekon's blood? He couldn't allow it, “It would be extremely awkward.”

Jonathan stepped closer then, as Sean put the candle down.

“Sean, listen to me,” Jonathan said firmly, “It’s the only way to protect your cheptel. Those still amongst the living. I would rather we didn't take the risk of you hurting someone, maybe killing them. You saw what happened to William Bishop. I fear you will go the same way if you don't take the sustenance you really need. Allow me to help you.”

Sean looked inside the shrine and placed his hand against the back, letting the damaged tips of his fingers run down it.

“No, Doctor Reid,” he said. His voice wavered a little bit. He had to try and make Jonathan see some kind of sense, “God made me this way. Who am I to disobey his will?”

“Do you really believe God planned for you to suffer like this? To have both of your flocks at risk? For you to be struck with this never-ending hunger?” Jonathan asked. Some sympathy riddled his face as he thought about what he had been told, and how he had found Sean that fateful night. He had been mistreated by those he was supposed to trust and had carried that pain with him so long, "You have been hurt so much Sean. You've remained good and kind despite that, and for all the time you've carried it. You've dedicated your life to helping others. Please, let someone help you this time."

"I don't want to hurt anyone," Sean said, swallowing. Jonathan finally saw that human side of him returning. He still had it after all, "But... I can't..."

Sympathy riddled Jonathan's face. He had a feeling to why. There was more to it than just seeing it as an affront to God's will.

"I don't want to hurt you. I... I don't want to hurt anyone," Sean repeated, "But... I can't. Not the neck. What if I do worse than poor William?"

"No, not the neck, Sean. I won't make you do that," Jonathan said, "If you allow me to do this, I don't think you will hurt anyone. I don't believe you will do worse to me than what William did to you. You will still remain the kind and generous man that I met in the factory, that I spoke to in the hospital."

Jonathan’s claws came out and he scratched at his arm, tearing the skin open. The smell of his blood assaulted Sean’s nose in the most enticing way. It scared him. No! He needed to resist the desire to drink. He found himself trying to back away, only to meet the shrine. Jonathan held his arm out. Sean’s eyes were drawn to the wound.

“Please, Sean,” he instructed, "Drink. I will stop you if I need you to."

Sean hesitated. Jonathan was running out of time. Whatever was happening to Sean was rapidly getting stronger. He knew he only had minutes. He just had to hope that he was truly considering what he had said.

“Sean,” Jonathan repeated. His voice tone had become softer, kinder. It was compassionate, "I promise. I won't let anything bad happen to you, or to anyone else."

Perhaps Jonathan was right. Sean slowly walked over and cupped Jonathan’s wrist in his hands, being as gentle as he could. His breathing trembled as he did his best to keep calm. The smell was stronger now. It was intoxicating, yet so wrong. Was it wrong? Jonathan only watched him in silence as he brought the wound to his mouth.

He almost reared back at the wetness on his lips, but something inside just wouldn’t let him. He could hear Jonathan’s pulse at first, and then he could feel it against his mouth as he took the first swallow.

It was in him. He felt a strange (yet not unpleasant) heat in his stomach. That sank in just as he realised that he could taste it. It was rich, sweet, and so utterly smooth. He found himself wanting, no, needing more.

As he drank further, he could feel the Ekon’s heartbeat overpowering his own. It was like their pulses were one and the same. The entire world around them seemed to fade out. The only thing that existed, the only thing that was important, was Jonathan, who was still silently watching him like a divine guardian.

This was what Sean had needed. He hadn’t even realised it until now. Maybe God had indeed sent the doctor to help him. That was what he tried to tell himself.

Jonathan gently patted his cheek, in order to draw his attention back to the real world. Sean pulled back just as Jonathan took his arm away. He realised he was leaning against the wall. Everything came into focus again. Sean had to resist the urge to pull it back to him. He didn’t need any more blood. He was certain. But he yearned for the doctor’s touch again. He would later come to the conclusion that it was because skals, abandoned once already, just wanted some sign that they were cared for.

Sean panted, as what had happened truly sank in. Even though he was truly sated for the first time in days, he had no idea what to feel.

An apology was brewing on Sean's lips, just in case he had caused pain or taken more blood than he should have. Jonathan had also opened his mouth, presumably to ask how he was feeling, but a scream outside grabbed their attention.

Sean felt concern. That was Lottie. Was she all right? Jonathan hurried out to see what was happening. Sean started to stand up properly again so he could follow.

But then the sudden blackness came; deeper than any that came from sleep or unconsciousness. Sean felt himself falling. He didn’t hear himself hit the ground, but he felt the cold floor against his cheek. His heart was slowing down. Then it stopped. His lungs were paralysed and they burned as they became desperate for air he couldn’t have.

Despite knowing this was coming and telling himself that he had accepted it, he still felt himself trying to struggle for life. He couldn’t move. There was one more flash of pain that rushed through his body and then everything came to a stop.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8: Rebirth

It only felt like a second had passed when Sean opened his eyes. He was still in the shelter, but he had been moved into a different position, presumably so he wouldn’t have woken with a stiff neck or a sore back.

“How are you feeling, child?” Old Bridget said, as she held out a hand to help him up, “I thought I should come to check on you after the young Ekon left us. But he was already gone, and so were you.”

“Better, I think,” Sean said, “Thank you, Old Bridget.”

Sean took it and moved so he was sitting at first. The memories of what happened suddenly came back. The changes in his mood, the horrific fantasies which now frightened him to think about, the thoughts of killing and eating his own flock, the things he said to Jonathan to try and somehow justify it all. What did he even mean by ‘logic is a false prophet’ and ‘only the pure of heart will prevail’? No one was truly pure of heart; it was why their God was so merciful. His cheeks burned with shame.

“Lord, I sounded like Father Whitaker along with everything else,” Sean said as that thought came to mind, more to himself than Old Bridget. Old Bridget chuckled, “I… I think I was truly losing it.”

“I’m glad I didn’t get to hear any of that in that case,” she replied, even though she saw that Sean was lost in his thoughts again, “And even so, you’re back now, and I'm glad you didn't. It would have been very sad to see.”

Sean swallowed anxiously. He hadn’t even questioned those awful notions he had had until Jonathan had given him his blood; simply let them move over his mind and dig their claws in. It was only now that he realised just how terrible they had been, just like how you believe everything in a dream is rational until you awaken from it. With the realisation that more aggressive skals seemed to have been appearing on the streets lately, the thought he would have turned out like them sank in further. He was glad that he had been given his mind back. He was starting to realise just how lucky he was.

He glanced over to the table that he had been eating at. The plate was empty and the corpse he had taken the flesh from was gone.

“I helped myself and took the rest to the others,” Old Bridget said, “I hope you don’t mind.”

“No, not at all. It was supposed to be for you, but I got...” Sean paused, trying to find the right words, “A little bit distracted.”

He felt no need or want to eat the corpses around him anymore. No physical hunger accompanied him either. He still felt some aches in his joints however. There was no sign of Jonathan. Sean then remembered that scream. He started to stand up.

“Lottie. I heard her cry out and wanted to check on her before I… died,” Sean said. It was so odd to say it like that.

“She is safe,” Old Bridget said, “Her and the rest of your living flock. She had a fright stumbling across a corpse. Someone who was unfortunately murdered and dumped near the shelter. It’s been moved since.”

“Oh... that’s... very unfortunate, but I suppose I need to be thankful that Lottie is safe,” Sean said, running a hand through his hair. He briefly wondered if the person’s family would be all right, if the victim had had one. Hopefully, the murderer would be caught soon enough, if they hadn't been already, “How long was I… dead for?”

“About eighteen hours,” Old Bridget said, before she chuckled, “I’ve been here and gone periodically. I thought it would be best for you to awaken to a friendly face after crossing the final threshold, as pitiful as mine might look.”

“I wish you wouldn’t say those things about yourself,” Sean said.

“I know,” Old Bridget said, although she was still smiling, “So the young Ekon gave you his blood. I can sense it in you. You must have died right after.”

Sean nodded.

“Yes, I did,” Sean said, "I kept trying to refuse when he first offered normally, believing it to be an affront to God’s will. But he managed to convince me in the end. I'm glad I listened to be honest. I fear I would have not turned out like you or the Sewer Skals if he hadn’t. I believe what he did was necessary. I see that now but… I feel conflicted.”

“You fear you would have turned out like your friend, but I do understand your emotions, it is complicated, to be in our state,” Old Bridget said, “You did seem different to one made of our blood, it might explain your eyes now, and you do look less… marred as well, compared to us. Perhaps it was because you hadn't fully turned yet. I should have brought my mirror to show you.”

“It’s all right, Old Bridget,” Sean said. He gazed around, “I just hope no one has gotten suspicious about my absence.”

“It’s fortunate that I was able to forge your handwriting. I left a note. I simply said that you were feeling very fatigued and you needed to rest, and so you hope you can be forgiven for your lack of activity,” Old Bridget said, “Most of them simply accepted it, with how hard you work.”

“I thank you for the help, Old Bridget,” Sean said, “You are such a saint in these times.”

“So are you, child, and I’m glad you will stay one.”

 

He got a chance to look in a mirror soon after Old Bridget had left. She said it was probably best not to leave Harriet for too long in these earlier days.

He gasped when he saw himself. Old Bridget was right. The marks on his face looked like they had started to heal, if only a little bit. But what caught his attention were his eyes. They were gold, instead of the pale yellow they had been, or the blue he used to possess as a human. He had never seen that on any skal before.

He had no idea why his eyes were that colour now. He ran a bath for himself, deciding that perhaps that would help him feel just a little bit more normal, even if that was far from what he was now. He got inside, letting the warm water and the smell of the soap wash over him.

“I have an eternity to get used to this,” he said, as he leaned back and ran some water through his hair, “I can only thank God that he allowed Doctor Reid to help me...”

He wondered if Jonathan would come back again.

 

He spent a couple of nights in the shelter, adapting to his new nightly schedule. It seemed that ‘his’ note had indeed been believed. Lottie kept saying that if he needed to rest more, then it was perfectly fine with her and that she had a good home remedy for that ‘winter skin’ he seemed to be getting. Giselle told her to stop mothering him. He assured them that while he still felt somewhat fatigued, he felt a lot better than he did.

While he was relieved that they didn’t seem to notice anything odd about his appearance, he was also confused. Skals usually couldn’t blend in with humans and his eyes would have made him stand out considerably. Shouldn’t they have seen how different they were?

He decided to visit the Turtle, just so Tom would know that he was doing better since the abduction. Everyone had heard about it by now.

“Mister Hampton! You look great!” Ichabod Throgmorton enthusiastically exclaimed as soon as he saw Sean. He was no doubt patrolling, “Heard about that kidnapping and how you ended up a little bit poorly, frightful stuff. It’s no wonder you needed to rest. Fear not, Tom, the girls and I did wonderfully in your stead. That boy Russell, the American, was a big help too.”

“I thank you for all the assistance,” Sean said, “Hopefully now that I’m feeling better, I’ll be able to get back to my regular tasks.”

“Just remember not to push yourself too hard,” Ichabod said, “If you ever need to rest, then you just let one of us know. You’ve more than earned it. You’ve even had an article in the paper written about you. Tom can show you.”

“Thank you, Mister Throgmorton,” Sean said, before he looked concerned, “An article?”

“Nothing negative,” Ichabod said, laughing a little, “It's to mainly celebrate your hard work, good health, and the love and care you give to all here. My goodness, your face. How could you be worried? Well, I shouldn’t keep you. A vampire hunter’s work is never done, you know. Say hello to Tom for me, will you?”

“Of course, and I will,” Sean said, “Thank you again for all your help, Mister Throgmorton.”

“Pleasure’s all mine,” Ichabod replied, “And if anyone starts giving you trouble, let me know. I’ll give them a good old one-two!”

“I will, Mister Throgmorton.”

 

Edmund Wilson, the writer of the article titled ‘Portrait of a Sad Saint’, definitely had his heart in the right place. It was a rather flattering article. He had met Edmund before a couple of times, and they had gotten along rather well. He had also clearly decided to ask some of the people Sean knew for assistance in writing it.

He was glad that no one seemed to find his affliction suspicious. The paper described it as a ‘mysterious disease which forces him to rest a lot and take his meals away from his flock’ but no one seemed to believe it was Spanish flu or something contagious. His asylum was described as the 'safest place in the East End Docks' despite everything. He felt a warmth in his chest at that.

“A few of us did try to knock on your door,” Tom explained, “But you just weren’t rousing. You really did need to rest up. Edmund did want to speak to you directly as well as us, but you were dead to the world, it seemed.”

Sean almost wanted to laugh at the irony of that statement. He then remembered that Old Bridget told him that skals seemed to need more rest than Ekons did. Perhaps that had something to do with it, along with his newfound nocturnal status.

While he briefly thought that he should have been consulted before the article was published, he decided to let that go. It was written to give people out there hope in these times. It was still hard to believe just how close to death or madness he had gotten. What might have happened to the flock then?

“I'm sure I'll get another chance to speak to him. I must thank you for helping me with everything, Tom,” Sean said, “I honestly owe a lot to you and everyone else while I was getting through the worst of that.”

“Ah, it’s a drop in the ocean compared to what you do all the time,” Tom said, smiling. Sean could see Sabrina nodding in his peripheral vision as she wiped a table clean, “Still, I can’t help but wonder if you’re actually feeling all right now, looking at your eyes...”

Sean felt a spark of anxiety rush up his spine. Could Tom see that they were different?

“My… my eyes?” he forced himself to ask.

“Yeah, they’re looking a little bit bleary, bloodshot too, like you didn’t sleep well,” Tom said, some mild concern in his own eyes, “You’ve probably been told this already, but don’t push yourself too hard. If you’re still not feeling right, make sure to take it easy."

The relief Sean felt at that comment could hardly be described. So Tom couldn't see it either.

“I’m afraid I can’t promise that, Tom,” Sean said light-heartedly, managing a smile.

“I thought you might say that,” Tom replied.

 

As Sean folded some clothes that had finished drying on the radiators and then took them one of the storage areas, the same thought kept going through his mind.

Am I projecting some kind of glamour, like an Ekon? Maybe partially...?

It shouldn’t have been possible. Skals couldn’t do that; not even Old Bridget. But from what he had noticed, that seemed to be the case. Was it because of Jonathan? Was his blood that powerful? Was that possible?

It had restored his sanity after he nearly lost it to what had afflicted William Bishop, but he didn’t think it would have at least allowed him to project a glamour.

It wasn’t long before he felt the weight of the coming morning upon him. It came with a lethargic sensation that seemed to move through him. It was definitely time to go back to bed.

“I owe him so much for this second chance,” Sean said, as he got himself dressed in his usual sleepwear and went to lie down, closing his eyes, “Thank you, Lord.”

However, as he drifted into slumber, one more thought crossed his mind.

I have to be careful. I can’t let the Guard of Priwen find out.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9: Follow Up

He saw Jonathan in person again two days later. Sean accidentally caught him feeding on Russell, a newer addition to the flock. He wasn’t shocked by that. Jonathan had only taken a few mouthfuls, and he reassured Sean that there would be no permanent damage. What Sean was more surprised by was that he had known where to go and who he would find just by the unique blood scents alone.

Just like he had ended up thinking with the potential glamour he seemed to be casting, that shouldn’t have been possible.

Sean was briefly concerned that it was his fault that Jonathan needed blood, but Jonathan simply told him that he had needed to take blood repeatedly during his endeavours. He also mentioned that he had actually come to see Sean, but the feeding opportunity was just convenient.

As relieved as Sean was about that part, the surprises weren’t over yet.

Jonathan had been leading Russell back to the shelter when the young man had started to wake up from the mesmerism, presumably from a lack of concentration on Jonathan’s part. Had Jonathan been thinking of other things?

Sean had stepped forward without even thinking. It was like he was guided by something deep within him. He gave Russell a quiet reassurance and rested his hand on top of his head. A crawling sensation slithered across his palm and Russell was quiet again.

He had found himself shocked.

“Did I just…?” he trailed off as the implication of his actions set in.

This should not be possible…

“I had a feeling this was going to happen,” Jonathan said. He didn’t sound concerned, “With my blood, you have also inherited some of my abilities. If you wish, I could possibly try and help you learn how to use them more effectively when we both have some time.”

How powerful is Doctor Reid’s blood to give me some of his abilities? What kind of power does he have over me as my maker? I have to be grateful that his intentions are good. They seem to be.

“I think that would be for the best, Doctor Reid,” Sean said, as he swallowed, “Will there be...”

Jonathan quickly assured him that there would be no side effects. However, he did make sure Russell would only remember the encounter as a strange dream, if he even did.

 

Sean carefully pulled a blanket over Russell once he was lying on the bed that was his. He didn’t awaken. Natural slumber seemed to come instead, much to his relief. He told Lottie that they found Russell asleep outside when she asked.

“Now that he won’t get cold...”

Sean gestured with his head for Jonathan to follow him to the private quarters he had for himself in the shelter. It was probably best that no one else heard their conversation.

“Now I can greet you properly. Welcome back to my humble shelter, Doctor Reid,” Sean said, once he had shut the door behind him. He offered a small yet formal smile, “Are you here to subdue me again?”

He had the briefest thought that perhaps Jonathan had decided that he was a threat to be dealt with after all, despite his name supposedly being cleared.

“No, Sean,” Jonathan replied, “I was telling the truth. I just came by to see how you are.”

“I feel all right. Why do you ask?” Sean said. It was true. He did. His skin seemed to be in better condition. Although he knew his body wouldn’t heal entirely and it would always carry some kind of ache or pain, it certainly didn’t look as decayed as it had before. He didn’t feel so weak or sick anymore either. He also had his mind back, which had been the biggest concern before the miracle that was Jonathan had arrived.

“Are you still feeding on corpses?” Jonathan asked.

“No, it’s almost as though the blood you gave me has provided me eternal satisfaction,” Sean answered. That was also the truth. He still hadn’t felt any cravings for flesh (living or dead) since that night, nor any kind of hunger. Despite that, it didn’t stop him thinking about the taste of Jonathan’s blood. He still remembered the flavour and the feeling it had given him as he swallowed it down. He felt like he was one with the Ekon.

He had found that he had enjoyed it. He remembered fighting the urge to grab Jonathan’s arm back when he had pulled it away, and that scared him. He told himself to stop dwelling on it, that there was no point, regardless of all that had happened. It was a conflicted feeling.

“Would you let me listen to your chest, Sean?” Jonathan asked, bringing him out of his mind.

“No, Doctor Reid,” Sean replied a little quicker than he had intended, “You've given me your blood already, and I thank you for that for I feel better now. But I don't think something like that will be necessary.”

Something about that request had left him concerned. But it was just knowing that it would allow Jonathan to get close, maybe too close. He feared that. He didn’t know why though. What exactly was he afraid of? Jonathan had shown him nothing but kindness even in those vulnerable moments he had had; since they had first met while he was hurt and delirious on that cold filthy floor in the canning factory.

“It would help me greatly if you could allow me to give you a physical examination,” Jonathan said.

“I’d rather not,” Sean repeated, “I hope you can forgive me, Doctor Reid, but please, not now. I don't think I'm ready. Not yet.”

He really didn’t have any plans for it at all, but perhaps saying it like that would soften that statement.

"Of course Sean," Jonathan replied, much to Sean's relief, "I won't force you."

Luckily, Jonathan didn’t seem offended. In fact, Sean was almost certain he saw a flicker of guilt in the doctor’s eyes. That made a pang of his own go through him.

Jonathan decided to let that go. He still wanted to gain some idea of how to treat Sean and perhaps Old Bridget if the need ever came at some point. He made a mental note to ask another time. He wanted to be able to know how to look after Sean if he ever needed to, like a maker should. He wasn't going to do what his did.

That experience, despite being one that would have stopped a catastrophe, clearly had affected the Saint more than he had previously considered. Had he been too forceful with the man in trying to convince him to take his blood? Even if it had been for the best, he still wondered if it could have been done differently. Could he have somehow thought of another method?

Jonathan hoped that Sean would eventually forgive him, if he hadn't already. He briefly thought about telling Sean about Mary. But decided against it. It wasn’t time yet, if there was going to be such a time.

Much to Sean’s relief, it seemed that Jonathan was willing to change the subject, moving onto his opinion of the sanitary situation (Sean deemed it acceptable, it seemed that less people had been getting sick lately), Harriet Jones, and then Old Bridget and her small community of the Sewer Skals, and how they supported each other.

He told Jonathan what he knew. He had an idea that Jonathan most likely had a reason for wanting this information, and so he didn’t feel too apprehensive about giving it.

From what Old Bridget had said of him last night when she came to see how Sean was doing, she trusted the Ekon too. Jonathan had been right in his judgement, despite the way he had gone about it. He knew he had to put the initial experience behind him.

“You really are a saint, Sean,” Jonathan said.

Sean felt a small modest smile creep across his lips. Although he had given Jonathan what he felt was a rather cold reception, the doctor was still willing to see past that.

“Oh no, sir, I’m not,” he said, “But I know evil, and I believe good will and tenacity can make this world a better place.”

That was a belief that he stood by. No matter how much bad was in the world, good could counter it. It was like a habit, or treating a long illness; you had to keep at it if you wanted any results. He would stick with that.

Jonathan was silent for a while, but then he took a deep breath.

“I’m sorry, Sean,” he said. His voice was completely sincere and he made sure to look Sean in the face as he spoke, “While I still hold the belief that giving you my blood was necessary to heal you and protect your flock, I shouldn’t have forced you the way that I did. I shouldn't have pushed you..”

“I don't see why you're apologising, Doctor Reid. You raised your point to me, and I eventually listened to you,” Sean said after a long pause, “You were doing what you thought was for the best as a doctor, and a vampire, and after having some time to reflect on what had happened, I honestly believe that it was. I'm glad that I did listen.”

He still thought back on the things he had said before Jonathan had given him his blood, and the things he had done. He tried not to remember the terrifying intrusive fantasies had forced their way into his dreams and then into his waking mind; violent horrible visions of tearing into Lottie’s throat while she gurgled and screamed, tricking good old Tom Watts into stepping outside so that he could rend him limb from limb before being caught, ripping Giselle’s head right off and drinking from the stump of her neck.

“Sean?” Jonathan’s voice carried concern.

He had even thought about attacking Russell, that kind young man. His own brain had forced on him an image of twisting out his heart and biting into it like it was an apple. That boy’s pained groans were a sorrowful lullaby, and his eyes had screamed ‘why?’

While his judgement was compromised, he had been confident before that his faith and willpower would have stopped him from turning out like William Bishop.

He had been forced to come to the awful realisation that while William Bishop may have been a skal, he wasn’t like any of the ones he had known. He had turned into one of the feral skals that were sometimes seen on the streets.

What would have happened if Jonathan hadn’t done what he had done?

“Sean?” Jonathan placed a hand on his shoulder, snapping him out of those awful memories before they could go any further. Sean was almost certain he felt something else at the doctor’s gentle touch, even if he didn’t know what, “Are you feeling all right?”

It took Sean a moment to realise that tears were rolling down his face. He could have become a monster and his own flock would have been his first victims. They trusted him so much, they wouldn’t have even thought to defend themselves until it was too late.

“I’m, I’m sorry, Doctor Reid,” he said, as he reached up to wipe one of his cheeks with the tips of his fingers, “I was just thinking back on it all, and what may have possibly happened. I should have realised from the start that I wouldn’t have become like Old Bridget or her skals if you hadn’t stepped in. Even now, I can’t believe I acted the way I did, and had the thoughts that I had.”

“You don’t need to apologise, Sean,” Jonathan said, his voice growing kind, “I can only imagine that it’s frightening to think about now you’ve regained your lucidity. But it will never turn out that way. With what you are now, you won’t be alone, and I will never put you in such a position again. I will promise you that. I had meant to come back to you sooner, but I’m afraid I had gotten into some… difficult circumstances.”

“Thank you, Doctor Reid, and I understand. Please don’t worry about that,” Sean said, “I’m sorry for my behaviour as well, and I am happy to support you in any way I can.”

“You don’t need to apologise for that either, Sean,” Jonathan said, “And that is very kind of you to offer. I’ll understand if you do feel upset or angry, or any other emotions over what happened, and I won’t hold that against you.”

“Oh my Lord, Doctor Reid. I honestly don’t deserve such kindness,” Sean said, “First you saved my life in William’s den, you gave me your blood to save me and the rest of my flock, and despite my awful behaviour just now, you have nothing but forgiveness for me.”

“Because you haven’t done anything wrong,” Jonathan said. He slowly removed his hand from Sean’s shoulder. Sean felt a faint urge to pull it back and hold it before he could take it away entirely, but he resisted.

What was he doing thinking such things? He had felt them back in Pembroke, and even when he had been turned, but not to this intensity before.

“I’m afraid there are some duties I must attend to at the hospital, Sean,” Jonathan said, “But please, do not hesitate to find me if you have any questions or need someone to talk to.”

“Of course,” Sean said, “Thank you again, Doctor Reid. Like anyone else, you have a home here any time you’re in the neighbourhood.”

“Thank you,” Jonathan said, “Farewell, Sean. Take good care of your flock, and of yourself.”

Sean felt the words ‘don’t go’ bubble up inside of him. He swallowed them back down before he risked saying them out loud. He was almost glad that Jonathan left before that risk became a reality. He was briefly worried that he wouldn’t have let him leave.

“Goodbye, Doctor Reid, I will,” Sean said.

When Jonathan was out the door, Sean ended up wishing that he had asked him to stay.

 

He got himself into bed for the day little earlier than he had before. He figured it might help him get up right as the sun went down. He was still working out just how much sleep he seemed to really need, but he felt that he was getting an idea of what the general pattern was.

He shut his eyes. They then snapped open again and he gasped. He gazed around.

No one was there. Strange. He was almost certain he had heard…

Wait. He could hear it. Jonathan’s voice. Was he here? He couldn’t see him, or smell him for that matter. He paused. He then realised that it was in his head. He could hear Jonathan in his mind. It must be from the connection that some makers had with their progenies; Sean felt some solace in that. His mind started to try and tell him that it shouldn't have been possible between a skal and an Ekon, but he waved it away this time.

From the sounds of it, Jonathan wasn't aware of it happening. Sean wasn’t being spoken to directly. Jonathan was reading or writing something; most likely research notes or text books. As much as he would liked for him to be there in person, Sean still found it rather comforting.

It was plain to tell that Jonathan was worried though, even if he wasn't certain why. He could feel the doctor's anxiety trying to creep into him, making him wish he was there to give him the support he had offered earlier. If he tried to go now though, the sun would surely catch him out.

Sean prayed that Jonathan would find the answers he was looking for, and that he would achieve his next goals. He then allowed his thoughts to drift as Jonathan's voice lulled him into sleep.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10: Close Encounters

Seymour Fishburn’s death was reported in the news a couple of days later. The paper said he had been murdered. His body was discovered by Archer Woodbead at about one in the morning. The killer was long gone though.

He also saw that a fire had partially gutted some of Finsbury Theatre and claimed the life of the actress Doris Fletcher. A mother called Carolyn Price had also been killed near her home in the west end, leaving her adult daughter behind. The last article of note told its readers that Aloysius Dawson had passed away from old age. However, the kind man had had his wealth and medical equipment distributed around the area.

Sean found himself sad for Doris Fletcher. He had heard many great things about her, even if he had never gotten around to seeing any of her performances. He hoped she was at peace. He also made a mental note to offer his condolences to Carol (how sad it was that her mother had been murdered as well) if he ever happened to cross paths with her in the west end, as unlikely as that was. However, there was one thing he knew he could definitely do, and that was give some support to Stella Fishburn, Seymour’s mother.

While the Wet Boot Boys came under suspicion regarding the man’s death, there was not enough evidence to point to it being them. Edwina Cox admitted that she had wished she had gotten to Seymour first and said whoever did it ‘had some balls’ for doing it right out in the open.

It seemed that the general agreement around the east end was that Seymour’s demise was a welcome event. Giselle said ‘good riddance’, and Lottie, as much as she hated to do it, agreed with her sister. Even Sabrina said she could breathe a little bit easier knowing he wasn’t roaming the streets anymore. Ichabod and Tom had agreed that while a shame that the murder had happened, the district would definitely be safer without him in it.

Sean had not only heard some unpleasant things about the man, but had partially witnessed a small bit of it for himself; such as how he could get violent at the slightest provocation. His first and only meeting with him had been very brief and he hadn’t wanted to see him again.

Seymour had said to Sean, to paraphrase, was that if he ‘dared look at him funny again, he would strangle him with that fucking rosary of his’. As much as he thought about trying to lead Seymour to the light, he wouldn’t have been able to help the rest of the flock if the man had decided to carry out such a threat. He still felt some pity for him all the same.

He went to visit Stella during the evening. She was upset. She had been wiping the tears from her eyes as she answered the door and welcomed him in. He couldn’t blame her for that. However, it seemed she had quickly invited Rufus Kingsbury to come and live with her. Sean had seen him around on the streets before and had told him that his asylum was always open whenever he did. Rufus never came to stay though, much to his concern.

It did bring Sean some relief to know she wasn’t completely alone, and that Rufus had perhaps found somewhere safe to be, despite Seymour’s death being the cause. He was almost certain it had been the first time he saw Rufus smiling as he made her a fresh cup of tea. He offered to brew one for Sean too, but he had to politely decline. He couldn’t help but think that perhaps this was something Rufus and Stella both needed, and maybe it would help them to heal after their own experiences.

Stella was also glad to see Sean, and have his kindness and support. He assured her that she had done everything that she could for her son, but that some people just go wayward regardless and that he would most likely find some kind of peace.

When it was time for him to head out again, he told Stella that he would come and see her again soon. She said she looked forward to it. She told him to look after himself as well. It seemed the article had been read by almost everyone in the east end. The reminders to take care seemed endless, but he didn’t mind. They all came from a good place.

Before he left, Sean asked Rufus to look after Stella as well. As unpleasant (to put it mildly) as her son might have (definitely had) been when he was alive, he was still Stella’s family and it would have impacted her greatly. Rufus promised that he would do everything he could. Sean told him he was a good man, and the boy looked proud to hear that.

 

It was starting to get a lot colder out. He made a mental note to start wearing warmer clothes when he needed to make ventures away from the shelter. A chilly breeze wafted over his face and the backs of his hands. It made the marks on his skin itch a little, but it wasn’t unbearable.

He started to make his way back. He walked quickly and yet quietly, like he always did.

He then froze when he heard voices. He hid around a corner and peered out. Their uniforms were illuminated by the fire pit they had set up for themselves.

Guards of Priwen, and they were in his path. He heard footsteps and looked in the other direction that he had been about to take. There were more of them coming. They hadn’t noticed him yet; they were chatting with each other as they patrolled. Sean had to find a place to hide while he still could.

He gazed around. He then spotted a walkway above. Would he able to…

It was worth a try, and with the fact some skals were capable of doing what he was thinking, perhaps he could.

He concentrated, visualising himself reaching his target in a single bound. He then lifted his foot as though taking a simple step.

The world seemed to blur around him as he suddenly seemed to leap from the ground to the walkway in a shadowy fog in only seconds. He felt the top of his foot hit the edge and he found himself falling flat on his face with a clatter.

He swayed as he got up. Moving like that made him a little bit dizzy. Maybe it would get easier if he kept trying it. He then quickly moved away from the brink just as the members of Priwen looked up. He blended into the shadows well enough with his dark clothing, but they clearly suspected something.

“What was that?”

“Maybe a leech?”

“Check before it can get away.”

They were coming up the ladder towards him. He could hear the clanging of metal as their boots pounded against it. They were going to find him! He had to act quickly again. Could he get to a roof from here? Even if they saw him, they wouldn’t be able to get to him very easily. He could only hope that they wouldn’t recognise him.

Just as they got to him, he spotted a rooftop he could get to. He jumped again. He staggered but didn’t fall this time when he (thankfully) made it.

“Over there!” he winced on hearing that shout. He had been spotted. There was a bang and a bullet whizzed past his head. He thanked God that it missed as he ran along the building.

“Don’t let it escape!”

Sean fled. It didn’t take long before their voices were far behind him.

 

When he thought he might have lost them, he let himself jump to the ground. He swayed again, but he didn’t stagger and the dizziness only last for a second or so this time. He took a moment to regain his composure. They hadn’t gotten too close to hurting him, but he still feared what might have happened if they had.

From what he knew, Priwen didn’t compromise. Any vampire they encountered had to die. After coming close to death (or madness) once, he had no intention to let his flock down in such a way again.

“Mister Hampton!” a voice called out, “That you?”

His heart sank. There were more of them. It was just two, but could he fight them if he had to? Did he want to? They were just trying to protect people. It wasn’t like they were a bad group (despite a few particular individuals indulging in unsavoury behaviour, like thievery). He wasn’t close enough for them to recognise him as a vampire yet. He still had a chance to leave without a conflict.

“Yes, good sirs,” Sean called back, deciding it was better than to remain silent, “I was just returning to my asylum after offering my condolences to Miss Fishburn. I didn’t mean to give you a fright.”

One was already walking towards him.

“Always a good man, you are, Saint,” he was saying, “It’s a bit dangerous out tonight, why don’t one of us walk you...”

Sean debated turning and running the other way. That would make him look suspicious. But before he could act on the plan, the man had already gotten too close, trailing off.

“Oh no...” he was already saying as he got a better look at Sean. Sean already knew that he could see through the glamour; see what his eyes and skin really looked like.

“Oliver?” the one that was still by the fire had started approaching as well.

“Patrick...” Oliver hesitated. Sean stepped back but a crossbow was pointed at him, “You stay there, Mister Hampton.”

“Please, I don’t mean any harm...” Sean said quietly, holding up his hands in a submissive manner. He looked Oliver in the eyes and hoped that his sincerity could be seen. He was surprised when Oliver's face slackened and his gaze became vacant. He started lowering the crossbow.

"You don't mean any harm..." Oliver mindlessly repeated, before he then shook his head and a hateful glare crept onto his face. He brought it back up again, "Oh no! Don't you dare do that vampire mind scrambling shit, you hear me? You only got me then because I didn't expect it."

"I'm sorry..." Sean said. He honestly hadn't anticipated that either. Was that yet another ability that Jonathan had passed onto him?

“Oh shit...” Patrick said, once he got close enough to see the display and look at Sean properly, “He’s a leech. Oh bloody hell, I know we’re not supposed to compromise, but I can’t kill the Sad Saint.”

Sean watched them carefully. He felt his claws unsheathing. It seemed his instincts were preparing him for a battle even if he didn’t plan to fight.

“Oliver, come on,” Patrick said, “You want to be responsible for Hampton Asylum shutting down? I mean, if he wanted to attack us, he would have already done it, right?”

“He’s got his claws out,” Oliver said.

“What if he’s just sick or something. It could be jaundice…” Patrick said, pretending he didn’t hear the comment about the claws, “The paper said he’s got that mysterious disease...”

“The mysterious disease is vampirism; being a skal!” Oliver snapped back, “Not like any other skal we've seen, mind control shit and gold eyes for starters, but a skal all the same. And sure, he’s running the asylum, but it’s only a matter time before he… I SAID STAY THERE!”

He fired a bolt on noticing that Sean was trying to back away. It narrowly missed Sean’s shoulder as he sidestepped. Sean was caught between trying to flee and staying where he was. If he fled, it risked attracting the attention of other guards. He wouldn't be able to handle a huge group. What if they suspected his flock of being infected and attacked them too?

“We could just let him go for now, then tell Geoffrey and see what he thinks,” Patrick said, “Don’t be rash, Oliver. Come on. Was he doing anything wrong?”

Oliver was shaking his head.

“We can’t just let him walk away...” Oliver said. There was some pity in his eyes though.

“Please, I really don’t mean any harm,” Sean repeated. He didn’t want to hurt someone. Some people claimed it was okay if it was in self-defence, but the idea of causing injury still racked him with guilt. Even now, he still felt bad for slapping Harriet all those days ago.

“You might not right now, Saint,” Oliver said, “And kind as you are, and as sane as you still seem to be, I think you’d rather not risk crossing that line before you do hurt someone.”

Sean wanted to say that he was certain he wouldn’t. He had been completely clear-headed and satiated since he had received Jonathan’s blood. He had a horrible feeling that mentioning the Ekon and what he had done would only anger Oliver further.

“At least let me do it then,” Patrick said, “You’ll just torture him.”

“I will not torture him,” Oliver retorted, “It’s not like they feel much pain anymore anyway. But come on, you think I’ll stoop so low to torture the Sad Saint?”

“You stole from one of his flock, that Paxton lady,” Patrick said. Sean frowned on hearing that.

“Hey, I saved her,” Oliver said. He snapped his head towards Sean. Sean was already backing away again, “It was only fair I had a little something in return.”

Oliver reloaded his crossbow, aiming it so that it would be between Sean’s eyes when he fired. He kept stepping towards Sean, determined to keep the same distance between them.

“Just a quick shot, Saint, just like shooting a rabid dog in the back of the head,” Oliver said, “I suggest staying still if you want it to end quickly.”

Sean had already decided he wasn't going to just stand there and let them end his life like this. He took a deep breath and got ready to dodge just as Oliver started to pull the trigger back.

Chapter Text

Chapter 11: Kinsmen

A bolt was shot out of the crossbow. The sharp end brushed against Sean’s cheek as he just barely moved out of its path in a shadowy sidestep. He winced at the pain and he felt blood trickling from the graze that it carved into the flesh as it passed. It felt like it was burning.

He knew that there was no way he could run. He wasn’t sure of his own fighting skills either. He knew that he could definitely try to subdue them somehow. He just wanted to do that for long enough so he could safely get back to his flock.

He could feel something brewing up inside of his chest; some kind of odd energy. It seemed to be moving through his arms and dancing around his hands, like it wanted him to use it.

He had no idea what it was, and he wasn’t sure that he wanted to know. He ignored it. It might have been something dangerous, and he didn’t want to cause any kind of permanent damage. He wasn’t about to risk trying it.

“You leeches always do this,” Oliver said, sounding disgusted, “You can’t just let yourself die. It’s like you’re addicted to immortality. Disgusting.”

Sean didn’t give that any kind of answer. Patrick was hanging back. It seemed like he didn’t want to get involved. He hadn’t even gotten any weapons out.

Could Sean use that against them? He felt another spike of guilt at the thought. He couldn’t just do something like that. That would be abusing these abilities he appeared to have. He would have to think of something else.

Maybe I can disarm them somehow…

That pulsing was moving around in his hands again. He felt like he was being controlled by it. He lifted up his right hand and was shocked to see what looked like a black smoky orb form in the air nearby. Oliver only had time to see it before it exploded into a set of shadowy spikes. It then vanished, as though it had never existed. Oliver was knocked to the ground by the assault, dropping the crossbow. He was briefly stunned and a bruise was forming underneath his eye.

Sean was shocked by that. He was left in a concoction of surprise and remorse for those few precious moments that he had needed to keep. By the time he realised that he was supposed to be trying to disarm Oliver, perhaps by kicking the crossbow away, Patrick had recovered from his stupor and pinned him against a nearby wall.

“You really are dangerous,” Patrick said, “I never thought you’d have such a streak in you, Saint.”

“I’m sorry,” Sean only said. He hadn’t known about that shadowy ability. He honestly hadn’t wanted to hurt the man.

Patrick didn’t acknowledge the apology. He was reaching into his coat for something.

Sean got ready to try and throw Patrick off of him. Even a small push to move him back a few steps would suffice. He was stronger since when he had been trapped with William Bishop. He knew he was. Oliver was starting to recover, feeling for his crossbow on the ground.

He had to act quickly. Patrick removed a stake from his jacket. Sean prepared to swing his hand, ready to knock it away.

His nose suddenly caught the scent of an Ekon’s blood. It wasn’t Jonathan though. He had no idea who it was.

A blur of shadow suddenly streaked through the air behind them. Sean saw it over Patrick’s shoulder. He opened his mouth, despite having no idea what he wanted to say.

A hand fell on Patrick’s shoulder. It gripped tightly. Patrick had no time to react before he was slammed against the nearby wall. His head hit the bricks and he slid down. He rested on the ground, unmoving.

It took a moment for Sean to realise that he was unconscious.

Oliver jumped onto his feet, his crossbow tightly in his hands. However, the Ekon was quick. His white coat swished as he swiftly turned and struck Oliver in the neck with his elbow. Oliver instantly collapsed. Just like Patrick, he had been knocked out by the assault.

Sean’s eyes widened when he finally got a good look at who had just saved him. He was certain he was a mortal the last time he had met him. When had he become a vampire?

“Doctor Swansea?” he asked.

“Well, I suppose that takes care of that,” Edgar wore a smile on his face as he looked down at Oliver, “Quite fascinating. Fascinating indeed. Jonathan truly does have powerful blood. It’s only been a day and yet all of this comes so naturally. This is something most vampires can only dream of...”

He seemed to be talking more to himself than to Sean. He found himself concerned as to why Jonathan had needed to turn him. Had he come close to death somehow?

“Doctor Swansea, thank you for saving me,” Sean said, “I’m not sure what would have happened if you hadn’t stepped in like that.”

“It was my pleasure,” Edgar replied, “We have to look out for our fellow vampires, and a fascinating vampire specimen such as yourself needs to be protected as much as possible.”

Sean didn’t know what to think about that statement.

“Thank you,” perhaps that was the best reply he could go with.

“And I suppose it’s an apology as well,” Edgar added, “As well as some self-satisfaction on my part. Those thugs can’t kill me a second time.”

“An apology? For what, Doctor Swansea?” Sean asked. His eyes widened, “A second time?”

“For erroneously believing that you had killed Harriet Jones and sending Jonathan to, to put it politely, solve the problem,” Edgar replied, “I’m very glad he came up with a different solution. His blood is truly amazing, and yes, a second time, considering they did it once already. I mean, they didn’t kill me as such, but with the fact that I only had minutes to live after they took me hostage and beat me black and blue, they might as well have done.”

“I’m, I’m sorry, Doctor Swansea,” Sean said, sympathy knitting his face.

“Oh, I’m not worried about it anymore. I feel great,” Edgar replied, the smile returning, “I can’t thank Jonathan enough. Speaking of him though, have you seen him about on your recent travels? I can’t even hear a single thought of his in my head. I mean, I know skals can’t hear their makers but...”

Sean shook his head.

“I’m sorry, Doctor Swansea. I’ve not seen him for the last few days,” Sean apologised, “And while I can hear him sometimes, I’ve not heard anything tonight.”

Edgar immediately looked interested at that revelation.

“You can hear him? By the stole, this is exciting! Very exciting indeed!” he said, grinning with delight. The tips of his fangs seemed to glint, “There is so much for all of us to learn. But first, I think I need to make sure these men can’t tell anyone about you being a skal.”

“You’re going to charm them?” Sean asked.

“Yes,” Edgar said, after what seemed like an uncertain pause, “Although it might be better for me to do it alone, so I can concentrate fully.”

“Of course, I understand, doctor,” Sean said, “I really need to return to the shelter in any case. Thank you again for the help.”

“It’s my pleasure, Mister Hampton. Do take care of yourself,” Edgar said.

“And you as well, Doctor Swansea,” Sean replied. He was gone then in a shadowy wisp then.

Edgar looked down at the two unconscious guards. He waited until he couldn’t smell Sean in the vicinity anymore, and then chuckled.

“And to think, I was just going to feed on them, I wonder if he’s charmed me into not wanting to somehow. Then again, he supposedly had that effect on people when he was a mortal,” he said to himself, “Regardless, I suppose I shouldn’t push my luck too much after Mister Fishburn, and I really could do with the practise…”

He approached Patrick first.

 

It was a couple of hours later, while Sean had been getting ready to take another body to the Sewer Skals, that he suddenly smelled some of them coming. Arthur and Percy burst in through the door. They were followed another man and two women. Percy slammed the door behind him once everyone was through and leaned against it.

Sean knew the man as Gary, and the women as Gertrude and Mildred. He saw the looks of utter terror on their damaged faces.

“What’s happened? Are you all right?” Sean asked. It didn’t seem like any of them had been taken more damage than they already had before. It looked like they had a terrible fright. Mildred burst into tears.

“It’s bad,” Percy said, “It’s bad…”

“They’re all dead… everyone else is dead...” Arthur said.

“What?” Sean felt shock seep into his system.

“It slaughtered them. We escaped,” Gary said, “We knew it would be safe here. It still lurks below.”

“Old Bridget went above,” Gertrude said, “The young Ekon went to stop it.”

“Doctor Reid is down there?!” Sean felt fear flood into him. He went towards the door, but Percy didn’t move, “Percy! Please let me through!”

He didn’t know how he was supposed to fight whatever had killed the rest of the Sewer Skals, but he knew he couldn’t leave Jonathan to battle it alone.

Percy shook his head.

“Too dangerous!” Percy said, “Too dangerous, Saint!”

Arthur was nodding in agreement.

“What are we supposed to do?” Sean asked.

“If the young Ekon falls against it,” Gary said, sending one more spike of anxiety up Sean’s spine, “Then there is nothing we can do.”

 

Sean didn’t sleep that day, and neither did the rest of the Sewer Skals. He was riddled with anxiety and he felt a grim sense of determination that he knew wasn’t his own. Percy still wouldn’t move from the door, and Sean knew he wouldn’t be able to make him. He reminded them to stay fed while he worked inside of the shelter. It seemed the best he could do was try to distract himself.

He didn’t know that in an abandoned house in Whitechapel, Geoffrey McCullum was going through the exact same sensations. Edgar Swansea also felt it, in his office in Pembroke Hospital. For that one moment, the three of them were in the same boat.

It was during the afternoon that he felt some semblance of relief roll over him. It was most likely what Jonathan felt.

“It’s over…” he said, “I think it's over, and Doctor Reid won.”

 

Old Bridget came as the evening set in. Her skals hugged her, joyous that she had returned safely. Sean held back, but he was unable to hide the smile on his lips. She had survived. She was alive after everything that had happened.

She gave a quick look to Sean as the skals headed through the door to go back into the sewers, most likely to discuss what happened and plan from there.

“The young Ekon, Jonathan Reid, he is safe,” was what she said, “But he had to leave. He told me that he still needed answers from a very dear friend. We will discuss what happened later, after we’ve had a chance to settle.”

“Of course, Old Bridget,” Sean said.

 

A few hours later, when the mortals were asleep and the skals had calmed, they went outside into the cold cloudless night. Sean and Old Bridget both stood by the water, looking over the sea and up at the stars. She then started to tell him what had happened. She had been a witness to everything that had happened deep in the sewers.

Sean offered his condolences and a sorrowful apology when he found that Harriet had turned into some kind of beast and massacred the majority of the Sewer Skals. Old Bridget simply told him that others that needed her would find her in the end and that it wasn’t his fault. Neither of them could have known what Harriet would have become at the time.

She also told him of the creature that had emerged from Harriet’s body once it gave out under the strain of trying to fight Jonathan. A horned monster made entirely of blood and filled with nothing but hatred and a desire to make humanity suffer. It had possessed Harriet, turned her into a vessel of disease and used her as some kind of conduit into this world. Jonathan referred to it as a Disaster.

But he had defeated it, and with her gone, the vampire epidemic of 1918 would surely soon come to a close.

It was probably best not to think about what would have happened if the ‘Queen’ (as the other horned creature, that had apparently taken Jonathan as a champion, called her) had prevailed and escaped the sewers. Even now, the thought made a shiver run up Old Bridget’s spine.

“The newborn Ekon, Jonathan Reid saved us all. He fought her bravely and valiantly defeated her, it’s the beginning of the end for this madness that she’s caused,” Old Bridget said what Sean had been thinking, “More powerful than most of us, vampire or mortal, can comprehend, as I had witnessed for myself. Only few of us will know the truth of what happened in the sewers. Perhaps no songs will be sung or stories will be told of his victory, but we will carry that knowledge for our eternal lives. You’re more Ekon than skal because of him, you are connected to one another, and that says much of the blood he carries.”

Sean nodded. Jonathan had power that most Ekons could only ever dream of wielding, and he had used that for good. He was truly a virtuous man; a hero.

“Do you think he’ll come back, Old Bridget?” he asked, “If anything, it would be good to thank him personally for all that he’s done for all of us.”

He missed his presence as well, even though he wouldn't admit that out loud.

“Perhaps,” Old Bridget replied, “But right now, it’s impossible to say.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 12: In the Cards

Jonathan had returned a week later after Old Bridget had reported that he had left, but even after thanking him for everything he had done, Sean had been hesitant to get close to him as the next month slowly passed. He knew Jonathan wouldn’t return his feelings; he was just a skal. Before that, he had been an ordinary man, whereas, Jonathan was a well-renowned doctor.

He knew Jonathan had been busy too, and so he had feared getting in his way too much. He had been concerned about making contact with him unless it was absolutely necessary, such as when a member of his flock needed medical help. Jonathan had done so much already, and was still hard at work. Sean hated to be burdensome.

But it seemed that the vampire epidemic really was over. There wasn’t so much fear and dread in the air. Fewer people had been getting sick, and there were less feral skals wandering the streets at night. The Guard of Priwen were doing well to get rid of the strays that sometimes still appeared.

Geoffrey McCullum ultimately found out that Sean was a skal. Luckily, they were in Pembroke Hospital (considered neutral ground) and Jonathan had been there at the time. Despite Geoffrey’s complaint that Jonathan turning Sean was ‘low, lower than you turning me’, it seemed he had decided that Sean, just like Jonathan, was off-limits as long as he ‘behaved’. Sean thanked God for that mercy.

He was also thankful that the Guards of Priwen that had originally caught him out had been left relatively unscathed; even if Oliver had ended up in a two-day coma and Patrick was temporarily rendered mute. In the long-term, they had not suffered any after-effects, which Edgar certainly had seemed pleased about.

Sean had even met another vampire. Bill. The man who had been raising Russell like he was his own child, as the boy had told him. The meeting had been brief, summarising just what had happened with the lad before he met his fate. Despite having to hear that kind of news after travelling all the way to London from the states, Bill seemed friendly enough before he left. Perhaps this was a sign of good things to come.

 

Sean and Old Bridget had found themselves alone once more. They stood by the water, listening to the waves lapping against the boats. Old Bridget had found out more about what had been happening, along with Jonathan’s efforts to bring it to an end, and had told him once they found themselves alone outside on a cold cloudless night once again.

She explained as best as she could what she had learnt, especially of something called the ‘blood of hate’, what it was and how it turned Ekons into sadistic murderers, and skals into feral beasts. How a single scratch from a direct source like a Disaster could apparently infect someone with even the strongest blood. She confessed that she had really only found out what it was thanks to Jonathan. She had made sure to visit him once she knew of his return, and asked him what he knew.

His friend, who Old Bridget described as being ‘a wise and beautiful Ekon’, was an apparent carrier for this blood of hate. She had chosen to stay behind wherever she had gone. She had showed no more symptoms but it was still within her. After finding out that her blood had accidentally caused the recent vampire epidemic, she had decided to lock herself away until a cure was found.

That was what drove Jonathan and his research now, so no one else would have to suffer in such a way again, and so hopefully his friend could finally live without fear. A lot of his current work was now going into finding a cure for this disease, or curse. It seemed to be both.

So far, he had made a successful vaccine, which had protected him during his fight with the Disaster that Harriet had become, and the Queen that had possessed her. It would only work on those who hadn’t been infected and the doctor had been working on making enough to be able to inoculate vampires as necessary, and gaining the right supplies to replicate it as much as he could. It had been named the ‘Lisa Vaccine’.

That gave Sean some comfort, but it also confirmed those old fears. That was why William Bishop had turned out the way he had. That was why he had those awful urges and thoughts. He would have gone the same path if Jonathan hadn’t given him his untainted blood. Somehow, it was able to override this blood of hate and enhance his abilities beyond that of the average skal, as he and Old Bridget had both observed.

“He truly is a good man, that Doctor Reid,” Old Bridget said, “Perhaps that’s why that horned entity chose him as his champion.”

Sean briefly thought about Bill and how he had mentioned ‘the horned man’ during their gathering, and how it had chosen Jonathan. It honestly did say what kind of man Jonathan was.

He was silent for a long time. He looked up at the Pleiades. The six stars shone brightly, like they always did. He couldn’t help but think of Jonathan. Perhaps it was time to see him properly again, despite his fears. He felt some guilt as well; Jonathan was surely busy. He didn’t need him getting in the way.

“I’ve noticed something,” Old Bridget continued, a small smile on her face. She ran her fingers along the pearls she wore, “It didn’t escape me.”

“What didn’t, Old Bridget?” Sean asked.

“You feel something for him, don’t you, child?” Old Bridget replied, “I have reason to believe that perhaps you felt that little flame light up even before he turned you. Maybe that’s why the mental link between you is so strong.”

“I...” Sean had been about to try and deny it. But there wasn’t much point. He hardly knew a thing about her and yet she seemed able to read him like an open book.

He still thought about the night he had been rescued, and the evening he had been given Jonathan’s blood. He reflected on the very brief meetings he and Jonathan had had as time had passed. He took comfort in the moments that he had heard Jonathan’s voice in his head, even when the words weren’t aimed at him.

On multiple occasions now, he had fallen asleep to the doctor reading medical textbooks or making notes in his research, appearing completely oblivious to the fact that Sean could hear him. As much as Sean wished he could be there in person, he was at least thankful to have his voice for company.

Whenever he was near, he felt drawn to the Ekon, although he was unsure of whether it was because of their bond between progeny and maker, or because of something else.

“I suppose I do,” he said after a long pause. He knew that Old Bridget had seen enough in her long life not to judge those kinds of feelings. Besides, there wasn’t any point in lying. It was as though she could simply smell them, “But I doubt he feels the same way.”

Old Bridget still smiled.

“You never know, child, he just might,” she said, “I believe it would be of benefit to both of you to spend time with each other, now that London is safe for the time being, and especially because of those few days that happened, with that boy in your flock.”

Sympathy riddled her face. Russell’s death had been a sad one; he was finding a purpose and it just got snatched away. Sean had found himself briefly spending some more time with Jonathan as that had unfolded. He had taken comfort in his presence during those days. But then he decided it best to keep his distance again, lest Jonathan found his presence a burden.

“You should find a night to visit him, Sean,” Old Bridget said, bringing him out his thoughts, “See him again. Talk to him. Like you’ve done with me, and like he did with us.”

She seemed like she had been about to say more, but shuffling steps caught their attention. A woman was limping towards them. Her black hair was the only thing that was still vibrant and strong. It was tied in a plait behind her head. The brown eye she had left was murky, but still carried alertness. Her face had been freshly bandaged, leaving what was presumably an empty socket protected from the outside world, along with her arms and one of her legs. Her skin was rough and patchy in some places.

“Are you Old Bridget?” was all that she said when she was close enough. Her voice was hoarse and quiet, but not timid, “I thought I should come and find you.”

“Yes, my dear girl, I am,” Old Bridget said. She immediately walked over to greet the young skal, taking one of her hands in both of her own, “And you’re home now. I’ll take good care of you. Please come with me.”

The new woman smiled, relief painting her face. Old Bridget gently started to lead her towards the entrance that led into the sewers; the one she had first come out of. She gave a nod to Sean.

“We will continue this another time, child,” she said gently, “Please remember what I said.”

“Of course, Old Bridget,” Sean replied, “Lord bless you both.”

“And Lord bless you too,” Old Bridget said.

When they were both gone, Sean briefly thought about returning to the shelter. Old Bridget’s words immediately came back into his mind. He had done all that he had needed to do for the evening, and there were still plenty of dark hours left.

A notion to see a certain man came to mind. Perhaps it would be a good idea. Despite telling himself to be sceptical when it came to people who claimed to possess knowledge of certain events or possible outcomes, he had witnessed that Usher Talltree seemed to know things that he logically shouldn’t have.

As Edgar’s superior, the Primate of the Brotherhood of Saint Paul’s Stole to be exact, he also was one of the few who knew of the existence of vampires and didn’t immediately view them as enemies.

Perhaps it might be worth seeking his opinion on the matter.

 

Sean was slow and quiet as he walked down the steps. He could smell Usher down there, along with Bill. He wasn’t too surprised. They apparently knew each other, and Bill had mentioned before that he had wanted to catch up with Usher when they had first met up in Pembroke.

As he got closer to the entrance of the tunnel where Usher had kept himself, he realised that he couldn’t hear anything. That was odd. He would have least expected them to be talking, although he wasn’t entirely certain what their conversation would have been about.

From what he had gathered from the very short meetings he had with the two of them, they were utterly different souls.

He hesitated. Was it a bad time? What might he see if he came into view?

“Mister Hampton,” Usher’s voice suddenly called out, “You won’t get the answers you’re seeking by hiding all night. Please come forward. You won’t find anything unsavoury.”

Sean came down. Bill was taking his mouth away from the Primate's arm and licking over the punctures he had previously made to make them seal over. Sean couldn’t help but think back to himself and Jonathan when he first drank from the doctor’s wrist.

However, unlike when he leaned on the wall while drinking from Jonathan and briefly becoming everything the Ekon was, Usher and Bill were both sitting on chairs. Neither of them seemed to be all that affected by the experience, even if Bill was rather rudely resting his feet on the desk.

He couldn’t help but wonder if he would ever need to feed from the doctor again. He told himself not to think about that. He could get by without needing to bother Jonathan in such a way.

“I’m, I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to…interrupt,” Sean started to sputter an apology, but Usher simply shook his head to make him stop.

Usher took a cup off the desk and sipped from it. Bill ran a hand through his ginger hair, before he wiped at his mouth and beard with the back of it. The drink Usher had taken smelled somewhat herbal. Sean could only guess that it was some kind of tea.

“Hardly an interruption. I can assure you,” Usher replied, “For us, It’s not much different to mortals having a drink in polite company.”

“Yeah, it’s just the arm between a pair of friends,” Bill said, “It would definitely be different if I was sitting on his lap, with my mouth on his neck and my hand down his pa...”

He stopped when Usher shot him a sharp look, before he then grinned and took his feet off the table. Sean’s cheeks darkened at hearing that.

“Too much?” Bill asked. His grey eyes had some cheeky amusement in them.

“That’s putting it rather mildly,” Usher answered.

“But yes,” Bill carried on like he hadn’t just been talking about that kind of act, “I was just about done and he was expecting you, just as he was expecting me to arrive for our catch-up that I had meant to have for us a lot sooner. I have to say, it’s very convenient that he just knows that. I wish he would teach me how, but he keeps it all to himself.”

“It’s not a skill that can simply be taught,” Usher said, “Now, as you already know, if I am do a reading for someone, it must be done with just them present. I have already told you before that if you are struggling to find a purpose, I will be able to find a task for you.”

Sean felt some sympathy. Perhaps he could help as well. Maybe Russell’s death was hitting Bill harder than even the redhead had anticipated.

“Yes, I’m sure you will, thank you,” Bill said. The smile on his face seemed a little more sentimental. He stood up, “If I don’t see you first, catch me at the Turquoise Turtle. I got another few days booked there.”

Sean was surprised to hear that.

“Of course,” Usher said. What looked like a black smoky tendril suddenly drifted out from between Bill’s shoulder blades. It plucked a ceramic rectangular container from a shelf and then put it down on the table where his feet had been before. Usher pulled the box closer towards him as the shadow retracted back towards Bill, much like the eye of a snail, “Thank you.”

“You’re always more than welcome, good luck, Father Hampton, not that I think you’ll need it,” Bill said, smiling. He tipped an invisible hat to Sean. He then disappeared in a shadowy jump.

“Is he usually like that?” Sean said.

“Most of the time,” Usher said, “And that seems to be his preferred way to leave a conversation, or a place.”

“He… seems to like you,” Sean said. He was unsure of how to get to the reason to why he was here.

“He’s hardly subtle about it,” Usher said, “Despite the feeling not being mutual on my part, I still see him as a valuable friend, and ally. But let’s not discuss that right now. That isn’t why you’re here. You’re here, Mister Hampton, because you are hoping to seek advice about Doctor Jonathan Reid and what fate has in store for the both of you.”

Sean nodded, awkwardly looking away and then looking back again.

“Yes, I am, Primate Talltree,” he said.

“Please sit,” Usher said. He gestured to the chair on the side of the desk. He then opened the box as Sean sat down.

Sean started to reach into his pocket for some money.

“That won’t be necessary this evening,” Usher said, “On finding out you would be coming tonight, Bill paid for you. He said it was the least he could do.”

“That’s very kind of him,” Sean said.

“It is,” Usher agreed, as he then removed the container’s contents and held them in his hands, “Now, let’s see what the cards have to tell us.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 13: Doctor Doctor

It was like the rest of the world had gone silent. The only noise that seemed to exist was the shuffling of the cards as Usher went through them.

Sean watched intently, his hands sitting in his lap. He didn’t mean to stare, but he found the fluid movements fascinating. How was someone like Usher Talltree able to gain some kind of knowledge from those cards?

Usher himself never spoke a word. Eventually, he seemed to choose one from the set. The rest were placed back into the box. His eyes were firmly fixed on what it was showing him. He reached up to adjust his glasses very briefly.

Sean didn’t dare say anything. Usher eventually laid the card down on the desk.

“The Thread. It’s plain to see...” he said, still gazing down at the image, “That your fates are certainly entwined and most likely had been since he saved you from William Bishop, or perhaps before.”

The picture showed a pair of hands. They weren’t touching, but they were close. A white thread was wrapped around them, as though trying to pull them together. Sean remained quiet, unsure if he should answer.

Usher took another card from the box. He placed it down so it was lying on top of the first.

“Be honest with me, Mister Hampton,” Usher said, “You do possess certain feelings for Jonathan Reid, don’t you?”

Sean nodded.

“Yes, sir. I do,” he admitted. He was certain that the Primate already knew that without even needing to be told, “I… I think I love him.”

He felt shock run up his spine at the fact that he had just said it out loud. He knew he hadn’t been forced, but it still felt strange to say. His mouth clamped itself shut again, but Usher didn’t seem surprised at all.

“And I thank you for your honesty,” Usher replied, “It isn’t always an easy feeling to acknowledge, let alone speak about to another, especially someone you don’t know all that well, like myself.”

He looked down at the card again. The picture was of a pair of white birds with long necks. They were swimming on water and huddled together. Their eyes were shut. They seemed to be content.

“The Swans. An ancient symbol of love which dates back to the days of when the bible was first written. This one tells me that there is a very strong chance that the feelings are mutual on his side,” Usher said. Sean felt a warm bursting feeling behind his ribs at that thought, “However...”

He reached for the third card. The final one. He placed it down. It was an image of a seed buried in soil. Roots were already spreading from the bottom of it, but nothing had emerged from its top.

“The Seed,” Usher said, “Of course. It was indeed planted when you were first rescued, and it took root as you kept meeting with one another. However, if you truly wish it for it to sprout and grow into something more, one of you must prompt it into doing so.”

Usher paused, before he then continued, deciding that he needed to explain further.

“You are both hesitating, trying to ignore your feelings for the other,” Usher said, “You think it will pass, and you also struggle with the idea that he’s too good for you, that he couldn’t love you back, because of your differences. He believes what he’s experiencing is wishful thinking, he thinks you do not forgive him for the circumstances of your turning in spite of you telling him otherwise, and he fears how you would react should he try to tell you. He is also afraid that he of forcing you, influencing you, because of your bond.”

“I don’t think he is, or would be,” Sean said, “I felt that way for him before he turned me. Maybe the feelings I have for him are stronger now, after he gave me his blood, because it’s mutual on his side.”

“I have my reasons to believe that is so as well,” Usher replied, “So, I suppose you have the answer you were looking for, if Jonathan returned your feelings or not. Am I correct?”

Sean nodded.

“Yes, sir,” he said.

“You both share affectionate feelings for one another, but I’m afraid that isn’t enough if you really do want to be together,” Usher said, as he spared another glance to the card, “Remember the seed. At least one of you has to act if you want it to sprout, or else it will never get to.”

“I understand,” Sean said. He had a feeling that Jonathan wasn’t going to say anything. It was up to him. The thought sent anxiety through him. Could he really do it?

“I’m going to give you some advice that might sound cliché, as Bill would say,” Usher said, “I think you should meet him, sooner rather than later. Talk to him. I’m almost positive you’ve heard the same advice already.”

Of course he had. Old Bridget had told him. But now that he knew that Jonathan most likely returned those feelings, he felt better about the idea.

“Yes, you’re right, that’s what I need to do. To be honest, I think I’m going to try and do that now before I end up losing my nerve again, I’m going to tell him,” Sean said, as he slowly stood, “Thank you for allowing me to see you, Primate Talltree.”

“It’s my pleasure, Mister Hampton,” Usher said, “I bid you a good evening, and the result you seek.”

“Thank you. I hope you have a nice evening too.”

“I’m sure I will.”

 

It wasn’t long before the relatively peaceful walk became not so. Sean could hear a familiar voice shouting and raving. Clay Cox. Sean knew it would probably be better not to get involved. The former gang leader had most likely just picked a fight with someone.

He then had the thought that perhaps his victim would need medical assistance; if Clay hadn’t killed them that was.

“Oh, you think you’re gonna get away with that, just gonna walk away from me, huh?!” Clay was shouting. He was nursing a black eye and one of his nostrils streamed with blood. Sean pressed himself against the wall to watch.

His heart sank when he saw the ginger hair and the grey bloodshot eyes. Clay had chosen to pick on Bill. But at least it seemed that he was going to stand down on realising Bill packed a literal punch. Bill was walking off, licking the red off his knuckles like some kind of cat.

Sean’s eyes then widened when he saw Edgar also standing a short distance away. He was watching intently, and his hand was practically a blur as it wrote down notes. He briefly made eye contact with Sean and made a gesture to be quiet.

It seemed he wanted to see things through.

“Oh go fuck yourself then!” Clay screamed. Bill turned around, flashing Clay a grin.

“Come and fuck me yourself, you coward!” Bill called back.

That had the effect he had clearly been seeking. Clay rushed at him, taking a massive knife from his coat. It seemed nearly losing his internal organs a couple of months prior hadn’t taught him anything.

He didn’t even get halfway. He was suddenly grabbed by two shadowy tendrils. One of them wrapped around his legs, pinning them together. The other coiled around his wrists, leaving his arms immobilised and forced above his head. His knife fell to the ground.

“What the hell?!” he could only stare at the strange limbs in a mix of awe and fear. Bill was still smiling as he bent down to pick up the knife, holding it in his hand, “Hey, don’t you touch that! My wife gave that to me!”

“Just having a look, she seems to have an interesting taste in gifts. Wouldn’t want this in my heart, would I?” Bill said, “Honestly though, bringing a knife to a shadow fight isn’t wise. Didn’t you realise I don’t cast my own anymore?”

Sean and Edgar immediately looked, as did Clay. Bill wasn’t lying; there was no shadow on the ground near him at all. Edgar appeared to have been delighted by that new information and started writing anew. Sean was almost certain he saw the doctor mouthing ‘by the stole’ as he worked.

That was something else that seemed to separate him from the regular Ekons. Clay’s eyes widened and for the first time, there was some fear in his gaze. Bill had clearly dropped the glamour, allowing the mortal to see his true appearance.

“What the bloody hell are you?!” Clay did his best to sound fearless. It was almost convincing.

“Just an old man, honestly, you can do a lot of things when you reach seven hundred, nearly seven hundred and fifty to be precise,” Bill replied.

“Seven hundred and fifty?!” Edgar’s voice was a delighted whisper.

Bill released Clay’s arms. The man immediately made an attempt to lunge forward, but then he was suddenly hanging upside down like a fish on a line, suspended by those black appendages. His hat fell to the ground. Bill picked that up as well and put it on his own head, “Ah, rather fetching, this. You forgot the ropes on your feet, didn’t you?”

He stepped closer so they were face to face.

“Don’t hurt him, Bill,” Sean said, finally deciding to make himself known. He could see Edgar look slightly concerned (or perhaps disappointed) in the corner of his eye, “Please don’t.”

“Oh I’m not going to hurt him,” Bill said, “Just as I can snap a man’s spine like a tree branch...”

“W-w-what...” Clay started to sputter. Bill shushed him and he found he couldn’t say anything else.

“Elders are talking,” Bill said, before he looked back to Sean, “I can also be as gentle as a mother cat carrying her kittens. I’m still going to teach him a lesson though.”

“What are you going to do?” Sean asked. Clay was still trying to talk, shaking his head.

“As I said, teach him a lesson, and not a single drop of blood will be spilled,” Bill said, “I did this a few hundred years ago to someone else. I forget what he tried to do now, but it’s very effective.”

A black circle appeared beneath Clay. Four shadowy tendrils jumped up from inside. He writhed to get away, but he only succeeded in swaying like some kind of warped pendulum. He tried to slap at the limbs, but his hands passed through them. But then they were all over him, mainly on his sides, his neck, the backs of his knees, and his armpits. Clay held off for an admirable amount of time, but he eventually started laughing, despite putting all his willpower into not doing so. Bill guffawed.

“I’m going to tickle you to death!” Bill called out. Clay was still shaking his head and struggling, despite the laughing. His face had turned red from being upside-down for so long.

“Bill!” Sean found his voice and looked towards the redhead then.

“Don’t worry, I’m not really going to tickle him to death...” Bill whispered, before he shouted back up, “I'm going to keep doing this until you can’t breathe anymore. You're going to die!"

 

He engaged in a small conversation with Sean while tickling Clay.

“So, did you find out if there was something between you and the doctor?” he asked.

“Wait, how did you know it was about him?” Sean asked almost indignantly, dropping his voice to a whisper.

“When we had our meeting in Pembroke, I couldn’t miss it. You were looking at him the way I wish a certain Primate would look at me,” Bill said. Sean’s cheeks darkened a little bit, “Good news then?”

“I think so,” Sean said.

“Good, then I say go for it,” Bill said, “Let him know.”

“I plan to,” Sean replied.

 

It was a few minutes later that Sean smelled a very familiar scent in the air. The mix of relief and joy that he felt was almost immeasurable.

“That’s enough, Bill,” Jonathan’s voice confirmed Sean’s suspicion, “I think Mister Cox has gotten the message.”

“Ah. Good evening, Doctor Reid. Yes, I suppose you have a point,” Bill said. The shadows that had been tickling Clay vanished. Clay was dangling, completely exhausted. He panted and coughed. He was lowered towards the ground and then dropped the last couple of inches. The tendrils that had been holding onto his feet retracted into Bill’s back.

Clay had started to make an effort to push himself up into a standing position.

“You, you, you, abs, abs-absol...” he could barely put his words together with how hard he was breathing.

“Absolute bastard. I’ve heard it before,” Bill said, as he locked his light grey eyes onto Clay’s brown, before settling his hands onto his temples, “Among other things. Now, you’re going to listen to me very carefully, Clay Cox…”

 

Clay Cox walked away once all his instructions had been put in place, his hat returned. He was to find somewhere to lie down and sleep for fifteen minutes or so, and then he would wake up with no memory of what had occurred in the last half an hour. He would seek medical assistance for his possible injuries. Bill hid his knife under a crate. Clay could spend time without his favourite weapon as far as Bill was concerned.

“That was absolutely amazing,” Edgar said, “A smashing display. I would have expected nothing less from a vampire of your age.”

“Thank you, I aim to please, and not a single drop of blood was spilled, maybe I should take up some kind of hero gig, rescue innocent mortals, wear a red suit so people can’t see me bleed, a mask, maybe have a pair of guns or swords for back up,” Bill said, smiling, “But yes, honestly. I’m always happy to put on a little show, especially for such an appreciative audience. Although, Doctor Swansea, if you really wanted information on me, you could have asked your brotherhood. I’ve known them for quite a while.”

“Really?” Edgar said, “I looked for your name but...”

“You were probably looking for the wrong surname,” Bill said, “Next time, look for Godolphin instead of Goodwin.”

“Ah, I should have known, thank you,” Edgar said. He looked down at his notes, “Still, very exciting to see you in action. I must thank you, sir.”

“My pleasure, it was fun,” Bill said, “Well, if we’re done, kinsmen, I will be...”

“Actually, Bill, seeing as you’re here...” Jonathan paused when Bill turned to look at him, “I had originally sent Doctor Swansea to look for Sean and ask for him to come to the hospital so I could administer the Lisa Vaccine.”

“Ah yes, I was going to do that, but seeing such a display had me rather distracted,” Edgar admitted.

“My fault,” Bill said, grinning.

“I have enough for you and for Sean, Bill. It is a rather convenient time for you to be here. Just as I did with Geoffrey McCullum and Doctor Swansea, I wish to inoculate you both against the blood of hate,” Jonathan said, “So you can be protected from it if ever becomes a massive threat again.”

“I heard about that,” Bill said, wincing a little, “Nasty thing. To think, there’s now a vaccine for it. Modern medicine is truly amazing. Cernunnos told me to be aware of that sickness a good two centuries ago now. That’s what he told me to call him, despite Horned Man being more recognisable. What name did he tell you?”

“Myrddin Wyltt,” Jonathan said, “I don’t blame him for trying to give you such a warning. But yes, the Lisa Vaccine is not a cure. I am still trying to create that. But it is a preventative, to stop you ever becoming infected with it.”

“Well, I won’t say no,” Bill said, smiling, “Lead the way.”

 

“Now just hold this over the puncture, Sean,” Jonathan instructed. Bill had received his first, presumably so he could leave sooner.

As he had left, Bill had mouthed ‘you can do it’ to Sean, and then winked, before saying a farewell out loud to Jonathan.

Jonathan had told him to try and stay out of trouble. Bill’s response had been that he couldn’t make any promises. He was then gone.

The vaccine wasn’t any more or less painful than any other injection Sean had received. He held the cotton pad over the crook over his elbow as he was asked. Jonathan then walked back over to bandage it. He wanted to play it safe, with Sean being a skal. Some skals seemed to take longer to heal from physical damage than Ekons or even mortals. Their skin seemed to bruise or split a lot more easily as well.

“It will most likely be sore for tomorrow,” Jonathan warned. His hands were so gentle as they wrapped Sean's arm. Sean found himself enjoying his kind touch, “Try not to move it or touch it too much.”

“Of course, Doctor Reid,” Sean said, “Thank you.”

“I’m glad to help you, Sean, and knowing that you won’t be a possible victim to the blood of hate again will bring me a lot of peace of mind,” Jonathan said, “How does that feel?”

“It feels all right,” Sean said. Jonathan then went back to his desk to put the equipment he had used away or to sterilise it. They were alone. He had his chance. Sean took a deep breath, held it and then let it out. He did it twice more. It was struggle to get it out at first but he managed to say it.

“I… I… I... love you… Jonathan.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 14: Confessions

Jonathan froze. He almost dropped the roll of bandages that he had been putting away. He snapped his head towards Sean. Despite his surprise, he couldn’t help but feel what seemed to be happiness in the pit of his chest.

Sean had immediately pressed his hands over his mouth. His heart pounded. Had he really just said it out loud?

He had been planning everything out. He had wanted to mention the time Jonathan first rescued him, and how kind he had been to him, and how he had enjoyed the times he had been able to talk to Jonathan or just be in his presence. How he had been merciful enough to turn him into what he was now and allow him a second chance. He had hoped to speak of the times they had spent together, and how he had felt drawn to the Ekon; how he heard his voice in his head and enjoyed hearing every word, and how he wanted nothing more to be near Jonathan whenever they were close.

His plan was to build up to the feelings he had had since he first met the doctor on that fateful night, everything else that he had remembered, and then tell him that he loved him, or at least thought he did in an attempt to soften what might have been a shocking blow.

How had he forgotten all of that in that one moment? He had even called him Jonathan. He had no right. He was a patient, and a skal. He couldn’t refer to his doctor, his maker, an Ekon, in such a way.

Everything Usher Talltree had told him temporarily slipped away from his mind.

“I’m, I’m sorry!” he stammered out, as he started to stand up again. He did his best to keep his voice steady despite his previous stutter, “I’m so sorry, J- Doctor Reid. Please forgive me!”

He was already thinking that he needed to politely dismiss himself and take his leave before he risked saying something that made everything worse. He should have remained quiet. He could have at least then kept his friendship with Jonathan without making it seem strange.

Jonathan stood in silence, still staring at Sean while he tried to apologise for what he had said. Had he really just heard what he thought he heard? Or was it some kind of figment of his imagination? Wishful thinking maybe?

Did Sean really share the same feelings he had had since he had rescued him and gotten to speak to him properly in Pembroke for the first time? He had been taken in so quickly by the man’s kindness, his strength, and his determination to help others around him, despite everything that he had been through.

He then saw that Sean was starting to stand up and quickly walked over. In the very short distance that he crossed, he felt those feelings he had for Sean amplified. Was Sean projecting his own through their mental link?

How could he have been so blind? How could he have failed to realise? He briefly felt a pang of guilt. In all his other distractions and attempts to ignore his own feelings, how long had Sean been alone like this?

Had Sean been trying to repress it as well? Had he tried to tell himself that it would all pass?

Sean had stopped moving. He was no longer talking. His cheeks had turned red, like he still couldn’t believe what he had just said. He felt completely mortified. He was as ready as he could have been to finally speak about his feelings and he had completely messed it up. He had opened his mouth to apologise again as Jonathan stopped in front of him.

“Say it again,” Jonathan only said.

“What?” Sean was dumbfounded.

“Say it again, Sean,” Jonathan repeated, a small smile forming on his lips, “Please. I would like to hear it.”

Sean swallowed. Jonathan wasn’t forcing him. He managed to find the will to do so.

“I… love you, Jonathan,” Sean said, as he looked up into Jonathan’s blue eyes. He could see a loving warmth behind his stare, “Even before you gave me your blood, I’ve, I’ve felt this way for you since we first met each other. I wanted to bring it up sooner, but, I just didn’t know how, and I didn’t know if you returned my feelings, and there didn’t seem to be a good time to tell you, with the epidemic and all of the efforts you’ve made to stop it. You also had your other duties to think about. It would have been selfish of me. I still worry that I am now…”

He clamped his mouth shut on realising that he had been nervously rambling. He fell into another silence, unsure of what else he could say or do.

Jonathan was looking into his golden gaze. It was so honest; completely sincere. Jonathan was almost certain he could see the earnest adoration Sean had for him behind it as well.

“You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear that, Sean,” Jonathan said, “I will be honest. I felt the very same way for you. I was taken in by how kind and good you are, even after what you had been through. In fact, everything about you drew me like a moth to a flame. But I was hesitant. I feared what you would think, especially after the way I turned you. I never wanted to make you do anything again, and I feared getting too close… I was afraid I would somehow force my feelings on you and make you believe they were yours, with our bond.”

Sean was quiet. He saw that familiar flicker of guilt in Jonathan’s eyes. Jonathan gently reached out and took Sean’s hand in one of his own. His grip was loose, so that Sean could take his hand back if he didn’t want Jonathan to have it. Without even thinking about it, Sean’s fingers wrapped around his.

“Of course, as you said, there were other, more difficult circumstances that I also had to face, but I never wanted to leave you for as long as I did,” Jonathan said, “I should have spoken to you sooner. I should have come to see you. I’m sorry.”

“Please, you don’t have to apologise, Jonathan,” Sean said, “Even when you weren’t doing everything that you had to do, it isn’t always an easy feeling to face, let alone speak about...”

That was what Usher Talltree had told him. Everything the Primate had said slowly came seeping back into Sean’s memory now that he had started to calm down. So it was all true.

“I suppose I was distracting myself as well, despite knowing that I wanted to, needed to talk to you soon, for fear of you might have thought,” Jonathan said, looking away briefly, “I was even considering seeing Usher Talltree and asking for his advice on the matter… just to make sure I wasn’t wishfully thinking or forcing you into feeling the same way as I did for you.”

Sean couldn’t help but laugh. It was a soft quiet sound, but happy and genuine. Despite his confusion as to why Sean found that funny, Jonathan found that he liked hearing it.

“My apologies,” Sean said, “I had, I actually had the same idea. I had gone to see him earlier, to ask about you. About… us.”

Jonathan noticed a brief flicker of anxiety in Sean’s golden eyes.

Sean had found himself unsure of two things. Should he have mentioned visiting the Primate? What about referring to himself and Jonathan as ‘us’? Was that going too far too soon?

Jonathan found himself smiling softly. He didn’t seem at all perturbed by anything Sean had said.

“What did he tell you?” Jonathan asked.

“That there was a strong chance that you felt the same as I do for you,” Sean said, a smile creeping across his own lips, “I, I hadn’t meant to blurt it out straight away the way that I did, but I knew I had to tell you.”

“I’m glad he told you that, and you told me in turn,” Jonathan said, “Because he was correct.”

Before Sean could even get his thoughts together at that, he heard a request without words within in his mind. He quickly answered with a mental 'yes'. Jonathan leaned forward and pressed his lips onto his. It wasn’t forceful and Sean could pull away if he wanted to. But he found that he didn’t. He was briefly stunned, but then he returned it, his heart fluttering in his chest.

Sean’s lips were dry and chapped, and his kiss lacked experience, but Jonathan knew that there was nothing but honesty behind it. Jonathan could feel inside his mind and within the push behind it that Sean had wanted this for so long.

He couldn’t blame Sean, because he had too, even if he had tried not to think about it before. The worries that he had somehow influenced Sean fell away. If this was really what they had both wanted, even before he had offered Sean his blood and created their connection, then he really hadn’t forced him. That was what gave him the most relief.

The kiss was over all too soon. Sean’s heart was pounding. He had thought about doing it again. But then he could feel Jonathan’s pulse against his ear and inside of his veins as the Ekon wrapped his arms around him, pulling him close, and rested his chin on the top of his head. Just like with everything else, his grip was loose, so Sean wouldn’t be trapped. Sean let himself relax into Jonathan’s chest, and as he hugged him back, he realised that he was just where he wanted. He was safe.

A few tears slipped down his cheeks, but this was different. Unlike with the many other times he had wept before over the course of his life, he was happy. Until tonight, he hadn’t realised that it truly was possible to cry from joy. He had just thought that was some kind of exaggeration.

Eventually, they came away. Jonathan looking down into Sean’s gold eyes with his blue. He carefully thumbed Sean’s tears away.

“I love you too, Sean,” he finally said.

 

Despite being reluctant to leave Jonathan, Sean knew he had to return to his shelter before anyone risked noticing his absence. The sun would be up in a couple of hours. Jonathan also knew there was the chance of the staff wondering about Sean staying, especially if it was in Jonathan’s office.

Tensions had been high all over again since that inflammatory article regarding Pembroke had been published. Jonathan had already overheard Pippa Hawkins confiding to Gwyneth Branagan about her plans to resign. There didn’t need to be other rumours on top of that.

Jonathan had decided to walk Sean back to the night shelter. He told Edgar it was simply to make sure nothing happened. Edgar seemed to believe it.

 

Once they stopped outside the shelter, Jonathan smiled down at Sean.

“I suppose this is where we part for now,” Jonathan said.

“Yes, I suppose so,” Sean agreed, “Please take care, Jonathan.”

“Farewell, Sean,” Jonathan replied. He bent down to press a kiss against Sean’s forehead. He liked the way Sean’s lips turned upwards a little at that, “I look forward to seeing you again.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing you too, Jonathan,” Sean said, “A Chuisle mo Chroí.”

Jonathan heard the translation in his mind as Sean said it out loud.

Pulse of my heart.

Chapter Text

Chapter 15: Listeners

“Didn’t I tell you to stay out of trouble?” Usher said, sternly looking up at Bill from behind his glasses.

“And hello again to you, Usher. So did Doctor Reid after he vaccinated me,” Bill said, chuckling as he sat down, “But trouble just doesn’t want to stay out of me. Mister Cox, great name he’s got by the way, attacked me first. Besides, aside from punching him, not a single drop of blood was spilled. A bit of urine, maybe, his of course, but not blood, and it’s not like he remembered. I made sure of that. Gave him the old ‘you’ll listen to me very closely’ routine.”

He had dropped the fake Boston twang for the moment, as though he had finally remembered that he wasn’t in Massachusetts anymore. He had gone back to his normal Cornish accent. He would most likely put the American dialect back on once he left again.

“Fair enough I suppose. But you need to try and be more careful. I believe the Guard of Priwen, particularly their former leader, Geoffrey McCullum, are taking some pity on you because of Russell. They’re not usually this lenient towards vampires. It's safe to say that they still remember Russell's last act of bravery before his demise,” Usher paused on seeing a flicker of sadness in Bill’s eyes. He then continued, “But I highly doubt their patience will last forever. I am only advising caution in that regard. You also don’t need to encourage Edgar Swansea more than he already has been.”

“Yes, you have a point, I guess. I wouldn’t want to get in a fight with that McCullum fellow. Despite having centuries of practise on him, I’m not sure if I could win against one of Cernunnos’ prodigal grandchildren. Guy really gets around. You can smell his descendants a mile off. Powerful. And yeah, Doctor Swansea did seem keen on me. I’ll hope he doesn’t put me in a cage and poke me with a stick or something,” Bill said, “But moving on from that. I wanted to ask if you knew about a certain two people, and the result. I need to know.”

“Yes, I did know,” Usher replied, “And while you don’t really need to, I’ll indulge you. Mister Hampton made his confession to Doctor Reid.”

“And? What came of it?” Bill said, as he summoned a couple of shadows from his back and loosely wrapped them around his own neck in a parody of a noose, “Don’t leave me hanging. I love seeing joyful results.”

“You will have to find out the rest yourself,” Usher said.

“You’re a budding matchmaker,” Bill said, a cheerful smile on his face, as the smoky strings retracted, “You may have brought a happy couple together. Hopefully anyway. You should be proud of yourself.”

“I believe the confession was inevitable, regardless of my involvement,” was Usher’s reply, “All I did was direct Mister Hampton onto a shorter path. The rest was his own doing. But I’m certain that if I wasn’t involved, one of them would have eventually acted.”

“Still, better sooner rather than later,” Bill said, “Could you imagine them pining for a century because they just couldn’t pluck up the courage to say something? Do you reckon they’d still be together after a century, if they do become a thing? I mean, we’ve known each other for quite a while now. To think, us two met properly all because of that Vulkod… that one back in Greece...”

Of course, the brotherhood had known of the old vampire for longer, but that had been indeed been where they had met personally for the first time. He had still been a watcher then. It had also been when Bill had started to become more of an involved ally with them, rather than a subject to observe from afar.

“I suppose we have. I haven’t forgotten about that,” Usher said, “I doubt they would have ended up waiting that long. Regardless, you already know the cards can’t tell me about events that far ahead.”

“I didn’t say the cards, I said you,” Bill said. His tone wasn’t cheeky, like it usually was when he had that kind of response, “What do you reckon?”

Usher was silent for a few moments.

“I reckon that what they might have would take time, and work,” Usher said, “But I personally believe that perhaps they would still be together.”

“That’s great,” Bill said, “What else do you reckon might be in the future? At least tell me one thing. Your predictions are hardly inaccurate, and I want to get an idea of what to expect.”

“It would be more of a speculation than a prediction, William,” Usher said. He decided not to ask what had Bill made think of that all of a sudden.

“I still want to hear it, you’ll probably be right,” Bill said.

“Seeing as I’ve answered your original question, I think you can answer this one first. I’m going to ask you the same,” Usher said, “What is one thing you think could happen in the next hundred years?”

“Well, actually, now that you’re saying it to me… when I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep one early afternoon, I thought…” Bill paused, and then he continued, “Maybe somehow, we’d be able to send short letters to people, instantly, no matter where they are, and then those people could send their own back in the same amount of time, or not if they didn’t want to...”

“Is that right?” Usher asked.

“Yeah. Well that’s just a guess of mine,” Bill said, “Your turn now. What do you think will be in the future?”

“You might think it’s odd, or perhaps not, with your theory there, but this is something I thought could be possible...”

 

Sean had found Jonathan wistfully sitting in the courtyard of Pembroke. He had a notebook in his hand, and he was tapping a pen against the paper, frowning.

“Jonathan?” he asked, approaching carefully. He still found himself not wanting to be intrusive, “Is something the matter?”

“Oh Sean,” Jonathan smiled softly, and shifted so that Sean could come sit if he wanted. Sean did so, “I was, I suppose I was thinking back on the last couple of months, about some of the wrongs I have committed.”

“Only the Lord can judge us, Jonathan,” Sean said, “I won’t force you. But if you wish to talk about it, I will be happy to help you ease that burden.”

Jonathan had a feeling that Sean would have answered in that way. He took a deep breath, taking a moment to work out how to put his words together.

“When I was coming home, I remember being attacked and bitten, then dying. I woke in a mass grave, reborn, and crawled my way out,” Jonathan looked away, “All I could think about was the thirst. It was all that was driving me. I attacked and drained the first person I saw. It was only when I snapped out of my hunger that I saw...”

He paused, gritting his teeth.

“It was my sister,” he continued, “I had killed Mary, after she had spent so long trying to find me.”

“Oh, Jonathan,” Sean’s face became riddled with sympathy and sorrow, “I’m sorry.”

“It gets worse,” Jonathan said, shaking his head, “She… I don’t know how exactly. I can only deduce that she ingested some of my blood in her last living moments. She came back. But she wasn’t herself anymore, Sean. She had been driven mad.”

Jonathan wrung his hands together.

“She clawed her way out her own grave. And she was killing people, trying to draw my attention. In the end, soon after I turned you, I ended up following her to Stonebridge Cemetery, where she revealed herself. She either wanted to kill me, or for me to kill her. I tried to reason with her, but I suppose after everything else she went through, it was all too much. It was like she was nothing more than a shadow compared to the kindness incarnate that she was before. I managed to talk her out of killing our mother, but other than that, I had to kill her all over again. She never deserved that suffering. All I hope now is that she’s at peace, and that she really can forgive me.”

Sean was silent. He hesitated before he gently rested a hand on Jonathan’s shoulder. His touch was tense, as though worried it would be unwelcome. Jonathan reached up to rest one of his on top of Sean’s.

“I think she will, if she hasn’t already,” Sean said, “I think God will give her forgiveness and the peace she had been seeking. As you said, she wasn’t herself, Jonathan. This was not your fault, and not hers. It was very unfortunate. God is bound to see that. I can only imagine the pain it’s caused you. I’m sorry.”

Jonathan managed to smile softly. While he struggled with that idea, he still found it uplifting that Sean’s God was a merciful and kind one. He was also relieved that Sean’s immediate reaction wasn’t to run the other way. He truly was a saint. He did feel somewhat better to talk about it as well.

“When my poor Mary was killed for the first time, I didn’t know what I was doing,” Jonathan continued. He looked down at his notebook and then back up at the sky, “I’ve killed no one else since Mary’s first death. I sustained myself on rats, feral skals, and hostile Ekons, along with mouthfuls of blood from the living, as you witnessed. I even made sure to knock Guards of Priwen unconscious if they tried to fight me, despite a lot of them believing I wouldn't do that.”

He swallowed.

“Like with you, Sean, I turned others, as you already know,” Jonathan said, “I turned Edgar Swansea to save his life. Of course, he’s happy. But I still worry about what he might do if I don’t supervise him closely. I should have been keeping a sharper eye on him when I turned him. I left him a blood sample to drink for when he awakened, certain that it would sustain him enough to return to the hospital, because I needed to create the vaccine for the blood of hate and stop Harriet, and I was running out to time to do so. I thought it would be fine to leave him. But I fear he might have hurt someone. I’m almost certain he did. As I said before, I should have been watching him. I honestly hope he didn’t kill Carolyn Price as well.”

“That’s not your fault, Jonathan,” Sean said, “You said it yourself. You had to stop the Disaster that she had become, and hopefully, he will still have a chance to be redeemed, and be guided to the light.”

“I plan to keep a much closer eye on him,” Jonathan said, “While I still believe his intentions were good when he accidentally created the skal epidemic in trying to cure the Spanish influenza, the methods he used were completely unethical. I had turned him with the hopes that he will indeed atone. He has promised to only use himself as a test subject from this point on, but I do have the feeling that I will need to keep him on a short rope in these earlier stages. He was happy after I turned him, despite my intentions. But perhaps you are right, about him still having a chance to be absolved.”

“I'll pray that he will find that path,” Sean said, “You turned Mister McCullum as well. Was it to save him?”

Jonathan shook his head.

“No, and even though I regret doing it now, I believe he might have turned regardless of my previous choice, due to ingesting the blood of a vampire without realising,” Jonathan said, “He might have already been in the process when I finally bested him after he ambushed me in Pembroke. At the time though, unlike with you and with Edgar, I had no good reason to turn him. I did it in a fit of anger, then left him to turn. The only good thing I did was leave him a subdued feral skal for him to feed on when he awakened. The best I can do for him now is watch over him. I’ve been keeping track of his whereabouts with our mental link, and I feed him sometimes. Understandably, he keeps his distance from me.”

He paused.

“While he seems to have made some peace with his newfound immortality and is still an effective hunter, maybe more than he was before, I know I shouldn’t have done it,” Jonathan said, “I should have walked away. But I can’t change that now. The only thing I can do for the moment is look after him as a maker can, and if I am able to find a way to reverse vampirism, which I’ve been researching along with a cure for the blood of hate since Mary’s death, offer that to him. The choice of whether or not he takes it will be his.”

Sean was quiet while he listened to Jonathan’s confessions.

“Jonathan. I will agree that perhaps that last choice you made wasn’t the best one,” Sean said, “But we have all done things we regret, and it sounds like you are doing what you can to atone. I still believe Doctor Swansea can be guided to the light with you there to lead him, and I’ll be happy to try and help with your tasks in any way I can as well.”

Jonathan smiled softly.

“I know I’ve said it before, but you really are a saint, Sean,” Jonathan said.

“You’ve been carrying all of this for a while, haven’t you?” Sean asked, “I wish I could take that pain from you.”

“I’m so lucky to have you in my life, especially after what I did, when turning you,” Jonathan said softly, “That was something else I had been thinking about lately.”

“I still believe you don't need to apologise, Jonathan. You did nothing wrong and what you did with me was right in the end,” Sean said softly, “You know that. I just hope that in time, you can forgive yourself as well, for all that’s happened.”

Jonathan felt a small smile creep across his lips.

“Thank you, Sean,” Jonathan said. While he knew he would most likely regret what he had done to Geoffrey for a long time to come, Sean’s comfort was deeply appreciated, “That makes me feel a lot better to hear.”

“I’m glad,” Sean replied.

 

Geoffrey was sitting on a rooftop a short distance away. They didn’t show any signs of knowing he was there and able to hear them, despite their hushed tones. He did feel some sympathy, especially after hearing that Jonathan had to kill Mary again. He had no idea that that woman had been Jonathan’s sister. He then felt shock at the idea that he had ingested vampire blood. Surely, Arthur hadn’t been…

He took the flask from his pocket. He hadn’t opened it since that fateful fight. He took the lid off and brought it to his nose. All it took was one quick sniff to find the truth.

“Bloody hell,” was all that he said, as he closed the flask again. It really was the blood of a vampire. But why hadn’t Jonathan told him? Did he feel it better to let Geoffrey believe that Arthur wasn’t? He shook his head, “So I was fucked either way."

He also couldn’t help but be curious about the idea of a way to reverse vampirism as he heard about Jonathan’s other research.

Would he take it if he was offered? It was hard to tell anymore.

He then raised an eyebrow when he saw Jonathan press a kiss onto Sean’s temple and wrap one of his arms over his shoulders after Sean’s kind words.

“God damn it, makes my teeth want to rot just looking at them, acting all lovey-dovey like that,” he said, rolling his eyes.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Bill was suddenly standing next to him, a smile on his face. Geoffrey had to resist the urge to react with any kind of violence or loud noise.

“Where did you come from?!” Geoffrey snapped. It was difficult to keep his voice at a whisper.

“Places,” Bill replied.