Icy cold, the water pulled at one's clothes, the weighted fabric coaxing the body to sink deeper into the water's frigid embrace. The steam engine had blown and most of those on the ferry had been able to board one of the four life boats it carried. But some had not been so fortunate. One sailor had died in the explosion and now a few lifeless and yelling bodies bobbed or floated, face down, in the water. Those that bobbed, clung to drifting debris, their only hold on life. Green eyes moved through the floating and bobbing bodies, beside the blue gaze that was also searching. Then the green eyes blinked and locked onto the pale creature in its ragged garbs, and that is how the man, John Seward, came to know the icy water. He jumped in and swam to the limp demon that held onto a section of wood paneling, drifting with the swells. The human caught the piece of wood in his numbed hand with a scowl while another hand grasped Alucard's shirt and pulled on it. But the vampire did not relinquish his hold on the wood as the man tugged on him, clinging to the wood as well to keep himself afloat.
"Mercy, John Seward." A low whisper drifted over the sound of the breathing water, freezing the movements of the human's chilled limbs. The cries of the injured that were bleeding out into the sea and of those that were desperately trying to keep their heads above the water, took to the air. The man and the beast drifted in the water while John's body gave a sudden shudder from the cold. The whisper came again, parted by preserved seconds of chilled time. "Leave me here. Let the wood rot, and I, drown."
The green eyes stared, blinking at the water that trickled down from his brow. John glared at the prolonged contact his hand had maintained with the vampire's back, and he tore at the clothing as he wrenched at the creature to dislodge him from the wood. "Let go, Vampire! Dr. Hellsing!" John called, straining his neck and spitting out salted water when he looked back at the slowly approaching row boat. "Dr. Van Hellsing! The creature refuses to let go!"
With a sudden urgency, Alucard pushed the wood away and John had to quickly wrap his arms securely around the demon's torso in order to keep him from sinking like a stone in the water. With grunts and laboring lungs choking on one or two mouthfuls of sea water, the mortal made his way towards the boat and Abraham Van Hellsing's awaiting blue gaze. In his arms, against his own shivers that began to fight the cold assaulting his body, Seward was startled when he found that the creature he was dragging along with him was trembling in a pathetic, helpless way, with increasing severity as they drew closer to the blue orbs, as icy as the water they swam through.
John firmly grasped the side of the boat and men grabbed him and his clothing while other hands appeared, pulling up the shivering vampire. John watched Alucard as they were separated and pulled onto the row boat. Those on the boat softened John's impact against the floor, but the vampire was thrust into the wood, his head forced down into the collecting water that poured from his hair and garments. Red dye swirled into the water when the white face was scraped across the rough wood as the rocking of the boat challenged the men's balance. In momentary confusion, a man fell onto the demon but immediately shoved it away in disgust, pushing himself up to his knees and then to his feet. John sat in the water, without knowing it, so he flinched when a warm, gentle hand helped him to sit up on one of the boat's benches instead. A cloth like a blanket was thrown over the shivering man's shoulders and John looked up and smiled sheepishly in response to Abraham's aid, slightly embarrassed that he had needed such assistance. "Thank you…Dr. Hellsing."
Hellsing smiled back at the expression and nodded. Then the blue gaze found the black form of his vampire, and he lost the smile to have it become a snarl. John jerked at the hard kick that landed in the creature's stomach, forcing a wet cough to dribble water from Alucard's lips. The red eyes of the limp creature were closed, as they had been since John had retrieved the demon. "You, Slave, do not make things so difficult! You will be punished for this!" Hellsing hissed, grinding the bottom of his boot into the red clouded water beneath it, and then sat beside Seward with a sigh, apologizing for the accident he had no part in causing, as well as for the young man's trouble with the beast. Aged hands patted the young man's shoulders and fixed the rough blanket around him more tightly. "Don't let yourself become sick, John. I'd feel terrible if you did. I shouldn't have taken the vampire along. It was thoughtless of me to turn a simple trip into an assessment of the vampire's ability to endure transportation over water. I'm very, very sorry, John."
"I'm fine Dr. Hellsing, please, please don't bother yourself with me. I'm perfectly fine."
He smiled at the rambling older man, moving his shoulders to discourage Abraham's hands. "A little water isn't going to kill me."
The man smiled as well, warmed by the humor. "Let's hope not." The two chuckled, and gradually the green eyes ventured over to the black form lying on the puddled floor, pressing itself into the side of the row boat under the handle of one of the oars that were soon to be in use. The green eyes were distracted when Abraham claimed his attention with the start of a substantial conversation pertaining to what could have caused the explosion.
John Seward had several interesting patients that consumed his working mind, though none of them were able to capture him in quite the same way as Reinfield had. But, with the recollection of the fear the vampire possessed, reserved for Van Hellsing, John could not help but become distracted. It interested him, deeply, now that he considered the memory in full proportions and what implications it hinted to, how an undead tyrant could come to fear a kindly mortal, such as Dr. Van Hellsing. Well, kindly only went so far, John's reflection frowned in the window he faced, reminding himself of the kick he had observed. Van Hellsing was kind to humans and moral individuals. His hatred could be said to be set aside for demons and their like.
But it was easy to pity any creature subjected to abuse, and whose mind is besieged with fear. John would have to speak to Van Hellsing about his methods of domesticating the creature and the nature of the use it was being put to.
Abraham stared at the young man until the pure color of his eyes undermined John's resolve, and his stance on compromising Hellsing's experiments to ease the strain that was being laid onto the demon, collapsed into a series of embarrassed coughs and apologies. Hellsing said nothing, watching the man's anxious, unnecessary movements. John let his attention fall to the charming correlation of wooden tiles of slightly different, yet perfectly natural, hues. When John became quiet, Abraham nodded with understanding softening his expression.
"Fear is the best tool I have at my disposal, John. If the Vampire did not fear me, he would challenge me at every turn, like an insubordinate child used to getting his own way. But, as a cunning, brilliant, and perverse child…his mind would twist my own, and he could perhaps overwhelm my intentions, or he might even convince me to release him. Keeping him in a state of anticipation, wary of every action he commits as his punishments are kept unknown and always varying, I am cutting down any determination he might amass to rebel against me. It seems like cruelty, and in many ways it is, but it is a necessary precaution I must maintain. He needs to fear me, to know that Man presides over beasts, that I control him and that he can never control me."
John looked at the man, listening quietly to his logic. When he was finished he kept his gaze leveled with Hellsing's. "But, as time progresses there arises the threat that the Vampire will grow used to one method or another, and the level of pain, the inducement of fear, must be raised…or else your tactic becomes…obsolete, so to say."
Abraham was already nodding, as if agreeing with a well-known and conservative stance. It was as if, to him, John's words were simply restating what he had already said. "Yes, so, as I said, the punishments are kept inconsistent and varied. One might be purely psychological, such as denying him his coffin, which is right now being implemented. He is reminded of his nonexistent rights as an individual being. He is under my control and at the mercy of my whims, without any hopes of changing any of this without pleasing me. Another punishment would be pain, which is the more disturbing, but very effective, though it is the one that he is most likely to grow used to. We use him in experiments, so not all of his punishments are purely destructive, although I can't say taming the monster is strictly destructive. We have collected a significant amount of data."
"But you also hurt him in other ways, Dr. Hellsing?"
The tone had darkened substantially, dimming the hospitality in Hellsing's eyes. Abraham watched the firm, removed expression on the man's face. "When it is necessary, John. You do recall that Alucard is a monster, that he did turn that dear girl you were so fond of…I'm sorry." Hellsing gave a grim, sympathetic smile to the flinch his words received, but his face relaxed with the knowledge that John had not forgotten Lucy's fate. "Would you like to sit down? There is no need for us to be standing, I have quite a few indulgently comfortable chairs." The smile brightened, lifting the darkness from John for a time as the two proceeded to the sitting chairs in the man's study.
John lowered himself into the sitting chair, and his eyes widened as the pliant cushioning molded to the contour of his body. His arms collapsed, lying languidly on the armrests as his fingers strummed the soft leather. He closed his eyes with a hum that humored Hellsing so that when John opened his eyes, the old man was chortling. John smirked, attracting the man's attention. "These are almost sinful, Dr. Hellsing."
Chuckling, the man grinned. "It's my vice. Books and comfortable chairs, John."
And so, the two returned to their friendly relation and enjoyed an afternoon of discussions and tea. The subject of the vampire did not reemerge until the sun was setting over the blushing horizon.
Books and comfortable chairs never seemed to be a real sin until John entered the dank and lightless crypt of the Hellsing manor, a dungeon crypt of stone that entombed the undead beast in the bowels of the Earth. It was hostile and cold. Green went to the old man when he spoke, observing the same characteristics of the cell that unnerved the young man.
"Can you believe that human beings were kept in conditions like this, John? They once rounded up potential Jews and witches and tortured them and then threw them in cells like these until they either confessed to what they were accused of being, or their body's systems broke down with a lack of exposure to the sun."
Abraham eyes continued to roam about the cell, standing in the doorway. John's eyes were fixed onto the man. "And yet you keep a demon in here?"
Hellsing's gaze flicked to the younger man and some of his relaxed demeanor stiffened. "Vampires don't need sun, John." He returned, quietly, and then stepped forward to remind his friend that the demon was in the cell, listening to them. His lantern lifted, shedding light on the opposite wall of stone, and then traveling to a corner, and then to the left. There, the white of the vampire's skin picked up the light and revealed his withdrawn position in the corner, staring at the men with wide eyes that darted between the two. As they came closer, the creature visibly leaned away from them, into the stones.
He's afraid of us, John breathed, staring at the creatures flickering eyes that gained and lost the light of the lantern as they moved. The demon was sitting, his knees touching his chest as his hands dug into the grooves of the stone floor, gripping them so that the tendons in his hands rose with strain and the stones themselves seemed to become compressed in the slightest way, threatening to shatter in the demons hands so that their vengeful shards might pierce his flesh, driven deeper by his own clenching fist.
The monster is a stone, and Van Hellsing is the hand that has captured it. John blinked, unable to look away from the hands until he felt the urge to see the vampire's face. It was pure, unadulterated, helpless terror that coaxed a whimper from the beast's throat as his eyes were fixed on his master's face. No being should ever acquire such fear of another. It was sickening to watch, but John endured his churning stomach acids as Abraham went forwards and set the lantern on the stones, dropping the handle so that it struck the metal cap while the man crouched beside it. His hand, stretching out towards the creature, widened the red eyes until they could grow no larger and the demon had flattened himself into the corner completely, stricken with paralysis when he could move no farther. A whining keen started up and continued when the vampire's eyes snapped closed and Abraham's hand petted his hair, all in the semblance of a man touching a dog. When the creature began to shiver John's throat burned with bile. But when the vampire began to cry with blood dribbling from his eyes, too viscous to be water, John turned away, his teeth grating so savagely against one another as his jaw clenched, they felt like they would fracture at any moment.
Abraham nodded at the tears, satisfied, and he patted the demon's head before looking back at John. He saw only the man's back, so he stood and slowly walked towards the open door, with his lantern in hand, following John who had begun to walk when he heard Hellsing take up the lantern. They entered the dimly lit corridor of stone outside the cell, and Abraham shut and latched the door. When enough distance had been put between the humans and the monster's cell, John finally spoke with an exhaling growl.
"It's too cruel, Dr. Hellsing."
Van Hellsing shook his head, glancing at the young man and then the blocks constructing the corridor as their shoes clacked against the stones. "It only seems that way, John. You must keep in mind…what Alucard is."
"Why did you name him Alucard?" John shot back suddenly, heat in his tone and a glare directed to the man. His hands moved with a jerk through the air, illustrating his anger as he hissed at the corridor, no longer looking at Abraham. "You possess him like a beast, Dr. Hellsing, but that creature is not an animal. And even as an animal, it is wrong to treat him as you do. It is debased cruelty."
Abraham blinked, his mouth a dull line, watching the side of the man's face. "Debased is not what it is…there is no displaced honor in doing something that is unpleasant, but absolutely necessary."
"It is!" John insisted with a glower.
Van Hellsing stopped and scowled at him, disappointment and frustration growing imminent. "If you were in possession of a kingdom that was to be attacked by an enemy force, would you not gather your soldiers and wage a defensive war in response? Would you not slaughter your enemy to save your own people?" John moved his hand, about to interrupt, but Abraham raised his voice and lifted his own hand. "Would you not torture the captured enemies to gain information that would save hundreds of your subjects? Spare villages from the pillage, rape, and plunder that would burn them to the ground? Would you not do everything in your ability to save them?"
John jaw clenched and released before he could spit out his words, vehemence poisoning his tongue. "You think yourself a king now, Dr. Hellsing?"
Abraham gasped, a force striking his front with the accusation. His eyes burst with light as true anger flared in the man. "A king, John? What is this? Since when have you had this perception of me?" He gestured to himself with a growl. "It was an analogy that perfectly fits the situation! I stand at the helm of the human force that is wading into the waters of death to protect the living from the rising dead! I am a leader, nothing noble, but a leader that has the responsibility of saving mankind from an invading enemy force!"
It was quiet, the anger fading, only kept by stubbornness as John looked away, his arms crossed over his chest and a frown still tipping his lips. "It's medieval and barbaric."
"And what would you do differently?" Hellsing stepped forward abruptly, startling John who stared at him as the older man's raised volume echoed briefly, hitting the stones.
John had to look away again, close to defeat. There was no complete victory now, only a resolving compromise was possible. Calmly, with easing features he looked into the bright blue eyes until they too softened and calmed. When the atmosphere was cooled, John cautiously proceeded. "Is isolation necessary for him as well?"
Hellsing frowned, reading into what the question implied. "Do you think it's better to have two Vampires in that cell? That one is not enough?"
"No." Came the curt response, loathe to that outcome. "But… What I'm saying, or rather asking, is whether or not I might-"
"I want him to fear humans, John." Abraham kept his frown.
"What about one exception?" John smiled awkwardly, surprising Hellsing into losing his frown and slipping his hands into the pockets of his trench coat. "You control him with fear, but you could also control him by attaching him to another. Fear and his only release from it, his sanction in your hand, you only strengthen your grip."
It was quiet as Hellsing took the time to mull over the proposal, looking at the wall to think, and then at the man to consider the possibly pros and cons of the option. He could always end it if he changed his mind.
John smiled at the question, making Van Hellsing sigh and resume walking again. "I would benefit from having you company more often as well, to put that in your mind. And the answer to my question?"
"Once a week, but I'll send a telegram to warn you prior to my intrusion."
John gazed warily upon the metal door, breathing steadily. Abraham had offered to accompany him, but they both knew the creature wouldn't benefit from his presence, so he had not objected when John declined his offer. The vampire wouldn't be able to harm him, not even if John told him too. That was both reassuring and disturbing. For a creature to be denied the right to his prey, and instead made to fear its prey… John closed his eyes with a deep breath that jolted his previous rhythm and he nodded sharply to himself.
The door screeched as it slid open, bringing John to wonder if it had been this loud during his last visit. Light stretched towards the wall and then climbed the stones. The door was abandoned this way, and the yellow light of the lantern floated as a halo in the midst of the gloom in the cell. John adjusted the focus of the light, concentrating it into a hazy beam he allowed to drift along the wall, to the left corner, and then the right where he found the huddled creature staring back at him. It was unnerving to have eyes watching one in the dark, without being able to see them as well. John watched as the light glinted in the red eyes. With soft steps, he approached the corner, in the manner he had determined would be the best way to move towards the creature.
Ten feet away from the vampire, John hesitated as he saw that Alucard still wore an expression of fear on his face, though it was milder than his fear of Van Hellsing. When the man took another step, the mortal gasped. The demon had disappeared, but a blur of motion took the green eyes to the left corner of the cell. The vampire occupied the corner, watching him with the same tormented eyes. John paused, and then went forward, to go to the demon. Ten or so feet away from the creature, it suddenly disappeared again, turning John's head back to the corner he had just left. But it too was empty. The man spun, with the lantern swinging slightly, and found the next corner of the cell, behind him.
The red eyes glinted, reflecting the light, as watchful as ever.
Damn he's fast. The man blinked a few times and then started in the vampire's direction. Alucard fled from the human, leading John in an endless circle. Finally, the man admitted defeat when the demon disappeared when he was barely thirteen feet from the beast. John sighed, lifting his lantern to search for the red eyes. They peered back at him, a pale hand touching the ground, showing that Alucard was ready to disappear again if the mortal continued. John removed his eyes from the demon and walked towards the center of the cell, taking the moving red orbs with him, though they now burned in the shadows, without the light on them. The man stopped, bathed in the light coming from the open door, and his hand slipped into his coat when he drew out a small book. Without looking at the vampire, John bent down and set the book, swaddled in a clean handkerchief, on the stone floor and then left the cell, closing the door and latching it behind him. He waited for what seemed to be a few minutes, before opening the door again. He watched the light move across the stones until it reached the place he had set the book down. It was still there, and the handkerchief remained undisturbed. Patience allowed the man to close the door and leave the cell to say his farewells to Van Hellsing without too much disappointment bothering the man's conscience.
Well, now the man was disappointed, his previously stiffened posture deflated, his anticipations fleeing from him as the light pouring into the cell reflected off of the swaddled book, presenting the image to the man's eyes to be clearly perceived by John Seward's brain. Green would not move from the book, pretending that the evidence of disturbance it could not find, was there. Fatigue swept through John's leg muscles, lurching his first step into the cell before he managed to force himself to go forward, carrying the lantern by his side. The hard heels of his shoes narrated the short journey that brought him to no alternate conclusion.
The book had obviously gone untouched over the course of a week, while John's anticipating mind had played out various scenarios in which he would find the book moved. He had gone so far as to imagine the demon stealing it away, digging out one of the stones in his cell to bury the book as his dearest treasure. This sight before him, this reality, trampled his good intentions and creative imaginings and then spat on them. There was the book. Nothing had happened. It was so dull…but had the man really expected that much excitement? Was he really expecting to find another Renfield in this monster? Give the patient a fly and see what elaborate system of mad reasoning is grown from the generally considered sterile soil of something so commonplace? Had he really desired to observe the deterioration that obsession can inflict upon a once well cultured mind?
No, there is no evidence that he had. There was no evidence that he had expected anything, beyond his fantasies that suddenly became disturbing to him. In his profession, he sought to reassemble minds, to cure the sick, to save people from their tormentor, their madness. And here, he sought to do the very same. He wanted to be the sanction for this creature, a haven to hide from his tormentor and overcome his state of mind. All of this bordered on obsession…but he was not truly obsessive, nor in a state that was hostile to his self or others. He simply wanted to help people.
That is what it all came to. He wanted to help this creature, and his imaginings had been his hopes of finding progress made with that goal in mind when he returned to the demon's prison. That was the reality of the situation, he decided, and it was about time he returned to it.
John Seward lifted his head, maneuvering the lantern's focused beam to the corners of the cell. The vampire was huddled in the left corner, watching him with his round, haunted crimson eyes, standing out before his ghostly pale features. John blinked first in his surprise, and then creased his brow, narrowing his eyes at the signs of blood spatter about the creature's throat, and the wrapping droplets that reached over his jaw.
Whose blood was it? Hopefully the vampire's. John winced inwardly at the thought, unable to determine what his real preference should be. Abandoning the uncomfortable question, John stepped forward abruptly, sending the creature into the darkness within seconds. The light turned to the neighboring corner, the demon fled; the next corner, Alucard disappeared again; he was no longer willing to endure the touch of the yellow light. With only a mounting series of disappointments being awarded to the mortal, Seward breathed out a long sigh and let his lantern lower to brush against the side of his leg. Now John had to make his patient more comfortable, regardless of his own preferences. Despite his fondness of the light coming from the gaping door, John proceeded to retreat to it, and then closed the door to the extent that now only a vertical sliver of light pierced the darkness, a crevice shedding the invasive rays onto a side wall. John went to the center of the cell where he quietly touched the base of his lantern to the stones, and then seated himself beside it, adjusting the amount of light it emitted. Now the lantern gave off a hazy halo, portraying the graduating boundary between light and darkness around the man. Thus prepared, the neglected book was reunited with a pair of warm hands, consoled now that it knew that it could serve its purpose, and the book's cover was opened once the dirtied handkerchief had been folded and gently placed on the man's knee.
This is going to wreck havoc on my eyes, John licked his finger, turning to the first page of the novel. The man took a breath, going over the first sentence in his mind before reading it aloud.
"'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only...'"
Tale of Two Cities – Book 1: Recalled To Life, by Charles Dickens, it was an appropriate choice, the man admitted as the printed words were borne into the world by his voice, passing from his mouth to fill the silent crypt of a chamber. The stone possessively kept the voice from the outside world. Out there, it could easily escape. But not in here. In this cell, none of the words in this work of literature could flit away, unheard. John's voice was strong and forever preserved by the selfish stones.
"'There were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England; there were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a fair face, on the throne of France. In both countries it was…'" The man continued to read, turning pages that split his sentences, at times parted further by his inclination to lick the tip of his finger out of habit, through the course of an hour. When the hour expired, the book was wrapped in the embrace of the handkerchief and laid on the stones before the man took his leave, restraining himself from bringing light onto the creature to see its response to his reading session.
John Seward returned within five days and read for another hour. At the end of this visit, he sought the demon's expression, but found it unchanged from the day he had seen it last. Seward's next visit came a full week later, but it did not last more than a few minutes, for the man found that he had nothing to read when he gazed upon the spread handkerchief. He found a pile of shredded paper positioned on the platter the useless cover was reduced to, unable to protect the fragile pages it had once guarded vigilantly. In total, it was a miserable little scene, pitiful in its helpless ruin. John raised the light to the vampire and found that the demon was watching him with stricken fear. With a small sigh and weighted features, John took up the scene of ruin, bundling it in his handkerchief, and then removed himself from the cell.
His returned presence in Van Hellsing's study brought a questioning look to the older man's eyes, seeking out the tale found in the man's absence of cheer or contentment. The bundle was lifted with John shaking his head sadly. "He must not have a taste for Charles Dickens."
Abraham, who had been informed of the reading sessions, said nothing until Seward excused himself, and even then the old man only prayed John would have a safe journey home. Minutes later, Van Hellsing occupied the dungeon corridor with a ready assembly of men. The door to the cell was opened, the staggering sight of so many humans tearing a shriek from the monster before it was dragged from its cell and properly chastised with a series of prepared tests.
Dark, light, flesh, limbs and movement, flashes of vision, the depths of a sea of pain drowning out everything else, erratic changes, movements, scents, humans, blood, voices, screams, and then the unsure end of it all with a pat on his head, returned to the cell and his safe, fortified corner, the walls giving him support and protecting him so that there were fewer directions in which his fear could branch. The stones were safe and cold and lifeless, contrary to anything human. It did not smell like them, the cell was quiet…safe…safe, safe…the stones are safe, the door is closed, the sounds and the light are gone.
The bleeding crimson eyes closed as the vampire's hair shifted forward with his forehead tapping his knees.
Safe. Safe. Safe. Safe. Alone is safe. Only safe. There is no other safe but here. Here, is safe. My safe. My only safe. I am safe. With my safe, I am safe. Safe. Safe. Safe. Safe…
The creature rocked with his repeating mantra, clutching his cherished gift of silence.
John Seward arrived to bear the image of the chastised demon, two days later.
Before it had been fear, something engraved in the demon's gaze, but this, this was panic and escalating terror.
The door had been opened and then partially closed, to minimize the light, prior to the man's footsteps coming to the center of the cell where he seated himself down on a cloth spread out to protect his clothes from the layers of grime coating the floor. He had opened the new book and had read through the first few lines before the whimpers had broken through his voice and paralyzed his tongue. Unnerved, John's hand had adjusted the lantern to shed light into the corners, where he found the distressed creature afflicted with something close to physical pain as he listened to the man's voice. The whimpers became keening, and then an animalistic crying sound that accompanied the red tears streaming down the demon's cheeks where they collected at the tip of his chin, or were absorbed by his tattered garments. John could not see what became of the blood tears with the vampire huddled as he was, folded into himself and shivering like a late autumn leaf that had not the courage to fall while faced with the freezing winter before it. He was in agony, or it so seemed.
The effect astounded the man that sat limply in distraught disbelief, watching the demon. His voice left him, fleeing with his thoughts, unable to make sense of anything anymore. Was he torturing the creature by doing this? What…? He couldn't comprehend…it was just…unforeseen that this…would come about…
Oh, Mother Mary Joseph Christ…his is worse than I thought. A weakened hand eased the lantern to the ground, hiding the vampire's face with the shadows that rushed forward to obscure it, illuminating only its overlapping bare feet, dirtied by the grime caked on the stones. The end of the pant legs were slightly frayed with a few unmoving strands hanging from them. John observed, listened, and said nothing, still unable to prosess comprehensible thought. His mind echoed the inhuman grief and anguish, pressed into the corner of this stone chamber, where every sound was withheld from the rest of the world. Utter isolation, was the name for this sound, this cell. Utterly hopeless and devastating isolation.
Seward swallowed, his fingers shifting over the book he held against the cloth he was sitting on, his other hand resting on the lantern's cap, wilted without a stem of motivation to give it a life purpose.
What to do?
Approach? He will flee. Leave? That would be abandoning the creature to this Hellhole. Read? He will cry. He is crying. Read until he stops crying? What…what…? Think, you stupid fool of a man, think!
Wait calmly until he calms. That- that could work, that makes some sense.
John waited, moving only to bring the book into his lap and to take his hand from the lantern. His eyes watched the gloom that betrayed only the phantom outlines of the stones in front of him, listening as the sounds receded from the cell, and it gradually became quiet except for a few weak whimpers, each one consolidating the fact that the vampire wanted John to leave.
He wanted John to leave.
Seward closed and opened his eyes to the phantom stones, glancing in the vampire's direction. He could see white hands and sleeved arms now, hugging the demon's shins with his fingers clasping his wrists. His wrists were so thin, and those fingers…were too boney. It was frightening, almost.
John didn't like it at all. …At least the crying had stopped and the whimpers were fainter now, than before. Have to be optimistic in these kind of situations; never the pessimist, the optimist has the sounder mind.
Alucard keened again, taking Seward away from his thoughts. Mother Mary Joseph…Mother Mary Joseph Saul and Paul and Peter and Luke and Peter, Mathew, and John…be calm. Alright. Alrighty now, let's address this issue so this can be fixed, and then I can read again, perhaps, maybe or not. Let's see…
John went to a crouch, leaving the cloth he was sitting on, but then he froze. What he could see of the demon had stiffened, and the boney fingers had tightened and then loosened their hold to drop to the stones, readying the demon to vacate his corner, if need be. John licked his lips, searching about as he debated on what his next move would be…literally. He managed to stand but did not step forward, and the wary monster hand remained on the stones, twitching once with trepidation.
He could try talking to the vampire, to console it and make sure that it knows that he's not here to bring any harm to it. Soft and slow with sure pronunciation…the patient must know that you are calm and collected and that everything is under control…
John blinked at the flash of movement, and then the demon was gone and Seward was left speaking to an empty corner. It didn't matter. The vampire would still hear him. He started again.
"I'm just reading a book. It's different from last time's. Nothing else is going to happen-"
Air caught in John's throat, his eyes widening at the rasp he thought he heard. His skin prickled with a chill when the voice returned, rapid and airy.
"Go away." There was a series of progressively shortening pauses as the vampire repeated himself with a growing, shrill volume. "Go away. Go away. Go away! GO AWAY! GO AWAY!"
A shudder shot through the man, responding to the sound. Then he held his head, covering his ears desperately and stepping back as the full front of unsuppressed screams tore loose into the cell, building on the stones, and ultimately becoming nothing more than an impaling, continuous screech.
John's eyes blinked blindly and he stumbled backwards, his head, light and dizzy. His throat was vibrating. He must be screaming too, it was so painful and terrifying. Light poured onto the man, turning him with dazed, clumsy feet, eyes trying to fix onto the body that came to him and rushed him out of the cell. They left the book and lantern…all of it behind, John's mind numbly took note of this, staggering and swerving down the corridor with his hands welded over his ears. The ringing…it was all still ringing… His unsteady head bobbed the vision of the unfamiliar man that was supporting him and trying to get him to stand still, to lean against the wall. Seward collapsed against it, staring and blinking at the man as he saw the man's lips move with speech, but only heard the ringing. My God…am I deaf?
A muffled humming came to his senses and John's brow crinkled in confusion. The man was pulling at his arms. Why was he doing that? John's hands were wrenched away from his head and the muffled humming became intelligible words. John heard others approaching, through his daze, and he looked around as men came closer.
"Dr. Seward? Dr. Seward, are you alright? Can you hear me Dr. Seward? Dr. Seward, please Dr. Seward, look at me. You don't need to cover your ears. It's alright, Dr. Seward. It's alright."
John gasped when he realized he had been fighting the man's grip on his arms, trying to bring his hands to his ears again. He closed his mouth when he found that it was partly open, and he held his hands still before him and nodded deeply.
"Y-yes. I can hear you. I-I'm fine, please…let go." The man released him, allowing Seward to breathe a sigh of relief, leaning back as he closed his eyes. He made himself adopt a comfortable, regular breathing rhythm.
Mother Mary Joseph, Saul, Paul, Peter, Mark, Mathew, John, Judas…not Judas, Peter, Mark, Mathew, John, Paul, Saul, Joseph, Mary Mother… He took in a lungful of air and let it out steadily. With his composure came embarrassment that ducked his head, opened his eyes, and reddened his ears in degrees.
The name lifted John's face, and he found himself staring as Van Hellsing split through the group of gathered men and took a hold of John's shoulders, full of concern. "John, are you alright? What did the Vampire do to you? John?"
"I'm fine, I'm fine." John nodded forward as he tried to brush off the man's hands. Then he began to shake his head as the hands left. "I'm sorry for this, Van- Dr. Van Hellsing…"
"Call me whatever you want John, it doesn't matter." Abraham chided quickly, watching John with persistent worry. "Are you alright?" Abraham was holding his hands together now as John touched his temple and then ran his fingers through his hair, a little overwhelmed by his watching audience.
"I'm alright, yes, I'm alright. Don't worry so much. The Vampire…I must have scared him, I'm not sure. He was just screaming, and it was so loud… I apologize sincerely for this disturbance, Dr. Hellsing. I truly…I didn't mean for this to bother you, any of you, really, I'm sorry…"
Hellsing's features relaxed, but darkened as they did so, still watching John. The old face suddenly brightened and gave off a warm smile that stunned John when he saw it. A hand coaxed Seward away from the wall. "Yes, yes, alright John, come. We'll go upstairs where you can clear your head with some fresh air. Come." Van Hellsing guided the man upstairs and then took him to an open window.
"I-I left my book, and the other things, Dr…" John hesitated when he was shown a chair. Abraham cut in crisply.
"One of my men will retrieve it for you, not to worry. Your job, right now, is to sit down and drink some hot tea. We'll end these ventures into the dungeon-…"
John's eyes flew open from where they had begun to close, and he sat up in the chair. "No. No, this will not be the end of my visits, Dr. Hellsing. I don't fold so easily just because of a slight scare. I have experiences worse, in my own home, might I remind you. I have had plenty, well, too many, patients attempt to kill me. Screaming, I am used to…though this was a little different, I must say. It is still not the worst." Abraham stared at the younger man, about to speak when John smiled at him awkwardly. "The patient you met, Renfield, as he explained, tried to kill me for the purpose of drinking my blood to strengthen his 'vital powers'. Alucard did not attempt to eat me, though, he is more likely to try than any of my other patients, currently. He was only frightened, Dr. Van Hellsing."
John nodded, as if humored by the recollection, astounding Van Hellsing to the point that be gave up a grim chuckle. "You are one of a kind, my friend. Now I recall why I let you do these things."
John smiled with his teeth. "I thought it was because I saved your life, that our friendship is based on debt."
"Are you joking?"
"Yes." They shared the humor as John vented all of his stored relief with a final giving chortle. He looked off, out of the window. "The tea is coming?"
"That sounds good. You have very nice tea and even nicer chairs. I might become afflicted with your vice as well." Each face had a slight smile as Abraham stood, watching while color that had drained from John's cheeks, began to return.
"It is not such a bad sin."
"No." John agreed with a breath filling his chest. "No, it is not such a bad thing."
The tea soon arrived on a tray, accompanied by John's book and cloth.
Just below them, in the dungeon…
Flashes, movement, metallic glistens, injections in me, again, again…again. Returned to the stones. No pat. The door is shut. The light is gone. The stones are here, the stones are here, and the walls, and the dark and quiet, and no voices, no smells, only a little, leaving, then the human smells will be gone. Safe. Safe, my safe is safe, and I am safe and I am here and safe and safe and no more voices, no more smells, no more warmth or heartbeats. Safe again. Safe stones, walls, cold, mine. Safe mine. My safe. I am safe. No one here. No one…here.
I am safe now. They are gone.
The room was claustrophobic, dark, narrow and long, with its only source of light coming in bright panels, cut and shaped by the barred glass that stretched across one wall, providing a protected view into the white, brightly lit room beyond it. John observed the glass and the unpolished, rusted bars on the other side of it, curious as to what their purpose could be. Was watching the vampire feed such a hazard to one's health? Green eyes widened, dimmed only by the lack of lighting in the room he stood in, retaining enough light to spark as he swallowed, his black pupils dilating with excitement and anxiety. What a wondrous, horrible thing…
Abraham watched as the young man scrutinized the glass and the bars, aged lips twitching into an odd smirk. Dr. Seward was the same young man he had met all those years ago. He never seemed to age or lose his childish, endless reserve of curiosity.
"My men will be bringing Alucard in shortly."
John looked away from the glass to give the man a polite yes to show that he was not being ignored, and then immediately turned to the glass, straining to look into the nearest corners of the white room. Now he was sure that it was empty.
Just as he told himself this, doors into the white room opened and a human form was thrown into it, leaving the sprawled shape covered in a mound of twisted, messy garments. The human form snarled, elongated claws reaching farther than the flesh and bone of its fingers, cutting through the air and nothing; the man or men that had put the human form in the white room had promptly closed the door before the being had even lifted its head. Fur. There was fur covering the hands like gloves and the human face began to distort, becoming more like that of a bear, and then finally, a bear creature with a long snout, black gums sheathing the sharp fangs within the beast's mouth. John watched with wide eyes capturing every aspect and movement of the monster, oblivious as to how close he was standing to the glass. Abraham's hand and a generous jerk brought John back towards the wall where the old man stood. Abraham nodded an apology and murmured in a low voice.
"The glass is sometimes more of a hazard than a safety, but the bars will not permit the Werewolf to harm us."
John's face was lit with the light in his eyes upon hearing the name of the mythical creature that had become solid blood and flesh and bone before him. Enraptured, John gazed through the glass, a panel of light coating his face and chest. The werewolf staggered to its feet, disoriented, and it sniffed at the air, towards the ground, finding its task to be made harder for the dead stillness of the air that handicapped the movement of smells that were not very old. Green eyes blinked, reflecting the creature and the light. The werewolf seemed to notice them, for it turned its head, its gaze locking with John's for a moment, a breathless, heart bounding moment, and then it looked at Van Hellsing whose face was obscured by a shadow from one of the bars.
Does it think us to be prey? Do such creatures live amongst human populations? Are they all such a rich brown color? Can they infect humans through a bite like vampires? Are they really repelled by silver? Can a silver bullet kill them?
Many questions filled John's mind, but his fascination led his lips to remain immobile. The werewolf was approaching them, wary in this alien environment and the glass that did not let any smells from the humans reach it. Abraham watched the monster with the wariness of a weathered hunter, while Seward remained oblivious to the danger. But Abraham was able to calm and forget the silver loaded pistol in the pocket of his coat. The door had opened again and another human form was shoved into the room and left to fall on the floor, its legs crumpling beneath it, but coming to rest on the ground in a much more graceful manner than the werewolf had, showing that this human form had retained some control over its positioning when it had been thrown.
It was Alucard. John breathed, staring as the details the light revealed to him. He had never seen the vampire under such raw light. The white flesh could almost blend into the white of the room, and yet it remained separate for the natural shadows and dimension the raining light supplied to the creature. Alucard's eyes were bright crimson, like a drop of blood on a white sheet, or a rose atop a ground of snow. The vampire was in an entirely different category of monster than the werewolf. The werewolf had raw, physical power, intimidation in bulk and height, as well as for his claws and fur and even his pointed ears. Alucard was thin, pale like some creature carved from marble. His hair was grey now, the only aspect of his form that seemed to be inferior to the werewolf, in the sense of appearance, other than his underfed state. The vampire was seductive, graceful, a haunt in the night, while the werewolf was a large, bulking monster that one would fear of finding in a forest or the wilderness, but Alucard was a creature that could appear anywhere, and that was the chill that was brought to roughen John Seward's skin as he observed the two monsters from behind the glass.
Alucard remained on the floor, his legs crumpled beneath him as he sat, red eyes reaching the hulking mass of fur and tattered clothing. The vampire stared at it, breathing for its scent, examining its form, listening to its enlarged and drum-like heart.
This…is not a human.
The werewolf stood over the vampire, not quite sure of what to make of it. The werewolf understood that this being was not human, but it had no scent. It smelled of the dankness of stones and the grime that blacked its feet and hands with smudges and blotched parts of its black, faded clothing. The creature did not look like it would be a pleasure to eat, and it looked to be too weak to be much of a threat, but it was better to kill off any invasive competition in the competitive game of survival. Black claws glinted with the light above the creatures as the werewolf posed to slash into the vampire. John caught his breath when he saw the paw-like hand rise, but he lost all thought and function as the claws ripped through the vampire's shoulders as the blunt of the paw decapitated Alucard's head to send it flying and then rolling to hit the wall, leaving a splatter and trail of blood and gore behind it.
John gasped at the body that remained sitting upward, without a head, but in obvious ruin. His eyes darted to Abraham as his shock, horror, and urgency collided together to choke his voice so that he could not speak as quickly as he wanted to. "Dr. Hellsing! It- The Vampire! It killed him-"
Abraham waved his hand before John's face, directing it towards the glass, not bothering to look at the younger man. John froze, his hands in fists with his body facing Hellsing while his eyes watched the dark shadows and moving blood that terrified the werewolf into retreated, and reconstructed the vampire's body. A maw of daggered teeth glistened in the light as Alucard's face warped with hellish glee, rising from the ground to stand at his human height, able to intimidate the huge beast before him. His eyes were blazing with fire that raged through his body and sent him forward at a speed no eye could trace, and his blunt fingers dug into the werewolf's stomach and proceeded to rip and ruin the beast's body. The wolf tried to get away, but it was seized and thrown into a wall, raining a splattering of blood to paint the white room with accumulating red flecks and splotches. As John's eyes viewed the scene, the werewolf's body crashed limply to the floor where the vampire was at once upon it, ready to claim its throat. A jerk went through both of the humans, unintentionally, when a large paw smacked the vampire's smaller form away, flinging Alucard towards the bars and glass, but just short of them as he landed, crouched on the ground. The werewolf roared, lunging forward in an attack that the vampire received with a manic shrill cackle that sent shudders through John's body and pressed him back against the wall where he stood beside Abraham. The werewolf was forced against the blood rusted bars, shuddering the glass as well as John's figure. A scream was ripped from the werewolf as the silver roasted its back, giving Alucard the chance to take its throat while the force exerted on the beast fractured the glass and threw dots of blood to run down its surface. White fangs sank into the werewolf's neck, cutting its cry short.
Abraham closed his eyes with a chest moving breath he let out through his nose gradually. It was over. The werewolf was finished. He opened his eyes to view the shaggy beast as it reverted to its smaller human form where it seemed fragile with its ragged clothes slipping away, the bars burning into its vulnerable flesh as Alucard gripped its arms to hold it in place. Alucard drank in gulps that drew his body forward and slightly away from his prey, taking his fill as his hair darkened to a midnight ebony that softened and took on a luster beneath the lights. Now that the werewolf had the appearance of a helpless human, John Seward cringed at the murder that was occurring just before his eyes, perhaps within his reach if he were to send his arm through the glass and between the bars.
Van Hellsing observed the younger man's changing expressions, and then the wonder that touched them, pulling John towards the branching cracks in the glass, moving to the side to find Alucard's face. It was obscured and shadowed by the close intimacy he was sharing with his prey, but John was able to view half of the demon's face and see one closed eye. Seward watched as Alucard swallowed mouthful after mouthful of blood, green eyes flicking back to the pale face and his body as it rocked with the feeding. The red eyes cracked open to form a slit of red that viewed the glass and the dim room behind it, and the form. The form and the face and the expression and the heartbeat, the life, the human…
John flinched while Abraham's eyes widened in surprise as the werewolf's corpse was dropped to the floor and the vampire disappeared to be found by the human eyes in a distant corner, body folded over, crammed into the smallest space possible. This was something Van Hellsing had never before witnessed and had never imagined accomplishing; managing to influence the vampire to such a degree that its fear could overcome its starved bloodlust. It was a feat of immeasurable proportions and it made the man give an airy chuckle of disbelief that turned John Seward's head. Blue eyes watched the vampire, neglecting John for the most part.
"Absolutely amazing, John. He is actually terrified of you."
A deep frown drooped John's expression into one that bordered annoyance and hurt, but the feeling was let out in his frown as he turned to view Alucard once more. He glanced back at Abraham when the man spoke again, giving John an apology for his wording, but still obviously jubilant over the discovery.
"The Vampire has been made to see humans as a threat, as a manifestation of fear and danger. This is more than I had hoped was possible for us to accomplish. With this, the vampire is more likely to flee than attack when he comes across a human. Much, much improved from when he was first captured. His fear has conquered his instinct for blood!"
John looked through the damaged glass to see the black form in the far corner, holding itself tightly. No, it's not amazing. It's sad. It's only sad and pathetic. Dr. Van Hellsing already controls the vampire, so it is unable to defend itself. The fear was a feature Hellsing simply wanted to add as an additional backup. It's just sad. John sighed, but kept his face clear of his thoughts as Abraham led him out of the room. With a final glance back at the glass, John saw human shapes come into the white room, and he thought he heard muffled whines before the door closed. He was to have tea with Hellsing and return the next day to visit the demon in his cell.
A sigh, warmed by the heat the tea had provided to the man's throat, came just after the cup began to lower from his mouth so that the movement of air swirled the wispy steam that continued to lift from the brandy colored liquid. Seward's hands were warming, his chilled gloves placed neatly on the table before him to allow the warmth of the beverage to better thaw his fingers. His carriage had arrived and gone away from the Hellsing mansion again, only minutes before. The tea had been prepared prior to his arrival on Van Hellsing's incentive. The air was growing chillier as the winter season matured. Blue eyes watched the green irises whose pupils were still constricting and expanding to the light in the room after John Seward had closed his eyes with a sigh and then opened them. When the two gazes met, both men, whose faces had been almost expressionless before, were animated by polite smiles of an affectionate nature. Abraham took a sip from his own steaming cup and then set it down as he swallowed slowly, enjoying the rich taste and heat as well as the lingering fragrance he breathed in afterwards.
"Ah." He smiled contently at the table when he secured his cup on its porcelain saucer and then drew back in his chair to bring his eyes to John once more. The two men said nothing for a moment, their eyes and smiles requiring no dialogue. Then Hellsing blinked in a way that followed a train of thought as his hands moved to his armrests, his whole body shifting in a lean to the side for a moment only to sway back into place with another blink. His eyes flicked suddenly to the base of Seward's chair, to the bag whose contents warped its outward shape. The man had been pondering its shape and purpose for some time, since he had first seen it as it was born into his house, carried in Seward's hand. The rough texture that was its skin and the stiff leather of the handles stood out as possibly being the baggage of some country doctor paying an ill patient a house-visit, but the distortion of its stomach kept the bag out of character. John saw the man's distraction and soon he himself looked down at the bag, viewing what details Abraham was discovering. His foot slid to the side to nudge the bag and lift Hellsing's sturdy gaze.
John smiled knowingly when he held the blue eyes once more, fingers tapping on their perch by his side. "It appears as if I've brought a surgical bag to accompany me on my visit today."
Humor crinkled John's eyes while an imitation copied the expression onto Hellsing's features. Then his eyes blinked and light entered them to add authenticity to the older man's amusement. Van Hellsing nodded, again looking at the bag with the smile denting his cheek. "So it seems. Rather large and unique tools as well, I assume from its…bloated appearance?" Abraham quieted as he watched the young man reach down to free a clasp and then open the bag itself. His brow lifted as a section of a thin tree branch with a few stubborn leaves clinging to it, was brought onto Seward's lap.
"Just things with scents, a vision of nature."
Hellsing stared at the branch with a coded expression John failed to read before it had fled from the old man and a wane smile replaced it. Nothing was said for the time it took Seward to wonder if he had done something wrong in suggesting that he give what he had brought to the vampire and if he would be denied the right to do so. But the nod he observed gave him a muddled understanding that he would be allowed to do as he pleased. Putting the wood away in a self-conscious, quiet manner, the closing of the bag was muted by Van Hellsing's reassuring voice.
"That's fine, John. And, before it skips my mind…" John sat up, watching while Abraham placed a small red book on the table between their tea cups. "I've replaced the book that Alucard ruined."
"Oh," John hesitated before his hand reached to take up the book. He felt the smooth, tight fabric protecting the hard cover as his fingers massaged it thoughtfully. He looked up with a grateful smile, touched by unsure thoughts that pondered new possibilities for his visit. "Thank you."
Van Hellsing smiled. "It was my responsibility to do so, upon my honor. You did not deserve to be robbed of a possession on account of my insincerity. And, in the meanwhile, I took the liberty of buying several books for myself." Hellsing's humor added to John's lightened mood and he chuckled. The two men conversed while they waited for time to pass.
The sun's rays darkened as the youth of the daylight deteriorated, finally decomposing into a climatic twilight before it expired completely.
Dr. Van Hellsing himself opened the door to the creature's cell, having kept John Seward company up until that point, but here the man took his leave and Seward was left alone to venture into the gloom he first impaled with the slitting blade of the streaming light of the hall, formed and manipulated by the door as it swung wider and then was left gaping. The light illuminated the man's path to the center of the cell. His lantern raised in one hand as his bag hung in his other, the focused beam of light dispersed the miasma of shadow, running over the grey stones of the walls and floors to seek the habitual corners the vampire occupied. Alucard found in the one to the mortal's left, where the lantern's light remained as John walked to his desired location at the near center of the cell, but to the side, closer to the vampire. He set down his bag and put the lantern on the stones, checking on the light that was on the vampire and adjusting the lantern so that it would brighten more of the corner. Satisfied, John gave his attention to his bag, opening it and removing a cloth from its contents so that he would have a clean place to sit.
Now sitting as comfortably as the stones allowed, both hands busied themselves with delving into the bag. Green glanced up at the black form, noting the ducked head that hid the creature's face in his knees, before peering down at the bundle of leaves the man had tied together with string earlier that day, when he had been packing for his visit. The crinkling sound of dry foliage, somehow similar to the sound of crackling fire, brought light to glint off of a red eye. Shadow still obscured the detail and shape of the demon's face, but John saw the glint. His lips twitched into a smirk of triumph that he hoped to hide by clamping his jaw. The leaves were placed on the stones in front of the human so that the vampire could observe them while John selected the branch from his bag and laid it down beside the leaves, distracting the cautious red eyes (both could now be seen). Next, a clot of earth lay next to the branch, followed by a vial of sand collected from the seaside on some occasion that was not experienced by John. He had acquired the sand from an acquaintance at some point for a reason that escaped his memory. The young man smiled at the vampire that was focused on the objects that had been taken out of the bag, though the demon showed no signs of loosening the hold it kept on its embraced knees or of drawing away from the corner he filled. But the smile was removed when John rolled the branch over to show the vampire the side that had the most leaves. With the human's movement, the red eyes became round with the same haunted look John had seen so many times before. When the vampire looked at him, all of the monster's dread reappeared and the hold on the creature's knees tightened. With an abrupt, startling movement, the vampire's face plunged into his knees. Then, immediately, as John was recovering from his start, he received another one when the vampire disappeared with a sweeping movement that suggested that it had gone to seek solace in the darker side of the cell.
Disappointment swelled as a breath in the young man's lungs, his eyes closing while his chin tapped his filled chest, and Seward sighed, remaining this way for what must have bordered a minute or more. Then his eyes blinked at the objects on the stones arranged in front of him. Another breath inflated the man, and he let his eyes wander tiredly back to his bag. Rocking to his side, he peered down into its shaded interior and spotted the red book Van Hellsing had given him earlier. After a moment's thought, John took the book out and stood up. He went to the gaping door and limited it to a thin crack before returning to his lantern so that he could adjust it. The man now sat, bathed in a halo of light, enough to read the small print in the red book. John read in a quiet voice, blinking away all opinion he had of the character with golden hair worn in curls, whom the author sometimes referred to as Lucie. Oh, dearest beautiful Lucie, the love of many men who would wish to marry her. Dearest, young and innocent girl…Lucie. Lucy.
But Dickens' Lucie faded from the plot as sin crept into the novel with the scent of injustice and death in revolutionary France. A man and his nephew speaking on an ominous night…
"'Repression is the only lasting philosophy. The dark deference of fear and slavery, my friend," observed the Marquis, "will keep dogs obedient to the whip, as long as this roof," looking up to it, "shuts out the sky.'"
Seward blinked at the dialog, becoming silent after reading it aloud, reading it again to himself silently. Curious are the coincidences that come into being at the chance of rolling, random dice everyday, the man mused, solid green blinking again.
The jarring clash of metal's ringing, horrid voice echoed with the racing elation of a scream of alarm that coursed through mortal veins to assault the rhythm of a beating heart. The damning clamor consumed the man, swallowing him so that he would fall into the unending pit of oblivion as his wide, sightless eyes dilated, grasping vainly to access of the reality that had existed seconds before. The man's neck twisted with his desperate body, turning him around to gape at the solid wall of shadowed stone and the indistinct shape of the metal door.
Why had the door closed?
A prickling chill of the unexplained and the supernatural, stole color and heat from the man's skin. His eyes unfocused, widening still as his muscles became fixed where they were. The vampire? But no…no, he didn't feel that it had been the tormented creature's doing. Seward's body refused to move in order to glimpse what he might see of the vampire in the cell, immobilized by uncertainty and the frightening loss of concrete logic and reason. His fluttering heart had lightened his head, but time eased his pulse so that the man could feel his weight again and take a needed breath. With creaking limbs, Seward lifted himself and stood, quiet and in the full grasp of that vulnerability that was keeping his eyes wide and his body anxious. Tentative steps that wished to avoid provoking the vampire or his own panic at being shut up in this cell, alone or with the monster's company, carried Seward and his lantern to the door. He had not been able to leave the lantern behind, a show of the state of his troubled nerves.
At the door, able to see it clearly with his source of light in hand, John's chest heaved with soft, controlled breaths. A hand touched the cool metal of the door, fingers tucking and curling about the latch. The man tugged on it but felt the superior strength of the locked door firmly counter his best efforts to liberate himself. It had locked as soon as it had closed, sealing John's fate to remain in the cell without means of escape until someone with a key came to his aid. Stunned into uselessness, John stared at the latch in his fist, unable to tug on it again. But he snapped out of his daze violently, eyes sparking and his brow furrowing with an expression of indignation, the heel of his palm hitting the door before it could become a fist again. Then he pounded on the door, the dull sound echoing as a blunt murmur in the cell, one that took on the appearance of foreign and impossible voices with the ebbing of Seward's anger and the reintroduction of some of his apprehension. He was not a man who favored the idea of being kept in a place against his will, kept in circumstances that were hostile to his health. The impossible voices and the throb in his abused hand ended the attempts at gaining someone's attention, and John was left staring at the door, his hand lingering in the space before him until he pressed it gently against the cold surface of the metal to dissuade the uncomfortable heat that was building in his hand, which, he guessed, was surely reddening in color as well. The chill of the door built upon the uncomfortable coolness of the stone chamber in which he found himself a prisoner, and his mind became aware of the one that was also imprisoned in the cell.
Had it been the vampire that had shut the door? Foreboding entered into John's mind under that scenario. But he was still doubtful of that possibility's likelihood, which was rather slim. More likely a passing body in the hall had seen the cracked door and had assumed that Dr. Seward or another had been careless. They wouldn't want…
John's eyes grew round for a moment with a spike of horror that he repetitively denied. Had the vampire escaped? No. No, impossible. He couldn't have. It wouldn't do him any good. No… But thoughts whispered in the background. I had just shown him things…the outside world…nature…he might have gotten it into his head to leave, go outside, try to escape…
With a deadened expression, Seward turned, sweeping the halo of his lantern with his movement. His hand adjusted the focus of the light into a searching beam he slowly dissected the darkness with, going around from his place near the door. He found Alucard tucked into the corner where John had believed he had fled from his early spot. In the right hand corner, the side farthest from the entrance to the cell, the besieged crimson orbs stood out against the white, stricken features, shaded by the curtain of ebony bangs. The vampire was not fond of the development either, the stare informed Seward as he gazed into it.
The vampire was not the one who had closed the door. …But it all could be an act! Sharp green stabbed into the red stare, searching it and then the expression and the beast's body language. No, John's gaze became calmer and his shoulders, which had hunched for the moment of suspense, were released with a quiet breath that shuddered subtly. Air was drawn and exhaled more steadily. Bemused green blinked at the demon thoughtfully as John's lips came together again at a line. Time went on without any resulting changes until whatever spell that kept the moment from being altered was broken when the vampire's face was hidden by his knees once more and the creature's shoulders rolled forward as his hold on his legs was adjusted to make the space he took up, smaller. Making himself smaller… Then the demon relaxed his straining muscles and he came to be more comfortable to observe. John set his mouth to the side, still watching, and then he glanced at the gloom surrounding the vampire, and himself for that matter. Gradually, the beam of the light withdrew from the demon, falling upon the wall and then jerking randomly. John was moving it as he adjusted it to the hazy halo in which he was comfortable. Then he brought this halo back to the cloth and the book that were positioned near the bag and what it had once carried. John put the lantern down and then crouched to sit on the cloth. The man took the book from under the ledge of one of his crossed legs, looking up to check on the door he made sure he was facing so that he would be aware as soon as it showed signs of opening and so that he could listen for activity outside.
Though…he hadn't noticed any activity when it had shut earlier…
John brushed this thought aside with a frown, flipping through the pages of the new book, searching for the unmarked page he had left off on. Seward read aloud, finding it to be preferable as it was more soothing than absolute silence or the sounds of his own breathing. He listened to the scraping of the turning pages and the creaking of the binding as well. He read, with his voice being covetously confined by the stones. Denying this sensation of isolation, Seward continued to read aloud though, when he had shone the light upon the demon again, out of curiosity, he had been displeased to find that the monster had rudely decided to cover his ears instead of listening to the human's voice.
Time trickled by slowly in a monotonous way that agitated the voice that narrated the Tale of Two Cities, the man fidgeting restively and scratching his brow for no purpose but to scrape away at some of his own irritation. He sighed, closing his strained eyes and hanging his head as his hands held the book limply, the covers close to touching as the binding dipped to rest on his legs in his lap. This was not supposed to be so dull. He was in the presence of an ancient tyrant, a plagued monster suffering at the hands of human beings that kill its kind, and yet, he was bored to the state of yawning as the demon merely sat in the corner silently, not even willing to listen to his reading session. He had already read the book. He was not reading it for his own health! John Seward's eyes pinched tightly, his brow knitting at the middle, all in the show of frustration.
Then, without warning, his head snapped up to send a mild glare to the door. Silence reigned, twitching the pulse in Seward's brow. Green eyes traveled over the stones until they climbed over the man's legs and into his lap so that he could examine his red book.
One hand was left holding the book, a thumb keeping the page while the other struggled to concentrate the light on the vampire's location. The creature was revealed, and to the man's irritation, was unchanged from the last time the mortal had checked on the demon. Normally the man had ample patience for his patients, but he had had higher expectations for the vampire. With Renfield… No. John looked at his lap, his free hand firmly planted on the cloth, beside him. That was not my purpose for coming here. I am supposed to be helping the Vampire…as my patient…
So why aren't I? John frowned to himself, looking at the wall of shadow. Reading when he has covered his ears? What does that do? Nothing. A fine doctor you are, Dr. Seward. The man grimaced at his own thoughts, his head rotating back to the vampire. The idle fingers on the cloth tapped as John watched the demon. The tapping stopped.
"Would you like me to leave?"
It was quiet, but with a given amount of time, the demon responded. "Yes."
Wide eyes that had not expected to receive any kind of response, blinked at the black form and John pulled his hands to his lap to hold onto his book. The eyes blinked back into their normal shape and a tilt came to Seward's mouth. "Then you'll be alone in here." The man spoke slowly, allowing a generous pause to form. "Is that what you want? To be alone in here? Pressed into a corner? Always afraid? Why would you want to live this way? What comes of-" John's voice lurched and he frowned when he saw that Alucard was pressing on his ears to block out any sound they had not been able to cut off before. Seward raised his voice in result. "And you do not want conversation? Nothing at all? Nothing, is it? Is that what you want? No contact with anyone or even the outside world? Nothing to occupy yourself with?"
Pale palms ground into the vampire's ears, fighting off the man's voice with shut eyes buried in his knees. A whine threatened in his throat, and soon seeped from it as John continued to speak.
The human hesitated at the sound and observed the struggle with brighter, keener eyes that blinked with interest. He pursued the one sided conversation as Alucard failed to respond. "You want to be alone in this cell for all of eternity? Shut up here, sitting on the stones, covering your ears whenever someone tries to speak to you… You know I'm only here to help you. I'll talk to you or listen if you have anything to say, or…" Seward increased his volume to overcome the beast's sudden open-mouthed whine. "I'll read to you. You showed interest in the leaves and the other things I brought. Would you like to know more about them?" John sighed out a breath, surrendering to the animalistic keening the vampire was giving off. His shoulder's tightened, the hair on the back of his neck rising at the disturbing, inhuman sound. The chill of the cell entered his body again, and the man shuddered, closing his eyes and ducking his head as the sound continued, compiling upon ghostly echoes. His teeth set together with a soft growl that tightened the muscles of his face. "There is really no need for these…sounds. Alucard…" The keening continued in spite of the man's comment, even becoming louder because of Seward's voice and the agitation that the vampire perceived from his tone. John winced at the increase in sound, a fist clenching so that it wouldn't move to cover his ears. His eyes were still shut.
Swiftly, they shot open to send an ungentle glare to the creature, accompanied by a restrained scowl. "Alucard." The keening worsened, roughening the man's voice and expression. "Alucard! There is really no need for this! I am NOT-"
"SHUT UP!" The screech erupted from the keening, throwing John back when he jerked away from the voice and became more submissive. After the echo had faded, the cell was silent, only hindered by the sound of movement when John composed himself and clasped his hands in his lap. He gazed down at the little book that had fallen from his leg to the cloth seen within his lap, released because of his sudden shock. The mortal licked his lips nervously, still in the process of settling himself. With the minutes of steady silence, the man received an unpleasant jolt when he heard an alien 'thunk' just in front of him. Green stared at the piece of wood that had rolled over, calming again. Then John let out a yell of surprise and scrambled away from the wood and the cloth he had been sitting on when the form of a large, filthy rat rose over the branch, proceeding to climb over the wood thoughtfully, ignoring the man's exclamation. Seward gasped at the disgusting vermin, and then snapped his mouth shut, glancing at his lantern. Venturing forward with cautious movements and then a few quick steps, he grabbed the handle and turned the beam on the rat. The small beast's jaws parted with a rabid hiss, the flash of yellow fangs clamping John's teeth with disgust and some apprehension before his look toughened and a heel collided loudly with the stones in an attempt to scare off the rat with sound. But the creature only snarled, its fur lifting to make itself appear larger.
My stick. My stick. Mine. Mine! Mine!
John glared at the intrusive, conquering creature, his shoe clashing with the stones again and then marching him forward slowly, towering over the short beast, flashing his threatening, hard shoes. "Shoo!" John waved the lantern at the rat only to have it crouch over the branch and hiss at it.
MINEMINEMINEMINEMINE! MY STICK!
"I said, shoo! Go! Shoo, little pest! I don't really want to hurt you!" Damn it. Seward stepped closer to the bristling rat, scowling at its stubborn, single mindedness. Finally, his foot shot out to kick the wood in a restrained manner, hopefully to dislodge the rat. The brown form of the rat tumbled along with the wood until it lost its grip and rolled away over the stones, soon catching itself. John saw his chance and hurried to retrieve the branch, retreating at the last moment when the rat got to it first, climbed atop it, and bared its fangs hostilely at the human. The beast refused to relinquish the branch as it continued to hiss at John in an intimidating manner. The man growled and this time strode directly to the rat, and with a swift, well-placed kick, sent it across the cell. The animal shrieked at the attack and then continued to cry in pain and rage by the wall as it watched the human pick up its stick and hold it like a club, ready to strike should the rat have the courage to return. The beast screamed with hatred and hurtled towards the human, and John readied himself to either kick or swing at the rat. But then the creature skidded over the stones and then darted off in a different direction, disappearing into the shadows. Wary of a camouflaged assault, Seward's beam of light caught up with the rat. John's tautness eased as he saw that the rat was moving farther away from him instead of circling closer, and the rat soon slipped away through a crack in the stones.
Victory. John Seward heaved a sigh of relief, glad that he had not been forced to kill the rat, and he smirked to himself, watching the dark crevice remain vacant, no vermin in sight. A chuckle emerged from the smirk, shifting the light slightly, and the beam caught on a black shadow. Sobered by this, John maneuvered the light to better see the shape. He stiffened when the shape became the clear form of the vampire in the corner, holding his knees with his face obscured. John stared at the sight, blinking and glancing at the crevice between the stones. He recalled the time when Arthur Holmwood's dogs had been necessary to disperse a horde of rats that the vampire had set loose on their company…one of which was Dr. Van Hellsing himself. John blinked again, seeing reality after revisiting the memory. Wanting to say something and yet unwilling to upset the vampire, Seward quietly returned to his cloth, first sweeping the beam about the cell to check for more rats, sitting only after he had concluded that the cell only contained the vampire and himself at the moment. The man opened his book, holding it near the light he left focused on the vampire. He decided to try to talk to the beast once more before resolving to read the book.
"Did you turn the rat on me? Or did you persuade it to go away?" Silence, so John continued. "You have influence over rats, if I recall. So-" John cut off his voice and ducked his head away from the vampire when he saw the hands grasp the creature's head and overheard a hissed whimper. John tried to mask any following sounds with the rapid turning of pages from his book. He found where he had left off after some time of searching, turning pages quietly now that the vampire was silent. The man read the book to pass the time until he jerked with joy and recognition at the sound of scraping keys, struggling to his feet and fighting the prickling numbness that deadened his legs, so that he could greet the concerned Hellsing with a thankful grin and a chuckle. The man gathered his things, failing to humor Van Hellsing with his explanation for why the door was shut, but he managed to bring a smile to the man's face at the mention of the rat that had tried to claim the branch. By then, John was carrying his bag and the lantern from the cell, forgetting to look back at the vampire until it was too late. The light had been stolen from the cell and the door had been shut once again. The vampire was locked inside, alone now.
Though, the rat soon returned to gnaw and climb over its stick.
It was a skeleton, a vertical shaft of splintered wood skewering it, emerging from the rat's mouth while many other stripped sections of the branch were impaled through the dead creature, the wood left in place, lodged between bones and strings of rotten flesh. Seward shivered discreetly at the sharp spikes that ran up the skeleton's spine, the wood wedged firmly between the discs. If looked at closely the marks where the bones had been gnawed by other rats could be observed. The man recalled the courageous little rat he had encountered before and then had to look away, closing his eyes with a deep breath for the loss.
At the center of the cell watching the scene, Van Hellsing saw John's response along with the deformed shadow cast by the skeleton, and then peered into the darkness in the cell. He held his own lantern which dissected the darkness with sharp strokes when the blade of concentrated light moved along the walls and revealed the corner where his slave was huddled. The vampire showed no evidence of the monster that had tortured the rodent, curled up and fearful as he was now, but the rat was the testimony of the demon's inherent and ever present sinister nature. It was only a rodent, but it was also a living creature. And Alucard had killed it. That was something that demanded correction, immediately.
Hellsing withdrew the light, cloaking his slave in the darkness the beast coveted once more, and the aged man's boots hit the floor. They sounded like they were carved from stone rather than from any softer substance. The sound was so sharp that it turned Seward to his approach, able to distract the young man from the macabre shrine of suffering and death. When John turned, the skeleton was also thrown back into darkness.
"I wanted you to see this for no other reason than to explain to you why outside objects should no longer be allowed to be left in the cell…and to ensure that you are aware of the pressing danger the Vampire's company remains to be." John did not respond so Abraham continued, standing close enough to the younger man that he was able to touch his shoulder in a show of warm affection, similar to the affection he might owe a child. His smile was so faint that its existence flickered incessantly. "Today is not a day you should be here." John did not respond to this, though he sucked in his lip discreetly. "We will go to my study or to the parlor. It would be better if you returned in a few weeks. I will send you a telegram when-"
John was taken aback by the measure of time Hellsing had proposed, having expected to have his visit rescheduled for tomorrow or even during the next week, but weeks…weeks was much longer than anything he had foreseen. Weeks was longer than he wanted. The surprise made the man forget his manners for a moment, and he interrupted Hellsing without noticing his rudeness. "Weeks? -But weeks..? Why so long, Dr. Van Hellsing? I am fine with today, or even tomorrow."
Blue observed the youthful traits in the man's face that made his ignorance all the more apparent. It caused the older man to cringe inside ever so slightly for the element of deception that had entered the situation. It should have been obvious that the creature would need to be chastised (severely) for his actions. Van Hellsing sighed in a way that distracted John's thoughts, and he led the man from the cell without a word. The older doctor took Seward to his study where they would have privacy. Neither of the men touched the seats and Abraham declined when a house servant offered to serve them. He wished to be alone with Dr. Seward.
So the older man paced along a breadth of space in his study with green eyes following after him, turning with him, and then meeting the blue gaze when the man stopped. Quiet was dispersed promptly. Van Hellsing had no hesitation. He had simply chosen the words he would use, carefully.
"When he stopped feeding because of his fear of a human…when his fear conquered his thirst for blood, it was a level of progress that I had not thought possible. …But it has been observed. Once. …It is valuable progress I am unwilling to lose. I refuse to part with a reality with so much potential."
John said nothing and did not move, forgetting himself with all of his attention reserved for the old doctor and the statement. Seward's eyes had narrowed and his expression had become stiffer with the lifelessness in his body where everything in it had become concentrated in his mind, detached from him entirely and given to Van Hellsing.
"Killing, is forbidden. The Vampire cannot find it within his boundaries to kill anything, and then, you saw this as well, just how he tortured and mutilated that animal, without a reason or an order to do so. I refuse to allow the Vampire to express his yearning to kill. He is naturally a creature that cannot sustain compassion or control whims, so teaching him what is allowed and what is forbidden is necessary. In that way, I insert a warped, but improved - as he had possessed no morals or guilt to begin with - conscience into the Vampire. …Reeducation is in order, which establishes my need for time, John. With a few weeks, I will ensure…that he will not kill that way again. …This is of dire importance."
Green stared, taking all means of expression from Hellsing's features which had aged with the use of many displays of emotion and thought before now but at this time had nothing in its reserve that could be used to show his response. Seward's eyes were dark and brooding, his mouth unpleasantly grim.
He is undoing any measure of progress I make with the vampire. If he faces regular punishments by the hands of a human, it will be increasingly more difficult for me to gain his trust, the key to his cooperation. But beyond this…Van Hellsing's reasoning is sound. He has an objective. I have an objective. Unfortunately the two are not very compatible with one another. And- And I have no authority, no right, to criticize Dr. Van Hellsing. Alucard is his. He is not mine to handle the way I want to. I am the one who is in the place to compromise. I must adapt. I have always been aware of the environment. I have been aware, so why am I so reluctant to-
And I cannot argue against this. I will not forgive myself if I trouble him with my obstinacy. …Mother Mary Joseph and Saul and Paul and Peter, it is regrettable. For all the Saints, it is regrettable, but I will not say a word against it! And I will not lose my temper. I cannot! I know the environment. I will adapt. I will adapt to it – not fight it!
John Seward gave Abraham a nod of acceptance and then forced himself to sit down in a chair, his teeth grinding together as his jaw worked his frustration when his face was turned away from Hellsing's view, hiding his true feelings about the matter. When Van Hellsing could see John's face again, it was composed with a small smile of relief from the strenuous effort he had put forth to calm himself. Abraham watched Seward with reserved sadness and then gratitude for the man's decision and expended restraint. The servant was allowed to return and bring the men some refreshments while the two dedicated their time to distracting each other from any topic pertaining to the creature whose screams were now confined, ringing as they clashed against stone, swallowed by the earth and distance that separated the demon's Hell from their Earthly domain.
Just as had been decided by Abraham Van Hellsing, John Seward did not return until the telegram bearing Hellsing's permission arrived. Three weeks had passed with the world layering itself with flakes of ice. Snow that would melt and become uninteresting, though healthy and clean, water if brought inside for preservation.
Breathless. But I don't need breath. Shouldn't- My lungs shouldn't- No. Pain. Light. Flashes.
Paineverywheremakeitstop pleasehurtpainstop painpainpainnogodpain
…Darkness…and then blindness…and then men, humans, covered in more blood than cloth…all soaked, masks to prevent the entry of demonic blood…alien figures, fearful shapes…humans. Humans! Get away from them! They are PAIN!
Abandon the body! Spare yourself the burden of thought! But, cannot….
Screaming does not draw mercy from these things! Of course not, but-!
Oh, vă rugăm să moartea pune capăt acestui agonie. Maestre! Maestre! Iertare! Nu din nou! Durere!ţipă ... va rugam sa opri ... ţipetele ei rănit, durere, rănit, flash-uri, gene, nu mai mult. Nu mai mult!
...hurt...no more...safe place...must find...where...is...it...gone? Please not gone, no, please, safe? Safe? Where safe? Where did safe go? Safe? Safe for me? Where? Pat? No pat? Pat? Pat safe? Please pat and safe and mine, and please... Please! Please, Master! Begging! ...safe...safe...mine safe? Mine? For mine? Gone? Pat? Safe stones corner dark closed...
În condiţii de siguranţă. În condiţii de siguranţă. În condiţii de siguranţă. În condiţii de siguranţă.
Safe. Mine. Quiet.
*~*~ ::..+.. ::~*~*
John met with Van Hellsing and spent the hours of the clouded day in his company. The doctor received a curious request he permitted with little trouble to his preferences, so Seward was allowed to bring a pail into the cell, carrying it while his book was kept in his coat pocket. He opened the door, accustomed to the shriek of neglected hinges, and strode confidently into the cell with his beam of light flying before him, keen eyes ready to find the demon so he could evaluate the damage. The lantern's handle creaked when it swung to the right and then to the left, the farthest corners from the door where the demon was most comfortable. The light lit the condensed, tucked form, unable to see anything beyond black garments and a smoky gray mane of hair.
John approached slowly with careful, measured steps, watching for warnings of disturbance in the vampire that would warn him of a nearing flight. His steps were quiet, heels coming to touch the stones gently, soft steps to postpone the response he expected.
But as he drew closer, the vampire did not move. Like the ragged form was a weak beggar, frozen by the cold. John stared at the creature, his nerves disturbed with the notion that Alucard might be dead. But he was a vampire. He would turn to dust if he died. So he was alive in the sense of the undead. But, now the man was only feet away, three at most, yet…Alucard had shown no reaction.
With some feeling that could not be explained, telling him not to trespass, not to cross the distance Alucard had always enforced, John stood still, carefully bringing his feet together, and then pulled out his cloth from his pocket so that he could sit on it. But when it was halfway from his pocket, the length and disruptive whiteness convinced him to stuff it back in its place and kneel, choosing not to risk the moment for the sake of cleanliness. Cleanliness today would not be close to godliness. Sacrifice would fill its place, so the man dirtied his knees and shoes by kneeling in front of the demon and then sitting back on his calves.
The silence made the dim chamber into an abyss, a realm apart from any other, darkness isolating the mortal and immortal beings from everything else God had ever created or even dreamed of. This sensation was neither disturbed nor enforced when the clang of metal hitting stone left the pail sitting on the floor by John Seward's side. Condensation rolled off of the dull metal, points of water beading and then slipping down to become suspended above the dirt and slime attached to the stones. John, however, did not see this, watching instead the frozen form of a beaten, and possible broken creature. A human hand, still holding the handle, lifted the pail, moving it forward by inches while setting it down often to have the sound tink at intervals of its advancement. When it sat in front of Alucard, John maneuvered the handle so that it rested on the lip of the pail closest to himself, and then left go. He waited without considering the virtue or benefit of patience, but only the necessary slowness his movements should possess.
Seward's young face, stern and focused while touched by the glow from his lantern, watched the vampire. His voice emerged, hushed and softened by the closeness between them.
The pail was a foot from his knees and a foot from the vampire, separating the man from the demon. John's eyes gazed above it to see the gray hair, waiting for a single strand to move. Nothing changed. It was like the man was speaking to an inanimate object. …For now, he did not know if he was accomplishing anything through speech.
So he said nothing, and his hand went to the contents of the pail and scooped up a chunk of snow before he turned his hand over and dropped it back into place. It was wet, losing the fluffiness the man personally admired in fresh snow. Fingers lost their warmth, raking the snow to leave deep furrows in the white substance. The hand buried itself, causing discomfort for Seward, and then sifted through the snow to give off its natural sound. This continued while Seward's fingers lost their sense of feeling, numbing with cold.
But he finally gave up and withdrew his hand so it could be placed between his knees, frowning slightly while he warmed his fingers. His eyes stared at the black and gray, the frown of thought remaining until his hand could be useful again. Taking advantage of this comatose situation became tempting…growing more tempting as nothing else happened. Time ticked and the urge grew.
Unable to resist, John leaned forward and maneuvered quickly around the obstructing pail, coming within a foot of the demon before he settled back on his haunches and gazed at it, awed by the close proximity. White flesh stood out against the darker colors surrounding it, the contrast bringing Seward to spy the hands that clasped the creature's shins and kept its body tucked into itself.
John leaned closer, flinching when his foot hit the pail and jolted his already tense nerves. Shrugging off the start, his hand hovered above the stones, reaching beyond his position to let his fingertips graze a perfectly white hand.
Cold. Stiff. Like rigor mortem had paralyzed a corpse. His mind immediately made the connection and horror threw the man back, toppling his balance so that he found himself sitting on the filthy floor, his hands coated with grime he did not notice while gaping at the demon he had touched. Exhilaration, fear, and a small amount of shame knitted together to make the man give a pained grimace and then hurriedly return to his knees so that he wasn't sitting in the filth.
To take care of this issue, the white cloth was laid down so that Seward could protect his clothes, first using it to wipe off his hands. Then his eyes, naturally curious and caught by anything peculiar, gravitated to the demon's unchanged position. Seward's heart sped up and his tongue flicked over his lips nervously. Should he touch the vampire again to try and engage the creature? And…he was so…cold to the touch…
Following his natural instinct without waiting to consider any others that objected to his actions, warm human hands grasped a few stiff fingers and held them, trying to add life to the frigid skin. Stiff. Stiff like the dead. This isn't right. This isn't how he should be. Or is it? John Seward couldn't recall a time where he had touched a vampire before. It was a thrill, but it was also frightening. Touching Alucard was like touching a wild animal, a lion on the savannah, a jaguar in the jungle, a predator in its element.
John's heart beat faster than it would have if Alucard had been a simple human and his hand continued to hold the cold fingers, absolutely fascinated and repulsed at the same time…feelings that resembled how he'd once felt about a different patient he had looked after.