2010: If at every instant we may perish, so at every instant we may be saved. Let us then be prepared to seize upon the smallest advantage. -Jules Verne
Helen pulls John's arm around her and presses into his warmth. One hundred and fifty years later and it's as if no time has passed at all. She remembers the first time John kissed her hand, the first time they danced, the first time he snuck a kiss out in her father's gardens. She remembers when he asked for her hand, and she remembers the night they came together and made a child, made her beloved Ashley.
Helen Magnus feels old these days. Nikola is defanged and John is broken. Nigel and James are dead. Only Helen remains as she was, unchanging, growing ever older behind her young face. With her blood, even poisoned as it was, she expects John might live another hundred years. He's not immortal or invulnerable, and someday she will lose him if he doesn't lose her first. Tonight she clings to the past, clings to John and the life they were supposed to have. There could have been two, instead of five. Her and John, a family. Taking the children to his cricket matches, having tea with her father, living out her allotted days as every other human did.
Instead, Helen Magnus chose science, chose wonder, chose James and Nikola and Nigel as well as John. Even after all the things that have gone wrong, all the fantasies she lets play through her head on nights like this, she doesn't lie to herself: five was a better choice than two. The energy elemental would have gotten to John with or without the source blood, and the lack of teleporation hadn't stopped a serial killer from killing yet. He would have stilled killed, maybe not those particular women, but someone, somewhere. And then she would have been alone, and worse, unable to do anything about it.
Helen has known loneliness in this life she chose, but she would have died lonely in that life she fantasizes about some times. Loneliness has never stopped her before, so she enjoys John's warmth for one last moment and then pulls herself together and pushes forward. She will not die today, there is no need for regrets, not now. They will find Hollow Earth, her and John and Nikola. Will and Kate and Henry and the Big Guy. They will find Hollow Earth and they will find her father and they will find a way to cure this sickness. Perhaps they will even find a way to cure John, to fix Nikola, to give Adam some peace.
It doesn't matter. The sun is rising and John is stirring, and Helen Magnus will face this day and be grateful for the opportunity.
2009: We are all drifting reefwards now, and faith is our only anchor. -Bram Stoker
John and Nikola hunt, it is what they are both best at after all. Tracking, trapping, killing their prey: the Cabal agents who have taken so much from them.
Ashley is dead and James is dead, and now the Five are three. They would both rather be with Helen, but Helen is wrapped up in her grief. John grieves too, and even Nikola feels a little pang for the only scion of the Five, but their grief is a deadlier thing than Helen's. They seek revenge, where Helen still seeks Ashley.
So when they are not killing Cabal scum, they are tracking down their next target. And when they can do neither, they fuck. Against walls, in caves, once in a thunder storm on cliff side in Peru. They crash into each other, wringing pain from each other in their despair, knowing that what they really want can never be had, so settling for teeth and fists and each other instead.
Nikola tastes the blood on John's skin, and it tastes like nostalgia and hate and darker things. They are in a hotel in Idaho of all places, waiting for the next target. A shower isn't going to slow them down, washing off the blood just makes it easier to kill the next one.
The waiting, though, it's the waiting that gets to Nikola. The waiting is what convinces him that John's skin against his is the only good idea that he has ever had. It's the waiting that convinces him to let John push him down on the bed and tear at his clothing with fingers and teeth. It's the waiting that lets him use his human nails to bring up blood on John's back.
Nikola pushes and John pushes back. Nikola nips at John's shoulders, licks over his jugular, and sucks his way down John's body. John loses patience easily, though, and Nikola is quickly face down and panting into the sheets. He leaves a hand on Nikola's back, working him open with the other. It burns and Nikola welcomes the pain. Johnny has always been good with pain. Not with Helen, of course, he'd always been very proper about his conduct with her, at least until the blood. No, John had learned his tricks from James, and James had learned his where all good Victorian boys did: public school. Nikola can't argue that the education wasn't thorough.
John works his way into Nikola's body, letting his fingers dig into Nikola's flank as he does. It's still not enough. "Harder, Johnny," Nikola grunts into the pillow, and John lets loose above him, thrusting with all the might of his considerable frame. Nikola takes himself in his own hands, and even with the difficulty of the angle and the weight of John's body pressing him into the mattress, Nikola comes with John still thrusting. It's not race, but Nikola still wins.
2008: There's an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. -Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
"I like young William," James says once he finds himself alone with Helen. William, of course, isn't his true agenda, but he had been impressed by the boy. Magnus always did pick them well.
"He's been an asset to the Sanctuary," she allows, like she is more worried about him poaching her protege than about attempting to retrieve the thing that made them who they are.
"I'll be gone soon, Helen," James says.
"London isn't that far away, James," she says with a smile. Maybe she cannot even imagine a world in which he does not exist. Immortality has wrought strange changes in his old friends.
"We're all here, all facing unknowable danger. One last time for old time's sake, my dear." He trails his fingers over her shoulder, letting them send his message for him.
She smiles and leans in to kiss him gently on the lips. "Never the last time, James," she says, before pulling him through the door to her bedroom. He doesn't correct her.
James is dead. Grown old before their eyes, sitting in this labyrinth of Helen's father's design. James is dead, and John is kneeling before him, lost. James had looked older, most people do after a hundred years. No one could have expected this, though, no one but James himself. Helen is crying beside him and Nikola looks stunned, as if a fundamental constant of the universe has just changed.
They stay there like that for a long moment, silent and still, until Helen shakes herself. "We have work to do."
"Yes, work," Nikola says faintly.
John nods, and then leans down and gathers James into his arms. Helen tucks her hand into the crook of his elbow, and he transports them both back to Helen's Sanctuary.
"I'll look after him," Helen whispers, before sending him back to retrieve the others.
He means to sit with James when he comes back, but he appears with Will, only to find that Ashley and Henry have not returned. He fetches them back from gunpoint, and then the chaos really starts. Ashley faints, steals the source blood, and disappears. There is simply no time for John to mourn his oldest friend.
1988: What's in a name? That which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet. -William Shakespeare
For centuries it is James and Helen. Nigel is dead, John is gone, and Nikola is hiding. He has been lonely, so very lonely, on occasion. He had never thought to wonder if Helen had had it worse, until she came to him with the request: the embryo that they had frozen almost a hundred years ago. James doesn't argue with her, only asks if she's sure, and then does as she asks. Any little bit of the-John-that-was is better than nothing.
The first eight months go smoothly. James stays in Old City, just to be at hand when Helen needs him. The Big Guy has been wrangling young master Henry, who at seven, is delighted that he is going to be a big brother. The whole tableau is familial in a way James has never felt before.
It is all going so well that James should have expected the fight.
"Amanda," Helen says.
"Catherine," James suggest.
"Brittany," Magnus says, with anger in her voice.
"Elizabeth," he suggests. "What if she lives as long as you, Helen? She can't go through life with a sign saying 'I was born in 1988' painted on her forehead, now can she?"
"Ashley," Magnus says with finality. "Ashley," she repeats and stalks away, leaving him staring.
Even with his vampire-blood amped brain, it takes James an entire day to figure out why Helen had gotten so upset. Those traditional names--the names of their mothers and sisters--those names had been stolen away by John, too.
"Ashley is perfect," he says when he see her again, she nods and lets him hug her, and the fight is forgotten.
And so James is the one who holds Helen's hand as she pushes, he is the one who wipes her brow, and fetches her ice chips, and he is the one who cuts the umbilical cord. He does all the things John should have done, if John hadn't been a murderer and instead been around to be this little girl's father.
Of course, if things had gone as planned, John would not have witnessed any of this. He would have been consigned to the halls to pace, and let Helen and the midwives handle the details as was proper. James thinks, watching Helen hold Ashley for the first time, that he prefers this uncivilized future.
1962: Then away out in the woods I heard that kind of a sound that a ghost makes when it wants to tell about something that's on its mind and can't make itself understood, and so can't rest easy in its grave, and has to go about that way every night grieving. - Mark Twain
No one has seen Nikola since Helen faked his death back in '43, and John is like a ghost, his presence only marked by the occasional rumor of something dark, so James and Helen hold hands and bury one of their oldest friends alone, surrounded by strangers.
Helen can't stay, of course. There is an emergency, something James isn't needed for, but Helen desperately is. She kisses him on the cheek and leaves as soon as Nigel is decently in the ground. There is a wake, and a few of Nigel's young proteges try to convince him to come, but James brushes them off and finds himself an empty bar to hold up. He doesn't want to talk about Nigel the old man, Nigel who died. He wants to tell the stories of the Nigel he remembers. Nigel the brilliant young man. Nigel, the Oxford scholar. Nigel, the chemist, the thief, the Invisible Man.
He wants to tell those boys of Nigel, about the time they had all picnicked in the park and Nigel had been attacked by the swans. Helen had laughed so hard that she had stumbled into the water and had to be retreived by John. There is a faded picture, of Helen and John dripping wet, Nigel looking harassed and James on the ground, laughing. James had hated that camera of Nikola's at the time, but the few surviving pictures are precious to him now.
He thinks it's a trick of the light at first: John standing in the bar's doorway, all back lit and ominous. He's just imagining it, James tells himself. Too much stress, too much grief, but then John steps forward and James knows this is real.
He stands, reaches out and touches John's face. "You're here."
"I am," John says, voice deep and gravely and John.
James throws himself at John. Nigel is dead, cold in his grave, but John looks not a day older than on that fateful night when Nikola plunged a needle full of vampire blood into his veins. John and Helen and Nikola, they will live forever it seems. Nigel is gone. Only James is left to face mortality, and today he has stared into its face more than he can handle.
"I do not want to see you gone, either, old friend," John says, as if his power was telepathy, not teleportation. "I trust, however, that mortality is not too great a obstacle for a genius such as you. That suit of yours is proof. "
"Don't... don't talk," James manages to get out. He cannot listen to the sound of his old friend's--his murderous, traitorous old friend's--voice right now, not even as John tries to acknowledge his fears.
John breathes against his neck, moving upward until his lips almost touch James' ear. "For the moment, stop thinking about death and start thinking about what I'm going to do to you if you come outside with me. I promise it will be delightful."
John's smirk promises sex, but how many people have been taken to their death by that face, James does not know. He doesn't know, and he doesn't want to. And so he follows James out to the alleyway behind the bar. It is dark and dangerously isolated, and as long as John is touching him, James doesn't so much care if it is to kill him right now.
"Do it then," James urges him, hoping against hope the words will stop and the crush of John's lips against his own will rip this torrent of morbid thoughts from his mind.
John leans in, all teeth and ungentle fingers and James gives back as good as he gets. John's rough hand wraps around his cock, and James mimics the movement. It's not graceful, nor loving, but it get the job done. John comes, and James comes, and once his cock is zipped back into his pants, John teleports himself away from the scene.
James stands there for a moment, one hand holding up his pants, and wonders exactly how his life had come to this.
1902: Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival. -C. S. Lewis
Nikola sends her an invitation in his own best hand, and so she comes. New York is ablaze with electrical lights, and Nikola is like a proud father, showing her the sights. The train ride is short, but she doesn't find herself wandering far from Old City these days.
He finds it amusing to announce himself celibate, and then parade her in front of his admirers. Nikola always was an egotistical bastard, and the vampirism hasn't helped one bit. She lets him preen, and then directs them back to his laboratory where the real work of the evening is to be done. Wardenclyff Tower is a monstrosity, half finished and built for utility, besides. And whatever Nikola wants her for, it has had him on edge all evening.
Nikola takes her back to his private lab, locking the door behind them. She supposes this is why Nikola called her down here, and is surprised when he lifts a finger to his lips to quite her.
"Edison had her locked up in his lab," Nikola whispers, as he motions to the girl curled up on his cot, fast asleep. She looks too thin, and a crackle of energy runs just below her skin.
"She's an astrapiad, a lightning nymph," Helen says. "I didn't know that there were any left alive."
"I don't know where he found her or what he did to her, she won't tell me," Nikola says. "I would keep her here, but..."
"You stole other things when you broke into Edison's lab," Helen says.
"Breaking in is such a gauche term, Helen. Let's say, I procured a few items while rescuing the damsel, here."
"Oh, Nikola," she replies with an amused sigh. "I shall see her safely back to the Sanctuary."
Later, after Helen has checked the nymph and been assured of her health and his provisions, she retires with him to the half finished chamber he is using as a sitting room. He pours himself a glass of wine, and then one for her when she nods to his wordless question.
"Helen," Tesla says.
"Nikola," she sighs, interrupting him, "You did a good thing. It's just that I am so tired of the pain living creatures inflict on one another."
"As am I," he responds. "I'm forty-six years old and I'll look thirty for the rest of my life. The world is changing around me. I'm changing the world around me, and yet, I find that I miss Oxford. Things were simpler back then."
"Simpler," she repeats, and then lays her head on his shoulder and says nothing at all.
She falls asleep there, with her head still on his shoulder, and if that is what Helen Magnus chooses to gift him with, well, Nikola will be content for this moment.
1898: I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes. -Edna St. Vincent Millay
They had been called to London, and taken up the mantle of the King's assassins. This was not at all what Helen had meant to do when she discovered the way to unlock these powers of theirs.
They are procrastinating. None of them really care to chase Adam through the rainy streets of London, though they've all been convince by the blackmail hanging over their head to at least look, even though they have found and disabled the toxic booby trap Adam had left behind. Let Adam blow the fools sky high, it is more than the arrogant bureaucrats deserve, Helen thinks. If only the innocent people where not in his way, Helen might walk away from this all right now.
Nigel is out showing the flag, more to be rid of the rest of them than to accomplish anything. Things are tense between the Five, snipping and sniping They have retired to her father's library as if it were those halcyon days of Oxford again, halcyon; except for the fact the Watson is refilling his glass as soon as it empties, except for the fact the Nikola's eyes are ringed black, except for the fact John won't bloody stop pacing. Someone, Helen thinks, is going to hit someone, and soon.
It's James and his target is John. John doesn't even try and duck out of the way, just takes the punch square on the chin like he deserves it. Perhaps he feels like he does. Helen thinks he deserves much worse then a simple bruised jaw. She had bribed and cajoled her way into the Shoreditch mortuary, where Mary Jane Kelly's body lay. Not peacefully, no, John's knife had ripped whatever peace Miss Kelly ever had in this life away from her. Ten years is not enough to dull Helen's horror. Nor is it, however, enough to dull the pounding of her heart when John enters a room, either. It is a sickening state of affairs, and one she cannot conceive of a solution to.
James hits John again and this time John falls to the floor. Nikola looks to her, as if for permission to intervene, but she shakes her head, and he retreats to her side as the two men continue to grapple.
"Shall I escort you elsewhere while these two brutes pummel themselves into a pulp?" Nikola asks, as James hits John once again.
"No, Nikola, let them continue if they will." She does not know why she does it, maybe it's the alcohol, maybe it's the lack of sleep, but she leans in and kisses him. It's a gentle thing, the barest brush of lips against lips. Nikola is too stunned to seek more.
John and James freeze in place, as if they were Akhilles and Hektor on an ancient Greek vase.
Finally, John manages to choke out her name. "Helen," he says, and his voice is heavy with lust and hate and want and other things she had forced herself to forget. His nose is bleeding and his lip is split and while the blood on his hands is invisible, she still knows it is there. And yet, he is John. He takes a step towards her, and so she kisses him, as well.
In the end, she decides to take them all to bed. She can't let herself want just John, nor bear to leave him behind, and if she is to have John, then it would be cruel and possibly foolhardy to leave James out. And if James and John come to her bed, Nikola will just pout at being left alone, and she has already kissed him, besides. Perhaps the wine has gone to her head, or perhaps she is just trying to recreate the past. Either way, Helen beckons, and her boys follow.
Adam Worth dies, and once again the Five scatter to the winds. John stays only long enough to inform them of Adam's demise and Nigel disappears with Tesla in tow mumbling something about mud and proper laundering. James sees her safely home, and then she is alone.
Her father rarely makes appearances in England these days, and never without warning. The manor is hers, to run in whatever way suits her. So she shuts herself away for a week, and pretends as if she is not sulking. Then she begins to make plans. It is time to leave England, she thinks. She is not the King's pawn, to kill as ordered. Adam is dead by her hand, and that is more than enough.
She realizes she is pregnant around the same time she starts packing to leave the country for good. She goes directly to James. John, she loves almost as much as she hates, why else would she have done something so stupid, but James, James she trusts with her deepest secrets.
He says he can fix this, freeze this child until one day Helen is ready, and so she lets him do the procedure, and when she is well enough to travel, she runs away to America and leaves James to keep safe her and John's unborn child.
1888: If it were possible to cure evils by lamentation and to raise the dead with tears, then gold would be a less valuable thing than weeping. - Sophocles
Nigel watches as John tears them all to pieces. John and his bloodied hands. John and his dead prostitutes. Helen retreats from them all, betrayed and grieving, not speaking to any of them, not even her father.
James does not take the news any better, booking passage on the first steamer to India that he can acquire. India is not a place James himself would have picked, no, Nigel knows this is Mr. Conan Doyle's work, and better Arthur than Nigel to deal with James in a mood like this. Especially after the words they had traded when he had realized that James had liberated every drug of any consequence from his laboratory. Nigel was a chemist first, before he was Helen Magnus' pet project, and long before he became the invisible man. Cocaine, morphine, laudanum, opium, there had been hundreds of pounds of drugs liberated.
James, perhaps, was betrayed as much as Helen, and so Nigel tries to let the transgression go. Nigel has long suspected that where Helen's sense of propriety had halted John before the source blood, James had had no such barriers for the man. After the source blood, well, none of them had cared for anything more than the mere illusion of propriety. John had that way about him, and where James and Helen were both geniuses when it came to science, when it came to John, it was if they had no brains at all.
Nigel thinks he and Nikola will be the ones who hold them together, but Nikola is so much more effected by the blood than the rest of them. Nikola gets twitchy, flashing claws as he paces the Magnus manor, hissing under his breath. Nigel watches Nikola, and watches Helen's father watching Nikola and knows that if something doesn't break soon, either Nikola will go back to drinking human blood or the good doctor will order them all out of his house, and then Nigel will have to deal with Nikola all by himself.
So Nigel plans his first major heist. It's always good to have an escape plan, even when you are an invisible man. Being invisible won't stop James' knife, nor having Nikola foisted off on him if Dr. Magnus finally reaches the end of his wits, and Nigel is not from a wealthy family, nor does he have personal resources of James or John. All he has is his talent, and if his talent can win him a place to stand in this storm, so be it. John is out on the streets killing women, a little theft can't be that bad.
Nikola swallows down the pills that Helen thought up and Nigel brought into being. They dull the cravings for human blood, though a swan-like neck still tempts him on occasion. He wonders if Helen really thought John could be cured of his murderous ways by a pill that she and James and Nigel managed to fabricate in the lab. Perhaps she had. It doesn't matter now, John is gone. In the wind, as the police would say.
Nikola sighs and sips at his wine. It's been almost a year since he last experienced alcohol's delights, and at the moment he might just give up these powers to be drunk. James hadn't been sober at any point between Helen announcing John's guilt and running away to India, and if Nikola had matched him glass for glass and needle for needle, he'd still be as sober as a maiden aunt. Though, having actually met a few maiden aunts, he is beginning to doubt the veracity of the saying.
He has let himself go for a month. He has scared the servants and earned the elder Dr. Magnus' disdain. John is gone and James is gone and Nigel is robbing banks for heaven's sake. Nikola is going to have to be the one to fix things.
He puts his plan in motion on a Monday morning. It is always good to start things at the beginning after all. "Helen?" he calls to the closed door in front of him. She's been in hiding since she and James identified the body dragged from the Thames as John. Her gender and her grief at her fiancee's death have kept her protected from the presence of most people, but Nikola isn't most people, and he is her friend. Besides, Helen's father has quit the house and gone to Barbados, leaving Nigel, of all people, in charge.
"Come on, Helen. You know what a nuisance I can be if I don't get my way. You should give in now, before I start singing. In Serbian," he says. He cannot carry a tune to save his life, or anyone else's hearing for that mater. When there is no response, he starts humming.
"Very well, Nikola. I shall come to tea, but you must give me leave to prepare myself," Helen says, voice still rough, but now holding that hint of amused annoyance that he has so missed.
"Thank you, Helen."
1886: The sound of a kiss is not so loud as that of a cannon, but its echo lasts a deal longer. -Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
In the morning Helen Magnus will blame this on the euphoria of the source blood, on adrenaline and joy. Her father is in Argentina and the servants have long been banished from the laboratory wing. There is no one to stop this. Right now, Helen Magnus is too distracted by the feel of John's tongue and Nikola's fingers, by the brush of James' skin against her own, and the warmth of Nigel's breath on her neck. Her blood pounds in her veins curling around that older blood, drawing it into her, changing her very self. She feels like she could leap mountains, fly across the skies, or perhaps move the world without Aristotle's lever.
James huffs, bringing her attention back to the bed, and the men sharing it with her. They are impatient men for all their persistence. She knew this of course, has known this for years, and yet had not considered it when she allowed Nikola to plunge that needle into her arm earlier this evening. She was to go first, the men to wait. A month perhaps, at least a week. Long enough to make sure she doesn't drop dead or worse. Instead, they had waited a mere hour, and then Nikola had done the honors for the other three, and James for Nikola.
Perhaps it had been her giddy laughter, or the way she could not stop herself from touching them against all propriety, that led to this. The blood is a high better than opium or hashish, or any of the things Nigel had created in their laboratory. Every touch is amplified, every movement enhanced. Helen wants to lose herself in this and never come back.
She thinks, as she comes under John's tongue, that they have created themselves gods this night.
James Watson watches as his companions lie sated, drifting off into sleep. John and Nikola are wrapped around Helen, and Nigel snores gently at their feet in the bed Helen's father had provided for John in a room off their laboratory. The elder Magnus knows the sleep patterns of scientists, being one himself, and if he had had anything else in mind when providing this room, James can only speculate.
Only James remains awake of the five crowded into this bed, gently running his fingers over John's broad shoulders. He presses a kiss into that same shoulder, an act that before tonight he would not have dared, and then sets about clothing himself. After all, James has always been the responsible one, even when overwhelmed by the crazed rush of vampire blood and his own hormones.
He wakes Nigel first, sending him back to the cot in the laboratory, clothes in hand. Nigel has spent so many nights on that cot that no one will think anything of it. Nikola is next, looking like a sleepy little boy and not the first true vampire the world has seen in a generation. He grumbles softly, interrupted only by his own yawn. Nikola has an uncanny ability to avoid detection, something sneaky about his character before even the claws and the teeth appeared, and so James sends him back to his own rooms, trusting him to avoid prying eyes and wagging tongues. And hopefully not to turn anyone he can't avoid into an unwilling snack.
Helen is next, and she is light enough that he scoops her up in his arms, leaving John alone in his own bed. It is not his place, but tonight, James doesn't care. He carries Helen back to her room, stepping across the threshold which is not his to cross at all. How fiercely he does not care at this moment. "Sleep tight, dear Helen," he whispers into her hair before pulling the covers over her.
With that task completed, James returns to his own quarters and wonders what the dawn will bring.
In the morning, Helen wakes up alone, in her own bedroom, feeling as if she had been trampled by stampede of new world Buffalos. There is a glass of water at her bedside, and once she gets herself up, she drains it dry. Helen looks down, she is in proper night dress, and she wonders exactly how she had gotten this way. She remembers Nikola and the needle, the intense euphoria, and then stumbling into John's bed.
She does a more thorough investigation. There is a wound on her inner thigh, where Nikola had bitten down and then lapped greedily until James had pulled him away. She remembers it feeling good at the time, though now it aches a bit. It is neatly bandaged, as skilled as if she had done it herself. There are other marks, from fingers and from other teeth, but nothing that cannot be hidden away. She and John had danced around the bounds of propriety before, but there had never been marks to hide, or things to actually be guilty for. Now, everything has changed, and Helen Magnus finds she doesn't care at all. This brave new world is all hers, and there is nothing about last night she will choose to feel guilty for.
1885: Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future. -H. G. Wells
John gets a cold, and James tells him to see a doctor.
"It's nothing," John says, "just a minor malady."
A week later, John is coughing and James is fussing like a mother hen. "A doctor, John."
"It will clear up just as soon as this infernal cold spell breaks," John says, and pulls on a coat. James just shakes his head and retreats from the field.
Four days later, James barges into the flat with a coterie of followers behind him, and John just pulls the blankets back up over his head. He feels as if he is a woman laced too tightly into her corset: every breath is torture and every movement liable to cause him to fall over in a faint.
"John, I brought a doctor since you were obviously not going to do anything about this, and I don't fancy you dying and having to dispose of the corpse," James says. "This is Dr. Helen Magnus, and hold your tongue, she is the best doctor I know.
John has known James since he was eleven and James a wise old man of fourteen. They are brothers, and other things beside, and so if James vouches for the woman doctor, John will play along.
"This is her assistant, Mr. Nigel Griffin," James is saying, though John isn't really paying attention, " and this is Mr. Nikola Tesla, who is just following after to be bothersome, I suspect."
Nigel ducks his head and smiles, but Nikola just rolls his eyes and wanders off, presumable to poke about their cabinets.
"Now, Mr. Druitt, let us see about getting you better," Dr. Magnus says with a smile, and John thinks he may just be in love. He's looking forward to finding out.