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Sanctuary - Small Wars
stillhouse
dbalthasar
Another story from my vampire AU, in which James Watson accepted Nikola Tesla's offer to make him a vampire in order to save his life, defeat the Cabal, and — perhaps — take over the world.  With John Druitt's help, they've gone after the Cabal, but James hasn't fully anticipated what becoming a vampire will mean.  (Warnings for violence and blood.  And vampires.)

It was a small Cabal outpost, a rented commercial laboratory in an otherwise largely empty industrial park, but traffic analysis indicated that something important was being funneled through the building.  James’s best assumption was that this was a late-stage testbed for some new weapon, probably biological, but beyond that he refused to commit himself.

“Because you don’t know,” Nikola said.  They were waiting in the dingy apartment four blocks from the complex, four rooms on the third floor of a tired four-story building that had nothing to recommend it except that it overlooked the only road leading into the industrial park.  It rented by the week, along with furniture that hadn’t been updated since the late ‘80s, and they were all heartily sick of the place.

“No, of course I don’t know,” James answered. “I can only carry my deductions so far based on the  traffic patterns and what we’ve found in the other Cabal laboratories.  If you were able to read some of these encrypted messages —”

“Which I can’t, because it would take more time and computer power than we have,” Nikola answered, not turning away from the window.  “And I’d appreciate it if you’d stop pretending you didn’t understand how these things work.  I’m sure your Declan taught you a thing or two.”

“You can leave Declan out of this,” James said, without particular heat.  This was not a new argument.  “The Sanctuary cannot be involved.”

“Well, then.”  The voice came from the door of the bedroom, a familiar low purr.  “I suppose we’d best take a look.”

James refused to turn, even when Druitt came to stand directly behind him, resting his hands on the back of the couch beside James’s head.  He couldn’t deny that John’s talents were useful, even vital, if they were going to stop the Cabal, but he did not have to pretend to like it.

“Once the night shift has settled in,” Nikola said.  This time he did look over his shoulder.  “You’re familiar with the plans?”

“Oh, yes.” Druitt moved away, still with the old economy of motion, flicked a finger at the architects’ plan of the complex that still lay on the formica-topped table.  “Assuming that they haven’t installed any new walls, or dug holes in the floor — yes, I can get us in.”

“We’ve been over this,” James said.  “We discussed where they were likely to have made changes, given when we’ve observed. You picked your spot.”

“And, as you said, I don’t know.”  Druitt paused. “It’s a good bet, but it’s not a sure thing.”

“It’s what we’ve got,” Nikola said briskly.  “Let’s go.”

John’s instincts had been good.  They materialized in a back corridor, with bare fluorescent tubes overhead and a painted concrete floor.  Behind them was a steel door. James checked it, and found it gave onto what looked like a loading dock empty of everything except a forklift.  There was a side door as well as the overhead bay, a chain swagged around the latch, but Nikola could break that.  Or he himself could.  Either way, it was a possible alternate escape route.

“This way,” Nikola said, and James moved to follow, closing his hand on the butt of the pistol in his pocket.

The main corridor was better lit, and more recently painted, soft pale shades that were probably intended to be both soothing and utilitarian and succeeded at neither.  It was very quiet, no activity in the corridors, and most of the labs were dark behind the panes of glass that lined the hall.  Here and there, computer screens flickered, running data; Nikola stopped once or twice to watch for a moment, but then moved them on.  With his newly sensitive hearing, James could pick up the whine of a centrifuge and the thump of a small electric motor even before they rounded the final corner.  Here the lab windows were brightly lit, revealing computer screens filled with graphs and numbers, an expensive array of what looked like spectrographic equipment, and a pair of men in white coats bent over the same laptop, glancing from ti to what a large screen on which floated the image from a projection microscope.

There was something wrong.  James paused, eyes flicking from screen to men to screen. Why would they need a spectrographic assay if they were already running that test — and surely the bank of consoles was fortuitously arranged to screen one far corner.  He opened to his mouth to warn them, but in the same instant John gripped his shoulder and they were abruptly inside the lab.

“It’s a trap, damn it,” James said, and the first technician turned, reaching for a gun, lab coat opening to reveal body armor.

John swirled and disappeared, to reappear behind the technician, knife in hand.  James drew his own pistol, and someone shouted from behind the console.

“Drop your weapons or we shoot!”

James fired three times in answer, more to disrupt their aim than in any hope of doing real damage.  Out of the corner of his eye he saw Nikola with claws and fangs extended, grappling with a man in black body armor.  John had the second technician by the hair, using his body as a shield even as he drew his knife across the man’s throat.  James fired again, the recoil heavy in his hand, saw a Cabal mercenary fall, and Nikola raised bloody claws. 

“Druitt!  Get us out of here!”

He was too far away, James saw, and slotted home his second clip, too far away and they were too far apart.  John turned anyway, looking for a way out, and another mercenary popped up from behind the consoles, machine pistol leveled.  James moved without really thinking, interposing himself, his newly invulnerable body.  He had a moment to remember that Nikola had been wrong before, and the bullets beat him backwards, knocking breath and life from him.  There was an instant of scalding dark, and then his heart caught, and his lungs, and he shook himself back into the moment, feeling the wounds close across his chest.  Silver sang past him, and the mercenary fell, one of John’s knives in his throat.  A second man took his place, firing wildly, and James felt his arm and shoulder shred, bone splintering.  It hurt no worse than the first half dozen body shots, but the sight was shocking, sent him reeling sideways.  He dragged himself upright, claws and fangs extending as the shattered pieces began to pull together, and then the air behind the mercenary twisted:  John.  His knife flashed, and the Cabal soldier fell, blood fountaining from the gaping wound.  James stared at it in the air, vivid scarlet, infinitely precious, infinitely desirable, felt his healing muscles yearn toward it. He wanted not just to drink it, but to wallow in it, to lick the tiles clean and trace every spattered drop.  He wanted to sink his teeth into living flesh, to feed and heal, but none of the Cabal were left alive —

“James!”

Nikola had been speaking for some time, James realized, and he was still standing frozen in the middle of the lab, claws and teeth rampant, his suit coat ripped to shreds.  The air was sweet, heady with blood.  With an effort of will that made his healing muscles ache, he suppressed his claws, and then his fangs, bent his arm and was pleased to feel it respond.

“Are you all right?” Nikola demanded.  He was staring at a keyboard as though he could will it to produce a password.

James worked his shoulder, wincing, but the bones were already mostly solid, and the pain was just the pop and sting of the knitting muscles.  “Fine,” he said.  “You won’t find anything there, they won’t have left anything in the files —”

“Watson’s right,” John said.  He smiled suddenly.  “And thank you, by the way.”

“I think we’re even,” James said, remembering the flying knife, and couldn’t find it in himself to regret the moment of camaraderie.

Nikola gave the computer a last look of frustration, then lifted both hands and poured electricity into the nearest machine.  It sparked and smoked, setting off a chain reaction that sent flames licking toward the ceiling.  “OK, maybe we should go now.”

John laid his hands on their shoulders, and they were abruptly back in the apartment.  There was a bloody handprint on James’s shirt, where John had touched him, and he was seized with the overwhelming desire to suck at it, to get just a taste of the blood —

“John,” Nikola said.  He sounded a little strained, too, James thought. “Go wash up, now.  James, drink this.”

He held out a glass of something as cloudy as absinthe.  James took it with revulsion, recognizing Helen’s medication.  “I don’t need this.”

“Yes, you do,” Nikola said.  “So do I.  And we really need Johnny to stop looking and smelling like a slaughterhouse —”

“I’m fine,” James said again, though gritted teeth, but tossed back the drink, willing it to work quickly.  He hadn’t lost control, he hadn’t exsanguinated anyone, even if that was only because there was no one left alive —  He shoved that thought aside, aware of the shower running in the back of the apartment, looked down at his own filthy hands.  “I should shower myself.”

“When Druitt’s finished,” Nikola said.

“You don’t trust me,” James said, and didn’t know whether he was hurt or angry.  Or, perhaps, grateful.

“I don’t trust either one of us until we can get some nourishment,” Nikola said.  “You may not have noticed, but you took quite a hit.”

“I noticed.”  James refused to remember how his arm had looked, dangling boneless and bloody.  He closed his fingers, bent his arm, concentrating on the perfect motion of muscle and nerve.  No harm done, in spite of everything.

Nikola held out a glass of red wine.  “I have a better vintage waiting, but this will take the edge off.”

James took a long drink, very aware that this was not what he actually craved.  The Cabal agent was dead, but John owed him —  He shook his head, appalled at his own thoughts, and the door from the hall opened.  John emerged, scrupulously clean, fastening immaculate cuffs over strong pale hands.  Somewhere behind him was a bloody shirt….  James stopped himself again, but somehting of the thought must have shown in his face, because John smiled, slow and not entirely without sympathy.

“Welcome to the club.”
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Oh, James! This is a fascinating AU. I find myself loving the idea of vampire!James.

Thank you! I'm enjoying it (and will have to get back to the obvious missing scene at some point, in which James and Nikola "recruit" John) but the thing that has been really striking for me is how different the feeling is without Helen in charge.

Edited at 2011-05-21 12:58 am (UTC)

I love this AU so much! I love the three of them together, and James' new desire for blood, and how Nikola is shepherding him carefully, not letting him go out of control because he understands all too well. And John, "welcome to the club" just chilling!

Thank you! I'm really having fun with it. James with his careful avoidance of feeling words is going to keep being blindsided by the intensity of his desires. And I think Nikola guessed as much, but not how deeply it would affect James. Whereas John... also understands. (I have to write the missing scene now, in which they "recruit" John.)

The other thing that I'm noticing is how different it is to write them when they're cut loose from Helen....

(Deleted comment)
Thank you! *carefully feeds the venus fly traps* I'm having a lot of fun with this myself. I mean, Nikola must have gone through a lot of this, and had to figure out what to do without any guidance, but clearly he embraced the whole idea, while James - is still trying not to think to hard about it. And, yeah, they are kind of scary like this. Helen may need to take them in hand. :-)

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