As all dates go, Narvin wasn't entirely sure what he was meant to be expecting but he knew that when it came to Irving Braxiatel and despite Narvin making it perfectly clear not to go completely overboard, Braxiatel would do the complete opposite and do it his way. There was no leash when it came to controlling Braxiatel, he was his own persona after all and Narvin already had an idea of how their date was going to be; expensive, romantic and a tiny hint of drama.
Needless to say, as Narvin walked through the Gallery's door where Braxiatel had told him too met, he was greeted with two out of the three options.
Romantic and a bit of drama.
He looked around to see the gallery lit with candles and soft, whimsical classical music was playing in the background and he closed the door behind him, carefully stepping over the candles and towards what appeared to be an unconscious body of Irving Braxiatel in the middle of the gallery. As he walked towards Irving however, Narvin couldn't help but suppress the feeling he was being watched by the paintings, as though they were alive.
Narvin stopped at Braxiatel's feet and placed his hands in front of him, clasping them together and clearing his throat. When Irving made no movement, he cleared his throat a bit louder and nudged Braxiatel with his foot in the ribs. “I know you are awake Braxiatel. I can see you breathing faintly.”
One icy blue eye peeked open before shutting again and then both of them opening to look at Narvin before the other Time-Lord sat up. “Did you really? I thought I was being clever.”
He couldn't help but roll his eyes. “No, you weren't. Was there a particular reason why you were unconscious on the ground anyway? That's not your normal behaviour unless you suddenly got the inspiration to do a bit of meditation.”
Seeing that Narvin wasn't about to offer his hand out anytime soon, Irving picked himself up from the floor and dusted down his suit. “No, I wasn't meditating. Actually, I was attacked.”
He arched an eyebrow and tilted his head but at the same time, he could have sworn that the painting opposite him; the eyes blinked. But that was impossible! Was it? “Attacked? By whom?”
“That's just it, I don't know." He winced slightly and he loosened his collar. "But I have a feeling I know what attacked me." Just there on his neck were two faint bite marks made by what appeared to be human teeth though Narvin had a sinking feeling they were more than that.
He moved closer to Irving and moved his collar slightly and gently touched the marks with his fingers. "A vampire?" He asked in disbelief. It wasn't that such things existed; of course, they did. The Time-Lord's went to war with the Vampires back in the Dark Ages and there was that time they spent on the alternative Gallifrey with Lord Prydon didn't exactly help matters either. "Braxiatel, why in the name of Rassilon is there a vampire on your Collection in the first place?! Are you mentally unstable?!"
Irving harrumphed at that and gave a slight glare in Narvin's direction. "I didn't invite it to tea is that what you are suggesting Narvin, thank you for being so considerate. No, actually, I think the Vampire in question might be after these particular paintings."
Narvin looked around the gallery and once more, he couldn't help but have the slightest feeling that the paintings were watching his every movement and he shivered. "What about these paintings?"
"Don't tell me you've not noticed anything...well, unusual about them?"
"Well, yes," He admitted and looked back at Irving. "It's like the paintings have eyes of their own, like a hawk watching every move I make. But surely I'm just being paranoid?"
"You are correct in the sense they are watching you like a hawk," Irving nodded and he walked up to one particular painting of a woman standing there and as Irving moved closer, the woman's eyes flickered to his direction as though she could sense his every move. "That's because they do have eyes of their own."
Narvin's brows furrowed and he stepped next to him. Not entirely sure he was following him. Narvin was pretty sure both Braxiatel and the Doctor had the habit of making people confused just for the sheer fun of it to boost their ego's."You mean, they have real eyes stuck in the paintings? That's obscured!"
"More than that Narvin. The people in the paintings, they're real. They're alive."Irving explained, lifting up his left hand and rubbing his thumb and finger together as though running his fingers through imaginary grains of sand.
"The paintings themselves or the people inside the paintings?”
Irving gave a heavy sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose. Honestly, how did Narvin cope as being a Coordinator all these years? "You're a Patrex Narvin, you tell me."
Narvin turned his gaze away from his partner and studied the paintings more closely and he could see that Irving was right. The woman's eyes moved when he did and he could see that her chest was rising and falling slowly like a living person.
He turned back to Irving once more. What sort of game was Irving playing at? More importantly, was this meant to be their date?! "If you are trying to impress me on our first date, you are failing miserably."
"This is the Scarlett Gallery. I found it in an auction as many people considered it to be deemed dangerous to have in their possessions," Irving began and he put his hands in his pockets, looking at him with those icy blue eyes of his.
"Why do I have the sudden feeling you are going to tell me it's dangerous history?" Narvin muttered under his breath, knowing he has no choice but to listen.
"In there contained a letter from two gentlemen in the Victorian times from the Planet Earth called Mr Henry Gordon Jago and Professor George Litefoot warning whoever owns the Scarlett Gallery the dangerous of these paintings," Irving continued as though pretending not to have heard him. "And since then it has been kept in the Black Vaults of UNIT and has been passed down until it went to an auction recently."
Narvin shivered as though he felt a draft coming through the room and he looked back towards the door but saw that it was locked before seeing a painting nearby, it's frame rattling somewhat. "If they are real people and they are stuck within the paintings," Narvin began carefully. "Why are they not trying to get out?"
"Oh they are, desperately," Irving replied nonchalantly with a slight shrug. "But it will take them a good few centuries and more for them to try and get out. The paintings restrict their life-forms but the longer they stay in, the more movements they have. Like that woman breathing. Apparently, she has been in there for quite a few centuries before someone noticed she was breathing. The paintings themselves are not special or actually have any value to them. Personally, in my opinion, they are very dull and if they weren't so dangerous, not worth exhibiting.”
"But what has this got to do with the vampire?" Narvin asked, scratching his forehead. "You don't suppose they are connected?"
"Come," Irving held out a hand towards Narvin, wriggling his long fingers. "I'll show you."
Narvin eyed the hand as though there might be a trick hidden under Irving's sleeve and one could never be too careful around Irving Braxiatel as perhaps there was a hidden trick there and Narvin took his hand and allowed Irving to lead him further into the gallery, hand in hand. As they walked, Narvin noticed that there were more lit candles but one or two had gone out before they stopped before a wall with nothing but a golden name tag reading; ' Death on the Platform.'
"The picture's stolen," Narvin concluded and he turned to look at him. "Why out of all the paintings here would the Vampire steal that particular painting? Was there anything special to it?"
"I've only looked at it twice but not had the actual chance to study it," Irving admitted. The gallery itself would never have been opened to the public on the Braxiatel Collection so Irving had no desire to study the painting more than twice. "But nothing remotely interesting about. In fact, it is one of the most ordinary paintings here in this gallery. It shows a group of people perhaps again in Victorian London Era gathering around a dying soldier in one of the London's terminus platforms. However, I have my suspicions that the painting could have held either a personal meaning to the Vampire or it had something valuable inside like a hidden energy source."
That was when Narvin noticed it in the corner of his eye in the corner of the room, he saw a small puddle of liquid and he careful walked over to it and sniffed. "That's paint!"
Irving crouched down next to it, examining the puddle but was careful not to touch it. "Or what we think is paint," He reminded Narvin, arching an eyebrow. Stressing the importance of that sentence. Irving has lived an extremely long time and has appreciated the arts older than oceans on planets and Irving knew that this was no ordinary paint. "I think this paint escaped from one of the paintings and for whatever reason tried to live in the outside world. Or rather, it tried to take a walk."
"But it couldn't," Narvin realised. "Perhaps not the same atmosphere or surroundings it was used to."
"No, quite." Irving mused and then an idea occurred to him and he handed Narvin some keys. "Go to my office and on my desk, there is a file with the letter from Mr Jago and Professor Litefoot in relation to the Scarlett Gallery."
Narvin took the keys but not before arching an eyebrow. "Do you normally leave your files about your collections lying around on your desk?" He would have thought Irving Braxiatel would have had better security when it came to his office rather than just a simple lock and key. But then perhaps, not many people dared ventured into Irving's office for fear what they might find in there.
"Oh yes, just so everyone else can be a nosy parker and take a look into my works whenever they feel like it," Irving replied sarcastically. "No, actually they were left up there because I was looking at the credentials earlier, especially the notes Jago and Litefoot made on the Scarlett Gallery.”
Narvin nodded. “And what are you going to do in the meantime?”
“I'm going to examine this puddle and the paintings a bit more,” He gestured towards the puddle on the ground. “And find out what I can.”
“All right but don't touch it,” Narvin warned. “I know that if you touch it, something bad is going to happen.”
Irving chuckled. “Narvin, this is us we are talking about. Something bad always happens.”
Narvin nudged him in the ribs. “All right,” He scowled. “But...just be careful.”
Irving Braxiatel smiled-a genuine smile that reached his icy blue eyes and he took Narvin's hand in his, caressing his skin softly and Narvin wanted to pull away but it was too late and he felt his cheeks burning as red as the grass back on Gallifrey. “I can't guarantee any promises but I'll try,” He gave a teasing smile before raising Narvin's knuckles to his lip and kisses them.
Narvin spluttered, feeling quite embarrassed by this affection pulled his hand away and cleared his throat. “G-Good,” He manages to speak though he cursed to himself at how stupid that sounds but Braxiatel only laughed before gently shoving him towards the door.
Narvin had spent at least what seemed like an hour, if not more in Irving Braxiatel's luxurious study. He was sat in Irving's armchair behind his desk and he couldn't help but sit it in it comfortably and had to admit his partner had excellent taste in comfort and style. If only the CIA had more funding so they could buy more comfortable chairs such as this but alas, the CIA did not have time for comfort when people were interfering with Time.
He sipped at his cup of coffee and looked at the paperwork Jago and Litefoot had left behind. Humans had never really been Narvin's favourite species but spending time around Leela had made him more open-minded and he had come to respect his savage friend. She had, after all, saved his life far more times than he cared to admit and he owed her more than his life. He would say regenerations but regenerations was a touchy subject for him.
However, Jago and Litefoot were...fascinating. For their primitive time period on Sol 3, they solved cases that not even some of his best CIA agents put together could solve. He was aware that they were previous companions of the Doctor which really shouldn't surprise Narvin but then he noticed something on one of the documents.
“The Scarlett Gallery had been burnt down by Inspector Quick...”
Narvin frowned. If the Scarlett Gallery had been burnt down, how could it still be standing here today? Unless...
Unless somebody stole Death on the Platform and kept it inside a vault for all this time and whatever was in that painting, expanded onto others. That could only be the possible explanation as to how it ended up in the Braxiatel Collection and Narvin had a sinking feeling he knew which painting was at the bottom of it all.
The door to the office opened but Narvin didn't look up, too busy within his studies. "Ah, Brax," He greeted him. "I've found something here which you had missed or you have forgotten to tell me about the Scarlett Gallery in regards to Jago and Litefoot-" He looked up to see Brax, only there was something very odd about him. He was paler than normal and when he moved, Narvin heard a horrible squelching sound. "Are you alright? You look paler than you normally do."
He couldn't help but sniff. Irving smelt different than he did before-almost like dried paint and he couldn't help but have the sinking feeling that this was not the same Irving he had conversed with an hour beforehand.
"I'm... fine," Irving said as though he was testing out his words like a person who had just recovered from a stammer and Irving moved closer to the desk. "It's all right now Narvin...There is nothing to worry about."
As Irving moved closer, it gave him a good opportunity to look at his neck to see the bite marks that were there from before only to Narvin's horror, they were gone. Oh no, had Irving turned into a vampire or something worse? But then again, the bite didn't seem that deep enough to allow something like that to be turned into a vampire. He hoped anyway, but he also noticed it was as though Irving's skin was flaking away and that was more of a bigger worry than the bite marks.
Suddenly, a woman in what appeared to be a dull coloured dress and short, black hair appeared and grabbed Narvin by the hand and pulled him away from his desk. "Whoever you think that is, it isn't."
Narvin gawked at her and wriggled his hand out of her grip until she let go. "Do you know what's going on here?"
"Oh yeah," The woman nodded as the thing in front of them turned around and stared at them. "The name's Ellie Higson. Once close friends with Jago and Litefoot, turned vampire, yadayadayada, been living for centuries and keeping an eye on the Scarlett Gallery until your friend bought it. Or is he your boyfriend?"
"It's a little undecided..."
"Right." Ellie nodded and turned to the creature that was 'Irving.' "You need any help their gent?"
"Help?" 'Irving' replied slowly and turned his gaze towards her. Now Narvin saw him plainly, he could see Irving's eyes were not those famous icy blue eyes that Narvin often found himself gazing into when they were cuddling up on the couch after a hard shift. The eyes were wrong and Narvin knew it deep within his hearts. "Yes... I do need help."
"Irving, what has gotten into you?" Narvin snapped with annoyance and he moved his hands towards him and the thing stepped back, mortified.
"Don't touch me!" Irving hissed but it was too late as Narvin fingers barely brushed against Irving's own and Irving seemed to have a sudden stroke before he collapsed onto the floor in a messy heap.
Narvin blinked, taking a nanosecond to take it in and looked up at her. "I understand my partner can be dramatic at times but this time has taken too far. I've barely touched him!"
"That's what happened last time," Ellie explained. "It's a living creature made of paint trying to create life forms of those it's captured inside the paintings. You see? He's gone already."
He turned to look at Irving only to find that there was nothing there except rotting canvas flaking away and he wrinkled his nose in disgust. "What happened to him? My Brax, that is."
"He must be trapped inside one of the paintings,"
"Trapped?!" Narvin replied, abashed. "Well then, what are we waiting for?" Angrily, he stormed out of Braxiatel's study and down the stairs, heading back towards the gallery with Ellie on his heels.
"You two aren't human are you?" Ellie asked curiously as she walked down. "I gave your boyfriend a bit of a startle and drank a bit of his blood. Don't worry, he won't turn into one, I was just hungry."
"No, we're not." Narvin shook his head. "Shouldn't you be asking consent first for that sort of thing?"
"I would normally, but then I saw my painting and he was in the room so I had to make a quick get-away," Ellie looked somewhat sheepish, hanging her head. "Death on the Platform. I stole the painting once before a long time ago. The painting is that off my brother."
"Your brother?" Narvin blinked. Gallifrey, how much more complicated could this get? It was all coming round in circles but Narvin still didn't know what the main creature in the paint they were dealing with was and he hoped that he could get Irving out of there before it was too late.
"My brother with Jago and Litefoot. You see, before all the Scarlett Gallery, something was running lose like a werewolf but only much worse and if you so much got a scratch or a bite of it, you turned into one of them. My brother was trying to lure it but it got him and... well, poor Jago didn't have a choice but to end his misery." Ellie was quiet for a moment. "I didn't realise it at the time and I was bitter at Jago and Litefoot for hiding the truth as they knew I couldn't bare it."
"But they told you in the end," Narvin figured with a nod as they opened the doors to the Scarlett Gallery. "What did you do?"
"I betrayed them but they forgave me even though I didn't deserve their forgiveness," Ellie sighed and she was silent for a moment as the two looked around to try and find the painting that Irving was trapped in and they both split to go on different sides of the room to make it quicker. Narvin to the left, Ellie to the right.
"I've found him," Narvin broke the silence as he walked up to a large painting that almost went to the floor to ceiling. The picture was of a busy street with Irving standing behind a couple and Narvin could have easily missed him if it weren't for Irving's icy blue eyes that stood out amongst the dull colours of the picture and moved his hand towards the picture but Ellie snapped it back.
"Don't!" She hissed warningly. "If you touch it, you'll become part of the picture."
"I wasn't going to," Narvin snarled and snatched his hand back of her and looked at Irving once more. "The question I have for you Ellie is this. How do we get him out of there and why? What is the purpose of it? I admit I am a Patrex, my Chapter back home appreciates the arts but this... this is almost like murder. Worse than murder."
"I'm not entirely sure how the exact process works but from what I remember from Mr Jago encounter if you step into the picture-there you are." Ellie waved her hand at the picture Irving was in. His eyes staring right at them. "But I assume the main purpose is that the canvas is alive somehow. There used to be a curator bloke who used to look after these paintings and the life source used to go to him."
"Like a high efficient energy source only for life," Narvin concluded. "Real enough to take their place but not enough to endure."
"Exactly. Like rotting canvas," Ellie nodded in agreement.
Now that he and Ellie were standing close against each other, Narvin was about to study Ellie a bit more closely as this was the first time coming face to face with a vampire a bit further when the painting with Irving in begin to rattle, making them both jump. Then the painting began to rattle more; swinging side to side.
"What the-" Ellie blinked, stepping back.
"Irving's the only one that rattling like this," Narvin frowned and it looked like Irving was giving it his best shot. Irving was no Time-Lord of physical endurance but Narvin knew that he was a lot stronger than any mortal human but then the painting fell off the wall with a struggle and on top of Ellie who crashed to the floor.
Ellie screamed but the scream became silent and she seemed to have disappeared underneath the picture. As though absorbed.
"Ellie!" Narvin looked flabbergasted and he carefully lifted up the painting to rescue Ellie despite the fact it might have already been too late and prodded it up against the wall. He studied the painting frantically, trying to spot any sign of Ellie inside it.
Only Ellie wasn't in the paintings.
Someone cleared their throat and Narvin jumped to his feet, startled only to see both Ellie and Irving standing right behind him.
"Ellie! Irving!" Narvin breathed a sigh of relief and moved closer to them before pausing, looking hesitantly between the two. Hold on...this could be another trick and Narvin was not going to fall for it this time.
"It's all right Narvin, we are the real deal." Irving gave a wry chuckle and he stepped forward. "Ellie managed to help me escape the painting. It took quite a bit of strength on both of our parts to get out of it. We just seemed to...” He frowned, trying to think of a way to describe it. “Fall out of it.”
"But you're safe," Narvin replied, his lips twitching up into a smile.
"Yeah, safe and sound." Ellie nodded.
"Thank you, Ellie." Irving turned to face her although Irving couldn't help but realise how alike she looked to his dear friend Bernice. Hmm...he'll have to look into that later. "Despite the fact you did bite me at the beginning.”
"I know, I was just hungry. Can't blame a woman when she's hungry," She gave a smile of her own. "But now I know the Scarlett Gallery is in safe hands and no more innocent victims will fall prey to it. I am certain it will do no more damage.”
"Does this mean you are going to give back the painting?" Narvin asked curiously. “Or will it mean Braxiatel will have to put out wanted posters of an art thief?”
Ellie took out her large bag that she had been wearing and took out the picture and put it up against the wall, staring at it. "Yeah, I think so." Ellie nodded slowly. "Being a vampire is hard. You watch all your loved ones grow old before your eyes and you are unable to do anything about it. Some say immortality is a gift, but I reckon it's a curse."
"It depends what you do with it," Irving replied, putting his hands in his pockets. "If you use your Time wisely. People die all the time, no matter the species."
"So much for being sentimental," Narvin muttered underneath his breath and Irving ignored him.
Ellie nodded. "You're right of course. I didn't ask for this life but what I do with it counts and I want to make Jago and Litefoot proud. I best be off before dawn rises. Thank you again, Narvin. It was lovely meeting you and your charming boyfriend."
Narvin gave a wry smile. "And you, Ellie Higson."
Irving turned to him, looking pleased with himself, walking up to Narvin. "See Narvin? Even Ellie thinks I'm charming."
Narvin looked up at him and see's Ellie disappear out of the corner of his eyes as he shakes his head. "Don't you start.”
“It was like looking through a window out onto the real world, unable to see, touch or do anything,” Irving spoke softly as the two of them were lounging on an antique victorian cream sofa with walnut legs, Irving's back against the arm against the back and Narvin lounging in his arms. “Like someone had stuck my body with glue onto the wall except it was canvas.”
“I can't imagine you being stuck,” Narvin sighed lazily as he kicked off his shoes and put his feet up, entangling them with Irving's to keep them warm. “What are you planning on doing with the Scarlett Gallery?”
“I have a section in the Collection where I keep any artefacts that are considered dangerous or will cause elaborate trouble if they fell into the wrong hands if that's what you are implying,” Irving nodded. “I have sent an urgent email to the removal men with specifically clear instructions to move them there and I will be watching them like a hawk to see how they handle the paintings.”
“What will you do if one of the removal men does fall in?” Narvin asked curiously.
Irving shrugged, taking a sip of his Draconian brandy lazily. “Then he falls in. He should have read the instructions more clearly. Does this give you a problem?”
Narvin let out a laugh and a slight shake of his head before resting it against his chest, hearing both of Irving's hearts beating. “No,” He replied for he knew that Irving was right. He was always right the smug bastard. “Not at all.”