Where There is Darkness
By: Highlander II
Category: Alternate Universe, Fantasy
Archive: Please ask.
Spoilers: Van Helsing
Rating: NC-17: (skip) Non-consensual sexual encounters, mind control, bondage, spanking/caning, character death.
Summary: What happens if Van Helsing doesn't defeat the Dracula beast and is taken prisoner instead? Carl and Anna have to locate Van Helsing and rescue him from Dracula's clutches before The Knights of the Holy Order learns what is going on and sends another army of operatives after the rogue monster hunter. In the meantime, Van Helsing has to survive his incarceration without losing his mind.
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the words on this page; the characters belong to Stephen Sommers and Universal pictures.
Notes: Written for scifibigbang 2010.
Art by: sanadafaye
Feedback: Highlander II
The liquid beneath the microscope didn't seem different from blood. It was red, had cells, had a liquid around the larger cells. He couldn't be sure that he would figure out anything from the sample. Or if the sample was even still viable.
Usually he was quite good at research and discovering the origins of a compound as well as it's basic components. This one had him stumped. Perhaps there was a mystical component that he couldn't see now with his current equipment. Either because the equipment wasn't sophisticated enough or the mystical aspect had faded.
But Carl was determined. He had a great deal invested in this research. Van Helsing was a valuable member of the Knights of the Holy Order but was also a very close friend. Carl wouldn't abandon him.
He sipped his tea, prepared a new slide, then placed it on the scope. Still, nothing jumped out at him. This was going to be a long night.
Anna finished collecting items for the hunt. Most of the others thought she was mad for continuing her work protecting the village after all that had happened. Her opinion was that her protection was needed more than ever without Van Helsing available to help.
There was a new threat in the woods. The vampires had seemingly gone on hiatus, but the Bukovac had not. She had heard of the creatures in stories and folklore, but had ever encountered one until the week before when she had gone to the clearing by the river. No one had ever mentioned the Bukovac coming that close to the village. She theorized that the vampire attacks had kept them away.
Now that the vampires were gone - for the time being - new threats were starting to make themselves threatening. Some trickster sprites had taunted the village last month, and this month, the Bukovac. Anna had spread word for the villagers to be careful in the forest now. To watch for creatures like the Bukovac. Most had heeded her warnings, but a few rabble-rousers had tried to hunt and capture some of their new foes. Of those few, only two had a escaped being killed and those two had nothing but scars to show for their efforts.
After that, Anna had gathered her brother's hunting party and set off to find the Bukovac. The hunts were short and, so far, fruitless but she would do what was necessary to protect her people.
Van Helsing waited against the wall of the corridor. Unsure when the other being would approach, he pressed his back close to the stone wall and waited. He controlled his breathing, but not the grumbling of his famished stomach.
As he waited, he felt the fall of night settle to his bones. The rising of the full moon prickled the hairs on the back of his neck. He closed his eyes and wished – prayed - for overcast skies.
Wish not granted. Prayers not answered. The wolf tore from his skin and roared from deep within his chest again. A moment later, he heard an answering roar curling down the corridor to his left.
He scented the air, then followed the scent down the dark stone hallway. To the right was an opening; dim light spread a few inches into the corridor. He stalked toward the light and poked his nose around the corner. The scent was stronger here. It drew him around the corner and into the alcove that turned out to be more of a lighted cave than just an alcove.
Deeper into the cave, he spotted the source of the answering roar. A sleek, tawny brown-coated werewolf, locked behind a cage door. A snarling growl rolled from his chest - a sound of rage. He curled one claw around the bars of the cage and pulled hard on the door.
It rattled, but wouldn't come free. He grasped the cage door with both front paws, claws curled around the bars, and yanked again. The door pulled clean off the hinges. He threw the door across the cave, then turned back to the werewolf he'd just freed.
The other wolf sniffed the air between them before stepping forward slowly. Van Helsing approached cautiously.
When the tawny wolf leapt at him, he wasn't ready and they both slid across the floor and slammed into the wall. He scrambled to his feet, planted himself firmly in place and stared the other down with a snarl.
They paced around one another. Eyes focused, heads down to protect their throats. Neither gave ground. Neither backed down from their position. Two alphas making a stand against one another.
Two circles later, they were on each other. Swiping claws and snapping teeth until the aggression turned into a primal need to mate. In a flurry of fangs and fur, he mounted the recently released female werewolf.
When Van Helsing woke, he found himself sprawled in a corner. He raised his head and peered through the missing door of the cage. A woman lay curled just inside the cage with him. He didn't recognize her. He was certain she was another of Dracula's pets.
He wanted to say something to her. Assure her that everything would be fine. The problem was, he didn't know that. And he couldn't give her assurance of something he couldn't be sure of himself.
Van Helsing knew something had happened, but his fuzzy memory wouldn't let him see it clearly. When he tried to speak to the naked woman, supine on the floor, his voice was scratchy and hoarse. He thought he asked her if she was okay in gravelly Italian, but he wasn't sure it was clear. The woman didn't react. He swallowed to wet his throat. Then he tried Italian a second time, then German, Latin, the few scrapes of the Baltic languages he knew and his broken Romanian. Still nothing.
He gathered as much strength as he could and pulled himself across the cold stone floor. Fingers passed gently against the vein in her throat, seeking her pulse. It was faint, but there. That was a good sign.
The woman was attractive, but plain. She had tan skin and light brown hair. Her eyes were closed so he couldn't see what color they were. He watched her breathing - steady and even. His guts twisted with the realization of what had most-likely happened the night before and he thought he might be sick. He was no stranger to spontaneous sex, just to spontaneous sex as an animal.
He sat with his back against the wall, watched the woman until she stirred and woke. She blinked bleary eyes at him. "Who are you?" she asked in fluid German.
Rusty with German, he gave her a choppy introduction. Having to learn so many languages so quickly hadn't given him time to practice them. And he'd spent the few days before his trip to Romania speaking the languages he needed for that mission.
She laughed at him and his attempt at her language. With a slight modification to her phrasing, she asked him his name and if he knew where they were. It took time, but they muddled through a conversation and he attempted to apologize for his behavior of the night before with a deep blush. She didn't seem upset or offended, which he greatly appreciated.
What he didn't appreciate was the sudden splash of icy water on his skin. He spluttered and spit, shook his head and pushed to his feet. Angry, face burning with fury, he stalked toward the source of the water.
"Stop, Gabriel," Dracula commanded.
Van Helsing stopped mid-stride without benefit of conscious thought. He hated that. He hated the control Dracula had over him. But since he'd had some sleep, he could feel some of that control having to push a little harder.
It wasn't much, but it was something.
"Oh, Gabriel. I am so pleased that you found my other pet." Dracula glanced toward the woman on the floor. "And I can see you are quite well acquainted," he added with a wicked grin.
Van Helsing growled low in his chest. Had it all been a a set-up or just bad timing for his escape attempt? Neither was pleasant, but the latter was the choice that made him feel less helpless.
"Come with me, Gabriel," Dracula said as he began to leave the cave.
"What about her?" Van Helsing asked, his feet following the instruction all on their own.
Dracula sighed. "She'll be fine. There is no need to worry about her." He stopped abruptly, turned to face Van Helsing and grabbed him under the chin. "You, on the other hand, have earned yourself a set of shackles."
Van Helsing felt spittle, hot and acidic, splutter against his cheek. He refused to flinch or otherwise show weakness in front of his captor.
"Chain him to the wall," Dracula ordered with a flippant wave of his hand as he turned to his chambers.
It wasn't until the treacherous little Dwergi showed up and locked the chains to his neck, wrists and ankles that he realized the safety and comfort of his cold, stone cell was no longer an option. He was chained to the wall, naked, on display outside Dracula's chambers. On display for anyone passing by to see.
The sharp stones pressed into his back and legs. The frosty castle air raised goosebumps on his skin. The near dead silence was more disconcerting than any of the other sounds he'd heard in the castle. He felt more alone here, hanging from the wall, than he had the first night in the cell with it's cold, stone floor.
The Vatican – 1870
Van Helsing knelt on the cold stone floor, head bowed to his chest. He was alone in the room. Waiting. The empty room sounded hollow, barren. His breath echoed of the stone walls.
From inside the room, he couldn't hear anything in the corridor. The only thing he could do was wait.
The waiting was worse, he thought, than any punishment they could inflict. And there would be punishment. After what he'd done, if he wasn't executed, he would think himself lucky.
He was right. Punishment was coming. And it wasn't going to be pleasant. The Order was angry and frustrated. What he'd done this time was forgivable, but he would have to endure whatever they laid on him for it.
The Cardinal, an unattractive heavyset man, floated into the room, red robes swishing against the concrete floor. He stopped in front of Van Helsing and motioned for the men who had followed him in to lift Van Helsing from the floor.
Van Helsing was dragged to a wooden stocks and locked into the device. Stubbornly, he tried to get free. The Cardinal frowned at him sternly.
"Gabriel," the Cardinal hissed, "you have tried the patience of The Order yet again. Did you not learn from the last time?"
Van Helsing said nothing. Yet.
"What you have done has shamed you and the church and The Order and the House of Valerious." The portly man turned on Van Helsing. "Have you anything to say for yourself?"
"Love cannot bring shame," he stated in reply.
Almost before the last word left his lips a hand cracked sharply against his face. It stung and he turned his face away. He tasted blood on his tongue and realized the Cardinal had split his lip.
"Adultery, Gabriel, is a sin," the Cardinal informed him in a tone one might use with a particularly stubborn child.
"So is abuse," he muttered under his breath, but kept his eyes on the Cardinal. He kept his breathing even and his heart rate as steady as possible. Both became increasingly difficult as the Cardinal paced around him.
"Gabriel," the Cardinal pronounced, "your punishment has been decided by the Council of The Order." He paced slowly around Van Helsing. "You will be stripped of your power and position."
Van Helsing was certain he could live with that. As long as he had assurances that the Lady Valerious and her baby would be all right. He wanted his family to be cared for and safe.
"...you will undergo the transformation at sundown," the Cardinal droned on, trying to make his voice boom in the cold, stone room.
Transformation? Van Helsing should have paid closer attention. "What happens to them?" he asked.
"They will be taken care of. They no longer concern you, Gabriel."
He wanted to snarl that they would always concern him. That his family - even an illegitimate one - was important to him.
The cold stone steps were slick as he crawled. Wet and rigid beneath his weary limbs. The rain pelted his skin. He felt himself sliding down the stairs, back to the square.
The rain water slid off his face, replaced by more from the heavens as the storm continued.
Later he'd be asked how he had arrived at the Vatican and he would have to answer that he didn't know. He couldn't remember coming to Rome or why. The last thing he remembered was the wet stairs against his face.
The Vatican – 1888
The Knights of the Holy Order, as he had learned the group that had found him was called, had cleaned him up, fed him and let him sleep for as long as he needed. Once he was rested, they started him on a training regimen unlike any he had been on before - or since.
He was up before the sun, training, then awake late into the night with studies of creatures he had never heard of and that children only hear of in fairytales.
Climbing trees, hanging from rooftops, firing crossbows, running through woods and brush - none of these were activities he had thought he would engage in at any point... of the last three months. All of his training included any or all of these at some point. He had more bruises, scrapes, abrasions and broken bones than he could count.
One night, laying in the infirmary, he heard pieces of a conversation:
"Is this entirely necessary?"
"For him to be prepared, yes."
"So you have to nearly kill him to prepare him for the work he needs to do?"
"... learn discipline and control. We need him."
He passed out at that point. When he came to later, the voices were gone. He couldn't be sure, but he thought they had been talking about him. This Order had been torturing and punishing him for weeks to strengthen their own agenda.
Until then, he had not had any problems towing the line. No longer. He would do what he needed to learn the skills, but he would do no more. He was not their lab rat or guinea pig to be used and experimented on for their own purposes.
Castle Dracula – 1890
Dracula rose from his slumber rested and as rejuvenated as an undead man could be sleeping to the sounds of his captive hissing and groaning in complaint about his uncomfortable position. He exited his chambers to find that Van Helsing was hanging from the wall by manacles and chains. Such an exquisite display of captive flesh to wake up to. Dracula was pleased by this early encounter.
"My, my, Gabriel, one might think you hadn't slept at all," he cooed as though in sympathy for his lack of rest. He was certain the man hadn't managed sleep in this position. That was the idea, after all.
Van Helsing gave no verbal response. Nothing more than a tired grunt of frustration. That just would not do at all.
Dracula backhanded him across the jaw. "You are to speak to me when spoken to, my pet," he growled.
Van Helsing's head cracked against the wall with a 'thock', then returned to it's hanging position in the neck shackles. "No, I didn't," he confirmed in a harsh whispered croak.
A Dwergi servant approached with a cup of water. Dracula rolled his eyes at the creature, but took the cup in his pale, bony hand. "Oh, if I must." He lifted the cup for Van Helsing to drink. Threw the cup at the Dwergi once he was finished. "Get out," he snarled at the creature and it scurried off in a hurry.
"Thank you," Van Helsing managed, his throat still dry from lack of liquid, but the sentiment was as much there as it would be for anyone else who'd brought him much-needed water.
"So you are schooled in etiquette, my pet. How precious." Dracula's face turned from mock-smile to deep snarl. "We'll get rid of that soon enough." After an exaggerated sigh, Dracula began to unlock the shackles. "I have another mission for you. I need you to go to Rome. Find some things. That blubbering buffoon at the Valerious castle is more than useless and I need you to see what those Knights might have on this."
Van Helsing was barely able to stand, but managed to keep his feet long enough to hear the instructions. "Why would you send me to Rome?" he asked.
"For the irony," Dracula responded. "Now go, my pet. We don't have much time."
The control was growing stronger. Van Helsing couldn't resist following the orders he'd been given. No matter how much he tried, nothing could help him break free. His form shifted as the full moon rose and he bounded for the portal that had been opened for him.
He was in the lab again. He was always in the lab. Every day since he'd returned from Dracula's castle, he had spent focused on one thing – finding a cure for Van Helsing. He would find it. If it took him years, he would find it. Failure was not possible. The world, The Order, he needed Van Helsing back.
Dracula's hold was growing stronger. Carl could feel it with each passing week. But he wouldn't let that deter his progress.
He would do this.
He had to do this.
As night fell he felt his mind clouding over, fatigued from the unending research. He needed fresh air. A walk in the courtyard would help him clear his head.
Darkness lingered heavily between the trees. Carl found it comforting. He could let his mind wander without interruption. He could think in the darkness. Even if the darkness of the small woods frightened him a little. He knew it shouldn't, but when one's best friend has been turned into a monster, even irrational fears had some grounding.
He sat on a large rock, glanced to the sky and began to pray. When he was at a loss for direction, he turned to God for help. Sometimes it was more help than others, but he refused to give up on the practice. If nothing else, it gave him hope. Surely the Heavenly Father would not give up on one of his own.
The heavy movement in the trees gave him a fright. He stopped mid-prayer. Without thinking, he sequestered himself behind the rock. He hoped his teeth weren't chattering too loudly.
He closed his eyes and tried to take slow, deep breaths. Whatever was out there, he didn't want to face it. And certainly not alone.
Oh, Gabriel, if only you were here.
A loud snort carried across the small clearing. It was familiar sound. Familiar and frightening. He'd heard it before. At Castle Valerious and at Castle Frankenstein and at Dracula's icy palace. A werewolf.
How had a werewolf penetrated the defenses of The Order's courtyard? Had the man they'd captured for study managed to escape?
Carl was certain the man hadn't. His instincts were sure. His instincts were telling him he knew this werewolf.
Slowly, he peered around the edge of the rock. Waiting for the creature to appear in the clearing was nerve-wracking. He felt his knees shaking. This is why Van Helsing was the hero. Nothing scared him.
When he saw the werewolf emerge from the darkness of the trees, he gasped. Shrinking back into the shadows, he watched the beast stop and scent the air.
What are you doing, Carl? You know it can smell your scent. It knows you're here. You can't hide. Carl's own internal musings weren't helping to quell his fears any.
The beast seemed to be reading Carl's thoughts as it stepped further into the pale light of the clearing. It stepped into the brighter patch of light at one side of the clearing and turned it's large canine head. Moonlight glinted off the beast's eye. Carl instantly recognized the sleek black coat and alert ears. As well as the determined set of the eye.
He was mentally yanked back to that rainy, cold night, several weeks ago, in Dracula's castle. He'd made it through the Dwergi and pygmy bats and Dracula's brides, only to be faced with the task of injecting Van Helsing with the serum that would cure him. If only he hadn't tripped over the wires and equipment lining the floor of the lab. If only he'd been faster. If only he'd done everything right. Van Helsing wouldn't be fighting for his mind and Carl wouldn't be frantically searching for a cure to save him.
Anna had searched everywhere in Velkan's chambers and the surrounding rooms. The one loose stone with the note from her brother had been the only clue. She would have to look elsewhere.
The tower had been poured over pretty thoroughly when Carl had been doing his research. She would look there later. There was a possibility Velkan had hidden something in her room, but that seemed unlikely.
Her current destination: the library. Rather than search the usual locations, she was checking walls and the sides of bookshelves. So far, her search had yielded little. Nothing useful, actually. When she considered the possibility that what she was looking for was tucked into one of the thousands of books, her ire rose. She could only hope Velkan wasn't nearly that cruel – even to his sister.
Sergei came into the library carrying an armload of books. "Oh, pardon me, mistress."
"What are you doing with those books?" she growled.
"Returning them to the library, mistress," he stammered in response as he backed into the wall.
Anna frowned. Her reaction had been more harsh than necessary. "Why did you have them out of the library? You know the books are to remain here," she said, voice softer this time.
The little man lowered his head. "I was doing research, mistress. And I had left my notes in my chambers. It was more efficient to take the books there, then return them once I was finished."
Far too tired to bother with him more, Anna shook her head and left the library with a disdainful snort. She needed information.
"My God. Van Helsing?" Carl gasped, squinting into the clearing. He was certain the next time he saw Gabriel, the man would be trying to kill him. This, he saw as an opportunity. He would get a sample of the werewolf's blood to test against the sample from Gabriel he had back in the lab.
The beast sniffed and snorted again. It made no move to attack. Carl took this as a good sign as well. Still, he was cautious moving from behind the rock into the clearing proper. And he was wishing he had brought a weapon.
Carl watched the werewolf's ears twitch, gathering more information. He was certain it was Gabriel. He could feel it. "Van Helsing," he began, "do you trust me?"
The werewolf tilted it's large black head to one side. It cautiously watched him approach, but gave no indication it might attack.
Hopeful still, Carl held the syringe he needed to use in front of him for the wolf to see. "I need to take a sample. Will you let me do that?" He was close enough to reach out and touch the sleek black fur if he'd wanted. Nervous was one word to describe his current state of mind. Scared wouldn't be far off either. He was within chomping distance of a werewolf for crying out loud.
With what Carl assumed was a hearty sigh, the wolf lowered his front end to the ground as though preparing for sleep. Carl counted to fifteen in his head before taking those last few steps.
"You do know who I am. That's a relief." He felt that if he didn't stop talking, he was less likely to be eaten. He continued in the same soft, gentle cadence. He prattled on about weapons he'd been developing, weapons he'd been thinking about developing, weapons he'd been improving and the research he'd been doing. The weapons discussion was for Gabriel; the research, for his own reassurance.
He managed to stick the werewolf and keep himself calm at the same time. Gabriel didn't seem bothered by the syringes as Carl drew several samples. He wasn't going to risk not having an ample supply. And knew he'd not have another chance.
The wolf's fur was softer than he had expected it to be. Then again, he had never expected to be this close to a werewolf either. Carl spent several minutes brushing his fingers through the dark shiny fur of the werewolf's pelt. He didn't think Gabriel would mind and it seemed to help soothe the beast.
"Gabriel..." Carl said softly, bowing his head close to the wolf's neck. "He missed his friend terribly. Needed him to come back to him.
The moonlight faded. The wolf melted into a man, kneeling on the grass
"Yes, my pet. Convince your little monk friend that you no longer need his help. That there is nothing he can do for you," Dracula hissed to the shimmering image of his werewolf pet in the clearing with the meddlesome friar.
He wasn't pleased that his pet had taken a side trip during his assignment, but if Van Helsing could convince the friar to focus his attention elsewhere, Dracula could get his pet's attention back where it belonged.
Dracula needed his pet to remain under his control. Van Helsing's will was much stronger than that of any of his previous pets. Others had been strong, but none had resisted him quite as stridently.
They had a history that Van Helsing didn't remember. But the connection was still present. He could feel it. They'd shared a lot at a point in history that had not been pleasant for either of them.
They had supported one another during difficult times. Only parting company when his partner left for the Carpathians. He wanted his partner back.
Van Helsing took a deep, solid breath and pressed a fist into the ground for balance. It took several seconds for his eyes to focus. When they did, he shrank away from Carl. Curling his arms around himself. Desperate for his friend not to see him this way.
"Oh, Gabriel," Carl said as he knelt beside him, arms around his shoulders in a warm, yet gentle embrace.
"Please, Carl," Van Helsing panted, "Don't... don't see me like this." Naked and broken and not in control of his own mind longer than seconds at a time.
Carl sat back on his heels. "How should I see you?" he asked with a growl.
Van Helsing said nothing for a long time. He needed the rest afforded to him by the momentary cloud cover. Though it wouldn't last long, he took advantage of every second he had.
His nose caught the scent of something. Salty. Meat-like. He lifted his head to look. Carl had food. Instantly his mouth began to water. Dracula rarely let him eat unless he was in wolf-form and even then, he usually had to kill his own prey. Something he refused to do unless he was desperate.
"I'll share," Carl informed him and held out the strip of jerky.
Van Helsing tentatively reached for the meat, still uncertain this wasn't a hallucination. His fingers closed around real food and, when he put it to his lips, it tasted like real food. When he closed his teeth around it, it felt real and tasted real in his mouth. He closed his eyes and sighed contentedly at the first real food he'd had in weeks.
He looked up and shook his head slowly. "Carl, I'm so sorry," he breathed between chews.
"Shut up and drink this, quickly." Carl handed him a flask of water that cooled Van Helsing's throat wonderfully.
"In the castle..." Van Helsing muttered through the food, "journal... pre-Boris... could help..." It was difficult to breathe and chew and speak all at the same time.
Carl nodded, then looked toward the sky. "The clouds are moving," Carl told him as he looked back to Van Helsing. "Keep fighting, Gabriel. I'll find the answers."
Van Helsing chewed on the jerky, drank the water and just breathed for the last few moments he had before the clouds began to move. "Go, Carl. Now." He shook his head again. "I don't know how well I can control it now. Please..."
Carl held up a hand to stall further pleading from the hero before him. "Promise me, you won't give up."
A nod. "I promise, Carl. Now, please, go."
He felt it coming only moments before it happened. The terrible itching beneath his skin. The crawling, bubbling of the werewolf hide, pushing to break free. He let out a roar and rose to his feet, fingers tearing at the human skin, ripping it from his body, exposing the wolf fur to the shining moonlight.
Once the wolf had taken over his body again, he pulled back enough control to see that Carl had made his escape, before turning back into the woods to complete the assignment he'd been sent to fulfill.
End Part IV