Lines Inscribed Upon a Cup Formed From a SkullAuthor: silvercobwebs
aka I Thought Everyone Knew About Balthazar!Written for:
Methos/Byron, OC Rating:
A bit of blood here and there. Author's Notes:
Apologies for any blatant historical anachronisms that might have gone unnoticed. (well, except for ones that are already in the show.) The title is unimaginatively stolen from the poet himself. Summary:
A spirit passed before me: I beheld / The face of immortality unveiled ('A Spirit Passed Before Me' - Lord George Gordon Byron)The White Hart pubic house, London. 22nd January, Year of Our Lord 1815. 2.57 am.
The doctor hadn't noticed when the blood first began to flow. There was noise... a loud noise, and shouting. And some smoke, but the room was already filled with the unholy ether they enjoyed so. Things were not so different to a few hours ago, surely?
He seemed to be bleeding. At least, there was blood. It covered his hands and his shirt and when he remembered to inhale, he tasted the musty, charred dent punched into the opium fog. It appeared that a pistol had been discharged. Ruined his travelling clothes too, he idly noticed as he stared at the sticky red substance covering his fingers.
He was going to die. How very unfortunate. Laughter forced its way through cracked lips and he felt the world tip, his balance betray him and the floor eagerly rise to greet him. He hit the ground like a ball of wet clay and finally he noticed the corpse of his newest, dearest friend.
Lord Byron was dead.
The man in the corner watched on.
'Come now my dear young doctor. Have you lost your taste for such fine pleasures so quickly?' Byron roared over the heaving mass of bodies.
The pub was crammed with people, and despite the chill outside, the doctor was sweating. Hot bodies and warm beer brushed past him and he reached for his glass of wine. Bah. This was not the kind of refreshment he had been expecting. It was bitter and tasted like cheap vinegar. His taste buds longed for real French wine.
The doctor saluted his friend's overflowing glass. 'Not at all, my Lord. I find the atmosphere quite... stimulating.'
Casting a female admirer to one side, Byron leaned over the bench, his features only centimetres from his companion's. He reeked of cheap spirits and expensive cologne. 'Then why are you so quiet?'
The doctor leaned back in his seat and took and genteel sip. 'This place is beneath you, no? You could be anywhere, with anyone yet you choose to spend your time in this squalid little shack, surrounded by the lower classes.'
Byron laughed, long and loud. 'That is exactly why!' Giving their already fragile table a hearty thump, he called for more wine. 'Don't you see? This -', and again the tabletop suffered another emphatic blow 'This
is how real people live! In dirt and blood and beautiful violent passion!' Springing on to the table top he flung his arms heavenward. 'Drinks for everyone who dares call themselves truly alive!'
Byron was still laughing as the table collapsed underneath him, ears ringing with the cheers of his newly acquired friends.
The doctor sighed and reached for his purse. Words and deeds were two separate creatures when it came to his patron. He had never known a friendship so greedy.
The man in the corner flipped open his pocket watch and smiled.
'For God's sake, he is dead!' The doctor's features were fevered. It was so very hot in there. He didn't know if it was the wine, the heat, or the sudden emotion, but all professional calm had abandoned him. Or perhaps the reason was the man who was calmly checking Byron's pulse and nodding, as if satisfied by the lack of life.
'Only a flesh wound,' the stranger had declared, which caused the doctor to break into hysterical laughter. The crowd amongst them began to shift uneasily, and the stranger started to tug the corpse toward the nearest doorway.
'A flesh wound? I am his doctor, signore!' the doctor exclaimed, unaware of the slip into his mother tongue. 'He is morti - dead! What he is needing now is a priest!'
The stranger's gaze was unnerving somehow: far too calm, and far too old. 'Then by all means, fetch one, Doctor - ?'
'Polidori. John Polidori. And you sir are a madman!'
'Or perhaps I am simply a better doctor.'
Polidori rose to his feet and firmly impressed the notion of discretion upon the owner as they dragged the body into a nearby storeroom. The stranger slipped a few coins into the owner's palm and they were finally left alone.
With Byron's body draped over a small table, the doctor turned once more to the mysterious madman. 'You may go now, sir. There are people to inform, protocol to be followed.'
'Interesting you should put it that way. I was about to say the same thing, more or less.' The strange gentleman paused. 'Go. Fetch your priest then. If he is dead then surely I can do his Lordship no more harm.'
The doctor's fist clenched spasmodically. 'There are a dozen witnesses here. If you attempt any misdeed upon him I swear by my soul you will be caught and hanged.' Silently he brushed his fingers over Byron's lips before touching his own and left the building. When he returned hours later, he would find no trace of them.
It was interesting to see how they reacted when they first revived. Most were scared, confused, in denial. Taking that first gasp of new life by the throat, Byron steadfastly refused to follow suit. He quickly sat up, glanced at his companion, cocked his head and listened
'I died, did I not?'
'Indeed you did, my Lord. One shot, straight to the heart. A jealous spouse, I believe.'
Byron idly raked a nail over congealing blood. 'Ah, pierced with Cupid's arrow one too many a time? How trite.' He sneered, and took in his surroundings. 'If this is the afterlife then I find myself sorely disappointed. Or am I now a restless spirit, a tormented soul left to wander the earth?'
The stranger seemed amused. 'You are Immortal. Whether or not your soul is left suffering for eternity is between you and your god.'
'Immortal?' Byron supped at the word, carefully digesting it before taking the offered hand and standing. Dust made its way up from the hardwood floor in rattled bursts as the patrons next door stamped along to the music within. Stubborn specks of blood clung to his fingernails, his hair, the roof of his mouth. How many before him had tasted their own mortality only to find it a cheap illusion? 'It will do.'
The stranger's eyebrow quirked briefly. He turned and snapped his leather case shut, and when he looked back, Byron was halfway through the door.
'Where do you think you're going?'
Byron licked dry lips. 'Back for a drink, of course. Is there a better way to celebrate new life?'
A smile tugged at the corner of his companion's mouth. 'I notice you care little for introductions.'
The boards creaked heavily underfoot and Byron took the stranger's hand, caressing the palm. 'You must already know who I am. And you...' His gaze drifted over the bulging leather bag, the starched collar, and he inhaled the faintest whiff of iodine. 'You must be my new doctor. How perfect - a healer bequeathed for my eternal good health. It has a kind of divine symmetry to it, does it not?' He stepped closer, and they locked eyes.
They would argue later over who initiated the kiss. It was brief and clumsy, but it was a beginning.
'I couldn't have put it better myself, my Lord,' smiled Benjamin Adams, loosening the top button of his shirt.
The poet tutted. 'Come along, Doc. You're buying the first round.'
Byron plucked a discarded cup from a nearby shelf and watched the crowds part before him as he ascended toward the bar. If he truly was damned to live forever, then he may as well make some sport of it.
Methos rubbed a calloused thumb over the edge of the glass and inspected the grimy digit. This wasn't the kind of watering hole Dr Adams preferred, but he would have to make do. He saw Byron and his Italian friend enter and pick a spot in the middle of the room: the centre of attention, naturally. Soon, alcohol began to flow freely and a heavy cloud of opium enshrouded them.
With a soft click he neatly snapped his pocket watch shut. The husband would be here soon. All Methos had to do now was to sit back and wait.
Dr John William Polidori was the real Lord Byron's doctor, and travelled with him to Switzerland in 1816, along with the Shelleys. He's also known by some as the creator of the vampire genre of fantasy fiction.