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
"Where do you think you're going?" Mesoraco snarled at Carl and pressed a hand against his chest. Halting his entry to the lower deck.
Carl drew up his shoulders as straight as they could go. He was not going to back down on this. "I am going to sit and pray and give aid to the man who is under my care. Would you rather explain to the Cardinal why the man you were meant to rescue can't put two words together to give a report?"
He may have jumped the gun with the vague threat but it didn't matter once Mesoraco stepped aside and let him go to Van Helsing's cell. The steps down to the lower deck were narrow and dark. They creaked under even Carl's light steps. The ship was made of old wood - sturdy but old - and Carl could feel every creak, every shift of the water beneath them.
He arrived shakily at the door to Van Helsing's cell. For a moment he had to lean against the wall, steady his feet under himself. Softly, he tapped on the door as he pushed it open slowly. "Gabriel," he spoke quietly, and poked his head around the door.
The man inside the cell made no sound at all. Carl wasn't sure the man was alive until he heard him breathing. Carl stepped fully into the cell, but waited to close the door.
"Gabriel, why did you cover the porthole?" he asked as he started blinked against the darkness to adjust his eyes to it.
A soft growl emanated from one corner. "Don't need to see... to see what I am."
Carl frowned. "What are you talking about? You're a man. And you're my friend. Do you mind if I let in some light? I don't see as well in the dark as you do." There was another sound from the corner, but no words. "Gabriel?"
Carl assumed he meant for him to remove the cover from the porthole slowly. He did exactly that. Slowly the light entered the room. Not much light, but enough for him to locate Van Helsing in the small cell. He also spotted an oil lamp on the little table by the door. That was reassuring.
"Do you want me to close the door?" he asked using his gentle 'priest' voice.
Van Helsing shrugged and shook his head. "Don't care."
Carl pushed the door closed. He leaned against it a moment, gathering himself. It pained him to see Van Helsing broken and damaged as he was. He had seen Van Helsing return from missions covered in, scrapes, scratches, gashes and contusions, as well as with broken bones and lacerations deep enough to need stitches. Nothing, however, had prepared him for this.
Van Helsing sat in the corner with a blanket wrapped tightly around his body. He said nothing at all unless prodded by someone - usually Carl. (He'd sat in on the first round of questions Mesoraco had put him through and had needed to prompt Van Helsing a few times to get answers for The Order.) Periodically he would sway or rock, but otherwise, he was motionless.
Moving slowly, Carl made his way to Van Helsing and knelt beside him. He slid a hand along his shoulder. "Gabriel, are you okay?"
In response, Van Helsing leaned his head against Carl's chest. No sound, no other motion, he just leaned in for comfort. Carl slid his arms around his fallen friend and held him close.
"I'm here, Gabriel. For anything you need." He glanced around the small, dim cell and sighed. "We're going to be on this ship for a long time. If you'd like to talk about anything you went through, I want you to know, I'm here to listen for as long as you need."
It took time, but, eventually, Van Helsing opened up and recounted to Carl a number of events of his capture. He spoke of the small, colorless cell and the painful transitions from man to werewolf and back. Of how exhausting the transitions were, how jarring, as he had no warning for when the clouds would move. He only had any concept of time at all because of the werewolf transitions during the full moon. And, even then, he wasn't certain all of the times he changed skins were a direct result of the moon phases given the sheer amount of control Dracula had.
That all gave Carl chills. The descriptions and stories had him tightening his arms around Van Helsing. Holding him closer with each break of the man's voice. But, when Van Helsing began to talk about the abusive aspects of his capture, Carl felt white hot anger building in his bones, it ran so deep. He swore, if Dracula wasn't already dead, he would undertake the task of killing him on his own.
Van Helsing sighed against Carl's chest when he felt him tense beneath his cheek. "Could have been worse," he said.
"That was pretty bad," Carl countered, "None of that was okay. No matter who he used to be."
'I know." He took a long drink of water before he spoke again. "But I don't want to have to save you too."
Carl bent his head forward, pressed a soft kiss to Van Helsing's hair, then curled himself around the man. He understood what Van Helsing meant. He understood that he needed him in order to survive the aftermath of everything he'd been through and Carl knew he needed to be strong to do that.
"You won't have to save me, Gabriel," he reassured him.
The rest of the trip to Rome was spent much the same as the earlier portions - Carl holding Van Helsing close while the man recounted experiences as he thought he needed. Carl made brave attempts not to go into internal violent rages when the stories became too intense. He fared well unless Van Helsing mentioned any form of torture or sexual assault.
As much as Van Helsing wanted him to listen without judgment and reaction, he couldn't prevent either. He may have been a friar, but he was also a man. It was times like these that the man held more prevalence than he would prefer. It was difficult for him to push his emotions aside for a friend as close as Van Helsing. If that made him a bad friar, he would have to live with that and beg Him for forgiveness.
Surprise wasn't the only emotion to register when the Spaniard pushed Van Helsing roughly against the wall. Van Helsing growled in anger and groaned in pain as his shoulders hit the stone. His body had not yet healed enough for him to be handled so roughly. The interrogations from Mesoraco were bad enough and had involved no physical contact; being shoved into a wall jarred him too much.
"If you want me that badly, you'll have to wait in line," he growled. It was the best he could manage under the circumstances.
Hidalgo growled back at him. "You murdered the Princess!"
Van Helsing sighed. "Poor word choice. She was killed. It wasn't a murder."
"You killed her. Murder or not, it is your fault she's dead," Hidalgo hissed.
It had taken some serious conversations and prayer sessions with Carl to realize that Anna's death was not his fault. Anna had been fully aware of the dangers involved and had chosen to make the rescue attempt anyway. She wanted to help get him out of Dracula's clutches. Carl had been fine with that choice. As had Mesoraco. Nothing Van Helsing had done had led to Anna's death. Not directly.
"I didn't," Van Helsing maintained. "She chose her path. Willingly. No one forced her. You met Anna. She was an independent woman. No one told her what to do."
That refueled some of the anger. Hidalgo at least released Van Helsing's shoulders. He groaned in relaxed relief, his sore muscles and bones barely ready for walking much less such rough handling. Especially the kind that didn't have a fun upside.
Hidalgo gave a huffy snort in response.
Van Helsing's brow wrinkled. "Why do you care so much?" He saw Hidalgo blink and glare at him. That's when he realized it. "I see. I am sorry. She was an amazing woman." He paused a moment. "She's also free. Her family as well. With Dracula's death, the family is free to enter the Kingdom of Heaven." He offered a nod of acknowledgment. "It is unfortunate that her death was part of that freedom."
Hidalgo was silent. Stoic, even.
"Anna once told me, Transylvanians look on the brighter side of death." He sighed gently. "Until this conversation, I wasn't sure exactly what she meant by that."
"Thank you," Hidalgo said with a quick nod of his head, then he slipped away down the hall.
Van Helsing watched the man as he walked away. He wasn't sure he'd been much help, but he believed what he'd said. He understood Anna's words now, words that had puzzled him when she'd said them. He had to believe there was something better. That if Aleksandr wanted to, he could find himself in paradise, rather than spending forever eternally damned.
"Señor Hidalgo," Carl greeted the man as they met in the hallway, with that quiet tone so many holy men either have naturally or acquire over time. He placed a gentle hand on the man's shoulder.
Hidalgo blinked at the friar, then away.
"How are you faring?" He knew that answer, but asked the question anyway. "Would you like help arranging the funeral?"
Hidalgo's shoulders visibly relaxed, though his face still held a look of grief.
"She has no family left who can arrange the funerary proceedings. I'll help put them together according to her family's traditions, if you'd like."
Hidalgo nodded. "Thank you, Carl." He took a deep breath and looked up at the friar. "How is Van Helsing doing?" he asked.
Surprised, Carl gave himself a moment to collect his thoughts. "Physically, he needs a few weeks to recover. Mentally, he'll need a lot longer and a lot of support." He took a moment again. "He spent four months under the mind control of a powerful demon."
"Mind control?" Hidalgo asked, confused.
Carl nodded. "Yes. Dracula had a very strong hold on him that he was unable to break."
Hidalgo's mouth bent into a frown. "If that's true, how did he manage to break free and fight Dracula?"
For a moment, Carl said nothing. He needed to collect his thoughts again. He wasn't sure whether or not he should tell. He figured he could hide the truth a little without having to embellish too much of the story. "I was responsible for most of his break from the mind control. Van Helsing's strong will power managed the rest." It wasn't a lie. But it was enough truth that he was okay with the explanation - both for himself as well as Van Helsing.
"He's a bit of a stubborn bastard, isn't he?" Hidalgo commented.
Carl couldn't keep a tight enough leash on the chuckle that bubbled out of his chest. "That is a colorful way of interpreting his personality." On the inside, he sighed in relief that Hidalgo was satisfied with his willpower explanation.
It wasn't until later, after he'd been asleep for eight days, that Van Helsing remembered what had happened to Anna. And what Carl had learned of Velkan and the Valerious family. When Carl came to visit him, he rolled his head away to face the wall. It was all too much to handle at the
Somehow, Carl understood that. He sat patiently by Van Helsing's bed, waiting for the man to come to terms with everything that had happened. Carl didn't press him or fawn over him. He was just there. And Van Helsing appreciated that.
It took him months before he was ready to speak to Carl in more detail about what had happened to him as Dracula's captive. Dragging it all back hurt and scared him. It was painful to speak of it, yet Carl never once judged him for any actions he had taken.
Carl's amazingly understanding nature and absolute desire to make sure Van Helsing was safe did more for Van Helsing's recovery than any of The Order's psychological experts' 'help'. Dogged persistence and a sympathetic, non-judgmental ear were far superior to a laundry list of questions he could never answer.
Van Helsing sat staring out the window of his room any number of days of the week. That is where Carl found him when he came looking one afternoon. He entered the room and closed the door gently.
"Thank you," Van Helsing said softly.
"You're welcome," Carl responded. He didn't have to ask 'for what', he already knew -everything.
Still watching the world outside the window, he spoke in a whisper: "I could have saved him."
"Some don't want to be saved, Gabriel.'"
"Don't call me that anymore."
Carl nodded and folded his hands at the small of his back. "What should I call you then?"
Van Helsing shook his head, rocked it back and forth against the back of the chair. "Choose something."
"Michael," Carl offered after a brief moment's thought. "It keeps with the theme without sounding overly pretentious."
That almost made Van Helsing smile. "I can live with that." He could live with that much easier than with the knowledge of what he'd done to both Anna and Aleksandr. He wasn't sure he'd ever be able to push those images from his mind. Even with Carl's help. But, with the determined friar by his side, he ought to be able to sleep through more nights than not.
End Part X
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